Extra: Songstress 6

 

Successfully driving everyone out, Emilio passed by the maid in service to Cleo as he walked down the hall.

Walking by her in that empty corridor, neither side took a glance at the other. When her back faced his, he quietly called over.

“You play well.”

“Oh my, and I’m sure I was changing my voice.”

As the maidservant giggled, Emilio’s mood took an unpleasant turn. The voice she replied in was the female voice that relayed information in the dark room.

“Right around now, all the hindrances are in the sky… the dragoon’s powerful partner is leaving the castle. The higherups will rejoice.”

Emilio didn’t know whose orders the contact was moving under. But he also knew the maid hadn’t the slightest intention of telling him.

“I wonder about that. You’ve already failed once before.”

“Those words had some thorns. Once noon has gone by, I’ll have them move according to plan.”

“I suppose I should tell you to do your best. It does seem those of the Gaia Empire obstructed you last time… and there were some skillful ones among them.”

Hearing that, Emilio narrowed his eyes. He warned himself not to let any emotion leak into his voice. Over his clothes, he touched the egg-shaped pendant in his breast pocket. It was a precious memento of his mother.

“Even so, it seems the princess has quite a longing for the lifestyle of the common folk. Is that your doing?”

“Yes. Ever since I began serving her, I spoke of things that would make her yearn for a common life. What she couldn’t experience in her limited life… I was told to give the princess a dream she would never reach no matter her yearnings. But I never thought that would prove useful here of all places. A princess whose face goes red from being hit on is…”

Emilio grasped the gist of what the maid was trying to say. Cleo was much too dense to the malice around her. In her eyes, there were places where the ill-natured surroundings were only natural.

(I doubt she will find anything off. How truly pitiful…)

The maid continued on, as if to take over from his thoughts.

“… She truly is a pitiful girl. Her life taken without being of the slightest use, her days ending with her unable to accomplish anything.”

The maid’s voice was laughing. What’s more, it was the sort of laughter that made it seem she was enjoying herself so much she couldn’t help it.

“Sure enough. Once everyone has returned, I will go out to meet up with them. The location is…”

“If you’ll have them come to the central square, we will handle the rest.”

The maidservant walked off. From the depths of the corridor, another person came walking. Emilio started off as if nothing had happened at all.

(That’s right, this time, I’ll make it succeed.)

Taking his hand from his pendant, he strongly walked down the corridor. A resolve was beginning to seep into his expression.

(No matter what happens, Cleo will…)

 

 

Having taken off from the palace courtyard, Sakuya housed Rudel and Izumi, and Millia, Cleo and the party of three on her back.

“B-boss! The sky’s scary!”
“Let’s fly a little closer to the ground!”
“We’re really high up! If we fall, we’re gonna die!”

“If I fly lower, there will be collateral damage. You’ll have to put up with it.”

The three fell to all fours on Sakuya’s back, their faces pale, their bodies shaking as they tried their hardest not to look down. Rudel instantly vetoed their request.

In contrast, Cleo was…

“Amazing. So this is the sky! The sky only a dragoon can obtain!”

Delighted.

“That’s right! The sky only a dragoon can see! In order to get it in my hands, I worked hard from a young age!”

Every time Cleo rejoiced, Rudel was delighted as well. Almost as if he had gained someone who understood him, he frolicked along with the girl.

From the point of view of Izumi and Millia, whose hearts were dancing as they kept a close eye to make sure Cleo didn’t fall, it was a bit of a peculiar sight.

“Rudel, can’t you fly a little safer? And Cleo-sama, please take a seat and hold onto the handrail.”

Like a horse, Sakuya’s back was furnished with equipment for humans to ride her. A large bag was stuck on for luggage, and her equipment included things like handrails and cushions. Things that might prove necessary when escorting people.

Dragons of the gaia variant were slow when it came to transporting, but as they were able to move a large quantity of goods, they were a priceless addition to the dragoon brigade’s rear logistic support.

In battle, their slow speed and large bodies had them hated as easy targets, but even so, with their skin and scales that kept away normal attacks, they were the dragons that boasted the greatest destructive power. As a subspecies of such a race, it didn’t matter to Sakuya if there were seven people on her back.

“In the first place, why did they give permission? Letting the princess out like this shouldn’t be allowed… ah, come to think of it our second princess is casually attending the academy.”

When Millia spoke of the pink-haired expressionless princess, Cleo showed a degree of interest. But rather than the second princess Fina, she was interested in the academy.

“The academy, is it? A school that even royalty can attend sounds wonderful.”

“And wonderful it is! I especially enjoyed the fundamental curriculum’s interclass tourney, and the upper classmen’s’ individuals’ tournament.”

At Rudel’s statements that made it seem as if combat was the main activity, Izumi and Millia ended up sighing.

“No, you’re just a special case.”

Remembering the days of Rudel, Aleist, Eunius and Luecke fighting, Millia put a damper on his spirits.

“What makes you say that, Millia, you took part in a match in your fifth year as well! I think Aleist’s confession prevented you from exhibiting your full strength, not that I think about it, that was a legitimate tactic and…”

Millia turned red to her ears as she cried out.

“Don’t talk about that!!”

Not wanting to remember, she turned her face down.

But on the contrary, Cleo grew interested.

“It sounds amazing, Courtois’ academy… my country does not have such an educational institution, so I find myself envious.”

“I know, right!? When the tiger tribe men exchanged blows–”

“Rudel, don’t you think we’ve had enough of that topic. You’re giving the academy a strange image.”

Izumi stopped him.

Atop Sakuya’s back, they shared a laugh.

(I hope this takes her mind off it a bit.)

Rudel looked at the map he received from Emilio. And once Cleo and Izumi got into a girls’ conversation, he stared hard at the map in thought.

(… It’s a bit too far from the castle. If something happens and I have to call Sakuya, it will take too much time for her to return. This might have been a failure.)

Revoking it now would be a disservice to Emilio. But thinking of his duty to guard Cleo, Rudel knew that keeping Sakuya close would be the best deterrent. Right, just a deterrent.

(No, did they fear Sakuya conducting combat near the palace? When we’re doing the actual guard mission, we’ll need Sakuya to serve as transport.)

If Sakuya was caught up in a battle near the palace or castle town, the surrounding area was instantly be turned to a mountain of rubble. As he still had his worries about holding back, Rudel was cautious in that field. In the case that an enemy attacked, he would have Cleo board Sakuya to evacuate her into the sky.

That alone would prevent enemy hands from reaching her. That was how he saw it, and he wasn’t considering to have her take part in battle.

(It’s a bit worrisome they don’t seem to have any intent to protect her. Well, I’m the one who made the proposal, but… I should keep cautious.)

None too knowledgeable on the internal affairs of other countries, the fact his own country wasn’t monolithic became a stroke of good luck. He was beginning to notice there might be a separate force moving within Celestia.

It was strange from the start.

By relying on a foreign nation for guards, they invited in the dissatisfaction of the knights, what’s more, they didn’t send enough manpower around.

Rudel looked at the party of three making pale faces.

(Their loyalty aside, if they’re this unusable, I must presume they haven’t received basic training.)

They were spies from the other force… he tried to consider, but they were too unreliable for that. He thought they might be concealing their real skill, but at least from what he could tell by fighting them, that didn’t seem likely. And they had the mind to serve Cleo from the depths of their heart.

(They’re a sort… I’ve never had around me.)

As far as Rudel knew, that type of retainer didn’t exist on his home estate. He had seen enough of the opposite- those that mocked and tried to use him- to grow tired of them Because of that, he found himself just a little envious of Cleo.

(But whatever the case, we should be nearing the limit. Thinking of the princess’ stamina, we should descend and take a short break.)

It was nothing more than flying through the sky, but for those unaccustomed to it, the stamina expenditure was intense. Rudel decided to land and take some rest.

“Sakuya, it looks like the designated point is over there.”
‘Uwah, it’s a warm-looking place.’

Rudel couldn’t understand how the ground could look warm. But there was a mountain nearby with smoke rising from it.

“Is this area alright? It’ll be hell if an eruption occurs.”

The villages he spotted around made Rudel anxious. If the volcano erupted, the casualty figures would be severe. But near the volcano was a forest that had seen a good number of years.

“Ah, we’re perfectly fine. The sort of eruptions I hear about from other lands never happen in Celestia.”

Rudel inclined an ear to Cleo’s explanation as he had Sakuya lower altitude.

“The guardian deity is in a different one… a shrine in the volcano you can see over there, but because of his protection, eruptions never occur. Not since the founding of Celestia… so at the very least, there hasn’t been one in two hundred years.”

On her words, Izumi was mildly surprised.

“Not a single major eruption in a few hundred years?”

Cleo shook her head.

“They can’t happen. As I said it’s because of the guardian deity.”

Making a little… no, a sorrowful face, Cleo turned her head down. Unable to see her state given their position, the party of three regained their vigor as the ground approached, getting excited over the princess’ explanation.

“Our god is amazing! The princess is amazing too!”
“He’s a god after all! And as expected of the princess!”
“The god is amazing, but the princess is smart!”

On their three reactions, Cleo giggled a bit.

“That’s right. Even like this, I’ve studied, for what it’s worth. But it’s the first time anyone’s called me smart.”

Saying she was happy even if it was just flattery, Cleo smiled at the three. They seemed happy as well.

As Rudel looked at them, a scene of his own youth suddenly revived in his head.

(… That doesn’t matter right now.)

Issuing orders to Sakuya, he told everyone to prepare to land.

“Grab onto the handrails. We’re touching down.”

 

 

‘Building a house for Sakuya~.’

Sakuya sang a song as her large arms began digging a hole. Little ways away, Rudel watched as the mountain was shaved away.

Sakuya had her own criterion for which place was best, so she was apparently investigating. And with this serving as their break, Rudel and the others looked over the scene.

“… The rocks and dirt are flying through the sky.”

Ben looked at the parabola the soil drew in the air as he muttered.

“No matter how many times I see it, Sakuya’s digging is a magnificent sight.”

Rudel looked and nodded a few times.

“It’s amazing. If she has that much power, can the dragons do other jobs as well?”

Cleo’s question was answered by Izumi.

“They’re used for transport and land development. A skillful dragon can fulfill a number of roles.”

The princess took a keen interest to that response. Rudel recalled the port town of Beretta where he was stationed. While it was built at a harbor, it wasn’t as if there weren’t any fields. Preparing those fields was left up to Keith… when the Lieutenant Keith didn’t have any subordinates, his water dragon Spinnith could fulfill the role alone.

He didn’t have the same level of power as Bennet’s dragon, but if put to skilled labor, he could pull it off well. He made quite an undragon-like statement, saying he liked work that had to be built up one step at a time.

“Well, each dragon has its own quirks.”

Don’t just write off our problems as quirks, the upper echelons of Courtois would claw at Rudel if they heard the statement.

Sakuya was comfortably singing her song. There, going along with what should only sound like a dragon’s growl to other humans, Cleo began to hum. She was gradually picking up the rhythm.

The party of three looked at Cleo with faces as if they were to be moved to tears.

“What’s wrong?”

Ben explained to Rudel.

“What’s wrong… ah, you didn’t know? The princess is really good at singing. I don’t know how long ago, but back when we was still jobless, unsteadily topplin’ around, she was singing a song in the square. When we heard her singing, it moved us, got us inspired.”

Ben began to shed tears.

When Rudel asked the reason, he found the three had left their village unable to find work, and once they came to the castle town of Celestia, they lived by rummaging through the trash. Troubled for food, they were honestly about to stick their hands into ill deeds.

But hearing the song in the square, they popped their heads out the alley, and saw it was Cleo who was singing.

That clear voice held a certain something that resounded in a person’s heart. The fact these three hadn’t turned to crime was thanks to Cleo, apparently.

The voice had caused them to reflect on themselves.

“It was a real pretty song, see. Ended up pepping us right up. What we was doing started to look stupid. We stopped caring how cheap the pay was, searched out a place to work, and ended up guarding a gate that no one ever used. People made fun of us, but we didn’t give a damn. Working earnest, earning money… she made us notice there was nothing more rewarding.”

Cen listened to Cleo sing as he told Rudel a tale. Pono continued on after him.

“When we begged and started out as trainees, it was nothin but cleaning and chores. But man, if we put the work in, even we could do it, boss.”

As Cleo’s mood gradually rose with her humming, she began lightly singing to herself. Passan closed his eyes to hear. Rudel also inclined his ear.

(I see, so these three feel indebted to the princess. But if a song’s all it took to get them back on their feet, perhaps they were good people to start with. Whatever the case…)

The three were troubled for food, fished through trash, and in the end, were about to commit crime. There were surely opportunities for ill deeds before it came to that, so Rudel concluded to himself they were good at heart. And that the song was only the trigger they needed.

But…

(Yep, it’s a nice voice. I’m no good with those things, but it feels pleasant on my ears. Perhaps this is talent.)

In Cleo’s singing voice, Rudel could also feel something echoing in his heart. As a noble, he had received a general education. Music was included. But when it came to fine arts, especially music, Rudel didn’t exhibit any particular knack or talent.

Rather, Eunius and Luecke achieved excellent grades in music and art.

… Aleist was out of the question.

But according to Luecke, perhaps he was just born in the wrong era. Apparently. In various ways, Aleist was too advanced.

As Rudel and the others lent an ear to Cleo’s song, Sakuya cried out.

‘Higyaaaaah!!’
“S-Sakuyaaa!!”

Responding to the scream, Rudel leapt out to find the hole Sakuya was haughtily excavating welling up with water and steam.

Rudel rushed over to Sakuya’s side, surprised by the heat rush of the vapor, and the temperature of the water.

“Is this a hot spring?”

As Sakuya finally managed to bob her head out of the water, Rudel jumped at it and latched on, calling out.

“Are you alright, Sakuya!? Any burns?”

While he was worried, there, Izumi called over.

“No, Rudel… Sakuya is a dragon, you know.”

Right. Sakuya was undoubtedly a dragon. And the dragon in question floated in the hot water as she remarked.

‘Haaah, it feels niicccee.’

She was quite satisfied by the hot spring she had dug up herself. Perhaps she had struck the source, as the water wasn’t at a temperature a human could enter. To a dragon, such matters were irrelevant.

(Kuh, Sakuya in a bath… she’s too cute.)

From atop Sakuya’s head, Rudel gazed at his own dragon with great satisfaction.

 

 

Returning to the castle, Rudel reported to Emilio.

Before a soaked Rudel who had removed his coat, Emilio spoked.

“… So you’re telling me you fell in when your dragon changed posture? You haven’t been burned, have you?”

“I am alright. My apologies.”

Rudel and the others had safely returned, but Rudel had fallen into the spring. The reason was just as Emilio had detailed. Fed up, Emilio looked at Rudel as he ordered the servant in the room to bring him some clothes.

“Bring a change of clothing for Rudel-dono, if you please.”

Cleo’s maid nodded and left the room.

“Once Rudel-dono’s finished changing, we shall depart. Time is limited, after all.”

Feeling an urge to hold his head, Emilio looked at Rudel.

(Give me a break, Dragoon. I need you to do your job.)

It was a large strain on the plan.

But he continued thinking of how he would reconnect the ends of the deviating plan, and bring it towards a result he desired.

Cleo presented a towel to the soaked Rudel. The towel in Rudel’s hands was already sopping wet.

