Arc 8, Chapter 20 – “The Two Lights”

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???: [――The identity of the enemy has become clear. The Witch’s failure that once wreaked havoc in the Kingdom… a being by the name of Sphinx, the worst kind of monster.]

An emergency meeting had been convened once again in the coupled dragon carriages, and Roswaal, who had rushed back from the battlefield, looked over everyone assembled and gave such an explanation.

Sphinx―― that was the name of the fake Ryuzu that Subaru’s group had faced.

Also――,

???: [You said she rampaged in the Kingdom, when did that happen?]

Roswaal: [――Approximately forty years ago, in the midst of the Demi-Human War.]

???: [――Hk!]

Hearing Roswaal’s response, Subaru’s eyes widened in surprise.

The Demi-Human War was an incident that frequently came up in conversation, but it was an event that had taken place exclusively within the Kingdom of Lugunica, the stage for the civil war. To think that he would hear about it even when in the Vollachian Empire.

???: [As per the records, during the Demi-Human War, Sphinx was among the three people on the demi-human side who required the most caution. I have heard that her deep knowledge of magic significantly escalated the horrors of the Demi-Human War.]

???: [I think I also came across that name while studying the history of the Kingdom. That and, the name Subaru mentioned as well… Valga Cromwell, right?]

???: [――. Indeed. That name also corresponds to one of the individuals who warranted caution.]

Having actually confronted the fake Ryuzu―― Sphinx, and experienced the threat she posed, Emilia and Julius also referenced the other name that had been mentioned at that time.

To them, it must have seemed like Subaru had suddenly thrown out that name, but by judging from Sphinx’s reaction to it, they understood that she and the named individual were not unrelated.

Then again, Subaru himself had not been aware that it was the name of a person involved with the Demi-Human War.

Subaru: [In other words, our enemies are Sphinx and this Valga Cromwell guy, and the people who rampaged during the Demi-Human War are now on a rampage in the Empire? I don’t really get why…]

???: [The Demi-Human War was already over forty years ago. I’ve also studied the history of the Kingdom, ‘n I know ‘bout what the demi-human side was advocatin’ for durin’ the civil war… I feel this situation ain’t alignin’ with that.]

Subaru: [Right. Anyway, I’m just glad that Beako and the others are safe, but…]

In the past, Sphinx and Valga had wreaked havoc in the Kingdom, but it was illogical that these two would now be rampaging in the Empire, so both Subaru and Anastasia tilted their heads in doubt.

At this rate, it seemed likely that the last of the three people to be wary of from the civil war, would also turn out to be an enemy.

???: [That’s impossible, in fact. The last person… the one named Libre Fermi, was confirmed to be in the library of the Pleiades Watchtower, I suppose. There is no doubt that he is counted among the dead, in fact.]

Snuggling up to Subaru’s side, Beatrice negated his worry.

Ever since hearing about the predicament in which Subaru’s group had found themselves in, Beatrice, who had literally flown back with Roswaal, had firmly resolved to not leave Subaru’s side.

For Subaru as well, letting her go to the battlefield had been heartrending, so he was more than willing to accept Beatrice’s cute resolve.

Anyhow――,

Subaru: [So we can rest easy if they had a Book of the Dead… but is it really okay to say that? We’re dealing with zombies, so I’m starting to feel like it’s natural that it was there.]

Julius: [If that is the case, it is a frightening prospect. The possibility that we may not just be dealing with ordinary zombies, but with the likes of heroes or villains whose names have been engraved into history.]

Subaru: [The heroes engraved into history, huh…? Hey, you aren’t gonna get too excited, right?]

Julius: [Regrettably, I have already confronted Reid Astrea. Thus, I am disciplining myself as to not harbor excessive expectations.]

Julius shrugged his shoulders, and Subaru gave him a doubtful look.

In fact, when the topic of Reid had come up at the tower, it became more evident that Julius was a history geek. He had also properly settled matters with Reid. He was not the kind of man who would fall behind, but Subaru doubted his remark that he could keep his composure when facing an eminent figure.

???: [Now is not the time to be talking about that… For the time being, Natsuki-san’s group has been able to stop one of the opponent’s trump cards, but it was not perfect. The good news is that Sphinx, who seemed to have been a formidable opponent, is out of the picture this early, but…]

???: [Sorry ‘bout this, Ottobro. Truth is, can’t be sayin’ that for sure.]

Otto: [Huh?]

As Garfiel, with his arms crossed as he grit his fangs, told that to him with poor enunciation, Otto widened his eyes. Staring fixedly at Otto, Garfiel had returned from the battlefield with his whole body covered with dirt, and he gestured to Beatrice and Roswaal with each of his hands,

Garfiel: [That Sphinx fucker was in front of my amazin’ self, Beatrice, ‘n that bastard. That face she wore, it pissed me the hell off, like, ya gotta be fuckin’ kiddin’ me…]

Emilia: [Yeah, that’s right. She had the same face as Ryuzu-san. That must have been reaaally tough for Garfiel.]

Garfiel: [Well, if she ain’t my Nanna, she ain’t my Nanna, no matter how much she looks like her. That’s why I didn’t have any hesitation to fight her. Problem’s what happened after.]

Emilia: [After?]

As Emilia tilted her head, Garfiel nodded deeply.

