Human Translated By:
- Negimiso (Part 6)
Machine Translated By:
- Cirdan Lunae
Japanese to English Checking By:
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Lamia: [Berstetz, I am entrusting this situation to you. Stand firm, even if it means your death.]
Berstetz: [Yes, Your Excellency. Please ensure your own safety.]
――That was the last conversation they had ever exchanged.
If one were to ask whether their bond was based on a so-called “strong connection” beyond a mere professional master-servant relationship, the answer would be “no”.
Still, sensing great potential in her intellect and demeanor, using the wisdom he had accumulated over the years, he sought to pave her path, guiding her towards the throne where the Emperor ought to sit.
Even without having loyalty or passion towards her, their master-servant relationship was genuine.
She had not been instructed how to count from one to ten. Yet this individual, once she understood “one”, she would comprehend “one hundred”, and think up “one hundred and one”.
She was someone able to judge for herself and others the roles befitting their abilities, and the duties befitting their position.
He had not been blessed with martial prowess, he always yearned to be the Sword Wolf of the Empire, yet he never quite reached it.
Not garnering respect from others, he could only live a life of scorn, but the fact that she had deemed him useful was perhaps something worthy of gratitude.
Thus, there was not a shred of deception in the last words that they had exchanged.
During the Imperial Selection Ceremony, he was sternly commanded to stand his ground, even if it meant risking his life, and he had resolved himself to do so.
Unable to proclaim himself a Sword Wolf, it was the final service of a man who had simply grown too old.
Even though he was a passionless servant, he was determined to become a martyr to fulfill his duty.
And yet, Berstetz had survived.
And the master, who had hoped for his safety, had lost her life.
To this day, Berstetz Fondalfon continued to live in shame.
Without fulfilling his duties, pursuing the position of the Emperor that leads the Empire towards decline, he remained unaware of the schemes behind the Great Disaster that had unfolded. To call himself a Sword Wolf now would be nothing short of hubris and disgrace.
Despite not fulfilling any of the commands given to him, he continued to live in shame.
???: [General First-Class Ralfon, what has come over you?]
???: [Is this not quite uncharacteristic for someone with a fondness for the Vollachian Imperial Family?]
???: [Or perhaps, you no longer favor me since I was defeated in the Imperial Selection Ceremony?]
The same voice emanated from different mouths, and Goz Ralfon found himself under the unrelenting gaze of countless golden eyes.
Goz Ralfon, clad in golden armor of the same color as those eyes, distorted the scars on his face and gritted his molars at the horrifying reality reflected in his eyes.
With all his might, he struck a hammering blow with his mace.
The blood of the Empire’s Sword Wolf coursed through Goz’s veins, screaming in defiance as he struck down Lamia, a respected member of the Imperial Family, now deemed an enemy.
Torn apart by the soul-crushing pain of his actions, Goz finally grasped the grim truth.
――The Great Disaster unquestionably threatened to destroy the Vollachian Empire.
Goz: [For what purpose…!]
As Goz’s teeth ground together in rage, before him stood Lamia―― Or rather, multiple Lamias tilting their heads in unison.
The sight of her cascading orange hair slipping over her slender shoulders fanned the flames of anger within Goz.
Goz: [Why do you allow this imitation?! Such… Such blasphemy cannot be! You are making a mockery of Her Excellency Lamia’s life!!]
Riding on his surging anger, his voice trembled as the impending tears were seared away by his boiling blood; Goz addressed the countless clones of Lamia before him.
However, in response to Goz’s heartfelt plea, the Lamias collectively placed the back of their hands to their lips, then playfully said,
Lamia: [Do not misunderstand, General First-Class Ralfon. This is something I did of my own volition, not something someone else forced upon me.]
Goz: […What, are you-]
Lamia: [That Witch is rather rigid in her thinking. If I can be resurrected after being shattered, then I can certainly resurrect myself back before being shattered. Receptacles can be made endlessly, so all I need to do is dilute the source and fill them all. Once that is intuitively grasped―― Well, something as dreamlike as this can be achieved, right?]
Graciously smiling, Lamia Godwin, her pale face painted with a flush of mischief, proudly displayed the many versions of herself, mirroring her wit from when she was alive.
Seeing the dreamlike state Lamia described, Goz could not help but inwardly agree.
Lamia, endlessly multiplying, blasphemously replicating her own existence. And each one of these Lamias bore the Yang Sword, the symbol of the Empire.
If this was not a dream―― or rather a nightmare, then what was it?
Lamia: [You know, General First-Class Ralfon, you cannot shatter dreams in reality. Why not accept that… and perhaps join us on our side?]
Goz: [――. What, what do you mean?]
Lamia: [It is not complicated. If you were to die, you would be in the same position as me and the others. Why not choose the winning side sooner rather than later?]
Lamia, her hands clasping her sword in front of her and tilting her head, beckoned Goz.
If one were to fall in battle, they would join the ranks of Lamia’s undead army. It was a reality unfolding on the battlefield, but imagining it brought an unbearable weight on one’s psyche.
The staunchly loyal Imperial Soldier, Goz, and the soldiers who shared his sentiments would, upon falling, align with those aiming to destroy the Empire without a second thought.
Just as Lamia Godwin, who once vied for the throne of the Empire’s Empress, had done.
There, upon its completion, would be an Empire of the undead. ――In the country of the Sword Wolf, without even a shadow to be seen.
Goz: [I am undeserving of your words, Your Excellency Lamia!]
After tightly shutting his eyes, Goz lifted his face, and he confronted Lamia.
In the face of Goz’s intense spirit, Lamia’s beautifully arched eyebrows furrowed as she frowned.
Lamia: [You seem poised to refuse.]
Goz: [Generous as your mercy is, Your Excellency Lamia! I, Goz Ralfon, must respectfully decline!]
Lamia: [As expected, you have turned me down.]
Against Lamia’s narrowed golden eyes, Goz thought of the vision he had seen in his moment of closed introspection.
