An End and a Beginning
The two silver blades met the silver scythe.
Sparks scattered, and we were both covered in sweat as we faced one another. The smile of leisure had disappeared from Novem, her emotions beginning to come to the surface.
A rougher tone. The usual Novem who always looked somewhat unperturbed was nowhere to be seen. Her tears fell in large droplets.
“I always had so many memories. There was never me. I’m just someone’s replacement, I know. I always knew… and yet, at this point… saying something like that at this point, just how painful do you thing that is for me!?”
Supporting up her scythe with the short sword, I inflicted a shallow cut with the katana. My silver weapon would reliably cut what I wanted to cut, without leaving a single scratch on what I wanted intact.
So in contrast to my tattered state, Novem was neat and tidy. There wasn’t the slightest grime on her clothes or skin. Her sweat and tears were the end of it.
Meanwhile I was covered in blood, sweat and mud, and the sand and dust stuck down hard on me. But this situation had me advantageous.
“If you can think that way, that means you’re right there! Say it… go out and say how you feel! It never gets across. Your voice never reaches me! Do you hate me? Love me!? You love me, don’t you!? Say you love me!”
If she said she hated me here, I’d get depressed… no, forget it! Don’t grow weak. If you show weakness, you’ll crumble at once.
Novem gripped her scythe in both hands, her movements duller than before. But from a general perspective, she was still going at an incredibly fast speed. She was definitely weaker than she had been before. No, the evil god and goddess’ powers were being shaved away, and Novem was reverting.
I parried her slash with the katana in my left hand. But Novem stuck into my stomach with the hilt portion.
I opened my mouth at the impact.
My breath was forcefully spat out, and I was sent flying a distance. As I rolled over the rubble… it was extremely painful. I forcefully stood, and there I found the form of Novem holding her scythe high. She made a bloodcurdling expression.
“If I hated… if I hated you… I’d never have served you so! I love you. Not the Lyle-sama of the past. The current Lyle-sama! I loved how you worked with all your might. But all I’m capable of is… and yet, come so far, you say such a thing!? Before, you wouldn’t even look at me!”
I dodged the blow she lowered at me and the scythe pierced into the ground. As I corrected my stance, I readied my two swords.
“What are you talking about!?”
“Back when I commuted to the Walt House mansion! You never looked my way! But still, even so… I thought I could be of some use. I thought it! And now what!?”
When my engagement to her had been decided? Back then, I was treated coldly; betrayed by everyone around me, I had grown to hate humans. But even so, I tried to get my parents to look my way.
… Wait a damn second there.
“Hey! You’ve got some fault in that one! You’ll forget the dealings you made with Celes and blame me for that one!? It’s because of you I almost developed severe anthropophobia! No, I really did develop it! Take some responsibility and take me!”
As her movements dulled, I laughed. At my grin, Novem made a blank expression. But it was to late.
“That opening… I’m taking it!”
I crossed my katana’s diagonally and swung them across, cutting into her deeply. As Novem’s face grimaced in pain, she punched me away with her left hand.
As I floating in the air, I purposely let go of my two katanas. Novem approached me as I floated, coming before my eyes and lifting up her scythe.
“I liked you. That’s why it was so painful. And yet, you… Lyle-sama seemed to be having so much fun. I kept telling myself I’d disappear someday… that’s why I gathered so many!”
I’m sure she was talking about the harem. When she went and gathered them on her own, what does she mean it was painful? I don’t think I’m at fault here. Novem’s the one who gathered them. Though it’s true I began assertively calling out to women half-way down the line.
Right before she lowered her scythe onto me, I warped to where my katana had flown. Gripping the hilt, I noticed there was less noise than before. I could use Skills all I wanted.
“You’re the one who gathered them. Don’t make it sound like it’s my fault!”
As she turned in midair, she threw her scythe at me. I instantly warped, this time to my short sword that had found itself a ways away.
“Then… will you get rid of them all, and look at me alone? I definitely didn’t want there to be others. I didn’t, but… I endured it and gathered them. Since I was going away someday, I had to make sure you wouldn’t be lonely!
“That’s overkill, fool! And at this point, I’m not abandoning a single one of them! … They’re all my women! Like I’d hand them over to anyone!”
As I looked at Novem’s fit of insanity, I produced illusions around. It had grown much easier to do than before. As Novem attacked the illusions with her bare hands, I threw the shortsword, and stuck it into her.
When she raised her right hand, the scythe returned to it. What a convenient staff.
I spoke apologetically.
“If I drove them out now, you’d question my humanity, wouldn’t you!? Like I could do that!”
… If I’m the one saying it, is it already too late? Or so the question floated up. No, don’t grow weak! You’re fine. You’re still fine!
As Novem approached, I stabbed at her again. Pulling out the short sword stuck into her, I kicked the scythe away, and leapt back to take some distance.
