After finishing up May’s adventurer registration, I sat on a sofa against one of the lobby’s walls waiting for her tired form to come out of the new-comer introductory lecture.
I sat in that hard couch by the stairs as I saw a familiar group of adventurers with their noses held high as the spoke at the reception’s desk.
When I inclined my ears, I could hear some broken lines, and from then, I inferred they had received a penalty.
Largely unable to complete the request they had been given, their evaluation was so low that instead of receiving a reward, they had to pay a fine, it seems.
But the party members led by Erhart seemed happy. I found it wondrous, but the moment I saw the face of the woman past their backs, the mysteries unraveled themselves.
Long blond hair, a warm-eyed woman with a fluffy overall impression was scolding them. And her scolding gestures were quite sweet.
“Are you listening!? Trust is the most important thing for adventurers, so you have to put your all into even the smallest of tasks!”
She was holding her index finger up and sternly rebuking them, but their eye levels were directed at her breasts.
“Y-yes. I understand.”
Those party members listened to her explanations without the slightest objection.
Age-wise, I guess she’s my elder? I wonder by how much, though.
Her green eyes were serious, and there’s no doubt she was truly worried for Erhart and his cohorts.
But her standard guild uniform had been modified a bit. With adjustments to place more emphasis on her large chest area, she was- unlike Tanya- kind and light hearted.
And like that, she continued giving her sermon.
“For a while, I will properly manage you all as your exclusive receptionist! For starters, let’s have you take care of some jobs you can do for sure. If you cannot pay the fine, then as long as you accomplish an extent of requests, you’ll even be able to use the guild’s lodging facilities.”
Without any money, all of them besides Erhart… no even Erhart didn’t exactly have proper equipment. And for such a party, she’d introduce a number of miscellaneous requests.
(I heard the guild had its own lodging facilities, but is that how it is? It’s not like they’d let you stay there for free.)
The receptionist lady said they’d be able to pay the fine in instalments, even going as far as to say she’d convince the guild herself.
“Normally you’d have to pay a lump sum, but I’ve let that slide. Please pay it back when you can. Once that’s done with, you’ll be working some more and getting proper equipment in order. And until you do all that, monster hunting is prohibited!”
On the animatedly furious receptionist’s declarations, they offered their heartfelt gratitude.
(Were guild receptionists supposed to have that much authority? And wait, are they supposed to go that far to begin with?)
As I pondered over that, the receptionist woman smiled.
“Let’s all do our best together.”
After Erhart gave such a forceful reply, the other members offered their vigorous agreement. And they went into various paper works.
Looking down as they filled out the forms, the receptionist’s long hair fell over her ears, so she used her hand to put it back in place. In that instant, she looked in my direction.
Erhart and the rest didn’t seem to notice as they wrote their names on the sheets.
But the eyes she sent weren’t the… fluffy ones from before. Her atmosphere also seemed a little sharper than before. And looking at me, she smiled before starting up her work once more.
As I stood there surprised, I heard heavy footsteps coming down the stairs.
Jumping with high momentum, May landed before calling out to me.
“Did I keep you waiting?”
“Eh? No, well… a little.”
I stood from my seat, and took May out the guild lobby.
(What exactly was that?)
In the Jewel, I was facing the Third Generation Head.
Within his room of memories, a town spread out around us.
And in that town’s plaza, I faced his one-handed sword.
『It surely was suspicious. But would they really go so far to deceive them and have them erased? Even when they might disappear if they just leave them be!』
He talked as he swung his sword, repelling my sword, and trying to get in a kick. But when I retreated, he kicked the ground to send sand at me.
I moved my hands to prevent my vision from being taken away, and…
Before I could finish the word, the Third used his sword to pierce deeply into my leg.
An illusion of his entered my vision, and the Sabre I suddenly held out was unable to stop his slash. This time my left arm was cut.
『Hahaha, still too naïve, Lyle.』
Heading for the water fountain in the plaza, he kicked aside his sword, and sat down on a nearby bench.
After my pain receded, and my wounds disappeared, I headed over to him.
“Please fight me again.”
When I asked for a rematch, he smiled.
『I refuse. You’re too packed with the basics, and as you are now, it’ll only be pointless. Instructor-taught swordplay, is all. You’re way too honest, Lyle.』
The Third looked down on my stream of attacks following the style I was taught. Having fought across many a battlefield, and slain monsters again and again, the ancestors held the forms of their golden years.
