Rain off-handedly picked up Shing's body as the latter slanted from his seat on his horse and laid him in front across his own saddle.
In almost no time at all, he heard a shout.
"General Shing has been captureeed!"
Rain didn't know if the shout had belonged to a considerate member of one of the spies he had slipped into the Chandrys army or an enemy soldier.
In any case, the shout acted as the trigger for the collapse of most of the Chandrys army. Many of the knights who were still fighting began to turn around their horses one after another to withdraw from the battlefield to the branch road.
The avoided Rain by a large margin as they escaped in droves. He didn't have any intention of getting in their way, so Rain intentionally moved off to the side of the highway.
The enemy army passed by before him like a thick ribbon. There were many of them, but hardly any noticed that he was loitering off the side of the road. There usually weren't many people who looked around in the middle of a rout.
In addition, Gazaram's booming voice echoed from the main section of the highway.
"Don't get yourselves killed for no reasooon! Victory's been decided! We won't stop you, so hurry up and flee. If you don't want to, then throw down your weapons and surrender! Surrender, surrender nowww!"
Rain smiled before he knew it.
Gazaram was just as used to battle as he'd expected. Perhaps he could say that Gazaram was good at reading the balance, as he had precisely and accurately read the flow of the battle from every aspect of the situation.
Even now, those who had continued to wield their spears and swords until the end were throwing down their weapons as if the old man's shout had become their saving grace.
Not all of the enemy had promptly run away.
They, the crowd of knights who couldn't find it in their conscience to abandon their commander and flee, would have likely fought to their deaths had Gazaram not called out to them.
They had chosen the path of "surrender" over abandoning Shing now that they knew the option was available to them.
"Alright. I guess that settles this."
Rain let out a small sigh and moved to return to the main road with Kris.
——However, it was too early to believe that the battle was over.
A sweet yell reached Rain's ears.
"M, Mortal Storm~~"
It was a docile voice that didn't seem to belong on a battlefield.
Or rather, it clearly belonged to a girl and not only did it sound adorable, but it sounded rather bewildered as well.
But, Rain felt a shiver run down his spine and promptly called out,
His partner's reflexes (if that's what he was supposed to call them) were outstanding. Just as Rain wished, Kris kicked off the earth and jumped high.
He heard a thunderous roar.
Rain looked down from up high in the sky to see a whirlwind with winds as violent as that of a tornado's pass through below.
A magic attack!
Rain tightened his loosened nerves.
The spell had ridiculous power despite what the sweet voice suggested and when he turned around, Rain saw that a group of enemy soldiers, including some who had already run fairly far, had all been blown away.
It had been as if they were merely leaves in the wind.
Rain, who had evaded the first attack, came back down to the ground while still riding Kris and braced himself anew as he turned back around in front of him.
A single girl was standing all alone on the highway's main road. She had long, chestnut-colored hair and large black eyes that glistened as if they were moist.
She was standing right at the point where the branch road broke off from the main road in the shape of a 'T'.
She was about fifteen meters away in terms of distance.
The girl looked flustered upon seeing that Rain had evaded her magic attack and looked around to her left and right.
But, unfortunately, all of her allies had already thrown down their weapons and were kneeling on the ground with their hands behind their heads.
At the moment, only the girl had any will to continue the battle.
——I don't know the exact details, but I'm pretty sure that she's a Chandrys mage.
Rain imagined that she had simply been standing off in the corner of the road during the short fight. Luckily, no one had attacked her because she clearly didn't look the part of a warrior no matter how you looked at her.
And then, she had suddenly realized what position she was in as the battle began to conclude and, upon deciding that she had to fight as well, attacked Rain, who was right in front of her, with magic for the time being.
Which was all fine and well (no, it actually wasn't), but she had evidently failed to think about what to do after her attack. It was all to obvious that she wasn't used to fighting.
Rain swiftly inferred her circumstances, and before he could hurry and warn his allies——
Gazaram's deep voice echoed out again, though he couldn't see the old man in person (since Rain was in the middle of the main road).
"Archery unit, put down your bows! Don't take aim! Don't aim for that girl! Leave her to the General!"
Hm~m……good instructions, Gazaram.
That old man was a real great bargain.
I guess experience really does come with age.
Rain nodded to himself twice in succession.
It was nice that Gazaram was able to predict what he was thinking before receiving any orders. The old man was seriously useful to have around.
