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――Securing the Nine Divine Generals; that was the victory condition for reclaiming the Imperial throne.
With the condition for victory presented, along with the names and titles of those necessary, the Nine Divine Generals, Subaru could tell from experience that the air in the room had become tense.
Of course, the names of the Nine Divine Generals, which would be familiar to people in the Empire, were all novel to Subaru.
Subaru: […If this were a manga or an anime, it would have been an exciting development to see all the names of the Generals revealed at once.]
However, as this was something that was actually happening to him, the development was one he could not be openly pleased about.
As Abel mentioned the name and corresponding title of each of the Nine Divine Generals, Subaru could imagine how troublesome each one of them would be, with each of them sounding effective in how they were talked up.
As Arakiya’s nickname, Spirit Eater, corresponded with a special trait of hers, Subaru could imagine that the others’ aliases were somewhat related to their abilities or fighting methods.
Subaru: [The only ones whose names give me a clear image of their abilities would be the Master of Curse Tools and the Flying Dragon General?]
The two names he pointed out were probably both derived from the way they fought and the tools they used.
The other nicknames were probably inspired by their appearance or anecdotes of their exploits. In China’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms and the Water Margin both, characters would often take on aliases for such reasons. 
Come to think of it, one could say that those stories were also about taking a country. Unfortunately, Subaru was not very familiar with them, having only a cursory knowledge of their contents.
Subaru: [This is no time to be spacing out. Well, I’ve heard that securing the Nine Divine Generals is the condition for victory, but there are some things I want to ask you.]
Abel: [What. Is there any room for doubt?]
Abel raised one eyebrow and placed his hand on top of the map on the table as Subaru recovered from his initial shock.
If he thought that he had explained everything with that, he would be the ultimate example of a clever man short of words. Compared to the other people here―― Zikr and the others, not to mention the People of Shudraq, Subaru had far less information about the Vollachian Empire.
Subaru: [So there’s clearly room for me to doubt. If you keep skipping explanations because you yourself know what you’re talking about, the people around you won’t know what you’re thinking about exactly.]
Abel: [I shall take that as advice and ignore it. State your question.]
Subaru: [Keep that “ignoring” bit to yourself…]
Subaru sighed as Abel crossed his arms and responded arrogantly. Then, having resigned himself to the attention gathering around him, he said, “Ready?”, as he held up four fingers on one hand and five fingers on the other.
Subaru: [There are Nine Divine Generals, but thankfully that’s an odd number, so it’s easy to understand that it comes down to a battle of numbers. But the ones who favor us are unaccounted for, and, right now, Arakiya and this Chisha guy are most definitely enemies. We’re already way outnumbered.]
They supposedly needed to secure no less than five, but their enemy already held two of the Nine Divine Generals under them.
In addition, it was unclear whether the person who had aided Abel, Goz, was alive or dead. So there was a high chance that one of the cards they could play had been permanently removed from play.
Subaru: [The situation becomes bleaker by the minute. It’s good that the victory conditions clear, but is it actually realistic to persuade five of the Nine Divine Generals?]
Al: [Hey hey, bro, I think you’re still underestimating the Emperor too much. I said it earlier, but he’s already won the Imperial Selection Ceremony. They can’t just flat out refuse his request to talk. As long as they don’t turn him away at the front door…]
Priscilla: [――Then we shall get the opportunity to behead those who oppose us at the same time.]
Subaru: [We need to get them on our side!]
Al’s remarks, posing as an attempt to dissolve Subaru’s doubts, were incinerated by the extreme comment of his mistress, of all people. They were talking about how to get the Nine Divine Generals on their side, but devising a way to kill the Nine Divine Generals who would not be on their side would be putting carriage before the ground dragon.
Abel: [But the clown in the iron helmet there is correct. In fact, if I state I want to meet them, there would be no General who would refuse. The problem is what happens after we meet.]
Al: [Is the clown in the iron helmet me?]
