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Translated by :
Proofread by : Phantaminum
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…The Graveyard of Nameless Monarchs.
At the far, far east of the Sacred Vollachian Empire, in the Buddheim Jungle, renowned to be so vast it was impossible to grasp everything it had in store, stood a lone, weathered tombstone on an empty plain.
For a place where the remains of Emperors were interred, having reigned at the top of a powerful nation, shrouded in glory, the scene was an incredibly barren one, with nary even a shred of glamour to it.
???: […The dead cannot bring anything with them, regardless of what great deeds they achieved during their lifetime. Even Emperors cannot escape from the natural course, once reduced to mere corpses.]
Before the lone tombstone, stood the slender figure of a person, their arms crossed together.
He was a man with almond-shaped eyes, and both his arms and legs were long and slender. His hair was black, which was rather rare in this world, and his voice was brimming with both ambition and majesty, to the point that its echo was wasted here, in this empty place.
Yet, the most eye-catching thing about the man’s appearance – even more than the handsomeness of his face when viewed in profile – was the fact that his looks, which bore a certain tranquil fierceness to them, would attract the attention of just about everyone.
The Man: […]
This man was alone here, gazing at the empty graveyard.
This barren graveyard was a place in the Vollachian Empire which even the Imperial Family held no knowledge of, known only to the Emperors’ trusted retainers in generations past, as well as…
The Man: […The Emperors of the past. Even though for the most part, their remains burnt to naught but ash. I sure do wonder though what they placed beneath this tombstone.]
He did not mean that they had been cremated.
That boiled down to how things in the Vollachian Empire were done, regarding the Emperor Selection Ceremony, to succeed the seat of Emperor.
Past Emperors had produced many heirs, and a stark number of them were then made to compete with each other to become the next Emperor. Many of the previous Emperors had been burnt by the sword at the beginning of the war for imperial succession.
…Burnt by the flames of the Yang Sword Vollachia, which had been passed down the Emperors of Vollachia for generations.
The Man: […]
The man quietly shook his head as he looked down at his own hands.
Then, he slowly took a step forward, and walked up to the desolate graveyard, possessing only this tombstone. The graveyard had been built atop a cliff, at the end of a grassy plain. There was a large river a little beyond ー Or rather, there was a grand cascade a little beyond.
It was literally the Great Cascade that proved this place was situated at the edge of the world. Gazing from afar at the sight of all of this brimming water washing away, the man lost himself in reverie for a moment.
Back when he’d learnt about this bizarre structure of the world, which everyone called the “Great Cascade”, he would oftentimes wonder whether the world they were in was but an island floating atop a huge mass of water.
Even now, with his arms and legs fully-grown, and his position in the world changed, he had not cast his suspicion aside. Or perhaps the Great Cascade was imposing itself on everyone who lived on this floating island, telling them, “You are all locked in the world you live in, there can be no escape.”
The Man; […Quell your absolute nonsense.]
The man grimaced in annoyance at what the world proclaimed, before raising his foot. He then ruthlessly placed his shoe right against the tombstone and kicked it over, showing not a shred of respect for the dead.
With a loud thud, the tombstone where the souls of the former Emperors were buried toppled over. However, the man cared not about being cursed by his own, reckless action.
He did know that the grudges of the dead, when combined with an evil spirit, could end up as a phenomenon called a “Hollow”. However, that was not possible when applied to those interred here.
(T/N: Hollows are essentially the Re: Zero equivalent of ghosts.)
That was exactly what it meant to look upon the world from the very pinnacle of the Land of the Wolf, as the Emperor of Vollachia.
The Man: […There we go.]
The man peered down, beneath the tombstone he had kicked over as he muttered, stretching his arm out.
There was neither a coffin there, nor an urn to hold their ashes. Instead, what he found there was a sack, which he then grabbed and hauled up ― And those were not the relics of the dead, nor letters of any kind.
There was naught to give to the dead, it was only the living who required things. It was precisely the one embodying that unwritten rule who was fit to be at the very top. Thus, what he found there was…
The Man: [A sword, a dagger, and… the cloak of “Concealment”, huh.]
