Selphie had been sitting in her room while Shelfa and Riella were having tea . Her friend, Yuri, had left after saying that she would be back before they departed and had yet to return . And so, Selphie was left in her room all alone because Yuri had not dropped by as she normally did .
Soldiers were typically busy in the days leading up to their departure, but Selphie and Yuri didn’t really have much to do in particular because they were regarded as squires under Rain’s direct command . After all, Rain’s whereabouts hadn’t been very clear over these last few days, and the man himself had nonchalantly said, “Oh, there’s no reason to get so pumped up about anything . It’s fine, so just rest up . ”
And so, Yuri had been more than happy to slip out of the castle while Selphie remained on standby alone .
“Do you wanna come with, Selphie? I’ll introduce you to my younger sister . ”
Yuri had extended her an invitation, but Selphie had turned it down with a smile . She was happy for Yuri’s consideration, but she didn’t want to intrude upon the happy family reunion .
Still……she was a little envious, to be honest . She was envious of Yuri . It must be wonderful to have a home to go back to, she thought . I don’t have a home to return to, nor do I have people who would welcome me back .
“If only Father was still alive…”
she said before she could stop herself and blinked . The sudden surge of loneliness she felt almost made her cry . She quickly rubbed her eyes and resolutely jumped up .
……Nothing good will come from staying up this late . I have to get up super early tomorrow, so I should hurry up and go to bed .
She pulled out her pajamas and quickly began changing . She heard a knock at her door in the middle of it .
With her back to the door, Selphie said,
“Hi~ . It’s open, Yuri . ”
She heard the door open .
“You’re finally back . ……Did you have fun with your sister?”
Huh? Selphie thought .
That doesn’t sound like Yuri at all…
——But now’s not the time for that!
Selphie looked back just as she was in the middle of taking off her skirt……with a stiff look on her face .
Her worst prediction came true, and the blood drained from her face as she found Rain standing at the door . His arms were crossed, and he was staring back at Selphie with a truly serious look on his face .
Selphie quickly tried to pull her skirt back up in a hurry——but then she tripped over her feet and fell to the floor . She vigorously finished pulling her skirt back up as she lay on the floor . She immediately tried to get back up, but then she fell over again, sideways this time . It took over thirty seconds for her to finish getting her clothes back in order……perhaps it had taken so much time because she was panicking .
Then, she heard a solemn voice speak to her from behind .
“……It’s pink today . ”
“You, you don’t have to go out of your way to point that out!”
“Hey, quit panicking so much…… Just change at your leisure without minding me . I’ll be sure to watch out for you . ”
“Nooo thank you! I mean……that’d be too embarrassing…”
Selphie quickly steadied her breathing before she finally turned around .
Rain had already pulled over her vanity chair and was sitting on it backward with the back of the chair in front of him . He was already in full-blown audience-mode as he observed her .
“You don’t need to watch so seriously!”
“Or so you say, but aren’t you always showing off your underwear to me? I thought you were just doing it again . ”
“This isn’t a joke! I always mess up and embarrass myself in front of you……I feel so pathetic . ”
“Don’t be stupid . I enjoy watching you, so you should just enjoy yourself too . ”
“No way! There’s no way I could bring myself to see it like that . ”
She was finally starting to calm down .
Selphie smiled awkwardly as she glanced at Rain’s direction .
“Anyway……did you need something from me? If you’re here about the gambling during the martial arts tournament, I think Yuri gave back all the money…”
Rain pondered for a moment before shaking his head with a wry smile on his face . He continued,
“oh, that . I don’t really care about that . I’m not really the type to scold others over things like that . ”
“N, no, you aren’t . ……Then, what brings you here……? Um…”
Her words trailed off at the end .
Selphie was happy Rain was here, of course —after all, he was her liege-cum-first love . Her heart thumped furiously just because he was near, and her chest hurt, and she didn’t know what to say .
She wondered if she should use the opportunity to show him how sunny and capable she was……but then she realized that Rain, the all-important man in question, might prefer more mature women .
Then, Selphie immediately began hating herself for thinking about it for such a long time .
Jeez……I’m such a horrible girl . What’s the point in lying about myself?
Rain called out to her again while she was deep in thought .
“Hey . ”
“……You don’t need to stand at attention like that, you know?”
Rain laughed, still sitting in the chair . He continued,
“don’t just stand there —take a seat……like on your bed or something . ”
“On the b, bed?!”
Selphie began panicking for no reason again .
He probably only said that because the bed’s right there —why am I panicking? Selphie moved stiffly, like she had a rod shoved through her, as she walked up to the bed and sat down as she was told . She naturally ended up sitting opposite of Rain .
