A Shacked Battle
—She slowly and gradually removed her ‘shackles’ and increased the amount of heat in her body.
There was a sensation as if her blood were boiling, and the muscles of her thin body were tightened. The body of this girl was soft to the touch and seemed fleeting and weak, however, the blood that flowed in it, the flesh that made it up, and its very bones came from the best race in the world.
The Oni God, which was the most supreme being among them, had returned.
“That’s my sister! Oh, how lovely! You’re on fire! No matter how far she goes, Rem will never reach you. She is no match for you, Sister!
“Stop spitting when you talk. It’s sickening. And don’t compare Rem to anything.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“It’s already been decided. —Ram does not need a title higher than that of Rem’s sister.”
She said that in a bemused tone as she twisted her body and bluntly rejected his words by unleashing a gust of wind. It was a very powerful skill that ripped through one’s skin if it were grazed, crushed one’s bones if they were struck, and penetrated one’s internal organs. It was a skill that had been used generously, and a series of attacks that used both her hands and feet equally had been released. And it wasn’t just pure physical prowess or skill.
If this were due to pure technique, then Batenkaitos would have been able to bring out all of the techniques in his arsenal, which came from East to West and from all ages, relying on the Memories of the opponents he had eaten. However, Ram’s current tactics were anything but straightforward.
The attacks that Ram released, such as elbow strikes and knee strikes, could be freely sped up or slowed down when she was in the middle of an attack. That was due to the fact that she was proficient in the use of Wind Magic which she could combine with her movements in the midst of battle.
The speed of the wind sped up or slowed down, confusing Batenkaitos’ perception as he tried to fight back. In fact, Ram had dispersed gusts of wind in all directions in order to mask her movements, which allowed her to get into her enemy’s blind spot, and unleashed attacks with the intent to kill many times.
“Wow! This is the best!”
Batenkaitos cheered with delight as he dodged Ram’s attacks. While bleeding from his torn right cheek, Gluttony, with his long, lightly parted dark brown hair with highlights at the ends, enjoyed tasting his opponent’s abilities.
“This spicy taste is irresistible! It’s strong and really does the trick! It’s so dynamic with a joyful explosion of flavor! Sister is a perfect treat for our Gourmet!”
Batenkaitos smirked as they flew around the spiral staircase and switched their original positions. The daggers attached to his wrists struck against Ram’s wand, and when he gained some distance from her, his mouth opened and began drooling.
“How nice, so nice, quite nice, very nice, as it’s nice, surely it’s nice, isn’t it nice. Gluttonous drinking! Gluttony!”
“Above all, the scent of anger is great. With such a person who personally hates us so much…what kind of Gourmet can we enjoy if we taste it on our tongue?!”
Then Batenkaitos clapped his hands and trembled after having a premonition that he would experience incomprehensible pleasure in his future. In the face of that, Ram took a deep breath and checked the condition of her body.
“It’s far from the real thing, but…”
Ram had been truly amazed, although she hadn’t shown it on her face. There was a common saying that said people did not understand themselves best, but unlike those fools, Ram knew herself perfectly.
Ram’s body, which had lost the horn of the Oni’s and became Hornless, had been crushed by a huge load every day. As a result, Ram put shackles on her consciousness. She had usually kept all of her shackles on while working as a maid. However, there were times when there was an emergency and she had to use magic to get through the situation. In cases like that, she would remove a single shackle in order to use a little bit of her magic. And if that wasn’t enough, she would remove another shackle and bring out 20% of the power she had originally.
She had a battle with Garfiel in the Sanctuary around a year and a half ago. Ram had been convinced that that had been the absolute best she could do as a Hornless Oni, and that releasing any more would be fruitless since her body wouldn’t be able to handle the strain. However, at this very moment, Ram was trying to remove her shackles, which were a double-edged sword, one shackle at a time.
