There were many preceding cases throughout the continent where rulers came into power after quelling a civil war.
For example——Leyfan, a large kingdom in the Central Plains that was said to be the oldest kingdom on the continent, was one such case.
Recently, a girl by the name of Saya Safina Leyfan had crushed a wicked prime minister's ambitions for rebellion and had recently ascended to the throne.
She had made the three generals who had aided her in defeating the prime minister the authorities who governed Leyfan. And, on the very day that Shelfa had seized all authority over Sunkwoll, Saya was holding a war council with her three generals in the depths of her castle.
"Just as I've explained to you, it is an unavoidable fact that Zarmine will likely move again in the near future. They have been attacking their neighboring countries one after another and are ever expanding their borders. Leyfan, too, must decide her stance on the matter soon. We are no longer in a situation where we can pretend that Zarmine is someone else's problem."
Kei, who had taken the responsibilities of the strategist, adjusted his sunglasses, carved from black shadow stone, as he continued his explanation.
He had a rather delicate face for a man and also had pale skin.
The other three were momentarily silent upon hearing his raised voice.
One of the three was Saya, of course. She was a girl in her teens with a kind countenance. Another was Ferris, the advisor to the grand general. Ferris, who had a youthful visage that still made him look like a boy, yawned as if he was bored.
And the last was Arc, the grand general.
He stood out the most among the four.
He had thick, bristly hair and the over-spirited look of a neighborhood bully in his eyes. For whatever reason, he wore a strip of cloth around his head.
Apart from his horrible fashion sense, he was a man who radiated with cheer and the will to quickly pick a fight from his entire being. Saya took a quick side glance at Arc and smiled.
She finally opened her mouth after she had returned her gaze to Kei.
"What is your decision as our strategist, Kei? Do you have any thoughts?"
she asked gently in a voice that still carried a hint of youthful innocence.
"——My thoughts, you say? We have but only three paths. Only one of them is the best plan for the peaceful continuation of the kingdom. It is to offer our vassalage to Zarmine as swiftly as possible."
"The fuck did ya say?!"
Arc's wail echoed loudly across the round table. He continued,
"ya think we can just surrender without even fighting first?!"
His voice was much too spirited.
Saya received his indignation with a wry smile and silenced him with her eyes.
Kei looked cynically at Arc, newly silenced, from behind his sunglasses and continued his explanation.
"The next is the worst plan. ……The worst thing we could do is to do nothing and watch as the situation progresses. In that case, we will likely find ourselves in an irrecoverable situation before we realize it."
Then, Ferris cheerily said,
"the best plan and the worst……. So that means there's something in the middle too. What's that?"
"I was just about to tell you."
Kei replied briskly as he adjusted his sunglasses yet again. He continued,
"it needn't even be said that the last plan is to take the path of fighting Zarmine. But it would be too reckless to fight them on our own. We would need to join hands with another country with some backbone to them and face the enemy together as equals."
This time, Arc snorted violently and prattled,
"there ain't no reason to be afraid of the likes of Zarmine! I, the great Arc, will beat up the whole lot of them no matter how many tens of thousands of soldiers they come at me with!"
"——Well, leaving this man, who gets carried away far too easily for his own good, aside…"
Kei dispassionately brushed aside Arc's boasting and continued,
"what do you think, Lady Saya? Please decide on our policy first. ——I may be Arc's subordinate, but anyhow, I'm sure he'll do as you wish."
He urged Saya on with a rather twisted way of ending things.
That being said, this man of delicate features who had hidden his face behind a pair of sunglasses always acted like this.
In any case, Saya held her mouth closed for a moment as she received all of their gazes. However, she soon looked up and spoke to them in a decisive manner.
"The royal family of Leyfan have ruled over this land for forty-seven long generations. We have never once bent our knee to another country during that time. I do not wish for it, but we will have no other choice but to fight if things cannot be resolved with words alone."
Arc expressed his jubilance by banging his fists against the round table, disheveling his hair in the process. He continued,
"that's our little Saya for——no, I mean our Lady Saya for ya. All that's left is to leave the rest to good old Arc here! I'll beat up the likes of King Leygur with my fists of justice!"
