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Chapter 9: A Journey of Memory

A Journey of Memory

Looking through the Fifth's room to find a countermeasure for the quilin, I stumbled upon a certain memory.

It was inside the stable the Fifth kept as a hobby. In its inner room, the quilin was eating a meal.

As the Fifth took care of the other animals, the servant managing the place turned to stop someone at the entrance.

[Don't go any further. Fredricks-sama told me not to let anyone in!]

[Move! I have something to say to pops!]

The one who burst in quite violently was a young Sixth Generation.

His early twenties, perhaps? He was more youthful than the form I usually saw him in, and quite gruff at that.

[Pops, what's the meaning of this!?]

After he ran the room's expanse to the quilin's room in the back, Fredricks let out a sigh.

[What are you here for? I'm sure I said not to enter.]

Fredricks indifferently turned, and the Sixth, Fiennes, grabbed his collar.

There was quite a difference in height, and the young and strong-looking Fiennes made it look like Fredricks' small build was sure to lose.

[Why did you keep quiet about that quilin!? Meaning to show it off? Or use it as the Walt House's horse? The rumors are already spreading, and inquiries from other territories are already...]

At a glance, it looked like the Sixth was overwhelmingly dominating the Fifth.

And that the Sixth was the one at fault here.

[... Unhand me. Who the do you think you're taking that attitude with?]

And saying that, Fredricks hurled Fiennes off, sending him sprawling into a piled up lump of straw.

Hitting his hands together, and getting all the dust off, he walked over to the quilin.

Timid as it was, the beast approached him, and began eating from his hand.

"... Wasn't that a little mean?"

[Which one are you talking about?]

When he said that, I went over the Fifth and Sixth in my mind. When my eyes showed off my conclusion, the Fifth smiled.

[Yep, looks like we're both terrible people. Right, let's go with that.]

With those words, the Fifth walked off, and I followed behind. The surroundings turned to grey, before being replaced with yet another scene.

It was within the mansion.

A woman in her late thirties, or perhaps early forties, was standing distraught in front of a door. There were servants around her.

[Just come out. It's already time for the carriage to leave.]

And up to those woman, the Fifth of memories... Fredricks strut, and kicked the door down.

[Don't think I'll put up with a child's whims forever. Take her away.]

His men entered the room, and extracted a single young girl.

[I don't want to! Why do I have to be married off to such a place! He's an enemy, isn't he! And he even laughed at you for being an arrogant upstart!]

As I stood unable to fathom the situation, the Fifth beside me explained.

[This one's before I picked up the quilin. Those times were the worst. No, wait, my generation really was the worst. I've not a decent memory of them.]

The girl dragged from her room was around my age. No, she looked a little younger.

[Because I'm a mistress' child... you're going to make me marry into a household to mock me!? You're the worst. Someone like you should just go die already!]

The young girl glared at Fredricks, but the man's expression didn't change in the slightest. The woman who looked to be her mother had an expression of sorrow.

[You bought off my mother with money, and spread around your children like produce... you upstart garbage! It makes me want to die, just knowing I'm your daughter!]

Her mother slapped her across the face.

Still with an unchanging expression, Fredricks spoke curtly.

[Hurry. You don't have any time.]

The girl fell to her knees in the hallway, and burst into tears. Fredricks didn't turn around.

And I saw it all.

"Now this one really is terrible. I get the feeling there's a much better way to go about political marriages, isn't there?"

Hearing my words, the Fifth nodded and affirmed them.

[Now you get it right? I used my children as political tools for marriage and succession. I'm sure the love I held for any single animal was more than that I had for my own children.]

The Fifth continued walking, and this time the scene changed to night.

There, a small child with gold short-cut hair was running around in what looked to be a white one-piece.

Her facial features could be taken as either male or female, but what was stranger than that was Fredricks himself.

The Fifth of memory played with the girl with a smile on his face.

"Oh, so you could still be kind to small children?"

The one beside me shook his head. And saying it was about time, he motioned for me to watch the child.

