- Cirdan Lunae
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――Governor of the Gladiator Island Ginunhive, Gustav Morello.
There was an immense significance in receiving that position from the almighty Emperor of the Sacred Vollachian Empire.
In Vollachia, where the teaching that “The people of the Empire must be strong” was lived and breathed, the role of the shows held on the island, utilizing the gladiators, was exceedingly important in these times of peace.
Those were not simply for the purpose of amusement, but so that in the reign of the current Emperor, who extinguished even the smallest fires of the live coals known as internal strife, the human nature of the Imperial peoples would not be overly distanced from “combat”, so that their fangs would not be dulled.
It was not as though the Emperor had so plainly declared that, but when Gustav was appointed as Governor by the Emperor Vincent Vollachia, he grasped that such were the professional duties he must fulfill.
In reality, following that through, Gustav had come to fulfill that better than any of his predecessors in the long line of Governors of the island. ――Until today.
Gustav: [――I, Gustav Morello, accompanied by the gladiators of Ginunhive, have successfully converged.]
Before the Emperor who cast his gaze down upon him, before Vincent Vollachia, Gustav placed all four of his arms as a Multi-Arm Tribesman on the ground, and spoke as he kneeled.
――The great civil war that shook the entire Empire; its premise had completely collapsed with the interference of the dead.
In order to escape the hosts of savage undead, the citizens of the Imperial Capital and the surrounding areas were simultaneously evacuated, and without distinction, the warriors of the regular army and rebel army were forced to cooperate in order to oppose the ruin.
The evacuation of the excess refugees was still proceeding, but even so, the Fortified City of Garkla was accommodating more than half of the total refugees. As a part of that large number of evacuees, right after they had entered Garkla, Gustav was granted an audience with Vincent.
In a room of the large fortress, next to the kneeling Gustav, Idra Missanga wore a puzzled expression.
The group of outlaws that was the gladiator gang had changed their name to the Pleiades Battalion, and with Natsuki Schwartz as their boss, Gustav had served the role of military advisor. And in that role of military advisor, Gustav had chosen Idra to assist him in jobs other than rampaging.
Among the gladiators whom Schwartz had an especially close relationship with, Idra happened to have a suitable amount of prudence and composure, and was an exceedingly useful treasure in the group of ruffians.
Be that as it may, when abruptly brought before His Excellency the Emperor, that composure could not be demonstrated.
Vincent: [In regards to your activities, I have received a report from Zikr Osman. That person… Natsuki Schwartz, was also chirpily boasting about your achievements.]
Idra: [Chirpily… ah]
Perhaps because he was overly tense, Idra subconsciously voiced that, and his face went pale.
Narrowing his sable eyes, Vincent was famous for the fierce nature on the other side of his handsome, delicate appearance. For the Imperial Citizens who only knew of the Emperor through rumors, it was understandable that they would be prepared to die with just his gaze being turned to them.
However, as Gustav looked up to Vincent while still kneeling,
Gustav: [Your Excellency the Emperor, this is Idra Missanga. He is a gladiator, but he assists myself, as the official, with work that others are incapable of. Please, depending on if the current conflict is resolved, your pardon would be――]
Vincent: [You are unusually talkative, Gustav Morello. But…]
Vincent: [If he says you are valuable, then it must be so. Endeavor to the utmost. If you are going to speak about what comes after the war, leave behind achievements and a life that can be discussed after the war.]
Idra: [U-Understood! I am grateful and delighted!]
With so much excess momentum that his forehead slammed against the floor, Idra resolutely prostrated himself on the spot.
Idra was so deeply moved by the feeling of narrowly escaping death that he could not see his surroundings, but as a mere son of a miller, he did not realize just how extraordinary the words Vincent had spoken to him were.
Of course, Gustav thought that he had contributed enough to be deserving of that, but at the same time, he noticed a change in Vincent―― That was, the tolerance he showed towards others.
From the very start, Vincent was the Wise Emperor, perhaps even too wise an Emperor.
Therefore, when faced with someone who could not share in the exceptionally perceptive sight of the Emperor, Vincent was rather cold-hearted. For that reason, the people around him were urged to stake their lives on the line in the endeavor to try and understand what the Emperor saw.
The Emperor had deemed that acceptable; however it seemed as if he had lost just that.
