In a scene of piling snow, I held up my sabre to strike.
I made sure to watch the movements of all five enemies, but even with their movements dulled by my Skill, they showed no signs of retreat.
More than that…
“A support Skill, huh. How wonderfully plain. Perfect for you, isn’t it Lyle?”
One with an annoying grin stood in a stance similar to mine.
Our foundation was the same.
While exhaling a white breathe, I used Skills to confirm my surroundings.
Who was going to attack when, and where everyone was aiming.
If I wanted to concentrate on my own battle, I had to keep myself in a position to be able to protect Shannon and Eva at any moment.
I thought I would easily be able to incapacitate the enemy, but it looks like that view was naïve.
(For the Walt House’s knights and soldiers to be this troubling…)
Keeping close watch of my footwork, and even throwing in some feints, the soldiers were making serious expressions.
They were tough enough to get to their feet promptly after a blow from my magic.
The Fifth issued some orders to me.
『But killing them here will cause some trouble down the road. If possible, you should avoid it, but… I never would have thought you’d run into them at a place like this. What’s more, they’re being quite aggressive at that. Lyle, hold back and they’ll stab at all your vitals. Fight with the intent to kill as well.』
If I kill, I’ll definitely be fanning the flames.
I was more than prepared to be mocked or scorned, but in all honesty, I never thought it would be Alfred that I’d run into.
The Third spoke.
『To have the Walt House’s soldiers- trained for generation after generation- as your enemies, this is going to be a pain.』
A soldier right behind me advanced, so I reacted.
Using that opportunity, Alfred stepped in.
His consecutive thrusts aimed at my vital points had gained a sharpness they hadn’t had before.
I repelled those with my sword, sensed the soldier cutting at me from behind with the Second’s Skill, continued retreating backwards, used my left hand to pull the dagger at my waist, and stabbed back without turning my head.
What I hit was his thigh.
I stuck it in quite deep, and he raised a groan. With that momentum, I slammed my right elbow into his face.
Since my body was left quite open after that move, Alfred tried coming at me again, so I scooped up some snow on my boot, and kicked it up to steal his vision.
His attack fell slightly off his mark, letting me parry it with my dagger.
Motioning to the other Soldiers, Alfred retreated a distance, letting me put an incantation to mouth.
“So in the end, I’m still using magic. Fire Bullet!”
While it wasn’t a powerful spell, its almost-instantaneous usability let me bombard the area. They were aimed with the Second’s Skill, so they hit without fail.
The soldiers burst into flames on contact, but through rolling in the snow, they recovered and stood at once.
One of them collapsed with blood streaming down his thigh.
Only the fireball aimed at Alfred came short of hitting him.
It dissipated right in front of his face.
(What? It’s as if it was crushed to pieces.)
And of that fact, Alfred sounded quite amused.
“So you’ve made one man drop out. And let me praise you on your use of Skills. It looks like your brainless sword strokes aren’t the only thing to you.”
Brandishing his sabre, he fixed his posture.
The collapsed one held down his leg, wrapped a cloth around it, and started crawling away to perform emergency procedures.
Based on the density of the stains he left, it will be nigh impossible for him to aid the battle anymore.
(But I need to keep mindful of him.)
“We have to run! Lyle, we have to get away ASAP!”
“Yes, I know that!”
When I yelled out, two soldiers cut at me. The remaining one headed off to help his fallen comrade, and I threw the dagger.
It stabbed deeply into one of their right shoulders, and I used my sabre to cut at the other’s arm.
The Sixth cried out.
『Lyle, get serious!』
When I jumped in shock, a sudden sensation as if my right arm had been grasped…
I tried to free myself, but its grip was too strong.
With the Second’s Skill, I could sense something definitely tangled around it.
And Alfred cut in.
I immediately kicked, sending all my might into his stomach.
His mouth opened, and saliva shot out.
My leg was grasped, and perhaps since the range was too short for a sabre to be effective, he drew the dagger at his waist.
“I was waiting for this.”
Since he had my leg grasped quite nicely, I kicked off with my still-grounded leg to deliver an impact to his chin.
The gripping sensation around my arm disappeared, and after sprawling in the air for a moment, I landed.
I collected the fallen dagger with my left hand, and found myself overlooking a fallen Alfred with blood coming down from his nose.
Seeing the dagger gripped in my hand, Alfred screamed.
“G-give it back! That’s something Celes-sama bestowed upon me! Don’t touch it, cur!”
“This isn’t something for you to hold.”
After kicking Alfred’s dropped Sabre a ways away, I sent a glare to the soldier treating his wounded comrade.
