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――Taritta first began being tormented by nightmares related to a “commandment” three years prior.
Up until then, Taritta had lived a life wholly detached from a “commandment”.
Of course, she had also been completely ignorant of the existence of Stargazers.
――Once people heard the word “commandment”, what would come to mind?
Fate and destiny, the inevitable trials and obstacles in the walk of one’s life.
When it comes to thinking of such, there was a clear difference between those and a commandment. Things that were unavoidable, very much like the falling rain when walking on unsheltered roads.
The People of Shudraq, too, had an understanding of something such as inevitable events.
Putting it in honest words, it could be said that death was the most inescapable fate among all.
Old age and illness, hunger and injuries as well, things associated with death were the curtain of destiny that would arrive without exception, something difficult to avoid.
No matter the person, one could not go against their destiny. Nor should they consider that they should defy it.
When a compatriot of theirs died, they prayed and sung, so that their soul would be welcomed into peace.
Singing, feasting, and seeing them off was the Way of Shudraq, a value Taritta believed in.
Her older sister, Mizelda, was an outstanding Shudraqian. Although she was not as prominent as her sister, Taritta had also inherited the blood of a lineage that continued to carry the role of Shudraq Chieftain for generations.
Being a Shudraqian was an unquestionable truth for Taritta.
Following the teachings of Shudraq was only natural, something not to be questioned.
Taritta had never been good at mulling over stuff. She was not one to be bothered with things, nor did she wish to add to her own worries.
She had believed that her life would be one of following her older sister’s footsteps alongside the People of Shudraq, her own people, who shared her blood and her own path, from beginning to end.
That was to be her fate, her destiny――
???: [Hey, Taritta. I was chosen to be a Stargazer, and I have a commandment to fulfill.]
――That was, until the one closest to her, her “soul sister”, confided in her.
Abel: [――The Empire’s ruin, is it not that Great Disaster?]
The man in the oni mask stared straight ahead at Taritta, her resolve shaken, wobbly on her feet.
The writhing, jet-black thing visible from a distance was instinctively recognizable at a glance as a “Great Disaster”; however, the man―― Abel, ridiculed the notion of being afraid of it.
Abel: [If so, there is no reason for you to stumble along the way. ――I shall have you disappear from the board, you interloper.]
Abel stepped forward, stating clearly, and with much grit, that it was something undesired.
At that very moment, the small Medium shouted “Wait, wait!” from beside him. Grabbing the hem of Abel’s clothing, she halted his movements with all her might,
Medium: [You’re suddenly really determined, aren’t you!? But, it’s too dangerous for you Abel-chin!]
Abel: [Fool. It is clear what needs to be done. If that were likely to be the Great Disaster, I would lament that the preparations were beyond insufficient. If that is not the case, however…]
Medium: [Then what?]
Abel: [Then it is merely a sideshow before the real deal. There is no time for such entertainment. As far as that is concerned, we shall promptly put an end to it. ――You too, shall become aware of that if you observe it from a distance.]
Jerking his chin, Abel indicated the Great Disaster to Medium, after her question. But, much like she was unsure of his intent, Medium frowned.
Back and forth, she took glances at Abel and the Great Disaster, sizing them up,
Medium: [I don’t understand a single thing you said! You’ve got a bad habit of putting on airs, Abel-chin!]
Abel: [Are you holding me responsible for your lack of intellect?]
Medium: [Like. I. Said! If I can’t grasp the point of this, then I’m going to get in your way! Abel-chin, you’re just getting in your own way! If you were smart, you’d realize that!]
Stomping on the ground and puffing out her cheeks, Medium would not let go of the hem of Abel’s clothing.
Perhaps thinking that he didn’t have time to ponder over Medium’s defiance, it being one of her strengths, Abel let out a small sigh, and then,
Abel: [If you have not noticed, that girl, Yorna Mishigure, Kafma Irulux, and the people of the Demon City, are struggling desperately to stop that Great Disaster.]
Medium: [Mmm~, that bad habit of yours again?]
Abel: [――. That thing has a will. It has a clear, obvious, human will.]
Abel spoke, and Medium tilted her head, “Will?”.
Taritta, standing behind Medium, also raised an eyebrow at the latter’s question. That Great Disaster, the embodiment of the end of the world, possesses a will?
Furthermore, Abel labeled it the will of a “person”. Where could such a thing exist there?
In the first place, the idea of considering that thing as a living entity was one she could not even conceive.
The figure, which was whittling away at the world with all of its entirety, bubbling away, writhing, spelled the end of the world itself.
