Chapter 1: Rain, Under House Arrest

Part 1

– The royal castle of Sunkwoll, Galfort Castle. –

A large crowd of statesmen had gathered around the red-carpeted audience chamber.

They were holding a war council today.

King Douglass sat on his throne, elevated before the civil and military officers who were lined up in order of social status on his left and right.

Most of the people present had blond hair and blue eyes…… In other words, they were nobles.

Only Rain, who was kneeling before the king, stood out with his slick black hair and black eyes. Today, his eyes shined with a glint more mischievous than usual.

He always wore a daring, yet brazen, expression on this face regardless of the situation, and today was no exception.

At the very least, that was how it Ralphus saw it.

Ralphus himself had a slender face with well-organized features, and did not look anything like Rain.

Normally, he had a kind-looking face that would make all of the girls within Galfort Castle, regardless of their social rank, stir up a fuss, but at the moment his face was twisted in extreme distress.

Rain, that’s enough, he thought ——unfortunately, Ralphus’ prayer did not reach his best friend.

“As I have explained to you before, blindly accepting Zarmine’s extremely obvious invitation is not a good tactic. It is simply absurd to send out soldiers in this situation. It would be the same thing as leaping head-first into the enemy’s trap.”

Rain raised his voice to emphasize his sarcasm.

Fury burned in King Douglass’ eyes as he glared at the insolent man.

“Damn you, watch your mouth! Not only are you disapproving of my strategy, but you are also insulting it!”

Douglass, who had a large battle-scar running down his cheek, shook in anger as he shouted.

All of the civil officers present trembled in fear as Douglass lashed out, but Rain, the actual object of his anger, remained completely unaffected. To the contrary, the corners of his mouth were upturned in a faint smile, as if he was enjoying the situation.

He was more courageous than the average man. ……To the point that you could even say he was shameless.

To prove that point, Rain cast a quick glance at Ralphus’s direction and smiled smugly.

Ralphus tried to question Rain with his eyes, but his friend had already turned to face forward again.

And once again Rain admonished the king ——or rather, he protested,

“strategy? Your Majesty, I don’t think you can call attacking forty-thousand enemies head-on with only ten-thousand soldiers a proper strategy. Although it is a rather certain method for suicide……”

“What?!”

King Douglas grit his teeth in fury. His was finally at the end of his patience.

Ralphus had no idea what Rain was trying to do. Rain, of all people, should have known that the king had a short temper. At this rate, Rain would seriously get executed by the king.

Rain, are you really that dissatisfied with the king’s verdict……?

It had only been a month since Zarmine, the strongest kingdom in the north, had destroyed Lunan.

Even Lunan, which had bordered Sunkwoll to the north and had fought with them for many long years, had not stood a chance against Zarmine.

But the people of Sunkwoll could not celebrate the fact that one of their enemies had fallen.

No matter how you looked at it, Zarmine’s next target was none other than Sunkwoll, the small kingdom at the southwestern edge of the continent of Murgenia.

Of course, Sunkwoll had taken extra precautions after the fall of Lunan. Checkpoints had been established at the former border to Lunan as a measure against foreign spies, and each high general had begun to ready their personal armies for war under the king’s orders.

And, just as Sunkwoll had feared, King Leygur had finally mobilized an impossibly large army at the end of last month.

Under orders from Leygur’s commanders, Zarmine’s entire army had begun to move south. Even a child could tell you that their target was Sunkwoll.

King Douglas, too, had hardened his resolve to defeat Zarmine with a surprise attack and had ordered all seven high generals of his army to depart for battle.

All of the high generals below Ralphus in rank had followed those orders and had brought their personal armies into Galfort castle one after another.

——Except for Rain, who had readily ignored his orders and had arrived empty-handed. This alone was enough to result in severe punishment.

In addition to that was his rebellious protest……it was no wonder that Ralphus was anxious for him.

“Rain, I have promoted you to the rank of a high general and have even granted you land befitting of your title despite your common blood. You have received the highest prestige a knight could ever attain, and yet…!”

The king was so angry that he was at a loss for words. In contrast, Rein responded off-handedly,

“right. Yeah, well, I’m pretty grateful for that.”

No matter how you heard it, he didn’t sound grateful at all. Instead, he sounded like he was making fun of the king.

“How dare you! Such insolence! Then why? Why won’t you obey your orders?!”

A sigh echoed throughout the chamber.

Of course, it was Rain who had sighed.

“That’s what I’ve been telling you. I am opposed to the idea of clashing with an enemy when we have neither superior military might nor a proper plan. Won’t you please just get it already?”

Rain shook his head in exasperation before he continued,

“to battle a large army with a small regiment and fall gloriously on the battlefield ——as someone who has worked their way up from being a mercenary, suicide tactics aren’t really to my preference.”

“What do you mean they “aren’t to your preference,” you fool! Your preferences do not matter!”

Voices of agreement clamored throughout the chamber.

They had been from the five high generals excluding Ralphus who represented Sunkwoll’s military affairs. Rain’s reputation was extremely poor even among his colleagues. Then again, the man himself could not have cared any less, either.

“The land that was once Lunan now belongs to Zarmine, meaning that it is enemy territory. You would have to be insane to think that we could just nonchalantly walk in and prepare for a surprise attack.”

“Da, damn you! Is that how you address your king?!”

Douglas raged as he finally pulled his sword out of its scabbard.

He stood up from his throne and took long strides towards Rain. Voices rose up in commotion.

Among them were many voices of anticipation.

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I cannot not allow this to happen!

Ralphus thought as he quickly ran forward and stood in front of Rain, shielding him from the king.

“Please wait, Your Majesty!”

“Out of my way, Ralphus! I will not pardon him today!”

“Even still, to cut him down…… You’re going too far!”

“You will remain silent, Ralphus!”

“No, I will not!”

The chamber fell into silence before the full force of Ralphus’ spirited voice. Even the king had lowered his sword in surprise.

Ralphus was generally a calm man, but was known to act like a different person altogether from time to time. This was one of those times.

Without changing his posture, Ralphus continued,

“we are about to go to war, and yet you are about to cut down an ally. Please give this matter a little more thought.”

Someone else refuted Ralphus’ pleas in the place of the daunted king.

It was Ganoa, one of the high generals, who twitched his scrawny cheeks as he snobbishly proclaimed,

“Lord Ralphus, even if you are trying to protect your friend, your conduct goes against the will of the His Majesty.”

——In other words, he was telling Ralphus to shut up and watch.

His colleague, Gilles, nodded repeatedly in agreement at his side. In contrast to Ganoa, who was slim and had a haughty countenance, Gilles was as fat as a round barrel. Both men were strongly mindful of their status as nobles, and thus had the worst relationships with Rain.

They were undoubtedly hoping for Rain to be executed. Ralphus was also from a prestigious noble lineage, and was a distant relative of the royal family, but had always disliked the two.

“You fools!”

