The man named Rain took to bed early and made sure to sleep his full eight hours every night——that was what most of the inhabitants of Galfort Castle believed, and the man himself openly declared that it was true.
The guards who patrolled the castle at night even saw Rain enter his room every night. And, of course, they also saw that his door usually didn’t open again until morning once he had turned in.
……Normally, nobody would think that he jumped out the window with his sword in hand immediately after closing his door.
Galfort was large, and there were a few places within the castle that the guards never patrolled.
Rain visited a certain “place” every night, and this “place” was one such unguarded blind spot.
This “place” was the roof of an annex building to the palace, and there were four steeples with spiraling staircases on each corner of the roof —all of which the guards didn’t patrol.
There were two reasons for this that was made public.
First, was that there was a vast salon directly underneath that wasn’t used very often anymore now that the number of nobles in the kingdom had sharply decreased.
Second, was that this roof, along with the main building of the palace, was located at the highest point of the castle.
No thief or bandit would ever choose this rooftop as their escape route unless they planned to fly up from a window.
And so, the guards’ late-night patrols were limited only to the salon directly below. After all, they had been ordered to do “exactly that.”
Incidentally, it was none other than Rain who had given the order, and it was also none other than Rain who visited the place practically every night.
He pretended to be asleep in his room while he actually trained there until morning almost every night.
No one had been aware of his secret……until tonight, that is.
Rain stopped his magic swords after several thousand practice swings and looked to one of the steeples.
Shelfa, dressed in a snow-white gown, climbed out of it a few minutes later, and she came running as soon as she spotted him.
“——I found you!”
There was a spring in the voice.
Rain could not help but smile back at her.
“We weren’t exactly playing hide-and-seek, you know?”
“What is hide and seek?”
Shelfa didn’t hold back because there was no one else around. She leapt immediately into Rain’s arms.
Rain hugged her back, as freely as would a father hold his young child.
“It’s a type of game……though I suppose it’s not very popular around these parts.”
He pat Shelfa’s blonde head as she looked content. He continued,
“still, your senses are growing sharper by the day.”
“Can you tell?”
Her large eyes sparkled in excitement. She continued,
“just a little while ago, all I could feel was that you were somewhere inside the castle. But now I can even tell where in the castle you are. I’m so happy —it’s made finding you easier!”
Apparently, the princess was happier about the fact that Rain was easier to find now instead of curious about her ever-sharpening senses.
“That so……? I knew it.”
Shelfa tilted her head to the side in puzzlement when Rain smiled forlornly. Her expression shadowed over, though, so he quickly laughed as if to say it was nothing important. He continued,
“I was just talking to myself. But more importantly, aren’t you supposed to be asleep right now?”
“I am, but I wanted to see where you were before I went to bed, and I realized that you weren’t in your room……. And so, I decided to come find you!”
she replied cheerily.
Shelfa was normally shy and didn’t talk much with others, but she was like a different person altogether when she was with Rain.
Even now, she was beaming as she earnestly informed him, “There were two guards downstairs, and they were so surprised when they saw me.”
“I see. So, what’d you say to them?”
“I told them that I was on a walk because I couldn’t sleep. ……And I asked them not to follow me because I wanted to be alone.”
——It was a good excuse, yes? Please praise me! …was what Shelfa’s expression seemed to be saying as she looked up at Rain.
Rain smiled wryly and said, “Good job.” Her excuse was hardly good at all, but there was no need to tell her that.
“Hehehe……but I can tell what the guards feel like now, so I think I’ll be able to make my way to you without bumping into anyone next time.”
She was already planning her next excursion.
“I’m sure you can. But I’m only gonna be doing some boring training, so it won’t be that fun for you to be here with me. Isn’t it better for you to go back to sleep?”
“Not at all. I’m always happy to watch you, Rain.”
Shelfa moaned in a lovely voice.
Still, she apparently didn’t intend to disturb his training, as she compromised and said,
“……please let me stay with you for tonight. I’ll do my best to hold back next time.”
“I see……though how things go will depend on her this time around.”
Shelfa blinked in bafflement and Rain flashed a grin at her. He continued,
“you seem to have gotten a sense for Ekseed……”Ki”, that is, but it looks like you can’t feel someone who’s hiding their presence quite yet. I think you’ll need to brush up on your training, Little one.”
Suddenly, Rain looked up at the millions of stars that twinkled in the night sky.
He spotted a black dot far up in the skies, just as he’d expected, and waved back at it.
“With her vision, she’ll probably be able to see this.”
And as he’d figured, it looked like he’d gotten his message across.
The black-winged girl came flying down when he took down his magic shield —perhaps she had been waiting for him to do so.
“……Hey, we meet again.”
Noelle nodded back awkwardly when Rain greeted her readily.
“You’re……not here because you forgot something, right? What’s up? Is there something you wanted to say?”
Noelle only nodded ambiguously in response to Rain’s questions. She didn’t say anything at first, however, and looked across the rooftop.