What in the world could Abel have seen that had made him conclude that it possessed a will?
Just when Taritta and Medium arrived at that very same question――,
Abel: [Earlier, that thing reached out to you people.]
Abel’s seemingly unexpected words made both of them let out dumb noises.
Medium happened to have no idea of that, but Taritta felt a faint discomfort. ――When she’d snatched the two of them away from the shadows, that had come swooping down, Taritta had sensed it as well.
That, from that abhorrent jet-black thing, there was something akin to a slight attachment.
Abel: [Most likely, it reflects the will of the one struggling deep inside it. Seeking salvation, it keeps reaching out its hands. Behold.]
Before Taritta’s astonished gasp, Abel now extended his hand as to indicate the Great Disaster.
Taritta and the others, drawn by the gesture, looked at it, and now understood Abel’s point.
Sitting at the center of the Demon City in place of the collapsed Crimson Lapis Castle, the Great Disaster spread unrelenting destruction and demise to the surrounding area, expanding―― but that which the darkest of shadows extended to as to reap it, bringing its demise by taking it unto itself, were not buildings nor the very earth, but human beings.
And that, too――,
Medium: [――Louis-chan and Yorna-chan are the only ones being attacked?]
Taritta had the same impression as what was contained in Medium’s faint mutter.
As they watched the fierce battle against the Great Disaster from a distance, they could easily see the bias in the shadow’s aim.
The two main targets were Yorna, who was unfolding a fight across several fronts, and Louis, who was evading the shadows she had attracted with instantaneous movement.
Even Taritta was impressed, her eyes opened wide, by Louis’s incredible movements, but, wielding destructive power, Yorna’s offensive and defensive abilities were a testament to her transcendent strength as one of the Nine Divine Generals.
But the man from the Insect Cage Clan was no less capable, demonstrating suppressive abilities comparable to those of Yorna, keeping the damage caused by the Great Disaster at a minimum again and again by use of his vines of thorns. And yet, the only attacks that flew in his direction, and in the direction of the building-throwing residents of the Demon City, were basically akin to stray arrows.
Medium: [If it’s targeting Louis-chan as well, it means it’s not going in order of who’s stronger.]
Abel: [Taking into account strength, and strength only, she is not too far behind Kafma Irulux. But, assessing it from a bird’s-eye view, it is self-evident. It possesses a will. Meaning it only makes sense for me to move.]
Taritta: [W-what makes you, so sure about that…?]
Abel: [It is a given. There is no way that thing is fond of me. Let us say that it is reaching out hands as if to cling onto someone, then the likes of me are not fit candidates for such a thing.]
Taritta found Abel’s disinterested manner of speaking a baffling, puzzling thing.
She understood Abel’s thought, defining the existence of the Great Disaster of being something with a will. However, it was peculiar that, using that as a basis, the Great Disaster’s selection criteria would be clear.
It was as if Abel knew to whom the will of the Great Disaster belonged.
Abel: [――It is Natsuki Subaru.]
As if to push Taritta’s doubts and Medium’s lack of understanding out of the way, Abel trained his line of sight at the Great Disaster as he asserted that.
Viewing the two staring motionless and in shock, Abel gave a deep nod, and continued,
Abel: [It was something that overflowed from within Natsuki Subaru. Then, it is no wonder that his will intervened. All along, I had regarded him as a man of numerous secrets, but this is beyond my expectations.]
Medium: [W-wait a minute, Abel-chin… You’re saying, that’s Subaru-chin…!?]
Abel: [Strictly speaking, it is something that permits Natsuki Subaru’s will to be reflected. I’m not saying that it’s him, or something serving him. ――Either way, the result is the same.]
Medium: [Abel-chin, why do you seem to be so calm about it!?]
Medium, her round eyes wide in surprise, complained in a voice that made it seem like she was about to cry.
Looking down at her small figure, Abel’s black eyes, on the other side of the oni mask, narrowed. Just like an adult troubled by the tantrum of a child.
Abel: [Do I look calm to you? He let that thing overflow from inside him, and my whole plan fell apart. Reconsideration is required for this, and yet I do not possess the time for that now. And yet you say I look calm to you?]
Medium: [No! No, that’s not what I’m talking about! It’s not that, it’s… Subaru-chin’s calling out for help, right? But even so, you’re so calm about that, why!?]
Abel: [――Would cuddling up with that thing in its suffering bring the situation at hand under control? Unfortunately, reality is not so accommodating nor benevolent.]
Medium’s fervent words, however, failed to sway Abel’s heart of iron.