The vision where he, life extinguished, became an undead like Lamia and the others, his pale face bearing those golden eyes, wielding his mace to destroy the Empire―― he shattered that vision into pieces.
Complete destruction, faced with that illusion that shrouded him, he roared.
Goz: [I must correct my earlier statement! I said that none of the Nine Divine Generals are entirely under the Emperor’s control! I am a loyal pawn of His Excellency the Emperor! Regardless of what others may do! I alone! Wish to remain so!!]
Rejecting the fate of becoming a harbinger of destruction in Death, he yearned to remain a living servant of His Excellency the Emperor.
That was Goz Ralfon’s way of being as the Empire’s Sword Wolf, his desired path.
Deep thoughts, lofty ideals, he left everything to his ruler, Vincent, intending only to fulfill his designated role.
That was to say――,
Goz: [I am the ‘Fifth’ of the Nine Divine Generals chosen by His Excellency the Emperor Vincent Vollachia! I am Goz Ralfon!!]
He raised his golden mace, declaring his stand against the countless Lamias without taking a single step back.
The next moment, the multitude of Lamias, brandishing their Yang Swords, lunged at Goz, who had so boldly proclaimed this. With a single touch of the sword, the scintillating flame of Vollachia would incinerate a person down to their soul.
But before it could touch him, Goz’s muscles pulsated, and his mace swept through the air.
With unwavering intent, Goz’s swing struck the side of the attacking Lamia, smashing together about five of them in one fell swoop, turning their delicate, porcelain-like bodies to dust.
Witnessing this display, the remaining Lamias widened their eyes, their expressions changing.
They gazed at the obstinately straightforward Sword Wolf and smiled cruelly.
Lamia: [No matter how bravely you roar and rampage, upon your Death, you will become my slave you know?]
Goz: [If it is truly so difficult to resist! Then I shall turn to stone before my life expires! I shall remain undying, to offer my final act of loyalty to His Excellency the Emperor!!]
He swung his mace overhead, poised to ensure none of the gathered Lamias would escape.
If the Lamias wielding the Yang Swords scattered throughout the coupled dragon carriages, their radiant light might sear the eyes of Vincent. He was determined to prevent that.
And for that purpose, the colossal form of the Lion Knight was ever present. In his fury, Goz Ralfon raged on.
Lamia: [――It seems like you’ve steeled quite the valiant resolve, but alas, how unfortunate.]
At the foremost wagon of the coupled dragon carriages, as it barreled towards its destination, Goz Ralfon fiercely howled his reason for being, preventing the wheels of the carriages from being stopped.
While his ardor was quite considerable, his main desires would not come to fruition.
Unfortunately for Goz’s desperate attempts to keep the now undead Lamias at bay, they had already reached other parts of the coupled dragon carriages.
A matter of course. Even if she multiplied, there was no need for her to multiply in only one place. She was not bound by such limitations. While she would not say that Goz’s valiant efforts were in vain, they had little impact.
Thus, in a dragon carriage full of those among the Empire’s living who played crucial roles, the significance of keeping a formidable force such as Goz Ralfon occupied went without saying.
Lamia: [Unfortunately for you, you are not the one suppressing me, General First-Class Ralfon. I am the one subduing you.]
As Goz fended off against Yang Sword by his lonesome, while hindering his ardor, Lamia glanced into the distance as she headed for one of the center wagons.
In the distant sky, there could be seen the figure of a wolfman clashing with a mighty Blight Dragon, dark as blackened clouds.
Lamia: [It’s outside my calculations that Valgren is unable to be used, but to successfully keep that one occupied is quite the achievement.]
Through her narrowed golden eyes, Lamia was able to see just how exceptional the wolfman seen with Valgren really was.
Goz, one of the Empire’s Nine Generals of the First-Class, was undoubtedly among the world’s mightiest warriors. And that entity, surpassing even Goz, was contending with a being belonging to the world’s most powerful lifeform.
――No, on the contrary, the Blight Dragon was the one who was being overpowered.
The only reason why the Blight Dragon had not been completely overcome was because its ability to recover exceeded the damage from the attacks it was suffering. Even when shattered time and time again, the shinobi was not able to finish off the regenerating Blight Dragon.
The fact that it could not be killed alone, already made it more than enough of an unusual sight.
Lamia: [But, it’s unfortunate that the wolfman will be of no use to us even if he dies.]
???: [――That’s a comment I can’t overlook.]
At the sound of light footsteps, followed by a rough voice, Lamia slowly turned around.
Looking in the same direction that Lamia was, watching the battle between the Blight Dragon and the wolfman with a sidelong glance, stood a blond man―― no, it was a boy.
Lamia gave a small snort, and cast a smile upon the boy.
Lamia: [Considering you have the stench of a foul beast, perhaps, you are half-beast?]
???: […I don’t wanna hear that from a woman who reeks of dirt. Nah, it ain’t just that.]
???: [Lotsa women who all got the same face lined up, for somethin’ like that, Nanna’s more than enough for me!]
With a firm thud as he clapped his fists together in front of his chest, the caustic words of the half-beast boy caused Lamia, and the other Lamias, to narrow their eyes.
The meaning behind the boy’s complaint was unclear. But, it was apparent that the boy had previously encountered another group of beings that all shared the same form, much like with the Lamias now.
???: [I ain’t sayin’ that my amazin’ self is all buddy-buddy with that shiny golden oldie there, but he’s got a fuckin’ loud voice… So I know that outta all the ones who’re attackin’ here, you’re the toughest bastard!]
Indeed, just after the boy bared his fangs and snarled, Lamia could sense a shift in the atmosphere.
Those were changes in various wagons of the coupled dragon carriages―― assuming the whole motorcade was divided into five parts, Lamia was currently facing off with the boy in the third segment. Separate from Goz’s show of resistance in the first segment, these changes had occurred in the second and fourth segments.
