Machine Translated By:
- Cirdan Lunae
Japanese to English Checking By:
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This an edited Machine Translation, which has been checked by at least one Japanese-English Human Translator for quality using feedback from the machine translators and proofreaders. This may have a quality dip in accuracy, therefore, if you read this chapter you must take into consideration the tradeoffs between speed and quality.
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――As tremors shook the world, as the sky split into white and red, as the clashing of lives brought forth an event of calamitous proportions, Rem had made a decision.
Rem: [If I’m going to make a move, it’s now or never.]
In the Imperial Capital, where a battle of unimaginable scale was seemingly taking place, Rem remained imprisoned in Berstetz’s mansion, her freedom having been greatly restricted.
Even as she felt a burning smell getting stronger and stronger day-by-day, Rem had been unable to do anything of use. Feeling deeply ashamed of that, the choice of staying silently in place for a second more was no longer acceptable to her.
In the end, Rem had not once come face-to-face with Berstetz, the owner of the mansion and the perpetrator behind her confinement, ever since their first chance meeting. For that reason, there had been no way for her to examine what that old man, who had been concerned about the future of the Empire because of his own philosophy, having thus deposed the then-Emperor Abel, would think of all that having led to the great battle engulfing the entire Empire.
However, even supposing there had been an opportunity, he and Rem would not have understood each other, most likely.
Rem: [After all, Berstetz-san and I stand on entirely different sides.]
Even if it sounded cold, that was the conclusion Rem had ultimately come up with.
Only the strong, or those with the leeway to do so, could sympathize with and take into account the circumstances of those in a different position. Since Rem was neither, she had been forced to make a decision.
Who would she turn into an enemy, and who would she regard as an ally?
Leaving that aside, Rem bore no hostility towards Berstetz or Madelyn. That, in particular, made Abel’s inability to explain things properly, alongside Priscilla’s unreasonable requests, much more difficult to deal with.
Therefore, what Rem would be trying to do from now on originated not from hostility or rebellious intent towards them, but from nothing more than the result of having chosen where she would stand.
With the battle for the Imperial Capital having begun, even though Berstetz’s mansion had surely been constructed quite deep within the city, the effects of the fierce battle could be felt there nonetheless.
Naturally, the mansion had also been placed on high alert, and being more or less a prisoner of war, Rem too had been ordered to wait in the room provisioned for her. Hence, her freedom was even more restricted than usual.
However, from the perspective of the mansion’s security, Rem was nothing more than a hobbling girl anyway, and the security system in place had not been set up so that a guard would be left as a sentry in front of her room day and night.
――Taking advantage of this negligence in security, Rem had silently slipped out of the room.
Holding her breath, Rem crawled from the skylight of her room to the roof of the mansion.
Since she had been careful not to make a sound, the security had not noticed Rem’s stealthy maneuvers. It would be harsh to blame this on their negligence―― they probably would never have even thought that a girl with a cane would sneak out from a room in this kind of way.
That would be the case, if Rem truly were a girl unable to walk as she wished without a cane.
Rem: [I expected to prepare for the worst, but…]
Of course, it was not a lie that Rem had complained of her handicap and used a cane up until this point in time.
However, with her incomplete Memories troubling those around her, she could not let her impaired leg stay as-is forever, and because of that she had been constantly practicing walking.
As her efforts bore fruit, and she began being able to stand on her feet somewhat, it struck her. ――Were she to lead them to believe she had a limp, it would perhaps come in handy.
In fact, she had not yet thought as far as to how exactly it would come in handy.
On the contrary, if her secret devoid of use were to be discovered, she might have put everyone on alert inadvertently. However, since her troubles actually proved useful, she could probably say that she taken a gamble, and successfully so.
However, she absolutely could not let down her guard. Since she could only say that winning the gamble had paid off once these actions started leading to some kind of results.
Going out of one’s way to gamble would become meaningless unless it turned into a win.
