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Chapter 3: Maizel Walt

 Maizel Walt

... The Walt House manor.

There was a man with his gray hair all swept to the back. He traced his maintained beard with a finger as he smiled over the letter that came from Centralle. Leaving the letter on a splendid desk in his office, he turned a sharp glare at the crumpled report beside it.

Turning his eye to his retainer [Beil Randbergh] who had come to check on him at the fall of knight, the head of the Walt House [Maizel Walt] spoke in a fed-up tone.

"I heard the eastern front had faced defeat, but the scale was beyond my expectations. According to Celes and Claire in Centralle, only a lucky few were able to run away... that disgrace of the Walt House sure got us well!"

To Maizel's loathsome expression, Beil's face remained serious.

"Isn't that fine? The fact only serves to prove even the Walt House's rejects possess powers far over the rest."

Maizel leaned his back against his chair, making an displeased expression.

"Don't be foolish. When Celes became the queen of that crown prince... just how far will that disgrace go to get in the Walt House's way? He should be eliminated with all due haste. It seems there are some traitors as well. We shall be tacking on a reason to march on Rhuvenns."

Beil objected to that.

"Maizel-sama, Celes-sama in Centralle is looking forward to your arrival. You shouldn't keep her waiting."

Maizel laughed. His smile was thoroughly filled with self-confidence.

"It's something to be happy about. My cute daughter is looking forward to my return. But my pride as a father won't allow me to return to Centralle without a present. Tell Celes I'll be a little late."

Learning there would be no change in Maizel's verdict, Beil replied.

"Your departures to the front lines have increased in number. And as winter sets in, there is a limit to the numbers we can mobilize. If we're moving anyone, it will have to be in the ten thousand units."

Maizel, full of confidence.

"Porter, was it? We have the technology Celes brought back to the Walt House from Arumsaas. Our logistical support is also in order. Have our vassals and their vassals mobilize as well. There are any number of men out there who'd become desperate in longing to see Celes' face of delight!"

In regards to Maizel, Beil gave his opinion.

"Then that would likely fall short of fifty thousand. It is believed a considerable number lie in Rhuvenns. It's even quite a trial to have spies infiltrate them. Why not wait and watch a little longer?"

Maizel stroked his mustache with his fingertip.

"I'm sure he used the Walt House's heirloom. That's all there is to it. But Skills are irrelevant to me. It seems he's grown a bit stuck up, but... that is meaningless before me. I'll have to reclaim the heirloom that thing made off with as well. In itself, it has little value as a gem but it's a precious heirloom, after all. It's all because that dodderer hid it away and gave it to that thing. Good grief, how troublesome it must have been to my father as well."

When Maizel said that, Beil agreed.

"Before Brod-sama passed... Zenoire-sama was the first to go, so perhaps he had lost himself in sorrows."

Once the Seventh, Brod came up, Maizel looked up at the ceiling.

"Seeing that harsh father of mine grow senile was a pitiable sight. When he told me to 'wake up'... I wonder what he was trying to say."

After a while of silence between the two, Maizel finally opened his mouth.

"... Hasten the preparations. Even if taking that thing's head is impossible, I want to deliver Celes news of victory."

Through thick and thin, there was a difference in Maizel's treatment of Lyle and Celes...

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"My father? No, um... I-I don't really remember."

I gave a vague response, but in all actuality, I had lost a majority of my memory. For that sake, my knowledge on my father Maizel Walt was considerably lacking.

The head of the House that had climbed up to be Bahnseim's strongest...

And right now, it was mercilessly crushing Celes' enemies.

Within the Jewel.

The round table between us, I sat across from the Seventh, my grandfather. Maybe the Third didn't want to be a hindrance, as he had locked himself in his own room of memories.

The Third looked a little... no considerably conflicted.

[... Lyle, you're my grandson, but Maizel is my son. So there are a few things I can say.]

I really didn't remember my father. In the meager fragments that remained, he truly was kind before my isolation. He had a harshness as well, but the kindness was definitely there.

Thinking of his attitude since my alienation, I could see it well.

[Maizel never regarded the Jewel highly. Do you know why?]

I tilted my head. As I recall, the blue gem became a Jewel after it came into my hands. Even so, the Skills the ancestors left behind all displayed performance you could call extraordinary.

