Soon after they had stepped out into the sunlight and began walking through the deserted area behind the royal palace, Rain stopped in his tracks and called out to no one in particular.
Shelfa, who had sneak~ily been trying to entwine her arm around Rain’s, drew back in a panic. She hadn’t even realized that he had been looking at them.
He seemed to have silently materialized from beneath the shadows of a grove of trees that had been planted at evenly spaced intervals around the ramparts.
He swept aside his black mantle with sharp movements and gave an elegant bow.
Shelfa remembered him. He was the man who had waited upon Rain by his side like a shadow during the previous battle. He always looked like he was in a bad mood, and he had deep creases folded between his brows as if something was greatly to his distaste even now. He would have been a charming young man if only he smiled a little, but his lack of friendliness and his sour looks detracted from him greatly (or so Shelfa thought).
If I recall correctly, I think his name was Gunther Valoa…… Shelfa, who had a good memory, recalled even the man’s last name correctly.
Nevertheless, he always appeared unexpectedly like a phantom.
Unlike Shelfa, who was still at a loss from Gunther’s unanticipated appearance, Rain shot him a question as if he had been waiting for him.
“There are none.”
Soon after he replied, Gunther vaguely seemed like he had more to say.
“I felt a suspicious presence more than once. I am certain that there is a definite possibility that we have already been infiltrated.”
“I see. Ralphus was in charge of security this month, and he’s not one to cut corners either. The other side is probably good at what they do. And considering that they’re wary enough not to get tripped up by you, there’s probably someone big backing them.”
“Yes. I speculated the same……”
Rain took a moment to contemplate and nodded soon afterward.
“Understood. I’ll stick with her for the time being. I’d like you to devote yourself to the investigation.”
According to Shelfa’s memories, Gunther was a tremendously unsociable person, but he was always terribly obedient to Rain. Without asking even a single question, Gunther respectfully bowed yet again.
Shelfa interposed, unable to endure it any longer. She asked,
“Rain, what are you talking about?”
“Oh, my bad. That probably sounded like gibberish to you, Little one.”
Shelfa replied, “yes,” and was suddenly hit by realization.
Had Rain forgotten that Gunther was still here? It was Rain who had told her that they should be careful about how they talked in front of other people.
“Nah, he’s good.”
Rain guessed Shelfa’s thoughts by the look on her face and pat her head with a broad smile. He continued,
“he’s the exception among exceptions. He’s well aware of the situation. That, and we have an old promise between us that we’d keep no secrets from each other.”
When Rain said that, the tips of Gunther’s lips curled ever so slightly into a faint smile that would have been easily overlooked if you weren’t watching carefully enough. It had disappeared after a very brief moment, but, for the first time ever, Shelfa managed to see the young man smile.
Something hurt in her heart at that moment. She was somewhat jealous of him, even though she knew that she was being foolish. In the past, Shelfa had nothing to do with this sort of jealousy because she had completely given up on connecting with other people, but this was no longer the case now that she had met Rain. From time to time, Shelfa was bewildered by her newfound emotions.
Rain and Gunther were staring at her before she knew it.
Rain messed up Shelfa’s hair,
“I don’t plan on falling in love with another man.”
Rain smiled brilliantly as Shelfa panicked. He continued,
“but you really do tend to express everything you’re feeling. Hold it back a little. A ruler is someone who has to smile even in the face of someone creepy and disgusting from time to time.”
“Yes…… I’ll keep it in mind.”
Even as she apologized, Shelfa couldn’t help but swell up with happiness as Rain continued to stroke her hair. The girl who had thought herself hard to please had long since disappeared into the past.
When the two of them had walked away, Shelfa looked back and saw that Gunther still remained where he was with his head bowed low in their direction.
She did not know what had happened between the two, but she was certain that Gunther respected Rain deeply.
Gunther was a ‘good person’.
This was the conclusion that Shelfa had decided upon in her heart. For Shelfa, who had always lived an insular life inside the castle, the world was divided into ‘good people’, ‘bad people’, and ‘people I don’t know’.
Actually, there was also a level called ‘people I love’ a step above ‘good people’ after skipping ‘people I like’ (because she didn’t have any), and according to Shelfa’s standards, the position was already at full capacity and she did not plan to have any more or any fewer people on that level.
Incidentally, there was only one person in that position.
“So, about Gunther before.”
“He’s actually been following you since yesterday.”
She almost stopped in her tracks for a moment.
“But I haven’t seen him even once until now.”
“Well……he doesn’t really stand out. I also told him not to trouble you if possible.”
“I see. And, um…?”
“Oh, the reason, right?”
When Shelfa nodded in response, Rain shrugged and said,
“I’m actually about to go explain that to Ralphus too. I don’t really wanna explain myself twice, so can you wait just a little?”
“……Yes, if you say so, Rain,”
Shelfa quickly consented.
In any case, it was probably something necessary for my sake,
Shelfa determined silently without even the slightest intent of doubting Rain. No matter what was about to happen, Rain would never do something bad to her. This is what Shelfa believed.
Besides, she didn’t exactly have the time to freely think about it either.
Rain suddenly stopped walking once they had gotten close to something that could be called the back entrance to the royal palace.
At first, Shelfa thought that he had stopped because he was being cautious now that she had finally managed to twist her arm around his, but he had stopped for different reason altogether.
“I see, a suspicious presence, huh. That Gunther, he told me something good.”
Shelfa hurriedly pulled her arm back, looked behind her, and turned back around to face forward.
There was no one there.
The ramparts were to her left and the palace was to her right. While the palace windows that she could see were covered by curtains, no one had been peeking through them. And of course, no one had been in the shadow of the tree groves like Gunther had been either.
But, if Rain said “I feel a presence,” then there was surely someone here.
When Shelfa naturally tried to snuggle up closer to Rain, he moved.
That being said, what Shelfa actually saw was Rain’s afterimage.
He dropped down, drew his magic sword, and swung upward. His blurry black shadow converged into him a moment later, as if it was saying, “there!” As always, Rain moved with a reaction speed that had surpassed humanity. He had already finished attacking by the time that Shelfa had blinked.
His magic sword drew an arc and left behind a distinctly blue trail in the air.
Shelfa heard something breaking apart.
A part of the ramparts far above her had been destroyed and blasted stone fragments into the air. The wall was made of sturdy rock, but it had been no match for the Siren’s Blade’s “invisible slash”.
Rain picked Shelfa up and evacuated in order to dodge the falling fragments. Rather than being surprised by his sudden attack, Shelfa was so happy that she gave a small yelp of joy at being held.
She realized that she was being considerably carefree, but she always felt a deep sense of security with Rain that made her not want to worry about anything.
“Tch! They reacted, but……”
Rain clicked his tongue and looked up at the fragments falling heavily on the path. He continued,
“they’re good at running away, I’ll give them that. I can still catch up to them, but…”
he looked at Shelfa, who was still in his arms,
“——yeah, I shouldn’t. It’s not like I can just leave you here alone.”
I’d be happy to wait for you here.
Just as Shelfa was about to put her thoughts into words, the piercing sound of a whistle echoed through the air. The soldier who had been keeping watch from a nearby bastion had realized that something was awry.
“Oh~, Ralphus’ men are as diligent as I expected them to be. They sure are super-duper quick to get up when something’s up,”
he muttered as he broke out into a run with Shelfa still in his arms.
He was heading toward the entrance in front of them.
“Um, wouldn’t it be better to stay and explain what happened to the guards?”
“It’s fine. It’d be a waste of time if things go wry while we explain, and I don’t want to get blamed for breaking the ramparts either.”
Shelfa thought that it was Rain’s fault that the ramparts broke no matter how you looked at it, but, naturally, she didn’t blame him. She simply nodded in honest agreement.
Or rather, she was more displeased on the point that, ‘I finally got him to hold me, but he’ll put me down once we’re inside of the castle……’
Ralphus Juliard Sunkwoll.
Even if there were a few people in Sunkwoll who didn’t know of Rain, there was no one who didn’t know of Ralphus.
After all, he hailed from an outstandingly good lineage.
One of Sunkwoll’s, whose history extended over a thousand and a few hundred years, five founders (all of which who were not human according to the rumors) was Ralphus’ direct ancestor.
These five founders were the origin of Sunkwoll’s noble lines, and their direct descendants in particular gathered much respect.
Naturally, Ralphus, who was treated as semi-royalty, was treated completely differently in court than Rain, who was an ex-mercenary with neither lineage nor court rank to his name.
Hypothetically speaking, if the royal bloodline died out for whatever reason, it was entirely possible that Ralphus would inherit the throne.
