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Chapter 16: Two Swords

 Two Swords

... In excitement, the Fourth cut at the gold dragon with a speed great enough to leave afterimages.

"Even this thing's scales regenerate!"

While he continued shaving them away with his daggers, even the scales that came loose and fell would grow back. His wife looked at him, making a clenched fist of victory.

"This is the best! Keep on securing more of those scales!"

The Fourth's wife went over to confirm one of the scales. Touching it, and lightly tapping her fist over it, she seemed to be verifying its value.

"Fredricks! Over here! Look! I'm sure these scales are precious materials!"

Seeing her mother's innocent laughing figure, Fredricks almost felt the urge to drop his sword.

"... Yeah, looks like it mama."

Nearby, his sons and daughters were launching attacks at the dragon. Hammering in magic and using their Skills, the dragon hadn't been granted the chance to do anything.

Looking upon the scene, Zenoire closed her red fan, and pointed it at the dragon. As it roared, it tried to spread out its wings to blow off all the folks climbing and clinging onto it.

So tried the Legend Dragon, but it found itself sealed in a semi-transparent octahedron. That was Zenoire's Skill.

"How noisy. Can't you pipe down for a bit?"

Within that octahedron, the Legend Dragon was suddenly engulfed in fire. Seeing the dragon burning up within, the Seventh cried out.

"Oooyyy!! Aren't we making a mount of itt!!? At least blow away its insides!"

It seems he wouldn't permit the surface being burnt. But there was someone troubled with the innards being blown away in itself.

The First's wife.

"Don't screw with me! If you mess up its insides, it'll be hell to cook! Dear!"

In order to cook it, the First's wife looked at her husband. She likely wanted him to secure it in good condition. The First straightened his back.

"Y-yes! ... Eh? That thing's edible? It clearly looks unappetizing. It's all sparkly. Sparkly. My intuition's telling me that thing will taste terrible..."

"You won't know unless you try! So just take a bite and see!"

"You're testing it on me!!?"

He called out as he shouldered his sword.

A golden dragon. Its horns were blood-red. If one had to say, it didn't look very tasty.

The Fourth's wife to the First's.

"It goes without saying we're selling the innards! Dragon meat will definitely fetch a fortune! So secure it whole! Why are you the one trying to eat it!?"

The Legend Dragon freed from its octahedron prison collapsed on all fours, giving some pained breathes. Its burnt surface regenerated.

The Second's wife sped up the speed of her rotating rings as she looked at the beast.

"This thing could probably grow back its wings and horns if it felt up to it. It's tail too.

Everyone's eyes gathered on the dragon.

Around...

"The horns are mine!

"Tail! Get the tail! I'm sure it'll be delicious!

"You've got to get the wings!

The Walt House members fixated on that dragon. Completely abandoning Lyle, they devoted all their time and effort to the beast. While things weren't going as she had expected, Novem's objective had successfully been fulfilled...

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Dammit! They're all focusing on the dragon and ignoring me!

The group making a ruckus a little ways away irritated me, but as I thougth, Novem before my eyes was my own problem.

I have to do something about it myself.

But...

"When I don't have a weapon, this one will be harsh."

Out of breath, I avoided a swipe from Novem's scythe. As it struck a section of rubble, it cleanly cut through. The cross-section was left in a beautifully smooth state.

There was no doubt a cut from that would prove fatal. Before Novem, something like armor would be akin to paper. No, perhaps even less than paper.

As I ran removing my heavy metal armor, Aria and the others fought the Land Dragon subspecies nearby. To Aria, it was a mismatched foe, and they were quite hard-pressed.

I doubt either of us could come to the others' aid.

Novem chased after me.

"Discarding your protectors was a good decision, but you're making too many openings. If you told me to wait for you, I would."

I honestly considered saying, 'Then could you give me a moment?' But was it really alright to say it? Would she get angry?

But I kinda didn't want to make such a request.

"You're showing way too much leisure!"

As I tossed a chunk of adequately-sized rubble at her, she cut it down without the slightest drop in speed. I retrieved another and tossed it.

"Again...?"

She cut it down again. But inside was one of the tools I carried around, and once that tube was cut through, it released some irritant smoke.

It was a smoke-screen.

