Walking through the empty halls of the manor, Artemis was listening closely for anything, and then she heard a creak coming from the 2nd floor.
She takes out an arrow and slowly goes up. She checks the corners and moves stealthily. She stands still and listens for more sound and another creak.
She moves into where the source is and with her arrow drawn and ready to fire, Artemis kicks open the door and aims to find Miach making some tea.
“Oh, sorry! I was making some tea!” Miach said, a bit surprised.
“Where are Hestia and Wiene?”
“Sorry can’t tell you—Thud!”
An arrow had knocked the teacup was removed from his hands by an arrow, Miach looks to find the cup broken against a wall as the handle hangs from the arrow.
He looks at his fingers to find not even a graze on him.
“Gulp! S-such terrifying skill…”
“Miach, this is a labor I am giving them; you can stay here or not get in my way. I know you won’t talk.”
“… Sorry, but they aren’t here anymore.”
“No.” Artemis darts her eyes and tilts her head. “They’re here. I assume you’re here to buy time for them to get away, right?” Her sharp eyes land on the medicine god.
“Sorry, but a hunter always makes preparations.”
Outside the manor, but still on the premises.
“Come on! We need to move! Artemis is a great tacker!” said Hestia.
“Y-yes! But where can we go?” said Bell.
“Ahh!!! I thought Lady Artemis was going to be on our side!!” said Lili. “This is really bad!”
“Wiene, stay with me alright.” Said Haruhime.
“Hm!” Wiene said, holding Haruhime.
They move around the home back to the front where they found Takemikazuchi and Hephaestus tending to Mikoto and Welf.
“Welf! Mikoto!” shouted Bell as he rushed to them.
They came over to see them knocked out cold.
“W-what happened!” said Hestia.
“Hestia…” said Hephaestus. “It’s a labor.”
“… Ah.” Hestia's eyes widen. She felt the same way, Takemikazuchi, and Hephaestus felt shame.
In that moment of clarity, she found peace.
Hestia darted her eyes around her home to find or hear anyone of thing.
Sweat dripped from her brow. She knew at that moment she and her Familia cannot hope to run.
“L-Lady Hestia?” said Bell, seeing as emotions come and go from his goddess face where only a stern expression remained.
“… We can’t escape.” She said sternly. “I found it to be odd, but… There is no sound of the city anymore.”
They now realized it as well. There are no city sounds but their own, nor do they see other people walking by.
“Bell be ready for—"
Landing before them were Kalion and Artemis.
“I knew you couldn’t have gone far,” Artemis said.
“Artemis! What is your labor!” Hestia shouted.
“Labor!?” Welf said.
“Yes, a labor. It is what we gods call it when a mortal is put through a test. So tell me Artemis what is your labor!!”
“Your labor is simple,” Artemis said, looking down at her. Eyes so stern and sharp, Hestia couldn’t help but feel intimidated. “Show me you are ready to stand by Wiene!! Should I find you act as you did in heaven, I will take her from you by force!!”
“How can you do that!? My Bell is level 3!” Hestia said. “And your strongest children are in the dungeon!”
“Hestia.” Artemis interrupted Hephaestus. “Do you know how much magic tools have developed over the years?” she places her hand on the clam earring on her right ear and presses. “Now.”
Walking into their front yard was Cirrus. Fully geared with a stride to his step.
“… Oh.” The Hestia Familia’s blood ran cold.
They quickly underestimated how prepared Artemis was going to go. Now they faced the strongest adventure in the world.
“C-Cirrus.” Said Bell, a bit frightened.
“This is your labor, Hestia Familia! Face Cirrus and win!!” Artemis shouted.
They could feel their hearts plummet when they heard her say that. Not even 4 first-class adventures were enough to take him on. What chance do they have?
“S-Sora! Y-you aren’t going—"
“Lili,” Cirrus said, walking towards them with a firm expression. “You must face me and win.” He said with grit.
Her face started to tear up a bit.
“W-why! Just because we found Wiene!” she shouted.
“No, because you took her in.” he then stops a few feet before them. “Bell, you said you wished to be a hero so—” Cirrus let out an intense bloodlust that sent shivers down their back. It made that of monsters tame in comparison. “To be honest, I wish it didn’t come to this, but now is your chance to show me you have what it takes to be called a ‘Hero’.”
Bell was shaking in fear, but as he turned to his Familia, he could see Hestia, Lili, and Haruhime shaking. Wiene was hiding behind him desperately.
Bell gathered what courage he could and stepped forward, drawing his knives.
“I-I won’t back down!!” He shouted with vigor and shaken confidence.
“Good, you can stand on your own two feet.” Cirrus intensifies the bloodlust and Mikoto and Welf get up from it in response.
“Gasp!!” They both wake up.
“Only one… that’s fine. It takes only one to lead the way. Come.” Cirrus made the hand signal to come at him. “Let me see. What if you can save her?”
Bell rushed him with quick speed.
“Ha!! haa! haa!”