"How very reassuring!"
Saya clapped her hands as her eyes glistened. She looked like she actually meant it, too, rather than just being courteous.
Then, Ferris looked at the pair out of the corner of his eyes as he slowly slu~mped across to the round table.
Only Kei looked a little displeased as he watched the pair grow excited.
Saya was the first to notice this and tilted her head to the side.
"Um……Kei? Is there something you're worried about?"
"——No, not really. It's just that I hear some strange rumors about King Leygur circling about. At any rate, it would be best not to underestimate him for now."
"Ugh! Regardless of how strong he is, ya have me, the great Arc here, with ya! Relax."
"……Now I'm really worried."
"Now, now, the both of you…"
Ferris awoke from the dead and interjected while making it clear that he found the chore a pain in the ass. He continued,
"anyway, let's just hear Kei out for now. Kei, what do we need to do to beat Zarmine and this scar~y king of ours?"
At Ferris' words, Kei took a deep breath, reigning in his displeasure, and returned to his earlier composure.
"……There's a man who piques my interest. Apparently, this man was the first to foresee the coming war and already thought of the same things as I'm thinking before I did. He's not a man to be taken lightly."
"And who is this man in question?"
"Who's this guy and where the fuck's he from?"
the remaining three asked at exactly the same time.
Instead of answering, Kei pointed at Arc and said,
"for example. Arc over here is just as strong as he brags to be. His fighting strength is a force to be reckoned with. And, there are no warriors in our neighboring countries who can beat him."
"Gahahah, yer embarrasin' me!"
Arc laughed heartily. He stuck out his chest so hard that his chair tilted back almost to the point of tipping over.
"as you can see, his head is completely empty."
Arc fell to the floor chair and all.
"The hell's that supposed to mean?!"
"Whatever, just stay there and sleep or something for a bit."
Kei shook his head as though to clear away the noise and continued,
"going back to what I was saying. There's a common saying of 'having both wisdom and courage,' but one look at the three of us makes it obvious that none of us fits that description. Brain or brawn—each of us definitely leans on one side or the other. However, provided that my information is correct, there are apparently exceptions to this rule in this world——. There exists a man blessed with rare talent in anything as long as it pertains to battle. And he's from a small kingdom in the South, of all things."
"He sounds like an amazing person,"
Saya said in admiration.
But before she could ask what the man's name was, Arc shouted,
"oh yeah?! Dunno who this guy is, but I'm obviously stronger!"
"It's just like you, Chief, that you didn't say——"I'm obviously smarter." You're throwing that one from the get go?"
"Shut it, Ferris!"
Kei ignored the two as they horsed around and crossed his slender arms.
Then, a whispered slipped out from his noticeably red lips.
"If that man is truly thinking the same things as I am……then a path to victory may truly exist, no matter how small that path may be."
He looked up.
From behind his sunglasses, his crimson eyes stared deeply at Arc, who was clutching at Ferris.
Everything I do is for Arc……
That's my job.
Prime Minister Jagil was in his personal office when he heard news of the end of Sunkwoll's civil war.
Jagil had been the highest ranked civil officer in the court and had carried out the important duties of sending out spies to potential enemy nations since the rule of the late King Aramis Dinadahn Guvis. That being said, while he continued to carry out his professional duties, no one currently used the intelligence Jagil obtained.
Jagil himself planned to stop his intelligence activities immediately upon Leygur's, the current king's, command in order not to draw any unnecessary suspicion on himself.
However, the king tolerated Jagil's intelligence activities for the time being.
The king had his own intelligence network and, while he did not rely on Jagil's intelligence for anything, he evidently did not see it as a hindrance either.
But this most likely wasn't because he was showing Jagil and favor, but rather because he didn't see Jagil as anything worth his notice……or so Jagil thought.
In any event, Jagil let out a long sigh after hearing his aide's report.
"——Hmmm. I suppose I should have found it unfortunate that we missed the perfect opportunity to invade…"
He accidently spoke his mind and clicked his tongue.
