Arc 8, Chapter 59 – “Sphinx”

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Human Translated by:

  • Garcar (Sections 7, 8, 9)

Machine Translated by:

  • Goldkills
  • Kazatashi

Proofread by:

  • Shadow
  • Cirdan Lunae

Japanese to English Checking by:

  • Garcar

LN-WN Alignment by:

  • Garcar

Art Sources:

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――Sphinx was a failed result of the Witch of Greed’s research into immortality.

With the young girl who sacrificed herself to become the core for the creation of the miniature garden known as the Sanctuary―― with Ryuzu Meyer’s body as the foundation, she was a replicant constructed with a Mana body using the same structure as a Spirit.

The Witch had thought that if a pre-existing soul could be adhered to the empty life of the replicant, pseudo-immortality by means of soul-duplication could thus be achieved.

However, this prospect easily crumbled before the fact that the size and form of the soul and the vessel of life individually differed.

The soul of the Witch of Greed could not be contained within the replicant of Ryuzu Meyer.

The result born from this outright mishap, was the failure of the Witch of Greed, an existence that would mark the world with many misfortunes for years to come, Sphinx.

That being, bestowed the name of an impure monster, “Sphinx,” was about to be disposed of due to its unsuitability for its original purpose, but by a twist of fate, it survived.

And, just like how many other artificial lives would do so, Sphinx also commenced work in order to fulfill the purpose of her creation.

The purpose for which the artificial Witch was created―― in order to be perfected as the Witch of Greed, Sphinx would go on to pile up many calamities.

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Jamal: [――You idiot!]

And then, with blood pouring from his mouth as he cursed, Jamal fell to the ground.

The white light that was fired was supposed to have pierced the heads of Subaru and the others. Because of that, Jamal received a blow at a position around that of a child’s head as he protected them, but even so, it was still undoubtedly a serious wound that had pierced one side of his torso.

Subaru: [Jamal――!]

Sphinx: [The presumed target has escaped harm? Although, it falls into the scope of what is able to be handled.]

Subaru responded after having been promptly pushed away and protected. Ignoring that response, Sphinx, who was responsible for that attack, was unconcerned with the fact that it had been unsuccessful.

Subaru gnashed his molars at the words of the leader of the undead who spoke in a calm and apathetic manner.

It would have been difficult for Jamal to continue fighting after having collapsed; not to mention that his life would be in danger if not treated immediately.

Beatrice: [Subaru! Stay focused on what’s in front of you, in fact!]

Subaru: [――Hk.]

That instant, Beatrice called out in a sharp voice as she pulled Subaru’s arm.

Shifting his gaze away from Jamal at that call, Subaru looked at Sphinx. Likewise, Beatrice, Spica, and Abel also trained their gaze on her.

The three were on high alert, their attention focused on their enemy, Sphinx.

Jamal’s treatment would have to be postponed until later.

That was right. Absolutely, that was right.

But even so――,

Sphinx: [I had thought you to be the foreign entity that would derail my plans, but perhaps I was mistaken?]

Even if he averted his gaze, Subaru was unable to remove his attention from the fallen Jamal, and looking at him, Sphinx tilted her head and spoke. Subaru’s mind fell into increasing disarray as he looked into those undead golden eyes.

Beatrice: [――Hk, let’s work together, I suppose, Spica!]

Spica: [Aau!]

Beatrice and Spica moved in unison in Subaru’s stead.

At Beatrice’s call, Spica, her long blonde hair fluttering, flew towards Sphinx. As Spica leaped, Beatrice unleashed amethyst crystal arrows to the left, right, and rear of the stock-still Sphinx, blocking her escape route and providing cover.

As the coordination of the two blocked Sphinx on all sides, there was nothing she could do―― such was not the case.

Sphinx: [El Jiwald.]

Contrary to the meagerness of the incantation, the effect of subsequent destruction was tremendous.

In response to the looming threat, Sphinx opened both of her empty hands, and, just as she had done when she had attacked Jamal earlier, she emitted white rays of heat, this time from the fingers of her left and right hands.

However, this time, it was not a momentary beam of heat like that of a ray gun, but a sword of light that continued to be projected.

Wielding ten blades of light upon her ten fingers, blades with a long range larger than around half a greatsword, Sphinx dominated the space around her with attacks that sliced in all directions.

Bathed in the white light, each one of Beatrice’s deployed purple arrows were sliced apart, and Spica, who had jumped forward towards her, was also assailed by their fury.

Spica: [――Uu!]

Just before the white light could cut Spica’s thin body in two, she disappeared from everyone’s vision.

She had teleported. Having activated her short-range teleport, Spica escaped from Sphinx’s line of fire, emerging on top of the ruins of a building that was just off the street.

And then, as if to follow Spica, Subaru and Beatrice, who were in the white lights’s line of fire, were――,

Vincent: [Fool, have you been befuddled by the sight of the enemy ringleader?]

With a bitter remark, holding down the heads of Subaru and Beatrice, forcing them to crouch down in place, was Abel.

Vincent: [We cannot expect Jamal Aurélie to get back up. Your contribution shall be essential.]

Beatrice: [N-No need to tell us that when we already know, in fact! You’ll be rewarded for your quick thinking just now with our performance, so you better watch, I suppose!]

Beatrice, who had been violently saved, puffed out her cheeks and brushed Abel off as she stood back up.

Snorting his nose at Beatrice’s stouthearted rebuttal, Abel, who had also gotten back up, then looked down at Subaru, who was still lying on the ground, and,

Vincent: [What is the matter? Your partner is in high spirits, but you, however――]

Do not stand? Abel might have been trying to utter those provocative words.

But, he quickly broke off his speech, as if sensing something was wrong, and then frowned his shapely eyebrows.

Beatrice: [Subaru?]

Beatrice, beside him, blinked her eyes at the same strange occurrence as Abel.

Subaru: [――――]

Subaru still remained lying face down at the feet of Beatrice and Abel. Spica, who had teleported to a distant position, also noticed, and bewilderment emerged in her eyes.

In the spur of the moment, the girls probably had no idea as to what had just happened.

Therefore, in the stead of Beatrice, Spica, and Abel, who could not comprehend the events unfolding before their eyes, it was ironically their enemy, Sphinx, who was the first to realize what had happened to Subaru.

Sphinx, with the pale face of an undead which had a considerable insufficiency to express emotions, but still with bewilderment and doubt in her eyes at having understood that,

Sphinx: […For what reason, did you ingest poison? Explanation: Required.]

Vincent: [――Hk, You!]

Immediately after Sphinx’s question, Abel’s expression changed, and he hoisted Subaru up by the collar. It was a violent act, however, Subaru did not voice any complaints.

The reason was that Subaru had already broken the package of poison behind his molar, and he was at the height of suffering through the hellish agony that led to Death.

Beatrice: [NOOOO! SUBARU!? SUBARU!?]

Spica: [UAU――!?]

Upon seeing the figure of Subaru, convulsing as blood frothed at his mouth, Beatrice and Spica screamed.

Beatrice tried to cling to the trembling Subaru, but Abel pushed the girl away, inserted his finger in Subaru’s mouth, and as he pulled out the packaged drug, his expression grew furious.

Vincent: [You, what is the meaning of this!? Have you lost your mind!?]

Subaru: [Bububu, bubububu…]

Vincent: [All that boasting about fighting against fate, yet this is what you do!?]

Abel’s enraged voice, Beatrice’s tearful cry, Spica’s sorrowful voice as she desperately jumped back towards him, amidst the sense of loss of his whole body slowly melting, Subaru heard them all.

To the angered voice, to the crying voice, to the despairing voice, he could not answer with words.

Even so, there was sufficient meaning in this. It was a necessary measure. ――This was the best course of action.

In order, to arrive, at a future, in which, nobody, would die, this was, the best, the best best best best best, possible, method.

Subaru: [Bubu, bu.]

Sphinx: [Explanation: Required.]

With that information unable to be transmitted to anyone, with the Witch’s question remaining unresolved, his breath ran out.

Natsuki Subaru’s life came to an end. ――Again, just as it had already done so many times in this final battle.

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――The first few years of Sphinx’s journey, which ought to be called a quest, were a major difficulty.

The body of Ryuzu Meyer, which served as the basis of the replicant, lacked the aptitude for surviving in this harsh world; her life was often threatened by extremely bad weather, changes in temperature, and sometimes by Witchbeasts or malicious humans, and lacking the means to counteract that, there had been far too many deficiencies at the time this receptacle had been selected.

Since concepts such as growth and training were also meaningless for a Mana body, she could not even hope for things to improve.

Though it was possible to acquire knowledge and skills that were not dependent on the body, there would be many opportunities for her life to be threatened along the path to learning them, so those days were always accompanied by danger.

