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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When Berstetz Fondalfon made his return to the throne room, noticing something strange, he came to find that the door to the most venerable room in the Crystal Palace was firmly closed.
The word “closed” did not simply refer to the mere opening or closing of the door.
In this case, “closed” literally meant that the door was completely sealed off from the outside world. It was a manifestation of the intention of the master of the Palace, the intention to never let anyone else enter.
???: [――In this case, I wonder whiiich~ of the two Emperors’ intentions is more appropriate to keep in mind for this, Prime Minister-sama?]
Berstetz came to a stop, narrowing his already thread-like eyes even further to the utmost, due to the clownish manner of the delicate man that was stretching out his arms and standing in front of the closed door.
The man standing there with a faint smile on his face was an exception of some sort, being allowed to enter and leave the Crystal Palace as he pleased because of his Stargazer peculiarity, making him an unpredictable entity who had obtained the position of being neither friend nor foe.
Berstetz: [Ubilk-dono, regarding the throne room…]
Ubilk: [I’m not gonna leave you high and dry, so I’ll tell you the truth. His Excellency the Emperor is present. Both the real and the fake, so they shooould~ get their face-to-face meeting.]
Even though he had an inkling, Berstetz chose to respond like this as he placed his hand on his chin.
Exactly as he had mouthed, it was incomprehensible to him, and there was no doubt that the situation was difficult for him to just accept. At Berstetz’s reaction, Ubilk tilted his head, saying “Incomprehensible?”,
Ubilk: [What’s so hard to accept? Are you wondering how the real Emperor was brought here? If that’s the case, I was guided by the whispers of the stars…]
Berstetz: [Even on the battlefield, you can manage to walk down a path that is free from falling arrows. Even if soldiers are slashing at each other in close quarters, you are able to step through without a splatter of blood reaching you, let alone their sword blows, correct?]
Ubilk: [Yeah, that’s hooow~ it is. But that’s not all.]
With a smirk Ubilk nodded, making no pretense of hiding anything.
As ridiculous as it sounded, Berstetz had been witness to Ubilk’s abnormal abilities with his own eyes.
Ubilk had once leisurely walked through a literal rainstorm of projectiles and a forest of swords without suffering a single scratch. Ubilk claimed to follow the whisperings of the stars, but Berstetz could not determine whether him possessing superhuman fighting skills was true or false.
If one thing could be said for certain, then it was that he was enveloped by a power beyond human understanding, be it the whispering of the stars or Ubilk’s own abilities.
And because he was so useful, neither the real Vincent Vollachia nor the fake Vincent Vollachia had been willing to let go of Ubilk.
Berstetz: [So that you serve as a guiding light, for the purpose of preventing the Great Disaster.]
Ubilk: [Whaaat’s~ this, wasn’t it due to my own humanity being acknowledged?]
Berstetz: [If anyone was to be called forth to the Crystal Palace because of their humanity, it would be General First-Class Goz. Aside from him, everyone else would be called due to their abilities. I myself am no exception.]
From the perspective of running a nation, personal attachment was nothing more than the sound of insects flying, it ought be ignored.
That was Berstetz’s view, and it was almost certainly the same view held by both Vincent Vollachias.
It was not a question of good and bad, or likes and dislikes, but rather a topic that should be discussed from the perspective of necessity.
In that regard, Berstetz was only a necessary cogwheel at this point. If his position were to become unnecessary or worthless, he would have no qualms about being removed.
Ubilk should not deviate from his required role as well, regardless of his resolve.
Berstetz: [If you were aware of this, you would not have overlooked this plot of mine and His Excellency who sits on the throne now, would you?]
Ubilk: [Could it be that you consider my actions as betrayal? Thaaat’s~ complicated. After all, in order to betray, you gotta be trusted first. Or, do you trust me?]
Berstetz: [No, not at all.]
Ubilk: [That so? It hurts me to have that be said, but…]
Putting his hand on his forehead, Ubilk looked amused as he spoke of how much it had hurt him. Whether this was out of placidity or something else, Berstetz had never witnessed him failing to keep a straight expression.
