Arc 8, Chapter 9 – “Deciding to Love”

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――Withdrawal from the Imperial Capital of Lupugana.

Although it had been concluded to be a decision necessary, it was still a major incident in the history of the Empire.

The Imperial Capital, which was under the Emperor’s direct supervision, had not only allowed the “enemy” to advance to the Crystal Palace, but even the Emperor had been forced to abandon both the castle and the city and flee. The decline of his authority was unavoidable.

However――,

Goz: [Given that we do not know the intentions of those ominous people, Your Excellency’s judgment would be the best course of action.]

Olbart: [Kakakakka! Ain’t an Emperor abandonin’ the Palace ta flee unheard of? At the very least, I’ve never heard anythin’ like that ’til this age.]

Goz: [Do not laugh, General First-Class Olbart! If you think about His Excellency’s feelings… If you think about it, I! Damn! Without fail, under His Excellency’s command, we will recapture the castle and the Imperial Capital!!]

Ubilk: [Waawaaaa~, are we running away? Your judgment is quiiite~ fast! As for me, I’m not into the mindset of fighting to the last breath, so I think that’s the right decision to take.]

Those who opposed Vincent’s decision, at that moment, amounted to none.

This was because Vincent had assigned positions based on practical abilities rather than loyalty, which had proved to be worthwhile. Although the rebellion had also been incited due to differences in opinions, ultimately, his closest and most trusted ally had betrayed him. Therefore, any differences in loyalty were merely a margin of error.

In any case, it was time to begin the retreat.

Vincent: [Olbart Dunkelkenn, buy us some time. If left alone, Moguro Hagane will be defeated quickly. We cannot let the reservoir be destroyed yet.]

Olbart: [Geez, it ain’t good ta overwork the elderly. How ‘bout usin’ Goz instead?]

Vincent: [Agility and swiftness are the specialties of a shinobi. Fulfill your duty without indecision.]

Olbart: […Just warnin’ ya, even I can’t catch him if he focuses on flyin’, y’know?]

Above, Balleroy Temeglyph, someone who had died previously, cut through the sky of the Imperial Capital as he flew. After listening to Olbart, whose words implied that Balleroy still held his skills from when he was still alive as the greatest dragon rider from the Vollachian Empire, thus conveying the toughness of their opponent, Vincent entrusted the task to the monstrous old man nevertheless.

As Olbart said, while there were probably some differences in aptitude, Goz could still fulfill the same role.

However, when speaking of differences in aptitude, there was a role that Goz must fulfill. This loud and overbearing General was exceptionally trusted by his troops.

Therefore,

Vincent: [Goz Ralfon, make use of your absurd volume. From now on, what we need to retreat from the Imperial Capital is manpower. Gather any scattered troops in the vicinity.]

Goz: [Yes! Leave it to me, Your Excellency! Right away!!]

Without hesitation, Goz nodded and jumped onto a nearby pile of rubble with his upper body bare. There, he took a deep breath and shouted to the world where the thunderous noise of the titanic Moguro’s battle echoed.

His incredibly loud voice raised objections to the shaking air of the Imperial Capital.

Goz: [Listen up, Sword Wolves of Vollachia!! These are orders from the top of the Sword Wolves, His Excellency Vincent Vollachia! Follow my voice! Follow it!!]

With Goz’s directive being issued, with loudness that sounded like the roar of a magic stone cannon firing, Vincent covered his ears and looked towards Olbart as if testing him. Olbart, who was also covering his ears, shook his head slowly and said,

Olbart: [I can’t do somethin’ like that. So yer just choosin’ the right person for the task, right?]

Leaving only those words behind, Olbart’s figure disappeared into the sky, leaving a trail behind him.

The monstrous old man climbed the cracked walls of the Crystal Palace left by the aftermath of the battle, using them as footholds. Halfway, he jumped onto the massive body of Moguro, intervening in the battlefield where the Cloud Dragon and the Magical Sharpshooter were cooperating. In a show of his abilities, the Vicious Old Man began leading them by the nose.

Olbart may have said something about being unable to keep up with his flying opponents, but, with his shinobi’s gear and his hidden techniques, he most likely had countless ways to deal with the situation.

If the monstrous old man joined the battle, Moguro’s disadvantage would likely be somewhat overturned.

Ubilk: [Your Excellency, is there anything you want uuus~ to do?]

