Arc 7, Chapter 87 – “Decisive Battle at the Bastion”

 

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The siege of the Imperial Capital Lupugana by the rebel army, for the purpose of defeating the Emperor Vincent Vollachia, rebels had gathered from all over the country in cooperation, and it had begun as a united front―― was not what had happened at all.

There was certainly a great number of rebels who were currently gathering around the Imperial Capital of Lupugana.

Gathered from all over the Empire, they laid siege to Lupugana, the heart of the Vollachian Empire, and prepared a force that overwhelmed the number of Imperial Soldiers the Imperial Capital held.

In most cases, battles were decided by numbers.

The larger the scale of the battle, the more decisive this rule became, and it could be said that the rebel forces, which had been able to gather more than double the number of troops in simple forces ratio, gained an overwhelming advantage in their attack on the Imperial Capital.

However――,

???: [――That is, if the assembled troops can function as a cohesive unit.]
In the innermost place of the Imperial Capital Lupugana, seated atop the throne in the audience chamber of the Crystal Palace, Vincent’s black eyes narrowed as he received reports of the all-out offensive with the rebels that had begun.

The Capital was surrounded by rebel forces and attacked with an overwhelming difference in troop strength. Despite being in a predicament unprecedented in the history of the Empire, there was no sign of fear or impatience in his cold, demonic appearance.

This was largely due to the analytical factor that he had just mentioned himself.

Vincent: [The objective of the assembled rebels may be united around my head, but there is no room for compromise in the methods used to be able to do it. From the beginning, they were the ones who strived to stand at the front after things began to occur.]

???: [The harder they try not to be outdone, the more difficult it is for them to come to terms with the idea of coordinating with the others. This sure gets me to remember, back to the times of the Imperial Selection Ceremony.]

Vincent: [――――]

???: [In order to determine the next Emperor, a blood ritual in which the siblings of the Vollachian Imperial Family vie for the Imperial Throne… Even on that occasion as well, those who refused the alternative were removed from the board. Most of all…]

With that, Berstetz, who was standing next to the throne, cut off his words and accumulated them for a moment. Within those eyes as narrow as a single thread, the old man’s emotions could not be read, but one could get a rough idea of what he was feeling.

After all, Berstetz was yet another one of the people who had experienced the bloodshed of the Imperial Selection Ceremony.

Berstetz: [At that time, there was wariness regarding the personality of His Excellency Barthroy, who had created the largest faction, and as expected, he was quickly removed, though.]

Aside from those inner thoughts of Vincent, Berstetz touched the moustache under his nose as he vocalized the end of his accumulated words.

The way he spoke about it was as if it were some other person’s business, that was terribly ingenuine.

Vincent: [You dare to speak of such? Was it not none other than you and Lamia who removed that elder brother?]

Berstetz: [While it is shameful, I followed the judgment of Her Excellency Lamia. In addition, I was unable to see the true intentions of His Excellency Barthroy, so even now I continue to live in disgrace.]

Vincent: [Elder brother Barthroy’s intentions, hm.]

Berstetz: [Indeed. It was a conspiracy hatched by none other than His Excellency Vincent and His Excellency Barthroy.]

Deeply drawing back his chin as he gave that response, Berstetz’s expression did not change.

Considering the events that took place, one might expect him to harbor a grudge, but he was a man free from such miscellaneous human emotions. And, moreover, he was reasonable enough to know that it was useless to say anything to Vincent.

That deed was Vincent Vollachia’s―― no, it was the result of the actions of Vincent Abellux, from before he became the Emperor,

???: [Since the real His Excellency is outside the walls at this time, the feelings of His Excellency the Prime Minister, who gets lost at the brunt of offense, are something that I can understaaand~.]

Berstetz: [――――]

???: [Hmm~? The two of you are giving me stern looks… Did I say something unnecessary?]

The gentle man who shrugged his shoulders in an aloof manner as he faced Vincent and Berstetz, the highest ranking members of the Empire, was an unorthodox being who was permitted to visit the Crystal Palace regardless of his rank―― the Stargazer, Ubilk.
It was not that the heckling Ubilk suddenly broke into the conversation. He was there from the beginning when Vincent and Berstetz spoke with each other, he just had not interjected.