He had never thought of this as unpleasant before, but at this moment, for the very first time, he considered him an eyesore.
The real Vincent Vollachia, who had been banished from the Crystal Palace, thus relinquishing of his title as Emperor―― he had now been brought through the door, pushed into this decisive scene.
Ubilk: [Allow me to answer one question, Prime Minister-sama… I haven’t changed my standpoint.]
Berstetz: [――What standpoint, exactly?]
Berstetz inquired whether he purported to be a friend or foe. Upon hearing that, Ubilk put his hands together in front of his chest, making a sound that echoed through the air.
Ubilk: [Of course, my standpoint of wishing to avert the Great Disaster and maintain the peace and quiet of the Vollachian Empire.]
Berstetz: [――. For that reason, the confrontation on the other side of this door is necessary?]
Ubilk: [Yes, that’s right, that’s right. Everything I do is for the sake of that. ――The beating of my heart, the breathing that inflates and deflates my lungs, the flow of blood through my body, everything.]
Berstetz remained silent in response to Ubilk continuing on, tapping on his own chest.
Ubilk’s unchanging smile, unwavering demeanor, and somewhat devilish gaze seemed to be sane and serious to Berstetz’s eyes.
He could not say for certain whether that sanity and seriousness was a peek into the other side of madness.
Berstetz: [――Your Excellency, what will you do?]
As Ubilk stood guarding the great door and the two Emperors faced each other on the other side of it―― Berstetz muttered to himself, thinking of the person he had banished.
Berstetz did not care if he were to be beheaded, if his soul were to be lit ablaze, if he were subjected to any other kind of brutal execution.
If Vincent Vollachia, one of the wisest Emperors in the history of the Empire, truly wished to be Emperor, so be it.
???: [A man always quick to act, always light in words. I would not count on something of the ilk of the Stargazer, who placed his faith in the skies above.]
???: [Firstly, I expect no sort of loyalty from that thing. If hierarchy were to be established based on loyalty, Vollachia would not have been preserved as it is till the present day. But then again…]
???: [Had my ruin come as a result of being unable to question the upsides and downsides of the ambitions you have hidden, then one could easily say it is but natural that the prospect of me stepping through the Palace floor like this would be one so far off in the distance, now would it.]
Treading upon the blood-red carpet, Abel posed a question to the one before his eyes, the former’s gaze fixed on the latter, arms crossed.
There was no room for debate as to whose hand had aided Abel in this instance of arriving here. That man, who read through the peculiarities of that which was outside the norm, pouring heart and soul into realizing the wishes of the Observers, was without peer in regard to the act of treading the outside of the game board.
Much akin to a loose cannon. However, a cannon that could not be divested of its station, unless the conditions were to be met.
Identifying the conditions for forcefully divesting that loose cannon of its post had been a particularly difficult task to the extreme, being that making it stir was a double-edged sword. Yet, he had done it.
The fact that he was now once more setting foot on the throne room from which he had been ousted, was proof of that.
The scheming, the concealment up until this moment, it was no exaggeration to state that it had all been done in order to wrestle back this opportunity.
The face of the man sitting on the throne he had his eyes set on, the one to whom he was about to pose a question, was one Abel had seen many times.
His own face, it was. It went far beyond logic like mere intimate familiarity or whatnot.
It was a visage that to others would appear like that of Vincent Vollachia himself; however, to Abel, who had known the man who had mastered the art of disguising himself with that face for years, it appeared to be a poorly crafted mask.
A mask would remain a mask however, even if poorly crafted.
A mask over one’s face concealed their true visage, accomplishing the role of covering up their real thoughts, making them invisible. Henceforth, Abel posed his questions not with his eyes, but with his words.
And in addition, he posed a straightforward, piercing question, one devoid of any smoke and mirrors.
Abel: [――Have your wishes in ousting me, thus joining Berstetz, come true?]
The query spoken by Abel, had anyone heard it, was one that would surely have caused outrage.
The aftermath of the banishment drama that had begun in a room in the Crystal Palace had already spread throughout the entirety of the Empire. Even now, Imperial Soldiers and rebels were clashing by the walls surrounding the Imperial Capital, their lives continuously being scattered to the wind.
