Before anyone could come to grips with what just happened—
“F-Fu ha ha ha ha ha! So we failed to finish off the rumored second princess, but we did succeed in taking out Earthgant’s famed strongest maid doll!”
—a joyful yet mocking laugh suddenly resounded throughout the main hall.
A group of men in robes of distinctive coloring had surrounded the sarcophagus on the altar.
The design was a mixture of black and bloody red, engendering an eerie atmosphere that left one uneasy.
They were likely high priests of the cult for there was a large emblem of the order embroidered onto their robes in gold.
But of course, such things could not possibly draw the attention of the girls right now.
“Who are you people!?”
“Ku ha ha, what reckless children. Even adherents won’t last more than a few seconds in cursed waters. Were your friends suicidal? Or maybe they actually thought that that doll could still be saved?”
A deafening, high pitched laughter resounded without hesitation throughout the hall. The priest laughed at their ignorance despite attacking this place on their own volition.
A mass of black evil ki, waters marked with a curse – no human could possibly survive its touch.
Any and all that fell into such cursed waters could only resign themselves to their fate; hence, why it was the cult’s trump card against troublesome foes such as themselves.
“That’s exactly what it is, you foolish priests.”
For the first time since coming here, a peerless smile appeared on the hero as he pointed his sword at the priests.
There was a tinge of pity on his face and voice as he pointed out that their suspicions were actually correct.
“I see, this must be what it’s like to feel pity toward someone that’s just too ignorant. I understand now why Shinichi keeps scolding me───Isn’t that right, everyone?”
The hero asked, and a voice responded—
—From behind the priests.
Some turned around, some tried to get away, and others tried to cast a curse.
But every one of them was too slow and too full of openings against those girls.
The priests screamed, and as blood dyed their robes, someone’s something flew in the air.
They were taken by surprise from behind and heavily wounded, yet as grave as their wounds were, not one among them perished.
But that was only a given, after all these girls were outstanding. As maids that also worked as royal guards, being able to deal with assassins was part of the job description, and they were also more than capable enough to extract information.
In other words, they were well versed in the art of inflicting pain without killing.
Moreover, they were citizens of a great magic country; hence, they were all adept at healing magic.
They could easily cut a person’s limbs and not let them die.
But of course, that’s just an example.
“Eek, gah, gyah… AH AH! W-Why!? Since when were you there—!?”
The person that was laughing so loudly earlier was now on the ground, writhing in pain.
But of course, the priests had no way of knowing that it had long been planned to bring things into this direction.
The cultist priests had prepared many traps. If things went well, they would be able to wipe out their enemies, and if their traps were to fail, they would simply run away.
But Shinichi had already seen through that.
That’s why all they did was to stop the assassination attempt of that woman.
They intentionally didn’t knock her out or kill her, so that they could force these people to use their trump card.
Though it could not be denied that that card turned out to be much worse than what Shinichi and Stella had expected, these girls have always been hiding so that they would be able to catch these priests once they think they’ve won.
As for hurting them to this extent, that was purely because they needed something to take out their worries and anger to.
But of course, this much wasn’t really anything to speak of considering how many lives these cultists have reaped.
“You tramps! Ah, gu, what, are you being, so calm, for… They’re, dead, you know! They fell into the cursed waters, distorted and disfigured, every bit of them rotten away, why are you, so unconcerned!?”
However, the emotions they held could not be seen through those expressionless faces they wore.
Which is why these girls appeared so terrifying to the cultists. Just a moment ago, they were talking so intimately with their friends, and yet even after they died, they didn’t let out so much as an eek and just calmly gave them a beating.
“Obviously, that is because there is actually nothing to be concerned about.”
The person who answered their question was the approaching hero who had his sword in stance.
Behind him followed the princess and the fox-eared servant.
They were all smiles, but the pressure emanating from them terrified even heretics such as themselves.
“Truly, what pitiful people, not even knowing who it is that they are fighting with. That that boy that jumped out without any hesitation to save Stella hadn’t done anything that he shouldn’t,” the princess said.
“Master is someone who’d never do something he couldn’t, after all!” the fox-eared servant said.
