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Chapter 14: The Maddening Metropolis

The Maddening Metropolis

A large mass of people gathered in Centralle's plaza, overlooked by the imperial palace.

Of the civilians gathered around me, even those that had journeyed far from the furthest reached of Bahnseim had sparkling eyes.

And while I stood with a robe and hood covering my form, no one sent any doubt my way.

Lianne stood beside me, removing her hood, and shaking out her pink hair.

"That just felt stupid. There doesn't seem a point in disguising ourselves."

I also removed my hood, and Novem followed along.

Monica had been wearing her maid uniform the whole time as per usual.

I confirmed the area with Skills, and found there wasn't a soul directing hostility at us. Rather than not directing it, it was as if no one recognized our existence as a whole.

"Even so, is it fine for a royal princess to have come to a place like this?"

On my question, Lianne scoffed.

"You think I don't yearn to witness the making of history? That at that time, at that place, I saw it all... it's good to have such tales to hand down. I mean, the sun starts to set on Bahnseim from here on."

I looked at the balcony of the palace.

We had come quite early in the morning, but even so, there was quite a number of people lined up in front of us.

Nearby, a troupe of singers and performers showed off their trade to earn money.

Food stalls were also scattered around, and it was as if we were at a festival.

"... Novem, what of Aria and the others?"

When I said that, Novem shook her head.

"As of yet, I am unable to establish communication with them. When you think of what I've done, it's only natural."

"I see."

I didn't look at her face.

The game pieces she assembled for me.

That was the harem.

That they had a resistance against Celes meant they wouldn't be charmed into betraying me.

I do dislike the pawn-treatment of them, but I must admit that seeing the comrades I've shared joy and sorrow with turn to Celes' side wouldn't be a nice scene on the eyes.

"So you thought I would try challenging Celes too?"

Those surrounding us simply waited for Celes to make her grand appearance. They weren't interested in something as lowly as us at all.

Novem spoke to me.

"I wasn't certain what choice you would make. It's just that, considering the future, I thought it best to gather those with natures preventing them from betraying you at your side."

So it didn't matter which way I rolled.

Whether I challenged her or ran, Novem just wanted to have the preparations in place.

Monica informed us of the situation.

"There is some movement within the palace. They're coming."

Just as Monica, who could see further than us, had said, the door to the balcony opened up, and some knights paraded out.

Behind them came the higher official and the king. The queen, and the crown prince [Rufus Bahnseim].

His red and curling hair was cut short, and perhaps prepared for this very day, he wore white clothing adorned with ornaments of gold, silver, and other precious stones.

Hand in hand with that prince, wearing a white dress, and an amount of ornaments that clearly seemed like overkill, came Celes.

Cheers of joy came to announce her appearance alone.

(It's really loud.)

Watching the girl wave her hand, a few even swooned.

It looked like she planned to wave that hand until all the cheers died down. Celes was wearing a serene expression, and I did think she was beautiful.

(Her contents are just awful, though.)

She carried along her rapier in a sheath purposely made to make the whole thing look like a ceremonious staff.

Looking at Lianne standing to my side...

"He really does look happy..."

She was watching the crown prince expressionlessly.

And I saw my parents stationed close to Celes.

They looked simply delighted.

I heard a voice from the Jewel.

The Third spoke with great irritation.

[The crown prince looks identical to the bastard... some goddess up there must be trying to piss me off with her blatant revelations.]

Certainly, from afar, he resembled the king I saw within the Third's memory before.

The Fourth seemed to be focused on his attire.

[That's way too showy. In bad taste, even... I'm sure it'll all be nothing but pure gold at the wedding ceremony. What an absolute waste.]

The Fifth listened in to the surrounding cheers.

[Who the hell gets this heated? When it's highly likely there'll be war with Faunbeux, and I'm sure an extra tax will soon be collected for that sake. A wedding ceremony, a change of rule, and a war... not a time anyone should be laughing.]

It's often the case a reason is given, and a tax levied for a temporary period of time.

The imperial capital Centralle wasn't ignorant to such matters.

The sixth looked at my father by Celes' side, [Maizel].

[So this is what's become of the fastidious Maizel.]

My father had hated the Sixth's dark image.

Sending bribes to rise in rank, and making the palace move to his whims. More than anything, the sheer number of wars the Sixth held with the other nobles of Bahnseim was enough reason for him to be hated.

With such hate from his grandson, the Sixth sounded a little sad.

The Seventh was...

