Cleo lay on the bed in her room.
Night had come, but even if she tried to, she couldn’t sleep.
The one who called over to her at that time was Millia.
“Um, how should I put it…”
Having heard the circumstances, she had learned of the truth that the maid Cleo thought of as a friend had betrayed.
For that sake, she tried to be tactful towards Cleo.
“… I appreciate your thoughts towards me. But it’s alright. I will be participating in tomorrow’s ceremony, after all.”
“S-so… if you’re alright with me, I wouldn’t mind being your fri–”
Millia’s proposal received an immediate response.
“Please stop right there! Don’t say something like that…”
Millia was silenced.
(I’m sure she must think I’m a terrible woman. But even if I make a friend right before I die, I’m…)
To Cleo, failure couldn’t be permitted in the next ritual.
He had her obligation as a daughter of the royal house, and she had been told all her life to fulfill her duty.
(I… even so, I must do my duty.)
Cleo endured her tears as she waited for the sun to rise.
The dungeon beneath the castle…
Before night gave way to dawn.
A party of three with black robes over their bodies.
Those three with their hoods pulled deep down came into contact with the three sleeping in one of the cells.
“Oy, you lot.”
“What is it now? We just followed our orders and~.”
The one who called out to the half-asleep faces of Ben, Pono and Passan was Emilio.
Aleist stayed on high alert as he complained.
“Is this place really supposed to be that easy to infiltrate?”
As he said that, Nate sounded fed-up.
“You’re the amazing one, senpai. Entering a shadow to move… just having the combat prowess to stand against Gaia’s mechanized unit is amazing enough.”
From Aleist’s point of view, being complimented like that only made him tilt his head.
Of all else, he was surrounded by people much more amazing.
With all the trouble he went through in his student days, he would often wonder if his abilities were even high at all.
The individuals he had met up to that point, from Aleist’s eyes, they were all cheat-class characters.
“You think? When I look at Rudel and the others, I can’t help but feel I fall short. Though I have put in some effort.”
“… The very fact you can even compare yourself to those crazies puts you at a considerably high level, senpai.”
While the two of them conversed, Emilio negotiated with the three.
“S-so you had a reason like that!”
“Captain, let us help out! I don’t want to stay useless like this.”
“I don’t want that either. I feel sorry for the princess.”
As Aleist hadn’t been listening in to what they were saying, he tried asking Emilio as the man used the key to free them.
“What exactly did you tell them to smooth it over?”
On those words, Emili’s face turned just a little serious.
But his expression immediately crumbled.
“Nothing more than the truth. These guys are good folk at heart. So they’re easy to deceive.”
“You deceived them!?”
Quietly exclaiming to Emilio, Aleist looked at the three shedding tears as they left their cell.
Returning his eyes to Emilio once more, he was laughing a bit.
It wasn’t an unpleasant smile. It was one of true delight.
“… I intended to let them out regardless. But while we’re at it, might as well get their help.”
“In the end, what do you want to do? Saying you don’t care, then helping these three.”
Aleist tried weighing out Emilio.
“It’s probably true that he wants to save that princess called Cleo. And they do call him boss.”
Emilio was Cleo’s real brother.
Meaning he was a prince of this country.
But his father Barquah devised a plan to send his own country to ruin.
The ringleader behind the princess’ attack was the king.
(This is way too complicated. Shouldn’t it be a bit more… aaarrggh!!)
Dismayed, Aleist watched the form of Emilio issue orders to the three.
By Emilio’s plan, they would carefully cause explosions and fires across the palace and town to evacuate its residents.
By Barquah’s plan, the king would crush all home, and as the people were panicking left and right, he would use the ancient weapon to destroy the castle town.
But normally, it would be strange for the influential people of the country to go along with such a plan.
(A war against an ancient weapon… that event was never in the game.)
Even if he knew this world wasn’t a game, he would still find himself taking these things as events.
Aleist shook his head to the side to change his train of thought.
(I have to stop them. The King of Celestia’s plan, and the ancient weapon.)
For that sake, Nate had set up contraptions across town.
Mechanisms to produce smoke, to raise ruckuses around and direct people towards evacuation.
“Alright, here are your orders. If any explosions break out at the castle, you’re to rouse all the folks in the barracks and have them help evacuate the residents. Here’s the official decree.”
Emilio took out the document he had brought and handed it over to the leader Ben.
Accepting it, Ben took a nervous look over it.
“C-captain, is it really alright for me to hold something like this?”
As the unshaven man trembled, Emilio dropped the bomb.
“Don’t worry… it’s fake.”
On Pono’s surprise, Emilio cautioned him to keep quiet.
“We’ve made arrangement for smoke to rise all over the place. You are to prioritize evacuating the citizenry, and once that’s done, your job is to protect them. It’s a vital role… you can do it, right?”
There was no doubt it was an important job.
Hearing that, the three nodded with serious expressions. Emilio gave a warm smile, handing over their equipment he had brought along.
“When you’re done changing, keep a low profile until you hear the explosions. You need only take advantage of the confusion to move as planned. Make sure you properly carry out your orders.”