The roof of the second segment had been engulfed in flames, while the fourth had been glaciated over by a freezing wind.
Both instances had taken place in wagons that had been boarded by Lamias separate to this Lamia, as well as the Pruning Corps.
Keenly understanding that reality from her experience, Lamia touched the back of her hand to her lips and smiled.
Lamia: [I seeee~. It seems that people from the Kingdom really don’t know when to give up.]
???: […Why do ya know that our amazin’ selves’re from Lugunica?]
Lamia: [I only just figured it out. After all, you didn’t seem very characteristic of Imperial Citizens, so I just tried to ask. I find it rather adorable.]
???: [Nah, that ain’t it. Teasin’ my amazin’ self ain’t the only purpose.]
Observing Lamia’s smile as she mocked him, the boy shook his head.
It was not a matter of being unable to admit defeat. Nor, for that matter, was it insight. If it had to be put to words, it would be the boy’s instincts. It was a primal, innate ability to sniff out the truth.
In his mind, the boy had connected the dots between what he had sniffed out, and Lamia’s earlier words.
???: [Considerin’ the talk about how ya can’t use the Admirer, ‘n yer disappointment about where my amazin’ self’s from…]
Lamia: [――That’s enough chatter.]
Evidently, the boy was using his head despite it not being his forte.
Seeing someone give their utmost effort to that which they were unsuited for, was very, very irksome to Lamia.
As Lamia shrugged her slender shoulders, another Lamia slashed at the boy in response.
Ducking down, the boy evaded the sharp tip of the red blade, slamming the back of his fist into that Lamia’s abdomen. But, another Lamia slashed through the body of the Lamia who had been blown away. The bisected body of that Lamia caught fire, and from behind the curtain of the blazing inferno, a lethal thrust aimed for the boy’s life.
With a brief roar, the boy kicked off the roof, and leaped up into the air.
An undead flying dragon sliced through the air in its approach, and the boy who tried to escape into the air was snatched into the deceased dragon’s maw. With the boy in its mouth, the undead flying dragon ascended, and shortly thereafter other undead flying dragons swarmed.
Lamia: [It was the same with General First-Class Ralfon, but those who need to close the distance will find that they have poor affinity with the Yang Sword.]
Adjusting her grip on her unswung Yang Sword, Lamia spoke to the boy, who was being swarmed by the undead flying dragons.
With just one slash of the Yang Sword, its flames would scorch a soul until naught remained. The magical blade’s effect, which boosted the physical abilities of the wielder, could transform even the pampered members of the Vollachian Imperial Family into top-notch fighters.
And, for someone who had dedicated time to the art of the sword, its benefits went without saying.
Lamia: [Now then, the boy with that beastly stench is dealt with. All that’s left is Nii-sama’s whereabouts…]
Taking her time, as Lamia was about to embark on a leisurely stroll, a thunderous roar suddenly rang out above her head.
The flock of undead flying dragons, so many had swarmed that it seemed like a round sphere, and over ten of them had been blown away mid-air, bursting into smithereens. Emerging from the center of that outburst, bearing not the slightest resemblance to the slender and agile boy from just before, was a mighty, gigantic tiger.
The large tiger, swinging its mighty arms, larger than bundles of many logs, blew away the swarm of undead flying dragons, and immediately swooped down. Its weight made the roof of the coupled dragon carriages creak, and in the next instant, it lunged toward Lamia.
Whirling around, Lamia slashed the Yang Sword upwards from a low position.
She was momentarily taken aback. However, the beastification had made him a larger target. Against a wielder of the Yang Sword, where a mere graze could ensure victory, this was a bad move.
As the large tiger leaped toward her, its chest would instantly be sliced open by the Yang Sword――,
Lamia: [――My my~.]
A sound was made as the tip of the Yang Sword scraped against steel, and Lamia’s golden eyes widened.
The giant tiger plunged forth, and rather than slamming its brawny arm into Lamia, it instead dug its claws into the roof a half of a step in front of her, forcibly upheaving it to use as a shield.
Lamia’s sword stroke glided off its surface, and as the large tiger pivoted, it drove its other arm directly into her.
The impact tore away Lamia’s upper body, and her shattered form was knocked down to the side of the carriage.
The giant tiger had exceeded Lamia’s expectations. Yet, much like Goz, it was a futile effort.
Lamia: [Even if this “me” dies…]
As she crumbled to dust before hitting the ground, Lamia’s lips spun words.
Even if this body were to perish, she would simply regenerate, just like her other selves. Moreover, the advantage of this regeneration was not just the fact that death did not mean the end.
The next Lamia to rise would inherit all of this Lamia’s experiences.
As Lamia fell, sensing the other Lamias and the Pruning Corps springing towards the giant tiger, her crumbling field of vision caught a glimpse inside one of the wagons of the coupled dragon carriages that she was leaving behind.
Inside that wagon, her eyes met with someone gazing out of the window. She had ascertained which carriage the person she sought was in, so that she could pass this information on to the next Lamia.
Lamia: [――Found you, Vincent-niisama.]
Berstetz: [――Your Excellency.]
It was undoubtedly Lamia Godwin, revived as an undead, who had just now been shaken off the roof and had smashed to the ground.
With his own eyes, Berstetz had already confirmed this fact.
As soon as he saw that the Pruning Corps, with whom he was well acquainted, was participating in this fierce assault on the dragon carriage, he knew full well that it was Lamia who was behind it.
Still, the sight of Lamia’s body shattering and being reduced to dust shocked Berstetz.
Serena: [I had hoped to see you at least once, but I didn’t expect it to be like this.]
Berstetz: [High Countess Dracroy…]
Serena: [Don’t look at me like that, Prime Minister. You saw the same thing I just did. If Her Excellency Lamia was crushed like that, might it stop her private army, the Pruning Corps? Am I understanding that right?]
Serena: [This doesn’t look very promising, though.]
