A Never-Ending Road
To me, the heads of history were my ancestors, and prodigious personnel.
There had once been a time my father told me I’d follow in their footsteps, and I had thought I would continue on the Walt House.
But as I came into contact with the heads recorded in the Jewel, I was able to see their true good points. And I saw their bad points as well.
Within the Jewel… as we both tread in, our bodies swallowed up the stagnant raindrops falling over the endless road, as we raced through them.
I hit into individual drops of my own volition, and the scene of them bursting on contact was quite a peculiar spectacle.
We continued facing one another on the straight path, and the Fourth’s daggers hit against my sabre.
The wonder of the sparks leisurely floating by repeated again and again as our blades continued to meet.
In the time created by the Fourth’s 【Full Drive】, we violently shed sparks as, without either side backing a single step down, we swung our favorite weapons.
If I were to thrust, he’d use the dagger in his left hand to block and parry it.
When he thrust with the point in his right, I’d use the sabre blade, and guard to redirect it.
By a slight margin, the Fourth’s movements were faster.
With his glasses removed, he spoke with a serious expression.
『When you aren’t surpassing me, you think you can stand against Celes? Put more effort into it, Lyle!』
“You don’t have to tell me that!”
To catch up to his faster movements… no, with momentum to surpass them, I used the Skill. I had no choice but to master the Skill the Fourth had brought forth.
I got the feeling it was accelerating me even further. And I noticed the Skill’s flaw.
Putting the considerable concentration it required aside, it ate up Mana at a rate that could be called unfair. But if I cut off the Skill use here, I had no prospects of beating the Fourth.
Of the daggers he held in both hands, he was using his left as if in place of a shield. But the one in his right hand was skillfully targeting my vitals.
Being an existence of memory, the Fourth had no risk of running out of Mana.
For me, my recovery speed was faster than in reality, and even if I suffered a fatal wound, it would instantly recover. But still, even so, I had a limit he hadn’t.
If this scramble continued, the one put at a disadvantage would be me.
(A little more… just a little!)
Using the Seconds Skill Field… along with the First’s Limit Burst.
With my entire field of perception widening, and all my body’s abilities rising, I still couldn’t reach him.
My physical abilities had exceeded his. But in ability… weapon handling, fighting style, and effective Skill use, I was falling short.
As countless sparks and drops burst and popped, I decided to take the challenge.
With a large step in, I thrust my sabre, only for the Fourth to greatly bend his body back, as he crossed the daggers in both his hands to lock, and shatter the sabre.
Metal fragments slowly scattered about.
『You’re too impatient, Lyle.』
I listened to the Fourth’s words, as I bent my lips. When I smiled, the Fourth quickly tried to regain his stance.
But there was no way I could let the opportunity slide.
“No, I’m just calculating some, Fourth.”
Tossing the broken sabre aside, I manifested a weapon in my hand. While it held the enclosed hilt of a sabre, its blade portion was an unsabre-like Katana.
Grasping the manifested weapon tightly, I stepped in even further.
“… Full Burst!”
The Third Stage Skill the First Generation Head had left behind… Full Burst… it was a fearsome Skill that could raise one’s abilities several times over. It used stored-up Mana as fuel to produce explosive effects.
But it really used up Mana, and if you missed the right timing, it could run dry, and render you immobile.
While his movements started to look even slower, I took a diagonal swipe at the Fourth.
Despite his hasty attempt to block, it destroyed a dagger, and drew a line from his right hip to left shoulder.
As the blade cut into the Fourth’s body, blood slowly spurted out.
Unable to kill my forward momentum, I ended up passing by the Fourth, and there the Skill’s effects cut off.
I hit into and gouged out the ground, letting mud fly. It covered the both of us.
Feeling a sudden sluggishness, I fell to my knees, but forcibly turning myself, I found the Fourth covered in mud, and covered in blood, staring at the daggers in both his hands.
As the weapons faded away, he let out a laugh.
Scratching his long, blue hair, he took out his glasses from his breast pocket, and put them on.
The Fourth looked up, and before I had noticed it, the rain had let up, and white clouds covered the sky. A gentle wind blew.
For the mud covered, blood covered we, the wounds closed, and the mud disappeared, and our weapons dissipated as well.
The Fourth turned back to me, patting the wound in his body as it faded away. It was a scene you could only witness within the Jewel.
『You really did surpass me in the end there, Lyle. No, you surpassed me as a fighter. Yep, with this, I’ve nothing left to hand down. I’m satisfied. Really satisfied.』
Beneath the bluening sky, we stood across on the never-ending road.
There, a door of memory appeared behind me. It looked like the door to the Fourth’s room.
“I’m also glad I could satisfy you. I couldn’t help but worry that you’d be scolding me at the end.”
When I put up a strong front, and spoke lightly, the Fourth laughed. I also tried to make a smile, but I couldn’t tell if I was doing it well or not.