His brave countenance was unusually clouded over, and with a sigh he said,

Garfiel: [――There’s no doubt that our amazin’ selves took down that Sphinx. Saw her shatter to pieces with my own eyes, to the point that it was like “Rigirigi’s Wasted Trump Card”. That was…] [1]

Beatrice: [That was Sphinx’s goal, I suppose.]

Taking over Garfiel’s conclusion, Beatrice squeezed Subaru’s hand tightly.

She gripped Subaru’s fingers so tightly that they turned white, indicating the extent of the shock that Sphinx’s goal brought to Beatrice.

Looking fondly at Beatrice, Roswaal continued, “Allow me to conclude,”

Roswaal: [Sphinx certainly died in front of us, she then died once more in front of Subaru-kun and his group. What can be inferred from this is plain and simple… Sphinx is able to die several times, and each time, she can be resurrected as a zombie.]

Subaru: [Wha…!?]

Roswaal: [Perhaps making it even worse, the next resurrected zombie could be aware of her previous death and the circumstances that caused it. In other words, she could know that Subaru-kun and Halibel-dono were the main factors that stopped her plan to blow away the coupled dragon carriage.]

Everyone: [――――]

Though it was just conjecture, Roswaal explained a dreadful thought at the very end.

But, there were many parts they could certainly agree with. In the midst of the destructive light that rained down, while being exposed to a blow that would reduce her to dust, Sphinx did not seem the least bit distraught.

When facing their own death, there existed people who remained unfazed.

However, if Sphinx’s lack of reaction to Death was because she had not considered it to be Death, it strangely made sense to Subaru.

Subaru: [It’s just like…]

――Return by Death, Subaru thought, though he did not say it out loud.

Thinking that losing one’s own life was not a detriment, but rather, that it could even be a weapon used to accomplish a devastating attack. The functional difference was the fact that the reality of Death itself would not disappear.

Come to think of it, rather than Subaru’s Return by Death, it may have been more comparable to the troublesome “possession” ability of Petelgeuse, who he had once fought against.

Julius: [No matter how many times they are defeated, hm?]

For a moment, as Julius muttered that, his gaze met with Subaru’s.

Perhaps Julius, like Subaru, had compared the troublesome nature of Sphinx to Petelgeuse. Though unlike Petelgeuse, Sphinx did not “possess” others, so perhaps this could be called Escape by Death――,

Subaru: [If you can’t defeat them, no matter how many times you try, then there is one sure way to defeat such a person: just keep defeating them until they run out of spare lives, that’s it!]

Emilia: [Spaer laives? Eeh, that’s…]

Subaru: [It means the remaining number of times they can come back to life. No matter how dangerous the opponent is, there’s no way they can revive as many times as they want without limit. There’s definitely a limit. Right?]

He felt like he was not one to talk, but the remaining lives seemed to have to be exhausted eventually.

If they killed Sphinx repeatedly until she ran out of lives, her otherwise composed face, despite the fact that she might have thought she could not die, would no longer be able to retain its composure.

Subaru: [So that’s why we don’t have to stay in the dumps. Let’s just be happy we knocked them down a peg! Thanks, Rem!]

Rem: [――! I-I didn’t do anything that important.]

When suddenly prompted, Rem shook her head. However, she was too modest to say that she had done anything important.

Immediately upon using Return by Death, Subaru had exited the coupled dragon carriage accompanied by Emilia and Julius, then asked her who remained inside to convey a message to the others. ――To seek out the most powerful of Kararagi.

Subaru: [If Rem hadn’t gone and retrieved Halibel-san, then Emilia, Julius, myself, and the coupled dragon carriages would all be dust by now. If that had happened, Beako would be a widow who lost me, and a nun who would be mourning me forever.]

Beatrice: [Don’t just casually state the worst possible outcome like that, in fact! It’s something unthinkable! If you die and leave Betty behind, then Betty will really become that noon, I suppose!]

Emilia: [Hm, I guess it’s thanks to Rem that Beatrice didn’t become this noon and that we can talk like this. Thank you.] [2]

Rem: […I, understand. At least, I think I do.]

Rem was somewhat reserved in accepting the thanks from both Beatrice, who was almost in tears, and Emilia, who was smiling.

The sight of Emilia, Beatrice, and Rem all together again made Subaru’s heart swell with emotion. Then, he turned his gaze to the tall figure standing there,

Subaru: [Of course, thanks, Halibel-san. To be honest, I was just banking on the reputation of your name to see if you could do something about it…]

Halibel: [Hahaha, ain’t it a good thing ta be honest? In fact, I was also surprised when I was suddenly called by the young Blue Oni girl. If I’d been hit by it without knowin’ I’d also be dead y’know? If anythin’, I feel like I narrowly escaped death ’cause she told me ’bout it.]

Halibel laughed with an attitude that was not befitting of his accomplishments.

His laid-back tone lacked a sense of urgency, but without him, Subaru and the others would have been annihilated. It was a good decision by Subaru to have called him on the second time, but it was horrifying to imagine him not having been there in this coupled dragon carriage in the first place.

In that short time, he’d had to assemble all the combatants aboard the dragon carriage and find the best solution. Even so, there was no guarantee that there could have been a solution, and that was truly because of the strongest of the City-States.

Anastasia: [Ya say it like that, but how did ya actually do that?]

Emilia: [Yeah, Julius and I did our best, but I think we came up a little short, so I’m reaaally glad that Anastasia-san had Halibel-san on our side.]

