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- Erifuru (Sections 1 to 4)
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The Oni mask did not obscure just how the man’s face stiffened as he was pushed away.
An expression of that sort would easily lend itself to misinterpretations. Despite his cleverness, or perhaps because of it, the Emperor would often abridge his statements, even when unfavorable; and his countenance was no less taciturn than his mouth.
If there was somebody able to seize the truth behind that expression, it was probably himself, who had spent several years at the Emperor’s side.
Chisha: [Or, perhaps――]
Were it the Emperor’s little sister, whom he held sacred in every sense of the word, at this place, would she figure it out as well?
In any case, it was pointless to make comparisons now.
After all, in this minuscule, isolated place in time and space, nobody was present other than himself.
???: [Chesha Trim, would you be willing to die for my sake?]
Upon their first meeting, having disclosed his name, he received a question treating matters of life and death in exchange.
Chesha, fourteen years old at the time, had believed himself to be mature for his age, but meeting that boy, two years younger than himself, forced him to reconsider.
What the youngster before his eyes exhibited was true maturity, whereas his own case was mere conceit.
Once the question came out, the boy awaited with his black eyes fixed on him.
His hair and irises, both black as if imbued with shadows, were considered uncommon traits, even in a land so rich in racial diversity like the Vollachian Empire. Although Chesha’s eye color differed, he likewise had been born with black hair. For that, he would often become the subject of mockery, so he could sympathize with the boy.
Or maybe not. It felt nothing short of insolent to think that they shared something to sympathize over.
Physical characteristics, however rare they may be, amounted to trifles when compared with what actually made the boy especial. Superficial coincidences aside, the child’s very origins elevated him far from ordinary folks, and that refined, precocious attitude was also a product of his upbringing.
He stood in a unique position, where he must grow this way, lest he would not survive.
To be precise――,
Chesha: [――Prince Vincent Abellux.]
His name was accompanied by a title, his role acquired at birth.
This black-haired youngster, Vincent, was the son of Drizen Vollachia, sovereign of the Vollachian Empire, and therefore one of several children bestowed with the possibility to one day stand at the pinnacle of the Empire.
He had more than twenty siblings possessed of similar qualifications, but that did not devalue his noble blood in the slightest.
Chesha reminisced on his course of action heretofore, seeking to solve one doubt: how had he ended up encountering such an outstanding lad, not to mention riding the same carriage as him?
All had begun with a simple act of assistance.
He had come across a stranded carriage, its wheel stuck in a ditch on the highway. Pushing and pulling, many attempts were being made in vain to release it. He approached the scene and freed the lurched carriage from the deep ditch by inserting a board and utilizing it as a lever.
Much to his surprise, that vehicle belonged to the lord of the Abellux Domain, and aboard sat that individual famous for his rise to headship through the Miracle of Abellux, Vincent Abellux himself.
“Miracle of Abellux” was the name given to a rebellion that had begun with a vassal of the House of Abellux betraying their long-lasting patronage by conspiring with another family. But albeit their tactics had been brilliant, they had suffered defeat at the hands of an eleven-year-old commander. In the end, all conspirators had been massacred.
His household’s members and soldiers having given in to distress and disarray, Vincent, whose name remained unsung back then despite his princely status, had devised a plan for them without delay. By exercising his prodigious finesse, he had thus achieved victory.
The vassal behind the rebellion had underestimated Vincent as an enemy, judging him to be an easy prey whom they could behead for a trophy. Those presumptuous delusions had become the cause of their demise.
Facts came to light, as did apocryphal rumors, giving him quite the outrageous reputation.
As a civilian of the Empire, Chesha heard the stories as well, but he had never pondered the odds of getting involved with him―― yet here he was, by a twist of fate, in front of the person dreaded by the public.
And then, that had been cast towards him. ――If he was willing to die for him or not.
Whatever had he aimed to earn with that inquiry, Chesha could not discern.
In the first place, he had been invited aboard for two reasons: to thank him for releasing the wheel, and to bring him into the mansion.
Of course, Chesha held not the right to decline. No matter how much he resented this, his opinion carried nonexistent weight.
Hence, he had resigned a fraction of his time and stepped into the carriage. Once he had set foot onto the vehicle, Vincent had begun the interrogation.
It was inappropriate to start that interaction with an acquaintance who only helped him resume his journey. But this boy was a prince by birth, thereby accustomed to having people heed his wishes.
Notwithstanding, he bore a relatively recent record of annihilating an entire family and its retainers, out of fury towards the vassal who had committed treachery against him. Nobody would blame a twelve-year-old for developing an extreme distrust of people after an experience of that ilk.
Perhaps his mind would not be at ease unless he managed to confirm everybody’s allegiance, even that of a casual passerby.
The silence had already extended for ten-odd seconds, more than enough for it to turn disrespectful.
The issue at hand concerned a figure not simply superior, but supreme. Still, he understood what answer he ought to give, and what answer the other wanted.
Obviously, the other wished to hear a single phrase, “I would”.
This was a test for Chesha, as a citizen of the Empire. Either he pledged unwavering loyalty and eternal servitude to the prince, or he would incur the forenamed’s wrath, knowing that within him, potentially, lay the seed of a tyrant.
Enduring the improper distance between them, Chesha bowed his head deeply before the possible sovereign――,
Chesha: [――My apologies, but I am afraid I would nooot.]
And so, he spoke the one reply that he should have avoided.
His head still lowered, Chesha cursed himself for committing such a gaffe on impulse. Moreover, he felt the urge to grab his own head in embarrassment at his lack of self-control.
With his impatient nature as the reason, he had gotten in trouble with a powerful individual and ended up banished from his hometown. Time after time he would tell himself that his behavior could ruin his prospects, yet he had never been able to mend it.
And at last, he had addressed the worst possible answer to the worst possible addressee.
He would soon perish in one of the most stupid ways: falling victim to his own idiocy.
However, he could not act brazen enough as to give the desired answer in the desired manner to a question about death, much less with the overbearing tone in which it was delivered.
If his heart were to shatter, were his pride to be extinguished, then, as far as he was concerned, even if he still breathed, he was dead too.
He did not cherish Vollachia’s praxis, but he was nonetheless a man of the Empire.
Therefore, he held no regrets towards his response.
If anything, he felt sorry for taking his pitiful frustrations out on a boy who had merely sought something that would assuage his own trust issues.
At least, that guilt would disappear once the rageful blade unattached his head from his shoulders――,
Vincent: [Perfect. Maintain that outlook, for you shall be serving me hereafter.]
Chesha: [――. I will?]
Vincent: [Do not end your affirmations in a rising tone. Otherwise, they shall come across as interrogative.]
Chesha: [It wasn’t that you heard it wrong, I intended for it to sound that way… So, does this mean you will not execute me?]
Vincent: [Seconds after securing you? That would be senseless.]
Closing one eye, Vincent scowled with a hint of annoyance.
Receiving a meaningless question irritated him, yet he did not protest when denied a vow of loyalty. Chesha found that strange, but he kept his composure and reexamined the situation.
For some reason, Vincent seemed to overlook Chesha’s irreverence.
Far from that, he seemed to consider recruiting Chesha as his retainer.
Chesha: [I apologize, but I cannot wrap my head around this. Is it a hobby of yours to jest with those you intend to kill before taking their lives?]
Vincent: [Do tell, why do you insist that I kill you with such obstinacy? That is far more incomprehensible, I dare say.]
Chesha: [I do not mean to offend, but it is well-known that you do not take kindly to those who oppose you.]
By the time he realized that his comment was again of the undue sort, it had already escaped his mouth.
However, since he had succeeded in committing one transgression, Chesha shifted into a bolder stance, ready to find out how many more he could commit before reaching the threshold, putting his life on the line.
Like whenever he enjoyed a book, cultivated new knowledge, or proved his theories through execution, he was determined to decipher the prince’s unrevealed thoughts.
If he died in consequence, so be it.
While Chesha surrendered almost his whole future to embark on this reckless undertaking, Vincent, now aware of the context, nodded with an “Ah” before continuing,
Vincent: [If you are referring to the latest rebellion, I made an example of that family because it was necessary. You ought to collar any wight who might be aspiring to attempt the same deed. Fear produces the best effects for that.]
Chesha: [And is that also why you had the instigating servant’s advance troops dismembered and put on display on the road?]
Vincent: [If a life must be ended, then you had better exploit it to the utmost first. People should die in an efficient manner.]
So replied Vincent, his chin resting on his hand, as he sat inside the carriage. His austere, realistic perspective left Chesha at a loss for words.
What Chesha had mentioned was the first and main counterattack that Vincent had launched in order to suppress the rebellion―― slaughtering the enemy vanguard, plus the barbarous profanation of their cadavers.
After enduring the anguish of being mangled while alive, their corpses had been lined up within the battlefield. Hearsay had spread that getting caught would result in similar punishment, and thus, the other traitors had chosen to disregard their agreement with the primary conspirator and relegate themselves to the role of spectators.
Alone, bereft of any escape route, said conspirator had gone to confront Vincent, only to end up ensnared in the latter’s sanguinary stratagem. They, alongside their relatives and retainers, had perished savoring the same hell that the other soldiers had.
Naturally, with the emergence of this information, the public had reshaped its notion of Vincent Abellux into that of a brutal, bloodthirsty prince. But――,
Chesha: [――Are those rumors of your own creation, perhaps?]
Vincent: [If my sole presence elicits dread in you, I can at least say that their purpose has not gone unfulfilled.]
