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???: [Garf, let us go out.]
Garfiel tilted his head at such an invitation at fire hour, with the clear sunlight shining beautifully.
Curled up in the garden of the mansion, he had just been grooming himself. There was no need to groom himself in that particular spot, but he couldn’t help but feel most at ease within that part of the mansion grounds.
Although there was a room reserved for Garfiel in the mansion, he was hesitant to sleep anywhere that his own scent had not already seeped into.
Therefore, instead of staying in one spot, Garfiel spent his days in various locations throughout the mansion.
His behavior having no rhyme or reason; whenever Otto or the others had business with Garfiel, they had to wander around the mansion aimlessly,
Meaning, the only person who could find Garfiel in one try was Frederica, who currently stood right in front of him ――except for Ram, whose side Garfiel would come to if she called him.
Frederica, who shared many points with his appearance, with her long blonde hair and emerald green eyes, was Garfiel’s biological sister. To be precise, they were siblings from different fathers, but neither of them seemed to care much about that.
If they were to worry about something, there were more important things than that to be concerned about. For example, the long, long years they had spent apart.
――Garfiel and Frederica had spent over a decade apart.
Garfiel was 14 years old and had lived apart from his older sister for more years than he had lived with her now. Still, a beast-man’s blood was a strange thing, and it would be impossible to mistake a person with the same blood in their veins for another.
No matter how much her appearance had changed since they separated, he could tell that she was his blood relative, for whom he had had complicated feelings for for a long, long time.
Frederica: [Garf, is something wrong?]
Frederica asked the suddenly silent Garfiel.
Uncharacteristically lost in his own musings, Garfiel shook his head and said, “Nah”
Garfiel: [Jus’ kinda not used ta Sis being so huge and so…Guh!?]
Frederica: [Please stop saying huge this and huge that about a woman’s height and physique, geez.]
Garfiel: [S-say that before ya hit me…]
Garfiel’s head was in his hands, thanks to the greater-than-expected retaliation to the comment he had inadvertently blurted out. Sighing at her brother’s state, Frederica gazed at her own shoulders.
Frederica: [I would love to be cute and dainty too. Not to say like Grandmother or Petra, but at least a physique like Ram’s…]
Garfiel: [Ahh, like Granny ya got no hope, but that little kid is still growing up. Besides, ya, lookin’ like Ram… Ha! Don’t make me laugh.]
Frederica: [I would love to know more about that laugh, and what it means.]
Frederica exuded a sense of dread as she put her hand over her mouth and hid her fangs while smiling. Pressured by this, Garfiel swallowed hard and lightly clicked his fangs.
Garfiel: [So? What’cha talkin’ about? What do ya mean, go out?]
Frederica: [Again with the happy-go-lucky misdirection… Sigh, very well. If we were to go off on a tangent and waste time on it, we would be putting the cart before the ground dragon.]
Garfiel attempted to change the subject, and Frederica was taken aback, but took him up on it.
Then Frederica held up one finger and said,
Frederica: [Actually, I have the day off after lunch. So I thought we should go out to the city together. That is why I came to ask you out.]
And that was what she said.
――The “Sanctuary” had been liberated, and Garfiel had stepped onto land outside of his home village for the first time in his life.
In reality, he had stepped foot outside the Sanctuary half a day before its liberation, but he had realized the magnitude of his action at the same moment as the Sanctuary’s residents had.
To be honest, Garfiel had his doubts when it came to that matter.
In the Sanctuary, he had clashed with Subaru and his friends, and although he had been up against many at once, he had still been forced to submit and had surrendered to them. He knew that if he had not cooperated with them to break the barrier, the village would have been swallowed up by the swarm of the “Great Rabbit,” and its residents would all have been killed.
Even so, Garfiel still felt some doubt as he gazed at the snow-covered landscape of the Sanctuary. ――He thought to himself, how unreasonably stubborn it had been for him.
No doubts, no hesitation, straightforward.
Many originally viewed Garfiel as such a decisive person, but in Garfiel’s opinion, that was ridiculous. He had always thought that there had never been anyone before or since who had sweated the small things as much as him.
So that was why he was drawn to truly decisive people, he thought.
One of the best examples of that was Garfiel’s dearest love.
???: [I see, with Frederica. That seems quite alright. Why don’t you go have some fun?]
Garfiel: [Well duh, my amazin’ self wouldn’t be turnin’ it down either, but…]
Garfiel couldn’t hide his confusion, as if saying he didn’t know what to do. Ram, who was folding the laundry in front of Garfiel, mumbled, “Such a fool,” without looking directly at him.
Frederica had invited Garfiel to go out with her, and he had reluctantly agreed.
However, he could not quite grasp the significance of his sister’s offer, so he used the short time he had before meeting up with her to come to Ram for advice.
However, there was not much to discuss with her. He just tilted his head in concern, not understanding the meaning of Frederica’s offer.
Or maybe it was just a dig at Garfiel, given the events that happened in the Sanctuary.
Ram: [That would be a misguided presumption. Frederica simply wants to make up with you, Garf. She is happy to be reunited with her estranged brother. Even if it is a brother like you.]
Garfiel: [I don’t like how ya phrasin’ it there. It’s like, “Tomorrow’s a cloudy day for Amelie.”]
Ram: [What? You cannot believe Ram’s words?]
Ram stared at Garfiel, scratching his short blond hair and scrunching his cheeks. Garfiel’s eyes were pierced by the sharp gaze of the woman of his dreams, and he involuntarily straightened his posture.
Ram: [You’ve come a long way, haven’t you? What in the world have you become?]
Garfiel: [Don’tcha get me wrong, there’s nothin’ I believe more than Ram’s words, other than… Granny’s, the Captain’s, and also ――uuuh, anyway, there ain’t too much else.]
Ram: [――. Foolish. But that is the kind of thing Ram likes about you, Garf.]
Garfiel: [Oh, yeah? What part?]
Garfiel blushed when Ram smiled at him.
Reflecting back on his remarks, he was unable to see the answer as to what in the world he had been praised for. The answer, it seemed to him, was that he had not been able to narrow down which thing was the most important; it seemed to him to be an unmanly answer.
Ram: [If you can trust that much, then trust Frederica too. At the very least, Ram can assure you that Frederica is thinking of Garf.]
Ram stopped folding laundry and said, “Because,”
Ram: [Ram is also an older sister, just like Frederica. As an older sister, Ram knows exactly what that feels like.]
Garfiel: [That person is…]
Garfiel expressed his sullenness at Ram’s remark.
Reflexively moving his gaze, he saw the sleeping face of the girl who was the cause of his sullen face.
It was a girl sleeping in her bed, faintly breathing. Her face was the spitting image of Ram’s, the only differences seeming to be the color of her hair and eyes.
――Rem, that was her name, and she was the twin sister of Ram, so it seemed.
It was a strange thing to say that ‘it seemed’, since Garfiel and Ram had known each other for nearly a decade and, of course, her twin sister should have been no stranger to them.
No one remembered the existence of Rem except for Natsuki Subaru now.
Beside her quiet sister’s sleeping face, Ram was folding laundry that smelled of the sun. Everyone in the mansion knew that she had been visiting her sister’s bedroom for some time now.
Even within Ram, who said that, there were no memories of Rem left. Still, Ram went to visit her sister frequently, trying to fill the void of what was missing.
Ram: [That is what an older sister does.]
Garfiel: […Didn’t say anythin’.]
Ram: [Yeah? Maybe not. Then it is Ram monologuing. Precious, right?]
At Ram’s remarks, Garfiel tried to click his fangs out of habit. However, he hesitated to do so because he felt it would disturb the sleeping Rem.
But Garfiel was not sure about which was the right choice in this case.
Ram: [Ha! It is not like Garf to be considerate.]
Garfiel: [Mragh, well, sorry, that ‘m not actin’ like myself.]
Sullenly, Garfiel averted his gaze. Turning his head to the side.
Ram: [It’s not quite. ――like there was anything wrong with that.]
Garfiel’s heart was thrown for a loop as he heard those gentle words from Ram.
???: [Frederica nee-sama, it’s wonderful!]
Petra’s round eyes lit up when she saw Frederica, who had changed outfits from her maid uniform.
With her light brown hair cut to neck length, she looked like a girl who embodied the word “lovely.” Looking at Petra’s cheerful face, one could not help but smile.
Frederica: [I should not, I am…]
Putting her hand over her mouth, she restrained the laxness caused by Petra’s cuteness.
She admonished herself in order to maintain her dignity, both as a senior maid and as a surrogate older sister. Though Petra’s cuteness was a blow to her dignity, Frederica barely held her own at the water’s edge.
Petra’s pure eyes constantly tested Frederica’s inner strength.
For Frederica, who always strived for perfection, Petra was simultaneously her greatest enemy and greatest ally.
Petra: [Frederica nee-sama, did you hear me?]
Frederica: [Oh, uh, what was that? I am sorry; I was just a little distracted.]
Upon looking, it seemed that Petra was slightly puffed up, as Frederica had not heard some of what had been said. Such a situation was adorable, but telling her about it only would make her pout more.
Frederica said, “I am sorry,” apologizing,
Frederica: [So, what were you talking about?]
Petra: [So, I was telling you that the Master is terrible; if he was going to give Frederica nee-sama the day off, he should have told us earlier, not on the day of. Since then…]
Frederica: [Since then?]
Petra: [I would have prepared more for Frederica nee-sama.]
Everyone looked helpless in front of Petra, whose appa-red cheeks were puffed up in anger.
Petra’s anger was directed at Roswaal, the owner of the mansion who had granted Frederica a half-day off.
Roswaal was the object of animosity of most of the people in the mansion for a number of reasons, but Petra was the one that had the greatest amount of resentment.
As for Frederica, Roswaal was a man for whom she owed a debt of gratitude that words could not describe. Because of that relationship, Frederica would have liked to defend Roswaal――,
Frederica: [The Master has blundered such that there is no excusing him…]
Even if a person was a great benefactor, some deeds were not worthy of being defended.
Roswaal’s actions had been just like that, and Frederica had given up on defusing Petra’s anger.
Although Frederica at least tried not to look too harshly upon the same incident.
Besides, because of those circumstances, Petra was now eager to complain about everything Roswaal did, from one thing to another, hence her anger.
Frederica: [But it was the Master who told me to go out with Garf. Petra, are you sure you are not appreciative of that?]
Petra: [Uh… but, but in the case of the Master, the deducted points from before are so much more than that.]
Frederica: [You are being stubborn. But I cannot change that, either.]
Unfortunately, she failed to correct the image of Roswaal within Petra. In that situation, it was debatable whether Petra was being stubborn or whether Roswaal’s deeds were that much of a stubborn stain.
――As previously mentioned, Roswaal’s granting of a half-day off to Frederica was abrupt. He also specified using that time off as time to be spent with Garfiel.
Frederica: […The Master knows everything, doesn’t he?]
She muttered to herself only quietly, because Petra’s good look would disappear otherwise.
No doubt Petra, at least, would not be pleased with Frederica’s characterization of Roswaal as such.
With consideration for her newly formed sisterhood, Frederica placed her hand on her chest and closed her eyes.
There lay her true feelings. ――To Frederica, Roswaal was a magician.
Not a magician as a mere profession or skill, but a “magician” in the sense that he was a special being that could do anything.
It seemed as if he knew everything and could anticipate everything. This was still the case even now that Emilia and the others had subverted his schemes involving the Sanctuary.
Because that was how Roswaal was, the reunion of the older sister and younger brother, which had happened at the time of the liberation of the Sanctuary, and the subsequent awkwardness of their relationship must have been well known to him.
In order to remain in the same camp going forward, it would be best to resolve that rift as soon as possible. She thought that must have been the true meaning for the half-day off.
Leaving Frederica’s inner turmoil aside, Petra, despite her anger, was helping her get ready for the day.
Frederica did not have a lot of plain clothes, as she usually spent most of her time in her maid uniform. However, Petra transformed these few options by combining them and altering them in different ways, and as if by magic, Frederica became more and more colorful.
Petra: [Frederica nee-sama is tall and has long legs, so she looks wonderful no matter what she wears…]
Frederica: [It seems to me like Petra is a bit of a magician, too.]
Petra: [I really don’t want to share a job with the Master.]
From Frederica’s point of view, it was the highest form of praise, but Petra dismissed it with a smile.
