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Published at 15th of October 2020 04:27:32 PM
Chapter 6.1

Part 1

North of Chandrys was a land that had once been ruled by a minority tribe, but the minority tribe had since left the land and it was now provisionally recognized as a part of Chandrys’ territory .

——Further north of this land, however, was an area that even the strong-willed and obstinate Folnier absolutely refused to touch .

The people near that area, located to the west of what had once been Lunan and to the east of Feliana, called it the “Forest of Monsters . ”

The forest had been known as the dwelling of monsters since times immemorial, and it was even called the “home of all mythical beasts . ”

The Sacred Grounds was also a similarly renown forest, and was revered by some as the “sacred lands in which a dragon dwells . ” The Forest of Monsters, however, was widely known as a cursed place . Humanoid races, such as humans or elves, never drew close the Forest of Monsters because those who wandered in seldom came back out .

There were several places in Murgenia in which normal people would never venture, and the Forest of Monsters was undoubtedly the first and foremost example of one such place .

People of the ancient past had even wondered if the daemons had been hiding in the Forest of Monsters when they had suddenly invaded the continent out of seemingly nowhere . It was a rumor with little credibility, and hardly anyone believed this theory to be true in the present day, but such rumors had spread because so few people ever ventured near the Forest of Monsters to begin with .

It was a place ruled not by man but by mythical beasts —the kind of place that no one would ever step foot in willingly .

And yet, a lone woman had come flying down from the heavens and landed right at the heart of the Forest of Monsters .

She was wearing a flamboyant dress and had black wings spreading out from her back, and she was Sera, Leygur’s subordinate .

She had been en route to Fanooj but had flown here in a hurry at Leygur’s command .

She stood in the forest and slowly looking around at her dim surroundings . ……And she smiled as she felt the monsters’ presences approach her like lapping waves .

“I see, this’ll do . I sure Lord Leygur will be pleased as well . ”

She chuckled from the back of her throat as the wings on her back disappeared . Then, she raised her arms up toward the heavens and loudly shouted,

“Now come to me, my cute mythical beasts . I don’t expect you to be as energetic as your brethren in the spirit world, but you can make up for that with numbers!”

Her body was wrapped in a bright magical aura before the words had even left her mouth . Several hellhounds, which had already made their way to her, suddenly cried out together . They tucked their tails between their hind legs in abject terror .

The mythical beasts had howled in fear as they felt Sera’s magic fetter their bodies and take a tight hold of even their souls as it slowly brought them fully under her domination .

Soon enough, Sera had forced many of the monsters in the Forest of Monsters under her control with magic that far exceeded that of any summoner who was originally from this world .

“Hohoho…… Good, good —it looks like you’ll be quite the military force!”

Sera concentrated her power as the smile etched on her face grew wider .

“Now, leave this humid forest and exercise your powers to your hearts’ content . Let the humans know that times have changed!”

The entire forest shuddered as if in response . The ground trembled as powerful monsters suddenly broke out into a run as they all howled .

Sera was pleased by what she had accomplished, and she spread open her wings once more as she flew back .

Folnier and her right-hand man, Joe Lamberck, were discussing the future inside the walls of Sadaraan, the imperial castle of Chandrys .

They were holding a secret meeting inside Folnier’s personal chambers, though it was more a private discussion than an official war council .

Such meetings were not infrequent, and the more gossip-happy maids had once spread a rumor about how Folnier and Joe must be engaged in naughty activities behind closed doors .

Folnier’s butler, who had served her for quite some time, had once reported the rumors to her and had advised that she punished the maids who were spreading them .

Folnier, however, had simply laughed it off at the time and allowed everything to continue . And so, there was no shortage of such rumors circling the palace even to this day .

And today, Folnier had summoned Joe once again to her chambers where the warm sunlight was pouring in . She had called him over to talk ­—whether it be about politics or simply to have tea .

“……I hear that Leygur’s made his move . ”

Folneir shot a glance at Joe from across the table as she took a sip of her Central Plains-made whiskey .