“…But on the other hand, he’s the kind of person who would do anything no matter how dangerous it is if it is something he is capable of, and I must say, it really is bad for the heart to watch him pull off such feats.”
The few maids behind them heaved a sigh despite remaining expressionless.
Not a hint of anxiety could be seen on them. Such was their calmness that no one could accuse them of merely bluffing.
The priests were so sure of their victory that they could not understand that.
Yet these people looked down at them as though they were fools that did not understand the truth of the world.
‘What is with these people?’
Oddly enough, they ended up with the same impression as those cultist warriors that were defeated earlier.
“Let’s not fall into a daze now, look. You’ll understand faster if you see it with your own eyes… The sight of your complete defeat to Shinichi.”
The face of the priest twisted from the pain as the hero forced him to look at the scene below the altar.
Along the ground where the sacrifices were lined up were gutters stretching out like a maze toward the altar.
Those gutters were full of cursed water and evil ki as usual, but the ‘change’ that the hero mentioned indeed happened.
“Gu, what, what is that?”
Giant bubbles popped up from the gutters, and then a small explosion resounded, and a small pillar of cursed water rose, from which shot out a ‘black light’. A black light that could be seen despite the darkness of the cursed waters behind it because of how much stronger its own darkness was.
That’s why the priests couldn’t help but suspect that something might be lurking beneath the black waters.
And with that something surpassing their instinct, fear found its way into them.
Their souls cowered, knowing that that light was not something they ought to be going against.
“Ufufu, this time you better listen closely. Because if you listen well enough, you might just hear my master’s valiant voice.”
When those words were muttered by their ears, they found themselves pricking up their ears.
Indeed, there was a sound of sort from the depths of those waters – a voice – growing louder and louder, and
───────oo… OO… UOOOoo!
Yes, for some reason, a voice that could only be described as a yell was bellowing out with such power from the depths of the cursed waters.
And then those very waters responded to that yell and exploded.
The cultist priests could not understand why, but it seemed as though the cursed water was actually afraid.
“No! It, it cannot be!”
“It’s impossible! Impossible!”
When a certain thought crossed their mind, they immediately shot it down, but as though it was waiting for that, suddenly all of the cursed waters were devoured by the brilliance of that powerful black light, and when it finally waned, it took the cursed waters with it.
“…Enough yapping and shut up already.”
The gutters now empty, the boy, from which those black lights came, stood before the cultists priests and glared down at them.
His clothes were stained, but his body was unharmed.
In his arms was a maid in a similar condition.
“Eek, why!? Why are you unharmed!?”
“T-That face, you’re an otherworlder!? Black hair, a boy… Someone that can resist curses… A-Ah, don’t tell me!? You’re that person who’s been destroying the branches singlehandedly!!”
When the cultist priests finally saw his face, they remembered a certain rumor that has been going around the cult.
More and more branches have been dying abruptly recently.
Word had it that the person responsible for that was a black-haired otherworlder immune to the power of the evil god.
In fact, said otherworlder had already destroyed some of the parts of the evil god’s body.
Anyone who caught wind of that rumor snickered at the thought, but seeing the boy right before them, they could only believe.
Alas, it was already too late.
“Huh, so Shinichi was famous among you cultists? No wonder he went out of his way to cover his face with a hood!”
The hero said with admiration as he knocked out the priests just as Shinichi had instructed.
Meanwhile, Youko and some of the maids ran up to Shinichi.
Though they indeed trusted Shinichi and talked him up before the cultist priests, there was no helping their worries.
But before they could say anything, Shinichi curtly told the maids.
“I’ll leave the rest to you.”
For a moment, Shinichi’s gaze looked outside. They realized what that meant, so they told him.
“Understood… What about the Head Maid?”
The head maid was certainly in his arms, but her countenance was pale and her eyes were closed. The sound of her breath couldn’t be heard either.
Such a scene understandably led them to draw the worst conclusions.
“Leave her to me.”
“Y-Yes! In that case, please leave the rest of the cleanup to us!”
Shinichi’s words were brief but brimming with confidence, so they left some members with him while the rest scattered into the temple to deal with the remaining cultists.