In the first place, Rem had been trying not to think about just whose influence had made her take a risk as she was doing.
In any case――,
Rem: [――If only I could stay undetected until I get away.]
Rem’s goal in getting on the roof, had not been for escaping the mansion.
That had been an option difficult to discard as well, but other than Rem, Flop too was being held captive in the mansion. There was no way he could have gotten out alone, and the mansion was surrounded by a high wall to begin with. Climbing over it would have been difficult, unlike the roof, so there appeared to be no point in even considering it.
Therefore, Rem had escaped from her room to make contact with those in a building separate from the mansion, located within this same plot of land―― the Crown Princes, which had been captured all over the country and gathered at this place.
The black-haired Crown Prince had been hailed as the leader behind the rebellion, according to what she had heard. Despite the doubts about whether this person was truly Abel’s legitimate child, he probably had one or two things in his mind about the current state of the Empire.
If Rem could make contact with them, a sliver of hope to get her out of the situation she had been put in might emerge.
Rem: [I need to ensure that I, Flop-san, and Katya-san as well, are safe.]
Rem felt that she was in need of allies that could cooperate with each other.
She had been carefully making her way along the roof towards the edge, taking great care not to make a sound. Despite her effort to step softly, there was no guarantee that the guards would not find her, or that she would be able to get away successfully.
In order to not let this opportunity go to waste, she was fully prepared to risk her life in case she were spotted. This was also the reason she could not stand idly by.
Suddenly, strange occurrences popping up in the distant sky caused Rem to jump out of her skin.
Witnessing the battle taking place all throughout the walls of the Imperial Capital at the edge of her vision, as the looming sky changed into a peculiar spectacle, Rem gasped.
Being so distant from the event, Rem had no way of knowing the details, but at the very moment the Cloud Dragon Mezoreia had descended upon the top of the star-shaped walls protecting the Imperial Capital, the Spirit Eater Arakiya turned the clouds into flames, and Moguro Hagane rose up as the very rampart itself.
Without knowing the actual reality of the situation, Rem stiffened as she sensed those dangers by instinct. At the very same moment, she lost the strength to remain standing on the roof.
Simultaneous with a hoarse “Ah” escaping from Rem’s mouth, her body slid down the slope of the roof. She almost tumbled all the way down, but, instead, she quickly grabbed the edge of the roof with all her might.
Rem: [That, was close…]
She would have had no good excuse, were she to have screamed or fallen down below.
Barely hanging on from the edge of the roof, Rem exhaled a sigh of relief. Slowly, she tried to get herself back on the roof and then――,
Rem: [――? This is…?]
With her objective still far away, her dangling from the roof had only been a mishap on her way there. As Rem held onto the edge, however, a door set up at the very end of the large building caught her eyes.
Even though Rem had been allowed some relative freedom in going to and fro’ within the mansion, and thus having looked around everywhere, this was the first time she had spotted a door to a section that was off-limits just like the detached building. By going around the mansion along the roof, she had wandered onto a section that would normally be inaccessible.
Rem: [A hidden door…? What in the world?]
As questions about her discovery arose within her mind, Rem was briefly arrested by hesitation.
Her preliminary goal had been to make contact with the “Crown Princes” at the other building in the mansion ground. This would have given her a clearer picture of the situation, as well as a better chance of finding a way out of it.
On the other hand, the unexpected hidden door could just ultimately turn out to be a mere liquor cellar. Was it really worth taking the risk to get in?
She did not even need to think to know what the rational option was. ――And yet, Rem chose the irrational option.
Releasing her grip from the edge of the roof, she descended to the passageway with the hidden door. She took care in her attempt to be as quiet as possible, yet her footsteps could still be heard. However, the sky that had startled her earlier remained unusual, so the mansion’s guards should be quite distracted.
Risking it and relying on that, Rem put her hand on the hidden door and threw it open.
Rem: [Stairs leading to a basement…]
The door had not been locked, probably due to it being unnecessary, rather than due to carelessness.