Eventually, she muttered,
“……I thought I’d destroyed this place, but it’s been fixed up already.”
“Yeah, I used magic to put everything back in place.”
Rain nodded readily and continued,
“I could’ve let the stonemasons take up the extra work, but things like this tends to stir up bad memories if you just let them be. It’s better to clean everything up like nothing happened in the first place.”
“I, I see……”
Noelle said uneasily as she turned away.
Rain and Shelfa exchanged glances. Rain honestly had no idea why Noelle had visited, but Shelfa apparently did. Suddenly Shelfa spoke up and said,
Noelle looked back at her in surprise.
Rain had been just as taken aback, but he could not help but smile when he heard his princess’ next words.
Gingerly, Shelfa asked,
“if you’d like, won’t you please stay here at Galfort for a while?”
Noelle’s countenance visibly brightened up.
Shelfa had already finished her preparations by the time Rain dropped by her chambers after breakfast.
Today she was wearing a pale blue dress with lace at the collar and a tiara studded with jewels in the lieu of a crown.
“I know I always say this, but no one holds a candle to you when you’re all dressed up. Must be because you’re pretty to begin with.”
Rain was Shelfa’s only guard today, as per her wishes. His attitude was lax, since there was no one else around.
“Thank you…… I wasn’t looking forward to attending the ceremony today, but I’m happy to hear your praise.”
Shelfa smiled modestly.
Today was the formal inauguration of Shelfa’s royal guard, and she was to inspect her troops as their ruler.
That being said, however, all she had to do was greet her retainers, though she still seemed nervous nevertheless.
“Hey, don’t be so tense. It’s still only your royal guard in name —we technically haven’t filled out all the numbers yet. Both in terms of your soldiers and your generals.”
“I heard that the soldiers were enlisted. Are they truly all right with going through with this?”
Rain smiled ruefully.
“What’s this all about? Are you thinking that there’s no way anyone would willingly work for you or something, Little one?”
Shelfa silently lowered her head.
Apparently, Rain had been right on his money.
Perhaps it was because she had been horribly mistreated when she was younger, but his princess seemed to believe that she was only a nuisance at best.
She never expected anything from anyone, and, while it was technically a good outlook to have as a ruler——
Rain could not help but feel a little forlorn for the girl when he thought about what it was that had made her believe this. He knew it was simply the natural outcome, but that was precisely why he wanted to do something about it.
“……You’re completely wrong, and it’s actually quite the opposite.”
He nodded back in all seriousness when Shelfa tilted her head a little to the side.
“It’s the opposite. Over twenty-thousand people applied when we sent out the enlistment notices, you know?”
Shelfa opened her already large eyes wider. She was evidently shocked.
Rain grinned and continued,
“can you believe it, Little one? Everyone here today’s gathered together especially for you. It was actually pretty hard sorting through all of them.”
“Not all twenty-thousand are here today, right?”
“Well, no, we’re still not done sorting through them. There are only about a thousand here for now. There weren’t many people who were good enough to be general-class, but you’ll have more than enough soldiers to your name before long.”
“……Rain, you’ll be leading my unit as my proxy, yes?”
Because that’s the most important part, Shelfa seemed to imply heavily as she touched his arm.
Rain pulled Shelfa closer to him and reassured her firmly,
“Well, that’s what you requested, right? I’ll do what you want me to. Basically, I’ll be acting as both a high general and as your aide.”
Shelfa looked visibly relieved. Her eyes glistened as she looked back up at him.
“I’m happier for the fact that you’ll be with me than I would be about gaining an army of a million strong.”
“Silly. Quit saying embarrassing stuff like that with a straight face.”
“But it’s true. And I’m holding back quite a lot, you know?”
She wrapped her arms around Rain. Then, in a whisper, she asked,
“The fighting’s about to start again……but we’ll win, yes?”
Normally, it wasn’t a question that a liege should be posing her retainer, but Shelfa was not being conscious of their respective social standings.
To Shelfa, Rain was a lover, someone she looked up to, a friend, and a father figure. To sum it up, Rain was everything to her.
Matter-of-factly, Rain answered,
“Zarmine is the strongest nation on the continent. Their military is vast, they have an excellent leader, and they have the initiative. Even history itself might dictate that Leygur is successful in unifying the entire continent.”
But, Rain continued.
His fighting spirit quietly surged in his black eyes as he looked back into Shelfa’s sapphire ones.
Shelfa shivered, perhaps because she felt his wave of power.
“But I won’t let it happen. I’ll change the flow the history for sure.”
Shelfa responded with a smile.
“If that’s what you say, Rain, then I’ll believe you.”
“Well, I’m hoping things’ll work out. ……Shall we be off now?”
They left the palace and made their way to the training grounds. They already began hearing the clamor of people as soon as they approached the back entrance.
The new soldiers were already waiting on the other side.
