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Chapter 9: Revenge

Revenge

Perhaps it had been revenge.

That's what the Walt House's Fifth Generation Head said to me.

The scenery projected around was a horrid one.

A fallen carriage.

Within a heavy downpour cold enough to bring pain to the skin on contact, a single woman covered Fredricks. Blood flowed from the woman, and she seemed worried about her slightly-swelled stomach.

I knew what this flow led to.

[Mama, mama!]

In the carriage that'd fallen from a cliff, Fredricks clung to the Fourth's wife... his mother.

[I-It's alright. Fredricks... it going to be alright.]

The ones who attacked the carriage were those dressed as bandits. But from what I could see from his memory, they carried it out skillfully. Hindering the guards, and attacking only the carriage, causing it to fall. I couldn't think it the offense of a robber.

Watching the scene alongside me, the Fifth opened his mouth.

[Back then, mama was laden with a child. She lost it protecting me. After that, she'd give all sorts of reasons as to why she wouldn't have another, she'd go on and on... but even I could tell it was because of the accident. I knew.]

The guards that raced over quickly kept watch as they destroyed the carriage, made a roof of it, and started a fire. They carried out emergency measures, and a single knight was dispatched on horse through the downpour to the Walt House at once.

The images went grey there and stopped. It looked as if the raindrops were frozen in air.

[... They weren't just bandits. We were merciless to our bandits, so I thought we may've bought their resentment. But even looking back on, they were too skilled. And the neighboring lord's son who invited us out in the first place called out to me with a smile afterwards.]

Was the Fifth thinking too deeply, or was it all devised.

The images changed, and this time, Fredricks was listening in from a doorway. Inside the room, the knights were speaking with the Fourth.

Making a fist, the Fourth was short of breath.

[Max-sama...]

I thought I had seen that worried knight before. He had grown weathered, but it was the knight punched off by the Third, who informed the Fourth of his crisis.

[... I know. Both my wife and Fredricks are safe. Asking for any more would truly be... but like hell I'll forgive it! Conduct a complete search! Flush them out! Use whatever means possible to get information out of whatever bandits you catch! I'll also use this to...]

Gripping the blue gem hung at his neck, the Fourth likely planned on using the Third's Skill Mind recorded in it. But that wouldn't' constitute evidence.

[Information forced out by a Skill is often written off as something implanted by the Skill itself. Even if we identified a culprit, we wouldn't have been able to lay a hand on them. It's laughable. If we weren't such a large house, we'd easily have been rendered immobile.]

When I listened in on his words, the scene changed again.

In his early teens, Fredricks was once more in a mansion not the Walt's. Surrounded by children his age, punched and kicked.

[Shorty, just when is your place going to start listening to us!?]

A large-built boy hit the Fifth. Colliding with the wall, Fredricks didn't say a word, as he tried to stand. He was kicked.

Around, some noble girls of the same ages were laughing as they watched.

[Upstarts are just the worst. I definitely won't want to marry into the Walt House.]

[And he's a shorty, after all.]

[His mother's also a shorty, and an imperial noble at that. What's more, she can't have children anymore. Worst as a woman as well.]

Fredricks looked down, as he grit his teeth, and bore it. The large boy grasped up Fredricks' lapels, and lifted him up.

[Try saying something back, shorty. Well, since it's all true, guess you can't. That day, the carriage fell, and she was injured right?]

Fredricks endured. He clenched his fist hard enough for blood to drip from it, but he endured.

"Fifth, why didn't you say anything back?"

The Fifth looked at the image.

[... Because they all had their stories straight. They'd clearly discussed it beforehand. If I did anything back, they'd make me the bad guy. Naturally, that would become a problem in the talks between our parents. I said it, didn't I? The Walt House of the time was in a dubious standing. We couldn't even trust our own vassals. Oh, there were some houses on our side, though. The Forxuz House, for instance.]

The scene changed to the Walt House manor.

His mother spoke to Fredricks.

[Fredricks, you aren't hiding anything?]

[N-not at all.]

Max carried on.

[... The truth is, a neighboring lord brought up talks of marriage between you and his daughter. I declined it. The Forxuz House's head and previous head were strongly against it as well. She wasn't worthy, it seems.]

[... Okay.]

Max seemed to notice something. But Fredricks didn't say much in regards to the matter.

He merely turned a smile to his parents.

