I really must apologize for the lateness of this ep. School has started for me, so I don’t have as much time to write, and the year started off with a pretty big test. On top of that, I got kinda sick last week, so just when I had finished my test, I got stuck in bed. -_-
Well, all that aside, I’m fine now and the ep is finally done! Yay! Have fun~
Kiriko Epawsode 16: The Breakout
My body clad in flames, I let out a battle cry as I began my assault on the bulging beast in front of me. Sparks flew as our bodies collided, some landing on the furnishings around us, threatening to turn the battlefield into a raging inferno.
However, instead of igniting the surrounding tinder, the tiny wisps bounced back, assaulting Garrett with a sudden fury.
The charcoal eyed man gave a startled holler as his clothes were set alight. Taking advantage of his distracted state, I lifted my leg, successfully striking the side of his face with a flying roundhouse kick.
As the large-bodied male went tumbling away, I produced multiple fireballs and shot them after him.
This was the cumulation of my several days worth of suffering.
Though I had attempted to utilize my [Scorching Retaliation] ability to burn through the chains that bound me at the time, the flames had strangely been unable to damage the metal bindings at all. It took several hours of suffering before I realized that, and then another couple more to figure out the reason for such a phenomenon.
That is, my [Ero Evader] title.
While the queerly named title had the convenient effect of preventing Keith from stripping me of my equipment, it had also prevented me from damaging the chains that I had been ‘wearing’. Thus, I was forced to figure out a way to escape without truly ‘escaping’ from my restraints.
The answer I arrived at was fairly simple. If I couldn’t break the chains, I’d just break the part of the wall they were fastened to. After all, it wasn’t like I could have the entire wall ‘equipped’ to me.
But it really was impossible to destroy the wall just by using the conduction of heat through the metal links. I couldn’t maintain the skill on full blast long enough to melt the solid stone.
What I came up with instead was to manipulate the fire so that it would heat the fastened part directly.
Naturally, doing this required practice in controlling my flames. It was only after practicing for several hours that I managed to develop the new sub-skill. Needless to say, it was a blessing.
A deafening roar sliced through my recollection as the resulting shockwave extinguished my magic.
It was at this time that I remembered a particular weakness of my transformed state. That is, the heightened senses that I enjoyed as a ‘cat’. While Garrett’s shout may have been merely noisy to my human self, to my transformed self, it was like a death blow.
Blood trickled out of my ears as I swayed, my vision blackening from the shock of the sonic boom. Vertigo assaulted my senses and the world seemed unstable.
In my dazed state, I stumbled around, attempting to find my opponent, who had disappeared before I knew it.
With my eardrums burst, I could hardly hear a thing. In the place of the subtle melody of battle was an annoying buzzing, covering up any and all noise that could possibly clue me into my enemy’s whereabouts.
This is bad……
At this rate, I might actually die.
Using this chance, my more experienced opponent could easily launch a sneak attack, which may just end up being fatal. And I probably wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.
After all, despite my physically able body, I had little to no actual battle experience.
Having been raised in a relatively peaceful environment, I wasn’t actually that used to combat. I didn’t have any sort of ‘battle instinct’. And the battle experience I had gained here was miniscule compared to the natives of 【Paletia】.
Floundering around, I desperately searched for my hidden opponent.
With my hearing gone, I had no other choice but to utilize my other senses to their fullest.
The charred stench of the battlefield filled my nostrils.
An ominous wind blew through my hair, softly tickling my skin and stimulating my sense of touch.
As my eyes wandered, a shadow flitted in the corner of my gaze.
A startled gasp escaped my lips as I quickly slipped backwards, evading a fist that suddenly entered my line of sight.
Garrett’s large frame hurtled past me, his narrowed eyes momentarily meeting mine. Taking advantage of his momentum, I immediately pivoted on the spot, sending a spinning kick towards his enormous back.
My foot hitting point-on, the dirty blonde was sent flying towards the wall. To my great surprise, as soon as his fist came into contact with the partition, the solid structure crumbled, causing him to crash through its remains and into the room ahead.
A shrill scream emerged from beyond the destroyed wall. Jumping into the room after my opponent, I noticed an adolescent girl shaking in the corner.
