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――The siege of the Imperial Capital of Lupugana had begun with a fierce battle that neither side would willingly concede.
By all rights, there was no need for Emilia and the others to take part in this all-out war between rebels, who bore discontent against the current Vollachia, and its national military, who were trying to protect these peaceful times.
Originally, the reason for Emilia’s party entering the Empire was in search of people.
Of course, they harbored a sense of compassion and duty for the people they had met on their travels after they successfully entered into Vollachia in secret.
Regardless of the borders of The Kingdom and the Empire, there were people whom they wanted to make happy, and even those they wished to lend their strength to. Everyone in the party agreed on that.
However, no matter how unmistakably soft-hearted Emilia’s party was, they still had their priorities.
To ignore their original objective would be getting their priorities backward, and the party had people (Otto, Petra) with the judgement to admonish the others (Emilia, Garfiel) whose conscience made them reflexively try to save others.
After being attacked by flying dragons, they only had taken part in the ultimately hellish battle of the Fortress City because they had reason to believe the friends they were searching for had been in that city.
Since things had gone contrary to their expectations, logic would normally dictate that there was no reason for Emilia and the others to join in on the rebel army’s attack on the Imperial Capital.
In fact, even as they heard about the Empire’s domestic affairs being burned to crisp day after day, Emilia’s party had steeled themselves to be minimally shaken in their sense of purpose.
No matter what――,
???: [――Since the one who abducted that girl was “The Flying Dragon General”, she is likely located in the Dragonkin Madelyn Eschart’s residence, the mansion of her owner.]
Positioned in front of a map spread in a room on the topmost floor of the Fortress City’s City Hall, Abel had answered Emilia’s question while touching the Oni mask that concealed his face.
Hearing Abel’s answer, Emilia muttered, “Madelyn’s owner…”.
――Time looped back, to a few days before the siege of the Imperial Capital of Lupugana.
With their hopes of uniting with Subaru dashed, who should have returned to Guaral after heading to the Demon City, and having just missed the awoken Rem, Emilia’s party had been unsure as to what course of action to take from then on.
They pondered whether they should prioritize the search for Subaru, whose whereabouts were completely unknown after the destruction of the Demon City of Chaosflame, or Rem, for whom they have only identified her abductor so far.
The opening words had been what Abel told Emilia, who wanted some basis for making the decision.
Abel: [It was not like one would ever hear from the fractious Dragonkin, but she was a General First-Class recommended by Prime Minister Berstetz Fondalfon. If anything were to happen, she should return to his side.]
Abel: [What? Do you have doubts?]
Emilia: [No, it’s not that… I just thought “owner” was a reaaally mean way of putting it.]
Emilia, who had exchanged only a few words with Madelyn, but rather fiercely quarreled with her, had thought that Madelyn would get extremely angry at the way Abel just formulated that.
Remaining silent at what Emilia had pointed out, Abel narrowed his eyes behind his mask. She hoped he would reflect on his statement and realize that it had not been nice.
In any case, Abel’s knowledgeable opinion was helpful for understanding the circumstances of the Imperial side of things, which Emilia and the others had not known.
With the rising rebellions all throughout the Empire in the air, the look of the sky and the dryness of the air growing worse made Emilia have this sense of foreboding, even though she wanted to think things through as much as possible.
Since they had failed to meet the people they were looking for at every possible opportunity, their time in the Empire had been nothing but poor.
Emilia: [But if Madelyn went back to that Berstetz guy, then Rem also…]
???: [If Rem-chan’s there, then so is big bro!]
Emilia retraced the flow of the conversation, and Medium, who had been holding onto the operations desk placed there, joined in.
Emilia’s lips relaxed as her eyes met Medium’s, who vehemently stretched her small body to its fullest. Together with Rem, her precious brother had also been taken by Madelyn.
Medium, surely very anxious and worried, did not show any sign of being weakened.
That undauntedness made Emilia think how she could learn a thing or two from her.
???: [Prime Minister-san… Berstetz Fondalfon-sama is this very talented and capable man, said to be the keystone of the Empire.]
Next to Emilia, who had been struck by Medium’s admirableness, was Petra cutting into their conversation.
Unable to let Emilia go alone, Petra leapt, sticking close to her. Putting a finger to her lips, Emilia murmured, “Is that so?” and tilted her head.
Emilia: [The “keystone of the Empire” sounds like a reaaally remarkable evaluation, but isn’t that the Emperor?]
