A few days had already passed since they had arrived at Rain's castle, Cortecreas Castle.
Nothing of note had really happened during that time, except that they had been in a rush to make arrangements for the soldier's lodgings.
However, it wasn't that nothing had happened at all.
Rain had gathered people like Shelfa, Ralphus, Selphie, and others who weren't very busy and looked like they had nothing better to do and proposed to show them "something nice that'll be good for the eyes."
All of them had tilted their heads to the side in confusion as Rain led them to the warehouse in the castle basement and opened the doors wide in a theatrical fashion.
They were all astonished when they looked inside.
There was a pile of what society would commonly call "a mountain of treasure" stocked so high that it could have reached the ceiling. After a backward glance at everyone else, who were standing stock still, Rain lit a nearby lamp, causing the jewels and golden coins to lustrously reflect back the light. Surely, the sight of it was what one would call poison to the eyes.
"How is it?"
Rain brushed back his hair with a hand and grinned as he took a look at the others.
He puffed out his chest, inviting them to be impressed, as he proudly said,
"I'm rich, aren't I? It's all thanks to my daily practice of moderation."
Then, Ralphus suddenly blew his cover from the side.
"——This is the treasure from the warehouse at Galfort, is it not?"
"Look here, you……. Think about the sweet, sweet aftertaste in the air, dangit. If you'd kept your mouth shut, I could have paid my respects to these fools as they stared stupidly with their mouths open wide for a little while longer."
"Just, just who was staring stupidly?!"
Senoa, a noble, was the first person to return to her senses as she pointed at the mountain of treasure with a trembling finger. She continued,
"wha, what is the meaning of this?! Why is the royal family's treasure in a place like this?!"
"Hey, well, sorry that it's in a place like this!"
Rain explained the gist of the situation after taking a moment to glare at Senoa. Only Leni and Shelfa immediately sighed in admiration, however, as Senoa knit her brows, Ralphus smiled wryly, and Yuri and Selphie were too busy earnestly staring at the treasure that they could not respond adequately.
"That was disappointing; c'mon, be more impressed. You don't seem to understand the value of money, do you? With this much, we'll be able to fight without worry for the next hundred years or so——hey, Yuri! The hell are you doing?! Don't just casually pocket stuff!"
Yuri, who had ginger~ly shoved in a few jewels in her pocket, gave a forced smile before returning them to the mountain of treasure.
Then, she smoothly changed the topic and said,
"buut still, isn't it impossible to teleport things from one place to another with magic?"
"No……not normally. But it's possible to transport things from one specified magic circle to another. Look, there are magic circles in each of the four corners of the warehouse, see? I had similar circles drawn in the treasure warehouse at Galfort. It was Gunther's work. Though, I'm greater than he is for ordering him to do it in the first place."
Only Shelfa looked at Rain in honest respect upon hearing about the circumstances behind the treasure. The rest simply looked more or less exasperated. Senoa even looked reproachful as she scowled.
"Still, isn't this royal property? I don't believe that this is something that you are allowed to simply take out of your liege's castle."
"Look here, you. If I didn't bring it here with me, that idiot Safir would just use it all for himself. I was taking the royal family into proper consideration, you know. So quit complaining!"
Rain was laughing inopportunely when he boldly claimed that everything had been "for his liege" and only one person out of the people present took his words at face value. Still, his claims were technically honest, so no one openly disagreed with him for the time being.
Yuri even gave him a sidelong glance that seemed to say, "what the heck is this weirdo thinking?"
"Thank you very much."
This time, it was Shelfa who had spoken before anyone else with her head lowered. She continued,
"I am always being helped by you, Rain."
She looked up at Rain with a smile.
Then, once again, Senoa obstinately insisted,
"still……I am still uneasy about this. It gives one the image of plunder, or something similarly underhanded…"
To which Rain flatly replied,
"there's no such thing as being underhanded in a fight! Winning comes first!"
Senoa simply sank into silence, perhaps because she was exasperated from the bottom of her heart.
"Now then, now that we've finished talking about this. ……I have a little something I'd like to discuss with you, Princess."
"We have all this treasure here. I'd like to spare a little to share with the people who accompanied us here as a reward. Well——"
Rain pointed at the stupidly large mountain before him,
"even if we give out a bit of a reward, I doubt that this mountain of treasure will decline in the slightest."
"I don't mind at all, of course! Please feel free to share more than just a little."
Yuri pumped her fist at Shelfa's generous words. Selphie, too, placed her hands on her cheeks and said, "I, I've never even held a gold coin before——" like the impoverished girl she was.
Rain shrugged as he saw their reactions.
"No, giving out too big of a reward would come with its own problems, so let's keep it small. Ralphus, do you agree?"
"It's not my treasure. As long as Her Highness has given her consent, I have no complaints. I'm sure everyone will be elated."