Subaru: [There’s no one else with an iron helmet. If you have a problem with him treating you like a clown, you can start with a petition to Priscilla.]
After silencing Al’s teasing, Subaru returned to the topic at hand.
Subaru: [In the first place, I don’t understand the system of the Nine Divine Generals. I’ve always imagined them as nine Generals who report directly to the Emperor, but doesn’t that mean they’re all in the Imperial Capital?]
Priscilla: [Generals of the First-Class are the cornerstone of this nation. Consider how uselessly vast the Empire is. Even though the Imperial Capital lies in the center of the country, how can they move quickly in an emergency if they all sojourn in the Imperial Capital?]
Zikr: [Yes. Although it has been dramatically reduced during His Excellency’s reign, there is still no end to the fires of civil unrest that smolder in the Empire. Having a firm foothold in the Imperial Capital is not enough to guarantee the safeguarding of the Empire.]
Subaru: […In other words, the Nine Divine Generals in question are scattered all over, outside the Imperial Capital?]
As Priscilla and Zikr supplemented information, Subaru put his hand on his chin in understanding.
Following a familiar example, Roswaal had also been bestowed with the grandiose title of Margrave of the Western Lands in the Kingdom of Lugunica, and was obligated to act quickly in the Kingdom’s time of need.
Of course, he had the permission to set up a private army in his territory for that purpose. ――However, in Roswaal’s case, it seemed that his individual strength was greater than that a poorly-organized army.
Just by raining down fireballs while flying in the sky, he would be able to completely defeat most opponents.
Subaru: [When you think about it, that guy is also quite the cheat unit… I’m a little curious to see where he stands compared to the Nine Divine Generals.]
Kuna: [I don’t know, but I think we’re getting off track here, Natsumi.]
Subaru: [My bad. Anyway, I know now that the Nine Divine Generals are scattered across the country. If that’s the case, am I correct in understanding that not all of them were involved in the coup d’état in the Imperial Capital?]
Abel: [From what I have seen, and from a practical standpoint, I would say so.]
Abel nodded his head to Subaru in confirmation.
To be honest, Subaru was unsure about Abel’s assessment, as he had just been found to be quite unpopular, but the fact that no one around him had pointed it out suggested that it was something that could be accepted for the time being.
Anyway, the good news was, that not all the Nine Divine Generals had become enemies.
The victory condition that the more Nine Divine Generals they secured, the more likely they were to win this battle, made sense. Other than that, if there was one thing that Subaru had doubts about, it was――,
Subaru: [Sorry for asking so many questions, but I got an additional question. If the Nine Divine Generals are simply ordered by strength, then priority should be given to the ones of the highest rank, correct?]
Abel: [Yes, that perception is correct.]
Subaru: [Then the one strong enough to be on par with Reinhardt, is Cecilus, right? It’s common sense that we go for that person… wouldn’t he be enough?]
One among the four strongest human beings, those who had made a name for themselves in the Four Great Countries.
If Cecilus, who had been mentioned to be amongst these four, was a person considered to be on par with Reinhardt, then it would be very much as if the outcome of the battle would be decided by that person alone.
In fact, that Reinhardt could win even if he fought everyone in the Kingdom, was an extraordinary expectation and view that had sprouted in Subaru.
So, naturally, he held such sort of presupposition for Cecilus, who was Reinhardt’s equal.
Abel: […It is true that if we secure that person, all the problems of our strength shall be solved in one move.]
Subaru: [If that’s the case, why do you look so bitter?]
Frowning, Abel’s expression was poor as he answered Subaru’s question.
While Subaru’s expectations did not appear seem to be far off, there was no improvement on his gloomy expression. Abel revealed the reason for this with a small exhale.
Abel: [The reason why securing the Nine Divine Generals is a condition for victory, is because Generals and Soldiers alike shall follow their military orders. The more Nine Divine Generals one possesses under their banner, the more troops shall join your forces. Do you understand?]
