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  Crimson Night  

“It’s magnificent! Its beauty stirs my very soul!”

The Gustav domain was home to the Office of the Warden of the North. There, enshrined in the palace, was a gold statue glimmering beautifully in the bright torchlight. A majestic middle-aged man with long black hair and an impressive beard—Oslo el Gustav, the Fastidious Duke—shed tears of joy as he beheld the sight of the monument.

He sighed feverishly as he spoke. “Immortalizing His Grace in bronze or stone? That would be inexcusable. But a statue of pure gold is just the thing to cement the emperor’s authority in the minds of the people…”

“I’ve already talked to Count Perscheid about having it placed in the imperial capital’s central gardens, milord. As soon as we transport it there, it’ll be installed in the middle of the main fountain. If it pleases you, I have a concept sketch here.”

As Gustav trembled on his knees before the statue, his secretary—a short, older man named Oscar—stepped into the shadow Gustav cast in the light of the flame and gave his report in a high, nasally voice. The man handed his lord a rolled-up piece of parchment.

Gustav unfurled it and nodded in satisfaction. “Marvelous work. Count Perscheid is hailed as the most stylish man in the empire, so I knew I could count on him… Have the means of transport been arranged?”

“Yes, milord. As you know, a statue of pure gold is too heavy for horses, cattle, or dragons to pull. I was thinking that we might use elephants.”

“What’s an ‘elephant’?”

“A beast we’ve been importing alongside the slaves from the New World. They used to live in the southern parts of the empire as well but were wiped out due to the high demand for their ivory. Their bodies are massive, and they boast such strength that some New World natives even ride them into battle. A team of four such creatures should be sufficient to carry the statue to the capital.”

“…So feral horses?”

Gustav wasn’t exactly pleased at having creatures like that be the ones to transport the physical symbol of his loyalty. At the same time, however, it seemed somewhat fitting to have the statue extolling the emperor’s authority carried by beasts belonging to the tribes the emperor himself was in the process of subjugating. The two contradictory thoughts clashed within the Fastidious Duke, but he eventually gave his verdict.

“Very well. However, I place little faith in those savage creatures. I want a troop guarding the statue during transport, and I demand their utmost vigilance. If it suffers so much as a single scratch, every one of those soldiers and their families are to be executed… Am I understood?”

“Absolutely, milord. I will be sure to impress upon them the gravity of their task.”

“Hmph. One other thing, Oscar.”

“Yes, milord?”

Gustav had called out to his manservant as the latter was preparing to leave. The duke spoke in the same voice he might use to demand a glass of water.

“I hereby commission four more identical statues, one to be installed in each of the empire’s cardinal wards. Begin collecting the gold at once.” However, the man’s request was downright insane.

“Wh—?! F-four more statues, a-all of pure gold, milord?!”

“For the time being. When all is said and done, I aim to have one in every domain in the empire so as to remind the commoners who it is that they serve.”

Oscar’s face went pale as sweat began gushing out of pores he didn’t even know he had.

“N-not gilded, but…solid gold?!”

“Naturally. I will not stand for gilding or other such deception when it comes to the manifestation of my undying loyalty! Or, perhaps, are you suggesting that my devotion itself is gilded, merely surface deep?” As Gustav glowered at him, Oscar instinctively dropped to one knee and bowed.

“H-h-h-heavens no, milord! I—I know full well that your loyalty to His Grace is beyond reproach. H-however, i-if I might be candid… This single gold statue has already put a great burden on the people. I’ve heard tell that no shortage of them have even been forced to kill and eat their families and travelers to stave off starvation. Should we ask them to produce the funds for four more, well…”

“They’ll starve to death, is that it?”

“Y-yes, milord…!”

“Then so be it.”


Oscar’s eyes went wide. That wasn’t the reaction he’d expected.

However, Gustav didn’t pay Oscar’s surprise the slightest bit of attention. He merely gazed reverently at the statue as he spoke.

“Knights demonstrate their fidelity through martial feats. Nobles, by properly tending to their lands. How, then, are peasants meant to show their loyalty? They have no valor. No wisdom. What minimal gesture can those base creatures make in hopes of showing their devotion?

“There is but one answer: to die for His Grace.”


“It’s for his sake that they must wear fineries and keep their towns resplendent despite their poverty. Proper expression of gratitude toward the emperor demands that they must wear perpetual smiles despite their misery. That is how the peasantry must comport themselves. The fact that it’s wrung from their bodies is what gives the statue’s gold its meaning.”

As far as Gustav was concerned, gold was little more than lumps of glittering clay. It had no intrinsic difference from inferior materials like bronze and stone. Normally, it would have no right bearing the emperor’s form. However, the gold he had used for the statue was no ordinary metal. It had been metaphorically scraped off the peasants’ bones, making it the crystallization of their lifeblood.

“This statue is imbued with the devotion of all who dwell within my lands. That is why it’s able to serve as a symbol of my loyalty to His Grace! Do you understand now, Oscar?”

Gustav’s black gaze drifted toward the servant. Oscar quivered internally. There was no hint of sycophancy, vanity, or self-interest in Gustav’s obsidian eyes. The only thing glimmering in their depths was a nigh-boyish sense of unconditional devotion to the emperor.

“It is as you say, milord…” As he acquiesced out of fear, Oscar found his convictions reaffirmed.

…The man’s loyalty is unquestionable. Duke Gustav doesn’t have a selfish bone in his body. Just an unflagging willingness to give his all for the emperor. Beautifying the domain, building the gold statue… It’s all solely for His Majesty’s sake. If His Grace told him to die, Gustav would surely kill himself with a smile on his face.

Between the duke’s mentality and his steadfast devotion, none could be better described as heroic than he.

But…as a leader, he’s the greatest fool there is!

If things continued as they were, the Gustav domain would be in ruins in the next few years. With their tax base eviscerated, the nobles would be unable to maintain their lifestyle. If that man remained in charge any longer, everyone would be ruined. Gustav’s grotesque devotion would be the death of commoners and nobles alike.

We of the Blue Brigade need to carry out our plan, and soon… But to do that, we must have a way to deal with the Treasure Spear. As long as it’s converged, trying to destroy it is futile. If only there were some way…

As Oscar contemplated his secret treachery, a voice stirred him from his reverie.

“Now, something else concerns me, Oscar.” Gustav went ahead and changed the subject.

Terrified that he’d been found out, Oscar piped up with a shrill, startled “Yes, milord?!”

Fortunately for him, though—

“Has the rebellion in Findolph been suppressed yet?”

—what Gustav wanted to talk about had nothing to do with his secretary’s secret.

Oh, it’s just that… Oscar breathed an internal sigh of relief as he gave his answer.

“We’ve successfully coordinated with Marquises Buchwald and Archride, milord. Supplies and provisions are being brought to the Le Luk Mountain Range checkpoint as we speak, and our troops are amassing in the foothills. Come spring, the military roads will be usable, and a hundred thousand of our troops will march on Dormundt and purge every last traitor from its walls.”

They were making full use of the time before the war started to get their supply lines up and running. Marquis Archride had been renowned as a masterful general during the last emperor’s rule, and it was clear why. Oscar then went on, laying out their troops’ movements while praising Archride for his superb leadership of the domain’s unified forces. Or, rather, that’s what the servant tried to do.


“Perhaps I misheard you.”