Incidentally, this was the same venue where Selphie and the others had taken their knight promotion exams previously.
Rain had instructed that no one else be present near the back entrance beforehand, so all that was left was for him and Shelfa to make their dashing entrance.
Shelfa, donned in her dress, still seemed nervous about the ordeal, however.
“I’d never thought there would be a day when I would find myself leading an entire army……”
“What are you talking about? You’ve been the commander-in-chief of Ralphus and my armies all this time, you know?”
“Yes, but……that was only on paper, and the soldiers of your units technically still belonged to you and Lord Ralphus.”
Rain placed a hand on Shelfa’s shoulder and looked deeply into her sapphire eyes. For whatever reason, Shelfa regained her usual composure when he did.
He could tell that she was visibly becoming less nervous under his watch even now.
“You’ll get used to it one step at a time. Plus, I’ll be right here with you. ……Let’s see, make sure to remember just one thing for today.”
Shelfa starring rummaging around her dress after she replied.
“……What are you doing?”
“I, I wanted to write it down somewhere so I remember it.”
Rain could not help but break into a smile.
She was being as serious as always. She wasn’t trying to joke around at all.
“You’ll be fine with your memory, silly. There’s no need for you to write every little thing down.”
Rain placed his hand on Shelfa’s blonde hair and continued,
“How To Be A Commander, Part One. “Even if you’re in trouble, never let it show.””
“……Does that mean I can’t be worried?”
“Not at all. You can worry and hesitate as much as you’d like. But don’t let your retainers——your generals or your soldiers know. Grin and bear it, even if only out of stubborn pride. Even just that’s enough to put your men at ease.”
Shelfa gazed back at Rain without so much as blinking.
She kind of looked like a young girl staring back at the hero she admired.
“Rain, do you ever hesitate before making a decision?”
“……Who could say? What do you think?”
Rain dodged the question as he laughed.
“I’m always watching you carefully, Rain, and it always seems to me that you’ve predicted everything beforehand. I’ve never once seen you be hesitant.”
Her answer was decisive, and she also added,
“I want to be a strong and reliable commander, just like you, Rain. I know I’ll never be able to measure up, but if I could mimic you even just a little……”
All Rain said in response was,
“You’ll be a great commander —I know it.”
Then, he opened the door for Shelfa once the words had left his mouth.
The quiet murmurs turned into cries of wonder.
They had all been waiting eagerly for their commander.
It was only natural that they had been anticipating their meeting, seeing that their commander was also the ruler of their kingdom.
Shelfa gingerly stepped inside the venue, and Rain walked in boldly behind her.
Several rude stared fell on him as soon as he walked in. No one said anything about it, as Rain himself ignored them, but it would only be a matter of time before the soldiers began harboring their doubts.
There was no reason for the general of another army to join in on the inauguration ceremony of theirs. Many people thought he had simply accompanied Shelfa as her escort.
Shelfa walked up to the center of the highest platform. A guard standing in the corner of the stage took a deep breath and yelled, “All hail Her Royal Majesty the Queen!”
Everyone in the venue dropped to their knees at his signal.
Rain was of no exception, and Shelfa’s standing in the kingdom was established for all to see. Only two individuals stood above a high general in the Kingdom of Sunkwoll —the grand general and the king.
Matters considering the nobility aside, not even the prime minister had the right to order around a high general when it came to military dealings.
And, considering that the position of grand general was currently vacant, Shelfa was the sole individual in the kingdom who had the right to give Rain orders.
——Rain had taken the initiative and bent down to one knee to demonstrate this.
He knew that Shelfa disliked things like this, but he had decided to prioritize the proper forms today.
Shelfa, however, was not aware of his intentions……or rather, she did not want to be aware of his intentions.
She had said, “Please rise, everyone,” at the speed of light the very moment she saw Rain kneel. The others had barely had enough time to bow.
The soldiers obediently rose while looking to Shelfa for cues. Rain stood up a beat later with a smile carved on the edge of his lips.
He quickly surveyed the venue.
At the very front of the lineup was Abel, the “Self-Proclaimed Hero”, Falna, and Felt, who had recently become the head priest.
Behind them was a throng of new soldiers who had enlisted after responding to the summons and a few older knights who had been formerly members of Rain’s or Ralphus’ units.
Incidentally, the knights were there because Rain and Ralphus had ordered or otherwise persuaded them to transfer, not because they had abandoned their respective lieges.
Their transfers had been an unavoidable measure, as it was impossible to wage war with only amateur soldiers and newly promoted knights.
In any event, the crowd returned to a quiet murmuring, and Shelfa turned around to look back at Rain.
Rain nodded, and suddenly roared,
His voice carried surprisingly well, and the venue became so quiet so fast it was almost funny.
The venue had been on the quieter side to begin with, but now it was so quiet you could hear a needle hitting the floor.