Furthermore, Ralphus was the only exception to the masses’ perception of ‘useless nobles who only know how to oppress others.’ He received overwhelming support from the people. This was because he did not excessively favor his peers of the nobility and because he had a great personality in general.
He was also unquestioningly trusted by his men. The fact that Ralphus’ unit had held together until the very end during the previous battle while the other high generals’ units quickly fell apart proved how much Ralphus’ men idolized him.
And, when Rain and Shelfa barged into this all-important character’s room without even knocking, he stood up and looked toward the princess in surprise.
He appeared to have had been talking to one of his men and quickly issued him some orders.
“I’ll be there myself in a little while. At any rate, make sure to strengthen our security. Also, close the castle gates for the time being and don’t let anyone out.”
After responding with a “yessir!” and a salute, the knight bowed toward Rain and Shelfa and hurried out.
Once his subordinate had closed to door, Ralphus left the desk he used for governmental affairs and reverently kneeled before the princess.
“Good morning, Your Royal Highness. Thank you for taking the trouble of coming all the way here today.”
“Yeah. Well, don’t mind it too much —the opportunity just happened to come up. But it’s almost lunchtime, you know?”
“I wasn’t talking to you.”
Ralphus smiled wryly as he stood up. He was as radiantly beautiful as always, but little hints of fatigue showed through in his expression.
“In any case, I received a report just now……someone destroyed a part of the ramparts. I have no idea why they did that, though.”
“Lo, such destruction!”
Rain opened his eyes wide and continued,
“what a crafty jerk. I see, the ramparts…… Unforgivable. You can never be wary enough in this world.”
He crossed his arms and shook his head in a show of pity. Amused by the sincerely serious look on his face, Shelfa instinctively brought a hand up to her lips. She couldn’t help but laugh no matter how hard she tried.
Evidently, this tipped Ralphus off.
Ralphus looked at Shelfa with suspicion and moved his gaze to Rain, who was strangely absorbed by the completely ordinary still-life painting on the wall. He came to a conclusion soon enough.
“……Are you the culprit?”
Rain began, taken aback a little,
“what brought this on all of a sudden?”
“I, I’m so sorry, Rain.”
Shelfa apologized on reflex, confirming Ralphus’ suspicions.
“……It really was you. Rain, you’re not going to tell me that you intentionally destroyed the ramparts for Her Highness’ amusement, are you?”
“Hey, just what do you think of me——”
After being rendered speechless for a moment, Rain continued,
“do you really think that I’d destroy the ramparts for something like that?! It was ‘them’; they really appeared.”
“What!? Did you see them?”
“No, just a black shadow. They reacted, but they got away.”
Ralphus started just as he realized something, frowned, and cleared his throat. He continued,
“……we can talk about this later.”
“Why not now? Isn’t that why you were looking for me?”
Rain threw himself down on the sofa at the corner of the room without asking for permission first (and Shelfa sat down next to him soon afterward) and continued after taking a glance in Shelfa’s direction,
“I think it’s strange to keep it a secret from the person in question. I understand how you feel too, but isn’t it better to let her know? After all, it’s a ruler’s duty to decide.”
Ralphus cut himself off mid-sentence with a small sigh and took a seat across from Rain. He instead continued,
“perhaps you’re right. Besides, I’ve only just been informed of this matter by Gunther this morning myself. I’d like to hear the details.”
“……What are you two talking about?”
Shelfa looked up at Rain.
She wondered if they were talking about something scary.
She was about to place a small white hand on Rain’s arm, but gave up on the notion upon second thought. Ralphus was here with them.
Looking at Shelfa, who looked anxious, Rain said in a truly relaxed manner,
“in other words, you’re being targeted by assassins, Princess.”
Shelfa stopped breathing for a moment and stared back at Rain for a while. It took her a moment to properly digest what he had said.
The truth was obvious when she considered Rain’s actions just earlier and his and Ralphus’ conversation up until now, but Shelfa still could not accept it.
“……What good would it do to assassinate me?”
she asked in surprise before any other emotion.
She understood the gravity of the situation, of course, but she simply could not believe that she was important enough to assassinate. After all, that was how it had always been.
Her two retainers looked at one another until Ralphus rekindled the discussion.
“Your Royal Highness……I can generally fathom what you are thinking, but you are in a far more important position that you realize. It’s not all that strange that there are impudent individuals who are after your life.”
Rain gave Ralphus a side-eye as the latter took great pains to choose his words carefully and picked off with unreserved candor,
“simply put, defeating an enemy ruler is the most ideal method to make them self-destruct. Especially since you’re the only successor to the throne right now, Princess.”
“I know. I get that I’m not mincing any words here. But the truth is the truth.
“But——” Rain’s voice became ominously lower,
“I don’t like this; I don’t like this at all…… As if I’d let something that messed up happen while I’m here.”
Bloodlust was unmistakably embedded in his words. Even Shelfa, who had grown up never knowing the battlefield, could feel and recognize it clearly.
The room fell into deathly silence.
Although, unlike Ralphus, Shelfa remained silent because she was deeply moved.
Ralphus adjusted his seat as if he was trying to dispel the dense bloodlust and finally asked,
“so, did you find out who’s responsible?”
“No. Gunther hasn’t figured it out that far yet. All I know is that the agent I planted in the assassin’s guild heard something about a “princess assassination”. ……There’s no doubt that a commission was made, but even my agent doesn’t know who the client is.”
“Is the Zarmine after all?”
“……That’s probably the biggest possibility. But we won’t get anywhere until we know for sure.”
“I see……you’re right.”
Ralphus nodded with a troubled look and asked the important question,
“and what will you do?”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m talking about security measures for Her Highness, naturally. It’s not as if we can simply allow things to go on as they have been.”
“Hm~m, I already talked to Gunther about it, and I think it should work out okay. But it’s always better to be safe than sorry in case something like today happens again.”
Then, Rain noticed how Shelfa was staring expectantly at him and scratched his cheek. He continued,
“well, let’s do this: I’ll stick close to her for the time being.”
Pressured into going with the flow, he declared,
“there’s no need to worry. As long as I’m at your side, we’ll have an easy victory even if a flock of dragons came at us all at once.”
Rain stuck out his chest after he finished his piece.
Incidentally, he had no basis for his claims.
But it still worked.
A happy smile broke out across Shelfa’s face. The distress that had colored her expressions before had completely vanished.
She clasped her hands in front of her chest and nodded repeatedly.
“Yes, I believe you. It’s very reassuring to hear.”
Even Ralphus, for whatever reason, took the opportunity to say,
“there’ll be nothing for me to worry about if you’ll be with Her Highness. That’s a load off of my chest.”
“……No, you should at least be a little worried, dangit.”
Rain had somewhat mixed feelings about his friend’s response.
Why are you talking my bragging so seriously!?
“I’ll be heading out to the castle gates. I still have some orders to give out.”
Ralphus stood up as soon as the words had left his mouth. He continued,
“there’s still a chance that the guards caught our shadow from before……not that I’m too hopeful about it.”
“Well yeah. They’re professional assassins. They’ll always be quick to run away if they fail.”
“Still, it’s not as if we can let that be an excuse not to investigate. In any case, I want to bring all of the facts about this case to light before the coronation ceremony. This is an important time, after all.”
Rain stared at Ralphus as the latter retrieved his sword from the wall.
“Hey. You look a little tired? Like, you look a little discolored, or something like that…… Hey, are you eating and sleeping properly?”
“I’m eating just fine, but I’m probably a bit short on sleep. But I’m still alright. It’s not enough to hinder my ability to perform governmental affairs.”
Ralphus laughed in an invigorating manner, but he still seemed like he was pushing it somewhat.
Sunkwoll had lost a lot of talented personnel after the battle with Zarmine. Most of them had not died in battle, but rather had abandoned and fled the kingdom before the fighting started. Of all the things, even the person who had held the important office of chancellor had been among their number. He had tried to casually return to his position after the fighting was over, but Ralphus had counseled the princess to take definitive measures to dismiss the man. There were many cases similar to this.
Ironically, while these measures were necessary to purify the kingdom’s inner circle, they also served to increase Ralphus’ workload.
“No, you’re talking about your ability to perform governmental affairs, but you’re a knight, remember? You need to be able to fight at any given moment. I slept for ten whole hours last night in preparation for that moment, you know.”
“……I think you’ve slept too much.”
Ralphus smiled wryly yet again. It wasn’t as if he was angry, but rather that he was exasperated.
“In any case. Sleep early tonight. Don’t worry yourself too much. You’ll go bald.”
Rain stood up as he unduly scolded.
