A faint blue light―As he watched the water-like waves administer healing from a distance, Reinhard heaved a sigh so faint no one noticed it.
His handsome profile was rather despondent and his clothing was slightly battle-worn. His figure standing before the wreckage was such that an image of it would be a masterpiece in itself.
However, despite his objective brilliance, from his subjective viewpoint, his inadequacy brought him such chagrin that no amount of words could describe it.
Even now, Emilia was putting her all into healing Subaru. The wound he had received was due to the opening created by Reinhard’s conceit.
He had let Subaru sustain an injury that shouldn’t have reached him, and placed an unnecessary burden on Emilia.
Furthermore, due to his innate characteristics he would only hinder Emilia if he was by her side.
Watching from afar like this was the best he could do, realizing that some part of him was calmly acting on this judgement increased his guilt even further.
“―Alright, that should be enough.”
As Reinhard condemned himself with his eyes closed, a voice like a silver bell reached his ears.
Emilia lightly brushed away his bangs as if wiping his forehead, and confirmed that his face was tinged red. She then stood up with a nod and turned around.
“I’ve finished his treatment.― Looks like we’re past the worst of it.”
“That’s splendid news. Now, Emilia-sama…”
Reinhard briskly walked over to Emilia who seemed satisfied, and dropped to his knee and lowered his head. Not a single one of his movements were lacking, his etiquette was flawless.
“Due to my inadequacy, I have caused you a great deal of anxiety. I shall accept any punishment for this failure.”
He placed his sword before his knee as he apologized for his failings.
To a knight, this was the highest form of apology. Reinhard was prepared to accept any order or punishment she may give him.
However, in response to his apology, Emilia,
“You know, I don’t really understand why you people are like that.”
“You came to save us from danger, and somehow settled things without anyone dying. Despite this, you’re now trying to take responsibility for all the pain and suffering that occurred in the process.”
Waved her finger and pouted, a little displeased.
She then suddenly turned her finger toward Subaru who was sound asleep,
“That kid’s a lot more straightforward. He saved my life, and thus demanded a reward. Although he really didn’t ask for very much.”
Reinhard too had seen Subaru try to act cool as he asked for her name. As Emilia smiled thinking back on it, Reinhard’s lips ended up forming a smile as well.
‘So,’, Emilia suddenly narrowed her amethyst eyes at Reinhard,
“Thank you for helping us. ―That’s all I have to say to you. As far as I’m concerned you haven’t done anything wrong, so there shall be no punishment. If you can’t accept that, then do your best from next time onward.”
“―Understood. I am thankful for your kind words.”
After lowering his head even further to show his respect, Reinhard stood up.
Now that the two were facing each other, Reinhard ended up looking down at her since he was much taller. Even so, what was that majesty he had just felt from her?
It was probably the difference in their caliber, Reinhard guessed, aware of his narrow-mindedness.
On the other hand, this only reaffirmed the fact that Emilia too was one of the ‘Chosen’.
“By the way, you’re dressed rather lightly today…”
Emilia murmured as if she just realized this as she watched his silent form.
Her eyes were on his clothes―Since he was off-duty today, he wore dark clothes suited to a stroll around the capital. He understood that the fact that he didn’t look very much like a knight must have been strange to her.
“Today is one of my rare days off, so I wasn’t wearing my imperial uniform. My armor is presently in the castle, so for today my sword is the only knightly object I have on me.”
He placed his sword back at his hip, its conspicuous claw marks catching Emilia’s eye.
She then blinked, seeming somewhat surprised,
“How come you got wrapped up in this on your day off?”
“That’s a little complicated, but… It was thanks to Subaru over there.”
It was his encounter with the boy who was presently unconscious that led him here.
If he were to explain things in order, he would have to start with the alley where he first met Subaru and spoke with him.
Back then, Subaru had revealed to Reinhard that he was looking for a silver-haired girl in a white robe. Reinhard knew of only one person who fit that description.
