The Labyrinth subjugation base south of Beim had gotten around to simply be called South Beim.
That small town that was said to have been made by those exiled from the city had gained some vitality in less than a month.
That’s how it was supposed to be, and a number of merchant houses had flooded in. The port was, at the very least able to moor three ships, so ships were moving back and forth.
The craftsmen brought in by the merchants and other relevant parties instantly increased the town’s population.
In that energetic South Beim, with Monica and Clara… the three of us looked at Porter in the warehouse.
Having been worn through by constant use, Porter had been serviced by Monica for the long journey ahead, but…
“Porter… you’ve grown up splendidly.”
… Touching both hands to my mouth, I looked at Porter.
On its cylinder of a head, two large, round eyes. That part hadn’t changed. But its body had undergone heavy modifications. It was almost a lump of iron… there stood Porter’s gallant figure.
From the Jewel… the ancestors’ hearts were also moved.
『Porter is our comrade. Looks like he’s become somewhat splendid while we weren’t looking.』
『I… seem to be feeling attachment towards this mass of iron and clockwork.』
『This density, this dignity. While being even more refined than before, that astoundingly charming body, the perfect assimilation of pointlessness and male romance… Porter, you’re the best.』
It was just as the Seventh said. This Porter… had become one size larger. Monica had looked at Damien’s large-scale Porter, and took it as a challenge I’m sure.
Its greatest showpiece was the pair of arms folded on top.
The parts it used were externally reinforced much like the armor of the armored giant monster we once defeated in Arumsaas, and carefully manufactured.
Monica spoke, brimming with pride.
“It would be troubling if that was enough to amaze you. This Monica… is fundamentally greater than those three units at Professor Damien’s place. Fundamentally! Porter, show everyone your true form! …Clara-san, as we discussed, please.”
Monica assumed a pose, but when Clara didn’t show any reaction, she took a few glances, and sent a request.
Clara quietly nodded, and held up her staff.
Slowly coming alive, Porter’s front portion lifted up, and became a torso.
The arms on its back were deployed, and its leg portion was supported up by an increased eight tires with a reinforced frame.
When I showed my excitement, Monica excitedly looked at me.
“Amazing, isn’t it! Monica is different from those scrap metals around the place! My base specs are different than those garbage that would rejoice at some version upgrade, or a small modification! Now bear witness, my chicken dickwaaad!!”
Holding both hands towards the ceiling, her yell sounded as if it came straight from her soul.
Inside the Jewel, the ancestors as well…
『Amazing. You’re amazing, Porter!』
『You did your best…』
『What a form. This boorish form… it’s perfect, is it not!』
But there was a single one to give a cold opinion. It was Milleia-san. Having joined along the way, Milleia-san didn’t have any affection for Porter. Let alone that, she was a person who said his head was unnecessary. And she offered her fifty copper.
『… Are these functions really necessary? They aren’t, right? Rather, this… how much space is taken to stow those unnecessary parts? I don’t know what to think about adding on strange features and doing nothing to make your trip more comfortable.』
I wanted to tell her how she just didn’t get it, but it’s true it was an important point.
“… Monica, I understand that Porter has been reborn. So how are its specs compared to before? As in usable space, and comfort.”
Monica stuck out her index finger, and bent it left and right.
“Chicken dickwad, you’d do best not to underestimate me. I’ve sacrificed a bit of space, but I put the craftsmen to work.”
To her, Clara quietly.
“You overworked them, is what you mean. If Monica-san ever approaches them with a smile, the dwarves and gnomes will now run away at full force.”
I looked at Monica.
“What exactly did you do?”
She shrugged her shoulders, and shook her head tiredly.
“They’re craftsmen. They shine best when they’re desperately trying to surmount an impossible order. On the contrary, I’d like you to praise me. Because this Monica has passed down various lost crafts. For the sake of South Beim’s future, no… for the sake of my chicken!”
I circled around to Porter’s back, and opened the door.
“It’s gotten a little narrower? Well, there are sofas, or rather benches attached on both sides, so perhaps that’s why it looks that way.”
The mass of metal porter… when transporting goods or people, that reliable and central member of our party had been reborn.