He was looking at me with mortified eyes. The injured one was the same.
They definitely hadn’t lost the will to fight.
There, Shannon yelled.
“Lyle, that guy has lots of hands! It’s a Skill! There are Four growing from his back!”
On her words, I looked at Alfred.
While she said something about hands, he got to his feet quite normally. But even when there wasn’t anything touching the ground, it was pressed down… no, a mark as if a hand was pushing against it formed.
Perhaps twice the size of a normal person’s, it was surely bigger than that of anyone’s present.
The Fourth spoke.
『Invisible hands, something like that? So he’s a Skill holder.』
The Seventh also seemed to remember.
『Come to think of it I do remember some strange Skills surfacing in that Virden house. Did they find the need to have such a things… oh right, they were an underground organization. I’m sure invisible hands would prove essential in… various circumstances.』
In trickery, or perhaps assassination… it was a Skill that looked to be useful for plenty of dirty jobs.
While holding his left hand over his face, He extended his right hand to the side.
The fallen sabre leisurely rose into the air, and returned to that hand.
Shannon shook, and…
“That guy has four arms coming from his back, he’s controlling them at will…”
While I couldn’t see anything, Shannon seemed certain.
Alfred looked at her, and…
“Are your eyes special? Then I must report to Celes-sama… but I’ll be going to her with your head, Lyle. I’ll mince it, crush the bones…”
The eyes Alfred sent at me were already corroded.
In the past…
When he was my senior disciple.
At the start, he was a kind and strong man.
He would call out to me in good humor, and teach me various things.
But now all he gave off was an unsightly smirk.
“Celes… was it Celes who did this to you!?”
His invisible hands answered the feelings I shouted out.
They didn’t send stimulus to my eyes, but I was also a Skill holder.
The Second’s Skill showed me his movements.
The masses of Mana I could only vaguely catch glimpses of started being perceived as arms to me after hearing Shannon’s advice.
The falling snow was brushed away by those unperceivable appendages.
“Once you understand the trick, it becomes quite simple… Earth Hand!”
Brown arms extended from beneath the snow, and began grappling with the ones Alfred produced.
With a grating sound ringing out, Alfred seemed to be in pain.
Running between the gaps in the Earth Hand and his own, I thrust my Sabre at his heart.
“Lyle, they’re protecting his body too!”
As Shannon said that, I parted from my Sabre, and jumped back.
Sent off its trajectory, the blade stuck into his left arm, and blood started to flow.
A little squeamishly, Shannon started to explain just what was going on with the man’s body.
“Countless arms are sprouting inside his body, protecting it like armor. What’s more, they’re wriggling left and right, and the fingers are squirming like…”
Hearing that, Eva.
“What’s with that… disgusting.”
My impression was the same.
Soon after contacting his flesh, my Sabre pulled itself out, and started floating in the air.
“I-it’s heavy. You were fighting with something like this?”
He thought to use it, but as it was heavier than he expected, he ended up discarding it.
The Third sounded satisfied.
『Doesn’t look like he gets too much power out of those bad boys. All Skills can be troublesome, but rather than battle, I think this one’s more fit for cheating the card tables. Or maybe theft?』
The Fifth too.
『No skillfulness. No power. While I think he’s gotten more than one stage to it, if you know the base ability, that’s all there is to it.』
It would be scary if I didn’t know its identity, but this is thanks to Shannon’s aide.
At the same time, a countermeasure surfaced in my mind.
The situation was beginning to favor me.
Alfred was incessantly glancing at the dagger, and unable to concentrate. I’m sure he was frantically formulating ways to reclaim it.
(Would I be like that if the Jewel was taken?)
Just as I thought to blow him to smithereens with magic, a single carriage came to a halt a little further down the road.
… Novem worried for Lyle’s late return.
She had waited a while on the inn’s first floor, but there were no signs of him coming back anytime soon.
“He’s late. It’s almost time for dinner.”
As Novem sighed with her hand to her face, Aria chewed on a beefsteak as she spoke in a tired tone,
“He’s not a child. He’ll be back sooner or later.”
At the same table, sitting across from her, Miranda watched Aria and sighed.
“Don’t you ever get tired of eating the same thing over and over again? Also, show a bit of worry while you’re at it. Lyle’s family is also in the Imperial Capital, it seems.”
Aria spoke with pride.
“I’m merely a maiden on a quest to find the world’s best beefsteak. Also, I’m sure he’s avoiding all places he’s likely to meet them. They’re not the class of people you’d be able to encounter at will, right?”
