- Cirdan Lunae
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――Thus once again, time returned to the same time as when a battlefield was formed by the fray between tiger and Dragon.
Having stormed the southern gate of the Imperial Capital of Lupugana, the first bastion of the star-shaped fortress, Garfiel clashed against the one who ruled the heavenly skies, the Cloud Dragon, Mezoreia.
In the distance, the oddly thick collection of clouds in the sky was either proof that the Cloud Dragon was rampaging, or perhaps that it was preparing to exhibit its maximum performance.
Either way, the die had been cast, and the battle for it to roll onto the desired side had begun.
Entrusting Garfiel to spearhead the raid, having him suppress Mezoreia at the onset, was because the mobility and aggression of the Cloud Dragon served as the greatest obstacle in the battle to capture the Imperial Capital.
A single blow from the Dragon, capable of fleeing to high altitudes and attacking over extremely long distances by way of its breath, would be impossible to endure for those who did not possess extraordinary fighting strength.
For that to be fired at them recklessly, being unable to do a single thing about it would be the worst possible outcome for the “Rescue the Vollachian Empire from Destruction Squad”. ――Garfiel had been able to crush that possibility.
However, even if Mezoreia was subdued, by no means would the rest be smooth sailing.
If there was a mistake in their response, there were other “formidable enemies” that could unleash catastrophic damage in a single move.
Contrary to that vulgar warcry, twin swords carved out an elegant trajectory.
With swordsmanship that covered his front and rear with nimble movement and a dexterous stance, he forcefully parried the tip of the halberd the opponent had thrust forth, and caused their posture to break.
That instant, a fluttering drawn blade cut through the wind to fatally sever the opponent’s neck――,
???: [You idiot, don’t kill them!]
As the interjecting voice tried to restrain him, the trajectory of his sword immediately shifted.
The blade that ought to have beheaded the opponent bisected their left arm from their shoulder instead; having suffered the attack, the enemy swiftly jumped back, and handling their halberd with just their right hand, they tried to start their next attack.
But, that halberd would not reach any of his allies.
???: [――The White Cloud Lord, Gaoran Peyshit.]
The quiet, yet clearly audible, voice of a man spoke both the name and alias of the undead.
At that moment, the movement of this large white-bearded undead that ought to have thrust the halberd forward was stopped. Without overlooking that opportunity, a row of three small figures got right up close to the undead.
Then, they locked eyes with the undead as he looked down at them. ――They stared into the eyes detached from those of the living, with the white parts stained black, and golden irises looming within.
???: [Gaoran Peyshit!!]
???: [E ea.]
Stripping that off, that of a being who was once alive, as if to ascertain it as proof of the time they had been alive, the star known as Spica ate the role that exploited them as an undead.
Passing by him with speed that seemed to whittle the street down, behind Spica who had just touched him with her small hand, having had his role eaten, the undead―― no, Gaoran Peyshit’s body was reduced to dust.
In the end, thrusting his halberd into the ground as he crumbled, he bowed to the man who had called his name.
Though, it was unclear just what sort of emotions had caused the fading undead to do so.
???: [Atlem Nevi, Diphone Trevola, Gaion Talfou, Lescar Bhrain, Niolf Tradd, Yaren Swoker, Vellum Joytoh――]
The same voice that had called out Gaoran’s name, called out other names one after another.
The speed made it feel like they were just listing every single name that came to mind, but that was not the case. Those were the names of people who had each certainly had their own individual life.
Those were the names of the undead appearing one after the other in order to intercept the “Rescue from Destruction Squad” moving through the Imperial Capital――.
They, whose state and appearance had completely changed from the time they were alive, the black-haired Emperor―― Vincent Vollachia would say their names without mistaking even a single person, and light the path for Star Eating to devour.
And what was especially aggravating about that was――,
???: [Isn’t that a little too cool, dammit!]
???: [In that case, Betty can’t let her Subaru lose, I suppose!]
As Subaru’s cheeks contorted upon seeing Abel imposingly fulfill his duty, Beatrice pulled his hand.
In the midst of the Imperial Capital where the undead roamed―― no, in the midst of Lupugana, now transformed into the Undead Capital, she guided Subaru with her unchanged appearance and unchanged love; waving the hem of her splendid dress, Beatrice truly was reliable.
Pointing the hand opposite to the one firmly fastened to Subaru’s towards the street, she weaved magic with her cute lips and lovely voice towards the deceased individuals blocking the way.
