… Aria Lockwarde was worried.
She had become an adventurer and joined a party, but was her current self truly contributing…?
She had borrowed the Circry mansion’s yard, and was swinging her spear, but her impatience made the head feel heavy, and it wouldn’t move as she wanted it.
As her sweaty hands let the portion she clenched slip, she decided to take a break to get her breathing back together.
“Hah, hah… I’m the only one being left behind.”
Her party members consisted of Lyle and Novem, who were a year her junior, and the automaton Poyopoyo, who’s name had yet to be finalized. The four of them(?).
At this point, if they asked Clara or Miranda, they would probably lend a hand as well.
And within them, Aria was panicking on her own.
She thought she was properly accomplishing her job as a vanguard, but for some reason, the atmosphere was one where she was the only one growing distant.
Lyle had a lot of loose ends to him, but he did rack up achievements.
You could understand it if you ever saw him up close.
He could use multiple Skills simultaneously, and he easily mastered their use.
Even when she had a red gem as well, she would never be able to use it like Lyle.
Support and Vanguard Class Skills were different.
But in regards to handling them, it was clear as day that Aria fell behind the boy.
She could use magic as well, but nothing on the high level of Novem’s.
The times where the Lockwarde House was heralded as a Viscount House were but a distant memory.
Rather than practicing magic in order to live, she had been worry over how to get through the days.
Even if she took up jobs to support herself, her father’s money usage always left the House baren.
At the end, she was seriously giving thought to selling off her body.
No matter what she did, it was pointless…
She remembered her father’s voice.
He was a prideful man, and he hated adventurers.
If they ever even came out in conversation, he would lash out, and he was always bringing troubles.
“… Just what am I even doing?”
Regretfully, Aria knew the extent of her own ability.
Whether she fought up front, or cast magic in the back, she would never match up to either Lyle, or Novem.
Unlike the two of them, who wholeheartedly devoted their youths to training their martial arts and magics, a large gap had opened up.
Aria gripped the red gem hanging at her neck.
Of the Skills recorded in it, there were four in total.
Her own Skill… 【Quick】 included, the number became five.
While Quick allowed for swift consecutive movements, its burden on the body was high.
It was the Skill she had obtained on her own, so it wasn’t a struggle for her to use it. Compared to the other Skills she had, that is.
Strengthen one’s muscles, strengthen one’s weapons, let loose a single strong attack, send out a shockwave.
If you looked at the other Skills, they were all a lineup any vanguard adventurer would look upon with envy.
In the past, an adventurer she met in Dalien had told her…
“Skill affinity, is it…”
For good or bad, all a gem did was record Skills, and as it arbitrarily recorded them, it was quite a pain.
In that case, using Magic Tools bestowed with Skills was the preferable option.
Essential combinations… raising one’s own strength, and reducing the enemies. If those two Skills were to be put together, then high level enemies could be taken down.
I mean, it acted to raise your abilities, and lower the oppositions.
That difference could become a wide one.
Gems had one major defect.
“But I can’t use Magic Tools, and the current me can’t afford one… in the end, I’ll have to master this thing, or else.”
Looking at the red gem, she let out a sigh.
She tried to wipe her sweat off of her body, but it stuck, and when she took a rest, she got the feeling she had a slight fever.
This time, the clothes stuck down to her started to make her feel nauseous.
The walls around the yard were high, and no one could peep in, so Aria removed her upper layer.
“Even my underwear is sticky.”
Her clothes had taken up enough sweat that they could be wrung out.
Spear in hand, she moved to head back to the inside.
When she went to the door into the mansion, Poyopoyo emerged, carrying a basket.
“Oh, my, so you were in the middle of training. You’re dripping sweat, so please don’t come any closer. I have my precious master’s washed laundry here.”
The bad-mouthed automaton treated Lyle as her master, but other humans were given a fixed level of treatment.
Only Novem was an exception.
“… You sure treat Lyle different from everyone else.”
As Aria said that, Poyopoyo responded with a serious face.