Nonetheless――,

Vincent: [Even if no one else is around, it is not something you should feel relaxed discussing.]

Ubilk: [Ah~, it was unnecessary to top it off with the title of “real”, wasn’t it. No wonder His Excellency the Emperor and His Excellency the Prime Minister would get so angry. Though, if I don’t let it out once in a while, it may inadvertently come out through an outburst. ――Don’t you feel sorry for the soldiers who, even now, continue to risk their lives to protect the Imperial Capital.]

Vincent: [――――]

Ubilk: [If it were to be inadvertently revealed that His Excellency the Emperor Vincent, who everyone is all trying so hard to protect, is actually a fake…]

Putting his hand over his mouth, Ubilk brazenly spoke aloud what he had just been rebuked for.

His abilities had made him a valuable asset, but his behavior certainly had the frivolity of a clown. However, the duties of being a clown could not be seen as merely a permit for making practical jokes.

Even if his abilities as a Stargazer were excellent,

Vincent: [Your repeated rudeness cannot be written off. If everything until now comes to fruition, I will cut off your head myself.]

Ubilk: [Of course, I’m aware of this. But, Your Excellency… No, you are a prudent one. Until the very, very last moment, I had been assuming that my life couldn’t be taken.]

Even when he was pierced by a glare from the throne, Ubilk met his gaze with a smile. He continued, “More than that,” and looked over to Berstetz,

Ubilk: [I’m more afraid of His Excellency the Prime Minister. It seems that within him, he is hiding hell itself.]

Berstetz: [It’s not like the Stargazer to be afraid of someone like me. Why not ask the stars whether someone like me is deserving of your fear?]

Ubilk: [My apologies, Your Excellency the Prime Minister. The stars look down on this world from high in the sky, and unless they assert their dazzling selves, they cannot be seen.]

Those who are insignificant are not reflected in the future that Stargazers see.

Whether that was a facade or his true thoughts, was impossible to read from Ubilk’s speech and conduct. But peacetime nonsense aside, Ubilk’s words could not be ignored when he was performing the role of a Stargazer.

Nine years had passed since Ubilk began serving the Vollachian Empire as a Stargazer―― Perhaps it could be said that his achievements have been building for the sake of this very moment.

Ubilk: [――Woah.]

Suddenly, a thunderous roar from the distant sky reached the audience chamber, which had fallen into silence.

A slight tremor was felt under their feet, and the atmosphere of a fierce battle could be felt even in the depths of the Crystal Palace. That said, the phenomena which caused this thunderous roar was probably someone on the side of the Imperial Capital for the most part.

Ubilk: [Even though In terms of numbers, the rebels surrounding the Imperial City should outnumber ours…]

Vincent: [In the end, it is just a disorderly mishmash of people… No, they are not even cohesive, but a bunch of outlaws who may even drag each other down in some cases. That is no way to compete with the pack of Sword Wolves who are governed by the law of Iron and Blood.]

Ubilk: [I see. However, no matter how out for blood the Imperial citizens are, they will not invade the Imperial Capital without a chance to win. Isn’t that why each tribe will throw in their own hero?]

Vincent: [Have you forgotten what you said in front of me just now?]

Vincent spoke to Ubilk, who tilted his head, shifting his attention to the battle outside due to the shaking. Ubilk closed one eye at those words, and Vincent rested his chin on one hand,

Vincent: [If there is dazzling light of the stars above the ground, you said that you would notice it. In that case, it would not be strange if a glittering star that could move this war situation had let you gaze upon it beforehand.]

Ubilk: [Ah~.]

Vincent: [Has there been such an occurrence? Stargazer.]

Narrowing his black eyes, Vincent quietly posed a question. Ubilk laughed at the question as he scratched his cheek with his finger, and,

Ubilk: [Unfortunately, I haven’t heard anything of the sort.]

Berstetz: [In that case, it aligns with your own role as well, I guess that’s how it is.]

With that statement, Berstetz put Ubilk’s forced smile to an end.

Ubilk was at a loss with an awkward look on his face, but there was no sense of being cornered. To begin with, regardless of whether Ubilk was a Stargazer or not, it was something he thoroughly understood.