That was because he was a cold man, incapable of understanding people’s hearts―― no, he was a man that regarded the human heart as unimportant, but who at the same time he was a man who could separate his priorities.
For those who stood at the top, like politicians and leaders, it was a quality that must be possessed.
The same would be required of Taritta, who had to assume the position of Chieftain.
Taritta: [For me, I…]
She was unable to think in the same way as Abel did, nor could she have his decisiveness.
Much less, she was also unable to head-on say that she hated something if that was the case, just like Medium.
Abel: [I have no time to argue with you here. I shall take my leave. I must converse with Yorna Mishigure.]
Medium: […With Yorna-chan? But how?]
Stating that he could not spend any more time answering her questions, Abel attempted to step forward. But Medium interrupted him, her gaze testifying eloquently to the difficulty of proceeding.
Having declared the place he was going to, Abel, in his attempt to talk with Yorna, would find himself in the frontlines against the mad rampage of the Great Disaster.
The battlefield where a split-second decision from those transcendent people could mark the difference between life and death.
It was evident that Abel would only endanger his life, were he to step forth. In fact, he would not even be able to make a move that would change the course of the battle――.
Taritta’s whole body froze at the thought of a move that could change the course of the battle.
Or, perhaps, it was an option available only to Taritta. Only Taritta had the means to appease the disgusting harbinger of death that was the Great Disaster.
The only one aware of the commandment bestowed upon her for the sake of repelling the Great Disaster, Taritta――,
Medium: [――I’m going to go to the front too.]
At the prospect of such a big decision, Taritta’s body shuddered.
To Taritta’s side, Abel’s voice was filled with doubt as Medium declared so. Black eyes flickered as if peering into the heart of the little girl restraining herself,
Abel: [You, what are you thinking? To begin with, have you even been listening to me? The only grounds on which I shall be taking my leave, is because I believe that thing is not fond of me. If you go there…]
Medium: [I got that already! So I’m not going with you! I’m going where Louis-chan and Yorna-chan are fighting! I want Subaru-chin to find me.]
Medium: [If it is as Abel guessed, Subaru-chin will reach out to me, right? If that’s the case, Louis-chan and the others will have a teeny bit less trouble, won’t they? Maybe that way Abel-chin won’t be targeted either.]
Abel: [To begin with, I am less likely to be targeted.]
Medium: [Maybe then it’ll be even less likely! Right!?]
Stepping forth firmly, Medium emphasized her own bid.
For a moment, it was clear that Abel was considering Medium’s proposal in earnest. As per her words, if the Great Disaster reflected Subaru’s will, then it was highly likely that Medium would be targeted.
However, Medium remained as a concern, her stature still diminutive, her mobility still hampered.
Even if she were to take on the role of attracting the attention of the Great Disaster, there was a good chance that she would be swallowed up by the shadows without being able to fulfill her role in any significant way. If that much were to happen, it would generate a mental turmoil to those around her.
He didn’t think that none other than Taritta herself would be able to tolerate Medium’s without batting an eye.
Energetic, full of life, and unafraid to be around others, Medium was one of Taritta’s favorite companions. She would be incapable of facing her brother, Flop, either.
――In that case, she wondered if she, in her current state, would be able to face anyone.
Abel: [I considered it for a moment, but in your condition, you would not be able to fulfill the role of a decoy. The impact of your death on those around you would be a greater concern. I cannot accept such a gamble.]
Adjacent to Taritta at a standstill, Abel dismissed Medium’s proposal out of that very same concern.
However, gnashing her teeth out of anger, Medium’s eyes transmitted a lack of satisfaction. At this point, it was quite possible that she would disregard Abel’s opinion and leap onto the battlefield and raise her voice toward the Great Disaster.
And amidst that sort of perilous situation――,
???: [――Then I’ll protect Lil’ Miss Medium. You shouldn’t have any complaints then, right?]
Stepping over the rubble, the voice of a newly-arrived figure interrupted.
At the sound of the familiar voice the group of three, all in their own worlds, turned to look at the person speaking to them.
The Blue Dragon Sword hanging from their thick right arm and an ugly rag covering their face, they possessed a suspicious appearance. Although the sense of them being a particularly powerful person had never been there, for some reason, at this moment, in this place, the man standing there was brimming with a fighting spirit so striking that it was almost too much to look at―― Al.
Medium: [Al-chin! You’ve gotten bigger… and back to normal!?]
Al: [Right, I just happened to run into the old man coming back. I didn’t have time to go back to the inn to get my helmet, so you’ll have to overlook this clumsy presentation for a tad.]
