The Other Side
… Inside Fort Noinyl.
A single room surrounded by walls of stone, was fitted with adequate furniture. Light streamed into it from a small window.
Inside that room, Shannon cast off the white costume she’d been wearing, and threw it down on the bed.
“That damn brute! He used me as bait! I’m definitely going to smack him!”
It was the outfit Monica had made for the Holy Maiden. Besides her, Clara was reading in a corner of the room.
“Yes, he definitely used you as bait. But that’s because you were the most suitable body double we had among us. And this time was quite a helpful venture. May-san keeping watch from the sky, and Shannon-san using her eyes to inspect the path… Lyle-san’s amazing to be able to do all that by himself.”
It wasn’t just Shannon and Clara who had come as a separate detachment to command the main body of the Holy Knights. Aria and Eva, and Clara and Monica. Most of the party had been sent towards the fortress.
The ‘Pile Bunker’ furnished on Porter was a disposable siege weapon that Monica had made.
It had taken down the gate, but had broken down after one use. She had made two in total, so only one of them remained. According to Monica, ‘It’s a defective product… but it has romance,’ apparently.
At present, Monica was working on Porter’s maintenance, and preparing meals, while the Holy Knights had went into preparations for the next task.
Aria and Eva were on lookout, and May had headed off to Lorphys. If everything went according to plan, she would pick up Lyle’s group, and return.
And while that was going on, Shannon was flailing about. Clara was Shannon’s guard, and safe-keeper.
“If you go outside, they’ll know you’re a fake at once, so stay holed up in your room? That bastard definitely has it coming to him!”
“I do admit it was harsh. But because of that, it looks like things will work out. The close to forty soldiers of the fort have offered their assistance. What surprised me most was the knights. We purposely made it so they could escape, yet only one of them tried it.”
Shannon was once an Imperial Noble daughter. She was a bit knowledgeable in that field.
“He was shipped off to this remote land, so he’s probably a knight without promotion prospects, isn’t he? He’s going to bet on us to try and get a promotion. Or perhaps try and betray?”
Having taken in the soldiers, the scale had risen to around a hundred and fifty troops.
But that was still insufficient.
Clara pushed up her glasses with her fingertip to reset their position.
“Now is the real deal. Well then, I do hope Lyle-san’s group will be able to get here safely.”
“Onee-sama’s with him, so there’s nothing to worry about. Isn’t it right about time they got back? Look, there they are. Quilins sure are convenient. They can fly through the sky, after all.”
When Shannon looked outside, Clara went to the room’s window to take a look. A small dot in the sky gradually grew bigger, and it took her some time to realize that point was a quilin…
… The ones to arrive at Fort Noinyl were Aura and Thelma.
Aura jumped off the quilin… May’s back, and felt a sense of joy as her feet planted themselves in firm soil.
A robe was draped over her dress, and she looked quite cold.
“… I’m never flying through the sky again.”
Aura said that with a pale expression, and perhaps Thelma was the same, as she was pressing her hand to her face. Her complexion wasn’t the best, and both of them had been through quite a bit.
May reverted to human form, and addressed the two of them.
“… We were only late because you two were so rowdy. Calm down, why don’t you?”
Even May was tired. She sat down on a wooden crate of the fortress. Aria ran over in full armor, and called out to the three of them.
“Where’s Lyle and the others?”
May shook her head to the side.
“Elsewhere. He said for those two to go ahead and persuade the troops. Also, Gaston-san and Novem will be coming next. Without Novem here, he’s quite anxious, it seems.”
Hearing that, Aria.
“I thought Lyle would be coming first.”
Seeing some anxiety from Aria, May recalled her message.
What Lyle had told her.
“Come to think of it, Lyle said to let you give orders for a while. Said it would be a good experience.”
Hearing that, Aria looked a little happy at first, but her expression soon turned tense.
“… Understood. I’m to learn to do a proper job, am I?”
Hearing that, May.
“If that’s what you think, then it must be so? Ah, I’m looking forward to a meal. And I’ll be resting a while. I’ll have to go back over there again soon.”
Looking at May lay herself over the wooden crate, Aria was mildly fed-up as she turned to Aura and Thelma.
“Good work. I’ll guide you to your rooms at once.
Hearing that, Aura looked over the fortress interior.
“… So you really took it down.””
She muttered it as if she still couldn’t believe it. Thelma was the same, but her complexion was slowly returning.
“After coming this far, there’s no option but to believe it. Aura, for now, just do what you can. Rest a little, and give an address to the soldiers.”
