When I woke up, Monica’s face was before my eyes
No, she’s way too close.
“To wake a sleeping chicken the kiss of one as cute as I is necce- …oh, you actually woke up… how unfortunate”
Distancing herself, and straightening her back, Monica seemed delighted.
She’d challenged Celes a number of times, so I assume the loyalty of Automata must be high.
(But even if I know that, it’s still something to be happy about.)
I raised my torso, and tried moving my body. As the ancestors had informed me, my healing was already completed.
My wounds had closed, but I still felt some pain throughout.
A scar remained on my left arm. It was from when she nailed me to the wall, and grated the blade back and forth.
But perhaps it’s best that something remained.
(With a reminder like this to look at every day, it looks like I’ll be able to live on without forgetting how much a threat Celes is.)
“For now, I’ll rest my body some more. This is the Faunbeux’s mansion, right? Why did they decide to save us?”
When I said that, Monica looked at me in wonder.
“How were you able to determine our location? When you were carried here, I was sure you didn’t have any consciousness to speak of.”
I smiled a little, got off the bed, and tried moving my body a little.
“This and that. This and… ah, and Monica.”
“What is it?”
“Thank you. I’ll give my gratitude for now.”
When I gave her my thanks for saving me, Monica suddenly began making a wriggling movement, her hair style ruffling itself into a mess, as she delightedly…
“Gawd! So you’ve finally began to dere! Just how long did that take, you damn chicken! We’re sleeping in the same bed tonight. Prepare yourself.”
(TL: Dere as in the other side of the tsun coin.)
“Yeah, no, we’re not doing that. And don’t you sleep standing up?”
When I denied her with a smile, she crouched down on the spot, and pretended to cry.
“Even I was worried about you, you know. You didn’t show any signs of waking, so I spent most of the time in sleep mode, though.”
“So you were asleep!? No, perhaps that was for the best. ”
Monica had a line connecting her to me, from which she received Mana.
While that let the automaton even rebuild herself, it also meant my Mana was constantly drained. When recovering my physical state was of the highest priority, having Monica moving around would only slow the process.
“… Where are Novem and the others?”
Monica stood, and spoke expressionlessly.
“Some infighting broke out. The vixen is preparing the bath. Well, with this, there are less nuisances to come in between us. Now, Chicken Dickwad! Take my nursing with everything you’ve got!”
I sat down on the bed, and addressed her.
“Before that, I’ve got a request.”
“How greedy of you. Say anything you want. I’ll carry it out perfectly. Speak!”
To Monica, who awaited her orders, I…
“Can you assemble all our party’s members? I’ve something important to say.”
And finishing those words, I looked up a the ceiling.
Everyone gathered in my room.
As the heads of history had suspected, the harem goal Novem had spoke of caused their relations to turn dicey.
In the space of the room, everyone stood a considerable distance from Novem.
(It’s to be expected after receiving game-piece treatment.)
It’s not like I intend to chastise Novem for making a harem for me.
I mean, if you think about it, all she did was make sure the ones to gather around me were immune to Celes’ influence.
Whether we’re to fight or run, Novem simply determined that such a trait was essential.
They looked at me as I sat on the bed.
Aria looked like she wanted to say something.
Miranda remained wary of Novem.
Shannon nervously assessed her surroundings.
Clara’s field of vision was also swimming around the room.
Monica was standing by my side.
“Lyle-sama, what is it you wanted to talk about?”
I stood, and observed the faces of my comrades.
“… I’ve decided to disband the party. So I’d like for us to decide here whether we’ll disband now or in Beim. Perhaps we can make the trip, and look for other parties to join as we work with these members a little longer.”
Novem listened to my decision, and silently nodded.
“I will accompany you to the end.”
“That so? But I’d like it if you made your choice after I told the whole story.”
Aria stared at me, and yelled.
“Don’t just proceed talks on your own! And wait, what are you even trying to do? Disbanding and all.”
Miranda was the same, it seems.