He nonchalantly pretended to head for the door——and then he attacked along the way.
Rain drew his sword and twisted his body in one flowing motion. There was no pause between the two actions, and he was as swift as the wind itself.
At the same time, Ralphus quickly moved his hand to his waist.
Even Shelfa, who was watching them from up close, could not follow what was going on and had her eyes wide open in surprise. The two magic swords clashed and spewed out a shower of sparks.
Crackle crackle crackle
The crimson light caught the bluish flash. The pure magical power imbued within the two swords repulsed each other and crackled nosily as they erupted in sparks.
Ralphus, who had just barely managed to stop Rain’s attack, grit his teeth as he was pushed back by the latter’s ridiculously potent strength. This was his first time catching Rain’s attack head-on, but……what speed and power!
Rain flashed a grin at Ralphus from the other side of their locked magic swords. While Ralphus was pushing back with his entire body, Rain barely looked like he was using his strength at all. Rain continued,
“as I’d expected, you’re a completely different story from the muscle-head I beat up earlier——but!”
As he scolded, Rain brought up his knee with frightening speed and rammed it against the pit of Ralphus’ stomach.
Ralphus avoided the blow by jumping back, but Rain simultaneously closed the distance attacked again from the side with his magic sword whistling through the air.
The knee had been a feint. Ralphus could not help but shudder at the sight of Rain’s battle tactics, which, unlike knightly battle etiquette, had been forged and tempered through practical implementation. This man, Ralphus realized, could turn his whole body into a lethal weapon at will.
Ralphus somehow managed to repel Rain’s attack by scooping up his crimson magic sword from below.
Then, his opponent’s magic sword’s trail of light changed course and transformed into a meteor-like stab that was aimed diagonally at Ralphus’ collar and downward. The tall, black-clad figure danced around the room and rained a barrage of attacks on Ralphus.
The princess had promptly fled to the wall and held a tightly clenched fist up near her mouth, but Ralphus did not have the leeway to pay her any heed.
Rain’s magic sword moved as if it was always a step ahead of Ralphus’ and kept up the initiative. The flashes of light that attacked from every possible direction were leading Ralphus along by the nose.
He was somehow managing to catch them for now, but Ralphus was forced to acknowledge the fact that he was completely on the defensive.
Rain was so fast that he did not have the room to launch a counterattack. Ralphus was tracking his opponent not with his eyes, but by feeling his presence.
And this truth set Ralphus’ fighting spirit ablaze. Although he was mild-mannered, Ralphus also had his pride as a knight who had survived numerous battles. He flew into a rage at himself for being forced onto the defensive. It wasn’t that he was angry at Rain. He was ashamed of his own faint-heartedness.
Ralphus boldly took advantage of a slight, barely-existent opening after Rain drew back his sword.
He threw his entire body into the tip of his scarlet sword as he thrust forward.
Ralphus regretted it immediately. He had forgotten who his opponent was, forgotten where he was fighting, and had fought seriously. The crimson light sank into the center of the black shirt. Needless to say, it was a fatal wound.
It had simply been Ralphus’ delusion. The tall figure that he thought he had stabbed wavered like a heat haze, and multiple afterimages flowed to the right all at once.
In a moment, they overlapped with Rain’s ‘true body,’ which had appeared to his right.
What Ralphus had pierced had only been a shadow that had arisen after Rain had dodged.
“As I’d thought, you’re not your usual self. Your reactions got slower.”
Before he knew it, Rain had sheathed his sword with a blank look on his face.
Rain nodded once after looking at Ralphus’ hands and continued,
“putting that aside, it seems that you’ve already gotten used to using Justice.”
“Yes, thanks to you……”
That was all that Ralphus managed to say. Their skirmish had only lasted a few dozen seconds, but his breathing was already ragged and all over the place. He could guess at what Rain’s true intentions had been, but it was incredibly tiring nonetheless.
Still, Ralphus faithfully repeated a question that he had already asked numerous times. He could not help but ask every time the magic sword in his hand became the topic of the conversation.
“Incidentally, and I know that I’m being repetitive, is it really okay for me to accept this magic sword? This was originally your spoil of war.”
The magic sword with a crimson aura writhing across its surface that Ralphus had been swinging around to his heart’s content just earlier was something that Rain had won after facing King Leygur of Zarmine in single combat.
Leygur had fled after their difficult fight and had left only the magic sword, Justice, behind. Thus, naturally, Rain had become its new owner. At the very least, that was what Ralphus thought.
“No, it’s better for you to hold on to that,”
Rain replied as per usual. He continued,
“besides, a sword with the name, “Justice,” doesn’t suit me at all. I’m a man who stands at the antithesis of justice.”
“I’m saying it’s fine! Just go ahead and take it already. If I kept it, I’d just sell it off as soon as possible anyway.”
……That was certainly something that Rain might do. The princess, who had been looking worried this entire time, finally broke out into a smile at Rain’s self-typical words.
Rain threw her an unassuming smile, but he returned to looking serious by the time he turned back to Ralphus. Ralphus understood that Rain was worried about him in his own way.
“Anyways, make sure you get some rest no matter what you have to do to make it happen. You have a bunch of guys like Nigel under you who’re probably good at civil duties, don’t you? Leave your work to them.”
“I suppose it’d be best to do as you said. ……And besides,”
Ralphus gently took a deep breath and regulated his breathing,
“I feel like you tired me out more than necessary…… But it’s not a bad feeling, of course. How about another round later?”
“Nope, I absolutely refuse.”
Rain scowled in obvious distaste and continued,
“I’d rather not tire myself out like that. This was our first and final match.”
“You don’t look the least bit tired……but that’s too bad. I wanted to get you to train with me every day,”
Ralphus murmured from the bottom of his heart.
Rain hurried out of the room with the princess as he if knew that he wouldn’t be able to refuse if Ralphus seriously requested it of him.
Left with little other choice, Ralphus followed them out. In any event, he had to go to the castle gates for now.
“Still, this was our first time crossing blades, but you were terrifyingly fast. Your technique was something to behold too, but……is your speed something that you inherited from the dragon?”
Ralphus tried asking as they walked down the hallway together.
Those who succeeded in defeating a dragon, the strongest species on the continent, in single combat would gain the dragon’s ‘power’…… No one knew who first spread the story, but that was what the legends had said since ancient times. In any case, while it seemed like a type of curse, there had been no ‘Dragon Slayers’ who could put those legends to test.
Even if those ‘huge benefits’ really did exist, dragons were not that easy to slay. It would be a near-impossible feat even for an army of sturdy knights, and something akin to a pipe dream to achieve alone. Thus, the legends had remained only as legends.
Draygon Slayers were heroes who only existed in the songs of bards. ——That was what everyone, including Ralphus, believed.
Recently, however, by curious chance it was made known that Rain was one such Dragon Slayer.
Ralphus had always thought that Rain looked too young to be twenty-five, but now he realized that there was a good reason for it. If Rain had inherited a dragon’s immortality, then it was only natural that he didn’t age.
In any case, since Rain had obtained the power of immortality, Ralphus thought that Rain’s explosive speed was also one of the perks of being a Dragon Slayer.
However, Rain replied in an extremely bad mood,
“don’t be stupid. That’s way too good to be true. The only things I inherited from the dragon are its immortality, physical strength, magical power, and some special abilities.”
……Ralphus thought that those boons were more than enough to be called sufficient.
To begin with, he felt that gaining a dragon’s physical strength was far more useful than having explosive speed.
When he pointed that out, Rain explained,
“……well, I guess it certainly is useful to an extent. But having draconian strength is actually more of a hindrance when you’re living life as a human. That’s why I keep it sealed away on purpose. I can be ridiculously strong when I need to be, but those chances rarely ever come.”
“Then, is your speed the result of continuous effort? ……It must be, since steady training is the best way to get faster.”
“Hey, don’t just go and decide that on your own. Do you really think that I, of all people, would undergo something as tedious as “steady training”? The reason behind my strength and speed is——”
Rain puffed out his chest,
“that I am a genius!”
It wasn’t a reason at all.
He was likely just posing. It was impossible to grow strong on talent alone without putting in any effort.
Just then, the princess let out a small giggle and placed a hand up to her lips. It looked like she knew some sort of secret. Ralphus put two and two together and came to an understanding.
“I see…… Then I’ll just leave it at that.”
“……Hey, what’s with you taking the Princess’ giggling on higher consideration than my words, huh?”
Rain’s mood considerably worsened.
“Oh……I’m sorry, Rain.”