Ram had experienced a rare moment of hesitation in her heart. As had already been mentioned, she had a perfect grasp of herself. The last time she hadn’t felt any side effects of unleashing her power when she was in battle had been when she was less than ten years old. However, in the battles that occurred after that time, every time she unleashed too much of her power, she would experience a terrible migraine, with nosebleeds and tears of blood flowing endlessly, and she wouldn’t be able to move her body for a while. She would have to be prepared for that if she decided to go through with it.
That’s not good. —Because Ram and Subaru shared a common destiny.
“…If I take too long, Barusu will die.”
As was already known, Subaru was still scrambling to deal with Shaula and the hordes of witchbeasts. Beatrice and Meili were probably with him. —Was Emilia, who made her memories ache, heading up to the top of the tower and struggling on her own?
For some reason, Ram had been worried about the fate of that silver-haired girl. She was sure they had been very close before her Name had been stolen.
None of them could rely on Ram without him.
“Do your best not to die, Barusu. —Rem would cry.”
And so, after whispering those words, Ram released the third shackle for the first time in 10 years.
—At that same moment, the reaction of Cor Leonis rattled Subaru Natsuki’s teeth.
That had marked the arrival of a burden which might—no, would, cause him to vomit blood. For a moment, Subaru had felt as if one of the faint lights in the tower had gotten bigger, and immediately after that it seemed like he had been attacked by it.
Beatrice had immediately supported Subaru in her bosom, who had been coughing up blood and was on the verge of collapsing. They were unfortunately not being carried by Patrasche, but a witchbeast known as the Hungry Horse King, who was not accustomed to carrying other creatures.
They did not have a lot of experience riding without the Divine Protection of Wind Evasion, and there wasn’t a saddle to sit on either, nor stirrups to put their feet in, so if they relaxed for even a second, they would get thrown off. The reason why that hadn’t happened is because of Beatrice’s weight-control magic , and the fact that she wrapped Subaru’s Guiltywhip around the upper body of the witchbeast to serve as the reins. And so, he could not afford to ruin her painstaking efforts to keep them on the witchbeast.
“Has a reaction from Ram arrived, I wonder?”
“That’s right… Sorry, I will bear with it somehow…ugh.”
As he grabbed the whip again, Subaru responded to Beatrice, who was a woman of understanding. The taste of rust filled his mouth as vomit tried to escape from his insides, and he had no idea which part of her body was being burdened. Perhaps her internal organs were being overworked, or something inside her body had ruptured, or there was some other kind of damage to her body that he couldn’t think of. Either way, it only meant one thing: Ram had started getting serious.
“If Ram can take out one of the Gluttonies…”
Subaru couldn’t claim that it would instantly make things easier. In the first place, he wasn’t sure if it meant that by taking out Gluttony, that the Names and Memories would be returned. However, it would at least reduce the amount of burdens that were being placed on him.
She clung onto the upper body of the Hungry Horse King and was working hard to give orders to the witchbeasts. In order for Subaru to fight against the pincers and the light from the stinger, it was essential for Meili to work hard. They had been able to make up for their lack of military strength by using the power of witchbeasts, which created a grace period that had not existed before. Therefore, Subaru wasn’t playing around when he said that they needed to love Meili like a parent loves their child.
At this moment, in the Pleiades Watchtower, which was targeted by five obstacles, the power of Emilia, Ram, and Julius were needed to break through each obstacle, but the key to their success or failure was Meili Portroute, who was keeping the battlefields in a state of balance.
Therefore, Subaru had already been taking on Meili’s burdens for a long time.
“Winged Mole! Courtesan Bear! Go together!
Speaking in a high-pitched voice, Meili looked at the battlefield with a birds-eye view and ordered the witchbeasts to charge to their deaths. She clapped her hands, snapped her fingers, or said the orders aloud. The way in which she ordered the witchbeasts varied from one to another, but her Divine Protection was in a perpetual state of use.
Subaru was feeling the effects of taking on her burdens, as if his brain was expanding and about to pop out of his skull—essentially a migraine.
