Chapter 24


...As the beginning of the banquet approached, the tension increased.

???: "..."

There was no conversation in the waiting room where the five of them had gathered, and it was quiet. Nobody could utter a word, neither Abel, who was concentrating, nor Subaru. Even Flop was silent, so the weight of the atmosphere was overwhelming.

They’ve made it this far, so there was nothing to worry about. Or, at least, they should be able to think that way, but human beings are not so simple. No matter how good the crossdressing was, the tension grew as the main event was about to happen. Despite how loudly his heart screamed, and how much the cold sweat wetted his back, Subaru could not stop the flow of time, and the time he didn’t want to arrive would come soon.

Soldier: "The banquet is ready. It's time for you to go."

A soldier on guard duty called out, and the tense moment came to an end. Looking at each other, Subaru and the others picked up their instruments and followed the soldier leading the way out of the waiting room. They underwent a quick physical examination, but Subaru and the others, wearing only light clothing, had no room to carry concealed weapons. They passed the inspection, receiving curious and perverted looks, and were ushered into the banquet room. Only...

Talitha: "...Tch."

Subaru: "Talitha-san?"

Subaru raised an eyebrow at Talitha's stiff cheeks and heavy gait. Although he whispered so that the soldiers leading her would not hear him, his voice definitely reached Talitha, but she did not respond. From the look in her eyes, it was easy to see her mental state.

The extreme tension in her body was strong and overwhelming. Leaving her familiar village, not being able to rely on her sister, who was the chief of the tribe, and going into the middle of the enemy lines almost unarmed, may have put her under a lot of stress. Her breathing was rough, and she looked like she was about to collapse. Subaru tried to cheer her up, but he couldn't think of what to say.

It would be easy to say comforting words like "don't worry" or "leave it to me”. He wondered if that would soothe Talitha's spirit now. So, while Subaru was unable to take a step forward due to his inner hesitation...

Abel: “...Talitha."

Talitha: "..."

Abel: "There's nothing to worry about. Just look at me."

It was a voice that sounded terribly arrogant and pompous, but full of absolute confidence. The words were baseless, no different from the comforting words Subaru had thought just before. However, the effect of those easy words of comfort was tremendous.

Letting out a faint breath, Talitha blinked her eyes. She had forgotten to breathe, and the color in her face was almost gone, but she was brought back to her senses. It was a voice that contained simple words, but it held the power to strongly affect the hearts of others.

The haves will instantly outstrip the hard work of the have-nots. He was made painfully aware of this many times, but now he was able to see it clearly.

Subaru: "Guess I’m not angry anymore."

Subaru muttered to himself as a consolation. But he soon realized that not only had Talitha's nerves been relaxed, but his own as well, as he bent his lips. Of course he wasn’t going to tell him that though. And then...

???: "Welcome. I heard that you guys are going to perform a great song and dance."

In the hall where the banquet was being prepared, Subaru and the others were greeted by nearly thirty strong men. They were told that no ordinary soldiers would be allowed to enter the banquet hall today, so the people here must be the so-called commissioned officers. In the midst of all these generals, a man sitting in a chair at the far end called out to the troupe.

Subaru: "...Is that Zikr Osman, Second Class General?"

After Subaru muttered under his breath, he glanced sideways at Abel, the Dancing Princess of the group, whose face was hidden by a veil, who pulled his chin slightly and affirmed Subaru's question. In response to the affirmation, Subaru looked at the other party again and frowned with a well-formed eyebrow.

Zikr Osman, the commander of the Imperial Guard stationed in the fortified city of Guaral. As a Second Class General of the Empire, he was expected to be a strong warrior, but his appearance betrayed Subaru's imagination in more than one way.

First of all, he was short. He looked about half a head shorter than Subaru, who was by no means a tall man. He was almost as tall as Kuna would be standing straight. Of course, there was also Garfiel, who is short but strong, so physique is not a reason to underestimate him. However, he didn't look like a strong man either.

The most striking thing about him was his distinctive, puffy haircut. If he had to describe it in words, he would say it was an afro, but just the fact that it was on top of a small man's head gave him a sort of mascot-like charm. Subaru had been told beforehand that Zikr was a military strategist. He certainly didn't look like the type to make a military career out of sword prowess.

Zikr: "Now we have a tricky problem. We've been holed up in the city, feeling more and more depressed by the day. That's why we've set up this feast. You know what your roles are, don't you?"

Subaru: "...Yes, sir. We are extremely honored to be invited."

Subaru kneeled before Zikr, who had thrown an exaggerated remark with his chin resting on the armrest. Flop, Talitha, and Kuna followed, but Abel, who stood at the end of the line, didn’t kneel. For a moment, Zikr's gaze narrowed, and a sense of anxiety spread through the generals. Sure enough, one of the soldiers with a cup of sake at his feet stood up and glared at Abel.

Soldier: "Why don't you kneel? You know you're in front of the Second Class General..."

Zikr: "Wait. Don't get so uptight. This place was opened for drinking and feasting. What we want from those who make their living in the arts is not etiquette, but unrelenting comfort."

Soldier: "Mh… If you say so, General..."

It was Zikr, of all people, who rebuked the soldier who was bothering Abel. The soldier reluctantly sat down in response to his generous attitude. All the while, Abel kept his face hidden under his veil and did not show any sign of wincing.

Zikr: "You don't even falter in the face of a warrior's spirit? You seem to have a lot of confidence in your dance. But your first impression was not good. I expect you to overturn it."

Subaru: "Thank you for your generosity… But please do not worry."

Zikr, who had a curious view of Abel's arrogance, replied to Subaru as he knelt down, "Hm?" while raising his eyebrows in interest. It hurt to think about the rest, but this was the opportunity Subaru had been given. He was going to make the most of it and would let Zikr taste complete defeat.

Subaru: "I am pleased to present to you a beautiful dancer from beyond the great waterfall. With her lustrous black hair that swallows up the sunlight, her beautiful white skin blessed by the spirits, and her supreme beauty as if she were a celestial being, she will be dancing grandly tonight."

As he stood up, Subaru laid out his opening words. As if to prove that his overly exaggerated preamble was not a bluff, the veil that hid Abel's face was slowly lifted. As soon as the veil revealed that enamoring visage, all the people present gasped in unison at the haughtiness of the Dancing Princess.

Zikr: "..."

In particular, the shock of Zikr, who had gotten lost in Abel’s gaze, was huge. As he had shown a tolerant stance towards them from the start, perhaps he had already been prepared to deal with the situation magnanimously, or perhaps he had received a shock tantamount of being blindsided. It was as if he had literally forgotten to breathe and speak.

