༺ The Lord Is With Us (33) ༻
Seniors Delphine and Elsie were currently collapsed on the floor. It took a while before the two finally calmed down.
I moved my arm to pet Senior Elsie’s head. As for Senior Delphine, I was at a loss.
At that moment, a quivering voice reached my ears from Senior Delphine’s direction.
I initially thought she was joking, but my body soon froze after looking into her trembling eyes. I incredulously realized that she was completely serious.
Unable to think up any other solutions, I ultimately left another cut on her cheek.
Like before, it was only a superficial cut that would recover in minutes.
Still, it seemed to have been effective. Her breaths began to stabilize as she gradually calmed down. Seeing her change in real-time left a bitter feeling.
It appeared that she had picked up a bad habit…
After moving the broken table away and cleaning up the area the best we could, the three of us came together to have a talk.
But even then, silence lingered for some time.
Senior Elsie was blushing bright red in embarrassment. Her fingers were twitching, and while she pushed down on her hat to cover her face, it didn’t hide her from me.
On the other hand, Senior Delphine only had a slight flush but continuously feigned coughs while avoiding my gaze. Even though she didn’t seem as embarrassed as Senior Elsie, she still seemed to feel ashamed.
And she was right to feel embarrassed, considering how she behaved in front of her junior.
They had gone on and on about wanting to be my maid, slave, dog, and other absurd things. Even I would have been sheepish if I were the one to utter such disgraceful drivel.
A heavy sigh escaped my lips. Since neither of them was intent on speaking up, I decided to steer the conversation.
“…… Why are the two of you fighting over something so meaningless?”
Senior Elsie looked indignant. Her pleading eyes looked up at me as she feebly tried to defend herself.
“T-that.. I was minding my own business, but that bitch kept taunting me!”
My eyes flicked towards Senior Delphine. Yet, she just scoffed, clearly finding the accusation hardly worth responding to.
It was evident that they still didn’t get along, but as the leader, it fell to me to mend their relationship.
But before anything else, some things had to be corrected.
“And why are you both calling yourselves my maids? I’m your junior, so please don’t say that in the future.”
Senior Elsie stuttered under her breath discontentedly as she snuck glances at me. However, no matter how cute she was, I had to stand my ground.
“No. At the very least, never let it leave your mouth.”
If that leaked out, it would result in numerous complications for me.
My reputation at the Academy was already tarnished beyond repair due to baseless rumors and the sensationalist gossip culture. As a result, I was labeled a “mad dog with a hatchet”.
But if either of them were to publicly claim to be my maids on top of that? I shuddered at the thought. I didn’t even want to imagine what would happen. It was likely that it would escalate into a family feud, and that had to be avoided at all costs.
However, Senior Elsie seemed to have interpreted my words differently.
“A-alright, I won’t say it out loud, ehehe…….”
I was about to tell her off once more but stopped myself.
She wasn’t the kind of person who would listen, especially when she was the type to stubbornly perceive the world through her own lens. In the end, there was no other way but to gradually redefine our boundaries and relationship.
Fortunately, it seemed that today’s scuffle was over, and at this point, I was simply relieved that there wouldn’t be any future mishaps of “maid” ever leaving their mouths.
I never had to worry about such things before. It felt like my life had recently changed far too drastically.
It was all the fault of those letters.
Reminded of the love letters, I felt disheartened.
We couldn’t afford to be bickering with each other when a demonic human might attack us.
With that in mind, my voice became grave.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen from here on. I doubt it’s as simple as a demonic beast attacking the orphanage. A demonic human may be involved.”
“……A demonic human?”
It was Senior Delphine. She had been sitting quietly thus far, but judging how she was deep in thought with furrowed brows, it was clear that her interest had been piqued.
Senior Elsie also stared at me in shock.
Even for me, the notion of a demonic human appearing out of nowhere was unbelievable. A sigh escaped my lips once more. I already lost count of how many times I sighed to myself today.
“I have no definitive proof, but it’s a possibility. Mr. Gilford said that the presence of a demonic human is the only explanation for demonic beasts’ abnormal behavior.”
“……W-what will we do if we really run into one?”
Senior Elsie appeared slightly frightened. It was understandable, considering she was normally the timid and fearful type. Frankly speaking, I was scared as well.
Fighting against a demonic human as students would cement our reputations as legendary seniors for decades to come.
I silently pondered, but no matter how much I thought about it, there was only one logical course of action.
“…….We have to prioritize our survival.”
I had forced them to come along, and even if they had come along willingly, none of them were resolved to risk their lives. Heck, they probably didn’t even know this practicum at the orphanage would be life-threatening.
Therefore, I couldn’t ask them to put their lives on the line with a clear conscience. If push came to shove, I was determined to handle the problem with my own strength.
In the tense atmosphere, I stood up.
I had to share the news with everyone else. I began walking away and would have left through the door if it weren’t for the voice that stopped me.
“……So, what’s your verdict?”
I looked back towards the voice. It was Senior Delphine.
She was looking away while blushing. Then, she clarified herself in an embarrassed voice.
“Between me and Rinella, who is more useful?”
” ……Is it that important to you?”
“Of course it is. I’m Delphine Yurdina. It’s not over until a winner is decided.”
I was fed up with the whole thing, and it showed on my face. However, her resolve was unshakable. Rather, she was looking at me in anticipation.