Certainly, all the insurgents would come to take the head of Vincent, the one sat upon the throne. For that purpose, each tribe would dispatch their strongest warriors to try and proclaim their supremacy.

But, that notion was misguided to begin with since it was based on a widespread misconception.
It was bound to happen. ――Just what did they think the Nine Divine Generals were?

Vincent: [They were already setting themselves up for failure by measuring the heroes of each tribe based on such small standards. To begin with, what other criteria do they believe were utilized to select the Generals of the First-Class, the Nine Divine Generals?]

Vincent Vollachia had gathered the strongest entities within the Vollachian Empire.

The unofficial heroes within the lands of the Empire were no match for them. If a sleeping giant of the sort did exist, it would never have gone unnoticed by Vincent.

No matter what it took, he had kept them close at hand and bestowed them status befitting their abilities to take precautions for the future.

Once they failed to meet Vincent’s expectations, a hero was subpar compared to a monster.

――The Emperor of the Sacred Vollachian Empire had assembled “monsters” that no hero could ever hope to stand a chance against.

Lupugana, the impregnable Imperial Capital, was protected by star-shaped ramparts which had never permitted outsiders to trespass, ever since the founding of the Empire. And, at the five bastions of the points of the star wall, these “monsters” awaited any invader.

All those superior transcendent entities would, without mercy, crush the arrogant heroes that had gathered. Upon witnessing this scene of devastation, even the most hot-headed among them would come to realize.

That they had averted their eyes from reality, casting them towards a dream called madness.

Berstetz: [However, it would be difficult to expect all the rebels to be well-behaved.]

Vincent: [It seems so. In that case, what shall we do?]

Berstetz: [I know it is not my place to come out from the curtain when the prominent Generals have already chosen their battlefields, but… Merely sitting idly by is unbearable.]

Ubilk: [My myyy, that’s awfully… our ally, His Excellency the Prime Minister is awfully out for blood.]

Bending at the waist, Berstetz gave a bow towards Vincent as Ubilk pierced him with those words. But the old Prime Minister took that being pointed out in stride, and,

Berstetz: [In the end, I am also a man of Vollachia.]

And, leaving those words without even showing his smile, Berstetz walked out of the audience chamber. Without stopping that back, Vincent silently saw the old veteran off as he made his departure.

With the door closing and Berstetz taking his leave, Ubilk shrugged with a “Is that fine?”,

Ubilk: [As he said himself, there’s nothing His Excellency the Prime Minister can do to influence the current war situation. I also think that, but…]

Vincent: [Contrary to my expectations, he endured it with perseverance. He has always been someone who has restrained himself for the sake of his ideals. If I were to put it in a way that you would, I would like to avoid an outburst.]

Ubilk: [I see… By the way, is His Excellency the Prime Minister in the know?]

Hooking his thumb on the hem of his robe, over his chest, and wriggling his other fingers, Ubilk posed that question. Vincent, understanding the significance of that unfriendly question, closed one eye.

Receiving that silence, Ubilk nodded and said, “As I thought”,

Ubilk: [I had a hunch about that, so I just refrained from being overly careless with my words… But whether I should be happy or sad about my hunch coming true, I have pretty complex feelings about it, y’know.]

Vincent: [Sad? Can you even comprehend such human emotions?]

Ubilk: [What a terrible thing to say. You make it sound like I’m not even human, so I feel very hurt. Compared to the First and the Second, I’m much more reasonable, don’t you think?]

Vincent: [If you raise Cecilus as an example, he stands little chance in most topics. Arakiya is also a girl that lives by the logic of a beast rather than that of a human, but she can be managed once she has settled on an owner. However…]

Cutting off his words there and then, Vincent’s black eyes pierced Ubilk. His presence was unwavering to whatever cruel gaze was cast at him as paying no heed to his own life was his way of living.

Vincent: [You are but a husk in the shape of a man, made of human flesh.]

Ubilk: […Oh, that really hurts my feelings.]

At Vincent’s words, Ubilk lowered his eyebrows with a forced smile on his face.

