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Chapter 19: Ties

 Ties

Looking around, whether alive or recalled from memory...

While the area had grown dark, today's moon was a pretty one. Fireworks had been prepared, but perhaps they would be unnecessary.

I looked around as I spoke.

"I can't tell which is which."

There were those who embraced one another in tears, and those that laughed together. Blowing away the rubble, Monica and the Valkyries hurriedly prepared for the banquet.

While we were proclaiming our victory, this sort of phenomenon was breaking out in the other armies surrounding Centralle as well, putting them in a state of delight and confusion.

But we won... and we had proclaimed it was over.

The past king of Faunbeux looked at me in rage, apologized, said he was leaving Lianne to me, and returned to Faunbeux's main camp to clear his head.

Looking at the results alone, the surrounding armies contained the dead men that flooded ouf of the city, and my main force alongside another unit launched an attack on the capital... they did, but a majority of them were those of memory brought back by my Skill [Sevens].

The ones who came to me desiring various explanations were General Blois, Baldoir and Maksim-san. Maksim-san was accompanied by a knight equipped in black armor. Was that the friend he spoke of? Right now, they were exchanging banter.

"What's this, you still haven't confessed? You're the adjutant of an army so large. I don't think you need to care about been a retainer anymore."

In regards to the black knight who said that, Maksim-san seemed happy and sorrowful.

"That's right. That's exactly right... but you see, I... for now, I wanted to apologize to you. Back then, I wasn't even able to rush to your aid."

Seeing Maksim'san's regret, the black knight laughed a bit.

"You're as earnest as ever. But I'm glad you didn't come. Looking back on it now, I can tell. Your judgement wasn't mistaken. Leading Lady Adele away to join the anti-Celes coalition was the correct decision. So don't cry over it. It's unsightly to see a man like you cry."

"I know that! But I have to say it. I was always... I'm sorry. I'm sorry!"

As Maksim-san cried, the black knight lightly patted him on the back. There, on the prepared-in-a-jiff tables in front of us, food was brought out one dish after another.

Meat dishes were the main staple, and among them were some dishes that made use of the materials we'd brought her ourselves. Well, we had finished this campaign ahead of schedule. There was no problem in using them.

As I looked upon the scene, around me...

"What's this!? Over ten mistress candidates!? Just what did you lot do to get that way?"

"I'm surprised at that one two. Why did the numbers grow that much? Lyle's going to wither, dammit."

"No, I made a calculation error, you see. I thought he would be good for a few more, but with those members, it proved a bit harsh. Though I still think it's going to increase.

"I'm more worried than jealous. Just as the Second said, he's going to wither."

"... The cause of his death's definitely going to be women, no take-backs. Can't laugh at that. And this is the founder of an empire."

"So Lyle's the same as me."

"I'm sure he's different from you, Sixth. Rather, the stares have been gathering for a while now, haven't they? You don't have to force yourself here."

To the Seventh's words, the Sixth cried out, "Don't abandon me!" and everyone laughed. For a while now, they had grown heated talking about me.

As that was going on, to our table came Aria, who was being worked hard carrying food around. Behind her was the form of the First's warrior wife.

... I've gotten around to thinking it. It's because this person was our founder's wife that a trend was set in all the wives to com. I think they could have gathered some more elegant women.

There, the First's wife spoke.

"Hey, quite making a ruckus and looked over here. It looked like you were too embarrassed to strike up a conversation so I brought her over. You better say it properly."

About what? It would be boorish to ask, I'm sure. The First's wife had brought Aria over, and it seems she knew a few things.

As the First stood, he came bashfully before her.

"Y-yo! You doing well, Aria-chan?"

Called out and put to work, Aria seemed troubled. Of all else, Aria had never met the First before.

There, the Fifth followed through.

"This old man's the founder of the Walt house. The Basil who comes out in the Lockwarde House's red gem story you spoke of. Aria... from the time we met, he was always worried for you. So why not talk with him some?"

Aria still seemed troubled, but she nodded. She understood.

"Come to think of it, I get the feeling Lyle said something about that in Centralle... um, I'm Aria."

"N-name's Basil. Your ancestor was, well... huh? Hey, what's this about a red gem?"

The Third seemed somewhat excited.

"The truth is, Alice-san was interested in you as well. But since she couldn't express herself, she bought a red gem for you as a present. Yet she found she wasn't even able to hand that one over, and it's been passed down through the Lockwarde House women for generations. It's amazing, founder. Just as you said, it really was fate."

The Third explained with a final, but it's because he said it knowing full well that only added to his darkness. I think there are some things best left unknown.

"OOYYyyyyy!! Then, what's this!? If I had actually called out to her...!"

The Second seemed cold.

"The possibility was there. Possibility, that is."

I called over to Aria.

"Pour him some more ale. Even if he's dressed like that, he's relatively delicate."

"I-I get it. But really, what's with this situation?"

Watching over Aria head to fill the First's glass was the man's wife. Touching a hand to her hip, she smiled a bit as she looked over him.

I called over to her.

"Um, are you alright with this?"