Even though she felt sad, Petra’s finished decorating Frederica with her “magic”――,
Petra: [――It’s finished. What great results.]
Petra gazed at her finished work on Frederica, her eyes filled with a sense of accomplishment and admiration.
Frederica’s eyes widened as she examined herself in the dressing mirror, basking in Petra’s rapturous praise.
Unlike her usual maid outfit, her jacket and skirt were made of loose-fitting fabric, and her jewelry, while not gaudy, was somewhat ornate, and from top to bottom, she was finished in shades that complimented her blond hair and emerald green eyes.
With Frederica’s usual attire, this kind of outfit would not be the first thing that came to mind.
Petra: [Whew, that was satisfying. Let’s dress up Emilia-sama and the others together next time!]
Frederica: [Petra, Petra, you are changing the purpose of this.]
Noticing her own excitement, Petra cupped her head as if to reflect. Frederica gazed with a smile at such a gesture, and once again turned her attention back to her appearance.
Despite only going out with her younger brother, she seemed to have put a good bit of enthusiasm into it.
Frederica: [It’s a great battle emotionally speaking, is it not?]
And then, taking a deep breath, Frederica brushed a hand through her long blonde hair.
――The mansion was named the New Roswaal Mansion, according to Natsuki Subaru.
The former mansion was burned down for various reasons, and due to that, the Emilia camp now resided in a different mansion.
Most importantly, this one had a much older history as a mansion. The burned one was a subsidiary residence of the Mathers family, while this one was the main residence of the Mathers family.
The size of the mansion was the same as the one that burned down, although this one was more convenient, due to the famous Industrial City of Costuul ――One of the Five Great Cities of the Kingdom of Lugunica at its doorstep.
Since there was only one small village near the former mansion, she was told that it was inconvenient in many areas, such as buying necessities.
If so, it still remained a mystery as to why anyone would choose to settle in such a remote location…
Frederica: [You see, the Master is quite the eccentric, is he not?]
Garfiel: [Ain’t that sorta a wild conclusion, though?]
At Frederica’s answer, founded in Roswaal’s personality, Garfiel frowned. Even if the answer was correct, it was hardly what Garfiel wanted.
And then there’s the fact that, to begin with――,
Garfiel: [My amazin’ self doesn’t want to listen to anythin’ else about that bastard Roswaal!]
Frederica: […That is right. I am sorry; I will be more careful.]
Garfiel clicked his fangs in displeasure, and Frederica apologized with downcast eyes. The self-reflective look on his older sister’s face made Garfiel regret his ill-chosen words.
He didn’t know how to put it, but he was like this with his sister in all of his exchanges with her.
This awkwardness did not exist when he challenged the “Bowel Hunter” at the mansion in order to save their lives. However, as soon as he left that deadly battlefield, he didn’t know what to say.
When Frederica showed up at the meeting place in an outfit that was not her maid uniform, he was so surprised and bewildered that he was left speechless.
Garfiel’s throat trembled as he realized this is what it meant to be thrown off.
Originally, Garfiel avoided having thoughts about Frederica as much as possible during their time apart. This was not out of dislike for his sister, but because he thought it would be pointless.
Garfiel was ready to stay in the sealed “Sanctuary,” believing he would never see his sister again.
As a result of the collapse of his assumptions and the reunion with his sister, Garfiel was unsure of what to say to her. So consciously trying not to think about it had, in the end, backfired.
If this were Ram he was dealing with, there would be no shortage of topics to talk about because he is always thinking about her.
Presently, after getting stuck on the subject, topics of conversation such as Roswaal, whom they share in common as a subject, got brought up, and so on and on in a vicious circle like never before.
While Garfiel continued to agonize over this, Frederica was facing the same problem.
However, in her case, unlike Garfiel, she did not have a history of intentionally pushing her estranged brother out of her thoughts; on the contrary, she never forgot her family, even for a single moment.
Despite their distance, Garfiel and Ryuzu were irreplaceable family members to Frederica. Nothing had changed since their reunion.
Swiftly said, Frederica’s problem seemed simple.
――There were so many things she wanted to talk about, but she didn’t know what to talk about.
Sending Frederica’s rather astute mind sinking, the various questions and answers she had prepared in advance of her reunion with her brother came up one after another in a flurry of questions and answers.
Frederica was bright, yet compassionate. Frankly, she wanted to know everything about Garfiel during their time apart, but was too afraid to go for it and ask questions that might put him off.
A family that finally reunited. What if a rift were to emerge with said family that would be unrelated to distance or time?
The thought of it made the hairs on Frederica’s entire body stand on end. Her mind was so agitated that she was about to transform into a beast for no reason.
The fact that she went out in a different outfit with Petra’s help now seemed like a mistake. Not because of Petra, but because of Frederica’s ever-present attitude.
Naturally, Garfiel was dressed in his usual attire, and Frederica was the only one dressed up. Perhaps it was this preparation that made Garfiel feel defensive.
Frederica: [Well, you see…]
Garfiel: [Well, uhhh…]
Their voices overlapped just as they were about to make up their minds and change the subject.
They crushed each other’s start and created a tenuous atmosphere where it became awkward to move.
Frederica: [Ga-, Garf, you should speak first.]
Garfiel: [Well, Sis, I think it’d be better if ya said somethin’ first.]
And, when both parties began to yield the reins of the conversation to the other, the issue turned into a quagmire. Ultimately, both sides were unable to say anything, and silence once again fell between the two.
The two of them walked side by side for a while, awkwardly passing the time like that.
――The trip was uneventful, and the two were now in sight of the Industrial City of Costuul.
Frederica: [This town is always bustling, as usual.]
The road from the mansion merged into a large highway along the way, and after giving way to a hastily moving dragon carriage, the Industrial City gently came into view in the distance.
Prided as the largest among Lugunica’s Five Great Cities, not for nothing, Costuul had a population of nearly 100,000 residents and was a large city.
Naturally, with its vast area that corresponded to its population, and the various establishments and people that came and went to support it, it would be quite a spectacular sight to see the cityscape for the first time.
Garfiel: [Oh, ooh…]
Garfiel’s emerald-green eyes, open wide, eagerly gazing at the city, was the ideal image of a countryside man who had come to the big city.
Garfiel: [W-, well, it’s a lot different in person, ain’t it? They say, “Gasock is bigger than it sounds.”, don’t they?]
Frederica: [An idiom with a very succinct thought. Well, before that, was this Garf’s first visit to Costuul?]
Garfiel’s unexpected response caught Frederica by surprise.
It had already been more than ten days since moving out of the Sanctuary and into the current mansion. During that time, Frederica had frequented Costuul numerous times. Of course, Frederica and Garfiel’s roles at the mansion were different, hence the discrepancy between the two.
Garfiel gave Frederica an awkward look, and said, “What’s wrong with that?”,
Garfiel: [It couldn’t be helped, ya know. I was busy scentin’ up the mansion first, ya know. So I left lookin’ around outside for later.]
Frederica: [Placing a scent, that is…]
Frederica was taken aback by her brother’s sulky remark, and put her hands to her forehead.
Even though he did not know anything about the world outside of the Sanctuary, such behavior is indeed unacceptable, and could only be described as eccentric. For one, a lesson in outside common sense was in order.
Frederica: [It is alright, Garf. You are newly relocated from your old home now, and you have a lot to learn …A lot to… Oh, ooh, ooooh…!]
Garfiel: [Oh, Sis!? Are ya okay!? Ya sick!?]
Garfiel stared up in astonishment when Frederica stopped mid-speech and covered her face with both hands. Frederica groaned for a moment, then shook her head, saying, “N- no.”,
Frederica: [As I recall, ten years ago, when I first left the Sanctuary, I did exactly the same thing as you, Garf…]
Looking back on her actions, Frederica was struck by the shock coming a decade too late.
For Frederica, it was exactly ten years ago, but at that time, she, like Garfiel, exhibited a variety of eccentric behaviors due to the anxiety of being away from her hometown and her lack of common sense ――Behaviors that now can only be described as eccentric.
In addition to putting their own scent all over the mansion, she often prowled around late in the night to check on her territory and to instill a hierarchical relationship with the animals living in the surrounding area; the list went on and on.
Frederica: [Well, at that time, Clind, who was the head servant, disciplined me to correct it, and…what a surprise. I had no idea that Garf and I were so much like sister and brother…]
Garfiel: [What’cha surprised about, course it’s normal for my amazin’ self and Sis to be like sister and brother…]
Garfiel scratched his head and sighed as Frederica quivered and trembled. However, Frederica looked up with a start when Garfiel said that to her.
Frederica: [No… No, you are right. It is a matter of course. It is a normal thing for us to be like.]
Gently patting herself on the chest, Frederica smiled at Garfiel. Garfiel’s now seemingly obvious comment lightened the load on her chest.
Absolutely, her younger brother is right. ――No matter how long they have been apart, no matter what they have talked about since their reunion, Frederica and Garfiel were still siblings.
There was nothing to be excessively fearful of.
Frederica: [Hehehe, thanks to you, I am unburdened. Well done, Garf.]
Garfiel: […Just when I thought ya were going all “Oooh” and “Aaah” and stuff, ya suddenly look all relaxed, th’ hell’s going on with ya? Sis, did ya start goin’ all senile like granny t-…Gkh!]
Frederica: [That was a few too many words, you said. No, it is more than a few extra abusive words when you take into account that outburst against your grandmother. You should reflect on that.]
Garfiel: [Y-ya don’t have to hit me over it, ya know…]
Garfiel looked at Frederica with a grim look in his eyes after taking a fist to the top of his head. Frederica smiled, covering her mouth, laughing, and then turned her attention to the cityscape of Costuul.
Frederica: [Come on, let us go. We do not have that much time. We have come all the way here as siblings, so we have to enjoy ourselves in our own way.]
And so, accompanied by his elated sister, Garfiel’s tour of Costuul began.
However, in terms of tourism, none of the Five Great Cities had as few attractions as Costuul.
Frederica: [Costuul is a key industrial center for the kingdom, which is why there are fewer recreational things to do in the city, which is preferable for me, but…]
Frederica, who had comparatively more experience with Costuul than Garfiel, described the city. The tepidness of her explanation indicated that she was concerned that she might bore Garfiel with a lack of novelty.
Garfiel: [Hey, hey, Sis. What’s that big box over there?]
With wide emerald eyes, Garfiel pulled on Frederica’s sleeve, enjoying the city to the fullest.
Frederica sighed with relief at the sight of her brother, inquisitive and simply fond of big, squarish things.
Frederica: [Calm down, Garf, not only that one over there, but all the factories throughout the area use Magicreation Tools.]
Garfiel: [Magicreation Tools, huh?]
Garfiel tilted his head and clicked his fangs at the unfamiliar words. Frederica, pleased by Garfiel’s reaction, asked, “Now listen, okay?”. Frederica, pleased with the reaction, held up a finger and began to elaborate.
――”Magicreation Tools” were the most important secret that supported the Industrial City of Costuul.
Garfiel called it a “big box,” but Costuul had a wide variety of Magicreation Tools, each of which has its own function in relation to the products it manufactures.
Frederica does not know the details of how the device works, but its power source was a magic stone; it was a complex and bizarre assembly of iron and wood that does the job faster and more accurately than manual labor.
Frederica: [The city of Costuul was one of the first to incorporate the Magicreation Tools system into its work, and it has expanded and become one of the Five Great Cities. Unlike the other four cities, it is a rare place that is recognized for its new ways of being rather than its old ways.]
Garfiel: [Wow, that’s amazin’.]
Frederica: [Of course it is, of course, it is.]
Garfiel: […Why is Sis so proud about this?]
Upon explaining the origins of the city, Frederica seemed pleased with herself, to which Garfiel looked annoyed. Frederica continued, “Actually,” in response to Garfiel,
Frederica: [Now, Garf has acknowledged Magicreation Tools as an amazing achievement… but what if I told you that the master’s own Mathers family were involved in the creation of Magicreation Tools?]
Frederica: [Oh, my dear, what a grim face… it is not the Master himself, but rather his father, you know?]
Garfiel: [Don’t talk about anythin’ that has to do with that bastard Roswaal.]
Having been explained plainly, Frederica fell silent with a sour look on her face. It was a failure.
Garfiel sighed grimly, but the fact remained. The Industrial City of Costuul was supported by Magicreation Tools, the achievement of Roswaal’s predecessor.
