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Prologue

Prologue

... A dim, cloudy sky.

As snow fell over Centralle, the capital of the Bahnseim Kingdom was strangely quiet. There were few youths among the people walking the streets. Male youths were especially low in number. It wasn't as if the snow was the only reason no one wandered.

The light leaking from buildings was similarly few. When it should have been the main street of the capital, a number of stores had closed the doors, with notices of absences posted up front.

It was surely cold out the window, but watching the outside scenery from the room, such a thing was irrelevant to Celes. The heating unit Magic Tool was operational, and the room was warm. The rapier she held in her left hand, from the shape of the scabbard, and the ornamentation of the hilt, it was made to look like a staff.

From the yellow Jewel embedded in its hilt, a voice came towards Celes, who looked out the window with a grin on her face.

[War piling on war, heavy taxation. How does it feel to watch the insects working for your sake wear themselves away?]

Unlike Lyle's Blue Jewel, there was only one mind recorded in the Yellow Jewel. [Agrissa] who inherited a portion of Septem's memory, and dropped the continent into hell... She carved her own memory into the Jewel.

"It's terribly interesting. But seeing them weaken so much in such a short period of time..."

Celes looked down, a sorrowful expression on her face. Her gold hair carried a light wave, covering her expression as she looked down. That glimmering hair, and sorrowful blue eyes... but as she slowly raised the corners of her lips, she produced a course smile.

"... They really are insects after all. While calling themselves the capital of Bahnseim, this is all it takes to ruin them, after all. I'd have liked it if they entertained me more."

Agrissa was a little impressed. Not at Celes' current form. For she was once called the beautiful siren of the country herself. Carrying on only Septem's memory of pain, she had chosen to wield her power for her own sake, and that alone.

[It's more fun to torment them by wringing them bit by bit. Well, you're still young. Having a bit of flexibility in your heart is a good thing. But it sure is amusing to see Bahnseim fall like this.]

Watching the city of Centralle lose its energy day by day was an extremely amusing thing for Agrissa. They were once enemies... but that wasn't all.

Bahnseim had once sworn allegiance to her. Meaning he was a provincial feudal noble who obeyed her rule. Even while receiving her grace, he had changed sides the moment the situation took a turn.

When Celes spoke with Agrissa, she would use the room at the very top of the palace. No one was allowed to enter, the two of them could enjoy their little chats alone.

Celes smiled as she spoke, as if remembering something.

"Right. Father is going to return from the territory soon. I have to prepare to welcome him. Mother stayed with me, but father had work, so he can't always be around."

Age-wise it was around time for her to develop angst for her parents, or resentment for her father. But Celes held affection for her parents alone. And Agrissa was the same.

[Ah, right. Your father sure is busy. My dad was a lower end imperial noble, but he did quite a bit for me... my siblings were in the way so I drove them out, but after I made it to the inner palace, I gave him a government position and this and that to return the favor.]

Parents were special... this did not apply to brothers and sisters. Celes and Agrissa shared the sentiment. It was all due to the influence of the goddess' memories.

"It'll have to be a party, and I'll have to prepare a present... oh, I'll have to get mother a new dress as well!"

Celes' form as she gleefully spoke, rather than charming, she was like a child. There, a knock came at the door. Once Celes gave permission, the automaton Burt entered the room.

A butler-model automaton, with the appearance of a charming young man. His red hair and blue eyes were exceedingly pretty. If someone who didn't know better caught sight of him, they would surely believe he was human.

"Celes-sama, Bahnseim's army on the eastern front was breached. It was a crushing defeat, it seems. The royal guard was also annihilated. Captain Breid is confirmed dead. Our casualties number in the ten thousands."

Hearing that, Celes smiled at Burt.

"Is that so? But right now, I don't have time for such trifling things. My father told me before, you win some, and you lose some. More importantly, father is coming to Centralle. In order to see me! So we need a grand welcoming. Burt, could you arrange it for me?"

It seems she was uninterested. Burt showed a fed-up expression. If anyone else did that in front of Celes, the torture would start on the spot. But Burt was an automaton. He was capable of all sorts of work, and was Celes' favorite toy.

"I thought you would say that, so I've already made the preparations. But the national treasury is in dire straits."

A life of luxury, and with large wars raging on all over the place, the national treasure of the superpower Bahnseim was in a terrible state. Not that Celes cared.

"More importantly, father! We need to give a grand welcome to father who does his work, and kills the insects who don't obey me!"

To Celes, Burt spoke.

"It will effect the official ceremonies of Bahnseim. His royal highness, and the other royalty down the line are expectantly waiting for you to make your appearance."

Celes tilted her head.

"Eh? I'm not showing up at something like that? Why would I do that when father is coming? I can't believe it! I definitely won't let Rufus into my bedroom anymore!"

Burt shrugged. He offered a rebuttal to those words.

"You've never even let him in once. As far as I know, and I've heard never before then either. When you let all your favorites in, I'm surprised you can say such a thing."

Celes showed an angry face. An angry expression that was cleverly made to look cute. As Burt was an automaton, his rude attitude was permitted.

"I mean... once I stole him from that woman, I just lost interest. Hmph."

A laughing voice came from the Jewel.

[It's the theft itself that's interesting. I guess it's a common tale. But the current me has something I want to take no matter what... though they always keep it by their side.]

Letting Agrissa's voice slide, Celes spoke words of the grand party she would hold for her parents as she waltzed out the room...

-

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[So the theft itself was the fun part...]

The one who let out such a voice from the Jewel was the Third.

The Rhuvenns Kingdom... a room of its under-repair castle, had become my office. It had originally been used by General Blois, but saying he had to go train his soldiers, he had shoved his work onto me.