At Gustav’s interjection, Oscar went silent. The Fastidious Duke’s statement and the tone in which he made it sent a chill down the man’s spine. Gustav’s voice was a blade of ice. Oscar could practically feel the air around him freeze, crack, and shatter into tiny fragments. The secretive conspirator had a nasty feeling about this.

“…‘Come spring’? ‘Come spring,’ you said? You mean to tell me that Buchwald and Archride have yet to act? It’s been over a month since I ordered the subjugating army to deploy! Those vermin still trample upon one of our emperor’s holy domains…


“Yeeeeeeeeeeeek!!!!” Oscar’s fears had been instantly confirmed.

Gustav bellowed in rage, lashing out around himself as he clawed at his scalp and ripped out his hair. “Such…such utter disgrace! Such utter ineptitude! His Grace entrusted me with these northern lands! How could I let those insects fester for an entire month?! AaaaaaaaaaAAAAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!”

When his shriek reached its climax, he knelt before the gold statue, placed his hands on the ground…

…and smashed his head into the hard floor.


“O-one thousand apologies, Your Graaaaaace! I’m an inept fool! H-how can I ever atone for this?! Grrrr…GRAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!”

It wasn’t just once, either. In a display of utter mercilessness, Gustav brought his forehead to bear on the stone floor over and over again as he wailed. Even as his skin tore and blood pooled on the ground, he refused to stop.

“Eep…” Oscar could no longer begin to comprehend Gustav’s behavior, and when someone was faced with something outside their ability to understand, their only option was to fear it. The servant’s heart froze. All he could do was cower in silence as he watched his deranged master.

Eventually, Gustav stopped slamming his head and called for his manservant. “…Oscar.”

“Y-yes, milord!”

“Bring me Rage Soleil from my bedchamber…”

Oscar found himself unable to hide his shock.

“Y-you really mean to use the Treasure Spear now…?!”


“R-right away, milord!”

The sheer menace of the duke’s bloodstained face and furious howling sent Oscar dashing over to Gustav’s nearby bedchamber.

Enshrined almost reverently on a pedestal at the back of the room was a pulsating red spear. That was the true form of Gustav’s legendary so-called Heavenly Fire.

“Rage Soleil.”

For five long years, Gustav had spent five hours each day chanting incantations before a raging flame in order to complete his war magic. It was his ultimate trump card.

Oscar lifted the spear, pedestal and all. The weapon was formed from a convergence of bound, materialized blaze spirits, so it was as hot as burning iron. For a normal person, touching it was out of the question. Making sure to hold it by the pedestal, the servant returned to his lord. Finally, he knelt before Gustav, who was waiting by the gold statue.

“Milord, if I—”

“Out of the way!” Gustav didn’t hesitate for a moment before grabbing the spear with his bare hands and kicking Oscar aside. The little man let out a “Gyah!” as the Fastidious Duke shoved past him and made for the palace’s highest spire.

I was an idiot for trusting the likes of Buchwald and Archride! Worthless incompetents, the lot of them! They’re toxic parasites leeching off of the empire, nothing more…!

Gustav made his way up the spire’s spiral staircase, paying no heed to the heat searing his flesh down to the bone. Eventually, the man reached the tower’s apex. Standing before a large golden bell, the duke glared off into the northern sky.

He was staring at the land past the horizon. Gustav was certain something was squirming just beyond his view. Vermin, running rampant in His Grace’s territory, encroaching on Findolph and devouring it all! It was unacceptable. Utterly unforgivable. There was only one natural recourse in the duke’s mind…

Now is the time to unleash my fury—my Rage Soleil!


The moment Gustav unleashed the seal on his spear-shaped war magic, he used every ounce of his spiritual energy to bind the wind spirits dwelling in the atmosphere. From the spirits, a green aura began welling up. Gustav’s curse bound them, imbuing the spear with the power of flight. Such was the energy it needed to cross seas and mountains, piercing through clouds on its journey to strike down its master’s hideous enemies.

With the deadly magic prepared—


—Oslo el Gustav hurled the spear into the northern sky toward Dormundt.

As the snow laid thick atop the ground, a thunderous gust of wind cleaved through the cloudy night. Lyrule heard a strange voice call to her in a dream.

“Please, wake up…”

Jade-green flecks of light floated up through the darkness of her unconscious mind, drifting in a snowflake-like pattern. That was where the sound originated. It was the voice of a woman.

The noise wasn’t hitting her eardrums but rather echoing directly in her brain.

“A crisis…befalls the Seven Heroes… A crisis…is imminent…”

“The Seven Heroes.” Lyrule didn’t understand what that meant, but she knew it referred to her friends from Earth. For some reason, she was certain of it. Like she’d known it from the very beginning.

The voice continued.

“They require…your power… Please…you have to…guide them…” It was pleading with the girl.


Quite suddenly, Lyrule sprang up from the world of dreams. Her breath was ragged. She placed a hand on her chest.

“What…was that, just now…?” The young woman didn’t know. She couldn’t even begin to comprehend it. Yet, curiously, Lyrule was filled with certainty.

Something terrible was about to happen to her friends.

I’m scared… The blond girl’s body trembled. What in the world was happening to her? Lyrule didn’t know, and it terrified her.

However, as if to drive the point home—



—a heartbroken voice echoed through her ears.

It wasn’t the woman from the dream but rather…children. Thousands of them, crying out in unison. Lyrule leaped out of her bed and threw open her window.

“Please…help us…”

It was more than the imagination of a sleepy mind. The girl could really hear them. Their voices were quieter than the sound of snow falling, yet still their cries reached Lyrule. She could hear them calling out from above the snow-laden clouds.


“This is beary baaaaaaaad!!!!”

In Ringo Oohoshi’s lab in the newly established Manufacturing District, Bearabbit rose from sleep mode with a shout.

“Bearabbit?!” Ringo sat up, wondering what had the AI so alarmed all of a sudden.

The artificial creature broadcast the situation through the myriad communication terminals to which he was linked.

“This is an emergency notification to all devices! Altitude, twenty thousand feet! Distance, one hundred and twenty-five miles away! A projectile has been located approaching Dormundt from the south-southeast! Enacting emergency protocols!”

“…! Open all air-defense missile pods! Prepare to intercept!”

“Pawger that!” Bearabbit set to immediately carrying out Ringo’s instructions. As the center of the air-defense system’s network, he opened the missile pods’ anti-snow roofs and readied them to fire. Then…


The inventor had quickly opened up her Bearabbit-synched laptop, and its communication app initialized. A call was coming from Tsukasa, who’d been leading a staff meeting over in Dormundt proper.

“Oh, um, Tsukasa! I, uh…”

“I got the gist of the situation from the emergency notification just now. Do we know what the bogey is yet?”

“From what the sonar analysis is telling us, I think it’s a spear.”

“Based on its current trajectory and bearing, we’ve got a point of origin! It came from the Gustav domain!”

“A-at this rate, it’s going to hit…r-right in the middle of Dormundt!”

“That’s clearly no ordinary spear. Odds are it’s Oslo el Gustav’s infamous Heavenly Fire. Do whatever it takes to shoot it down, Ringo.”

The scientific genius accepted the order without hesitation. “Leave it…to us! Bearabbit! The air-defense counterattack is ready, right?!”

“Fur sure!” Bearabbit sent the command to have one of their four missile pods launch its entire salvo.

Smoke burst from the cylindrical pod as its twenty miniature missiles blasted off into the snowy sky. Each one hurtled toward the crimson shooting star that had just penetrated the cloud line over Dormundt.

