The next morning. If he got up now and everything that happened was just a dream… he would’ve felt relieved. But unfortunately it wouldn’t be so convenient. The first thing he saw after waking up was Sherry putting on her knee socks.
After exchanging greetings, Hayate also got ready to dress himself. Just like the previous day, they finished breakfast in the dining hall and went to the classroom together.
“Which reminds me, would you happen to need pyjamas?”
“I’d be grateful if you could get me some.”
“Though, you wouldn’t need them if you just slept in underwear like I do, no?”
“I need pyjamas! Please arrange them for me, please do!”
“If you’re even begging me, then I’ve got no other option, I guess.”
“What do you mean, ‘other option’…”
Hayate heaved a bored sigh.
After that, the soft gossiping of the girls around him reached his ears.
“Hey, that one… is that the rumored commoner?”
“They say he swiftly tried to peek into the baths last night.”
“As expected, men are just beasts…”
It appeared as if yesterday’s bath story had already spread throughout the school.
Even under normal circumstances just being a man would’ve been enough to be treated like an alien element here, but now he was seen as filth even.
Please, just forgive me…
Walking while shedding tears, Hayate noticed a familiar face standing in front of the big school building.
“What’s up, Hayate-kun?”
Aria got up from the wall she was leaning on and walked towards him while waving her hand.
“…I’ll go ahead, okay?”
Probably sensing that the girl had business with Hayate, Sherry left those words and entered the building.
When she did that, it had already been impossible to ignore Aria—— recalling how she had almost stripped him off his underwear yesterday—— he decided to let her be the one to come.
“What do you want?”
“Hm, right right. I wanted to apologize for yesterday.”
By ‘yesterday’ she probably meant said bath matter.
“When it gets to contract beasts, I just run wild – it’s been like that since back in the day, you see? But taking you along into the bath wasn’t as smart as I thought.”
“Well, you stuck up for me after that. So if you understand now, it’s no…”
“If I wanted to to examine you thoroughly, then I should’ve meekly brought you to my room.”
“YOU DON’T GET IT AT ALL!”
The corruption was far from improving.
Being alone with this contract beast maniac… he didn’t know what would happen.
“I did come to apologise in the first place, but in case there’s something you don’t know or worry about, you can ask me any time. I’ll help you as much as I can.”
“Things I worry about, huh…”
Or I don’t know about…
I’ve already got a bunch of things to worry about, but… right now, there’s one thing on my mind that I do not know about.
“…Why does Sherry attend this academy?”
He didn’t mean to say that Diaspell Royal Academy was bad or anything.
Even though he had only spent a bit more than one day with her, he already had enough of an idea that she was being bullying by her peers.
She had been ostracised in the classroom and without using the school baths or the large public bath, she did her bath routine in her own room.
During class, She was insulted behind her back and as soon as classes were over, she went to work and passed her time busily.
“I’ve heard by chance that she wants to become ‘the strongest hexenritter’, but why would she have such a painful wish? Wouldn’t living happily with her family in her own home be better than having that kind of wish…”
“…Yeah, you don’t know about it, do you? Her home—— the Scharlachrot Family…”
Aria’s expression went slightly grim… It looked like a subject that she didn’t really wanted to touch.
“Want to know about her?”
Yet, Aria asked again, as if taking responsibility for the what she had just said.
If he nodded, she’d surely tell him.
Hayate didn’t understand himself why he went as far as to want to know about Sherry’s background…
“…Yeah, I wanna know. Please tell me about it.”
Afternoon, the same day.
“Yeah. We’re going to the practice grounds.”
After putting away her books from the previous lesson, Sherry accompanied Hayate out of the classroom.
“What practical stuff will we do there?”
“Let’s see. The midterms are getting close… Today we should have a mock battle with other hexenritter.”
Sherry said without delay, but…
“So that means fighting, right…? Will you be okay?”
“Hexenritter are expected to fight demonic beasts, you know? People who even lose their nerves in a mock battle shouldn’t be in this academy to begin with.”
Saying that, she took him along to a giant dome-like building.
The practices grounds were divided into three big areas plus indoor facilities to pursue combat training.
Firstly, the dome’s outer perimeter was intended for individual special training.
Ten rooms were prepared for each respective kind of special training. Students chose the room with the subject they wanted to practise in from among them and entered – so was its structure.
Secondly, the outdoor battle area which occupied the right half of the dome.
It simulated an open air battle in similar conditions as with a demonic beasts. For this, gravel, plants, rocks, and other obstacles had been laid out. It tried to imitate an open battlefield.
Lastly, occupying the left side of the dome—— there was the mock battle area, where the practical lesson would be held in.
“Quite spacious, huh?”
Hayate, who’d entered the area, expressed almost instantly. It was considerably vast precisely because it was a practice field for hexenritter.
The ground and walls where made of a super-hard stone called mithril. White lines were taped on the ground. Those white lines were ten meters long each and the area had a total of five arenas shaped like squares. The mock battles would be carried out in those rings meassuring ten meters in each direction.
“Well then, we’ll begin the practical lesson now. Today we’ll have the mock battles that you lowlifes have been eagerly waiting for. ‘Cause in the first month you did nothing but practice how to use your powers, right?”
