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――As the beginning of the banquet approached, the tension increased.
There was no conversation in the waiting room where the five of them had gathered, and it was quiet.
Nobody could utter a word, neither Abel, who was concentrating, nor Subaru. Even Flop was silent, so the weight of the atmosphere was overwhelming.
They had made it this far, so there was nothing to worry about.
Or, at least, they should be able to think that way, but human beings were not so simple. No matter how good the crossdressing was, the anxiety grew as the main event was about to happen.
Despite how loudly his heart screamed, and how much the cold sweat wetted his back, the flow of time could not be halted, and the promised time would yet come.
???: [The banquet is ready. It’s time for you to go.]
The voice of the soldier on guard duty rang out, and the moment of the release of the tension arrived.
Looking at each other, Subaru and the others picked up their instruments and followed the soldier leading the way out of the waiting room. They underwent a quick physical examination, but Subaru and the others, wearing only light clothing, had no way to carry concealed weapons.
They passed the inspection, receiving curious and perverted looks, and were ushered into the banquet room.
Subaru raised an eyebrow at Taritta’s stiff cheeks and heavy gait.
Although he whispered so that the soldiers leading her would not hear him, his voice had definitely reached Taritta, but she did not respond. From the look in her eyes, it was easy to grasp her mental state.
The extreme tension in her body was strong and overwhelming.
Leaving her familiar village, not being able to rely on her sister, the chieftain of the tribe, and going behind enemy lines almost unarmed, may have put her under a lot of stress.
Her breathing was rough, and she looked like she was about to collapse. Subaru tried to cheer her up, but he could not think of what to say.
It would be easy to say comforting words like “don’t worry” or “leave it to me”.
Would that soothe Taritta’s spirit in this moment?
So, while Subaru was unable to take a step forward due to his inner hesitation――,
Abel: [There is nothing to worry about. Just look at me.]
It was a voice that sounded terribly arrogant and pompous, but full of absolute confidence.
The words were baseless, no different from the comforting words Subaru had thought just before. However, the effect of those easy words of comfort was tremendous.
Letting out a faint breath, Taritta blinked her eyes.
She had forgotten to breathe, and the color in her face had been almost gone, but she was brought back to her senses. It was a voice that contained simple words, but it held the power to strongly affect the hearts of others.
The haves would instantly outstrip the hard work of the have-nots.
He had been made painfully aware of this many times, but now, he had been able to witness it clearly.
Subaru: [Guess I’m not angry anymore.]
Subaru muttered this to himself as a consolation. But he soon realized that not only had Taritta’s nerves relaxed, but his own as well. And so, he bent his lips.
Of course he was not going to tell him that, though, because he’d probably triumph in it, were he to do so.
???: [――Welcome. I heard that you guys are going to perform a great song and dance.]
In the hall where the banquet had been prepared, Subaru and the others were greeted by nearly thirty strong men. They had been told that no ordinary soldiers would be allowed to enter the banquet hall today, so the people here must be the so-called commissioned officers and Generals. In the midst of all these Generals, a man sitting in a chair at the far end called out to the troupe.
Subaru: […Is that Zikr Osman, the General Second-Class?]
After Subaru muttered under his breath, he glanced sideways at Abel, the danseuse of the group, whose face was hidden by a veil, who pulled his chin slightly as to answer positively to Subaru’s question.
In response to the affirmation, Subaru looked at the other party again, and furrowed his spruced up eyebrows.
Zikr Osman, the commander of the Imperial Soldiers stationed in the Fortress City of Guaral.
As a General Second-Class of the Empire, he was expected to be a strong warrior, but his appearance betrayed Subaru’s imagination in more than one way.
First of all, he was short. He looked about half a head shorter than Subaru, who was by no means a tall man. He was almost as tall as Kuna if she stood up straight.
Of course, there was a precedent in Garfiel, who was short yet strong, so physique was no reason to underestimate him. However, he did not appear like someone of real importance either.
The most striking thing about him was his distinctive, puffy haircut.
If he had to describe it in words, he would say it was an afro, but just the fact that it was on top of a short man’s head gave him a sort of mascot-like charm.
Subaru had been told beforehand that Zikr was a military strategist. He certainly did not look like the type to make a military career out of martial prowess.
Zikr: [Now, we have a tricky problem. We’ve been holed up in the city, feeling more and more depressed by the day. That is why we have set up this feast. You know what your roles are, don’t you?]
Subaru: [――Yes, sir. We are extremely honored to be invited.]
Subaru kneeled before Zikr, who had thrown an exaggerated remark with his chin resting on the armrest.
Flop, Taritta, and Kuna followed, but Abel, who stood at the end of the line, did not. For a moment, Zikr’s gaze narrowed, and a sense of anxiety spread through the Generals.
Sure enough, one of the soldiers with a cup of sake at his feet stood up, putting a cup of alcohol near his own feet, and glared at Abel.
Soldier: [Why don’t you kneel? You know you’re in front of the General Second-Class…]
Zikr: [Wait. Don’t be so uptight. This place was opened for drinking and feasting. What we want from those who make their living in the arts is not etiquette, but unrelenting comfort.]
Soldier: [Mh… If you say so, General…]
It was Zikr, of all people, who rebuked the soldier who was bothering Abel.
The soldier reluctantly sat down in response to his generous attitude. All the while, Abel kept his face hidden under his veil and did not show any sign of wincing.
Zikr: [You don’t even falter in the face of a warrior’s spirit? You seem to have a lot of confidence in your dance. But your first impression was not good. I expect you to overturn it.]
Subaru: [Thank you for your generosity… But please do not worry.]
Zikr, who had a curious view of Abel’s arrogance, replied with a “Hm?” to Subaru as the latter knelt down, raising his eyebrows in interest.
It hurt to think about the rest, but this was the opportunity Subaru had been bestowed with. He was going to make the most of it. He would let Zikr taste complete defeat.
Subaru: [――Who you are about to lay your eyes on, is the beautiful danseuse from beyond the Great Waterfall. Her silky black hair that drinks up the sun’s light, along with her heavenly fair skin that has received the blessing of the spirits, her utmost beauty is comparable to the divine beings, and tonight, she will lavishly perform for you all.]
As he stood up, Subaru laid out his opening words.
As if to prove that his overly exaggerated preamble was not a bluff, the veil that hid Abel’s face was slowly lifted.
As soon as the veil revealed that enamoring visage, all those present gasped in unison at the haughtiness of the danseuse.
In particular, the shock of Zikr, who had gotten lost in Abel’s gaze, was massive.
As he had shown a tolerant stance towards them from the start, perhaps he had already been prepared to deal with the situation magnanimously, or perhaps he had received a shock tantamount of being blindsided.
It was as if he had literally forgotten how to breathe and speak.