“Don’t be. I wasn’t blaming you, Princess. It’s just that I’m not liking how this played out, or something——”
As Rain continued to grumble, Ralphus laughed and said,
“I wasn’t doubting the fact that you’re a genius. There’s nothing for you to complain about. I simply believe that there are some walls that you cannot surpass even with effort and training.”
“That doesn’t apply to me.”
Brushing Rain’s insistence aside, Ralphus stopped at the landing that lead downstairs.
“All right, I get it. ……At any rate, I’m going to the castle gales, so I’ll entrust Her Highness to you. We can’t really have her go outside too often before the coronation ceremony, too.”
“Oh, her debut, right?”
“Eh? ……What are you talking about?”
Shelfa reached out to grab on to Rain’s sleeve, but put her hand down before midway through. Ralphus found it a very pleasant scene.
Her Highness probably means to hide her feelings. I suppose the third wheel should be considerate and hurry up and make himself scarce.
“I’ll be making my leave here…… Your Highness, please have Rain explain the rest to you. Well then.”
When Rain asked him if he wanted to have lunch together, Ralphus declined with a wave of his hand and climbed down the stairs, smiling.
I’m waiting and waiting, but no one’s comiing.
Selphie was standing all alone in front of Rain’s room, which she had finally managed to find.
“Come to my room later”
It was all good and well that she had solved the problem of finding his room after asking around here and there once she had received her instructions, but Rain hadn’t come no matter how long she waited.
What on earth could he want from me……? Surely, surely it’s not——! She had fretted until just past noon. Now, she was hungry, her feet hurt, and in complete desperation she began to think, ‘I don’t even care what he wants anymore, nope……”
In addition, the guards that frequently passed through the hallway incessantly asked her what she was doing here and demanded that she identified herself. Selphie was fed up and dead tired of having to explain her situation all over again each and every time they did. It was already well past supper and it was dark outside.
She had thought about buying scraps of bread with the small amount of change she had in her pocket, but now it was too late to do even that.
Selphie sighed. She wanted to lean against the door and slowly droop down onto the stone floor. Just as she was about to do just that, a lone girl came walking around the corner at the end of the hallway.
Selphie found girl’s short-cut hair that rested along her collarbone and her lively, frolicking eyes impressive. She could tell that the girl had a bright personality just by looking at her.
The girl stopped walking the moment she saw Selphie and tilted her head to the side in suspicion.
Her expression became stern as she observed Selphie and stomped her way over.
“What are you doing here?”
Selphie honestly explained her situation, completely overpowered, and the other girl cheered up in response.
Selphie thought that she was very cute now that the harsh look had left her face.
“Ohh~. Come to think of it, Captain Leni said something about there being a test or something like that. Sorry for suspecting you.”
What were you suspecting me of?
Before Selphie could ask, the girl pointed at her flat chest and said,
“I’m Yuri. A squire. We’re in the same boat, so let’s get along!”
“Uh, yes! Please treat me well!”
Selphie bowed her head repeatedly.
A girl this young is a squire! Selphie was impressed, completely forgetting that she herself wasn’t any different.
“You don’t have to bow like that! I’m only sixteen, you know? We’re about the same age, right?”
“Yes, pretty much. I’m seventeen.”
“Cool. I was just thinking that there weren’t a lot of girls around here who’re my age, you see. So I’m really happy that someone like you came along, yep!”
Selphie could not help but smile back in return.
Yuri spoke clearly and quickly and she was truly amiable. Selphie, who had been feeling discouraged up until now, felt her spirits lift.
“By the way, about the reason you were called here.”
Completely switching gears to ‘friend mode,’ Yuri lowered her voice despite that no one was nearby and continued,
“don’t you think it’s kinda suspicious? Why the heck would he——I mean, why would the General suddenly say, “come to my room?””
“Do you really think so?”
Selphie casually followed suit and also lowered her voice.
And, just like a housewife gossiping by the village well, Yuri declared, “well of course I do! It’s fishy; it’s definitely fishy!”
——Selphie’s maidenly virtue was in danger!
Neither of them said anything out loud, but these were the very words that appeared in their heads. Yuri was so persuasive that Selphie, who had not really worried about it too much, suddenly thought, ‘this might actually be bad.’
As Selphie was tightly hugging on to her own chest, she heard more footsteps.
When she looked up, she saw Rain, whom she and Yuri had just been talking about, and the princess coming closer while engaged in friendly conversation.
Ehh, he’s coming now——?
And I was just about to run away tooo.
Selphie trembled in fear.
Then, Yuri looked at her as if she was silently saying, “leave it to me!” and blocked the way in front of her like a human shield.
“…and when I was a kid there was this popular game called ‘The Knight and The Princess,’ and whenever we had spare time——”
Rain was talking passionately about a children’s game while gesturing with his hands. The princess nodded every so often, looking like she didn’t want to miss a single thing he said. Her blue eyes were shining with excitement. Neither Rain nor the princess looked toward the two girls.
“…and that’s why I’ve been an expert at the princess carry since I was a kid——and what’s up?”
Rain finally looked toward them. He continued,
“what are you two doing here together? Did you need me for something?”
Selphie stumbled over her own feet.
He, he forgot…… He’s completely forgotten……
She suddenly became dizzy and her surroundings began to spin. Well, part of it was likely due to how hungry she was.
“Now look here, General!”
Yuri complained in her speechless friend’s place. She gave a short bow to the princess, but she had not even bothered to greet Rain. Selphie figured that she was either on friendly terms with the General, or that she was simply fearless. Yuri continued,
“It wasn’t cool of you to call a young girl over in the first place, but what’s with forgetting that you called her on top of that?! You’re the worst, the absolute worst, for making her stand around and wait in this free~zing cold hallway!”
The princess looked surprised at Yuri’s relentless verbal bashing.
It was only natural. Even if he was a commoner, a high general was still a high general. There was a whole world of a difference between the social standing of a squire, the lowest military rank, and a high general, one of the most prominent military officers in the kingdom. Yuri could not, and should not, have talked to him in such a manner.
Rain knit his eyebrows ever so slightly.
Selphie was worried that he was angry, but fortunately, she was wrong.
“I called her over……? Oh, right! Yeah, I totally did.”
Now fully understanding the situation, he beckoned to Selphie and continued,
“this isn’t really a good place to talk, so let’s head to my room.”
Yuri cried out. She continued,
“why is thaat? Can’t you just talk here?”
She talked as if she was picking a fight.
“Oh, quit it. You’re just an errand girl, so zip it already. How could someone like you possibly guess at my deep insights?”
Rain’s deep insight wasn’t much to brag about, seeing that he had forgotten that he had called Selphie over, but he forcefully pushed Selphie into his room anyway. Yuri aside, he even asked the princess to wait for a little while and slammed the door shut behind him.
Is it really okay to make the princess wait? Selphie worried, despite that it wasn’t really her problem.
“Sorry for making you wait.”
“Oh, it’s nothing……”
“I didn’t call you over for anything important; don’t be so tense. I’m not gonna tell you to strip or anything.”
Rain pulled out a small leather pouch from his pocket and separated out several silver coins in his hands. Then, he thrust the entire handful in Selphie’s direction.
“I’m paying you in advance. You’re in a rough spot right now, aren’t you?”
Overwhelmed with surprise, Selphie accidentally let out a loud cry. To think……that this had been the reason.
“You don’t need to be that surprised,”
Raid said, and he grabbed Selphie’s hand, who was still frozen on the spot, hand and placed the silver in them. His hands were very hard……and warm.
“But……I can’t possibly let you do something like this.”
“Dummy. I’m not doing anything. I’m just taking this out of your next paycheck.”
Rain started as he took large strides across the room to pick up a large leather bag that had rolled to the corner and slung it over his shoulder.
Selphie finally found it in herself to take a look at her surroundings and realized that the room was rather unfurnished.
It only had the bare minimum and most necessary furniture.
If anything stood out in this room, it was only maybe the bed and the desk.
She had thought that Rain was a more flamboyant person, but she now realized that she had been completely wrong about him.
As Selphie continued to raise her personal evaluation of Rain in her head, the man in question bluntly continued,
“you’re my subordinate. So you just need to shut up and listen to what I tell you. If I say that something’s white, then it’s white even if it’s black! Make sure you understand this.”
The content of his words was rather rude, but his voice was gentle.
Selphie could only nod. She suddenly felt ashamed of herself. She had been making a huge misunderstanding. She realized that Rain had called her in to his room on purpose out of consideration so that she didn’t have to embarrass herself in front of everyone. There was no other explanation.
He’s actually very kind…… The way he talks and stuff is a bit scary, but he’s actually very kind…… He’s kinda cool, maybe. At that moment, Selphi’s evaluation of Rain shot up in leaps and bounds.