Petra: [Of course, I think The Empire always being peaceful was because of the capabilities of His Excellency the Emperor. However, His Excellency the Emperor’s capabilities also include properly utilizing his talented subordinates.]
Emilia: [Ah, that’s right. Even if the Emperor is reaaally strong and reaaally smart, that doesn’t mean he can do everything all by himself.]
Despite her assiduous efforts, Emilia could not imagine seeing things the same way as Vollachia’s Emperor. However, since she eventually needed to, she had to keep trying her hardest.
However, no matter how hard she tried, Emilia would always be reliant on everyone’s help.
That should have been the same for the Emperor of Vollachia.
However, while Emilia and Medium were impressed, Abel seemed to harbor a completely different impression. His sharpened gaze radiated through his Oni mask directly at Petra.
Abel: [What exactly are you trying to accomplish with this blatantly obvious rationale? Do you honestly believe there is room to listen to the words of a young child? We hardly have the time to spare.]
Petra: [My apologies, that was roundabout. I just wanted to ask you this. ――If he is His Excellency the Emperor’s important right-hand man, then Prime Minister-san’s residence is in the Imperial Capital right?]
Petra was not afraid of that sharp gaze, and Abel remained silent at her question.
Abel’s scary gaze should have felt like having a blade pointed at her, but Petra had not wavered in the slightest. That was how strong Petra’s resolve was.
That was enough to make her fellow campmate, Emilia, want to proudly puff out her chest.
Abel: [The answer to your question is affirmed. Inevitably, both of the individuals taken by Madelyn Eschart …Rem and Flop O’Connell, should also be under the care of Berstetz in the Imperial Capital.]
Abel responded in a low voice, as if he was yielding to Petra’s gaze. Emilia was about to praise Petra for her words.
But, Petra’s expression was not good; on the contrary, she sighed visibly and,
Petra: […It’s like we are being manipulated, and it’s not funny.]
Emilia: [Huh? What do you mean by that?]
Unsure of the meaning of Petra’s response, Emilia blinked her eyes. In response to Emilia’s words, Petra’s voice dropped in tone with a sour look on her face.
Petra: [We have nothing to do with the problems unfolding within the Empire. I know that there is going to be a very large battle, and I am worried about Medium-chan and Utakata-chan, but…]
Emilia: [――. Yeah, it’s okay. I know exactly what you mean. We came looking for both Subaru and Rem.]
Preempting Petra’s reluctance to speak, Emilia chose her words gently.
She understood Petra’s fears and concerns. After all, Emilia, if nothing else, would like to continue to work with Abel and the others on the sly, as she wanted to help everyone she knew.
However, if they only focused on immediate problems like that, they would never get to Subaru and Rem, which was their original goal――,
After thinking that far, Emilia got stuck in her own head.
As she answered Petra, Emilia remembered her group’s goal was to bring Subaru and Rem back safely. So even though it was painful, they must pass by the battle going on in Vollachia unnoticed.
At least, she thought so, but.
Petra: [But I think Rem might be in the Imperial Capital now. If that’s the case…]
Emilia: [――We have to go to the Imperial Capital, too.]
As Emilia’s icy doubts started to melt away, her eyes met Petra’s on the other side of the ice.
Petra had a very bitter look on her face because she was the first to realize that fact. To back up Emilia’s amazement, Petra glared at Abel.
Petra: [It’s not fair. You were silent until we said it ourselves.]
Abel: [It was a principle that naturally led to one conclusion if you thought it through. It would be arrogant of you to call me despicable, considering your own ignorance of how slow on the uptake you are.]
Petra: [So please tell us. You mentioned that there are two places for Madelyn, the “Flying Dragon General,” to return to the Prime Minister’s residence in the Imperial Capital and another one. But you only talked about the Imperial Capital, so that Emily would not pay attention to the other one.]
Petra: [Taking advantage of someone’s ignorance is called shamelessness where I come from.]
Insistently, Petra glared at Abel reproachfully. As Petra spoke, Emilia, who had been deceived by the missing information, lowered her eyebrows.
On Abel’s side, too, Medium, who was peering at the map next to him, looked up to admonish him for his methods “Abel-chin…”.
She reflected on it very much. At the same time, Emilia understood why Petra was angry.
Aside from the concealment of information, Abel was right that Emilia could have noticed it if she had thought it through without being told after the fact.
Of course, Emilia did not intend to rely on others for every single matter.