Subaru: [――Please, allow us the chance to display our danseuse’s act.]
Subaru hung his head down out of politeness, as he propositioned to Zikr. Likewise, Flop bowed his head and raised his respective instrument to ask for permission to begin the feast.
In response, Zikr nodded his head, prompting Subaru to exchange a glance with Flop.
They then nodded to each other, signaling that they were ready, and began to play.
Subaru: [――Tonight, what you will witness is a dance from the hometown of our danseuse, a dance from beyond the Great Waterfall. Please, satisfy to your heart’s content, the dance from the ends of the end.]
That it was from beyond the Great Waterfall, was an exaggerated expression.
However, it was not a lie in the sense that it was a dance unknown to the Imperial Soldiers. Both the song and the dance had been brought not from this world, but from Subaru’s.
Of course, they had been arranged accordingly, but as the basis of the dance was different, the dance alone was enough to attract the attention of the audience.
He was a danseuse who charmed others with his beauty and fluid dancing, so he probably did not even require the help of an exotic song and dance from another world.
You’ve got the concept of appetizers with drinks, however this was not just the food being served at the drinking party, if you had a type of entertainment that promoted the drinking of alcohol, anything could be called an appetizer.
Naturally, sideshows were also included, and the dances are called appetizing dances, so they very much served as an appetizer for drinking―― But they would hardly have this much of an effect.
The dance of the danseuse dazzled the soldiers, burned their throat, and made their souls thirsty for alcohol.
They naturally tipped their cups more frequently and quickly, while their cheeks turned a shade of vermilion all over. General Second-Class Zikr, in an attempt to heal the numbness in his cerebellum, was a stand-out for sipping booze at a particularly fast pace.
With his judgment robbed by alcohol and dance, he would commit mistakes that he would not normally make.
For example, the unprecedented mistake of giving in to his desire to see a sword dance, which resulted in handing over his own sword, as per the danseuse’s request.
Abel: [――It is your loss, Zikr Osman.]
Therefore, even with the tip of the sword pointed at his neck, and with the unquestionable voice of a man coming from the mouth of the danseuse, the eyes of the Womanizer, Zikr Osman could not escape from this euphoria.
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――“We did it”, Subaru shouted inwardly, now that victory had been secured.
The sword in Abel’s hand was in a position to pierce Zikr’s throat with ease.
Zikr, who had bent backwards, exposing his neck, had no chance to fight back. Without a doubt, the enemy commander had been seized successfully.
And they had even done it earlier than originally planned, at the appropriate timing.
Originally, Subaru’s plan had been to make a name for themselves in the city as a traveling troupe and infiltrate Zikr Osman’s bosom. Ideally, they would then be summoned to Zikr’s bedchamber, where they would be able to catch him off-guard, take him into custody, and force the Imperial Soldiers stationed in Guaral to surrender.
That premise had been overturned by the holding of this banquet.
Abel: [――At the banquet, we shall neutralize all the remaining soldiers in the city.]
These had been the words of Abel, who had announced the change in strategy when they had been summoned to the banquet.
A high-risk, high-reward strategy, which would be fruitful if successful, yet dangerous―― Subaru agreed to change the plan on the condition that they would switch back to the original one depending on the situation.
He had not expected it to work out this well.
Abel: [I shall say it again, Zikr Osman. You have lost. Surrender now and have your men disarm. Otherwise, your cup shall be filled not with alcohol, but blood.]
Abel, holding his sword to the motionless Zikr, advised him to surrender once again.
But there was no fear in Zikr’s eyes, despite the fact his life was being threatened. Those were not the eyes of a determined Imperial Soldier. Rather, there was hesitation in his eyes.
Hesitation, doubt, and other similar emotions.
Zikr: [Dancer, you… No, you’re…]
The hesitation manifested itself in Zikr’s eyes much if he had seen something awe-inspiring. It did not seem like the reaction of a man in front of a mere dancer.
General: [――Hk! You bandits! You got no right to…!
One of the dumbfounded Generals came to his senses and immediately tried to jump Abel.
But, faster than they could reach for Abel’s back, their arms and legs were pierced by thrown knives. ――Blades pitched by a concealed Kuna.
Kuna: [I’m sorry, but the Chieftain told me to protect Abel’s face.]
She had secretly sneaked knives from the banquet in the tambourine-like instrument in her hand during Abel’s dance.
The Generals hesitated at the sight of the fallen soldier, his limbs perforated by the blades.
However, there was one figure that dodged Kuna’s blade, and jumped out of the way.
???: [Stop joking! Do you think you can stop Imperial Soldiers with something like this?]
The howling bearded giant of a man caught an additional throwing knife with his arm and brushed it away.
Then pulling out his own greatsword, he flew straight at Abel, with a desire for blood,
Abel, who had captured Zikr, was presenting his stick-like back.
Subaru screamed Abel’s name, but the danseuse did not even blink.
As things were, a large sword would be brought down at Abel’s back――,
At the same moment, Taritta gritted her teeth and aimed at the man, taking a bow from one of the soldiers.
Prepping an arrow, she aimed it at the bearded colossus approaching Abel. Taritta’s green eyes lit up with murderous intent.
She was steeled to take the man’s life in order to save Abel and stop the assault.
Flop: [Don’t kill him!!!!]
But just before the arrow was released, Flop shouted in a panic.
Hearing this, Taritta’s eyes hesitated, and the arrow’s aim blurred slightly. And so, the arrow pierced not into the man’s back, but into his right shoulder.
Bearded General: [Gah!?]
The man screamed in agony and turned over after the tremendous impact. But the momentum of the greatsword in his hand could not be killed, and it spun around and headed for Abel’s back.
It seemed as if the sword would smash Abel’s head from behind. However, the tip of the sword narrowly grazed the back of his head and fell to the floor with a violent thud.
Abel had almost lost his life, but he had escaped disaster just in the nick of time.
With a flutter, Abel’s braided black hair was undone and spread.
The tip of the big sword sliced through the hair clip, untying the knot. ――No, it did not stop at that. The frayed wig lost its function, and the fake black hair fell to the floor.
The danseuse’s long hair had been replaced by Abel’s own sable hair.
――The ruthless Emperor, who, along with the hair clip, had shorn off the soft impression of the danseuse.
???: [General Second-Class! It’s our opportunity to get these guys now…!]
Zikr: [――Stop! Do not disobey me!]
While the soldier whose limbs had been pierced by knives and the one who had gotten shot in the right shoulder by an arrow groaned, Zikr silenced the appeals of the a General who was still attempting to resist.
If they recklessly stood their ground, regardless of how many fell, they would be crushed in one go by Subaru’s forces. And that was the counterattack they most wanted to avoid.
However, Zikr would not let his subordinates fight on. He understood that, now that he himself had been pinned down, and his subordinate Generals had also had their movements suppressed, the outcome had already been determined.
