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Subaru: [The people of this city share the same power as Yorna…!?]
While running with effort along the alley, Subaru’s eyes widened at the words Abel spoke.
Subaru had no idea of the power of the foxwoman he had met atop the castle tower of the Crimson Lapis Castle, a woman who seemed to have an unfathomable presence―― an existence that could also be called the Empress that ruled over the Demon City.
However, since she had been chosen as one of the Nine Divine Generals, and had been allowed to remain alive, maintaining her life, despite rebelling against the Emperor many times, she was definitely very strong.
Yorna was very strong, and to think that the whole city shared the same amount of power as her.
Subaru: [Just imagining it is scary enough! Soul Marriage Technique, you’ve got to be…]
Abel: [You think I am merely lining up words without pondering them over? Then, how do you explain the events that caused your limbs to shrink? The Kingdom and the Empire are different in the foundation of their techniques and the studies they have cultivated. Of course, there are certain phenomena you cannot possibly imagine. There is no end to the number of techniques that have been lost.]
Subaru: [Even if you say that…]
After all those difficult words, Subaru bit the inside of his cheek in frustration and turned his head.
His feet almost got tangled, nearly causing him to fall, but he held it together so that he wouldn’t be left behind by his friends. Because of their shrunken bodies, none of them, Subaru, Al, or Medium, had shoes that fit their feet perfectly. So their feet were wrapped in cloth, like improvised tabi. 
Were it to come untied, making him fall, they would have to stop. That’d be no good.
Even if Subaru could not keep up with the conversation, at least his body should keep up.
Abel: [Albeit, while I was thinking of it as a possibility, I thought it was an unlikely one.]
Al: […So you’re saying that you didn’t know that that lady was a user of the Soul Marriage Technique as well?]
Abel: [Even now, I am doubting if that truly is the case. It is that mad of a deed.]
Abel replied, lightly breathing as he ran, his oni mask’s gaze directed to their front. Al growled at those words, and Medium’s face turned to Abel.
Even though she was smaller, Medium seemed to be the one with the most physical energy. Subaru was still doing fine, but he would probably run out of breath before too long. It was difficult for him to keep running.
Abel: [――Halt. It appears we have managed to shake off the ones around the inn for the moment.]
Abel suddenly brought everyone to a stop, though he probably didn’t do that, because he cared about their well-being.
With the exit of the alleyway in sight, the five of them ducked behind a collection of scrap wood and caught their breath while keeping a watchful eye on the street.
Medium: [I wonder if Taritta-chan’s okay. Although she’s a lot more mobile than I thought she’d be.]
Subaru: [Eh? Y-yeah she was like jumping and bouncing up and down and shooting her bow and arrows going like “pewpew”…]
Al: [Bro, are you doing that on purpose? Or…]
Subaru: [Doing what on purpose?]
He tilted his head and frowned at Al’s question.
Had he said something strange, he wondered. He was just praising Taritta’s efforts in his own way, to match Medium’s admiration.
In response, Al shook his head and replied with “Never mind” as if it were nothing, and then turned his head towards Abel. And then,
Al: [What did you mean earlier, by calling it “that mad of a deed”?]
Abel: [――. As I stated. The Soul Marriage Technique involves ceding a portion of one’s soul to another. By soul, that would be the very root of one’s self, the Od.]
Al: [Ceding… Od.]
Ruminating on the words, Al’s voice trembled at the realization.
Od was, as Abel had stated, the root of one’s being―― the center of not only the body, but also the more spiritual part of the being, the origin of one’s Mana.
In this world, it was often treated as it was the same as the soul. So, perhaps the Soul Marriage Technique could also be called the Od Marriage Technique. Although Subaru wasn’t too sure of this.
Subaru: [But why do souls become stronger when they’re joined together?]
Abel: [A similar example would be the relationship between a Spiritual Arts User and a Spirit. By entering into a contractual relationship, User and Spirit connect to each other’s essence. Thus, those connected can be said to draw power from one another. Physical separation has nothing to do with it. This ought to ring a bell.]
Subaru: [A connection in which they draw power from each other, yeah, I get it, but…]
As he heard Abel speaking of Spiritual Arts Users, Subaru’s chest tightened.
Subaru didn’t have power strong enough to take pride in, but he was still a Spiritual Arts User. He had contracted with a pretty girl in a cute dress―― Beatrice, and was able to do many things with her help. Though a bit limited.
And then, there was Emilia too, yes, she was a Spiritual Arts User as well. Although he hadn’t seen that little cat for a while.
Medium: [What’s the matter, Subaru-chin?]