Subaru: [――? Yes, I understand. That’s why I’m saying we should aim to have the strongest guy on our side. Or is it that him being called the Empire’s strongest is not true?]
Abel: [No, there is no question that he is the strongest in the Empire. However, there is a problem.]
Subaru: [A problem?]
Abel: [――He is not very popular.]
Subaru stopped thinking for a while, due to the words that had been uttered in pent-up frustration.
The words he was told slowly penetrated his brain, as he wondered what the problem was. “Lack of popularity”, that information was digested correctly.
Subaru: [Should you be saying that?]
Abel: [It is factual. His rank is that of the First, amongst the Generals of the First-Class of the Empire, but he holds no authority. Even if I were to give him the power, he would be incapable of doing anything with it. The only thing he can do, is to cut people down.]
Subaru: [You can’t put someone like that in the position of army general!]
Al: [Easy, easy, calm down, bro! That’s just the way of the Empire, you know!]
With that criticism of Cecilus being spoken by Abel, Subaru was held back by Al. With his one arm around Subaru, Al tilted his head to look at Abel, and said,
Al: [Actually, you’ve given him nothing but the title of First. Maybe you should’ve tried giving him the authority he deserves for his position. Maybe he’s been taken advantage of by someone who was sweet-talking him, you know?]
Abel: [Of course, that person being utilised by anyone other than me is not within my wishes. If there were such a danger, I would have disposed of him earlier.]
Subaru: [But you were in the forest, alone and helpless…!]
Even if he said that he was holding the reins, if the actual circumstances differed, then he was just bragging.
In the first place, could the idea that the person labelled as the strongest in the Empire was unable to gather popularity in the Vollachian Empire, dedicated to this strength as it was, be taken seriously?
Subaru: [What about that part, Zikr-san!]
Zikr: [Me, huh?]
Subaru: [Eh, yeah. As a General of the Empire, I’d like to hear your honest opinion. What do you think of General First-Class Cecilus?]
Being probed for information, Zikr spoken “Right then,” and crossed his arms briefly in thought.
Then, nodding several times at the expectant gaze in Subaru’s eyes.
Zikr: [First of all, there is no doubt that Cecilus-dono is the cornerstone of our national defense and the symbol of the strength of the Vollachian Empire. “The people of the empire must be strong”, he is the embodiment of that way of life.]
Subaru: [Oh, that sounds good? So, what is it, then?]
Zikr: [As a person he is carefree, friendly, and has a sunny and pleasant demeanor towards anyone. Overall…]
Zikr: [Many of the troops fear Cecilus-dono to be an incomprehensible monster and impossible to communicate with on a deeper level. I believe His Excellency is correct in his assessment.]
Subaru: [Your assessment has taken a sharp turn, hasn’t it!?]
Zikr, who had only painted the picture of a good person up to this point, chose his words quite carefully in his evaluation.
Some people would think that he was just trying to be considerate of Abel, the Emperor, but the wrinkles between his eyebrows showed that he was putting in a lot of effort, so he probably told the truth.
In other words――,
Priscilla: [It would be unacceptably reckless to even attempt to suppress the First of the Nine Divine Generals with the intent to tip the scales in a single swoop. I cannot comprehend how you would come up with a suitable idea, even if your head was not filled with foolish ruminations.]
Subaru: [Shut up! Don’t blame me for his lack of popularity! If the Emperor and the Generals aren’t popular, it’s no wonder a coup d’etat was called!]
Abel: [How many times are you going to repeat this? Do not think that your disrespect shall be overlooked forever.]
Receiving sharp glares from Priscilla and Abel respectively, Subaru stuck out his tongue at them.
However, it was true that his plan had been shattered with ease. If securing the Nine Divine Generals was equivalent to securing battle numbers, then securing those who were not popular possessed no merit whatsoever.
Subaru: [In fact, if they’re not popular can we leave them alone…?]
Abel: [That is also a problem. That person has the ability to change the course of the war all by his lonesome, depending on the situation. Even if we are capable of securing all of the remaining Divine Generals, there is a good chance that he alone could take my head.]