Vincent: [――. How many of you Stargazers are there in the surroundings?]

As Goz was gathering the people, Vincent asked Ubilk, who had nothing else to do. Ubilk responded to Vincent’s question with a “Weeell~” and placed the fingers of both of his hands on his cheeks.

Ubilk: [Let’s see, within the range where our voices can be heard, there are twenty-seven of uuus~.]

Vincent: [More than I expected. Then, go around opening doors in the residences one-by-one. Tell them that the Emperor and the troops will abandon the Capital, so even if they remain in the city, they will only be throwing away their lives.]

Ubilk: [Understood! This is it, this is it! An all-out war… The united effort of the entire Vollachian Empire to resist the Great Disaster, this is what I’ve wanted to do.]

Vincent: [Quickly, get it done.]

Vincent let out a sigh as he drove away the excited Ubilk, who could not contain his excitement over being able to achieve his goal as a Stargazer.

Vincent then looked at Berstetz, who remained silent so as not to disturb his thoughts and deliberations.

He was the individual who had joined Chisha Gold, the ringleader of the civil war, causing chaos in the Empire by driving Vincent from the throne.

Vincent: [You are rather quiet.]

Berstetz: [In the present situation, two heads giving commands can only sow seeds of confusion. If, hypothetically, a Sword Wolf were to be born with two heads, it would mean…]

Vincent: [That severing one of the two heads is your duty?]

Berstetz: [If so needed, this old man shall offer you his head with pleasure.]

With his hands clasped behind his back, Berstetz calmly stated his resolve.

Although he was far from a man of military prowess, within him burned the pride of a man of the Empire. Vincent did not believe that Berstetz had rebelled out of a lust for power, nor did he believe that the words he just uttered were a perfunctory excuse.

Plain and simple, a devout devotion to the Empire was Berstetz’s driving force.

For that reason, upon witnessing a threat to the Empire, he would immediately drop his previous plans and ideas, and stand on the same side as Vincent as he was doing now, without hesitation.

Vincent: [When Goz Ralfon, the Stargazer, and the others finish their preparations, we shall begin our withdrawal immediately. Berstetz, your opinion. Be brief.]

Berstetz: [――With all due respect, Your Excellency, if you are going to withdraw, please follow your own thoughts.]

Vincent: [――――]

To Vincent, who had asked for a concise opinion, Berstetz responded.

Although his words were enigmatic, Berstetz did not mean to mislead Vincent. After a moment of contemplation, Vincent understood the meaning of those words.

To follow his own thoughts, that was to say, the thoughts of Vincent Vollachia.

――That was the same mindset that Chisha Gold had been following up until now.

Berstetz: [If General First-Class Chisha had replaced you knowing what had been predicted, cooperating with me to usurp the throne…]

Vincent: [――He must have guessed what the Great Disaster would consist of, and made provisions.]

Berstetz: [It is as you say. And it is something that only Your Excellency the Emperor could notice, and anyone other than Your Excellency the Emperor would not notice.]

As Berstetz spoke, with one eye closed, Vincent contemplated.

The opinion expressed by the Prime Minister was understandable. ――No, it was reasonable. Even without Berstetz’s advice, Vincent would have come to the same conclusion, but this had shortened time.

Chisha had staked his life to remain in the form of Vincent on the throne. And what if he had left Vincent with more than just a “future” where he was supposed to have been cut off?

That was――,

Goz: [――Your Excellency! The men have all returned, each one of them with the face of a soldier! What do you wish to do?]

The instant Vincent’s thoughts arrived at that conclusion, from a pile of rubble, Goz violently jumped down.

Looking around, one after another, gathering around them were Imperial Soldiers, the swords and armor they had equipped clanging, a pack of Sword Wolves. In face of this unprecedented situation, they had certainly been confused, uneasy. However, following the call of Goz Ralfon, the Lion Knight, they gathered together, and once they realized that the Emperor of Vollachia was waiting for them ahead, they tightened their expressions and standings.

???: [――――]

It was the terrible and loathsome way of being of the people of the Empire.

But in order to fight the coming calamity, a Sword Wolf must not forget its hunger. Spending years for that reason, recalling the times past, Vincent looked up at the sky.

To accumulate national strength, and to maintain the discipline and morale of the soldiers, for the sake of leaving behind an Empire that would be able to withstand the calamity. ――That plan had gone awry, but there was no intention of leaving as a failure.

