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.
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.”
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,
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.”
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, 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.”
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.”
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.
When he lightheartedly called out to them as they grew closer, he was met with an:
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——”
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……?
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.”
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.
“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.”
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?”
“Hmm. Yeah, sure. C’mon along.”
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.
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
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?”
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
“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…”
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……?”
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.
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?”
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.”
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.”
Selphie opened her eyes wide and pointed at herself. She continued,
“Well, you’re the best among the members here.”
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.
Selphie was troubled as she 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.
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.
Selphie faltered but remained on her feet after stumbling a few steps forward.
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.
“It’s your turn this time. It’s okay if you just copy what I did, so please come and attack me.”
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.
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——”
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.