The people living in the Imperial Capital, too, were entrusting their lives to the outcome.
Against this backdrop, Abel’s question was the sort that could not escape being criticized as leisurely.
Still, Abel had voiced so. The rebel, who preferred not wasting a single thing, who had worked out so many wily schemes to get to this point, had voiced so. Because, it was necessary.
To determine what Abel―― Nay, what the real Vincent Vollachia, ought to seek in the forthcoming dialogue with the fake Vincent Vollachia.
Finally, after pausing for a time too long to even be hesitation, yet too short to be dubbed contemplation――,
Vincent: [――No, not yet. I have not yet obtained the result I seek.]
In a voice imitative of the one that had cast the inquiry, thus was the answer from the false Emperor to the true Emperor.
For that reply, Abel likewise needed a moment of time.
He paused for a breath, putting neither hesitation nor contemplation betwixt.
Abel: [Have yet to obtain what you seek, is it?]
As that spilled from him, he closed both his eyes. ――Going against the natural habit he had.
Never did Abel close both eyes simultaneously. He was forced to keep one eye open at all times, lest his preparations be too deficient as an Emperor who ruled his Empire lifeless after the blink of an eye.
The point here was not that for Abel, who by product of training and self-awareness was capable of keeping one eye open even when sleeping, his consciousness remaining half-awake, this marked the first time in several years in which darkness came as a result of closing both his eyes.
It was that by doing so, by possessing the very capability of doing so, Abel had made an assertion of his own intents.
In other words,
Abel: [That is deceit.]
From the moment he had set foot into the throne room, no anger, no disappointment had been present within Abel’s voice and gaze both. The same applied even when it came to being before the man who had performed an act of treachery, stabbing him in the back. His steely self-control had allowed him to do so.
Here, Abel’s voice, which had assiduously rejected all emotion, was for the first time laced with a tone.
A tone of disdain which he had stopped concealing, directed towards the person who had disguised himself in his own visage.
With those words spoken, the false Emperor, warming his throne, kept his silence.
Silent, he kept. Though, it would have been somewhat helpful had his silence been out of trifling pride.
Abel: [Ousting myself from the throne, you removed that damned Goz from the equation as he had gained knowledge of the situation, schemed to anticipate and crush my plans after my escape, and took part in the destruction of the Demon City. The smoldering embers have spread to the entire nation, permitting that the bounds of the Imperial Capital, a place where rebels armed with their designs of insurrection have never been allowed to reach, would at last have their tainted, boorish feet enter it.]
Vincent: [Do you believe it would have not come to pass, had it been yourself on the throne?]
Abel: [To begin with, had I been on the throne, all this now would not have come to fruition. As a result, the conflagration you have brought upon has scorched the Empire. However.]
Thereupon cutting off his sentence, Abel extended his hand towards the oni mask that covered his face.
Abel: [――A way to immediately snuff out these flames exists.]
Having spoken so, he ripped off the mask affixed to his face, thus exposing his real face to the outside, within eyesight of the other person.
With his countenance looking down upon him and both of them alike in every way, like two peas in a pod, the two Emperors faced one another. Real and fake, a perfect mirror such that none would be able to detect discrepancies.
He was a wise man. Abel’s actions and words would have conveyed his intentions clearly.
With matters having come this far, he had sufficient understanding of his disadvantageous position, of the difficulty in fulfilling his plan. It was time for the irresistible waves of reason to sweep away the schemes that had been hatched.
If the obstacles they had set their eyes on, if the Great Disaster to be fought against were both the same, that would be only logical.
Abel: [I shall――]
He was about to announce his intent to return to the place he was supposed to be.
He would issue a decree difficult to oppose, thus settling the battle initiated by foolish reasons.
And, it happened just prior to that.
Vincent: [――Your Excellency.]
That one expression, cut off the rest of Abel’s words.
It was an expression that ought not be stated, with that appearance, with that voice. Deprecating oneself and putting the one it was directed to at a higher standing, it was a stupid statement from someone who had lost awareness of his own position, which ought not happen.
