(TL: We’re 5/7 of the way there.)
As everyone was sound asleep, I had Monica take up watch.
Everyone lay around Porter’s loading tray, but I was called by the Fifth, so I faced him in the Jewel.
The Third, Seventh, and Milleia-san were watching over us from a little away. Or rather, they were making a game of it.
『Is it that? As expected, was the Fifth troubled by harem matters? No~ I’m glad I only had one wife.』
『Quite right. It’s a trial we wouldn’t understand. If I had to say, I reached marriage by passing through love. Well, Zenoire’s status did technically exceed the post of House Head, so I do admit it was a marriage on favorable circumstance.』
『He got the harem together relatively well, though. What problems did he see from his point of view, I wonder? If it were me, I’d have left for my hometown the moment my husband prepared mistresses, mind you. Love marriage as it may be, my brother’s wife sure did a good job enduring it out.』
I ignored the faces taking intrigued glances at the Fifth, listening to his explanation on Aria. The one who advocated her was the First, while the Second hated her. The other ancestors didn’t have any particular opinions on regards to her.
But come so far, when Aria said she wouldn’t marry me, the Fifth changed his hand.
『Listen well, Lyle! That Aria… Aria Lockwarde is an extremely important girl for you.』
“No, did you ever say anything remotely like that up to now? And if Aria wishes for that, I can’t…”
The Fifth was in the Jewel. In the round table room, he manifested his weapon, his galient blade, turned its blade sideways, and hit the metal part against my head.
Seeing that, Milleia-san was shocked.
『Oh my, father got mad at a child. Now that’s a rare scene.』
I held the hit part with a hand. He hadn’t hit me particularly hard, so I went right into hearing him out.
『Listen and learn, Lyle. Women will occasionally tell lies if it is for their benefit. They’ll present their bodies for your money. There are times you won’t be able to understand what they’re thinking beneath their smile. How many times have I thought they should learn from the purity of animals… but let’s put animals aside for now. Anyways, women spit lies easier than men.』
“Well, I’m sure there’s some truth to it. I was an adventurer, and I’ve heard a bit, and that one came up quite often.”
Women are skilled at lying. I was aware, but I couldn’t understand why the Fifth was bringing that up with me. As I was unable to understand it, I heard the Third’s loud whisper.
『Huh? That Lyle really doesn’t get it.』
Milleia-san also looked fed up.
『My recommendations are Miranda and Shannon, and while I don’t care about the rest, I’m really not sure what to think of that.』
The Seventh alone was as incomprehensive as me. He was tilting his head, and looking between the Third and Milleia-san.
The Fifth looked at me, looked down, and perhaps his head hurt, as he held a hand to his forehead, and thought a bit. And lifting his face, he spoke in regards to me.
『Lyle, Aria lied. For her profit. Do you understand what profit that may be?』
Hearing Aria’s profit, I instantly thought it was for herself. Rather than marrying me, I’m sure she would find more happiness with another man. It wasn’t just Aria. It was a plausible statement for the others of the female camp as well. How much happiness could be found having the one they love not being their own?
But the fact the Fifth was asking it meant the answer was likely something else.
“So Aria’s profit isn’t her own?”
The Fifth looked at my face, and spoke.
『Aria’s is pulling out for your sake. That child is terrible at lying. Her body moves before her head, and she says whatever comes to mind. Did a girl like that hate it when you kissed her?』
I shook my head, and the Fifth held his. ‘He still doesn’t get it,’ he said, and I could hear some more whispers. It was Milleia-san.
『Lyle’s that. He’s dropped every woman he’s aimed for, so he doesn’t really understand the concept of being hated.』
Hearing that, the Fifth raised his face as if remembering something, and snapped his fingers.
『Right! You, how were you treated at the Walt mansion!? Remember their faces. Whenever you said something, how did people respond!?』
I recalled. When I had begun to be hated at the mansion, when I said something to those around, they would complain. But they gradually began to treat me as a nuisance. The worst was when they treated me as if I wasn’t there at all.
“Their eyes were really cold. As if it would be better off someone like me weren’t…”
『I’m sure. I can understand that feeling. If Aria hates something, she’ll outright say she hates it. Yet that girl followed you all the way to Beim. She decided she’d fight Celes with you. Why do you think? Do you think it was all for her own future? Just how many people out there believe you’ll actually get the continent in your hands? Even now, it’s a goal that will warrant bursts laughter if put to mouth. Now how about Aria when you told her before Beim? I’m sure she needed a considerable resolve. Perhaps she was even resolved for death.』
When I heard that, I lost sight of what her profit could be. And what her happiness was…
“… Fifth, I hold Aria dear. I want her to be happy. Having followed someone like me so far, whether she can find happiness or not… the others are the same!”
