The sound of rain did not cease.
She, who had been sitting in the rain, had gotten up and left. Despite her feelings of helplessness… She had regained her composure and left.
I was left still standing here.
I also know that as the Knight Commander, I should stop hesitating and call my subordinate…
…But I can’t move.
In the back of my mind, all I saw was Lady Rururia’s eyes and the sound of her voice calling for help.
She asked for my help…
But I failed.
It was an unpleasant and unbearable feeling… I couldn’t control the urge to hit myself.
So this was how regret felt like…?
I processed my thoughts like I was an entirely different person… But that stops here.
I’m not some kid that just stood around confused whenever things went wrong.
I turned my thoughts to the ground that had swallowed up Lady Rururia and how I could get her out there.
If asked what my very first memory was, I would have to say it was my father’s back.
I don’t remember seeing his face clearly… I had lived with my servant for as long as I could remember, so it felt odd even to call him like that: father.
It seemed that my so-called ‘father‘ only appeared to give me enough money for a place to live and food, but there was no contact other than that.
So to me, the man calling himself ‘my father‘ was just a random person with a label.
But people always felt some type of way whenever I tell them that story.
Some sympathized… Some showed anger… Some held immense feelings of superiority, while others had distorted their faces into mocking sneers.
…I can’t really understand what evoked those emotions in them.
“A mo… Monster!”
That word had been yelled at me so often that I had become familiar with it.
I fixed my eyes on a boy older than me, his arm swollen red.
The three boys surrounding me retreated as if frightened… What one earth was going on?
“Yo… You! Don’t think I’ll let you get away with hurting Azel like that!”
“…Hey, your older brother was in a vigilante group, wasn’t he…? Call him over here.”
“Huh, what were you planning on doing?”
“It’s been decided, hasn’t it? We’re getting rid of this monster!”
That’s what the boy had said as he pointed at me and laughed distortedly.
“…Oy. What happened?”
Having heard our voices, four adults pushed through the bushes and drew near us.
Among the four was a red-haired man, whom the boy that confronted me ran up to cling to.
The adults seemed confused with the boys’ story, unable to get the point, but their expressions hardened when they saw the branch in my hand.
…It was then that they recognized that I was their enemy.
One of them loomed over me as he reached to take my weapon.
No one should let an enemy disarm them, so I kept it out of his reach.
That was just common sense.
“Ugh! You brat! Hand it over!”
“One must never give their weapon to an enemy.”
At his aggressive voice, I simply put my thoughts into words, and his face became even harsher.
“You’re the one the broke Azel’s arm!”
…Azel. He must be the one from the last conversation… The one I hit with my stick.
I had no idea I broke his arm. However, if he had said so, then I can try and believe it.
As soon as I affirmed what he had said, the four adults grew tense all at once… Was this their blood lust?
One of them menacingly twitched a baton he held in his hand, apparent hostility visible in his mannerisms.
As I looked into his delirious eyes, I caught the baton he had swung down at me, jabbing out with my stick in response.
I saw a long black-haired person in my field of view… A woman?
Whoever it was coming from behind, the man confronting me had his arm twisted by her.
…When had she gotten here? I hadn’t seen it.
“What were you assholes doing to that child?”
The other three men retreated at her extreme anger. They tended to the man who she had attacked, twisted about while moaning… They screamed to her about me.
“He broke the arm of one of the village children.”
“The kids were all scared.”
“He called us his enemies. That makes him dangerous.”
In response to their claims, she replied bluntly.
“They started it, didn’t they?”
She scanned the scene, looking at the well-dressed boys… And then, to me, covered in dirt and scratches.
She gave a silent look as if to ask, “Are you okay?” so I opened my mouth in response.
“I was just going for a walk when a rock hit me. They said they could do whatever they wanted to an outsider kid with no parents, then they jumped out and kicked me.”
“Was that so…?”
“Well, then… You lot…”
At the snap of her fingers, I felt an immense pressure radiate from behind her, and I reflexively stepped back.
The boys were all trembling, and even the adults were in tears as they doubled over.
…They had only just been my enemies a moment ago, but they didn’t seem as threatening anymore.
“Are you ready for this?”
As soon as she finished speaking, their screams echoed throughout the forest.
I rubbed my aching forehead.
After knocking down each adult with a single punch, that woman, who they referred to as the Knight Commander, turned to the boys and me, giving us a choice to either get struck in the head or do chores for the Knights.
I had chosen to get hit, and when they saw how hard she struck me, they all volunteered to do chores instead.
…Were their eyes shining at least a bit as they looked at me, or was that my imagination?
