(TL: Translation rate might get a bit wonky, as I’m on an actual travel vacation overseas.)
“… Are you alright, Lyle-dono?”
In a room of Galleria’s Grand Duke House’s estate, Leold-kun looked over me in worry as I fell prostrate over a desk.
With the appearance of a young boy, these days, he was usually somewhere nearby, watching me work.
At present, what I was doing was the paperwork pertaining to the land that had newly come under the Grand Duke’s direct control. A mountainous pile of papers was brought in, and I had to take care of it.
Officially, it was Leold-kun who was processing the work, and with assisting me as a goal, he was watching me work to learn, it seems.
‘It seems’ or rather, Gracia-san wasn’t too adept at this sort of work either. Her hands were full with her regular duties, so she had sent Leold-kun around to me.
“… I’m fine, I think.”
I ate with Vera in Beim, and after having talk with her, I left Eva in Beim, and returned to Lorphys on May.
After that, Galleria subjugated some of its resident feudal lords, and hearing they were understaffed with the aftercare, I had raced over.
Yesterday, I had gone to Rusworth to deliver a letter. Since the High Minister wasn’t there, the government official were in panic. On top of that, Elza-san was questionably troubled. Because the forms the minister took care of were flowing to her.
I had left Novem and Aria by her side, so I’m sure the two of them are helping out with various things.
No, Novem’s fine, but I’m more worried for Aria. She wasn’t useful in the slightest when it came to paperwork.
“No, your complexion is quite terrible. Wouldn’t it be better you rested?”
I looked at the heaping pile of papers looking over the desk. It felt as if a laugh was going to escape from my throat. In Lorphys as well, I had to process various documents and reports, in Rusworth, I had to give out orders, and in Galleria, I had to confront my papery arch nemesis.
This is strange. I’m sure I’m supposed to be an adventurer.
I’ve been moving a few pieces behind the scene, but why has it come to this? Shouldn’t my job involve some more physical secret maneuvers or something?
No, I get the feeling I was doing something similar in Zayin, so perhaps that’s just how it goes.
“Once this is over, maybe I’ll rest a bit. Even so, once more, this is some terrible management right here.”
Looking at one page of report, the previous lord had been collecting a tax of seventy percent. It’s fine and all to do it, but a majority of that wasn’t being used to develop his territory. Maintain the status quo, and the insufficiencies for the growing population were dealt with through war, one way or another, or so it felt.
Plunder through war was being used as a temporary source of income. In the Jewel, the Fourth raged as well.
『When their land’s so prosperous, why the hell have they only developed so far!? Isn’t it strange!? Rather, what’s the meaning of them being able to live just fine with a seventy percent tax? If that’s how it was, if they put more power into domestic affairs beforehand, they would have won against Rusworth without any war, wouldn’t they!?』
Well, they were conspiring to war with one another, so I doubt they were too fixated on victory.
“They even have Beim nearby. If they loaded up with newer technologies and funds, then people would gather as well. Why has it come down to this?”
The one to answer my question was Leold-kun.
“… Um, even without forcing ourselves to take on the world outside, we were alright where we were. And the situation persisted where Rusworth was the only threat we shared a border with. Our other neighbor Selva was just troubling itself between Zayin and Lorphys for long years, after all.”
The only country around to become a threat was Rusworth. What’s more, as they competed with each other for national power, both sides had things to gain, I’m sure. For a small portion of people, that was.
“You didn’t want to let Beim step into your trade matters? But you’re still purchasing merchandise from the city at regular intervals.”
Leold-kun didn’t seem too knowledgeable on the peculiar situation.
“I do not know. It’s just, there were many lords who didn’t want to have to rely on Beim. It’s called the city of merchants and mercs, but there are plenty who see it as a gathering of merchants of death, and bandits who call themselves mercenaries.”
It’s true that at a glance, Beim looked as if it were prospering off of trade.