Striking while the iron was still hot, each and every soldier received a sudden reward that very day. Naturally, the rewards were standardized based on rank, and those above the captain rank received a sizeable sum and knights received a sum that was a little smaller. Still, even new recruits, at the bottom of the hierarchy, received a proper reward. Incidentally, even new recruits of the lowest rank received enough of a reward that a commoner could have lived in luxury off of it for a few years.
The treasure of the Sunkwoll royal family had only lost a mosquito bite's worth of wealth even after giving out such lavish rewards.
After Rain boldly proclaimed, "this is the Princess' way of thanking you for your hard work!" as he publicly handed out the reward money, 'Shelfa's popularity,' which had been on the rise, rose explosively yet again.
Rain and Ralphus generally gave out monetary rewards to soldiers who were commoners as well, unlike other high generals, but the sheer amount of money given out this time was what it was.
The entire castle was buzzing with soldiers saying, "let's beat up that shitty noble bastard for the Princess!" Everyone had heard rumors that the previous king, Shelfa's father, had treated her coldly, and had brazenly decided to take pity on her for it.
It needn't be said that the sudden happy reward brightened everyone's mood.
The morale in the castle had risen to ridiculous heights.
Deep in the night of the very next day.
Cortecreas Castle was enveloped within the depths of deep slumber. Astel, the region in which the castle was located, was one of the most desolate regions at the southernmost reaches of Sunkwoll, and true, untainted darkness descended upon the land at night.
The closest town to the castle, Claralta, was several kilometers away, and most of its residents were sound asleep by midnight. While there may still have been stores conducting business late at night in the capital, Lydia, there wasn't a soul to be seen in the area. After all, Rain had built his castle in such an isolated place on purpose.
On top of the castle ramparts, lit only by the moonlight, appeared a single middle-aged man.
It was apparent that he had scaled the ramparts because of the ropes and rake-like tool around his shoulder, but if anyone had seen his sneaky behavior, they wouldn't have been blamed for thinking that he had suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
Moreover, his clothes were similar in color to the blocks that composed the ramparts, so no guards stopped him for identification purposes.
The man, who was wearing a hood that covered his face, surveyed the pathway across the top of the ramparts before finally making a satisfied nod. Then, he began to run down the pathway without making a single sound. He frequently dropped something white on the ground as he ran.
A colorless, odorless smoke arose from them as the egg-shaped white things when they cracked as they hit the ground.
Eventually, the smoke was fanned by the occasional breeze and spread deep into the courtyard.
The man stopped when he saw the watchtower at the end of the pathway and dropped down into the courtyard using his rope……
Two squires, armed only with swords on their waists, patrolled the courtyard in green uniforms.
Regardless of the fact that most people were asleep, it was impossible to expect that everyone was asleep because the castle was a strategic location. There was still a hefty number of soldiers who were awake for security and guard duty.
The squires were a part of the number of soldiers tasked for guard duty in the middle of the night.
"Hey, have you heard?"
the squire with more seniority asked his younger counterpart.
"About that guy you know, Miran? He was promoted to squad leader."
The younger squire stopped in his tracks as a strange sound squeeze out of the depths of his throat.
Since his partner did not stop to wait for him, he rushed after the former's back in a panic.
"Wa, wait a sec. Why'd he skip straight to captain all of a sudden?"
"I don't know either. But, according to the rumors, Lord Rain approved of Miran's service from the shadows and promotion on special exception."
"Huh…… I see, so Lord Rain did that."
The two of them were squires in service to Rain, so they were used to going along with his incessant whims.
Thus, the young squire accepted the situation as it was without finding anything strange about it. He knew very well that Miran was a diligent and honest man, so he was actually quite happy for him.
Because, after all——
"Then, even people at the bottom of the ladder like us might become a captain one day as long as we stay diligent and work it up slowly and steadily……right?"
The senior squire nodded with large gestures.
As they surveyed the area with upmost attention he said,
"at the very least, Lord Rain isn't stingy. It's perfectly possible. But, the opposite is just as possible as well. This is something I heard from Miran, but——"
"Oh, I know, I know! I've heard that one before!"
The younger squire interrupted in a state of excited agitation.
He had long since stopped caring about his surroundings and continued,
"it's about M, who's liege lord stripped him of his job, right? Miran was trembling while he told me about it."
"What, so you already know…… But, there's apparently another one. I know a squire named Grecko…… Lord Rain caught him playing hooky while he was supposed to be out patrolling once, and Lord Rain made absolutely sure to tell him about "G, who was caught and grilled by his liege lord," or so the story goes. Apparently, G was treated so horribly that he didn't even want to talk about it……and it was Lord Rain who dished out his punishment."
The two exchanged weak glances.
They had both coincidentally been thinking the same thing……that it was more than possible that their liege would dish out some truly insane punishment!
And so, both of them nodded repeatedly to the other, as if they were warning each other that nothing good would happen if they played hooky.