Anastasia: [I see, I see. Well then, it was worth spendin’ allat money to get him to come with us.]

Quietly, Emilia and Anastasia also re-assessed Halibel, who lacked a sense of urgency, and in any case, were able to reflect on the situation because everybody had taken the best possible action.

That was Subaru’s takeaway from the incredible assault just before――,

Subaru: [So, that’s how the whole mess went down earlier. Well, that was fast, and all of us did our best to save everybody’s lives, you know. And of course, there’s something to be said for that, right?]

???: [It was a great deed.]

Subaru: [You bastard…!]

When the Emperor, Abel, who had been quietly listening to the report up to this point, expressed his gratitude, Natsuki Subaru shook his fist intensely.

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Though it was a matter of course, the Escape by Death strategy that Sphinx had used when attacking the coupled dragon carriages needed to be shared with the Imperial leaders who had become relevant parties before they could even become aware.

The coupled dragon carriage was supposed to be a considerably important and highly classified secret typical of the Vollachian Empire; since it had been necessary to destroy a part of the valuable vehicle, a concrete explanation was needed.

Be that as it may――,

Subaru: [Even though we put an end to such a situation, you’re just settling it with the words “great deed”…]

???: [What are you saying, Natsuki-dono! How could you ask for any greater reward than words of gratitude from His Excellency! You should feel ashamed as a subject of the Empire governed by His Excellency!!]

Emilia: [Goz-san! Don’t be mistaken! Subaru is not a child of the Empire, but of the Kingdom like us!]

Subaru: [Emilia, your voice is getting wound up all loud again.]

Unlike the Imperial Soldiers, who had maxed out their loyalty, Abel’s words of gratitude were not enough of a reward for Subaru.

Though, supposing those thanks were to have come from Emilia, whose voice had grown loud to match Goz’s, it would have made up for Subaru’s dissatisfaction, perhaps.

Vincent: [Currently, we have been driven out of the Imperial Capital, and are en route to reestablishing a condition from which we can deal with the situation. Even if you demand a reward corresponding to your achievement, I shall not make empty promises. Therefore, I have naught but words to grant you.]

Subaru: [Don’t tell me so proudly that your wallet is empty…! Waaaah, Anastasia-saaan!]

Anastasia: [Yes, yes, y’ain’t got no need to get so frustrated. I’ll be makin’ sure that you, Julius, ‘n Emilia-san get yer fair shares paid exorbitantly by the Empire.]

Subaru: [Whoopee! Rip ‘em off!]

Subaru raised his hands with tears in his eyes at Anastasia’s dependability, and Abel frowned before sighing. Then, restoring the discussion to the original topic, he said “So”,

Vincent: [This undead in question… the one called Sphinx, you mean to say she is at the center of the current Great Disaster?]

Roswaal: [At the very least, she must have been the one who constructed the technique that revived such a laaarge~ number of zombies. Alteration and improvement of existing techniques, that’s what that failure would do.]

Emilia: [Roswaal, I know you hate her, but don’t use so much nasty language.]

Roswaal responded to Abel, and Emilia raised her eyebrows slightly at his statement. Her gentle amethyst eyes grew severe, and as she fixed her gaze on Roswaal,

Emilia: [We don’t want to speak with foul mouths, right? Even if you happen to do a good thing, if you’re always saying nasty things, no one will be willing to listen to how you really feel.]

Roswaal: [――. Yes, I’ll bear that in mind.]

Emilia: [Yes, please do.]

Roswaal gave a wry smile as he obediently bowed his head to the smiling Emilia’s complaint.

Though her gentle nature remained unchanged, Subaru felt that Emilia’s way of thinking had grown more sophisticated. It would be nice if Roswaal also felt the same thing.

Then, leaving Subaru’s thoughts aside――,

Vincent: [I hear that Sphinx had gone on a rampage during the Kingdom’s civil war. What became of these circumstances?]

Julius: [Kingdom records state that Sphinx, Valga Cromwell, and Libre Fermi were all killed before the civil war concluded. The loss of these three resulted in the demi-human side’s disadvantage in the civil war… That is what I remember.]

Vincent: [I see. ――But, there is no possibility that the undead are simply sprouting from the earth without cause. Is it not the fault of your Kingdom that they have become undead and presently ravage the vast lands of the Empire?]

Roswaal: [Oh my, someone as eminent as His Excellency the Emperor Vincent is saying the most nonseeensical~ things.]

As Abel posed that question with a single eye closed, Roswaal smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

Indicating to the view outside the window with his hand,

Roswaal: [The deepest depths of their thoughts are still unknown, but since they are bringing disaster to the Empire, and not to the Kingdom where they have memories of defeat, it’s clear that their agenda is different to what it was back then. Considering their silence for the past forty years, it is unrealistic to think that the Kingdom’s record is wrong.]

Having said all that, Roswaal moved his hand back from gesturing outside and held up one finger, saying “But then again”,

Roswaal: [Were there anyone who participated directly in the Demi-Human War and had the opportunity to kill Sphinx, but failed to do so, then just as you say, Your Excellency, I believe they should be blaaamed~.]

Vincent: [Foolish. They would have participated in the Kingdom’s civil war over forty years ago; asking an old soldier who decided the outcome of the battle is not even worthy of discussion.]