The moment it was heard, Abel’s words were interrupted for a beat.
Perhaps, that was the second time Abel―― No, Vincent Vollachia, had had his expectations betrayed in the Crystal Palace, a possibly fatal moment.
On the first occasion, he had been ousted from the throne. And now, on this second instance――,
Slipping into that momentary gap, the false Emperor rose from the throne.
Raising himself from his sitting position, the difference in their heights, which had been only that of one looking down on the other, once more increased for a smidgen. However, that notion vanished in a blink’s worth of time. No more did it matter.
The reason for that being――,
Vincent: [――Your one lapse was in having a bird’s-eye view of the board.]
The figure informing him of this had closed the distance in the time of a sole breath, looming before Abel.
――Inside the Crystal Palace in the Imperial Capital of Lupugana, two Emperors, one true and one false, were within breathing range of each other.
At that very moment, various changes occurred simultaneously all over at the places the Imperial Capital was being laid under siege.
Each of them had been caused by different feelings and beliefs, but they all had just one thing in common.
That one thing, was that none of the changes occurring at these places had been desirable.
???: [――El Fula.]
Wielding a wand in their hand, they created a gust of wind in the parched air of the battlefield.
Normally, this magic would focus on slitting the opponent’s throat with precision and minimal effort. However, Ram had realized that this would not be effective against the enemy present upon this battlefield.
Forming a horde, stone golems were standing in her way as if they did not have a life of their own.
They had nothing akin to a self-consciousness, they attacked approaching objects mechanically, and although they were humanoid in shape, they lacked what one would call the vital points of the human body.
Whether their heads were removed, whether their limbs were severed, they attacked their enemies using the remaining parts of their body as weapons.
Therefore, Ram’s signature tactics were ineffective.
But she could not just throw the towel like a genteel damsel who was completely incapable of doing anything on her own.
???: [Let loose――!]
In response to the glaring Ram who stepped towards the horde, a line of brown-skinned war maidens likewise pressed forward on the front line. The People of Shudraq fearlessly pushed onto the battlefield with their bows poised, their arrows drawn, their shots fired at the encroaching obstacles of stone.
Applying wind to each of their arrows, Ram attempted to rout the problem away by force.
The windborne arrows were vested with speed and rotation, and the moment one struck a stone golem, the arrowhead would emit a burst of wind with penetrating force such that it would pulverize the golem.
The arrow would continue with unrelenting force and pierce right into the stone golems behind it in a chain reaction, causing the same destruction and increasing the damage.
With just a single arrow fired, two to three stone golems would collapse as a result.
In addition to that――,
The whispered, delicate chanting would create a wind of a different wavelength compared to the destructive wind, and blow the earth apart almost as if caressing it to scatter the stones it was composed of.
At once, the arrows that had dropped to ground after destroying the stone golems would whirl up, and thus make their return to the hands of the running Shudraqs, just to be nocked and released to then defeat the stone golems again. Again, and again.
Ram: [Fula, El Fula, Fula, El Fula.]
The alternate chanting, the rapid use of the magic in succession was like a delicate motion combining the selfsame system of the magic.
The People of Shudraq, who had nothing but respect and admiration for the Vollachian Empire that had mastered the art of warfare at the expense of developing magic, could not comprehend this extraordinary skill.
It was like she was threading a needle with her eyes closed and her hands tied. Or perhaps, it was a superhuman feat, akin to putting the selfsame thread through countless lumen simultaneously.
Because of the arrival of Ram and her highly effective wind magic on the battlefield, the Shudraq’s breakthrough power had swelled severalfold.
The female warriors, having been left behind due to Zikr Osman’s faith and sentimentality, were using their consequently preserved strength to crush the forces of the nigh-impenetrable third bastion.
???: [Ahh, how pleasant! To be able to shock both friend and foe!]
With glossy black daggers gripped in her hands, Mizelda said this as she raced across the battlefield.
Although she boasted a prosthetic leg in place of the one she had lost, her unfaltering gait gave no sense of deficiency. Mizelda overtook the frontline of the battlefield, the place where the arrows of her allies flew towards mercilessly and, swinging her daggers in both hands, she tore apart the stone golems like a storm, opening a hole in their group.
