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Vincent: [――Yorna Mishigure must abdicate the Demon City in an attempt to destroy the Great Disaster. The Soul Marriage Technique might succeed in this, but there is no guarantee.]
Tanza: […Supposing the Demon City were offered, and it’s not enough…]
Vincent: [If that does come to pass, the Great Disaster, with no way to stop it, shall threaten to engulf the entire Empire, or perhaps even more, spreading outside its borders. With the Demon City as its epicenter.]
Tanza: [Yorna-sama will not approve of giving up this city.]
Vincent: [This is not a situation for sentimentality. Regardless of whether you want it or not, the city shall be abandoned. In the first place, it is not up to me to persuade you to do so.]
Tanza: [You believe he can convince Yorna-sama?]
Vincent: [If he cannot, everything shall turn to dust. If he must, he shall undertake it. That is the type of person he is, he has maintained that way of being since forever.]
Tanza: […I don’t understand. If you know that much, and are so sure about him, what do you want from me?]
Vincent: [You should already be aware of what I intend. You are young, but you are in a position to be utilized plenty by the ruler of the Demon City.]
Vincent: [In case the Great Disaster is not destroyed, Yorna Mishigure shall suffer tremendously. The Demon City shall be used against a Great Disaster that has yet to develop fully, but if that does not suffice――]
Tanza: [Yorna-sama… For Yorna Mishigure’s sake, the most magnificent among all, a lady akin to a compassionate mother, For that far away love I am to die a martyr’s death, I assume.]
Vincent: [――. It is a grand undertaking.]
Tanza: [I do not need consolation nor compliments. ――Except, Yorna-sama’s tears.]
Tanza ran with Yorna’s voice behind her, the latter reaching out her hand, shouting with a pained expression on her face.
Pitching forward, Tanza nimbly kicked the ground, her right eye blazing red, her young body filled with strength that even heavily-armored Imperial Soldiers would be unable to match.
She was no exceptional fighter, nor did she excel in magic or special techniques.
Still, no one could stop her current self.
The reason for that was that she was aware of being loved by Yorna, more loved than anyone else was.
She supported Yorna by her side, was given affection, spoken to, helped, thought of, prayed for.
To love Yorna, and to be loved by Yorna, were the necessary qualifications to receive the maximum benefits of the Soul Marriage Technique―― yet Tanza’s love for Yorna was not out of self-interest.
One may perhaps say that love requested naught in return, speaking with a know-it-all look.
However, Tanza believed in that. ――She believed that the feeling of loving someone was in itself a reward.
The thought of that person and the beating of their heart was the reward for love.
Then Tanza had to reciprocate it, with all of her little body, in return for what she had received.
That was exactly――,
Tanza: [The reason why I was given this life.]
The first time Tanza was granted audience with Yorna, having been driven away from someplace else, she was far too young. Concealed behind her kind older sister’s back, unable to do anything besides looking up towards Yorna and her dignified conduct.
But, for the first time in her life, she had been promised that she could live her days without being threatened by anyone. Believing in that promise, she had thoughts more than fleeting about spending her days with her older sister.
The second time she was granted audience with Yorna, having had her older sister stolen by horrible things, Tanza snapped at Yorna in desperation; however, Yorna did not reproach her.
On the contrary, she listened sincerely to Tanza’s pleas and even helped to avenge her lost sister’s death. ――Even if she would be stigmatized as a rebel, in return.
Why, should she not love her?
A kind person, who had given so much love and compassion to Tanza priorly.
She wept at the death of Tanza’s older sister, regretted being unable to keep her promise, and apologized to Tanza.
――Why, should she not love her?
In front of her, she could observe a horrifying, writhing black mass of stagnation gathering behind a plume of smoke.
The city beloved by Yorna had been destroyed, and yet her stubborn persistence remained unshattered. Tanza was not intimidated by the darkness that made everyone wish to avert their gaze from itself.
If fear was a reason to falter, then that was not what ruled Tanza’s heart.
Accordingly, Tanza jumped forward using the debris as footing, pushing headlong into the flickering Great Disaster.
If she turned around, it would become a lingering attachment. She knew it would in turn become a curse.
Hearing the one she loved calling out her name, Tanza’s gaze was directed behind her back.
There she saw Yorna lying on the ground, reaching out her hand. A single arrow had painfully pierced her leg; she understood that the person wielding a bow far away from her had been the one to perform that deed.
Were it not for that arrow, Yorna would have rushed towards the Great Disaster, towards Tanza.
Tanza was thankful to the arrow’s shooter, as she could not have done anything as drastic as that.
Her lips moved.