[... Stupid son of mine. Letting even Claire fall to Celes' whim.]

Having experienced the power of the Monster Celes first-hand, he couldn't press my mother or father as hard as before.

Even if they weren't beside her all around the clock, the opportunities they had to interact with her were higher than the rest.

Huddling close, happily watching over their beloved daughter. Watching over the scene the Third spoke to me.

[Lyle, you get it, right? Choosing to fight means you'll be...]

Before he could finish his words, I squeezed the Jewel to indicate my affirmation.

A while later, when the surroundings had calmed down, the king's words started coming out.

They were the words to officially denote Celes' engagement.

And the crown prince appeared before the crowd, giving his greetings.

They were normal pleasantries, but the more words from him she heard, the more Lianne's head dropped down.

Her tears had started to flow, so I patted her back, and supported her so she wouldn't collapse.

And it finally came to Celes' turn.

Her voice was clear, and easily audible from afar.

"People of mine. Rejoice."

That was quite a haughty manner of speech, but those gathered raised their cheers.

"On this splendid day, Bahnseim has become my belonging. Now rejoice, nobles!"

Lined in the castle's courtyard, the imperial nobles, knights, and feudal lords assembled from across the lands began to applaud.

On Celes' side, the king and queen, and even the prince and ministers clapped along as well.

"It's madness."

Mad as it may be, it was something that everyone present thought of as natural.

Even I was beginning to doubt if I was the strange one here.

"From here on, Bahnseim will expand even further! But..."

Her expression turned a little sorrowful.

And after raising it, she formed another smile...

"There are nobles within this very nation that defy me! There are still those who've refused to obey! Wouldn't you say that's something unforgivable!?"

Spreading out her arms, Celes received the angry yells of the people...

... Directed at those disobedient nobles, of course.

"Now let us prepare for war. By the time I've dyed Bahnsem in one uniform shade... I will let you all have me as your queen."

Applause. Cheers. And tears of joy...

I clenched the Jewel as I spoke.

"Founder... it really is abnormal."

The beautiful vixen.

While it was said after the fact that many other factors were involved, [Agrissa] was known as the primary factor.

But looking at Celes, I could now understand.

That if such an existence had lived beforehand, then monsters must really exist, and they'll be coming out one after the other.

I burned the sight of Bahnseim, the country I was to go against, into my eyes.

And noticing me, Celes waved her hand.

Those in my immediate surroundings were almost all moved to tears.

Monica was...

"... I cannot comprehend it."

I smiled and...

"Well you're the incomprehensible one to me. It's just that, with this, I've no regrets keeping me here."

The Fifth spoke to me.

[You can still turn back, you know. Stopping these people as they are now means...]

I tapped the Jewel and let it roll. I denied it.

And to Celes, who directed a smile our way, I smiled as well.

"Just wait up there. I'll definitely put a stop to you."

Within the cheers high enough to drive one to madness, I swore it to my heart.

-

-

-

The announcement in the plaza had only been for the publicization of Celes' engagement to the prince.

There wasn't the slightest of apologies sent to Faunbeux, and the knights, soldiers and servants who were on standby in the mansion were laying their anger bare.

Within that mansion.

In the room I had been given, I received a visit from an unexpected guest.

No, rather than unexpected...

"Are you sane? This is no game we're playing here."

With a silver plate in hand came Eva the singer.

Stroking her light pink hair, she spoke with confidence.

"Of course! You're going to be fighting that princess called Celes, right? That will surely be a hero's tale. And by your side, I'll see it, hear it, and put it to memory. Someday I'll make a song of it, and have it heard all throughout the world. With my name tagged onto it, naturally."

Having gone off to complete her adventurer registration, she presented her guild card to me.

She had likely used her recent savings to accomplish it.

Registering did take a bit of money.

It was normally a loan paid after one started earning as an adventurer.

While reminiscing over the moment of my own registration, I looked up at her face.

And Eva...

"And you told me to anyways... to pass down your tale of heroism."

At this point, perhaps I should have said something like, 'sing of' rather than, 'hand down.'

But that wasn't really important, and remembering that embarrassing moment of mind, I cradled my head in my hands.

Novem sought confirmation with her.

"Are you certain about that? It will be a dangerous journey."

"I'm fine. Even like this, I'm used to travelling, and living on the move. I also know how to fight."

I guess she would be better than an inexperienced adventurer, at least.

And it's important that she approached Celes without being charmed.

