… For the allied army that invaded Centralle, before the enemy that continued to advance no matter how many troops were felled, morale was beginning to drop.
Day after day, despite how many tens of thousands of casualties they inflicted, Bahnseim fought on without the slighted hint of decline. Before their stamina, the soldiers’ mental health was the greater worry.
At first, they had anticipated two hundred thousand… whatever numbers each army had arbitrarily anticipated had been easily surpassed. In a few days, more than two hundred thousand enemy soldiers had been launched from the capital. And the allied army had defeated them.
But there was no place for joy.
A little before the meeting between those gathered in the moving fortress began. In order to compare outlooks, the representatives of each country were discussing amongst themselves.
The north rallied around Cartaffs.
The west rallied around Faunbeux.
The south rallied around Djanpear.
The discussion began with each side focused on how to lessen their own casualties.
Even in Lyle’s east-centric army were opinions beginning to diverge.
In order to dampen the head of the meeting, Ludmilla went outside and after confirming the Valkyrie she had introduced as her guard was following behind, she looked up at the night sky.
“Now then, each and every one of them has gone weak at the knees after only a few days. How does our leader think?”
She smiled somewhat as she asked the Valkyrie. The Valkyrie spoke in a level tone.
“It is likely as he predicted. If they run away here, it is quite likely the alliance will crumble.”
Ludmilla crossed her arms. She was wearing a fur overcoat, and her stance was truly an imposing one. Her aubergine hair covered one of her eyes.
“Oh? He predicted this, you say. But what of the countermeasures?”
Rather than thinking over something, it was more accurate to say the Valkyrie looked down once before raising her face.
“… In the case that the alliance collapses, we will go right onto conducting an assault on Centralle.”
Ludmilla, upon hearing that opinion.
“Are you sure you should’ve told me that?”
“It is a bad thing for you to know. But the conditions for victory in this war are already assembled. My master’s objective is to make sure he can accomplish them even if the alliance falls apart.”
Ludmilla gave a small mutter.
“Objective, eh. Well, that’s how it goes.”
Ludmilla had received an extent of information from Lyle. But she had to shoulder the large nation called Cartaffs. The information Lyle conceded was limited, and she knew that was only natural.
But she had some insight.
(So he’s brought it to where he can contend for victory at any time. All that’s left is to show us the reality of the matter, or perhaps have us crushed to lessen our power. Well, that he’ll do at least that is all the more worthy of my husband.)
“When our leader… Lyle dies, he’s definitely set for hell. Well, that’s only if such a thing exists.”
The Valkyrie curtsied.
“The individual himself is resolved for it. You have no need to worry.”
“Don’t be like that. He’s one to stand above others. It would be troublesome if he grew weak knees at something as measly as hell. Even if he isn’t evil at heart, he’s a necessary evil. I respect that. Of course, as one of the parties he plans to grind down here, I do have my complaints.”
As Ludmilla said that, she looked up at the sky once more. The feeling of her fevered skin cooling off in the outside air was a pleasant one…
My seventh day of watching the battlefield from inside the moving fortress was about to go by.
Reports started coming to me one after the next. Through Monica, casualty reports from each army, and requests for reinforcements.
“Chicken dickwad, Faunbeux has had one of their units step down. It seems the casualties exceeded their estimates. They have sent in a request for reinforcements.”
Gripping the Jewel, I got a grasp of the battlefield as a whole, confirming that a unit on the western front had indeed retreated. With that gap pierced into, the army of Faunbeux was falling apart.
“… Put Miranda in charge of the reinforcements. Tell her to bring Gracia and Elza along.”
Monica offered her opinion.
“Aria-san is fully prepared as well.”
But I raised my left hand.
“Aria is too earnest. Even if she’s just to push the enemy back, she’ll seriously try to save them with all her might, so there’s a high probability she’ll increase our own casualty count. Miranda’s the girl for the job.”
Without hanging on my words, Monica instantly sent out the orders. By the firefight of magics, there were explosions ringing around, so it was considerably noisy.
Looking in my direction, Vera spoke.
“You sure? They’re allies who’re helping out your cause.”
I shook my head.
“That’s not the sort of thing this alliance is. It’s a group that’s gotten itself together precisely because the enemy called Bahnseim exists. That it doesn’t have a stable foundation is something everyone’s come to grasp on their trek here. If I’m the only one with high casualties, there will definitely ones who will aim to profit off my battle. And even if Faunbeux wins this battle, they’ll only regain the land they lost once before. There’s a high probability they’ll develop some ill-placed ambition.”