Subaru: "...Please, if you could give us the opportunity to perform the dance of our Dancing Princess."

Subaru hung his head down out of politeness as he propositioned to Zikr. Likewise, Flop bowed his head and raised his respective instrument to ask for permission to begin the feast. In response, Zikr nodded his head, prompting Subaru to exchange a glance with Flop. They then nodded to each other, signaling that they were ready, and began to play.

Subaru: "Tonight, I present to you the Dance from beyond the Great Waterfall, home of our Dancing Princess. Please enjoy this dance from the ends of the world to your heart's content."

The end of the Great Waterfall was an exaggerated expression. However, it was not a lie in the sense that it was an unknown dance to the Imperial soldiers. Both the song and the dance were brought not from this world, but from Subaru’s. Of course, they were arranged accordingly, but since the basis of the dances were different, the dances alone were enough to attract the attention of the audience. However...

???: "..."

He was a Dancing Princess who charmed others with his beauty and fluid dancing, so he probably didn't even need the help of an exotic song and dance from another world.

???: "..."

There are appetizers to be severed with drinks, which are not just food to be served with drinks, but any entertainment that promotes drinking. Naturally, sideshows are also included, the dances are called appetizing dances, and they are very much an appetizer for drinking... but they hardly have this much of an effect.

The dances of the Dancing Princess dazzled the soldiers, burned their throat, and made their souls thirsty for sake. They naturally tipped their cups more frequently and quickly, while their cheeks turned red all over. Second Class General Zikr, who was trying to heal the numbness in his cerebellum, was the primary one who sipped wine at a particularly fast pace.

With his judgment was robbed by the sake and the dance, he made mistakes that he would not normally make. For example, the unprecedented mistake of giving in to his desire to see a sword dance, which resulted in handing over his own sword, per the Dancing Princess’ request.

Abel: "You've lost, Zikr Osman."

Therefore, even with the tip of the sword pointed at his neck, and the unquestionable voice of a man coming from the mouth of the Dancing Princess, the eyes of the Womanizer, Zikr Osman could not escape from this euphoria.

△ ▼ △ ▼ △ ▼ △

…“We did it" Subaru shouted inwardly, now that victory had been secured.

The sword in Abel's hand was in a position to easily pierce Zikr's throat. Zikr, who had fallen on the ground and exposed his neck, had no chance to fight back. Without a doubt the enemy commander had been seized successfully. And they had done it at the right time, earlier than they had originally planned.

Originally, Subaru's plan was to make a name for themselves in the city as a traveling troupe and infiltrate Zikr Osman's bosom. Ideally, they would then be summoned to Zikr's bedchamber, where they would be able to catch him off guard, take him into custody, and force the Imperial soldiers stationed in Guaral to surrender. That premise had been overturned by the holding of this banquet.

Abel: "...At the banquet, we will neutralize all the remaining generals in the city."

These were the words of Abel, who announced the change in strategy when they were called to the banquet. Subaru agreed to change the plan on the condition that they would switch back to the original one depending on the situation. He didn't expect it to work out this well.

Zikr: "..."

Abel: "I’ll say it again, Zikr Osman. You have lost. Surrender now and have your men disarm. Otherwise, your cup will be not filled with wine, but with blood."

Abel, holding his sword to the motionless Zikr, advised him to surrender once again. But there was no fear in Zikr's eyes, even though his life was being threatened. Those were not the eyes of a determined Imperial soldier. Rather, there was hesitation in his eyes. Hesitation, doubt, and other similar emotions.

Zikr: "Dancer, you… No, you’re..."

The hesitation manifests itself in Zikr's eyes as if he has seen something awe-inspiring. It didn’t seem like the reaction of a man in front of a mere dancer.

General: "...! Oh, you bandits! You've got no right to...!

One of the dumbfounded generals came to his senses and immediately tried to jump Abel. But, faster than they could reach for Abel's back, their arms and legs were pierced by the thrown knives. ...Blades thrown by a concealed Kuna.

Kuna: "I'm sorry, but the Chief told me to protect Abel's face."

Having a tambourine-like instrument in her hand, she had secretly sneaked a knife in it during Abel's dance. The generals hesitated at the sight of the fallen soldier, his limbs shot out by the blade. However, there was one shadow that dodged Kuna's blade and jumped out of the way.

???: "Stop joking! Do you think you can stop the Imperial military with something like this?”

The howling bearded giant caught an additional throwing knife with his arm and brushed it away. He then pulled out his own greatsword and flew straight at Abel, with a desire for blood.

Subaru: "Abel..!"

Abel who had captured Zikr, was showing his stick-like back. Subaru screamed Abel’s name, but the Dancing Princess didn’t even blink.

As it was, a large sword is swung down at Abel's back...

Talitha: "...Kuh!"

At the same moment, Talitha gritted her teeth and aimed at the man, taking a bow from one of the soldiers. She drew her arrow and aimed it at the bearded giant, who was coming closer at Abel. Talitha's green eyes lit up with murderous intent. She was ready to take the man's life in order to save Abel and stop the assault.

Flop: "You can't kill him!!!!"

Talitha: "..Tch!"

But just before the arrow was released, Flop shouted in a panic. Hearing this, Talitha's eyes hesitated, and the arrow's aim blurred slightly. Then, the arrow pierced not into the man's back, but into his right shoulder.

Bearded General: "Gah!"

The man screamed in agony and turned over after the tremendous impact. But the greatsword in his hand couldn't kill it’s momentum, and it spun around and headed for Abel's back. It seemed as if the sword would smash Abel's head from behind. However, the tip of the sword narrowly grazed the back of his head and fell to the floor with a violent thud. Abel almost lost his life, but he escaped disaster just in the nick of time. And then...

Abel: "....Ah!"

With a flutter, Abel's braided black hair was undone and spread. The tip of the big sword sliced through the hair clip, untying the knot. ...No, it didn't stop there. The frayed wig lost its function, and the fake black hair fell to the floor. The Daning Princess' long hair was replaced by Abel's own black hair.

...The ruthless emperor, who, along with the hair clip, had shorn off the soft impression of the Dancing Princess.

Bearded General: "Second Class General! It's our opportunity to get these guys now...!"

Zikr: "...Stop! Do not disobey me!"

While the soldier whose limbs have been pierced by knives and the one who got shot in the right shoulder by an arrow groaned, Zikr silenced the appeals of the generals who were still trying to resist. If they recklessly stood their ground, regardless of how many fall, they would be crushed at once by Subaru's forces. And that was the counterattack they most wanted to avoid. However, Zikr would not let his subordinates fight on. He understood that now that he himself has been pinned down, and his subordinate generals also had their movements suppressed. and the outcome has already been determined. So…

Zikr: "If I do as you say, can you guarantee the lives of my men?"