Doing so would make him appear sad or bitter. A forgery of emotions, as though someone had taught him to do so; at the very least Vincent’s eyes perceived it as such.
With an expression that did not betray that impression, Ubilk placed his hand on his chest and,

Ubilk: [By your logic, all those with the same role as me… all the Stargazers lending an ear to the “commandments”, are husks?]

Vincent: [I do not know any Stargazers aside from yourself. I have no inclination to answer you.]

Ubilk: [There you go again, you don’t need to lie like that. I don’t think you would put that much trust in me. Of course, I expected you would track down and torture every Stargazer in the country instead.]

Vincent: [――――]

Ubilk: [I fully believe that you wouldn’t thoughtlessly base your decision of what the Stargazers are solely on me.]

Confronted with Ubilk’s trick question, Vincent’s expression did not budge an inch.

He did not state whether the former’s points were factual or mistaken. The only thing he was convinced of, was that every single Stargazer who had been bestowed a commandment, without exception, had a mental disorder.

He also did not intend on going out of his way to state how he had reached that conclusion.

Vincent: [Otherwise, how could you possibly commit an act as barbaric as to destroy your own Evil Eye, just to prove your identity?]

Ubilk: [Ah~, that was quite painful. The feelings of loss weren’t normal either. But thanks to that, you became willing to listen to me, didn’t you?]

While he spoke, Ubilk pulled his hand on his chest further back, exposing his bare skin. Directly in the center of his slender chest, a large burn mark had been painfully seared.

In the past, Ubilk used a branding iron to burn the Evil Eye at that spot to crisp, leaving nothing but that scar.

He destroyed his very meaning for existence as a member of the Evil Eye Tribe. ――A deed just to prove that he did not pose any danger, and if he had not been stopped, he might have even crushed his own limbs.

Henceforth――,

Vincent: [I do not demand an honest answer from you. Just, answer carefully.]

Ubilk: [Your wish is my command.]

Vincent: [There is not even a whisper of a new commandment in your ears. Without any doubt.]

Ubilk: [――Yes. I, for one, wouldn’t lie. No new commandment has been handed down. In the first place, without completing the previously passed down commandment, one wouldn’t try for a new commandment to be passed down, however…]

Shaking his head loosely side-to-side, Ubilk smiled.
With a truly inhuman smile lacking any resemblance of joy or abasement, he continued.

Ubilk: [The board you have created won’t be thrown into disarray by any interference from the heavens. ――Virtually everyone across the Empire resides in the palm of your hand.]

Vincent: [――――]

Ubilk: [Is anything the matter?]

As those assertive words did not yield the desired effect, Ubilk appeared puzzled. To his question, Vincent shook his head with a “No”.

He did not believe Ubilk’s statement just now had been a lie. He was a man who valued the whispers of the mysterious stars more than his vassalage to the Emperor, but his lack of selfishness was genuine.

Therefore, Ubilk himself probably had no ulterior motives with his declaration.
It was just that――

Vincent: [――The people of the Empire are in the palm of my hand, you say?]

Those decorative words that had been deliberately left unspoken, had left an unease in the mind of the man playing the role of Emperor.

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――And then, that unease on the throne proved to be correct.

???: [Oh, Oooooooooh――!!]

At one of those bastions of the star-shaped wall, a war cry rose up and a tiger rushed furiously.

With both arms mantled with shining silver gauntlets, he stepped right in front of an enemy with lightning speed in order to be able to reach someone who had pulverized a group of Centaur People in a dreadful manner.

One step, two steps, and Garfiel Tinzel charged forward in a blink of an eye.

However――,

???: [Indeed, many-on-one is my specialty, but――]

Garfiel: [――Hk.]

???: [Even a one-on-one fight, won’t cast any clouds over my brilliant technique!]

In opposition, Kafma Irulux readied both arms to intercept that brave voice.

His tattoo-covered dark-brown skin bulged from the inside, and immediately after, an enormous amount of thorns shot out, completely filling Garfiel’s field of view as he charged head-on.

The speed of the thorned vines growing countless spines gave the impression of a carnivorous beast leaping at its prey. In other words, it was the fastest attack to reap the life of an opponent.

Garfiel: [Brash――!!]