He rifled through his sack; within it were some weapons, a magic tool, and a “Meteor”. As well as some nonperishables and camping gear. ――Although, only the bare necessities.
The Man: [It seems like there is no need to grieve for the fallen.]
What lay hidden in the graveyard of the former Emperors served as the final link, allowing those who fled here to stand anew.
The first thing the man reached for, inside the sack, was not the sword, nor the Meteor, but rather the white cloth wrapping them.
The man cut the cloth into strips with a knife, and wrapped them around his face. He fastened them tightly so that they would never come undone, veiling his face.
The Man: [I need to lay low for a while. Those people are never going to let up until my venerable self… No, until I return.]
(T/N: The Man, whose identity I am sure you all know, uses the royal pronoun, 余, here, before switching to 俺)
Checking the feel of his masked face, the man donned the cloak, and stood up with the sword now in his hand. Slinging the sack over his shoulder, he turned away from the graveyard where those exalted souls slept, sparing it no more heed.
He was at the edge of the world, there was nowhere left to flee past this point.
The Man: […There is no better place to start things than hither.]
And so, with the wind from the Great Cascade blowing against his back, the man turned towards the vast jungle ― the Buddheim Jungle ― and began walking towards it.
The Man: […He’s gone, huh.]
The man silently lowered his guard after seeing the boy rush off into the forest in high spirits, the man’s knife in one hand.
It was plain as day, from the yellow-bellied way he’d approached his camp, as well as their interactions afterwards, that he wasn’t a seasoned assassin. Yet, since there was still the possibility he was an unseasoned one, he had gone and kept his guard up. However…
The Man: [I guess it was pointless to put myself so on edge when the person in question is, well…]
The man sat himself down, as he commented about the boy he’d met just a moment ago ― the boy who’d said his name was Natsuki Subaru.
The man did think he was being pursued, but the only one who’d been lured to the smoulders of his campfire was a lowlife petty thief, and a lost one to boot. Things had ended up being nothing more than a small letdown.
In any case, the petty thief had told him something that was now weighing on his mind, just before he’d left.
The Man: [He came across a hunter wielding a bow in the forest… Huh.]
The man was thinking of broadening his search in a certain direction. Incidentally, the boy had pointed in the same direction. The issue at hand were the mixed emotions that had flashed through the petty thief’s eyes.
There had been unease and apprehension regarding the hunter, as well as a fair amount of fear.
The Man: [If he’d just happened to catch a glimpse of them, he would not have warned me with such a look in his eyes. Thus, he inevitably came across something worthy of his fear and apprehension…. Did they attack him?]
There was no way the petty thief’s eyes would have looked like that, unless something like that had happened. Yet, if they had attacked him, that still didn’t explain how he’d survived.
Perhaps he had somehow managed to flee from his adversary’s menace thanks to a bunch of coincidences, or perhaps the one who had been attacked had been someone other than the petty thief.
Had he witnessed someone else being attacked, and informed him as gratitude for the knife?
The Man: […’Tis naught but speculation for now. After all, who else but him could have gotten attacked? There should be no explanation if they are targeting me, regardless of the army outside the forest already being deployed.]
By now, an army should have been deployed on the other side of the Buddheim Jungle, under the guise of a military exercise.
They had likely been dispatched under the pretense of negotiating with the People of Shudraq who lived in the jungle. Their true mission was to wipe out the People of Shudraq, as well as taking the head of the General hiding in the forest…
The Man: […In other words, my head. Though, they probably cannot tell them the details, so the common soldiers must be in the dark about it.]
However, they would achieve their goal if his own head were to come off in the process. And even if that did not come to pass, if they cleaned out the People of Shudraq, their plan would come to fruition.
But then again…
The Man: […If I mess up in getting into contact with them, I probably shall not emerge unscathed.]
He did not know all the details about the formation of the Imperial Soldiers outside the forest. However, there was a chance they would provoke the ire of the Shudraqians, were they to go about things too crudely.
If the mood around had gotten to the stage where they’d be keeping outsiders at bay, then things would probably get quite inconvenient for him.