In addition, the base model of Ryuzu Meyer was a half-elf, and since Sphinx also inherited those physical features, she was often exposed to persecution and odd looks.

However, she was hesitant to make any large alterations to the external features of the original form.

Those were the first things that had been given to Sphinx, and she feared that if she altered the preconditions too much, she would become unable to fulfill her own purpose of creation.

Therefore, Sphinx did not consider the idea of disguising herself to be acceptable, and instead sought a different way to survive.

As long as she could remain alive, there were times when she had even degraded herself to being a spectacle and a slave. And since the appearance of Ryuzu Meyer was a refined one, there was also a time when she had been the servant of a lavish master.

Greedy to know things, greedy to learn things, Sphinx had made her abilities useful no matter where she was.

Once she understood just how good her memory was, utility value was born in a variety of situations. In the process of doing so, Sphinx realized that it was a way to protect herself.

In order to travel the world with a weak body, lacking the power to survive, it was best to create value for oneself, to offer it to those who sought it, and to gain their protection.

By doing so, Sphinx chose the means of continuing to live under the umbrella of others, until she was able to protect herself on her own.

Those days lasted for approximately one hundred and fifty years.

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――What was the most common cause of death for Natsuki Subaru since he was summoned to this other world?

Were he to be asked this question, Subaru would be able to confidently answer, “Suicide by poison”.

At the Crimson Lapis Castle of the Demon City of Chaosflame, he had experienced a considerable amount of Deaths in the game of tag against Olbart, but so long as the cause of the death was not labeled “Olbart”, the ways he had died there were of various sorts.

Excluding exceptions like those eleven seconds of despair, the record for the most was undoubtedly held by poison.

It was a terribly disgraceful thing to mention, but it could even be said that the person who had killed Subaru the most in this other world was Old Man Null, who had concocted the poison.

In any case, the poison that he had used so frequently during his lone struggle to escape the Gladiator Island Ginunhive with zero casualties―― in order to form the Pleiades Battalion, still remained prepared within Subaru’s mouth, even now.

Subaru: [――I’m gonna get everyone back home, safe and sound.]

That, was the absolute condition that Subaru had established as he took on this final battle for the Imperial Capital, and it was one on which he would not compromise.

Originally, he had carried that attitude and mindset even before he had been sent to the Empire and had had his body shrunk, but amidst his days in the Empire up until now, his resolve had been strengthened even further.

That was a large part of the reason for Subaru’s rebellious spirit towards the Vollachian Empire, which was trying to impose the conclusion known as Death upon them by every means possible.

If the Empire forced Death upon them, he would reject it, no matter what it took.

For that purpose, he would do absolutely everything in his power.

No matter how many times, how many tens of times, how many hundreds of times it took, even if it meant he needed to go through the anguish of hell, no matter what.

Subaru: [――Gah, geuhh!!]

His vision flickering bright red, Subaru’s throat screamed in agony as if all of his blood, flesh, and bone, every individual blood vessel, and every single cell in his body had been put through a blender.

But, the lethal pain that he had experienced right up to the moment of his death, as well as the cries and angry voices that caused Subaru even more suffering than that pain, vanished into the beyond. ――This was Return by Death.

Return by Death had been activated via the suicide by poison, and Natsuki Subaru turned back the clock.

At that moment, Subaru was about to shift his state of awareness back to what ought to have been the scene right after he had washed his face at the final Imperial Soldier encampment before he had entered the Imperial Capital――,

Jamal: [――You idiot!]

Subaru: [――――]

He felt the sensation of being shoved in the chest, and he heard the sound of cursing; Subaru  was clearly being shown that the restart point for Return by Death had been updated.

Sphinx: [The presumed target has escaped harm? Although, it falls into the scope of what is able to be handled.]

Spilling blood as he cursed, Jamal collapsed, with the blade of the sword in his hand having a round hole gouged into it. In the midst of this scene, the cold, indifferent voice of the perpetrator, Sphinx, analyzed the situation.

Both this scene and those words were things that he had seen and heard only a few dozen seconds ago.

Beatrice: [Subaru! Stay focused on what’s in front of you, in fact!]

Subaru: [――Hk.]

Beatrice called out sharply to Subaru, whose thoughts were in disarray due to his understanding and grasp on the current reality.

Her voice shattered the contents of his head, and the shock from pain of the previous poisoning and the update of the restart point slipped away with an exhale. He adapted to the new situation before him.

The time to be dumbfounded, he had naught.

There was far too much that could be lost in that period.

――The checkpoint of Return by Death had been updated.

What this meant, was that within this decisive final battle for the Imperial Capital, which had now already begun, the members of the “Rescue from Destruction Squad” assigned to each bastion could no longer be rearranged.

As it was, he believed that the best possible personnel had been deployed to the best possible battlefields.

But, it was frustrating that he could not fully confirm the conditions that would cause the minimum damage. In particular, the fact that he had yet to verify the result of having paired Emilia and Tanza together, was a major psychological blow.

Of course, the safety of the other members was an inexhaustible source of his anxiety and worry, but――,

Sphinx: [I had thought you to be the foreign entity that would derail my plans, but perhaps I was mistaken?]

As Sphinx tilted her head and posed a question, Subaru looked at the undead in front of him.

The building blocks he had assembled within his head until here, crumbled noisily.

The building blocks of thought that he had built up through trial and error was something that he had aimed to make far more perfect when viewed from a variety of angles. They crumbled away without leaving a trace. ――No, they were demolished.

Beside the building blocks that he had mentally built up, the Natsuki Subaru within his mind appeared, and violently tearing it down, he thoroughly destroyed it all until not a single part remained.

Until it became impossible to tell what the original form of those blocks were, until there would be nothing one could do about it even if it concerned them, he demolished, demolished, demolished, demoled, relentlessly demolished.

Then, he would completely forget about those building blocks, to which nothing more could possibly be done.

Only after doing so, could Natsuki Subaru finally set about a new sequence of trial and error.

Subaru: [――Not in the slightest.]

After a beat that felt to be long, as Subaru held both Beatrice and Spica’s hands, just like Abel as he narrowed his sable eyes, he stared down Sphinx as he gave his answer.

He had yet to discover a way to break through this deadlock. Nor did he know if his comrades were safe. Jamal was still continuing to bleed out.

His determination to successfully deal with all of that, had not altered in the slightest.

He would defeat the Witch, Sphinx, and put an end to this Great Disaster.

For that reason――,

Subaru: [I, am the one who’s gonna derail your plans, the natural enemy of disaster.]

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――Sphinx was now known as a Witch, but for the first few hundred years after her creation, she was not equipped with power that was appropriate for such a designation.

This, too, was a revelation that came about with the creation of Sphinx, but there was a correlation between “soul” and “receptacle”, and if dissonance existed between the two, it would serve as a significant flaw that stood in the way.

By nature, receptacles were optimized to match their souls.

In short, the techniques and abilities of the Witch of Greed could only be adequately wielded by the body of the Witch of Greed. As a being with the incomplete soul of the Witch of Greed filling the receptacle of Ryuzu Meyer, Sphinx had been hindered from fulfilling the purpose of her creation ever since the very moment of her genesis.

As a result, it had taken one hundred and fifty years for Sphinx to attain power befitting her designation as a Witch.

For Sphinx, who harbored the flaw of discrepancy between receptacle and soul, things like how to walk, how to breathe, and even how to beat her heart had required her to exert effort akin to relearning it anew.

To become a magician, it would take her nearly one hundred times longer than what it would take for someone of average ability.

Furthermore, in this era, for Sphinx to fulfill the purpose of her creation, there were far too many factors that stood as obstacles to her activities.

Being treated as a half-elf due to her physical features, she was used as a scapegoat for the grievances and resentments towards the epitome of Witches, the Witch of Envy.

Suspecting the existence of Sphinx, the product of the Witch of Greed’s research, the person who claimed to be her disciple pursued her tenaciously.

While there were others as well, these were the two primary reasons that prevented her from staying in one place, forcing numerous setbacks in Sphinx’s quest to fulfill the purpose of her creation.

At the end of those days, when she first succeeded in casting magic on her own, seeing the small flame which flickered at her fingertips, Sphinx recalled feeling immense disappointment.

――Was this the extent of magic that the one who was supposed to succeed the Witch of Greed could use?

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Jamal: [――You idiot!]

And, with blood spilling from his lips as he spat out curses, once again Jamal collapsed.

He had been pushed away by Jamal, and the moment he stepped back with Beatrice and Spica, who were holding his hands, Subaru confirmed the re-activation of Return by Death.

Sphinx: [The presumed target has escaped harm? Although, it falls into the scope of what is able to be handled.]

As she missed her target, Sphinx did not worry too much over the result differing from her expectation.

The objective of the Witch was to eliminate Subaru and his companions who were present here. In that sense, taking down Jamal, who was counted among their fighting strength, was deemed sufficient as the first strike.