“……You look pretty nervous . Are you uncomfortable around me?”
There was something lonely about his smile .
Selphie opened her eyes wide and vigorously shook her head no .
“No no no! That’s not it at all……I just get nervous really easily to begin with . So……I’d be nervous even if it was someone else and not you, Lord Rain —honest!”
She had said it all in just one breath .
Rain simply smiled back, and time passed again .
After a short while, he suddenly asked her,
“how’ve you been? Are you doing well? No one’s bullying you or anything?”
This took her by surprise .
“Me? I’m living every day to the fullest, all thanks to you…… I’m even practicing swinging my sword when I have free time . ”
Selphie could not help but get a bad feeling as she spoke . Had he come he without warning to bring bad news? She continued,
“um……did I do something terribly wrong?”
“Not at all . It’s not like that . ……I think I’ve mentioned it to you before, but I’m only here to ask if you wanted to stop being a knight a return to living a normal life . ”
Selphie’s visions suddenly became blurry . Her eyes immediately swelled up with tears, and they threatened to overflow even as she desperately held them back .
She looked down in a hurry .
“……I’m being a nuisance, aren’t I?”
Even she had to admit how pathetic she sounded .
“Hey, where’d that come from?”
Rain sounded genuinely surprised as he stood up . He walked briskly over to Selphie and crouched down in front of her . He looked up at her face as he continued,
“that’s not what I meant at all . I’ve asked Yuri the same question before too —it’s not just you . I ask everyone this question from time to time . ”
“Yes! Why would I go out of my way just to kick you out? I don’t have any reason to do that, right?”
There was a serious expression on his face as he looked up at her .
Selphie rubbed at her eyes as she turned away from Rain .
“Okay……I’m sorry for misunderstanding . And, umm…”
“……Could you please not stare so much? —I know I must look really weird right now and I’m really embarrassed . ”
Rain stood back up without another word .
Oh no!! What if I ruined his mood by saying too much again?!
Selphie regretted what she said so much it hurt, but, once again, she had been overthinking things .
She looked up in surprise when she felt something heavy on her shoulders, only to find that Rain was wrapping a blanket over her . ……He was gentle .
“It gets cold in this room . Keep this around you . ……Jeez, I thought I gave everyone a room with a fireplace, even the squires . ”
“Oh, those were your directives, Lord Rain……? I’m so sorry! I thought they were from Captain Leni . ”
“Nah, it really doesn’t matter who gave them…… Were you holding back on purpose?”
“……Well, I’m not even working properly yet, so I thought the room might be too luxurious for someone like me…”
She looked up at Rain and quickly added,
“besides, the cold doesn’t bother me at all . Honest! I can sleep in just my underwear even if it’s a bit chill——ahh!”
Selphie wanted to writhe in agony for saying something stupid again . Why do I always mess up like this when he’s here?
Rain, however, simply sat back down and straightforwardly said,
“In that case, it’s a direct order this time . I don’t care if the cold doesn’t bother you —switch to a regular room after we get back from the expedition . ”
“——Does that mean I can stay?”
Selphie confirmed with her liege with upturned eyes . Rain looked troubled, for once .
“I told you that I never planned on kicking you out . That being said, it’s also true that I’d personally prefer that you and Yuri went back to living honest and respectable lives . ”
Rain sighed and stared up at the ceiling .
He fell silent for a moment before he finally continued,
“the upcoming war will probably be something fierce . I’m not trying to speak too highly of our enemy or anything, but Leygur isn’t incompetent . And not only that, but he has excellent commanders too . It’s one thing if he decides to make good use of his advantage in numbers to wage a simple war over resources, but he might even do something that even I’m wary of, depending on the situation . Well, even if he does end up doing it, it still won’t happen for some time yet . ”
There was something very farsighted about what Rain was saying . The war hadn’t even begun yet, but he had undoubtedly already predicted multiple ways the enemy could make their move .
“W, what do you mean by something that even you’re wary of?”
Rain fell silent for a moment before he vacantly replied,
“I won’t go into the specifics, but it’s a method that doesn’t depend on military might . It’s actually far more effective . Well, I’m prepared for it, in any event . ”
“I’m relieved to hear that, though I’m a little sorry that you won’t tell me what exactly it is……”
Rain chuckled as he watched Selphie seriously pat down at her chest . He instantly returned to looking serious again, however .