It hardly seemed like a place uninvited guests were supposed to go into. Since Rem, who had more-or-less arrived at the mansion with an invitation, was the one entering it, she had no reason to complain.
Greeted by stairs which emanated cold air, and a dim space with no light, Rem inhaled lightly as she headed downstairs with her hands tracing the wall.
There was the possibility that something of unbelievable dread waited for her.
It was also possible that Berstetz had trapped something outrageous and horrifying.
Rem: [――Is, someone there?]
With some kind of mysterious conviction, Rem asked a question within the darkness of the basement she had reached.
It was poorly lit, in darkness, but one could sense that the basement was not that spacious. There was also a large presence in the back of the room which could only be vaguely discerned.
Although large, it was by no means monstrous.
It was a human bearing quite a large physique; such a presence had been chained and held captive against the wall on the other side of the basement.
And finally, that person, upon hearing Rem’s question, spoke――,
???: [I must… His Excellency…]
???: [I must, protect… His Excellency the Emperor Vincent Vollachia…]
A low, passionate voice caused the stale air within the basement to shake, pitifully so.
The echoes of sincerity contained within the voice were strong and powerful, filled with selfless loyalty.
With those words, Rem decided to take one step after another, and closed the gap between her and the other person.
In doing so, the figure of a bulky man all chained-up vaguely emerged in the darkness. His body was truly huge, white scars etched all across his face――,
Man: […Goz, Ralfon.]
A beat later, Rem realized that what he had mumbled was probably a name.
In fact, it did sound familiar.
If she recalled correctly, that was one of the Nine Divine Generals, one of the most powerful and renowned beings in the Vollachian Empire――.
Goz: [I must protect His Excellency from the Great Disaster――]
The man was like a lion, roaring heroically as his scar-ridden face contorted.
???: [――Abel, you did say this, right? That you’re the one who spread the rumor about the Crown Prince?]
Serena Dracroy, a woman of character who was overlooking the state of the siege of the Imperial Capital from the main rebel camp, standing there with her arms crossed, asked this of Abel. Slowly, he raised his face covered by the oni mask.
Serena’s Flying Dragon Squadron had appeared from the far west as reinforcements. With the participation of first-class flying dragon riders who possessed the ability to tame flying dragons, air superiority had suddenly tilted towards their side.
Of course, there were some battlefields in which the flying dragon riders were at a disadvantage due to the presence of the Cloud Dragon and the Spirit Eater, but having the entire battlefield under their control was unnecessary.
All it would take was a single breach and even the walls of the Imperial Capital, renowned for their solidity, would begin collapsing starting from there.
There were measures in place to achieve this; at least, Abel thought so. Hence, knowing that there were places on the battlefield in which they were at a disadvantage, and others they had arrived at a stalemate, he would issue orders on and off.
Abel: [Does it look like I have time for your idle chit-chat now? If anything, should you not be keeping an eye on the movements of your subordinates?]
Serena: [Yes, of course. But it’s disheartening that you dismiss this as chit-chat. I took a stance because of your letter and swiftly joined your side. Since me coming was so vital to your strategy, treating me with a little more care wouldn’t make you lose your face.]
Abel: [Spoken like a good-for-nothing commoner.]
Serena: [Even if I spoke like a philistine, I’d rather not act like one. I’m just too curious about that reaction from before.]
Shrugging her shoulders, Serena took her gaze away from the sky, directing it towards Abel.
The reaction she had referred to was likely his reaction to the reinforcements from the west―― to the arrival of the military forces that were not Serena’s Flying Dragon Squadron.
Although she had an idea about the unforeseen reinforcements and who was leading them, she found the carelessness of his earlier words and actions vexing.
Hence, it had led to the words Serena had kicked off her idle chit-chat with.
Serena: [You’re the one who spread the matter of the black-haired Crown Prince. And isn’t this Crown Prince the one leading the group right in the middle of that glorious rampage?]
