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Louis: [Aah! Uuh!]
As she pointed at the cityscape in front of them, Louis bounced her butt off the driver’s seat.
Subaru would’ve liked to warn her that she was disturbing the handling of the Galewind Horse, however Medium, the one who held the reins, pulled Louis by her shoulders and said with a cheerful, yet unrefined “I know, I know!”.
In addition, Subaru, who had also been watching the same thing, was suitably overwhelmed.
Subaru: [So that’s the Demon City of Chaosflame…]
With a gulp, Subaru couldn’t help but express his surprise with his own body.
In Lugunica, he had been amazed by the scenic beauty of the Watergate City of Pristella, and in Vollachia, he had been impressed by the difference in architectural styles. However, the spectacle of the Demon City looming before him had bore a different impact on Subaru compared to either of these.
In Subaru’s perception, a city was an assembly in which a large number of people lived, and for this reason, unified styles and rules should be laid down for architecture.
However, in the streets of Chaosflame, no such sense of unity could be sensed.
Undoubtedly, it was a crucible of miscellaneous and haphazard principles, befitting a city crowned by the term “chaos”.
At the heart of the city lay the most conspicuous feature: a castle painted in vermillion glossy paint, and the streets expanded out as a circle as if encasing the castle. At first glance, it appeared similar to the structure of the Royal Capital of Lugunica, but even there one would notice a clear difference between noble, commoner, and poor.
Chaosflame, on the other hand, had none of that.
Old ruins beside gleaming buildings, streets were lined with short buildings with sudden appearances of spires twice their size, and desolated sandy areas were adjacent to lush parks.
There were countless beams and scaffolding that had been arbitrarily pieced together on top of these streets, and from a distance it seemed as if the entire city were covered in a lattice of spider webs.
This was a city that had nothing to do with discipline, neatness, or decency in general—— there was only one way for it to be called. The Demon City.
He could tell, at a glance, that this was without a doubt, a place where chaos prevailed.
Al: [——It looks like a city that could easily crumble with a “giant’s thrust”, doesn’t it?]
Said Al calling out to Subaru, the former having been squinting at the mayhem, shading the tops of his eyes with his hands, spilling his thoughts about the spectacle that was Demon City.
It was a trivial matter, but what was the point of putting his hands over the helmet?
Al: [I’ve lived in Vollachia for a long time, but this is my first time coming to the east, so it’s refreshing.]
Subaru: [Is this your first time in Chaosflame too? So you’ve been on the west side of Vollachia all this time?]
Al: [It’s more like, I’ve been in only one place on the west side. There’s a Colosseum smack dab in the middle of a lake, called Gladiator Island. I was a gladiator there for a long time.]
Subaru: [A gladiator in a colosseum…]
Subaru was taken aback by the tumultuous grandness of Al’s career, which he had incidentally heard about before.
The loss of his arm included many of the things that Al had talked about without hesitation were very serious. It was because of the gravity of his situation that he spoke so casually, in order to not make the other person feel uncomfortable, but——,
Subaru: [That doesn’t relieve my mental burden at all…]
Al: [Mh? What did you say, bro?]
Subaru: [No, not a thing… By the way, what’s a “giant’s thrust”?]
Al: [Huh? Didn’t they say that in your hometown? You know, earthquakes and stuff like that?]
When asked about the unfamiliar expression, Al twisted his head and replied to Subaru with a question.
Although Al and him were from the same hometown, hometown in this case broadly referred to their original world, so of course their real hometown would be different.
That said, while there were many proverbs related to demons, he could not recall many related to giants.
Subaru: [Maybe it’s related to a baseball team? I don’t really know much about it.]
Al: [Oh, no, I’m not sure. I don’t remember where I got the word, and I don’t remember being particularly fond of baseball, but…]
Subaru: [I see. Even though you’d look right at home drinking beer and watching a baseball game.]
Al: [In the first place, I never drank anything of the sort.]