Roswaal K. Mathers, the previous head of the family, was a great benefactor to Costuul. That was why the Mathers family’s main mansion is located so close to the city.
Frederica: [Technically, I guess you could say that he made the city that was near his main mansion flourish…]
One would like to think that even Roswaal’s predecessors would not have foreseen this far into the future, but the Mathers family is so unfathomable that one can hardly be so sure.
Frederica: [If you are interested, Garf, why don’t we take a tour of the area?]
Frederica suggested this to Garfiel, who was repeatedly glancing at the factory and itching to see it. Garfiel responded, “Oh!” as his eyes lit up.
Garfiel: [Oh, but ‘s y’know.]
Frederica: [What now? You sound pathetic and unmanly. Are you so offended when the products are connected to the Master?]
Garfiel: [That’s one of the reasons, but it ain’t the only one. But if my amazin’ self does whatever I want, Sis is gonna be bored.]
Frederica choked up at Garfiel, scratching his cheek with one finger.
It was an entirely out-of-place concern. If he could extend that consideration naturally to everyone, even Ram would show a bit more interest.
Frederica: […No, that is not possible. That girl is an iron wall. A pity.]
Garfiel: [Wait, wait, wait, why are ya suddenly starting to pity my amazin’ self, Sis? I won’t be satisfied with something like “The distance between Picqitt, and the moon is unbridgeable.”.]
Frederica: [It is nothing. Besides, your concern is unnecessary, Garf.]
Frederica: [I was the one who invited you today, Garf. That would be better if this were our last opportunity, though it probably is not, right? …then it is best that you enjoy it.]
It was not like it was back then when they wanted to, but didn’t have the opportunity. There was a decade-long rift in the relationship between Frederica and Garfiel, but now there were no obstacles in the way of bridging the gap.
Thinking about it that way, it was no trouble for her to spend the whole day today for her younger brother’s sake.
Frederica: [You are very welcome.]
Frederica’s hesitation was fleeting, and upon Garfiel’s honest thanks, Frederica responded with few words.
As it was, the pair’s legs walked to one of the factories they could see.
Frederica: [It looks like this is where they are processing magic ore.]
As they approached the factory, they could see the full extent of the large-scale Magicreation Tools, visible from a distance.
Piles of magic ore surrounded the Magicreation Tools, and a faint scent of mana tickled their nostrils.
The effect of the crystallized mana-bearing ore became more acute when the ore was processed. It can then be used for various purposes, such as ornamental items or as a crystal lamp.
This factory appeared to be another factory specializing in the processing of such magic ores.
Frederica: [If there is a staff member present, we can speak to them…]
Garfiel: [――, Sis.]
While Frederica’s eyes wandered around, looking for someone, Garfiel suddenly stopped her with a low voice. When she turned around to see what was the matter, Garfiel’s gaze was directed toward the rear of the factory.
Frederica turned her gaze in the same direction and saw a strange and mysterious figure.
An unexpected sight caused a feeble voice to escape Frederica’s throat. This was completely unexpected, a surprise from something that came from beyond her thoughts.
It was an existence that could only be described as a strange “object.”
It was about the size of a dog at most, appearing to be in a low, hunched posture like an animal. However, its entire body was covered with shiny, hard skin, the color of which shimmered in an unnatural manner. It was a strange “object” that seemed to be covered with coils of flames and water.
Frederica: [That is…]
At first glance, it appeared to be an ornamental object made with a sensibility that was hard to comprehend. That is, if it were not wriggling.
That is, if it did not turn toward them, what seemed to be its light.
The moment Garfiel tried to take a step forward, a wind occurred.
A sharp, life-threatening wind struck Garfiel and Frederica.
Without even waiting to see how it would react, Garfiel snapped his fangs at the attacker.
Before his eyes, the identity and intentions of the other party were unclear. However, it was nice to know that its intention could be easily understood. Hostility for hostility, just like “Yakkgaran’s reversed day and night.”
Garfiel: [So, if you’re goin’ for it, I ain’t going to give ya any quarter.]
Garfiel said this as he deflected the blade of wind that came from directly in front of him.
The magic also had intensity; the magic of a skilled mage was denser. If that was expressed in terms of the quality of magic, the quality of this blade of wind was very close to the worst.
Since the most recent Wind magic he saw was Ram’s, the difference between them was even greater with consideration of his favoritism.
And, finishing his evaluation of the situation instantly, Garfiel lightly tapped the ground with his toes. The impact that was released from his toes was used to deliver a blow through the “Divine Protection of Earth Spirits,” hitting his opponent.
The entity, which was more like a mass of glowing objects as opposed to a cluster of glowing lights, was shattered by the impact.
There was a high-pitched sound of stones breaking, but it was not the death cry of it itself. While some animals do not have vocal organs to make sounds, this felt different.
First, it was too fragile. Though it was of poor quality, for an entity capable of wielding magic to have this sort of durability…
Garfiel: [You’re an inconsistent one, ya bastard!]
Thinking it was aiming for something, Garfiel took one more step forward.
The “Divine Protection of Earth Spirits” blow could not be aimed very precisely. By its nature, the blessing’s basic principle was that it drew mana from the earth and transformed it into vitality for the user.
Garfiel reversed this basic principle by sending force into the earth rather than drawing it up, thereby reversing the flow, and causing the ground to cave in or rise up.
Divine Protections are not magic, and the sensation could not be explained to those who do not possess the same Divine Protection. The results that occur resemble magic, but unlike magic, there was no way to convey them. It is like the process of breathing.
He never thought that his unknown opponent would be so fragile that he could be crushed by the effort of a mere breath. And, Garfiel’s theory was correct.
Frederica, now standing two steps behind him, shouted, and the hairs on the back of Garfiel’s neck stood on end.
He did not take his eyes away from it. The “object” that was shattered by the blow was still there in front of them. And yet, Frederica’s cry suggests a different story.
――A strange “object” rained down from above the roof onto Garfiel’s head.
With a sharp exhale, Garfiel clasps his palms together powerfully above his head. The “object” that had just fallen between the palms was hit and shattered, its physical durability immediately overwhelmed.
As the shimmering debris dispersed, his palm felt a rough sensation. Feeling as if he had crushed a lump of sand, Garfiel wrinkled his nose and kicked away the ensuing flames and wind.
As with the first wind blade, there was a resurgence of wind and a confluence of flames.
However, both were still of low-quality magic and were easily overcome by Garfiel’s physical counterattacks. Of course, while this level of threat was nothing to be concerned about——.
Garfiel: [Damn, there’s so many of them, it’s “Heeromedoi’s Brute force.”]
Grumbling, Garfiel sniffed; there was an alien smell that slowly crept into his olfactory senses. It was not a bad smell, but it was at the same time a fishy and iron-rust sensation.
Although it was only a rough estimation, he could sense that there are more than a dozen of these “objects” similar to the two that he had just seen.
Frederica: [Garf, what do we do?]
Raising her voice, Frederica quickly countered one of them with her bare hands. With a single blow, with only using her transformed wrists, her ability to switch instantly was quicker than Garfiel’s.
However, once he saw Frederica’s cuffs were torn as she did so,
With a click of the tongue, Garfiel glared at the dangerous “objects” that surrounded them.
Although he and Frederica could probably wipe them out without so much struggle,
Garfiel: [I’ve got no more reason to go at’cha bastards for too long. No…]
Rather, the opposite was true.
Garfiel: [I’m gonna blow ya to bits right now, ya bastards!]
Frederica: [――Hk! Garf, please wait! Doing that here would be…]
Blood boiling in his head, Garfiel swung his leg over his head with a mighty swing. Just before his foot fell, Frederica shouted to stop him, but it was too late.
As the force of the attack hit the ground, an overflow of power permeated the earth through Garfiel’s heels, and “objects” in various parts of the factory were struck from directly below――,
――The next moment, the factory building itself crumbled as if it had experienced a massive explosion.
???: [I have a clear understanding of the events that took place. I also know that it was a difficult situation that required extremely difficult decisions.]
Their hands were laced on an ebony desk, and their stern voices and expressions looked at them directly. Their gaze gave her the illusion of physical weight, and so Frederica was hurriedly bowing her head.
Frederica: [Yes, I am very sorry… and see, Garf too!]
Garfiel: [Oh! Ow, ow! Sorry, I know it’s my fault…]
Tugging on Garfiel’s ear next to her, she made him express the same apologetic gesture as she did. Although the gesture was not polite, Garfiel was sorry in his own way, and it was probably true.
The question was whether or not he will be able to convey his remorse to the other party, however――,
???: [I accept your apology.]
Frederica: […Re-, really, you accept it?]
???: [Why such a need for validation?]
Frederica: [It is…]
Frederica muddled her words as she looked at the other person’s face. This was not polite, but with this man on the other end of the line, it was not surprising.
After all, this person’s expression never varied from when Frederica and Garfiel entered the room until now. It was a quality of a politician not to let his expression be read, but he was too thorough.
The owner of these steely-looking features was Leno Rex. ――He was the mayor of the Industrial City of Costuul, one of the Five Great Cities in the Kingdom of Lugunica.
Long story short, he was the most powerful person in Costuul and was also responsible for the magical ore processing plant and other facilities that Frederica and Garfiel had unceremoniously blown up.
――Frederica and Garfiel’s outing took a dramatic turn when they were attacked by strange “objects” at a factory they were visiting for a tour of the Magicreation Tools, resulting in a massive explosion.
Naturally, Frederica and Garfiel were unable to leave without being taken into custody by the responding guards, leading up to the present situation.
Leno: [About those strange “objects” you have come across…]
Frederica: [Well, you may not believe us, but, they did exist, okay? But we could not just let them attack us without a fight, so we struck back…]
As a result, the “objects” were destroyed, and the evidence was lost and scattered. However, Frederica was still uncertain as to what the objects were, unable to find the right words to describe them.
At this point, she didn’t want to sound like she made up an excuse on the spot to get out of the situation, but——,
Leno: [No need to worry; we have confirmed their presence here as well. We are currently having a difficult time with the “Lightbugs.”]
Frederica: [Lightbug, is it?]
Leno: [They are called that for convenience.]
In answer to Frederica’s question, Leno wrinkled his brow. This was the first time he has changed his facial expression since their arrival, but the change, causing his already stern face to appear even sterner, was unwelcome.
Leno tapped his fingers on the desk, and looking into Frederica and Garfiel’s faces,
Leno: [Those of you who are involved with Margrave Mathers know how this city has developed. It is now called one of the Five Great Cities in the nation, and I have been appointed as city mayor, among other things, although I am not as qualified as I should be…]
Garfiel: [Yeah, it’s only gotten bigger in the last few decades, hasn’t it? Sis told me that. So?]
Leno: [Behind that rapid development, the existence of those Lightbugs has been confirmed time and again. This is a largely unknown fact to the outside world.]
Leno: [Curiously, I have never heard of any sightings of Lightbugs in other cities. The Lightbug has thus been considered an anomaly, existing only in the soil of Costuul.]
Frederica frowned with her shapely eyebrows as she listened to Leno’s explanation.
There were always problems that come with every place.
The existence of the Sanctuary, with its barrier and tomb, was a prime example of this.
As Leno told them, this was the first time Frederica had heard about Costuul’s Lightbug. It was a topic that has been handled with such scrutiny and so much thought, she realized.
Why did he confide such an important issue to Frederica and Garfiel?
Leno: [I regret my inability on this matter, but I would like to ask Margrave Mathers to help with this. Right now, the city is experiencing an unprecedented outbreak of Lightbugs, which is disrupting the operation of the factories.]
Frederica: [Disrupting the operation… Ah.]
Frederica placed her hand over her mouth at Leno’s plea, without changing her complexion or tone of voice.
The factory where Frederica and the others were attacked by the “object” ――A Lightbug, was unoccupied. However, Frederica and Garfiel were curious about the tools that had been left abandoned, obviously in the process of being worked on, and the magical ore scattered about.
That was probably the result of the Lightbugs occurring during the operations and forcing them to evacuate.
Garfiel: [What’s the point of talkin’ to that bastard Roswaal?]
Frederica’s contemplation aside, Garfiel’s voice unapologetically cut in when Roswaal’s name was mentioned.
For a beat, Leno pondered the relationship between Garfiel and Roswaal, but quickly snapped out of its stagnation, taking a breath with a “Hmm”,
Leno: [I thought Margrave Mathers would have wisdom on how to solve the problem. You all must have thought that Lightbug’s ecology was strange as well.]