Incidentally——the ever diligent and serious girl was chanting runes with all her might even as Rain was carefreely lost in admiration.
Then, she called out in a flimsy voice that conveyed the fact that she didn't really want to be doing this.
"L, Lightning Sworddd~~!"
Contrary to what her lovely voice suggested, the amount of magic she output was no joke. In that moment, alarms bells sounded their warning again at maximum volume in Rain's mind.
Regardless of how she looked on the outside, the girl was without a doubt a super first-rate mage.
Brilliant 'swords of light accompanied by lightning' made from magic rushed at him.
His field of vision was filled with a white flash of light as the surrounding area whited out.
The atmosphere shivered from the sheer amount of heat that the swords of magic (or rather, spears) emitted.
The main current of magical energy carbonized all of the grass in its path pitch-black and stirred up wind as it charged straight ahead. Even the pebbles began to liquefy from the heat.
Rain didn't have time to dodge. The white-hot swords of light drew closer and attacked him while he was still riding Kris.
The defensive field Rain had inherited from the dragon activated automatically as it always did. It stopped the girl's magical attack and began to shine as it absorbed the magic.
The radiant, rainbow-colored field turned scarlet after resisting the girl's attack for half a second……and readily shattered.
It had exceeded its absorption capacity.
Rain promptly gathered up magical power in his hands and stuck them out in from of them to create a transparent shield.
He barely made it in time.
The swords of light, which had lost neither their momentum nor their power, crashed into the shield and caused a large explosion.
The transparent field tremored and nearly vanished from the impact of the explosion. It had so much 'power' that even Rain was subconsciously forced to go all out.
Even Rain was a little relieved to know that he had successfully blocked the attack.
But even still…… thought Rain.
If she was able to break through my anti-magic field, which is equal to or stronger than a mythical beast's, that means that she wields enough 'power' to possibly harm a dragon if she really wanted to.
Then again, had she actually fought a mythical beast, it would have created a new shield like Rain had and it would have been a complete joke if she got in a lucky hit.
As their moniker as the strongest mythical beast suggested, dragons were not an easy species to defeat.
Even still, most normal people wouldn't even have the means to oppose them, which ultimately meant that the girl was still a rare case.
Besides, it had truly been several years since anyone had broken through Rain's barrier field.
Rain dismounted from Kris, knowing that he would be at a disadvantage on horseback. He narrowed his eyes and released his magic. A bluish-white aura rose up from his black-clad figure.
Unfortunately, however, the girl had utterly failed to comprehend that she had made Rain get serious.
She made a noise that made Rain want to lose focus as she stared at him with her round eyes. She hadn't thought that her attack would ever be blocked……else, it was possible that, failing to understand how powerful her attack had been, she was simply disappointed that it hadn't worked.
Anyhow, the girl's cute face crumpled into a frown, perhaps because she had become discouraged.
She looked around her surroundings in a flustered manner as if she was wondering what she should do. She looked like she was searching for something……or someone.
Sure enough, she called out, "b, big brother~" to someone.
"Hey now! What's this with calling out for your "big brother~" after picking a fight with me, huh?!"
Rain griped. He continued,
"I just remembered. Your name is Junna, isn't it? I received intel earlier about a genius mage who made full use out of the name."
Junna (probably) flinched audibly and stepped back. Evidently, Rain's menacing attitude had scared her. She was quite the rude girl who refused to say a word after forcibly making the preemptive strike.
Gazaram, Leni, and Rain's other comrades finally gathered around Junna and looked between her and Rain in amusement. Even the enemy soldiers who had surrendered and were on their knees had somehow joined the gallery.
Gazaram rubbed his stubble and laughed as if the entire ordeal was someone else's problem.
"Man, you sure are popular, General. You're a lot different from me when I was younger."
"Do I look like I'm flirting?!! I'll dock your pay later, damnit!"
Rain yelled back in a huff.
These guys don't look like they really understand how amazing her magic attack was since they were in a blind spot earlier.
Then, ignoring the tension in the air that had begun to die down, Junna held up her magic staff once more.
Her delicate frame was covered by a white magical aura as if to rival Rain's. The snow-white robe she wore billowed from an invisible power as she closed her eyes and concentrated.
The irresponsible gallery aside, not even Rain stopped Junna as she began chanting.
The spectators, starting with Gazaram, knew that Rain would do something about her while Rain himself had his own motives.