???: [Sister will dodge them on her own! Don’t stop! Let Ram’s wind carry our spirit!]
Taritta, herself armed with a bow on hand, fired three shots in the same time the other Shudraqians took to fire one, and with her eyes fixed on the back of her older sister rampaging on the front lines, she made an appeal to her brethren.
In accordance with that, as the arrows of the Shudraqians dealt a crushing blow to the group of stone golems, Zikr and the others who had picked their lives back up after they should have been thrown away, charged in to destroy their battle formation.
???: [Move, move, move! You small fry stone golems, you ain’t gonna take over this battlefield!]
Letting loose a vulgar voice at the head of the group, was a man with an elegant, flowing swordsmanship contrary to his apparent character. Bringing demise to several stone golems with one sweep of his swords, the man with an eyepatch leveled the battlefield in a single move.
If one went by what had been described so far, it was a war situation that could probably be labeled as overwhelming superiority.
Zikr: [Pull back――!!]
Mounted on the back of a Galewind Horse with a beautiful coat, Zikr shouted, and the group running on the front lines immediately split up. Right after, a “wall” fell from overhead towards the center of that group.
A thunderous roar and violent tremor engulfed the land; without exaggeration, this phenomenon was like fighting a fort itself―― such was the threat posed by Moguro Hagane, who had become one with the city wall, and which would not diminish no matter how many stone golems were chipped away.
Literally, with one swing of Moguro’s arm, their gains in the battle would be nullified in the blink of an eye.
Rather than seesawing evenly, the battle had been unfolding with one step forward, followed by two steps back.
Ram, who had been concentrating on advancing forward onto the battlefield, as well as delivering arrows to the Shudraq and having their arrows pierce through the enemy, narrowed her light-crimson eyes and pondered the changes that had taken place.
It was only Ram at first who noticed the signs, but gradually, the change in the battlefield over the third bastion became one noticed by all.
A change, namely――,
Jamal: [――Fuck you! Don’t turn your back on your enemy! Are you even a General First-Class!]
Moguro Hagane, who had become a huge figure of unbelievable proportions, was struck by vulgar swearing hurled towards their back.
Yes, towards their back. ――Moguro Hagane, had taken a giant step towards the Imperial Capital, turning their back on Ram, the Shudraqians, and the throngs of warriors they had encountered on the battlefield.
???: [It’s no good! She won’t wake up at all!]
Shaking her shoulders, shouting at her, and lightly tapping her cheeks did not awaken the limp dragonkin girl in her arms―― Madelyn Eschart.
Emilia, after retrieving her from the snow, where she lay motionless, was trying her best to make the hectic battlefield a little better, but she was unable to get any results.
Emilia: [Mezoreia is…]
Emilia, her silver hair fluttering in the cold wind, held Madelyn, still locked in a stubborn sleep with her eyes closed; and once she turned around, she came to witness a battle between two extraordinary beings taking place.
On one corner was a Dragon clad in clouds, separated from ordinary creatures by the sheer nature of their very existence.
And, while the blue-haired boy on the other corner would perhaps look and talk like a small child, he was flying around the battlefield with a fighting style that would put any adult or Emilia to shame.
The battle between the Cloud Dragon Mezoreia and Cecilus Segmunt was now a legendary one.
With the soles of his zori on the icy wall without any apparent aid, Cecilus’s body ran through the air at an angle parallel to the ground.
Without anything to hold on to, the human body would normally fall to the ground. Yet, Cecilus ignored such natural principles and made use of the towering ice wall as a foothold from which to approach the Dragon above Emilia’s head.
Taking one last powerful step, Cecilus’s body caught up to Mezoreia with lightning speed.
Mezoreia flapped its wings and tried to keep its distance, but it was at the mercy of his maneuvers, being hit by the slash of an ice sword to its exposed neck without being able to defend itself, once Cecilus had avoided its swinging claws.