Subaru: [Oh, uhh, it’s just… making promises with Spirits is an awful lot of work, and doing something like that, and with a lot of people! That’s a bit…]
Subaru: [I-I was just thinking of how difficult it must be.]
Subaru was able to honestly convey his thoughts to Medium, who, as a good listener, did not rush him, hearing what he said with care.
Respecting a Contract with a Spirit was very important, and it was difficult to do the same with many people. At least, Subaru could not do that with anyone but Beatrice.
It wasn’t only down to the fact Beatrice was a girl he held such a promise with from the get-go, but also, even if that was not the case, he wouldn’t have been able to do it.
Hearing Subaru’s doubts, Abel nodded, voicing a “That is correct”,
Abel: [Hence why I claimed it to be that mad of a deed.]
Subaru: [So, the Soul Marriage Technique is dangerous, that’s what you’re saying?]
Abel: [The Soul Marriage Technique itself can be thought as something much like the forging of a contractual relationship with a Spirit. However, it is difficult to believe that it can be performed on an unlimited number of people.]
Abel: [Albeit I stated it was a portion, it is nonetheless the ceding of the soul. It is nothing more than tearing apart the very foundation of one’s being, and handing it over in an indiscriminate manner. Keeping one’s ego intact is not something that can be done, usually. Or rather… No, talking about this will bring us nowhere.]
With a slow shake of his head, Abel spoke of the unusual nature of Yorna’s Soul Marriage Technique.
To be honest, Subaru didn’t understand the situation as clearly as Abel did, but he managed to understand that it was very scary.
For Subaru, it’d be like sharing his soul with a bunch of people other than Beatrice. Of course, there were people with whom Subaru felt he could give away part of his soul as they wouldn’t do any mischief.
He didn’t think that Medium or Al here would do anything wrong. But if someone asked him if he could give it to Abel, his reply would be no.
And aside from that――,
She plucked at the bottom of Subaru’s shirt, causing him to be distracted by the owner of that small, groaning voice.
Louis, with her long golden hair tucked behind her head, had been following Subaru and the others in their escape so far without a word. ――No, it was not just this far.
Louis was surprisingly good at listening and didn’t even raise her voice, which Subaru had been worried about. She did not attract the attention of the enemy, and did what needed to be done in a timely manner.
Even now, she pulled at Subaru’s hem, as if looking for a way to help him cope with his anxiety, not to make him deal with her own.
A horrible person. A scary person. An unforgivable person.
He had no doubts about it, having thought about that for a long time, more than enough time.
The reason why he couldn’t dump her on the spot after being sent to the Vollachian Empire with her was because that girl, Rem, was trying to take care of Louis.
Even now, Subaru didn’t want Rem to hate him, and that was the only reason why he stayed with Louis.
Al: [――But hey, doesn’t this clear things up?]
Al suddenly said this to a worried Subaru, who did not shake off Louis’s hand.
Al’s gaze turned to Abel, the two of them, masked and covered in cloth, adult and child, facing each other. As Abel looked down at him, Al pointed his thumb to his own chest,
Al: [The people who attacked us are under the influence of Yorna-neechan’s Soul Marriage Technique. Then it must’ve been Yorna-neechan who made them attack us, and that’s a QED.] 
Abel: [――. That surely is an answer accepting the things at face value.]
Al: [I don’t like the way you’re saying that. If these people are using Yorna-neechan’s power, there’s no other option.]
Subaru: [Yeah, that might not be quite right…]
Al reacted to Subaru’s gentle interruption with a harsh voice. Seeing Subaru’s shoulders tremble at the sound of his voice, Al touched the sheath of Blue Dragon Sword on his back and,
Al: [My bad. Didn’t mean to freak you out… Bro, you’re saying there’s another possibility?]
Subaru: […Beatrice and I have a Contract, but I’m not connected to her all the time. No, we’re connected, but I don’t know what she’s doing right now or anything, so.]
Al: [So you’re saying someone can just borrow her power and secretly go on a rampage?]
Although reluctantly, Subaru nodded to Al’s blunt statement.
Even though he wasn’t aware of the scope and conditions of the Soul Marriage Technique in full, it was possible that causing such mischief is possible. And if so, it was not possible to say with certainty that Yorna was a bad person, right now.
Abel: [Worst case, if the enemy turns out to be Yorna Mishigure, we shall have no other option but to flee the Demon City. Our competition with Olbart shall not be able to continue.]
Al: [We’re being targeted by the whole city, y’know. I agree with you, but…]
Abel: [――If we capture just one person it would change things.]