Beatrice: [El Minya!!]
At the same time as the incantation, amethyst crystals were yielded from Beatrice’s palm and glided through the air; dispossessing the undead of their arms, legs, and weapons, it reduced their fighting strength.
Beatrice’s Yin Magic could attack the undead in a unique way, but fully shattering their opponents went against the goal of their strategy.
That was why they intentionally tuned it down; borrowing the power of his lovely partner, Subaru leaped forward. Then, on the opposite side of the right hand linked to Beatrice―― as he pulled up the left hand linked to Spica with all his might,
Subaru: [Here we go! Atlem Nevi, Diphone Trevola, Gaion Talfou, Lescar Bhrain, Niolf Tradd, Yaren Swoker――]
Spica: [Au! Uu! U~u! Aau! Uau! Uu~uu~!]
The names Abel had called out, accurately listing them in the correct order, while matching them to the faces of each undead who were turning hostility towards them, he made sure Spica reached them without fail.
Spica also understood her own role, and with her outstretched hands as the undead approached, sometimes she touched, sometimes she pierced, sometimes she firmly struck, and sometimes she pushed, but in all cases, she activated the Authority of Star Eating――.
Subaru: [Last one! Vellum Joytohhh!!]
Spica: [E ea!]
From the fore came a sword slash that aimed to split Subaru’s forehead open, and exchanging glances with the pale, wrinkly face of the undead who had unleashed it―― Vellum Joytoh, Subaru clenched his molars.
Just before it could reach his forehead, the opponent’s blade was stopped by crystallization which extended from their shoulders to their hips, making them unable to move at will.
Grateful to Beatrice for providing covering fire, Subaru urged Spica, and her hand touched Vellum’s chest.
Then slowly, the undead turned to dust with a look of satisfaction on its face.
Subaru: [Buh, hah…]
Ascertaining that they had neutralized all the undead in the surroundings, including Vellum, Subaru deeply sighed.
This close combat similar to crossing a bridge gave Subaru a vivid reminder of the violent days he had spent on the Gladiator Island. With a deep inhale, Subaru was patted on the back by Spica, who looked at him with an “Aau~?”, and then he exhaled.
Contrary to Spica, Beatrice placed her hands on her hips and glared at Subaru,
Beatrice: [You’re blindly charging in too much, in fact! Betty told you she wants to see you look cool while making great efforts, I suppose. Even if you die in a cool manner, Betty doesn’t want to see it, in fact.]
Subaru: [I know. Just now was a move that presumed Beako would follow up. I’m sorry I did such a thing.]
Beatrice: […If you understand, that’s fine, I suppose.]
As Subaru apologized upfront, Beatrice, who was in scolding mode, pouted her lips.
Though they could not hold a long evaluation meeting on the battlefield, her expression was nevertheless that of disappointment. However, it was not as though he had half-mindedly let it in one ear and out the other. Beatrice’s scolding was advice he ought to firmly take.
Even now, he was just about to have his forehead split open and die. If he had taken just one step further; the thought made him shudder. ――Such a death would have been useless.
Vincent: [You nearly died by rushing out as soon as the battle had commenced. Do not act rashly.]
Scolded by Beatrice, and appreciated by Spica, Subaru grimaced as he turned around at that statement which lacked any consideration. Standing there with arms folded, Abel did not even pretend to help Subaru and the other two with their hard fighting.
Subaru was rather impressed to see the refreshing sight of the Emperor relying on others.
Subaru: [All sorts of things have happened up until now, but I’ve never thought of you as Emperor-like as I do now.]
Vincent: [We have just settled a bit of work. For the sake of the two by your side, I shall overlook that comment.]
Subaru: [You know, it’s best if you properly understand that from an outsider’s point of view, you look like the horrible nobility role that merely folds his arms and watches as children go to battle.]
An Emperor spectating a battle between children and undead was a sight akin to the unsightly amusement of a post-apocalyptic world after a zombie pandemic. There were limits to how bad one’s reputation could get.
But, considering Abel’s position, role, and fighting strength, as someone traveling alongside him, Subaru had to be grateful that he did not imprudently go to the front lines, so this was quite the dilemma.
???: [Tch, we dealt with the lookout right after entering the Imperial Capital, but… with this method, there’s no helping that it’s gonna take a while.]