Flowers of red flame blossomed in the cold winter sky. Twenty massive blossoms. A moment later, the sounds of the explosion rocked the city. Thanks to the unparalleled accuracy of Bearabbit’s guidance, each missile had struck true.


The AI was monitoring the situation via radar, so he noticed the abnormality before all the eyesight-reliant humans. Despite how heavily it had just been bombed, the projectile was undamaged.

“N-no good! That whole bearrage had no effect?!”

“But…why…?!” Ringo’s eyes swam; she couldn’t believe it. From the other end of the call, Tsukasa offered her a possible explanation.

“It must be guarded by some kind of magic…”

“If it took that hit without a scratch, then shooting it down is going to be nigh impawsible.”

“But then…what can we do…?”

Ringo flew into a tizzy at the unexpected turn of events. However, Tsukasa was different. The young prime minister was the type to be prepared for each and every eventuality he could conceive of. Cool and collected, he moved on to their next option.

“…Ringo, was there any change in the spear’s trajectory and landing site before and after our counterstrike?”

“Ah, um, h-hold on a second… I’ll run the numbers!” The scientist did as requested and recalculated the spear’s flight path. The results…gave her a ray of hope.

“It shifted…to the High-End Residential District in the southwest…!”

“If we can’t destroy it, maybe we can push it away. New plan: I need you to use the missiles to divert the spear outside the city. The farther, the better.”

Despite the new plan, Ringo faltered. “W-will we be okay…?” She was clearly worried. Even without her saying specifically what she was concerned about, Tsukasa could tell.

She was scared that even if they managed to knock the spear off its initial target, they might still get swallowed in the ensuing destruction. Thankfully, Tsukasa had already come up with an answer to that problem.

“Gustav’s Heavenly Fire posed a significant threat to us, so I’ve spent quite a bit of my free time over the past month researching it. We’re a good distance from the battlefield he fought the Yamato Empire on, so it’s been difficult to track down accurate accounts. From the size of the base he destroyed, the time it took for the base to fall, and the consistencies between various retellings of the story, though, it appears Heavenly Fire is less like an explosive and more like a firebomb. If we don’t take the hit head-on, we shouldn’t be in much danger. Do it.”

Tsukasa hadn’t just spent the past month wallowing in helplessness. The white-haired boy had busied himself taking in all the information he possibly could and used it to discern their enigmatic foe’s true nature. Armed with such knowledge, the young man spoke very assuredly.

Despite being of another world—with little knowledge about magic—Tsukasa had a pretty good handle on Rage Soleil’s specifics. Now that she knew about the research and investigation backing up Tsukasa’s confidence, Ringo was satisfied.

“Got…it! Bearabbit, let’s use the missiles to knock the spear’s angle down…so it lands in the sea outside the city!”

“Pawger that!” Bearabbit followed Ringo’s instructions and activated the second missile pod. After he guided the projectiles’ trajectory so as to strike the spear’s raised head from above, they made impact.

The plan was flawless.

Rage Soleil itself was composed of the blaze spirits Gustav had spent five years binding together. Shallow attacks like those of the missiles couldn’t so much as scratch it. However, the magic Gustav was using to make it fly wasn’t nearly so powerful.

Destroying the spear may not have been possible, but when the duke had thrown it, all he’d been able to enchant it with was tactical magic. Using missiles to mess with its propulsion was definitely feasible. Its projected landing site crept farther and farther away from the city’s center and moved ever closer to the sea outside the city.

With the third missile pod, they were able to shift it all the way to the city’s outskirts. All that was left was the fourth and final barrage.

Once they launched the missiles from the High-End Residential District’s pod, they’d be able to make the spear crash into the sea. Ringo breathed a sigh of relief, but it proved to be short-lived.

“Good stuff! Now, the furth pod should seal the—what?!”

Suddenly, Bearabbit let out an alarmed cry.

“What’s wrong?!”

“The launch mechanism in the High-End Residential District’s missile pod isn’t responding! We can’t launch the missiles!”

“You’re kidding?!” Ringo tried frantically to access the fourth pod from her computer and force-start the launch sequence. However, all she got for her troubles was a big error message informing her that there was an analog equipment failure.

“Analog error? How?! Did some snow get in and damage the system?!”

“It’s too late! The spear’s making impact!”

“Ah! Tsukasa, run—!”

“GET DOWN!!!!”

“ ?!”

Ringo’s body reacted to Tsukasa’s bellow faster than her mind did. She threw herself to the ground. The next moment, a red flash of light engulfed the city.

After crossing seas and mountains, Rage Soleil finally crashed in Dormundt. The magic spear landed in the High-End Residential District’s park, a hot spot for social gatherings.

On impact, the already-luminous weapon let out its largest flash of light yet. The crimson glare was so intense, it was visible all the way from the Former-Commoners’ Residential District. After the light, the spear emitted a bright-red blast of flame. It instantly spread three hundred feet in each direction before spiraling up into the air. All in the city wondered what was happening.

Seeing the light, feeling the heat, and hearing the screams of those caught up in the inferno snapped the High-End Residential District’s residents back to their senses. They fled to escape the terrible magic’s radius.

That was when it appeared.

As the pillar of flame rose into the sky, it took on the shape of a person. The fires writhed as though possessing a will of their own, molding themselves into the form of a man’s torso. The crackling blaze became the visage of an austere man with long hair and a beard.

“I-i-it’s hiiiiiim!”

Some of the district’s nobles trembled as they stared into the fiery face. They had seen its like before. Eventually, the crimson man’s mouth moved to speak. Its words blew through the whole of Dormundt like a tempestuous wind.

“I am His Grace’s loyal knight. I am Oslo el Gustav. I speak now to the insects defiling His Grace’s sacred garden and to those foolish enough to ally with them.

“Know now that there is nowhere in these northern lands I protect for the likes of you to nest. The flames of my rage…shall burn your very souls to dust!”

And with that, the fiery figure raised its molten arms to the heavens and spoke the incantation.


That moment, the figure crumbled from the base up…and released a tidal wave of awesome fire.

In the blink of an eye, the flood consumed half the district. And the fires didn’t stop spreading there. Plants, buildings, and people were all burned away indiscriminately.


“Wh-what’s going on?!”


“It’s Duke Gustav’s Heavenly Fire! We’re doomed!”

Engulfed in flame, the High-End Residential District looked like hell on earth. Crimson tongues licked at the residences’ beautifully tiled walls, consuming them along with the lustrous blue rooftops that had served as a symbol of the nobles’ statuses. However, what really made the landscape seem hellish were the screams of its residents.

Some people had to flee their burning houses with only the clothes on their backs. Others greedily tried making off with their riches in tow only to be swallowed by the inferno. More still had already been reduced to human-shaped mounds of charcoal.

Nobles and their employees fled every which way, trying desperately to escape the waking nightmare. Among them were the three young nobles who’d refused to submit to the Seven Luminaries and had been plotting to collude with Marquis Archride and commit acts of terrorism.

“Hey, Kyle! What’s going on?!”

“How the hell should I know?!”

“Did I just hear that thing say ‘Oslo el Gustav’?!”

“D-don’t be a dumbass! He’d never attack while we nobles are still in the city! Wh—?!”

That’s when the three saw it; a large object was falling toward them from above. By the time they’d spotted it, there was nothing they could have done. A burning home’s chimney had crumbled at its base and was toppling toward the three of them.

Responding to imminent danger required training to develop the reflexes needed for proper evasion. Most folk were like deer. No matter how nimble they were, these people would freeze up when faced with an onrushing car. The three would-be-terrorist-nobles were no exception. They went stock-still. Not even screams escaped their mouths.