Otto’s Divine Protection of Soul Language and Meili’s Divine Protection of Magic Manipulation were more like human abilities rather than magic. In other words, they were more of a supernatural power, not magic. In which case, the strain their users felt was larger than others, which meant it would take a bigger toll on Subaru. That meant that the object of the Divine Protection was not focused on others, but on the users themselves.
“Divine Protections and Authorities are part of a system that I just can’t wrap my head around…”
Powers that were supposed to only be able to be used by Sin Archbishops and the Witches, for whatever reason, were able to be used by Subaru. And the Divine Protections were given to people in this world at birth in a random manner. However, he admitted that it’s true that Authorities had their own uses—
“Because of that…”
Subaru couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility of a tragedy occurring as a result. There was no doubt that the Authorities of the Sin Archbishops and Witches played a major role in why people feared them so much and why they were so powerful. There were many people who would not have had their fates changed if such things didn’t exist.
Meili, for example, was a victim of the negative side of having a Divine Protection. She had been abandoned by her own parents due to her natural ability to communicate with witchbeasts. —Subaru was not sure if there were actually negative sides to having Divine Protections, but it made sense in his mind. It seemed obvious. That was at least the truth in Meili’s case.
“Me, I’m really a double standard…”
Subaru didn’t really want to rely on Authorities or Divine Protections, but he didn’t hesitate to use them if it was necessary. He believed it was true that weak people didn’t have a ton of options, but that didn’t mean they needed to be humble too.
Subaru had forced himself to walk an immoral path, and to be able to laugh, he didn’t want to forget that.
“Big Brother! Are you concentrating?! If you and Beatrice get killed, it’s all over, you know?!”
“I know. —Hey, Meili, when this is all over, will you become my child?”
“—Uh! What are you saying over there, stay focused!”
While holding her head up, Meili yelled back at Subaru, who had just asked that question. But they couldn’t afford to play around with each other. If they lost their concentration, they would get swept away in an instant.
“I’m experiencing a lot of pain right now, so I don’t think it’ll be worth it unless I think tomorrow is gonna be a good day.”
Really, that was what Subaru Natsuki thought as he spat blood.
As she continued to fight on the sand, Meili murmured “Something’s wrong” out of her mouth.
Of course, there were many reasons why something felt wrong. There was the case of Shaula, who had turned into a gigantic scorpion, who was right in front of her, or the half-elf with radiant and healthy silver hair, or Ram and Julius who were fighting various enemies in the watchtower, and especially Subaru and Beatrice who were fighting together with her.
However, what felt the most wrong was—
“Who am I?”
Meili herself did not really know why this had happened. In the first place, when Subaru and his friends started their journey to the Augria Sand Dunes, she began to feel as if she wasn’t in control of her own actions. As her own autonomy had been swept away, as had been requested of her, she obediently did as she was told, not worrying about whether it was right or wrong. Because that was what she had always done before, she intended to do that same here as well. And yet—
“—There was a thing known as a Book of the Dead.”
When Meili heard that she could relive the memories of the dead, her own curiosity got the best of her. She felt as if she had no choice but to go search for Elsa Granhiert’s Book of the Dead, who she had deeply cared about for a long time, which ended up being the number one mistake in her life. Because of that, she had been reproached and lectured at by Subaru. And she couldn’t help but laugh at his complaints.
After that, she had somehow been forced to promise to cooperate with them. Subaru had told her that he would always have her back, but she thought he was the type of guy who regretted saying how much responsibility he intended to take. And there was a part of her that felt as if he would easily forget about his promises.
However, what was different between Subaru and Meili was not just what came out of their mouths. Subaru would always try to do what he said he would do, and he would always show up to keep his promise—and if Beatrice were on the scene as well, she would assist him in keeping his promise. When that happened, she felt bad about being spoiled so much, and she felt like she should help them out in return, but she had not gotten around to doing that yet, or rather, she had not had an opportunity to do that yet.
Even now, a group of winged moles that moved in response to Meili’s gestures had just been vaporized by a ray of white light that came from the stinger of the gigantic scorpion and their corpses had been scattered over the battlefield. The winged moles were originally very timid witchbeasts that would never even dare to attack an enemy that was stronger than them, but Meili, who was capable of commanding them to fight regardless of what their instincts told them, could not make these witchbeasts stronger than what they originally were.