Sharing a bitter smile with Al at those words, Subaru remembered the age at which Al had been summoned to this other world, and inwardly agreed, “Yeah, that makes sense”.
In any case, during their little chat, the carriage that transported the group approached the front of the Demon City, the entrance to the city of chaos.
Speaking of entering and exiting the city, the most recent thing that came to mind were the checkpoints in Guaral.
Checkpoints had been set up at the main gates of the city, one in the north and one in the south, and in each the identity of people entering and leaving the city would be inquired, along with the purpose of their stay.
In the end, it was possibly debatable whether the checkpoints were functioning properly, since they had allowed Subaru and the others to infiltrate, but Zikr’s words should then be taken in consideration: “The soldiers’ eyes must have been burned by the sheer beauty of Natsumi and the others”. So it should be treated as a result of their side’s skillfulness.
Regardless, the existence of such checkpoints was not different between the Kingdom and the Empire.
Every city in Lugunica had such checks. Therefore, Subaru thought that this was a win-or-lose moment, and stepped into the shoes of Natsumi Schwartz again——,
Medium: [Understooood! Thanks.]
The man had looked around the carriage and given them permission to pass; he was supposedly a part of the city’s garrison, and a member of the one-eye clan—— a man from a race with a single large eye at the center of their face.
To Subaru, the fact that he had been given permission to enter with just a quick glance was anticlimactic. He wondered if, possibly, the guard held the power to see something special in that characteristic single eye.
Subaru: [Maybe that’s why he’s been appointed as a gate guard, isn’t it?]
Abel: [It appears that you are reading too much into it, but the one-eye clan does not possess power of that nature. I have heard that they can see a little farther than normal people, but generally, there is no difference in the functioning of their eyes.]
Subaru: [Right! Because how’d he let such a suspicious carriage pass by!]
Subaru, who had put his hand on his chin while trying to convince himself in his own way, barked at the unkind words.
Hearing Subaru’s high-pitched complaint, the other party emitted a small snort, as they adjusted the angle of their face, a mask—— an oni mask in red. Following this, they sank back down in their seats.
As soon as he had arrived at the Demon City, Abel had equipped the mask he had brought along. Subaru had protested that such an action would make the guards and soldiers suspicious of him.
However, Abel’s mask did not come off, and the guards had reacted as he had foreseen, leaving Subaru bitter twice over.
Of course, it was good news that Abel had not been suspected.
Subaru: [It’s a serious matter, really. What kind of laws are in place, so that the city’s first line of defense, the gate guard, is in such a state?]
Taritta: [I agree with Natsumi. I’m wearing clothes with sleeves, and they didn’t say anything about it.]
Subaru: [Hmm… your surprise’s of a slightly different nature than mine…]
Taritta agreed with him, her cheeks stiffened, but unfortunately, the gap in cultures she had experienced was different from that which Subaru had experienced.
While Subaru’s pertained more so with the way the city carried itself; hers was attributed to her self-identification as a Shudraqian.
It reminded him of the conversation Taritta and him’d had around the campfire, before their arrival at the Demon City.
Following that event, she never again spoke of the same worries and anxieties, but that did not mean that Taritta had been freed from their fetters. It was a concern that might not go away, even if she were able to achieve the decisive event of taking over as the Chieftain.
Subaru sincerely hoped that she could reach a resolution that would put her mind at ease if possible, however——,
Subaru: [Well, let’s focus on the problem of the Demon City.]
After overcoming the careless checkpoint, the carriage was swallowed by the chaotic and disorderly city itself.
The high-pitched cheers of Medium and Louis being impressed at every step arose from the coachman’s seat, and Subaru too witnessed the spectacle of what lay within the Demon City, of that which could not be seen from the exterior alone.
The first thing that struck him as he entered the city, was the unprecedented number of races.
The impact caused by the one-eyed guard at the gate had been quite potent, but once inside the city, he realized that the guard’s presence was not particularly eye-catching.
In broad terms, there was a large variety of beastmen—— And it wasn’t just catfolk and dogfolk, there were also rabbit and lionfolk, with a clear distinction between small and large among them, passing through the streets.