Abel: "That also depends on your attitude, coward."

Zikr: "Co….tch."

Zikr showed his willingness to accept the recommendation to surrender while reddening and biting his lip as he was abused by the relentless Abel. That was the face of a man who had experienced humiliation beyond having been caught in a plot against him and having his person captured. Abel snorted, looking down at Zikr's humiliation.

Abel: "I heard about you, Zikr Osman. Before you were called a Womanizer, you were called a coward."

Zikr: "... An unbecoming epithet for an Imperial soldier. Is that why you chose such a strategy?"

Abel: "..."

Zikr: "If I were a womanizer and a coward, I would surrender to a woman at the point of a sword..."

If so, what a humiliation that would be. Or, if that was the case, Zikr would have died of humiliation. But the reason why Abel had deemed it feasible was different from the reason Subaru and the others had heard. It was because...

Abel: "He is a strategist who, through his skillful and steady use of troops, has achieved few notable results in battle, but has also caused little casualties to his allies. He is an excellent commander, but lacks aggressiveness. Hence, a coward."

Zikr: "Yes, that's right, too. I am, but..."

Abel: "What are you confused about?"

Zikr: "Eh?"

Zikr's eyes widened as Abel narrowed his eyes and asked that question. As it was, with confusion plastered on his face, Abel continued with his sword in his hand.

Abel: "When others denigrate you as a coward, they are either pretending to see the results, or else those are the rantings of a fool who cannot see the results. I made use of that nature to win."

Zikr: "...."

Abel: "You abhor useless casualties. So, I decided that you, a coward and a military strategist, would not resist in this situation. ...Are you going to disappoint me?"

Abel asked Zikr, keeping his gaze sharp and the blade against his neck. To someone who didn't know Abel's true identity, that would seem like a rant that would make one wonder what the hell he was talking about.

He trusted his opponent's cowardice and incorporated it into his plan to win. There is no certainty that he would not upset his opponent by telling such things bluntly. Rather, it was as if he was deliberately trying to provoke his opponent's anger, it was really a statement that could make things worse.

Even when he was dressed as a woman, he was incapable of any kind of humility. But in front of Abel, Zikr Osman gasped. What came to his eyes was a feeling that was hard to describe... if he had to put it into words, it would be a surprise that was close to excitement.

It seemed to be a fresh and new reaction, like a maiden receiving something from the person she loves.

Zikr: "We’ll disarm ourselves. I’ll give strict orders to my subordinates to do so."

Abel: "That's a wise decision."

Abel quietly pulled his chin back in response to Zikr's quiet, head-down answer. Even though he was dressed like a dancer, no one could resist his dignified nod of the head. As Zikr, their commander, surrendered, the Imperial soldiers dropped their weapons one after another. And...

Abel: "What are you doing fooling around? Go up and burn the flag on the roof."

Subaru: "What? Me?"

Abel: "Yes you. You're the only one who hasn't done a single thing since things started to proceed."

Abel's cold eyes pierced Subaru, who pointed at himself and blinked. As he said this, Subaru looked around the hall.

Kuna, who blocked the enemy with a throwing knife, Talitha, who shot the giant, Flop, who did not let the giant be killed, and Abel, who disarmed the general. Indeed the only one who hadn't done anything was Subaru, who had fallen on his butt when the giant tried to assault them.

Abel: "Get a move on, I won’t even be able to disarm them without Mizelda and the others."

Subaru: "Okay, I understand! Yeah, yeah, I'm sorry!"

Saying this, Subaru headed for the balcony, crawling carefully up to the rooftop. The rooftop of the City Hall, overlooking Guaral at night, was absolutely spectacular. Then, bathed in a cold breeze, Subaru retrieved a torch from the wall, ignited the flag of the empire on the roof of the city hall - the flag of the Sword Wolf- and set it ablaze.

...Here, that was the proof that the fall of the fortified city of Guaral had been achieved.

△ ▼ △ ▼ △ ▼ △

The first person to notice something strange was Jamal, who was paying attention to the city hall.

Jamal glanced around, being mindful of the person he had left behind in the building. Todd, who had grown tired of his naive attitude, continued the patrol of the city. As a city with a certain amount of history, there was no end to the ways to get past the walls, which were a powerful barrier. There were also smuggling schemes like underground passages in private houses or holes used by children to pass through. While accurately uncovering these, Todd raised his guard against a possible attack.

Todd: "It's not like they're going to back off. If that's the case, they'll definitely try to bring down the city. They could use some secret path and take over City Hall all at once, or set the city on fire... Hmm... are there other means?"

If it was simply to make the city fall, he could think of many ways to slaughter both soldiers and citizens without distinction. For that matter, people would die if they were buried in fire, water, or soil. If they chose the right means, they could be as cruel as they wanted to.

He wondered what kind of brutal methods the black-haired boy would use. At first glance, that may seem not to be his forte, but the fact that he does it so well made it all the more frightening.

No matter how hard he tried to crush them, there still seemed to be some undiscovered paths. So even if he had a hole in his stomach, Todd wouldn't have been able to sleep in his quarters.

Todd: "They're all so rude and sketchy..."

Not all of them were of Jamal's caliber, but many of them had an inability to pay attention to details. Todd didn't think he was brilliant or clever, but if he's aware of his own stupidity and shortcomings, there are plenty of ways to fill in the gaps. He didn’t know how people could live their lives without questioning their stupidity.

Every single human being is an idiot and should do the best they can to compensate for it.

Jamal: "...Ah?"

While thinking about this, Todd was about to go into the next private house, when he suddenly stopped at the surprised voice raised by Jamal behind him. He stopped and looked at Jamal, who was looking at City Hall in the distance, with an expression of disbelief on his face. Todd frowned, wondering what was going on.

Jamal: "Oh, come on, is this some kind of joke?"

Todd: "What's up, Jamal? What's happening at the..."

Shit, he almost said. Standing beside Jamal, Todd also looked in the same direction. He was sure the city hall was having a banquet at the moment, with the dancers they've invited providing entertainment and comfort to the generals. So it was not surprising that some of them would get a little carried away and make fools of themselves. It wouldn’t be strange, but...

Todd: "No way!"

No matter what, burning the flag of the Empire on top of City Hall is unacceptable. The barbaric act was so beyond the realm of rudeness that even Todd was taken aback. The flag, burned by flames and fluttered in the hot wind, swayed and burned, lighting up the night sky with a red glow. And right beside the burning flag he saw the figure of a woman he already met in the city hall.