“Aaah! I was attacked?!”
Swinging its massive pincers, the violent gigantic scorpion that had been raging on the battlefield tore through witchbeasts one after another. The blood of the witchbeasts that had been torn, crushed, and pierced soaked the parched sand, and the sea of sand that had originally looked yellow was transforming into a reddish black color.
While biting into that fact, Meili quickly looked around and searched for signs of witchbeasts in the sky, on the sand, or even under the sand, and tamed ones that were capable of being tamed. Now was not to time to care about quality. What she needed now was an inexhaustible supply of soldiers to use.
“La, lalalalalalalalalalalalala! I’m definitely going to get you to listen to me later, Brother, whether you want to or not!”
There wasn’t even any time for Meili to wipe the sweat accumulating on her forehead as she cursed at Subaru and kept a close eye on the rampaging gigantic scorpion. On the back of the Hungry Horse King, Meili did not feel comfortable at all riding on it in these conditions. However, her solution had been to stick a knife into the back of the witchbeast through the cloak that was wrapped around her body so that her body could be forcibly fixed onto it. It was a witchbeast that was under her direct control, so it had no choice but to accept this kind of treatment without complaint. The problem was that her situation was much more dire than that of the witchbeast she was riding on.
In the first place, the original Meili would never have taken part in a last-ditch effort battle like this. Her way of fighting had always required preparing in advance by getting the surrounding witchbeast’s under her control, placing them on the battlefield, and watching the battle from a high vantage point. That was what the Witchbeast Master, Meili Portroute, was all about.
Of course, having direct command on the battlefield would improve the accuracy of the witchbeasts’ attacks and would help her get them to attack and defend when they needed to, but the downside of that was that it would put herself in danger. Due to making the wrong choice, Meili lost the battle against Subaru and had been taken prisoner.
Elsa had died because of such mistakes as well. Of course, she wouldn’t want Meili to blame herself at all, and Meili sometimes thought that she hadn’t even died, which made her feel nervous.
Just like she didn’t know how Elsa felt, Meili didn’t know how she herself felt.
Meili had been fighting a slow battle with the gigantic scorpion, and devoted a lot of time to buying time for the witchbeasts so they could stay alive, however, she had never really done this in the past.
Meili Portroute was an assassin. She made a living by taking the lives of others via orders, instructions, or request. So this was the first time—
—To save and protect the lives of others.
“This isn’t my way!”
What Subaru had said earlier made Meili very angry. How dare he ask her to be his child? She believed the way he behaved as if he had no idea people would find it hateful was disgusting. Garfiel may have been her direct enemy, but Subaru was the architect behind the whole situation. Even now, in the Pleaides Watchtower, he was the cause behind the whole situation itself.
It was true that she thought negatively of Subaru’s words and actions, but Meili herself noticed how she followed his instructions and moved like a piece on a game board like everyone else.
If it had been a result of Subaru’s deeply thought out plans, then it would be much more convincing. However, no matter how Meili looked at it, he wasn’t capable of something like that. All he had was desperation, crazy expectations, and a way to make her trust him to the point that she would leave her life in his hands—
“For some reason, I feel like I’m an idiiiot.”
While saying that, Meili brought out a witchbeast that she had gotten from beneath the sand and told it to go after the gigantic scorpion.
A giant sand earthworm popped out from beneath the sand and into the battlefield that had been painted red. Its body was at least 33 feet (10 meters) long, and it wiggled over to the gigantic scorpion before it rose up, expanded itself to its limit, and then boldly fell onto the gigantic scorpion. If it had been crushed and pushed into the sand, it would have been like defeating an undefeatable opponent—but it did not work out so well.