“Um, thank you very much.”
“Yeah. Go and get yourself some nice clothes with that money or something. It’s kinda, you know, when girls dress in tattered clothes like that. Oh, and if you’re gonna buy a skirt, make sure you get a short one. I’m thinking one that has an inseam of seven centimeters is just about right for you.”
Selphie was so deeply moved that she consented without properly listening to the details. She was so happy that Rain had been kind to her, and so relieved that she wouldn’t have to go hungry, that she was on cloud nine. All other things aside, the fact that she didn’t have to worry about food anymore impacted her greatly.
Rain said with a hand on the doorknob,
“did you happen to feel anything when you first met the Princess?”
“Eh? When I first met Her Highness?”
Selphie blinked and continued,
“I thought that she was very, very pretty. She’ll be a serious beauty in the future.”
“……Is that it? You really didn’t feel anything?”
He was extremely persistent. However, Selphie couldn’t think of anything else so she simply nodded in silence.
Rain wore a complicated expression on his face, as if he had swallowed fished bones and had gotten them stuck in his throat, but he eventually shrugged and opened the door.
The moment she entered the hallway, Selphie said,
“God……thank you so much,”
and prayed. She was rather religious. Sunkwoll was a polytheistic nation with many deities, but Selphie was chiefly a believer of the Goddess Myusra, who governed over war.
Apart from her god, she also offered up thanks to Rain in her heart because she was too embarrassed to say it out loud, but——
He knocked her on the head and continued,
“you should be thanking me, not God. And you should at least say something like……you’ll be willing to devote your whole heart and mind to attending me through the night every night until your stamina runs out.”
He was being ridiculous. Yuri, rather than Selphie, who had been awkwardly waiting out in the hallway indignantly asked,
“just what are you talking abouut? What fishy things were you doing in the room?”
“It’s a secret.”
“……Then, what’s with that huge bag?”
“Oh, these are a change of clothes. I’m switching rooms starting today. There was need for me to act as the Princess’ personal guard.”
Rain’s reply only made Yuri look even more doubtful than she already was.
Then, the princess innocently asked,
“Rain, what does it mean to attend to someone through the night?”
“Eh, uhh……of course.”
Rain started walking as he continued,
“it’s when a man and a woman deepen their friendship and grow closer together.”
——Technically, he wasn’t wrong.
“I never knew!”
Shelfa responded in an extremely disappointed voice.
She grabbed on to Rain’s sleeve in a bit of a panic and continued,
“in that case, please attend the night with me as well!”
Selphie did not hear what Rain had said in response. He and the princess had already turned the corner. Beside her, Yuri squared her shoulders and said, “what’s with that attitude?”
Selphie, however, continued to stare in the direction in which Rain had left with her cheeks slightly colored.
Rain escorted Shelfa to the entrance to the royal private baths (as named by Rain) in the deepest parts of the royal palace because she had said, “it’s almost time for a bath.”
Security in this part of the palace was obviously strict, and you would be forced to turn back unless you were royalty or someone with as much social standing as Rain, a high general. It spelled out your end when the soldier on watch duty forced you to identify yourself and said, “try somewhere else.”
Actually, even Rain had been courteously told, “my apologies, General Rain, but we were told not to allow you to pass,” and had been turned back up until recently.
But the situation was completely different now.
Rain’s reception in court had risen tremendously now that Shelfa’s imperial reign drew near. After all, he enjoyed a trust so complete from the princess herself that it was foolish even to call it overwhelming. Shelfa’s treatment of Rain could not even be compared to the previous king’s, who had made his disdain clear every time they so much as looked at each other.
Thus, Rain could now freely enter the depths of the palace that he had not been able to set foot in before.
“Aren’t princesses generally supposed to be accompanied by two or three ladies-in-waiting when they bathe?”
Rain asked out of simple curiosity before the arched entrance to the baths that were so large that Rain could not help but wonder what kinds of giants they had been made for.
“I was until recently. But I find it easier to relax when I’m alone, and…”
“I get embarrassed when people see me naked, even if they’re women…… So I asked them not to come. Before, they wouldn’t agree no matter how many times I’d ask, but nowadays people always do as I ask of them.”
Shelfa cast her eyes down while hugging her change of clothes to her chest and looked rather adorable.
Rain smiled in a cynical manner.
“Well it’s only natural that your words hold more weight now that you’ll be the next queen. You’re free to do whatever you want now, Little one. Go ahead and be as selfish as you want,”
he irresponsibly spurred her on.
Rain thought that since Shelfa had lived a fairly unpleasant life up until now, she should be allowed to be reasonable selfish.
“I don’t really mind. I’m perfectly happy already. ——Because you’re here by my side, Rain.”
Shelfa happily smiled and showed off her pearly white teeth. Her smile readily expressed her inner feelings, or perhaps they should be called her love, and even Rain could not find it in himself to make a frivolous comment.
Instead of acting embarrassed, he waved a hand at her and said,
“alright, I get it, so hurry up and go take your bath. I’ll be waiting here.”
Shelfa looked up at him when he gave her a light push on her willowy back.
“No, since the opportunity arose, there’s something I’d like to do. I’d be happy if you came in with me, Rain.”
An opportunity for what?
“But didn’t you just say that you don’t like it when people see you naked?”
“Of course, you’re an exception, Rain.”
Shelfa said without a delay and without even looking excited.
“No, that’s still not something I should be doing. I’ll be patient and wait for you here.”
——Was what Rain did not say.
Instead, he replied, “oh, really? Well if you don’t mind, I don’t mind if I do, either,” and readily complied to bathing together.
Shelfa made sure to lock the door once they entered inside.
There were marble tiles covering the floor inside, and it was so spacious that Rain wondered if this was the bath for a moment before he realized that it was the dressing room. There were several silver pedestals that looked like giant candlesticks lined up against the wall with baskets woven with wisteria sitting on top of them. It looked like you were supposed to put your clothes in them.
There was a mirror that was several meters long in diameter set up on the opposite wall. Along it were several gorgeous cloth-covered stools. Shelfa didn’t need to use them yet, but they were probably meant to be a place to do one’s makeup. As if to prove that theory, there was even a massive wardrobe standing tall in the corner.
When Rain opened it up for the heck of it, he found a mountain of gaudy dresses. As a commoner, the entire place pissed him off.
“Ugh…… So that King Douglass leisurely took baths in a place like this…… Hey that kinda pisses me off.”
“No. Father used the men’s bath. This is the women’s bath.”
“I know that there aren’t that many royals, but this is getting more annoying by the minute…… It’s like they’re making light of how regular people live. Even I, a high-general, don’t have a bath this large in my castle (Cortecreas Castle).”
Shelfa apologetically lowered her long eyelashes even though she wasn’t at fault. She had already began taking off her dress and had partially exposed her white undergarments, and did not seem to mind Rain’s presence. It was as if she wasn’t shy around him at all.
“Don’t be, it’s not like it’s your fault or anything.”
Rain lightly tapped her uncovered delicate shoulder and began to undress as well.
The dressing room had been astonishingly large, but the baths further into the area were on a different scale altogether. Not only was it spacious and open in length and width alike, but it’s ceiling was also several stories high.
The bathtub itself was circular and large enough to swim in and could have easily fit several dozens of people inside with room to spare. Furthermore, and Rain could not decide whether it was of bad taste or not, there was a statue of a goddess with a jar splashing hot water into the bathtub over her shoulder.
The bath was so excessively luxurious that it practically could have been a symbol of the nobility.
“Well isn’t this extravagant……”
Rain growled after a brief glance around the area.
The bath looked like it would cost a fortune just to maintain.
It was apparently located near a gable facing the innermost depths of the palace, and there were several square windows lined up along the main wall. The windows were several meters high, so there was no worry about and creeps being able to peer inside.
“Hmph, I almost want to come here every day.”
“If it’s alright with you, Rain, I’d be happy to come here with you every day,”
Shelfa, who had entered the room first, responded with a smile.
She made no particularly unsightly attempts to hide her naked body.
Instead, she blushed slightly upon seeing Rain and lowered her eyes somewhat.
Then, she continued in a quiet voice,
“……you are rather different from me, I see.”
Instead of replying immediately, Rain splashed some water on himself next to her and slowly submerged himself. The bath was rather deep…… Someone with a smaller build really could have swam in it if they wanted to. He rested his magic sword, the one thing that he had refused to let go of until now, against the marble bathtub and let out a soft sigh.
“Well yeah, ‘course I am. I’m a man and you’re a woman. By any chance, is this the first time you’ve seen a man’s body?”