“What of it? I have become operational in order to serve my master. I must apologize, but everyone else is just an extra? Ah, but… if master told me to serve Aria-san like my life depended on it, then I do plan on serving you with such resolve. However, do remember my loyalty if saved for no one but that chicken dickwad…”
As Aria felt fed up at Poyopoyo’s long speech, she looked at her with tired eyes.
“Fine by me. Even so, why is it that women just keep on gathering around that man one after another…”
What she remembered were the events that transpired before she came to Arumsaas.
On a night with a pretty full moon, Lyle had confessed in a roundabout way by saying, ‘the moon sure is beautiful tonight,’ or something of the like. Aria’s face turned red.
And to her, Poyopoyo…
“You’re in the way, so can’t you move? You’re shortening the time I have left to dry the laundry. And wait, you reek of sweat, so why not dunk a bucket of cold water over yourself?”
Aria looked at Poyopoyo.
“… I think I hate you.”
“What a coincidence. I have no interest in anyone besides that damn chicken. Oh, that woman is another matter entirely!”
It wasn’t a coincidence or anything, she simply wasn’t interested. Aria passed by her, and entered the mansion.
While she was a strange automaton, she did all the housework to perfection.
It was on a level where complaining about it was unreasonable.
“Really, just why did you have to wake this strange girl… idiot.”
While turning her eyes to the automaton hanging clothing up in the yard, Aria muttered that…
Having come to the library, I was reading books pertaining to adventurers.
I was mostly confirming the organization of a Party.
“… If we’re going to have four fighters, we’ll have to have the same, or a greater number of support.”
In order to conquer Arumsaas’s labyrinth, I was thinking of how to go about not using Skills.
The first I thought of was gathering numbers, a simple, and exemplary answer.
But to do that, I would have to gather personnel I could trust as my comrades.
We came to Arumsaas to search for comrades to begin with.
The very fact that we hadn’t made much progress on that one made me determine that method would take much too long.
“It’s fine to take time, but the problem is…”
… During that period, I won’t be able to use and Skills.
It’s not like they’re necessary for me to move as I want.
But as the item I had relied on to now had become unusable, I had to obtain a new power for myself.
It’s natural for me to be training myself, and for acting as a party, I needed to obtain the necessary technique.
“Confirming our own location within the labyrinth… Also, scouting, confirming and disarming traps, as well as securing safety… the Fifth and Sixth’s Skills are way too convenient.”
Having lost the areas those Skills compensated for, I was immediately inconvenienced.
The Second spoke.
『Their Skills are extraordinary as a set. While convenient individually, I’m surprised they manifested a set like that.』
Different Skills manifest based on the individual.
Even if you had identical twins, it’s not certain that the same Skill will come out.
The individuals’ growth and desires, and other such factors influence it, or so I’ve read.
Aiming for and trying to get a specific one to emerge is exceedingly difficult.
“To compensate for this, I’ll need a specialist… learning it on my own is impossible.”
The learning part in itself isn’t a problem.
If I tried, I think I could do it, and I’m sure it’s possible, but… the time necessary to pick it up, and to learn all the other necessary skills would add on time in units of years.
If possible, I don’t want to stretch it out that long.
Once we fortified our party in Arumsaas, I was planning on heading to the capital of adventurers, the free city of 【Beim】.
Celes… there’s also the matter with my sister the First Generation called a monster, and staying in one place for too long is likely dangerous.
(For that whimsical Celes, I wonder just when her interests will become directed at me… no, I also get the feeling she may have forgotten.)
With her willfulness, I can’t even imagine what she’ll be doing next.
Back when my parents still got along with me…
(Huh? What sort of girl was Celes again?)
Looking back, it’s a memory of when I was ten.
I treated my sister Celes as an older brother should. That’s how it should have been. I have no memories of doing anything particular to be hated.
The mansion just suddenly started to move with her at its center…
I shook my head, and put those thoughts on hold.
(Is is her Skill? Or could it be something else… No, let’s put that aside.)
I turned my eyes back to the book, and tried to think of another formation for the party that wouldn’t rely on my Skills.
… Novem was inspecting the room after Shannon had cleaned it.
“I see, so she really does have good eyes. She’s cleaned up quite nicely. I’ll have to praise her later.”