A group of reptilian-looking lizardmen set up a store, a multi-armed tribesman with many arms, and a group of people with unusually long hair that might or might not be a fashion statement or a racial trait.
As soon as he thought that, he noticed a race that appeared to be made of actual stone walking around, and a chimera whose body parts seemed to be mixed with another race’s as well.
Subaru was left speechless by this senseless mixture of races.
Of course, even in the Royal Capital of Lugunica, there were scenes that had reverberated within Subaru similarly, which had made him realize that he had been summoned to another world immediately. But later, as he acquired the knowledge required to live in this world, he also learned a smidgen of the complicated circumstances surrounding demi-humans.
With how Emilia was ostracized for being a half-elf as an example, the environment for demi-humans in this world could not exactly be labelled as favorable.
For better or worse, the custom of keeping away those who were different did not change even across worlds.
Consequently, many demi-humans whose appearance very much reflected their characteristics left human settlements and kept to themselves to avoid trouble, so he had heard.
The Sanctuary, that which Garfiel, among others, called home, was one of those.
But what about Chaosflame, which lay in front of Subaru’s eyes?
The variety of species living side-by-side and without prejudice aside, what had struck Subaru the most, was the way they stood.
With their backs straight, everyone was proudly asserting their own species.
Beastmen that did not curl their claws and fangs, lizardmen that would not polish their scales, and those whose shapes were considered abnormal would not cover their faces and bodies with cloth. ——To Subaru’s eyes, this was novel.
Abel: [What kind of laws are in place, you said?]
The one to speak suddenly was Abel, sporting the oni mask, remaining in his seat.
While not only Medium on the platform, but also Subaru, Al, and even Taritta were looking around curiously, the Emperor, his visage concealed, drew Subaru’s attention with his words and continued.
Abel: [As you can see, what we have here, is lawlessness. If you ask what sort of law prevails, that would be an intangible sort. It is a mockery of the nature of order, a city of vices, if you will.]
Subaru: [Vices…? People are impressed, yet you still managed to put a damper on it.]
Abel: [Impressed? It left a deep impression on you? I guess that is to be expected from an outsider such as yourself.]
Abel shrugged his thin shoulders at Subaru’s response, with a slight grimace on his face.
The word “outsider” once again made him feel like he did not belong, which in turn reminded Subaru of the argument they’d had in the carriage a few days prior. In spite of that, as Subaru had been the only one becoming emotional, the other party would probably laugh at him labelling it an argument.
Al: [But ain’t the concept consistent throughout this city that of disorder itself having become order? What do you think, Abel-chan?]
Abel: [If you question the nature of order, you shall know whether this city is disorderly or not. ——Where do you believe the essence of order resides in, in the first place?]
Al: [Getting all philosophical on me… Bro, pass!]
Subaru closed one eye at Al, who had given up on thinking pretty quickly.
However, unlike Al, bereft of pride, Subaru was not willing to raise the white flag so easily. He crossed his arms and twisted his neck, permitting his long hair to flow over his shoulders, then stated,
Subaru: [The essence of order is not that, you know. Everyone getting along! Harmony!]
Abel: [——The essence of order is to be the same.]
Without reacting to Subaru’s opinion, which sounded like he was in the lower grades of elementary school, such was Abel’s statement.
Frowning upon his words, Abel resumed piling on.
Abel: [It is many beings sharing the same values. It may be doctrines or beliefs, goals or self-interest. When as a group, rather than as an individual, the identity that does not deviate from each other is called order. What is built on the foundation of that order, is the pipe dream you spoke of.]
Subaru: [Pipe dream… Do you think peace is that ridiculous?]
Abel: [Struggle is an unavoidable human instinct. Even if the weapon for that is not a sword, but a language or a country, the essence remains the same. But order is the perfect mechanism for shaping an environment far from collapse. ——Behold.]
Jerking his chin, Abel urged Subaru and the others to look out the window.
