[TL Note: Took out double spacing between dialogue and narration.]
I sat atop a pile of rocks to briefly catch my breath.
I didn't really need to take a break, though.
Due to corpses strewn around and the accompanying blood scattered throughout the surrounding area, the pile of rocks looked like a tiny island in the sea.
While I sat upon the pile of rocks, I gazed at the sky and heard rustling footsteps in the distance.
I saw a shadow cast by the sun's light amongst the trees.
I waited quietly.
There weren't any remaining enemies in my vicinity.
The only ones still alive were Seregia and I.
Seregia avoided the strewn corpses and walked towards the mound of rocks… No, she crawled over to me.
I can easily discern her condition just by hearing her heavy breathing.
It was obvious when one considered the distance we had travelled today.
"That's why I told you to stay at the fort. Why did you follow me?" I asked.
"Just a minute, I… Pant. My breath. I need a second to catch… my breath… Hoo. I'm a little dizzy."
"Yes. Please catch your breath."
Seregia climbed up the pile of rocks. I briefly waited so that Seregia could catch her breath.
I wonder why she had followed me this far?
That was the question.
It would've been fine if she had just stayed at the fort.
Of course, she could choose to follow me.
She might have followed me due to her sense of responsibility, or even because of her curiosity.
Or perhaps there was an entirely different reason that I'm unaware of.
However, she had to witness countless people die right before her eyes. Someone who disregards all that death and recklessly follows someone isn't normal. At least, it's not something a normal human would do.
Most people would turn back. They would run away.
After Seregia had calmed down a bit, I asked her again.
I asked her why she had followed me.
"I'm regretting it right now."
Of course you are.
Her hair was disheveled and her sweat had caused her clothes and hair to stick, so she seemed quite uncomfortable.
Her lungs wheezed, her breath emitted a stuffy smell, and her legs trembled.
Her clothes and her shoes were stained with blood and her hands and face were dusty.
It would be difficult to traverse that distance even if she had a horse, yet she had just chased after me with her own two legs; it was obvious that she would be tired.
What's worse, she had followed me through the recesses of the dark mountain.
"Hoo. I thought I was going to die. I couldn't get any closer no matter how fast I ran. Plus, the mountain's getting more and more rugged. And there's the bodies scattered beneath my feet. The smell is disgusting as well. Not to mention, there's the occasional attack from the Demon soldiers."
There was one thing that she said that was bothering me.
"What do you mean by demon attacks? There shouldn't be any demons left."
I had definitely drawn all of the enemies in the area to me and killed them.
And there weren't any remaining enemies on the route I was on.
"Yes. That was a lie," Seregia said confidently, with her peculiar outspokenness.
Once again, I felt like her confidence was absurd.
"Why are you going so far as to lie?"
"I just wanted to try bluffing. Do you have a problem with that?" she said bitterly.
Seregia quickly apologized for her bitter response.
"I'm sorry. It's become a habit."
"Yes. Everyone I meet and talk to just say 'yes, yes' and agree to everything I say. I don't know when it started, but maybe that's why I started to get into the habit of bluffing."
"Ah… I see. Even so, please don't do that."
"Yes. I understand."
Even so, I appreciated that she was honest, even here.
Somehow, I think I've started to understand her situation, especially since it was a type of problem that I had experienced.
In general, differences in status can create a gap in communication.
She's shunned within the royal family's knight order.
It's likely that most of the people around her ignore her and ostracize her, so the only people she can talk to are people who occupy a lower status than her.
She couldn't even look someone directly in the eye, unlike most knights who belonged to the royal family.
It seems like that's the situation she's in.
She's isolated from other people.
She might not even have family or friends.
In cases like hers, a close friend would be really beneficial to her.
I wanted to ask her if she had a friend, but if she really didn't have any it would end up as an extremely rude question.
"Ah. Then by any chance, was your analysis of my swordsmanship also a bluff?"
"In part. I predicted that you would be to handle a sword, Warrior."
"If you want to wield the holy sword, you have to be a swordsman."
Ah… that's right.
In general, the warriors are summoned in groups of twenty-five, but in my case, I was summoned alone.
It was highly likely that a warrior that was summoned alone would have the capabilities of a swordsman, since they needed to be able to wield the holy sword.
"But my statements regarding the ‘intervals’ of your sword weren't lies."
I knew that.
She had already proven her talent by correctly identifying the ‘intervals’ of my swordsmanship.
Although she had deduced things in a somewhat backwards manner, even so, it was still enough to say that her innate abilities were amazing.
I relayed my appreciation, and told her not to worry about it.
Also, I told her once again that she was amazing.
Seregia laughed awkwardly.
When I had complimented her inside of my lodgings, she had laughed with the same awkward expression.
Seregia's face wouldn't change with most work, so I found her current expression to be quite unusual.
