Rain and his army began their journey north to regroup with Ralphus with remarkable speed.
They were about two to three times as fast as a normal march, possibly making theirs the fastest march the continent had ever seen. There was no doubt that they had set a new record.
So how had their speed been possible?
Their secret was stupidly simple—they had left behind most of the things that an army generally required to march. Since their load was lighter, it only made sense that they traveled faster.
What typically made an army slow?
It was mainly the fact that an army had to transport supplies with it —namely food provisions. An army would grow slower the larger it was because it had to travel with an endless line of packed horses trailing behind. Rain, however, had readily solved this issue.
——With a method that truly suited the man.
In other words, he had ordered his army to march with only a few days' worth of food at hand, to be carried by each individual.
Simply put, they had no provisions to transport. It was no wonder they were able to march so quickly.
His aides had naturally voiced their misgivings, but Rain had forcefully declared,
"We'll be extorting meals from Ralphus! That's why we're good to go!"
Upon seeing how exasperated everyone was, he drew back a little and added a brief explanation.
"Speed is our top priority right now. Understand?"
Ultimately, no one was convinced, save for Shelfa——
But, in any case, everything had gone as he'd wished, leading to their current situation. At the moment, they were about a day away from Ralphus' army on horseback.
It looked like they would make it in time.
On a night twinkling under the light of countless stars……
Rain's army had set up their final camp before their reunion with Ralphus.
Rain walked into his personal command post (though it was just a normal tent) once he was done giving out his orders, and a cloaked figure slipped in alongside him at the same time as was custom.
Naturally, this figure was Shelfa.
She had been prepared a large tent exclusively for her personal use in the camp, as befitting of her status as a liege.
Her tent was fully furnished with not only splendid bedding and ladies-in-waiting, but also with a bathtub (that being said, it was merely a large bucket), which she could have filled with hot water to wash herself down in if she wished.
And yet, she hardly ever stayed there. Shelfa al~ways spent her free time, breaks included, stuck at Rain's side.
She was sitting next to Rain, who himself was sitting on a portable stool, and was apparently entertained, judging by the way she was grinning and staring de~eply into Rain's profile.
She looked tired by this time of day, as she always did, but she evidentially planned on toughing it out until Rain called it a night as well.
Unlike usual, however, today she was busy with her frequent rubbing of an area around her waist——or to put it more bluntly, by the area below it.
Rain noticed her behavior and pointed it out with a wry smile.
"Yeah, I feel you. Your butt hurts, doesn't it?"
Shelfa looked down in embarrassment, as would have any other girl her age.
"Nah, it's nothing to be embarrassed about. I remember it happening to me a long time ago, too. Your butt starts hurting like hell if you ride for a long period of time before you're used to it. It's the throbbing kind of pain."
Oh, but——he said as he recalled something.
"Didn't you ride all the way to my castle on your own?"
"Back then……I was too absorbed otherwise back then. I don't think I'd be able to do it again."
Shelfa squirmed in a happy dance when he pat her gently on the head——but then her lovely visage crumpled into a frown when the pain resumed.
Rain was ready to say, "If it hurts that much, want me to massage it for you?" as a joke——
But quickly gave up on the notion because he felt that her answer would be frightening. Jokes of that nature wouldn't work on the girl before him.
"Um, Rain, do you think Lord Joe is aware of the message you're trying to send?"
Shelfa asked, looking like she had just remembered about it.
"Lord Joe? Oh, you're talking about Joe Lamberck. Yeah, he probably is. I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm pretty sure he's noticed by now. The problem is what he'll do now that he has."
"Do you think……there'll be war?"
"That depends on Folnier. Or, on how well Joe's able to hold her back,"
Rain elucidated as if it wasn't his problem and abruptly turned to another direction.
The only thing there was the tent canopy, but he looked like he was looking somewhere much farther past the thick cloth.
After a little while, the corner of his mouth lifted up in a sardonic twist as he grinned brazenly.
"Huh? Oh, it's nothing……"
Rain shook his head and quickly changed the topic.
"More importantly. This is something I've been thinking about for a while——. Make sure you take care of Ralphus once you've successfully retaken the throne. Everything he says is always right. There's no way you can go wrong as long as you have an ear on his opinions."