Vincent: [Moguro Hagane! Do not let these scoundrels use the Magic Crystal Cannon! As long as you uphold that, I shall grant your wish!]

Moguro: [――――]

There was no telling whether his voice, having pushed it to its limits, had reached Moguro, who was in the midst of fighting what was the currently strongest creature in the world, a Dragon.

However, that noble Meteor listened to human words attentively. They appeared to not possess ears, but they were reliable.

Then, having sent out instructions to the assembled Generals, Vincent lowered his gaze and surveyed the faces of the soldiers who had gathered around him.

Then, looking at those Sword Wolves, whose will to fight was undiminished, he continued.

――If he, if Chisha Gold he had truly embodied Vincent Vollachia, then.

Vincent: [We are withdrawing from the Imperial Capital! We are heading northwest to the Fortified City of Garkla!]

Then a plan to oppose the Great Disaster, should be present in that place, such was what he loudly declared.

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――Both the Imperial Soldiers and the rebels that were a part of the battlefield had begun to realize that the struggle to set the course of the Vollachian Empire had changed shape.

With the degree of confusion that spread everywhere, and the change in ambience, striking that it was, fully enthralled in battle, the Sword Wolves were therefore aware of an atmosphere such as that, they sensed the interference of unsavory intentions.

Thus, with orders flying around from the commanding officers whose expressions had changed, the mindset of the two sides who were frankly crossing arms was changed by their slightly regained composure and battle intuition.

Due to that, the two sides that were fiercely fighting each other until only a few moments before ceased their hostilities, replaced the title of Imperial Soldier or of rebel with the title of “citizen of the Empire”, and joined together as a pack of wolves.

At that moment, Vincent Vollachia, at the center of the Imperial Capital, and Serena Dracroy, at the siege surrounding the city, had both just raised their voices as chief commanders.

Simply put, the changes that everyone from the Empire had sensed were circumstances that necessitated immediate action. Completely unrelated to these events, there was still a battlefield burning a bright-red able reduce everyone else to ashes.

――The Spirit Eater Arakiya, protecting the first bastion, was being confronted by Priscilla Barielle and Yorna Mishigure, magnificent and bewitching women of strong character.

Yorna: [――Love me.]

As the world was dominated by red, radiant flames, Yorna gallantly kicked the ground with a fire lit in one of her eyes.

The hem of her kimono fluttered glamorously, and when Yorna’s long legs, which made her tall for a woman, touched the ground, the earth rose the next moment and aided her sprint in both speed and momentum.

This was not the Demon City of Chaosflame, but only the land surrounding the Imperial Capital, the territory of the Emperor of Vollachia.

Long ago, beyond the memories of a past that had become distant for both Yorna Mishigure and Sandra Benedict, she had once desired for the Imperial Capital that seemed so out of her reach.

Though it was a place she could never reach through her own strength, as she held hands with a man who was so noble and of such different status that she was afraid to whisper that she loved him, there she stood.

Yorna’s Soul Marriage Technique could only be granted to those she loved.

――Then, with love for that man, with love that could never fade, why did Yorna not love the very land that he loved?

Yorna: [――It was also stolen from me.]

The Emperor of Vollachia, known as the King of Thorns at the time, and Iris, the girl who had fallen in love.

She had sheltered, supported and walked the same path as the Emperor who had been ousted from the throne. Seeing the courage and nobleness of the young girl, many had sang the praises of the King of Thorns, wishing blessings upon their future together.

However, due to the molepeople who had tricked them by manipulating them with adulation, and the wolfpeople who had betrayed them through ambition and arrogance, that future had lost its perfect ending.

The paradise that the King of Thorns was supposed to build, the construction of that promised world, was abandoned. The Emperor, controlled by delusion, bound the soul of the girl, a soul supposed to disappear, with the blood of the traitors, to the soil of the Empire.

Since then, Iris had been reborn again and again, changing her name and appearance.

Loving someone, being loved by someone, she continued to live.

But at the same time, this Vollachian Empire, the Empire’s very land, was the only thing that she could not love. Perhaps she hated it because it was so distant from the dream she had once envisioned.

But, however, such things were trivial compared to what was truly important.

Yorna: [――Love me.]

Whether or not she could love; she just decided to love.

It was not an Empire with only happy memories. Happiness and unhappiness had been two sides of the same coin, both when she had been Iris and throughout her many lifetimes after she had ceased to be Iris.