Emilia: [Abel, you also said you didn’t have time. That’s true for both of us, but you don’t have to be mean about it.]
Abel: [That’s just what your pride makes you say. Why should I go to the trouble of explaining to you in detail why things are the way they are?]
Emilia: [――? If you want our help, you will have to say please.]
Abel: [――. What an aggravating woman.]
Crossing his thin arms, Abel exhaled a long, heavy breath.
However, in response, Emilia asked, “Is that so?” and had a completely different opinion. It was not that they did not mesh well, but that Abel did not want to consort with her at all.
Emilia: [Isn’t that right? After all, if you have to fight an incredibly troublesome battle in Vollachia from now on, you must feel compelled to ask us for help. Since we are reaaally strong.]
Petra: [Emily, it is a little worrisome how you say that.]
Emilia: [We are reaaally reliable!]
Petra: [We are reliable. Especially Emily, and Garf-san.]
Emilia rephrased her statement, and Petra, next to her, also spoke as such and puffed out her chest.
As for Emilia’s group――Garfiel was unquestionably a strong fighter, and Emilia was proud to say she was quite formidable, too; Otto and Petra were very smart, and Frederica had always been a master in being considerate.
Beatrice could not afford to strain herself until she was reunited with Subaru and was currently resting, but the thought of protecting her let strength surge up within Emilia.
That was why――,
Emilia: [It would definitely be easier to fulfill Abel’s goals if we were here, right? And yet you are only talking like that because you don’t want us to think you are asking us to help you?]
Emilia: [Roswaal is also not very good at saying please…]
Abel, like Roswaal, probably had a personality that did not want to expose weakness to his opponents.
Because of this, they tried to get other people to say something instead of themselves. Perhaps that was how things had always worked out for them, though
Emilia: [I think you should stop before you get smacked reaaally hard like Roswaal by Medium-chan, Yorna, or Zikr-san.]
When he had been involved in a devious scheme involving the mansion and the “Sanctuary”, Roswaal received a slap on the face from everyone, including Emilia.
As someone who took part in it, Emilia described how painful it was, but Roswaal was simply rebuked and got away with a swollen face, so who knows what would happen to Abel?
And that was even without being considerate of Abel’s well-being.
Emilia: [Is what I’m saying totally off the mark? If so, I’m embarrassed, but please say so. Then I’ll apologize and think of something else.]
Abel: [Something else?]
Emilia: [I don’t think of you as someone who can’t think ahead or of anything at all. It’s important to keep thinking about what you might be thinking about.]
Previously, Emilia had been quick to give up on things she did not understand.
She was quick to blame it on something, give up, and naively assume that doing as Puck said was the right thing to do. Lately, she had been enlisting the help from others who were good at thinking, like Ram and Otto.
But she did not want to turn into a person who simply changes the people to rely on.
Petra mentioned that the emperor of Vollachia was very good at utilizing people. But even an emperor who was good at manipulating people still needs to think about what he was going to use them for.
And those in important positions, those who are in the center of everyone else’s lives, must be able to do that.
That was what Emilia had chosen to work towards.
???: [――Oh dear, your encouraging thoughts are so elating, Emily.]
A voice from behind complimented Emilia, who was faced sharply toward Abel. The voice was familiar even without turning around, and its owner was the ever-reliable Otto.
He was on a different mission to investigate something, but the City Hall was――No, he probably had some business with Abel.
Emilia: [Otto-kun, did you have business with Abel, too? Are you okay on your own?]
Otto: [Thank you for your concern. But you do not need to worry so much…]
Emilia: [Yeah? But, Otto-kun, there was a time when you were kidnapped while we all weren’t keeping an eye on you…]
Otto: [Do not put me on the spot like that! …Well, I was prepared for that, too.]
Otto’s voice rose at Emilia’s concern, and Garfiel appeared right behind him, apparently following Otto’s investigations.
Relieved, Emilia patted her chest,
Emilia: [Thanks, Garfiel.]
Garfiel: [Ha, I don’t need to be thanked for that. What were Emily and Lady Petra talkin’ about?]
Emilia: [Well, many things …But thanks to Lady Petra, I wasn’t persuaded. I wasn’t persuaded, was I?]
Petra: [Yes, everything’s fine, Emily. I was very surprised at how reliable you were.]
Emilia: [Hehe, isn’t that right?]
