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――The reason he was here, and the Nine Divine Generals, both were unknown to Cecilus.
Subaru’s mind was engulfed in confusion as he failed to process that sudden bombshell announcement.
The impact was much more striking than being splashed with cold water, and he couldn’t help but blink a few times.
Subaru: [W-what do you mean? Saying you don’t know why you’re here…]
Cecilus: [What I mean is just as I said. I found myself thrown onto this Gladiator Island, with a brand new environment and outlook for the future which had me in quite the pickle. Well, this is a rather comfy place for me to live, so it’s not too much of a pickle, but let’s just put it that way.]
Cecilus: [Oh? Are you perhaps thinking again? Maaan, Basu sure likes to think, huh. I mean, I think that’s fine; I’m on the side that doesn’t like to think too much, you see. I don’t make fun of people deep in thought, nor do I wish to interrupt them, so I’ll keep my mouth shut then!]
It took a long time for Cecilus to shut his mouth, but then he pretty much went quiet. That being said, during the time his mouth was shut, his legs were pitter-pattering and his eyes were darting about incessantly.
Although he may not have been fooling around, it was more than enough of a distraction.
But Subaru did not have the composure to deal with such things. If he was going to deal with something, then it should at least be something meaningful.
Subaru: [How come you don’t know anything about the Nine Divine Generals, but you know you’re called The Blue Lightning? That’s strange isn’t it?]
Cecilus: [Ah, the answer to that question is easy. It was none other than myself who came up with this shocking alias! Cecilus Segmunt, the Blue Lightning of Vollachia! What do you think? It’s a nickname that gives a very striking and elegant impression, don’t you think? One day, my name’s going to be so famous that everyone in the whole wide world will be dazzled by me as the lead actor! It’s a manifestation of my passion.]
Subaru: [A nickname, that you came up with…]
Hearing that proud response, Subaru’s shoulders sank in disappointment.
Puzzled by Subaru’s demeanor, Cecilus asked, “Huhh? What’s wrong~?” as he peered at Subaru’s expression nonchalantly. But Subaru had lost the willpower to answer that.
Whether the boy before his eyes was the real Cecilus Segmunt or a fake, he had reached a conclusion.
The theory that there were many adults who had no respect for children, as expected, lacked the power to overturn his outrageous statement that he had never heard of the Nine Divine Generals.
No matter how you look at it, there was no way a real General First-Class could have followed up on the statement that they had never heard of the Nine Divine Generals.
Subaru: [Not knowing that you’re a General of the Empire, you’ve got to be joking…]
It was completely pointless trying to sensibly proceed through such hole-filled logic.
Therefore, in Subaru’s mind, any possibility that the boy in front of him was the real Cecilus had vanished. He was just a prankster, a boy-who-cried-wolf―― a fake Cecilus.
And so, the thin thread of hope that sprouted at this dead-end had snapped.
If only one seed of hope still remained, it was that the fake Cecilus was just a liar, and perhaps that his earlier story about the very scary island was just another of his lies――,
???: [――So this is where you have been at, Segmunt.]
The next moment, Subaru jumped as a man’s deep voice hit him from behind while he was thinking.
A voice that was not that of the fake Cecilus, nor of Tanza, who was, of course, sleeping in bed. Subaru looked back at the entrance of the healing room, where he had heard it from, his surprise accumulating further.
――For the figure standing at the entrance of the healing room, was an unthinkably large man.
The man was so large that one could not help but marvel at his stature.
No, not only was he tall, but he also had a thickness to him both vertically and horizontally, his entire body fitting the description of being thick and large. His neck and limbs were as hefty as logs, and the black clothes he wore, similar to that of a police or soldier’s, were so taut and tight that they looked as if they were about to burst.
Regardless of the fact that Subaru had shrunk, this was a man so giant that looking up at him would hurt your neck.
He was easily over two meters tall and possibly the tallest human Subaru has seen in this parallel world. Features like his colossal body, which carried a very stern face, his fangs protruding even when his mouth was closed, and his skin being blue in color were just way too numerous.
However, the most prominent feature had yet to be described.
That most prominent feature was――,
Cecilus: [Yo, what’s up, Gustav-san! You’re looking splendidly prim and proper this morning! Your attention to every detail of your appearance’s the basis of a gentleman, I believe that’s a truly exemplary attitude!]
Gustav: [No need for compliments, I am glad to see that you are as excessively healthy as ever. A being such as you should be put to use in the gladiatorial arena, as I, as the official, in all fairness, have strictly judged.]
Saying that, the huge man―― the one called Gustav, exasperatedly sighing in response to the wry words of the fake Cecilus, replied with his four thick arms crossed.