A musician with rich black hair and sharp eyes. He believed her name was...

Todd: "...Natsumi Schwartz."

That's what she said when he asked for her name. A weak woman who had become small and frightened when Jamal had crowded her. However, he could clearly see that she was burning the Imperial flag with a torch in her hand. There was no sign of the weakness he had encountered before in the city hall.

It couldn't have been a drunken act of violence for sure. That was undoubtedly an attack on the Empire. And if the flag of the base was burned, it meant that the place had fallen into the hands of the enemy. Just as he was thinking about it, a possibility suddenly surfaced in Todd's mind.

Todd: "No way, is it you?"

With his eyes wide open, Todd studied the dark-haired woman with the torch in her hand, Natsumi Schwartz, and was struck by the minuscule possibility that had sprung up within him.

But the more he thought about it, the more it matched, and the more he looked at it, the more it diverged.

But that's why the effect was so extraordinary.

Who in the world would think of doing something like this? Of such a method to break through the enemy's guard from the front and bring down their base of operations?

Todd: “I thought it was impossible. I can’t believe they tried to sneak through the front gate.

Who could possibly use such a life-threatening approach? Of course, the possibility of hiding behind cargo or inside dragon carts had been carefully considered, and the checkpoints had been reinforced. However, an intrusion on foot, in a way that would attract attention, was unexpected. Even so, the first infiltration had strengthened their vigilance. On top of that, it would be a natural response to opt for a more stealthy approach....

Jamal: "You don't think that was just a setup, do you? Did they deliberately find us and instill in us the preconceived notion that a frontal breakthrough was impossible?"

And then he managed to get into the city, was invited to the hall as a dancer, brought down the city hall, and burned the Imperial flag. ...Natsumi Schwartz, just as he had intended.

Todd: "... This is bad".

What a meticulous plan, he thought, a chill running down his spine. He thought he had done everything in his power to have the upper hand, but on the other side the poster child of war, easily surpassed and ridiculed him. Todd was surprised to find himself shuddering.

Jamal: "Shit! What the hell is going on here! Anyway, we have to go back to city hall..."

Todd: "Idiot, stop. You're going to die, too."

Jamal: "Oh?"

Unlike Todd, Jamal was unaware of the identity of the person who burned the Imperial flag. Due to the distance, his eyes couldn't see any details on the roof of the city hall. Todd could see it only because of his special eyes. And it was because he could see that he was holding Jamal back.

Now that the Imperial flag at their base has been burned, the fall of the city was decided. Probably by now, all the generals who participated in the feast, including Zikr, were already killed. Even if they were to go back in, they would probably end up being defeated

Jamal: "You're freaking out, aren't you? And you still think of yourself as an Imperial soldier, huh?

Todd: "You can't win and stay alive by being proud. Besides, you know that City Hall has been taken; the Second Class General is dead. The Shudrak will be in the city before long."

Jamal: "...."

Todd: "If we don't get out of here before that happens, we won't have any other choice but to die too."

Jamal was not that kind of person to accept the humiliation of disarming himself quietly. The alternative would be to jump into the enemy ranks with his weapon in his hand, wield his bravery, take out about ten people, and then die. It could be said that this is exactly how a Sword Wolf dies, but from Todd's point of view, it's as good as a dog's death.

Life is like a finite hand of cards. It is justified to use it for victory, but it is a waste to use it for a regretful defeat. Jamal and Todd have known each other for a while. It would not be strange to think that they have enough of a relationship to advise each other on this. Probably.

Todd: "You see that hole in the wall that I just plugged? I'm going to run through it. What about you?"

Jamal: "Gu, gu…. you want me to feel humiliated again?"

Todd: "If you're alive, you'll get a chance to rinse your shame off. But if you die, that's the end. So, I'm going. I won't get into a fight I don't think I can win."

He really didn't want to get into a fight with a low chance of winning, let alone one where they have a one-hundred percent chance of losing, but he didn't have time to argue with Jamal about the details. He quickly turned his back to him and started to run, Jamal hesitated for a moment before shouting, "Damn it!” then cursed and followed behind Todd.

It would be nice if everyone were as simple as him, but the world doesn't work that way. In any case...

Todd: "I guess I'll remember you as Natsumi for now. ...You poster child of war."

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As soon as they realized that the Imperial flag had been burned and the city hall had fallen, the Imperial soldiers unexpectedly obeyed the call for surrender. The same was true for the guards protecting the city, which was a great help to Subaru, whose goal was to seize the city without bloodshed, but this was also a surprising development.

Subaru: "I've always thought it was strange that when I watched battles of the Sengoku period in historical dramas, the battle ends when the head of the other side's general is taken off..."

TL Note: The Sengoku period was a period of near-constant civil war in Japan occurring from 1467-1616.

If the general is killed, the next person in charge becomes the general and the battle continues. In layman's terms, one would think that the battle would not end until one side was annihilated or in shambles, but this was not the case in this actual battle. That's because the Imperial Army, which should be overwhelmingly superior in strength, agreed to disarm as soon as they found out that their commander, Zikr, had been apprehended.

Mizelda: "Well, that was quite a feat, Subaru... Natsumi."

Subaru: "Mizelda-san."

Subaru patted his fake chest at the results of the battle and the success of the operation, and then he was approached by Mizelda, who was happily slurping down alcohol directly from a bottle.

The girls, who had been hiding outside the city as a detachment, also entered the city when they realized that the city hall had fallen, signaled by the burning of the Imperial flag. As well, the guards also knew that the Imperial soldiers had been defeated and did not try to stop them from proudly marching into the city. Thanks to Shudrak's help, they succeeded in capturing most of the Imperial soldiers.

In the hall where the feast had been held, the drinks and food had been cleared away, and in their place, the bound Imperial soldiers were lined up in a row. It would have been a shame to throw everything away Subaru thought. Mizelda and the others were sipping their drinks, but doing so made them look more like barbarians who were willing to loot.

Subaru: "But with this many people… It would’ve been tough to go head-to-head."

Mizelda: "No matter how many enemies we have, the pride of Shudrak will not falter. There is no such thing as too many enemies... And yes, simple numbers can be insurmountable. But you and Abel have defeated them."

Subaru: "...."

Mizelda: "I'm proud of you, Natsumi. You have shown courage through wisdom. We could not have done this."