Unfortunately, Shelfa did not bite.
She stared deeply into Rain's face and replied in a serious tone.
"Why are you telling me this now? I already know that Lord Ralphus is a very capable person. But the way you said it right now, Rain, makes it sound like you're worrying about what will happen to me if you're gone."
Rain was hard-pressed for an answer. He simply opened his black eyes wide and stared back at her.
Had he accidentally made her more anxious instead?
Shelfa suddenly began to tear up.
"Lately……as we march, no, even at the castle, you've been looking somewhere far away from time to time, Rain. Is someone after your life?"
Oof——Rain felt like he'd been pierced in the chest.
This child is weirdly sharp when it comes to me, he thought keenly to himself.
He couldn't find it in himself to trick her otherwise, so he shrugged and affirmed her suspicions instead.
"Well, yeah. ——C'mon, don't make that face. It's not a big deal, really. I don't really think that it'll be especially dangerous this time around of anything. I'm just taking the necessary precautions. A skilled and famous general should make a habit of always looking ahead, y'know?"
He ended with a bit of a joke.
Shelfa gazed at Rain with her moistened sapphire eyes as if to ascertain the veracity of his words. She was only finally convinced when he caught her gaze without looking away.
"I can trust you, right?"
"Of course. I'm immortal."
"……Yes. Um, and——"
"If you ever go away, Rain, I think that I'd vanish from this world as well. And so, your earlier concerns are unnecessary."
"Hey now! Don't say stuff like that while smiling."
He didn't go as far as to say that she was being irresponsible.
Shelfa had been neglected by her father and raised without the expectation she would ever hold royal authority. Rain didn't know what she'd choose to do in the end, but it was true that the previous king had not backed her as his official heir.
Even everything that was happening now was the result of circumstance, not a result of her wishes. It was he and everyone else who was selfishly pushing the burden of responsibility onto her.
But personally, Rain only wanted for her to be happy —happy enough to overturn the misfortunes she'd had to live with until now. He wanted for her to live a long and happy life.
Though he never said any of this out loud in words because he was embarrassed to do so.
Shelfa spoke in earnest.
"I'm sorry. ……But I would never be able to accept your absence. So please——"
Please, don't speak of such sorrowful things.
Rain simply twirled her silky blonde hair in his fingers instead of properly acknowledging his assent.
He was troubled.
I think this child might really kill herself——or, if someone manages to stop her, her heart would die if I disappeared from her life……there's a real chance it could happen.
I didn't think this would happen even in my wildest dreams, but she's serious. She's in love with someone like me, for whatever curious reason.
Rain had lived his life not caring whether he lived or died, but he realized that he might not be able to continue on with that paradigm for much longer.
It was then that those fated words echoed in his head again.
"You would do well to remember. In the future, you will be faced with a fated choice. You will face this without fail. One, is an easy, peaceful path. And the other——"
——The other, is a path that leads to death.
The fortuneteller had further added,
"I can see it all too clearly.
You are strong. Indeed, you are unbelievably strong. And you will only continue to grow stronger. You may even hone your skills to a level that none have ever reached before.
But, should you err in your choice, should you choose the wrong path——even you, as strong as you are, will forfeit your life.
Heed my words and remember them. And do not be mistaken in your choice when the time comes……"
That was what the old fortuneteller woman had declared.
But Rain thought otherwise. So what? So what if I might die?
I don't want a peaceful and uneventful life. A path that leads to death? Bring it! All human beings are destined to die one day. Even I, a Dragon Slayer, can't escape that fate.
And if that's the bloody path that'll let me face stronger enemies, then I prefer it over the other one.
I don't need a life of peace and tranquility, not when I couldn't protect the person I was supposed to protect.
That was what he'd said back then, and his feelings on the matter hadn't changed even now, but——
"Oh……. My bad. I was thinking back on something that happened a long time ago."
Shelfa stared at Rain again when he tried to make excuses and said,
"I am fine with any path in life, no matter how painful it may be, as long as you're by my side, Rain. I can endure anything. But——"
She gave a small sigh.