Talking in front of the lined-up students was the homeroom teacher Lela.
Five other teachers were on stand-by behind her. Those five would probably referee each ring individually while Lela toured all of them.
“You hear me? Don’t you try to skip a proper warm-up. Although you’ve got the [Divine Protection of Valhalla] inside the practice grounds, if you don’t make it a habit, you’ll be endangering your life once push comes to shove.”
With the appearance of a term he didn’t know, Hayate whispered into Sherry’s ear next to him:
“What’s that [Divine Protection of Valhalla]?”
“A kind of ancient magic. It’s not applied to someone individually, but to a whole field. If you enter the [Divine Protection of Valhalla], ‘A warrior can never die’.”
But this surprisingly convenient magic he had heard about had all kinds of restrictions.
First of all, there had to be a massive quantity of mithril inside the field which the magic was applied to. This could easily be fulfilled if large quantities were brought from someplace else like in the practice grounds’ case, or if the ground itself held a large number of it, so that wouldn’t be a big problem.
Next, the effect only applied in a fight between warriors.
“Only between warriors… How does it distinguish between people’s occupations?”
“It doesn’t really need to see a résumé for that, you know? The important thing is to not lose your will to fight, no matter what happens. The [Divine Protection of Valhalla] is granted to, ‘Those endowed with the will to fight’ after all.”
That’s why the divine protection is granted to warriors…
“By the way, when the opponent is a demonic beast, the [Divine Protection of Valhalla]’s useless. They’re no warriors, just plain beasts. Even if we fought them in such a field, if we suffer damage, we usually die.”
“So it’s like magic that has been thought up for the sole reason of human combat practice, huh?”
He didn’t know who had invented that magic, but if it also protected people from demonic beasts, it would’ve held a greater significance.
“Just… Just a small doubt, but does [Divine Protection of Valhalla] affect contract beasts?”
“It does. Basically, contract beasts are bound to the hexenritter, so they’re being counted as one person.”
“I see… What a relief…”
“Ara? Since you’ve been insisting so much that you’re human, should you really be relieved by that?”
“I-It’s not like that!”
When Hayate got angry and denied, Lela immediately rebuked him:
“I’m not done with the explanation yet. Be quiet.”
Her voice was calm, but it had a strange impact, and Hayate ducked his head.
“Before long it’ll already be time for the midterms. Once the tests are over, the intra-school rankings for the first-years will be announced as well. Each of you should get into it.”
“Well then, begin the warm-up. The mock battles will start in 15 minutes. Which pairs in which ring will be decided here, but everyone may choose their partner.”
Lela signalled to break up and the formation of teams and stretching began.
“Hey, come here and help me stretching, would you?”
Hayate went to the mock battle stretch corner and helped Sherry warm up.
“How many of those mock battles are there?”
“Two matches per pair.”
“Two matches? Can’t it end in a draw then?”
“Those are practice rules. Also, mock battles are about fighting until the end, so it’s not really a problem even if it ends in a draw. Even if not injured, you’d stack fatigue and there’d be a lack of concentration, too.”
With that, Hayate remembered that thing.
“That reminds me, how do hexenritter even fight?”
“Ara? Haven’t I told you, I wonder?”
“I’ve heard that contract beasts are fighting support and so on, but we stopped with the contract beast’s abilities.”
When Sherry was about to continue yesterday’s talk, the voice of a third person forced its way through from the sidelines.
“Sherry Scharlachrot-san. Would you care to form a pair with me?”
The person who had raised her voice was the impressive Victoria, her golden hair in ringlets as always.
“Victoria-san. How unusual of you to call me.”
“Ara, there was a lonely person standing in the corner, so my humble self deliberately offered myself.”
“I greatly and honestly admire your needless concerns. But surely someone like Victoria-san wouldn’t want me as her opponent.”
“So you don’t want me to kindly offer my participation?”
Sparks scattered between them and cold sweat started running down on Hayate’s forehead.
…What’s with the climate in here…
“HIII! Don’t touch me!”
When he wanted to suggest to do something about the air in this place, she got extremely frightened.
Although she’d been cleared of the ‘getting touched by men gets you pregnant’-misunderstanding, she seemed to even be unable to handle men now. Though, the person in question got embarrassed by her fear of men herself and while blushing, she cleared her throat with a cough to try and gloss over her reaction.
“A-Anyway. I’ll repay the debt from yesterday! Have a match with me!”
“…It pains me greatly but I must decline. Today, I only intend to observe.”
Sherry averted her gaze as if dodging Victoria’s fingertip and left the place while pretending not to see her counterpart that was shivering from anger.
“You’re getting cold feet?!”
“I just don’t feel like playing with you.”
Sherry was about to leave her like that.
“As expected from the line of traitors. Your kind takes pride in running away, doesn’t it?!”
——Upon hearing those words, Sherry stopped and turned to face her.
“…Victoria. Victoria Verde. I couldn’t hear you too well. Could you repeat what you just said?”
Had she regaining her composure replying like that or had it just been too late to back down? In any case, Victoria repeated her words once more:
“I’ll say it however many times you ask. Sherry. Sherry Scharlachrot. Daughter of traitors; disgrace to nobility. Your family’s forte to flee under enemy fire has been passed down from generation to generation, has it not?”