As always, their discussions began with Folnier bringing up the topic and continued as Joe replied .

Today, Folnier was interested in talking about Zarmine .

Joe sketched her a small bow .

“Yes…… In a sense, their expedition was only to be expected . Fanooj shares its western border with Zarmine, and Teseto lies to their east . ”

Folnier nodded back in earnest .

“So they were the most convenient target……is that what you mean?”

“Indeed . Moreover, if Fanooj, the “Kingdom of Warriors”, was overrun, that would only leave behind her smaller neighbors…… And the entire northern half of the continent would fall to Zarmine . ”

“……I hear that Fanooj has three guardian knights who have always protected her in times of crisis . ”

“I have heard the rumors as well . ……The Three Knights of Fanooj are quite famous in the North, after all . They’re rumored to look quite young, but the rumors about them have been circling for decades . ”

Folnier nodded slightly as she took another sip of her whisky . Then, she bluntly asked,

“Then let me ask you this with all of that in consideration . Will Fanooj be able to defend herself from Zarmine?”

“……That would be difficult,”

Joe replied readily without ever once touching his own glass . He continued,

“Fanooj is like a country of powerful knights —of which the reigning king, Sir Fernando, counts himself among— that have gathered together like the stars that light the night sky . It isn’t wrong to say that Fanooj is a powerful kingdom, as befitting of the kingdom founded by the band of warriors who came from across the sea ages ago . Unfortunately, however……there is no one currently in Fanooj who is skilled at strategy . ”

“So they’re all brawn and no brains?”

“I am not suggesting that they are a bunch of fools,”

Joe purposefully denied her claim . He continued,

“However, I also do not believe that armies are effective if they are not handled well . From that perspective, it will be difficult for Fanooj to emerge victorious……especially against Leygur of all people . ”

Silence fell between them .

Both Folnier and Joe had only recently been made all too aware of exactly how strong the man was .

And it was not a pleasant memory .

Folnier shook her head and, as was characteristic of her, spoke equivocally .

“All right . Let’s assume that Fanooj will fall . You’re usually right about things like this…… . The problem lies in what comes next . Chandrys will not be able to remain silent any longer if Zarmine remains unchecked and even the kingdoms in the Central Plains begin to collapse . I know we still have a bit of time left…… . And that brings be to my next question . ……How much can we trust Rain?”

Joe tilted his head to the side and told his liege,

“I do not understand what you are trying to ask . ”

Folnier, who was wearing her favorite scarlet dress, smiled wryly before she could stop herself . She crossed her legs beneath the slit of her skirt and leaned back against her chair .

“My apologies……it seems my question was a bit too hasty . Let me explain myself . The person who is actually leading Sunkwoll isn’t Lady Shelfa but Rain . It isn’t an exaggeration to say that the kingdom is moving in accordance to the policies that Rain put in place . We’ve forged an alliance with them, and I want to know just how much we can trust our alliance . Will that man come to our aid as our ally when we find ourselves in danger?”

“What would you do, Lady Fol?”

Joe asked high-handedly as he looked up at her .

“How brazen of you . I would never go back on a promise I’ve made . ”

The question had taken her by surprise, but Joe nodded deeply when he heard her response .

“Rain is much the same, Lady Fol . I believe him to be a man with an extraordinarily strong sense of duty on that front . ”

“……But I hear that he willingly chose not to save the previous king, who was his liege at the time . ”

“King Douglas was planning to have Rain assassinated after their war with Lunan was over . ”

Folnier questioned why Joe even knew this in the first place, to which he replied that he was familiar with Sunkwoll’s inner workings because he was “in charge of gathering reports regarding the matter” before he continued,

“King Douglas was only using Rain for his power, and Rain was all too aware of this . Moreover, I also hear that the late king once tried to abandon Rain’s good friend Ralphus in battle . He probably saw the both of them as a threat . ……It wouldn’t surprise me if Rain determined he was not fit to be a ruler . ”

It was only then that Folnier recalled something that Joe had once taught her in the past .