The same was true for Yorna’s beloved children in the Demon City―― Sometimes she would be choked up with love, and sometimes she would be angry at their pettiness.

Yorna: [――All of it, I am happy with.]

Yes, as the resounding “love” resonated within Yorna, the burning earth rejoiced.

The solid ground, which was only supposed to catch her footsteps, gleefully lashed out, and the bouncing earth served as a foothold for Yorna, sending her high into the sky.

Spinning around, Yorna’s thick-soled heels fell on Arakiya in mid-air.

Arakiya attempted to let it pass through her by assimilating with the air surrounding her. However, Yorna’s kick exploded on the brown skin that it was supposed to have slipped through.

Arakiya: [――Ah?]

The shoulder that had been kicked burst with pain, and Arakiya gave a small gasp at the impossible impact.

Arakiya’s body, which had been assimilated with either fire, wind, or shadow exploded from the impact, and her expression, which had rarely displayed such fiery emotion, was colored with pain and surprise.

For Arakiya, who continuously took full advantage of the traits of a Spirit Eater to gain the upper hand in every fight against her enemies, this had truly been a bolt out of the blue.

But Yorna had been neither surprised nor satisfied with the fact that her kick hit. Using the heel she struck with as a fulcrum, she raised her upper body and swung the kiseru held by her slender fingers, unleashing a follow-up attack.

Arakiya: [Eh, ah, wah.]

There was a sound of something hard hitting her flesh consecutively, and Arakiya’s expression was distorted again and again.

Arakiya’s voice escaped from her throat as if she could not comprehend the sensations she was suffering. It was a manner of rejecting the fact behind it, rather than rejecting the anguish itself.

“Why”, she asked Yorna. Arakiya’s eyes were widened, even the one eye she could no longer see from.

Yorna: [If there is love there, then there’s no meaning in tactless hesitation.]

Arakiya: [Love…?]

Yorna: [You’re the foster sister of my ill-disciplined daughter, are you not?]

Yorna’s answer, with a beaming smile, filled Arakiya’s face with a look of incomprehension.

Even though she had received an answer, her cheeks hardened at the fact she did not understand it. Then, Arakiya freely flew in the sky at high speed to escape, causing cataclysmic waves of natural phenomena.

Yorna, being airborne, had no way to avoid her onslaught of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water.

Yorna: [As was the case even before I made peace with the Empire.]

Spinning those words from her loosened lips, Yorna ran through the air on the footholds of earth that rose one after another.

While resentful in spirit, but also full of joyful emotional attachment, were she to decide to love the Vollachian Empire in its state, in its entirety, then the ground itself would respond and continue its ardent support.

Avoiding the rain of fire, the spears of water, the great waves of wind, and the slashes of light at every turn, Yorna once again closed in on Arakiya.

No longer did Arakiya have the advantage of being in the air since the ground reached wherever Yorna stepped, allowing her to reach the same height.

Arakiya: [――Ugh.]

She assimilated with the Spirits in the atmosphere, thus becoming transparent to enemy attacks.

Since she had become overly accustomed to dodging in that manner, Arakiya was slow to react to the approaching danger posed by Yorna, taking a kick directly to her smooth-skinned torso.

The destructive force penetrated the back side of Arakiya’s body, causing the gale she had enclosed herself with to shimmer through the world of red-tinted flames.

Arakiya: [――Hk.]

Finally, pain was etched on Arakiya’s face, overtaking her look of surprise.

This was definitely a sign that Yorna’s attack was pushing Arakiya over the edge. Up until now, while the flow of events going in Yorna’s favor had been something to be proud of, Yorna was still not optimistic.

That was because――,

Arakiya: [You would never… Hk!]

With her cheeks contorted in pain and anger, Arakiya grabbed her tree branch and slammed it into Yorna.

She had simply picked it up, employed as a mundane item, and yet it had never been broken, even in the midst of these natural disasters. Like a great treasured sword, it showed its true value in the hands of the Spirit Eater.

Yorna caught the swinging branch with the kiseru she held in her upraised arm. The edge of her mouth quivered slightly as the two glared at each other up close.

Yorna: [Kuh…]

The power of the blocked tree branch made Yorna’s throat moan through her kiseru.

Yorna’s Soul Marriage Technique could transfer pain and wounds to her own treasured belongings. Naturally, this was a secret technique that required an appropriate level of attachment and dedication.