A ray of white light poured out from the stinger of the gigantic scorpion and cut through the massive sand earthworm in an instant. While the sand earthworm—which had been cut in two—made a strange sound as it plopped onto the sand below into its own body fluids, the attack that came from the stinger did not stop and continued to break the body of the dead sand earthworm into even more pieces.
However, it was just an opening created by using the life of the sand earthworm.
—Three Hungry Horse Kings, which were her favorites, emerged from where the sand earthworm had come from.
A screech that sounded like the cry of a baby had been raised, and the burning half-human half-horse’s attacked the gigantic scorpion.
Although the Augria Sand Dunes was home to a variety of witchbeasts, it was the Hungry Horse King that had the most firepower out of all of them. Meili had preserved her favorite witchbeast by sacrificing a large number of other witchbeasts that wouldn’t have been enough to turn the tide of the battle. She had sacrificed courtesan bears, that had a poor amount of stamina, and sand earthworms, that could only try to crush their prey with their large bodies.
The Three Hungry Horse Kings had been attracted by the battle taking place.
Although they were inferior to the gigantic scorpion when it came to fighting power, the enemy was very cautious around this witchbeast. That was proof that they had felt threatened by their power.
“I think I’m in pretty good shape now.”
Moving herself, along with Subaru and Beatrice, as well as getting the three Hungry Horse Kings ready for their attack all at the same time must have put quite a burden on Meili. However, the current her didn’t seem to notice it at all. As to why, there was a possibility that the battle had exhilarated her to the point that she no longer noticed the burden that had been placed on herself. And she didn’t think she’d be able to kill it. However, for the sake of achieving Subaru’s goals, damaging it a bit would be acceptable.
—In a sense, it may have been the third time that a little girl named Meili, who had always done what she had been told, had wished to do something of her own volition.
The first time had been when she had walked around the watchtower at night to seek help from the Book of the Dead.
The second time had been when she had approached Subaru’s back from the corner, who had been standing near the spiral staircase.
And the third time had been when she went above and beyond for the purpose of earning a little bit of extra time during the battle.
As soon as the three Hungry Horse Kings had begun approaching the gigantic scorpion, a bloodcurdling scream could be heard calling out to Meili. It had literally been the cry of Subaru, who had blood flowing out of the edges of his mouth.
She had been puzzled due to it containing no hint of exultation, joy, or admiration. She wondered why he had sounded so angry when everything had been going so well. But—
The three Hungry Horse Kings, holding spears of fire, fiercely pounced onto the gigantic scorpion. No matter how well the gigantic scorpion was able to use its pincers and stinger, it would have been impossible to avoid this attack—but then they saw a change in the body of the scorpion, and it collapsed. It was as if it had been cooked in flames, or had taken in all the blood that had been soaked up by the sea of sand.
The outer shell, which had been as dull and shiny as dark steel, discolored as if it had been awakening from its slumber. In the next moment, the color of the jet-black scorpion changed to bloody red.
—There are some witchbeasts that changed into a Warning Color when they felt threatened or like they were in danger.
When this happened, there was a clear change in behavior, and they became more aggressive and ferocious. A change in appearance was also a good indicator for seeing if they had changed. For example, when the Hungry Horse King changed, it’s flames swelled, and when the White Whale changed, it would create many clones of itself.
And that was also applicable to the gigantic scorpion—no, it was also be applicable to the Red Scorpion.
More aggression, more destruction—complete annihilation—
Rays of white light had been emitted in all directions, and the three Hungry Horse Kings who tried to get away had been vaporized. At the same time, the ray of white light raged through the sea of sand, slaughtering everything in its path. And—
Swallowed by the exploding rays of white light, Meili’s small body flew through the air as droplets of blood fell from it.
—She had hated the feeling of her blood boiling and the feeling of exhilaration that came from it ever since she was a child.
She used to have a sense of omnipotence that made her feel as if she had control of everything in this world. If enough time had gone by where she had believed in that illusion, no matter how rich in spirit she was, she would have gone down the wrong path.
She had a good awareness of herself, but it wasn’t like she was overconfident in her abilities. As far as making mistakes was concerned, she just wanted to have the will to make no mistakes as well as the character to correct the mistakes she made. She had been able to maintain that attitude because she had not gotten drunk on her own power.
