Sevens: The Winning Horse

The Winning Horse

… A village a little ways from the main road was astir from early in the morning.

The adults holed themselves in their homes with their farming tools, praying that nothing would happen.

The scene a young boy who’d taken flight from the village witnessed wasn’t that of any army he’d ever seen before.

“What the hell’s that…”

It was as if a fortress was moving. Around it the soldiers preceded without rest in the direction of Centralle, the cool morning air a little different than usual.

His mouth held open at the sight of the great army he’d never seen before, the boy looked up at the blue haired man standing atop the fortress. Atop the ramparts fluttered white flag with a blue circle in its center. Around the circle sprawled ornaments of gray, and it was obvious it was the flag under which the army marched.

But he had never seen that flag before.

Until his family came to drag him back into the house, the boy watched the sight in awe…

Looking over the soldiers proceeding down the road, I felt the cool morning air on my Skin.

“The air’s no good. When the soil’s dry the dust clouds are terrible. But even so, when it rains it robs our stamina away.”

Looking around from the roof of the fortress, I could see white smoke rising from nearby. It did seem there was some village around somewhere.

We had entered the area under the Bahnseim House’s direct control, and continued on with our march. There was no resistance you could call resistance, and there weren’t any signs of forces leaving Centralle.

Invaded by surrounding countries, there was no way they wouldn’t be able to gather the troops. It was more than clear we were trying to tempt the capital.

But even so, in order to fight Celes, we’d have to aim for the city regardless.

To the roof rose Vera in an overcoat.

“Is it really alright for our leader to go out without any guards?”

As she said that and stepped onto the roof, the wind blew to shake her black hair. Her angel wings flowed in the breeze. Containing them in her hands, she looked towards the smokestacks visible from the roof.

Watching the white smoke rise from the chimneys, she nodded a few times before turning her face to face me.

“I heard the others were heading for Centralle as well. There’s no doubt that’ll be the site of the decisive battle, right? They won’t try to take us out one by one?”

In regards to her worry, I shook my head.

“That’s not going to happen. I’ve considered the possibility they’d leave Centralle open to target one of our forces. It’s unthinkable they’d leave themselves short-staffed for defense, and if it’s Celes, she’ll make Centralle the battlefield.”

“It doesn’t seem you’re saying that because you understand your sister’s personalities.”

Observing that my expression wasn’t the best, Vera hit me with her honest impression.  So with a slight laugh I explained it to her.

“She’ll definitely sit and wait. Based on how she went about it, she could send dead men in the truest sense of the term to aim for one of our crucial points, but she won’t do it because that’s a pain.”

Rather than a pain, the current Celes didn’t give a damn about winning or losing. As long as she could live a life of luxury, she didn’t care how many of those below her died off.

No, she would even watch it and laugh.

“You can win, right?”

On Vera’s question, I looked straight ahead.

“We’ll win the war. There’s no doubt about it. We’ve made enough preparations for that. And with the armies we’ve taken in, we’ve gained even more leisure.”

There were many feudal lords who’d offered their assistance. On the other hands, while there were Lords who said they wouldn’t cooperate, there were many cases where their populace did join our side.

If it could get them out of the current Centralle… the current Bahnseim they’d help out. Or perhaps they were cooperating with our forces who held the food stock they needed to survive.

“The war, huh? Then what about the most important part?”

She was likely indicating the direct confrontation with Celes. I nodded.

“That’s precisely why we’ve launched this offensive. Sorry, but I’ve no intent to start a fight even if I can’t win. I decided to march because our current war potential was as complete as we could make it.”

That was true.

With Novem at the lead, my comrades who had travelled with me as adventurers. And Gracia, Elza, Ludmilla… our war potential was in order. If it were one on one, the probability of my loss was high, but that just means we won’t bring in a one-on-one battle.

“It doesn’t matter if she’s my sister or a little girl. We’ll surround her and beat her down.”

Vera showed a shrug of her shoulders.

“That’s the worst line I’ve heard all day, but that’s the safest option. I’m relieved you won’t show your feelings like sibling relations or your pride as a man.”

Vera seemed to approve of my decision. But as an individual, I have to say it was quite a deplorable thing. Because I couldn’t win against my little sister, I was going to be ganging up on her with my numerous girlfriends. That’s practically what I was saying.

“Personally, I’d liked to have been able to solve this on my own.”

To speak to my personal opinion, with my own hands… my hands alone, I wanted to stop Celes. But ability-wise that was impossible.

“If you say something like that and lose, I’ll curse you for the rest of my life. Discarding a winnable battle from personal sentiment is what an idiot does. Well, I don’t hate that sort of thing either.”

But she’d definitely hate it if I was in that position, said Vera.

“If you don’t win there’s no tomorrow, so I won’t forgive it if you go easy. If things are to go on like this, there’s not a single good thing in letting your sister live. I’d feel more if you just ended it in an instant.”

This was likely Vera’s way of encouraging me.

“… That’s my intent. I’ve got promises to keep.”

As I gripped the Jewel, Vera looked between it and me.

“You could hear your ancestors’ voices, was it? They’re all gone? Come to think of it, I heard them before on the ship.”

“Ah, come to think of it, you did hear them.”

Thinking back to when she could have heard their voices, I ended up reminiscing.

“I never noticed they were your ancestors’ voices. So is it a promise to them?”

There was that too. But the number one was someone else.

“No, to someone like a brother to me? Though I’ve yet to recognize that.”

Letting go of the Jewel, I turned my eyes towards Centralle.

… Lyle’s army approached the capital.

There were streams of nobles who came to jump aboard the winning horse. Those aiming for their house’s revival. Those who’d taken flight from Centralle.

Those who wanted to be recognized as nobles.

They came to seek audiences with Lyle. But Lyle fundamentally didn’t want any more troops than he already had.

Dressing up simply being there as a favor was quite a difficult thing.

Within all of that, Ralph Circry had come into contact with his daughter Miranda.

Bringing his feet to a tent nearby the moving fortress, he had called Miranda out.

So disembarking the mechanical monstrosity, Miranda took along her guards to enter and greeted her father.

“It’s been a while, Miranda.”

“That’s right. Not since back at the storehouse, perhaps? Back when I was abandoned by a certain someone who bought a Hippogryph having mistaken it for a Gryphon.”

His expression unchanging under the girl’s sarcasm, Ralph thrust straight into his demands.

“I request safe haven for a group of imperial nobles who fled from Centralle. They’ve looked after me, but there are a number of houses among them who’ve looked after you as well. And they have their own troops. If you’ll add them to the lines, they’ll work to their utmost…”

But Miranda rejected the demand with a smile.

“At this point, we’ve no need for any soldiers who can’t put up a decent fight. We’d have our problems even if they were overflowing with battle experience. If there’s a problem with the chain of command, it’ll be the same for my personal unit as well. If you wish to push it through no matter what, I’ll station them as cannon fodder on the front most lines.”

His expression not crumbling under his daughter’s attitude, Ralph made a serious face.

“If you let them assist, there’s merit in it for you. You’re the one without any decent forces protecting your back. Even if you’re the leader’s woman, your position is weak. Even if you’re to raise a new country of your own, you’ll need experienced civil officials. Since they’re from Bahnseim, they’ll be useful to the leader. He can’t call in officials from a foreign land, can he?”

Meaning he would supply civil officials to strengthen Miranda’s standing. In all truth, it was Lyle’s weak point.

It was an extremely large merit to Miranda. Getting her hands on officials, if she cooperated them, she would become an existence Lyle couldn’t ignore.

In Lyle’s harem that largely consisted of those specialized to military might, it would be possible to take a step, even two ahead.

“Well then. That’s quite appealing. But no.”

Miranda still showed her rejection.

“… I thought you were smarter than that. You’ll prioritize your feelings to lose interest?”

Miranda spoke with a smile.

“Feelings? I’m not rejecting it because I hate you. I want civil officials so much I’d bark like a dog for them, and I want to be able to stand against Lianne. We’ll need officials in time to come. But calculating my own interest, I have determined them unnecessary.”

Seeing the slight twitch of Ralph’s brown, Miranda could sense that her father was confused.

“You don’t quite seem to understand what my interest is. My interest is Lyle’s best interest. So will any of this be to Lyle’s interest? If backing me were a bunch of officials who’d carry on with Bahnseim’s old ways… they’d just be trouble, wouldn’t they?”

What Lyle was aiming for was continental rule. For that sake, there were various parts of Bahnseim’s methods that wouldn’t work out.

And even if Lyle was capable of various things, he was still young. There was a possibility he’d be led by the nose by the nobles who’d lived their lives as civil officials.

There was no saying there were none who’d fool the papers to fill their pockets. And even if they came out, the fact that they were part of Miranda’s faction would make it hard for Lyle to do anything about it. In the worst case, there was a possibility they’d raise problems wherever she wasn’t looking.

