TL: Oh when, oh when will these readers realize, that Monster is but a metaphor.
I paid a visit to a slightly older mansion in Centralle, taking Novem and Monica along.
The time the other party specified was around three in the afternoon.
Arriving a little early, we waited and drank the tea served to us.
The eyes piercing into me and Novem as we sat in the waiting room were quite painful.
(Based on the Skills, the Knights, soldiers, and even the servants are red… this isn’t good.)
Monica confirmed the tea and snacks didn’t contain any poison.
She was pushing out her torso with pride a little more than usual, placing emphasis on her voluminous chest.
Besides the red signal of the knight keeping watch over us occasionally flickering to yellow over time, there wasn’t much change going on around us.
(I’m thankful that Monica is able to confirm the existence of hazardous substances, but paying a visit with a maid along is… even when she’s already pissed at us to begin with…)
I remembered the events of the day after I sent a letter hoping for a meeting with Lianne Faunbeux.
‘Twas the happenings of a few days past.
Within the Jewel.
Enclosing the round table alongside the ancestors, my face was stiff.
“Couldn’t you have mentioned that a little sooner?”
Rather than fed up… the Walt House, especially the Sixth and Seventh Generations held quite a connection to the country of Faunbeux.
As it was, the Lady’s engagement was destroyed by Celes.
As a man of the same household, it was at a point where I felt like offering an apology.
This body of mine’s not connected to my family anymore. However, I thought I could use the name as an excuse to talk to her.
But the lid came undone, and the Sixth spoke of how it wasn’t Celes alone who tyed the Walts to Faunbeux’s royal line.
『No, there was no helping it back then, or how should I put it… when I dove in, they were already knocking on our doorsteps. 』
The Sixth gave an excuse, and the Seventh followed up.
『In my time, they one-sidedly broke a treaty and invaded us. But, well… I guess there’s no helping it if they became enraged by the violent bearing of Bahnseim’s corrupt imperials. Yep.』
I was naïve.
I thought that, at most, they had met on the battlefield before, or something along that vein.
During the Sixth’s time, the Walt House had suppressed its surroundings with military might as a Viscount House.
By the large quantity of political marriages carried out by the Fifth, they finally had a reliable repertoire of retainers, so they could go on the offense against the territories that had been harassing them up to that point.
An expanding territory.
The developing Weiss province…
The monarchy of the time had fallen to decay, and they cared not if some House decided to attack the Walts.
There’s some speculation to bribery being in play.
And that’s why the Sixth did the same, keeping the royalty quiet, and crushing the Houses around.
It was like a warring states era.
That chaos wasn’t something simply contained within the country.
Such happenings were rampant in other lands, and the bordering country of Faunbeux was also attacked by nobles of Bahnseim, losing much land.
(Of course they’d get angry at that one. And wait, isn’t the Bahnseim Kingdom just terrible? It’s getting worse the more I hear of it.)
All the books I read spoke of just how each of the country’s actions were backed by justice.
But after opening the lid, I’m scouring to see just where justice is to be found.
“Gaining control of the area around it, the Walt House gained a border with, and encountered the reinforcements sent by the Faunbeux Kingdom. The one to do that was the Sixth. And after a few decades, the one to take down the Faunbeux army when they tried to regain their territory again was the Seventh?”
The Seventh smiled.
『We got quite a bit of land from that one.』
“That wasn’t the question! Just what do you expect me to do!? Do you really think I can just go to such a place and say, ‘it seems my sister’s been causing you some problems this time, I’m sorry!’ and end it there? There’s no helping it if they try to kill me off!”
To their country, the Walt House is a detestable enemy.
『No, I only participated in that war by order of his highness, mind you. Sure, I did manage to take a strategic point or two, but the following negotiations were pushed onto the royals’ side. Destroying all the border nobles who’d been doing as they pleased set the score even.』
Hearing the Sixth’s excuse, the Fifth spoke.