As I am, I can’t reach up to them.
I cast my eyes down and clenched my fist. He addressed me.
『Lyle, it’s important enough to try and win against me in swordplay, but aren’t you forgetting something? Forging nothing but the sword won’t get you anywhere. You’re final goal is…』
“… Winning against Celes. For that sake, I need at least enough ability to stand on the same battlefield.”
To win against Celes, the ancestors had thought up a number of requirements.
A force that could hold up against the Walt House and the armies of Bahnseim.
A small elite force to combat Celes herself.
To put it simply, we had to make an environment where victory was a possibility.
The ancestors’ training was merely a small portion of that. More so if we managed to make an ally of one capable of winning against her in battle, then it would become quite unnecessary.
『… If all you do is defeat her, it will all fall to the Walt House’s responsibility. After that victory, there would be nothing left for the future. And your numbers of less than ten won’t topple a country. War is the sort of thing where there’s no meaning of diving in unless you know you can win.』
For the sake of winning, the past heads were lending me their wisdom. For the sake of winning, I was gathering comrades. But at this rate, I really wonder how long it will take.
Noticing my impatience, the Third spoke to admonish me.
『If you’re half-baked in challenging her, then I’m sure her madness will spread across the continent. If you’re doing it, you have one shot. And don’t aim for mutual destruction, look towards complete victory. Otherwise you may be executed as a man of the same house as her. That would be the same as betraying the comrades that’ve lent you their aid.』
That being the case, I don’t know any means of catching up to her level. And I myself didn’t have any military force to speak of.
Rallying up the surrounding countries to challenge Bahnseim will also be difficult.
『Impatience won’t improve your success rate. Hurrying and rushing are different things. And for starters, you should gather up information.』
Information on other countries will gather in Beim.
Having completed my first request here, I could earnestly begin working in this city.
“I haven’t even started on the information.”
I said that in self-scorn, and the Third made a serious face.
『At any rate, even if they think Bahnseim strange, the surrounding nations won’t think to attack. Perhaps we have some responsibility in letting their territory grow so vast, though.』
The Sixth and Seventh had made large contributions to Bahnseim’s expansion.
The Third was the same, having saved it from crisis.
『Lyle, want to make a promise with me?』
The Third stood from the Bench, and put his fist to my chest.
『You have to look to the after story. Your life isn’t something that will end with the fall of a young girl. The aid we give is there because we want the future that comes beyond it all. That the Walt bloodline that ties us… that it will continue on through that future.』
“… The future, is it?”
The Third nodded.
『Right. So I don’t want you to resolve yourself to take each other out.』
“… Even if, because of that, a large number of lives are to be lost?”
『That’s right. Don’t be conceited. Even a goddess can’t save every single human life there is. Yet thinking a single human could do all that is just arrogance. And no matter how you struggle, at present, you won’t be able to win against Celes. It isn’t even a gamble at this point.』
From the moment I thought to go against the country, I could see the helplessly large gap between me and Celes. But from the moment I decided to go through with it, I get the feeling the gap had become greater in my mind.
“… I’ll definitely win out. I’ll get the future in my hands.”
The Third removed his fist from me, smiled, and walked off.
『That’s how it should be.』
… The Bahnseim Kingdom.
A single village was in flames.
Those surrounding it were the rank and file of the Bahnseim army.
Armored knights lined up on their horses. In the center of them stood Maizel Walt in his own protective gear.
Celes’ specially made palanquin was equipped with a roof, and the knights to carry it were stationed on its sides. On top of the carrier currently placed on the ground, Celes sat in her chair and watched the fire burn on.
“That barely took any time at all.”
With an unpleased expression on her face, Celes was wearing special-ordered dress-like armor over her body.
“With thirty thousand to surround it, a single small village is nothing, dear. Good grief, what foolish folk them must be to try and go against Celes.”
The crown prince of the kingdom had caused an uproar by suddenly changing his bride to be. And when news of Celes spread, Nobles looking to rebel started showing themselves.
“I thought them gallant lords of the provinces, but what a miscalculation.”
Being governed by a viscount, the village’s residents were cut down by the soldiers as they tried to flee. The surrounding villages were also under attack by the lords who voiced their intent to cooperate.
