Dewy and Sera’s attitudes did a complete one-eighty when they saw the fabulous man who had descended from the azure skies.
Sera was the first to react, and she immediately returned her arm to normal and looked to her partner. Her voice had already calmed down.
“We’re pulling back, Dewy.”
“I was just about to propose the same thing,”
Dewy said as he nodded with a complicated look on his face.
He glanced at Vinter and Sylvia with appraising eyes and frowned heavily before continuing,
“we have too many uninvited guests.”
Then, he smiled purposefully at Rain and said,
“……it looks like you get to keep your life, human.”
Coolly, Rain replied,
“huh? Is that supposed to be some kind of new joke? The one’s who turn tail and flee have al~ways been the losers of a fight. Save your nonsense for your dream journal or something.”
The smile vanished from the Dewy’s aristocratic face and an aura of hatred arose from his entire being. It was only after Sera sharply called out, “Dewy!” that he finally tore his gaze away from Rain.
Silently, he spread out his pitch-black wings.
Then, in a low voice, he spat out,
“……I won’t be provoked. Despite what you may think, we have fought and survived countless battles. We do not fight unless we are sure we will win.”
He and Sera shared one last glare at Rain as he continued,
“I will make sure to have you pay for your insolence someday……”
Then, Vinter loudly cut in,
“ahh, that isn’t quite the issue here. I can’t have everyone simply ignore me, after all. So don’t keep talking only amongst yourselves now that I, the Prince, have arrived. Alright?”
But no one was listening.
The two daemons, Dewy and Sera, had already taken off with their black wings spread out wide without sparing Vinter a second glance. They left behind only the sound of cutting wind as they disappeared into the heavens with ridiculous speed. They were already only tiny specks by the time the others looked up.
They had actually retreated.
Then, Noelle, who had been standing proud, suddenly staggered. Rain quickly reached out to help her stay up.
“……I wasn’t done healing your wounds yet. Sit down, and I’ll get right back to it.”
“No, it’s fine. I’m sure it’ll heal as long as I leave it be…….”
“C’mon, don’t be like that. I was the one who hurt you in the first place……so let me heal you.”
No one said a word about Dewy or Sera. Vinter, though, cheerfully made his way over when Noelle sat down where she was standing.
The look on his face suggested that he had an extraordinarily soft spot for women.
And his eyes were fixed firmly on the parts of Noelle’s skin that were peeping out from beneath the jacket she was wearing.
“But of course, any wound of a girl’s soft body is a loss to all mankind——no, to all daemonkind~. If you’d like, I, the one who chased Dewy and Sera away, can heal you instaaaah!”
……He had not meant to end his sentence the way he did.
Noelle had sent Vinter flying before he could finish when he tried to peer at her chest.
The sharp-looking girl was abnormally strong, and Vinter was sent surprisingly far even though she had only punched him with one hand.
Anyone who wasn’t already in the know would have never suspected that she was weakened.
Vinter bounded spectacularly against the dusty road and was wiped out——but…
He bounced right back up about ten seconds later.
……He was quite outraged because no one had paid him any attention.
“Hold on, you lot! Wouldn’t most people usually worry at least a little when someone’s lying dead on the ground?!”
He barged back over to where Rain and the others were.
Rain had finished treating Noelle by then, and everyone had gotten back on their feet.
Noelle, the first person in Vinter’s order of importance, had turned away from him to begin with, so it was only Rain and Sylvia who looked back at him.
Vinter ignored Rain completely and turned his attention to Sylvia.
In particular, he turned his attention to the slender and blindingly white legs that stretched out from beneath her miniskirt.
“What have we here……? A lady whose beauty could even rival a daemon’s. Have we ever met before?”
Sylvia smiled back a captivating smile that seemed to numb him down all the way down to the waist.
“Is this supposed to be a so-called “invitation”? But I’m a vampire, you know?”
“Goodness! I would never discriminate on the basis of race. If you’d like, I can lead you to a dazzling paradise on earth even as soon as now!”
Vinter spread out his arms in an open welcome.
Then, he gave Sylvia an exaggerated bow and took her hand.
He was about to go with the flow and kiss her on the hand——but she stepped on his foot just before he could.
Pain suddenly shot up his body all the way to the very top of his head.
It was quite the devastating pain —he felt like he’d been stepped on by a ten-ton dragon. It was no less impactful than Noelle’s elbowing from earlier. Even Vinter could do little else but twist his mouth in pain. He was rather surprised that his foot had managed to maintain its original shape.
