As the time for the parade for the hero summoned by the Holy City El Meide, Elliot Austin, came closer, the Imperial Capital seemed unusually crowded with people. The people of the city were boiling with excitement day in and day out at the chance to see the rumoured gorgeous hero. Just for a chance to glance at the hero, tourists from both within and outside the Empire were pouring into the Imperial Capital. There was enough people that the inns in the city could not handle them at all. Even the cheap lodgings at the gates and other sections of the city were completely filled with reservations.
Thanks to the large crowds, the local trade was doing quite prosperously. The shops lining the streets were all specially decorated. This produced a far more glamorous look than usual to the streets of the Imperial Capital. They were putting such effort into it that not seeing the street for a single day could mean new shops showing up without one knowing it.
The ones recruited to build these impromptu shops were not only the carpenters, but also the dwarves. Pouring in far more effort than usual, the craftsmen were putting up the stores, doing carpentry and creating weapons for the warriors inspired by the hero summoning. For the past few days they were working with practically no rest.
Even the citizens who treated their businesses like pastimes were working diligently during this time. It was as if they had all forgotten about the incidents. This was also because of the fact that lately there had been no incidents occurring.
Setting that aside, on this day, in this Imperial Capital that was flooded with more people than usual, Lefille was walking around on her own. Going out to play like a small child― was obviously not the reason for this, she was out to go shopping. Because of the quarrel Suimei and the others had with Graziella in the plaza, they hesitated to move around outside. Therefore, gathering information and buying food became her responsibilities.
It wasn’t like the military police were coming over to search or apprehend Suimei and the others, but just to be sure that the residual excitement had all cooled down an appropriate amount, they decided this would be better. After stuffing foodstuffs and other goods into her bag, she carried it and pushed through the crowd of people. Finding it harsh to move around while being jostled by others, she escaped into an alleyway and took a breather.
Setting down her baggage for a moment, she rotated her shoulders and back and loosened her body. After checking that her favourite fluffy one piece dress that she bought in Kurant City was not dirty or torn, she tightly pulled on the ribbon holding up her red hair and put it in order. She then looked at the crowd of people who were still pushing and shoving each other with her blue eyes.
The situation they found themselves in recently had suddenly changed, it was all quite bewildering. There was the Goddess’ oracle, Suimei had returned home with major injuries trying to convince Liliana, even with those injuries he fought with Graziella, and then he gave shelter to Liliana.
"It must all be troublesome to Suimei-kun too…"
Even if she told him not to force himself, he would act without restraint right until the end. While claiming it was something that he must do, he would push his way down that difficult path. However, be that as it may, it could be said to be good for them too. Because he is just that sort of person, Lefille was able to walk around like this after all. Even though she should have been letting out a sigh, she realized her face was frozen in fear.
"At any rate, there sure are a lot of people huh…"
It was about time for her to get moving, she picked up all her baggage and began walking down the alley again. She took a brief look back towards the bustling street. After distancing herself a little she could no longer see the people, but the sound of the hustle and bustle still reached her. She could see in her eyes the pain of once more entering such a crowd. And then, deciding it was better to take the side roads from hereon out, she turned around, and bumped into someone.
"―Whoops, I’m terribly sorry."
"N-no it’s fine, girly."
As she immediately apologized, the sound of a soft voice came down from above. It was the voice of a man. However, within his tone, she could sense excitement, or rather a somehow restless feeling. As Lefille raised her head and saw the man’s air of completely irrepressible joy, a stiff smile crawled onto her face. She had felt an unfamiliar shiver and stepped back, however she made her resolve to cut through.
"… Excuse me, could you not move out of the way?"
"Sorry about that. I can’t exactly do that."
"What? What do you mean you can’t exactly do that? ―!? What are you!?"
Lefille let out a reproachful shout towards the actions of the man before her. The man that was standing in her way was now moving his hands in a sickening manner. They were such unpleasant movements that she felt like she could hear them creaking.
"Eheh, eheh, why don’t you come and play with big brother?"
"Big brother…? In what way are you a big brother!? Aren’t you more of an uncle!?"
"No way, even like this I’m still in the second half of my thirties…"
"That age is firmly in the category of an uncle!"
Lefille jumped backwards.
"Look there, why don’t you play with big brother over there, guhehehe…"
The look in the man’s eyes was not normal. He must have been the pedophile who had been appearing frequently in the rumours floating around the Imperial Capital recently.
(Uu… What should I do? This is bad…)
If she was in her original form, it would have been simple. But escaping from the crowd of people was a mistake. To think that there was something more dangerous than that crowd of people in a place like this. If she screamed, would someone notice? However, now that she was fairly deep into the alley, the possibility of someone hearing her scream over the sound of the hustle and bustle was quite low. But it was better than doing nothing. While thinking of this, the man sidled up closer.
"―Stop! Don’t come any closer!"
"Eheh, eheh, even if you say thaaaat…."
Now that it has come to this, there was no choice but to throw her baggage at him and use it as a distraction to escape. As she resented the fact that she had become small and took a stance to throw…
At just the right time, a ferocious voice resounded in the air.
In the sea of people which resembled some theme park on a holiday, Mizuki barely managed to slip away from them, had both hands on her knees and while wiping the sweat from her brow, she let out a fed up voice.
"Th-there’s so many people riiight?"
Behind her, in complete agreement while being jostled by the crowd of people, was the figure of Reiji and the others sweating from the stuffy air. Reiji let out a feeble ‘I know right,’ while Titania sat down on a convenient wooden box while wiping off the sweat from her brow with a towel she received from her knight escort.
On this day, just as Reiji’s party arrived at the Imperial Capital, the cause of their gasping was the flood of people who also arrived in the Imperial Capital smothering the air. Tourists, merchants, believers of the Salvation Church and all manner of other visitors were filling up the city all over the place, there was nowhere for them to catch their breath. In the explosion of colours assaulting Reiji’s eyes, somehow Mizuki’s long, black hair brought his heart peace.
Blocking the sunlight pouring down on them with only a speck of clouds in the air with his hand, Reiji created a nice shadow over his eyes and scrutinized the sky. Up until arriving at the capital, he was delighted about the great weather, however now he was just hateful. He suddenly realized some blue hair came into his field of vision. Before he knew it, Titania who was beside him began speaking to the fed up Mizuki.
"This is, probably an effect of the parade for Hero-sama summoned by the Holy City right?"
"If I remember right the parade still isn’t for a few days right? Just what will it become on the day of…?"
As they heard Mizuki’s words, all their faces filled with fear. They all did not even want to think about it. However, the sea of people was one thing, but there was a much larger problem standing before them.
"In the end, we couldn’t find any lodgings huh."
"That’s right isn’t it? U~n, what to dooo?"
"In that case, if we courteously ask the Salvation Church I believe they should welcome us? Reiji-sama who is a hero is with us after all."
"I see! We had that kind of hand! Tia, nice idea!"
Mizuki was delightedly sticking her thumb up, however Reiji shook his head at that suggestion.
"Eh? W-why? What’s wrong? Reiji-kun."
"If I go ahead and name myself, it will end up being well known throughout the Imperial Capital, and I feel we’ll completely be unable to move anymore."
"Certainly, I can’t deny the possibility that the believers of the Salvation Church would spread the word. If we walked around int he middle city I’m sure we would be instantly swarmed, and just like Hero-sama from the Holy City, they would probably force us to do a parade as well. Regardless, if it comes down to whether or not we receive alms, perhaps we should refrain, there are quite a few of us after all."
"I’m not so sure about receiving alms either."
Reiji agreed. Anyways, if they made their existence known on the public stage, there was a danger that they would no longer be able to take action within the Empire. It was not very surprising, to the public they were responsible for defeating Rajas. Thanks to the word spread around that it was one of the grandest enemies, when they were in Kurant City, they were forced to hole up in the inn most of the time. After remembering that situation, it was fairly obvious what would happen here.
Also, the reason they came to the Empire was to check on Graziella’s movements. There would be some benefits to making themselves known, but for the time being they needed to at least act in accordance to Hadorious’ instructions. Reiji was also personally interested in Graziella as well.
"Uu~ Then are we going to camp outside? We finally came to a big city so I don’t wanna camp~"
Mizuki was not usually selfish, but now she was unusually whining. During their travels, they did not actually camp all that often. When they did it was only when there was no other choice. Certainly after coming to such a large city and being unsatisfied with having to camp outside was something that Reiji could sympathize with.
"Certainly, resting without a proper place to rest is bad for your health. I think it would be best if we could secure some lodgings."
"I know right. What should we do…"
Rest and duty were both important. However in this situation, they did not have a solution for fulfilling either of these.
"Then how about lodgings in other districts? Perhaps over there…"
As Mizuki said this, the senior knight Gregory grimaced with a stiff face.
"No, Mizuki-dono, that will not do. Even if there was lodgings available outside of the main district, those kinds of cheap lodgings would be cruder than camping outside. It would be somewhat unhealthy for Mizuki-dono and her Highness the Princess."
"I-is that so…"
Father will not allow it. Recalling those kinds of words from Gregory’s intense statement, Mizuki nodded as she shrank back. As she did, the younger knight Roffrey spoke up.
"If we search around the district I think we’ll at least be able to find a place for her Highness the Princess, Reiji-dono and Mizuki-dono."
"Just us three, then where will Roffrey and the others stay…?"
"No, there is no reason to worry about us. The top priority should be Hero-dono, her Highness the Princess and Mizuki-dono."
Matching up with Roffrey, Luka stated her opinion. But even so, Reiji couldn’t really accept it.
"Hmmmm. Maybe it would be best to just shut our eyes and go to the church―"
Just like that, as they were all putting the heads together and racking their brains on what to do next, suddenly they heard the screams of a young girl nearby.
"―Stop! Don’t come any closer!"
"It’s nearby after all. Let’s take a look."
Taking the lead, Reiji headed towards the voice. He sensed a dangerous stink in the air. As he came around the corner, he saw a man letting out an abnormal atmosphere, and a young girl being cornered by him.
"Un. I got it."
Reiji judged in an instant that the man was cornering the girl, and went to stop him. Watching Reiji run off with a dignified expression, Titania’s face flushed red.
"As expected of Reiji-sama. Mizuki, did you see? That gallant face that does not forgive evil?"
"I’m used to seeing that part of Reiji-kun."
Mizuki stuck her chest out as she said this with a proud face. Titania looked at her both jealously and bitterly.
"… Mizuki, that’s unfair."
On the other hand, Reiji had already cut in between the man and the little girl.
"Wh-what’s with you!?"
"You don’t need to know anything about me. Get away from that child right now. If you don’t…"
As he said this, Reiji sharpened his gaze and glared at him, overpowering the man. As the man let out a pitiful voice, just to be doubly sure, Reiji suddenly began to draw his sword from his sheathe.
Before Reiji who had fought both demons and monsters in this world, there was no way this man who seemed to be planning to kidnap a small girl would be able to keep his spirit. At an extreme speed, the man ran away with all his might.
"Good grief, for an adult to do such things…"
Reiji let out a sigh as he lamented about the man. As he turned around, the little girl was bowing to him.
"Thank you for saving me."
"No, don’t be concerned about it. Setting that aside, are you alright? Did he do anything to you?"
"I’m fine. After I screamed, you came right away after all."
Reiji had a brief exchange with the little girl. She had moderately combed back beautiful red hair, and two moles lined up under her eye. She was cute enough that Reiji could almost understand the reason the man wanted to kidnap her, however at a closer look, from her bearing and eyes he was left with a very dignified impression. While Reiji was thinking of such things, the girl casually looked in the direction the man ran away to.
"I’m glad that you saved me and all, but was the way you drove him away not a little too violent?"
"I’ll go ahead and entertain your strange problem, it’s because when things become that odd, being a little violent is the best option."
"I see, that’s right isn’t it?"
She seemed to be convinced. Those kinds of people are generally not worth talking to. On the contrary when one tries to resolve things peacefully things would tend to become even more strange. Mizuki and the others finally caught up and walked up to Reiji from behind.
"That kind of person exists everywhere huh…"
"In this world they are people we call pedophiles. Do they exist over there as well?"
"Un, once in a while they show up on the news after being arrested."
Reiji could hear Mizuki and Titania discussing this behind him. On the other hand, the girl in front of him introduced herself.
"My name is Lefille Grakis. Allow me to thank you once more. If it is alright with you, could you let me hear your name?"
"I’m not really someone worth naming… would be a little pompous huh. My name is Reiji Shana."
As Reiji named herself, Lefille suddenly knit her brows together. Then…
"Reiji-shi right…?―It couldn’t be, the one Suimei-kun knows…"
"Suimei as in… You, do you know Suimei!?"
Lefille nodded at Reiji’s question. The two girls who also heard her statement poked their heads around Reiji’s body.
After the dangerous encounter with the pervert, Lefille, who was saved by Reiji, now had Reiji and company in tow and was fairly near to the base. After finding out the they were Suimei’s acquaintances, she was guiding them back there.
"―So Lefille-chan came to the Empire together with Suimei huh."
"Muu… I’m not very happy to have chan applied after my name but… Well whatever. That’s how it is."
"Eh? But Lefille-chan. At that time there still should have been demons in that vicinity?"
At Mizuki’s suspicions, Lefille was forced to come up with a suitable deception.
"U-un, well, we just happened to succeed in slipping by the demons. After escaping to Kurant City, we arrived in Nelferia."
"So that’s how it was. By some chance we might have just nearly missed each other somewhere huh."
"We didn’t go as far as verifying the registry of names for entry into the city after all. We all thought that Suimei had not yet arrived in Kurant City, what a blind spot."
Titania was troubled at the blunder they made, however beside her, Mizuki having had the major anxiety that she had been carrying with her all this time blown away, was making a bright face as she breathed a sigh of relief.
"But thank god that Suimei is safe."
"Yeah, really. As usual he has strong luck in getting out of the trouble he gets himself in…"
"Seriously, even though he said ‘I don’t want anything to do with danger!’, what is he doing?"
"But isn’t that how he always is? At first he always complains, but somehow or another he always ends up sticking his neck into it."
"That’s right huh."
Reiji and Mizuki were rejoicing cheerfully from the bottom of their hearts about Suimei’s safety while talking to each other. Lefille smiled as she had a very good understanding of the topics they were discussing.
"From what I’ve heard you all seemed to be very close friends. Seems it was just as I thought."
"I’ve known Suimei-kun for about four years, but for Reiji-kun it was five or six years right?"
It was only one or two years difference. In any case, the two of them were what one would call childhood friends.
While talking about things like he’s such a tsundere, or he’s softhearted, or how he’s always acting cool, or how he always ends up the comedian, and all sort of other things regarding Suimei, they arrived at their destination.
"―We’ve arrived. It’s here."