That’s right, four arms.
A large man with a face like that of a demon, whose large body was wrapped in a mass of muscles, had the feature of having four arms, with two arms sprouting from each shoulder. As he recalled, there was a race of demi-humans called the Multi-Arm Tribe that possessed such a trait; He’d heard of them from an old man that he knew.
An old man, that he knew――,
Subaru: [Uhh… that’s right, it was Wilhelm-san.]
Even recalling the names of his acquaintances was difficult for Subaru.
Outside of Subaru’s hard struggle, the fake Cecilus laughed at Gustav’s words saying “Nahh”,
Cecilus: [Your concern is much appreciated! I understand what you’re saying Gustav-san! On the off chance I die, it should be on the battlefield. I’m so grateful to have a sensible person as Island Chief, I really am a lucky guy!]
Gustav: [The mixing of public and private affairs is a hindrance to order. There is no sense in me, as the official, carrying out such a foolish practice.]
Cecilus: [Yes, yes, I understand! A big thank you to Governor Gustav for your consideration~!]
Gustav narrowed his intellectual eyes at the fake Cecilus when he donned a goofy smile and put his hands together.
In a subtle way, the “don’t mix public and private affairs” statement sounded to Subaru as if he personally disliked the fake Cecilus, but there was no point in delving into that.
Other than the fake Cecilus, there was finally someone Subaru could talk to.
Gustav: [So, Segmunt, about that boy over there.]
And right on cue, Gustav also turned his attention to Subaru.
Being looked down upon from such staggering height, just being gazed at was suffocating, it felt as if his whole body was enveloped in an air of intimidation. Those four crossed arms, the fists at the ends of them all around the size of a child’s head, Subaru would probably die if he were to be hit by them.
Reflexively, Subaru gulped down his spit, while the fake Cecilus clapped his hands beside him.
Cecilus: [Oh yes, he finally woke up. And, since he was worried about his companion, the young lady, I brought him here. But it seems that the sleeping little lady was not the one he expected, and it seems a lotta discrepancies have arisen. The shock from that is now dissipating, so from now onwards, the story will unfold.]
Gustav: [Thanks for the explanation. However, I remember ordering that if he had woken up, the first thing for you to do was to bring him before me, as the official. That would have been the condition for me, in my capacity, to give permission for this boy and girl to be allowed ashore on the island.]
Cecilus: [Was it? Sorry, I’m forgetful.]
At Cecilus’s blank response, Gustav silently rubbed his finger between his brows.
Doing so, the man who was much closer to the sky than Subaru and the others glared at the ceiling, grumbling to himself, “As the official, I am a guardian of order; I will not mix public and private affairs…”
Subaru was not sure what Gustav’s relationship with the fake Cecilus was, but the latter probably gave him a very hard time.
Realizing that, though he felt sorry for Gustav, he was a bit relieved.
Subaru: [I’m not the only one who gets pushed around by Ceci.]
Cecilus: [It’s outrageous to think that I’d push people around. I think I’ve given a proper explanation of what you wanted to know and accompanied you where you wanted to go, to see who you wanted to see.]
Subaru: [Yeah, you’re right, I misspoke. The explanation had a lot of detours, and the person I was allowed to meet wasn’t who I wanted to meet, and I was told I couldn’t go to the places I wanted to go, and that made me depressed.]
It seemed there was no malice in the fake Cecilus, so there was no point in saying so.
When Subaru told him so, the fake Cecilus let out a “Tch”, pursing his lip in dissatisfaction. With that, Gustav turned toward Subaru again, as if his frustration with Cecilus had been successfully dealt with.
Gustav: [Boy, if you have woken up, let us start our talk anew.]
Subaru: [I’d be happy to do so. I had also wanted to hear from someone else. If it’s with a person of high standing on this island, that’s even better.]
Gustav: [I see]
While Subaru was being careful with the words he was speaking, Gustav touched his chin with his two right hands.
At first glance, he had a stern outward appearance, but his speech and atmosphere were very quiet and calm, and there was an intelligent glint in his eyes, giving an impression quite close to that of the bushy-headed Zikr.
In other words, a representation of a sensible adult.
As if to confirm Subaru’s expectations, Gustav gave a deep and dignified nod,
Gustav: [As the official, my name is Gustav Morello, and I have been entrusted with the management of this island by His Excellency the Emperor, Vincent Vollachia, the seventy-seventh Emperor of the Sacred Vollachian Empire. Can you tell me your name and affiliation?]
Politely giving his position and name, he addressed Subaru directly.
Subaru was slightly astonished by this fact, then put his hand on his chest and bowed his head.
