Arc 8, Chapter 19 – “Valga Cromwell’s Stratagem”

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The battle began forcibly with a salvo from the impatient Roswaal.

Roswaal: [――Please die.]

And then, in contrast to those cold words, a scorching inferno erupted as if burning the sky to nothing.

The flames furiously blazed, spreading across the night sky all at once. The inflamed sky caught the eyes of everyone, including the warriors who were still fighting against the undead with their lives on the line.

Even though the goal was just to reduce a single enemy to ashes, this was overkill.

Beatrice: [An act of barbarity akin to burning down a whole mansion in order to kill a small insect in a room, I suppose.]

Burning down a mansion to accomplish an objective was a reckless act that only Petra and Otto would dare to do.

If not for that resolve of theirs, she may have never mustered up the courage to leave the Forbidden Library; Beatrice was secretly grateful for that, but she still thought it was overdoing things.

With his first strike, Roswaal demonstrated that his overkill would not fall short of that of those two.

However――,

???: [Threat level recognized, Adjustment: Required.]

After evading through the air to escape from the burning night sky, the enemy―― Sphinx, was still going strong.

Even though they had gone through the trouble of burning down the mansion, it would be meaningless if the small insect that had been targeted were to escape. In this case, it seemed like Roswaal had only scorched the sky and startled everyone around without achieving anything.

That was, if Roswaal were the only person present here.

Beatrice: [El Minya.]

With her pink hair fluttering as she soared freely through the sky, Sphinx had been floating in the path of shimmering flashes of deep purple that had suddenly appeared. It was the pinnacle of magic that had the power to freeze the time of the target and shatter it.

It was a deadly attack that had already been verified to be the most effective against the undead.

Beatrice: [It is not good that no one except Subaru and Betty can cultivate Yin Magic, in fact.]

Against an army of undead, there would have been nothing to fear with a full line-up of Yin Magic users.

Even Beatrice, who had lived such a long time, had never witnessed a scene where more than ten Yin Magic users were all assembled in one place, so she knew it would be an impossible proposition.

With such useless thoughts, Beatrice preemptively killed all hesitation within herself.

――In order to strike down the loathsome “enemy” who wore the same face as Ryuzu Meyer.

Beatrice: [Ryuzu…]

Ryuzu Meyer’s fleeting smile passed through Beatrice’s mind.

Unlike the Ryuzus, who Garfiel and Frederica dearly loved as their grandmothers, Ryuzu Meyer, their progenitor, was Beatrice’s first lifelong friend.

At the time, she had been unable to recognize that. She had been far too late in recognizing that.

But, it was different now. Now, Beatrice could fully accept the magnitude of her presence. That was precisely why an “enemy” that took this form, as far as Beatrice was concerned――,

Beatrice: [Betty has gotten angry, I suppose!]

As Beatrice howled, she saw Sphinx charging head-on into the unleashed purple arrows.

The eyes of the “enemy” narrowed briefly as she raised both of her hands in front of her face, and white light shot out from all ten of her fingers, clearing away all the Minyas that stood in her way.

With nary a sound of shattering, the deep purple crystals had been blown apart into pieces―― But, that would not be enough to destroy Beatrice’s frustration.

Sphinx: [――Hk.]

Although Sphinx had supposedly dismissed the threat, her expression slightly contorted.

The reason being, the deep purple crystals she had cleared away had turned into flying shrapnel in their shattered state, spreading out and chasing down the fast-flying Sphinx.

Beatrice: [Magic is an image, as soon as you think you’ve stopped it, it all goes wrong, in fact.]

However, the crystalline arrow shape that represented Minya was not what was important. It was about the effect of freezing and shattering the time of the person it struck.

Indeed, even if it did not have the shape of an arrow, as long as it pierced the opponent, the form and size did not matter.

Hence, the flying shrapnel of Beatrice, with her competitive spirit alight, would not allow Sphinx to escape.

And then――,

Sphinx: [Threat level recognized, once again, Adjustment: Requi――]

???: [――Yer a hundred years too late to rethink this.]

Evading the flying Minya that would turn her to stone as she strenuously tried to escape, directly next to Sphinx was the malicious countenance of Garfiel, who had leapt off the ground with a kick.

His eyes sharp, his fangs bared, Garfiel roared like a ferocious beast, and swung his refined arms with a mighty swing in an attempt to hit Sphinx with all his might.

For a moment, Garfiel’s and Sphinx’s gazes met.

Garfiel’s hesitation to strike his fist into an opponent with the same face as that of his grandmother made his heart――,

Garfiel: [Compared to Nanna, the smell of yer heart is completely fuckin’ different――!!]