“A mercenary would have been trying to calculate how much quick money they could make out of the situation, but you aren’t here for the money . Even I can tell that much . Yuri, at least, pays just enough attention to these things to ensure her own survival, but you have a riskier air about you . It almost feels like you could drop dead at any moment if I don’t keep an eye on you . ”
“……Well, Yuri has her younger sister, after all,”
Selphie said without thinking before her heart skipped a beat . Now that she thought about it, this was supposed to be a secret . But she had already let it slip when she had asked, “Did you have fun with your sister?” earlier .
“I, I misspoke just now, I misspoke! She has a younger brother!”
“Relax, I already know . ”
Rain flashed a grin . He continued,
“and she’s not the only one I’ve looked into, you know? I have to do at least a little investigation into everybody as the commander of my army . ”
“I, is that so……”
Selphie was greatly relieved .
“But keep it a secret from Yuri, alright? She seems to think that I’d try to hit on her sister for some reason . She must really think I’m that much of a womanizer or something . ”
Rain laughed out loud .
Selphie smiled alongside him . Indeed, Yuri was rather mistaken . Selphie had become certain of this as of late . Rain was not nearly as much of a womanizer as the world made him out to be . The rumors about him weren’t very credible .
“But……in that case, you must know about me as well . ”
“I know what’s on the records,”
Rain readily admitted . He continued,
“But all I know about are the words that were written on some pieces of paper . I’ve been looking forward to hearing about what really happened straight from you one day . ”
Selphie’s tears threatened to spill over again, and she quickly held them back with everything she had .
“I, is that so……? I’m sorry for being so slow about these things . Um, I don’t mind telling you, but could you please grant one of my wishes too? Though I do realize that I’m been shameless right now . ”
As soon as Rain opened his mouth, she quickly added,
“and my condition isn’t an advance payment!”
Rain pouted a little as he looked back at her .
“You’re making me a little nervous here, if that’s not the case . Did you want physical contact or something?”
“Nooo, that’s not it either . It’s……”
Selphie gulped and continued,
“could you please tell me about your past, Lord Rain?”
Rain had worn a somewhat mischievous look until then, but his expression changed abruptly . The change was all too obvious .
“……I was a mercenary until coming here —is that what you wanted to ask about?”
His voice had suddenly taken on a cautious tone .
I knew it, Selphie thought with conviction . I’ve always been wondering……if there’s a reason why he fights .
There was probably a reason why he always wore black too . Selphie had become something of an expert about Rain because she had been observing him for so long . He seemed somewhat lonely even when he laughed, his eyes would occasionally look to somewhere far away when he had time to spare, and he would occasionally let slip a sudden look of deep sorrow…… Selphie had been watching Rain all this time, and so, from the bottom of her heart, she thought,
——I want to know the real Rain, and not just the image of him that the world thinks he is .
Which was why she looked Rain directly in the eye and lowered her head .
“You’re sharp, Lord Rain, so I’m sure that you already know what it is that I’m asking for…… Am I wrong?”
“Hmm~m……you’re putting me on the spot . Why do you even want to know something like that? It’s not a very fun story . ”
“You’re my liege, Lord Rain, and……w, well, so……”
Selphie readily looked away even though she had only just managed to psyche herself up and confront him directly . After all, she couldn’t possibly say that it was because she had a crush on him .
Fortunately, Rain didn’t pry any further and fell into thought with an astringent look on his face . He eventually caved when Selphie didn’t say another word and said,
“Alright……but in exchange, you have to tell me about your old man too . We’ll make it a bargain . ”
Then, he pointed at Selphie and continued,
“but you first . There’s an order to these things . ”
“W, we’re starting with me?!”
That’s not fair when I was the one who asked you first! ……but she couldn’t say that because of the shortcomings of being a retainer, or rather, the shortcomings of being someone in love . She continued,
“well……there isn’t much for me to add on if you already know the gist of it . ”
Selphie groaned and looked down as she began her story .
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that the garrison, which is mostly composed of commoners, shoulders the brunt of the public security in cities . My father was one such member of the garrison here in Lydia, the capital .
Most commoners believe that, while the average soldiers are commoners, all commanders are either knights or squires——as I’m sure you already know, there’s a very distinct line drawn in between commoners and the nobility……and commoners are often discriminated against .
Things have gotten much better now, but at the time, the highest position that a common-born member of the garrison could reach was the “captain’s aide,” who was in charge of managing the garrison’s lowest-ranking members . You needed the appropriate social standing, or bloodline, to be either the captain or a squad leader .
Technically, a captain’s aide was an “official knight,” but that wasn’t necessarily actually the case . The knights who were dispatched from the capital to act as captain were real knights, of course, but the commoner who had climbed up to the position of “captain’s aide” was only a “knight” in name and the title only applied within the garrison’s ranks .