Chesha: [Hahaaa, good to hear, I guess…]
More and more did Vincent’s thoughts sound too impressive for ones that had sprung from a twelve-year-old.
On the other hand, although Vincent had pardoned his irreverence, Chesha did not expect to be capable of performing whatever mission Vincent had in store for him.
Vincent: [What exact purpose do I expect from you, you wonder?]
As if he had read Chesha’s mind, Vincent delivered the next question.
It was vaguer than the previous one, and moreover, it required Chesha to unravel the mystery with his own brain. Surely, there was an arduous mission meant for him, but he needed to pinpoint what it entailed.
A very challenging problem, indeed.
Born into the Imperial family, Vincent was destined to take part in the Empire’s imminent rite sooner or later. What purpose could he find in a mere plebeian like Chesha?
Chesha: [I doubt I can do much more than help you pull a jammed wheel ooout.]
Vincent: [And that shall benefit me.]
Chesha: [Hoho, I assume you are planning to go get stuck in a ditch quite often from here on out, if you require my strength that much?]
He felt almost inclined to congratulate himself for reaching a new milestone in disrespect with that aggravating quip.
Yet, upon hearing it, no part of Vincent’s countenance twitched.
Vincent: [Correct. The road I am traversing is fraught with ditches, and I cannot avoid all of them. However, I cannot stay in a ditch waiting for the issue to solve itself; otherwise, death shall come for me. And that means, I shall need a method to pull myself out whenever I get stuck.]
Chesha: […Before we continue, are you sure this discussion is still about wheels?]
Vincent: [I have not belied the subject once ever since we began talking.]
The bizarre reply made a chill run down Chesha’s body, not because he felt threatened, but because he finally assimilated that his conversational partner was a phenomenon.
In addition, the aforementioned phenomenon held him in oddly high regard.
Chesha concluded so from the fact that, despite the irreverent attitude adopted, the rude replies given, the impolite retorts uttered, Vincent appeared uninterested in killing him.
Was that proof of Chesha’s merits, or proof of Vincent’s principles?
Regardless, he would never have imagined that a day this eventful awaited him upon waking up this morning in his shabby lodging.
While Chesha remained silent, Vincent looked at him, head poised on his hand, one eye shut.
That gesture gave off the odious impression that he was basking in the satisfaction of shutting his opponent’s mouth. Losing all strength to resist, Chesha turned his disgruntled gaze towards Vincent, and arrived at a sudden realization.
Chesha: [I see, you never close both eyes at the same timeee.]
Vincent: [There you have it.]
Putting a hand to his pointed chin, Vincent replied to Chesha’s offhand observation with a nod.
Unable to grasp the meaning of that sentence, Chesha tilted his head.
Vincent: [If you wish to know the reason as to why I did not execute you, therein it lies.]
Vincent’s explanation was short, but his mien indicated that he deemed it complete. The moment Chesha noticed that, everything fell into place.
The precocious boy put many adults to shame with the schemes that he concocted, and with the unbridled way he wielded his talent as prince of Vollachia, yet nonetheless he was twelve years of age.
――If he were not, he would have already learned how naive it was to expect those around him to possess wisdom matching his own.
That was the new name conferred on Chesha Trim upon entering the Abellux estate as Vincent’s recruit.
Chisha: [Since my family is back at my hometown, I would rather keep my name from becoming well-known to avoid causing them unwarranted trouble. Though, I suppose you would find it easy to murder all my worries away…]
Vincent: [You seem very obstinate in portraying me as a bloodthirsty brute. Are you also responsible for the sobriquet of Sanguinary Prince that people call me in the streets, perchance?]
Chisha: [Why, I believed that was another one of your fear-based strategies. I have heard accounts about parents mentioning you in cautionary tales for children, as in, “Behave, or else the Sanguinary Prince will come.”]
Vincent: [Come, but for what purpose, according to them? As if I would bother.]
Chisha: [Oh, but what if you show up and hire them against their will, like you did to me? Pretty frightening, if you ask me.]
Vincent: [I advise you to watch your tongue, or I might end up justifying those fabrications with your blood.]
Conversations with Vincent blurred the line between seriousness and jest.
Should the need arise, Vincent would pay with somebody else’s life, no hesitation. He would never do that if unnecessary, though. He handled human lives the same way he handled money or goods.
When consorting with him, one could not ignore that he regarded whichever as limited resources with equal value.
The reason for the name change to Chisha Gold matched his statement; he was worried that somebody in his hometown would turn indignant at the news of Chesha Trim’s promotion and involve his family in retaliation.
Notwithstanding, even if his family were harmed, he would not go out of his way to help.
Albeit callous in the eyes of some, a certain distance existed between him and his kin, and just with that he was being compassionate enough towards the relatives who had neglected him in the most critical of moments.
Funnily or not, the surname Gold pertained to a family exterminated by Vincent as a punishment for treachery.
Perhaps it had been a little jape of revenge from Vincent towards Chesha’s rudeness; but that aside, it misled the public into rumoring that he had spared one descendant of Gold, while condemning them to endure the humiliation of failing to escape his control, which reinforced his standing as the Sanguinary Prince.
As for the first name, Vincent had suggested a single letter modification, so it sounded similar to his original one, just like Chesha had hoped. Since he had had no motive to complain, and no malice seemed to be implicated this time, albeit adjudging it frugal, he had approved the idea.
Despite everything, after a lifetime of being ostracized for his proclivity to theory over practice and for his social clumsiness, Chesha’s rebirth as Chisha brought a welcome change.
Never could his remote village have provided him with so many books and activities to indulge in.
He had gotten the opportunity to resettle, far from those who had unjustly scorned him for being inept at tilling or harvesting the fields, and he would never trade that for anything in the world.
Vincent: [We are in the next ditch, Chisha. Prove your utility.]
Every time, those words warned him that Vincent was about to harass him over a problem leagues above stuck carriage wheels, initiating a discussion that would persist until a solution sprang.
Vincent’s drive made him a force to be reckoned with.
In what way did Vincent view and perceive the world, tackling various issues at the same time, with consistent focus as well, despite bearing two eyes and one head like ordinary men?
Sure enough, a lord held the duty to involve himself in his domain’s matters, but it was an unscrupulous thing to anticipate from a twelve-year-old, even more so when he lacked adult figures to rely on.
But any commiserations that an outsider might direct at Vincent would disperse upon being faced with his performance.
Being associated with Vincent demanded a vast array of specialized knowledge from Chisha, which granted him no time to loiter.
As soon as they solved an issue, a new one appeared; sometimes, another issue would surge while the current one was still at hand. And while he racked his brains over those different problems at once, the Abellux Domain continued evolving.
The quality of life improved, while the residents’ initial apprehension transformed into commendation.
Vincent had the ability to turn terror into admiration and servitude into adoration, both well deserved.
He did not bother with others’ opinions of himself, and therein lay the reason for which he held that aforementioned ability.
Vincent: [Chisha, you have educated yourself well on the flood control system. Now, I must discharge that incompetent administrator from his post. I shall adduce his charges of embezzlement heretofore and have him decapitated.]
Chisha: [In my humble opinion, such charges do not warrant a decapitation.]
Vincent: [So, he earned his profits due to effort? Is that what you are telling me?]
Chisha: […This topic is a little too far from my specialtyyy.]
Vincent: [If what he has pocketed were offset by his work, I would ignore him. Otherwise, retribution is due. By refusing to correct his misconduct, even after repeated warnings, he himself depleted the allowances that I conceded.]
Beneath Vincent’s drastic initiative and resoluteness hid his fastidious side, contrasting with his expectations towards others and, as an underlying factor, inclining him to criticize those unable to meet them as slothful.
Vincent was no meritocrat, though; he did not disrelish people solely for being incompetent.
Were he to put his own doctrine into words――,
Vincent: [――One ought to perform the vocation that corresponds with their caliber.]
He wished for everybody to live with all their might, no respite.
Knowing this, the boy named Vincent Abellux and the circumstances behind his fastidious perfectionism seemed to start shining in a different light.
Unbelievable as it might sound, Vincent did not possess unwavering confidence, nor did he take pride in himself.
For more, he constantly hungered.
For more, he constantly lamented.
For more, he constantly struggled.
At the core of Vincent’s being lay a driving force. It was not gratitude towards the princely status bestowed upon him, but a furious determination to fulfill the role that said status demanded.
And the motive that made Vincent harbor these fierce sentiments was――,
Vincent: [――There is one despicable man, Stride Vollachia his name.]
Some time after joining Vincent, Chisha found himself frowning at the words that his master had spoken.
Luckily, or rather, proving Vincent’s discretion accurate, Chisha indeed had somewhat of a talent to pull wheels out of ditches, thanks to which he had managed to not lose his job.
That said, he had been steered down this path little by little.
His position’s pros and cons had revealed themselves one after the other, tipping the scales in a way that made it difficult to tell which side weighed more.
And Chisha was still in the process of pondering that, when, for the first time, Vincent exposed something unrelated to work, something stemming from somewhere in his heart.
Chisha: [Stride Vollachia, is it? Pardon my ignorance, my studies must still be insufficient, considering I have never heard that name.]
Vincent: [No, your studies are not to blame. In fact, your life would be at risk if you knew that information. That man’s existence has been long erased from the records of the Imperial Family of Vollachia, after all.]
Chisha thought about how Vincent might have just endangered him by disclosing that so incautiously, but, given his position, it was difficult to interrupt the latter once he had started talking.