Abel: [In short, you believe that this racket spreading across on the battlefield was orchestrated by the illegitimate offspring of the Emperor?]
Serena: [No, my apologies. It was just a figure of speech. I don’t believe that the black-haired Crown Prince is truly His Excellency’s son. In all likelihood, His Excellency has no children.]
Shaking her head at Abel’s words, Serena replied with a rather confident tone. When Abel raised an eyebrow at her confident answer, she continued, “In any case”,
Serena: [His Excellency never took a consort, and there’s been talk of him never having gotten intimate with a woman. I’ve tried to seduce him before, but he completely ignored me. This should serve as strong evidence.]
Abel: [――. Are you sane?]
Serena: [Of course, I’m entirely serious.]
Abel: [I did not ask if you were serious, I asked if you were sane.]
Being presented with a rather unconvincing reason to base her argument on, Abel’s gaze grew stern.
Serena was one of the more prominent High Counts in Vollachia, and because Abel held her abilities and ambition in such a high regard, he counted her as one of the forces necessary for this decisive battle. However, if Abel were to judge matters using criteria that could not be understood, that in itself meant there was room for consideration.
Serena, who was trying to see matters through Abel’s eyes, let out a “Wait” as she uncrossed her arms and raised one hand, then continued,
Serena: [I’m not kidding, that’s just the most significant reason. That I couldn’t seduce His Excellency is frustrating, but that also hints at something at the same time.]
Serena: [His Excellency has no interest in women. To put it more bluntly, he has no intention to bring forth an offspring.]
Abel looked on at Serena without speaking a word, and the latter continued with, “That’s got to be it, right?”,
Serena: [I’m not saying he is a philanderer, but His Excellency hasn’t sired a child. At the very least, not at this point in time. But even supposing His Excellency swings the other way, he could still have children provided he so wishes. There are two possibilities then, either he’s sterile, or…]
Abel: [He is intentionally not procreating.]
Serena: [Exactly. In any case, I don’t think there’s anything like a Crown Prince. That’s why this talk about an illegitimate child feels questionable in the first place. But if mere doubtful tales can spark a civil war such as this, our country splendidly lives up to its name.]
With a small twist of her cheeks, Serena’s smile was genuine and joyful.
Abel went without mentioning her attitude nor the speculation she had offered. Notably, Serena did not need Abel’s opinion either.
People like her were capable of confirming their own ideas without affirmation from others.
In other words, what she sought from Abel was not affirmation――,
Serena: [For what purpose have you made up the existence of the Crown Prince? After our side is victorious in this battle, who will sit on the vacant throne, and what will you do with your Empire?]
――She asked if they were going to leave the future of the Vollachian Empire in the hands of the Crown Prince.
At Serena’s quiet question, Abel softly closed one eye.
Some would perhaps wonder if this was the right time to be exchanging questions and answers of the sort, as the battle was just about to reach its climax. But it would be too foolish not to think about what would happen after they won, during the melee.
Naturally, since they were fighting with the intention of winning, they needed to plan for the aftermath of the war as well.
Abel: [Why do you inquire this of me?]
Serena: [I don’t mean that the Crown Prince is the… illegitimate son of His Excellency, but I believe that he’s your truest representative to lead this great civil war. If you and the Crown Prince are going to join forces after the war, isn’t it obvious who we should ask regarding the future of the Empire?]
As Serena continued her thoughts, a breath escaped Abel’s mouth upon hearing them.
Simultaneously, he himself was impressed by the effectiveness of the cognitive disruption effect of the mask covering his face.
It was impressive how well it could conceal his identity and true feelings.
Serena: [What’s wrong? Did I say something wrong?]
Abel: [I am not laughing at you. Rather, I admire your discernment. It is just that, when the conclusion is mistaken, the process to reach it is even more off. Not unreasonable, is it?]
Serena’s lips curled in frustration at Abel’s comment.