“The relationship between liege and retainer goes both ways . Sometimes, a liege’s actions may cause their retainers to lose their faith in them…… I pray that you will always keep this in mind when you take the throne one day, Lady Fol . ”

Joe, who was accomplished in both the civil and military arts, had been Folnier’s teacher at the time, and he had said this to her in no uncertain terms .

Folnier grinned .

“All right, I understand . I still think your opinions of Rain are a tad naïve, but we’ll leave that matter for another day . But Joe, aren’t you still ignoring the biggest possibility?”

Folnier spoke aloud her most pressing apprehensions as Joe silently urged her to continue .

“There is a real possibility that Rain could take over Sunkwoll before he ever needs to come to our aid as per the terms of our alliance . ……He’s more than strong enough for that . Or is it that you believe that this will never be the case?”

Joe blinked, having truly been taken by surprise——but he chuckled gently a moment later .

Apparently, he had truly never even entertained the idea .

“Rain does not boast such ambitions . I can declare this with certainty . ”

“……But what makes you so certain? There are more than enough historical precedents of people being driven mad by their own power . ”

“It appears that you and I have vastly different opinions about Rain, Lady Fol…… . But that aside, allow me to explain it to you from another angle . ”

Joe’s tone of voice continued to be gentle .

But the next words he spoke were incredibly bold .

“It is but a simple matter to prove my point . If that man ever harbored any ambition with regards to status or territory, then he would not be a mere high general right now . ”

“……Oh? Let me ask you this for future reference . What sort of station do you see him in……if he were to have been a man of ambition? Would he be sitting on Sunkwoll’s throne?”

Joe’s answer was curt .

“No . If Rain was truly ambitious, then he would already have at least half the world in his hands by now . ”

Ultimately, it was Folnier who had been in for the bigger surprise . She peered into her trusted confidant’s face with eyes for disbelief for a short while, and she was even rendered speechless for a moment .

“That sounds like quite the exaggeration…… But I got burned the last time I ignored one of your warnings . ”

Folnier nodded in frustration . She continued,

“Very well . In that case, I will not doubt Rain’s intentions . But I still have some misgivings about the alliance itself . ……We will aid Sunkwoll in good faith if they’re ever in danger . For example, I am prepared to send our army over at once to help them crush Lunan if only they ask . That is how I believe allies should act, and I am fine with playing my part . But, will they do the same for us? Will Sunkwoll truly help us if we’re in danger?”

Joe was about to respond, but he stood up when someone knocked on the door before he could .

“Excuse me, Lady Fol . There’s a report for me . ”

Joe confirmed the messenger’s identity through the peephole before he opened the door . The messenger was one of Joe’s subordinates, and he looked shaken as he reported to Joe at length without bothering to pause to catch his breath .

“……Understood . We’ll make our move soon . Good work . ”


Folnier waited for the messenger to leave before promptly asking,

“What happened, Joe?”

“……One of our fortresses to the north is reporting sights of a horde of mythical beasts from the Forest of Monsters making its way down south . ”

“What? What does that even mean?!”

Folnier’s, who had been just about to reach for another bottle of whisky, tone immediately turned strict .

If it’s moving south……then that means the mythical beasts are heading for the capital!

“We haven’t identified the cause behind this yet . So we cannot say for sure if this phenomenon was brought about by artificial means . But we cannot simply ignore it, of course . The mythical beasts reportedly number in the thousands . ”

Folnier frowned because Joe was being so incredibly composed despite the contents of his words .

Though she still agreed that it was a merit of his that he always maintained his composure even through times of crisis .

Folnier regained her smile quickly enough . She had just thought of a brilliant idea .

“I see! What troubling news this is! Why don’t we take the opportunity to request reinforcements from Sunkwoll, our newly-forged allies?!!”

“……Lady Fol . ”

Joe looked like he was about to develop a headache as he looked back at Folnier . He continued,

“You seem to think of this as the perfect chance to test them . Might I remind you that they are currently in the middle of a war with Lunan?”