Besides, he was interested in that man who had been ousted from the Imperial Family.
Chisha: [Well, ousting someone of the Imperial bloodline does not sound possible. Even if it were done, their blood still flows through their veins. Plus, that is what the Imperial Selection Ceremony exists for.]
The Imperial Selection Ceremony, held in order to determine the Empire’s next sovereign.
This ceremony, a competition where the Emperor’s offspring would kill each other to reach the pinnacle of the Empire, was a prime representation of the nation’s essence, with origins dating back to its very founding.
The last one standing would be crowned Emperor.
And as the Emperor of Vollachia, they could seize the Yang Sword, emblem of their reign.
Chisha: [Though, in theory, one can live without fighting if they renounce their right to inherit the throne, or so I have heard.]
Vincent: [A mere prevarication. That is fantasy, naught but a tool to cull beforehand those who, despite possessing the right to power, lack the courage to triumph in the ceremony. And that is to say, your concerns are correct.]
Chisha: [So ousting a member of the Imperial Family is unthinkable.]
Vincent: [Yet, Stride Vollachia suffered that unthinkable penalty, and was therefore disengaged from the ceremony’s ensemble. Even so, given that the Imperial Selection Ceremony progressed without delay afterwards, that wight most likely did not elude death.]
Vincent’s gaze, colder than usual, was tinged with deep disdain towards the man in question.
Stride Vollachia, the man who had been removed from his position as part of Vollachia’s Imperial Family, erased from the historical records―― He was of the exact sort that evoked Vincent’s fury.
To those who did not perform their assigned role nor exert their natural abilities to the fullest, he offered zero clemency.
Chisha: […Even so, how come you know of his existence, when no one is supposed to, Vincent-sama? Did a chatty gentleman of high status tell you, perhaps?]
Vincent: [Never afraid to step over the hierarchical ditch with your insolence, are you? ――The journal.]
Vincent: [Yes, Stride Vollachia’s journal. It was concealed in the Crystal Palace’s library, where I found it. Shame that such an intriguing tome turned out to be full of unreadable, nonsensical inscriptions.]
The way Vincent curled his lips in displeasure was a gesture of unmitigated loathing.
Vincent generally took a tolerant approach when digesting and evaluating things. He went through said thought process with impressive speed, which, for better or for worse, almost made it seem like he judged without prior deliberation. It would strike anybody as unusual to witness that same Vincent displaying such negative emotions.
Chisha: [And what was inscribed in it? Would you ever show it to me?]
The topic piqued his interest.
Nevertheless, deep down, he knew well that his attention was digressing from the journal’s contents, towards discovering what put his troublesome master in so much anguish.
Aware of Chisha’s inner thoughts or not, Vincent closed one of his black eyes and, piercing him with his gaze, spoke.
Vincent: [I shall not show it to you. ――Not that anthology of worthless delusions about the Observers and things akin.]
???: [Well, no offense but you seem like quite the overthinker, always looking for reasons and whatnot. Chesha, I don’t think normal people make schemes while frowning as intensely as His Excellency or you do.]
Chisha: [――First, please mind your words; second, my name is Chisha.]
???: [Oh my, I’m so sorry! What could be more discourteous than mistaking a fellow actor’s name?! I’ll reflect very deeply about what I’ve done. Chisha, Chisha, Chisha, Chisha, Chisha, Chisha, Chisha!]
With energy and nothing else worth describing, the blue-haired boy kept talking.
The boy, named Cecilus Segmunt, was of the same class as Chisha years ago: somebody whom Vincent had sensed potential in and thus picked up.
If one possessed great skill and the readiness to exercise it, Vincent would engage them.
Vincent questioned neither one’s origins nor status. While these ideals had earned him some detractors, none of them could deny that the Abellux Domain was blooming further every year, under his rule.
Notwithstanding, albeit prestigious origins were not a requisite, the gap in educational level made it too difficult to find another civil officer of excellence among commoners. Hence, Chisha’s workload never abated.
Cecilus: [A good military officer needs nothing but pure brawn. Though, in my case, as an actor, I need to have splendor as well, but I’m already one of a kind in both of those aspects anyway!]
Chisha: [You sound rather confident… But you probably do have enough strength to vaunt. Which, ironically, makes it more bothersome, but that is no concern of mineee.]
The energetic little child―― perhaps he was too old to be called that, being six or seven years younger than Chisha; although doing so felt natural for the latter, now eighteen years of age. Unfortunately, Cecilus lacked the characteristic cuteness of boys his age.
And not due his appearance or conduct, but due to that skill of which he boasted with pride.
After joining the House of Abellux, Chisha himself had trained in martial arts, for bodyguarding and self-defense purposes, but he was aware that his proficiency was that of an average man. And rather than moving his own body, he was suited to moving crowds.
Of course, he ought to forget said pretext and avoid neglecting his training henceforth if he wished to improve. But even in the eyes of someone as inexperienced as himself, Chisha could tell that Cecilus’s power surpassed the norm by far.
Chisha had already met a phenomenon of ingenuity.
Yet, he had never imagined that he would come across a phenomenon of armed might like this one.
Chisha: [The more I know, the less I understand what Vincent-sama… What His Excellency wishes.]
Cecilus: [Oh, there you go again with the deep thoughts, Chisha. But don’t fret, I’m here to give you the answer. That’s what people call… foreshadowing, yes!]
So declared Cecilus, thrusting a nimble finger towards Chisha, whose eyes widened.
Looking at the other’s reaction, Cecilus retracted his finger and continued.
Cecilus: [Wait, you’ve never heard the term? Let me explain then. Foreshadowing means showing important information in a story, but disguising it in a…]
Chisha: [Yes, I know the definition of “foreshadowing”. The expression you see now on my face means that I cannot fathom why you brought that up.]
Cecilus: [Ah, I see! It’s pretty simple, just so you know. I’m telling you, what you and His Excellency have in common is that constant urge to find the meaning of every little thing.]
Amused, Cecilus brought his hands together in front of his chest as he laughed. Then, he broke the clap and revolved on the spot, pointing with open hands at all that surrounded him.
Cecilus: [Alright, let’s suppose that there’s indeed meaning to everything! Which is to say, all that stuff you can’t explain at this moment serves as foreshadowing for what’s to unfold sooner or later in this plot! Heart-pounding, isn’t it?!]
Chisha: [The expenditure of unaccounted funds and the amassing of goods of dubious provenance do not quite strike me as foreshadowing for the future, but as evidence of prevalent corruption and bribery.]
Cecilus: [Do you hear yourself?! What you just mentioned is stuff you can solve in the present! Meanwhile, I’m talking about that which you cannot. Come on, Chisha, I know you’re so much smarter than this!]
Bringing his spinning feet to an abrupt halt, Cecilus objected, brows furrowed in annoyance.
While it displeased him to see Cecilus annoyed at him without a clear motive, somehow, Chisha found a tiny scrap of salvation in those words.
As he toiled to satisfy the demands that Vincent had imposed on him along with his post, one doubt had lingered at the back of his mind: why had he been the one seized?
Years had elapsed, in which he had even gotten to know Vincent as a person, yet he still was unable to explain that.
Because that problem did not pertain to Vincent, but to Chisha himself.
Without an answer to cure his woes, remaining at Vincent’s side had taken a heavy toll on his psyche, but now――,
Chisha: […If that is the case, could my presence itself be foreshadowing something, too?]
Cecilus: [Oh? You’ve already absorbed the knowledge, impressive. Well, with how intelligent you are, no wonder you learn so quickly! Now that deserves my absolute respect; I could never do the same!]
Chisha: [If you wish to show me respect, how about you start addressing me with an honorific? I am your senior, superior to you in both age and rank, am I not?]
Cecilus: [Awww, but addressing a friend with an honorific feels a tad too distant, don’t you think? We’re going to be on the same boat, now and for many days to come. So let’s go ahead and throw all those pesky formalities out the window, shall we?!]
With those unreserved words, plus a pat to his shoulder, the boy left Chisha speechless.
While he was surprised at the familiarity with which the former could close the distance between them, too, the true shock had come when he realized that, in his path thus far, not once had somebody called him a friend.
In the few years since forsaking his hometown, being taken by Vincent, studying assiduously under the aforementioned, drudging away at work, he had not become close to anybody.
Of course, although there had been people who had appreciated him for business reasons, those did not count here.
Cecilus: [What’s the matter? Hm, maybe you’re right, should I start with the honorific, then? Like in those stories where the distance keeps shrinking one step at a time, until the end, when the two realize their paths have crossed! That kinda development is charming in its own way, so I wouldn’t mind turning the rudder towards…]
Chisha: [No, you do not need to. ――His Excellency is one who favors a job done with dispatch.]
It was not like he had grasped Cecilus’s drivel in its entirety, but if, in the end, they were going to arrive at that destination anyway, then he preferred to take the briefest route.
While deriding himself for harboring thoughts so deeply tainted by Vincent’s doctrine, Chisha chose not to negate Cecilus’s ideals and, instead, accept them.
Were he to mimic that man’s speech style――,
Chisha: [I shall expect you to wield your power when necessary, for the sake of seeing His Excellency’s desires fulfilled. That, no doubt, is the reason why you were plucked…]
Cecilus: [That’s foreshadowing the role he’ll need me to carry out, right?! You can trust me, Chisha! I might be useless at anything that’s not fighting, but in battle, I won’t let anyone catch up with me!]
Chisha: [I look forward to that.]
The slender child puffed out his thin chest as he bragged about his hypothetical feats, but Chisha did not laugh at him.