“H, hey! I’m fine because I’m me, but that just now could’ve been dangerous even for a normal daemon!”
He could not stop himself from protesting as he hopped around while caressing his right foot.
“Sorry ‘bout that. I’m pretty old-school, despite everything, so I acted to protect my chastity before thinking,”
Sylvia said before casting a sidelong glance at the black-clad man beside her.
Goodness, do I have an unnecessary rival even here?! Vinter thought indignantly……but Rain was staring at Vinter, instead of Sylvia.
Or rather, he had suddenly stepped in toward him and drawn his sword.
“Sorry, but let me test you out a bit!”
And indeed, he had actually started attacking.
A bright blue magical aura assaulted Vinter like a meteor from right before his eyes. Vinter didn’t have even the time to scream something in protest before he threw himself to the side without really thinking about it.
——But his opponent’s first swing changed directions so ridiculously readily and chased after Vinter with alarming precision. Moreover, his enemy had matched his movements and had closed the distance between them!
Vinter was flustered and decided to leap up high——but…
Rain, too, moved vigorously without so much as missing a beat. He had leapt in the same exact direction as Vinter.
The distance between them only shrank instead of increasing.
The vector of Rain’s magic sword changed yet again into a horizontal swipe just as they landed back on the ground. Vinter heard it whistle clearly and ominously in the wind.
As far as Vinter knew, there were only a few daemons in the spirit world whose reaction speeds were as good as Rain’s.
“——Whoa there! I’m unarmed, you know?!”
His opponent finally stopped attacked, perhaps because Vinter had protested loudly. His swordplay had been surprisingly aggressive and piled attack on top of attack——but more importantly…
“What are you doing all of a sudden?!”
Vinter snapped and yelled. He continued,
“I dodged everything with my outstanding reflexes, but how were you planning to take responsibility if you actually hit me?!”
Rain listened to his protests with a cool look on his face as he sheathed his magic sword.
“……Hmph, and victory’s decided,”
said Noelle, who sounded strangely happy about it.
“Victory is decided? What nonsense are you……all things despite, I am considered strong in the spirit world no matter how many times you look, be it once or a hundred——”
Vinter, who had been about to start a long speech, fell silent as he fell something dri~p down his throat. He frowned and placed his hand there before bringing it up before his eyes. Just as he’d expected, there was blood on his fingers. It had only been a shallow wound and had completely healed up without a trace a moment later, but it needn’t be said that Vinter didn’t find the situation pleasant.
He glanced at Rain and confirmed,
“I’m sure you haven’t, but——you haven’t deluded yourself into thinking that this is enough to say that you’ve defeated me, yes?”
It wasn’t Rain but Noelle, with her hand on her slender waist, who pointed out,
“It was your loss no matter how you look at it, no? I expected more from you since you’re a part of the Top Four, but……”
Her silver hair shimmered and there was disdain in her eyes. Even Vinter could not help but respond when a dignified girl like Noelle said something like that to him.
After all, he’d already gone out of his way to save her like the cool guy his was.
“Mmph! I didn’t expect this! This might be a long-winded explanation, but…”
He started, but then he noticed that Rain was observing him from up close again. So, he said instead,
“do you still have business with me?! It’s already far too late to apologize for your earlier insolence!”
“Nah, I wasn’t gonna apologize to begin with,”
Rain said curtly as he shook his head. He continued,
“still, I think that you’re hiding something……. And I don’t think that our little match just now settled anything either.”
“Really? I thought this was all he had going for him?”
Noelle decided heartlessly, but, for once, Vinter ignored her completely.
For the first time……truly, for the first time, he stared piercingly back at Rain.
“……What makes you think I’m hiding something?”
The stiff look on Rain’s virile countenance broke into a grin.
He pat Vinter lightly on the shoulder.
“You dropped that frivolous tone of yours, Vinter-or-whatever-your-name-was. You gotta keep your secrets close if you want to hide your strength. It was worth tricking you into asking.”
Vinter purposefully cleared his throat and stepped away from Rain.
This man is unfathomable.
He was probably just making a random guess, but I see —there’s a reason why Leygur gives him special treatment.
Still, personally speaking, Vinter was not afraid of Rain.
He nodded to himself and confessed,
“……in the end, you’re still only but a human. You aren’t worth fighting seriously!”
“You’re a member of the spirit world’s Top Four?”