——Which was to say that, to be serious, Rain could have ended the match long ago had he wanted to.
This was because, sword skills aside, Rain had an absolute advantage over Junna as rune masters.
As for what that advantage was?
All rune masters required casting time to chant their incantations if they wanted to release a powerful magic attack. This was true even of genius mages like Junna. Or, at the very least, it should have been.
This was why mages had suffered so many losses that they had nearly gone extinct during the war with daemons long ago. It was due to the war that there were so few mages even to this day.
After all, daemons could use magic without having to chant.
Mages had suffered a handicap even on top of the natural disparity in magic between the two groups. They were completely helpless without a warrior's support.
However——Rain was not affected by the vulnerability known as "cast time". He had been, once, but he had overcome that weakness when he became a Dragon Slayer.
Just as dragons, the strongest mythical beasts, could freely use magic without having to chant a rune each and every time, Rain, too, was free from the shackles known as "incantations".
He was able to activate magic whenever he wished to as long has he still had magic and his capacity for it was phenomenal.
To put it bluntly, the fight would be over as soon as Rain closed the distance between them while Junna was chanting.
——Ignoring the rude gallery that was blankly watching along from around her.
Still, Rain went out of his way not to do that and waited for Junna to finish.
It wasn't that he was going easy on her or anything.
It was simply that he thought——he could couldn't call it a victory if he fought against her with his sword.
Rain had no intention of casting aside his obsession with victory even if others called him stubborn for it.
Now, hit me with all you've got!
A daring glint shone in his black eyes as he watched over Junna. Rain increased the volume of magic within himself as he waited.
For the time being, he told Gazaram and the other curious onlookers, "it depends on the direction the magic goes, but you might get caught up in it! Stay back!"
Everyone stepped back without a word of complaint, perhaps because they had felt the extraordinary atmosphere around them.
Junna's song-like chanting continued:
"——Fenrir, the White Beast of the Great Snow Field, and Geirut, the Devil of Ice and Snow. Materialize the power to overcome them here in this land! As one who believes in the almighty mana, I am an apostle who freely wields the great magics.
"I pray that you freeze this place for all eternity. Transform the world into a white graveyard by the power of the mana that dwells within me. Freeze everything and protect me~"
And so, Junna had finished her incantation.
"Ice Age Strike!"
A freezing gale whipped up where she stood when Junna pointed her magic staff at Rain.
It crackled as it froze the highway.
Thick ice formed over the earth as it froze instantaneously and the ice proliferated before their eyes. The ice moved in once direction —that is, towards Rain.
Junna's spell created not only the ice but had caused the gale as well.
Countless blades of ice formed in the freezing wind and snow and surged forward while dyeing their surroundings white. They closed the distance in a breath as they tried to trap Rain alive in a coffin of ice.
"Interesting! It's a match to see who's the better mage!"
Rain cried out as if he was scolding himself.
Naturally, Rain had no cast time and was able to use his magic freely.
A burst of hellfire blossomed like a large, ominous flower appeared before Rain like a shield.
The ultrhot flames materialized by magic advanced as they swirled like a whirlwind.
It transformed the air into a storm of scorching heat that rushed along with the flames.
It crashed into the oncoming winds of ice and snow from head on.
The clash created a sound like the sound made when red-hot iron was dipped into water——but hundreds of times louder.
Thick steam that could have been mistaken for smoke rose up toward the heavens.
The two opposing attributes that had been brought forth by magic, the extreme white cold and the ultimate crimson heat, clashed and struggled in between the two mages.
This was more of a match between two genius-level mages than a rivalry between ice and fire. The mage with less magic would end up getting hit directly by the other's attack.
The two powers were in perfect equilibrium for the time being.
That balance was only maintained for only a few more seconds. Junna began to breathe heavily with her shoulders heaving as she expended vast amounts of magical energy and her willpower exhausted in face of Rain's ever-increasing magic.
The tip of her staff trembled and her legs wavered unreliably……
She was near her limit.
You picked the wrong opponent, Rain thought.
While there did exist a difference in their capacities of magic, the fact that she wasn't used to battle posed the bigger problem. In other words, it was the difference in their experiences. That, and the difference in their mental strength.
She would likely grow to become an even more fearsome mage in the future if she gained more experience and polished her skills.
Rain had no doubt of this because she was able to freely cast a spell that had been touted as one of the highest-level spells in the golden age of magic even as inexperienced as she currently was.