From the Dragon came a cry of anguish that was quite unlike a Dragon, and then came a shrill noise of the ice sword shattering against the Dragon’s neck, conveying its demise through sound to those around in the environs. Was it the robustness of the Cloud Dragon’s scales that had shattered the ice blade, which had been hardened like iron, or was it the speed with which Cecilus had swung the sword that had made it shatter?
In any case, the disintegrated sword of frost had served its purpose, and Cecilus was defenseless in midair――,
Cecilus: [I’m spoiled for choice with this many options to pick and choose from! There are no limits, no petty tricks!]
The voice, its high pitch comparable to the sound of the sword of frost shattering, was an indication of Cecilus’s natural voice and excitement.
Cecilus’s words, spun in a pleasant tone, were followed by a second sound of ice shattering―― no, not a second, but a third and a fourth in succession.
Not unprotected in midair as one might have thought, Cecilus sprung upwards, without fail.
He pulled out a myriad of weapons of frost created by Emilia―― weapons created via Icicle Line, one after another, which he had shoved into his clothes.
From his back, his waist, and between his thighs, the items Cecilus had picked up while catching up with Mezoreia, who was escaping into the sky, were swung one after another by Cecilus’s hands while in the air, peeling off Mezoreia’s scales.
Swords, axes, spears, and hammers of ice wreaked havoc, and the Cloud Dragon was put on the defensive due to the violent assault. Or perhaps, even that expression was a misnomer seeing as Mezoreia was unable to defend itself.
Her eyes were able to follow him because she was far away in a spot where she would not get caught in the crossfire, but if Cecilus were to move right in front of her, Emilia would probably not be able to follow his afterimage.
Considering that level of surprise, then perhaps Cecilus would be able to defeat Mezoreia even if Madelyn did not wake up.
Though her heart was not in a state that she would not feel frustration at that.
Emilia: [You’re fighting for someone you care about too, aren’t you?]
Emilia lowered the corners of her amethyst eyes at the sight of Madelyn’s unconscious sleeping face.
Madelyn had always been hostile, angry, and unwilling to listen, but Emilia did not know her well enough to dislike her for it.
What she did know, was that the reason she was angry laid in her feelings for someone she cared about, and Mezoreia had come down to help Madelyn in this way.
If Mezoreia were to die while she was asleep, just what would happen to Madelyn’s mind?
Emilia: [Madelyn, wake up! Wake up already!]
They were in the middle of a battle. Moreover, Cecilus had saved Emilia’s life from peril.
It was impossible for her to be so selfish as to ask him to back off or not to kill Mezoreia.
Therefore, that only left Madelyn. Only she could end the battle without Madelyn herself or Mezoreia, who had come to her aid, losing their lives.
Cecilus: [Oh, I see! So the wing’s joint is weak!]
Despite Emilia’s hopes and considerations, the analysis from Cecilus, who had been cheering for battle, proceeded.
Looking back at her memories of fighting Volcanica, at the time Emilia had had no idea of what the weaknesses of the creature known as a Dragon would be, but Cecilus seemed to be different.
The blow of Cecilus’s sword had met the joint of one of the Dragon’s wings as he had stated, while he continued to fight in the air using the Dragon’s body as a foothold, not falling out of the air, and in the meantime, he dodged the attacks from its wings and tail, performed in an attempt to fling him away.
In an instant, the nature of the scream changed, and blue blood dripped onto the snow-white decoration.
It was proof that a slash had skewered the sturdy scales, reaching beyond them.
Cecilus: [If a Dragon were to lose its wings, what would make it different from a ground dragon? Have you had a chance to learn how to fight while on the ground in your long lifetime?]
He was not mocking it, nor was he belittling it.
Cecilus’s tone of voice had remained the same; if anything, he was saying it to hype himself up. But even Emilia was convinced that what he had been saying was about to become a reality.
If Emilia had been convinced, Mezoreia, who was being directly swung at by the sword, ought to have been convinced of it even further.
A Dragon having its wings cut off, thus falling to the ground.
Emilia, who had no wings and was not a Dragon, could not imagine how unbearable that would be. But she could see how it would take away Mezoreia’s chances of winning.
It was hard to believe that Cecilus, who could not be kept up with even in the sky, could be kept up with on the ground.