“Aw, don’t be so stiff . Besides, Lunan is no match for Rain .  We are in a much larger predicament than they are . ”

Folnier groaned theatrically as she continued,

“A giant horde of mythical beasts moving south? Hmm, we’re in trouble . Our entire country is about to fall to crisis! Joe, request reinforcements from Sunkwoll at once . ”

Despite the content of her words, Folnier was smiling boldly as she gave Joe her command .

Leni had been looking all over for Rain, and by the time he found the high general, Rain was standing in the middle of a forest a short distance from the camp with his magic sword in hand .

Leni would not have been surprised if that had been all there was to it .

After all, his liege often did things or said things that even Leni, who had known him for quite some time now, could not fathom . Still, even Leni could not help but be suspicious when Rain suddenly swung up his magic sword as soon as he felt Leni approach .

Leni was about to ask, Is something the matter? but Rain brought down his sword in Leni’s direction before Leni could even get the words out .

……It would have one thing if Rain had been using a normal longsword, but this was the Siren’s Blade, which was capable of ranged attacks .

Leni stiffened up as he heard rumbling ripping through the twilight air .

Then, he clutched at his head as soon as he felt something brush through his abdomen .


He heard cracking from behind, just like his split-second premonition had warned .

He gingerly turned around only to find an armful of sizeable trees slowly crashing down . ……They had obviously been chopped down by Rain’s attack, the infamous “Invisible Slash . ”

“Wait, General! What are you doing?! I felt a shockwave pass through my stomach just now! I know I felt it!”

“Mm, I see . ”

Leni didn’t know why, but Rain seemed happy as he nodded . Rain continued,

“Man… I guess I’ve become pretty used to this magic sword now . I mean, I guess it’s only natural, since I’ve been using it for years . ”

“……What do you mean?”

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“Basically, it obeys my wishes more faithfully, and I can attack with more precision now . It doesn’t matter if there’s something in the way anymore . If I feel like it, I can attack targets that are far away, and the attack will just pass through anything that’s in the way . ”

Then, as if he couldn’t help himself, he added,

“Damn, I know it’s a bit too late to be impressed by now, but this sword is amazing . But only because someone as awesome as me is the one wielding it, of course . ”

——But more importantly…

Leni, who had been listening quietly as Rain prattled on and on, felt a cold sweat run down his entire body . His legs were seriously still shaking .

“Please don’t test things like that out on me! What were you going to do if you messed up and ended up slicing me into pieces?!”

“Why would I do something like this if I wasn’t confident that it would work, stupid?”

Rain smiled a refreshing smile as he continued,

“I made sure to run a few tests first before I tried it out on you . You were the third test . ”

Third? Only the third?! You took off ten days off my lifespan just now!

Leni held back from wailing the words he wanted to say . He knew that there was little use in grumbling at this point . Rain had always been like this .

“And that’s not all…… I’ve uncovered one of this magic sword’s hidden abilities,”

Rain muttered .

Leni, who had been just about to state his business, could not ignore what he had just heard .

“An ability? You mean other than its ranged attack?”

“……Remember how we exterminated a few mythical beasts in the abandoned mine earlier?”

Rain had a distant look in his eyes for some reason as he spoke .

Leni had no idea what that had to do with anything, but he nodded along .

“Yes . It was quite the experience, though I suppose that’s always the case……for me, at least . But anyway, what about it?”

“Actually, never mind . ”

Leni was curious, but Rain broke away from the topic before he could ask .

It was rather vexing . Moreover, Rain had been quite active in the shadows as of late . He frequently used Magic Vision to communicate with the rules of foreign countries……the rulers of Gardstein and Leyfan in particular, and Leni had no idea why .

Rain was keeping his motives secret even from Leni .

“I feel like you’ve been moving secretly behind the scenes quite a bit as of late, General . Just what are you planning? I don’t really want to know if it’s something scary, though . ”

“What’s that even supposed to mean? You’re thinking too much into it . I’m just setting up a bit of insurance . ”

Rain laughed Leni down .