She had walked up to them at some point and, like Rain, was staring at Vinter.
“Goodness, young lady. What a great question that was!”
He pointed at her with a snap and continued,
“indeed, I am a daemon tasked with guiding the entire daemon race! Though we’re the Top Three now, not the Top Four……in other words, there are only three of us now! I’m not referring to the stomach medicine!”
Vinter laughed with his mouth wide open. His joke was extremely well-received (though only by himself).
He ended up clearing his throat again when no one else laughed with him.
“Ahem. Well, Noelle aside, I’m sure the rest of you didn’t get my little joke. I suppose it was much too sophisticated for you.”
“Nah, we get it,”
Rain replied cheekily.
The edges of his lips curled up as he smiled.
“The name sounds similar to a medicine from another world, right? It just wasn’t a good joke.”
Vinter was truly caught off guard this time and was so surprised that he took a step back.
Even Noelle, the other daemon present, was shocked and stared at Rain with her pitch-black eyes. Vinter replied,
“Wh, why are you able to keep up with the conversation?”
“……I’ve had to say this so many times I’m starting to get sick of it. The biggest weakness you daemons have is that you guys think that you’re special. You guys should really fix that misconception of yours,”
Rain replied nonchalantly.
Vinter tried to inquire further into the matter, but Sylvia, the vampire girl, casually walked in between them and gently touched Rain’s side.
“You sit down too, Rain. ……I think you’ve cracked a few ribs. We should heal your wounds as well.”
“……It’ll heal up once I rub some spit on it.”
“Don’t be like that. ……Let me do something to help too.”
Vinter had thought that she was strong-willed, but, contrary to his expectations, her voice was kind and filled to the brim with affection.
Though he rather disliked the fact that her voice had not been directed at him.
“You’ve always liked to look after people.”
Rain sat down obediently, to everyone’s surprise.
He looked up at Vinter, who was looking back down at him, and beat the latter to the punch.
“You should explain your own situation before you ask others about theirs. You were watching us ever since we started fighting back at Galfort Castle. Just where do you stand in the grand scheme of things?”
“Hm?! You were aware of that?”
Vinter wanted to click his tongue.
He really couldn’t let his guard down around this man!
He had intended to have swooped in and saved their (the girls’) day right at the last second, but to think that this black-clad man had been aware that he had been watching. Vinter realized that his attempt at wooing the ladies had failed when he saw how sharply Noelle had begun glaring at him.
……Though it was really about time that he did.
“W, well, how should I put it, but let’s just say that I had my own circumstances,”
he responded arrogantly as the black-clad man stared back at him.
“You had your own circumstances, huh…… Still sounds pretty suspicious……but whatever, do as you like. I don’t plan on getting into a quarrel with you if you aren’t going to get in my way.”
“……You’re the one who attacked me out of nowhere —what do you mean you don’t plan on “getting into a quarrel” with me?!”
Rain ignored Vinter’s quipping and gently stretched his shoulders before standing back up.
The vampire girl’s healing magic was of a higher level than he had anticipated, and the black-clad man looked completely fine now. Normally, people would feel sleepy or fatigued after healing magic was cast on them, but Rain did not seem to be affected by either.
It annoyed Vinter to acknowledge this, but Rain was undoubtedly at least as tough as a daemon——or perhaps even tougher.
“Well, shall we head back now?”
“That’s probably for the best,”
the vampire girl said with a chuckle. She continued,
“that child……I mean, your beautiful princess was really worried about you. She clung to me and almost tried to come here with me.”
“Goodness, did you say “beautiful princess” just now?! She’s not only a princess, but she’s “beautiful” too?!”
Vinter opened his eyes wide. He stopped caring about everything else that was going on and his brain focused solely on the words, “beautiful princess”. Nothing else was more important to him at the moment.
Noelle, too, looked up from afar. Vinter continued,
“Tell me more about this princess in detail! In particular, tell me about her personality, looks, and figure! This isn’t some kind of prank where she ends up actually being in her fifties, right?”
He had shouted so loud that his voice seemed to shake the atmosphere, but the other three present paid him no heed. They had gradually gotten used to what kind of man Vinter was.
Rain looked to Noelle, who was still standing away from the rest of the group and reached out to her.
“……Wanna come with?”
Noelle stared back at him.
She was surprised, and her reply came a beat late.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you’re kinda putting me on the spot by asking…”
He truly did look troubled.
