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――The news that the captured Arakiya had been taken sent a tremor through the conference hall.
Kuna: [What a disgrace. Even Holly’s bow couldn’t catch up to him, they got away.]
The two people who hung their heads and apologized were Holly, who held a bow in her hand, and Kuna.
With Holly, the bearer of bad news, alongside her, Kuna had immediately gone up to the top floor to chase after the runaway, Arakiya. Then, using a combination of Holly’s arm strength and Kuna’s eyesight, they had fired at the fugitives, just as they had done with Todd when Subaru and the others had originally escaped Guaral.
However, the fugitives had been able to deal with the two-man long-range snipe, and successfully outmaneuvered the both of them, taking Arakiya away.
Kuna: [One of them stayed behind as a decoy, and the other one took the Divine General. We can’t let it end like this, we have to go after them…]
??? and ???: [――It is pointless.]
The frustrated Kuna, her nose wrinkled in regret, had her words interrupted by two voices.
The same exact words were uttered simultaneously by both Abel and Priscilla, sitting motionlessly at the roundtable. The two glanced at each other, and Priscilla closed her eyes.
It was a sign that she wanted to hand it over to Abel.
Abel: […It was a way to get behind our lines with a small number of people, achieve a singular goal, and escape. The two had their roles clearly defined in case they got split up. Their courage in deciding to do it, and the judgment to escape, are worthy of appraisal. They shall not be caught even if someone is sent to chase them.]
Kuna: [――Hk, but even so…]
Abel: [In less than half a day, Arakiya shall wake up. If that happens, any pursuers we send her way will not pose a chance. And if they change their mind and return to the city, it shall also be futile. Let me tell you, we shall not have the same luck twice. At the very least, I would state that it would be quite reckless, to make a stand with our current forces.]
Kuna: [Guh… Hk.]
Holly: [Kuna… What Abel’s saying is right~.]
By rattling off a string of words, Abel tried to discourage Kuna’s insistence. Holly, standing beside her, gently patted Kuna on the shoulder as if to offer some consolation.
Being a representative of the chieftain at the roundtable, and confident in her archery skills, Kuna must have felt bitterly disappointed. However, despite his harsh way of putting it, Subaru nodded in agreement with Abel’s argument.
The Imperial Soldiers who had invaded the prison would not have dared to challenge them without a chance of winning. They had set an objective that was achievable under their circumstances, found a way to beat the odds, and executed it.
Naturally, they would not do anything half-hearted like a one-way trip, so they must have had an appropriate plan for escape.
Priscilla: [No matter how you spin it, that thing’s fate did not end here. With that as the case, I am sure it has a role to play still.]
Priscilla casually threw those words into the air upon the fall of silence.
For Subaru, who had been discussing the treatment of Arakiya just before, his feelings about her not being executed and having been taken away without being able to talk to her were complex.
But what did Priscilla, who had taken the stance of staying out of Arakiya’s life and death, think of her being taken? That could not be read from her crimson eyes.
Al: [So, in the end, what are we gonna do about that girl, Arakiya? Have you decided to leave her be?]
Subaru: […If she’s been taken away, there’s nothing else we can do.]
With a pained look on his face, Subaru responded to Al’s words, who was incapable of reading the mood.
Having managed to deal with Kuna’s and Holly’s sniping, they could not expect anyone with only half-decent skill to take pursuit of the fugitives. In that case, this limited who they could choose for the pursuit, and all of those with good skills could not be permitted to be absent from Guaral at the moment.
Despite all his efforts to come up with a solution, Subaru’s strength lay in surprise attacks, which made him particularly ill-suited to occasions in which his opponent took the initiative. And this state of affairs made that clear.
Subaru: [By the way, I don’t think it’s likely, but what if they’re still hiding in the city, pretending to have escaped?]
Zikr: [I do not think so. Although the city is claimed to be solidly fortified, there are other secret paths besides the two large gates, but all of them have been meticulously closed off in the past few days.]
Zikr: [Yes. We were expecting you to use the secret passages to infiltrate the city. We certainly did not believe that you would attempt a reckless plan to break through from the front.]
He had been caught flat-footed, but Zikr responded calmly without a trace of displeasure.
As the commander-in-chief of the Fortress City, it was a matter of course to be wary of any secret pathways. However, the defensive stance taken under Zikr’s leadership lent a tailwind to the soldiers who had taken Arakiya and fled.