It was because she didn’t assume she was wonderful just because the people around her told her so, and she refused to be obedient to the people who valued old conventions and ancient mysteries.
And what was the reason why she hadn’t been crushed by those external factors? She knew it was something that she couldn’t remember.
“—Ram is not only beautiful, but intelligent.”
Putting aside her own words of praise, Ram’s step shattered the steps of the spiral staircase. At that moment, a pink-haired Oni wrapped in the wind brought out her arm and smashed the arm of the enemy who was about to catch her. She had twisted and broken her wrist, elbow, and shoulder in a matter of seconds.
Now wasn’t the time to scream in agony.
Ram’s fist had then been shot into the side of his screaming face and her white fingers turned into shrapnel. A myriad of blows had been shot all over his body, and Batenkaitos spat blood as he was blown away. Chasing him, Ram rode on the wind that had been generated on the soles of her feet and then jumped high into the air.
Batenkaitos then launched himself into the air and swung his legs around to meet Ram.
Immediately after, the distortion of space that occurred made contact with Ram’s shoulder and sliced through her clothes and skin. —That had been where an invisible blade had been placed as a present, a cheeky trap created using Wind Magic.
“This is nothing to me—”
“You thought you could blow it away with the wind? No good no good, it’s useless! It’s in a fixed position in space! It’s regretful that not even you can get rid of it, Sister!”
Batenkaitos kicked himself into the air with a blood-stained smile on his face, anticipating Ram’s intentions. He hadn’t actually kicked the air, but had jumped off of the invisible blade that had cut through Ram’s shoulder, which would be a very difficult feat since he would have needed to know where it was in the air near the spiral staircase.
But, even so—
Even if it wasn’t something that could be perceived with one’s perception, if it could be overlapped with the vision of the person that had set it up, a small change in consciousness would reveal its whereabouts.
Then Ram saw the trap by overlapping her vision with Gluttony’s, kept that in her mind so she could use it in the same way, and finally chased after him by jumping up and using it as a foothold.
“Hah! Ahahahahahaha! Sister, are you serious about that? Seriously?!”
“That’s sounds like something Barusu would say. —I’ve been saved since the hesitation to beat you up has disappeared.”
The astonished Batenkaitos leapt into the air quicker than he had before and Ram glared at his gloomy face from below. And then she mercilessly slammed the sole of her shoe into his open-mouthed face that had his fangs protruding.
“Now, how many times do you need to taste the soles of Ram’s shoes before you’ll kindly fall down?”
The surface of his nose had been crushed, and Batenkaitos’ dwarf body was flipped into the air. The momentum of his ascent had finally been stopped, and Gluttony was then kicked downwards by the power of Ram’s kick. Following that, Ram raised her hands above her head, swooped down with the wind from her palms, and threw a second kick—no, third kick, and then a fourth kick into the face of the plummeting Batenkaitos.
Ram mercilessly struck his nose, front teeth, chin, and forehead with her heel with each kick. She had been so annoyed with his smiling face and his mouth, which had kept calling her Sister. So she continued to mess them both up as their descent continued.
By the way—
“If you fall into your own trap, it’s not Ram’s fault. You reap what you sow.”
“Gah! Gya! Ugh!”
While being kicked downwards, the invisible blade that had been anchored in the air tore into Batenkaitos’ body. Blood gushed out, and some of the cuts were quite deep, but Ram didn’t care about that. She didn’t have a hobby of wanting to hurt others. However, that was only the case when she could sympathize with the other person, but if she truly hated the other person, she had no issue with making them scream like a pig.
“Well? Do you regret it?”
Stopping skillfully in the air, Ram asked that, with her feet on his face and chest.
However, Batenkaitos did not answer the question, leaving his face covered in blood, and instead tried to swings the daggers he had on both arms. At that moment, Ram’s knife-like hands shot into his shoulders and forcibly pulled his arms from his shoulder joints.