Novem loosely let the scythe hang down as she hung her head.
“… I really am a terrible woman. I want to monopolize Lyle-sama. When I see you kiss other women… another Novem inside me says, ‘this is the onset of unlimited possibility.’ But inside I tell her, ‘no, f*ck this’… so a lot of Novems come to wipe out my will, and I’m left just smiling and watching. I don’t want it anymore. This is hell. So… please be good and listen to what I have to say. Kill me. If you don’t… I will… end up killing all the other women around you.”
Well damn! A chill ran down my spine! B-but… killing Novem is out of the question. I don’t want to be killed either, and having my other comrades killed is out of the question.
“No to all of it. I said it, didn’t I… I’m a selfish man.”
Hearing my answer, Novem slowly raised her scythe. In it, Mana began to gather. That magic density. I could tell her output was rising to overwhelming levels.
“In that case… with me… please die with me!”
I never thought her desire to monopolize would be this strong.
Just looking at the scale of her magic, it was enough to blow away the area. Taking a stance with my swords, I thought over whether to warp, or try to endure, when…
From behind, I heard the voice of a woman. A nostalgic voice, and yet it somehow sounded different to what I thought I knew of it. Looking at not me but Novem, she spread out her arms.
“You’re a thoroughly hopeless woman, are you not! Before love comes into the question, you’re a failure as a wife!”
There, my Mother… Claire had appeared. When she looked at me, she made quite a sorrowful smile.
And clearing his throat, the one who appeared, was…
“Y-yes. Um… let’s leave that matter between the women. Lyle, it’s been a while.”
My father. As the two of them came before me, Novem made a conflicted face. Novem spoke.
When Novem released her magic, my mother deployed a shield up front. No, she had deployed a shield to surround Novem. The only place blown away was her immediate surroundings.
“… I’m sure I no longer have the rights to say it. But Novem, the current you has no qualifications to marry Lyle. And I’ll just put this out there. I’m the one who gave birth to Lyle! Even if I’m a failure as a mother, that truth isn’t changing! I’ve no mind to concede the title to you!”
As she undid the shield, Novem’s form emerged from the streams of smoke. She had dropped her scythe to the ground, and sat down on the spot.
My father looked at Novem, making a bit of a sorrowful face.
“I’m thankful that you supported up Lyle. But don’t say something so sad. I know I’ve no obligation to say it, but… please, don’t hurt Lyle any more. I’m begging you.”
Hearing my father’s words, Novem spilled her tears over the rubble. Her fighting spirit was greatly chipped away. I looked at her in that state.
“Listen, Novem. I’m…”
There, I heard a woman’s voice. Hearty, a voice as if it could reach anywhere.
“Blah, blah, you’re all too noisy, you brats! In the end, what is it you want to do!?”
As I turned, holding the hand of a small child… young Dewey who I’d seen in the Second’s memories, a woman leaned a glaive over her shoulder as she looked this way. The glaive’s blade portion looked large and bulky. It definitely wasn’t something to handle with one hand.
Dewey waved over at me. I also returned a small wave. There, the woman glared at me. She turned the tip of her weapon this way.
“And you! You call yourself a man of the Walt House!? Just look at Basil! Basil! That guy’s an idiot, so he doesn’t get any of the complicated stuff!”
Behind the woman, the First muttered some displeased complaints.
“I just happen to like the simpler ways, and I’m not an idiot…”
The woman of valor spoke to me.
“But he always holds himself boldly. And he always makes his point clear! This world doesn’t run on pretty ideals alone! Make it clear! Do you like that brat over there? How much do you love her? If you have loads of women around you, then make a ranking! Just because you say you’ll love them all equally…”
Behind the glaring woman, I could see the Fifth. In a small voice.
“In the first place, I think harems are formed on the premise of equal love or something… well, whatever. If I speak out, I get the feeling I’m in for some pain too.”
Don’t give up. Do something about her. Remember back when you were in the Jewel. Where did all those reliable ancestors go? Are you guys the real deals?
The Fourth pushed up his glasses, smiling a bit.
“Well, you reap what you sow. I’m glad I only got one wife.
It’s no good, he was the usual Fourth. He wasn’t of any use outside of financial matters. The Second looked at me and shook his head.
“Give it up. That’s the sort of person my mom is. But she’s surprisingly kind, you know. Can be scary as heck, though.”
Then show some of that kindness now! If I had to find some kindness in this warrior woman, all I could spot was her hand linked with her grandson’s.
She lowered her glaive at the ground. In the back, the Sixth made a pale face as he was surrounded by three women.
“You heard her. Ranking’s important, right?”
“So just tell them. I’m number one.”
“Now, now, you just have to tell them your honest feelings.”
