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——Towering at the heart of the Demon City of Chaosflame, the Crimson Lapis Castle.
The city looked like a wedding cake with no sense of unity, created by painting chaos on top of disorder—— beams and scaffolding of different materials and styles had been strung together, and the castle, with its alternating shimmering red and blue hues, was one-of-a-kind, amidst the Demon City. A city that could not be understood without a certain artistic vein.
To begin with, the word “lapis lazuli” essentially referred to the color blue, so utilizing the word “crimson” in conjunction would be contradictory. However, a glance at the exterior of the Crimson Lapis Castle would convince anyone that such usage was accurate.
The stone used abundantly in the foundation and framework of the castle was, as its name implied, quite literally lapis lazuli.
The jewel emitted a deep-blue luster, and within said gem, crimson was swirling, like a drop of blood slowly dropped into water. So occasionally this supposedly-blue lapis lazuli would be clad in a red glow like that of ichor.
A castle of chaos, clad in ever-changing colors, refusing to stay as one single shade.
That was the Crimson Lapis Castle of the Demon City, the residence of its Lord, Yorna Mishigure.
Having been summoned to the top-most floor, where he would soon meet Yorna, Subaru’s back was drenched in cold sweat.
The reason behind this was because he laid eyes upon a group of people waiting for Yorna in the same keep—— and in that group, a face that should not be there was present.
Accompanied by three men who appeared to be his escorts, there sitting with all the composure in the world was a familiar black-haired fiendish figure—— That was to say, it was none other than the countenance of that who was supposed to be waiting for him at the inn, Abel.
But there was no way that they could have possibly come across him here. It was for this reason that Subaru and the others had gone to the Crimson Lapis Castle as messengers without him.
In other words, the reason he was here, even though it was impossible was——,
Subaru: [——He’s a fake, disguised as the Emperor.]
Muttering this to himself, Subaru’s face turned stark white.
They had been told beforehand that there was someone who looked like Abel and behaved like him. The accuracy and suddenness of the encounter had floored him, but that was why he held no doubt about it.
He was one of the Nine Divine Generals, the body double of Emperor Vincent Vollachia——,
Medium: [Eh, Abel-chin? Why are you here… Mguh.]
Al: [Whoa, everything’s aight, Medium-chan. Al-chin’s here.]
Behind a Subaru frozen in shock, a dangerous scene occurred.
Having found a familiar face in the crowd, Medium then approached in a friendly manner. Al rapidly covered her mouth and pulled her backwards. Although Medium was taller than him, she obeyed quietly, even though she was surprised at the outburst of the one-armed man.
A close call, but Medium’s action had been negated.
But the exchange seemed to have attracted some suspicion from the other party. Aside from the man with the same face as Abel, a man with yellow-green hair, someone who was probably his bodyguard, glared towards them as well.
Subaru: [That was a nice follow, Al.]
Al: [Yeah, I’d like to pat myself on the back for my godly reaction, too… But that guy’s a lil’ bit too much of a surprise, ain’t he?]
Subaru: […Yes. I agree.]
As Al retracted Medium, Subaru nodded with a serious face next to him.
Battling with an unforeseen opponent—— and the worst collision imaginable. With this turn of events, it was fortunate that Abel was not with them at this moment.
Had he been present, it would have sparked the start of the battle to determine the true Emperor of Vollachia.
Subaru: [Perhaps that’s an option as well…]
Glancing over at the three guards accompanying the man donning Abel’s face, Subaru was being cajoled by temptation.
The vastness of the troops hiding inside and outside the city was unclear, but at least there were only three of them belonging to him here—— He was a false Emperor protected by tens of thousands of Imperial Soldiers within the Imperial Capital, but here and now would be a great opportunity to unmask him.
Subaru: [——No, it’s too soon to tell.]
If they were to believe Abel’s words, the position of the Emperor was no cradle of peace.
Abel never even shut both of his eyes simultaneously in public, constantly on alert for people attempting to slay him in his sleep. Considering the position of Emperor was one in which this was a normal behavior, even if this Emperor was an imitation, it was unthinkable that he would make a public appearance devoid of any protection.
In other words, either the three people he brought with him as guards were quite powerful, or he had other measures in place.
Al: [You wanna take a shot and see if it works?]
Subaru: [If it were easy to continue, that could be an option. However, what I’m more afraid of’s a development we can’t recover from. So, please, don’t do anything rash.] 
Al: [Yeah, yeah.]
Subaru did not know how serious he was, but Al appeared to not mind the rejection of his proposal.
Al’s opinions tended to be rejected relatively often, but that was only because he tended to come up with them faster than Subaru could, giving them time to calmly assess it.
This reduced the number of detours in his train of thought, and allowed him to spend more time examining proper options.