Zikr: [If I do as you say, can you guarantee the lives of my men?]
Abel: [That also depends on your attitude, Coward.]
Zikr: [Guh… Hk.]
Zikr showed his willingness to accept the recommendation to surrender while reddening and biting his lip as he was abused by the relentless Abel.
That was the face of a man who had experienced humiliation beyond having been caught in a plot against him and having his person captured.
Abel snorted, looking down at Zikr’s humiliation.
Abel: [I heard about you, Zikr Osman. Before being labelled the Womanizer, you had been dubbed the Coward.]
Zikr: [… An unbecoming epithet for an Imperial Soldier. Is that why you chose such a strategy?]
Zikr: [If I’m the Coward on top of being the Womanizer, I would surrender to a woman at the point of a sword…]
If so, what a humiliation that would be.
Or, if that was the case, Zikr would have died of humiliation. But the reason why Abel had deemed it feasible was different from the reason Subaru and the others had heard.
It was because――,
Abel: [A strategist who, through his skillful and steady use of troops, has achieved few notable results in battle, but has also caused little casualties to his allies. An excellent commander, but lacking aggressiveness. Hence, Coward.]
Zikr: [Yes, that is correct, too. I am, but…]
Abel: [What are you confused about?]
Zikr’s eyes widened as Abel narrowed his eyes and asked that question.
Like that, with confusion plastered on the other party’s face, Abel continued with his sword in his hand.
Abel: [When others denigrate you as a coward, they are either pretending to see the results, or those are the rantings of a fool who cannot see the results. I made use of that nature to win.]
Abel: [You abhor useless casualties. So, I decided that you, as the Coward and a military strategist, would not resist in this situation. ――Are you going to disappoint me?]
Keeping his gaze sharp and the blade against his neck, Abel inquired that of Zikr.
To someone who was unaware Abel’s true identity, that would seem like a rant that would make one wonder what the hell he was talking about.
He had trusted his opponent’s cowardice and incorporated it into his plan to win.
There was no certainty that he would not upset his opponent by telling such things bluntly. Rather, it was as if he was deliberately attempting to provoke his opponent’s anger; it was really a statement that could make things worse.
Even when dressed as a woman, he was incapable of any kind of humility.
But, in front of Abel, Zikr Osman gasped.
What came to his eyes was a feeling that was hard to describe― if he dared to verbalize it, it would be a surprise that was close to excitement.
It seemed to be a fresh and new reaction, like a maiden receiving something from the person she loved.
Zikr: [――We’ll disarm ourselves. I’ll give strict orders to my subordinates to do so.]
Abel: [That is a wise decision.]
Abel quietly nodded in assent to Zikr’s quiet, head-down answer.
Even though he was dressed like a dancer, no one could resist his dignified nod of the head. As Zikr, their commander, surrendered, the Imperial Soldiers dropped their weapons one after another.
Abel: [What, are you doing fooling around? Go up and burn the flag on the roof.]
Subaru: [Ueh? Wha, me?]
Abel: [Yes you. Only you. You are the sole one who has not performed a single deed since things started to proceed.]
Abel’s cold eyes pierced Subaru, who pointed at himself and blinked.
With those words, Subaru looked around the hall.
Kuna, who had blocked the enemy with a throwing knife, Taritta, who had shot the giant of a man, Flop, who had not allowed the giant of a man’s death and therefore had desperately defended the materialization of the Bloodless Siege, and Abel, who had disarmed the General.
Indeed, the only one who had not done anything was Subaru, who had fallen on his butt when that behemoth tried to assault them.
Abel: [Get a move on, I shall not even be able to disarm them without Mizelda and the others.]
Subaru: [Okay, I understand! Yeah, yeah, I’m sorry!]
Saying this, Subaru headed for the balcony, crawling carefully up to the rooftop. The rooftop of the City Hall, overlooking Guaral at night, was absolutely spectacular.
Then, while bathed in the cold breeze, Subaru retrieved a torch from the wall, ignited the flag of the empire on the roof of the City Hall―― the flag of the Sword Wolf, and set it ablaze.
――That was proof that the fall of the Fortress City of Guaral had been achieved here.
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The first person to notice something off was Jamal, who had been paying attention to the City Hall.
Jamal glanced around, being mindful of the people he had left behind in the building. Todd, who had grown tired of his naive attitude, continued the patrol of the city.
As a city with a certain amount of history, there was no end to the ways to get past the walls, which posed as a powerful barrier. Smuggling schemes, such as underground passages in private houses, or holes used by children to pass through, also existed. While accurately uncovering these, Todd had his guard up for any possible attacks.
Todd: [It’s not like they’re going to back off. If that’s the case, they’ll definitely try to bring down the city. They could use some secret path and take over the City Hall all at once, or set the city on fire… Hmm, are there other means?]
If it was simply to make the city fall, he could think of many ways to slaughter both soldiers and citizens indiscriminately.
For that matter, people would perish if they were buried in fire, water, or soil. If the means were in place, human beings could be as cruel as they wished.
What kind of brutal methods would the black-haired boy use?
That may seem not to be his forte at first glance, but the fact that he was so good at it made it all the more frightening.
No matter how hard he tried to crush them, there still seemed to be some undiscovered byways.
So even if he had a hole in his stomach, Todd would not have been able to sleep in his quarters.
Todd: [They’re all so rude and sketchy…]
Not all of them were of Jamal’s caliber, but many of them had an inability to pay attention to details.
Todd did not believe himself to be neither brilliant nor clever, but if he’s aware of his own stupidity and shortcomings, there were plenty of ways to fill in the gaps.
He could not understand how people could live their lives without questioning their stupidity.
Every single human being was an idiot, and so, they should do their utmost to compensate for it.
While thinking about this, Todd was about to go into the next private house, when he suddenly stopped due to the surprised voice raised by Jamal behind him.
He stopped and looked at Jamal, who was looking at City Hall in the distance, with an expression of dumbfoundment on his face.
Todd frowned, wondering what was going on.
Jamal: [Oh, come on, is this some kinda joke?]
Todd: [What’s up, Jamal? What’s happening at the…]
“City Hall”, he almost said. Standing beside Jamal, Todd also looked in the same direction.
He was sure the City Hall was having a banquet at the moment, with the dancers they had invited providing entertainment and comfort to the Generals.
So it was not surprising that some of them would get a little carried away and make fools of themselves.
It would not be strange, but――
Todd: [――No way.]
No matter what, burning the flag of the Empire on top of City Hall was unacceptable.
That barbaric act was so beyond the realm of rudeness that even Todd was taken aback. The flag, being scorched by flames while fluttering in the hot wind, swayed and burned, lighting up the night sky with the red glow of its blaze.
And right beside the flag set alight, he saw the figure of a woman he had already met in the City Hall.