Ralphus lashed out.

“Our enemies will be the only ones to rejoice if Rain was to die here. Can you not understand this?”

Ganoa opened his mouth to try to say something sullen in retort, but closed his mouth after one look at Ralphus’ furious expression. Gilles did the same.

King Douglas, too, sheathed his sword back into his scabbard with a bitter face. He had probably felt as if Ralphus’ words had been directed at himself. He returned to his throne with a heavy gait and glowered at Ralphus and Rain.

“Forget it. Beheading him here would achieve nothing.”

“Yep, exactly,”

Rain interrupted lightly as if he was talking about someone else’s fate.

Deep wrinkles etched themselves between the king’s brows.

Ralphus held Rain back with one hand, as if he was telling him to shut up. Then, he knelt by his friend’s side.

“Thank you very much for listening, You Majesty.”

“However, it is still a fact that he has come here alone without his soldiers. It doesn’t change the fact that he has ignored his orders, and that it may happen again in the future. I cannot simply absolve him of his crimes.”

“That is true, but…”

Troubled, Ralphus stole a quick glance at Rain, who was looked back at Ralphus as if this wasn’t his concern. Even though he was about to be punished by the king, Rain didn’t look serious at all.

Helplessly, Ralphus continued,

“Your Majesty, how do you find ordering Rain to be put under house arrest?”

“House arrest, is it?”

“Indeed. At any rate, he is not prepared to fight this war, so I believe this is an appropriate punishment.”

“Hmm……”

King Douglas stroked his thick beard and made a grim face. He disliked Ralphus’ proposal, but could not reject it outright because Ralphus was a prominent noble from a powerful bloodline. Although he was the king, his ancestry was inferior to Ralphus’ by a notch.

“I find it somewhat lacking as punishment,”

the king muttered in discontent.

“That is not the case,”

Ralphus replied without a moment’s delay, and continued on to propose something that he himself did not believe in.

“If Your Majesty was to lead the army against Zarmine and return triumphant, then even Rain would have to acknowledge his own ignorance. He would lose face to us as well. There is no greater punishment for a knight bound by honor.”

Ralphus said this purposefully, despite knowing that Rain would cast aside his knightly honor without a second thought.

“Hmm…… That is, well…”

“It is as such. Your Majesty, your verdict please.”

At Ralphus’ urging, the king looked like he had swallowed dirt as he proclaimed,

“very well then. Rain, I order you to be put under house arrest in your lands. Be grateful that your punishment was no harsher than this!”

“Sire! I am truly thankful for your kindness!!”

Rain replied in a cherry voice as he lowered his head in an empty show of respect. He cast a sidelong glance at Ralphus, who was bowing at his side, and winked with an audacious smile.

Had he planned for all of this to happen? If so, then he was truly a man to be feared.

Ralphus could only smile back wryly.

Then again, there was nothing better than the fact that his friend would remain safe; since no matter how you looked at it, it was impossible to win this war.

Ganoa and Gilles had been staring coldly at Ralphus and Rain during that time, but for better or worse, Ralphus had not noticed.

Afterwards, the war council had concluded without another comment.

Ralphus invited Rain to his personal chambers within the castle.

If he was to head to war, then this could be their last meeting in this lifetime.

“Would you care for a drink?”

“Yeah, sounds good,”

Rain replied in a spirited voice.

Rain sat down heavily on the sofa once they had entered Ralphus’ private chambers. He crossed his legs high in the air and made himself at home.

Ralphus brought out a bottle of wine and two wineglasses from a cabinet that was nestled into a bookshelf and poured two glasses of wine. Then, he took a seat across from Rain.

After finishing his glass in one go, Rain immediately poured himself another. He was drinking as heavily as he always did. Ralphus drank his own glass of wine slowly as he peered into his friend’s face.

Rain’s youthful visage had not changed since the time they had first met. In any case, he did not look like he was the same age as Ralphus —twenty-five years old. He looked to be eighteen or twenty at most.

Ralphus, who was of Sunkwoll’s noble bloodline and was rumored to have elvish ancestry in his lineage, lived longer and consequently aged slower than other people. However, he could only guess as to why Rain remained so youthful, since the same explanation did not hold true for his friend.

He realized that he knew next to nothing about Rain.

As Ralphus was contemplating, Rain suddenly said,

“by the way, sorry about before.”

“What are you sorry about? Your house arrest? What, so you really were counting on me to intervene, weren’t you?”

“Yeah, it was within my expectations.”

“Then you could have at least told me beforehand. What were you going to do if I hadn’t stopped His Majesty?”

“I believed that you’d definitely stop him. Besides, how could I have told you when you can’t even act to save your life?”

“Hmph. You’re right, though.”

Ralphus understood where Rain was coming from. If he had heard Rain’s plan from the beginning, he most certainly would have given it away.

“But to think that you of all people would go out of your way avoid this war. Do you really think we have no chance of winning?”

“At this rate, we don’t even have a hair’s breadth of a chance to win,”

Rain guaranteed Sunkwoll’s defeat in a truly relaxed manner. He continued,

“all of this is just a part of Zarmine’s trap. They’re even marching slowly on purpose. They’re planning to gang up on us with their superior numbers once we’re within their reach.”

“……You’re probably right. Then, what do you think we should do? Wouldn’t they attack us eventually, even if we ignore them for now?”

“We would just need to fight them in Sunkwoll territory. But, either you or I would have to devise our strategy, and we would also have to be the ones commanding the army.”

“That’s…… But……”

Ralphus grimaced.

King Douglas detested it when other people interfered with his proposed strategies. Although he was more forgiving about other matters, he would not listen to even Ralphus’ suggestions regarding this war.

“It’s impossible, no? Then, there’s nothing more to be done; this is the end. Simple numbers settle everything —it’s how war works in this world.”

“——Yeah, I guess.”

His response was somewhat vague, but Ralphus had understood was Rain was saying.

Rain’s analysis had been cold, but accurate. King Douglas could hold his own in battle, but lacked the brainpower necessary to formulate a strategy that kept the general picture in mind. The outcome was clear no matter how you looked at it.

“In any case, it’s not as if I’m the type of person who would throw away his life for his king. It just doesn’t suit me launch a suicide attack when I have no chance at winning.”

Ralphus tilted his wineglass in silence.

Rain was being sarcastic, but he was not necessarily wrong.

The King had forced Rain into many unpleasant situations before with his ridiculous orders, so it would have been stranger for Rain to willingly sacrifice his life for him.

To begin with, Rain was an ex-mercenary who was not very loyal to his kingdom. Perhaps he was not loyal at all.

But to each his own. It would also be fine for there to be a fool who would stand his ground and fight to the bitter end.

Rain stared intently at Ralphus.

“Your face tells me that you’d go even if I told you not to participate in the war.”

“Yeah. I’m glad for your concern, though.”

“——Not really. It’s just too bad that I’ll lose someone to leech off of.”