In the same breath, Rain continued,
“the Princess, who has recently taken up her rightful post within the first army of Sunkwoll——that is, as the highest commander of the kingdom’s national army, has a few words to say!”
Abel abruptly turned to look to Rain just then, leaving an impression on the latter. He had been staring almost absentminded~ly at Shelfa’s face until then.
He opened his mouth to say something, but he closed it again as he remembered where he was.
This might cause trouble later down the line, Rain thought. Abel was staring off into space while looking like something didn’t sit too well with them, and Rain had not missed his change in attitude.
——Gently, Shelfa began speaking.
“Please be at ease as you listen. ……We have recently taken the chance to reorganize the first army, which had scattered after the recent war. All this was made possible thanks to the efforts of the loyal people who serve my house……”
She stole a glance at Rain.
She only barely managed to hold back from laughing when she saw the cool look on his face that seemed to say, “Who, me? —I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
She reluctantly returned her gaze forward and attentively continued her greeting.
The contents of her speech were befitting of a modest princess, and, while it lacked a certain show of power, it left her audience in good spirits.
——Or so Rain thought.
After all, it would be troubling if she didn’t take the chance to make her new retainers feel like working hard for their ruler.
Hers wasn’t a bad speech from that point of view.
Rain was nodding to himself when things took an unexpected turn.
The unexpected turn occurred as soon as Shelfa had finished saying, “And lastly, please allow me to introduce Rain, who will be acting as my aide in commanding my unit.”
“Please hold a moment, Your Majesty!”
a dignified voice rang out.
Abel looked a little diffident, perhaps because he had been staring blankly like he had glimpsed heaven itself during Shelfa’s address and had surprised even himself for suddenly cutting in.
Still, he continued after a beat as he was unable to hold back his doubts.
“Lord Rain is a high general, if I recall correctly. He is the commander of his own army, and he is also the liege lord of Astel. Why is someone of his station your aide in commanding your personal unit, Your Majesty?”
Everything was looking pointedly at Rain.
While a little rude, what Abel had pointed out spoke for all their doubts.
From times immemorial, the unwritten law had stated that “the king is the greatest liege lord of the kingdom and must hold the largest and strongest influence within its borders.” Shelfa had been the exception to this rule until now after the late king’s personal unit had been annihilated in the war.
After all, civil officials aside, she had no soldiers to her name other than her two military officials, Rain and Ralphus.
While she did have guards who were dispatched throughout her lands, they were only there to keep the civilians under control. The guards were not soldiers who would follow her to war.
She may have a vast amount of territory to her name, but there was nothing more perilous than a ruler with no army.
The only reason why it hadn’t posed a problem until now was because neither of her two remaining high generals had any ambitions for the throne whatsoever.
If they had held such ambitions……then Shelfa’s fate would have differed greatly to what it was now.
Her new soldiers and generals were vaguely aware of this, and this was why Abel’s doubts had only been obvious.
“Isn’t it all over for you if you let a high general with his own territory take the position of your aide and he ends up committing treason?”
——was what everyone thought.
There was no way that Shelfa, however, would ever harbor such concerns about Rain, and so she did not comprehend what Abel had pointed out in the first place.
And so, she tilted her head to the side and candidly ended up admitting, “I intend to have Rain hold the actual baton of command over my army as my proxy, as I am unfamiliar with matters concerning warfare.”
It was only natural that Abel ended up scowling harder.
“……Please forgive my insolence, Your Majesty. However, though the High General may be your retainer, he is also a liege lord with the authority to govern his own territory. Have you made your decision despite being fully aware of this?”
“Yes, of course. ……Is there something wrong with that?”
Even Rain could not simply stare off into the ceiling as he watched Shelfa reply ever so frankly out of the corner of his eye.
“Ahh, ahem. Please allow me to explain.”
He cut in and explained Abel’s concerns to Shelfa. He even added that it was only natural that Abel should feel this way, though Shelfa didn’t appear very convinced.
Her voice was harder than normal. She continued,
“I know that you cannot help but be concerned because you do not know Rain very well, but he does not have any ambitions for the throne. Thus, your apprehensions are unfounded.”
“But, but still! I was only thinking of you, Your Majesty…”
“Ahh, hold it, hold it. Hold it right here.”
Rain stopped Abel before the latter could break into an impassioned speech before his liege. Rain continued,
“I understand that your concerns are only natural. But……are you sure you’re really saying that for the Princess’ sake? Why don’t you take deeper look at your own heart?”
“……What do you mean by that?”
Abel replied thornily as he glared sharply at Rain.
It looked like he was unable to fully control his emotions, perhaps due to his youth.
“I mean this. Let’s say you were in my shoes for a moment. And then the Princess requested you to be her aide. Would you be modest and decline? Do you truly think you could?”
The vain youth visibly flinched at the question.
Though he would have been truly exemplary if he had immediately answered, “Of course I would decline!”——
For better or worse, the youth was honest to a fault.
