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Chapter 16: Brides of the Walt House

Brides of the Walt House.

Waking up in the mansion of the Walt House, I looked over my own room.

The room I had once been confined had been home to mountains of books. Right, that they were once there was a fact, but now there were none.

Once I was driven out of the house, it seems all my belongings were disposed of. There was a bed, and the bookshelf that occupied one of the room's walls was empty.

I reached my hand from the Jewel hung at my neck, and gripped it tight.

According to Baldoir, the Walt house still had reserve forces. To prevent an attack from behind while we were busy with Celes, he recommended I head here first.

His true intent was likely to give me a trip back home. We used Porter to move through the surrounding territories, utilizing the Jewel's new ability... a something similar to my father's Skill to dispel Celes' charm as we went around.

But it's not as if all would rejoice on their release.

I felt quite conflicted as well.

As I thought, a knock came from the door.

"Chicken dickwad, people are gathering from the surrounding territories one after the next."

Rising up off the bed, I asked Monica for a report on the situation.

"The surrounding territories, eh? What about the mansion?"

Monica shrugged her shoulders.

"There are many trying to kill themselves. And we've received reports that some of their families outside the mansion have killed themselves as well. They've sent in testaments of how they wished to atone for their son or daughter's malpractices."

She reported it all without hiding a thing. But that was how it should be.

"Tell them once more that I give no permission for suicide. That I've no particular punishment in mind. They were only being manipulated by Celes' ability."

The treatment they had offered me... there were some who tried to end it with that in mind. And that was a surprise to me.

I hated how release wasn't a safe end to it.

Monica looked over at me.

"I talked with Miranda-san as well, but are you sure it wouldn't be better to just punish them? You'll be able to prevent those who choose rash action driven by their thoughts of self-condemnation."

I heard out her opinion.

"... This really is a pain."

I had returned, but I couldn't find any soothing for my heart. The mansion that had once welcomed me so warmly, even when I released Celes' curse, it didn't look like it would ever return.

Looking at reality like this, I realized just how many people there were with apologetic sentiment. But at this point, I had yet to find anyone glad.

"Perhaps my return wasn't for the best."

There, Monica looked at me, clapping her hands together twice.

"So what shall we do with the people who've dropped by?"

I covered my face with my right hand.

"I can't just go about not meeting them. Though Id like to go off to Baldoir's hometown as well."

Thinking of how busy it was even if I'd returned, I took a coat in hand, and draped it over myself before leaving the room.

-

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... Shannon took a walk through the Walt House mansion.

It was a vast estate. To add to that, there were so many children in the Fifth's time that a second annex mansion for child-use had been constructed. After that, it had been used whenever guests were invited.

Walking through the annex, Shannon listened to the words of Elza walking behind her.

"... It's somewhat more extravagant than our palace back home."

Shannon recalled what she had heard from Miranda.

"It seems the Walt House has the most territory in Bahnseim. It's bigger than some countries, so I guess there was no helping it? Ah, there it is."

Shannon arrived at a certain room she had set as her walk's destination.

It was a room of the annex that was never opened for guest use, and a room the previous generation's House Head Brod had kept as it was.

Shannon held up the key, and once she opened the door, she saw the guns lining the walls.

It was the room Milleia used.

One shot guns, which would require a new shell loaded after every shot. What's more, there were knives fastened to the gun barrels. There were a number of them around, but as none had been looked after as of late, they were coated in rust.

Elza looked at them.

"So many copies of the same gun. But it doesn't look like any of them are usable."

From among them, Shannon looked for one in good condition. She searched and took it in hand.

"Yeah~, you think I should take this one home with me? It's a precious memento, and it's my great grandmothers, so it's practically mine."

Elza turned to Shannon.

"Oh, so you're related?"

Shannon lifted up the heavy gun.

"My great grandmother was from the Walt House. The Circry Hosue still had relations to the Walts up to the previous generation, it seems."

Elza nodded in understanding.

"I think I'll take it back and have it fixed up. I don't think it's bad to have at least one of them around."

