Chapter 28

"Victory Conditions"

… The news that the captured Arakiya had been taken sent a tremor through the conference hall.

Kuna: "What a shame. Even Holly's bow couldn't catch up to him, they got away."

Holly: "Right. nooo…"

The two people who hung their heads and apologized were Holly and Kuna, both with bows in their hands.

With Holly bringing the bad news, Kuna went up to the top floor to chase after Arakiya, who was being whisked away. Using a combination of Holly’s arm strength and Kuna’s eye power, they fired at the fugitives, just as they had done with Todd when Subaru and the others originally had escaped Guaral. However, the fugitives were able to deal with the two-man long range snipe and had successfully outmaneuvered the both of them, taking Arakiya away.

Kuna: "One of them stayed behind as a decoy, and the other one took the Divine General. We can’t let it end like this, we have to go after them…"

???: “It's pointless."

Two voices interrupted the frustrated Kuna, who wrinkled her nose. The same exact words were uttered simultaneously by both Abel and Priscilla, who sat motionlessly at the round table. The two glanced at each other, and Priscilla closed her eyes. It was a sign that she wanted to hand it over to Abel.

Abel: "… It was a way to get behind our lines with a small number of people, achieve a singular goal, and escape. They had their roles clearly defined in case they got split up. Their courage to decide to do it and the judgment to escape are worthy of evaluation. They won't be caught even if we send someone after them."

Kuna: "But even if it’s so…"

Abel: "In less than half a day, Arakiya will wake up. If that happens, any pursuers we send her way won’t have any chances. And if they change their mind and return to the city, it will also be futile. Let me tell you, we won’t have the same luck twice. At the very least, I'd say it would be pretty reckless to make a stand with our current forces.

Kuna: "Kh…tch"

Holly: "Kuna… Abel is right, nooo."

By rattling off a string of words, Abel tried to discourage Kuna's insistence. Holly, standing beside her, gently patted Kuna on the shoulder as if to offer some consolation. Being a representative of the chiefs at the Round Table, and confident in her archery skills, Kuna must have felt bitterly disappointed. However, despite his harsh way of putting it, Subaru nodded in agreement with Abel's argument. The Imperial soldiers who had invaded the prison would not have dared to challenge them without a chance of winning. They had set an objective that was achievable under the circumstances, found a way to beat the odds, and executed it. Naturally, they wouldn't do anything half-hearted like a one-way ticket, and they must have had an appropriate plan for escape.

Priscilla: "No matter how you put it, that thing's fate did not end here. If that's the case, I'm sure it still has a role to play."

Subaru: "Priscilla..."

Priscilla casually threw those words into the air when the silence fell. For Subaru, who had been discussing the treatment of Arakiya just before, his feelings about her not being executed and being stolen away without being able to talk to her were complex. But Priscilla, who had taken the stance of staying out of Arakiya's life and death, what did she think of her being taken? That could not be read from her crimson eyes.

Al: "So, in the end, what are you going to do about Arakiya? Have you decided to leave her be?"

Subaru: "… If she's been taken away, there's nothing else we can do."

Subaru responded to Al's airless words with a bitter face.

Having managed to deal with Kuna's and Holly's sniping, they could not expect anyone with only half-decent skill to take pursuit of the fugitives. In that case, this limited who they could choose for the pursuit, and all of those with good skills couldn't be allowed to be absent from Guaral at the moment. Despite all his efforts to come up with a solution, Subaru's strength lay in surprise attacks, which made him particularly ill-suited to occasions where his opponent took the initiative. And this state of affairs made that clear.

Subaru: "By the way, I don't think it's likely, but what if they're still hiding in the city, pretending to have escaped?"

Zikr: "I don't think so. Although the city is claimed to be solidly fortified, there are other secret paths besides the two large gates, but all of them have been meticulously closed off in the past few days."

Subaru: "Meticulously..."

Zikr: "Yes. We were expecting you to use the secret passages to infiltrate the city. We certainly did not think that you would attempt a reckless plan to break through from the front.”

He was caught flat-footed, but Zikr responded calmly without a trace of displeasure.