"I feel like I'm always adding to yours and everyone else's burdens, Rain. I think that……I have to study more and learn how to fight, among other things."
"The best rulers think about their subjects first and foremost. So I don't think you need to be too bothered about our burdens. If things come to war, well, that's why you have us."
Rain was thankful for the opportunity to subtly change the topic.
He disliked depressing matters.
And, it was also true that he thought Shelfa had the qualities to become a reputable ruler.
She held no envy toward her competent subordinates (Rain and the others!) and was doing her best to create a good government for her people——these two things were more than enough to qualify her as a reputable ruler.
Her subordinates could supplement her with the abilities she lacked.
That was why people like Rain were there.
"Then, putting off the topic of war……I should still train myself, since it's much too pathetic that I'm so……tired just from riding a horse for a long period of time.
"That's true, it's not a bad idea to train up. ……Can you do push-ups?
"What are push-ups?"
"Y, you don't know? You get down like this, and——"
Rain showed her a live example of one.
This isn't too bad every once in a while.
"Why don't you give it a try?"
Shelfa replied, all fired up.
It looked like she had completely regained her cheer.
Not only had Shelfa not known what a push-up was, she was also, as Rain had pretty much expected, so weak that it was almost sad.
She was able to get down on her hands by mimicking what she had seen Rain do, but she remained squashed on the ground because she wasn't able to push her body up.
"Hahaha……you don't have to overdo it. If you can't do it, then you just can't do it. Besides, rulers don't need to be physically strong anyway."
"My arms have started to hurt,"
Shelfa said with a hint of sorrow before looking to Rain.
"How many can you do, Rain?"
"Me? Hmm……I could probably do them all day long."
Shelfa's eyes shot wide open.
The amazement and wonder on her face left Rain in a good mood.
"Push-ups are okay, but I can do this too,"
he said as he purposefully transitioned into a fingertip push-up. He started with all five fingers on both hands and decreased their number one by one until he was left doing push-ups with only his index fingers. To be honest, this was still easy for him.
When he grinned and looked up to see how Shelfa reacted, he saw that she was in a daze with her lovely mouth half-agape. She was captivated.
Hey, do you normally make your respect that outwardly obvious?
Her expression was such that Rain couldn't help but think this. It was like she was looking at a hero.
Rain fired himself up even more in order to wipe her tears and apprehensions from earlier form her memory.
"Haha! Listen up, I'll show you something even more amazing. After all, I used to be called Rain the acrobat when I was a kid,"
he declared as he smoothly stood up on his fingers (essentially, in a handstand). Moreover, he was only using his fingers.
Then, he lifted the fingers from him right hand off the ground one by one until he was standing with only the fingers of his left. Without so much as a pause, he maintained his delicate balance and lifted the fingers from his remaining hand as well.
Ultimately, he was doing a handstand with only one finger and he boastfully smiled at Shelfa while sustaining his posture.
"How's this? Let me tell you that this "one-finger handstand" is impossible to do if you don't have considerable strength and a perfect sense of balance."
Speechless, Shelfa expressed herself with her actions instead.
Her cheeks turned bright red and she clapped her small hands together as fast and hard as she could. One look at the excitement on her face made it obvious that she wasn't simply being courteous.
"Al~right. I can still do more~. Next, have you ever seen someone pull off four and a half somersaults in——"
"General, there's trouble!"
Leni burst in out of nowhere.
Even Rain hadn't noticed Leni coming, since he had been concentrating all of his senses on keeping his balance.
Still, he stood up like nothing had happened and turned around.
Leni's gaze swam around the tent awkwardly like he didn't know what to say until finally, after a brief moment, he asked,
"um——. What were you doing?"
"……Just providing a bit of entertainment. At the Princess' request. Starting tonight, all of my aides and close associates will perform something in front of the Princess one by one. It's your turn tomorrow."
"Eh?! For, for real?! But I'm not that good with that stuff! I can sing a song or dance something right now if you'd——"
"I was lying, you idiot! Don't take me so seriously. Now hurry up and give me your report. What happened?"
Leni's shoulders dropped as low as they would go.
Still, he murmured his report with resent in his eyes.
