Cute Celes, Lovable Lyle
Attacked by the men who had become beast, we lined their dead bodies by the side of the road.
Unable to leave them be, it was determined we were to incinerate them. We couldn’t conduct a detailed investigation here. We didn’t have the time to take a detour.
Beside the soldiers digging holes in the ground, I called Shannon and May to confirm the corpses. They all had their heads severed from their bodies, having been taken out in a single strike.
In that one swipe of Novem’s staff turned scythe, these monsters somewhere in-between man and beast had perished.
May looked at the corpses.
“… I feel something unpleasant. An ominous feeling. I couldn’t feel their presences either, but they were moving, sure enough.”
As she crossed her arms in thought, it seems May hadn’t sensed them either. But after Shannon looked at the bodies, she covered her eyes with the palms of her hands.
“They weren’t living to begin with. And something from within them swelled up to become something else entirely. It’s really unpleasant.”
Both May and Shannon felt unpleasant. And Shannon said they weren’t alive from the start.
I watched over the bodies that didn’t seem as if they’d revert to normal.
“They were purposely placed to attack.”
Perhaps it was Celes’ message. Not to I- who’d begun my invasion. I’m sure… it was a message to Novem, or so I had a vague inkling.
Novem’s disconcertment she showed as she took the lead, and her usual level-headedness was nowhere to be found. This held a meaning to Novem… and perhaps it’s nuance was a declaration of war.
“Novem, what do you think about all this?”
Novem, who’d been looked down over the bodies from the side, blankly turned towards me. It didn’t look as if she’d heard May or Shannon’s words.
“… Yes, I believe it is just as you’ve said. There’s no way anyone would think they could take us with such numbers. Then we should think they must have been purposely made to attack.”
I touched a hand to my chin, letting my thoughts circle around.
“It’s Celes’ doing, so I’ve no idea how much meaning It holds. It may be a simple provocation, or something she thought up on a whim.”
Even if there was no meaning it all, trying it because it looked fun was how Celes did things.
I also considered such action had come out as a specific warning to us.
There, Eva returned with the robed dark elves from the forest.
“Lyle, there weren’t any strange points around. Too little of anything, mind you. With so many numbers, it’s plain uncanny there were no traces of them waiting on standby. Though they could have just come with good timing.”
If they were staying in the forest, at the very least, there would be some minute trace of them doing so. Where they rested. Thinking of the season, lighting a fire would be a necessity. And food stock would be needed as well. Excretion was unavoidable.
Hearing there was no sign of anything, I looked towards Shannon and May.
“So the pragmatic conclusion is that they really weren’t alive. It does seem Celes has left humanity.”
All my bad premonitions were hitting the mark, and as things were going, perhaps it was only a matter of time before Celes was taken over by Agrissa.
And it seems she had laid hands on the drug to turn man to monster, and completed it. It felt almost as if she was showing off the fact of its completion.
“… We’ll bury them once we’ve burned them. If we didn’t have a need to hurry on, I’d have liked to conduct a more-detailed investigation.”
I took a glance at Novem.
The one who requested an incineration and burial was Novem. If the one who knew something about this chose it, that was without a doubt the proper means of disposal.
… Bahnseim’s capital of Centralle.
“Hah, I’m getting bored. Building father’s grave and burying a few ten thousands alive was fun, but…”
In the audience chamber she sat on the throne, sticking her elbow into the armrest, and resting her chin on her hand. While she showed a slovenly bearing, those lined to watch her form were entranced.
For now she was bored, so she lined up the ministers from early in the morning creating an air as if she was to start up a ceremony or something.
But at some point along the way she had lost interest.
“I thought I’d give whatever random order was on my mind, but that’s boring. I’ve grown tired of the knights fighting to the death, and those without the willpower to stand up to torture merely rejoice, so it’s no fun at all.”
Her own… a power close to Septem’s ability, a something that entranced humans.