And the scene switched to a village where cultivation had begun.

Fredricks was surrounded by knights, looking over the village, and studying.

[Is this a good land?]

One of the knights courteously explained to him.

[I can't say it's very good, but if the work is put it, it can become plentiful. If it succeeds, it will become your achievement, Fredricks-sama.]

[But I'm just watching the work as a part of my studies?]

The Fifth looked at the young knight, and muttered.

[... Old Randbergh. That's his grandson.]

Hearing Randbergh, I looked at the young man. Thinking I'd definitely seen him somewhere before, I saw he resembled the one I'd started to admire as a knight.

The Fifth continued.

[Served as a knight from the Third's time. He was a good guy.]

And a small girl crashed into Fredricks. It seems she had ran around a corner, and collided.

[H-hey! Separate from Fredricks-sama at once!]

The knight extended a hand to the girl, but Fredricks laughed, and shook his head.

[It's fine. You'd better be careful from here on.]

The girl looked at Fredricks with a face that showed she didn't really get what was going on. There, a young girl who was probably her sister raced over with a pale face. She lowered her head, and gave an apology.

[I-I deeply apologize!]

Bowing a number of times, she held her presumed sister close, and pleaded for her forgiveness. Fredricks looked quite confused at seeing her like that. So looking at the elder sister, Fredrick's face was a little flushed.

[I-it's fine! We'll overlook it this time. Now return to your work.]

His voice was a little raised, and the two young girls looked relieved, as they lowered their heads with smiled. Watching their backs as they ran off, Fredricks hesitated.

And seeing that, the knight.

[... Shall I send them around to your room tonight?]

There, Fredricks' face went bright red.

[Y... y-y-y-you fool! I-I didn't... didn't...]

Those around looked at him, and smiled. He walked off with a large stride, shook off the knights, and proceeded on.

The Fifth looked at the scene.

[We planned to increase our number of cultivated villages from there on. So the Fourth determined there was a need for me to learn the site. Because the area rugged as can be.]

The Fifth reminisced. But his eyes looked on sorrowfully.

And after that, a few more scenes of Fredricks conversing with the sisters flowed passed. Little by little, they were getting along with one another.

It was then.

Fredricks was called back to the Walt House manor for a temporary return.

At the entrance to the village, The Randbergh House heir and the villagers saw him off.

Fredricks got on his horse, and spoke to the two girls he'd gotten along with.

[I'll be back soon. Um... at that time...]

Those around looked upon his reddened face with smiles. The elder sister nodded.

[We'll be waiting for you, Fredricks-sama.]

Fredricks smiled.

But...

The next scene projected was the remnants of a village burnt down. Stock still, Fredricks was led along by his guard knights through the burnt site towards the tree in its center.

A few survivors remained, raining jeers on the box.

[Why couldn't you have come sooner!?]

[My... my daughter...]

A couple I'd seen before. It was the couple that had appeared in the runaway Sixth's memory.

Walking slowly, Fredricks set his feet towards the tree in the village center.

There were villagers hung up on it.

The young man of the Randbergh house was stripped of his belongings, and put up in a terrible state. It looked like he'd resisted to the end.

And in a position standing out at the very front, the sisters that Fredricks befriended were hung.

Methodically... calling it that would be strange, but they were definitely put up in a way to make a mark on Fredricks. Falling at the knees, he looked at the letters carved into the trunk.

Shorty... they spelled out.

Fredricks looked down, and I could see the look in his eyes change. Sharp, and muddied, those eyes made me swallow my breath.

The Fifth turned.

[... There was no proof. But there were limited humans who knew the internal affairs of the village. I wanted to take troops at once, and raid them. I wanted to do the same to them. No, I wanted to go eradicate them.]

Without changing his expression, the Fifth went on indifferently.

[Someone had to have leaked the information I was close to those sisters. I had a general idea. Someone tied to our vassals. They'd gone off with a smile, and sold our information.]

I looked up at the tree of the village, and turned away my eyes. Could man really do something so terrible, and was there a need to go so far...

"This is too terrible. This is..."

[Don't call it impossible. Listen here, Lyle. The ones who did this were the same as us. The same Feudal Lords, the same Nobles. One step off the path, and we'd do such things to. As a matter of fact, I'm sure even worse things were done to the territories that tried to invade Fiennes. If someone invades your land, it's necessary to give retribution. Because if you let them make light of you, then they'll keep repeating something like this.]