Just as they silently agreed on this, the younger squire suddenly collapsed to his knees. Then, he fell over to the side, completely asleep.
"Y, you idiot! The consequences for playing hooky are scary enough as they are! So how much——"
worse do you think things will be if you completely sleep on the job——was all the senior squire managed to get out before he became dizzy and finally realized that something unusual was going on.
He drew out his alarm whistle in a panic——but that was all that he managed to do. He, too, fell over on top of his colleague.
Immediately after, the intruder slipped by, snorting as if he was making fun of them.
——But. He soon stopped in his tracks.
It was because a slender man had suddenly appeared in front of him wearing clothes that stood out even less than his own.
"……Why didn't the drugs…"
Gunther Valoa drew his sword and attacked without bothering to listen to how the sentence ended.
——Without even drawing a breath.
Sparks scattered into the darkness. Gunther's magic sword repelled his opponent's and attacked two, three more times in pursuit.
The difference in their strengths became readily apparent, and surprise and panic began to color the other man's countenance……
The secluded princess, Shelfa Iras Sunkwoll, went to bed early even according to Astel's norms.
Incidentally, even after the fact that the time zone differed slightly in comparison to the capital, the residents of this region retired for the night before nine, on earlier days, and around ten at latest because night life hardly existed in the area.
By that time, most people had finished eating their meals, were soon to tire of socializing with their families, it was pitch black outside, and they were beginning to nod off——generally speaking.
Shelfa went to bed rather early even by their standards, and was usually asleep in her bed by eight o' clock.
Recently, she had tried to stay up as late as Rain did, but Rain himself had stopped her, so she reluctantly returned to keeping to her own circadian rhythm.
Well, even when she had tried to stay up late, she could not avoid the fact that she naturally became sleepy before it was nine.
And so, Shelfa was generally sound asleep by midnight. However, she had coincidentally woken up in the middle of the night and was staring at the moon outside of the window from the bed.
She had woken up in the middle of the night like this rather often as of late. The reason for this was simply because she was sleeping in Rain's room.
"For starters, it's hard for intruders to get here because this room is on the top floor, so let's have you use it for the time being."
She had tried to politely refuse at first, but she ultimately caved in after Rain had persuaded her otherwise. It's not like this room is exceptionally extravagant or anything, so you don't need to hold back…… he had said when he had vacated the room for her.
When she had reluctantly accepted his offer, she had found that, as Rain had assured her, the only notable pieces of furniture in the room were the bed, the round table, and the wardrobe.
Evidently, Rain only used his room to sleep in. The room was so plain that no one would have guessed that it belonged to the lord of the castle.
Shelfa, however, was more than satisfied with it. She was on cloud nine every night.
Why? It was because it was the place where she could feel Rain's presence the most without being directly at his side. When she laid down in bed, she was surrounded in Rain's fragrance, or rather, his scent, which made her very happy.
Shelfa was so elated, in fact, that she had rolled around multiple times in bed as she gazed out the radiant moon. And then, she giggled to herself because of her strange behavior.
She was always like this. Her loneliness and sorrow vanished as long as she was thinking about Rain. That was why she naturally made the effort to prolong her happy thoughts——
And soon woke up completely.
She casually decided to take a walk around the castle. She would probably become sleepy again after walking around a little.
Shelfa blinked her large eyes in the dim room, having thought that it was unlike her to think of something like this.
Shelfa had always been, and still was, afraid of the dark. It needn't even be said that she absolutely couldn't stand "horror stories." The lights of a few candles flickered in a corner of the room because she was too afraid to sleep in the dark. Incidentally, she also believed in monsters.
Truthfully, she didn't like sleeping alone.
Truthfully, she wanted to someone to sleep with her and stay by her side.
However, it wasn't as if she would be okay with just anybody taking up that role, and she only really had one person in mind for it. Being alone together with anyone other than Rain would just be horribly awkward, and she would actually rather be left alone in that case.
Shelfa sighed after having thought through all of that. She didn't want to trouble Rain by being selfish.
Shelfa decidedly got up and put on a gown on top of her nightclothes. She made sure to properly close it up in the front so that she wouldn't lose any warmth and put on her shoes.
Her preparations were complete. She was still a little scared, but this was Rain's castle. Plus, Rain himself was (somewhere) within the castle walls.
That's why it'll be okay, Rain will come for me if anything happens. It's all right because Rain is stronger than any monster.
Shelfa tottered over to the door, unlocked it, and stepped out into the hallway.
She jumped a little as soon as she did.
A shadow had been sitting directly against the opposing wall and had looked up when she stepped out.
She was almost about to scream, but her voice soon changed into a cry of delight instead.
"Yo. What'cha doing up so late?"
"No, I just happened to wake up——"
and I decided to take a walk…… Shelfa explained as she stared fixedly at Rain. She continued,
"um…… What are you doing here, Rain?"
