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Translated by :
- Fr, /Fr81
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ALL RIGHTS BELONG TO TAPPEI NAGATSUKI, THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR OF RE:ZERO STARTING A LIFE IN A DIFFERENT WORLD FROM ZERO, THIS IS A TRANSLATION OF THE FREE JAPANESE WEB NOVEL INTO ENGLISH
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NOTICE AS OF DEC 30TH, 2021
This translation is currently being worked on to improve its quality. It is expected this will take up to a couple of weeks.
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――I heard a voice ripe with hatred.
――A sound which would not leave my ears.
――Words imbued with rage followed me.
――It was frightening, so frightening that I could not bear it.
――I was being crushed by the pressure of this noise which did not obscure its murderous intent.
――It gripped onto my soul, and would not let go.
――There was myself, and with the more I clung to my life, the more I would hurt others.
――First and foremost, I was sorry, so sorry, and yet I was still drowning.
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――A neck, was being strangled by a great force.
Straddling them, a light body was pressing down on someone, disabling all movement.
Shoulders were being held down by both legs and knees, small in size, the body floundering underneath without freedom. Before their eyes, white arms covered in vermilion abrasions were pressing down on their neck. An out-of-place thought flashed, that it appeared like blossoming flowers,
――Chokechoke, chokechoke, such was the great force with which someone’s neck was being throttled .
Right in front of their eyes, was a pair of pupils glowing with passion.
Endless fury and hollow despair stretched deep, deep in those large round eyes.
A blank thought that falling into those bottomless eyes, passed through their head.
???: “Ah, kah… Uh.”
――Badumbadum, badumbadum, such were the sounds of their legs flailing wildly .
That they were struggling in an effort to escape, was not the case.
Things such as thoughts to escape, had already disappeared long ago. So, the struggle of those legs were not an expression of a will to live, but merely a tantrum born of sheer physical suffering.
The brain was lacking oxygen, the mind had lost its will to live, but the body was still writhing in protest.
Everything was discordant, an unbalanced way of being such as that was unsightly.
Can’t I just die quietly? I want to just die quietly.
As peacefully as possible, like I’m simply going to sleep, that’d be the most enjoyable way to die for me.
Alas, such a wish was not to be. Far from being granted, their fate was really to be the complete opposite of that.
???: “Buh, kuh, kuh.”
With wide-open eyes bulging from their sockets, biting down hard and foaming at the mouth, with a body grown emancipated after only a few short days, it was in this state that they twisted and groaned like a wounded beast.
A fitting end, or so ought to be said.
A fitting fate, or so ought to be said.
What, why and how was it that they had come to be in this kind of situation?
???: “――What’s so funny?”
Suddenly, a voice was heard.
One unlike these animalistic groans, it was a cold yet clear voice.
The owner of those eyes laden with fury, their lips pressed thin as they squeezed their throat, looked up at the sound of the voice.
Even when asked what was so funny, they were unable to find the answer.
There was nothing funny here, in the first place. There really was not, so why even ask?
The question was confusing. Some rude kind of nonsense, a riddle.
Even if someone forced them to reply, they would not have any answers. Yet despite that, the time waiting in silence still felt like lying on a bed of thorns.
How many times had they been flung around like this, by the force of some divine providence, so absurdly and unreasonably?
???: “――What’s so funny?”
There was nothing funny about it.
???: “Huu, he, hehe.”
Then, was it that the person asking was directing it towards the wrong party?
Or, was it that this person was enjoying this moment without even noticing it?
Were they enjoying the situation of having this woman mount them like she was on horseback strangling away at their neck?
If that was it, then it was detestable; their rational thoughts escaped.
Woman: “――What’s so funny?”
There was nothing amusing here. Even though there was nothing, this question would be projected repeatedly, over and over again.
Not even projecting. She was not that far away. It was not even projecting.
Close enough to feel each other’s breath, gazing up at the beautiful face of the girl opposite him, they were surrounded by her voice. Blanketed in it.
She had, without words, without hurtful abuse, shown clear hate in her voice.
Woman: “What’s so――”
Funny, and then.
The question seeking an answer was expected again, but suddenly faded away like mist.
Tilted, the face of the girl in front of them suddenly tilted to the left.
Like that, her leaning body could not rise back. Her posture collapsed, and that girl’s body crumpled onto the white snow. Of course, as the thin arm formerly wrapped around his neck had also come loose, their path to suffocation had ended halfway through.
???: “――Geh, ah.”
Coughing, the bitter taste of blood ascended their neck.
Collapsing lungs inflated before receding again, sending much-needed oxygen through their body in turn. That was also a reflex, from survival instinct. A proper human being would not just refuse to breathe and die.
Questions like whether that would be something a proper person would do or not, were something they did not wish to discuss, at this juncture.
The feelings that had been present within their heart up to this moment, that of resigning oneself to death, now faded away. They had been replaced with a desire to live dubbed oxygen, an obsessive desire that could not be let go. Frantically, earnestly, they greedily coveted more to the point of looking pathetic.
While like that, ceaselessly filling his lungs with cold air on every breath, they had come to realize.
Amidst the accumulating fluffy white snow, before him, lay a girl collapsed on her side.
Through the poor complexion of her face and lips, the woman’s unrealistic beauty was raised to even greater heights. With her faint breaths turning to white mist, an omen of her life withering, her violently glistening eyes made for a strong impression.
Looking carefully, it was a sight that did not seem well-fitted for the snow.
Her uniform revealed bare shoulders and thighs; the thickness of its cloth was wholly insufficient for warding off the cold. The neck, the ears, and other areas easily chilled were exposed to the wind, a painful sight to witness.
They were only the clothes she happened to be wearing―― although, it wasn’t just the woman, but themselves too, that were in the same condition.
――Clackclack, clackclack, such were the sounds of trembling mismatched teeth striking.
Whether it was the cold, or the strong melancholy in their heart that was the culprit, they did not know.
In this situation, rather than worrying about the anomaly of their body, instead they could not take their eyes off the girl in front of him.
Even fallen over in the snow, with half her face buried in it, she still looked beautiful.
It seemed that unquenchable hate and fury was inflaming that slender body and keeping it alive. Covered in wounds to such an extent, it was a strange situation that the girl yet survived.
Countless corpses were lying around them and the girl, in that pure-white snowscape.
Those beasts that consumed life, indulged in it, and destroyed the soul, before the wind of this girl had all turned to corpses. So, in this place, the survivors amounted to only two. Themselves and the girl, only two.
That, too, in a moment, could immediately become one, become zero.
What is it, so the girl delicately mumbled as they slowly stood beside her.
The fingers on both their hands were numb due to the frost, having taken a dark-red coloration. With body temperature having dropped immensely, there was no feeling remaining in the cold fingers. Weak itching was the only evidence that the fingers were still attached to the their body.
Shaking about those fingers that could not be relied on, they lifted a stone as big as a human cranium.
Without any reason or purpose, it was only a stone that just happened to be there.
The fact that they had raised it secretly brought them much relief.
They compared the stone in their hand with the collapsed girl.
For a moment, that stone held by their fingers seemed to quite resemble the face of the collapsed woman.
They did not know if they were laughing. However, the look that was ultimately seared into their mind, was severe like that of a demon violently projecting onto them murderous intent and hostility, and nothing more.
As to shake that off, in both hands they lifted the rock skyward.
Gazing upwards at that action, the owner of those pink irises spoke with a faint, yet unquestionably clear voice,
Woman: “――I will definitely kill you.”
――The sound of something hitting something hard, in the snow-blanketed forest slowly, slowly echoed.
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――That day, the mansion of Margrave Roswaal L. Mathers’ collapsed with a whimper.
Ironically enough, the first to notice the collapse was the woman who, more than anyone else, had desperately struggled to maintain the mansion. And because of that, her actions had been ruthless.
At its genesis, she had received from the master of the house, from Roswaal, a great benefit.
So, hearing that the maid sisters who had taken care of the mansion no longer held their positions, knowing then that the owner had nobody to take care of him, she immediately rushed to that owner’s side.
The change in the appearance of the owner brought a most terrible pain to her chest.
Those two suspiciously glinting, brimming with confidence, differently-colored pupils; the eccentric and frank way of speech; the pale makeup of a clown that could be said to be the epitome of bad taste; the choice of fashion that appeared to be clawing at other people’s aesthetic sense; just about every light had disappeared from Roswaal.
After receiving such a reunion with him, the woman―― Frederica, clenched her fists tight.
Frederica: “It cannot end like this. For the sake of those girls, I will…”
Earnest in thought, she would guard that place of belonging.
Rather than thinking on whether something could be done, focusing on hope and wanting to do something, for that reason she had started to act.
To uplift the mansion once again she toiled, taking the hand of the girl who was collaborating without even knowing she would drag the master who had sunk into languor, in apathy, busily going around every day.
There was no time to stop and fret for Frederica.
Even though sometimes she would grow disheartened with her state of mind in that difficult situation, she always raised her head with fervor.
Were she to falter at any point, she would not be worthy to gaze upon the faces of those precious to her.
At some point, she had forgotten how to smile. At some point, she had forgotten to welcome night with a relaxed mind.
Even then, Frederica did her utmost to protect that which she loved, to surround the bubbles spreading away on the water’s surface with her arms so they would not escape. Even so――
By the time Frederica finally realized, it was already too late for everything in the mansion.
White, the soles of her shoes frozen to the hallway, she lost sight of where her own self was.
The sight of the once-familiar mansion had become distinctly different from what she knew.
The carefully-cleaned corridor; the kitchen where she had cooked; where she had run ragged for those that needed her care; all that Frederica knew on a daily basis had, in front of her eyes, now become a clouded white world.
And as for who had done all this――
Frederica: “Great Spirit-sama…”
???: “Sorry, Frederica. You’re not to blame―― it’s just that, if I’m to protect my most precious thing, then this is the best decision to make.”
Saying this, showing its face and floating in the air, was a small cat with gray fur.
Its size only that of a fist, yet a supernatural existence carrying immense power in that small of a body―― it was the Great Spirit, Puck.
She did not want to believe. But now there was no reason to doubt.
That was the one who had wrapped the mansion in this white demise, transforming it.
Frederica: “Why, do this…”
Puck: “I said it already, all my actions are for Lia―― Lia agreed left the forest because it was what she wanted to do, and also for her safety. Or so I thought. But there’s no worth here anymore. I wonder where it all went wrong.”
Puck: “Roswaal was my miscalculation. That pitiful thing’s just your everyday guy.”
Shaking their head, Puck shot at her with voice devoid of any emotion.
At those words, Frederica’s breath hitched. And soon afterwards, clacking her sharp denture,
Frederica: “――Insulting the master of this house in front of me, a maid, cannot be forgiven.”
Puck: “You, too, are a pitiful child. Only you are desperate to protect this fallen place.”
Frederica: “Please stop talking as if you are referring to the past, it is not over yet.”
She called sharply. Without having a chance, towards the Great Spirit.
Faced with Frederica’s words of defiance, the kitten narrowed their round eyes and gazed with pity on their face. Reacting to that existence’s movement and expression, which to some extent smelled human-like, Frederica leaned forward and lowered her body.
Frederica: “Emilia-sama would be sad.”
That one brief hesitation from the small Great Spirit might give her the win, this was what Frederica was hoping. But――
Puck: “Unfortunately, I’m weak to Lia. I cannot move on from my child, I’m a momma bear .”
Even a moment’s hesitation, some small opening, from that Great Spirit did not appear.
As the world of difference between her and Puck reflected in her eyes, Frederica firmly smashed her molars together.
Whether it was the beginnings of regret or grief, it was too late to be felt.
Just a simple white breeze blew, and with that alone the woman named Frederica was frozen.
That marked the beginning of the collapse of Roswaal’s mansion.
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By the time the warlock  noticed the signs of collapse, it was all already too late.
With ghostly footsteps the warlock in their own mansion walked.
The frozen mass of air underfoot broke with a clatter, and a chill breeze tickled their nape.
His neck drew away from it, and immediately, an odd physiological reaction to that unpleasant cold was felt.
Nowadays, applying makeup to his face and choosing clothing had both been left to Frederica.
That diligent and enthusiastic girl was, no matter how, trying to pay back the grace she had received from this place, but it was too late. His heart that should not have have felt anything ached a little.
――The path to Roswaal’s dearest wish had, at some point, been severed.
Roswaal: “Ram, Rem…”
Maybe it had been triggered by the loss of the oni sisters.
The existence of those two was a key part in the path towards Roswaal’s utmost wish. With them having vanished, Roswaal had been left alone.
Four-hundred years later, upon realizing the road to his long-held hope had been broken, Roswaal could no longer stand on his own.
A short, mumbled name, it was the name that conveyed the biggest regret.
――The possibility that it would become like this, he had already considered it previously.
Quite the opposite, the likelihood that it would end badly like this was much higher. It was because of this that Roswaal had taken insurance on his own existence.
When his end finally arrived, he wanted someone there that could receive it happily.
Her, dying before him, had ruined the last remaining cogwheel in his plans.
So then, it was strange for Roswaal, to find himself wandering through the frozen mansion.
He had lost his reason to stand already, and his reason for walking was already gone from him.
Frederica: “Master, please return yourself to how you were before. So the two of them――”
Many times, Frederica had so appealed to Roswaal.
With Roswaal falling into despair, his spirit weakened, Frederica had taken up the task of patiently and devotedly uplifting her apathetic master.
Henceforth, the power to walk in this now-frozen mansion remained in him.
Henceforth, in the middle of the hallway he was wandering in aimlessly, his sight now turned to the scenery beyond the window.
Henceforth, he saw that frozen world of white, and the form of the blonde-haired girl attempting to resist it.
He perhaps thought, that to not protect her here would not do.
Or it could simply be acting on reflex, he did not know.
Enough remained of his mind in the body for him to decide on reflex that he must do so.
So now, Roswaal slowly spread his arms wide, readying himself to pour out a vast amount of Mana――
At that moment, Roswaal barely avoided the bright flash of a blade targeting his neck.
???: “――Oh my, to be able to dodge this is outside of my expectations. Perhaps the Head Magician of the Court isn’t only skilled in magic, but is someone holding some level of skill in martial arts as well?”
From behind Roswaal’s back called out a light voice.
His zori  attaining speed that could scorch the frozen corridor as they glided through it, it was the voice of a young man sporting dark-blue hair.
Blue-Haired Man: “That movement just now, it wasn’t something someone can just do on the fly. I’m honestly impressed.”
That terribly out-of-place person was clad in a blue kimono, wearing zori on his feet, and had two swords strapped to his waist. One of those had been unsheathed, and he was now tapping his shoulder with it.
A face with a neat appearance, donning a well-fitting smile. The bright eyes that gave a striking impression of a young mischievous child, and the long hair tied up both somehow offered him an androgynous look.
But from him emanated an aberrant yet transparent fighting aura―― just by being bathed in that ghastly gaze, visions of myriad deaths from a sword surface, so that anyone would be rendered unable to make rational comments.
Blue-Haired Man: “If you’re a person confident in more than just magic, my heart’s relieved of a burden, it really is a great help. After all, something that’s so one-sided doesn’t fit my sense of aesthetics. No, I’d do it if told to do so, but I wanna avoid getting the villain treatment if possible.”