But――,

Beatrice: [Subaru! Stay focused on what’s in front of you…]

Subaru: [Beatrice! Heal Jamal!]

Beatrice: [――Hk, understood, in fact!]

Anticipating Beatrice as she raised her voice, Subaru instructed her to heal Jamal. Hearing that, Beatrice’s eyes widened, and she immediately rushed to Jamal’s side.

Receiving Beatrice’s swift response, Subaru exchanged a glance with Spica, who was holding his opposite hand,

Subaru: [Spica, I’m counting on you!]

Spica: [Aa~, uu!]

Vigorously, Spica leaped towards Sphinx like a bouncing rubber ball.

In order to intercept Spica, Sphinx would extend ten beams of white light from her fingertips. ――Therefore, before that could happen, Subaru picked up the sword that Jamal had dropped, and hurled it at her.

Sphinx: [El Jiwald.]

Jamal’s sword, spinning vertically, was cut down by the rays of heat that Sphinx wielded.

The sword was sliced into six equal parts in mid-air by the swords of light, but it successfully bought enough time for Spica to teleport. Without this support, Spica’s teleportation would not have made it in time.

Spica: [――Uu!]

As Spica gave a short howl, her figure teleported on the debris at the side of the street.

And, the rays of heat that were originally aimed at Spica, and Subaru, who was present behind her, had been dodged as an arm violently reached out from behind him, violently pushing him down.

Having lunged forward, Abel’s hand grabbed him by the back of his head, and forcefully pushed him down.

Vincent: [Fool, have you been befuddled by the sight of the enemy ringleader?]

Subaru: [You’re an Emperor who has no other ideas but to instigate stuff no matter what the pattern is…!]

Placing his hands on the ground to avoid being crushed, Subaru quickly stood back up and complained about Abel’s loathsome words.

Without saying anything in response to Subaru’s rebuttal, as Abel maintained vigilance on Sphinx,

Vincent: [We cannot expect Jamal Aurélie to get back up. We ought to ignore him.]

Subaru: [I don’t agree in the slightest. He’s got a little sister waiting for him to return home.]

Vincent: [His bereaved family shall be granted sufficient compensation.]

Subaru: [When one’s family member dies, nothing can be done to fill the hole left in their heart.]

With her hands over the wounded Jamal, Beatrice began to cast healing magic on his wounds.

Though it was frustrating, it was as Abel said. Even with the maximum effect of Beatrice’s skilled healing magic, the chances of Jamal returning to this fight were close to zero.

But, if they could save Jamal from the brink of death here, it would erase one of Subaru’s worries.

That held immense psychological significance in advancing the battle against Sphinx.

Therefore――,

Subaru: [Sphinx! I’m the one who’s gonna kill you!]

Sphinx: [――――]

Sphinx, who had been glancing around to survey the situation, looked at Subaru upon his straightforward declaration.

If her attention were to shift away from Beatrice and the others towards Subaru, then it would be a success.

Subaru: [As an undead, you may think that you’ve overcome Death, but that’d be a huge misunderstanding and a downright lie. Nobody can live forever. There are no exceptions.]

Sphinx: […That is certainly persuasive. After all, it is a fact that you are painting over my Sacrament of the Immortal King, and are meddling with the souls of the dead. I suppose that I would be no exception. Only…]

Subaru: [Only?]

Sphinx: [――No, there is no particular need to say it. Verification: Required.]

In response to Subaru’s daring provocation, Sphinx shook her head slowly. However, Subaru’s cheeks stiffened at Sphinx’s response.

The reason for that was not because there had been anything troublesome about Sphinx’s response.

It was because, while giving such a response, Sphinx slightly relaxed her lips, and smiled.

Subaru: […Though, it’s not like Ryuzu-san was ever very expressive either.]

The fact that she had been resurrected as an undead likely contributed to it, but Sphinx’s smile gave an impression of being even more emotionally unexpressive than Ryuzu was―― Subaru felt a cold sense of dread at that.

This feeling of dread, it seemed to stem from something more profound and fundamental than mere disgust at the being of a lovely appearance that had been turned into an undead.

And, it became even more clear with Sphinx’s next words.

Sphinx: [For one matter, there was Confirmation: Required. ――You over there, is it correct to believe that you are Emperor Vincent Vollachia?]

Next, it was Abel, at his side, to whom Sphinx turned the brunt of her words.

Subaru raised an eyebrow as the conversation’s focus unexpectedly shifted towards Abel. Given his position, it was natural for Abel to become the center of attention, but Subaru had not expected Sphinx to take notice of him here.

As someone lacking combat prowess, there was no reason to be wary of Abel, given the circumstances.

Sphinx: [Would that be alright? Response: Required.]

Vincent: [To a lowly terrorist like you, I have no intention of falsifying my name or my position. ――Without a shred of doubt, I am Vincent Vollachia, the Emperor of this Empire.]

Sphinx: [Your answer is appreciated. Now, there was another matter for which, Confirmation: Required.]

Despite Abel fixing his intimidating gaze upon her, Sphinx fearlessly continued to speak.

Perhaps because he was aware of the Great Disaster destroying the Empire, Subaru was at a loss as to how they would deal with Sphinx thereafter, who was confronting the Vollachian Emperor, Abel.

If they could prolong the conversation even slightly, it would provide Beatrice more time to heal Jamal’s injuries.

Recognizing the need to take advantage of this opportunity, Subaru refrained from interrupting their conversation.

Thereupon――,

Vincent: [I shan’t promise any answer. Nevertheless, you may speak.]

Sphinx: [――Priscilla Barielle, or perhaps Prisca Benedict.]

Subaru: […Huh?]

Subaru was taken aback by the unexpected and sudden mention of Priscilla’s name.

Having participated in the decisive battle for the Imperial Capital, amidst the retreat that had begun due to the emergence of the Great Disaster, Priscilla’s whereabouts had become unknown. As both her and Yorna had gone missing, their safety had been confirmed by ascertaining the continuation of the Soul Marriage Technique, which Priscilla could also use for some reason.

The Soul Marriage Technique that Yorna had cast upon Tanza and the residents of Chaosflame, and that Priscilla had cast upon Schult, were proof that they were still alive.

Of course, this was about Yorna, one of the Nine Divine Generals, and that Priscilla.

Given the circumstances of how Al had remained in the Imperial Capital for the purpose of rescuing her, he naturally assumed that she had survived tenaciously, but from the mouth of Sphinx, he did not expect her name to be brought up, especially in the form of a question to Abel.

Certainly, Priscilla had been involved in the fray since the Fortress City of Guaral, indicating that she had some connection to the Vollachian Empire and Abel. Due to the profound atmosphere, one might guess that there was trouble involving the husbands of Priscilla’s past.

That was――,

Subaru: [――――]

At the mention of the relationship between Abel and Priscilla, which Subaru had not ascertained, he briefly glanced over at Abel, who had been mentioned, and Subaru noticed him narrowing his black eyes.

Subaru knew that this subtle reaction was actually proof of Abel’s considerable agitation.

Though it was uncertain whether she had noticed this, Sphinx faced the silent Emperor――,

Sphinx: [Is it correct to believe that you are her brother? Conviction: Required.]

Thus, she continued with a bombshell that betrayed all of Subaru’s expectations.

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――Even though she had become capable of using magic by herself, there was no sudden change in Sphinx’s way of life.

By successfully invoking magic once, she was able to stabilize the method of utilizing the gate of Ryuzu Meyer’s Mana-based body, and succeeded in reproducing the majority of magic grasped by the Witch of Greed’s soul.

However, that did not change the dangerous position that Sphinx was placed in, and as always, she kept out of sight, continuing her days of not staying in a single place in order to avoid threats.

Only, compared to before, it had become easier to stay out of sight, and to escape threats.

Thanks to that, after one hundred and fifty years had passed since her birth, Sphinx could finally get started on her investigation to replicate the Witch of Greed, the purpose of her creation.

――The first hundred years, she devoted her time to learning about the Witch of Greed.

Despite her foundation being that of the same soul as the Witch of Greed, there were far too many things that Sphinx had lost from the Witch of Greed’s soul, so the end goal she was supposed to be aiming for had become blurred.

So, in order to learn about the Witch of Greed who had already been dead for a long time, she set out on a journey to follow the legends and books in various places, but there was an organization known as the Witch Cult that was attempting to erase the “Witches” from history―― that did not seem to be the original objective of its founding, but their activities served as hindrances, so results were very slow to come by.

As a result, changing the course of action, which had seen no progress over a hundred years, Sphinx searched for a different method.

――For the next hundred years, she aimed to fill in the gaps of the Witch of Greed within herself.

Due to the fact that she had gone around the world for a hundred years, and had made essentially no progress, Sphinx thought that perhaps the greatest clue to learning about the Witch of Greed was herself, who possessed the same soul.