Those circumstances were the greatest demerit.

“I won’t give preferential treatment just because it’s my house. In this important period of forming the basis, I don’t want to choose my officials based on connections. I want to go with emphasizing personality and ability.”

Even if they were vital managerial positions, filling them with connections would be an extreme demerit to Lyle.

Naturally enough, Ralph was thinking to utilize Miranda’s position to hold a large civil officer faction. And Miranda had seen through it.

“If you don’t build a stronghold now, you’ll be an outcast for the rest of your life.”

Hearing Ralph’s words, Miranda laughed.

“If that’s to Lyle’s interest, I’m fine with that.”

Ralph glared at her, going into persuasion.

“There are times when problems rise from a lack of knowledge and experience. There’s no way the officials who’ve served the country of Bahnseim over its long history wouldn’t be of use.”

“That’s right. But you see… that country’s falling, isn’t it? You mean to say there’s a reason to religiously carry on that fallen country’s methods?”

“… You despise tradition?”

“I don’t hate it. But I won’t recommend the ones who barge in at the last minute demanding for all the good parts to be handed over. Well, since we’re blood relatives, I’ll at least mediate for you a bit. So choose… will you simply be thrown out like this, or will you have the Circry House remain as nobles, for argument’s sake.”

On Miranda’s words, once she thought that he had no more driftwood to cling to, Ralph stood.

“And where are you going?”

To her question, Ralph spoke back.

“You’re not the only one. Unreliable as she is, I’ll depend on Shannon. If that one’s also the leader’s woman, I can make a pedestal for her yet. Though she doesn’t have your level of talent.”

If Miranda was no good, he’d turn to Shannon. Miranda waved her hand.

“That so, well good luck father.”

She saw him off with a smile.

“Hah, day after day, why am I the one who has to deal with them? When I’m so busy, they act all posh and ask, how are you today… can’t they tell by looking? Read the mood for goddess’ sake.”

As we grew closer to Centralle, the folks who appeared before our army to curry favor with me increased. Mercenary brigades approached us as well, and even adventurers gathered.

Perhaps my position as a former adventurer had influenced it, but it seems they intended to emphasize that.

In my room, I draped the cover over myself as I sat on the bed, when Shannon entered the room.

“Hey, it’s dinner time, I’m telling you.”

As I stood I felt the cold on my skin. The mobile fortress had an iron workshop that used fire, so it was much warmer than it would be outside.

But even so I felt cold. I’d stayed too long in a warm place that my senses were going strange.

“Got it, I’m going now. Wait, what?”

Remembering something, I tried asking Shannon.

“Weren’t you called out today?”

It wasn’t to the same level as me, but there were many who requested meetings with my comrades as well. Even Aria was intruded on by those who’d once taken care of her, or those claiming to be her relatives.

Eva was the same. She wasn’t just the representative of the elves, she was called for as a representative of demi-humans in general.

Clara was mainly called upon from her scholar associates, and her birthplace of Arumsaas. In most cases, that was what was emphasized.

Within all that, because she had her sister Miranda, Shannon was a rare case where she was never asked for a meeting.

“… Oh, I was told this and that, but I didn’t really get it, so I told him, ‘pass’.”

Quite a fitting response from her.

“Don’t say anything to make them hate you. Try to let them down easily.”

“But that means you’re still refusing in the end.”

“Better than flipping them onto the other side. In the first place, for those that never read the times to this point, there’s no telling what they’re going to do, so it’s contrarily scary. And yet, they needlessly run their mouths… hah, it’s a waste of time. What’s with this racing to our aid. And yet they’ve no food stock of their own? That’s just plain extortion.”

I did understand that meetings were an important thing, but I couldn’t help but let out my complaints. And there really were many who spoke for lengths on things I could care less about.

It’s because they truly believed that helped appeal for their cases that made it so nasty. I could understand their desperation to jump aboard the winning horse, but…

“I can understand how royalty feels when people come to demand money from them. If we don’t restrict them, these requests are going to become something terrible… what’s wrong?”

Shannon didn’t have her usual energy. While she spoke normally, she looked a little sad or rather, worn out.

“What is there something you don’t like being served today? You’re not getting my dessert.”

As she looked into my face, she made a fed-up expression and shook her head to the side.

“Ignorance is a bliss. In exchange for that bliss, I’ll take your flan.”

“Hold it! Why do you always go for my flan? Stop it. Rather than mine, can’t you aim for someone else’s!?”

There, it seems Shannon seriously grew angry. With a serious expression.

“Hell no! With you it ends up as a joke, but if I go for anyone else’s, it won’t just end with war! I’m not having any of that. No matter how delicious it is, I’m not wagering my life on a flan!”

“And yet my flan’s all good!?”

After we shouted and made a racket, I got the feeling a little more energy had returned to Shannon’s expression…

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Sevens: Cute Celes, Lovable Lyle

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.

In truth…

“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.

 

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Sevens: Brides of the Walt House

Brides of the Walt House.

Waking up in the mansion of the Walt House, I looked over my own room.

The room I had once been confined had been home to mountains of books. Right, that they were once there was a fact, but now there were none.

Once I was driven out of the house, it seems all my belongings were disposed of. There was a bed, and the bookshelf that occupied one of the room’s walls was empty.

I reached my hand from the Jewel hung at my neck, and gripped it tight.

According to Baldoir, the Walt house still had reserve forces. To prevent an attack from behind while we were busy with Celes, he recommended I head here first.

His true intent was likely to give me a trip back home. We used Porter to move through the surrounding territories, utilizing the Jewel’s new ability… a something similar to my father’s Skill to dispel Celes’ charm as we went around.

But it’s not as if all would rejoice on their release.

I felt quite conflicted as well.

As I thought, a knock came from the door.

“Chicken dickwad, people are gathering from the surrounding territories one after the next.”

Rising up off the bed, I asked Monica for a report on the situation.

“The surrounding territories, eh? What about the mansion?”

Monica shrugged her shoulders.

“There are many trying to kill themselves. And we’ve received reports that some of their families outside the mansion have killed themselves as well. They’ve sent in testaments of how they wished to atone for their son or daughter’s malpractices.”

She reported it all without hiding a thing. But that was how it should be.

“Tell them once more that I give no permission for suicide. That I’ve no particular punishment in mind. They were only being manipulated by Celes’ ability.”

The treatment they had offered me… there were some who tried to end it with that in mind. And that was a surprise to me.

I hated how release wasn’t a safe end to it.

Monica looked over at me.

“I talked with Miranda-san as well, but are you sure it wouldn’t be better to just punish them? You’ll be able to prevent those who choose rash action driven by their thoughts of self-condemnation.”

I heard out her opinion.

“… This really is a pain.”

I had returned, but I couldn’t find any soothing for my heart. The mansion that had once welcomed me so warmly, even when I released Celes’ curse, it didn’t look like it would ever return.

Looking at reality like this, I realized just how many people there were with apologetic sentiment. But at this point, I had yet to find anyone glad.

“Perhaps my return wasn’t for the best.”

There, Monica looked at me, clapping her hands together twice.

“So what shall we do with the people who’ve dropped by?”

I covered my face with my right hand.

“I can’t just go about not meeting them. Though Id like to go off to Baldoir’s hometown as well.”

Thinking of how busy it was even if I’d returned, I took a coat in hand, and draped it over myself before leaving the room.

… Shannon took a walk through the Walt House mansion.

It was a vast estate. To add to that, there were so many children in the Fifth’s time that a second annex mansion for child-use had been constructed. After that, it had been used whenever guests were invited.

Walking through the annex, Shannon listened to the words of Elza walking behind her.

“… It’s somewhat more extravagant than our palace back home.”

Shannon recalled what she had heard from Miranda.

“It seems the Walt House has the most territory in Bahnseim. It’s bigger than some countries, so I guess there was no helping it? Ah, there it is.”

Shannon arrived at a certain room she had set as her walk’s destination.

It was a room of the annex that was never opened for guest use, and a room the previous generation’s House Head Brod had kept as it was.

Shannon held up the key, and once she opened the door, she saw the guns lining the walls.

It was the room Milleia used.

One shot guns, which would require a new shell loaded after every shot. What’s more, there were knives fastened to the gun barrels. There were a number of them around, but as none had been looked after as of late, they were coated in rust.

Elza looked at them.

“So many copies of the same gun. But it doesn’t look like any of them are usable.”

From among them, Shannon looked for one in good condition. She searched and took it in hand.

“Yeah~, you think I should take this one home with me? It’s a precious memento, and it’s my great grandmothers, so it’s practically mine.”

Elza turned to Shannon.

“Oh, so you’re related?”

Shannon lifted up the heavy gun.