Vincent: [However, you have made quite the bold move, have you not?]
Suddenly, as if to sever Gustav’s contemplation, Vincent spoke.
At the Emperor’s sentence, Gustav, still kneeling, closed his mouth with his fangs still sticking out, and awaited Vincent’s next words.
As Vincent narrowed his sable eyes at Gustav’s silence,
Vincent: [My order to you ought to have been the duty of the Gladiator Island’s Governor. To think that you have abandoned that duty during this emergency, spearheading the island’s gladiators to advance far east to the Imperial Capital… How dare such a person bring their one and only head before the Emperor, where it is natural to tremble?]
Sitting in a large chair, Vincent spoke these words with his chin resting in his hand atop the armrest; to the side, Idra could be heard making a noise with his throat.
It was a situation in which the height of disrespect had been directed toward the Emperor, in which any Imperial Citizen would be pessimistic that their life had been lost.
Gustav: [――. May I have the privilege of clarifying a few things?]
Vincent: [I shall allow it. However, choose your words carefully. Even if you lose two arms, you would still be able to continue working as an ordinary person, correct?]
But, Gustav did not succumb to such pessimism, and instead discourteously responded to the Emperor. With a gaze that could be described as sadistic or inflammatory, Vincent allowed it.
Before him, Gustav was astonished with how calm he was. Being inclined to act this way was likely the influence of the courageous boy who was more fearless than anybody else.
Gustav: [Your Excellency the Emperor, you have stated that, in my capacity, I have abandoned the duty of Governor, but in reality that is not the case. And in addition, the one spearheading the gladiators is not me, as the official, but――]
Vincent: [It is not you?]
Gustav: [――It is the honorable son of Your Excellency the Emperor.]
Vincent’s reaction at that moment was likely something that Gustav would never forget for the rest of his life.
In an instant, Vincent’s sable eyes widened, and he made a wretchedly uncouth expression.
That reaction could not be accurately described with any other words than “being attacked in an unguarded moment”. It was evidence that for Vincent, both the speaker and the content spoken went far beyond his expectations.
Vincent placed his hand over his mouth and erased that rare expression, then,
Vincent: [I had evaluated your devotion to your professional duties as having no leeway.]
Gustav: [In my capacity, I am in agreement. But, if things had proceeded in line with the thoughts of Your Excellency the Emperor and myself, as the official, I would be doing nothing but watching over this major crisis of the Empire from the far reaches of the west.]
Perhaps, if Schwartz had not outrageously seized control of the Gladiator Island, Gustav would still be remaining on the island during this major crisis of the Empire, fully immersed in his duty of managing the gladiators.
Even if something had happened to Vincent in the Imperial Capital, he would have obediently performed the professional duties appointed to him; perhaps, he would have even thought of producing results that nobody would appraise as some sort of farewell gift.
That such a thing had not come to pass, that such a version of himself had not been left behind, relieved him from the bottom of his heart.
Instigated by Schwartz, he had interpreted the Emperor’s order in a rather self-centered way―― That he could decide for himself whether this was the “emergency”, even if it was the result of perverting it to the fullest extent in order to hasten to the Imperial Capital, that was the case.
Vincent: [――The Emperor would have perished along with the Imperial Capital, and he would have likely put you lot to good use.]
Gustav: [Your Excellency the Emperor?]
Contrary to Gustav, who thought he could affirm his own judgment regardless of whether it was correct or not, Vincent’s spoken words sounded pregnant with some other speculation.
But, Vincent did not try to touch upon the speculation that had shown itself.
Instead, Vincent shook his head, and,
Vincent: [That shall do fine, I shall go along with what you say. In the midst of this situation contending for the survival of the Empire, magnificently exert yourself to win pardon for the gladiators, and to keep your own position. ――Stand down.]
Gustav: [Yessir. As much as my arms allow, in my capacity, I shall work myself until my body is ruined.]
Between Gustav and Vincent, there was a mutual understanding that they were treating this as the “emergency”.
Whether Gustav had deviated from the professional duties of Governor of the Gladiator Island or not would be proved by the work done by Gustav himself and the Pleiades Battalion from here on out.
He did not have the confidence that they could definitely accomplish that. But, at this moment, Gustav thought that he would at least finish things without regretting what Schwartz had instigated.
