The four people……two men and two women, who stepped into the corpse-filled audience hall that reeked oaf blood, all had the same spectacularly silver hair that Leygur did.
Silver hair isn’t all that rare on this continent, of course. But——what’s with this chill that I can’t help but feel? Even I, who can’t speak much for my battle abilities, can feel goosebumps on my skin when I look at them for some reason. I feel some sort of gigantic invisible pressure coming off of them, or something like that.
Then, Leygur smiled faintly as though to confirm Luminas’ internal suspicions.
“Your suspicions are correct, Luminas. They are all daemons. I’ll have them be in charge of the units that the generals who have fallen in battle today have left behind.”
An inexplicable disturbance ran through the few humans who were still there.
It was only Ganoa who replied immediately.
“Is that so? I am overjoyed that our allies have increased in number.”
He lowered his head once he had readily uttered his nonsense.
Leygur simply nodded.
Still……what is this oddness I feel from these four? All four of them don’t seem to be normal. Well, even if I take the fact that they’re daemons into account, I’ve still never seen their clothing before. The women stand out quite a bit, especially the one with the seductive costume that’s sticking tightly to her body.
“You still look dubious, Luminas,”
Leygur said absentmindedly.
“No……not at all.”
“I don’t mind…… It’s Noelle’s clothing, isn’t it? It can’t be helped that you’re curious. Clothing as revealing as hers is quite rare in this world, after all. The thing Noelle is wearing can be most accurately described as a leotard……. Though I suppose the name means little here.”
Luminas had no idea what Leygur was talking about, but the woman——or rather, girl called Noelle scowled a little.
She looked to be about sixteen or seventeen years old.
Her straight silver hair was cut just above her seductively exposed shoulders, and there was a belligerent glint in her pitch-black eyes.
She was sharply beautiful and didn’t seem to be very reserved. She looked like a gallant girl warrior. And right now, the girl had shaken away the bangs that threatened to cover over her eyes and glared at Leygur as if to protest that his meddling had been unnecessary.
Only Noelle and a giant man boldly remained upright as the other two bowed deeply to Leygur as though he was their master.
“It’s been a long time, Lord Leygur……several dozen years, I believe? Nothing makes me happier than the fact that you’ve reached out to me,”
The man dressed like a noble bowed saluted.
The bewitching woman next to him also lowered her head tellingly.
Leygur responded to them a smile, for once, and suddenly called out,
“——Why don’t you come out already? You don’t really think that I didn’t notice you were there, now did you?”
Then, someone burst out in boundlessly cheerful laughter in response.
The laughter was so loud and light-hearted that it almost made Luminas, who was standing around in gloom, grow exhausted before he could stop himself.
“Hey. It looks like I underestimated you a little, I guess? To think that you’d notice I was here even after I erased my presence.”
A tall man walked into view from far behind the throne.
His face was effeminate and handsome……but the frivolous way he had laughed made him seem flippant. In any case, it looked like he was rather disliked. Three of the four individuals who had entered the room earlier had put themselves on guard.
“You bastard! Why are you here?!”
“I won’t allow you to be rude to Lord Leygur!”
“You’re not planning on taking all of us alone, are you?!”
The flippant man readily ignored all of the words that had come flying at him and stared fixedly at Noelle, who alone out of the four hadn’t reacted very strongly.
Eventually, he was startled.
“Wha, what’s this?! I’d thought that the resemblance was purely coincidental, but that’s not the case at all now that I’ve seen you up close! You look so much like her it’s uncanny!”
“What nonsense are you going on about——”
Noelle said before she snorted like she had been ridiculed mid-sentence.
“I get it now. You’re referring to her,”
she said irritably when the flippant man nodded. She continued,
“well, you’ve got the wrong person. We may be related by blood, but that’s all there is to it.”
It looked like he wasn’t listening at all.
“Hmmm……to think that she had blood relations.”
“……We were estranged from each other and he hated each other. Blood doesn’t matter anymore. And besides, she’s not even here anymore either.”
“I see, it relieves me a little to hear you say that~. Indeed. It would hurt if her cute little daughter were to hate me, you see.”
“Her daughter? But more importantly, what are you talking about?”
Contempt began to color her black eyes. She continued,
“you’ll regret it if you underestimate me, you clown. Besides, who even are you?”
“Well, well……my apologies for forgetting to name myself, o beautiful young lady.”
The flippant man’s white teeth were visible as he broke out into a smile. He continued,
“my name is Vinter Fon Blumehart! The man who is known as the Prince of the Spirit World!!”
The flippant man bowed deeply to Noelle as he made his introduction, which was so overblown it seemed like a joke.
——It was one thing for Luminas to have never heard his loudly proclaimed name before, but it looked like Noelle, the daemon girl, hadn’t heard of it either. But the other three daemons who had come with her looked like they had. They sighed softly, or shook their heads……each of their reactions were different, but they all seemed to know who he was.
Pointedly, Leygur said,
“a false title. I have no obligation to correct you, but you really are a man who refuses to calm down. That hasn’t changed even after you became one of the Top Four.”
Noelle’s expression changed visible once she heard this.
Then, she dubiously whispered,
“——you!? It’s my first time seeing you in person……but you’re Vinter, a survivor of the Top Four?”
“Indeed. Though we’re the Top Three now. ——In any case! I’d like to ask you to forget about the little quarrel I had with her. It was an outcome that I couldn’t avoid~”
“I told you earlier. I don’t care about what happened to her. I would have killed her myself eventually even if you hadn’t. That woman was hostile toward me. It was kill or be killed!”
Noelle spat out and swiftly turned away.
She was being obviously unfriendly, but the flippant daemon reacted with a childish glee.
“Wow, so that’s how it is! You’re quite broad-minded, unlike her~. Your generosity is like the ocean itself! How about it? Won’t you spend a budding, no, a burning night of passion with me?”
“Leave it at that, Vinter,”
Leygur cut in frigidly when Vinter suddenly began flirting.
When Vinter stopped moving, Noelle took the opportunity to quickly retreat toward the wall——which, of all things, put her right beside Luminas. A chill ran down his back. He felt as though he would have rather had a dozen ancient dragons beside him instead. He redoubled his concentration on the king and his conversations so that he wouldn’t have to look at her.
Just then, Vinter walked up to Leygur, who was seated on the throne, without a care in the world.
The king brushed up the silver hair that covered one of his eyes and said,
“……just what did you even come here for? I doubt that you’d come all this way just to pick up some girls.”
“Well~, I don’t mind it one bit if that’s what you want to call it,”
Vinter replied with an obstinate smile. He continued,
“but, well, I suppose I’ll get a little serious now.”
He pursed his lips ever so slightly at his declaration.
His frivolous smiled had yet to disappear completely, however.
“This is what I’m here to say. Despite how I may seem, that person entrusted me with their affairs. I’m here to bring you wanderers——no, you Outsiders, a word of warning as one who has been entrusted to watch over the spirit world in their absence.”
Leygur did not even move an eyebrow.
All of the humans who were listening from nearby looked puzzled.
Naturally, Luminas was no exception.
It was one thing to be troubled because he had absolutely no idea where the conversation was going……but what did he mean by ‘spirit world’ or ‘Outsiders’?
Then, Noelle, who was still next to him, began chuckling.
Luminas was unable to ignore her and reluctantly looked over, only to be met squarely with her gaze.
“It looks like you humans no nothing about us daemons at all, do you?”
Luminas……could not answer.
She was absolutely correct.
Humanity still knew next to nothing about the daemons who had once tormented them, even if it had been long ago.
——They did not even know where the daemons had disappeared off to once the fighting had subsided.
The daemons’ conversation in the audience chamber continued still.
Only, neither Leygur nor Vinter showed any signs of flying into a rage. From the humans’ point of view, it looked like they were enjoying some everyday small talk.
In a composed tone, Leygur said,
“a warning, you say? And you’re delivering it personally? ——To me, of all people?”
His attitude was so cold that most would have at least flinched by now, but the daemon named Vinter did not so much as twitch.