The look in Sherry’s eyes changed.
Rage floated within it.
“It’s a fact that my family’s in ruins… If you want to tease me about that so badly, then I could just overlook it, but I cannot let that condescending slander pass…! Fine, I’ll go along with your provocations. I’ll ensure that you’ll never insult my family with that impudent talk of yours again!”
“That’s my line! I’ll carve the sight of a genuine hexenritter’s true abilities into you!”
Victoria snorted, turned her back on Sherry, and left.
“W-Wait a sec. Is that really alright?”
While he hadn’t intervened in their conversation up to now, Hayate finally asked.
It goes without saying that he’d have to fight in a mock battle as well.
However, Hayate was just an ordinary human. And on top of that, Victoria’s contract beast was a winged serpent. He had been told that contract beasts were supposed to support hexenritter, so he thought that there’d be a sure gap in fighting power here.
“Well, her contract beast is considerably strong. It’s some kind of lindworm or linddrake variety. It can’t pick up people, but it can fly in the air. And the force it exerts when coiling around someone is enough to crush an ox to death, you know?”
He’d already had a hunch that they stood no chance.
How was an unarmed human supposed to fight a serpent that could kill an ox?
“There’s no need to worry——”
Even if you say that… Hayate thought, but Sherry continued with a composed expression.
“——It’ll be fine if you just stay quiet and watch from the sidelines.”
He’d been told that her family served the Caeruleus House which was among the big four Families, and the current head held power rivalling them. Victoria was the daughter of said head.
She, too, had inherited the abilities of her parents, in the same way like her older sister, and was strongly rumored to place within the top 50 of the school intern rankings which would be published after the midterms.
The opponent’s profile, that he was told by Sherry before the match began, had a lot of points that made him to despair.
“So, the mock battle Verde and Scharlachrot will begin now. The match ends when either of you faint or give up.”
Lela, the referee, explained the simple rules of the mock battle.
“Well then, both parties. Position yourselves at the opposite edges of the ring.”
After exchanging a silent glance, Sherry and Victoria did as they were told and moved to the edges of the ring.
Victoria called upon her lindworm. The serpent, which had been coiled around her body, descended to the ground and prepared for battle. Although small wings sprouted out of it’s back, it seemed incapable of permanent flight.
The opponent was perfectly motivated—— And on the other side Hayate had still been unable to steel his resolve.
This was thanks to his instinctual fear of fighting.
“Hey, oi… What should I do?”
“I already told you not to worry about it, right? Just don’t move from now on.”
Sherry said to remind him of what she had already said before the match.
When he was close to just not caring anymore, Lela swung her upraised hand down.
“Let’s test you first! Lindis!”
Concurrently with the start signal, Victoria sent her contract beast ahead and broke into a run herself.
“Uo—! The snake’s so fast—!”
Although the serpent was still far from him, Hayate was perturbed by the rapidly approaching opponent.
However, Sherry calmly began chanting.
“O those who dance in the wind, bestow thy blessing unto me which doth releases my link with the earth—— [HIMMELSSCHRITT]!”
Instantly, her feet floated off the mithril ground.
Becoming capable of moving in the air, she took a big leap to the left.
“Come chase me, Lindis!”
Hitting the ground with its body, the lindworm finally used its wings to take flight, chasing hot on Sherry’s heels. Victoria gave orders while following behind closely.
Should I chase after her too? But I’d probably just burden her…!
——’Just don’t move from now on.’
Hayate recalled her words and hesitated.
“O those who slumber in the cold of the mausoleum, bestow thy freezing breath onto my fingertips——”
Sherry turned her body in mid air and pointed her white fingertip at the approaching serpent.
*crackcrackcrack*—— The cold wave that was released from Sherry’s fingertip froze the humid air and covered both eyes of the fast-approaching beast.
Panicking, Victoria rushed below her partner, which was crying from the sudden pain.
“How dare you!”
“Don’t you think that it’s reckless to just send your contract beast ahead alone?”
Sherry nonchalantly replied to the enraged Victoria.
But this just fueled her opponent’s anger further.
“I’m not going to let you get away anymore!”
“You sure love your idle talk. People who slumber in the cold of the mausoleum——”
Sherry started to chant her magic again and Victoria lept back in a fluster – together with her contract beast.
Maybe because Victoria had left the effective range, Sherry stopped chanting.
“Your way of using magic with your finger is rather sly, isn’t it?!”
“Unfortunately, while the rest of you have been training your hexenritter powers, I’ve been in intensive training to raise the accuracy of my magic. That was all I had.”
“…Ha! With that, you’re indeed completely like a commoner, aren’t you! You’re lacking the confidence to acquire a [Wand], right?”
Sherry didn’t reply.
Hayate mentally inclined his head upon hearing an unknown word.
“You’re a lowly witch that can’t become a knight after all. It was reckless of you to challenge someone like me!”
“Though it was you who provoked me to do that earlier, wasn’t it?”
“Y-You’re annoying! Anyway, we’ve been fooling around long enough!”
Victoria stretched out her hands after glaring at Sherry sternly.
Simultaneously with Victoria’s ringing scream, the contract mark on her contract beast’s forehead shone.