As she came around the corner, the familiar back alley and dead end appeared before Lefille. It used to be a place smeared with pollution with an ever present stink in the air. But after Suimei used some incomprehensible cleaning method it became neat and clean.
"So he is living in a place like this. We came around an alley so I was expecting a musty place, but this is surprising."
"How pretty. I thought this kind of place would give off more of a boooring image though."
Mizuki and Titania were making wide eyes at the complete disparity in the scenery compared to other places in the area. This must have been because the dark, gloomy and dirty atmosphere took a sudden change to a bright and clean atmosphere. The reason it was all very white was because Suimei thickly spread alabaster onto all the nearby walls. He kept saying that all the houses in the area were too filthy, that it kept him from being in a good mood. It seems he even cast magic on the tables and chairs that were left outside so that they would not become mouldy. He was of the disposition that the area in which he lived had to be thoroughly treated or else he would not be satisfied. As they came up to the house, Lefille opened the door.
And as she did, Felmenia came out to greet her while wearing an apron.
"Lefille, welcome back―eh?"
The expression on her face was exactly what one would expect from someone receiving a completely unexpected surprise. As she looked at each and every person behind Lefille, all her movements came to a complete stop. Reiji and the others were the exact same though. After an unnatural pause, Titania raised her voice.
"Y-your Highness and Hero-dono and Mizuki-dono!? Why are you…?"
Just as she was about to question what was going on, Felmenia suddenly came to her senses with an ‘Oh crap’ in her mind. She immediately took the apron she was wearing and threw it violently. Without verifying where the apron flew off to behind her, she turned towards the full length mirror installed in the entryway. She then thoroughly confirmed her hair, the position of the braids draped down her ears, her face and all sorts of other things with quick and agile movements. After making the same serious and cool expression she always had at Camellia, she bowed down.
"… No, everyone, it has been a long time since we last met."
And then after enough time had passed to properly show respect to those of superior status, Felmenia raised her head, and met Lefille’s gaze.
"Lefille. Why are you together with her Highness the Princess’ group?"
"They saved me after I got into a quarrel with a strange person. And then after asking for their name, it was something I recalled hearing before… That’s about it."
A coincidence… Or rather a strange coincidence. Felmenia made a surprised expression. Reiji then questioned her in a curious tone.
"Sensei, why are you here? I thought you were acting under the direct orders of his Majesty Almadious?"
"Umm… That’s right. Let us talk about the finer details inside."
As she urged them to enter, a listless voice resounded from behind her.
"Ooooi, is there a guest?"
Suimei’s figure then showed up in the entrance way. Before long, he spotted Reiji and the others behind Felmenia, and then with an expression like he had seen a ghost and a strange face, he scowled.
The three of them called out to him as he stood there detached from time.
"Long time no see, Suimei."
"It has been a long time. Suimei."
After the unfortunate reunion between Reiji’s group and Suimei, after being strangely surprised for a while, he guided them to the living room. With the number of people being what they were, they could not all comfortably fit around the table. Reiji, Mizuki and Titania sat at the table while the knights sat on chairs prepared behind them. Since Titania was there, Felmenia hesitated to sit at the same table as her and abstained to standing behind Suimei. Lefille was uneasy about the arrival of so many people and was hiding herself next to her. As for Liliana, she was sitting on the sofa. Suimei was still completely confused at this sudden visit, and looked at everyone individually before him before moving along.
"Aaah, to think that Reiji would save Lefi…"
"For me as well, I could not possibly imagine that Lefille-chan would be Suimei’s acquaintance."
"That’s true isn’t it? Fate is a mysterious thing huh."
As Mizuki cut in, Suimei’s face suddenly turned mean spirited as he smirked.
"What? This must be guidance of the stars… you won’t say it like that?"
"Geez! Right after we get here you’re immediately being mean!"
Mizuki was puffing out her cheeks as Suimei brought up her past with a mean face. Suimei and Reiji both smiled at her charming figure. Of course all of this was either meaningless, incomprehensible or simply strange to everyone else. Titania, who was sitting next to Reiji, called out intimately to Felmenia who was still standing behind Suimei.
"I was concerned about what would happen to you when your departed from Kurant City, but it seems White Flame-dono’s duty was about Suimei, right?"
"Yes. At his Majesty the King’s order, I have entrusted my humble abilities to Suimei-dono."
"As expected, White Flame-dono has a strong sense of responsibility huh."
"Eh? Ah, no, it’s not really that…"
"Again with the humility. To take responsibility for summoning Suimei, did father not request White Flame-dono to support him? If that was not the case you would not have come through danger all the way to the Empire right?"
As Titania came to her conclusion, Reiji added in an ‘As one would expect of Sensei,’ in agreement. He was nodding his head with pride, but surely he was reading too much into it and overreacting.
"At that time, I was certain that White Flame-dono was headed to meet the one who destroyed that army of demons but… It seems my prediction was inaccurate."
That wasn’t true. They all could not possibly say that. Catching a glimpse of Titania’s sharp intuition, Felmenia and Lefille both put on a difficult expression.
"Why are you in the Empire Suimei?"
"I’m looking for a way to return. So I went on a journey."
"I see. So that’s why you left the castle. Then, what happened after that?"
"I believe you already know, but I travelled together with Lefi and a trade corps. Partway there we ended up in a little bit of trouble with the guys in the trade corps and split up with them, but we cut through the forest and came out at Kurant City."
"Then, the demons?"
"Well, we came across them a little. From there one thing or another happened, and we ended up living together―"
Just like that, with a shady smile and a strange self satisfied air full of confidence, he laid out a plausible story. Reiji and the others seems to be listening to him like they believed him too. However Mizuki did not miss her chance at throwing in a quip.
"One thing or another happened and you ended up living together with a cute little girl, what does that even mean Suimei-kun?"
"Aah and that’s when Menia came and started teaching me magic."
"Suimei-kun just casually ignored it…"
Pretending not to see Mizuki attacking him with her glare, Suimei fluently lined up his story. Felmenia and Lefille who were listening behind him, made somewhat disgusted expressions as they whispered to each other in secret.
(… He really can just calmly spout out such lies.)
(… Seriously, you can say he’s become just a little evil. Not that it is something to compliment him for.)
Naturally they were not admiring his actions. Without having any change in complexion, Suimei was speaking like everything was a matter of fact, the two of them could only whisper to each other in astonishment. Those who knew the circumstances could only see it as shameless, but those who didn’t just heard his words as a matter of fact. The two of them were suspicious whether this was also magic in a sense. As their conversation came to an end, Reiji shifted his attention to Liliana who was quietly sitting on the sofa slightly far away.
"Now that I think about, who is that child over there?"
Suimei turned his head around like he was worried.
"That’s… well there were special circumstances."
It was hard to say but he had to say it. It was quite the dilemma. As attention was brought to her from all over the room, Liliana stood up and humbly lowered her head.
"My name is Liliana Zandyke."
"Liliana-chan, right…. Hmmm? Isn’t Liliana Zandyke…"
It seemed that Reiji had heard that name before. He looked up the ceiling and began to poke around his memories for that name. Even in the noisy melting pot in the streets, talks of the manhunt seemed to still be fluttering around. On the other hand, perhaps as one would expect, Titania grasped onto the famous name.
"… One of the Empire’s Elite Twelve, right now she should be on the wanted list."
"That’s it! Now that I think of it didn’t we hear that she was the culprit behind some kind of incident!?"
"… Didn’t I just say it? There were special circumstances."
Suimei let out a sigh as he shrugged his shoulders deeply, and then began to give Reiji and the others the general gist of things.
"That’s, kind of complicated huh."
As Reiji and Mizuki heard Suimei’s outline of the incidents and Liliana’s circumstances, at first they were making faces full of pity, but by the end they were fairly downhearted as they let out a sigh. Suimei looked at Lefille cuddling up to Liliana and gently brushing her head anxiously as he quietly nodded his head. Perhaps because of her parting with Rogue, Lefille had always been trying to cheer Liliana up. Suimei did not want to do anything that would weigh too heavily on her heart, but he had to explain it. As his explanation ended, Reiji showed him a very serious face.
"And so, what do you plan to do with Liliana-chan?"
"Hm? Aah, I’ll be sheltering her here."
"But, with only that nothing will get resolved won’t it?"
"That’s right. That’s why our other goal is to find the real culprit and apprehend them. After catching them it’ll be fine to just explain the situation and hand just them over."
"That may be so but won’t the people of the Empire say to also hand over Liliana-chan?"
"Well, eight or nine times out of ten they would."
Suimei agreed with Reiji’s opinion. Even if she was instigated, it did not change the fact that she performed the act. It was not difficult to imagine that the time they demand to have Liliana handed over was drawing nearer. But as long as he was taking care of her, there was no way he would just hand her over quietly.
"Well if it comes to that, should we all just go to a different country?"
In this world, if they left the country borders, they probably wouldn’t really be able to pursue them anymore. In that case, it was fine to just live in a different country. As he said this, he grinned at both Lefille and Felmenia. Felmenia quietly nodded. After a short instant of surprise, Lefille let out a fearless smile.
"You really are an abrupt person."
Liliana said this and stood up as her complexion began to change.
The destination of her changing expression, was an anxious face who did not want to cause trouble for them. However, before she could finish speaking, Suimei showed her a cheerful laugh.
"I don’t mind at all you know. Well if everyone is against it I’ll think of another hand to play."
"I am here for the sake of supporting Suimei-dono. I will abide by whatever intentions Suimei-dono holds."
"Same for me. Life in the Empire is good, but I will accompany Suimei-kun wherever he goes."
"So they say."
Even as he smiled at her saying that she didn’t need to worry about it, her melancholy did not clear away. However, it was already decided. She had no choice but to resign herself. As they came to that conclusion, Suimei turned his head.
"That’s how it is."
"I see. Un, got it."
Reiji closed his eyes and nodded agreeably. Mizuki made a smile like she was looking at her troublesome best friend.
"Suimei-kun is just as equally softhearted as Reiji-kun isn’t he?"
"Ah? Mizuki, don’t put me in the same category as this guy. I’m not really softhearted or any…"
"Heeh, despite saying you hated danger and didn’t come along with us, who is young imbecile that is sticking his neck into dangerous matters after all~?"
"I-I wonder who…?"
Even though he played dumb, obviously there were gazes focused on him from all over the room.
"Yeah yeah it’s me! Me! Sorry ’bout that!"
The fact that he was stuck in between both bashfulness and anger was because of the attack coming at him from all sides. Suimei raised his voice like he was hiding his embarrassment. At Mizuki’s pinpoint counterattack, he could put up nothing but meagre resistance. To Suimei this was the first time he was in a situation like a bed of nails, but clearing his throat to change the mood, he changed the topic.
"… Aaanyways, what are you guys doing in the Imperial Capital? If I remember correctly you said you were headed to the self governed state right?"
"… Regarding that, I also have some special circumstances."
Reiji was showing Suimei a melancholic expression. As if being weighed down by his anguish, the atmosphere around him was heavy. Titania continued in his stead.
"Suimei. Do you know about Duke Hadorious?"
"Yeah, I heard about him from Menia."
"About how he’s the man who ensnared us."
Lefille let out a sharp tone and pointed her blue eyes towards them. As expected, the flames of rage were still burning brightly deep within that small body. Her voice filled with rage did not contain a single hint of weakness. As Titania bowed down to apologize, Suimei stopped her with his hand and shook his head. Everyone was likely thinking the same thing, it was not her fault.
"We were told by his Grace the Duke to go to the Imperial Capital and check on her Highness the Imperial Princess Graziella’s movement."
Hearing that name from Reiji’s mouth, Suimei’s eyebrow shot up.
"Oi, Graziella as in… that one?"
"Suimei-kun, you know her?"
Suimei showed a bitter expression to Mizuki’s question.
"Weeell a little… Well, setting that aside. Why are you just obediently listening to that order? As a hero can’t you just veto it?"
In Camellia even Almadious treated Reiji with respect. Even when Elliot was faced with arrogant attitude from the Empire’s imperial princess Graziella, it was Graziella’s attendant who was stricken with a pale face. A hero’s treatment and authority was supposed to be far beyond any single noble.
"He took a family member hostage and threatened us."
Suimei was wondering just who family referred to. It was impossible that they were able to lay their hands on Reiji’s family in the other world. As Suimei was making a puzzled frown, one of the knights who had been sitting behind Reiji and the others, Gregory stood up from his seat and bowed down his head apologetically. As Suimei grasped the situation from that, he slacked back into his chair and spoke up with astonishment.
"What’s with that? That guy really is an unbelievable asshole huh… Good grief, I’ll have to go and slug him earlier than later huh."
If they just leisurely let him be, there was no telling what he would do. It seemed it was necessary to find a chance to make contact with him. Hearing Suimei’s statement, Reiji’s face took on a severe expression.
"Suimei, Duke Hadorious is strong. He was able to catch and stop my fist."
"Even if you say that, I can’t tell if that’s amazing or not."
"So Suimei, would you be able to stop my punch as I am now?"
As Suimei was poking fun at Reiji, Reiji formed a fist while smiling like he was going to send him flying along with that joke. In response, Suimei raised both his hands without putting on airs.
"I’m a pacifist, I’m against violence."
"… You sure can talk. Despite the fact that you’re surprisingly merciless."
Reiji’s unamused gaze pierced through Suimei’s shamelessness. Shrugging his shoulders like he was saying ‘What are you talking about?’ he let out one more exasperated sigh. Setting that aside, Suimei suddenly became serious and shut his eyes.
"At any rate, Graziella huh… Making you guys do that sort of thing, just what kind of significance does that noble-sama’s order have?"
"With regards to that, we also don’t really understand."
Reiji shook his head. He showed just how much anguish this put him in during his journey. Seeing this, Suimei took in what he had heard of the story, and impulsively let out his impression.
"Somehow, it feels like he wanted you to head towards the Imperial Capital."
"Wanted me to head to the Imperial Capital… but there shouldn’t be any demons in the Empire?"
"That’s exactly why. This kind of place has nothing to do with the hero’s job, on top of that it’s not like you’re here to raise the spirits of the citizens of an allied country. There should be no need to go out of his way to make a hero come here right? If he’s that remarkable, he should have as many subordinates and spies as he wanted to send over, if he was really that curious they would already be here. From what I’ve heard, it looks like from the beginning, that Hadorious wanted you to head to this country by any means possible."
Suimei shut his eyes as he heard Mizuki’s frank question.
"Fumu… He’s taken a hostage and gone as far making threats after all. It must be something big huh."
"But Duke Hadorious didn’t say anything other than checking on her Imperial Highness Graziella’s movements. He didn’t tell us to do anything else…."