The individual herself would probably hate it though, Novem thought, as she turned to leave the room. But there, she heard a voice.
While she had erased her presence to approach, Novem knew, so she wasn’t surprised.
… It was Miranda.
“Hmm, where’s Shanon?”
“She’s in the yard with Poyopoyo-san right now. They’re taking in the laundry. Welcome back, Miranda-san.”
While looking at Novem’s radiant smile, Miranda returned a smile of her own.
“I see. I came to watch her working hard. How unfortunate.”
Novem realized Miranda had intentionally tried erasing her presence. She also knew it wasn’t in order to scare Shannon.
Miranda had approached, knowing fully well Novem was the only one there.
“… Did you have some business with me?”
As Novem tried asking for her main intent, Miranda revised her expression.
She took on a serious face. She had been hiding them under her academy uniform, but behind, her back, two daggers…
While wondering why she was being so wary today, Novem treated her as usual.
“I had a few questions.”
“Questions, is it? I have a few of those myself.”
A tense air emerged between the two, but neither of them seemed to mind it. If either of them made any movements, Shannon’s room would soon become a battlefield, or so the air seemed to indicate.
What Miranda wanted to ask about was Novem herself.
“Shannon told me. That you don’t seem to be human… but it sure is strange. You don’t look like an automaton either. Those things had just become famous when our professor activated them not to long ago. You seem to have grown up alongside Lyle…”
Hearing Miranda change her way of addressing him from Lyle-kun to Lyle, Novem was overjoyed.
In order to truly build up a harem for Lyle, she thought it would be best to get a hold of Miranda no matter what.
“I am Novem of the Forxuz House. Nothing more, and nothing less. Having people fear me… it’s always been like that, and I don’t think I’ve ever been too mindful of it.”
Seeing Novem tilting her head, Miranda leaned herself against the door frame, and mutter, ‘that so?’
(She still has her guard up.)
And Novem brought up the topic she wanted to ask about.
“My homeland, the Forxuz House has had quite a long relation with the Walt House. I know from that connection, but… the Circry House is linked to the Walt house as well, right? You should have met with them numerous times at Centralle.”
About the Walt House… about Celes.
As far as Novem knew, when Lyle had surpassed the age of ten, Celes began receiving treatment fitting of the next head of the House.
It was also a rumor that the social gatherings were attended by the beautiful woman of the Walt’s.
Even now, the Walt House held a major influence.
If they were ever called to a party in Centralle, it wouldn’t be strange for the related houses to never get into contact with them.
“Asking when you already know… that’s right, I knew about Lyle already as well. I was surprised when I found him with Aria, but it’s true that I was a little interested in him.”
Novem gave a high evaluation to Miranda, who wasn’t fascinated with Celes despite meeting her.
“I see. You could have informed his House, but why didn’t you?”
Miranda raised both of her hands in a pose of surrender.
“If I moved in that direction, I was sure you would kill both me and Shannon.”
While thinking how savage of a misunderstanding that, was, Novem offered a correction.
“Oh, I would never go that far. We would just leave this place. Even so, even when she did that much to you, you sure do treasure your little sister.”
Miranda’s gaze lowered just a little.
“With her lack of vision, you see, Shannon received quite a harsh treatment… As a family member, I want to protect her. I knew of her resentment, but that’s just because I was recognized by that woman instead of her.”
That woman definitely meant Celes, thought Novem, as she muttered.
“You sure are nice.”
“It’s because we’re sisters. Well, we don’t get along too well with the second or third daughters.”
It seems Miranda’s sisters had some complicated circumstances. Novem had a vague understanding of that from the fact that the first daughter Miranda was in a place like this.
“… As long as you don’t lay a hand on Lyle-sama, then I won’t do a thing. Ah, but… I won’t stop you if you try getting along with him as man and woman. I did hear it was love at first sight.”
Hearing that, Miranda burst out.
“Y-you were awake!”
Seeing Novem’s smile, Miranda left with a reddened face. Perhaps she was angry, as her steps were louder than usual. It felt as if she was intentionally making sound as she walked.
More human feelings than before were emerging.
Rather than the Miranda who could only ever be a good person, Novem liked the current one.