There's no way my father didn't know, so shouldn't he have investigated and found out old Zell had it? If he was up to it, he had any means to search for it.

"Come to think of it, it really is strange. He wasn't particular about heirlooms... also sounds strange. He held great pride in the Walt House."

The Walt House's pride... because of it, he hated his own grandfather, Fiennes the Sixth for sticking his hands into unwholesome trades.

Then why did my father never hold the Jewel?

[Maizel doesn't need the Jewel. No, to be more precise, it has no value greater than an ornament to him. Because Maizel cannot use the Jewel's Skills.]

"Can't use? Did my father have some sort of problem? It didn't look that way to me."

Just like the ancestors, my father was a splendid man... I think. Before Celes twisted things up, he had his heart set on being a good lord to the people.

The Seventh began talking about my father.

[No, he was talented. And it's precisely his talent that made it so Maizel couldn't use the blue gem. Maizel... has a Skill to obstruct the use of Skills. And his own Skill is so strong, he can't even make use of Magic Tools.]

Hearing that, I finally understood why my father wasn't particular about the Jewel.

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... Lorphys' Palace.

With one of the Valkyries stationed in the country before her, Annerinne body stopped just short of sitting in the throne.

"W-what did you just say?"

The other leader were gathered for the audience, and surrounding the maid-clothed Valkyries, they received the report of the unit they sent to Rhuvenns.

"As I was saying, an engagement has been tied between my master's retainer Baldoir Randbergh, and your country's vice-captain of the knights Alette Baillet. It is a splendid result for both countries. Baldoir-sama is my master's close aide. As things are going, there is no doubt of his promotion, and at present, while they are apart in status, that relation will eventually flip over..."

"Not that! Why!? Why did Alette go off and get married without consulting me!? It's only natural to talk to me beforehand, is it not!?"

Those around were saying similar things.

"C-certainly. The vice-captain's marriage was beyond everyone's expectations."

"But it is to our benefit."

"But that shall not change the present situation! Zayin and Galleria and Rusworth are to wed the leading power. What's more, they've sent people of appropriate statue! While this is certainly to our benefit... now if we ask for any more, we'll get opposition from our surroundings!"

The Valkyrie moved her red eyes to take in the surrounding reactions.

From Lorphys' side, the best result would be if Annerinne married Lyle. But that would leave the throne open, so Annerinne would have to stay within the country. If she had a child, they would be the heir. Such a situation was most desirable.

If you wanted to call it selfish, that would be the end of the story, but Lorphys had its own situation. When there wasn't even a marriage tying the forces, there were voices coming out questioning why they were cooperating to such an extent.

Prime Minister Lonbolt shed sweat from his head as he spoke.

"... They won't recognize a marriage with Annerinne-sama? Could you please relay the reason?"

The Valkyrie, disinterestedly.

"Because it is what's best for both sides. And Baldoir-dono is a distant relative to my master. If you express your dissatisfactions, even if master thinks nothing of Lorphys, what of the surroundings?"

Of the Sixth's numerous brothers and sisters, one had married into the Randbergh House. Because of that, Lyle and Baldoir were technically relatives. They had a relation of lord and retainer, and they paid little mind to their blood relation, but from surrounding eyes, denying this marriage would be a problem.

There was a problem with Lyle's side's attitude, but many problems on Lorphys' side as well. Both sides were clattering, and even if they proceeded these talks, they'd only be running themselves into a bog.

Lonbolt spoke to the Valkyrie.

"... We approve of Alette Baillet's marriage. We shall officially send a letter giving our blessings."

The Valkyrie held her skirt in her fingertips, giving a tidy curtsy.

"Much obliged. Gratitude to the depths of your country's generosity."

But Annerinne alone...

"Hold... Hold it right there! Prime Minster, what about my marriage!? You're the one who said it would be necessary for the country's sake!"

As she watched the princess act up, the Valkyries passed the message.

(Inform master: bomb disposal complete.)

As the Valkyries treated her as an explosive, Annerinne was carefully removed from the audience chamber by Lonbolt and his associates...

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Night.

In a bedroom of Rhuvenns castle, I sat in a chair, looking at the night sky out the window. The inside of the room should have been warm, but I couldn't feel any warmth at my core.