With a vigorous pat on the shoulder from Subaru, Mizelda left him with a handsome smile. She then stood up and headed over to congratulate Talitha and Kuna for their contribution to the fall of the City Hall. Even from a distance, the sight of Talitha's eyes shining from her sister's praise made Subaru smile. Kuna was hugged by Holly, who confirmed that she was safe, making her look like a rolled mackerel.

Subaru: "At this rate, Kuna is going to be crushed to death..."

???: "...."

With a sense of relief, Subaru let out a small smile. Then, as he turned around, he almost collided with the person standing right behind him. That other person was...

Subaru: "Re, Rem..."

Rem: "...Yes."

Staring up at him from a close distance, Subaru couldn’t help but step back. Rem, who was holding a wooden cane, looked at Subaru from top to bottom with her pale blue eyes. Feeling uncomfortable under her gaze, Subaru cleared his throat and said,

Subaru: "What's the matter? I'm fine, you know."

Rem: "Yes, I see that. But I had a feeling that even if you were injured somewhere, you'd hide it and say the same thing."

Subaru: "You really don’t put any trust in me... But I'm not very good with pain either, so I'll report even the slightest injury right away. Really, I mean it."

Rem: "That sounds suspicious, too."

Subaru: "Tch ha ha..."

Subaru's shoulders slumped under the untrustworthy gaze of Rem. But then he quickly turned his head in realization. “Huh?” Subaru uttered. She may have been a bit curt, but she was probably worried about whether Subaru was injured or not.

Subaru: "You're worried about me, aren't you?"

Rem: "Huh?"

Subaru: "Oh! I'm sorry! I got carried away! Of course you weren’t! It can’t be that Rem is worried about me..."

Rem: "Yes, I was."

Subaru: "Huh?"

Waving his hands in the air, Subaru hurriedly tried to correct his misunderstanding. But he was interrupted by Rem's words. Rem's expression did not change, but the color of her eyes wavered slightly.

Rem: "I said, I was worried. Of course I was. No matter how much of a joke the plan was, I was the one who made you do it. And yet how could I not be worried? How in the world do you think I could be such a heartless person?"

Subaru: "No, no, no, it's not that, I don't think Rem is heartless! I really don’t! Rem is affectionate, a bit presumptuous, and a bit reserved before she gets to know someone, but that difference is also very attractive..."

Rem: "..."

Subaru: "Rem, don’t tell me you’re impressed...?"

Rem: "No, I simply thought it was weird."

"Ugh!" And with just a simple statement, Subaru's fake chest was pierced. Rem gave an annoyed sigh as Subaru backed away, holding his fake chest in pain. She then took a step toward Subaru.

Rem: "Just so you know, no matter what you said or did, you managed to do it. Really, you managed to bring this city down. And that's without causing any deaths."

Subaru: "... If only we kept the bloodless part, I hoped that no one would get hurt if possible. But I wonder if that was too much to ask."

Rem: "I wonder about that. However, if it's with Abel-san, then you may be able to pull it off… Why are you looking at me like that?”

Subaru: "...It's nothing, nothing, nothing, okay?"

Rem raised an eyebrow at Subaru's sullen face. In fact, she had a good point. Without Abel's help, this plan would not have been possible, and it is true that he is a man of terrifying wisdom. Still, hearing Rem's words of praise for another man from her mouth made his heart squirm.

Subaru: "Even with these fake breasts, there's still something to feel, isn't there...?"

Rem: "I feel like you’re talking about something stupid again..."

When Rem started staring at him, Subaru waved his hands and said, "No, no, no," to cover it up. If he told Rem about his current jealousy, she would probably just feel weird about it. It was unavoidable, but it nevertheless hurt. One-sided affection is painful.

Subaru: "No, in this case, it’s just a reflex…...? Though they are passable compared to Emilia-tan’s, nevertheless they still feel like the real deal, don't you think......"

Medium: "Oh! Natsumi-chan, you're here! I heard you guys did great, congratulations!"

Subaru: "Ah, Medium-san."

Medium ran into the room with a loud voice and sluggish footsteps. Subaru recoiled at the sudden approach of the taller woman, but his step back was meaningless as she fills the distance between them by leaning forward. Medium had a big smile on her face, and she had two girls, Utakata and Louis, on her shoulders. She then looked happily at the soldiers in the hall.

Medium: "These people were all captured by Natsumi-chan and the others, weren't they? I'm so surprised! So, so, where's sis? Did she do her best?"

Subaru: "Sis? Ah, yes. Flora is..."

Flop: "...I'm here, sister!"

Medium: "Oh!"

Medium's round eyes widened even more when she saw Flop appear in the hall, a beautiful man who had accompanied her and whom she had become accustomed to seeing for so long. He quickly asserted his presence with a single loud clap of his shoes.

Medium: "An-chan! Isn’t it An-chan! I knew it, An-chan is not my sister, and the sister I thought was my sister is An-chan!?"

Flop: "Hahaha, I have no idea what you're talking about, little sister! But no matter what, I'm still here. So whether I'm your brother or your sister, it doesn't matter!"

Medium: "That's true too! Then maybe I'm not a sister, but a brother! I’m so big after all!"

Flop: "Younger sister or younger brother, older brother or older sister, we're still family!"

The conversation between the O'Connell siblings was peculiar, but it kept its unique tempo until it was settled. The laughing Flop hugged Medium's waist, and Medium, with the girls on both shoulders, began to spin around in circles as he did. As a result, both of Flop's legs floated up and a grand spin began, as the happy laughter of the siblings and children echoed in the hall.

Subaru: "Surreal, isn't it...?"

Rem: "I'm sure Medium-san was worried about Flop-san too... So, how long are you going to stay dressed like that? The rest of your life?”

Subaru: "The rest of my life is an exaggeration, my dear! No matter how cute I am, this is only a temporary appearance… And I'm destined to have to go back to normal eventually."

Rem: "Does that mean you'll still be dressed like that?"

Subaru: "I just happen to not have time to change right now!"

Subaru wasn't mentally tough enough to endure such suspicions, or to put it another way, how Rem looked at him like he was a pervert.

In fact, the only reason he was still dressed in women's clothing was that he had been busy with minor tasks such as burning the Imperial flag and welcoming the People of Shudrak who entered the city afterwards. The situation simply did not allow her to change into his Subaru clothes. It's not that he intended to stay as Natsumi Schwartz.

Subaru: "Isn’t that true?"

Rem: "Oh right. If you’re searching for Abel-san, he’s in the back room with the commander."

Subaru: "You're acting like you don't believe me!"

Pointing at Rem, who had given him a blank stare, Subaru turned and walked towards her. He'd like to celebrate the success of the bloodless siege with Rem and the others, but he could not just sit there with his hands up in the air and be overjoyed. After all, the fall of Guaral is only a checkpoint. They had to think about the future civil war that would shake the Empire, and what kind of position Subaru would maintain. To that end...