His biggest concern for him, was regarding how quick the people who knew the secret about the Graveyard of Emperors would act.
The Man: [I’ve got my “Concealment”, so if anyone’s going to get caught into their net, it’s going to be that man, I reckon.]
If the man’s concerns were right, then assassins had already been set loose in the forest, who were aiming for his life.
If so, serendipitous as it may be, it had been by total fluke he’d met a man with unusual black hair here in the forest.
The knife he’d handed over to him had an engraving on it, which showed it belonged to someone from the Vollachian nobility. Thus, if an assassin killed him, chances were that they would mistake him for the wrong target, due to the colour of his hair and the things he was carrying.
The man ought to serve well as a smokescreen or decoy that would conceal him, were he to make some noise going through the forest.
The Man: [Now then…]
The man masked the traces left by his camp, shouldered his belongings, before finally donning his “Concealment” once again.
His Meteor could ultimately only trick other people’s sense of vision. It could not mask things like sound, odour and footprints. For that reason, he could not put too much stock into it.
Keeping that in mind, the man took it upon himself to venture towards the direction Natsuki Subaru had warned him to be careful of before.
The Man: [Even so, Natsuki Subaru, huh.]
The man’s brows furrowed as he recalled the man who’d given him his name as he left, all the while showing that commendable attitude.
The name was not an unfamiliar one. It was one hardly anyone would know of in the Vollachian Empire, but for those privy to news from neighbouring countries, the name was one that was inevitable to end up hearing.
You could safely say he was someone who had risen to utmost fame in the past year or so, within the neighbouring Kingdom of Lugunica. Oftentimes, the reputation that reached one’s ears came laced with lies, even if naught but a rumour. And even if the news were embellished, the degree those were flaunted about was repulsive, given just how outrageous the contents were.
Crossing into the Kingdom had been prohibited for several months now. Thus, it would be strange for someone to imitate his name and trespass into the Empire. Though not impossible.
At the very least, that was way easier to accept compared to this “Natsuki Subaru” actually making his way into the Vollachian Empire.
The Man: [I suppose I can give this some reconsideration, so long as you stay alive and are able to meet up again with the person you are looking for.]
His attitude was so different to what one would expect from someone strong. He was an outspoken rookie, who held nary a scrap of vigilance about him.
The man should never have held such expectations of him, now that this was the only impression he held.
The Man: [Am I really letting my guard down over this strange coincidence? There is no such thing as good luck showing up, unless you set it up yourself. ――At least, when it comes to me.]
Admonishing himself like that, the man quickened his step and headed into the forest.
He was not qualified to boast that the world was his own, like a certain someone did. He pondered so, feeling rather irritated.
The Man: […There we go.]
The man came across a contraption made of ivy, which was spread beneath him, and squatted down where he stood.
Several hours had passed since he’d parted with the self-proclaimed “Natsuki Subaru” and gone into the forest. Luckily enough, he had not caught wind of that man’s dying screams, so he must have either made it, or died somewhere far away, where his screams could not reach him.
Either way, he didn’t care too much about how that self-proclaimed “Natsuki Subaru” was doing. The most important thing was that he had discovered traces belonging to the People of Shudraq he had been looking for.
The Man: [Just how much do these Shudraqians know about what’s going on here?]
Now that he had found what he was looking for, all that was left for him to consider was how much did these people he wanted to get in touch with know. Them not knowing about what was happening outside would be ideal if possible, however, never be optimistic.
It wasn’t as if his enemies would be carrying out their schemes on an ad hoc basis. If they had been meticulous in polishing out their plan, then they would always be paying heed to the chance of revolts here and there.
The people of Shudraq would have been designated as those to most look out for, given that they had a history of having provided their aid to militant Emperors in the past. That was what he would have done, were he in the enemy’s shoes, at the very least.
The Man: […I am never getting an answer to this, no matter how much I brood. I need to take my chances somewhere.]
The man slowly shook his head, steeled himself, and then pointed his sword at the contraption set before his eyes. It was the kind which cutting the ivy snare that had been strung out would trigger a trap covered in soil, hoisting its prey upwards.