“Is that so?”

Ralphus laughed quietly.

Rain stood up abruptly after draining the rest of his glass in one go.

“Well then. It’s about time for me to go. I’m under house arrest, at any rate.”

“Okay. Make sure to take care of yourself, alright? Though my words probably fall on deaf ears.”

“Nah, you’re the one who has to take care, you know?”

Rain’s mask came off and Ralphus was able to glimpse his underlying uneasiness for a brief moment, but he had promptly returned to normal in the next.

Rain left the room as if he was simply going out for a walk without betraying his disheartened mood. Ralphus followed him out into the hallway to see him off.

“Oh yeah,”

Rain said, remembering something right as he was about to leave,

“I’ve been thinking of asking you for a while, but do you know of a girl called Michelle? She should be about sixteen now, and she’s probably a noble.”

“Michelle? Hmm…… Do you know anything else about her?”

“Let’s see. Well, she has straight blond hair that goes all the way down to her waist, and she has a face so pretty that you wouldn’t believe it…… She has a nice voice, too.”

“That wasn’t helpful at all. There are a lot of nobles,”

Ralphus said, considerably exasperated. He continued,

“still, isn’t she too young for you? Certainly, I may not know much about relationships between a man and a woman, but……”

“NO! It’s not like that. I’m not into that kind of stuff. It’s just, I’ve made a promise.”

“A promise?”

“Never mind; it’s fine if you don’t know. I already know where I can probably find her.”

With a wave of his hand, Rain turned around and walked away as if nothing had happened.

He never once looked back.

Ralphus, who had returned to his chambers, continued to drink alone while thinking about his best friend.

Recalling the unfavorable war before him, he realized that he would never see that liberal man again unless he stumbled into some great fortune……

Knock knock

An awfully reserved knock fell onto Ralphus’s ears as he was deeply submerged in his thoughts. Its owner was too timid to be his aide, Gwen.

“I’m coming. Who is—— Your Royal Highness the Princess?!”

When he casually opened the door, he found Princess Shelfa waiting patiently on the other side.

She had straight blond hair that reached all the way down to her waist, and her skin was so white that it was almost transparent. Her gentle and charming eyes, which were slightly larger than most, seemed to understand everything for what it was.

She usually wore an expression of loneliness, but she looked somewhat cheerful today. She stopped Ralphus, who was about to reflexively bend down on one knee, with a dainty hand.

“Please don’t, Lord Ralphus. Um…… Could I have a moment of your time?”

“Of course. Please, come in,”

Ralphus invited the princess inside even as his mind was reeling. He had heard that the princess disliked people quite a bit, so he couldn’t even begin to guess why she was here……

Ralphus had hardly ever met with the princess, who was sixteen this year.

At the very most, he had only greeted her when they crossed paths within the palace. It wasn’t as if Ralphus avoided her on purpose, but rather that the princess had confined herself within her personal chambers in the heart of the palace.

However, she hadn’t done so out of her own volition, but because her father, King Douglas, had mandated it.

In any case, her visit was unexpected.

The princess surveyed the room with great curiosity as she sat on the sofa.

“So, what brings you here today?”

“Well…… Um, is it true that you are friends with Rain, Lord Ralphus? I heard that you were from one of the maids.”

“……Yes. He is certainly a good friend of mine.”

She had addressed Rain without his title. Was she close to him?

Ralphus became even more perplexed.

“Then, would you happen to know where Rain is at the moment? I heard that he was here in the castle today, but I could not find him anywhere.”

Ralphus probably looked very puzzled to her, because she then whispered,

“this is a secret from my father. I’ve snuck out of my chambers because I wanted to see Rain.”

“——I see. You wanted to see Rain,”

was all he could muster in response.

The beautiful princess, who had leaned towards him to whisper, was blushing faintly red. Anyone could tell that Rain was important to her.

Just when had he met Her Royal Highness?

It was a mystery. Rain hardly ever visited Galfort Castle to begin with.

“He was here until a moment ago…… But unfortunately, he had to return to his castle because he was put under house arrest.”

“Oh……”

Princess Shelfa muttered piteously. She looked so disappointed that Ralphus was afraid that she would burst out in tears.

“It couldn’t be helped. Besides, things probably worked out better for him this way.”

Sympathizing for her plight, Ralphus told her about what had happened during the war council in great detail after asking her not to tell anyone else. He told her everything that had happened, including Rain’s scheming.

“I……see. If Rain went out of his way to do that, then there must really be no hope left for this kingdom,”

the princess said in a voice filled with her infinite trust for Rain.

“Although I do not wish to acknowledge it.”

“Indeed.”

Letting out a soft sigh, the princess pulled out a pendant from the bosom of her white robes and stared at it intently. Attached to the end of its silver chain was an old coin with a hole through the top.

When she realized that Ralphus was looking at her, she held the coin out in her pale hands for him to see.

“I’ll let you see this, Lord Ralphus, because you are a friend of Rain’s. I received this coin from him. It is my treasure.”

“I am honored. It appears to be rather old, although I can’t say that it looks like it was meant to be worn as an accessory.”

It would have been more accurate to say that it was worn out. It looked like a silver coin, but etched on its dirty surface was a string of words that had been written in a language he did not know.

“This is a magic coin.”

“Magic, you say?”

“Yes. I cannot tell you what it does because I’ve promised not to, but looking at it always cheers me up when I am feeling down. However, it seems that its magic will work only once.”

Magic items were exceedingly rare these days. This was because there were almost no rune masters left to charge items with magic anymore.

However, after listening to Shelfa’s words…… Ralphus felt a shiver run down his spine.

Ralphus had also received a magic item from Rain before.

It had happened while Sunkwall was still at war with Lunan and the king had ordered Ralphus to depart for battle. Ralphus had been drinking with Rain on the night before he left when Rain had said he would give him something nice.

“Something nice?”

“Yeah. This is something I found by chance while I was exploring some ruins in the North…… Well, take a look,”

Rain had said smugly. What he had held out in his hands, however, looked like an ordinary rock with a slightly greenish tint.

“Hmm? It looks like an ordinary rock to me.”

“Ugh, this is why you amateurs are so…… This will only work once, but it’ll protect its owner from mortal danger and break apart in its owner’s stead. It’s true; I’m not lying.”

“Well well!”

Ralphus had replied in admiration.

“I’ll give this to you just in case. Take it with you to battle. It’s fine, just take it. In exchange, drinks are on you tonight.”

Before they had parted, Rain had reminded Ralphus once again that he was not lying about the rock.

Deeply grateful to his friend, Ralphus had brought the magic stone with him to the battlefield.

He had even thought that the rock had worked.

An enemy arrow had been fired at his throat during the fierce battle that had ensued. However, Ralphus had escaped certain death and the arrow had only left a red streak across his neck. The rock that Rain had given him had disappeared during the battle, so Ralphus had thought that its magic had worked.