Such outfield concerns were unnecessary for the dependable military officer of the Emilia camp.

A fist was unleashed, striking Sphinx’s cheek; the girl’s body was shot from the air straight into the ground, and the fist continued to press her against the ground with tremendous force.

There was a thunderous crash and a cloud of dust that rose as if a large rock had fallen; Beatrice could see Sphinx’s body flutter like a leaf on the other side of Garfiel’s arm.

Garfiel’s blow was one of pure fury, void of any semblance of mercy or hesitation.

Were she to suffer a direct hit, even one shot would likely reduce Beatrice to Mana; Sphinx was blown away as she rolled behind the plume.

Roswaal: [It’s a three-person encirclement. That was some nice teamwork, waaasn’t~ it?]

Beatrice: [Says the guy who lost his temper first, I suppose.]

Garfiel: [Teamwork with ya is fuckin’ disgustin’.]

As Roswaal shrugged his shoulders, as if to say that he was completely unperturbed, Beatrice and Garfiel each responded with abusive language.

Receiving such cold treatment, Roswaal shrugged his shoulders once more.

And then――,

???: […Once again, threat level… recognized. Adjustment… Required.]

So Sphinx muttered while her body on the ground moved slowly, with the plume beginning to settle.

Felled to the ground and coated in dirt, Sphinx did not show any expression of pain, but it was clear that she had accumulated damage from the sound of her voice.

Sphinx: [――――]

Still, her golden irises shone as she trained her gaze on the three of them.

They were not filled with feelings of hostility or anger, but rather a monstrous gaze of intelligence that saw them as nothing but targets of her curiosity.

Garfiel: [Tch, don’t like this.]

Like Beatrice, Garfiel felt a chill go down his spine at the gaze of his enemy and clicked his tongue. Roswaal narrowed his eyes in silence as well, and began to knead mana within himself in obvious discomfort.

Once again, Roswaal gave a sidelong glance wondering if he should rush ahead, and Beatrice glared at Sphinx as she stood up, then immediately moved forward.

Acting as the representative for the unreliable pair, she would try and divine her true intentions――,

Beatrice: [Sphinx, Betty dares to call you out, in fact. Just what are you――]

Thinking?; It happened when Beatrice tried to finish her question.

Sphinx: [――――]

Now standing up, Sphinx’s body trembled, and her gaze fell on her own chest.

From Sphinx’s small chest protruded the tip of a blade. It was a deadly blade that had stabbed her in the back and jutted out of her chest.

And, the one who was holding the blade was――,

???: [I have a bad feeling about this girl. There are no reasons to keep her alive.]

Mizelda, who had stated so in a brutal manner, pulled out the dagger that had stabbed her, and then stabbed her again.

After three concentrated stabs had bored through the back and chest, she grabbed Sphinx by the hair and forced her head upward, then mercilessly slit her neck with a dagger held in a backhand grip.

It was the body of an undead. No blood was spilled, but there was no doubt that all of it was lethal.

Sphinx’s body also fell forward onto her knees, then collapsed face down.

Beatrice: [Y-y-you… Hk.]

Beside the collapsed Sphinx, Mizelda made sure that no blood had gotten on her knife; upon witnessing this, Beatrice was frozen still as she stared with widened eyes, at a complete loss for words.

Roswaal and Garfiel were also left speechless at Mizelda’s actions.

Mizelda tilted her head, beautiful and with eyes that conveyed a strong impression as it was, at the state of the three of them,

Mizelda: [I know that she had a history with you guys. But, speak at her grave. That’s the battlefield custom.]

Garfiel: [Well, I guess that’s true…]

It was a blunt outlook, but Garfiel resigned himself to the fact that it was irrefutable.

Beatrice had been frequently surprised by the sense of values in Vollachia, but she had altered her perception of their severity, believing her perception to have been naive still.

Roswaal: [Sphinx.]

Roswaal, ignoring Beatrice’s and Garfiel’s turmoil, stepped forward. He looked down at the collapsed Sphinx and called out her name in a sidelong glance that showed little emotion.

Mizelda’s blow, a fatal one, was evident not only in the location of the wounds, but also in the way Sphinx’s body crumbled.

Most of her lower body had already been reduced to dust, and the girl’s face, on which cracks had been present from the start, was beginning to crumble away, and it would only be a matter of time before her whole body was shattered to pieces.

However, Sphinx’s life force as an undead had yet to be exhausted.

She had no power to counterattack or struggle in vain, but she had enough energy remaining to move her golden irises and look back toward Roswaal, who was looking down at her.

Roswaal: [――――]

Even though he knew she was a different person inside, it still pained his heart to see Ryuzu’s appearance crumble.