He took a peek at his aide with a look on ignorance on his face, but, fortunately, all his aide did was nod in triumph.
"I understand how you feel, Prime Minister. After all, our army is burning with the desire to conquer the world right now. First, we should keep an eye on any movements in the Central Plains. Since there are too many times where we can't fully put our minds at ease even about the movements of small countries that really shouldn't be worth any mention."
It hadn't been very long since they had won a crushing victory against those small countries, but the aide's visage was overflowing with confidence. He apparently didn't see their defeat from the other day as a serious blow. Or, perhaps he simply chalked it up to the commander's incompetence.
It was problematic that his aide was overestimating their nationalistic power, but what angered Jagil the most was the fact that so many citizens, including his youthful aide, supported King Leygur. It was only natural since Leygur was their king, but it caused Jagil, who knew of the king's true identity, a massive headache.
It even made him want to go ahead and tell the carefree youth the king's secret.
"I bet you didn't know, but King Leygur is a daemon!" or something like that.
Instead, however, Jagil simply waved his hand as always and said,
"I've understood your report. I'll go and let His Majesty know of this as always. You are dismissed."
A moment later, Jagil walked through the endless passageways of Gaenys Castle and climbed flight after flight of stairs until he finally began climbing the spiral stairway that led up to the roof.
When he had asked the guards for the current whereabouts of the king, they had told him that——His Majesty was on the roof of this very tower.
It was unclear to Jagil as to why he had gone to a place like this, and it looked like the guards hadn't been told either.
"He said that he was meeting some new acquaintances……and that no one but you was to be allowed to see him, Prime Minister,"
the guard had said.
Jagil wanted to do an about-right right where he stood and return to his chambers, but there was no way that he could simply not go since the king had specifically said that the "Prime Minister can come."
Once he had finally reached the top of the stairway, out of breath from his age, Jagil exited onto the rooftop.
He was immediately hit by a gust of wind and scowled.
As he tried to hold down his disheveled white hair——
He noticed the multiple figures standing on the rooftop with him.
He saw his liege, King Leygur, among them before he spoke up to demand their identities.
"……Y, Your Majesty?"
"What is it, Jagil? No, you don't need to kneel……let's hear your report."
As always, Leygur was the very picture of calm, cool, and collected. It was quite strange that Jagil was so flustered while his master was so composed. And so, Jagil reigned in his suspicion and gave his report about Sunkwoll.
Yet……even as he provided his concise report, Jagil's eyes eventually wandered to the flock of people standing at Leygur's side. He couldn't help up tilt his head to the side, as among them were people whose attire even Jagil, who knew much about foreign affairs, had never seen before. They were probably the "new acquaintances" that the guards had mentioned, but when he stopped to really think about it, it was surprising that his king had such people around him.
They simply stared and observed Jagil without uttering a single word.
That was rather eerie in and of itself……but what bothered Jagil more was how he felt a chill in his chest as he looked back at them. He couldn't help but have a bad feeling about them. His report eventually ended and King Leygur nodded curtly.
"Hmm. It's similar to my own findings, for the most part. It seems the spies you sent out have their uses."
"I, I am much obliged by your words."
Leygur hadn't exactly praised him, but Jagil bowed deeply nevertheless.
As he had received no further orders, Jagil bowed once more before turning to leave. He knew all too well that his king disliked meaningless chatter.
Unusually, however, the king spoke to Jagil first today.
"Wait, Jagil. There's something I have to tell you."
Jagil turned back around in a hurry as his king said, as though he was merely commenting on the weather,
"I plan on revealing my true identity to the people."
——Jagil was momentarily unable to respond.
What……his true identity……? Does, does the King mean to reveal it himself!?
His head refused to work properly because he was so shocked. And just then, Jagil heard a faint……a truly faint laugh and looked back at Leygur. It was not the king who was laughing, however, but the guests at his side.
A burly young man in his prime, a young girl, and a couple dressed like nobles……they were all laughing as they looked at Jagil. Their laughter was brimming with a sense of superiority, as though they were looking down at him from up high.
Jagil's voice trembled despite himself.
"Your Majesty……please don't tell me these people……?"
