Looking up reveals a wide blue sky. Back in his world, the entire sky wasn't visible. Multistoried buildings here and there would always block the view. Reiji's party is greeted today by such a piercing blue sky upon reaching the Aster-Nelfila border. Aster's Yuusha, Reiji, leads his party towards the Nelfila Empire's border fortress.
This is several days after Suimei's attempt to persuade Liliana.
Reiji, finished with being inspected, looks at the road ahead. Mizuki, having finished her inspection, approaches him at a quick pace. She smiles as she says, "Reiji-kun, it looks like we've finally reached the Nelfila Empire."
Reiji's expression relaxes at her smile. "Yeah, we really did."
His party departed from Klant City atop of horses from Hadrius's domain. The road they travel upon is the highway connecting Aster, Nelfila, and the Sardius Alliance. The scenery they passed up until the border was green. Upon crossing it, the land became less green and took on the appearance of having been eroded by a river. Vegetation will increase again as they approach the Imperial Capital, but they won't see any vast forests.
Mizuki makes an earnest comment about the scenery. "I've thought of this before, but doesn't this place look like the Grand Canyon?"
Does this place remind you of the views shown in pictures and videos? However, just as how her statement implies, the Grand Canyon was carved out through the erosion of a river. This place is the same. The large valley before them was also carved out by the river flowing at its narrow bottom.
Mizuki says, "What's your opinion about this place, Reiji-kun?"
"Eh? Yeah, I don't get the feeling that it's impossible to cross. Although, that's about it."
"Seriously? Ahh, and it's not like we can't get through without crossing it again either."
"Is it that hard?"
"That's because my shoe broke the last time we were here…"
"Oh yeah, that did happen, didn't it?"
Mizuki's head droops crestfallen with a fed-up expression. She looks at her feet and says, "My feet are going to get sore again."
"Can't you do anything with magic?"
Reiji's optimism doesn't just fail to cheer up Mizuki, it changes her expression into one that says, "Boo."
Most of the road ahead is well maintained, but one section of the path requires them to travel on foot. That part isn't just rough, it's full of exposed rocks.
Naturally, Mizuki is unaccustomed to walking on such terrain. Last time they were there, she ended up ruining the sneakers she brought from their world. To his surprise, she was very attached to them and regretted losing them. The new shoes she received weren't very comfortable and the disappointment she felt upon wearing them was clear on her face.
"Hey, Reiji-kun, don't you think using magic to relieve every ache would be annoying?"
"I guess so. You'd have to reapply the spell each time it wears off."
"Yeah, that's right. I'd love to trade places with you. My feet probably wouldn't hurt anymore if I did."
"Well… I do have the divine protection granted to the summoned hero."
Mizuki makes a charming, earth-shattering, smile that tugs at Reiji's heart. "Hey, hey, how about sharing some of that with me? Come on? Isn't it fine?"
Mizuki cutely puffs out her cheeks as she says, "You're so stingy, stingy, stingy!"
Reiji feels bad for her. If he could share his divine protection with her, he would. What's impossible is impossible. Reiji then directs his gaze towards the canyon. Having returned to pass through a second time moves his emotions. He says, "Passing through here again feels strange…"
As nostalgia begins to overtake him, a voice says, "—It really does. Back then, Reiji-sama went and jumped over it."
"Eh!? Ah, ahahaha…" Reiji jumps at the new voice and turns around. Titania, having finished being inspected, greets him with a smile. He can only respond by forcing a smile. "Tia, wasn't I already forgiven for that?"
"Eeh, can I not complain about it every once in a while?"
Mizuki says, "Tia's right. I think we should be allowed to keep bringing that up."
Reiji makes a pained expression upon having his friends turn on him. "Ah, you too, Mizuki…"
Mizuki and Titiana smile in return while saying, "Right?"
Titania's retainer, the female knight Luka, arrives from the fortress during the middle of that exchange. She holds a familiar parcel in her hands. She walks up to Titania and says, "Your Highness, you forget this."
Titania, who had been smiling with Mizuki, freezes upon seeing Luka. "Ara, Luka? What do you— mean!?"
Was it that surprising? People forget things all the time.
Mizuki tilts her head. "What happened?"
"No- no, no, no, no, no, nothing at all, Mizuki!"
Reiji looks past the two girls at the long, cylindrical package Luka holds. The contents make metallic clinks whenever they brush against each other. He says, "Isn't that… a sword? Is it yours, Tia?"
"Haa—!? Reiji-sama, how did you discern as such!?"
"So you had something like a sword. That's a little surprising."
"That's, umm, well…. You see… This…"
Mizuki says, "Ahh!? Hey, hey! Is it maybe the royal family's treasured sword? You know, the one that's unfit for combat, but is instead carried around by royalty whenever they travel as a symbol of their authority?"
Titania says, "Aah!? Yes! That's exactly it, Mizuki! It's just as you said!"
Reiji says, "…Tia, you were getting really frantic and desperate just now…"
Titania denies the claim with so much force that sweat rolls down her forehead. "That was entirely just your imagination, Reiji-sama." She's so worked up that she's unable to calm down. The sight is unprecedented for everyone.
Mizuki glances upward towards the sky as she remembers something. "Sword… That's right, Reiji-kun's has gotten pretty ragged."
Reiji frowns as he unsheaths the sword at his waist. "Yeah, you're right…" Nicks and dents run along the blade. They're signs of his various battles against the mazoku and Rajas. Wear and tear first accumulated due to his inexperience in swordsmanship. The clash against Rajas's fist, however, is what chipped the orichalcum blade.