Yet, when he had gone drinking with Rain after he had returned home and had stated his thanks, Rain had readily replied,

“oh. That was just a normal rock. I picked it up off the roadside.”

“……What did you say?”

“Hey, don’t get angry. It was reassuring to have, wasn’t it? It’s important to have a good mindset and all that in battle, right? Man~, good for you~; what a happy ending~.”

Ralphus had spat out his drink as Rain hit him hard across the back——

Ralphus unintentionally cleared his throat as he recalled his traumatic past.

Seeing that the princess was beaming with joy, he nervously asked,

“By the way, Princess, did Rain happen to say anything about that silver coin?”

After blinking several times, she answered,

“Let me see…… Rain seems to have traveled all over the world, but I think he said that he had found this magic item by chance while exploring some ruins in the North—— or something to that extent.”

“Is, is that so?”

That bastard!

Ralphus broke out in cold sweat.

Failing to notice Ralphus’ internal distress, the princess happily continued,

“Rain is so strange. I had never doubted him, but he kept insisting that he wasn’t lying.”

“Ye, yes…… That is strange indeed…… Haha, hahaha.”

The princess laughed elegantly with a hand placed daintily at her lips, but Ralphus did not share in her delight.

Instead, he had sobered up at once.

In any case, he decided to change the topic. He would interrogate Rain for more details if he ever met the man again.

“Well, regardless of what it can do, if the magic only works once, you should keep it safe without wasting it.”

“Yes, that is what I intend to do.”

“I’m relieved to hear that.”

“You are?”

“——No, no it’s nothing. Leaving that aside, would you happen to know of someone named Michelle, Princess?”

He had casually uttered that name in an attempt to change the topic, but the Princess had jumped to her feet in surprise.

“Where did you hear that name? From Rain!? You heard it from Rain, yes?”

All Ralphus could do in the face of the princess’ passionate outburst was to nod and freeze in place. He realized too late that if the princess had held romantic feelings for Rain, he should have not voiced the name of another woman.

Contrary to his expectations, however, the princess smiled in wonder and gathered her slender hands. Dreamily, she said,

“Rain has been thinking about Michelle, hasn’t he, Lord Ralphus?”

“Yes…… I suppose. He only asked me if I knew of her. That was all……”

The princess did not appear to have heard his response. With her cheeks flushed red, she muttered, “I see, so Rain remembers” over and over again. She was the very picture of a maiden in love. She probably didn’t even realize that Ralphus was there with her anymore.

I really cannot understand women,

Ralphus thought seriously to himself.

~~*~~*~~*~~

Part 2

A low song carried over on the wind.

For the umpteenth time, Yuri glanced down at the ground from atop her horse for any rocks she could throw in frustration, but eventually decided to endure it for the sake of her mission.

She was a girl of sixteen or seventeen with a blue blouse and a while skirt.

Her neat black hair fell gracefully at the top of her shoulders. Her light green eyes, which darted around like a squirrel’s, shined in determination. She had a face that most men would find cute, but was currently twisted it in irritation.

——Geez, how much longer is that jerk planning on singing that god-awful song! On top of that, he’s only wearing a shirt and a pair of pants in this cold weather. He’s a weirdo; he’s totally a weirdo!

Could there possibly anybody more tone-deaf than him? His singing was so bad that it left her dumbfounded. His song was a love story about some man and some woman, but it honestly just sounded like noise to her.

Or rather, she even felt as if his singing was shortening her lifespan.

He was just that bad.

Yuri maintained her distance from the singer and tailed him while holding back the urge to cover her ears.

That man—— Rain, a high general of this kingdom, was known as the “Unknown Genius” in Zarmine.

Well, not many people called him that anymore because he was rather famous now. Still, there was no doubt that he was regarded highly in other countries. His military exploits were well-known throughout the whole land.

In fact, Yuri had also been extremely nervous before she had laid her eyes on him. Now, not even a fraction of her initial anxiety remained.

I want to drop everything and hurry home ——Yuri thought, but she couldn’t do so because her orders had come from the prime minister himself.

Yuri sighed. For the time being, she had to stick to this man no matter what.

Oblivious to Yuri’s feelings, Rain continued to sing in his thunderous voice while riding atop his finely bred white horse.

He didn’t seem to care that he was in the middle of the busy capital filled with rows of small stores. He completely ignored all of the snickering from the people who were walking down the street. Rain was truly quite the character.

However, Yuri did not want to get even a millimeter closer to him.

Even now, she stayed as far away from Rain as possible so passersby would not accidently think that she was his companion. Besides, he was technically a stranger to her.

Then……. Rain suddenly stopped his murderous singing and muttered something. When Yuri desperately strained her ears, she heard him say,

“How about it, Kris, you hungry?”

Yuri looked up at the sky in exasperation.

She had heard this line so many times that she didn’t even feel like complaining, “who the hell is Kris? There’s no one there!” anymore.

Along the way, Yuri had eventually figured out that Kris was the name of Rain’s horse. In other words, Rain, the supposed genius, had the childish hobby of talking to horses.

He was a difficult fellow to understand.

Why do I have to tail this useless guy who doesn’t live up to his rumors……?

Even though there was no way the horse could respond, Rain persistently pestered his horse again and again.

Just then, Rain nodded in satisfaction.

“Okay, I gotcha. The food can wait till later, right Kris?”

he said, and began his murderous singing again as if nothing had happened.

Without thinking, Yuri cursed under her breath. This was the first time that she had found a mission so unpleasant.

It wasn’t just because of the singing.

To begin with, Rain held the prestigious title of high general, but he peered into random stores like the average country bumpkin. He even seemed to show more interest in the store’s wares if the storekeeper was a (beautiful) woman.

He would not move on until he had spoken a word or two with them.

This guy’s an idiot of a womanizer.

Yuri’s opinion of Rain plummeted down beyond the point of no return.

Meanwhile, Rain suddenly turned behind the corner of a local tavern.

And there you go, acting on another whim,

Yuri thought as she hurried behind him into the alley.

“——! Ahhh!”

She had almost run straight into Rain.

She had thought that he had already proceeded ahead, but he had dismounted his horse and was leaning against the tavern wall instead. As soon as he saw Yuri, he casually raised a hand in greetings.

“Hey! Why don’t we talk for a bit?”

Crap. He couldn’t possibly have known that I was tailing…… no, I can still fix this! He’s an idiot.

After allowing her face to cycle through a world of colors, Yuri regained her senses and forced her expression into one of a naïve young girl’s. She opened her eyes as wide as she could, and said,

“Huh? Have you mistaken me for someone else, Sir Knight?”

“A mistake……huh,”

Rain replied as he scrutinized Yuri up and down before making a show of shrugging his shoulders. He continued,

“well, I don’t mind either way. Could you get off your horse for a bit? I want to talk.”

She hesitated at first, but then she realized that she couldn’t have him be suspicious of her. In the end, she reluctantly dismounted off her horse.