In accordance with Vincent’s discretion, as well as his own, he would give Cecilus Segmunt a place corresponding with his caliber.
Chisha: [――I suppose, for now, I must await the day I will perform the function I foreshadow.]
Assimilating the role that his much younger friend had mentioned, Chisha whispered.
And as if fate had listened to him, the Imperial Selection Ceremony, involving Vincent Abellux, commenced around six months after this event.
With the death of the former Emperor, Drizen Vollachia, there was the subsequent start of the Imperial Selection Ceremony.
Because of his indisputable talents, Vincent Abellux had been regarded as an enemy by his other siblings, being caught in a besiegement made up of concentrated attacks from the latter, in one opportunity.
However, as it turned out, Vincent lived up to his initial reputation and expectations, winning the Imperial Selection Ceremony with overwhelming strength.
Having vanquished all his siblings, having been adorned with the crown of blood of the Vollachian Empire, Vincent Abellux―― No, the Seventy-Seventh Emperor, Vincent Vollachia, was born.
Part of the bloody path that Vincent had trod, part of the great river of blood that Vincent had pooled had perhaps been due, in part, to the contributions of Chisha and Cecilus, who had served as his subordinates.
However, in regards to this Imperial Selection Ceremony, the role that had been expected of Chisha, in the plan carried out for the sake of Vincent’s victory―― had been something quite different from “freeing a wheel from a ditch”.
During the battle, Chisha’s entrusted role had been to make the very last move on the board――,
Chisha: [――I see your younger sister has escaped unharmed. She may have quite the fierce and uninhibited personality, but I am certain she understands her predicament. I believe things have been settled, for the time being.]
It was in an office, namely a room within the Crystal Palace in the Imperial Capital of Lupugana.
In that room used by the Emperor, who stood at the top of the nation’s politics, Chisha experienced having that familiar face regarding him back, a situation which would likely take him a while to deal with in this calm of a manner.
Even though the Emperor himself sat atop a chair of considerable authority, he showed no sign of breaking his usual demeanor. Even when assured that his victory in the Imperial Selection Ceremony was unshakeable, he did not even show a glimpse of a smile from a sense of accomplishment.
Vincent never laughed. At least, not while passing as a prince or the Emperor.
When not playing as the prince, his lips would actually come apart and form a mischievous grin. However, the opportunities for that seemed like they would decrease significantly in comparison to then, as well.
He had become the Emperor. And thus, he would not permit a moment during which the Emperor was not the Emperor.
――No, he could spare a singular moment when that was not the case.
Chisha: [I could not believe my ears when you inquired about a way to save Prisca-sama.]
Assuming that no one else was listening, Chisha spoke of the greatest secret of this iteration of the Vollachian Empire, one in which he was directly complicit.
Coinciding with the conclusion of the Imperial Selection Ceremony, the birth of a new Emperor was announced.
But the fact of the matter was that the Imperial Selection Ceremony, in which only the last of the Imperial Family would succeed to the throne, had not been carried out fully. ――Two candidates had remained at the end.
These two were Vincent Abellux and Prisca Benedict.
Prisca Benedict was described as a tragic princess who had personally gulped down a poisonous cup, losing her life.
In actuality, she had indeed drunk the poison, yet she had not lost her life.
She had not consumed the poison from a cup, and had done so rather to save her squire, who had been so concerned for her master as to cling to the possibility of saving her life.
The venom had arrested Prisca’s heart just long enough for everything to be concluded before it resumed beating anew.
The Imperial Selection Ceremony was over, Prisca Benedict had been interred in a tomb.
Vincent Abellux became Emperor, and Prisca Benedict assumed a different identity, a life not by that name――.
Chisha: [Supposing I were from a family that had served the Empire since ancient times, I might have had to admonish His Excellency for his outrageous wiiish. However, I hail from a family of commoners.]
There was no basis for which prestige or tradition were to be appreciated in particular.
A certain amount of respect was to be given, their value was even to be acknowledged, but they ought not be misunderstood as something above all. In the Vollachian Empire, prestige and tradition were merely tolerated.
And that was why――,
Chisha: [I had not the slightest bit of hesitation in partaking in this plan.]
As the Emperor kept his silence, Vincent’s inmost thoughts might have been unfathomable, but his actions were clear.
From the very start, amongst his many siblings, Prisca had always been special to Vincent. Although Prisca shone brightly in Chisha’s eyes because of her sagacity, it was not only because of her ability that Vincent had an eye on his younger sister, even though he was much older than her.
Despite being akin to the very picture of arrogance, Prisca respected Vincent and treated him truly as a blood-related elder brother.
Since the Imperial Selection Ceremony was the fate of the Imperial Family of Vollachia, they mutually acknowledged that they were not allowed to coexist, even with compromises―― Until Vincent tore that fate apart by his own hand.
This came much to the delight of Chisha, and, above everything else, as a relief.
Vincent’s approach was to demonstrate his full capabilities within the position and role he had been bestowed with.
Vincent had not changed his ways from the day of their meeting until the present day. So, what kind of rationale could have possibly manifested from the fact that he, of all people, had chosen to permit Prisca’s survival?
If she were found alive, he himself would be endangered, and violence would break out whereupon the foundation of trust that the Emperor had built up in the Vollachian Empire could be lost.
As Emperor of Vollachia, what argument could he have that could justify it?
None. Of course he would have none. It had not been a decision made rationally.
It had been a desire born of emotion, a wish, a prayer.
Vincent Abellux had not wanted to kill his beloved sister.
Henceforth, Prisca Benedict had been kept alive, and Vincent wore a crown of falsehoods.
That had made Chisha happy.
Vincent had made the judgment that he wanted to bring Prisca back to life, rather than having her be kept alive, and so, he had asked Chisha for a way to get rid of the obstacle―― the wheel stuck in the ditch.
Chisha: [Foreshadowing, was it?]
The nonsense Cecilus had uttered before the Imperial Selection Ceremony began crossed his mind.
Even something that in the moment did not make any sense, something which seemed meaningless, could be found out to possess meaning in the distant future. It could even be understood as having been present for that very purpose.
Like his own position and actions, as well as Chisha’s, were perhaps the foundation for that future.
Chisha: [Well, it truly is annoying to admit that what Cecilus was talking about was pertinent, and I can see him getting overly enthused, so I will never tell him.]
Vincent: [You have been this way for some time now, however I have been giving it some thought recently. Have you completely lost your color, and along with it, everything you have cultivated whilst in service of mineself?]
Chisha: [Surprisingly, I have been doing quite well, ever since I skirted the oblivion of death.]
Knowing it was disrespectful, Chisha shrugged in front of Vincent. The Emperor had switched positions, but he would not rebuke the former for that unless it were done in public.
Having changed his manner of referring to himself, in Vincent’s sable eyes, Chisha’s reflection was as he had stated: completely white and bereft of color. 
During the Imperial Selection Ceremony, after being nearly killed in a stand-off with an enemy and then returning from the brink of death, Chisha’s black hair had been drained of all its color, turning completely white.
Since then, he had been wearing white, exactly the opposite of the black attire he had been donning, for some reason or another. Even repainting the iron fan he preferably used, he was thus completely white, his clothing uniform.
Of course, that had not been just for his amusement.
After being on the verge of dying, and after losing his color, Chisha had awakened to a strange “ability”. In order to handle this “ability” of painting himself in the color of others, he had to keep constant awareness.
A measure necessary, as to imply to himself that he was able to dye himself in any color.
In any case, the particulars of this “ability” had been kept from Vincent as well. He would not disclose it to anyone, naturally. Let alone to the loose-lipped Cecilus, or to others with whom he had little connection.
It was always a good idea to have an ace up one’s sleeve, a trump card, or a secret move or two ready to go.
Chisha: [If Your Excellency would finally release me for the great work I have done, then I believe no longer would there be any need for such machinations.]
Vincent: [Suppose you were me, do you believe I would have you dismissed and alive, being aware of the most important facts, one that must be kept under wraps, in the Empire, and let you sleep peacefully at night?]
Chisha: [Developing a hypothetical within another hypothetical is somewhat bad manners, but I guess losing my head before I leave the castle is all I have in store right nooow.]
Vincent: [If you comprehend that, and if you value your life, then continue to serve me obediently. So long as you can prove that you are of use to me, I shall keep your head attached to your torso.]
As he declared so in an arrogant tone, Vincent rested his chin atop his hands, his elbows on the desk.
It was difficult to tell if either of them were serious in this frivolous exchange, but it was necessary for the Emperor, who did not spare any words for others, to let him speak out like this and make sure.
As per that exchange, Chisha Gold’s status and the role expected of him would go unaltered, though Vincent had become the Emperor, but――,
Chisha: [――The state of the Sacred Vollachian Empire may or may not change.]
Already, the radiance of the Yang Sword, the absolute symbol of the Vollachian Empire, had been betrayed.
The Imperial Selection Ceremony, which had taken place ever since the Empire’s establishment, had been finalized in a way different to how it had been until now. Thus what would normally follow the Ceremony would also change dramatically, in the future in quintessence.
Going down that path, prioritizing his own desires and opting to save his younger sister. Vincent did all that.
A new path would be opened, a path different from the one that had existed thus far. Chisha found himself slightly excited by that fact and the anticipation that came with it.
However, he would never display it in his expression, in his words, or in his attitude.
That was, because he was conscious of his friend’s, of Cecilus’s bad influence.
――The days passed by at a dizzying pace.