What Roswaal was feeling was probably different from Beatrice’s sentimentality, but Mizelda’s thorough realism had gotten in the way, and perhaps deprived her of the means to alleviate that sentimentality.

In any case, the main culprit behind the anguish of Beatrice, Garfiel, and Roswaal was――,

Sphinx: […Deliberation, should have been: Required.]

In the midst of her body crumbling, one could hear Sphinx mumbling, never showing any signs of pain on her face.

At first, Beatrice thought those were words lamenting her own lack of ability.

Sphinx: [――For you three.]

However, the words that followed indicated otherwise.

Beatrice caught her breath at the added words, and Garfiel groaned, “Huh?”

Beatrice, as well, was not quite sure of their true meaning. But, she could sense that it was not a throwaway line that could be ignored.

From there――,

Roswaal: [――Damn it!]

Roswaal looked up as if he had been played.

He had a look of impatience and remorse on his face, and turned around toward the rear. ――Back behind, to the sky he had flown through with Beatrice, towards the coupled dragon carriages that were still advancing forward.

Likewise, drawn in by Roswaal’s unease, Beatrice also turned to face there.

Then, while she was struck by the turmoil in her own small chest,

Beatrice: [――Subaru.]

So she had called out his name.

△▼△▼△▼△

An instant, yes, everything happened in an instant.

Having taken notice of something out of place, immediately after he vocalized his doubts, everything had been engulfed by a white light.

Emilia, who was by his side, Rem, and even Julius, none of them were given a chance to react. Naturally, Subaru was also unable to do anything as the white light swallowed everything up, and vanished.

Natsuki Subaru immediately intuited what that meant.

――That his life had been expended, and Return by Death had been invoked.

As proof of that――,

???: [――I love you.]

As if to say that she would never let him go again having found him once, he heard the whisper of her voice.

???: [Um, would it be alright if we dealt with my confusion first?]

The moment that he heard that voice, filled with equal parts astonishment and exhaustion along with a tinge of irritation, Subaru flipped on the “Ready, GO!” switch inside of him.

Subaru: [――――]

Verifying his footing and the situation around him, he discerned the specific moment from the faces that were present.

The scene was in a corridor of the coupled dragon carriages, when Rem had joined in on the conversation he was having with Emilia and Julius. From the flow of the conversation, Subaru’s last remark was “Perhaps, Priscilla may have told her some unnecessary things in Guaral…”, which was made in deliberation over Rem’s state. Towards the front of the coupled dragon carriages, Abel, Otto, and some others were working through the details regarding military potential. Beatrice had been sent off quite far away together with Roswaal, and they were taking an approach from a magical perspective in order to find means to counter the undead. The two were headed to the place where Garfiel and the People of Shudraq were fighting hard, alongside all the members of the Pleiades Battalion who should have also been there. The feeling akin to a prayer for nobody to get seriously injured, along with the faith that if it was them, they would be alright, caused his heart to feel obstreperous.

――With that, having flipped the switch, Subaru ran through everything up to that point in an instant.

???: [Subaru?]

In a surprised voice, Emilia called out Subaru’s name. For a moment, her eyes must have caught the rapid movement of Subaru’s eyes darting round and round.

Once before, after having seen Subaru in the same state, Tanza had pointed it out.

Tanza: [Schwartz-sama’s eyes were darting around all over the place. It was, um, eerie.]

That was Tanza’s comment, choosing her words carefully and yet still unable to find the right ones, concerning Subaru’s unusual behavior as he endeavored to grasp the situation immediately after Returning by Death.

Having laid eyes upon the same thing, Emilia’s reaction being much more reserved was understandable.

Anyway――,

Subaru: [Emilia, wait a sec.]

As he raised his hand to avoid being questioned, Subaru’s awareness was sharpened to a knife’s edge.

In an environment where retrying upon death was a given, the very intuition that had been essential in ensuring the survival of everyone on the Gladiator Island enveloped Subaru, and in order to investigate the cause that brought about his Death, his concentration was exerted to its utmost limit.

This was no time to be fussing over overly sluggish thoughts such as “Did I just die?”.

Without the intuition that could catch up to reality by saying “If I just died…”, he would never be able to arrive at a solution.

It was absolutely essential for him to understand that if he could not make that switch quickly, it would cause Subaru and those around him to lose their lives twice as many times.

Rem: [――? Um…]

Emilia: [Rem, please.]

Next to Subaru, who was concentrating, Rem with her eyebrows slightly knitted looked at him with questioning eyes. But, Emilia stopped her from questioning with a gesture of her hand, as if holding her back.