A musician with rich black hair and sharp eyes. He believed her name was――
Todd: [――Natsumi Schwartz.]
That was what she had stated upon having had her name inquired.
A weak woman, who had become small and frightened when Jamal had crowded her. However, he could clearly see that she was boldly burning the Imperial Flag with a torch in her hand.
There was no sign of the weakness he had encountered before in the City Hall.
Certainly, it could not be something charming like a drunken act of violence.
That was undoubtedly an intentional attack on the Empire. And if the flag of the base was burned, it meant that the place had fallen into the hands of the enemy.
Just as he was thinking about it, a possibility suddenly surfaced in Todd’s mind.
Todd: [No way, is it you?]
With his eyes wide open, Todd studied the dark-haired woman with the torch in her hand, Natsumi Schwartz, and was struck by the minuscule possibility that had sprung up within him.
But the more he thought about it, the more it matched, and the more he looked at it, the more it diverged.
But that was why the effect was so extraordinary.
Who in the world would think of doing something like this?
Of such a method to break through the enemy’s guard from the front, and take their base of operations?
Todd: [I thought it was impossible. I can’t believe they tried to sneak through the front gate.]
Who could possibly use such a life-threatening approach?
Of course, the possibility of hiding behind cargo or inside dragon carriages had been carefully considered, and the checkpoints had been reinforced. However, an intrusion on foot, in a way that would attract attention, had been unexpected.
Even so, the first infiltration had strengthened their vigilance. On top of that, it would be a natural response to opt for a more stealthy approach――.
Jamal: [You don’t think that was just a setup, do you? Did they deliberately find us and instill in us the preconceived notion that a frontal breakthrough was impossible?]
And following that, he had managed to get into the city, was invited to the hall as a dancer, brought down the City Hall, and ignited the Imperial Flag―― It had been just as Natsumi Schwartz had intended.
Todd: […This is bad.]
What a meticulous plan, he thought, a chill running down his spine.
He thought he had done everything in his power to have the upper hand, but on the other side, the poster child of war had easily surpassed and ridiculed him.
Todd was surprised to find himself shuddering.
Jamal: [Shit! What the fuck’s going on here! Anyway, we gotta back to the City Hall…]
Todd: [Idiot, stop. You’re going to die, too.]
Unlike Todd, Jamal was unaware of the identity of the person who had set the Imperial Flag on fire.
Due to the distance, his eyes could not perceive any details on the roof of the City Hall. Todd could see it only because of his special eyes. And it was because he could see them, that he was holding Jamal back.
Now that the Imperial Flag at their base had been set ablaze, the fall of the city was decided.
By now, all the Generals who were participating in the feast, Zikr included, had already been murdered. Even if they were to go back in, they would probably end up being defeated themselves.
Jamal: [You’re freaking out, ain’t you? And you still think of yourself as an Imperial Soldier, huh?]
Todd: [You can’t win and stay alive by being proud. Besides, you know that City Hall’s been taken; the General Second-Class is dead. The Shudraqians will be in the city before long.]
Todd: [If we don’t get out of here before that happens, we won’t have any other choice but to die too.]
Jamal was not the kind of person to accept the humiliation of disarming himself quietly.
The alternative would be to jump into the enemy ranks weapon in hand, wielding bravery, and die while taking out about ten people.
It could be said that it would be exactly how a Sword Wolf would die, but from Todd’s point of view, it was as good as a dog’s death.
Life was akin to a finite hand of cards.
To use it for victory was justified, but it would be a waste to utilize it for a regretful defeat.
Jamal and Todd had known each other for a while. It would not be strange to think that they had enough of a relationship between them to advise each other on this. Probably.
Todd: [You see that hole in the wall that I just plugged? I’m going to run through it. What about you?]
Jamal: [Gu, gu… You wanna make me feel humiliated again?]
Todd: [If you’re alive, you’ll get a chance to rinse your shame off. But if you die, that’s it. So, I’m going. I won’t get into a fight I don’t think I can win.]
He really wished not to get into a fight with a low chance of winning, let alone one with a one-hundred percent chance of losing. But he did not have time to argue with Jamal about the details.
He quickly turned his back to him and started to run. Jamal hesitated for a moment before shouting a curse, a “Damn it!”, then followed behind Todd.
It would be nice if everyone were as simple as him, but the world did not work that way.
In any case――
Todd: [I guess I’ll remember you as Natsumi for now. ――You poster child of war.]
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As soon as they realized that the Imperial Flag had been set on fire and the City Hall had fallen, the Imperial Soldiers unexpectedly obeyed the call for surrender.
The same was true for the guards protecting the city, which was a great help to Subaru, whose goal was to seize the city without bloodshed, but this was also a surprising development.
Subaru: [I’ve always thought it strange that, when I watched battles of the Sengoku period in historical dramas, the battle would end when the head of the other side’s general is taken off…] 
If the general were killed, the next person in charge would become the general and the battle would resume.
A layman would think that the battle would not end until one side was annihilated or in shambles, but this was not the case in this actual battle.
Because the Imperial Army, which should be overwhelmingly superior in strength, had agreed to disarm as soon as they found out that their commander, Zikr, had been apprehended.
Mizelda: [Well, that was quite a feat, Subaru… No, Natsumi.]
As Subaru patted his fake chest at the results of the battle and the success of the operation, he was approached by Mizelda, happily slurping down alcohol directly from a bottle.
The women, who had been hiding outside the city as a detachment, had entered the city too, upon realizing that the City Hall had fallen, signalled by the burning of the Imperial Flag. The guards, becoming aware that the Imperial Soldiers had been defeated, did not attempt to stop them from proudly marching into the city as well.
Thanks to Shudraq’s cooperation, they had succeeded in capturing most of the Imperial Soldiers.
In the hall where the feast had been held, the drinks and food had been cleared away, and in their place, the bound Imperial Soldiers were lined up in a row.
It would have been a shame to throw everything away, Subaru thought. Mizelda and the others were sipping their drinks, but doing so made them look more like barbarians who were willing to loot.
Subaru: [But with this many people… It would’ve been tough to go head-to-head.]
Mizelda: [No matter how many enemies we have, the pride of Shudraq won’t falter. There’s no such thing as too many enemies… And yes, simple numbers can be insurmountable. But you and Abel have defeated them.]
Mizelda: [I’m proud of you, Natsumi. You’ve shown courage through wisdom. We couldn’t have done this.]
With a vigorous pat on Subaru’s shoulder, Mizelda left him with a handsome smile.
She then stood up and headed over to congratulate Taritta and Kuna for their contribution to the fall of the City Hall.
Even from a distance, the sight of Taritta’s eyes shining from her sister’s praise made Subaru smile. Kuna was hugged by Holly, having confirmed that she was safe, making her look like a rolled mackerel.
