We remained silent for a while after Qiongqi finished speaking.
──The “Evil Spirit” Qiongqi actually woke up earlier than Hundun or Taotie.
──He expanded his ability with the advice of his vessel, Agito, and formed apostle amalgamations.
──However, the apostles he or Agito kill themselves won’t contribute to Shiyuu, so he had Ryuuga take care of them.
──Due to that, he’s been busy collecting souls while refraining from making a public appearance.
(Making a fifth ‘Evil Spirit,’ he said? He needs to even sacrifice the three princesses for that to happen?)
If that’s supposed to be a joke, it’s not funny. He wants to assimilate the three sisters into that monster? What malicious stealing.
If Shiyuu becomes complete by obtaining the three princesses and top eight…then perhaps even Ryuuga’s team would be no match for it. If it comes to that, the “Evil Spirits” and I might have to support them.
(Furthermore, as a condition for the alliance, he ordered Renie to ‘eliminate the three princesses.’ In other words, creating a divide between Ryuuga’s team and the three princesses was just a secondary objective. This was the main goal all along.)
If Renie’s indeed the strongest of the top eight, he could likely take down the three princesses. If Ryuuga’s team defeated them, that would be fine as well. Then in the end, Renie would become Shiyuu’s food too…I suppose.
The words Qiongqi said at the apartment stuck with me.
“Well actually, I’m confident that I can win without needing an alliance. However, it would be much easier with Renie as a companion,” was what I believe he said. What a heartless fraud. Now I see what it’s like being tricked by a fox.
At that moment, Shima staggered up, exhausted.
With tears in her eyes, she glared at Qiongqi while grinding her teeth in anger. It wasn’t a gaze that someone would give to their lord.
“Stop…stop fooling around! What the hell is this?!”
The cheetah apostle barked at him, showing her canines.
That was understandable. She was also a victim of Qiongqi’s tricks, never knowing about this plan. It seems she wanted to vent her anger, even if the one she’s facing was an “Evil Spirit.”
“We’re not serving you to become fodder for that monster!”
“Ahaha, you frighten me so, Shima. Then, how about I make a make a special exception and not hand you over to Shiyuu? In exchange, I’ll give you another order.”
Qiongqi spoke while seeming indifferent to Shima’s rage.
“Go back to the apartment complex and exterminate the apostles in there. Now that I’m setting Complete Shiyuu into motion, I have no need for them to remain alive. I’ll just use them to make another, inferior version of Shiyuu.”
Agito said that there were currently one hundred fifty apostles in his mansion.
They’re likely all just soldiers, but a Shiyuu being made with that amount would still be a burden to deal with. Taking into account the souls still inside his gourd, the resulting monster would be a tough enemy that could rival a general.
“Exterminate? You want me to kill my companions…?!”
“Yep. I might as well make a second apostle amalgamation.”
“I’m done being played for a fool! I won’t be your subordinate any longer!”
Thereupon, Qiongqi’s vessel, who remained silent up until now, finally spoke.
“How impolite, Shima. Be obedient and follow Qiongqi’s orders. First was the vocalist Hasuki, then the drummer Saihiru, and now you’re next. Given the circumstance, our band will have to pause its activities. Then again, the band Apostle is still alive as long as I’m here.”
For some reason, the one who reacted to that statement wasn’t Shima, but Renie.
“You’re still conscious? Don’t tell me…that you ‘converted’ Qiongqi!”
Agito stared at the orb-weaving spider apostle, who had raised his voice in an unusual manner.
So he didn’t know about that? Well, Agito is a bit of an unreactive person, so I suppose he wouldn’t know unless directly told.
Seeing Renie in shock, the fox-masked “Evil Spirit” chuckled.
“Are you that surprised that Agito ‘converted’ me? That’s right, I’ve kept it hidden from you this whole time. You know why, don’t you?”
“Well, fine. I said this to Shima before. I’ll say it to you too. Return to the apartment complex and exterminate the apostles in there. Though, the truth is that if you don’t do it, Shiyuu can just do it instead.”
“I will no longer follow your orders! You are the enemy of Saihiru and my companions!”
“Oh, really? In that case, you’re just food.”
Making that quick decision, Qiongqi snapped his fingers.
In the next moment…there was the sound of a thunderous roar, and the sky suddenly turned dark.
At first, I wondered if the clouds were covering the sun. However, that wasn’t the case. Looking up, I found that Shiyuu had leapt──and was dropping down right towards us.
“Boss, he’s going towards you!”
“I can tell!”
Shouting in response to Taotie’s late report, I immediately rolled over to safety.
Fortunately, Shiyuu was only aiming for Shima and me. I thought that the cheetah apostle’s leg strength would allow her to flee, but…unfortunately, I was too naive.
“Guh, my leg…!”