Once he finished, Rain moaned,
"Safir picked a fight with Joe and was routed? So, what happened to Lydia?"
"Er, it hasn't been occupied, according to the reports from the fast horses. The Chandrys army continues to maintain its formation outside of the capital. Though, it should have been easy for them to occupy it, since the noble army's garrison fled after the battle."
Shelfa restlessly got up while Rain crossed his arms in deep thought and asked,
"um, will Lydia be all right?"
"I don't think you need to be concerned,"
Rain declared. He continued,
"they're probably waiting for us to arrive, judging from the fact that they didn't immediately take over the capital. I can't see any other reason they would do that."
"Oh, then…! That means that Lady Folnier and the others mean to reach an ami, amicable settlement with us, yes?"
Shelfa clasped her hands together in relief.
Rain could not answer her question.
"We'll see about that soon. Let's hurry to the battlefield, in any case."
Rain's unit finally made contact with Ralphus' the next day.
They had set up camp near a village close to the capital and were awaiting Rain's unit's arrival.
They had shocking numbers. Ralphus' army had grown close to thirty-thousand in number. Not to mention the fact that it was still growing.
At this point, they could be said to pose a considerable threat to the Chandrys army even if they were mostly comprised of normal civilians.
After all, the Chandrys army was thought to only number ten-thousand after they had split their forces.
Rain, who hadn't seen Ralphus in a while, pat his friend on the shoulder.
"Man~, you're a lot more popular than I gave you credit for."
Shelfa expressed herself by bowing politely and saying, "Thank you for your hard work."
"Not at all,"
Ralphus said to Shelfa before turning to Rain with a smile.
"This is proof that everyone still has hope for our future, rather than the result of my popularity,"
he declared with an ever-gentle smile on his face.
"——Hope you're right,"
Rain said as he shrugged.
Then, after clearing his throat, he glanced around the command center where only the three of them were present.
"So~……by the way. About how we should handle everyone who came here after answering your calls——"
Ralphus quietly raised his hand before Rain could finish.
"I'll leave that to you, Rain. You've already thought up of what to do afterward, yes?"
"Then you should do as you see fit."
Ralphus grinned and pat his friend on the shoulder, not unlike how Rain had earlier.
Then, with an unusually pregnant look in his narrowed cerulean eyes, he said,
"I don't intend on having been used, so there's no need for you to worry about that. It's not like I haven't learned anything from our war with Zarmine not too long ago. I brought everyone here with me because I have faith in your way of doing things. I told you before, no? I intend on having a good eye for people."
——In other words, that's just how it is.
Then, with a last invigorating smile, Ralphus left the command center.
Rain scowled and looked to Shelfa, who was standing beside him.
"——Did you see how disgustingly pompous his attitude was? Don't you think he's been getting a little cheeky recently? You should send him off to the border for a decade or so to teach him plenty about how harsh life is."
Shelfa simply smiled with glee.
Rain and the others set forth as a new day arrived.
There were about ten-thousand men between the two armies combined.
Of the multitudes that had gathered, they only asked those who'd had experience fighting, such as mercenaries or members of the garrison, to help fight. And so, their battle assets and increased in number.
They had the rest of the many, many civilians to stand by at the campgrounds. Rain planned on giving each and every one of them provisional rewards after everything was over, if he and the rest of the army survived.
He was being quite generous, since it wasn't his money.
The people had been difficult to persuade because their fighting spirits were aroused, but he had forced them to stay behind by saying, "I'll leave it to you guys to make your own decisions if we're defeated and the royal family of Sunkwoll falls."
To hammer his point home, he further asserted,
"we don't have enough weapons for you all, and you won't have enough time to memorize all of the war signals we use, right? You'd only end up getting in the way on the battlefield. We won't be able to do proper battle if everyone's all uncoordinated. Your goodwill will only end up in Ralphus' and the Princess' deaths."
Or something of that nature.
The multitudes of civilians who had been charmed by Ralphus had no choice but to oblige after Rain said his piece.
They would defeat the purpose of their being here if their actions lead to Ralphus' death.
And, according to Rain, they had already done more than enough to help. They had made it possible to send a vital message to Joe, and they put pressure on the Chandrys army even now just by standing by in their numbers.