In the next instant, a whip of the same color as the lindworm’s scales appeared in her hand.
That has to be that so-called [Wand], Hayate made an educated guess.
So a contract beast’s ability is to produce weapons for the hexenritter? Which reminds me, Sherry was in the middle of explaining that when she said something like, ‘They give form to the magic that they harvest from people in their bodies’, and so on…
In other words, those [Wand]s are the things that contract beasts produce inside their bodies using the magical power of people?
They exchanged vows with contract beasts and were able to cast [Wand]s or something—— That was all he knew about hexenritter and witches. Victoria had accused Sherry to be among the witches who couldn’t become knights. She had made fun of her for not being able to call those [Wand]s.
With a small click of her tongue, this time it was Sherry who took her distance from Victoria.
“I won’t let you get away!”
Victoria swung the [Tailworm]—— and the whip extended.
Extending over a great length, the whip’s tip hit Sherry’s flank, causing her to grimace in pain.
Sherry applied the [Himmelsschritt] magic again and tried for a huge retreat, but the opponent’s whip expanded ceaselessly and attacked her again.
“There’s no escaping from my [Tailworm], you know!”
In accordance with Victoria’s voice, the whip lengthened yet again. With that, no matter how much she distanced herself, she couldn’t escape.
That was a [Wand]…!
A weapon far from common sense.
And Victoria, who could reach as far as the eye could see, was able to attack the considerably more distant Hayate at any time as well.
Oi, oi! With this there’s no place to run, is there?! What am I supposed to do then?!
However, there was no need to worry where he should run to or what the right thing to do was——
“Now, what are you going to do, Sherry Scharlachrot?!”
Victoria kept aiming for Sherry; she didn’t attack Hayate at all.
“Why… doesn’t she attack me…?”
If it’s with that [Wand], she could just attack me in passing… but although she could easily turn me into a helpless mess… After a bit of thinking, he realized the answer.
The match could be settled by the opponent giving up.
In other words, since Hayate was considered a contract beast, his condition didn’t affect the outcome. Not to forget Sherry’s choice to fight alone, even if he was brought down while fighting and Sherry alone remained, the fight wouldn’t end… Considering that, she had practically no reason to attack him.
He realized why Sherry had told him to not move numerous times before the match had started.
If he kept quiet, nothing would be done to him.
That’s why doing nothing had been essential.
Did that girl intend to fight alone from the start…?!
The [Tailworm] struck Sherry’s chest and beat her into the ground.
She raised her voice in anguish as her clothes got torn.
The [Divine Protection of Valhalla] kept warriors from dying and getting wounded, but he had heard that it was different for the pain they received. That’s why there was that defeat condition which stated the loss by fainting from damage.
“I’ll end it with this!”
Victoria attacked the collapsed Sherry again.
Maybe because she didn’t have the concentration anymore or because her [Himmelsschritt] magic had worn off, she curled up on the ground and took the blows without even trying to escape.
Seeing that scene—— CLACK—— a switch flipped inside Hayate.
Before he knew it, he had broken out into a run.
…To save that girl over there who had been fighting alone.
“Come on, how long will you be able to bear it, I wonder… That’s… ara?”
Victoria subconsciously stopped her hands after seeing Hayate rushing into the midst of battle as he had been playing the scarecrow up until now.
Hayate helped Sherry up, who was motionlessly lying in a hole.
Her eyes opened faintly.
“…What now, are you taking advantage of the situation to call me by name?”
“I’ve been calling you that from the start, you know…”
However, all he had needed to feel relieved was to hear that same wicked tongue as ever.
“Wait… That incompetent man couldn’t possibly think he’d be a hindrance to me, could he?”
Victoria’s displeased voice came from behind.
“…Why did you come?”
Sherry’s words implied that if he had listened obediently, she wouldn’t have eyed him.
But Hayate opened up another matter, ignoring that question.
“Oi, make a [Wand] appear from my contract mark and use it. I don’t get it too well, but… if you’re a hexenritter, you can do that, right?”
The contract mark on Hayate’s right hand.
He didn’t know by himself how to produce a [Wand], but if it was Sherry, the professional, then it should be possible, shouldn’t it? That was both – his opinion and question.
At the same time it was a decision to fight on her side.
“Why? As long as you try, it’s not, right? So…”
“Even without trying I know how it’d play out already. Because you and I aren’t tied together by a thread.”
“I told you that hexenritter and contract beast are bound by a thread that serves as a medium for sharing magical power, haven’t I? This thread also transmits the feelings of the contract beast to the master on occasion.”
The thread tied their hearts together. For that reason it could fall into a counter-current and transmit them to the hexenritter, when the contract beast felt strong emotions.
“Strong emotions… So, like, when you did things like changing in front of me?”
“…That was embarrassing…”
It had probably been an attempt to determine whether they shared a proper bond by greatly shaking Hayate’s emotions… It was a way to achieve that.
“Then you’re saying that you’re also provoking me on purpose with that wicked tongue of yours…?”
“That’s au naturel.”
“Anyway, even if we’ve only spent a day together, that’s already enough for me to tell. There’s no thread between you and I. You’re not my manservant——”
After that, Sherry spoke what Hayate had tried to convince her of numerous times already.