Those around were cooperating because the enemy called Bahnseim… Celes was there, and they weren’t my true allies.
If they were allies, I’d use everything in my hands to save them. I wouldn’t even have to purposely use Celes to conduct a war to grind them down.
“To make sure they don’t show their ambition after the war, is it not enough to show them your strength here?”
Vera’s words were sound. Seeing the allies before their eyes perish, they’d begin to direct suspicious eyes at me- the man who was expending them. But even if they knew it in their heads, it was only human to be swayed if people were dying before your eyes, I think.
I’d like to believe.
“In the case that I show them my own military might, there’s the possibility we put them needlessly on guard, causing them to get their military together. Well, let’s all get along and deplete ourselves together, is my plan. Granted if I was in their position, I’d attack too. Better than the entrance of some waring states period post-war, at least.”
Once we defeated Celes, it wouldn’t be any fun if the surrounding countries came to attack.
And whether they be enemy or ally, beating them down when I had the chance was important. I mean, this battle was one to decide the continent’s future. No, it was practically certain already, but there were some forces troubled by that decision. From the point of view of the ambition, I was nothing but a hindrance.
Monica called over to me.
“Chicken dickwad, Miranda’s unit has sortied. Shall I inform Faunbeux that we’ve sent reinforcements?”
I thought a bit.
“If we send notice too fast, they’ll be able to complain the reinforcements were late. Delay it a bit.”
As I conversed with Monica, Vera seemed worried. Seeing her like that, I found myself relieved. While I was acting with the future in mind, I felt my heart get caught on something no matter how gleefully I went about it.
… Miranda led Gracia and Elza’s units to rush to Faunbeux’s aid.
Rather than the Faunbeux Kingdom, it was probably a unit led by some country on the western front. Miranda with a Valkyrie on each side rushed out as she confirmed the surrounding situation.
The army in the midst of its retreat was of a number that didn’t reach ten thousand.
“The small forces are putting out considerable casualties. Well, if we’re too blatantly late, it’ll be a pain later on, so it’s about time we go.”
If they hurried, they could have arrived sooner, but they intentionally refrained. Aria wanted to go out herself, but having been nominated, Miranda had a firm grasp of Lyle’s intent.
(Aria isn’t suited for this sort of thing.)
While Aria stood out in her simplicity, from Miranda’s point of view, that was also part of her appeal.
(Well, it’s easier to work if there are less of those like me around.)
There, Gracia approached Miranda.
“Faunbeux’s side’s formation has crumbled. And it’s continuing to break up from there. I think we should attack first and push back the enemy.”
The force of Gracia and Elza’s charge, thinking on an army scale, it was extraordinary. But Miranda rejected that opinion.
“I’ll have you two give your undivided attention to command. There’s an important job waiting for you, and it would be troublesome if you got injured.”
There, Elza who’d approached to verify the situation grimaced.
“Something of this level won’t be a problem, you know?”
Miranda turned her smile to Elza. And she silently began to intimidate her. Once Elza averted her eyes, Gracia would say no more.
Once the two of them had returned to their units, Miranda looked at the battlefield.
“… Sorry, but we’ll have to have more casualties for Lyle’s sake.”
Miranda muttered an apology to the soldiers dying out there…
… A bedroom of the royal palace.
In it, Celes lay in her nightgown. Her mother Claire gave her a lap pillow as she waited for a report to arrive.
A knock came at the door, and Maizel- who stood in front of it- gave an answer.
“Beg your pardon.”
Once the messenger knight entered the room, she took a stretch.
“While our army did manage to inflict casualties onto the main force of the Faunbeux Kingdom, by the arrival of reinforcements, our assault unit was completely annihilated. Today, once more, we were unable to make any significant military gains!”
Maizel made a bitter expression, but the sleepy-looking Celes only rose her head a bit from her mother’s lap to look at the messenger knight.
“I see. Good work, you can go. Tomorrow we’ll aim for either Cartaffs or Djanpear.”
The knight left the room and Maizel opened his mouth.
“What a feckless lot. To not put out any decent results.”
But Celes rested her head on her mother’s lap again, and gave a warm smile.