As I returned to Monica’s side, Clara reverted Porter to its original form.
She tilted her head.
“It’s weight has gone up considerably. Yet even so, I get the feeling the Mana expenditure to drive it has lowered. And whenever I move it, something feels off.”
Monica walked up to Porter, opened up its front portion, and showed it off.
In it, the three stones of the Peridot we’d found in the Labyrinth had been embedded. There were strange mechanisms furnished around them.
“Ah, my gemstones…”
“… That’s right! This is Porter’s energy source! By it, Porter will surely move more powerfully than before! It’s truly Porter’s heart! With only three gemstones, we’ve achieved a suitable means of operation!”
As Monica took some glances at me, I’d like to believe she did feel at least a bit of guilt at taking them.
And I put a hand to Porter, and muttered.
“Porter, good for you.”
Clara, in regards to me.
“If Lyle-san’s fine with that, then so be it. More so, you’re just going to ignore how she arbitrarily used the gemstones? You neglected to report that to the party, Monica-san.”
On Clara’s words, Monica flipped each of her twin tails.
“That was the chicken dickwad’s personal possession. And I am the chicken dickwad’s personal possession. Ergo, everything of the chicken dickwad’s belongs to me. And all of me belongs to the chicken dickwad! So there’s no problem to speak of!”
When she checked to see if I was mad, she had given quite an outrageous statement, so I chopped her head form behind.
“Of course it’s no good. Say you’re going to use them beforehand.”
“Auu… but everyone was so busy these days, and whenever you got back, you’d all collapse asleep, so I was trying to be tactful in my own way.”
Right, we were busy.
It wasn’t just South Beim, we had a necessity to act for what was to come. Porter’s modifications were a part of that.
… Eva was negotiating with the tribe of elves that had dropped by South Beim.
They were on the main street, where a stage had been prepared for the minstrels and traveling performers.
In that space with heavy pedestrian traffic, Eva made a certain request to the troupe… to the tribe.
“… And this is the song and story I’d like you to spread. It can just be in rumors, so can’t you circulate it? The collateral is your lodging fee in South Beim. We’ll make it dirt cheap.”
For a travelling troupe, cheap lodging was an appreciated gesture. Hearing that, the young-man-like head elf touched a hand to his chin.
“It’s a request from a daughter of the Nihil. We’ll listen to it. By the way, there are a number of things I’d like to ask about. Fort Redant, or perhaps Fortress, I’d like to know the particular details of it. The story of the Hero who fought back an army of monsters is in fashion these days. We just flowed into Beim ourselves, so we’ve no clue of it.”
Eva, upon hearing that.
“Where did you come from? Not Zayin or Lorphys, right? Galleria? Rusworth? Doesn’t look it. I doubt it’s Cartaffs, and…”
The head elf let out a sigh.
“Bahnseim. We ran away from there. It’s in a terrible state right not.”
Eva nodded at the head, and inquired with a serious face.
“Bahnseim, huh. If you’ll exchange it for info on Bahnseim, then I’ll oblige. I was there before, but has it really gotten that bad?”
The head looked at the sky.
“War, or rather trampling down. It was the first time I ever witnessed an army that didn’t fear death. The authority grasped by the future queen of Bahnseim, it reeks of abnormality. It could be the case she’ll leave her name in history. In a bad sense.”
Eva knew of Celes’ abnormality. If you hadn’t seen it up close… if passed by lip, it was only the cruel queen-to-be of Bahnseim, end of story.
That was how Beim was. Even when info on Celes came in, it was a common tale. Or perhaps an atrocious woman… is how they summed it up.
Some part of the city was convinced it was fire on the opposite shore. Eva listened to the head’s words of Bahnseim.
“I got the feeling ruin was coming closer by the day. The men were rounded up for war, and not villages alone, even the larger towns were only women and children. Seeing an old one was a rare sight. Refugees turned bandit are increasing. We were attacked a number of times on the way.”
Abandon food supplies and run, or fight amongst each other to keep it. Hearing that story, Eva was sure it was truly a terrible situation.
“Hey, aren’t there any nobles rebelling against the throne? Feudal lords are fine too.”
On her question, the head shook his head.