Pillage, plunder, all were going on, but no one thought to condemn it.
Celes stared over the burning village, and thought it something completely unworthy of the army she had gone to great lengths to bring all the way here…
“Well, so be it. Even so, I can’t hear a thing. Bring me closer.”
She addressed the knights to carry her palanquin.
“B-but if something were to happen to Celes-sama…”
The armored knight objected, so Maizel drew the sabre at his waist, and in the gaps of his armor… the blade sunk into his neck, causing his swift demise.
“You think a daughter of the Walt House need fear for something of this level!? This is why imperial nobles are…”.
Seeing Maizel’s bloodshot eyes, the palanquin knights… the knights of low imperial nobility learned fear.
The blood that had splashed out of the knights armor had landed on Celes’ face. She wiped it with her fingertip, pressed it again her lip, and licked.
And having seen that action, the knights’ hearts were lost in fascination.
“Father, I want to know of the battlefield. And… there seems to be one of their knights still fighting. Can you not let me pass? I must personally meet with their hero.”
Seeing her smile, Maizel still seemed reluctant.
“But the opponent is a knight of renown. He has already struck down several tens of our riders. Letting my daughter before such a man is a little…”
To poor incoherent and nonsensical Maizel, Celes smiled as she spoke to the surrounding knights.
“You sure are prone to worry, dear father. Now, let us go and witness their hero. It’s alright… I’m here, so we are sure to win.”
The knights that gathered around to lift up her stand gulped as they saw her up so high. They hoisted up the palanquin, and so Celes went to the battlefield carried on the backs of scores of men.
And after the messenger ran out, the kingdom’s knights and soldiers stepped back from the knight defending his village.
He looked in doubt at the mounted knights around him, but seeing the palanquin with Celes on it coming with the main force, he rode forth on his horse to take it down.
That he was a skilled fighter was something Celes could understand from his form. Maizel as well.
“Hm, he’s not bad.”
When Celes thought about how the knight was still only in his mid-twenties, she started to want him.
“My horse, please.”
On her words, the palanquin was lowered, and her favored steed showed itself. With black scales, and an ashen mane, that divine beast with a horn growing from its head was none other than a quilin.
“Wait right there, Celes! That one’s strong. If you’re to get the slightest of injuries, I don’t know what…”
To her father’s sorrow, she sent a wink.
“I’ll be just fine, oh worrywart father of mine.”
After straddling herself over the quilin, she accepted the rapier her subordinates presented to her. She kicked its stomach to start it on a gallop, and purposely had it race along the earth.
Her knights and soldiers opened a path for her, and before her eyes, the knight splashed in blood held up his lance to begin his assault.
His armor was made quite efficient, yet it was ornamented towards elegance. Perhaps his horse was a reputable one, but it sturdily raced on as its masters legs.
Unity of rider and horse.
To have accumulated something like that, just how much training had the man before her packed into that body of his?
“Ah~, I want you. A thousand times better than Rufus!”
His sharp eyes were directing hatred at her. While finding that fact quite pleasant, Celes ran her mouth on how she wanted him more than the crown prince.
As they passed one another, her rapier and his lance crossed.
Sparks flew, and their heads turned to look at one another. The knight took up his weapon in both hands, and used only his legs to maneuver his horse as he unfolded another thrust.
The sharpness of his lance thrilled the young girl. She used her slender rapier to repel the strike of the heavy lance. Normally, that action would have destroyed his stance, but undeterred, he continued a stream of attacks at her.
“How nice. You, you’re really nice. I’ll add you to my imperial guard. Now, how about you tell me your name? And take off that unrefined thing on your head.”
She hadn’t been wearing a helmet from the start, and as she couldn’t see her opponent’s face, she opted to send his own flying off his head.
His face visible, she caught sight of a young man of elegant features with a sharp glint in his eyes grabbing the reigns to take distance.
The helm flying through the air landed atop Celes’ right hand, and grabbing it, she let it spin on her left.
“Now say your name.”
But the opposing knight…
“I refuse! I have no obligation to name myself to one as base as yourself! Invading without a much a declaration of war, and burning down our city. I will never forgive you!”
Celes’ smile suddenly turned to a bothersome expression.
