“He’s already dead, mind you. It was in the way, so we cremated him, hut and all.”
The snow covered, usually-deserted road had amassed numerous onlookers on both end.
They were all watching Celes, and not a soul moved to put a stop to this farce.
“Zell was my life’s savior!”
I glared at her.
My body was unable to move from fear, but I somehow managed to work myself up.
After I gripped the Jewel, I heard the Fifth’s voice from within.
『Lyle, run with all you’ve got! Don’t you dare fight!』
They all screamed at me to avoid any battle. To run away.
It’s the first time anything like this had ever happened.
They had happily egged me on to fight the Gryphon, and were determining Celes’ threat level as far, far higher.
『Lyle, I thought of that as nothing but a yellow Gem. But Celes called it a Jewel. If it’s to have gained an existence to impart its Skills like us, then it would have to be…』
Celes could surely make use of multiple Skills.
But at the same time, I thought.
(I can’t just leave her rampant!)
Having ventured into the world outside, I became able to comprehend Celes’ irregularity.
My younger sister… if I left her be here, it would surely bite me down the road.
I pulled at the Jewel as if to tear it from my neck. The chain it hung from wrapped around my arm, forming the shape of the giant sword.
Celes looked on it with some intrigue.
The surrounding knights and oldiers put their hands to their weapons, but Celes chuckled and took charge.
“Don’t get in the way of my fun.”
Great sword in my right hand, and dagger in my left. The ancestors called to stop me.
The Third in a panic.
『Lyle, get the hell away already. That’s something you should never fight!』
The Fourth tried to persuade me.
『Swallow those feelings for now. She seem a whimsical one, so grovel or do whatever it takes to make it through this alive!』
The Fifth was the same.
『This instant is enough. Just stomach it for this very moment!』
The Sixth yelled at me.
『Just look who you’re pointing your blade at! You can’t match up!』
The Seventh as well.
『Lyle, that is not your sister Celes. It’s a monster. An opponent where your defeat can’t be helped! Now choose the path that leads to your own survival!』
I took a quick glance at Eva on the ground with her broken arm.
Shannon’s entire body was in pain from being thrown.
“… I don’t want to.”
The Third was…
“Fearing and trembling at that girl… having her speak ill of all I’ve ever obtained, even if I survived, I would never be able to forgive myself.”
Before my eyes, Celes gave a broad grin.
It was an unsightly smile made to scorn an enemy, but I couldn’t help but feel a strange fascination for it.
“And who might you be talking to? There seems to be seven people worth of memories in that… ah, could it be the past heads? To have chosen a failure like you, I’m sure they must be regretting it quite a bit. But…”
Before she could go on, I took a large step forward.
“… If they’re of the caliber to have chosen such a failure in the first place, they can’t be anything special themselves.”
The sword I could barely even lift in both hands before could now be swung around in one. Because of the Skills imbued in my body, it felt extremely light.
【Full Burst】strengthened my body several times over.
【Field】 and 【Select】 let me confirm the surrounding situation, and lock onto her.
【Up n’ Down】 raised my own speed, while lowering hers.
【Dimension】 gave me a three dimensional grasp of the terrain.
【Spec】 told me wherever she was, and what state she was in.
Using six Skills at once, I cut at her.
But Celes smiled.
She curved her lips, and stopped the giant hunk of a blade with her slender rapier.
“How interesting. So it becomes a weapon… hmm, so rare metal can be used like that… seriously, is that really it?”
She posed a question to herself, and acted as if she answered the question by herself as well.
But I could understand that action.
“How many memories are recorded in that Jewel!?”
I pushed power onto the blade as if to crush her.
The snow on the ground was pressed down, but Celes herself didn’t move at all. When I tried cutting at her with the dagger, she had already grasped its blade.
She didn’t even think to answer the question I posed. Not that I thought she’d tell the truth either.
I just thought it would serve a slight diversion.
Rather than unflustered, it seems her perception of me as an opponent reduced.
“Hmm~ so you can’t tell. As I thought, those ancestors are nothing special.”
I pulled back the dagger, and returned it to its sheath.
Using both my hands, I cut down with the greatsword, putting in more power. She didn’t care in the slightest.
“Your power increased. Speed as well. I think it’s a little harder for me to move? But is that all? Also, you seem to be misunderstanding something, but…”
I jumped back to try and take some distance from her.
But Celes stepped in, maintaining the same positioning from me as before. This time, she started pushing me back with her rapier in one hand.
(Just where is this power coming from…)
“There’s only a single one recorded in my Jewel. Unlike that good-for-nothing Jewel in your hands, mine is a real Jewel.”
Yellow was supposed to manifest Rear Guard Skills.
Meaning that she has at least one of those on her person.
It would be a different story if the rapier itself and her accessories were Skill-imbued Magic Items, but those and gems interfered with one another.
Rear Guard had many magic-related offensive Skills. It’s often the case that a magic one specializes in becomes a Skill in itself.
The Fourth spoke.
『Just one? At least one Skill? Two at most… is there really a Skill that powerful?』
Whenever I tried to gain ground, she closed just as much. I was serious, but Celes was acting as if she was only playing around.