Zikr: [Perhaps the soldiers who took the General First-Class were part of the search party for the secret paths. As Abel-dono said, they are not amongst those who would take up a challenge without a prospect of victory. That being the case, I wonder if they were able to do it because they knew there was a way out.]
Subaru: [Isn’t it possible to find the location of the paths you eliminated on a map?]
Zikr: [――. It would be possible to make a map, but not right now. The city has fallen and the soldiers are very shaken. This chaos will not settle any time soon.]
Subaru: [… If only this were a game, it’d be that easy.]
Were this an act in a video game, once one got the commander of the defeated enemy to join their side, and the subordinate units would likewise ally themselves. However, reality was not a game. In a game, soldiers were represented by numbers, but each of them had a life of their own here.
After mulling it over for a while――,
Subaru: [Holly-san, are you injured?]
Holly: [Hm? Are you worried about me~? Natsumi is so kind~.]
At Subaru’s inquiry, Holly threw her arms up while smiling broadly. She showed her large biceps to emphasize that she was alive and well.
Holly: [I’m a little banged up, but I’m not badly hurt, so I’ll be fine in no time~.]
Subaru: [I see. I’m glad to hear that… But.]
When Subaru fumbled his words and dropped his gaze, Holly put a puzzled look on her face. Noticing Subaru’s inner thoughts, Kuna scratched her head with an “Ah.”
Kuna: [Some of the guards we had standing inside the building have been killed. They were all dead, so we couldn’t do anything.]
Subaru: […Some? Tell me how many?]
Kuna: […Seven men.]
When asked the exact number of casualties, Kuna, even though hesitant, answered.
Seven. The number of casualties stabbed deeply into Subaru’s heart. ――On the top floor, Rem had been making a great deal of continuous effort to treat the Imperial Soldiers and Shudraqians who had gotten injured in Arakiya’s attack, and they had not received any reports of deaths. They had not received those, but――,
Subaru: […How’s this a bloodless siege?]
Brushing up his long black wig, Subaru let out a heartbreaking breath.
The bloodless siege, which he had undertaken with such vigor, and which he had said he would accomplish, was supposed to succeed in bringing about the fall of Guaral without loss of life. Yet instead, it had resulted in many deaths.
His promise had been broken; even if he were accused of being a liar, he would not be able to retort. Even if no one accused Subaru of lying, Subaru would condemn himself as one despite that.
Because he was the biggest liar here――,
???: [――A bloodless siege?]
Overhearing Subaru’s mutterings, a voice repeated to themselves as if reflecting on those words.
It was Priscilla, leaning on the round table, resting her cheek on her hand. In an unusual expression, she had slightly raised her well-shaped eyebrow and studied Subaru.
With that expression on her face, Priscilla prefaced her statement with a single word, “You”.
Priscilla: [I thought I heard a very foolish thing. Did you really believe that you could bring down an entire city without shedding blood? In the middle of this war, without an overwhelming military force?]
Subaru: […Yeah, that’s right, my bad. No, it was really my fault, wasn’t it? After all, at the end of the day, it was my mistake…]
Priscilla: [It was merely a stupid idea, that is what amazed me. I am astonished that you would even attempt to put that pipedream into practice. ――Abel, are you insane?]
Abel: [――. The plan itself was sheer madness to begin with.]
The question was directed at Abel, who crossed his arms and replied quietly.
Subaru’s proposed plan was pure madness. In fact, anyone that heard the outline would probably agree. And yet, Abel had gone along with it.
Priscilla, who was apparently acquainted with him, did not seem to understand it.
Priscilla: [Looking at the Empire from the throne made you that much more lax. There is no war without sacrifice. There is no pride without bloodshed. That is the way of the Empire, is it not?]
Abel: [I have no intention of disobeying the code of the Sword Wolf. I said it was madness, but the odds were in my favor. In fact, if it weren’t for Arakiya’s presence, the siege would have been bloodless.]
Abel: [It was not the plan that went wrong. It was my judgment. Priscilla, I shall not allow even you to make a fool of my military strategist’s offering. It was my decision. The blame lies with me.]
Abel confronted Priscilla head-on with a statement that had been far too unexpected.