She was undoubtedly one of the strongest mages on the continent in all of history.
She totally didn't look the part, though.
"——Let me be serious. I think that you're an amazing mage for your age. Your power truly deserves to be called 'genius'."
Rain used magic to ensure that Junna could hear him whisper.
His opponent looked at him even as she struggled to breathe.
"But, at the very least, I know of two mages who are better than you. The first is the women who taught me 'magic'. And the second——"
Rain opened his black eyes wide and released the full might of his magic.
"Is non other than myself."
In an instant, the writhing flames, having received multiple times the magic they had been getting, pushed against the wall of ice and broke through.
The overwhelming whirlpool of flames took the form of a crimson dragon and rushed for Junna.
Junna watched the burst of flames coming for her and let out a small shriek.
She had even forgotten to put up a shield.
It was Rain who panicked more in the moment.
He cut down his spell in a hurry and, at the same time, put up a shield in front of the girl for her. It was simple enough, even with the distance between them.
Rain somehow managed to stop the raging hellfire with his newly created barrier.
He had stopped the magic that he himself had cast……
He felt ridiculous, like he was performing a one man show, but it wasn't as if he could have just let it be either.
"……Phew~. Don't just suddenly cancel your magic like that! That was dangerous just now, you know."
Junna didn't respond.
She simply sank down and stared back at Rain. Eventually, tears began to well up in her large eyes. Her magic staff flopped down from her hands.
"Hold on a sec. Hey, calm down. It's not like anything happened."
He was too late.
Junna covered her face with her hands and began to cry. Her sobbing sounded so sorrowful that Gazaram, Yuri, Selphie, and Leni rushed to her side in an instant. They began to repeatedly offer her words of consolation.
No one was worried about Rain.
Rather, Yuri even grumbled to Rain, who had jogged over, in a quiet voice.
"Jee~z. You made her cryy."
"Me?! Am I the bad guy here?!"
How vexing it was!
Rain scowled and pointed at his own chest.
"Save for the last part, all I did was avoid or block her attacks! I'm technically the victim here?"
"You're strong, General, so there's no helping the fact that you become the bad guy at times like this."
Even Senoa, who had arrived late to the scene, responded in a cheeky manner.
Apparently, everyone had sympathized with Junna.
"……Is this what they call the solitude of the strong? This isn't worth it at all."
Rain grumbled to himself as he, too, approached Junna. As he did, he saw that Selphie's sword was covered in blood and the sight of it pulled at his heartstrings.
While her sword, proof that she had fought fiercely, was proof enough, he could tell from the way she was crouching down and consoling Junna with all her might that she had overcome a huge wall.
Even if it was impossible for her to get used to killing people because of her personality, it was a good thing that she had been able to cross at least one hurdle.
However, Rain had mixed feelings about it and didn't feel like being happily approving of this kind of growth.
Selphie knew what it felt like to lose someone dear firsthand. He didn't want for her to enter the path of fighting. Still, he knew that he was being selfish.
Rain shook his head clear of idle thoughts and bent down.
"Hey, you alright?"
Junna stopped crying when he reached out his hand. She stare~~~~~d at him with her black eyes filled to the brim with tears.
There was an acute glint in her eyes that reminded him of a baby squirrel born in the wilderness that was warily watching a human for the first time.
It was strange how he began to feel that he was in the wrong after meeting her gaze.
Rain consciously made sure to speak to her kindly upon seeing how her tiny frame had stiffened up as she squatted on the ground.
"……It's alright. I won't do anything. Not to you and not to your brother."
Then, Junna's eyes grew 1/5th times larger.
Rain wondered if she had noticed as well. No, that's probably not the case. If she had, she'd be looking at him.
"My goal here wasn't to wage war. Sorry for surprising you, though I was only trying to stop you."
He slow~ly reached out his hand.
Junna stared hard at his fingertips. She was still drawing back.
Still, she loosened up when Rain smiled. As delicate of a child as she was, she properly understood that his smile was not a fake one.
In the best-case scenario, it meant that she had accepted his sincerity.
Gently, ever so gently, Rain placed his hand on top of the long black hair on her head.
"You were trying to help your brother out in any way you could, right? You're such a good girl."
Junna's cheeks flushed as he slowly pat her head. She nodded ever so slightly.
The people around them smiled in relief after watching her.
Now, all that's left is big bro who's looking this way.