His swings carried with them hesitation; Cirrus only swatted them away with minimal effort.
“Why are you hesitating, Bell? Do you not wish to hurt me?”
“I… I don’t want to fight you!”
Cirrus spartan kicked him in his stomach, causing him to roll across the yard.
Bell grabbed his stomach in pain. He felt as though he was gonna cough up his insides—no it was coming up.
He couldn't hold the feeling out and he vomited out the contents of his stomach.
“Bell,” Cirrus said, walking up to him calmly. “If you can’t fight against someone, you know how will you protect her?” He points at Wiene. “Should anyone learn of her, they will try to kill her and when you try to defend her, you will not be fighting monsters but your fellow adventures.”
“!?” Bell was shaking even more. Trying to wipe the vomit from his mouth.
“Can you kill for her? Can you fight against Orario?”
The shaking was getting even more intense.
“Can you fight the world for her?”
“Hestia.” Said Artemis, cutting Hestia off. “He must deal with it. Either has the resolve or he doesn’t.”
“Guh!” Hestia said, looking at Bell shaking on the ground.
It pains Hestia dearly.
“Bell…” Cirrus stands before him, casting his gaze upon the wounded rabbit. “Can you fight against Ais? Because should the worst-case scenario happen, you will face her?”
Silence falls on Bell. He was thinking of what to say, but…
‘Should Wiene ever get exposed… I will need to…’
He clenches his fists in frustration. His heart beat faster and faster, his mind racing along with it with all kinds of possibilities.
“And what of you, his Familia?” Cirrus glances at the others. “Will you follow what he chooses, or will you stand aside?”
They were all shaking, but Lili stepped forward with her crossbow ready and dagger in hand.
“H-he helped me when I was too foolhardy to accept!! For that, I will follow what he chooses!!! Haa!!!”
She fired her crossbow and went after Cirrus.
‘Always knew you had a fire in you, Lili.’ Cirrus thought as he swats away her crossbow bolts.
They could see a small Pallum desperately putting up a fight, the way she uses the dagger was far better than one would expect from a level 1 as she mixes it with her crossbow, but it wasn’t anything a level 8 could easily swat away.
“Welf!! Mikoto!! Bell!! Aren’t you ashamed a dam level 1 Pallum is putting up more of a fight than you!!” Lili shouted.
They all flinch and they all get up, all but Bell.
“I… I can’t back down from this!!” shouted Welf. “Buy me some time!!” he quickly runs away.
“Haaa!!!” Mikoto shouted as she joins to help Lili.
The two of them shoot and slash at Cirrus.
“I’m sorry Lord Kyūjouno!! But I will stand by my Familia!!”
A mix of sword, dagger, and crossbow was aimed at Cirrus.
“Lord Bell!!” shouted Haruhime. “Get up!!”
He looked up to see Lili and Mikoto fighting, and Wiene ran to his side.
“I-I’m… sorry… I…” Bell said slowly, trying to catch his breath.
“Bell!! I’m sorry!! T-this is my fault!!” tears were falling from Wiene’s face.
Bell felt his pride shattered. He thought he would protect Wiene, but what was he doing now? Nothing but shriveling without putting up a fight.
At this moment, he remembered something his grandfather had once said.
“Grandpa, do you think I could be as strong as Cirrus?” a young Bell said, reading a book.
“… Maybe one day, but I doubt few could reach his strength,” Zeus said, picking at the fireplace.
“… Then is it impossible?”
His grandfather looked at him.
“Did I say it was impossible?”
“Bell, did I say it was impossible?” He looked sternly at Bell.
“… No,” Bell said, looking at the ground as if he got in trouble.
“Bell, you wished to be a hero, yes?”
“Y-yeah!” He quickly perked up at looking at his grandfather with stars in his eyes.
“Then you should get rid of the impossible in your dictionary, a hero has no need for it as he will raise to meet whatever stood in their way!! They also get tons of beautiful women to—"
Bell stands back up. Wobbly, but full of conviction.
“No… it’s not your fault.” He reaches over and pats her head. “I’m sorry I made you cry, now—” He grips his daggers tightly. “I will fight for you!!! (Firebolt)!!!”
Bell fires a ball of fire and Cirrus blocks it with his right forearm.
“Seems you regained your passion! Let’s see what you all could do!” Cirrus then began to take ground back with small attacks that shake them through their weapons.
Bell then jumped back in to help, and Lili got back to acting as support.
‘He isn’t even using his full strength! No, I bet he isn’t even using a fraction of a fraction of his strength and he’s making my arms lose strength!’ thought Mikoto as Cirrus strikes with his limbs.
‘I fought him before, and he’s holding back a lot. It’s frustrating but I need to take advantage of this!’ Bell thought.
Bell made a quick strike with his knife and placed his hand near Cirrus.
“(Firebolt)!! (Firebolt)!! (Firebolt)!!”
The 3 blasts strike Cirrus in his chest and right shoulder. As the last blast was about to hit, Cirrus treated it as a wet sheet of paper.