Emilia and Petra high-fived in front of Otto and the others. In the end, it was a worthwhile effort by her as well as Garfiel to protect Petra as best they could.
As Otto lowered the corners of his eyes at the sight of the two, he turned to face the person donning the oni mask on the other side of the operations desk, and spoke, prefacing with “Abel-san”,
Otto: [I can imagine what you were discussing with Emily and the others. About how Rem was taken by a Divine General, and that we are already in a position to become enemies of the Empire if we head to the Imperial Capital of Lupugana. Isn’t that about it?]
Emilia: [――! Amazing! Otto-kun, did you secretly listen in on us?]
Petra: [Were you eavesdropping?]
Otto: [Not only Emily, but even Lady Petra …there is no way I am eavesdropping!]
Emilia: [I see. Then you are amazing after all.]
Petra: […Was he really not eavesdropping, Garf-san?]
Otto: [Emily aside, Lady Petra is…]
Emilia was impressed, and Petra confirmed the truth with Garfiel, and while smiling at the two extreme reactions, Otto cleared his throat after guessing the conversation from before.
Then turning his now fading, playful eyes to Abel, he said,
Otto: [I have just been listening to the people who have come to town from the outside. It’s the same with the rebellious voices in many places, but they are gathering here one after the other.]
Abel: [It is no surprise given the circumstances and the fact that The Flying Dragon General has retreated. Yorna Mishigure has brought the residents of the Demon City with her and has made this her new base.]
Otto: [Yes, That is right. ――It is excellent handiwork.]
Abel responded to Otto’s nodding with a curt response.
The content of the exchange itself was something that Emilia already knew of. Over the past few days, people had been gathering in Guaral, and Emilia had been lending a hand in repairing the damaged housing.
However, Frederica and Petra cautioned her not to do too much heavy lifting, so her role was solely to participate in repairing supports by magically freezing them.
Anyway, there was nothing new in the matter. Still, what Emilia found modestly disconcerting was perhaps Otto’s attitude.
As usual, Otto was quiet, smart, and dependable――But what Emilia felt in his soft demeanor seemed to be a hidden, but not fully concealed, anger.
Otto: [How far did you go with the planning?]
It was these words that confirmed Emilia’s suspicions.
Abel was silent in response to Otto’s question. But Emilia took it as a pause; this was not because he was thinking of an answer, but to hurry the other party along.
Because Abel’s gaze never wavered and his eyes never changed. The answer was already decided, but he was simply too pompous to let them hear it.
Otto: [I wonder how far you’re willing to go to get what you want.]
Again, Otto asked the same thing, but in a different way.
It did not seem like a matter of being rushed or being outlasted. While he did not like to talk about victory and defeat, it was already set in stone who would win and lose at this point.
Otto’s attitude was meant to ask why he lost, and that his defeat did not come as a surprise to Emilia and the others; it was essentially the same question.
Abel: [――I only learned of your existence when I returned to this city. If you want me to include you in the plan, you need to become apt in reciting the stars.]
Otto: [So, you think this is just a coincidence?]
Abel: [I am not going to dismiss it as a coincidence. After all, fortune is ultimately nothing more than one of many factors.]
Shaking his head once from side to side, Abel categorically denied Otto’s words.
Seeing Otto’s cheeks harden at her words, Emilia could not resist pulling on his sleeve. In doing this, she put an end to his feeling of bearing this burden of defeat all alone.
Emilia: [Otto-kun, what does that mean?]
Otto: […Just now, there was a report about the situation Natsuki-san is in. I thought it was quite the ridiculous development.]
Petra: [It’s just like Medium-chan; he’s smaller, right?]
Hearing Otto’s story, Petra glanced at Medium, who was standing next to Abel.
Medium spoke of being attacked by an enemy in the Demon City and being transformed from an adult into a child. She had informed them how Subaru had been put in a situation similar to hers.
Furthermore, in order to protect Subaru in such an uncertain state,
Emilia: [Abel must have spread those rumors that the boy with black hair and black eyes was the child of the emperor. That way, in case Subaru was discovered by people thinking badly of him…]
Otto: [They at least would need to keep him alive to confirm the matter. I thought it was an ingenious idea at the time, as well. No matter what, it would lower the level of danger Natsuki-san was in. However――]
Garfiel: [As it turned out, it ain’t no longer just a matter of safety for the captain.]
Garfiel crossed his arms and spoke up, referring back to Otto’s statement. Emilia turned around with a “Huh?” as Garfiel gnashed his sharp fangs.
