Heading to Bahnseim through route of Fortress Redant, Adele and Maksim poked their heads out of the specially-prepared wagon’s tent stuck over its loading tray.
The horses were chokered, and those were Magic Tools. They raised their stamina and movement speed, having a sort of enhancement Skill carved into them.
For the wagon as well, the blacksmith and Monica had put some work into it, so the ride wasn’t bad. Around, robed Valkyries sat.
Silently, in the loading tray, Maksim looked forward. The coachwoman was also a Valkyrie, so he didn’t have anything to do.
“… Adele-sama, it sure is quiet.”
Maksim called over to Adele, as she checked the map. Without taking her eyes off of it, Adele answered.
“They’re just staying silent, and they actually are capable of conversation, it seems. Going through Lyle-san, Monica-san is the one getting the group together. It’s become quite a strange transitive.”
Strange didn’t just mean embarrassing. On the occasion that Adele’s party caused a problem, it meant Lyle would be informed of it.
It was an important time, and if they did fail, then Lyle’s party may cut them off. If they took any traitorous actions, their powerful allies, the Valkyries would be pointing their blades their ways, she noticed.
Lyle usually felt somewhat out of it, but he had a strange severe side to him. Young as he was, he wasn’t an upfront foe, he had a tendency for the back door. Adele and Maksim both appraised him highly for that.
“I’ll be careful. But with war declared by Bahnseim, Beim is quite lacking in tension, or how should I put it…”
Maksim touched a hand to his jaw, as he thought back to Fortress Redant. Naturally enough, there were loads of merchants who took routes through it. Because of that, there weren’t even any commute regulations on it. A merchant-like policy.
And while Bahnseim had declared war, it wasn’t a season for them to move. From those circumstances, they couldn’t help but lack tension.
“Does Beim intend to win?”
Adele let out a sigh.
“… They’ve got a lot of countries dancing on their palms, after all. Perhaps they’re making light of the situation. And they have many with high individual power. The aptitude of the adventurers who trained up in the Labyrinth are the real deal. With that in their eyes, perhaps the merchants are making light of Bahnseim.”
Maksim crossed his arms, and looked down a bit. While formerly something of a vassal in Bahnseim, he was still once a knight. And he was called one of the greater knights of Bahnseim.
The others knights like him who’d persisted on with their beliefs had been defeated by Celes, so he knew how far his abilities fell short of hers to a detestable extent.
And as he wasn’t in a position to get revenge, Maksim relied on Lyle in Beim.
But the time had finally come to move from the city of merchants. Irritated at Beim’s underestimation of Celes’ ability, as everything was going according to plan, Maksim was filled with inexplicable sentiment.
“Monsters and humans are different. I do hope they don’t group battles with monsters together with war.”
Adele raised her face from the map, and looked at Maksim’s face.
“By the moment they notice that, it’ll be too late.”
What the two of them set off for was the anti-Walt House… now with Celes, it had composed itself as the anti-Royal’s feudal lord territories of Bahnseim.
A number of houses crushed, it felt as if the entire country had gotten a clean sweep. But in actuality, Centralle’s army, and the royal faction centered around the Walt House were still going around crushing opposing powers one after the next.
In all of that, Adele had to look into the territories that weren’t showing any movements.
“Let’s also gather info within Bahnseim. We’ll head for the territories resisting. Based on how it goes, aid may be necessary. If all goes well in the South, we’ll be able to send support packages from north and south. The northern Cartaffs isn’t a problem, but it would be nice if the south’s… 【Djanpear】would cooperate with us.”
Adele prayed Novem’s group in the south would be successful in getting the country’s assistance.
“And let’s also hope there are feudal lords who will assist us. If possible, some info on Centralle as well. I hope we can get as far as Dalien.”
The territory he named was Dalien, where Lyle and Novem had first become adventurers…
Departing Galleria, and heading for Rusworth.