Whether the words that followed reached Yorna or were inaudible, she would not know.
However, in that moment, just like she did every day before sleeping, every time she woke up had she even the slightest of time, she offered a prayer.
――May you, my beloved, be in good health each and every day.
The light blew away everything, white scorching the retinae of all.
As the light faded and the seared eyes gradually regained their capabilities, all beings witnessed the end of the Demon City.
The ground zero of the explosion had caved in, as if a circle had been gouged out, and, at the center of the Demon City, where the Crimson Lapis Castle should have been located, a titanic hole had been opened wide.
It was as if a giant’s arm had dug up the large pit, a literal mark that proved the existence of a fearsome entity that had swallowed up the entirety of the Demon City.
And the Disaster, which had been defied by the forces of concerted battle, had vanished abruptly.
It was the result of the trump card played by Yorna Mishigure, the Mistress of the Demon City, and all those who had participated in the battle knew that the final push had been performed by the little girl who had staked her life.
In other words――,
???: [――We were saved by that girl. I am deplorable.]
A man so muttered as he peered into the bottom of the gaping hole, stretching out the vines of thorn he wielded―― Kafma Irulux.
There was no falsehood; probably, those words were true, from his heart. As typical of a warrior a cut above the rest, this honest young man who adhered to the philosophy of the Empire reproached himself for having allowed others to correct his own shortcomings.
And making it all the more aggravating, was that a young girl’s life had been spent to cover for that.
Kafma: [Originally, I am at odds with you and your people. Now that things have settled down, I see that the truce should end here, and that we should turn towards that…]
???: […Then, you’ll fight us?]
Kafma: [――. We should not.]
Looking back at the big hole behind him, Kafma shook his head at the question.
Facing Kafma was Medium, her barbarian sword, too large for her small frame, carried on her back. The query of the battered girl covered in mud was a shining ray of light, even amidst the devastation.
That beautiful beam of light was what Kafma believed necessary to keep things from deteriorating.
At any rate, the end result was that the Demon City of Chaosflame had been destroyed, and no building could be found standing straight. From here, the survivors’ struggle to pull through would commence.
Of course, Kafma’s role as a General of the Empire was to deal with those refugees and with Yorna Mishigure, who would lead them.
Kafma: [Right now, I am travelling as the bodyguard for a very important person. First and foremost, I must give priority to meeting up with said individual. Everything else is trivial at this point.]
Medium: [Trivial? Trivial, you say? I think putting it like that is awful!]
Kafma: [N-no, that’s not what I meant…]
Receiving an objection for being unscrupulous, Kafma flinched slightly at Medium’s barbs. But, a somber voice called out to her just like Kafma, “Lil’ Miss Medium”, offering him some timely help.
Looking toward them, slowly coming their way, was a one-armed figure――,
???: [That’s just that guy’s own concern. He’s saying he’s got more important things to do, so he won’t fight us. So let’s settle it with that, that about right?]
Kafma: […I cannot say anything myself. I will leave how you interpret that up to you.]
???: [Heyhey. Plenty of people like you around; y’know, roundabout like you here, big bro.]
Shrugging his shoulders in exasperation, the one-armed man―― Al, stood next to Medium. Looking up at him, Medium’s eyes widened with an “Ah”.
And then, once she pointed at his face.
Medium: [Al-chin, you actually managed to find your helmet?]
Al: [Yeah, somehow. It was lying in the vicinity of where the inn was, so it was a blessing in disguise. I just needed to find it, since I knew it wouldn’t break.]
Medium: [――? You mean it’s tough?]
Al: [Yeahyeah, I mean tough. No one in this world can break it.]
As he declared that, Al rapped his fingers on the jet-black helmet he donned. Medium nodded her head with a “Really~?” in reply, but Kafma shot a sharp look at Al.
Noticing the look in his eyes, Al tilted his head, asking “What do you wanna do?”.
Al: [Your opinion’s that you don’t wanna fight us, right? Of course, same goes for us… Or perhaps I should say that we’re all too worn out for that.]
Kafma: [You directed us brilliantly during that battle earlier. Why did you know how the Great Disaster would move?]
Al: [Trade secret. If I don’t tell you that, no truce?]
Kafma: [――. No, I will not retract my statement.]
Shaking his head, Kafma responded to Al’s answer with genuine sincerity. He then dusted off his tattered cloak with his hand, turning his back on both Al and Medium.
He turned to what he had stated was a very important person.
Kafma: [I cooperated with you this time because of these developments. But you and I are enemies… Lest you reconsider, we will see each other on the battlefield. At that time, I will not stay my hand.]