But……his smile was fleeting and was quickly wiped off his face . The silly expression he normally wore vanished, and a soft sigh escaped his lips .

Then, he looked to the magic sword in his hands with a look in his eyes that reminded Leni of a deep lake .

“But it’s pretty strange . Why……why me? There were so many other strong guys out there, so why did this sword pick me back then?”

There was something urgent in his voice as he asked, which was quite uncharacteristic of Rain . Leni had no way of knowing, but Rain was reminiscing about the time when it had first obtained the Siren’s Blade .

Obviously, the magic sword did not answer . Though it did shine a little bit more brightly than it usually did .

And so, Leni answered in its stead .

“I don’t know what this is about, but there’s probably something that only you can do, General . And I think that’s why you’re the only one who can use that sword . ”

Rain immediately looked to him, so Leni denied his upcoming question in advance .

“Uh, it’s not like I know anything, you know? But…if there was something that I wanted to entrust to someone —no, if there was something that I had to entrust to someone……then I think I’d definitely leave it to you . If it’s you, General, then you’d definitely do something about it……that’s what I think . ”

Leni grew embarrassed as he spoke, so he tried to wrap the conversation up quickly . He continued,

“I know I’m timid, but the reason why I’ve still been able to stand with you all this time is because, somewhere in my heart, I’m absolutely convinced of this . I can’t become a hero myself, but I can still be helpful to one . And I think that makes me happy . I can still be useful even if I’m not in the spotlight . It makes everything worth it……both now and in the past . ”

Rain responded promptly, just as Leni knew he would . There was a faint smile on Rain’s face .

It was the somewhat bashful smile that Rain would sometimes display every once in a blue moon .

“Well, I won’t stop you if you decide you want to play hero one day . I’d be glad to help you out, and I’d even be willing to switch roles with you . I’d lend you my strength, just as you’ve been lending me yours all this time . ”

Then, Rain quickly changed the topic before Leni could protest by asking him to stop joking . He continued,

“So, what business did you have with me? Same question to you, Falna . ”


Leni turned around in a hurry and found Falna standing behind the trees . She looked dignified in her armor, and she gingerly stepped forward when her name was called .

“……My apologies . I didn’t mean to eavesdrop . ”

Falna held down her blonde hair to keep it from being tousled by the wind as she lowered her eyes and bowed her head .

“It’s fine . I’m sure you didn’t eavesdrop on purpose . You had business with me, right?”

“Oh, Miss Falna was probably asked to find you too, General,”

Leni answered in her stead as he tried to be considerate of her . He continued,

“Her Majesty was worried because you suddenly disappeared . I ended up having to wander around the forest because she asked me to find you . ”

He had ended up grumbling toward the end of his piece, but, to his surprise, Falna shook her head .

“No…… It is true that I was ordered to find General Rain, but it’s because something new has come up . ”

“……That being?”

Rain asked calmly .

“Sir Ahmur, a former retainer of Lunan, has visited our camp . ”

Rain promptly began walking back, though he did not seem very surprised to hear the news .

“I see . ……I’d figured that he’d be coming soon . ”

Ahmur was granted an audience with Shelfa in the big tent in the middle of camp once Rain had returned .

Shelfa had learned about Ahmur’s disposition and the fact that his retreat had been the turning point of the battle from Rain in advance, and so, she naturally did not carry any grievances against him .

She gently extended him her greetings and even tried to offer him a reward for his efforts, but Ahmur firmly refused and apologized for beginning such a pointless war in the first place .

Rain even invited Ahmur to work under Shelfa’s banner, but Ahmur laughed and shook his head no .

“A defeated general like me won’t be of any use to you in the battles yet to come……”

Shelfa watched Ahmur’s retreating figure as he left, visibly dejected, and she turned to Rain in worry and asked,

“He seemed……rather depressed —is it because he lost the battle?”