Abel’s words and actions were clearly in defense of Subaru, even though he had been appointed to the unheard-of role of military strategist. He could not interject between the dangerous standoff of the two.
Al: [What’s the matter, bro? He likes you an awful lot, looks like you’re getting a big promotion.]
Subaru: […My position as Emilia-tan’s knight and Beako’s guardian’s good enough for me. I don’t want to be given any more positions I’m not familiar with.]
Subaru pushed Al away from him, and also pushed away the responsibility that was pressing down on him.
However, thanks to Abel’s protection, Priscilla’s attention seemed to have turned in that direction. In spite of that, this did not heal the wound to Subaru’s internals.
The responsibility for the lives lost should be placed on Subaru, the one who had come up with and implemented the plan.
Al: [You can’t save them all, bro.]
Al muttered, fiddling with the metal fittings on his helmet, as he looked at Subaru’s profile. When Subaru glanced at him, he turned his gaze up towards the ceiling, and said,
Al: [You can’t save all the people you get involved with. No one’s stopping you from saving them, but your heart’s gonna be broken while doing so. I don’t recommend it.]
Al: [We all live and die as we please. Like you said bro, it ain’t a game. It’s up to them to take care of their own lives.]
This was the cynical attitude that Al sometimes displayed.
On one hand he was giving a sermon to Subaru, on how tragic events happened and that he should accept them as-is, although there seemed to be good advice and counsel there. On the other hand, it also felt like the admonishment of an obstinate child.
It was a sound argument, to some degree.
In fact, Al’s words were right. Saving everyone and anything was not possible, and there would be no end to it if he did decide to save them all. That was why Subaru had never been able to save every last thing till this point.
The sheer scale of war was different. ――Could he really say that his choice was correct?
The number of lives that could be saved by a single action taken by Subaru did not even reach ten, much less a hundred.
Priscilla: [This is even worse than farcical, you know.]
While Subaru and Al were talking, Priscilla and Abel continued their standoff.
To Abel who took the blame, Priscilla pulled out a fan from her cleavage and pointed the tip of it at the conference hall―― No, at the entire city.
Priscilla: [Even in a situation in which you managed to successfully bring down the city with the help of your military strategist, you shall not be able to repeat the miracle of driving Arakiya away a second time. Will that method ever work again?]
Abel: [Indeed, there shall not be a second time.]
Abel nodded without hesitation in response to Priscilla’s question.
With the mention of the method that had driven away Arakiya, a thought also occurred to the frowning Subaru. ――There had been a moment during Al and Arakiya’s bout in which her behavior had become strange.
Subaru: [That wasn’t something that Al did…]
Al: [What? Yeah, it wasn’t me. In the first place, if it were me, I would’ve done it a little smarter. You know, I was the one who got bounced and thrown off.]
Subaru: [That’s right.]
Now that he mentioned it, it had not gone down very well, even with Al’s skills.
The conversation between the two drew the attention of the conference hall to Abel. Only he could tell what somehow happened, and so he sniffed, being annoyed with the gathering attention.
Abel: [Arakiya is the Spirit Eater. She feeds on the spirits in the air and absorbs their power.]
Subaru: [Spirit, Eater…?]
Subaru had no recollection of hearing it before, but the unsettling title made his eyes widen.
He had already guessed that the Vollachian Empire had different rules and a different environment compared to Kingdom of Lugunica, but the idea of a Spirit Eater was quite the novelty.
Subaru himself was a Spiritual Arts User who borrowed the power of spirits, but this sounded distinctly different, and to put it simply――,
Subaru: [I definitely don’t want to bring Beako into this… Is being a Spirit Eater a common thing?]
Priscilla: [No, it’s not. Spirit Eating was originally one of the secrets of the tribes that lived on the borderlands of Vollachia. But it was so powerful that the technique was banished, and the method to possess it lost.]
Abel: [At least, as far as I know, there are no known Spirit Eaters outside of Arakiya. If there had been, I would have politely protected them. That was the Observers’… No, it matters not, now.]
Not wanting the conversation to get off-topic, Abel shook his head, as he encouraged them to get back to the topic at hand with “Returning to the main topic”.
Subaru, who was relieved to hear that Spirit Eating was not a common practice, and that Beatrice was no longer in danger of being munched on, asked,
Subaru: [So how did you confuse the Spirit Eater, Arakiya?]