At the very least, they should find a way to get through this without upsetting the false Emperor and his group. He also wished to determine the purpose of the other party’s visit.
Why had he made his appearance in Chaosflame with this timing?
Plus, even though things were in reality different, it appeared like the Emperor himself had shown up.
Medium: [Mm~! Mmphn~!]
In the midst of his thoughts, Medium, who had her mouth covered, groaned something.
She had been forced to step back without explanation, and her mouth was being kept shut, so her indignation was understandable. Al released her with a “Sorry, sorry”,
Medium: [Pffhaaa, that was tough!]
Al: [Sorry, I didn’t notice. It’s not like I did it on purpose just because of how soft Medium-chan’s cheeks are.]
Subaru: [The more you say, the more the sexual harassment allegations increase.]
Medium: [I don’t really get it, but more importantly!]
Al’s excuse was met with a blank stare from Subaru, and Medium, who took a breath with all her might, thrust a finger at them with both hands.
Subaru and Al both recoiled from her forcefulness, and then,
Medium: [You know, I still don’t really get it but… is that Abel-chin a different person from the Abel-chin we know?]
Al: [Oh yeah, you ain’t wrong. After all, the real one’s supposed to be sitting in an inn downtown, waiting for us to come back, right? That’s why we’re in a pickle…]
Medium: [Wouldn’t that be bad? Because of Natsumi’s plan?]
Subaru: [Me? What have I done… Ah.]
Medium pointed out that although she did not grasp the details, she comprehended the essence of the problem. Subaru, frowning at being the subject of her point, immediately understood her concern.
Medium’s point, and what she intended to do, was obvious.
And it was something that Subaru and Al should have realized before she had spoken.
Of course, there would be no time to take action once the realization dawned on them. Even so, they should have been prepared enough to discuss how to proceed——,
Deergirl: [——Yorna Mishigure-sama has arrived.]
Without giving them a chance, it was the deergirl acting as a guide to announce that their time had run out.
Upon her reappearance, the girl lowered her large horned head and bowed to Subaru, the false Emperor, and their groups. Then opening the door at the front of the hall, she voiced, “Come in”.
At that moment a figure slowly stepped into the room, and upon seeing their figure with his own eyes, Subaru succeeded in putting the impression he had of the deergirl into words.
Subaru’s conception of the deergirl, was that she resembled a kamuro.
Kamuros were apprentice prostitutes who worked in Japanese red light districts in the olden days, learning etiquette and the arts while taking care of the other prostitutes in these glamorous pleasure districts.
The unexpectedly stylish kimono and hair ornaments were likely what had brought such a notion to Subaru.
More than anything else though, was the person who brought the girl in question with her——,
The reason why Subaru had succeeded in using “kamuro” for the girl, was precisely because of the person who had made its entrance.
Forgetting to breathe and regarding that other person with eyes wide open was a reaction arisen from instinct. Because his mind had been corrupted, his consciousness was dominated by a human being so beautiful and overwhelming.
Yorna: [——There are a lot of guests today, aren’t there?]
The one to speak those words, was a tall woman, as she narrowed her almond-shaped blue eyes.
Her tall, slender body was wrapped in a bright kimono with a floral pattern, and her hair, which faded from white to orange progressively as it reached the tips, was tied with care and allure.
Her hair was adorned with kanzashi fashioned from animal bones and horns, and many other hair ornaments made of fangs and scales played a role in pleasing the eyes of those laying their eyes upon it. 
However, they were merely ornaments, forms of beauty crafted by human hands.
In order to truly exhibit their charm, the person being put on display, and the quality of their inner nature was important.
And in this regard, the quality of the person wearing the kimono was something that need not be questioned.
Her beauty was stunning as she moved her svelte body in a supple and relaxed manner.
Those sophisticated gestures and actions that seemed to have taken the eyes of the beholder into consideration, despite the somewhat languid atmosphere, were glimpses of the optimal solution to the act of attracting focus.
What made the impression of the shuffling gait even more striking were the fox tails that looked too large for her slender body—— nine of them, with rich fur.
Given the fact that her hair was tied up in a bun, the kanzashi, and between all her hair ornaments, were perked-up animal ears, the information that she was a beautiful foxwoman, clad in a kimono, seeped into his brain like the smell of liquor.
Yorna: [Welcome to my castle, you’ve come a long way.]
With that, she sat on the chair in the upper part of the hall and threw out her long, supple legs, resting her weight on the armrest. She reached out her hand, and the kamuro girl who followed her held a fine, gold-painted kiseru in her pale fingers. 
The beautiful woman lit the end of the kiseru in her hand and smiled bewitchingly, as she let the rising purple smoke fill her lungs.
She was sitting in the seat of honor, looking down at her guest—— the Emperor of Vollachia seated below.