Garfiel: [There’s a lotta people comin’ into the city, and they’re all tryin’ to fight the Emperor. My amazin’ self’s got nothin’ to say about that. But if the captain is in danger, that’s somethin’ else.]
Emilia: [Subaru is in danger…]
Petra: […I see, that’s how it is.]
Emilia’s eyebrows rose, and next to her, Petra muttered as if she had noticed something. Then she sharpened her round eyes and glared at Abel the same way Otto did.
Petra: [A boy with black hair and black eyes …Whether he is the real illegitimate son of the Emperor or not, the soldiers could no longer just leave him be either.]
Emilia: [Yes, yes, I know. So, Subaru is safe and…]
Petra: [But his safety only lasts until they make sure whether the boy is legitimate. This begs the question, where do you need to go to accomplish this?]
Emilia: [Where … ah.]
After listening to Petra as she organized her thoughts, Emilia finally caught on to the main points.
Because of Abel’s rumor and Subaru becoming a child――Boys with black hair and black eyes were being sought out, and any children found were taken into custody to verify their legitimacy.
The place, of course, was――,
Emilia: [――The Imperial Capital, where the Emperor is?]
Abel: [By fortune or not, both of the persons you are looking for are in the Imperial Capital. Two birds with one stone, one would say.]
Petra: [Utterly shameless…]
When Emilia arrived at her conclusion, Abel nodded deeply, as if he had been expecting it. Immediately, Petra raised her voice at Abel and strongly denounced his attitude.
But Abel, for his part, shrugged his shoulders at Petra’s anger.
Abel: [I should have told you. Your existence is not something I expected. I merely spread the rumor as a means to an end in order to fan the flames of the rebels’ presence.]
Abel: [Or what else do you expect me to say? After deliberately shrinking Natsuki Subaru and making him disappear, I spread rumors to mislead the entire Empire, and incidentally had one of the “Nine Divine Generals” kidnap an Oni girl with the ability to use healing arts, as well. That I had orchestrated all of it. ――I must be quite the busy man.]
Petra’s expression stiffened as he spoke to her as if mocking her.
Of course, neither Otto nor Garfiel were pleased to have Petra treated that way. So Abel should be relieved that it was Emilia who made the first move.
Emilia stepped forward to protect Petra and stared intently at Abel with her arms crossed.
Emilia: [I don’t think of you as someone who knows everything about everything. Don’t bully Lady Petra with your misleading way of putting things. If you do that again…]
Abel: [What if I do it again?]
Emilia: [I’m going to be the first one to make good on what we talked about earlier!]
Emilia said this with her clenched fist out in front of her.
Emilia, too, believed that everything should be ideally resolved through dialogue, but if someone was just unwilling to listen and impossible to get through to with words, a clenched fist becomes your only option.
Especially if someone was not talking badly at Emilia herself, but rather a valued member of her camp.
Abel: [――. A completely open book. Are all of your leaders like that?]
Otto: [Yes, I do often have a hard time getting them to pick the right words. But――]
Garfiel: [That’s the kind of guy that makes it all worthwhile. Way better than some asshole who stubbornly follows the same path and removes every obstacle with some stupid ass logic.]
Abel’s eyes narrowed, and Otto and Garfiel each responded in kind.
Somehow, Emilia felt that the topic that was being discussed was about her, not Petra, who was supposed to be their provisional representative, but Emilia did not press that point too deeply.
Now, they all had to cover for Petra and talk about――,
Garfiel: [To cut it short, it’s possible that both Rem and the captain could be in the Imperial Capital.]
Otto: [And since there is a strong possibility that the decisive battle between the national military and the rebels will be in the Imperial Capital, we have no choice but to find a way past it.]
Petra: [No shame whatsoever…]
Subaru and Rem might be in the Imperial Capital of Lupugana.
Theoretically, Rem could also be in a different location and Subaru might be brought together with other black-haired boys to the Imperial Capital, but this might just be wishful thinking.
Even so, it was the most likely scenario just as everyone said.
Emilia: [I’ve decided. Let’s all go to the Imperial Capital. We have to find Subaru and Rem.]
Otto: [Emily, the decision is reserved for Lady Petra.]
Emilia: [Oh, of course! Um, what do you say, Lady Petra? Are you willing to go along with what I’ve decided?]