——In other words, it was just a fantasy that had been established to motivate common-born members of the garrison .
My father climbed up the ranks and eventually became the captain’s aide . He was a commoner, and that was as far as he was allowed to go .
But my father was originally satisfied with that . “It might only apply within the garrison, but a knight is still a knight . It doesn’t change the fact that my job is to manage our members and protect our city . It’s a vital mission,” he’d say .
But my father’s captain didn’t share his ideals, unfortunately . The captain was of noble blood, but his house was a branch house, and he always lamented the fact that he had been deployed to the garrison .
He always opposed my father, who was the person actually running the garrison, and he always took it out on my father whenever something went wrong . Now, I can look back on it and see that he was probably envious of my father because he was incompetent and always being compared against my father, but I failed to realize that as a young child .
I remember how my father used to come home exhausted, and he would clutch his head and lament all the time . “Why is someone like him a knight? And an official knight at that, who can even be granted an audience with His Majesty the King! This world is wrong……if only I wasn’t a commoner, if only I had enough social standing to be an official knight!” —he’d say things like this constantly .
——It had happened just before Selphie turned fifteen .
Selphie had been worried because her father hadn’t come home even though it was very late, and she had not slept a wink .
But her father never came home that night .
Several people whom Selphie was acquainted with had visited her the next morning . They were ordinary soldiers from the garrison, and her father’s subordinates .
Selphie had stiffened up because their presence gave her a bad premonition, and, with pallid faces, they had told her,
“……your father won’t be coming home . He was executed for the crime of murder . ”
Selphie didn’t remember how she had replied to them . She had crumbled to the floor in tears, and it had been a while before she returned to her senses .
She only learned of what had actually happened from what she heard from others later and from a letter her father had left behind .
The captain of the garrison had gotten into a scuffle with a commoner in a tavern that night . It was a public place, and Selphie’s father had tried to hold him back, but the man was still a noble, even if his house was in decline, and did not have the patience for such things . In the end, the captain had tailed the commoner in secret after leaving the tavern and had murdered him in the middle of the night .
……A lot of people had witnessed his scuffle, including the storekeeper . But, even if the nobleman had been clearly in the wrong, no noble had ever been punished for murdering a commoner back then . They still needed to be pardoned, of course, but any excuse they gave would sufficed . That was what it had meant to be a noble back then .
But the captain had been afraid of the stain the incident would leave on his personal records .
“To sully his sword after getting into an argument with a mere commoner…… Well, what else could you expect from someone who was sent to the garrison?”
The captain had been terrified of the things people might say behind his back . He would never be able to make his comeback and return to the royal castle if the rumors spread . He had agonized over the matter, and then he had come up with a brilliant plan to resolve everything . He had then called for Selphie’s father and had ordered thus,
“You take the fall for me . You held me back, but then you took the initiative and killed that man in order to protect your captain’s honor——that’s how the story will go . This way, we can both protect our honor . Besides, you’ll only be suspended for a hundred days or so anyway . ”
Selphie’s father had obviously refused .
“Both you and I are fully aware of the truth . What point is there in lying about it?”
——he had said . But then, his captain had smiled despicably and replied,
“in that case, I’ll have one of your men take your place . They won’t get a say in it . And let me tell you up front that there’s no use in submitting a complaint . ……The ministers in the palace will believe my story, but they won’t give your excuses any time of day . ”
Selphie’s voice began to grow hoarse as she continued her story .
“……My father had no choice but to obey . His precious subordinates would get killed if he didn’t . ——My father knew fully well what was about to happen next . He knew what would happen if he obeyed……and he knew that the hundred days of suspension was just a lie . ”
Selphie kept her eyes down on the carpet as she sat on her bed . Her tears had long since dried up, but it still hurt to remember .
“I……loved my father, who was strong, kind, and broad-minded . My father was a real knight, no matter what anyone else might say . ”
A little while later, she quietly continued,
“that’s why I wanted to be a knight . I want to be a real knight, like my father was, and not a knight only in name like the nobles . ”
After a moment of silence, Rain said,
“……So that’s what happened —I only knew what was on the records . ”
With frustration in his voice, he continued,
“it’s a shame that the idiot noble captain is already dead . I would have gone and brought you his head if he had still been alive . ”
Selphie finally looked up .
It filled up her heart to see his face looking so uncharacteristically stiff .
