I steadied my breathing before turning the dagger in my left hand to my opponent.
What my Skills told me, was that the girl before my eyes was an enemy. In the area map, ther was nothing but a single red dot shining right in front of me.
The surrounding monsters had disappeared, and the yellow village boys were hurriedly leaving the area.
The girl in highly exposing clothing had two characteristic horns atop her head.
And from what I saw in the Fifth’s memory, I surmised this was the quilin, May.
“What were you doing?”
When I tried to make an intimidating voice, she touched her short hair without showing much interest. She looked between me and the Jewel around my neck.
“Nothing really? A threat, at most. Despite how energetic they were, the second they met a strong foe, the contracted and huddled themselves into balls. With a bit of threatening, I’m sure they’ll quiet down for a little while. And that’s our job, you see.”
As she said that word, May shrugged her shoulders, and gave a restrained smile.
“No, I’m being serious here. I didn’t have any mind to eat or kill them or anything. Even as I am, I’m on the gentler side of my herd.”
While calling herself gentle, she continued to direct hostility at me. She didn’t seem to think anything of having a weapon pointed her way.
She put her right hand to her chest, and kept it there a while.
Her left hand was brought to her hip, and she spoke as if proud of it.
“Yes even like this, I’m an ally of humanity, after all. I mean, I’m quite indebt to them… now then, if you happen to know anything about it, I’d appreciate you answered. Why is it my dear benefactor’s presence is emanating from the blue gem you hang from your neck? And at the same time, slight as it may be, you give off a similar air as well.”
Lowering both her hands, she glared at me with narrowed eyes.
As not to let any of my movements pass, her expression was serious.
So I started by introducing myself.
“I am Lyle Walt… Fredricks Walt’s descendent. And this gem has recorded the Skill of the Fifth Generation Head of the house.”
Perhaps unsatisfied with my answer, she widened her legs, bent forward a little, and let a strong voice from her stomach.
All she did was yell, but my body convulsed in response.
“Don’t lie! That’s no 【Gem】! There’s no way a simple gem could let off such an elaborate presence. Right, you… you all must have locked Fredricks in it.”
It didn’t seem my words were getting through, so I gripped the Jewel.
『May, I wasn’t sealed anywhere. I’m already dead. You should already understand that…』
On the Fifth’s strained voice, May responded.
“See, as I thought, it’s Fredricks. He’s grieving. That’s why it’s my turn to save him.”
When she raised her right arm to the side, her clothing receded to reveal her hand. And as it appeared, a quilin horn sprouted from her palm.
“Oy! You just heard his voice, didn’t you!? Then if you can hear him, can’t you–”
“Hmm, so it talks. I’m starting to want it more and more. I mean, it’s been a few decades since we last talked… back then, I didn’t know that humans only lived a lifespan of fifty to sixty years. I was sure I could meet him again… but…”
Her form instantly disappeared from my vision, and I immediately found myself staunched over.
I was sent into the air by her right leg swiping at me from the air, and as I was falling towards the ground, her left leg sent me crashing into it.
I rolled to gain distance, stood at once, and took a stance with the dagger.
Despite my base specs being elevated by Skills, a strong enough blow could still knock me off my feet.
With the horn growing from her right arm, May appeared right in front of me again, and slashed as if to cut me down.
(This one’s fighting style… is a bit like our house’s.)
Sparks flew from my dagger, and I felt an ominous sensation from it, so I leapt backward as she swung her right hand at me horizontally.
“Yep, you don’t call yourself Fredricks’ descendent for nothing. The way you move your body is reminiscent of his.”
Looking at the dagger in my left hand, the part it had received the attack had chipped, with cracks spreading across the blade.
If I had taken that blow, the dagger would have shattered, and I’ll bet I’d have been killed.
From within the Jewel, the Third.
『Hey, don’t her movements look… a bit like ours?』
To the Fifth, the Fourth.
『Could it be you…』
He was quite upfront about it.
『I taught her. By the way, she knows full well the sorts of Skills I had. And I used the First’s, Second’s Third’s, and Fourth’s Skills to at least their primary levels.』
The Sixth let out a sigh.
『You never properly taught me anything…』
The Seventh sounded tired, but he did call out for my attention.
『Lyle, it’s that… it’s a good thing you didn’t bring Novem or any of the others along.』
If I had, then past problems would just be brought up again. What’s more, May seems to be under some sort of misunderstanding, so it’s quite possible some strange topics would have been brought up.
I returned my dagger to its sheath at my waist, and pulled my spare sabre.
With a sabre in both hands, I slowly moved to use the forest terrain as best as I could.
(She has me beat in power output? Though I think I’ll be able to overwhelm her for a brief moment if I use the First’s Full Burst…)
If I defeated this girl, I’m sure the Fifth would fly into a fit of rage. No, there’s no helping it, right? I really don’t know how this fight will go.