“My great grandmother was from the Walt House. The Circry Hosue still had relations to the Walts up to the previous generation, it seems.”

Elza nodded in understanding.

“I think I’ll take it back and have it fixed up. I don’t think it’s bad to have at least one of them around.”

As Shannon said that, she continued to look around the room with Elza. There was dust piled up, and it seemed evident it hadn’t been cleaned for a number of years.

She had tried asking one of the mansion’s personnel. It seemed that Maizel had decided to stop preserving it and planned to turn it into a guest room in his generation. But they had enough rooms, so there was no need to hurry to convert it, and before it had come to anyone’s attention, it had simply become a room that no one would enter.

Shannon looked at the room.

“It’s as if it’s been forgotten; a lonely room.”

She said…

Porter’s loading tray.

Sitting on the bench, I talked to Miranda sitting beside me. Novem was sitting furthest away, out of pleasant conversational range.

It was clear from anyone’s eyes that she was avoiding me. But it wasn’t as if she didn’t listen to what I had to say.

Whatever the case, a sense of distance the word dubious was insufficient to describe had formed between us.

“Lyle, are you listening?”

“Eh, oh… I was not listening.”

When I gave an honest apology, Miranda breathed a sigh. Sitting on the bench, she changed over her crossed legs and folded her hands on her lap.

“I was asked quite a few things over there, and one of them was whether the legal wife’s been decided among us. What’s more, they said something about the Walt House’s precepts and such. I’d heard about them before, but were those precepts seriously preserved?”

The Walt House precepts were a lie the First had spouted through his drink. They were carried down generation after generation, and remained as our precepts.

“… I was still a child when I heard of them, so I couldn’t quite tell how seriously people were taking them. Anyways, it’s all about having a talented person as a bride, right? Rather, don’t you think those precepts are unnecessary at this… erk!?”

As we were talking, Novem’s gaze pierced into me. Hearing I was going to discard the precepts our founder left behind, she seemed extremely sorrowful.

Miranda did appear to notice, but she purposely pretended not to.

“I doubt it does you any harm to keep them. I mean, I clear them, so does it really matter?”

Miranda looked up at me as if to peer in.

“Y-yeah. Probably.”

There, Aria sitting in front of us looked at Miranda.

“One of the mansion people said they were relieved as long as Novem gave the permission. Then I doubt we have any that don’t clear them.”

It’s true that a majority of the members here had received Novem’s passing grade. The only one she ever gave a strong denial to was Lorphys’ royal princess.

Shannon was playing cat’s cradle with Elza. And Gracia was staring at them absentmindedly.

Winning out against Elza, Shannon made a triumphant pose before turning to me.

“Come to think of it, there’s something I’m curious about.”

“What is it?”

“What sort of people were the Walt House’s wives? See, when it comes to its heads, you told it all to Eva, so I hear it from her all the time, but I haven’t the slightest idea what sort of people the Walt House’s women were.”

When she asked me once more, I conceded there really were a lot of ambiguous points. At times harsh, at times gentle, I had seen their figures in the Jewel.

But I didn’t know the specifics on the ancestors’ wives… the Walt House women.

Eva’s interest was piqued, so she leaned forward.

“I want to hear it to. If the precepts were to welcome in talented women, then that means they were all prodigious ones, right?”

I folded my arms as I thought.

“That’s probably right.”

Shannon looked over Porter’s loading tray. May was on the ceiling. Clara was controlling Porter, so she wasn’t here. Monica knit as she spoke.

“Whoever they may be, as long as they can birth chicks, they are no different to us.”

… She was the same as always. Shannon looked at the members gathered in Porter.

“But there’s no way they were stranger than these members, right?”

There, Miranda looked around as well.

“Right. This may be the first since the start of the Walt House.”

She said and laughed. Everyone gave a, ‘quite right,’ as they laughed. But there was something I could feel from the air.

… Not a single one of them thought themselves to be the strange one. They were certain they were different…

But when I looked at Novem, she averted her eyes from me. No, rather from me, it felt as if she was having difficulty saying something.

“Novem, don’t you know a bit about it? … I mean, I’m sure there’re a few tidbits that’ve been passed down through the Forxuz House as well.”

When I sent over an ill-natured voice, Novem seemed panicked. She couldn’t just tell everyone she carried down the memories of an evil god. But if I asked like this, I doubt it would be too suspicious.

For some reason, Novem’s gaze was swimming around more than usual.

Seeing her like that, Eva thought something was up.

“Do you know an interesting story? There were plenty of them with the Walt House heads, so I’m sure their wives had their share as well. Or could it be they were dragged all over by their husbands or something?”

Perhaps everyone wanted to hear, as their eyes were full of expectations. Novem did try to evade it, but that wasn’t working out.

“I-I’m none too knowledgeable on the matter. And I heard the missus were all worthy of the Walt House precepts that promised to welcome in talented individuals. So let’s not let that trend end in Lyle-sama’s generation…”

Shannon grinned.

“Novem’s flustered. She definitely knows something.”

While Shannon had her share of hopeless points, the girl could read human emotions. Hearing that, Miranda sounded intrigued.

“How sneaky for you to keep everyone else in the dark. Out with it.”

Monica alone seemed uninterested as she knit.

“Fufu, with this, even if the chicks are born in dozens, we won’t be troubled with clothing. And no matter how you look at it, there will be several to several dozen born every year. There will be no end to serving them.”

As she swiftly continued to produce baby clothes, Monica was drooling.

I guess she wouldn’t be shaken no matter what happened.

Porter suddenly stopped.

As everyone’s stance crumbled, Novem was the first to cry out.

“Did something happen, Clara-san!?”

This lass is running away, or so spoke the eyes she ignored as she called for Clara. So Clara came down from the driver’s seat.

“No, there was a person in pain. There was, but…”

It seems the gist wasn’t getting across.

Opening the door to the loading tray, I saw May was taking a stance before the injured one. They person rolling along the ground in pain… half of their face had swelled, and their right hand showed a bizarre expansion.

While they were definitely in pain, it was an ominous sight.

“Urrrggggggggrrrrrrrrruuuuuu!! L-Lyyllleeee….!! Keeellllll!!”

It was almost like the growl of a beast. As I pulled the Katana at my waist, my comrades who’d descended gripped their weapons in hand. For the behavior of the other party was clearly bizarre.

And as she popped her face out the door, Shannon cried out.

“Eh? What’s with him… on top of being dead, there’s a monster latched… coming from inside of him.”

What I recalled was the scene of Breid using that drug to take on a monster-like appearance.

The flesh of the man’s form expanded, sprouting hair from there to a point where I could no longer call that figure human.

From the nearby woods, I could hear similar ominous growls.

As I looked around, I used a Skill.

There were a number of points directing clear hostility towards us. But they hadn’t been there just a moment before. They had suddenly sprung up.

“… Come to think of it, there weren’t any responses in the direction we were headed.”

Where did a collapsed human being come from? There were people my Skill couldn’t capture, but a majority of them were hiding with a Skill themselves.

I couldn’t think there were enough of those sorts around to surround us like this.

The knight surrounded the man who’d become monster.

“Stand back, Lyle-sama!”

The man suddenly leapt in our direction and collapsed again. Once he had completely become a monster, it looked as if he was a fusion of man and beast.

Monica looked at the enemy and muttered.

“Rather than a monster, he looks like he’s come straight out of a tokusatsu. But if he’s an enemy of my master, I shall eliminate him.”

As the surrounding knights tried to plunge in their weapons, the monster leapt up. It casually rose several tens of meters in the air, and in a similar fashion- leaping from the forest- other monsters began falling towards me.

Regripping the hilt, I was about to intercept them when a single woman whirled into the air.

“Novem.”

As she swung the heirloom staff she carried regularly, it took on the form of a large scythe to shred up the monsters. And landing on the ground, she was followed by a downpour of blood on all of us.

“Novem, you’re…”

I reached out my hand, but stopped it halfway. As she raised her face, her eyes were more muddled than I had ever seen them before.

Novem muttered. While looked at my hand lingering in the air.

“… You don’t have to push yourself, Lyle-sama. Even I understand that I’m creepy. But I merely couldn’t’ permit something like this to happen. I’ll be more careful next time.”

Saying that, Novem was smiling, yet I found it strangely scary. Her eyes muddled, and with that unnerving smile, her face soaked red in blood.

I was unable to call out to her.

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Sevens: Return

Return

… As Lyle’s main camp began its advance, Cartaffs had moved as well.

They shared a border, and that land had always been one with plenty of skirmishes to speak of.

When it came to invasion, Bahnseim showed a reaction at once.

At a stronghold in Bahnseim before the full-blown invasion of Cartaffs, a knight help his mouth open as he watched the scene from atop the fort.