Monica was nearby, standing rather than seated.
Perhaps unpleased with Aria’s attitude, she quietly…
“Already +2kg from when we first met, I see.”
Aria locked eyes with her, before playing dumb.
Clara looked up from her book at Monica.
“You really are amazing, Monica-san. How did you manage to calculate her body mass?”
Monica went into an in depth explanation, but Aria angrily dismissed it all as rubbish.
As Novem continued to wait for Lyle’s return, a person entered the inn.
“Well I’ll be damned~ That was quite a bout.”
The one to voice such lamentations went up to the desk, and handed some money to the inn’s owner. He seemed to be a regular, as the owner dealt with him in quite a casual manner.
“A fight. Fight. A knight and adventurer were cutting at one another, five on one and all. Quite rowdy…”
Novem stood, and briskly closed in on the customer.
“Pardon my rudeness. Could you tell me where said matter did occur?”
The customer was male, and he retreated a few steps on Novem’s approach.
Rather than scary, her serious expression and aura were overwhelming.
“Not on the main street, a side one. A place with a lot of performers, and I do find it a wonder a fight brawl broke out in such a place, but… they your friends?”
After hearing that, Novem ran off.
She sprinted out the inn’s door, and Aria and co followed in confusion…
The snow kept coming down.
In a white and flowing coat, Celes tread over the land to stand before me.
The Skills that had come into my hands put me on my highest possible guard.
With my ancestors’ Skills in my hands, I could finally begin to see the girl’s abnormality.
Behind me, Eva, and the trembling Shannon she held in her hands, seemed to understand it as well.
“Who are you…”
When I took a stance with the dagger, I perceived the shaking of my own body.
It wouldn’t stop.
I was able to understand the existence known as Celes to a greater extent than before. But through that, a fear even greater than what I felt back then started to sprout.
“That’s no human. What, just what does this…”
After stroking her lovely golden hair, Celes spoke in the sad tone of an actor reading out the script of a tragedy.
“You’ve finally reunited with your dear sister. Don’t you think such wonder is uncalled for? How sorrowful. Truly tragic… and when I brought myself here upon hearing I might find the famous elf of rumor, for me to meet the one driven from my own home. You survived? Just die already.”
Those final parts were accompanied by stifled laughter, and she suggested my demise with lovely serenity.
Alfred and his knights hurriedly gathered at her feet.
Despite their injuries, they went to her side as if their lives depended on it. The knights already accompanying her glared at them.
“Can you not even carry out your jobs to satisfaction, you disgraces of the Walt name!?”
A knight once well respected as a retainer to the house was now throwing out his jeers at the bleeding men.
The Seventh looked at Celes.
『What the hell? That’s supposed to be Celes… that’s a completely different person, isn’t it!?』
The Third saw her and lost his usual composure.
『Lyle, can you use your Skills to get the hell away from this general location as fast as physically possible? Take the two, and take flight at once.』
To rid herself of me, she challenged me to a dual.
Now I’ve gone through three Growths, and compared to back then, both my physical and magical states have improved greatly. But still, the image of me coming out on top has yet to surface in my mind.
Of smaller build than me, and oh so delicate.
Her slender arms, legs, neck, they all looked as if they’d break if not handles with the proper care.
Her innocent smile was missing a little of the childishness it held before.
After tracing the shape of her lips with a finger, she touched that finger to Alfred’s lips.
That gesture was quite a mature one, and I couldn’t think her only two years my junior.
After experiencing the world outside, I understood.
That Celes couldn’t be human…
And with a smile, she spoke to Alfred.
“Alfred, thank you for all your service.”
“Celes-sama, I am… eh?”
Shannon let off a slight scream, and Eva averted her eyes.
I couldn’t tell when she had drawn it, but at some point, the rapier with a yellow gem embedded in its hilt had found its way to her hand.
Alfred fell forward onto the ground. The rapier was stained with blood.
And the ground around the fallen knight began to turn red as well.
Alfred’s face turned in my direction, but it was as if he didn’t see me at all. He merely searched the scene for Celes’ figure, and smiled.
Slowly, she lifted up the rapier.
“Wipe it off.”
The knights wiped off the blood sticking to the rapier, and not a single one of them turned an eye to Alfred.
Even the injured soldiers only had eyes for her.
“Yeah~, today you had that thing over there as your opponent, so I’ll let you all off without killing you. That’s why you’ve got to give it your all for me next time.”
“Even if it costs this life of mine!”
The soldier whose thigh I had stabbed was looking at Celes with a pained expression.
“Oh my, your face is quite pale. Are you in pain… there.”