“Leave it to us, captain!”
“We’re finally starting to look like a unit!”
“And the captain is actually relying on us!”
Once the three started changing, Aleist checked over the scheduled time with Nate.
“It should be happening soon, right?”
“Yes. Right about…”
At that instant.
The sound of an explosion rung through the castle walls. Hearing that, everyone’s expression turned to surprise.
“What is the meaning of this!?”
As Emilio drew close to Nate, the party-of-three looked around nervously. Aleist was the same, but he calmly looked at Nate.
“The scale of that explosion was strange… it’s not the one I set.”
Hearing that, Aleist did hit on something.
(… The ones specialized for this sort of thing, if I recall correctly…)
Izumi exchanged slashes with a black-robed assembly in a palace corridor.
Her drawn katana cut at the mechanical soldiers before her eyes.
On her horizontal swipe, her foe leapt back to take distance. But seeing the cracks spread down his arm he had guarded, the machine man’s wariness instantly spiked.
Behind Izumi, there were knights and soldiers of Celestia as well.
“… Judging by the uniform, you’re a High Knight of Courtois.”
The mechanical soldiers lowered their hips and came at her at once in a coordinated assault.
Izumi sent out shockwaves, but perhaps she was dealing with elites, as even if she managed a cut, they avoided anything fatal. As she drew her sword back in, she cut the enemy fast-approaching before her eyes.
But the sensation she got wasn’t that of human flesh.
“So these are the mechanized men Rudel was talking about.”
Izumi looked around to see a number of Celestian soldiers and knights were on the ground. In that space, a number of enemies had slipped through.
But Izumi didn’t move.
Because in order to confine her, a few enemies had remained.
“H-High Knight! Just what could-”
A Celestian knight asked in dismay, but all Izumi knew was the fact her opponents were soldiers of Gaia.
“We are dealing with a unit from the Gaia Empire. Be careful… they’re elites.”
As Izumi took a stance, her foe did the same.
Of course, the enemy’s main objective was to buy time. They wouldn’t force themselves to go on the offense.
On top of the presence of enemy and ally forces around her, the narrow corridor made it difficult for Izumi to move around.
(How shameful… to think I would be this useless in a real battle.)
Deeply vexed, Izumi stepped in and cut.
Her opponent leapt back and used a projectile.
While she hit it aside with her blade, another enemy used a similar means to attack the Celestian knights.
The concealed arrow pierced in, and yet another knight was down.
“Don’t force yourselves to go up front!”
“W-when a woman is taking a lead, you think the knights can stand down!?”
Even on Izumi’s warning, the knights didn’t step back. But a majority of them were only equipped with their swords.
They were attacked in their sleep, a majority of them were forced to leap out without any decent equipment.
(Our defense is too fragile. Why is it so… we were already attacked once, shouldn’t we be on high alert?)
On the unsightliness of Celestia’s correspondence, Izumi couldn’t help but feel something contrived.
On a balcony overlooking the mountain the ancient weapon was sealed, Barquah listened to the surrounding turmoil alone.
Riding the wind, a burnt stench reached him.
“We’ve got some boorish visitors among us. What say you… Emilio.”
To where he turned, three robed figures stood.
It was Emilio, Aleist and Nate.
“Boorish? Is this not precisely the sort of chaos you wished for?”
Emilio glared at Barquah. While the king received a glance imbued with such hatred, upon seeing it, he burst into laughter.
“What a comforting glance indeed! That hatred of yours, it gives me the purest confirmation my revenge has succeeded.”
Seeing Barquah laugh, Aleist took a step forward and took a stance.
“What are you talking about… doing something like this for petty revenge, are you crazy!?”
Hearing Aleist’s words, Barquah scoffed.
“I don’t know who you might be, but you sound quite eager to stick your mouth into another’s household affairs.”
“H-household affairs? When you’re making a mess of your country, you call it household affairs?”
Aleist drew his sword, and Nate took out her weapons as well.
Emilio slowly pulled his saber.
“The country is of no importance to me. This is simple revenge. My wife died in the place of the woman who birthed that good-for-nothing! And after fleeing her own duty, the woman who abandoned her own sister to die, dropped dead in some ditch! Because of that, my wife was…”
Aleist’s failure to understand set him bewildered.
Having noticed that, Barquah knew it was the end, so he began talking from his heart.
“Twin sisters of the clan were sent to me. I was to marry one of them and bring up children with both. It is the job of the royal house. That’s all my marriage would be… so I thought.”
The hilt of the saber Emilio gripped let off a grating sound.
“… You abandoned my and Cleo’s mother, dammit!”
While he heard it, Barquah thought nothing of it as he continued his explanation.
“Yes, but the one I loved was the other. My conversations with her, can you imagine the solace they offered me… I fell so deeply in love I didn’t know what to do with myself.”
Barquah looked at the view of the castle town he could see from the balcony.
And at that blazing scene, he directed a smile.
“How truly wonderful. The sight of the people who raised an uproar for me to offer my wife in the place of the woman who ran away, the sight of them falling to hell truly clears the heart.”
“T-this man… is mad.”