Atop the rampart, the considerably thick wall for the protection of the Imperial Capital was quite broad as a place to stand, but compared to an open battlefield the restricted mobility felt like being strangled.

With the thorned vines spreading sideways and surging forth like a great wave, closing off any means of escape, rather than poorly evading, Garfiel chose to hold up his gauntlets and plunged into the thorny vines.

Trusting in the strength of his gauntlets and legs, he went in a straight line into the storm of vines――,

Kafma: [That resolve is admirable, but your decision was a mistake.]

At the same time Kafma muttered that, Garfiel made contact with the leading edge of the surging thorned vines, but the next moment, Garfiel clenched his teeth at an impact greater than what his gauntlets could presumably receive.

Garfiel: [――Guh.]

Even if unleashed in such an unusual way, vines were still vines, and from the size of the ivy and thorns, he had readied himself for a certain degree of power. However, the actual power of the vines far exceeded his assumptions, and the speed of Garfiel’s advance faltered.

Without exaggeration, the pressure was like that of a whole forest crashing into him.

Upon being struck down by a literal forest of overgrown thorns brought forth by a single person, Garfiel adapted his approach.

Garfiel: [Then, what about this!!]

Kafma: [What!?]

Clenching his teeth so hard they creaked, Garfiel swung his foot down fiercely after being struck by the surging wave of thorned vines. The force spreading from the sole of his shoe rose up the portion of the wall he was standing on and tilted Kafma’s foothold on the opposite side of the vines, causing the stunned “General” to lose his position.

It was an effect of Garfiel’s Divine Protection of Earth Spirits. Essentially, the Divine Protection made it possible to receive power from earth and conversely interfere with it, but the scope was largely depending on the interpretation of the Divine Protection’s wielder.

In Garfiel’s case, as long as his feet were on solid footing, that was the earth.

Garfiel: [As long as I’m not flyin’!]

It would be a different story with the dragon ships that are carried by the famous flying dragons in the Vollachian Empire, but otherwise, Garfiel could firmly believe it was the earth.

Kafma shifted his footing not once, but two, three more times as the rising foothold pursued him, and the man of the Insect Cage Tribe dealt with it while flying backwards. Meanwhile, dealing with the thorns disrupting the precision of his attacks, Garfiel pushed forward while his cheeks and shoulders were torn up by the thorns he failed to block.

Bright red blood splattered and sharp pain cut through his entire body, but the distance between them shrank and shrank.

And just when the distance remaining between them was nearing a few meters,

Kafma: [Then I’ll just cut deep!]

Abandoning his mid-range thorn attack, Kafma, who was about to fall back, reinitiated his attack.

For a moment, he was still wary of the unleashed shockwave that mowed down the Centaur People, Kafma did not open up his chest, but he severed his control over the thorned vines from his arms and started buzzing the wings on his back.

Momentarily, those wings fluttered so fast they were difficult to see, and at the same time, the sight of Kafma having kicked off the rampart appeared right beside Garfiel. Rather than just being quick, he varied his speed.

Via this method, he went around and entered from behind Garfiel’s awareness.

However――,

Garfiel: [I won’t let ya!]

Forcibly shutting off his circumvented directional awareness, Garfiel roared.

Along with his roar, the released back-handed blow was striking into Kafma’s face that had appeared beside him. Against that, Kafma threw up his arms in defense――both being covered with black carapaces.

Like Garfiel’s gauntlets, it was protection for himself. However, with thorns, wings, ribs, and now carapaces, he already had four abilities. Just how many “insects” did he have in his body?

Kafma: [Sh――!]

One blow was struck, but the pair’s battle did not stop there.

Ultra-close range was favorable for Garfiel. He took a full swing with his left fist using the momentum of turning all the way back around from the position where his back-handed blow had been stopped, and then drove a headbutt into his opponent who had tried to parry the blow.

Impacts and cries of pain bursted between the two, and from there fierce punches aimed at vital organs were exchanged.

Garfiel & Kafma: [――Hk.]

Gauntlets and carapaces, both sides exchanged blows with their reinforced fists. However, his prior pride was not misguided. Being within reach was favorable for Garfiel, and getting beaten from that position was out of the question.