“So, did you need something from me?”

“Nothing much. I just wanted to know why you’ve coincidentally been following me ever since I left the castle,”

Rain said, putting a considerably amount of emphasis on the word ‘coincidentally.’

Yuri suddenly found herself at a loss. She had thought that he was a simple fool, but he had realized that she had been tailing him ever since he had left Galfort Castle. She could not write it off as mere ‘coincidence.’

This, this could be bad…… Yuri thought as she broke out in sweat while trying to lie her way out.

“Uh, umm…… I guess I’ll come clean, but the truth is, I fell in love the moment I laid my eyes on you, Sir Knight, and I’ve been blindly following you even since.”

Yuri rambled on in one breath while resisting the urge to vomit. Rain replied,

“oh? You fell in love with me at first sight?”

as he laughed. Yuri laughed along with him.

After they had laughed for some time, Rain abruptly stopped laughing and declared,

“you’re lying.”

“What?! It’s true~! Your all-black getup is super cool!”

“Are you still sticking to that story? Listen, I already know I’m handsome.”

What an exceptionally egoistic idiot, Yuri thought as she immediately lowered her personal evaluation of Rain. He continued,

“even still, I’m not going to buy such an obvious excuse.”

“But it’s really true~! I’ve completely fallen head over heels for you……”

Yuri closed her mouth when Rain threw out a hand to stop her. After a forced sigh, Rain cut straight to the point.

“I’ll spell it out for you since you keep insisting on playing dumb. You’re a spy from Zarmine, aren’t you? Admit it.”

I’ve been found out!

Yuri thought as she reached for the dagger hidden underneath her skirt and tried to leap backwards. She was confident in her ability to run away, and she could fight better than the average knight if she had to. She hadn’t been trained in Zarmine for nothing.

In any case, that was what she had thought until now.

——However, she soon found herself unable to leap.

The dark silhouette of a sword moved towards her with a faint whistle while creating afterimages in its wake.

A vibrant blue beam of light drew a semicircle-shaped trail in the air and filled up Yuri’s vision.

She had been rendered unable to move before she could realize what was happening.

Before she could even begin to reach for her dagger, Rain had thrust his sword against her throat at a speed too fast for the eyes to follow.

It wasn’t an ordinary longsword, either. It was a magical sword that gave off an aura of magical light……a magic sword.

A bluish while light danced up from its blade in waves, and it emitted a hum akin to the buzzing of numerous insects.

It looked incredibly sharp. In any case, she definitely did not want to test the sword against her own flesh.

Yuri gulped.

“N-no way. That was so fast.”

“Of course it was. I’m a genius, you know,”

Rain said arrogantly as he brushed back his hair with one hand. His behavior really tried her patience, but Yuri was not in any position to argue.

To top it all, the stupid horse named Kris seemed to be looking down on her, which pissed Yuri off even more.

But that was probably just a coincidence.

“H-how……”

“How did I find out? Well, it’s impossible to tail me without me knowing because I’m sensitive to people’s presences, and besides, you don’t move like a normal girl.”

“No way.”

“Hmph. It just means that you’re twenty years too young to deceive my eyes,”

Rain said with abandon. Yuri wanted to hit him right there and then; yet, not only was this neither the time nor the place to do so, but she was also in danger of losing her life.

Spies were hated no matter where they were. If captured, they would immediately be put to death. More often than not, they were slain on the spot the moment they were discovered. In other words, Yuri was in an incomparably bad situation.

Oh crap! Who’s gonna take care of my little sister if I die? Is there anything I can do to get out of this, anything?! If I beg him to spare me…… oh, but, what if he asks me to do “this” or “that” instead? This idiot’s probably a huge lecher.

While Yuri was agonizing over her situation, Rain leisurely asked her,

“so. Your name?”

“It’s Yuri……”

“Yuri, huh? It’s an okay name. Though it’s a little awkward to say.”

While Yuri was thinking, mind your own damn business! Rain continued on and asked her for her age.

Since there was no point in hiding it, she answered, “sixteen,” without taking her eyes off of his magic sword. Rain seemed a little disappointed that she was too young to be his type as he absentmindedly rubbed his chin. Natually, Rain was not Yuri’s type, either.

“Well, make sure you wear a shorter skirt next time. You know, the kind that just barely covers the good parts.”

Rain readily returned his sword to its scabbard after saying his piece. Then, he began to walk back toward his horse while humming cheerfully as Yuri stared at him in disbelief.

“Kris, we’ll have some food in just a bit, ‘kay?

“……Hold on a sec.”

“Oh yeah. If you’d like we could go treat ourselves in an inn on the outskirts of town, Kris.”

“……Excuse me.”

“Oh yeah? You like that? Alright, I’ll treat you till you can’t eat another bite!”

Yuri took a giant breath and yelled at the top of her lungs,

“HEY YOUUUU!! QUIT TALKING TO THE HORSE AND LISTEN TO WHAT I HAVE TO SAY!!”

“Oh!”

Rain turned back around, startled by her sudden outburst.

His black eyes were wide open in surprise.

“Hey, don’t just starting yelling all of a sudden. I like hearing pretty voices, you know?”

“Screw your pretty voices! A-and, don’t keep talking to your horse like there’s nothing wrong with the world when I’m trembling at the thought of being killed!”

“Just when were you trembling? When? You were waiting for a chance to run away this entire time. Though it’s fifty years too early for you to try and escape from me,”

Rain retorted.

What the hell, you just added on another thirty years from last time! Yuri fumed. Ignoring her, Rain continued,

“besides, I’ve already seen your face up close, so hurry up and scat. Go on, shoo!”

He shooed her away with his hand as if she was a fly.

Did you stop me just so you could take a look at my face?! Yuri quickly covered her mouth before she accidently yelled out her thoughts.

“Um…… Are you letting me go, by any chance?”

“Nothing would change even if I killed you. Wouldn’t another spy just come and take your place? See? There’s no point in killing you.”

“You do have a point there…… So you’re really letting me go.”

He might be a better person than I thought he was,

Yuri thought as she looked at Rain in a new light. Normally, she would have been killed on the spot, or she would have been taken prisoner and executed. Either way, she would have ended up dead.

She hadn’t really looked at his face before, but now she realized that he had messy black hair and a chiseled, masculine face. His sharp black eyes were particularly striking. They reminded her of the proud wild wolves of the forest.

Yeah, he’s actually pretty handsome—— wait, now’s not the time for this!

Yuri suddenly grew dark again as she remembered something important.

It was great that she was still alive, but she had utterly failed her mission to tail Rain. That was problematic in and of itself. She would probably be punished once she returned to Zarmine. She could even be silenced, for good.

“What’s wrong? You’re all gloomy again,”

Rain asked from horseback.

Instead of telling him to mind his own business, Yuri quietly explained her circumstances. She figured that it would be alright because he had already saved her life once, and besides, she couldn’t find it in herself to remain silent.