『… I really do still feel like watching over you. You still have some unreliable parts, and more than anything… looks like I got a little too involved. Can’t help but have the feelings well up. But this far is enough. Because interfering forever isn’t a good thing.』
“Not really… you could give advice a little while more.”
When I spoke my mind, he shook his head to the side.
『Lyle, you’re more than capable of standing on your own. It’s because I think that, that I can feel relieved. I taught what I could, and you’ve got Novem-chan and the others with you, so I believe they can compensate for your insufficiencies.』
Within his own room of memories. The Fourth looked over the road etched in his heart.
『… You could say life is like a path. At the start with your family, then alone, and after, with a family of your own. Finally, you see your children off, and it’s the end. Right, originally, long, long ago, my road would have ended when I saw Fredricks off. Yet now I can see off another, and at this point, I can think it a blessing.』
Both me and the Fourth looked down the path. The endless stretch of road had not a visible start or finish.
“… At the end… what can you find?”
On my quiet words, the Fourth locked his arms, and thought a little. Giving a grin, he laughed aloud, and gave his last bit of advice.
『Lyle, if you’re aiming for emperor, there’s something you should remember. Governing and ruling are different. And governing means you yourself are also a portion of the country. Even if you get the continent together in your hands, someday to your child, and your grandchild after that, it’s a borrowed item to be passed hand to hand.』
Looking over me, the Fourth looked relieved.
『… If you do become emperor, Lyle, I’m sure there will be lives unfairly trampled over as well. Hated and cursed. Do you have the resolve to be something like that? Even if you’re emperor, being sovereign of all has little to give you in return. Even if held in your palms, that status may be an empty thing. So even if it means losing your quiet happiness, do–』
“—Even if it comes to that. I will do it.”
The Fourth nodded. And he offered his true last advice.
『Now then, that was the end of all I can teach you. So shall we review?』
As the Fourth spread both his arms, leaving the endless road where it was, golden fields expanded around. Peasants worked them with their families, and a scene of their delight at a plentiful harvest unraveled.
『What you need in battle is quantity. And quality is also important. But what you need to get all those together is everyday domestic administration. What you’ve accumulated daily will merely show itself as the outcome of war. Rule and diplomacy and war are all the same. War is merely a single means. But if you’ve no choice but to choose it, you need to assemble the conditions for victory. Lyle, assemble the terms you need to win. And make sure not to forget what comes after victory. Don’t become a fallen martyr. Become the grand villain who survived it all.』
After telling me to become a villain, the Fourth waved his hand at me.
『And I guess that’s about it? Anyways, regretful as it may be, it’s time to part. Lyle, I expect great things of you.』
“Thank you for everything up to now. Fourth… sama.”
I lowered my head. The Fourth smiled. It seemed he planned to see me off.
I open my mouth, but silently shut it, turned, and walked towards the door.
I felt like turning around countless times, but step by step, I walked towards it. The moment my hand touched the handle, the door lurched open, and I turned around.
There, I found many people waving their hands at me.
The Fourth… Max as well; to his side, a woman of small build, was gripping the Fourth’s hand, and waving her other one at me. Perhaps they got along well, as she was nestling her body to his.
And around them, were the retainers I’d seen in the Fourth’s memories. The Forxuz House Head, and those that looked to be his subordinates. They all waved their hands.
When my eyes instinctively opened wide, that scene let off a blinding light, and by the time I had noticed it, I had lost consciousness.
… Miranda brought two blankets to Lyle’s room, and draped the first one over Leold.
Next, she covered Lyle, but before leaving the room, she noticed the Jewel was shining brighter than it had been the last she’s looked at it.
It radiated a blue light.
And Miranda looked at Lyle’s face. He was crying, so she wiped a tear with her fingertip.
“He’s crying quite sorrowfully.”
Miranda raised Lyle’s body, sat on the sofa herself, and rested his head on her lap. Perhaps he was quite tired, as Lyle showed no signs of waking.
As she stroked his hair to sooth him, Lyle moved his body as if to embrace her knees.
“Today’s special. A reward for working so hard.”
Miranda gently pat him. While age-wise, Lyle was a year her junior, he was still a remarkable figure leading countries around by the nose. Being able to pamper such a person made her feel a sense of euphoria.
Having a remarkable figure depend on her made her happy. But it couldn’t be helped there were many rivals around, and so the frequency she could do it was low.
“Good grief, you just keep increasing the women around you… Hah, I’ve got to do my best, I guess.”
Miranda directed a kind smile and tone to Lyle…
With the documents I’d compiled in hand, I dropped by Galleria’s Grand Duke Proxy Gracia-san’s office.
These days, she’d been off suppressing traitorous lords, and maintaining order in taken territory, moving around quite busily.
When she returned, her regular duties awaited, and she was leading days just as busy as my own.