Abel: [I did not confound her. ――I just gave her Mana poisoning.]
Al: [Mana poisoning… Haha, I see. That’s a very clever thing to do.]
Abel’s answer made sense, and Al nodded admiringly as he stroked his chin.
Subaru had heard of the term “Mana poisoning” before, and then it clicked.
Subaru: [As I recall, it was something like, people who are hypersensitive to Mana tend to get sick when they go to places where the concentration of Mana is really high.]
Priscilla: [Arakiya is susceptible to that kind of influence, due to her Spirit Eater characteristic. It is a prerequisite to have a reasonable level of resistance to spirits, in order to take them in. However, if you go beyond that principle and try to make Arakiya sick off Mana, you shall end up with…]
Abel: [Yes, she made me utilize one of my treasures. Including that which he has already used before, I hold nothing else on hand.]
Whilst saying “that”, Abel nodded towards and indicated Subaru. That made Subaru go “Treasure?”, and he tilted his head to the side whilst raising his eyebrows.
Even though Abel had stated that Subaru had used one of his treasures, he honestly had no clue at all as to what he meant.
Subaru: [What treasure are you talking about? When did I get your…?]
Abel: [During the Lifeblood Ritual, you broke the ring to cleave the Witchbeast’s horn off. That’s the one.]
He’d lost track of it, but it brought back memories of a ring he had borrowed, which allowed him to cast magic.
In the throes of battle, he had no choice but to hit the Elgina’s horn with said ring, shattering it and snapping the Witchbeast’s horn, leaving Subaru’s arm and the ring in shambles.
And something else that was mentioned in the same breath, was what Abel had made use of in the fight with Arakiya?
Abel: [As I dropped from the balcony, I shattered the ring I had hidden. It took a while for the Mana it contained to flood the area around it, but…]
Al: [So that Arakiya girl was like that because she got Mana poisoning. Oh come on, I got my ass kicked by that girl.]
Subaru: [Did you pull that little trick at that moment…?]
Even though they were all in a battered and wounded state, Subaru tipped his hat off to Abel’s unwillingness to give up. That he was still searching for a way to win even though he was being cornered by the second-strongest ranking General in the Empire was admirable.
Subaru’s resilience was quite good, but his intelligence was so far removed from Abel’s that he could not get over the difference between a bad move and a desperate counterattack.
In any case――,
Subaru: [Isn’t this an original plan prepared specifically for Arakiya? It’s very bold of you to prepare such a plan when you didn’t know she would be going against you.]
Abel: [The more people one keeps close, the more one must prepare for the time of their betrayal… Arakiya in particular, I never knew when Arakiya would turn against me.]
Priscilla: [――However, you only get one chance to use your wiles. It is not easy to procure enough Magic Stones to give a person Mana poisoning. It shall be essential to secure a decent fighting force before the next time around. But.]
Having declared that much, Priscilla cut off her words meaningfully.
Covering her mouth with her fan, Priscilla narrowed her crimson eyes at Abel. With a somewhat probing, testing look in her eyes, she let out a small breath and,
Priscilla: [Adding the People of Shudraq to your ranks was expected… However, it is difficult to see how you could be foolish enough to adopt a naive military strategist’s plan for a bloodless siege of the Fortress City.]
Priscilla: [At this rate, I shall never be able to advise my collaborators to support you.]
Subaru was astonished by Priscilla, who had said it in a matter-of-fact and natural way. It was not just Subaru who was surprised, but everyone in the conference hall except Abel and Al.
Aside from Priscilla’s companion, Al, it seemed unreasonable that Abel was also not surprised, but Subaru opted to not mention it.
Subaru: [Wait, wait, wait, this is going all over the place! Collaborators… In the first place, I don’t understand your position. I heard that you came to help Abel, but…]
Priscilla: [I am not here to lend aid. Do not listen seriously to the ramblings of my clown.]
Subaru: [I get it! I don’t care if you’ve come to help Abel or not. That’s not the point. What I want to hear, is your ultimate goal.]
As they heard, the immediate subgoal was to have some dialogue with Abel.
However, what Subaru desired to know was why Priscilla―― why her, Al, and possibly the other collaborators they had brought alongside them, were in the Vollachian Empire to begin with.
On top of that, it would be best if he knew whether they were willing to side with Abel or not.