By it, there were many humans who earnestly believed it just to be killed by Celes. And in all actuality, when she tried to torture, their pain would always turn to delight in the end.
The stronger Celes’ power grew by the day, the stronger that trend became. Even if she paid no mind to it, those around would depend on her. They would revere her.
But Celes didn’t have the slightest mind to try suppressing that power.
From the Jewel of the staff in her hands, she could hear Agrissa’s voice.
『So you’ve already cultivated so much of Septem’s power in your body? You’re as wonderful as I thought, Celes. Even I hadn’t grown so far when I was your age.』
Without paying mind to the people around her, Celes answered her. From the eyes of those around, it was as if she was talking to herself, but no one would ever find that strange.
What Celes was doing was the right thing. No matter what life was irrationally taken, if Celes did it, it was their justice.
“When the power gets stronger, it all grows boring. Is that why you thought up all those ideas?”
Agrissa, whose atrocities were well known, gave a simmering cackle. No matter how rudely Celes addressed her, she wouldn’t grow angry. If it was anyone else, she would show them hell on earth.
『Boredom is poison to me as well. And I hate the thing called enduring. Time spent waiting for those human to grow in numbers is wasted time. But I hated going at it small-scale… come to think of it.』
Agrissa within the Jewel let her pretty mouth twist. Beautiful as it was, she ominously spread it into a crescent moon, and laughed as she spoke.
『That time was fun. Adorable Celes, when your ancestors stood against me. The Novem of the time was supporting from behind, or perhaps she was the ringleader of it all, but they opposed me and challenged me to battle. As I basked in my boredom, it was the best time on earth.』
But in contrast to Agrissa, Celes grew sullen. A wrinkle graced her brow, as she clenched her molars.
“That insect. That damn twat… that trash with nothing to him but Novem’s affection, just the very fact he stands against me is irritating. I could grant him every pain in the world, and it wouldn’t be enough. I could kill him and kill him again and again and I wouldn’t be satisfied. Simply by remaining alive does he ruin the taste of the air I breathe. The very fact he exists irritates me. Hey, when is it that I can finally kill him?”
As Celes grew expressionless and monotone towards the end, Agrissa laughed.
『Hey, there’s someone out there who can draw out so much emotion from you. Just killing them wouldn’t be any fun. At the start, I did hate that man. But the one to draw so much of my attention… adorable Celes, your ancestor Lyle was the first.』
Hearing that, Celes lifted her staff high, and swing it down. The throne’s right armrest went flying, and even the stone floor was shattered.
“… I’m giving him my attention? Well yeah, I am. But unlike you, I won’t call it love or affection. Nothing but my revulsion wells up towards that thing. Just how much pain was it for me that that thing existed?”
Agrissa seemed to enjoy watching Celes’ reactions.
『You’ll never change, will you. But that’s what’s lovely. Now then, while we’re at it… this modern day Lyle has challenged you to a fight. Why don’t you prepare to receive him?』
There, a slight irritation flashed across Celes’ face.
“… Are you sure it’s alright to provoke Novem? Even when you’ve told me to this point to never lay hands on her?”
Agrissa’s face turned serious in the Jewel.
『Yeah, it’s fine. It’s something like fate. And as you are now, you’re more than capable of opposing Novem. You’ve no need to be modest as you were when you negotiated with her. You hated that, right? Scampering off in fear whenever she came to the mansion? The reason I told you not to kill him was because he was in Novem’s hands. And you would have soiled yourself had Novem learned of it.』
Riled up by Agrissa, Celes crushed the remaining armrest with her left hand.
From the eyes of those around, it would only look as it Celes had suddenly flown into ill humor.
“I was scared? Don’t fuck with me. I only didn’t do it because you told me not to! I’m afraid? That’s rich. Do you understand your own position here? You’ve nothing but a mouth to speak.”
Agrissa grinned within the Jewel.
『Don’t be so angry, my cute Celes. And I’m saying that you can win now. If it’s now, you can even win against Novem.』
Celes rose and wrung out her voice.
