An extremely off-key song resounded throughout the otherwise silent garden. The owner of the voice, who had often heard complaints such as, “stop singing or you’ll make my ears rot off!”, sang without a care in the world because no one was currently around to hear him.
And thus, Rain was singing happily on the banks of the lake——leaning against the Jura tree. ……Of course, Rain was not the type of person to hold back even if someone was nearby.
He was finally satisfied after singing well over ten songs.
A content smile emerged on his face.
“I was pretty good today……it’s too bad that no one was here to listen.”
There was a ball held in commemoration of their victory today, so everyone important was gathered in the castle’s great hall. Only Rain secluded himself in the gardens behind Galfort castle.
Indeed, the battle that had taken place ten days prior had been a complete victory, if you ignored the fact that Leygur and Ganoa had gotten away, and there was plenty of cause to celebrate.
He would simply have to hack down Ganoa, who had managed to escape with his devilish luck, and feed him to the dogs at some point. ……King Leygur, however, would not be so easy to deal with.
Rain had definitely pierced through Leygur’s heart at that time. He had not thought much of it then and there because he was light-headed from blood loss, but Leygur should not have been able to move after that.
But he moved as if it was nothing, which means……
It was a simple process of elimination. He who achieved feats that were impossible for a human, was not human.
A man who has the appearance of a human, but possesses such strength——long ago, there was a race that met these criteria. In other words, he’s——
“……And they were supposed to be extinct, too. You never know what you’ll find in the world, huh?”
After a sigh, Rain was about to start singing again, but instead turned his head toward the abundantly blooming garden after sensing a presence that he was now quite intimately familiar with (and the pressure that accompanied it).
Sure enough, Princess Shelfa came walking up the path that was carved into the garden.
Today, she was dressed in a snow white dress that was tailored for the ball, further accenting her already radiant beauty. Other than her skirt, which was longer than what Rain would have liked, he thought she looked perfect.
He was especially pleased with how the dress hugged the curves of her body, from her thin waist to her gently blossoming bosom.
“You could make money just by standing around. You’re pretty terrifying, and you’ll get even more so as you grow older, won’t you……”
Rain mumbled something incredibly stupid.
“No, it’s nothing. That aside, aren’t you the star of today’s ball, Little one? Is it alright for you to ditch and come here?”
“The ball was so boring without you, Rain. ……I knew you would be here. I’m glad I found you.”
Shelfa sat down next to Rain and rested her head against his arm. ……Gently, with a hint of shyness.
——When Rain had finally woken up after a mage who knew healing magic had attended to him, he had found Shelfa by his bedside with bloodshot eyes. She had refused to leave his side ever since. She would follow him wherever he went. She had even attempted to follow him as he went about doing his business, which obviously troubled him greatly.
She probably thought that I’d die and got pretty scared. Well, it’ll probably only be a temporary thing anyway.
“Rain, how are your wounds?”
Shelfa gently placed a hand on Rain’s side.
“……That’s like the thousandth time you’ve asked me that, you know? I’m telling you I’m fine. I’ve made a complete recovery. I’d have healed just fine on my own even without magic. I’m immortal.”
“I’m glad to hear it. But, I’m pretty sure that I’ve only asked about your condition about twenty times or so.”
Rain felt a sudden impulse to laugh at his ever-serious young mistress. However, he forced it down because he did not wish to trouble her. Instead, he asked her a question that had popped up into his mind.
“Come to think of it, Little one. Didn’t you say that you had something that you wanted to discuss with me?”
“No…… It wasn’t that I wanted to discuss something with you, but rather that I had something I wished to say to you. ……I’m sure that you’ve already realized what it was long ago, but I still wanted to say it properly for myself……”
said Shelfa as she lowered her eyes and blushed. Her mouth had clamped shut, and she seemed to have some trouble saying what she wanted to say out loud.
“……In that case, should I say my piece first? I stopped talking part-way through when we first met, after all. ……Let me tell you an old story, Little one. It’s a story about a certain boy who lived in his hometown.”
After giving Shelfa, who had raised her head, a gentle smile, Rain began is story in a detached manner.
At the northern edge of Murgenia, there’s a tiny village called Noeg.
It’s a pretty poor village too. Most of its inhabitants are farmers or woodcutters.
