Siegfried of the North
From the rain clouds that had moved to cover the blue summer sky, the rain started as a light pitter patter before intensifying into a downpour.
Shirley, who had decided to spend what was a fine summer day up until that point shopping in the market, glared up at the suddenly overcast sky as she stood under an awning, her clothes damp with rain.
She had always disliked the rain. Ever since she was a young girl, tormented under the heel of her family back in the Empire, she had felt that way.
Weak as she was back then, she didn’t have the ability or the willpower to stand up to the hardships that opposed her. Often times, Shirley would find herself locked out of the mansion on some cruel whim of her sister or brothers.
Back then, she had only been around the same age as Sophie and Tio, but she would be cast out into the snow in the dead of winter or the blazing sun in the depths of summer by those people who were supposed to be her family. There wasn’t anyone who would help her.
But, even children have their own way of adapting to the environment. The summers weren’t as bad as they were here, whilst during the winter she could find shelter to shield herself from the biting chill. If she tried to find some shelter near the mansion, she would be beaten, so she often looked for a roof further away.
Fortunately, the snow was only cold, it wouldn’t drench her to the bone. So long as she found enough clothes or sheets to wrap herself in, she wouldn’t feel the cold as much. So long as it didn’t touch her bare skin too much, then it wasn’t a problem.
(…My hair and skin got wet.)
But, rain was what she truly despised. The rain falling on the frontier town reminded her of the time before her immunity when, regardless of whether it was summer or winter, when the rain poured down she would be utterly drenched and prone to falling sick with no one there to take care of her.
When it was hot, the worst she would feel back then was sweaty and uncomfortable, but when she was soaked through with rain the chill crept into her very bones. When the rain would stop the modern day Empress, back then merely her sister Alice, along with her brothers would sometimes callously push her into puddles of mud and hold her down in them, then she would receive the blame from her parents for dirtying her clothes.
As much as she hates to think about it now, she may never have escaped that hell if it wasn’t for the current Emperor Albert choosing her as his fiancée.
She wanted to take a bath. Right now. She wanted to wash away the warm rainwater that clung to her skin and weighed down her hair. She can’t help but think the Goddess of the Sky is directly harassing her when the rain is falling only on this town, not out in the farmlands further on where it might actually be welcomed.
(However… By no means can I let my daughters get wet like this as well…!)
Shirley glared thunderously at that sky with her differing colour eyes.
She thought back to when she left that forest hut outside of the Imperial Capital, making her way towards the Kingdom with Sophie and Tio in her arms.
In the middle of a journey that had already been difficult enough just carrying two babies, she had been attacked constantly by monsters. Although she drove off or killed them every time they attacked, in one scuffle they had managed to break the umbrella she had with her.
That was the only protection she had against the rain with her at the time and as luck would have it, the weather turned ugly before she could find a replacement.
Inevitably, those drops of rain that descended as the skies opened up fell onto Sophie and Tio. In a panic, she had tried to shield them with her body, but there was no way that Shirley could cover two babies with that slim form of hers, so eventually…
When she heard both of them sneeze cutely at the same time, Shirley seriously thought about vowing to kill the Goddess, or whoever it was that controlled the rain.
If those two had actually caught a cold, she would have actually gone through with it, since a simple cold for a newborn baby was the same as a serious illness for an adult.
That was the moment where she began to hate rain with her very being. There were times when the rain would fall at the worst possible timing for Shirley even nowadays, incurring her wrath.
Like when she wanted to go and see the cherry blossoms bloom with her daughters outside of town.
Like on the morning of the trip her daughters had been looking forward to for weeks.
That had driven Shirley to the edge. And so, in order to take her revenge against the rain that tormented her daughters, she had swung that blade over and over. It eventually produced waves of pure power that could cut down trees, pulverize boulders, part the seas and even slice apart a dragon.
“…Wake up, Sul-Sagana”
Shirley drew one of her signature blades, a red sword with the inscription of the King of Birds, directly out of thin air from her Hero’s Toolbox.
“Woah!? W-What are you doing!?”
“Ahh… Don’t worry ’bout it. She’s always like this.”