Frederica: [Although they were weak, they did have the ability to use magic.]
Leno: [Up until now, we have only had minor injuries, however, if we have serious injuries… much less, if deaths begin happening, it will be too late. The Margrave is also no stranger to Costuul’s problems.]
Frederica took in the strong language of the city’s safety, swallowing her words.
In fact, Roswaal’s title was “Margrave of the West,” and the Industrial City of Costuul was also located in a location that in a broad sense would be managed by Roswaal.
Damage to Costuul could call into question the Margrave’s ability to do more than merely collect taxes, of course.
That could be a fatal blunder as the sponsor of Emilia’s participation in the Royal Selection.
Frederica: [It is one problem after another, so busy with it all indeed…]
Leno: [Wherever you are, peace does not last. It only makes a difference if things happen in the city or in the kitchen. That is what my wife tells me.]
Frederica: [Ara, that is an excellent point.]
Frederica’s lips relaxed slightly at the jest, which felt quite unlike him.
Regardless, the appeal certainly needed to be shared with Roswaal. Although the outing with Garfiel would have been a letdown, the priority was work.
So, Frederica, hiding a slight disappointment, called out “Garf” next to her,
Frederica: [Garf, you heard him. As for today, let us report to the Master at…]
Garfiel: [Nah, don’t think so.]
Garfiel simply shook his head at the request. Frederica sighed at his attitude.
Garfiel’s dislike of Roswaal was very serious, but this was a situation where issues of like and dislike must be put aside.
Frederica: [Garf, please do not make this personal. This is an important matter for Costuul.]
Garfiel: [It’s not that I don’t wanna do it because the bastard pisses me off. I’m talkin’ about the fact that he can’t just come over and fix it right now.]
Having said that, Garfiel got up from the couch. Turning his gaze to the far end of the city mayor’s office, Garfiel then,
Garfiel: [It’s here.]
Immediately afterward, Garfiel’s gaze turned to where something unusual was happening. Near the wall, a bookshelf filled with books shook violently, and something slid out from behind it.
Without hesitation, it tried to jump toward the window of the room. However――,
Garfiel: [I’m not gonna let ya get away!]
Garfiel stepped in with a roar, his fist slamming into the foreign object that traveled up the wall. The impact excessively exceeded its durability, and the sound produced by the light and the shattering of the wall rippled through the room.
Leno: [That just now was…]
Frederica: [A Lightbug.]
The shattered entity sparkled and dispersed under Garfiel’s blow. Seeing this, the voices of Leno and Frederica overlapped in turn.
Frederica saw that it was the exact same as the Lightbugs that they encountered at the magic ore processing plant.
Frederica: [The wall aside, …Leno-sama, are Lightbugs all over the city!?]
Leno: [Negative. At the very least, the instances of finding them were limited to the area around the factories. Even on the rare occasions when they went out into the city, they were never found in City Hall.]
Garfiel: [No way. Did they follow us?]
Garfiel’s eyes narrowed as he picked up a piece of the smashed Lightbug.
There is no doubt that Garfiel’s mutterings were the most plausible theory at the moment; it was more realistic to say they were following them from the processing plant than that the Lightbugs were lurking everywhere.
Frederica: [But what is the purpose of this? The Lightbug’s proclivities, perhaps?]
Garfiel: [They suddenly attacked my amazin’ self and Sis, ya know? That kinda thinkin’ isn’t something my amazin’ self would expect at all.]
Frederica: [Ga-, Garf, you are smart enough to…]
Aside from his usual apprehensions, Garfiel’s intuition when it came to fighting was sharp. And, Frederica had no hesitation in following Garfiel’s instincts.
In this situation, the Lightbugs tracked Frederica and Garfiel to the City Hall――.
Leno: [Definitely, to overhear what was said…]
Garfiel: [This is proof that someone is controllin’ these insect things.]
Leno: [Impossible. As I said, The Lightbugs have been around since this city began to be developed.]
At the conclusion, Leno stood up and waited. Indeed, if his testimony was true, this Lightbug-controlling entity has been involved since their outbreak.
The aim of their efforts, the nature of Lightbugs, and everything else remained unclear.
Within the line of sight of Frederica, who swallowed spit, a crack appeared in the city mayor’s office wall. It was not the effect of Garfiel’s blow, but a deliberately inflicted destructive force.
Besides, the destruction was not only on one of the walls, but extended to all four walls ――No, even to the floor and ceiling. In other words, fine fissures were appearing all over the City Hall.
Garfiel: [They’re crystal fuckin’ clear!]
Garfiel, with a twinkle in his eye, howled when he realized it was an enemy attack.
With that, while coming to the same conclusion as her younger brother, Frederica looked back to Leno.
But, in the midst of a rapidly changing situation, priorities should be carefully examined, and,
Frederica: [Leno-sama! How many people are in City Hall now?]
Leno: [――. Twelve.]
Understanding the meaning of Frederica’s question, Leno instantly arrived at the answer.
In response, Frederica shouted, “Garf!”.
Frederica: [Please break a hole in the floor! I am going out!]
As soon as he was told, Garfiel immediately stomped the floor. At the same time, Frederica leapt to Leno, carrying the large man easily and launching him backward into the window.
With a high-pitched crash, Frederica shattered the window, falling with Leno to the ground below.
Even in this predicament, Leno’s tenacity to not let out a single scream was remarkable.
The city mayor’s office is on the third floor of City Hall, a height that Frederica could easily land from. But that would not be the case for ordinary people.
Garfiel: [Sis, let’s go!]
Frederica: [I understand!]
With an aggressive voice, Garfiel signaled to Frederica.
In response, the windows of the second floor of the City Hall broke one after another in front of Frederica.
It was the City Hall employees being thrown out of the building with a mighty crash that was the cause of it.
Frederica caught them falling, blue in the face and screaming, just outside. She rescued one and immediately lowered them to the ground to rescue the next.
Eight times in a row, and after more than half the number of people Leno had mentioned had been successfully rescued,
Frederica: [The building is…]
The first signs of its collapse completely spread throughout the building, causing the City Hall to collapse in front of Frederica. A plume of smoke and shock surged through the air, while Frederica’s blonde hair fluttered wildly, her eyes straining to see.
The four missing staff members and Garfiel, all of them now lying on the ground, are speechless.
Such a long, uncomfortable silence, and――,
And then, one figure broke through the plume of smoke and leapt out with great force.
――No, there was only one figure, but the figure had one person in their right hand, one in their left, one on their back, and one in their mouth.
Frederica: [Garf! Are you all right!?]
Garfiel: [Kaa-pfft! Who the hell do ya think my amazin’ self is? Well, for a moment, it looked like we weren’t gonna make it out in time, but…]
Garfiel answered by lowering the four people he helped onto the ground and turning them around by their shoulders, feeling relieved that there was no sign of injury other than black smudges on their faces from the fumes.
Frederica: [Surely a collapse this large is not a coincidence, is it?]
Garfiel: [Right? This means we found out somethin’ inconvenient to ‘em, and they want to keep us quiet.]
Frederica shuddered as Garfiel looked behind him at the wreckage of City Hall, muttering to himself.
It was unexpected that a half-day vacation together with siblings would turn out to be entangled in such a situation.
Leno: [Thank you all for your help. On behalf of the staff, I thank you as well.]
Then Leno, who was also involved in the same devastation, approached. Leno thanked them, but having already fixed his clothes, his composure did not match that of the victims in this disaster.
Leno: [I was particularly amazed at the way you carried yourself. I admire it greatly.]
Garfiel: [Oh, oh, so ya are. Ya know, I’m kinda losin’ my groove, but we don’t have time to talk about this.]
Leno: [Indeed. ――This is a clear attack on the city.]
The tone of his voice dropped a degree, and Leno clearly recognized the current situation with his words.
An attack on the city. ――The attack was aimed at City Hall, the hub of the city, and the city’s mayor. It was definitely a situation that needed to be recognized as such.
Frederica: [The perpetrator is manipulating the Lightbugs and plunging the city into chaos. Though their aims are unknown…]
Garfiel: [Our amazin’ selves have noticed.]
Frederica: [And, the other party must have realized that we have noticed. The situation is not in our favor.]
Unexpected and unanticipated interactions may be mutual, but there was a difference in the level of preparation that has been built up to that point. By nature, a battle depended on preparation before it even began.
The mindset of the one who was not prepared to be hit was different from that of the one who was prepared to be hit.
The situation proceeded as if to support the conclusions of Frederica and the others.
People from all over the city rushed to the collapsed City Hall to see what had happened. Amidst all this, a roar was heard in the opposite direction of City Hall―― The area where the factories were located.
For the second time today, there was a roar in the area where Garfiel caused the explosion. Frederica’s emerald-green eyes widened as she turned to see what had caused it.
Frederica: [――Hk, that is-!]
Surprise escaped her lips as a tower of light shot up in Frederica’s gaze.
A spire of light, decorated with complex and bizarre patterns, shimmering with non-uniform colors over its entirety—— The sight of its surface writhing in the distance was a frightening realization that it was not a tower at all.
That was a collection of Lightbugs.
They gathered together at a tremendous rate and formed a tower of light.
Frederica: [This is a terrible day off…!]
Garfiel: [Damn… I knew it; goin’ out of the forest would be no good!]
Frederica and Garfiel’s respective lamenting voices overlap, echoing up into the sky.
――The Industrial City of Costuul, and the day off of the demi-human siblings, was swept away by a shimmering malice.
The appearance of the shimmering Lightbugs shattered the peace and quiet of the Industrial City of Costuul.
Starting with an explosion in the factory district, followed by the collapse of City Hall, and then finally an outbreak of light in the factory district again ――all of these were the work of a mysterious creature called the Lightbug.
Garfiel: [Tsk! Ya lookin’ down on me…!]
The Lightbugs, clustered together, became spires of geometric hues of light, and Garfiel clicked his fangs and howled as many of the city’s residents were shaken by their presence.
He had just rescued about ten people from a collapsed building. However, the determination throughout his body had not waned; he remained determined.
With a beastly expression, he was about to run toward the swarm of Lightbugs, his fangs bared.
Frederica: [Please wait, Garf!]
However, it was Frederica who stopped Garfiel from rushing in with a raised voice.
She looked to her younger brother, whose nose was scrunched up, and pleaded with him as she tended to an injured City Hall employee who was caught up in the collapsed building.
Frederica: [The priority is providing aid to people. Garf, your healing magic should be up to the task.]
Garfiel: [What’cha ya sayin’? There’s that damn huge thing goin’ crazy right in front of us. If we just beat it up…]
Frederica: [For the moment, there is more harm being done. Do you not sense it, Garf?]
Frederica gave a scathing look and sniffed at Garfiel, who pointed at his enemy and insisted. At his sister’s rebuke, Garfiel snorted and clicked his tongue likewise.
Garfiel and Frederica, siblings with mixed beastman blood, had five keen senses. Among them, their sense of smell was unparalleled to that of humans, and even in this situation, they were able to distinguish various odors.
The sudden appearance of the Lightbugs and the ensuing chaos, with no small amount of it, the smell of blood――
Frederica: [It is proof that the number of wounded is increasing, even if we could eliminate the Lightbugs…]
Garfiel: [There’s no point, is what’cha mean? …Shit, so what should I do then!?]
Frederica: [――. Very well done, Garf.]
Frederica smiled at Garfiel, who was receptive to her opinion on the matter, and was ready to give priority to providing aid. Then, she once again turned her emerald eyes to the Lightbugs in the distance ――the huge Lightbug.
A colossal Lightbug, like a tower of light, appeared in the center of the factory district. However, at least at the moment, there was no indication that the large Lightbug had begun to destroy anything. Although the combat power of the smaller Lightbugs encountered earlier at the factory were not significant, one cannot be optimistic about the behavior of an enemy of this size.
Based on what was overheard in the conversation at City Hall, it was certain that there was a master who was controlling the Lightbugs. Their aim was unknown, but it would be convenient if they had no intention of mobilizing the Lightbugs right now.
With this in mind, Frederica called out “Leno-sama,” to the tall City Mayor who stood by her side.
Frederica: [Please send an evacuation order for the factory district and send relief to those who are injured. Fortunately, there is no sign of movement from the Lightbugs. Collect the injured without provoking them and gather them in one place for treatment. Garf… my brother should be able to help you there.]
Leno: [Agreed. Our first priority is to avoid casualties.]