Subaru: [T-thank you for introducing yourself. My name is Natsuki… Natsuki Schwartz.]
Gustav: [I see. Schwartz.]
Subaru, though pressured, announced his name in reply to Gustav.
For a moment, after wondering whether to use his real name or a pseudonym, he gave a somewhat mixed answer, but at this point, it should be considered a success.
Honestly, he wasn’t sure if lying to Gustav was the right or wrong thing to do.
However, it would not be good for Subaru’s real name to spread. It may not have been a big deal to the fake Cecilus since he was a fake General First-Class, but you never know who might be knowledgeable on the Kingdom’s affairs.
What can be hidden should be hidden. Even if Cecilus, upon hearing Subaru’s current alias, had tilted his head grandly with a “Huh~?”
Gustav: [But if you are Natsuki Schwartz, then why did Segmunt call you Basu?]
Subaru: [I think Ceci’s got his own reasoning for himself. Would you like to confirm it?]
Gustav: [――. No, let us not. Considering the duties entrusted to me as the official, I have no time to spend on pointless endeavors. I may not be a wise man in my capacity, but I do try to be wise.]
Shaking his head, Gustav made a wise Subaru-like decision.
It was somewhat annoying to think that was due to the fake Cecilus’s usual behavior, so it was better to consider this the result of Subaru’s behavior.
In any case――,
Gustav: [You are able to answer to your name and, from your appearance, you seem to not possess any physical impairments. According to the healer, your strength has been considerably depleted, do you feel that as well?]
Subaru: [My strength… I may have been feeling a little bit tired. But, thanks for everything you’ve done to help me.]
Gustav: [Allow me to correct one thing, Schwartz. It was Segmunt there who helped you, not me. As far as I, in my capacity, am concerned, I have only agreed to accept you conditionally.]
Subaru: [I-I see.]
Gustav’s well-reasoned responses almost made Subaru falter.
The way he spoke and the content of his words were not particularly welcoming towards Subaru, and the tone of his voice was somewhere between cold and emotionless, but his easy-to-understand explanations were genuinely helpful.
Compared to the fake Cecilus, how much he spoke, and the amount of information in his words, were much, much more balanced.
Even the question he had just asked seemed to be born out of concern for Subaru’s condition after he’d woken up, and if things continued like this, it was possible that he would listen if Subaru just talked with him.
Subaru, and Tanza as well, had arrived at this Gladiator Island by mistake.
Subaru: [Gustav-san, me and this girl… Her name’s Tanza, but is this girl some sort of blunder? We seem to have come here by some kind of mistake.]
Gustav: [The mistake, being?]
Subaru: [――! That is, I don’t know the reason. It’s just, we were so far away… You know of Chaosflame, right? We’re supposed to be in that city!]
According to the fake Cecilus, this Island and the Demon City were apparently quite far from each other.
That alone should be enough to make everyone, Subaru included, realize that what had befallen them was a severe predicament. Being sent from the Demon City to this Island, was far from being an everyday event.
Subaru: [I know it’s selfish of me to say this after all the help we’ve gotten, but we can’t stay here much longer. I’m sure our people are out there looking for us! If possible I want to let them know we’re safe and join them as soon as we can.]
Ideally, he would leave this place with Tanza if circumstances permitted.
Subaru did not know why he and Tanza were both on the Island, but he was certain that Yorna was worried about Tanza. Since the original goal was to get Yorna on his side, Abel would not get mad if he did something that made her happy.
Besides, Subaru was rather fond of Yorna.
If he could make that gentle woman happy, then all the better, so he thought.
Subaru: [So, I gotta get out of here as soon as――]
Gustav: [――Enough. That is enough, Schwartz.]
Subaru leaned forward, about to raise his voice, but a gargantuan palm stopped him. Two right hands were thrust in front of his face; silenced by those, Subaru cut off his words with an “Uhh”.
Crossing over his right hand, Gustav used his left hands to simultaneously stroke his chin and head.
Gustav: [I understand your point. I may say that I have a rough understanding of your situation. In addition, you must listen to what I, in my capacity, have to say. That would be only fair.]
Gustav: [Indeed, fair. It is just, it is strict, it is unbiased, it is absolute truth… it is essential to building what is called order, definite reason.]
Subaru was interrupted, and frowned at being assaulted by the litany of words spoken slowly.
Things like fairness or justice, they sounded quite easygoing from the perspective of someone in a rush. But Subaru nodded anyway, knowing that going against Gustav here would not help him.