Subaru: [That’s a hard guy to handle! He’s an absurd hindrance, isn’t he?!]
Rushing to secure him was not warranted, but he was too dangerous of a bomb to leave unattended.
It was only now, in a foreign land far away from home, that Subaru realized how much of a good asset Reinhardt was, whose ability and humanity were guaranteed.
Perhaps if he were called out loud enough, he would rush to the neighboring country?
Priscilla: [Let me tell you something, foolish commoner. If you are contemplating summoning the Sword Saint, he cannot cross borders because of the non-aggression-pact. It would be wise not to get your hopes up.]
Subaru: [Don’t read people’s minds. I’m not considering it for real… Relying on them only when I’m in trouble isn’t the proper way to treat a friend.]
If used for convenience, just because he could call upon him and have him rush to his side, it would not really be something he could call a friendship.
If the situation were to become really, really bad, he would not be able to say the same. However, till that moment arrived, Subaru was resolved to keep his morals intact.
Priscilla: [So? Foolish commoner being treated as Abel’s military strategist, have you run out of inquiries?]
Subaru: [I haven’t run out of questions yet, and first of all I’m not a military strategist…]
Subaru replied, frowning as Priscilla took a dig at his position.
Then, just as he was about to move on to the next topic of the meeting――,
???: [――Miss Natsumi and Village Chief-kun! Excuse me!]
At the same time a cheerful voice resounded, the door was opened, and a new person appeared in the conference hall with vigor.
The one who had arrived was Flop, a beautiful man clad in blue, his long golden hair swaying briskly.
Flop was supposed to be tending to the injured on the upper floor where the damage of Arakiya’s rampage remained. While becoming the focus of all eyes in the room, he looked at Subaru and Abel, and nodded, saying “There you are”.
Flop’s figure was stained all over with blood, accentuating the horror of the makeshift field hospital.
But the fact that he showed up here meant that――,
Subaru: [Flop-san, how’s everyone’s treatment?]
Flop: [We just wrapped things up for now! …Hmm? From the looks of it, you’re in the mood for Husband-kun instead of Miss Natsumi? If so, I’ll revert to calling you Husband-kun.]
Subaru: [Well, either is fine. But, yeah, things are getting wrapped up…]
While receiving Flop’s rather oblique words of consideration, Subaru reflected with simultaneous relief and anxiety, upon hearing that the healing process had come to a close.
The relief was simply because of the fact that the aid of the injured had finished. The anxiety was more for the fact that he would hear of the results from the healing mission.
The goal of the “bloodless siege” had already failed.
Seven guards had fallen victim in Arakiya’s extraction. The only question now, was whether any of the wounded would join them.
Flop: [There have been no deaths, Husband-kun.]
Flop: [It was a tough situation for all of us, though. But I think it was thanks to the efforts of Wife-san and Niece-chan. The promptness of Miss Taritta and Miss Utakata as well. Of course, my sister and I had to work hard, too!]
Having read his inner feelings from Subaru’s complexion, Flop gave him the answer first.
Flop boasted about his contributions while pointing at himself, looking rather manly. The answer he had given was concise, so Subaru needed only the time of a heartbeat to digest the information.
However, after his understanding deepened a heartbeat later, a great big sigh escaped him.
Subaru: [No deaths… Hk.]
Flop: [Yeah, it’s a sign that everyone did their best to stay alive. As for me, if it weren’t for my sister protecting me, I would’ve hit my head and died! Hahaha, I’m no match for my sister!]
Subaru: [Yeah, yeah, that’s true. I’m no match for Medium-san either…]
Flop laughed vivaciously while in front of him, whereas Subaru cast his eyes downward and shook his shoulders.
Without exaggeration, without jesting, he was completely of the same opinion. If Medium―― or anyone else for that matter, were not present there, this report would never have been heard.
There were lives that had been lost. But there were also lives that had not been lost.