The undead Lamia had just met her end outside of the carriage window, and Serena, smiling, shrugged her shoulders.
She spoke with dim expectations, and even though Lamia, to whom she had sworn her loyalty, was killed, there was not a shred of hope regarding the onslaught of the Pruning Corps.
Based on the previous discussion at the military conference, death did not seem to be the end for the undead.
Sphinx, the main perpetrator behind the Great Disaster, aimed to use even death itself to destroy the Empire. After all, if this Witch could do it, what could the Poison Princess not do?
Even without witnessing the undiminished fighting spirit of the Pruning Corps, the end of Lamia was surely ahead of them.
???: [Anastasia-sama, please stand back!]
Raising a dignified voice, a young man in a waso wielded a flowing sword.
A rainbow-colored slash easily sliced through the solid black armor of the Pruning Corps as if it were hot steel slicing through ice.
Even Berstetz, who was not blessed with martial prowess, could see that this young man―― Julius, was no less capable than the Empire’s finest warriors.
Anastasia: [But, even my Julius can’t stay fightin’ forever. We gotta move the situation forward.]
Anastasia muttered as she stroked the scarf around her neck, protected by Julius’s struggle.
Julius and Garfiel, respectively, were fighting the enemy inside the carriage and on the roof, but along with Lamia, who had fallen earlier, both inside and outside were fierce battles.
It was a situation in which all the personnel who could fight were fighting, including the guards.
Ubilk: [Eeeven~ so, don’t you feel like we’re being targeted a bit too much?]
Anastasia: [Maybe, but ain’t it ‘cuz you’re here? I can see that sore on yer chest, looks like it’s been marked up pretty good.]
Ubilk: [Mark…? Whaaat~, it’s true!]
Ubilk, who had been taken out of his confinement room, looked down at his loose blouse and raised his voice.
As Anastasia had said, there were traces of a welt on his white skin that she had happened to glimpse, and if that had occurred at the same time as the attack――,
Berstetz: [An Evil Eye to grasp the whereabouts of a target… It cannot be, His Excellency Palladio Manesque?]
Serena: [Well, well, well, are all of the participants of the Imperial Selection Ceremony here? Then, I’d like to reminisce with His Excellency Barthroy, who sent me flowers when I took the governorship from my father.]
The Evil Eye of Palladio Manesque, Prince of Vollachia, heir to the blood of the Evil Eye Tribe, had captured its target, which must have been why the Pruning Corps continued to attack this place.
Berstetz guessed thus, and Serena, who herself was using her sword to keep the enemy in check, licking her lips,
Serena: [Whether we move from this place or not, I don’t want to die because we made a choice between being in the front or the back. If we are defeated, the Empire is as good as dead; not just the head, but from the waist up. It will be interesting to see if there is any other way for creatures such as these to die…]
Berstetz: [I would be troubled if you were to say something unscrupulous. I am not sure about this old body of mine, but I cannot be replaced by the likes of His Excellency or you.]
Serena: [No one is irreplaceable, Prime Minister. Indeed, I am in awe of you, just as I am in awe that you were appointed to represent His Excellency, the Emperor. Be that as it may――]
Serena, who never lost her bitterness under any circumstance, was moved when she took a jab at Berstetz’s conduct in the Imperial Capital.
The choice of whether to move forward or backward emerged from the choice itself.
???: [There you are! You’ve been standing your ground here, huh!]
Crossing the threshold of the door to the rear carriage, which had already been breached by the Pruning Corps’ attack, a small silhouette rushed into the carriage where Berstetz and his group were.
At the sight of the black-haired boy at the head of his group, Anastasia raised her voice in welcome.
Those who had just hurriedly arrived were the boy named Natsuki Subaru, and a girl in a dress holding his hand. Following them were a deer girl, a girl with blonde hair, and two young ladies who shared identical features, apart from one having pink hair and the other having blue hair――.
Julius: [Subaru! What happened to Emilia-sama?]
Subaru: [Emilia-tan is fighting hard in the rear section! She’s freezing the vehicle to reinforce it so that the enemies can’t get in, and if we had stayed, we’d have ended up frozen too!]
Anastasia: [That’s quite da high-handed move… But still, it’s a winnin’ one.]
Subaru answered Julius’s question, which was asked as he forced an undead back out the window as it was trying to break in. Anastasia batted an eye shut at the frowning boy’s response, and then directed her light-blue gaze behind him―― towards the blonde girl.
Anastasia: [With all this goin’ on, I guess yer talk’s been put on hold?]
Subaru: [――No, I already concluded my discussion. It’s just that the opportunity to convey it to everyone’s been interrupted. What about that bastard Abel? Does he have the same mark as me?]
Standing alongside the blonde girl, Subaru spoke thus and pulled his shirt down to show them a spot on his chest. There, a raised welt identical to the one on the Stargazer, Ubilk, could be seen.
As soon as he noticed it, Ubilk loudly exclaimed “Aaah~!”,
Ubilk: [Seeee~, I knew it! You’ve got the same mark on you! That must mean we’re fellow Stargazers!]
Subaru: [I keep telling you, that’s not it! It’s not just on me, it’s the same on my cute Beako, and I feel sorry for her! What’s there in common here!?]
???: [――Most likey, it is marking the obstacles to the Great Disaster that need to be eradicated.]
This time, a voice had come from the door opposite from where Subaru and the others had entered, and the one it belonged to rushed in from the corridor that led to the car at the front.
Appearing side by side were Otto, a tactician of the Kingdom who had exerted a strong influence in the war council, and a girl who had devoted herself to healing the wounded soldiers.
Upon their entry, Subaru turned around, his eyes wide in surprise,
Subaru: [Otto! Petra! Are you both okay? I’m sorry about earlier!]
Otto: [Let us leave that discussion for later. Right now, we need to exchange crucial information.]