He desperately wanted King Leygur to deny him, but the king readily replied,
"it's just as you think, Jagil. And there'll be more of them from now on……"
And then, as indifferently as ever, he said,
"that's all I had to say. There's someplace I must be today. You go back and prepare their rooms."
There were a hundred things he wanted to ask, but Jagil still hadn't recovered from his shock. And so, like an idiot, he only asked,
"……Where will you be going?"
His liege's answer was simple.
"To pay my greatest enemy a visit."
The king vanished from the old retainer's presence an instant later.
"Yeah, you look pretty good."
Rain nodded deeply upon seeing Shelfa's outfit.
The attire that the Sunkwoll royal family wore during their coronation ceremony had been established since ages past as ceremonial clothes with a white color scheme, which in this case meant a laced white blouse and a pair of tight-fitting pants.
It was actually Rain's first time seeing the girl wearing pants that covered the entire length of her legs, and he thought that they looked quite sexy on her, as they outlined the long legs that extended from her high waist.
He told her as much, since they were alone in a private room.
"And those tight-fitting pants look especially fresh on you. Man, now that I look at you like this, you really have gotten sexier than the first time we met. You already look like a grown woman in the waist department."
As usual, his words were not something that a retainer should have been saying.
Shelfa, however, looked quite happy for them.
"I'm so glad you think that!"
But then, her anxiety immediately returned and her face grew gloomy again.
"——I never thought this day would ever come."
"What's this now? You don't need to be so stiff about it."
He pat her unreservedly on the obscure border between her waist and her buttocks and continued,
"you can just push all the annoying stuff to Ralphus and me. All you have to do is sit back on the throne and wait for results. It's an easy job."
Shelfa's face brightened up again as she was strung along by his words.
"No. I intend to stay near you as much as I can, Rain. ——And so, I believe that I will be spending more time on the battlefield than on the throne."
"Well……I guess there's no escaping the fact that there'll be a lot of fighting going on soon. It's not like our opponent's one to talk things out at all, either,"
Rain said as if wasn't his problem as he looked down fixedly at Shelfa. Shelfa simply stared back at him without saying a word.
They stared at each other for a while.
"Oh, you have a little something in your eyelashes. Close your eyes for a sec. I'll brush it off."
"Eh? Oh, all right."
As usual, Shelfa did not doubt him in the slightest. She simply closed her large eyes without even a hint of suspicion.
While Rain was exasperated that she had fallen so easily for the oldest trick in the book——
He gently embraced her and planted a kiss on her light pink lips.
Her supple limbs jerked and froze in Rain's arms.
Shelfa opened her eyes wide in surprise and only figured out what was going on upon seeing Rain's face up close.
Then, she closed her eyes again in a hurry, as if this happiness would escape her if she didn't. The tension from the core of her body quickly dissolved as she relaxed and entrusted herself to Rain. Her slender arms wrapped around Rain's body as though she was responding to him.
The two of them were gently illuminated by the sunlight filtering through the window.
When he straightened back up after a while, Rain looked down at his liege and toyed with her blonde hair by wrapping it around his fingers.
"How are you feeling; not nervous anymore?"
Shelfa's eyes, which she had opened a moment later, looked somewhat intoxicated as she looked back at Rain and she didn't seem to have really understood what he had said.
"No, look. I asked you if you weren't nervous anymore. Folnier and her people will be attending today. I need you to be composed and dignified."
"……Huh? Oh, yes!"
Shelfa's gaze finally focused.
In an instant, a glowing smile alighted her reddened cheeks.
"Right now——I feel like I would accept it gladly even if I was told to become the king of the world."
"That might really happen, you know. You have me with you, after all."
Then, Shelfa's eyes glistened as she completely changed the topic,
"it was truly wonderful……um, will you do this every morning and every night from now on for me? Oh, and noon too."
……What the heck?
Exasperated, Rain said, "Stuff like this is nice only 'cause you do it sparingly," in order to dodge her request, but——
Suddenly, he looked up and turned his eyes in the direction of the ramparts.
"——! Someone broke through my barrier!"