Subaru wished to meet her. While in the process of investigating him, Reinhard ended up coming to the slums,
“I met her along the way, and then arrived here.”
“Right, that girl.”
Now that she had been brought up, Emilia’s eyes turned to a corner of the clearing―To the girl who was tending to the still unconscious old man.
Feeling her gaze, the blonde girl turned around and then lowered her eyes awkwardly.
“Reinhard. You’ve been a great help. I’m grateful that you saved us. But I have one more request, don’t interfere any further.”
In response to her firm words, Reinhard gave up on saying anything further.
Taking his silence as a yes, Emilia walked toward the blonde girl. The girl also turned to face her, as if prepared for the worst.
“Is that old man your family?”
Emilia leaned over to meet the crouching girl’s gaze as she asked this.
The girl was dumbfounded by this question. That was probably because this was entirely different from the sort of words she was expecting to hear.
Even Reinhard who did not know their circumstances could tell that their relationship was not a friendly one.
The girl who seemed to have the wind taken out of her sails scratched her cheek as she tried to compose herself, and repeatedly tapped the unconscious old man’s head as if to hide her embarrassment.
“S-Something like that. To me, old man Rom is my only… Yeah, something like a grandpa I guess.”
“I see. I’ve only got one family member too. He’s always asleep when it matters, I could never say that sort of thing while he’s awake, though.”
“Yeah, I couldn’t say this sort of thing if Rom was awake either.”
It seemed like her blows to Rom’s head were becoming more than just taps. This was probably unintentional. Her pace increased as well, and his round white head started turning red.
She then looked up at Emilia with a frail light in her red eyes,
“I thought you’d be way harsher.”
“I suppose you would. Perhaps I would have if things were the way they were before, but it seems I don’t feel like it now. So I’ll let it go out of consideration for that kid’s face, just a little, though.”
Emilia shrugged her shoulders with a wry smile like it just couldn’t be helped.
When she did this and pointed Subaru out, the blonde girl lowered her face for a bit, and then quietly mouthed an apology, “I’m sorry”,
“You saved my life. I can’t act ungrateful. I’ll return what I stole.”
Saying this, she stood up and directed her gaze toward the alley.
She then addressed Emilia, “Listen,”
“When I came back, I wasn’t sure you guys were even alive… So I hid it elsewhere, is it fine if I go to retrieve it?”
“I see you’re rather cautious… I don’t dislike it, though. I’ll wait here.”
“… Are you sure? I might be making stuff up to run away, you know?”
“Running is fine, but you’ll have that coming after you, you know?”
Reinhard, or ‘that’, as Emilia referred to him, straightened his posture.
It was a mystery what the blonde girl felt when she saw him do this, ‘Uee’, she let out a sound showing deep displeasure and then dashed into the alley saying she’d be right back.
“Once she comes back and returns everything… We’ll finally be able to go back, huh.”
“I won’t ask for details, but do be careful. ― I shall have a squad join you, please allow them to accompany you on your way home.”
“Going that far is… Even if I say that, I suppose it hardly makes a difference considering how much trouble I’ve already put you through. Very well.”
Having received her consent, Reinhard responded, “Understood.” He then followed her gaze to Subaru who was sleeping peacefully. “Well then,”
“What is your relationship with him―with Subaru?”
Reinhard was taken aback by her immediate answer.
Perhaps finding his reaction amusing, Emilia’s lips broadened into a smile,
“That’s all I can tell you, we really are just passing acquaintances. I don’t remember ever meeting him prior. I believe just now should have been our first meeting…”
“However, he was looking for you. He said he wanted to give you something. He was here during all of this, and also…”
‘He put his life on the line to protect you’, Reinhard hesitated to speak this next part out loud.
It felt like doing so would somehow sully the nobility of his actions. He surely did not do it to receive praise.
Furthermore, Emilia probably understood without having to be told.
