At the age of fifteen, Rudel had become an adult. His body had grown, and his training had made it sturdy. At this point he could use elementary magic, and appart from swordsmanship, he had learned the spear and the bow… he had acquired various skills. His sister Lena who had followed him around all the way was eight. Her body was growing, and she was receiving a similar education to Rudel.
To Rudel, this year would be an extremely important one. It was decided he was to go to the private academy in Courtois’ capital.
“Bro, are you really going to the capital?”
While Lena swung her specialty spear at him, Rudel judged it with his sword as he answered.
“Yeah, you should set your sights on it too. If you don’t go there, you can’t get the qualifications to be a knight.”
Seeing Lena’s lonely face, Rudel’s heart hurt a bit. When he had finally come around to understand the thing called loneliness, Rudel found it to be nothing more than a troublesome emotion.
“Don’t worry. I’ll come back on the longer breaks.”
Even as they carried out a heartwarming conversation, they were swinging around their weapons. Their abilities had grown to such a level where it looked as if they were laughing as they tried to strike the other dead. Lena’s footwork and the sharpness of her thrusts would put many an adult to shame. And Rudel who could parry them as he carried on a conversation was quite something himself.
… If they weren’t underestimated so, perhaps the two of them would be famous throughout Courtois in a good sense.
Rudel was famous in a certain way. As a stupid brat who couldn’t even come out in high society… that was Rudel’s evaluation that had spread throughout the world. In Courtois where it was stressed that the eldest son succeed a house, unless something terrible happened, it wasn’t permitted for a younger son to take over.
Feeling his sweaty clothing stick to his body, Rudel put a hold on the training. Matching that, Lena sat down on the spot and got her breathing in order.
“Is the academy fun?”
“Who knows? To me, it’s a place to become a knight, and I don’t really care if it’s fun or not… I wouldn’t want to go to a place that’s just fun, but won’t make a knight of me.”
Redel carried out maintenance on his training sword as he answered Lena’s question. Lena had learned how to do it as well, and she began looking after her spear.
“How do you become a knight?”
“You have to finish the regular curriculum, get enough credits in the required knight courses, and take the combat and written exams.”
“Uuurrrgh… I’m really no good with written exams.”
Once that conversation was over, Rudel noticed the sun was beginning to fall. Standing right up, he walked off towards the manor. His stomach clock was telling him it was time for lunch.
A few days later, Rudel boarded a carriage set for the academy’s matriculation ceremony. With a lineage from one of the three lords, the carriage was extravagant, and all the furniture and daily necessities were expensive goods.
The eyes of the civilians as they watched such a carriage were terrible dark.
It wasn’t a good feeling to watch the son of the nobles exploiting them off on a trip in an extravagant carriage. Of the ones who came to see him off, his parents and the servants’ attitudes didn’t change much from usual. On the contrary, some of them rejoiced.
‘He’s finally gone.’
Lately, Rudel had gotten around to feeling lonely. In these ten years, he had paid special care to treating all with respect. The fact that his evaluation still hadn’t changed must have been his own fault, he thought.
He found it hard to bear his past assessments forever, and at the same time, he thought that was simply how hopeless he had been. But even so, Rudel wanted to be a Dragoon.
As he set off, Rudel had a letter from his sister Lena clasped in his hand.
‘Do your best!’
Those words alone lightened his heart up considerably… looking outside the carriage window, he saw the skies were as high as ever. And at the same time, he spotted the dragon he yearned for racing across it. Hurriedly sticking his body out the window as if to jump out, he continued gazing at the dragon.
The beast that went out of sight before long stirred up his heart. Could this not be the dragon blessing my journey? Rudel made himself misunderstand. And using that as fuel, he resolved himself to do his best at the academy.
Having seen a dragon even before reaching Courtois Academy, Rudel was in high spirits. He was dragged right into what you could call the academy’s kickoff specialty, the traffic congestion around its gates. But even so, in his high spirits, Rudel killed time without a care in the world.