But most of the goods they dealt with were weapons. The Trēs House had contracts with blacksmiths and craftsmen to produce large quantities of weapons.
The ones who consumed them were adventurers and mercenaries, and thinking of how monsters existed across the continent, weapons would always find a way to sell.
At times, they would fan the flames of war, and make it big from strife, I’m sure. It was clear from how they dealt with Zayin and Lorphys before.
Sending mercenary brigades, they would sell consumables and armaments to both sides. A considerable sum of gold had to be moving around.
“… I’m sure there are plenty of lords opposed to how I brought the Trēs Trading Company in.”
When I looked at the ceiling and said that, Leold-kun made a bitter smile.
“Yes. Plenty of them. But with a port in its hands, Galleria will profit greatly. It’s impossible to have gone on with our old ways forever.”
He was younger than me, but he was thinking of quite a bit.
From the Jewel, I heard the Fourth’s voice.
『AAAaaaAAAaaAH!! How does this form of rule even work!? If it were me, I’d be too scared to sleep at night!!』
Looking at the reports of Gallerian lords, I let the Fourth’s screams of anguish slide, as I continued with my work.
… Miranda popped her head into the room afforded to Lyle.
Her hands carried a drink and midnight snack, and she knocked the door, and awaited a reply. But nothing came in response from within the room.
Gallerian government official Miranda reached a hand to the doorknob, and confirmed it wasn’t locked before entering.
“Alseep already? Ly…le?”
The light of the hall flooded into the dark room, and she could see the feet of Lyle, lying on the sofa.
On the other of the room’s two sofas, a boy even smaller than Lyle lay.
Miranda lit the room’s lights, and left the snacks and beverage atop the table.
Looking over the room, she saw the processed forms had become a mountain themselves. Pushing up her light green hair with her fingertips, she took a single paper of the pile, and confirmed it.
“… Lower the tax rate a bit, and use assistance on flood control as criteria to reduce it? With that, you’ll be able to reduce it to the average. Well, otherwise, I doubt we’d get any cooperation, huh.”
Blessed with plentiful land, the people of Galleria couldn’t help but feel little panic, and even if you asked their assistance, even if you offered a slight tax reduction, they wouldn’t move to help. Because even if they didn’t, they could put food on the table.
Lyle had taken action with that fact in mind, but from his usual behavior, Miranda couldn’t imagine it.
“It’s as if he’s getting some expert support…”
Abruptly, her gaze was sucked to the Jewel letting off a faint light at his breast.
For a moment, Celes crossed passed her mind. Jewel… just as the yellow Jewel contained the mind of Agrissa, the beautiful siren, could Lyle’s gem also…
After thinking that far, Miranda shrugged her shoulders.
“Shall I drape a blanket over him?”
Saying that, Miranda left the room…
… Inside the Jewel.
The Third was alone with the Fourth in the round table room. It was the considerations of the heads of history, and Milleia.
『Now then, it’s finally come to Max’s turn. I wonder how long it will be until my own role ends.』
Without calling him the Fourth, Sleigh the Third called out to his son Max. Going by appearance, if one had to say, Max looked the older.
The Third was always flippant, and on top of that, he looked quite young. His personality wasn’t very adult-like, and if asked who they thought was youngest, anyone would point out the Third.
『Dad, you have the important duty of getting the ‘Best of Lyle’ together while I’m away.』
On the Fourth’s words, the Third raised a loud laugh.
『That sure is important! … But we’ve few judges among us. Don’t you think we should keep a few more around?』
The Fourth removed his glasses, took out a cloth, and polished the lenses.
『I don’t. Of all else, we’ve been blessed with nothing but plentiful harvest, so I’ll place my expectations on your top picks, dad.』
Called dad, Sleigh narrowed his eyes.