"Hm? Oh…… Well, that's, y'know…"
Shelfa had a sudden flash of revelation as she watched Rain trip over his words.
"Are you doing this for my sake, by any chance?"
"——Well, yeah. I mean, we have to take all the precautions we can, right?"
Rain nimbly stood up and lightly pat Shelfa on the head. He continued,
"I'm doing this because I want to, so don't worry about it. Besides, I use a type of self-hypnosis to fall asleep and wake up on command, so it doesn't really matter where I sleep."
"You slept in the hallway for me even at Galfort, didn't you? I……never realized……"
Shelfa's chest grew hot and she threw herself onto Rain. She knew that she couldn't always allow Rain to spoil her, but she was still happy for it.
Rain scratched his chin with his pointer finger and said,
"it's not a big deal. And it's only been a few days since the uproar with the assassination attempt and whatnot. Seriously though, I slept outside pretty often while I was travelling the world, so sleeping in a hallway is like heaven compared to that, you know?"
Rain caressed her cheek when Shelfa, still clinging on tightly, raised her head without a word. A grin flashed on his virile face. He continued,
"or what? Did I just get a huge increase in 'love points' by doing something that wasn't even a big deal to begin with?"
"……Yes. My feelings for you grow stronger by the day, Rain. The past me would have never believed that it was possible to care for someone this much."
She felt that Rain would be troubled if she began to cry, so she did her best to hold it in. But there might have been tears forming in her eyes even still.
"You're easily moved, aren't you? But, there's always a reason behind all of the things that I do. And as expected, I was right on the money to be on guard today."
Rain's smile vanished and he moved to cover Shelfa, who was still attached to him, behind him. He continued,
"but this worked out. If you hadn't come out, I would've gone in to wake you up myself."
"We have intruders. From the presences that I've felt, there are two of them. Though I think one of them's a decoy."
"So the other one……is nearby?"
Shelfa naturally leaned into Rain's back.
The candles that were set up at regular intervals flickered and were put out. All at once.
The hallway was enshrouded in darkness.
While she would have been scared out of her wits had she been alone, Shelfa was completely fine at the moment because Rain was by her side. Even she thought that she was rather devious. Just by being near Rain, she was completely fine with being in the dark, which she was usually afraid of.
"……The darkness doesn't really matter to me. Well, it's still annoying, so——light!"
As Rain quietly mumbled to himself, small lights burst into being on top of the candlesticks with popping noises. Each light acted as a magical torch and lit up the hallway so brightly that the candles from before couldn't even compare.
"Come on out. I know you're there,"
Rain said in a low voice.
Then, as if they were responding to him, someone stepped out from the stairway landing. They were wearing a hood, so it was difficult to make out their face. However, it was possible to tell that the figure was a girl by her slender frame and the way her clothes hugged the curves of her body.
"You're not half bad. It was worth coming all the way out here in person,"
she said as if she was licking her lips.
She took off her hood.
Her snow-white hair was gathered into a ponytail. Surprisingly, she still looked like a relatively young girl age-wise.
However, she appeared to have more grit than her appearance would have initially suggested and did not appear even the slightest bit timid. She proudly stuck out her chest and stared holes into Rain with her crimson eyes.
She did not have the shadowy look of someone who belonged on the backstreets like the assassins from the other day had, and instead she looked like she had a truly animated and bright personality.
"I thought I eliminated my presence…… When did you notice?"
"It's one thing if you forcefully erase your presence with magic, but just eliminating your presence won't work on me. I noticed you guys since even before you climbed the ramparts. Was the guy who was wandering around the courtyard supposed to be a decoy?"
"Hm~m, yeah, I guess. Or at least that's what I think he thought he was doing? I don't really care. So, what happened to him?"
"I think he probably ran into Gunther, my subordinate. Oh, and his presence disappeared just a moment ago. Gunther's strong after all. I ordered him to catch people alive in situations like these, but since the other guy's presence disappeared, I think he offed himself once he was cornered? Probably."
The girl didn't change her facial expression even after hearing that her comrade had died. She simply tilted her mouth in bored displeasure.
"Hmmm. So, he died, huh? That's so lame of him, geez."
"That's pretty dry of you. Wasn't he your comrade?"
"He might have thought so, but I certainly didn't. He insisted on coming along as an escort when I said I was leaving. I tried to sneak away alone at first, but he found me. It's really, seriously lame how he insisted so hard on tagging along just to get killed off on his own. ——And, oh!"
The girl abruptly covered her own mouth after saying so much. Shelfa wasn't really sure, but perhaps it was because she had accidentally said something that she shouldn't have. The girl continued,
"oops, I said too much. I take that back, okay?"
The girl laughed, embarrassed, and waved her hands in the air. What was up with her?
Shelfa tilted her head to the side.
Rain seemed to be similarly confused as he said,
"you're a strange one…… What'd you even come here for?"