The book on dragoons he had read through enough to wear out the bindings, and his new textbooks that would become indispensable at school… he read them through to crush time.
“As I thought, this is a nice book no matter how many times I read it.”
Was it strange for a grinning fifteen year old boy to read something close to a picture book? Perhaps thinking so, the academy’s general admitted students sent Rudel some sickened eyes as they walked passed the carriage.
There, a single young girl raise a large voice.
“How idiotic. Reading a picturebook made just to flatter those stuckup dragoons… humans really are savages, and you nobles are beyond help.”
Rudel overreacted at that voice. Putting the book down, he jumped from the carriage and glared at the girl. Green hair and long ears… looking at the girl who could be none other than an elf demi-human, Rudel gave an objection.
“I want you to take that back…”
Rudel himself couldn’t understand why he leapt from the carriage and drew close to the girl. When he usually wouldn’t pat the slightest mind to surrounding opinions, for him to react to such an extent was downright strange… Rudel convinced himself that he was just nervous, having come to an unfamiliar place.
“… I’m sorry. I may have said too much.”
“Hah? What are you talking about? More importantly, that crest on your carriage is the seal of Archduke Arses, right? So you’re the eldest son of the worst territory in Courtois?”
When Rudel tried to bring the matter to a close, this time the girl drew closer. The Arses House’s rule was terrible. He knew that, and he did feel sorry for the people. Rudel himself had consulted with his parents a number of times, but ‘Don’t stick your mouth in!’ they wouldn’t take him seriously.
Yet to Rudel, the girl with large slightly-slanting eyes went on.
“How carefree! When there are people suffering because of you, you’re sitting here reading a picture book? Isn’t there something else you should be doing!?”
The elf girl admonished him with overbearing eyes. But the servants in his carriage nodded at those words without the slightest attempt to save Rudel. Against the eldest son of one of the three lords, this wouldn’t pass as mere rudeness. What the general elf student was doing was an action that may result in the execution of her entire tribe.
It wasn’t favorable to have commoners ridiculing nobles. The guards at the academy gates gathered to control the problem. It was something that happened every year, and they barely even reported it at this point. It was an indefinite cycle…
“I understand they are suffering. That is why I came here to learn… if I’ve said something to offend you, I apologize.”
Rudel couldn’t understand why he had picked a fight with this girl. He’d usually just ignore it…
All present were taken aback by Rudel’s response… it was so rare to see a high-ranking nobles apologize that they were troubled to respond.
While that was going on, a single boy rounded the gate, coming on foot just like the generally admitted students. He wore the splendid garb of a noble, though he had dressed it down a bit. As he came upon the indescribably scene of Rudel and the girl, he let out a laugh.
“Oy, oy, what’s an inexperienced kid like you doing, approaching such a young elven maiden?”
??? No one present could understand his words. At that moment, everyone around was struggling to respond to Rudel’s apology… sure enough, based on how you looked at it, it could possibly appear as if he was approaching her, but…
Shimmering gold hair, the boy with mismatched eyes of blue and green boasted features so beautiful they came off as ominous. A boy so beautiful it was unnatural… on his clothing, the ‘Seal of Count Hardie’ was embroidered in golden thread.
“No, we’re already done here.”
The elf girl quickly regained her composure, leaving as if to flee from the Hardie boy and Rudel.
“Huh? By the event, that was supposed to become a duel to set up her flag… did I fiddle around with history a little too much?”
Those around found the boy’s loud monologue considerably eerie. ‘A duel? Give us a break! That guy’s from one of the Three Lords’ houses! It’ll be our responsibility!’ By the soldiers’ ulterior motives, Rudel and the boy were forcibly parted, and Rudel’s carriage gained priority to enter the academy.
That was to be the meeting of the ‘protagonist’ boy, and his ‘foil’ Rudel.