Subaru: "If you'll excuse me."

With that, Subaru pushed open the door to a separate room at the back of the hall. It was originally supposed to be a private, office-like room for the city manager, the master of the city hall, but now the master has been sent away, the replacement for the ruler was sitting on the chair. Originally, it was Zikr the Second Class General, but now, it's a more pompous man.

Abel: "...You. You're still dressed like that."

So said Abel, resting his cheek on hand as he snorted, who had already shed his dancer's costume and rolled up his sleeves into a more masculine attire. In front of him was the disheveled head of a kneeling Zikr, and there was no one else in the room.

Subaru: "Please do not mention my outfit. What's more, you are alone with the Second Class General without any guards? Do you want to throw your life away?"

Abel: "Of course, if he had any intention of resisting, I would have put my sword to him. But he has no such intention. Is that right, Zikr Osman."

Zikr: "...Yes. That is correct, Your Excellency."

Jerking his chin, Zikr called out to Abel when prompted to respond. The respectful manner in which he addressed His Excellency and his obvious superior was a sign that he judged Abel to be more than just a cross-dressing bandit. In other words, Zikr understood Abel's true identity, and because of that he was kneeling there.

Subaru: "Did you tell him?"

Abel: "I didn't have to. Apparently, this guy figured it out during the dance. No, I should say that after the dance, he understood in his head the right thing to do."

Subaru: "...?"

Subaru tilted his head, not understanding the meaning of those words. However, at Abel's observation, Zikr sank his head more deeply, as if to show further respect. The result is a valuable person who firmly recognizes and expresses respect for the fact that Abel is the Emperor, a fact that has not been felt very much up to this point.

Abel: "But it's convenient if you guessed without needing to reveal it. Zikr Osman, follow me. You will not be wronged."

Zikr: "Yes! If it’s for you, I, Zikr Osman, will risk my life!"

Subaru: "Wait, wait, wait, are you serious? You haven't heard anything about this yet, have you?"

Zikr made an immediate dedication to Abel, who asked for vassalage to him while sitting on the chair. It's convenient, but it's too good to be true. Zikr, however, shook his head in response to Subaru's question.

Zikr: "His Excellency is right in front of me, and he needs my aid. If so, it is my duty as a general of the Empire to respond to his request. Above all, I swear to be even more loyal to you than before."

Abel: "Oh, why? Were you so fascinated by my dance?"

Zikr: "It was very, very beautiful. But that is not all."

Zikr's heat was intense as Abel made a cold joke without even smiling. He pressed both fists to the floor, with strong and intense joy on his face.

Zikr: "I'm surprised that your lordship remembered my two names... that I cursed as nothing but a disgrace, and that you believed it after all."

Abel: "Of course. If you want to be the ruler of the Empire, you have to understand the land. The same is true for the subjects you serve. When you're a general, you never know when I'm going to use you as my own hand and foot. If I don't know my own hands and feet, do you think the Emperor's steps will be unimpeded?"

Zikr: "Absolutely not! That's why I'm truly honored!"

Zikr shuddered with indelible joy, and swore fervent loyalty to Abel. Honestly speaking, if you only look at the events, it's a too-good-to-be-true turn of events, but Zikr's profile was so uncanny that even Subaru could not find any room to doubt his inner feelings.

At the same time, Subaru was overwhelmed by the charisma of Abel's words, as well as his strong pride and conviction as the emperor that supported it.

He did not know how many generals there were in the empire, but even if Zikr was outstanding among them, would he be able to remember enough of every one of them to be confident that he could bring down the city regardless? Well, even if another general would’ve been in charge of the city, Abel seemed sure that he would have pulled the same result.

The Emperor, his Imperial opponent, knew him, knew his strengths and weaknesses, built his strategy, and defeated him. Perhaps it is like a high school baseball pitcher whose pitch gets hit for a home run by his favorite professional baseball player. But actual war is too disturbing to be compared to that. In any case...

Abel: "If Zikr Osman will follow, then the generals under him will also follow. Together with the fortified city, I can say that we have finally gathered a strong fighting force."

Zikr: "However, if we are going to stand against the rest of the country, we will inevitably lack strength. First of all, I think we should invite the reinforcements that are supposed to be sent from the Imperial Capital into the city and call for their surrender.

With the addition of allies who are familiar with the situation of the Empire and could formulate strategies, the discussion quickly turned into a full-fledged military one. Unlike Abel, who accepted it without resistance, Subaru had a great deal of resistance to the beginning of preparations for a full-scale war. Therefore, he would’ve liked to have a discussion with Abel before they started talking about something like that.

He wanted to discuss with Abel about what to do with himself and Rem after the fortified city was seized. But unfortunately, Subaru's proposal was not accepted. Because...

Abel: "Reinforcements from the Imperial Capital."

Abel muttered in response to Zikr's comment, and the air in the room trembled. In front of Subaru and the others, whose eyes were wide open at the sight of Abel as he stood up from his chair with great vigor and walked back to the hall. And then...

Abel: "...Close the main gate of the city right now! Do not let anyone enter, messenger or not!"

Everyone in the hall was startled by Abel's shouting. Of course, as Subaru and Zikr, who had been talking with him just before did not understand, Mizelda and the others could not understand Abel's true intentions either. However, Abel's urgent look was enough for them to know that this was no ordinary matter.

Mizelda: "Talitha, go tell them to close the main gate."

Talitha: "Oh, sister, what the hell is....?"

Mizelda: "..Go! Don't disgrace the name of Shudrak!"

Mizelda's voice struck Talitha, who hesitated at such a fierce tone. Talitha's eyes widened at the sound of her voice which even sounded murderous, and she promptly rushed out of the hall. As it was, Talitha would order the guards to close the main gate. With that, Abel's instructions would be fulfilled, but...

Flop: "Chief-kun, what is going on? It's rare to see you change your expression."

Abel: "Now is not the time for your nonsense, merchant. Zikr Osman, persuade the generals, Mizelda, you are..."

???: "Uuuuuuutch"

Abel quickly instructed the others, treating the worried Flop with disregard. Abel ordered Zikr and Mizelda, the heads of their respective groups, to get their people together, but his instructions are cut off mid-sentence by a high-pitched child's tantrum.

Medium: "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! Louis-chan, what happened!?"

Louis: "Uuh! Uuh! Aauh!

Utakata: "Luu! Calm down! Uu's here!"