Roswaal: “Like in the rumors, you’re quite talkaaaaaative…”
Blue-Haired Man: “Oh, a rumor about me? It can’t be helped. Am I a celebrity even in such a place? Hehehe, I wish it wasn’t such a strange rumor, though.”
The young man fluently spoke as he scratched his head with a shy smile.
While looking at this scene, Roswaal reignited his sluggish thoughts to stir again, as to solve the situation he had found himself in.
What played a part in that blaze, was the burning sensation at his left arm.
Blue-Haired Man: “By the way, if you don’t do anything about your arm soon, won’t you die of blood loss?”
Roswaal: “Your advice, I’m grateful for it.”
With that argument made by the young lad, Roswaal loosened his lips lost of the color of blood.
That Roswaal’s left arm had been amputated near the shoulder, and what had used to be attached there was almost unrealistically rolling on the floor, like the limb of a doll.
Alongside the first strike to his neck that had been dodged, his arm had been lopped off.
After hearing this advice to act, Roswaal grasped his wound, and an instant burst of fire directly stopped the bleeding. Horrible pangs of pain tore through his brain, but with rigid cheeks he bore it.
At that his extreme emergency treatment, the young man’s eyes widened ever so slightly.
Blue-Haired Man: “I’d imagined that mages’d be far more timid. Anya’s like that… Oh, by the way, Anya’s someone I’m acquainted with.”
Roswaal: “I know, Cecilus Segmunt-kun.”
Roswaal: “The most powerful warrior of the Vollachian Empire, top-ranked among the Nine Divine Generals, correct? Being given the rank of First General, the name of the Blue Lightning is famous even in Lugunica.”
Cecilus: “Oh, that’s the biggest of honors.”
At Roswaal’s low voice, the young man―― Cecilus Segmunt responded with an elegant bow.
There was no reason to hide his identity. There was no reason to hide his name in the first place, so he may as well act coolly dignified and confident.
Watching those mannerly ways with their dramatic productions, Roswaal sighed.
Roswaal: “But that aside, what’s happening now, I wooonder~? Ahh, it couldn’t be, at this time when the new Monarch of the Kingdom of Lugunica is being decided, the Vollachian Empire is moving in violation of the treaty?”
Cecilus: “Oh, that’s a misunderstanding. Right now you could say I am on break from being part of the Nine Divine Generals, or you could say I am unemployed. Anyway, this business has nothing to do with the Empire, now I am professed as the strongest ordinary… vagrant swordsman.”
Cecilus: “This is no poor joke. My actions, the Empire’s not involved in them at all. Of course, loyalty to His Excellency still lies in my heart… But, I got my reasons for doing what I do.”
With a grand gesture, Cecilus emphasized that he and the Empire were not working together. It was difficult to believe it unconditionally, it was fact the plans of the Empire were incomprehensible.
For this reason, Roswaal narrowed both his dual-colored eyes, and inquired of Cecilus,
Roswaal: “Then it’s even more curious. That you’ve even abandoned your position of General at the Empire, and come here. What exactly is it that can move you to such an extent, I wooonder~?”
Cecilus: “It’s easy to understand―― A step in the path towards the Heavenly Sword, was promised.”
Roswaal: “Path towards the Heavenly Sword?”
At that reply, Roswaal frowned his handsome brows.
Cecilus, witnessing that, nodded deeply in reply, and a murmur, “Yes”. The expression was just as if he was smiling, but a crucial difference lay in the emotion of the pupils.
With human emotions like that of joy and pleasure, the Blue Lightning severed human lives.
However, what lurked in the eyes of Vollachia’s strongest at this instance was not joy and pleasure, but a deeper hue, a more fervent hue――
Cecilus: “It’s a most important wish I’ve never spoken of to any living person. Someone guessed it correctly, and went on to say they could assist with it… There wasn’t any choice but to accept that opportunity.”
Roswaal: “How unexpected, you don’t seem to be type to be another’s puppet.”
Cecilus: “Between being controlled by others and merely accepting the stage provided by fate, isn’t there a subjective difference between the two? I accept the role of this world’s star actor, the leading part on its script. Beyond that, it’s part of an actor’s skillset to ad-lib lines and performances, isn’t it so?”
Cecilus shrugged, the emotions in his eyes returning to their previous state, and Roswaal simply nodded.
Indeed, at the strength of his argument, he gave up fighting against it. “Might makes right”, was the philosophy Cecilus had built over many victories.
To forcefully bend that notion was impossible for Roswaal, who had lived four-hundred years for an obsession of his own.
For Roswaal, who preferred stagnation, that philosophy seemed attractive to him, too.
Cecilus: “I don’t hate you, rather, I quite like you. But because this is also my role… Head Magician of the Court of the Kingdom of Lugunica, Roswaal L. Mathers; I will be taking that head of yours.”
Seemingly acting in his own breed of politeness, Cecilus returned the sword he held to its sheath. And with the sound of another blade being drawn, the blade of a beautiful sword was revealed to the world.
The beauty of the sword was truly arcane, a magic sword imbued with uncanny power――
Cecilus: “――Ranked highest among blades, the Dream Sword, Masayume.”
Roswaal: “The sword that eats away at the holder’s soul with one swing, is it? ――Cecilus-kun, may I ask one thing?”
With the overflowing dreadfulness in front of him, Roswaal with a carefree tone raised a finger.
One-armed and bloodied, faced with a swordsman without peer in all epochs amongst the congealed atmosphere; yet in such a situation he raised a query towards Cecilus. The latter again tilted his head, at that out-of-place light-hearted tone.
Cecilus: “What are my weaknesses? My weak points are that I don’t listen to people and I don’t really have the composure of someone over twenty years of age. Oftentimes, that’d end up in the agenda of the Imperial Parliament.”
Roswaal: “Your employer’s name is?”
After that question was posed, Cecilus’s eyebrows raised slightly.
He lowered the blade while drawing a foot back. Slowly, he leaned his upper body forward,
Cecilus: “Gossip around has them down as a wretch, a fiend, and I’ve even heard some speaking ill in their back, calling them the Purge King… But to you, because I’ve been asked to communicate the correct name to you…”
With that as the preface, Cecilus wet his lips with his tongue.
After a dramatic pause, he revealed.
With that name as an expression of power reaching his ears, Cecilus disappeared, cracking the floor of the mansion.
That he had vanished from the world, it was fast enough to mistake for that.
On that moment, the moniker of Blue Lightning truly befitted the man approaching like a bolt of electricity.
The distance was crossed instantaneously.
However, at that same instant, Roswaal weakly parted his lips, muttering,
Roswaal: “So it was you, after all.”
Even before the sound of those words appeared in the world, the Dream Sword drew an arc.
Just before everything went dark, Roswaal’s consciousness thought.
About those girls currently at the mansion, and their safety.
About those girls who had been become collateral damage in the path to his dearest wish, and had ultimately been left with no happiness at all.
――He did not possess neither the qualifications nor the time to apologize in those final moments, and so anything and everything vanished.
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Door Crossing’s mechanism was a simple one, which functioned by connecting the entrance to the Forbidden Library to another doorway.
Due to that straightforward effect, the versatility of Door Crossing was quite high, and she was proud of this outstanding magic. But just like any other magic, Door Crossing was not wholly flawless as well.
If its method were revealed that useful nature could turn into weakness. Because of this, the existence of the Forbidden Library and the effect of Door Crossing had to be kept hidden from outsiders.
Indeed, outsiders were not supposed to find out about it.
――Henceforth, such a situation was inevitable, she thought.
Beatrice: “What irony, I suppose.”
At the moment the door to the Forbidden Library’s was touched, Beatrice herself already understood that they would be let inside.
That spacious mansion with its countless doors to choose from existed, and yet, Beatrice had forcibly been guided to a single one.
That method was simple―― a situation where the other doors could not open would do the trick.
The method to halt Door Crossing was to remove any choice of doors to connect to.
That task had been carried out with diligence, and so the doors that could be opened in the mansion had now been limited to one. And that who had helped in discovering this method must have been her dear brother, she somewhat understood.
Being put off-balance by this realization was inevitable. Because that was a common law for both their existences――
But even taking that into account, begrudging her dear brother was not fitting for her. Because of this, Beatrice, without holding any sort of resentment for her brother, instead quietly faced the door that had been opened.
???: “――Yo, Beatrice.”
Calling out to Beatrice from the other side of the open door, they waved their hand.
That voice and attitude, she remembered it. Because of this, Beatrice’s body shivered with fear.
The face from her memories, and the face now seen in front of her, not every detail seemed to match up.
While it was in concordance with the general parts of her memory, they were already almost like another person.
Beatrice: “You, why are you giving me that look, in fact?”
To that dark, dark gaze ahead of her, Beatrice shook her head.
Far from improving, it had changed in a way that drew even more revulsion.
That rare-to-find black hair and black eyes remained, yet the hair had lost its luster, while in those eyes that had lost their shine darkened emotions were dimly revealed.
Surrounding those eyes reminiscent of gloom were deep dark circles, thin and frail cheeks lay underneath, and what could be seen of the fingers displayed a corpse-like pallor.
With long dark clothes wrapping their body, exposure of the skin minimized―― among that united uniform of black, what stuck out was a bright orange scarf. Just that, and that alone, was quite strongly betraying their gloomy impression.
Some years had passed.
But despite that, too much had changed. How could a human become so different?
Beatrice: “You, your mood has seriously changed, I suppose.”
Human: “Same goes for you, then. Is your growth spurt over? Normally, you’d become a little more mature after two years have passed.”
In a blank voice, to Beatrice’s words they replied with a joke.
Two years, was it? If that person said so, then certainly that would be the amount of time that had gone by.
Just two years, from Beatrice’s perspective, was like the blink of an eye. To humans, especially to the one standing now in her sight, how meaningful would those years be, she wondered.
――Was that stretch of time so meaningful for that boy, who had been near death, to return for revenge like this?
Human: “Do you remember, Beatrice? We ate together here.”
Beatrice: “――That memory does not exist, in fact. Eating together with you never happened, I suppose.”
At the words of that human, Beatrice crinkled her brows.
The two were facing each other in the dining room, on the first floor of the mansion. White cloth draped the table, and in the center seat was that person, asking Beatrice a mysterious question.
Human: “…Ah, that’s right. You, yeah, you wouldn’t know that. Yeah, that’s my bad. That just now, it was my bad. It’s always my bad.”
Beatrice: “What happened… No, it’s not something that needs to be heard now at this point, in fact.”
For a single moment, in Beatrice’s heart hesitation brushed past.
But, that girl in the blink of an eye commanded herself to seal away those unnecessary distractions. And then. Towards that troubling human, she pointed her small palm.
There, with her sense of pride as the Librarian who guarded the Forbidden Library―― Or rather, it was her fleeting sense of duty, a desire to martyr herself for her part, a part no one wished upon her.
Beatrice: “You might have a righteous right to wish for revenge, I suppose. Even so, Betty has, for Betty, a role to fulfill, in fact. For that…”
With strength, Beatrice focused on her own role, glaring at him to suppress any violence from that person.
Seeing this, his expression tensed slightly. Something, perhaps an attempt to endure some difficult feeling could be seen, and at the moment Beatrice set down her foot――
Human: “Come on now, Beatrice―― Wasn’t there a Contract to protect me?”
――At that moment, in Beatrice was born a lethal hesitation.
Contract, at that sound Beatrice’s whole body was pierced with shock, and she grew stiff.
And that rigidness did not unravel itself, unchanging, regardless of what Beatrice’s will was. Something of the mind was not the culprit. Physically, her movement had been blocked. That was――
???: “Forgive me. With this, you won’t be able to move.”
At Beatrice’s side, having risen from the shadows, one person had manifested there.
Wearing a disheveled black kimono and biting on a gold-colored kiseru  pipe with the sharp teeth that lined its mouth, there stood a beastman―― a tall man, with a wolfen visage.
He gazed downwards at her with slitted eyes, as Beatrice only came up to his waist. Finding no emotion in those small pupils, Beatrice’s throat let out a squeak,
Beatrice: “That, is…”
Human: “A mysterious shinobi technique of binding shadows, something of the sort. Think of it as a secret art . No need for concern however, it shouldn’t be active for very long… You are my benefactor, after all.”
Rigid, her body’s freedom taken away from her, Beatrice could do nothing but listen to that voice.
There was no trembling in the words he spoke, no mistakes in the memories he shared. Slowly rising from his seat, and drawing nearer to her side, that person’s eyes were dark, but any signs of discomfort could not be found in them.
To get revenge, was that person’s reason for finding this place, Beatrice had concluded. But the glint in that human’s eyes could not be perceived by Beatrice as one of revenge.
In those black eyes filled with dim light, some feeling that was ripping at his chest could be found.
Human: “Back then, you let me run away, and now I’m still here. That’s definitely something I wanted to tell you.”
Beatrice: “If this is your method for that… You really are an aggravating man, I suppose… Definitely aggravating.”
Human: “I’m sorry about that. But, I figured something out, Beatrice.”
Interrupting Beatrice’s jagged speech, he slowly shook his head. Those lips, drawn in the shape of a smile, silently looked down at Beatrice.
If she thought about it, had she ever seen this person smile like this? Back then, when she had let him spend many hours in the Forbidden Library.
At that recalling Beatrice, he put out his hand, and said,
Human: “――That you and I, we’re of the same kind, that is.”
The corners of his eyes sagged, and only now did his eyes return to how they had been before, to how the eyes of the boy had first been.
The boy had returned to how he had been during those few days at the mansion, before becoming this weird being.
Human: “At that time, I had no other path but to die, but you didn’t give up on me, you saved me. Even now, how many times, how many times do the thoughts of that red-glowing sunset come to my mind.”
Human: “I’m still thankful for that, Beatrice… Why didn’t you kill me, back then?”
Were those words of gratitude, or of resentment?
Regardless, Beatrice had been blindsided by the words spoken by a face displaying both joy and sorrow.
So this was the work of her influence, the all-consuming despair in his heart, she accepted.
As if naturally, that rigid hold on her body which made her uneasy came undone, and her outstretched arm dropped down. But, in this newfound freedom, her willingness to resist was already gone.
That cause and effect had been flipped around was quite easy to understand.
Human: “Beatrice, I’m thankful for you. I think I probably did like you. Within that time, only you truly drew close to me, those are my thoughts.”
Beatrice: “…That is, the lowest confession.”
Human: “I don’t disagree.”
At his words, Beatrice replied with empty feelings.
And then, in that thinly smiling boy’s black eyes, Beatrice saw the truth―― the dark emotions within were so familiar to her, she realized.
It was a most foul lesion that would nestle in the hearts of many beings, eventually eroding all hope.
―――A disease called despair, within him, within herself, had been quietly nesting.
Human: “Halibel, a kunai .”
At that request, the beastman standing by Beatrice raised his eyebrows.
Silently, looking on at those two’s exchange of questions and answers, the beastman now shook his kiseru up and down.
Halibel: “…Ya sure?”
Human: “A kunai.”
Having been once again ordered, that beastman swung his left arm high.