Reiji’s face had become quite grim as he sunk deeper into thought about what could possibly be going on. If it was just as Reiji said and Hadorious really only wanted Reiji to stalk Graziella, Suimei could only deem Hadorious as helplessly incompetent. If it was only about checking on her movements, then it wasn’t worth incurring Reiji’s enmity just to send him over to the Empire.
"Certainly it is just as Duke Hadorious says, lately her Imperial Highness Graziella has been moving around very actively. Using her authority in the military, she has been taking very firm political measures towards neighbouring countries quite often. As far as Astel is concerned it is not a very good situation."
He was not saying that Titania was wrong, but even so Suimei had no intentions of dropping the subject. From the flow of the conversation, he could not wipe off the sense that there was something being implied in a roundabout way by Hadorious’ actions.
"At the time that her Imperial Highness Graziella penetrated the border, Duke Hadorious didn’t really have anything in particular to say though right?"
"―I see, that’s it."
As if the answer swooped down at him, Suimei snapped his finger. From Reiji’s candid impression, the last fragment fell into place.
"Suimei, what do you mean that’s it?"
"You said at the time that that woman penetrated the border right? That imperial princess, how did she go there?"
"How did she go there? Not the reason she went?"
"That’s right. The method she went there."
"That’s… She said she took her troops and forcibly broke through right?
"She broke through that fortress on the national border without any trouble at all?"
Felmenia was the one to answer his question.
"That is probably how it went. From what I’ve seen of her Imperial Highness Graziella and the troops under her command, it did not look like they had suffered any damage to me."
Felmenia was ruminating over her own words. After saying it, she seemed to be recalling the events in her head. As she did, Lefille made a quizzical expression.
"―That’s certainly strange. When I went together with Suimei-kun, the fortress on the national border to Astel was not made so frailly that it would be broken through so easily though?"
"Certainly, now that you put it like that it does seem like it…"
Titania was of the same opinion, a flustered expression floated up on her face at the fact that she did not notice this. The construction of the fortress on the national border as well as its defensive force were both quite firm. Within the ravine, a steel gate was put in place. The times at which it opened and closed were predetermined, it wasn’t so simple to pass through it at will. Certainly, taking into consideration Graziella’s abilities, she was more than capable of bulldozing her way through. Thus it seemed natural to think that she did. Even so if she had used magic to do so, it was unavoidable that it would have turned into a major uproar. However, up until now, talks of that kind of serious situation never came up.
"Besides, the timing that she got there with was too good. I heard it coincided exactly with the time that the army from Kurant City were closing in on the demons right?"
"Certainly now that you mention it that was the case but… Is it not an impossible event right?"
Reiji let out these words of denial like his self-confidence was swaying. Suimei shook his head and continued.
"At the point in time where the demons arrived, the only ones who knew were the higher ups of Astel and Gregory-san who guided you guys to a safe place. From what I’ve heard, the only ones who encountered the demons were you guys, the lot from the trade corps and us. The citizens of Astel were not made aware of the presence of demons. To the people within Astel’s borders, the only place the demons were present should have been outside the country. Despite that, how did someone from another country get their hands on that kind of information so easily?"
"Maybe they captured a demon within Imperial territory and made it talk?"
"Impossible. Demons are not that kind of being."
Lefille drew a conclusion in no time at all. They were the words of the one who knew the most about the disposition of demons, that’s why there was no way they were wrong. From the memories of Suimei’s encounter with the demons, he also knew that they were not the kind of beings who would reveal any information even if they were tortured. If it was those beings, he thought that they would self-destruct the moment they were captured. In that case, his conjecture would be…
"Hey, perhaps that guy Hadorious…"
Perhaps, that vague silhouette in Suimei’s mind gradually began to take shape. Before his answer completely took form and he could put it into words, Titania was the first to make a guess.
"… Leaked out the information, allowed her Imperial Highness Graziella into the country and schemed with the guards at the national border? Suimei is this what you are implying?"
Suimei returned a nod to her. The tension running through the air bound everyone in silence. Lagging behind a beat, Mizuki threw out a flustered question in a panic.
"B-but what kind of benefit would he gain from doing that kind of thing? Duke Hadorious is a noble of Astel you know? Are you saying he’s connected to her Imperial Highness Graziella behind the scenes?"
"Who knows. I don’t know whether they’re connected or whether he simply leaked out the information yet… Well if it’s like that then it would be an easy excuse to start a war. That dangerous woman crossed over the national border without permission after all. If there was someone important in Astel who held animosity towards the Empire, it would be quite easy for them. And then, he immediately sent Reiji over."
"Do you think they’re also being provoked?"
Reiji’s expression had gotten quite tense. Suimei replied like it was just as he expected.
"He said himself it was only to check up on things after all."
Certainly, Graziella’s actions of pushing through the border into Astel may have been reasonable considering the crisis. However, this would naturally cause the leaders of Astel to harbour a sense of an impending crisis. So if right after it happened, Reiji unexpectedly visited the Empire, the tension of those leaders would double up on the spot.
"However, Suimei. There should be no reason right now for Astel to declare war on the Empire."
"That’s right isn’t it. That’s also the point I don’t quite get."
This was the point that Suimei could only let out a troubled groan at. In the current situation where the demons were invading human territories, there was no benefit to take actions to cause a falling out between nations. Felmenia and Titania were also both in agreement on this point.
"I also think so. Even if it is Duke Hadorious, he should fully understand the menace of the demons. Besides just from leaking the information, it wasn’t certain that the leaders of the Empire would make a move."
"That’s true, there are too many uncertain elements for it to be a scheme huh…"
As they were discussing this, Reiji began to stir.
"Is there something on your mind? Reiji."
"No, it’s just, if it is just as Suimei is thinking, I was just thinking that Duke Hadorious’ attitude at that time might make sense."
"About how he wasn’t really saying anything?"
"Un. If her Imperial Highness Graziella’s arrival was in fact a scheme by Duke Hadorious, then his silence at the times regarding her trespassing wraps itself up nicely. With that kind of personality, he would have at least let out a single honest opinion at that kind of scene after all… But, I don’t think we’re going to make any more progress on this topic."
"That’s certainly true."
There wasn’t enough materials for them to make a proper judgment. If possible there would be nothing better than quickly predicting the scheme while they could, but right now that was impossible. However, they at least all agreed that they needed to be vigilant with regards to Hadorious.
"―So, switching topics, what are you guys going to do from here on?"
"Yeah yeah it’s that! Listen to me Suimei-kun! We couldn’t find an inn!"
"Well there’s that parade and all."
Suimei returned a gaze to Mizuki like it should have been obvious as she looked back at him wondering what they should do. Before they even arrived, they must have all been full. Suimei leaned back into his char while pondering about it.
"… Want to stay here? With this many people it’ll be quite cramped though."
"Suimei, is that alright?"
"We don’t have enough beds for everyone though, so the guys will have to sleep together in the living room."
Reiji didn’t seem to have any objections as Suimei said this. As he looked around the room to see if it was alright with everyone else, the female knight Luka spoke up.
"If that is the case we will once more look for some lodgings. Even if we’re only able to secure a few rooms, we’ll be able to split up between the inns and Suimei-dono’s house."
As Reiji acknowledged her, the knights all headed towards the entrance way. Reiji and Mizuki went to see them off perhaps to once more show them gratitude for putting in work for them. Titania also stood up, but instead of following after Reiji, she drew nearer to Suimei.
Even though he had asked her, Titania did not stop walking. With a whiff, a gentle aroma tickled his nose. When she was within hands reach, she beckoned Suimei over. As Suimei obediently brought himself closer, she brought her mouth closer to his ear to talk in secret.
"Suimei. Tomorrow, would you not be able to keep me company for a bit?"
"Keep you company?"
"I have something to talk with you about. It’s very important."
Suimei took some distance and looked at Titania’s face. Her deep blue eyes were looking straight at Suimei with an earnest expression, they reflected her seriousness. He guessed that she had some sort of inevitable circumstance.
Thanks to the great efforts of their knight escorts, Reiji’s group managed to secure rooms at an inn for three people. After splitting the group up in two between the Yakagi residence and the inn, it seemed that they no longer how to worry themselves about places to stay for the time being. Obviously the way they split the group was that Reiji, Mizuki and Titania would stay at Suimei’s place while the knights stayed in the inn. That evening, for the first time in a while, Suimei and Reiji were able to talk just between the guys. The girls also had their own girls’ talk late into the night while going nuts over something. Though that was mostly Mizuki. And then, the next day arrived.
"I’ve gotten quite used to the air in Astel, but the Empire also has a nice wind blowing through it huh."
On this day, Suimei went along with Titania’s request, and the two of them left the Yakagi residence and were now outside the Imperial Capital to the north west stretching their legs out on a hill overflowing with nature. Looking out over the scenery, the gently-sloping waves of green stretched out before him, and once in a while a refreshing wind would brush gently against the back of his neck. Standing in a lightly elevated place, Titania brushed her hair behind her and savoured the wind from the hill with her eyes quietly shut. She was not wearing the dress Suimei saw her in at the castle. Instead she was wearing easy to move in clothes wrapped around her body with an overcoat lying over them. Due to the tall collars of the coat, he was unable to see her mouth. If anybody saw her for the first time in that clothing with her eyes shut, they would be unable to even imagine that she was a genuine princess.
Suimei had that sort of impression, but it was blown away in an instant. Titania suddenly stretched out greatly with both of her arms spread out as much as she could. She started to enjoy the air in the Empire in an entirely different way from before. Suimei guessed it was because she was freed from the stuffy air in the Imperial Capital, or perhaps it was because she did not have to keep up her appearances. From Suimei’s perspective, her current behaviour was more pleasant than usual.
Right now in this place, other than the one horse they rode here, there was nobody present except for Suimei and Titania. Titania had talked about this to neither Reiji or Mizuki, and unexpectedly the knight escorts also did not come along. When Titania informed Luka of her plans, she requested to accompany them, but was denied. In Suimei’s case he also only told Felmenia and Lefille that he was going out and leaving the house to them. After a while, Titania was satisfied with the air on the hill, and turned around as she began talking.
"Thank you very much for the room. To make sure we all had beds even Suimei’s bed was especially set aside for us."
"No, I don’t mind. For a guy, as long as there is a suitably wide space it’s more than enough after all."
"Fufu, is that so? Thank to that I was able to thoroughly enjoy my evening yesterday."
The tone of her voice was very bright without any worries. As Titania gently smiled at him, Suimei returned with a ‘Well that’s good,’ as he shrugged his shoulders. And then, she spoke to Suimei like she was troubled about something.
"Hey, did Liliana seem stiff to you?"
"Yeah, seeing how everyone gathered together, she was in a state where she didn’t know what she should do. However Lefille has been very concerned about her, so she shouldn’t be all that uncomfortable with it. Besides, Mizuki also talked to her a bunch. If it’s her, I think she’ll open her heart pretty soon."
For a brief moment, Suimei carefully considered Liliana’s situation. Even though it was temporary, her housemates suddenly increased in number, she seemed awfully surprised by it. Naturally, due to her dark magic, she was not used to people― in short she was extremely shy around strangers. Suimei knew this, but precisely because of that, he was worried about the other night. However, somehow or other it ended as needless anxiety.
Suimei was quite concerned about her, but a large portion of her care was left to Lefille and Felmenia. There was the fact that she was a girl, but one of their other goals was to use Lefille’s spirit powers to expel the evil from Liliana’s body. He wasn’t particularly worried though, the ones who came over were largely the type to take others into consideration.
"I wonder what Reiji-sama and Mizuki are doing now?"
"They said something about having Lefi guide them around the Imperial Capital. It wasn’t really necessary to do so today right away, but she’s a hard worker."
Titania let out a laugh. By her gestures which seemed to cover up her voice coming out, Suimei caught a glimpse of her elegance.
"―So, it’s about time to hear about that important thing you had to tell me right? You didn’t bring any escorts and left the two of them out of it after all, you must have quite the reason to do so right?"
"That’s right. It should be fine here."
In a complete turn from her smiling face, Titania’s face became much more intense than before. As if she was looking for something she failed to notice, she looked at her surroundings. It did not feel like she was being careful of others in the area. As she turned back towards Suimei, her expression was somehow cold and serious.
"Suimei. I have something I’d like to request… No, that’s not quite right. There is something I’d like you to do from hereon out."
"I am aware that it is abrupt."
"That is to say, there’s something you want from me?"
"That’s right isn’t it… Rather than want, it may be more appropriate to say that I would like to force you to do so."
Titania corrected herself while maintaining a calm attitude. She was putting on airs quite considerably… Or rather she said such a thing after thinking about it carefully, in short…
"There’s no real need to hold back. Just call it an order."
"Then―Suimei, return to the Kingdom immediately."
Suimei did in fact tell her not to hold back, but he wasn’t expecting her to fire off such relentless words.
"… That really is abrupt huh."
"Certainly, it was abrupt. However, I have a reason why I have no choice but to say so. I believe that it is something easy to understand right?"
"Just in case I’d like to hear it straight from Tia’s mouth."
"It’s about Duke Hadorious."
It was just as Suimei expected. Somehow or other he anticipated this.
"At this rate, you will become a shackle to Reiji-sama. That’s why, return to the Kingdom immediately and stay by father’s side quietly. If father makes a few arrangements for you, even if you return you would not by treated poorly. If you speak of the situation and fall under father’s protects, even a Duke would have difficulty laying their hands on you."
Hadorious was picking a fight. If Reiji paid too much attention to everyone around him, naturally his actions from now on would become hindered. It was obvious from how he returned to Astel’s territory the last time.
"Well, that’s just as it sounded when you first said it huh."
"If you think about Liliana’s case as well, I do not think it is all that unreasonable though?"
Titania presented the validity of her claim quite reasonably, however Suimei shook his head.
"However if it’s like that, I’ll be troubled."
"Why is that?"
"I mentioned it in passing to Reiji yesterday too, but I’m looking for a means to return to my own world."
Suimei shrugged his shoulders as he once more informed her of his objective.
"With that, you understand right? If I do as Tia says, I’ll lose my ability to look for a means to return to my own world."
"That’s right isn’t it. However that does not need to be done right away right? Eventually, Reiji-sama will defeat the Demon Lord. Once he does, Duke Hadorious would also stop getting involved with him and Suimei would be able to look around to your heart’s content for a way to return to your world."
"So, what are you saying? I should just wait until then? To wait until Reiji defeats the Demon Lord and the threat to this world vanishes? Will that be a year? Two years? By any chance it could likely take even five or ten years you know? That will be too late."
"Suimei. I am fully aware of your circumstances. However, this is something that is necessary to resolutely bring peace to this world."
"This world this world. How many times do I have to hear this? Especially lately it’s all been about that."
Suimei spat out his complaint along with a sigh. However Titania had a fair amount of consideration for him, and urgently replied at his indiscretion.
"And so, your answer?"