Aria explained the fort’s situation to Thelma.
“Um, at present, the soldiers are being cooperative. Without any persuasion, they’ve opted to join our side.”
There, Thelma nodded, but…
“Even so, it is necessary. And please put a guard on Aura. I’m sure there are those without the best of intentions.”
Aria nodded, left May behind, and guided the two through the inside of the fort…
In the inn we booked at Lorphys, me, Novem, and Miranda were standing against the wall.
The room wasn’t vast, but it wasn’t narrow either.
We moved around and rented based on need, and occasionally, we would rack up needless expenses by renting two separate inns.
In front, Gastone-san and Lonbolt-san were talking.
It was an exchange of countries I couldn’t really understand.
“Return that point? But to us…”
“I understand. But we must recover our national power no matter what, or else the future looks…”
The reason they were talking about future plans was because it would prove necessary once Zayin was taken back.
I looked over their secret talks, and gripped the Jewel.
The one to let out his voice was the Sixth.
『What, can’t calm down? There’s nothing you can do here, Lyle. Even if you say something here, you don’t know enough about the state of affairs, and you’ll only trouble those two.』
The Third called out.
『There’s long-term circumstance, and circumstance you can never understand unless you live there, so you can only watch over them until they reach an agreement they can be satisfied with.』
The Third intended to leave the national problems to the two of them.
And the two of them had already gone into things far removed from taking back Zayin.
Lonbolt-san wiped his forehead and top off with a handkerchief. I could tell that both participants were quite passionate about it.
Gastone-san also wiped his brow off, and offered a handshake.
“Very well, we shall proceed matters as such once Zayin is recovered.”
“Let us both bring forth a favorable result.”
They each smiled as they gave wishes towards the safety of each other, but Lonbolt-san’s expression when he left the room was the epitome of severity.
(Even if we fail in taking Zayin, he’ll move so that the damage he suffers is kept to a minimum.)
What was decided upon in their talks was the assistance they’d give after the country was under one flag. I was also involved, but I left this matter to Gastone-san.
Looking outside, I saw that it was beginning to get dark.
Gastone-san turned to us, and explained the situation.
“… Lorphys is unable to provide assistance in the recapture. And after its success, he even asked to borrow some of our troops. If we accept that deal, we’ll somewhat be able to maintain Zayin’s national power.”
“Understood. After reclamation, I will personally make a move. I’ll move by Lorphys’ words.”
“Thank you very much. And… I deeply apologize. As Zayin is, we’ve no means to reimburse you for your troubles. Even after receiving so much aid, the present state is one where we cannot put out an adequate reward.”
“No, there is already a huge merit in it for me. I’ll leave that matter to you.”
When I brought it up, Gastone-san nodded.
“Why of course. It’s just as much a merit to us. But is it possible?”
When he inquired towards the possibility, I heard a knocking sound from the window.
It was May.
I sent a look to Miranda. She went over to the window to let her in.
May was making a bit of a tired expression.
“Hah, it really is busy. Lyle, the fort is going smoothly. Those two are going to persuade the soldiers, and go out to the surrounding village to look for applicants, it seems. They think they can get a number of knights, and some of the priests of the more remote regions. And for some reason, there weren’t any movements around. The enemy isn’t attacking.”
After taking in Gastone-san’s slightly surprised expression, I nodded. It seems there was a reason some would choose to ally with us.
“The ones sent out to the remote regions are mostly those of our faction. But there are also those plotting unsavory actions. For there to be no enemy movement… I apologize, I have considerable knowledge about the country’s military affairs, but I don’t know the reason.”
I touched my hand to my chin, and thought.
(There are other areas with troops stationed nearby the fortress, right? Did something happen? And wait, do we have a lot of allies… should I go there personally to discern friend and foe?)
When I felt the impulse to move myself, the Fifth’s voice came from the Jewel.
『… Lyle, leave this to the ones you’ve dispatched. You’ve prepared this much. If they’re to fail with all that backing them, then that’s all there is to them. How about you believe in them a little? The ones around you are all amazing, I tell you.』
Hearing his opinion, I felt it wasn’t suited to the man, and felt like laughing. I endured it, and directed my eyes towards Gastone-san and Novem.
“As planned, we will send Gastone-san and Novem first. Miranda and I will remain.”
Novem hesitated for just a moment.
“Lyle-sama, isn’t that dangerous? I believe that having you return first here would be…”
I smiled at her.