As the commander in chief of a fortified city, it was a matter of course to be wary of any secret pathways. However, the defensive stance taken under Zikr's leadership gave a tailwind to the soldiers who took Arakiya and fled.

Zikr: "Perhaps the soldiers who took the First Class General were part of the search party for the secret paths. As Abel-dono said, it is not a challenge without a chance of victory. If that's the case, I wonder if they were able to do it because they knew there was a way they could use them."

Subaru: "Isn't it possible to find the location of the paths you eliminated on a map?"

Zikr: "Yes. It would be possible to make a chart, but not right now. The city has fallen and the soldiers are very shaken. This chaos is not going to settle any time soon."

Subaru: "....This isn’t a game, well that’s true."

If this were an act in a video game, you could get the commander of the defeated enemy to join your side, and his subordinate units would join your side as well. However, reality was not a game. In a game, soldiers were represented by numbers, but each of them had a life of their own here. After thinking about it for a while…

Subaru: "Holly-san, are you injured?"

Holly: "Mh? Are you worried about me, nooo? Natsumi is so kind, nooo."

At Subaru's inquiry, Holly threw her arms up while smiling broadly. Raising herself up emphatically, she made a motion to show that she was alive and well.

Holly: "I'm a little banged up, but I'm not badly hurt, so I'll be fine in no time, nooo."

Subaru: "I see. I'm glad to hear that. …But."

When Subaru fumbled his words and dropped his gaze, Holly put a puzzled look on her face. Noticing Subaru's inner thoughts, Kuna scratched her head and said, "Ah."Then...

Kuna: "Some of the guards we had standing inside the building have been killed. They were all dead, so we couldn't do anything."

Subaru: "... Some? Tell me how many?"

Kuna: "… Seven men."

When asked the exact number of casualties, Kuna, even though hesitant, answered. Seven. The number of casualties became engraved upon Subaru’s heart... Rem had been making a great deal of continuous effort to treat the Imperial soldiers and Shudrak who had gotten injured in Arakiya's attack on the top floor and he didn't receive any reports of deaths. He didn't receive any reports of deaths, but…

Subaru: "… How is this a bloodless siege?"

Brushing up his long black wig, Subaru let out a heartbreaking breath. The bloodless siege, which he had undertaken with such vigor and which he had said he would accomplish, was supposed to succeed in bringing about the fall of Guaral without loss of life. Yet instead, it had resulted in many deaths. The promise was broken, and there was no excuse for being accused of being a liar. Even if no one accused Subaru of being a liar, Subaru would still condemn himself as one. That's because he was the biggest liar here…

???: "...Bloodless, huh?"

Overhearing Subaru's mutterings, a voice repeated to themselves as if reflecting on the words. It was Priscilla, leaning on the round table, resting her cheek on her hand. In an unusual expression, she had slightly raised her well-shaped eyebrow and studied Subaru. With that expression on her face, Priscilla prefaced her statement with a single word, "You".

Priscilla: "I think I heard a very foolish thing. Did you really think that you could bring down a city without shedding blood? In the middle of this war, without an overwhelming military force?"

Subaru: "...Yeah, that's right, my bad. No, it was really my fault, wasn't it? After all, at the end of the day, it was my mistake..."

Priscilla: "It was just a stupid idea, that's what amazes me. I am astonished that you would even attempt to put that pipedream into practice. …Abel, is that person insane?"

Abel: "...The plan itself was madness to begin with."

The question was directed at Abel, who crossed his arms and replied quietly. Subaru's proposed plan was pure madness. In fact, anyone who heard the outline would probably agree. And yet Abel went along with it. Priscilla, who was apparently acquainted with him, did not seem to understand this.

Priscilla: "Looking at the Empire from the throne made you that much more lax. There is no war without sacrifice. There is no pride without bloodshed. That is the way of the Empire, isn’t it?"

Abel: "I have no intention of disobeying the code of the Sword Wolf. I said it was madness, but the odds were in my favor. In fact, if it weren't for Arakiya's presence, the siege would have been bloodless."

Priscilla: "..."

Abel: "It's not the plan that's gone wrong. That’s the way I see it. Priscilla, I will not allow you, even you, to make a fool of my military strategist's offering. It was my decision. The blame lies with me."