I understood you couldn't let yourself be made lightly of.

And the Fifth spoke.

[... About the feudal lord who'd invaded us this time, once upon a time, they got along well with the Third, you know. But with a single generation built up, this is what it came to.]

There were lords, and there were citizens... the one to decide the territory's policies was the lord, and while if he were proficient, he'd bring glory to the territory, if he were incompetent, he could ruin the land.

There were many instances where a change of hands made for incompetence, and the reverse was also true.

[... You see, Lyle. I swore it there. I would definitely have my vengeance. No matter how many years, how many decades it took, I would eradicate them.]

I looked at the Fifth hanging his head. But in the Fifth's period, the Walt House continued enduring, and in the end, they didn't invade any surrounding territories.

"What happened to change your plan?"

On my words, the Fifth looked up at the sky, and laughed. He laughed, and in the end, in a small voice.

[My own child. The first time I looked at Fiennes, I was truly lost. When I truly hated them. When I truly wanted them all dead... I didn't want them, my own children to have to go through the same. It was too late. I already had the mistresses, and the plan all together, and yet... by the time I noticed it, I couldn't stop it anymore. ]

The Fifth said that, and quietly drove me out of his room of memories.

-

-

-

Inside of Porter.

Under the light of the lantern, what Monica informed me of was the hostages being taken throughout Bahnseim.

From any large-scale House above Baron Status, Centralle had given orders through the country for hostages to be presented.

Putting together the information obtained from Adele-san, it meant that by that mandate, there were many Feudal Lords who couldn't move even if they wanted to.

On that information passed through the Valkyries, I thought to myself. But what crossed through my head was the Fifth.

In Porter's loading tray, Clara spoke to me.

"Lyle-san, are you alright? I think it best you get some rest."

After lightly rubbing the corners of my eyes with a fingertip, I shook my head to the side.

"My bad, please continue"

Monica looked over me as she conveyed the information.

"For those without hostages, it seems those Baronet and below will move for the peace of their territories. If we take them into our forces, we will be able to prepare troops from within Bahnseim."

There, the Third spoke up.

[That's wrong. It's true there are feudal lords who want peaceful reign. But there's no guarantee they're all like that. There will be some who want more land, and others who'll think to use the opportunity to settle disputes with their surroundings. As expected, we'll need the assistance of Lords above Baronet, who have vassals under them. It's best to keep troubles to a minimum. Or rather, if you've nothing but small-time lords, there's no way to get them together. It will be hard to lead them in a large-scale army, I'm sure.]

According to the Third, it would be difficult to get all the small-scale lords' opinions to align. A lord capable of that sort of fine tuning... we need to get some lords on of Baron or higher.

And as commanders, they wouldn't be able to take charge of such large forces.

"Monica, tell Adele-san's unit. It's important to start small, but we need to get one larger lord on our side. Lest it be impossible to get them together ourselves."

Monica had prepared tea for me. Herb tea, it seems.

"She believes it difficult. Taking hostages is one thing, but the problem is those hostages. Do you think they'll be safe when put under Celes? Even if you promise their rescue, in the end, there is a possibility, they have changed to her side from the depths of their hearts. The possibility they are already no longer of this world it..."

It will be difficult to take back the relations of the lords taken off. If it came to those negotiations, we were in a situation where we couldn't say we'd definitely save them.

Clara spoke to me.

"As expected, is there no choice but to start from the bottom? Even if we defeat Celes, if the hostages aren't safe, the root of their problem will remain."

Aria was negative.

"If it was possible to infiltrate Centralle, and rescue them, It wouldn't be strange if someone had assassinated Celes by now."

Having faced Celes, and experienced her irrationality, Aria's opinion was on the mark.

But we didn't have time.

"What about the western front. What's become of the lords near Faunbeux's border? We're currently headed their way. If they're still safe, there are still ways to go about it."

Lifting her face, Monica shook her head.

"She does not have that information. As Adele-san is in the east."

Novem's party was south. If their task finished safely, they would enter Bahnseim from there.

Thinking a bit, I came to a conclusion.

"Gather information. If it's not too late, rescue, or recovery is thinkable. If they're already in Centralle, that's impossible. If not, then we can do what is possible with our numbers."

I sent a look around, and everyone nodded.