"Hah, got you~."

Novem instantly ducked out of the smoke, and lowered her scythe at me. Her aim was subtly off from my vitals. But still, the scythe stuck in. Seeing that, Novem gave a smile.

"... Wonderful, Lyle-sama."

As my illusion disappeared, Novem turned her face towards where I was hiding. I had shown her an illusion through the Third's Skill, but it didn't even buy me time.

I wanted to retrieve a weapon from somewhere, but there wasn't anything weapon-like around. Even if I picked up some discarded sword, it would easily be cut through before Novem's scythe.

Should I match her charge and dodge to get a blow in? But I get the feeling a normal weapon wouldn't be able to scratch her.

My breath was getting terribly disordered. Seeing me like that, Novem floated up lightly from the spread of debris, waiting for me.

"What are you trying to do."

"Fufufu, it seems I've grown tired too, so I'm resting."

Seeing her laugh, I muttered, 'horsefeathers,' within. Not a single bead of sweat, her breathing in perfect harmony, she was clearly waiting for me to finish my preparations. She was grinning. When she was waiting for her own death, why was she able to smile like that?

I gripped the Jewel.

From how long ago... had that action become a habit? When I gripped it, I had gotten around to believe that advice was sure to come.

At present, swarming around the dragon nearby, taking no notice of me were my ancestors and their merry friends... I wanted to tell them to be a bit more useful.

Novem looked at me.

"It seems help isn't coming. They're all... enjoying themselves quite a bit."

While there was a slight gap in her words, things were going according to her plan. Without any hindrances, she tested my ability as she let herself be killed by me.

Regrettably enough, I couldn't think of any revolutionary solution. If that's how it was going to be, would my post-Growth high-tensioned self have been better suited to the task? Am I no good?

I strongly gripped the Jewel. Its silver ornaments had lessened considerably. I began ordering my breath as I resolved myself.

There.

[You're no good at all. Hah, why do you always go so negative? Why not believe in your own strong self some more?]

I heard a voice. A young voice... the voice of LYLE who had disappeared.

"It couldn't be."

Novem's eyes narrowed. She seemed irritated.

"... So I've come out again. Even so, for you to be my opponent."

As a blue light appeared before my eyes, the one with the form of my ten-year-old self, [LYLE], came out. His hand gripped the treasured sabre I had received on my birthday.

That in hand, LYLE stood before Novem. And giving a laugh, he spoke.

"I'm not sure what to say about you, Novem. Even I'm getting turned off here. Proclaiming yourself as everyone's mother, and saying Lyle will be complete if he killed you, you're quite a twisted one."

Before LYLE's smile, Novem swung her scythe.

"I ask you don't get in my way. To me, the one I prioritize isn't you, but the real Lyle behind you...!"

With his sabre, he parried the scythe, getting in a kick. Seeing the scene, I couldn't conceal my own surprise.

"Wait, can you beat her!?"

On my words, LYLE turned to me as he avoided her swipe.

"Hah? Don't be foolish. That's definitely impossible. My specs are stuck at ten-years old, and I'm just your memory of me. What I can do is buy some time. And that was my intent to begin with."

He had come out to buy time. But what was he trying to do? There, as he took Novem on, LYLE spoke.

"... What are you gripping over there? Broaden your field of vision some more. And believe in yourself. The reason you can exhibit your power in your post-Growth is definitely because you believe in yourself. Right now, you've given up somewhere in your heart."

On LYLE's words, Celes' face floated up in my mind. Thinking I definitely couldn't win alone, I had defeated Celes by gaining comrades. That was because I had accepted I myself wouldn't be able to win...

Novem cut at LYLE.

"... Don't get in the way!"

Sacrificing his left hand, LYLE struck some magic into her. While he didn't bleed, his left arm turned to beads of blue light, disappearing as if blown away by the wind.

Using the magic explosion, LYLE propelled himself before me, and turned my way.

"You have possibilities in you. And they're right in your hands. Try to remember... the ancestors' weapons all had their characteristics, right? The weapons they specialized in, reflecting their own characteristics. To summarize..."

There, a single line across LYLE's body. The slash from Novem's scythe had drawn a line across him.

As LYLE faded away, he looked at me.

