“Uh, nope! I’m the one in trouble here!”
“What are you even saying?! I ought to consult with you when I think I’m in trouble – that’s what Asley told me!”
Tarawo shouted, prompting a reaction from Natsu, Hornel, and Tifa.
“W-why is HIS name even mentioned now, of all times?!”
But as the Black Double Dragon regained its balance and attacked again, Hornel and Tifa re-focused their attention where they ought to be, paying no mind to Tarawo’s words.
“Sir Asley really said that?”
“That’s right! Haven’t you been told anything?!”
Itsuki tilted her body along with her head as she thought things over.
“Anything?! A message or something he had you keep around?!”
Itsuki clapped her palms together. Seeing that, Tarawo’s face lightened up.
“But are we sure we’re really talking about THAT thing…?”
“It doesn’t matter anymore – just hurry and tell me!”
Itsuki held her index finger in front of Tarawo.
“It’s kept in… the Pochisley Agency.”
Tarawo shivered in frustration.
[Damn you! Something so important to ME, and she doesn’t keep it with her at all times?! I ought to give her a good… Wait, no, Itsuki is quite scary when she’s angry, so I ought to keep quiet here.]
Tarawo shook his head and pressed his question on Itsuki again.
“All right! What is it, and where in the Agency is it kept at?!”
“Do you remember the vase with the casa blanca? The new ones Hornel brought in the other day?”
“It’s a vial that was placed right next to it.”
Tarawo blurted out and turned in the direction of the Pochisley Agency.
At the same time, Itsuki stepped forward.
“Um, should I go with you?”
“No need! With my body like this, going alone is much faster!”
Tarawo shouted and promptly ran off.
He weaved his way through the various piles of rubble, making his way out to the Pochisley Agency via a path through which humans would not fit, distracting the Black Double Dragon all the while.
Although he struggled to catch his breath, Tarawo kept on running.
After a minute of running, although out of breath, he was in front of the Pochisley Agency. But then he realized something…
“What?! I can’t reach the door with my legs?!”
He jumped and jumped, but could not get his paws up to the doorknob.
Realizing that he could not open the door normally, Tarawo moved away from the building, then started sprinting again.
With a full-force headbutt, Tarawo successfully broke through the Pochisley Agency’s window.
Together with the shattering sound of the window’s glass, Tarawo fell through into the building.
“The vial! Where’s the vial?! VIAL!!”
Tarawo scoured all over the Agency, before long finding the casa blanca vase and the vial next to it.
He pushed a chair out of the dining room, climbed onto it, and fetched the vial, holding it in his mouth.
Then, when he was back at the door, he realized…
<“What?! I can’t reach the doorknob from this side, either – oh, of course!”>
Tarawo contemplated carrying over a nearby chair.
But then, having decided that doing so would take too much time, Tarawo steeled himself…
…And busted his way through the window again.
[Ngh?! Glass shards?!]
Getting a stray shard on his forehead, Tarawo held down the wound with his front paws and kept running on only his hind legs.
[It hurts! Like hell! Oh, God, why must I be subject to so much pain?! I don’t understand! I swear, I will never live this down!!]
Though he complained, indignant about his situation, what passed through his mind was the face of his Master.
The face of Tifa in all her grumpy glory. The face of Tifa in a silent rage. And now, the face of Tifa struggling with all her power to protect everyone.
Tarawo went back to running on all his four legs, his eyes reflected a complicated mix of emotions at the thoughts that had dashed through his head.
And now, back at the scene of the deathly battle, he saw the friends he had gotten used to associate with, covered in injuries – the latter was what he had yet to get used to.
Countless scars were clearly visible on Tifa’s body. However, she was not shedding even a drop of blood.
The Black Double Dragon flame breaths had seared her wounds, stopping her bleeding.
And although Hornel had relatively few injuries, the massive drain on his arcane energy pool was apparent.
Natsu had already exhausted her arcane energy, and Itsuki’s face was twisted into a pained expression.
The only one who remained unharmed was Maïga – he shouted,
“Come on! You’re fighting me, damn oversized lizard!”
Having mostly been on the defensive, Maïga now switched to a full offense.
As the situation got tighter and tighter, Tarawo rushed back to Itsuki side.