『… You went too far, fool.』
It wasn’t just the Fifth that seemed tired out.
The Fourth was shaking his head.
『Even if you get your hands on some land, don’t you think you have the obligation to settle its affairs? Just what were you trying to do, expanding yourself so unreasonably?』
『I did help the Forxuz House rise, and got them to Baronhood, you know. I had them perform well in the war with Faunbeux. And wait, they were the ones trying to plunder from us, you know… rather than leave them be, wouldn’t it be best to get them under control?』
『After that, the Forxuz House continued their role as out vassals of sorts. I put them to use in my warring days as well. 』
After getting my breathing in order, I asked.
“Do you suppose they still remember the Sixth and Seventh on their side? Perhaps they only recognize their loss as to a noble of Bahnseim? Please tell me it’s so!”
As I prayed for that to be the case, the Sixth spoke in an apologetic tone.
『Sorry… the Walt House was the head of the offense that crushed them. It was quite a crushing victory, so I’m sure it remained in the books.』
『And against those Faunbeuxs rejoicing over regaining their land, a force centered around the Walts beat the hell out of them again. With the Sixth’s time as it was, they were making quite some faces when they heard the Walts brought up once more.』
“You should tell me these sorts of things sooner! With Celes stealing the groom to be, and the ancestors repeatedly beating the hell out of them… just what do you expect me to do!?”
The Fourth contained the discord.
『Well, you’ll at least get to hear about the crown prince, and if you can meet the girl, just meet her why don’t you? If she doesn’t want to, she’ll refuse after all.』
Without a care in the world, the Third spoke.
『Right. At this point, it’s not like saying you’re the abandoned son of the Walt’s will actually let you meet the princess of a country!』
He was chuckling to himself, and those around shared his opinion.
“Dammit… to hell with not being able to meet. My stomach hurts.”
My gut began to grate at the hostile eyes directed at me.
After sending out a letter, we soon received one designating a time and place in response.
After that day, I could only mull over what to say in apoogy.
“Are you alright, Lyle-sama?”
Novem worried for me, and Monica looked into the tea I had been drinking.
“I’m sure there was nothing hazardous in that one.”
As I was thinking that Monica should really begin to consider her surroundings before speaking, a single woman entered.
Her mouth was smiling, but those violet eyes of hers definitely were not.
It felt as if the lights within them had gone out.
Her deep pink hair was tied into a ponytail, and grown to a length that would even reach her hip.
Her age was either the same as mine, or slightly below.
“Of course there’s been no poison mixed into it. Even if… it’s for the Faunbeux Kingdom’s sworn foe, the Walt House, and their dogs, the Forxuzes.”
(Oh, she provoking the Forxuz House quite naturally there.)
Looking to Novem, I saw her expression hadn’t changed at all. She was much more courageous than I.
I heard a voice from the Jewel.
In order, Third and up.
『Oh, looks like we’re quite hated.』
『Quite deep seated at that.』
『Well, there’s at least three things they think they’ll have to get back at us for.』
『… The one to give the order was the King.』
『My thoughts exactly.』
The Sixth and Seventh continued to give excuses, so I stood and gave my greetings.
Novem and Monica followed suite.
“Well pardon me. I’d like to give my deepest apologies.”
My stomach continued to grate. Her highness, Princess Lianne, sat before us.
After taking a sip of the tea poured by her own maid, she motioned us to sit as well.
“You wrote you wished to speak, right? Did the whelp driven out of his home come to laugh at this abandoned bride to be? Really… the Walt House is nothing but a plague on the royalty of my country.”
She laughed to herself a little, but her complexion wasn’t good.
She likely hadn’t been sleeping enough, as a faint ring had formed under her eyes. It was quite obvious how she had tried to cover it up with makeup.
“… While I have been driven away, I would like to offer an apology in regards to the matter with my sister.”
“And for that sake, is there something you’ll do for me? Why would someone without any power such as yourself, attempt to get into contact with me?”