Meanwhile, Subaru had finished correlating his Death with the events just prior to Returning by Death――,

Subaru: [――――]

Outside the window of the coupled dragon carriage as it ran, he once again caught sight of the foreign object blending into the landscape.

Instantly, Subaru jumped toward the window of the dragon carriage and,

Subaru: [――Julius! Outside!]

Julius: [Understood!]

Emilia and Rem had felt the sudden change in Subaru, and naturally, so did Julius.

The fact that he had sprung into action with nary a moment’s hesitation upon Subaru’s call was proof of that. Behind Subaru as he jumped towards the window, Julius drew his Knight’s sword, slashing the wall of the corridor with a diagonal swipe, and extended his long leg, kicking it down.

Then, carrying Subaru under his arm, he leaped outside of the effective range of the Divine Protection of Wind Evasion from the numerous ground dragons.

Julius: [Leave the landing to me!]

Subaru: [I’m counting on you.]

The moment they exited the Divine Protection’s range, fierce winds and inertia battered Subaru and Julius. But, Subaru passed all the preparations for survival over to Julius, who took it upon himself.

Two Quasi Spirits of hues yellow and green gently emerged around Julius, with one turning into a blanket of wind and the other turning the ground into a cushion to support their landing.

Julius’s technique, woven together by his renewed bond with his Quasi Spirits, was masterful, however, Subaru’s attention was not drawn to it in the slightest. [1]

Even when the window he had jumped through was cut off alongside the wall, even when he elegantly landed in through the wind storm that followed, his gaze remained fixed on a single point―― the girl who was descending from the sky.

Subaru: [I knew it, the same as Ryuzu-san…]

With her pink hair and black robes, she was identical to the lovely, elderly lady Ryuzu. But, no matter how much Emilia and the others were worried about Subaru and Rem, they would not have dragged Ryuzu to the Vollachian Empire.

In other words, that could not have been the real Ryuzu, nor was there any possibility that it was any of the replicants, like Pico or the others, all of whom took the same form as Ryuzu.

In order to tell them apart, they had all been given different hairstyles, individual ribbons, and hair ornaments. The fact that none of those were present meant that it could not be any of them.

Subaru: [Julius! It’s that girl! Seize her!]

Subaru shouted, pointing to the fake Ryuzu in the air, before they had even landed on the ground.

Hearing Subaru’s request, Julius also spotted the girl blending into the night sky. Leaving all questions about who or what she was doing behind, the Finest jumped into action.

Dropping Subaru on the soft soil beneath his feet, Julius’s body was enveloped in the remnants of the blanket of wind, using it as a foothold to leap through the air and advance towards the fake Ryuzu in a straight line.

Because of his extraordinary momentum, the fake Ryuzu also recognized him as a threat.

That instant, he realized that the eyes of the fake Ryuzu shone a brilliant golden radiance even at night, and understood that she was a pale-skinned undead, something he had not been able to recognize from a distance.

Without any delay, the fake Ryuzu directed her hand towards Julius, and as she was about to unleash an abominable white light at Julius――,

Julius: [――In, Ness, lend me your strength.]

A white light, different to the one alight on the fake Ryuzu’s fingertips, made Julius’s whole body faintly luminescent, and in turn, a black light faintly enveloped the fake Ryuzu’s whole body.

The moment it became clear that Yang Magic and Yin Magic were being simultaneously employed by the two Quasi Spirits respectively, Julius’s sword flashed, and the strength drained from the fake Ryuzu’s arm, which had been housing light.

Fake Ryuzu: [Explanation: Required.]

Julius: [I cut the tendon in your shoulder. Of course, it will likely reconnect soon…]

Julius sincerely replied to the fake Ryuzu, who asked the reason for the lack of strength in her arm. At the end of his answer, Julius twisted in mid-air, and his long, howling leg struck the floating girl, knocking her body to the ground.

At the spot where the fake Ryuzu fell, the ground transformed together with a yellow light. The ground, which had become viscous, softly and deeply received the girl’s body, and then hardened all at once.

As a result, the fake Ryuzu was stuck, as if wrapped in a quilt made of stone.

Julius: [I recommend you do not resist. If you fail to heed this warning, I will treat you as an enemy, be you alive or dead.]

Fake Ryuzu: [――――]

His sword thrust before the fake Ryuzu, who lay on her back atop the ground, Julius declared.

Having thus rendered his opponent powerless, Julius nodded to Subaru, who had ascertained that for himself. Having had no choice but to watch the sequence of events go down, Subaru scratched his cheek with his finger,

Subaru: [No, that’s what I had wanted you to do… but seriously, this guy. Clearly, you’ve gotten a lot stronger than you were before.]