『… Max, it was too embarrassing to say. But even if there’s no meaning left in it, even if we’re all long dead, I’ll still say it. Max, you were a much more splendid Walt House Head than I. You’re a son to be proud of.』
When Max put his glasses back on, he lightly touched the cloth to his eyes. And while he noticed it, Sleigh didn’t comment.
『… There’s a lot I want to apologize to Fredricks for. But that boy runs away whenever you try saying sorry. ‘I’ve really troubled you, I’m sorry’ I wanted to say.』
On those words, Sleigh shook his head to the side.
『It isn’t just you. I was also spare heir-less, shoving all the status onto you. Father to child, and child to grandchild. We all leave much to one another. But whether they’re good things or bad things is another story.』
Max stood from his chair, corrected his posture, and looked at Lyle’s seat. When it let out a pale light, Lyle appeared in it.
Sleigh… the Third silently looked at the Fourth.
And the Fourth, Max, turned to Lyle.
『Lyle, today I think I’m going to pass down my final Skill.』
The Third watched him smile as he said it to Lyle. And he watched them off all the way to their rounding of the door of memories…
『Max, among the heads, you were the one who held the status for longest. I’ve troubled you quite a bit, but… you were much more splendid than I.』
… He muttered…
It was a road that extended without end.
In the past, to see the Third who’d fallen in battle, the path the Fourth had hurriedly tread had been carved deeply into his memory.
The thought of wanting to go faster to meet the Third had manifested his Skill, 【Speed】.
And from its influence, he was able to meet his father while he still drew breath. And he could carry on the gem passed down for generations.
In the blue sky were heavy white clouds.
Looking up at it, I somehow had an idea of what the Fourth across was trying to tell me. And it was precisely because I understood that I asked.
“Isn’t it a little too sudden?”
The Fourth smiled.
『Is that so? I don’t think so. My role… no, I believe all I can help you with ends here.』
This time, I turned my face to the ground, and covered it with both hands. It felt like tears would come out, so I spoke in jest.
“I’m a little busy, so let’s make it when I have a little more time. See, the one who said the mood was important was you, wasn’t it?”
The Fourth let out his voice and laughed.
『No, that’s in dealing with women. But since it seems you properly remembered it, that’s fine. It’ll be necessary from here on, or rather, it’s definitely best you get it down, so make sure to practice it in combat. Ah, with Novem-chan and the others, I mean.』
Who else is there? I got my breath in order, and met his eyes head on.
“I wanted you to teach me a lot more, though.”
『I’ve taught you the basics. The rest is for you to mull over. If you don’t hit a large wall, you’ll never grow over it. Oh, and I don’t mean Growth by that, mind you.』
In regards to his words, I gave a bitter smile. And when his expression turned serious, he moved to my side in an instant.
When I looked to the side, the Fourth placed a hand on my shoulder.
『… 【Full Drive】. It’s my final stage Skill. If you manage to master it, perhaps you’ll be able to put up a bit of resistance against Celes.』
To the utmost, it was just resistance, and the Fourth didn’t say I could win. Of all else, in pretty much her base state, Celes was able to accomplish a similar feat.
When I swallowed my breath, the Fourth took some distance, and pulled daggers from the back of his hip. He started throwing them around.
Two, four, six, eight… after going that far, I saw his form grow hazy. By the time I noticed it, the daggers he’d thrown into the air were cleanly stuck into the ground around me.
The Fourth was behind me, skillfully juggling two daggers.
“That’s quite a radical way of teaching you have there.”
The Fourth gripped the two daggers in his right hand, using his left to correct the position of his glasses.
『If it’s teaching my Skill, then another way would work. I’ll be teaching you how to use my Skill to fight, and how to fight with my weapons. Did you think it was a style that used two daggers alone?』
I had sparred with the Fourth a number of time. But I’d never seen him use such a number of daggers.
“You never needed them to go against me, you mean?”