“How insolent! Are you taking a page out of my book and trying to flirt with her?!”
Despite his jealous words, even Vinter could not see any sign of deliberate flirting in Rain’s offer.
“I didn’t really mean anything else to it. I figured you’re probably hungry and wanted to ask if you wanted to eat with us……I guess that’s about it.”
“You……are a strange man.”
Noelle had a truly complicated look on her face. She continued,
“you and I were fighting to the death just earlier, you know? Did you really just invite me to eat with you? In the spirit world, victors trample over the losers.”
Rain nodded seriously.
“Yeah, I know……and there’ve been a lot more people with weird hobbies lately. Like people who prefer getting stepped all over, you know?”
Sylvia was the only one who laughed, while Noelle tilted her head to the side in bafflement and Vinter continued sulking.
“——Ignore that. I just meant to say that I’m not the type to do that. And, well, I’m not about to force you to come if you don’t want to.”
Then, he turned his back to Noelle without any lingering regrets.
Sylvia stuck close to Rain, and Noelle called out to him just before they teleported away.
Both Rain and the vampire girl turned around at the same time.
But Noelle was staring at her own fingers in bewilderment. She herself didn’t seem to understand……why she had reached out.
——From Vinter’s, a (self-proclaimed) master in the art of love, point of view, she was exhibiting quite obvious symptoms.
The silver lining was the only he and Sylvia seemed to have noticed. All Rain did was dumbly reply, “So you wanna come eat?” while the vampire girl mouthed “Another rival?” without actually saying anything out loud. Vinter was rather skilled at lip reading, all things despite.
A few seconds, which Vinter considered annoying, passed before Noelle ultimately shook her head.
“——No, never mind. I’m sorry for causing you trouble……that’s all I wanted to say. ……Sorry for stopping you.”
There was the faint blush on her white cheeks as she looked down.
Vinter was assured of one thing as he watched Rain wave back lightly with one hand.
This Rain character will become my enemy one day. ……In more ways than one.
“So, what happened to Noelle afterward?”
Shelfa asked as she pat at Rain’s body through his clothes.
It was a habit of hers to always make sure to touch him down all over like this whenever she heard that he had gotten hurt or if she had seen him get hurt.
She was touching him almost sub-consciously even now after Rain had told her, “My wounds healed in less than two seconds flat. And besides, I’m immortal and I’m the strongest,” multiple times over.
Apparently, she couldn’t settle down until she had confirmed he was okay for herself. ……Not that Rain thought that she could tell just by touching him, though.
In any event, it would make for a severe misunderstanding if someone were to walk in on them like this.
The looked like they were flirting in bed no matter how you looked at it. After all, the Little one was sitting in Rain’s lap at the moment like it was only natural.
They had initially been sitting next to each other like normal, but Shelfa had climbed into his lap at one point.
It had grown dark outside a while ago, and Rain was currently in Shelfa’s personal bedroom in her chambers inside Galfort Castle.
He had given a detailed report about his fight with Noelle once he and Sylvia had returned, eaten dinner, and was finally about to settle down for the night when Shelfa had pestered him to join her in her room.
“She was standing around by herself when I last saw her. I don’t think she had any plans to rejoin her old comrades either.”
Shelfa stopped touching his body when Rain answered her question.
Rain noticed that her sapphire eyes were staring up at him from up close and tilted his head quizzically to the side.
“That daemon……you’re worried for her, aren’t you?”
It was less a question and more a statement, and Rain could not help but think that it reflected the current state of Shelfa’s heart for some reason.
Rain placed a hand on her freshly washed golden hair and pat her lightly.
“Nah, I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m worried for her. I’m not that soft. And more importantly——”
The he began rubbing her on the head.
Shelfa apparently used some kind of rose essence when she washed her hair, since it always gave off an airy fragrance of roses.
“It might just be my imagination, but aren’t you being pretty jealous as of late?”
Shelfa, in her snow-white gown, had a richly nuanced look on her face.
She was smiling, perhaps because she had happy he was touching her, but a look of so-called “pouting” was also evident in her expression.
“I can’t help but feel that there are suddenly so many women around you recently, Rain……and yet I’m not even allowed to stay by your side all the time.”
“I’m pretty sure I spend much more time with you than anyone else.”
Rain laughed as he stood up. He continued,
“A lot happened today, so you’re probably tired, yeah? You should go to sleep early and get some rest.”