Rudel, Izumi, and everyone else felt ashamed.

(No, you’re not supposed to be doing that sort of thing.)

Emilio was troubled by Cleo’s correspondence.

“Princess, once the maid returns, leave Rudel-dono to her. Now let’s prepare to head o…”

After saying that much, Emilio noticed his own failure.

(Ah, wait a second. Cleo only has one maid. Then no one’s actually preparing for the plan?)

With everything in such a shapeless state, Rudel’s party were about to set out into the castle town.

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Extra: Songstress 5

 

The first night on guard duty.

Izumi and Millia stayed alert in the princess’ private room on rotation.

There was little to be found in that frugal room one wouldn’t imagine belonging to a princess. Her garments were always prepared by the maidservants, so there very many pieces in the closet.

Izumi investigated the room for what it was worth, but Cleo, who should’ve hated it, seemed to slightly enjoy the notion.

Sitting on her bed, Cleo grinned as she looked at Izumi keeping guard at the side of the room.

“S-something the matter?”

The place was different to Courtois, and Izumi thought perhaps she had committed a discourtesy as she called over to Cleo. But Cleo’s response was different.

“No. It is simply the first time I’ve invited a foreigner into my room… I found it a tad joyous.”

Izumi didn’t feel too bad, hearing that from her. This was also part of the mission, and she would keep up the conversation.

“Is that so? I’m something of a refugee. I’m sure the color of my hair is rare around these parts.”

“Really? Would it be alright if I heard the story?”

Cleo’s eyes glistened as they looked at Izumi.

(It’s not a bad feeling for her to be interested in me, but in the middle of a mission, it’s a bit…)

Troubled, Izumi apologized that she would have to stay standing.

“My house was originally from an island nation in the far east. Let’s see, the knights there use swords like this one, similar to sabers. They’re called bushi and samurai over there, but their role is similar to the knights of this country.”

As Izumi gave a simple explanation of her homeland, Cleo happily listened in. While she got the feeling she was acting a bit too young for her age, Izumi couldn’t bring herself to hate her.

“And the fact you’re seeking refuge means, umm…”

“Yes, my house was caught up in a war, and left the country. If they didn’t do so, I’m not sure I’d be living in this world.”

Seeing Cleo’s saddened face, Izumi regret her words. She should’ve talked about something more interesting, she thought, as she gave a meaningful clearing of her throat to change the topic.

“But now that I think back, I don’t see it as a bad thing. I attended the academy in Courtois, and I’m here as an honorable high knight.”

When Izumi smiled, Cleo did too. And she looked out the window.

“I don’t know anything… unlike my younger brothers and sisters, I was fated to be offered as the maiden from the start. So my education was kept to a minimum. I rarely had any opportunities to speak to a foreigner, so today was fun.”

To be offered. It meant her life would be forfeit. Izumi and Rudel had investigated the internal affairs of Celestia beforehand, and it was the most famous story about the country, so she knew about it.

About the blue-haired tribe that offers life to the god who made even Courtois stand down.

“I know I’m really not supposed to say this, but I’m happy that my attack let me meet everyone. I was even able to see a dragon.”

To change the topic, Izumi picked up the thread on Sakuya.

“You should mention that to Rudel tomorrow. If you tell him you want to see a dragon up-close, Rudel will be delighted.”

“Rudel-dono will? I don’t mean ill, but he’s a peculiar one, isn’t he? Millia-san did say, ‘he’s the strange one, you’re not crazy’.”

Cleo’s impression towards Rudel seemed to be fixed on him being a strange one. Labelling that a misunderstanding or mistake was something Izumi found exceedingly hard to do. Thinking about Rudel using Courtois’ knights as a frame of reference brought about numerous problems.

“H-he is strange, but he’s a good guy. A really good guy!”

It was the greatest defense she could muster.

“Fufufu, you get along, I see.”

“Yes, he’s a precious friend.”

Seeing Izumi’s expression as she said that, Cleo tilted her head. Something wasn’t sitting right in her stomach; she tried asking Izumi.

“You’re not lovers? Um, you make a wonderful face whenever you talk about Rudel-dono, you know.”

“That’s wrong. He’s a dear friend from the academy. A little circumstance has led me to stay by his side as a colleague, nothing more and nothing less.”

If she called it a little circumstance in Courtois, the royal palace would be abuzz with cries of, ‘are you sure you’re taking this seriously with an attitude like that?’. For the sake of the country, Izumi was appointed as Rudel’s special inspector. It wasn’t an exaggeration to say it was a mission of the utmost importance.

Rudel was generally classified as a first-rate knight. Strong, proud, and even loyal. But the most important thing was… he was an idiot.

Not the sort that couldn’t study, the type that burst into erratic conduct the very moment the idea struck his head. Even after he was instated in the dragoon brigade, he had repeated numerous bouts of problematic behavior that dragged all his surroundings in. What’s more, the biggest problem to Courtois was the fact Rudel had obtained an outrageous dragon like Sakuya.

‘If that thing gets serious, this country is seriously done for.’

The reason the upper brass seriously thought so was largely due to a single knight, feared by Courtois and all the countries that bordered it.

Rudel idolized that knight… Marty Wolfgang.

It’s been said the King of Courtois once cried out, ‘Why did it have to be him of all people!’ or something along those lines…

Putting all jokes aside, there was no doubt keeping Izumi with Rudel was an important measure.

“Are you sure?”

Said Cleo with a slight laugh.

As Izumi found it strange, Cleo spoke.

“I’m sorry. Love gossip, was it? I wanted to try doing something like that.”

Cleo was raised in the castle. She was raised as if the only important thing was that she was alive until the time came… or so was the feeling Izumi got.

The room’s interior was modest, and she could think it belonged to a princess who held an important role.

“At the end, my dreams keep getting granted one after the next, I’m overjoyed.”

“… Is that… so.”

Izumi didn’t know what words to send her anymore.

 

 

Once the night had advanced, two faces peeped out of an inn window with a view of the palace.

It was Aleist and Nate.

Nate peered into her telescope, changing the magnification with the regulator stuck to the side as she inspected every last detail. Aleist wasn’t very knowledgeable on the matter, but as it was constructed as a magic item, it was most certainly an expensive piece. Not something Nate would be able to purchase.

There was one at Aleist’s house as well, but he had only ever seen his father carefully stow it away a few times.

“I was also thinking it around noon, but who really are you, Nate?”

When Aleist asked, Nate continued peering into the telescope as she conversed.

“You want to know? Once you know, there’s no going back? Senpai, you might just get swallowed up in the mysteries of an enigmatic woman like me.”

“Yeah, not happening. I just wanted to ask what sort of secret you have.”

Aleist waved his hand, laughing Nate’s words away. And he decided to change the topic.

“So what are you doing?”

“I’m confirming the state of the castle. The departure’s the day after tomorrow, but there’s no telling what’ll happen until then.”

“The day after tomorrow?”

Aleist tried to recall what would happen in two days.

He remembered Rudel’s main mission would take place at that time.

“Come to think of it, is Rudel alright?”

“Sakuya-chan’s nice and quiet, so I think he’s just fine. Rather, she’s fidgeting restlessly, and it doesn’t seem she can settle down.”

“Eh? You can see her with that? Let me have a go.”

“Go ahead. If you adjust it here, you can change the scaling.”

Accepting the telescope, Aleist zoomed out to search for Sakuya. He spotted her popping her head over the castle wall from time to time.

She seemed restless and unsettled.

“What is that girl doing?”

As Aleist said that, Sakuya’s eyes met with Aleist’s across the telescope. That was scary, he thought, putting the telescope down, and looking at the castle in the distance. From here, he couldn’t see Sakuya’s form. Somewhat relieved, he tried peering in again, only to find her staring straight at him this time.

“… Nate, thank you.”

He didn’t want to think Sakuya had noticed them, but Aleist was hated by Sakuya. In the case that he really was sighted, the very fact Sakuya moved would become a huge problem.

“You’re already done with it?”

He returned the telescope to Nate. There, as if suddenly hitting on something, she began to speak.

“Come to think of it, senpai, you have any interest in peeping? In that case, you want me to lend you my telescope?”

Nate gave a sly laugh as she held out the device, but Aleist was getting tired, so he wanted to return to the bed. What’s more he had no interest in peeping.

“What’s that? Ah, no, I’m fine.”

Having lost interest in such talks as of late, it was on a level where he wanted a magic device to prevent being peeped on. Within Aleist’s harem, there were a few who specialized in magic. Those girls would identify Aleist’s bathing time to launch their attacks.

“Rather, you know, give me something so I don’t get peeped on myself.”

While Aleist made a relatively sincere plea, Nate’s face twitched.

“… I know I’m not one to speak, but you really are an off one, senpai.”

“You think? I don’t notice it myself anymore. I’ve just kinda been real tired these days, see… ah, you’d better honor your promise and not assault me.”

Nate looked at him with a dubious face.

“Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? I’m the one who should be worried about getting assaulted.”

Nate spread out her arms to show off her own lightly dressed fresh-out-of-the bath form. Short, white pants, a simple shirt above… what’s more, the slight see-through nature of her clothing allowed a faint glance at her undergarments. Though it just looked to Aleist that she had purposely chosen undergarments with striking colors for the contrast.

“Don’t worry. I wouldn’t even assault you if you asked me to.”

Giving an immediate reply, he took his eyes off of Nate and looked at the room. Two single beds…

(Well, even if she tried, I’ll be able to run away. My intuition’s been particularly sharp in those things as of late, I’ll be able to notice before she makes her move.)

Flopping down on the bad, Aleist was delighted he’d be able to get his first restful sleep in a long time. While Nate was there, he didn’t seem to pay her the slightest mind.

“Early to bed, early to rise, what a wonderful phrase! Goodnight.”

“Uwah…”

Nate’s face was filled with conflicted sentiment.

 

 

Once morning came, Rudel went out to the plaza to see Sakuya.

Perhaps because of her presence, the plaza looked a little narrow. And around, the soldiers seemed to be surrounding her on lookout.

‘Ah, Rudel.’

When Sakuya moved, the surrounding soldiers cowered. There were some whose hips gave out, and others that readied their spears.

“What’s wrong? You don’t look too peppy.”

Seeing Sakuya not in the best health, he worried a bit, when Sakuya took a look around.

‘Um, well, you see… someone was looking. And Sakuya can’t calm down when she’s not in the ground.’

Sakuya was a subspecies of the gaia dragon that made their homes in the soil. As expected, they were most calm in the ground, and when sleeping outside… what’s more, an unfamiliar place, it was too unsettling.

(But even if she says looking, with so many soldiers around, isn’t that natural?)

Rudel looked around and saw the cowering soldiers looking at him with eyes demanding he did something about this. While Rudel could hear Sakuya’s voice, only Rudel could hear Sakuya’s voice. To the others, it just sounded as if she was raising a growl.

“Don’t worry. Right… I’ll ask if there’s anywhere nearby you can dig a hole. Your special mission is tomorrow after all. It should be fine if you stay on standby until then.”

A dragoon and dragon could communicate with their hearts. Rudel thought he could just call her if it came down to it. Though he didn’t think he would actually get permission for her to dig a hole.

‘Really!? The earth around here feels really warm, so it was on my mind the whole time! I want to build a house soon.’

“… No, making something so full-blown is a bit…”

Rudel felt somewhat apologetic. When it came to digging holes… no, to making dens, Sakuya had her hangups. She would make a number of chambers, designating the room furthest in as her private room. It wasn’t just a bit of a cave… it was a full-blown cave system.

Perhaps she had a good feel for the ground, or it was just intuitive, but amazingly, even if she arbitrarily dug with her power, it never crumbled. But even if he explained that, he doubted the people of Celestia would understand.

“Can you make due with a simple one? We’ll be returning tomorrow.”

‘… Fine.’

Sakuya’s sulking hurt Rudel’s heart.

(Sakuya… how cute can you be.)\But as a dragon idiot, even if his heart hurt as he looked at her, he still found her cute.

 

 

“It passed.”

“What did?”

Rudel sat at the same table as Cleo and Millia for breakfast. Izumi was still asleep, so it was a meal for just the three of them.

Near the door, Ben and Passan stood at attention. The party of three consisted of soldiers, and they were unable to eat breakfast with the princess.

For Rudel and Millia, it was treated as special.

“No, I went and asked Emilio-dono if there was anywhere Sakuya could dig a hole, early in the morning. When I did, he got permission.”

“… Is that really alright?”

As Millia sent him a doubtful glance, Rudel thought over it as well.

(This does feel a little off. Normally, he’d want to keep Sakuya as close as possible, but… could it be the soldiers just complained that much.)

He thought over various things, but he had received permission, he started devising a plan to lead Sakuya to the location. It was already arranged that Rudel would be told the location after breakfast, sending Sakuya in the right direction once he returned to the castle.

Once the maidservant finished the preparations for breakfast, the three gave a Celestia-styled prayer and began to eat.

The scent of bread and bacon wafted through the room.

Rudel looked at the princess, thinking of her almost as a small animal as he watched. The way she ate wasn’t unruly. More so, she was firmly following proper manners.

But the air around her was restless.

(Perhaps she’s mindful of me and Millia.)

He thought, and after he had eaten his meal and sipped his tea, Cleo came out with a request.

“U-um… if it’s possible, I’d like to see your dragon up close, would that be alright? Erm, Izumi-san said you would show me if I asked…”

After Cleo had shyly asked, Rudel quietly set down his cup. He looked at Cleo with a serious face.

Perhaps she was nervous, her body stiffened.

“Rudel?”

Millia sent over a worried voice. But Rudel…

“No problem at all. While we’re at it, would you care for a journey through the sky as I tell you the wonders of a dragon–! Millia, that hurts, you know.”

“Don’t hit on the princess! And there’s no way that would be allowed!”

As Millia talked on and on with a rough way of breath, she has a point, Rudel ended up agreeing. He had been delighted to hear of her interest in dragons.

But his aid came from an unexpected place.

“Um…”

“Something the matter.”

After the maidservant let out a voice, she lowered her head towards Rudel. And she made a desperate plea.

“I am aware of how discourteous this may be, but please take the princess into the sky!”

When he wondered what was up, the maidservant said something like that. He did think it wrong, but there Emilio made his appearance.

“A dragon, is it… I don’t see why not.”

“Emilio-dono?”

Unlike the day before, Emilio was taking on an attitude much too lenient. And he made a proposal to Cleo.

“Whatever the case, today is the only day the princess may have her freedom. Let’s see… all the more, why don’t you let her see the lands around the castle?”

“Don’t you think that’s going too far?”

Millia sighed, but Emilio let a slight laugh.

“No, I’ve actually been thinking it a while now. At least at the very end, the princess should be given some time to have fun… I’ve already received permission, everyone, please just unwind.”

As he said that and left, Rudel and Millia gazed at Emilio’s back. The difference between yesterday was one thing, but the problem lay elsewhere.

“I kinda feel something really off about this.”

The maidservant answered Millia’s words.

“That’s not true! Emilio-sama is Celestia’s finest knight. He is thinking about the princess. I was also desperately searching for something I could do for her and…”

The maid lowered her head and apologized for her rudeness. Next, it was Ben and Passan’s turns to lower their heads to Rudel.

“Boss Rudel, I’d like to make the plea too! Show the princess what it’s like outside the castle!”