As he sat in his seat, he presented them with something that they could be confident of its presence without bothering to look out the window—— the red castle, the symbol of the Demon City.
Abel: [As the clown said, there is an order called disorder in this city. And that poses as the reason as to why the city has not fallen into collapse, despite its existence as a melting pot for myriad species.]
Subaru: [That castle… No, inside the castle…]
Abel: [——Yorna Mishigure.]
The sound of Abel’s voice assaulted Subaru’s eardrums, which trembled slightly.
Abel, his expression unseen behind that mask, spoke of that name. But what did he think of the existence of the most problematic person in the Nine Divine Generals? One who could be indispensable for him to regain the throne?
The Demon City where various things stood in close proximity, both vertically and horizontally; Where people without any sense of unity would arrive, and leave.
The castle at the city’s core appeared to be looking down on the Emperor’s group that had arrived at its laps, its glossy outer walls glowing with a mysterious light.
——The information provided in advance regarding Yorna Mishigure, amounted to little.
One of the Nine Divine Generals, the strongest of the Vollachian Empire, and a woman who had been anointed with the rank of Seventh.
Although she held a position as a General of the Empire and was counted as one of the swords of the Emperor, she was a loose cannon who had brought unnecessary chaos upon the country by committing rebellion many times.
Zikr had been the one to supply information about the Nine Divine Generals to Subaru on the behalf of the Emperor who was incapable of communicating with others, but the only two people whose humanity he had vaguely spoken about were Yorna and Cecilus, the First.
Subaru: [From the craziest men and women of the Empire, it’s the woman who’s the one that’s recognized as such…?]
With those words, as he mulled over what laid ahead, Subaru’s fake chest became laden.
Negotiating with the woman was the challenge at hand, but eventually he would have to face the man as well. Moreover, there was also an agreement on the fact that if they did not have him as an ally, they were almost certain to lose.
Although when he started to say the same thing, he was reminded of the talk about order that Abel had given,
Subaru: [It’s those who are far from orderly that we’ve got to deal with, isn’t it…?]
With a slight headache, Subaru muttered as he brushed a strand of hair off his forehead with his fingers.
Abel’s reasoning was deeply interesting, as expected of the Emperor, but whether it would be of use in capturing Yorna soon was debatable.
However, he was not simply trying to assert his dominance by telling Subaru something clever, instead he wished to convey something else. ——The order of the Demon City.
Chaosflame seemed to be overflowing with people and things in a chaotic and disorderly manner, but even in a pot brewing such bedlam, an “order” that would not crumble existed.
Abel had declared that this order was Yorna Mishigure.
In other words, Yorna was in possession of the ability and ingenuity to bring all this disorder together and keep it from overflowing out of the pot.
That was why Abel had not ordered her removal from the Nine Divine Generals, or even her execution, despite the fact she was a dangerous rebel with a history of multiple revolts.
Al: [But I’m sure she’s got a screw loose, and I don’t wanna get the short end of the stick, bro.]
While Subaru was lost in thought, Al, casually sitting cross-legged, laughed at him.
Subaru exhaled lighted as he peeked at Al, the latter sitting in a slouched position on the wooden floor. There were times when his calmness would save the day, but it was on a case-by-case basis.
Subaru: [Al, please behave yourself. You never know when, where, or who might be watching you. Also, please stop calling me bro.]
Al: [Hearing you out about my attitude and posture’s fine, but aside from… bro, what should I call you? Something like, bro but written as sis?] 
Subaru: [Isn’t that something that can’t be conveyed without the Kanji?]
The beauty of the Japanese language’s variety of expressions was mind-boggling, but at present, there was no use in increasing the number of exchanges between Subaru and Al that could only be understood by the two of them.
What they needed was a way to call each other externally.
Subaru: [Since you address Medium-san, Taritta-san and Abel as “chan”, wouldn’t it be more natural if you addressed me as such?]
Al: [Then, Natsumi-chan? Whoa, gives me goosebumps!]