As Shannon said that, she continued to look around the room with Elza. There was dust piled up, and it seemed evident it hadn't been cleaned for a number of years.

She had tried asking one of the mansion's personnel. It seemed that Maizel had decided to stop preserving it and planned to turn it into a guest room in his generation. But they had enough rooms, so there was no need to hurry to convert it, and before it had come to anyone's attention, it had simply become a room that no one would enter.

Shannon looked at the room.

"It's as if it's been forgotten; a lonely room."

She said...

-

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-

Porter's loading tray.

Sitting on the bench, I talked to Miranda sitting beside me. Novem was sitting furthest away, out of pleasant conversational range.

It was clear from anyone's eyes that she was avoiding me. But it wasn't as if she didn't listen to what I had to say.

Whatever the case, a sense of distance the word dubious was insufficient to describe had formed between us.

"Lyle, are you listening?"

"Eh, oh... I was not listening."

When I gave an honest apology, Miranda breathed a sigh. Sitting on the bench, she changed over her crossed legs and folded her hands on her lap.

"I was asked quite a few things over there, and one of them was whether the legal wife's been decided among us. What's more, they said something about the Walt House's precepts and such. I'd heard about them before, but were those precepts seriously preserved?"

The Walt House precepts were a lie the First had spouted through his drink. They were carried down generation after generation, and remained as our precepts.

"... I was still a child when I heard of them, so I couldn't quite tell how seriously people were taking them. Anyways, it's all about having a talented person as a bride, right? Rather, don't you think those precepts are unnecessary at this... erk!?"

As we were talking, Novem's gaze pierced into me. Hearing I was going to discard the precepts our founder left behind, she seemed extremely sorrowful.

Miranda did appear to notice, but she purposely pretended not to.

"I doubt it does you any harm to keep them. I mean, I clear them, so does it really matter?"

Miranda looked up at me as if to peer in.

"Y-yeah. Probably."

There, Aria sitting in front of us looked at Miranda.

"One of the mansion people said they were relieved as long as Novem gave the permission. Then I doubt we have any that don't clear them."

It's true that a majority of the members here had received Novem's passing grade. The only one she ever gave a strong denial to was Lorphys' royal princess.

Shannon was playing cat's cradle with Elza. And Gracia was staring at them absentmindedly.

Winning out against Elza, Shannon made a triumphant pose before turning to me.

"Come to think of it, there's something I'm curious about."

"What is it?"

"What sort of people were the Walt House's wives? See, when it comes to its heads, you told it all to Eva, so I hear it from her all the time, but I haven't the slightest idea what sort of people the Walt House's women were."

When she asked me once more, I conceded there really were a lot of ambiguous points. At times harsh, at times gentle, I had seen their figures in the Jewel.

But I didn't know the specifics on the ancestors' wives... the Walt House women.

Eva's interest was piqued, so she leaned forward.

"I want to hear it to. If the precepts were to welcome in talented women, then that means they were all prodigious ones, right?"

I folded my arms as I thought.

"That's probably right."

Shannon looked over Porter's loading tray. May was on the ceiling. Clara was controlling Porter, so she wasn't here. Monica knit as she spoke.

"Whoever they may be, as long as they can birth chicks, they are no different to us."

... She was the same as always. Shannon looked at the members gathered in Porter.

"But there's no way they were stranger than these members, right?"

There, Miranda looked around as well.

"Right. This may be the first since the start of the Walt House."

She said and laughed. Everyone gave a, 'quite right,' as they laughed. But there was something I could feel from the air.

... Not a single one of them thought themselves to be the strange one. They were certain they were different...

...

But when I looked at Novem, she averted her eyes from me. No, rather from me, it felt as if she was having difficulty saying something.

"Novem, don't you know a bit about it? ... I mean, I'm sure there're a few tidbits that've been passed down through the Forxuz House as well."

When I sent over an ill-natured voice, Novem seemed panicked. She couldn't just tell everyone she carried down the memories of an evil god. But if I asked like this, I doubt it would be too suspicious.