“I’m beggin’ you here, boss Rudel!”

Millia endured a laugh as the two of them called him boss. Rudel looked over at Cleo.

(Well, I guess that depends on how Cleo-sama feels.)

He called over. But Cleo’s face was turned down.

“Cleo-sama, do you have any obj… Cleo-sama?”

A red face, shaking a little, when Cleo looked up into Rudel’s face, she started to panic.

“I-I! Um, uh… it’s the firth time anyone’s tried to hit on me!”

(Ah, she bit her tongue.)

Rudel was casually mindful of how she bit her tongue around the word first. Millia beside him held her head.

Posted in Dragoon | Tagged | 18 Comments

Extra: Songstress 4

 

Having accepted a mission to be Cleo’s guard, Rudel stood before Emilio’s unit in thought.

(Even if they’re official knights and soldiers, how truly unreliable for a princess’ guards.)

While that wasn’t the best way to put it, it was one knight and three soldiers.
… From Rudel’s point of view, it wasn’t an assortment that made him feel much motivation.

In the room he had been permitted use, the princess Cleo, and those assigned to be her guards had to think about their roles henceforth. A lady servant prepared tea for everyone. Within all that, Rudel called over to Emilio who was looking at him.

“Emilio-dono, in regards to the guard detail, I’d like to decide on the division of labor.”
“… That should do just fine. But even if I say that, the departure is in two days, so our mission only covers today, tomorrow, and the next morning. You don’t mean to tell me Courtois’ elite Dragoon requires sleep to exhibit his strength?”

It was a provocative phrasing, but Rudel understood his sentiment. The king of his country didn’t trust the knights of his own country. In a situation where he had to follow the orders of a foreign knight, there was no helping his irritation. What’s more, he was trying to do his job.

For now, that was enough… no, thinking of the mission period, it was plenty.

In that meeting-room like space, the nine of Courtois and Celestia sipped their tea in an inexpressible atmosphere. Cleo sat in a chair conversing with Izumi and Millia.

In front of the entranceway, the nervous soldier party of three stood to the side of the door.

(They’re too tense. They’re not going to hold out to nightfall…)

From the way they stood, Rudel perceived they hadn’t received a great degree of training. He looked at Emilio. Emilio was reputed to be proficient, and on the way here, he had spoken of how he saved Cleo in the incident.

Perhaps he was a trustworthy knight.

“We will be fine. Your worry is uncalled for. But if it’s possible to increase the number of knights and soldiers, then I must make the plea.”

Without an incentive to oppose, Rudel thought of nothing more than increasing the guard success rate. He simply tried to handle it with numbers.

But Emilio shook his head.

“That will be impossible. With last time’s attack, the knights have been spread out to the limit to provide security for the fortress city. The soldiers as well.”

As Emilio said that, Rudel thought.

(This is your country’s princess we’re talking about. But still…)

Rudel looked at Cleo. While she did seem cultured, it was honestly hard to imagine she had received education as a member of the royal family. She was kind at heart, but he heard much too many words from her mouth that would show weakness in foreign diplomacy. As seen as a princess, she was a failure, as a person, a kind and beautiful woman.

(A life lived just for death, eh.)

Rudel recalled Sakuya.

He recalled the goddess who cast away what little remained of her life to grant him a dragon. While the reborn Sakuya carried on her name, her memories didn’t remain.

He suddenly ended up seeing Cleo overlap with the goddess.
Rudel closed his eyes and suppressed his emotions.

(That is this country’s problem. The mission I’ve been given is to guard her until the day comes. Don’t waver, Rudel.)

Reminding himself of it, he returned to his discussion with Emilio.

“It would probably be best for a woman to enter the princess’ private quarters. I shall station Izumi and Millia at her side. The rest of us should guard her when on the move, and defend the perimeter while she is asleep. Of course, the soldier at the door will be deployed on rotation.”

Emilio grit his teeth at Rudel’s words. He was also aware the party of three didn’t have the stamina to keep up guard duty for two days.

Listening in, the three raised their voices.

At their cry, Cleo was surprised as well.

“We’re not chopped liver!”
“T-that’s right! An all-nighter is nothing.”
“With an afternoon nap, I think it’ll work out?”

Following on from stubble Ben’s loud voice, Pono weakly voiced the same opinion. Passan gave a reply that was quite clearly right out.

Emilio grit his teeth at that reply. Perhaps he wanted to tell them to shut it, but before Rudel and the others, he held it in.

“You lot, we don’t need your input for now. Once matters are decided, I’ll relay the orders.”
“I-I mean, captain…”

While Ben hesitated, Emilio silenced him with just a glare. Rudel evaluated him as a knight with some experience under his belt.

(He’s skilled. And unlike me, he has experience.)

Rudel himself could easily tally up his own real combat experience. Even so, as he looked at Emilio, he felt something close to home.

From Rudel’s point of view, this mission was a mission given to him because he had contracted with a splendid dragon… with Sakuya. Perhaps it was precisely because he knew that, that he could act so calmly.

But Emilio didn’t take kindly to his composure.

“Then how about it? Why not use this opportunity to discern one another’s level of ability?”
“… I have no problem with that.”

He brought the match to Rudel.

 

 

Cleo brought her feet to the training grounds used by the knights.

It was her first visit, and she did feel a something more suffocating than she had imagined. The training ground build indoors was lined with wooden swords, spears, and logs to use as targets.

When Rudel’s and co. were the only ones who were supposed to be there, the place reeked of men. Perhaps the way the room was constructed to hold in heat was to blame.

“I-it feels a little peculiar here. Are the knights always training in a place like this?”

Cleo struck up conversation with Izumi to her side. Black hair was a rare sight to her. And the dignified Izumi was older than her, giving off a reliable impression. If her own country had female knights, she imagined they would surely give off such a feeling.

“It varies by country and knight brigade, but when it’s built indoors, it can’t really be helped.”

Izumi understood what she wanted to say, not saying anymore. From how muddled her words were, Cleo understood it was pretty much the same wherever you went.

It was true that she was a little excited, coming to such a place for the first time.

But…

“Unacceptable! You’re nowhere near up to par!”
“Ow!”
“Not enough training!”
“Geh!”
“No technique to speak of!”
“Bubrah!”

As she saw Rudel take down the three coming at him bare-handed, her face turned pale. Looking at Izumi and Millia to her side, they were making unconcerned faces.

Defeating the three challengers in an instant, Rudel brushed off his hands as he spoke. At his feet were the forms of three trying to stand. Pono and Passan still struggling to their feet. And Ben had clutched onto Rudel’s ankle.

“But your resolve alone gets a passing grade.”

Hearing of their success, the three of them passed right out.

“I-is that a dragoon? That all happened too fast for my eyes to follow.”

While Cleo was troubled, Millia explained.

“It’s fine. Rudel is outside of the norm, so you don’t have to compare him to a standard knight. As long as you remember he’s the strange one, you won’t have any problems.”

“I-is that so. He’s strange? I don’t know anything when it comes to knights.”

The troubled Cleo looked at Rudel. He was hoisting up the three, and putting them to sleep on the benches. Emilio took off his overcoat and tossed a wooden sword at Rudel.

Catching it, Rudel took a stance with the left side of his body protruding forward.

“I don’t see a shield.”

Emilio also got in stance as he said. Rudel laughed.

“I just don’t want to change my stance. And I’ve no intentions of getting hit.”

On Rudel’s provocation, the two of them stepped in for an intense clash of wood. Looking at Emilio on the moment of impact, Cleo was surprised to find there was a knight who could keep up with Emilio. Fighting on even terms with the knight heralded as a genius was surely a marvel.

Seeing her expression, Izumi spoke up.

“Neither side is particularly serious, so there won’t be any injuries.”
“I-is that so?”

As Cleo looked at two knights violently swinging their wooden swords, it seems she thought they were going full force. There, Emilio increased the arc of his sword. With that opening, Rudel tried to leap in, only to instantly jump back.

Giving pursuit, Emilio gradually strengthened his offensive.

Seeing the superiority of a knight of her country, no matter how much she detested violence, Cleo was relieved. The fact that her country’s knight could stand his ground against a knight of Courtois was an important fact.

But Izumi made a bit of a conflicted face.

“The world sure is vast. To think he would have a move like that.”

Cleo couldn’t’ understand what she was saying.

 

 

In his match with Emilio, Rudel saw an opening and tried to dive in. But he found himself on the receiving end of an attack.

The wooden swords came at him left and right, but there were a number of slashes that faded away as if they had only been afterimages. And some attacks where he couldn’t even see the swing.

“You use some interesting moves.”

He found his mouth curving into a smile, so Rudel took a big step back and used his left hand to cover his face. Through the gaps in his fingers, he could see Emilio’s haste. Even if neither side had been serious, that was more than enough to measure the other’s competence.

(This is bad. I want to fight more.)

His emotions surging, Rudel renewed his grip on the wooden sword in his right hand. This time, he would go on the offense to probe out the identity of his enemy’s move.

But there, Izumi raised her voice.

“That’s enough, both of you.”

Rudel looked at Izumi, and saw Cleo who’d been looking over the match was teetering.  Perhaps her eyes had spun too much to follow the two moving around.

Taking a deep breath, Rudel parted his left hand from his face. There, Emilio gave a slight smile.

“Dragoon.”

He gestured towards the sleeve of his left hand. While he had removed his coat, looking closely, there was a slight tear on his shirt’s sleeve.

Knowing that had been inflicted by the enemy’s sword, Rudel laughed just a bit.

“It does seem this match is my loss.”

It wasn’t the sort of wound that would decide victory or defeat, but at the very start, Rudel had declared he wouldn’t be hit. In that case, even if it was a graze, he decided to admit his loss. Perhaps Emilio hadn’t anticipated that attitude, as he was a little taken aback.

But retrieving up his own overcoat, he headed for Cleo.

“Princess, you should return to your room.”
“I-I’m sorry, Emilio.”

Millia approached the two of them, while Izumi picked up Rudel’s coat and walked over. Before presenting the coat to Rudel, she handed over something to wipe his sweat.

“How was it?”

Rather than Emilio’s capabilities, she was more curious about the technique he had displayed.

“I thought it was a large swing, but that was just to draw my attention. His real aim was a sharper swipe I couldn’t see… I thought, but that’s wrong too. There’s definitely some trick or device to it.”

“You look happy. You’d better not show that face before the princess.”

Rudel was a battle enthusiast. As long as he had a strong foe, he was the sort of man who would want to fight to climb to greater heights. He repented at Izumi’s words, but at the same time, he thought.

(I want to fight him seriously for once, but that doesn’t look plausible.)

“… Rudel, I’ll just throw this out there, but…”

Izumi understood what was going through his mind. A little panicked, Rudel took the coat off her hands.

“I know. The mission takes priority.”

“As long as you get it. For now, let’s go to the princess’ room.”

The two walked off, leaving the party of three behind.

 

 

Having removed their robes, Aleist and Nate walked down the main road.

The two of them linked arms, walking the street like lovers. But as the color of Nate’s hair stood out, there were many heads that turned to take a second look at her.

Giving a bitter smile, Aleist pretended to have fun.

“Aha, ahahaha, how fun!”
“Oh darling, oh you!”

The one who suggested they put on a couple’s act was Nate. And Aleist was extremely against it. But she earnestly convinced him that the attackers of the Gaia Empire wouldn’t give chase if they stayed in character.

For that sake, Aleist and Nate paced the main road as if on a date.

(This is definitely unnecessary. How did she manage to convince me this was a good idea?)

Generally speaking, persuading Aleist was not a difficult task. The reason being, if you just kept pushing him, he would fold under pressure. If that wasn’t the case, then he would’ve been able to prevent the continued expansion of his harem. And it was precisely because he was unable, that Nate could push through.

(Am I too much of a pushover after all?)

He thought as the two dropped by a stall. The lad manning the stall called out to her in a lively voice.

“That’s some splendid blue hair you’ve got there, madam.”
“You think so? We just came to Celestia to see the sights. But for some reason, I feel like I’m really sticking out.”

Taking on a half-witted tone as she spoke with the shopkeeper, she moved the conversation towards gathering information. In order to stay out of the say, Aleist looked at the souvenirs lining the space.

“What’s this, it’s amazing! (Why am I praising such a peculiar piece, I wonder.)”

What he took in hand was an ornament made of a round torso, and four cylindrical legs. He thought it was a spider, but for that, the number of legs was too scarce. Where the round body leveled off, making one think a face might go there, a red paint had been slathered on.

It almost looked like a single eye.

As Aleist took the souvenir in hand, the shopkeeper closed in on him rather than Nate.

“That’s the guardian deity.”

“Eh? This thing is!?”

Surprised that something like this was a god, Aleist carefully inspected the article in his hands. No matter how he looked at it, he could only see a mud doll made by a child.

“To be more specific, it’s modeled after the god’s servants you can find on the mountain. Heard they look quite like the god. The real one’s enshrined where the ceremony takes place, but ordinary folk aren’t allowed in, see. So like this, we make souvenirs of the servants that are said to look like the god.”

“Hmm~.”

Aleist looked at the piece. But he wasn’t getting any image of a god. All he saw was a bug, or perhaps a robot drone that’s job it was to be done in.

“Hey! Shopkeep, we were in the middle of talking!”

“S-sorry for that. It can’t be helped if you stand out. Blue is the hair color of the royal family in these parts. What’s more, the shrine maidens who hold a special meaning. The area’s real tense right now, so the surrounding eyes are going to be harsh. Don’t let it get to you.”

“What happened?”

“In the past, see? A little before the previous ritual. The royal princesses splendidly fulfill their roles, but even so, there was an unruly one in the royal family.”

From the shopkeeper’s tone, Aleist wondered what could have happened in the past. And as he put power into his hands, one of the ornament’s legs snapped off.

“Aaaah!”

When the shopkeeper screamed out, Nate raised a laugh.

“You can’t do that, darling!”

“Ah, no, wait!”

A panicked Aleist apologized to the shopkeeper, saying he would buy it, and producing money from his wallet. Having bought that dubiously high-priced artifact, Aleist spilled complaint after complaint within.

(If it was fragile, he could’ve just said it.)

Now with the deadweight ornament to occupy him, Aleist didn’t have to hold Nate’s hand as they made a round around the other shops lining the main road.

 

 

There was no light in that palace room.

Paying mind to his surroundings, the one who entered was Emilio. He called out to the individual within. But he couldn’t see their face.

“Oh, what seems to be the matter?”
“This room is too bright.”
“… You sound like you’re in a hurry. What happened?”

In that room purposed to give reports to his contact, Emilio gave the right watchword in response. The normal lost servant would just be turned away, but if the password was correct, the contact would fulfill their original job.

“Soldiers who don’t know anything have been made my subordinates. Can they be taken off”
“They cannot. They have been selected as those for whom it matters not if they disappear.”

Hearing that, Emilio muttered an, I see. His face was a little concerned.

(I’d like to do something for them, but…)

After learning that he couldn’t take the three off for the sake of his goal, Emilio immediately gave his report.

“That dragoon’s skills are greater than expected. I have begun to doubt whether I can win or not.”
“I’m aware. But I heard you injured him… as expected of a knight of Celestia.”
“I could do without the flattery.”

As Emilio said that, the contact relayed the orders.