Subaru: [Answer me. Honestly, I and everyone else here aren’t sure what to think of you.]
Priscilla: [That is hubris at its finest. I do not care what you plebeians think of me. I shall do what I wish to do. After all…]
Subaru: [――The world is made to suit you, isn’t it?]
Priscilla gave a snort at Subaru’s tracing of her philosophy, which was familiar to his ears.
Then, noticing the increased number and sharpness of the glances directed at her, Priscilla shut one eye.
Priscilla: [Mine aim, is to restore the Emperor to the throne he was ousted from. If I do not, I shall be receiving a constant stream of annoying visitors.]
Abel: [It goes without mentioning that those assassins were not dispatched by me.]
Priscilla: [I did not even suspect it. Henceforth, I took the trouble to arrive here. Or, it would be more accurate to say that I had my wings carry me.]
With one eye closed, Priscilla answered Abel and turned her gaze upward. Without the ceiling present, what could be observed was the night sky beyond.
More to the point, it was not just the sky, but an existence that made the sky its own――,
Subaru: [No way, did you and Al just fly in from the sky?]
Al: [Oh, it’s like a flying dragon express service. To be honest, I thought it’d be the end of the world when the Princess jumped off by herself. I certainly couldn’t follow, so I couldn’t get down until it lowered itself a bit.]
Subaru: [A flying dragon… The water dragons in Pristella scared the hell out of me.]
In addition to the water dragon, which was a fantasy creature aside than the ground dragon, the existence of flying dragons surfaced.
From what he had heard, flying dragons were extremely ferocious and required specialized skills to be tamed. Since there tamers capable of that were not numerous, being able to ride a flying dragon in the first place was a rare thing.
Subaru: [In other words, the person who can provide a flying dragon express delivery is a collaborator of Priscilla’s?]
Priscilla: [Do not perform lowly deeds such as picking apart people’s words. In your case, your lowliness outweighs your cleverness. Polish up your pretty face. You are still capable of looking good if you fix your makeup.]
Subaru: [If I fix my makeup now I’d definitely be a crazy person, right…?]
Now that she mentioned it, the fact that he had not been able to shed his womanly attire thus far might be regarded as a problem, but the people present here could read the atmosphere, so they did not touch the issue.
Anyway, he was getting way off track again, however――,
Subaru: [If the goal is to get Abel back on the throne, does that mean we can cooperate with each other?]
Priscilla: [In truth, I cannot give you a straightforward assent. ――I have not forgotten my earlier words. If he does not possess the qualities of an Emperor, there will be no point in bringing him back.]
Abel glared at Priscilla, his gaze sharpened as he was questioned about his own qualities as an Emperor to his face.
What Priscilla saw as a concern, was the Bloodless Siege proposed by Subaru and approved by Abel―― not so much the failure to carry it out, but rather the problem of the idea to begin with.
As per the way of Vollachia, naïveté could be fatal. In fact, lives had been lost because Subaru’s endgame had been naive. Her disapproval was irrefutable.
Abel: [I shall reclaim the throne. No matter what anyone says, that much is certain. ――Priscilla, no matter what you may state, that much remains indisputable.]
With Subaru having fallen silent, Abel took his place and made a strong declaration.
It was the same, or perhaps an even more passionate declaration than the one he had made upon revealing his true identity and divulging that he would take back this country in front of Subaru.
Hearing Abel’s resolve, the expressions on the faces of those in the conference hall shifted.
Kuna and Holly had the will to continue fighting as the People of Shudraq, while Zikr bowed his head as if he were in the presence of something divine. Al turned to Priscilla to see her reaction, while Priscilla’s eyes narrowed as she continued to assert herself, undaunted.
Priscilla: [Your spirit is undiminished, but reality is not. In fact, you have been forced to abandon your throne.]
Priscilla: [The circumstances are already apparent. The question is, who set it in motion? Whose plan was it?]
Abel: [――I am certain sure it was Prime Minister Berstetz who brought it all to fruition.]
Abel answered Priscilla’s question with a hint of hostility in his dark eyes.
The Prime Minister’s position was at the top of the state government, as it was closely associated with the Emperor. If the pinnacle of the armed forces were a general or the head of a knightly order, then the Prime Minister may be said to be the pinnacle of civil services.