Rain signal the remaining guards to leave them before he answered her .

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“……Zarmine imprisoned all of Lunan’s former royal family . And they’ll probably be executed in retaliation if Ahmur ever bares his fangs against Zarmine . He can’t fight even if he wanted to, considering his position . So there’s nothing that can be done about him feeling down . ”


Shelfa’s voice was filled with sympathy and a loathing that she could not conceal . It may have been custom to take the enemy royalty hostage and execute them during times of war, but Shelfa could not possibly bring herself to agree with it . Besides, such was a possible fate for Shelfa too if she continued to engage in war .

“By the way, there’s something else I need to tell you . ”

Rain placed a hand on Shelfa’s shoulder as he brought her more bad news . He continued,

“Chandrys contacted Galfort through Magic Vision . They’re requesting reinforcements . ”

“Lady Folnier requested reinforcements?!”

She looked back at Rain in surprise . She continued,

“For her to ask for assistance… —is the situation truly that dire?”

“……I wonder . ”

Rain informed Shelfa about the mythical beasts that had started migrating south from the “Forest of Monsters . ”

“It looks like she plans to intercept them, but rather than requesting for reinforcements because Chandrys is in trouble——”

Rain’s countenance naturally grew astringent .

“…She’s probably using the opportunity to test Sunkwoll’s good faith . She wants to see if we’ll keep up our end of our alliance . ”

He didn’t tell Shelfa because it was too much of a pain to explain, but it was likely Rain himself, and not Sunkwoll, whom Folnier was putting to the test——Rain could guess that much .

Joe hadn’t seemed to be doubtful of Rain at all, so Rain doubted that this was Joe’s doing, but it did sound like something Folnier would do . After all, it was probably Rain who decided on Sunkwoll’s national policies . In that case, she had to see if he was a man worthy of her trust——was probably what she was thinking .

Rain began grumbling to himself aloud without realizing it .

“……That vixen’s got it completely wrong . I’m not the one calling the shots in our kingdom . ”

“I see, I understand now . ”

Shelfa smiled brightly as the clouds on her face cleared away . She continued,

“I think it’s only natural that Lady Folnier wants to “test” you, Rain . After all, I always put my full faith in any plan you propose to me . You have such a large influence over me, so it’s only natural that she would be suspicious . ”

Rain looked down at his seated liege with apprehension in his eyes .

Why is she saying that like it has nothing to do with her?

“……It’s amazing that you figured that out just by hearing what I mumbled just now . But I’ve never forced you into deciding anything, you know . So you decide on this matter too! What will it be? —will we send aid to Chandrys?”

“I will entrust that decision to Lord Ralphus, who is guarding Galfort,”

Shelfa replied immediately . She continued,

“I have full confidence in that he will make the best decision as to what we should do with our limited forces . ”

“……Hmmm . ”

Shelfa smiled gleefully when she saw the look that had flashed across Rain’s mien .

“I thought that this was what you would say, Rain . Was I correct?”

“You’re being cheeky, you know?”

She was technically his liege, but Rain reached out and pulled at Shelfa’s cheeks . He made sure to hold back, of course .

Shelfa was a bit teary-eyed when he finally let go, though she did still look strangely happy as she massaged her cheeks .

Her voice then grew quieter as she asked,

“And……about the man who attacked me today . ……Who was he?”

She inched closer to Rain, perhaps because she was thinking about the incident .

“He’s pretty famous in the mercenary world . He’s a freelance merc, and it looks like he was hired by the group that’s after you . Oh, and now that you mention it——”

Rain recalled the report his subordinate had given him . He continued,

“I heard you were pretty dignified back there . Abel looked like he would cling to your feet and burst into tears any minute……it was something else . ”

Shelfa shuddered .

“P-please stop that……I imagined it just now . ”

Then, a look of anxiety crossed her face as she remembered about her other concerns .

“Recently, there have been times when I don’t feel like I’m being myself . I get suddenly dizzy every now and again……it’s nothing new, but I feel like it’s been happening more frequently . ”

“Did it happen when you were attacked?”

