… Aria was making a fed-up face in a room of Rusworth’s castle.
The reason was simple. Lyle had come to the country to deliver a letter. If that’s all there was to it, that wouldn’t be a problem. It wouldn’t have been.
But the one who accepted the letter, the lord of Rusworth castle, Queen Elza, looked delighted as she took Lyle’s present in hand.
What she received was clothing. For the garments of a queen, perhaps too light wasn’t the right term, but it looked somewhat close to something a woman of Beim would wear.
Too casual for royalty. Aria had doubted Lyle’s choice, but Elza looked truly pleased with it. She had tried to conceal her embarrassment, but she looked as if her hands would pass through the sleeves at any moment.
“S-sorry. For making you feel you had to prepare a present each and every time.”
With a reddened face, Elza wasn’t putting out her usual ice-cold air. It was as if she was a maiden in love.
But to Aria, it was considerably dubious.
Without picking up the slightest hint of these circulating sentiments, Lyle spoke to Elza with a smile.
“I heard they were in fashion while I was stopping by Beim. I got your size through Novem, so I don’t think there will be a problem. Oh, don’t worry, I didn’t hear of your size. I just received the memo, handed it to the tailor, and received the clothing.”
He was acting most gracious. That interaction attentive to the finest detail, it would be better if he just acted like that regularly, thought Aria, and perhaps there was no helping her expression look so strained.
Elza lifted up the clothing.
“W-will it suit me? I’ve always been drawn to this sort of thing, but never wore one myself…”
“Of course it’ll suit you. But a pity as it may be, I must depart at once. Please let me hear your thoughts the next I stop by. Ah, seeing you wear it would be nice as well.”
When his mouth moved so elegantly, how can he bring himself to actually say such lines, or so cramped Aria’s face. From the point of view of someone who knew him, she even doubted whether he was a different person entirely.
With a dyed face, Elza said something like, ‘U-understood. Then the next you come by…’ or so, as she looked down.
Aria began to feel it all stupid, but even so, as Elza’s guard, watching from her side was her job. Novem was filling out paperwork in another room, and therefore, not in the vicinity.
“I-I have to write a letter! I’ll write a response with all due haste, so please wait a moment.”
Elza carefully left the clothes atop her desk, instantly grabbing a pen, and pulling some paper from a drawer.
Lyle watched over her actions with a smile.
Aria drew closer to him.
“What’s all this then, planning on seducing Elza-san next?”
On Aria’s thorny words, Lyle’s smile didn’t collapse. But Aria felt as he laughed, that he was a little troubled. And he looked a little lonely.
“You could tell? There’s no real need to seduce, but I do want for us to get along. Right. I’ve a souvenir for you as well.”
Saying that, Lyle slipped something into the palm of her hand.
As Aria confirmed it…
“… Oy, candy? Are you taking me for a child? Even Shannon wouldn’t be happy at that one.”
What was left on her palm was some candy drops. Wrapped in paper, they numbered three.
Lyle touched a hand to his chin.
“Really? When I handed her some in Galleria, she was quite delighted. She’s surprisingly simple, you know.”
Easily imagining Shannon rejoice over candy, Aria held her head.
“Of course. Of course she’d be delighted. My mistake… no! Why is my souvenir candy, dammit!”
When Aria shouted out, Elza’s eyes moved from her letter to Lyle. And Lyle assured her it was nothing, letting her go back to writing it.
“Don’t make such a ruckus. It’s because that one’s tasty, of course. And quite expensive at that.”
It was relatively popular, and for candy, it could go for more than two to three times the normal price.
“Eh? Really? Then I’ll just help myself… ah, it really is good.”
While she had looked quite displeased up to a moment ago, three drops of candy had restored Aria’s smile…
… Elza’s letter.
‘Been a while.’
‘We’ve been able to exchange letters more frequently, and the dealings of both countries are growing smoother.’
‘I’ve heard there isn’t much a difference in climate over here and with you, and lately, there’ve been a stream of sweltering days. Please pay ample care to your body.’
‘I’ve left my thanks for the cream you sent me before with Lyle-dono. I do hope it’s to your fancy.’
‘Now then, onto the main matter. As expected, in Rusworth as well, those fearing execution are tempestuously calling for war, in the hopes of proving their innocence through the battlefield. As the high minister is currently absent, I do think we’ve lost our means of contacting your feudal lords, but it’s probably best to remain cautious.’
‘The time we will make our move is estimated to be in two weeks’ time. The numbers will be less than half last time’s, and…’
… Gracia’s Letter.
‘Last letter, I received your honey. I tried spreading it on bread, and it was superb. I’ve heard it’s a specialty product of Rusworth, but that honey sure is delicious. My younger brother loved it as well.’
‘On to business, our side is prepared to move at any moment. The feudal lords were pushing themselves to scrape weapons together, but merchants have come in from Beim, and are selling them at hefty prices.’
‘According to Lyle, they’re the inventory left over from that last defensive war.’
‘Also, about the time…’
… Elza’s letter.
‘Recently, there’s someone I’ve taken a liking to.’