Petra: [The mark you were saying appeared on Subaru and Beatrice-chan, it’s appeared on Master too! Right now, Master is in the dragon carriage up ahead, drawing the zombies to him…]
Pink-haired woman: [Roswaal-sama also has the mark…]
Upon hearing the report from the girl called Petra, the woman with pink hair, likely a relative of Rem, cast her eyes downward.
However, if not only Ubilk, Subaru, and the girl named Beatrice, but also the Chief Court Magician of the Kingdom had the mark, then the qualifications needed for being marked had become somewhat apparent.
Anastasia: [――Margrave Mathers ‘n Beatrice-chan, who went up against Sphinx on the plain. Also, Natsuki-kun, who stopped the ambush on the dragon carriage, ‘n Stargazer-san as well, if I recall.]
Berstetz: [It cannot be confirmed from here, but there is a possibility that the same marking has also been carved on Halibel-san, who is fighting with that black dragon outside.]
Serena: [And also our Excellency the Emperor I guess. I’d say that’s quite likely. Every one of those named are all irreplaceable in their abilities.]
Serena made a quick jab at Berstetz’s prior comment, while also agreeing with the opinions of the experts.
Concerning the discussion that was started by Anastasia and the others, Berstetz also concurred. So long as the effect of Palladio’s Evil Eye persisted, endless assassins would be sent after the ones who were targeted.
Rem: [Wait, please. If your guess is correct, then I don’t understand why the same mark hasn’t emerged on this child… On Spica-chan.]
The one who voiced this was Rem, who was holding on to the little girl’s shoulders from behind her.
This girl that she called Spica, although her importance had not yet been detailed, was said to be one of those named in Ubilk’s prophecy.
In that regard, there was no doubt that she was an important person for the Vollachian Empire――,
Otto: [Spica, is it?]
At Rem’s appeal, Otto muttered with an emotion that differed from Berstetz and the rest.
Upon hearing his muttering, Subaru looked at Otto and, with a serious expression,
Subaru: [I’ve decided where I stand. The proof will be in her way of life from here on.]
Otto: [――. What an odd coincidence. I have just made a decision as to where I stand as well.]
It would have been impossible for an outsider to guess how many complex emotions were involved in this quiet exchange. Moreover, in the midst of this assault, it was a situation that would need to be put on the back burner.
Right now, the top priority should be――,
Pink-haired girl: [We need to get a move on before Garf, who’s howling above our heads, turns into a grilled tiger.]
Subaru: [Don’t make it sound like he’s a grilled chicken… But, Rem had a point earlier.]
Subaru nodded at the pink-haired girl’s words, and when he turned around, everyone’s eyes were focused on the girl named Spica. The girl made a choked sound at the concentration of their gazes and looked around with a puzzled face.
Beatrice: [If this Stargazer is to be believed, this girl… Spica is the natural enemy of the Great Disaster, in fact. So then, why is she being overlooked, I suppose?]
Petra: [――? Is that really so weird? I mean, we would’ve never known if that guy hadn’t told us about it, right? If that’s the case, doesn’t that mean that they don’t know either?]
Subaru: […So, does that mean there’s not a Stargazer on the undead’s side?]
Subaru muttered this realization as the girls continued to exchange questions.
Ubilk turned around at that remark, but he shook his head lazily with a forlorn look on his face,
Ubilk: [Yeaaah~, I’m sorry. I don’t even know that, since it’s not related to my commandment.]
Rem: [Even so, can you at least tell me what it is about Spica-chan that makes you say she is a shining light? It would be irresponsible for you to just fling her name out.]
Ubilk: [Sooorry~ for being so irresponsible.]
Ubilk’s seemingly defiant expression turned Rem’s face a tense color. However, Ubilk’s answer was less than desirable, but Rem’s skewed topic might have been worth considering.
???: [With what materials we have at our disposal at the present, we have no choice but to use the coupled dragon carriage, which could break up at any moment, to charge toward the Fortified City, all the while protecting those who have been marked. That city is supposedly still being repaired, too.]
Subaru: [I don’t think we have that much time left.]
Even as they spoke, the dragon carriage was slowly losing its original shape under the attack of the Pruning Corps. As had been previously discussed, if it were to stop moving, it would inevitably be destroyed.
To stop this battle, they must deal with the commander―― Lamia, who was leading the enemy forces.
As they sought for means which were more than just coping remedies currently, Berstetz noticed in his narrow, thread-narrow vision that Subaru had a terribly conflicted expression on his face. The anguish that occupied his countenance was the result of having realized something and hesitating to say what it was.
A statement that the boy hesitated to utter in this situation. His conflict was different from Serena’s, who did not examine her statements carefully enough, and the content of this conflict was――,
Pink-haired girl: [――Barusu.]
At the same time, two people called out to Subaru.
Much like Berstetz, they must have also noticed the change in the boy’s facial expression. And the two, who knew the boy much better than Berstetz, were able to understand what was troubling him.
Closing his eyes at the intent of their gazes, Subaru took a deep breath and, tightening his expression,
Subaru: [――Spica’s Authority, it could be the breakthrough in this situation.]
Wielding a barbarian sword in each hand, Medium forcefully cut down the undead approaching in front of her.
As a result of that large swing, her back side was left completely exposed, and another pair of great shears from an undead were about to strike her. However, a slender longsword intervened in its path.
Jamal: [Don’t mess with her so lightly, you big fucks!]
The one who howled and slashed wildly was the one-eyed Imperial Soldier who called himself Jamal.
Working together with Jamal, Medium was struggling to protect her brother Flop, Jamal’s sister Katya, and the self-indulgent Abel from the constant attacks of the undead.
Even now, Medium stopped her foe in its tracks with a front kick, cut off its head with a barbarian sword, and turned the undead back to dust. Jamal also severed his foe’s knees with his twin swords, skewered its chest, and destroyed it.
Jamal: [Most Honorable Empress Consort! I’ll take care of this, you just stay back!]
Medium: [Like~ I~ said~! I haven’t said yes yet!]