After being kicked out, I learned to use Skills. I experienced Growth. But it was all still just a game.
“I’m starting to bore of using weapons. Hey, let’s play with magic. I’m sure you’ve improved at least a little.”
With a bored look, she was a distance away in an instant.
It was a speed I could only see as instantaneous, and it was only barely through my Skills that I could tell she had physically moved at all.
Clenching my teeth, I held up my left hand.
Lightning roared, and bolts fell down from the clouded sky.
Celes looked up.
A simple wall of Mana nullified my attack. She seemed a little disappointed, and uninterested…
“Is the one behind you your woman? Well, if she’s not, my deepest condolences… hey, if you can stand my next attack, how about I let you go? There’s got to be something you’re good at, brother.”
Calling me ‘brother’ with a full-on smile made my spine convulse. Getting over my cold fit, I knew she was going to make some sort of move, so I braced myself.
… When the lightning rung out, Novem was able to confirm Lyle’s location.
The side streets were made in a complicated arrangement, and she was having trouble pinning down his location.
Behind Novems hurried dash, ran Monica in her maid outfit.
“I’ll be going ahead.”
Saying that, she overtook Novem.
Watching Monica run off in a speed one couldn’t think human, Novem began worrying obver whether she’d make it in time.
To Aria running behind, Novem spoke.
“Aria-san, can you use your Skill? Use it consecutively and get to where that lightning bolt struck?”
As Novem said that, Aria displayed some disapproval.
“It’s not impossible, but going long distances like Lyle will be hard.”
“I don’t mind. If it’s for an instant’s explosive speed, then yours is the superior. Please make consecutive use of that.”
Aria grasped the gem around her neck, and went ahead. She accelerated at a rate that could even surpass Monica’s.
After seeing that, Novem confirmed that Miranda and Clara were following behind, before looking up at the sky.
Lights brought about by magic were forming one after another above the area the lightning had struck.
(… I can make it. I can still make it.)
She tightened her grip on the staff in her right hand…
“Ahahaha! Splendid! Is that also the work of your Skills?”
She was sending me a grin, but I was quite beat up over here.
I made a wall of ice to protect Shannon and Eva, and around, the remnants of the destroyed walls of earth and stone were piling up like mountains.
Out of breath, my sweat was flowing like a fountain in the frigid air.
To my back, were Shannon and Eva.
If I ran now, the two of them would die.
“Lyle, just run already!”
Eva as well.
“You have to run… but how would he get out of this situation…”
She was frantically searching for my escape route.
“Running now would just incur her wrath…”
As I tried to give an excuse, Celes…
“Next is… how about an Ice Arrow!”
Holding up her left hand, she snapped her fingers, and created hundreds of arrows of ice around me. It wasn’t just as if the ice had vaguely mimicked the shape of arrows.
Arrows that were flawless to the finest of details were coming our way.
I changed the sword in my hand to the bow, and set my aim on all the manufactured projectiles.
“Oh, so you still had something more? You’re going to entertain me this time, right?”
Delighted, Celes lowered her raised left arm.
And in the next instant, each and every one of those arrows started coming at me.
I used magic to make walls if dirt, strengthened them, and shot down all the ones that pierced through with my own arrows of light.
Those earth walls of mine were impaled several tens of hundreds of times. I thought I had built them sturdy, but they were shot through all too easily.
Looking at Celes, she had an especially large ice arrow– no, you’ve got to call that one a spear at this point– in her hand, as she watched me and laughed.
“Then can you shoot down this one?”
What she shot so happily wasn’t the same as her past projectiles. The places it passed by froze over, as if it the atmosphere around it was frozen as well.
I enlarged the bow, pulled it back strongly, and fired an arrow to clash with the one coming at me. They let off a bang, and the temperature of the area instantly dropped a few degrees.
From the places the arrows burst, petals of ice fluttered about and glittered in the light.
Seeing them, Celes seemed quite moved.
“How beautiful. Like looking at a mirror.”
That was followed by applause, and it felt like I alone was the one who had wandered into another world.
I pulled the bow and fired another arrow.
Aimed at Celes, of course.
But she didn’t panic.
“That’s also a Skill, right? Setting an aim, and having it pursue a foe… that’s…”
Holding up her rapier, she snapped it like a whip to destroy the light arrow.
It did explode, but she emerged from that without a scratch.
“Aw~ that one was my favorite coat. Look, you went and got dirt all over it. I wonder who I’ll give it to after this. How about a knight to be married? Having him clutch this cloth as he sleeps rather than his mate sounds an interesting notion.”
While displaying a face full of innocence, she began to twirl on the spot.
Around her, some knights even volunteered themselves as candidates to receive such a fate.
Seeing them, the Sixth.
『What, just what is all of this!?』
He couldn’t comprehend it.
And the fifth spoke.
『It’s worse than I imagined. It’s not like I was taking the First’s words lightly, but… no, it’s possible not even the Founder could think it this deep.』
The time the monstrous vixen came to be was a period fifty years prior to the First’s birth.