In fact, only the boy’s family was different, because his old man was a skilled mercenary. But the boy himself preferred reading books. He had absolutely no interest in his old man’s work. The boy was actually pretty well learned too, not that his smarts would’ve been useful to him in that tiny village. Well, not that it matters.
In any case, the boy had a girl that he liked. There was a girl named Fina who’d moved into the woods a little way from the village with her grandmother. She had long, chestnut-colored hair, and she was pretty darn cute. This was when the boy was thirteen years old.
Hm? Oh, Fina was the same age as him.
And, as stupid as it sounds, the boy fell in love with her at first sight. He fell so hard that he couldn’t sit still if he didn’t see her at least once a day. His old man teased him mercilessly, yup.
The boy’s feelings really bothered Fina at first. Actually, he probably freaked her out. She wasn’t very socially disposed, you see. To put it in a nutshell, she was extremely shy.
Even still, after a little while, the boy’s feelings bore fruit. Fina, who had rarely ever talked to him before, began to laugh all the time, and, after a little while, she opened up her heart to him and, in the end, the two were stuck to each other like two peas in a pod.
What was sillier was how they promised each other to be together in their future, despite the fact that they were just kids.
……But, those dream-like days didn’t continue on for much longer.
It happened on Fina’s fourteenth birthday…… The boy was invited over to her house that day. Naturally, he happily ran over as fast as he could. It was his girlfriend’s birthday, after all.
They spent the entire afternoon having fun together, but it was winter, you see. As luck, or the lack of thereof, would have it, a blizzard picked up. So, it was decided that the boy would stay over at Fina’s house for the night, because there was no way he could make it back home in the snowstorm. The little cabin that Fina lived in was right in the middle of the woods and was pretty far from the village, so there was really nothing else that he could’ve done. The boy’s parents were surprisingly understanding people too, and the boy himself was more than happy to stay the night.
But……sometimes bad things really just happen because you’re unlucky, and there’s nothing you can do about it. That day, a gang of bandits were chased up from a town that was to the south because wanted posters of them had been put up, and they just so happened to flee into the woods.
That night, the boy woke up to Fina’s grandmother’s screams. She was dead by the time he jolted up and ran to the room next door. She was lying face-down, surrounded by a sea of blood…… And Fina——she was crying while clinging on to her grandmother.
There were three of them. The boy tried to take on one of them, but he wasn’t very strong to begin with. Plus, he was just a kid. ……He was knocked out almost instantly.
They started to ransack the cabin inside out, laughing their heads off the entire time. But Fina and her grandmother were poor, and there wasn’t anything of monetary value in their cabin. They’d always just scraped by with what they had. I, I wonder why they bothered to rob such a poor house to begin with……
Eventually……eventually, they lost their temper.
“There’s nuthin’ here of any worth!” they said. They were probably drunk. Then, they suddenly pulled out knives. All three of them.
……The boy was still wiped out from being beaten up, but he still tried to do something about them. He threw off Fina as she tried to stop him, and tried to face them again……and this time, he was stabbed in the stomach.
And even still, even still, the boy was more fortunate than Fina by far. Fina tried to run to his side, sobbing……and she incurred their wrath in turn.
The boy could only watch as the bandits murdered Fina in front of his eyes. All three of them attacked her, and cut her up into pieces……and Fina screamed so, so many times. But she wasn’t screaming for help, she was screaming, “run, run away!”……
After Fina died, and it was supposed to be the boy’s turn, his old man kicked down the door and burst in. I don’t know if I’d say that he was lucky or unlucky……but the wanted posters had made it to his village by then. Though it was way too late……
——There’s nothing much else to say from here on.
It took an entire month before the boy was in any condition to talk. And, while it’d looked like the boy had returned to normal on the surface, he had never returned to being the book-loving boy from before. You could say that he was reborn.
He asked his old man to teach him how to use a sword and he practiced like he was crazy, and one day, when he was fifteen, he suddenly left his village. ……To gain more and more power. Because he never wanted to experience something like that ever again.
To be stronger, stronger than anyone, stronger than anything else in the world! That was the boy’s only wish.
Rain spoke calmly, despite himself.
He gently pat Shelfa on the head as she trembled into his chest, her eyes never looking away.
“Of course, the boy always knew. Fina would not come back to life no matter how much stronger he became. He knew that what he was doing was absolutely pointless.”