(Yeah, you can find them here and there. These sorts…)
A voice came from the yellow Jewel embedded in the rapier’s hilt. It was a charming voice, and it sounded as if its speaker was smiling.
『Looks like you were rejected, Celes. But ‘tis truly a pity. I’m sure he’s of the finest of knights in Bahnseim… what will you do?』
Celes inclined her ear to the voice.
“Let’s see. Do you have any fun ideas on your side?”
The knight before her twitched his eyebrows as he stared at Celes, and held up the lance.
『A loyal knight, is it? Hmmm, leaving him alive to watch over the demise of those he was to protect may prove an interesting sight. You’ve yet to try that one yourself, have you? I’m sure he’ll make a face much more interesting than what you’ll witness if you cut him down yourself. 』
Celes’ lips warped into the shape of a crescent moon, and she kicked the quilin’s stomach to send it running at the knight. He also urged on his steed, and attacked with the lance.
After crossing, they lowered speed, and came to a stop.
A notch appeared in a portion of Celes’ skirt.
『You weren’t paying attention, were you. Celes, why must you always be like that? Carry yourself with more elegance, won’t you? With that matter with Lyle, that makes this the second.』
Hearing Lyle’s name, a crease spread across her brow.
“… If Novem wasn’t there, I’d have cut him up. The very fact that thing lives on is…”
A happy voice from the Jewel.
『I told you to just keep the boy as a plaything, yet you’re so adamant about it. I’d prefer to be loved by one like him. Handsome, and surely skilled as a knight… and by that thing, you’d be referring to yourself as well.』
Celes stroked her hair as she turned around and looked at the knight.
“Hm, I hate that part of you.”
Turning around in a similar fashion, the knight spit up blood… His lance fell to the ground along with his right arm and all.
And along with it came the horse’s head. The moment it touched down, red blood spread across the parched earth, only to be absorbed into it at once.
Celes brought the quilin up close to him.
“Ah~ looks like I went too far.”
『He won’t last long like that. Now then…』
But the knight continued to show his willpower up to the end. He took out a concealed dagger with his left hand, and tried to jump at Celes.
When her eyes narrowed, a spear suddenly impaled the knight’s body.
Celes stared blankly at her own knight who had thrust the spear. The knight who, to carry her own palanquin, had equipped light-weight armor, thrust the spear in deeply once more.
With cold steel embedded in his flank, the man spat up a large amount of blood.
“Don’t think you’ll be able to do this sort of thing forever… someday, you’ll all… go to hell.”
Letting off a sigh, Celes lopped off his head. And she sent a look at the kneeling knight who had saved her as she brought her hands to the head of the knight who tried to kill her.
She grabbed his hair, and observed his final expression.
“You, what’s your name?”
“It’s Breid Vamper, Celes-sama!”
Maizel drew closer on his horse, and drew his sabre.
“You… outstepped your rank!”
Maizel was about to kill him, but Celes put a stop to it. She tossed the knight’s head and helmet towards Breid.
“That’s no good, father. You should reward him for saving me. I’ll give you all of that knight’s equipment. From today onwards, join my imperial guard.”
Hearing that, Breid…
He was moved to tears.
Breid Vamper… the knight who had been in a love relationship with Doris of the Circry House. But at present his loyalty lay to Celes alone.
Celes dismounted her quilin, and returned to her palanquin.
A voice came from the Jewel.
『Are you satisfied with this measly amount of blood, Celes?』
She responded with a smile.
“Surely you jest. We’ll only go forward from here. I want to see the sight of the earth soaked in blood. More importantly, teach me more fun things, won’t you?”
Badgered by Celes, the charming voice from the Jewel continued on.
『Fufufu, that simplicity of yours is quite favorable. Right, how about surrounding a village, and having the villagers kill one another? It’s usually quite a show.』
Hearing that, Celes…
“Oh, nice! That’s it! We must be off to an untouched village at once! Father!”
She immediately called out to her father.
Maizel responded to that.
“What’s the matter, Celes. Have you been injured? You have to change out of those blood spattered garments. We’ve brought along plenty of dresses and armors for you, after all.”
Using the money of the national treasury, and even levying a new tax for the girl.
But not a soul came forth to find fault in that. Thus has been shown what would happen if someone did.
“I want to play in a village nearby. Let’s finish up here, and move on to the next.”
As if to spoil his child, Maizel smiled.