Speaking thus, it was Jamal who provokingly spat onto the ground.
Having taken on many undead, he had contributed greatly to the triumphs at the outbreak of the battle; holding onto his twin swords, he adjusted his eyepatch while surveying the surroundings.
Jamal: [Even though this’d be much faster if we just cut down every undead that appeared. Why ain’t we doing that?]
Beatrice: […A man who persistently doesn’t listen, in fact. If we did that, we wouldn’t be able to use Spica’s Authority to give the undead “Joubutsu”.] 
Jamal: [Ahh? The hell is joubutsu?]
Beatrice: [It’s the way of making sure the undead don’t keep getting back up after being defeated repeatedly, in fact! This should have been explained to you so many times by now, I suppose!]
Beatrice stomped her short legs on the ground in frustration, and Jamal made a confused face at her appeal. That reaction only made Beatrice’s face get more red, but unfortunately, it was not worth the effort as Jamal’s head rejected any slightly complicated reasoning, no matter how many times it was explained to him.
For that reason――,
Vincent: [Jamal Aurélie, obey these individuals. That is the best course of action, for I have judged it myself.]
Jamal: [If Your Excellency says so, I’ll do whatever you want!]
Beatrice: [Grrrr, in fact…!]
In the end, Abel had butted in presenting a tasty treat, and Jamal responded with money at the ready; seeing that, Beatrice ground her teeth in frustration. How cute.
As that exchange had put Subaru at ease a little, Spica stopped patting his back, and gazed at him.
Subaru: [Ah, I’m fine. How about you, Spica, is there anywhere that feels weird or anything?]
Spica: [Uu! Aauu!]
When asked, Spica made a face that conveyed her crisp feelings, and in order to give Subaru peace of mind, she puffed out her chest with an appeal of how well she was doing. Since it seemed like there was no lie in her appearance, Subaru tightened his fist at the fact that Star Eating was not causing any harm to Spica, and at the fact that their operation was progressing.
Seeing Subaru’s side profile, Abel narrowed his sable eyes, and,
Vincent: [Though it is resentful, it seems your judgment was right on the mark.]
Subaru: [I don’t get why that would make you resentful, but about what exactly?]
Vincent: [Need I even say? ――The main force of the enemy’s army is headed for the Fortified City, where the majority of our military assets remain. What lingers in the Imperial Capital is a portion of the undead, and soldiers unfit for war.]
Subaru: […Right. They left behind the guys who can’t act cooperatively. I hate how each and every one of them is strong, but that poor Imperial Way thing is advantageous for us.]
Surveying the state of the Imperial Capital, Abel made such a judgment, and Subaru nodded in agreement.
As Abel had said, the main forces of the undead were laying siege to the Fortified City of Garkla as a large army. Those who stayed behind were confined to the strong city fort, and were drawing the attention of the opponent―― if they put in as much effort as they could, there was hope that the numerical disadvantage at the Imperial Capital would be mitigated.
The nature of this strategy was a blitzkrieg to defeat the ringleader in the Imperial Capital while the enemy was distracted by the Fortified City.
However, if the enemies at the Fortified City had an emphasis on “quantity”, then the emphasis in the Imperial Capital was that of “quality”.
Starting with the Cloud Dragon, Mezoreia, which covered the skies of the Imperial Capital, the rest of the fighters left behind for the city’s defense were each a match for a thousand, all of them transcendent beings possessing stupendous power.
That was precisely why――,
Subaru: [――By attacking each bastion at the same time, we have a second-stage diversion.]
As Subaru spoke those words, Abel, Beatrice, and Spica tightened their expressions.
Currently, Subaru and his group were in the northwest of the Imperial Capital―― in the vicinity of the fifth bastion. He had heard that it was through Garfiel’s achievements in the battle for the Imperial Capital that the star-shaped wall had been greatly destroyed here.
He could not fathom just how reliable Garfiel had become in such a short period of time, but entering through the gigantic landmark he had made was the combination of Subaru & Beatrice with Spica, along with the rugged lord and retainer duo of Abel and Jamal―― generally, it appeared as if their division was unreliable in terms of fighting strength, but this was actually the best possible configuration.
With anything other than this combination, the operation of the “Rescue from Destruction Squad” would certainly fail.
However, even if they went with this formation, it amounted to nothing more than them simply standing at the starting line.