Mezoreia: [――This dragon is…!!]
A moment later, Mezoreia’s low voice boomed, trying to sweep aside the impending humiliation.
Kicking Mezoreia in the flank, Cecilus leapt up and his slash drew near the root of its wing. Just before it hit, it did a spinning drill and flipped from down facing to upward facing while airborne.
Looking up towards Cecilus aiming for the wing, Mezoreia’s draconic arm reared up in front of the former.
A human body could easily be torn apart if it were hooked in either the claws or the scales.
Even Cecilus, who could move fast, was no exception to this, making Emilia come near to shrieking. But Emilia’s scream was directed not at Cecilus’s death, but at something else.
Cecilus: [Hoowee, that was a close one!]
The swinging arm of the Dragon had certainly caught Cecilus in midair.
However, Cecilus aligned his sole against the Dragon arm striking at him, allowing him to run alongside the arm while it unleashed its ferocious blow.
Launching himself using the tip of the Dragon’s claw as footing, he started running near the Dragon’s elbow.
He had been able to convert a strike that would have blown his body apart upon impact into an opportunity to run and jump out of the way; it was his ridiculous foot speed that had allowed him to escape an otherwise certain death.
Emilia: [Ah, yes!]
Being called a beauty, Emilia was at loss for any words of modesty in response.
Instinctively sensing why she was being called upon, Emilia leapt away from the tip of the Dragon’s arm, and then cast a new weapon of frost in Cecilus’s vicinity, who had landed on the ice wall.
Cecilus quickly picked it up, turning to Mezoreia, who was about to give chase, and bent his knees in preparation for another leap.
The distance that had opened between them could be closed in the blink of an eye, but in there laid Mezoreia’s chance for victory, as right now no attacks from Cecilus could reach it.
Naturally, Mezoreia would put all its energy into this. ――At least, that was what ought to have happened.
Getting ready for an immediate attack, Cecilus tilted his head while he crouched down.
Despite his tacit understanding and despite the fact that he was giving up the first move, the expected attack did not arrive.
Emilia seemingly harbored the same doubts as Cecilus. Before she even knew it, Emilia understood that this was the final frontier between over victory or defeat as she was pushed to her limits.
And yet, Mezoreia did not move. On the contrary――,
Immediately before this moment, Mezoreia had tried to swing its Dragon arm to obliterate Cecilus. Having stopped moving in midair, its white eyeballs with pupils and irises black stared at a single point.
At Cecilus, who had tried to put it on the ropes, making it taste humiliation―― that was not so.
Aside from Cecilus, who was posturing on the ice wall, and Emilia, who was cradling Madelyn, there was another presence that Mezoreia could not ignore on this white-dyed battlefield.
Mezoreia, still as if it had been struck dead, raised its gaze even higher into the sky.
It stopped and gazed towards a point in the sky much, much higher than its own.
Emilia: […Is there, something flying?]
Emilia followed Mezoreia’s gaze and focused on the ashen, snow-laden clouds.
Even higher in the sky than where Mezoreia’s huge body floated, there was a shadow of something flying just barely visible to Emilia’s eyesight.
The only options Emilia could consider flying in the sky were the Dragon in front of her, the flying dragons that flew in numbers across the battlefield, or Roswaal getting sidetracked during his travel time.
Mezoreia: [――It can’t be.]
Mezoreia flapped its wings as it muttered this.
The body of the idling Dragon resumed its movement. However, it was not a move to unleash a decisive attack like it was supposed to do just prior,
Cecilus: [Whaaa!? Heyheyhey, wait, wait, this can’t be happening!?]
As soon as Cecilus observed its movement, his expression trembled with the greatest of shock.
Until then, his expression had seemed to be happy regardless of what was done to him, but now his eyes darted about quickly in bewilderment. That was only natural. At a time he had expected his opponent to rush in, Mezoreia turning its back like that was quite unbelievable.
Not heeding Cecilus’s voice, Mezoreia flapped its wings and tore through the sky.
Once the Dragon had decided to fly and started moving, its speed was extraordinary, turning back and rising into the sky so swiftly, that it was like an arrow being shot with full force.