The running child took on the form of a quilin, before making a large jump, and landing by the Fifth's side. She playfully nuzzled her forehead against him.

Her horn was retracted, and it was as if she was asking to be spoiled by a parent.

"... Eh?"

Well, it's not like I couldn't tell by looking. The quilin had taken on a child's form.

[I looked into it a bit, but it seems that's the reason that quilins can bring generations of prosperity to the houses that catch them. Whatever the reason, females of the species can choose males of whatever race they want. Meaning those prospering houses married their mares.]

After looking at the current Fifth, I turned back to Fredricks pampering the quilin.

The quilin in its human form looked to be only five tops.

"So a fifty year old man laid hands on a five year old?"

The Fifth swung his fist down on my head with all his might. It hurt like hell.

[You goddamn fool! As if I could ever do anything like that, idiot!]

"But you said something about marriage and such, didn't you!?"

As I was holding my head with teary eyes, the setting changed again. I had already seen many scenes of the Fifth's children watching him dote over his animals and complain.

[Are those dirty beasts so much more important than us!?]

[A father that's never even shown me a smile...]

[So I fall short of dogs and cats!? Say something already, damn old man!]

And still, he didn't direct a smile at his children. The only memories I ever saw besides those of his animals were those of him immersed in his work.

And around five years after the quilin had been injured.

There, the Fifth and the quilin were conversing.

"I think it would have been easier if you just showed them in order."

[... I'm trying hard to remember. The impact was too strong, and no matter how hard I try, those kids' faces pop up. Deal with it.]

Within the stable, just as she had been before... the five year old child rested her head in his lap, as he pat her back.

Comfortably laying herself out, she addressed Fredricks.

[Fredricks, be with me? I will be Fredricks' wife.]

Hearing that, he laughed amusingly.

[That so? So you'll take me? But you're still a child you know. Get a bit bigger, and I won't say I won't consider it. Your injury's all healed up, right, May?]

[Yeah!]

His grey hair had expanded, and he looked more weathered than before.

"... It's like a grandfather and granddaughter."

[And that's why I adequately dodged the subject. And wait, I think that's about all I remember. Even so, the truth of the matter is that I'm dead, and the quilin never returned to the Walt House... did she think I broke the promise?]

In that case, it's the Fifth's responsibility, but there's nothing I can really do. At this rate, I'll remain the man who pissed off a mystical beast by trying to kiss it.

Fredricks spoke.

[... Then it's best you leave this place. I can't buy any more time.]

Hearing that, May tilted her head.

The scene changed to a grassy field.

Foliage that grew to my waist. The wind was strong, and the sky was blue.

In a scene like that, Fredricks brought out May in quilin form, and pointed up at the sky.

[Look, aren't those your friends?]

[Yep, I can see mommy!]

As if wary of them, the herd of quilin circled around the two of them.

[I see. I've been hearing a lot of rumors of quilin sightings in these areas. May, it's been a fun ride.]

Saying that, he lightly tapped the back of her neck.

[Fredricks?]

[May, the crown keeps insisting it has to see you. There's a high chance they'll take you off with them if they ever do. If you're caught, you'll be spending the rest of your life in a cell.]

[Fredricks. I want to be with Fredricks for the rest of my life.]

[And I as well. But I don't have any more time. Look, your family's waiting for you.]

Only when he voiced the word family, did Fredrick's expression turn strained. After May stood stagnant a while, one of the herd came down to the ground.

Perhaps it was May's mother. After staring at Fredricks a while, it retracted its horn, and approached May. The man looked over the scene in silence.

The mother returned to the sky, and May looked between her and Fredricks a few times.

[Hey, go with her.]

[But...]

[I'll be just fine. And I'm sure we'll meet again.]

[It's a promise. We'll meet again. I'll get bigger so I'm going to become Fredricks' bride.]

Fredricks nodded with a smile. And turning back a number of times, stopping in her tracks a number of times, May returned to her herd.

[Now go! You have your family with you. I'm sure you... be happier.]