His raw emotions had become uncovered as he spoke, and his voice carried a tinge of a quiver within it as he continued,
“but, there are times when you feel like you have to do something anyway, right? Something that you can’t get out of your mind no matter how hard you try, and you just can’t help yourself. That’s why…!”
Making clear her distress and sadness, Shelfa threw herself at Rain with great force and wrapped her arms around him.
She held onto him with as much strength as she could muster and patted him on the back over and over.
She poured her everything into each stroke……just like the time she had touched the wound he had received from the encounter with Leygur.
Rain smiled wryly and sprawled back onto the grass with Shelfa still clinging on to him.
Looking up at the clear blue sky, he whispered,
“silly…… It’s just a simple old tale, you know? And besides——”
He turned to Shelfa and continued,
“it’s not something you need to be crying over.”
Shelfa stared at Rain with her eyes wet with tears and continued,
“you’re crying too, Rain.”
“Hey, that’s ridiculous——”
Surprised, he put a hand up to his cheek. When he brought it back in front of him, his hands were, in fact, moist.
“Would you look at that…… I haven’t cried since that day……”
Rain gently whispered.
Rain stayed down looking up at the sky as he held Shelfa close to him in silence. She had finally calmed down after they had stayed like that for a few dozen minutes or so. Though, she was still sniffling in an adorable manner.
After they had sat back up and Rain had judged that it was okay, he asked,
“so, what was it that you’d wanted to say?”
For some reason, Shelfa looked more reluctant to talk than she had before. She was fidgety, and became increasingly more flustered whenever she met Rain’s gaze.
Finally, she abruptly changed the subject.
“R, Rain……is a bit of a strange name, isn’t it? Is there some kind of meaning to it?”
“A meaning——well, there’s a reason behind it, but it’s a pretty stupid one? You still wanna know?”
No, not really. ——Was the reply that he had been expecting, but, instead, Shelfa had asked in a lively voice,
“of course. I really want to know!”
“Oh……okay. Well, I don’t mind telling you…… But it’s a secret for just the two of us, alright?”
“Yes, I promise.”
“Then, I guess I’ll tell you. ……You see, there was a record-setting downpour on the day I was born. And, my delinquent of an old man is an incredibly irresponsible guy……rather, you can say he’s a simple guy who likes alcohol and women, or that he’s just a good-for-nothing.”
You get it now, right? Rain tried to convey his thoughts to Shelfa with his eyes, but she simply drew closer with an eager look on her face and said,
Damn you, old man!
I, your son, have to suffer this embarrassment because you went and did something so irresponsible!
Rain cursed his old man, who was likely far, far away, as hard as he could.
Then, he stood up and openly announced,
“No, that’s——all there is to it. There was a record-setting amount of rain, so he decided to name me ‘Rain.’”
Shelfa did not understand at first and blinked several times.
Eventually, an indescribably complicated expression arose on her beautiful face.
Reluctantly, Rain said,
“……you can laugh all you want, okay? I won’t mind.”
Shelfa began to laugh faintly after receiving Rain’s consent to do so. It was a clear laugh free of any malice, and it was nice to listen to. Rain had beaten up all the guys who had laughed at his name’s origins long ago, but he couldn’t bring himself to get angry at Shelfa.
On the contrary, he put a hand on her slim waist and pulled her closer and said something that he had never thought of before.
“Hey, Little one. You said before that you wanted to be with me……”
“Y, yes, I did say that. And my feelings have not changed,”
Shelfa responded with a faint smile still lingering on her lips.
“……I have an infinite amount of time anyway. So, I’ve decided. I’ll stay with you for as long as you live.”
Shelfa slightly raised her head.
And once again, she threw herself at Rain and embraced him.
The two collapsed to the ground again due to her momentum.
“Really?! Do you promise?!”
“I promise. Besides, it’s not as if the Zarmine threat has passed, either. Won’t you need me to be here?”
Shelfa trembled from head to toe and burrowed her face against Rain’s chest, until finally, she raised her head as if she had resolved herself.
“I think I can say it now. Rain, I……”
The azure sky had not a cloud in sight, as if it was extending its blessings to the two as they nestled close against each other. The temperature was not very cold, either, despite the fact that it was almost winter.
To the contrary, Rain was quite warm, thanks to Shelfa, who had smuggled up in his arms.
As a member of the kingdom’s royal family, Shelfa’s normal lifespan would reach several hundreds of years, but Rain would not recall this fact until much, much later.