Unsuccessful in replicating the Witch of Greed, Sphinx had been born an insufficient failure.

If she were to fill in the missing parts of her soul, restoring it to its original form, would that not then be fulfilling the purpose of her creation, to replicate the Witch of Greed?

――However, after spending a hundred years on this venture as well, it became apparent that it was infeasible, so she was at a standstill.

There was a development in her search for resources in order to learn about the Witch of Greed, which she had not abandoned, even if she had altered her course of action, and this development caused Sphinx to lose sight of the mountain top she ought to be aiming for.

It seemed like the Witch of Greed was the possessor of an awfully complex human nature.

According to the resource she had discovered, the Witch of Greed exchanged words with many people, and granted them the knowledge or wisdom they desired, which, for better or for worse, often interfered with history.

On the other hand, there was also the figure of the Witch of Greed within Sphinx’s vague memories, and this version avoided contact with people as much as possible, and seldom involved herself with the lives of others.

Those conflicting images of the Witch of Greed, birthed a hesitation in Sphinx’s investigation.

By this point, over three hundred years had already passed since the birth of Sphinx, and with a desire to progress her investigation in order to fulfill the purpose of her creation, Sphinx approached a decision once again.

And then, Sphinx decided. ――She would make a major alteration in the methods she had been using up until now.

△▼△▼△▼△

――Abel and Priscilla were brother and sister.

It was an impactful fact brought about by Sphinx; however, it tied the seeds already within Subaru together in a way that made sense, and resolved many of the doubts he had harbored.

The fact that Priscilla had intervened in the Empire’s civil war, and the fact that she knew several people from the Empire starting with Serena. Sometimes, she would have conversations that insinuated that she had a significant history concerning the Empire, and she would occasionally act in a way that seemed like she had an unusual relationship with Abel.

And, just like Abel, she had the same bizarrely arrogant and self-important personality.

He fathomed Abel’s self-importance as being due to the fact that he was Emperor.

So then, just why did Priscilla act so self-important? The solution to that answer was because she was also part of the Imperial Family.

――Nay. It was that she used to be part of the Imperial Family.

Subaru: [To decide on who becomes Emperor, wasn’t there that crazy rule about all the siblings needing to fight to the death?]

Vincent: [I have no intention of debating the ethics of the structure of the Imperial Selection Ceremony with you.]

Subaru: [With or without a debate, the moment you started acting as Emperor and allowed Priscilla to live, I generally figured out how you two siblings thought about that rule.]

The more he heard about the blood relation between Abel and Priscilla, the more he could not help but accept it, but the more he learned about that current situation, the more he understood how impossible it was for the Empire.

Originally, the rule was that everyone in the Vollachian Empire who possessed the right to succeed the Imperial Throne would fight to the death, and until only one final person remained, the Emperor would not be decided. ――Abel was in violation of this rule.

In other words, Abel and Priscilla had conspired, and their current positions were ones that went against the Imperial Selection Ceremony.

Vincent: [We did not conspire. I made a decision, and I carried it out. With the death of Prisca, only Priscilla remained. That is the entirety of the matter.]

Subaru: [That’s all… ah!? So doesn’t that mean Priscilla was in a position that absolutely should have never returned to the Empire!?]

Vincent: [Are you able to imagine the extent of worry I experienced at the Fortress City? To begin with, if we are on the subject, that has been the case ever since I heard about her becoming a candidate for the Kingdom’s Royal Selection.]

Subaru: [As unusual as this is, I actually sympathize with you on that…]

As an outsider, Subaru could not imagine this, but in order to have his sister Priscilla escape, Abel ought to have crossed an equally dangerous bridge. Surely even now, if this information were to be leaked outside, it would be a bombshell that would even threaten Abel’s position as Emperor.

For that sister, whom he had gone through so much trouble to let flee, to be nominated as a candidate for the next King of the neighboring country in the short time he had taken his eyes off her, and then to come back and fight in the Empire’s civil war predicament as a foreign player, Abel must have been fighting against a hellish stomach ache behind the oni mask that almost seemed like a practical joke.

Anyhow――,

Subaru: [Regardless of you two being siblings, the news that Sphinx has an interest in Priscilla is not bad at all. If Priscilla is being kept alive in the Crystal Palace, then that’s also corroborated by the Soul Marriage Technique.]

Vincent: [――. Though, I judge that the relationship between Priscilla and this damned Witch cannot be declared an amiable one.]

Subaru: [You may not be aware of this, but you two siblings are pretty hard to get along with, so you better fix that. That’s even the case with your allies, so isn’t it a bit too excessive for your enemies?]

Vincent: [Such disrespect; even if I happen to overlook it, that shall not be the case with Priscilla.]

As soon as the information about them being brother and sister was revealed, Abel did not hesitate to skip over the topic of their blood ties.

In reality, it was true that he was more scared of angering Priscilla, who would unrelentingly cut down people whom she judged to be disagreeable, than he was of angering Abel, who did not possess the strength to strike down insolent individuals.

Subaru: [Speaking of cutting down, that sword that Priscilla is always swinging around――]

Vincent: [――The Yang Sword Vollachia.]

He had never gotten a good look at it up close, but he understood that the thing Priscilla often suddenly unsheathed from the air was a treasured sword that concealed tremendous power.

When Subaru brought up that topic, Abel gave the best possible answer.

Subaru: […If I’m not mistaken, is that Yang Sword something that gets passed down generation to generation in the Empire?]

Vincent: [Indeed.]

Subaru: [Then, isn’t it bad for her to wield it in the first place before her identity is hidden or not!?]

Vincent: [――. Indeed.]

As Abel responded in a stiff voice, Subaru began to get a headache over Priscilla’s audacious behavior.

That was likely so. ――As a former member of the Vollachian Imperial Family, the fact that she was alive was a bombshell that could pose quite a threat to the reign of the Emperor, and yet she boldly stood at center stage as a Royal Selection Candidate of the Kingdom, and on top of that, lacked caution as she often wielded the treasured sword of Imperial origin.

It was no wonder that whenever somebody who knew Priscilla before appeared, they would make moves that suggested they knew of her past. It was because the person in question had not kept anything hidden at all.

Subaru: [Is she like Emilia-tan, who thought she could get by with calling herself Emily…]

That too, was because Emilia was a charming, natural airhead, a beautiful girl without peer, but in Priscilla’s case, since she ought to have been fully aware of her own position, it was just her poor personality.

In any case――,

Subaru: [In truth, aren’t you the one who’s supposed to have the Yang Sword?]

Vincent: [――――]

At Subaru’s question, Abel maintained his silence.

If that were incorrect, Abel would have responded so with eloquent reasoning. The fact that he did not do so, meant that Subaru ought to think such was the case.

That was why――,

△▼△▼△▼△

Jamal: [――You idiot!]

Now that he thought about it, just who was that cursing actually directed towards?

Was it towards Subaru and the two girls, whom he had suddenly jumped in to protect, or was it perhaps Sphinx, who had mercilessly aimed for the children? ――Or was it towards Jamal himself, who had reduced his own options for the following events?

Of course, it would have been one of the former options, as there was no way it was the final possibility.

Certainly, from Subaru’s perspective, using Return by Death to try and break the deadlock, Jamal’s act of protecting Subaru and the two girls was an interference that held no meaning.

If Jamal had not protected him, Sphinx’s surprise attack would have evaporated Subaru’s head, and Return by Death would have activated, which would have allowed him to commence his response from an earlier state.

Where that would have been the same as now, after contact had been made with Sphinx, or if it would have been from an earlier point, he did not know.

Only, in that case, Jamal would not have been injured, which would have expanded the possibilities for strategy in a situation in which a battle against Sphinx was unavoidable.

As a result, when Jamal collapsed due to the magic, Jamal was subtracted from the fighting strength of Subaru’s group, and Beatrice was restrained to using healing magic in order to save him from the verge of death.

Looking at just the events that had occurred, Jamal’s conduct had actually been a burden on Subaru’s group.

However――,

Subaru: [――――]

Taking pride in the fact that he was a Sword Wolf, motivated to cut open a future for his sister with his sword, Jamal had sacrificed himself to protect Subaru and the two girls; Subaru would not let that action be meaningless.

After all, lives, instincts, and hearts were not those kinds of things.

Sphinx: [The presumed target has escaped harm? Although――]

Subaru: [You made me eat your shoe! But, now we’re even!]

Sphinx: [――――]

Missing her target due to the collapsed Jamal, Sphinx was about to start saying something. Painting over the words of the Witch, Subaru spoke to Jamal in a loud voice.

Subaru did not know whether that loud voice of his had reached Jamal or not.