But because of an envoy from Lorphys, I was unable to meet Elza-san either. So we set right off for Cartaffs, and descending from the ship at Cartaffs’ port, we made for the castle.
This was where we’d part with Vera.
“Lyle, make sure you properly return alive. Without letting anyone die. There’s no point if you don’t survive victory.”
Hearing that from Vera, I scratched my face with a finger, and nodded.
From the start, I didn’t intend to kill Celes even if it was the death of me. Winning and living on was my promise to my ancestors.
“Rather than a dead hero, I’ll aim for the grand villain who survived.”
When I said that, she laughed a bit.
“Very well. As long as you’re alive, then grand villain it is. I’ll accompany you down to hell.”
As I felt bashful on those words, the Third spoke up.
『… She’s a good kid.』
Behind me, my comrades with the minimum luggage were waiting. Aria put away her spear, with a sword hanging at her hip. She wasn’t laden with anything, in a state she could fight at any time.
“Lyle, hurry up with it. The knights are waiting.”
At the end of her sights, the knights at station were waiting. Seeing that, Clara held her large staff against her shoulder, and lightly pushed up her glasses with her left hand.
“They’re restless. Perhaps they’re worried about the time.”
There, Vera spoke to me.
“I can’t let you keep the queen waiting. It’ll being trouble to you. Then it’ll be goodbye for a while. You’re definitely coming back.”
With those words, closing one eye in a wink, Vera headed for the ship. She raised her right hand to wave, and while she wasn’t looking my way, I waved as well.
And as I headed for the carriage, Monica spoke tiredly.
“Chicken dickwad. We’re down one. Just look at her… how terrible.”
The one with a pale face was Shannon. Perhaps she had been unable to sleep at night, but she had been up the whole way, coupled with sea sickness, resulting in a horrible condition.
“… Treat me better. I’m a patient right now.”
I covered my face with my left hand.
“I’ve suddenly grown anxious about this trip. Shannon, when we go to the castle, you have to get some rest at once. Monica, please keep close to her, and look after her.”
There, Monica made a reluctant face.
“If it’s an order, I’ll do it. Though I seriously don’t want to. Since it’s the chicken’s orders…”
Watching my exchange with Monica, Aria walked ahead.
“Now hurry on. Lyle, carry Shannon.”
Aria had to stay light in case anything happened, and leaving it to small-built Clara would draw eyes. Monica was carrying baggage, so of course, the job went to me.
“… Do you want me to carry you over a shoulder? Or a piggy back?”
When I joked around, Shannon grinned through her pale face.
“Just you try it. If it feels I’m going to barf, I’ll throw it all up on you.”
It felt she really would do it, so I decided for a princess cradle where I could see it coming.
A little away, Rauno-san looked at us as he shook his head.
“So this is the party of Beim’s hero. How laid back.”
“Isn’t it fine? If we felt nervous here, we’d never hold up.”
There, Rauno-san laughed.
“Why of course… I’m not going to the castle, so I’ll be off in town. We’ll meet up at the gate on departure day.”
As I nodded, Rauno-san split off.
… Walking down the castle town, Rauno erased his presence.
There were knights around who knew his face, and he didn’t want to show them the current him. As a knight, he was called a disgrace by the previous king, and basically chased from the country.
To avoid any trouble, he erased his presence with a Skill, and walked.
At that moment.
He heard a loud voice from the bar.
“Cut the crap! To hell with, save me, and become king! Is her majesty alright in the head? Offer our loyalty to that brat? Don’t take us for fools!”
It hadn’t been officially announced that Lyle would be taken as a groom. But at the castle, her majesty Ludmilla was quite open about it. The rumors instantly spread, and it felt as if it was purposely spread.
(Their complaints are natural. How Lyle’s party will move… I should tell them.)
In order to precisely convey info, Rauno hid his body, and listened in.
“Come to think of it, did you know Rauno was in ‘is party that day?”
When one of the three-man-drunk knights said that, another’s eyebrow moved. Perhaps one of them was young, as they didn’t know about Rauno.
