A horse gallops on the muddied ground. Mud gets kicked up by its hooves as it races forward. The droplets glitter despite the grey sky.
–Suimei and Lefille reached the Imperial Capital, Filas Filia, a few days ago.
Reiji, upon learning of Suimei’s crisis from Gregory, took off on a horse, leaving Mizuki and Titania to chase after. The two crossed the Nelfila – Aster border and proceeded East of Klant City where the road gives way to a vast forest of evergreens. Titania grips the reins of her horse as she gallops up to Reiji and expresses her relief, “We got lucky and were able to borrow some horse along the way. If not for that, we never would have been able to catch up with you, Reiji-sama.”
Reiji ran off alone to save his friend, Suimei Yakagi, upon learning he was in danger. As a result, Titania and the rest of the party were left to chase after him. Thanks to good fortune, they were able to acquire horses on their way back to Aster and caught up to Reiji while he was resting.
Reiji apologizes to her, “Thanks… But Tia, is that really okay? I’m out here following my own selfish whims…”
“It’s fine, this has nothing to do with Reiji-sama. The way things are, I have no choice but to go with you.”
“Sorry, right now…” Right now, this is Reiji’s responsibility. Rushing out on his own wasn’t wrong, but it did bring hardship to his companions. He’s creating debts he’ll never be able to pay back.
Titania, however, dispels those doubts with a shake of her head and an unwavering smile. “You’re wrong. Reiji-sama, right now, you are mistaken. In the first place, it was an aristocrat from my country that deceived Suimei. Furthermore, my countrymen and I were also the ones who summoned you and your friends to this world. As a result, I, the princess of Aster, am duty bound to aid you. Therefore, Reiji-sama, you have no reason to feel indebted to me.
“…Thanks, really, thank you.”
“Don’t worry about me. More importantly—” Titania look to the back from atop of her horse. The other girl at the end of her sight fills her with anxiety. Their selfish actions are dragging her into danger. “Mizuki…”
Mizuki still can’t ride a horse on her own and clings to the female knight, Luka’s, back. She follows them to face the mazoku army without fear despite the fact that she still isn’t used to combat and gets scared during battle.
Reiji feels the same as Titania. Even though Mizuki’s honest feelings raise his spirits, he say, “Mizuki, don’t push yourself! You’ll lose the moment you think you can’t fight.”
Mizuki claims to be fine. “But….” Knowing her friend is in danger, she’ll never forgive herself if she left without doing something. The same sense of responsibility that shackles Reiji and Titania also binds her.
Reiji wants Mizuki to turn back. He would never be able to forgive himself if anything happened to her. “Mizuki, don’t push yourself. This isn’t just about Suimei. If something happens to you, I…”
“If we believe it’s too dangerous, get to someplace safe with Luka-san, okay?”
“….Fine, I understand. But, what about you? You absolutely can’t do anything too dangerous, either!”
Reiji lies upon seeing the worry on Mizuk’s face in order to relieve her feelings. “Don’t worry, I promise!” The reason for his lie is obvious. That promise isn’t one that can be kept. He has no doubt what so ever of that.
Titania makes an inquiry after Reiji and Mizuki finish. “Reiji-sama, what are your plans?”
“Right, I want to go to a place the mazoku will pass by. I know we don’t have time to waste watching them, but we still don’t know where Suimei is. Once we confirm the size of the mazoku army, I want to look for places where people could hide.” Their primary goal is to rescue Suimei. Fighting the mazoku is pointless. The best plan of action is one that conforms to their goal.
The odds of finding Suimei along with the caravan are impossibly low. Regardless, “Fufufu, when against mazoku, should we not force our way through the front?”
“That’s your plan!? Even I realize that that is extremely reckless!”
“I also disagree…. I’m really starting to get worried.”
“Tia, did you flip a switch? You’re a lot shrewder than this… what happened?”
“That is what I believe we should do. Considering out situation, that’s our best plan of action.”
Reiji asks Titania to explain her words. “….Hey, Tia, if I said go on ahead, how would you respond?”
“At that time, we have to strike together!”
“—Reiji-sama, I told you back when we first set off. It is my obligation to accompany you. The moment you fall will also be the moment I fall.”
“……” Reiji looks to the front to see what lies ahead. Everything before his eyes looks difficult, but now he can move past that. Titania’s words give him strength. They were simple, but full of resolution. Her voice is a firm reassurance to keep pressing forward. After all, those words came from Titania, not some tag-along girl. He was well aware that he might die when he first decided to do this. Now that she stands next to him, he needs to have that same resolution as her.
“Is something wrong?”
“No, but Tia, you’re incredible. I don’t think I’ll ever measure up to you.”
“….?” She doesn’t grasp the meaning of his words. They came out of nowhere without any context. She tilts her head from atop of her horse in confusion.
Titania, as the princess of an entire country, carries a stronger resolution than Reiji. Before her determination, anything he musters will be comparable to a puppy asking for affection. Looking at her stirs a deep sense of inferiority. Right now, however, isn’t the time for such thoughts. Reiji reorganizes himself and asks, “Tia, based on our plan, where do you think is the best place to go?”
“Yes, from here we should first go north. The forest East of Klant is less dense in the North than in the South. It’s also smaller, making that the best place for scouting the situation.”
“I understand. Let’s go.”
T/N: Well, I did not expect to finish this chapter that fast. It was surprisingly short. I don’t think this scene will happen, but I want to see Reiji and his party come across the carnage Suimei left behind after annihilating all those mazoku.