—something stopped the crumbling mass of brick the moment before it could crush them.

A man rushed toward them like a gust of wind, then swung his crude iron slab of sword and smashed the chimney away. The stone column must have weighed hundreds of pounds, yet this man had been able to repel it with brute strength alone.

“Hey, it’s Niersbach and co. You kids all right?”

“Y-you’re that…”

Their savor was familiar to all three of the nobles. That one-eyed byuma with droopy dog ears had once served as Dormundt’s captain of the guard. However, out of lust for authority, he’d abandoned his pride, betrayed his country, and taken a job as commander of the Order of the Seven Luminaries. At least, that was how the nobles evaluated the ex-Silver Knight, Zest Bernard.

The man in question had responded to the crisis quickly. Having shed their armor, he and his soldiers had come running to help.

“Is everyone all right?”

Tsukasa turned his gaze away from the window where he’d just watched the blazing figure vanish and now turned toward the government officials gathered in the conference room.

Right before the spear landed, they’d reflexively thrown themselves to the ground at Tsukasa’s instruction. Now, upon hearing his question, they gingerly rose back to their feet. Fortunately, none of them were injured. The municipal office was fairly close to the city’s center, a fair distance from Rage Soleil’s impact site over by the outer perimeter.

That was not to say that the assembled politicians were of sound mind after the attack. Given their expressions, many of them were clearly panicking over the current state of emergency.

“Mr. Tsukasa! Wh-what’s going on…?!”

“It appears the High-End Residential District was hit by a spear-like projectile originating from the Gustav domain. The empire has clearly launched some manner of magical attack against us.”

“B-but that must be…!”

“C-could it really be the Fastidious Duke’s infamous Heavenly Fire?!”

“The attack he used in the war against Yamato to destroy their massive base in a single night?!”

Winter was only half over, so the officials were shaken by Tsukasa’s declaration.

“Mr. Tsukasa, wh-what do we do?!”

“The fire’s gonna be here any minute now! We gotta get outta here!”

“B-but not all the residents managed to get out yet…!”

However, right as the officials started getting restless—

“Remaaaaaain caaaaaalm!”

—a booming voice filled the air.

It was so loud it was likely heard through all of Dormundt.

Akatsuki’s voice echoed from the megaphones installed throughout the city.

“This is Akatsuki, God of the Seven Luminaries! Right now, I’m speaking directly into your minds! Employees and former nobles of the High-End Residential District, listen well!

“As I’m sure you’re aware, the empire has launched an underhanded attack against Dormundt! They wanted to destroy our fair city and were happy to let you former nobles burn along with it! But worry not! We of the Seven Luminaries will not forsake you!

“Our soldiers are heading your way to carry out rescue operations! Follow their instructions so you can get to safety quickly! If any of you are trapped inside burning buildings, lean out a window and wave your hands so they can find you! We won’t leave a single man, woman, or child behind! I repeat—”

At the moment, he was soaring above the burning district, making a show of himself and casting his voice to encourage its evacuating residents. All the while, the unarmored soldiers were following Zest’s orders, directing the fleeing civilians toward shelter and rescuing people from burning buildings.

The fire had barely even started, yet their efforts were already well under way. None of them had panicked or hesitated for a moment. However, that was to be expected. Everything they were doing had been laid out well ahead of time.

“That’s right! Item three, clause two in the Emergency Manual!” It was Mayor Heiseraat who realized.

“Ah, I see you’ve remembered.” Tsukasa nodded to indicate that the man was right.

The Emergency Manual was exactly what its name suggested—it was a document detailing what each person in the city needed to do in the event of one of any number of dire situations. Having a large-scale fire break out in the High-End Residential District was item three, clause two of that manual.

Tsukasa Mikogami knew all too well that he wasn’t omnipotent. He couldn’t know what the future held. This was why he made a plan for every conceivable eventuality before it happened.

“At this stage, I have no direct orders for you all. You already know what you need to do in situations like this, and you have the manpower and tools to carry it out. Once I’m gone, you all will be responsible for protecting this city for many years to come… Remain calm and collected; mindfully do what needs to be done.” To demonstrate that there was no need to panic, Tsukasa leisurely positioned himself on the sofa.

With a rare smile—

“It’ll be okay. You can do this.”

—he indicated to the officials his wholehearted confidence in them.

The white-haired boy’s demeanor demonstrated something to the gathered bureaucrats. What drove Tsukasa to work so unreasonably hard all the time wasn’t a mere addiction to the job. Rather, it was so he could act calmly in times of crisis. Simply put, it was so Tsukasa could get enough done ahead of time to give everyone else some room to breathe when the time came. Such dedication touched the hearts of those he worked alongside.

“““Yes, sir!””” The officials responded confidently, then got busy performing their individual tasks.

One of them contacted companies around the city and made arrangements to have blankets delivered to those who’d lost their homes in the fire. Another organized the office employees and began moving key documents off-site. A third reached out to the prodigy doctor, Keine Kanzaki, and coordinated the construction of a treatment camp for the injured.

Once they’d started, each acted with speed and precision. The fact that they could do so was a large part of why they were there. After all, part of a politician’s job was to surround themselves with capable staff. Even without Tsukasa lifting a finger, the people were still in good hands.

Even so, I hadn’t expected the fire to be quite so ferocious. Tsukasa looked out a shattered window. The blaze had already nearly made its way to his office.

At that rate, the High-End Residential District was going to be completely engulfed, and the fire would spread to the neighboring Port and Former-Commoners’ Residential Districts as well. Dormundt was a symbol of the notion of equality that had finally taken root in that world. Tsukasa wasn’t about to let it get burned to the ground. He couldn’t. The billions of lives yet to enter this world depended on it.

“…It’s me.” To that end, Tsukasa picked up his phone and got another ball rolling.

After Zest smashed the falling chimney aside, a young byuma noble, Kyle, shot him a scathing glare. “You’re that traitorous knight who sold out your country to rebels to amass status for yourself. What are you doing saving a bunch of imperial nobles like us?!”

Kyle’s one-eyed savior lowered his crude greatsword and let out a small sigh. “…C’mon, li’l Niersbach. Enough of that, already.” The old dog-eared soldier grinned sarcastically.


“You kids have it in your heads that you’re imperial nobles, so no matter what, the empire’s gonna swoop in and save you. But the Fastidious Duke ain’t half that kind. You couldn’t protect the territory you were entrusted with, and in his eyes, that means you’re dead. Look around you; this should be proof enough.”


“Survival of the fittest, remember? That’s the empire’s policy, and at the end of the day, commoners and nobles are no different from them in that respect. You live when the people above you allow it, and you die like worms when your betters demand it.”

“Well, no shit…! That’s our empire’s golden rule!”

“Well then, you’d better go throw yourselves into Duke Gustav’s angry flames, eh? As law-abiding nobles of the realm, ain’t that your duty now?”

“Rgh…! Th-that’s…” Kyle was at a loss for a response. After all, nobody wanted to die to satisfy another’s rage. However, imperial law demanded he submit to that absurdity. Kyle had spent his whole life living under that law. He’d believed it to be the one true absolute. Yet now…

“…But see, the Seven Luminaries are trying to build a world where that ain’t the case. A gentler world, where shit like class and bloodlines don’t determine how you live and die… Leaving a world like that behind for my daughter? Now that’s a dream worth dying for. That’s the reason I became their commander.”