“I’m sure a certain someone said he’d make sure I didn’t regret anything, right? That’s a clear-cut abandoning of responsibility right there.”
I gave a bitter smile.
“That’s right. I did say I wouldn’t let you regret. But if we go on as we are, you’ll only regret more. I’ve finally gotten myself a goal. It’s much too big for me, and to be completely honest, I have yet to decide how I’ll even go about carrying it out. But taking you all along will just be going down the road to regrets. Of course, I’m aware it isn’t something I can do alone, and I don’t have such intentions. After this, I’ll reform a party, with the express purpose of working towards that goal.”
I decided to fight.
But in that case, I can no longer walk alongside my comrades without the same resolve.
What I’ve decided is the dis and reassembly of a party.
“That’s just selfish…”
As Shannon looked at me with condemning eyes, I smiled and apologized.
“That’s right. It’s selfish. No matter how far I go, I’ll still be selfish. And the goal I speak of is to defeat Celes.”
On my utterance, Clara corrected the positioning of her glasses, as she spoke.
“Does that imply assassination?”
“I did consider it, but there’s more problems than merits with that one. So when I get to Beim, I’ll reform a party, and start building up power. Do you want to return to Arumsaas, Clara? Whatever we earn as a party will be evenly divided, so if you have any desires, it may be possible to grant them.”
I believe she said she wanted to run a bookstore in the future.
Money-wise, I’m sure we have enough to start up a small store.
Aria commented on my opinion.
“Fight Celes? Are you an idiot? You just crashed and burned on that none too long ago! Challenging that one is… shouldn’t you be thinking of running off somewhere and living a quiet life?”
And that does sound quite appealing in itself.
Earn money as adventurers, and eventually use the advice of the ancestors to continue on the Walt House’s legacy of reclaiming land. I did consider that path.
I’m sure that would be fine as well.
I’m sure that if I had chosen it, the ancestors would have supported me with their all. But I’ve already made my choice.
“I can’t leave her be. That’s why I chose to oppose her. I’m sorry, but this is the end of the party. Don’t worry so much over that point. I’ll prepare a considerable preparatory period, and if we go all the way to Beim, I’m sure we’ll be in great demand. That’s just how competent the members of this party are.”
Miranda informed me as a representative of the rest.
“Please give me some time to think. And at present, we can’t even move from Centralle.”
“Yes, I’m sure you’ll need time. What about you, Novem?”
Novem’s expression looked as if she wasn’t expecting that question from me. A little happy, yet discontent at the same time.
A complicated expression.
“I will accompany you to the end.”
Having woken up, I sat across from Lianne.
Resting in a sofa, and sipping tea.
“I give my thanks for saving us. But pardon my rudeness, could I ask your reasons? I can’t think there was a single merit in such an act.”
With her long and pink hair tied up behind her head, Lianne gave a thin smile.
She looked a bit tired, and her face had more shadows than usual.
“I don’t think there any merit to it either. It’s just that thing called intuition. Both in meeting you and saving you.”
While taking a sip of tea, I wondered if this person had the same sort of sharp feral instincts as the First once had.
“Do you believe such instincts exist?”
“Yes, I do. I mean, I’ve been saved a number of times by something like that.”
With a simple, ‘I see,’ she returned to her tea.
She must be thinking I’d been through trouble a number of times as an adventurer. She’s not wrong with that assumption, and correcting it would just make matters more complicated.
(Of the First’s and Second’s wills that were once in the Jewel and so on and so forth… it’s no good. It’ll just take up time to convince her.)
She did seem much busier than me, anyways.
Along with the preparations to vacate the mansion, she appeared to be probing through some of the deeper internal affairs of Bahnseim.
It was during that act that she went and discovered our party.
“Tomorrow there’s going to be an official announcement in Centralle’s plaza. Celes will officially be engaged to his royal highness, and become the true queen to be both nominally and virtually.”
I already knew, so I wasn’t surprised.