"The place that I'm affiliated with——”
she pointed at Shelfa,
"wants to kill her, but I don't really care about that. I just happened to hear a whisper in the wind that you were stronger than we expected, so I came to see for myself. I'm really interested in strong people."
"Wait, hold on a sec!"
Rain raised a hand to interrupt the girl.
Rain ran a hand through his hair as if he was trying to collect his thoughts as Shelfa stood to his side and looked up at him.
"So this is how it is: You're a member of the organization that spurred on an assassin's guild, and on top of that, you're someone pretty high up in that organization……or you're the relative of someone who is. Else, you wouldn't have had an escort. And, you're also one of the more frivolous members of that organization."
"Yeah, it's just as you say."
The girl opened her eyes wide. She continued,
"you're Rain, right? You're really smart. You got all that right with just a small hint."
"Well, I guess. ——But, I'm not gonna let you go just because you flatter me."
Rain placed a hand on his magic sword's hilt and continued,
"this works out. There's a lot I want to hear from you. Why don't I show you down to the dark cellars?"
"What happens when we get to the cellar?"
"Well, are you up to answering everything I ask you and telling me everything about the situation here?"
The girl answered immediately.
"That's impossible. No matter how wild and rampart I usually am, asking me to betray my relatives is a little too much."
Rain mumbled, "did you seriously just call yourself wild and rampart?" and frowned. He continued,
"then, it's off to the cellars for you."
"Like I said, what happens when we go there? Are you gonna torture me or something?"
"Probably? It can't be helped if you're not gonna tell us anything otherwise. They'll probably hang you up from the ceiling and whip you, turn you upside down and drown you in a jug of water, and strip you naked and drip hot candlewax on you or something? It's not really my job, so I can't say for sure."
"That, that's a bit…… And that last one was especially indecent, so I'm gonna say no. And besides, you really like to joke around."
The girl grinned and lowered her hips.
She changed from a relaxed posture to that of a warrior brimming with bloodlust.
"I don't really like being locked up. So I think I'll resist just a litt~le bit in that case. Besides, I haven't seen how strong you are yet."
"Stay back a little, alright?" Rain said to Shelfa as he calmly gazed at his opponent. He continued,
"You do know that it's pointless to resist——"
Rain abruptly turned away mid-sentence. He twisted his upper body just a brief moment later.
To Shelfa, who had been watching him from behind, it looked like Rain had moved to avoid something. No, he actually had dodged something.
She knew this because just as Rain had moved, the was a loud smack against two different places on the wall around them and a part of the wall had been shaved off. Two cracks ran down the wall to her right.
Shocked, Shelfa moved from her position directly behind Rain to one more diagonal to him in order to get a better view of what was going on.
Her eyes met the mysterious girl's.
The girl laughed with only her eyes and she sharply dropped down her seemingly empty right hand and swung it up again.
There was another smack as Rain simultaneously jumped up, evading something Shelfa could not see. This time, the attack landed where Rain's feet had been and diagonal cracks appeared through the hallway floor. They also appeared on the wall to Shelfa's right a brief moment later. The smacking sounds continued.
Shelfa still could not see anything. No……she felt that something had just flashed just now……
In any case, Shelfa did not feel any danger and allowed herself to be protected because Rain seemed to be able to see whatever it was.
He jumped up, to the side, and twisted his body…… Rain continued to evade whatever it was with leisure to spare.
"Hmm~m, you're amazing. It's not just a fluke either, so can you see this!?"
Said the girl as she continued to wave around her right arm. There was a little bit of sweat forming on her white forehead. Even still, she made no effort to stop moving. She continued,
"even if you can! You can't attack back if you're dodging all the time! So, what'cha gonna do?!"
The hitting noises sounded again and Rain easily evaded. Still, Rain seemed to have already grown bored.
"Look here, you……keep your underestimation of me to a minimum. This isn't even an issue about whether I can see it or not in the first place!"
The moment he said this, Rain casually stuck his right hand off to the side and grasped something like he was stopping it mid-motion.
Then, he made the motion of pulling on that something. When he did, the girl let out a cry of confusion and stumbled forward.
Just then, even Shelfa, who hadn't been able to see anything before, was able to see "it."
Something like a rope was extended in between Rain and the girl. It flashed in the candlelight the moment it was pulled taut. The girl let go of that something in a panic and retreated to where she had been standing before. At her feet was a rod-like object that was the perfect size to hide in your hands.
Rain laughed smugly,
"I don't know what it's made of, but it wasn't a bad idea to make the main part of the whip invisible. Your use of it wasn't half bad either. But, I don't fight by just depending on my eyes. So attacks like that are useless against me."
Shelfa silently agreed. After all, Rain hadn't even drawn his sword yet. If Shelfa had been in his place, she would have fainted at the first attack (because she couldn't see it at all), but it was probably child's play for Rain.
The reason that he didn't aggressively go on the offensive was likely because he was trying to capture her without hurting her if possible.