Petra: [――. Yes, it’s fine, Emily. The truth is, I do not like the fact that it seems like everything is going to play into this guy’s hands.]
With a fixed stare, Petra glared at Abel, yet quickly softened her expression.
She was willing to take the frustration of Abel’s outburst on behalf of Subaru and the others. Petra’s concern was appreciated, and Emilia turned to Abel and said, “Yes, that’s right,”
Emilia: [Hey, Abel, Lady Petra said everything was exactly as you wanted it to be…]
Abel: [I told you. It is impossible for me to control and guide everything. Or do you, like that girl, consider me to be just that extraordinary?]
Emilia: [No, I don’t believe that. I think you are a smart person who wears a funny mask, and …is a bit of a klutz too.]
Putting a finger to her lips, Emilia replied, while tilting her head.
When she mentioned the mask, Abel’s hand gently touched the Oni mask, and right behind him, Otto, Garfiel, and Petra could also be heard laughing quietly.
She was pleased with their reaction, and Abel asked, “What sort of assessment is that?”.
Abel: [I have never heard anything like it. Why are you describing me in such a way?]
Emilia: [About being a klutz? Well, the reason I thought that was… Yeah! I meant Subaru.]
Petra: [It’s Subaru’s? What do you mean?]
For a moment, Petra’s eyes widened as Emilia searched for the path leading to her conclusion.
Petra, who saw Abel as a master of subterfuge, may not have quite understood what Emilia meant; even though Emilia also thought of Abel as a master of subterfuge――,
Emilia: [That’s what Abel said, right? That it was pleasantly unexpected for him to have us.]
Abel: [Do not embellish my words.]
Emilia: [It’s true that you would be better off if we were here, right? Abel never once said that it wasn’t. So let’s get back to that, shall we?]
Emilia: [Maybe it was unexpected for us to be there, but Abel’s rumor of the black-haired boy for Subaru was planned …And if that makes it more likely for Subaru to be in the Imperial Capital, then that part went according to his plan, right?]
Whether planned or unplanned, Emilia had said it so many times that it nearly jumbled her thoughts, but she chose her words carefully and organized them to try to reflect Abel’s thoughts properly.
Even without Emilia and the others, he had lied about the Emperor’s child cooperating with the rebels. In doing so, there would be less dangerous scenarios for Subaru as a child, and if anyone caught him, he would be brought to the Imperial Capital to find out if the lie was true――,
Emilia: [The lie Abel told was a lie in order to make it a little more likely that Subaru would be in the Imperial Capital when we all fight there… am I right?]
Garfiel: [――Hk, that may be so, but why’d that guy have to be the captain?]
Emilia: [That’s obvious. ――Because Subaru is reaaally reliable!]
It was difficult for Emilia to decipher all by herself what all these various speculations were all about and for which purpose. But the answer to the question Garfiel mentioned was straightforward.
Abel’s many devious plans were designed to bring Subaru to the scene of the decisive battle.
It would have been really awkward if his preparations were actually made so that he would not be discovered.
But even if they were――,
Emilia: [If you had asked for help, I’m sure Subaru would have listened to you.]
It may be that it was more difficult to say the word “please” at times than it was to manipulate someone. Emilia had never thought about manipulating anyone, so she was unsure about that, but there were times when she could not say please.
And by how many could this even reduce the number of situations in which one could not say “please”? How much could one rely on the other party saying “please”?
It was now Emilia’s goal to be able to draw that line properly within herself.
Emilia looked at Abel, waiting for his answer.
While their black and amethyst eyes met each other, Emilia suddenly realized that behind the Oni mask, ――Abel never blinked with both of his eyes at the same time.
One of his eyes was constantly open. She wondered if his eyes would become dry.
――She wondered if she could push herself that hard without drying out her mind.
Abel: [Well, what are you waiting for?]
Abel: [Is there any reason why I should ever respond to your incoherent babbling about this and that? Do not expect my whims to last forever.]
Abel was about to end the conversation after a long period of silence. Emilia was so astonished by his remark that it was Medium who raised her voice instead.
She watched the conversation in silence, tugging at Abel’s sleeve beside her.
Medium: [That was so uncool just now! Even from my point of view, you lost, Abel-chin!]
Abel: [I do not recall making this a competition to see who will win, or lose. Do not pull on my sleeves. There is no replacement.]
Medium: [When you run out of clothes, dress up as a girl again! It suits you, Abel-chin!]