“… That can’t be. Why are there flags besides Cartaffs’ raised!?”

The flags of Cartaffs’ neighboring countries.

And before the army they had never seen before, the knight in charge of the fort sent a messenger towards Centralle at once.

“Request reinforcements from Centralle. This fort won’t hold for long!”

While the messenger hurriedly raced off, the armies glared at one another across a river.

But even if the unprepared Bahnseim tried to gather hands, what they could amass was ten thousand at most.

“While they’re making a mess of the east, the queen of Cartaffs makes her move… but even if the east has fallen, there are still several hundreds of thousands of troops stationed in the south and west. Centralle still stands; we still have power to spare!”

The commander who said it so the surroundings knights and soldiers could hear was trying to put them at ease with his words.

But a messenger raced in to the fort protected the north. Carrying news that Faunbeux had moved, and the Margrave of Resno had turned coat. That in the south, the countries centered around Djanpear were moving…

… From atop her horse, Ludmilla looked at the fort across the river.

Many times had she launched an attack on that fort, at times taking and protecting it herself. Snatched back and forth, it was something of a symbol between Cartaffs and Bahnseim.

“Now then, I think it’s about time the messenger arrived.”

The Valkyrie to her side called over.

“Was there any meaning in purposely delaying your advance? You don’t seem very motivated about all this.”

Ludmilla looked at the Valkyrie as she giggled to herself.

“It goes without saying that it’s better to win without fighting. If I let myself be fashionably late, on top of them learning reinforcements weren’t going to come, the information would have spread of the attack on Bahnseim from all fronts. The enemy morale will plummet.”

The Valkyrie faced forwards.

“If you’re late to meet up, are you fine with using that as your excuse?”

Ludmilla wore a white, expensive-looking fur over the leather armor that covered her entire body. Over her shoulder she leaned her long-sword, still in its sheath.

“The north is the closest to Centralle. I’d rather refrain from diminishing my troops in a desire to be first. And the time we meet up is important. If we’re the first to crumble, it will affect the morale of our alliance.”

Acting as she sought profit for herself, Ludmilla grinned as she watched the approaching envoy of Bahnseim they’d sent over for negotiations…

… On the western front, having safely crossed through Margrave Resno’s territory, the armies centered around Faunbeux had begun their march.

The area’s barons, viscounts and varied feudal nobles gathered their vassals, showing preparations for a struggle to the bitter end, but no one had expected the Margrave tasked with protecting the border to let Faunbeux through without a fight.

Their preparations didn’t make it in time, and before they could meet up, many of them were crushed individually.

Faunbeux enthusiastically used this chance to reclaim the land the Walt House once shaved away from them, while Varius Resno infiltrated the new land he was to be granted and confirmed the territory.

He occupied the mansion of one of the barons, letting the Resno army use it as a stronghold.

The baron dragged out before him was bound with rope, lain down on his side.

“Margrave!? Do you understand!? This is a clear act of betrayal, is it not!”

Varius looked at the man before his eyes.

“The first to betray was the monarchy. Not only my heir, demanding I send his wife and my grandson as well… your family taken hostage, did you think nothing of it!?”

The baron glared at him.

“It’s the way of the noble! It’s not as if it never happened before! Yet led by feelings for your kin, you’ve turned coat on your country!”

Varius was unshaken.

“Who in their right mind would pledge devotion to a state without authority. The current Bahnseim does not have worth in serving, is all there is to it. You all have misread the flow of the times.”

And one of his men ran over.

“Varius-sama, the search of the mansion has been completed. As prior investigation has shown, he was already surrounded by lovers. There were children, and there doesn’t seem to be a doubt they’re the children of that baron.”

Varius looked down over the baron.

“… Knowing your family wouldn’t come back alive, you prepared another heir for yourself. You sold your family, did you?”

The baron made a bit of a maddened smile.

“And what of it? Passing down our blood is our obligation. I knew the people taken as hostages wouldn’t be safe. But… what of it!? If it’s for the peace of the house, I’ll cut them off even if family they be. That’s the way of the nobles”

Varius recalled the faces of his son, and his daughter-in-law and grandchild.

“Hmm. But your baron house ends here. I’ll say you died in battle with honor. If your family is still alive, we’ll look after them. I have nothing but pity for the family you discarded.”

As the baron was carried off, Varius covered his face with his left hand.

“Varius-sama.”

One of his subordinates showed worry, so Varius spoke.

“… Even when all he said was correct, here I am worrying for the safety of my son. It’s nothing more than a faint hope, but if he is still alive… no, I’m scared to find out. What state my son is in.”

His subordinate knight looked down as well.

Celes the terrible. A woman who’d calmly lay hands on even those who adored her.

Varius spoke so his men.

“For now, we’ll move on. If we’re late to meet up, there’s a possibility that will be used as a reason to reduce our territory. Let’s hurry to suppress our next target.”

As the man left the room, his subordinates abided by his orders…

… The South.

After Djanpear provoked Bahnseim, it immediately fled into the mountains and tempted them to follow.

They made it look as if they could only fight on their specialized battlefield. The surrounding countries had moved, and now that they knew they were being attacked from all four directions, Bahnseim’s side was showing something close to impatience.

They likely wanted to defeat Djanpear at once to offer relief to the other fronts.

“We’re being made light of.”

Djanpear’s king Jules had a white cloth draped over the shoulder of his armor, that continued to wrap around his waist. It was adorned with gold, and stood out considerably.

“Your majesty, are we simply to keep attracting the southern soldiers in like this?”

“That’s the plan. They have the advantage on flat land. Well, I do plan to attack if they show their backs, but… the enemy may crumble before they get the change.”

The feudal nobles of the south, upon hearing of the continent’s movements, were quite compelled to consider an occupational change.

And in truth, even if they fought, Jules could see Bahnseim losing its motivation. He touched a hand to his chin.

“Now then, around how far has our favorite little leader gotten?”

As Jules said that, the Valkyrie nearby answered.

“The area under the capital’s direct control is already before his eyes. He is in the middle of exchanging blows with the final feudal lord on his path.”

Jules, upon hearing that.

“The east already lost before, and he absorbed in their soldiers. They can’t put up any resistancy resistance, huh. In that case, we’ve got to properly nail down the southern soldiers.”

He said.

(If possible, I’d like to subdue the southern lords and race to his aid to sell a favor. If I do, that one won’t have trouble finding marriage. I can’t leave her in the country, and she’s nothing but trouble, so I have to somehow push her onto… I mean entrust her to good hands. Ludmilla-dono seemed worried as well, so I’ve got to make a move myself.)

Jules thought over how to force his problematic half-sister onto the leader as he thought over his next plan…

… An army of approximately a hundred and ninety thousand stood before the area under direct royal control, surrounding the city of the last feudal lord.

It was Lyle’s main force, but for now it wasn’t showing any movement.

From the pleasant advance they had experienced to that point, out of breath… they were not. They took some rest as they carried negotiations with the other parties.

The ones charged with it were Baldoir and Maksim.

An envoy from the count had come, sweating with an indescribable expression as he explained the present situation.

Within the tent, the envoy stood before the two as he looked as if he were desperately giving an excuse.

“W-we’re quite confused, and we’ve no idea what happened… i-it’s true we were pointing our spears your way, but blue beads of light suddenly started falling and we regained our sanity, or how should I put it…”

Before Lyle left.

He had undone Celes’ charm on the area. For that sake, the belligerent Count House had suddenly grown half-hearted.

Baldoir spoke with sympathy for his plight.

“Why not take some time to calm down? We can’t carry out any decent negotiations when you’re in such a state. I recommend you return and get your feelings in order.”

The envoy addressed him.

“H-however! There’s no way we can calm down with such a great army before us. Voices of anxiety are already raising from within…”

Maksim crossed his arms.

“That’s your circumstance, and no business of us. Once your internal administration has calmed down, get your policies in order and we can start up negotiation once more. Well, we need to establish a definite period. For now, come again after a week’s gone by.”

Seeing the envoy’s shoulders dropped, it hurt their hearts. Once they had sent him back, the two men breathed out their sighs. Baldoir wiped his sweat.

“With this, we can buy some time and get off without having to work towards public order.”

Maksim shared his sentiment.

“If we rush in at once, it will be a pain to manage. And we can’t advance while Lyle-dono isn’t here. It would be troublesome if the soldiers ran amok inside the city.”

The two of them were doing what they could to conceal Lyle’s absence, sending back the messenger and earning some time.

Baldoir raised his face.

“… We’ve somehow made it possible for Lyle-sama’s return.”

He said quite sorrowfully…

In the ancestors’ memories within the Jewel, I had seen the mansion a number of times.

But seeing it in reality brought out yet another emotion.

“The details have changed here and there. I guess time flows for mansions as well.”