Subaru: [Please withstand the urge! You lack so much composure…]
As the leader of the group, Subaru reprimanded Al, who showed the hair on his right arm standing on end.
It was a strange thing to say, but it was unavoidable, because seniority had not played a role in the selection of personnel this time around. Considering the weighty part he had to perform, tempering his behavior was something Subaru had to do.
At any rate——,
Subaru: [——We’re already inside the Crimson Lapis Castle.]
The whisper not leaving his mouth, Subaru began putting his mind in order.
Yes, Subaru and the others had already been invited to enter the Crimson Lapis Castle at the heart of the Demon City, as they had sought an audience with Yorna Mishigure, the Lord of the city.
——After the entrance to the Demon City had been accomplished, the subsequent actions were swift.
They had procured an inn in which they could stay with their Galewind Horse and carriage, booked a room, and began actions towards their goal of conquering Yorna.
Having said that, because they had already decided what steps were required on the way there, no hesitation was to be found in their actions.
The action to be taken was——,
Abel: [Deliver this to the lord of the castle, Yorna Mishigure. She should respond.]
With that, Abel handed Subaru a letter written by him.
The envelope containing the letter was enclosed with beeswax, rendering it impossible to open. It was customary for important documents to be stamped with a ring, or similar, bearing the family crest before the beeswax hardened, as proof of their origin.
However, there was no such proof stamped on the sealing wax of the letter he had been given.
Abel: [Both of the Emperor’s symbols I took with me have already been shattered. One by you, the other in the City Hall of Guaral.]
Subaru: [Oh… the Lifeblood Ritual and the Arakiya Panic, yes. But if we don’t have anything to show where it came from, I wonder if she’ll read it. Even if she does, will she really believe us?]
Abel: [There is no need for unnecessary concern. I shall not disclose the contents of the letter, but I have made it so that if she reads it, she shall know I am its writer.]
Subaru: [I see… By the way, wouldn’t it be more reliable if you went there in person?]
Subaru asked frankly as he put the letter he received in his pocket.
The reason why he had been requested to hand over the letter, was because Abel would not accompany him to the castle. It seemed like a problem that could be solved in one go had he gone along, even if it meant proving his identity and circumstances.
In the first place, hadn’t Abel gone along with them to negotiate directly with Yorna?
Technically speaking, with Abel not going there, wouldn’t it be the same as if he had stayed behind in Guaral?
Subaru: [If anything, I think the journey would’ve been much more relaxed that way, without having to worry about checkpoints along the way…]
Abel: [Your disrespect knows no bounds, does it?]
Subaru: [Because you’re disrupting our vibe all by yourself…]
More precisely, it was not restricted to just Abel; Louis’s presence, too, was one of the disruptors.
But since he wanted to give Abel a snide remark at this juncture, he put aside the matter of Louis, a specialist in disturbing Subaru’s mind.
Abel: [It goes without saying, but I shall be having a direct word with Yorna Mishigure. However, it is not convenient for me to make my entrance so prematurely. You, too, should perceive that.]
Subaru: [Perceive… Oh, yeah, that’s right.]
Abel’s grumpy words, conveyed through that oni mask, peacefully convinced Subaru.
Now you mention it, this was an opponent who had been involved in several rebellions in the past. From Yorna’s point of view, the rebellion had most likely been raised because of her dissatisfaction with Abel’s rule.
Naturally, the relationship between Abel and Yorna was like water and oil, or in some cases, like a smoldering powder keg. It’s already something that he dragged himself all the way to the Demon City.
Abel: [At present, your task is to deliver the letter to Yorna Mishigure. However, you must keep it secret that it is a missive from me… from the Emperor.]
Subaru: [Eh, why not? If I don’t say that, won’t I get turned away at the door?]
Abel: [It’s just in case. Nothing bad shall befall you for allowing her to read the letter, however I cannot read her mind before you hand it over. Therefore, be creative.]
Subaru looked at Abel in surprise as he was thrown an unexpected challenge.
