Chapter 3: The Arrogant Girl

Part 1

Shelfa, who had woken up in a happier mood than usual, ate the meal that the maid had brought her with a grin.

The reason for her cheeriness was self-evident. Not only had she unexpectedly been able to talk with Rain for a long time last night, he had also promised to teach her ‘sword skills’ today.

She had asked him about it before but hadn’t had the chance to act upon it until she finally had the opportunity to last night. Thinking about it that way, Talma’s intrusion had not been a bad thing for her in the slightest.

At least, that’s what Shelfa thought.

Thus, she had wanted to eat quickly and go to Rain as soon as she could, but Shelfa ate much more slowly than other people and her progress with her meal with slow. It wasn’t even a lot of food because she was a light eater, but she still had to take her time.

She grew impatient halfway through her meal and decided not to eat the rest.

Rain might get angry if he sees that I didn’t finish, but I’ll have him forgive me for today……

In truth, she wanted to eat with Rain and not alone. But Rain almost always ate at the mess hall every day and Shelfa could not resolve herself to do so no matter how hard she tried.

She was still opposed to being in front of a lot of people. To put it bluntly, she was hypersensitive to other people’s gazes and it was still difficult for her to get used to strangers. It might be because she was alone so much of the time.

Still, she wanted to gather the courage to eat in front of people soon, or she might be stuck eating alone forever.

She looked at her half-empty bowl of soup and sighed.

——She couldn’t do it today, but she’d try her best again tomorrow. She’d gather the courage somehow. She couldn’t have people bring her meals forever. If she didn’t, her dream of eating together with Rain would remain simply as a dream.

Shelfa resolved herself once more, though her motives were a bit impure. She returned her cutlery to the silver cart and looked down at the clothes she was meant to wear while training. They were white shorts and a similarly white sleeveless shirt. They looked easy to move around in, but she wasn’t quite sure if that was all she was supposed to wear.

……It was probably all right.

Still, it was too cold wear only that, and she was too embarrassed to anyhow.

And so, she decided to borrow one of Rain’s jackets. Luckily, she had already asked him about it in advance.

She opened the wardrobe, which was filled only with black garments, and picked out a leather coat (which was naturally black as well). She stuck her arms through the sleeves and tried it on. The coat fell down to her ankles.

It only stood to reason. Shelfa was about 160 cm tall, while Rain was easily over 180 cm.

She couldn’t help but feel like the clothes were wearing her and not the other way around when she looked at the life-sized mirror that had been brought in to the room for her.

 

But……I feel like I’m being held by Rain when I wear this.

 

That was enough for her.

Shelfa took up the rapier that Rain had prepared for her and gently opened the door with a smile.

 

 

“——Whoa!”

Standing in the hall was Gazaram, acting as Rain’s relief, who let out a small exclamation upon seeing Shelfa.

He stroked his stubbled chin for a while and hmm~m’ed.

“Um……does this look strange?”

“Oh, no, not at all. I was just a little surprised because you were wearing the General’s coat.”

He broke out into a smile and bowed. He continued,

“I’m a little late, but good morning. The weather is great today. ……And incidentally, what is that sword for?”

“Good morning. Thank you always for your hard work.”

Shelfa gave a polite bow before answering,

“I had Rain promise to teach me sword skills today.”

Unlike usually, she was able to answer clearly today. Recently, Gazaram had been by her side the second most after Rain in order to guard her, so even Shelfa had finally become used to the old warrior by now.

Gunther and Gazaram were two matchless individuals whom Rain typically had guard Shelfa, so Shelfa’s trust in them had naturally increased in turn.

In addition, Gazaram was like a paternal figure to her, as she had hardly ever spoken to her real father.

“Oho~, sword skills? I’m mighty jealous. I’d like to learn a few things from him myself. ——But, you’ll be taking off your coat during training, no? Won’t you be cold wearing only that?”

“Rain said that this was easy to move in, and I’m perfectly fine.”

She felt a chill the moment the words left her mouth. She placed a hand at her mouth and let out a small sneeze.

Her cheeks flushed bright red.

Gazaram looked worried as he said,

“will you really be all right? You shouldn’t push yourself.”

“I, I’ll be fine. Um, I’m sure I’ll warm up when if I give it my all during training. Besides, I’m the one being trained, so I want to do as Rain says.”

“I see……”

Gazaram messaged the area around his eyes in exasperation and advised her, “then, you should at least button up for now.”

As Shelfa obediently did as she was told, the aged warrior nonchalantly added,

“still, you must really like the General quite a lot, Your Highness.”

In turn, Shelfa nodded in absolute honesty and replied,

“yes.”

Then, her cheeks glowed redder still as she continued,

“……I love him.”

Gazaram, who had been smiling in a teasing manner, opened his black eyes wide and froze.

“Oh……well that’s……how should I put this?”

His surprise slowly transformed into a wry smile. He continued,

“it’s an honor. Thank you for telling a newcomer like me. Still——”

He took a look around him and lowered his voice as he finished,

“it’s all right to tell me because I’ve got tight lips, but it’d be best not to let others hear of this. Though……it’s a different matter entirely if you were to make an official announcement about it.”

“I’m aware.”

Shelfa was sure that she was making a lonely smile right now. She continued,

“I know…… But, it’s because Rain trusts you, Lord Gazaram. This isn’t something I just tell anyone about at random.”

“That’s……I’m honored yet again.”

Something other than reverence was mixed into Gazaram’s voice. When Shelfa looked up, she found that a silent emotion had spread across the warrior’s scary visage, which told tales of his many battles. Gazaram continued,

“I’m sure it’s true if you’re the one saying it, Your Highness. I see, he trusts an old man……no, someone like me. I was aware of this to some degree, since he gave me this role, but it makes me happy to hear someone else guarantee it.”

“Rain doesn’t usually let his feelings show, so it’s hard to tell sometimes,”

Shelfa said with a smile.

It somehow made her very glad to know that someone else loved Rain, just in a different manner than herself.

It made her feel all the more familiar with Gazaram.

“But, you’ll know if you watch him closely. Rain trusts you very deeply, Lord Gazaram.”

Gazaram chuckled as he scratched his head. He seemed a little embarrassed.

“I’m mighty obliged. I’ll have to answer to his trust.”

Then, he stooped down a little.

He looked around again to make sure no one was around and said,

“back to what we were talking about before, but have you told him how you feel yet?”

Shelfa’s mood dropped like bricks.

She lowered her gaze and said,

“……yes. But, he said that he wasn’t able to give me a reply yet.”

“Oh, that’s——”

“Oh, but it’s all right. Rain has his own circumstances……so it was only natural that he replied that way. Though, I can’t tell you what those circumstances are. But that’s why I’m not worried at all. And——”

Shelfa, who had been explaining herself rapidly to a very confused Gazaram, quieted down at the end of her spiel. She was somewhat embarrassed to say the rest out loud.

After a brief moment, Gazaram kindly asked, “and……is there more?”

She couldn’t just end the conversation there, so Shelfa gathered up her courage and continued.

“And, I think it’s wrong for your feelings to be influenced by someone else’s.”

She gently placed her hand on her chest and continued,

“no matter how Rain feels, my feelings for him won’t change. I mean……I’d be over the moon if he came to love me as well.”

But, she said in a stronger voice as she lifted her head back up again,

“I’m okay with the way things are for now. I’m more than happy enough just to be by Rain’s side.”

“I see. ——I understand.”

Gazaram cracked a smile and bowed lightly as Shelfa overcame her embarrassment with all her might to convey her feelings.

“I understand very well. Thank you for telling me something nice. I don’t know what his circumstances are, but I, for one, will be cheering for you, Your Highness. It’d be nice if your feelings got through to him one day.”

“……Thank you.”

Shelfa held back her tears and beamed.

In response, Gazaram smiled back at her with everything he had……

 

~~*~~*~~*~~

 

I’ll be out on a long ride to take the time to think on a few things…… Ralphus had said, meaning that he was likely heading for the stables.

He was finally free for once today, so he probably wouldn’t be back for a while.

Rain had wanted to go with him, but unfortunately, he had already promised to spend time with someone else today.

I guess it’s about time, he thought as he idly walked toward the backyard where he saw Selphie and Yuri chattering together as they left the lodgings.

From a distance, he saw Selphie talking bashfully as Yuri cheered her on with rough words.

“Yo.”

When he lightheartedly called out to them as they grew closer, he was met with an:

“……oh.”

Selphie quickly and dramatically turned bright red for some reason the moment she laid her eyes on him. Flustered, she moved her right fist to her left shoulder in Sunkwoll’s unique salute. Her movements were jerky and extremely unnatural. It was as if she was a marionette.

Yuri, who was standing next to her, saluted like her friend had in a routine manner but was grinning as she watched Selphie’s panic in amusement.

Well, I guess it isn’t strange for girls their age to laugh at just about anything.