But, at the camp site immediately after he had been sent off to the Vollachian Empire, Subaru had received some terribly cruel treatment from Jamal. Just now, he forgave that. ――Jamal, too, was unmistakably one of his comrades.

Subaru: [Beatrice! Heal Jamal!]

Beatrice: [――Hk, understood, in fact!]

At Subaru’s subsequent direction, Beatrice quickly hastened to Jamal. Feeling the sensation of her slender fingers drifting away, Subaru pulled Spica, who was holding the opposite hand towards himself,

Subaru: [Spica, I’m counting on you!]

Spica: [Aa~, uu!]

With an expression brimming with motivation, Spica kicked off the ground, and with the vigor of a bouncing rubber ball, she leapt towards Sphinx.

Spica jumped right towards her, causing her long, blonde hair to flutter, and Sphinx ignored the fact that her speech had been canceled, and raised both of her hands.

She created ten swords of light―― thereupon, Subaru threw one of Jamal’s swords.

Sphinx: [El Jiwald.]

Spica: [――Uu!]

The white light melted Jamal’s rotating sword, and also aimed for Spica, who was present beyond it. But, before they could reach her, Spica’s form teleported to the side of the street. At the same time, Subaru’s head was forced to duck down by Abel’s hand from behind, so they had succeeded in evading Sphinx’s counterattack.

Vincent: [You did well to shift gears immediately. But, there shall be no meaning if you cannot keep it up.]

Subaru: [I know! I’ll say this now, but don’t abandon Jamal!]

Vincent: [――. His bereaved family shall be granted sufficient compensation.]

Subaru: [In that case, I’ll save the people who you won’t save!]

Talking back to the overly-rational Abel, Subaru held his ground with his body that had been made to fall. With that posture, he glared at Sphinx, whose attack he had evaded,

Subaru: [Sphinx! I’m the one who’s gonna kill you!]

Sphinx: [――――]

Subaru: [I’m gonna kill the undead you. Resurrection magic isn’t all powerful. You think I’m lying?]

Sphinx: […That is certainly persuasive. After all, it is a fact that you are painting over my Sacrament of the Immortal King, and are meddling with the souls of the dead. I suppose that I would be no exception. Only…]

In order to draw attention to himself, Subaru tried to provoke her, to which Sphinx shook her head from side to side. Having recognized that Subaru’s claim was somewhat persuasive,

Sphinx: [――No, there is no particular need to say it. Verification: Required.]

Despite maintaining vigilance over her natural enemy, Subaru―― or, to be precise, Spica’s Star Eating, she gave a smile that seemed to be the exact opposite of that mental image.

The Witch’s smile, only the origin of it was unknown to him. Ultimately, there was no need to know, either.

Vincent: [Do not lose your nerve.]

Speaking to Subaru in a low voice, for a moment, Abel stood next to him and furrowed his brow. The intention of those sable eyes requested an explanation, but Subaru would leave that up to the flow of events.

With the aftertaste of her smile remaining, Sphinx looked towards Abel,

Sphinx: [For one matter, there was Confirmation: Required. You over there――]

Subaru: [――This guy is Vincent Vollachia, the Emperor of this nation. That, and, you aren’t mistaken that he’s Priscilla’s older brother.]

Sphinx: [――――]

Before Sphinx could finish asking her question, Subaru interrupted with the answer.

The moment that was done to her, Sphinx moved her eyebrows with a level of clear surprise for the first time. Abel, who had just given him a warning, was surprised to a similar extent, but that was a necessary expense.

Spica: [Uu~, Au!]

Jumping at Sphinx, Spica took action that counterbalanced that sundry expense.

With an agility that resembled the hunting style of a cat, Spica closed in on the Witch, but rather than the claws of a cat swinging its paws, she had the might of swing from a lion, or a tiger, or perhaps even a bear.

It was the kind of blow that, if received directly, would make a mess of even an undead warrior in a single hit; without sparing any quarter, Spica had pummeled that into Sphinx’s slender body――,

Sphinx: [I am surprised. It seems that you have specialities that lie outside the realm of meddling with souls.]

Spica: [Aa~u!?]

Sphinx’s quiet analysis overlapped with Spica’s high-pitched voice of astonishment.

Spica’s astonishment was natural. The blow containing all of her might had indeed been delivered to Sphinx. However, with the single arm Sphinx had raised, she had skillfully parried it.

With her blue eyes wide-open, Spica stared into the golden eyes of the Witch,

Sphinx: [Were you taken aback? My defeat in the Demi-Human War was partly because of my inexperience in martial arts. Taking that into account, I began learning from square one. But then again――]

Spica: [Uu!?]

Sphinx: [There is a limit to the enhancement of abilities that can be yielded through the Flow Method for this replicant body.]

While speaking, Sphinx used the momentum from her parry, and threw Spica down by her head.

That elegant movement and technique were not something that had been acquired through half-hearted training. As the Witch had confessed herself, she had used her former defeat as a resource to learn from.

It would make anyone think that it was unnecessary to mention the person who had beat the Witch in a fist fight in the past.

Subaru: [Spicaaa!]

Spica: [――Uu~, au!]

As Subaru raised his voice, Spica firmly clenched her teeth.

That moment before her head hit the ground, Spica twisted her body around, and used her body like a cat once more. Gently landing on her knees, Spica nimbly distanced herself from Sphinx.

Spica: [Au!?]

However, Spica’s movements were stopped as she tried to fall back.

Sphinx had caught the sleeve of Spica’s right arm, preventing the latter’s withdrawal. ――Immediately after, the girl and the Witch exchanged glances, and an extremely close-quarters bout of combat commenced.

Spica: [Uu! Au! A~au! Aau!]

Each grappling with one arm, Spica and Sphinx engaged in high-level combat with minimal movement.

As Spica desperately swung around blows, Sphinx utilized smooth technique as if to say “the soft controls the hard”, and sometimes, she would interweave magic fired from her fingertips into her counteroffensive.

Subaru: [Beako!]

Beatrice: [Just a little longer, I suppose!]

Witnessing the tempestuous battle, Subaru called out to Beatrice, and she responded. With her hands glowing, Beatrice was pouring all her efforts into using healing magic on the collapsed Jamal.

So then, should he keep waiting for Beatrice, who was yet unable to return, and go without providing cover?

Subaru: [Like I could ever do such a thing!]

Eliminating the option of doing nothing, Subaru suddenly drew the Guiltywhip from the back of his waist.

Then, as Subaru made that decision, Abel violently held back his shoulder.

Vincent: [Wait, Natsuki Subaru. If you move carelessly――]

Subaru: [You goddamn idiot! Is this the time to be saying that!?]

Talking back to Abel’s sharp complaint in a loud voice, Subaru shook free and began sprinting.

He heard Abel clicking his tongue behind him, but without stopping, Subaru raised his whip overhead to provide cover to Spica, who was being toyed with by Sphinx’s tactics of interweaving magic and martial arts.

Subaru: [Sh――!]

The tip of the whip flew with a speed that could not be derided as the strength of a child.

To be more accurate, it was not as good as when his body was at its original size, but he had put his concentration to good use in this extreme situation. Even if his shrunken body had forgotten the days of training he spent to master the whip, his willpower produced a miracle.

The whip tore through the air, and like a snake’s fangs, it was absorbed into Sphinx’s back――,

Subaru: [――Wha…]

Sphinx: [Feelings of protectiveness and impatience amount to poison that causes lapses in judgment. Since I have a comprehension of what emotions are, albeit only slightly, I know of their dreadfulness.]

As Sphinx indifferently responded, she caught the Guiltywhip with her right hand. But, Sphinx had purposely reached out her right hand to do so. Sphinx’s left hand was grasping Spica’s right sleeve, and her right hand was fastened to Subaru’s whip, so now both of her hands had been sealed.

However――,

Spica: [Aa, uu…hk]

Spilling out pathetic cries of pain, Spica fell to her knees, as her left thigh had been pierced by white light. ――Unable to use either of her hands, that had been done by a blow fired from Sphinx’s undead golden right eye.

Sphinx: [Fingers and tools can be used to assist with the invocation of magic. It is a mistaken conception that those who are not versed in magic are prone to having.]

Subaru: [Spica―― uoahh!?]

Spica groaned at the pain, and Subaru screamed in her stead, but Sphinx pulled on the whip with a forceful movement, resolutely felling him to the ground before the Witch.

Clenching his teeth, Subaru endured the pain. The face of Spica on her knees right next to him, and the face of Sphinx looking down at him from above, he clearly saw both of them.

Meeting eyes with the golden irises in which no heat could be felt――,

Sphinx: [――For what reason, are you smiling?]

Subaru: [Because everything until now has gone exactly as I had planned.]

Seeing Subaru’s expression as he lay face-up on the ground, Sphinx voiced a question.

Answering it, Subaru let go of the whip that he had purposely been holding onto, and with the emptied hand, he directed a finger gun towards Sphinx.