However, Yorna’s kanzashi, earrings, and obidome, all of which had been donated by her beloved residents of the Demon City, were not consumed. In spite of this, Yorna herself was suffering pain.

The answer was simple and clear―― love was never a one-way affair.

Yorna: [――Love me.]

Once she had decided to love the Empire in an intermingling of love and hate, once she had as well decided to discipline Arakiya, with whom she had fallen into a hostile relationship, she needed to aim for compatibility instead of forcing one-sided love on her.

This was the exact opposite of how Yorna Mishigure’s Soul Marriage Technique had been intended to be used, originally.

△▼△▼△▼△

???: [――――]

In midair, Yorna and Arakiya faced off in a fierce battle.

Priscilla, holding the dazzling Yang Sword in her hand, with flames in one eye proving that she was loved, frowned at the sight of her mother and foster sister clashing without restraint.

As a user of the same Soul Marriage Technique, she understood the reasoning behind Yorna’s actions.

However, because they were both users of the Soul Marriage Technique, Priscilla could understand the forbidden nature of what Yorna was doing.

Priscilla: [Focusing only on the strength of the technique, without regard for its weaknesses. You, too, are reckless, Dear Mother.]

Yorna had figured out with only a glance how to ignore Arakiya’s nature as a Spirit Eater and let her attacks flow through, but it required a precise handling of magic and the resolve to suffer wounds herself.

Both Priscilla and Yorna were no strangers to the Soul Marriage Technique, a secret art that required a talent so rare that it had no historical inheritors, and required a miraculous sense of balance to put it into practice.

In short, Yorna’s efforts were a risky gamble that would not only prevent Arakiya’s attacks from reaching her, but could even sever her connection with the loved ones who had given her gifts.

Priscilla: [――――]

Priscilla was neither foolish nor heartless enough as to not contemplate why Yorna would take such a risky gamble to face Arakiya, and avert her head.

For the sake of Priscilla, Yorna had embraced that taboo.

――In order to avoid a situation in which Priscilla would have to kill Arakiya.

Priscilla: [With mine Yang Sword, I shan’t have to brave the same crisis as Dear Mother.]

To cut what one wanted to cut, and to burn what one wanted to burn, was the true essence of the Yang Sword’s properties.

In a demonstration of its true value, its white flame could deliver Priscilla’s slashes without regard to Arakiya’s characteristics, even if Arakiya had all natural phenomena as her ally.

While maintaining the effect of the Soul Marriage Technique, the attacker was able to reach their opponent.

This was exactly what had happened at the time Priscilla and Arakiya had met again for the first time in nearly a decade, and under these circumstances, Priscilla could obviously not entertain the notion of doing the same thing.

So, Yorna smacked Priscilla on the head, and fought on the forefront as such.

Priscilla: [To strike mine head like that…]

Using the rebuttal that she was her mother had certainly been a tempting one, but that was precisely the case.

Reflecting upon her feelings, she realized that before Yorna had struck her on the head with her kiseru, Priscilla had been uncharacteristically enthusiastic.

Upon arriving at this point, she felt that she had to deal with Arakiya herself.

However――,

Priscilla: [――A Spirit Eater’s karma, is it?]

It was inevitable that a manufactured species such as Arakiya would be endowed with particularly distorted characteristics.

To wield great power, one must pay the appropriate price. Not to mention Priscilla’s Yang Sword or Soul Marriage Technique, the same was true of Arakiya’s Spirit Eating powers.

Of course, Priscilla had heard of what kind of being Arakiya was born to be back when the latter had accompanied her. She had done her own research, even. However, she had not been careful enough.

The result of that had bestowed the pillar called Priscilla upon Arakiya, one who could not stand without support.

Priscilla: [If mine radiant sun were hidden, the world shall be cloaked in darkness.]

For ten years, Arakiya had lived in a world cloaked in darkness.

Perhaps it was impossible for someone to fill Priscilla’s role, but would someone not have cast a ray of light upon the shadow?

She had thought Vincent would, at the time she decided that she could not bring Arakiya along, but.

Priscilla: [That would be impossible.]

Furrowing her brow at her own thoughts, Priscilla dismissed the idea.

At the time, when she had been still young and bright, Priscilla―― Prisca, had been mistaken. She had believed that she could trust her older brother with such a task, but that had been a miscalculation.