“You two are pretty lively today; were you exchanging jokes or something?”

Rain took it upon himself to bring up the matter.

As he expected, Yuri said,

“hahaha. Nothing’ll happen if you keep hesitating, so why don’t you take this chance right now and go for the kill and just con——”

“Waaaaah, waaaaaaaah!?”

What is she saying?!

was written all over Selphie’s face as she froze up for a brief moment before making a strange noise and waving her hands around in the air. She was on the verge of tears.

“……The hell are you doing, Selphie? Did you eat something bad or something? And Yuri. I couldn’t hear you. Go for the kill and just con……?

“It’s nothing!”

Selphie interjected again. She continued,

“just considering how a decisive battle is coming up soon, oor something like that……ahahahaha!”

She played with her well-maintained black wavy hair as she spoke.

……Without meeting Rain’s eyes.

Not that I really care, but her words and the context just now don’t quite add up.

Still, Rain didn’t have any particular intention to pry so he didn’t make a fuss about it. He promptly began walking again.

“Well, I’m glad you two are having fun. Later.”

“Oh, um!”

What’s up? When he turned around because Selphie had called out to him, she looked shocked and put her hands on her mouth and immediately looked down.

“No……welll…”

“C’mon! Strike while the iron’s hot! There’s no time like now! You already called out to him, so keep up your momentum and boom! Tell him!”

Yuri stirred Selphie on as her nostrils flared. Rain was the only one present who had no idea what was going on.

“What, do you need another advance payment? I don’t mind lending you some money if you need it. And it’s not like I’m gonna tell you to pay it back with your body or anything, so relax.”

“No, that’s not it! I’ve hardly used the money you gave me before. I just——”

You just what? When Rain tilted his head, Selphie obviously pushed herself and looked directly at Rain with such intensity that you would have thought that she was getting vengeance for her parents’ deaths.

“My late father once said to me. That I have to speak properly in times like this.”

“……What?”

“I——”

Selphie’s face, which was blushing red to begin with, grew even redder. She looked like she was trying to say something, but the words would not come out. Her lips quivered, her double-lidded eyes moistened with tears, and finally, she covered her face and crouched down where she stood.

“Aieee! I can’t. If it was something I could just say whenever, I wouldn’t be having so much trouble!”

Selphie exploded in some emotion that Rain could not comprehend and muttered, “I can’t, I just can’t” to herself repeatedly.

Yuri pat her friend’s back and consoled her before shooting Rain a look that clearly indicated that he was at fault.

Or rather, she put her reproach into words as well.

“This is your fault, General! You made her cry!”

How is this my fault? Rain thought.

Still, however, it wasn’t as if he didn’t have any idea why Selphie was acting the way she was. He had heard a little about her from Gunther.

“By any chance, is this about how you got depressed after killing for the first time? I don’t know if this’ll help or not, but I promised to teach the Princess some sword skills. Wanna come along, Selphie?”

The two girls suddenly looked exhausted despite his kind offer. Yuri, in particular, looked at him as if she was saying, “is he stupid?”

“You don’t have to come if you don’t want to.”

Thoroughly put out, Rain began to walk away again.

Then, Selphie stood up and said,

“can you teach me too?”

“Did you change your mind?”

“Yes……”

“Hmm. Yeah, sure. C’mon along.”

“Yes!”

Her mood had done a complete turn as she nodded in high spirits.

A shrill voice called out this time right as they had settled the matter and were about to head out.

“General!”

The blonde Senoa had caught sight of Rain and was making a beeline in his direction.

“Man, I’m really bumping into a lot of people today. What, are you here to complain about something again?”

“What is that supposed to mean? I simple came over to say hello because I saw you, have I not?”

she replied sullenly, and her tone took a sharper turn as she eyed Selphie and Yuri and said,

“……is something about to start?”

“Hey. Why do sound so suspicious right from the get go? It’s nothing that you suspect. I just promised to teach the Princess some sword skills today.”

Despite his honesty, Senoa didn’t seem to buy his explanation.

A harsh light lit in her narrowed blue eyes and she glared piercingly.

“Then, why are they here?”

“I happened to bump into them, and they ended up tagging along. We’re heading for the backyard.”

Senoa’s mood became even worse upon hearing that.

“You called out to them, but you neglected to call out to me, your direct subordinate and aide —what is the meaning of this?!”

Thoroughly annoyed, Rain replied,

“then you come along too. Is that better?”

“Yes, I shall. You’ve never accompanied me in training before. How could I ever let this chance slip by?!”

Despite the anger suggested in her words, there was a hint of happiness mixed into her voice.

Rain didn’t know why she was happy and simply assumed that it was because she was happy with anything that had to do with fighting.

“Well, I guess I should be happy there’ll be more women around,” Rain sighed.

 

When they circled around the main building of the castle and arrived at a little plaza near the rear gates, they found that Shelfa and Gazaram had already been waiting for Rain and were rather deep in avid conversation.

I see, so she’s finally warmed up to that old man. Yep, that’s great, I’m glad for them—— Rain thought until he frowned upon hearing the content of their conversation.

“And then, I made a feint and kicked the table over, and his reaction was as magnificent as they come! He jumped right on the table and kicked off the ceiling before attacking me!”

Gazaram spat in his enthusiasm.

He was so into his speech that he was like one of the old men who called people over to circus shows.

He was excited to the point that it was unbecoming of his age. Rain couldn’t see Shelfa’s face because she was turned away from him, but she hardly moved at all as she looked up at Gazaram.

The old knight’s fervent spiel continued passionately,

“I’ve see a lot of strong enemies in my days, but I’ve never seen anyone react as spectacularly or have such splendid swordplay as him. And then, he pulled out another terrifyingly awesome move, and—!?”

“Hey hey hey!”

Rain approached Gazaram with long strides as the latter continued his harangue with exaggerated gesturing. Rain continued,

“quit talking about stuff that happened ages ago! You’re boring the Princess with all that boring talk!”

“Oh, why hello there.”

Gazaram did not look the slightest bit perturbed as he turned to Rain and flashed a grin. He continued,

“but, Her Highness seems pretty interested in it.”

Rain pouted and looked to Shelfa only to realized that, as Gazaram had suggested, her cheeks were flushed red as she lost herself in Gazaram’s story. Her hands were clenched in little fists and she actually gulped in anticipation.

She was usually the first person to notice him, but she was so immersed in the tale that she hadn’t seen Rain approaching. That’s fine and dandy and all, but is she actually wearing my coat? I said she could just for the heck of it, but I didn’t think she’d actually wear it.

Shelfa finally cried out, “Rain!” in her usual cheery voice and greeted him as Rain smiled wryly.

However, she then looked behind him and tilted her head in confusion. She continued,

“um, these people are……?”

“Yes. I just happened to bump into them. Well, you can just consider them as add-alongs and just ignore them. There’s a loud one here too, but just think of her as a festival bell or drum or something.”

“I don’t mind but……um, are all of them joining us?”

 

——He already knew.

 

He had long since noticed their presence.

When Rain turned around, thoroughly fed up, he saw that a crowd of squires and knights had assembled at a distance, on top of Selphie, Yuri, and Senoa, whom Rain had picked up initially. There were easily several dozen people present. It needn’t be said that most of them were men.

Evidently, they had seen Rain leading the group of beautiful women and those who weren’t busy at the moment had decided to creep along.

They were like ants being drawn to honey.

Evidently, there are too many people in this castle with too much time on their hands,

Rain reflected privately.

“Hey, you lot! This isn’t some kind of show!”

The crowd drew back slightly when he rebuked them but did not disperse. Then, a familiar babyish face stepped out from the crowd. Even Rain remembered his name by now —it was Miran from the other day.

“Um……. I happened to overhear you when we passed by, but I heard that you were teaching sword skills? I won’t intrude, so could I please observe from up close? Even if it’d be asking too much for you to train me personally, I’d like to watch you teach so I can use the experience as a reference.”

“……Hmm. Well, if you want to see my skills that much, I won’t say no.”

Rain immediately caved.

He knew that Miran hadn’t said what he had just to curry favor.

He knew that Miran was being plainly serious by looking at the waves he emitted. Admirable sorts like Miran were hard to come by.

“——But that’s just me. Is it alright, Princess?”

“Eh, umm……”

She was a little anxious, but Shelfa was understanding. Though, it was admittedly difficult to refuse at this point.

It’d be good for her to get a little more used to people,

Rain thought as he pushed the notion through. That being said, what Miran had said had also improved his mood considerably.

In any case, the rest of the crowd immediately drew closer and formed a circle the moment that Shelfa gave her approval.

“No……I only meant to give permission to Miran……well, whatever.”

Shelfa was a liege lord after all. She needed to get used to being in front of people.

And so, Rain decided not to refuse them. If Shelfa really wasn’t comfortable with the idea, he could always kick them out again.

“Alright, shall we start then?”