Luminas thought that Vinter was the type to let snide comments go in one ear and out the other. ……At least, that was how it felt.
In any event, Vinter replied cheerfully without changing his tone at all.
“Exactly! The order to retreat from here was given ages ago. You guys are basically breaking the rules here~. So I’d really like you to come back.”
“I don’t listen to anyone else’s orders, and I don’t remember ever approving of your system, which is only convenient for you guys, where four leaders sit atop of everyone else. And besides, I’m sure I’ve told you this before.”
“You really like to run your mouth, despite everything……. Well, whatever. Anyway, it’s a three-leader system now. And if I remember correctly, you were warned like this once before too. You paid the price for failing to listen, didn’t you?”
Vinter’s voice lowered ever so slightly.
The smile hadn’t vanished from his face, but there was still a slight change in his expression.
Leygur, however, still didn’t look perturbed at all, as usual. Instead, his eyes narrowed into a sneer as he responded,
“It was the messenger you lot sent over who paid the price, was it not? As you can see, I’m still alive.”
“……Anyone who wasn’t already in the know would think that you’d emerged completely victorious against them. I’m pretty sure that the truth was that it was pretty close to a draw……. Well, that’s fine too.”
Vinter refused to do away with his ridiculously friendly smile all the way to the very end. He continued,
“even I have to acknowledge your abilities for being able to defeat a warrior of that caliber. But it might have been a bit rash to think that you’d killed your opponent~, you know.”
A penetratingly cold smile lit up on Leygur’s face, though he probably didn’t mean to rival Vinter’s.
“If you thought I’d start trembling in fear after hearing that, then you’re unfortunately wrong. I’m not the person I was in the past. I’ve become stronger thanks to you lot.”
“Oho~. Is that a threat——that you would even defeat me depending on the circumstances?”
“It is indeed. I suggest you don’t delude yourself into thinking that the Demon Skill you hold is all-powerful.”
“Demon Skill is such an exaggerated way of calling it. Just call it an “ability,” you know, it’s just an “ability”.”
Vinter waved his hand in the air. He continued,
“well, I’m sure I won’t be able to avoid fighting you if absolutely necessary! The only reason that I’m not now is because many of our comrades in the spirit world have sided with you. So make sure you don’t misunderstand, alright~?”
“……You wish to avoid causing war to break out in the spirit world since you were entrusted with its affairs——is that how it is?”
“Indeed. Well, I’m sure things would’ve ended up differently if one of my comrades heard you speaking just now, but I still consider myself to be a part of the moderate faction all things despite, you see. I’ll excuse myself for today with just a word of warning. You’re free to ignore it as you please!”
——He gave Leygur a pompous bow and blew a kiss toward Noelle.
Then, the exceptionally cheery daemon quickly turned on his heels.
Just as he did, the other three new daemons apart from Noelle tried to follow after him in pursuit.
It was Leygur himself who stopped them.
“Leave him! Just let him go. ……The castle would be reduced to a mountain of rubble if we fought here.”
The eccentric daemon turned around again when he had reached the door, as if he hadn’t heard any of the others’ exchange.
“Oh, yes, there’s something I forgot to say. ……My Lord, who stands above us, is trying to resurrect even now, you see. Though, I suppose you wouldn’t particularly care.”
“You didn’t need to make that last threat if you already knew. Now hurry up and leave.”
The other daemons had looked to each other for a moment, but Leygur remained thoroughly unimpressed.
He simply waved a hand languidly at Vinter, as though to tell him to get lost already.
Vinter then left the audience chamber for real this time while laughing delightedly from the bottom of his heart upon finding something, though no one knew what, to his amusement.
The humans remaining in the hall stayed ramrod-still even after he had departed.
The situation had progressed so suddenly that even Luminas, a self-proclaimed strategist, was left in confusion. The daemons, however, could not appear to have cared any less about their plight.
The daemon who was dressed like a noble spoke to Leygur without sparing Luminas or the other humans a second glance.
“He won’t become a seed of disaster one day, will he, Lord Leygur?”
“Fret not, Dewy. My subordinates have already begun extending their influence in the spirit world, just as he himself acknowledged.”
There was no discomposure in Leygur’s voice. He continued,
“it’d be another case entirely if he intended to drag the entire spirit world into the fires of war, but he’ll likely elect to observe the situation carefully for now. If he were to actually make a move, it’ll only be after he’s confirmed our war potential. ……He probably doesn’t think it’s time for that as of yet.”
Then, a mature woman in a dress stepped up and said,
“then, there’ll be no change in our current policy, will there, Lord Leygur?”
“There will not. We’ll reorganize the army once we announce the change in personnel. ……I’ll entrust you with command over my troops.”
The male and female daemons who had spoken bowed deeply, and the silent male daemon nodded curtly.
Only Noelle protested among them.
“Wait, Leygur. I still haven’t completely agreed to becoming your subordinate. I’ll be troubled if you got the wrong idea!”
The relaxed mood in the hall tensed up again at her haughty words, which seemed to cut down on him from up high.
Leygur stopped the other three, whom all looked to Noelle together, by raising his hand.
“Wait. I’ll speak first.”
Leygur stopped the other three from speaking out and looked directly at Noelle.
Luminas, who was standing next to her, starting breaking out in buckets of sweat from the back of his neck because of this.
Noelle ignored Leygur’s frigid gaze and placed a hand on her slender waist.
“Right, so I’m here right now because I accepted your invitation. I thought that I’d be fine with accepting you as the leader of our alliance for convenience’s sake if it was to make this world ours. But you haven’t told me about something important yet, have you?”
“……Meaning? Unfortunately, I’m not that good at reading between the lines. Why don’t you hurry up and make your point?”
“Then let me say this straight. I am talking about this human called Rain!”
she said dauntlessly.
She pointed to the giant daemon standing nearby and continued,
“I heard about it from Philander over there just earlier. You were defeated by him, weren’t you? Do you really think that I’d accept someone who was defeated by a mere human as the leader of this alliance?!”
“I wasn’t exactly trying to hide it……but, I see. It’s certainly true that I withdrew from a duel with him. But I did so willingly. A defeat is a defeat, but I don’t consider it to be a conclusive match. And, just as I told Vinter, I’m still alive. All I need to do is simply ensure that I don’t make the same mistake twice……”
Leygur’s composure did not show the slightest hint of crumbling, but Noelle was harsh with him nonetheless.
“Your excuses are unbecoming of the proud daemon race. You should be ashamed of yourself, Leygur!”
She beat down at him with her stern words, harsh enough that they could have erupted in sparks, as she looked up at him with the dignified beauty of a goddess of war. She continued,
“it looks like you forgot the common sense held among us daemons because you’ve stayed too long in the human world. Our law is that might makes right! Don’t you dare forget that and start sprouting some cowardly nonsense like “I’m still alive”!”
Luminas inadvertently took a few steps away from Noelle. No one had ever thrown such insults at the king as far as he could remember.
After all, the countless corpses on the floor were clear proof of what happened to those who defied him.
Rather, it was actually strange that Leygur’s rage hadn’t erupted yet.
It was the male and female daemons who grew visibly angry in his stead. Specifically, Dewy, the daemon dressed like a noble, and the sexy female daemon.
“You’ve said too much, Noelle! Can’t you tell that Lord Leygur doesn’t even take mere humans into consideration?! He simple felt no need to go out of his way to fight him!”
“It’s just as Dewy says! Do you wish to die at our hands, you little girl?! Philander, you say something about this too!”
“No. This isn’t something for me to cut in on, Sera.”
The daemon called Philander, who was a cut bulkier than the other daemons, slowly shook his head. He continued,
“the match is not decided conclusively as long as you still yet live——. I concur with Leygur’s opinion. However, I can still understand where Noelle is coming from by insisting on a complete victory. As someone who was born a warrior, hers is a way of life that I must acknowledge.”
He answered calmly with his armed crossed.
Sera and Dewy, however, weren’t convinced.
“Are you defying Lord Leygur too, huh? Did you tell Noelle about such useless things because you wanted her to lead in to this?!”
Dewy promptly threw in some dangerous words as soon as Sera’s harsh ones had left her mouth.