Indeed, it was at the moment that Gustav slightly contorted the ends of his mouth, and was about to excuse himself from before the Emperor.
Idra: [W-with all due respect, Your Excellency the Emperor, there’s a question I’d like to… hk]
With his forehead rubbing against the floor, Idra suddenly began to speak, causing Gustav to reflexively gasp.
With a quivering voice, Idra discourtesy spoke so to Vincent, skillfully tilting his head upwards in his prostrated position, and directed his eyes, still on the verge of tears, to the Emperor.
Idra, who had displayed his willpower in the Sparka of the island, possessed admirable courage, but refusing to yield after being ordered to stand down by the Emperor was, as expected, an exceedingly outrageous action that did not value his own life.
Vincent: [――What is it?]
At Vincent’s unthinkable response, Gustav was utterly flabbergasted once more.
At that great opportunity, Idra extended his arms without hesitation, and he did not miss his chance. Like a gladiator, making full use of their instincts during a critical moment on which their life was staked, Idra moved his parched lips, and released the prompted question.
Idra: [Your Excellency, after this battle, what do you intend to do to your honorable son… to Prince Schwartz?]
It was an inappropriate and ill-timed question that nobody except the bravest person in the whole Empire would be able to ask.
The rumor of the black-haired Crown Prince that had arisen all across the lands was inseparable from the great civil war that would be left in the history of the Empire, at least before the circumstances were painted over with the battle between the living and the dead.
Originally, the details behind the start of the Pleiades Battalion were that Schwartz had expressed his determination to clash with Vincent, so that was the overall objective of the battalion.
Therefore, it was natural for Idra to desire that answer from Vincent.
The problem was, that was an ultimate disrespect that posed a very real threat to his life, but Idra was so overwhelmed by tension that he was unable to recognize that.
During the moment of silence that was yielded, Gustav became aware of the rare discomposure within himself.
Thinking back on it, all of his discomposure in recent memory had been due to either Schwartz or Cecilus; for Idra to be added to that list was an event that made the world seem bleak.
Unconsciously, even Gustav tried to escape from the reality unfolding before his eyes――,
Vincent: [――Idra Missanga.]
Vincent’s lips called out Idra’s name.
Receiving that, not just Idra, but Gustav also gazed in wonder, and they both gulped down their saliva. Before the two of them, the Emperor rearranged his crossed legs, and continued.
Vincent: [It is not my place to be concerned with the validity of his actions.]
Vincent’s answer could not be said to have a comprehensible meaning.
The notion that Vincent, who stood at the apex of this Empire, did not have the right to make a decision regarding Schwartz’s position; there was nobody who could be satisfied upon being told that.
But, more than that, Idra could not be permitted to continue persisting.
Vincent: [Stand down while your head is still attached to your torso. ――Any more than this shall be disrespect.]
Having overlooked everything until now, the Emperor now explicitly drew a clear line; with that as a start, Gustav hurriedly hoisted up Idra with two of his arms, and used his other two arms to close his mouth.
With Idra, who was likely the luckiest man in this Fortified City, or perhaps even in this Empire tonight, being carried in his arms, Gustav gave a very deep bow to Vincent.
Gustav: [I sincerely beg for your honorable mercy on Prince Schwartz’s honorable position.]
Sharing in Idra’s good luck, Gustav used it to his advantage and left behind that final comment, and the curtain was closed on the act of explaining their departure from the Gladiator Island.
Vincent: [So, he was even able to cause Gustav Morello to speak in such a manner. That man is someone I am incapable of fully reading.]
Gustav had carried Idra like a criminal, and departed while adding a comment that would have been fine if left unsaid. Seeing off that back, Vincent quietly sighed.
Not only had he been unexpectedly sent to the Gladiator Island, but he had twisted the thoughts of all the gladiators there, and of Gustav, who was honestly devoted to his professional duties; that fact deserved praise.
To be honest, no matter how much the person in question may deny it, his actions were to the extent that him not being a Stargazer seemed not to make any logical sense.
Vincent: [Even if they are included in the city’s defenses, it shall be far from stable. We must not cut corners in selecting the offense against the Imperial Capital, but…]
Vincent had many thoughts on how they ought to be handled.
The personnel from the Kingdom’s side were being selected by their own intelligent individuals, and in an alliance with them, this side also needed to turn over a suitable hand. Berstetz and Serena would remain in the Fortress City, and regarding tactics, Goz’s presence would function more than well enough.