『No, fundamentally, when you go against multiple opponents, two daggers are ruined in no time. And by using multiple Skills…』
Swiping my right hand to the side, I produced my Sabre to repel a dagger. However, what I parried was but one, and the second one stuck into my right shoulder.
Pulling out the deeply-embedded dagger, I was shocked by its output.
“… You used the First’s Skill to raise the impact. And purposely aiming the first dagger at a difficult point, you put off my timing.”
Using the First’s, and Second’s Skill, he raised the damage, and threw the daggers with precise aim.
But taking two new daggers in hand, the Fourth.
『Too bad. I was also using the Third’s Mind. It looks like the effect was light on you, but I dulled your reaction speed a little.』
When he took a stance with his daggers, I leapt forward, and thrust with the sabre. But the Fourth before my eyes disappeared, and I was carved up across my body.
Arm, leg, torso, nape, and head… blood spouted from all sorts of places.
『Mind isn’t just hypnosis. It can even make hallucinations. Even if the enemy has a resistance to it, if it has even the slightest effect, then it’s as you can see.』
I turned around, but the Fourth wasn’t there. And I heard a voice from my back again.
『It really is just a Skill that lets you move quicker than usual.』
I turned again, and the Fourth wasn’t there.
This time, the voice came diagonally to my back, so I raised my left hand, firing magic around.
Thunder roared, and lightning fell around. As a dust cloud rose, this time the voice came from all around.
When the dust cleared, there were a few dozen Fourth Generation Heads around.
I hurriedly corrected my stance with my sabre, but pain instantly ran up my right shoulder. Next my left thigh.
『… No matter how strong a person’s resistance may be, get them a little worked up, and voila. Good grief, the Third’s Skill really is unfair. Even I can’t say if I’d win or not.』
Correcting my breathing, I removed the daggers in my shoulder and thigh. I tossed them in a different direction from him, but the Fourth before my eyes disappeared, and the daggers I tossed were reappeared with their points coming at me.
I hit them aside with the sabre, keeping cautious of my surroundings. To probe for presences around, I used the Second’s Skill… Field. The Sixth’s Search as well to search him out.
But even if I pinned down his response, he’d move in the next instant, sending daggers flying at me. At times, the daggers would draw large curves as they flew.
Countless daggers fell around me, and pierced into the ground.
Of them, I took one in hand, and threw it in the direction of the Fourth’s presence. In midair, another dagger likely thrown by the Fourth spun horizontally, as it knocked the one I threw off course.
As long as you fought in the Jewel, injuries would instantly heal. No, perhaps there were never any injuries from the start, and you only felt the pain.
Within that situation, I was gradually getting able to follow his presence.
The frequency I repelled the daggers increased, and my injury rate decreased.
Around us, the blue sky gradually clouded, dimming the field of our fight.
“You’re plainly strong, aren’t you. Just from what’s been passed down, you left huge service in internal administration, and you barely had any medals on the battlefield, you know!”
I knocked aside a dagger, and as it spun through the air, the Fourth caught it in his hand.
『The times were as they were. There were plenty of bandits, and plenty of monsters. I went out to subjugate them a number of times. I wasn’t blessed the abundance of the plains of war, but there were still skirmishes among territories, you hear.』
The scenery of the road extending beyond the horizon had grown dark.
It was starting to rain.
But my eyes were wide open.
『… Looks like you’ve gotten the knack for it.』
I could see the rain slowly falling to the ground. And my reactions could keep up with the Fourth’s movements.
As he jumped out, and cut at me, I caught him with my sabre.
『Nice reaction. As I thought, you have talent. I manifested this stage at the end of my twenties, you know.』
As he jumped back to take distance, I retook my stance.
『… Ok, let’s move onto the end.』
Taking off his glasses, and tucking them into his breast pocket, he lowered his body. While the rain was getting stronger, it looked to me as if the movements of the drops was growing slower.
And at the end, it looked as if the raindrops had stopped in the place. As the Fourth moved, I also took a large lunge forward.