Brusquely, she firmly tugged his sleeve once more, and then Medium stuck her tongue out at Abel. She quickly walked around the operations desk and approached Emilia and the others.
Medium: [I don’t know anything complicated either. But if Rem-chan is in the capital, I’m sure big bro is there too… I want to see them again, and Subaru-chin too! That’s why, that’s why, that’s why…]
With faltering sincerity, Medium bowed her head with a jerk. Her long golden hair fell over her head as if it was tossed over, and fell at the feet of Emilia and the others.
However, Medium was oblivious to such things.
Medium: [Please! I know Abel-chin is how he is, but Emily-chan and the others can help!]
Medium pleaded so desperately that her voice trembled as she spoke.
At her pleading, Emilia involuntarily narrowed her eyes. Then she looked over to Abel, standing beyond the bowing Medium.
Emilia: [Abel, I think this is what it comes down to.]
At Emilia’s prompting, Abel looked at Medium’s back as she bowed her head. Then, without letting his black eyes show what he was thinking behind the Oni mask,
Abel: [You shall also join the attack on the Imperial Capital. I regard this as a statement of intent.]
And the angry voices of the two young girls scolded Abel, who could not say please.
――With that interlude, Emilia’s party had decided to take part in the decisive battle at the Imperial Capital.
Truthfully, they did not know how far Abel had calculated and set up the board.
Perhaps, just like they had told Petra, everything about Subaru and Rem might have been completely according to Abel’s calculations, or everything could have actually been a mere coincidence.
If there was one thing they could say,
Otto: [Without getting too caught up in Abel-san’s utterances and presence, let us carry out our own objectives.]
Petra: [Yes, I also think it’s best to do as Otto-san said… So what about Dudley?]
Otto: [For the time being, For the time being, he is at a friend’s, a minor target… It seems they were able to join up with High Countess Dracroy, and apparently, the aforementioned High Countess was eager to rebel.]
Petra: [Then, that High Countess and Dudley… Roswaal, too, will be going to the Imperial Capital?]
Otto: [It seems to be the likely outcome. ――It keeps getting more and more exhausting.]
It seemed like Roswaal was also torn between successes and problems on his independent mission visiting an acquaintance that was in the Vollachian Empire.
However, it seemed like both Roswaal and Ram would also apparently be heading to the Imperial Capital of Lupugana.
If Subaru and Rem truly were in the Imperial Capital, everyone would end up gathering there at once.
Frederica: [However, what awaits us on our way there is the center of a great rebellion that is engulfing the entire Empire… And to be honest, the situation has completely changed from what we had originally envisioned.]
Garfiel: [Hey, big sis. Don’t tell me you’re scared now?]
Frederica: [I’m not frightened, but I’m a little worried. It’s a problem to interfere in the quarrels of other countries, and when it comes to the battlefield…]
Frederica, her eyes downcast, her expression hardened, and she hesitated to say anything beyond that.
What she was unwilling to put into words, everyone around her could imagine――If their destination were the decisive battle in the Imperial Capital, there would be a lot of damage to both parties.
The inevitable great surge, which should have been an event in a neighboring country.
Petra: [Frederica nee-sama, I am glad you are concerned about me. But…]
Frederica: [Of course I’m worried about Petra, but I’m afraid for myself. I’m sorry for being a scaredy-cat.]
Frederica shook her head steadfastly, and Petra hung her head at that compassion-filled voice.
It was likely a battle where many people would be hurt or even lose their lives, and Frederica’s apprehension about taking Petra to such a place was understandable.
That anxiety and reluctance was shared among everyone, not just Frederica.
That was why――,
Emilia: [If we weren’t in the Empire, we’d frown at it as something that happened in a neighboring country and just dismissed it. But.]
Emilia: [By being here, we’ve gotten to know the people who are going to join the fight, so even if we can get away from here, we can no longer stand idly by and frown on it.]
Even if the lives to be destroyed were the same, the feeling of it happening to a person you know compared to a person you don’t know would be different.
Life is very precious and cannot be compared to anything else. So if life could be compared, it would only be with another life. ――This was surely a very self-righteous way to think about it.
However, if they were prepared to follow through with their selfish ideas, then it was already decided.
Emilia: [If we participate, I think we can reduce the number of casualties.]
Otto: [Emily… No, Emilia-sama. That is quite a thorny path.]
In response to Emilia’s words, who had put her hand on her chest, Otto corrected what he called her to say those words.