But exactly as he had stated, her abilities to discern things were impressive. It was only natural to think that Abel’s goal was to win this rebellion and seize the throne of the Vollachian Empire.
He put a person calling themselves the Crown Prince in place, who would seize control over the throne. And if possible, the shadow Emperor could perhaps even murder his puppet at some point, thus taking the throne for himself.
Abel: [Have no doubt, I hold no intention of handing over the throne. Your assessment is misguided.]
Serena: [So you’re saying all my conjectures are completely off?]
Abel: [Not all. You are correct, I spread the word about the existence of the black-haired Crown Prince with the intention to find that one over there wreaking havoc on the battlefield. But you are mistaking the overall importance.]
Serena: [Overall importance?]
Abel: [How important is it to have him front and center, relative to how important it is to keep him at hands’ reach. The latter is not that essential. ――In any case, that naiveté of his cannot condone the sacrifices of others.]
Serena twisted her head, perplexed beyond comprehension.
However, Abel was not obligated to explain everything to her either. For the time being, he had probably provided her with the answers she sought, and resolved the concerns she held for the post-war.
One possibility was, Serena could even end this rebellion by beheading Abel here and now, then take his head with her to the Crystal Palace.
Everything would be nipped in the bud, but to a certain extent, at the expense of Abel’s gratifying sacrifice.
Abel: [Cast aside hesitation and mercy, and make the most of your naiveté. That is what makes you truly special. ――Natsuki Subaru.]
The person Serena had called the Crown Prince was probably still ravaging the battlefields of the west.
Even Abel did not have a completely consistent image of the person whose name he just uttered, in his mind. From what he recalled, he had been a hectic handful to deal with as an unvarnished crossdresser, and even while donning the appearance of a child.
With that image of Subaru floundering about, hectically moving bout in confusion upon being tossed into some situation, laying his naiveté and inexperience bare, Abel’s lips twisted. With firm disgust.
――No, with hatred, or perhaps, a more appropriate way to describe it would be rage.
Soldier: [――Who are you!?]
As Serena was about to continue questioning Abel, as he concealed his negative emotions behind the oni mask, there was movement in the camp.
Several soldiers guarding the main camp had drawn their weapons, showing utmost caution. Upon taking a look, the soldiers pointing their weapons at a slender figure who had made its appearance from outside the encampment could be seen.
The figure raised its empty hands and chuckled, looking around at the faces of the soldiers pointing their weapons at them.
???: [Myyy~, I wasn’t expecting such a warm welcome. I’m quite the popular one, aren’t I?]
Soldier: [Don’t mess around! Where did you even come from?!]
???: [Guided by the stars… Doesn’t that sound a little too poetic, though?]
The anger of the soldiers, believing that they were being made fun of by that ambiguous answer, flared up.
However, the man’s attitude did not change in response to their threatening demeanor. Abel knew very well that his attitude would not be swayed by this.
And that was why――,
Abel: [――Lower your weapons. That thing does not pose a threat.]
Abel: [Even if you were to give him a knife, he would still be unable to do a thing. He is a clown whose only skill is to play with words.]
???: [Whaat~, that’s a nasty thing to say. I’m hurt, you know?]
He called out to the soldiers that were on-guard to lower their weapons. However, expressing his protest towards that command, the gentle-looking man Abel had spared with a pout of his lips.
Then Serena, who was standing next to Abel, also directed a quizzical look at the man.
Serena: [Why are you here? Aren’t you the Stargazer――]
???: [――Ubilk, if you’d be so kind. Pleased to make your acquaintance, High Countess Dracroy. But then again…]
As the gentle-looking man―― Ubilk, introduced himself, he smiled bewitchingly with the oddly refined face he possessed.
Ubilk was supposed to be in the Imperial Capital, and more specifically at the Crystal Palace. With pompousness, with the utmost maximum of pompousness he cut off the words he had been stating before, and then, delivered a declaration.
Ubilk: [――That’s a conversation for after the Great Disaster, if you happen to survive it, right?]