Then, a black lump of steel pierced the floor of the dining room with a thud. Crouching down, retrieving it, he left its weight on his palm.
It let off a dull gleam, this dark-colored metal. It had a simple form for cutting down life.
Human: “I’m so happy that you remembered our Contract.”
He did take advantage of it, such a thought occurred to her.
However. That it was truly a fleeting view of a distant joy, he spoke with that kind of voice. To blame him somehow, that feeling did not really appear in her.
Human: “You are so lovely, with those colors that suit you…”
At that moment, Beatrice’s eyes opened wide, and filled with heavy tears.
In her blurry sight, that person gently overlooking her was there. As she blinked, tears began to flow down her cheeks. Shedding tears like that, to gaze at his appearance to the end, was what she wished.
He had stated that himself and herself were of the same kind.
Then, there was definitely a reason, there was a reason as to why he was here for her.
What she had done at that time, it had greatly affected his life unknowingly.
If that was how it had ended up being, then that was how it was going to return to her.
If he, now, for Beatrice, was doing this, to try and save her――
Beatrice: “Are you…”
With a numbly stiff tongue, shivering and shaking, Beatrice weaved speech.
Those words that came out like a sigh, when heard by the boy standing right in front of her eyes, caused him to cease moving.
He was giving her the time. For bitter words, or whatever it may be, he would accept everything, that kind of resolve could be seen.
To that determination, Beatrice――
Beatrice: “――Are you, Betty’s That Person?”
That question’s meaning, he would definitely not understand.
That there would be an answer, Beatrice was not even hoping for that much.
It was just, if it was her end, if it was that which had come looking for her, she must try to hear it still.
――So, with that smiling, agreeing appearance, Beatrice’s heart was crushed and broken.
There was dearness in that smile, kindness in those words, and a blessing in that raised blade.
Human: “I’m, That Person.”
Once more, a large teardrop, flowing over that girl’s reddened cheeks, fell.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
???: “There’s a proverb where I used to live, something like, a drowning man will even clutch at straws.”
Facing down towards the floor’s red carpet, a man was listening to the voice.
That carpet, his face was very close to it.
There was also another thing that was close; the intervals between the man’s breaths. The beat of his heart rang in his ears like bell that had been sped-up, the feeling in his body was that of having just finished sprinting over distant fields.
He looked to be reaching sixty, an old man.
Not just his son, but his grandchildren too had grown up, he showed the marks of having lived a long and fitting life.
His position was such that he’d had to deal with many a people. Having had a long and brilliant career, this man had been entrusted with much by those around him.
That he was out of the ordinary, he did not have any thoughts of bragging like that. But having been born with a wit beyond the norm, he had resolved to live a life of abundance.
And that was why, in his current situation, he could not help but wonder whether he was in a dream or in an illusion. He could not believe it.
――He was down on his knees, in front of an opponent no older than his own grandchildren.
???: “Straw, do you know what’s that? Maybe there’s straw like what I’m thinking of here… Like wheat, something like that. The one in the water’s so desperate, that even knowing how useless it is, they’ll grab at it with all their might.”
Old Man: “――――”
???: “To put it plainly, dying humans will desperately try to survive no matter what, that’s the meaning of the proverb. It’s different from using brute force in case of a fire. They’re still thinking of turning their fortunes, but to grasp at straws is just a stupid idea.”
Smoothly, the voice above his head gave his words.
Of what was being said most seemed pointless, but not one word, not one phrase could be missed, for fear of somehow raising his ire. Not when repulsive rumors about what harmful things would happen in such a case were piled up like mountains.
Having emerged just two years ago, that boy had been spoken of in cruel and horrific spreading rumors ever since.
All that opposed him, their families, all those involved would be tracked down by any means necessary to be made an example of. With irresistible force he had kept resolutely expanding that association, Pleiades, as its leader.
With his terrifying success and his unparalleled ability of evaluation, people had bestowed the boy with a title.
――The Purge King.
Purge King: “――――”
The old man was kneeling in a place where, this organization’s headquarters lay hidden in the shadow of the Four Great Nations, started for the purpose of controlling the underworld society.
Luxurious paintings, extravagant decorations and items had been gathered in this room, the organization’s reception hall, a sight most obscene.
As for the location of the King, serving as its leader, he sat on the throne, at the back of the room―― it could rightly be called treasure, on that supreme throne he looked down on his guests.
It was a dazzling and opulent setup, and the money spent on it was enough to make one’s head spin. That violent fortune transgressed one’s eyeballs, for a in a human lifespan, even multiplied thousandfold, no, two-thousandfold, it could not be reached.
That this was a demonstration of the organization’s―― no, of the King’s power, even idiots could understand with a glance. And even if someone incapable of understanding such were to have arrived at this very room, they would never be seeing the light of day again.
Simple displays of power, mere shows of wealth were not worth anything in comparison.
Lining the walls were dozens of men, all possessing renowned names, all either top mercenaries or soldiers. All of this, had it been possible to utilize money to gain their following, and that had been how it had been carried out, what had been the cost?
Even if they only numbered a few dozen, to maintain this army, massive financial power would be needed.
Moreover, among that crowd where only the best of the best had been gathered, motivated by money, there was the pair at the left and right of the throne, those transcendental existences. For the kneeling old man, they were adequately enough to intoxicate his consciousness.
――Those extraordinary transcendentals were the Admirer, Halibel, and the Blue Lightning, Cecilus Segmunt.
Of the Kararagi City-States, and of the Sacred Vollachian Empire.
Each respectively holding the name of the strongest in their countries, those two were present side-by-side. As for how that young boss’ violent hold had gone uncontested since this association’s sudden appearance, there was no better evidence than this.
Purge King: “Sigrum-san?”
At the moment his name was called, his state of mind having gone dim, that man’s―― Sigrum’s heart became frozen.
Looking on, resting his chin on his arm, the Purge King, smile gone from his face, was gazing at Sigrum with dark eyes.
As if his heart was being directly squeezed, Sigrum panted.
He must create an excuse soon, something, so his oxygen-deprived lips shivered. However, at that Sigrum’s fragile response, the Purge King’s shoulders shrank.
Purge King: “Ahh, for making you bored, I apologize. Having my stories get off-topic’s a bad habit of mine since long ago, and if I talk in this roundabout way we might never get to the point.”
Sigrum: “I-I am fine… that, is…”
Purge King: “I’m talking.”
With a finger of his right hand held to his lips, the King’s left hand was pointed at him.
His excuses interrupted by that quiet remark, his back became slick with cold sweat. A silence of several seconds, in which his body felt like it had frozen over, and once a time that felt like eternity had passed,
Purge King: “…Sorry. I didn’t mean to threaten you. It’s just that, these two people her, and these others present all follow me because I hired them, but that’s not your case, is it? So, then, how should I say it… I acted in a manner I’m used to, sorry.”
The speaker’s tone was quiet and conveyed respect. That made it feel all the more anomalous.
The Purge King was polite, respectful of his opponents, and yet, just like that without hesitation he would also carry out violence on them.
The King’s tone in treating others with words, showed none of his hidden intentions to those who listened. The terrified eyes of the boy were bereft of confidence, yet that narrowed gaze actually pierced through to peer at inner thoughts, the entirety of his nerves observing with strong attention to the other party’s moves.
Those darkened black irises asked only one question.
――Are you, my friend, or my enemy, I wonder.
Of course, that he was not an enemy, he must assert.
However, Sigrum’s words had been sealed, having just been vocally forbidden from answering.
Making a sound, or responding with his eyes, showing with his attitude, would it wear that person’s patience?
With such a fear capturing the elder’s heart, those few seconds of his life felt like an eternity, the longest of his life.
Laughing this off as an exaggeration, not a single person had survived trying that.
The organization’s stance was merciless, and its tendrils reached the core of the underworld of the Four Great Nations. They already had become an irremovable sore.
To survive was to avoid being entangled in that diseased portion in the first place, as overcoming that illness after the fact was impossible.
And so, the sole method of surviving. Was to offer complete submission and to ready all answers in advance, it was only that.
An incurable illness he had tried to avoid at all costs. But ultimately, unable to escape it, the old man had come to this place.
With all his replies already prepared beforehand, with determination having chosen to submit, he had come.
However, Sigrum had come to understand here how naïve that idea had been.
As if hands and feet had been tied, and he had been tossed in the water while unable to move, his breathing labored, his lips panting in search of oxygen. On land, in this room, he was drowning in that gaze.
Not a disease. But a curse.
The Purge King, he was ruled over by an indelible curse.
Morbid fear clouded his eyes, and unending doubt gnawed away at his heart.
He was afraid of humans. His opponent was fearing, was doubting, was hating.
He himself possessed the strongest fear buried within him, and with this same curse he was eating away at others, all others that came across it were infected with the same.
Like drowning, the King had said first. It was just as he had said.
Now, if it seemed like a chance, Sigrum would try to grab at straws or at anything.
Purge King: “So, hmm… So, the straw story. A story of desperately trying to survive… Hm, it’s understandable. Sigrum-san came to our place to talk to us, to try and make sense of this idea.”
Purge King: “I’m fond of reasonable people. People who’re willing to talk are much more trustworthy than those who just punch you in the face out of nowhere. I don’t know what sort of nefarious rumors you’ve heard of us, but I want to request you to not judge us according to those… I prefer to avoid making waves if possible.”
While speaking those words, the Purge King spread his left hand in the other’s direction. And that offering gesture of the hand was like he was yielding the turn to speak.
At that moment, as if the stiffness had come unraveled, a breath leaked out from Sigrum’s lips.
For a single moment, he was seized by the fear of annoying the King’s senses, but the young man in front of his eyes did not react. That domineering, patient silence, seemed to be leading Sigrum onwards.
Purge King: “Sigrum-san?”
Sigrum: “No..thing… My apologies. In what regards my side, it is as stated in the offer sent by letter. I wish for good relations with all members of your organization, from now on and for a long time.”
With words chosen carefully, taking care to avoid showing excess humility, Sigrum expressed his position on the matter.
Hearing that, the Purge King narrowed his eyes, but after mulling it over for a while he smiled.
Purge King: “――――”
Seeing that sudden smiling expression match the age of its owner, Sigrum was surprised.
Having surprised Sigrum, the King proffered a deep nod, and,
Purge King: “Let’s have a nice partnership, Sigrum-san. The details will be discussed with the person in charge later on… This was the best and wisest choice for you.”
Purge King: “Please continue to treat our association favorably from here after.”
His hand raised, while smiling the Purge King concluded the meeting.
At those words, Sigrum slowly lifted his body. His body had grown stiff from kneeling, and so his posture briefly faltered, but enduring it with difficulty he then let out a long breath.
Sigrum: “Thank you very much. From now on, this side will display favor towards you.”
Purge King: “Hmm.”
Somehow concealing the numbness of his tongue, his final words concluded the talk.
And so, with his task being fulfilled, Sigrum bowed to the assenting Purge King, and turned back.
In his heart that was bouncing and shifting, a strong sense of relief and achievement was blowing like a storm.
His body that had felt heavily weighted down up until a few seconds ago, suddenly felt like it was floating. And with naturally lightened footsteps, the faces of his family members waiting for him to return home rose in his head one-by-one.
Having braved this violent wave, somehow his wish had been granted.
It was at that time.
From behind him, a very faint sound was heard.
A sound familiar to the ear, the sound of a coin.
It was very similar to a single coin slipping from the hand, and hitting the floor.
Purge King: “Tails.”
One short word, a voice was heard saying.
What that was, Sigrum’s mind wondered, and faster than he could understand――
The elder’s view tilted, becoming even with the floor.
Even more so than when he was kneeling, the carpet had suddenly grown closer―― And that was the last he felt.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
Towards the fall of the man’s decapitated body, Halibel was gazing with narrowed eyes.
The limbs of the old man’s corpse had not jerked, and the head, now fallen on the carpet, was still unaware of its demise. The corpse was like a corpse that had lost only its life and nothing more, and it was because of this that it could be called an artfully-created corpse.
But a corpse was naught but a corpse, and to judge it as splendid was not a hobby he indulged in himself.
Purge King: “Oh, ueh… Kh.”
Watching the sight of the bleeding corpse, the boy on the throne held his mouth firmly closed.
He had seen the moment of a person turning into a cadaver many times already, but as his temperament was sensitive, he showed no sign of getting used to it.
???: “Acting like that towards the dead, isn’t it insulting after giving these orders? I wouldn’t ask for you to become used to corpses, but maybe you should at least to aspire to avoid creating them, how about that?”
Purge King: “I’m not killing for enjoyment as well… I’m not. I’m unable to look straight at such a scene, but I’m present anyway. It’s the least I can do…”
???: “That’s being deceitful.”
His employer holding a handkerchief in front of his mouth, fighting off nausea, his colleague’s words held no absolution towards him.
Of course, there at the right side―― was Cecilus. That his employer did not show fury at this was evidence he knew his actions had the marks of deception.
While looking at the young boy whose face had grown as pale as the corpse’s, Cecilus, with an offhand “Anyhow”, continued to speak. His gaze was still directed at the corpse of that poor, fallen old man.
Cecilus: “I’m more so astonished at that contradiction of yours, boss . The conversation ended so peacefully, to give a sudden order to kill is quite surprising even for you.”
While speaking as such, Cecilus with dissatisfaction puffed up his cheeks. It was not quite appropriate behavior for a man in his twenties, but considering the immaturity of his mind, it was an action that fit Cecilus greatly.
His human sort of beauty, and his regular behavior was what was allowing this conduct.
Anyway, to Cecilus’s point, the boy contorted his cheeks,
Purge King: “And I did tell you, I didn’t want to have him killed. Like I told him, I wanted to believe it. It didn’t look like he was lying or anything, either.”
Cecilus: “Then, why?”
Purge King: “Even if does not seem like they’re lying, liars are gonna lie, after all.”
The boy that knelt on the throne bit his lip as Cecilus gazed on at him with curiosity on his face.
On that horribly dry way of life, an unshakably strong will could be glimpsed.
Halibel and Cecilus both were unknowing of what had happened in his past.
However, in that person’s past, a situation must have happened to make him adopt this belief.
Something akin to, the experience of a person close to him who had hidden away suspicion and self-interest in their heart all while smiling, then spewing hatred and murderous intent with the very same fingers and lips that had been kind to him.
Such a past must have taught this boy.
Purge King: “First cut the buds, then break apart the branches. I’ll never be fooled twice.”
Tightly, the boy grabbed his own shoulder and pressed his own fingernails over the cloth, into his skin. Those nails ruthlessly clawed into it; that skin was being torn, that blood was oozing was certain.
That self-harm was, to him, a necessary ritual to maintain himself. The subordinates that had been with him for long knew of it, and so, nobody stopped it.
As if soon satisfied with the pain, the boy slowly rose from the throne,
Purge King: “The corpse, make it neat and bury it. And an envoy’s to be sent to their shop. Everything’s to be confiscated, but if they follow along, do not treat them poorly. If they refuse, then purge the family and burn the store. When the takeover ends, have the next one in charge greet you. With that, it’ll be decided whether to destroy them or not.”
With a calm tone, the boy ordered so those in the room could hear him.