She continued from the part Reinhard did not speak out loud,
“That’s what’s strange about it… Although I do suspect that that pervert might have something to do with this.”
“Please refrain from speaking poorly of Lord Roswaal. He is a magnificent person. It is true that he is somewhat eccentric, but…”
“You knew who I was talking about, so it’s rather obvious what you think of him.”
“… My apologies. Please keep this secret from Lord Roswaal.”
Reinhard winked as he apologized, and Emilia ambiguously replied, “Right, right.”
After this, Reinhard once again raised the topic of Subaru.
“What shall we do with him? If you wish to leave him to me, my family can take him in as a guest.”
“… No, I’ll take him with me. I’ll be able to find out exactly who he is, and even supposing he isn’t connected to that pervert, the fact remains that he saved me.”
“Thank you for your concern.” She finished, and Reinhard responded with a nod.
With that, their discussion had concluded for the most part. What was left was to assign some subordinates to Emilia and escort her home safely. In the meantime, Reinhard would also have to deal with the aftermath.
Taking a look at the collapsing building, Reinhard closed his eyes at the scale of the damage.
As usual, he cursed his lack of self-control. He had failed to restrain just a bit of his power and this was the result. His power would wipe away the entire region if used carelessly, he had to be cautious.
“What’s going to become of this place?”
“We’ll forbid entry into the area for a while, and put up some wanted posters for the bowel hunter. Although there’s always plenty of shady rumors surrounding her, so there’s a good chance it would only be a waste of time.”
“And that girl and the old man?”
“… I’m unsure of the circumstances, but considering my duty as a knight I do not believe I can overlook their actions. However,”
He paused and took a breath, and then shrugged slightly.
“It’s my day off, and furthermore, if the victim does not file a complaint, it would be difficult to pursue the matter due to a lack of evidence. Haha. Seriously, I don’t know the situation, so.”
“Fufu, you’re a bad knight.”
“Sadly, this is the true nature of the man known by such titles as the knight among knights.”
As they spoke, Reinhard sensed someone approaching them from the alley. From her gait and breathing, he knew it was that girl without even needing to look.
The snaggletoothed girl showed herself, and looked at them with an embarrassed expression,
“I brought it back like I said I would.”
“Great, I’m glad you came back. I’d feel reeeally guilty if I had to set this guy on you.”
“The knight among knights, it’d be insane to try to outrun someone like that. This is my first time seeing someone faster than me, that shocked me quite a bit.”
Responding to her gaze with a smile, Reinhard took a step back and watched the two.
The girl approached Emilia while fishing around her chest.
“Alright, I’m returning this. ― If it’s important to you, conceal it so it doesn’t get stolen next time.”
“I find it a bit strange to receive that warning from you of all people… If possible, I’d prefer you stopped doing this sort of thing entirely.”
“That’s impossible. Let me tell you, I only wanted to return this to you because you saved my life. I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong, and I have no intention of stopping.”
She bluntly refused Emilia’s request and donned a stubborn smile.
Her profile felt rather tragic when one considered her age. Even as he heard her position on the matter, Reinhard silently accepted it.
He knew that this definitely wasn’t something he should overlook considering his responsibilities. But how else could they survive? It wouldn’t be right to simply speak of justice without even offering an alternative.
Reinhard’s thoughts were the result of all he had seen in the capital.
Emilia seemed to feel it as well. She lowered her eyes for one fleeting moment, and then extended her hand without pressing the matter any further,
“I see… You’re pretty stubborn, huh.”
“I might stop if food just appeared before me without me having to do anything, though. Anyway, here you go.”
The object she took out was in the palm of her hand, she was returning what appeared to be the stolen item to Emilia.
For an instant, a red shine flashed by his eyes. That dazzling light felt familiar, and in an instant Reinhard narrowed his eyes and searched his ocean of memories.
He then found a memory that matched,
He grabbed her hand which was holding the insignia from the side.