As Shirley suddenly pulled that sword out of nowhere, the young shop assistant standing under the awning as well yelled out in fright before being calmed down by his senior. That old shopkeeper had been running his business for a long time in this frontier town.
After hearing the words of the old shopkeeper she had seen many times before, Shirley lowered her body and took a stance.
By now, Sophie and Tio would have finished their homework and gone out to play. There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky before so they wouldn’t have thought to bring umbrellas with them.
(They’ll get drenched like this, I can’t let them catch a cold…!)
That doting mother’s eyes lit up with passion. Pouring her deep love into that blade, Shirley swung it towards the sky.
With a roar that sounded like the bellow of an enraged animal, she slashed countless times, those endless waves of energy forming up like a tornado as they flew towards the clouds, and soon that hot summer sun re-emerged.
“…Good. Now the things that I bought for my girls won’t get wet either.”
Putting Sul-Sagana back into that magical space, Shirley snorted with self-satisfaction as she picked up her shopping and began to happily trot back towards the Deficit House on those dampened streets.
It never rained on this frontier town. It must have been at least seven years ago that stories like that began to spread? For some reason, clouds had been disappearing without a trace near the border of the Kingdom, so in order to investigate this meteorological phenomenon, royal mages from all over the country had convened.
In their report, the mages had concluded that there was indeed some sort of magic at play, but no matter how much they investigated they couldn’t find the root cause.
After some time, the matter was dropped as no new clues emerged and it became clear that no one was in danger because of it, but when the truth finally did emerge that the cause was a silly doting mother demolishing clouds with a sword technique, the royal mages had slipped into complete despondency.
(Now then… Where are those children?)
When she is in the frontier town, Shirley tries to keep track of where Sophie and Tio are as much as possible.
With them, those girls had the security alarms that could immediately summon Shirley as well as those two spirit birds that served as their familiars. Yet although she had made sure they weren’t defenseless, that wasn’t enough to completely put her mind at ease.
After all, the only thing that Shirley could completely rely on were her own eyes.
( Hmm… Those two are at Chelsea’s orphanage, it seems?)
First, she would scan the town for magical energies, then with that narrow down her search from there. With those red and blue eyes of hers, Shirley could both see through walls and also sight the intangible.
It seems like it’s the usual group of friends. Along with those three friends, there was also a young girl around their age who seemed to be the daughter of a nobleman. Because they’re playing happily together, it must be that they happened to meet that girl by chance as she was visiting the town.
It’s a rare thing, but it’s not unheard of. Deciding that it probably wouldn’t do to peep on them anymore when there was no danger, Shirley decided to stop watching, but that’s when with her intuition she felt a strange sense of discomfort.
That vague unease soon turned into warning bells ringing in her head. She stared at the young man in the butler uniform standing behind that aristocratic-looking young girl.
At first glance, he seemed like an ordinary servant and caretaker for that young lady, not a cause for alarm. But, as if to hide his true identity, he was covered in layers of heavy concealment and illusion magic that Shirley could only penetrate through using her eyes.
(That’s a dragon turned into a human…!? He’s a high ranking dragon as well… Just what is he doing in this town!?)
Shirley immediately took off from the ground as if she were flying, keeping an eye on that dragon the entire time as she jumped from one rooftop to the next.
In her mind, it was the biggest blunder of her life to somehow let a dragon like that near her daughters. She made no attempt to hide her bloodlust or leaking magical energy as she flashed forward with divine speed, so the young man was waiting for her outside the entrance to the orphanage, undoubtedly sensing it on her approach.
“That was a very interesting performance, banishing those clouds. Why do you appear before me now, woman?”
“That is my line. Why have you come to this town, Dragon King?”
The race of dragons was divided into seven ranks. The young man in front of her was only superseded by the Dragon God alone, and using her eyes Shirley could see that the dragon king in front of her, of which only eight could ever exist at the same time, was superior in magical strength to the Dragon King of the West that she had faced before, Beowulf.
A dragon king would always bear in its title the direction of its territory. She doesn’t know where the Dragon King in front of her now originally came from, but right now the mere fact that it was in this town at all was a blow to her.