Shelfa replied, “yes,” in a voice so small that it could have belonged to a mosquito.
“Hmmm. That kinda makes me feel like I’ve gained something pretty nice. In other words, that means that I’m the first guy who gets to see you naked too, right?”
“Yes…… The first and the only, Rain,”
She was still standing upright, and had made no attempt to come closer to Rain’s side yet.
She simply kept her eyes glued on Rain with a look of deep determination.
“……Um, there’s something that I’d like to do before I go in.”
“Oh? ……In the bathroom?”
Rain asked, somewhat teasingly.
“……Yes. I believed that it was the most appropriate to do this while naked.”
Even Rain was rendered speechless at Shelfa’s words, which would have caused an uproar had they been said publicly.
While Rain was still thinking through what she had said, Shelfa silently made her way toward Rain and got down on her knees before him. Then, she said,
“it’ll be over soon.”
She looked incredibly serious.
When Rain instinctively nodded, Shelfa gently placed her right hand on his chest and began to speak.
“As one of the Five Great Houses, the descendent of Sunkwoll thusly vows.
That mine life walks with thee for all of eternity, if such is thy wish.
That mine soul, too, walks with thee for all of eternity! At times as sword, at times as shield, I offer up this body. That there may be no falsehood in this vow, even should all of fate turn against thee.”
She smiled radiantly as Rain blinked his black eyes and continued,
“I declareth myself Shelfa Iras Sunkwoll—— My lord, I beg that this name be forever engraved in thy breast…… For it is the name of one who has pledged herself to thee.”
A moment after she was done, Shelfa withdrew her hand from his chest.
Then, she entered the water and sat down next to Rain like everything was normal. She seemed to be quite finished with what she had wanted to do.
“Wait, aren’t you the ‘lord’ here? It seemed pretty exaggerated from my point of view, but what was it all about?”
“Please don’t pay it too much mind. It was just supposed to be a slight warning for myself……”
Shelfa relaxed and let out a long sigh. ……For some absurd reason, this gave Rain a bad feeling.
As if she had picked up his apprehensions, Shelfa let out a chuckle and said,
“my vow wasn’t meant to tie down your freedom, Rain. I was the only one who was bound.”
Tying people down and being bound—I have no idea what you’re talking about, but that’s pretty hardcore! But, now wasn’t the time to be hung up over something like that. Although, Rain could not help but admit that he was pretty intrigued.
Instead of explaining herself any further, however, Shelfa gently leaned back against Rain. She did not seem to want to be pressed for answers.
“Well, all’s good and fine as long as you’re satisfied.”
Rain placed his hand on her golden hair and rocked her lightly.
He was a little impressed after seeing Shelfa up close as she gently laughed.
“Even still, you really do have amazing looks. There’s absolutely nothing to even complain about even after looking at you up close.”
He purposely held back from saying how absolutely stunning she would be——in another five or six years or so. Even Rain knew how to be considerate from time to time.
Shelfa gave her thanks in a small voice.
“Thank you very much. But I think otherwise. ……But, since there’s nothing I can do about my appearance, I’d at least like to grow up as soon as possible……”
He could have been reading too much into it, but Rain felt that there was something hidden behind her words.
“I can’t even begin to imagine anyone more beautiful than you. Besides, why do you want to grow up so fast to begin with?”
“Because if I was prettier……and if I was older, you might come to care for me much more than you do now, Rain.”
“No, you’re wrong about that. In that case, wouldn’t I just be some frivolous guy who only cared about looks? There’s no point in liking someone only for who they are on the outside.”
Rain subconsciously smiled wryly and continued,
“and I have nothing against you as you are now.”
At Rain’s words, Shelfa sat up straighter inside of the bathtub.
“But……at that time, you……”
She closed her mouth without finishing her sentence and rested her gaze down at the gentle slope of her chest.
Rain did not have to ask about the time she was referring to. He knew that she was speaking of the time they had snuck out of the ball that had been held after the last battle and Shelfa had “confessed” her feelings for him in the garden. There was no way he would have forgotten.
Rain had not given her a clear reply at the time. It hadn’t been because he disliked her or because he was bothered by their age difference. It was simply that he was unable to respond to her feelings for him.
He had realized that he would hurt her no matter how he answered and had said,
“……sorry. I’m not able to give you a reply just yet.”
It had been the only thing he could say at the time.
——I let her die without being able to protect her, so it’s wrong of me to be happy by myself after all this time,
whispered the voice of his other self in his heart.
Shelfa reached out through the steam and touched Rain’s cheek as if she had heard this nonexistent voice.
“Rain, you’re much too kind……”
Rain opened his black eyes wide in surprise as her words griped his chest. It had been a coincidence, but she had also said something similar once.
“Rain, you’re way too kind……”
Rain pursed his lips together before her name escaped them. Shelfa stroked his cheek as if in response, perhaps because she had felt the slight movements in his facial muscles.
“People’s memories fade away as the years pass, and even memories of someone who was once precious to you is forgotten little by little…… They become buried deep within the memory and are only recalled from time to time. It’s a sad thing, but I believe that after a long……long time, memories change, no matter how much you loved that person.
“But……” Shelfa trailed off as she leaned back against Rain. She continued,
“but, Rain, you’re unable to forget, aren’t you? Because you’re so very, very kind, kinder than anyone else, you do not allow your memories to fade away. You constantly blame yourself and you never forgive yourself……even though you’ve done nothing wrong, Rain.”
Her sapphire eyes were moist as she looked up at him, as if she was about to cry at any moment. Then, she said,
“it’s unfortunate that I can’t share your pain…… But, one day……”
Rain wanted to click his tongue at how his voice cracked as he spoke. He licked his lips and started again,
“you’re quite the poet, Little one. ……I’m not that great of a guy, you know.”
Shelfa simply smiled.
Before replying, she gently wrapped her wet arms around Rain’s back.
“One day, I want to become someone strong like you, Rain. So that I, too, can support you from time to time, instead of only being protected one-sidedly. Because I……love you, Rain.”
As Rain was rendered unable to speak, she drew closer and whispered into his ear,
“I won’t give up. I’ll wait for however long I must. Forever, and ev~er.”
Succumbing to a sudden urge, Rain gently pushed her back and peered into her large eyes.
Shelfa called out to him in a husky voice. She closed her eyes just as she was, with her cheeks blushing red.
Silently, Rain drew his lips nearer, and——
“This smell—— tch.”
He noticed a sickly-sweet scent and the presence of somebody nearby.
Shelfa was taken aback as she watched Rain draw his magic sword with her eyes wide open in surprise.
“Rain, what in the world……”
She tried to stand up, but found herself staggering.
She had already been affected by the smell.
“It’s not a big deal. Just take your time and stay in the water, Little one. We just happen to have an uninvited guest.”
Her handsome face twisted in shock. She tried to follow Rain’s line of sight and turn around to face the window behind her……but her eyes were already clouding over. She felt her body stumble again.
“It’s a flower with blue petals called the Ashimaru. It grows further up north. They give off this really strong smell when you grind them up that has the effect of putting people to sleep,”
Rain explained in a matter-of-fact manner as he helped Shelfa stay up. He continued,
“well, don’t sweat it. I’ll take care of everything while you’re asleep. You should just go to sleep without worrying about a thing.”
Normally, she would have relaxed at his words, but today, the panic did not leave her.
She continued to struggle within his arms.
Rain only grasped the reason behind her behavior after watching her incessantly struggle to cover up her chest.
“……Uh~, I’ll make sure no one can see you. I won’t let our guests have even the smallest peek, so there’s nothing for you to worry about.”
At his words, Shelfa immediately settled down and readily entrusted her body over to him. As he’d thought, that was what she had been worried about. She pried open her eyes and smiled weakly.
“I don’t need to ask……you to be……careful……do I……Rain……?”
“That goes without saying.”
Rain flashed her a grin.
He smiled his usual brazen smile, and the solemn expression he had been wearing until just recently had disappeared without a trace.
Shelfa smiled once more in apparent relief as her head dropped down.
“Still, do you normally worry more about being seen naked than about losing your life……? Well, I guess it just means that she trusts me,”
Rain whispered as he carefully leaned Shelfa back against the tub so that she would not fall over sideways and extended his palm out toward her body.
Then, a low hum rang throughout the room as a shining magical barrier covered Shelfa’s entire being.
Now, no one could see her, and he could guarantee her safety.
Instead of immediately standing up, Rain simply made himself at home with his magic sword in hand.
He lightly closed his eyes and searched for the presence he felt.