Rain tried to leave quickly——as if he was saying goodnight, but he nearly pitched forward when Shelfa suddenly grabbed him by the shirt. The Little one only ever shows how fast she can move at times like this, he inadvertently thought to himself.
“……What’s up? I told you everything about what happened, didn’t I? There isn’t anything more about the daemons that I know for sure.”
Shelfa furiously shook her head no.
She looked up at him in pouting and puffed up her cheeks just a little.
Her voice seemed to come from deep in her throat.
“You know, even your groaning sounds adorable. I’m telling you, that’s natural talent at work right there,”
Rain was impressed and praised her, but Shelfa was not one to be dissuaded.
“At noon, you said, “I’ll embrace you gently and kiss you slowly when I get back, so let go of me for now”!”
I’ve been very excited for you to fulfill your promise, so you can’t just leave like this,
“Now that you mention it……I guess I did promise you that. ——But, wasn’t that a bit long? Did I really say all that?”
“……It was mostly the same.”
“Mostly, huh. Quite the honest one, aren’t you?”
A wry smile escaped him before he could stop himself.
Still, despite it all, Rain stooped down from his standing position. A promise was a promise.
Shelfa straightened up in a hurry. Her petit hands were balled into fists, perhaps because she was a little nervous.
Her beautiful upturned face gradually flushed red and her large eyes closed. Her faintly pink lips opened ever so slightly as Shelfa waited for her kiss.
Rain visited Ralphus’ chambers the next morning.
He had something to discuss with him regarding Shelfa’s personal army, which they had been planning together for quite some time now.
Rain and Ralphus were both unquestionably Shelfa’s retainers, but, that being said, it didn’t mean that their soldiers were as well——that was the unwritten law of the kingdom.
Rain’s subordinates only regarded Rain as their liege, meaning that, technically, Shelfa had no right to command them. The same held true of Ralphus’ men.
In other words……Shelfa currently did not have a single soldier to her name despite being a ruler, and there was a pressing need to rectify the situation as soon as possible.
Especially now that Zarmine could invade them again at any moment.
“——I know we’re living in trying times…”
Rain was shamelessly sitting on Ralphus’ desk as he drank free wine from his glass. He continued,
“…but problems are still cropping up all over the place, I guess.”
“I thought we finished reorganizing the army after we enlisted new recruits to make up for what we lost?”
“We did, but that’s where the problem came from.”
Ralphus, being as serious as ever, had only had one glass of wine before setting down his empty glass on the desk and leaning back against his chair.
There was a pleasant look on his face as he turned to Rain.
“Why don’t you allow me to play the part of wiseman for once? ……Let me guess what’s troubling you.”
“Oh, you already know?”
Rain nodded with a wry smile before his friend hit the nail on the head.
“This problem of yours has to do with Her Majesty.”
He sighed with an astringent look on his face.
Then, almost lyrically, Ralphus continued,
“Her Majesty’s personal army might be hers in name, but she’ll need someone to assist her in actually commanding it for the time being. And she’s very strongly recommended a certain someone for the job. This is a little troubling for you because you’re trying to take the power balance within the kingdom into account. ……That’s what this is about, no?”
Rain stared piercingly back at his friend.
“You’re scarily correct about everything. Now then, are you spying on me on the Princess’ behalf, you traitor?”
Ralphus laughed out loud.
His white teeth were dazzling. Rain had no doubt that Ralphus had definitely made countless noble ladies fall for him.
“You’re one of the sharpest men I know, Rain. But you’re so dull when it comes to one particular subject that it’s almost scary.”
“You’re the last person I wanna hear that from.”
Rain groaned as Ralphus readily continued,
“you should do it. I was going to advise you to regardless. There’s nothing for you to worry about.”
“……You might say that, but what will your men think? Like Nigel, for example.”
It was Rain’s turn to laugh upon seeing the look on his friend’s face. He continued,
“I’m pretty sharp, as you’ve so kindly pointed out. Sharp enough that I notice things even when I don’t want to.”
Ralphus candidly acknowledged what Rain had pointed out, but the look on his face didn’t change very much. He continued,
“I’ll explain things to him on my end. We should do as Her Majesty wishes. That’s what it means to be a retainer.”
Rain was just about to reply before someone knocked on the door.
He stopped Ralphus from getting up and opened the door himself.
He found Gunther on the other side, just as he’d expected, who began whispering his report after bowing to his liege as per the norm.
It had only been a simple progress report, so Rain sent Gunther back after a quick word of thanks.