However, the man had seen right through it, thus he didn’t fall for it. Instead, the clappers dangling from atop a tree smacked together, causing a chorus of chimes to echo throughout the forest.
The contraption was the sort that would send notice that the prey had been caught, after the trap had been activated.
And so, he waited a while…
???: [Ggha, you weren’t caught in it.]
(T/N: The Shudraqians have a very specific way of speaking, where the last syllable of their sentence will always be spelled in Katakana. I’ve decided to represent this with some syllable stresses in this translation via italics.)
A woman had turned up to where the trap had been, pushing her way through the foliage with a frown on her face.
The woman was of slender build, had brown skin, and her formerly black hair was now dyed green. She was holding a dagger in her hand as she stooped down in front of the trap, and looked to be fairly proficient with it. Most likely, it was not going to be something used as a mere idle threat.
She folded her arms together and tched at the man, who had been audaciously lying in wait for her.
???: [Hey you, do you not know what this place is? If you’re trespassing as you please…]
The Man: [Of course I know. Dispense the pointless chatter, it’s only a waste of time.]
He had cut the woman off as she had been about to threaten him, causing her to let out a strange groan. Yet, the man paid no attention to that, and brought his hand to his sword, holstered at his waist.
As soon as he did that, the woman’s crestfallen gaze became sharp, however…
The Man: [Here, take it. Just do not throw it away. Make sure you keep it safe.]
After saying that, the man unfastened his sword from his waist, along with its scabbard, and threw what could have been his weapon down at the woman’s feet. And he did not just throw down his sword, but he did likewise to his belongings and his cloak of concealment.
Since he’d already parted ways with his knife, he was now completely defenceless…
The Man: [And there’s still something else. Take this.]
???: [What are you… Whoaaaaa? A-a ring!?]
The woman’s eyes flickered in astonishment as she caught the ring he’d thrown towards her. He did like seeing confusion plaster their face, not understanding his intentions. He felt a sense of relief spreading through his long-troubled heart. But that could wait.
The Man: [Take me to your settlement. For now, I shall be captured by your people, at least until things get moving. Even if I’m to be taken captive by the Shudraq, I have no intention of taking my own life. You would do well to remember that.]
???: [S-so bossy… Like when did I even say I was one of the Shudraq…]
The Man: [I can tell by a mere glance. If you feel like hiding that fact, then get it together. I have given you my life.]
???: [Gnh, gnnnnnnnh…!]
Though it was hard to tell due to her brown skin, the woman was probably red in the face with anger. ――However, since she had not attacked him at this juncture, it was safe to say his first gamble had paid off.
All that was left now was to…
The Man: […Wait for the board to be set. To wait until the Shudraq feel like listening to me.]
He knew that the Shudraq had a rule that said “Men are to be brought to the settlement.” Men from the outside were a precious commodity for the Shudraq, a tribe of hunters made up only of women.
It was unlikely that they would treat him poorly. He could use this fact to his advantage to bring himself unto the board, if he lay low in their settlement. Though, from here on out, he would need to make more gambles. However…
The Man: [Moves ought never to be fleeting.]
(T/N: By moves, the man is referring to moves like you would make in chess or shogi, and how they oughtn’t be superficial ones.)
The People of Shudraq, along with the Imperial Soldiers outside the forest. It would perhaps be great if he could add this self-proclaimed “Natsuki Subaru” to the cards he held ー over to one side.
If this person was lucky enough to survive, and if they were to find themselves face to face again due to some kind of mistake, he would somewhat serve as a lucky charm on this board, where the pieces were swarming in.
The man let out a sigh, a wrinkle appearing between his brows, as if he were wondering whether he even needed to rely on something like that.
???: […Let me just tell you, our chief loves a good face.]
The Man: [Are you referring to the fact that I’m hiding my face? Sorry, but I bear an utterly hideous wound. Forgive me.]
???: [As if that’s something a man who wants forgiveness says…]
The man, Vincent Abellux, followed in her wake as she led the way with some complaints. He quietly steadied his breathing and faced forward.
As if he were warning himself, that from now on, an utterly unstoppable battle would begin.
Art Source: @pabobingu