Human Translated By:
- Negimiso (Parts 1.4, 1.5)
- Garcar (Part 3)
Machine Translated By:
- Cirdan Lunae
Japanese to English Checking By:
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――The Stone, Muspel.
Enrolled as one of the Four Great Spirits, it was an ancient Great Spirit rooted within the vast lands of the Vollachian Empire.
Unlike the Sacred Beast, Slasher, and Arbitrator of the other countries, it was a being that had not left any voluntary actions or claims in the annals of history. Though it was known to exist in Vollachia, no further information or observations of it had surfaced; one could even say it was the most Spirit-like Spirit.
That was the nature of the Stone, Muspel, considered to be an unchanging Sanctum.
Subaru: [Which is how Beako cutely explained it to me, but isn’t this different?]
Since Subaru lacked knowledge of the Four Great Spirits, Beatrice had recounted an anecdote about Muspel to him. As such, Subaru listened to Beatrice’s anecdote with great interest, but the contents of the anecdote clashed greatly with the actual situation.
The Great Spirit whose whereabouts and true form were unknown, such was the story of Muspel, but――,
Subaru: [You being so confident that the opponent has stolen it is contradictory to you having grasped its location. But actually conversely, Muspel was here in the Fortified City. ――Is that wrong?]
Subaru thrust his index finger with a question before Abel’s surly face.
Abel’s black eyes narrowed at Subaru’s questioning, but before he could open his mouth――,
???: [Oi, ya got some damn nerve to talk to His Excellency the Emperor like that.]
An unexpectedly harsh tone wedged itself between Subaru and Abel, and a wind blew out of the scene. Immediately after, the tip of Subaru’s pointed finger, the white part of the nail, was suddenly shaved off.
With a whoosh, a drawn blade sliced through the wind and his fingernail, the result of which caused Subaru to scream, “Dowhoa!”.
???: [You brat! Know your place, your place goddammit!]
Subaru: [That’s what I should be saying! You don’t suddenly cut a kid’s fingernails with a sword!]
Holding his hands over the sudden outburst, Subaru spat at the perpetrator of the heinous act―― Jamal.
For some reason, Jamal, who had been allowed to accompany Abel since arriving at Garkla, suddenly cut Subaru’s fingernail using the blade he had pulled out.
Subaru looked at him in disbelief at that overly rash behavior,
Subaru: [I thought you’d gotten a little better, but as expected, I hate you!]
Jamal: [Ahh? I don’t want a brat to like me either. …And.]
When he told Katya the news of Todd’s demise, he was naive to think that he could have a rational conversation.
When Subaru protested against Jamal’s unchanged crude attitude, the latter tried to ignore the age difference and get confrontational, but that immature attitude was stopped with the raise of a hand.
It was none other than Abel, seated at the round table, who had ordered him to “Cease”.
Vincent: [Do not start unnecessary squabbles. Be aware that your value, as I recognize it, is that you are a relatively easy pawn to use. Now is not the time to fight with the Kingdom.]
Subaru: [Fight with the Kingdom… ah.]
Subaru furrowed his brow at Abel’s way of saying it, then turned around when he realized what the intent was.
When he did, those on the Kingdom’s side, witnessing the current exchange between Subaru and the others―― Understandably, Emilia, Beatrice, and Spica looked at Jamal with reproachful eyes.
If this standoff continued, the girls joining the fight soon would be unavoidable.
However, not understanding the gravity of the situation, Jamal frowned and reluctantly sheathed the brunt of his outburst.
Jamal: [If His Excellency the Emperor says so… Tsk, ya escaped death, brat.]
Subaru: [It’s amazing you still have the guts to say that in this situation… I feel like we were just on the verge of our alliance breaking up and the Empire being destroyed.]
With the Emperor’s stoppage, sighing at the sight of Jamal, who was still unashamed under the gaze of Subaru’s friends, Subaru looked at Abel.
He evaluated Jamal as being easy to use, but it really did not seem like that.
Subaru: [You’re not going to do something like a careless assassination this late in the game, are you?]
Vincent: [In fact, if someone were to surrender with my head in their arms, I suppose it would not be a detriment to them. This attitude is extremely normal for an Imperial Soldier… a little too short-tempered, but not to the extent of Cecilus.]