Subaru: [Well, that’s right. For a start, I’m relieved you’re not a guy who would make such unreasonable demands… Huh? What’s the matter, Beako, you’re making an ugly face.]

Beatrice: […Betty’s face is always adorable, I suppose.]

Abel quickly conceded that Roswaal had made a sound argument, and retracted his point.

Such restraint might have been a habit, but it was a bad habit, so it would be better to change it. To Subaru’s side as he thought that to himself, Beatrice wore a glum expression for some reason.

It was true that it was adorable, but apparently there was something in the current exchange that weighed on Beatrice’s mind. Perhaps this face of Beatrice’s was Roswaal-related.

Vincent: [So, what else did you uncover? Making such a dramatic show of jumping out is no accomplishment if it yields the same result as having stayed on the dragon carriage.]

Beatrice: [It was Subaru, not Betty and the others, who made a dramatic show of it, in fact. But, it is also Betty’s duty to take responsibility for Subaru’s dramatic show, I suppose.]

Roswaal: [Of course, there were some fruuuits~ of our labor. Not so much about the peculiarities of zombies, but we did learn several thiiings~.]

Asked by Abel, Beatrice and Roswaal responded confidently.

To the two of them, Subaru snapped his fingers and said, “As expected of you,”

Subaru: [So, so? Did you figure out the zombies’ weak spot? If we figured that out, we don’t have to be afraid of Sphinx when she appears again.]

Otto: [Natsuki-san, please do not get your hopes too high. No matter how you look at it, such impressive results are…]

Beatrice: [You underestimate Betty and Roswaal too much, in fact. Of course we figured it out, I suppose.]

Otto: [Waah!?]

Subaru: [For real!?]

Subaru and Otto were astonished at Beatrice’s words, with her chest puffed out and her face smug. Beatrice, pleased by their reaction, smiled and said, “Naturally, in fact”,

Beatrice: [The hint was Garfiel’s intuition, I suppose. Garfiel, who was already rampaging across the battlefield before Betty and Roswaal, noticed something strange, in fact.]

Garfiel: [That said, if Beatrice ‘n that bastard hadn’t come along, might’ve forgotten ‘bout it.]

Roswaal: [I think it’s a real waste that you’re someone with excellent intuition, but you don’t trust in it… Oya? I had intended to compliment you, but…]

Garfiel: [I ain’t gonna be happy whether ya praise or criticize me.]

As Garfiel rebuked and stuck out his tongue, Roswaal closed one eye and shrugged.

Aside from their usual bickering, Beatrice continued.

Beatrice: [The discrepancy Garfiel noticed was the difference in the durability of the zombies, I suppose. Some zombies would die from a single arrow, while others would still be alive and well even after being pierced by ten arrows. That’s the discrepancy, in fact.]

Emilia: [But, isn’t it because each “zombee’s strength is different? I’m stronger than Subaru, so it could be that kind of discrepancy.]

Beatrice: [That was not it, I suppose. Even with the same difference in strength between Subaru and Anastasia, there was still a discrepancy between one arrow and ten, in fact.]

Anastasia: [Bein’ compared with me, seems like Natsuki-kun’s still as pitiful as ever.]

With an elegantly wry smile, Anastasia glanced at Subaru. But, since Subaru had been shrunk, there was no room for him to refute the claim, and he responded to her concern with a wave of his hand.

However, Beatrice’s mention of a discrepancy was certainly something that caught his interest. Also, the fact that Beatrice and Roswaal had uncovered the truth behind that discrepancy.

The answer was――,

Vincent: [State your conclusion. What caused the discrepancies between the undead?]

Beatrice: [――Bugs, I suppose.]

Subaru: [Bugs…?]

When Abel’s question was answered, Subaru furrowed his brow at the contents of the answer.

Then, Beatrice looked towards Roswaal, and nodded. With that signal, Roswaal took something out of his own pocket, and,

Roswaal: [Everyone, please be extremely careful. It has been frozen to stop its activity, but if the ice breaks, it is presumed that a zombie will be booorn~ here.]

Subaru: [What are you talking about… Hey, hey, hey, what the hell is that!?]

Roswaal: [Beatrice said it, didn’t she? It’s a bug. I’d even venture and call it a Corebug.]

As he stated this, in Roswaal’s hand was a small block of ice being pinched between his fingers, about the size of a coin; inside, there was a red, round object.

Upon closer inspection, he understood that it was a small round bug that looked like a caterpillar――.

Roswaal: [This Corebug is lurking within the body of every zombie. And, this worm is the zombie’s lifeline… in other words, it is undoubtedly their core.]

Subaru: [These bugs are their cores, that means…]

Julius: [――I see. So, the true nature of Garfiel’s perceived discrepancy was the difference in the points at which an arrow killed the Corebug within the zombie’s body.]

While Subaru’s shock from the impact of the bugs had still yet to disappear, Julius comprehended the details in such a manner.

Hearing Julius’s words, the others also reached an understanding. Of course, Subaru also finally understood the purpose of the bugs’ existence――,

Subaru: [So you’re saying that the Corebug is basically the heart of a zombie?]

Roswaal: [We will be working to unravel more about the technique, but this Corebug acquires the data of the target that is to turn into a zombie, and then reproduces the original form by making a vessel out of earth… That is our conclusion.]

Beatrice: [Indeed, in fact.]

Without objection, Beatrice nodded her head in agreement with Roswaal’s conclusion.