Shelfa took off the coat in a hurry when Rain announced that training had started. She was left in only the sleeveless white shirt and white shorts that left her skinny legs out in the open.

The spectators stirred up a fuss when they saw her new getup. Rain shot a glare at them before they crept closer all at once.

He had been able to deter them from rushing forward, but the commotion hadn’t fully died down. There were even some among the crowd who earnestly whispered, “I’m so glad I’m alive!” and embraced the colleague next to them.

Others were so emotionally moved that they offered a prayer to the Goddess Myusra, leaving Rain feeling suddenly drained.

Geez…… Why the hell are you thanking a goddess of war for fulfilling your lecherous needs!?

“Quiet down! If you can’t observe in silence, I’ll personally kick you out of here!”

None of his men doubted that Rain would actually do as he threatened.

The ruckus died down at once after Rain’s half-serious yell.

After a sigh, Rain turned to the four girls again. No one could blame that all of the girls, standing in a circle, either furrowed their brows or looked embarrassed.

Shelfa, in particular, was quivering from the dual effects of nervousness and the cold. Her outfit was undoubtedly easy to move in, but it was mid-winter. It was much to thin for the weather.

She’s a terrifyingly obedient child, so I probably should have specified more suitable clothing for her.

Shelfa looked at Rain with imploring eyes as he walked up briskly to her.

“……Rain.”

“It’s okay. I’ll warm you up right now,”

he whispered gently and gathered light in his right hand. He placed it on top of her head and poured magic into her.

His eyes met Shelfa’s bewildered ones when he quietly drew back his hand.

“My body feels pleasantly warm……”

“Well, there are many ways to put magic to use,”

Rain said with his normal tone of voice and returned to where he had originally been standing with a smile.

Selphie and the other girls pierced him with envious gazes.

“Gen~er~al! I’m cold tooo!”

Yuri shot her hand up in the air.

“You guys aren’t wearing light clothing! Geez, one of you is even wearing a long skirt, you just don’t get it at all.”

He glared poignantly at Senoa (with her long skirt) and spat out, “tough it out!”

“Whaa, isn’t that playing favorites?!”

“Obviously, since I’m a guy who isn’t impartial. Anyway, let’s begin. Draw your sword and take your stance!”

Yuri, who still seemed to want to grumble, was overwhelmed and slowly unsheathed her sword, but even then, she sulkily complained,

“……but you haven’t even prepared us wooden swords or anything. I don’t care if you get hurt because we’re using real blades.”

“Hahaha!”

Rain laughed while pointing at Yuri.

“Hey, that’s the best joke I’ve heard these past couple of years. Do you really think that you’d have a one in a hundred-million chance of hitting me even when you’re about to cry in desperation?”

“Uh, urgk…… Well, yeah, I might not have a chance. But I saw you! When you were fighting Joe, General, I was secretly watching from the shadows of a nearby store!”

Yuri said, proud of something completely unrelated for some reason.

If you had the time to watch the fight, then you should’ve helped guard the Little one!

Rain became petulant.

“So what?”

“Wasn’t it a pretty difficult fiight?”

“Your eyes are basically made out of glass, I see. Just where the hell were you even looking?!”

Rain shook his head as if he was lamenting over something that couldn’t be helped. He even sighed and frowned. He continued,

“are you an amateur too? In another five seconds, he would’ve been rolling by my feet lamenting the full extent of his recklessness while crying on his journey to Hades. Right, Princess?”

He suddenly turned toward Shelfa.

Shelfa, who had been grinning because of how warm she was, energetically replied, “yes, I think Rain was about to win even now,” without hesitation.

By pure chance, everybody watching them thought in tandem,

 

‘I can’t trust what she’s saying about this one……’

 

Yuri, who looked the most doubtful out of the lot, still tried to pick a quarrel.

“——I’m pretty sure that you said, “in another minute,” or something along those lines back then.”

“You there!”

Unable to argue, Rain pointed sharply at Yuri again. He continued,

“stay silent before your teacher. Hurry up and take your stance!”

Yuri obeyed this time.

Still, she still looked visibly discontent.

We can finally start……Rain thought as he gazed at his impromptu students.

From right to left, they were Senoa, Yuri, Selphie, and Shelfa.

Among them, the only one who instantly took a proper stance was Selphie. She took a stance where her sword was aimed at her opponent’s eyes (mid-stance) and her form was rather good.

As for the rest——

Shelfa looked at Selphie beside her and copied the latter’s motions with unsteady hands, while Yuri’s sword dropped languidly in a low stance.

Senoa, for whatever reason, had raised her sword above her head in an extremely high stance.

……While looking extraordinarily happy as she did.

She was the worst among them all.

“Hm~m……. A little late, but I want each of you to keep your stance and tell me a bit about your history with the sword.”

Senoa opened her mouth first.

“Ahem. Despite my appearances, I——”

Rain pointed to the next person in line.

“’Kay, next.”

“Wh, why are you skipping mee?!”

“’Cause there’s no point to listening to your history. Alright, next!”

Yuri and the other girls looked to one another.

“I started when I was about ten, I think…… I picked up things here and there and developed my own style.”

“I, I started learning from my father when I was five.”

“……Today’s my first day.”

“I see. That sounds about right.”

Rain let out a large sigh and continued in a solemn tone,

“listen up. I’ll start off by saying something contradictory, but the smartest thing to do is to not fight. The most correct way to handle any situation is to avoid fighting right from the start. It’s really not something to be proud of if you find yourself in a situation where you absolutely have to draw your sword.”

Silence fell upon the area as if it was a graveyard at night.

No one had thought even in their wildest dreams that Rain of all people would say something like this.

Yuri even prattled, “you aren’t convincing anyone,” immediately in a small voice.

Rain ignored her remark and continued indifferently,

“but that’s not the case if you find yourself in an unlucky situation where you have to fight no matter what. I don’t want any of you to get this wrong, but in a nutshell, sword skills are basically just “the most efficient way to cut a person down.” That’s what it boils down to. Forget about looking good or anything else at that point. Once you’re facing an opponent with your sword drawn, it’s best to think that the match won’t be over until one of you defeats the other.”

He looked to Selphie as he spoke for some reason or another.

Under his gaze, Selphie furrowed her brows and grimaced.

I understand, but…… was likely what she was thinking.

Fear wasn’t easy to shake off once it took hold. Cutting someone down naturally also meant killing them. It was the first stumbling block for the weak-willed and the kind. As for whether they could overcome that block or not……was up to the individual.

It was only possible if they had some sort of strong motive or deep conviction……or if they simply waited until their hearts grew numb.

Gazaram, who was sitting down at the edges of Rain’s vision, nodded with his eyes closed. Then, he too looked to Selphie.

It looked like the old man had noticed as well.

“That aside. Except for Selphie, the rest of you have horrible stances. Well, Yuri’s looks somewhat similar to mine……”

First, Rain circled around Senoa and propped up her sword hand from behind.

Envious voices arose yet again from the crowd surrounding them.

“Eep! Wha, what are you doing?!”

“What do you mean, “eep?” I’m fixing your stance. Hold still.”

Hold your arms like this, your legs like this, he taught her one by one.

Senoa was surprisingly obedient, but she still asked him a question as if she had suddenly thought up of it on the spot. ……And in a very quiet voice.

“But, General. Don’t you hold your sword in a high stance yourself from time to time?”

Rain flatly replied,

“geniuses don’t make for good reference, so there’s no point in copying me. Someone at my level can take whatever stance they want to.”

Still……you’ve been watching me pretty well, huh? he added.

Senoa fell into silence for some reason. Her face grew redder by the moment.

Rain corrected his reticent aide’s stance so that it was proper and simply told Yuri, standing next to her, “your abilities are mediocre too, so don’t slack off and take a middle stance!” over his shoulder.

Just as he was about to head over to Shelfa, Selphie timidly said,

“um…… Is my stance not strange?”

“Not really. Besides, when I say ‘stance,’ I’m good with anything as long as you can move readily. I’ve no complaints against yours. After that, there’s only the problem with your feelings.”

“Erm……even if you say that…”

“Listen up.”

Rain placed a hand on Selphie’s shoulder and stared deep into her light green eyes. Then, he whispered into her ear,

“this is only for your ears. A long time ago, I threw up after killing someone too. So, it’s nothing for you to be ashamed of. Everyone’s the same. It’s rarer to find someone who’s okay after killing.”

“Y, you did, Lord Rain……?”

“Yeah.”

Rain nodded, told her to keep it a secret, and made sure to emphasize his point with his eyes as she looked back at him in complete surprise. He continued,

“but never forget that if you ever hesitate, it creates a possibility that someone else will die. Try remembering that if you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to kill or be killed.”

He gently pat Selphie’s dainty shoulder and moved away from her.

Selphie……lowered her head just a little.

“——Now then.”