“It was going to happen sooner or later, though I do think it a little soon for the announcement.”
“They couldn’t wait, I hear. See, Celes is quite charming, so the crown prince and the others are working fast to make sure no strange bugs crawl out aiming for her.”
Seeing her giggle to herself, I wondered just what was going through Lianne’s mind when she saw her former fiancée in such a state…
While she’s surely smiling, I doubt she finds it all too interesting inside.
“She’s just acting on a whim. Though I do get the feeling she’d calmly prey on any man to catch her fancy.”
“I’ll bet. Even so, the prince… Rufus will eventually just be pushed to the side, I believe. Worse comes to worst, if a child no one knows the father of is to be born, they’ll still sit on the throne all the same.”
That’s just how twisted it all was.
Ever since Celes set foot in the city, everything rapidly started descending to madness. Thinking of it as the power of a monster made me shiver.
“So by the princess’s intuition, how do you think Bahnseim will fare? Do you think it will last?”
On my question, she stared right at me.
“… Isn’t that dependent on you? I’m surprised you came out alive after standing before her. It’s lucky as all hell that you got away with injuries of that level. You see, I thought you were the key. It was just by lust for revenge, but I wanted you to be the one to bring ruin to this country… I mean, a death match between two carrying the same blood in their veins sounds interesting, doesn’t it?”
A voice came from the Jewel.
It was the Fifth’s.
『No matter the time, women sure are strong.』
It was an answer as to why she saved me much more satisfying that plain old good will.
Of all else, I was the same.
Even if I sugarcoated it, my petty pride was stirring up a desire for vengeance. I wanted to defeat Celes, and triumph over her.
Those dark emotions included formed the current me.
“Then I have to try hard to answer to your expectations. Will taking on Bahnseim be hard for Faunbeux as a country?”
Lianne stopped her tea-holding hand, and looked at me with a serious expression.
“There isn’t a single country nearby that can put up a decent fight with a nation as large as Bahnseim. And even if they were to win, no small country would be able to govern its mass. Some alliances and unions will need to be made for a chance at victory, but…”
The Seventh let his voice from the Jewel.
『For countries stealing amongst themselves to try uniting, it’s more likely a war will break out amongst themselves before all else. I’m sure it’ll become something plenty muddled up. And I doubt it’s possible in the first place.』
Lianne put to mouth the reason the Seventh was about to say.
“Trying to explain the threat of Celes to one who’s never seen her before won’t breed understanding. Showing her to them will likely get them in her cage. It’s the worst.”
The moment you fully understand the threat, it’s much too late.
“… Princess, what do you plan on doing henceforth?”
On my question, Lianne let a light smile grace her face.
“A princess rejected by their groom doesn’t make for good rumor. Even if I go back, just what treatment awaits… of course…”
I confirmed the sensation that she had used a Skill, and felt the handle of my teacup fracture.
I caught the cup with my left hand, not letting any of its contents spill.
“Oh, how unfortunate.”
It does look like Lianne has a Skill of her own.
When I tried considering what sort of Skill it was, she laughed, and…
“My Skill is 【Trick】. It’s only good for a little mischief, but that’s enough for now. I’ll just use this to bring some misfortune to those that offer me a cold reception back home.”
Seeing her laugh to herself, I left the teacup on the table.
Her eyes had yet to show defeat.
I really wonder what this girl plans to perpetuate.
“… I plan on fighting Celes. But I haven’t decided on the means yet.”
‘I see,’ she muttered as she finished her tea.
-… Aria and Clara dropped by Miranda’s room.
While they had their own borrowed rooms, everyone besides Lyle, Novem and Monica had gathered there.
Miranda looked over Aria, Shannon and Clara, and sighed.
“So you said you wanted to discuss the future? Don’t you all have your own wills or anything?”
“But doesn’t disbanding after coming all the way here irritate you at all!? The plan went down all too fast, and disbanding after we go all the way to Beim is nothing but trouble, isn’t it!?”