But, Subaru was utterly shocked at the conclusion that the two had reached.

If the zombies were being created by magic, he could accept it in a fantasy sense. However, when it came down to magic bugs creating the zombies, the feelings of disgust prevailed.

Subaru: [Even though I loved catching bugs when I was a kid, how pathetic…]

Otto: [Though, I do not think that is the kind of situation where you should be reflecting on that. ――In any case, our people have produced good results. How do you like that, Your Excellency the Emperor?]

Vincent: [At the very least, you have proved that you are not merely an incompetent bunch who make big talk and produce no results. I recognize that. It was a great deed.]

Otto: […Perhaps it would have been better had I not asked.]

The people of the Empire aside, those words of praise were disreputable to the people of the Kingdom, including Subaru.

Anyway, as Otto went out of his way to corner him with words, even the obstinate Abel had no choice but to acknowledge the results that Beatrice and Roswaal had produced.

Deep down, he was probably grumbling “Grrr”.

Subaru: [You did a great job, that’s my Beako.]

Beatrice: [Naturally, I suppose. That is the competency of Subaru’s partner, in fact. Unlike that deergirl, who has only gone through a little bit of hardship with Subaru, I suppose.]

Subaru: [Instead of getting huffy, shouldn’t you get along with Tanza!? Emilia-tan also said not to say anything nasty!]

Soothing Beatrice, who was showing her competitiveness in a strange way, Subaru promised to pet her a hundred times to restore her mood, and then looked at Abel and the others again.

When Abel returned the look, Subaru said, “Well?” with a puffed-out chest, and,

Subaru: [These are my reliable allies. All my big talk paid off, didn’t it?]

Vincent: [I recognize your achievement in protecting against the earlier attack on the dragon carriage. For what reason must you insist on boasting your success to me in order to feel satisfied? Your achievements are visible enough to the eye.]

Subaru: [Heh, whatever you say makes you sound like you’re a sore loser. I’m feeling great right now after all.]

Subaru snorted in a good mood in response to Abel’s displeased reply. Emilia said “No!”, angry at him for this attitude, but Subaru could not disguise his true feelings.

Then, perhaps impatient with Subaru and his party’s achievements, the Imperial Leaders―― Berstetz and Serena exchanged a few words, and then Abel looked over to them,

Serena: [Your Excellency, the people of the Kingdom… Since our acquaintance Margrave Mathers and his companions have shown so much success, would it not be dishonorable if our side was unable to produce beneficial answers?]

Vincent: [High Countess Dracroy, for what reason are you so amused?]

Serena: [Amused, you say? Apologies, Your Excellency. I wasn’t conscious of it myself, but perhaps it is the result of the feeling that my own dignity as Imperial nobility is being put to the test, supposing we are in a situation where the Empire’s prestige must be demonstrated to maintain our honor.]

Vincent: [――――]

Putting her hand over her ample chest, Serena replied as the white scar on her face contorted. She was not smiling, but the tone of her voice and the intensity of her eyes were rather good-humored. In a situation where she was absolutely not the superior, she exhibited an outstanding mental fortitude to be dealing with the Emperor with such a tone.

Subaru: [Could it be that Serena-san is quite the dangerous person?]

Garfiel: [I dunno if she’s bad or not, but she’s pals with Roswaal.]

Subaru: [Ah~.]

Seeking information about Serena, with whom he had little contact, the first bombshell thrown in was enough to break down the wall of doubt.

However, it was hard to say whether it had been Roswaal or Serena who had decided to be friends. After all, it was clear as day that their cross-border friendship was a factor behind why Emilia and the others were able to come all the way to the Empire, to look for Subaru and the others.

Come to think of it, Roswaal had also been quite impudent during the ceremony for the Royal Selection.

It made sense to hear that he was friends with Serena, who held that attitude towards Abel.

Anastasia: [Enough time’s passed that I can talk ‘bout it, but Natsuki-kun was also like that back then, right?]

Subaru: [I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you…]

Subaru covered his ears and ran away from his unpleasant past; the lukewarm eyes of the very person who had once preached “The things you’ve done in the past won’t disappear” to him, now felt like they were stabbing into him. [3]

And, with a similarly lukewarm gaze, Serena graciously faced the Emperor, and continued to persuade him about something.

Serena: [Anyway, Your Excellency must think that those things are useful. That’s exactly why you’ve kept them by your side, but those are just the suspicions of a woman like me.]

Vincent: [Cease. Even if you had not gotten so unscrupulous with your words, I would still understand.]

With a snort, Abel obstructed Serena’s gaze with his hand. Then he erased all hue of deliberation, and revealed what Serena had encouraged him to.

That was――,

Vincent: [――There is someone who possesses information that may or may not prove useful as we confront this Great Disaster. It is necessary to hear what that person has to say before we arrive at the Fortified City.]

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???: [My ohhh~ my, are you finally going to listen to me? In that case, I’m overjoyed, Your Excellency.]

The person, who had been said to be confined beyond the door of a firmly locked cabin within the dragon carriages, gave an amiable smile upon seeing Abel’s figure.

However, for him, in such a state of confinement, it really was not something that he should have been smiling at.

After all, his entire body was bound by chains, tied to a chair so as to never let him escape.

Subaru: [Oioi, Abel, no matter how you look at it, this is…]

Vincent: [A necessary measure. For better or worse, losing this man would be a major blow to our side. Allow me to warn you, if his restraints are removed, he will easily go off to his death.]