After a moment of hesitation, Abel bitterly replied, “I know myself well.”
Rain grinned and nodded as he said, “I see, I see.” He continued,
“in that case, everything you’ve pointed out just now was entirely self-serving. That’s all there was to it.”
“B, but still!”
“I get it, but hold it for just a bit longer.”
Rain stopped Abel from speaking with a wave of his hand. He continued,
“you’ve been pretty honest up until now, so let me be honest with you too. ……You just don’t like that I’m going to be the Princess’ aide right now, and, well, it’s not like I blame you for feeling that way. That being said, it’s not like I can just step down because you’re not happy about it either. You’re obviously powerless to do anything as of now, and I’m pretty sure you aren’t fit for the job either. So, simply put, you have three choices laid out in front of you.”
He continued matter-of-factly with a serious look on his face.
“You can leave right now, or you can accept the way things are and stay. Or……you can prove that you’d made for a good aide one day——that’s about it.”
“I, I never meant to say that I wanted to be the aide.”
Rain immediately cut his argument to pieces.
“You sure about that? You’ve been so honest about everything already. Don’t start lying to yourself now. You thought that you wouldn’t mind getting the job if it meant that you could leap~ up a few ranks immediately, didn’t you?”
He stared into Abel’s blue eyes.
Rain had not spoken out of spite, but Abel only grew more agitated. He had a bitter look on his face and began sweating, but he remained silent.
Though, it was his silence that damned him, of course.
Personally, Abel wanted to kill himself for speaking up unnecessarily. To the contrary, however, Rain smiled a refreshing smile and climbed down the platform to pat Abel lightly on the shoulder.
“See? Life’s surprisingly simply once you take out all the cumbersome logic.”
Finally, Abel looked back up.
“……You said I could prove that I would make a good aide. Were you being serious about that?”
“‘Course I was.”
Rain sighed and brushed back his black hair.
After all, he had understood what Abel had actually meant by that.
“You sure you were listening to me properly? I said you could prove yourself one day. Not now. It’d be too reckless of you as of yet.”
“But why not? I haven’t lost to you in a fight just yet.”
Abel regained his mettle.
Or rather, he suddenly began gushing with fighting spirit for no real reason. Missed the mark on this one, Rain thought.
This is why I hate trying to persuade men.
He sighed and lowered the tone of his voice.
Then, he whispered so only Abel could hear.
“Let me give you something they call life advice from your elder. ……You should watch yourself, Abel. You’re about to lose the Princess’ trust.”
His words had a tremendous impact on Abel.
The look on the self-proclaimed Hero’s face probably wouldn’t have changed so drastically even if he’d been thrown into freezing water buck naked.
He reflexively looked to Shelfa and took extra damage when he saw her glar~ing back at him.
——It only stood to reason. He was a good-looking guy who was used to being praised by women for his looks, so he had a low tolerance to being glared at by one.
Rain immediately added,
“it’s risky, right? Trust is important, you know? It’s not easy to gain it back once you’ve lost it. And that’s especially true for the Princess.”
Abel’s shoulders were quivering in an amusing manner.
He wanted to quip back and turn the situation on its head, but it wouldn’t change the fact that he was going against Shelfa’s will and neither could he come up with a good excuse for himself.
He wouldn’t have fallen into this predicament in the first place if he had been tactful enough to make up such an excuse to begin with.
And so, Abel chose instead to press his argument further by saying, “B, but……I’m confident that I can win!” Rain stroked his chin.
“Hmm? You’re confident you can win? Are you sure about that……?”
——Just then, the light of Rain’s magic sword burned into Abel’s eyes.
Rain’s hands had blurred, and his magic sword had appeared as a beam of light in the blink of an eye. Abel gulped as he looked down at the ominous magical aura shimmering by this throat.
The Siren’s Blade had stopped just short of his skin.
He had been completely unprepared, and all he could do was stare blankly at the magic sword in shock.
“It, it’s underhanded to use a, a surprise attack!”
Abel protested vehemently, prompting Rain to re-sheathe his magic sword and nonchalantly reply,
“the truly strong are always prepared for a surprise attack. Especially when it’s plainly predictable that they might be attacked. Simply put, it’s your own fault you lost.”
Abel stepped out of line in indignation, but a woman’s profound voice cut in before he could protest.
“That is enough, boy.”
Everyone present save for Rain turned toward the wall in surprise. There, they found a girl with a snow-white mantle and long silver twin tails who was looked back at them with a hint of amusement on her face. She continued,
“Even I can’t defeat Rain. Stew over that for a bit.”
There was a touch of menace in her warning that was ill-befitting of her girlish appearance.
She was Sylvia Rosenberg, the very girl who had overwhelmingly been the most favored contestant to win the tournament, but no one had realized that she was standing there until just now. Rain had noticed her, of course, but he had purposefully avoided looking at her because she was hiding her presence. He doubted that this was interesting at all, but he didn’t particularly mind if she wanted to spectate……or something like that.