Ralphus stared long and hard at him when he went back for his unfinished glass.
“Was there a problem?”
“No……not yet, at least. The things that I predicted would happen just started happening. The problems——will come up later.”
“What happened, exactly?”
Rain answered him readily when Ralphus furrowed his brows.
“King Leygur revealed his true identity to the public, and I heard about what happened after he did.”
“——! When was this?”
Ralphus immediately stood up from his seat.
Though, he sat back down for the time being after seeing the look on Rain’s face.
“The official proclamation went out to the people of Zarmine just a few days ago. The military officials ranked general and above were told beforehand, of course. But——”
Rain placed his glass back down on the desk and smoothly continued,
“most of the generals revolted as soon as they heard what he really was, and everyone who revolted was killed as a result.”
“You did well to grasp such accurate intel,”
Ralphus said in admiration.
He knew that Rain could use Magic Vision, so he was most likely praising Rain’s intelligence gathering abilities.
Rain had actually learned about the generals almost immediately after they had been killed……but he neglected to mention that because he knew that Ralphus would call him out on his lack of communication.
Gunther’s report just now had only contained information relating to what had happened after the official proclamation.
Incidentally, he hadn’t been trying to hide the information or anything of that sort —he had simply forgotten to tell Ralphus. After all, Rain had plainly expected it to happen.
His best friend, however, clearly had not, and Ralphus began inquiring after the unrest inside Zarmine’s borders.
Rain answered all of Ralphus’ questions in detail, from questions regarding the purge of Zarmine’s generals to the appearance of the new daemons.
“——Meaning that we have more strong enemies up against us now. Getting intel on the other daemons was pretty complicated even in Zarmine, but we can confirm it’s all true now that we’ve met Noelle.”
“I suppose we can. But still……more daemons, huh. This is getting troublesome.”
It was unusual for Ralphus to sigh so heavily. He continued,
“I wonder where on earth they even came from? It’s strange how we haven’t even heard rumors about them until now.”
Rain purposefully decided to change the topic.
After all, he figured that even Ralphus, as intelligent as he was, would have a difficult time wrapping his head around that one.
“That aside, I’m predicting that something will happen soon.”
“……The enemy will make their move, you mean?”
“As always, you’re quick on the uptake. That’s exactly what I mean. Zarmine’s failure to invade Sunkwoll wasn’t that hard a blow for them. It was actually strange they were being so quiet all this time. But now we finally know why.”
“Their preparations are complete……is that how it is?”
“Normally, you wouldn’t send your armies out on an expedition when there’s a lot of unrest in your country —especially considering that the newly appointed daemons have to get used to working with their soldiers.”
Rain waited a beat before he decisively continued,
“but Leygur’s not the kind of man to play by the book. It wouldn’t be strange for him to dispatch his armies any day now.”
“Yeah. ……Everyone’s still reeling. That’s exactly why I think he’ll strike now. And he’s more than capable, now that he has multiple daemons working under him. Remember what happened during the coronation? —he prattled on something about the how the Holy War ages ago was waged by weaklings that were far beneath him, right? I don’t think that was a bluff. After all, Noelle was able to charge right into Galfort all alone.”
And she managed to destroy a part of the palace too, Rain added as if it wasn’t his problem.
He saw how a dark shadow had cast upon Ralphus’ face and continued,
“anyway. I’ll do something about the daemons on my end.”
Ralphus could not help but smile wryly at how Rain’s light tone seemed to suggest he was merely swatting away at flies.
“You make it sound so simple.”
“It is simple, other than the fact that I have to protect the Princess. Win or lose……in other words, live or die. That’s all war is, when you get right down to it.”
A subtly strict look crossed Ralphus’ face.
Oof, I screwed that up, Rain thought, but it was already too late.
“Don’t say things like that, Rain. I know you’ll protect Her Majesty, but don’t speak so lightly about your own life. You’re indispensable to this kingdom.”
“Am I? I don’t flag myself as the talented subject in times of peace1 type. Though maybe the title would suit me better if you changed it to times of crisis.”
“A talented subject in times of peace —that’s not a phrase I’ve heard very often.”
Ralphus looked up at his best friend as if he was searching for something. He continued,
“well, let’s put that matter aside for now. By the way, are you sure you don’t know anything about where the daemons came from? It seemed like you avoided the topic on purpose earlier, but I’d be happy if you decided to tell me one of these days.”