“… Depart from the palace tomorrow. The preparations are ready for that.”
“Won’t they think it too unnatural?”
“Just have it come from the princess’ mouth. Then the higherups should accept it without complaint.”

Emilio listened to the plan and hammered the contents into his head. Any memos he took would leave evidence. That’s why they met in a dark room. Emilio didn’t know the other party’s face. But they knew Emilio.

(This is getting troublesome.)

“… And that is all. The princess is necessary for the plan. The ceremonial tools are all together, so all that’s left is,”
“I know. I just have to present the princess to your group, right? What happened before shall not happen again.”
“… Are you sure about that? After looking into it, it seems they came from the Gaia Empire. Though we haven’t gone as far as to look into why they came.”
“That’s your job. I’d appreciate if you did it properly.”

Emilio recalled when he was surrounded. He remembered the group in the black robes.

“I must apologize for that. Then make sure tomorrow goes according to plan.”
“Leave it to me.”

Emilio left and looked around. From the start, it was a corridor that experienced little passage. And as he walked off, he muttered.

“Tomorrow, huh. I’ll have to do something about the Dragoon and his comrades, but how should I go about this.”

Unbeknownst to himself, Emilio’s hand had reached to touch the egg-shaped pendant in his breast pocket from over his clothes.

The dragoon was taking part, and he had even been stuck with subordinates who would drag him down. Just how would he struggle through the next day? Emilio thought.

Posted in Dragoon | Tagged | 12 Comments

Extra: Songstress 3

 

Once the bureaucratic paperwork was in order, to receive a simple explanation of the situation, Rudel’s party scheduled an audience with royalty… with the current king Barqah Celestia.

But the only one who could attend was Rudel.

The reason was a discriminatory one, and a decision by Celestia that a Courtois non-native like Izumi and a demi-human like Millia were unworthy of the meeting.

Within the flurried palace interior, Rudel was kept waiting in the waiting room. Knights left to watch over him stationed nearby, Rudel read through the documents from Celestia’s side.

“… I don’t think there will be a problem guarding Princess Cleo on the way to the volcano, but protecting her throughout two days before departure will be difficult for me alone.”

The contents denoted were orders for Rudel to serve as Cleo’s guard. With the other party being the princess of a foreign country, Rudel felt there was a limit to how far he could accompany her over a course of two days. The bath, bathroom, changing and such, it would be embarrassing for a man to be by her side.

Rudel had already been kept waiting over an hour for his audience. Within all that, Millia sat in a chair as she sipped tea. While she looked calm, perhaps she was irritated within, as she sent some glances towards the knights stationed around.

“I get why you’re the only one who gets an audience, but aren’t they treating us too terribly? And there’s a bit of a problem relying on a foreign knight to protect the precious princess.”

Millia’s words afforded her glares from the knights. Izumi sipped her tea calmly.

“I’m sure Celestia has some preparations of its own. And we did arrive quite ahead of schedule.”
“There’s a limit to that. And even if it’s an audience, he’s just meeting in the king’s office, isn’t he? I don’t want to say it, but Rudel’s a future archduke. They’re treating him too lightly.”

Millia’s anger could be called natural. There was no helping if the country made light of them. When it came to keeping Rudel waiting, they recognized it as a foreign diplomacy tactic. But they also knew it was a measure to be taken against those of lower status.

The small country of Celestia boasted less land than Rudel’s own home.

There was an active volcano close to the fortress city, with some towns and villages dotted around. The national population didn’t reach a million.

There were hot springs around, and accepting travelers, they were in possession of assets in foreign currencies. The fruit juice that made up their specialty product was widely exported. It was certain these lands were livelier than the Arses territory governed by Rudel’s parents.

But they depended on a foreign knight. They took an attitude as if to pick a fight with a major power. It wasn’t strange at all to think they were going beyond their reach.

“… For now, I have come on a mission as a single knight. I don’t think they’re treating me lightly. But more than that, the princess’ guard detail will be a problem. I can’t follow her to the bath or changing room.”
“Can’t Celestia dispatch some female knights?”

On Millia’s arbitrary statement, Rudel shook his head.

“Unfortunately, there are no female knights in Celestia. No soldiers either.”

Different countries had different customs. The female knights that were gradually becoming natural in Courtois were nothing but heresy here. Rudel thought the reason for the limited audience was also related to those customs.

Women were not permitted to enter the restricted class of knights. There were other small countries around Courtois, but even among them, Celestia was special.

(This is a troublesome mission. I guess I’ll try negotiation.)

Thinking it would be difficult to serve as the only guard, Rudel decided he’d ask for Izumi’s cooperation in the case that Celestia hadn’t made any preparations of their own.

A butlerish man appeared in the waiting room.

“Rudel Arses-dono. The preparations are in order, so I shall be guiding you to the King’s office.”

Leaving the documents and standing to his feat, Rudel straightened his uniform as he walked off. Izumi and Millia sent him a look, so he gave a light nod.

 

 

His entry into the king’s office permitted, Rudel offered his greetings to King Barqah, taking a break in the room.

But the King didn’t turn his body towards him.

(Hmm. It’s just as the captain said. This isn’t the attitude of a small nation…)

With Rudel’s position, he couldn’t stick his mouth into political decisions. And once Rudel finished his greetings and got to his feet, Barqah took the cup left on his break table in hand.

“I wish to speak some with him. Have the others stand down.”

On his words, the knights and servants stationed took their leave. Sensing them on standby outside the room, Rudel waited for Barqah’s words.

He took a glance at the king’s extravagant work desk.

It was piled with six whole mountains of documents.

“My apologies. Because that daughter of mine got attacked, I’m busier than you could believe. Originally, I wanted to use the audience chamber, but even now, the authorities who hold antipathy towards Courtois are not few in numbers.”

(The princess is treated as a ‘that’? I don’t feel I’ll come to like this person…)

The antipathy surely referred to the war eighty years past. But Rudel felt rather than antipathy, this was something closer to contempt.
And he didn’t like how the man referred to his daughter. Barqah sent his gaze above the fireplace, not in use for seasonal reasons. It was furnished by three separate professional paintings of what seemed to be his family.

From the documents received in Courtois. The first depicted Barqah’s queen and children. The second, a woman with blue hair, and two small children… that one was placed in the center. It was bigger than the other two.

And the third along, Rudel found unnatural.
It looked to be a painting of Barqah in his younger days. His right hand rested on a woman of blue hair. The king was positioned in the center, making his left side seem strangely desolate.

(It looks like someone’s been taken out. But that’s the best smile the king’s shown of the three.)

“… They’re paintings of my family. The precious family I’m supposed to protect. Now, we can’t stay like this forever. Let’s talk about work, Dragoon.”

His bright green hair straight and long, Barqah stroked his beard, making a serious face to talk about work. In his early thirties, the king could be classified as young, but his dignified air was well-formed.

“I have gone over the documents. I accept the guard mission. But I think it will be difficult for me to guard the princess alone.”
“Fret not. I will be dispatching people as well.”
“But all of your guards are male, are they not? I believe it in your best interest to send around a trustworthy woman.”
“… Unfortunately, I have no woman who could serve as a guard.”
“I have come here accompanied by one High Knight and one defender. Would it be possible for them to take part in this mission?”
“Hmm. You may do as you wish. Personally, I have no problems as long as the departure takes place in two days. The ceremonial tools should be in order by tomorrow.”
“You have my gratitude. And what will our schedule be for this two-day period? It was not detailed in the documents.”

Barqah stopped stroking his beard, gazing out of the window.

“I decided to give that one free time. It’s her last after all. For now, she should be spending it with her younger brothers and sisters, but this is an important period. I’d like to avoid time with her family wavering her resolve. If it will let you divide them, then I mind not if you listen to that one’s wishes.”

Rudel thought over what the reason might be for treating the princess of his own country… his daughter like this. He heard she would be offered as a sacrifice. Taking that into consideration, it wouldn’t be strange if he already had his feelings sorted out in his heart.

After that, Rudel was told to hear the specifics from the knights on guard detail and was excused from the room. When he left, Barqah called over.

“Dragoon. That one is a pitiful girl. You must protect her.”
“… Leave it to me.”

Rudel couldn’t determine whether that was his heart speaking or not.

(I’ve taken on quite a troublesome mission.)

He thought of it as a mission to regain Sakuya’s spirits, but ever since he arrived at the palace, he was struck by many a strange feeling.

 

 

Taking Izumi and Millia along, Rudel made for the plaza where Sakuya was stationed.

There, those of the royal line… the royal children were watched over by knights as they studied the dragon. Sakuya looked at the children with a tilt of her head.

“Big!”
“Sister, is this a dragon? But our god is stronger, right?”
“Turn this way, you big lunk!”

The child who spat those last words really didn’t understand the amazingness of a dragon, or so Rudel was filled with sorrowful sentiment.

(Good grief, if I had just a day, I’d drill a dragon’s splendor into his body.)

“R-Rudel. Your eyes are scary.”

With Millia’s worries, Rudel reverted his glare and approached the woman surrounded by knights. The reason the knights gave such harsh looks must’ve been because their jobs were snatched away. Rudel thought as she approached the woman.

“Pardon my intrusion. My name is Rudel Arses. On this occasion, I have been ordered to accompany Princess Cleo as a guard.”

Giving a drilled Courtois-styled salute, Rudel looked at the surrounding children. Two blue-haired women. Apart from them, a green-haired and brown haired child. They looked older than he had seen them in the paintings.

The woman in her later teens… Cleo let her hand part from her younger sister of similar hair color and countenance to give a curtsey.

“I am greatly delighted by Courtois’ assistance in this matter. You have my thanks for taking up my guard.”

She smiled. It was hard to imagine she would lose her life in two days.

(Is this… resolve?)

Rudel took caution in his words as he lightly exchanged conversation with the princess. He also introduced Izumi and Millia who were standing back.

“Are they female knights of Courtois? And the defenders? My apologies. I am none too knowledgeable on the affairs of Courtois.”
“That’s perfectly alright. The defenders are an organization only set up recently. There’s no helping if someone of foreign lands has yet to hear of them.”

Rudel dealt with her as he recalled the painting in the king’s office. A majority of the children here had been painted. But the one individual who had been kept out… he noticed it was Cleo.

(Is this that family… no, national circumstance thing?)

Knowing he wouldn’t be able to dig too deep into it, Rudel conversed with her.

“Even so, to think dragons were something so large. It’s the first I’ve ever seen one, but I’m surprised how white and beautiful it is.”
“She praised me! Rudel, she praised me!”

The one whose body twitched in response was Cleo. Perhaps those around could only see it as a roar, as the knights stood in formation before the royal line. From Rudel’s point of view, it could be nothing more than a cry of delight.

“She’s just happy to be praised. But you’ve got a good eye on you, Cleo-sama. Even among the dragons, this girl is an especially cute one, and her name’s Sakuya. See, the blue gemstone in her forehead’s pretty, isn’t it? And when she spreads out all four wings, no one can take their eyes off of…”
“Rudel. Rudel! You’re troubling the princess!”

Izumi immediately suppressed Rudel’s mania, causing him to repent as he lowered his head at Cleo.

“My apologies.”
“Think nothing of it. You really love dragons, I see. But I do understand those feelings just a bit. To want to get on such a large back, and ride somewhere…”

Were those her true feelings? It didn’t seem the one in question noticed it. Rudel would be able to let Cleo on her back. But as he thought over whose permission he’d have to get, a knight leading soldiers along made his appearance.

(Green hair?)

The knight stood out more than the others. No, from Rudel’s point of view, he felt his skill level was a cut above the rest. But he the soldiers behind him didn’t quite look like elites. Even as they closed in, the three soldiers cowered at Sakuya.

“Princess, so this is where you were? I have a message from his majesty.”
“… Yes. Ah, Rudel-dono, this is Emilio. He used to serve as my guard.”
“And I am still serving as your guard, Princess.”
“Is that so? I had yet to hear about that, but… very well. Emilio, I’ll be counting on you again.”
“Much obliged.”

Cleo happily spoke with Emilio. In contrast, Emilio took on a businesslike correspondence. To Rudel, it somehow felt as if the knight was pushing himself. Hearing the message from Barqah, he instantly understood it was meant to pull the princess form her family.

Once Emilio related it, Cleo’s expression clouded after all. And the royal children got together to say their goodbyes.
They were firm-hearted, Rudel thought. It was at that moment the knight… Emilio looked at him and narrowed his eyes. He felt something close to rage.

“U-um…”

When Rudel turned, he found the three soldiers in light-weight armor lined up.

One’s face was unshaven. One was slender and tall. And the last one was short and stout. At a glance, they didn’t look much like soldiers at all.

“Is something the matter?”

“N-no. It’s just a rare opportunity to speak with a knight of foreign lands, so. Um…”

“Boss, you can do it!”
“Boss, fight on!”

After looking at the two cheering on the bearded man, Rudel sent a glance to Izumi and Millia. The two of them shook their heads as if they didn’t know what was going on either.

(It doesn’t feel like they’re picking a fight.)

“W-we were also chosen as guards, so we thought we ought to give our greetings. No, I don’t know a thing about knights’ etiquette, so I’ve no clue what to do.”

A forced use of words. And attitude… thinking of Rudel’s standing, it wasn’t something to be permitted. Even to any dragoon of the major power of Courtois, that was a bit much. Or so was the general consensus.

But Rudel smiled and held out his right hand.

“I’m Rudel Arses. There’s a lot I don’t know in this mission as well. It would be a big help if you helped me out.”

“Y-yeah! Leave it to  me.”
“He shook hands with a dragoon! Boss is amazing!”
“S-shake my hand too!”

As Rudel shook hands with the three, Izumi, who had wandered to his side, called out.

“Is this alright?”

What, she wouldn’t say. But he understood what she was worried about. Rudel was a dragoon in foreign lands… what’s more, the representative of Courtois. Answering to such a light treatment might not be taken too well.

“It’s fine. .The feelings got across. Rather, I’m sorry for pushing guard duty onto you two as well.”
“That’s not a problem. It’s my field of expertise.”

While at this very moment, Izumi was stationed to keep an eye on Rudel as a special investigator, she was originally a high knight. As a bodyguard, she was even more knowledgeable than Rudel.

“I’m sorry to you too, Millia.”

“I-it’s fine, doesn’t matter.”

As Millia turned her face away, Rudel mulled over what he had said wrong. Unlike with Izumi, he didn’t understand how Millia felt in the slightest.

“Boss, you think that dragoon doesn’t understand a woman’s heart?”
“Quit it, Passan. See, get in the way of someone’s love and… huh? What was supposed to kick you again?”

(TL: The saying he’s referring to is, Get in the way of someone’s love, and you’ll get kicked by a horse and die. Meaning, if you stand in the path, the horse is going to run you over.)

When Ben looked at Pono, Pono also thought a while. But unable to hit on anything, he looked up at the dragon.

“A dragon’s kick looks painful.”
“That’s right! Passan, you’ll get kicked by a dragon.”
“I-in that case, to hell with that!”

As the party of three cowered from Sakuya, Rudel spoke.

“Sakuya’s fists hurt more than her kicks…”
“Rudel, I don’t think that’s the point.”
“… Why is everyone so stupid.”

Izumi pointed out Rudel’s err, while Millia breathed out a sigh.