The emotions that brought to his heart were great――,
Abel: [――Merchant, what happened to that practitioner of the healing arts?]
Despite Subaru’s excitement, Abel forced himself into the conversation with an indifferent tone..
“Practitioner of the healing arts”, Subaru raised an eyebrow at the unfamiliar sound, and Flop put his finger to his lips. “Practitioner…”, he murmured as he gave it some consideration.
Flop: [Is that… You’re talking about Husband-kun’s Wife-san?]
Abel: [Who else is there? Did you believe there was anyone else in that place who could cast healing magic besides that girl?]
Flop: [No, I can’t think of anyone else! Just…]
Flop: [I think you should try to say things in a way that makes people like you better, Village Chief-kun. Even when you call out to them, things’ll go much more smoothly if you’re conscious of being friendly!]
Abel raised one eyebrow in response to the incredibly direct cheerful protest in front of him.
The statement that Flop had made was a dignified one, but it was quite a harrowing statement to listen to from the bylines in frankness.
Naturally, to have Rem referred to in a way that reduced her to just her capabilities did not sit well with Subaru.
Al: [That impression does not sound very convincing after those disrespectful words from just now, bro.]
Subaru: [Considering how far we’ve come, I got the right to say that much… Flop-san does too, then, right?]
Al: [Dunno, but I’m dying to hear about your adventures bro.]
It was too turbulent a story to tell, but that was a topic to be delved into some other time.
Regardless of how Abel had put it, Rem’s safety was Subaru’s top priority. Of course, he had confirmed with his own eyes that she held no noticeable trauma.
Subaru: [Did she do anything like work too hard and collapse?]
Flop: [Don’t worry about that, Husband-kun. Of course, all that hard work’s taken its toll on her, but it’s nothing that can’t be remedied with some rest. It’s really wonderful that you have the hardworking Wife-san by your side.]
Subaru: [I see…Well, that’s good.]
Stroking his chest in relief, Subaru was glad to hear Flop’s guarantee.
The situation was what it was. Even though he had to rely on Rem, he was frankly afraid that she would try too hard. What Subaru said mattered not; were it within her capabilities, Rem would not listen to him.
Al muttered quietly beside Subaru, who had patted his chest in relief.
He put a hand to the chin of his steel helmet, and cocked his head, puzzled,
Al: [I don’t think I saw her up above, but did the girl from bro’s group come here too?]
Subaru: [The girl from my group… you mean Emilia-tan? No, she didn’t come here. How reassuring it would be to have her here… on the other hand, I don’t think I would want her to be here.]
Emilia’s gentle nature and the Vollachian Empire’s way of being were probably like water and oil.
Although there was also a chance that Emilia, who tended to be someone who acted before thinking, would find the Imperial approach more comfortable, the cruelty of the Empire itself went much further than that. ――Emilia was not suited for the Empire.
Al: [――A wife other than your girl, huh?]
Subaru: [….Just to tell you, we’re passing it off as a matter of convenience. To tell you the truth, she’s a girl I’ve decided to treat with that much care. I’ll bring her home, no matter what.]
Subaru explained to Al, who mumbled in a low tone with his hand on his chin.
As long as they were also in the Empire, it was impossible for strange rumors to spread from Al’s mouth, but he did not want Al to get the wrong idea. He did not want his resolve to get rained on.
Priscilla: [That delicate-looking man, the one they call merchant… Are you one of Abel’s subordinates?]
Flop: [No, I’m not his subordinate. My sister and I are in a position of cooperating with Husband-kun and Village Chief-kun. Well, I guess it’s appropriate to call him my newest friend!]
Priscilla: [Oh, a friend, huh?]
Priscilla, exchanging words with Flop, loosened her lips at his answer. Hiding her loosened lips with her fan, Priscilla sent a meaningful look in Abel’s direction.
Priscilla: [I did not know you were hard at work making friends. It seems the throne of the Emperor of Vollachia has become such that it can easily be vacated.]
