"As I'd expected, that man was a wolf."
That was the grand general's response to the knight-captain Shing's latest news about the neighboring kingdom, Sunkwoll.
Anyone could tell that Joe Lamberck, a hero who was known to all in this kingdom, Chandrys, and was called the "Fearless God-General" in other countries, was not an ordinary man with one glance.
He had emerald eyes, flawlessly white skin despite the numerous times he had been through the tumult of war, and a kind visage that appeared to perfectly convey his character.
His silvery hair glistened under the light that filtered through the window.
He was so beautiful that even Shing, a military man, fought the urge to sigh. In other words, it was impossible to fathom Joe's actual status from just his outer appearance.
However——in truth, Joe was a warrior with a long military history who had not known defeat for the past several decades, and a knight to boot.
(Just how old is this gentleman?)
A question that had flit across Shing's mind on many occasions came to mind yet again. No matter how hard he looked, the other man only looked to be around his twenties——
"Shing, is there anything else to report?"
Shing gently shook his head clear of any stray thoughts. It doesn't matter. I respect this man from the bottom of my heart…… That's enough for me.
"Continuing my report…… Sunkwoll has escaped danger for the time being thanks to Sir Rain's efforts. From here on out, the princess will be rebuilding the kingdom with his and Sir Ralphus', the other surviving high general's, support."
"Oh……? So he's finally risen from being a sore sight for the king to a pillar of the kingdom. ……Though it's only to be expected of him."
Joe leaned against the window of his personal chambers and lightly crossed his arms. Even this everyday action was enchantingly captivating when he performed it. To put it simply, each and every action of his was beautiful.
Shing subconsciously let out a sigh and timidly asked,
"um, Lord Joe? There's something that I've wanted to ask you for a while, but——"
"Let's hear it."
"Of course. Well……you seem to be very taken with Sir Rain for some reason, so I was wondering why that was."
"……Was it written all over my face?"
Jou smiled wryly. He continued,
"have you always noticed, Shing?"
"Ye, yes, sir…… Please forgive me if I hurt your feelings."
Indeed, Shing had long since noticed Joe's strange attitude towards Rain. Joe was a kind and compassionate grand general, but he rarely ever smiled. He was always rather aloof and hardly ever changed his expression.
And yet, whenever he happened to hear Rain's name in conversation, the edges of his lips would curl up a little. His smile was like ripples breaking across an otherwise still lake, and Shing had always wondered about it.
"I don't mind. It's not something I was meaning to keep secret. ……Basically, I've met him before."
"Are you acquainted with him?!"
"I wouldn't say that. After all, we've only met once and that was ten years ago."
"Then, perhaps the two of you shared a conversation——"
Joe denied right off the bat and looked to somewhere far away. He continued,
"Shing, can you believe this? I have once trembled from head to toe because I had a premonition of my defeat……"
Shing promptly denied.
That was the one thing that he could never believe was possible.
"But it's true. ……I have never before in my long life felt that I was so inexperienced as I had then."
"Impossible…… Did you cross blades with Sir Rain?"
"I did not. Our eyes simply met for a brief moment."
"……I beg your pardon?"
"For us, even that was enough,"
Joe asserted, clearly away any remaining doubts, and continued in a whisper.
"I still see the boy I saw that day in my dreams. The quiet boy standing tall in all-black garb. He glared at me silently with a face as still as death…… 'His eyes are like a wolf's,' I thought as I looked into his black eyes. From them, I felt a noble sense of solitude and strength that would bow down to none."
Shing could only respond vaguely.
To begin with, Joe's description was not consistent with the rumors he had heard.
The man called Rain was a braggart who could not walk three steps without talking big about himself, drank liquor at any chance he had, was highly uncooperative with his colleagues, always ignored his orders, and was an incorrigible philanderer to boot——at least according to the rumors…… His rumors painted him in a completely different light than what Joe made him out to be.
According to the rumors, he was a simple drunkard.
However, Shing, who held Joe in the highest esteem, refrained from saying anything. No, if Lord Joe says so, then the rumors must be wrong……probably.
"By the way, Shing."
"Ye, yes, sir?"
"You know that Her Majesty is hesitating over whether or not to form an alliance with Sunkwoll, right?"
"I do…… Since we will not be able to avoid fighting with Zarmine, it's better to have as many allies as possible."
"Indeed. Soon, we'll be sending an emissary over to see if they're worthy of forming an alliance with——
"And I plan on being that emissary."
Shing, who wasn't listening very intently at first, jumped at Joe's last few words.
"Y, you intend on going there yourself, Lord Joe?!"
Joe immersed himself in his thoughts after assenting.
It's been ten years…… I wonder how much stronger the boy from back then has become?
I simply must see for myself.
——Indeed, for my own sake as well.