At Subaru’s reaction, Gustav closed a single eye, letting out a “Very well”,
Gustav: [You remember what I spoke earlier, do you not? That it was Segmunt who saved you, and that the fact that I, as the official, allowed you and that girl to land here had conditions attached to it.]
Subaru: [That’s… Yes, I remember, but…]
His attention had been directed to the part about them being helped, not so much on the part about it having been conditional. But Gustav had indeed told that to Subaru, in an oppressive tone.
But just what were those conditions? What were the conditions under which Subaru and Tanza had been allowed to enter the Island?
Gustav: [Schwartz, the fact is you hold sound judgment, you are not so impoverished in knowledge as to not know how to answer my questions, you make use of your education to address me, as the official, by honorifics, you are in good health based on the healer’s diagnosis, and there is the fact that you yourself have not suffered from any self-reported physical ailments. Any objections?]
Subaru: [You saying it all at once makes me dizzy… I have no objections, I think.]
Gustav: [You think, that is a somewhat unconvincing opinion. Do you hold any objections or do you not?]
Subaru: [――. I have no objections.]
Gustav’s gaze did not allow Subaru to give a half-assed answer.
Overwhelmed by this, Subaru looked over at his opponent. His gaze was returned to Gustav’s frightening, statue-like face, the hue of his eyes and his expression unchanged.
The conversation was rather one-sided, and proceeded with Gustav having seized the initiative.
This was making Subaru feel a growing sense of dread, but he was unable to come up with a quick solution. As usual, he had no information. In other words, there were no options for him.
And in Subaru’s stead――,
Cecilus: [See, I told you, didn’t I? Basu meets your standards in proper fashion, Gustav-san. It’s also just in time for today’s schedule, so you can’t complain, right?]
Gustav: [However, the girl is yet to wake.]
Cecilus: [As for that, uhh, there are ways to adapt and manipulate things under a Governor’s jurisdiction, right?]
Gustav: [Yes. Provided the girl does not wake up, we shall begin with one person fewer than stated by the regulations.]
Cecilus: [Well well, we’ve really stirred up the hornet’s nest, huh!?]
While Subaru was left perplexed, the one parlaying with Gustav was the fake Cecilus.
Although he could not perceive the main subject of that conversation, he could understand that it regarded him and Tanza. Also, he could understand that this fake Cecilus was incapable of conducting a conversation properly.
Moreover, Subaru had a feeling that the one to pay the bill for that failure, was not the fake Cecilus himself.
Cecilus: [I’m sorry, Basu. It seems that my assistance is only possible up to this point. You’ll have to do the rest on your own. I’m sure you can do it!]
Subaru: [W-waitwaitwait! This whole conversation’s just too ominous! What the hell was that exchange just now? Gustav-san! What were the terms of our stay on this island…]
Gustav: [――You must participate in Sparka.]
Subaru: [Spaa… ?]
Subaru frowned at the unfamiliar word, dropped from on high.
If Gustav said they would be participating, then this Sparka had to be an event of some kind. Any kind of event held here, on the Gladiator Island―― he could not help but get a nasty feeling about it.
Before, Al had said that life on Gladiator Island had been difficult and painful for him.
Events there were bound to be scary or painful.
Subaru: [Hold on, Gustav-san! Why do we need to participate in Sparka!? We didn’t come to this island on purpose!]
Gustav: [Prisoners of war, slaves, criminals… The circumstances of those that land on this Gladiator Island may vary, but few come willingly. And the only role I, as the official, possess, is to perform my duty, as per the wishes of His Excellency, to my utmost, and bring order to the Gladiator Island, which holds all these outlaws.]
Subaru: [His Excellency… The Emperor’s wishes would be…]
Gustav: [――To transform this Gladiator Island into the most meaningful bloodbath in the Empire.]
That declaration was so awfully emotionless, that Subaru’s blood ran cold just after he snapped at him.
The hue of Gustav’s eyes, the way he spoke, they seemed cold and unwavering, but that would be mistaken. There were more appropriate words to describe Gustav.
It was as if, indeed, as if he were robotic, inorganic and cold.
As Subaru sucked in his breath, stiffening at the alteration in his impression of Gustav, the latter addressed him with “Schwartz”.
He then looked down at Subaru, who was much smaller than himself,
Gustav: [You shall call him His Excellency the Emperor. The first time a caution, the second time a warning, there will be no third time.]
Gustav: [Also, I want to reiterate that I shall not allow you to refuse Sparka. If you refuse to take part in Sparka, you and the girl shall suffer your original fate.]
Subaru: [Our original fate, what do you mean…?]
Gustav: [Segmunt’s plea is rejected, and you are not permitted to make land. ――Meaning that you would fall prey to the aquatic Witchbeasts that live in the waters of the lake.]