His style of fighting with the support of the Quasi Spirits was more sophisticated and refined than before.

Contracted with Quasi Spirits of six different attributes, the Spirit Knight displayed his hybrid fighting style, combining both magic and swordsmanship.

???: [Wow, amazing, you took her down in the blink of an eye.]

And from behind Subaru, running across the grass, was Emilia.

It seemed like she had jumped off the dragon carriage in pursuit of Subaru and Julius, her eyes widened when she saw that she would have no opportunity to do anything because of Julius’s brilliant skill.

Subaru: [Emilia-tan, what about Rem?]

Emilia: [I asked her to tell Otto-kun and the others that you and Julius jumped out. I needed to hurry, too, so I followed you right away, but still]

Subaru: [No, it’s not that you were slow, Emilia-tan. It’s that this guy was too fast. Also, it was the right choice to not bring Rem here.]

It seemed possible that if it was the current Rem, she might have come down with Emilia, but thanks to the latter’s good judgment, she would not get wrapped up in any danger.

When he thought about it, he reconsidered Rem would have definitely jumped down if she did have her Memories, so Emilia was very correct in instructing her to stay behind anyway.

In any case――,

Emilia: [This isn’t Ryuzu-san, right?]

Subaru: [She looks exactly like her, but there’s no doubt she’s a zombie. Come to think of it, could someone like Beako or Ryuzu-san become zombies…?]

He did not even want to think about Beatrice or Ryuzu dying, but there was room to question whether zombification was possible for these women, whose bodies were composed differently to those of normal creatures.

In reality, since there was an undead that took the form of Ryuzu, her origins should have been the same as Ryuzu’s unless she was a miraculous look-alike.

In that case, they would conduct an investigation without needing to give it a second thought, so Subaru and Emilia headed over to the fake Ryuzu, who had been captured by Julius.

Julius: [This is a zombie that is able to think and speak. Subaru, please be careful.]

Subaru: [Yeah. Actually, there’s a high chance she’s way more dangerous than her appearance suggests. Emilia-tan, could you also be careful and keep an eye out?]

Emilia: [Yeah, leave it to me. If you behave, umm…]

Entrusted to be vigilant, Emilia roused herself, but found herself lost at what to say to the fake Ryuzu.

It was doubtful whether the warning, “If you don’t resist, we won’t hurt you,” would be meaningful against an undead. Nevertheless, they must never let their guard down.

This small existence had just utterly blown away the coupled dragon carriages holding Subaru and the others in the span of a breath.

Even if her four limbs were bound, it was uncertain if she was perfectly immobilized.

Subaru: [Sure is a shame that your preemptive strike failed.]

Fake Ryuzu: [――. You are…]

Subaru: [My name is… is what I would say from my conditioned reflex to give my name, but I’m not trying to be friends with you. It’s fine if our relationship remains with you being a dangerous person, and me being the one who hindered your plans.]

Fake Ryuzu: [I see, you are a strangely capable person. At first glance, you seem to have no outstanding ability though.]

The fake Ryuzu, lying sprawled on the ground and looking up at Subaru, expressed her views.

He had grown accustomed to being underestimated, so he was not upset with that assessment. Beside him, it seemed Emilia wanted to say something, but Julius shook his head to stop her.

In any event――,

Subaru: [No other zombies are coming. Did you just go ahead on your own because you could fly? If you rushed ahead thinking you could beat us, that’s too bad.]

In reality, he had already been killed once by her preemptive attack, but he would not let that be known.

If his provocation would make the opponent speak up, it would be profitable. However, it seemed that her skin turning pale was not just for show, and no emotional response was given.

But, it was a cliché for this type of person to be tempted to show off their intelligence by making repetitive statements that ran contrary to their objectives.

If necessary, Subaru was ready to put on the performance of a lifetime as the stupidest child he could manage.

However――,

Fake Ryuzu: [――Valga Cromwell.]

Subaru: [Huh?]

Suddenly, the lips of the girl lying there uttered an unfamiliar term.

――No, it sounded like something he had heard somewhere before, but Subaru could not immediately recall when that was or what it was about.

While Subaru furrowed his brow at that doubt, Emilia and Julius had a different reaction.

Both of them reacted as if they knew the name.

But, before Emilia or the others could question the fake Ryuzu’s words――,

Fake Ryuzu: [This was a stratagem of his that had not been carried out at the time.]

Indeed, the fake Ryuzu had been the one to continue first.

Thus, the development thereafter also connected seamlessly, giving no room for the question that had already been delayed from being asked once.

Emilia: [Subaru!!]

A moment later, Subaru saw Emilia’s facial expression change, and he was forcefully pulled into her arms. As it was, Emilia gnashed her molars, and created a wall of ice around Subaru, Julius, and herself.