Her majestic and gorgeous appearance, her way of speech, and her manner of wearing the kimono, exposing her thin shoulders, allied with the presence of the kamuro accompanying her, reminded Subaru of the words “prostitute” and “courtesan”.
Of course, Subaru had never seen a brothel or a prostitute in person. It was just knowledge he had acquired from period dramas and other works that dealt with past epochs, but there was nothing else that came to mind.
——No, to say that there was a lack of further words to describe her would be an overstatement.
At this juncture, there was undoubtedly another word to describe her. It was true that she was both beautiful, and it was true she behaved like a prostitute; however, taking precedence over that, she held the position of Seventh among the Nine Divine Generals——,
???: [——Yorna Mishigure.]
The beautiful woman who appeared—— Yorna Mishigure, was called by name, then directed her gaze at the man who had named her.
On the wooden floor, their eyes focused on Yorna’s own blue ones, was the fake Emperor—— for the purpose of differentiating him from Abel he would be called Vincent, but it was him.
Subaru: [Naturally, the same voice…]
Only a scant quantity of words had been issued, but the voice was very much that of Abel’s.
Apparently, the resemblance was not only in appearance, but also voice. However, provided his appearance was being copied, that the voice would be likewise similar was natural. Henceforth, there had been no shock.
Rather, Subaru gasped at the sight of Vincent and Yorna facing each other.
They quietly looked at each other and exchanged glances; their appearance was as magnificent as a painting.
A beautiful and lustrous beauty, and an Emperor with a magical appearance that miraculously combined dignity and majesty. What kind of event would the meeting between the two on this day leave in the history of the Empire?
Whether this affair would lead to love or bloodshed would depend on what was to come.
Subaru: […What on earth’s the purpose of their visit?]
Why Vincent’s party had come to the Demon City was currently something that was currently unreadable.
The reaction to their encounter with them and Yorna’s entrance was what took priority, but regarding the aim of Vincent’s visit—— What was the purpose in him having come to one of the Nine Divine Generals who kept rebelling?
Provided he was playing the role of the true Emperor, he must hold some legitimacy. However, why would Yorna welcome the Emperor, given that there was bad blood between them, into the castle?
If he were to end up saying that, due to Yorna’s position, she could not refuse it, then that would be all she wrote.
Yorna: [My oh my, Your Excellency, it’s been a long time.]
As Subaru had a rough time with those thoughts, to his front, Yorna smiled with the corners of her eyes lowered, inserting the kiseru in her mouth. Then exhaling a puff of purple smoke, she closed one eye rudely, and said,
Yorna: [I’m honored to have the privilege of seeing your countenance. No matter how many times I’ve invited you to the Demon City, you’ve never come.]
Vincent: [An invitation, is it?]
Without touching on the two instances of disrespect, her posture and the smoke, Vincent frowned in displeasure.
Then, crossing his slim arms and tapping his elbows with his fingers while in thought,
Vincent: [Raising an army against me every so often was your invitation? If so, my response would have been evident.]
Yorna: [Yes, indeed. That’s correct, but my neck’s still connected to my chest. In addition, it seems that you don’t have that troublesome little boy with you today.]
Yorna: [Yes, my chest’s throbbing with excitement to think that my feelings may have reached you. Please forgive me.]
Yorna cleared her throat and let out a chuckle. Her seductive tone of voice and smile, however, did not cause Vincent to waver in his expression.
Vincent’s perfection as a false Emperor was remarkable, but at the same time, Subaru was concerned about Yorna’s attitude—— about the passion in her eyes and words toward Vincent.
It had only been a brief exchange, but in Subaru’s eyes, the two of them——,
Al: [No way, did that girl plot rebellion just to get Abel-chan’s attention?]
Subaru: […I really hope you’re wrong.]
Al seemed to have arrived at the same conclusion as Subaru, those words causing Subaru to clack his molars.
He preferred that one of the Empire’s greatest warriors would not be someone to deploy their army out of a personal grudge, and it was hard to imagine that there would be anyone around with feelings of goodwill towards Abel, while the latter did not consider them a person.
That was the main reason for the tense state of Subaru’s cheeks, but something more important existed.
That being the pretext for Subaru and the others to request an audience with Yorna in the first place.
It was an attempt to capture her attention with the slogan “Abel pisses me off”, with the presumption that it would not get through to anyone who was favorable to Abel.
Were the unpleasant imaginations of Subaru and the others true, it would be a not-so-entertaining matter for Yorna. Yet, in spite of this, she’d shown Subaru’s group up into the castle.
In fact, that would be why she’d had them being sat alongside none other than Vincent’s party.
???: [General First-Class Yorna, is that behavior not a disrespectful one to take? What are you thinking?]
While Subaru and the others were worried about the unclear situation, the Emperor’s group continued their conversation.
