Relying on the lamp, Raishin and Henri descended down the slope.
The area illuminated by the light didn’t extend very far. Having to go down sand made the descent difficult. Even so, after taking half an hour to walk down the slope, they finally made it to level ground.
The surface beneath their feet was hard. They were walking on rock.
“Hopefully from here on it’ll be level ground. Still, can’t see a thing in front of me—“
While taking several steps forward, suddenly Henri’s figure sank downwards. She was falling!
Raishin’s reaction was lighting fast. With his left arm he grabbed onto Henri’s wrist, putting all his strength and effort into one explosive pull. The momentum generated caused the both of them to fall backwards onto the sandy ground.
The light from the lamp shone clearly on where Henri had been, illuminating a sheer cliff where she had almost plunged over.
He couldn’t see the bottom, which meant that it was very deep. The debris that had fallen down the slope earlier had probably plunged down this chasm. It struck him completely that if they were to fall here, it would definitely be the end of the road.
For the briefest of instants, he thought he saw something white near the foot of the cliff— a dome shaped object.
A castle… or a cathedral?
No, he must have been mistaken. There was no way light could reach that far a distance, so maybe his eyes were playing tricks on him.
Remembering the multitude of eyes from earlier, Raishin shivered involuntarily.
Shaking his head, he stood up and extended his hand to Henri, who was still slumped over in a heap.
“Are you ok? Here, grab my hand—“
“Nooo! Don’t touch me!”
A punch flew over in his direction, and Raishin quickly dodged it.
“That’s quite the thanks for someone trying to help you. Why do you hate men so much… Oh, I see. It’s because of that, isn’t it? In the past, some guy unceremoniously dumped you like yesterday’s trash…”
“N-no! I swear upon the honour of the Belew name, nothing like that ever happened— wait, that scenario is very rude! How can you violate me even in your wild imagination!?”
“Like hell I did! Stop treating me like I’m some kind of pervert!”
Henri pulled down her cap and hid her face inside it, like she always did.
“I… hate boys. They’re scary, violent, stupid, dirty, and also…”
“Even with Raishin’s exceptional hearing, he could catch the last bit of her sentence.
Still, the fact that he managed to have an actual conversation was a huge step forward.
Raishin chuckled wryly, and extended his hand slowly this time towards her.
“Let’s go. This time, watch your feet a little better.”
She tried to stand, but couldn’t. She must have twisted some part of her leg awkwardly when she had fallen earlier. Raishin reached for her shin, using his fingertips to press certain points.
“Kya! That hurts!”
“Sorry. But at least it’s not broken.”
“How do you know that for sure?”
“I know jujitsu. Jujitsu specialises in bruises and broken bones.”
“It’s a grappling art founded in Japan. That aside, if your leg really was broken you’d be crying in pain by now, and the pain you’d experience would be severely intense.”
Henri wasn’t that heavy. He figured he could carry her on his back, but—
Henri hated men. She’d probably be in great anguish over having to ride piggy-back on Raishin. Furthermore Raishin wasn’t at full strength. If he did carry her, travelling long distances would be a problem.
“Well, it can’t be helped I guess. We’ll have to wait for help here.”
Forcibly using his shoulder to support Henri, who looked unhappy about it, they moved a little along the cliff. Moving a safe distance away from any more potential falls, they sat down on rocky ground.
“I ate breakfast before I came here— but what about you?”
“… It couldn’t be helped. I didn’t get the chance to.”
Raishin proffered a packet of sorts. It was wrapped tightly with paraffin paper. Henri took and unwrapped it, revealing a hard breadstick.
It was covered in sugar. Rather than calling it a breadstick, it would be more accurate to say it was more like a doughnut.
“It’s a little smashed up, but still edible. Go on, eat.”
“… Do you always carry something like this with you when you go out?”
“It’s been a lifesaver on more than one occasion. I also carry water with me.”
Henri stared at the hard bread for a while, before taking a bite.
It was crude, portable food. He didn’t think it would suit her refined tastes, but—
“This is delicious…”
Unexpectedly, she muttered that while keeping her face down, hiding her expression from him.
It was the same as when Charl turned her head away. They both were embarrassed to let others see the expressions on their faces.
After finishing the bread and water, Henri hugged her knees, her words coming out in bits and pieces.
“… I’m sorry. This is entirely my fault.”
“What’s with that? Did you eat something bad?”
“If I ate anything bad, you’re the one who gave it to me in the first place!”
She regained some vigour during her outburst, but it was gone as soon as it had appeared, and she was back to being gloomy.
“You know, you’re really Charl’s little sister. You have the same face as she does when you both get angry.”
“… You want to say something along the lines of my sister is prettier than me, just like the rest of them, don’t you?”
Henri suddenly gave an empty, derisive laugh as she turned her head away.
“After all, all the boys are always… saying my sister is…”
As soon as he heard those whispered words, an indescribable feeling began to spread inside Raishin’s chest.
He had dismissed the feeling as nothing at first, but now his convictions over it had changed.
The sheer ridiculousness of it started to build up inside him, tickling his sides, until Raishin finally burst out laughing.
“Wh- How rude! How can you laugh… How dare you laugh… You!”
“Don’t throw sand at me! I’m not laughing at you or anything!”
With tears in her eyes, Henri stared at Raishin, a mixture of trust and suspicion mixed on her face.
“I also have a single older brother, whose extraordinary talent is best described as out of this world.”
“He’s someone who’s been heralded as possessing more talent than our very first ancestor of the clan. If God really exists, then he was extremely loved by God. Someone as ordinary as me could never hope to reach him. My father used to say this: If I was the firstborn son and my elder brother the second, then it would have caused a lot of problems with the succession of the clan.”
Henri stared at Raishin like she was staring at something fascinating.
“The adults always compared the both of us. The reality was that he and I were as different as heaven and earth. Unfortunately, I was the lowly earth.”
How would she take Raishin’s unprompted outburst?
After a while, Henri began to speak in bits and pieces again.
“When we were children… Sis… she was very popular.”
“Popular… Huh, looking at her now, I seriously cannot imagine that ever happening before.”
“Everyone always gathered around her.”
“Sure, but nowadays they surround her at a distance.”
“She was always very kind and gentle to everyone.”
“She’s always so crabby to everyone.”
Raishin interrupted her every statement, even though she had finally continued to talk on. Somehow or rather, there was an extreme gap between the Charl in Henri’s memory and the Charl of today. Perhaps her character had been moulded by her recent circumstances? Raishin entertained the possibility.
At that moment, there was a faint rustle of cloth.
It was just several metres away. Someone was extremely close to them!
“Answer my question concisely, please.”
A clear killing intent filled the metallic sounding voice that was asking the question— at his ear.
An instant later, there was the sound of something landing. Raishin realised that it was the sound of him landing after he had jumped back.
Someone had sneaked up behind him and landed quietly behind. This someone was faster than whatever Raishin could do.
Even with my reactions, I couldn’t do anything!?
“Are you my master’s enemy?”
Without answering, Raishin slowly turned around.
The mystery person didn’t seem to find this action hostile. Thanks to that, Raishin was able to get a look at that person’s face.
It was a girl. She was wearing a headdress that was packed with many frills. There were tiny ribbons tied into her hair, which even in the darkness Raishin could tell was a vivid pink. She had thin eyebrows and a small nose. Her facial features were modest and graceful, but had this gentle brilliance about it that made the whole look very adorable.
It was a face he could and would never forget—
It was the face of his dead sister.