Side Story: Claira Berch ②

“Lady Berch, this way.”

While walking along the streets of Ishka, a low and sharp voice reached Claira’s ear.

Claira is popular among soldiers and adventurers, particularly for her achievements in the previous stampede. She has a distinctive appearance with white hair and red eyes, and she wears hakama, which are rarely seen in Ishka.

Not only do soldiers and adventurers express their gratitude to her, but their families and citizens who have heard the rumors also sometimes do.

However, these people do not call Claira “Lady Berch”. The reason is that Claira has not revealed her family name to Ishka’s residents.

Only Sora knows Claira’s family name, yet Sora does not bother to call Claira by it. Let alone adding honorifics like “Lady”.

――Claira showed a slight tension in her eyes and looked at where the voice came from.

A man dressed like a worn-out craftsman was watching Claira from behind a shadow. He looked about forty years old. He had a red cheek with stubble, as if he had been drinking since noon.

There are many people in Ishka who have lost their jobs or occupations due to the ongoing chaos. It is not uncommon for such people to try to forget reality with alcohol. In fact, if you walk along the street, you can find many people who look like this man.

However, there is a difference between those people and the man in front of her. The eyes that were looking at Claira shone with a strong light unrelated to alcohol.

“――Who are you?”

“Please come this way.”

After saying that in an imperative tone, the man left the spot with a staggered walk like he was drunk and entered a quiet alley.

Claira hesitated for a moment, but for various reasons, she found it impossible to ignore him. She followed the man into the alley with a slight delay.

The man immediately knelt down upon recognizing Claira’s figure. It was an exaggerated gesture, but he was probably kneeling to the Berch family rather than Claira herself.

Before Claira could ask, the man revealed his identity.

“I am Heijin, a warrior belonging to the Fourth Banner. By the order of our lord, I have come to escort Claira Berch.”

“Our lord…?”

Doubt filled Claira’s voice.

The reason was, quite frankly, Claira had judged the possibility of a rescue team coming to be absolutely nil.

Sora had taken Claira hostage to protect the Kijin’s daughter, but there was no way that Sword Saint Mitsurugi Shikibu would accept such a demand. He was not a Sword Saint who would jeopardize the law of exterminating demons and sealing gods just to save Claira.

Most likely, Claira, who had been taken hostage, would be executed along with Sora.

She could not expect help from the Berch family. Rather, it would not be surprising if the Berch family took the initiative to attack them to erase the shame of their own family.

What had been troubling Claira lately was how she should act when the Mitsurugi family attacked, and she had not thought at all about what to do when help came.

However, the man who identified himself as from the Fourth Banner said he had come to rescue Claira. She suspected it might be a trap, but there was no reason or necessity for the Mitsurugi family to lay a trap for Claira.

If anyone was going to set a trap for Claira, it would be Sora. If Claira followed Heijin without hesitation, Sora would be waiting for her and punish her for attempted escape – that seemed very likely.

However, Heijin’s movements were unmistakably characteristic of a practitioner of the Phantom Blade Style. The badge he took out from his pocket that showed he belonged to the Fourth Flag also looked genuine to Claira’s eyes.

Had Klimt and Shiba Gozu persuaded Lord Mitsurugi?

Claira thought so, but this conjecture also left a sense of discomfort. Of course, she did not doubt that the two had done their best for her sake, but it was hard to believe that Shikibu had accepted their request.

Claira had been preoccupied with how she should respond to an attack by the Mitsurugi family and hadn’t considered what to do if help arrived.

How Heijin interpreted Claira’s hesitation and indecision, he lowered his voice and asked her.

“Please rest assured, Lady Berch. Whether it is a person or a thing, we will take back whatever binds you.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“From what I see, Lady Berch is guaranteed freedom of movement. There is no sign of a guard. Yet, you are resigned to being a prisoner. Does that mean you have some kind of weakness?”

“…Ah! Is that what you mean?”

Claira faintly smiled at Heijin’s misunderstanding. Indeed, if he saw Claira moving around freely as a hostage, he would think so.

In fact, Sora only thought that she should run away if she wanted to. Rather, he must be hoping that Claira would escape. He would not hesitate to punish her for attempted escape.

Here Claira also got the answer to her question from the other day – why she was suddenly moved from Titis Forest to Ishka.

She could not contact the Fourth Flag while she was in Titis Forest. That’s why they brought Claira to Ishka.

“Do you know what Lord Mitsurugi said to Sora?”

“Yes. I know, but…”

Heijin looked up at Claira as if to say, what does that have to do with anything right now?

Claira noticed his question, but asked for an answer anyway, and learned that Shikibu had told Sora to come to the island in a month.

“Lord Mitsurugi called Sora to the island to test his abilities, right? Then why did he order the Fourth Flag to rescue me?”

Heijin lowered his eyes when he heard that.

“I was on a mission outside the island, so I don’t know the details. But I heard that Ragna-sama moved.”

“Ragna did?”

Claira slightly frowned. From Klimt to Ragna, from Ragna to Shikibu. Was that how things were decided? Even so, at this point, Shikibu had little reason to move the Fourth Flag – and as she thought that far, something flashed in Claira’s mind.

She remembered a fact that she had forgotten as a trivial matter while looking at Heijin in front of her.

“The Fourth Flag… Jijinbou-sama, who was killed by Sora earlier, was also from the Fourth Flag, right?”

“-Yes. He was my comrade. And also my benefactor.”

Claira sighed softly when she heard that and guessed what had happened.

Surely, Jijinbou’s mission was an imperial order. They had to act quickly as the Fourth Flag, but they needed to eliminate Sora, who was colluding with Lord Dragnaut.

In other words, Ragna moved the Fourth Flag not to save Claira, but to incite them to kill Sora.

Did Shikibu not notice that, or did he pretend not to know?

Perhaps he intended it as the first trial to prove Sora’s abilities.



“I sincerely appreciate that you came all this way to save me. But I cannot leave Ishka now. The feat that Sora-sama achieved by defeating the mythical creature is true. When Sora-sama returns to the island, everyone will acknowledge that. Lord Mitsurugi said that he would entrust Sora-sama with the Kijin matter if his abilities were proven, right? Then he will surely release me without any problem. Please tell him that.”


“I repeat, Sora-sama’s feat of defeating the mythical creature is true. You seem to have other orders, but you must never lay a hand on Sora-sama or anyone around him. This is my advice as someone who was defeated by Sora-sama.”

“-I have received your words.”

Heijin bowed his head and left with a rustle of footsteps.

Claira who remained bit her lip lightly.

Now, Heijin had only said that he “received” Claira’s words, but he did not say that he would follow her advice. That meant that was his answer.

For the Fourth Flag, Sora was an enemy they had to eliminate to fulfill their imperial order. She understood that, but…

The Fourth Flag was already treated lightly by other teams. On top of that, if they failed their imperial order, their evaluation from the lord would drop to the ground. With this, Sora and the Fourth Flag would inevitably clash.

Should she tell Sora about this?

But telling Sora this would be a clear betrayal of Demon Island.

And what would happen if she didn’t tell him?

Sora had seen through the Fourth Flag’s movements and brought Claira back to Ishka. Claira’s silence would be taken as a sign of collusion with the Fourth Flag.

She could only see dead ends whether she went right or left. She wished she had continued living in a cave – she thought that while retracing her steps.

She asked herself inwardly what she should do.

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