 

 

Meanwhile…

“Hey, why are we wearing these robes?”
“Ah, these are really convenient, you know. There’s a special fiber weaved in, making them top-grade products that can slip through magical detection!”
“Why did you have something like that on you!? That’s what I want to know!”

Aleist and Nate wore black robes as they walked down the alley. There were arrows drawn on the walls, and simply by following them, they arrived at their destination. As he walked down the maze-like back alleys different from those in the kingdom of Courtois, Aleist was holding his nose and mouth.

“Even so, this place is too confusing, the smell is harsh and… what business do you have here anyway?”

Nate silently climbed the bridge, sitting on the spot and touching her palm to the wood flooring. Looking right around, she scratched her face.

“No combat took place, so there aren’t any traces. The main road has too many people so the traces have all disappeared… so I guess we’re just wasting our time.”
“Come so far and we’re wasting time?”

While Aleist looked surprised, Nate deeply pulled down her hood. She ran off from the spot. Startled by her swift movements, Aleist chased her a little behind. There, at the end of the bridge, they ran into a man wearing a similar robe.

But Nate thrust a dagger at his throat. Pinning him up against the wall, a knife fell at the hooded man’s feet. Nate kicked it away and slid it towards Aleist.

Quickly retrieving it, Aleist felt a dull glow from the knife’s edge. A sticky liquid had been plastered over it.

“Senpai, you’d better not touch that.”
“This couldn’t be…”
“Poison. A powerful one at that. It’s the sort that induces numbness, but get it in the wrong places and it’ll leave permanent effects.”

(Yeeaaah, the knife I can deal with, but what exactly is Nate supposed to be?)

While she had always been a member of his harem, with the sword master Seli and the tiger tribe chieftain’s daughter Juju, in an assortment of all sorts of quirky ones, he thought she was a relatively docile girl. But Aleist felt he would have to reevaluate his recognition of her.

When Nate muttered something, the power left the robed man’s body as he collapsed to his knees. He wouldn’t meet eyes with her.

“Where did you come from?”
“… G-Gaia.”
“Eh? The empire? Is he a tourist?”

While Aleist desperately thought, Nate dispatched one question after the next. But after a certain extent of time, an arrow was fired. The sound of an arrow released from the depths of the passage, the one to react quickest was Aleist.
Pulling the two swords at his waist, he leapt out to protect Nate from the arrow. He brushed the projectile aside, slamming it at the wall. There, a man in a robe jumped out from the alley.
At the same time, came an assault from atop the building.

“Senpai, we should probably run.”
“Way ahead of you!”

Rather than aiming for them, the group seemed to be focused on rescuing their supposed ally, so Aleist and Nate ran. But Aleist…

“You know… aren’t we in a really bad situation here?”

Racing down the maze-like alleys, he said to Nate. There with her hood still on, Nate stuck out her tongue and hit a fist against her head.

“Yep, real bad. Tehe.”
“That wasn’t cute at all! What do you think you’re doing!? Rather, what are we even trying to do here!?”

Aleist’s pained cry echoed through the alley.
Perhaps from a stroke of good luck, or because they were let off, the robed men showed no signs of chasing the two.

Posted in Dragoon | Tagged | 23 Comments

This is a Certified Announcement

About the Reckless Girl who Kept Challenging a Reborn Man like me

By Kohigashi Nora

has been novelized by Hero Bunko (The same publisher that picked up Seven…th)!

Preorder it on Amazon today!

I know I will

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Illustrations by Kazuharu Kina, who specializes in drawing long, black-haired beauties, god bless.

From what the author’s announced, the main story has been expanded upon, and a side story involving Seig and Anja’s daughter has been included. The book will be released on November 30th. While there is a 1 on the cover, from what I can gather, it’s self-contained.

The author’s own announcement posts on the matter can be found here:

[1]  [2]

(On a side note, And So She Dreams of Another World is another work by Kohigashi Nora-sensei, it’s just completely thematically different.)

Posted in misc | Tagged | 18 Comments

And so She Dreams of Another World

https://ncode.syosetu.com/n5961ds/

By Kohigashi Nora

“Are you unharmed!? Holy maiden!?”

Felling the giant dragon, the hero approaches me.
Within the dim cave illuminated only by the light of his torch, the hero breaks the restraints on my arms and legs, affording me freedom.

“H… hero…”

I try to stand, but I can’t get any power in. I had been bound for three whole days; my whole body felt numb. My stamina and spirit were at their limit.
I thought it was hopeless. I felt I would die here. I was sure the monster had gifted me a death most cruel.

In the midst of my limit, the hero came to save me.

“You mustn’t push yourself, holy maiden. Your life is the support of every life in the country.”
“……”

The hero used his whole body to accept my collapsed form.
I bury my face in his chest. I feel my whole body grow hot as if it’s breathing fire.

The man I secretly admired. Such a man had saved my life. When I thought it was hopeless, that I had no tomorrow, he reached out his hand.

It felt like my feelings would explode.
Perhaps to endure it… or to convey those feelings, by the time I noticed it, I had wrapped an arm around the hero’s back, strongly, strongly, embracing him.

“… Holy maiden.”
“…”

He reached a hand to my hip once more, holding me tight.
We stayed just like that a while.

A quiet time leisurely flowed by.

 

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

 

Or so was the dream I saw.

“… What an idiotic dream.”

I open my half-asleep eyes.
Unkempt hair, the room a right mess.

No vestiges of the long, silver hair I just saw in a dream, my arbitrary hair that arbitrarily grew was beset by bedhead.
I crudely wash my face, brush my teeth, and scarf down one banana. Changing into my Holy Maiden uniform that wasn’t even hung on a hanger, I left the room.

“Ah, Holy Maiden! Good morning!”
“Holy Maiden! Good work out there!”
“… Yo.”

I am the Holy Maiden.
A special woman who wields a divine power recognized by the church and state. In the battles against the dark forces, my existence is a valuable war asset.

Right, I am the holy maiden.
Not every happening of the dream was a complete lie. I am the holy maiden who’s offered this body to the battle against darkness. My silver hair sways as I protect this world from the threat of the demons.
The hero really exists. Gallant, sturdy, the hopes of the world personified.

The people, the countries, the lands, the systems are completely identical.
The difference between my dreams and reality wasn’t particularly large.

There was only one… make that two large divergences.
Two differences large enough to turn the world within me on its head.

“Holy maiden! We’ve received an order from the general! As discussed, your unit is to enact the recapture of the western castle!”
“…… Now look here, I’ll say it again and again, but normally, you’re not supposed to order a single unit to take down a castle…”
“M-my apologies! If the Holy Maiden deems it too difficult, I’ll talk it over with the top brass!”
“…… I don’t really mind. I just have to do it, right?”

Hmm, I leak a sigh from my nose.
It’s just the usual. Same old, same old.

“… By the way, where is Bøyg… the hero’s unit fighting today?”
“Yes ma’am! The hero’s unit is at work conquering the wetlands to the west! The sword saint’s unit and the witch’s unit are also scheduled to assist in the assault on those lands!”
“Hah… sounds fun…”
“When we divide our forces equally, it can’t help but come to this!”
“Shut it.”

What a pain, I thought as I jumped onto my horse and plodded my way forward.
Trudging step by step, I slowly set my horse walking towards the enemy castle.

“Fwahahahaha! So you’ve made it! Holy Maiden! But I knew you were coming here!”
“So you’re my opponent. You’d better not call me underhanded just because I use a trap or two.”
“If the Demon King’s big four put their powers together…”
“Holy maiden, you’ll soon find yourself in a casket.”

As I begrudgingly advanced on the castle, four important-looking blokes made an appearance.
What’s with them? This lot?

“D… Demon King’s big four!? Why are they in a place like this!?”
“What’s more, all four of them together!?”
“It’s hopeless… there’s no way we have a chance of victory…”

Some began to tremble, some even bursting into tears. The soldiers of my unit seemed crazy scared of these Demon King something somethings, already giving up their hope of surviving this encounter.

“Let’s go! These spires shall be your grave marker! Holy Maiden!”
“Holy maiden punch.”
“Gobufwoah…!?”

One of those something four died.
He ate my holy maiden punch and died. My punch had caused one to cease breath in a single blow. He spout his entrails as he died.

“What!?”
“What foolishness is this!?”
“That man was the strongest among the Demon King’s big four!”
“Holy maiden kick.”
“Buhooeah!?”
“Holy maiden elbow.”
“Gobfwaaah!?”
“Holy maiden beam.”
“Agyarantte!?”

I won.
By each of my blows, one of the Demon King’s big four perished. Their bodies dispersing from my attacks, they died all too easily.

Their blood stained the high-class demon-made carpet.
It’s not like I had no feelings of pity.
But as I stared fixatedly at the demon blood stuck to my hands, I often think.

‘Are you unharmed!? Holy Maiden!?’

The hero from my dream’s words echo through my ears.
That me had her life saved by the hero. While she frailly quivered, captured by the dark forces, the hero saved her from the hands of evil, as if leaping straight out of a child’s fairy tale.
The me from my dreams was held in the hero’s arms, as if it was all a dream. While that was a strange expression to use, the reality within my dream was filled with a nicely dreamy and vibrant love.

“Hah… how idiotic……”

There were two large points where this world differed from the world in my dreams.
They were small differences.
But they had brought with them changes large enough to shake the world. No one knows what results those changes might bring.

But all I can say for certain, is that to me, they were differences big enough to turn my world on its head.
They were differences big enough to alter every single thing about me.

Meaning, more than the me of my dreams,

… I was exceptionally stronger.

 

 

 

Also, an unwoman… meaning I’m an unpopular woman…

 

 

* * * * *

[Dream]

“Sir Bøyg! Sir Bøyg…! Please don’t die…!”

The Holy Maiden raised a bitter cry as she wept.
In her arms was the body of the hero, and that body had become tattered after being subject to dark magic. Panting out her thin breath, the holy maiden barely managed to secure his life in place with the healing magic she used out of desperation.

“Fwaha, fwahahahaha! The hero is already done for! I never thought he would be able to defeat me, but if I use my last breath to take his, I’ll save some face in the world beyond!”

There was yet another soul collapsed on the floor, whose flame of life was on the brink of going out.
One corner of the Demon King’s big four.
Bearing a wound from the hero’s blade too deep for salvation, he stained the carpet spread over the floor in his own blood. His final laugh echoed through the vast hall.

The party of the hero and holy maiden, on that day, had set out to recover the western castle taken by the demons. Cutting down the enemies within the castle, they had favorably battled their way through, but in the final room, that man awaited.

One of the Demon King’s big four, Bohnd the Nightmare.
Despair lay waiting around the corner.

At first, Bohnd of the big four’s overwhelming power didn’t even permit the hero’s approach. His magic and martial arts were first-class, clearly showing off the difference between the Demon King’s legion and humanity.
The Demon King was intently searching out and finding powers the likes of which the human realm had no means of opposing.

But the hero was no ordinary human.
The hero grew through battle, his powers matured and refined with each clash of blades.
Even as wounds were carved into his body, the sword he swung out of desperation grew sharper with each and every swipe. Every time the Demon King’s big four shaved their life away, the hero, no all his companions would grow.

And once that long, long battle was finally reaching its end, when the hero’s sword finally found its place deep in the demon’s chest, with the resolve to trade one life for another, the demon burned the hero’s body in black flames.

“Sir Bøyg…! Sir Hero…! I… don’t want… I don’t want this…!”

The Holy Maiden clung tight as she wept into the hero’s chest.
The loss of the hero was something that should never come to pass; to the country and to the world, it would be a grave loss indeed.

But to the Holy Maiden, the fate of the world was of trivial insignificance.
She was about to lose the one she thought of so dearly. That reality brought tears to her eyes, as a purified sorrow untainted by self-interest leaked from her breath.

The black flames sublimated into miasma, coiling about his body. Even now when he was on the brink of death, it was easy to imagine the dark forces were still eating into his insides. There was no way to tear away the darkness. No means to save the hero.

But even so, she could only pray for a miracle.

“…… If only I had more power…”

The Holy Maiden spat a gloomy voice.

“If I was stronger, perhaps it wouldn’t have come to this…”

What crossed her heart was a meaningless regret.
While the Holy Maiden had never neglected her daily training, she could only be disillusioned by her own lack of strength. Thoughts that had no meaning in thinking spun round and round her chest.

Her heart had sunk.

“… It’ll… be al… right, Lady Ina…?”

At that moment, a faint voice entered her ears.
The hero held in her chest weakly called out her name.

“…!? Bøyg! Sir Bøyg!? Have you regained consciousness!? Get a grip! You must keep ahold of yourself! Please don’t die…!”

Hearing the hero’s faint voice, the Holy Maiden put power into her arms wrapped around him.

“I’m not… going to die… Lady Ina… today morning… I made a promise…… that I would eat… the dinner… you made…”
“Dinner…”
“So it’s alright… I’m not going to die… before your eyes…”

Even as he said that, his breath was weakening bit by bit, the dark miasma still circulating through his body shrinking the flame of his life.
He was already beyond the point of salvation. That was something the Holy Maiden, the hero’s comrades, and even the hero putting up a strong front himself understood. The beat of the pulse of life was going out.

The Holy Maiden grieved, it felt as if her chest would burst; she knew there was nothing she could do,

… So she gently locked lips with the hero.
Shedding some tears all the way.

“Eh…?”
“Eh?”

At that moment, light welled from his body. The dark miasma surrounding him found itself swallowed and overwritten by a strong and gentle light. Perhaps because of the kiss, the Holy Maiden’s power of purification entered the hero, cleansing away the vile force.

“Eh? Eh…? What? What just happened…?”

The one more flustered than any was the Holy Maiden herself.
Regardless of the fact she was the one who created the present situation, she had no clue as to what had gone on. Meaning, she had not the slightest idea why such a thing was occurring.

“… Is this a hidden power of the Holy Maiden…”
“An untainted power to wash away all evil…”

Everyone around gradually grasped the situation.
By her kiss, the Holy Maiden had let her own power flow into the hero, directly tending to his wounds and driving off the evil power.
The Holy Maiden alone failed to comprehend, her eyes spinning as her confusion continued.

The hero looked at the Holy Maiden.
His thin breath that even still sounded as if it might go out was beginning to calm. His turbulent conscience was gradually becoming distinct.

Raising his body, this time the Hero gave the Holy Maiden a kiss.

“Thank you.”

With a gentle smile unthinkable a man who had just been on the brink of death, he called over.

“…!”

The Holy Maiden’s chaos, embarrassment, delight, and heat she couldn’t do anything about mixed in her heart like a muddy stream, and raising a small voice she swooned. She relinquished her consciousness.

In the battle for that castle, the curtain closed on a grand finale.

 

 

* * * * *

 

[Reality]

 

“Are you an idiooooooot!?”

It was a refreshing morning, the weather so fair it raised one’s spirits just basking in it… and yet I was assaulted by an awakening so gloomy none of that meant the slightest to me.

I saw another stupid dream.
I, the holy maiden, kissed the hero and saved him?
Are you stupid? Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.
It was such a trite, hackneyed, worn out, overdone, messed up scenario, just what do you think you’re doing in this day and age?

“Hah… this dream again…”

I felt deplored at myself as I covered my face in my small hands.
The hell is this? Am I sexually frustrated?