“……If you want to make enemies so badly, Philander, then now’s your perfect chance. I, Dewy, am ready to take you on as an opponent at any time!”
Battle seemed to draw closer as Dewy, who had a sophisticated countenance with a high-set nose, glared at Philander with bloodlust in his eyes.
Gracious, are the daemons about to start fighting among themselves? Luminas thought while sweating buckets.
——But just then, Leygur finally stopped them.
“Dewy, Sera, quell your anger. Philander’s answer was something truly in character for him, and I still have something to say to Noelle.”
Luminas watched in surprise as the two daemons, who had all but taken up battle positions, immediately quelled their anger and fell back. He had thought that fighting had been unavoidable at this point.
Evidently, the two of them were extreme in their devotion to King Leygur. ……Though the other two had plainly asserted their own opinions.
Leygur looked to Noelle from his seat on the throne as though nothing had happened.
“……Noelle, I have no interest in taking the time to tediously explain my every action to you. It is fine if you can’t understand my actions. So, what is it that you want to do? Do you wish to return to where you were before?”
Noelle’s reply was swift.
“I’m fed up with the spirit world, which is filled only with those who refuse to cut off their past. I haven’t gone as far as to deny your goals. ——But!”
She boldly stuck out her chest and continued,
“I’ll be doing things my own way as I see fit. In any case, there is something that I want to do immediately.”
“Oh? ——I suppose I can more or less guess what this thing you wish to do is.”
“……I have no obligation to answer you.”
Leygur, and the scantily-clad girl warrior Noelle. The two daemons locked eyes for a moment, causing invisible sparks to burst between them. It was Leygur, who slowly looked away in the tense atmosphere.
Luminas didn’t know how Leygur truly felt about the matter, but the king looked like he had simply lost interest.
“……Do as you wish. It’s much more of a loss to lose you than it was to lose the generals I killed just now, but it’s not as if I don’t have any replacements for you.”
“Say what you will, Leygur. I’m going to walk my own path until the very end, and that’s all there is to it.”
Noelle began to walk away with those last words. Her seductively half-naked retreating figure looked brazen even in Luminas’ eyes, and she was brimming with mettle as she ignored Leygur completely. Well, not that Luminas knew how strong she truly was.
Leygur called out to her just as she reached the door.
“Wait, Noelle. Let me give you a special warning in light of the fact that we belong to the same race.”
“I’ll at least listen. So speak.”
Noelle turned back around in composure.
“That man is many levels higher that you imagine by far. I won’t go as far as to say that you’ll be defeated, but don’t underestimate his abilities.”
Noelle stared back at Leygur with her pitch-black eyes for a bit before she left the room without replying.
Vinter was floating in place far above Gaenys Castle with his black wings spread out behind him.
He confirmed that someone had flown out of the castle below him, which only looked like a speck in his eyes, and nodded tellingly.
“Hmm, hmm. A falling out already? Well, from my side of things, it’s a happy thing if their forces have decreased, I suppose. But if it’s only Noelle~, then the power balance remains more or less the same. ……And he’s gathered more comrades than I’d originally thought, too~. Man~, what to do, what do to.”
Vinter spoke to himself without sounding very troubled at all and he looked out to the distance and fell into thought.
A little while later, he began thinking out loud again.
“But the fact that there’s a human that a daemon as powerful as him is being wary of piques my interest too. Maybe I’ll skip~ my way on over and look into that too~?”
Eventually, Vinter flew off as though he was chasing after Noelle.
It was a chilly day as usual, but the skies above the amphitheater were endlessly blue and clear.
Could it be said that the weather was so nice that it actually made her nervous? Shelfa had already arrived at the amphitheater (currently an arena) before noon. She sat at the same spot she had been sitting at yesterday and was patiently waiting for the event to begin.
Things had been moved ahead of schedule, and today was the start of the actual tournament proper.
The preliminary matches yesterday had truly advanced quickly, and all of the competitors who would be participating in the actual tournament had been decided without the preliminaries spilling into a second day as was originally planned.
Naturally, the participants were the eight victors of their respective blocks A~H.
The seeded competitors aside, you normally had to fight and win four separate battles to emerge as a block victor, so in that sense, the eight participants were rather strong——or they should be.
As far as Shelfa could tell, a few of them did not look very strong at all. Though of course, she understood well that her eyes weren’t the best judge for these things, so she had no bias in particular as she spectated the tournament.
She had only managed to watch Sylvia fight yesterday, so she thought she would finally cheer on Lord Gunther today.
That being said, the victors of each block were as follows:
*The words “swordsman” and etc. after each name were written in by the participants themselves.
Block A——Sayle (Swordsman, male)
Block B——Sylvia Rosenberg (Swordswoman—though not her true specialty, female)
Block C——Arc (Swordsman, male)
Block D——Falna (Swordswoman, female)
Block E——Felt (Priest, male)
Block F——Black Mask’s representative, Gunther Valoa (Various jobs, male)
Block G——Gus (Martial artist, male)
Block H——Abel (Hero, male)
Shelfa looked at the last item on the handwritten list that had been made especially for her and opened her eyes wide. She was surprised by the words that were written in parentheses.
The way that Gunther had written down “Various jobs” for himself was rather charming, but what was with the way this person named Abel had written down “Hero”? There was no way that such an occupation actually existed.
Miran was the first to notice that Shelfa had tilted her head to the side.
He was standing right beside her and nodded deeply.
“Oh, the “Hero”, is it? That title generally refers to someone whose achievements stood out during our ancient war against the daemons. It actually refers to a group of people, and not just one. Though there are about four or five individuals who are especially famous.”
“Is that so?”
——Shelfa couldn’t tell if that was too many or too few. She continued,
“putting their numbers aside, they must be quite long-lived. I was only focusing on Miss Sylvia during the preliminaries, so I don’t know who this Abel is.”
“Well, no, the Heroes from the legends probably aren’t of this world anymore, except for maybe a select few.”
Miran smiled wryly as he shook his head. He continued,
“However, their descendants still exist, though they are very few in number, and are scattered across the land——or so I hear. But it isn’t clear if this Mr. Abel of ours is one of these so-called “Hero” descendants.”
“……A Hero. It’s a bit of an exaggerated title, but were they really that strong?”
There was a slight hint of dissatisfaction, or rather, protest, in her voice, though she was not aware of it.
Shelfa believed that only Rain could possibly be suited for the title. To think that someone, other than Rain of course, would actually call themselves a hero (etc.) ——she thought.
“According to the legends passed through ancient texts or whispered in the streets, the Heroes were actually quite powerful. Incidentally, the legendary hero Joe Jervael was one of them. I wonder if he was their leader?”
Miran shrugged, and continued,
“the Heroes had special powers that normal people don’t have——or so they say. The legends don’t say anything about why, though……but I think that probably…”
Folnier had walked up to them in the middle of his sentence, so the conversation naturally died there.
“Good morning, Lady Shelfa.”
“Good morning, Lady Folnier.”
Shelfa exchanged a friendly greeting with Folnier, as the two of them had grown quite close.
Shelfa immediately showed her the list in her hands.
“Why, thank you, Lady Shelfa.”
“It looks like most of the participants are gentlemen, or rather, swordsmen.”
When Shelfa’s words piqued her interest, Folnier suddenly said,
“hmm, so it seems,”
Folnier was standing on Shelfa’s other side and was chuckling as she peered over at the list in Shelfa’s, who was already seated in her special seat, hands.
“I don’t recognize most of the people on this list. But in any event, I suppose Gunther is the only one I need to worry about? It looks like Sayle’s victory is decided. Hahaha.”
She either ignored the four letters that spelled out “Hero” in the details or she simply hadn’t even seen them to begin with.
“Wait, why are you laughing—I’m not that confident about this at all. Besides, isn’t it too optimistic to only be wary of Mr. Gunther when we don’t recognize any of the other names?”
It was Sayle, who was standing behind her, who had offered up an exceedingly sensible gripe. He continued,
“not to mention that Mr. Gunther is pretty formidable.”