“Well, I looked into it, after all . He was reinstated into the army pretty quickly after that, and he died during an expedition to Lunan . What comes around goes around . He was left to die on the battlefield by a higher-ranking noble who used him as a sacrificial pawn . ”
“……Yes, it seems so . My father’s past subordinates went out of their way to let me know . But maybe this was for the best . ……I might have lost myself in my grudge otherwise . ”
Selphie could not help that her voice trembled as she nodded . The rage filling Rain’s countenance felt like something of a miracle to her . After all, it was rare for someone to truly grow angry for another’s sake .
Once again, Selphie found herself thinking, ‘oh, he’s truly kind…,’ —she’d thought this so many times now that she had lost count . And she could not help but start crying again as she thought it .
“……You’re angry for me, Lord Rain . ”
It was Rain’s turn to looked down at the carpet .
“I’m just a hypocrite . There’s no point in getting angry about it after all this time . ”
He sounded truly ashamed of himself . He continued,
“Anyway, I’m surprised you came to take the knight exam even after going through all that . You never thought about finding a government job in another country?”
“I might have, if Sunkwoll had never changed . But times were changing, and, you were the one recruiting more knights . And you’re not a noble, Lord Rain . ”
Rain still looked unconvinced, so Selphie gently continued,
“besides, my father’s subordinates are still working hard at the garrison . I can’t be the only one hesitating when they’re all working so hard to protect the capital . It’d be cowardly of me if I did . ”
Rain fell into a moment of silence before a gentle smile slowly spread across the face .
“……I see . ”
He stood up, walked in front of Selphie, and tousled her hair .
“Alright . I won’t tell you to think about resigning for a while then . ”
“Y, you don’t only have to stop for a while, you can stop altogether,”
Selphie protested even as she failed to hold back the smile creeping on her face . Then, she looked up and remembered,
“……It’s your turn now, Lord Rain . ”
Rain scowled for a moment, but then Selphie turned to him and brought her hands together, as if in prayer, and pleaded,
“please tell me . ……I really, really want to know . ”
Rain sighed in resignation and assented .
And he told Selphie about the things that had happened in his past .
Candles with wind guards cast their flickering lights against the stone pavement hall .
Their unreliable luminance were the only lights that lit up Galfort Castle late at night, and several corners of the castle were even submerged in complete darkness .
The ghost stories from before had died down for the most part, but there were still only a few people roaming the castle’s vast halls late at night . Generally, only the soldiers on patrol walked the halls at night .
But there was a silver-haired girl walking around the halls at the moment . She was still wearing the swimwear-like piece she always wore, but she was being mindful of her surroundings and had also put on a pitch-black mantle . Her footsteps were light even as she walked the halls of Galfort Castle late at night, something which even the soldiers on the night watch were afraid of . She held her head haughtily up high, and there was no hint of cowardice on her mien .
The girl……Noelle, that is, was still staying in Sunkwoll . She could leave whenever she wished, and she had in fact tried to leave during the first few days of her stay because she felt awkward around the humans .
And yet, she hadn’t been able to leave Galfort Castle because a fuzzy feeling had sprouted inside her each and every time she had tried . Now, Noelle was even thinking of staying in the kingdom for a while . ……Even she found her change of heart rather peculiar .
But the timing was the worst . This was because they had received news that King Leygur had mobilized his army the very next day after her return to the castle .
The news had surprised Noelle as well . Leygur had only revealed his identity to his people just recently, so she had thought——that he would need to watch Zarmine’s state of affairs for a little while longer before mobilizing his army .
Still, Noelle had only been a recent addition to his entourage . She didn’t know what Philander’s case was, but she was sure that Dewy and Sera had been friends with Leygur for a long time, which meant that it was entirely possible that they had been planning this for a while .
Besides, while she was a bit surprised, all Noelle thought upon hearing the news was, “Oh? He made his move surprisingly quickly,” but, unfortunately, the humans had reacted differently .
It needn’t be said that they had begun criticizing her all the more . They had been suspicious of her even when she had been introduced to them, and the news had only made them all the warier of her .
——But, as she’d expected, Rain was a cut more broadminded than the rest, as was that man called Ralphus .
Noelle was one to give credit where credit was due, and she had begun reevaluating her opinion of humanity a bit because of those two .
It had happened the night that Noelle had first arrived at Galfort . She and Rain had talked after Shelfa had retired for the night .
They had sat down face to face in his room and had shared an honest conversation .
First, Rain had said,
“there’s just one problem if you’re planning to stay here for a while . It’s whether you’re going to reveal your identity or hide it for the time being . You should be the one to choose . ”
Noelle had hesitated for quite a bit because she had held a few reservations about Rain . It needn’t even be said that hiding her identity would be better for his position . ……Even Noelle, who was not very knowledgeable about humans, knew that much . Still, in the end, Noelle decided to hold to her convictions as she had always done .