Garfiel: [Gah, aaaaaaaaah!!]

He turned and caught the incoming fist, in return, he drove a fist into his opponent’s chest and torso. From below, Garfiel’s opposite fist shot up into his loosely dangling jaw and then he drove a knee into his torso that had bent backwards. With a cry of pain, Kafma flapped his wings and greatly leaped backwards.

Garfiel: [Yer not gettin’ away!!]

Kafma: [――Guh.]

Seizing Kafma’s leaping legs, he forcefully slammed him back down against the rampart. He then pressed Kafma’s body to the ground and started dashing ferociously to tear the wings from his back.

On the wall, Garfiel ran while raising a plume of smoke, and Kafma’s back spurted out blood as one wing, two wings, were torn to shreds. At that rate, he was about to――,

――A moment later, Kafma’s chest opened as the wings on his back flapped powerfully, lifting him off the ground. Beyond his protruding ribs, his eyes caught a glimpse of the golden “insect” within his chest.

Garfiel: [――――]

Following the urging of every survival instinct, he abandoned Kafma’s body and leaped directly to the side. It was the correct decision. Right where Garfiel had previously been, the golden insect had gouged out the entire top of the city wall in its line of fire. As short hairs on his body were shaved away, Garfiel felt a chill run his spine.

Kafma: [――I admit my lack of insight.]

Garfiel: [Oh?]

Immediately after experiencing the sensation of bloodlust, Garfiel was drawn back by his voice.

His gaze caught Kafma kneeling on the wall, touching the torn wings on his back, looking at Garfiel with admiration and reverence in his eyes.

He wiped the blood running down the edge of his mouth with his hand and rose to his feet.

Kafma: [I was unaware of the existence of a brave warrior like you. I am ashamed of my ignorance.]

Garfiel: [Heh, I don’t blame ya if ya didn’t know. I’d be more worried if ya did.]

Kafma: [――? What do you mean?]

Raising a chivalrous eyebrow, Kafma questioned the truth of Garfiel’s words.

From his point of view, it would have never occurred to him that a person from another country, especially from the Kingdom, would be involved in such an important event within the Empire.

Otto: [If they find out who we are and where we are from, it could lead to a very difficult diplomatic incident. For that reason, please avoid being provoked by the other side, and carelessly saying unnecessary things.]

Otto, who remained behind at the main camp, had said this to Garfiel before he jumped into the battlefield.

Kafma had already identified himself to him, and he has already identified himself back, but if he gives any more information, there was a possibility that Kafma, who seemed to be smart, would be able to guess all of this.

There was no way they could turn this insurrection in the Empire into a gigantic war that involved the Kingdom.

Garfiel: [Sorry, but I was only lettin’ ya’ know about my name. But I can let one thing slip. About “Two-Faced Kurulukiak”, that is.]

Kafma: [――. I have no doubt that you are a person of great skill, whether you keep your mouth shut or not. That’s why I’m also regretful.]

Garfiel: […Regretful?]

Kafma shook his head and lowered his voice, causing Garfiel to frown; there was no falsehood in Kafma’s delivery, and it was laced with regret, with no intention to provoke.

But the regret was not attributable to Kafma himself――,

Kafma: [If it weren’t for the circumstances, I would’ve liked to have had a straightforward conversation with you.]

Garfiel: [What the――]

It was the moment he was thinking about whether he should question the meaning of his words.

Taking a step forward, Garfiel’s knee gave out, and he knelt down in place. With an “Ah?”, a gasping breath leaked out, his eyes growing bloodshot as he held his own chest.

His heart was beating and pounding so very loud and perilous. ――Garfiel realized what he heard: the alarm bells of his horrified instincts pleading for his life.

――There was something crawling around inside of him.

Garfiel: [Gaag…]

Kafma: [If you were going to fight in close quarters with me, you should have avoided getting hit.]

Kafma stuck out his hand to Garfiel, whose teeth were trembling, bitter tears streaming down his face. At the tip of Kafma’s five bent fingers, could be seen a tube holding a white, wriggling “insect”.

An “insect” had implanted an egg through these tubes in one of the wounds inflicted by the thorns. It hatched inside Garfiel’s body and crawled around inside him.