“No . I felt normal back then……I think . But I do remember thinking that I wasn’t acting like I usually do . ”

“I see . ”

Then, in a voice that suggested there wasn’t much to worry about, he continued,

“I’ll do something if your dizzy spells get any worse . But the assassin is the bigger problem at hand . The Lunan army hasn’t been annihilated yet, and it’d be bad if you were attacked again in the meanwhile . ”

“……Then, if you’ll stay right here next to me at all times, just like now…”

Shelfa proposed with heavy expectation in her eyes .

“You should be fine as long as both Sylvia and Noelle……no, if even just one of them’s with you,”

Rain countered, and Shelfa made a face .

“But I’ll do my best to stay with you too,”

Rain added with a smile .

Then, a voice called to them from outside .

“Excuse me~, I’ve brought some tea . ”

“Come on in!”

Rain took the opportunity to wrap up the conversation when Riella, Shelfa’s personal maid, entered the tent .

He had invited Riella back in hopes that Shelfa would be able to make a friend, and it looked like things were going well on that front . Shelfa, who still disliked people greatly, did not avoid Riella as she usually did with others .

Rain left Shelfa in Riella’s care and stepped outside the tent, and Sylvia, whom he had asked to stand on guard outside, walked over to him .

It was nighttime, and the spring in her step was livelier than usual .

“Good work . ……What’s our next objective?”

“Hmm . We’ll round up the rest of the Lunan army tomorrow . Ideally, we’ll be able to finish up quickly . We’ve a few problems back at home too, after all . ”

Rain casually confirmed his surroundings as he replied . He was checking to make sure that nothing out of the ordinary was happening around him with a quick scan of his eyes .

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“Have you already forgotten what you ordered? You asked me to set up a barrier right after the assassination attempt . No one’s gonna be able to get close that easily . ”

Rain put his hand up to his cheek before realizing when Sylvia gave him a piece of her mind .

He couldn’t help but smile wryly .

“Right……I know, but habits are hard to break . I’ve basically been in charge of the magic until now, after all . But you’re here now, Sylvia . And I’m grateful for it…… Things have been a lot easier with you around . ”

Sylvia’s eyes grew wide .

“Hmm~m . I can’t say I’m not surprised, especially as someone who knows just how unsociable you used to be long ago . But not in a bad way, of course . ”

Rain shrugged as Sylvia smiled elegantly .

“People change . ……By the way, I had something I wanted to ask of you aside from guarding the Princess . ”

They walked away from the camp, brightly lit by the bonfires, at Rain’s insistence and into the dark forest . Both of them could see in the dark, so neither of them found the darkness inconvenient .

“All right, I’ll do whatever you ask . But only long as it doesn’t put you in harm’s way .

“I wonder…… That’s not exactly the type of request I was planning to make,”

Rain said before he quickly corrected himself,

“I don’t think it will . ”

“How suspicious . ”

He gave her a faint chuckle, and Sylvia nonchalantly coiled her arm around his . She continued,

“So what is it? Tell me already . ”

Rain looked down at their entwining arms, troubled .

……He had thought about not asking, but it was already saying the words by the time he noticed .

“I’m going to change the topic for a bit —I’m glad you’re here, but why did you come?”

“I’ve always been meaning to come . ……But I held back because I knew you wouldn’t like that kind of help,”

Sylvia readily replied . She continued,

“But now’s not the time for holding back anymore, right? I figured you’d start needing my power right about now . ”

“In the past, I used to think that I could do everything on my own . ”

Rain stopped in an overgrown patch of grass to the side of the road and sighed . He continued,

“But not anymore . There’s a limit to how much any one person can do alone no matter how strong they are . ”

He smiled wryly yet again when he saw Sylvia giggle .

“Is it that funny that I think this way?”