Frederica’s prompt and efficient instructions were followed without hesitation by Leno Rex, who was always ready to listen to the opinions of others, instead of sitting on the laurels of his position as the city’s mayor. These were the qualities of a politician. As one would expect from a man who was in charge of one of the Five Great Cities, he was an outstanding person.
As Frederica was impressed, Leno looked up and said, “But,” staring at the Lightbugs from a distance.
Leno: [Your younger brother is correct; we cannot leave that thing alone. We need to send a strike team immediately to…]
Frederica: [――I would not worry about that.]
The next moment, Leno’s expression, which had seemed to have never been upset, slightly tightened. Frederica saw this out of the corner of her eye and felt a slight euphoria, though it was not quite enough to compensate for the grief she was causing Petra.
Leno’s cheeks hardened, and standing on the grass in front of his gaze was a four-legged beast with a beautiful golden coat of fur.
Her appearance was similar to that of a leopard, with emerald eyes, sharp fangs, and a commanding face that somehow hinted at intelligence and grace. With its elegant physique, it was a golden female leopard that even brought an out-of-place feeling of excitement.
In terms of sudden appearances, it was as abrupt as the Lightbugs. But unlike the Lightbugs, the source of the leopard was clear. ――If one looked at the scattered clothes under her feet.
Leno: [Frederica-sama’s Beastification?]
Frederica: [This is an emergency situation, so please do not be offended by the vulgarity of my behavior. ――I will return to the mansion and inform the master.]
Leno: [It would be reassuring if Margrave Mathers could come.]
Once the initial shock had passed, Leno acclimatized very quickly. He immediately affirmed Frederica’s decision and turned to the surrounding personnel.
Leno: [I know you are all in a state of confusion and turmoil. However, every second counts. Every second here is worth a human life, so please follow my instructions.]
At Leno’s calm command, the personnel looked up. Then, a moment after, they nodded from wherever they were, stood up, and began to move to deal with the disturbance.
They were highly trained. ――No, it was a difference in consciousness, or so it felt when they were only Leno’s subordinates.
Frederica: [Garf, please comply with Leno-sama in case of an emergency…]
Garfiel: [Make yer own decisions, right? I ain’t a little kid, I know what I’m doin’.]
Frederica: [No matter how much time has passed, you will always be a kid to me.]
At the words of his older sister, in her leopard form, Garfiel clicked his tongue in a sulky manner. Frederica’s four paws kicked the ground as she gazed on with a ferocious grin. A moment later, her figure shifted into a golden wind.
The beastified Frederica ran so fast that it seemed as if it were an illusion.
Garfiel: [With Sis like that, it won’t take long for that bastard Roswaal to get the message. Our amazin’ selves are…]
Leno: [Let us move forward with the same dedication as that of Frederica-sama. Evacuate the people from the factory district, treat the wounded, and prevent the damage from spreading. Can we count on your healing magic?]
Garfiel: [Ha! “Getten’s net-work”, Who’da ya think you’re talkin’ to?]
Garfiel responded to Leno’s confirmation with gnashed teeth and looked behind him.
What was the purpose of the huge Lightbug, unmoving at the end of his gaze?
Garfiel: […I don’t like the idea of bein’ left behind, Sis.]
Kicking the ground with her four beastly legs, bathed in a fierce wind, Frederica felt euphoric.
Even though she knew that it was not the time for this, she could not stop herself from being excited. Perhaps it was the delight of the beastman blood that flowed within her.
She had never spoken with another beastman or half-beastman before, wondering if they had ever questioned their own existence. ――In her own heart, there was endless self-questioning.
So, which of these two forms was truly who she was?
She could not say.
Beastification itself was a special kind of transformation that only those who were half-beastman possessed. It invoked the blood that flowed within oneself, and one abandoned one’s human body and underwent a complete metamorphosis into the body of a beast.
Just as Frederica became a leopard, Garfiel had the power to transform into a tiger. There were more than a few half-beasts in the world with similar powers.
What did they think? Did they not wonder? If the real her was the one that stood on two legs, then what was the true nature of this feeling of liberation and euphoria when she became a beast?
Was it not because she was so constrained by her normal self that she felt liberated at the moment she became a beast? If so, was her true self a person or a beast?
Frederica: [If it were Garf, he would not even have these worries…]
Frederica’s beastly mouth drew a wry smile at the thought of her younger brother.
That was not to say that Garfiel was reckless and simple-minded. He was surprisingly sensitive, timid, and a real handful.
The fact that he sacrificed himself for more than a decade to preserve the Sanctuary spoke for itself.
So the reason Garfiel did not have the same doubts as Frederica was that for him, the root of Frederica’s problems was trivial. They were undeniably siblings by blood, yet Frederica and Garfiel’s personal circumstances are different.
However, she had no intention of going out of her way to talk to her brother about this particular issue.
Frederica: [――Far too many distracting thoughts. Right now, my top priority is to inform the Master as soon as possible.]
Shaking her head lightly, Frederica concentrated on the speed at which she ran.
Frederica’s speed, like a golden wind, reduced a ten-minute walk to less than a minute, which, considering the distance from Costuul to the Roswaal mansion, was more than enough for a round-trip.
Despite these jumbled thoughts, her speed was unhindered, and her judgment was not wrong.
――But only if things were limited to the chaos in Costuul caused by the proliferation of the Lightbugs.
The moment her forelegs stepped onto the ground, Frederica’s nose caught the scent of hostility.
It was not instinctive, but more like a genuine, well-crafted intent to harm. With a single swoop, it came at Frederica’s legs, which kicked the ground. A split-second decision had been made.
She slammed her paws into the dirt, sending up a cloud of dust, and changed directions. Flying sideways while maintaining her speed, the female leopard evaded the threat that was closing in on her. However――,
???: [――That’s nice, tomboy. I’m also fond of teaching some manners to people like ya.]
The speed with which the enemy was moving was effortlessly catching up to Frederica, who was now leaping to the side at high speed. Frederica stiffened at the sound of a man’s voice whispering in her ear and swung her claws.
Without mercy, she would gouge her opponent’s face with a blow that would leave claw marks on even the thickest steel plate. The front leg was swung with tremendous force, but was stopped before it could strike her enemy directly.
Then, a powerful kick to Frederica’s exposed torso sent her into a silent fit of agony.
Spittle flew out of her mouth, as Friederica let out a pained cry at the tremendous force knocking her sideways.
Although the durability of beastmen was extraordinarily high, even among demi-humans, it was not so much the case for Frederica. Even taking this into account, the power of that blow was still unbelievable.
???: [Normally, I’d just tear off a limb or two here, but my client insisted, ya see? They ordered me to do no more damage than necessary. So, about that…]
???: [Would ya mind putting up a little more of a fight? If ya resist, I can make the case that I hurt ya to make ya behave. ――Well, by the looks of it, that’s not gonna happen.]
The man with a ferocious demeanor looked down upon Frederica, who was panting in agony, and laughed brazenly. He had dull golden hair tied into a knot at the back and wild-looking facial hair.
No further information could be gleaned by Frederica in the spur of the moment――,
???: [You should sleep for now. Chances are, you’ll be happier if ya don’t wake up.]
Such were the man’s last words before Frederica’s consciousness faded.
――The change in the huge Lightbug’s movement conveniently came when the treatment of the severely injured was over.
Garfiel: [――hk, What the?]
Wiping his bloody fingers with his waistband, Garfiel looked up and wrinkled his nose.
This was right after he followed Leno’s directions and applied healing magic to every single one of the gathered wounded.
The workload would have made a conventional mage dizzy, but Garfiel still felt strong. This was thanks to Garfiel’s Divine Protection of Earth Spirits.
As long as Garfiel’s feet were in contact with the earth, the power of his Divine Protection allowed him to draw upon the earth’s vitality―― or in other words, mana. Of course, that amount also had its limit, but it was far more than the ordinary person; it had reached a point in which it was possible for him to make frequent use of his mana. In Subaru’s words, “It’s like a spare tank of gas”.
At any rate, Garfiel, who was hardly affected by the use of healing magic due to this blessing, saw movement in the huge Lightbug at the edge of his vision.
Since its piercing emergence from the factory district’s ground, where it had caused damage to the surrounding area with that powerful impact, the unmoving, glittering giant, its head glared at the surrounding area.
That gesture, it was as if it were searching for prey.
Garfiel: [Yo, City Mayor-san. Sis hasn’t come back yet… but if this thing goes on a rampage, it’ll be a crazy mess. Before that…]
Leno: [You are going to subdue it? I respect your decision.]
Leno, who had understood Garfiel’s intentions and was taking command of the battle, immediately nodded his head.
It helped that he was quick on the uptake, but he was a man who never said no to a proposal, even one from Frederica. It made one wonder if he was not decisive, but just unthinking.
Leno: [Without a doubt, you are currently the strongest force in the city. I wish to entrust it to you.]
Garfiel: [Ha! Ya get it, don’tcha? My amazin’ self will take care of everything!]
Nodding, Leno’s statement gave Garfiel a push forward, throwing away his doubts. Then, extending his arms to those around him, he stepped forcefully on the ground and…
Garfiel: [Anyone who is far away, listen to the sound! If you’re close, then gather yer eyes here! My amazin’ self is going to beat all yer enemies with my fists!!]
Chanting a speech he had learned from Subaru, Garfiel’s body launched like an arrow.
The city’s residents were astonished by Garfiel’s instantaneous disappearance. Leaving their astonishment behind, Garfiel vigorously shattered the cobblestones, flew across the rooftops, kicked the walls, and made a suicidal attack on the huge Lightbug.
With the residents having already evacuated, Garfiel sprinted through the now deserted city block. He leapt, flew, and advanced to the heart of the huge Lightbug, as a flood of Lightbugs rushed his way from the street corners.
The huge Lightbug was formed by the gathering of many Lightbugs ――but, there were still plenty of Lightbugs that were not swallowed up by it. It was a clever trap for a bug.
Garfiel: [That ain’t enough to stop my amazin’ self!]
A few puny Lightbugs were not enough to slow down Garfiel’s advance.
The fire and wind attacks that they unleashed were extinguished with a swing of his arm and a stomp of his foot, and the Lightbugs, having lost their strength, were unable to maintain themselves and collapsed. It was a desperate attack.
Their behavior was less than that of insects, unnatural, as their desperate behavior meant nothing.
Garfiel: […What sorta shitty bastard is controllin’ ‘em?]
Inwardly irritated by what was happening, Garfiel clicked his fangs.
There was no doubt that the Lightbugs had intent behind them, as evidenced by the fact that they targeted City Hall. And it was clear that this was the result of human malice, not animal instinct. Therefore, there was a mastermind directing the actions of both the huge Lightbug and the Lightbugs.
There was a mastermind, but, their plan was too poorly executed; the Lightbugs’ futile deaths were a good sign of that――,
With this thought, Garfiel, who was growing angry at his invisible enemy, noticed an unexplainable presence and raised his eyebrows. His gaze turned not to the huge Lightbug, but to the ground a short distance in front of it.
That presence, there was the fast-moving back of a person that ran straight down the street in a straight line to the huge Lightbug.
As Leno said, no one was more capable than Garfiel in the city right now. The city’s security forces were also prioritizing the evacuation of the residents and should not have the capability to take on the huge Lightbug.
So, even seeing their back, the impression at first was of a reckless, out-of-control resident running loose. But their steps were fast, and it was hard to believe that they were just a confused resident.
Then, the identity of the person became immediately apparent.
A figure running at tremendous speed looked back without slowing down. As they continued to run backward, a young man with dark blue hair and a monocle was looking toward him.
――It was Clind, a butler who served Annerose, a relative of Roswaal.
The question that Garfiel was trying to ask was to the effect of “What are you doing here?”.
No sooner than that, the huge Lightbug launched an attack on Garfiel and Clind.
Garfiel and Clind: [――――]
Multiple lights blended together, and the light that was emitted was dyed white as rays of heat burned through the streets. Buildings and trees along the way could be seen vanishing as they were burned by the intense heat.
Although weak individually, thousands of Lightbugs could accumulate extraordinary power when united into a single body. Even Garfiel would not be able to survive their heat rays.
The only reason he did no’t get hit was because of Clind’s hand signals as he ran backward ――not words, but hand gestures to warn him of the incoming danger. Thanks to that considerable service――,
Garfiel dove under the huge Lightbug’s legs and slammed his fist into its massive body. The moment his fist hit, it felt like stone had cracked and shattered on impact, gouging out a chunk of it.
