Tao’s manifestation was the same as Hundun’s.
She was above Yukimiya’s head like a lamp, as if to look down at her opponents. With the exception of Taotie, ‘Evil Spirits’ cannot operate separately from their hosts.
(So this is Tao’s battle form…)
My first impression upon seeing her was “young ghost girl.”
Her face was hidden behind strange, long, and black hair. However, her eyes peeked through the gaps in her hair, sending an ominous, glowing glare.
She had an abnormally slim body and wore a thin, black dress. Her arms, long and narrow like dead branches, drooped down and swayed.
(That’s surprisingly scary! She looks more like Sadako than an ‘Evil Spirit’!)1Sadako is the girl from The Ring.
A giant, three meter tall Sadako at that. She’s not as large as Hundun, but she was intimidating in her own way. Like the peculiarities around us, she fit in with the cemetery.
Her usual graceless character completely deceived me. Now her dialect is even more unfitting. Perhaps she would be better off not speaking.
“Shima, Saihiru. Ya’ll were such bad kids?”
Sadly, Tao spoke the same way as usual.
Below her, Yukimiya stood lifelessly as if her soul had escaped her body. Perhaps it’s some kind of trance state, similar to how it was with Kyouka before.
“With all due respect, Taowu. Our boss right now is Qiongqi.”
“When several ‘Evil Spirits’ awaken, apostles have to choose which lord to serve…that’s our code. I hope you understand.”
Tao’s ill will amplified in response to the generals’ excuses.
“I see. Then, I oughta punish ya’ll.”
Immediately following, Tao’s long hair stretched and swooped down on Shima and Saihiru as if it was alive.
While it narrowly missed the cheetah apostle, her hair bound the rhinoceros beetle apostle’s body.
Having been caught, Saihiru’s body was lifted into the air before being slammed into the ground with a tremendous force.
“Haha. So that’s how it’s gonna go?! I didn’t think I’d see the day where we’d face an ‘Evil Spirit’ in single combat!”
With a speed my eyes couldn’t keep up with, Shima rushed towards the host, Yukimiya, in a suicide attack.
Tao seemed to have predicted the cheetah apostle’s action. Her long, right arm acted like a lash that intercepted the charging opponent.
However, Shima also predicted the “Evil Spirit’s” move. She changed directions in an instant and cut Tao’s black hair into pieces using her sharp claws. She aimed for the strands of hair holding Saihiru down.
With the binds weakened, the rhinoceros beetle apostle tore off the remaining strands himself and broke out. Despite the force of impact he took, he was mostly uninjured. That’s some impressive armor.
“Hey, Saihiru? Are you alright?”
“No problems. It seems Taowu hasn’t completely regained her strength…and it’s also possible that she isn’t fully accustomed to her vessel.”
“Haha. Then things should work out if we keep it up, right? I’m getting fired up!”
“However, the difference in power is clear. I advise against negligence.”
“Who would be negligent against an ‘Evil Spirit’ for an opponent?! I could die at any moment!”
“Also, you mentioned ‘single combat.’ That normally means a one-on-one fight. Since there are two of us, this isn’t single combat. I advise against such fallacies.”
“Always stuck up about the small details!”
Shima and Saihiru turned back to Tao.
…I know you guys are concentrating on Tao right now, but aren’t you forgetting about me?
Just as the rhinoceros beetle apostle said, this isn’t a case of single combat. I’ll be a little late to the party, but I should participate as well.
(I can’t bring Ryuga here anymore now that Tao has come out. If she meets Tao in this situation, things will definitely get complicated.)
Unfortunately, we’ll have to take care of this matter ourselves. If I cooperate with Tao, I should be able to repel fifty percent of the enemy forces.
(Kyouka! S, shit! That was the first thing that came to my mind when I thought ‘kyo’!)
The “Evil Spirits” finished their word-chain game.
Hundun lost. It seems that his strong affection for Kyouka was his undoing. Though technically speaking, he was supposed to respond with a word that starts with ‘yo’, but he lost anyways, so it doesn’t matter.2The words in Japanese were Rakkyo -> Kyouka-tan. If a player says a word that ends with -n, they lose. That’s why Hundun immediately regretted saying “Kyouka-tan”
“Okay, you’re done, right?! Come out, Tie!”
I immediately gave Taotie the order to manifest. However…
They ended up continuing their game. Taotie responded with the capital of the Republic of Chad, a country in central Africa.3As you can probably guess, N’Djamena (ンジャメナ = njyamena) starts with an “n” in Japanese.