"You've activated your Third Stage Skill. Lyle, you have the qualifications. Now wish for it. If you do, the Jewel will surely answer..."

He disappeared into grains of light. Just to say that, he had gone out of his way to stand here.

"Why do you have to be so nosy?"

As I gripped the Jewel, Novem seemed a bit impatient. Perhaps she didn't want any more irregularities to occur.

"Lyle, let's settle..."

There, three more blue lights emerged. The ones who leapt out from them were the three-man team who got along with us back when we were still in Dalien, Rondo, Rachel land Rahu. The three killed by Celes.

"I won't let you!"

"Novem give it a break already!"

"Hey, here I come!"

The three of them launched attacks onto Novem. But those three, from Novem's point of view, were nothing more than small fries among minnows. Before they could become strong, they had lain down their lives.

"Why are you here!?"

Rahu-san laughed as he was cut through by Novem.

"... Fool, it's because we want to stand out. We wanted to have an adventure of our own..."

On the scythe's return, Rachel-san was put down as well.

"Lyle, our dreams were left ungranted part-way. So if you're still alive..."

Rachel-san disappeared. And Rondo-san was bisected, sword and all.

"... If you're still alive, then don't give up. That's all I wanted to say."

We were acquaintances. No, friends. The friends I made after going to the outside were cut down by Novem all-too-easily.

I gripped the Jewel even stronger.

"Nothing but hindrances. But no longer."

Novem looked at me. The Jewel's blue light strengthened, its silver ornaments answering my prayers and changing form. A ripple ran down its silver curvature. Its pretty blade was almost like a mirror. The Jewel embedded in its hilt, my silver Katana showed its form.

And even shorter than the one in my right hand, a second one only half its size manifested alongside it.

"I see. So that's what sort of weapon it is."

As Novem cut at me, the silver weapons met.

"... It seems you've gotten your hands on a nice weapon. I'm delighted. Now cut at me with that blade, Lyle!"

I grinned.

"Then I guess I'll have to answer to your request."

I swung the swords in my hands. Weight, and the feel they gave when I held them. They all matched up with my style, making them exceedingly easy to swing. As I cut at her consecutively with my two blades, Novem circled around to defense.

I need to go faster!

"Kuh!"

Novem grew unable to manage with her scythe. I jumped up. As I moved over Novem, I spun to build up speed. Looking at Novem as she tried to dodge, I tossed the short sword in my left hand.

The sword was deflected. But in the next instant, I was gripping the deflected sword in my hand.

Nearby Novem, that was.

"While the noise is terrible, I can use Skills to an extent."

With the katana, I cut at Novem's back... a diagonal cut from her nape. I could feel the blade pass deeply through her body.

Novem laughed.

"Splendid. So amplifying your Skills is that weapon's property. It's a wonderful weapon most suited to you, Lyle-sama."

Novem laughed, but I laughed along. A weapon in order to pull off Skills... sure enough, it was a weapon for me, who had gotten all the way here by relying on my ancestors' Skills.

But no one said that was all there was to it.

"Too bad, Novem... what I cut was..."

Novem opened her eyes wide and took some distance from me. Once she had moved in an instant, she touched her own body to confirm.

When she should have been cut, there was no trace of it.

"That can't be. I set my body not to regenerate... and I'm sure that..."

"Yeah, you were cut."

I swung my two katanas to the side, taking a stance.

"The goddess, and evil god Novem was."

As I turned the blades towards her, she made a face as if to say she couldn't believe it. My silver weapon... the two katana only cut what I wanted them to cut. The Skill assist was nothing more than an added bonus.

"I'm going to cut it all off, pull it all off, and... Novem, I'm going to strip you bare."

Novem glared at me as she cut forward. It seems she was trying to destroy my weapons.

But if I knew her objective, the rest was easy. I predicted her scythe's trajectory, and cut her again.

Within my heart, I cried out. I can do it... if it's me, I can do it. I can save Novem. If it's me... because it's me, I can.

Just like when my tensions were high, I had to believe in myself. To exhibit my powers to their very limits. For that sake, first...

"What's wrong? That's the second one. If you're going to let yourself be cut up like that, you'll be naked in no time."

... I tried riling her up.