Inside the wall of ice, Julius also readied his Knight’s sword, which had been aimed at the fake Ryuzu near his feet, and clad himself with the rainbow light of the concentrated power of his six Quasi Spirits.

In response to the forthcoming danger, Emilia and Julius had completed their preparations in an instant.

Then they would――,

Subaru: [――Wha…]

――A white light rained down from beyond the sky, wiping them all out at once as if in a cruel mockery.

△▼△▼△▼△

???: [Um, would it be alright if we dealt with my confusion first?]

Subaru: [――Hk.]

The voice of Rem, filled with equal parts bewilderment, exhaustion, and irritation, was heard, and Subaru took a short breath.

The feeling of remorse at being unable to avert the arrival of the Death, which unlike last time, he knew was coming, along with the trembling of his soul caused by the shock he had anticipated, pummeled Subaru’s heart from within.

――He had completely misjudged the cause of his Death.

This was the result of latching on to the most obvious visible change, and the conceited thought that he had prevented it.

The first time, the interval between noticing the existence of the fake Ryuzu and then Death was too short, causing him to miss what had actually happened.

The absurdly powerful white light that had obliterated Subaru and the others had not been released by the fake Ryuzu, but had rather originated from somewhere else.

Emilia: [Subaru?]

Subaru: [——. Emilia, just wait a little.]

Noticing Subaru’s introspection, Emilia tilted her head, to which he raised a hand in response.

Pausing his introspection, he cast aside all regrets. While there was still room for growth in reflection, regret was nothing but self-pity towards something one wished they could have done.

With that, neither the self that he had pitied, nor all the others whom he had ignored, would be saved.

That, he would not allow. That, he would absolutely, never allow.

At that moment, the fake Ryuzu had mentioned the name “Valga Cromwell”. Subaru had still yet to understand what it meant, but Emilia and Julius seemed to have recognized it. Perhaps he should ask for more details. ――No, that could wait. Even if he found out who this Valga was, the wrath of the white light that followed would not simply disappear. That attack was very much real, and more so, it was an outrageously powerful danger that stood in the way of Subaru and the others. It needed to be dealt with, but was it possible to prevent it from being fired in the first place? It was impossible for the situation with the fake Ryuzu and that attack to be unrelated, but would she, an undead being, be willing to negotiate? If she was an undead that could communicate, would it not be dangerous to close the door on negotiations? No, if she could be reasoned with, then she would not have tried to kill them outright with no dialogue. Whether she could be reasoned with or not, in order to sit around the negotiations table, a table first needed to be set――.

Rem: [――? Um…]

???: [Rem, please.]

Beside Subaru, whose thoughts were sparking in full throttle, Emilia stopped Rem’s question.

The flow of events was the same as before, however, from this point on, it had to be steered toward a different progression. Within his mind, he processed everything that had happened in order, and in order to get off this railtrack that ended in Death, a change had to be made at this critical juncture.

For that reason――,

Subaru: [――Julius! Outside! Emilia, you come too!]

Julius: [Understood!]

Emilia: [Yes! Got it!]

The moment that he glimpsed the form of the young girl outside the window, the harbinger of the Death that would soon arrive, he jumped towards the window and called out to Emilia and Julius behind him.

Without hesitation, Julius’s sword strike sliced through the wall of the coupled dragon carriage, and once the wall was kicked down, Subaru and the other two headed outside. Just before they escaped the range of the Divine Protection of Wind Evasion, he yelled.

Subaru: [――Rem! I need a favor!]

So he declared.

△▼△▼△▼△

A long leg flashed, a kick knocked the fake Ryuzu to the ground, the changed nature of the earth caught the body of the undead, and once again, an earthen quilt restrained her entire body.

Julius: [I recommend you do not resist. If you fail to heed this warning, I will treat you as an enemy, be you alive or dead.]

Fake Ryuzu: [――――]

Right beside her as she lay on the ground, the fake Ryuzu stared at Julius, who thrust his sword before her. She may have been marveling at Julius’s elegant skill, but his fighting style had not capitalized on any advantages from Subaru’s Return by Death.

Seeing Julius, who had dominated his opponent with his pure ability, Subaru clenched his fist.

Emilia: [This isn’t Ryuzu-san, right?]

In a split second, Julius neutralized his opponent and Emilia, who had jumped down from the coupled dragon carriages at the same time, furrowed her shapely eyebrows at the fake Ryuzu by his feet.

Subaru, too, did not know the true identity of the fake Ryuzu. But, he knew that she was an undead, both willing and capable of doing harm to Subaru and the others; outside of that, he knew nothing.