"I'm fine. He tried so hard when he was alive. Even if he's just a record or whatever, it shouldn't be bad if he gets some reward for it."

There, May who'd lost an arm accompanied Marina-san with some more ale. She waved her hand at the Fifth, but her face was a bit red.

"Fredricks!"

"May!"

He instantly stood and headed over to her. He took her burden off her hands, and headed back over.

The Sixth made a conflicted expression at him. There, the warrior woman looked at Marina-san.

"Alright, you get over here too. I don't know why, but I like you!"

"Hah? I'm going to go drinking. Don't do any... wait what!? What's with this physical strength! U-unhand me!"

Marina's strong arms were pulled away by the warrior, so I saw them off with a wave of my hand. There, the Second's wife came to our table.

"Now, everyone! I'm sure you're tired of all that thick seasoning, so I've made some dishes as well! Crassel, we've got your favorite soup too. Sleigh, when your big brother Dewey's helping out, are you sure you should be taking it easy over here?"

I noticed Dewey by her side. He had brought plates to distribute the food.

The Second seemed wary of the First's wife as he took the soup.

"Thanks, you're a lifesaver. It's harsh with nothing but overpowering tastes. I did like this a lot."

The Third averted his eyes.

"There are things I want to talking about. Like teasing Lyle who I looked after a while, and teasing all the others. I mean, I'm the only one who died in battle and never got to enjoy life."

Dewey laughed.

"You worked real hard, Sleigh. Just sit back and relax."

After looking at that kind young boy, everyone's eyes gathered on the Third. The Third seemed troubled over what to say. He was sweating.

"... Dewey, you think you could leave your assistance at that? I can't seem to sit still anymore."

Following on, the Third's wife brought food as well. Together with Vera.

"We're not short on hands. You can just take it easy."

Perhaps Vera had been apprehended as she looked over at me.

"I don't really get it, but I'm helping out, so... see you later, Lyle."

"Y-yeah."

Looking over the women who returned with Dewey, I let out a sigh. The First alone was staring into his cup of ale and grinning. I was jealous of his simplicity.

The Fourth removed his glasses and wiped them with a cloth. It was the same seen I'd seen so often in the Jewel.

"But I'm glad our family was the only one to see it. If the others watched, it would just look as if something came out after you won, and the last part was just a lover's spat. In the end, I'm sure the taking down of that dragon will be written off as the conclusion."

Legend Dragon... as a fearsome monster who stood in the path of our victory, that was decidedly how the story would be told. I was just a little relieved. After the Legend Dragon was abused so badly, I at least wanted its name to remain in history as a powerful foe.

I saw a small woman running up with golden scales in her hands. Behind her were the Fifth's wives, and a crowd of men and women. They were the Fifth's children.

Milleia-san was among them. While complaints came in from her sisters around her, she made a refreshing face.

"She's feigning innocence again."

"Show off your true nature, witch."

"What could you be talking about? Ah, Lyle~, you sure worked hard!"

She looked at me and waved her hand. And the small woman- the Fourth's wife- looked at me as well.

"Lyle! Look! Look at this! They're that dragon's scales, but they're definitely amazing materials! They grew back, so we got them in considerable numbers! We should carefully preserve one dragon's worth of them, and conduct research with the rest. And... let a few of them flow elsewhere. Then the world will understand their worth, and this material's value will rise as a rare material. I doubt anyone's getting their hands on any soon."

Fitting of the Fourth's wife, she was quite shrewd when it came to money. The Fourth grinned as he watched over her carrying the scales so preciously. This was a couple with a thing for shiny objects.

And the Fifth's children surrounded me.

"So this is the heir of the main line."

"What's this, he looked unreliable."

"Well, isn't it fine? And it seems he's becoming emperor."

"You'd better promote our grand and great grandchildren."

"I'm really sorry you had to deal with Milleia. She's just terrible, isn't she?"

My surroundings grew rowdy. And to the Fifth who had May sit next to him, the eyes gathered as well.

"Dad, at the end of the end, do something about that animal obsession of yours."

A voice representative of his children. As I looked to the Fifth, before I noticed it, the animals he kept were by his side as well. Surrounded by their fluff, he seemed to be in heaven.

"I refuse."

An instant reply. Around him, perhaps his wives had come with food and ale, as they lined themselves up.

"Good grief, he never changes."

Hearing that, the Fifth's face turned red as he looked away. In contrast, looking around the Sixth.

"Did you hear? It seems he's gotten over a dozen great grandchildren. Brod, you say something too."

"Whose influence do you think that was?"

"Fiennes... won't you look at your mother?"

They directed some incessant attacks at him. His contrast with the Fifth was too great. Why did it come to this... I think he's just getting his just deserts.

There, grandma Zenoire came over to the Seventh, leading my father and mother behind her.

"Oh, so you're here?"

"I brought them. The Eighth Generation couple that screwed up big time. Lyle, get over here."

I didn't know what to feel, seeing my father and mother worked so hard by the others. I did think to save them, but the two of them didn't wish for it.

As I headed for my parents before everyone, they were crying. My father hid his eyes with his hand.

"... I'm sorry. I've caused you some trouble, Lyle."