Abel muttered to himself as he touched his cheek over the oni mask.
Hearing this, Subaru opened his mouth with a “Oh”.
Subaru: [S-sure! If we can just get one of the people from the other side to talk to us, it’d be a lot clearer! Why didn’t I think of that!?]
Medium: [Oh, it’s true~! Abel-chin, you’re a genius! That’s it, that’s it!]
Subaru and Medium jumped for joy at the answer, which seemed to clear the cloudy sky. They clapped their raised hands together and looked back at Abel and the others with great joy.
However, their delight was interrupted by Abel and Al, whose true faces could not be seen.
Directing his gaze at the excited duo, Al slumped his shoulders,
Al: [Well, if we could do that, we wouldn’t have any trouble. But that’s what makes it so hard, y’know. After all, everyone on the other side’s receiving Yorna-neechan’s power.]
Subaru: [Ah, I see…]
Medium: [Um~, we could’ve done it if only Taritta-chan was here.]
Stomping her feet on the ground, Medium was feeling a great sense of regret about her lack of ability.
Subaru also felt frustration at her words. He lacked the information to take this one step further, and he had no means at hand to obtain it.
Subaru: [Something, anything at all…]
Putting a hand over his mouth, Subaru strived hard to remember what he had done so far.
Since arriving in Chaosflame, various events and troubles had occurred in this Demon City. The encounter they had with Yorna and the false Emperor at the Crimson Lapis Castle. Then the next morning, the sudden “infantilization”, the hide-and-seek game proposed by the Vicious Old Man, and the scary people waiting for them――.
They had to find a way out of this while Taritta was stalling for them.
If not, no matter how capable Taritta was, with that many people there, they would catch her and something terrible would happen――,
As he pondered over this and that, Subaru blinked his eyes as he felt something strange. Noticing this, Medium looked into his face.
But he didn’t have the time to answer her call. He had to find out just what he’d caught on just now, such was his impatience. He needed to get to the bottom of it.
What he was worried about was Taritta, doing her best. ――No, not Taritta herself, but the people who were facing Taritta, the scary hundred people who were after Subaru and the others.
He watched from a distance as the hundred of them fought Taritta. There was something strange about it. It was probably――,
Al: [Thing is! I don’t understand if it’s really the Soul Marriage Technique, or if the enemy’s Yorna-neechan or not, or if Old Man Olbart’s lying or not, I just don’t get anything anymore!]
Subaru was surprised to see Al barking at him, while violently scratching his own neck. However, Al did not seem to notice Subaru’s surprise and kicked the wall impatiently.
Al had been getting less and less composed at an alarming pace. His original posture of being like an aloof willow branch that could take anything in stride seemed to be an illusion.
And Al, in his frustration, continued to pester Abel,
Al: [What are you gonna do, Abel-chan? I can’t keep going along if it’s gonna continue like this, y’know. I’m telling you, I got bigger priorities than getting you back on your seat. So…]
Abel: [What you wish interests me not. But there is a method to be certain of it.]
Al: [Be certain of what?]
Abel: [Of whether their strength is due to the Soul Marriage Technique.]
Pointing towards the exit of the alleyway, Abel declared so to Al, who pressed him for an answer.
Outside in the darkness, the sounds of people passing by, footsteps, and talking could be heard from the street. However, it didn’t mean that any of those people had noticed and were looking in.
Just the hustle and bustle, that was all there was.
Subaru: [The street? What are we supposed…]
Abel: [Pick one passerby at random, and harm them. Then we can ascertain if Yorna Mishigure’s Soul Marriage Technique envelops everyone in the city or not.]
Abel: [If the wound heals, then they are under the influence of the Soul Marriage Technique. If they remain wounded or lose their life, they are outside the influence of the technique―― Meaning, the assumption they are a user of the Soul Marriage Technique can be dismissed as incorrect.]
Abel continued nonchalantly, pointing to the street.
The content of the speech was so disturbing and outlandish that Subaru could not say anything. His brain was numb, he had given up even thinking.
No one would take such a stupid theory seriously――,
Al: [I see… But there’s also the pattern of inhabitants not being eligible, just like us. What if we drew one of them?]
Abel: [You can tell the difference between a resident and an outsider by looking at their footwear. Of course, it is possible that only those surrounding the outside of the inn are under the influence of the Soul Marriage Technique. If such is the case, it shall be proof that Yorna Mishigure has consciously set her sights on us.]
Subaru got that Abel was nodding as if saying that either way they would gain information, as well as Al sinking into silence, as if to say there was still room for more consideration.