“These are the papers you’ve requested.”
When I handed them over with a smile, Gracia-san accepted them with an enervated expression.
“… My apologies. I do feel worry for having you act as Leold’s stand-in. So how’s Leold?”
Officially, the one who did the paperwork wasn’t me, but Leold-kun. In truth, he did help me, and I had taught him the method to process, them and my way of doing them.
A little more, and he’d surely be able to do them normally himself.
“He looked quite tired, so I let him sleep. He’ll be inspecting the site tomorrow, after all. Please put Miranda and Clara on his support staff.”
Gracia-san, with a troubled expression.
“Taking both of them off here will make things quite harsh.”
To the country of Galleria riddled with domestic affairs, it seems the ones able to perform on that field were valuable existences.
But I couldn’t just leave them on governmental duty forever, so I wanted to make a situation where they could hand off their positions soon.
“Should you not get some vassals capable of paperwork then? That sort of work is important.”
It seems she had thought of that as well, bit it wasn’t going too smoothly. Sitting deeply into her chair, she folded her legs, and read my report as she spoke.
“If that was possible, I wouldn’t be so troubled. Hiring retainers costs money. The territory expanded, but on top of future port maintenance and flood words costing a pretty penny, my current retainers plan to take the initiative to hire more military men.”
That may be the country’s character, but having learned so much from the Fourth, I could only think it was poorly balanced.
“… Then how about you get such retainers around Leold-sama? I’m sure he’ll be heading the heart of domestic affairs for a while, after all.”
There, as if recalling it, Gracia-san.
“Also, the resistance is… right. It’s about the last letter I received from Elza. We’ve both reached the conclusion that avoiding the coming war will be difficult. The other lords who betrayed feel themselves in danger, and therefore desire merits in the next battle, it seems. Rusworth’s in much the same situation. They usually remained immobile on the back lines, eager only when it came to plunder, but this time, they’ll be eager from the start.”
The proof of betrayal, and the means to get rid of them was already in order. While I began to see the movements of each feudal lord as a comedy, I touched a hand to my chin.
“… Then can’t the Grand Duke House settle for a policy not to move much itself? Have the traitorous ones work themselves, and watch from a nice high point. Right. Should we get Leold-sama’s first campaign out of the way while we’re at it?”
The national colors. Leold-kun, who hadn’t finished his first campaign, was being made light of.
No matter what form his first battle may take, it would make future matters much easier.
Gracia-san sounded apologetic.
“T-that’s right. Leold is at a good age to experience his first campaign. Yes, I’ll arrange it at once. I’ll tell Elza to be cautions… my apologies, I’ll write a letter at once, so could you deliver it?”
Seeing Gracia-san become serious when matters turned to Leold-kun, I smiled and nodded.
“Very well. Ill have the other side move with such a policy as well. And it’s about Leold-kun’s armaments…”
Once more, Gracia-san broke into a panic. The preparations wouldn’t make it. There wasn’t even a month to the next war.
I wanted to tell her not to make war in such a state, but as it was a conspired one, that’s probably just how it was.
“I-I’ll prepare them at… it’s no good. Even if I put in an order at this very moment, it won’t make it in time.”
It was equipment for the next Grand Duke. If they were too frugal, they’s be made light of as well.
I offered a proposal.
“I’ll try asking a merchant I’m acquainted with. He’s a famous one, even in Beim, so he’ll surely prepare a product to your expectations. He also has a skilled craftsman under his wing, so it’ll be alright.”
Gracia-san looked at me.
“I’m sorry. I’ve done nothing but rely on you. Normally, having an adventurer such as yourself do so much would raise numerous problems, but…”
Well, I exploited a weakness to infiltrate, so if you feel so sorry, it makes me contrarily feel apologetic myself.
“Come to think of it, your air has changed a little from how it was a few days ago. No, I don’t mean change in a bad sense…”
… Looking at me, she said my atmosphere had changed from before. I tilted my head.
“Is that so? Well… quite a bit happened, so perhaps that’s why. Right, to change the topic, what do you think would make a nice present for next delivery? I’m returning to Beim, so I’ll purchase something while I’m there.”
Gracia-san looked a little embarrassed.
“N-no, receiving them so frequently would be troubling. I still have the perfume you gave me before.”
She shook her hands saying she didn’t need anything, so I decided to put in some sort of sweet.
I was planning to bring something over to Elza-san’s place as well. Since Novem and Aria were there, I’d need to give them something separately as well.
“Understood. Then I’ll include some sweets.”
“No, what I’m saying is…”
Turning away from an embarrassed Gracia-san, I left the office.
Third Generation Head (´・ω・): “… It’s gotten lonelier again.”
Third Generation Head (´・ω・｀): “Will anyone new come in?”
LYLE|ω・｀)ノ: “Um… I’m here, you know…”