Rain simply smiled wryly at Ralphus’ rather pointed comment and didn’t say a single word.
Noelle continued to linger around the ruins of Celestia even after the sun had gone down.
She was in the middle of a desert and the nights were rather cold, even if Celestia had once been an oasis, but it barely posed a problem for a daemon like Noelle. Even the night wind, so cold that it could have cut through skin, felt to her like nothing more than a cool breeze.
But……her heart, on the other hand, was in tatters.
She didn’t feel like returning to the spirit world after all this time, but it wasn’t as though she felt like reconciliating with Leygur either. Basically, Noelle no longer had anywhere to return to. Vinter had been loitering around her until just earlier, but he had flown off to somewhere as Noelle ignored him entirely, perhaps because he had lost interest.
And so, she was now completely alone.
Only the sound of the wind echoed against her ears, making her feel like she was the only person left in the world.
But no —Noelle had basically been all alone even when she had been with Leygur and the others. They may have been daemons, just like her, but they had shared no camaraderie on the sole account of race. She had been on better terms with Philander than she had been with the rest, but even then, that only meant that they had exchanged words every once in a while.
Should I go say farewell to Philander……? she thought, but it was too much of a bother.
It wasn’t that she didn’t want to see him, but rather that she didn’t know what kind of face to make when meeting the skilled warrior anymore.
I should probably assume the ties between us have been cut now that I’ve lost my pride as a daemon, a high-ranking daemon at that, and my faith in my own strength. Daemons are merciless to the weak.
“……Even I must admit that this is pathetic…… I, of all people, have finally found myself with nowhere to go.”
She laughed drily.
Her laughter was quickly swallowed into by the dark night sky.
A sudden gust of wind made the clothes hanging from her shoulders flap against her.
In turn, this made her starting thinking about him again.
……No, it was more accurate to say that Noelle had been thinking about Rain this entire time.
Noelle had never thought so long and hard about a mere human —and a man to boot— before.
“……I have to return his shirt,”
she muttered to herself.
I borrowed this shirt, so it’s only natural that I’ll have to return it. Rain told me that I wasn’t his enemy anymore. So, it shouldn’t be a problem even if I went to return his shirt to him.
……Her thoughts ran in circles before she finally settled on a conclusion.
How was she supposed to define what she was feeling?
Her heart was jumping in her chest as her face broke into a natural smile. She had started smiling before she knew it, which was rare for her. Even Noelle was surprised when she had finally noticed.
“……I, I’ve only just met him. It’s true that his strength is worthy of my respect, but even then, I…”
she whispered to herself.
So naturally, no one else was there to reply to her.
——And yet, another Noelle hidden deep inside her heart did just that.
“Let go of your pride and look deep inside the quiet of your heart. ……The answer is obvious, is it not? You already know what you want to do and where you want to go.”
Ridiculous! she thought.
I, who has never had a problem concerning men before, have feelings for a “human man” of all people!?
I am a daemon, and he’s human!
But the voice inside her heart wouldn’t shut up.
It completely ignored her feeble counter.
“You say that’s he’s just a human, but Rain’s power far surpasses yours……so what’s so strange about falling for him?”
He cheeks immediately flushed bright red.
She even looked around in a panic to make sure that no one had seen her. She was flustered, and her chest hurt.
She almost wanted to start screaming and running around in circles. Still, all things despite, she couldn’t help but agree that the voice in her head had a point.
Her thoughts had finally stopped running circles, and Noelle finally decided to be honest about her feelings.
She was still stubborn, however, and she ended pacing around the pitch-black roads……all while circling around the same spot.
She pointlessly paced for about half an hour before finally she finally came to a conclusion.
“Damn it, who cares about having a reason! I just want to see Rain right now! So that’s why I’m going! That’s all I need, and that’s all there is to it!!”
She felt like bursting out in a cheer as soon as she had made up her mind.
And she almost thought to herself——that she should’ve just gone with him when he had offered in the first place.
She stopped caring about the time once her mind had been made.
Noelle’s back began to glow, and a pair of jet-black wings appeared behind her before long. Then, she immediately kicked hard off the earth. She rose up hundreds of meters in one go and flew directly south.
……It took about two minutes before Noelle remembered she could “teleport”, and her figure vanished instantly.
↑Based off the idiomatic phrase “治世の能臣、乱世の奸雄”, which roughly translates to “a talented subject in times of peace, a wise hero in times of war.”