Rain's side had succeeded in making allies of the masses, whereas the enemy had failed.
If Rain's side fell in battle, they would be the next to rise up in a large-scale revolt.
In its current state, Joe's army could not suppress the might of tens of thousands of vengeful civilians.
And, if the enemy insisted on fighting even after taking all of these negatives into consideration, then Rain would simply have to fight seriously. I've done everything I could. All that there's left to do is pray that they're not more foolish than I'd imagined.
Rain nodded while riding his horse and quietly steeled himself.
He would fight with all his might, depending on the situation.
That was all there was to it.
I won't lose to anyone.
I refuse to experience that ever again…… Never!
The Chandrys army had maintained their formation near Lydia even now underneath the clear blue sky.
There had been no helping the fact that they'd relaxed a little due to how long the duration of their encampment had dragged on, but even that was now a thing of the past. The scouts were updating the location of the Princess' faction with every turnover of their shifts, and the entire army was currently in a state of high tension.
Soon, the final enemies that barred them from capturing Sunkwoll would appear.
Everyone in the army understood that this enemy was of a completely different class than Safir, whom they had fought just the other day. After all, three of their generals, including Shing, had been captured by them as prisoners.
There was no way they could give them the same treatment as Safir.
Even still, while many knights and soldiers had made friendly conversation at breakfast, everyone took their respective positions when the final scout reported, "The enemy will be here soon!"
They could not be blamed for the fact that they were so nervous that their limbs froze up. It was finally time for the main event. It would be different from everything they had faced up until now. Even Zartz, who would have normally been all fired up by this point, was glaring silently into the horizon with his arms crossed.
Would there be peace, or war——?
Everyone knew that the final outcome had yet to be decided despite the fact that none of the developments surrounding it had been publicly announced.
They all hoped for peace, but were willing to fight with everything they had as knights and soldiers if it came to war.
Similar whispers rippled all throughout the army.
For example, one soldier, while blowing warm air on his cold and numb fingers, would quietly ask,
"did you hear? Apparently, Rain, the enemy, has never been recorded to have lost a battle that he commanded directly. Never, not once!
That means that this'll be a clash between two undefeated generals……"
Then, the colleague he spoke to would always answer thus:
"What of it? Our Lord Joe's been undefeated for far longer than him. Their terms of service are too different to compare…… I don't know about this Unknown Genius thing, but Lord Joe won't be done in by some young greenhorn."
Then, a voiceless phrase quietly escaped their lips as they looked to the steadfast figure of Joe Lamberck, the source of their faith and confidence.
It'll be okay, we won't ever lose!
Their confidence hadn't wavered in the slightest even after learning of how great their enemy was.
Joe, who had been silently waiting for the time to pass, moved a little upon feeling his liege's presence.
Folnier covered herself in elegant silver armor —not unlike Joe's— and turned to him with her eyes brimming with vigor.
"Joe, it's finally time."
"That it is. So, have you made your decision?"
"——Yeah. For the most part. Though, according to the scouts' reports, Princess Shelfa is evidently accompanying her army. I do feel like I want to talk to her, just a little."
"Is that so?"
Joe purposefully refrained from inquiring too deeply.
In any case, they would be here shortly.
Fate would be decided soon.
Time eventually passed——
Joe, who had closed his eyes like a wordless statue, opened his eyes at once.
He had felt a large, familiar power pringling on his skin that he could never forget.
The outrageous sense that his entire being was being put under immense pressure……not from the cold bloodlust given off by assassins, but a pure wave of power specific to those who single-mindedly strove to reach the peak. He felt an invisible pressure akin to the water pressure of a cataract because his opponent wasn't doing anything in particular to suppress it.
Even within their ranks, many strong warriors, including Zartz, were looking around with strange looks on their faces.
It needn't even be said that they, too, had more or less felt that power.
Thud, thud…… Even Folnier had looked up and said, "They're here!" by the time the familiar sound of a well-organized army marching reached his ears.
They began to appear into his field of vision in droves.
He saw that neither the knights nor the foot soldiers betrayed any hint of hesitation or cowardice in their footsteps. He felt from them the powerful will of those who held no doubt in their victory and wholehearted faith in their commander.