The Fifth hit his sword against my head again. This time, it hurt considerably. I held my head with both hands, my eyes growing teary.
『… Lyle, you needed the female camp’s power to fight Celes. You decided you’d accept them, right? Now listen, I’ll just say it right out. Will she be happy? That isn’t it. You’ll make her happy! It isn’t just your wives; among the humans you’ll kill from here on, there will be plenty without sin. You’ve thought over what would happen to Beim, right? For what sake do you kill? For what sake do you trample to move forward? It was never just to grasp your own happiness, was it.』
The Fifth tossed his galient blade into the air. Watching it disappear into grains of light, I listened to his words.
『I couldn’t do it. So I’ve no qualifications to say it. And while I know that well, I’ll say it anyways. The others won’t have a problem if Aria slips out. No, as long as she continues lending you her power, they may even tell you to look out for her to an extent. But I definitely won’t accept it. It was something important, so I wanted you to notice for yourself, but if you still don’t get it, I’ll tell you.』
Unlike the Fifth, as long as we still had Aria’s cooperation, the other ancestors would definitely say it wouldn’t matter if she became my wife or not afterwards. But they would give thanks for her cooperation. If that was what Aria wanted, if that was her choice, I wanted to respect it.
But the Fifth told me with confidence.
『Aria’s profit is… you, Lyle. It’s your happiness.』
Exiting Porter, I saw Aria swinging her spear around.
The cold morning air. The grass on the ground was moist, and as I walked, they wet my boots. I could hear the cries of insects around. The sun had yet to rise.
Everything looked a shade of blue.
Within that, Aria was sweating as she swung her spear. It seems she noticed I was there, but without turning her face, she spoke.
“What? You’re distracting, so if you want to move your body around, could you go somewhere else?”
Her blunt, cold attitude felt a little different than usual. Was she really thinking of me when she decided to pull out? Could it be the Fifth’s misunderstanding? Various thoughts floated through my head, as I extended my left hand to the side.
A magic circle manifested, and from it, a wooden treasure chest popped out. It was the Seventh’s Skill… Box. What emerged from it as if bursting out, was one of my remaining sabre.
One of the mass produced ones. A few of them were still in the box.
I grasped the sabre’s scabbard with my left hand, took the hilt in my right, and unsheathed it.
With the scabbard still in my left, I pointed the blade’s tip towards Aria.
“… Let’s have the condition of the other day. Last time was my complete victory. The both of us have grown since then. Don’t you think we should test and see who’s stronger now?”
Aria’s body stopped; she stabbed her spear into the ground, and turned to me. Confused, yet resolved… a complex expression.
“What? No need for women who don’t swoon for you? Then you should’ve driven me out from the start.”
I didn’t know how to respond to her. I didn’t know, so I didn’t speak. There, the Fifth’s voice came from the Jewel.
『Lyle, don’t think your worries are yours alone. You… shouldn’t make the same mistakes as me.』
Letting out a light breath, I stepped in, and thrust the sabre towards her.
That she stopped it with the spear hilt likely meant the spear was a superior one of good quality, and robust shaft.
If it were one of the Katanas I had him make, it may have been different.
“You react fast.”
Aria’s eyes turned sharp. It seems her mind had changed gears. The normal Aria, and Aria in battle…
“Underestimate me too much and… you won’t come out unscathed!”
Her power rose in an instant, forcefully blowing me back. One of the Skills recorded in her red gem activated, it seems.
I lightly leapt back, and landed, only for my feet to slip on the damp grass. Aria before my eyes leaned forward a bit, before disappearing from my sight.
“Quick!? No, a second stage!”
Aria’s own Skill. To allow her to move swiftly for in instant, it had more explosive power than the Fourth’s Speed. But its active time was extremely short.
Having mastered its use, Aria instantly showed herself to my right.
“A feint…. Left!
Even using the Second and Sixth’s Skills to ascertain her position, she was too fast that identifying her was a trial in itself.
With the scabbard in my left hand, I took the spear she lowered at me. My body enhanced with the First’s… Full Over… wasn’t able to endure the force, so I parried it.
But she had instantly moved again… she was behind me.
I promptly rolled to the side, the ground I was at before hollowed out, with grass flying through the air.
I heard the Fifth’s voice.
『Don’t hold back. Give her an honest answer. Things can’t go as they’ve gone before.』
I took a deep breath, and took to using every Skill in my possession.
Aria noticed a change in my atmosphere, and approached. The grass she swiftly raced through with Quick parted as if to make a path.