Garfiel: [Guooo…]

The moment he realized this, Garfiel embraced himself and activated his healing magic.

Intense healing waves enveloped Garfiel’s body in a pale light, forcibly healing the wounds he had sustained. Witnessing this, Kafma slightly raised his eyebrows, revealing his surprise.

Kafma: [Healing magic, which means you are also a healer. Its versatility is something to keep an eye on. However.]

Garfiel: [――Hk, Aa, oh.]

Kafma: [The purpose of the insects that circulate inside you is not to wound you, but to make your body a seedbed for their own. ――You can heal the wound, but you cannot heal the transfiguration.]

Kafma’s cruel declaration, it was proven correct by the unhealable malaise.

Garfiel gasped in agony and cursed the result of clawing at his own chest, thinking that he had, in fact, blocked the escape route of the “insects” in his body.

His breathing became agonized and his vision turned bright red. Unable to bear the sight of Garfiel’s agony, Kafma stepped forward with a somber look on his face.

Kafma: [Your skill and prowess, I, Kafma Irulux, will surely bear them in my heart. ――Sleep valiantly.]

His right arm was once again encased in a black carapace, and his fist thrusted into Garfiel, who was unable to move. The impact smashed his skull, causing blood to spray and his body to tumble violently.

He rolled, and rolled, and rolled, and bounced right off the edge of the ramparts, consumed by a sense of floating, and fell.

Garfiel: [――Ah.]

Garfiel’s faint death cry escaped his throat, and his powerless body fell unprotected beneath the city ramparts.

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Otto: [Listen, Garfiel, please remember this well.]

Otto: [If they find out who we are and where we are from, it could lead to a very difficult diplomatic incident. For that reason, please avoid being provoked by the other side, and carelessly saying unnecessary things.]

Otto: [Though I do say that, since it is you, I am not expecting you to be so patient. I am not telling you to exchange words in a tit-for-tat as a merchant would. Therefore――]

Otto: [Therefore, make sure you properly remember this one thing.]

Otto: [If you get caught up in an exchange of words――]

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――In the battle against the Insect Cage Tribe, it would be impossible for many to avoid being killed upon first sight.

The “insects” that they put inside their bodies had evolved and grown beyond the bounds of human imagination, and their abilities could be said to be of an infinite variety.

In addition, if they harmonize with the “insects” bred within their own bodies, and hasten the development of their skills even further, then the Insect Cage Tribe did not yield two warriors who were the same.

Not to mention, Kafma Irulux had been born as a genius among the Insect Cage Tribe.
Kafma declined to be promoted to the Nine Divine Generals because of his own beliefs and philosophy, and his abilities were recognized by Emperor Vincent as being on par with those of the Generals of the First-Class.

As a warrior of Vollachia, he was an exceptional individual who was allowed to stand atop the summit.

Naturally, since he was born into the Insect Cage Tribe, he had no hesitation or guilt in borrowing the power of “insects” and using their abilities as his own.

Including the power of “insects”, that was the strength of the warrior known as Kafma Irulux.
And yet――,

Kafma: [I am not without my own thoughts.]

Unable to expect anything but victory, Kafma, who demanded the destruction of as many enemies as possible, did not have the time to fight against just a single warrior.
Therefore, using an underhanded move in order to bring down his opponent as fast as possible, he defeated the enemy.

Kafma: [――――]

The ritual of inserting “insects” into the body was the culmination of careful preparation, even for the Insect Cage Tribe.

From the time they were newborn babies, their bodies were altered in preparation for the future insertion of “insects,” but the ritual was forbidden until they reached the age of twelve. That was to say, it took at least twelve years of preparation before an “insect” could be inserted into the body.

If the process was skipped and an insect was implanted, the subject’s body would not be able to withstand it.

Henceforth――,

Kafma: [It pains me to have to settle this with you in this way.]

Declaring his regretful feelings, Kafma closed his eyes and offered a silent prayer to his vanquished opponent. But, the time he immersed himself in sentiment was short-lived, and Kafma quickly turned around and once again looked beyond the rampart.