Flatly, devoid of any vacillation, Gustav presented Subaru’s future options.
This giant of a man would tell a child that refusal meant death. This was what it meant to be cold-blooded, and it also made Subaru desire to curse his own poor luck for facing nothing but painful experiences while he was shrunk.
Weren’t people usually kinder to children?
Or was it acceptable in the Vollachian Empire, where the strong were revered, for children to be killed without pause for the sole reason that they were weak?
Subaru: [If that’s the case, a nation like this has got to be destroyed…]
Gustav: [I know not what you mean, but I shall allow your cursing. If all speech is silenced, discontent shall build up. The seeds of great folly grow in the seedbed of discontent, watered by animosity.]
Slowly shaking his head, Gustav grabbed Subaru’s shoulders as the latter gritted his teeth.
Caught in a palm that could easily grasp his head, Subaru could do nothing to resist. Rather, Subaru thought about forcibly resisting and escaping from this place, but――,
Cecilus: [I don’t recommend that approach, Basu. You’ll probably end up having an awfully bad time. This isn’t outta kindness or anything, more like I just feel like that would be boring, so I’m strongly requesting this of you.]
Subaru: [Thanks for speaking your heart. Go to hell, Ceci.]
Cecilus: [Wow, I genuinely saved you, and you say those terrible things to me. Though, it’s not that I don’t understand what feelings made you say them, so I won’t be angry with you.]
With the fake Cecilus casually blocking the entrance, Subaru was robbed of his last bit of resistance.
In the end, even though he had attempted to express his indignation regarding the situation through swearing hurled towards the fake Cecilus, whose status as a friend or foe was unclear, reacting to his response was a waste of effort to Subaru.
At any rate, Subaru was forced to participate in this good-for-nothing event, Sparka.
If he refused, he would be fed to the fish, and if he did what they told him to――,
Gustav: [Prove your qualifications and I, as Governor, shall take responsibility and welcome you as a gladiator.]
If he did well, he would become a slave, and if he did not, he would be fed to the fish.
Subaru had thought that nothing good had happened to him ever since he had been made smaller, but he had to correct that.
――Not a single good thing had happened ever since he arrived at the Vollachian Empire.
Subaru: […I really hate the Vollachian Empire.]
Subaru’s hateful complaint, as if in consideration for Tanza who continued to sleep, was low, quiet, and minute.
――He felt the heat that enveloped the venue all over his body.
The eerie thing was, however, that despite the number of gazes pouring down on them, there was a little commotion.
It was a strange sensation of a deafening silence, rather than any muted excitement or fervor.
However, Subaru did not have the luxury of getting angry or complaining about it.
???: [Shit, shit… Ya gotta be kiddin’ me, this is the worst…!]
???: [I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna be the one to fucking do it…]
???: [Silence! Follow my orders obediently, all of you! Do so and you’ll make it out alive!]
Cutting through the noisy silence, were three men in Subaru’s immediate vicinity.
A scaly-skinned lizardman with skin akin to rock, a bald-headed man with many tattoos engraved on his body, and a young man with a pleasant face donning long, rust-colored hair.
They all hailed from different backgrounds and races, but they all had one thing in common.
That was, that they disregarded Subaru when it came to manpower, and that the tension of this life-or-death situation dwelled within their eyes.
As it stood, although their dates of birth were different, their dates of death would be the same.
Gustav: [――Gentlemen, first of all, congratulations on landing upon this Island. His Excellency the Emperor Vincent Vollachia in the Imperial Capital shall be very pleased. As the Governor who has been personally entrusted by His Excellency the Emperor with the management of this Gladiator Island, I am pleased to present you with an honorable trial.]
So he, Gustav Morello, Governor of the Gladiator Island Ginunhive, and the director of this local entertainment, spoke loudly from a special seat atop the high wall overlooking the gladiatorial arena.
And then, beneath Gustav’s feet―― as the gate of the passageway that brought the warriors to the gladiatorial arena opened, a horrifying apparition slowly, slowly emerged from the darkness.
A face of a lion with eyes colored red, four hoofed legs like those of a deer. With twisted horns and fangs, and a frighteningly long tail, its huge body made even Gustav, tall as he was, appear small.
With drool and growls spilling from its mouth, the fearsome enemy, a Witchbeast―― no, here it would be called a Gladiator Beast, arrived with hefty steps.
That, was precisely what Subaru and the other three must confront――
Gustav: [――As is desired by His Excellency the Emperor, prove your prestige as strong citizens of the Empire!]
――That was the examiner of Sparka, the barbaric trial to become a gladiator.