Rain casually waited for the right time——
——Or at least that's what he had intended to do until he looked up to see someone familiar up ahead and furrowed his brows.
At the other end of his gaze were a few men who looked clearly different from the other enemy knights. They were probably mercenaries, going by their dirty leather armor and shamelessly scary faces.
Chandrys had evidently let money speak for itself in her efforts to gather up numbers and had hired a good number of mercenaries into her army.
That in and of itself wasn't all that rare, as Sunkwoll did it too, but……still, he's——
The man jerked to the other direction upon receiving Rain's hard stare. But, even still, there was no way that Rain would mistake his vulgarly frightful face.
Even with the hand towel tied around his head or the strange new facial hair he was spouting, it wasn't enough that Rain would mistake is ugly face.
Besides, the fact that he was dressed up as a mercenary in the midst of the strictly uniformed Chandrys knights made him stand out all the more.
"……Hey you. What are you so obviously ignoring me for? I'm talking to you, the guy who just turned around with the oily face!!"
The familiar-looking squalid man let out a small shriek and covered his mouth with both hands in a panic.
He shook his stubbled head vigorously in denial when Rain approached him in large strides.
Still, his face was as horribly oily as ever, though it hadn't been that long since Rain had last seen him. Seriously, when was the last time he washed his face? I don't think even people with a lot of fat get this gross, normally.
"Hey, there's no point in shaking your head! It hasn't even been two months since you tried to assassinate me! Like hell I'd forget you!"
The oily-faced man's clouded, beady eyes began to tear up.
Still, why is it cute when a girl makes that face when it makes me want to punch him when he does it?
Rain nonchalantly placed a hand on the hilt of his magic sword as a silly thought ran through his head.
"I let you go free the other day, and yet here you are before me again. Just what are you trying to do, you bastard?! Did someone ask you for something again, huh? Say something!"
When Rain pointed at him, the oily-faced man, still on his knees in surrender, pointed at his own mouth and shook his head.
"What? You can't speak?"
The oily-faced man nodded twice in affirmation.
"Liar. I can see right through that charade of yours. You have until I count to two to speak up! I'll punch you if you don't!!"
Wow, that's short.
Not only did the oily-faced man, but Rain's men and the prisoners of war all also looked like they wanted to say the same thing.
Rain counted down, ignoring their reaction. The oily-faced man opened his mouth in a hurry when Rain finished counting half a second later.
Rain and all of the spectators listened closely to what he had to say.
"I, I, crost the sea, came from far far away country. This continent's words, I don't little understand, yes?!"
Silence filled the area.
Yuri, who was the only one who found it funny for some reason, laughed a little from behind them.
However, most of everyone else became suddenly exhausted and unamused, and Rain only grew more annoyed.
His cheeks twitched as he said,
"what do you mean, "this continent's words, I don't little understand, yes!?" Are you making fun of me?!"
He drew his sword and swung it down. The oily-faced man dodged it by falling over and sprang back up as if his behind had caught on fire.
He wailed in great indignation.
"H, hey! That swing was serious! How were you gonna take responsibility if it'd hit?! Besides, you said you'd punch me, not swing your sword on me! Enough of this nonsense, damnit!"
"Shut it! See? You can speak just fine! Besides, what's~ this crap about being from a faraway country when you obviously look like you're from the area? Think a little before you start making things up!"
"Urk…… I thought I could trick you after changing up my face a bit."
"Are you stupid?!"
Rain spat out at the oily-faced man's vexation. He continued,
"everyone else aside, did you really think you could trick anyone with that filthy face of yours? Be more aware of yourself!"
"W, wait. You'll understand if you let me talk! I was just trying to put food on the table as a mercenary! It's not like I resented you or that I thought I could get back at you if I was lucky to anything like that!"
The oily-faced man closed his mouth as Rain, magic sword in hand, silently cornered him against the mountain of dirt.
He suddenly burst into tears, likely because he finally thought that things were getting really bad for him.
"C, c'mon, wait. Despite how I look, I have eight, no sixteen kids waiting for me at home! Please let me go!"
"Like I said before, your math doesn't add up! Besides, that's one more than it was last time!"
Rain readied his magic sword high above his head.
"Waah! N, no! Another one was born since last time, and I have a lot of twins and triplets——"
Just as Rain was about to jump the man, a bright flash of light suddenly burst from up above their heads.