"I'm very happy," Seregia added.
She hadn't calmed down yet, so she caught her breath before opening her mouth again.
"I don't know how you'll take this, but you're the strongest person that I've ever seen, Warrior."
"Yes. That sounds about right," I responded, speaking in a way similar to Sergia’s.
There's no way you've seen someone stronger than me.
"Maybe that's why I feel like I'm being rewarded as time passes. I'm talking about when you first complimented me, saying that I was amazing. I was truly happy… and I was really touched."
Seregia's talking for a long time.
It’s unlike her.
She's reacting differently from when I had complimented her the other day.
It was easy to understand why.
It's because she had been fiercely exercising continuously for a long time, so she’s secreting hormones.
TL Note: He’s basically saying that she’s not in her right mind, and is being overly specific as to why he thinks this. He’s socially inept, remember?
Right now, it must feel as though her brain is slightly tipsy.
I'll say it again, but this isn't very different from a drunken confession.
It wasn't bad.
Since I had also wanted to hear what she had to say.
It seems like Seregia had been much happier than I had thought from that small praise.
That might be why she decided to bring me to the fort without asking any questions.
Maybe that's why she followed me up until now too.
"So is that why you followed me?"
I might've been wrong, but I just wanted to hear her reason for following me.
"At first, I came with you because I thought you might get lost. At the time, I had thought you would fight in the area for about one or two hours. After that, I tried to stop you to tell you that it was dangerous. However, I couldn't catch you with my own two feet."
In any case, she's just saying that she was worried, so she followed me.
Rather, I appreciated her intentions.
"Warrior, I didn't think you would come this far. Are you truly planning on going all the way up to the summit where the Demon King is being summoned?"
"Yes. That's why I came here."
"Without the holy sword?"
"That's reckless. The holy sword is not a normal sword. Of course, I've seen how amazing you are, Warrior. I've seen you kill plenty of Demons today to know that. However, the power of the holy sword isn't simply at the level of a mere precious sword. Also, if you don't have the power of the holy sword, you cannot repel the Demon King. It's too reckless."
"That's what I'd like to say to you, Lady Seregia. Now, what would you like to do? I'm going to start moving again," I said, standing up from my spot.
"How about we turn back?"
"If I was going to do that, I wouldn't have come this far."
"Go back and at least get the holy sword. Warrior, you should have more than enough qualifications to wield the holy sword."
"I don't want a holy sword that groans in a man's voice."
I dusted off my pants.
Before I continued, I stretched and warmed up.
"I think I have to set off now."
"…Shouldn't you rest a little more before you go? While you're at it, what about leaving after the morning sun comes up?"
"I've rested enough."
"What about eating some snacks before you go?" she said, taking off the bag from her back and pulling out some snacks.
The snacks were all crushed.
I giggled after seeing her forlorn expression.
"Unfortunately, there aren't any snacks to eat."
"Warrior," Seregia sighed.
"How far are you going to go?"
"As I said, I'm going all the way up to the summit where the Demon King is being summoned."
"No. That's not what I'm saying… Where are you planning to rest tomorrow?"
To be honest, my plan was to just to burst straight to the place where the Demon King is being summoned without any rest.
There's no way I'd lack the stamina to get there and I couldn't even sleep due to my insomnia.
However, Seregia stuck onto me.
[TL Note: The literal translation is as follows: The luggage known as Seregia stuck onto me.]
"Ok… Then, shall we rest at that fort you see over there? Like we're doing right now."
"…It'll take a couple of days to get to that fort."
"Eh, if we go fast, we can get there by tomorrow afternoon."
"The route will be swarming with demons."
"That's exactly what I want."
After saying that, I dashed forward.
It wasn't really running, rather it was more like I was an arrow that was piercing through the air.
I wonder what decision Seregia will make, in that deserted place behind me.
I sensed that Seregia had stood up.
Would she decide to follow me again?
It was a really quick break.
That girl should need to eat and sleep…
Does she really plan to follow me?
The more deeply I advanced into enemy territory, the more demons appeared.
The demons that weren't in range of my skill might ambush Seregia.
There was no need for any calculations; it was certain that she’d face danger on her journey.
I sensed Seregia moving behind me.
* * * * * *
"Why are you doing this?'
I put a wet towel over my face and asked Seregia, who was sprawled on the earthen floor.
She really followed me, though she looked like she was dying.
She looked like a marathon runner who had overexerted herself. It seemed like it had been too much for her heart.
Thus, she had arrived at the fort before sunset.
"Why are you risking your life to follow me?"
"…Really, I’d like to say the same to you. Please answer me first."
I had insisted that I had asked her first, but I pondered the subject briefly and changed my mind. I would answer her first.
"It's to defeat the Demon King."
Seregia flinched slightly.