Long, black hair draped across her shoulders, swaying with each shiver of her delicate frame. Her wide, oval eyes contained both fear and surprise, becoming even larger as she discovered my gaze.
Well, perhaps it wasn’t my gaze that she was surprised about, but my appearance.
Because, like me, the girl had a pair of adorable cat ears perched upon her head.
It’s a neko-mimi maid!!!!!
I could feel my eyes becoming fixated on the girl’s appearance as my mind tittered distractedly. After all, ‘neko-mimi’ girls were a staple of otherworldly adventures.
“Heh~ so you have the leisure to be looking around, eh?”
A chill rushed up my spine as a low voice whispered into my ear. Whirling around, I aimed a kick at the assailant’s head, but—
—was immediately sent flying into the far wall by a heavy blow.
My bones creaked as my body screamed with pain at the impact. It wasn’t hard for me to figure out just how hard I had been hit, as yet another hole was generated across from the first, like some poor construction project.
Tumbling out of the mansion, the sun’s powerful rays shone upon my face, causing me to squint from its light.
My first breath of fresh air in days was filled with dust kicked up by the rubble beneath me. Coughing violently, I shakily stood up. Thankfully, it didn’t seem like anything was broken. Perhaps my [Defense] stat was higher than I thought. It had been quite a while since I last properly checked my stats.
In any case, I’m…finally outside…
Exhaling a breath of relief, I gazed towards my slowly approaching opponent.
Because with this, my objective was fulfilled.
“You’re hardly eating anything Con! It’s one of my rare days off, so enjoy the meal some more!”
Hearing the voice of my long-time friend, I twitched and gave a strained smile. Picking up my fork, I began to poke at the contents of my plate, slowly bringing a piece of meat to my mouth.
However, despite the fact that this was one of the better restaurants in town, and that this was one of my favourite dishes, I just couldn’t muster up any appetite. The rich and savoury flavours that I normally enjoyed now seemed far too overpowering, choking me with its heavy sauce.
Feeling my stomach begin to contract in a sickening manner, I put down my fork under the gaze of Darius’s sky blue eyes.
“Sorry Darius, I just……I’m not that hungry right now……”
Turning an apologetic expression towards Darius, I shook my head and rested it upon my hands.
“Haa……what’s wrong, Con? This isn’t like you at all.”
Heaving a deep sigh, the honey blonde man inquired into my current state. But, even though he had gone so far as to take time off work to comfort me, I couldn’t tell him what was wrong.
After all……I couldn’t possibly tell him that I sold out a friend so that I could get my sister back……
Though the ‘friend’ in question probably didn’t think of me as such anymore.
Guilt stabbed deep into my chest.
Remorse filled my mind at the thought of what she must be going through at the moment.
Yet, even though I felt so much regret at my actions, I knew. That if I had to choose once again, I’d still choose to save my little sister.
Even though I knew that it’d cost her more than just her life.
Shaking my head, I continued to let out words of apology. I wasn’t even sure if I was still apologizing to Darius, or to the girl that was no longer here. Perhaps it was to the both of them.
Falling silent, Darius stared at me as though he were trying to divine what exactly was running through my mind. Eventually giving up, he let out an exasperated sigh while rubbing the back of his head.
“Look, I’m not sure what’s getting you down, but all I know is that your depression’s been making Hawera unhappy too. It doesn’t seem like you’re about to tell me what happened, but at the very least—”
“—what was that?!”
Surprise flashed across Darius’s face as he looked behind me, aiming his gaze towards the restaurant’s window. Even without turning around, I could see a bright red light reflecting from within his sky blue orbs..
Unable to comprehend what exactly I was seeing, I turned around, only to discover that, like what I had seen in his blue eyes, the blueness of the sky outside was painted with brilliant crimson sparks.
“Let’s go! Looks like something interesting is going on!”
Before I could even register what was going on, my mischievous childhood friend had thrown money on the table and grabbed my arm, dragging me out of the clamouring building. As we exited onto the dusty road, loud shouts of confusion could be heard from across the town.
Suddenly, Darius began to dash towards the source of the commotion. His hand kept a firm hold on my arm as he ran, forcing me to move to keep pace with him. It didn’t take long before I realized our destination – the Lord’s mansion.