Those were rough instruction that someone should follow, but not anyone in specific.
These requests that did not worry about the process, but rather only with the result, made the group successful. By focusing on the accomplishments of the association, not that of any one person, the perfect system of the organization could be maintained.
Everyone possessed reasons and weaknesses, which forced them to undertake them.
And so, rather than risking having everything being taken away from them if someone were to be opportunistic, everyone would do their best―― It was a sort of ideal workplace environment.
――As an example of that everything, it could be family, a lover, wealth, life, many other things.
That was the guideline of the boy presenting himself as the leader of the association. To hold onto those things as insurance, to keep things as a safety measure.
This was the cowardly boy’s, the Purge King’s, way of fighting.
???: “Boss, ya forgot yer coat.”
Purge King: “Ah, thank you.”
Standing behind the boy headed toward the doorway, Halibel gently draped a black coat over his shoulders.
Just slightly draping that on his shoulders, he also added a word of reminder―― Immediately after that Halibel’s whiskers grew numb with the detected faint killing intent. At its intensity, Halibel lowered his eyes.
The source of that intent, he did not have to check, it was the boy in eyeshot.
Probably, it was because he had stood behind him.
Purge King: “…Halibel-san, I do not want to kill you.”
Halibel: “Hahaha, then ya can just, not do it. Instead, just use me well.”
Purge King: “But wouldn’t it be the worst to destroy oneself by having too many tools… That’d be a pretty shitty way to die.”
Mumbling to himself, pondering on methods to kill the aide behind him, the boy put on his jacket.
Those grumbling words had been quickly brushed off, but the boy’s words were not a joke. He would, if it was possible, try to kill Halibel.
It was simply that, the effort it took to kill, the insufficiency of his preparation to kill, and the trouble brought about after the killing, it was merely that which had inclined him towards not killing, all these were factors as to why he was leaning towards not killing him.
Cecilus: “Boss, boss. These offerings that person brought, where should they be moved to?”
Purge King: “Offered goods… The contents, what were they?”
Cecilus: “Contents were… Ah, there’s a magic stone. From where did they learn of boss’s tastes? They’d come having paid that much regard, truly, I feel even more sorry for them.”
Purge King: “Lopping off his head was Cecilus-san’s idea so…”
At the room’s entrance, the boy, having been stopped, twisted his cheeks in annoyance. And at that breezy attitude of Cecilus, he sighed,
Purge King: “The magic stone, I’ll ask you to put it in my room. Other than that, do with them as you all prefer.”
Cecilus: “Yes, yes, definitely understood. And, boss.”
Purge King: “…What is it.”
The boy let out a moody voice. Cecilus brought a finger to his eye, tracing it,
Cecilus: “Those dark circles are quite severe. Maybe you should sleep softly next to the princess for a while?”
At Cecilus’s words, the boy’s tongue clicked.
Cecilus just laughed it off, but the other men around him froze with tension in their bodies. It was possible that, because of that irritation, Cecilus’s slaying could be ordered.
Of course, if push came to shove, killing Cecilus would be no trivial affair. Using every force available in the building, they would have to try to force a draw with Halibel in the mix as well.
Purge King: “――I’ll think about it.”
Fortunately, the boy did not hastily order this, but with just those words turned away.
With that, relief spread throughout the room, and the men watched the back of the departing leader. That waving Cecilus’s inability to read the mood, had been one of Halibel’s biggest concerns as of late.
Halibel: “Doin’ somethin’ as part of a group really ain’t one of mah strong points either…”
Shaking the kiseru held in his mouth up and down, Halibel gazed at that boy’s departing figure.
Firstly, as the most senior associate, guarding and similar duties were handled by Halibel. However, whether inside or outside the mansion, threats meaning to cause him harm were few.
The former because of fear, the latter because his existence was unknown to many.
Carefully, Halibel stared over that boy who evaluated everything with narrowed eyes.
In the building that served as the headquarters, the reception room was not the only section decorated with various works of arts and paintings. The flaunting of that violent financial power allowed for a posture of non-aggression.
The display of wealth, the display of power, served as a last resort, so that unneeded enemies would not be made.
Attaining victory without a fight, as the boy had said, would be the ideal.
Naturally, it went without saying that excessive wealth and power would be subject to the jealousy and envy of others. Ultimately, whatever one did, enemies would appear. The boy’s method was then to reduce the number of them, as simple as that.
And, if the quantity of foes were reduced, it would only be necessary to deal with the rest using force later.
Purge King: “Halibel-san… Please watch over Cecilus-san with care, to keep him from going out of control.”
Halibel: “Understood, leave it to me. Boss, are ya goin’ ta see the princess?”
Purge King: “Hmm.”
That he had accepted Cecilus’s suggestion perhaps annoying him, the boy replied with a grimace.
And then, those two pairs of legs reached the innermost section of their organization’s headquarters―― the deepest part of the building named Pandemonium, they had arrived in front of the door of a strictly-guarded room.
――On that door, there were so many keyholes and locks that a person seeing it for the first time might shudder.
The number of keyholes neared fifty, clearly showing the importance of what lay on the other side of this door, as well as the meticulous, tenacious, and obsessed nature of the person that had prepared it.
But, above all, what made the caretaker’s obsession most obvious was the fact that, the keys to fit in those keyholes and open the door, not one of them existed in this world.
In other words, this door could never have been opened by any normal method.
To open it, then――
Purge King: “――Puck.”
Puck: “I’m called, and so I appear, nyanyanyan.”
Receiving the boy’s call, with an exhausting voice and excessive flashes of light, a grey-furred kitten suddenly appeared in the air.
Outwardly presenting a silly attitude and cute appearance, but within holding vast power, that Great Spirit―― the existence known as Puck, floated down and landed on the boy’s shoulder.
Puck: “Yo, you’re here again after quite a while. Is Lia the reason you came?”
Purge King: “The door, open it.”
Puck: “Hmm, what’s with that tone. If you spoil the father’s mood he might not let you see his daughter, you know. If you could understand the feelings of a father with a daughter at such a ripe age just a bit better, it would make me happy…”
Purge King: “Puck.”
On top of his shoulder, Puck was stroking his whiskers. The boy called to him.
Seeing that boy’s face marked with deep dark circles, Puck sighed with a “My oh my”, and then,
Puck: “You endured it until you couldn’t anymore again, didn’t you. It can’t be helped. That effort of yours is commendable, so I’ll let it slide just this once.”
Saying that, with a satisfied air Puck gathered his short arms together and pointed towards the door. And, through the many keyholes devoid of any keys, a faint light poured forth.
Soon after, the faint lights turned into keys made of ice, and fitting inside the door, the sound of something opening echoed.
The method to open a door that would not open―― the secret was to create a key that did not exist.
Halibel: “It’s admirable how easily ya find blind spots. If there’s a keyhole, it’s kinda normal to find a key that fits it. But if someone tries to imitate this, then it’d become a problem.”
Puck: “There’s also the question of the magical wavelength. If someone other than me tried something similar, you both, and I as well, would be informed of it. And even then, I’m always there with Lia.”
Halibel: “That’s right.”
At Puck’s words, Halibel came to understand and agreed.
Without even paying attention to their exchange, the boy placed his hand on the unlocked door and paused. Behind him, with a face feigning innocence, stood Halibel. The boy gazed up at that face.
Purge King: “Halibel-san, you can go now.”
Halibel: “Is that so? But, I should greet the princess sometimes as well, don’t’cha think…?”
Purge King: “You can go now.”
Those words said without much thought, were flatly rejected.
Halibel certainly accepted that it was an absolute refusal. This was not something worth refusing to budge on, so Halibel chewed on his kiseru and backed off.
Halibel: “If anythin’ happens, feel welcome to summon me.”
Purge King: “――――”
That boy was giving him a warning look, his hand still on the door. And so, Halibel turned his back to him.
Until he turned the corner and could no longer be seen, that boy’s sight was piercing into his back.
His employer and benefactor was always vigilant and fearful, rather than cautious.
Halibel: “Ah, if I said it like that, he will definitely not call out for me then.”
With such listless mumbling, Halibel spewed purple smoke from his pipe while looking overhead.
Smoke hit the ceiling, and with nowhere to go, scattered.
――That it was, somehow, a hint of their future, was the thought that came to his mind.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
That boy’s sleeping face was so quiet, one could believe he’d died.
Purge King: “――――”
Having entrusted his head to her lap, sleeping as if on the brink of death, that boy was the target of Emilia’s gaze.
Around his brows, there were dark circles that looked as if painted on with soot. Caused by and revealing the boy’s serious level of sleep deprivation, and the harsh environment he was in.
Emilia: “It looks like he hasn’t been sleeping again.”
Puck: “It can’t be helped, in his position he’s got no room for relaxing, most likely. Except for when he comes to see Lia and act like a baby, every now and then.”
She stroked his forehead, and organized his lashes with her fingertips. Watching that sleeping face made free by Emilia, the floating Puck wrapped his long tail around his stomach and sighed. Just like that he spun around her and examined Emilia’s personal quarters.
It was a white room.
White walls, white floors. A white ceiling, a white bed, white furniture and white curtains, everything in the room was united with whiteness.
Amidst that, Emilia was draped in thin sleepwear that was likewise white, so it was almost pathological.
This room, was the extent of freedom granted to Emilia―― A bird cage, which she was confined to.
Emilia herself still wondered whether it was appropriate to utilize expressions such as “confined”.
Puck: “Lia, are you still angry at this child?”
Emilia: “…I wonder about that.”
Emilia hesitated in answering to Puck’s question.
It was not that it was difficult to put in words. She was just not sure about her own feelings.
Well, she had definitely been angry at first, but even now they had not yet made up.
To apologize to each other, they did not even have time for that. Without solving that problem, time had simply passed, and daily life had merely continued on.
Emilia: “But, I’m upset with you, Puck. While keeping it a secret from me, you made the plan for leaving all by yourself.”
Puck: “Sorry. But it couldn’t be helped. There was no way I’d entrust you to a Roswaal in that state, right? Dragging someone into a dangerous situation and place, only to then skedaddle out of there’s pretty irresponsible of him. That said, if it’s for Lia’s safety, here’s easily the stand-out option.”
Puck: “Avoiding harm to Lia, that boy and I were of the same mind.”
So Puck had assented with the secret offer to take Emilia out of Roswaal’s mansion, and had not hesitated with the withdrawal of the Royal Selection and in cooperating with the association.
And with only Emilia unaware of anything, when she finally realized, she had found herself in this white room, a bird caught in a cage――
But that she had no right to criticize Puck’s judgement, Emilia also understood.
Emilia: “Because, in the end, I couldn’t do anything…”
The Royal Selection, to determine the next Monarch of the Kingdom of Lugunica―― in that battle, Emilia had clearly suffered a tragic defeat, contented with a loss by default.
The biggest cause for that was that she had refused to attend the Royal Candidate Meeting. As a result, her participation in the Royal Selection had not been recognized. That meant that Emilia’s sponsor, Roswaal L. Mathers, and her both had fallen in status; that was the meaning of the latter’s unhinged state.
In short, Emilia had not even displayed a will to participate in the Royal Selection, and so her sponsor Roswaal lost his qualifications. The Emilia Camp collapsed before its first task.
And so, Emilia had the ladder pulled from under her, and so been defeated without being able to do anything.
Emilia: “…My wish…”
It was to create a world without discrimination.
Creating a place where the births of half-elves and others would not serve as a definite evaluation of one’s future life, that was clumsy Emilia’s wish.
However, without even being given the chance to be spoken aloud, that wish had disappeared like a dream’s fantasy.
Beyond that wish too, the freeing of Emilia’s hometown―― the task of rescuing the residents of Elior Forest, still in ice-encased slumber, that too she been unable to do.
Puck: “It’d be better to return to the forest rather that living in a defenseless house like that, but Lia was in a situation where even that was impossible. As you can imagine, when the first envoy arrived I was definitely surprised.”
Emilia: “…Reaaally surprised. Because…”
The boy she had come to meet here, Emilia had believed to be dead.
――Her fate of not partaking in the Royal Selection had been determined by the death of the mansion’s maid.
Rem, that was the girl who had become the first victim of the ruckus caused by the Witchbeasts. The boy, an outsider who had briefly been working at the mansion, had been a suspect in her death.
The boy could not endure that suspicious, and so had run away. Chasing him, that Rem’s older sister, Ram, had also left the mansion―― only never to return.
The collapse, probably started from there.
The cause of Rem’s death was discovered to be the curse of the Witchbeasts afterwards, once the damage spread to the nearby village. The two disasters had overlapped, this state unrecoverable.
As a result of the chaos caused by the Witchbeasts, Roswaal had lost his position, without even seizing an opportunity to recover. Emilia had failed to announce her participation in the Royal Selection, and had met defeat without being defeated; a humiliation for her. The mansion was steadily declining towards the worse, heading towards undesired collapse.
It was then.
Swept away by the helplessness of being unable to change anything, Emilia was spending her days listlessly. But one day, that boy, who was supposed to have disappeared, had come to get her.
Puck had quickly responded to that. But Emilia was feeling angry at that boy.
Without caring about her feelings, without any explanation, not when first disappearing, not even when he returned, without saying anything, he was suddenly taking her away.
He might even have been the catalyst for the start of the collapse of the world surrounding Emilia. Despite that―――
Emilia: “Like that…”
Reunited with Emilia, the boy with a frail face exhausted from fear, even worse than the one he possessed now, had latched on, cried, and begged her for help.
And at that boy bawling like a child, Emilia had forgotten to be angry.
Maybe she was naïve. Maybe she was easy.
And, even then, Emilia did not think herself worthy of scolding him, that boy who seemed like a child, who had eventually exposed his sleeping, baby-like face.
So, the boy would visit Emilia, to find himself salvation.
He would come looking for her, without saying a single word about what he was doing outside her room’s door, just sobbing sadly and talking about his own feelings, entrusting his life to Emilia’s knees.
Whether she was receiving strong trust, or being looked down upon and being humiliated, that depended on what Emilia thought. And Emilia was not able to give any answer to that.
Emilia: “Obviously, this reaaally isn’t healthy…”
That this was not a normal state to be in, even the immature Emilia realized that.
However, Emilia, while accepting that clinging boy’s tears, looking on the form of the boy letting himself rest for nary a moment, in her own inner thoughts she was unsure.
Speaking of the intervals in which the boy sought Emilia, it was about once every ten days.
Other than that, he was desperately struggling, even cutting back on sleep-time.
Really, they did not exchange many words.
But in this way, the boy would secretly came searching for her, for Emilia, once every ten days.
Emilia: “…Subaru’s such a twit.”
―――That perhaps she longed for those visits, Emilia had grown aware of that.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
―――If a tossed gold coin landed on tails, with just that, anyone would be slain.
At that abnormal method of her master, Frederica could not hide her disgust.
Cleaning a headless corpse that had fallen in the reception hall, Frederica then replaced the sullied carpet, next preparing meals for the mercenaries in Pandemonium.
Frederica: “The fates of others, quite literally left to luck… Do you feel like you have become a god?”
Lifting the whole body of a corpse, Frederica, knowing all too well the reason for her helplessness, clicked her sharp fangs against one another, containing her feelings inside herself while trembling with anger.