There was a stone statue in the center of the fountain just beyond the gate. But the statue’s shape was different to the one I had seen in the Jewel.

Novem to my side spoke without a change in expression.

“… It was destroyed when Maizel-sama and Claire-sama were having a lover’s tiff. They did piece it back together, but Maizel-sama said he had grown tired of it.”

A lover’s tiff… it does seem my father had a Walt House-esque side to him as well.

Looking around, I could see the servants collapsing at the knees, covering their faces with their hands. Those that had taken up their weapons in an attempt to sever their own lives were surrounded and suppressed by the knights we’d brought along.

I had come to the Walt House in the country’s south west.

We had infiltrated in small numbers, but through the guidance of the Walt House knights and soldiers we’d brought along, we got in quite easily.

And from there, I used the Jewel to dispel Celes’ curse.

Aria and Miranda came up to me.

“Lyle, we’ve brought him over.”

“The Walt House’s stewards sure are extreme. He’d already begun writing a will, you know. Should I say he’s quick to recover, or impulsive.”

I stood before the steward of the mansion.

“… What happened to old man Zell’s hut?”

The steward kept his head down.

“My deepest apologies, young master… My deepest…”

Shannon behind me pulled on my clothes.

“Lyle, now’s no good. It seems he’s really in despair. Let him have some rest.”

Thinking she was exactly right, I spoke up.

“I give no permission for suicide. That’s an order. And I’ve no particular intent to punish. I’ll station guards, but you should rest a while for the day.”

As I walked off, Eva and May looked over the mansion.

“Doesn’t really give the liberated feeling. It’s just really sad, or rather, it feels as if we’ve done a bad thing.”

“More importantly, I’m more worried about that one. Look, he’s coming!”

The one charging at us was a single knight. The structure of his face could be classified as beautiful; a baby-faced knight one might think of as cute.

“Get out of here! Washout of the Walt House!!”

With a bloodcurdling expression, he pulled the sword at his waist and cut at me. The guard knight who hurriedly leapt out was cut, and Eva and May leapt out before me.

I nudged them aside, and pulled the Katana at my waist. The rare metal Katana that had finally been successfully tempered let off a pale light.

As I cut with the momentum built up as I pulled it from its sheath, I cut through the knight, sword and all.

As I wiped off the blood on the blade, I looked at my foe.

“I don’t recognize him.”

One of the mansion’s knight let out a weak voice.

“… H-he was Celes-sama’s favorite knight. Ever since Celes-sama left for the capital, he was left aside. He spent every day mumbling to himself.”

He had likely sworn loyalty to Celes from the depths of his heart. Not under her curse, a true pledge of faith.

“So there are those sort as well. Understood. Treat the guard knight. And collect all their weapons. If they oppose, I mind it not if you retaliate.”

As I issued orders, I headed for the place I had accepted the Jewel.

“… Zell, I’m back. I’m sorry. I… didn’t make it in time.”

Where not even the burn marks remained, the lot the hut once stood was the only place the grass didn’t grow.

It was here that I once received the Jewel.

If old man Zell wasn’t there, I’m sure I wouldn’t be here now.

Eva approached us.

“Lyle, I’ve brought them. Zell-san’s family.”

Turning, I looked at Zell’s family. His grandson had grown, while his son and daughter were in good years. I could even see a great grandchild. I gave a simple explanation and offered my thanks to the family.

Right after that, Gracia returned. It seems she had bought what I’d asked her to.

“This is all I could get. Well, given the season perhaps it can’t be helped.”

Taking the bouquet of flower, I placed it where the hut once stood.

Elza looked around.

“It really was in quite the hidden place.”

Clara looked at me.

“So you wanted to show it to us? Is that how it is?”

I shook my head at her and denied it.

“That’s not it. I wanted to show it to him. That I’m alright. Truth be told, I wanted to become a first-rate adventurer and repay the favor. But I didn’t make it in time…”

Monica didn’t use her usual joking tone.

“So he’s your life’s savior? Then he is our savior as well. I’m surprised he managed to maintain his mind and live in this mansion of madness. I’m sure he went through much pain.”

There, old Zell’s son spoke.

“When the adventurers’ guild betrayed and ran amok within the territory, my father was injured. I heard it was right before he was to rise from a soldier to a knight. The house’s head was absent, and it seems he fought to protect it no matter what, but… he was unable to answer the head’s expectations, and it seems he regretted for the rest of his days.”

I never knew old Zell had such a past.

But I knew why the Seventh kept him by his side.

“No, my grandfather was thankful of old Zell. His expectations were more than answered. And I owe your father my life. If anything troubles you, say it to me. I’ll at least protect his family for him.”

The son shook his head.

“Those words would have been enough for my father. And we have a house and some assets. The previous generation’s head was quite kind to us.”

I thought over the Seventh’s mindfulness.

“I see. Then if anything happens, come over.”

Saying that, I turned to where the hut used to be once more.

In a small voice.

“… I wasn’t able to become a first-rate adventurer, but I hope you’ll forgive me for that.”

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Sevens: Common Sense

Common Sense

… Miranda looked down over the lines of soldiers from the moving fortress.

On the stage that had been prepared stood Lyle in his armor. On top of his various gestures, Eva was putting on a musical accompaniment from the shadows, all while using her Skill to make his voice reach over two hundred thousand soldiers.

“It sure was a swift road to get here.”

One of the largest factors was the luck Lyle had been blessed with. No, you could call it chance.

To those making preparations, a pinch was a form of chance. Under a hopeless situation, Lyle took advantage of the recapture of Zayin to expand his influence.

While Lyle was once a good kid from some well-to-do upbringing, at this point he was giving an address to an army of hundreds of thousands.

“… If we wished to be clever, then our best bet would be to wait for Bahnseim’s exhaustion before our invasion. We would surely be able to achieve victory without any effort on our part. There would be no need for us to push ourselves to fight now.”

Listening to Lyle’s words as he suddenly denied this invasion, Miranda looked around. Lined up near Lyle were the ones who had fought alongside him from his early days: Novem, Aria, Shannon, Clara, Eva and May. Monica was working behind the scenes.

“But even as we speak, blood continues to flow. If we leave it be, Bahnseim will surely spread death throughout the entire continent. I cannot permit it. Overlooking evil and waiting until victory makes its own way to us; can you really call that justice!? No, that is no justice of mine! In order to save this continent, in order to bring about peace! No matter how difficult a battle it may be, I have resolved to fight! Ladies, gentlemen. Gallant soldiers! I beseech you lend me your strength! For justice, to save the continent from the evil deeds of Bahnseim, I beseech you lend me your lives! The outcome of this battle hinges on the work of all the heroic men and women of the army!”

He declared they were justice, and prepared a just cause of saving the continent. Even if he didn’t exaggerate it, word of Celes’ evil deeds had spread.

And being short on time was something Lyle shared. If he spent the time, he could definitely get his forces more orderly. He could assemble an army more powerful.

But rather than winning a war, the existence called Celes was too dangerous. Rather than winning a war, Lyle thought that winning against Celes would prove the more difficult.

Vera who moved the fortress watched Lyle from the window of a room. In the lines of troops were the forms of Gracia and Elza.

Where the higher-ups marched were Thelma, Aura and Gastone from Zayin. From Lorphys, Annerinne and the prime minister Lonbolt. There were the forms of merchants as well. Fidel, for one, seemed quite bored with his life.

Lianne and Adele were in that line as well.

And Baldoir and Maksim who commanded armies of their own stood lined in their armor.

“This battle will be remembered by the ages. Gallant soldiers. Win and add your name to the ranks of heroes! Justice is on our side! The goddess smiles down upon us!”

Standing to Miranda’s side, Shannon was positioning herself so the soldiers couldn’t see as she yawned.

“He sure runs his mouth. Fearing that Celes will be absorbed by Agrissa, he’s just trying to attack as quickly as he can. And we’re attacking because we know we’ll win anyways, right?”

The harvest was over, and the times had calmed down. It was the time of year when you could gather the most soldiers, and the most convenient for a battle. That was the same for Bahnseim’s side as well.

But in the exhausted land of Bahnseim, Centralle was the only one left who could put up any decent resistance according to the information they’d gathered.

“Knowing you’ll win without a doubt lowers your guard, and lowering your guard is dangerous. A sense of danger puts some desperation in your step. And it’s not like you’re certain to win as long as you’ve got a large army together.”

Miranda looked at the looks on the faces of the lines of soldiers. They were showing some motivation hearing the word justice. In all actuality, they did believe themselves to be in the right. If they didn’t think so, they wouldn’t fight. If it were for their families’ sakes, they’d take their weapons. But in a distant land, a place where none could tell if it would even benefit their homes at all, it was difficult to find a reason to fight on.

A just cause was necessary. No matter how grand an illusion it may be.