The latter crossed his arms, his expression still hidden by the oni mask,
Abel: [If you look at this city, you can get a rough idea of her temperament and how she weighs her likes and dislikes. Use all the gumption you possess to get her interest.]
Subaru: [There was some malice in your phrasing!]
Abel: [I do have a back-up plan, but I would prefer to not rely on it. It shall not endure for much time. Considering my purpose, we have a long way to go. Do you comprehend that?]
Subaru: [You really are a pompous man, aren’t you…?]
Subaru’s lips curved in a grimace at the manner in which Abel spoke his instructions.
He was not afraid to side with Yorna now, and raise a rebellion against Abel. With that rumination in his consciousness, he felt like he could get along with Yorna.
If they could both have a chat about their grievances against His Majesty the Emperor, they could become best friends.
Subaru: […Well, I guess I’ll proceed in that direction then.]
Abel: [You seem to have had a flash of inspiration, however, it does not appear to be anything proper.]
As far as he was concerned, there was nothing persuasive about being told that by the initiator of something improper himself.
——And so, after going through with this, Subaru and the others had made their way to the epicenter of the Demon City, the Crimson Lapis Castle, the residence of Yorna Mishigure.
In accordance with Abel’s instructions, they were taken up to the castle while going without the mention of his name.
Although this was a somewhat unusual move, Yorna’s private soldiers, who were as unconcerned as the gate guards, ordered Subaru and the others to enter the castle and await an audience with Yorna.
All said, Subaru and the others were now spending their time inside the castle, within a large waiting room with a wooden floor, until Yorna, the lord of the castle, was ready.
There were no guards in the waiting room, and they could leave at any time if such was their will.
The laxity and carelessness of the security system was enough to make Subaru, an outsider, nervous. In the first place, things had proceeded so smoothly that even Subaru was bewildered.
Subaru: [Of course, it’s convenient, but… if they let visitors into the castle like this, with or without the General First-Class, wouldn’t they be given free rein to assassinate?]
Al: [In fact, they haven’t even taken away our weapons. I was surprised when they said we could enter with them.]
Medium: [Well, we don’t mean to be violent or anything. They won’t get mad.]
Subaru and Al were taken aback by their response, which frankly smelled more of defenseless than magnanimity. However, Medium, who had been sitting calmly beside them, laughed boisterously at their conversation.
Subaru, Al, and Medium had been the three to embark to the Crimson Lapis Castle as messengers. The remaining people, Abel, Taritta, and Louis, were currently waiting at the inn.
Since Abel could not come to the castle, one of them had to stay behind to guard him.
And since he wanted to avoid having to spare hands for Louis’s protection, who would be in no conceivable scenario be useful, their split had resulted in this.
Subaru: [I also briefly thought about the possibility that the owner of this castle likes unusual things.]
If that were the case, it was possible that the People of Shudraq, who would scarcely leave the forest, would attract Yorna’s interest; so making Taritta a member of this had come to mind.
However, leaving Abel and Louis alone at the inn was not an option, so the outcome produced was that Taritta had been left with a rather laborious load.
Al: [Even if she likes unusual things, with so many species in the city, wouldn’t one or two Taritta-chans be considered unusual now?]
Subaru: [Yes, I thought so too. That’s why we’re going with this plan.]
Medium: [Natsumi-chan, you’re so bold! I was surprised, and so was Al-chin.]
Al: [Yeah, Al-chin was so surprised.]
Even though Subaru had his reservations about Al, who shamelessly took advantage of Medium, the latter saying “Right?” with a tad of pride.
Subaru’d had a bright idea upon being asked to deliver Abel’s letter as a messenger while being disallowed to mention his name.
In fact, the reason they had been allowed to enter the castle this way, was probably because his idea had worked out so well.
Subaru: [The hint for our conquest is, ”Abel pisses me off”.]
Medium: [Haha, Natsumi-chan, you do snap at Abel, don’t you? I think it’s awesome.]
Subaru: [Awesome? Am I? Or is it Abel’s terrible character?]
Medium: [Both of them!]