Cecilus: [You think I’ll let you do that!!]
In order to prevent the airborne Dragon from escaping, Cecilus bent his knees not for a counterattack, but to explosively unleash the strength required from his legs to chase after the flying Dragon.
The small body made an incredible thrust, causing the thick, huge ice wall to fissure and crumble starting from his sole, as Cecilus’s body leapt away.
Flying in a straight line, Cecilus’s figure surpassed the Dragon’s speed, homing in on its wings. He drew closer. Closer, closer, and closer, until――,
Cecilus: [――Ah, damn, looks like I can’t reach.]
No matter how fast Cecilus was on his feet and how far he could leap, he was incapable of erasing the distance to the Dragon which was already in the sky.
Alas, Cecilus’s body could not keep up with Mezoreia, the latter pulling away, and once he hit the apex of his leap, he lost his momentum, dropping back down. Had the Cloud Dragon shifted its aim and gone for Cecilus, even he would perhaps have been in danger.
But Mezoreia did not retaliate. Instead, it rose steadily and ripped through the sky.
Cecilus: [――It’s heading into the Imperial Capital?]
――Changes had taken place in multiple places in the siege of the Imperial Capital, amongst them, the developments that had occurred in two places were of particular importance.
At the same time these had transpired outside of the Crystal Palace, within the throne room, two Emperors met face-to-face, their gazes so close together that their eyelashes could have touched those of the other.
The rebel ringleader, Abel, had been a move behind; however, he switched gears on the spot.
He leaned forwards as to play his best move―― or rather, to play the next best move he had, against the person donning a visage identical to his own, who had approached his immediate front before his eyes.
A sharp strike was delivered to his left clavicle, his thoughts soldering red from the severe blow.
Taking a look, he saw that what had struck the base of his neck was being held by the hand of the one right before him, an iron fan―― the preferred weapon of the person wearing the same visage as his own, an object he knew from sight.
Handling that weapon took something special, and he had harbored doubts of just how powerful a thing it was, many times in the past.
The fact that he had attained the answer to his past questions, the pain penetrating his brain, he consciously excised them both from his thoughts.
Picture in your mind the priorities of the present moment and immediately formulate measures to address them. Taking into consideration a combination of feasibility and effectiveness, alongside your injuries, arrange the priorities.
Vincent: [This is not a board game. This is why you are not worthy of being a warrior, it feeeels.] 
Faster than Abel was able to choose from the myriad of options that had emerged within his head, the warrior displayed the techniques that had permeated his body, his veins, rather than his head.
Mercilessly twisting Abel’s arm, he snatched away the thing which was held by the now-weakened limb, and in the moment following that, Abel’s vision was covered in dark for an instant.
Has he crushed my eyes, or have my eyes been blinded in some way?
A moment’s pondering, negated by the fact that his blocked vision returned immediately afterwards. If so, what had been the true meaning behind the other party’s actions? And coincident with those thoughts, he realized.
――That again, his own face was covered with something that felt familiar.
And thus his lips, moving faster than his hands or feet, let out a sound as he glared into the black eyes before him.
With those words from Abel, on whom he had put the oni mask that had previously been snatched away, the false Emperor before him―― No, Chisha Gold, twisted his lips, the lips on a face that was not his own.
Recognizing that upon his own face was an awfully decadent smile, Abel’s eyes widened.
A moment later――,
――A white light came rushing in, piercing a wall of the throne room, and perforated the chest of the one at the apex of the Empire, Vincent Vollachia, from behind. 
 Vincent’s speech style here changes somewhat dramatically, switching the way he refers to Abel via a second-person pronoun, from the usual Emperor-ly “貴様” to a more casual (or even disrespectful, considering the context) “あなた”, among other changes. This perhaps serves to indicate that he’s dropping the facade right now, and acting as Chisha Gold rather than a fake of Vincent Vollachia.
 A nuance that is a little bit lost in translation, is that “頂点” is here translated as “apex”, in “apex of the Empire”, but it is also the same word used to refer to the bastions of the Imperial Capital’s walls, which is present in the title of the chapter.