“——You’re an ordinary human.”
In spite of his humanity finally being approved by her, Hayate wasn’t happy at all.
…Which reminds me… Yeah, it was like that, huh…
Hadn’t the girl in front of his eyes kept calling him ‘manservant’ to caution herself of the whole contract beast matter?
However, to the chairman and teachers, rather than calling him ‘manservant’, she had introduced Hayate as her ‘contract beast’… Only once had her tongue slipped. Only once. She hadn’t thought of him as a contract beast even for a second.
“So, when you found out that I’m not your contract beast, why didn’t you drive me out of the dorm…?!”
That obvious question came to Hayate’s mind, then Sherry’s words from the previous day crossed his mind.
‘Shut up already. At any rate, it’s not like you have anywhere to go, so just be obedient and listen to what I’m saying.’
“…So it was like that?”
He’d been unaware of that point at that time, but it was truly as she had said. Hayate with his memory loss had neither a goal to chase, nor a place to return to, or a partner to rely on. If he had been thrown out of the dorm in that kind of situation, what would’ve happened? It didn’t need much thought, he’d surely have suffered miserably.
That’s why Sherry hadn’t driven him out.
Yeah, geez… If it wasn’t for her wicked tongue and if she talked a bit differently, I’d have realized it a lot sooner.
Hayate stood up and faced Victoria.
As if protecting Sherry behind him.
“What do you think you can achieve by that? You can’t possible want to protect her, can you?”
“Ohohoho! A man protecting a woman, I’ve never heard of such a ridiculous thing!”
Victoria burst out in laughter from seeing something so, in her eyes, comical.
In this world – on this continent – women protected men.
But that kind of thing—— didn’t matter to the memory-less Hayate.
“I’m Sherry’s contract beast. So it’s alright for me to protect her, isn’t it?”
“You must be a real fool, huh? How about this? If you give yourself up to me——”
“You’re annoying, ringlets girl. You and your funny hairstyle.”
“What was that?!”
Being interrupted, the edges of Victoria’s mouth twitched.
Before the enraged girl could say more, Hayate got bold and began to run.
He intended to close in to the best of his ability. The [Tailworm]’s range covered the entirety of the ring. If they were apart, his chance of success was zero. There was no way but to charge preemptively.
“D-DON’T COME NEAR ME! LINDIS!”
Before he knew it, the revived serpent had commenced a surprise attack from underfoot. As he had was trying for a surprise attack himself, he was easily caught by and then held down.
Hayate’s body scream from the increasing force, that could even crush an ox.
His vision flashed due to excess pain. His head, *THROBTHROB*, seemed to break and, *CRUSHCRACK* sounds came here and there from his body.
One second felt like a trillion, the seemingly endless pain——
“STOP ALREADY! IT’S MY LOSS!”
——was ended by her scream.
The lindworm’s pressure easened up, but Hayate, unable to stand at all, collapsed onto the mithril ground with that.
With Lela’s voice, Hayate understood at last.
Sherry had given up.
There were two battles per match in total and a ten minute interval between battles. Hayate had his aching body lain down after borrowing Sherry’s shoulder to leave the ring. She placed his head on her lap.
However, right now he didn’t have the composure to enjoy that feeling—— Even now, he was tormented by extreme regret rather than the pain throughout his body.
He had forced Sherry to give up… She had got punished so many, many times, and yet she hadn’t given up once! But nevertheless, even if it was to save someone like him, she hadn’t hesitated for a mere second.
When she removed her arm which hid her sorrowful eyes, Sherry looked down to peer into Hayate’s.
“Why… did you try to fight? You’re just a human, right? Men can’t use magic. On the contrary, even your memory loss… is probably my fault… and yet, why did you try to fight Victoria? You didn’t have one reason to fight, did you…?”
Hayate wasn’t a fighting maniac. He was an ordinary human – afraid of pain.
And ordinary humans need a reason to fight.
For example… Yes, something like Sherry’s past that he had heard from Aria this morning——
——In the morning, Aria shared the story of Sherry’s past with Hayate in the shadow of the school building.
“In this country there are nobles who are called the big four, they’re holding powers that are unrivaled even among royal families. Sherry-kun was a daughter of the Scharlachrot Family, one of those big four.”
Was. Past tense. A style to address things that were no longer.
“Her mother, the former head of the family – famed as the ‘Red Moon Knight’, was strong. One of the strongest hexenritter on the continent. She was loved by the feudal lords and even fiefs; it seems like Sherry-kun had a happy childhood with her. But one day the Scharlachrot territory was attacked by a large horde of demonic beasts. It’s not unusual for them to appear out of nowhere in one’s territory, but…”
“Demonic beasts keep appearing all of a sudden, because—— no one knows where they are born or where they come from, or so I’ve been told.”
“Those new species of demonic beasts were surprisingly strong. I’ve only heard rumors, but stuff like one-eyed giants and so on… Well, when the ‘Red Moon Knight’ lead the chivalric order, they should’ve been able to completely get rid of them no matter what—— However, the moment the new species appeared, the ‘Red Moon Knight’ disappeared all of a sudden and no one knew where she had disappeared to. Without the head to command the chivalric order, the Scharlachrot Family fell into chaos. At that time, Sherry-kun’s grandmother – the ‘Blue Moon Knight’ – was still in good health, but in her already advanced age she couldn’t command an army on the scene. Of course neither could the still little Sherry-kun.”