Subaru: "Oh…"

Abel confronted Priscilla head on with a statement that was too unexpected. Abel's words and actions were clearly in defense of Subaru, even though he had been appointed to the unheard of role of military strategist. He couldn't interrupt the standoff between the two.

Al: "What's the matter, bro? He likes you a lot, you're getting a big promotion."

Subaru: "… My position as Emilia-tan's knight and Beako's guardian is enough for me. I don't want to be given any more positions that I'm not familiar with."

Subaru pushed Al away from him, and he pushed away the responsibility that was pressing down on him.

However, thanks to Abel's protection, Priscilla's attention seemed to have turned in that direction. However, this did not heal Subaru's internal wound. The responsibility for the lives lost should be placed on Subaru, the one who came up with and implemented the plan.

Al: "You can't save them all, bro."

Al muttered, fiddling with the metal fittings on his helmet, as he looked at Subaru's profile. When Subaru glanced at him, he turned his gaze up towards the ceiling, and said:

Al: "You can't save all the people you get involved with. I don't mind if you save them, but your heart will be broken while doing so. I don't recommend it."

Subaru: "Al..."

Al: "We all live and die as we please. Like you said bro, it's not a game. It’s up to you to take care of your life."

This was the cynical attitude that Al sometimes displayed.

On one hand he gave a sermon to Subaru, on how tragic events happen, and that he should accept them as is, although there seemed to be good advice or counsel there. On the other hand, it also felt like the admonishment of an obstinate child.

He felt it was kind of a good argument. In fact, Al was right. You can't save everything, and there is no end to it if you decide to save it. That is why Subaru has never been able to save everything. But the scale of war is different... Can he really say what the correct decision is?

The number of lives that could be saved by a single action by Subaru was not only ten much less a hundred.

Priscilla: "This is even worse than a charade, you know"

While Subaru and Al were talking, Priscilla and Abel continued their standoff. To Abel who took the blame, Priscilla pulled out a fan from her cleavage and pointed the tip of it at the conference hall... no, at the entire city.

Priscilla: "Even in this situation, where we managed to successfully bring down the city with the help of your military strategist, we won't be able to repeat the miracle of driving Arakiya away a second time. Will that method ever work again?"

Abel: "Indeed, there won’t be a second time."

Abel nodded without hesitation in response to Priscilla's question. With the mention of the method that drove away Arakia, a thought also occurred to the frowning Subaru. …There was a moment when Al and Arakiya were in the middle of fighting when her behavior had become strange.

Subaru: "That wasn't something that Al did…"

Al: "Yeah? It wasn't me. In the first place, if it were me, I would have done it a little smarter. You know, I was the one who got bounced and thrown off."

Subaru: "That’s right."

If you asked him, it didn’t go very well, even with Al’s skills. The conversation between the two drew the attention of the conference hall to Abel. He was the only one who could have done something about, and so he sniffed, being annoyed with the gathering attention.

Abel: "Arakiya is the Spirit Eater. She feeds on the spirits in the air and absorbs their power."

Subaru: "Spirit Eater…?"

Subaru didn't have any memory of hearing it before, but the unsettling title made his eyes widen. He had already guessed that the Empire of Vollachia had different rules and a different environment than the Kingdom of Lugunica, but the idea of a Spirit Eater was quite a novelty. Subaru himself was a spirit arts user who borrowed the power of spirits, but this sounded distinctly different, and to put it simply…

Subaru: "I definitely don't want to bring Beako into this... Is being a Spirit Eater a common thing?"

Priscilla: "No, it's not. Spirit Eating was originally one of the secrets of the tribes that lived on the frontier of Vollachia. But it was so powerful that the technique was banished and the method to possess it was lost."

Abel: "At least, as far as I know, there are no known Spirit Eaters outside of Arakiya. If there had been, I would have politely protected them. That was the observer's... No, it doesn't matter now."

Not wanting for the conversation to get off topic, Abel shook his head, “Let’s get back to the point”. Subaru, who was relieved to hear that Spirit Eating was not a common practice, and that Beatrice was no longer in danger of being munched on, asked…

Subaru: "So how did you confuse the Spirit Eater, Arakiya?"