Subaru: [Keeping things up like this, it would be nice if Kuna’s life wasn’t snuffed out, given all the great deeds she’s done…]
With a sense of relief, Subaru let out a small smile. Then, as he turned around, he nearly collided with the person standing right behind him.
That other person was――,
Staring up at him from a close distance, Subaru could not help but step back.
Rem, holding her wooden cane, looked at Subaru from top to bottom with her pale blue eyes. Feeling uncomfortable under her gaze, Subaru cleared his throat and said,
Subaru: [What’s the matter? I’m fine, you know.]
Rem: [Yes, so I heard. But I had a feeling that even if you were injured somewhere, you’d hide it and say the same thing.]
Subaru: [You really don’t have any trust in me… But I’m not very good with pain either, so I’ll report even the slightest injury right away. Really, I mean it.]
Rem: [That sounds suspicious, too.]
Subaru: [Tch ha ha…]
Subaru’s shoulders slumped under Rem’s gaze devoid of trust.
But then he quickly turned his head in realization. “Huh?” Subaru uttered. She may have been a bit curt, but she was probably worried about whether Subaru was injured or not.
Subaru: [You’re worried about me, aren’t you?]
Subaru: [Oh! I’m sorry! I got carried away! Of course you weren’t! It can’t be that Rem’s worried about me…]
Rem: [Yes, I was.]
Waving his hands in the air, Subaru hurriedly tried to correct his misunderstanding. But he was interrupted by none other than Rem’s words.
Rem’s expression did not change, but the color of her eyes wavered slightly.
Rem: [I said, I was worried. Of course I was. No matter how much of a joke the plan was, I was the one who made you do it. And yet how could I not be worried? How in the world do you think I could be such a heartless person?]
Subaru: [No, no, no, it’s not that, I don’t think Rem is heartless! I really don’t! Rem is affectionate, a bit presumptuous, and a bit reserved before she gets to know someone, but that difference is also very attractive…]
Subaru: [Rem, don’t tell me you’re impressed…?]
Rem: [No, I simply thought it was weird.]
And with just a simple statement, Subaru’s fake chest was pierced, prompting an “Ugh!” out of him.
Rem gave an annoyed sigh as Subaru backed away, holding his fake chest in pain. She then took a step toward Subaru,
Rem: [Just so you know, no matter what you said or did, you managed to do it. Really, you managed to bring this city down. And that’s without causing any deaths.]
Subaru: [… If only we kept the bloodless part, I hoped that no one would get hurt if possible. But I wonder if that was too much to ask.]
Rem: [I wonder about that. However, if it’s you and Abel-san, then you may be able to pull it off… Why are you looking at me like that?]
Subaru: […It’s nothing, nothing, nothing, okay?]
Rem raised an eyebrow at Subaru’s sullen face.
In fact, she had a good point. Without Abel’s help, this plan would not have been possible, and it was true that he was a man of terrifying wisdom.
Still, hearing words of praise for another man from Rem’s mouth made his heart squirm.
Subaru: [Even with those fake breasts, there’s still something to be impressed by, isn’t there…?]
Rem: [I feel like you’re talking about something stupid again…]
When Rem started staring at him, Subaru waved his hands and said, “No, no, no,” to cover it up.
If he told Rem about his current jealousy, she would probably just feel weird about it. It was unavoidable, but it nevertheless hurt. One-sided affection was painful.
Subaru: [No, in this case, it’s just a reflex…? Though they’re passable compared to Emilia-tan’s, nevertheless they still feel like the real deal, don’t you think….]
Medium: [Oh! Natsumi-chan, you’re here! I heard you guys did great, congratulations!]
Subaru: [Ah, Medium-san.]
Medium ran into the room with a loud voice and sluggish footsteps. Subaru recoiled at the sudden approach of the taller woman, but his step back was meaningless as she filled the distance between them by leaning forward.
Medium had a big smile on her face, looking happily at the soldiers in the hall, as two girls rode her shoulders―― Utakata and Louis.
Medium: [These people were all captured by Natsumi-chan and the others, weren’t they? I’m so surprised! So, so, where’s sis? Did she do her best?]
Subaru: [Sis? Ah, yes. Flora is…]
Flop: [――I’m here, dear sister!]
Medium’s round eyes widened even more when she saw Flop appear in the hall, a beautiful man who had accompanied her and whom she had become accustomed to seeing for so long. He quickly asserted his presence with a single loud clap of his shoes.
Medium: [Big bro! Isn’t that big bro!? I knew it, big bro isn’t my sister, and the sister I thought was my sister’s big bro!]
Flop: [Hahaha, I have no idea what you’re talking about, dear sister! But no matter what, I’m still here. So whether I’m your brother or your sister, it doesn’t matter!]
Medium: [That’s true too! Then maybe I’m not a sister, but a brother! I’m so big after all!]
Flop: [Younger sister or younger brother, older brother or older sister, we’re still family!]
The conversation between the O’Connell siblings was peculiar, but it kept its unique tempo until its settlement.
The laughing Flop hugged Medium’s waist, and Medium, with the girls on both shoulders, started spinning around in circles as he did.
As a result, both of Flop’s legs floated up and a grand spin began, as the happy laughter of the siblings and children echoed in the hall.
Subaru: [Surreal, isn’t it…?]
Rem: [I’m sure Medium-san was worried about Flop-san too… So, how long are you going to stay dressed like that? The rest of your life?]
Subaru: [The rest of my life has to be an exaggeration!? No matter how cute I am, this is only a temporary appearance… And I’m destined to have to go back to normal eventually.]
Rem: [Does that mean that for the time being you’ll be dressed like that?]
Subaru: [I just happen to not have time to change right now!]
Subaru wasn’t mentally tough enough to endure such suspicions, or to put it another way, to endure how Rem looked at him like he was a pervert.
In fact, the only reason he was still dressed in women’s clothing was that he had been busy with minor tasks, such as burning the Imperial Flag, and welcoming the People of Shudraq who entered the city afterwards.
The situation simply had not permitted him to change into his ‘Subaru’ clothes. It was not that he intended to stay as Natsumi Schwartz.
Subaru: [Or isn’t it?]
Rem: [Oh right. If you’re searching for Abel-san, he’s in the back room with the commander.]
Subaru: [You’re acting like you don’t believe me!]
Pointing at Rem, who had given him a blank stare, Subaru turned and walked towards him.
He’d like to celebrate the success of the bloodless siege with Rem and the others, but he could not just sit there with his hands up in the air and be overjoyed.
After all, the fall of Guaral was only a checkpoint. They had to think about the future civil war that would rumble the Empire, and what kind of position Subaru would maintain.
To that end――,
Subaru: [If you’ll excuse me.]
With that, Subaru pushed open the door to a separate room at the back of the hall.