Even if he said that in an apron... well, I didn't hate him at this point, and I directed a smile.

"That's alright. I know your reasons. So I'm fine. Both of you, have some peace."

My mother looked at me, gripping her skirt in both hands, and letting large tears fall. While the two of them had come out, Celes hadn't appeared. I'm sure she truly did hate me.

"I'm sorry. For being a no-good parent... a no-good mother, I'm sorry."

As the two embraced me, my tears came out as well. Looking around, my comrades had gathered. Baldoir and Beil... the knights I admired were lined up, looking upon me.

"Lyle-sama, I'm happy for you."

"... It's something that would never come to pass while they were alive. But if they were alive, the young master... no, Lyle would only be in more pain."

And General Blois stood.

"I'm going to get the details together and inform the surrounding armies. Well, I won't tell them the truth. It seems a legend really was involved. It's almost like I was seeing a dream. And we need some people to look out for whether there's any army plotting something strange."

With those words he walked off. He really was a reliable one.

Right, a dream. This was an illusion. An illusion my Skill produced. But...

When I looked to the Jewel, it's light had grown even dimmer.

The First hit his hands together.

"All of you, line up! Is the ale all poured? The food all out? Then cheers!"

The Seventh looked at me with worry.

"Lyle, are you sure you shouldn't settle for tea or something?"

Even I could tell this wasn't the sort of atmosphere for that.

"I'll settle for ale. Well, I've grown stronger than before."

By the time I returned to my seat, starting with Novem, everyone had gathered. It seems the First was leading them. Looking around, a many groups of knights and soldiers had been formed with food and drink before them. Among them were some who had already started into it.

No, perhaps our group really was the last

"Eh~ well then... what shall we toast to? Lyle's victory? Or perhaps..."

The Third grinned.

"I'm sure Lyle's got a lot to toast, his wedding and victory among other things, but here, let's make it a toast to Lyle. The wonder child of the Walt House. It will be difficult for a talent surpassing his to come out."

In what sense? Well, it was the Third, so I'm sure he meant mr. lyle.

Perplexed as he was, the Second agreed.

"That's right. Let's raise a glass to Lyle."

The Fourth put on his glasses.

"That's right. You stood firm. Truly..."

The Fifth gave a rare smile.

"Right. Perhaps it's just because I watched you along the way, but I'll say you worked hard. Lyle, you really did your best."

The Sixth seemed a bit unsatisfied.

"I wanted to teach you how to play around more. Lyle, you've got to learn to lay loose."

The Seventh looked at me and nodded.

"As I thought, your my prided grandson. Now, Lyle."

The First held up his glass, and everyone followed suite. Novem brought me a glass of ale. As I accepted it, I felt a little embarrassed. Novem looked at that and smiled.

"Then to Lyle Walt... Cheers!!"

Everyone cried out a 'Cheers' and drained their glasses. I chugged mine down in one go... perhaps Novem was being tactful as she had watered it down significantly. It was easier to drink, but...

"... Urp."

I sat down as if collapsing. And my surroundings were enveloped in a blue light. That blue glimmer dissolved into grains, glimmering as it rose into the sky. As I looked upon the scene, my tears flowed. They had welled up, and they weren't stopping.

It wasn't only in Centralle. From around it, blue lights rose as well. Looking up at the sky, the moon was stunning. And those lights that rose as if to greet it.

I could hear the sound of cups being set down around.

And what I heard at the end.

... You did well, Lyle...

Those words alone. I put down my glass, and covered my face with my right hand. The people who had watched over me all the way. And the great many who had saved me.

I'm sure I was here because those people were with me. There were so many people involved, and then there was me. And I'm sure I'd continue on... and become one of them someday.

And carrying on from them, I'd entrust to the next generation...

I heard footsteps approach. It was Novem.

"Lyle-sama. Everyone's already..."

I frantically held back my tears; the light completely out of sight, I hung my head and gripped the Jewel. It didn't feel the same as it had before. I had the feeling its light had gone away. It had returned to being a normal gem. Preciously gripping that gem in both my hands, I leaked some sobs.

"I... know, so... I'm sorry, just for now... I'm sorry. I'm the same crybaby I always was."

Miranda and Shannon pat my back. Aria brought me a towel. May was looking up at the sky. She was crying. Vera issued orders around for everyone to say put.

Monica carefully collected the cups. Clara helped out, and while Ludmilla, Gracia and Elza made tired faces, they seemed somewhat lonely as they looked around.

Eva took a sip of ale, and sang a song for me. A sorrowful song of parting. But a song that ended in new encounters.

That's right.

The time had come for me to move forward. To stand on my own.

So as not to be embarrassed. I'll live so I, who carries the blood of those people, will never feel ashamed. Stick out my chest, and live so I can say I did well at the end.

That's why, just for now... isn't it alright if I cry? I'll stand up again and face forward in no time. So just for now...

"Lyle-sama, it's alright. Those around are crying as well. And the Valkyries are surrounding us, so... you can cry as much as you want."

Crying like a child, being comforted by the women around me. Yet even so, my tears wouldn't stop.