Holding the Jewel's chain in my right hand, I lighted it up, and let the light of the moon shine through the Blue Jewel.

"... Anti-Skill, eh? That's going to be troublesome."

A Skill to obstruct Skill Use. To put it simply, my father was easily able to overturn my advantages on the battlefield.

Information relay through Skill. And on top of grasping the surrounding scenery, confirming enemy positions. It was precisely because of their ability elevations through my Skill that a scraped-together force could fight on even footing with an army drilled together. With all of that taken away, It became a difference of base ability.

Even if we had personnel proficient as individuals, looking at the whole, my father's Walt House army was united in will, with higher coordination.

Training, equipment, on top of a difference in experience... thinking over various conditions, not being able to use Skills was a considerably problem. And when the Jewel and Aria's Magic Tool interfered with my Skills and made them unusable, my line with Monica was cut.

I couldn't count on Monica's performance.

"Looking on it like this, I had relied on them quite a bit. If I didn't have the Skills, the current me would..."

As I said something so faint-hearted, the Third called out from the Jewel.

[You sure sound feeble. It's true that it's because of the Skills you were able to fight your way here. But I don't think that's all. In moving a large army, while ability is necessary, there are many other essential factors. If you had the Skills and nothing more, you'd never have been able to make the current situation.]

The Seventh spoke to me.

[That's right. Have more confidence in yourself. It isn't just Skills. It's because you had your power, that you came all the way here.]

I felt a little happy to hear it. Gripping the Jewel in my right hand, I muttered.

"Even so, Skill interference... if I can't use the ancestors' weapons either, it's going to become something troublesome. When we're already quite hard-pressed here."

The soldiers that ran away turned to banditry, and a portion of our members were subjugating them. Their numbers were extremely numerous.

On top of that, a majority of the soldiers we could scrape up from Beim were volunteer soldiers, and had already returned to their civilian lives. Even if they had all remained, we wouldn't be able to support them, and the four-country alliance soldiers were beginning to return to their homes as well.

The Third thought a bit.

[... I recommend you gather usable soldiers, and urgently prepare a main shaft. Based on the situation, I'm sure soldiers from our side will turn coat.]

Of the many soldiers I took in. Among them, I was going to select out only the trustworthy ones, and make an elite force.

"If I start training them now, how far can we go... and dealing with the enemy once they come..."

The Seventh laughed.

[Lyle, broaden your field of vision. Just normally training the soldiers you can trust... you weren't thinking something as boring as that, were you?]

"Was I not supposed to?"

The Third laughed.

[Goddess, when you've made it this far as an adventurer, why haven't you noticed? At a time like this, there's something quite convenient at your disposal, isn't there?]

On the Third's words, it hit me.

"The Labyrinth! No, but... generally, the technical skills requested from adventurers and soldiers are different."

In truth, that's how the forces of Beim fell. Using adventurers as the main shaft, they had lost to Bahnseim's power of numbers. And they weren't accustomed to fighting humans.

The Seventh spoke.

[But isn't it just right for raising individual prowess while heightening coordination among smaller platoons? And also. Lyle... Don't you think it's about time to put your constantly-active Skill to use? In the worst case, you need only train the commanders and their aides. Rather...]

The Third took over his explanation.

[Let's say you want to have your own army fight in the Labyrinth. If you want to send in a large quantity of soldiers, and ignore every single bit of adventurer manners, now's the only time.]

As I thought, the Seventh spoke.

[Learning how to communicate between and move forces is also training. Lyle, why don't you try getting others to build up experience and see what happens? If you're on support, they won't experience any large casualties. Have them grow some in a short period of time, and strengthen the army, why don't you? While you're at it, you can supplement your insufficient general pool.]

I decided to abide their opinions.

"Understood. But in the case I take part, I can't really lave this point open."

The Third laughed.

[It's alright. Your Skills have experienced a sudden strengthening with your Growth. Is it because of the Fifth and Milleia-chan? Now let's get some Walt House Style army training started! It's starting to get fun around here!]

... The only moderately sized Labyrinth around was the one Beim managed. Thinking back, I've never actually entered Beim's Labyrinth before.