Frederica Baumann was employed and working there in the organization because the Purge King, its leader, had a princess―― Emilia, who had vehemently begged on her behalf.
That day, as the mansion filled with chilled air and frost, she had been convinced she was going to lose her life to that traitorous Great Spirit. Yet, for some reason, she had woken up here.
Since then, having been fitted with a collar around her neck, she was being used as a maid, to serve that detestable person.
Why in the world, how inept had her work been so that she was now subjected with this kind of absurd job?
Frederica: “――Master, pardon me, please.”
Her owner’s own meals, it was the rule that Frederica would carry it to his room directly.
He did not entrust this task to anyone else other than Frederica, and would not allow in his mouth food cooked by any other than her. That this was some honorable thing, she had no feeling like that whatsoever.
Firstly, it was not because of taste or trust that Frederica had been entrusted with the task. Merely that Frederica would not try stupid things, was the sort of conviction he held.
With the sound of many locks coming undone, a rude order allowed Frederica’s entry into the room.
Following those orders, with the food cart in tow, Frederica stepped foot into the room of her master.
Her master’s room, unlike the luxurious decor and interior of the building, was big, but quite simple and dull, a room lacking in humanity.
The room’s four corners held many books that were not distinguished by subject. Messily piled up books were stacked everywhere, and it was a place the orderly Frederica could not bear. But, that person deeply hated having his room cleaned.
Perhaps he was being wary of something being installed in the room.
Knowing that was impossible, but still being on the lookout for it, was not being cautious but rather cowardly―― definitely, it was contemptible behavior.
Frederica: “Master, should I do the usual with these fallen documents?”
Subaru: “…Hmm. Yeah, please do. You can show them to someone who looks like they understand them.”
With those words, few documents littering the floor of the room, written down in messy handwriting, were waved away by her uninterested master.
At first glance, they simply seemed to be discarded, messed-up drafts, but they in fact were the source of the organization’s wealth―― The many mysterious creations brought about by the Purge King.
Subaru: “It might not be very helpful… Engines or things like that, I don’t get the mechanism at all. As expected, different kinds of food are the easiest to figure out…”
Mumbling complaints, looking somewhere other than here was her master.
He would speak of knowledge and culture that no one had ever seen, discovered or noticed, be it leads or the ultimate results.
By meeting lots of people, that black-haired boy had repeatedly made great decisions―― like he had been marked by fate, he had many unique ideas, and as a pioneer of culture had been granted cleverness.
With those many pieces of knowledge he spoke of, the experts of fields of study that had been in slumber had been lit with a new flame.
Those experts would examine and discuss that boy’s joking words, which represented possibilities incomprehensible to ordinary people, with seriousness, and ultimately established them into theories.
And so, with that producing enormous profits, the boy who possessed nothing had been nurtured into a great villain.
Subaru: “At this point, calling it an unparalleled kata  made of future knowledge isn’t even funny.”
Frederica remembered that her master had mumbled such strange words in reply to having his achievements praised, in the past. She also recalled that he had not been smiling at all when speaking those words.
And so, on one hand causing many people to suffer, on the other giving rise to much happiness, her dark-haired master was quite dishonest.
Even as a problematic existence that humanity should remedy, in his brain there was definite value.
This unreachable being, was definitely one-of-a-kind in this world in regards to being difficult to handle, there was no doubt―― maybe in that sense, he might have had something in common with Roswaal.
Subaru: “Frederica, the food. First, have a bite.”
Even while preoccupied in her thoughts, Frederica was steadily readying the meal to be served.
This boy was only skin and bones, skeletal in appearance. It was not that his portions were lacking, the issue was largely mental.
Having given and taken many wounds, while living comfortably he was comparably quite skinny in appearance. As the manager of his meals, it did not make her feel great, but he probably was not vomiting because he wanted to.
Frederica: “Master, with this.”
Why had meals been prepared for two?
All menus were for two, placed on large plates, and set on the table. And from every plate’s meal Frederica ate a single bite, as to check for the presence of poison was one of her roles.
She had never thought about poisoning him. But that she wanted to, that she did.
It was just that, for Frederica, the work of a maid had taken up much of her life, and it was precious to her. With the people that had taught her, and those involved with her, in her mind, she did not want to commit acts of violence.
Frederica: “Then, I will be outside, if there is anything please call for me.”
During meals, her master did not enjoy being seen.
Because of that, having finished with readying the meal, Frederica felt it was time to leave and was withdrawing from the room.
On this day as well, she intended to leave the room and wait outside―― when suddenly, something caught her eye.
Spread out over the desk was a written list, holding the names of the organization’s members.
Placed next to that list, a gold coin could be seen.
At that moment, having realized the meaning of that, Frederica could not hide the fear running down her back.
With her turning around, void black eyes were gazing at Frederica, who had called for her master.
Frederica’s breath was robbed by that abyss. In front of her, her master slowly approached the desk and covered that unfolded list.
And then, flipping the gold coin just next to it with a thumb,
With a carefree noise, that tossed coin fell into the boy’s left hand. Catching it, and having checked the side facing up, that boy smiled at Frederica.
Subaru: “It was heads, Frederica―― Your brother and grandmother are safe.”
Subaru: “Get out. And don’t come back until I say you may enter.”
At her master’s words, Frederica nodded like a doll without speaking.
And so, unable to hide the tears in her eyes welling up, she left the room as her cheeks were moistened by hot tears. Soon after, Frederica began to run while covering her face.
Frederica: “Uh, uhhh… Waaaaah!”
She could not tell, not anyone, not anything. Sharing would not be forgiven.
Why had it become like this?
Why had this happened to her?
Those far-away days at the mansion, with those not-cute-at-all juniors, that cute junior, that hopeless master―― Where had those times gone?
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
――Having received word from a secret messenger, Cecilus closed one eye and looked up at the moon.
Cecilus: “Hmm, hmmhmm, hmmhmmhmmmm~.”
Twisting his neck and bending at the waist, low enough that the tips of his long hair could brush the ground, he tilted his form.
By nature, thinking had never been his best attribute. Cecilus had not received formal education, and had lived with no intention of learning things in the first place. In years, his life numbered around twenty, but he had spent it all on one thing only.
Many years he had spent only on swinging a sword, his swordsmanship a point of pride.
Since it was a life of only that, in his heart of hearts he wished to avoid difficult matters.
Cecilus: “Well now, how should this be done. As for me…”
Straightening his bent body, Cecilus shook the dust from his hair that had been touching the floor. And placing a hand on the sword at his waist, then turning back with a dance-like move,
Cecilus: “Hey, Halibel-san. What do you think?”
Halibel: “―――What, it’s disgraceful that you’ve found me while I was keepin’ quiet, and ya were bein’ so unashamed.”
On the castle’s―― on Pandemonium’s balcony, underneath the light of the moon with the sky overhead, from the shadows the beastman shinobi appeared.
Having been detected, Halibel scratched his head, and approached Cecilus, the latter’s face undaunted.
Retrieving the kiseru from his pocket and inserting it in his mouth, he lighted its tip. Inhaled, and puffed out purple haze.
Halibel: “Just now, who was that messenger sneakin’ about?”
Cecilus: “That? ――Let’s just say, that was one of the Nine Divine Generals, but… Well, if it’s Halibel-san, the top shinobi in the world, it’s no wonder they were found.”
Halibel: “Ce-san, y’ain’t suited for secret stuff at all. Haven’t’cha revealed that ya never broke off ties with the Vollachian Empire just now?”
Cecilus: “But, Halibel-san, weren’t you already aware of that?”
Halibel, already with an awkward grin, at Cecilus’s comment smiled even deeper.
That this was not a negative sign, Cecilus was frankly aware of it.
Cecilus: “Originally, working with the boss was as per His Excellency’s order. Of course, that I fell for the boss’s invitation and came to this side isn’t a lie.”
Halibel: “With the Empire’s collar ‘round yer neck… Well, Su-san’s movements, if used well, it’d be easy to turn them into a profit to yer country. That knowledge from somewhere unknown’d be more readily accepted in Kararagi and Vollachia rather than Lugunica and Gusteko.”
Cecilus: “It would, yes.”
Drawing his hand into his kimono sleeves, Cecilus acknowledged that he was a spy.
Cecilus’s reason for cooperating with the organization’s activities, as he had stated, was to follow the orders of Vollachia’s Emperor. However, the Emperor, knowing Cecilus’s temperament, had not given specific instructions. Not that he could have remembered them even if he did.
Cecilus’s role, as commanded, was to――
Cecilus: “All I gotta do is kill who the boss orders be killed, aside from His Excellency. So, it’s just the usual.”
Halibel: “Ce-san, aren’t’cha even more of an assassin than I, a shinobi, am?”
Cecilus: “No, no, definitely not true, I mean, stuff like lurking in the water, or hiding poison on my person, or rising from the shadows is impossible for me.”
Shaking his head and hands, Cecilus humbly responded by acknowledging the difference between their respective areas.
As a shinobi, as an assassin, he was far behind Halibel. But, if fighting head-on, Halibel was no match for Cecilus.
Cecilus: “Well then, having just caught me at the scene of me meeting with a secret messenger, what are you thinking of doing? Are you planning on fighting me with your life on the line here?”
Halibel: “That depends on the nature of the message.”
Cecilus: “Hmm, you mean its contents.”
Halibel: “If its contents’d mean Su-san’s death, I guess I gotta fight to stop that.”
Holding his kiseru between his fingers, letting out a puff of violet smoke, Halibel’s fur fluttered in the cold night breeze.
Hearing he was ready to fight to the death for his master, Cecilus, with an “I see”, nodded his head.
Cecilus: “I’ve been wondering for a long time now. Why’s Halibel-san acting for the boss? It’s not out of sincerely loyalty to His Excellency like me.”
Halibel: “To repay a grace I received.”
Cecilus: “――What can it be, the sort of favor that Halibel-san received?”
Those unexpected words had come rushing out, and, having listened to them, Cecilus asked with sincere surprise. Depending on the person, this would be brazen enough to be considered rude, but Halibel did not say anything in particular.
Instead, Halibel gazed up at the moon hanging in the night sky――
Halibel: “’Round the time I first met Su-san, there was a bit of an incident in a corner of Kararagi. That, well, it was an incident that involved the Four Great Spirits… Su-san dealt with it.”
Cecilus: “Huuuh, the Four Great Spirits! I know one of them, but they can’t really be talked with, you know. Can’t believe they were calmed down… Huh, perhaps the boss’s stronger than I thought…”
Halibel: “Nah, nah. It wasn’t an aggressive situation like that. What did… Well, I dunno what was the deciding factor, for sure. But you know how Su-san’s got some weird predications at times? It was prolly that.”
Returning his blade to its sheath, Cecilus with one eye closed listened to Halibel’s explanation.
The reason that felt both convincing and doubtful was because Cecilus appraised that boy, his boss, similarly, in certain aspects.
Halibel had called them weird predictions, but Cecilus did not look at it like that.
To prepare for anything was the weapon of a coward, he thought. And, Cecilus thought it desirable to respect the strong.
That meant that, no matter the method of fighting, one who would greedily use anything to win would be acknowledged as a warrior by him.
Cecilus: “Well, as a strong one among swordsmen, if possible, sticking with a sword fits me the best.”
Halibel: “Ce-san, Ce-san, are ya done with my talk?”
Cecilus: “Yes, that is enough. Anyway, it wasn’t that I thought of suspecting Halibel-san or anything like that. Unlike the Empire, the City-States is more like a mish-mash of heads… If you told me you were working for someone else, I’d trust you a lot more.”
With that declaration, Halibel seemed worn out and disappointed. At that, Cecilus tilted his head, and with an “Ah”, as if he had remembered something, clapped his hands together.
Cecilus: “Right, right, I was forgetting. The secret messenger I got in touch with a while ago.”
Halibel: “It’s okay to tell me?”
Cecilus: “If I don’t tell you, I think that’d cause a lot of difficulties. To be completely honest…”
Then, Cecilus informed Halibel, a large smile on his face,
Cecilus: “――As the Former Margrave’s murder has surfaced, the Kingdom is coming to destroy the organization in earnest.”
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
――And so, nonchalantly, the moment of the end would arrive.
???: “Many thanks for granting me an audience with you today.”
Saying this, welcomed as a guest to the reception area, this youth confronted the Purge King with a dignified attitude.
This boy had slain many, erased many lives, grasped many weaknesses.
There had been many situations in which people, to maintain calm, had bluffed by presenting a brave front.
Subaru: “――Somehow, your confidence is remarkable, you do not seem much different from me.”
Young Man: “――Thank you for those sudden words of praise.”
The one who’s head dipped in a bow, was a delicately-built young man, fitted with a black suit and tie.
There was a mild look on his face, but in his eyes, somehow, a dim darkness could be seen. That smile he was making was likely fake. He was definitely aware that it would be seen through.
Not reckless, but full of courage―― was the mixed impression of this young man.
Subaru: “Let me see, you must be…”
Young Man: “To be frank, not far off from now, we intend to do much large-scale business here. Because of that, we had been looking for a chance to send our regards to the organization, and present gifts, first of all.”
Subaru: “I see, that’s, well, thanks for your consideration.”
That posture of advancing according to his role without flinching left a good impression.
Emulating that attitude, the boy changed, to intently perform his own role as well.
Young Man: “These are the offerings from our side―― We have heard that the leader desired this.”
Having been brought in and the lid of its box opened by a servant, the young man presented the eye-catching offering.
Inside, were a lot of stones―― Magic Stones. As if affirming its utmost purity, the concentration of Mana filling the room heightened.
Staring at the offering, the Purge King muttered.
Subaru: “What color is there the most of?”
Young Man: “――?”
???: “Red and blue shades seem to be most prominent, but if you look further inside, there’s also yellow and green… Get the feeling the whole set’s there. Oh, how thoughtful.”
At that question with unknown meaning, the young man showed hesitation for the first time.
Instead of the youthful man, it was Cecilus who had replied, standing next to the King. After receiving that report from Cecilus, the King nodded solemnly.
Subaru: “Is that so, then my thanks for that. I’ll be receiving your consideration. Uhhh…”
Young Man: “This comes from Russell Fellow.”
Subaru: “Hmm, I see. Russell Fellow, is it. If any problem comes up…”
Then, the Purge King cut off his words.
The reason was that youthful messenger, who, to stop him from speaking, had opened a hand.
In that instant, a faint murmur spread in the room. With his words having been interrupted, what response would the Purge King give to that action; the guards were getting excited.
However, in such a situation, only Halibel, Cecilus and the young man involved had remained calm,
Young Man: “Please wait. In truth, the offerings, just this is not their entirety.”
Subaru: “――Huh. Then I’m even more impressed.”
After listening to that man’s words, the King responded as such, and the tension relaxed slightly.
There, in that atmosphere with lessened pressure, that young man gave a deep nod. And so――
Young Man: “――From the Kingdom of Lugunica, this could be called the response to the Purge King’s atrocities.”
――Immediately, an onslaught of white light swallowed up the whole meeting room, shattering it.
An incredible torrent of light engulfed the luxurious reception room of the Magic Castle Pandemonium; as if purifying it, it was transformed into white dust.