Medium's eyes turned in surprise as she was yanked by her highly decorated hair. On her shoulders, Louis, who was being carried, was screaming desperately, and Utakata was trying to calm her down. However, the rampaging Louis did not calm down at all. On the contrary, she was shedding large tears and her expression was tense as if she was afraid of something.

Rem: "Louis-chan, please calm down! What's wrong with you? If there's something wrong, I'll listen to you, so don't cry..."

Louis: "Uuh!"

Rem: "Huh? Over there, what's going on?"

Unable to watch the sobbing Louis, Rem headed down to her. When Louis noticed Rem's approach, she pointed to a corner of the hall, tears streaming down her face. Subaru and Abel also looked in that direction. But there was nothing. ...There should have been nothing.

Abel: "Mizelda!"

Mizelda: "O..oooooooooh!"

Staring into the void, Abel was the first to call out Mizelda's name. As if in response, Mizelda quickly readied the bow on her back, grabbed four arrows in her right hand, attached them to the bow at once, and drew them.

Mizelda's strong body unleashed a tremendous blow from the Shudrak chieftain. Four arrows flew wildly, pushing into the empty space Louis was pointing to. One of the arrows was reminiscent of the blow of the hunter who had killed Subaru in the forest. It was so powerful that it would have torn the body of Subaru to shreds if he had been hit by it.

The floor and walls, which were supposed to be stronger than arrows, were shattered, and the crushing sent a cloud of smoke into the hall. As the soldiers jumped for cover and gasped for air, Subaru and the others looked closely at the smoke to see if there was a cause for Louis to make such a commotion.

???: "Something like that is not going to kill me."

A languid voice falls softly into the smoke-filled hall. He recognized the voice as that of a woman. Subaru's eardrums judged it to be a slow, carefree voice, lacking in emotion, and of modest volume. It felt terribly out of place in the momentary tension of the situation. But the result of that voice was powerful.

Mizelda: "...."

....In the blink of an eye, Mizelda's entire body was engulfed in tremendous flames and burned away.

△ ▼ △ ▼ △ ▼ △

Mizelda: "... Tch tch !!"

In the blink of an eye, Mizelda's entire body was engulfed in flames, and she let out an inaudible scream. The sight of Mizelda, who had turned into a humanoid mass of flames, prevented everyone from taking any immediate action.

Kuna: "...Tch, Holly!"

Holly: "Un… understood no!"

Immediately after Kuna called out, Holly hurriedly hurried to a container filled with a large amount of water. She lifted it up with her monstrous strength and threw it with all her might at the burning Mizelda. The water overflowing from the broken container engulfed her, and she fell to the floor.

The flames had only burned her for a moment, but it was impossible to imagine the pain of one’s entire body being incinerated. Subaru couldn't keep up with how fast the situation had changed, wondering what the hell had happened. However, he did notice an increase in the number of unfamiliar figures in the center of the chaotic hall. Not only Subaru, but the rest of the group gradually noticed the new figure.

...The person standing there was a beautiful girl with most of her brown skin exposed.

She had silvery-white hair, an eye patch covering her left eye, a lush furry tail growing out of her rear, and a branch in her hand that looked like it had been picked up in the middle of nowhere. Her emotionless face gives a somewhat unbalanced impression when compared to her frame of lush youthful, feminine proportions. However, there was no doubt that this pretty girl was the cause behind the previous events.

They didn’t know what she did, or what she wanted, everything was unknown...

???: "...It's you, Arakiya."

But while everyone was frozen in place, there was one person who knew the girl's name and called her. The one who stood there with his well-shaped eyes sharpened, staring at Arakiya, was the Emperor who had been ousted from the throne of the Sacred Volachia Empire. The intimidating person that Zikr immediately swore to obey, faced Arakiya head-on, but she waved the branch in her hand from side to side without feeling nervous.

Arakiya: "Long time no see, Your Excellency."

Abel: "You too, seems you’re still in good health. ...You’re relentless, just like Chisha."

Arakiya: “No I’m not? That would be dangerous.”

It was not a tense conversation, from Arakyia’s point of view. Even if they were able to communicate, Abel's tense expression showed that she was not the kind of person with whom one could converse with. In the first place, who is this woman who treats Abel so casually after recognizing him as the Emperor?

Zikr: "Arakiya, First Class General..."

Subaru: "...What did you just say?"

Subaru's cheeks tightened at Zikr's words. He hoped he had misheard, but Zikr's eyes were serious, and the possibility of mishearing his words had disappeared. Then, as if to prove that it was not an illusion, Zikr piled on.

Zikr: "Arakiya First Class General… One of the empire's strongest, one of the Nine Divine Generals!"

Abel: "She’s also ranked second of the Nine Divine Generals. ...That means she's the second strongest in the Empire."

Subaru: "The second strongest in the Empire...!?"

Zikr's cry was supplemented by Abel's words, and Subaru exclaimed, unable to conceal his surprise. At the center of the astonished gazes in the hall, Arakiya, who had caught his attention, raised a branch and...

Arakiya: "Indeed!"

She puffed out her chest proudly.

Subaru: "..."

Slowly, the Shudrak gathered in the hall began to form a circle around Arakiya. Mizelda fell in the first attack, and only seventeen Shudrak remained, including the non-combatant Utakata, so it was hard to tell if they were strong enough. Nevertheless...

Shudrak: "We can't let you interfere with victory finally within our grasp...!"

They spat out a curse and picked up one of the swords that Subaru had seized. Driving her away, or knocking her down and capturing her. If they could achieve one of the two, they would ensure their victory in the fall of Guaral.

Arakiya: "Try as you might, it's no use."

The next moment, a tremendous wind blew that twisted the entirety of the Great Hall. Subaru, the Shudrak, and the bound Imperial soldiers were all moved together.

Arakiya: "..."

The heavens and earth were turned upside down, Subaru couldn't see up, down, left, right, in front of him, or behind him, and his entire body slammed into the floor, the wall, and the ceiling, nearly knocking him unconscious from the intense pain.

Subaru: "Ka!"

Subaru's whole body was thrown on the ground, and as he looked at the broken ceiling, his brain slowly analyzed and understood what had happened. ...It was a tornado. In an instant, a tornado of tremendous size erupted in the room, and it swallowed Subaru, or rather, Subaru and everyone else, and threw them around wildly.

Arakiya’s tornado overran the room, making no distinction between people or objects, friend or foe. Even so, Subaru barely managed to stay conscious...

Zikr: "I'm not going to let you… hurt her any more than you already have..."