She had raised her head up high and answered,
“I take great pride in the fact that I am a daemon, Rain . I have always been proud of this, and I wish to always be proud of it going forward as well . And so, I don’t want to lie about who I really am . But I understand what position you’re in as well……so just tell me freely if my stay becomes an inconvenience to you . I’ll leave immediately . ”
Rain’s attitude afterward had taken her by surprise .
She had thought that he would say something like, “Alright, thanks,” but she had been wrong .
“That’s a good answer . ”
The first thing that Rain had done was to laugh as if he was having great fun .
Then, he had promptly stood up and brought back a bottle of whiskey and two glasses . He placed them on the table and said,
“You seem to be misunderstanding something here……but you don’t need to be considerate about my position . What you should be considerate about is the Princess’ position, but anyone who would gripe over something like this doesn’t deserve to be her ally in the first place . ”
His tone had become a cut softer after his declaration .
As he if was letting slip his innermost thoughts, he had continued,
“……people should live while holding to their convictions no matter what others may think . You made the correct choice . ”
Then, he had poured a generous amount of whiskey into both glasses .
“And that’s all I had to say . How about some whiskey……can you drink? Have a glass . ”
Not only is this man strong, but he’s also worthy of my trust…… That was what Noelle had truly thought from the bottom of her heart that night . It had come as a surprise to her, as she had come from a world in which betrayal was an everyday occurrence .
There was still more she had to say about Rain .
He had never once asked her about the daemons during the twenty days or so of her stay here . Noelle’s common sense as a warrior told her that this should have been impossible .
It would have been one thing if it had been because Rain was underestimating his enemies, but, insofar as she could tell, this is was not the case . Rather, Rain appeared to be exceptionally passionate about gathering intelligence . The fact that he obtained intel on Zarmine and analyzed it on what was almost a real-time basis was proof of that .
Noelle came to a conclusion about this on her own after a few days . ——Basically, he’s being considerate of me .
In truth, Noelle’s heart grew heavy whenever she thought about what she would say when Rain asked her about her comrades . She no longer had any obligations to uphold regarding them, but even still . Noelle had been an exception to the rule even back when she had lived in a world where betrayal was commonplace .
Rain, however, seemed to understand what Noelle was feeling and never asked her anything she didn’t want to be asked . He was apparently the kind of man who was able to be considerate about even the smallest details despite his bold and arrogant front . ……Or so Noelle thought, at least .
And so, her evaluation of Rain had risen even higher .
And there was also Ralphus .
The room had fallen into what was easily at least thirty seconds of silence when Rain and Shelfa had first introduced Noelle to everyone else . Then, the dam had broken and people had begun raising objection after objection .
It was one thing when they said that Noelle should be banished, but there were also a few extremists who said——that she should be killed on the spot .
Noelle would have undoubtedly censured herself as well had she been in their shoes, and it wasn’t as if she didn’t understand where they were coming from . That being said, she could not help the fact that she had grown enraged on reflex .
But Rain had let their objections go in one ear and out the other while maintain a cool poise as if he couldn’t have cared less about them, so Noelle had decided to mimic his fortitude and keep quiet as well .
A part of her had thought……that, judging by Rain’s behavior, he must surely have had some brilliant plan to overturn their opinions of her . She didn’t know if he had planned it or not, but the situation had most certainly changed shortly thereafter .
Ralphus, Shelfa’s other chief retainer alongside Rain, had slowly gotten up from his seat after most of the objections had been laid out, and he had said,
“I support Her Majesty and Rain . I am Her Majesty’s retainer, of course, so it’s only natural that I support her opinions . But there’s also another reason why I’m saying this . ……Let me ask this of all of you . Are we to hate someone until the bitter end just because they were our enemy once? This is the heart of the matter regardless of whether she is a daemon or a fellow human . She no longer wishes to oppose us as our enemy, so why must we reject her? Or, perhaps, do you all believe——that we should have her head just because she is a daemon regardless of whether she is an ally or not? But if this is the case, then how are we any different from the ruthless daemons who once invaded us ages ago?”
Ralphus had looked around his surroundings after quietly finishing his speech, and those who had initially voiced their objections had turned away . This incident had impressed Noelle, and she secretly thought Ralphus was a ‘rather decent man’ himself .
——Well……I suppose I might stay here for a bit longer .
Or so Noelle had decided upon witnessing Rain’s and Ralphus’ dispositions .
She had been treated as a guest ever since, and she was free to do whatever she wished with regards to the war with Lunan .
