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Chapter 19: A Mountain of Corpses

A Mountain of Corpses

The piling remains of monsters reached more than halfway up the fortress walls.

When you defeated some, they'd be tread over, and with the next monsters defeated as well, they'd simply keep stacking up.

But I couldn't see the figure of any monsters that would pose a threat to us.

The merciless attacks from the fortress, coupled with the quilins' attacks from the sky. Sealed in without a place to run, the monsters only waited for their defeat.

As that raged on, the Fifth let his voice from the Jewel.

[This lack of resistance is strange. For that Giant Kong to be the only Boss-Class monster... it's surely not enough.]

The present state that could practically be called a harvest at this point felt quite insufficient.

(Personally, I don't want to fight anymore here. If I experienced a Growth at this point, it would be a massive problem.)

It would become impossible for me to continue battle, and I'd be bedridden from a few days to a week.

As I couldn't stay away for such a long period, since coming to the fortress, I had abstained from fighting as much as possible.

It was a massive legion of monsters... but the majority of them could be called weak.

The representative monster example- Goblins- were present, but there were also a lot of insectoid monsters.

After taking down their stronger ones, it really was just sealing them in, and beating them down.

Numbers could be a large power.

But at this point, we were winning, even in numbers.

And after defeating too many, a problem came out.

[Lyle, Boosted Arrows are pointless. Using normal arrows is more efficient.]

From Aria as well.

[Using cannon shells would be wasteful when they're so dispersed.]

Clara was the same.

[We can still prepare rounds on our side, but any more would be useless in my opinion.]

They were sharing visual information with me, so the scenery I saw from atop the fortress was visible to everyone through Connection's line. Seeing that, Clara also concluded than any more catapult use would hold no meaning.

From the Jewel, the Seventh let his voice.

[... Lyle, it's time to finish up. Blow away the front of the gate.]

I gripped the Jewel, and issued orders to Miranda.

"Miranda, clean out the front of the gate. Our forces will make our debut."

[Understood. So what about us?]

Should our party go out as well? When she asked something like that, I gave a 'no', and refused.

"... It'll be rough even after it's over. For now, just rest. Everyone."

I wanted everyone to rest. Just look at the scale of the battlefield. There was the problem of cleaning up.

The Fourth let his high spirits show.

[Now then, from here on's my turn. To turn the collected Magic Stones and materials into negotiation tools, we must press on efficiently. Lyle, send Monica-chan and Clara-chan around to support Adele-chan.]

Paperwork awaited. The battle itself was nearing its end, but we would still be busy. And we were going to collect the drops we could.

Besides that, there were plenty of things that had to be done. Transporting the injured, as well as rites for the deceased. Those killed in action didn't come out as a small number.

"... Leave the assault's command to Alette. I'm sure she'll rampage around enough to serve a diversion."

There, Aria and Eva...

[... Isn't it bad if we don't send anyone ourselves?]

[Right, right! We've got to send one or two! Yep! I volunteer!]

[I-I'm also going out!]

Aria and Eva announced their candidacy, and I could guess the general reason. It was going to get busy, and it seems they had picked up that it was to be their dreaded paperwork.

There, Miranda spoke.

[That's fine. But once you return, you're definitely helping us out as well.]

Her words shut them up.

I could somewhat picture the two of them looking down. Smiling a bit, I looked down at the final monsters putting up resistance before the fortress.

"... It's the end."

-

-

-

...In Beim's Guild Headquarters, it was a few days before the information on Fort Redant reached.

In the Guild's meeting of executives, the members looked through the facts of how a fort had been upgraded to a fortress, and of how an allied force of Zayin and Lorphys, led by Lyle, was able to take down a force ten times their size.

Participating alongside her superior, Tanya was surprised on the news as well.

"What should we do!? Our adventurers haven't been challenging our Labyrinth lately! We've insufficient Magic Stones and materials!"

"... We can just buy them off the two countries that attained victory. No, that was on Beim's territory. Just say the stones and materials they obtained fall under our jurisdiction, and..."

"And you think that'll pass? Do it, and we will lose our credibility."

The contents of the meeting pertained to Lyle and co.'s victory. Going as far as to completely neglect the casualties suffered by the adventurers of Beim.

"Even when we've casualties of our own."

