A long break in the school year. Alongside it, Rudel returned to his home. Even if he was only gone for three months, everything had been a first for him, and felt a bit of growth on his part.
But there was no change in his treatment at his home Arses House. Even more than that… the moment his father saw his report card, he became jealous of the boy who was performing even better than he had. Rudel’s father wasn’t that good of a boy himself, and once he learned his idiot son Rudel was more talented than him, his attitude took a blatant change.
“What good is that scrap of paper!? No matter how much effort a worthless human like you puts in, there’s no point at all!”
Rudel’s father had put all his expectations on Chlust. Smart and obedient Chlust… Yet the talented Rudel had surpassed all the talent he saw in Chlust.
“Your face is an irritating sight to behold!”
If they realize I’m not useless, would the surrounding attitude change? Rudel’s light expectations fell as they came. Having experienced various meetings in the academy, his life at home was all the more painful.
“Bro? When you’ve finally come home, you don’t look to well.”
Rudel’s half-sister Lena grew curious as she ate breakfast with him, and posed the question. Her brother who would usually eat the terrible-tasting breakfast without leaving anything behind had barely touched his meal.
“Yeah, let’s see… hey, why do you think I’m hated?”
“? What are you talking about, bro? I love you quite a bit.”
Rudel was exposed to the pure smile of his sister. His feeligns grew a bit lighter.
“I see… that’s right. Thank you, Lena.”
Rudel thought. There was a time when he thought the surrounding attitudes were only natural. But now he had grown to feel anxiety at the hatred around him… it was surely because he was weak, he convinced himself.
And at the same time, Rudel knew he had to treasure the people who did hold a positive impression of him. From here on, he was sure to face more precious encounters.
“And also! You’re not going to become a dragoon like that. My big brother’s a guy who never loses hope.”
On those words, Rudel burst into a smile. Lena’s reaction showed she didn’t know what was going on.
“That’s right! That’s exactly right. It’s not like me to be depressed forever. Want to do some training outside?”
“Yeah! I need to show you how much stronger I’ve become in your three months away.”
Like that, the break ended, and Rudel returned to school. He arrived at the academy a few days early, and when he looked around, the only acquaintance he could find was Izumi. Rather… he hadn’t even asked if Izumi returned home.
Preparing some sweets from his home territory as a gift, Rudel invited Izumi to the cafeteria for tea. He brought with him some standard baked pastries. Seeing them, Izumi accepted them apologetically.
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t able to bring any souvenirs.”
On those words, Rudel asked without thinking.
“You didn’t go home? Why?”
While she hesitated a bit, Izumi had come to understand Rudel’s personality to an extent over the course of three months. Rudel rarely acted after reading the mood. He wouldn’t even bother to remember things that didn’t interest him. On the other hand, he would try his heardest to learn all there was to learn over what he had an interest in…
Giving up, Izumi explained.
“My home’s far away, and my household was never very affluent. And I’m a woman, right? Yet here I am commuting to school in a foreign land. I have quite a few relatives who don’t think too highly of it. It may be difficult to understand with our difference in culture.”
Rudel listened in all seriousness. To him, whether she was woman or man wasn’t a large problem. There were female knights among the Dragoon. That was more than enough proof that women could be just as skilled.
What’s more, he was interested in Izumi’s orient swordplay. The first time he saw her pulling out her slender, curved, ‘katana,’ to slice, he found himself moved.
But be that as it may, Rudel wouldn’t refute her culture.
“There are many things I don’t know about culture, so I can’t say anything about it. But I don’t think you need to look down on yourself just because you’re a woman. You’re strong, and beautiful.”
“wait, what!? R-Rudel? Did you hit your head or something?”
Izumi’s face reddened. But at the same time, she recalled Rudel’s personality. From her point of view, Rudel could be summed up as an oddball. At times he would take exorbitant action, and because of that, he would often drag in his surroundings. But he was a hard worker, and earnest at his base… Rudel was fundamentally unable to flatter.
It was quite often she was troubled by him saying whatever came to mind, but hearing him call her beautiful was something she was happy about.
“What’s wrong? Did I say something bad again? Then I’ll apologize…”
“Hah, that isn’t it. I’ve just never had someone look me in the face and call me beautiful before… anyways, did you enjoy your trip home?”
Izumi tried to change the subject. But,
“Oh? Was my house fun? I’m more interesting in learning what I said wrong.”
Unable to avoid it, Izumi carefully explained it to him with a reddened face. To make it a bit more indirect, or that she’d misunderstand if he said it so seriously to her face… so it came to pass that two days before school would resume, the scarce remaining students watched over Rudel and Izumi with warm eyes.
The second term, and the period with the most school events. The first and second year student were just taught the basic curriculum, so they carried them out alongside their daily studies. But the academy was generally a place to put out knights and magicians, war power and officials for the state… the events were made in order to match.
“Next month, we’ll be training in the art of monster hunting. This is a joint event between all the first and second years, and you won’t get any credit if you skip out.”
As the homeroom teacher explained, the class largely populated by nobles let out some boos. It was training utilizing the forest close to the grounds. Of course, even if you called it close, it was still a few kilometers away… the monster hunting training there basically taught how to use groups to subjugate monsters practically anyone could defeat.
It was combat training to pound group coordination into their bodies. Of course, a monster subjugating specialist would tag along. With the opposition between classes, it was also a sort of competition. And the first ranking class between the two years gained the reward called honor… well, they didn’t really get anything.
“Combat, eh… it’s my first real battle.”
Rudel was fired up over the training everyone was so reluctant to take part in. He would be taking on monsters anyone could take down, but those monsters generally came in large numbers. While guaranteeing the safety of the academy, they were also reducing the monster populations, making it quite a beneficial training session.
“Then let’s begin class. Open your textbooks to…”
An abnormality was breaking out in the forest close to the academy. Trees had fallen, and the corpses of weak monsters were scattered all over the place. Alongside a low growl, a large body covered in fur moved.
A single powerful boar, its red eyes glowed as it made a mess of a monster. Alongside that clearly abnormal scene, the monster mismatched with the place disappeared into the depths of the forest.
A black pelt, with white lines racing all over its body, a monster that had never been sighted before. But just what meaning could the appearance of this ‘non-existent monster’ hold…