Subaru: [It’s not fair to use Ceci in your comparison…!]
Subaru was infuriated by Abel, who said such an unfunny joke and gave such an example that could not be confirmed nor denied. Ignoring his reaction, Abel gestured for Jamal to stand down and then looked back at Subaru.
His posture, answering Subaru’s pointed finger and question, showed that he was ready to disclose information about the Stone that had almost veered off into a tangent.
Vincent: [The question which you snorted out a moment ago, I shall affirm it. The Stone was indeed within this Fortified City. Measures have been taken to detain it here, turning this city into a Sanctum.]
Beatrice: […Unbelievable, I suppose.]
Abel once again tapped his finger on the round table, producing a firm sound as he divulged the truth. And, it was Beatrice who involuntarily voiced a sound at Abel’s response.
With her adorable profile, as she tightly pressed her lips together,
Beatrice: [What an outrageous story, in fact. Among the Four Greats, the Stone is the most challenging one to come to a mutual understanding with; that’s how it was described by Mother, I suppose.]
Subaru: [Among the Four Great Spirits, the most challenging…]
Beatrice: [By the way, among the Four Greats, the one which doesn’t properly listen the most is the Sacred Beast, and the one which should not be talked to the most is the Slasher. The one that is most futile to talk to is the Arbitrator, in fact.]
Subaru: [Aren’t those all pretty much the same!? Puck, please come back!]
He could not hide his astonishment at the line up that made him increasingly yearn for Puck.
Compared with the disturbing titles of Slasher and Arbitrator, the titles of Stone and Sacred Beast oddly gave off a softer impression.
Subaru: [If you can’t speak with the Stone, I thought the Sacred Beast at least sounded to be a little better, but…]
Beatrice: [Mother used to call the Sacred Beast a benevolent monster, I suppose.]
Subaru: [Oi oi, I’m inclined to see all of the landmarks in this world, but there’s not a single celebrity who I’d like to meet… Isn’t that actually kinda incredible?]
Having spent over a year in this world, Subaru occasionally heard the names of famous individuals, but most of them held rather disturbing titles, so he was a bit sick and tired of them.
Though, the fact that he was already acquainted with positive celebrities such as the Royal Candidates and the Sword Saint may have played a big part in that.
Otto: [This is the first time that I have heard expressions like the Sanctum and the detaining of the Stone. I think those are perhaps phrases unique to Vollachia, but what exactly do they mean?]
Vincent: [To put it plainly, the Stone is a Great Spirit that governs the Earth attribute. Therefore, the land it uses as a resting place naturally receives the protection of its special qualities. In addition to cultivating fertile soil, it also yields a positive impact on the recuperation of those who live on that land.]
Otto: […I see. It is a much more significant role than I thought.]
Otto, who had interjected with a question, placed his hand over his mouth in wonder regarding Abel’s response.
In essence, within the scope of Muspel’s influence, agriculture flourished, and the recovery of the sick and injured was accelerated. It seemed to have benefits akin to a hot-spring consisting of nothing but good things.
If one could control the position of Muspel as they pleased, that would be――,
Anastasia: [I gotta say, that’s a story that’s gotta be hidden much more than the lie that the Fortified City’s in the midst of reconstruction. That one of the pillars supportin’ the strong national power of the Empire is the Stone.]
Julius: [And he has disclosed all of this to us, the people of another country. ――I shall take this as a sign of the degree of His Excellency the Emperor Vincent’s resolve.]
Anastasia: [I dunno if they’d feel too threatened if they were overly open about their secrets, but… I kinda understand the sentiment about wantin’ to avoid internal conflicts.]
Anastasia and Julius’s attitudes were natural for representatives of foreign powers.
Of course, as Anastasia had added at the end, it was not as though there was no prospect for the Empire to reveal too much unfavorable information.
Emilia: [If this was something he really wanted to keep hidden, couldn’t Abel have used various different ways of speaking to cover it up? Since he didn’t do that, it makes me think that wasn’t exactly that case.]
Subaru: [It’s as Emilia-tan says. This guy has a nasty personality and functions with twisted wisdom. He could have even deceived people like Roswaal or Anastasia-san if he wanted to. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, this is Abel’s utmost sincerity.]
Vincent: [It is still surprising that the half-elf girl does not exude any sense of insolence. You, such praise is not given lightly in this day and age.]