For some reason, Novem's gaze was swimming around more than usual.

Seeing her like that, Eva thought something was up.

"Do you know an interesting story? There were plenty of them with the Walt House heads, so I'm sure their wives had their share as well. Or could it be they were dragged all over by their husbands or something?"

Perhaps everyone wanted to hear, as their eyes were full of expectations. Novem did try to evade it, but that wasn't working out.

"I-I'm none too knowledgeable on the matter. And I heard the missus were all worthy of the Walt House precepts that promised to welcome in talented individuals. So let's not let that trend end in Lyle-sama's generation..."

Shannon grinned.

"Novem's flustered. She definitely knows something."

While Shannon had her share of hopeless points, the girl could read human emotions. Hearing that, Miranda sounded intrigued.

"How sneaky for you to keep everyone else in the dark. Out with it."

Monica alone seemed uninterested as she knit.

"Fufu, with this, even if the chicks are born in dozens, we won't be troubled with clothing. And no matter how you look at it, there will be several to several dozen born every year. There will be no end to serving them."

As she swiftly continued to produce baby clothes, Monica was drooling.

I guess she wouldn't be shaken no matter what happened.

Porter suddenly stopped.

As everyone's stance crumbled, Novem was the first to cry out.

"Did something happen, Clara-san!?"

This lass is running away, or so spoke the eyes she ignored as she called for Clara. So Clara came down from the driver's seat.

"No, there was a person in pain. There was, but..."

It seems the gist wasn't getting across.

Opening the door to the loading tray, I saw May was taking a stance before the injured one. They person rolling along the ground in pain... half of their face had swelled, and their right hand showed a bizarre expansion.

While they were definitely in pain, it was an ominous sight.

"Urrrggggggggrrrrrrrrruuuuuu!! L-Lyyllleeee....!! Keeellllll!!"

It was almost like the growl of a beast. As I pulled the Katana at my waist, my comrades who'd descended gripped their weapons in hand. For the behavior of the other party was clearly bizarre.

And as she popped her face out the door, Shannon cried out.

"Eh? What's with him... on top of being dead, there's a monster latched... coming from inside of him."

What I recalled was the scene of Breid using that drug to take on a monster-like appearance.

The flesh of the man's form expanded, sprouting hair from there to a point where I could no longer call that figure human.

From the nearby woods, I could hear similar ominous growls.

As I looked around, I used a Skill.

There were a number of points directing clear hostility towards us. But they hadn't been there just a moment before. They had suddenly sprung up.

"... Come to think of it, there weren't any responses in the direction we were headed."

Where did a collapsed human being come from? There were people my Skill couldn't capture, but a majority of them were hiding with a Skill themselves.

I couldn't think there were enough of those sorts around to surround us like this.

The knight surrounded the man who'd become monster.

"Stand back, Lyle-sama!"

The man suddenly leapt in our direction and collapsed again. Once he had completely become a monster, it looked as if he was a fusion of man and beast.

Monica looked at the enemy and muttered.

"Rather than a monster, he looks like he's come straight out of a tokusatsu. But if he's an enemy of my master, I shall eliminate him."

As the surrounding knights tried to plunge in their weapons, the monster leapt up. It casually rose several tens of meters in the air, and in a similar fashion- leaping from the forest- other monsters began falling towards me.

Regripping the hilt, I was about to intercept them when a single woman whirled into the air.

"Novem."

As she swung the heirloom staff she carried regularly, it took on the form of a large scythe to shred up the monsters. And landing on the ground, she was followed by a downpour of blood on all of us.

"Novem, you're..."

I reached out my hand, but stopped it halfway. As she raised her face, her eyes were more muddled than I had ever seen them before.

Novem muttered. While looked at my hand lingering in the air.

"... You don't have to push yourself, Lyle-sama. Even I understand that I'm creepy. But I merely couldn't' permit something like this to happen. I'll be more careful next time."

Saying that, Novem was smiling, yet I found it strangely scary. Her eyes muddled, and with that unnerving smile, her face soaked red in blood.

I was unable to call out to her.