I crossed over the sabre and scabbard to stop her attack. With her weapon hardened, her power amplified, and her speed boosted, enduring her blow was dreadful.
“So you used Quick… and Slash together. That was quite dangerous.”
Aria’s face was close. And she smiled a bit.
“You’re the one who started this match, Lyle!”
She disappeared from my eyes.
To take in the surrounding terrain as a three dimensional map, I used the Fifth’s Skill… Dimension… and the Sixth’s… Real Spec… to gather even more information.
Even using the Second’s… Select… I turned magic towards her. As a number of fire balls pursued, I muttered.
“Full Burst… leading into Full Drive!”
Using both the First’s and Fourth’s third stage Skills at the same time, I quickly approached her. What surprised me was that even in that situation, Aria seemed to have a firm grasp of me.
In the slowly moving scenery, Aria alone was moving a little faster than everything else. Her lips moved. What I read off of them was…
… She mouthed.
Right after, from Aria, a small, truly small grain of light appeared, and Aria had stepped into the Fourth’s world. She had caught up to his Skill.
Aria swung her spear, and unable to take it, my scabbard was destroyed. She was moving even faster than me, and her strength had exceeded mine.
“I think I’ve said it before. Vanguard Skills are unfair.”
A Vanguard Skill’s characteristic was its offense-specialized explosive power. Even for body enhancement, they were more aggressive than the First’s Skill. Due to the burden on the body, they couldn’t be used for long periods of time, but even so their instantaneous force was different.
As Aria slashed a shockwave at me, I raced across the ground to avoid it. Gouged earth. Because of the mud dancing through the airs, the two of us were muddy and soaked all over.
Seeing her seriousness, I spoke.
“You’ve grown strong. You’re really strong, Aria!”
When I lowered a sabre at her, her vulcanized spear broke the mass-produced blade. Watching the fragments slowly scatter about, I extended a hand towards her.
Grabbed around the collar of her clothes, and leapt close into a range she couldn’t swing her spear.
And keeping my legs running forward, I pinned her down.
The surrounding flow of time returned to normal, and I felt the blow of the wind. The cold wind felt comfortable on my sweaty body.
“It’s my win.”
“… Right. I lost again. So why did you…”
… Why did I do something like that? Before she could finish, I spoke.
“It’s my answer for yesterday. You lost, so you have to obey me. Stay by my side. I need you.”
Aria looked as if she was going to cry as she looked at my face. No, she really was crying, but she hid her face with a hand.
“… I’m not as amazing as everyone. I’m weaker than you, and I don’t have any money! I can’t offer any manpower! I’m not needed anymore! There are plenty of girls prettier than me! I… don’t want to become your burden.”
I got the feeling I heard a voice from her heart. It was true; Aria had lied.
“Even so… stay by my side.”
… Watching over Lyle and Aria, the Fifth pat his chest in relief.
『Good grief, I’m not saying he should understand everything about her from being together so long, but… he really is a handful.』
Looking at the Fifth’s relief as he sat on the table, Milleia spoke.
『You could’ve at least done that much when it came to us, couldn’t you?』
The Fifth looked down, and spoke sorrowfully.
『… Like hell I could. I’m the worst sort of man, you know. I put my family, and the territory on the scales. I increased my family for the territory, and brought misfortune to my children. I knew it. It was wrong. But even so… it’s all I could choose. So I’m…』
There were plenty of problems in the Fifth’s time. That was because the surroundings were wary of the Walt House. To Baron Status in four generations. It was impossible by normal means.
What’s more, the Fourth succeeded in his rule. He made it succeed. So those around felt fear.
The hero Sleigh Walt was a man of valor who attacked an army of ten thousand with some dozen men, and a righteous general.
There was no guarantee that blood wouldn’t revive. They feared the Walts. Milleia spoke a little sadly.
『You could have talked with us more… Even simple conversation… would have been enough. Even I had times when I wanted a word from you.』
Milleia’s demon eyes allowed her to see through the mental state of another party. She could determine it by the flow of their mana. She knew the expressionless Fifth, always uninterested towards his children was always in sorrow.
His dependence on animals was because his psyche wouldn’t hold up otherwise.
Milleia spoke to the Fifth. Correcting her posture, and showing off a graceful curtsey.
『Please teach Lyle everything. I’m begging you, father. That child is in need of your teachings. The memories you thought unnecessary are needed in the Walt House. Isn’t it fine? Being bullied or taken the fool. That the Walt House could creep up from there, and rise to Count status was without a doubt because of your achievements.』
The Fifth continued looking down, without giving an answer…