Not shedding a tear for his children, Fredicks had water streaming down his face as he screamed for the quilin to leave.

I looked at that.

"I think I've gotten to understand a bit, but isn't this..."

[Perhaps she had been searching for me. I mean, it seems she was moving individually out of the herd. In that case, she must have noticed me. Good grief, she's kept that promise faithfully on her mind for decades, hasn't she.]

Seeing him act a little bashful, I...

"No, then just what should I do? There' no doubt she was hostile towards me."

[... If you talk it out, won't she understand? Don't worry, that child's a sharp one. Much sharper than those Shannon and Aria girls, I tell ya'!]

I scratched my head.

Returning to the conference room, I found the Sixth waiting, so I let out a complaint.

The Fifth had vanished, perhaps shutting himself in his room.

"I think I've gotten quite a good understanding of why you went AWOL and left the house."

Giving a bitter smile, he scratched his face with a finger tip.

[Well, I was a little wild back then. I got struck and thrown a number of times. Quite a bit happened when that quilin was involved. But looking back at it all, perhaps the Fifth's decisions had been right.]

Breathing out a sigh, and locking his arms, the Sixth lost himself in thought.

And he mumbled something to me.

[Lyle, how do you see the Fifth?]

"... Cold. An animal lover? Well, quite a questionable one to have as a father, at least."

[Or course. I also think so. I do, but you see...]

Perhaps thinking something didn't mesh, the Sixth resolved himself to something, and beckoned over to me.

[You're here anyways. Have a glance at mine too.]

And just like that, I was lead through the Sixth's door of memories.

The moment I stepped through it, I found myself in the Walt House's mansion.

A young Sixth was complaining to some women any of whom could have been his mother.

[You'll go along with a damn old man like that!? I'm leaving this house! Just have some other unfortunate lout succeed these bloody walls!]

In his teens... Fiennes shouted out, and was just about to burst through the doors.

A single woman stood, and disinterestedly...

[You stupid son! Not knowing anything, you take that tone to your father...]

Troubled by the woman's tears, Fiennes fled the room. And as he stood perplexed at the other side of the doorway, voices came from within.

Five women were talking amongst themselves.

[He'll understand it someday.]

[That man's the one who has it hardest.]

[But Fiennes alone is...]

Well, the other four women were attempting to comfort the one who had burst into tears.

(It seems quite different from what I imagined.)

I thought their relationship would be more strained, with more disputes over succession mixed in. But they got along quite fine.

Perhaps unable to forgive them for not criticizing the Fifth, Fiennes grit his teeth.

His expression contained true hatred for his father.

[What's the matter, Fiennes?]

The one to appear was a girl identical to Miranda... no, it was Miranda that took after the young Milleia.

The one set to marry into the Circry House, and become the ancestor to Miranda and Shannon. She watched her brother Fiennes with her golden eyes.

[I-it's nothing. I just couldn't forgive pops, so I protested a bit. And somehow, I'm the bad guy in all this... dammit, why am I even telling you all this.]

Watching the younger sister listen to the Sixth's earnest confidence, I thought.

(She's quite steady for her age.)

Differing from Miranda, if I had to say, the impression she gave off was closer to Novem's. But her giggling gesture was one I had observed in the sisters I knew.

[You're always angry, aren't you, onii-sama. But just like that, father is always sad.]

Hearing that from his sister, Fiennes slammed his fist against a wall.

[That thing is sad? Like hell! He sees us as nothing more than objects. Maybe you'll be thrown away like a tool sometime soon!]

Casting her eyes down, Milleia...

[My eyes do not function, so I cannot even become a tool.]

Fiennes hung his head as well.

[S-sorry. But I've decided it. I'm going to leave this house.]

[Onii-sama?]

[That's right. How about I become an adventurer! I'll become a first rate adventurer in the future, and take up a job to smack that old man upside the face!]

Looking up at the tall Fienness, Milleia spoke.

[... I can't say I like how you are now either, onii-sama.]

With those words, she turned her back, and walked off.