When Tanya said that, her superior looked at the documents.

"From the East Branch, some adventurers of high evaluations. They were unlucky. For them to be in the sole point that casualties came out in."

Adventurers of the East Branch had been dispatched to defend important points. But attacked by the monster that flew over Fortress Redant, they had been thrown into battle.

They were unlucky.

If it were a Gryphon, they'd be able to handle it. But a black, large, crow-like monster... a Raven...

Attacked by such a monster, the party suffered heavy casualties. Luckily enough, another party took care of it, but even so, the death toll wasn't small.

Her superior watched the flow of the meeting.

"Well, well, well, even so, Beim is in a bit of a grave state. A large load of weapons left over. With Magic Stones and materials, we haven't been challenging the Labyrinth for a while, so how shall we compensate... Looking at the whole, it's only a slight number, thought."

Numerically, it wouldn't sting. But it wasn't a number that could be ignored.

And at present, with plans falling through, a large amount of equipment remained.

Tanya's superior looked at the numbers on the page.

"This could be that... send the equipment to Zayin and Lorphys in exchange for the stones and such. It'll likely go like that. But what shall the merchants say then?"

Complaining his head was hurting, the superior seemed to be thinking over future countermeasures.

And Tanya affirmed once more that to the top brass, adventurers were nothing more than numbers on a page...

-

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-

... Beim's Eastern Guild Branch.

Rühe the receptionist didn't know what sort of face she should make.

"... Eh?"

The lone adventurer that returned was heavily injured. His arm was wrapped in bandaging. It was more than clear that he had suffered a loss. It was no longer possible for him to serve as an adventurer.

But more than that...

"... It's their Guild Cards. I came to return them. And this was his."

A beautiful ornament. At a glance, one could tell how expensive it was.

The adventurer was a comrade of the one Rühe had been close to.

"For those that didn't write wills to leave their belongings to their bereaved families, as a party member, I'm the one who's supposed to carry them on. But I thought this alone should be passed on to you."

As she accepted it, she didn't feel a sense of reality. She unsteadily moved to search out the Guild Card copies kept by the Guild.

Guild Cards existed in pairs, and when an adventurer passed, a cut would be made in their name. That was how the Guild could confirm their deaths.

As Rühe searched through the Guild Card storage, what she found was a card with a gash through it.

The name of the adventurer she was close to was scratched out. His death was certain.

"... Eh? But... I mean... he said there was something he wanted to tell me when he got back."

Sitting down on the spot, Rühe let her tears fall messily over the floor...

-

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-

In the fortress were lined body-filled body bags.

Comrades were confirming the remains, and recording them. For us to reimburse the bereaved on a later date.

In such a place, I stood stock still.

Most of the body bags, for others to confirm the faces, had their heads out. Among them were some left in terrible states. The subordinates and superiors of these men had died in battle.

Some collapsed in tears.

One of the soldiers spread the drink in his hand over a body.

"Look, I bought this tall treat for you lot to drink. Tasty, ain't it... if you like it, then tell me, dammit!"

As he cried, the thirty-year-old man poured wine over the body of the soldier in his teens. Around, some extended their hands to stop the man, but they had stopped themselves along the way.

At a different point, those from the same village gathered.

There, a youth in his teens was being comforted by those around him.

"Your father was a great man. A great one he was."

"Y-yeah!"

Zayin, and Lorphys... we had dragged in those uninvolved parties. There was the reason of paying back debt, but that was a story for the countries' higher-ups. It was, quite likely, a tale these men would never feel a part of.

There, I heard Milleia-san's voice.

[Lyle, drop by the Jewel for a bit.]

-

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-

There were many sacrifices. Deaths surpassed a thousand, while injuries, crossed well over three thousand.

Yet within all that, I returned to my room, and transferred my mind to the Jewel.

In the round table room, the ancestors... their numbers had dwindled considerably, making me feel a bit of loneliness.

The Third stood from his seat, and turned to me.

[Lyle, I think now's the best time to ask. Have you decided what you want to do here on? Defeating Celes is a given. Beyond that... Lyle, what you want to do. I'll just throw this out there, but say you'll take responsibility and kill yourself, and I won't forgive you.]

As always, he had a somewhat soft tone and expression. But from his last words, I could feel something akin to a threat.

"... I've no intentions of dying."