Jamal: [Candidate for the Most Honorable Empress Consort! Stay back!]
Medium, not accustomed to being treated so respectfully, could not hide her bewilderment.
It had been that way ever since the earlier discussion between Flop and Abel. Abel pointed it out already but Medium had cooperated with her brother without asking anything of Flop’s thoughts.
In hindsight, she should have asked him a bit like Abel said.
Medium: [Then, I wouldn’t have been so surprised…!]
Flop: [Dear sister! Worrying and fretting doesn’t suit you!]
Medium: [And just whose fault do you think that is, big bro!]
Placing her frustration into her sword, Medium put all of her strength into her legs as she grappled with the great shears that were being thrust at her. She stood firm and pushed back so as to not be overpowered. A blade was thrust from under her armpit, and Jamal, who had moved to the rear, pierced the enemy through the chest and killed it.
After Jamal did so, while scraping his twin swords together in mid-air,
Jamal: [Katya! Don’t get impatient! I’m not letting anything get near you!]
Katya: [J-just stop it… I don’t care anymore… T-there’s nothing good even if I keep on living anyways…]
Jamal: [Don’t be so stupid! If you die, Todd won’t be able to rest in peace!]
Katya: [――Hk, m-my brother’s stupid…! Are you going to say it? Y-you wouldn’t say that, would you? Die! D-die, brother…!]
Katya, sitting in her wheelchair, began to weep when a name that Medium did not recognize was mentioned. Medium began to feel very sorry for Katya. If it was not for this current situation, she would have liked to confide in her as a fellow younger sister who was being pushed around by her brother.
But, there was no luxury for that anymore.
???: [――”Empress Consort”, now that is something I cannot just ignore, don’t you think?]
???: [I wonder, are you qualified to accompany the Sword Wolf among Sword Wolves?]
Tilting their head, standing out from the black-armored undead who were rushing toward them, was a very beautiful undead, even from Medium’s point of view.
If not for her pale skin and eerie, golden eyes, she would have been a sight to behold.
Whether the power of her words came from her being dead or from when she was alive, her words were remarkably intimidating, rendering Medium unable to answer back.
Vincent: [Whatever answer that girl would give you, it would be of no use, since you are already dead.]
And so, it was Abel, not Medium, who answered back.
Abel and this beautiful undead glared at each other with Medium, Jamal, and the undead soldiers in between, from the front of the carriage all the way to the very back. ――Wrong, Abel and this beautiful undead stared at each other.
???: [Hello, Vincent-niisama. You look as dignified as ever… Maybe you have even lost some weight?]
Vincent: [Just when I begin to think that my brothers and sisters are no longer able to pester me, you and Palladio seem to have wandered back. It is inevitable that my cheeks would appear a bit gaunt.]
???: [Fufu, of course I would want to wander back. ――You saved Prisca, right? Onii-sama.]
???: [I wonder if you are qualified to punish me and Palladio-niisama when it was you, Onii-sama, who violated the premise of the Imperial Selection Ceremony? If the truth were to become known, no one would recognize you as the Emperor, would they?]
With a sneer, the undead princess laughed with her hand covering her mouth.
Abel’s black eyes shook slightly at her words. With those eyes, Abel tried to say something back to her, but――,
Medium: [There’s someone! I think Abel-chin is the Emperor!]
Jamal: [Me too, Your Excellency the Emperor! There’s no need to listen to the dead!]
Unable to hold back, the voices of Medium and Jamal, who had taken advantage of the situation, shook the carriage.
Hearing both of their statements, Abel’s eyes widened even more than before, and the Princess’s eyes narrowed. With irises glowing of aurelian lustre, characteristic to the undead, she looked at Medium and Jamal, and,
???: [Do pray tell. These soldiers over there, do they have any idea of who I am?]
Jamal: [Huh? By the looks of it, you’re a part of the Vollachian Imperial Family, but what does it matter when you’re dead? Those who die a dog’s death are losers, and those who live are Sword Wolves! That’s it! That’s the way of the Empire!]
Shouting out the world’s most simple logic, Jamal resumed his melee with the enemy soldiers.
At the pleasantry of that momentum, Medium blinked her eyes and smiled. Smiling, Medium, like Jamal, resumed fighting.
Medium: [You’re way cooler than Abel-chin, Jamal-chin!]
Jamal: [That’s disrespectful, Most Honorable Empress Consort!]
Giving a wild grin at Medium’s praise, Jamal rampaged with his twin swords.
The confrontation between Abel and the Princess continued, with those fights occuring in between. Abel narrowed his sable eyes at the Princess as the latter seemed to have become slightly displeased.
Vincent: [――I sense the presence of many Yang Swords. You are not alone, Lamia.]
Lamia: [So what? I suppose you may be happy that your cute little sister has multiplied? Or perhaps, since it’s not Prisca, Vincent-niisama isn’t interested?]
Vincent: [Supposing that you are making use of the undead’s mechanisms to induce phenomena outside the realm of reason, for what reason do you appear before me without those numbers?]
At the mocking attitude of the Princess―― of Lamia, Abel was not at all concerned. Yet, within Lamia’s silence, Abel went ahead and found a clue.
With his narrowed sable eyes, Abel gazed at his little sister, who seemed to have been completely changed,
Vincent: [There is a limit to your numbers. Moreover, the majority of them are being subdued. ――Goz, hm?]
Lamia: [You say that so calmly, Onii-sama. If that’s true, then General First-Class Ralfon’s efforts would be worthy of a medal, no? That poor soul, saying that he’s fine with being a pawn――]
Vincent: [――And hence, I chose him.]
In a quiet voice, Abel interrupted Lamia.
Abel naturally crossed his arms on the spot and took Lamia’s gaze and words head-on,
Vincent: [He is one of the Generals that I have selected. It is only natural that he should work to that capacity.]
After stating so imposingly, Abel continued by calling her name, “Lamia”.