“The knights’ disgrace. He uses a skill that’s pretty much peeping, and calmly does the dirtiest things. Last king said he wasn’t worthy to be a knight, and drove ‘im out. Coulda executed ‘im too.”
Hearing the opinion of a standard knight wasn’t enough to agitate Rauno. Dirty work was left as his responsibility.
And when that came to light, he was exiled. Many knights recognized him as an atrocious knight.
“’e’ll use a guy like that. No doubt that Lyle guy’s a dirty one. Beim’s hero? If he were Cartaffs-born, even if he were a knight, he’d be lucky to get the menial labor.”
Getting a bloated ego from his drink, the three knights let out their complaints. Seeing them, Rauno let out a sigh.
And in that, one of them spoke.
“Ah~ if only I’d have saved the queen, then I’d be king by now.”
Rauno wanted to give a bitter smile. Without a single action taken to save her, or the slightest bit of info gathered, on top of letting Larc do as he pleased. Remembering all that made him want to burst into laughter. Sarcastic laughter.
And after hearing a few more complaints, and seeing their conversation go full circle, he walked off. Thinking them the words of drunks, he couldn’t help but be somewhat mindful of it, as he felt his homeland grow cold to him.
(It’s colder than Beim. We’re north, so I guess there’s no helping it.)
And feeling that cold, Rauno disappeared into a crowd….
… In a room of the castle, Aria and Clara sat to Lyle’s sides.
Splendid food lined the table, and an orchestra was performing to welcome them.
Around were maids, and knights for guarding, while before Lyle’s eyes, Ludmilla sat in a conspicuously extravagant chair and folded her legs.
She put her lips to a glass of wine, and after sipping only a little, she parted it. That action was fascinating.
Aria looked at Ludmilla, and felt just a little jealous.
(Since she was called the princess knight, I thought she’d be cruder.)
Compared with herself, it looked as if every one of her opponents exceeded her.
Ludmilla opened her mouth.
“Is the food to your tastes?”
“Yes, it’s extremely delicious. Being treated to such a welcome, on the contrary, it actually makes me feel apologetic.”
Ludmilla smiled a bit.
“It’s for my future husband. We’ll at least do this much.”
She boldly declared Lyle her future husband, and she didn’t seem perturbed at all. Aria looked at Lyle. He was smiling, but that she felt his smile was mildly strained was because of all the time she’d spent with him.
All the way from Dalien. Excluding Novem, Aria had been with Lyle the longest.
(We’ve been together for more than a year. It went by in the blink of an eye.)
When winter passed, and spring came, it would already be two years. She was a year older than Lyle, and about to turn eighteen.
She hadn’t slackened in maintaining her red hair, but even so she was an adventurer. There couldn’t help but be times where she was unable to, and from the start, her personality wasn’t one to care for it so thoroughly. Her skin was also more tanned than before, and she was giving off the feel of an adventurer.
She had gained more wounds that wouldn’t fade, and when compared to Ludmilla, Aria couldn’t help but feel a sense of inferiority.
There, Ludmilla looked at her.
“A bath has been prepared. Today, take it easy, and heal the fatigue from your trip. And… I have something I’d like to talk about with the two of you over there.”
The ones Ludmilla designated were Aria and Clara…
… Clara answered Ludmilla’s invitation, and accompanied Aria to the bath.
In that large bathing area, a bath that looked like it had been carved out of solid stone was bestowed with sculptures, with gold ornaments adorning them.
It was a huge bathing… but the only one who usually used it was Ludmilla. There were female knights standing keeping quiet around, acting as guards.
The surrounding scenery… with much to steal one’s eyes away, Clara and Aria’s eyes were directed at Ludmilla’s body.
She had been wearing an outfit with a low degree of exposure, so they hadn’t noticed it. But Ludmilla’s body also had many scars, and it was quite a painful figure.