Rain circled behind Shelfa and corrected her stance. She let out a small exclamation of surprise every time he touched her. He did not take a stern tone with her. Rather, it was the exact opposite.

Shelfa’s shoulders, slenderer than even Selphie’s, quivered just a little.

“Are you still cold?”

“N, no!”

She shook her head vigorously.

Her straight blonde hair, free of even the slightest curls, spread out behind her and gave off a pleasant fragrance.

Still, it wasn’t the greatest time for her to be so openly obvious about her feelings.

In a hurry, Rain said,

“like I said before, there’s no point in being so caught up in your stance. It’s fine as long as you can move readily and swing your sword from whatever stance you’re holding. And, please look at your opponent’s eyes, not the tip of their sword. If you focus too much on just their sword, you might accidentally slip up. There’s no telling what kind of surprise attacks are waiting in store for you……like short blades, fists, hidden weapons, kicks, or the like.

“But, if you’re looking at your opponent, you’ll definitely be able to see a hint of how they’re about to move next. Maybe I should call it their presence? Actually, it’s fastest to naturally be able to read their presences or feel out their Ekseed……in other words, their “Ki,” to anticipate their next move, but let’s save that for another time.”

“Y, yes!”

Rain smiled at Shelfa’s energetic answer.

He finished his explanation and returned to where he had originally been standing.

Then, he suddenly thrust a finger at Selphie’s direction.

“Alright. I’m gonna attack you now for demonstration. I want everyone else to carefully watch how she moves into a defensive position.”

“Eh, ehhh!?”

Selphie opened her eyes wide and pointed at herself. She continued,

“m, me?!”

“Well, you’re the best among the members here.”

 

“What now!?”

“Eh~, reeally?”

 

It was not Selphie who had exclaimed this time.

It was Senoa and Yuri.

Both of them had thought that they were the best among the four girls.

Yuri aside, Rain thought that Senoa was being much too brazen. Who did she think she was, saying, “what now!?” and all that?

“Shut it! So, you ready, Selphie?”

“P, please go easy on me……”

Selphie nodded stressfully as sweat drops formed on her.

Rain picked up a pebble by his feet and said,

“alright. I’m gonna come at you with great vigor as soon as this pebble hits the ground.”

“Eh?! I, I’m not ready yet…… And with great vigor too……”

“Like I care about that. Your enemies aren’t going to wait for you to get ready, no matter what your situation is!”

He threw up the pebble before Selphie could reply. Calmly, he waited for it to hit the ground.

Selphie, on the other hand, gulped.

Then, the very moment the pebble hit the ground.

Rain charged, leaving only an afterimage of his black hair before the spectators’ eyes.

He closed the gap of several meters between them in an instant and a breeze grazed the spectators’ cheeks a slight moment later.

They only knew that Rain had moved by the slight scrapping of his sheathe when he drew his sword and the small, but unique, sound of the magic sword a moment after because they could not see that moment he had moved in their vision.

 

Swish!

Bzzzzzzzzt

 

“……Eek!”

Selphie was troubled as she tried to raise her sword. She had somehow seen the magic sword come down above her head, but the shining blue blade had unfortunately already stopped just short of lopping off her head. There was only less than a millimeter’s worth of space between the magic sword and her skin.

If Rain hadn’t stopped his magic sword, her head would have plopped right to the ground.

“Hey.”

Rain peered into Selphie’s face from up close and scowled.

“I’ll look over the fact that you moved contrary to my expectations. But if you’re gonna defend yourself, you have to bring up your sword high enough that you can guard properly. Why the hell are you hesitating after raising your sword a few centimeters!?”

“B, but! You were too fast~. I didn’t dare take my eyes off of you because I thought I could get you this time, but I only saw your afterimage!”

“It looks like you have some trouble with your dynamic vision and reflexes.”

Rain re-sheathed his sword after saying something unreasonable as if it was nothing.

Then, he grabbed Selphie’s arm in a hurry as her knees were about to give out.

“Hey, quit doing the same thing every time. Your panties will be out for everyone to see with how short your skirt is. ……Oh, I see. It’s actually better that way, yeah?”

She hurried out of his grasp.

“Kyah!”

Selphie faltered but remained on her feet after stumbling a few steps forward.

“……Tch.”

“General!”

Yuri carped as soon as Rain clicked his tongue.

“Yeah~, I get it, I get it. I’ll take this seriously.”

Rain waved his hand and went back to where he had originally been standing. He continued,

“So, were you able to get anything out of that demo?”

All four girls shook their heads in unison.

“Hmph…… The reason that you think I’m fast isn’t just because of my speed, you know. It’s because I don’t make any unnecessary movements. Anyone will seem a little faster if they cut out any and all unnecessary movements from when they first step in to when they draw their sword.”

After he finished explaining, Rain attacked Selphie again, slowly, and let her stop his sword this time.

He looked over everyone, including those in the crowd around them, once he was done. Everyone had a complicated look on their face, as if they couldn’t decide whether they understood Rain’s lesson or not. Among them, Shelfa, Selphie, and among the spectators, Miran, had drawn their swords and were imitating Rain’s movements.

The three of them truly were diligent.

“Princess.”

“Yes?”

“It’s your turn this time. It’s okay if you just copy what I did, so please come and attack me.”

“Y, yes!”

Shelfa promptly looked nervous again as she readied her sword. ……Her movements were stiff.

“Oh, wait. Please take a few deep breaths first. Look me in the eyes, breathe in, and breathe out. ……Like that. ……One more time.”

Just as she was told, Shelfa kept her eyes locked on Rain and took multiple deep breaths. Eventually, the stiffness left her body.

She bobbed her head up and down when Rain asked her if she’d calmed down.

“Then please start. But come at me like I’m really your enemy, like you really mean to defeat me, and not just as practice. Concentrate, and if you will.”

 

It might have been because the spectators were watching over them silently. Shelfa nodded again in a relaxed manner as she kept her gaze fixated on Rain.

It looked like everyone else had temporarily vanished from her view as she stared directly at Rain, likely because of how obedient she was.

Rain braced himself a little for the first time today.

If Shelfa truly had some sort of talent hidden within her, then now was the time that it would be brought out into the light.

Talent wasn’t something you could grasp or touch, but a glimpse of it would surely surface if it was there. Even if she was a complete beginner.

Did that somehow pleasant pressure really originate from Shelfa’s talent as he’d expected, or——

Shelfa broke out into a run.

She wasn’t all that fast, but her form wasn’t half bad.

She ran fervently with her legs, as white as fresh snow, as her radiant blonde hair spread out behind her.

She ran up to Rain at once.

She swung her sword while making as little unnecessary movements as she could, just as Rain had said to. This was probably as fast as she could run. She didn’t hold back, likely because she didn’t think that her attack would ever reach Rain even in her wildest dreams.

Shelfa acknowledged Rain’s abilities more than anyone else in the world. Her trust in him bordered religious faith.

——That was probably why.

She moved with everything she had because she knew how strong her opponent was; because she had understood that there was no way that her sword would ever reach him. Her form was sharp too.

But……this……

It had likely been because he had been looking over her quizzically.

Shelfa’s sword as already over Rain’s head by the time he regained his senses.

Still, Rain didn’t panic. He always waited until the last moment possible before evading his opponents’ attacks anyway.

He moved just before the attack hit and off-handedly drew his magic sword and placed its blade against Shelfa’s neck as she fumbled after losing sight of her mark.

It was likely that, from Shelfa’s point of view, her opponent had suddenly vanished and blade had been pressed up against her vitals before she even realized it.

This had evidently been the case.

A refreshingly honest look of surprise ran across her beautiful looks before she smiled the next moment, impressed that the match has already been decided.

Then, she spoke with a hint of respect under her ragged breathing as she said,

“you truly are amazing, Rain! I thought that you had disappeared just now!”

Then, she tilted her head to the side in doubt and added,

“um…… Is something the matter? Did I do something wrong?”

“Oh, uh. No, it’s nothing,”

Rain glossed over in a hurry.

He smiled as if nothing had happened and continued,

“……you have some talent. You’ll be able to get to a pretty high level, depending on your training.”

“Is that so?!”

She laughed in relief. She continued,

“I’ll do my best to train hard under your care, Rain!”

“But, don’t rulers usually only learn just enough to keep up appearances? If it ever gets to the point where you haver to take up the sword personally, Princess, that means that the battle is as good as lost. Please keep your hard work to an extent that won’t ruin your hands.”

Even as he glibly replied, Rain thought to himself,

I’m certain now. There’s no mistaking it. As I’d thought, the thing I’m feeling from this child is——

 

“You would do well to remember.”

 

A voice suddenly reverberated in his head.

He recalled words that he had heard long ago, so long ago that they were already fading from the rustiest corners of his memories. He hadn’t ever thought of them until now.

Right…… If I remember correctly, I was stopped by a fortuneteller after that incident with that dear old man.

They were the words that the old fortuneteller had said to them back then.