Medium: [Not at all, so cool! But if Gramps is there…]
Barring the rags wrapped around his face, Al had returned to his original state. Medium’s voice seemed sunnier due to his words, which made her look around restlessly as well
Naturally, as Medium was in the same state, she would opt for returning to her normal self.
But, Al appended with “Sorry” regarding Medium’s situation,
Al: [Sorry, I couldn’t bring the old man along. He said he’d be wise about it.]
Medium: [Umm~, I see. Mhm, I get it! But I’m glad, even if it’s just Al-chin who’s back! Have you stopped being so scared now?]
Al: [Being scared, that’s something that ain’t gonna stop for the rest of my life.]
Medium switched instantly from having her eyes downcast for a moment as hope was taken away from her. Hearing her words, Al lowered the tone of his voice, shaking his head.
His voice was filled to the brim with unconcealable fear and anxiety. In the face of that Great Disaster, everyone held instinctive fear. No one could condemn them for that.
However, whereas Al harbored no feigned fear of the sort,
Al: [Still, I gotta do it… Bring it on, oh inevitable fate.]
Suddenly, Al raised the clasped Blue Dragon Sword overhead; Medium looked impressed by his determination.
Meanwhile, a small snorting sound interrupted their conversation.
Abel: [For a trembling, shriveled abomination, you sure talk big. That Olbart Dunkelkenn should have no ability to inspire others.]
Al: [And you’d be right. The old man just said a lot of things that pissed me off. It wasn’t that lil’ shit that made me stand up.]
Abel: [Then what did? After having been rendered unmoving, how will you convince me that you can be included in my future plans?]
Abel, kept like that by Medium seizing the hem of his clothing and being held back, asked that of Al.
Those cold eyes of his, piercing his oni mask, were probably still thinking of the victory that had to be grasped. How would Al be able to convince Abel to add him to his ranks, here?
With Abel turning his gaze towards her, Taritta had trouble breathing, unable to imagine how he would convince him.
Under the watchful eyes of Taritta, Abel, and finally Medium, Al――,
Al: [Sorry, but I ain’t gonna waste my words to convince you, Abel-chan.]
Al: [The only master I got is the sexy-cute Princess. The reason I’ve gone along with you like this, is so that I can give bro some assistance… So that’s what I’m gonna do. Feel free to work my moves into your equations however you want, Abel-chan.]
Declaring so with a defiant attitude, Al shouldered the Blue Dragon Sword. That brisk and clear decision made Abel’s oni mask-covered face tense slightly.
But even if the answer was not in accordance to his own thoughts, Abel had neither the power to drive Al away nor a relationship valuable enough to hold him back. Exactly as Al had predicted.
No matter what, Abel would have to formulate a plan with the assumption of Al’s presence.
Abel: [If your sanity returned, then what has merely returned is just a bothersome clown. How do you plan to fight it?]
Al: [Trade secret. ――Well, I ain’t gonna let you die, Lil’ Miss Medium. And don’t worry, I’ll protect you too, Abel-chan.]
With the Great Disaster’s rampage right before his eyes, Al’s reply was far too reassuring.
What in those words had caused Medium to open her eyes wide, was the surprise that Al had recovered from what Abel had described as a “disgrace”, becoming an embodiment of honor.
Consequently, Medium strongly nodded, and,
Medium: [I’ll do my best with Al-chin! Abel-chin, is that fine with you?]
Abel: [――. From the beginning, the presence of you two was not part of the plan.]
Medium: [Thank you very much. Just the apparent fact that we weren’t included among those with fighting power makes it feel like we’re getting special treatment.]
Shrugging at Abel’s answer, Medium lined up with Al, who stepped forward. Only then did Medium’s hand part with Abel’s sleeve at last.
Waving his released arm, Abel released out a small exhale, then turned to face the Great Disaster.
Abel: [If you prefer to target my back, so be it. But take in mind. ――Ultimately, you will have no choice but to make the decision of whether or not to follow your commandment by yourself.]
Rather than turning towards Taritta, he let her hear that from over his back; and then, Abel’s steps proceeded in the direction of the battlefield.
Medium and Al, both of whom were facing in the same direction as he was, also seemed to be accompanying him in his advance.
Only Taritta was unable to move forward or backward. She could only see off the backs of those three people.
The words that Abel had just said to her kept echoing in her mind over and over again, as if a reminder to herself. To just shoot down Abel’s back by nocking an arrow to the bow in her hands would be an uncomplicated affair.