The guards and other knights who were free had already heard of the emergency and began to assemble by the time Rain had arrived running.
A dark figure that Rain had seen before appeared on top of the ramparts as if it had phased out from the morning mist. It was a man wearing a mantle with long silver hair that partly covered one of his eyes——
It was King Leygur, whose figure Rain would never forget.
Leygur, too, lost no time in finding Rain and smiled coldly.
"……It's been a while, Rain. I came to say hello, since it looks like today's the day of the coronation ceremony."
"You cheeky bastard, you broke through my barrier!"
"Oh, so it really was put up by you?"
Leygur nodded calmly and continued,
"no wonder it was fairly decently made. Well, not that it wasn't something I couldn't break, in any event…"
Rain ignored the urge to click his tongue and quickly began thinking. About his opponent, who had the ability to teleport. He had likely come to Galfort on purpose after teleporting close by.
But the problem was——
"What business do you have here?"
"Nothing worth mentioning. It's up to you if you want to believe me or not, but I simply wanted to see your face——that would be my biggest reason for being here."
He sprouted some nonsense with a straight face. He continued,
"and. I'll be making a move again soon——I thought I'd let you know. It also appears that you've finally put together something of a foothold for yourself, so congratulations."
The edges of his lips curled up into a sarcastic smile.
Then, Ralphus, Gazaram, and Rain's other comrades, as well as Folnier and her subordinates, came running over one after another and looked up at the ramparts just as Rain was.
Rain pushed Shelfa, whom he had been covering behind his back, at Ralphus and the others. She went to them obediently but reluctantly, likely because she didn't want to become a hindrance.
"Take care of the Princess!"
"Please leave it to us!"
Gazaram replied reliably.
Just then, a unit of guards and a unit of archers surrounded Leygur on either side from the pathways on top of the ramparts.
"Don't! Don't do anything that could make things worse, it won't work on him!"
Rain yelled before he realized what he was doing.
They all looked at Rain with stiffened faces before they stopped moving and surrounded Leygur from afar.
Leygur had not even looked at the crowd of guards that had approached him. He simply turned his black eyes, blacker than even darkness itself, to Joe, whom he had recognized standing beside Rain.
"Joe Lamberck…… What do you, a hero in only name, plan on possibly doing after all this time?"
Joe did not answer him.
He simply looked up at Leygur with shock frozen on his face.
Instead, Folnier, who stood beside him, sharply yelled,
"despicable daemon! What right do you, a survivor of a ruined people, have to speak so arrogantly to Joe?!"
"Don't be ridiculous, girl. Ruined, you say? Those that he once fought were but mere errand runners,"
Leygur said in a level tone before sweeping his arm across once.
Then, everyone present, including Rain, was completely immobilized without exception by a sudden pressure that bound their entire body.
"You would do well to learn of how powerless you are. So, how is it, girl……you can't run your mouth even if you wanted to, no?
It was just as Leygur had said.
Folnier withstood the agony that bound her body and looked to the corner of her eyes. And then, she was astonished to see that Joe was suffering the same agony as everyone else.
To think that he could even restrain Joe——
Just then, a violent war cry rose from one of her comrades.
Rain alone, who had pushed aside the titanic "power" that pressed down on him by concentrating all of the magic he had, defied Leygur.
His tall figure, which had reached top speed in the blink of an eye, rushed headlong toward the ramparts.
Leygur confirmed this and smiled in satisfaction.
"I was very nearly disappointed, Rain. You once made me withdraw from single combat, though it was only by a stroke of luck. ……Now that's the spirit."
"I'll blast away all of that disgusting composure of yours!"
Rain kicked off the ground hard and threw his tall frame into the morning mist. He leapt high and twisted his body to land on the pathway on top of the ramparts.
He swiftly drew his magic sword and faced his enemy.
Then, he ran and ran with his hair whipping back while everyone else simply watched, unable to move.
Rain's black hair passed in between the guards, who were standing troubled while sweating buckets, as one with the wind. He advanced upon his enemy.
"It's no use, Rain. I'm faster than you. I've long since seen through your movements."