“What are you talking about, Sayle?!”
Folnier said in a dignified voice. She continued,
“I told you yesterday too, didn’t I? Stuff like you’re not confident, or you won’t know until you’ve actually fought, or that you’re not feeling your best today—none of that matters. Just know that you have no choice but to emerge victorious since you’re representing Chandrys. The glory of our empire is riding on your shoulders!”
“Y, you’re as unreasonable as always, Your Majesty……”
Junna happily cheered, “Do your best, big brother~”, and pressed Sayle further into a corner when he stepped back with a bead of sweat running down his head.
Sayle sighed in grief and looked up to the skies.
“——Maybe I’ll pray that I at least don’t get hurt…”
“Hey, we’re getting in Lady Shelfa’s way. We should make our leave now.”
Folnier pat Sayle on the shoulder with the smile still on her face. She continued,
“Sayle, you should make a few practice swings or something and get yourself in gear.”
Then, Folnier and her party left as she dragged along Sayle, whose shoulders were drooping, along with her.
Upon a closer look, Ralphus and his unit were surrounding them in a manner so that they wouldn’t stand out. Shelfa then understood that Folnier was still being guarded as was proper, even if the empress was walking about the premises freely. Shelfa had actually been quite worried about this, so the knowledge relieved her greatly.
You should be guarding me, rather than the empress of another country!
——Such thoughts never crossed her mind.
Shelfa surveyed the amphitheater as noon, the time the tournament was set to start, approached and the hustle and bustle in the audience had died down somewhat, and let out a small sigh.
“Is something the matter, Your Majesty?”
“No……I was simply hoping that Rain would make a sudden appearance.”
She quickly shut her mouth as soon as the words had left her.
Evidently, she had grown quite used to Miran as of late.
She never relaxed her guard around people whom she had only just met, but she never seemed to grow wary as she usually did around him for some reason. She would have normally been at least a little more cautious, no matter whom she was with.
Still, Miran didn’t look the slightest bit dubious upon hearing her and instead, as though it was only normal, asked,
“Have you still not cheered up?”
“I’m feeling much better compared to yesterday. But still, as long as Rain isn’t here——”
She left the rest unsaid.
Though, she had already said plenty enough to get herself in trouble.
“I’m sure the General will return to the castle soon enough. Why don’t we enjoy the tournament as much as we can for now?”
Yes, you’re right, Shelfa muttered in reply.
It was just about noon, and the tournament was about to start.
Shelfa tilted her head a little to the side upon seeing the small figure who had just stepped out from the gates.
The boy, whose name was Felt, was wearing white priests’ clothes and had a medal with some sort of crest on it hanging over his chest.
Miran, as tactfully as ever, began to explain things for her from her side again.
“It looks like he’s a priest serving under the Goddess Menam.”
“The Goddess Menam? Um, not the Goddess Myusra? The Goddess Menam, as in the goddess of love, beauty, and harmony?”
“Yes. Though, he’s pretty out of place here, seriously.”
Miran readily put to words that Shelfa had refrained from saying out of modesty.
And, right behind the priest was a sullen-looking man wearing a black mantle.
It was none other than Gunther Valoa, who was still looking as morose as ever under this beautifully cloudless sky.
“……Lord Gunther will win, yes?”
Shelfa asked Miran just in case.
“Hmm~m. Well, in any case, I’ll be cheering for Mr. Gunther, since he’s the General’s right-hand man.”
——Just before the match started.
Felt, the priest, purposefully went over to right under where Shelfa was watching from and gave her a low bow. Shelfa inadvertently lowered her head slightly in return.
He still only looked like a boy even after she’d gotten a closer look at his face. This was just her impression of him, though.
The thick black gloves he wore on his hands made a lasting impression on her.
Felt smiled sunnily at Shelfa when she greeted him back and turned to face the center of the arena——rather, he was facing off against his opponent while leaving plenty of space in between them.
And with the referee’s declaration, the match began.
He moved quickly.
The long sleeves of Felt’s priests’ clothes fluttered as he waved his hand.
Then, as though in response, Gunther, who had been standing still until then, turned his upper body ever so slightly.
He then began walking toward Felt as though nothing had happened.
Felt looked on his disbelief as Gunther proceeded to casually close the distance between them and moved his right and left hands in a hurry. He was waving them ceaselessly.
Gunther twisted his body, or jumped lightly, each and every time, and his movements looked somewhat strange at a first glance. It was only a little while later that Shelfa understood what he was doing.
That being said, this was only because she had recalled that Rain had moved similarly while dodging Talma’s invisible whip.
The sudden movements Gunther played out while briskly walking forward made him look exactly like Rain had back then.
“Is Mr. Felt throwing something?”
“Yes, he is. Your vision is excellent, Your Majesty, so I’m sure you’ll be able to see it if you observe carefully. Please take a closer look at Mr. Felt’s hands. You should be able to see that he’s throwing circular chakrams.”
This was Shelfa’s first time hearing about this weapon called a chakram.
Still, she finally understood after Miran gave her a hint.
She hadn’t been able to tell at first because Felt’s arms were moving too fast, but now she could certainly see that he was throwing something small and disc-shaped. Moreover, they would come back to him after they were thrown. Felt was throwing several of these (so-called) chakrams one after another like the way a magician juggled balls.
And Gunter was dodging them with no difficultly at all.
“……Those chakram things are so fast that I only just realized they were there at all, but Lord Gunther looks like he’s completely fine even when facing against them.”
“Chakrams have blades attached to their outer rim, so they should make quite the impact when they hit, but……. Up until now, all of his opponents have surrendered after only sustaining minor injuries. But this time——”
“……This time, unfortunately for him, he hasn’t even been able to make so much as a single scratch,”
Shelfa finished Miran’s sentence.
She felt bad for Felt, but Shelfa was a little happy about it because she wanted Gunther, who was Rain’s right-hand man, to win.
Gunther continued walking forward just as she hoped he would and began to corner Felt against the wall.
Wha, what is with this person?!
Why can he avoid my chakrams like it’s easy? Things were going so smoothly during the preliminaries…
The priest, Felt, continued to throw his chakrams without pause even as he was slowly but steadily being pushed back.
Felt, a priest who worshiped the Goddess Menam instead of the Goddess Myusra, the goddess of war, had hardly ever experienced this thing called battle.
He hadn’t had any particular interests in experiencing it either, but he was participating in the tournament with all his might because he had been attracted to the provision that the victor would be rewarded with anything they wished for (as long as it wasn’t too difficult a request to fulfill).
Naturally, Felt planned to ask for permission to establish a church in the capital if he won.
His chakrams were self-defense weapons that high-ranking priests of the Goddess Menam were allowed to carry with them, but if they didn’t work, he would have to resort to using his final card.
Half-desperately, he threw several chakrams with his full might.
He made full use of the fact that he was ambidextrous and swiftly waved his arms with only a slight moment between each wave.
He had done this in hopes of overturning the bleak situation, but this man called Gunther evaded his chakrams so easily that it was ridiculous.
And, his chakrams, which he had thrown so hard that they had been an audible snap when he threw them, did not return to him.
They had fruitlessly struck the gate on the other wide and shaved off a part of the wall there.
“……You’ll lose momentum if you don’t intend to hit my vitals from the beginning, even if you throw them at full power,”
said the sullen man idly.
The way Gunther muttered under his breath between spare moments was rather creepy. He would enter Felt’s range soon. A stiff smile emerged of Felt’s strained face.
“You’re absolutely right. But still, no matter what, I don’t want to seriously injure my opponent.”
——But even so!
Felt’s voice grew louder.
“I still have the protection of the great Goddess!”
Multiple symbols appeared over the medal of the Goddess Menam he wore on his chest when he uttered her name.
A giant silver-white magic circle appeared in front of Felt’s body.
“The gods are always with us! Holy Blast!”
A flood of light particles rushed toward Gunther from the entire magic circle as soon as the words left Felt’s mouth.
He probably won’t die, but he might still be comatose for a few days…
“O Goddess……please forgive——”
His whisper disappeared vainly into the sky before he could finish.