“Lessee……there are three, four……seven……of you under the window? You were probably planning to break in once we were asleep. Well, kuddos to you guys.”
The ends of his lips curled upwards as he snickered.
Unfortunately, I won’t be falling asleep no matter how long you wait. I’m a human who also carries the ‘power’ of a mythical beast (a dragon) right now.
Indeed, anything that didn’t work on a mythical beast would have no effect on Rain as well.
Which was why Rain simply stayed in the bath instead of getting up. If the other side was going to come at him eventually, there was no reason for him to stir up a fuss first. Naturally, the possibility that he could get killed did not even cross Rain’s mind.
There was no way that he would fall behind an assassin who only knew how to sneak around like a rat……he thought.
“I’ll leave one, and kill the rest!”
he said with cold indifference as he silently bided his time.
“Rain, you’re way too kind……”
The words that he had once been told a long time ago echoed in his mind again, but he shook his head and cleared them away.
Time would never turn back no matter how hard he chased after the past.
The kind boy, who had definitely existed once, was no longer anywhere to be found. He had already come so far that he could no longer turn back——
“Sorry, Fina. I’ve changed…… At any rate, I don’t think I’ll be able to face you anymore.”
As soon as Rain let out a sigh, several black shadows jumped at him from the window.
“And so……you left one alive and killed the rest?”
Rain nodded without a hint of diffidence in his gesture.
Ralphus shot a questioning look at Rain, who was reclining back against the sofa with his legs outstretched in front of him.
“With your ability, you should have been able to capture all of them alive.”
Rain gulped down the liqueur in the glass in his hand and smiled a terrifying smile.
“I don’t care about the fate of bastards who gang up to attack a girl seven to one.”
“……Well, enough about that. There’s one more thing I’d like to confirm with you, as you were bathing together with Her Highness. ……So in other words, were you both……unclothed?”
“Well, yeah. People don’t typically bathe with their clothes on.”
“Hmmm…… And she recited some sort of strange incantation to you?”
Ralphus poured himself some wine in his own glass and sat down in front of Rain. He peered at the latter with a curious look. When Rain stared back at him, he gradually smiled.
He was not the type of man to grow envious of Shelfa’s and Rain’s close relationship. This was why Rain confided in him so readily……and why his reaction bothered Rain so much.
“I see. So Her Highness adores you that much, huh.”
“I wouldn’t say those two are necessarily causative of each other. I mean, all we did was take a bath together?”
“What, you don’t know?”
Ralphus said, stopping his glass perfectly on his lips. He continued,
“Her Highness showed you her naked body, and made that kind of vow to you on top of that——”
He paused mid-sentence and shook his head. Then, he laughed in a teasing manner, which was rare for him, and said,
“no, don’t worry about it. You’ll understand eventually.”
“Quit laughing like that, it’s creepy…… And it doesn’t suit you at all.”
“Haha……is that so? Incidentally, is it all right for you to be away from Her Highness right now?”
Ralphus blatantly changed the subject.
Rain stared back at his friend with suspicion as he told him,
“Gunther is with her. He’s a lot stronger than Leni is, after all. He’ll be alright no matter what kind of opponent comes after him. Plus, I’ll go back to her after this. For now, I have to give you my report, don’t I?”
While it looked like Rain was here for a drink rather than to “give his report,” Ralphus smiled and concurred. He understood that Rain was properly attending to the Princess’ safety regardless of what his words might suggest.
——Someone knocked from the other side of the door.
When Ralphus asked, “who is it?”, Leni replied, “excuse me~, is my general here?”
“What’s up with this ‘my general’ business?”
Rain asked with a scowl as he stood up and opened the door. He continued,
“what is it? We were in the middle of an extremely serious discussion.”
“Or so you say, but is that alcohol I smell?”
Leni humbly refuted. When Rain glared back at him, he panicked and waved his hands as he continued,
“no. It’s not like I have any problems with it or anything! That aside, well……we have a visitor who wishes to meet with you, General.”
“At this time of day?”
“Yessir. Though I tried to tell them to come back tomorrow. They seem to be a knight candidate, and they say they want to see you no matter what——”
“Wait, hold it right there! The exam’s already over. Why’re they here now?!”
“Well, that’s what I wondered too…… Anyways, they’re incredibly stubborn. Won’t you try meeting with them, General? The guards standing watch at the gates are a bit troubled too, since they’re unable to move the lever.”
Rain brushed back his hair and suddenly thought up of something.
“Are they a guy or a girl?”
“Yes? Oh, it’s a man.”
“Chase him away!”
Rain immediately replied and tried to close the door shut, but Leni had stuck his foot inside with surprising speed.
“Wah! Please wait a minute! Just hear the guy out, please! I couldn’t chase him away for the life of me. You’re probably the only one who can do something about him, General!”
Leni begged and clasped his hands together in front of himself.
Evidently, the visitor was a rather shameless guy.
“Ugh. Okay, I get it. I’ll go, so quit clinging to me!”
Visibly annoyed, Rain turned to Ralphus and continued,
“on that note, I’ll be out for a bit. You should go to bed for the night already. Save interrogating the prisoner for tomorrow.”
“I can’t. It’s about time for Her Highness to wake up, so I should get going as well,”
Ralphus said as he stood up. He continued,
“good grief, what are busy evening we’ve had today.”
He had been planning on sleeping for the first time in a while, but it seemed that his slumber would have to be delayed for quite a while yet.
Rain steeled himself as he left to deal with his stubborn visitor.
He was just a little envious of Shelfa, who was still fast asleep under the effects of the Ashimaru.
After he reluctantly made his way over to the castle gates, Rain understood where Leni had been coming from and agreed, “I see, this guy really does look difficult.”
The man in question was sitting down right in front of the castle gates with his arms crossed and his eyes closed. The gate guards and Senoa, who was accompanied by Selphie for some reason, were at his sides pestering him, but he did not even bother to open his eyes at the commotion.
He simply sat there like an aloof stone idol.
It was like his spirit was crying out, I won’t move even if you make me!
He had very short black hair that with white streaks and a face filled with wrinkles. His figure, which was wrapped up in a leather jacket to ward off the cold, was very burly for his age. It was clearly the body of someone who had fought for a living.
If Rain summed up his impression of the man with one word……it would have been: geezer.
In two words, it would have been: shameless geezer. In any case, no matter how you looked at him, he looked like any old geezer you could find in a tavern somewhere. He looked like the type of guy who’d drunkenly babble, “got a nice ass there, Miss, heheheh.”
Yet, only his well-built body suggested otherwise.
Anyhow, even Senoa, of all people, looked relieved when she saw Rain make his entrance, as the geezer in question had been giving her a rather difficult time.
“Hey, old man!”
Rain roared, sharply and suddenly. He continued,
“quit making trouble for us. The exam’s already over, so go home already!”
While his reaction would have been questionably different had the visitor been a beauty in the prime of her youth, Rain was rather cold and indifferent toward old men.
He quickly rolled up his sleeves with the intent of chasing the visitor away with brute force if push came to shove.
On the other hand, the old man suddenly opened his black eyes wide at the sound of Rain’s voice.
He stood up so fast that you would have never guessed how still he had been just moments before and grabbed Rain’s hand before the latter could pull away.
“Well isn’t this nostalgic! You haven’t changed at all since I met you ten years ago! What a surprise!”
“……I have no idea who you are, old man. And before that, let go of me!”
Rain cruelly shook the old man off. He had only felt disgusted after having his hand held by an old geezer.
“Heh. You’re as unsociable as ever, aren’t you?”
The old man laughed heartily, unbothered by Rain’s reaction. Eventually, he took a good look at Rain and said,
“but putting your manners aside, you have a fairly different impression about you than you had before. Ten years ago, I thought you were a pretty cool guy, but now, how should I put this, your face hasn’t changed too much, but you have this brazen look on your face, like you’ve gotten cheekier than ever or something.”
“……Look here. Are you trying to pick a fight, old man? Things will get scary if I get mad at you, you hear?! I’ll say this again, but I have no idea who you——”
Rain suddenly stopped mid-sentence and scrutinized the old man up and down once more. Something prickled from deep within the reaches of his memory, prompting him to ask,
“……old man……no, are you……Gazaram, by any chance?”
“That I am! You remembered! Well, isn’t this nice? And here I was all disappointed that you didn’t remember me.”
The old man……rather, Gazaram spread his mouth into a broad smile and laughed loudly. He had grown much older than the last time that Rain had seen him. The past ten years had definitely made their mark on Gazaram’s face.
“You were acquainted with him……”
Senoa interrupted, visibly exhausted.