“Well? Do you regret it?”
No matter how skilled he was, there was no way he could move his arms when his arms had been ripped from their sockets. And Ram had asked that question again as she opened her eyes and looked down at his shocked face.
Ram tried to find fear in the eyes of Batenkaitos as he looked at her. The purpose of that was to engrave it into his mind. Fear, pain, a sense of defeat. It was for vengeance—not a trivial reason at all.
To get them back. A large number of victims, not just Rem, had been victimized by Gluttony so far. The purpose of doing this was to regain the Name’s and Memories of those who had lost them and everything they had ever had contact with.
If she had wished to kill him, she could have gone ahead and done it now.
With the same effort she had used to kick his face in, she could have created a wind blade on the sole of her foot and stepped on his neck. It had already been proven that even Witch Cultists, who were famous for playing dirty, would die if their neck and torso were separated.
She had learned that in the process of responding to the people that had destroyed the village of the Oni’s by burning it to the ground. After all, she knew that Witch Cultists were just a bunch of weak and stupid creatures with horrible natures. And so, the reason why Ram had asked questions first was to kill their spirits before taking their lives.
“Well? Do you regret it?”
“—Ugh, Solar Eclipse!”
When he heard the third question, a hint of fear had been mixed into his bloody expression. But it had disappeared in the blink of an eye in front of Ram. It wasn’t like his dimensional leap earlier. The feeling of the face and body of the person she had just been stepping on had disappeared. However, where Batenkaitos had run off to would quickly come to light.
It was impossible for anyone to run away from Ram as long as she had her eyes set on them.
She had followed the visible field of view and located the spiral staircase where her enemy was. When she had caught up using her Wind Magic, she saw a bald old man wearing something like a monk’s robe standing there. If it hadn’t been Ram, the change in appearance might have worked, however, by sharing their vision, she was convinced that they were Batenkaitos, no matter what they looked like.
“I heard that this was one of Lust’s tricks, but what other tricks are there?”
“Ah, Ahhhhh, shit! I didn’t mean to use it… No, I shouldn’t have used it… Ugh.”
“—? What are you talking about?”
When she had reached the spiral staircase, the old man—Batenkaitos—who was kneeling there, groaned in anguish. She raised her eyebrows at his unseemly attitude but instantly threw her doubt away. The only thing that mattered was that the other person was still breathing and his spirit was not broken.
“—I don’t have much time left.”
It was only a murmur, but Ram had already removed her shackles for over a minute—and there was a slight burden on herself, but most of it was going to Subaru. She had told him to fine-tune it, but just as she had expected, he had been taking on all of her burdens. Such a showoff. She believed he only needed to do it for his loved ones and Rem.
“—. I’m not sure what’s going on with you, but are you willing to accept our demands? You need only restore everyone you have eaten so far as Gluttony. And if you do that—”
“…And then what? Are you going to miss us?”
“No. Then I’ll kill you right away. Not a bad deal, right? I will forgive you at once in exchange for your life.”
Batenkaitos, who had aged into an old man, laughed the way he usually did with the voice of an old man. Observing his behavior, Ram speculated that a change in shape was perhaps necessary in order to unlock the full potential of a person’s abilities. The technique he had used before when he had disappeared in front of her was called the Leaper technique. And even the bald old Batenkaitos could use it.
“But it’s strange. If you have a trump card like this, you should have been able to pull it out earlier. So why did you choose to run away and hide?”
“…Is it also the reason why you don’t want to use it? Like being pulled by a vessel.”
“You know…I’ve really never come across such a scary girl before… No no. Really, you are really scary, Sister.
The figure of the old man slowly turned back into a dwarf, probably due to the possibility of losing himself while in that form. It had been an affirmation of Ram’s point, and at the same time it proved that transforming did not heal the wounds he had suffered. Batenkaitos was still bloody and his face was still in terrible shape.
“How’s your shoulder?”
“I bumped it into a wall. Now it won’t even work at all… it hurts, aah, it hurts.”