‘But I asked a close friend, and it seems he is already dating a number of women. Speaking to numbers, it’s almost reached the double digits. Do you think it best I gave up on love?’
… Gracia’s letter.
‘What a coincidence. I’ve also found an intriguing someone.’
‘He’s got resourcefulness worthy of being surrounded by women, or so a close friend of mine gave her stamp of approval.’
‘Also, my brother admires him dearly, so perhaps it can work out, or so I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately.’
‘Come to think of it, the next war is going to be honored as my younger brother’s first campaign, so I was wondering if you could take that into consideration.’
… Elza’s letter.
‘Resourcefulness, is it? It’s true that resourcefulness is an important attribute for gentlemen.’
‘And about your brother, me leading it personally would be unnatural. Shall I put in a word for one of my subordinates to be the ones attacking your brother’s camp? After they clash, we can discern the right timing, start fighting, and have both camps stand down. Same old, same old.’
… Gracia’s letter.
‘Yep, resourcefulness sure is important. He has a moniker, so I think the lords will have to assent.’
‘If that isn’t the case, I’m thinking of using forceful means.’
‘And about the matter with my brother. According to Lyle, it will prove difficult. There will be the movements of two camps thirsting for merits, so I’m thinking of standing them down after they’ve felt the air of the wargrounds.’
“No more~. I don’t want to work.”
Falling over my desk, I had been repeating days of intense movement between Galleria, Rusworth, Lorphys and Beim. Every single day.
Maybe because of that, my body’s fatigue had reached its peak. When I was in such a horrid state, May was the epitome of good health.
In our base- the house in the Lorphan Village- May was spreading Rusworth honey over bread, and eating it.
The Fifth watched her delectably stuffing her cheeks. There was no doubt he was making a lovestruck expression right now.
『Hah, it sure is nice. Sure is healing. If I could, I’d give her more to eat.』
Since I was this tired and immobile, the atmosphere in the Jewel was dicey. The mood maker, the Third, was also out of it.
Rather than dispirited, it seems he was thinking over quite a lot. Milleia-san and the Seventh’s entanglements were the same as always, as they watched over the Fifth’s doting.
『In front of your own daughter, fawning over a little girl is a bit…』
The Seventh laughed.
『You’re not at an age to call yourself anyone’s daughter. Ahahaha… hah!』
I heard a gunshot from the Jewel, but it was already just the usual pattern, so I didn’t even flinch from my resting place atop the desk.
Putting the last of her bread in her mouth, May hit her hands together to brush off the breadcrumbs, before turning to me.
“Lyle, do you still feel bad? Rusworth is going out for war the day after tomorrow, right? Rather, you haven’t even eaten anything.”
I looked at the honey bread on the table.
“… Don’t need it. I don’t feel like eating, so you can have it if you want. Besides, I’m definitely unnecessary, aren’t I? Why do I have to go out on the battlefield? I didn’t accept a request, and I’m not getting money out of it. On the contrary, I’d be going out on Vera’s money, wouldn’t I?”
From within the Jewel, I could hear Milleia-san’s giggle voice.
『Goddess, supporting another women by being supported by one of your women, you really are a brute.』
Glad that someone’s having fun here. But really, just hearing that made me sound like the worst. No, perhaps I am the worst. That’s wrong. I’m the worst.
May took my bread in hand, and bit in.
“If you don’t go out, we aren’t moving. You’ve got to give orders. You’re doing various things here and there, right? And wait, that little brother was really worried.”
Little brother was surely Leold-kun.
It’s nice that he looked up to me, but before his innocent eyes, the ancestors are filled with inexplicable sentiment, it seems. If possible, I should avoid him, or something. I’ve reaffirmed that the ancestors actually do have that sort of conscience.
Of all else, while we would be rebuilding Galleria and Rusworth, by our plan, we would be selling a favor, and having them fight it out.
It wasn’t as if we were assisting out of good will.
“… Ah, I’m the worst. The worst damn gigolo of them all. That’s why I’ll just have Novem and the others do their best on the battlefield. Yeah, gigolo is fine. So shan’t l do nothing as a gigolo would? If it’s now, I’m sure I could become a useless bastard who wouldn’t fall short of anyone.”
There, the Seventh let a surprised voice from the Jewel.
『Just what are you trying to do, Lyle!? Up until a few days ago, you were so motivated, but come this far, it’s suddenly been nothing but no-good complaints.』
The Fifth drew back at my statements.
『Kid, saying such things right after the Fourth disappeared is…』
The Third stayed silent. Milleia-san sounded conflicted.
『Was he so motivated he tired himself out? Well, he did try a bit too hard. If he manages his health and rests a while, there shouldn’t be a problem. I’m sure he’ll be back to the usual Lyle.』
I could hear everyone’s fed-up words, but more than that, I found the fact that my body didn’t have any power in it to be more troublesome.
The sense that no force would go into my muscles, and that I didn’t want to do anything, or rather, I couldn’t build any energy.
This was the first I’d felt anything like it.
“Hah… I want to have Novem and the other girls support me.”
May continued munching into the bread as she spoke.