Zikr, who was holding Subaru, grunted and threw his arms out sluggishly. The moment the tornado erupted, Zikr quickly pulled Subaru's body closer to him, trying to protect him from the impact of the destruction. It was only a small amount, but it cushioned Subaru's body and kept him from losing consciousness. But...

Subaru: "This can’t be right, right...?"

Looking around the hall, Subaru spat out in despair. In the midst of the mess of people and things, the Shudrak, who had raised their will to fight until just now, had all fallen to the ground and were unable to fight. In fact, those who showed hostile intentions were the ones who suffered the most damage. He wondered if the Arakiya tornado had even chosen a target to attack while wrecking so much destruction.

Subaru: "...Re...m."

Fighting the pain in his whole body, Subaru looked for Rem in the hall. She, like the Shudrack and the others, might have lost consciousness from the attack. If she was hit in the wrong place, the worst could have happened. Then, Subaru looked around the room and spotted someone.

They weren’t Rem, but they caught Subaru's attention, because even after being overrun by that tornado, he had gotten to his feet and fled to the half-destroyed balcony, leaning his back against the railing and staring at Arakiya.

Abel: “..."

He did not know how in the world Abel was able to protect himself in that tornado, as Abel's injuries were very minimal, but it was still painful to see him bleeding from his forehead and with one arm slumped down. However, Abel was looking straight at Arakiya with eyes that had not lost their supremacy.

Abel: "The puppet at my beck comes here and makes this mess. Have you forgotten what you joined my ranks for?"

Arakiya: "..Your Excellency, you lied to me. I was deceived. Because of that, I’ll never forgive you."

Abel: "...So Chisha put you up to this, too?"

Abel exhaled a heavy, bloodied breath, with his eyes slightly downcast. Arakiya's face was lacking in emotion, but she still had a recognizable anger in her eyes, and she slowly stepped onto the rough ground and walked towards Abel on the balcony.

The thought of Abel running out to the balcony to look good never crossed Subaru’s mind, but he did not think he had any way to recover from his injuries. The steps Arakiya took while shrinking the distance between them sounded like a countdown to Abel's very life.

One step, two steps, Arakiya approached Abel, and then...


A high-pitched voice rang out, and immediately afterwards, a pillar came crashing down on the spot where Arakiya was about to pass. There was a roar of stone shattering and cracking, and a primitive weapon that must have weighed no less than several hundred kilograms struck Arakiya. It was Rem, who had been hiding behind a pillar, watching for the right moment to strike.

Rem, who was swallowed by the tornado but remained conscious and hid behind a pillar, was probably visible from Abel's position. Hiding her presence, she timed her attack with Abel's gaze as Arakiya advanced and then pushed down the pillar.

It was the last attack he could come up with in this situation, utilizing Rem's strength. It was well-aimed, and it crushed Arakiya's slender body.

Arakiya: "Hmm?"

Rem: "...No way."

The floor beneath Arakiya's feet, which she hadn't even looked at, deformed like a piece of candy, and it stretched up to support the fallen pillar. It was as if they had witnessed the completion of avant-garde art from the beginning to the end.

Rem's full power did not reach Arakiya, nor did it even distract her. Then, as Rem kneeled at the base of the broken pillar, Arakiya looked back at her. After looking at Rem, her eyes suddenly widened.

Arakiya: "Oh, an oni. That's unusual."

Rem: "You're ..."

Arakiya: "Don't...get in my way. I don't want my people to get hurt."

Rem: "Your people...?"

Rem's face reddened with anger, wondering what she was talking about. But sadly, when there is a large power gap that separates oneself from their opponent, anger is just an emotion, and the will to resist is useless.

Rem reached for the rubble, and this time tried to show her intent to attack by throwing the stones. However, Arakiya swung the branch in her hand, creating a wind that blew the debris around Rem away. Literally, they were sweeped away. It wasn't just the debris on the floor that was blown away, but the walls and ceiling behind Rem, the upper levels of the building, one after another.

Arakiya: "I'm not good at controlling my strength. You, too, will fly away, at this rate."

Rem: "If that's the case, then why don't you do it? After all you've done, what's there to hesitate about now? It's not like that..."

Arakiya: "...Too bad."

Rem's clenched-teeth answer made Arakiya's shoulders slump in disappointment. But despite the cute gesture, Arakiya's actions were caustic and simple. Slowly the branch was lifted, and a phenomenon of a different dimension shattered Rem's existence.

Subaru: “...”

...There was no way Natsuki Subaru could tolerate such a thing.

Subaru: "A, aaaaaa..tch!"

With a yell, Subaru's body leapt into action, chasing away the pain in his entire body. Only at this moment, cowering fear, unpredictable anxiety, and everything else were in the way.

Abandoning his fears, he moved forward as his instincts told him to and intervened in front of Rem and Arakiya. He hoped to at least protect Rem from the destruction that was about to befall her.

He was willing to die, if it meant protecting Rem. He really didn't want to die, and everything would be ruined if Natsuki Subaru died here, but he didn't mind dying here.

Dressed as a woman, with fake breasts, makeup on his face, a wig on his head, and even an ingenious way to make his skin look white, in such a ridiculous appearance that sought beauty, Natsuki Subaru stood up for the girl he had to protect with the thought of spitting blood.

Rem: "...Tch."

Protecting Rem against his back, he spread his hands. He could see Rem gasp when she realized that Subaru had intervened in front of her. But what she thought or felt about Subaru's action, he would never know the answer. That opportunity would never come again. It was snatched away in a flash before the destruction named Arakiya.

???: "..What a ridiculous sight. But it is not so bad."

That was the voice that reached Subaru's ears as he prepared to have everything taken away and nothing to be left. As he closed his eyes and tried to accept the coming end, he gasped when he realized that no heat, loss, pain, suffering, thirst, or any of the other factors that lead to death had fallen on his body.

He slowly opened his eyes and saw it.

There was someone else's back in front of him. It was not Arakiya. Arakiya was standing on the other side of that back. He could see her standing there, stunned, with astonishment on her face.

The being that had brought that astonishment to Arakiya turned around, cutting down all of the destruction that was supposed to come while holding up a glowing red sword in her right hand.

Pompous, arrogant, red eyes that are convinced that everything in this world will kneel at their feet. The one who hugged her arms as she bounced her ample breasts, with scornful looks that were the embodiment of cruel beauty, a person who he was not supposed to see here.

Subaru: "...Ah."

Subaru simply gasped at the appearance of an existence that was not supposed to be there. Looking at him, the owner of the beautiful face, who is the manifestation of the word red, rang. And then...

Priscilla: "No need to say your name, fool. You can call me by my name."

As she said this, Priscilla Barielle had a blood-colored smile on her face.