The princess threw away my apology as meaningless, and surely enough, it was without meaning.
I stated my own business.
“Then won’t you tell me? It’s come to my ears that the city of Centralle has taken a strange turn as of late. From the eyes of the former future queen, does it look that way as well?”
“Well that’s quite a broad way to put it.”
The princess sipped her tea, let out a sigh, and looked up at the ceiling.
“Five years, or maybe six… around that time, I guess. It was back then I got the feeling Bahnseim was slowly turning strange.”
Hearing that, I noticed it overlapped with Celes’ own strange turn.
(So it’ll soon be the sixth year. In that case, the country has been strange ever since then?)
The First called Celes a monster.
One that could naturally change the state of her surroundings.
“It was just Centralle at first. That detestable girly made her social debut at a ball, only to be pulled around to parties all over the place. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before, by the way. Weren’t you supposed to be the eldest son of the Walt House, representative of all of Bahnseim?”
She sent a grin at me as if to provoke me.
My hands were shaking.
Hearing Celes’s name, I started to realize the world had been moving, even as had been locked away… it was a little scary.
Shunned by my parents, scorned by retainers, my state of confinement floated across my mind.
Novem kindly placed her own hands on mine to quell the tremors.
I looked at her, and she lightly nodded with a smile.
With a feeling of relief, I looked at the princess.
She was observing my and Novem’s actions, and perhaps she had found them boring, as she took a long sip of tea.
“… So did places besides Centralle turn strange as well?”
On Novem’s question, the princess nodded.
“Correct. Every time I have to make the trip from my own home to here, there are numerous places I have to make stops at. At first, it was nothing but a sense of unease, I guess. It’s the truth that I did gradually begin to feel my own existence fade away, but besides that… there was this anxiety I can’t begin to express with words. Rufus slowly changed as well.”
Within a slowly changing world, I could only sympathize with this person’s anxiety.
“… I was the same, you know. Close to six years ago, they gradually stopped looking at me as the House’s successor.”
Her highness cast her eyes downwards. Her cup was shaking a little.
A little bit of light had returned to her lifeless eyes.
“Since I was driven out of the palace, I don’t intend to put up some false front. But at this point, I think myself lucky to not be spending my nights there anymore.”
Monica was standing by me without the slightest movement.
Novem pressed the princess for further information with a serious expression.
“Is it alright if I ask the reason?”
“You already know, don’t you? That girl called Celes… she’s a considerable beast. The ones in Faunbeux’s court are starting to look cute to me. Humans that you can think of as more beast than man are scattered all over the place if you step through the palace’s doors. But that girl’s another story. I mean, even the knights and servants I brought along with me ended up in her cage.”
The princess went on.
“The guards with me at the moment have gone through a complete personnel swap from the ones I had while I lived in those walls. And I’ve met the girl a number of times. It’s no wonder they become captive to her, is the impression I got.”
It looks like some Faunbeux knights are prisoners to Celes.
What’s more, even while she’s known as a daughter to the Walts.
The knights directing hostility at me must have directed the same malice towards my sister.
But the results are history.
“I’ve formally accepted the annulment of my engagement. I doubt I’ll ever be setting foot on these lands again. As I sympathize with your plight, I’ll offer some advice… It will be for your sake if you flee as quickly as possible. That girl is sure to do something. Something on a national scale.”
‘Though it’s just the ramblings of this pitiful and foolish reject of a bride,’ she added on, as the princess rose to her feet.
Novem and I stood as well.
“… It’s likely, this country will go to hell.”
Saying that, princess Lianne moved to leave the room.
On the way back, I spoke to Novem and Monica.
In the city that was beginning to turn dark, I heard lively voices from the bars and restaurants.
It was cold, and I get the feeling my breath was mixed with a tinge of white.
“A beast, is it? I am unable to comprehend it. First and foremost, my enemy is you, Novem.”