As the battle for the Imperial Capital took such a radical turn, and as she learned of the strength of the Nine Divine Generals gathered by her older brother, Vincent Vollachia, those other than Arakiya, she noticed. She understood.

Vincent had intended to fight something very different, something much greater than a rebellion.

Moreover, he had no intention of surviving at the end of the battle. When the battle was over, to whom would he intend to entrust the throne he had lost?

Arakiya’s loyalty could not change for someone else.

Priscilla: [Nonsense.]

Just about everything had been first fabricated as a board atop a desk, and the world had then been constructed in reality according to that board.

That was Vincent’s strength, but no matter how good his wits were, if his envisioned form of perfection was mistaken, the world as he envisioned it would be undeniably distorted.

He would one day be rewarded for his lack of awareness. Or maybe he would receive it in this battle, however――.

Priscilla: [We have been apart for ten years. Enough, Elder Brother, you shall distance yourself from your little sister.]

Casting dishonor on her counterpart, who was absent from the scene, Priscilla strode forward.

The sky was dyed red with flames, and the earth was raging at the behest of the Flamboyant. It was as if heaven and earth were all refusing the intervention of the sun, Priscilla.

However, to such a presumptuous world, Priscilla Barielle―― or rather, the girl formerly known as Prisca Benedict, had only one thing to say.

Priscilla: [――Everything in this world is made for my convenience.]

△▼△▼△▼△

At that moment, it was wrong to express what Arakiya was feeling as humiliation or shame.

Humiliation meant that there had to be no name for the feeling of being lowered by regret.

Shame meant that there could be no sense of pride in being disgraced by falling behind.

Arakiya had no attachment to her name or pride of any kind.

The rank of Second, the highest rank if Cecilus, who was considered a completely erroneous presence among the esteemed Imperial Nine Divine Generals, were excluded. Known as the Spirit Eater, this individual possessed qualities unparalleled not only within the Empire, but also throughout the entire world, making her an absolute powerhouse.

Despite being blessed with the status and abilities that many people desperately desired, those things could not become the “pillar” that supported Arakiya as an individual.

Arakiya defined herself as a beast in the wild.

Beasts that lived by hunting other creatures had no pride in their fangs and claws. ――No, Arakiya only thought so, but beasts did have their own pride and ways of doing things.

That being the case, Arakiya’s self-perception was far from even that of a beast.

Fire, wind, water, earth, light, shadow, untouchable phenomena.

There was no will that intervened, only the realization of what was desired.

Arakiya wanted to be a phenomenon, neither man nor beast.

She wanted to be a phenomenon that did not feel humiliated or disgraced.

If so――,

Arakiya: [I’m――]

Arakiya attempted to turn into the wind to deal with the barrage of fierce attacks. However, she was unable to handle it completely. The wind was seized, and the blows left a pain and heaviness inside Arakiya.

A cry of anguish escaped, and Arakiya’s face contorted in distress. As a Spirit Eater, she did not often experience pain in battle, but she was by no means immune to it.

Arakiya had already experienced all kinds of pain as a child.

In order to obtain the qualities of a Spirit Eater, the adults around Arakiya had attempted every conceivable ritual and technique, repeating them over and over again.

She was not afraid of pain. She would not cower in remembering the past.

However, the mere fact of being realized was greater than the pain for Arakiya.

Fire would not suffer pain, nor would it die if it was extinguished by water.

Was Arakiya nothing more than fire that would suffer pain and die when extinguished by water?

Arakiya was afraid of denying to herself that she could not be a phenomenon.

Arakiya: [I――]

Yorna: [――Silence, you.]

Driven by frustration, she tried to speak out, but a slap from her opponent landed across her face.

The power of the attack blew Arakiya away head-first. Though she quickly recovered her original form, the pain remained, as did the damage to Arakiya’s psyche.

It was neither humiliation nor disgrace, but a seeming denial of her existence. As if clinging on for dear life, Arakiya raised the ground, with her palm toward Yorna, who leapt on her.

She did not know what was happening, but both Prisca and Yorna had somehow managed to escape Arakiya’s attacks at some point. As soon as Yorna had sealed her technique, her attacks began to reach Arakiya. At the same time, Arakiya’s attacks also began to reach Yorna.

Arakiya: [――Hk.]

Just one time, one shot, one hit.

Yorna herself had raised the level of her physical abilities, either through an unknown technique or through magic. However, if she did not use that technique to escape damage, that meant Arakiya’s attacks would get through.