In Vincent’s stead, who had fallen silent, the figure with yellow-green hair that appeared to be Vincent’s bodyguard was the one to cause Yorna to raise her eyebrows.
A man with short, upswept hair, with a portion hanging down as long braids; he seemed to be about the same age as Vincent, perhaps a little older.
Clothed with a sand-colored cloak over light armor of black color, his face and physique gave the impression of being as sharp as a wire. His piercing eyes glared at Yorna as if to denounce her.
Yorna: [So you there with His Excellency, you’re…]
Kafma: [I am Kafma Irulux. I have been ordered to accompany His Excellency. I was planning on only being a bodyguard, but… your demeanor is disgusting.]
Yorna: [My attitude, is it? What do you mean by that?]
Yorna’s words sounded leisurely, to which the man who called himself Kafma became enraged.
He glared at Yorna and pointed his hand at Subaru and the others witnessing the scene in silence,
Kafma: [In the first place, why do you want others to be present here! This is your castle, but at the same time, a territory of the Empire… Did you forget that fact!?]
Yorna: [Of course I did not forget. I belong to His Excellency.]
Kafma: [I am not talking about that! You guys there, you guys!]
Subaru: [Wha!? Us!?]
With Kafma’s anger being directed at them, Subaru’s shoulders trembled, startled. He would have preferred to be left alone, outside of their attention, if possible, but that was quite hopeful.
However, when someone asked you something, there was a way to take advantage.
Subaru: [Um, are we interrupting something? If so, we’ll come back another day…]
Yorna: [That’d be a problem. I have a limited number of hours in a day, and if you miss today, I don’t know when the next time will be.]
Kafma: [Do not keep them here! Those girls are probably feeling awkward too!]
Subaru: [Yes, yes, that’s right.]
For some reason, Yorna was trying to keep Subaru’s group present, but Kafma somehow agreed with Subaru. As long as he was by the false Emperor’s side, he and Kafma were enemies, but the latter’s words and actions were so upright that he seemed to be the sole ally in this situation.
Vincent: [Yorna Mishigure, what are you thinking?]
Suddenly, the one to break the tension was Vincent Vollachia—— the false emperor himself.
After he spoke, Kafma, who had been worked up, immediately backed down. Even though the voice and the face were familiar, Subaru also felt his guts shrink.
Even though he was cognizant that he was a fake, the feeling of intimidation was genuine.
Vincent: [Answer. What are you thinking?]
Having silenced both his servant and the uninvited attendee, Vincent inquired Yorna yet again.
In response to that question and the high spirits, Yorna narrowed her eyes slightly. Gently bringing the kiseru to her mouth, allowing the fluttering purple smoke into her lungs, she exhaled sweetly, giving exaggerated emphasis to her answer.
Kafma’s cheeks tugged slightly at the disrespect of keeping the Emperor waiting yet again,
Yorna: [Of course, I always think about His Excellency… About the Emperor of Vollachia.]
Yorna: [Hehe. Don’t give me those cold eyes. But I’m sure His Excellency will be more pleased if you knock the guests over there down a few pegs, right?]
With a small laugh and a confident attitude, Yorna pointed at Subaru and the others with her chin.
Then, for the first time, Vincent’s consciousness turned his attention to Subaru’s group. He must have judged that there was a reason for the previous exchange, aside from Yorna’s whims.
In order to stop this bad turn of events, Subaru cleared his throat with a “Ahem”, in preparation for a reprimand,
Subaru: [I’m sorry, but I have a new suggestion. We seem to be in the wrong place and there are some things we should most likely not hear. We’d like to step back and go to…]
Yorna: [My oh my, that’s a very timid thing to say.]
Subaru’s words were interrupted as he bent at the waist and attempted to leave the scene politely.
Noticing Yorna’s eyes hidden by the purple smoke for only a moment, and the glint of childishness therein contained, with an “Oh” Subaru realized that he had committed a misstep.
If he was going to go back, he should have made the decision upon seeing the faces of the people ahead of him.
He had misjudged it, and now ended up regretting it.
Yorna: [I heard it from Tanza…You came here to tempt me into becoming the enemy of His Most Gracious Excellency, the Emperor, didn’t you?]
And, such was the manner in which she disclosed the entirety of their intentions.
 The expression used by Subaru here is commonly used in the connotation of “restarting a video game from a savepoint”. With that, the meaning of the sentence is more like “If we could just rewind/restart, that would be an option”.
 Kanzashi (簪) are hair ornaments used in some traditional Japanese hairstyles, referring to a wide variety of accessories such as rigid hairpins.
 A kiseru (煙管) is a Japanese smoking pipe traditionally used for smoking a small serving of kizami (刻みタバコ or 刻み for short), a finely-shredded tobacco product resembling hair. The sturdier and longer ones sometimes would double as weapons for self defense.