However, there was nothing endearing about a huge Lightbug made from several combined that could be subdued by a single fist strike. Instead, it was a colony that only appeared to be a huge body. Only one of the Lightbugs could be killed with a single fist strike; in short, the enemy had several thousand lives left.
One shot was far from enough, and even with a hundred, it would still appear lively.
Garfiel: [If that’s the case, I’m gonna put 10,000 punches into ya!]
Barking and declaring ten times the number of blows required, Garfiel’s entire body resonated with energy in order to destroy. With the sensation of boiling blood, his muscles swelled, and his Divine Protection sucked up the power of the earth.
Fists, claws, and fangs were swung, and the body of the huge Lightbug was vigorously devoured.
While shimmering in complex and mysterious ways, flakes of light peeled off from the writhing, huge Lightbug. All of them consisted of the Lightbugs that made up the huge Lightbug, releasing mana like an explosive burst.
Chain explosions of light erupted under the feet of the huge Lightbug, and Garfiel, unable to defend against the resulting range, was also thrown in it and blown away. He put his hands into the ground, forcibly breaking his movement, and looked up.
Although he was not injured, there was bitterness at being forced to start over. Furthermore――,
Garfiel: [They just keep comin’ ‘n comin’, there’s no end to ‘em.]
However many he removed or scraped, more Lightbugs were incorporated into the huge Lightbug to be replenished afterward.
Garfiel had no intention of getting pushed around whatsoever, but the damage to the city would be enormous at this rate.
Clind: [You seem to be having difficulties. Assistance.]
Against the advancing Lightbugs, Garfiel made a motion of his hands as if literally swatting an insect, and then glared at Clind, who had come up next to him.
He was a calm-faced young man whom he had only met a few times in the month before.
The reason was that it was Annerose, his master, who provided housing for the residents who had been displaced from the Sanctuary, as well as for the people in the Roswaal mansion, which had burned to the ground.
From that time on, he had always thought that he had a very unusual demeanor, but――,
Garfiel: [Help me; what the fuck can ya do?]
Clind: [Indeed. I am but a butler, so I am proud to say that I have a wide variety of small skills in that regard. Proficiency.]
Having said that, Clind stepped forward and gently lifted his hand behind Garfiel’s back. Then he clenched his five fingers. ――Immediately after, the torso of the huge Lightbug exploded.
The huge Lightbug was split in half down the middle of its body and could no longer support itself. Clind looked at its upper body, which was falling down toward the city.
Clind: [That is not good. If I make a mess, Annerose-sama will reprimand me. ――Delight.]
Narrowing his eyes at the future reprimand, Clind continued to move the fingertips of his outstretched hand. With that simple movement, the upper body of the huge Lightbug, which was about to smash into the street, was completely disassembled.
If the once formidable mass dispersed and broke into countless Lightbugs, the damage to the streets would be trivialized in one fell swoop.
There was a sound of something granular and hard steadily dropping, and the scattered Lightbugs fell like stones. They quickly rose up and gathered again, trying to get back together to reform the huge Lightbug.
Clind: [If the structure is disturbed, then they cannot reform. A little creativity. Instantaneous.]
Garfiel: [Ha! I don’t get what’cha doing, but…!]
Clind’s attack and ingenuity were neither seen nor understood whatsoever. But as long as Clind was on his side, he did not care. Garfiel was able to come to that conclusion.
He stomped down, cracked the streets, and the rising earth drilled the Lightbugs from directly below.
This was the same technique that was used at the factory, much to Frederica’s outrage, but it was the best solution for killing a large area of targets. Afterward, he would have to convince Leno that the damage was unavoidable.
Garfiel: [So, why’re ya here again?]
Clind: [I was on my way to the Master’s residence, accompanied by Annerose-sama. Seeing that, Annerose-sama ordered me to deal with the situation. Commanding.]
Garfiel: [Oh, that little miss, is it?]
The huge Lightbug, which had been broken apart and reduced to half its original size, released a ray of heat that was also reduced to half power. The upraised shield of earth caught it, and the two exchanged a few words behind the mud wall.
Clind’s answer made Garfiel recall an image of Annerose, and it made sense.
She was nine years old, but she was so mature that it was hard to believe that. In fact, Garfiel, who did not know much about the world, had a lot of level headed youths around him.
Certainly Annerose, but also Petra. Sticking close to Frederica and so on, Petra often glared at Garfiel with her round eyes, as if he were an enemy.
This time, she was very hostile to the idea of him going out alone with his sister.
Garfiel: [――. Oh, that’s remindin’ me, Sis sure is takin’ her time.]
Clind: [Frederica? I do not see her, but she accompanied you? Inquiry.]
Garfiel: [Oh, she went to the mansion to fetch that bastard Roswaal…]
If it was his sister’s beastly legs, then she should have arrived at the mansion around the time the huge Lightbug started to move. From there to here, there should have been some kind of follow-up to the attack and defense.
It was then that Garfiel had such a question――,
???: [――Hii, yahh!]
The shout coincided with a long spear of ice being thrust into the torso of the huge Lightbug.
With Garfiel and Clind firmly rooted in place, the huge Lightbug was trying to reconstruct its shattered body in the meantime, and its intentions were successfully thwarted by a single, powerful shot.
The huge Lightbug was thrown back by the impact and fell to the ground, scattering fragments. The air hissed as the large hole in its body froze over. It was a “regeneration-killing” blow that interfered with the regrowth of its huge body.
And the one who unleashed that merciless icy blow was――,
???: [Garfiel! And Clind-san! Are you two okay?]
A young girl with flowing silver hair, Emilia, rushed down the street with nimble footsteps. She was probably the one who delivered the coup de grace that was too powerful to be called just a reinforcement.
Seeing that figure, Garfiel closed one eye, and Clind politely bowed.
Clind: [Emilia-sama, I apologize for the inconvenience. Regretful.]
Emilia: [Huh? Don’t worry about it. I should be sorry; I just came out of nowhere and didn’t even talk to you two. From a distance, I just saw someone being attacked…]
Garfiel: [That’s a very Emilia-sama-like answer…]
She rushed in and made her opening move with such power. It was the ultimate display of her character, but her nonchalant attitude was all the more frightening when you saw the results of her attack.
Emilia: [Roswaal told me just to freeze the wounds of those little ones who were sticking together.]
Garfiel: [Ha! So that’s the bastard’s meddlin’, huh? No wonder I thought ya were so merciless… So, I don’t see Sis; did you leave her behind?]
Emilia’s eyes widened in surprise. Her reaction made Garfiel feel uncomfortable, and he tilted his head in puzzlement with an, “Ah?”.
Garfiel: [Sis went to the mansion to ask for help. That’s why ya showed up, right, Emilia-sama?]
Emilia: [I came because I happened to see a big light in the distance. I talked to Roswaal and rushed over. Subaru and the others will be here later…]
Garfiel: [Sis didn’t come back?]
Garfiel’s cheeks stiffened at Emilia’s unexpected statement. Frederica, who had gone to tell them about the huge Lightbug, would not have taken any detours along the way. First of all, if she had not passed Emilia, who had come straight here from the mansion, then――,
Garfiel: [Sis got stopped by some enemy…?]
Emilia: [Huh? What?]
Clind silently narrowed his eyes at Garfiel’s intuition. Only Emilia couldn’t keep up with the situation, so her being confused could no’t be helped.
Garfiel tried to choose the right words, wondering how to explain it.
Clind: [Emilia-sama, while this is impolite, can we leave this to you? Delegation.]
With that said, Clind skipped most of the explanation and told Emilia just the conclusion. Then, in front of the two astonished people, he indicated with his hand toward the huge Lightbug.
Clind: [We believe that the adversary who controls that thing has kidnapped Frederica, putting the custody of Frederica between him and me. I would like to ask Emilia-sama, who is a good match to dispatch that thing. Petition.]
Emilia: [――. Is everything okay with the two of you?]
Clind: [Assuredly so. Promise.]
The exchange between Emilia and Clind was established, leaving Garfiel behind.
With a promise exchanged, Emilia faced the huge Lightbug with a serious look on her face, holding up both hands and outpouring powerful mana. Seeing that power, the huge Lightbug’s attention was drawn to Emilia.
Behind her, Clind looked back at Garfiel, and,
Clind: [As you have heard. Leave this place to Emilia-sama, and we will go to Frederica. Search.]
Garfiel: [Oi, oi, oi, are ya sure ‘bout that? But Emilia-sama is an important person not only to the Captain, but to that bastard Roswaal as well. That’s…]
Clind: [Putting something in a frame and displaying it is not the only way to treat it with care. Differentiation.]
Immediately after Clind’s words, the huge Lightbug emitted a screeching cry ――or rather, a ray of heat that made the atmosphere scream, but Emilia’s shield of ice defended against it, and it was reflected back into the sky.
Emilia’s ranged attack power and adaptability were better suited for a fight that did not cause damage to the city.
Clind: [And thus, we have our roles to play. Right people in the right place.]
To Garfiel’s question, Clind closed one eye and then answered.
Clind: [――Frederica, to rescue her. Immediacy.]
???: [――It’s about time you woke up, Lassy.]
At such a call, slowly, Frederica’s consciousness was roused.
The first thing she felt was two different kinds of cold against her body. One was a cold wind that caressed her skin directly, and the other was a hard, cold feeling that rested against the entire backside of her body.
Futhermore, what she noticed after feeling the cold was――,
Frederica: [Both of my arms…]
???: [You are being restrained. Apologies, but I’d like you to refrain from using your beastification. If you don’t, the blade on the inner part of the shackles is designed to slice through that beautiful skin. I would like to avoid that. At any rate…]
???: [――Lassy’s blood would be wasted, wouldn’t it?]
Both of Frederica’s hands were shackled, and she was restrained by chains; within her field of vision, a figure entered. It was a strange-looking man peering at her as she lay on a bed of iron.
He had slicked-back gray hair and a sickly-white face. His bony cheeks and neck gave the impression of emaciation, but it was his eyes that were most striking.
His gaze, devoid of temperature, was colder than the wind and the bed.
And when the man said the word “blood”, Frederica’s fangs trembled.
Frederica: [So you are after my…blood, right?]
???: [Surely you are aware of this, Lassy of rare blood. Your blood is a treasured resource.]
Frederica was more than convinced by this simple statement. The enemy’s goal was clear.
――The term “Rare Blood” mentioned by the man meant, as one might expect, blood that was extremely rare.
The blood was different from that of normal people; Frederica did not know the specific differences, but the taste, smell, and various other things contained within the blood were different from those of normal people.
In many cases, the difference seemed to be ritually useful, and Roswaal once told her that more than a handful were seeking Frederica’s rare blood.
This rare blood led Roswaal to agree to take Frederica out of the Sanctuary in the first place.
???: [To be honest, I was surprised. I never thought that someone with such rare blood as you, Lassy, would come to the city so openly. Not once, not twice, but many times.]
Somewhere, Frederica heard the man’s voice, trembling with glee as she observed her surroundings.
The chill in the air and the wind indicated that this was most likely a cave where the sun did not reach, or underground. It was annoying to the unbeastified and completely naked Frederica that she was not allowed to wear even a piece of cloth. The other truly uncaring party probably thought Frederica was a blood bag or something.
Truly, the fact that his interest was only in her blood stirred the recesses of Frederica’s mind.
Frederica: [What are you going to do with my blood?]
???: [Oh, interested? That’s good. Lassy has a right to hear. ――That’s because Lassy’s name should belong to the great achievement that will begin here.]
The man nodded his head brilliantly like a doll and took a step to the side, looking amused. Frederica was taken aback upon seeing something that had been hidden behind the man’s back.
For there were cabinets and innumerable glass vessels, also filled with blood, lined up in rows.
Frederica: [These, are…]
???: [These are the blood samples of my soul. I am a researcher. I am searching for a way to save people that does not rely on magic. Particularly with blood. Like mana, there are many mysteries surrounding blood in the human body that haven’t been uncovered.]
Frederica: [The mysteries of blood…]
???: [To unravel them is akin to unraveling the secrets of life. That’s why I turned to your blood, Lassy. ――Rare blood will advance my research into the future!]
Frederica was flabbergasted to see the man’s eyes glowing with ecstasy. There was no hint of a lie or hesitation. The man was serious about saving people.