And then――,

Subaru: [――Minya!]

The tip of Subaru’s finger glowed, and immediately after, a crystal arrow of amethyst hue was fired.

Surprise, close-range, negligence, a performance that deserved an Academy Award―― as various factors intertwined, Sphinx had no measures by which she could evade Subaru’s preparations.

Sphinx: [――Reflection: Required, indeed.]

Sphinx tilted her head right away, and muttered in a slightly cracked voice.

Subaru’s purple arrow made an impact on Sphinx’s right eye, and bore through it. The area around the impact began to crystallize, encroaching on Sphinx’s pale skin.

Originally, Yin Magic was supposed to display particular efficiency against the undead, but this was instantaneous.

Subaru: [Did you think I was just an intelligent brat? It’s a misconception that everyone tends to have.]

――Subaru was the Spiritual Arts User who had contracted with the cute and talented Beatrice.

Even if his body were shrunken, his connection with Beatrice would not be severed. Beatrice and Subaru were connected by their gates, and Beatrice would draw from Subaru’s Mana to utilize magic.

The reverse was also true. Subaru could also borrow Beatrice’s power to use magic. That was precisely how, in the first battle after he had contracted with Beatrice, they used magic to mow down the hordes of the Great Rabbit.

But then again, that first battle had used up all the Mana that Beatrice had amassed over four hundred years, and now the most Subaru could do was fire off a trump card limited to a single shot within Beatrice’s range of sight.

But, the important things were the fact that he had a trump card, and the fact that he did not make a mistake when he used it.

Subaru: [Spica, one final push!]

Spica: [Uu!]

Sphinx was taken aback by the impact of the magic, so Subaru would rush her down there.

Her leg battered, concealing her expression that was stiffened by the pain with an unfaltering fighting spirit, Spica jumped up and grabbed Subaru’s hand, and he firmly stood up on the spot.

His wounds were painful. But, no matter how many times he tried, they would not get any more minor than this.

Therefore, this was the best development to move forward with everybody remaining alive―― Subaru acted in place of Spica’s left leg, and together they headed towards Sphinx.

By having Spica’s Star Eating reach its target, they would defeat Sphinx――,

Sphinx: [You were at least able to see through Valga’s stratagem. Admiration: Required.]

As the scope of the crystallization extended out from the right eye, Sphinx praised Subaru.

Then, the hardening face of the Witch took the shape of a smile, and she placed the index finger of her left hand right under her jaw. That finger was forming a finger gun, as if to spite Subaru.

Subaru: [――Hk.]

That instant, Subaru intuited that her action was a preparation for Escape by Death.

It was a plan to commit suicide by blowing off her own head, and resetting the situation. ――If she committed suicide here, and escaped with intelligence on Subaru’s group, Sphinx would never appear before them again.

The chance to have Star Eating reach its target, would not come about again.

Before he could move to put a stop to that, a faint light glowed in the tip of Sphinx’s finger――,

???: [――YOU IDIOOOT!!]

A slashing attack accompanied a cursing voice akin to coughing up blood, and Sphinx’s left arm was cut off at the elbow.

Sphinx: [――――]

Seeing her arm spin as it flew away, Sphinx widened her eyes.

Throwing the sword, which had a hole in its blade, severing that arm, and preventing the Escape by Death planned by Sphinx, his eyes bloodshot, was Jamal.

Having sustained a serious injury, Jamal attacked, and it was Beatrice who supported his body. While applying healing magic to his wound, Beatrice followed up on Jamal’s sword throw.

For a moment, Sphinx, who was gazing in wonder, and Beatrice, who had previously responded that the healing would take more time, crossed gazes,

Beatrice: [That was a downright lie, in fact.]

Sticking out her tongue, Beatrice revealed that the miraculous come-back of Jamal was not actually a miracle.

Be that as it may, even if she had lost one arm, Sphinx could do the same thing with her remaining right hand. ――No, she could have done so if not for the moment with Beatrice.

Vincent: [That sent shivers down my spine.]

Contrary to the contents of the words, the spun voice was as indifferent as always.

But, there might have very well been some real danger. ――After all, too much force had been applied to Jamal’s sword to say it had been merely passed over.

Sphinx: [Admiration: Required.]

Vincent: [I require no such thing.]

As Sphinx widened her remaining left eye at the events that had transpired, Abel coldly responded. Then, the black-haired Emperor, swinging the sword he had received, severed Sphinx’s right arm from its shoulder.

Sphinx: [Ahh…]

Her left hand was lost, her right arm was severed, the balance of her body crumbled as she attempted to escape, and Sphinx’s back forcefully crashed into the street of the Imperial Capital without even bracing herself.

Passing the Witch on the ground as she looked up, Subaru deeply exhaled as he looked down on her.

In order to corner her like this, it had taken a multitude of tactics, and to a lesser extent, some trial and error. Finally, having arrived at this point, which had taken all of that, Subaru now stood before Sphinx.

Subaru: [It’s our win.]

Sphinx: […Indeed. I shall admit it. It is, my loss.]

A serious injury for Jamal, some injuries for Spica and Subaru, and no injuries for Beatrice and Abel; that was the result obtained in this domain, and fully understanding that, Subaru made his declaration, to which Sphinx nodded.

Even without her two arms, it was quite possible for her to shoot something from her eye, like she had done to attack Spica. The right half of her face was already crystallized, but it was of maximum priority to not allow her to do anything else.

Subaru: [Sphinx.]

The fact that this was not an act of him calling out to her, was something that even Sphinx herself understood.

This was merely an indication to have Spica get to work, the path he had prepared for her Authority, Star Eating. Leaning on Subaru’s shoulder, Spica reached her hand out towards Sphinx.

By meddling with the soul of the undead Witch, they would finally put an end to this Great Disaster――,

???: [――Jiwald.]

The next moment, right before Spica’s fingers could make contact, the crystallizing face of Sphinx evaporated―― the fired white light blew off the Witch’s cranium, crushing Subaru’s plan.

Everyone: [――――]

Sphinx had been thoroughly killed from the side, and Subaru’s group had their breaths taken away. The Sphinx before their eyes crumbled, and promptly turned to dust.

And, the one who had done that was――,

???: [From how it appears, I have concluded that this was an exceedingly perilous scene. Respondence: Required.]

???: [The effects of the Sacrament of the Immortal King are useful, but when that usefulness is experienced, it is irritating that information cannot be immediately shared on the spot. Improvement: Required.]

???: [Before that, I suppose we ought to give priority to eliminating them. Counteroffensive: Required.]

At the bustling voices heard in quick succession, Subaru clearly felt Spica’s body stiffen through his shoulder. Likely, Spica also felt him do the same.

It was only natural that they experienced that level of shock.

???: [――Combat: Required.]

???: [――Combat: Required.]

???: [――Combat: Required.]

After all, having disposed of the cornered Sphinx, several uninjured Witches, several uninjured Sphinxes, had gathered together.

△▼△▼△▼△

――For Sphinx, intervention in the Demi-Human War was something exceedingly convenient.

The feelings of antipathy between humans and demi-humans that had been on the rise within the Dragon Kingdom of Lugunica, flared up into a large inferno with merely a small kindling, and the longstanding transient peace was destroyed.

The environment that persecuted demi-humans regardless of their participation in the civil war entirely eliminated the unnaturalness of Sphinx making contact with the Demi-Human Alliance. If she introduced herself as a half-elf, she did not need any greater justification to join the alliance.

There, meeting the two principal leaders of the Demi-Human Alliance, Valga Cromwell and Libre Fermi, was quite the fortuitous happening for Sphinx.

In particular, Valga of the Giant tribe, who, contrary to his fierce appearance, possessed an outstanding intellect, had realized the usefulness of the magic and knowledge in Sphinx’s possession, and had daringly included her into their tactics, securing victories for the Demi-Human Alliance on many battlefields.

Sphinx, too, unveiled much of the Witch of Greed’s knowledge that had never been revealed until then, and assisted in Valga’s plans, or perhaps it was her who had gained assistance.

――The Sacrament of the Immortal King, too, was a forbidden art that had only been successfully reproduced thanks to the Demi-Human Alliance.

Even if she had knowledge of the technique itself, it was the research of the details needed to implement it, and the strategic plans in which the technique was actually used, that had allowed Valga to skillfully lead in the Demi-Human War.

Sphinx had no interest in the victory of the Demi-Human Alliance, and she had just been making use of that environment, but back then, the presence of Valga and the others had helped her out immensely. But then again, Libre, the snakeman who held the same position of leader alongside Valga, had misgivings about dealing with Sphinx, and they had not constructed a good relationship with each other.

In any case, Sphinx had obtained many of the things she had desired with the Demi-Human War.