His divine magic, which should have blown his opponent away in spectacular fashion, was repelled by an invisible barrier the moment Gunther nonchalantly raised a hand in front of him.
It’s invisible……no, if I squint, I can see that magic’s been gathered in front of him into a faint shield of light.
“A magic shield…”
Felt moaned before he could stop himself. He continued,
“you were a mage!?”
He was muttering all this time because he was chanting a rune!
Gunther flipped his mantle, dashed the last few meters between them, and pointed his magic sword, which he had drawn for the first time during their match, directly at Felt’s throat.
With an extremely serious attitude, he replied,
“……I’m not exactly a Rune Master, per se. Still, I don’t remember ever telling anyone that I couldn’t use magic.”
After his rather roundabout explanation, he asked,
“so, will you surrender?”
Felt could do little else but nod.
“Lord Gunther can use magic!”
Shelfa was impressed, to say the least, as she watched Gunther leave through the gates without any emotion on his face.
It was very like him to not have looked at the audience even once.
“……So it seems. He really is a jack of all trades.”
Miran was surprisingly composed despite the astonishment suggested by his words.
“I finally understand how he was able to get information about Rain so quickly when he’s out on expeditions. He was talking to Rain in person through Magic Vision.”
I could have spoken to Rain while he was away too, if Gunther had only told me he could do this earlier——Shelfa’s words had been dripping with her inner feelings.
“Perhaps he didn’t tell you because he knew you’d badger him constantly if he did?”
Miran replied teasingly at Shelfa’s apparent dissatisfaction. He continued,
“well, it’s him we’re talking about, so he could have simply not told you because you didn’t ask.”
“……I understand that he uses Magic Vision for work. But I want to talk to Rain too.”
Shelfa’s sagacity diminished remarkably when things had to do with Rain.
She fully understood the circumstances and the logic behind Gunther’s actions, but she could not help but sulk in a tone that she normally didn’t speak in.
“Well, that aside…”
Miran opted not to entertain her line of thought and quickly changed the topic.
It was probably a personal virtue of his that he didn’t find Shelfa’s pouting uncomfortable.
“The second match is about to start. ……It looks like the hero we were speaking about earlier is up.”
Abel, the hero——the boy who called himself as such was dressed as a knight.
They didn’t know if it was a family treasure of his or if he had bought it specifically for the tournament, but he was wearing an over-the-top silver set of armor. Moreover, the armor was sparkling clean, as though it had only just been polished, and had no stains or blemishes on it despite the fact that he had fought and won this way through the preliminaries. His armor reflected the sunlight so radiantly that it could have been used to advertise an armor shop or put up as decoration in a castle.
Abel wasn’t wearing anything above his neck, but he was dressed in full armor otherwise.
He was a boy in his upper teens, and he had blond hair and blue eyes (the whites of his eyes were properly white) that could rival Shelfa’s.
He had rushed in through the gate quicker than people normally did and proceeded to surprise Shefla as soon as he stepped out into the arena. He did an about-right instead of heading directly toward the center of the arena and drew his longsword as soon as he turned around.
His magic sword, which gave off a pure white aura, rivalled his armor in radiance.
“Princess! I, Abel, offer up my sword to you from this day henceforth. Please watch over me as I fight in this upcoming battle!!”
His voice was dead-serious and extremely energetic.
He looked up and waited after he had made his oath, as though he was waiting for applause.
Is there a princess from another country here?
Shelfa thought as she looked around before Miran chided her yet again.
“No, like I was saying. He’s swearing his loyalty to you, Your Majesty. Princesses don’t just pile up like fish out of a fisherman’s boat, and there aren’t any simply laying around here.”
The, the metaphor was a bit unreasonable……but he’s right.
Still, it’s troubling to have someone suddenly say that to me……. Still, Shelfa smiled awkwardly and said,
“the matter regarding me aside……please do your best.”
And, you really don’t need to offer up your sword to me——she thought reflexively, but naturally, she did not say this out loud.
Since he had made it to the tournament proper, it was highly likely that Abel would end up serving the Sunkwoll royal family, in other words, Shelfa, after the it was over regardless of how his match played out.
It was simply that Shelfa herself didn’t feel as though this was the case.
To begin with, in the deepest reaches of her heart, she didn’t trust anyone other than Rain and she had no intention of ever doing so. After all, the fact was that Rain had been the only one to reach out to her when she was hurting most, when she had needed saving most.
——Though it was certainly true that she had a lot of allies now.
As much it pained her not to do so, Shelfa couldn’t bring herself to suddenly want to put her faith in them.
The boy, who had been waiting with bated breath, shouted back with a voice overflowing with joy.
“Yes! Please watch over me as I fight, Princess!”
He was so into it that it was frankly quite scary.
The women in the audience screamed shrilly. The men shouted out jeers, such as, “Stop getting’ full of yerself, idiot!” or, “Bring it down a notch, you fool!”
……Abel was a warrior who drew a lot of attention to himself, in multiple senses of the word.
The next person to walk out from the gates was Sylvia.
The matches for the tournament had been decided in advance via a lottery, but the audience didn’t know who was facing who until it actually started.
And so, the arena burst in cheers when Sylvia gallantly appeared with her head held high.
Unlike yesterday, today she was wearing a pink blouse and white shorts. She spared no effort in entertaining the crowd and waved her hands just as she had the day before. She waved especially hard at Shelfa’s direction.
Sylvia and Abel faced off against each other at the center of the arena as the match was about to begin.
Sylvia looked at Abel, who had a look of supreme bliss on his face as though he had just seen a goddess from the heavens, and shrugged.
In any case, there were a lot of different kinds of humans in the world. She intended to be understanding of this.
She thought as much and drew her twin swords when her opponent suddenly called out to her.
“……Um, would you please consider surrendering, if at all possible?”
She just barely managed to stop herself before she looked around her, not unlike what Shelfa had done earlier. This was because she was the only other person there, naturally. She knew this, but she could not help the fact that a laugh had escaped her lips.
“……Is it that you don’t feel up to it because your opponent’s a girl?”
Abel looked conflicted, but he answered honestly nevertheless.
“That’s one way to put it. I understand that you’re strong……but despite that, I don’t want to fight a woman.”
Sylvia subconsciously brushed back her silver twin tails and looked up to the heavens.
He hadn’t meant anything bad. That much was plainly obvious. The boy probably seriously aspired to become a “knight of justice”. And, according to the knightly code of conduct that was known to the public, women and children were meant to be protected, not fought against.
Still, and Sylvia felt terrible for thinking this, it was also a fact that no knight, save for one, could stand up to her in a fight. It was beyond arrogant and actually hilarious that this inexperienced boy was trying to protect someone far stronger than him. ——Even if Abel actually was quite strong.
And so, she ultimately said,
“I’m not going to surrender. Sorry.”
The referee heartlessly brought down his hand before Abel had a chance to respond.
Two flashes of light rushed toward Abel as he readied his sword while feeling that it couldn’t be helped.
There had still been quite a bit of distance between them, but Sylvia had closed it instantaneously and beat down at him with her twin blades.
Abel’s magic sword cried out exactly twice.
He had precisely repelled Sylvia’s first sword in her left hand, which had come up against him diagonally, and the second in her right, which had been thrust at him as though it was trying to skewer him through. Then, he even managed to side step quickly around her and attack back.
However, she evaded his attack with ease and the two of them took their distance again.
The audience was in a stir.
This was the first time that Sylvia was fighting a match where she hadn’t immediately been at the sole advantage. Still, she smiled at leisure as Abel readied himself without lowering his guard.
“Not half bad. It certainly looks like you’re a little skilled. At the very least, were you undefeated up until now?”
Sylvia said with emphasis on the words, “up until now”.
“……It doesn’t really feel like you’re actually praising me. Still, you should understand now. You can’t catch me even with your speed and power.”
“Don’t rush things. I only just finished saying, “at the very least” and “up until now,” you know?”
Sylvia giggled. She continued,
“I’m going to get a little more serious……haha……I wonder how you’ll be able to keep up♪?”