Al: [Even if you didn’t tell us that…]
Medium: [Same goes for us as well…! Thanks for helping us.]
Kafma: [I only did what I was supposed to do as a General of the Empire.]
With these words, Kafma spread his transparent wings across his sturdy back and flew away in one swift movement, the beating of his wings producing a loud noise.
Medium and Al watched his back as he moved away, a cloud of dust and smoke enveloping him as he kicked up dust. As Kafma disappeared from sight,
Medium: […Al-chin, thank you so much. Really, thanks. You saved my life.]
Al: [Well, it’s a win-win situation. If it weren’t for your persistence, that big thing’s assault would’ve been much more lopsided. There would’ve been a lot more dead people.]
Medium: [Dead people…]
Hearing Al’s answer, Medium gently lowered her eyes.
Looking at Medium casting her gaze down with a heart-rending expression on her face, Al fiddled with the seams of his helmet’s visor with his fingers, and said,
Al: [I know you dunno what I mean, and I know it’s not much consolation, but if that kid… If Tanza hadn’t done that, we would’ve been wiped out. For sure.]
Medium: [Maybe, you know, we could’ve tried harder.]
Al: [Nah, that way wouldn’t have worked out. ――Experimenting with that went up in smoke.]
The dejected Al’s words really made no sense to Medium. However, she would have been lying if she said it was not comforting.
She understood that Al had said something for the sake of consoling Medium. So it was a genuine consolation.
Medium: [Thanks, Al-chin.]
Al: […You’re welcome.]
The words Al responded with, once again, made no sense to Medium.
???: [Have you finished settling your mind on what needs to be done, Yorna Mishigure?]
Yorna: […Is that, you?]
Piles of rubble, the broken remains of buildings, and an unfathomably large hole had been created in the aftermath of the fierce battle.
While Yorna stood on top of a hill, surveying the spectacle of scars that remained as a result of the Demon City of Chaosflame going to all-out war against the Great Disaster, a man appeared beneath her.
Abel, his face hidden behind an oni mask, inquired as to her feelings in a tone of voice audibly devoid of even a hint of emotion.
Unhurriedly, Abel made his way through the rubble, desiring to see the same scene as Yorna; however, without inserting any emotion into his voice he spoke,
Abel: [What I can offer you is exactly as I wrote in the missive. Let us hear your answer.]
Yorna: [Is that really what you should say when looking at this tragic scene?]
Abel: [Will comfort provide shelter, or pity a refuge? You and I both were born amongst the haves, part of those who chose their duty. As such, a second from us is not of equivalent value to a second from others.]
To not wish for comfort, nor for sympathy; he was someone who had chosen that way of being.
Understanding that, Yorna held back from rebelling against his attitude. Most importantly, Yorna would gain nothing by antagonizing him here for emotional reasons.
Yorna: [I’ve already lost too much today.]
Abel: [The city, its citizens. It would be a mistake to add the time you took postponing this matter to those.]
Yorna: [She was, Tanza.]
Yorna: [The beloved child who sacrificed herself to save us at the end… Her name was Tanza.]
With these words, Yorna pulled out the obidome from her kimono and showed it to Abel. 
Abel threw her a sidelong glance as she scrubbed it in a circular motion, questioning her intentions mutely. The outer corner of Yorna’s eyes lowered slightly due to that questioning gaze,
Yorna: [This obidome was fashioned from the horns of that girl’s older sister. When mourning over her sister’s corpse, Tanza made it for me… and aside from that…]
Yorna: [Both these hairpins and kanzashi are tributes from my beloved children. These are the marks of those children who have been driven away from their homes, those children who have nothing, and gave of themselves to repay me.]
The colorful ornaments, the hairpins, the kanzashi were all tributes from the residents of the Demon City.
Some had removed their scales, some had gathered feathers, some had polished their horns and fangs, only to then offer them to Yorna, their way of life and gratitude giving them form.
To Yorna, they were more valuable than any precious gem and treasure, and for having been given such things, she felt that she had to live up to their love.
Yorna: [I cannot afford to make any more mistakes in my promises…]
Abel: [――. Sooner or later, the departed Vincent Vollachia and his group shall begin moving. They shall not make a move here given the situation, but it is only a matter of time. There is no time to spare.]
Yorna: [What will you do regarding the place where my children go to?]
Abel: [We shall have no choice but to use the Fortress City as a base at first. Along the way, we shall seize other towns and add them to our banner. With you and the inhabitants of the Demon City, it is possible.]
With the loss of the Demon City’s faculties, it was necessary to find a place to receive its stranded residents.
Abel’s proposal was a forceful, absurd thing that forced the unreasonable upon others. But Yorna had similar priorities. To save those she loved, that was Yorna.