They were of such an obviously different quality from the likes of Safir's army that anyone could tell.
One section of the mixed army was Ralphus' unit, who held up an insignia of a pure white lion against a black background. Rain's unit held up a flag with the emblem of a white phoenix spreading out its wings with a magic sword in its mouth against a similarly pitch-black background.
They had expected to see those flags, but in addition, there was a flag that was a little larger than the rest carrying an emblem that included five swords entwinned intricately together in its design flying next to Rain's.
This was nothing other than the emblem of the Sunkwoll royal family —proof that Princess Shelfa had accompanied them here.
And, naturally, he was there as well.
Or rather, Joe would have seen him even if he hadn't wanted to.
After all, despite his position as a high general, he stood out conspicuously at the very forefront of the army riding a white stallion.
While both enemy and ally alike were uniform in properly wearing either metal or leather armor, he alone was boldly clad in his usual black clothing.
He was wearing no sort of defensive armament, much less armor.
His attitude, which seemed to assert, "There isn't even a chance that I'll get hurt," not only to the upcoming battle but to the world itself, was more than enough to make everyone in the Chandrys army groan.
Amused, Folnier asked Joe, "Joe, can you magnify him with magic for me?"
Joe obliged with a wry smile.
He chanted a rune quietly, as there were people around, and brought up an image of Rain before them both.
Like Joe, Rain was looking nonchalantly over at them while holding a pike that was longer and thicker than usual. They could see no sign of anxiety or excitement coming from him.
He bounced the pike in his hand against his shoulder and nonchalantly fixed his eyes on Joe and Folnier.
Indeed, he was clearly observing them.
"His mouth is moving…… Is he mumbling something to himself?"
Joe let out a smile.
"He's singing. I can hear it. But still——"
"……I don't know if it's appropriate of me to say this, but he's quite bad at it."
"I see, so Rain is tone deaf! I guess no one human can truly be omnipotent, hahaha!"
Folnier smiled a little, likely because she found Rain's inability to sing well extremely amusing. She, too, was not tense. Joe looked at his liege out of the corner of his eye and nodded once.
It looked like everything would be settled nicely——
Joe looked up again when someone called for him.
Zartz was charging directly at the enemy lines with his pike in hand.
"——! Zartz, no!"
Folnier stopped Joe before he could run off. She continued,
"I think Zartz went to challenge Rain to single combat. He probably wants to settle things in his own way. If your conjectures about Rain are correct——well, not that I have any doubts regarding them at this point——anyway, in that case, then there won't be any serious repercussions even if we let him be, yeah?"
"……You make a good point."
"Then, why don't we let Zartz do as he wants? I'm sure he's built up a lot of frustration as of late."
"……I will do as you say, Lady Fol."
Ultimately, Joe relented.
It was true that there were things that couldn't be resolved only with words. Zartz was not the kind of man to hold grudges, so it was possible that letting him be was for the best.
Even still, Joe did not neglect to shout out an order to his allies, "Hold! We mustn't provoke the enemy!"
Zartz was surprised at himself for moving before Joe gave the order when he dashed forth on his favorited horse, but there was also a part of him that felt that this was for the best. Neither Lord Joe nor Lady Folnier ordered him to halt, perhaps because they understood.
Rain, who had defeated Shing, Sayle, and Junna (though it was hard to believe!) was waiting at the end of his gaze.
Rain was simply looking back at him silently while seated on his well-bred white horse. He raised his pike to his side and ordered his army to "Leave this to me!" before advancing forward.
The look on his face was as brazen as ever, but it didn't feel like Rain was looking down at him either.
I don't mind if you come, but I'll be here to meet you, you know? Zartz felt that Rain was conveying this.
Zartz called out first when he came close enough to converse.
"My name is Zartz! I want a duel, Rain! I'll defeat you and take back Junna and the others!"
Rain flashed a grin.
One corner of his mouth curled up in a smile so brazen that it was almost surreal.
"Come whenever you like. I make it a rule not to turn down a fight!"
"That works for mee!"
Only a few more meters.