“There are none. To rephrase, there were. Past tense. Many feudal lords have been crushed. Centralle’s army was one thing, but the Walt House was also involved. It just goes to show their title of Bahnseim’s strongest wasn’t for show.”
Lyle’s home, the Walt House, was cooperating in crushing the country’s opposing powers. At that, Eva felt a hint of irony…
… May was counting the increasing food stands in South Beim.
“Oooh! There are three more today! Is that one sweets? The next smells of meat. Hah… three whole new comrades on my food walking course.”
She looked over the stands with an expression of bliss, as she happily thought over what she would eat today.
“Yesterday was deep fried, so meat for today… no, it’s hard to dismiss fresh sweets. But I don’t have the war funds to eat all of them… what a tragedy.”
May generally only ever used her money on food, and she had received some from Novem so she could walk the stands and eat.
She didn’t have the intent to go as far as to manage her own money, and she was sure she was fine that way. Because of that, she received payment as a daily allowance from Novem.
“Okay, it all starts with some juice to wet the throat. Let’s go with some refreshing citrus, why not.”
There, the small-built May stopped her feet’s course to the stand, and turned around.
With long, unkempt black hair, and a coat that wasn’t yet a match for the season, a woman of high stature stood.
“… If you’re going to rampage here, then stop. This happens to be one of my favorites.”
Her opponent was Marina.
Marina tossed the paper bag in her hands towards May. Taking it, May found the bag was warm, and her eyes sparkled as she unearthed the skewer meat within.
Enduring the drool creeping its way to the surface.
“W-what are you planning?”
She took some fleeting glances between Marina and the bag as she asked.
“Nothing. It’s been a while since I got to go that wild. It was fun, so I’m thanking you. And I’d like to meet your leader. He did quite a dirty thing. It’s gotten hard for me to live in Beim.”
May observed Marina’s state, and noticed that was a lie. She took a skewer from the bag, brought it to her mouth, and bit in.
“Introduction fee, was it? Very well, I’ll arrange it for you.”
“Thanks for that. With failure, and a few other reasons tacked on, they ran off with all the money I’d been saving up, so now I’m broke.”
That one did not look like a lie.
May bit further into the meat on the stick, and ate it heartily as she looked at Marina.
“And so? What’s your real objective? For someone of your level, ma’am, I’m sure any Guild would accept you.”
“When you’ve lived much longer than I, ma’am? Girly, you’ll get on well in the world.”
With her own form, May knew Marina would feel uncomfortable if treated as a little girl. It was something she learned to blend in with the world of humans.
But even so, looked on from around, it’s true it looked uncomfortable.
May quietly continued on into the meat. Marina muttered something like, ‘fine, you win’, and began speaking.
“I don’t really care about only the East Branch escaping, and being isolated as a result. But you see… I have an interest in the leader one like you would serve. Is that boy also strong?”
Lyle had Marina’s eyes set on him…
… Within the Jewel.
In Lyle’s room of memories, the room he had once lived his life. The form of his youth… LYLE quietly sat.
He crossed his legs on top of the bed, left his elbows against his lap, and placed his jaw on his hands.
His form was a child, but he had a bit of presence to him.
『… The Fifth will have stay a while. I want Lyle to know him. Though he may feel something after knowing him. But before that…』
LYLE looked up at the ceiling.
『Even if you don’t want to see who you really are, you’re abandoning me too much. I’m going to develop abandonment issues. This form is your own. It’s the form of your younger years, and yet…』
Lyle’s room in the Jewel had become a room filled with what he didn’t want to see. The Jewel had interfered. Celes had interfered. And it was a room born as the result.
And the young boy LYLE was the form of the current Lyle himself.
LYLE was sealed away, and the Lyle that was born was just a small child’s heart in a large body.
He had matured under the watch of the ancestors, and had grown mentally stable, but there was an insecure existence to him.
If LYLE’s memory returned, that balance would crumble. Then who am I? It was clear he would come to be haunted by such worries.
『Lyle, just face me. I know you’re scared of the potential you lost. But even so… you can only erase me and move on.』
In an expression unthinkable from a child, LYLE muttered sorrowfully…