As long as she was able to hit――,

Arakiya: [The Princess and…!]

If only she could get rid of that annoying Yorna, she would be left alone with just Prisca and herself.

So long as that happened, surely everything would turn out well.

???: [If there’s something you want, it’s more constructive to go out and get it than to wait, right?]

Yes, Todd had said that, too.

Todd’s words, for some reason, resonated strongly in Arakiya’s mind.

It was not because they conveyed convenient things or based on personal likes or dislikes.

Todd’s words were devoid of any emotion toward Arakiya. That was comforting. Just as one did not love fire or water, Todd had no feelings toward Arakiya.

Being treated so vacuously was Arakiya’s salvation.

That was why――,

Arakiya: [――――]

The tree branch in her hand burst into flames from tip to tail, turning into black dust.

The branch was just something she had picked up; it had no special power. It was merely a clear indicator that defined where Arakiya intended to direct her power.

The fact that she had burned that wooden stick was a sign that she was unleashing firepower that needed no aiming.

The Spirit Eater, Arakiya, was regarded as one of the Empire’s strongest, and her greatest power had been unleashed only a single time, during a skirmish with Cecilus Segmunt.

Because the opponent was Cecilus, no damage had been done to them, but Arakiya’s rampage had left the northern part of the Imperial Capital a burnt wasteland. The Emperor, Vincent, had told Arakiya that it would not be tolerated a second time. Later, at Chisha’s suggestion, the burnt land was reused as a reservoir, but the blow had been powerful enough to redraw the map.

???: [――Everything in the world is made for my convenience.]

――The slash issued by a dignified and confident voice drowned everything out.

A flash of the Yang Sword swallowed the flames that would have scorched the world black.

Prisca leapt to Yorna’s side, her long, beautiful hair fluttering in the hot wind as Arakiya was reflected in her eyes, one lit by flames and the other not.

And then――,

Priscilla: [Dear Mother.]

The moment her lips moved, Yorna, moving from behind Prisca, unleashed a ferocious kick.

Prisca, who aligned her feet with the sole of the unleashed kick, converted the momentum of the kick into her own forward motion, launching herself and approaching Arakiya with a speed that could be mistaken for light.

Prisca then raised the Yang Sword in her hand,

Priscilla: [Arakiya.]

With a flash, and a single word, Arakiya’s movements were all sealed off.

The reflexive defensive action of Arakiya, an evasion that blended her with the atmosphere, was twisted and crushed by Prisca’s flash, mercilessly piercing her entire body.

Arakiya: [――――]

Arakiya’s consciousness, was cut off.

Ironically it was very much like the time Arakiya had unleashed her most powerful fire and turned the northern part of the Imperial Capital into a scorched field, she was struck by Cecilus’s flash right afterwards, and had had her consciousness cut off in a similar fashion.

But at the very end, she finally now heard it.

Priscilla: [My Yang Sword cuts what I want to cut, burns what I want to burn. ――And strikes what I want to strike.]

As she said this, Prisca had swung the Yang Sword―― While Arakiya fell, she had not realized it had not been the sword’s blade, but rather the hilt, that had been pointed towards her.

△▼△▼△▼△

――The boy smiled. No matter the time, he was always smiling.

Even if the color of the sky changed, even if these vast lands violently fissured, even if a natural disaster yet unseen by those blue eyes assailed upon the world, and unprecedented events tried to get in his way, he would smile.

Had he gone crazy? Yeah, he was crazy.

Had he been drunk? Yeah, he was drunk.

Not on battle. Not on alcohol. Not on love. Not on blood.

Absolutely, thoroughly, unquestionably, a maniac. Definitely, undoubtedly, unequivocally, a drunkard. That boy continued to smile.

If he did not do so――,

Boy: [――Folk who are busy wouldn’t perch their eyes on the stage of a boring actor, now would they?]

Even when nothing happens, tears could be spilled. But, was it possible that, even when nothing happens, one could smile?

If so, then smiling would be the beginning of something. Smiling, would signify that a tale was beginning to unfold.

Whether that tale had already begun, or was just beginning from here, he did not know.

That was to say, smiling was proof of one settling their resolve to rise to the stage; such was how the boy defined it.

Therefore――,

Boy: [By all means, feel free to smile, how about it? You’ve gone through great trouble to get everything fully prepared up to this point. If possible, showering you with loud laughter would feel just as good as defeating you!]

