As we desperately chased after Rururia-san, the gap that had swallowed her up vanished as if to mock us.
Faced with such circumstances, we could only stand helpless in the pouring rain.
“It… It can’t be… Why did it have to be Ria…”
Sara-san was always unfazed with a fearless smile…
But the woman in front of me now was sitting on the ground, crying and screaming.
All I could do was stroke her back… I couldn’t think of any way to ease her pain.
Disregarding my aristocratic manners, I bit down on my lip reflexively.
…What was up with this unfair reincarnation? I felt so powerless.
The annoying feeling of the rain hitting my cheeks reminded me of how I had died in my past life.
I am a reincarnated individual.
Hearing me say that might make me sound crazy, but it’s true.
I remember my life as a different person and the kind of world I lived in.
I’m the daughter of a Duke in this life, living a luxurious life… But I was a commoner before.
I was raised downtown with a candy maker for a father.
I lost my mother early in life and had unwavering respect for my father, who had the stubbornness and soft-spoken nature of a true craftsman.
My dream was to be a candy maker like my father someday.
“I just don’t know you, dad!”
That’s what I had said when I left home.
Feelings of embarrassment, betrayal and unbelievable anger ran through my head.
“All you have to do was succeed me.”
That one phrase made me feel like my entire self was rejected, and I couldn’t breathe because it was so painful.
Was it because I was too weak… Because I was a woman? Afraid to hear the answer, I decided that I needed something different for myself and ran away.
Fittingly enough, it was raining outside, dousing me like a tragic heroine.
As my shoes squelched, my feelings of anger and resentment towards my father turned to anxiety and doubt.
“…Maybe I should go back home.”
I was entirely soaked and freezing.
And above all else, I felt hungry… I was really in a bad state.
Well… Even a heroine got hungry, so I tried to wipe my wet face with the hem of my uniform, though the rain made it impossible.
I covered my eyes with both hands, as they hurt from crying so much… I tried to calm down.
There was a loud noise near my ears. The shock echoed through my body.
I didn’t understand why, but it felt like I was rising into the gray sky in slow motion.
The sound hit my whole body, leaving only a chilly feeling on my cheeks.
In the distance, someone was yelling something, and even if I wanted to respond… I couldn’t move my fingers, head, nor my legs.
My eyes were blurry, and I couldn’t understand what was happening.
I felt something warm on my fingertips. A warm liquid was spreading slowly.
…Ah, was this my blood?
Was I dying?
Disorganized thoughts went through my head.
I tried with all my might, but I couldn’t move my fingers… Oh, no...
I felt that sticky liquid, which felt different from rain, slowly flow from my skin and spread out… Oh, no… No, no…
I can’t die like this.
I haven’t apologized to my dad yet.
I could no longer hear the voice of whoever was yelling. All I heard was the annoying sound of rain.
That rain ruthlessly washed my life away.
–Ah, it’s cold…
Don’t wash me away…
No, no, no–
“I don’t want to die.”
Perhaps no one could hear my faint, choked up voice–
-A girl’s scream made me open my eyes.
It wasn’t rain or asphalt that encompassed my vision, but a lace fabric.
A man came in through the door without pausing… Who was that?
He approached my side with an expression of great concern on his face and gently embraced me.
I was immensely relieved by the feeling of his dry shirt, which was smooth and soft, as well as his body heat against me,
“What happened? Did you have a bad dream?”
He had a soft, calm, and low voice as he stroked my hair with his gentle hands. I felt my tense and fearful face soften as tears spilled out.
His hands stopped for a moment at my sudden crying, but he gently rained his fingers through my hair in support and encouragement.
…Oh, that’s right.
I am ‘Irene‘ and this man was my ‘dad‘.
I raised my eyes again, and through my tearful distorted gaze, I saw my father’s face.
…Ah, I need to say something.
I tried to swallow through my tight throat, struggling through my own sobbing.
“—I don’t want to die.”
I had opened my mouth to say, “I’m okay, Dad!” but those words wouldn’t come out at all.
Although my father understood… Although I didn’t need to say it… My feelings of fear had been overflown like a river that couldn’t be dammed.
“What is it, Irene?”
“No, I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die!”
I interrupted my father, yelling. I was trying to shake off the cold horror spreading through my body.
I kept yelling until my throat was raw.
I clung to my father as I kept screaming.
“—I don’t want to die!”
“—Well, this is awkward.”
I heard a cold voice from my past and saw Perseus standing in front of me.
The temperature made me stiffen and freeze.
Perseus, the Crown Prince, was using traces of magic around him to move through this space.
He was approaching me with a sinisterly expressionless face.
He was looking at Sara-san with his icy gaze. How scary…
Sara-san dug her pretty hands into the dirty ground at his cold voice and glared back at him.