(It’s so close to my daughters and her friends… They will definitely get caught up in it if we fought here.)
She would win. But, if her daughters were hurt at all, to Shirley that would be the same as a crushing defeat. She had already taken a fighting posture, but as if in an attempt to calm her down, the dragon king did not take a stance at all, holding out a palm to Shirley who was ready to leap into action.
“I did not come here to battle. I am here to escort the child of my friend, on the invitation of the Witch.”
Just as an ominous feeling began to creep its way up her spine, a golden distortion in space appeared and a small blonde girl with black horns stepped out from its depths… Canary.
“Oh ho, what’s this? I see that you two have already become acquainted?”
“…What is the meaning of this, Canary?”
Shirley’s voice rumbled as she glared at the witch.
“Hm? Whatever do you mean?”
“Was it you? Did you invite this Dragon King into the town?”
Although no one would bat an eye at the low dragons that adventurers used as mounts, if a dragon of a higher rank than that entered a town, it would be no surprise if it was reduced to ash.
That’s not even to mention a true Dragon King. If an incident broke out, the town would be consumed in chaos. Did she intend to shatter the peace of this town? More importantly to Shirley, was she planning on disturbing her peaceful life with her daughters…?
She couldn’t let this slide. As Shirley glared daggers at Canary, trying to figure out her intentions through her stare alone, Canary waved her hand as if to dismiss her.
“It is nothing to be so worked up about. I can promise you that myself. Isn’t that right? Siegfried?”
Shirley’s eye twitched when she heard that name.
His regal title was ‘of the North’. This was Siegfried, the dragon king whose territory overlapped with the Land of Demons in the north of the continent.
Because their overwhelming power tends to make their personalities equally overpowering, he was a rare existence amongst the high ranking dragons that tended to look down on the other races, a more amiable dragon that shared his land and often exchanged words with the other races.
(What’s more… They say he’s the ally of the ruler of those lands, the Demon King.)
‘The child of my friend,’ she remembered him saying that. That could only be referring to the young demon girl who was playing with Sophie and Tio just inside that orphanage.
Just why had the diplomatic yet proud Siegfried of the North disguised himself as a human to come here? As Shirley tried to gather her thoughts and order the myriad of questions floating through her head, Canary smiled mockingly.
“That one is another of my kin… And he is here as a guardian. So he is merely here at my invitation, Shirley.”
Shirley pulled out the twin blades from her Hero’s Toolbox straight away and got ready for a fight.
“You don’t think I’ll actually buy that, do you? What are you really planning?”
“…Witch. What exactly have you done to this woman in the past?”
“Hmm? I truly have no idea~”
As Canary blinked innocently, Shirley meanwhile looked like a threatened cat, ready to attack at any moment.
Although whenever Canary got involved with her it only spelled trouble, this was the summer holidays. It was supposed to be a blissful time where she could spend as much time with Sophie and Tio as possible when they were out of school. Canary was well aware of that, yet she still conspired to ruin it?
“Do not look at me like a cornered cat. This may well prove profitable for you as well, hm~?”
“Do not lie to me. I do not want to hear it. I won’t listen to a word you have to say. Don’t try and get close to me either. I would rather you stay indoors, preferably as far away as the Trading Country, so that you don’t disturb my summer holidays.”
“Kukukuku… Can you still speak with such an impertinent tongue, even after hearing my little tale?”
As the Golden Witch grinned wickedly, the Demonic White Sword was prepared to refuse her with every fiber of her being.
Don’t get taken in by the Witch’s honeyed words. This is her treasured summer break, so she had to spend it making wonderful memories with her daughters. She didn’t have any time to spare on Canary’s whims.
As if to lend her blunt determination weight, her blades began to shine. She’ll refuse her with a single swing of those swords. If she tries to force her still, she’ll cleave her head from her shoulders. Yet, as she steeled herself to completely reject this Witch…
“Do you not hold an interest in creating precious memories with your daughters that you shall treasure forever?”
(Well, it can’t hurt to hear her out, at least.)
Shirley’s iron-clad will bent ever so slightly.