In the end, the large demonic beast horde got annihilated by the hands of a chivalric order that was under the direct command of the Queen.
However, when the reinforcements finally arrived, the Scharlachrot Family had already suffered many casualties among the fiefs.
“The fiefs were tolerating the various privileges and favorable treatments of the nobles, because hexenritter hold the power to protect country and people from demonic beasts. But they thought the nobles had forsaken them when push came to shove, so in the blink of an eye their hearts grew distant and the country almost… Their power was also the reason why the Queen Family hadn’t been able to take a stern attitude against the Scharlachrot Family before. But then they seized most of their property and the peerage fell to the lowest rank.”
As there were more and more reparation payments towards the fiefs due and the Scharlachrot Family had already gotten poor at this point, they collapsed. However, even when Sherry had fallen to the lowest rank, it was arranged that her peerage and family name remained; the Queen’s Family had shown kindness in regards to one of the four big nobles that had served continuously since the founding of the Starfarm Kingdom.
After that, Sherry and the remains of her Family had been trotted out to unknown lands together…
“First, her father disappeared when he wasn’t able to bear the blame and discrimination. Sherry-kun lived together with her grandmother, but I heard that two years ago her grandmother died too. After that, as you probably expect, she didn’t know what to do. But this year she came knocking at the gates of Diaspell Royal Academy.”
Until now, Hayate had kept silent and was listening to Aria the whole time.
But he still didn’t understand it. Why had Sherry come to Diaspell Royal Academy and for what reason was she trying to become the strongest hexenritter?
When he asked Aria once more, she showed a bit of a worried expression.
“All I can do is guessing from here on… but there’s one thing that’d come to mind. Since she’s not just trying to become an ordinary but the strongest hexenritter, then it should be——”
“——The Eighth Big Walpurgis Night. A big fighting tournament that decides who’s the strongest hexenritter. It’s carried out by the eight strongest Families across the whole Frühling continent. The winner of that tournament is handed the literal title of the continent’s strongest.”
As Hayate had suddenly started talking about that kind of thing, Sherry stared at him with a puzzled expression.
“You’ve lost your memories, so why would you know about the Walpurgis Night?”
“I asked Aria this morning… and also about the story of the Glanzweisen peerage.”
Glanzweisen—— An honor peerage of the Starfarm Continent given to the winner of the Eighth Big Walpurgis Night. It was different from the usual peerage that was bestowed to each Family. The Glanzweisen was only granted to a single person and couldn’t be inherited. A status equal to a marquis.
“All nations on the continent closed a peace treaty. Since all the defense funds are being used to entertain countermeasures against the demonic beasts that keep appearing in each country’s territory, there’s no room for war between nations anyway. That’s why there’s the Eighth Big Walpurgis Night – a fighting tournament. BBut I find it difficult that it’s some kind of stand-in for war between those countries. A victory in this tournament’s significant. So the Starfarm Continent grants the honor peerage of Glanzweisen to the winner, plus an enormous amount of prize money on top of that…”
“That might be true, but where lies the problem?”
Sherry intentionally inclined her head to play dumb.
“You’re trying to become the strongest hexenritter to return triumphantly to the Starfarm Continent, gain the title of Glanzweisen, and restore the name of the Scharlachrot Family.”
“…Well, isn’t this some fine reasoning? Did Aria-san get to this conclusion?”
“Yeah, so far.”
Sherry narrowed her eyes upon hearing Hayate and displayed an apprehensive expression.
Her manner was different from her prior played ignorance… She likely didn’t want anyone to guess her real goal.
She even thought that she was deceiving someone by calling her companion contract beast… She wanted to be despised and seen as an unsightly living being——
“——Isn’t that all for the sake to make your parents come home?”
Sherry didn’t raise her voice, she silently opened her eyes wide. Her expression told Hayate that he had been on the mark.
It wasn’t just to carry the title of the continent’s strongest or for the reputed peerage. Nor was it for the enormous sum of money. Considering that, it couldn’t be for the recovery of her once lost homelands either.
“If I can restore our honor, former residence, and also revive the Scharlachrot Family… Then my parents must return. Isn’t that what you’re thinking?”
Seeing Sherry’s expression, he had confidence in what he was saying, but… without warning, her expression went flat and her voice grew cold and distant.
“That’s what a child would wish for… The incident with my mother is something inexcusable for a noble. Do you think the daughter of such a person would be allowed to wish for the return of ordinary happiness? The fiefs died because of my mother… What about their families? Our Eminence, the Queen? The other nobles?”
Aria, too, had pointed out several things herself.
For example, even if Sherry carried the title of the continent’s strongest to the Starfarm kingdom, it wouldn’t easen the fiefs’ grudge held against her mother.
That’s why Aria had guessed that Sherry merely wanted to recover her Family’s honor.
So would be the view of an adult from a calm and realistic standpoint.
“Aren’t you a child?”
“I don’t think that it’s strange for a child to want to be with their parents. Even someone like me with no memories knows that much.”