In any event, most of everyone had learned of how strong Sylvia was during the tournament——she was so strong that it was an understatement to say she was “overwhelming”.
Rain nonchalantly brushed his hair back.
He advised, “Why don’t you get back in line now?” as Abel dropped his jaw.
The youth was obedient now. He stag~gered back in place. Perhaps the memory of the severe and complete defeat he had suffered at Sylvia’s hands had appeased his blazing fighting spirit.
Well, thanks for getting things under control.
Rain waved back to Sylvia to show his appreciation——or at least he was about to before yet another challenger stepped up.
“In that case, may I take you up on that offer?”
The voice didn’t belong to an enraged youth but to a gentle woman of good judgment.
That woman, the mature and beautiful Falna, calmly looked Rain in the eyes and saluted him.
“……You want to be an aide too?”
Falna shook her head no, just as Rain had quietly expected. Her well-maintained blonde hair danced as she did.
“No, Lord Rain. I am not suited for such an important post. I simply——”
The smile on her face vanished like the melting snow in spring.
Her blue eyes, similar to Abel’s——but larger, shone bright with resolve as she said,
“I simply wished to get acquainted with your strength, Lord Rain, as you will be taking command in Her Majesty’s stead…… I will probably never get the chance to match your sword again, considering my station.”
She spoke her lines as smoothly as though they had been rehearsed beforehand and she bowed yet again.
Rain thought for a moment and surveyed the new soldiers, who were waiting with bated breath, before turning to Shelfa.
“……The ceremony is half-over, Princess —may we have a bit of time?”
Shelfa adorably tilted her side to the side as she looked between Falna and Rain.
She nodded quickly thereafter.
“I don’t mind, of course. ……Perhaps it would be for the best if you took the opportunity to show everyone how strong you are.”
The content of her words aside, it looked like Shelfa had taken some sort of interest in Falna.
She was looking at Falna as though she was deep in contemplation.
Rain cast a glance at Falna as well.
She was naturally in her uniform and equipped with a sword, since the ceremony was meant to celebrate the formation of the unit. But she had only looked Rain in the eyes that first time and was keeping her eyes lowered now. She seemed worried over Shelfa’s gaze, though, as she continuously stole glances at the platform.
“We have the Princess’ permission, so it should be fine. ——Hey, all lines step back a bit. We’re going to hold a quick match.”
His tone was light, but everyone fell back in a hurry.
Rain and Falna squared off against each other as the space cleared around them.
Rain did not even have his hand on his magic sword yet.
“Whenever you’re ready, Falna.”
“……I know this is a match, but is it all right if I use my sword?”
Rain nodded readily. He continued,
“come at me like you mean to kill me. You need to be at least that serious or there won’t be a point in us holding a match.”
“……I will do as you suggest, Lord Rain.”
Falna finally looked back up.
……The smile had finally returned to her beautiful visage. Her blue eyes stared piercingly into Rain.
Rain’s figure suddenly enlarged the moment Falna drew her sword and readied her stance.
The transformation had been so sudden that even Falna, as composed as she usually was, mistakenly wondered if he was using some sort of black magic for a moment.
She only managed to take evasive measures because of a faint whistling she heard in the wind.
There was no way that there would be any wind in an enclosed space. It was only made possible because her enemy had sudden dashed forward at extreme speeds.
Her enemy hadn’t enlarged at all.
He had simply rushed at her with terrifying speed!
Falna had witnessed Rain fighting during the tournament and was fully aware of how fast he was, but she had still been taken by surprise nevertheless.
Falna instantaneously realized all this as she saw a bright blue beam of light coming down from over her head. Rain had long since entered her range, and his infamous magic sword was already upon her.
‘I’ll jump backward——no, it’s too late for that! And I can’t dodge to the sides either! In that case…!’
Falna acted on instantaneous instinct rather than wait for her thoughts to conclude. She did not dodge, but instead stepped forward. If she lowered her center of gravity and stepped in toward him, her enemy’s attack would miss.
But then she saw a black leg coming up before her eyes. Rain had read her intentions and had moved into a different attack.
Falna realized that Rain’s knee was aiming for the pit of her stomach and guarded against his kick with her left hand.
The shock of impact and a wave of pain ran through her arm, but both were weaker than what she had expected.
It had only been a feint.
The arm Falna had used to guard herself with was pulled away before she could register even the relief from having guarded against Rain’s kick, and she suddenly found her body floating weightlessly in the air.
She inadvertently cried out as a loud crash resounded around her.
She only registered the fact that she had been thrown after she had crashed down to the ground. It was good that she had been able to roll out of it on instinct, or else she would have been rendered unconscious.
To think that he could throw her with just one hand.
Her vision blurred for a moment even though she had rolled out of the fall. She desperately kept her consciousness from blacking out and belatedly rolled again to avoid any follow-up attacks.
……There had been no need for her to do that, though.