Even if the stories were handed down, it’s unlikely he actually experienced it.
In the current world, there wasn’t a soul left who could speak from experience.
Perhaps Celes tired of spinning, as she stopped, and looked at me.
“Ah~ that was fun. But this is the end. It really was a treat… well then, bye-bye.”
Celes thrust out the rapier, and I turned it aside with the bow’s body.
I immediately changed it to the great sword and slashed, only getting into an extended exchange of blades with her…
“You’re slow. I’m even letting you drop my speed all you want with that Skill of yours, yet you fail to deliver.”
My right shoulder was cut through, and I felt a pain in my left thigh on her next thrust.
I was somehow managing to repel her attacks, but I couldn’t manage all of them.
I used a hand to fire magic at the ground, raising a snow to cover her vision, but even within that world of white, she continued swinging around her rapier as free as the wind.
The snow around my person started staining itself the crimson color of my blood.
“Was that supposed to be a smokescreen? I can tell even with my eyes closed. Your breath, and your beat, the sound of your muscles grating… even the flow of the air is there to tell me where you stand before me.”
The Third was lost in thought as he looked at Celes.
And the Seventh…
『That’s not Celes. As if someone could change so much after merely holding a Jewel… and wait, just what sort of Skill does she have, anyways!?』
Having used too much Mana, it became impossible for me to keep up the sword.
I took out the dagger, and returned the Jewel to its usual necklace state.
If I let my consciousness fade, I’m sure I’d be killed just like that.
I was a little unsteady from my loss of blood, but I held up the smaller blade and glared at her.
“It’s rare to find a human that puts up so much resistance. But I guess such battles aren’t bad on occasion, lest it all lose its thrill. Yep, as I thought… it’s no fun when there’s no one to oppose me. Once I crush Lyle, I wonder who I’ll play with next? Come to think of it, there’s that Faunbeux dog that even now continues to cling to Rufus. The countries around raising protest… the internal nobles who won’t obey… Aha! Ahahaha! Now how shall I have fun with them?”
While losing more and more blood, I addressed her.
“You’re quite a twisted one, you know…”
“Hmm? What are you trying to say?”
She continued to direct me a smile.
“Just who are you anyways? You’re not Celes, are you?”
My old memories of my sister are faint at best. The memories from age ten onwards were too strong for me to want to recall anything beyond.
But she shouldn’t have been a sister like the girl before my eyes.
“I am Celes… Celes Walt. Novem should know that well enough.”
Since Novem’s name came out, I tried to ask the reason for it.
But Celes didn’t seem to care.
“And I’ve already lost interest. Yep, we’re done here.”
Saying that, the edge of her rapier began to glow red with heat.
Perhaps she was using magic on it.
(I won’t make it!)
Late to react to her thrust, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to dodge.
A ball of snow dropped onto Celes’ head from above.
The one to throw it looked to be Shannon.
Celes glared at Shannon. She retracted her rapier, and concentrated her attention over there.
I immediately wrung out my power to encase Shannon and Evan in walls of earth, and stood before my sister.
Celes was expressionless. The light fading from her eyes, she quietly…
“I’ll kill you. A brat with nothing but a good set of eyes to her… do you realize what it is you’ve done to me?”
Concentrating magic to blow my walls away altogether, it seems her target wasn’t me, but Shannon.
I wasn’t even being factored into consideration.
At this rate, she was going to be killed.
And it was at the moment the thought had crossed my mind.
The dagger in my hand let off a faint light.
(So this is the Skill Rondo-san decided to choose…)
A simple one. One to resist magic… a Skill to protect one’s comrades, and one I thought fitting of the man.
I thought I wouldn’t be able to use it due to the Jewel’s interference, but at this point, it was definitely reacting.
It created a simple wall of Mana around me, blocking the magic Celes shot out.
A maelstrom of flames melted all the snow around, making the temperature skyrocket. It was the magic 【Fire Storm】, but its output had risen since the last time she had used it on me.
Perhaps because I was making use of the dagger, the ancestral voices of the Jewel only came out in broken bits and pieces.
And while all the Mana in my body was gradually siphoned out, I withstood Celes’ outburst.
(But at this rate, without accomplishing anything… at the very least, I’ll end it with…)
I looked at the snow below me.
It remained as the flames had passed around, and as the storm subsided I looked at Celes.
I’m sure it went beyond its limit. The dagger shattered.
I collapsed at the knees, and without any strength left to stand, all I could do was watch her.
Looking over me, she spoke in an uninterested tone.
“… How boring. Is that the extent you’ve grown? You were more fun to play with before you left the house.”
From that point, my power and technique and speed had risen, but the same held true for her. From the time we fought last, she had certainly become stronger.
A ball of snow came at her head again.
A soft sound quietly reverberated in the air, making the corner of my lips curl.
I forced myself to smile.
It was the last bit of fruitless resistance I could put up.
“What’s wrong? Are you perhaps weak to attacks to the face?”
As I provoked her, she expressionlessly looked over me, and made a stance that would clearly lead to her rapier running through my body.
Within my slowing vision, all I could think of was my desire to, at the very least, protect the two behind me.