Abel: "I didn't confuse her... I just gave her mana poisoning."

Al: "Mana poisoning... haha, I see. That's a very clever thing to do."

Abel's answer made sense, and Al nodded admiringly as he stroked his chin. Subaru had heard of the term mana poisoning before, it just hadn’t come to mind.

Subaru: "As I recall, it was something like... about how people who are hypersensitive to mana tend to get sick when they go to places where the concentration of mana is really high."

Al: "Arakiya is susceptible to that kind of influence due to her Spirit Eater characteristic. It's a prerequisite to have a reasonable level of resistance to spirits in order to take them in, however. If you go beyond that premise and try to make Arakiya sick off mana, you'll end up..."

Abel: "Yes, she made me use one of my treasures. Including what he has already used before, I have nothing else on hand."

Abel's chin twitched as he said that, indicating Subaru, who frowned and tilted his head saying "Treasure?" Subaru had no idea what treasure he had used.

Subaru: "What treasure are you talking about? When did I get your...?"

Abel: "During the Lifeblood Ritual, you broke the ring to break the Elgina's horn. That's the one."

Subaru: "Oh…"

He'd lost track of it, but it brought back memories of a ring he'd borrowed that allowed him to use magic. In the throes of battle, he had no choice but to hit the Elgina's horn with the ring, shattering it and snapping the magical beast's horn leaving Subaru's arm and the ring in shambles. And something else that was mentioned in the same breath was what Abel used in the fight with Arakiya?

Abel: "As I dropped from the balcony, I shattered the ring I had hidden. It took a while for the mana it contained to flood the area around it, but..."

Al: "So that Arakiya girl was like that because got mana poisoning. Oh come on, I got my ass kicked by that girl."

Subaru: "Did you pull that little trick at that moment…?"

Even though they were all in a battered and wounded state, Subaru tipped his hat off to Abel's unwillingness to give up. That he was still searching for a way to win even though he was being cornered by the second strongest ranking General in the Empire was admirable. Subaru's resilience was quite good, but his intelligence was so far removed from Abel's that he couldn't get over the difference between a bad move and a desperate counterattack. In any case...

Subaru: "Isn't this an original plan prepared specifically for Arakiya? It's very bold of you to prepare such a plan when you didn't know she would be going against you."

Abel: "The more people you keep close to you, the more you have to prepare for when they betray you... In particular, I never knew when Arakiya would turn on me."

Priscilla: "... But you only get one chance to use your wiles. It's not easy to prepare enough mana stones to give a person mana poisoning. It will be essential to secure a decent fighting force before the next time around. But."

When she had said that much, Priscilla cut off her words meaningfully. Covering her mouth with her fan, Priscilla narrowed her crimson eyes at Abel. With a somewhat probing, testing look in her eyes, she let out a small exhale and…

Priscilla: "Adding the People of Shudrak to your ranks was expected... However, it's hard to see how you could be foolish enough to adopt a naive military strategist's plan for a bloodless siege of this fortified city."

Abel: "..."

Priscilla: "At this rate, I will never be able to advise my collaborators to support you."

Subaru: "Collaborators!?"

Subaru was astonished by Priscilla who had said it in a matter-of-fact and natural way. It wasn't just Subaru who was surprised, but everyone in the conference hall except Abel and Al. Aside from Priscilla's companion, Al, it seemed unreasonable that Abel was also not surprised, but Subaru didn’t mention it.

Subaru: "Wait, wait, wait, you're missing the point! Collaborators… in the first place I don’t understand your position. I heard that you came to help Abel, but..."

Priscilla: "I am not here to help. Don't listen seriously to the ramblings of my clown."

Subaru: "I get it! I don't care if you've come to help Abel or not. That's not the point. What I want to hear is your ultimate goal."

As they heard, the immediate subgoal was to have some dialogue with Abel.

However, what Subaru wanted to know was why Priscilla… why her, Al, and possibly the other collaborators they had brought with them, were in the Vollachia Empire to begin with. On top of that, it would be best if he knew whether they were willing to side with Abel or not.