His words of salvation were his genuine intentions, not the construction of a desire for knowledge or curiosity.
???: [Consider that a drop of your blood, Lassy, saves one life. Isn’t that a great honor? Rare blood is a chosen honor.]
Frederica: [An honor… you caused chaos in the city to capture me?]
???: [Using the rare forms of life that occur in Costuul. The shallow ones disparage it as a “Lightbug”, but it is nothing of the sort. Despite appearances, it is a being that was naturally born.…]
The man responded to Frederica’s question without hiding his frankness. But the answers to those questions only left one’s mouth open in surprise.
Within a month, the man spotted Frederica’s rare blood, and in a much shorter period of time, he developed a plan to get his hands on Frederica. So he managed to create a diversion and capture her simultaneously.
Truly, he was a maddeningly obsessive opponent that was hard to deal with.
???: [――Yo, Doc. Can I talk to ya for a sec?]
Then, a thick, wild voice, the opposite of the high-pitched man’s voice, overtook him.
The voice sounded familiar. The figure of the other man also quickly came into her view. It was the muscular blond man, the one who had beaten and restrained Frederica.
The man looked at Frederica on the bed and whistled.
???: [Wowie, That’s a nice view. This is so good, I could stay here forever.]
???: [What’s going on, Hayden-kun? I am speaking right now of my noble mission to the rare-blooded woman…]
Hayden: [Ahhhhh, those things can wait. It seems like we’ve got a visitor coming our way. Whaddya wanna do, Doc?]
The researcher, who was called “Doc” by the man who radiated a ferocious presence, had a clouded face. As it was, the researcher bit his nails and muttered in a nervous voice, “You”…
Researcher: [Once again, what meaning is there in stopping my noble mission… You, you, you, you! You ruffian who doesn’t understand the gravity of the situation!]
The researcher became enraged and grabbed one of the blood samples from the cabinet. He thrust it at the man in front of him.
Researcher: [Hayden-kun! Hunt down the intruders! Fulfill your duty!]
Hayden: [Good grief, I hate it when people treat violence as my duty. Well, ya ain’t wrong.]
Having said that, the man took the blood sample with two fingers and went to follow the researcher’s instructions. Just before he did so, he turned back to Frederica, gave her a wink, and,
Hayden: [I hope you look forward to my return. The Doc wants ya and I to partner up, my dearie, in order to increase the supply of rare blood.]
Frederica: [――I certainly will not.]
Hayden: [A strong-willed woman, I like ya.]
Waving a hand that held a blood sample from over his back, the man disappeared from sight.
Seeing this, Frederica tensed her arms. The chains clinked, and pain shot through her wrists.
Researcher: [I said it’s useless. You can’t remove them, Lassy. Oh, what a waste.]
The blade inserted inside the handcuffs sliced a shallow cut across the skin of Frederica’s wrist. Then the researcher looked at the dripping blood and shook his head, sadness in his eyes.
Then the researcher cleared his throat, and,
Researcher: [I was going to wait until Hayden-kun was back, but then again, I can’t. I want to enjoy the taste of rare blood and its mysteries… Well, at least one part of it.]
The wide-eyed researcher knelt beside her and gently brought his face close to the wound on Frederica’s wrist. Feeling the man’s rough breathing, Frederica gnashed her teeth and endured her shame.
If Hayden was sent to intercept, then someone had come to Frederica’s aid. ――Whether it was Garfiel or Roswaal, she didn’t know.
Frederica was terrified of the sensation of having her wrist licked, but she simply held her breath and closed her mind to the humiliation that she endured at this moment.
Garfiel: [Usually, when ya kidnap someone, you cover yer tracks, don’t ya? But this one left such an obvious stench behind. What’re they doin’…?]
Clind: [Common sense would suggest that either the criminals were careless or it is a trap aimed at us; given that Frederica was taken, the latter is more likely. Conjecture.]
Not long after leaving Costuul, Garfiel, and Clind were standing in front of a cave.
It was a cave dug out from under a cliff, with the entrance to the hideout being magically disguised. The clifftop offered a great view of the Industrial City in the distance, making it a perfect location for nefarious schemes.
However, other than the disguised entrance, it was a lousy trick.
Garfiel: [I can smell Sis from the inside. She smells like blood, too…]
Clind: [Yes, but why? Questioning.]
Garfiel: [It doesn’t smell like Sis’s blood. But there’s a shitload of it.]
Wrinkling his nose, Garfiel was sickened by the smell of blood wafting from inside the cave.
There were individual differences in the smell of blood, and the smell of Frederica’s blood was particularly distinctive. When compared to his memory, the smell of blood in the air was not from Frederica. The smell of blood was too strong.
Garfiel: [Ten or twenty people ain’t enough for this amount…]
Clind: [The smell of blood other than Frederica’s rare blood… is it the kind of vampire that seeks rare blood? Rumination.]
Garfiel: [Rare blood?]
Garfiel cocked his head at the unfamiliar term. Clind responded with a short “affirmative” while repositioning his monocle.
Clind: [Frederica is the owner of a unique type of blood known as rare blood. This blood has ritualistic influence and a strong sensitivity to mana. ――Even Dragons are captivated by it. Divine qualities.]
Garfiel: [Huh? I ain’t ever heard of it! If Sis is like that, then my amazin’ self is…]
Clind: [No, rare blood is…it’s unrelated to genetic siblings or parent-child relationships. Rare blood is more like a single-generation mutation; Frederica’s blood is special, for better or worse. Absolute.]
Garfiel: […’n some bastard is tryin’ to get it? Fuck that.]
Sharply gnashing his fangs and laying his anger bare, Garfiel stepped into the cave. Just the same, Clind also followed behind his back; their footsteps echoed in the dark passageway.
Naturally, if the entrance was disguised, there would be no traps in the cave. Since the hiding place was their hideout, there was no way that anyone would be foolish enough to lay traps.
To start with――,
???: [――If we gave ya that kinda welcome, it wouldn’t have been worth the trouble of inviting ya, would it?]
A voice greeted them as they entered a passageway and arrived at a slightly open space.
In front of them, a tall man with tied-up golden hair and a ferocious smile awaited them. Garfiel’s muscles rejoiced at the ferocious dread that overflowed from this man’s entire body.
――He was undeniably a formidable opponent.
Clind: [This is most unusual. A half-breed of the lionman tribe. Scarce.]
Garfiel: [Really? To see through him at a glance, it seems you’re not just some smug bastard.]
Having his lineage discovered at a glance, the man who had been paying attention to Garfiel then took interest in Clind.
The man crossed his strong arms and smirked as if to flaunt his white fangs.
???: [Correctly guessed, I am the lionman, Hayden Garo. This will probably be very short-lived, but I’m looking forward to getting to know you, both of you. Especially that blonde boy.]
Garfiel: [Ya picked my amazin’ self; ya gotta be full of yerself, ain’tcha? …Well, who was the one who had made a show of leaving Sis’s smell behind?]
Hayden: [It’s a love letter to ya. I’m thrilled ya followed it for me, boy. Ya see, I love to beat the shit outta younger guys. ――I’m really fond of breaking guys like ya, my friend.]
Garfiel: [You’re gonna break my amazin’ self? What the fuck are ya talking about…]
Clind: [――Truly, you do not understand. Disappointment.]
The man who identified himself as Hayden as well as Garfiel turned to Clind at the same time. At the end of their gaze, Clind simply shook his head, as if depressed.
Then, he gently placed his hand on Garfiel’s shoulder beside him.
Clind: [Admittedly, Garfiel-sama’s heart is immature and green, and, therefore, precious. However, if you are yearning for the brightness of its potential, the pleasure you take in casting shadows upon it is shallow and thoughtless. It is too careless a judgment and desire, I must say. Disappointment.]
Hayden: [――I see. You’ve come all the way here in your fancy clothes. I thought ya must be a weirdo, but I guess that don’t make ya any less a scholar]
Clind: [Comparisons are meaningless. I am what I am, and he is what he is. There is just a difference in principle. Separation.]
Garfiel: [I really don’t get it, but…]
Garfiel scratched his head and narrowed his eyes at the exchange between Hayden and Clind. As he did, he looked over at Clind, who was standing beside him.
Garfiel: [So what’re you tryin’ to say ‘bout my amazin’ self?]
Clind: [You have an unbreakable brilliance. Our adversary who speaks of breaking it, for example, is laughable. Absurd.]
Garfiel: [――Ha! That’s pretty easy to understand, ain’t it!]
Hearing Clind’s answer, Garfiel’s previously hazy face cleared. Garfiel glared at Hayden in front of him, slamming his fists together in front of his chest.
In short, Garfiel found himself in a fight. And on top of that, his older sister was also kidnapped.
Garfiel: [Then I guess I don’t need to go easy on ya. …Go, Clind.]
Clind: [――You do not mind? Affirmation.]
Garfiel: [The bastard wanted me, right? It’s also sickening for Sis’s blood to be drained outta her. I’m countin’ on ya.]
Clind: [I understand. Certainly.]
Hearing Garfiel’s request, Clind took a step back. Hayden, who had been watching the exchange, held out his hand and said, “Hold up,”
Hayden: [Stop talking away as you please. If you pass me by, that researcher will be furious. Then I won’t get any of my owed blood, either.]
Hayden: [That’s right. That researcher’s completely nuts…but he’s getting results. People who are really crazy come up with ideas that others normally wouldn’t!]
As he said this, Hayden raised the glass container he had been hiding behind his back ――a vessel filled with blood, above his head and poured its contents into his own mouth. There was a sense of disgust at the act itself, but that too was fleeting.
――Overshadowing the disgust, a powerful sense of caution rushed through his entire body, and Garfiel assumed a battle stance.
――Immediately after, Hayden’s kick, closing the distance in the blink of an eye, hit Garfiel, who had been holding his ground, right in the middle of his crossed arms, sending him flying backward.
Hayden: [Ha ha! Your lovely big sister took one of those shots to the belly and collapsed!]
Garfiel: [――hk, what the fuck are ya doing to Sis’s belly? Ya perverted bastard!]
Garfiel howled, swinging his kicked arm. For an instant, he turned his gaze to where Clind was. This should be an opportunity to go and rescue Garfiel’s sister. ――But his figure was already gone.
Seeing this, Garfiel put strength into both his legs. And then――,
To get back at him, Garfiel launched a spinning back kick, aiming for the advancing Hayden’s chest. The rock-crushing blow caught Hayden in the torso, and the big man backed off with a cry of pain.
Hayden: [Oh! That’s good, that’s good, that’s good! But now it’s my turn――]
Garfiel: [What crap are ya talkin’ ‘bout?]
His knee thrust into the face of the once-delighted Hayden, leaving his body shaking from the blow. Bending over, he grabbed him by the back of the neck, blood dripping from his nose, then slammed him down hard onto the ground head first.
Garfiel laughed, snorting at the rising discontent and the smell of Hayden’s own bleeding.
He furiously crushed his resented enemy for doing something so outrageous to his older sister――,
Garfiel: [Ya know, my amazin’ self came outta the Sanctuary to smash misguided bastards like ya.]
Right above his head, Hayden’s face took a direct hit from the sole of Garfiel’s shoe. The impact, which shook the entire cave violently, mercilessly shattered his bitter enemy’s nose.
The wind blew; that was the moment he was eluded.
Clind: [――You should put on this coat. Your appearance is unsightly. Indignation.]
Upon speaking, he placed the coat on her naked upper body. That assured concern was infuriating.
The humiliation of a moment ago was overlaid by another humiliation.
Wondering why, of all people, he had come to this place.
???: [――hk. How did you get in? Hayden-kun is…]
Clind: [If that was him, he is in the middle of entertaining my companion. I do not expect him to survive for very long, but it would be insensitive for her to remain in this place for any longer. Separation.]
Clind: [――Blood sample collector, Leonardo Baroness, your savagery ends here. Demise.]
Frederica, her movement restrained on top of the bed, was unable to see the entire exchange. However, she could see the back of the young man putting his jacket on ――Leonardo, the researcher, faced him.
Leonardo’s cheeks stiffened as he shook his head at the young man’s pronouncement. Then, as if he could not accept his own demise, he reached for the blood samples behind him.
Leonardo: [There is, there is no way I will stop! You will not keep me from my progress! Myyy breakthrough!]