???: [――――]

Boy: [Oh, is it possible that it’s strange for me to be here? If you perhaps think that one of your allies disobeyed you and spoke about it or something, that would be a needless worry! I don’t really know why, but I just came all the way here on a hunch after all!]

Cheerfully smiling as he clapped his hands, he firmly planted his zori on the ground and stopped putting on airs.

The bulwark of the reservoir behind him had been fissured, water continuing to gush out, and standing in front of it, blocking the way, the boy―― Cecilus Segmunt, saw the figure of an antagonist before his eyes.

That was――,

???: [Whatever shall I do with you, how arduous. ――Deliberation: Required.]

――With a great number of dead people following behind her, was a Witch of short stature.

31 thoughts on “Arc 8, Chapter 9 – “Deciding to Love””

  1. I was about to go to bed but decided to refresh this page because it really just makes me happy seeing a new chapter. Thank you guys for deciding to love this series and work.

  2. After those years, she is back! I’ve even forgot about her name. WTC, thanks for that awersome translation, it was worth waiting.

    1. The man with black hair and black eyes, is an alie of the great disaster………
      Tappei was are you trying to say by that?

  3. Ohhhhhh shit sphinx you’ll definitely gonna have a painful spank in your butt
    Tnx for the translations x3

  4. HOLY.

    TAPPEI YOU-!

    EVEN WORDS ALONE CAN’T EXPRESS THE COMPLIMENT I WISH TO STATE FOR YOUR WORK.

    THANKS FOR THE TRANSLATIONS ALSO, WCT TEAM!!!

    CECILUS V. SPHINX!!!

  5. The man with black hair and black eyes, is an alie of the great disaster………
    Tappei was are you trying to say by that?

    1. At this point I’m convinced it’s the resurrected “Vincent volcanchia” (chisha) taritta has to shoot (same face as the guy who showed up in forest)

    1. There’s like 50+ ryuzu’s this is one of the ones that isn’t echidna (technically not one of the ones who works for Emilia camp either)

  6. Haven’t read side stories… but i know Sphinx is a failed ryuzu clone. Will her dying in arc 8 be anticlimatic to her character? Or is she shown to have a greater purpose from side stories?

    1. She’s connected to Stride Vollachia. The stargazer dude from c107. So I think her named chapter will show us if he had an authority or not.

  7. Arakiya GOES DOOOWN! Nice work Priscilla and Yorna…never doubted you two one bit!

    Spinx…Spinx…Now that’s a name I haven’t heard in a looong time, since I read Extra Books Volume 2 I believe?

    1. Priscilla finally used the hilt. There’s finally hope for these two sisters to make up and have a proper relationship with their mother, which Sandra’s death denied them. Plus, I’m pretty sure Schult will be happy to meet his Aunt Arakiya & learn the other half of the story Priscilla told him. Plus, I think it will be great for both Al and Arakiya, for Arakiya to see Al’s face.

  8. They fought hard on their own battles but to me subaru fought the hardest battles of them all despite he is the weaker but he won that’s makes him the HERO of both arcs despite what that blue haired Bitch said to him.

    1. She was the first to call him her hero, and she is starting to see why he introduced himself as such. It’s not her fault that she’s incomplete, & the harsh libelous statements are uncalled for, given her circumstances. Plus, she recognized his efforts in saving her from the undead and saved his life. She hasn’t yet apologized for what she said, but she recognizes him as her hero and is willing to step up to protect him.

      1. I doubt that she would apologize knowing Tappei hate for subaru he would just make him pay with some hellish loop before giving him the leverage of getting his apologie .

      1. I start cursing curses whenever I see her POV
        Since Her first kill count on Subaru
        Two Rotten apples defines what those twins are.

        1. Come back when you’re raised in a village where strength is all that protects you from death and you’re born with fighting maniac instincts, you’re only saved by your sister and your efforts feel worthless, your species is then destroyed by the witch cult and your sister grows dependent on the man who only saved you as tools for his own insane purpose, your irrational hatred of anyone bearing miasma is encouraged(haven’t read it but Roswaal apparently did so) and THEN you’re expected to treat a guest reminding you of the extinction of your species and your sister’s lost potential plus life of chronic pain and dependence on Roswaal kindly.

    1. This whole trying to hate on a character who hasn’t done anything to deserve it is sad. I wish people will just grow up already.

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