From afar, I could see smoke and dust dancing within the air, coming from a large hole in the side of the building.
Standing around the devastating scene were a number of soldiers whose faces I couldn’t recognize. Clad in uniforms of glittering gold, they blocked off our view of the rubble, apparently talking to someone within their encirclement.
As we approached, a gap appeared in the gilded wall, exposing a fire that I thought had long since been extinguished.
Standing upon a mountain of rubble was the girl of flame, dyed the colour of blood.
Hearing a voice filled with regret and sorrow cry out my name, I turned, finding a pair of remorseful golden gems staring back at me. However, unlike before, where I might have responded in an amiable manner, I simply ignored the youth’s call, turning back towards the gaudily dressed men before me.
Even if this action lead to his somewhat attractive face contorting in pain, I couldn’t care less. He knows what he did. Rather, it made me want to retort on the fact that he still had the guts to act this way despite selling me out.
Whether or not he had a decent reason for doing so, it doesn’t change the fact that he did it anyways.
After all, there were surely other ways he could have possibly dealt with the situation. Other ways that wouldn’t, perhaps, have forced me to endure days of starvation.
“Please……help…! Inside……there are other girls……like me……”
Allowing my legs to crumble beneath me, I put on a pitiful mask, like an actress falling into role. Shakily raising my arm, I pointed towards the giant hole behind me, within which stood my rather astonished assailant.
That said, it didn’t take much for me to play the part of a helpless, abused girl. With lacerations apparent on nearly every area of exposed skin, and blood coating my armour, my current state could probably evoke sympathy from even the most cold-hearted of people.
And that wasn’t even considering the fact that these men were already on my side to begin with.
“What did you say?! Men, go inside and search if there are any other victims!”
An important-looking man from within the troop quickly gave a ‘startled’ expression and hollered out a stern order. Then, approaching me, he kneeled down and extended a hand towards me.
“Are you alright, miss? Can you tell me what happened?”
My voice shaking, I gave a quick glance around, noting the gradual increase in onlookers. Considering that the golden-clothed soldiers had set off a flare as soon as they had found me, I suppose it was only natural. With such a flashy signal going off at the mansion of the town’s Lord, it’d be more surprising if nobody showed any interest at all.
“I-……a few days ago, I-……”
The frozen form of the man who had sold me to the devil hovered within my eyes. If I exposed the truth now, there was no doubt that he would end up paying for it in some manner. After all, even if he did it under coercion, it didn’t change the fact that he had drugged a noble from an ally country knowing that she would end up in a situation akin to slavery.
A pair of ice-cold sapphires glared at me intently, reminding me of the promise I had made with him.
“I was attacked by the Lord’s men and captured…”
Startled gasps echoed throughout the crowd as countless gazes bore holes into my body, likely attracted to the numerous wounds decorating my skin.
“And-……and then……the Lord’s son t-tortured me and-……”
A slight burning sensation assaulted my eyes, drawing tears forth as I thought about my experiences in that dank dungeon. Then, falling silent, I lowered my head, hiding my face away.
This should be incriminating enough……right?
Sneaking a peek at the expressions of the surrounding crowd, I confirmed their reactions of pity and outrage. Judging from how things were developing, it seemed like my [Imouto Plea] skill was still going strong.
“Sir! We’ve found the other two girls!”
Conveniently, at that moment, the soldiers who had entered through the hole made by my body came out, carrying Nelia and Riva.
Their bodies were covered in extravagant-looking coats, likely due to the fact that their original ‘clothes’ were completely shredded, exposing much of their shapely frames. In the strong arms of the men carrying them, they truly looked like fragile existences.
Though the additional cloth covered most of their bodies, bits of broken flesh could be seen here and there, with traces of blood beginning to stain the golden coverings.
“Wha-!? There’s even more of them?!”
“Wait, I think I’ve seen that girl before……didn’t she suddenly leave town a month ago??”
“And that other one……I’m pretty sure I saw her a few months back……”
“So the Lord was abducting girls in secret?!”