Just then, Sylvia’s slender frame became as a tempest gale.
A cloud of dust kicked up at her feet and her two magic swords became two brilliant beams of light that left lines behind them for a second.
Abel was blown away this time with a red trail of fresh blood following after him. He managed to correct his posture by rolling a few times and stood back up only to hear Sylvia’s first sword cutting through the wind directly above him.
——She had followed up on her attack. Two magic swords clashed with a fierce noise and sparks scattered visibly and audibly between them.
Cracks appeared in the earth with Abel at their center with a thunderous, distorted rumbling. Still, he managed to repel her first blade and leap backwards because he was a self-proclaimed “Hero”.
After all, he had managed to parry her heavy blow.
However, Abel saw while he was still in midair.
That Sylvia was similarly airborne and was swinging her twin blades.
“As I expected, your reaction speed is far slower than his, huh? ——Sorry!”
Abel heard her apology only after the impact had come.
He hadn’t been able to see the blow. He saw only the bright blue light that flooded his vision.
Abel was blown away with his magic sword, which he defended himself with, and was beaten down back to the earth. He bounced once off the hard ground and still managed to immediately stand back up.
Sylvia, who landed lightly soon afterward, looked a little impressed.
“As expected of a warrior who carries the blood of heroes. ……I’m glad you’re not hurt.”
“I did get hurt, though.”
Abel groaned after seeing the tears on the torso and arm portions of his armor. Not to mention that his armor had suddenly become a mess. Still, the fact that the wound on his arm had already closed up deserved amazement in and of itself.
In all seriousness, Sylvia said,
“hmm, hmm. Well, shall we speed it up a little?”
Sylvia’s figure blurred before the audience, who were watching with bated breath.
Her silver twin tails fluttered in the wind as she danced in front of Abel with afterimages forming behind her.
He tried to beat back her swords, but ended up opening his blue eyes wide in surprise as his opponent suddenly vanished from his sight.
“She’s at my feet!”
His instincts were correct, but he did not manage to react in time.
A dignified shout pierced through Abel’s ears.
Sylvia, who had feigned attacking with her sword and had instead lowered her body, caught Abel’s legs in a flying scissors stance with her long ones and used her brute strength to twist her body.
Abel’s lower body crumbled and he keeled over.
Sylvia had already rotated her body over the ground like a dancer by the time he fell and righted herself form an upside-down posture.
Her swords came down on Abel for real this time as he groaned on the ground.
The earth rumbled beneath her heavy blows, and yet another spurt of blood flew into the air along with the dust.
Two shockwaves ran concurrently across the ground in the direction of Sylvia’s attacks, leaving behind deep fissures behind them.
Abel had twisted his body in the split-second window he was given, but he was unable to completely avoid the second blow and had gotten cut across the arm again. That was where the blood had come from.
He managed to get back up somehow by rolling away, but he didn’t have the time to readjust his stance.
Abel perceived the incoming danger from the audience’s shrill screaming and crossed his arms defensively in front of his body.
A moment later, Sylvia stepped into his range and roundhouse-kicked him.
The Hero, Abel, was sent flying, much like Sylvia’s previous opponents had been before him.
He flew back about ten meters before crashing heavily against a wall by the gates.
Even Shelfa, who was seating far away, felt the vibrations from the impact.
Abel staggered back up even still and Sylvia honestly decided to revise her opinion of him a little for the better. Most people normally would have died.
Though, she had only kicked him a little hard because she had judged that he had the stamina to endure it.
Abel stumbled forward, picked up his sword that he had dropped along the way, and returned to the center of the arena in spite of everything.
A sense of defeat was slowly starting to spread its way across his face, but his blue eyes had yet to lose their fighting spirit.
“……You’re most certainly strong. But I’m still a descendent of the Heroes! I can’t let myself be defeated here!”
Abel thrust his left hand —the one that wasn’t holding his sword— out at Sylvia as soon as he had finished speaking.
A moment later, a burst of lightning so bright it burned the audience’s eyes charged straight for Sylvia, who was still standing around in composure——but…
she chided with a wave of her hand, and the lightning, which had been coming toward her like an arrow of light, was completely swept away.
The color drained from Abel’s face as he watched the fragments of lightning scatter away like countless firefly lights.
“Impossible! You never even chanted a rune!”
he cried, completely ignoring the fact that he had done the same.
Still, he raised his arm up again and said, “Then what about this?!” as he released his power.
This time, a shockwave of light and heat made from pure magic rushed at Sylvia, but even it was extinguished completely with a simple wave of Sylvia’s arm. Her arm was glowing faintly all the way up to the shoulder upon a closer look, as she had apparently repelled the attack by concentrating magic into her arm.
This means of defending against magic without relying on a magic shield lay outside the realm of common magical knowledge.
“……Th, there’s no way there can be a rune master that skilled in this day in age!”
Abel’s discomposure was laid out bare by the faint hint of awe and fear in his voice.
His conceited tone from earlier, which made him seem like he was looking down on his opponent, had completely faded away.
Sylvia called out to him as he stood there in mute shock and said,
“……are you really going to challenge me in magic of all things? It’s not only the ancient dragons, heroes, or daemons who are able to use magic without chanting a rune, you know?”
A giggle echoed across the arena as even the audience had stopped cheering in shock.
“It was none other than I, Sylvia Rosenberg, who perfected the magic system you humans use today! Rune masters vanished from the world one after another after the great war from ages ago when the great secret rituals known as “magic” were forgotten from the world.”
Proudly, she continued,
“but magic itself will never be lost as long as I, Sylvia, yet live!”
Brilliant orbs of light appeared above Sylvia’s head after she made her gallant declaration.
Abel shuddered as he realized that the orbs, each about the size of his fist, were crystallizations of highly condensed magic.
He had no choice but to understand how incredible those orbs were because he used magic himself.
Even first-rate rune masters from the golden age of magic probably would not have been able to make an orb like that. And yet, she had easily created dozens of them as if it was nothing. And they were still only increasing in number.
The brilliant orbs were visibly multiplying as they spun around Sylvia’s silver head.
The way they flickered orange foretold the destruction that was to come.
Each ball of magical energy flew off at once, leaving trails of light behind them, at her shout.
They rushed directly in front of her, where her opponent was standing.
Abel desperately put up a magic shield as his surroundings were inundated with thunderous roars and flashes of light.
Each orb of light exploded upon impact mere seconds after one another and a thick curtain of dust and magical light covered the boy who fashioned himself a hero. The magical assault finally concluded several dozen seconds later, and the curtain of dust was brushed away by a gentle breeze——
To reveal Abel standing dumbly amongst the many craters that had mercilessly ravaged the earth around him.
……Only the small area around where he was standing still remained as level as it had been before.
Both the dead-silent audience and Abel himself had no choice but to understand that the orbs of light had avoided him purpose.
Abel was neither arrogant nor naïve enough to boast——that he had blocked Sylvia’s attack with his magic shield.
Sylvia lowered her twin blades and gracefully walked forward as the arena remained surrounded by silence.
She faced off against her boy opponent again with only a short distance between them.
“Wha, just what are you!?”
“Just listen, boy. I’ve been alive for three thousand seven hundred years. What I’m saying is simple —do you understand?”
“There’s no way that I would. What are you trying to say?!”
There was a clear tremble in Abel’s voice.
Sylvia’s, on the other hand, remained tranquil.
“Then I’ll spell it out for you. I’ll be extremely lenient and say that, hypothetically, our abilities are evenly matched. But——”
She smiled bewitchingly and continued,
“then, how would you make up for the years that separate us? How would you overturn the thousands of years that I’ve been fighting? If our abilities are the same, then it’s simply the long years of training and experience that I’ve accumulated that would name me victorious……don’t you think? Wouldn’t that be the obvious result?”
Abel had grown speechless, so Sylvia gently continuing speaking to him.
“But if there were to be someone in this world who could defeat me. It would have to be someone who could leap over the stairs that people are normally only able to climb up one step at a time……. Only a true genius, with immense innate talent, could ignore the flow of time and make the impossible possible.”