Of all things, Shima was back to being down on one knee.
I forgot. She’s still wounded from her fight with Shiyuu. I wasn’t the target. The apostle amalgamation’s target is…the one who’s defying Qiongqi, the cheetah apostle!
Realizing that, I rolled back towards Shima to rescue her.
“Ichirou! Don’t do it!”
“Stop, Ichirou! You won’t make it!”
I rushed forward, not minding Tao’s and Jyuri’s shouting.
If Shiyuu consumes Shima, then its power will only continue to grow. I can’t afford to let her be food for that monster.
Above all, letting her die here would make Saihiru roll in his grave after protecting her. A enemy from the upper echelons risked his life for her. I don’t want that to go to waste.
But, I’m moving too slow.
Rolling over to escape made me waste too much time.
Two meters away from Shima, Shiyuu swing its fist down. In addition to its heavy weight, the momentum of its fall would make that blow a lethal one.
“Yes. With this, I’ll have Shima’s soul.”
While saying that, Qiongqi opened the lid of the old gourd.
Suddenly, there was a fierce explosion, a rumble, and an immense wind pressure that blew my body away. Blown backwards, my rear bounced on the ground three times.
(Gah! M, my tailbone…)
Despite my agony, I was relieved. Shima’s definitely safe.
After all, I saw it. Just before Shiyuu could hit her, a jet black silhouette leapt in at a blazing speed.
(Good grief, I guess he is good for something.)
I got up to check the site.
As I thought, Taotie stopped Shiyuu’s fist. He braced his legs while his feet were stuck inside the ground in order to protect the cheetah apostle.
“Ow…damn it, why me…?”
Seeing Taotie save Shima in the nick of time, I clapped my hands.
“Good going, Tie! Maybe you have a fan now!”
Inside my head, Hundun cursed him by saying “Don’t praise him. He’s couldn’t subdue Shiyuu in the first place,” but everything turned out alright in the end. I think he deserves some appreciation.
While pushing back Shiyuu’s giant arms, Taotie spoke to the cheetah apostle behind him.
“Hey, Shima! Get away! How long are you going to force an ‘Evil Spirit’ to hold out!”
However, Shima remained on the floor, staring at Taotie in surprise. The woman-like way she sat down at that moment wasn’t like her at all.
“T, Taotie…why are you…”
“I can’t let you be food for that thing!”
“You mean that you…need me? You’ll take me in, even when Qiongqi abandoned me…?”
“Now’s not the time for a personality shift! Move out of the way!”
The cheetah apostle responded and immediately stood up. Turning towards Taotie one last time with watery eyes, she limped away from the abandoned factory.
(Alright, so Shima withdrew. Though, I’m a bit concerned about the way she acted just now…)
That face, those words…could it be that Taotie raised a flag with the cheetah apostle? Did he actually get a fan?
In that case, Saihiru will be rolling in his grave for a different reason this time. Though, my concern over potential romantic developments was drowned out by Hundun’s angry voice.
(Stop zoning out, Sonny! Behind you!)
Despite my idiotic response, I instinctively sensed danger and ducked down.
Half a second later, I felt a kick that grazed the top of my head. It was the same roundhouse kick that blew away Saihiru’s giant body.
“Oh, you dodged it this time? Good reaction, Kobayashi.”
Turning around, I saw Agito there. Above him floated the fox-masked “Evil Spirit.”
“Well, as promised, let’s settle this. Who’s more suitable for Hinomori Ryuuga, you or me…? Let’s make it clear.”
“Are you serious?! We’re not supposed to be battle until the end of the──”
“You’re the one who broke the cease-fire agreement. I won’t take any excuse.”
As soon as he said that, Agito immediately rushed towards me.
I involuntarily had to respond to him. However, that was a daunting task.
His punches and kicks were extremely fast. They all aimed at my vital points. Furthermore, they were all accompanied by an air-splitting sound.
(T, this guy really isn’t some ordinary person! This is far beyond anything a human could do!)
Even I could barely dodge him. I could barely even fight back.
I have to be careful about this, otherwise my life’s in danger…What should I do? Should I go all out? Would it be okay for me to fight a serious battle with Agito? Is it okay to finish him off offscreen?
“Hmm, as I thought, you’re no ordinary person. This is beyond anything a human could do.”
“Same goes for you! You’re serious about hurting!”
“That being said, I will be the victor here. The fangs of a dragon are what belong in its jaw.”
“Guh, I don’t get what you mean, but it sounds kinda cool…”
“It was a poem I once sent to Hinomori. It must have touched her heart, since she soon replied with ‘I don’t get it.'”
“That makes two of us!”
While holding that conversation, the speed of our attacking and defending began to accelerate. Unfortunately, a hyperdimensional battle was unfolding between two humans.
This situation makes me want to cry.