Subaru: [We’re the arrow of the main objective, and there’s no doubt that our target is that massive Crystal Palace. Even if someone other than us were to quarrel with Sphinx, she could just run away, so there’d be no point.]
Spending many long months and years, this was a being who had rampaged both the Kingdom and the Empire. If they failed to catch the one behind the Great Disaster, Sphinx, what kind of disaster she would plan next was not something they knew.
In order to defeat Sphinx, who had turned into an undead, Spica’s Star Eating was the only method.
Jamal: [Then, before more needless nuisances get in our way, let’s make a mad dash for the Crystal Palace and fucking kill the boss of the enemy. Then with His Excellency’s declaration, we’ll have retaken the Imperial Capital!]
Spica: [Uu~ uu~!!]
Subaru: [While that would be ideal, it’s not that simple.]
Pointing his sword to the Crystal Palace, considered to be the base of the enemy, Jamal’s enthusiasm earned Spica’s agreement. Having their vigor discouraged, they turned to the one who had discouraged them, Subaru.
However, Subaru slowly shook his head sideways,
Subaru: [There’s not a chance we can head straight for the Crystal Palace. We actually shouldn’t even heedlessly get close to it.]
Jamal: [Bastard, don’t tell me you’re chickening out…]
Beatrice: [There is also no chance that weak-heartedness is his reason, I suppose. What awaits there, in fact?]
Subaru: [――A curse. Because of that, merely approaching the palace will make us unable to move.]
Interrupting Jamal as he ground his teeth in anger, Beatrice looked at Subaru and received that response. He firmly placed his hand on his chest, as if he was remembering an unavoidable, unbearable pain.
As long as that obstruction remained, they could not approach the palace. ――If anything, nobody in this Imperial Capital would be able to operate in a proper manner.
Jamal: [Why do you say so much about something you haven’t even done yourself? Ahh?]
Of course, there were also some who could not swallow Subaru’s explanations so easily.
Jamal was at the top of that list. Different from Emilia and Beatrice, there was no such trust between them so that he could believe Subaru without asking anything like where Subaru’s ideas came from.
And, the same thing could be said about Abel.
Between Subaru and Abel, too, there was no trust similar to that which he had with Emilia and the others.
Therefore, Abel would――,
Vincent: [Within this conduct, which seems reckless and roundabout at first glance, your intentions are present.]
Jamal: [Your Excellency!?]
Vincent: [Restrain yourself, Jamal Aurélie. There shall not be a third time. Obey these individuals―― this individual.]
Emperor Vincent Vollachia did not have trust in Subaru, but he had judged Subaru’s actions and intentions by his own ingenuity.
At the repeated order from the Emperor, Jamal widened his single eye and fell silent, then he struck the hilts of his twin swords into his forehead. Striking, striking, striking so much that blood spilled from his forehead,
Jamal: [――Understood. I will absolutely not cause you to say it a third time.]
With all hesitation having vanished from his face, he gave a deep bow.
At Jamal’s answer, Vincent nodded, and as Beatrice’s eyes became angered,
Beatrice: [Why would you injure yourself, I suppose!? It needs to be healed right away, in fact!]
Jamal: [Ahh!? Shit, don’t do anything unnecessary pipsqueak! This is part of my oath…]
Beatrice: [Even though you only have a single eye, what would you do if blood got into that eye, I suppose!? There’s nothing but people who don’t think about the consequences of their actions, so it’s tough on Betty, in fact!]
As they loudly argued, Beatrice quickly healed the wound on Jamal’s forehead.
To the side of that exchange, Abel glanced at Subaru once again with a “Well then”,
Vincent: [If we cannot enter the palace like this, are we to silently wait for the others to deal with their matters, and create a path for us? That is not what you have in mind, is it?]
Subaru: [You’re speaking like you’re asking me to show you what I’ve got… There’s an important purpose in our fighting as well.]
Responding to the inquisitive gaze, Subaru placed his hand on the head of Spica at his side. As Spica, the keystone of the strategy, stared at him with an “Uu?”, and Subaru gave her a nod.
To thoughtlessly charge into the Crystal Palace was suicide, but having said that, there was no way for Subaru to work against the “curse”. Currently, nobody could get inside the palace.
Even so, if they wanted to square off against Sphinx, who was inside the palace, there was only one thing they could do.
Subaru: [And therefore――]
Indeed, as Subaru was about to speak, a sound of destruction suddenly jolted everyone’s eardrums.