Monica firmly pointed her finger at Novem, and the girl herself addressed me.
“Lyle-sama, did your curiosity subside after talking with the princess? Just what is it exactly that you wanted to find out?”
I looked up at the sky, and spoke.
“No, I just wanted to reaffirm how much a monster that Celes was.”
In truth, neither I nor the ancestors understood what it was to be a monster.
I had always been close to her, but I could never get a grasp of the fear I felt for her.
She had always merely been the younger sister I was forever incapable of winning against.
But as the First had put it, she was a monster great enough to move nations to her whim.
Novem hung her head a little.
“Monster, is it?”
As she said that, Monica also…
“So monsters over beasts… if the Chicken dickhead is saying it, I’ll refer to them as such.”
I spoke to her in an enervated voice.
“Before that, why not revise chicken dickwad?”
Monica, with resolution…
“I don’t want to. If you hate it so much, then I’ll make do with Flying Chicken Dickwad.”
“Anything but that! Do you know how hard I’ve been trying to forget that incident!?”
With the past I wanted to bury dug up, I started into a long verbal brawl with the automaton.
But she seemed to be having quite a bit of fun in our toxic exchange.
No matter how much I talked down to her, she rejoiced. No matter how far she talked down to me, she smiled.
It was the worst.
When I looked at Novem, I saw she was a little worried.
“What’s wrong, Novem?”
“No, it’s nothing, Lyle-sama.”
I noticed that her smile was a little different than usual, but I decided to put it off as just part of my imagination.
… Centralle’s gate.
It should have been after passing hours, but the doors were held wide open.
The soldiers held back those trying to enter the city.
“I beg of you. If you leave me out on such a cold night, I’ll freeze to death.”
“Not happening! From here on, a very important guest is coming! It’s already passed entry hours, so go to your designated waiting point already!”
Several times over the normal amount of soldiers were present, and some knights rushed out as reinforcements.
A guest desired by Centralle to such an extent…
Lines of knights were stationed to protect an extravagant carriage.
The group that boldly approached the gate passed through it without even dropping pace.
The man watched it pass, and looked at the emblem on the coach.
“The Walt House… even if they’re a Count house, they should at least stop at the gate.”
The man looked at the group trailing behind the Walts.
“Travelers and merchants? So they’re following in behind the Walts. Then I’ll do the same.”
While being vigilant of the guards around, he slipped in.
“With this, I’ll be allowed inside. But what a strange gathering this is. All these thin smiles on everyone’s faces… why do they look so happy and injured all at once?”
That’s what the man thought, but…
As soon as the Walt House’s group entered the city, the gate closed.
The knights didn’t seem to have any intentions of letting the group trailing behind through those doors.
“It’s passed hours. Try again tomorrow morning.”
And with that, the beat up group was shut out.
The man spoke.
“Dammit! Isn’t it fine just to let me pass!? Letting only the Walt House through… this is why I hate nobles.”
There, a voice called out to him.
“Oy, what did you say just now?”
When he turned around, he found that everyone- children to elderly- was glaring at him.
Their eyes held considerable hostility.
Among them, there was even a man wrapped in bandages, and supporting his build with a stick.
“No, but it’s strange for nobles alone to be let through after hourse, I’m telling you… Centralle’s gate is made so that no one, whoever they be, should be allowed to pass when time’s up, right!?”
A rock was thrown at the man.
The one to throw it looked to be but a child.
“W-what are you…! …!”
Feeling something amiss in his surroundings, the man moved to flee.
But he was surrounded with nowhere to go.
“S-stop. It was all my fault. I’ll apologize.”
His voice made it seem like he would burst to tears at any moment.
But those around him…
“Making a fool of Celes-sama…”
“Putting the Walt House on the same footing as that other noble lot?”
“Our lives’ savior!?”
By the time the man realized the madness surrounding him, it was already too late.
The man’s scream did absolutely nothing to motivate any of the nearby soldiers run to his aid…