“Henceforth, all troops are to prepare to intercept enemy forces at Centralle! Listen well, kill them all without letting a single rat survive. I’m going to sleep.”
Saying she would sleep so early in the morning, Celes left the audience chamber. The crown prince Rufus raced after her from behind. Boasting curling red hair, once he’d left the chamber with Celes, he spoke as guards surrounded the two.
“Celes, you’ve not let me sleep alongside you at all these days. We’re husband and wife, so why not dote on me a bit?”
Looking at the young man begging to be pampered, Celes was irritated. To Celes, Rufus was an unnecessary existence.
But there was only one point where Rufus held value. Not his position as a crown prince. To the current Celes, the royal house and royal line held no meaning at all.
But his presence pissed Agrissa off. While always teasing and riling Celes, Agrissa hated Rufus… the Bahnseim royal line. So Celes left him be. And she didn’t lay hands on the Bahnseim House. They were all still alive.
“Today I’m going to sleep between my mother and father. If I get in the mood come the fall of night, I’ll keep you company.”
But Rufus hung on.
“Please wait, Celes. I don’t care who you sleep with. That’s just how wonderful of a person you are. But I am your husband. Just a little is enough. A little is enough, so…”
Seeing how far the prince who was once so popular with the people had fallen, Celes’ mood improved just a bit.
In contrast, Agrissa was put in an ill humor.
“You’re right. I’ll consider it some. Have some expectations for tonight.”
As Celes walked off, Rufus was delighted. Saying he was going off to start preparing now, he headed for his bedroom.
Agrissa turned to Celes.
『You keep a man of Bahnseim as a pet? I’m sure I told you to kill him already.』
Hearing that voice, Celes smiled.
“If I’ve given him nothing but expectation, it’s no burden on me. And if it irritates you so, are you sure you’ve not fallen for Rufus yourself?”
On Celes’ comeback, Agrissa pouted more as she smiled.
『Splendid, cute Celes. You’ve gotten able to say it. But eventually…』
Meeting up with the main force, I received a report from Baldoir.
In a room of the moving fortress, I read through the document as I conversed with him.
“Perhaps your trip home was an unnecessary action. It was a decision I made on my own, but as it seems to have increased the burden you bear, you have my deepest apologies.”
As he apologized, I spoke disinterestedly.
“In the case the Walt House soldiers ignored our defenses and attacked from the rear, it would have increased our casualties. There was plenty of meaning to it. Don’t apologize.”
But I had decided a certain something in my heart.
“However, I may never return there. There are too many who feel burdened by my presence alone.”
As a practical problem, the Walt House territory was unsuited as a stronghold to govern the continent. If some work was put into it, rule would be possible, but that would take time.
Thinking on a continental scale, the site condition was poor.
Perhaps Baldoir understood that.
“Then will you set up your next base in Centralle?”
Centralle definitely did have a lot of the conditions together. The Sentras Kingdom that unified the continent before Bahnseim had its capital there as well.
Having finished the report, I took a stretch.
“To be quite honest, I’m doubtful. Monica’s said quite an interesting thing, so perhaps it’s a good idea to take up her proposal.”
“Monica-dono? She hasn’t said anything too exorbitant, has she?”
As Baldoir looked anxious, I sent a smile.
“If I’m going to be making my own country, I should make a new capital, is all she said. Well, it isn’t bad. Thinking of the post-war period, that may be faster than restoring the ruins.”
Rising to my feet, I opened the room’s window. I could see the spectacle of the numerous tents pitched up around.
The allied forces were arriving in droves, and a force exceeding six hundred thousand had gathered.
Baldoir looked in my direction.
“A new capital, is it? It’s true that seems easiest. If the reports are to be believed, there will be some resistance to settling in Centralle.”
Rauno’s report after reaching Dalien had hit my expectations. The dead had come back, or perhaps were being controlled by the current Celes.
Centralle had become a city of the dead.