(S, shit! I accidentally blurted out what I learned on TV yesterday!)
(Gahaha! You fool! Though, it’s fine. Sonny’s getting tired of waiting, so I’ll let you have this one for now. Nasi goreng…there, I lose──)4Nasi goreng (ナシゴレン = nashigoren) ends with an -n in Japanese. If you’re wondering, it’s an Indonesian dish.
(I said that’s enough! Chinese citron! There, I lose──)5You guessed it, Chinese citron (夏みかん = natsumikan) ends with an -n in Japanese
(Do you just want to say N’Djamena?! If you say the same word twice, you lose!)
(You should try saying it as well, Hundun. It’s kind of fun to say. N’Djamena.)
(Oh? N’Djamena, N’Djamena.)
“How long are you guys going to take?! I’m in the middle of a battle right now! Hey, listen to me! Don’t start an alto and soprano duet!”
It happened right when I yelled at the N’Djamena choir.
There was a sudden change among the surrounding apostles.
“Secret Sword! Slash Royale!”
With the shout of a gallant woman, a tornado engulfed the peculiarities.
“Secret Arts! Flamework Concerto!”
With the shout of a dazzling woman, a crowd of will-o’-the-wisps burnt down the peculiarities.
“Secret Fist! Boneshell Knuckle!”
With the shout of a lively woman, the peculiarities were sent flying.
…Needless to say, the intruders were Aogasaki, Elmira, and Kurogame. It goes without saying that they’re the heroines under the four gods.
(W, why are those three here?! Could it be that they can sense when one of them is in a pinch?!)
While I was extremely confused, the apostles continued to get buried. Some tried to fight back, others tried to flee…there was a sudden state of panic in the cemetery, making it look just like a sports gathering.
Eventually, the thirty-ish apostles that once surrounded the area were now eradicated.
A ponytailed swordswoman, a wavy-haired vampire, and a short-haired kenpo girl appeared from my right, left, and behind.
Perhaps there would be some stylish background music playing right now.
However, only panicked background music played in my head.
I should be glad that reinforcements have arrived, but…honestly, that’s only making this a bigger problem. Things only got worse.
“Kobayashi, are you alright?”
“Good grief, the cemetery again?”
“And I was just about to sleep.”
The heroines gathered while leaving their comments.
Still shaken, I simply stared at them.
(What the hell. Why are the heroines all here…? No wait, would it even be possible for them to all gather without ‘her’ being here? Our trueborn protagonist…?)
Sure enough, my fears were right on the mark. Suddenly, a figure leapt from the sky, landing right in front of me.
The figure turned around and stared ahead, ignoring me. Her long, tied hair along her back fluttered with the wind.
(…So you really are here.)
Of course, it was Hinomori Ryuuga.
Our protagonist, who I really didn’t want to see right now.
“Ryuga…all of you, why are you here…?”
When I blurted out that question, Ryuuga answered mysteriously.
“I got a message around fifteen minutes ago. An unknown sender stated ‘There is a battle taking place in the cemetery. Contact everyone and head there.'”
Fifteen minutes ago? That’s strange.
Isn’t that right when we came across Shima and her partner? Did the sender know about “Shima and Saihiru’s attack” prior?
“I didn’t contact Shiori since I knew she wasn’t in good shape, but…I didn’t think this would happen…”
Ryuuga muttered that while staring at Yukimiya being possessed by Tao.
The heroines also stared at the “Shrine Maiden of Life” with a ghastly expression.
“It’s been on my mind this whole time. Shiori’s poor condition resembled Kyouka’s case…I should have considered the possibility more deeply.”
When Ryuuga clenched her teeth with guilt, the heroines comforted her.
“The same goes for us. However, we have to accept the present situation. Shiori’s a vessel of an ‘Evil Spirit.'”
“Could that be the ‘Evil Spirit’ Qiongqi? Or perhaps it’s the ‘Evil Spirit’ Taowu…?”
“It’s the same either way! Whether it’s Qiongqi or Taowu, there’s only one thing we need to do! We beat that thing and save Shio! End of story!”
Ryuuga and the others nodded towards Kurogame, who spoke with elation.
…This can’t be good. As I thought, they perceived Tao as an enemy.
Indeed, I did propose “Ryuuga’s team fighting with Tao” to Yukimiya. Even now, I still think that’s the best course for part three.