The fourth nodded after hearing that.

The Fifth spoke in regards to me.

[Then what will you do? Help someone make a stand? Or take a stand for yourself?]

Two options. But at present, my only option was the later.

"Aren't you being a bit sneaky here? If you look at the practical problem, we don't have an individual who could be the flag to hoist in defeating Celes. Zayin's Holy Maiden is too weak a position. Lorphys' princess is out of the question. And there isn't such an individual in Beim, is there?"

The Seventh nodded. He nodded, but spoke to me in a slightly cold tone.

[I've said it before. And it's already time for you to look ahead, and take action. Lyle, what did you think upon seeing so many corpses? What did you feel seeing those injured in battle? Did you want to run? At the very point you failed to find someone more suitable to the task than yourself, it was your fault.]

It's true I had the time. But I couldn't find a person to be the flag to fight Celes... to fight Bahnseim.

The Fourth spoke kindly.

[If there was one more suited than you, we would've told you to support them. But if you couldn't find one, then isn't that just what it means?]

I nodded only once, and clenched my fist. What went through my mind was the scenes of patients Novem saw, and the lines of bodies.

It was all my responsibility.

If I had stayed quiet, I'm sure I'd have fought in Beim, and I'd never have to feel like this. I could have made it someone else's fault.

I raised my face, and sent a look around the five. And I spoke.

"... I'll aim for the summit. Perhaps being king would be a difficult thing, but even so, what I set my sights on is the top."

That I would make a stand, that I would be the one standing at the front. When I said that, the Third smiled. He didn't joke around as he usually did.

[... I see. You've decided that of your own will, have you?]

"Yes. I've decided it."

Finally, Milleia-san stood, turned to me with a serious expression, and opened her mouth. She touched her right hand to her chest, and...

[Lyle, surely both you and Celes shall kill many. Even if you manage to keep casualties to a minimum, it's certain you'll build up a mountain of corpses. Many enemies will die. And many of those that have chosen to follow you shall perish as well. So you must stand atop that mountain of friend and foe. Don't forget the point you're aiming for is one made of death upon death.]

As I nodded, Milleia-san smiled.

[Lyle, the place you're aiming for is a point none of your ancestors have ever reached.]

I laughed, before turning to everyone.

"I'm doing it because I have to. It's not like I'm fighting because I like to. If I don't, the continent will be stormy... if I ended it as beating down Bahnseim, then I'm sure the surrounding nations will chip away at its weakened state. In that case, an era of war will descend upon us."

It's not like simply defeating her was the end. Thinking of what was to come later, someone had to get them all together. Seeking aid from surrounding nations, and not handing them anything in return, wouldn't leave anyone satisfied.

But letting Bahnseim be cut up to everyone's wills wasn't something I could overlook.

And once Bahnseim was shaved away and gone, new countries would have new borders. In the worst case, they'd clash over territory disputes, and war would only continue.

It would take a few decades for them to calm down. No, perhaps they could dispute for centuries.

"Right. Since we're at it, how about we go and build up an empire?"

When I said that, the Third laughed.

[Oh, nice.]

The Fourth pushed up his glasses with his fingertips.

[It's not bad as an option. Even if you get Zayin and Lorphys together, melting them down will have some resistance come out. But you can't just abandon them either.]

The Fifth didn't sound interested. But he seemed to refute my decision a bit.

[Why do you do such troublesome things? Lyle, you've got a personality prone to loss, I tell you.]

The Seventh looked delighted.

[I see, my grandson an emperor... not bad at all. So the time has finally come for the Walt House's continental domination.]

I looked up at the ceiling. At that moment, Milleia-san called over to me.

[Lyle, that decision is no joke, right?]

I turned my face towards her, and nodded. I told her my feelings were real.

"I can't really leave this job to someone else. And I definitely can't leave it to someone who'd do it because they'd like to. Continental domination may be going too far, but even so, I'll get Bahnseim, and its neighbors in order. I mean, I'm a man of the Walt House after all. And I'm right in the mood for some exploits that don't fall short of my ancestors."

When I joked around, Milleia-san laughed to herself. But she looked a little sorrowful as well.

[That path is a grim one. You've already lost the road home, but are you sure?]

"I mind it not."

[I see. Then we've got to support you with all we've got.]