???: [It’s preeeposterous~ that I’d go off to die! It’s just that I’ve been doing everything I can to stop this Great Disaster until now… If it’s for that purpose, it doesn’t matter if I lose my life.]

Subaru: [Ohh…]

Thoughtlessly smiling, the delicate man rocked back and forth in the chair he was bound to.

Feeling a sense of insanity from that manner of speaking, even Subaru could not help but believe that Abel’s argument was no exaggeration.

However, even though they seemed to be nothing but suspicious――,

Subaru: [This, Stargazer is… Ubilk-san, was it? You said we could rely on this person?]

Ubilk: [Whaaat’s~ this, it’s upsetting that I’m being doubted… Wait, taking a closer look, aren’t you the Stargazer-san of the Kingdom that I paaassed~ by in Chaosflame!?]

Subaru: [You’re completely wrong. Ah! By any chance, were you the one who instilled the idea that I’m a Stargazer into this guy’s head!? I ended up in a fistfight with him because of that!]

The delicate man with a sparkling face―― Ubilk, had uttered a rash remark that caused Subaru to snap back.

For Subaru, being treated like he had the dubious occupation of a Stargazer was a huge inconvenience. Of course, since Stargazers took on some sort of prophet-like role, Subaru understood there was a risk that he, who could Return by Death, could appear to be like them; even so, it was a huge inconvenience.

In any case――,

Subaru: [I’m not the same as you. Keep that in mind.]

Ubilk: [Huhhh~? That sure is strange. I heard that you were the same, though…]

Subaru: [Was that from the stars? In that case, Abel, we aren’t gonna be able to rely on this person.]

If it turned out that the stars gave incorrect answers, they were something he would unfortunately want to avoid right now.

At the present moment, the important thing was to acquire accurate information from the stars, no matter how trivial. Vague prophecies that could be taken either way, along the lines of the Barnum effect, were unnecessary.

Hence, he promptly turned his back in disappointment, but――,

Ubilk: [Wait wait, please waaait~! I understaaand~! You areeen’t~ a Stargazer! That doesn’t matter to me!]

Subaru: [I’m bothered by your manner of speaking, but even if you amend your statement, it’s not like your credibility is suddenly restored…]

Ubilk: [I don’t care if you keeeep~ me locked up like this. But, please at least listen to what I’ve gazed from the stars. That’s all you need to do!]

Subaru: [――――]

Twisting around in his seat with a burst of strength, Ubilk appealed so, his eyes ablaze. With such vigor, the chains wrapped around him forcefully tore into his skin, to the extent that his blood mercilessly started to spill out.

Completely ignoring the pain, he was trying to convey some information that he had heard from the stars as a Stargazer. If he could do that, injuries would not matter to him.

It seemed as if even his own life did not matter to him.

Subaru: [Abel, these Stargazer people are…]

Vincent: [Do away with that sentiment. Hear what he must say, and then decide if it is worth consideration.]

That intense fixation towards the stars gave Subaru an unpleasant sense of déjà vu. But, Abel did not agree with that judgment of Subaru’s, and he proactively fixed his gaze on Ubilk.

Seeing Abel’s willingness to listen, Ubilk ceased his writhing, his gentle face forming a smile.

Ubilk: [Rest assured, Your Excellency. No matter how mighty the Great Disaster may be, the staaars~ are on the side of Your Excellency.]

Vincent: [The same cruel stars that make no distinction as to which Vincent Vollachia is left behind, hm? Do not make me laugh. ――Speak. What must you convey?]

Ubilk: [Two, there are.]

Abel posed this question with arms crossed, and Ubilk gave that short reply.

Hearing it, Subaru muttered “two” inside his mouth, and Abel urged him to continue through his silence.

Subaru was extremely apprehensive as to whether they could put their trust in him, but at the very least, this Stargazer was said to have predicted the arrival of the Great Disaster itself; and right now, they would provide information for the sake of the shaking Empire.

That was――,

Ubilk: [Two lights, to overturn the peril of the Great Disaster. The first, is to be brought by a Stargazer of the Kingdom… Or rather, by the boy who is not that. A girl unable to communicate with words.]

Subaru: […What?]

Ubilk glanced towards Subaru, and the latter widened his eyes, motionless at the words that had been spoken.

He had been questioning whether to fully believe Ubilk’s words or not, but the words that had then been spoken made it unthinkable that there was any cause to believe him.

After all, there was only one person who met the conditions of which Ubilk had just spoken.

Then, without sparing a moment for him to recover from that impact, Ubilk continued.

With the same lips that had just revealed one of the so-called two lights, he continued to the light which yet remained.

That light, it was――,

Ubilk: [――The most well-versed in curses across all the Empire, a beastman who stands upon one of the nine summits.]

△▼△▼△▼△

Kicking off the ground, out of breath, he ran up the rocky mountain path with sheer force.

???: [Fuck fuck fucking fuck, these fucking shithead bastards…!]

Even the vigor in his words had grown weak; he was aware that he was wearing himself out.

Running across plains, and continuing to fight without sleep or rest, were things he had always been doing in order to survive in the vast lands of the Empire since he was a child.

Nevertheless, the stress from going over ten days without eating or drinking was on a different dimension entirely.

???: [――Hk.]