“Not at all . I just found it funny——because you haven’t changed as much as you’re trying to suggest . Your true nature hasn’t changed at all, you know that, Rain? Even now, you’re still planning to finish everything on your own in the end without borrowing anyone’s help…… You can’t hide it from me . ”

She smiled at Rain, who had fallen into silence, and continued,

“The only thing that’s changed from the past is the stage you’re fighting on . The stage has changed, so it’s only natural that your tactics have changed too . That’s all there is to it . ”

“Someone’s told me something similar before . He said I haven’t changed at all on the inside, or something like that . ”

“So what? —you don’t need to force yourself to change . I like you just the way you are, Rain . The way you something get this distant look in your eyes, the way you’re sensitive and kind despite being so stubborn, the way you’re humble and modest even though you pretend to be arrogant……there’s too many things to count, but I like everything about you . ”

Sylvia stretched on her tiptoes and planted a quick kiss on Rain’s cheek .

“It’s always nice to be kissed by a beauty . ”

“I’ll leave that comment be if you really meant it . ”

“……I’m not lying . ”

Sylvia smiled back gently when Rain frowned .

“It’s all right, I understand . Besides, I wouldn’t like it if you were the type of person to just go and yield to anyone and everyone . ”

She began walking again, and there was a slightly lonely touch to her voice when she added,

“Fortunately for me, I can wait for you for centuries if I need to . I steeled myself for the long game ever since I truly understood who you were as a person . I’m pretty astounded myself, but I have no choice…… I fell in love with you, after all . ”

Even Rain did not know how he was supposed to respond to that . He fell silent for a moment before he said something that hadn’t been thinking of before .

“Before I make my request……is there anything you want? —it’ll be my way of thanking you for coming all the way here . ”

The moon hid behind the clouds, covering the path in darkness, as Sylvia stood still once more .

Her lovely and clear wine-colored eyes glistened mischievously .

“Aren’t you the one who’ll find yourself in trouble if I demand what I really want, Rain?”

“……Well . Obviously, it has to be something I won’t object to granting . You should have guessed as much, you know, considering how old you are!”

“Something you won’t object to, huh……? Yeah, yeah . ”

Sylvia had a look on her face that seemed to say, yeah, I knew it, as she looked up at the night sky . Her beguiling lips loosened into a smile quickly enough . She said,

“In that case, let me drink your blood as my reward for taking my work seriously . I won’t need to worry about you turning into a vampire because you’ve already shattered the blood contract, so I can enjoy your blood to my heart’s content . ”

“Oh, that’s fine . Drink as much as you’d like . ”

“……You sure?”

“Of course . It’s not like this is the first time either . I don’t really get how it works, but you get a rush of power when you drink blood, right?”

“Something like that . It depends on the person, but I’ll get an especially powerful rush because your prana —your lifeforce, that is— is exceptionally strong . ”

Her wine-colored eyes, which were already a translucent light red to begin with, dyed into the crimson color of blood all the way to their whites even as she explained . Her canines grew rapidly longer as well .

She placed her hands on his shoulders and stood on her tiptoes so she could bring her lips to his neck, and Rain, despite the situation, found himself thinking, ‘Her eyes are pretty up close . ’

Sylvia smiled gleefully when he crouched down a little to make things easier for her .

“You know me better than anyone else, Rain, but you’ve never once been afraid of me or in awe of me . I can’t help but feel like I’m just a normal girl when I’m with you, for some reason…… Though there’s no way that’ll ever be true . ”

Rain smiled and replied,

“I honestly do think of you as an ordinary girl, putting your strength aside . ”

“……I see . Yes, that’s just the kind of person you are . I told you before too, right? This is why I like you . ”

There was a slight quiver in her voice .

Perhaps she had grown embarrassed by what she had said, but, right before her fangs touched Rain’s skin, Sylvia jokingly whispered,

“Relax . It’s all right —I promise it won’t hurt ♪”

Rain had been wearing a serious expression on his face as he stood, but he broke out in laughter before he could stop himself .

Their bodies entwinned together for a moment amongst the rustling grasses .

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