And aside from that――,
Yorna: [Are you sure you’re truly prepared to fulfill my wish that was in your missive?]
Abel: [I do not intend to speak of it twice. However, you must ponder it over carefully.]
Yorna: [Ponder it over…]
Abel: [Which do you prioritize, your long-held wish or your own “love”?]
With Abel, whose emotions were not visible, Yorna could not tell whether his words, or rather what seemed to be his advice, were given out of favorability or unfavorability.
But Yorna, struck by his words, pulled a kiseru from her belt, fixed its crooked tip with her finger, set it alight, and let the purple smoke waft out.
Below, Yorna’s loved ones were probing the broken city, gathering their lives, the parts that sustained them, preparing for what would follow.
It was up to Yorna to give them shelter, and be the light to show them the path towards tomorrow.
To give Abel the benefit of the doubt, and drag Vincent Vollachia―― no, the fake who acted as him, off the throne, and make him fulfill the promise in his missive.
And on the contents of promises to be fulfilled――,
Yorna: [――Shouldn’t it be that parents die first, Tanza?]
And so, the beloved child who had decided her own destiny vanished, just like the purple smoke in the fleeting wind.
As she observed the purple smoke rising from a distance, she greeted the man in the oni mask as he walked out from underneath it.
The one being received, Abel, gave a small snort at the sight of Taritta standing stock-still there,
Abel: [If you are preoccupied with the leg you shot through, then it is nothing more than just needless worry. The wound has already begun to heal. It shall recover fully by tomorrow.]
Taritta: […I’m glad for that. It’s not what I was worried about though.]
As Abel had stated, no physical discomfort was visible in Yorna’s posture as she stood on the hill. Her kimono and disheveled hair, seen from the back, let off a sense of exhaustion, but her right leg, shot through with an arrow, gave off a different aura.
That in and of itself was possibly a benefit of the secret arts she manipulated. However, the result of inflicting the wound was heavier than the wound itself.
Of course, Taritta was well-aware of that weight.
At that last moment, having been entrusted with a choice, Taritta herself had left the decision to an arrow.
If she were to follow Mariuli’s commandment as a Stargazer, Taritta should have shot Abel through the heart with that arrow. It was true that this was the most promising possibility among Taritta’s options, although it was hard to imagine what sort of causality would lead this to quell the Great Disaster.
But considering that Mariuli, who was so dear to her, had turned into an existence unbeknownst to her, solely obeying the stars, it was a decision not any different to one of cutting one’s own life short.
――At the very end, that was the one point that had made Taritta settle on that decision.
Taritta detested the stars that had changed Mariuli. Thus, she did not follow the stars.
Perhaps just following the commandment would have meshed well with Taritta’s personality, someone comfortable with being told what to do, with being shown the way, with being at the beck and call of others.
However, the meeting between Taritta and the stars had been a bad one.
If the stars had spoken to Taritta from the beginning instead of Mariuli, Taritta may have lived for the stars. But that was not what had happened.
Taritta: [――At that moment, I pushed the back of that deergirl who ran without hesitation.]
As a result, the girl somehow gave birth to the light that would then destroy the Great Disaster from within.
In exchange, the young girl’s life vanished, and the amount of damage done to the land where the Demon City once stood was not negligible. It was possible to declare, however, that she had been able to protect that which she wished to protect.
Abel: [Yet in spite of that, you do not appear so pleased.]
Taritta: […I was right, wasn’t I? Not following the commandment, and not shooting you.]
Abel: [As if I, in the position of the one not being shot, would tell you that you should have taken the shot. How correct or wrong your decision was, is not in the scope of the things I should speak of either. As clichéd as it may sound, the rightness of your choice can only be proven by your own actions later on.]
Taritta: […Those words, I don’t think they belong to you.]
Abel: [Correct. From “Iris and the King of Thorns”… A quote from a classic.]
Having spoken of a matter Taritta did not understand, Abel shook his head sideways, stating “You needn’t comprehend it”.
He then surveyed Taritta from top to bottom,
Abel: [You may possess some trepidation even now, but you seem to have gotten over it to some extent. Now, what shall you do?]
Taritta: [I don’t know for sure. I just want to go back to that city and have a conversation with my sister and my people. I would like to talk to the daughter of my already-late soul sister.]
Abel: [A soul sister, which left a commandment to you, huh… That clarification as to why you yourself are not a Stargazer does make sense now. An increasingly abominable bunch.]
Abel: [You are not who I was speaking of. I understand your general plan.]
Abel turned his head around in response to Taritta’s mutterings.