Subaru: [The way they look is identical, but she is neither Ryuzu-san nor Pico or the others. More importantly, put me down and be on guard! Get ready, Emilia!]

Emilia: [Be on guard? Even though that girl has already been taken care of by Julius?]

Subaru: [Something bigger is coming. Something that can kill us if we’re not prepared.]

Saying that, Subaru jumped down from Emilia’s arms.

This time, Emilia was left to cover the landing, and Julius was asked to immediately restrain the fake Ryuzu. With that, Subaru nodded to the surprised Emilia and rushed toward Julius, who was restraining the fake Ryuzu,

Subaru: [Good work! But there’s more to come! There is going to be a huge shot coming from beyond the sky! If we don’t stop it, we’re all in big danger!]

Julius: [From the sky?]

Subaru: [Emilia, take deep breaths as well!]

Skipping over the minor details, Subaru pointed to Emilia behind him.

There, with her arms spread wide, Emilia was taking slow, long, deep breaths. Her concentration was improving in preparation for what was to come.

Julius nodded his head at that, and the Quasi Spirits of six colors gathered around him.

Fake Ryuzu: [――. You are…]

Quickly, both Emilia and Julius hurried their preparations, and the fake Ryuzu, who was restrained to the ground, gazed at Subaru with skepticism.

With the current exchange, she understood quickly that the cause of her head being pinned down was Subaru’s quick comprehension. But, the fake Ryuzu’s surprise did not end there.

Subaru: [Valga Cromwell.]

Fake Ryuzu: [――――]

Subaru: [That’s the name of your military strategist, isn’t it?]

Closing one eye, Subaru conveyed to the fake Ryuzu that he saw through her plans.

In truth, neither the intentions of the fake Ryuzu nor even the identity of Valga Cromwell were known to him, but it was a bluffing technique that did not reveal that fact.

The information that had come from the fake Ryuzu herself, was now causing the fake Ryuzu to be astonished.

In fact, up until now she had remained expressionless, but now her cheeks stiffened, and she was looking at Subaru with more intensity in her eyes than ever before.

Fake Ryuzu: [I had thought prudence necessary for the magic user and the Spirit Knight. But it seems for you, too. Attention: Required.]

Subaru: […Your stratagem has been seen through. Be graceful and accept your defeat.]

Subaru tried to continue bluffing. But, since a bluff could not affect the spirit of the fake Ryuzu, it meant her planning had been different altogether.

The fake Ryuzu’s stratagem, it was not the kind that would fail if it was seen through.

Fake Ryuzu: [Valga’s stratagem, is something that cannot be prevented even if it is perceived.]

At that moment, that white light from beyond the sky aimed at Subaru and his friends―― no, it did not.

The white light came, not aimed at Subaru and his friends, but at the fake Ryuzu lying on the ground, unleashed to obliterate everything atop the surface.

Emilia: [――Subaru!!]

Before the imminent light of Death annihilated Subaru’s existence, Emilia reached out her hands and deployed an ice barrier, which violently collided head-on with it.

At the same time, Subaru was pulled up by his collar and his body fell to the ground at Emilia’s feet. In front of Subaru’s eyes, the fake Ryuzu, who was closer to the light than Subaru, was engulfed by the white light, and disappeared.

Perhaps this had always been the case.

That white light was something unleashed aiming for the fake Ryuzu. Her presence became the marker for the white light to aim at, and the aftermath of the impact swallowed Subaru and the others, as well as the coupled dragon carriage.

She became a living target of overwhelmingly powerful bombardment as she traveled into the midst of the enemy. ――No, since she had died, she was a dead target. Either way, the one who had originally proposed that was completely crazy.

Subaru: [That damn idiot Valga Cromwell――!!]

Julius: [Al Clauseria!!]

Subaru’s heartfelt cry was met by Julius’s incantation as he thrust the tip of his sword toward the light.

A rainbow aurora was born, its brilliance collided with the white light like a wall; it just barely restrained the light enough to prevent it from shattering the several ice barriers created by Emilia.

A white light of destruction, and the protective ice wall clad in an aurora.

Unlike the last time, when they had no choice but to face it without sufficient preparation, there was time to formulate strategies against the white light. This was the reason why Emilia and Julius were able to resist the attack compared to the last time.

But, even still――,

Emilia: [Ugh, yaaaah――Hk!]

Julius: [Guh, kuu… Hk.]

With desperation in their voices, Emilia and Julius fought against the white light.

But, for this to be something that even the combined efforts of these two could not overcome, just how powerful was it? Unable to do anything in this situation, Subaru could only support Emilia’s back as she stood her ground.