"Save that bullshit for when I'm dead at your feet!"
Leygur's eyes captured Rain's movements perfectly as he fell back leaving only an afterimage under the magic sword's diagonal slash.
Regardless, Rain kept his forward momentum from his miss, changed his pivoting leg, rotated his body, and followed up with a wide and vigorous side swing.
Leygur leapt back with room to spare and dodged this attack too. He had yet to draw his sword.
"Are you planning on disappointing me again? Don't make me repeat myself. I can see through your movements perfectly."
Rain flashed a grin with his teeth bared.
"What excuses are you trying to make for yours——"
Leygur opened his eyes wide mid-sentence.
His mantle had finally fallen to his feet after the string fastening it together had been cut. But that wasn't all. A thin trail of blood from his cheek flowed down to his neck.
The wound closed up before Rain's eyes, but Leygur still shook his head slightly nonetheless.
"……You surprise me."
"Then die surprised!"
This time, Leygur drew his sword as well. He intercepted the Siren's Blade with a crimson magic sword that gave off an aura more vibrant than Justice's.
The two magic swords crackled violently as they clashed and, above the sparks they emitted, Rain said,
"hey, is it homemade this time? You imbued a sword with your own magic? Did you know that your heart is expressed in your own magic aura? This bloodred aura is your desire for bloodshed, bastard!"
The two enemies leapt back and dashed forward again.
Two black shadows with two magic swords blurred as countless afterimages were created in an instant.
Clang!——Crackle crackle crackle!
It was Rain who pulled back this time around with a shallow wound on his shoulder. He readied himself for a follow-up attack the moment he landed on the ground, but Leygur did not pursue after him.
Instead, Leygur drifted into the air and quickly distanced himself from the ramparts.
For a moment, his gazed was fixed on Shelfa from afar and he furrowed his brows.
"Her presence from before has disappeared……what a strange girl."
"Where are you looking?! You gonna run away?!"
Immediately, Rain too used magic to glide into the air thinking that they would continue their fight there.
It wasn't something that he couldn't do.
Still, it naturally meant that his movements would be limited in comparison to when he had actual footing. He didn't know if that was the case for his enemy too, though.
Leygur returned his gaze to Rain while the latter was thinking and quietly said,
"originally, I was supposed to have been able to see through your movements completely. The fact that your sword managed to scratch me even still means that you've gotten stronger over these past few months. Once, you were known as the Unknown Genius Swordsman whose name thundered across the North, was it? ……You've certainly shown me your innate talent."
"What are you trying to say?!"
"——Nothing at all. I was simply expressing my joy. You've shown no shred of fear even after learning of my "power" and your fighting spirit hasn't dulled in the slightest. All of the other humans I've met until now have either fled or begged for their lives in tears once they learned. ……You're more than qualified to be my ally or enemy."
Leygur laughed lightly. He continued,
"it was worth coming here again. Keep up your diligence as you have been……. If you intend on coming even a little closer to my level, that is……"
Rain swung his sword and unleashed a long-distance attack as he shouted, but——
He was just a little too slow.
Leygur swiftly drew a sigil with his hand, which vanished shortly after. He had used an ability to make himself disappear.
"I look forward to our next meeting, Rain."
Only his faint words remained in the wind and reached Rain's ears.
The very moment that he returned his magic sword with a click.
His surroundings began to stir at once. Everyone had regained the ability to move as Leygur's powers lost their effect after he had left.
Multiple voices called out for Rain——and the first to come running to him were the guards on top of the ramparts.
At their point was Miran, who was evidently in charge today.
"General! Are, are you all right?!"
Rain cast a sharp glance at Miran, who had spoken hurriedly with a frantic look on his face.
"'Course I am. Besides, what are you all worked up in a panic for? The enemy's the one who ran away half-crying in an unsightly manner like he had to go take a leak really bad. You're supposed to say something like, "Oof! Too bad we let our prey escape!" at times like this!"
Miran looked visibly relieved as he let out a long sigh.
With a tremble in his voice, he said,
"oh, thank goodness……. You're acting the same as always, General."
Rain struck Miran across the head without another word.