“Uwah, how terrible.”
She said, as she looked at me. Inside the house, Valkyrie Units one through three glared at me expressionlessly from the shadows.
What should I do… I don’t even have the energy to tell them off.
… A few days later.
On the border of Galleria and Rusworth, both armies, small scale as they were, spread out their troops and led them forth.
The trump cards of both sides, the maidens of war Gracia and Elza were stationed at the rear, and as a rare occurrence, the squadrons usually at the rear lines were glaring at each other from the forefront.
Such was the state of both camps, but at Galleria’s stronghold tent, Gracia was letting her heart flutter at her brother’s noble form.
The armor ordered from Beim had arrived, the worksmanship without flaw, and the ornaments elaborate.
Leold spoke with the unfamiliar armor folded over his body.
“I heard you wouldn’t be moving this time, Gracia, but is that really alright?”
Gracia was also wearing armor, and nearby, a large lance, with a shield attached at the hilt, was resting horizontally on a rack.
“No problem. Because this time both sides will just be lightly hitting against one another, and retreating. From this year’s winter, I’ll be genuinely putting you to work, and with this, there shouldn’t be any wars for a while.”
From the start, the preparations were in order to have the traitors of both camps go at each other’s’ throats. After that, by weakening them, and pulling them back, it was possible to greatly chip down their power.
With the problem that had troubled her for long years being solved in the past few months, Gracia was in high spirits.
In the pavilion of brother and sister, Miranda stood nearby as guard for the two. Shannon was also nearby as Miranda’s aide.
Shannon pulled on her sister’s shoulder.
“Miranda, I wouldn’t mind if you pampered me to that extent too, you know?”
Miranda smiled as she poked Shannon’s forehead.
“Keep your sleep talk for when you’re asleep, Shannon. Now then, normally, it wouldn’t be strange for Lyle to have come here, but… since Monica’s on our side, perhaps he started out on the other camp?”
Turning an ear to Miranda’s utterance was Lyle’s admirer Leold.
“Lyle-dono is coming?
Shannon shrugged her shoulders.
“That was the plan from the start. But maybe there isn’t such a need?”
“I… see… it’s a bit of a shame.”
Saying that, he gave a bitter smile. It seems he wanted Lyle to see him in his best dress for his first campaign. Sensing her brother’s sentiment.
“… I don’t see what harm there would be in letting him join our side for a bit.”
In Rusworth’s tent, Aria yelled at Monica, who had rushed a packed lunch all the way from Galleria.
“Monica! Just what are you thinking!?”
There, Monica shed tears, showing off her functions unnecessary to an automaton.
“I mean…! The Chicken Dickhead isn’t eating, lost his motivation, and is just lounging around! I kept worrying and worrying about his nutritional balance! I wanted to bring him a special Monica-maid lunch!”
As Monica feigned tears, Aria grasped her left twin tail, and immediately told her to return.
“It doesn’t really matter! If you aren’t on that side, sending messages will be a pain, right! Even if the Valkyries are there…”
As long as the mass-produced Valkyries were there, they could use the line to procure information from Lyle. Like that, they could’ve establish correspondence.
Monica averted her eyes.
“That’s wrong. It isn’t me. They said if I was going to the other side, then they would too, or some nonsense…”
With Lyle’s deteriorated state as the trigger, the automatons were starting to show arbitrary action, bringing pain to Aria’s forehead.
Elza in the tent was restless. Unlike usual, she was wearing a specially made outfit for battle… apparently. It seems she was looking forward to see Lyle.
“B-but she’s already here anyways, right? Then I shall accompany her to see…”
Aria held her back with a hand.
“Novem’s gone over, so just endure it. And if you don’t keep yourself around here, the eyes of others will…”
After Aria said that much, Monica released her hair from her grasp, and stood. She gave a tidy curtsey.
“Welcome back, my master… how was it, perfect movements, weren’t they, Chicken dickwad?”
It seems Lyle had entered the tent.
When Aria looked at the entrance, she found herself at a loss for words.
Lyle was truly sparkling. With a refreshing smile, he was in a state one wouldn’t think him to have been bedridden before. And to Monica…
“The readiness to welcome me wherever you are… Monica, I’ll give you a hundred points.”
Aria instantly realized he wasn’t the usual Lyle. And she sent a glance to Novem, standing diagonally behind him. Novem looked down, and shook her head.
“A hundred! A hundred for this Monica? You wouldn’t mean the max to be a thousand, would you?”
Lyle flicked up his blue hair with the tips of his right hand.
“Don’t be foolish, a perfect hundred out of a hundred. I’ll even draw a flower around it.”
Seeing Lyle like that, Monica began to quiver.
“He’s returned. My chicken dickwad has returned… it’s fever time!!”
Ignoring Monica’s large cry, Aria pressed both hands to her face.
“… Why is it you’re always like that at the important times?”
Novem nodded at Aria’s words.
“When I went to get him, he was already… we can only try to overcome as he is.”
Aria lamented, Novem gave up, and Monica started to hum. As Lyle began a grand laugh, Elza alone sat in her chair, unable to comprehend the current situation…