And I don’t even want to fight a divine beast like a quilin.
Even if they didn’t contain magic stones, their flesh, blood, horns and scales went for a tremendous fortune, though.
As May rushed in, I tried reading her movements, and parried her horn with a blade.
Both her speed and power were over mine. But May was weaker than Celes.
Based on how I approached it, she was within the scope of enemies I could hold my ground against.
She didn’t seem aggravated at having her strike turned aside, merely coming to slash again.
When I parried that one, she suddenly stopped in front of me, leaned forward, and did a handstand on only her left.
She spread her legs out and spun, and taken aback, I instinctively used my arm to block it, and was sent flying backwards.
“Did you find that one interesting? When I did it on Fredricks, he dodged it quite easily… you’re weak, aren’t you?”
I stood, and felt a numbness in my arm as I took a stance.
“Just a little growing up, and a child’s speed and reach shoot straight up!”
When I refuted it, she looked at me.
“… Hm~ so you know what form I took when I was with Fredricks. Did you hear the stories? No, that’s not it.”
Saying it wasn’t it, she jumped at me, and this time she used the trees and branches to maneuver around.
“Now you see~ I’m a quilin, right? Did you not think it possible I was more accustomed to the forest than you?”
I turned, and held my blades in a cross to block and turn aside her thrust.
She had circled around, and aimed right at my heart. It doesn’t seem she had any intentiions of going easy on me.
“You react fast. You power’s also something up there. Your Skills… nine? Ten? Seriously, what’s up with that false gem of yours?”
She jumped back and escaped into the foliage, I confirmed her position with Skills.
She was running circles around, and if I showed an opening, I’m sure she would take it.
From the Jewel.
『Oy, go tell him the weakness of a quilin already.』
The Third was pressing the Fifth.
『… Weakness? There was something like that? Even if she’s not up to Celes’ level, that’s a flippin’ quilin, you know? Even like this, I think she’s probably holding back over there.』
She’s holding back? Why would she do that?
Thinking that, I stuck my right sabre into the ground, and put that hand around the Jewel.
The movements I had been tracing with Skills suddenly became duller.
(So she’s after the jewel after all. I don’t think anything would come of her getting it.)
But even if I told her, she didn’t seem to believe it. That’s why it was so troubling.
While I tried thinking up a means to get the message across, the Fourth…
『Lyle, isn’t this the place to use your Skill?』
I shook my head.
(Fool! The condition for that one’s a deep kiss! You think that’s possible!?)
There, the Fifth as well.
『Ah, that one sounds nice. Lyle, you’ve never tested it, so I think there’s some worth in trying it out.』
Why do these guys sound so laid back?
Well sure, in order to take the Jewel, she wouldn’t break it. That’s likely why she wasn’t giving it her all.
But I was the same. I wasn’t trying to kill her, and I wanted to solve the misunderstanding as well.
『You’re still reluctant when she’s in human form? Then how about you just have her take up quilin form?』
The Fifth agreed.
『That’s right! If your opponent’s an animal, then it’s just something of a greeting!』
Um, please don’t just write it off like that.
But I do get the feeling it’s the option with the greatest amount of possibility.
“Are you listening? How about we talk a bit?”
May jumped down from a branch, and looked at me.
“If you’re going to hand it over, I don’t mind letting you go. But I’ll be having you answer a few questions first.”
“Okay, just listen to what I have to say for a bit. First change into your quilin form, then kiss me… no wait! I don’t have the slightest bit of impure motives here! This is a necessity! It’s just a momentary contact of mucous membranes! It’ll be over if the tongue slips in for just a bit!”
… The look she sent me turned unbelievably cold.
Eyes even colder than what she sent to those three boys were falling on me.
“… I never thought Fredricks’ descendent would wind up so… awful. It really is irritating.”
From the Jewel, the Fourth.
『Idiot! Why are you angering her!?』
Even if you tell me that, I can’t really imagine the sort of happenings that lead up to a kiss. We were in the middle of battle, and I was panicked, so failing to explain the crucial portions was my mistake, though.
“No! Listen here, this is my Skill. If we kiss, then a line will be formed, and–”
“Yes, and? Why is it I have to follow your orders? If you’re trying to win through trickery, I’d prefer you think up a better excuse.”
(It’s not an excuse! It’s not, but even I’m beginning to doubt it at this point.)
To make a line between bodies, and allow for ideas to be transferred: Connection.
Isn’t the initial condition too cruel?
『Lyle, even I can’t follow up whatever you just spewed. You’re the worst. But if you want to look at it from a best Lyle perspective, I have to say, it’s not bad at all.』
The third as well.