Why am I remembering this now, after all this time, as if this was timed on purpose……?

The words, newly revived, echoed vividly in his mind as if he had returned to that day almost ten years ago to hear them again.

 

“You would do well to remember. In the future, you will be faced with a fated choice. You will face this without fail. One, is an easy, peaceful path. And the other——”

 

“General!”

This time, he heard a voice not from his memories but from reality.

Rain shook his head and stopped reminiscing. That’s already in the past. So what about it? Besides, I already had my answer even then. My answer still remains the same, regardless of fate or what have you.

He completely switched gears and looked to the direction the voice was calling from.

Leni was jogging closer, pushing his way through the crowd as he did.

“What’s up? Is it already time to eat?”

“Why would I call you over for every little meal, General?! This isn’t the time to be saying such carefree things! Just now, one of my men who I had posted on the road came in con, contact with me!”

“Calm down, idiot! What, did someone from Safir’s party attack us or something?”

Rain had said this as a joke, but Leni responded with a pallid face (he was already scared).

“That really just might be the case this time.”

Rain and Shelfa reflexively exchanged looks.

 

~~*~~*~~*~~

Part 2

 

His workload had unexpectedly increased at once.

He ended the training session early because they no longer had the time for it today and ordered for the castle gates to be closed for war preparations.

Ralphus hadn’t returned yet.

He was the kind of man who wouldn’t come back for a while once he went out on a long ride, so he probably wouldn’t be back for while yet. It was his first break in a long time, too.

Rain had sent out a messenger, but he didn’t know if the messenger would be able to find Ralphus, so he had no choice but to do the bulk of the work himself.

Rain gathered his comrades in the reception hall to hear Leni’s report for the time being. That being said, everyone present was one of Rain’s subordinates. Unfortunately, Nigel and Gwen had taken some of the soldiers out for untimely training exercises. Rain had sent them a messenger as well, but it would still take some time before they returned.

Rain, who had secured a place by Shelfa’s side as she sat at the head of a large rectangular table, asked,

“you said that a guard saw the enemy approaching closer. What were their numbers like?”

With an ashen face, Leni replied,

“a, a few hundred, according to what I heard.”

“——What? That few?! What was the enemy unit’s formation like? Who was their commander? I didn’t hear anything from my spies.”

Rain silently clicked his tongue as he asked question after question. Currently, his secret intelligence activities were focused under the assumptions that they would be at war again with Zarmine soon. He didn’t have the personnel to spare, so he couldn’t help but place intelligence on other countries or on Sunkwoll’s internal workings on the back burner.

And, while Rain wouldn’t go as far as to say that he was taking them lightly, he did not regard the Sunkwoll nobles as highly as he did Zarmine. He had planted a few spies around Safir, but that was about it.

To get straight to the point, Rain thought that “there wasn’t enough time to care about ancient relics from the past!” For Rain, Zarmine’s movements were much more important on the grand scale of things.

Still.

Something had to have happened internally for this to happen now. Maybe I should discuss this with Gunther and revise our policy……

“That’s…”

Leni replied again,

“we still don’t know who the commander is, but there was something strange about them.”

“Strange?”

“According to the reports we received from the fast horses, all of the soldiers were dressed up in excessively decorated clothing. On top of that, there was a pure white carriage surrounded by a number of upper-ranked knights. They appeared to be escorting the carriage as they marched.”

“A pure white carriage?”

Right as Rain snorted, exasperated—

“Impossible!”

Senoa stood up with such force that her seat fell over. Before anyone could ask her what was wrong, she pressed in against Leni, who was seated opposite to her. Then, face twitching, she screamed,

“whashunt there a family crest on that carriage?!”

“Whoa, you surprised me. Err, I think I got what you mean. There was a red, rose-like crest around the carriage doors, or something like that……. But, is something wrong, Miss Senoa? You’ve gotten awfully pale all of a sudden.”

Senoa ignored Leni’s questioning looks. Instead, she whispered, “oh no,” and staggered backward. After a few steps, she stumbled on thin air and fell to the floor.

She fell over backwards, as if she had been planning on rolling back, and slammed her head. She clutched her head in her hands as she writhed in pain on the floor.

“O, ow, that hurts!”

“……Hey. That gag wasn’t funny at all. At least wear a shorter skirt and provide us some fan service like Selphie does.”

“Ehh?”

“I, I don’t do it to provide fan service. Oh, but……if it’s you, Lord Rain…” said Selphie, who was standing next to Yuri who, in turn, was seated like it was only natural for some reason.

Her quiet voice was drowned out by Senoa’s angry roars.

“Why are you sprouting such ridiculous nonsense?! Why haven’t you asked me if I was all right before your said that vulgar garbage?!”

“……You okay?”

“That sounded forced!”

On the verge of tears (apparently it had hurt quite a lot), Senoa lost herself in indignation and stomped her feet not once, but twice. She continued,

“besides, shouldn’t you know who we’re dealing with after hearing about the crest of the crimson rose since you’re a high general of this kingdom?”

Senoa, who was alone in her budding excitement, looked to both Rain and Leni.

“Hey, Leni. Do you know?”

“Nope. I haven’t the foggiest idea.”

“Um, Rain?”

Shelfa interrupted hesitantly.

“Oh, do you know what she’s talking about, Princess?”

“I’ve never met the head of the family. But, I believe that the red rose is the family crest of the Hartoul’s, of the Five Great Houses.”

“It is exactly as you say,”

said Senoa in a loud voice. She continued,

“it’s Elena Felicia Hartoul! The arrogant and disagreeable girl who always speaks like she’s looking down on you and the acting head of house Hartoul!”

“What?”

Rain was surprised for the first time during their discussion.

Actually, it had been the first time he was surprised to this extent in a while.

Then, with a hint of awe in his voice, he looked to Senoa, who was looking smug and satisfied with his response, and said,

“to think that you of all people would call her an “arrogant girl”…… This Elena of ours must be quite the character. ……I’m honestly amazed!”

“Wha, what do you mean by that?!”

Senoa’s shrill voice echoed in the reception hall so loudly that people wanted to tell her that she didn’t need to shout so much.

Rain even covered his ears and said,

“quit wailing. I didn’t mean anything bad by it.”

“What do you mean you didn’t mean anything bad?!”

“Ugh, just shut up for a bit. How old is this Elena?”

“I believe she’s eighteen, but what of it?”

“……She’s young.”

Rain felt that a lot of the family heads among the pure-blooded Sunkwoll nobility, including Senoa, were much too young. When he had asked Ralphus about it before, Ralphus had said that, “naturally, there are many elders among the nobility, but family heads aren’t allowed to continue governing their families past their forties unless they have extenuating circumstances.”

Rain thought that it wasn’t a bad custom to leave things to the younger generations, but he still thought that eighteen was much too young. Perhaps they did this because, despite their long lifespans, many nobles died early of illness.

That being said, there were still enough of those sickly nobles around to be a headache.

“The actual head of the Hartoul house is someone else,”

said Senoa sullenly, her feelings hurt. She continued,

“it’s her father. He’s currently ill, however.”

“……Him too, huh. Well, whatever. If I’m gonna have to meet one of them, I’d rather meet this Elena rather than a dirty old man.”

“You only say that because you’ve never met Elena before, General.”

“I’ll look forward to it then. I welcome all beauties with open arms.”

 

“Whaat?”

 

Selphie and Shelfa looked startled as he looked up.

“……Why are you so surprised? Isn’t it obviously it’s nicer to see a beauty than an old man?”

Rain said to Shelfa before looking to Selphie, who had cast her gaze back down in a hurry.

Why is she surprised too?

“That aside!”

Senoa said as she banged on the table.

Incidentally, she was still standing.

“What will we do? I’m not certain we should allow someone like Elena into the castle just because she happens to be acquainted with Sir Ralphus.”

“What?”

Rain cut in and asked in a hurry. He continued,

“wait a minute. She’s acquainted with Ralphus? How close are they?”

“Didn’t you know?”

Senoa asked with a wry countenance. She continued,

“Elena is……well……in love with Sir Ralphus. Apparently, she once held a……marriage interview with him with his father’s full support.”

“Marriage!? Hey, wait a sec. So what did Ralphus say?”

This was the first time that Rain had heard of this.

Or, at the very least, Rain had never heard anything about it from the Ralphus.

How cold of him.

As Rain pouted, Senoa panicked a little and said,

“that’s not it. From what I’ve heard, this is all apparently Elena’s one-sided considerations.”

“Huh……”

Rain found it difficult to respond to the situation.

But then, Rain realized something unpleasant as he nodded ambiguously and brushed back his hair.

“Hey, wait. Doesn’t that mean that she’s not coming here to attack us?”

“That’s correct,”

Senoa nodded reluctantly. She continued,

“Elena is likely on her way to provided us with reinforcement that we never even asked for.”