The Sixth tried to shrink his large body as his eyes swam about. Nearby, Milleia-san glared at the wives surrounding him with cold eyes.
“L-look. Right now we’re dealing with Lyle’s problem.”
He turned the conversation to me. No, he returned it. As I thought, the Sixth was no use in female relations. And when she was around the Sixth, Milleia put up an act and served no use.
Before I had noticed it, the Seventh and grandma Zenoire had appeared as well. The two of them waved their hands.
“Lyle, rejoice! We’ve got our hands on an extremely large dragon! And Maizel… I’m knocking you upside the head, so come over here.”
“You’ve grown so big, Lyle! Your grandma is proud. We took down a dragon to give you as a gift. It’s all gold and gorgeous! And Maizel and Claire… come here and grovel before me.”
… That’s not it. Both of you, I don’t care about that right now. Presents and such are… wait, that Legend Dragon’s being treated as a gift?
My parents silently headed over to my grandparents. I could only see them off. While they turned to me a number of times… I’m sorry, I can’t save you now.
Because that warrior woman’s still glaring at me!
There, the Third scratched his head as he looked towards me. Nearby was the form of a manly-looking woman. I’m sure she was his wife. As he looked at me, he made a fed-up expression.
The Third thought a bit and opened his mouth.
“Hah, Lyle… honestly, that battle back there was interesting. I’d never thought you’d be able to make the finale so exciting. When you’re not even mr. lyle, the true Best Lyle… was Lyle himself!”
He stuck up his thumb and sent a smile. I felt a bad premonition, and all on board, the Fourth spoke.
“But my Best Lyle still has to be, ‘Marvelous,’ perhaps? Thinking back on it now, it was a word that perfectly displayed his being in its entirety.”
The Fifth refuted.
“No, that’s no good. That was a Best Lyle built off the circumstance. In the middle of two female camps glaring at one another, spreading his hands to the heavens, a topless Lyle… Marvelous isn’t enough to get the point across. I’ll have to go for a safer, ‘I’m a man loved by the Goddesses’ that you can convey to anyone.”
Don’t earnestly dispute it. Now’s not the time for that. The Sixth asserted himself.
“Then I’m on, ‘kiss the sleeping princess’!”
The Seventh made a refreshed face as he punched my father.
“’Fantastic’ was also nice. Blowing away the symbol of Beim as he laughed was cool. Though I must admit he didn’t use enough gunpowder.”
The Second looked around.
“I don’t really know much, so I can’t decide.”
No, don’t look so disappointed. The First looked at me, making a fed-up face as he remained mindful of his warrior wife.
“Dude, what are you doing? Don’t mind us, just do something about Novem-chan already. She’s crying, ain’t she?”
I looked at Novem. Around, my comrades had begun to gather. Aria, Miranda, Shannon, Clara, Monica, Eva, May, Gracia, Elza, Ludmilla… and the Valkyries.
They were all here. There, the woman warrior spoke to me.
“It’s amazing that with everyone here, you still have more. Well, you’re aiming for emperor. With this many under your arms, you should do fine. Now then, let’s hear your answer.”
I looked over them all. Things were headed towards me confessing in front of them all.
On top of my grinning ancestors, their wives… Huh? Why do I have to confess here to begin with? Let’s find someplace quieter, and…
“… Oy, hurry up with it.”
The woman glared at me. Young Dewey looked my way as well.
“Lyle, do your best.”
Right, he supported me. What’s this, for some reason, it feels wrong to confess in front of such an innocent boy. And when this innocent youth was supposed to be the elder brother, when it came to the Third…
“Gosh~, it sure is helpful you’re all here to decide the Best Lyle. I had a feeling it would come to this.”
Dammit! … Hah, I’d best just resolve myself already.
I let go of the silver weapon. There, as if it had finished its purpose, it reverted to the Jewel. The Jewel I hung around my neck was losing its light.
“Novem. I can’t abandon everyone. I don’t want to.”
Novem looked down. The surrounding female camp listened to my words with earnest faces. I wonder what this is, I really want to run away. But I don’t think I’d be able to.
“But you were the one who was always by my side from the moment I left the mansion. I like you. There were times I thought it wouldn’t be bad to just settle down and live a quiet life with you.”
Novem raised her face.
“I’m a pain to deal with. I’ve lost a majority of the power of the past Novem.”
I came over to her side.
“I don’t care about that. Honestly, rather than past or future, my present reality is the heaviest! If you’re not with me, I’m going to be crushed! You got that!? Your beloved Lyle’s going to be crushed flat! Even now, supporting up everyone is my limit! I’ve long since surpassed that limit and gone into overtime! So about whatever happened in the past, or what the future holds… it’s impossible, I tell you! Even if you place your expectations on me, there’s not much I can do!”
Novem shook her head.
“No… I don’t want that! I don’t want… Lyle-sama to be crushed.”