Even though Subaru had gone out of his way to follow up, Abel gave a reply to which following up would be of no avail, so Subaru pursed his lips.
Bringing a halt to this act of Subaru and the others, Flop clapped his hands to gather everyone’s attention. He then nodded with a “It’s as Husband-kun and the others say,”
Flop: [His Excellency the Emperor-kun has disclosed the truth. That alone signifies the urgency of the matter, along with the topic that cannot be avoided in order to explain the worst-case scenario.]
Roswaal: [Worst-case scenario… You mean, the demise of the vast lands of the Empire that His Excellency the Emperor meeentioned~?]
Flop: [That’s right!]
Nodding vigorously, Flop affirmed Roswaal’s ascertainment.
The demise of the vast lands of the Empire―― Utilizing the Stone, Muspel, that was the worst possible scenario of the Great Disaster assailing this Vollachian Empire.
And, before that scenario was revealed to Subaru and the others, the reason why Abel was accompanied by Flop, who was supposed to be nothing more than just a civilian――,
Flop: [It was the fake Emperor-kun who entrusted me with the information about the Sanctum to deliver to His Excellency the Emperor-kun… but his intentions were not to cooperate with the Great Spirit that is the Stone, but to warn of the possibility that the Stone was being utilized in the opponent’s plans.]
Subaru: [I see. Flop-san, you were able to directly meet Abel’s imposter, huh.]
Flop: [Yeah. I don’t have the qualifications to give an answer or an opinion as to why he behaved that way, but… It’s in my nature to accomplish what’s entrusted to me.]
Flop still looked pale due to all the blood that he had lost. His answer, showing his unchanging strong sense of duty, was a relief to Subaru, who now thought of the fake Emperor.
The fake Emperor who had ousted Abel from the throne, and lost his own life in the latter’s place―― His true intentions could only be guessed, the same as when he had quarreled with Abel, and an answer would not be heard for the rest of eternity.
Still, the fact that the person he had entrusted with the message was Flop, was one of the best possible moves the fake Emperor had made.
Emilia: [Umm, based on what you’re saying, does the Empire perhaps have a contract with Muspel?]
Vincent: [If the contract you are thinking of is that which binds a Spirit and a Spiritual Arts User together, you would be incorrect. The Stone has no such consciousness for that. There is no way for us to offer it a contract that has our side as superior or equal.]
Subaru: [Vollachia is the one who brings up the advantageous and disadvantageous in contracts with Spirits. Take a look at me and Beako’s clean, righteous, and charming relationship.]
Beatrice: [That’s right, in fact.]
Vincent: [It looks like naught but children playing.]
Holding hands with Beatrice, the two of them made a display as they lightly took steps together, and Abel gave a comment. Ignoring Subaru who puffed his cheeks out together with Beatrice in response, Abel went on with the discussion.
Vincent: [No vows have been made with the Stone. Yet, it continued to reside within the territory of the Empire. That is why we made use of our relationship with it, but… at the same time, it continued to move into the Empire’s bowels, spreading its roots.]
Subaru: [Its roots?]
Vincent: [Think of it as the roots of a tree. A tree with thick, long branches may strengthen the ground it is affixed to, but conversely, if that tree were to be uprooted, what shall become of the land?]
Anastasia: […It’ll get so porous ‘n fragile that it’ll crumble with just a teensy poke.]
Anastasia summarized Abel’s question in a nutshell.
In exchange for continuing to enrich the vast lands of Vollachia, Muspel had tied its fate to the Empire itself.
Subaru: [Wait, so you when you say that it would be the end of the line for Vollachia if Muspel were to die, you mean it would literally be the end of Vollachia!? Isn’t that insanely bad!?]
In other words, it was something akin to revealing the existence of a bomb that could blow the Empire itself to pieces.
It was a state secret that needed to be concealed, something that Vollachia would have to deal with not just for now, but forever on after this. At that fact, Subaru’s surprise finally caught up with the intelligent people.
Vincent: [Fool, do not be so panicked.]
Subaru: [How can you not be in a panic! Hah! Don’t tell me, once this is all over, you intend to silence all of us who know the secret …]
Vincent: [Do not underestimate us in that regard. If such was my intention, do you believe I would have allowed you to harbor such suspicions? Intrigue and conspiracy are not the prerogatives of the Holy Kingdom alone.]