The former system of the Nine Divine Generals was restored, and the rankings of the Imperial Nobility were reset.
By purging those who had become a mere shell of their former selves and enjoyed high status because of history alone, the way of the Vollachian Empire, which flew the national flag of a “wolf pierced by swords”, was enforced inside and outside its borders without exception.
The way of doing things that had lasted till the previous Emperor, who had unthinkingly believed the unwritten rule that the strong were absolutely right and had let the Empire fall to ruin internally, was completely disavowed and the initial principle that the strong were to be respected was scrubbed out.
Those who sat on their bloodlines and family’s social standing were robbed of what had represented them, while those who had been waiting vigilantly for the opportunity to come around were given a chance to take on the challenge.
From the outside, Vincent Vollachia’s reign would have perhaps seemed no different from the history of the Empire thus far.
However, its reality was quite different. Those who knew what was going on behind the scenes experienced it firsthand.
Before long, it became something that many in the Empire, and even those outside in other countries, would likely come to know.
About the grandeur of Vincent Vollachia’s remaking and reforming of the Empire.
Useless conflicts would cease, and absurd deathmatches would no longer be applauded.
Proof of strength was no longer based on an individual’s military prowess, and those who held ambitions not suitable for their stature would prove with their lives the difficulty of truly fulfilling those ambitions.
It was as if they were watching the process of completely painting over the criteria for what was “strong”.
???: [I’ll be First, Anya will be Second, and after Olbart joins, Chisha will be Fourth. Your Excellency’s choices aren’t so bad, but Chisha, your complexion doesn’t look so great, does it?]
Chisha: [I am Fourth because otherwise it does not quite sit right for me. As Cecilus knows as well, I…]
Cecilus: [On physical strength, absolutely. Well, well, I’m not claiming to understand your feelings at all, but I guess this is the way the pecking order’s determined in the world ruled by Your Excellency. It’s hard to know which is which when there are mixed standards, but I’m feeling rather positive about it.]
Vincent: [What is the reason for that? Aside from the fact that you are immovable as First.]
Cecilus: [You took the words right out of my mouth! That you did is the biggest reason. But that’s not the only one. I think having Chisha there will change your point of view.]
Chisha: [Point of view… In other words, can I take that to mean that of one’s way of fighting?]
Cecilus: [That’s the gist. If me and you go at it, Chisha, you’ll die in the blink of an eye for sure; however, what if you start with a thousand men? It might take a thousand seconds!]
Chisha: [I doubt it would. But I understand where you are coming from. While I gain a thousand seconds…]
Cecilus: [His Excellency, or someone else, can fulfill their purpose. My one greatest flaw, as the leading actor of this world, is that there’s only one of me in this world.]
There were those whose natures would not change at all, even if they gained a higher standing or if the way of the Empire changed.
However, Cecilus embodied that first principle. The reason for why was that, in the most ancient eras of the Vollachian Empire, “the strong” had garnered respect from everyone.
Everyone throughout the Empire knew that the one in question was unpopular, did not have a personality that would be liked by everyone, and did not have the character to be an example for anyone.
Still, should anyone be asked who the strongest in the Empire was, their chests would swell with pride as if they were tied to him personally.
And they would say that it was Cecilus Segmunt who was the most powerful being in the Empire.
The fact that Chisha was considered to be able to gain a thousand seconds if he were to gather people against Cecilus, had also been the reason why he had felt at ease with the position of Fourth of the Nine Divine Generals, going without firmly refusing it.
Hence, albeit he was of the opinion that he was being overvalued, Chisha had resigned himself to that position and role. For the most part, it worked well.
If there was any problem, it was――,
???: [――My my, isn’t this luuucky~, General First-Class Chisha. Today’s fortunes are good, aren’t they?]
That person, who had started a conversation like that in a friendly manner, gave him a small smile.
When it seemed that everything was going favorably in the Empire, the ominous feeling he held towards the being that had introduced themself as a Stargazer, and whose comings and goings to the Crystal Palace were permitted, had felt like a black spot on his white body.
――The fact that the ominous feeling had been no mistake was proven years later.
The Stargazer: [――The coming of the Great Disaster has been passed down in a commandment. It is regrettable, Your Excellency.]
In the center of the Emperor’s office, a man who by all rights should not have been there had announced that with an expression that felt like they were trying to say “I am solemn from the bottom of my heart.”
Chisha, who was present at the meeting, frowned at the words of Ubilk the Stargazer.
Chisha: […The Great Disaster?]
It was something he did not recall having heard of, yet at the same time it sounded like something that could not possibly be a good sign.
It could also be called a mass-scale disaster. A prediction that it would be no ordinary calamity could be conjectured. However, what disturbed Chisha was the one addition that Ubilk had appended.
Just why was this man still saying things like it being a pity, and so forth, in regards to Vincent?
Chisha: [Ubilk-dono, I have no doubts about your authenticity as a Stargazer. On numerous occasions, you have been able to anticipate insurrections, cataclysms, and matters that were liable to occur within our country. In many cases, your prophecies have helped to limit the damage, Ubilk-dono.]
Ubilk: [Pardon me, General First-Class Chisha. Hooowever~, I have one correction. I didn’t make any prophecies. I’m only conveying the whispers of stars. I can’t take credit for that.]
Chisha: […I respect your opinion, Ubilk-dono. Of course, we need to be prepared to deal with the Great Disaster, but may I ask what you expect to happen?]
Ubilk’s expression in response to Chisha, which had been cryptic until then, took the shape of a smile.
Chisha posed a question that needed to be asked while being suspicious of Ubilk, whose face was rich in expression, yet none of it heartfelt.
Ubilk’s role, who called himself a Stargazer, was similar to that of a faith healer or fortune teller.
However, the accuracy of Ubilk’s predictions was extraordinary, setting him apart from the faith healers whom one felt used an element of theatrics to boost morale.
However, the drawback was that there were many details that were vague and somewhat circular in terms of how much they related to Ubilk’s personality.
But, as Chisha had also mentioned, there were actually a smattering of situations that had been triggered by Ubilk’s advocacy and resolved without major incident, regardless of whether they had been natural disasters or man-made.
It was because of Vincent’s appreciation of his abilities that he had been allowed free access to the Crystal Palace.
Chisha was not very keen on making heavy utilization of the unfathomable Ubilk, but Vincent’s stance was that those that could be used ought to be used.
For instance, that applied all the same in regards to giving positions to those who had served his brothers and sisters who had died in the Imperial Selection Ceremony. To have Berstetz Fondalfon at his side as the Prime Minister, even though he was the cream of the crop, was madness.
However, the Prime Minister was a man who held surprisingly strong faith in the Empire, and so long as Vincent continued to act like Vincent, there was no fear that Berstetz would bare his fangs against him.
In any case――,
Chisha: [If you are going as far as to call it a Great Disaster, it must be incredibly difficult to avoid. Fortunately, both General First-Class Cecilus and Arakiya are available… Well, I can say that those two are typically available at all times because it’s dangerous to leave them apart…]
Ubilk: [――It’s ruin, General First-Class Chisha.]
Recalling the faces of Cecilus and Arakiya, the First and Second, who had a special reason to be there, Chisha was half-steeped in despondence when an unexpected sound brought him back to reality.
Further furrowing his brow, Chisha gave Ubilk another opportunity to speak.
In response, Ubilk prefaced his remarks with the words, “As I said”,
Ubilk: [What’s coming, General First-Class Chisha, is ruin. The Great Disaster is a means of ruin that’s gonna destroy the Vollachian Empire. It’s something that brings destruction beyond even the reach of the sun’s light. Alllthough~…]
Ubilk: [From the outset, the Yang Sword cannot be used to its fullest potential. Riiight~?]
The moment Chisha, who had been standing behind Vincent, heard this, he jumped into the middle of the room, placing the iron fan he had pulled out to Ubilk’s neck, knocking him off balance.
And just like that, he would drive his iron fan into Ubilk’s head, who had fallen to the ground, sparing no quarter――,
Vincent: [――Halt, Chisha. There is no point in killing him.]
Chisha: [But, Your Excellency. This thing knows of matters it has no right knowing. Surely, Your Excellency did not tell him?]
Vincent: [Nonsense. I would never let my mouth slip to a clown. Most likely, as you would put it, he learned it from the stars.]
Ubilk: [Ahaha, that’s correct. Say, I guess I was about to die just now?]
With a finger of his poking the iron fan that had been stopped just before striking him, Ubilk produced a half-smile.
Looking down at that, Chisha fretted for a moment as to whether he really should dispose of Ubilk, then let out a heavy sigh and took a big step back.
Chisha: [I apologize for my discourtesy. However, I would ask that you refrain from such careless remarks, as I cannot guarantee that my hand will be stayed again next time.]
Ubilk: [Ahem, how careless of me. As expected of one of the Nine Divine Generals, even though you’re referred to as the civil servant type, your skill is that of a warrior.]
Chisha: [No need for flattery. Rather――]
Cutting off there, Chisha averted his gaze from Ubilk and turned to look behind himself.
There, Vincent, in the same posture as when he had received the Stargazer, sat at the large desk where he did his work, and looked their way.
Faced with those black eyes, Chisha suddenly recalled how they had met.
When he had come face-to-face with Vincent for the first time, the two of them had been at a roughly similar distance from one another, inside the carriage.
Why was he suddenly recollecting that moment? Most likely, the feeling now was similar to back then.
His state of mind equal to the one he’d had then, Chisha could not help but probe Vincent.