“You’re prettier than I thought. That Lyle averted his eyes when he saw my body, so I thought he had some unconventional preferences, but that doesn’t look to be the case. Seems I can hold some expectations.”
Laughing, Ludmilla submerged herself in the tub, and stretched out her legs. She had lowered herself onto the stone steps leading into it, so it looked as if she was sitting in a seat.
Seeing her painful form, both Clara and Aria swallowed their breath. As she’d fought as a knight, those wounds were surely all over her body. No, perhaps it was only natural for them to be there.
“… You’ve got quite… a few scars.”
When Clara said that, Ludmilla smiled.
“I used to be quite strong-willed, you see. Like hell I’d lost to any man, I’d say as I went out front and troubled my subordinates. Finding yourself on the brink of death a number of times makes you notice a few things. Back then, I never even thought I would end up as queen.”
Wearing black clothing stuck so close to her skin, not showing much of her bare skin seemed to be to hide the wounds.
And Ludmilla spoke a little embarrassed.
“I think I’ve said it before, but I approve of mistresses. That’s the extent of a man he is. I want to monopolize, but with the size of his goal, I’m sure that’s impossible. And so… will the two of you lend me your power?”
On the call to action, Clara was confused.
“Um, by that, do you mean…”
When Aria nervously asked, Ludmilla made a dark smile as she spoke.
“That’s right. A faction. More than ten members, and there are going to be more henceforth, right? Then it’s only natural for me to hold a faction of my own.”
Clara thought over what she should do.
(Build a faction able to oppose Novem-san and Miranda-san? What a pain.)
Seeing their silence, Ludmilla spoke.
“Well, just think over it. I’ll offer better conditions than the others. Because Cartaffs is a large country, after all. And I’ve bad affinity with those women of Rusworth and Galleria. If our countries are entangled, it is inevitable we shan’t get along.”
Aria was troubled. Naturally, Clara was as well. From how boldly she declared it, they were scared at not knowing the standards for which they were chosen. Clara asked.
“You don’t think we could already be of another faction?”
Ludmilla spoke as if seeing through it.
“I think you are. But you don’t have a clear allegiance yet, right? If you made such a thing at the present stage, that party of yours would crumble at once.”
Aria stood. Showing off her trained body, and letting her large breasts sway.
“Then why bring it out with this timing!?”
Ludmilla spoke with a serious expression.
“… It’s not like I’ve any intentions to get in the way. But the witches of Rusworth and Galleria. They’re bad news. On top of not being accustomed to men, they don’t understand men in their essence. Their desire to monopolize instantly comes out. In that case, they’ll definitely drag his feet. In all actuality, if Lorphys hadn’t moved to get in the way, they may have lain hands on Lyle. And if it ended like that, it wouldn’t have been interesting for you, right?”
It seems Ludmilla was involved in the conveniently timed envoys from Lorphys.
Clara thought back to the words Novem handed down.
‘Please protect Lyle-sama’s chastity. I don’t mind if you use Aria-san and Monica-san.’
She had said. Novem was wary of it, and Ludmilla was as well.
Ludmilla looked at Clara’s face.
“So you knew as well? Well, it matters not. It seems the balance has barely been preserved up to now, but can you say that about it forever? Personally, I don’t want such a grand plan twisted by women problems. I won’t force you to join a faction. But I’d be happy if you’d cooperate without getting in the way.”
Seeing Ludmilla’s smile, Aria was dumbfounded. Clara knew she didn’t have enough strength to hold the female camp down, and it’s not as if she had full trust towards Novem.
After looking down a bit.
“Understood. I will assist.”
Ludmilla laughed, while Aria looked at Clara with a surprised face.
“I’m thankful. I looked into you, and from the moment I did, I wanted to have you by my side.”
It seems Ludmilla had looked into Clara. That would mean she called out to her knowing full well.
Aria looked at Clara with an unsatisfied expression.
In the bath devoid of Lyle, the women were gradually increasing the scale of the strife to come…
(TL: RIP Aria’s breasts.)