I often see similar dreams.
Dreams of falling in love with the hero, overcoming a battle to save the world at his side.

Troublingly, these dreams overlapped with reality in too many points: the people that appeared, the countries, the culture, the setting were almost all identical.
But there were some large differences.

… The me in reality is much stronger than the dream me, and I’m an unwoman.

Right, I’m too strong.
In the dreams the hero and I put our powers together like a married couple, but the real me is different. To start with, I’ve never teamed up with the hero in my life.

The reason being I’m too strong.
With efficiency in mind, my unit is never sent on joint missions with any other teams.

In the first place, it’s because I was too strong that I lost any opportunity to be with him.
A year ago, there was a time where I was abducted by a dragon of the demon tribe. The dream me half-gave up on life, her way darkening with sadness until the hero finally saved her.
That was the main event that deepened her bond with the hero.

Then what about the real me?
I was definitely abducted, for what it’s worth.
But I undid the restraints with my own strength, punching the demon dragon to death with my own fists.

Righto.
I escaped with my own power!
Without the leisure to be coddled by anyone, I put all my strength into those magic chains and pulled at them until they shattered, believing in my own strength as I fought!
I went on a rampage, challenged the dragon to one on one, got through with my fists, and kicked all the mobs that came at me like a tidal wave into the distance!

There was no reason to hold back! In a battle of life or death, I came out on top! There was no resignation or rescue! I used my own strength to overcome my own battle!
And passing through death and carnage, I loudly declared my superiority.

By the time the hero came to save me, it was already too late. The dragon’s base was already under my rule.
There was no space for any heart-tugging happenings with the hero.

When I desperately worked so hard…
Tried so hard…
And yet…

Why is the dream girl making even better memories!?
What is the meaning of this!? Why is that one getting a good man in her hands, and making some hot ‘n flirty memories with him!?
When I’m the one who endeavored on my own and triumphed over the predicament, why is it the dream that didn’t overcome anything who gets a lover and spends her days in fulfillment!?

Precisely because of my strength, the real me keeps being sent off to harsh battlefields, the enemy demons have their eye on me, I don’t have a boyfriend, there isn’t a single good thing about having high combat abilities.

Just beat them!
Slay those Demon King big four in one blow!
Mercilessly scatter them for the crows!

Ah! Seriously, what is this! This difference!?
That girl isn’t particularly strong, yet she gets all the good memories; meanwhile, I’ve contributed so much to the battle against the dark forces, yet I’m the same unwoman as ever!

By the way, unwoman refers to an unpopular woman.
It doesn’t just mean not having a boyfriend, it often points to a lady at fault with more than enough of a reason to be unpopular.
Like being unrefined, or not being able to do housework, or not dressing up, or having a twisted personality, it points to that sort of woman.

Meaning me.
And not the dream me.
The dream me is popular. She’s got a great personality, her appearance is in order, and she’s good at cooking. Her womanly capacity is perfect, and in that regard, if me and me fought, I wouldn’t have the slightest chance of victory.

Right, she’s even good at cooking.
Before the battle of the western castle, the dream me promised to cook for the hero.
She really is a competent woman, gives a real popular feel.

How idiotic!
I want to eat your hand-cooked meal? To hell with that! Are you an idiot? Try telling me the difference between a beef bowl takeout and a hand-cooked meal!
Idiot.
Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m biased. I don’t know the first thing when it comes to cooking.
No way I could make anything, idiot. Cooking, you see, it’s practically pointless if you don’t have anyone who’ll eat it for you.

Eat it myself? It’s fun at first, but you get sick of it in no time, you know?
Too much labor for something you have to do three times per day, and once you get accustomed to cooking your own meals, the loneliness and awkwardness start coming back. Of course you’d lose your motivations, idiot.

Awkwardness? Why would you feel awkward when you’re alone?
To anyone who says that, go see a shrink. Being able to sense an awkward and terrible air when no one’s around is the mark of a full-fledged unwoman.

Stupid, stupid.

……… Hah.
What’s with this difference.
For me to feel this depressed, the untidiness of my room must be to blame.
But cleaning it up is a pain.
Can’t I get a boyfriend to clean up for me…
No, is it because I’m this crude I don’t have one to begin with?

Hah.
I want a boyfriend who’ll spoil me.
I’m not asking for much.
Just has to be good looking and clever with a promising future and good looking and rich and tall and good looking with a good personality and good looking. Then I’ll have no complaints.

… Damn, I feel empty.
For now, today’s plan is to go tease one of the executives under the Demon King’s direct command.
Of course, largely on my own.
My subordinates’ job is to clean up the surrounding small fries. I’m always alone against the boss class fighters. Even when the hero works with his comrades to fight.

I let out a sigh as I pass my arms through the sleeves of the unhung uniform discarded on the floor before leaving the room.
Of course, the dream me wears a carefully maintained, pretty Holy Maiden outfit without a single crease.

Dammit.
I keep getting reminded of every difference between us.

I left for work and murdered the demon army executive with one blow.

 

 

* * * * *

[Dream]

 

“It’s a beautiful night.”
“Yeah, the moon is beautiful.”

An extravagant castle where a noble lived, in a corner of a room, the Holy Maiden and hero shared a bottle of wine. Going out to the room balcony, they lowered themselves into chairs set with intricate detail as they sipped at that high-grade product.

But the reason the stars looked so pretty wasn’t because of the money put into the furnishings or drink. Simply to have a loved one by their side. With that alone, the stars in the sky looked several times more beautiful than when looked up at alone.

“These smoked meats are tasty. They go well with the beautiful stars and good wine.”
“Ah, no… they’re nothing too special…”
“Oh…? Could it be you’re the one who made them, Lady Ina?”
“Yes. Though they can’t help but fall short of such high-grade wine…”
“No… I wouldn’t say that…”

The hero said as he let a mouth of wine down his throat and stuffed his cheeks with the snacks his girlfriend had made. Forget falling short of the wine, he could only think they drew out its depth.

“… It’s almost the final battle.”
“That’s right, the fight against the Demon King approaches…”

Their two bodies were stiff.
Passing through the boundaries of life and death time and again, they had shouldered despair as they achieved victory in their battles against the Demon King’s big four, taking down numerous other formidable foes. Everyone’s body and heart was already in tatters.
No matter how ragged they ran, they could only fight on. For the world, for the people of the country.
That was the mission of the hero and his men.

But even so, his body stiffened.
At the end of the end, the battle with the Demon King approached.

“There are times I find myself thinking…”
“Pardon?”
“Am I really a hero…”
“…?”

The hero looked down at his folded hands, letting out a heavy voice.

“… What do you mean?”
“A hero is someone who grants salvation to all. When mankind is tormented by evils it has no means to go against, the hero becomes their salvation and cuts down the darkness. No matter what fairytale, what legend you look at, that’s what they must be…”

The hero laughed as he raised his head. A self-depreciating smile spread across his face.

“But I… I find myself praying for my own salvation.”
“…”
“We’ve just barely made it through our battles up to now. There hasn’t been a single battle that wasn’t painful. Can I really win against the King of Demons? If I lose, what will become of the world? Am I really strong enough to shoulder this title of hero?
I’m scared, so scared I don’t know what to do with myself.”

Covered by the clouds, the stars fell out of sight.

“If there was someone else… some extremely strong person besides me, if that person could easily take down the Demon King… a part of my heart continues to seek out such nonsensical salvation.”

The hero’s body shook.
This form was one he would definitely never show before the troops. He would only share his troubles and pains with the comrades right by his side, what’s more, this was the first time he ever showed such a weakened state.

The Holy Maiden stood from her seat, tightly embracing the hero.

“I’m sure… I’m sure if such a strong person existed, then they would surely be alone.”

The Holy Maiden gently whispered to him.

“That person would surely resolve everything on their own, without relying on any, without knowing any comrades, they’d become a lonely human who could only look forward.”
“…”
“If you were the strongest hero who could solve everything alone, I’m sure you wouldn’t need me; I’m sure you’d be alone.”

The Holy Maiden kissed the Hero.

“That’s why I’m happy. That the hero is someone who can rely on me.”
“…”
“We’re all only human, we can only put our utmost effort, give it our best to move forward.”
“… Yeah, you’re… right. It’s just as you say, Lady Ina.”

Before he finished his own words, he strongly pulled her close, and slightly forcefully stole her lips.

“Mn…!”

The hero lifted up the Holy Maiden.
Reeling from the sensual shock to her mouth, the hazy Holy Maiden was led atop the bed. The hero used his tool of the trade, his strong power to push the Holy Maiden’s body onto the bed without any room for refusal.

The girl had no space to resist, nor did she attempt to.
Her eyes simply melted at the intense kiss, her face dyed in red.

“You don’t want to?”
“……… No.”
“I swear. I’ll be gentle.”

The beast assailing her was stiff.
It wasn’t as if he was simply leaving his body to lust. Mixing in rationality, mixing in courage and resolve with his instincts, he was exceptionally nervous as he tried to exchange vows with his lover.
The one whose body was truly trembling was the hero.

“No…”

The Holy Maiden shook her head, voicing the words of rejection.
The hero’s heart skipped a beat. Could he have been refused? His nervousness reached its peak.

The Holy Maiden’s face turned red as she gave the sort of bashful smile that would enchant any man.

“You don’t have to be gentle… please make a mess of me…”

Before the Holy Maiden’s sensual voice, the Hero lost his reigns.
The light of the moon spilling in from the window projected two overlapping figures on the wall of the room.

 

 

 

* * * * *

 

[Reality]

“U W A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A AA A A A A A AA  A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A  A  A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a  a a a a a  a a a a a a aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!?”

A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A a a a a a a a a a a aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!?

A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a aa a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a  a a a a aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!?

A N GYA A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A Aa a a a a aa a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!?

I leap to my feet

The hell you doin’!?
What the hell are you people doing!?

The hell is she doing!?

“U WA A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A a a a a a  a a  a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!?”

I hold my head.
I can only hold my head.
Hot! My face is hot! My face can only be hot!

A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A  A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A  A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A It was so vivid!

Vivid!
V I V I D!
R I D I C U L O U S L Y V I V I D!

I groan as I make a bridge over the bed.
Gnnngngngngngngn…!
There’s no meaning to it! There’s no meaning, but I can’t maintain my composure! Even I understand the strange one here is me! But for some reason, I just can’t sit still!

Dammit!
D A M M I T!

I don’t wanna say it! I don’t want to say it, but that was cold! I don’t want to say what part of it, but it was wet and cold!
Dammit! Goddammit!
What are you forcing down an unwoman’s throat, you bastard!?

“Stop it… stop. It…?”

The chorus repeats in my head.
Round and round, round and round, the same thoughts spin around, and it felt like my head would burst from the centrifugal force of my brain.
Meaning… it’s going to go baaang! My head!

A aaah… the heat…! The heat…!
My body…! It’s not cooling down.
I’m flushed! You fookin’ flushed me! You’ve flushed the body of someone who’s lived ten-odd years as an unwoman, dammit! Made me dream a spectacle a Super Elite Perfect Ultimate Unwoman will never be able to experience in her entire life, turning me redder than a monkey in a bath!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!
Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwd!
It’s all, all, all, all the dream’s fault!

I felt just the worst.
Because I felt the worst, I rampaged like crazy.
Smashing down the walls of the final fort on the way to the Demon King’s castle, ‘The Tower of Darkness’ as I paraded in, putting all my spirit and animalistic passions with no outlet into fist after fist as I hammered my blows into the demon army’s final general. I put in twenty, thirty hits clad in my loser aura.

Taking on my outburst of anger, the demon army’s final general exploded and dispersed, the ‘Tower of Darkness’ climbing into the air from the force o’ my fists.
One of my subordinates reported it to the higherups, but the top brass got angry saying they had no idea what was supposed to mean. The report was deemed incoherent, and that subordinate was sent off to counseling.

My bad.

 

 

 

Leaving that subordinate to the side, I brought my feet to the army dining hall.
It was a plain food station made from simple modifications to a stolen enemy base, and a shoddy place consisting of short-term repairs carried out after the battle. Plywood was fastened over the broken portions, with tattered tables and chairs as if made from scrap wood arbitrarily lining the place.

The food they put out wasn’t anything special. They just set out some grilled potatoes and a thin soup where they didn’t have much to work with.
At first there were talks of, “Feeding the Holy Maiden a proper meal,” but I declined.
Being treated specially and having only me eating good meals was terrible on my psyche. I got the feeling those around me were directing envious looks my way, and I could no longer tell whether the food tasted good or not.

Meaning I’m an unwoman!
I’m crazy conscious of everyone elses’s eyes! Am I alright!? Am I being hated!? Do they perhaps think I’m impertinent!?

Aaah! To be quite honest, I want to eat my meals where no one’s watching.
Holing up in a bathroom stall, I want to eat alone in silence!
I don’t want people to think the holy maiden is eating alone without any friends! I don’t want them to know the holy maiden is a loner!

Though they all already know!
I noticed a long, long time ago how the surroundings were looking over me with warm eyes!

With this thought and that turning around my head, I noticed a shadow being cast on my own body. Someone was standing on the opposite side of the table.
I raised my head to look at that person. The dining hall was close to full, and yet the seat across from me just happened to be empty.

“Huh? Ina? It’s been a while.”
“……… Yoyo!?”

The one in front of me was Bøyg… the hero.
The person who nurtured love with me in a dream.

“I hope this seat’s not taken.”
“Yoyoyoh… yoyoyoh…!?”

Regardless of my fluster, the bastard before me sat across all carefree.
I ended up leaking a strange voice. Naturally so. Before all the surprise even factored in, I was an unwoman.
If I didn’t get nervous in front of a man, I wouldn’t be me.

“So how have you been lately, Ina?”
“M…… meh……!?”
“Yeah, what’ve you been up to?”

How have I been?
How have I been… terrible! Idiot!
No way I could be fine! It’s your damn fault! It’s because you and the strange me come out in my dreams!

“…… You’ve kinda been averting your eyes from me for a while now?”
“……… You’re imagining it.”

Like hell I can look you in the eye!
Do you know what dreams I dreamt today!?
I saw a dream where you did some crazy things to me, you hear!

What are you going to do about this!?
When I had no intent to climb the stairway to adulthood to begin with, you goddamn realers chained me and dragged me up, my back banging against the corner of every step, so how do you think I feel!? Stupid!

Ah, god! Just go away already! Just because there’s no other seat, that doesn’t mean you have to sit across from me!
It’s not like the two of us are even close enough to have a conversation, asshole!
We’ve only ever spoken a few times at best!

“I wanted to offer my thanks.”

Bøyg suddenly said.

“… Thanks? … I haven’t done anything for you to thank me for.”
“I don’t have any confidence that I can beat the Demon King.”

The hero’s face was serious.

“I really am glad you’re here. With your power, even the Demon King would go down. It might be shameful for the hero to say it, but it’s because you’re here, that I can feel relieved from the depths of my heart.”
“…… What is your objective in flattering me? I don’t really have anything to give you.”
“You’re as twisted as ever.”

Bøyg gave a small laugh.

“…… Come to think of it, you don’t talk formally to me, do you?”

The dream Bøyg always spoke to me in a courteous tone. Even in private, he maintained the dignity of a hero as he spoke.