Those who had perished due to that white light, without even knowing what had hit them, numbered eighteen―― each were warriors of great skill, each had their names known throughout, but this was no longer in their realm.
Even if, to those vanquished men, the truth of what had happened could somehow be told, there were none among them who would have believed it.
――The blow which had vaporized them all, had been brought about with a single slash.
The organization’s headquarters was collapsing.
The place where important things had been gathered, had been blown away by that reigning brilliant existence.
The Purge King had been finally acknowledged as an enemy of the world, having committed a multitude of evil deeds.
The assassin sent by the Dragon Kingdom to subjugate that existence, was none other than――
???: “Reinhardt van Astrea, of the Sword Saint bloodline.”
The one who rendered all efforts ineffective, the absurd iron hammer of the divine, had manifested.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
In that destroyed parlor, a man was standing, serene.
Fiery crimson hair, blue eyes that mimicked the very sky, a white Knight’s uniform left not a single speck of dust, the Knight Amongst Knights stood there, like something out of a painting.
Held in that Knight’s hand, a Holy Sword shattered into innumerable pieces.
With just one swing, a weapon crafted by a master swordsmith who’d left his name upon the world had turned to dust like it was nothing. In compensation, the man who had stacked acts of barbarity upon acts of barbarity and his gang both would be caught in a single blow――
???: “――You’re not a cute opponent at all, you know that, right?
Like a clap of thunder breaking through the smoke, a terrific sword strike closed in on Reinhardt.
And so, with an impact like thunder indeed ringing out, the body of the one labelled the Sword was thrown back. However, his body had not been slashed―― The scabbard of his beloved sword had been used to blocked it.
Not with hands, but by twisting his body to receive the slashing strike with the sheath, with movement akin to acrobatics, the young man, Reinhardt, then fired a strike of his own―― At that Cecilus, let out a whistle.
Cecilus: “Oh, I see you’re still completely beyond the realm of humans… That makes me so happy, Reinhardt-san!”
Reinhardt: “I believe I am not feeling very pleased about our reunion, Cecilus-dono.”
Carrying the Fiend Sword Murasame on his shoulder, Cecilus kicked some dust on the floor with his zori. Having been greeted with that single blow in lieu of a proper one, Reinhardt furrowed his brow.
Then, squinting towards the back of the room, the smoke there clearing up,
Reinhardt: “…It did not reach, huh.”
Cecilus: “Ohh, that didn’t reach the boss, did it? Well, it was a blow in a place where Halibel-san and I are guarding, that’s a hard place to get to. But, to be honest, I didn’t particularly move while thinking of protecting the boss, so Halibel-san gets one-hundred-percent of the credit there.”
Saying that, in the inner room, where Cecilus was innocently pointing at with his chin―― On the throne shrouded in smoke was the Purge King resting his chin in his hands, and protecting him with his back, was Halibel’s figure.
That Halibel, puffing purple smoke from the kiseru held in his mouth―――
Halibel: “Ce-san, a correction. This ain’t my achievement.”
Cecilus: “Well then, it was my hidden power…”
Halibel: “Even that ain’t it. It was, Su-san’s work… This throne’s definitely bein’ protected by some sort of tremendous power. Though, we ain’t ever heard of it.”
At that Cecilus gazing down at his hand while trembling, Halibel shook his head.
Then, behind Halibel, the Purge King who had been seated on the throne until now, rose. And, grabbing the orange scarf he wore around his neck,
Subaru: “――I saw your strike before at the Loot House. To prepare for that’s only natural.”
Distorting his cheeks, he gave a very grim smile.
This was none other than, the Purge King’s―― No, Natsuki Subaru’s reunion with Reinhardt.
Subaru: “You’ve really drawn a poor lot, Reinhardt. Had you not helped me back at the Loot House, it would’ve have become the mess it is now―― But in that case, you wouldn’t ever been able to meet your precious master, guess it didn’t turn out so bad for you, did it?”
Peeping out from Halibel’s side, Subaru stuck his tongue out at Reinhardt.
At that wicked form, Reinhardt’s cheeks stiffened as if in pain. Swaying sadly, those blue eyes gazed ahead at Subaru, his face wicked and hateful.
But suddenly, that expression disappeared.
Subaru: “――What the hell. After all, you’re black and white as well?
Reinhardt: “――? Black and white? That is…”
Subaru: “Shut up, you lying bastard―― Then, there’s no way I’ll let myself die to you.”
With emotionless words, Subaru turned away his eyes, having lost interest in Reinhardt. And like that, whacking Halibel on the shoulder, then staring at Cecilus as he faced Reinhardt,
Subaru: “Cecilus, do what you want, I’ve already lost interest.”
Cecilus: “――I don’t understand much about that, it seems the boss and I see things differently. My thanks for the worthy opponent, do accept those.”
Subaru: “We’re seeing things differently… Haha, that makes sense. Even at the end, you make me laugh.”
As if something about Cecilus’s words was funny, Subaru slapped his knee with amusement.
Then, his smile disappearing immediately,
Subaru: “It was enjoyable in its own way. Cecilus, since you had no weaknesses, you weren’t my favorite.”
Cecilus: “For me, it’d be just that―― Mayonnaise is scary.”
At that cheeky assertion of Cecilus, Subaru laughed as if he was pleased.
Subaru’s appearance, held in Halibel’s arms, sank into a shadow. And like that, Subaru and Halibel had departed from this difficult predicament.
Reinhardt: “Wait! Our talk is yet to be…”
Cecilus: “―――That’s the end of it, Sword Saint. If you don’t want it to stop there, then please catch up and start over. But before then, this faithful subordinate of the Purge King’s gonna be blocking your way.”
Reinhardt: “Kuh… Kh.”
Trying to chase after the disappeared Subaru and Halibel, Reinhardt felt something brushing underneath his feet.
Sundering the floor in a straight line, that blow, without a moment of the blade being drawn visible, was an extraordinary flash made viable by overwhelming swinging speed. No more than a sword that had reached the pinnacle of the sword.
Cecilus: “Regrettably, it’s too early to be evaluated in such a manner. I’m still in the middle of climbing that mountain. If I can overcome one more step, I think I can reach it.”
Reinhardt: “Reach, where?”
Cecilus: “Of course, the Heavenly Sword.”
At that moment, a sound like the air freezing, like it was being cut and slain, could be heard.
A swordfighter who had truly reached the pinnacle of the sword―― no, it was the transparent fighting spirit emitted by the swordsman, which reached a level monstruous enough that it would bring about unfathomable situations contrary to common sense.
That incarnation of the sword standing there; just by touching that blade, even invisible things would perish.
Cecilus: “I was waiting for this opportunity―― A chance to cross swords with you.”
Reinhardt: “…Cecilus-dono, I have already fought with you before. That match was, to me, of great significance. Why is it you…”
Cecilus: “Of course, if my body can wield a sword―― we may only meet in a life-or-death match.”
The second sword, the Fiend Sword Murasame, was unsheathed with gleaming light.
The first sword, the Dream Sword Masayume, desired to cut, the beauty within it reveals.
Of the ten Enchanted Swords, Distinguished Swords, and Holy Swords existing in the world, those amounted to two―― Not to mention,
Cecilus: “――The Dragon Sword Reid.”
Always besides the Sword Saint, but only ever drawn against opponents suitable for the Sword Saint, that sword shining white exposed its blade to the air.
That the sound of the sword being drawn was being heard, was undoubtedly because the Dragon Sword was ululating.
Cecilus: “You must already know, Reinhardt-san. In front of us lies a wall.”
With each holding their Holy Sword, their Enchanted Sword, their Dragon Sword, these extraordinary existences faced one another.
Shuffling their feet as to narrow the distance between the two, the world viewed their clash with horror, the atmosphere distorted.
Cecilus: “For those who arrive at a certain realm, the way in front’s gonna be blocked by a wall. That wall, which can’t be surpassed no matter what, some’ll never overcome it and give up. Something like that, it’s impossible for me. For if I don’t cross that wall, I won’t be able to be me.”
Cecilus: “That’s when the boss’s offer arrived. He offered me a way to get past the wall… Well, it ended up being a way to cross swords with you with lives on the line, setting up a serious fight for one’s life―― Well, just as he said it, it was to clutch at straws, that sorta thing.”
Cecilus: “Those who are about to drown do, or so I’ve heard.”
That was the solution that had brought Cecilus Segmunt brought to this place.
Or perhaps, with his desire as a swordsman being guessed correctly, this had been made inevitable?
At that wide-eyed Sword Saint, Cecilus curved his lips.
And, laughed. The Blue Lightning, who with a laughing face would cut down others, spoke,
Cecilus: “I’m drowning, Mister Reinhardt van Astrea. Saying it like my employer would; apparently, we, those who deeply desire something, everyone of us, everyone’s drowning. We’re all drowning in an ocyan , or whatever it’s called, which we haven’t even seen before.”
Swallowed his breath, Reinhardt did.
With that, lowering his body, wielding both his swords by their hilt, Cecilus took off his zori.
Cecilus: “――Swordsman, Cecilus Segmunt.”
Not of the Vollachian Empire, not as a General, not as the Blue Lighting―― those other titles were unnecessary.
This body, as merely one swordsman, coveted the path towards the Heavenly Sword.
――Lightning, claps of thunder, tore through Pandemonium.
Droplets of blood, danced.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
――Continuously, Pandemonium quaked.
The aftershocks from the fight, felt as vigorous shocks and tremors, even echoed through Emilia’s private quarters.
The light hanging from the ceiling was violently swaying, dust was falling. While lying in bed, Emilia was being forced to make a choice.
To stay there, that was what had been said to her.
Or perhaps, it had been more of a plea, such as “Please stay”.
Should she believe that and wait, or should she ignore it and rush out?
Her inner thoughts about her situation lost in revolution, she continued to postpone a decision. However――
???: “――Lia, the end has come.”
While that fierce battle’s shaking continued, at the Emilia lying in bed Puck spoke. Her amethyst eyes trembling as they gazed upwards, Puck gave a sniff with his tiny nose, his short arms crossed.
Hearing that it was the end, Emilia gulped.
Yet again, she had been unable to do anything.
Putting off making a choice, then accepting the consequences of not make said choice.
That it was cowardly act she somewhat understood, she, once again――
Had deferred her stance onto Subaru―――
Puck: “――Reinhardt’s here. It’s Subaru’s defeat.
With that continuation of Puck’s words, Emilia’s thoughts froze.
Unable to speak but making sounds, unable to form thoughts, Emilia opened her eyes wide.
Even hearing that it was the end, Emilia had been certain of Subaru’s victory. That she never for a moment doubted it, Emilia had only realized at this moment.
Natsuki Subaru would not be defeated.
No matter what the opponent, with his selfish excuses and tenacity and abuse of misanthropy, he would always grasp victory. With all under his control, manipulating all subordinates he could think of, no matter the opponent, they would be annihilated.
And, when tired of thinking, and needing a moment of peace, he would come to find Emilia.
Definitely, Subaru was going to come to her room, Emilia had been believing that.
Puck: “Until today, I’ve never rushed Lia’s choices, but that can’t be done this time. You have to make a decision.”
Emilia: “To make, a decision…”
Puck: “Do you prefer staying here, or leaving here?”
To what extent did he know, for in that plain Puck’s voice was conviction.
Puck gazed down at Emilia tightly grasping up her sheets. His usual aloof expression was completely gone, and the compassion for his beloved child was strong instead.
At a dear child that had lost her way and was anxious about the road ahead, a parent’s eyes were directed.
Puck: “It looks like, all this time, Subaru had been controlling information properly. There isn’t any sign of Lia being involved in the organization’s activities. Well, Lia really wasn’t involved at all, but having been with them for so long, some people with suspicions will show up for sure. This was a necessary precaution.”
Emilia: “Wasn’t involved at all? Then, what kind of position was I in?”
Puck: “From Roswaal’s mansion you were kidnapped, and locked away. That’s how they’re treating you. Then those children attempting to destroy Pandemonium right now, seem more like rescuers who came for you.”
At this unexpected explanation, Emilia was stunned.
That Emilia had been brought out of Roswaal’s mansion against her will was true. And that she had been angered by it, and had disliked Subaru for it, was also truth.
However, she had not refused that clinging, pleading Subaru. It was likewise correct that she had overlooked the fact he had been doing his utmost to protect the time he had spent with Emilia.
And yet despite that, could it really be said that was Emilia wholly unrelated to how things were?
Wouldn’t arguing that just be the peak of shamelessness?
Puck: “Lia, if you just wait here nicely, as a poor princess, your rescuers will aid you, but…”
While speaking as if they were whispering, Puck landed on Emilia’s thin shoulder. And then, with that cat Spirit nearing her cheek, Emilia painfully comprehended the unspoken continuation of his words.
If she waited here, she would be rescued as a victim.
However, if Emilia left by herself, then she would be a perpetrator that had been acting of her own free will.
Faced with that fact, there was not even a moment of hesitation.
Rising, Emilia put her hand on that white room’s only door.
To open it from the outside, a complicated authentication procedure was needed for identification, so Subaru, and her caretaker, Frederica, were the only people allowed to enter or leave.
The moment Emilia’s hand touched the door from the inside, however, the system crumbled, leaving no trace behind.
Emilia: “Subaru, you twit…”
Seeking signs of the destroyed technique with the palm of her hand, Emilia murmured in a weak voice.
It had been originally created so it would be broken by Emilia and Emilia alone. In other words, Subaru had made it so Emilia could escape whenever she wished to.
That bird cage’s door had been designed to be destroyed by the determination of the bird caged inside all along.
Was it perhaps because Subaru had trusted that Emilia would never escape?
Or maybe, was it Subaru’s own kindness, in that he wished to respect Emilia’s desire to run away?
That answer, she desired to hear it straight from Subaru’s mouth, she thought.
――At the end of a time during which she had not been capable of choosing anything, that was the answer Emilia had settled upon.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
Having been removed from the reception room, running through the castle along with Halibel, the Purge King, the youth, his boss, his master, he―― Natsuki Subaru gave a deep chuckle.
Subaru: “Something like taking Felt as a hostage, I wonder if that might’ve been a good idea…”
If so, would it have restrained Reinhardt’s movements?
――No, rather than that, gaining Reinhardt’s wrath, and having to fight the Sword Saint powered up with emotion seemed more likely.
This’d be the flow of the simulation till its very end.
In complete honesty, he’d had a premonition that the moment of Pandemonium’s fall would turn out in this manner
Subaru: “Guess posing as a big boss in the underworld was kinda fun…”
He was looking back. At the path towards here.
Just how much suffering had he caused? With the weaknesses of many people in his hands, and all while receiving their hatred, he would lord over others’ lives, receiving hate, ruling over his opponents’ lives, and on a whim taking those lives――
―――No, it was definitely never a whim.
If it were perceived as toying, that would a very big misunderstanding.
He had never pondered it over. He had never given it a thought, because there was no point in attempting so, however.
――Subaru was afraid of people. Terribly so.
Outwardly approaching them with a smile, while hiding cunning slyness within himself in truth. That sort of way of being of a human being, concealing the truth, human beings moving as they pleased and move wherever following innumerable ulterior motives, was horrifying.