Subaru: [You’ve got some nerve too, Medium-chan.]
Raising her hand cheerfully, Medium alluded to the relationship between Subaru and Abel.
The relationship between Subaru and Abel was not quite like that of water and oil, but they had no choice but to walk along the same direction; hence, they were bumping shoulders with each other as they went.
In terms of a close relationship, it could be said to be similar to that between Subaru and Julius in a time past.
However, taking in mind the stuff at Pleiades Watchtower, Subaru put a lot of faith in Julius. ——Though he would never tell him that, nor was he intending on displaying it via his attitude.
Subaru: [But it’s not that easy either, you know.]
To put it plainly, one could guess that the rivalry had faded and that they had come to terms.
However, that too was the result of a long road, as well as a reasonable quantity of peaks and valleys, having been overcome.
Improving relationships was no trivial undertaking.
A rough road would never be leveled unless both parties were willing to make it better, at the very least.
Even if one side attempted to smoothen it, as long as the other trampled and laid waste to it, it would never happen.
???: [——Thank you for your patience. Messengers, this way.]
Such bitter sentimentality was interrupted by the words of a servant who had made her appearance in the waiting room.
The girl who had shown up, was the same girl who had guided them here—— a deerperson with large antlers on her head. She was a half-beastman who, the antlers on her head aside, mostly resembled a human being.
The girl, still in her mid-teens, wrapped her slender body in a kimono-like outfit, its long hem sweeping the floor as she led Subaru and the others.
The grace of that figure and that gesture, made Subaru’s knowledge tingle slightly as he recalled something similar.
With Subaru not being capable of putting a finger on it, the girl who was guiding them conducted them to the upper parts of the Crimson Lapis Castle—— to the very top level.
The construction of the Crimson Lapis Castle gave the impression that it was closer to the old-fashioned Japanese castles in Subaru’s knowledge, rather than the Western-style castles that he had grown used to seeing. Naturally, the materials used and the architectural style were different, but the interior and the way the floor had been designed with big open spaces gave him the aforementioned impression.
One of the reasons for this, could be the fact that here and there people clad in a kimono could be seen, together with the girl who had been showing them around.
In any case, Subaru and the others followed the guide in a well-behaved manner, having been brought to a room where they would meet Yorna.
???: [Please wait here. ——Yorna-sama shall be here shortly.]
Subaru: [Yes, thank you… Oh?]
After thanking the girl for showing him around, Subaru was ushered into the hall, where he tilted his head.
The reason for this was the presence of previous guests in the hall. ——Within the atrium, there were figures other than the three of them who had been ushered in, all facing away as Subaru’s gang entered from the back of the room.
That neither of the figures was Yorna, the lord of the castle, was clear from the fact that the chair placed at the far end of the room was empty.
Subaru: [Those people over there are …]
???: [These are the people who, much like you, have requested a meeting with Yorna-sama. Yorna-sama is a capricious person, so she wishes to see everyone at once.]
Subaru groaned a little from the difficulty of nodding at the girl’s nonchalant words.
It was an idea that was not only unreasonable, but also illogical. In the first place, even if such a situation had been arranged, it would be an extremely awkward one for people who did not even know each other.
There were times a party would wish the contents of their words would go unheard by strangers.
Al: [And that’s exactly what we are, Natsumi-chan.]
Subaru: […If you call me that, then I’ll get goosebumps too.]
Having had his innermost thoughts peeked into and been called out, he replied to Al.
In fact, albeit the details of the letter he had brought along were unclear, it would undoubtedly describe the circumstances in which Abel had been forced to abdicate his throne, and request Yorna’s cooperation as a foothold to regain it.
Since they had no clue about Yorna’s personality, what her reaction to the letter was likewise unknown. At the very least, Abel had stated that she would not wrong them, were she able to read the missive.
Servant: [Please wait inside. Yorna-sama is here.]
Ignoring Subaru and Al, who were whispering to each other, the girl who was leading the way bowed and stepped back.