Chisha: [Your Excellency, you seem unsurprised by Ubilk-dono’s prophecy from just now. May I inquire as to the true reason for that?]
Ubilk: [Ummm~, I don’t do prophecies… Uh.]
Chisha: [My apologies. However, I would advise you that there will not be a next time.]
As Ubilk attempted to cut into the conversation uninvited, the iron fan grazed his cheek and pierced the wall. From his cheeks, which had suffered a slight cut, a drop of blood welled; Ubilk thus raised both his hands in a vow to remain silent.
Without even looking in his direction, Chisha stared at Vincent―― Nay, Chisha glared at him.
To Chisha’s discernment, Vincent closed a single eye, and stated,
Vincent: [The signs of the disaster have already been reported. The Observers have whispered that the forthcoming Great Disaster shall bring about the downfall of the Empire.]
Chisha: [――Why did you not share it with me at the time… No.]
Astonished by the contents of Vincent’s speech, Chisha’s tongue stopped just as he was about to argue. Shortly before, in the words that Vincent had uttered, he had sensed an indescribable dread.
Ruminating on what had caused that, Chisha widened his eyes slightly.
Chisha: [Your Excellency, if I have not misheard, who has given you that guidance? ――The Observers, was it?]
A long time ago, many long years prior, he had heard of them from Vincent on one occasion.
Stride Vollachia was a banished member of the Imperial Family, a man whom Vincent had designated as an abomination and a despicable existence, on whose journal that expression, “Observers”, had been noted down.
And now, Vincent had mouthed that expression. That too, was an expression connected to the Stargazer, Ubilk, an expression whose nature he had grasped since all the way back.
Chisha: [Your Excellency, by Observers, do you mean the “stars” Ubilk-dono speaks of?]
Vincent: […I share the same perception. What Ubilk has recited is a type of announcement, of what the Observers had peered at.]
Chisha: [――. So, do you believe that Stride Vollachia was a Stargazer as well?]
Vincent: [The likelihood of that is high, in my view. But, he differed from the others who proclaimed themselves to be Stargazers. Were you to analyze the contents of his journal, you would notice the hostility of Stride Vollachia towards the Observers.]
Chisha’s dissatisfaction with Vincent grew as the revelations unfolded.
Both before and after he had become Emperor, he had willingly burdened himself with an immense workload, yet he still had saddled himself with such troubles, which he had not shared with Chisha.
For the sake of keeping it hidden from Chisha, he had certainly gone to great lengths.
If he had that much effort to spare, he ought to have shared it from the beginning.
Ubilk: [Please calm down, General First-Class Chisha. His Excellency had his reasons for not discussing this with you. I respect that decision.]
Chisha: [I believe I advised you there would not be a next time.]
Ubilk: [I know, I know. Buuut~, if His Excellency has trouble speaking about the matter, I thought it’d be better if I did. That’s why I’m present together with General First-Class Chisha, isn’t that so?]
Still holding his hands up, Ubilk looked toward Vincent over Chisha’s shoulder.
It was irritating that he acted as if he understood Vincent’s thoughts, but Vincent did not refute Ubilk’s suggestion.
In that case, Chisha had no right to dismiss it either. Besides, there was a limit to how many concealments he could be saddled with.
Chisha: [I would recommend that you drop the pompous act and choose your next words carefully.]
Ubilk: [I appreciate your concern. Well then, I’ll inform you in a concise way. ――About the Great Disaster that will bring ruin to the Empire.]
Despite having been warned about the pompous act, Ubilk interrupted himself for an instant.
However, the anger towards Ubilk was outweighed by the interest in the words that were to follow. Consequently, Ubilk remained unpunished for ignoring the warning, and continued spinning his tale.
That continuation was――,
Ubilk: [――The death of His Excellency Vincent Vollachia, that will be the signal for the beginning of the commandment.]
The tactless Stargazer left the room, leaving only the apex of the Empire and his trusted confidant in the office. ――No, Chisha was no longer sure if assessing himself as such was correct.
For he would be unable of claiming to be one’s confidant, if the latter were unable to unravel their heart of hearts to him.
Unexpectedly, perhaps the malign declarations that the Stargazer was being bombarded with, the declarations that he was a clown, were also appropriate for himself.
Chisha: [When I disguised myself and replaced Your Excellency, the Stargazer never approached meee. Were those instructions given by Your Excellency as well, perhaps?]
Vincent: [If that which is being kept secret were to be recklessly talked about, then all plans would be rendered null. Thus, it is only natural to tie up loose ends before something goes wrong.]
Chisha: [I suppooose. I would do the same thing.]
It was not so much a collusion, but Ubilk, who appeared as if he had free rein, was also kept on a tight leash by Vincent.
There was a secret agreement exchanged between the two parties concerning the Great Disaster.
Chisha: [I do not understand. Why conceal it even from me?]
Vincent: [――. To get rid of unnecessary and cumbersome thoughts.]
Chisha: [Unnecessary and cumbersome…]
Vincent: [Being cognizant of this, you may think of saving me. However, that is a futile thought.]
Shaking his head horizontally, Vincent stated this devoid of any hesitation.
Albeit it was his life at stake, Vincent would not falter from the truth before him. However, his own acceptance of that truth and Chisha’s were matters entirely different from one another.
Chisha: [It is only natural that I should put Your Excellency’s life first. Why do you call it futile?]
Vincent: [Recall all the stories which the Stargazer brought about thus far, claiming them to be his commandment.]
Chisha: [The stories brought by Ubilk-dono…]
At being told this, Chisha pondered.
If the Great Disaster was the only thing Vincent had kept from Chisha, then Chisha was well-aware of all the other prophecies Ubilk had brought.
They were all useful portents for natural disasters and rebellions, both posing as omens of situations that could lead to a conflagration. Thanks to this, it had been possible to keep the damage to a minimum――,
Chisha: [――Though with varying degrees of damage, all of those situations did happen.]
Vincent: [Indeed. Never has there been a case in which it was possible to prevent one from happening, having been informed as to its signs. Whether man-made or natural disaster, the first move always happens. Even if we are able to deal with the damage that follows.]
Thus, Ubilk had said.
Vincent: [The Great Disaster that thing spoke of, shall commence with my death.]
Chisha: [――Hk, then what I ought to do is safeguard Your Excellency’s life and defy the Stargazer’s commandment!]
Vincent: [Do you think I have not attempted to ascertain whether that is feasible?]
Chisha’s knee-jerk objection was negated by Vincent’s unhurried words.
Naturally, the ideas that had come to Chisha in the heat of emotion had all been tested by Vincent.
In the past, other prophecies brought about by Ubilk, unrelated to the Great Disaster, had been challenged time and again as to check if they could be prevented.
While fulfilling the role of an Emperor to the fullest extent, behind the scenes――,
Chisha: [――Your Excellency.]
Chisha: [I have a question, which has come up to me just now.]
Suddenly, as a cold, somber voice permeated his brain, his own, Chisha spoke thus.
He had stated that he had a question, but his brain was numb. Completely numb. Be it a mental block as a reaction due to his brain being overworked, or a consequence of it refusing to work, it was completely numb.
However, regardless of the reason for its numbness, the question had already been raised, the Emperor had received it.
Vincent: [I shall allow it. Speak.]
Chisha could not deny that which the Emperor had chosen.
Hence, Chisha could not refuse what the Emperor had granted permission for.
And so, as Chisha experienced his own brain being numbed, he posed his query.
Chisha: [Since when have you been aware of the signs of the Great Disaster?]
Vincent: [――The journal.]
Quietly, Vincent opened a drawer in the desk he utilized to perform his duties, took out an old bound book, and placed it upon the desk.
A journal that had become a topic of conversation once in the past, but which he had never seen. The journal left by Stride Vollachia, if it conveyed the signs――
Chisha: [Your Excellency, what you have done so far――]
Meeting Chisha, originally Chesha Trim, walking alongside him, cultivating time with him, picking up Cecilus, taking part in the Imperial Selection Ceremony, saving Prisca Benedict’s life by going against his own principles in a first, and paving a new path as the Emperor of the Vollachian Empire.
The whole of Vincent Vollachia’s journey had been――.
Vincent: [――After my death, the ruin caused by the Great Disaster must be minimized. This is the purpose of the reform, that of the Nine Divine Generals.]
Vincent: [――Your purpose, Chisha Gold.]
Chisha: [I demand to know who these Observers are, and for you to disclose whatever information you may have on them.]
Pushing the open iron fan against another’s neck, Chisha issued a threat, his tone low.
However, as Chisha directed that ghastly hostility at him, the facial expression of Ubilk, who had had his back pinned against the wall, was a carefree one, unable to read the situation, as if bemused.
His expression unchanging, Ubilk called out to him with “General First-Class Chisha”, then continued,
Ubilk: [I’d thought that you and His Excellency the Emperor had discussed that a few days ago, and that you had come to terms with it down inside, General First-Class Chisha…]
Chisha: [It took me a few days to review the preconditions to make sure there was no mistake. Unfortunately, there is currently no way to directly reject His Excellency’s thoughts.]
Ubilk: [I’m sure it’d be the same even if you’d discussed it with me. But, as expected from the General First-Class who also serves as His Excellency’s body double, you do take after him plenty.]
While being held in place Ubilk spoke, to which Chisha produced a faint look of puzzlement. Taking in that reaction from Chisha, Ubilk shook his head, then stated,
Ubilk: [His Excellency also asked if there was a way to bend the commandment. Buuut~, I can return you the same answer as I did then. There is not.]