That discussion was difficult for Subaru to understand because it was based on complicated logic. However, even amidst the incomprehensible discussion, there were things that he understood.
That was, if things continued like that, someone was going to get hurt.
Subaru: [But that’s just――]
Abel: [――If you reject it, then what? Try presenting an alternative.]
Abel looked down on Subaru as he anticipated him trying to retort out of reflex.
After feeling that his thoughts were being read, and that he had been called foolish, Subaru’s face grew hot. But he couldn’t be silenced. He didn’t want to just shut up and back down.
Subaru: [Y-you don’t have to hurt anyone else, there are other ways…]
Abel: [If you have one, say it. If it is something that merits consideration, I shall listen. ――Although it would be unreasonable to expect that from you, presently.]
Subaru: [Well, that’s!]
Abel: [――You are particularly afraid of sacrifices.]
As if cutting through him, a ruthless voice pierced Subaru as he was getting worked up.
Feeling a pain like that of having been shot through, Subaru gritted his teeth and looked down.
Sacrifice, someone getting hurt or dying.
The less people died or were hurt, the better. This was a matter of course for allies, but he felt the same for enemies. The reason why Subaru thought so was because he was weak, naive and immature.
Subaru: [But why’s that a problem?]
Abel: [That is not a repudiation. It is merely a fact. If you are to obtain what you desire, you shall require either ingenuity or strength. If you lack those, you must compromise by cutting back on the desired results. Such is what occurred with the process and the results brought about by the bloodless siege you spoke of.]
Abel: [If you want neither deaths nor wounded, you must possess the ability to bring about that result. ――If you truly desire it, it would be a contradiction to refuse to pay the toll.]
Subaru’s cheeks stiffened, his eyes blinked.
Abel’s intentions were unclear. However, the black eyes looking through the oni mask were fixed on Subaru, attempting to find out the true intentions behind Subaru’s eyes, which had an incomparably weak light in them.
I don’t understand. I don’t understand. I don’t understand.
Really, I don’t understand. What was that supposed to mean, Subaru not willing to pay the toll. Subaru was trying his utmost to use his good-for-nothing brain to think, but nothing came out.
With his short limbs and small lungs, he could not jump or leap as well as Taritta. The whip he had brought with him was too thick and heavy for him to handle.
Still, if he didn’t want anyone to get hurt, he should――,
Subaru: [――If that’s how it is, it’d be better if only I get hurt!]
His head a mess, Subaru shouted at Abel.
He knew very well he wasn’t strong enough and that he didn’t think things through. But that was a problem that had always existed, even before Subaru had become small.
Something hot came up from behind his closed eyes.
Before that could clearly turn into tears, Subaru turned his back and started running away.
Al and Medium let out a scream at the sudden movement.
However, not stopping at the calls of those two, Subaru threw himself out of the alleyway and into the street.
He didn’t want anyone to get hurt. He didn’t want them to die.
Subaru lacked both the ability and the smarts necessary for that. If something was to be traded to make up for what was missing, it was Subaru himself.
He would find it out. He would bring back information that could change the situation with him at the moment he got himself back.
For that reason――,
Subaru: [Come on! I’m here!]
Subaru ran out into the street, arms raised, shouting at the top of his lungs.
A high-pitched child’s voice drowned out the noise of the street, drawing the attention of those surprised. Being noticed by a number of wide-open eyes, Subaru felt a pain that made his heart shrink.
Only after having done so, would someone regret doing something prematurely.
The eyes of the people around him, looking at a child doing something stupid, made him feel a sudden sense of shame and fear. With that, Subaru held his breath and thought about going back to the alley.
Someone grabbed Subaru’s arm as the latter stepped on the ground in a hurry.
His shoulders hitching, Subaru turned around; a short figure was grabbing his arm. It was a short boy with short, curly hair dressed in simple light clothing―― no, his hair was not kept short, it only looked short because of the tight curls at its end.
Subaru’s eyes widened at the appearance of the boy, who looked about the same age as Subaru currently was. He then tried to open his mouth to ask why he had stopped him,
――The next moment, Subaru was flung away by the boy with a burning right eye.
Overwhelmed by his spinning vision, Subaru had no idea what had happened.
The boy had suddenly thrown Subaru away. With a single upward movement of his arm, he had very easily thrown him into the air.
He had run out into the street with enthusiasm so that no one aside from him would get hurt.
Why, how, those questions bounced around in his head, and he felt as if his insides were being wrung.