Leni, Selphie, and the gate guards simply watched Gazaram laugh with blank expressions on their faces.
“Well……I guess you could say that…… But man, you’ve seriously aged,”
Rain said his thoughts as they came to mind.
He felt as little lonely, as he was someone who could no longer age.
“Harsh, aren’t you? Well, it’s definitely something you would say. But this is normal, you know? You’re just too young. It doesn’t look like it’s been ten years, no matter how hard I look at you. ……I guess the rumors were true.”
Rain simply shrugged. Naturally, he did not need anyone to tell him that the “rumors” that Gazaram were referring to were about him being a Dragon Slayer. He continued,
“so……did you come all this way just to see me? No, that can’t be it. I heard something about you being a knight candidate.”
The old man’s face, who had been laughing heartily, subtly changed as soon as the words left Rain’s mouth. It looked as if he was embarrassed about something, despite his age.
“Y, yeah. That’s…… I heard that you were recruiting knights based on a new criterion. I was wondering if……um~……you would possibly pick me up as well.”
“Aren’t you already the captain of the garrison?”
Gazaram gave a side glance at the people who were listening in with great enthusiasm and continued in a quiet voice,
“I was fired. They wanted me to retire because of my age. ……Supposedly, having an old captain made them uneasy——oh, but…!”
In a panic, he vehemently added,
“I can still fight! It wasn’t as if I couldn’t fulfill my duties properly at the garrison or anything. It’s just that the hard-headed government officials kept yapping on and on about how troubling it was that the captain of the garrison was already fifty-five! So, I can still be useful here, I’ll make sure of it! Besides, I’m not asking you to make an exception for me by directly promoting me to a knight. I’m fine with being a squire, of course. So——”
“Hold on a second, Gazaram.”
Rain stopped Gazaram with a wave of his hand as the latter became more desperate in his appeals. He continued,
“hold on. ……I want to ask: why do you want to be a squire after everything? Before you served at the garrison, you were a knight-captain of the Fanooj Knight Order, weren’t you? Well, that kingdom has several knight orders, so you weren’t the only knight-captain there, but it’s still a creditable position. Also, you should have made quite a nice sum of money while serving as captain of the garrison, so you should have enough to live comfortably. So, why?”
Senoa and the rest of the audience looked surprised to hear that Gazaram and once been a knight-captain of Fanooj. It was only natural. Although it was a small kingdom, Fanooj employed a “complete meritocracy” like Zarmine, and serving as a knight-captain in a kingdom like that was a remarkably amazing thing to do.
It wasn’t even possible to become a normal knight if you only had mediocre abilities in Fanooj.
However, Gazaram, whose personal history had been revealed, did not look even the slightest bit proud of himself, but rather drooped his eyes down in shame instead.
It was possible that he felt that he was quite pathetic for begging to become a squire after having climbed all the way up to the position of captain.
The old warrior spoke in a tone that had completely lost his initial vigor,
“……the past is the past, and the present is the present. Regardless of what happened in the past, I’ve become old enough to get fired from the garrison now. I know that it’s high time for me to retire. But……even still…”
He lifted his wrinkled face and looked like he was gazing at something far away as he continued,
“maybe it’s because I grew up in a lineage of knights, but I was only taught how to fight when I was a kid growing up. There’s no way I can find another way to live after all this time, and neither do I want to.”
His voice grew steadily weaker as he added,
“and besides, I don’t know how to do anything other than fight with a sword in hand. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I really don’t know how to do anything else. I’d much rather die on the battlefield than sit around doing nothing until the day I die.”
“I see, is that so?”
Rain purposefully replied in a light tone. He felt that it would probably be rude to clumsily sympathize with Gazaram’s situation.
The man called Gazaram could potentially be a mirror image of his own future self——or so Rain thought. There were times when living a normal life could become agony for people who had lived all of their lives as warriors.
Gazaram, the man standing before him, was likely also someone who could not choose a path other than to die in battle. He had probably never even thought of wanting to die peacefully in bed.
He’s just like me……
Gazaram emphatically pressed on as Rain fell into silence and added,
“none of that stuff matters, nope. I can still actively serve as a rank and file soldier. I can still fight properly, so please make me a squire.”
Rain gently raised his hand and continued,
“I’ve already made my decision. Sorry, but I have a policy of not doing anything pointless.”
His rough breathing turned into a long, drawn-out sigh.
“Pointless…… I see, it was pointless……”
There was no anger in his voice, and only the fatigue of an aged knight colored though.
Selphie’s and Senoa’s shrill voices pierced the air. They were both startled, and they frowned as they exchanged looks. Senoa, who was just the slightest bit faster, said,
“your words were much too heartless. It is more fitting for you as someone in a higher position to kindly appoint him as a squire.”
“Hold it right there!”
Rain said as he poked at Senoa’s blonde head.
Somewhat offended, he explained,
“you guys need to stop jumping to wrong conclusions! I’m just saying that I won’t hire him as a squire!”
Suddenly, the life returned to Gazaram’s face.
Filled with smiles and joy, he pressed Rain for more.
“Didn’t I just tell you? I don’t like doing things that are pointless. Gazaram, you’re in luck. Nicely enough, I’ve reorganized my troops just recently. ……From today onward, I’ll have you be a brigadier presiding over a thousand men. Work hard and make yourself useful to me.”
Gazaram looked like he had gone into shock after hearing Rain’s words.
No one could blame him, as a brigadier was technically a type of general. Naturally, the rank of brigadier was higher than the rank of knight-captain, which was the position he had served in his younger days.
Once the muscles in his faced had relaxed, Gazaram suddenly broke out into a dramatic blush and teared up.
“You……no, milord, you’re……”
He tried to say something, but his voice failed him.
Then, he reverently bent down on one knee before his liege lord.
“……I, Gazaram, will never forget this debt of gratitude for your kindness today. From now on I will work for you, and I will never leave your side until death falls upon me……”
“Don’t just suddenly change your attitude like that, it’s gross. I get it, so stop this and go already.”
Rain waved his hand and meant for Gazaram to stand up. He disliked the melancholy atmosphere.
Then, Senoa snapped out of her stupor and fiercely protested,
“Th, that’s much too generous of you——”
At the same time, Selphie dreamily muttered, “that’s so wonderful……Lord Rain,” causing Senoa’s cheeks to twitch.
Senoa quickly distanced herself from the other girl.
“Did you just say……Lord Rain? Don’t, don’t tell me that you fell in…”
she timidly asked, though Selphie did not hear her. The latter had been too busy star~ing at Rain in awe.
Her answer, however, was obvious even if it hadn’t been put into words.
T/N On military ranks in Rain:
To be honest, I have no idea how the military system works in this novel series. It’s confusing as hell, and doesn’t seem to follow any conventional ranking system that exists in the real world. To help clear this up a little, and to justify some of my translation choices, I’ll list the ranks that we’ve seen so far here in no particular order. I might consider making an entire page about this later if I ever get to the point where I actually understand what’s going on.
上将軍: High general – Rain’s rank
大将軍: Grand general – probably the Chandrys equivalent of high general
副官: Aide (/adjutant) – for all intents and purposes, they appear to serve as seconds-in-command
隊長/騎士隊長: Captain/Knight-captain – a type of commanding officer. Leni’s and Senoa’s rank
騎士: Knight – used interchangeably with ‘soldier’ (兵/兵士)
騎士見習い: Squire (lit. ‘knight-apprentice’) – the lowest rank in the army
五人(部)隊長: Squad leader (lit. ‘(squad) captain of five men’)
百人(部)隊長: Centurion (lit. ‘(squad) captain of a hundred men’) – seems to be a relatively high rank from what I can tell, but who knows
*千人隊長: Brigadier (lit. ‘captain of a thousand men’) – evidently also a type of general in terms of rank
Covert operatives, like Gunther, seem to exist outside of this ranking system.
*I chose the term ‘brigadier’ because 1) it is often used interchangeably with ‘brigadier general,’ and 2) they are known to command battalions, which were the closest unit to 1,000 men that I could find (1 battalion = 300~800 soldiers). The novel mentions that brigadiers outrank knight-captains, but I have no idea if this means that Gazaram now outranks Senoa/Leni (who are knight-captains/captains) or not because Senoa and Leni are also direct aides to Rain and also command 1,000 soldiers each.
It is also entirely possible that knight-captain is a catch-all term for any type of commander officer including, but not limited to, captains and centurions.
tl;dr: Translating the military system in this series is a nightmare, and if you understand this stuff better than I do, please help. TvT
Edit: Gazaram is also an aide to Rain, making him the same rank as Senoa and Leni