Chisha: [――. What is your purpose? Ubilk-dono, you have introduced yourself as a Stargazer, thus gaining the position to stay at the Crystal Palace and deliver prophecies from the Observers. Myself at the helm, people aside from His Excellency do not think highly of your existence, Ubilk-dono. If His Excellency does pass away as per the prophecy, you shall not escape destruction.]
Ubilk: [You put that so clearly it hurts me… Buuut~, General First-Class Chisha, that assumption of yours is off.]
Ubilk: [More important than my own destruction, is the fulfillment and realisation of the commandment. My purpose, is to ward off the destruction due to follow the Great Disaster.]
As he spoke, the grin disappeared from Ubilk’s face.
Ubilk’s face, vanished of the artificial emotion it had possessed, had lost its warmth. Capturing it from up-close, made Chisha get an impression as if he were facing Ubilk’s real face for the first time.
For an instant, he suspected that that was due to some technique of Ubilk’s――,
Ubilk: [I don’t have any power of that sort. Didn’t I destroy my own Evil Eye in front of your very eyes, General First-Class Chisha, as to display I held no malice towards His Excellency at the very start? Do you wish to confirm that?]
Chisha: [――. No, that is fine. Unless I have misheard, you, Ubilk-dono, have stated this? That your purpose is to ward off the destruction due to follow the Great Disaster.]
Ubilk: [Yes, that’s correct. In that respect, that purpose is in accord with His Excellency’s.]
The replying Ubilk was devoid of faltering, and Chisha could perceive no falsehoods in his opinion.
If he were to lie here in the first place, it made no sense that he would not lie to make himself, rather than Vincent, look good to Chisha. Even Ubilk would not be too thrilled were he to be killed after carelessly provoking Chisha’s ire, most likely, despite that expression of his suggesting he did not mind being killed at any time.
In addition, even though he had some thoughts on Ubilk’s behavior and perceived him as a nuisance, Vincent’s reasons for not sending Ubilk away were understandable.
Vincent and Ubilk were both working toward the same goal.
Chisha: [It does not seem to me that Ubilk-dono is thinking of preventing the Great Disaster itself. Why is that?]
Ubilk: [Oh, it’s simple. The Great Disaster cannot be postponed. It’s the sort of established rule where it’ll happen without fail. My purpose, once the Great Disaster has happened, is to ward off the destruction it brings. In other words…]
Chisha: [In other words?]
Ubilk: [If the Great Disaster doesn’t actually happen, my commandment won’t be fulfilled. For that reason, even if all the factors that’d cause the Great Disaster are destroyed, I’d become said factor.]
That was a fanatical way of thinking, the means and the ends were both mixed up.
Gulping at that incomprehensible absurdity, the iron fan that was already on Ubilk’s neck was made to dig into it with further force by Chisha. Pointed against a vital point, putting enough force into it would have Ubilk’s throat being severed there.
Allowing Ubilk himself to understand this, Chisha’s voice became sharper.
Chisha: [Then it would be best if we remove that factor with our own hands hereee.]
Ubilk: [I wish you wouldn’t, but I’m not gonna stop you. Thooough~ let me tell you one thing, supposing you kill me, the next Stargazer will appear. That’s how it works.]
Ubilk: [Four major disasters will destroy the world. The opportunity to stop one of them has come. We are terminals of self-purification and self-defense brought about by the stars, and there are infinite substitutes.]
Staring into those eyes from which nothing could be sensed, Chisha ground his teeth.
That there were no threats, no falsehoods, and that Ubilk himself was at least speaking seriously, was something that Chisha could sense.
――In order to ward off the destruction wrought by the Great Disaster, he would make it so the Great Disaster would happen without fail.
A declaration far too absurd, far too illogical, yet it was an invitation to a war of attrition, employing countless lives as shields, that even Vincent was unable to do anything about.
A possibility popped up, however; that perhaps, of some of the Stargazers who had brought commandments thus far themselves had served as sparks, playing a role in the materialization of their prophecies.
But if they were to ascertain this and massacre the Stargazers, eradicating them, being that the conditions for their emergence were not known, it was likely that they would need to murder all those capable of becoming one.
That, would be tantamount to destroying the country.
Ubilk: [His Excellency is admirable. Having attachment to individuals is something that makes up very little part of my nature, but I gotta take my hat off to His Excellency for the way he is. Someone who’s not a Stargazer isn’t capable of being like that.]
Chisha: […Ubilk-dono admiring someone that greatly, what an unfunny jokeee.]
Ubilk: [I truly mean it. There’s no one able to accept their death forewarned by the commandment with peace of mind. And yet His Excellency’s making all preparations for after his own death. Even if he has no hopes left for living, he hasn’t given up fighting. Truly, the King of Sword Wolves.]
Ubilk’s words, muttered solemnly, were a solid expression of his admiration for Vincent.
The Sword Wolf he had spoken of, the “wolf pierced by swords” that was the national emblem of Vollachia, was a celebration to the way of life of a warrior that did not falter even when saddled with life-threatening wounds.
In that sense, as Ubilk had declared, Vincent’s way of life was that of the Sword Wolf itself.
Ubilk: [General First-Class Chisha, I’ve spent all my life with the intent to fulfill my commandment with my entire heart. Buuut~, it’s not like I believe that my commandment is more wonderful than all. In case you’re saying it’s difficult to accept, General First-Class Chisha, it’s okay if you were to try it out.]
Chisha: [Try it out… Exterminating you, Ubilk-dono, and those with the same station you have, you mean?]
Ubilk: [I did state that there are infinite substitutes, but there’s a limit. There are only so many lives. Trying it out with the support of General First-Class Cecilus would be worth the shot.]
Once more, Ubilk’s mind was hard to grasp in regards to just how much of that proposal came from what he truly felt.
For a moment, Chisha did consider it to be a decent idea, proof of just how shaken up he was.
Supposing he did as Ubilk had stated, disclosed that fact to Cecilus and guided him as the latter probably did nothing but babble about it, they may be able to wipe out the citizens of the Empire.
――No, that too was impossible.
Were Vincent to discover that plot, he would halt any nonsense of the sort immediately. Cecilus was a friend, but his priorities were very much fixed within his mind.
For Cecilus, Vincent took precedence over Chisha. And that was the reasoning as to why Cecilus Segmunt was the First, even though his head was not to be trusted one bit when it came to thinking.
Chisha: [Nevertheless, the likes of disclosing this to Cecilus was an option that had not occurred to me, and that is quite laughable, even if I say so myself.]
An out-of-place, deep emotion carved a faint smile onto Chisha’s lips.
Emerging in his head vividly, was Cecilus pouting his lips, protesting vehemently――,
He suddenly recalled an exchange they had had one day quite clearly.
Cecilus: [If me and you go at it, Chisha, you’ll die in the blink of an eye for sure; however, what if you start with a thousand men? It might take a thousand seconds!]
Chisha: [I doubt it would. But I understand where you are coming from. While I gain a thousand seconds…]
Cecilus: [His Excellency, or someone else, can fulfill their purpose. My one greatest flaw, as the leading actor of this world, is that there’s only one of me in this world.]
The smiling face of his friend as he spoke of random things came to mind.
Suddenly, he had a thought.
Chisha: [Ubilk-dono, I would like to inquire something of you. ――These commandments you receive, in what way are they brought to you?]
Having been questioned, Ubilk widened his eyes in amazement slightly.
He then cocked his head, regaining his usual atmosphere of meekness that had vanished, and,
Ubilk: [It varies. More often than not, I receive them in something like a dream.]
Chisha: [Then, would that also apply to the commandment regarding the Great Disaster that you have conveyed to His Excellency?]
With the questions piling up, Ubilk nodded with a face of perplexion. Exhaling at that answer, slowly, Chisha gave form to the thoughts that he had had.
Chisha: [If, in the commandment you have received, the moment His Excellency loses his life is present――]
Pure white vanished, and thus, he painted over his uncertain self that could be dyed in any colour, not just with anyone.
Appearing there was――,
Chisha: [――The Vincent Vollachia that dies there, which one is it, I wondeeer?]
――Chisha Gold, formerly Chesha Trim, did not consider himself to be someone with a very high sense of loyalty, nor had he pledged unwavering obedience to His Excellency the Emperor.
As none other than Vincent Vollachia himself had stated.
At a time Chisha had been asked if he would be willing to die for Vincent, returning the direct reply that he would not do so.
To keep that in mind as he served him, so had Chisha been told.
In accordance with that declaration, and with those sentiments, Chisha had come to serve Vincent.
Therefore, he would not do anything akin to dying for Vincent’s sake.
Even if he did not pledge unwavering loyalty to Vincent, he pledged a loyalty born of common sense. As one of the people of the Empire, as one of the Generals First-Class of the Empire, he also happened to possess some sense of respect towards for His Excellency the Emperor.
Conduct that felt as if it ran counter to Vincent’s command, was preposterous.
Hence, Chisha’s choice was something made not for Vincent’s sake, but for all intents and purposes, it had been made for the sake of those very same feelings at the very origin of it all, when he had happened to run into the prince on that road.
Back then, the many people around him had avoided getting involved upon laying eyes on that carriage, which they could tell at a glance had high-class folk riding in it.
They would have been fine with helping out, but if they turned out not to be able to, instead incurring displeasure, their lives would be in jeopardy.
While able to perfectly grasp the thoughts of those people, Chisha had stepped up to the carriage.
It was not as though he had wanted to help people.