“They’re all looking at him with faces that know too well how he turned down a large army with a small force. It’s irritating. I mean, it’s like they’ll only ever fight if they have the absolute advantage.”

“And preparing such a situation is ours and Lyle’s job. Well, just leave your complaints there.”

Instead of the Katana hung at his waist, Lyle held up an ornamental sword for good show. The soldiers answered his voice and raised their cries.

The air shook, as if their zeal was to blow away the morning cold.

“… All troops, advance!”

By Eva’s Skill, Lyle’s voice reached every single one of the gathered troops…

… As Lyle marched, Lianne had work in the rear, so she was to return to the castle at once.

But Unit Thirty Four had a duty to guard Lyle, so she couldn’t accompany her this time. In front of the carriage, the Valkyrie conversed with Lianne.

“Even if I’m not with you, you can’t put in an extra serving of sugar.”

At Unit Thirty Four’s spiel, a vein was popping up on Lianne’s forehead.

“You’re truly a rude person to the end.”

Unit Thirty Four touched a hand to her mouth.

“Too bad. I’m an automaton.”

Seeing Unit Thirty Four’s laugh, Lianne let out a sigh.

“Come back soon. I’ll work you to the bone.”

The Valkyrie smiled. Not in her usual maid uniform, she wore a blue set of armor with a wing-like binder on her back. For the Valkyries’ usage, there were simple horse-shaped automatons prepared, and to Unit Thirty Four’s side was a horse of clockwork construction.

Saying there was no elegance to a bike, the Valkyries were quite insistent on the horses.

“Is that supposed to be tsundere? Unfortunately something of that level is nothing more than a reward to us. Even if you say you hate me, I shall keep serving you until you are ruined without me.”

The tip of her hair had been fastened with the pink string she received from Lianne.

“… Hah, no matter what I say you find delight. You must live quite the happy life there. Well, it’s good to have a person who’ll let you work them to the bone. And it’s good you don’t betray.”

On Lianne’s speech, Unit Thirty four touched her mouth with her hand.

“If you bare fangs at my master that is a separate story. Do not worry. The chick alone I will take responsibility for and raise. Like a loving mother, like a loving sibling, like a loving lover… wait, what!? Could it be that way would be the most interesting?”

As something quite unsettling ran through Unit Thirty Four’s head, Lianne gave it a good whack.

“Just go already! When you get back, I’ll be correcting that personality of yours.”

As Thirty Four got on her horse she smiled.

“That’s impossible. This is the standard installation.”

She said as she parted from Lianne…

While we marched, our main force generally consisted of a hundred thousand.

Baldoir and Maksim-san each led fifty thousand down a separate route, and to make sure we weren’t assaulted from behind, we surprised the important points as we advances.

However…

“Commence the bombardment!”

On the third floor of the moving fortress was the machine built to move it. There, Vera and the Trēs House captain and sailors operated the fortress.

As fire was set to the cannons protruding from its mechanical bulk, the fortress shook.

By the bombardment Vera ordered from the moving fortress, the outer wall of a Bahnseim fort was easily breached.

A fort with only a handful of knights capable of using magic was no foe of ours. The white flag came up at once, and I gave the order to take the fort. With that alone, the forces moved and suppressed it.

“There’s nothing to do.”

“Sitting quietly is also a job. Well, to the rank and file, this is their time to earn some merits. Don’t do anything too crazy.”

“I know.”

General Blois was nearby, sitting in a chair.

I had taken ten thousand off the main force, left them to Aria and Miranda, and turned them towards the lords who wouldn’t make their stance clear.

Monica nearby skillfully poured tea in the swaying fortress and offered it to me.

“Message in from Miranda-san. Alongside Elza-san, she has successfully taken the designated village. Just surrounding them was enough for them to surrender.”

General Blois took some tea as well.

“I’m sure they would. From the start of our march, it’s only taken a few days to get quite a distance. We’ve got a momentum where we’ll crush them down if they oppose. What do you intend to do to the lords who’ve surrendered?”

I took a sip of tea as I spoke.

“I’ll lower their status to knighthood and send them out pioneering.”

“So you’re driving them off to the corners of the continent? That’s one way to get hated.”

I laughed a bit.

“I’m already hated plenty.”

There Monica spoke to me.

“Aria-san is facing a hard battle.”

My eyebrow twitched.

“A hard battle even with Gracia by her side? So they had some talented ones left?”

The place I left to Aria wasn’t on a scale to take on an army of ten thousand. As I wondered what sort of problem could have happened, she continued on.

“No, it seems they are carrying out negotiations for surrender, but talks aren’t getting through to the other party. They demand peace for their territory, and a worthy status once a chicken reigns victorious. In the case you refuse, they are willing to put up a do-or-die resistance.”

General Blois made an understanding expression.

“Ah, they’re out there. The feudal lords who don’t look at the surrounding situation. As I recall, he should be a Baronet, and a vassal to another.”

I reached my hand towards the Jewel, but partway there, I clenched my fist and endured it.

(I’m too quick to try and rely on them. That’s no good at all.)

I recalled the words of my ancestors.

“Tell Aria I’m leaving it to her. I could go out if I had to, but this is something she needs to learn. If there’s no way she can work it out, tell her to send another message. And make preparations to send reinforcements of twenty thousand at a moment’s notice.”

General Blois spoke.

“You should have assigned her someone good at negotiations.”

I smiled.

“Well, she’s got to be able to do this much. And an even tougher opponent awaits right ahead.”

The general made quite a reluctant face.

“Ah, the feudal lord in question. If this is the vassal’s attitude, perhaps the vassaler is just as bad.”

… With the negotiations left to her, Aria faced Gracia.

The reply from the Valkyrie was, ‘all yours,’ so Aria and Gracia were mulling their heads over it.

Gracia’s line of sight was swimming around the tent.

“W-what do we do? I can usually handle these sorts of negotiations with power, but should we invade with a few thousand to show off our might?”

Aria was troubled. Gracia was even more of a muscle head than she was, but she never thought she’d be this inept at everything apart from battle. Since she was leading a single country, she had thought she would at least be good at negotiations, but that didn’t seem to be the case.

“No, that’s not quite right. They’ve already said they’d surrender, so we’ve got to negotiate, for argument’s sake.”

But Gracia cried out.

“Then you mean to say you’ll accept those tones!? When we’re seizing the other territories, what’s more, apprehending their lords, that guy alone gets his safety guaranteed!? It would be much quicker just to invade and take it!”

The territory only had a few hundred soldiers, but they were quite strong-willed.

“I can’t comprehend why they’d be so stubborn either!”

There, a knight entered the tent.

“Um, they’re getting impatient over when you’re going to send the negotiator.”

When Aria and Gracia turned towards him, the knight let out an, ‘Eeek!’ The two women hurriedly formed tranquility on their faces and sent him back peacefully.

Aria spoke.

“A-anyways, we have to teach him the reality of the matter.”

Gracia made a reluctant face.

“I don’t think talks will get through. He’s looking down on us for some reason.”

When they were leading an army of such scale, Aria never thought their opponent could act so stubborn. And as Gracia said, she thought it would have been much easier if had come down to a battle…

… On the other hands, on Miranda’s side.

Sitting in a chair of her tent, she folded her legs in her armor.

There was a Baronet before her eyes, trying his best to plead for his territory’s stability. Without a negotiator role to mediate, she had called right for the feudal lord.

“… We have no choice but to follow our lord’s will. I’d like you to take our circumstance into consideration.”

Miranda directed the feudal lord a smile.

“So you’re fine if you’re attacked, overthrown and destroyed in our march? And you’ve officially declared you’d side with the throne of Bahnseim, did you not? When you proclaimed your hostility, I don’t think you understand your position.”

The Baronet… speaking to his territory’s scope, he was a lord with a few hundred soldiers under his belt, but the lord he was vassaled to, the one with the largest land in the area was of the Bahnseim faction, so he had declared hostility towards Lyle. When it really came down to it, no aid was coming from his lord, and the enemy forces numbered several hundred thousand. What’s more, ten thousand soldiers had already come to surround them.

Even if the lord and other vassals scraped what they had together, first off, it would be impossible to put out ten thousand troops form this territory.

“… Your territory is confiscated. If you want your family name to live on, then start over from knight rank. You’re permitted the right to claim uncultivated land. If you don’t like that, then fight until you’re the last one standing. Of course… I wonder who your people will be siding with.”

On Miranda’s words, the feudal lord made a pale expression. From the peoples’ point of view, it was a light sentence if they could get off with a simple change of lord.

“It’s a good opportunity to test just how beloved you were by your people. Go forth and prepare yourself. I’ll give you the time.”

If he was beloved by his populace, there was a possibility they’d help him resist to the bitter end. But prior investigation had already made clear that wasn’t happening.