Then, to Lamia, as she looked at him with slightly widened eyes, he spoke.
Vincent: [I have never once thought of you as an insignificant being.]
At the words that were spoken to her, Lamia’s expression greatly shifted.
Up until then, she had looked nothing but fascinated, very sadistic, and otherwise discontent, but upon hearing Abel’s words, the look on her face changed.
Her aurelian eyes widened, and she bit her lip.
Lamia: [――VINCENT VOLLACHIAAAAA!!]
The next moment, the expression that Medium had seen vanished in an unbelievable manner, and a different expression appeared.
Her face, in which no real blood flowed, housed a definite indignation, and as her aurelian irises violently spasmed, she reached into the air and unsheathed her treasured sword, shining a brilliant red.
The treasured blade of dazzling radiance in hand, Lamia stepped forth, kicking off the floor, kicking off the wall, slipping through the gap between the undead, she leaped toward Abel.
That radiance, as if flames or even light itself were being swung down, brightly illuminated the interior of the carriage filled with undead, and attempted to extinguish Abel in his entirety.
Staring at that head-on, the treasured sword swung down toward Abel’s nose.
Kicking off an undead, Medium jumped back, catching the treasured sword with her barbarian sword. After time stood still for a moment, Medium’s barbarian sword melted, and the treasured sword continued in its trajectory.
Jamal: [Your Excellency the Emperor!]
A moment later, Jamal’s twin swords went to repel the treasured sword, just as Medium had tried. These, too, were engulfed by the treasured sword’s radiance, and their blades vanished in an instant.
Surmounting the obstacles presented by Medium and Jamal, Lamia’s sword strike was about to reach Abel.
At that rate, Abel’s entire body was going to be engulfed by the red light, and Medium screamed.
It was at that moment.
Just what had happened, no one knew.
Neither was it that behind Abel’s imposing stance, Flop and Katya had both pulled on Abel’s jacket and made him fall on his rear on the spot, nor was it Medium, who felt a tremendous pain in her chest at the thought of Abel’s death, nor was it Jamal, whose face wore a look of despair at the thought that it was already too late.
――It was just that right there, as if struck by the wind, Lamia’s body collapsed.
Lamia: [To think you would yet live, you are quite tenacious, Berstetz. ――Say, who won the Imperial Selection Ceremony? Vincent-niisama? Or was it Prisca?]
――Those were the first words she had presented to him upon their reunion.
The reunion with his master, whose physical appearance had undergone a radical change.
Even after nine years, when he would close his eyes, he could recall her appearance from back when she had been alive, almost as if it were yesterday. As humans age, events of the distant past tend to become clearer than what has happened the day before.
That was why he only needed a single look to understand the abnormality pertaining to his master.
Her fractured, pallid skin, and her golden eyes that no longer desired the light, were those of the dead who had consigned their life to oblivion.
He had also understood from the initial question she had given him. The clock inside her had stopped ticking. That was right. That was how it should have been. The living and the dead must be kept far apart from each other.
Berstetz: [――Pruning, CEASEEEE!!]
He barked out the order, raising his voice to the point that he thought it might tear apart his parched throat.
Graced by the Divine Protection of Wind Evasion, neither the strong winds that were supposed to batter him nor the violent tremors of the dragon carriage were present, allowing his voice to soar and resound throughout the area.
The moment they heard the command, the undead, equipped with great shears in their hands, stopped moving.
The Pruning Corps suddenly halted their movements, and he did not know what to think about that fact. Should he lament it, or should he feel proud?
Entrusting their hearts to the Poison Princess, they were a symbol of fear with cold blood running through their veins. It was Berstetz who had reshaped them into such. They had met his expectations in accordance with his goals.
And, even after death, their bodies had reacted to the command of Berstetz Fondalfon.
Berstetz: [Time has stopped for the undead. If so, for them, that battle during the Imperial Selection Ceremony would have just occurred the day before… What is ingrained in their bodies can never lose its color.]
They had demonstrated the ideal way to follow their master even in death.
Lamia: [――And then? You are only able to subdue my animals for a moment, are you not?]
Berstetz: […Yes. However, with this, now you are here.]
Turning around towards the voice behind him, Berstetz greeted her in person, alone.
With its roof and walls in ruin, the dragon carriage was a mere shadow of its former sublimity. Despite that, on one of the platforms of the carriage that was laden with the Empire’s hope, Berstetz and Lamia faced off against one another.
Confirming that he was visible in the reflection of Lamia’s golden eyes, Berstetz blew out a breath.
Berstetz: [I have been expecting you, Your Excellency Lamia.]
Lamia: [Yes, it seems that way. But, I wonder, why are you here alone?]
Lamia gave a slight tilt of her head, spreading her arms as her eyes scanned over the empty dragon carriage.
Aside from Berstetz, neither Serena nor those of the Kingdom were present. He had remained here alone because he had a secret plan to immobilize Lamia as well as the Pruning Corps.
As a matter of fact, he had been successful in doing so for the Pruning Corps, even if it would last for only but a moment.
Berstetz was certain his commands would never take effect ever again, but he knew that his fellow passengers in the dragon carriage were able to utilize the opening he had created with the few seconds of time he bought.
With that, Berstetz had kept his promise to those who had gone ahead of him.
Berstetz: [I am no longer at an age where I would make declarations I cannot keep.]
Lamia: [There is no need to put yourself down like that. Nine years have passed since then, but you really have not changed a bit. You are the same as when I had died.]
Berstetz: [――Perhaps it is as you say, Your Excellency.]
Berstetz responded to Lamia’s teasing words in a low, gravelly voice.
Lamia knitted her brows as she heard that. In front of her, Berstetz balled his bony hand into a fist, clenching his teeth that had miraculously not suffered a single loss.
He had not changed, even after nine years. What Lamia had said was correct.
Berstetz: [Since that moment, my time has also come to a standstill, Your Excellency Lamia.]
Berstetz murmured, then took a step forward.