Amongst them, that which she had wished to observe the most was “love”―― in order to fulfill the purpose of her creation, it seemed to be the thing that the incomplete Sphinx was lacking the most. The sense of attachment that was generally defined as “love”, she had gained many opportunities to witness it up close, and that was a great result for her.

Within Valga, within Libre, within many of the demi-humans and humans alike, that was present.

The actuality of its existence, and the confidence that it was indeed missing from within herself, were the greatest things Sphinx had gained.

Only, with the situation that had not moved for over three hundred and fifty years finally having moved, it ought to be said that Sphinx had gotten a bit greedy. ――With the threat she had forgotten about, she reunited.

Knowing that Sphinx had been constructed with the purpose of replicating the Witch of Greed’s soul, harboring an unbearable vindictiveness of desiring her existence to be erased, it was the Witch of Greed’s disciple.

――Ultimately, Sphinx ended up being defeated by that disciple of the Witch of Greed.

△▼△▼△▼△

The situation he had feared, arrived precisely at the moment he had feared it.

The sensation of cold fingers being thrust into his mouth, and the sensation of the drug package, which he had grown accustomed to being in there, being yanked out, caused Subaru to recall that.

???: [I suppose this is poison for the purpose of suicide? It is an inexplicable preparation.]

???: [Is it truly so inexplicable? When one heads for the battlefield, they have generally resolved themself for death. Additionally, if one is captured by their enemy, it is effective in eliminating the room for having information extracted.]

???: [What about a battlefield on which that general expression would be improper? They should also be aware that if they were to lose their life here, it would not necessarily mean their mouth would be sealed for certain.]

With the same voice, with the same manner of speech, with the same tone, analyses piled up, and ultimately, several pairs of eyes looked at Subaru.

The Witches who all bore the same face, simultaneously peered into Subaru’s black eyes――,

Witch: [Answer: Required.]

Witch: [Answer: Required.]

Witch: [Answer: Required.]

Then, having stolen Subaru’s method of suicide, and binding his arms behind his back, they enquired so.

――The several newly-appeared Sphinxes had completely overpowered Subaru’s group, which had a great deal of struggle to corner just a single Sphinx, in less than a minute.

Spica: [Ua, uu…]

Pinned to the ground, Spica desperately squirmed in an attempt to assist the captive Subaru.

But, even if given treatment, the wound on her leg was deep, and she could not shake free from the Sphinx who was pinning her down. It was not just Spica. Beatrice and Jamal were also lying collapsed on the street in a battered state.

In particular, since Jamal had continued to shower the Sphinxes with abusive language, he had ended up being scrupulously tormented until he had completely lost consciousness.

And then――,

Vincent: [From one indecision to the next, do you not tire of it all?]

Sphinx: [Even when you are cornered to this degree, I admire that your spirit still refuses to yield. I can sense the blood relation with your sister… with Priscilla Barielle.]

Vincent: [Hmph, did you think I would waver at the mention of Priscilla? In addition to mimicking Lamia, the one known as the Witch engages in some terribly impudent actions.]

Abel trained a hostile gaze on Sphinx, and spat those words out together with the blood in his mouth.

Right now, the ones facing off against the Sphinxes were him, standing on his own two feet, and Subaru, whose arms were bound behind his back. And with Subaru forced to kneel, Abel became the sole man standing.

Present here were three Sphinxes.

One of them was restraining Subaru, one of them was pinning Spica down, and the last one was free to move as she pleased.

Facing them, Abel had sustained no small amount of wounds amidst the short resistance. His clothes were sullied and torn, and wiping the blood off his cheek with his sleeve, by his feet was the sword he had discarded as it had lost its blade.

But, even with this much damage done to him, Abel had not sustained a fatal wound.

In this eleventh hour, that was thanks to Abel’s remarkable swordsmanship blooming―― such a thing was not the case, for it was by the Sphinxes’ intentions, that Abel had been kept alive.

Sphinx: [Lamia Godwin, it is true that I have learned from her. She possessed a certain observative ability to see the true nature of things. She was much closer to the truth of “souls” than I am.]

Sphinx: [Thanks to her, parallel reproduction of the Sacrament of the Immortal King has succeeded. It slightly deviates from the desired result, but, it is true that it has advanced us one level higher.]

Sphinx: [Without that, it would have been infeasible to appear before you in this manner.]

The Sphinxes strung words together; the trick of producing several of the same undead at the same time, was an abuse of the Sacrament of the Immortal King, used by Abel’s sister when she had attacked the coupled dragon carriages―― used by Lamia Godwin.

To be honest, if Spica’s Star Eating was flawless, then the multiplication of undead was nothing more than an act of increasing the number of targets that could be hit. Because she understood that, Sphinx had separated Subaru and Spica, and had restrained them.

And then, the reason that the Sphinxes had kept Abel alive by himself was――,

Sphinx: [――As a member of the Vollachian Imperial Family, your Yang Sword was a threat. Vigilance: Required.]

Vincent: [――――]

At the words of the empty-handed Sphinx, Abel slightly narrowed his sable eyes.

That which Sphinx maintained vigilance over, the Yang Sword Vollachia―― a great treasure of the Empire that concealed tremendous power. Subaru, too, had once personally witnessed the remarkable power of the Yang Sword.

However, at that time, the owner of the Yang Sword was not Abel, but――,

Sphinx: [――Priscilla Barielle. Or perhaps Prisca Benedict.]

Subaru: [Guh, Abel…!]

Sphinx: [He ought to be the Vollachian Emperor, Vincent Vollachia. The way you call him Abel, I thought it was improper to call him by a nickname or alias? Correction: Required.]

Pointing out such a trivial imperfection in his speech, she firmly pushed Subaru down into the ground by his face. Ignoring Subaru as he groaned with his face rubbing against the ground, Sphinx tilted her head at Abel,

Sphinx: [It seems that you truly do not possess the Yang Sword.]

Indeed, facing Abel―― facing Vincent Vollachia, she plainly declared that he did not have ownership of the Yang Sword, the proof that one was the Emperor.

Subaru: [――Hk.]

At Sphinx’s assertion, Abel maintained his silence, but Subaru’s throat clogged up.

Just how humiliating that would have been for the Vollachian Emperor, Subaru did not know.

But, he knew that just like the fact that he had let the sister whom he ought to have killed in the Imperial Selection Ceremony live, asking any more about the Emperor’s nature would not be tolerated.

And then, the act of ascertaining that, was unmistakably the reason why Sphinx had kept Abel alive.

Sphinx: [Would you accompany me, Emperor Vincent Vollachia? If it is alright with you, I would like to take you to meet your younger sister, Priscilla Barielle. Analysis: Required.]

Vincent: [To meet Priscilla, you say? What are you plotting?]

Sphinx: [I refuse to answer. Deliberation: Required.]

To Abel, who did not possess a decisive blow in order to resist, Sphinx made a peculiar offer. The true intent behind that offer had not been spoken. But, if Abel agreed, he would be able to survive a little longer.

Nevertheless, the apex of the Empire had naught the charm to carelessly follow such a proposal.

Vincent: [Do not jest with me, Witch. If there was need to converse with Priscilla, I would do so on my own, even without the likes of your permission. Just who do you think I―― who do you think I am?]

Sphinx: [――――]

Boldly answering so, Abel crossed his arms, rejecting the Witch’s proposal.

Sullied, shedding blood, with even his life in the palm of his opponent; however, the figure of Abel maintaining his unwavering attitude, was undoubtedly that of the very Sword Wolf held in great esteem by the Vollachian Empire.

Sphinx: [――Reflection: Required.]

There was no change in her countenance or verbal expression, but Sphinx’s voice housed a clear disappointment.

As the reason for that had not been revealed, it remained unknown. But, Sphinx found it unfortunate that she could not take Abel to where Priscilla was.

And, Sphinx, reflecting on the fact that had caused her such disappointment, as if rejecting it,

Sphinx: [What about in exchange for the lives of these individuals? Re-analysis: Required.]

The question was asked while pointing fingers at Subaru and Spica, who were pinned down.

In order to bestow the question with more persuasive power, Sphinx increased the pressure of her bind on Subaru.

Spica: [Auu! Uu~, Uau!]

Subaru: [Spica…!!]

Likely, the same amount of pressure was being applied to Spica. Kicking and struggling, Spica had a better shot of escaping the restraint than Subaru did, so she attempted to fight back against the Sphinx behind her.

And before the resistance could take hold――,

Subaru: [Gah, gi, gyaaaaaaaah…!]

Sphinx: [――Reflection: Required.]

The dull, creaking sound that reverberated, was the destructive noise of a bone being painfully broken. That was the result of not Spica’s, but Subaru’s right elbow having been bent in the opposite direction.

Sharp pain stabbed his brain, and the pain from all of his other bruises and scratches was momentarily blown away. Blood frothed up as he bit his lip, and the unbearable tears streamed down drop by drop.