"Oh boy~……you're really strong, not half-assed at all. That's amaazing! I think I might start regretting coming here a bit."
"Isn't it a bit too late for that……? I wouldn't say you're weak, but you're not as strong as I thought you'd be, huh. Are all of you're comrades like this? That'd be pretty unimpressive, considering that you guys were able to threaten an assassin's guild."
The girl sulked a little when he said that, but then she sighed as if she had given up.
"I was always the child that was left out of things. But let me say this: some of my comrades are like monsters. You'd be better off not taking them lightly."
"Things would've gone along faster if they'd showed up instead to begin with. Well, whatever. I'll just have you explain stuff like that in detail, yeah?"
Rain returned the conversation to its original topic.
The girl scratched her head and slowly stepped backwards.
"Like I said before, I can't tell you that even if you kill me. I've got a pretty strong sense of duty, all things despite. ——And with that, see ya!"
The girl's candor was deserving of wonder, to say the least. She turned her back to Rain without any hesitation and readily fled the scene. She was astonishingly fast, too, and Rain and Shelfa could hear her footsteps going down the stairs by the time their confusion had set in.
"So that's how you're gonna play!"
Rain made to chase after her……but then stopped in his tracks. He turned around to Shelfa behind him and beckoned her over.
He suddenly held her up when she walked over to him.
"I'd be a little uneasy leaving you behind, but this way, we can both chase after her no problem."
Rain broke out into a smile as Shelfa looked down at him.
She nodded, still some~what dazed. She hadn't really heard what he had said. Still, she was extremely happy that he was holding her.
Rain held on to her in her content and suddenly began running.
She could feel him accelerate drastically in just a few steps. He jumped down the stairs one-half of the way at a time and looked down outside from a glass-less window. She didn't know how the girl had pulled it off, but the girl was already running out in the courtyard.
"Oh~? Aren't you quite fast at running away? But you're still too naïve!"
Rain stepped down a few steps and said to Shelfa, "close your eyes if you're scared."
She didn't immediately understand what he was talking about, but Shelfa promptly shook her head.
Nothing was scary as long as she was with Rain.
"Alright, let's go!"
Rain jumped from where he was and leapt right out of the window. Shelfa felt like she was floating midair and heard the wind whistling by her ears.
She couldn't really see her surroundings because of the way Rain was holding her. But she was sure that her vision revolved dizzyingly as they fell from a considerable height.
Oh, Rain is turning over and over like a kitty as we fall…… Shelfa felt a chill down her back as she realized this and began to laugh.
She didn't like heights, but it felt nice to fall like this. It was unfortunate that they had landed on the ground so soon. She hardly even felt any shock from the landing.
And then, Rain began to sprint again.
The palace behind them grew distant in an instant.
It was only natural, but Shelfa became giddy again because they were traveling at a speed that was impossible for her to run on her own and laughed again.
"You're pretty brave."
Rain smiled as he ran. He continued,
"most people scream after jumping out a window."
"Not at all, it felt really good! I want to jump down it with you again, Rain!"
Rain laughed out loud, for once.
He usually just grinned, so it was truly a rare sight.
"Alright, we'll go faster then!"
He accelerated yet again.
He wasn't out of breath at all, and his pace was stable. His stamina seemed to be inexhaustible, as expected of a Dragon Slayer.
The ground below them flowed past as if they really were flying. Someone, likely a squire, tried to call out to him, but they ended up passing them in a moment.
At this point, Shelfa was lucky that the suspicious man from earlier had only planted his drugs at the opposite end of the courtyard. If not, Rain aside, Shelfa would have fallen asleep by now.
On the other hand, the girl was busy being chased.
The girl, who had turned around after getting a bad feeling about something, let out a vulgar "geh."
She had turned just in time to see Rain carrying the princess as they happily jumped down the window together.
The girl had had a means of jumping down the window safely, but no matter how hard she looked, Rain appeared to have jumped just as he was. She thought that it had been suicidal, but the princess whom Rain was carrying was gleefully laughing in mid-air for some reason.
Then, when the girl thought that they would have died from being crushed on the ground after the fall, Rain spun around and around like an acrobat and landed safely——only to immediately begin pursuing her.
The girl let out another "geh," upon seeing this.
Wha, what's with him!?
Why is he totally fine after jumping down from a place like that?!
That in and of itself was a creepy mystery, but even creepier was how Rain and the princess were laughing like they were having the time of their lives while chasing after her.
The princess was giggling happily while being held by Rain, and Rain, too, was laughing out loud.
He was chasing after her with unbelievable speed as he laughed.
It was super scary.
Wh……why are they laughing?
The girl shuddered as she increased her speed.
She really didn't want to get involved with them.
She was the fastest in terms of running speed among her comrades, but evidently there was always someone who was better than the best.