His voice trailing off, Leonardo swept away the blood samples with his arm and dropped them to the ground in one fluid motion. The sound of shattering glass echoed throughout the darkened room, and the smell of blood permeated the air. ――Leonardo, thus bathed in a large amount of blood, began to let out a low growl.
――His body, which had been only skin and bones, bulged out, and the color of his pale skin turned bright red.
While maintaining his human appearance with merely a single layer of skin, Leonardo was transformed by the power of the abnormal blood. Upon smelling the fragrant blood samples, Frederica was overcome with nausea.
It was impossible to imagine how many people were sacrificed and what was produced by this mixture of blood.
Leonardo: [With this all-powerful blood, all wrongs will be eradicated! Lassy here will be the foundation for this――]
Clind: [Unfortunately, I cannot spare the time to listen to your unbearable delusions. Apology. ――Moreover, she is the Master’s property. It is my contract to protect her. Adherence.]
The young man dared not step back in the face of the bloated Leonardo’s caustic words.
Hearing this quiet declaration of war, Leonardo’s bright red eyeballs trembled, and he thrust out his arms.
It was a simple movement, but his arm was being swung with an extraordinary amount of muscle mass, making it an impressive weapon of destruction. A single blow would shatter even the thickest stone wall, and it approached the young man’s slender body without mercy.
Clind: [――The attitude of aiming high is commendable. It is an idea I would not have had. Impressive.]
Leonardo: [Is that so!]
Clind: [However, there are too many problems with that methodology. Reckless.]
The sole of Clind’s shoe met the blow of his arm, and the young man’s body lightly flew through the air. Then the young man, twisting in midair, reached out and clenched his five outstretched fingers. With that, Leonardo’s left arm was flattened without a sound.
Leonardo: [Ga, aaaaah!?]
Leonardo’s enlarged arm was crushed entirely at the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints. The same damage was also done to his right arm.
It was all linked to the opening and closing of the young man’s hand, a guaranteed kill.
Clind: [This, is not the most desirable method. Tristitia.]
Leonardo: [Not…not yet!]
Clind: [Oh my. Admiration.]
The young man who had landed and brushed off his knees widened his eyes. The reason for this was the presence of Lightbugs crawling across the lab floor, where the smell of blood lingered, attaching themselves to the young man’s limbs.
If the disturbances in Costuul were Leonardo’s doing, then of course he would be the one who was manipulating the Lightbugs. Whether that was through blood or some other means remained unclear――,
Leonardo: [If I seal that hand, you won’t be able to attack me again!]
Leonardo let out a deafening howl at the certainty of victory, as if his pain were being erased by some sanguine magic power. Leonardo rushed forward with a shout to crush the young man, whose movements were being sealed by the Lightbugs.
Then, just before the massive body’s tackle caused the young man’s body to burst――
Clind: [I am truly sorry. My hand, is inconsequential. Fascination.]
Leonardo’s knees were crushed, and he fell headfirst to the ground, helplessly. The huge figure was left completely at his mercy, and the man, with all four limbs crushed, lost his fighting strength.
It was an overpowering offensive and defensive battle that lasted less than a few seconds.
Clind: [Frederica, are you unharmed? Confirmation.]
Frederica: [Y, yes, I am fine. As long as you take off these shackles…]
Immediately after she said this, the iron shackles that restrained her wrists were abruptly torn off and removed. What Frederica struggled so hard to remove was removed so quickly by him that she could not tell if it had been touched.
However, Frederica did not refer to it and got up, covering herself with a jacket.
Frederica: [――So, what has happened to Garf and Costuul?]
Clind: [To say that as soon as you get up is unacceptable. Confirming your well-being should be the first priority. Imperative. Of course, it is ridiculous for a servant to cause concern for their master. Pitiable.]
Frederica: [Ugg…answer the question! Actually, why are you even here? This is not funny, Clind!]
On the iron bed, Frederica was fuming, forgetting to cover her mouth, and the young man ――Clind, ostentatiously covered his ears. Frederica’s anger only grew at that gesture.
Ignoring Frederica’s concerns, Clind told her, “You need not worry,”
Clind: [Garfiel-sama is fighting that man’s companion, but they are no match for him. Costuul is being attended to by Emilia-sama. Perfection.]
Frederica: [Garf aside, Emilia-sama…? Why not the Master?]
Clind: [The Master has his own plans. Forward-thinking. Now then…]
Frederica: [Now then, what is it?]
Frederica cocked her head in astonishment, and Clind looked back at her and sighed. Then, furrowing his shapely eyebrows,
Clind: [――As I expected, seeing you grow up is a disappointment. Regret.]
Frederica: [Which part of a person do you look at when you say that!? You pervert!!]
It was an outburst that made her lose all interest in thanking him for saving her life.
Garfiel: [That perverted scientist and the lionman bastard were workin’ together. So, did that lionman bastard have the same rare blood as Sis? Realizin’ that, the perverted scientist got greedy.]
Having welcomed the unharmed Clind and the half-naked Frederica, Garfiel lowered the big man to his feet and explained to them what had happened.
The large space was heavily marked by intense signs of the fight between the two men. The blows were also etched into Garfiel as scars, but not as many as the instantly felled Hayden.
The white-eyed Hayden had all of his fangs in his mouth broken off and fainted, with blood bubbling out of his mouth.
Frederica: [He is knocked out, right?]
Garfiel: [He’s a tough bastard, ain’t he, so he ain’t dead. He kept cockily prattlin’ on ‘bout being a lion, so I wasn’t ‘boutta lose to him as a tiger.]
Garfiel was smiling nonchalantly in his triumphant glory, with no trace of sadness on his face. Although that was a relief, did he remember that his older sister had been kidnapped?
Frederica: [Well, I was responsible for getting captured…and it is not reasonable to blame Garf for that…]
Garfiel: [Oh? What’re ya talkin’ ‘bout, Sis? I’m really relieved. I was really worried for ya.]
Frederica: [Really? You have not forgotten about it until just now?]
Frederica glared at him with scornful eyes, and Garfiel scratched his head and looked away. Then he puckered his lips in an apologetic manner.
Garfiel: [But I thought if Clind were there, you’d be okay. Actually, it did work out.]
Frederica: […It annoys me that your statement is not wrong.]
When told of Garfiel’s reassurances, Frederica was unable to say anything about their validity. The nonchalant man right beside her was an absolute equal to Roswaal for Frederica.
Unlike Roswaal, he was just not someone in whom one could place their trust in without any qualms.
Frederica: [Nevertheless, those Lightbugs, this place, and these people…]
Clind: [An ostracized researcher, who was expelled as a heretic. Amongst which was only one other man, for certain. Frederica, you have nothing to worry about. Evil.]
An ostracized researcher, expelled as a heretic.
Frederica’s eyes were downcast at Clind’s words, and she went deep in thought. She pulled Clind’s jacket tighter around herself and looked at the already-closing wounds on her wrists.
She felt ashamed that the blood that flowed within her had brought about this situation. A long time ago, Clind had told Frederica about the dangers of rare blood, and now she felt pathetic that she had erred in front of him.
He would be disappointed that she couldn’t do what he told her to do. ――It was an unpleasant feeling.
On top of that, she also caused trouble for her brother, the master she served, and the many other people who were kind to her.
Clind: [――. You think too much. Misapprehension.]
Clind: [How can the people you care about not care about you? That is just the way it is. Fact.]
Having expected to be reprimanded for her lack of ability, Clind’s words took her by surprise. Her fangs trembled, and heat surged into her ears.
Garfiel: [Oh, yeah, Sis. It really ain’t good to be completely naked. I picked up some of yer clothes just in case.]
Frederica: [Um, ah, thank you for helping me, Garf! I, I will get dressed right away!]
In the corner of the room, Frederica was shown the clothes that Garfiel had brought with him, and she accepted them, then returned to the hallway and happily got dressed. Turning their faces away from her, the men stood side by side.
Garfiel: [I don’t know what rare blood is, but there was a lotta trouble caused in the city just for the sake of Sis, wasn’t there?]
Clind: [It has value for its own sake. ――Be wary, Garfiel-sama. Warning.]
Garfiel: […What is it?]
Clind: [The Master is rarely moved by mere good intentions; if taking Ram is a milestone for the future, Frederica is certainly another one. Keep that in mind. Heed.]
At Clind’s emotionless advice, Garfiel lightly touched his fangs. Then, nodding his head with a “yeah“,
Garfiel: [I never trusted that bastard Roswaal from the get-go. He fits someone you should be suspicious of.]
Clind: [It would seem. It is impossible for Frederica to do that. Devotion.]
Garfiel was dismayed to learn that those words implied Frederica’s trust in Roswaal. Speaking of dismay, there was a presence right behind him――,
???: [――hk! Ya let your guard down, ya two!]
The previously fainted Hayden jumped up. He laughed with a bloody, evil look on his face and swung his strong arms at Garfiel and Clind, who had their backs turned to him.
At that moment, Hayden’s vicious blow was about to strike both of them in the back.
Frederica: [――How dare you ruin my time with Garf.]
Leaping out of the darkened passageway, a powerful elbow struck Hayden directly in the face. Hayden flipped around with great force, spinning once before slamming to the floor, and this time being completely silenced.
At Frederica’s strike, Garfiel and Clind, who had been about to intercept Hayden, looked at each other.
Then Frederica, breathing furiously and still with her fist up, turned to them and said,
Frederica: [Thank you for what you did today. ――But I am not the kind of person who is so pretty that I have to be protected all the time. I beg your pardon.]
Saying so forcefully, Frederica brushed away her long blonde hair with her hand. Garfiel sighed after seeing her attitude and the words and actions that struck the villain.
Garfiel: [Gu-ha! Ha-ha-ha-ha! Don’t make me laugh, Sis, ha-ha-ha-ha!]
Frederica: [Wh, what is so funny?]
Clind: [Frederica, childish bravado is the prerogative of the young. With you, it is painful. Disparity.]
Frederica: [Disproportionate, is that not an exaggeration!?]
Garfiel laughed loudly, and Clind lamented. Hurt by the pair’s attitudes, Frederica relaxed her shoulders.
Frederica: [Good grief…]
――Her skirt, which had been ripped just now by the elbow strike, was now ripped even more than it already was.
――And though that would have been a good way to end it.
???: [Ah! Thank goodness all three of you are okay! So, did you figure out how to stop these little things?]
So shouted Emilia, sliding down the streets on a slab of ice and escaping the attacks of the huge Lightbug. Frederica was made speechless by her question and the city streets that had been ravaged by the fierce attacks.
Next to her, Garfiel and Clind also had an “Oh no” look on their faces.
???: [Emilia-tan is doing a great job, but if we don’t do something, they’re going to run out of town! It’ll be like a big Kaiju battle if it does!]
???: [Subaru! You need to look where you’re going, I suppose! If you make such careless moves, you’re going to end up flattened, in fact!]
Unlike Emilia, who danced about brilliantly, it was Subaru who was running around on the ground holding Beatrice, desperately trying to get the situation under control.
Although it was understandable that he rushed from the mansion and struggled to help Emilia, his abilities would be of no use here. ――The city had fallen into that much chaos.
Emilia: [Clind! Did this person tell you how they manipulated the Lightbugs…?]
Clind: [They are in a deep coma, and waking them up would be exceedingly difficult. Infeasible.]
Garfiel: [Well, we’ll just have to destroy ‘em steadily. ――Emilia-sama, I’ll lend ya a hand!]
The two main offenders taken out of the cave were unconscious and incapable of being questioned about the Lightbugs’ operation.
In response to this desperate answer, Garfiel immediately opted for an aggressive solution and immediately joined the battle with Emilia, who was pleased.
Clind looked over at this and exhaled; leaving his jacket in Frederica’s care, he then said,
Clind: [I have my orders from Annerose-sama. I, too, will assist Emilia-sama. Your――.]
Frederica: [――I am also coming.]
As Clind was about to proceed, Frederica lined up and said that to him. Hearing this, Clind took a moment to say something, then stopped.
Clind: [You have always been stubborn. Exasperated.]
Frederica: [That is my line!]
They argued, and then Frederica and Clind also entered the battle for the defense of Costuul.
In the end, the battle raged on until just before the day’s end, when the leading figure, Roswaal, was finally deployed, and the situation was completely quelled.
In response, ironically, Emilia’s reputation in Costuul skyrocketed.
Behind the scenes, both Garfiel and Clind secretly received severe reprimands from Petra for ruining Frederica’s day-trip outfit.
――But, that was another story.