It was originally supposed to be a private, office-like room for the city manager, the master of the City Hall, but now the master had been sent away, and the replacement for the ruler was sitting on the chair.
Originally, it had been Zikr, the General Second-Class, but now, it was a more pompous man.
Abel: [――You. You are still dressed like that.]
So said Abel, resting his cheek on hand as he snorted, having already shed his dancer’s costume and rolled up his sleeves into a more masculine attire.
In front of him was the disheveled head of a kneeling Zikr, with no one else in the room.
Subaru: [Please don’t mention my outfit. What’s more, you are alone with the General Second-Class without any guards? Do you want to throw your life away?]
Abel: [Of course, had he any intention of resisting, I would have put him to the sword. But he has no such intention. Am I not correct, Zikr Osman.]
Zikr: [――Yes. That is correct, Your Excellency.]
Jerking his chin, Zikr called out to Abel when prompted to respond.
The respectful manner in which he addressed His Excellency and his obvious superior, was a sign that he judged Abel to be more than just a crossdressing bandit.
In other words, Zikr understood Abel’s true identity, and because of that he was kneeling there.
Subaru: [Did you tell him?]
Abel: [I needed not such a thing. Apparently, this guy figured it out during the dance. No, I should say that after the dance, he understood in his head the right thing to do.]
Subaru tilted his head, not comprehending the meaning of those words.
However, at Abel’s observation, Zikr sank his head more deeply, as if to show further respect.
The result was a valuable person who firmly recognized and expressed respect for the fact that Abel was the Emperor, a fact that had not been felt very much up to this point.
Abel: [But it is convenient that you guessed it without needing to disclose it. Zikr Osman, follow me. You will not be wronged.]
Zikr: [Yes! If it is for you, I, Zikr Osman, will risk my life!]
Subaru: [Wait, wait, wait, are you serious? You haven’t heard anything about this yet, have you?]
Zikr made an immediate dedication to Abel, who had requested vassalage toward him while sitting on the chair.
It was convenient, sure, but too good to be true. Zikr, however, shook his head in response to Subaru’s question.
Zikr: [His Excellency is right in front of me, and he needs my aid. If so, it is my duty as a General of the Empire to respond to his request. Above all, I swear to be even more loyal to you than before.]
Abel: [Oh, why? Were you so fascinated by my dance?]
Zikr: [It was very, very beautiful. But that is not all.]
Zikr’s heat was intense as Abel made a cold joke without even smiling. He pressed both fists to the floor, with strong and intense joy on his face.
Zikr: [I’m surprised that His Excellency remembered my two names… That I cursed as nothing but a disgrace, and that you believed it after all.]
Abel: [Of course. If one wishes to be the ruler of the Empire, they must understand the land. The same is true for the subjects that serve. I never know when I’m going to use you, a General, as my own hand and foot. Do you earnestly believe the Emperor’s steps shall be unimpeded without knowing their own hands and feet?]
Zikr: [Absolutely not! That is why I am truly honored!]
Zikr shuddered with indelible joy, and swore fervent loyalty to Abel.
Honestly speaking, solely regarding the events, it was a too-good-to-be-true turn of events, but Zikr’s profile was so uncanny that even Subaru could not find any room to doubt his inner feelings.
At the same time, Subaru was overwhelmed by the charisma of Abel’s words, as well as his strong pride and conviction as the Emperor that supported it.
He did not know how many Generals there were in the empire, but even if Zikr was outstanding among them, would he be able to remember enough of every one of them to be confident that he could bring down the city regardless?
Well, even if another General had been in charge of the city, Abel seemed sure that he would have pulled the same result.
The Emperor, an opponent transcending even the clouds above, knew him, knew his strengths and weaknesses, and upon that, built his strategy, wonderfully entangled him in his expectations and defeated him.
Perhaps it was similar to a high-school baseball pitcher getting his pitch hit for a home run by his favorite professional baseball player. But actual war is too disturbing to be compared to that. In any case…
Abel: [If Zikr Osman shall follow, then the Generals under him shall likewise follow. Together with the Fortress City, I can say that we have finally gathered a strong fighting force.]
Zikr: [However, if we stand against the rest of the country, we will inevitably lack strength. First of all, I think we should invite the reinforcements that are supposed to be sent from the Imperial Capital into the city, and call for their surrender.]
With the addition of allies familiar with the situation of the Empire, able to formulate strategies, the discussion quickly turned into a full-fledged military one.
Unlike Abel, who accepted it without hesitation, Subaru felt a great deal of resistance to the beginning of preparations for a full-scale war. Therefore, he would prefer to have a discussion with Abel before discussions on such matters could begin.
He wanted to discuss with Abel about what to do with himself and Rem after the Fortress City was seized.
However, unfortunately, the proposal that Subaru wished to bring up was not tackled.
Abel: [――――Reinforcements from the Imperial Capital.]
Abel muttered in response to Zikr’s comment, and the air in the room trembled.
Subaru and Zikr widened their eyes at the sight of Abel as he stood up from his chair with great vigor and walked back to the hall.
Abel: [――Close the main gate of the city right now! Do not let anyone enter, messenger or not!]
Everyone in the hall was startled by Abel’s bellow.
Of course, much like Subaru and Zikr, who had been talking with him just before yet could not comprehend it, Mizelda and the others could not discern Abel’s true intentions either.
However, Abel’s urgent look was enough for them to know that this was no ordinary matter.
Mizelda: [Taritta, go tell them to close the main gate.]
Taritta: [Oh, sister, what in the world is…?]
Mizelda: [――Go! Don’t disgrace Shudraq’s name!]
Mizelda’s fierce voice struck the hesitating Taritta; the latter’s eyes widened at the sound of her voice, which even sounded murderous, and she promptly rushed out of the hall. With that, Taritta would order the guards to close the main gate.
And so, Abel’s instructions would be fulfilled, but――,
Flop: [Village Chief-kun, what is going on? It’s rare to see you change your expression.]
Abel: [Now is not the time for your nonsense, merchant. Zikr Osman, persuade the Generals, Mizelda, you are…]
???: [Uuuuuuuh―― Hk.]
Abel quickly instructed the others, treating the worried Flop with disregard.
Abel ordered Zikr and Mizelda, the heads of their respective groups, to get their people together, but his instructions were cut off mid-sentence by a high-pitched child’s tantrum.
Medium: [Whoa, whoa, whoa, what’s happening!? Louis-chan, what happened!?]
Louis: [Uuh! Uuh! Aauh!]
Utakata: [Lou! Calm down! Uu’s here!]
Medium’s eyes turned in surprise as she was yanked by her highly decorated hair.
Being carried on her shoulders, Louis was screaming desperately as Utakata attempted to soothe her down.