While making that example out of him, neither the Sphinx who had broken his arm, nor the Sphinx who was about to break Spica’s arm, nor the Sphinx who had directed them to do so, had shown even the slightest fluctuation in emotions.

Only, in order to grant her own desire, her gaze was that of a spectator, wondering if the example that had been made would produce results.

However――,

Vincent: [――Tedious.]

Abel’s reply, even though Subaru’s arm had been broken, conceded no emotions whatsoever.

Receiving that, Sphinx finally let out a short exhale, and,

Sphinx: [If possible, I would have liked to bring you back alive, but…]

Vincent: [Do not jest. If you had wished to fulfill that no matter what, it would have been better to fashion me into an undead and bring me along.]

Sphinx: [To say that would be difficult, is a conclusion of all the materials of analysis until now.]

At Sphinx’s answer, Abel closed one eye as if going into rumination. But, before those thoughts yielded any progress, the Sphinxes began to take action.

The Sphinxes pinning Subaru and Spica down each raised a single finger. ――Holding Subaru and Spica up, the Sphinxes placed those fingers against the backs of each of their heads.

Subaru: [A-Abel…]

Gasping and sweating at the pain of his broken arm, Subaru called out to Abel. In the same situation as Spica, who was struggling next to him, it was obvious what Sphinx’s aim was.

But, it was for naught. After all, examples being made would not serve any use.

Vincent: [There is no meaning in taking hostages. Or perhaps, does the Witch fail to understand such simple things?]

Sphinx: [Is that so?]

Vincent: [What?]

Sphinx: [Emotions or feelings of protection are difficult things to deal with. Even you, the apex of the Empire, are no exception. ――Exertion: Required.]

Indeed, the sole free Sphinx spoke to Abel, and then slowly lifted her hand.

Then, raising a single finger of that raised hand, as she aimed it at Abel’s chest,

Sphinx: [Please do not move. If you value their lives…]

Vincent: [――Menial.]

Abel’s short words, which seemed as if he was gnashing his teeth, yielded a crooked smile on Sphinx’s mouth.

That moment, Sphinx’s fingertip glowed with light. ――It was not just the one aiming for Abel, but the fingers thrust against the backs of Subaru’s and Spica’s heads were also glowing.

――He had been waiting for the Witch to make that vicious choice.

Subaru: [Leap, Spica!!]

Sphinx: [Eh?]

Right before the fatal light was fired, Subaru forgot about his pain and yelled out. Receiving that, one of the bewildered Sphinxes disappeared from there. ――She had been forcibly taken along by Spica’s teleport.

And with Spica’s leap as a signal, there was also movement on Subaru’s side. That was not movement from Subaru himself, but――,

???: [No matter how you look at it, you are pushing it way too far, I suppose!]

Speaking in an angered voice was Beatrice, who had been silently awaiting Subaru’s signal in her collapsed state.

Having patiently endured, she now poured the feelings of wanting to rush forth, which she had withstood from the moment when Subaru had his arm broken, into the amethyst crystals, and shot them into Sphinx, who had perpetrated that deed.

Sphinx: [――――]

The situation had hectically moved to turn the tables.

The attack of the Sphinxes, who had been restraining Subaru and Spica, had ended in failure.

The one who had been a hindrance on Subaru’s side was Beatrice, but the one who had been a hindrance on Spica’s side was none other than Sphinx herself.

――When Spica had teleported, she had intercepted the line of fire of the Sphinx who had fired her magic at Abel, and had made the heat ray of light shoot down the Sphinx who was restraining her.

Sphinx: [This is――]

Subject to an undesired friendly fire, the one remaining Sphinx widened her eyes.

One was shot down and terminated by her own magic, and another was crystallized into an amethyst statue by a magic arrow.

Still, this was about all that could be done with a surprise attack.

Sphinx: [I do not think that the final person will also stand back up.]

Subaru, with his arm broken, Spica, who had been restrained, and Beatrice, who had been thought to have been unconscious, had attempted a counterattack. But unfortunately, Jamal, who had been thoroughly beaten down, did not stand up.

Ascertaining that, the final remaining Sphinx quickly readied both of her hands, produced ten swords of light from each set of five fingers, and this time, she attempted to mince up Subaru and his friends for sure.

Because of that, she did not even realize that she had taken her eyes off of the one person whom she absolutely should not have taken her eyes off of.

Vincent: [――Come forth, Yang Sword Vollachia.]

A quiet, yet dignified voice, one reliable to an aggravating extent, sounded upon Subaru’s eardrums.

No matter the tumult, no matter how many people were present, no matter how harsh a battle was unfolding on the battlefield, that man’s voice would always unquestionably reach its desired target.

That was the kingly caliber of the one who stood atop all others, shouldering the destiny of guiding their way.

As if to prove that, dazzling the eyes of all those present, providing a red illumination was――,

Sphinx: [――I thought you were not supposed to have that in your possession.]

Vincent: [Fool. ――Never once have I said that I had relinquished the Yang Sword or any act of the like.]

Only, the treasured blade of crimson which he had not drawn once, no matter what hardship had stood in his path, merely for the purpose of drawing closer the opportunity for victory in this moment, he now drew out from the sheath of the sky.

And then――,

Subaru: [This battle of trickery, is our win.]

Vincent: [The stratagems of my two strategists. ――You have underestimated them.]

Bearing the pain, Subaru took pride in their victory, and Abel took pride in the victory of the capabilities of the strategist who was not present here, the one who had devised the plan that had made even the Witch firmly believe that Abel had lost his trump card.

――The next moment, with Yang Sword in hand, Abel kicked off the ground, and leapt.

That was the dash of one who possessed definite strength, incomparable to the Abel up until this point. As the owner chosen by the Yang Sword itself, he was propelled to a dimension befitting that status.

To be precise, as if the world was being illuminated by sunlight, Abel forcefully raised the treasured sword overhead――,

Vincent: [――The Yang Sword cuts what I decide to cut, burns what I decide to burn.]

Sphinx: [――――]

The flash of crimson ran diagonally, and without any resistance, it burned away Sphinx’s ten white lights that had immediately tried to intercept Abel.

It was illogical for light to burst into flames, but the supernatural power that could make one believe it was natural was contained within the Yang Sword’s radiance, and therefore the following conclusion was inevitable.

Sphinx: [――ah.]

And, leaking out a hoarse breath, Sphinx, having taken a great leap backwards, looked down at herself.

The Witch had fallen back with agile movements; however, one tuft of her pink hair had been cut by the flash of the Yang Sword―― that instant, Sphinx’s whole body ignited.

And, that was not just the Sphinx who had been cut; the fire also spread to the Sphinx whom she herself had shot and reduced to dust, as well as the Sphinx who had been turning into an amethyst crystal.

――The Yang Sword Vollachia had decided to burn the Witch, Sphinx, to naught.

The result of that, was the burning figures of the Sphinxes.

Sphinx: [――――]

Enveloped in a blaze, it probably would have been best to keep vigilance over Sphinx as she struggled in vain before she was reduced to ashes, but――,

Vincent: [‘Tis unnecessary. Being scorched by the flame of the Yang Sword, is precisely that sort of thing.]

Subaru: […I see. I’m beginning to doubt your nerve for keeping that hidden until the eleventh hour.]

With the Yang Sword lowered in one hand, Abel indicated that Subaru’s caution was a needless fear. Subaru talked back with some bad-mouthing, but he did not respond.

Only, being scorched in a rising blaze, he trained his gaze upon Sphinx, present amidst a flame that would reach even her soul.

Staring at her, Abel―― nay, Vincent Vollachia, spoke.

Vincent: [The proposal for this occasion. ――It was a great service, Chisha Gold.]

8 thoughts on “Arc 8, Chapter 59 – “Sphinx””

  1. Man, it’s quite disappointing to see Subaru kill himself off repeatedly like this after Arc 4. I know it’s because Subaru has turned smol but it still doesn’t feel right. I wonder what Stella thinks of it, I’m sure she doesn’t like it either

    1. I know it hurts to see him killing himself to use RBD; still, even with pessimistic assumptions, the situation is such that victory ain’t guaranteed even with RBD usage.
      That’s some Great Disaster for you.

      If he does the slightest error, everybody dies. That is the situation he is in. If the checkpoint is updated in a wrong situation, game over. He has to be very careful, and he hasn’t crazy high IQ like Vincent or Chisha, his physical capabilities regressed.

      Satella would be ofc mad, but I’m with Subaru on this one. She only wants him alive. He wants everybody alive. Thus, he has to use RBD that way, even if he doesn’t want to.

  2. Vincent: What’s the meaning of this ?!
    Sphinx: Explanation required I’m scared.
    Spica:
    Subaru: bububububu :u

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