After gently extending her left hand to the wounded man, the swift sound of a snapping bone resounded in the area.
His neck broken, the soldier was making a peaceful face.
Looking around, I saw a number of onlookers had gathered.
But each and every one of them had been entranced by her charms.
The Fourth spoke to me.
『Lyle, that is your sister? That’s really your sister?』
The Sixth was the same.
『The Monster the First spoke of… it seems we truly had failed to grasp the meaning of the word. That one is much too dangerous.』
The Ancestors rarely showed any weakness, but seeing Celes, their senses of crisis acted up. All they could do was urge me to escape.
The Fifth cried out.
『It’s coming! Don’t go astray!』
In the next instant, Celes was right by my side, looking up at my face.
When I tried to take some distance, she stepped on my foot.
Chills were racing up and down my spine like crazy.
“Hm~ Perhaps you’ve gotten a little stronger? And eight Skills at that… how interesting. Though your Jewel is of much lower quality than mine. A good-for-nothing Jewel perfect for a good-for-nothing.”
Low quality. Having been told that, I glared at her.
She’s taking me for a fool.
And at the same time…
(She can gauge the number of Skills? What’s more, ‘good-for-nothing,’ she says!?)
All I’ve piled up… what the ancestors passed on and left me, she’s taking all of it as useless.
Celes’s eyebrows twitched a little in response.
“Oh, you’re angry? As I thought, I hate you. You look at me without becoming captive… ah, I believe that child over there is…”
It seems that Shannon was of greater interest to her than I. She immediately moved to her side, grabbed her hair, and tossed Eva aside.
Grabbed by the chin and hoisted up, Shannon thrashed around to try and resist.
“Let me go! Unhand me already!”
“How cold. Even when you called out to me so frantically last we met. Of course, now you’re able to get a better look of me. Have you grown a bit? Ah, right, right! Do you happen to know where your sister is? The pretty one. I always wanted an older sister like that. But right now, your eyes are quite interesting as well… give them to me.”
On Shannon’s scream, I instinctively extended my hand to Celes.
She chucked Shannon at me, knocking me off my feet.
Watching the two of us tangled up, Celes laughed to herself.
And she put her foot above the fallen Eva’s head.
“L-let me go…”
It didn’t look like she was putting in much pressure, but Eva who was of larger build than her was struggling for her life to get free.
“Your voice isn’t nearly as pretty as I’ve heard. Isn’t mine the nicer one?”
When she said that, the surrounding knights and soldiers voiced their affirmation.
“Yes, Celes-sama’s voice is much more splendid than that barbaric elf over there.”
“There’s not even a comparison to me made.”
“Hearing your voice alone makes me glad I became a knight.”
She put her hand to her mouth.
“I see. Thank you. Well, then I guess I don’t need this one either.”
Saying that, she kicked Eva in my direction.
Eva raised some pained moans. Her arm was severely inflamed.
“You… just what do you want? What right do you think you have to carry out such acts!?”
Leaving the two girls on the ground, I stood.
I felt malice-filled eyes fall on me from all directions, but Celes herself merely played with the tips of her hair, and lost herself in thought for a short while.
For one brief moment, her eyes fell on the Yellow gem.
“Right, or how should I put this… it’s because I’ve already inherited all of those. I doubt you’d understand. Right, I’m sure you’re unable to comprehend it.”
Receiving her eyes of hate, I took up a stance.
Rather than yellow, looking at the rapier with the Golden Jewel embedded in it, the Seventh spoke.
『The gem… hey, that’s Zenoire’s. She stole my wife’s Jewel! What is the meaning of this!? That was locked under maximum security! I didn’t even tell Maizel about that one!』
The Seventh flew into a fit, but anyways, that means my grandma was the holder of that Jewel.
I remembered the words the Seventh once imparted to me.
The beautiful courtesan Agrissa… the descendants of the ones to bring ruin to the country three hundred years ago. That was the tribe grandmother Zenoire hailed from.
When I muttered that, Celes’ face twitched.
“You knew of it? It’s just as I thought. That’s why I hate…”
After she raised her hung head, she turned to the blue Jewel hanging on my neck.
“Even so, the blue gem is Grandpa’s, right? Where’d you steal it from? Well, even if it was lying around, no one would have used it anyways. Ah, but… there was that old codger, wasn’t there?”
Hearing those words, I recalled Zell, the one who saved me.
Seeing my reaction, Celes spoke on with intrigue.
“He’s already dead, mind you. It was in the way, so we cremated him, hut and all.”
I decided to put everything I had to full use.