Sylvia tilted her head to the side and dreamily continued,
“it would have to be someone like that, for a mere human to defeat me.”
——And unfortunately, you aren’t that kind of person quite yet.
Abel’s shoulders slumped down when he heard her last words.
Immediately, the arena was flooded with an earth-shattering cheer.
The audience had been surprised by the power that Sylvia had shown them, but there were also a few among their number who were surprised for different reasons. Like Folnier, for example.
Contrary to her vivid beauty, she had watched Sylvia’s attack with gaping eyes and had since brought her hands up to Sayle’s, who was sitting next to her, neck and was wringing him for answers.
Since it was now a good time to talk, she asked,
“what’s going on!? That’s the same spell that Rain used when he dueled against Joe before!!”
“——Wait, even if you ask me~. To begin with, this is my first time seeing such an outrageous and terrifying spell cast from point blank. Was it Mr. Rain’s signature spell or something?”
Oh right, he wasn’t there at that time,
Folnier recalled belatedly and let go of Sayle’s collar.
Then, she saw that the bag that had once been at his feet was now in his lap and frowned.
“……Why so conscious about the bag all of a sudden, Sayle?”
Sayle scratched his head and replied,
“welll——. I was just thinking it’d be best to start getting ready to head home, or soomething like that…”
Folnier began shouting at him again.
The other person who had been surprised was, naturally, Shelfa.
She couldn’t have cared less——about the fact that the hero had been defeated, but had been more shaken than probably anyone else in the audience about the fact that Sylvia had used the same offensive magic that Rain had.
“Why did she use the same magic Rain did……?”
She looked up to Miran as though she was seeking salvation from her plight.
Who can say~? Miran said while tilting his head to the side when another voice spoke up from a completely unexpected direction.
“Actually, I’m simply borrowing a spell he happened to devise, Your Majesty.”
Shelfa and Miran turned toward the voice to find Sylvia suddenly standing on the guardrail in front of them. However, Sylvia was actually still standing in the arena, and what Shelfa and Miran were looking at was a doll made from concentrated light.
“My apologies for using a magic body. I simply thought you would prefer to hear an explanation sooner rather than later.”
Normally, Shelfa would have asked what kind of secret spell Sylvia was using, but now wasn’t the time for that. She looked to the dazzling girl and quickly asked,
“um, what do you mean when you said you’re “borrowing” it?”
“Basically, I happened to teach Rain magic in the past because of a small twist of fate——. But, right before he left, he absorbed everything I taught him and came up with a new way to use magic offensively. I was his teacher in magic, but I was really surprised back then. ……It was already impressive enough that he was able to take everything I taught him and really make it his own like it was easy, but he even pioneered into new territory using his own strength on top of that.”
Her dazzling image smiled fondly as though she was looking back at a nostalgic memory. She continued,
“I showed you that spell on purpose because I thought it would make the perfect chance to explain who I am.”
“You were Rain’s teacher?!”
Shelfa was greatly surprised and immediately vowed resolutely to herself to ask about how Rain had been when he was younger.
If possible, she wanted to ask Sylvia right this minute, but, unfortunately, the tournament was still only two matches in.
Sylvia erased the magic body after a short farewell and returned to the waiting room with a crestfallen Abel.
Shelfa pressed down against her heart, which was still beating furiously.
She wanted to get up and follow Sylvia into the waiting room, but just barely managed to stop herself. She couldn’t do that, considering who she was.
After all, she felt as though doing so would be incredibly rude to the participants of the next match.
Instead, she looked up at Miran and asked, “Miss Sylvia’s quite surprising, isn’t she?” in hopes of being able to at least share her surprise, but he was staring at a corner of the arena with narrowed eyes —a far cry from the honest look he normally had on his face.
Now that she thought about it, he had acted like this at least a few times today. Sylvia, too, had glanced at the same exact place just before she had left the stage.
Miran turned back to her as though nothing was wrong when she tilted her head to the side and called his name.
“Oh, please pardon me. ——Is there something you needed?”
“No……. Was there something that caught your attention, Lord Miran?”
“Oh, no. It’s not anything serious.”
He smiled warmly at her and continued,
“I was simply wondering if Miss Sylvia would teach me magic too, if I asked, or something like that……hahaha.”
He scratched his head and turned back to the gates. He continued,
“oh, looks like the third match is about to start, Your Majesty.”
Shelfa sighed and sat back down.
I’ll focus on the match for now……I wonder what kind of people will fight in this one?
The young man who had loudly cheered on (and booed at) Ferris yesterday suddenly ran out from the gates.
If she recalled correctly, his name was Arc.
He ran around the arena, though there really wasn’t any need for him to, roaring, “Whooo! I’m a step closer to victory!” Arc looked like he hadn’t the slightest doubt that he would win his match even though he hadn’t even seen who his opponent was yet and raised a fist into the air.
He looked quite eager, or rather, he was so eager that his entire being was practically oozing of his eagerness.
The audience was swept up in his flow and didn’t even manage to jeer at him properly despite how arrogant his was being.
Instead, there were a lot of people who actually applauded him.
Shelfa felt, though she had no basis for this other than her instincts, that he was someone who had been born with the qualities of a leader. That part of him reminded her a little of Rain, though it was like comparing firefly light to the light of the sun.
However, the young man did not show even a hint of the shadowed expression that Rain would make from time to time.
Even now, he was grinning broadly at Shelfa’s direction.
“Heyy, Princess! Watch me fight, alright——I mean, please!”
“Yes……please do your best.”
Shelfa smiled a little and nodded.
The fact that he was even the slightest bit similar to Rain made him “someone I want to cheer for” in Shelfa’s eyes.
And, the next person to walk through the gates was the warrior Gus, a martial artist, who was also ridiculously large.
There had been several giants over the course of the tournament, but he was a clear cut larger than the rest.
His height wasn’t all that impressive (that being said, he was still almost two meters tall), but the amount of muscle he had on his body was unbelievable. He looked like a small moving mountain —quite the impactful image— as he lumbered onto the stage with a quiet look on his face.
Shelfa was especially surprised because Gus had competed in Block G, the furthest block from where she had been sitting, during the preliminaries yesterday. He slowly turned around once he had cleared the gates and looked up at the seats directly above him——in other words, at Shelfa’s direction.
He bowed at her respectfully and spoke out in a husky voice.
“My Queen! Please forgive my insolence for calling out to your venerable being before the match. There is something that I wished to say to you no matter what……”
It was difficult to catch what he was saying, though it wasn’t because he was too quiet.
Even Shelfa, with her excellent hearing, had only leaned forward until he had said something about saying something to her and ultimately stood up and walked up to the guardrail to hear him better. She stood on the narrow passage —one of many that could be found among the seats in the audience— and looked down over the guardrail.
Then, she suddenly felt someone’s gaze and turned to look toward it.
Standing among the audience far to her left, all the way down where the gallery was, was a familiar girl with white hair.
Shelfa blinked because of the unexpected reunion.
But, but the time she realized that Talma was waving to her not as a greeting but rather as a warning——
——It was already too late.
Shelfa was already airborne by the time she thought that she had heard an eerie whoosh.
The round guardrail she had been holding onto——no, the entire narrow passageway she had been standing on had instantly broken apart, and she was falling down with its pieces. She didn’t know who had done it or how, but whoever they were had apparently destroyed the entire area by her feet.
Shelfa subconsciously thought about what had transpired as she fell the short distance.
Then, she instinctively closed her eyes as the ground grew closer to her, but just then——someone held her from behind and a slight shock ran through her body a moment later. Immediately after that, she felt them kick against the earth and back into the air again.
She opened her eyes in surprise to find Miran’s serious-looking face above her, and their eyes met.
Shelfa grew flustered before she could grasp what was going on.
——! Oh no!
I, I’m being held by a gentleman other than Rain!
Though, even Shelfa understood that now wasn’t the time to be worrying about such things.
Miran smiled wryly, likely on purpose, upon looking at Shelfa’s face.
“I was prepared to die when I jumped after you, Your Majesty, so what’s up with that look on your face?”