“I’m a littls envious.”
Saying that, Novem also exited Shannon’s room…
Having finished reading the materials at the library, I walked down Arumsaas’ streets.
I had committed a few points to strengthen a party to mind, so I was going to return to consult Novem, and everyone and the ancestors to see if we could realize them.
Doing nothing but think about it made my head feel heavy, so I took a recreational walk on the way back.
There were quite a few academy students, and they carried a different impression about them than the standard civilians walking about.
It wasn’t the city of scholars for nothing, and the treasuring of wisdom was deeply rooted in their culture, I’ll bet.
Of course, it’s also true that the city was mocked for having to culture to begin with.
On the street.
“You don’t even know something as simple as that? Even children know it.”
Most of the conversations I heard were something like that. Proud of their wisdom, there were many people who spoke ill of those less learned than them.
It’s true it was an interesting place, but I’m doubtful of whether I want to stay here forever.
I mean, the city itself is a mashed up jumble, and if I had a say in this, I’d like a quiet and peaceful place to set up house.
With a wife, and some children, and…
(Huh? It’s getting a little hard to imagine.)
The happy end of a story has to be where the protagonist is heralded as a hero. Or perhaps living happily ever after alongside his companion.
I had longed for the latter, but I can’t even imagine it at this point.
(Well, for now, I just have to think about clearing the thirtieth lower level.)
I’ll be able to think of such things later, I thought, as I switched gears, and continued walking.
Arumsaas’ good point was that there were few ill-breds to be found. To put it another way, there were very few dangerous spots.
There wasn’t a place for gambling, and with all the book stores and private schools and training halls, it didn’t seem there was much in the way of pleasure.
It was forbidden for performers to put on acts on the streets, so unless there was a festival going on, that sort of fun was little to be found.
When asked, it seems this city’s concept of fun was drinking the night away in a bar while listening to the music. There were places like that in Dalien as well.
If you want to put it bluntly, while the city’s scale was massive, there wasn’t any fun.
“That’s why the adventurers are leaving one after another. Well, there are some that like this place as well, but… there’s no place for me to really use money.”
It may be the best for those that want to polish themselves, but it was nothing but a boring place for adventurers with a bit of ability to them.
That was Arumsaas. The City of Scholars.
But at the same time, I though…
“I don’t actually have any hobbies, do I.”
Swordplay and magic were necessities, so I honed them.
Books are there to store up knowledge. No, it’s not like I hate reading, but… I noticed that apart from that, I didn’t have anything that I could call a hobby.
Hobbies were a necessity to enjoy life, or so I read in a book.
I turned onto a street with fewer passersby, and muttered to myself.
“I wonder if I should get a hobby.”
『To all onlookers, it probably looks like your hobby is fooling around with women. Well, it’s nice to have one. I loved counting the gold coins piled up in the vault.』
That’s a hobby? As I thought that, the Fifth spoke.
『… I used up all the Fourth’s money on my mistresses.』
He said it! The Fifth let out some rare emotions, but…
『The hell ya’ doing, ya’ bastard!!』
The money loving Fourth flipped out.
(In the past, I would have to worry over a Mana expenditure like this, but recently, I haven’t been minding it at all)
I remembered the past, where I would immediately collapse, and thought I didn’t want to experience Growth for something like this.
I heard voices from the Jewel.
『Shut up!! It was necessary for me to resolve the problems you left behind! When I became the head, we did fight a lot, though!』
As the Fifth shouted back, the Sixth tried to calm him.
While the Sixth gave off a wild impression, he was weak in some places to the Fifth.
『Let’s calm down, everyone. If you calmly explain it, I’m sure he’ll understand.』
The Seventh spoke.
『Ah, so it’s about that matter. That really was a problem raised by the Fourth. The Third was also related, but there’s no point in telling the man who died in battle.』
The Third let out his voice.
『… Did I do something?』
The Fifth spoke in a low voice.
『You didn’t do anything. Because you didn’t do anything about it, it became such a large issue. And because of that, I…』
It seems that there are various problems between the generations of the Walt House.
(I wonder just what happened.)
It was a topic I was a little curious about, so I planned to ask about it when I got back.