Although he had fended off the initial attack of the Centaur People, the second group would launch their attack on him. No matter how many times they rushed at him, it would be fine. Each time, he would fend them all off――It was the moment directly after he thought that.

Kafma: [――Hk, What!?]

In an imposing stance, Kafma tried to call forth the thorn “insects” that were circulating in his body, but there was a thunderous roar that erupted right nearby him――He widened his eyes at the tremendous impact which appeared to be an explosion.

For a moment, Kafma suspected that the rebels had brought out some kind of weapon to breach the rampart, but he quickly realized that he was mistaken.

However, that understanding did not lead to relief.

The reason was――,

Kafma: [――Garfiel Tinzel.]

In Kafma’s shuddering vision, Garfiel stood, having crawled back up the fallen ramparts.

Taking on the form of an enlarged ferocious beast, the mad warrior, his entire body wrapped in a blazing fire, stood.

△▼△▼△▼△

It was a blessing in disguise that the place where he fell was on top of an open field.

If he had fallen down onto the ramparts, he might not have been able to muster the strength to get back up. By virtue of falling onto the ground, the earth itself had taken Garfiel’s side.

Still, the damage done to his body was severe, with his head split, the sensation of his body being stirred up from the inside beckoned for death to encroach on Garfiel’s life with every passing second.

A split head could be restored with healing magic. However, an “insect” was preventing the activation of it. Since the “insect” was not actually attacking, healing magic could not get rid of it either. In the first place, there was no time to use the healing magic, and with the interference of the “insect”, his head was split and the blood was, blood was, blood was, blood was.

Garfiel: [Gah, ough.]

Clenching his back teeth and holding on to his tenuous grasp on life, he stopped using his head.

Naturally, it was a split head. It could not be relied upon. What was needed was the instinct to live, to follow it, to move the body forcefully, and then.

And then, the Magic Stone Cannon that had been prepared on the wall, ready to intercept the enemy coming from outside the walls, he had swallowed the magic stone loaded inside it and crushed it in his belly.

Instantly, the mana that had been stored within swelled up inside Garfiel, burning the “insect”. Once the “insect” was burned, all that Garfiel was left with were fierce scars.

――No, it was just the wounds, and the enemy.

Otto: [Listen, Garfiel, please remember this well.]

Otto: [If they find out who we are and where we are from, it could lead to a very difficult diplomatic incident. For that reason, please avoid being provoked by the other side, and carelessly saying unnecessary things.]

Otto: [Though I do say that, since it is you, I am not expecting you to be so patient. I am not telling you to exchange words in a tit-for-tat as a merchant would. Therefore――]

Otto: [Therefore, make sure you properly remember this one thing.]

Otto: [If you get caught up in an exchange of words――]

Garfiel: [If, I got…]

Speaking inarticulately, while his rationality became dim due to the reflexive beastification to heal his severe injuries, what Garfiel heard endlessly in his brain were the words of someone akin to his older brother, the man he could count on in any situation.

Ahead of where he looked as he slowly turned around while being burned by the swaying flame, there was a fearsome enemy confronting him.

That enemy was needed.

To carry out what his older brother told him to do, an enemy was needed.

After all, he had said that to him. ――Otto Suwen had said that to Garfiel.

Otto: [――Make sure to beat that opponent up until their legs can no longer stand!]

Garfiel: [I’ll fuckin’ crush yaaa――!!]

The roar of the beast rose again, and the transformed Garfiel, now a raging beast, trampled and smashed as he soared across the ramparts. Upon witnessing such a display of might, the enemy in front of him―― Kafma opened his eyes and smiled.

Grinning, Kafma raised both of his arms overhead, and rushed forward.

Kafma: [Come, Garfiel Tinzel!!]

Garfiel: [AARHAAAAaaaaaaaa――!!]

The furious attack of the golden tiger, baring his fangs as he leapt in, crashed right through waves of purple thorns cramming his vision from directly opposite to them, and a crack was formed at the bastion on one of the star’s points.

Undoubtedly, it was just as if that was substantiating the unease harbored by the Emperor on the throne――.

Kafma: [――――]

――It was the retaliation of the crack engraving the falls of the indomitable heavens upon the history of the Empire.

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