“I do hope you’re not killed by your own people.”

Miranda said it to him with a smile.

A cold sweat flowed down Elza nearby as she watched Miranda.

Watching over the Baronet as he led his knights from the tent, the Valkyrie on duty offered a word.

“With this, you have suppressed all the designated villages. I will send in the report.”

As Miranda stood, she asked the Valkyrie.

“So how are things going on Aria’s side?”

“… Negotiations are not going anywhere. It seems her opponent is making things difficult.”

“Aria, what are you doing. Good grief…”

Perhaps Elza thought it strange, so she asked Miranda.

“Look at the scale of our army. I’m sure that his lord would hole himself up in how own territory. Why did that baronet think reinforcements were on their way?”

Miranda looked at her.

“Even if reinforcements didn’t come, he’s survived by changing over to whatever side came on top. To this point that had always been normal, so he grew panicked when he heard his land was confiscated. See, even if you take away the land, you still need someone to manage it, right?”

“No I admit it’s necessary, but in that case, doesn’t that make it dangerous now that this area’s manager is gone?”

Miranda smiled.

“It’s fine. This place will become one of the lands we’ll give out as a reward later. The rewards we can give are limited, so this area’s just going to have to become a sacrifice. They were unlucky. Well, a lack of luck is a fatal defect to one who stands above others. So this place will cleanly be up and gone. It’s their fault for thinking their provincial rule was going to carry on forever.”

Elza swore to herself she wouldn’t go against Miranda…

… On the other hand, on Aria’s side.

“Confiscation of the territory is out of the question! If we lose power, you think rule will be possible!?”

The strong-willed negotiator knight was a middle-aged, bearded man. He boasted a loud voice, and no matter how many times they explained it, Aria side’s words weren’t getting through.

“In the first place, what is the meaning of enlisting women in military service!? Your side’s shorthandedness is clear enough, and if you don’t have our cooperation, you will be unable to manage this territory! You think we can hand over the land we worked so hard to establish order in to such folk!?”

It’s not as if everything he said was wrong. But despite this level of will he displayed, the other party was of losing standing.

Gracia spoke irritatedly.

“Then go back and prepare for war. If our words are not enough for you, we’ll make it clear on the battlefield.”

The negotiator.

“We’ve already voiced our surrender! To attack those who’ve surrendered to you, and you still call yourselves knights!? You’re no different from bandits lacking in common sense!”

Aria addressed the negotiator.

“And that ain’t the attitude of someone who’s surrendered! You listenin’? We’re telling you our conditions are the confiscation of the territory and its wealth. We’ll spare the life of the lord responsible.”

“What ignorance! I can see you know not the manners of war. There is no way this territory can be left to such a person. Call your superior!”

The country called Bahnseim was a large one. That’s precisely why when it came to wars between territories that when beyond skirmishes, taking everything from the smaller territories of vassals and the like would bring about problems in rule. Rule between different parts of Bahnseim was relatively similar so upon victory they’d take everything, vassals included, or perhaps just take a portion of the vassals for their own.

While there are times some fell to ruin, if they surrendered, accepting them in was the common sense of Bahnseim. It was a national rule, and Beim and other places did not practice it.

What’s more, perhaps the lord had told the negotiator to pull out the conditions no matter the costs, but the man was quite desperate as if his life was on the line.

With blue veins rising on their foreheads, Aria and Gracia carried an air as if they’d cut down the negotiator at any moment.

“You’ll pull your blades!? If you’re to cut down the messenger, the nature of your lord shall be known! Now kill me! Kill me and display my head if you will!”

The resident Valkyrie let out a sigh.

“Hah, the two of you come over here. There is a message from my master.”

Once the Valkyrie whispered into their ears, they turned back to the negotiator. Feeling anxious as she was, Aria spoke.

“… The lives of you and your family are guaranteed. And you’re a retainer, right? If it’s now, while you’ll be sent off to uncultivated land, we’ll prepare the title of knights and the funds for you to make a start. While you’ll be in a remote region, we guarantee you won’t be vassal to another. If you have anyone taken hostage, we will send around hands to rescue them.”

The negotiator man’s eyes opened wide as his face turned bright red. When they thought he was going to yell again.

“… Um, my daughter’s been married off, so I’d like if you could send word to that house as well. I’ve been in the care of the house she married into quite a bit. If you do, I’ll make preparations to accept your terms at once! I’ll be able to persuade the others!”

He folded so easily…

Posted in Sevens | Tagged | 39 Comments

Sevens: Moving Fortress

Moving Fortress

“I definitely did say it. That just like your large Porter, it would be nice if we had one we could spend the night in. I did say it, but… let’s learn some self-restraint, Damien.”

The allied forces gathering in Rhuvenns one after the next.

The place we’d prepared was an open space without anything, or rather a grassy plain and yet now it seemed as if a large town had formed. There were lines of tents, among them merchants peddling their wares and troupes performing their acts as well.

In a corner, a few dozen of Damien’s large-scale Porters were lined up. In order to move large numbers of goods, they were specially made to use magic ore as their power source. In regards to transport, it’s a fact that Porter had made it considerably easier.

Damien held his staff mismatched with his small build over his shoulders, yawning as he looked at an especially large Porter.

“It wasn’t me. Though I helped with the blueprints. And I worked with the automatons on the fuel source and such, but the one who proposed it was old Letarta.”

I sent a glance to Letarta, his tools in hand as he issued orders to his apprentices. He stuck up a smile and directed me a smile.

“It’s a man’s romance. Because a moving fortress is a badass thing to have.”

He does have a point.

… I mean no!

“Just how much money did it cost? And wait, within that harsh schedule, you made something like this?”

In regards to my question, Damien seemed uninterested.

“Isn’t is fine? He called it a fortress, but it’s really a mobile workshop. Automaton maintenance , equipment maintenance and production. The only other thing it has is a few cannons.”

Looking up at the small mobile fortress, I noticed the surrounding soldiers watching it with their mouths stuck open, and my urge to remonstrate someone for this didn’t die down.

Damien smiled.

“There’s a room for your party as well. Though it’s a narrow one. And it can deploy a stage to make you conspicuous. Like this.”

As Damien held up his staff, the moving fortress slowly began to move. On the front portion a stage definitely did rise, and it was conspicuous enough

He put his staff against his shoulder.

“It’s that, isn’t it? Your tactics are fundamentally defensive, so I think this machine to make an encampment at a moment’s notice will prove quite useful.”

I looked up at the fortress.

“Rather than useful, in the first place this thing’s magic ore expenditure will…”

Old Letarta cut in with a smile.

“Listen to this. You see that smokestack over there? That’s the motion engine, and by shoveling magic stones into it, it’s been made to move by the power of steam. We weren’t able to turn a profit, but it wasn’t our money we were using to begin with, so we thought it would be fine if we pushed our limits.”

“… The one paying is me, right? The one with the obligation to pay in the end is me, right!?”

Damien and old Letarta averted their eyes. These guys had made me a sacrifice to their own fantasies. This is no good. They were the types I should never have put together and left alone.

The pair let out some thin voices.

“… We did properly answer to your demands.”

“Y-yes. We answered them perfectly. And we did properly build others as well.”

They didn’t get it at all.

“You didn’t answer my demands at all on the financial front! What’s with this, when I thought things were taking a turn for the better, in the end this is what I get!”

The ones who raced over at my scream were Valkyrie Units One, Two and Three. They were wearing blue armor of higher quality than before. The clothing they wore underneath was white, and made in way that would make me accept if someone called them true Valkyries. Their binders looked even more wing-like than before.

Well, the contents were still no good.

“Oh? So you’re financially over after all. Well, I knew it would happen.”

Unit One said as if she knew it, and Units Two and Three nodded as well.

If you knew, then say something.

“You’re all getting punished for this later.”

There the three looked at me with leisurely smile, where Unit One upened her mouth as a representative. Her expression as if she was delighted.

“A punishment! We’ll… be waiting for it!”

It’s no good. There’s not a decent one around me.

At that moment, Vera walked over to me. Behind her were the sailors carrying parcels and guns.

“Vera? Why are you here?”

Vera pointed at the moving fortress.

“I’m the financer of that thing. It’s really my father, but as things were going we realized you wouldn’t be able to burden the costs so we dealt with it ourselves. And isn’t this pretty much a ship on land? Then we’re the ones most suited to move it. The fuel’s pretty much the same anyways.”

Come to think of it, Vera’s ship had a similar motion engine loaded onto it. If you put magic stoens in its hearth, it definitely did…

“Eh? You’re coming along too? No, that’s dangerous…”

“It’s dangerous for everyone. What’s more, I’m used to fight scenes, and everyone else is an engineer, so they’re amateurs when it comes to operating it.”