After listening to her story, Rain said,

“then why don’t you just come with me?”

Yuri looked up at him in surprise.

“Your mission was to tail me, right? Then there shouldn’t be any problem if you came with me.”

“Wait, what? But my job is to gather intel, you know? Wouldn’t it be bad for you if I came along?”

As Yuri’s eyes widened in confusion, Rain snorted and said,

“not really. I’m just heading back to my territory because I’ve been put under house arrest.”

“……Come again?”

“Like I said. I’ve been put under house arrest. You know, the kind where I’m not allowed to leave my home,”

Rain explained with a strangely happy smile. He continued,

“I went to the castle without any of my troops and told the king, ‘why bother fighting when we can’t even win?’ and he generously put me under house arrest. So now I’m heading back to my castle to take a nice, long nap.”

Yuri stared on in disbelief as Rain snickered like a mischievous child. That hadn’t been the sort of thing that any self-respecting knight would say, even as a joke.

“I, I did think something was strange because you were all alone, but……”

Yuri’s head began to ache.

I take it back. This guy’s really just an idiot.

“So, Yuri. What’cha gonna do? You coming or not?”

Rain’s voice echoed in her head.

It took the last reserves of her willpower to refrain from telling Rain to go away. Yuri was all too aware that she really did not have any other choice.

“Ugh, I’m going with you……”

Yuri responded on the verge of tears.

It must have been a coincidence, but Kris neighed just then as if the horse had been jeering at the despondent girl.

~~*~~*~~*~~

The musky scent of flora began to mix into the chilly air.

It had taken three days on horseback to reach Rain’s territory, the land of Astel, from the capital.

In other words, Astel was undoubtedly in the countryside. You couldn’t get any more rural than Astel.

Even still, Rain was the only high general in the kingdom with territory to his name who didn’t have an ounce of noble blood in his lineage. King Douglas adhered to the social hierarchy with strict rigor, so Rain had been the only exception he had ever made.

They were trotting through a small forest thriving with long-branched southern cedars. Most of Astel consisted of woods like this or vast fields of empty plains.

Scattered throughout the plains and the woods were small villages and towns. Astel was truly a rural region.

“We’ll arrive at my castle soon; you understand the story, right? We’re gonna say that you’re a squire, so don’t talk to me so casually in front of other people. Don’t screw this up.”

“Well, yeah, okay.”

Yuri looked obviously unwilling as she nodded.

Rain and Yuri had decided to pretend that their fathers knew each other. In other words, Yuri was training to become a knight under Rain…… or so the story went.

While female knights were few and far between, they did exist, so the story itself wasn’t too strange.

Actually, one of Rain’s two aides was also female.

“Why are you sulking? I’m doing this for your sake. I even said you could still talk casually when no one else is around, so I’d rather you be grateful about it.”

“Well, I am grateful, but…… I’m just not good with formalities.”

“Well, it can’t be helped, can it? It’s not as if we can say that you just don’t want to leave my side.”

“Ugh, don’t put it that way!”

“But it’s true, right?”

Rain replied coolly.

He smiled in satisfaction as Yuri scrunched her brows and sank into silence, but then his face suddenly turned sour.

“What now?”

“It’s nothing. I just remembered something unpleasant.”

“Which is…?”

“It’s Senoa, one of my aides. Now that I think about it, she’s gonna raise a fuss once she finds out about my house arrest.”

“Senoa…… If I recall correctly, she’s the daughter of a prominent noble from one of the Five Great Houses, right? She was about twenty?”

“You really did your research well,” Rain said in strange admiration as Yuri bent her head slightly to the side.

“Well, that is my job after all. So? Is she really going to raise such a fuss?”

“Well, yeah, she nags like nobody’s business. She’s a beauty with an exceptional figure, so it’s a shame that her mouth ruins her physical charms. Geez, and here I’d thought that I’d found a real bargain when she first came to me half a year ago.”

“You know, the way you word things is really, really weird……”

“Who cares? Besides, we’ll be able to see the castle soon. Once we get out of here… look!”

They had cleared the forest just as he spoke, and the vast openness stretched out before them. Yuri squinted to see where Rain was pointing.

……But, his finger had frozen stiff midway.

Yuri’s jaw dropped as she also registered the sight before her.

“The hell is this!?”

“What in the world is this!?”

their voices echoed in perfect sync.

~~*~~*~~

Cortecreas Caslte was Rein’s castle, and while it was small, it was well defended due to being surrounded by a deep moat and tall ramparts.

There were several spires protruding from the castle that, like the outer walls, were painted in a brilliant white.

A drawbridge was attached to the castle gates, and was currently let down.

That was fine.

The problem lied in the plaza in front of the castle gates.

There stood a force of two thousand soldiers, composed of knights that had been garrisoned at the castle and foot soldiers, lined up in the plaza.

Come war, they would form ranks and sortie from there.

The soldiers were crammed tightly into the plaza. Counting the foot soldiers, squires, and knights, almost the entirety of the castle’s standing army stood there.

Each and every one of them was fit into armor and armed with a sword or spear. It was as if they were ready to sortie at any moment.

Furthermore, as if this still wasn’t enough, wagons fully loaded with provisions were being drawn out of the castle one after another.

The strangest thing was how exhausted the soldiers appeared, even as they continued to work in silence.

“You tricked me!”

Yuri suddenly shouted in a shrill voice.

Rain turned his head toward her stiffly, as if the joints in his neck had rusted.

“What is that,” Yuri continued, “aren’t they preparing to sortie?! Everything you said about being under house arrest was a lie! You were planning on lying to me from the start so you could lock me up somewhere and have your way with me you——”

“Shut it, and stop dreaming up your pleasantly erotic fantasies!”

Rain could not help but interrupt her. He continued,

“just who the hell would go through all that trouble just for you? Cool your head, idiot! I haven’t the foggiest clue about what’s going on either! I’m just as confused as you are, understand?!”

It appeared that Yuri had not understood as she immediately began to scream at Rain in return.

Unable to put up with the noise, Rain covered his ears with both hands and signaled Kris forward with his legs.

At any rate, he had to figure out what was going on.

As Rain hurried over to the plaza, an armor-covered man spotted him and came running over from the crowd.

He had rather short blond hair and blue eyes…… but unlike the nobles, the whites of his eyes were in fact, white. He had a pleasant countenance, but his expressions looked somewhat childish and caused him to appear a bit unreliable.

He was Rain’s other aide, Leni. His real name was Lelbyni, but Rain called him Leni for short because Lelbyni was a mouthful to say. Both of Rain’s aides commanded over one thousand soldiers.

Anyhow, Leni came over running while wiping off sweat from his brow even though it was almost the cold season. What was even more suspicious was how his eyes kept darting around restlessly.

“Oi, Leni! What’s going on? Is it Zarmine? Did they already make it all the way here? Hey!”