But if she could take the plunge into an uncomplicated affair without batting an eyelid, Taritta would not be so worried.
Taritta: [Obey or disobey, the commandment… I… I…]
Biting her lip with force, Taritta cast her head downwards while holding back the heat slowly rising in her body.
She was unable to muster the resolve to take aim with the arrow in her grasp, or the courage to spit out the thoughts rooted in her heart.
Amidst the demolished Demon City, dominated only by the continued violent tremors and roars, Taritta looked downwards.
――Similar to how, one certain day, she was swept away, ridiculed by the stars.
While she guarded against the encroaching jet-black darkness, a tempest swept fiercely within Yorna’s heart.
Swinging her kiseru, the purple smoke produced served as a barrier that halted the offensive of the Great Disaster, restraining its expansion.
At intervals, parts of the city would be fired, akin to cannonballs, in an attempt to inflict even a single piece of damage to the Great Disaster.
By repeating this over and over again to deal with the extending shadows that would dispossess her of her life from just a graze, she would devote everything in her mind and body to manage it as best as she could.
However, she would not keep up these increasingly ineffective actions for long.
Yorna: [――Hk, what are you becoming so fainthearted about?]
To object to the timidness that had entered her own heart, Yorna curved her beautiful lips.
Regardless of its effectiveness, she held no intention of withdrawing the caustic words she had left Abel with. This city belonged to Yorna, and those who lived in it were under her protection.
The last stronghold for those with nowhere else to go, they could not afford to lose it――,
Abruptly, copious amounts of black corruption poured down, targeting Yorna. Before Yorna could deal with it, a small shadow appeared and rushed over, moving towards her waist, and in the blink of an eye, the world changed immediately afterwards.
For nary a moment, there was the wobbly sensation of her head shaking, but upon seeing the ground a number of meters to her side becoming gashed right after that violent assault, Yorna grasped that she had been protected.
The one to pull that off, was a blue-eyed girl, her golden hair pulled back in a bun―― Louis.
Her slender shoulders violently heaving up and down, Louis, her lovely face having taken a grim color, glared at the Great Disaster motionlessly with round eyes widened in grief.
What she was looking at was not the Great Disaster itself, however, but what was within it.
Yorna: [You’re worried about that child, aren’t you?]
A short reply to Yorna’s words, and Louis’s figure once again bounced like a ball and headed for the Great Disaster.
Louis was jumping around the top part of the Great Disaster―― That bubbling, amorphous Great Disaster, in which there was nothing that looked like a head, but if there was one, she was jumping around the part that corresponded to it – attracting its attention.
Aimed at Louis’s petite body, nearly a hundred shadowy arms were shot out in succession; avoiding all of those, Louis’s contribution to preventing the spread of damage was immeasurable.
Were it not for her, it would be hard to believe that Yorna and the residents of the Demon City would have been able to contain the Great Disaster on their own. That only made it all the more horrifying.
Kafma: [Use that! Little girl!]
Assisting Louis to break through, was the wielder of thorny shrubs extending from both arms, Kafma.
Offering the vines of thorns which boasted significant suppressive ability as a scaffolding, he adroitly supported Louis’s evasive maneuvers. Of course, those thorns late to retract would be swallowed by the Great Disaster, but Kafma seemed to not be affected by this; as could be seen by the earnest look on his face, his mute yet masterful performance would resume playing an active role.
Behind Louis, Kafma, and Yorna in their battle, the residents of Demon City continued to resist the Great Disaster, albeit on a lesser scale. Those with flames lit in one of their eyes were under the influence of Yorna’s Soul Marriage Technique, their power increased.
However, there were individual differences and limits to how much the level of one’s strength could be raised.
Moreover, Yorna’s Soul Marriage Technique had the disposition of favoring the weaker ones.
It was a tool that enabled the weak to face the strong, not a substitute for the strong to face something stronger.
That was nothing more than the difference in the quality of one’s soul, something Yorna was unable to influence in any way.
Yorna: [――And yet, it’s only been a few minutes.]
It seemed as if an endless amount of time had passed, but only a few minutes had gone by since the Great Disaster engulfed Crimson Lapis Castle, when Yorna and the others began their all-out battle.
Nevertheless, the wear-and-tear on Yorna and her group was not negligible.
That was what it was like, being smack-dab in a place where you were always overly anxious of fatal injury.
That probably marked the difference between those considered true warriors, and Yorna Mishigure, a woman who just so happened to be endowed with power.