Still, Noelle had entertained the idea of tagging along as soon as she heard that Rain would be going .
“……He’s the man who even managed to defeat me, after all . He may be human, but he never fails to entertain me,”
she muttered to herself .
It sounded like an excuse, which was rather uncharacteristic of her, but Noelle had not realized it yet . Still, even she could not help but find something a bit odd about what she mumbled to herself next .
“……I can’t seem to find him anywhere . ”
Noelle frowned as she stopped in her tracks in the middle of the dark hallway . I can’t find him? Find whom? Noelle thought before she finally realized that she had been looking for Rain . She had only meant to take a walk, but her subconscious had evidently decided upon a different goal .
It came to her as a shock, but Noelle quickly shook her head .
It was certainly true that she had considered that she might be attracted to him just before she had come here . But the explanation was far too simple now that she thought about it with a calmer mind . I was made to acknowledge him when I suffered defeat at his hands——that’s all there is to it . Besides, I’ve only just met him, so it’s ridiculous to think that I’d feel strongly about liking or disliking him .
Noelle was the type of person to beat up her opponents as soon as she met them just because she decided that she didn’t like them for no real reason whatsoever, but she still managed to convince herself nonetheless .
“……Well, he’s a good drinking buddy . Though I suppose today’s not the best day for that . ”
She came to a conclusion and, though she really didn’t want to, started to head back to her room . But then she suddenly saw a small light shining from up ahead . It was apparently the light of a lantern, and it came closer as Noelle watched it in silence . The person holding the lantern was wearing a snow-white gown, had a katana hanging from the sash at her waist, and was walking rather slowly . She was trembling as she walked, perhaps because she was frightened despite being equipped with a weapon .
And then, when the lantern was only a few meters away, the figure holding it let out a small shriek .
Noelle had quickly realized who it was, of course . But that was not the case for the lantern holder, who had run to the wall and was quivering there like a little bird until Noelle bluntly told her, “It’s me, Noelle . ” The lantern holder had looked fairly tired until now, but she had apparently sobered up in an instant .
She was taking quick breaths .
The frightened and quivering voice had belonged to Shelfa, the ruler of Galfort Castle .
“Yes . I was out on a walk,”
Noelle answered, though the look on her face was cold . She did not feel the need to be courteous to Shelfa, as she did not care one whit that Shelfa was the master of the castle or the ruler of the kingdom or what have you .
It was impossible for a young girl like Shelfa to be a ruler based on Noelle’s standards as a daemon . Shelfa would have undoubtedly been met with a gruesome fate in less than ten minutes had she found herself in Noelle’s hometown without a guardian to protect her . In fact, she’d be lucky if there was even a single chuck of her flesh left behind .
There were several human customs that Noelle could not comprehend, but this certainly took the cake .
I do acknowledge that she’s beautiful . But why do humans tolerate a girl like her as the ruler of an entire kingdom when all she has is her beauty? I could wring her slender neck with just my bare hands easily if I wanted to .
Noelle did not put her thoughts into action, of course . To be completely honest, she did want to break Shelfa’s bare neck, just a little, but she restrained herself . Rain trusted her, and doing so would be akin to betraying him .
And so, instead of killing her, Noelle turned to Shelfa, who was still a little frightened, and curtly asked,
“where are you going this late at night? We might still be in the castle, but it’s dangerous to wander around when you’re in the middle of war…… Let me escort you . ”
“Well……you and I probably had the same destination in mind, Lady Noelle . ”
Noelle took her hand off the crook of her waist before she realized what she was doing and she finally took a proper look at the girl before her eyes . She ended up looking down at Shelfa, who was at least 10 cm shorter than her .
“Why would you know about my intended destination? I told you I was on a walk . ”
“Well, you were trying to find Rain, weren’t you, Lady Noelle? I was trying to find him as well . ”
Noelle was suddenly intimidated by the girl before her, a feeling that she experienced only rarely .
She could not help but wonder if Shelfa was using some kind of mysterious spell . There was no way that Shelfa would have been able to read through her so easily otherwise!
But Shelfa’s, the person in question, expressions changed in the blink of an eye .
She looked like she was going, “Oh, I’ve made a mistake!” for a moment before growing baffled in the next and finally paling as she looked into Noelle’s face .
“Uh, umm . Please don’t get me wrong…… It’s just that I suddenly thought . That you might feel the same way about Rain…”
she said before shaking her head furiously . She concluded,
“no! It, it’s nothing!”
She looked as powerless as a rabbit in Noelle’s eyes . Noelle wondered if she had perhaps only felt intimidated because she had overestimated the girl .