A large number of people marched into the streets that had become ruins, gathering household goods that had escaped damage, as well as materials that could be used for some purpose, and began prioritizing what was needed in order to stay alive.
Taritta was struck by the resilience of the way of life held by those from the Demon City.
Recalling the origins of the Demon City, they were probably accustomed to being persecuted, oppressed, and losing. Even taking that into account, that was.
Taritta: [Those people, are you going to drag them into your fight?]
Involuntarily, Taritta felt daunted due to that short, definitive answer.
There was no hesitation; Abel observed the people trying their best in the devastated land, yet stayed consistent with his original purpose in coming to Chaosflame, putting his heels together with a noise.
???: [――Though Abel-chan’s opinion might be right, I wonder if the people around him are gonna obey so quietly. Even the foxbabe might have a hard time being on our side emotionally, right?]
While expressing a reasonable opinion, Al joined Abel and Taritta.
He had been out of sight for some time, but judging from the way he had set his familiar helmet back on his head and languidly walked toward them, it seemed that something aside from his normal size had been recovered.
At Al’s side was Medium, who looked up at Abel with her round blue eyes,
Medium: [I feel the same way as Al-chin. I’d be happy if Yorna-chan was on our side, but after what happened with Tanza-chan and the city, I’m not sure she would want to be a part of this…]
Abel: [Are you saying that Yorna Mishigure shall not follow us, those who have brought along the existence at the center of the catastrophe? That idea is an overly sentimental one. She has already made up her mind.]
Medium: [Really? Abel-chin, you didn’t tell her something awful again?]
Abel: [Regardless of how heartless they are, I shall say what needs to be done. My intentions are clear.]
Medium’s cheeks puffed up at Abel’s refusal to deny the question she had posed.
In fact, from what Taritta’s ears had picked up, the exchange between Abel and Yorna had not been emotional, but it was far from being gentle, calm, and cuddly.
Still, the reason why Abel did not doubt Yorna’s intentions like he did was because,
Al: [You’re prepared to take advantage of Miss Yorna’s weakness… After all, if she doesn’t walk the same path as us, she can’t protect the city’s residents who’ve got nowhere else to go, right?]
Medium: [Good gracious…! Again with your heartless words, Abel-chin.]
Abel: [What other choice do they possess? The only other option remaining for them is to stick with their meaningless obstinacy and die a dog’s death.]
Medium: [There’s no other way, but there’s another way to say it! Why don’t you get that!]
Abel directed a frigid gaze towards Medium through his oni mask, the latter pressing him for an answer by raising her voice.
Taritta was fairly certain that Abel would make a callous judgement regarding Medium’s complaints, but her emotions were close to Medium’s.
However, as long as he followed the Covenant between the Emperor of the past and the People of Shudraq, Taritta was unable to abandon Abel and cut off their relationship.
The likes of allies by sentiment, held no significance on a very real battlefield.
Al: [You’re right to be angry, Lil’ Miss Medium. However, I personally don’t dislike Abel’s idea of using whatever he can. I wouldn’t have any objection if Lil’ Miss Yorna came with us just for utilitarian purposes.]
Medium: [I’m telling you, I’ve got many objections with it. I hate you too, Al-chin!]
Al: [There’s a pain in my heart from hearing that Lil’ Miss Medium hates me. That aside…]
Cutting off his sentence there, while keeping Medium, who was glaring at Abel and himself, at bay, Al cast his gaze around, turning his attention toward the large hole in the center of the demolished area.
Once that movement captured Taritta and the others’ attention, and, turning to it as well, he voiced,
Al: [Let’s talk about one of ours.――About bro.]
As Al broached the topic, the parched air grew tenser ever so slightly.
It was a topic that they all knew must be talked about, but at the same time, it was a topic that they were all feeling a bit uncomfortable about, wondering what to say.
At any rate――,
Medium: [Subaru-chin, where have you gone…?]
Medium’s somber muttering spoke of a damage of smaller proportions wrought by the Great Disaster.
Compared to the fact that one of the larger cities the Empire took pride in had completely disappeared, and the fact that the lives of two Emperors had been endangered, that damage could perhaps be said to be quite trivial.
However, for the group that came to the Demon City, it was damage that could not be overlooked.
Medium: [Yorna-chan said that the shadows overflowed from Subaru-chin.]
Al: [Old Man Olbart said that as well. He was smiling even though his right hand was gone. As someone with a long history of having one arm, it was unbelievable.]
Taritta: [The old man’s attitude, you mean? Or was it what he said?]
Al: [It’s frustrating, but here, it’s the attitude. As to what he was saying, I’m certain it’s true.]