『Pick a time and place, why don’t you. Good grief… so we’re all good on having him kiss her in quilin form, right? Now then, it’s restarting. See, she’s coming!』
The aloof Third raised his voice, so I unhanded the Jewel, took the grounded sabre in hand, and cut at her incoming fist.
“It’s not a horn?”
The fist was wrapped in cloth, and my sabre’s edge didn’t slice through. I had a hunch those weren’t normal clothes, but as I thought, they had some sort of special power.
“Oh so you’d prefer being impaled on my horn? In that case…”
She moved to hit her right elbow into my flank, and I tried to jump back to avoid it, but the Fifth screamed out.
With those words, not just by a little, I jumped with all my might, to find my clothing torn.
At May’s elbow, the cloth had been penetrated to reveal a large horn.
When it retracted, her clothing wasn’t damaged.
I understood it was a wondrous material, but I was more relieved that my flank hadn’t been cut through.
“I guess it’s no time to hold back.”
When I said that, her eyebrows twitched in response?
“Can you please not joke around? I’m the one holding back over here. If I just wanted you to disappear, it would be over in an instant. You understand that, right?”
I stuck both my sabres into the ground, took the Jewel in my right hand, and plucked it off my neck as if to tear the chain. The chain wrapped around my arm, the silver ornaments expanded, and the giant sword took shape.
Seeing that, May…
“As I thought, that’s no normal gem. You humans have gone and made more bizarre contraptions… but…!”
She leapt right at me.
But this time I matched her, and clashed.
The sword let of sparks as it collided with the horn protruding from her left hand. This time without chipping, the edge remained intact.
When I started attacking on my own, May jumped back as she eluded my swings.
A Skill to temporarily increase one’s abilities several times over.
I used 【Full Burst】 to push her back.
Our standings had changed from before, and I made sure not to let her gain any ground. If she jumped back, I followed, if she tread in, I retreated.
We both swung our weapons of choice as we maintained such a distance. And again the blades met and competed.
“As I thought, you’re similar. You learned from the Fifth, did you? Well so did I!”
Just as she knew my movements, I also knew hers.
Our relation was like pupils under the same master, and after I grasped the characteristics of her weapons, I could fight her normally.
Even if she had the power and the speed, she was just like me in that she didn’t match up to my predecessors. This was probably the limits of her human form.
Impatiently, she let off a pale blue ling of light from her body.
Emitting electricity, she forcefully opened some space between us.
I jumped back.
And before me stood her quilin form.
She kicked the ground, and glared.
“… Now see here, I don’t want to dawdle here too long. I’ll let this end for now. All I need is to get my hands on that Jewel, and I have plenty of time left to spare. Now… don’t disappear on me.”
She raced off through the narrow forest ways, and I put away the large sword to give chase.
She was running in zigzags, but regardless of the size of her build, she could run freely between the trees. All I could say was that she was a veteran of the field. She ran without any collisions, at quite a rate.
Clenching the Jewel as I ran…
I called him, found a large tree, and put my back to it.
When I pointed the Jewel in my right hands at May, the Fifth…
Those words shouldn’t have reached her, but her body twitched, and she came to a sudden stop. Her hooves gouged out the ground, and stopping a few meters ahead, she tilted her head.
“… Hey, so you could do it all along.”
The Fifth spoke.
『And what were you planning if she didn’t stop!? In the first place, you should’ve met up and discussed this sort of thing beforehand with me, or something like that! Use your head!』
Like a dog restraining itself from a treat before its eyes, May was watching me with heavy breath. But at the same time, she had regained some composure.
“Haha, so you still remember the time you spent together so faithfully. How many decades ago was that.”
“… To me, they were happy memories. Won’t you refrain from mocking them? But I see. Fredricks wants to protect you, does he? Then I…”
(So she felt the Fifth’s sentiment to protect me?)
When May walked closer, I pressed my clenched fist to her face.
To be more precise, I put the Jewel to her. When I showed her the Jewel in the palm of my hand, she narrowed her eyes.
『May, don’t attack Lyle anymore. He’s my descendant. So you don’t have to… anymore…』
“Sorry Fredricks. I think I can tell what you’re saying, but your voice won’t reach me. I’m sorry. I only wanted to hear you again. I wanted you to pat my head again. So… I’m sorry.”
She retracted her horn and put her forehead to the Jewel, so I…
“… Continuing on from before. I have a certain Skill. 【Connection】… it’s a Skill that transmits thoughts. The conditions for that are a kiss. If you use me as a medium, you may be able to talk with the Fifth.”
May nodded, and turned her mouth towards me.
Kissing an animal… I thought only a dog would ever lick your mouth. I had a bit of hesitation, but I kissed her.
(Never thought my third kiss would be to an animal… right, come to think of it, Monica took that one. My first kiss, huh?)
That’s what I ended up thinking.