Zartz galloped as fast as he could. He single-mindedly rushed his horse toward Rain with his pike at the ready.
But——is this the difference in our heights? Was he always this tall?
'Cause if not, then why……why does he look so large? He's just waiting, sitting on his horse, but he looks like a giant tall enough to pierce through the clouds!
It needn't be said that Zartz already knew why.
The quivering tip of his pike and the stiffness of his body told him the answer even if he didn't want to know.
I know. I'm shriveling up before how immense his power is. I'm scared shitless. Somewhere in my heart I already know——the annoying fact that there's no way I can win.
And we haven't even exchanged blows yet!
Zartz grinded his teeth together as Rain's figure drew rapidly closer.
The first blow. I'll bet everything on that!
There was no way he could win if Rain had easily defeated the other three. Still, if Zartz put his life on the line to take Rain down with him, then maybe…!
The trembling of Zartz's body stopped once his heart settled down.
Rain, who had his pike dropping languidly by his side, awaited Zartz with a fearless smile. His figure grew rapidly closer. Yet, Rain hardly moved at all.
Zartz, however, no longer cared about anything else. He had stopped feeling both the fear and the pressure once he had accepted his coming demise.
He rammed himself at Rain.
Zartz put everything into this one blow with the intent of clashing his own life against his opponent, with the intent to die alongside him, and did not worry himself with the trifling thoughts that Rain might evade or maneuver skillfully around his blow. He thrust forth his pike. He could proudly call this blow, which added the force of his favorited horse's speed on top of his own talents, his best.
The tip of his pike sank into the chest of Rain's black attire.
I won! he thought.
His opponent hadn't even raised his weapon yet. He would not make it in time to defend himself.
Did you see that?!
This is the end of someone who's been too proud of their own strength!
But, Zartz's thought scattered as did Rain's afterimage. His enemy's figure, whom he should have pierced through the chest, blurred and quickly vanished.
Rain handled his body with unbelievable speed the very moment he was about to be pierced through and had evaded Zartz' blow magnificently. Then, he swiftly brought up his left hand and hit Zartz's pike, which was swimming fruitlessly through the air after having lost its target, away with the back of his hand.
To his disbelief, a portion of Zartz's pike broke off and flew off somewhere.
How did he break my pike's handle just like that——
Then, a heavy shock ran up Zartz's arm. His opponent's ridiculous strength had caused it to go numb.
Rain raised his pike for the first time as Zartz lost his balance. With the butt end (the opposite of the point) pointed at him. Zartz, who had lost his balance, had no way to dodge Rain's next attack.
No, it's not possible for me to dodge something so fast that his pike is just a blur in the first place——
Zartz was hit on the chest through his armor the moment that the masochistic thought entered his head and was blown away backward. ——His consciousness collapsed.
The Sunkwoll army broke out into a cheer upon seeing Zartz being blasted away off his horse. A few squires from the enemy lines came running to carry him away in a hurry, but their allies continued their festive merriment even as it happened.
Selphie, who was normally on the quieter side, cheered particularly wildly and cried,
"nice! Lord Rain, you're so strong! You're so cool, so, so, cooooooool!!"
Her cheeks turned apple red in her burst of enthusiasm.
Exasperated, Yuri failed to reign in her sarcasm as she looked to her friend.
"Look here, you aren't some naïve little girl who loses her head after falling in love with a guy at first sight——oh wait, Selphie, that's you."
She eventually gave up.
Selphie completely disregarded Yuri's candid advice anyhow. There were stars sparkling her eyes, so it was quite bad.
"But, will we be able to settle this peacefully now that he's beaten up one of their generals?"
Yuri secluded herself from the cheering around her and gazed reproachfully at Rain on her own.
Still, Rain, the man in question, was combing back his hair for no reason and didn't look worried in the least. He was probably saying something like, "Pft. He was so weak that it's wasn't even worth mentioning."
Yeah, yeah, I can tell that much even without being near him.
"So, he looks like he's moving according to precise calculations, but I guess he's more audacious than that, or maybe I should say that he doesn't seem to think about the consequences at all——"
Unfortunately, Yuri's candid opinions were drowned out by the cheering around her and thus did not make their way to Rain's ears.