In the sense of plain fighting strength, the shortage of the personnel joining the strike force would hurt, but――,
Vincent: [The personnel who triumph in large-scale tactics are irreplaceable. That point likely has more value than if ten Ceciluses were left behind… There being ten of him would be nothing short of a nightmare, but I suppose the reason why he has still yet to converge is that something in the Imperial Capital has piqued his curiosity. Him causing the destruction of our country is something I would like to avoid.]
Everyone who was aware of the level of danger posed by the Stone and Cecilus’s nature harbored the same fear; that Cecilus would massacre the undead, sucking the mana of the Great Spirit dry.
Similar to how Halibel had suppressed the black dragon at the coupled dragon carriages, he did not think Cecilus would lag behind the undead even if his limbs were shorter, but the very fact that he would not lag behind was the very problem.
Vincent: [Supposing that causes the ruination of the country, I suppose it would be that damn Chisha’s responsibility for picking him up that day. The very notion of his predictions being off the mark is a nice feeling, but…]
He was not enough of a madman to laugh in delight because of that, and it was unclear if there was even enough time to be laughing in delight.
Indeed, right as Vincent reaffirmed within himself the reason for hastening――,
???: [――Oi, hold on! I told ya that I can’t let ya in, Most Honorable Empress Consort!]
???: [Like! I! Said! I still haven’t said that I’m okay with that!]
Hearing a sudden loud voice from beyond the door, an odd flavor was mixed into Vincent’s contemplation.
A hoarse, clamorous voice and an angry, shrill voice sounded, and as Vincent lifted his face, before him was the door being vigorously thrown open from the other side.
???: [Abel-chin! Gimme a minute!]
Vincent: [I shall not.]
Having kicked open the door and marched in, it was a tall woman with fluttering, long blonde hair. Stepping forth before the Emperor with two barbarian swords fastened to her waist, it was Medium O’Connell who brazenly performed that outrageous action which seemed to be devoid of sanity.
Behind Medium, Jamal Aurélie, who had been positioned in front of the door, wore a deplorable expression, and Vincent pierced him with a chilly gaze.
Vincent: [I ordered you to only let through the ones which I said to let through, did I not?]
Jamal: [Y-yes, that’s true, but… When the person is the Most Honorable Empress Consort, a low ranking soldier like me ain’t got a clue on what to do… hk]
Vincent: [In that case, if a General of higher rank were to appear with a rebellious spirit, you would be powerless?]
Jamal: [Yes! No! Since between Your Excellency and a General, I think Your Excellency is definitely higher. But, I don’t really understand the position of Most Honorable Empress Consort… that’s all!]
While his vulgarity was always on display, Jamal showed that he was carefully selecting his words. At his response, Vincent decided to give up on it for now, and looked at Medium, who stood in an imposing way.
Medium, who had marched in with heavy breathing, gave a very different impression to what he had heard.
Vincent: [I had heard that you had confined yourself in a room, and were whimpering to yourself.]
Medium: [Who said that I was whimpering! That’s not like me at all! Though, just a little… I may have cried just a little…!]
Vincent: [It was your brother, Flop O’Connell.]
Medium: [Big bro! Big bro! Why did you say such a thing~!?]
Flop: [That is quite simple, dear sister. Of course, facing the forthcoming conflict between honorable consorts, it is so that His Excellency the Emperor-kun will have a strong concern and desire to protect Medium!]
Medium vigorously turned around, and prompted by her, Flop ungrudgingly confessed his plan with a foolish look on his face.
Vincent no longer said anything to Jamal, who had just let Flop pass freely, but he did not have the time to go along with the sibling quarrel that was beginning here.
Medium: [I said it to Jamal-chin as well but, I haven’t agreed to that! It’s not that I hate Abel-chin, but I don’t know what I would do as the Most Honorable Empress Consort!]
Flop: [I see, I see. But, dear sister. You’re my little sister, but did you become my sister while knowing what a sister ought to do? Or did you become my sister without knowing anything in particular… Am I wrong?]
Medium: [Huh? Eh, now that you mention it…]
Flop: [In that case, it isn’t important whether you know how to become something or not. What matters is the feelings of trying to become that thing, and the surrounding environment. You could even say that the foundations of a little sister and the Most Honorable Empress Consort are the same thing!]