 

——We don’t need you, so go home,

 

Rain thought to himself on reflex.

After all, with a few exceptions, all pure-blooded nobles were a bunch of flops.

 

~~*~~*~~*~~

 

The afternoon passed away leisurely and the sun was about to set soon.

The group that Leni’s men had seen were finally coming into view.

Rain hurried up the ramparts as soon as he heard that they were approaching and looked to the direction that Senoa pointed him too.

A few knights on horseback had cleared the forest and were coming into view.

None of them were wearing old armor. Instead, their armor was ornamented with so much gold and silver that they refracted the sunlight so brightly that it was a nuisance to observe.

Even the attendants following after the knights were wearing high quality armaments. Just how rich would the master have to be for her servants to be dressed so nicely? She might have tens of millions of taran at her disposal. Actually, she might even have billions.

The line still continued.

The line of mounted knights stretched on and on as they exited the forest.

 

And then, Rain saw it.

 

It looked just like what Leni had described.

The carriage was stylish and even its wheels had been painted white. Surrounding it were several knights maintaining a strict posture of vigilance.

A gaudy rose was painted on the doors on either side of the carriage. A similar red rose was painted on the white flags carried proudly by upper-ranked knights.

The Hartouls must have been some rather flashy people if that was their family crest. Rain really didn’t want to become acquainted with them.

“I just remembered, but,”

Rain groaned,

“now that I think about it, one of the dead high generals may or may not have had that same insignia and the surname ‘Hartoul’……”

“——You’re really quite something if you seriously forgot that,”

said Senoa, looking as exasperated as her words suggested. She continued,

“I haven’t met with him in person more than a few times. But——”

“Ugh, enough, I don’t need it.”

Rain interrupted her and waved her away with his hand. He continued,

“I don’t care about male nobles, especially if they’re already dead. He probably liked to pretend that I didn’t exist anyhow. I know it’s gonna sound bad, but I barely remember any of the high generals other than Ralphus. The only one I remember at the top of my head is at most Ganoa, because he was particularly annoying.”

“That’s problematic no matter how you go about it.”

Rain ignored her and sharply raised his hand.

“Archers, at ready!”

The archers hurried into ready position and nocked their arrows. They were poised in a manner that would allow them to attack as soon as their enemy came into range.

“General! Elena is——”

“It doesn’t matter who she is if she hasn’t sent a runner yet. We’ll attack if she comes closer without bothering to let us know she’s here. ——No, wait……. Hold until further orders!”

Rain delayed his order to attack.

One knight broke off from formation and advanced before the rest of the group as they approached the plaza in front of the gates.

He approached the castle gates and, without bothering to unsaddle, loudly proclaimed:

 

“I come bearing the words of Lady Elena of house Hartoul, one of the glorious Five Great Houses!”

 

Before Rain allowed or disallowed him to continue speaking, he kept shouting,

 

“Under the discretion of Lady Elena Felicia Hartoul, the acting head of the household, we of house Hartoul have declared ourselves an ally to Lard Ralphus and the royal family of Sunkwoll under his care! I request that you open the gates at once!”

 

After listing to the messenger, who had stuck out his chest so far that he would have fallen over backward if he had stuck it out just a little further, Rain stiffly turned his head to look at Senoa.

“So, hey. I’m technically the lord of this castle, right? I’m starting to doubt that a bit after hearing that stupid proclamation.”

“I understand what you’re trying to say.”

Senoa looked sympathetic, for once. She continued,

“your name didn’t come up in that proclamation even once, General. ……Needless to say, it was likely intentional.”

“Well they’ve sure got guts. Barging into someone’s house and ignoring the homeowner, are they? Their behavior will end up getting them burned.”

Then, Leni came in from the side and interrupted Rain’s grumblings,

“so, what shall we do? The messenger is waiting for us. As are our archers.”

Rain turned around and ordered the archers to “fire at will!”

Or, at least, that’s what he’d wanted to do, but he just barely stopped himself.

He held back because Elena was Ralphus’ acquaintance. He owed Ralphus a lot from King Douglas’ days. Even if she was unpleasant to deal with, he couldn’t refuse her outright if she was Ralphus’ acquaintance.

If she hadn’t been, he would have chased her away immediately.

“……Can’t be helped. From the looks of all this, she’s definitely a Sunkwoll noble and this probably isn’t a trap. Let them in.”

Senoa said,

“you say this now, but you’ll regret it later.”

“……I regret it already, trust me,”

Rain replied with a sour look.

 

 

Elena had arrived.

She made her overtly effective entrance as they watched over the soldiers noisily crowding the gates.

 

The lavish carriage rolled gracefully into the courtyard and its door opened with a click.

On its steps appeared a scarlet dress.

There was a bold cut on the chest that allowed over half of Elena’s ample bosom to spill over, and the rest of the dress was covered in frills and lace. Her beautifully set hair was decorated with extravagant golden ornaments.

Elena’s blonde hair, more luxurious Safir’s, was done up in ringlets and she had a white feathered fan opened in her right hand.

She covered her bright red lips with the fan that covered half of her face and sonorously said,

 

“My my! What a shabby-looking castle.”

 

Everyone present, including Rain, were flabbergasted.

This was their first time meeting a woman as flamboyant and unreserved as her.

Completely unconcerned about their reaction, Elena continued,

“but still, I shall tolerate this castle and its countryside reek if Lord Ralphus is here……. Oh~, where art thou, my beloved Lord?!”

She stretched out a willowy hand to the heavens in a theatrical fashion. The bejeweled gold and silver rings on all five of her fingers shined blindingly.

Then, she looked to the sky in bitter affliction, as if she was some heroine in a tragic love story.

If she was doing this naturally without minding the gazes of the crowd around her, Rain figured that she must either be some kind of big-shot or an abysmal idiot.

Elena then twirled out of her pose and surveyed the area before finally resting her eyes on Senoa.

“My oh my. If it isn’t Senoa? I see you’re still alive, m’dear,”

she said with a scornful laugh. She continued,

“the previous head of house Estherhart retired from his position as high general, did he not? I was almost certain that the house had collapsed and you’d gone into hiding in some hole or another afterward~”

Elena looked up as Senoa replied with her cheeks reddening somewhat.

“Mind your own business! To think that I’d have to suffer to see you again. How truly unfortunate I must be!”

Elena responded by fanning herself with her white feathered fan, despite that it was winter, as if she was saying, ‘I shan’t dirty my ears with your lowly words.’ She was quite the character.

Senoa’s mood worsened, naturally, and she glared at Elena while biting her lips.

Ignoring the stormy air between the two, Rain suddenly drew closer to Senoa and whispered,

“hey. What’s with this ‘girl who likes to up the tension during the day so that she can make it explode later’? You really don’t know anyone decent, do you?”

“I just happen to know her, it’s not like we have any other kind of relationship between us!”

Senoa emphasized how preposterous the notion was as she whispered back her rebuttal. Elena had overheard their entire exchange even though they’d been whispering because both of them had naturally loud voices to begin with.

This time, Elena cut in with a moody tone.

“The two of you over there! I can hear you! And you, the black one. Isn’t your attitude too big for a mere commoner?! Just who do you think I am?!”

Rain simply looked back at Elena with his eyebrows raised as she wailed about noisily.

He stiffly turned to Senoa yet again and asked,

“……the black one?”

“I believe that she’s probably referring to the color of your clothes, hair, and eyes, General,”

she replied in all seriousness.

“……Right. That’s what I’d figured too.”

Rain shook his head and took a few steps toward Elena, grumbling, “look here, you.”

If Elena had been a man, Rain would have punched her right off the bat, but he didn’t really care enough to because she wasn’t, though he did think to at least give her a piece of his mind.

However, two giant men had appeared from behind the carriage and blocked his path.

Both giants were in regular clothes instead of armor and were truly sweaty-looking men with bulging muscles. One was orthodoxically equipped with a sword and the other was armed with an iron rod that was as long as he was tall.

The one with the sword said,

“don’t get any closer to the Princess! You dirty commoner!”

——Tension ran through the air.

But it hadn’t come from Rain.

It had come from the castle soldiers, Rain’s regular comrades, and Shelfa, who gulped as they watched everything unfold.

Shelfa, in particular, had been looking at the two of them, troubled, up until just then but looked at them in disgust the moment she heard the man with the sword speak.

Or, you could also say that everyone gathered there had begun to hold clear animosity for Elena at that very moment.

 

As for Rain, Rain cast a sharp glance at the two men blocking his path and smiled complacently.

He opened his mouth to tease them a bit, but snapped his mouth shut instead.

He had done so because he had heard one of the spectators from Elena’s side say,

“is he seriously the High General? Hmm, I doubt that a mere commoner like him could possibly protect the royal family.”

Rain lost himself in fury at that very moment.

“……What did you say?”

He ignored the two men in front of him and looked straight at the man who had just spoken out of turn.