With a click of his tongue, Al said that he trusted Olbart’s testimony.
Taritta also did not have a good impression of the monstrous old man, but it was also true that he had no reason to lie. As long as what he had stated matched up with what Yorna said, it was probably true.
Suddenly, what came to Taritta’s mind was the memory of Mariuli’s last will and testament, “A traveler, with dark hair, and dark eyes”.
Upon first sighting Subaru in the forest and aiming for his life, there had been no doubt in her mind about him. Later, once she learned of Abel’s existence and identity, him being trapped in the village, she believed that she had misjudged her opponent without a doubt, but――,
Taritta: [What if…]
What if it had been Subaru, and not Abel, the one responsible for the Great Disaster foreseen by Mariuli as the Stargazer?
That could be why the Great Disaster had overflowed with Subaru at the center.
Such doubts kept nagging at Taritta’s heart.
Abel: [There is one thing we must unify our views on.]
Taritta’s anguish was put aside as Abel held up a finger at the center of the group.
Having caught their attention, Abel surveyed the faces of Medium, Al, and Taritta respectively, then declared,
Abel: [From your way of speaking, that thing’s… Natsuki Subaru’s survival is not something you hold doubts on. Do you believe in earnest that he survived that wretched scene?]
Medium: [――Hk, of course! Him dying’s something…]
Abel: [Do not say anything such as not wanting to think about it. Even if it is difficult for you to accept, things that are meant to happen shall happen. The life and death of others walks a fine line.]
Abel’s matter-of-fact tone clashed head-on with Medium’s emotional insistence.
As for Taritta, her sentiments here, too, leaned towards Medium. But she was not hopeful that Subaru could have survived, as he had been at the heart of this catastrophe.
Perhaps, it was because her daily life was spent hunting, coming into contact with the life and death of living beings.
The People of Shudraq were brave warriors, but even routine hunts were deadly. Sometimes, beasts would fight back in their death throes, and her companions would lose their lives.
People died. Easily. Whether those people were important or not made zero difference.
Taritta: [Unfortunately, Subaru…]
Al: [Bro’s alive.]
Shaking her head, Taritta tried to express her condolences. But her statement was interrupted by Al’s words full of conviction; hearing them made Medium’s face light up.
Naturally, Abel turned his eyes, which seemed to be in a foul mood, towards Al,
Abel: [Clown, how can you be so sure of his survival?]
Al: [Plain and simple, it’s ‘cause Natsuki Subaru’s that kinda guy. Or rather…]
Al: [The world hasn’t been destroyed. That’s my basis.]
Taritta could not fully stomach the rationale and the logic that Al laid out. It seemed the same went for Medium, who also tilted her head with a look of incomprehension.
Abel too, cut him down in one go, telling him to “Quit being a fool” verbatim,
Abel: [I do not possess the leisure to listen to your nonsense. If you wish to be a clown, do it around Priscilla.]
Al: [I’d love to do just that, but unfortunately the Princess ain’t here. Speaking of that unfortunate fact, I’d like to ask the same of you, Abel-chan.]
Abel: [What is it.]
Al: [What do you think, Abel-chan? Do you believe bro’s dead?]
Touching the chin of his helmet, Al inquired Abel as to the latter’s thoughts. His opinion, however, seemed to be set in stone. He was the one who had originally started the questioning in such a tone, questioning their sanity for believing Subaru was still alive.
Naturally, for him, the belief that Subaru, who had been within the Great Disaster, had survived――.
Abel: [――Since that was not the Great Disaster, a role for him to fulfill remains. If he possesses the ability for that purpose, it would be premature to assume he is dead.]
But what Abel actually declared was the opposite of what Taritta had expected.
The answer made Taritta become speechless, and even Medium, who should have obtained the answer she was looking for, rounded her eyes in surprise.
However, Abel, not meeting the gazes of Taritta and the others, turned his body immediately after, and slowly walked away from that place.
Glancing at each other’s faces, Taritta and Medium then followed him. Al followed the backs of those three as well, leaning his head in befuddlement.
Medium: [Abel! What do you mean, explain already!?]
Abel: [What is it you need an explanation for?]
Medium: [Everything! You were talking like Subaru-chin was dead until just a moment ago, that’s why.]
Abel: [I just said that, if you believe he survived, you need to present me with an argument other than an emotional one. I do believe he has a reason for surviving. That is why I think he survived. End of story.]
Abel’s answer bereft of kindness made Medium go red in the face, and express her dissatisfaction. That, too, bore no effect at all on Abel; he did not even glance back.