It was never about status for Zest. That wasn’t something worth putting his life on the line for. The former knight risked death because he had a dream about something bigger than himself. As Zest finished giving his speech, he turned around.

“I can’t begin to imagine how much confusion, pain, and anger you must feel at having to give up the privileges you’ve spent your whole life enjoying. But…when you start looking at others as equals, you see all sorts of stuff you never even realized you were missing. Do me a favor and remember that.”

Zest kept moving. There were still others who needed rescuing. Kyle spat a curse while he watched the old man depart.

“Hey, nobody asked for your help! C’mon, guys, let’s get out of here!” The younger byuma and his friends ran off to escape the flames.

They, along with the rest of the High-End Residential District’s survivors, followed the roadside soldiers’ directions and made for the park in the city’s central plaza. When they did, though, the blaze ramped up in intensity, as if trying to pursue the fleeing townsfolk. The way the flames were spreading out and engulfing the city, it was like they had a will of their own. However, Tsukasa wasn’t about to let that savagery continue.

“Mr. Tsukasa! We’re done evacuating the survivors!”

“Good work.”

Each division’s supervisor had been equipped with a rudimentary comms terminal. After receiving an update from one of them, Tsukasa gave an order to the head of his recently formed counterintelligence division.

“Victor, the evacuation is finished. You’re all set to detonate.”

“Roger that.”

Despite the state of emergency, the reply from the other end was perfunctory and businesslike. A moment later—

“““ ?!?!?!”””

—the sound of several hundred explosions going off rocked the eardrums of every person in the city.

All of Dormundt looked in the direction of the turmoil to try and figure out what was going on. Every building lining the High-End Residential District’s main road had been blasted away without a trace.

Keine, who was in the central plaza treating the injured, immediately understood what had happened. “Ah, I see. By widening the road that divides the city into four sections, he aims to limit the fire’s spread.”

Aoi nodded as she helped carry survivors too wounded to walk. “Water alone is insufficient to extinguish a conflagration that severe, so that was the only course of action, that it was. Masato, m’lord, I would hardly have thought it possible to acquire such quantities of gunpowder, but it seems I underestimated you.”

Masato was directing the flow of supplies, but hearing Aoi’s praise, he grinned malevolently. “Oh, I didn’t lift a finger. Ol’ Saint Nick came over the cold wintry seas to bring them to us as a present.”

“Well, I suppose we’ll have to thank him, now, won’t we?”

“Ah! So Santa exists in this world, too?! A pleasant surprise, that it is!”

Keine chuckled, understanding what Masato was hinting at. Aoi missed the point entirely but was impressed nonetheless.

Suddenly, though—

“…It’s not…enough…”

—they saw a familiar blond girl desperately making her way toward them through the crowd.

“Heya, Lyrule. Didja come to help out—” But before Masato could get the “or something?” part out, the good look he got at her stunned him into silence. Even though it was a chilly night in the dead of winter, she was sweating like crazy.

“Hey, whoa, what’s with all the sweat?!”

“Oh my, were you burned?!”

Lyrule shook her head at her concerned friends. That wasn’t what had happened. She spoke, practically having to wring her voice out of her throat to do so.

“…Widening the road…isn’t enough! It won’t…be able to stop…Rage Soleil…!”

“Lyrule, what are you—?” Again, before Masato could finish, he was interrupted.

“Don’t think for a moment that your petty tricks are enough to escape my wrath!”

Just like before, a gale-force bellow rocked Dormundt.

“““Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!””” A great wave of screams rose from the refugee-packed plaza. Cause for such renewed alarm was quickly evident. Having finally burned through the High-End Residential District, the conflagration stopped in front of the explosion-widened main road.

But right when it looked like the blaze was contained…

…thousands of human-shaped flames began crawling out from the inferno.

They slowly rose to their burning feet and began walking forward with their arms outstretched like the blind. With tottering, unstable steps, they crossed the roads toward the Port and Former-Commoners’ Residential Districts, grabbing any buildings they could to spread their flames.

Terrifyingly, though, the buildings weren’t their only targets. Some even started gradually making their way toward the people gathered in the central plaza.

“The hell…?” By Earth logic, it was utterly unfathomable. Even Masato was taken aback.

Gustav cackled scornfully.

“Heh-heh, ah-ha-ha-haaaaaa!!!! Tremble in fear! Cower in terror! For this is the true might of my devotion! This is the might of my war magic, Rage Soleil!

“Once activated, its flames will burn their way to the end of the continent! This nation has nowhere you can hide! Now, die! Die! Atone for your sins with your lives! Perish for the sin of soiling His Grace’s sacred lands with your filthy, traitorous feet!!!!”


“We’re doomed! There’s no way we can beat the empire!”


Having the flames walk toward them of their own volition was something beyond a nightmare. At such a hellish sight, the people of Dormundt finally knew the height of fear. Frenzied screams echoed from all directions as everyone scrabbled to be the first out of the city. As long as the fire yet burned, trying to calm them would be an exercise in futility.

With a bitter expression on his face, Mayor Heiseraat got on his comms and issued the order. “Attention, all personnel. We’re moving to item three, clause four in the Emergency Manual. Evacuate the entire city! We’re…abandoning Dormundt!”

With Mayor Heiseraat having given the order to evacuate, people in every district fled outside Dormundt’s walls.

Terrified as they were of the fantastical flames that had finally swallowed up the High-End Residential District, they rushed to the open gates with only the barest amount of luggage possible. The air was filled with fearful, anxious screams.

Amid all that, Masato and the others remained fixed, steadfast in their positions—and not without reason. As the mayor was giving the evacuation order, Tsukasa had sent them a message.

“I’ve got one last idea left. Ringo and I are headed your way, so hang tight in the central plaza.”

They’d had no problem with the prime minister’s new directive. After all, Lyrule had told them pretty much the same thing.

“Fleeing isn’t necessary. There’s a way to break Rage Soleil.”

A little under a minute later…


Accompanied by Ringo and Bearabbit, who’d come running over from the Manufacturing District, Tsukasa joined the group. Not even waiting to catch his breath, he immediately pressed Masato for information. The white-haired boy wanted to know if Lyrule’s claim about Rage Soleil was accurate or not.

“That message you sent me, is it true?”

“…Go ahead and ask her yourself.”

Tsukasa’s gaze shifted to the blond girl from Elm, who was currently being tended to by Keine.

“Lyrule…do you really know how to break that spell?”

The girl nodded. Sweat was still beading on her forehead. “Rage Soleil is war magic. To cast it, you have to spend years compressing blaze spirits together. And as long as its core, the cursed spear that binds and controls the spirits, is intact, the fires will never go out! But the opposite is true, too. If you destroy the spear, you can break the spell!”

“But how do you know that…?” The question came from Akatsuki, who’d just alighted from above.

Lyrule shook her pallid head. “I…don’t know…”

“You don’t know?”

“I can’t be sure how I know. But…even though I’m not sure why…I know this will work! The moment I saw those flames, I knew what kind of magic it was, what it did, everything. It all just popped into my head. It was like… It was like I’d known since before I was even born…”

“…I see.”

“You probably think I’m crazy, but it’s true! If we run, the fire will follow us forever! As long as that cursed core exists, it’ll never stop! That’s how the spell works! Please, you have to believe me!” Lyrule had no idea how she knew any of that, but even though she didn’t know why, she was certain it was correct. Running away wouldn’t solve anything or save anyone.