"―I refuse. I’m suffering through this because I was arbitrarily summoned. I have no reason to not just do what I want arbitrarily as well."
"I said so before as well, but if you act as you want, you’ll become a burden to Reiji-sama did I not?"
"About that Hadorious guy right? I’ll handle it skillfully from my end. If Reiji is uselessly worrying about it, just tell him not to worry about me from your own mouth, Tia."
"Do you think that kind Reiji-sama would listen to that?"
"I have no intention of taking into consideration that guy’s meddlesome behaviour."
As Suimei rejected her with a strict attitude, Titania let out a troubled sigh.
"… At this rate we’re just walking on parallel lines huh."
"Despite that, you’re quite calm."
"Somehow or other, I though it would turn out just like this after all."
"Then, don’t you have another hand ready to play? So, what are those words that’ll make me move?"
If she had predicted Suimei’s answer and arguments, then she should have other things to say prepared already. There was no way she we go this far to talk to him just to have it end like this. Titania made her resolve and pointed her gaze towards Suimei.
"If you will not agreeably obey my orders, I will have you follow them by force."
Those words were completely unexpected to Suimei. He thought for sure she would say ‘We’ll search for it for you,’ or ‘the troops will look for it,’ however that wasn’t it at all.
"From now on, if Suimei is going to continue searching for a way to return to your world, it would not be quite to Reiji’s extent, but many difficulties would stand in your way. There will be monsters and demons, and Duke Hadorious. In that case, if you are unable to defeat even me you will be unable to search for a means to return to your world. Is that not reasonable?"
"That’s certainly true but…"
"Therefore, I will fight with Suimei here and you will prove your strength to me. Of course, if you win, I will approve of your actions."
"So that’s what you mean by force, it’s certainly violent."
"It’s fine if it is violent. What will you do?"
As Suimei flatly refused, Titania let out an unbecoming sneer.
"In that case you will be labelled as a coward you know? Even so will you refuse?"
"By Tia? I don’t really care no matter what you have to say about me… That won’t exactly end our little talk though right?"
Suimei let out a deep groan as he grimaced at Titania’s declaration.
"… So, what is it? If it is by force, are you deciding it with magic?"
"No, it is this."
As she said this, Titania brandished a single sword from a bundle that was tied to the horse.
"Ha? With swords? Tia can you use that kind of thing?"
"To a certain amount, I’m knowledgeable about it."
"You heard from Reiji that I can use kenjutsu right? It should be obvious, but don’t I have the advantage? Wouldn’t that be unfair?"
"I do not mind. Then, what is your reply?"
Titania was piling up her questions like she was cross examining him. Suimei could not grasp her intentions. Before he knew it, her mouth was covered by her overcoat and was no longer visible. Because that hid the subtleties of her cold and stiff expression, he was unable to read her actions. If she used a sword, Titania should have been at a disadvantage as a mage. However that contrivance disappeared into the mist and he was no longer able to see through her.
Just what should he do? Suimei still did not want to take part in any match, but surely she wouldn’t push him that far. If he used magic to give her a hypnotic suggestion, it would be quite simple to get through this situation, but―
―Yes. With this the four of us are all friends.
Suimei recalled the words he heard Titania speak before. She hardly had any close friends and surely did not get many chances to say such a thing. However, the words she spoke at that time were surely ones that came from the bottom of her heart. Thinking back on that, if he used magic to mislead her, it would feel awkward to him. As Titania’s gaze was running out of patience, Suimei let out a troubled sigh.
"… I’d like to refuse, but I feel like in that case you’ll just take a swing at me."
"If you understand that, then how about an answer?"
As she said this, the tone of her voice suddenly dropped.
"… I also do not want to mistreat Suimei in such a way. However, there are things that I must do, and the I must take the responsibility to do so."
She hung her head like she was confessing that she had no other option. She couldn’t ignore her mistreatment of Suimei after all.
"I don’t really mind. With regards to this case I’m also acting at my own convenience. Then, even if I was summoned at your own convenience, there is no reason for Tia not to act at your own convenience too."
"You’re kind in the strangest places."
"Strangest was unnecessary."
"This is as Mizuki calls it, tsundere, right?"
"Oi stop with that, seriously."
As Titania stared at him briefly in astonishment at Suimei’s bitter expression, he swiftly put on a serious expression.
"―Let me ask one last thing. With this you won’t trouble me in the future right?"
"Yes. I swear in the name of the Goddess Alshuna. If I lose, I promise I will not say nor do a single thing with regards to Suimei’s action from hereon out."
"Got it. And so, what about my sword?"
As Suimei put out his hand, Titania threw him the sword that she had been carrying. It seemed that she had another prepared for herself. Suimei picked up the sword she threw towards him. It was likely something related to her chance at victory, however Suimei learned kenjutsu since he was a child. Whatever the circumstances may be we was not about to lose. Titania then took another bundle out, and pulled out two long swords from it.
"This is my weapon of choice."
As she said this she drew both swords from their sheathes. They were made of different materials from the one Reiji carried, silver. Seeing such a thing in this place was unexpected, but Suimei thought that it was probably corroded silver. Seeing that she drew both swords out, her style was surely a two sword style. Contrary to the principle of that style, both blades were long. Generally one of them would be dedicated to defence, so that it would be easier to handle, preparing a shorter sword would be common. However both of her blades were the same length. No, using his eyes as a magician, he could tell a slight difference between them, the one on the left appeared slightly longer to him. And then, as Suimei was looking at her with a puzzled gaze, Titania took her stance and then…
Titania hid her mouth with her mantle, and just as she crossed her swords, Suimei’s entire body shuddered.
"―As one would expect of one who studied the sword. Once I’ve taken a stance you’re able to grasp my capabilities right?"
Titania saw through the subtleties of Suimei’s agitation. Her words of praise rang in Suimei’s ears like the voice of the devil. He had just picked up the sword while thinking he was not about to lose, but just how thoughtless had he been? As a ferocious smile overpowered him, he put on a smile to conceal his panic.
"Ha―I want to curse myself for my immaturity for not knowing until you took a stance. What’s with this little princess? Weren’t you a mage?"
"Certainly I also use magic, but the fundamentals of my fighting style would be this. Ever since I was of a tender age, I wielded a sword."
"With this you understand correct? It is not unfair as you had said before. That is because I am the one who excels more with a sword."
"… My goodness, you sure reeled me in quite skillfully. You’re really quite the stubborn spoiled girl."
"I will take that as a compliment."
As she said this, Titania rotated the two swords in her hands like batons. The sound of the wind blowing from them filled the air, and before long she once more crossed the swords before her. And then, at the same time as that she unleashed an intense fighting spirit, with Titania as its centre a wave of power scattered into the surroundings like a spring storm. After the illusion of wind brought on by her fighting spirit, the surroundings were constricted by a silent tension. Finally, across the hill which had been transformed into a desolate place, her name rang through the air.
"One of the Seven Swords, the Twilight, Titania Root Astel. Here I come."
She stood at the ready to confront Suimei who still had goosebumps from her fighting spirit. Finally realizing that he was only a step away from her range, he put on a bluffing smile.
"Heeh, you being such an expert is seriously scary…"
Suimei then took his stance. The fighting spirit pressing against his body was strong and sharp. It was comparable to Lefille when she was fighting the demons. The girl before her had her swords crossed in a stance. Even when he looked with his eyes as a magician, he couldn’t spot anything resembling an opening.
If one were to bring up the famous stances of the two sword style, there would be the one where one holds both swords high above their body and pressures their opponents with a doubled high stance, and the one where both swords are crossed before them ready for both offence and defence. Titania’s stance with her arms stretched out in front of her body crossing her swords before her was the latter. There was no doubt that she was planning to lunge from there, her body sank to the floor greatly, a low stance as low as it could go. Just like a leopard. In that case what he should be vigilant about was her speed and charging power.
However, there was those two long sword. Seeing how neither was a short sword it should be hard to handle. Under usual circumstances it would be something to tease one about as an amateur swordsman, but―
No, just like her charging power and speed, this point exceeded Suimei’s expectations. Inside his head, he pictured the beginning of the battle with a blue flash followed by a double cross. He imagined that her speed was far beyond his initial estimates. While pondering about this, her sword drew a curve through the air.
Suimei hurriedly stepped back and stuck out his sword to defend. At the same time that the silver light from her slash vanished, Suimei leaped back outside her range. And then once more looking at his own sword, he doubted his own eyes. At a closer look, the blade that he blocked with in a hurry was only half of what it was before. On top of that, the section that was cut off was as if a spoon scooped out some pudding, leaving behind a completely smooth cross section.
"Oi!? Wait a sec, what kind of technique is that!?"
"It is nothing more than this kind of technique. My sword techniques are unlike other swordsmen in that it is a wicked sword style. Normally one would absolutely not be able to cut a blade without a straightforward sword strike, but my sword strikes can cut anything even if they curve in the air."
Her long swords once more let off an audible wind as Titania declared this and Suimei’s back shuddered once more. Generally, this was something that was physically impossible, however exceptions certainly existed. It was very likely that this girl who was called a princess was also one of the people who stood in that place. Suimei didn’t even spend two seconds thinking about these things. However in that small window, Titania had already closed the distance that he created earlier.
"Too fast dammit!"
While letting out a complaint, Suimei leaped to the side. However, because it was an evasive action completely within the realms of common sense, Titania’s gaze did not fall off of him for even an instant and immediately took a swing horizontally to deal with it. Suimei used his now shortened sword to to ward off the attack, but obviously it put him at a disadvantage. Not matter how much he struggled, he was unable to avoid his future situation getting gradually worse and worse.
Suddenly, Titania brandished her right sword slowly. Sensing a strike from an upper stance, Suimei reacted like it was just that without thinking about it. Matching the slow trajectory, the sword fell from above as if to knock him down entirely.
"That move is too naive."
She let out a declaration like the cold touch of a blade. The move she mentioned, Suimei’s sudden reaction was a single cheap strike that he could not even stop himself. As Suimei was grumbling about how he was reeled in perfectly, both her swords promptly joined their trajectories together. He wouldn’t be able to block it, but suddenly his feet collapsed.
His legs were swept away. It was too late by the time he noticed. Suimei was unable to maintain his posture and clumsily fell onto his butt. And then, what pierced his eyes was the silver light reflecting off her blade. He was able to react, but his posture was the worst. Right at his neck, was a silver light.
"… You weren’t even able to put up a brave fight. Then, with this it is decided. Suimei, I will proclaim your loss here."
As expected, cold words descended down upon him. Her sharpened spirit was telling him to just swallow her conditions as she pressed onto his neck coldly. But―
"… Sorry but I can’t really allow that."
"The victor has already been decided though?"
As Titania once more declared this, Suimei still did not give his consent.
"Why? Why do you so obstinately obsess about this?"
"I have a promise in that world that I must return to and accomplish no matter what. Besides, I have things over here that I must accomplish as well."
Suimei spoke as he looked up at Titania. He must return, there was no other option. There was also Liliana and Lefille’s problems. He couldn’t just easily accept his defeat.
"Is that so… Then it is regrettable, but I will have to have you go through a painful experience."
"A painful experience? And just what do you plan to do?"
"If Suimei is injured the continuation of your search will be impossible. After that it is fine to leave it all to White Flame-dono."
"You really are violent…"
"I will not apologize. This is the duty that I must bear after all."
The light from Titania’s eyes had become cold. However, perhaps due to that change she had blinked. Matching up with that brief instant that was not even a second long, Suimei suddenly vanished from her vision.
Suimei vanished the instant she loosened her spirit. Looking for that figure, Titania turned to her left and right. However he was nowhere to be found, only his voice reverberated in the air.
"You’ve misread the situation little princess. Was it not a little early to declare the outcome?"
"Where are you!?"
Compared to before, his voice was now filled with determination as it rang through the air refreshingly. At the same time, multiple explosions burst forth from beneath the earth in Titania’s surroundings strong enough to overturn the ground. While maintaining her stance, Titania leaped and landed behind Suimei. He was now wearing a black suit that she was not familiar with. For some reason, his right arm was extended like he just finished snapping his finger.
Looking at Titania’s face which was seized by shock, Suimei quietly took a breath as he resigned himself… The bad after taste of using magic on a friend who was not even a magician lingered in his mouth. It was as if he was holding it deep in his heart so he would never forget. Unless something terrible happened, he had already decided it was something he would never do. However, he had the responsibility to settle the problems of those he took into his care. He could not stop moving in this kind of place. He flipped open the tail of his coat with a thud.
"―So be it. I will also name myself before you, little princess. I am a fellow of the Magic Society, a magician, Yakagi Suimei."
And with a thunderous roar, the surroundings were swallowed by his powerful mana.
―Now that Titania thought back on it, this young man’s actions were full of mysteries.
Due to an accident with the hero summoning ritual, he was one of the ones summoned other than the hero. Contrary to the hero Reiji’s words, he was the man who refused to accompany them. He said that he himself did not want to take part in any conflict, a completely selfish and wilful statement. He said many times that he did not have to put up with their arbitrary requests. Normally it should not have been strange for the other two to condemn him for this, but unexpectedly Reiji and Mizuki’s trust in him remained faithful, she never once heard them speak ill of him.
This she could still understand. Even if he showed ingratitude once, they were very familiar with Suimei’s disposition, hence they would be able to forgive his actions. However, Felmenia, who was such a menacing and serious person ended up getting along with him at some point when Titania wasn’t looking. Her father Almadious who he once slandered, had given Suimei his trust. He left the safety of the castle and Metel. On his way he was caught in Hadorious’ schemes yet managed to escape. In another world, and on top of that in a foreign country, despite the entire land being unfamiliar to him, he set up a base in that place. He was sheltering the young girl who was being pursued by the Imperial Army. All of the things she heard of him and their results were completely mysterious. However with all of these actions, he gained everyone’s trust as he met them.
Perhaps this fact was one of the threads guiding Titania, but she could not understand just what was happening in front of her eyes. The green hill and blue sky which extended out all the way to the horizon was now in the middle of a storm of thick mana. And then, in an event that she had never seen until now, an outrageous power manifested itself.
The power interfering with her surrounding was terrifyingly strong. The only expression she could find for it was as if the world itself had changed. The refreshing wind was now howling in the sky after losing its consistency due to the mana and clashing with the other air currents in the sky. Perhaps because they sensed the danger in this place, the birds that were resting on the trees in the distance all flew off at once, the insects and small animals defencelessly showed their figures and ran away without caring.
The one who caused all this, was the young man in front of her eyes, Suimei Yakagi. He was not letting out his fighting spirit like a warrior, but in its stead was a penetratingly cold sensation from the extraordinary mana. The power of the mages she had met up until now, no, even if they somehow all combined their power, it would surely fall short of the power before her. For someone who had just started to learn magic, this was impossible.