Whether to believe the people who were with him or not, worrying about that was idiotic.
And so, Subaru had decided on a way to simplify human relationships.
And so, with that, even if all human beings detested Subaru, a world devoid of problems would be established.
Every human, no matter who, possessed a weakness. Family, a lover, wealth, dreams, hope. Because of that――
Subaru: “――If only the weaknesses of every human being in the world could be grasped.”
Then, only then, Subaru would not have to doubt anyone.
In a black and white world, in a world lacking any hues which could not be trusted, feeding on loathing, he could live comfortably.
With Subaru, aiding in his escape, was Halibel.
To Subaru, Halibel’s figure did not look to be their true form―― his appearance appeared monochrome. He looked to be in only two colors, white and black.
Appearing in monochrome like that was not restricted to just Halibel.
Right now, the world as it appeared to Subaru had, without exception, lost its colors and changed to possess but two.
People, objects, paintings, tools, jewelry, Magic Stones, fresh blood, water, all were black and white.
Blood and water seemed no different from one another, soup and poison also were not distinguishable.
Everything was monochrome. Black and white.
In such a world, that which looked colorful to Subaru amounted to only a few.
That only those were real, Subaru believed so.
Everything else was fake, Subaru believed so.
Beatrice had been so.
Emilia was so.
Beyond that, there was only one.
Anyway, Subaru could not believe in anyone else.
Everything else other than them, it truly looked faded.
Those fakers could not, only those real articles.
The qualifications to decide whether Natsuki Subaru should live or die were held only by them, only those real articles.
Subaru: “…I had a tad of expectations from Reinhardt.”
Perhaps those from before those days―― in truth, he had expected those he had been involved with before the event that had triggered the loss of color would have remained without those colors fading.
However, he had appeared to Subaru just as monochrome as someone he had just met for the first time. Such expectations had been fleeting, and so Reinhardt, despite how vivid he had seemed, now appeared as an ashen mass to Subaru. It looked dirty.
In the end, Reinhardt was also a child of man.
There was no doubt that he too would continuously lie while living. That was all there was to it.
As Subaru and Halibel ran through the castle, a sudden loud voice called out to them, intersecting them.
What could be seen dashing from the other side of the corridor towards them, was the long-haired, long in body maid Frederica. Though hard to discern her colors, that face’s potent impression was easy enough to remember.
Subaru had secretly found Frederica to his liking. And so――
Frederica: “Prepare yourself―― Shh!”
She, rushing in and making an attempt on his life and shouting both in a disciplined manner, appeared to be of a lovable nature to him.
Of course, those actions from Frederica would not be tolerated by the eyes of Kararagi’s strongest.
Frederica “Ah, ugh!”
The dagger in her hand being taken away, Frederica had been pushed up against the wall, her arm pinned. At Halibel, performer of these actions, Frederica could only turn back her head,
Frederica: “Why are you doing this, Halibel-sama? Now, by taking advantage of this turmoil, that man…!”
Halibel: “Ya could kill him. I understand why ya’d think so. Ya children whose weaknesses’ve been grasped, y’all desire for freedom with Su-san’s death. I know, but.”
There, Halibel opened his narrowed eyes, and glared at Frederica. Being bathed in the light of those eyes, from Frederica’s thin throat a quiet sound was produced.
Halibel: “Unfortunately, I don’t follow boss because of my weaknesses. To pay back Su-san’s kindness, that’s why I serve him.”
Frederica: “A kindness!? From this man, kindness? Stop playing around…!”
Held tight against the wall, with bloodshot eyes Frederica looked fiercely at Subaru. Those already sharp fangs grew, and those thin feminine fingers, began transforming into a thick, strong and beast-like state.
Frederica: “No matter what… Hk!?”
Next to Frederica, fervent, her body distorted, Subaru had at some point come to stand.
Frederica widened her eyes while Halibel called out to him, but Subaru did not pause. Like that, Frederica desperately raised her arm, and grazed Subaru’s neck.
At that moment, the scarf wrapped around his throat came undone and fell to the floor――
Frederica, seeing it, from deep in her throat made a sound.
Halibel, too, seeing that for the first time, revealed a faint surprise.
――On Natsuki Subaru’s neck, clearly remained marks shaped like fingers.
Subaru: “It won’t do, Frederica. I won’t allow that black-and-white you to kill me.”
At that frozen Frederica, Subaru drew his face close and asserted with certainty.
Perhaps, he had hoped that Frederica may have had some color. Nevertheless, even at this crucial moment, Frederica had remained in black and white.
Subaru: “Halibel-san… Take Frederica, and let her get away.”
Halibel: “…Su-san. The insider that dragged in the Sword Saint’s prolly――”
Subaru: “I know.”
Gazing at that Frederica unable to move an inch, Subaru cut off Halibel’s words.
Even without it being said, he understood. It was comprehensible that Frederica had secretly done such things, her emotions, given the extremes of her treatment, were capable of being understood.
――Nay, it was not limited to just Frederica. If not her, that someone else would have done. That it would only be her had been a miscalculation.
Subaru: “You don’t have to come back, Halibel-san. I’ll go settle things, in my own way.”
Subaru: “If you wanna return my kindness, that’ll be enough. In the first place, you got no reason to feel gratitude… I was just being cunning, after all.”
Shaking his head, Subaru smiled lightly at Halibel.
Halibel had, perhaps, regarded Subaru as someone who cared for him. Nevertheless, from Halibel he could not see any color either.
Perhaps, once the color was lost, it would never be restored.
It was because Subaru had lost the right to believe in something.
So was it that not one thing in the world would be colored for Subaru forevermore?
If so, that which was there to cling onto, was only――
Halibel: “With Su-san, I had wanted to be proper friends.”
Subaru: “…If I hadn’t run away, that might have been.”
Accepting Subaru’s intentions, Halibel, with those short words, simply said farewell.
Subaru, too, felt that exchanging more between them would be inappropriate.
But in the end, at that person who could have become a friend, he wanted to look cool.
At that call, Frederica slowly turned towards him.
At the woman who had lost the will to fight, Subaru was hesitant about how to convey it.
He wished to report to her, because he had been told to do so,
Subaru: “The food was always delicious, they told me that.”
――Perhaps, Frederica did not understand the meaning of that odd sentence.
Till the very end, in her eyes, Natsuki Subaru must have appeared as a monster.
That was fine. Even if it was like that, it did not matter. He had acted as such, he had been such.
He had not obtained the results he wished to see, however.
Subaru: “Then, where should I go, I wonder.”
Halibel had taken Frederica and, fading into the shadows, disappeared.
Left behind, Natsuki Subaru was alone in the collapse of his dreams.
Pandemonium shook constantly, perhaps evidence that Reinhardt and Cecilus’s battle raged on. However, the multiple voices he could hear from afar showed that the assault was not limited to only Reinhardt; he adjudged that potential foes had taken advantage of the opportunity.
Enemies, enemies, enemies. Nothing but enemies.
Having lived the way he did, it could not be helped.
Subaru had reached a fork, and for nary a moment he hesitated in deciding where to go.
Going right, would have him come across Emilia’s private quarters, the girl who had supported his weak self.
Going left, would have him come across what his weak self had taken as a kind of support, that girl――
It was at the moment he was faced with the option of where to go.
Someone running up, had pierced Subaru’s left side with a sharp knife.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
In a strange castle within a strange landscape, Emilia was running barefoot.
Though having spent a year inside Pandemonium, what Emilia knew of the castle was only that white room, her private quarters. Outside her room, and past the inside of the building, had gone completely unexplored by Emilia.
And that still did not change. Emilia’s interest was not focused on this world.
Now, Emilia’s concern was now focused on only one person, only the boy that had sought her.
Called by her name, with a startled expression Emilia stopped her steps.
Pandemonium had partially collapsed, losing its original form. In a white corridor, its windows slanted and cracked, Emilia had been halted by a young man with sky-blue eyes and blazing red hair.
Reinhardt: “Have you been well, Emilia-sama? I am glad to be able to meet you again.”
Even in this place, adhering to a Knight’s courtesy and posture, his attitude was too brave and elegant.
That man had run to Emilia’s side after finding her. Reinhardt van Astrea bowed his head. But due to his appearance, Emilia’s amethyst eyes were shaking from bewilderment.
Emilia: “Reinhardt, you’re gravely wounded. Are you alright?”
Reinhardt: “There is no need to worry. That it is a light wound, cannot quite be said, however.”
Saying that, Reinhardt relaxed his lips with Emilia’s words.
But Reinhardt’s appearance, to her, was rife with injuries. She had thought it unimaginable.
Covering his body were innumerable cuts produced by flashes of a blade, and with the bleeding having not ceased even now, red droplets of blood were dripping here and there in the white corridor. On those noble and fearless cheeks strands of crimson hair were scattered about, stuck onto it; on his face was a certain hue of fatigue, albeit she had never seen his breathing in a disturbed state.
That white Knight’s uniform was dirtied and covered in blood, not only another’s but his own as well, and what was shocking above all――
Emilia: “Your, sword.”
Reinhardt: “That right here right now is a scene for the Dragon Sword to be drawn, has been judged by the sword.”
That never-drawn, never-needed Holy Sword that was passed down through the Astreas, the Dragon Sword Reid with white light shone.
That blade, in this castle, against whom had he wielded it? Against whom would he wield it in the future?
Reinhardt: “Anyway, that Emilia-sama is safe is fortunate… Depart from here alongside me. There is a dragon carriage waiting outside the castle. With it, to Lugunica――”
Emilia: “To Lugunica… Where is this?”
Reinhardt: “This is at the edge of the Kararagi City-States, a hidden castle at the Crimson Hills Girall… Finding the organization took great effort, but through the efforts of a competent spy and an insider, it was somehow discovered.”
While answering Emilia’s questions, Reinhardt was regarding his surroundings warily.
That even now the shaking continued meant that somewhere in this castle a battle was continuing to take place. In Reinhardt’s case, he would wish to head towards his allies to support them.
No matter how covered in wounds he was, he was still the Kingdom’s strongest―― no, the world’s strongest man.
With him, Pandemonium’s fall was only a question of time.
If he were not here――
Reinhardt, “Emilia-sama, right now, we must――”
Hurry from this place, Reinhardt might have been trying to say.
However, those words were suddenly interrupted by Emilia’s actions, who had spun in place.
It was but an instant.
From the back, through Reinhardt’s abdomen, a sword of ice had pierced. Blood flowed through the blade of frost, his insides being destroyed by the invading cold. The Sword Saint, at the shock he had never felt before, coughed up blood.
Reinhardt: “Emilia, sama.”
Reinhardt, still unable to understand what had happened, fell onto his knees. Watching that appearance, Emilia blankly stared at her own white fingers.
What she had done, she was realizing that it really had been an unexpected act.
――If this had been a betrayal from Emilia’s true heart, Reinhardt could have blocked it.
Were it an attack holding hostility and intent to kill, Reinhardt’s intuition would not be evaded. Or, in the case his Divine Protections were working properly, sure enough Reinhardt’s defense would not have been pierced either.
But this place was Pandemonium, and Emilia herself could not make up her own mind―― That had, in Reinhardt, left a fatal gap.
Emilia: “I, can’t…Not that. Subaru is, no. Reinhardt, no. Subaru, I won’t let him be hurt. Subaru, needs me…”
Shaking her head in refusal, Emilia’s own actions now corroborated her true intentions.
The reason for that instantaneous act, for the instantaneous assault on Reinhardt, was she had instinctively realized that his existence would destroy Pandemonium and target Natsuki Subaru.
And, knowing that, she instinctively did not stop herself, that was what was thinking.
Unconsciously, Emilia, for the sake of protecting Subaru, had no choice but to kill Reinhardt.
Emilia: “Subaru is my…”
Only at this point, did Emilia understand her own feelings.
Again and again, Subaru had come looking for her, and she had watched his form on as he had tried to attain peace of mind. During that time, Emilia had also been saved.
――Just as Subaru needed Emilia, Emilia also needed Subaru.
Emilia: “I will, protect him. If, I don’t protect Subaru, then…”
Reinhardt: “Emilia-sama, that is…”
Emilia: “――Puck! Please!”
A roar, and a cold wind blew, and her silver hair fluttered beautifully amidst the white hallway.
His body bathed in an extremely frigid wind of sublimated intent to kill, at his flesh freezing as it was subjected to severe wind, Reinhardt drew a line of blood in midair as he flew far to his back. And, with his coughing mixed with blood, he lifted his sword.
Those blue eyes that reflected the sky regarded the Witch of Glaciation and the Beast of the End, standing side-by-side.
Puck: “Sorry, Reinhardt. Lia’s wishes are my own. If you’re that weakened, even I might win―― you can think of it as catlike cruelty.”
Emilia: “Please, Reinhardt. Return like this. Leave me and Subaru alone.”
Reinhardt: “――That, is not possible.”
With Emilia having caused this situation, yet still trying to find a satisfactory solution, Reinhardt shook his head.
Already, negotiations had broken down. He had been taken by surprise from behind―― no, perhaps Reinhardt himself, even considering his wound, may have accepted the offer of reconciliation if the situation allowed.
But Reinhardt’s belief, however, was that this was already a situation which did not allow for that.
Reinhardt: “As the head of Pleiades, the Purge King, Natsuki Subaru, starting with the murder of Margrave Roswaal L. Mathers, among the people of the Kingdom, as well as of the Vollachian Empire and the Kararagi City-States, and among the subjects of the Holy Kingdom of Gusteko, has already had one-hundred-twenty-six-thousand-seven-hundred-and-two  people killed in total.”
Reinhardt: “That number only goes for direct damage. When including the indirect damage, the number of victims who have lost their life increases even more. No matter what, it is not an evil that can be left ignored.”
Reinhardt’s words held a serious resonance and held a plea.
From listening to his words and learning of Natsuki Subaru’s evil deeds, there was a feeling that he was hoping for a change of heart to be born in Emilia from that.
In truth, Emilia had received a shock. Stuck in her private quarters, having been left only to the role of watching over Subaru’s sleeping face, she had not known of any of his wrongdoing. That Roswaal had been killed when she had been pulled out of that mansion, she had vaguely guessed.
Struck by that shock, Emilia bowed her head.
Shock, there was definitely a shock. However, the shock Emilia felt to her core was not from disappointment about the weight and number of sins Subaru had committed――
Emilia: “――Sorry, Reinhardt. Still, Subaru is dear to me.”
Even having learned about those evil acts her obsession with Natsuki Subaru had not wavered at all, learning that had been the source of her shock.
Emilia’s feelings, even knowing the truth, had not changed.
Faced with such a declaration from Emilia, Reinhardt bit his lip. And soon raising his face, and directing the drawn Dragon Sword,
Reinhardt: “Reinhardt van Astrea, of the Sword Saint bloodline.”
Emilia: “I’m Emilia. Just, Emilia.”
Having each named themselves, at that next moment, a white shock destroyed the uppermost floor of Pandemonium.
The captive princess, who had been supposed to be rescued, and a Knight in shining armor who had come to rescue her, would end up killing one another.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
Subaru: “Damn, it… Fucking… That, damn… bastard…!”