“I, I’m sorry! And you came here to save me too——I’m sorry, I’m so sorry!”
Miran gently stood Shelfa back on the ground as she struggled to get back down as quickly as possible even as she was apologizing to him nonstop. She felt like her heart would stop because of how guilty she felt, but she could not help but reject it reflexively when people came into close contact with her like that no matter the situation.
In any case, though, now really wasn’t the time for that.
“Kevin, put up a barrier. Lester, you’re my back-up!”
The large man who called himself Gus shouted ferociously at someone, as though he had become another person entirely.
His laudable attitude from earlier had vanished completely.
And, Shelfa realized only now that she was surprising far away from the giant.
She couldn’t be sure because she’d had her eyes closed, but it looked like Miran had not only caught her as she fell, but had also leapt away from the man as soon as they’d landed too.
“It’s not a barrier. It’s a shield with a large area of effect!”
A hoarse voice came out of nowhere and replied to Gus.
Then, the empty space far behind Gus distorted to reveal the presence of two men.
One was an old man wearing a black robe with a staff in his hands, while the other was an overweight young man.
There hadn’t been as sign or whisper of them before, but now they were there as if they had only just arrived.
“Phew. It doesn’t use up too much magic to hide yourself, but I can’t help but feel uneasy while hiding.”
“——There’s isn’t much we could do about it. There’s a magic barrier put up around the girl. All of this would’ve been so much simpler if it wasn’t for that. Still, I thought this was pretty fun too. We got box seats for the show, after all.”
Gus waved his hand to get their attention as they talked without a care in the world.
“Enough with the chatter. Pay attention to our surroundings. The guards will be here soon!”
“Don’t worry, Bajeel. My shield won’t break that easily……. Though, just to be safe, I’d like to finish things up before that girl called Sylvia comes back.”
The old man shook his head with a difficult expression on his face.
Shelfa didn’t know the details about what was going on yet……but it seemed like that large man named Gus had been using a fake name. His real name was apparently Bajeel.
“That woman completely ignored the magic barrier on the audience seats and sent out a magic body. Even I might not be able to stop her if she shows up as an enemy.”
“Relax, this shouldn’t take that long.”
Suddenly, there was another shout.
“Hold it right there, damniiit!”
The new voice was louder than even Gus’, or rather, Bajeel’s, and made such an impact that everyone present, including Shelfa and Miran, could not help but look over. It belonged to the manly man wearing a bandana who was supposed to be Gus’ opponent —in other words, Arc.
He came at them charging while brandishing his sword, likely because he meant to save Shelfa.
“I’ve no idea what’s goin’ on, but what are ya trying to do to her, huh!? Yer the bad guys here, right?! Actually, I’ve just gone ahead and decided that yer the bad guys!!”
he shouted loudly as she ran closer while boiling with rage.
He was like a surging wave, completely unaware of the concepts of being cautious or waiting and seeing what happened next.
“I, the great Arc, will bring down the iron hammer of justice on ya pieces of shit for troubling a girl——whoaaa!”
His last “Whoaaa!” was not a war cry.
He had simply made the noise when he slammed head-first into the shield that Kevin had erected.
The fat Lester flatly said,
“……What the hell?”
Neither Kevin nor Bajeel answered him. They both wanted to finish things up as quickly as possible. The audience was in chaos, and they could hear various things like the sounds of the guards running out from the central exit or jumping down from the audience seats. It needn’t be said that they were trying to reach Shelfa as soon as possible to back her up. It was unmistakably true that assassins grew more at a disadvantage as time passed.
Bajeel quickly glared at Shelfa with bloodlust in his eyes and approached her.
Miran saw him and quickly tried to step forward with a tense and stern look on his face.
——But Shelfa kept him back.
“Please fall back, Lord Miran.”
Shelfa pulled at the sleeve of his uniform and stood in front of him instead.
“There is no need for you to lose your precious life for my sake.”
Shelfa took off her coat and smiled a lonely smile.
For started, Shelfa had a general idea of what was going on because of the warning Talma had given her.
The attackers were probably assassins who had been sent by the organization that was after her life. If she was their only target, then she shouldn’t get Miran involved. That was what she thought from the bottom of her heart. It’s too much to ask him to fight for me. ……He’s the only exception to this rule, and he’s more than enough for me.
Shelfa did not intend to change her convictions just because certain death was upon her.
She was wearing a snow-white dress underneath her coat, and the katana that Rain had given her was hanging from her waist.
She drew the blade and displayed its radiance for all to see.
Bajeel, who seemed to have changed his opinion of her a little for the better, stopped in his tracks. He was barely two meters away.
To Shelfa, who was on the smaller side, he seemed like a tall mountain towering over her.
“Oh? Are you planning to fight us personally?”
“……I don’t wish to, but I have no other choice.”
“I’m surprised you aren’t kicking and screaming for your life. And it’s not like you have any delusions of winning either……are you praying for a miracle?”
“No. I’m not that naïve. My knees are trembling, and I’m so scared I want to cry. But——”
He wouldn’t understand even if she told him.
And still, she answered him anyway. She felt that there was no point in hiding her feelings now that she’d come this far.
“There is someone I like very much……no, someone I love. I don’t want him to be disappointed when he hears about how I died——that’s all.”
She absolutely did not want Rain to hear something like, “Shelfa was trembling and crying as death approached her.” And, as she’d expected, Bajeel furrowed his brows as he looked back at her.
As she’d expected, he had not been able to understand her feelings, but there was just the slightest hint of bafflement in his face.
“I don’t understand, but, at the very least, I see that you’re a much better person than we thought you were. Out of respect for your resolve, I will kill you in but an instant. ……I will show you at least this much sympathy, though you are our despicable enemy.”
Then, Kevin interjected from afar.
Or rather, he wailed,
“none of that matters, so hurry up and kill her, Bajeel. Something…something’s strange! I have a bad feeling about this. ——Hurry!”
Bajeel put his hands back into stance at the urgency in Kevin’s voice. Something glittered in between them.
Feeling the breath of death looming closer, Shelfa hastily called out one last inquiry.
“Wait! I don’t understand. Why am I your despicable enemy? Do you hold a grudge against my household, the Sunkwoll royal family?”
“At this point, it’s for your own sake that you don’t know.”
Bajeel shook his head a little before heavily whispering,
“you aren’t personally responsible for anything, but we still need you to die. Prepare yourself! I’ll kill you in an instant so that you won’t feel any pain.”
Shelfa drew a deep breath and readied her katana.
Under her breath, so that no one else could hear, she whispered,
“May my soul be with Rain eternally even after I die……”
Suddenly, she heard a voice that was unusually calm considering the situation at hand.
“Sorry, but I can’t have that, Little one.”
Shelfa stopped in her tracks before she could take a step forward. ——Th, that voice just now…
“My bad for butting in, but I can’t have you just going off to die before me like that.”
Her bare shoulders trembled visibly.
Her fear promptly vanished and was replaced with joy instead.
There’s no way that I would mishear this voice.
“Like hell I’d let you die so easily when I’m right here with you.”
Shelfa hastily turned around.
Just then, she saw Miran’s figure sway ambiguously and transform.
He grew taller and the features of his face changed. His white uniform took on another color and transformed into the all-black garb that she was so used to seeing. Not only that, but the sword at his waist readily changed in design as well.
Miran had transformed into a similar-but-no-so-similar man in the span of just a few seconds.
——In other words, he had transformed into Rain.
Shelfa’s gloomy mood immediately improved and her seemingly monotonous field of vision regained its original color. Rain shook out his shoulders and let out a deep breath.
He looked at Shelfa’s face and readily explained,
“you don’t have to be that surprised, you know? There’s no way that I wouldn’t be able to use illusion spells when even Joe Lamberck could, right?”
His virile face broke out into a grin as he flashed his pearly white teeth. He continued,
“but still, if I was gonna use an illusion anyway, I should’ve changed into someone a lot less serious than Miran —seriously. It was so damn tiring to be all serious all the time……. I totally chose the wrong person.”
Shelfa had already jumped into his arms by the time he had finished speaking.