Chapter 2: Princess Assassination

Part 1

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.

“Good work.”

“Eh?”

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.

“Any changes?”

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.

“Hmm?”

“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.”

“Sir!”

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.

“Um…”

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.

“……Oh!”

Rain and Gunther were staring at her before she knew it.

“Relax,”

Rain messed up Shelfa’s hair,

“I don’t plan on falling in love with another man.”

“Oh, umm…!”

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.”

“Yes?”

“He’s actually been following you since yesterday.”

“……Eh?”

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 with his, but he had stopped for different reason altogether.

“I see, a suspicious presence, huh. That Gunther, he told me something good.”

A presence?

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.

Crack

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 she 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 general’s 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?”

“Whoa!”

Rain began, taken aback a little,

“what brought this on all of a sudden?”

“I, I’m so sorry, Rain.”

Shelfa apologized reflexively, 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.”

“That’s——”

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.”

“However——”

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.

After all——

“……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.”

“Hey, Rain!”

“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.

“Ugh!”

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!

“Not bad.”

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.

“——Hmph!”

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.

“Haaaaah!”

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.

——Oh no!

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.

But——

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 or 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.”

“But——”

“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 over 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.

“Alright, 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.

 

~~*~~*~~*~~


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