"… Yesterday, you said that you had begun to learn magic from White Flame-dono but, was that a lie?"
"Nope, it wasn’t a lie you know? I had Menia teach me quite often about the spells of this world after all. It’s just that I failed to mention that I was able to use magic from the beginning."
"But I heard that there was no magic in Suimei’s world?"
"That was a conversation within Reiji’s realm of knowledge. Because of the development of science it went underground and just doesn’t reveal itself to the world. It properly exists. Just like this."
Suimei indifferently confessed exactly what he was hiding. However what he had called himself was not a mage, just what was a magician―
"… Magician?―It-it couldn’t be, the man in black that Rajas was talking about!?"
"Now that you mention, Menia did say that that big guy let that slip in the end.―Yeah, that’s right, I beat down every last one of that lot."
"E-every last one… That army of ten thousand, by just Suimei?"
"Seem so. I didn’t have the leisure of being able to stop and count at the time, I was also surprised when I heard it afterwards though. Kukuku…"
The man before her eyes began to brag as he let out a strange laugh. It was not the fearless laughter of one who kicked aside a bunch of small fry, it was like he was ridiculing his own thoughtlessness at the time. He was laughing at himself.
"… If you hold that much power, why did you refuse to accompany Reiji-sama?"
"I can say that same thing right back at you right? With that much force I don’t believe you even need a hero though?"
"You did not answer my question."
As she flatly stated this, Suimei let out a snort like he was not amused in the least.
"I said so before didn’t I? I want to return to my own world. To go out and try and defeat the Demon Lord would be moving in the complete opposite direction from my goal. Isn’t it? Then, there was no choice but to split up and move on my own."
"Reiji-sama is your best friend isn’t he?"
"That’s right. However, just because we’re friends, there are still things I will and will not do for him. Just as Reiji has his desires, I also have my own ambitions. There are those that I must protect. This time, when Reiji’s desires and my own were placed before me, I just chose to chase after my own."
As Titania was about to speak, Suimei pointed a sharp gaze at her like the tip of a steel blade.
"―’That kind of reason can’t stand on its own,’ don’t you dare spout something like that. Reiji heard your stupid circumstances and decided to defeat the Demon Lord. I don’t know whether he actually scrutinized the details or not, but that was all something he chose himself. At that time, he didn’t even consider my opinion or even consider how I always was in those situations. In that case, if I took care of him, it would only be meddlesome."
His words were certainly true. At that time, Reiji never asked Suimei’s opinion even once, he decided to take part in the demon subjugation by his own judgment. If one were to decide which one was dishonourable first, the answer would be Reiji. Reiji who had done so also never demanded that Suimei provide his assistance unreasonably. In that case, the fact that their paths split could certainly be said to be reasonable. Suimei grabbed the lapel under his coat and put his appearance in order. His clean black shoes flattened the grass before him as he stepped forward.
"Let’s start over. If Tia will come at me with her sword skills, then this time I will have you allow me to use my magic."
Immediately following his declaration, his mana erupted. A violent squall was born, it was as if the air formed an invisible wall that was pushing forward.
―He was coming.
The moment this thought crossed Titania’s mind, she began running before she even noticed. Fighting against the wall which was impeding her movement, she ran diagonally as if to cut through it. She was aiming for Suimei’s flank. She was running at full speed. The moment she decided her aim was to go around and cut in, she held both her swords with a backhand grip and kicked off the grass. As she crossed her swords before her and leaped towards Suimei who was standing there defencelessly, he stuck out his left hand wrapped in bandages with composure.
"Primum Excipio!!" (Number 1 Rampart, Local Deployment!!)
The moment Suimei chanted his spell, a golden magic circle drew itself in the air before his left hand. The point of both of her blades then collided with the magic circle. However, her swords were obstructed as if they hit a shield and let out sparks like they were rubbing against one. Titania wondered if the circle drawn using the light of mana in that empty space was defensive magic. Even though there should be nothing there, the point of her swords could not advance even a single iota forwards.
Due to her leap at full steam, she was now in a bad position where she was completely stalled on the magic circle. In this state, she would be unable to change her stance, at this rate if he used that power from beneath the earth, she would be unable to defend against it at the time she landed on the ground. It was possible for her to regain her posture, but that right hand that had begun to move did not seem to want to allow that.
"Permutatio Coagulatio vis Lamina!" (Transform, Solidify, Achieve Power!)
He chanted at the same time that Titania landed on the ground. The silver liquid pouring out of the vial in his right hand transformed into a sword. That right hand which anticipated the change as it swung back grasped onto the sword without err. As the magic circle vanished, a sharp wind assaulted her from the side. She did not think that he was switching to using a sword. And meeting her expectations, Suimei let out a delightful sound from his left fingers, and the ground between Suimei and Titania exploded. This was the technique which blew up the ground earlier. There was not chant at all, a fiendish magic.
"Adcentum transcription. Augoeides maximum trigger!" (Brilliant spell at maximum operations! Continuously deploy bombs from number one to a hundred, Carpet Bombing!)
Suimei’s voice accompanied Titania’s surprised expression, however her next actions and plans were all thoroughly and utterly blown away. In the empty sky above Suimei, a magic circle had spread out like it was watching over him. Right from the beginning, one after the other, Titania saw circles and the figures inside them drawn by mana appearing.
The blue scenery behind Suimei had been completely painted over by the brilliant magic circles. She could find no other words to describe it. Before that scene which sent shivers down her spine, let alone speaking, she was not even able to exhale. Escaping outside of its range, was not an option. She had no idea just how far its firing range was or how fast the magic coming out of it would be after all. That’s why she would not take any major evasive actions. Those magic circles were spread all over. They likely numbered around a hundred. If she escaped to the side, in only a few seconds, she would not be able to cover enough ground.
There was only one thing she could do. That was none other than to sense the moment the light would plunge down using the glimmer in the sky and the presence of mana to predict their path, and then evade on the spot…
In that rain caused by the mana’s brilliance, just how much was she being forced to dance? After a while, she then noticed that together with the end of the violent music being played by that magic, the magic itself had also come to a stop.
"―Aah as expected you’re quite skilled. Or would it be correct to praise your footwork? To see through all of that and dodge it all perfectly isn’t a human technique. Frankly speaking it’s to the point where I have no idea why you even summoned someone like Reiji."
The face of man as he boasted was cold and hypocritical. He seemed to be praising her for dodging all of that magic, however thinking about the fatal gap she presented before, she couldn’t feel happy about it.
―This was bad. The battle instincts that she built up from her experiences up until this point were ringing alarm bells in her head without stopping. Suimei’s magic ability, and even the magic he uses was completely incomparable to the magic of this world. Its destructive power didn’t even need to be mentioned, but the speed of its use and its versatility were all far beyond what she knew. Perhaps because Suimei saw the colour of Titania’s face while she was thinking of such things, he even let out a meddlesome warning.
"I said this to Menia as well, but the magic of our world and the magic of this world simply have different purposes. You’re better off not lumping them together when you think about it, got it?”
The man who named himself as a magician closed a single eye as he said this. After a while, he opened both eyes. What appeared in the reflection of those red hot eyes filled with a strong will, was desire. When they talked yesterday, he said he saved Lefille. There was also talk of him saving Liliana. Felmenia said that she admired his way of life. Then, just what reason compelled this man, who possessed preposterous amounts of mana and who could subdue all creation, so strongly that he must return to his own world no matter what? Just what was awaiting him there?
Titania looked at the man before her eyes once more. He was always cynical, playing the comedian, had a bland appearance, but now his figure was filled with wisdom. If at that time, he wore this atmosphere when he appeared in that place, she would have believed that he was the hero without a shadow of doubt. Right now, Suimei character led her to believe such a thing.
"… We, summoned someone who had yet to become a hero, and one who was already a hero…"
Titania was unsure if her flustered muttering voice reached his ears or not. But Suimei Yakagi snorted in dissatisfaction. As if he was saying he never had any intentions of becoming such a thing, that face which seemed completely dissatisfied looked like someone who pierced through their convictions without ever wavering.
"I am who I am. Something you can find anywhere, just a magician."
His words were the signal for the third round of the fight, though to Titania she felt like he sounded completely bored.
After firing off his magic and refraining from continuing the attack, Suimei’s fight with Titania was starting over once again. The girl before him fixed her stance, and once more let out the fighting spirit she showed at the beginning of the fight. Despite seeing Suimei’s magic and overpowering pressure, the fighting spirit reflected in her eyes did not weaken at all.
Just as he had surmised before, the materials that made up her swords was very likely corroded silver. It was created by using alchemy to treat silver using decomposition, purification and sublimation. In other words, it was melted and reduced using alkahest, had its molecular arrangement modified, and then transformed into a material with much stronger molecular bonds than before. It seemed that this world also had alchemy, though Suimei was still doubtful whether they were at the level of the other world in terms of technique or whether alkahest existed here. However, from what he could see, the state of the flow of mana and its sturdiness was quite comparable. He could say there was an eighty to ninety percent chance that it was just as good.
However, this was not the point that made her frightening. It was her sword techniques while she wielded those swords that was frightening. Her ability to manipulate two long swords was one thing, but what he admired was her curving swordsmanship. The sword’s absurd trajectory drew out a curve in the air. He wasn’t sure what kind of technique it was, but it was able to cut the earth and stones like butter, it was truly terrifying.
If it was only it’s ability to cut it would be one thing. The difficulty in receiving her strikes was what made her sword technique awe inspiring. When he first tried to take her strike he foolishly thought we would be able to flick it away. However Titania’s sword without exception struck on a diagonal path and couldn’t be stopped. He was unable to receive or flick it away, his style of leaving the sword to its flow was a complete failure.
The moment Suimei misread what would happen immediately after enduring with his sword was the moment his loss was decided. If he blocked them all using the rampart it would be a different matter, but in his current physical condition that would be quite difficult. Deploying his rampart in all directions would take far too much time, even if he endured using a single rampart in one direction, he would still be open to attacks in the gap between the ground and his circle as well as from the sides. A speed type swordsman was basically the natural enemy of any magician. The instant one stops attacking or defending, they would unerringly cut them down after all.
However, Suimei also had a reason why he would not lose. His body was still not in perfect condition, but for someone like him who would not spare his own life for a worthy cause, it was just as he wished.
As Titania skillfully rotated the grip of her sword in her hand, as it stopped, she immediately closed the distance and let loose her silver sword. That technique where he couldn’t even perceive her exhaling was quite a high level and was always accompanied by the sound of the wind.
Suimei greeted the strike with his attack magic. In the middle of her sword technique, the air in front of her eyes exploded, but it did not hit her. In the small instant right before it exploded, she must have perceived the air warping on her skin. Ignoring the shockwave she leaped and once more let her sword technique fly.
The point of the left sword came around on him. If he fell back it was far enough for him to evade. Or not, the sword in her left hand was the longer of the two. Thinking to evade by a hair’s breadth would be simply foolish. Even if he broke his posture, he would have to throw his body to the ground.
Clicking his tongue, Suimei evaded the blade aimed right above his eyelids by a hair’s breadth and rolled to the ground. After a single rotation, Titania was already greeting him with the next attack. For an instant, he could see a somewhat dissatisfied expression on her face. It was like she was saying that if her sword strike had met its target, the fight would have ended with blood pouring into Suimei’s eyes.
However, Suimei sensed her pursuit, the sword in her hand rotated and whirled around. Once more, she slashed at him as she jumped in. That was fine. While evading it, he was trying to judge whether it was an overhand or underhand strike, such was its speed.
Striking the ground with all her strength, her body rose. With a speed that could be mistaken for instant movement, Titania appeared before his eyes. She then spread out the swords that she had crossed. At the same time as that, a flash of silver light drew a wide and straight horizontal line, the air before Suimei’s eyes let out a short whistle from the slash. His only way out was to judge her range from the length of her swords and the length of her arms. If she held the same principles of the sword as the sword masters from his world, this was where Suimei would have died.
"Then how about this!?"
Along with a shout to raise her spirits, Titania changed into a gale running along the ground. The figure of her fluttering overcoat vanished from Suimei’s sight. By the time he grasped her position and got her back into his field of vision, Titania was headed straight towards him. Before he could finish turning his body, he could see Titania’s blade piercing the ground.
Titania was running while cutting the ground with her blade. Leaving behind a trail of dirt and grass, she was running towards him without losing any vigour. By holding her blade in the ground and holding back her sword, she was gathering her strength for a strike. In other words she was using the ground as a stopper for her long sword. The moment the blade separated from the ground, at several times the speed of a normal sword strike, a slashing attack came towards Suimei.
Without any hesitation, Suimei dropped the mercury katana in his hand and built his golden rampart. However, Titania suddenly deviated from her forward attack and was now moving as if to strike him from the side. She was coming from the right. Suimei had given up on determining her precise location, as he negligently pointed his rampart to the right as the incoming slash sent sparks flying. He had blocked the attack, but for some reason he could feel fierce chills running down his back.
Promptly obeying his body and leaping backwards, the point of the sword tore through the air and brushed gently against Suimei’s cheek. And then right away, the next stab came flying, and she repeated her actions. The rapid fire of interweaving thrusts from her two swords was a fierce attack with no extenuation. If it was the repeated thrusts of a rapier, there would be feints in the thrusts, but Titania’s thrusts were all filled with killing intent.
Without overlooking the destination of the thrusts, Suimei evaded the fierce attack, and then the thrusts stopped. At this distance, it would be best for him to put up the rampart and put some distance between them and begin using magic but―No. Judging that putting up any more defences would be a stupid plan, Suimei advanced. At his sudden advance, Titania’s expression warped in suspicion, but after seeing that he picked up his mercury katana into his hand, her expression changed to surprise. But…
"―You’re making light of me, Suimei."
As Titania puffed out those words, the joy of victory floated on her face. Faster than Suimei could even prepare his blade, her sword lunged out at him. Her aim was his abdomen, she was surely planning on striking in the gap between his internal organs.
It was a thrust where he no longer had the timing to dodge. It would definitely hit. Comparing their abilities and speed with a sword, her superiority wasn’t even something one had to think about. However, that was something that Suimei was fully aware of, if she wasn’t that good then it would pose a problem for him. Titania’s blade plunged through Suimei’s body and penetrated right through it.
"With this, it is over. Suim―Wha!?"
In the middle of her victory declaration, Suimei’s body suddenly melted away like liquid. Without giving her anytime to recover from her surprise, Suimei wrapped the pitch black coal tar liquid he transformed into around her body and hardened it. With this he stole the freedom of movement from her body. Titania fell over and tumbled on the grass. After enduring the shock of falling to the ground, as she looked up, Suimei was suddenly standing above her.
"That’s my win."
"―To think you could even transform your own body… You really got me."
Titania said this in a vexed voice after literally losing the ability to use her hands and legs. From her tone and seeing that she was no longer letting out her fighting spirit, Suimei released the magic around her body.