Despite realizing how unreasonable she was being, the blond girl needed to get them to understand. Lyrule had to convince the Prodigies to trust her words.

Tsukasa didn’t even pause to think.

“All right. I believe you.”

His reply was matter-of-fact.


“That said, the problem is how we’re going to destroy the spear. That’s going to be somewhat of a hurdle.”

“Yeah, all those missiles bearly scratched it. This is a toughie.”

“Any ideas poppin’ into your head about that bit, Lyrule?”

Tsukasa wasn’t the only one who was immediately on board. Not a single one of the bunch cast a dubious look at Lyrule. In fact, not only were they seriously discussing the info she’d given them, they were even asking for her input.

At their unanimous response, Lyrule couldn’t help but ask, “You all…really believe me…? I-it’s a little strange to be saying this after I asked for your trust, but…the things I’m telling you are…crazy, aren’t they?”

Tsukasa’s reply was simple. “Of course we believe you.” As he spoke, he pulled out a handkerchief and wiped Lyrule’s cheek.

It was wet with fearful tears. Having a head full of strange information and no idea how it got there was frightening. Voices that came from nowhere were plenty startling. Indeed, it had been jarring enough to make Lyrule cry. However, that hadn’t stopped the girl from speaking up.

“The change inside you was so confusing and scary, you were trembling. But you came out here to help us anyway. How could we ever doubt bravery like that?”

All the other Prodigies nodded in agreement. Seeing them treat her not with fear or revulsion but with the same trust they always did…filled Lyrule with courage.

“ !” She took a deep breath to steady her racing heart. Her body had, at last, stopped trembling. Then, in a clear, confident tone, she answered Masato’s earlier question—the one about how to destroy the heart of the terrible magic.

“…Destroying the spear won’t take a special power or technique. Any sort of decent blow should be able to do it.”

“B-but even our missiles weren’t good enough fur that.”

“That was before Rage Soleil activated. Back then, the spear was strong because of all the blaze spirits converged inside it… Now that Rage Soleil’s activated, though, the blaze spirits have scattered throughout the city. Given its current state, an attack like one of the ones before could easily destroy it.”

Hearing that, Tsukasa asked Ringo for a status report.

“Ringo, do we have any missiles left?”

“Th-there’s one…loaded in Bearabbit…but…” Ringo’s voice was quiet, and she curled her body up apologetically.

They did, in fact, have one missile left. It was small but designed to take out ships, so it still packed a considerable punch. Also, because it was a cruise missile, it was equipped with wings and a jet engine. Their target was well within its effective range. However, trying to hit a target as small as a spear gave rise to a new problem. Namely, how to guide the projectile.

“With how hot the flames are…guiding it…might not go too well.”

Because the spear had already landed, it was outside the range of their anti-air radar. Air turbulence from the conflagration created a factor of randomness that meant guiding the missile in remotely could easily go wrong.

Compounding things was the fact that this was no ordinary fire. The way it was able to act autonomously made it more like a monster.

Masato offered a suggestion: “Couldn’t Bearabbit just carry the missile in directly?”


“N-no way. At the end of the day, this body is only koalafied to help Ringo with her day-to-day tasks. If I tried to go somewhere that unbearably hot, all my circuit boards would melt…”

Bearabbit shot his idea down, alarmed at the very notion. It sounded like using the missile to destroy the spear was a nonstarter.

But just as everyone was ready to give up—

“I shall go.”

—Aoi Ichijou, who’d been listening silently to the discussion up until that point, announced her candidacy.

“Whaddaya mean, you’ll go?”

“Once Bearabbit launches the missile, I shall run alongside it and guide it to its destination, that I shall.”


“I have to say, that sounds…incredibly reckless.”

A human directly guiding the missile. Masato and Akatsuki reacted to the bizarre idea with outright shock, and Tsukasa laid out his entirely natural misgivings. Aoi made no effort to conceal how disappointed she was in the white-haired boy.

“Tsukasa, m’lord, with all due respect…I ask that you not make light of me.”


“I am hailed the world over as a martial prodigy, that I am. My abilities lie outside your capacity to measure, and my limits are known to none in this world but myself. Thus, if I say I am capable of something, know that it can be done, no matter how hard that may be for you to believe. Tsukasa, m’lord, I ask of you this: Do you truly think I am the sort of fool who would knowingly take on a task beyond her abilities and, in doing so, endanger her friends and allies?” Aoi spoke with an air of utmost confidence about her.

As far as Tsukasa was concerned—as far as everyone but the swordswoman who’d put the idea forward was concerned—it was difficult to imagine such a thing being possible. However, they also knew that Aoi Ichijou was not the type of girl to claim she could do something she couldn’t at a time like this. As their representative, Tsukasa gave his answer.

“Very well. I have faith…in our prodigious swordmaster, Aoi Ichijou.” The young prime minister resolved to bet everything on the girl’s abilities. Aoi gave him an unflappable, pearly-white smile.

“I shall not let you down.”

Now that they had their plan, everyone got to work.

“Roo! Prince! We need to get water from the soldiers!”


“Got it!”

“I have some dressing, if you’d like. You could use it in place of a sash,” Keine offered.

“I am in your debt.”

“…Taking things to extremes as ever, aren’t you, Aoi?”

“Such is a swordswoman’s lot, that it is.” Aoi took the dressing and used it to tie up her sleeves. Then, she drew her beloved katana, Hoozukimaru, and sliced her ankle-length hakama off at the knee.

“Aoi! We’ve got the water!”

“Ah, many thanks! Now pour it on me, if you would!”

“Comin’ right up!”

“Here you go!”

“Heave ho!”

Masato, Akatsuki, and Roo took their wooden buckets and soaked Aoi from head to toe. With any luck, it would offer her body some protection against the heat. Finally, Aoi went barefoot, casting her socks and wooden sandals aside.

“Ringo, m’lady! I am prepared, that I am!” The swordmaster dropped into a crouching start as she gave Ringo her cue. The genius inventor nodded, then sat down and tapped away at her laptop. Bearabbit sprang into motion as the commands flowed in.

First, anchor bolts shot out of the manipulators he was using as legs, fastening him to the ground. Then, his display shut down and slid into his backpack body. A red-and-white missile about as thick as a man’s bicep jutted out in its place. Of all the armaments loaded inside Bearabbit, that missile was his trump card. Once it was fully in position, Bearabbit gave the signal.

“I’m teddy here, too!”

“Aoi, get that missile where it needs to go!”

“That I shall!”

With her agreement serving as their final confirmation—

“Fur in the hole!”

—Bearabbit launched the missile.

The moment he did, Aoi kicked off against the ground so hard, she shattered the stone pavement.

Then, as the flame-spewing missile tried to pass her by—


—she grabbed onto its two wings and carried it with her as she dashed into the burning High-End Residential District.

Aoi started by identifying the hill road that gave her the straightest shot from the central plaza to the spear’s location in the High-End Residential District’s park, then charged into the flames.

It wasn’t as large as the main road that divided Dormundt into four sections, but it was still a wide enough berth for three carriages to comfortably pass each other by—not narrow by any definition.

Rage Soleil’s fiery spawn did not take the young woman’s intrusion lying down. The flaming automatons began walking toward her, trying to grab Aoi before she could reach their core. However, their speed was nothing to write home about.

It certainly wasn’t enough to catch Aoi, who was using the missile’s propulsion to aid her sprint. In the blink of an eye, she was out of the central plaza and heading up the hill road.