Medium: [Ohh~! I get it, you’re incredible, big bro… You aren’t deceiving me, right, big bro!?]
After being tricked for just a moment, Medium furiously lashed out, and Flop said “I guess there’s no helping it~” as he placed his hand on the forehead of his sodden face.
Though, it did not seem like a sudden occurrence of a quarrel between siblings.
Vincent: [Come not before me with matters that you have not even settled amongst yourselves. I am busy. Jamal, take them away.]
Medium: [Ah, wait, wait! Right now it doesn’t matter whether I’m the Most Honorable Empress Consort or not! Wanting Abel-chin to give me a minute wasn’t about that…]
Vincent: [What is it?]
Medium: [I also want to go to the Imperial Capital!]
With a firm sound, Medium struck her hand against her chest, and clearly stated her request.
Hearing that request, Vincent furrowed his brow. Then, next to Medium, who wore a brave expression, Flop raised a finger and said “May I?”,
Flop: [You might be surprised by such a sudden thing, but this isn’t just an idea that my sister came up with. Right before we arrived at this town, the final one we saw in that dragon carriage.]
Vincent: [――Balleroy Temeglyph, was it?]
Flop: [Yeah, that’s right.]
As Flop nodded without surprise, Vincent recalled the final conflict on the coupled dragon carriages.
Subaru had made the girl whom he had started to call Spica do something, and as a result, the resurrection of the undead Lamia became defective, and Vincent stabbed her with his own hands.
Then, controlling a deceased flying dragon, the one who had taken away Vincent’s sister who was dying once again was the Magical Sharpshooter, Balleroy Temeglyph.
Having laid eyes upon Balleroy there, Medium had certainly said something.
In a weak, feeble voice, Medium muttered so.
Her voice quavering, she called that out to the fleeing Balleroy many times over.
Flop: [Medium and I have an old fellowship with Balleroy. In the past, he helped us out a lot at High Countess Dracroy’s place. For Balleroy to be there… there’s no way we could have ever expected to reunite with him in such a way.]
Vincent: [To call that a reunion, would be perhaps a bit too ironic.]
In response to Vincent’s words, Flop spoke “Yeah” in a voice that was unusually somber for him.
Medium and Flop, the two of them harbored complex feelings regarding the undead Balleroy; if someone they were very close with had appeared in a form completely different to when they were alive, the heartache incurred was something Vincent could understand.
Vincent would never disclose that he could sympathize with those emotions, no matter what.
At the very least, he had given his resurrected sister her last rites by his own hand.
Vincent: [So, how does the relationship between you siblings and Balleroy connect to your previous request?]
Medium: [Abel-chin is smart, so you should know what I’m trying to say, right? But the way you just said that had a really unpleasant feeling, so it’d be better if you stopped with that.]
Medium: [I want to meet Ballebro and talk to him. Even if I have no clue what he’s thinking, having become like that, I want to talk to him. After all…]
At first she was vigorous, however, gradually faltering, she chose words to try and accurately convey the feelings in her heart; as Medium did so, her words came to a pause.
The most important words, in order to choose them in the most accurate way possible, she earnestly contemplated, and,
Medium: [After all, I wanted to become Ballebro’s bride.]
Vincent: [――. So it is naught but an emotional argument.]
Responding so to the teary-eyed Medium’s appeal, Vincent looked towards Flop.
Flop was the one who had endorsed Medium, who was still on the verge of bursting out crying, to become one of his consorts. Rather than ambition, the true motivation was likely more strongly concerned for Medium’s well-being.
Vincent: [Is it agreeable with you to not stop your sister from heading towards such a deadly place?]
Flop: [Oyaoya, Your Excellency the Emperor-kun, it seems you don’t understand just how much my sister and I treasure our everyday conversations. Of course, before coming here I did all I could to try and stop her, but she shook me off through sheer force, and I just finished reapplying all of my bandages!]
Vincent: [In other words, she overcame you through brute force, hm? It is unexpected that she is able to disregard her brother’s recommendations.]
Medium: [I love big bro, and what big bro says is generally always correct. But, me and big bro are different people, so there are times when we want to do different things. Now is one of those times.]
As if she could not be stopped by force or by words, Medium regained the springiness in her voice.