"… I understand. I will graciously accept my defeat."
"So you don’t care if I act freely now right?"
"With that level of ability, I don’t have any reason to complain."
With this, the decision was settled. As Titania went to pick her swords back up, she looked at Suimei with a somewhat puzzled expression.
"Suimei, why do you hide your power?"
"In the other world that is something that is completely obvious to do. It’s something like the remnant of that."
"Is that really how it is…?"
Titania was making a disagreeable face as she wasn’t really convinced. As she did, for some reason, she suddenly changed her expression and suddenly put on a strange attitude.
"And so, I have something that I’d like to request of Suimei though."
"I would like you not to talk about what happened here with Reiji-sama. Even though it is a selfish request from the one who challenged you, could I possibly ask this of you?"
Certainly, she fought him to forcibly make him do what she told him to do. Though Suimei didn’t really want to say this. She was just as she said, being selfish. But Suimei had no reason to refuse.
"That’s right huh. I’m in a somewhat similar situation, so fine. I won’t talk about how we fought."
However, that wasn’t exactly what Titania meant.
"No, not that. It is about the fact that I use a sword. Um… I said I don’t want to talk about it but… How do I put it…"
"Hm? Reiji and the others don’t know that Tia is strong? Why didn’t you tell them?"
"Th-that’s, um… I have a reason for not wanting them to know."
"What’s with that. Do you really have such an important reason?"
As Suimei asked her, Titania’s face suddenly flushed red.
"B-because, because! If Reiji-sama considers me to be some tomboy girl, he might come to hate me wouldn’t he!?"
At her sudden scream, Suimei stiffened with a dumbfounded stare. The details didn’t properly get parsed in his head. Even so, as he finally managed to let out his voice―
"Ha? Not just ha!? What is with that idiotic face!?"
"Don’t call it idiotic!… Or rather I don’t think he would really care about that kind of thing?"
"That’s just Suimei’s guess right? It is not absolutely the case! That’s why, it’s fine is it not!?"
Titania’s face which was pressing ever closer, was dead serious. Did she really not want Reiji to hate her to that extent? He felt like she was missing the mark, but setting that aside…
"… Well, I don’t mind. I don’t really mean to drag out our previous conversation, but aren’t you also hiding things?"
"Shut your mouth! I just said I have a proper reason not to tell them!!"
Titania was staring daggers into Suimei as she yelled in response. In an instant, her anger turned into a perplexed attitude.
"A-anyways Suimei. I have one thing I’d like to tell you."
"What is this all of a sudden?"
"That magic that you used to defeat me, it isn’t magic that is okay to use against a girl."
"Ha? Not just ha!? Think about it carefully!"
Titania was quite angry. Suimei had no idea just why she had to get so angry over it. The magic he just used was an attack which deliberately mislead the opponent. After liquefying, he coiled around his target and hardened. It sealed his opponent’s movements―
―After liquefying, he coiled around.
Suimei arrived at the answer, and while turning bright red, let out his objection.
"Th-that isn’t really anything perverted dammit!"
"Even if Suimei thinks that, the one having it done to them won’t! First it’s squishy then it suddenly hardens, it is an extremely weird feeling! Pervert!"
"Don’t say it in such a weird way you damn tomboy princess!"
As Titania pointed her sword at him with a red face, Suimei quipped back at her magnificently.
Finishing his fight with Titania, by the time that Suimei returned to the Imperial Capital streets, the day was completely over and it was completely dark. Right after getting back, Suimei sealed himself in a room which was decided to be a ‘Forbidden Space’, and after finishing his work, left the room and headed towards the living room.
When he got there, Reiji was there relaxing on his own. As Suimei was looking for the others, Reiji pointed towards the outside of the house. Suimei opened the door and stepped outside. And then, in the square between the buildings, he stared at the starry sky. After lowering his sight, before long, Suimei found the other reason he stepped outside.
"Hey Mizuki. What are you doing in this kind of place?"
"Un, just enjoying the night wind on my own."
Mizuki was sitting in one of the chairs left outside watching the moon. Suimei rustled around in his handbag, and took out what he wanted to take care of.
"Here, your shoes."
"My shoes as in… Why is Suimei-kun holding on to those?"
"Well that’s obviously, to sniff at their scent like this…"
"Suimei-kun that’s perverted…"
As Suimei acted out like her shoes stunk, Mizuki pulled back her upper body.
"It’s a joke, just a joke… I’ve been hearing that a lot today. Anyways, these are brand new you know?"
"Eh? Ah, it’s true. Did you buy them new?"
"Well yeah. Why don’t you try them on?"
Sitting down in the chair beside her, he looked up at the starry sky. As he bluntly recommended the shoes, Mizuki began to put them on.
"Eh? This is, quite…"
After putting them on and verifying how they felt, Mizuki began to cutely jump up and down in place. After a brief moment to check her shoes, she turned a surprised face to Suimei.
"I bought new ones and adjusted them."
"Hoeh? Suimei-kun’s house was a shoemaker-san’s place?"
"Not at all. I just have skillful hands… Well I used a magic I learned. I think it should be somewhat better and quite comfortable to wear right?"
Suimei made an impish smile. The shoes he just took out were ones he treated in the forbidden space which was his magic laboratory. Having heard the other day that she was depressed from breaking her shoes, he hastily used magic to improve some shoes so that they would be comfortable to wear while also improving the shoes’ durability. Mizuki then threw both her arms in the air in admiration.
"Amazing! Suimei can already handle magic so well!"
"So well you say, can’t you also do all sorts of things?"
"I can’t use that kind of handy magic, I prioritized learning magic that was useful in battles after all… But that’s not the case for Suimei-kun right?"
"Fufufu, so that I could live comfortably, it’s my principle not to hold back my efforts."
As Suimei joked around, Mizuki sat back down in her chair and made a gentle smile which was truly like her.
"That’s just like you Suimei-kun. Ah, thanks you for these."
Suimei replied as he raised his hand lightly. With this her journey should become somewhat more comfortable.
"… Umm, you know what, Suimei-kun."
Suddenly, Mizuki called out to him with a somehow gloomy expression. She was looking into a corner of the alley where there was nothing there. Suimei grasped that the atmosphere around her changed, however he still listened like he always did.
"What is it?"
"Suimei-kun has already fought with monsters and demons right?"
"At that time, were you not scared?"
"I pissed myself."
As Suimei declared this, Mizuki stood up.
"Liiiiar! Geez… Suimei-kun is just full of lies. Would someone who had a yakuza-san’s pistol pointed at him and reacted by making a bored face say that kind of thing?"
"What, you still remember that?"
"Of course I do. Cause that, back in that world, that was the most dangerous time in all my memories you know?"
She certainly had a point. In the past, when Mizuki was still suffering from chuunibyou, she picked up a weapon dropped by a man related to a dangerous office and it became quite the disturbance. In the end Suimei went with Reiji to save her at that time. Reiji’s attack filled with his righteous justice and zeal was secretly being supported by Suimei’s magic though.
"Somehow if it is Suimei-kun, even if a monster was right in front of you, I feel you’d just be completely calm. Somehow, it has been like that since way back? Right?"
Suimei gave a vague reply. However, he could say that she was right on point. At the time he first called out to Mizuki too, she noticed that atmosphere around him, it was part of his immaturity as a magician. Thanks to that, he ended up becoming friends with her though. When he paid attention, he noticed Mizuki’s expression had become quite serious.
"But you know, I was scared. That was also the case with the normal demons, but before the stronger demon, I couldn’t move anymore."
"Wasn’t that guy a Demon General? In that case it can’t be helped."
With that Rajas as an enemy, a girl who until recently was just a normal student could not possibly stand and face him. Even Suimei who had a fair amount of experience with fighting faltered when he first met Rajas. However Mizuki shook her head, she couldn’t accept it. She couldn’t accept the words stating that it couldn’t be helped.
"Just a little more, it was only just a little more. If I was able to use magic there, the fighting may have ended right there. In the end Reiji-kun defeated him right after though…"
"That’s being a little selfish. Mizuki stood to face a Demon General right? That’s more than enough."
"But, after it ended they got angry at me."
"They may have been angry at the time, but I think that deep down they all thought you were amazing."
"… Is, that right?"
"That’s right. That’s why you have nothing to worry about."
Suimei laughed off Mizuki’s worries telling her it was just needless anxiety. She then suddenly gazed at the stars.
"Suimei-kun. Just what is courage?"
"Heeh…? Ah! Owowowowowow…."
"Geez! I’m seriously asking you here you know!?"
"Aaaah, what, I completely thought you relapsed or something…"
"There’s no way right!? Geez… This is a fantasy world, it’s a world where you really need courage, that’s why it should be fine to ask isn’t it?"
"… Well that’s fine. Rather, what are you expecting me to say asking me that kind of thing? Why don’t you ask that kind of thing to a real life manga protagonist? Like Reiji, or Reiji."
"Today I feel like asking Suimei-kun. Hey? Suimei-kun also had to go through dangerous things since coming here right? That’s why I thought Suimei-kun would know that kind of thing."
"You sure say some difficult things. Or rather I’m mostly acting out of a man’s obstinacy you know?"
"What’s with that?"
"A woman wouldn’t understand."
"Muu. Why do you only reply with those mean answers?"
As Mizuki was beaten down and swelling up her cheeks, Suimei let out a laugh and then a sigh. He then faced her.
"You, do you want courage?"
"That kind of thing, isn’t something you can acquire easily you know?"
"So, how do I acquire it?"
"Dunno, that kind of thing."
As Suimei coldly asserted this, Mizuki dropped her shoulders and sank into silence. Suimei got a little uncomfortable, and took in a breath, and then began speaking.
"There’s something I’ve heard before. It’ll be something like you’d say, but there’s the saying that a fire burns in your heart, right?"
"That’s the hot blooded type chuunibyou. I’m the cool type evil eyed chuunibyou."
"What’s with that? There’s categories now?"
"That’s right. It’ll be on the test so you better study."
Mizuki proudly declared that and then once more returned to the depressed expression she had before. Her change of expressions were hectic as usual. The way she worried too much about things hadn’t changed at all. She much have been thinking of these things all during her journey to the Imperial Capital.
"Mizuki, I don’t really know anything about that thing called courage. But you know, humans have all sorts of emotions. When those emotions become so grand that you would not lose to the ones standing before you, I think that you would surely be able to naturally take a step forward."
"But, I don’t have that kind of thing."
"You, you said you’d become Reiji’s strength at the castle didn’t you? At that time that you faced Rajas, wasn’t it because of those emotions that you rushed in? Am I wrong?"
"It’s fine. You also have courage. I don’t know where that thing that you can’t see with your eyes is so it may be worrying… However, in anybody’s life there is without exception at least one instance where they are forced to do nothing but grind their teeth. When that time comes, you will also surely be able to naturally step forward."
As he said this, Mizuki made a curious face.
"… Talking from experience?"
"Because I experienced that far too late, father died."
"A lie. I said he died from a traffic accident right? Just a joke."
"That’s, unusually dark for you…"
Suimei slapped Mizuki’s depressed shoulders telling her to just feel relieved.
"Well, don’t worry about it so much. You stood before that kind of monster while holding onto such thoughts after all, being able to step forwards will come soon enough."
As he said this, Mizuki hung her head down like she was biting on her words. And then, when she once more raised her head, that depressed expression she had was just a little brighter than before.
"Un. Thanks. I think it may be a little easier now."
Suimei pointed his usual cynical smile towards her.
…While the two of them were talking, it seemed that others were peeping on them from the second floor window. Four people were rustling around. Trying not to be heard by Suimei and Mizuki below, Titania spoke to Reiji.
"Suimei is a lot more reliable than I thought he was."
"To Mizuki, Suimei was her first good friend after all. He’s a little special. Honestly, I’m a little jealous of the fact that she can rely on him for things like that."
Reiji let out a lonely smile as he couldn’t be relied on much. As Felmenia looked at him, she made an expression like she figured it out.
"… I see. Is this that thing where you don’t want to show your weakness to the person you love?"
"Eh? Sensei, who’s this person she loves?"
He was deaf. No, rather than his ears being bad it was more correct to say his senses were bad. Titania, Felmenia and Lefille all let out a worried groan.
"No, no, you’re supposed to sense it from the context, Reiji-dono…"
"That’s just Reiji-kun in general…"
Following Felmenia’s exasperated voice, Lefille also let out the same kind of voice in agreement. On the other hand, Reiji still had no idea what was going on, and was only putting on a curious face with his head cocked to the side. As the four of them were peeping on the two below from the window in this manner, the door to the house clapped open. The one who came out, was Liliana.
"Au… Suimei, are you there?"
She was in her pajamas, her reddish violet hair was not done up in her usual twin tails, but was instead let down behind her. She was hugging onto a pillow with sleepy eyes, even her tone was sleepy. Her steps were a little shaky. She must have stepped outside while still half asleep. Seeing this, Suimei spoke up.
"What’s wrong, Liliana?"
"I got lonely."
"What happened to Lefi and Menia?"
Liliana shook her head.
"The two of them, aren’t there."
As he heard Liliana’s words, Suimei was seized with suspicion. What did she mean by not there? This was the only exit to the house, there’s no way they wouldn’t be inside. And then finally realizing and looking up, he could see shadows moving in the window.
"So that’s how it is…"
He figured out they were peeping in on him from the window. Seeing all their heads dive down as he looked, he let out and sigh and stood up from his chair.
"Then, shall we go back?"
Liliana let out a big yawn, and while still in a daze, gave him a single big nod.
"She’s quite attached to Suimei-kun huh."
"Hmmmm, it’d be nice if that was the case."
"If that was the case? It’s just that… Seriously, that part of Suimei-kun is exactly the same as a certain someone else…"
While talking of such things, the three of them returned to the house.
Several days had passed since Suimei’s fight with Titania and his talk with Mizuki. For the sake of gathering information on the tall shadow, Suimei was going around the city. Perhaps because the lingering heat on them had cooled down, or because they never had any intent on coming into contact since the beginning, the authorities from the Empire never got into contact with them. As such, Suimei and Felmenia were once more moving about outside.
Their current objective was naturally the capture of the mastermind behind the scenes, the tall shadow. For the time being, Suimei had an idea as to who this was, but for the sake of being able to drive them into a corner, he needed to get a hold of more materials.
Both he and Felmenia split up for the purpose of gathering information. Suimei was on his way back to the base when he met up with Reiji, and the two of them were headed back to the house together. As Suimei walked languidly, he looked at the unbalanced look of Reiji in his school uniform with a sword at his waist and spoke to him in admiration.
"To think you already memorized the layout of the Imperial Capital…"
"That so? If you just walk around normally I think it is something you just naturally memorize though?"