As Rain questioned him in a hurry, Leni avoided looking at Rain’s face for some reason and carefully began to make excuses.

“You see, I told her that we should stop. That haste makes waste.”

“……Huh? What are you talking about?”

“W, well. Like I was saying, I really did try to stop her. I told her we should wait until you got back, General.”

Rain had no idea what Leni was going on about.

Frustrated, he dismounted from Kris, grabbed Leni by the shoulder, and shook the other man violently.

“Hey! Tell me something I can understand!”

“Yes! Like I said before, as long as you understand that I’m not at fault here…… Ah!”

Leni noticed Yuri riding towards them as he was grasping for words and quickly turned his attentions to her and cried out,

“General! Who is this lovely lady?”

“Hey, you haven’t answered my question yet.”

“Oh my. Lovely? I’m not really that……”

Yuri brought her hands to her cheeks and acted embarrassed while ignoring Rain. Her spirits seemed to have lifted after the misunderstanding had cleared up. She continued,

“I’m here by my father’s introduction because he told me to train under General Rain. My name is Yuri. It’s nice to meet you~”

Disgusted, Rain interrupted Yuri as she gushed upon Leni in an enchanting voice.

“Hey, you! Quit waving your hands around like that! And Leni! Don’t get drawn into her antics so easily! Hurry up and explain what’s going on!”

But Leni did not live up to Rain’s expectations. He had been completely stricken by Yuri’s charms and was fawning all over her. I’ll just have to ask someone else…… Rain thought as he dejectedly cast his gaze at the plaza, and, just then, the crowd split in two to make room for a mysterious figure who was staggering toward him.

Simply put, it was a clump of armor.

The silvery heavy armor covered its wearer from head to toe. However, whoever was wearing the armor was unable to fully support its weight and was unsteady on their feet. If the wearer had gone to battle in that state, they would have been the first to fall prey to enemy lances.

Rain wanted to know who this idiot was, but their face was unfortunately covered by their helmet’s guard.

The enigmatic knight staggered left and right as they progressed slowly toward Rain while constantly readjusting themselves. Frankly speaking, it was creepy.

“Who is that moron, Leni?”

“Eh, well that’s——”

“Wait, never mind. I don’t want to know. I definitely don’t what to know who that is.”

Rain, who had figured out who the armored figure was as if by divine inspiration, shook his head in utter denial. He did this even knowing that his denial wouldn’t change a thing.

Sure enough, Leni took pity on him and said,

“if that’s what you wish, then I won’t force the information on you. Still, you’ll know who that is soon enough whether I tell you or not.”

“Ugh. You’re right.”

As Rain let out a heavy sigh, the armored figure drew closer, staggering like a drunkard all the way, and finally approached them while heaving their shoulders up and down.

In a voice as feeble as the autumn flies, they said,

“*gasp, gasp*…… General…… I’ve been, eagerly awaiting, your return…… *gasp, gasp*…… Welcome back.”

“Isn’t it hard to breathe? Take off your helmet! It’s disturbing me.”

Once Rain had interrupted their long-winded speech, they threw off their clunky helmet with a large gasp.

Underneath the helmet was wavy blond hair and gradated blue eyes characteristic of the nobility. Their white skin was slick with sweat and their almond eyes were filled with anticipation as they stared at Rain.

Surprisingly, the person under the armor was a stunningly beautiful woman.

“*gasp, gasp*…… At any rate, congratulations on your safe return, General.”

“Yeah. You’re the same as always I see, Senoa,”

said Rain, clearly annoyed, as he looked down upon his other aide.

 

“So, has your breathing returned to normal now?”

“Yes, sir. Something of this degree is nothing I cannot handle.”

“I see…… Well that’s good, then.”

“I have no need for your concern. By the way, General,”

said Senoa as she stared stiffly at Yuri, who was standing behind Rain,

“who is this lady here?”

“Well, uh…… This is Yuri. Her father asked me to take her under my wing, so she’ll be my squire as of today.”

After his vague introduction, Rain added that his and Yuri’s fathers knew each other.

Only Leni nodded in apparent glee while Senoa maintained her stiff expression.

“Is that so…… Yuri, my name is Senoa Amelia Estherhart. My middle name, Amelia, is not my mother’s name, but my childhood name. You may address me simply as ‘Captain.’”

Even in Rain’s eyes, Senoa, whose name was as tediously long as any noble’s, had introduced herself with a hint of disdain.

Yuri seemed to share the sentiment as she responded, “pleased to meet you,” in an unfriendly tone. It seemed as if sparks were exploding between the two women’s gazes.

“Hey, you two, don’t get so high-strung all of a sudden. And Senoa, explain to me what’s going on here.”

“Hm? Explain…… you say?”

“And here you are looking like you really don’t get why I’m asking…… Like I said, explain to me why it looks like we’re about to march straight into war!”

Rain said as he pointed at the jam-packed plaza in agitation.

Senoa, who had tilted her head to the side in confusion, muttered, “oh, that’s what you meant,” and puffed out her chest in apparent pride. Her white cheeks, too, flushed red.

“Naturally, it is because I prepared the army in advance so that we could move out as soon as you’d returned, General.”

Rain stared silently at Senoa’s beautifully smug face.

And he only thing he said was,

“are you stupid?”

“——W-wha?!”

“——Don’t ‘wha’ me! Who told you to go ahead and do this on your own? You don’t have to do anything that was uncalled for!”

Senoa fell back, dumbfounded, as Rain pressed on,

“for starters, why did you gather up all of the castle’s soldiers in on place? You need to keep at least a few troops behind to hold down fort! Don’t you even know that?!”

“But, however……”

“Stop trying to make up excuses! Send everyone back inside the castle right now!”

“Now, now, General,”

Leni said as he tried to pacify Rain while trying to hold him back with both hands. In return, Rain turned on Leni and declared,

“……Leni. I’ll be docking half of your pay next month for negligence of supervision.”

“Wha-! That’s so cruel! I really did try to stop her!”

Leni responded on the verge of tears.

Rain began to walk away as if he was done with the matter and said,

“Well, I’ll let you off the hook, then. In return, get me in contact with Gunther as soon as possible. I have something to discuss with him.”

“I, I’ll get in contact with him at once!”

Leni put a hand against his chest as he sighed in relief.

He then turned around and headed off, while Yuri jogged after Rain as he walked away with Kris in tow.

At a glance, it seemed as if the matter was over.

However, that was not the reality of the situation.

“Please wait a moment!”

Senoa cried out.

“What is it? I want to hurry up and sleep in my room already.”

“I’ll admit that I’ve overstepped my boundaries.”

Senoa ignored Rain, who began to grumble as he turned back around to face her, and said,

“but we’re about to march out against Zarmine forces soon anyway, are we not? In that case, I believe it would make no sense to disband the army.”

Ugh, here we go.

Rain shook his head in good grief.