“Good hits but!!!” Cirrus thrusts his hand through the firebolt and—
—grabbed Bell’s head.
Cirrus then spins around, tossing him away across the courtyard.
“Bell!!” shouted Lili and Mikoto.
“… Good instincts,” Cirrus says as he removes one of Bell’s knives from his forearm. “Lili, did you teach him this?”
“Maybe!” she said, helping Bell up.
“Don’t forget me!!” shouted Mikoto as she came in with a downward slash and—
“You forgot your captain gave me his red dagger,” Cirrus said, blocking her swing.
With a swift movement of the hand, Cirrus had begun to attack Mikoto with such aggression she barely if any room or time to block most attacks.
Skin-deep cuts littered Mikoto’s body.
Bell fired another one, but with a strong swing Cirrus cut through it, but he noticed a crossbow bolt come with it grazing his cheek.
‘They’re getting better.’
Cirrus noticed their synergy has been getting better.
“(I respectfully speak to you, my War God that can break through anything, lead me from the precious heaven. Give my petty body divine power of your grand body.)!!” chanted Mikoto, getting space between her and Cirrus.
“You need to be faster for—"
“Eat this!!!” shouted Welf as he comes with a red magic sword.
He swings the sword, and an inferno comes at him.
“Heh, I wonder how much it hurts.”
The strike hits him directly, causing a blast to knock them back a bit.
“(Rescue them light of purification, sword of crushing evil. Sweep sword of suppression, sacred sword of conquest. It arrives here now by my order. Descend from heaven, rule the earth - shinbu tousei)!! [Futsunomitama]!!”
A purple sword appears and touches the area where Cirrus was, and an intense gravity hits him.
“Haruhime! Use your magic on Bell!” shouted Lili.
“Right! (Grow. That power and that vessel. Breadth of wealth and breadth of wishes. Until the bell tolls, bring forth glory and illusion. -Grow. Confine divine offerings within this body. This golden light bestowed from above. Into the hammer and into the ground. May it bestow good fortune upon you. -Grow) [Kokonoe]
A glow falls onto Bell as he stands up.
“Everyone get ready!” shouted Bell.
They look at the burning and crushing inferno as they could still feel his bloodlust.
“That really did sting like an ant.”
A blast of wind snuffed out the fire and blew them all back from the force of it.
Walking out of the area, Cirrus was wearing his Stymphalian armor with his spear in hand.
“Where the hell did he get his spear from!?” shouted Welf.
“Welf! Hit him again!” Lili shouted. “Bell, charge up your shot!”
“I’ve seen what your magic swords and that odd white light could do, and it won’t work on me!!!” Cirrus charged forward as Welf swings his magic sword and an inferno comes at Cirrus.
Cirrus spins his spear intensely making looking like a blur and as the inferno comes at him, he spins his body flowing with the speed of the spear.
Cirrus redirects the fire upwards in a twister.
“N-no way…” they all said as he sends it up into the air.
The flame then hit a barrier. The barrier revealed itself for a second before blending in again.
While it explained why they couldn’t see anyone outside the premises or why no one was looking at them, this momentary appearance distracted everyone but Artemis, Kalion, and Cirrus.
“Hup!” Cirrus then throws Bell’s red dagger at high speed into Bell’s right shoulder.
“Gaah!!” stopping the charge.
“Bell!” shouted Welf.
“Keep your eyes on the battle,” Cirrus said, having closed the distance between him and Welf.
“!!” Welf met Cirrus’s emerald eyes, and he felt his heart drop.
Cirrus judo flips him hard onto the ground.
“Welf!!” shouted Bell as he takes the dagger out of his shoulder.
“Nice magic sword.” Cirrus then kicks it up into his hand. “Let’s see how it handles.” Cirrus stabs his spear behind him and gets ready to swing the magic sword. “Bell, I suggest you finish charging your shot because it’s gonna be a big one!!!”
The magic sword pulsated in a fire.
“Lili! Haruhime, get Welf out of there! Mikoto distract him!”
“On it!” Mikoto came after Cirrus.
His spear shot out and swung at Mikoto, holding her back.
“Y-you can move it without the use of your hands!?” Mikoto shouted in surprise and strain.
“I never said I couldn’t,” Cirrus said, staring at Bell.
They all watched as these two faced each other.
The particle of light enhances the hand but as Bell looks at the magic sword, he could see a thin line of fire coming off the edge.
‘Maybe… I can do that as well!’
He looks at his knife and shouted.
His black knife glowed before it ignited in a sword of fire. It grew no longer than a short sword, but the heat and radiance it gave off were nothing to scoff at.
“Seems you made a new technique! Let’s see how strong it is!!”
Cirrus swings the magic sword.
As did Bell with his knife.
The two infernos clash with one another
As the blast was reaching Hestia and the others, a red hawk landed on Hestia’s head—
—and suddenly the blast was blocked.
A cacophony of fire and heat filled the yard.