He could recall that he had parents, but neither could he remember their faces nor their names. It was the same for where and how he had lived with his family, and how he had been raised.
Nevertheless, he felt that he really wanted to meet them.
Even if he had no memories, his heart desired it. It was that kind of feeling.
Even if there was neither a reason nor a motive behind it—— The answer that had appeared in his heart couldn’t be false.
“You asked me for my motive when I tried to fight earlier… It’s because I want to protect your dream – your dream to reunite with your family.”
“…Is that so… But I’ll ask again—— Why? I’ll become a hexenritter, someone who crushs the lives of contract beasts, kick around other hexenritter, even ignore the feelings of the fiefs that hold a grudge against my mother, and want to try and fulfill my dream, which won’t be allowed by anybody. Why would you want to protect that selfish dream of my unsightly… unsightly, unsightly, unsightly self?”
Using the lives of contract beasts, ignoring other people’s feelings, and granting herself the wish of meeting her own mother again – Sherry had indeed put it in an unsightly way.
She thought that if her dream was lacking nobility, then it’d be alright to ignore lives and feelings.
But still… she was set to make it happen. That dream. She was set to meet her own mother once more. That’s why she had come to Diaspell Royal Academy. Even if she had to bear the cold stares of her peers. She hadn’t been able to obtain a contract beast… However, without giving up she had carried out the summoning ritual by herself.
As the result, Hayate had been summoned… She must’ve been disappointed for sure. She had wanted to have the power to fulfill her dream. And yet… And yet, without showing even a shred of her disappointment, she had saved someone like him who didn’t have anywhere to go. That might be the most obvious to do as a person, but how many people out there would’ve done that so-called obvious thing in her situation?
A direct, proud, and gentle girl like this, Hayate was——
“——I thought I wanted to protect it, so I did. I wanted to become your ally. That’s all.”
She had been, to say the least, abused by other people as if it wasn’t a big deal and it didn’t seem to Hayate as if her existence was something that had to be tormented. So had been his thinking, so he wanted to protect her.
That moment, Hayate’s heart was compelled by a driving force, just from that desire alone.
Following their conversation, Lela signalled the end of the break.
“Both parties, enter the ring.”
“Aaahh… damn it, is it time already?”
Cursing, Hayate stood up. The damage he had received from the lindworm’s grip had healed considerably, but a strange out-of-place feeling remained.
“You still want to fight?”
Sherry asked after lining up next to Hayate inside the white lines.
“Well, you can’t bring something like a [Wand] out of me and I find myself not particularly useful, but… I should at least be able to serve as a meat shield or decoy or something…”
“That’s not true.”
Hayate stared at the girl with a question mark floating above his head after his reasoning had been interrupted. And almost instantly, Victoria sneered from the other side of the ring and raised her voice:
“You still intend to carry on? I wonder, how about you give up before we start this time?”
The first matching having ended in almost absolute victory, Victoria exuded confidence from every pore of her body as she was talking.
Lela signaled the begin of the second mock battle round.
But Sherry showed no reaction at all to Victoria’s provocations nor to the start signal.
Her ruby-like eyes were fixated on Hayate.
“Do you still feel like fighting for my sake? If you still want to become my ally… I think there’s a way to win.”
She displayed a gaze that wouldn’t forgive a lie.
Hayate straightened his posture, of which only his head had been turned to her, and stared right back at Sherry from in front of her. She also turned into his direction and they both only looked into each others eyes.
A short reply. He nodded.
Sherry’s reply, too, only consisted of this.
And in the next moment—— her lips covered his.
W-Why would you suddenly…?!
Hayate, unable to move about, heard the sound of air being cut. It was probably the sound of the approaching [Tailworm]. ‘If I can’t protect her——’ When this thought crossed his mind, the transformation took place.
*ROAR*! From within Hayate and Sherry’s hearts a strong, hot wind arose and pelted. The [Tailworm] was forced back by the wind and couldn’t reach both of them.
While Hayate was surprised at the unusual phenomenon, a flirtatious voice leaked out of Sherry’s mouth.
Light brimmed over from her chest where her uniform had been torn and a familiar sword crest emerged.
“It’s just like the thing on my right hand… UWA—?!”
When Hayate raised his right hand to be sure, both of their crests began emitting light in concert.
What now?! Something… seems to be flowing into my head…
He felt a strange sensation.
It spread throughout the contract mark and somehow like a big wave—— ‘knowledge’ flowed into him.
He suddenly understood what he was meant do.
Hayate placed his right hand on Sherry’s chest as if he was drawn to it.
Both contract marks were separated by a paper’s margin and overlapped each other.
Hayate released the words that had flowed into his head.
Instantly, a mass so hot that it couldn’t be compared to the hot wind until just now was forced into his right hand—— he took the handle, and pulled it out in one go.
Sherry’s seductive voice only reached Hayate’s ears near her.
The moment he grasped it, she was drained of her strength and couldn’t stand anymore, so Hayate supported her with his left arm and embraced her.
After seeing the thing he had pulled out from inside her, the students surrounding the ring made a stir.
“Impossible… It can’t be!”
Their gazes were fixated on Hayate’s right hand—— It was occupied by the deep crimson sword that he held.
“That’s… a [Wand]?”