Cursing, Subaru ran, his steps faltering.
Beneath those swaying feet, with a tip-tap droplets of fresh blood trickled―― a knife had been stabbed by his left armpit by an assassin at the time of his assault. The pain was performing a Dempsey Roll  on his brain non-stop.
Subaru: “That black and white asshole… If there’s a next time, I’ll definitely kill you…!”
Sweating profusely, Subaru leaned on the corridor wall to continue moving along. At the end of it all, the assassin had run away, without delivering the coup d’grâce―― the man who was supposed to have disappeared in the reception hall came to mind.
Bastard: “More than this is beyond the scope of my work. So, be careful, Natsuki-san.”
Killing the general lying in the midst of the enemy, then speaking some and escaping could be called splendid―― Yet Subaru did not have giving praise to his enemies as an hobby.
To be precise, that man had been doing work he did not wish to have to do. That sense of pure humiliation due to having overlooked a troublesome enemy out of carelessness had his disappointment turn to fury.
However, it was unlikely that this situation would allow him to vent his anger.
Subaru: “Something suitable for the end, something suitable for these last moments…”
Prick-prick, while touching that left armpit that hurt as if burned, Subaru murmured gloomily.
Given what he had done, he knew for certain that someday he would receive his just deserts. Despite that, to postpone that moment of meeting retribution all the way to hell had been the plan, such was this ordinary person’s petty wisdom―― it was a shame that he had gone not three years before having found his limit.
Such was how the dictator would welcome his end.
His distrust at the end had been excessive. There was no doubt that it had spurred on this destruction.
However, he held no regrets.
If he had done this, if he had done that, those kinds of obvious mistakes did not come to mind.
He had known from the start that it was wrong, and never thought to correct it. Merely thinking that his way of life had been mistaken or something of the sort, Subaru had done nothing but flounder.
Much like if he were drowning. As if he had fallen in, only desperate for breath.
Just from that――
Leaving a trail of blood, crawling through that hallway, someone called out to that Subaru.
For a moment, Subaru furrowed his brows, not understanding that voice―― It was not that he did not know it. But, because he did not comprehend why he was hearing that voice at this place.
Because her private quarters were on the opposite side of this place, and there would no reason to be here if her intent were to escape. Therefore――
Subaru: “Uh, whoa!”
???: “I’m relieved, Subaru… I can meet you properly.”
It was not until he looked into her beautiful face from up-close, her having rushed towards him and knocked him down within that corridor, that Subaru came to grips that this was reality.
Together with that world of black and white, there was silver, and there was amethyst, and there were cherry-colored lips.
As if to inform that Emilia, and Emilia alone, remained with color in the world.
Subaru: “――But, why?”
Emilia’s figured was tinted, yet Subaru could not comprehend as to why.
From Emilia, Subaru was receiving definite warmth, her embrace such that it could even be called painful.
After all, Subaru had always sought Emilia out one-sidedly; for what reason, what conditions had made her become so that she would come to Subaru――
Subaru: “…Emilia, you’re hurt.”
Emilia: “――It’s fine, really. Truly, nothing happened. No need for concern.”
Emilia, still embracing him, looked at him again. Smiling, putting on a brave front, she was covered in wounds all over.
Her wonderful silver hair was disheveled and portions had been cut, giving it an uneven appearance. Her thin white nightgown had been torn and bloodied, and on her bare feet several painful lacerations could be found.
To prevent it from being like this, innumerable defensive measures should have been applied to her private quarters.
Furthermore, there should have been a Spirit alongside her, one that would have not permitted her going through any of this suffering.
Subaru: “What has Puck been doing…”
Emilia: “Puck is… Hmm, about that, everything’s fine now. Everything’s fine now…”
For a moment, hesitation flashed within Emilia’s eyes, but it was hidden quickly, beneath shutting eyelids.
Subaru held suspicions regarding that reaction, but the next time Emilia opened her eyelids, the faintly-visible hesitation was nowhere to be found.
Emilia: “Subaru, let’s run away together. If we do it now, nobody will be chasing after us.”
Subaru: “――Run away, with me?
Emilia: “Yes. Who else would it be with? Don’t say such weird things.”
Her demeanor becoming slightly tinged by anger, Emilia poked Subaru’s nose with a finger. Due to that seemingly way out-of-place act, above Subaru a question mark floated up.
To begin with, Emilia was supposed to be shunning Subaru.
Subaru: “And yet, all I did was presume upon you because you’re kind…”
Emilia: “――Really, did you? I’ve been thinking about something like that too.”
Her hand on her chest, Emilia ephemerally lowered the corners of her eyes, appearing lonely.
Were the times she had passed alongside Subaru ever since he had taken her away flashing through her heart, through her mind? How many times had she gazed at that abominable companion’s sleeping face?
In those times, Subaru had received salvation, but to Emilia they would have been filled with humiliation――
Emilia: “I do believe was angry with you, Subaru. But, it truly only at the beginning… After that, I thought I was definitely receiving Subaru’s help.”
Subaru: “Receiving help, from me…?”
Emilia: “Because, Subaru, you had been needing me. Nobody would ever need me, that was how I had felt, and you had freed me of that, and so…”
“Codependency”, a word of that sort surfaced inside Subaru’s mind.
Subaru had required Emilia’s presence for peace of mind, and, much in that vein, Emilia’s mind too had arrived at a conclusion of that ilk at the time, that she herself desired those times, that she needed them.
And so, the pair had fallen into a codependent relationship, each in turn relying on the other.
Emilia: “Subaru, I want to be with you. So, let’s run away?”
Subaru: “…You putting it like that makes me happy, but…”
Responding while stuttering, Subaru could not accept Emilia’s confession yet.
His heart was overwhelmed with shock, but taking little notice of that, his mind reached a more realistic answer.
What Emilia had said, running away with her, was not possible.
Reinhardt was coming. Even if Cecilus was attempting to hold him at bay, outside the castle a massive crowd of enemies would be gathered to subjugate the Purge King.
No longer did Subaru possess a single ally outside the castle. His numerous tricks for the sake of keeping potential enemies in check, would not function in this situation. Those potential enemies had become concrete ones blocking his path.
Taking Emilia and running away, it was not realistic at all.
Natsuki Subaru was to meet his end here. Here, he would come to an end――
Emilia: “――Then, I’ll die together with you.”
At that moment, Subaru was stunned. More so than when he was stabbed, or when Reinhardt first appeared, or when he realized that this was the end.
The smiling Emilia gazed on at Subaru, and spoke words containing love and definite affection.
If Natsuki Subaru was to meet his end, Emilia as well, in this place―――
Emilia: “We’ll meet the end together. I don’t want to stay in a place where you won’t need me.”
Emilia: “Please, Subaru. I, need you. I want you to be with me.”
Emilia clung closer to his chest. Relishing in her warm droplets and the feeling of her sighs, Subaru got the strong sense that the feeling he needed was the exact opposite of what he usually felt.
Just as he had clung onto Emilia, Emilia was now clinging onto Subaru.
All along, Subaru had been needing Emilia, having been receiving salvation from her.
And now, Emilia needed Subaru, seeking salvation.
Now, Emilia was in need of Subaru, calling for salvation of her own.
That a moment like this would come now, such a thought had not even―――
Grabbing Emilia’s clinging shoulders, Subaru shoved her away.
And, standing up in front of her, motionless, her eyes opened wide in shock, Subaru then stepped back.
Emilia was looking upwards, towards Subaru.
And to Emilia, his lips trembling, Subaru uttered.
Subaru: “That’s, a lie…”
Shaking his head horizontally in refusal, Subaru stared at Emilia―― with fearful eyes.
Subaru: “No, please stop, stop it. Why me, why now, why! Stop it! Stopit stopit stopit! PLEASE STOP!!”
Fear, it was fear.
There was fear. There was nothing but fear. There was only fear. Certainly, only fear.
Fear, fear, fear, fear, fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear――
???: “――With so much of the Witch’s stench drifting from you.”
He covered his ears.
He held his head.
Trying to run away from that voice, from that raised shriek, from that audible voice.
???: “――There’s a limit to how much you can pretend to be unrelated to her!!”
As to cover his ears.
As to hold his head.
As to try to run away from that voice, from that raised shriek, from that audible voice, but unable to do such a deed.
???: “――Nee-sama is too kind.” 
Subaru: “Do you think I would be aware of such a thing, AHHHHHH―― Hk!!”
Screaming loud enough to the point of vomiting blood, Subaru retreated backwards.
Emilia stood up, asking him what was going on. He could not hear it.
With sweet, sugary, tender words, she tried to nestle closer to Subaru. He could not hear them.
Her words, her voice, were not being heard. He did not want to hear them.
Don’t be kind to me. Don’t treat me gently.
For what reason, are you trying to snuggle up to me?
Such a thing should be impossible.
Just how many evil deeds do you think I’ve piled up?
Emilia shouldn’t have forgiven them.
She really shouldn’t.
Was I the one to change that?
Had Natsuki Subaru’s foolishness, by having leaned on Emilia, by having relied on Emilia to sleep at night and get through everything, snot pathetically running from his nose, Subaru leaning, his pathetic nose running, on that pajama-wearing Emilia’s nights having relied on to overcome, been what had changed Emilia?
Did Emilia change as well?
Subaru: “It, would’ve been fine if you hated me! It would’ve been fine if you shunned me!”
Emilia, was fading to gray.
Color faded from Emilia, washing away, plunged into the world of monochrome.
It was a lie, it had been a lie. That deception had caused Subaru’s world to fade in tonality.
The silver, the amethyst that composed Emilia, the colors that made up the beautiful Emilia Subaru believed in disappeared from her, her deception causing her to be tainted by black and white.
That reality, he could not accept. Emilia was noble, and that would never change.
Even if she hated them, she could not keep someone who clung on to her away.
Because he had believed that her kindness was the materialization of her inner heart, and that she would never forgive Subaru, Subaru had been able to indulge himself in Emilia .
But, comprehending that Emilia too, changed――
Subaru: “Don’t, act kindly towards me…!”
Subaru: “No matter what, you’ll come to hate something about me, won’t you? You’ll come to doubt me, won’t you? Because I’m an obstacle, you’ll think of murdering me, of hating me, of cursing me, and you’ll come to betray me!”
Subaru: “Then, please keep hating me, like it was at the start! If you’d just stayed like that, without changing, it would’ve been fine! Just do as you did, and hate me. Just do as you did, and hate me …!”
Suddenly welling up, was anger.
He was proceeding to drown in anger, at anything and everything in the world.
In trying to save his drowning self, he had struggled desperately as to try and take repeated breaths. But having finally at this juncture, even Emilia had betrayed Subaru.
――Something that changed would one day come to betray him, and because of that, it was similar to having been betrayed already.
Subaru: “Please don’t you pretend to be in love with me when you’ll just betray me one day!!”
Shakily, Subaru thrusted away the monochrome Emilia extending a hand towards him.
Pushed back with resolve, Emilia fell over in the hallway, having lost her support. For a moment, hesitation brushed against his chest, but Subaru fully painted it over with fear.
Even Emilia was no longer tranquil.
That this would come to pass someday, it was the very last possibility he had considered―― He had not been thinking that she would be in such need of him.
――That Emilia could, someday, forgive Subaru.
That such a day would never come had been his hope, and that was fine, but sure enough, it had surely materialized.
Therefore, Subaru, left in this world of only black and white, could only rely on his last resort, the only thing in his possession.
That fallen Emilia, was shrieking something.
Leaving it behind his back, Subaru began sprinting.
He could not feel any pain in his side. He no longer cared about such a thing.
There was merely a wish to end everything. Subaru’s world of color was disappearing entirely.
What remained was, just that.
The last straw on to which the drowning Natsuki Subaru clung onto, was merely――
――An existence with hatred that would never change, which would not forgive Subaru.
That half-mad Emilia’s voice did not reach that half-mad Subaru.
The collapse of that den of wickedness, Pandemonium, much like the collapse of its master’s mind, advanced at increasing speed.
Within that world crumbling, that world devoid of color, Subaru had finally arrived.
He arrived at Natsuki Subaru’s office, still whole.
Firm protections, like those that had been used for Emilia’s private quarters, had been applied to it―― Because, in this room, there was something which absolutely should never be damaged there, much like Emilia.
He had kept Emilia away out of a wish for harm not to befall her, but this was the opposite.
That which had been set up at the place closest to himself, was what Subaru opened up.
The door concealed behind the bookshelf, was truly a door that no one, with the exception of Subaru, would be able to open.
Without haste, Subaru opened it.
On the other side of the open door, the sound of chains, the sound of chains linked to the wall, reverberated.
And, while playing that sound of chains, pink-colored eyes gazed at Subaru, and spoke.
???: “――Finally, did you come wanting to die, Barusu?”
――Solely because of her hatred, the girl that desired to murder his own self held a minute smile, with the color of blood.
 In the original Japanese text, this is a mimetic word, a word that imitates a sound, but actually means a concrete word, like a noun or a verb. In this case, it would mean something like “with force”. I’ve opted to write the first two instances as a sound effect (originally “ギリギリ”), and the latter one as the expression it means (originally “ギリギリと”).
 Similar to the above, now with “ジタバタ” imitating the sound, and “ジタバタと” having a meaning of “to flair/flutter”.
 The original expression, “親猫”, is literally translated as “parent cat”, which means something like “an overly attached parent”. Sadly, the pun doesn’t really work because of the localization.
 Not to be confused with the capitalized Warlock, which is used for instances of “魔人” within double quotes (“『』”).
 “忍術” may also be literally translated as “ninjutsu”, and would encompass martial arts of concealment and combat practiced by Japanese shinobi (more often known outside of Japan as ninjas). More likely, Tappei intended the use of this expression here to transmit these multiple meanings. In here, a translation of each individual Kanji that make up the word was chosen. For more information, see here.
 An interesting thing to note here is that the expression used here is Engrish, “ボス”, literally read “boss”. However I’ve opted not to flip the language, even though there are non-Engrish alternatives, because it’s hard to know whether it’s an intentional use of Engrish or not.
 Engrish flip. Means “model/template” (型), originally “JP” (テンプレ).
 Cecilus here is saying the expression “大海原/おおうなばら”, which means “(great) ocean”. However, he’s using Katakana, so it’s like he’s mispronouncing it. This translation choice reflects that little detail.
 Despite being a gigantic number, my convention is to write numbers by full. For those who can’t be arsed, the number of people is 126,702.
 Albeit the Dempsey Roll is a boxing technique that exists in real life (named by the eponymous Jack Dempsey), it was made popular in Japan by the series Hajime no Ippo. So it’s likely a reference to said series.
 These lines are spoken by Rem in the third loop of Arc 2; the first two are portions spoken while she is interrogating Subaru after finding him observing the mansion, the final one is spoken after Subaru gets his throat gouged by Ram’s wind magic. These can be found in WN Arc 2 Chapter 21, and LN Volume 2, Chapter 4, Section 7.
 There’s a bit of a stealth reference here to the title of this IF, the verb used for “indulge” is “溺れる”, read “oboreru”, and can also be read as “drown”. And Oboreru IF is exactly what this IF is known as in the English community.