Otto, who had stubbornly used a pseudonym to avoid misnaming, even in a place where there was no one but friends around, gave them a glimpse of his seriousness.
It would be rude not to respond to that seriousness, so Emilia nodded in a serious way.
Emilia: [Hmm, I know. No, maybe Otto-kun is having a way more difficult time than I thought, but I’ll do something about that too.]
Otto: [Our goal is to bring back Natsuki-san and Rem-san. If only two people die in this decisive battle, and those two people are Natsuki-san and Rem-san, we will have failed. Conversely, if the people of the Empire are annihilated, but those two are safe, we win.]
Garfiel: [Otto-bro, not every end justifies…]
Otto: [I am talking to Emilia-sama now.]
Garfiel was about to interrupt Otto with a quiet string of words. However, Otto cut him off and asked only Emilia for an answer.
Looking back into Otto’s eyes, Emilia’s amethyst eyes shook slightly.
Emilia: [I’m sorry, Otto-kun. You’ve been working so hard since we came to the Empire… No, since before we came to the Empire, when we had to go help Subaru and Rem.]
Otto: […Because that is what I am supposed to do. So, I will share my thoughts how I go about it.]
Emilia: [Yeah, I know. ――We need to be at our best. And since we need Otto to give it our all, we’re going to ask him to hang in there until we meet Subaru and Rem. Even if Otto-kun collapses, I’ll forcibly carry him on my back. So.]
Emilia: [So let’s try reaaally hard to both save Subaru and Rem and keep the people of the Empire from dying as much as possible!]
Emilia was aware that she was saying something very unreasonable, and she knew it was a very selfish request. Even so, Emilia had stopped giving in before she even started trying to do what she wanted to.
For that reason――,
Emilia: [――Let us blow a new wind into this battle.] 
A fierce cold wind blew violently, filling the verdant grasslands of Vollachia with a blanket of white air.
Struggling with the falling temperatures and chilly atmosphere, many people stopped in their tracks.
In the vicinity, ceasing their movements and exhaling white breaths, were the people equipped with one part of their body as an eye-catching feature. Male or female, regardless of age, they all had one thing in common; a weapon had been cultivated on their bodies.
There was one who had swords for arms, and someone else whose entire leg was made out of steel, someone whose head had become a hammer, and also one whose entire back had become a shield.
She had heard Vollachia was home to a wide variety of demi-humans, but as so many people had gathered from so many different parts of the Empire, it was indeed a battlefield that never ceased to amaze her.
However, even if their bodies were weapons, it neither destroyed nor protected them from all the problems in front of them, as evidenced by their wounded and fallen.
So then, taking a big breath in,
Emilia: [Everybody! Get away from here! I’ll reaaally try to do my best here!]
Saying this to the people who had fallen――to the Weaponkin, Emilia hurried forward with long strides.
In order for no further pursuit to be made against them, Emilia tried to draw the opponent’s attention to herself. However, Emilia’s idea was unnecessary.
It was not that it did not work. Enough had already been done, and the other party’s eyes were drawn to Emilia.
The reason was waiting at the bastion of the city walls, where Emilia was headed――,
???: [――You again.]
Emilia, astonished at seeing Weaponkin for the first time, felt her strong feelings dampen with the existence that could not be seen even within the melting pot of diverse races that was the Vollachian Empire.
Eyes shining gold, and two black horns dully gleamed on her head. Catching the return of her thrown Flying Winged Blade in her small hands, the little girl was clad in an intimidating air unbefitting of her small stature.
Looking up at her opponent standing there, Emilia pointed a finger at her in a sharp gesture and said,
Emilia: [Yes! It’s me again, Madelyn! A passing Spiritual Arts User, Emily!]
Madelyn: [You’re an irritating girl. The other day in the battle, you couldn’t beat this dragon――]
Gnashing her teeth with strength, Madelyn’s expression shifted to a rather bloodcurdling one.
Viewing Emilia as an enemy, in an attempt to make up for the recent battle in Guaral, Madelyn raised her Flying Winged Blade at Emilia below――,
In the subsequent instant, similar to the previous time, a block of ice larger than the City Hall crashed into Madelyn like the very falls of the heavens, and together with a thunderous sound, the battle between Emilia and Madelyn broke out.
 – The expression Emilia uses here (風穴を開ける), translates directly to “Open a windhole”, but the two meanings of this expression are both to penetrate something, and to breathe a new life into something.