Subaru: [Wouldn’t it be better if the Empire that boasts about it and the Holy Kingdom that’s famous for it were destroyed?]
Due to the magnitude of the matter, topics of national scale were raised with wild abandon, and though the Empire went without saying, the Holy Kingdom did not seem to be anything decent either. Subaru also thought that he had suffered through some pretty bad things, but one should remember that the Kingdom of Lugunica was a much more pleasant place to live.
Subaru: [Well, even though it was a hell on earth, as soon as I met Emilia-tan and the others, there was no more doubt that the Kingdom of Lugunica was the most heavenly place.]
Emilia: [Sorry, I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about.]
Subaru: [That’s fine, that’s fine, I’m just talking to myself. ――So, the meaning of the previous topic is for him to discuss.]
Subaru smiled at Emilia as she tilted her head, then returned to trying to catch Abel’s interest regarding the topic at hand. In response to it, Abel quietly closed an eye and crossed his arms,
Vincent: [A ruler who turns a blind eye to a ridiculous act, a blatant one to this extent, such as entrusting their heart to another, must not be in their right mind. Of course, the process of decoupling the roots of the Stone from this country had been moving forward. Your concerns are oblivious to the difficulty of discovering that and claiming lives in accordance with it, which is, simply put, nonsensical. Such is the equivalent of challenging the Dragon with a pen.]
Subaru: [If I went, “Gotcha! Glad to hear that!” then it wouldn’t match up with how we were talking about running out of time earlier. The decoupling process might’ve been moving forward, but it couldn’t be done in time, which caused this situation… Isn’t that right?]
Subaru: [Don’t stay silent just because the odds are against you!]
Abel’s silence in reaction to the accurate guess was confirmation that Subaru’s suspicion had hit its mark.
Someday, Vollachia might be able to sever their shared destiny with Muspel. However, the time was not now, and it could not be cited as a clue to break through their plight.
Vincent: [In other words, the fates of the Stone and us citizens of the Empire remain intertwined. As long as those hordes of undead are in pursuit of us and we desperately continue to drive them away, the Stone’s mana shall eventually be depleted, and the lands of Vollachia shall be unable to escape from its ruin. I also hear the soldiers who lost their lives in battle would undergo immediate resurrection. In short――]
Roswaal: [We’re in a situation where defeating too many of our opponents and casualties on our side are both undesirable, it seeeems~.]
Serena: [Seems like it. Their intentions are thrillingly illogical, and there’s no end to their cruelty.]
On top of being forced to respond to the opponent’s initiative, even the terms of their defensive battle had been set as something terribly evil.
Subaru did not understand why Serena seemed to enjoy this, but looking closer into the enemy’s relentless tactics, which did not stop at using the undead to force their way through, he could catch glimpses of their proactiveness in bringing the Empire to its definite downfall――,
Emilia: [――But, I wonder why Sphinx is doing such a thing.]
As Emilia voiced the doubt that surfaced in her mind, Subaru blinked at her words.
The fearsome enemy, who had resurrected many of the dead resting below the Empire’s soil, and was currently taking measures to act on its demise, an event regarded as the Great Disaster. The identity and schemes of such a foe―― Sphinx, the Witch, had been made quite clear in detail.
However, the Witch’s motive that Emilia had expressed her doubt about was――,
Subaru: [Of course, isn’t that because she wants to destroy the Empire…? It’s not like I don’t understand how she feels, though.]
Otto: [Leaving aside Natsuki-san’s true feelings, that is not an adequate answer to Emilia-sama’s question. Assuming the identity of the opposition’s leader is the Witch that had rampaged through the Kingdom of Lugunica in the past, any grudges they hold should be pointing towards the Kingdom.]
Julius: [Nonetheless, the Witch has created an uprising with the dead in the Empire. It is certainly implausible. However, there is a possibility that the Empire was where the conditions could be fulfilled.]
Designating Emilia’s inquiry as the beginning of their theorization, Otto and Julius made eye contact with each other.