Rain had already caught up to her for the most part by the time she had looked back again. His stamina must have been inhumane, considering that he was still carrying the princess with him.
Or, Rain's not just simply 'strong' and there's still another secret to him…… Come to think of it, we have someone like that too.
The girl was not particularly attached to the depressing "society" that she was a part of and did not truly view the people around her as her comrades, but she did value her younger sister deeply. But, she might not acknowledge me as her comrade, at least not to the extent that I care for her…… That might be why she didn't tell me anything.
Although she was treated as someone in an important position, she was still always left out of things and no one told her any important information.
Thinking about that made her feel a little lonely.
Regardless, the girl regretted the fact that she had left silently without doing anything. Even if Rain was a little strong, she did not think that he was someone she couldn't handle.
"Give up already!"
Rain's voice called out from behind her. He continued,
"Kris is just about the only being in the world that I can't chase down. You think you can run from me?!"
The way he laughed as he said this was so scary she wanted to die.
Plus, even the princess was giggling. Seriously, what's with them?
And besides, who the hell is Kris?
The girl had fallen into a panic, but still managed to somehow reach the bottom of the ramparts.
Without slowing down, she took out a thirty-centimeter-long rod from her bag as she ran and cried,
It was a command word that she had registered to in in advance.
The rod, which was technically a magic item, promptly began to activate its magic and grew in length before her eyes.
It surpassed the girl's height in length and grew even still.
The girl pointed its tip into the ground and bent it with all of her might. She used the resulting recoil to jump high, very high, into the air. The rod continued to grow even as she jumped and carried her safely to the top of the ramparts.
She landed safely on the pathway.
She said another command word and returned the rod to its original state. She was finally able to regain some composure.
She stuck out her tongue at Rain and the princess who had just reached the bottom of the ramparts then.
"Sorry! But you know, I only made a few people pass out, and it's not like I killed or hurt anyone, so let me go, okay~?"
She wa~ved her hands playfully.
But, contrary to her expectations, her opponents did not seem flustered or aggravated in the slightest. Instead, Rain showed off his white teeth, which were white even in the darkness, and flashed a grin.
The girl had a fiercely bad feeling about something.
"You sound like you think you've completely gotten away already. But things won't go as you think they will!"
Then, still carrying the princess, Rain bent his knees.
Rain had leapt off the ground. Unbelievably, he soon rose past the girl's head. With the radiant moonlight at his back, the black-haired figure twirled once in the air.
'That was kinda beautiful,' the girl thought in the corner of her mind despite that it was neither the time nor the place to do so.
Rain gently landed on the pathway atop the ramparts as she stared at him blankly.
He was only about a few meters away from her.
The princess had begun gleefully giggling again.
Is she okay? Is there something seriously wrong with her? No, I'm more of the problem right now.
Rain smiled a dreamy bold smile with his hair tossed by the wind.
"This's as far as you go. There, look behind you. I even have a failsafe."
The girl, who had opened her cat-like eyes wide open, turned around in a panic. She thought that it might have been a trap, but she could not help but turn around.
——And, much to her dismay, there really was a failsafe.
Standing a little way from her with an air of composure was a young man who somehow looked preposterously morose.
Just when had he snuck up behind her?
Rain called out to him in a friendly manner,
"hey, great timing Gunther."
In response, the man, still looking grim, gave him a light bow.
Th, this might be bad……
The girl wasn't one to give up so easily, but even see was starting to sweat nervously.
Rain gave the girl, who had completely lost all of her composure, a cool glance and checked in with Gunther first.
"What of the other intruder?"
"……He killed himself, likely because he didn't want to be captured."
"That's what I thought."
"My deepest apologies."
"——It's fine. There's nothing you could have done since they're the one who decided to die on their own. Don't worry about it,"
Rain reassured Gunther.
Then, he gave the flustered girl one last notice.
"It's as you've heard. And just to be clear, while he's not as good as me, Gunther's pretty capable. The likes of you have absolutely no chance of breaking through him. Just come quietly."
And then, a shrill whistle blew in the distance with great timing. Either one of the guards had belatedly noticed that something abnormal was going on, or Gunther had arranged for it beforehand.
"Hear that? A large crowd of guards will be here soon, too."
At Rain's words, the girl looked down to the courtyard, looked down the bottom of the ramparts, and finally turned to look at Rain with a troubled look on her face.
She placed a hand at her mouth and looked at him with teary eyes. She looked at him with upturned eyes.
"……Don't whimper at me. It's too late to play cutesy. The night's still young, so why don't we have a change of scenery and a nice, long, talk, yeah? A charming cellar and a nice cell are waiting for you. I'll even throw in a stinky meal as a plus."
"I'd be troubled by that…… C'mon, please?
Her snow white ponytail bounced as she clapped her hands together as if she was praying.
"Heyy, just let me go. I'll be in your debt! I'll ab~solutely pay it back, yeah. So, please?"
Rain furrowed his brows.