It was unfortunate that I couldn't see her expression because of the wet towel.
I wonder what kind of expression she has on right now?
"Then my reason is to watch you defeat the Demon King, Warrior."
I had to think about what she said for a second.
And I accepted it.
I couldn't figure out the reason she followed me.
"Is there a reason you want to do that?"
"Assisting you, Warrior, is the first mission I received. If it's possible, I want to complete my mission properly. Also, if by any chance you defeat the Demon King by yourself, shouldn't I at least be there to watch you accomplish that great feat?"
I felt as though her reason was based on her sense of responsibility, but that's only if I ignore that one thing that's missing.
Seregia hadn't even mentioned anything regarding her own safety.
"It's dangerous. You could die."
"Couldn't I say the same to you, Warrior?"
It's not dangerous for me.
I won't even die.
"If that's not the case, then I won't die as well."
I couldn't understand her as always, so I gave up talking to her.
Also, after fifteen minutes, I revised my schedule to depart immediately.
If I maintain this speed, Seregia will die of either exhaustion or a heart attack.
"Please drink this. It's a potion."
"Yes. Thank you."
I took out a health potion from my inventory and gave it to Seregia.
Seregia didn't reject the potion and drank it wholeheartedly.
After she drank the health potion, she stood up, and examined the surrounding area.
"Are you perhaps departing immediately again?"
"No. I'm thinking of staying for a couple of hours before leaving."
"A couple of hours… I should take that as a relief. Warrior. Did you perhaps pack any food? If you don't have any, should I find something to eat in the storehouse?"
Truthfully, food didn't really have much of an effect on my body anymore.
If you don't eat for too long, there'll definitely be some issues. However, when I cleared a past stage and returned to the waiting room, I was fine without eating.
That's why I haven't purchased any food lately.
I thought that there might be something to eat in my inventory, and I looked around.
There was some beef jerky.
I took out the beef jerky and some bottled water, and shared it with Seregia.
"Thank you. This is great because it has its own flavor."
"The beef jerky we're eating inside of a fort filled with bodies?"
"Yes," Seregia said firmly, and roughly tore the beef jerky.
It's hard to tell who's the Warrior when she's like this.
"Ah, Lady Seregia. Would it be rude of me to ask about your life before you were exiled to the knight order?"
"Not at all. There's not much to talk about."
"Then, can you tell me about it?"
"Yes. Before I joined the knight order, I was an academy instructor. I was a swordsmanship instructor."
"You were an instructor?"
"Yes. The story is kind of long. If I were to shortly sum it up, an academy graduate whose family had been ruined decided to take up a position as an academy instructor rather than go back to her hometown."
I think you've summed it up far too simply.
She acts like it wasn't a big deal, but since she didn't seem to want to talk about it in detail and only told me the simplified version, I decided to move on.
"Then how were you exiled to the knight order?"
"It wasn't exile. Rather, I joined the knight order, Warrior. That too, isn't a big deal. I just entered a swordsmanship competition that was hosted by the royal family using my qualifications as an academy instructor. Thanks to my refined swordsmanship, I won the competition."
"You won the competition, but you were exiled?"
"Yes. There were several reasons. I'm a commoner, my family was ruined, I'm a woman, and I was an instructor, even though I wasn't a knight. There were a few trifling problems. But when I think about them one by one, there are actually quite a lot of them."
I sketched a picture in my head.
As I thought, the conversation didn’t have a bright atmosphere.
"You're still amazing. You won the swordsmanship competition that even knights enter."
Seregia briefly smiled bashfully, but suddenly straightened her face and spoke.
"Of course. I was the best at swordsmanship."
It seemed like she actually did have some pride in her abilities.
She was a swordsmanship instructor, huh… She's exactly the person I need.
"Then how was my swordsmanship?"
"Your swordsmanship, Warrior?
"Yes. You saw me fight from afar, didn't you? I'm simply curious."
Seregia pondered briefly and responded.
"Honestly, I could only see flashing lights and the death of the swarming enemies from afar. There weren’t many traces on the enemies' bodies, either. Ah, but there is something that comes to mind."
"Something that comes to mind?"
"Yes. I'm talking about the bodies that occasionally look burnt. I've seen traces like that in the past. I remember that the previous head of the knight order had shown me a fallen kingdom's swordsmanship known as arcane swordsmanship.
A kingdom's arcane swordsmanship.
That phrase briefly reminded me of a man's face.
"Lady Seregia. Who was the previous head of the knight order?
"Based on what I've heard, he was forced to enter the knight order because of a mistake he made in the past."
"A past mistake?"
"Yes. It's likely that an illegitimate child showed up."
"Ah, I see…Lady Seregia. Was he by any chance a really talkative person?"
"No. He was a taciturn person who would barely speak one or two words a day."
I guess not.