As Otto seeked out the rest of Julius’s deduction, the Knight placed his fingers on his narrow chin,
Julius: [An army of zombies with a combination of the Sacrament of the Immortal King and Restoration Magic… For it to come to fruition, the existence of the Four Greats, who all possess an extraordinary amount of mana, was essential. Therefore, the Witch had managed to actualize the spell in the Empire, and――]
There, Julius paused for a brief moment, and then took a sweeping glance at the faces of everyone in the meeting room,
Julius: [Perhaps it may be a plan to invade the Kingdom after tearing down the Empire.]
Goz: [――That is ridiculous!!]
Just as Subaru fell speechless upon hearing about the likelihood of such an occurrence that Julius dreaded, Goz exploded with a roar of indignation. Balling his hand into an excessively tight fist the size of a child’s head, Goz gnashed his teeth together while retaining the bare minimum of his rationality to not break the round table.
Goz: [If you are correct in your thinking! Are you suggesting that the fact that our dear homeland is on the brink of annihilation is merely a byproduct of this predicament!?]
Anastasia: [To be exact, it’s probably the first stage of the plan to strike the real target. Well, with the whereabouts of the Stone ‘n stockin’ up on the zombies ‘n all, that stage has probably been movin’ on from step to step since a really long time ago.]
Goz: [Gh, grrrrruh…!!]
Anastasia probably did not intend it in the first place, but her supplementary explanation was unsuccessful in placating Goz’s anger. Rather, he was growling with frustration, and Jamal seemed to be similarly furious. No one could possibly accept it if they were told the crisis occurring in their homeland was purely incidental.
Subaru thought over their feelings with a dose of sympathy, then noticed the expression of Beatrice, who was beside him.
Beatrice: [――. Julius’s idea is understandable, I suppose. But… Roswaal.]
Roswaal: [Certainly, I recognize your concerns. ――Could it be, that Sphinx truly carries human emotions with her, enough for her actions to be considered as vengeance upon the Kingdom? It’s precisely why I can’t help but think that the idea suggested by Knight Julius is only half-correct.]
Subaru: [By half of Julius’s idea, you mean…]
Roswaal: [The conditions were satisfied in the Empire. So, she did what she did. That’s all.]
Roswaal closed one eye, leaving his yellow eye open while Subaru took a sharp intake of breath at his words.
If Julius’s line of thinking was accurate, then the current occurrences in the Empire were not unrelated to the Kingdom, and therefore, the Kingdom could be facing the same crisis very soon.
However, if Beatrice and Roswaal’s theories were correct, then the situation between them and the opposition was beyond salvaging.
Berstetz: [Either way, the Witch has already taken up arms and drawn the bow against the Empire. Now that even the lives of the Imperial nobility have been disgraced, we are left with no other option but to eradicate our enemy. Is that not the case?]
Serena: [I’m receiving quite the hot-blooded impression from your statement, Prime Minister. As I thought, has the incident regarding Her Excellency Lamia birthed an anger your stomach can’t suppress?]
Berstetz: [――Yes, is there a problem?]
If Serena had meant to poke fun at him, his reaction was not quite what she had been expecting.
Although Berstetz maintained an attitude of superficial calmness, his fury towards the opposition could be clearly felt from his unexpressive, narrow-eyed face.
At his words, Serena traced the scar left behind by a sword wound on her own face,
Serena: [No? The way you are now aligns much more with my taste in men.]
Berstetz: [That is quite a frightening thing to say.]
Serena: [Hahaha! Though, I consider myself good-looking if you pretend my scar doesn’t exist.]
Appraising Berstetz, who had undergone a change of heart as such, Serena let out a guffaw.
Setting aside the exchange between the two, the truth of the matter was exactly as Berstetz had told them. They had no choice but to face the commander of the undead army, Sphinx, in a final showdown.
No matter her objective, they had to.
Subaru: [So, are you alright, Emilia-tan?]
Emilia: [――Mhm. It’s something that we don’t know, even if we try our best to think about it. It would be great if we had an opportunity to hear it directly from Sphinx, but…]
Subaru: [We only ran into her for a moment, but she didn’t seem like someone we could talk to.]
Beatrice: [Betty agrees with Subaru, in fact. Betty also thinks it’s difficult to hold a conversation with that one, I suppose.]
Utilizing her own life in the form of Escape by Death, Sphinx had targeted the coupled dragon carriages.