The ones who had been fighting Taritta had the same burning eyes as the boy. If that was the effect of Soul Marriage Abel had told him about, then Yorna had given him a portion of her power. To confirm this, he had jumped out, saying he would sacrifice himself.
All this was incomprehensible to Subaru, who was spinning and falling into the blue sky.
It was an apparent miracle that his body spinning with unusual force had not hit any of the surrounding buildings or decorations. Subaru didn’t even know if the boy hadn’t aimed him at anything.
However, Subaru was afraid of the obstacles that were passing by the edge of his vision at an incredible speed, so he fell into the blue sky, praying desperately that he wouldn’t hit anything―― and then he suddenly stopped.
Slowly, Subaru’s thrown body reached maximum height, and was now falling headfirst towards the ground.
The voice of the one who had left the ground now echoed, as it approached the ground again.
He didn’t know how high he’d reached, but he had to brace himself. But he couldn’t remember how to. In the first place, would he be able to manage to brace himself when falling from such a high place? Would he fall to the ground, and die with his whole body broken into pieces, his head crushed, his neck broken――.
――”Death” seemed to be close at hand again.
Shortly after, mixed in with Subaru’s own screams, he heard familiar strained voices.
And just like that, the sound of something stretched being slashed and the sound of several long, thin objects falling down came together, and without knowing what they were, Subaru’s body hit the ground―― Before that, he was caught.
Subaru: [Wah, wahhh, wahhhhh… Wagh!]
A soft sensation caught him, but his momentum couldn’t be stopped, and Subaru’s body fell on the softness with quite a bit of force. Once he reached the edge of that soft sensation, his thrown body rolled on the hard ground, causing a moan and the taste of sand to spread in his mouth.
His body ached everywhere. But――,
Subaru: [I’m, alive?]
At the fact that he had not died, Subaru let out a dumbfounded voice.
Once he managed to pull himself up, he finally realized what had happened. ――Al and Medium had saved Subaru with their quick thinking.
In order to catch Subaru as he was falling from the sky, they had jumped on a tent of a food stall on the street, detached its anchor and stretched it to make an improvised cushion.
Thanks to that, Subaru had not slammed into the ground, and his life had been saved.
Medium: [Ah, ouchhhhh…]
The two people who had worked so hard to catch Subaru were not safe.
Subaru: [Ah, Al! Medium-san!]
As Subaru pulled himself up, within his field of vision were two figures lying in the street.
Of course, Al and Medium, influenced by the “infantilization”, could not perform like they usually would. They had set up a tent to catch the falling Subaru, and had been blown away by the crash.
And the bad news continued on――,
Boy: [I was hoping that that would have been the end of it…]
The boy who had thrown Subaru away contorted his face in pain, as he said that.
Surveying Subaru, and then Al and Medium, also collapsed, he covered his face with his palms in anguish. ――Unable to completely cover them, the flame was still present in his right eye.
Subaru: [Y, ou…]
Boy: [It’s necessary. Because this city… Because we cannot lose her.]
Managing to pull himself up, he drew the boy’s attention to himself.
Though determined not to let him lay his hands on Al or Medium―― The boy’s answer was outside of Subaru’s imagination and far from his understanding.
It was just that the boy was desperate. And there was something else that made Subaru’s heart sway.
Subaru: [You too…]
It was the same thing that had stuck with him when he had been struggling to think in the alley.
While Taritta was fighting to help Subaru and the others escape, the faces of those facing her, with one eye burning――,
――They all seemed to have the same pained look on their faces as the boy did.
Boy: [I’m sorry. I’m not going to ask you to forgive me.]
Shaking his head, the boy slowly stepped in front of Subaru, erasing any trace of hesitation in his eyes and his expression.
Even if he tried to crawl back in an attempt to escape, he could not. His legs wouldn’t move.
So he at least stared at the boy’s face, trying not to look away, and noticed something.
There was something nicely peeking out of the side of the boy’s head, from his curly hair―― a small horn.
Seeing his white curly hair and horns, he thought he looked out of place, looked like a sheep.
After that, the boy with the burning eyes gave a large swing of his hand――,
Frowning and keeping his eyes open, Subaru watched, trying not to miss the boy’s actions.
A blonde girl cut in front of Subaru, and, with a dull sound and the scattering of red blood, she was sent flying, whirling around much like a leaf.
 Tabi are traditional split-toed Japanese socks meant to be worn with footwear like zori.
 An initialism of the Latin phrase “quot erat demonstradum”. Usually, the abbreviation is placed at the end of mathematical proofs and philosophical arguments, to indicate that the proof or argument is complete.