Rows of houses flanking either side of the swordswoman had been torched all the way to their roofs by flames. Aoi pushed her way through the veritable tunnel of fire at a blistering clip. Tsukasa and the others, who were watching it all play out via the camera installed on the missile’s head, were at the edge of their seats.

“That’s nuts. She’s actually running alongside the missile…”

“Damn, I’m impressed her legs can keep up with it. At this rate, she’s gonna get there in no time.” However, Masato’s optimism was met with doubt.

“…Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like things will go quite that smoothly.” Tsukasa frowned as he studied the video feed on Ringo’s laptop.

Fiery figures had shuffled out of the burning houses, filling up the street and blocking Aoi’s path like a wall. Forward was no longer an option. Evidently, Aoi had foreseen the appearance of such an obstacle.

“Nyaaaah!” The Prodigy shifted her center of gravity backward with all her might, no longer running with the missile but against it. She was using her entire body to yank the missile to the side.

By that point, her feet were moving faster than the untrained eye could make out. The pavement under her feet cracked and shattered, and she dug her heels into the ground beneath it to stop the missile in midair.

Then, still grasping its wings—


—she pulled with her left hand and pushed with her right, forcibly spinning the missile around.


By smashing her honed glutes into its backside at the same time, she was able to get it to make a sharp, ninety-degree left turn toward one of the alleyways spidering off the hill road.

“She’s…incredible…!” Even Ringo, who balked at talking in front of others, couldn’t help but let out a cry of amazement at the nigh superhuman feat. Everyone else watching felt the same.

“This is bad…!” All except Tsukasa, the one person who had the city’s layout memorized. For some reason, his expression grew grim. It wasn’t long before the others discovered why.

Aoi leaned into the gentle curve, but right when she thought she’d made it through the alley—


—she found a thirty-foot-tall burning wall in her path.

The alley didn’t lead anywhere. It was a complete dead end. To make matters worse, fire creatures began creeping toward her from all directions, boxing her into the cul-de-sac like they’d been waiting for her.

“Oh no! She’s trapped!”


As far as the swordmaster was concerned, though, the situation didn’t even register as a predicament. Not seeming alarmed in the slightest, she took a deep breath as she barreled toward the wall.

Then, after digging in hard with her feet, shattering the ground, and bringing the missile to a stop—


—she pulled with all her strength and lifted the missile’s head.

By doing so, she was able to shift the missile. The young woman changed its trajectory from parallel to the ground to perpendicular. The missile shot into the sky over Dormundt’s burning cityscape with Aoi in tow.

Having lost their mark, the fiery figures crashed into the cul-de-sac wall and collapsed. Even they couldn’t follow her into the air. At that rate, though, the missile would just keep rising, never to find its target. That wouldn’t get the job done. Thankfully, Aoi had a plan.

Once she and the missile reached a certain altitude, she lifted her body as though performing a pull-up, sandwiched the missile between her sizable breasts…and blocked its air vents. By doing so, she drastically reduced the amount of oxygen flowing through the missile’s internal combustion engine.

As the engine stalled, so did the projectile itself. For an instant, it hung still in the air. In that fleeting moment, Aoi let go of the vents, grabbed the wing on top of the missile, and threw herself into the air. Then, after spinning herself around the wing like it was a high bar, she leveled a solid kick at the missile’s lower half.

That caused the projectile to spin upward in a semicircle. As a natural consequence, the warhead ended up pointing down. Immediately thereafter, the newly oxygenated engine fired back up.

At the end of Aoi’s trapeze-like act acrobatics, she and the missile began making their way back downward. Specifically, they were gliding straight toward the High-End Residential District’s park—the spot where the spear was embedded. Aoi’s dramatic shortcut had allowed her to avoid every obstacle. In less than thirty seconds, the missile was going to blow the spear to kingdom come.

But then—


—Aoi’s expression stiffened for the first time during her plan.

Down in the burning city, she saw something strange. Fire. The enchanted blaze that burned through the High-End Residential District had been trying to engulf the neighboring Port and Residential districts in turn. Now, however, it was beginning to swirl around like a whirlpool.

Flames previously spread across the city now all came falling back and converged into a vortex. Aoi’s target—Rage Soleil’s core—lay at the vortex’s center.

Eventually, a burning pillar rose up from within the swirling crimson and took on Gustav’s form once more. The duke was seething with rage.

“I imagine you shan’t let me through so easily.”

“Insolent little fly…!” As the massive figure of Gustav growled at her, it swung its right arm. It dredged up burnt houses by their foundations and hurled their spent wreckages at the swordswoman.



The debris shot at her like cannon fire. In response, Aoi unfurled her legs from around the missile and used them to catch the wind and control her flight path. She wove her way between one chunk of rubble and the next. However…


Enraged, Gustav’s fiery form cleaved through the city and sent an overwhelming barrage of debris toward her. It quickly became a struggle just to evade at all. Worse, the density of the duke’s attacks only grew as Aoi got closer. At that rate, she’d end up getting shot down before ever reaching the spear.

Aoi elected to give up on her frontal assault. After dropping the missile’s altitude low enough that it was grazing the tops of the taller apartment buildings, she reached out with her right hand and grabbed a passing chimney. Her fingers left five deep gashes in the brick as she used it as an axle to make a sharp right turn. By fleeing back into an alley, the young woman was able to use it as a trench against the barrage.

“Where are you hiding, pesky fly?!?!”

Even with Aoi out of his line of sight, though, Gustav didn’t let up with his onslaught. He waved his hands to and fro, hurling rubble about like a child throwing a temper tantrum. Yet, with Aoi practically scraping the ground of her alley trench, none of it came anywhere close to connecting with her.

At last, she shot out of the alley into a wide, open area. It was the hill road she’d been trying to take back at the start. The detour had been long, but the High School Prodigy finally made it. Straining her eyes, Aoi could make out a long, thin object embedded in the top of the hill. It was the spear—Rage Soleil’s core.

The moment Aoi spotted it—

“Ringo, m’ladyyyyyyyyy!!!!”

—she pointed the missile’s warhead at the hill’s peak and shouted.

“Target locked!”

Ringo’s finger raced over the keyboard as she sent the missile its command. At the same time, Aoi released the projectile and shoved it forward. It barreled toward the hilltop spear. The target was a thousand feet out—straight ahead. Even with the random temperature variations in the air, at that range, the missile was guaranteed to hit. This was checkmate, or so they all thought…




The camera atop the missile showed something unbelievable. Up until now, houses flanking the road had been engulfed in fire. Now, though, two blazing masses had blown them completely away and were closing in on the missile from both sides. They were Gustav’s great, fiery arms. The duke was trying to smash the missile between his hands like one would crush a pesky mosquito.

“My whirling secret technique—Dew-Blade Breeze!”

Before the Fastidious Duke could succeed, however, a tornado-shaped vacuum burst from Hoozukimaru, slicing off the arms of Gustav’s hellish visage while leaving the missile untouched.


“I did tell you, that I did. If I say I can do something, then do it I can.”

The missile burst out of the spiraling slash attack and smashed head-on into the crimson spear. An explosion rocked the air, accompanied by a violent flash…

When the dust settled, not a trace of the spear remained.

A pillar of smoke and flame billowed from the High-End Residential District’s peak, and everyone gazed up at it. Masato and Akatsuki reacted with cries of admiration at their fellow Prodigy’s superhuman feat.

““Aoi, that was nuts!””

Keine, on the hand, was no stranger to sharing battlefields with the swordmaster. The doctor merely shrugged in relief. “Honestly, that girl only knows how to overdo things.”