I stood her up.
“We travelled together. And we’ve come all the way here.”
I slowly embraced her. Resting my head on her shoulders, I put strength into my embrace.
“So together with me, let’s live in the present. I want to live with you. I want to be with you. So stay by my side.”
As Novem burst into tears, I spoke.
“You’re my number one. Not the evil god or goddess. Or any Novem of history. The current you. Novem… I love you. So stay by my side forever!”
When I said that, the surroundings grew quiet. I was too scared to look at the faces of the surrounding women. But Novem wrapped her arm around my back, gripping onto my clothes. She let her tears flow, and leaked sobs as she cried.
“Yes. I’ll be with you forever. So Lyle-sama… please keep me by your side.”
As we clung onto one another, cheers and whistling rang out around. As I looked around in surprise, I found the soldiers the ancestors called had met up with my own main army.
… Confessing in front of a few hundred thousand? Seriously, cut me some slack. If I knew it would come down to this, I’d have chosen some cooler lines!
… In Centralle where the battle had ended, the ancestral women cooked up the Legend Dragon and Land Dragon subspecies.
The First’s wife glared at the Second’s.
“Hey, what’s this? It doesn’t taste like anything.”
“It’s a taste only cultured people understand. Isn’t it because you’re so crude that you don’t get it?”
Both made smiles as veins popped on their foreheads and the two exchanged blows. Around, preparations for the banquet were hurrying along, and Novem and the others helped out as well.
As Shannon tried to snack on the fried Land Dragon, Miranda lowered a fist on her head.
A teary Shannon held her head with both hands, and Miranda sighed. She looked around. The main members of the heads of history gathered around him, Lyle was using all sorts of gestures to complain about something.
Those around listened in and laughed.
To Miranda came Vera with gifts. It seems she had found ale and spices from the rubble of Centralle.
“Hey, where should I bring these supplies?”
An injured May sat atop the crates being pulled in, as she exchanged a glass with Marina.
“This ale’s great!”
“I know, right? But this is a splendid mountain of rubble. The place was blown away quite cleanly.”
May rejoiced over her drink while Marina looked around.
“Leave the spices, and distribute the ale. Rather, how long are they going to stay?”
The one to react to Miranda’s words was Claire. On the lowest wrung of the wives of history, she was treated quite poorly. A white cloth wrapped around her head, she wore an apron. Surely she was being worked hard to repent for this series of events.
“Oh? Don’t want us? You don’t want us here? Imperial nobles really are the worst. Only their mouths know how to move.”
Miranda shook as a vein rose on her forehead. It had been like this for a while. After rejoicing over her reunion with Lyle, Claire had learned of the numerous women surrounding him, and grown quite irritated.
“Well, at least they’re more decent than a parent who abandoned their child.”
On Miranda’s words, Claire grit her teeth. She hated how she didn’t have any words to return. Seeing Miranda’s triumphant smile, Vera retreated from the area in haste.
Shannon tagged along to make a quiet escape.
As Claire stood vexed, Zenoire came over with her fan.
“Oh my, the preparations aren’t getting anywhere. Are you slacking? Hey, are you slacking? This is why Counts in name alone are so troubling. Half-baked, and saved by the Walt House, yet they slack off on their work.”
Claire sent an irritated glare to Zenoire.
“… When you’ve nothing but history to you. With nothing but pride beyond your standing, you raised a rebellion and lost, didn’t you?”
“Oh how terrible. You’ve hurt me, deary. I think I’m going to go have Lyle comfort me. Ah, more importantly, I have to go comfort pitiful Lyle who was thrown away by his parents.”
“I’m sorry, that was out of line!”
Miranda thought as she looked over Zenoire and Claire’s exchange.
(This is why that terrible custom gets passed down. I have to be careful myself.)
There, she sent a glance to Novem, who was silently preparing. For a while now, she had been silently working to perfection.
So perfect Claire was left unable to complain, to a level where Novem was the one eligible to find fault.
“Novem, you sure have it nice. Not getting dragged into these things.”
There, Novem turned her face to Miranda. And she spoke with a smile.
“That’s because you always have that cheeky look on your face, Miranda-san. Yet you act all cute when you’re in front of Lyle, of course they’d get irritated. Because you’re shady as all hell.”
… Miranda was at a loss for words. And as if to continue on, Novem spoke.
“And I’m just making things clear, so I’ll say it again.”
Miranda glared at her. Novem made a smile of leisure.
“I’m Lyle-sama’s number one. So you girls can all get along and scramble for his second place.”
Miranda and Novem smiled together.
“Don’t think your place will be stable forever. I’ll snatch it away anytime. So enjoy your number one seat while you can. For that’s all the time you’ll get.”
As if between the women… the atmosphere was as if a cheerful conversation was being carried out, but sparks were flying left and right…