Within the scarce number of conversations that had been held between him and Sphinx, Subaru had felt as if she was completely devoid of any zeal, just like her tactics, which considered life as a disposable resource. She did not respond to any provocation coming from those whom her emotions remained unmoved against. She was the type of competition that was rough to deal with for Subaru.
Hence, even with Return by Death, she was a tremendously powerful opponent――.
Subaru: [In the meantime, our opponent is steadily increasing the number of her zombies, and she’s also shaving down the power that’s left in the Great Spirit Muspel. We’re just going to be at a disadvantage in a battle of endurance.]
Anastasia: [Though, gatherin’ battle-ready forces from all over the Empire ‘n launchin’ another attack on the Imperial Capital… is no good, either. Large armies clashin’ against each other is a simple war of attrition. The damage is gonna be worse.]
Otto: [A condition that we are bound by, where we cannot afford any casualties from our side and the opposition… Which means, there is practically only one option left for the plan to save the Empire from the impending Great Disaster.]
Subaru, Anastasia, and Otto spoke one after another, and spontaneously, all eyes were on Abel, who was seated at the round table. Every citizen of the Empire was involved in this incident, and as the man among them who stood on the crest, he regarded everyone’s gazes as something that was to be expected, and,
Vincent: [――We shall invade the Imperial Capital with a small elite unit, and capture the Witch, who is the mastermind. Thus, the path to the Great Disaster that they had laid out so scrupulously shall be dismantled.]
――Marking the start of the final phase of the battle that had begun in the Vollachian Empire, he assuredly announced their strategy to halt the Great Disaster, just like that.
With the conclusion of the round table meeting, they reached a stopping point.
In accordance with the policy established, from this point forward, the selection of personnel to dispatch for the blitzkrieg and the plan for the attack on the Imperial Capital would be developed.
However, before that discussion began in earnest――,
Berstetz: [――I had not realized that the Stone had been stationed in Garkla.]
In the conference room where only the Emperor and the Prime Minister remained, Berstetz was the one to break the ice.
It was a short time where not only the members of the allied Kingdom, but also those on the imperial side, such as Serena and Goz, were not present. Even Jamal, an escort, was kept waiting outside the room, so that it was just the leaders of the Empire in discussion―― although if that were true, then there would have been one more person present.
Vincent: [In the end, you also fell completely for Chisha’s scheme?]
Berstetz: [It appears so. If all went according to schedule, the Sanctum would have been near the southwestern Cloud Sea City of… Mezoreia around this time. Just what point in time had I been blindsided?]
Vincent: [Your eyes appear closed. Blindsiding you must have been easy.]
Berstetz: [They appear to be closed, but they are not. That is precisely why they are so effective in prevention… is just what a sore loser would say after they have actually been deceived.]
Shaking his head slowly, Berstetz muttered as if lamenting his blunder. However, Vincent did not consider it Berstetz’s fault.
As was often the case, Chisha simply exceeded Vincent and Berstetz’s expectations.
In addition to deceiving both the Emperor and the Prime Minister, Chisha had also made preparations to find out just what traps the forthcoming Great Disaster would set.
Berstetz: [If the Stone has not been used, we could use the Fortified City as a base and strengthen our defenses. If the Stone has been compromised, then――]
Vincent: [In other words, it is being used for the Great Disaster’s plan. It seems that enormous fool had thought of many ways to destroy the Empire and had executed them in his mind. Hence, he was right on target.]
Berstetz: [I did not know what measures to take against someone plotting an usurpation, and I did not expect someone whose goal was to wreak havoc. From now on, I shall strive to be stricter.]
Vincent: [――. Then do that.]
Vincent was slightly taken aback by Berstetz voicing his vision for the future with that “from now on.”
After this case was settled, Berstetz would resign from the Prime Minister’s position, as he thought it was not impossible that he might try to martyr himself for Lamia.
Berstetz: [Since Her Excellency Lamia has refused to do so.]
Finding the question in that momentary void, Berstetz answered it himself.
Hearing this, Vincent said nothing. Only a little snort. In response to Vincent’s reaction, Berstetz continued, “Nevertheless,”
Berstetz: [I was surprised to hear what Your Excellency said about the Stone and the Sanctum. It is hard to say that we have any hope of even separating the Stone from the land.]