However, the rampaging Louis did not calm down at all. On the contrary, Louis was shedding large tears, her expression tense as if she were afraid of something.
Rem: [Louis-chan, please calm down! What’s wrong? If there’s something wrong, I’ll listen to you, so don’t cry…]
Rem: [Huh? Over there, what’s going on?]
Unable to witness the sight of a sobbing Louis, Rem headed towards her. Upon noticing Rem’s approach, Louis pointed to a corner of the hall, tears streaming down her face.
Subaru and Abel also looked in that direction. But there was nothing. ――There should have been nothing.
Mizelda: [Oh, OHHHHH――!!]
Staring into the void, Abel was the first to call out Mizelda’s name.
As if in response, Mizelda quickly readied the bow on her back, seized four arrows in her right hand, attached them to the bow at once, and drew them.
Mizelda’s strong body unleashed a tremendous blow from the Shudraq chieftain.
Four arrows flew wildly, pushing into the empty space Louis was pointing to. Each one of the arrows was reminiscent of the blow of the Hunter who had killed Subaru in the jungle.
It was so powerful that it would have torn Subaru’s form to shreds had he been struck by those.
The floor and walls, which were supposed to be stronger than arrows, were shattered, and the crushing sent a cloud of smoke into the hall.
As the soldiers jumped for cover and gasped for air, Subaru and the others looked closely at the smoke to ascertain if there was indeed a cause for Louis to make such a commotion.
???: [Something like that isn’t going to kill me.]
From somewhere, a languid voice fell softly into the smoke-filled hall.
He recognized the voice as that of a woman. Subaru’s eardrums judged it to be a slow, carefree voice, lacking in emotion, and of modest volume.
It felt terribly out of place, in the momentary tension of the situation.
However, the result of that voice, was powerful.
――In the blink of an eye, Mizelda’s entire body was engulfed in tremendous flames, having been set alight.
△ ▼ △ ▼ △ ▼ △
In the blink of an eye, Mizelda’s entire body was wrapped in a conflagration, causing her to let out an inaudible scream.
The sight of Mizelda, who had turned into a humanoid mass of flames, prevented everyone from taking any immediate action.
Kuna: [――Tch, Holly!!]
Immediately after Kuna called out, Holly hurriedly hastened to a container filled with a large amount of water. She lifted it with her monstrous strength, and threw it with all her might at the burning Mizelda.
The water overflowing from the broken container enveloped Mizelda her, and the immolated woman fell to the floor.
The flames had scorched her for nary a moment, but it was impossible to imagine the pain of one’s entire body being incinerated.
Subaru was unable keep up with how quickly the situation had morphed, wondering what the hell had happened. However, he did notice an increase in the number of unfamiliar figures in the center of the chaotic hall.
Not only Subaru, but the rest of the group gradually took noticed of the new figure.
――The person standing there was a beautiful girl with most of her brown skin exposed.
She had silvery-white hair, an eyepatch covering her left eye, a lush furry tail growing out of her rear, and a branch in her hand that looked like it had been picked up in the middle of nowhere.
Her emotionless face gave a somewhat unbalanced impression, when compared to her frame of lush youthful, feminine proportions.
However, there was no doubt that this pretty girl had been the trigger for the previous occurrence.
What she had done, what she desired, who she was, everything was unknown――
???: [――It is you, Arakiya.]
But while everyone was frozen in place, there was one person who knew the girl’s name and so beckoned her.
The one who stood there with his well-shaped eyes sharpened―― Staring at Arakiya, was the Emperor who had been ousted from the throne of the Sacred Vollachian Empire.
The intimidating person that Zikr had immediately sworn to obey, faced Arakiya face-to-face, but she waved the branch in her hand from side-to-side without nervousness,.
Arakiya: [Long time no see, Your Excellency.]
Abel: [You too, appear to be still in good health―― Chisha, too, is sparing no quarter.]
Arakiya: [No, he’s not? That’d be dangerous, after all.]
It was not a tense conversation, from Arakiya’s point of view.
Even if they were able to communicate, Abel’s tense expression showed that she was not the kind of person with whom one could converse with.
In the first place, who was this woman who treated Abel so casually after recognizing him as the Emperor?
Zikr: [General First-Class, Arakiya…]
Subaru: […What did you just say?]
With the two of them lined up, Subaru’s cheeks tightened at the stifled words from Zikr.
He hoped he had misheard, but Zikr’s eyes were serious, and Subaru realized that the possibility of having misheard his words had disappeared.
Then, as if to prove that it was not an illusion, Zikr piled on.
Zikr: [General First-Class Arakiya… One of the empire’s strongest, one of the Nine Divine Generals!]
Abel: [She also ranks as Second among the Nine Divine Generals. That means she is the second strongest in the Empire.]
Subaru: [The second strongest in the Empire…!?]
Zikr’s cry was supplemented by Abel’s words, and Subaru exclaimed, unable to conceal his surprise.
At the center of the astonished gazes in the hall, having gathered attention, Arakiya raised a branch and――,
She puffed out her chest proudly.
Slowly, the Shudraq that were gathered in the hall began to form a circle around Arakiya. Mizelda had been felled in the first attack, and only seventeen Shudraqians remained, including the non-combatant Utakata, so it was hard to tell if they were strong enough.
Shudraqian: [We can’t let you interfere with victory finally within our grasp――!]
One spat out a curse, and picked up one of the swords that Subaru had seized.
Driving her away, or knocking her down and capturing her. If they could achieve one of the two, they would ensure their victory in the fall of Guaral.
Arakiya: [Try as you might, it’s no use.]
The next moment, a tremendous wind blew, jumbling the entirety of the hall. Subaru, the Shudraqians, and the bound Imperial Soldiers were all moved together.
The heavens and earth were turned upside down, Subaru could not see up, down, left, right, in front of him, or behind him, and his entire body slammed into the floor, the wall, and the ceiling, nearly knocking him unconscious from the intense pain.
His whole body was thrown on the ground, and as he looked at the broken ceiling, his brain slowly analyzed and understood what had come to pass. ――Perhaps, a tornado.
In an instant, a tornado of tremendous size had erupted in the room, swallowing Subaru―― or rather, Subaru and everyone else, and threw them around wildly.
Arakiya’s tornado overran the room, making no distinction between people or objects, friend or foe.
Even so, Subaru barely managed to stay conscious――,
Zikr: [I am not going to let you… hurt her any more than you already have…]
Zikr, holding Subaru, grunted and threw his arms out sluggishly.
The moment the tornado had spouted, Zikr had quickly pulled Subaru’s body nearer to his own, in an attempt to protect him from the impact of the destruction. Its effect was limited, but it had cushioned Subaru’s body, and kept him from losing consciousness.
Subaru: [It’s a joke, right…?]
Looking around the hall, Subaru spat that out in despair.