“You bastard, what did you just say?!”

 

 

Gazaram, who had been standing near Shelfa, felt like ten years of his life had been shaved off all at once upon seeing the smile be wiped off of Rain’s face.

Standing before him was the Rain whom he had first met a decade ago.

 

An endlessly cold and deathlessly still expression with clear black eyes. His eyes were as sharp as keenly honed blades as they pierced through all that came into their view.

There was, however, a few differences between the Rain in front of him and the Rain from the past.

Namely, the outrageous wave of power that seemed to exercise a death grip on even his very soul……the pressure he had felt from Rain then couldn’t even compare to what he was feeling now.

And Gazaram hadn’t been able to reach Rain’s feet even back then.

His surroundings filled with discomposure.

His allied knights looked at the goosebumps on their arms quizzically. Some even asked their neighbors, “hey, do you feel something tingling?”

Even the knights, who were ordinary people, had felt a fragment of that enormous power.

Gazaram gulped and thought to himself,

you’re lucky that that’s all you can perceive……. If you felt the full extent of this ‘power’ pressing down on your entire being, you wouldn’t be able to make idle talk like that.

Gazaram saw Leni and Selphie staggering out of the corner of his eye, but he couldn’t pay them any mind.

I should stop him, somehow.

Rain’s low voice continued,

“you! A rotten noble who’s only preyed upon the weak your entire life like you think you have any right to say that to me? I dare you to say it again —what can I not protect!?

He glared and stepped his tall figure closer to his target. He hadn’t been outwardly angry before, but his fury was clearly etched on his face now.

The man who had angered Rain opened his eyes so wide that they could have popped out and began trembling so hard that it was comical.

His teeth couldn’t stop clattering before whatever it was that he saw in his eyes. All he could do was tremble as the blood drained from his face.

The face he had been making as he taunted Rain had vanished without a trace. Soon afterward followed the sound of his incontinence.

He didn’t even seem to have realized it as Rain placed a hand on his magic sword.

Gazaram tried to hurry to Rain’s side. But, at that very moment, someone else rushed forth from beside him.

 

 

“Rain!”

Rain blinked, feeling like he was just woken up from a dream, as he looked at Shelfa, who was suddenly standing before him.

Her small hands reached out to grasp his.

“Rain……?”

Her deep and clear sapphire eyes looked up and into him.

He felt his anger evaporate as he felt her undeniable concern.

At the same time, he was relieved.

Even he had realized how close it’d been.

Just a little more, and I would’ve done something really stupid……

He saw the man he had been glaring at collapse to the ground with a dumb look on his face, but Rain didn’t care. Something really must’ve come over me for me to take their barking seriously.

He took a deep breath and completely returned to his usual mood.

“Wow. You really are benevolent, Princess. You would even protect people as worthless as them.”

Shelfa stared long and hard at Rain’s smile and playful words.

Then, after having made sure of something, she relaxed and smiled back.

“……No. I was worried about you, Rain, rather than him.”

“I see.”

Rain smiled wryly and winked to show that he was all right now. He knew that he had caused her needless worry.

“You coward!”

someone spat out from behind Shelfa.

When Rain looked back, he saw that the muscular man with the sword was looking at his dazed and trembling comrade (probably) with contempt.

“You’re a shame on us nobles for being overpowered by a mere commoner.”

“Exactly! What a disgrace!”

Elena, who had finally regained her senses, blushed red with humiliation as she absentmindedly waved around her white feathered fan.

Then, she turned her fiery eyes to Shelfa.

“I take it that you are Her Royal Highness Princess Shelfa, though this is the first time we’ve met. Allow me to present my formal greetings at a later time.”

Elena stepped down from the carriage and curtseyed.

Then, she glared sharply at Rain and said,

“Your Highness……you are a person who carries the precious blood of the Sunkwoll royal family. Thus, you ought to choose your retainers wisely. Please, cast that man aside. No matter how many soldiers he may have at his disposal, there is no reason for you to have to rely on a low-born high general when Lord Ralphus and I would accompany you.”

Exasperation, or perhaps even scorn, arose from Rain’s followers. All of them already knew how Shelfa would react to that proposal all too well.

Rain stopped Shelfa from speaking out with his eyes and took another step forward.

In turn, the two giants from earlier readily stepped in front of Elena.

“I thought I told you to stay put! How dare you approach the Princess without her permission!”

“Look here. It’s disrespectful to call someone else by the Princess’ title, you know? Whose presence do you think you stand in, you muscle-brained idiot!”

Rain had only talked back a little, but that was enough for the giants’ complexion to change. Their deeply chiseled, noble visages warped, and the one with the sword placed a hand on it. He snuck a glance at Elena, probably to request her permission.

Elena gave him a small nod and a chilly smile.

Even Rain understood her intent all too well. She was probably saying something along the lines of, ‘I give you my full permission to teach him a lesson.’

The man with the thick iron rod clicked his tongue. It was obvious that he felt like he had missed his chance to make himself look good. What a guy he was.

“Hmph. You seem to think that you can get away with beating up a high general like me as long as you have your master’s permission. But don’t worry. No one’s gonna blame you for anything. It’s not like you could possible touch me anyway.”

“It would do you much good to stop running your mouth like that,”

said Elena with a sly smile. She continued,

“these two are my personal guards. There’s the strongest whom I’ve found after combing through all of Sunkwoll, and I’ve no complaints with them. This is your last chance to apologize for your insolence~”

Rain answered her with a derisive smile.

Completely back to his normal self, he smiled leisurely as he beckoned his opponents with his index finger.

“It’s hilarious that you think these blockheads are the strongest. Why don’t I show you what true strength is and teach you how tough life can be sometimes? C’mon, hurry up and come at me, yeah? You wanna cut me down with that sword of yours, right? I’ll let you try. C’mon, have at you!”

Shelfa didn’t stop him this time.

It was undoubtedly because she was the first person to understand that, unlike before, Rain wasn’t being serious.

Though, Yuri butt in and said, “and he told us to always look for a way to avoid fighting if possible~” but no one paid her any heed.

The man with the sword fell easily to Rain’s provocation.

“Who do you think you are?!”

He covered the distance between himself and Rain in a breath with his face flushed red and swung his large sword down at the top of Rain’s shoulders. His speed was about average. ……For a normal person.

There was a bit of tension in his face, but a cruel, expectant smile alighted his lips.

However, his expression froze over in the very next moment.

Rain, who had been standing still, had lazily raised a hand and had stopped the attack with the flesh of his five fingers.

The man’s eyes opened in full circles as he saw Rain grabbing his sword.

Rain broke out into a smile.

“What’cha spacing out for? This is reality. Learn how weak you really are and go submerge yourself in an ocean of repentance, fool!”

And also, Rain continued with a grin,

“I hope you didn’t really think you could swing your sword at a high general like me and walk away free, did you? I mean, how’s this any different from treason?”

The man, who’d suddenly realize what kind of situation he was in, tried to pull back his sword.

He had felt the spite that Rain was radiating. However, his sword wouldn’t budge in the slightest no matter how hard his pushed or pulled at it. The difference in their respective strength was too great.

“Go and reflect on your actions!”

Rain rebuked as he let go of the sword and twisted his body to unleash a reverse roundhouse kick as his opponent staggered.

His upper body flexed like a whip and his let stretched out straight without the slightest bend. It collided precisely into the other man’s chest.

 

The result was even more spectacular than it would have been if he had been kicked by a horse.

 

The man with the sword collapsed and flew into the air like a folded piece of paper or something caught by a sudden gust of wind.

He glided through the air with terrifying momentum and crashed into the white carriage behind him, breaking its door into pieces, just as Rain had planned. The impact made the carriage tilt over until it finally toppled comically.

The horses that were attached to it whinnied in shock.

“Kyaaaah! How, how dare you?! My cus, custom-made carriage…!”

Elena dropped her white feathered fan and sandwiched her pallid cheeks with both hands.

Evidently, she couldn’t have cared less about the man with the sword who had passed out frothing at the mouth underneath the carriage.

“Can it! Besides, don’t just stroll on a battlefield in a carriage! I hated that thing as soon as I laid my eyes on it!”

 

Yeah, that’s right!

The people on Rain’s side cheered in unison. The nobles jeered back at them in response.

The most adamant among them was the man with the iron rod, who had watched his partner get his ass kicked with his mouth hanging open. After his moment of daze had ended, he picked up his iron rod and made long strides toward Rain with anger burning in his eyes.

“Hmm, are you next? You nobles really don’t learn, do you?”

Rain mocked.

Just then, a girl’s voice cheered, “get him, Lord Rain~!” from the gallery. When Rain looked to where it had come from, he saw that it had been Selphie’s.

She timidly waved at him when their eyes met, blushing red as if to show that she was willing to cheer him on despite how embarrassed she felt.

Rain quickly turned back around, though he was honestly a little surprised, and raised a hand, saying, “pft, leave it to me.”