In any case, it could be said that being second-in-command made it easy to carry out betrayal.
Priscilla: [That old tree. How dare he waste what he got from Lamia?]
Abel: [Of course, I had foreseen his rebellious intentions and prepared accordingly. But…]
Abel broke off there and exhaled quietly.
It was a reaction that was very much unlike him, the first time he had displayed anything close to fragility. As Emperor, he had never wavered, even when forced to leave his position, but this was the first time he had shown a faint weakness.
The cause of this weakness was not the Prime Minister’s betrayal――,
Abel: [With Chisha Gold watching over me… I was unable to see through the rebellious intentions of the Nine Divine Generals’ Fourth Rank.]
Zikr: [――Ridiculous, General First-Class Chisha!?]
As Abel spat out his ashamed thoughts, Zikr was incapable of containing himself and raised his voice.
Zikr, as a General Second-Class of the Empire, must have been familiar with the name of this particular member of the Nine Divine Generals, a name that Subaru was not.
Attracting the gaze of those at the roundtable, Zikr stroked his ample hair and spoke――,
Zikr: [General First-Class Chisha is unique among the Nine Divine Generals, in terms of his capability. The General First-Class himself is more famous for his wisdom than his military prowess, and he was the one who supported His Excellency Vincent the most during the Imperial Selection Ceremony…]
Subaru: [Does that mean he was his right-hand man? You mean this guy was betrayed not only by his political right-hand man, the Prime Minister, but his long-time right-hand man, the General, too?]
Abel: [Do not utter those words again. My right arm is still attached to my right shoulder.]
Subaru: [When you say that now, it just sounds like you’re just trying to be tough…]
Listening to Zikr’s explanation, Subaru was surprised by Abel’s popularity, which was unexpectedly lacking.
However, keeping the Empire of Vollachia’s radical ideology in mind, an Emperor who was deemed insufficiently powerful would immediately be rebelled against, so perhaps these situations were not all that rare.
Subaru: [Is it common for Emperors to run for cover in this country?]
Abel: [Since I have been on the throne, there have only been two times in which I was pursued, at least formally.]
Subaru: [But you’ve got a record!]
Abel: [Nonsense. It was the Kingdom’s Royal Guard who dragged me around in that previous venture. If you want to complain, you can take it up with them.]
He gave Subaru a seriously disappointed look, he took the hint and held his tongue.
He thought that Julius had once mentioned that he had gone to the Empire as an emissary, but he had not thought it had anything to do with that. If so, the world was too small.
Al: [Ah, so His Excellency the Emperor was chased from the throne by his confidants and aides, and Lil’ Miss Arakiya’s become an enemy as well… Doesn’t that sound dangerous? Don’t you have an ally or something?]
Abel: [Another one of the Nine Divine Generals, Goz Ralfon… He was instrumental in my escape. Were it not for him stalling for time, I would not have been able to activate the transfer mechanism.]
Zikr: [Oh, as expected of General First-Class Goz…!]
Abel: [However, if the Nine Divine Generals, other than Chisha and Arakiya, have too turned against me, I do not know how Goz alone could have survived. It is far more likely that he was killed.]
The existence of any Divine General who had risked their lives to protect Abel was a hope, albeit a very fleeting one. However, Zikr with a “No” shook his head,
Zikr: [If I may be so bold, I have not received any news of the death of General First-Class Goz. Whether he perished in battle or from illness, the death of a man of General First-Class Goz’s status cannot be hidden for long.]
Abel: [Then there remains the possibility that he is being held captive.]
Zikr: [Perhaps. No, surely! For a warrior of the calibre of General First-Class Goz, that is likely the case!]
At Abel’s words, Zikr bowed reverently.
If he had earned this kind of respect from Zikr, then this Goz must be a very reliable man. Or maybe a woman, contrary to the stern name.
Priscilla: [――With the Prime Minister and the Nine Divine Generals as foes, the Empire is very much a place of certain death.]
Priscilla, who had finished listening to the conversation before interjecting uselessly, muttered that. In agreement with her words, Subaru raised his hand, and,
Subaru: [Hey. I know it’s a tad late, but what if Abel comes forward as the Emperor? That way, the people who’re quietly running the government in the Imperial Capital can be branded as rebels and traitors…]
Al: [Unfortunately, it’s impossible to expect an angry populace and soldiers to kill the administration’s coup-d’état before the battle even starts, bro.]