Batenkaitos then popped his shoulders back into place, and to make sure everything was working properly, he rotated them a bit. Seeing this, Ram regretted that she hadn’t just cut his arms off from the shoulder rather than just ripped them out of their sockets. Or perhaps if she had just crushed the ends of his limbs, she could have crushed all his silly little tricks.
“Everything I do, this and that, has been seen through…amazing, Sister. Maybe you are using Big Brother’s Authority, Sister?”
“How regrettable. This was Ram’s excellent insight. Don’t mix it up with Barusu’s nonsensical intuition. It’s unpleasant. Just die.”
“Ahahaha, so bitter. But, I see I see, that’s right.”
Batenkaitos had a bloody smile on his face with his torn tongue hanging out of his broken mouth. That eerie gesture could only make Ram widen her eyes, and her shoulders tensed up in response. If he made a strange move—no—
“Before you make any other movements, eat this.”
Before he could pull off any strange movements, Ram made the decision to just blow off his other limbs with a wind blade. There was a way to stop the bleeding. However, there was no way to stop the pain, but if he did not die, the interrogation would continue. With that in mind, she shot a wind blade without hesitation. But—
“—The bets are on our victory!!”
A plump, bearded man flew backwards while taking the full brunt of the wind blade. His skin was extremely thick, and the wind blade that would normally have been able to cut into his body had been repelled, and only turned the fat man’s skin a little red.
“I wonder if you misunderstood us a little, Sister. —You know, you’re not the only one doing the observing, right?”
Ram heard him say that as she was about to move forward in order to not let the giant man escape. Immediately after that, Ram was cut by the invisible blade that had been left as a present and was stopped in her tracks for but a moment. Seeing that opening, Batenkaitos rushed into the gap.
“From our approach, a blow of ours!”
In the blink of an eye, the image of the old man disappeared, and the feeling of pressure behind Ram increased. She didn’t have time to look behind her, and a powerful palm pummeled into her side, blowing her slender body away.
With a “Huh?,” Ram was blown away by his strike, and after a quick glance, she noticed that the strike she had received had come from a man with a strong physique that gave off a rough aura. —He had instantly changed into three different people and perfectly took advantage of their unique characteristics and abilities.
“Even so, if the skill I used before works—”
“We don’t think so. We don’t believe so. Because we don’t imagine it to be so. As we don’t think so. As we really don’t think so. We can say with certainty that we don’t think so!”
The barking Batenkaitos turned back into the old man and covered one of his eyes with his hands. Fearful of what her enemy might do, Ram stretched her long legs out and kicked up onto the wall to put herself in a position where she could quickly jump at him. But she hadn’t done it fast enough.
“We know. —Rem’s sister can’t keep moving like that without using tricks.”
Rem’s knowledge, rather than her movements, gave him the answer. Seeing the movements of Ram who had gone beyond the limits of a Hornless Oni, Batenkaitos confirmed his own suspicions, and when she had returned to the steps of the spiral staircase, he let out all of his malicious intent.
That is to say—
“—Sister, we don’t want to compare our strength with yours.”
And so, the cunning smile that had been plastered on his face disappeared.
Instantaneous movements through space using the Leaper technique. —If he were to use it continuously, it would have been easy to escape, but she had a feeling that there was a limit to how much he could use it without dying.
“His decision to escape came rather quickly. No, anyway—”
If he knew about Ram’s Clairvoyance, then he wouldn’t have been foolish enough to think he could escape so easily. The reason he had run away from her was because he knew about her time limit. And so she had unfortunately been deprived of precious time as a result.
The burdens being placed on Subaru increased by the second. And she needed to find the whereabouts of Batenkaitos who had escaped into the tower as soon as possible.
When she thought about it, she suddenly realized something.
The deadly Sin Archbishop, who was an accumulation of maliciousness, fled into the tower just to get away from her. And he knew what would get under her skin the most.
Finally, by connecting her vision with that evil being, what came into her view was the tail of a black ground dragon, carrying the Sleeping Beauty on its back.