Subaru: "Answer me. Honestly, I and everyone else here aren’t sure what to think of you."

Priscilla: "That's hubris at its finest. I don't care what you plebeians think of me. I will do what I want to do. After all…"

Subaru: "...The world is made to suit you, isn't it?"

Priscilla sniffed at Subaru's tracing of her philosophy, which was familiar to her ears. Then, noticing the increased number and sharpness of the glances directed at her, Priscilla closed one eye.

Priscilla: "I’m aiming to restore the Emperor to his former throne. If I don’t, I’ll be receiving a constant stream of annoying visitors."

Abel: "I don't have to tell you, the assassins were not sent by me."

Priscilla: "I didn't even suspect it. That's why I took the trouble to come here. Or, it would be more accurate to say that I had my wings carry me."

With one eye closed, Priscilla answered Abel and turned her gaze upward. Without the ceiling present, what was seen was the night sky beyond. More to the point, it was not just the sky, but an existence that made the sky its own...

Subaru: "No way, did you and Al just fly in from the sky?"

Al: "Oh, it's like a flying dragon express service. To be honest, I thought it was the end of the world when the princess jumped off by herself. I certainly couldn't follow, so I couldn't get down until it lowered itself a bit."

Subaru: "A flying dragon... the water dragon in Pristella used to scare the hell out of me."

In addition to the water dragon, which was a fantasy creature other than the earth dragon, the existence of flying dragons surfaced. From what he had heard, flying dragons were extremely ferocious and required specialized skills to be tamed. Since there were not many tamers capable of that, being able to ride a flying dragon in the first place was a rare thing.

Subaru: "In other words, the person who can provide a flying dragon express delivery is Priscilla's collaborator?"

Priscilla: "Don't do such a lowly thing as picking apart peoples’ words. In your case, your lowliness outweighs your cleverness. Polish up your pretty face. You can still look good if you fix your makeup."

Subaru: "If I fix my makeup now I’d definitely be a crazy person right…?"

On bringing that up, the fact that he couldn’t stop himself from cross-dressing might be regarded as the problem, but the people present here could read the air, so they didn't touch the issue. Anyway, he was getting way off track again, however…

Subaru: "If the goal is to get Abel back on the throne, does that mean we can cooperate with each other?"

Priscilla: "I'm afraid I can't give you a straightforward yes... I have not forgotten my earlier words. If he doesn't have the qualities of an Emperor, there's no point in bringing him back."

Abel: "..."

Abel glared at Priscilla, his gaze sharpened as he was questioned head-on about his own qualities as an Emperor. What Priscilla saw as a problem was not the failure to carry out the bloodless siege proposed by Subaru and approved by Abel, but rather the problem of the idea to begin with. By the way of Vollachia, naivety can be fatal. In fact, lives were lost because of Subaru's naivety. Her disapproval was undeniable. However...

Abel: "I will reclaim the throne. I don't care what anyone says, I'm going to do it... Priscilla, no matter what you say, that will never change."

Abel took the place of Subaru, who had fallen silent, and made a strong declaration. It was the same or rather an even more passionate declaration of what he had made when he revealed his true identity in front of Subaru and said that he would take back this country.

Priscilla: "..."

Hearing Abel's resolve, the expressions on the faces of those in the conference room changed.

Kuna and Holly had the will to continue fighting as the People of Shudrak, while Zikr bowed his head as if he were in the presence of something divine. Al turned to Priscilla to see her reaction, while Priscilla's eyes narrowed as she continued to assert herself, undaunted.

Priscilla: "The spirit is undiminished, but the reality is not. In fact, you've been forced to abandon your throne."

Abel: "..."

Priscilla: "The circumstances are already apparent. The question is, who started it? Whose plan was it?"

Abel: "...I'm sure it was Minister Berstetz who brought it all to fruition."

Abel answered Priscilla's question with a hint of hostility in his dark eyes. The Minister’s position was at the top of the state government, as it was closely associated with the Emperor. If the pinnacle of the armed forces was the General or the head of a knightly order, then the Minister may be said to be the pinnacle of civil services. In any case, it can be said that being second in command made betrayal an easy option.