"... If you're to join the party, you'll have to go along with our schedules. Perhaps you won't be able to sing whenever you want anymore."

"I can gather more tales and stories as we travel, and witness the main hero story in the flesh! I can put up with that much, at least. I'm also risking my livelihood on this one, so I'm more grateful that you're serious about it."

Novem smiled.

"Lyle-sama, if you look to the Walt Family Precept, she more than passes. I will not offer any opposition."

(... I don't really care about those precepts anyways.)

The reason those requirements were formed was because the First Generation's first love fell through, and he didn't want to marry anymore.

He didn't want to marry, but as he was a feudal lord, those around him didn't accept it.

That's why they took it as law when he proclaimed the precepts for accepting a wife. This all took place at a party.

It was just an excuse he thought up while drunk, but its regulations were upheld for over two hundred years.

(Why does everything seem heavier when you say it has some history to it...)

From the other heads' point of view, they were nothing but trouble.

And now the only one to protect them so faithfully was Novem.

"Eh? What? There are precepts? I want to hear them!

To a worked-up Eva, I told her I'd tell her another time, as I took charge of one of the two guild cards she had been issued."

A knocking sound came from the door, and Monica answered it.

"Oh, if it isn't Aria-san. Have you come to say your words of parting?"

"Why do you have to stir everyone up, me included? Yo, made your choice yet?"

I asked Aria as such, but she just silently entered, slammed her guild card on the table, and exited the room.

And as the rest of us stood dumbfounded, Novem calmly.

"So Aria-san is confirmed."

And next it was Clara's turn to enter the room.

"... What happened with Aria-san?"

I tried giving a simple explanation.

"No, she kinda left in silence. I do think she means to come along, but... what about you, Clara?"

There, Clara handed me her guild card.

"... Are you sure?"

"I've thought about it quite a bit, but Arumsaas is a city of Bahnseim. And there are much too many books I've yet to read there to lose."

And you're really joining in for something like that? I thought as such, but accepted the card anyways.

"Celes might not even do anything to it. Or perhaps we won't be in time to save it."

On my words, Clara...

"I just think it's better than doing nothing at all."

Saying that, she left the room.

And as if waiting for Clara to leave, Miranda came in, pulling Shannon behind.

She looked at the cards on the table, and at Eva, and sighed.

"Are we the last? And wait, you... I'm sure you were eavesdropping not too long ago, right?"

Hearing that, Eva stuck out her tongue.

"Sorry. But it was just too interesting. And I've already received permission. Precepts? It looks like I've cleared them without even knowing it!"

As Eva stuck out her chest, Shannon spoke tiredly.

"Those are the precepts for bride-finding, you know. And wait, I don't think my feelings are being taken into consideration in any of this... hey, isn't that a little too cruel?"

Shannon pleaded to me for help, but Miranda smile.

"If you think you'll be able to evade Celes' grasp alone, then just go and try it. She does seem to hate you, so I'm sure she has only the nicest reception in store."

Raising a slight scream, Shannon left her own card on the table.

Miranda did the same, without even giving Novem a second glance.

"... If you're coming along, I don't think discord within the group will be of any help."

On my words, she...

"I'll do my work properly. If it's orders, I'll act like we're getting along."

I shook my head.

"Just don't cause any problems."

"Taken to heart. Now Shannon, let's go."

"I get it, so don't pull me by the hair!"

After the two of them left, Novem smiled.

"So everyone's going along."

I sighed a little.

"That's right. It was a bit unexpected."

There, Monica muttered a, 'well, well, well' under her breath, and spoke.

"Looks like we've gained another one, though. Good grief, we'll have to recalculate our edibles, and go on another shopping voyage out there because of it."

Sighing some more, I'm not sure if it was just my imagination that she looked quite happy as she said all of that.

Eva was...

"Hey, what's all this about wife-finding precepts? Um, I don't have any intentions of marrying him, you know. Hey!"

To a flustered Eva, Novem spoke.

"That's alright. There's plenty of time, so just slowly get to know one another before..."

"Oy, quite expanding the harem any further. Can't we just get normal comrades already!?"

I cautioned Novem on her continued expansion of a growing Harem.

The Fourth evaluated the flow up to now.

[So everyone's going along. Good for you, Lyle.]

On his words, I hung my head, and gave a bitter smile.

(No, really... I thought there would be no helping us going our separate ways, but... well, I guess it's something to be happy about.)

It's just, considering the future, it wasn't going to be all happy times.