Rain was looking down at Falna with his sword hanging limply at his side from his starting position, as if he had never moved from that spot to begin with. His eyes were so quiet that his tremendous attack just now could have been a lie.
He had moved, of course. He had simply moved back after throwing her to allow her the time to get back on her feet. Still, Falna looked around and kept herself on guard as she quickly stood back up.
As she did, he silently moaned to herself.
‘He……he’s truly strong!’
Falna had been called the first genius in decades back in her hometown, but it was only now that she really understood what it meant to be a genius. The man standing before her was the real genius.
She had no choice but to acknowledge this even though he was her enemy.
“……May I ask that we continue a bit longer?”
The victor had been decided, but she still asked anyway.
He agreed readily.
“I don’t mind.”
Falna bowed slightly before something akin to a sigh of relief rippled around the area. It surprised her, as Falna had been so focused on her fight that she hadn’t been paying any attention to her spectators at all.
She glanced at Shelfa only to find that the young ruler was staring fixedly at Rain and was not paying any attention to her in particular.
Shelfa looked like a young maiden looking up to her respected hero as she stared at Rain. Falna figured that she wasn’t too far off the mark regarding that.
……I must have imagined her gaze from earlier.
Falna was relieved as she returned her focus to the enemy before her.
She readjusted her grip on her sword, which she hadn’t put away yet, and bent her knees ever so slightly so she could react as soon as she needed to as she inched forward.
Falna pondered earnestly as she did.
He may be a genius, but he’s not omnipotent. He’ll definitely show an opening at some point. Like for example……yes, for example, his swordsmanship is remarkable in that it piles upon attack after attack. It’s only feasible because of his perfect eye for the flow of battle and his speed, but if I can use the fact that he only goes on the offensive against him…!
She had thought as much through when Rain called out to her as though he was merely chatting.
“You were just thinking about how my attacks only stay on the offensive, weren’t you?”
Falna was startled and stopped dead in her tracks.
She was far more astonished now than she had been when she had first lost the initiative.
Rain rested his magic sword against his shoulder in a relaxed position, and he was looking back at her without any sign of tension whatsoever. There was a faint mischievous grin on his virile visage.
“Relax. I wasn’t using some creepy spell to read your mind or anything. I just knew……you’re relatively strong, but that actually makes you easier to read.”
“Relatively, you say?”
She asked back with a rueful smile, prompting Rain to seriously answer,
“Don’t worry about it. When I say you’re “relatively” strong, it means that you’re pretty strong compared to the rest of the world. But people like you tend to always think about finding openings that you can exploit to defeat your opponent. So it was pretty easy to predict what you’d think after seeing my offensive.”
“Nah, I was just trying to give you some advice. I just meant that you still have far to go if you’re thinking so desperately in the middle of a fight. For example, thinking something like, “He’s an idiot who only goes on the offensive, so I’ll use that against him!” won’t do you any good at all. It won’t even get you started, in fact. You didn’t think that I wouldn’t have considered something as simple as that and anticipate you’d get an easy opening out of me——now did you?”
Rain grinned with Falna simple stared back at him without another word.
His smile was the very picture of boldness and arrogance, and she would probably never forget it for as long as she lived.
“See? The truly strong never let down their guards, right?”
Falna dashed toward him as fast as she could instead of replying.
The spectators disappeared from Falna’s field of view as soon as she started running, and all she could see was Rain. Both the hesitation and the excitement were gone from her blue eyes, leaving only the pure fighting spirit of a wolf hunting down her prey.
The sword in her hand was still hanging low——in a low stance, of sorts, and she made no move to attack first.
Rain, on the other hand, moved as terrifyingly quickly as usual.
He did not enter her range first this time, and he only moved the very tip of his magic sword while he waited precisely for the “exact moment” that Falna entered his and slashed his sword up without a moment’s delay. Most of the spectators only saw a flash of light when he did, but those who knew what to look for could only groan about how perfect his timing had been.
Falna, however, did not rush to move out of his sword’s path this time.
Instead, she grabbed the whip she wore at her waist with her left hand and snapped it forward.
Her longsword was not Falna’s only weapon. It didn’t stand out as much because it was normally wrapped around her waist, but she counted her whip as one of her greatest weapons.
The whip, which Falna had just shot out with a flick of her wrist, reached out for Rain’s magic sword like a living snake and gracefully wrapped around its hilt.
Falna jumped to the side, almost as though she was rolling, as it did. Her gamble was risky, and the magic sword had nearly grazed her side, but she had fulfilled her objective nevertheless.
She delayed her satisfaction for later and simply stood in place one length of her whip away. Fortunately, Rain had not moved to begin his next attack yet.
Falna immediately pulled her whip taut.
But Rain was so calm that it was almost annoying, and he hadn’t even moved a single eyebrow. Still, Falna was sure that she had sealed away his magic sword——or so she thought.
“……You let your guard down, Lord Rain.”