Abel’s feet, with the three of them in tow, finally stopped after walking for a while. They did so right in front of the gargantuan hole made by the now-scattered Great Disaster, where the Demon City once stood.
There, crouched at the edge of the hole, was a small girl―― Louis, hanging down her head.
Her white clothes were completely stained with mud, and she was feebly shoveling soil with her bare hands. Her hands were filthy from the dirt, but it was also noticeable that they had been stained red due to the bleeding of her broken fingernails.
In a panic, Medium rushed up to Louis and embraced the girl from behind; even with Medium’s embrace, Louis’s hands still would not stop.
Pawing away at the ground, or pushing aside debris, the girl kept searching for something. ――No, not something.
Taritta: [She’s looking for Subaru…]
Al: [For better or for worse, I guess… Tch, it doesn’t leave a good taste.]
As they watched the back of the petite Louis, Taritta and Al each exhaled their own thoughts.
Unbeknownst to Taritta, Al’s attitude toward Louis had become terribly irritated. However, Al had been the one to protect Louis from the final strike, the one that blew away the Great Disaster. So Taritta could not quite decipher the relationship between the two in that regard.
Prodding into it now probably would not make anyone happy. She had a vague idea, but Taritta acted as she had not listened to the topic that had been delved into.
Abel: [Stop it already. Digging through the dirt and looking underneath the rubble shan’t help you find what you are looking for.]
Louis: [U… Aau!]
As Louis was hugged by Medium, Abel stood behind her. Turning her head to see the gaze of the oni mask directed at her, Louis made a face that was not quite one of anger, nor one of sorrow.
It seemed to be both condemning Abel and appealing for him to not stop her.
Abel did not care if it was the former, and even if it were the latter, it would reach deaf ears. So, he cocked his chin in the direction of the large pit to Louis’s side――,
Abel: [Discovering him shall require much effort of you. At the very least, he will not emerge even if you paddle through the dirt alone. ――Furthermore, you are not even aware of where he was blown off to.]
Louis: [Au! Aau! Uauua!]
Abel: [You may search like the simpleton you are, but you shall never find him. You would do good to recognize that.]
Louis: [Uu! Uuuu!]
Abel’s cold-blooded words caused Louis to turn red and open her mouth in vehement protest.
From her vigor and look of anger, it was evident that she would never give up looking for Subaru, and that she was keen that she would find him without fail.
Medium: [Abel-chin, is there a way to find Subaru-chin?]
Louis: [Uh, uh?]
Medium: [The way you just said it, about how Louis-chan can’t find Subaru-chin alone. Do you have a better method in mind? Or doesn’t it exist? Do you have one?]
While Medium posed a question to Abel, looking into his eyes, Louis grew more excited as Medium embraced her. As Louis’s vigor subsisted because of Medium’s words, Abel shut one eye, and,
Abel: [You are not very perceptive, but you have good instincts, don’t you? You and your brother are like two peas in a pod.]
Medium: [Of course, because big bro and I are brother and sister. More importantly, answer me properly! Is there a way to find Subaru-chin? Is there? Is there!?]
Expectations swelled, and Medium threw out the same question over and over. Sighing at Medium pitching forward, Abel paused for a beat, then added,
Abel: [It is not anything as proper as a search method. The original aim would not be to find someone who has disappeared, but to secure a pretext to stir trouble in the Imperial Capital.]
Medium: [Make it easier to understand!]
Abel: […If that plan works, you and this girl’s wish may come true. After all, the whole Empire shall search high and low for that one person.]
Taritta: [The entire Empire, looking for Subaru… you say?]
Picking up on an intriguing part of Abel’s words, Taritta’s eyebrows frowned.
Like Medium, Taritta was not the most perceptive of people. The only difference was that Medium would say out loud that she did not understand what she did not understand, while Taritta would keep it to herself.
In any case, Abel’s explanation, which he had attempted voicing in an easy-to-understand manner, was not quite grasped by Taritta due to her lack of knowledge beforehand.
Louis: [――Uau, auau?]
The intent behind those words had been only conveyed with certainty to the one whom it had been addressed to.
Louis, who had been on the verge of a violent outburst, relaxed in Medium’s arms; and, staring at a motionless Abel, she cast a question without the use of language.
In response, Abel nodded, voicing “Of course”. Although, he probably did not know its exact meaning.
Al: [So what are we gonna do? How can we implement this plan to find bro?]
Abel: [Nothing so difficult, just spread the word.]
Abel responded to Al’s question, and Medium glared sharply at him again. Then, Abel sighed, as if anticipating the hounding that would follow from Medium, and resumed.