Were she a true warrior, she would challenge this Great Disaster that could erase her entirely without any discretion and wrest out a win, however she did not consider herself that blessed of an existence for such.
That self-awareness was a strong point of the leader of the Demon City, named Yorna Mishigure.
With a vigorous call to arms, a fresh fighting force entered the battlefield, which seemed to be tilting towards dire straits.
A girl of petite build, wielding a cleaver in her hands, charged in with a momentum such that the words “launch in” served as an apt descriptor.
The intrusion of the little girl, launching herself in with her long braids dancing in the air, all while maintaining a lively atmosphere, lead everyone on the battlefield into a state of bewilderment; Yorna included.
Of course. Just what would happen with the entrance of a lone girl on the battlefield? All that could be seen was a little girl who was displaying foolhardiness, and whose bravery would be her downfall.
Moreover, she was not the sole odd intruder.
???: [Let’s go, Lil’ Miss Medium! Let’s battle proudly!]
So barked a masked man that landed behind the girl, carrying the Blue Dragon Sword.
He was one of the people who had visited the castle tower as messengers the previous day, but unlike that time, hiding his face was not a helmet, but rather a mask of cloth, and the way he held the Blue Dragon Sword was bizarre.
For some reason, he had the blade of the Blue Dragon Sword tucked close to his own neck as he broke into a run in such a perilous stance.
One mistake, and just like that, he would inadvertently cut off his own head.
In any case, the battlefield’s atmosphere froze due to that passing party of two, which evoked only bewilderment.
However, that congealment only affected the defenders who were aware of this melee. ――The Great Disaster, apparently devoid of any will, was unsurprised by these reinforcements.
Nonetheless, the fact that, perhaps having a sense of what one may perceive as annoyance, the majority of the shadows cast by the Great Disaster lashed out neither upon Yorna nor Louis, but rather at the girl who had just rushed out; almost as if in a state of emergency.
She had to protect them; Yorna made a sudden move, but――,
Al: [To the right! Step on the scaffold and jump! Place the tips of your feet on the rubble, then up you go!]
There was a shout from the masked man, and the girl bounced in time, raising an enthusiastic voice.
Doing as she had been told to by the man, the girl jumped to the right, stepped on a piece of rubble, and flew forward. Once the girl’s foot reached the rubble ahead of her, she used the strength of her fingers to fly upward in a big leap.
In turn, the shadow caressed, scraped, and encircled the places the girl had moved to.
The girl, however, barely managed to dodge it, achieving not being harmed.
This was the same scene she had witnessed at the tower as of the previous day; when messengers had partaken in a bout proposed by Yorna, and were targeted and attacked by the Emperor―― or rather, by a man dressed as the Emperor, alongside the group he commanded.
That masked man had escaped the crisis by directing his allies to take preventative measures against Kafma’s thorns and Olbart’s attacks. Aside from that, the man seemed to have no special abilities.
Was it just tremendously good intuition, and no reason beyond that?
Whereas she viewed the latter to be most likely, she could not reach a conclusion as to why that would be exactly.
Even so, the situation had changed.
Medium: [Al-chin! What’s next!?]
Al: [Don’t rush me, I’m a nervous wreck! Hey, tattoo-bro over there, gimme a hand! I’ll tell you what to do! Obstruct that thing’s movements!]
Kafma: [I refuse! Why should I follow someone as suspicious as…]
Al: [Up there! Spread the vines wide!]
Much like how he’d been called out by the little girl, the masked man―― who had been referred to as Al by the little girl, now called out to Kafma.
Kafma was naturally reluctant to follow the other party’s command, as his competency was unknown, but the jet-black shadows that surged in concert with Al’s cries proved that this was no time for quarrels.
Thorn vines spread from Kafma’s arms as he bent down in haste and raised his hands above his head, as the great wave of shadows changed course to stream along the briars.
Of course, the vines of thorns could not totally withstand those all-consuming shadows, yet Kafma had saved his own life with that single second earned.
Bursting into a gap and having escaped that hardship, Kafma glared towards Al, “You…!”,
Kafma: [Can you read the movements of that Great Disaster?]
Al: [We have a bit of a connection. Are you ready to hear what I have to say?]
Kafma: [――. It is unavoidable, if for the sake of reducing damage. But I will not tolerate thoughtless words!]
Al: [You’re more flexible than I thought you’d be, thanks.]
With Kafma openly admitting his superiority, Al chuckled sarcastically and stepped forward.
Then instructing the girl and Kafma again, the Blue Dragon Sword still trained on his own neck, he began taking command of the front line against the Great Disaster.