Sniff, when the stench of earth mixed with something strange entered his nasal cavity, he furiously began to exert his limbs.

He neither tried to catch a glimpse with his eyes, nor tried listening with his ears. He was able to fully grasp the world through what his nose could smell alone. Even the positions, numbers, and general armaments of his enemies.

Because of that, he understood that he was surrounded by a hundred enemy troops, that it would be hopeless no matter how much he whittled down their numbers; it made him want to think that his nose had gone stupid.

???: [These, FUCKING ASSHOLES!]

But, he immediately dispelled those thoughts, and slammed his weapon into the scent of earth.

A first, a second, and third; the bodies of the enemies that received a direct hit were blown to pieces, and the impact perforated through to the opponents on the other side, allowing him to forcefully break through the encirclement and get away.

No matter how many he took down, the pale earth puppets ceaselessly sprang forth.

Those nightmarish things of poor craftsmanship were undoubtedly prowling after his life.

The army unit he commanded had been annihilated, and at the time the realization dawned upon him, it had been far too late already; while doubting his talents as a General, he continued to run east, further east, clinging to his dear life.

Even if he tried to converge somewhere, the paths continued to be obstructed; not only was he starving and thirsty, but his last contact with a living person had been when he had parted with his second-in-command.

At the very least, it would be nice if a few of his subordinates had been able to survive.

???: [Tch――!!]

The moment his thoughts veered off-topic, his reaction to the enemy slashing at him had been slow.

His shoulder plate protected against the attack as it grazed his shoulder, and taking the opportunity to escape the impact, he kicked off the surface of the mountain trail. Compared to proceeding up the narrow path filled with those hindrances, slipping off the side of the cliff was much better.

Deciding that, he ran down the cliff, steep as a right angle as it was, and began to shake off the pursuing enemies quicker.

Even if he was going to be cornered by the number of enemies being thrown at him, a small breather would be somewhat helpful.

Having faith in that, he ran, ran, and ran――,

???: [――Hk, this smell is…]

Amidst the earth, vegetation, and slight fragrance of flowers, the smell of life tickled his nasal cavity.

Sensing something that was different to the scent of iron from the weapons his pursuers held, his thoughts were scattered into a thousand pieces for a moment, but he immediately consulted the situation and followed the smell of life.

He hesitated about dragging other people into his fight with this enemy.

However, if he were to avoid that, he would suffer from hunger and thirst and lose all his strength. That would be the stupidest, most idiotic fucking conclusion he could reach.

???: […Fuck, a hidden village?]

Following the smell of life, he entered an isolated settlement among the mountains.

In the Empire, there were a considerable number of people who abandoned their land in order to evade taxation, and either became bandits or went to live in the mountains or forest. This settlement was probably one of those hidden villages.

As a General of the Empire, he typically would not let the existence of this hidden village slide, but――,

???: [It’s a fucking emergency! It’s fine for now! More importantly…]

Wondering if anyone was present, he gazed over the whole settlement, and sniffed his nose when nobody entered his vision.

The origin of the smell of life was this settlement, but what potently ticked his nasal cavity was not a lingering scent, but the stench of somebody who was currently present here.

He headed in that direction, and if they were someone who could fight, he would request their assistance.

Even if they could buy him a little time, he would probably be able to use it to regain his physical strength through a meal and water.

Rousing his heart right before it was to wither and die, he relied on the scent and went towards a large building in the settlement.

He approached the entrance, and burst inside.

???: [Oi! I dunno who you are, but would you lend me a hand against these fucking bastards――]

――That instant, two columns of wind violently flashed to meet his entry.

???: [FUCKING CLOSE ONE!!]

Right away, he leaned his head and hips back in order to evade; he was late in sensing that what had been unleashed were sharp slashing attacks.

He had barged in requesting help, but instead an attempt had been made to kill him; he snarled his fangs and intently glared at the opponent who had performed such a foolish fucking action.

And then――,

???: [Oh? Now this is quite the strange happening! To think we’d try and see whether the next dead person’d be a man or a woman, only for a living person to plunge in… Redhead! Looks like I’m the winner of our bet!]

???: [Shut the fuck up, be quiet, die. Winning, losing, it’s all fucking worthless…]

As he glared, what had entered his vision was the inside of a spacious building, where two middle-aged men sat by a circular table―― Furthermore, they were men who absolutely reeked of liquor.

One held a katana, and the other a Knight’s sword; while looking at the drunken state of the two, anger surged up within him, and for a moment, it caused him to forget about his empty stomach and parched throat――,

???: [Hey motherfuckers, these perilous days of the Empire aren’t the time for you to be getting fucking shitfaced drunk, FUCKING HELL!!]

With that, the Master of Curse Tools, Groovy Gumlet, exclaimed in a terribly straightforward manner.

Translation Note

[1] – Garfiel’s idiom here is リギリギの抱え落ち, where 抱え落ち is Video-game slang for a player dying before they can use a special item or ability in their possession. We have rendered this as “Wasted Trump Card”.

[2] – Subaru refers to a nun as if he would refer to a person, and because the concept is foreign to Beatrice and Emilia both, they misunderstand him as saying Beatrice would become a person called “nun-san”. Of course, in the process, they butcher the pronunciation.

[3] – Subaru is remembering something Anastasia told him in Arc 3

45 thoughts on “Arc 8, Chapter 20 – “The Two Lights””

          1. Complex character writing, thrilling villain, a somewhat rare type of antagonist and a great parallel to the protagonist who is hard to beat.