“It’s alright. They’ll do fine on their own. And even if I remain here, I have Miranda with me.”
Miranda shrugged her shoulders, and looked a little happy.
“If you say it like that, I’ve no way to decline. Worry not, I’ll protect Lyle.”
I thought as I nodded.
(She really is reliable. There’s no need to protect me.)
Miranda’s abilities were top class, even within the party. She had a different strength than Aria’s, and she was always quite calm, making for a reliable ally.
I spoke to Novem.
“Go. If the enemy makes a move, they’ll need your power.”
There, Novem nodded. May changed to quilin form in the room, and after going outside, she let the two onto her back before disappearing into the darkening Lorphys sky.
Inside the Jewel, I received instruction from the Sixth for the first in a while.
I held a halberd, and was guided in quite a practical lesson.
His tall and muscular build let off a heavy strike, and after parrying it with my halberd, I used the shaft to try sweeping his feet.
My constitution was different from his, and it was clear as day that I wouldn’t be able to win if I learned to swing it around in the same way he did.
He took a leap back, and I stepped in to give pursuit.
There, the Sixth gave a grin.
He spread out his left hand, and thrust it at me.
『Now try dodging this! Fire Canon!』
A large fireball flew at me, so I swiped my left hand to the side
Clashing with the fire, the wall of ice that manifested was blown off and melted. I went ahead and moved to the side to slice at him.
The Sixth sounded delighted.
『Nice! Always stay calm! Panic drops your chances of success!』
He skillfully turned his halberd to turn my strike aside, and put in a kick. Next, he kicked at the ground to send dirt at my face.
“Are you a one-trick pony!?”
With the Second’s Skill… Field, I could understand my surroundings even with my eyes closed. The Sixth let out a thrust, so I went along with his motion, stepped in, and thrust out my own halberd.
There was only a few centimeters between our faces, when I found myself spitting blood out my mouth.
The halberd had gone through my chest.
In exchange, I had managed to lightly graze his side.
With a grin, he withdrew his polearm. I collapsed flat on the ground, and rolled to a face-up position.
I got my disturbed breath in order, and after feeling the pain in my chest fade away, I tried getting to my feet again.
There, the Sixth lent me his hand.
When I took it and stood, the halberd in his hand disappeared. And he applauded me.
『Nicely done. You pass.』
“That was a passing grade?”
When I looked unsatisfied, he gave a bitter smile, and scratched his head.
『Are you an idiot? Just how long do you think I’ve been swinging that baby around? If you want to win for real, it’ll take several years in the making. But if you can do this much, then I’m relieved.』
Saying that, his smile turned sincere, and he looked at my face.
『Now then… Lyle, I’ll show you something interesting.』
『Well I’m feeling quite refreshed here. So do you want to know why I behave so reserved around the Fifth?』
Hearing that, I tilted my head. Come to think of it, the Sixth of his memories was quite violent and vulgar to his father.
Their relationship wasn’t anything like it was now.
“Come to think of it, I do find it strange.”
『Well, about that. In our history, I’m the most… that… how should I put it… yeah, it was nothing but failures.』
A laughing Sixth showed me his memories.
It was inside the mansion. The surrounding imagery changed from the yard to its interior, and there a single woman sat and shed her tears.
Her clothing was in taters.
『That’s my younger sister.』
When he said that, I looked at the woman once more.
Her clothing was something you might find on a village girl, and her hands were beaten up. And her hair was in a horrid state. I could see bruising on the parts of her limbs visible outside of her clothing.
The grayened stopped time gradually regained its color, and began to move.
The Sixth offered me an explanation.
『A sister of a different mother, you see. She was once sent to a hostile feudal lord… a vassal house nonetheless. We pitied her the most.』
Following the Sixth’s sorrowful words, a woman different from the Sixth’s mother came to weep before her.
When time came up to speed, the woman’s mother embraced her daughter tight.
The woman spoke.
『I’m not a slave! I can’t take it anymore; that house! I don’t want to go back!』
Fiennes nervously looked upon the desperate women.
The Sixth went on.
『A lord of a region we had to hold down no matter what. But of all things, they apposed us, and of the other lords… barons, and counts I believe. Anyways, they were a house that’s pledged allegiance wouldn’t stop rolling around. And as that happened, the sister was sent in as a bride. Because she was of good lineage, she would birth superior children they worked her quite like a slave, it seems.』
The Sixth made a clenched fist.
(But if they did something like that…)
While I thought that, Fredricks… the Fifth in his active years came into the room.