Sherry, whose face had blushed in Hayate’s arms, also muttered in surprise.
“That’s not it.”
“This thing is no [Wand]—— it’s a [Seele].”
A [Seele] was a paranormal weapon that surpassed the [Wand]s of hexenritter. The knowledge that had flowed into him just now had also covered the usage of this new weapon.
He could immediately handle it like his own hands and feet.
Victoria stood baffled at the sudden transformation.
Noticing the defenceless figure of his opponent, Hayate tightly grasped the sword’s handle and parted it from Sherry’s body.
“Please wait a second. I’ll end this in an instant.”
Hayate ran off without even waiting for a reply.
An astonishing amount of power flowed through the sword in his hands. The physical ability of an ordinary human like Hayate had improved tremendously.
He was approaching towards his opponent like the swift wind of a fast runner.
“Wha—?! D-Don’t come here!”
Seeing the fast-approaching Hayate, Victoria swung [Tailworm] in a fluster.
Even if the trajectory would exceed the speed of sound, the current him could easily seize it.
While releasing a loud scream, the attacking whip was parted into two.
Take the [Tailworm] [Wand] as an example. Despite of being shaped like a whip, it was as sturdy as steel. However, the [Seele] in his hands easily cut it up.
The trace following the burning-red edge of the sword danced down in sparks.
The violence of that sword technique equalled a raging fire.
Desperate to buy time, Victoria sent her own contract beast towards Hayate.
Assuming the contract beast’s absolute obedience to their hexenritter—— it’s current behavior wasn’t necessarily what the lindworm desired itself.
Perhaps it wanted to run away. When he thought that, his chest felt a bit tight, but if the serpent stood in his way, he could do nothing but fight it.
When Hayate shouted, [Seele] grew red hot and a blazing vortex broke out of the red edge.
The serpent’s whole body got coiled in flames. It screamed and wriggled on the mithril ground.
From under his armpit, Hayate gazed at his opponent and prepared his flame sword.
It had been Victoria’s last vain struggle.
Her face was warped as if she had witnessed a nightmare.
Drawing near towards the opponent like a swift wind, he made sure to knock down all enemy assaults and concentrated his attacks on her like a raging fire. In the blink of an eye he had covered the space between them.
It certainly was like a nightmare seeing Hayate draw near like that.
Hayate swung down his fire sword.
The edge slashed at the wrist of her hand that held [Tailworm]. Although thanks to the [Divine Blessing of Valhalla] bodies couldn’t be injured, the pain she felt forced her to drop the whip.
He turned over to the blunt side of the edge and thrusted accurately at the nape of her neck.
“This can’t… I…!”
Victoria murmured while staring at the sword that had been thrusted at her.
Hayate deliberately negated the fire that had assaulted the lindworm. He could manipulate the [Seele’s] fire at will, which also included the temperature.
In the end, the lindworm fainted after a sole shriek due to damage suffered. With her contract beast losing consciousness, the dropped [Tailworm] also dissolved into particles of magical power. With that, Victoria wouldn’t be able to summon it again until her contract beast woke up.
The match had been a done deal in anyone’s eyes, but Victoria still complained about something as if she couldn’t believe it.
“I am… Victoria Verde… descendant of the great Verde Family… Losing against the likes of a man…”
“…I can’t understand what you’re trying to say, but you know…”
Hayate put strength into gripping the sword in his hands.
“Want to go on?”
Victoria bit her lips in frustration…
“…It’s… my loss…”
Seemingly still not wanting to accept it, she gave up with a small voice.
Lela calmly announced the conclusion.
A man had suddenly picked up a [Seele]—— the students and teachers recognised it as [Wand], however—— and a contract beast had even overpowered a hexenritter, but the black-clothed teacher had kept calm until the end. Everyone else in the mock battle area kept calling the thing in front of their eyes abnormal, or were shocked, or even went crazy.
However, Hayate didn’t care about the commotion around him.
He went back along the same straight line he had run across on earlier and stood in front of Sherry.
…He tried to say something smart, but he couldn’t think of anything at all.
“What a strange face you’re making. You just tried to say something cool, didn’t you?”
She had seen through his intentions.
No, but… And here I thought the real me just now had been pretty cool… I see, I just can’t show off, huh…
Sherry spoke a few words to the downhearted Hayate.
“Even if you can’t decorate it with words, you were plenty cool just now.”
Being told that so directly, Hayate now got embarrassed.
To make matters worse, when he looked in her direction, another ’embarrassing factor’ rose up to his head…
“What is it?”
“Ah… That’s… Why did you kiss me earlier?”
With his head bright red, Hayate asked the question that had been on his mind all the time.
Unlike him, without a single change in her countenance, Sherry answered his question.
“I wonder whether I should call it a reward prepayment for the contract…”
Certainly, for a guy to be kissed by such a beautiful girl, it was close to a reward…
“You’d fight for my sake, you said that, right?”
“Right—— In that case, Hayate…”
Huh… did she just… call me by my name…?
When he was surprised by the fact that Sherry had called him by his name for the first time ever, she thrusted her graceful finger in front of his eyes—— and then declared with a dignified voice:
“From today on, you’ll become my manservant. But on the other hand, I will become your slave.”
Translator notes and references