Reiji replied like it was completely trivial. He had spent the day strolling around the streets of the Imperial Capital alone to memorize its layout. As Suimei lightly poked him with a fist, Reiji put on a cheerful smile. And then in a complete change, he made a serious expression.
"Come to think of it, Suimei. If I remember right you said you were looking for a way back to our world right?"
"Yeah, I want to return no matter what after all. Ah, of course once I find it I’ll let you guys know."
"Does it seem fine? Will you find it?"
"Don’t underestimate me eh? Who the hell do you think I am?"
As Suimei reliably struck his own chest, Reiji suddenly burst out in laughter.
"As usual that part of Suimei is weird huh."
"Even though you said you didn’t want anything to do with danger, aren’t you just jumping into danger on your own now?"
"I got enough of that sermon last time… If I don’t brave those dangers, I won’t be able to grasp what I want."
"Do you want to go back that badly?"
"What, is that weird?"
"No, it’s just that I thought you would find it easier here since this world doesn’t have any shackles for you like the other world."
As Reiji stared at the sky, Suimei jokingly retorted.
"It’s more relaxing over there you know? There are plenty of delicious things there too."
"You’re working hard because you want to relax?"
"That’s just what humans are."
Suimei declared this in a self deprecating manner. And then as if he had his own worries, he let out a serious sigh.
"Besides, there are tons of things I left behind."
Reiji cast down his gaze as he heard those words. As expected, he also had many things he left behind that weighed heavily on his mind. Since Suimei was someone without a single living relative left, it should have been easier for him. For Reiji who still had family in that world, he probably thought about them a countless number of times. Above never seeing them ever again, Reiji was more worried about how they were doing, this was the reason he was currently so dejected.
"Well, once I find the means and get it to work, I’ll contact you right away, so look forward to it."
While walking back to the house with a lonely atmosphere lingering around them, they came back to the entry to the alley and spotted a familiar face. The one loitering around while peeping at their surroundings had blond hair, blue eyes and a slender body. As that good looking man turned to Suimei…
"How unusual, today you’re with a man?"
The man who noticed Suimei and let out that sarcastic remark was the hero from the Holy City, Elliot Austin. Seeing as this was the first time Reiji saw him, he asked Suimei for an introduction.
"Suimei, this is?"
"This hunk seems to be the Hero-sama that was summoned by the Holy City El Meide."
Cutting short his surprise at the sudden encounter, Reiji stepped before Elliot.
"I am Reiji Shana. It’s nice to meet you."
"―Reiji? Could you be the hero summoned by Astel…"
It seemed Elliot had heard the name before, as he spoke like he was questioning him, Reiji abruptly affirmed his thoughts. As he did, Elliot gave him a courteous bow and dressed up his greeting.
"I am Elliot Austin. I have heard rumours about you, it seems you defeated a Demon General correct?"
"No, in truth I didn’t really do that…"
Before the bewildered Elliot, Reiji let out a troubled sigh and explained what happened at the time. After a while, Reiji finished giving the general outline of what had happened, and Elliot made a slightly irritated face as he let out a sigh.
"… I see. You got swallowed into politics. You have quite the misfortune huh."
"That’s why, those rumours floating around are not the truth."
Reiji’s expression as he explained everything had a hint of depression mixed in. He seemed to be unwilling to have such rumours being kicked around. It all made him quite anxious. He was a very serious character after all, it couldn’t be helped. His normally bright light brown eyes now looked completely dark as they swayed. Elliot also sensed his mental state, and using a considerate tone of voice with no severity, he gave Reiji some advice.
"I’ll give you a warning while you’re anxious, but it is better if you do not let people like that do as they like. All influential people want to make use a someone who possesses a strong power after all."
"Are you familiar with such things?"
"Well, to an extent."
Elliot let out a slight sigh. Judging from that behaviour, in his own world, he may just have experience such hardships.
"That’s amazing. Back in my world I was only a student without any sort of power. I’m always late at being able to cope with these kinds of situations."
As Reiji said this, Elliot made a surprised face.
"… Is that so? Even so your movements look awfully well balanced to me."
"Really? I’d be happy if that was the case."
As he said this, Reiji naturally smiled like he always did. As this happened before Elliot’s eyes, he suddenly winced.
Without paying any attention to Reiji’s question, Elliot turned his face towards Suimei. And then, making a partition with his hand, he whispered towards him.
"This, it really has a destructive impact doesn’t it?"
"Don’t turn red dammit…"
Looking at Elliot’s expression, Suimei let out a sigh. He was tired of that attitude, but he couldn’t laugh at the fact that Reiji’s smile seriously had an effect on a man. Reiji who was completely oblivious to this while smiling, was also definitely Reiji.
"Austin-San. At any rate, thank you."
"Fufu, though in my current situation I’m not really one to talk. Also, I don’t mind if you just call me Elliot."
Elliot shrugged his shoulders like he was showing Reiji a friendly attitude. Seeing the two of them from the side, Suimei took in a breath in admiration.
"… Somehow you two really seem to get along huh."
"Far more than with you."
As Suimei bluntly replied to Elliot’s cynical gaze, Elliot seemed to have realized something and was now looking at both Suimei and Reiji’s faces.
"Now that I think about it, do you two know each other? I can’t seem to see the connection though."
"Well, I have a bit of a bond with this guy."
"A bond huh… Setting that aside, isn’t it bad to call a hero ‘this guy?’"
"… Is it that? Are you saying you want me too speak respectfully to you in a roundabout way?"
"Would you stop that? If you starting talking to me respectfully, I’ll have goosebumps running down my body for the rest of my life"
"Hooou. Then though it may be presumptuous of me.―My my if it is not Elliot-sama, would you kindly hurry along and spend the rest of your life in fright?"
Elliot dramatically grabbed his shoulders as Suimei talked respectfully to him in a tone filled with sarcasm. Unexpectedly, he was the kind of man who liked to go with the mood.
"… So, I also have something I want to ask, but why are you here?"
"Nothing really, I just came because I heard you were in the area. I came to take a look at just what kind of place you were living in."
"You sure are a whimsical guy."
As Suimei said this with an exasperated attitude, he suddenly remembered something.
"Oh yeah, last time you seemed to have played quite the active part huh?"
"Are you being sarcastic?"
"Nope, not particularly."
As the two started talking about things only known between them, Reiji was being left behind. He then decided to ask Elliot for details.
"Did something happen?"
"I confronted the culprit behind the coma incidents that have been raising a fuss in the Imperial Capital. However, unfortunately, they once more got away."
"Hm? You didn’t actually fight them?"
"No, there was no quarrel Just like last time that guy just ran away like they were playing around with us."
Elliot let out a vexed sigh. During his investigations today, Suimei heard that Elliot managed to corner the tall shadow. The citizens of the Imperial Capital were praising him but it seems they were a little off the mark.
"This time her Highness the Imperial Princess was also present though. It didn’t end quite so easily as before."
"I see. In other words, they’re quite the master huh…"
Suimei then noticed that Elliot had shifted his attention of to himself. It felt like he was being scanned.
"… It’s nothing. Do you think you’d be able to defeat them?"
"I don’t know why you’re asking me that kind of thing but… As long as I don’t know that guy’s actual capabilities I can’t really say anything."
As Suimei wouldn’t put up with that kind of guesswork, he unnaturally acted like he had given up. If both Graziella and Elliot failed at apprehending the tall shadow, he couldn’t be careless about it. While they were in the middle of this conversation, Suimei sensed someone’s presence. As he narrowed his eyes and glared off in that direction, the presence which noticed that they were found out looked back at him. Accompanied by a thin presence, they drew closer. After confirming the three people before them, they quietly came out of the shadows.
"Hou? To think there would be two heroes gathered together."
Just as Elliot’s voice implied, the one who drew nearer to them was the man with swept back black her with a bit of grey mixed into it― the Imperial soldier Rogue Zandyke. As usual, a military uniform using black as a basic tone wrapped around his body and a sword was ostentatiously hanging off his waist. That kind of violent look should have left Suimei with a dangerous impression, but for some reason, what stood out to Suimei was the shadow stretching out behind him.
The reason the impression he gave off felt so small was perhaps because of how large his shadow appeared when cast by the setting sun. It was like he couldn’t tell whether or not it was actually attached to his feet. Rogue stepped forwards with a strange gait. His reddish brown eyes were thin and sharp as he narrowed them to their limit making his severe slender face appear even more severe. Reiji suddenly drew closer to Suimei to talk to him in secret.
(Suimei, isn’t Rogue…)
Suimei had also talked about the circumstances around this man to Reiji and the others. As Reiji suddenly focused himself, Rogue faced Elliot and gave him a light bow.
"Elliot-dono. Her Highness the Imperial Princess Graziella is calling for you. Hurry up and come to the plaza, she said."
Did he come all this way just to relay that message? Hearing Graziella’s name, Elliot let out a grand sigh.
"My goodness, that imperial princess really treats her subordinates roughly huh."
"I can sympathize with that."
"If you sympathize with it then I’d like you to trade places with me."
"Shoo shoo! Go away."
Suimei waved his hand to drive him away but Elliot didn’t really seem to mind at all. As he combed back his blonde hair glistening in the evening sun, he seemed somewhat coquettish to Suimei. Reiji then called out to Elliot before he left.
"Well Elliot, I’ll see you again if fate permits."
"That’s right. At that time I’ll be in your care, Hero-dono from Astel."
After Elliot responded in kind to Reiji’s refreshing parting words, he left the area. After seeing him off, Rogue turned only his thin eyes over to Suimei.
"Suimei Yakagi right?"
"It has been a while."
"Before the search for Liliana began, you seem to have met with her right?"
Like Rogue, Suimei was still seeing off Elliot and was not matching his gaze. Rogue then turned and faced Suimei properly.
"I have a fairly obvious question for you, but do you know where Liliana is right now?"
"I don’t have a clue."
"Is that true?"
Suimei turned to face Rogue and nodded.
"Is it alright for me to ask something in return?"
"What is it?"
"You seem to be looking for that girl but, if you do find her, what do you plan on doing?"
Rogue returned a gaze filled with a rigorous will. After staring for a while, Rogue replied while maintaining his stiff expression.
"I don’t think there’s any reason for me to tell you that though?"
"As one of the people searching for the culprit behind the coma incidents, I would like to hear your answer."
"… It should be obvious. I will have her take responsibility for her own actions. That’s it."
"Even if her reason for doing so was to protect you?"
Rogue silently turned away. Those words he fired off as he departed were exactly like his temperament, simply stiff. At the time that he cornered that little girl it was surely the same. In that case, Suimei may be unable to topple his will. However even so, Suimei had to say it or he would not be satisfied.
"… It may be none of my business but…"
Both Reiji and Rogue turned to face Suimei.
"You’re that girl’s father aren’t you? Then, even if you are not connected by blood, as long as you have decided to be her father, you should act like her father. At the very least, to the very end."
"Isn’t that right? If you are her family, then you should be the one who believes in her right?"
Suimei let him know exactly what he held in his heart. However as expected, Rogue’s stiff expression never broke. After having said it, Suimei had cooled down, and his voice was now quieter than before.
"… A parent’s responsibilities… Hearing of such things from someone who is not a parent is certainly impertinent. However, if it is responsibility…"
"―No. I draw the line at calling her my relative. This is my responsibility as her superior officer."
As Rogue left him those words, he left without ever turning his head back. It was as if his figure was relaying to them his firm determination. Even so, even if his determination was firm, Suimei wanted to tell him of the things that girl held in her heart. In the end, all he could do was see that figure off. Reiji had an unusually serious expression as he turned away from Rogue’s figure and brought his face closer to Suimei.
"… Suimei. From what I’ve heard, I think that person is awfully suspicious."
"Is this about the culprit? Nope. That person is not the mastermind."
"Is that so?"
"Yeah. Without a doubt. For the time being, I do have a clue as to who the actual culprit is."
While Suimei and Reiji were having this exchange, they heard the sounds of footsteps running towards them from behind. After belatedly noticing it was aimed towards them, they heard a voice call out to them.
"Suimei-dono! Reiji-dono! It’s terrible!"
As they turned around, Felmenia was running as she gasped for breath.
Within a single room inside Suimei’s base, was a magic circle he installed letting out a mystical light. On top of it, was Lefille, who was down on one knee giving a prayer on her own. That completely immobile figure down on one knee was just like a devout follower earnestly praying to god while waiting for that god’s blessing. Or rather, seeing how she was a follower of the Goddess Alshuna’s teaching and believed in her existence, it wasn’t just like that, it was precisely that. The pure blue beam of light illuminated all the furniture in the gloomy room in a wondrous manner. One would think that no one at all would be permitted to invade that space, such was its beauty. A knock reverberated in the room. As Lefille opened her thin eyes and turned towards the door, she heard Suimei’s voice from the other side.
"Lefi. How is it?"
"Aah. It’s considerably good. Thanks to the circle you made, I feel like I’m getting back into my stride quite well."
Hearing her cheerful voice, Suimei took in a breath of relief.
"Is something the matter?"
"Yeah, seems like something happened. We’re going to all talk about it together, so I came to get you."
"… What could it be, I have a bad feeling about it."
She heard his agreement and could see an image of Suimei shrugging his shoulders from the other side of the door in her head. Lefille stood up and headed towards the living room with Suimei. As they arrived, Felmenia, Reiji’s group as well as the knight escorts were all already gathered. Everyone crowded around the table and took their seats, then Felmenia cut to the chase.
"I was outside gathering information in the streets just now, but I heard something that concerned me."
Felmenia had a grim expression on like her blood was curdling as she said this. Suimei cut in to urge her on.
"I was eavesdropping on the soldiers who were talking in the plaza. But, they were saying that they have ascertained Liliana’s location."
"So they found this place out…"
The expected time had finally arrived as Suimei took a breath. He knew it was only a matter of time, but he was hoping it wouldn’t be so soon.
"White Flame-dono. Is that for certain?"
"Yes, your Highness. Using ma… magic, I got the information from deep within the headquarters in the southern plaza. I don’t think there is any mistaking it."
After replying to Titania’s question, Felmenia continued her report.
"And that isn’t all. I heard a few times that for the purpose of rounding up all those involved with Liliana, they were going to take action this evening."
"In other words, the Empire― Princess Graziella intends to capture all of us."
Lefille groaned in ill humour. Certainly if they determined her location, it was only the natural flow that they would want to capture those who were sheltering Liliana. However…
"So the reason that hero was loitering around the area, was for this…"
"That’s probably it."
Suimei gave Reiji a nod. Elliot’s arrival with this kind of timing was simply too unnatural. No matter how he looked at it, where Suimei was living was completely inconsequential to Elliot. It was completely impossible that he came to look out of curiosity. However, if the strategy was going to take place this evening, him coming to have a look made total sense. As for where they managed to get the information on Liliana’s location― Suimei did have a prediction about it.