And adjacent to that struggle――,
???: [――Yorna Mishigure.]
Yorna: [You are…]
About to join the unexpected combat forces of Al and the little girl, Yorna turned her attention toward an oni mask making its way over, treading over the rubble―― in the direction of Abel.
Few minutes had passed since their parting earlier, but he was not a man of such an affable nature that he would change his mind in such a short time.
In the first place, the disconnect between Yorna and him was not the kind of thing that could be easily wiped away with the passage of time. That sort of turbulence seemed to lay in the background.
And, as if in support of Yorna’s thoughts――,
Abel: [Abandoning the Demon City; have you cooled down enough to consider that suggestion?]
Blithely and ruthlessly, Abel once again threw a proposal at Yorna that had been discarded once before.
Of course, “cooled” was a word unfitting of a mind aroused with fighting spirit. As long as the situation and their relationship remained the same, the answer on Yorna’s side would not change either.
Deeming arguing as pointless, Yorna turned her back on the cold-blooded Emperor.
Abel: [You stated this was the last place for those who had no place to go, no place to stay.]
Abel: [My notion of it as worthless sentimentality remains. But allow me to correct your mistake.]
Yorna: [My, mistake?]
By that inexcusable argument, Yorna’s attempt to return to the battlefield was halted.
It was absurd, Yorna being mistaken in regards to the Demon City of Chaosflame. This was Yorna’s city. All of its residents were Yorna’s beloved children.
That towards them, Yorna would hold misconceptions or anything of the like――.
Yorna: [Just what exactly am I erring in, then?]
Abel: [It is not to this city that those weeping cling and rely on. It is you.]
Abel: [The Demon City was originally built on desolate land, a city composed of the leftovers of warfare. The Crimson Lapis Castle was erected as a symbol, but the true symbol has always been its tower. Namely, you.]
Once more, Abel’s eyes were fixed on Yorna, as he concluded so.
Her eardrums struck by the power and the true meaning of those words, Yorna’s cheeks stiffened.
She understood the logic. But it was very much lip service.
Whether Yorna was a spiritual pillar for the residents of Demon City or not, the fact remained that when it rained, they needed shelter, and when they were hungry, they needed something to eat.
Whatever a city could provide, Yorna could not provide alone in comparison.
Yorna: [Or do you believe that these children would say that they would endure odious things, such as enduring an empty stomach or getting wet in the rain as long as I am there?]
Abel: [――They would!]
Abel: [Do you believe everything under your wing is a suckling baby? A baby, grumbling for comfort, waiting to be fed milk? ――That is not my opinion.]
Due to Abel’s figure as he replied, Yorna quietly gulped.
Immediately afterward, a violent booming sound erupted behind them, and pieces of debris wrapped up in the maelstrom of the Great Disaster flew towards Yorna and Abel. One of the fragments landed right next to Abel, who stood still, as the impact struck the slender man, ripping the oni mask from his face.
His pale face had become uncovered, and blood was running down his forehead, having been slightly grazed by a splinter, yet his countenance did not waver in the slightest. The handsome man picked up the oni mask that had fallen by his side, clutching it in his hands.
Donning his true face, Abel―― Nay, Vincent Vollachia, stared at Yorna.
Abel: [The populace is foolish. If it does not hurt, they forget to resist, if they have no enemies, they do not even arm themselves. They know not how to unite without disaster, and they are so afraid of death that they avert their eyes from it.]
Abel: [And for all that, it is that weakness and foolishness that makes them, them. The Empire rules its populace by means of iron and blood, and, in the Demon City, your way of being has served as guidance for the inhabitants’ own. Consequently…]
Cutting off his words there, Abel then turned his gaze in some other direction. The place towards which his eyes had been lured, was to those who had Yorna’s love lit in their eyes; the form of the inhabitants opposing the Great Disaster.
Resolutely, they continued fighting valiantly to protect this city.
Abel: [For your sake, they shall endure hunger and the rain. And, for the day when the sun shall rise again, for the day their stomach shall be full, they choose to desire with you!]
Abel: [Abandon the Demon City. Their destination is the same as yours. And the only place they can turn to, is yourself.]
Abel: [Or do you lament that you cannot do that? Do your own desires and those of the ones who struggle for you not overlap?]
As he voiced this, Abel wiped the blood from his forehead with his sleeve, putting the oni mask once more on his face.
Yet again his expression was concealed by cognitive disruption, but the words declared just before penetrated deep into the depths of Yorna’s heart, becoming a thorn that would not fall out.