Several buildings collapsed, and as smoke and rubble were scattered about, the structure of the street was being altered. As Subaru’s group all quickly turned to where the sound had come from, Beatrice and Jamal, who had been quarreling, stood to protect Subaru and Abel as they could not fight, and scowled at the eruption of smoke.
Then, at the tip of all their vigilant gazes, appearing from behind the smoke was――,
Jamal: […As expected, being His Excellency’s guard ain’t gonna be easy.]
Seeing the being that had emerged from within the smoke, Jamal’s cheeks contorted as he spilled out that comment.
Subaru and the rest held no objection to Jamal’s words. After all, his feelings were more or less the same as what everyone else was also feeling.
As a sound akin to wind escaping from a deep, eerie cavern was produced, a grotesque figure dragged its body along as it proceeded through the Imperial Capital. It might have originally had the form of a person, but both the number and form of its limbs were far removed from its original state; it was a figure akin to how a young child would paint by freely moving the brush as they pleased to depict their parent for the very first time, an embodiment of innocence and chaos.
It swung its oddly long right arm, branching at its joints, like a beast’s tail, and it used its large but short left arm to grip the ground and drag its torso forward. On the contrary, it seemed to have four meager legs, but they did not function well, so it languidly continued by dragging itself with its arms.
The thickness of the grotesque being’s body completely varied at the chest, abdomen, and shoulders, but only the part which seemed to be the head had a single, large golden eye in its center――.
Subaru: [Yeah, I know.]
His name having been called out by Beatrice, Subaru nodded to signal she need not speak any further.
The strange, grotesque being, this was not the first time Subaru and his friends had encountered it. A reunion with that which he had thought had surely been finished off with the dust explosion――,
Without even the time to wipe his cold sweat as that fact was fully conveyed to him, the defective undead opened its mouth which seemed to have been torn open, and gave a loud, loud bellow.
――Then, at the same time Subaru and Abel’s team squared off against a grotesque being.
Shortly after the battle for the Imperial Capital, the Imperial Capital of Lupugana was transformed into a battlefield once again.
For the battle concerning the Empire, while the ones casting their moves upon the board may have changed, the essence of the conflict remained ever the same. To take the head of the one who ruled over the beautiful palace towering in the innermost core of the Imperial Capital, the Crystal Palace, was the aim of this decisive battle.
That was not just in the case of the victory condition; even the way the battle must progress remained the same―― that was to say, the star-shaped fortress that enclosed the Imperial Capital, fighting for control of its five bastions, would determine victory and defeat.
???: [I ain’t done yet! “No winning chance in hell Ifluse” is only just gettin’ started, ya nosebleedin’ Dragon!]
Neglecting the pain with his fighting spirit and morale, trying to respond to an unyielding faith, the boy set his very body and soul alight and challenged a legend.
???: [Bear witness, Observers of the heavens above. ――Witness the choices the world shall make.]
Reciting the verse with pretensions, guising himself with a smile, as he danced on the boundary of what was both characteristic and uncharacteristic of himself, the lightning of childish form cut towards the overflowing second sun together with the personification of refusing to give up.
???: [――At last. At long last, I was able to meet you again.]
With a voice unable to conceal her delight, the kimono-clad girl with antlers on her head, accompanied by snow, arrived at the predicament of the treasured person whom she had eagerly awaited a reunion with.
???: [Jeez, I won’t let you go off wherever you please anymore. Come and talk to me properly, Ballebro.]
Straining the expression that was typically as bright as the sun, the girl who had settled her resolve for this cruel reunion, receiving help from a magician, locked eyes with the dragon rider soaring across the heavenly skies.
???: [Golly, guess there really are some casters who got nasty personalities. ――There ain’t an ounce of love in this.]
Clad in a black kimono and black fur, the repulsive beast, presented with a curse far more repulsive than his own existence, laid bare irises of golden hue that had previously been concealed by the thread-like thinness at which he usually kept the opening of his eyes.
And thus, on the decisive battle for the Imperial Capital, on the siege of the five bastions, on the battle to fell the very stars, the curtain now truly rose.
 – Joubutsu (ジョーブツ) is a word from Japan that Beatrice is using. This is conveyed by using the katakana form instead of the kanji form (成仏). The word itself generally means things like dying peacefully, leaving one’s regrets and adhesion to the world behind, going to heaven, and it also has applications in Buddhism.