Witnessing her forceful appeal, Vincent pondered for a while.
In the sense of plain strength, Medium’s capabilities were just a little better than a rank and file Imperial Soldier.
Jamal, who could not even follow simple commands, likely had a higher level of sword ability. It was difficult to imagine she would make dramatic contributions to the progress of the battle, were she to be brought along.
However, on the contrary, that would mean her presence would not influence the war situation.
Vincent: [――Do as you please.]
Medium: [――! Really? Abel-chin…]
Vincent: [Do not be doubtful that your request has been accepted. Whether you are present or not shall not impact the war situation. But, that is exactly why you shall need to take that responsibility upon yourself.]
Medium: [That means…]
Medium was astonished by his initial response, but Vincent’s following words made her blink her eyes. Seeing Medium in such a state, Flop interjected with “In other words”,
Flop: [You will need to defend yourself. They don’t have the strength to spare in order to protect Medium, that’s what he means.]
Vincent: [Indeed. Without that resolve, throwing yourself into the maelstrom of battle would be…]
Medium: [What, in that case it’ll be okay! Needing to defend myself is something that I’ve been doing all along when I was traveling with big bro.]
As he tried to convey that she was mistaken if she intended to receive protection because she was an Empress Consort Candidate, Vincent’s expectations were swiftly betrayed by Medium herself.
Medium had been anxious about what she was being told, but she patted her chest in relief as if she had just been given a trivial condition.
Medium: [Jeez~, I was so nervous about what exactly you were telling me~. But, I’m glad that Abel-chin isn’t as ill-natured as I had feared.]
Being told something roughly in line with his expectations, Vincent contorted his lips into a slightly dejected expression.
At any rate, that was Medium’s declaration after having spoken her request, and comprehending the danger that would come in that situation.
If that was the case, Vincent had nothing else to add.
Vincent: [Tomorrow morning.]
Vincent: [Tomorrow morning, the selected personnel shall head for the Imperial Capital. Make your preparations.]
Informing her curtly, Vincent then looked towards Flop.
Vincent: [You are not going to say that even you shall come along, are you? I shall say this now, but I have no intention of discussing whether it is right or wrong for someone who is unable to protect themself to volunteer for suicide in such a manner.]
Flop: [Thanks for your concern. As one would expect, I don’t intend to willingly go to my death. I don’t want to be an impediment to my sister either… The matter of Balleroy, I’m entrusting it to Medium.]
Medium: [Big bro…]
Vincent: [――. Though, there is no way to be confident that they shall meet.]
Without commenting on Flop’s determination, Vincent touched on the possibility that their desire might not be fulfilled.
However, at Vincent’s words, Flop gave a smile.
Flop: [Don’t worry, they’ll definitely meet.]
Vincent: [For what reason do you think so?]
Flop: [I have faith in fate. It may be ill-natured, but it shouldn’t be so tactless.]
That baseless appeal had the same persuasiveness as Medium’s earlier emotional argument.
But, Vincent avoided referring to this and that for now. If he said something, these siblings would each reply to Vincent with twice the amount he had spoken.
Besides, they would probably understand without him needing to tell them.
Medium: [Well then, Abel-chin, see you tomorrow! I’ll get bags under my eyes if I don’t get a good night’s sleep!]
With a big wave of her hand, Medium gallantly turned around.
In her bolt-upright back, there was not a single trace of the fact that she had tears in her eyes just moments before. If those were not fake tears, he could only feel that she was a girl of hectic emotions.
Then Flop, who ought to have been following Medium out, suddenly halted his step, and,
Flop: [Your Excellency the Emperor-kun, thank you.]
Vincent: [This gratitude is in regards to what, exactly?]
Flop: [For taking Medium’s… no, for taking both of our feelings into consideration. Also, for not rebuking Medium, even though she liked Balleroy. You know, since she’s a candidate to be your honorable consort.]
With a pleased look on his face, Flop touched his forehead.
For that reason, Vincent responded by snorting his nose, as if to question what Flop was saying.
Medium’s feelings of wanting to meet Balleroy; the very notion of gratitude for having not rebuked such a thing.
Vincent: [To punish love? Anyone who performs such a boorish deed must be miserable.]
Giving an awfully delighted smile at that reply, Flop was an eyesore to Vincent.