From the moment Yorna read the missive, she understood that Abel knew what she desired.
But for that to come out and be used as a reference at this juncture, was far too barren of compassion. And that void of compassion was a quality desired in the Vollachian Emperor of the current generation.
It was for that reason, that taking all the necessary measures was――,
Yorna: [If we abandon the Demon City and escape from that Great Disaster, what shall you do? That thing may drink this city dry, but it may not stop there!]
Abel: [Are you attempting to size me up this late in the game? You get what I am saying fully.]
Abandoning the Demon City, and allowing the Great Disaster to do as it pleases, just what was the true meaning of those words?
Abel responded to Yorna’s query with sullenness, jerking his jaw. That gesture of his indicated the Great Disaster itself―― or rather, the base below the raging Great Disaster.
Put into other words, there, laid the site of the Crimson Lapis Castle, where the Great Disaster had first made its appearance――,
Abel: [Do the same as you did when that thing swallowed the Castle, but now, for the Demon City. ――The swallowed Castle was not enough to blow it away, but your beloved Demon City will be a different matter altogether!]
From a distance, the wind fluttered the hem of his outfit, piercing black eyes gazing upon the Great Disaster that laid ruin upon the city.
Yorna’s scheme to minimize the spread of the damage as much as possible, along with Kafma, the city dwellers and other unexpected contributions of military strength, appeared to be manifesting some effect.
However, that would not last for long, either.
To an undeniable extent, the threat that was the very darkness of the Great Disaster, was overwhelming.
Perhaps in ancient times, people would personally witness such things, and, resigning themselves for the end of the world, left behind legends to pass on their fears to the survivors.
The most extreme of these was the Witch of Envy. This Great Disaster was another, just like the former. 
???: [――The Great Disaster that would destroy the Empire, it is a disaster of a different sort?]
???: [It is, it is. Oh nooo~, this could be an issue, no? That it’d happen like this wasn’t foreseen, I feel like forgetting my place and complaining to the stars myself.]
With arms folded, standing still at an overlook, was a man―― Vincent; and looking at the same sight to his side, was the blue-robed Stargazer crouched down.
Along their journey, the man had not even chirped as to give them advance warning, yet had yelled out “Aaat~ aaany~ raaate~, that’s outside my responsibility” in regards to the thrashing Great Disaster, as to dodge any and all blame.
However, one of the few virtues of the Stargazer was that he would not lie about what he had seen.
So for a Stargazer to be so bold, this disaster, and the ruin of the Empire foreseen by the Stargazer, had to be a different problem.
In other words――,
???: [Oh, comin’, comin’. Geez, I was rushin’ quite a bit.]
Ubilk: [My my, Old Man Olbart.]
Behind Vincent who squinted in thought, an old man with a faint presence appeared. The Stargazer was first to call the name of the elderly man―― of Olbart, who nodded his head with an “Aye aye”.
Shooting a sideways glance at Olbart lined up next to him, Vincent’s eyebrows scrunched in a scowl.
Vincent: [You, did you leave your right arm somewhere?]
Olbart: [Just as I’d expect, you’re quite perceptive, Your Excellency. Actually, I keep my right hand tucked in Your Excellency’s breast pocket… Well, at least it’d be funny if I did. It was swallowed by that great shadow.]
Ubilk: [I seeee~. Sounds like quite the painful experience.]
Olbart: [Yeaaah, ‘twas painful. Even at my age, I was ‘boutta cry and whine like a lil’ kid. Embarrassin’, embarrassin’.]
With a flutter, Olbart ranted and raved as he waved his right hand, which was missing from the wrist down.
Leaving Olbart and the Stargazer’s charade aside, Vincent once more looked upon the battlefield.
At the former site of the Crimson Lapis Castle, the Great Disaster stirred. Plus, there was the city’s strength pushing it to keep it at bay.
The measures necessary to repel the Great Disaster were already being relayed to Yorna.
So after this――,
Olbart: [But is it alright for Your Excellency to just casually stick ‘round at this place?]
Vincent: [It is of no importance.]
To the words of an Olbart tilting his head, Vincent responded quietly.
It was his role to transmit the plan to Yorna and persuade her. In return, Vincent had to carry out the role as Vincent would.
Vincent: [That move has already been made. ――The move that should be made as Vincent Vollachia, Emperor of Vollachia.]
 In the original text, the “連なる” in “それに連なる” can express the idea of “a group extending to something”, or “something being connected to something else”. As such, there’s a possible second meaning in the text here about this Great Disaster being connected to the Witch of Envy.