Priscilla: "That old has-been. How dare he waste Lamia's inheritance?"

Abel: "Of course, I had foreseen his rebellious intentions and prepared accordingly. But…"

Abel broke off there and exhaled quietly. It was a reaction that was very much unlike him, the first time he had shown anything close to weakness. As Emperor, he had never wavered, even when he was forced to leave his position, but this was the first time he had shown a faint weakness. The cause of this weakness was not the Prime Minister’s betrayal.

Abel: "With Chisha Gold watching over me… I couldn’t see through the fourth ranked of the Nine Divine Generals’ rebellious intentions."

Zikr: "Ridiculous, General Chisha!?"

As Abel spat out his ashamed thoughts, Zikr couldn't help but raise his voice. Zikr, as an Imperial Second-Class General, must have been familiar with the name of this particular member of the Nine Divine Generals, a name that Subaru didn’t. Attracting the gaze of those at the round table, Zikr stroked his rich hair and said…

Zikr: "General Chisha is unique among the Nine Divine Generals in terms of his capability. He himself is more famous for his wisdom than his military fame, and he was the one who supported His Excellency Vincent the most during the Imperial Selection Ceremony..."

Subaru: "Does that mean he was his best right-hand man? You mean this guy was betrayed not only by his political right-hand man, the Prime Minister, but his long-time right-hand man, general, too?"

Abel: "Don't repeat yourself. My right arm is still attached to my right shoulder."

Subaru: “When you say that now it just sounds like you're just trying to be tough…”

Listening to Zikr's explanation, Subaru was surprised by Abel's popularity, which was unexpectedly lacking.

However, keeping the Empire of Vollachia’s radical ideology in mind, an Emperor who was deemed insufficiently powerful would immediately be rebelled against, so perhaps these situations weren’t all that rare.

Subaru: "Is it common for Emperors to run for cover in this country?"

Abel: "Since I've been on the throne, there’ve only been two times when I've been pursued, at least formally."

Subaru: "But you've got a record!"

Abel: "Nonsense. It was the Kingdon’s Royal Guard who dragged me around in that previous venture. If you want to complain, you can take it up with them."

He gave Subaru a seriously disappointed look, so Subaru took the hint and held his tongue. He thought that Julius once mentioned that he went to the Empire as an emissary, but he didn't think it had anything to do with that. If so, the world was too small.

Al: "Ah, so the Emperor was chased from the throne by his confidants and aides as well as that Arakiya girl… doesn't that sound dangerous? Don’t you have an ally or something?"

Abel: "Another one of the Nine Divine Generals, Goz Ralfon... he was instrumental in my escape. If it weren’t for him buying me time, I wouldn't have been able to activate the transfer mechanism."

Zikr: "Oh, as expected of First Class General Goz...!"

Abel: "However, if the Nine Divine Generals, other than Chisha and Arakiya, have also turned against me, I don't know how Goz alone could have survived. It’s more likely that he would have been killed."

The existence of any Nine Divine Generals who’d risked their lives to protect Abel was a hope, but it was a very fleeting one. However, Zikr shook his head, "No"...

Zikr: "If I may be so bold, I haven’t received any news of General Goz's death. Whether he died in battle or from illness, the death of a man of General Goz's status can’t be hidden for long."

Abel: "Then there’s the possibility he’s being held captive."

Zikr: "Perhaps. No, surely! If you're a warrior as good as First Class General Goz, that’s likely the case!"

At Abel's words, Zikr bowed reverently. If he had earned this kind of respect from Zikr, then this Goz must be a very reliable man. Or maybe a woman, contrary to the stern name.

Priscilla: "... With the Prime Minister and the Nine Divine Generals as enemies, the throne is as good as taken."

Priscilla, who had finished listening to the conversation before interjecting, muttered that. In agreement with her words, Subaru raised his hand…

Subaru: "Hey. I know it's a little late, but what if Abel comes forward as the Emperor? That way, the people who’re quietly running the government in the Imperial Capital can be branded as rebels and traitors..."

Al: "I'm sorry, but you can't expect the angry populace and soldiers to turn the coup regime into a bloodbath, bro."

Subaru: "I wasn’t thinking something that crazy, but why not?"