Titania clears her throat. "I believe we shall be able to find a skilled blacksmith within the Imperial Capital. If necessary, we could also simply request a new one. Personally, if possible, I would prefer waiting until we reach the Sardius Alliance…"
Reiji notices Titania's reluctant and resigned expression and says, "Tia, are the blacksmiths of the Alliance incredible?"
"Yes, I believe I have mentioned this before, but the Sardius Alliance is a state composed of various nations. When the Alliance first united, each member of the coalition nominated a swordsman to battle for their nation's right for leadership."
"Ah! And as a result, swordsmanship became popular within the Alliance!"
"Correct, techniques, sword-smithing, and mighty swordsmen receive much more favorable treatment there than in other countries."
Reiji lifts his orichalcum blade and gazes towards the horizon. "A country of swords… With all those master swordmen gathered, I'd like to train my swordsmanship there."
Reiji follows with a "Just kidding," in an attempt to mask his true feelings, but Titania says, "Three of the Seven Swordsmen currently reside within the Alliance. You might have the opportunity to meet one."
"I've heard the Seven Swordsmen mentioned quite a lot, but are they strong?"
"The title of the Seven Swordsmen is granted to the strongest swordmasters within the northern continent. Each one carries the strength of 1,000 soldiers."
Mizuki's chuuni heart is stirred by Titiania's words. "One thousand! That's amazing! They're like a real life Lu Bu!"
Titania looks towards the Imperial Capital. "The Nelfila Empire also has one such swordsman. His exploits in night warfare and ambushes have made him the Empire's most emanate swordmaster and earned him the title of The Lonely Swordsman. His overwhelming might is so terrifying that the nations adjacent to the Empire's southern border utilize his name in nursey songs to quell unruly children."
"You mean songs where children are warned that he will appear if they don't behave? That's incredible."
Mizuki says, "Hey, Tia, Tia! How do those songs go?"
Titania says, "Ummm… Well, 'If you go out, beware the ogre commander known as the Lonely Swordsman. Good children tuck in early at night. The Lonely Swordsman will hear and visit you if you stay awake. It's a visit that costs you your life.'"
Mizuki says, "Wow…"
Titania continues. "'If you go out, the Lonely Swordsman will dismember you with his blade. Good children are always gentle and sincere. Malicious and unruly children should beware the Lonely Swordsman's shadow for he'll come and kill you.'"
Mizuki frowns as she says, "What a splendid song…"
The part going, "come and kill you" may have been too strong for her. Then again, leaving it out might not be enough to control the children?
While Reiji has such thoughts, Titania's expression becomes smug. "I have talked to various swordsman. Therefore, I do not believe Reiji-sama needs to train under anyone."
"Your muscles have a good disposition towards swordsmanship, Reiji-sama. Furthermore, you developed a sturdy foundation while we were still in the castle. Instead of trying to learn the techniques of others, I believe you should continue as you are and develop your own style of swordsmanship."
"You're really knowledgeable about this, Tia."
"Eh? Ah, th- this is just a feeling! You are the Yuusha after all, Reiji-sama!"
Mizuki says, "…Reiji-kun is right. You've been acting strange today, Tia."
Titania says, "Like I said, it's just your imagination!"
Reiji sheaths his sword and says, "…Well, whether I want training or not, we won't be going to the Sardius Alliance anytime soon, anyway." He then directs a firm expression towards Mizuki and Titania and says, "We need to go to the Empire and check that princess's movements. What's your opinion on this, Tia?"
Titania's nostrils flare in a rare display of displeasure as she says, "I am uncertain? I have no idea as to what man could be thinking." Her distain for Hadrias could not be any lower. She became as furious as a wild fire back at Klant City upon hearing they had to go to the Empire. Yet, upon learning about Gregory's circumstances, she had no choice but to resign herself to the trip despite her protests.
Titania clenches her fists at the anticipation of making Hadrias regret his actions. As her fighting spirit flares up, she says, "That man… I'll definitely make him grit his teeth the next time I see him."
Reiji says, "Wow, you're burning up, Tia."
"Of course I am!"
Reiji says, "Tia, I get the feeling you've had this disposition towards that guy since before we met. Did something happen between you and Duke Hadrias?"
Titania averts her gaze to the side and away from Reiji's eyes as she says, "Huh? Well, a lot happened, yes."
Luka, standing behind Titania, speaks in response to the ambiguous reply. "That's because her Highness once faced off against Duke Hadrias—"
Reiji is deeply interested by the conversation. He says, "Hmm? A match? What do you mean Tia faced off against Duke Hadrias?"
Mizuki says, "Ehh, what kind of match?"
Titania ignores the question and instead shouts at her knight. "Luka!! You are being extremely thoughtless today!"
At that same time, Gregory and Loffry, having finished with their examinations, rejoin the group with their horses. While Mizuki waves to them, Titania continues to scold Luka who looks like she wants to cry.
Reiji gives the girls a warm look before turning away towards the Imperial Capital. Despite the excellent weather, Hadrias's mission weighs heavy on his mind. Just what is going to happen next?
T/N: I'm not really sure why this chapter is titled Liliana when she has nothing to do with it. Maybe it's meant to be taken as the title for the second half of this arc? But, about this chapter. Does anyone else want to hear the Tomboy Princess sing now? I know I do.
 Et tu, Mizuki
 Use brings about wear, and tear, and rust, and that's a real waste. That Tomboy Princess is such a cheapskate.
 A famous Chinese general/war lord during the three kingdom's period. Considered by many to have been invincible.
<<55. Epilouge, Liliana, Part One