“That’s exactly why Lyle said he’d make some operational time over there, isn’t it? How about you use it to look for your next party? For yours and Clara’s ability levels, you’ll find one in no time.”
In truth, everyone’s individual abilities were quite high.
While Lyle’s party had immature coordination, it was compensated for with personal competence.
Even if they transferred to other parties, the need to polish up coordination remained the same.
Clara posed a question to Miranda.
“Miranda-san, so are you leaning towards disbanding in Beim, then?”
Putting her hand on her hip, Miranda pushed out her chest, and nodded.
“I don’t mind either way, really. I mean, I’m following him anyways.”
Shannon was surprised.
“Eh!? I mean, Celes-sama is…”
Miranda yelled at Shannon for continuing to add –sama to the accursed name.
“Drop the –sama already! That one’s already just an enemy. And you’ve already bought yourself quite some resentment from her, so trying to curry favor with an honorific is too late.”
“That wasn’t my intent… but there’s still no way we can win.”
The girl hanging her head, Shannon, was most likely the one among them who’d confirmed Celes’ power to its fullest.
Because her eyes didn’t function, her Skill had bestowed demon eyes unto her.
And by their power, she could collect more information than others.
“I’m dragging Shannon along, but Aria, Clara, you both have to decide on your own. Lyle has decided to fight Celes. That’s the direction his party will move. You can’t be complaining, ‘this isn’t how it was supposed to be’ after that.”
Miranda planned on following Lyle. Even if the party disbanded, she just had to be a part of it when it formed again.
She didn’t fancy being with Novem, but even so, she chose to go along.
If Novem was to move for Lyle’s sake, and she was to as well, then… she knew that as long as she still had some use, Novem wouldn’t try to cut her off.
While she saw all of Novem’s actions as ominous and uncanny, she could understand that all of them had been for Lyle’s sake.
Aria made a bit of a perplexed face.
“Y-you’re fine with that? Miranda, you think you can win against that Celes?”
“A frontal attack is impossible. There’s the gap in skill… so we’ll prepare in a way we can win. Lyle’s no fool either. Did he say we’d all be jumping into a pit of flames? He does seem to have the mind to make preparations.”
Clara was as collected as usual. It’s likely she had already reached her conclusion.
Miranda watched Aria shake.
“So just decide for yourself. If you’re aiming to be a first-rate adventurer, then you should take responsibility in your own actions. That self-responsibility thing.”
The party had come together for various reasons.
They had come together, attracted by the existence called Lyle, but those without clear goals in mind- Aria and Shannon- couldn’t help but sway.
While thinking there was no helping it, Miranda tried directing Aria a little.
“It’s not like I’ll say you ran away if you decided to join another party. It’s completely natural for a party to break apart if goals differ.”
Clara affirmed her words.
“More so, before you’re gathered up and used by someone like Novem-san, and thrust into a situation you can’t escape from, it’s best you confirmed your own will and intentions. Lyle-san’s way is the kinder by far.”
With a greater understanding of what it meant to be an adventurer than the rest, Clara spoke and nodded to herself.
“… But saying something like that after all this time! After just pulling us around however he felt…!”
The fact that Aria liked Lyle was something Miranda understood.
That’s why she spoke.
“Right. Then you’re leaving, are you, Aria? Isn’t that fine? There are plenty of fish in the sea.”
Aria burst out of the room.
Watching her back, Clara addressed Miranda.
“Was that not a little too cold?”
“What of it? I’ve no reason to comfort a love rival. I don’t feel like bullying her with malicious intent, but I’m not going to look after her beyond the scope of a comrade.”
Stroking her light verdure hair, Miranda spoke to Clara.
“If she does something to me, I’ll get back at her. If she saves me, I’ll repay the favor. But you see, if she doesn’t follow along of her own will, then she’ll just be a hindrance to the current Lyle. You understand that, right?”
Watching Clara nod, Miranda turned her eyes to the open doorway Aria had left behind…