“Hmm? Ah? That so. Would you prefer me to speak formally, Holy Maiden? Then I have committed a most heinous discourtesy.”
“… No, it doesn’t really matter. That wasn’t what I meant when I said it. Talk however you want to.”
“Yeah? Thanks for that. No, how should I put it, you don’t really give off a Holy Maiden sort of feeling, so when I speak formal… it just feels unnatural, you know. Oh, was that also a discourtesy?”
“… It doesn’t matter. I’m aware of it.”

I know people often say I’m not very holy maiden-ish, and I’m the one who knows best that I’m not holy maiden-ish at all.
Rather, when he speaks politely, it makes my body itch. Just be frank, frank please.
These formalities just don’t suit me.

“…… Bøyg, is speaking casually your natural self?”
“Hm? No, I wonder. It’s not like either of them feels off. When I’m talking with the sword saint, I speak respectfully, but it doesn’t feel stiff at all.”
“… Fhmmm.”

So it’s not like dream you is putting on airs.
Fhm…

“Then I’ll be counting on you in the Demon King subjugation. It’s shameful, but we won’t be able to do it on our own.”
“……”

Bøyg lowered his head.
It doesn’t matter. I don’t particularly think it’s shameful.
I mean, the dream me was in love with you,

… And the real me had fallen as well.

 

 

 

It was seven, perhaps eight years ago.
I was recognized by the church as the ‘Holy Maiden,’ leaving my parent’s embrace at a young age.
There were no friends in sight, the training was harsh, the monsters were scary. I would always hide my tears, gritting my teeth as I lived on.
While the Holy Maiden may be adored, she couldn’t have anyone close. She was the valuable Holy Maiden, a solitary existence in the world, so it was only natural.

That’s why the party was agonizing.
To greet and greet and greet and greet people I didn’t know. Maintaining a forced smile, listening to their boring talks as if it was supposed to be fun, having myself lifted up by meaningless flattery, and saying oh, that’s amazing on reflex when it was called for.

Who do they think I am? I’m an unwoman. I had already caught a glimpse of my own unwomanhood back then. I’m a coward. A coward. Like hell I can stay in this party!

And once all the lines of greetings were over, I made myself scarce in a corner of the hall, dazing out on my own.
Stifling my breath, I created a shell around me so I wouldn’t have to talk with anyone.

At that time, a voice called over.

“Are you alright?”

It was the small Hero Bøyg.
Worrying for me, he had brought over lots of candy.

That’s all there was to it. It all came down to such a small thing.
It was an absurd trifle of kindness, and it’s not as if anything major happened. After that, we didn’t have any significant conversation, and after leaving the sweets, he left my side.

That was all there was to it, but from that day forth, I couldn’t take my eyes off of Bøyg.
The party went on, the dances began. I simply gazed at him dancing with someone else from afar.

I didn’t invite him to dance. A coward can only look from a distance.

… But the dream me invited him to dance, and he took her by the hand.
I felt a little jealous.

 

 

 

* * * * *

[Dream]

 

“Will you hear out my dream, Lady Ina?”
“I won’t.”

The Holy Maiden curtly handled the hero’s serious look.
They were in a room of a castle stolen by the enemy, and while the hero and Holy Maiden had each been afforded their own private room, at this point, they only ever used one room for the pair.
They were living together.

“I have something important to talk about.”
“I can imagine what you’re going to say. And I’m sure it’s the happiest thing I can wish for as a woman…”

The Holy Maiden turned her reddened face from the hero. Her cheeks had turned the red of a ripe apple as she awkwardly tapered her mouth.

“Then!”
“But even so, even so, it cannot pass. You cannot give me those words here and now.”

The Holy Maiden stood and approached the window.
Far, far away, she stared into the distance with a tragic expression.

“I mean, the battle with the Demon King will soon be upon us…”
“……”

The Hero was silenced.
A battle where there was no telling if everyone would get out safe was before them.

“It’s an ill omen to make a promise before a decisive battle.”
“… So you’re the sort to believe in such superstition.”
“I always loved the books and moving pictures…”

She wanted to avoid discussing hopes and dreams before the trial.
While her hopes were hot and glimmering, the battle would shave away and put cracks into them. The obstacle of death would shatter such a promise into pieces.
That’s why she was afraid to put the warm future she hoped for to mouth.

The hero embraced the Holy Maiden looking up at the stars from behind.

“Lady Ina…”
“…!”

The Holy Maiden’s body twitched.
It wasn’t rare for them to embrace one another. They had already done things more amazing than that time and again.
Even so, her pulse hastened. A throbbing beat of nervous delight raced through her, and it was something the hero could feel as well. The two of them shared their heat.

“If it’s no good to talk about the future…”
“……”
“Then here, then now…”

The hero’s face approached the Holy Maiden’s. The distance from eye to eye entered point blank, as each side noticed the passion imbued in the other’s pupils.
Their lips approached. A few centimeters left. No, only millimeters to go…

The Holy Maiden closed her eyes.
In exchange, the hero opened his mouth.

“Here and now, I shall be teasing you

The hero tickled her bottom.

“Hyah!?”

She brushed away his arm, blankly taking some distance. Her face was red with embarrassment, and swelling up her cheeks, she showed her displeasure with upturned eyes.
The moonlight leaking through the window illuminated the displeased girl’s silver hair.

“Hahaha, you’re angry.”
“Yes I am! Anyone would be angry! It was all leading up to a romantic air, was it not!? Why did you tickle my bum!?”

In regards to the chuckling her, the Holy Maiden’s voice was rough.

“But you don’t feel so tense anymore, do you?”
“…”

Receiving those words, she probed into her own chest.
Sure enough, it felt lighter. Her heart was pained before the battle with the Demon King. And at this very moment, it had softened a bit.

… No, but what’s this about tickling someone’s bum?
What did her maiden heart have to say about that.

The hero laughed as he sat down on the sofa. As if she thought the very least she could do was express her displeasure, she let off a thud as she violently took a seat by his side.

“Won’t you cheer up, Lady Ina.”
“Hmph…”
“There, there. Good girl, good girl.”
“Hmph…”

The hero gently stroked the Holy Maiden’s head.
His hand gently swayed, so as not to disturb her silky hair.

“Lady Ina, you told me the other day.”
“Eh?”
“That not just as the hero, everyone needs to give it their all. Not just the power of one, we can fight together to overcome this battle.”
“Yes…”
“I was happy to hear those words. And I’m sure they’re just right when we have no geniuses among us.”
“I do think you count as a genius… but if we put our power together, I’m sure… I’m sure…”
“Please fight by my side, to the very end.”
“Of course!”

The Holy Maiden’s smile was brilliant, but it was a smile as if to show the solid resolve underlying it. Seeing that face, the hero gave a satisfied nod.

He lowered his hand that was petting her head.
The hand shifted from her hair to her face, he stroked down her neck to her shoulder, and…

As his hand came down even lower, the holy maiden slapped it away.

“…”

Her displeased eyes focused on the hero.
The hero gave the mischievous smile of a child whose prank had been found out.

“You were about to touch my chest, weren’t you.”
“…… Who can say? I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“……”

The Holy Maiden pouted.

“I understand. Sir Bøyg is actually a lewd person, lately, I’ve come to understand all too well.”
“No, that’s not true, is it…?”
“It definitely is! On our nights together, do you understand just how ragged you run me!?”
“N-no… that’s because you told me to make a mess of you and I couldn’t help but…”
“…”

The Holy Maiden’s face turned red and she cleared her throat once.

“W… well, i-it doesn’t really matter if you’re a lewd person or not… it’s fine…… it’s not like I hated it……”

The Holy Maiden’s words gradually grew smaller, at the end becoming the hum of a mosquito.

“But! Even so! I have to draw the line somewhere! Until the battle with the Demon King is over, all impure acts are strictly prohibited!”
“Eeh!?”

The Holy Maiden rudely turned her face away, the hero was taken aback.
Crestfallen, he hung his head. After the intense battles with the demons, his indecent exchanges with his beloved girlfriend had been a great relieve on his heart.
Simply, to be blunt, the Hero was a lewd person.
Feeling up the Holy Maiden’s body was one of his great pleasures.

“… Is it really no good?”
“It’s no good.”
“My word…”

He dropped his shoulders. Seeing him like that, the Holy Maiden gave a light laugh.

“But…”

Holding the Hero’s shoulder, drawing her face closer, she gave the light touch of a kiss.

“A kiss doesn’t count as an impure act.”

At the soft sensation he just felt at his lips, the hero was dumbfounded. So this was what it meant to be lowered and raised; receiving a sudden reward, a childish expression floated over his face.

The Holy Maiden was making a mischievous, charming smile. She laughed as she observed the reactions of her beloved hero.
The hero embraced her shoulders, and once more, this time a more heated kiss…

 

 

 

* * * * *

 

[Reality]

“DA A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a! FU U U U U U U U U U U U U U U U U U U U! Fookin flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’!”

I cried out.
I cried out from my soul.
I swung my fists as I cried out.

“Splendid! As expected! As expected of you! For I, the Demon King to be pushed back! As expected of the humankind’s strongest hero! This is the thrill, this is what I’ve been fighting for!”
“S H U T T h E F O O K UPPPPPPPPPPPPPP! T H A T S H I T D O N ‘ T M A T T E R NOWWWWWWWW!”

Before my eyes was the final and strongest enemy, the Demon King.
As expected of the enemy leader, he was a cut or two above the rest. Even after receiving a few of my fists, he endured.

“Now come, Holy Maiden! Make me feel like I’m alive!”
“Like I care about thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatttttttttttttttttt! flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ some more! THAT BITTTTTTTTTTTCCCCCHHHHHHH! Quite getting all hot and sweatyyyy!”

I spat up sugar!
Showing an unwoman a dream like that is torture!

Ptttttttttttttttttttttewy! Hack, ptewy!
It was sweet! Way too sweet! The inside of my mouth’s caked in sugar! It’s bad on the soul for an unwoman like me!
What the hell was that!? What’s with that sweetness!? Are you stupid!?
Stop it! Stop it! I can’t hold on much longer! You’re giving me food poisoning! Damn fool!

“I’m taking this anger out on… YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOU! DEMON KIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNG!”
“UWOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”

The Demon King was a sandbag to take my frustration. As his body was needlessly durable, I put in all the weight of an unwoman, hammering my fists in again and again.

“So this is… this power is your love, your wish for peace!”
“Take another guess!”

It’s just a personal grudge!
Right now, peace can eat shit!
All I want is peace for my own heart!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! This really is bad! Go to hell! All the couples in the world should go to hell! Are they all like that!? Are all the world’s lovers like that!? I M P O S S I B L E! That’s impossible!
Is that conduct that’s exceeded sanity into the realm of madness really the love everyone in the world looks up to!?

A AH! The sugar! It’s leaking from my mouth! I feel like I’m going to spit up sugar again!

Those couples…
The world’s couples…

All the couples in the world can just…

“… PEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIS S S S S S S S S S S S S S S H h h h h!”
“GYAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaah!?”

The one who perished was the Demon King.
My barrage of rage took him down.
My anger against every couple in the world defeated the Demon King and brought in peace.

The world was at peace. Because of my hatred of every couple in it…

 

 

* * * * *

 

[Dream]

 

“Kuh…”
“S-strong…”
“So this is… the Demon King’s power…”

In a grand hall decorated with ornate ornaments, the hero and his comrades were forced to their knees. Before their eyes was the form of the Demon King standing composedly, his wounds all too light. It was the throne room of the Demon King’s castle. Despite the fact that the portions the effects of the battle reached were broken and tattered, the wounds on the Demon King’s own body were light.

“Ha ha ha! So it’s already over! Brave heroes!”

On the other hand, the hero parties’ bodies were ragged.
Wounds all over their bodies, stamina at reaching its limit, the hero’s comrades planted their hands and knees onto the shattered floor tile.

“Damn… dammit……!”
“To think he was such a foe… it’s completely different……!”
“He’s strong… so this is the Demon King……!”

No one could move their body.
The hero and holy maiden and sword saint and witch crawled over the ground, the Demon King’s grand laugh being all that resounded through the room. They weren’t dead yet. Their consciousness hadn’t cut off. They could still speak.

But even so, the hero party had no chance of victory.
They had lost to the Demon King.

“I must commend you heroes. While being mere humans, you grew strong, slaying every last remnant of my army and making it all the way to me.”
“…”
“But that’s as far as you go. You couldn’t reach me. You couldn’t achieve peace. You gave it a good shot. Now sleep.”
“…… Dammit!”

The Demon King’s footsteps sounded out as he slowly, slowly approached the collapsed heroes. He walked on to lay the final blow on these heroes of feeble breath.
Despair approached.
Their lives were to be reaped.
Their hopes of peace would be reaped away.

“Dammit…! Dammit……!”

The hero desperately tried to lift his body. But he couldn’t stand. His body wouldn’t listen to what he had to say.
He was aware his own death would mean despair for the world. An existence that should never lose by any means, that’s what he was.
Even so, against the absolute existence of the Demon King, his life was to be trampled down.

He couldn’t stand.
No matter what he did, he couldn’t stand.
The Demon King approached.

“… Eh?”
“Mn………?”

Within all of that, a single shadow got to its feet.
Swaying its wound-ridden body as it put power into its limbs, slowly lifting itself up. Her orderly long hair disturbed by the battle, her blood-stained clothes ruffled and stained with blood and grime.
Using her staff as support, she desperately stood. Her eyes held no ambition, with a body so ragged she might fall with a poke, when there was surely nothing she would be able to do, she stood.

“Ina…”
“Holy Maiden…”
“Lady Ina… why are you…”

The one who stood with the Holy Maiden… Ina.

“Fwahahaha! So even before the hero, the Holy Maiden stands! And so!? What will you do!? What are you able to do!?”

The Demon King laughed. But without paying that any mind, the Holy Maiden turned towards the Hero and sent him a smile. It was a smile somewhat imbued with resignation.

“… Sir Bøyg.”
“…… Lady Ina?”
“From here on, I will defeat the Demon King.”
“…… Eh? But h…”
“So… this is goodbye.”

But how would you do that? Before he could say that, the hero’s sentence was cut off by her words of parting.

“W… what are you talking about…… Lady Ina……? There’s no way you can beat him, with that beaten body…”
“Bøyg…… I always loved you. Even before that day you saved me from a dragon’s bonds… from the day you gave candy to a lonely girl, I always loved you.”
“W-what are…”
“When I was always looking at you from afar, I was overjoyed when the day came that I could become your power. Fight alongside you, supporting up one another, the days of being loved by you were nothing but happiness.”
“What are you saying at a time like this…! Lady Ina!”
“Thank you, Sir Bøyg……”

No matter how they were taken, those were words of parting.
The hero cried out. But as if to shake him off, the Holy Maiden turned her body away and faced the Demon King.

An immense magic gushed from her body. That strange magic he didn’t know the source of enveloped her body, causing it to glimmer.

“Woman… that magic… you’re using your lifeforce……”
“If I use the secret art… I will die. But I’ll take you down with me, Demon King.”
“Fwahahaha… this is getting interesting……”
“Stop it! You have to stop…! Ina!”

The magic of life gushing from her body converged. The Holy Maiden gathered her final power into her hands, with the intent to fire her final spell.
Releasing the magic of life was just as it sounded, no different than relinquishing one’s life itself.