Surprise filled both the girls’ eyes. The two of them looked up at Reinhard, and hesitated to say anything further when they saw his serious expression and gaze.
“T-That hurts… Let go…”
Felt weakly shook her head as she resisted.
However, Reinhard’s grip on her hand showed no signs of loosening. Reinhard’s strength was such that he could even crush steel if he wished. Although he was holding back, it definitely wasn’t the sort of grip a dainty girl could shake off.
“What is this…”
A quavering murmur. It had come from Reinhard’s mouth.
It was Emilia who responded to his words. Her amethyst eyes seemed shaken,
“Reinhard, wait. I do understand that it won’t be easy to let her off just like that. But she didn’t know the insignia’s true value. And I, the person she stole it from, don’t intend to make an issue of it either. ― I was also at fault for letting it get stolen, so. So.”
“That’s not it, Emilia-sama. That’s not what I’m worried about.”
The firm tone of his response caused Emilia to fall silent with a perplexed expression.
Even disregarding his rudeness toward her, Reinhard looked at the girl whose arm he was holding. Looking up at the young man whose hair was the same color as her crimson eyes, her eyes wavered with unease.
“… What is your name?”
“Your surname? How old are you?”
“I-I’m an orphan, you know? I don’t have anything fancy like a surname. My age is… Probably around fifteen, or so I’m told. I don’t know my birthday. Hey, let me go!”
The girl returned to her usual self as they spoke, and struggled as she yelled in a coarse tone. However, Reinhard kept her in check with his dexterous control over his strength as he fixed his eyes on Emilia.
“Emilia-sama, I can no longer uphold our agreement. ― I shall take charge of her.”
“… May I ask about the reason? If it’s about punishment for stealing my insignia…”
“That is certainly no small sin… But compared to the sin of overlooking what’s happening in front of me, it is but a trifling matter.”
Emilia raised her eyebrow in confusion and incomprehension.
Reinhard deemed her confusion something that couldn’t be helped and simply accepted it. After all, this was a sight she was used to. It would probably be cruel to tell her to notice it.
“I would like to take you with me. My apologies, but you do not have the right to refuse.”
“Don’t screw… Don’t get carried away just because you saved…?”
Her foul-mouthed response to his words was interrupted when her body went limp.
Her shoulders mysteriously lost their strength before she could finish, and she resentfully glared at Reinhard to the very end,
“Go to hell… Damn it.”
After she hurled this final abuse, her head slumped.
Supporting her unconscious body, Reinhard smoothly carried her under his arm. In response to his practiced movements, Emilia,
“That’s not very knightly of you either… If you’re too harsh, there will be lasting effects on her gate.”
“Fortunately, I’ve had to deal with this from birth so I understand how to control it. ―Emilia-sama, it seems you may soon receive a summons. Please understand.”
He gently took the insignia from the unconscious girl’s hand and presented it to Emilia.
The draconic insignia truly appeared to symbolize ‘The Dragon Kingdom of Lugunica’ itself. The red jewel emitted a faint glow in Reinhard’s hand― When it was passed to Emilia, it shone brilliantly as if overjoyed to be reunited with its owner.
“I shall leave Subaru in your hands.”
Reinhard bowed to Emilia who wordlessly gazed at him once she accepted the insignia.
As he felt the weight of the light girl in his arms, he suddenly brushed the bangs covering her forehead aside. Her cherubic white features possessed a charm befitting her age now that she was unconscious and thus had no need to brace herself.
If he gave her a change of clothes and got the alleys’ grime off her, she would surely shine brightly.
A strong wind blew, causing Reinhard’s red bangs to dance.
He looked up at the sky through that gap, it was already dusk and the moon floated in the capital’s sky.
The full moon shone a faint bluish white, its beauty was filled with a certain bewitching charm.
“Today might be my final opportunity to calmly gaze upon the moon―”
Reinhard’s whisper did not reach anyone but the moon looking down at him.
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