Whooooo!!

A cheer erupted from his allies.

All of them were extremely welcoming of the fact that the nobles were about to experience a beating.

“You think you can just look away from me, you bastard?!”

The crazily angry man with the iron rod swung down his weapon in an artless, but powerful, strike.

One side of the gallery screamed, while the other sneered. It needn’t be said that the sneers had come from the nobles.

 

It had landed squarely on Rain’s shoulder.

Everyone had heard the dampened sound of the rod hitting flesh.

——However, that was all they heard.

Rain hadn’t even flinched as he remained standing, perfectly fine, and looked up with a cool look on his face.

The man with the iron rod, who had imaged his opponent rolling on the floor in agony with his shoulder shattered, made a sound of confusion as he face became limp.

Rain flashed a grin and showed off his prided, pearly white teeth.

“What was that just now? A fly out of season? And a starving, weakened fly too, geez. Gimme that.”

Rain snatched the iron rod from the man and put some strength in his hands.

The iron rod, which was at least fifteen centimeters thick in diameter, twisted in his hands like malleable toffee.

He easily twisted it to fold it into two almost even halves and tossed it aside.

Rain’s allies applauded in ovation.

“Urk……”

The man who used to have the iron rod looked down at his fallen weapon as the color drained from his face.

Sweat poured down his face in buckets.

Then, perhaps because he had lost his ability to make sound decisions after becoming cornered, he suddenly flew into a frenzy and attacked Rain bare-handedly.

“Wh, whoaaaaa!”

He released a punch with too much swing that didn’t even have a clear target. Rain evaded it easily and readily stepped into the man’s space and caught him by the arms and the belt of his pants.

“Alright! Go fly, number two!”

Rain punched the man high into the sky as he shouted. The man left behind only a scream as he shot up diagonally into the air like an arrow.

He climbed upward with a force that could have never been generated with human strength. It was like he was a leaf that had been easily blown in the air. The man flapped his arms and legs uselessly as the entire crowd looked over him in silence and then began his descent upon reaching the apex of his flight.

Just as Rain had predicted, he fell squarely on top of the toppled carriage.

The grand din of destruction sounded as if to ensure everyone that the carriage had been destroyed.

It had been smashed into so many pieces that it could no longer hold its original shape. No one would have imagined that the pile of firewood before them had once been a carriage.

The two giant men were passed out in the middle of the wreckage with their eyes rolling back.

“——Whew.”

Rain sighed as he brushed back his hair and nihilistically whispered to himself,

“they were so weak that I can’t even call this practice. This victory feels so empty……”

His comrades erupted in cheers upon hearing his words.

Some of them were even laughing so hard that they had to hold on to their stomachs as they pointed fingers at the nobles, who were standing as still as gravestones with ashen faces.

Besides, even Gazaram and Leni, who were technically supposed to have stopped them, were secretly cheering along with them. Senoa alone had a complicated look on her face, but the edges of her lips were still curved in a satisfied smile.

On the other hand, the nobles looked at Rain, dumbfounded. Even the knights, who had been jeering earlier, and completely quieted down.

They had heard the rumors about Rain being a Dragon Slayer and such, but they hadn’t believed in them until undeniable proof had been presented before their eyes.

However——

The girl called Elena was feeling a completely different feeling from fear and awe. To put it bluntly, she was much more ignorant of the workings of the world than even Shelfa and the inhuman display of strength she had witnessed had held no effect on her.

What did affect her, however, was the single fact that her carriage had been destroyed……

Elena stared absentmindedly at her demolished carriage until she steadily began to quiver bit by bit until she finally exploded in outrage.

“H, h……how, how dare you?! Just how much money do you think this carriage cost?! H, how dare you, you lowly commoner——”

“You!”

Rain pointed sternly at Elena and warned her in a low voice,

“shut it. I’m a guy who’s generally sweet on girls, but even I have my limits. Whine any more, and I’ll lift up your skirt and spank you.”

“Wha……”

As Elena was stunned into silence, Senoa, happier than she had ever sounded before, said,

“hahaha…… Let me warn you as a fellow noble. The General is someone who always keeps his word, no matter how vulgar it may be. I can tell you that from personal experience.”

 

“Ehhhhhhhh!?” (Yuri and Selphie’s voices)

 

“Ugh……”

Elena picked up her white feathered fan and retreated.

She subconsciously held down her skirt as she did.

Sullenly, Rain said,

“hey Senoa. Just when have I ever spanked you? If you keep spouting nonsense like that, you’ll——”

“S, such insolence!”

Elena interrupted with a hoarse screech. She continued,

“how……how dare you humiliate me!”

Her lips quivered as she pointed her white fingers at Rain in accusation.

“I won’t forgive you for this, even if you are an acquaintance of Lord Ralphus!”

Glaring daggers, she then turned to her household retainers. It was immediately obvious that she had lost all self-restraint.

Then, words that were exemplar of the textbook heinous noble spilled from her bright red lips.

“All of you, attack them at once!”

The nobles began to move at once upon receiving their mistress’ commands.

Shelfa was at a loss as to whether she should stop them or not while Leni, Gazaram, and Senoa were about to run to Rain’s side before he even gave the order.

——Just then, however.

 

“Settle down, all of you!”

 

A frigid shout returned everything back to zero.

Ralphus had returned.

Both sides stopped moving just as they were about to clash with one another and looked up at him as he approached on horseback.

“What is going on and why is everyone so riled up?”

Ralphus promptly returned to his usual quiet tone and surveyed the soldiers.

His eyes met with Elena’s and he furrowed his brows.

“……Elena. Why are you here?”

“L, Lord Ralphus……”

Rain was immediately taken aback by the sound of her voice.

Did she really make that sickly-sweet noise just now?

What happened to that stuck-up coldness from before!?

However, Elena now cared less about Rain than she would a weed off the side of the road and ran up to Ralphus after he dismounted and latched onto his arm.

“Oh, Lord Ralphus…… I’m so glad to finally see you again! I find myself at a loss for the words to describe this joy that threatens to burst through my heart……”

The spirit of battle that once filled the area had evaporated without a trace.

The nobles remained comparatively composed (evidently, they were used to this), but the soldiers on Rain’s side gawked at the scene with their mouths hanging open.

Everyone stared absentmindedly and stupidly at Elena and Ralphus because the fact that they were engaged had not spread very far.

Looking unusually troubled, Ralphus opened his mouth to say something to Rain as Elena clung on and rubbed herself against him.

However, Rain beat him to the punch.

“Hey, so what’s the deal between you two? I mean, I heard the gist of things, but now I’m lost again.”

“——No, there isn’t really anything going on between…”

Elena thrust out her voluptuous breasts and spoke over Ralphus, declaring,

“Lord Ralphus and I have gone all the way to vow our fates to one another!”

Elena’s shocking statement set off a ripple of commotion around her.

Rain stared long and hard at them with his black eyes.

I feel like……I just heard something incredulous just now.

“……All the way!? You were okay with someone like her?!”

Before Ralphus could answer, Rain whispered to himself,

“no, well, I’m not one to judge others for their preferences…… But, isn’t it pretty bad to choose a partner based only on their figure? I mean, it’s not like we’re talking about a brothel here, so…”

“That’s not it, Rain.”

Ralphus interjected, unable to put up with it any longer. He continued,

“you’ve got it all wrong. Elena is referring to marriage.”

“Indeed! I, Elena, have come to your assistance, Lord Ralphus, for the sake of our shared futures! Please leave everything to me.”

This woman really only has eyes for Ralphus, thought Rain. He was sure that she had undoubtedly marched all the way here not to aid Shelfa, but for the sake of her beloved Ralphus.

In other words, she wasn’t thinking about anything.

Ralphus had apparently reached the same conclusion.

He sighed as he peeled Elena off of him and looked her in the eyes.

“Elena, I’ve already given you my answer regarding marriage. Besides, this upcoming war isn’t a game. All of us here are putting our lives at stake.”

I have zero intention of putting my life at stake over the likes of Safir.

v3_c3.jpg

Only Shelfa had heard Rain’s retort.

Elena didn’t look particularly depressed as everyone observed her and instead looked up at Ralphus with her sparkling blue eyes.

“My! I am putting my life at stake as well, naturally. I am always prepared to put down this life of mine for the sake of my beloved. I, Elena, will pine after you forever, Lord Ralphus~”

She ecstatically buried her face in Ralphus’ chest.

 

……Well, at least there’s no doubting that she likes him, Rain thought.

 

Elena’s passionate attack appeared to be the real deal even in Rain’s skeptical eyes.

However, he also thought that her very ardor would make her difficult to deal with.

Rain sighed and shook his head.

He turned to his friend and unintentionally grumbled,

“……hey, you really brought in one fine piece of work.”

“There’s not much I can do even if you say that to me,”

Ralphus answered, truly troubled.


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