The combination of rain and tears would make it difficult for an average person to look at him, but Sara-san was more substantial than an ordinary person.
She had the intensity of a rakshasa wanting to burn the world to dust. Wow…
Perseus took in his surroundings, looking at everything that had been swept away, and snorted.
How cruel. To be so dismissive of her, who was just worried about her best friend…!
I opened my mouth to protest, but he looked at me as if to freeze me up with his blizzard-like gaze.
Ooof… So cold… Just with his gaze it felt like I’d freeze to death!
I clung to Sara-san as she tried to encourage me.
Rather than shaking me off, she adjusted her position to block my vision with her back.
I felt her back tremble, and my compassion for her doubled.
Perseus continued to stare at her, irritation creeping into his cold gaze.
“You choose to just sit in the mud pathetically? Just crying and glaring stupidly, was that your answer?”
Without saying anything, Sara-san sat motionless, continuing to be battered by the rain.
Perseus aggressively grabbed her by her shoulders, bringing his face so close their lips nearly touched, and stared into her eyes.
“Don’t disappoint me.”
After a momentary pause, a crisp sound echoed. It was the sound of Sara-san slapping Perseus’ arms off her shoulders.
“I don’t care to know about your selfish desires.”
At some point, she had stopped trembling.
In the next moment, she had stood up gracefully as if dancing at a ball.
Her whole body was wet from the rain and covered in mud, her dress full of wrinkles, and her hair out of sorts– Yet she was still as beautiful as ever.
“Who chose this? Who answered? Care to speculate?”
“…Well, I leave that all to you.”
Sara-san was laughing confidently, back to her usual self.
Although I still felt powerless with the pain in my chest, I stood up slowly, as well.
“Well? Weren’t you the one who put this system in place, Crown Prince? Not that you would tell me?”
“You weren’t a very cute and quiet subordinate to begin with, were you?”
I left the two of them alone as they rapidly exchanged with each other.
…After all, I’m an ordinary person.
Even with a past life… Even with a bit of magical ability… I won’t be able to compete with such true geniuses.
I’m genuinely useless.
My thoughts were devolving into self-criticism, but I was brought to attention by Solan-kun’s voice.
His eyes were red. Had he been crying?
He’s always been a crybaby, so he definitely was.
…It seemed he was also profoundly affected. He averted his eyes as he vented his emotions.
“…Are you okay?”
I was going to ask if he was worried but realized it was a dumb question.
How did he become her friend first?
Lady Rururia cared about him a lot.
…No, it doesn’t matter. But I don’t know what to do.
“No, Ria wouldn’t like it if I cried.”
He said it so shyly.
It seemed at some point that he had finally grown up. I should be happy to see my friends growing. Was I actually just deceiving myself…?
I don’t that.
“You’re not worried?”
“The moment Ria was sucked in, I threw in a wedge so that space could be temporarily fixed.”
“You… You did!? But, Rururia still wasn’t safe!”
…I feel like a child having a tantrum.
It wasn’t enjoyable… I want to stop, but I can’t control it.
Solan-kun gently laughed as if to calm me down.
I looked at him… What… Had he also gotten taller?
He was always a target.
Someone who gambled with his own life and that of his country. Someone who had a one-way ticket to a horrific death.
–And yet, he was my treasured friend.
“Try to think, Irene. This is Ria we’re talking about. The girl with a Dragon Crest, riding a Dragon, confronting Fallen Heroes, being chased by mysterious objects, making contracts with Dragons, and even transforming it… She’ll be alright, won’t she?”
…When he said it like that, it seemed strange that she had lasted this long for some reason. That made me feel a little at ease.
Nothing had changed, but I remembered her neat little face, and a smile crept onto my face.
I pictured her with no regard for any trauma, just stroking the Dragon on her shoulder and complaining.
It seemed foolish to worry about her now.
“It is Rururia-san, after all!”
“It is Ria we’re talking about!”
Our voices were unexpectedly in unison. Despite the circumstances, we looked at each other and let out sighs.
…Ah, Rururia-san was just too strong…
I looked at Solan-kun’s gentle smile, the one that Lady Rururia had helped change, and I smiled back.
—I felt my stomach rumble, making the situation awkward. Ah, what… Why?
I felt a sudden rush of emotions and turned my gaze.
I saw Sara-san, laughing like she was invincible. And at her side… Was Perseus clutching his head, but I’ll not focus on him.
So what will we do…? She seemed to think, conveying it wordlessly in her gaze, and I felt my head and stomach flutter with confusion.
I can’t just help my dear friend.
—It has to be done, of course, that’s what I’ll say.
“Let’s go! We must do our best to save Rururia!”
“Alright! Irene, first off–”
Standing next to me, Solan-kun began his complex theoretical explanation on how we would save Lady Rururia.
We… We have to try…!