He couldn’t possibly keep quiet about his house arrest, especially since Senoa was one of his aides. To begin with, he would soon be found out even if he kept quiet about it anyway.

There was nothing else he could do, so Rain explained the situation in the lightest tone possible. Leni, whom he had known for a long time, wouldn’t really care, so Senoa was the only problem.

“……Ah~, about that. His Majesty apparently seems to have gotten angry after I voiced my opinion against the war. And lo and behold, I’ve been put under house arrest, haha! Oops. Hahaha!”

After explaining the situation in the simplest terms he could, he scratched the back of his head with a corny smile on his face.

In return, Senoa glared at Rain with a frosty death-mask-like expression.

“……What did you say?”

she growled in a scarily low voice.

“Like I said, I’m under house arrest. House. Arrest. I’ve been told to stay at my castle and reflect on my actions. Well, that’s the gist of it, so I’ll be returning to my room.”

Sensing the danger in Senoa’s expression, Rain hurriedly turned around. He had simply chosen to run away, but a blood curling wail erupted from behind him before he could get too far.

Needless to say, it was Senoa.

After turning around again out of surprise, Rain found Senoa clutching her head with both hands and trembling violently while screaming. The shrill of her voice almost made him wonder if she had finally lost her mind.

A loud “higyaaaaaaaaaaaa——” filled the area.

“H, hey there……”

Even Rain could not hold back his surprise. It was downright eerie.

Yuri and Leni, who had still been close by, drew closer to him.

“General, isn’t this a little worse than usual?”

“Eh, does she always scream like that, Captain Leni?”

“Well, yeah. But it’s not usually this bad.”

“How should I put this…… She’s quite the individual.”

“You’ve got that right,” Leni nodded as they turned to face Rain.

“W, what do you want? I did nothing wrong.”

The wailing suddenly stopped the moment that Rain made his pathetic excuse.

Everyone gulped as they watched over Senoa.

Senoa absentmindedly sank down to the floor as if she had suddenly found her mind at peace.

Before long, an eerie laugh began to seep out of her mouth. And as she laughed, she began to remove her armor piece after piece. In other words, she was taking off her armor.

“Th, this is starting to get dangerous, General. Wouldn’t it be better if you just apologized already……?”

Leni gulped.

In contrast, Yuri was observing Senoa with great interest.

“Uh-huh. It really is pretty bad this time. Hey Leni, go and apologize to her for me.”

“Surely you jest! I don’t have the courage for that.”

“Right, okay. Then Yuri, you go.”

“What?! Like hell I’ll go…… I mean, I don’t want to go either, sir! In her will, my late grandmother told me not to stick my head into dangerous situations!”

“Hey, what’s with this nonsense about your dead grandmother’s will?! You should think a little more before you speak!”

Leni repeatedly glanced at Senoa’s as he said,

“General, aren’t you always telling me that you’re not afraid of anything? This is your time to shine, sir.”

“Even if I’m not scared of anything, there are things that I’d bad at dealing with! Like women who nag all the time, for example, or women who can’t do housework, or lastly, women who laugh while taking off their armor all of the sudden!”

“……Not that it matters, but all of those involve women, General.”

“That’s why you should go!”

While Rain and Leni were arguing about who should go, Senoa continued to remove her armor piece after piece and abruptly stopped laughing when she had finally finished.

Then, she stood up slowly with a sword in hand.

Placing a hand on its hilt, she unsheathed her longsword in one smooth movement. The soldiers who had been watching the situation from the plaza with bated breath finally began to stir.

“Ooh! The Captain has snapped!”

“Hey, hold on a sec!”

Leni said as he stiffened up.

“This is getting really bad, General!”

he continued shakily as he panicked and began to draw back in a hurry, saying,

“I, I’ve got nothing to do with this; I really don’t, right, Miss Senoa?”

“Leni, why you……”

Rain wanted to ask, what a heartless subordinate! Don’t you agree? but Yuri had already dashed to safety before he could. She was watching on excitedly from a safe distance away.

“Are these really the only kinds of people I have around me……?”

Senoa advanced slowly but steadily with sword in hand as Rain lamented. There was a deadly glint to her eyes.

“General……”

“Wha, what is it?”

“I am utterly disgusted with you. To think that a high general such as yourself would brazenly speak out against the war and get put under house arrest!”

“No, it’s just that I had my own plans.”

“However, your disgrace is also my disgrace as your aide, General.”

She wasn’t listening at all.

“Let us both gallantly take responsibility together.”

She appeared to be dead serious.

Well, it is my fault, but…… Oh man. Even still, it’s not like I can afford to die just yet,

Rain thought just as Senoa raised her sword. He wanted to run away, but his pride wouldn’t allow it.

For the time being, he decided to try to pacify her with a friendly attitude.

“Well, calm down a bit, Senoa. I’ll just go ahead and say this, but the real fight with Zarmine will start soon. For now, we should prepare for the upcoming fight by quietly kindling our fighting spirits, and—— you’re not listening at all!”

“Prepare yourself!”

With a loud shriek, Senoa swung down her sword with all of her might and very nearly grazed Rain.

Her sword plunged deep into the earth.

“H, hey, that was dangerous! What would you have done if that had hit! That wouldn’t have been funny!”

“General……”

Senoa said as she brandished her sword once more with her eyes open wide.

“I will apologize for my impoliteness today along the road to Hades. Now come, we shall go gallantly!”

“Ugh, you really aren’t listening. And I’m not going anywhere!”

Senoa was completely engrossed in her own world. It was questionable whether she had even heard Rain’s coaxing to begin with.

I guess it can’t be helped.

Left with no other choice, Rain placed a hand on the hilt of his sword.

“Prepare yourself this time!”

“Oh geez, I guess it can’t be helped.”

Senoa swung down her sword yet again.

At that moment——

Rain’s magic sword drew a trail of light through the sky at the speed of lightning, easily deflecting Senoa’s attack.

Senoa’s sword flashed silver as it spun surprisingly far away and thrusted deeply into the earth when it landed.

“Ah!”

Senoa stared blankly at her sword.

“Hmph.”

Rain brushed back his hair in pointless grandiosity and re-sheathed his sword. He continued,

“there’s no way that an amateur who only picked up the sword just recently could ever possibly cut down a genius like me! ……Hey what’s wrong? Are you playing dumb again?”

Senoa stood still with her mouth half-open and looked like she was about to burst into tears. She looked as if her soul had been drawn out.

“Hey, hello? Are you there?”

“……ty, please.”

“Huh? What did you say?”

When Rain leaned in because he could not understand what Senoa had said, she suddenly grabbed him by the collar and shook him violently.

“Take responsibility, please!”

“Whoa! Hey, let me go; calm down!”

“This was supposed to be my maiden battle, but you, but youu———!”

Senoa cried, practically into his ear.

As Senoa shook him back and forth, Rain could swear that he heard Yuri cracking up from far away.


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