"You're an important source of information from my point of view, you know? Why would I let you go?"
"J, just do something about that, please?! I'll seriously be in your debt. I'm the type of person who takes her duties seriously. C'mon, please?"
She bowed her head numerous times with her hands still clasped together. She continued,
"besides, I'm not going to tell you anything even if you do capture me. And I might even commit suicide in that cellar or whatever of yours. That'd weigh on your consciousness too."
"Nope, you're not the type of person who'd commit suicide. From what I've seen, you're quite a sturdy character."
"N, no way…"
Shelfa, who was still being carried by Rain, interjected.
"Yeah, what's up?"
Rain tried to put her down……but the person in question looked unwilling as she lightly shook her head, so he kept her where she was with a wry smile.
"Um…… She hasn't hurt anyone, and she didn't come here to kill me, so……"
"So, you want me to let her go?"
Shelfa nodded with all her might.
"It's possible that she might come to our aid one day as well……"
"Ah, you have a good point. As expected of a ruler's magnanimity. Hurrah for our future beautiful Majesty!"
Though the girl in question had simply been carried around at this point.
Her face, which had been on her verge of tears, changed into a bright smile as if those tears had been a lie.
Rain made a noise of contemplation as he looked up at the heavens and said,
"are you sure, Little one? If that's what you've decided, then it's not something that I'm about to say otherwise about. But……are you really sure? We can also choose to let her go after capturing her and getting information out of her first."
"Ehh~, like I was saying, I won't spill a thing even if you capture me."
Shelfa smiled as Rain told her girl to shut up.
"It's all right. I had a lot of fun, in any case. Please let her go."
Rain said nothing more and simply nodded with a smile. He continued,
"you can go now."
The girl stiffed up with a surprisingly shocked look on her face. Despite all of her pleading, she apparently hadn't expected to actually be allowed to leave.
"I, I can, for real? You're not just saying this so you can wham! at me with my back turned, are you?"
"Like I'd do something that cheap. I'm against it, but there's nothing I can do if my liege says you can go. ——Oh, but at least tell us your name. What is it?"
"My name…… It's Talma."
"Tama? That sounds like a cat's name. Now that I look carefully, your face looks like a cat's too."
"It's not Tama! It's Ta-l-ma!"
"I know, quit yelling. I was just teasing you. Make sure you don't forget about that debt of yours, Talma. Got it?!"
Rain made sure to call Talma's debt into attention before he jerked his chin to the side.
He was signaling for her to hurry up and scram.
"S, sure. I won't forget. I'll def~initely pay it back."
Talma guaranteed and, after gathering back her dignity, bowed to Shelfa. Then, she moved to jump down the ramparts——but looked back at Rain and the others one last time.
"What? There isn't much time."
"Look, I'll tell you just one thing. ……You should try inspecting Galfort Castle carefully. You might figure something out if you do."
Rain wanted to ask but shook his head instead. She's not gonna tell me anything more anyhow.
"Alright. I'll keep that in mind."
"And one more thing. This is more for my personal interest. You two are super familiar about how you guys talk and stuff for a liege and her retainer; did you guys do it already?"
He scowled so hard that he could feel the wrinkles forming on his brow.
"——Actually, I'll have you captured and executed instead!"
"Ahaha! It was a joke! See ya, and thanks!"
Talma threw air kisses at not only Rain and Shelfa, but at Gunther as well, and jumped down the ramparts like it was the natural thing to do.
As Rain and the others watched, she pulled out something cloth-like mid-flight and spread it out about her head.
Then, the cloth opened up like a large air bubble and slowed down the speed of her fall. It was probably another magic item.
Talma promptly fled into the darkness after she landed.
She was considerably fast, even from Rain's point of view. She had undoubtedly prepared a horse somewhere along the way as well.
"……What a weirdo."
At Rain's words, Gunther looked up and asked,
"should I shadow her?"
"Well……that's probably the best thing to do. But, I'm sure that the Little one over here will object."
Shelfa smiled, still in his arms, and drew her cheek against Rain's chest.
"Please let her go. She's not a bad person. ——And before that…"
"Um~, I have a pretty good idea about what you want to say. You want to ask what she meant when she asked if we've done it already, right?"
"……How did you know?"
"Well it was obvious."
A flood of guards finally rushed to the bottom of the ramparts as Rain snickered.
Spearheading the group was a sleepy-eyed Leni (someone probably had to hit him awake), who immediately shouted as soon as he saw Rain and Shelfa.
"H, how can this be!? Th, the General is eloping with the Princess!"
The hell is this idiot saying?
Rain instinctively looked down at Shelfa in his arms as she zoned out.
She was only wearing nearly see-through nightclothes and a gown.
Well…… He supposed he could see how one could come to that conclusion.
Shelfa didn't deny anything and simply blushed deep red, so Rain had no choice but to yell back,
"Wake the hell up!"