In the midst of the mess of people and things, the Shudraq, who had raised their will to fight just before had all fallen to the ground, unable to fight.
In fact, those who had displayed hostile intentions had been the ones to suffer the most damage.
He wondered if Arakiya’s tornado had even chosen which people to attack while wrecking so much destruction.
Subaru: [――Re… m.]
Enduring the pain in his whole body, Subaru searched for Rem in the hall.
She, like the Shudraq and the others, might have lost consciousness from the attack. Were she to be hit in the wrong place, the worst would be a possibility.
Then, Subaru gazed around the room and spotted someone.
Not Rem, however. Not Rem, but despite that, they had caught Subaru’s attention.
Because even after being overrun by that tornado, they had gotten to their feet and fled to the half-destroyed balcony, leaning their back against the railing, gazing at Arakiya.
He did not know how in the world Abel had been able to protect himself in that tornado. Abel’s injuries were very minimal―― yet it was still painful to see him bleeding from his forehead and with one arm slumped down.
However, Abel was looking straight at Arakiya with eyes that had not lost their supremacy.
Abel: [The obedient puppet, engaging in such grandiose conduct. Have you forgotten as to why you have joined my ranks?]
Arakiya: […Your Excellency, you lied. You deceived me. That’s why, I’ll never forgive you.]
Abel: [――Did Chisha also put that idea in your head?]
Abel exhaled a heavy, bloodied breath, his eyes slightly downcast.
Arakiya’s face was lacking in emotion, but she still held a recognizable anger in her eyes. She slowly stepped on the rough ground, and walked towards Abel on the balcony.The thought of Abel running out to the balcony to look good never crossed Subaru’s mind, but he did not think he, injured and not holding anything, had an ace up his sleeve.
The steps Arakiya took while shrinking the distance between them sounded like a countdown to Abel’s very life.
One step, two steps, Arakiya approached Abel, and then――,
???: [Uh, AAAAAAAAAAAAAA―― HK!!]
A high-pitched voice rang out, and immediately afterwards, a pillar came crashing down on the spot where Arakiya was about to pass.
There was a roar of stone shattering and cracking, and a primitive weapon that must have weighed no less than several hundred kilograms struck Arakiya.
It was Rem, who had been hiding behind a pillar, watching for the right moment to strike.
Rem, who had remained conscious and hidden behind a pillar despite having been swallowed by the tornado, was probably visible from Abel’s position. Hiding her presence, she had timed her attack with Abel’s gaze as Arakiya advanced, and then pushed down the pillar.
It was the last attack he could come up with in this situation, utilizing Rem’s strength.
It was well-aimed, and so it crushed Arakiya’s slender body――,
Rem: [――No way.]
The floor beneath Arakiya’s feet, which she had not even looked at, deformed like amezaiku, and stretched upwards as to support the fallen column. 
It was as if they had witnessed the completion of avant-garde art from the beginning to the end.
Rem’s full power did not reach Arakiya, nor did it even distract her.
Then, as Rem kneeled at the base of the broken pillar, Arakiya regarded her back. After taking a look at Rem, her eyes suddenly widened.
Arakiya: [Oh, an oni. That’s unusual.]
Arakiya: […Don’t get in my way. I don’t want my people to get hurt.]
Rem: [Your people…?]
Rem’s face reddened with anger, wondering what she was talking about.
But sadly, because of the existence of a large discrepancy in power between her self and her opponent, anger was merely an emotion, and the will to resist was useless.
Rem reached for rubble, and this time tried to show her intent to attack by throwing stones.
However, Arakiya swung the branch in her hand, conjuring a wind that blew the debris around Rem away.
Literally, they had been swept away. Not only the debris on the floor were blown away, but the walls and ceiling behind Rem, the upper levels of the building, one after another, were as well.
Arakiya: [I’m not good at controlling my strength. You, too, will fly away, at this rate.]
Rem: [If that’s the case, then why don’t you do it? After all you’ve done, what’s there to hesitate about now? It’s not like that…]
Rem’s clenched-teeth answer made Arakiya’s shoulders slump in dejection.
But despite the cute gesture, Arakiya’s actions were caustic and simple. Slowly the branch was lifted, and a phenomenon of a different dimension would shatter Rem’s existence.
――There was no way Natsuki Subaru could tolerate such a thing.
Subaru: [AH, AHHHHH―― Hk!]
With a yell, Subaru’s body leapt into action, chasing away the pain in his entire body.
Only at this moment, cowering fear, unpredictable anxiety, and everything else were in the way.
Abandoning his fears, he moved forward as his instincts told him to, and intervened in front of Rem and Arakiya.
He hoped to at least protect Rem from the destruction that was about to befall her.
He was willing to die, if it meant protecting Rem.
He really did not want to die, and everything would be ruined if Natsuki Subaru died here, but he did not mind dying here.
Dressed as a woman, with fake breasts, makeup on his face, a wig on his head, and even an ingenious way to make his skin look white, in such a ridiculous appearance that sought beauty, Natsuki Subaru stood up for the girl he had to protect, with the thought of spitting blood.
Protecting Rem against his back, he spread his hands.
He could notice that Rem had gasped upon dawning on her that Subaru had intervened in front of her.
But what she thought or felt about Subaru’s action, he would never know. That opportunity would never come again.
It was snatched away in a flash before the destruction named Arakiya――,
???: [――What a comical sight. But it is not so bad.]
That was the voice that reached Subaru’s ears as he prepared to have everything taken away, and nothing to be left.
As he closed his eyes in an attempt to accept the coming end, he gasped when he registered that no heat, loss, pain, suffering, thirst, or any of the other factors that lead to “death” had befallen his body.
Then slowly opening his eyes, he saw it.
Before that Subaru, spreading out his upper limbs, shielding Rem to his back―― there was someone else’s back.
It was not Arakiya. Arakiya was standing on the other side of that back. He could see her standing there, stunned, astonishment plastered on her face.
The being that had brought that stupefaction to Arakiya turned around, cutting down all the destruction that was supposed to come, while holding up a glowing red sword in their right hand.
Pompous, arrogant, crimson eyes convinced that everything in this world would kneel at their feet. The one who hugged their arms as they bounced their ample breasts, with scornful looks that were the embodiment of cruel beauty, a person who he was not supposed to see here.
Subaru simply gasped at the appearance of an existence that was not supposed to be there.
Looking at him, the owner of the beautiful face, the manifestation of the word “crimson”, snorted.
???: [No need to say your name, fool. I shall, however, permit you to say my name.]
As she said this, she―― Priscilla Barielle, had a blood-colored smile on her face.
 The Sengoku period was a period of near-constant civil war in Japan occurring from 1467-1616.
 Amezaiku is a form of Japanese candy craft artistry, which results in beautiful sculptures of animals such as fish and insects..