“I got the thing! How is it used?! Do I just drink it?”
“Yes! …Uh, go ahead?!”
“WELL, I CAN’T OPEN IT!”
Tarawo lashed his impatience out, which garnered him a reaction from one of the Black Double Dragon’s heads.
Hornel realized that the Black Double Dragon’s other head had moved away from Tifa. Now both its front and back heads were now targeting him.
Tifa rushed to keep up, and Hornel mustered up his willpower to push out more arcane energy.
Both of the Dragon’s heads unleashed a hellish stream of fire.
“C-curses…! Can’t hold on… much longer…!”
As Hornel came to terms with his limitations, Tifa came running to him.
“Don’t you even think about saying that again! Oh, Lina is SO gonna hear about this!”
Tifa released her arcane energy.
Although she managed to strike a good balance for a moment, it was apparent that Tifa’s arcane energy was almost at its limit as well.
Tifa grit her teeth.
As Hornel’s Arcane Energy weakened and Tifa reached her limit, a gigantic ‘heartbeat’ resounded from behind them.
As the Black Double Dragon’s flames subsided, Tifa and Hornel were down on their knees. They subsequently collapsed.
Maïga landed in front of the fallen pair and called out to Hornel:
“Damn it, you little shit! I sure as hell hope you’re not dead! If you dare die, I’ll kill you myself!”
Hornel did not respond.
Maïga glared at the Black Double Dragon, and saw that flames were welling up in its mouth again. It was getting ready to land the finishing blow.
“Son of a…!”
His voice was low and threatening – but mixed in with Itsuki’s weak, confused voice.
And then Maïga heard quiet but weighty footsteps, approaching from behind him.
He could not afford to turn around, however. Looking away from the Black Double Dragon now would be suicide.
Until this moment, the Black Double Dragon had been staring Maïga down, threatening him.
But Maïga now noticed – the monster’s eyes were not on him anymore. Instead, it had shifted to focus on what was behind him.
At that time, what Maïga felt on his back was a heavy, dense concentration of arcane energy. An absolute form of pressure that rivaled even the Black Double Dragon in front of him.
“For the love of God… The little girl sure has overworked herself.”
The voice behind Maïga grumbled in its usual pompous tone.
But some doubts surfaced in the tiger’s mind.
Although the tone of speaking was what he was familiar with, the voice itself was completely different.
Same mannerisms, different voice… deep, weighty, and grand… as if it was of a warrior who had survived thousands of battles.
The owner of the new voice licked Tifa’s cheek once before getting closer and close to Maïga, one step at a time.
This moment, Maïga’s mind was filled with words – words that the Familiar he had always teased would frequently say.
[I am a Garm, a King Wolf!]
The fiery dark-red creature stopped at Maïga’s side, staring straight ahead at the confronting Black Double Dragon.
Its breath was jet black, its eyes were crimson, its fangs were the definition of sharp, and its fur stood like a bush of thorns.
Even Maïga in his gigantified form looked small in comparison to this new arrival.
Glancing at it from the side, Maïga muttered:
“Should’ve come out faster, you little shit.”
“Hmph. I was only busy pulling the glass shard out of my forehead.”
They threw some shade at each other before returning their glare to the persisting threat, the Black Double Dragon, in front of them.
In the face of the enormous mass of Arcane Energy, the Black Double Dragon could not bring itself to move forward. Maïga, standing next to it, also felt the pressure.
“So… that is what you really look like?”
“Like I’ve said a million times before… I.AM. A GARM. A KING WOLF…”
“Hah, as if anyone with a functioning brain had believed you.”
In response to Maïga’s remark, Tarawo muttered as if looking back at a point in his past.
“I am what I am today because there was someone who believed me.”
“Ooh, I sure would like to know who the hell that is.”
“The one who had created this medicine… perhaps.”
An image of Asley surfaced in Tarawo’s mind.
“What? That’s not ringin’ any bells for me.”
“Well, don’t worry about it… Look – Tifa took one for us. She protected us.”
“My little shit of a Master, too. We gotta pay it back real good…”
Silent rage burning in their eyes, Tarawo and Maïga roared, their voices echoing through Beilanea.
Then they stared down at the S-ranked Black Double Dragon and grumbled the same sentence,
“”That thing’s good as dead.””