Subaru: [Hang in there! You two, keep it up!]

Clenching down on his molars, and unable to provide physical support, Subaru shouted out psychological support.

It would have been nice if that roused the two of them and gave them the strength to extinguish the white light completely, but things did not tend to go so smoothly.

No matter what the situation, salvation would not be suddenly offered out of the void.

No matter how much one wished or prayed, one could not play cards that they had not been dealt in the game.

That was why――,

???: [――Ya did well callin’ for me, so darn praiseworthy.]

Indeed, hearing a carefree voice that contrasted the urgency of the situation, Subaru held his breath.

Somebody had walked out next to them. Then, the person gave Subaru’s head a pat with their large hand and walked out in front of Emilia and Julius, as though they were merely taking a relaxed stroll.

Those two were also surprised by the sudden behavior of the person, but――,

???: [Here’s the deadspot.] [2]

As soon as they said it, the figure advanced in front of the three, and swung the arm they had taken out of its sleeves, tossing something into the white light.

The light possessed the power to swallow everything and turn it into dust. Beyond the barrier that Emilia and Julius had used to hold it back, that too would be swallowed up and then disappear.

Or, so it had seemed.

Emilia: [No way…]

Letting out a voice akin to a gasp, Emilia’s amethyst eyes widened.

Reflected in her beautiful eyes was not the white Death that had been so close at hand, in fact, that had disappeared entirely; and instead reflected was the night sky, covered with thick clouds that had now been hollowed out in the shape of the light.

Witnessing the same thing, both Subaru and Julius were left speechless.

The aurora-clad ice wall that had collided with the light had also disappeared, and the fake Ryuzu, who had used herself as a target, disappeared into the light, leaving nothing behind――,

???: [Was thanks ta that blue Oni girl who went ‘n came callin’ for me. But, the three of ya did a real darn good job hangin’ in there. How ‘bout I give ya some candy?]

While saying that, having just wiped away the overwhelming Death with his own hand, the wolfperson―― the strongest of the City-States, turned around and gave a huge grin at Subaru and his friends, utterly dumbfounded as they were.

Then, his hand rummaged around in his clothing, and while tilting his head with a kiseru still in his mouth,

???: [Ah, oops, I ain’t got no candy on me.]

With that, he waved his empty hand about in the air, causing the exhausted Subaru to fall on his buttocks.

 

Translation Note:

[1] – Here Julius’s Spirits (精霊) are referred to as Quasi Spirits (準精霊). In Arc 6 they were elevated from Quasi to regular Spirits, so this is either a mistake from the author, or due to Subaru’s POV being under the effects of infantilization, causing him to forget this detail.

[2] – In the original Japanese, the term “deadspot” (死穴) is a combination of the kanji for “death” and “hole”. This is not a real word in Japanese, however, it is in Chinese, and there it means “weak spot” or “weak point”.

33 thoughts on “Arc 8, Chapter 19 – “Valga Cromwell’s Stratagem””

      1. He was how do we know he still is over there with them he did not appear in Meili’s Witchbeast Observations with felt so I don’t know if that is intentional.

  1. I do love how the moment Subaru returns he at this point where he’s ready to get to action and not even question his death!

    Also how Emilia and Julius are ready to go the moment he gives a order without questioning it.

    1. Yeah, all three of them handled the situation perfectly. And it resulted in ONLY two deaths!

      God, I hate how much Subaru dying has been trivialized in Vollachia. Really, Arc 6 was also not good for this, but at least there it made sense considering they were up against legends of ancient times.

    1. Pffft, OP, who cares? Let’s ask the real questions, like where is the candy and why he ain’t giving it to me?

  2. This might just be the fastest resolved RBD in the series so far.
    It’s truly impressive.
    I do feel bad for the others in all the what-if timelines Subaru seems to have forgotten though.

    1. Wish such a thing would happen more often. After awhile the stacks of death feel like the plot is just being dragged out for the sake of filler.

    2. Glady for them, they dont exist. Subaru goes back in time in the same world, so no what-if branches exist. This was proved in arc 6.

        1. Books of the Dead, that’s your citation. If Subaru had been going to parallel universes, there would have been no Subaru books of the dead, because he never would have died in that universe.

  3. Esse Valga Cromwell é o vô Rom ji ou só um gigante parecido com ele ?
    O Subaru quando retorna pela morte pela segunda vez ou terceira…o pensamento dele deveria ser 2 e 3 vezes mais rápido consecutivamente não ? Ele já tinha se adaptado a situação antes, então ficar se adaptado toda vez agora que ele tá mais inteligente não é errado ? O Subaru pequeno é mias ousado…kk
    Obrigado pelo capítulo!

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