            Todd is a shit person but he’s an amazing character.

          2. Imagine thinking a villian as good as Todd, is shit. Like.. how!? He was thrilling to read about. Unpredictable, dastardly, cunning, straightforward yet complex at the same time. What’s not to love? Unless you just don’t like how competent he was.. in which case.. do you hate all good villians?

  1. Nice for the zombies to get more fleshed out.

    And here is yet another Malazan quote because why not

    “War has its necessities…and I have always understood that. Always known the cost. But, this day, by my own hand, I have realized something else. War is not a natural state. It is an imposition, and a damned unhealthy one. With its rules, we willingly yield our humanity. Speak not of just causes, worthy goals. We are takers of life.”

    1. Hey it makes sense. If you have Sphinx a unkillable entity just get louis to somehow use the authority of gluttony on them and turn them into a potato.

  2. Wonder why the stargazer keeps calling Subaru a stargazer. Don’t they all share knowledge like a hive mind? I feel like a stargazer should be able to easily confirm if someone else is also a stargazer because of that.

    Wonder if the stars actually know about Subaru’s power but choose to say the wrong thing on purpose or if even they are kinda stumped about wtf he is.

        1. I mean, back in the watchtower, when Arneb was Subaru. Satella clearly didn’t like her knowing.

          I feel like the taboo is mostly to protect Subaru from people like Roswall murdering him when something bad happens

        2. Does it tho? We know Roswaal has a rough estimation that Subaru is somehow capable of doing it. But I doubt he knows anything more than that. and the only other times someone outside of Subaru’s discussed about the power, it happened in abnormal locations which happend to coincied with a pretty strong reaction from satella.. what I believe might be the case is that Satella is in some fashion the one enforcing the rule. Therefore whether the penalty is triggered or not depends on her. And since it seems like Satella is teethered to subaru to some extent with RBD, it would make sence then that Roswaal learning what he did about Subaru’s power didn’t trigger a response from Satella. It happened outside of Subaru’s presence. Subaru had no part in him learning this. Hell Roswaal probably learned of Subaru before he even met him given the little trial he set up for him in act 1. So then, if we go off of my theory, the only way RBD could be freely discussed would be outside of Subaru’s knowledge. If he’s there, it will trigger a reaction from Satella. if he tries to tell anyone by means of say writing it down, it would trigger a reaction. And seeing as he is the only one which really knows about RBD, outside of dead witches and Roswaal who’s going off of pure assumption and faith. any explanation at the moment would require Subaru, and thus can’t be discussed.

    1. It might be also due to him being able to obtain information thanks to stars like during the fight againts Regulus or in the watchtower.

    2. Isn’t Tarrita also a stargazer who isn’t jacked into the hivemind? Atleast that’s how I understood it.

      It’s possible they thought Subaru was similar.

      1. Taritta wasn’t stargazer. It was another shadraqian. Taritta just decided to complete the order of stars by the request of stargazer shadraqian who was gonna die.

    3. The garden Subaru dreams of when dying sometimes is probably some sort of astral thing that they can sense that exists in some sort of other dimension, may be where authorities come from

      1. That’s the Shadow Garden. Which is Satella’s personal pocket dimension, similar to how the Castle of Dreams belonged to Echidna.

    4. Stargazers are practically Vollachian witch cultists. So there’s connection there but I think Subaru is referred as stargazer not only because of his authority but the nature of it, or it can be because of being a sage.

  3. Grooovy Baby!

    EMILIAAAAAAAAAAA! Does your adorableness know any bounds?!

    The two lights, one a stargazer (Subaru the Boy) and the unspeakable one (Lois? aka Archbishop of Gluttony).

    1. Damn, for some reason, I really thought it was Heinkel running through the forest at the end, due to how vulgar the narration and his lines were. It made me think “10 days without food and water? That’s impossible for a human! Sure, a human can survive 10 days without food, albeit in absolute agony, but no water? No way! Humans can only survive a maximum of 3-4 days without water, before dying from dehydration!”. I was even more confused when it said “Heinkel” was a General in the Imperial Army! Finally, I felt like a complete moron when the mysterious stranger was revealed to be Groovy Gumlet. ‍♂️

    2. No you’ve misunderstood. The two lights are:
      1. Somebody Subaru brought with him who can’t speak, i.e. Louis
      2. A beastman on one of the “nine pillars”, which we can infer to mean a divine general. So presumably it’s Groovy Gumlet. I don’t think there’s anyone else that would qualify?
      Maybe Madeline or Arakiya

  4. Subaru and Anastasia’s first dealings sit permanently in the back of my mind, because she was the person who taught Subaru politicking. Seeing how they interact now between their several dealings up to this stage as well as Shotabaru’s shotaness is an absolute delight.

  5. Finalmente o Groovy Gumlet apareceu, mas foi bater logo na porta dos dois bêbados kkkk
    pensei que a Sphinx teria cópias infinitas ao invés de salvar o núcleo ou algo do tipo pra reaparecer…
    obrigado pelo capitulo!

  6. Okay the fact that the zombieness is due to parasite bugs that interface a soul with its dead body is such a great system. I thought it was just gonna be “sphinx is just a necromancer so yeah thats how it works”. Tappei going above and beyond as per usual. luv that man.

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