On Aleist’s words, Barquah turned and glared at the three.
“That’s right! This country maddened me! The system of this country is what’s cornered me to such an extent.”
With a step forward in her mask, Nate asked Barquah.
“Did you need to go so far to get your revenge? Then shouldn’t there have been a much more efficient way to go about it?”
Barquah let a low-brow smile cross his face.
“I thought I would have that woman’s son and daughter see hell as they lived on. It was the greatest farce! The faithful, foolish daughter who lived to carry out her duty. Driven out of the palace, the foolish son living a filthy life in the slums! It truly was a comforting scene to watch!”
Having lived solely for revenge, it seemed not a fragment of his feelings as a father remained.
Seeing that, Emilio grit his teeth.
“So you knew everything?”
Barquah answered his question with a refreshing smile.
“That’s right. I watched in pleasure as you crawled your way up. Knowing you would start something, at the end of the end, your hopes would spill from your hands… that was the instant I wanted to see. Of course, Cleo’s miserable state was also a sight to behold. She resembled that woman so closely, I hated and hated her more than I could bear.”
The root of this malice… this serious of events, Barquah had been pulling the strings of them all.
Once they figured out that was the case, Emilio and Aleist’s expressions dyed in hatred.
Barquah’s smile took a turn for the supreme.
“That’s right… hate me. My hatred is far greater than that!”
Aleist spoke to him.
“You’re crazy… do you hate everything around you so badly!?”
Barquah spread his arms out, turning to the three as he spoke.
“… A love that doesn’t drive one to madness on its loss isn’t true love at all, my boy.”
The next instant.
The mountain that could be seen at the end of the balcony erupted.
It was an explosion that even shook the castle, but in contrast to its scale, the magma that rose from it was scarce. Seeing that, Aleist noticed something was off.
In the dark night sky, a number of red light rose from the castle town.
With the volcano’s eruption, magma had begun to spout.
From within it, it looked as if a giant something was trying to crawl its way out of the mountain.
“So why don’t we change the schedule? It would be boring to leave this country’s final act to that boorish lot. Don’t you think finishing it by my hand would be a happier ending?”
As Barquah said that, the giant something’s single eye gleamed as it began making its way towards them.
Nate cried out.
“It can’t be, it’s really moving!”
Emilio quietly walked up and raised his saber. Seeing that, Barquah laughed.
“It’s a pity I won’t see this country’s end, but I’ll be heading to the side of my beloved. I’ve kept her waiting quite a long while… I love you, —-”
His body was cut through, his blood fluttered through the air. As he leisurely gazed over that scene, he collided with the handrail, and his body took a fall.
An upside-down Barquah watched over the castle town wrapped in fire as he fell.
“Now here is where hell begins.”
The moment he fell. And even after he collided, Barquah’s face was smiling.
Led off by Millia, Cleo ran down the corridor jumbled with enemy and ally.
Assailed by an intense tremor along the way, they headed outside through a shattered windowpane.
The scenery that awaited them was certainly hell.
“It can’t be… the castle town is…”
“This is terrible.”
Cleo touched both hands to her mouth, shaking.
Millia looked at the scenery and muttered.
The flames blazed up as a giant something set course towards them.
As the morning sun slowly rose from beyond the mountain, its form gradually grew vivid.
“I-it’s that thing we saw at the souvenir shop.”
As Millia said that, Cleo crouched on the spot.
There, a group of a few appeared before her.
“We’ve finally found you. I never thought the ancient weapon would start up… but that body of yours is to become research material for the empire. We will make you useful, Princess Cleo.”
A man whose three red eyes let off an ominous light…
The captain of the mechanized unit held a sword in each hand.
Millia came out front and poised her bow, but the man’s movements were different from what she saw in the alley.
Instantly circling around, those three red eyes became tails of red light. Looking where he ended up, he had circled around to Millia’s right side.
His remaining subordinates came at Millia.
“It doesn’t matter if you kill the guard. For the princess as well, an arm or a leg is–”
The three-eyed man said as he lifted his sword, only for Rudel to arrive at the scene.
As magic in the shape of blades of light pierced into the floor, the men jumped back at once.
“You’re late, Rudel!”
Landing then and there, Rudel pulled his sword and readied the shield of his left hand.
Wearing his white armor, Rudel spoke to Millia.
“I’m sorry. I ran into some troublesome ones along the way.”
As he said that, Rudel used his shield to bash aside the mechanized soldier coming at him.
Glowing shields manifested around, floating and gathering around Cleo.
“Eh, this is…”
As Cleo remained unable to comprehend the surrounding situation, once more, an ally appeared on the spot.
As a black shadow was cast onto the ground, three figures emerged from it.
“I-it’s Rudel after all… and wait, carrying two people in that thing is harsh…”
Aleist tossed his robe aside. He was wearing armor under it.
“We were right to load it into Sakuya-chan’s bags. Right, senpai?”
Nate handed over his helmet and Aleist pulled it down on his head.
“So you guys came too. By the way… I feel like I recognize your companion.”
As Rudel said that, Emilio looked at Cleo.
Cleo began taking distance from him.