However, he had thought it a shame were he to miss out on the opportunity to test his arithmetic and studies, which were said to be useless in the village that was his hometown.
Indeed, same went this time around.
A chance to get behind the thoughts of Vincent Vollachia, a man whose ingenuity could make anything go according to his hypotheses, would probably never come around again.
Moreover, ever since Vincent Vollachia had been a young child, he had steeled himself to accept that moment with solemnity.
In other words, this was a challenge to partake in a crucial bout on which the life of Vincent Vollachia was staked.
A man whose blood would boil once the gauntlet was thrown down, a man whose spirits would rise more and more upon the realization that his enemy was a mighty one indeed, a man whose soul would ignite as a means to fell his opponent. That was a man of the Empire.
And Chisha Gold, was a man of the Empire.
What sort of feelings, what sort of thoughts had been in Vincent Vollachia’s mind, at the time he had decided to place Chisha under his care, as to learn under him, to become capable of using the same intelligence as himself after his own demise, were unclear.
He did not understand, nor did he want to understand.
Once he understood that he did not understand, he had had many of those hot-headed thoughts.
Vincent had once given a few words on it, that he had experienced those very same thoughts.
Chisha: [The ruin brought about by the Great Disaster… Just what is the Great Disaster, don’t make me laaaugh.]
Labeled as the likes of a mass-scale disaster, it seemed the Great Disaster would somehow try to trample, to plunge the Vollachian Empire into ruination. From Chisha’s point of view however, it was humorous.
The Great Disaster would commence with the death of Vincent Vollachia.
The Great Disaster would not start without Vincent’s death, in other words, the Empire could not be destroyed if he were allowed to live, so had he not already lost before the destruction had started?
Setting Vincent Vollachia aside, what was the destruction to come, what was the Great Disaster?
――Vincent Vollachia, the Seventy-Seventh Emperor of the Sacred Vollachian Empire.
Chisha: [His Excellency himself is the Vollachian Empire. The utter devastation and ruin of the land after the death of His Excellency is an incredibly absurd, side-splitting, comedy of comedies.]
He ridiculed the yet-unseen Great Disaster with a manner of speech akin to Cecilus.
Ridiculing the Great Disaster that he most likely would never lay eyes upon, he stuck out his tongue.
Chisha: [A dog that seeks to snatch a lowly victory, how can that be the one to kill our Sword Wolf? ――Don’t you dare underestimate Vincent Vollachia, who I supported, who I built up.]
If you are someone who can kill him, then what are you waiting for? If you say you will snatch him away, go for it.
Forewarned ruin and all the like, don’t you dare think that you can destroy our Emperor, our Empire.
That day, when I got the wheel out of the ditch, it was for the sake of this moment.
For the sake of ridiculing this destruction, all of it was――,
Chisha: [――Foreshadowing. Though, I shall absolutely not say such a thing, for if I did, Cecilus would get overly enthused.]
――A white light shone dazzlingly within the throne room, and immediately afterward, scarlet blood splattered grandly.
Upon the red carpet, a slender man stood, drenched by the fresh blood that had just been scattered.
The man, donning a ridiculous Oni mask on his face, widened his black eyes hidden behind the mask, frozen in shock at the events that had developed in front of him.
And before that man who was standing stock still, the body that had gushed copious amounts of its blood crumbled, toppling to its front.
His chest, lacking any defenses, had been run through from behind, destroying his heart without a shred of mercy, eradicating, ripping away anything and everything necessary for the maintenance of life.
Unable to support the falling body with his arms, it helplessly collapsed onto the carpet.
With that, the fallen body did not stir, with nary a twitch, nor with even a gulp of air much less any final words.
None may live, having had their hearts pierced.
Consequently, that was an event inevitable, the terminus of fate as was bound to arrive.
The man had died.
He was Chesha Trim, became Chisha Gold, and finally as Vincent Vollachia, the man had died.
――And that was the entirety of what had transpired, in that moment.
 – Throughout Arc 7, and in scenes that take place before the end of the Imperial Selection Ceremony, Vincent refers to himself with “俺”. However, once he knows victory in the Selection is assured, and sits on the throne, he refers to himself with “余”, which is somewhat of a “royal” pronoun, which has also been utilized by other people of royalty in side content.
31 thoughts on “Arc 7, Chapter 107 – “Chisha Gold””
Wow! Just wow. This novel keeps getting better and better…
I was played again. To think Chisha Gold was doing all this to die for his Country and emperor as we were all strung along. Lead by the idea that he was an egotist unsatisfied by the emperor’s ruling and arrogant enough to snatch the throne. He was just playing the part to fulfill the prophecy at the cost of his own life.
Which makes all of this kind of paradoxical but fascinating nonetheless. This is some Shakespearean level tragedy right here I am laughing.
We now better understand Abel as well. This was a very satisfying chapter that filled in as a huge piece of this arc’s puzzle. Thank you translation team, I appreciate your efforts sincerely.
This chapter made chisha gold one of the best characters this arc, chisha is great, rip.
I just don’t understand the prophecy. It says that the Great Disaster will happen when Vincent dies. Ubilk says that he will be the last factor to cause his death if anything else is removed. But Vincent is not immortal, he will always die of old age. So Ubilk has no reason to want to kill him, because Vincent can only delay the Great Disaster until he dies of old age at maximum. The prophecy is already inevitable by itself.
Ubilk doesn’t say that he will kill Vincent. It’s more or less like this:
A – Ubilk is destined to help stop/minimize the damages from the Great Disaster.
b – The Great Disaster will happen only when Vincent dies.
Because A will happens no matter what – B will need occur to make A take place. Even if they try their hardest to make Vincent safe, the fact that Ubilk exists and that he is destined to do something about the Great Disaster shows that it will all for naught. Killing Ubilk is just shooting the messenger: it’s possible that the stars would just choose someone else for the role.
Of course, this is the belief from these characters – They can be wrong in some capacity. Subaru already showed that he can change fate (by dying when he shouldn’t or vice versa).
Are you trying to say that because Ubilk is present now, it means that the Great Disaster will happen soon which means that Vincent will be inevitably killed ?
Yeah, that’s more or less how the characters see the situation.
as I understood it it is like this:
1.The Great disaster would happen even if Ubilk wasnt a stargazer, he is just the one who conveyed the messenge.
2.I could be wrong with this point ,but Ubilk received the prophecy in a dream ,which could mean that he only saw “Vinvent Vollachia”get killed .But in this case it would be Chisha gold ,because he looked like Vincent.
Please keep in mind that i could be wrong and correct me please if so.
*THERE ARE SPOILERS FROM ‘SWORD DEMON BATTLE BALLAD’ SIDE STORY, READ WITH CAUTION*
There’s probably a time limit for the great disaster to happen. Most likely if Vincent died after that time limit ended the great disaster will not happen. First you need to understand that the stargazers are not trying to deal with the great disaster’s aftermath to save the empire, they are doing it to fulfill the command given to them by the observers. And these observers are trying to make the great disaster happen under any circumstances. In my opinion the great disaster itself is something that the observers orchestrated themselves and the stargazers are simply there to deal with it’s aftermath. They are probably doing this for their own amusement, treating the empire like their little plaything. This was also hinted in the SS ‘Sword Demon Battle Ballad’, where Stride explained how the world simply follows the observers’ written script while it’s own will is ignored, every single event being controlled at their whims. This was precisely why Stride despite being a stargazer detested the stars and rebelled against the observers to show them the will of the world. So as long as the observers keep controlling the events, ‘Vincent’ will definitely die and the great disaster will definitely happen. Even if the emperor’s death itself is not a necessity for the great disaster to happen and there are ways to deal with it beforehand, the observers will make sure it doesn’t go that way, all for their own enjoyment. Of course, this is just my theory, so I can’t say anything with certainty. But this is the idea I get after reading the ‘Sword Demon Battle Ballad’ side story and today’s chapter, but if someone has other theories I’d like to see them as well.
Thanks for the theory ,i would agree with you ,even though i havent read the SS.
Just a question ,but do you have any idea who could have killed Chisha?
Didn’t you read chapter 108 yet? I’m pretty sure it was revealed there…
WHO LET TAPPEI COOK
FIRE FROM BEGINING TO END
It SMELL SPICY MMM M MMM!
Wow. Wow wow wow. What a chapter. Probably the best chapter of this arc, holy crap.
Holy shit, Chisha is the goat
Didnt expect this plot twist man holy shit
Holy exposition Tappei
This was an amazing chapter!
Thanks for the translation!
Damn i’m not reading through all of that past between them.
For fast to the point readers, only the last 15 lines or so are important (current events).
That is actually not true but thanks anyways lazy ass lol
Still curious if it’s so easy to trick a prophecy by simply doing some face swap.
The prophecy foretold that ‘Vincent’ would die and Ubilk saw a dead Vincent. Chisha basically overturned that prophecy by posing as Vincent.
Also, he was tutored by Vincent to be a perfect body double, so if anyone can take Vincent’s place it would be him.
I read this chapter with MTL first when it released and felt the impact and now with the TL’ed version even more for second time…
Thanks for the TL!
Wow. I am just astounded lol. This is peak.
OOOOOOOOH BOYY RE ZERO BETS WEB NOVEL EVAAAAAAAA!
Incredible chapter bravo. Might honestly be the best chapter of the whole novel imo.
Tappei never disappoints, how could I doubted you
Easily the best arc 7 chapter in a while
Her iam wandering how mush the stars tried or actually did kill subaru. they must give up on him from frustration.