That aside, Noelle was rather curious as to what Shelfa had been saying .
“……Well, whatever . It’s true that I was wondering if he’d be down for a drink . That’s all . ”
“I, I see . In that case……I’ll take my leave now . ”
Shelfa quickly tried to make her escape, but Noelle called after her before she could .
Noelle tried to pose a question to Shelfa as the latter promptly turned back around, but she held her tongue . She had belatedly thought, What’s the point in asking her?
But she decided to ask anyway because it was something she had been curious about for a while now .
“……What kind of man is Rain in your eyes?”
Noelle had thought that Shelfa would simply reply something along the lines of——“He’s just my retainer . ” Unfortunately, she had been completely off the mark .
The girl ruler suddenly smiled a radiant smile .
Then, almost arrogantly, she declared,
“Rain is both the strongest and kindest man in the world . ”
——Goodnight, Lady Noelle .
Shelfa bid Noelle goodnight after her declaration and gracefully walked away .
Noelle stared at the back of the princess’ white gown for a few seconds before she finally furrowed her brows . It’s only obvious that I acknowledge he is strong……but to also mention that he’s kind? What nonsense . In the end, she’s just a frail little girl .
Noelle snorted and turned back——but .
Suddenly, she heard a frigid voice from out of nowhere .
“I will not forgive you if you lay a finger on Rain . ”
Noelle immediately turned back around .
But there was no one there…… All she could see was Shelfa’s back from the distance . She was walking quietly and gracefully, as a weak little princess should, and she was just about to turn around the corner at the end of the hallway .
There was no way that she could have spoken to Noelle from all the way there . She would have had to have spoken much louder if she had . No, wait……was that her natural voice to begin with? Noelle stood in place, and Shelfa slowly turned around in the midst of the darkness .
A chill ran down Noelle’s back . A warrior of Noelle’s caliber had been made to step back on reflex .
What in the world……is this giant wave of power……? It’s as strong as Rain’s?!
There was still a smile on Shelfa’s face……but it looked completely different in nature from the smile she had been wearing before . The beautiful smile alighting her lovely face now was as cold as a blizzard .
Her sapphire eyes were steady as she looked back at Noelle . She was no rabbit —even the wolves would want to turn away from her as she was now .
“Allow me to bid you goodnight as well . Sweet dreams……Noelle . ”
Then, Shelfa finally vanished behind the corner, leaving behind a laugh so chilling that Noelle had hardly ever heard any laughter as cold even in the spirit world .
——And Noelle’s back was drenched in sweat as she was left behind .
Rain had been talking to Selphie late into the night, and he heard a voice calling out to him from behind just as he returned to his own room and was about to unlock the door .
She’s being pretty quiet about expressing her joy today, Rain thought a little dubiously as he turned around . Just as he’d expected, he found Shelfa standing behind him with a graceful smile on her lips, and she suddenly reached up like she was stretching and wrapped her arms around Rain’s neck . Which was fine and all……until she then proceeded to kiss him on the lips without even a moment’s hesitation .
Rain was a little surprised, and they stood in place and kissed for over ten seconds before Shelfa finally pulled away . She whispered in his ear just before she did . Her voice was just as gentle as it always was .
“My beloved Rain…… I offer you my infinite gratitude . Thank you always for everything you do for me . ”
Rain stared into Shelfa’s eyes .
But the smile immediately vanished from Shelfa’s face only to be replaced with stark amazement .
Her white skin flushed bright red an instant later .
She clamped her hands over her mouth and looked up at Rain .
“Just now……I, I kissed Rain of my own accord……how, how shameful of me…”
Rain smiled back jokingly without missing a beat .
“Well, normally, you’d be fast asleep about now . Maybe you’re just not fully awake? In any case, this is nice from time to time too . Since I’m usually always the one to kiss you first . ”
Then, he proceeded to pull Shelfa into a hug and kissed her back . He was hugging her tight, just as she liked it .
The princess immediately relaxed her stiff muscles and leaned into him .
Her disbelief had already faded from her countenance by the time their lips parted .
“You’re right……I was truly, truly sleepy . But I wanted to see you before the night was over no matter what, Rain, because I haven’t been able to see you as of late . ”
But we saw each other just two days ago——but Rain didn’t say it out loud, and he simply proceeded to pat his liege on the back in silence . He knew that Shelfa gained a lot of peace of mind when he did that .
But the smile on Rain’s face had vanished at some point .
……She’s finally starting to surface, huh…
↑ This is a reference to something that happens in the side story, which I will probably not be translating until I am at least finished with the series proper .