Subaru: [I wasn’t thinking something that crazy, but why not?]
Abel: [――Because this is the Vollachian Empire, where the powerful are respected.]
Subaru’s suggestion was rejected, and Al’s words were supplemented by Abel’s.
The Emperor, removed from his throne, folded his arms, his shapely eyebrows slightly furrowed.
Abel: [If I come forward and announce my intention to reclaim the Imperial Capital myself, I would be welcomed. But that does signify that they shall support me. What was taken from you, you must take back yourself. That is how it is.]
Subaru: [Not only goods and lands, but also the Emperor’s throne…]
Abel: [There are no exceptions… Therefore, I know what must be done.]
Subaru, who was attempting to wrap his head around the situation, was surprised by Abel’s words.
Just when he thought he was at a loss, Abel’s answer was rather the opposite. He stood up and slowly put his hands on the roundtable.
Abel: [General Second-Class Zikr, the map.]
Zikr: [Yes! Right away!]
When told to do so, Zikr sent instructions to the Imperial Soldiers waiting in the corner of the room.
They immediately peeled off the map hanging on the wall of the conference hall, and moved to spread it out atop the roundtable.
It was a world map showing, well, the entire world, including Vollachia.
Abel: [Here we are, in the east, at the Fortress City of Guaral. And the Imperial Capital of Lupugana, which must be reclaimed, is roughly in the center of the Empire.]
Subaru: […Vollachia’s pretty big.]
The map showed Subaru the size of the country, which he had not been aware of till now. The Vollachian Empire, which occupied the southern portion of the world map, was the largest when compared to the other countries.
The Buddheim Jungle, which had posed so much trouble for Subaru and the others to get through, was merely a small geographic area from the perspective of the whole of Vollachia.
Abel: [Each city in the Empire is controlled by its own Mayor or Lord. As is the case with Guaral, each of these cities possesses its own autonomous military force and shall not hesitate to fight in case of an emergency. ――We shall add these to our forces and secure the strength required to retake the Imperial Capital.]
Subaru: […I get this is a pattern of kingship in a conquering simulation.]
Abel: [You seem to be displeased.]
Subaru: [Of course. It was an enormous undertaking just for Guaral. I don’t think it’s going to keep working out this way.]
Pointing to the map, Subaru had managed to keep up with Abel as he explained. He could manage to keep up with him, but this was a matter of logic, not emotion.
As stated earlier, this was not a game. There was no way that a method that held water when it came to simulation RPGs and things of the sort would be easily applied in actual reality.
Abel’s opinion seemed to be quite optimistic.
Abel: [There is a way to dispel your concerns. Rather, there are essential conditions that must be met in order to do what I must.]
Subaru: [Essential conditions…]
Abel: [――By securing Divine Generals.]
Upon hearing that reply, Subaru’s eyes went wide.
That was natural. After all, Abel had just told them that he had been expelled from throne because of the Nine Divine Generals’ treachery.
Those of the Nine Divine Generals that favored him were unaccounted for, and the two members of the Nine Divine Generals they were aware of, were already enemies.
As for the others――,
Subaru: [What about the other Divine Generals…?]
Abel pointed a finger at the sudden question and nodded at Subaru’s agitation. Then, he surveyed the faces of everyone except Subaru,
Abel: [The people of the Empire must be strong. The Nine Divine Generals are the incarnation of this rule. In other words, if one wishes to be the supreme ruler of the Vollachian Empire, you must unite the Nine Divine Generals.]
Subaru: [So, in other words…]
After Abel’s words, Subaru’s eyes widened as he realized what was to follow. Abel’s cheeks twisted at Subaru’s reaction, as he smiled belligerently.
Abel: [――The Blue Lightning, Cecilus Segmunt. The Spirit Eater, Arakiya. The Vicious Old Man, Olbart Dunkelkenn. The White Spider, Chisha Gold. The Lion Knight, Goz Ralfon. The Master of Enchanted Items, Groovy Gumlet. The Flamboyant, Yorna Mishigure. The Steelman, Moguro Hagane. The Flying Dragon General, Madelyn Eschart.]
Abel: [The winner of this battle shall be the one who recruits the most Divine Generals. That is the path toward triumph, and that is the absolute condition I must fulfill.]