Letarta folded his arms as he nodded.

“She’s not wrong. But we never knew you were coming, young lady.”

Vera let out a sigh.

“I don’t intend to concede this right to another. Well, when I think of it as a ship on land, I do have some interest. And wait, this is quite large scale.”

Vera looked around and was shocked by the scale. But this wasn’t all our forces. There were armies gathering elsewhere as well.

The main force I was stationed at. And two detached forces. These three armies were just short of crossing two hundred thousand. Adding the alliance and increasing our forces by absorbing in the soldiers that ran and the bandits.

“The main body numbers a hundred thousand. Besides this, there are two armies of fifty thousand. The first is under Baldoir and the other under Maksim-san.”

“Oh that’s a surprise. What about General Blois?”

“I’m leaving command of the main force to him. This is basically going to end once we march into the country’s east, so I doubt there will be a large battle until Centralle makes a move.”

Right… come so far, the Walt House’s defeat was working its charm. Among the feudal nobles, there didn’t exist a lord who could put up a decent fight against us.

Even if they tried to get together and fight, if you asked if feudal lords could just get together and fight properly, the answer was ‘no’. Not wanting to serve under one another was a reason, but the largest problem was that they wouldn’t be able to gather an army to combat two hundred thousand troops.

Bahnseim was considerably weakened.

“By Rauno-san’s investigation if they were capable of decent judgement, they’d have switched to our side. Of all else, Bahnseim’s royalty in Centralle hasn’t moved in the slightest. No matter how many times they request aid, there’s no signs of them making any move.”

Listening in to the talk, Damien spoke uninterestedly.

“Couldn’t that mean there are lords who chose not to choose? See, there are quite a few people who think you just have to join the side that comes on top in the end.”

Vera nodded.

“That’s right. People who can’t read the flow. There could be a relatively large amount of them among nobles.”

I addressed them.

“I, you see, I circulated notice for everyone to make it clear who they sided with. And in truth, there are some who heard the rumors and joined up with us or made their escape. When I’ve done that much, siding with no one is no good, right? Sorry, but I’ll be taking their land and treasures. It’s a different story if they have a reason they can’t move. But there are houses that chose to side with us whose head is absent and whose successor hasn’t even reached ten.”

Compared to those houses, what should I say about the ones who properly have their lords yet are waiting and watching? And there was another troublesome problem.

There were plenty to aim to do the same thing Bahnseim did when Agrissa was defeated. Meaning those that were selling themselves to me at a high price.

I smiled.

“Well, I’d like some land post-war, so we’ll need quite a number of feudal lords to disappear. Just with some light calculations, divvying up Beim and Rhuvenns isn’t nearly enough. If we break it up, we wouldn’t be able to oppose other countries, our authority will fade, and we won’t be able to glare them to silence.”

Vera looked at me.

“You’re quite dry when it comes to these thing. Looking at your usual conduct, I thought your pity would come out”

I recalled myself not too long ago.

“This and that happened and it’s rubbed off on me. I do love me some pretty ideals, but both me and Celes have earned too much hatred. I want to make it so I can win and leave it to the next generation without issue.”

Anyways, I wanted to get my hands on a stable foothold. For that sake there were too many feudal lords in the way.

Old Letarta looked over at me.

“Bro, you’re quite the villain.”

I smiled.

“That’s where you’re wrong. I mean I’m… the great evil who’ll stain the pages of history. But if I win I’m the hero.”

I mean, to make sure we and Bahnseim weren’t the only ones exhausted from this, I had dragged the entire continent into this decisive battle.

… Rauno had infiltrated Bahnseim.

He was in a town governed by a Bahnseimian feudal noble, exchanging info with his subordinates in the bar. When it came to bars, they were supposed to grow rowdy come the fall of night, but from the food they put out and the scarcity of customers, Rauno could sense Bahnseim was considerably exhausted.

One of his subordinates disguised as a traveler looked around.

“It’s all run down. And the food they put out is terrible.”

On the plate rested a thin soup and a small piece of bread. Other than that were just a few scraps of snack to go with the drink.

The ones playing the part of travelers were a two-man elven party. Even if they travelled around, elves didn’t arouse much suspicion, what’s more, once he became a knight, the two of them had volunteered for service.

“According to our brethren, everywhere’s the same.”

“But Centralle’s a bit of an ominous one. Even if they sing their songs and gather customers around, it’s almost as if they can’t feel any spirit from them… and they don’t know the definition of liveliness. According to him, it’s as if the fire’s gone out. It was simply too ominous that he fled as soon as he could.”

Rauno put the gathered information in order.

“There will be nothing but complaints no matter what route they choose. The food shortages are terrible. There are too many places that won’t make it through the winter.”

As he worried, Rauno thought over something that would prove even more troubling than that.

(Even so, what reasons do the feudal lords I can’t think to have been charmed have to follow Bahnseim?)

There were territories that had been charmed and proclaimed they’d put up a do-or-die resistance. But on the other hands, there were plenty of territories with no relation to Celes at all that didn’t try going to Lyle’s side. He got the feeling it wasn’t out of a sense of justice, or because Lyle and Celes were from the same Walt House.

He addressed his men.

“To finish it off, we’ll be going to Dalien. The plans to meet up there.”

Seeing them nod, Rauno worried for the state of their final destination Dalien…

… Heading the transport unit, Clara’s eyebrows twitched as she watched the scene unfolding before her eyes.

Field potatoes gathered from North Beim were loaded and overflowing from the wooden crates in what clearly seemed like overkill. Brimming with vitality, they were a troublesome potato variant that would continue to multiply if you left them be.

In places that existed beyond human hands, they existed in too-large quantities. In managed places they were disposed of in moderation.

The reason you couldn’t get your hands on them in much of Bahnseim was because most of the area had been settled. Yet once the stocking of field potatoes had begun in North Beim, the city’s populace had found loads and brought them in.

A reaction fitting of the people of Beim, whose level of motivation completely changed when they knew money was involved.

And looking at the mountain of potatoes, Adele who had proclaimed she’s pay for them was making a pale face.

“… It’s true there’s been some confusion from last year, but for there to be so many… what should I do. Our funds are… we’ve secured food rations but our funds are…”

The one standing beside her was an individual who wasn’t supposed to be there by any means… Maksim.

“It’s alright, Adele-sama. This Maksim shall collect money from all those that wish to exchange it for food stock.”

Adele looked at Maksim.

“I’ll leave it to you Maksim. Otherwise it’ll hinder our plans.”

Clara looked at the two of them.

“I have no obligation to say it, but this is your parting before a great war, so could you stray from the topic of money? And this pile of field potatoes… even if you prepare them well, they’re still considerably terrible, right?”

Their hands gripping one another, Adele and Maksim turned to Clara.

“It’s the conclusion I thought up to resolve our food problems. We can use them to survive the winter, so isn’t it fine? A better alternative to dying of starvation.”

“That’s right, Clara-dono. A great achievement from Adele-sama.”

Clara raised her glasses a bit, letting the lenses catch the light.

“… The soldiers are becoming depressed, worrying over the notion that these may become their meals as well. You properly explained it right? It’s lowering our morale quite a bit.”

Adele’s expression stiffened with an, ‘Eh!?’ as she turned to Maksim with stiff movements. Maksim shook his head.

“We haven’t received any such orders. Rather, this is a problem of the army as a whole, so doesn’t it fall under Lyle-dono and Lianne-dono’s jurisdiction?”

Clara looked at Adele.

“I hear that Adele-san was taking responsibility of the field potato matter, and she was completely in charge of it. I was worried that no order came no matter how much time had passed… looked like you’ve done it.”

As Adele broke into a cold sweat, Clara smiled.

“That’s why they call you a downgraded Lianne.”

There, Adele yelled in her direction.

“You’re the only one who calls me that! You listening? I was busy with the management and revival of Beim here!”

Maksim came around to support her.

“That’s right! Adele-sama was busy!”

But Clara scoffed.

“Lianne-san was managing Rhuvenns as she looked over the whole. Well, do your best. And isn’t it about time you noticed the surrounding mood? When the decisive battle’s so close at hand, you’ve let this dubious air persist to this point… go get married or something already. Baldoir-san’s already settled with Alette-san, and they’ve held the ceremony already.”

Hearing that, Maksim began to fidget. Musing over how it wasn’t cute at all when a large man made such a gesture, Clara looked at Adele.

She was tilting her head.

“… Who’s marrying who?”

When she said such a thing, Maksim went down. Clara seemed taken aback as she approached Maksim.

“Do your best. I’m rooting for you. Also, Ludmilla-san is making arrangements to send you a bride. Keep on your toes.”

On the ground having crumbled at the knees Maksim spoke to Clara.

“… I-I’ll do my best.”

He said…

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