The woman offered to walk me home and said I had to hold her hand while we were together, so I held her hand and guided her down the road.
It was my first time walking side by side with someone, and I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to be looking, so I just stared at my empty hand.
My hand was only empty because the stick I had been holding was now used as a splint for that one kid’s broken arm.
She asked me questions, and I told her how I always walked down that path and spent every day going through the forest.
Eventually, we reached my house, which stood alone in a clearing in the woods.
I wondered what to do at this point, and when I looked up at her, she seemed to be thinking about something.
“…By the way, I didn’t give you my name. It’s Vidika. And you?”
At her smiling face, I could only answer truthfully.
“I don’t know my name.”
“My caretaker only ever calls me master.”
“…And what about everyone else?”
“Besides the nurse, no one ever talked to me. Those kids were the first.”
“…What about your father?”
“I don’t know what he looked like.”
“…Can you come this way a bit?”
I didn’t really understand what was going on, but I moved as she had said and could hear the sound of deep breathing.
She barked out a sound I had never heard before.
It sounded like a raging storm, and I reflexively squeezed her hand.
In response, she didn’t let go or say that it hurt but instead squeezed my hand right back.
When she finished barking, I asked her what she had said; with a smile, she said it was something in her country’s language, but something a child was better off not knowing.
She suddenly said, and I wondered what kind of a word that was.
What was it…? Another foreign word? I turned to her, and she was showing me an expression I had never seen before.
“It’s your name… Lionel.“
I couldn’t get used to that word. Being told my name was something I’m not sure I could understand. All I felt was confusion.
…But she squinted her eyes and said it like it was necessary.
I tried to get my mouth to pronounce it.
Strangely, it started to feel like a word that really belonged to me.
As it rolled off my tongue, she bent down and looked me in the eyes sincerely.
“Come with me, Lionel.”
“…Li! Hey, Lionel!”
Someone shook me by the shoulder as they spoke sharply.
The shock brought me back to reality… The reality of having lost Lady Rururia.
I brushed my annoying, rain-drenched bangs out of my face to see Lady Irene clicking her tongue as she looked at my face.
“You don’t plan on just sitting here like a coward, do you? Hmmm?”
“Hey, Chief Magician! Can you stop with the magic, please!?”
…Her expression seemed quite severe.
Lady Irene shook her fist that was still surrounded by magical energy.
The magicians let out a sigh of relief as they dispelled it, not wanting to disturb us.
“We’re trying to open up an entrance to wherever Lady Rururia was taken.”
“I’ll give it to you straight; there’s only one way to save her… Someone needs to go through there and bring her back.”
I answered even before I realized it.
I didn’t need a long explanation nor any details.
I didn’t even need to think.
I just decided.
Lady Irene looked at me ponderously.
…Judging by the situation, it would make more sense for a magician to go. Obviously, the chances of success were higher if someone skilled at magic went into such an unknown space.
…But even so, I can’t give up on this task.
I solidified my determination as I waited for Lady Irene’s response.
“Solan is trying to drive a wedge into the space where she is supposed to be, but there’s no guarantee she’ll be there. We don’t have proof of where she is, or even if it’s a dimension she can survive in, let alone return from.”
“You still want to go?”
Lady Irene stared at me for a few moments more as my assertions to go started to pile up.
She then started to laugh diabolically, had she misheard me… What was with the current situation?
Without changing expression, she drew her sword and pointed it at me.
“Well, I’m glad I made this prototype from the Margrave’s Hammer. It’s the least I can do… So, just wait for a second!”
Her actions radiated gratitude as she put her fists together.
I took the sword she offered, and we walked to the place together.
When we arrived at the wedge, Lady Irene had pointed out a variety of people working on it.
A significant event like opening such a space was quite the spectacle. You can’t miss it.
…It’s a good thing they didn’t open it while I was still out of sorts.
I took a deep breath and prepared my heart.
I drew the sword Lady Irene had given me, sharpened my senses, and swung it in a familiar motion.
The edge was so black it absorbed the light, and I pointed it at my objective.
All my regrets and confused emotions were calmed as I focus on thoughts of saving Lady Rururia.
Whenever I’m at her side, I feel courageous…
Whenever I thought of her, I’d smile…
And when she was gone, I feel disturbed…
Would she squeeze my neck and tell me I’m crazy? Will I be able to persuade her like I did when I recruited Knights? Or will she just kick me without asking any questions?
As thoughts of Lady Rururia appeared in my head, I couldn’t help but smile.
I’m sure her reaction will, as always, be outside expectations.
“…I’ll need her to call my name.”
It’s me… Rururia… I was just walking down this hallway…
“No… It’s so… Endless…”