“I see. Plunder is also an important duty of feudal lords. I’ll start the preparations at once. Oh, before that…”
Maizel issued orders to the magicians.
“We’re good. Playtime is over. Erase it from the map.”
The magicians raised up their staffs, and let out light signals to communicate. From the other squadrons stationed around the village came the sound of a bell, and the knights and soldiers began to pull out.
After a bit, Maizel nodded to Celes, and she…
Protruding out her thumb, she said that with her index finger pointed at the town.
The surrounding forces rained down their magic.
Fire, water, earth, wind, lightning… all came down, and a single village disappeared. At the same time, a few thousands lives disappeared as well.
But unrelated to that, Celes…
“Ahaha, I guess Bang was a bit uncalled for.”
When she laughed out, Maizel smiled.
“What of it. You’re cute no matter what you do, Celes. Oh, you’ve already been engaged, so perhaps I should use the word beautiful?”
Celes inflated her cheeks.
“Don’t tease me so, father. Now…”
She urged Maizel on.
“Hm, let’s move on to an affiliated village at once. Oy, we’re heading to the next site. Find a village another lord has yet to attack.”
Watching her father give orders to the nearby knights, Celes seemed satisfied.
And from the Jewel, she looked at her.
『Celes, you sure are cute.』
And let out such words…
In a café in Beim, Novem was waiting for a certain individual.
Lyle’s party was on a break day, so its members were operating separately. Unbeknownst to all, Novem had come there to come into contact with that person.
The door of the small café opened, and the bell fastened to it rung out through the store. Novem heard footsteps, and without even turning around, she knew the one that had called for her had arrived.
The shopkeeper went to guide him to a seat, but the customer spotted Novem, ordered a drink, and walked over to her table.
Carrying along a package, he sat across, and cut straight to business.
“It’s been quite a while. I doubt pleasantries are necessary, so I’ll say what I must. It happened as you said it would, Novem.”
Novem sipped her tea.
“Is that so.”
That’s all she had to say.
The other party went on.
“… A viscount of Bahnseim really was erased. Towns, villages, and all. Everything was brushed away.”
“I was sure it would come down to this.”
Not shrinking back at her attitude, he presented the package to her.
“It’s from father. And today, I’ve come to break ties with you.”
Novem looked at his face as she accepted it.
“… You’ve decided to follow Celes-sama have you, onii-sama?”
The young man named as her brother thanked the shopkeeper as his drink was brought over, and took a sip.
He looked outside.
His seat was by the window, and there was a considerable number of people in the shop. There were couples and parents and children.
“Father says he is unable to betray Maizel. I will abide by his decision. Because with Lyle-sama having left the Walt House, only Celes-sama remains.”
It wasn’t just Novem who had their mysteries.
The Forxuz House itself had its fair share. With their loyalty towards the Walt House rather than the throne, they were seen as heretical by others.
“Among our household, I’m sure you’re the one with the thickest blood. You’re always calm. And I’m sure your decision on the matter isn’t wrong. You can process everything so indifferently, after all.”
On her brother’s words, Novem answered as indifferently as ever… and stopped.
“… Onii-sama, the thickness of one’s blood is irrelevant. We all have those memories.”
“That’s right, but you’re the only one who inherited them so clearly, Novem.”
Taking sips, and continuing their conversation bit by bit, it came that there wasn’t a drop left in their cups.
“Next we meet, we’ll be enemies.”
“You’re not one to be flustered with us standing before you, but… what of Lyle-sama?”
Novem thought about Lyle.
“He’s on the kinder side, so he may hesitate.”
“I see. I wanted to serve him too.”
Watching her brother say that with a sorrowful smile, Novem picked up the package, and stood to leave. She took his check as well.
“Being treated by my younger sister will make me lose what little standing I have left, you know?”
At his joke, Novem smiled.
“It’s my thanks for coming all the way out here. Now then, see you on the battlefield.”
She went off the counter to pay. Watching her back, her brother called out for a last time.
“Novem, you think Lyle-sama will take you?”
As she left the store, she looked at her brother’s face, and smiled. And seeing that, he closed his eyes, and hung his head.
Giving a response her sibling could understand, she left the store, and held the package quite preciously as she walked down the streets of Beim.
But rather than expressionless, her face was just a little sorrowful…