Full of determination, he took a large step. Once his outstretched foot met the floor, he took another. Forcing his elderly body to move, Berstetz continued stepping forward, one step at a time.
Exasperatedly, Lamia narrowed her golden eyes.
The flow of time moved along slowly, feeling sluggish and stagnant. Not only did it feel as such, but it was slow in reality as well. Compared to Julius and Garfiel, who had been fighting to protect Berstetz and the others until a little while ago, it was terribly feeble to the point that making a comparison would be presumptuous.
He was a sheep painted black in a pack of wolves. He had become a sly old goat. Making his horns seem larger than they were, he desperately flaunted that he had his own role amongst the wolf pack.
Lamia: [――Yang Sword.]
As Lamia reached out towards the sky, the hilt of the esteemed, crimson sword materialized in her hand.
Her slender fingers squeezed themselves tightly around it, drawing out the treasured sword, the symbol of Vollachia. The fiery red, scintillating flame trapped within the blade seared into his eyes.
He was glad he always kept his eyes narrowed. Thanks to it, his eyeballs would still have been protected, even if his eyelids had been scorched.
Carrying those trivial, useless thoughts with him, Berstetz lifted up his fist. Curled around one of his fingers was a ring. It was proof that he was the Prime Minister of the Vollachian Empire.
It was a Meteor, imbued with Mana of the element of fire.
Lamia: [I have already seen that.]
The coldness in Lamia’s gaze retained its ice, having already seen the Meteor in action at the Imperial Capital, within the Crystal Palace, inside the throne room.
Berstetz’s advance was terribly slow, and his last resort had already been subjugated once. On the other hand, his opponent possessed one of the ten Enchanted Swords, which wielded power relative to the top echelon of the world――,
Berstetz: [――Your Excellency.]
He knew it would take less than a single second for her to cut him down and reduce him to cinders.
Despite that, out of his entire life, which spanned close to seventy years so far, Berstetz made full use of the longest second he had lived.
And then, he told his master what he had told her in the past, once again.
Berstetz: [――We have lost…!]
Berstetz threw down his raised fist as he spoke, pointing the ring at the floor.
There, he activated the Meteor. Flames swelled up and burst out beneath his feet, augmenting the elder’s sluggish advance with blazing momentum.
With great intensity, Berstetz’s entire body barreled towards Lamia.
Lamia’s golden eyes widened upon seeing the old man’s body throw itself at her from up close. In those wide, gold-colored optics, there was the reflection belonging to Berstetz Foldalfon.
Gazing into the face that Berstetz saw in her eyes, Lamia continued to hold up the Yang Sword, and,
Lamia: [――So, you were capable of making such a frustrated face.]
They were lady and vassal, with a long-lasting affiliation while maintaining a respectable distance, who never had a heart-to-heart conversation with one another.
For the first time, Lamia’s enigmatic vassal displayed an expression that she had never seen before. On that face, full of wrinkles and thin eyes narrowed to the point that his pupils were not visible, the elderly man appeared as if he were about to cry. Her hand stilled.
――Berstetz and Lamia’s bodies met each other head-on.
Unable to mitigate the force of the explosion, the two hurtled into the wall of the carriage in a tangle of limbs. They were slated towards the wall that had been torn down by the Pruning Corps’ break-in, and they were thrown out, just like that.
Squeezing tightly, with fingers as bare as a withered tree, the elderly man grabbed onto the dress of the beautiful girl and refused to let go.
Without separating from one another, their bodies were forcefully ejected out of the coupled dragon carriage――,
――In that instant, a shockwave struck all of the countless Lamia Godwins that had appeared within the coupled dragon carriages.
The Lamias fighting Goz Ralfon, the Lamias fighting Garfiel Tinzel, the Lamias fighting Roswaal L. Mathers, the Lamias fighting Emilia, and the Lamias in the other parts of the dragon carriage were all affected by the shock simultaneously.
A Divine Protection is a blessing that can be bestowed upon lives born into this world; their true natures have not been elucidated to this day, and much is still shrouded in mystery.
However, regarding Divine Protections, many hold a single conviction that they intuitively understand.
That is, that Divine Protections affect the soul, of the ones to whom they are granted and the ones on which they are targeted.
Whether this is true or not has never been proven. However, this much can be said.
――Berstetz Fondalfon was thrown out of the dragon carriage with one of the Lamia Godwins, and they were both excluded from the effects of the Divine Protection of Wind Evasion at the same time.
And then, as one of the Lamia Godwins brought her sword down on Vincent Vollachia, and both Medium O’Connel and Jamal Aurélie failed to block the attack, it was also the very moment when tragedy was about to strike in front of Flop O’Connel and Katya Aurélie.
As if having been struck by a gust of wind, the body of Lamia, who had raised up her Yang Sword, was pushed back.
At that moment, neither Lamia nor Medium and the others understood what had happened. However, the truth was that Vincent, who had been pulled down, extended his leg and kicked Lamia backward.
Then, behind Lamia, who had been punted away, the door connecting to the adjacent car was breached――,
A rainbow brilliance danced, and the Pruning Corps standing before the door were cut down.
Slipping past the light of that rainbow, three small silhouettes scrambled into the car.
One of them held up their hand, and a faint glow surrounded the three silhouettes, speeding them up as they rushed in. The one in the middle, who was holding hands with the previous silhouette, shouted out.
Boy: [――Lamia Godwin!]
With a raised voice, such was the shout of the black-haired boy who was holding hands with two girls on either side.
The girl in the dress had produced the glow, the young black-haired boy had called out that name, and the last one who had leapt in, with the hand opposite to the one that was linked with the boy, she reached out――,
Girl: [――E ea.]
――Retracting her hand after touching the back that she had leapt towards, she stripped off the name of the Poison Princess.
 TL note: The vocalization here purposefully resembles the phrase “let’s eat”, which was spoken by Louis Arneb when utilizing her Authority.