“This is… the end! Demon King!”
“I’ve heard out your resolve! Now come! Holy Maiden!”
“STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!”

The two resolves and the pained cries of comrades echoed through the room.
The room shook. No, the castle as a whole was shaking. Perhaps from the intense clash of the two magics, the oscillating air shook the space.
Resolve and magic, pained cries, thoughts, an evil heart and a heart of justice, any and all sort of intense resolve mingled in that room, clashed and shook the world.
The final battle, the final shot with the world on the line clashed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That was a lie.
A mistake.
The shaking space wasn’t due to the Demon King, or even the Holy Maiden’s magic.

There was an intervention.
There was a single ill-mannered human in existence who would interfere in a battle with the world on the line.

“… Eh?”
“What is this…?”

Cracks began forming in space itself.
As there was an invisible glass pane where there was supposed to be nothing at all, cracks spread to form a dividing line in reality.
At first, everyone thought the vibrations and tremors were the aftermath of the final battle. But that was a mistake.

Fingers began sprouting from the crevice in space.
Those unhealthy fingers that didn’t look like they did any decent exercise outside emerged from the other side, and by the sheer strength of the hands connected to them, the spacial crevice spread out.

“W… what’s this…? What’s happening?”
“On the other side… just who…”
“Who… could it be……?”

On the other side of space was a single young woman.
Unkept hair, half-asleep eyes, her uniform was ridden in wrinkles. Her appearance wasn’t kept up, an air of cynicism drifting about her.
And yet, an enormous magic could be felt from that slovenly girl.
That prior shake in space wasn’t the magic of life or the demon king’s darkness, it was the sheer willpower of the girl who appeared from the other side.

“Y… you are……”
“I-it can’t be……”
“M… me……?”

The girl looked extremely sloppy. But if you ignored the atmosphere around her, she was identical to the Holy Maiden Ina.

The mysterious girl sucked in a deep breath.

“BAAAASSSSSSSSSSTTTTTTTAAAAAAAARRRRRRDDDDDDDDSSS! Always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirting the hell of itttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt!”

From a single scream of the mysterious girl, the entire space tingled and shook.

“How am I supposed to sleep at night, dammit!”
“Kyah!”

The girl’s body moved instantaneously, planting a punch into Holy Maiden Ina’s stomach. At that single blow, the magic of life concentrated on both her hands melted down and returned to her body.
Holy Maiden Ina fell to her feet.

“You lot! You’re a right bother!”

The girl who resembled Holy Maiden Ina cried out.

“Always flirtin’ and flirtin’ and flirtin’ the place up! Arbitrarily appearing in my dreams, flirting as if to show off the happiness I’ll never get in my lifeeeee!
What’s this!? What’s wrong with you people!? You making fun of me!? You laughing, this is never happenin’ for an unwoman like you, and taking me for a fool!?”
“Eh? Eh…?”

While the girl seemed angry at Ina, the Holy Maiden in question had no idea what was going on. She was angry at the hero as well, but naturally, the man was oblivious.
As if the tense air to that point had been a lie, a dazed air ruled the area. Excluding the enraged mysterious girl.

“Idiot! Idiot! What’s more, on the verge of death from the likes of the Demon King? If you die here, it’ll get even harder to get a damn night’s sleep! Is that so much to ask for!? Quit bringing trouble to my doorstep! Stupid!”
“W… who exactly… are you……?”
“It goes without saying I’m this woman who came from a parallel world! The victim who’s been shown all your lascivious harlotry in my dreams! Stupid!”
“Eh!?”

The mysterious girl pointed at Holy Maiden Ina as she spoke. Parallel world… meaning she proclaimed herself the Ina of a different world.

“Could it be… you’re the one from my dreams…”

Holy Maiden Ina softly muttered.

“Ha ha ha! Gallant warrior of another world! How truly intriguing! Now why don’t you show me what you can do!”
“God! You’re noisy! I don’t have the time to deal with you right now!
Holy Maiden LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRR!”
“HOGEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

By the beam of light emitted from the mysterious girl’s mouth, the Demon King disintegrated. And just like that, the beam proceeded to destroy a third of the castle. More than that, a beam spat out from a woman’s wide-open mouth, no matter how you looked at it, was not a pretty sight.

And so peace returned to the world.

“In the first place, you two, you know! You’re really lacking in any consideration for me! What’s this!? You think happiness is something that gets shared with everyone!? You think a single person’s happiness is tied to everyone else’s!? You think love is the sort of thing that makes everyone happy!?
That’s wrong! You’re wrong! It’s different for an unwoman!
When I see someone I don’t know flirting up the town, it makes me nauseous inside! And then? When I see a man and woman holding hands as if love is all there is to the world, ptewy!  Quit messin’ with me, you bastards! In the end, you’re just a bitch in heat reacting to your instinct to mate!
You get me!?”
“Ah, yes.”

The hero party had naturally gotten on their knees in apology.

“Yeah, yeah, I know! I’m biased! It’s just my biaaas!
I know you haven’t done anything wrong! However! If an unpopular woman like me doesn’t see popular women that way, it’s bad on my mental health! You can’t get by if you don’t apply some sophistry to your unpopular stress! It doesn’t really matter, does it! An unpopular woman can’t get by if she doesn’t see it that way!
Rather, do you even know what an unwoman is!? It means an unpopular woman, that’s what they’re calling them these days! Did you know!?”
“Ah, no.”
“As I thought! I knew it! We live in different worlds after all! Where a popular woman and an unpopular one live are… no! By the letter, we live in different worlds!
Have you ever thought about it!? About the unpopular women in the world!? Do you know what pain the unpopular women go through!? I’m sure you don’t! There’s no way you could!
And yet, you keep showing me how you flirt over’n over’n over’n over! Are you aware of it!? Are you even aware you’re being watched!? I’d doubt it! There’s no way you are!”

The heroes seriously didn’t know what was going on.

“In the first place! Why is it when I’m thiiiiiiiiiiis strong, and I’ve contributed to the world so much- hell I saved two of them- that I’m not popular at all, when someone as flimsy as you gets a boyfriend!? Do you think that’s alright!?”
“Eh? Are you referring to me?”
“Of course I am! Me of another world! Everyone giving it all to take down the enemy, deepening their bonds, working hard together, deepening friendship, everyone grasping at a single victory together……

Are you stuppppppppppppppiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiddddddddddddd!?
You’re stuuuuuupiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiddddddddddddd!
I’m alone, by myself here! Always alone! So strong I’m alone! In victory and effort, I’m always alone! With efficiency in mind, I’m alone! In friendship, I’m alone! What does that even mean! What’s one-man teamwork supposed to be!? I don’t get what I’m saying anymore!
Do you get me!? Do any of you get it!?”
“Ah, no…”
“As I thought! There’s no way you would get it! Even I don’t know what I’m saying after all!
But! But please understand! That’s… that’s…
… That is how the unwoman lives her lllllllllllllliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiifffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

A scream rose from her soul.
The Demon King had perished, the world had found peace, and yet what was she doing? The heroes hadn’t the slightest idea.

“You two! Yeah, you! Holy maiden! Hero!”
“Eh!”
“Yes!”
“What got you two together was that, right!? That time she was kidnapped by a dragon and you saved her! Risked your life to save the damsel in distress! You think you’re the protagonist and heroine of some adventure novel!? Of course you’d fall! Anyone would fall, anyone would feel the love! The love story where the Holy Maiden and Hero save one another’s lives! How beautiful! Good for you!
But try saying the situation I found myself in! Do you get it!? Do you know what I did back then!?”
“No.”
“I escaped on my own! I punched the damn dragon to death! Before the hero could come to save me, I beat the dragon army black and blue! That’s right! Hero over there! Do you think that’s what’ll make a love story!? Do you think a love story will break out of holy maiden with both hands caked in blood.”
“N… no……”
“That’s right!
Isn’t that right!
Of course it’s right!
Because I was too strong, I lost my chance for romance!
It’s because I’m too strong that I’m not populaaaaaaaar!”

The unwoman’s soulful cry.
It was such an empty pitiful cry, it resounded through the peaceful sky.

But there was someone to chant an objection.

“That’s wrong.”

The hero denied the angry sham holy maiden’s words.

“……… Mn?”
“You’re wrong, Lady Ina of another world. The reason I started to take to Lady Ina wasn’t because I saved her in the fight with the dragon.
It was long before that… when she invited me to dance at a party at the palace.”
“Mnnn?”

The movements of the rough, raging sham Holy Maiden came to a halt. And as if she hadn’t the slightest idea, she tilted her head with her resentful look still plastered over her face.

“I… in a dance party at the palace, Lady Ina asked if I would be her partner. To tell you the truth, that was when I started to be conscious of her… the girl who had just left her hometown, fearfully making scarce in a corner of the room invited me to dance with a reddened face…
The courage in the depths of her eyes… it captivated me.”
“……”
“By the time I noticed it, my eyes had started to follow her. Was she doing alright? Is she still lonely? Has she found someone close who’ll dance with her…
And the moment I heard she had been taken by a demonic dragon, I immediately took off, fast as I could.
From the depths of my heart, I wanted to save the girl who shared a dance with me……”
“Sir Bøyg…”

Holy Maiden Ina touched a hand to her reddened face. It seemed she was unaware of that fact, as she tried to conceal the embarrassment and delight of having been taken to so early.

Within all of that, the sham holy maiden opened her eyes wide to show her shock. As if the foundation she believed in was crumbling beneath her.

“… So the rescue drama in the dragon’s nest had nothing to do with it……?”
“I won’t say it had no influence, but there was something that got me before that.”
“Then… then the real opportunity that got you together… was whether or not she called out at the dance party…?”
“At the very least, it was for me.”
“………”

The sham holy maiden’s eyes widened more.
She never invited the hero at the dance party. She lacked the courage to take the hero by the hand and dance.
The Holy maiden and hero danced, while the sham holy maiden had only watched from afar. The two of different worlds had that small difference in courage.

The sham holy maiden had believed.
Because she was too strong, she had lost the first opportunity. She thought that was the only big difference separating her from the she of this world.

But the cause had come before that.

“Umm! Excuse me! Other me!”
“… Mn?”
“I… I’ve seen you in my dreams……! I… I… have something I need to ask you……!”
“…”

The lovely Holy Maiden crossed her hands, got on her knees, and made a plea to the scraggly-haired self-proclaimed holy maiden.

“How can I become as strong as you!? The Demon King has perished, but I! We! For as long as we live, we want to protect whatever is in our reach!
I want to grow stronger to protect my precious people!”

Just as the unwoman holy maiden had seen dreams of her parallel self, the lovely Holy Maiden had been seeing dreams of her.
The unwoman maiden put a hand to her chin and thought.

“…… You have to become a coward.”
“… Eh?”
“Become a coward. That’s the secret to strength.”

The sham holy maiden stared fixatedly into the Holy Maiden’s eyes.

“You must become a coward. The way you are, you might not be able to win against a strong foe; you might be killed. You might be led to harsh battlefield only to find yourself in the jaws of death. You’re still much too weak, you lack any power, you’re timid, you’re weak, think of what you’re lacking.
What you need, what you’re lacking, what you’ll never be able to obtain… and once you do, you’ll have no choice but to put your life into your training…”
“Become… a coward…”
“You must fear, you must cower, thirst for strength, thirst and thirst and thirst and thirst, train and train and train and train…… if you become a coward like that… you’ll become just like me.”
“……”

The sham holy maiden looked up at the sky. She looked at the night sky through the hole she blew open in the Demon King’s castle.

“Perhaps I was a coward so I became strong… and you were brave so you got a boyfriend……”
“That’s…”
“I see… so that was the difference…”

Because she was a coward, the sham holy maiden had become stronger than any other. Her fear of death made her practice more than any. But because she was a coward, she never invited the hero at the party.
On the other hand, it was precisely because the noble Holy Maiden was brave, that she invited the hero, and was able to stand against powerful foes with her comrades. But her hand never reached the strength too far out of her grasp.

The two of different worlds held something completely different.
The sham holy maiden no longer had anything to say or ask.
So she turned her body away from them and started on her way towards the crack in space.

“Um!”

She was called to a stop. By the other her.

“Do your best!”

Her legs stopped in their tracks.

“Let’s both do our best!”

The Holy Maiden made a fist with both hands, gripping them tightly as she said it.

“…… Hmph.”

The scraggly-haired young girl gave a light hum before disappearing behind the crevice in space.
Yet another world was at peace.

 

 

* * * * *

[Reality]

“Say what what what what what!?”

I lifted my shoulders as I rudely paced.
Ah! How irritating! God, this is irritating me!
What’s with that!? Why do I feel like I just lost!?

To hell with courage! For some reason, it’s like we concluded we’re where we are because she’s brave and I’m a coward!
Hey, I beat the Demon King here! I freakin’ saved the world! I saved two of them!

Power really is number one. You can’t do anything without power. I am numbah one! I am zah best! Even if she’s brave, even if she has a boyfriend, if she’s not strong, she can’t do a damn thing!

Daaammmiiit! I understand!
I’m crying sour grapes! I’m just being a sore loser! Damn! Dammit!
And from here on, without change, I’ll be living the life of an unwoman! Screw you!

Isn’t that fine!? An unwoman’s life!? It’s nice and easy alone. I’ll have to politely refuse that sort of wretched life of spitting up sugar every day! Dammit!
It’s just not for me! Not like it matters! I don’t need a boyfriend or anything!

Who cares if I stay the same coward as ever!

 

 

 

‘Let’s both do our best!’

 

 

 

………………………………………

…………………………

……………

Hmph……
It’s not like I think I lost.
It’s not like I need a man. Right, I don’t need a lover. I’m not envious at all.
I don’t feel like I’ve lost to parallel world me at all, you hear.

And I opened the door.

On the other side, a vibrant party had been opened.
The commemorative ceremony for the Demon King’s defeat, a large, grand festival to sing praise of the world’s newfound peace. Extravagant food lined the halls, everyone wore a glamorous dress.
It was a world much too radiant for me.

It doesn’t suit me.
The place isn’t for me.
I should just go and sleep. I’ll snore and sleep until morning comes.

Even so, I proceeded in a straight line to a certain someone.

It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if I stay an unwoman.
I don’t need courage or anything like that.
The notion spins through my head again and again.

Even so, step by step, I walk.
Towards that person.

I’m nervous. It doesn’t really matter. If I want to run, I can just run away. I’m not that fixated on the man anyways.
It’s not like I need something like courage.

I think as I arrive.
At the hero Bøyg. At the side of the hero having a friendly chat with his male friends.

…… At the person I love.

“W… w…… woul…….”
“Hm? What’s up? Ina?”

He calls out. I sweat. My pulse speeds up.
Just a little, please wait a bit more.

“Wo…… would………… would you like……………”
“?”

Bøyg smiled as he tilted his head.
No more. I want to run. I don’t particularly want a man. I don’t need him. I want to run away. It’s fine to run, isn’t it? It’s fine for me to be an unwoman. That way’s much easier.
I don’t need any courage. I can just run away.

But,
But still.
She was able to do it.
The other me could do it.

Then I’m sure I can also…………

“W… would you like to dance with me……?”

I took the first step forward.
It was small, easy and simple, but I took an important first step.

I had no way of telling what would come after.
My plate was full with what was happening now.

Because holding his hand and dancing was something that took all too much courage.

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