Senior Elsie was the same. She was feigning disinterest but continued to sneak glances at me.
Their eyes contained a mix of expectation and worry. I groaned.
“That… Let’s talk after we complete the practicum.”
I could only delay my answer since my mind was currently fully occupied by the possibility of a demonic human appearing.
Their eyes clashed once more upon hearing my inconclusive verdict. Then, they went about their separate business without saying a word.
It was something I couldn’t understand no matter how much I thought about it.
Was being my maid that important?
What a perplexing world.
That night, we carried out a special training.
Blade met blade. A flurry of blue sparks scattered into the air as sharp crashes resonated continuously throughout the night.
My opponent was an old swordsman. Mr. Gilford, the director of the orphanage, was once a mercenary who had reached the level of a Sword Expert.
It went without saying that he was stronger than me. I could discern that much from the few times our blades crossed.
He was superior in every aspect, whether it was technique or just overall combat capability. I couldn’t keep up with his strange swordsmanship.
I took a step back, inhaled a deep breath, and stabbed my sword forward.
It was akin to a beam of light. The trajectory being drawn before my eyes informed me that he was attacking.
My heightened senses had never betrayed me so far. It was the same this time around.
However, the old man’s blade was at my throat even though I had moved first.
His movements felt like a hallucination. I struck my blade out, yet with a simple twist of his body, he deflected my attack and closed the distance in a flash.
“I call it ‘Revolving Counter’.”
He started wiping his face with a towel while I puffed and opened my water canteen.
The cool water flowing down my throat provided a sense of relief, but my attention was swiftly redirected to Mr. Gilford.
“It’s a skill I learned from a short, fateful encounter during my youth. It’s quite difficult to master.”
“…… It sure appears that way.”
It was a technique that was more likely to kill the user instead of the opponent if executed with even the slightest misstep. He would have had to practice it to the point of dying to be able to use it so freely.
No, the amount of practice wasn’t what was important. It was the mental fortitude required to even attempt this technique.
It required the user to mentally overcome the fear of being stabbed to death—something that was impossibly difficult for any conscious existence.
“It’s not a technique that just anyone can learn. Even I was on the brink of death when I gained a slight understanding of it. You just have to let go of yourself.”
“……Let go of yourself?”
“Yes. That’s the only way you can overcome your instincts. Haha… It’s quite difficult to explain with words, but I’ll teach you a bit about it if you’re interested.”
I was dumbfounded by his unexpected offer.
Truth be told, tonight’s duel was arranged at his request. He wanted to assist in my training to repay even a little bit of the help he had received so far.
Not only did he have far more experience than me, but he had also attained a higher level with the sword. Naturally, I was happy to accept his offer.
However, it felt excessive to receive his technique.
“No, I can’t accept something like that…….”
“A few hundred gold is enough to save dozens of children.”
Mr. Gilford remained firm. He was referring to the gold from the demonic beast corpses.
“It’s the price of their lives. Please accept it.”
I couldn’t refuse after that. In the end, I accepted his offer with a bitter smile.
But what I hadn’t considered was that Mr. Gilford was a surprisingly strict teacher.
“Your posture is wrong. Won’t you end up blaming me in the afterlife after getting your head stabbed through while moving like that?”
“Even a monkey could do better than that, young master. Aren’t you ashamed as a human?”
I guess once a mercenary, always a mercenary. It was only after I felt a burning sensation in my throat that I was released from the hellish training.
My body was limp with fatigue as I staggered towards my room.
Leto was already asleep, and Yuren had left for the city. I felt slightly lonely. I was the only one awake, and my body was in a miserable state.
Perhaps due to overexerting myself, I felt some pain in my back. I thought the healing potion had cured the wound, but I guess it was insufficient.
It happened as I was walking in such a state.
A certain view appeared in the corner of my eyes.
A statue stood in the corner of the orphanage’s courtyard. It was the kind of cheap statue that you could see anywhere backed by the Church.
The Saintess was praying in front of that statue.
It was a sight truly befitting of a Saintess.
With silver hair glistening under the moonlight and her flawless facial features, she looked more like a work of art than the statue in the courtyard.
Her very existence overwhelmed the scenery and commanded all attention with her magnetic presence.
It was a sight akin to a painting, and I could only stand silently, captivated by her.
Her eyes slowly opened, her light pink hue staining the scene with a picturesque splash of color that made my heart throb.
“……How odd. Do people like you even know how to pray?”
Her sarcastic voice immediately shattered my immersion.
Coming back to my senses, I scoffed.
“I’m not devout enough to pray at dawn. But rather, you truly are a ‘Saintess’.”
“Did you think otherwise?”
It was a curt response, but I wasn’t particularly offended, given how my relationship with her had become strained recently.
I simply waved my hand in farewell and turned to leave. She scoffed and also began to turn her head away.
That is… if I hadn’t suddenly felt something hot and damp running down my back.
‘Huh? What’s going on?’
The moment such thoughts crossed my head, her eyes were already wide as she began to stammer.
Placing a hand on my back, my palm quickly became sticky with blood.
I was struck speechless while her voice rang through the air.
This was bad. I was caught by the person I wanted to avoid the most.
I broke out in a cold sweat just imagining how much nagging I would soon hear.
The night was still young.
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