“We can prepare as many of them as we want, so it will be alright, father. And Isn’t it our foe, who continues to win yet sees no end in sight, the one harder pressed? Perhaps comes a time they think there are no troops left in Centralle. But they come out again and again… ufufu.”
As Celes seemed to be having fun, Maizel sent a smile.
“That’s right. I’m sure that before a battle against enemies without end, their morale will be the first to fall. Once it comes to that, all that remains is to give chase to the crumbling rebel forces.”
Celes laughed as she spoke.
“And then shall I go straight on the offense? My army needs no food or rest. Well, if I had to mention a weak point, it would be my own sleeping time, perhaps?”
The laughing Celes imagined the panicked faces of the allied army. She’d give pursuit, rampage around some over foreign soil, and mass produce her soldiers.
To scatter death throughout the continent was Celes’ joy…
While giving rest to Miranda’s unit that had returned, I spoke with Novem.
On the roof of the mobile fortress, I sought confirmation.
“Celes’ Skill… no, the Skill that Agrissa made, is it resurrection?”
Without looked at me, Novem gazed over the walls of Centralle.
“No, a Skill to revive the dead is impossible. And even if she can make Skills, she is still bound by the world’s laws, so that’s not the sort of thing those things are. Using the deceased as a medium, she is reproducing the memory records of those who once lived… it’s a Skill you could call a failed product.”
I turned in the same direction as Novem, pondering over Celes’ Skill.
“Then no matter how many enemies we beat, it’s pointless. The population of Centralle is over a million. While their numbers have gone down some with dispatched and such, at the very least, they have at least that much. Good grief, she’s sure got us good.”
There, Novem turned to looked at me. Her expression was more enervated than usual.
“Celes-sama doesn’t have one Skill alone. It’s a Skill that can display such an extent of power, so it’s sure to be a considerable burden. She’s likely using something to make up for that. What’s more, her original Skill has practically reached the limits of its ability, so it should be unusable. About the number of Skills she holds, it’s an unknown number.”
Back when I fought Celes.
She was probably already using a number of Skills. While she did have pure high base specs, there were some things that couldn’t be explained away with that alone.
When she was that strong, Celes was unable to avoid the snowball Shannon threw. Personally, could it be she was relying on a Skill, and there just happened to be a hole in it there? Or so I thought.
“She took away all my original abilities, and sealed my memories on top of that. And thus she used out her own Skill. That alone is plenty. It means she can’t take away any more.”
One of her troublesome Skills had already been crushed.
And she only ever used monotonous moves.
Perhaps she was surprisingly close to her limit.
Novem looked at me in worry.
“… I’m sure she’s waiting for something fun to happen.”
“I wouldn’t doubt it. To that one, this battle’s just a game. If she took it as a serious duel, we would be harder pressed.”
What Celes came out with was the action I had feared most. If she took down our talented personnel one by one, the plan would crumble.
I judged that the reason she didn’t… no, that she couldn’t, was that her Skill was placing more of a load on her than I had anticipated. Perhaps she had taken my guess into considerations, and was leisurely waiting for me inside.
“Lyle-sama, the allied army’s morale is close to its limit. Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before it crumbles.”
“Quite right. Regardless of the fact we’re winning, even I’d hate a battle like this. Well, I don’t really like war as a whole. It’s better to just take on monsters.”
There, just a little. A slight sliver of happiness crossed Novem’s face.
“That’s right. Rather than humans fighting among themselves, there are more important things they should be doing, right?”
I looked up at the night sky.
“… If I didn’t meet Celes there in Centralle, you think I would have continued on as an adventurer?”
Novem responded to my question.
“You would have heard of Celes’ deeds eventually. Sooner or later, an offensive would be launched across the continent, so perhaps it was only a matter of time.”
If I had run far away, I’m sure I wouldn’t have to go through all these troubles. By Celes’ orders, old Zell was burned on his death, hut and all. Rondo-san and his party… I lost adventurers I knew.
I gave a small laugh.
“What seems to be the matter?”
“No… it’s just that rather than all those unknown humans who were meaninglessly slaughtered, it’s the handful I knew that ring through my heart the most. Do you think I’ve gone mad? Well, I’m sure I have.”
There, Novem shook her head to the side.
“No, that’s not it.”
I took a deep breath. And turned to return to the room.
“Call everyone out tomorrow. Once the preparations are in order, we’re carrying out the plan.”
Once I said only that much, Novem bowed and abided my words.
“Yes. As you order, Lyle-sama.”