The mountain of paperwork before me were the reports of Rhuvenns and Beim alongside Adele-san's complaints. Short on hands. The merchants won't listen to me. The residents are loud about money, at this point she was just complaining.

I was looking over such papers, the only other one in the room being Monica. The rule of Beim, divided into north and south. On top of that, Rhuvenns... I held my head at the overwhelming lack of personnel.

Having come so far, the Seventh spoke.

[Well, with territory problems, it's usually because you have abundance of people that you go out and invade thinking you can handle it. If you have a firm selection of retainers, and rely on blood relation to gather people, I'm sure your rule will be possible.]

As I has unskillfully gotten my hands on a large territory, our shortage of hands only became even more severe.

"... After you take it, it's just a pain."

After fierce battle after fierce battle was over, there was much to do in postwar processes, and new rule and such. What's more, the land ruled by Beim's merchants and the adventurers' Guild... they weren't used to a system with a ruling class.

The door opened, and there came Lianne-san taking two Valkyrie units along. Her face was smiling, but she looked somewhat worn out.

"Now, Lyle-dono... here's your second serving. Keep on hammering those forms out"

The Valkyries placed their new paper mountains on the desk prepared to receive new documents.

"Ah, by the way, these ones are the urgent ones."

She said as she left a smaller mountain before my eyes. Seeing my face, perhaps she sensed what I wanted to say as she opened her mouth.

"I'll just throw this out there, but I did check over them already. After removing everything that wasn't completely necessary, this is what's left. If you've become a ruler, you should understand how much responsibility and obligation comes with the title, right? ... And, if you plan to reign over the entire continent, your work load won't be anything as measly as this. It's around time you start thinking up a way of rule with higher efficiency."

I could only nod at Lianne-san's words. From the Jewel, I could hear the Third and Seventh.

[As expected, a princess who knows how to govern a single country is different. I'm sure she's got quite a bit of knowhow with her.]

[Serious talk here, the back line, or rather the desk side's shorthandedness is becoming more severe. Lyle, you... once you get your hands on the continent, no matter how tedious, you have to prepare a system of rule that can be passed down the ages.]

A country ruled by a hero... with the fame, it was an easy way to go about it. But when generations piled up, problems would come out.

"... At this rate, I'll be tasting the pain of the First and Second simultaneously."

The First who built up a village where there was nothing.

And the one who got the first's village in order and followed behind, the Second.

The Third sounded impressed.

[I'm surprised you noticed. If you had those two with you, you might get some surprisingly interesting advice. But that's impossible for us, mind you.]

Lianne made a perplexed face, so I said, "It's nothing," and said she could go. But she didn't leave.

"Come to think of it, right before I came here, I heard. It seems your post-Growth has quite a gap or something. I heard rumors that you'd laid hands on the former Holy Maiden."

"Eh? From who!? Rather, I didn't lay hands on her..."

Lianne left the paperwork behind, and looked at the Valkyries that had gone into cleaning up the room.

"You two!"

The two Valkyries touched their mouths.

"Master, it was a little game. A game of make belief. We were supplied with maid uniform, and our tensions high, we merely started gossiping a bit amongst ourselves. And Lianne-sama just happened to be in the immediate vicinity, there wasn't anyone else around."

Expressionless with black hair and red eyes, the Valkyries used the cores of the maid automatons who were originally Monica's sisters. For that sake, they had some strong lingering attachment to maid clothing, it seems.

Lianne scoffed.

"When they suddenly started gossiping in my room, I had no idea what was going on. Well, it was a report they sent out to all units, it seems. It sure is convenient. It's quite a skill. If you station Valkyries all over the lands, you'll get your hands on all sorts of information in no time."

Hearing that, I let out a sigh.

"It's because it's me that it's possible. Even if it's possible to use it in rule, that will end with my generation. So if possible, I'm looking for a way to rule without it."

They were proficient automatons, but there was a problem. At present, their exchanges with far-away parties was realized through my Skill [Connection], and if it wasn't active, these conversations would be impossible.

Also, the number of cores was limited, and even if we wanted to produce more units, this was the limit... even Damien couldn't make cores.

Lianne looked at my face, nodding a few times.

"It's a good thing to think of what comes next. Of course, it's all a tale of after you win it all. But even so, it isn't a period to think of war potential alone. You need to prepare a bureaucracy capable of handling office work. We're shorthanded, so maybe you should take applications outside of nobility. Rather than searching for talent, suppressing it with numbers would be more important in our current state."

I reached a hand for an urgent document, and reading through it I spoke.

"I know. Proceed with your education plan. The fact you're telling me this means you already started preparing, right? But I'd like it if you confirmed it with me next time."

Lianne looked a little surprised.

"You're no fun at all. I thought I would surprise you. Ah, right."

Wondering if there was anything more, I raised my head to see her making a serious face.

"I never heard who you would be making the legal wife. Can you decide sometime soon? I have to go suck up to them."

With a dumbfounded expression, I dropped the papers, the Third giving a joyful voice from the Jewel.

[That's right, I was waiting for this. The Fourth is just about the only one who would enjoy this boring desk scene, I was waiting for a topic like this!]

The Seventh spoke in a serious tone.

[To crumble the equilibrium immobilized by check and restraint, could it be this princess of Faunbeux... I thought Galleria or Rusworth, or perhaps the queen of Cartaffs would make their move. I was careless. It feels like a bomb was lobbed in from an unexpected angle.]

The Third was the same.

[I'm the same. I thought this child would move after she made a faction to some extent. Well, it's fine if it's all muddled, but assassination alone you should avoid. Lyle, make sure you keep on your toes.]

No, if you say it like that, it's as if you're telling me to permit it as long as it doesn't reach murder, right? Rather, it looks like they'd grown accustomed to it these days as they blatantly enjoyed the carnage around me.

... These guys are the worst.