Abel: [――That Vincent Vollachia’s illegitimate son, a black-haired, black-eyed abomination, is seeking his father’s position. Precisely like a reenactment of “Magrizza’s Guillotine”.]
――On the same day, at the same time, in a certain place.
They forcibly pushed their soaking wet body up, pulling themselves nearer to ground, to which their fingers were just barely clinging to. There would be no returning if they were to let go of this feeling, even for a moment.
This person was literally in a struggle to the death―― no, more like, in a struggle for their life.
The pitch-black water, which offered no refuge, sapped away their body temperature and stamina something fierce, so many times making them feel like they would breathe their last. They were unable to distinguish whether this was a dream or reality.
They felt as if they had been bitten over and over again by a large fish lurking beneath the water. They felt like they had drowned, all the while tasting blood, the inside of their lungs being filled with acrid water, unable to breathe. There mayhave been some times in which they had passed out from a hypothermia or lack of stamina, their life being snuffed out amidst sleep.
And so, while repeating that, piling that up, floundering, like so, finally they――,
???: [Bah, bwaaah…]
They forced their body up onto the shore while coughing out water they had swallowed. This was tough, anguishing, and heavy. From the bottom of their heart, they wished that they could utilize both of their hands to make things easier. However, they could not do so.
Opposite to their right hand, which had clasped the shore, wrapped around their left arm, there was something which they could never let go of.
They had failed over and over before they had understood its identity. They had ended up letting go.
However, once they understood what it was, they absolutely could never release it. And so they had piled up so, so many mistakes; and yet, they had not given up――,
Before they did so to themselves, they pushed the one wrapped around their left arm up onto the shore.
Though small in size, they were still heavy. The fact that the one doing the carrying was not in perfect condition, and that neither of them were dressed for swimming, was unfortunate.
Even more so regarding her, since she was wearing a kimono, and those had more cloth to them than normal clothing. Meaning, it would soak up more water.
They hoped she would forgive them for removing some of her kimono enroute, to make her lighter.
Something had also sharply dug into their flank and nape upon pulling her towards themselves. The reason for that, had been the splendid antlers sprouting from her head. ――With this pain, they would prefer that she would interpret this as putting the two of them even.
All that was left was――,
???: [Uh, guh…!]
They pushed the girl up to the shore, and now all that remained was to muster the last of their strength, and get themselves onto the coast as well.
However, perhaps because the thread of tension was cut once the girl had been put on the waterfront, they were incapable of procuring that last strength to muster, and their hands only clawed fruitlessly at dry land.
Their wavering head and the ringing in their ears chided them, conveying to them that they could not remain as they were.
It was the omen of their consciousness fading. And losing their consciousness here, meant death.
If the tension were cut, and their willpower to accomplish anything were severed, they would be stuck repeating dream and reality to obtain this luck once again.
Anything but that, they thought, struggling in earnest more, and more, and more, as to revive their consciousness.
Their consciousness, grew faint. Eventually, their hand let go of the shore――,
???: [――Oops, careful.]
At that moment, as they loosened their hold on the shore, and once again sunk into the water, someone held onto that hand.
Firm, slender fingers gripped their wrist, pulling their plummeting body up onto the coast. Their face rose from within the water as they gasped for air, and right before losing consciousness, they looked at the other person.
Just who was it that had caught their hand, however――,
???: [Nah, let’s not have that. You’re on the verge of losing consciousness at any moment, right? That’d be a tad shoddy if so. Having gotten this chance, I’d rather kick things off in a more dramatic fashion.]
Of all things, the hand opposite to the one holding onto them came to cover their eyes as they attempted to get a look at the other. What they observed, was no more than the wrinkles of the other person’s palm.
The hand of an unknown someone with palm lines that were unusually long. 
With that as the last thing they saw, their consciousness, faded away――,
???: [However, nice job swimming all the way here! Really, such a strange coincidence, walking wherever the wind took me got me here! My my my my, real nice, isn’t it!?]
Caught by their fading consciousness, that cheerful voice accompanied them all the way until its end.
That voice, almost akin to a high-spirited thunderclap.
???: [――Don’t you just get the feeling that a grand tale’s gonna begin?]
With that unanswerable question, their consciousness―― Natsuki Subaru’s consciousness, was lost without answering.
 Obidome (帯止め) are accessories worn on the string that ties a kimono. It is said that these accessories were first used by geisha (traditional Japanese prostitutes), an architype on which Yorna is inspired by, before becoming wide-spread. For more information, see https://www.japanese-wiki-corpus.org/culture/Obidome.html.
 This is a double entendre, as “生命線” can mean something like “a factor that makes the difference between life and death” and the lines in one’s palm.