Abel: "Because this is the Empire of Vollachia, where the powerful are respected."

Subaru's suggestion was rejected, and Al's words were supplemented by Abel's. The Emperor, ousted from his throne, folded his arms, his shapely eyebrows slightly furrowed.

Abel: "If I come forward and announce my intention to reclaim the Imperial Capital myself, I’d be welcomed. But that doesn't mean they'll support me. What was taken from you, you have to take back yourself. That’s the way it is."

Subaru: "Not only goods and lands, but also the Emperor's throne..."

Abel: "There are no exceptions… Therefore, I know what must be done."

Subaru, who was trying to wrap his head around the situation, was surprised by Abel's words. Just when he thought he was at a loss, Abel's answer was rather the opposite. He stood up and slowly put his hands on the round table. And...

Abel: "Second Class General Zikr, the map."

Zikr: "Yes! Right away!"

When told to do so, Zikr sent instructions to the Imperial soldiers waiting in the corner of the room. They immediately peeled off the map hanging on the wall of the conference hall and moved to spread it out on the round table. It was a world map showing, well, the entire world, including Vollachia.

Abel: "Here we are in the east, the fortified city of Guaral. And the Imperial city of Lupghana, which must be reclaimed, is roughly in the center of the Empire."

Subaru: "…Vollachia's pretty big..."

The map showed Subaru the size of the country, which he hadn't been aware of until now. The Empire of Vollachia, which occupies the southern part of the world map, was the largest compared to the other countries. The Buddheim Forrest, that Subaru and the others had so much trouble to get through, was only a small geographic area from the perspective of the whole of Vollachia.

Abel: "Each city in the Empire is controlled by its own Chief or Lord. As is the case with Guaral, each of these cities has its own autonomous military force and will not hesitate to fight in case of an emergency... We will add these to our forces and secure the strength needed to retake the Imperial Capital."

Subaru: "… I understand the pattern of a royal in a simulation of stealing regions."

Abel: "You seem to be displeased."

Subaru: "Of course. This was an enormous undertaking just for Guaral. I don't think it's going to work out this way."

Pointing to the map, Subaru had managed to keep up with Abel as he explained. He could manage to keep up with him, but this was a matter of logic, not emotion. As he said earlier, this was not a game. There was no way that this method Abel laid out, that’d be right at home in a simulation RPG, could be easily applied to reality. Abel's opinion seemed to be quite optimistic. Nevertheless...

Abel: "There is a way to dispel your concerns. Rather, there are essential conditions that must be met in order to do what I must do."

Subaru: "Essential conditions…"

Abel: "... Secure the backing of the Nine Divine Generals."

Subaru rolled his eyes when he heard that answer. It was no wonder. After all, Abel had just told them that he had been forced to leave the throne because of the Nine Divine Generals’ treachery. Those of the Nine Divine Generals that favored Abel were unaccounted for, and the two members of the Nine Divine Generals they were aware of were already enemies. The rest…

Subaru: "What about the other Nine Divine Generals…?"

Abel: "There."

Abel pointed a finger at the sudden question and nodded at Subaru's agitation. Then he looked around at the faces of everyone except Subaru.

Abel: "The Emperor's people are strong. The Nine Divine Generals are the embodiment of this rule. In other words, if you want to be the supreme ruler of the Empire of Vollachia, you must unite the Nine Divine Generals."

Subaru: "So, in other words..."

After Abel's words, Subaru's eyes widened as he realized what was to follow. Abel's cheeks twisted at Subaru's reaction, as he smiled belligerently. And then…

Abel: "Cecilus Segmunt, the Blue Lightning. Arakiya, the Spirit Eater. Olbart Dunkelkenn, the Vicious Old Man. Chisha Gold, the White Spider. Goz Ralfon, the Lion Knight. Groovy Gumlet, the Master of Enchanted Items. Yorna Mishigure, the Flamboyant. Mogro Hagane, the Steelman. Madeline Eschart, the Flying Dragon General."

Subaru: "..."

Abel: "The winner of this battle will be the one who recruits more of the Nine Divine Generals. That’s the way to win, and that is the absolute condition I must fulfill."