Of course, stopping her would not change the situation. If the one who had ordered her to do so was her master, Yorna, it would be pointless to blame her for this.
Medium: [So, what are we gonna do?]
Medium tilted her head as she shook her tied-up hair as she pleased, and touched the twin blades on the back of her waist.
She was quietly following Subaru and the others’ plans, which made her surprisingly reasonable. Medium, who gave the impression of being uninhibited and emotional, was, however, obedient to the directions she had been given.
Perhaps this was the result of the partition of roles between her and Flop in their journey as a duo.
Subaru rubbed his eyes in response to Medium’s straightforward and honest question, rocked his head, and with a “We can’t do anything about this”, he stepped into the room.
Subaru: [Just in case, let’s ask her to clear the room before handing her the letter. We may be refused, but things are what they are. There’s no harm in trying.]
Al: [If it were the Princess, there’s a chance she would have your head chopped off, saying it didn’t suit her fancy, y’know?]
Subaru: [Please don’t give me such an example…]
Having been presented with this most extreme of cases made him become more wary of Yorna, who may also be one such extreme being.
As Subaru hesitated a little to enter the hall, Al tapped him on the shoulder,
Al: [Don’t worry. I told you. I’ll lend you a hand. Today, I ain’t gonna let br… Natsumi-chan get into any trouble.]
Subaru: [Al… You’re the one who’s making me nervous.]
With those words, Subaru then glared at Al’s hand on his shoulder. Al hurriedly withdrew his hand, but for better or worse, his shoulders had relaxed.
Accepting Al’s sentiment with gratitude, the three of them also stepped into the hall.
The atmosphere of the large hall was, the absence of tatami mats excluded, akinto that of a tatami room in a historical drama, where the lord of the castle would hold council with his vassals.
Same went for the messengers in the seats below, waiting for the lord of the castle to make their appearance in the upper seat.
Subaru: [For the moment, let’s stay over here, shall we?]
Advancing through the hall, Subaru settled down in a position opposite to that of the previous guest.
It seemed strange to sit in front of or behind the guests, so he took a position on either side of the hall, keeping a slight distance from them. In historical dramas, there was a strange pattern in which the vassals would deploy to the left and right of the lord of the castle, leaving the front of the hall open. And they had ended up in a matching arrangement.
Pondering that this coincidence was strange, Subaru took a glance at the guests that were there before.
The other party amounted to four people, and like them, they had kept their weapons on their bodies. Among them was one devoid of weapons, sitting a tad ahead of the other three.
Perhaps that person was their representative, and the other three their guards.
Subaru: [They all seem more dependable than Al…]
So did Subaru speak, while looking sideways at the three guards and trampled all over Al’s earlier concern.
Moving on, he turned his attention to the front of the guards, to the person being protected by them, even though he thought it rude.
What kind of person had required to seek audience with Yorna, and for what purpose——,
At that very moment, Subaru’s throat tightened up due to shock, his cheeks and neck completely frozen stiff.
An inaudible voice leaked out, and as he turned his face down in a panicked reaction, the person in question heard the sound, then directed their gaze towards him.
However, having seen Subaru’s face directed downwards and in line with the elevated seat in front of them, his gaze fell away, as if he was not interested, and his attention was diverted.
Sensing this, Subaru took a gentle breath at the explosive beating of his heart.
Al and Medium behind him seemed to think it strange to see Subaru like this, but they soon would experience the same jolt that Subaru had.
Subaru: […You’ve got to be kidding me.]
That was Subaru’s bitter complaint, and, just five meters next to him, waiting for Yorna Mishigure to make their appearance——,
——Was a man donning the same visage as Abel, who was not supposed to be here.
 – 姉妹って書いて兄弟？The word 兄弟 (Kyoudai) refers to “Bro” but can also be used generically as siblings. And that reading for Kyoudai can apply to the female siblings version 姉妹 – which is the pun Al is making in Japanese, hence prompting Subaru’s response, since when spoken the word “Kyoudai” is used for both readings.