“No way……it has to be the work of that idiot son of his…”
Doubtful whispers rippled throughout the growing mob. However, with the ‘evidence’ of the Lord’s deeds right in front of them, it didn’t take long for those “whispers” to turn into angered shouts.
“You bastard, Cuyler!! How could you let your son do something like this?!”
“Even if they’re runaways, they’re still nobles of Rosso!!! What’s gonna happen when Rosso finds out?!”
“Oh dear Maridi……there’s going to be a WAR!!!”
With those words, the group descended into panic, as screams and curses streamed into the air. It seemed that, with but a simple spark, the mob would fall into pure chaos.
Like a lion’s roar, a booming voice filled with regality commanded the unruly onlookers, instantly driving them into a stunned silence.
The voice’s bearer soon revealed himself from the crumbled wall, displaying a dandy-looking man with an upright posture.
A suppressing charisma seemed to overflow from every step the man took as he stood upon the tattered remains of the carnage.
“What’s with all this fuss!! You there, speak!”
Immediately taking control of the situation, the man strode forth and pointed at the golden-clothed soldier next to me.
“Yes! Lord Cuyler, sir, we of the Royal Guard were dispatched here to investigate the recent disappearances of Rossonian nobles in this area. When we passed by your mansion, the wall suddenly exploded, and we found this girl here being attacked by one of your men. Do excuse our actions, but we took the liberty of entering your mansion, and found two noble girls collapsed within your estate.”
Hearing this, the man’s brow furrowed as he turned his peridot green eyes towards me. Upon seeing my figure, he scoffed.
“You mean to tell me that you believed the words of some lowly beastkin and intruded upon my mansion because of that?”
It was at that moment that the surrounding people finally seemed to notice the ears perched atop my head.
“Now that he mentions it……”
“Is she one of those? A Fallen?”
“I hear those sell for quite a bit as slaves……”
The looks of pity and anger that I had received before had now transformed into covetous gazes that clung to my small frame. It was as if I had turned into some show animal they were looking to buy. Needless to say, it was a highly unpleasant feeling.
Opening my mouth, I prepared to refute his words, when—
“She’s not a beastkin!!!”
—a single man stood in front of me and denied those eyes.
“Aurelia’s boy, huh. Looks like you’re a beast-lover like that disgraceful father of yours. Just what part of that thing looks human to you?”
…wouldn’t it be everything except the ears and tail?
Silently retorting the Lord’s condescending words, I glowered at him. In contrast to my relatively calm reaction, however, Conrad’s body shook with barely contained rage.
Crimson liquid dripped from his clenched fists as he bore his fangs towards the enemy beyond his reach.
“My. Father. Has. Nothing. To. Do. With. This!!!”
“Nothing, you say. Even though you’re trying to protect something like that? To begin with, if it truly came out of my mansion, then it must be one of my slaves. I’ll need you to return it, unless you want to end up like your father.”
Saying thus, Cuyler sneered, transforming his expression into that of a villain’s.
Though it’d be interesting to see where this ‘drama’ goes, he’s gone and said something I can’t just let go like that.
Concealing myself behind Conrad, I swiftly inactivated my [Neko Transformation] before haughtily stepping out and glaring coldly towards my supposed ‘master’.
“And who the hell do you think you’re calling one of your ‘slaves’, hm?”
Cloaking my body in a proud and noble bearing, I exerted my intimidation upon the crowd, petrifying them into silence. Then, sauntering forward until I stood before the leering Lord, I made my declaration.
“I am hu——”
Suddenly, a high-pitched voice shrieked from the within the mansion.
Sensing something hurtling towards me with an unbelievable amount of killing intent, I stepped back. However, in a moment of inattention, I failed to take into account the rubble scattered across the ground. Before I knew it, my body was tumbling backwards, with my right leg high up in the air, when—
—a bloodcurdling howl echoed out into the surroundings.
Strangely, at the same time, my foot appeared to make contact with something soft, allowing me to regain my balance.
Upon standing back up, it didn’t take me long to recognize the many looks of horror and astonishment enclosing me. Tilting my head, I followed the countless gazes, only to find a rather familiar scene lying on the ground.
For the one crumpled there was none other than the man I had left unconscious in the dungeons.
Indeed, it was…….Keith.