Next, Lefille turned to face Felmenia.
"Felmenia-jou, will Princess Graziella be coming?"
"Eh? Yes, probably, she would come herself right."
"Hohou… I see, that’s right…"
Suimei could only see it as appropriate. She just had that kind of temperament, there was no way she wouldn’t come. However, Lefille was quite fixated on this point for quite some time. After becoming small her expression should have been charming, but for an instant, to Suimei she seemed reckless and dangerous.
"Suimei-kun, what do we do?"
Before Suimei could answer Mizuki, Liliana’s trembling voice rang out.
"Like I thought, I should surrender…"
"I won’t let you do that kind of crap. Besides, it’s too late even if Liliana leaves now."
"But!… At this rate, I’ll cause everyone, trouble."
"Don’t worry about it. If I stopped to think about everything that troubled me, I couldn’t possibly live in this damn world you know?"
Saying that, Suimei showed Liliana a smile as she hung her head down in gratitude. On the other hand, Lefille turned towards Suimei.
"I agree completely about Liliana, Suimei-kun. So what will we do from here?"
"We’ll go catch the culprit."
As Suimei replied with his plan, the room became noisy for a single instant.
"In truth I’d like to gather more information before making contact. But that won’t fly anymore."
"Suimei, you said before that you had a clue as to who the mastermind was right? Do you have any proof that that person is really the culprit?"
"It’s about an eighty or ninety percent chance. I can’t think about anyone but that guy."
Suimei replied to Reiji’s question with confidence. This time Titania questioned him.
"It’s fine to go and catch them, but if we do that, will everything be put in order cleanly?"
"Absolutely cleanly would be quite difficult. Well, how about we prepare immediately to skip town in the middle of the night?"
As Suimei let out a laugh like he wasn’t thinking about it, Lefille and Felmenia both let out a sigh with a ‘good grief.’ As they did, Titania once more spoke up.
"And so, Suimei, will we all be going to where the culprit is?"
Suimei was slightly taken aback at Titania’s strange question.
"Why are you making that kind of idiotic face? I’m asking if you have some sort of plan you know?"
"… Could it be, you’ll cooperate with me?"
As Suimei looked at her in surprise, Titania made a face like she was saying ‘why are you even asking that?’ And then, Reiji let out an astonished voice.
"That’s completely an ‘after all this time’ kind of thing Suimei. Isn’t it obvious?"
"Yeah yeah, when we’re in trouble you’re the same right?
"But in that case things will become quite difficult for you guys from now on…"
"It’s fine. Besides, the one who is always causing trouble is me right? I would say something selfish, and Suimei would follow along. That’s the usual flow right? That’s why, it’s fine to think of it as me returning the favour."
After Reiji cheerfully said this, his face took a complete change and was filled with determination.
"Besides, I can’t just turn a blind eye to it."
Reiji’s voice resonated throughout the room. Those words he that he fired off were extremely promising. Suimei then started scratching his head like he resigned himself.
"… Aaah, Reiji’s famous saying just came out."
"With this, he won’t budge anymore right~ Suimei-kun?"
"Yeah… I know."
Strung along by Mizuki’s smiling face, Suimei also put on a smile before speaking.
"… Then, that’s right. If you all plan on cooperating, then I’ll take you up on that."
Everyone present returned a pleasant nod back to Suimei. Liliana then stood up from her chair in a fluster.
"Suimei, if you are going to catch that person, please take me with you."
"I don’t want to let Liliana fight though."
As Liliana clung to him, Suimei could only remain silent. If their opponent was the mastermind behind this case, it would without a doubt be the one who manipulated Liliana. Suimei did not really want them to come in contact with each other. However, an earnest light dwelled in the eyes of the girl in front of him. They reflected a strong will telling him that even if she could not bring it to an end herself, she wanted to at least see it through. As he saw her resolve, as one would expect, Suimei had no choice but to give in.
"I won’t let you use magic alright?"
"You might go through something terrible you know?"
"I’ve made my resolve. I do not, wish to run away."
"It’s really alright?"
"… Understood. Best regards."
Saying that, Suimei then moved on to talk about his plans for the evening’s battle.
After finishing their meeting, Suimei called out to Felmenia. She was currently headed to the forbidden space he was using as his laboratory. He called her over without any explanation, and up until now she had a wrinkle between her eyes. Using a special spell to open the door, the one who called her over was deep inside the room arranging some of his research tools.
"Suimei-dono. It is Felmenia Stingray, I’ve come forth."
"Oh, you’re here. Then just sit wherever you want."
Without even looking towards her, Suimei gave her instructions by gesturing his hand. Doing just as he said, Felmenia sat down in a chair that was lying around. As she did, Suimei finished organizing his tools and drew closer to her.
"Sorry ’bout that."
"No, I do not mind. So, just what is the matter Suimei-dono? Calling only myself over?"
"Aah, there’s something I’d like to specially convey to Menia from here on. Also I thought we should talk about tonight’s battle."
"Just with myself?"
Suimei nodded back at Felmenia’s puzzled question. From the preparations they just made, it was decided that they would split up into one group to defeat the mastermind, one group to confront Graziella, Elliot and the Imperial forces they lead, and one group to stall the chase.
"Just as I said before, I have no choice but to go with Liliana. That’s why I will have Menia take control of another matter."
"Eh, and so…"
Perhaps because she wasn’t expecting those words, Felmenia was making a slightly different expression from her usual self. Suimei then put his thoughts into words.
"That’s right. Dealing with Graziella is necessary, I was thinking of leaving it to Menia."
"M-!? Me!? Are you talking about me!?"
"The only one who could face off against that dangerous woman is probably Tia. But we can’t really play that hand. Lefi still can’t fight, in that case it can only be Menia."
"B-b-b-but!? For me to take on her Highness the Imperial Princess Graziella, are my abilities not a little…"
"You can’t do it?"
"It’s obvious! It’s unreasonable! She’s the strongest mage in all the Empire you know!?"
Felmenia was shaking her head with all her might.
"But didn’t they say that Felmenia was the strongest mage in Astel or something?"
"Since the Magic Institute is situated in the Empire, their studies of magic are at the pinnacle of the entire continent!"
Felmenia was unusually faltering with an ‘Awawawawa.’ It seemed she was still not accustomed to challenging someone of higher rank. Suimei pointed a slightly exasperated face with his eyes half closed towards her.
"… Didn’t you stylishly talk her down and run away last time?"
"Ah! That’s what we call a spur of a moment! We’re all sold out so there’s no second time!"
After yelling at Suimei vigorously, she let out an ‘Auu…’ as her anxieties made her depressed.
"Are you still anxious?"
"It’ll be fine. Last time it was definitely quite risky, but now you’ve studied all sorts of magic haven’t you? If you move around just as I said and give orders to Reiji and the others― Don’t worry, you should be able to defeat her no problem."
"I-is that true?"
Suimei returned a cheerful nod to her before continuing.
"Let’s put off the talk about tonight’s battle for later. First I’ll have Menia study about an important law of magic theory, the secret theory of entropy."
"T-the secret theory of en-tro-py… is it…? It seems like quite the amazing name."
After hearing about new magic theory, Felmenia’s withering figure took a sudden shift as she leaned forward in excitement. It was like the anxiety from her heavy responsibilities was a complete lie. It really showed how much interest she had in the mysteries of magic.
"That’s true, but before we start on that topic, first let’s do a review. Just what is what we call magic in our world? And then what are the necessary actions to use it? Give me the answer. Ah, I don’t mind if you’re brief about it."
"Yes. Magic in Suimei-dono’s world is so to speak, a phenomenon. Just as lightning will lead to the rise of a storm as long as the climate meets the requirements, in short magic occurs as long as the laws produced by a magician fulfill its conditions. It is lightning and the storm."
"And then the use of magic. That is to say, what is necessary for a phenomenon produced by a magician to manifest itself, is construction of the spell, the necessary commitment of mana, gestures, drawing of a magic circle, chanting the spell, using magic items, and finally the invocation of another plane. With those varied actions, depending on the magic being used, several of them are combined, and then magic will be invoked."
Felmenia answered confidentially right until the end as Suimei let her know she was correct with a nod. To create lighting using magic, say the invocation of the magic would require chanting the spell and a magic circle. In this case the magic circle would be the thunder cloud, and the chant would be the trigger for electrical discharge. It was something that reacted to actions. Within that, the manipulation and alteration of matter also takes place. Just as Suimei’s nod indicated, Felmenia’s answer was correct, however…
"There is something else that is necessary other than that, what is it?"
"Yes. For a single magic using those actions, it is necessary follow the determined processes and dedicate the determined amount of time."
"Exactly… Un, in terms of the use of magic, there are no problems."
As Suimei gave a nod like he was satisfied, he started moving around for a little while like he was pondering something.
"Next is… Something for reference. The act of using magic, in general, is by definition something far detached from common sense."
"Eh? The use of magic is, something that is detached from common sense?"
"That’s right. Well, the people of this world wouldn’t really agree, but please think of it in that way."
Hearing Suimei’s reference, Felmenia replied while still knitting her brows. In Suimei’s world, it was something completely ordinary, but it was completely understandable that she was not completely convinced.
Because the amount of knowledge the people of this world accumulated was still quite shallow, they had yet to properly distinguish between physical laws and magic laws. That’s why a law which was common sense like ‘an apple released from one’s hand will fall to the floor,’ and saying that ‘if one performs a chant magic will occur,’ to their world, the two were both explained in the same way as common sense. But for what he was about to say, being able to perfectly understand the distinction was something that was absolutely necessary.
"―Now then, it’s about time we move on to the main topic on the secret theory of entropy. From now on I’ll just abbreviate it to entropy, it is something that, in a determined place, mixes together ‘the components which establish mystical laws’ and ‘the components which establish physical laws,’ and renders them into a jumbled state. Well, that’s the standard definition with regards to magic theory."
It didn’t seem that Felmenia quite understood, But regardless, Suimei continued his explanation.
"First let’s touch upon the ‘the components which establish physical laws.’ Since you do not know of science, an easy way to put it for Menia to understand would be the cause of any phenomenon other than ‘phenomenon caused by magic,’ it is something that cannot be seen with your eyes."
"Something that cannot be seen, is it?"
"That’s right. It may be best to imagine what this world generally calls the elements. Next is the ‘the components which establish mystical laws,’ this one is just as it sounds. In complete opposition to what I just explained to you, they are what cause mystical phenomenon brought about by magic, it is also something you cannot see with your eyes."
"Aah! Like the elements! In short they help in causing things to happen for anything other than magic right?"
"That’s not quite right… Well you aren’t that far off the track either…"
Felmenia tilted her head at Suimei’s troubled way of speaking. However Suimei kept going as he was.
"Think about the entire world, with the exclusion of exceptional locations, as being largely filled with ‘the components which establish physical laws.’ Because of that, mystical phenomenon does not occur so easily, in its stead… Using a rather extreme example, things like objects falling to the ground, or how rubbing two objects together will produce heat end up occurring quite easily."
"If the world is largely composed of those components, then just where are those ‘the components which establish mystical laws’?"
"In certain regions, in short in places where phenomenon occur that cannot be clarified by physical laws called ‘mystical locations’ exist. They can also be called places where magicians caused mystical actions. In other words, if one were to use magic, a space filled with ‘the components which establish physical laws’ will give birth to ‘the components which establish mystical laws’."
"And so with the use of magic, the amount of ‘the components which establish mystical laws’ in the space increases, and naturally in a single space, two different types of components will exist. And so, this thing called ‘the components which establish mystical laws’ really hates the other thing called ‘the components which establish physical laws,’ and right as its given birth it immediately starts fighting with the other type of component."
"A fight between components… is it?"
"If it is difficult to picture, try imagining those two invisible components as tiny people caught in a melee. This is what I meant earlier by a jumbled state."
"Tiny people… I can somewhat picture it thinking of it like that… but when those tiny people fight, what happens?"
"When the two tiny people known as components begin to fight, to put it roughly, all phenomenon except for magic cease to occur properly."
"Are you saying that the phenomenon where objects fall the ground will have difficulty occurring?"
"Rather than have difficulty occurring, it would be more correct to say that other effects become easier to produce. In general that would manifest in the form of failure of the original phenomenon."
"So, does that mean the object would cease to fall, and it would be possible to have it fly off in another direction?"
"Speaking very roughly, yes. In practice, as long as it isn’t something big, the effect of simple physical laws would not appear, but more advanced physical laws would freely affect it though…"
Suimei hesitated to say it. To Felmenia who did not understand science, the explanation of advanced physical laws would take quite some time and it didn’t have much relevance to what they were talking about.
"Somehow or other I understand. To summarize, just from using magic, it causes a disturbance which makes it easier to produce the desired result right?"
"Yes. Also the larger the fight, the larger the entropy becomes. Well, it’s an indicator for the scale of the fight."
Suimei nodded at Felmenia’s reply. However, for some reason she wrinkled her brow immediately and tilted her head far to the side.
"But if it is like that, would it not remain in a disturbed state all the time? Do the tiny people stop fighting?"
"No, it isn’t like that. Because the secret theory of entropy is irreversible, the tiny people will fight forever without making up. However, because there are so many of ‘the components which establish physical laws’ in the surroundings of the tiny people―Though there is a time delay, reinforcements will pour in. The ratio of ‘the components which establish physical laws’ will become large and the physical laws will stabilize."
Suimei took a short breather here, and then continued his explanation.
"When one uses magic, both components will mix together and the entropy in that place will increase. The amount it increases is in proportion to the scale of the result brought on by the magic. When the result brought on by the magic is great, then amount of ‘the components which establish mystical laws’ given birth to will be quite large after all."
"So magic which causes a great result desires more components."
"Okay. Whether the result brought on by magic is great or small is decided by just how hard it is to make the same result occur without using magic. Creating fire is not particularly difficult, but breaking a large rock into very small pieces cannot be done so easily. It is that kind of difference."
"Certainly, for more difficult magic there are more processes to follow."
"That’s right. And with that, entropy will increase. And so, the magic I use compiled from modern magic theory is the type which increases entropy greatly."
"Modern magic theory does? Why? Suimei-dono said before that compiling modern magic theory has less processes when compared to magic from other system did you not?"
"Magic compiled by modern magic theory, instead of looking to produce the same result as other magic, it looks to speed up the use, reduce the processes and increase the power. The time taken from invocation to activation is shorter than other magic. Shortening the required amount of time makes it more difficult right? Producing the same result in a shorter period of time means that the desired result is larger."
"Ah, I see."
As Felmenia was now convinced, Suimei spoke as if summarizing everything he said.
"Well, I explained it in fine detail, but this is just as I said before, it is fine to just remember that when you use magic, entropy will increase. And so, the main topic of today’s lesson starts from here―"