Vincent: [As soon as this present matter is settled, we shall get to working on the national policy that we had put on hold. If we cannot produce results by the time the non-aggression pact with the Kingdom expires in two years’ time, there shall be no tomorrow to succeed today.]
Berstetz: [Is that so? Incidentally,]
At that, Berstetz paused a beat and opened his thread-like eyes slightly.
Berstetz: [Though I am sure you are aware, the method employed to detain the Stone is not to be revealed. Not only is it an Imperial secret, but it is also a matter of strong belief among our allies.]
Vincent: [After all, Natsuki Subaru and the half-elf Spiritual Arts User are both utterly opposed to even the appearance of injustice. ――It would be troublesome if they knew that we have been using convicts sentenced to death as the Stone’s contractors, disposing of them upon their deaths.]
Berstetz: [Your Excellency.]
Do not speak carelessly; as Berstetz gave him such a warning, Vincent shrugged his shoulders.
During the conference, Emilia had asked him whether the Stone and the Empire had a contractual relationship, and Vincent answered that there was no contractual relationship of the sort she understood.
That was not a lie; it was a simple statement of fact.
The simplest way to detain the Stone was through a contract between the Spirit and a person.
However, the Stone did not have self-consciousness, and had no room or window for negotiation regarding the contract. Therefore, the cost of contracting with the Stone was consistently the burden of the enormous amount of nothingness that flowed into the contractor.
The sensation of sharing one’s body around the clock with a preposterously large entity with which mutual understanding was impossible would very easily break the human mind, driving it into a state where it could no longer retain its original form.
In exchange for inescapable dehumanization, the Stone’s nature was to abide by the contractor’s current location.
Therefore, the Empire kept the Stone and the forcibly contracted death-row convicts in lands where the Sanctum was required, and distributed the benefits of the Sanctum to various regions. As it was a next-to-impossible task to track down the Stone once its location had been lost, the replenishment of the death-row convicts was a matter of utmost importance.
And, before the decisive battle for the Imperial Capital began, Chisha, disguised as the Emperor, moved the Stone to the Fortified City of Garkla in preparation for the Great Disaster.
But, there was no sign of the death-row convict who had contracted with the Stone in the city.
Berstetz: [If it has been moved, it would be impossible to track it down without any leads. If so, the only thing that would be gained by divulging the particulars is the distrust of our allies.]
Vincent: [Though, even if I did not deliberately say it out loud, there were some who have likely guessed it.]
Recalling the faces at the conference, Vincent closed one eye as a few pertinent individuals came to mind.
Berstetz was correct; they did not want to create internal discord in this situation. Surely the people who had guessed this and did not speak up had the same intention.
In any case, once it had been stolen from the Fortified City, the Stone was no longer a usable pawn, but a pending catastrophe whose whereabouts were no longer known.
If there was no better solution than to subdue the Witch, Sphinx, then even if they deliberately concerned themselves with that existence, there would be no meaning――.
Berstetz: [Your Excellency?]
Suspicious of Vincent’s reaction, who had suddenly fallen silent, Berstetz called out to the Emperor.
At that call, Vincent shook his head with a “No”.
For a moment, a certain thought crossed his mind, but it was too slim of a possibility to include in his future plans.
Much less, with the one whose difficulty to handle was second only to the most difficult being in the Empire to rein in――.
Vincent: [――If there was any possibility of grasping the Stone’s whereabouts, it would be with someone akin to a hound with a keen nose for extraordinary prey, but that is too high of a hope.]
――At the same time, somewhere in the Imperial Capital of Lupugana.
In the darkness, lying on the damp and hard ground, it remained unmoving.
It bore the weight of wounds. The exhaustion of its mind and body also played a large part. However, the greatest reason as to why it could not move was that a wound had been suffered to a part of itself far more important than the heart―― A wound to the soul, was the reason.
That which it had always continued to pray for and believe in since long ago had been denied, and felled to the ground.
From the time it was born until today, even though there was absolutely nothing that it had treasured more, it had been rejected by none other than that very treasured something.
It had lost sight of its reason, its meaning for living.
It had relinquished its own value, reason for being, and the things it could do.
But, just but, while sprawled out on the dampened ground, its chest rose and fell in respiration, and it muttered.
To the person who had denied its meaning, as if clinging, as if praying, in a feeble voice, it muttered.
And, it merely continued to weakly mutter.