However, this rapid development is beyond my expectations.
I need Ryuuga and the others to step back for a moment. Rather than accepting the situation so easily, they need to comprehend the conflict of their important companion being the “Evil Spirit’s” vessel.
Then, I’d want that fact to sit in their minds over the course of a few days before they make the decision to battle.
That’s when part three would be complete. This story needs some build-up.
(If it ends now, people won’t be able to digest the full-course meal. I want to avoid the Tao arc being rushed to the point of being more like a summary…!)
Glancing forward, I saw that Shima and Saihiru turned towards Ryuuga and the others. They looked like Tao’s servants trying to protect her.
“Taowu, could you step back? We’ll take care of them.”
“You’re all asking for death. Let’s offer your lives to the ‘Evil Spirit.'”
Tao was perplexed, muttering “What? What?” in response to the two suddenly acting like they were allies. She looked at me in desperation, but I didn’t know what to do either.
(Shima and Saihiru, what are you two planning? Are you planning to have Ryuuga’s team defeat Tao for you? Is that why you’re pretending to be her subordinates?)
At any rate, a battle’s about to begin.
What should I do? Should I tell them that Tao isn’t an enemy? Though, will Ryuuga and the others listen to me?
“Shiori! We’ll save you right now!”
Upon Ryuuga’s cue, the main characters broke into a run. They rushed towards Shima, Saihiru, and Tao.
“Haha. Bring it on, Hinomori Ryuuga!”
Aiming for the neck, Shima thrust her claws towards Ryuuga, initiating an attack.
However, in the next moment… A tall, lean figure stood before the cheetah apostle. Shima swiftly dodged a horizontal slash.
“I’ll be your opponent. I am the ‘Swordswoman of the Beheading Dance.'”
“Tsk…don’t regret your decision, ‘Azure Dragon’!”
Beside her, Saihiru’s movements were blocked by a flame sprouting from the ground. The rhinoceros beetle apostle faced Elmira.
“Hmph. These are not…any ordinary flames.”
“These are the proud flames of the ‘Blood-kin of Eternal Darkness’ that dealt with your brethren, Hunshou Higaia. Do you like them?”
“I see, so you are the ‘Vermilion Bird’? I advise against that pride of yours.”
Taking a glance at the two battles that were about to start, Ryuuga and Kurogame fiercely approached Tao. Normally, this would be a moment where I provide commentary by exclaiming “As expected, they have good coordination!”, but now’s not the time for that.
“P, please wait a minute! I’m──”
“Hey ‘Evil Spirit’! Bring back Shio!”
Ryuuga and Kurogame mercilessly unleashed a storm of fierce punches and kicks towards Tao. As expected of childhood friends, their coordination was really good.
Tao somehow managed to endure the onslaught with her long hair. Hesitant on fighting back, she gradually retreated.
I understand that Ryuuga and the others are desperate to get Yukimiya back.
However, they’re just bullying her at this point. Just as I thought, this battle shouldn’t take place!
“Wait, Ryuga! Listen to what I have to──”
Making my decision, I tried to shout for them to stop.
However, a lightning quick, avian shadow suddenly attempted to attack Ryuuga and Kurogame from the side.
Noticing the surprise attack, the two leapt backwards and narrowly dodged it. As a result, they were about three meters away from Tao.
Just like Shima and Saihiru, the assailant, who swooped down, stood in front of the “Evil Spirit” as if to protect her. Two more figures then entered the scene and stood beside the newcomer.
“Tao, step back.”
With the swing of two wing-like arms, the heron apostle spoke to the “Evil Spirit.”
“Us ‘Three Princesses of Hell’ will take care of this.”
The king cobra apostle, whose body was that of a snake’s from the navel and below, raised her blonde hair.
“It’s time for work.”
The triangular-eared, fluffy Hokkaido wolf apostle licked the tip of her nose with her tongue.
Needless to say, they were Mion, Jyuri, and Kiki.
The apostle generals who are freeloading in my home.
“Hinomori Ryuuga. If you intend to defeat Taowu──you will have to go through us first.”
“Don’t misunderstand. The cheetah and beetle over there have nothing to do with us.”
“We are Earl Tao’s allies.”
…What the hell. More reinforcements I never asked for. This situation just got more complicated.
Recently, the main characters and three princesses had a sort of treaty.
Both sides came here unexpectedly…and now they’re back to being hostile.
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