The explosion wasn’t the only visible change, either.

“Impossible…! How can this beeeeee?!?!” Gustav, who had manifested as a blazing colossus, screamed as his luminous flames were scattered to the wind. The fires throughout the city responded in kind, losing their vigor and vanishing into nothingness.

“L-look! The…fires…”

“They’re going out…”

“…The blaze spirits were freed from the curse,” Lyrule murmured as she watched the inferno flicker and wane. The blond girl could hear their voices.

“““Thank you, miss… You saved us… Thank you all…””” The spirits were expressing their gratitude.

“They’re saying that now that the cursed core is destroyed, they can stop burning the city. And…they’re grateful to us.”

Tsukasa seemed a little surprised. “You can talk to spirits?”

Lyrule nodded. “…I’ve been hearing their screams this whole time. The blaze spirits were shouting ‘help us’ and ‘we don’t want to do this.’ But…now, they’re okay.”

“Well, that’s good to hear.” Tsukasa gave a long exhale, then offered the long-eared woman a handshake.

“Allow me to thank you as well, Lyrule. The only reason we were able to keep the damage to the city this minimal was because of your bravery. Thank you for that.”

However, Lyrule responded to his gratitude with a mixed expression. She seemed to be half smiling and half crying. “…But there were so many people we couldn’t save.”

The flames were gone, and snow was falling gently from the winter sky. Lyrule looked out at the blackened city. Dormundt’s High-End Residential Area had been burned to the ground.

True, the voice in her head and her sudden onrush of knowledge had allowed them to keep the city from being destroyed in its entirety. However, the things they’d lost today were never coming back. Furthermore, it was clear the tragedy was a result of their actions.

“And this all started because of what we did.”

Had they not gone to war with Findolph, this calamity could have been avoided. Knowing that tormented the blond girl. Tsukasa could see it written all over her face.

“If you’re thinking this wouldn’t have happened if not for us starting the war…then your regrets are misplaced.” The prime minister attempted to correct Lyrule’s misunderstanding.


“With societal growth, this war—this People’s Revolution against the feudal system—was always going to happen. Even if the battle for freedom and equality in Freyjagard hadn’t started in Elm, someone somewhere else would have started it instead—and just as many lives would have been lost seeing it through. But make no mistake, it would have kept on going. Just like the revolts in our world.”

What Tsukasa was saying was that such tragedies were an inevitability. After all…

“Any country willing to slaughter its own citizens has no future.”


He was right. Lyrule’s regrets were misplaced. If anything, the blame lay with the cruel oppressors who had made the revolution a necessity in the first place.

Even if Lyrule and the others had done nothing, as long as the noble class viewed the commoners as wretched worms, horrors like this would have happened time and time again.

“In other words, we shouldn’t give in to remorse and seek forgiveness from those whose lives were lost. Instead, we need to see this fight through to secure a future for the billions of lives waiting to come into this world. Don’t you agree?”

“…Y-yes!” Lyrule gave Tsukasa a big nod and returned his handshake. Her grip was firm and resolute.

No sooner had she done so than—

“Hey! There they are! The God and his angels!”

“Th-that’s incredible! They stayed here this whole time?!”

“They must have been the ones who took down that giant monster!”

“Thank you, God!”

—the townsfolk, seeing that the fire had gone out, streamed back into the city.

They were all wondering the same thing: Had the Seven Luminaries really defeated the creature of flame? When they saw the Prodigies standing in the central plaza, the battlefield’s front line, the citizens let out a resounding cheer. Tsukasa looked out over the crowd as a tidal wave of joy washed over them all.

“Ladies and gentlemen, rejoice! God Akatsuki’s miracle has obliterated the empire’s monster! Not even a flaming beast that towers to the heavens poses a threat to our God!”

As the crowd’s excitement swelled, the white-haired boy clapped Akatsuki on the shoulder.

“They’re all warmed up for you. Go get ’em.”

“Wait, you’re getting them riled up and then bailing on me?”

“I have a postmortem with the mayor I need to get to. Sorry, but I’m delegating this one to you.” Tsukasa scurried away from Akatsuki to make his escape.

As he tried to leave, though—


—Lyrule called out to him. With a serious look on her face, she told him about the woman who’d spoken to her in her dream.

“Right before this all started, I heard a voice in my dream. A woman told me that I needed to use my power to guide the Seven Heroes.”

“Oh?” Tsukasa stopped in his tracks and looked back over his shoulder.

“Then, right after she spoke to me, knowledge about magic started welling up in my mind and I was able to hear the spirits.”

“The timing seems too serendipitous to write it off as merely an odd dream.”

“Isn’t it? I have no idea who it was or why I could hear her, but…when she said ‘my power,’ I think she was talking about my knowledge of magic and my ability to hear spirits. So…” Lyrule paused for a moment and took a deep breath to steel herself before resuming.

“…I’m going to start studying magic! Once I can use it, I might be able to help you fight, and also…if this person talking to me has something to do with why you seven are here in this world, I might be able to help you all find a way back home…!” Lyrule’s eyes burned bright with the light of fresh determination.

Tsukasa could tell that resolve of hers was going to be a big asset for him and his friends. The young man’s lips curled into a soft smile as he spoke. “…Honestly, that would be fantastic. I’ve actually picked up quite a bit about magic over this past month myself, so if you need any help, don’t hesitate to ask.”

At the same time, back in Gustav’s castle, the duke himself was howling in agony.


“M-milord?!” Hearing the screams, Oscar came running, but what he found shocked him. Both of the Fastidious Duke’s arms had been severed from the elbow down.

“Milord, are you all right?! What happened…?!”

However, it was like Gustav didn’t even hear him. The man merely stared at the blood gushing from his stumps in disbelief.

“H-how can this be…?! My Rage Soleil…was destroyed?!” There was a quiver in the man’s voice.

Through Rage Soleil, he’d been able to witness everything that had transpired in Dormundt. Of note, he’d seen Aoi dodging his attacks as she carried her missile.

Those garments, that sword… She’s a Yamato agent, I’m sure of it!

But that missile, the flame-spitting, free-flying cannonball? It was the first time he’d seen anything like it. Gustav had no idea what to make of it. Who were those people? Clearly, they couldn’t have been mere survivors from Yamato. For whatever reason, the northern rebellion had access to weapons that even the Yamato Imperial Army hadn’t. But why?

Gustav had no idea.

There was one thing he was certain of, however. Those scuttling little things were no ordinary pests. They were a threat—not just to the north, but to the entire empire, and even to Emperor Lindworm.

“…!” The duke could not tolerate their continued existence, not for another minute, not for another second!

At the moment, Emperor Lindworm was off in the New World. What kind of knight would Gustav be if he failed to protect the realm in his master’s absence?! Was that conduct befitting a noble?!


After cauterizing his wounds with magic fire, arms of crimson flames sprouting from his stumps, Gustav rose.


The duke’s eyes burned with rage as he looked down upon his aide.

“Y-yes, milord?!”

“Summon every soldier in the domain to the capital at once. The full might of our forces will march on Findolph!”

“B-but didn’t you delegate that to Marquis Archride?”

“That dithering incompetent allowed vermin to fester in His Grace’s sacred lands for over a month! He’s useless to me!

“Relay this to those fools Archride and Buchwald: We leave not a single ant alive in our wake! And unless they do their damned jobs and march, they, too, will find themselves tasting the flames of my wrath!”

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