A bead of sweat ran down her white cheeks, and Falna could not hide the sparkle in her eyes.
She pulled the whip in her hand tighter and continued,
“Even if I can’t match your speed, I still have cards to play as long as I know that you’ll always move to take the initiative and attack me first.”
She found the composure to confirm her surroundings.
She looked to Shelfa first, only to find that the Lord Princess was at more ease than even Rain and was even giggling to herself. Falna could tell that the Princess did not believe that Rain could be defeated even in her wildest dreams. Falna furrowed her brows a little before she could stop herself.
Then, Rain poured salt on the wound.
“You really don’t get it, do you?”
He smiled fearlessly without so much as trying to remove her whip from the hilt of his sword. Falna was pulling at it as hard as she could, but he didn’t budge so much as an inch —as if he was a stone statue weighing several thousand kilograms— and simply smiled pleasantly back at her.
“You’ve made quite a number of miscalculations. First, there’s the difference between your strength and mine. Binding an opponent who’s stronger than you with a whip will only have the opposite effect than what you were going for. You haven’t sealed off my weapon at all —you only restricted your own ability to move. Second, did you seriously think I’d fall for your trap?”
He nonchalantly explained himself when Falna opened her eyes wide in surprise.
“You should’ve been more suspicious……did it never occur to you that I might have given you an opening on purpose? These aren’t exactly your words, but it’s easy to use your opponent’s expectations against them if you know what their aiming for, right? It’s not that I’m trying to insult you or anything, but this fight would’ve been long since over if I was being serious. And third…”
“……There’s still more?”
“There’s a lot more, actually, but I can’t be bothered, so I’ll only say one more thing,”
He replied with a grin. He continued,
“Third, you still wouldn’t be able to defeat me even if you had managed to seal away my weapon——never.”
Rain disappeared as soon as the words had left his mouth.
Falna figured it out immediately this time. He hasn’t actually disappeared—he simply lowered his body and ran forward! It only looked like he disappeared because he’s so fast my eyes can’t catch up!
In any case, however, Falna would not have managed to react in time. Rain had abruptly let go of his magic sword, causing Falna, who was still pulling at her whip, to stagger as her posture crumbled.
She had never thought that he would simply abandon his weapon, and Falna foolishly lost her balance.
And, considering her opponent, the delay in her reaction proved fatal.
She did not manage to regain her posture before Rain caught up to her. His right hand reached for her throat. Then, with his superhuman strength, he jumped up several meters with Falna in tow and slammed her hard against the wall far behind them.
He had thrown her carefully, so she hadn’t broken any bones……but she nearly blacked out again.
She had lost her sword at some point, and her right had was being pressed against the wall. Moreover, Rain had pressed his knee in between her legs, and they were stuck so close together that she found herself unable to move at all.
She was still carrying her whip in her left hand, but she couldn’t use it in her current position. Whips were useless if you were stuck to your enemy.
Rain gently pressed his hold on her throat as his black eyes looked deeply into hers. ……From up close.
“You’ve lost, Falna. You were too focused on taking my weapon away from me……and that’s why you lost.”
“……As you say, Lord Rain. Still, in an ordinary match, I couldn’t beat you as I am right now no matter what strategies I used.”
——Indeed, I can’t……for now, at least.
Contrary to Falna’s secret thoughts, Rain readily nodded and said,
“Try harder next time.”
Her heart skipped a beat and she blinked as Rain responded,
“During our next match, I mean. Well, unless you don’t want to spar against me anymore, I suppose.”
“Oh……not at all. My apologies, and please allow me in your care next time as well.”
Rain nodded boldly before he suddenly pulled back a little for some reason.
Falna looked behind him to see what was going on to find that the Princess was standing there pulling at his clothes while pouting.
In a quiet voice only the two of them could hear, she said.
“……Don’t stick so close to her like that.”
She’s so obvious…… Falna could not help but smile.
Still, she held back from laughing because it made her head ring. But then, her faint smile froze stiff when she saw Rain’s magic sword, which should have been entangled in her whip, teleport back into his hands.
……What in the world?
“Oh, well, you don’t need to be that surprised. This is just how this magic sword is. Basically, there was no point in trying to seal away my weapon for more reasons than one.”
Rain offered her his nonsensical explanation before he turned to Shelfa to say, “This was just an accident, Princess.” Falna wanted to ask him more about his sword for future reference, but a man in a black mantle walked up to him before she could.
Falna had not seen the man approach, and he ignored even Shelfa as he whispered something into Rain’s ear.
Rain listened without looking surprised, but he returned to looking serious by the time he turned to Shelfa.
“……Is something the matter, Rain.”
“We should wrap up the ceremony here. Something a bit bothersome’s come up.”
Shelfa quietly tilted her head to the side, prompting rain to casually continue,
“Leygur’s finally started making his move. This’ll be a bit troublesome.”
……He didn’t sound troubled at all.