Abel: [Cease the sarcasm. I do not recall being friends with that man.]
Flop: [What are you talking about, Village Chief-kun? We’ve gone through the verge of death together in women’s clothing!]
Abel: [If you give death the slip alongside someone, you become friends immediately? If that is the case, then every single Imperial Soldier is my friend. And the one who has been on the verge of death closest to me, is my enemy.]
The perfect rebuttal making use of his own position made Flop hold his tongue upon receiving it.
However, it was a double-edged sword that did not leave Abel unscathed either.
Subaru: [Anyway, Flop-san brought us some good news. I’d like to talk about some more good news as well…]
Subaru: […What is it?]
It was an optimistic subject in a not-so-positive meeting. Interrupting Subaru’s attempt to spur him on, Abel cocked his chin at Flop.
Subaru’s gaze was guided by that movement, and he also looked over at Flop.
Indeed, the reason why Abel pointed at him was because he had noticed the change in Flop’s facial expression.
Flop had not lost his bright, cheerful expression, yet in his eyes, which had always carried a cheerfulness as dazzling as the sun, there was a faint hint of hesitation and melancholy.
Abel: [If you are a merchant, you should be careful about how you talk about things. In that respect, I do not believe you are cut out to be a merchant.]
Flop: [I’ve received quite a few of those opinions, so I have some thoughts on that matter, but I’ll leave it at that for now… Husband-kun, there was something I forgot to mention earlier.]
Giving a sidelong glance towards Abel and his remark, Flop fluttered his eyelashes in melancholy, then directing his eyes at Subaru.
His well-groomed face, and the wistfulness in it, made Subaru’s heart tighten. He could not help but think that he did not want to hear what Flop had to say, but he had no choice but to listen.
In that sense, Flop had a natural talent for making others listen to what he had to say. Were it not for this situation, Subaru would have praised him for his talent as a merchant.
Despite that, however――,
Flop: [It’s not unrelated to Village Chief-kun, either. I want Miss Kuna and Miss Holly to come with us as well.]
Now that he was unable to stop Flop from telling him, he hated it, as if it were a cursed talent.
???: […Abel and Natsumi have come too, huh.]
After being called by Flop, Subaru and the others left the conference hall and went to the upper floor of the City Hall.
In the space that looked like a field hospital, where the wounded had been gathered, the one who greeted Subaru and the others was Mizelda, who had cut off her scorched black hair.
The party that had stormed Guaral had been caught unprepared by Arakiya’s surprise attack, yet Mizelda had been the one to receive the most grievous injuries, having been overwhelmed by the flames in the first instance, and then by the blows exchanged with Arakiya at the end.
After having had her whole body scorched and then swallowed by the tornado, Arakiya’s blow clawed deep into her insides afterwards.
No matter how tough her body was, it was unmistakably a situation that tested Mizelda’s vitality, as if to see how far she could go with Rem’s healing arts, which could not be said to be at their best.
Mizelda: [I’m sorry to call you here. I just thought I needed to tell you as soon as possible.]
Mizelda smiled thinly as she said this, having taken a seat on an object near the wall.
As one of the most powerful amazonesses, Mizelda’s smile was devoid of the wild demeanor that she had displayed towards Subaru and the others on numerous occasions.
However, the willpower in her eyes was yet to be lost. It was unbalanced.
Mizelda: [First of all, thank you. Thanks to Rem, I’m alive. It’s a miracle.]
Mizelda: [You took the city as well. As Shudraq’s Chieftain, I’m impressed with your work. In addition, I must make a declaration for the future of this war.]
Praising Rem’s dedication and Subaru’s contribution, Mizelda straightened her posture.
Mizelda: [The position of Chieftain of the Shudraq will be given to my sister, Taritta. I can’t fulfill my duties anymore.]
She patted her right leg, which was missing from the knee down, and announced that her sister would take over the role.
 The Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Water Margin are considered to be two of Four Great Classic Novels of China.