On the extended break of his fourth year, Rudel returned to his house for the first in quite some time. He hadn’t been able to hold a conversation with his father at the appointment ceremony. Seeing Luecke and Eunius talk happily with their house heads, their fathers, he wanted to say thanks to his own father who had raised him to this point.
During his third year, he had devoted all his time to Chlust and had been unable to return, so he was also growing worried for his little sister Lena. Stepping down from the carriage and seeing his home for the first in a while, Rudel was surprised at the reception he received.
Was the first line he said. The mansion’s servants were all lined up to meet and greet him. Seeing the servants lined all the way from the gate to the entranceway, could a guest be coming? Rudel thought as he headed for the back door. But the soldiers at the gate hurriedly stopped him.
“Young master, please enter the mansion from the front door.”
“Young master? Isn’t a guest coming?”
“T-that isn’t the case, We were told to prepare a greeting worthy of the next head…”
While the gatekeeper didn’t even try to look him in the eye, Rudel thought a bit. Once he had finished thinking, he walked down the path- servants lined on both sides- to enter the mansion. Once he entered the manor, he was greeted by a butler. On this reception he had never received before, Rudel was troubled how to react as he spoke to that butler.
“You don’t need to do this next time onwards. Just do things as you always have.”
“But that’s…! no, I’ll let them know.”
The butler who tried to say something before giving up led Rudel to his father, the house head’s room. Even if you called it his father’s room, it wasn’t a room to do work or a study. It was the bedroom his mistresses stayed. The butler knocked the door, and after he informed the head that Rudel had arrived, a sleepy voice came from within.
The butler took a position outside, and Rudel alone entered the room. It was normally a room he would never enter, but as Rudel stepped in, he narrowed his eyes.
“Father, I have just returned from the academy for the extended break.”
“I see, do whatever.”
Seeing his father unmotivatedly bury his face into his mistress’ bosom, Rudel mulled over whether to say what was on his mind. He got the feeling the location was way too bad. Filled with the stench of alcohol, numerous expensive dresses and gemstones were carelessly left all over the room. Taking a single bow, Rudel left and headed straight for his own room.
“The mansion really has been strange as of late. How should I put it? … When I thought they were in a panic, their attitude suddenly changed.”
Once he arrived at his own room, his little sister Lena who had heard of his return was already there. Rudel wasn’t surprised at that, but he was shocked by Lena’s growth. Her stature was high for a twelve-year-old, her hair grown out and bundled up on the left of her head. He still had vestiges of what he knew, but he had to say she had grown too big.
As the atmosphere of the manor had changed, he tried asking her, but Lena could only say the change was a sudden one. It was a response fitting of Lena, who never paid much attention to her surroundings, but Rudel couldn’t comprehend the situation he was in. To that point, there were plenty of servants who wouldn’t even acknowledge him when he returned home.
And yet, today everyone’s attitude had changed. It was much too creepy, thought Rudel.
“More importantly, is the academy fun? You didn’t come back last year, and when my big brother isn’t here with me, I… I… ah, did you bring back anything nice?”
“I got some cake at the dining hall.”
When she handed the cake over, Lena happily began eating it on the spot. She had grown taller and more mature, but seeing she hadn’t changed too much inside, Rudel smiled.
“Even so, I can’t feel at ease here. Just what could have happened? I’m sure it’s related to Chlust being sent off to the border, but when they take such a blatant attitude, you know.”
“This is was Erselica told me, but now that Chlust is gone, you’re all they have left so they have to treat you good. When it was decided Chlust was off to the outskirts, Erselica was crying you know.”
Hearing the name of his other little sister, Rudel recalled Erselica who had clung onto Chlust since she was small. And as he did, this time Lena spoke as if recalling something.
“Oh, right! Erselica’s going to attend the academy once she turns fifteen, and get this! I’m going to be going with her! As a guard, or rather, the head said to look out and make sure no flies swarm around her. Erselica’s going to marry into money, so the wife told me to make sure no poor people get near her at the academy…”
Around the last part Lena lost her high spirits, but hearing that, Rudel was convinced this territory had been driven into quite some financial straits. While they were still fine for now, Erselica who they had doted on so was to be married with money as the only criteria. Meaning status and character were inconsequential.
Recalling his own mother, Rudel grew sad as he wondered if that way of thought was correct.
“More importantly, bro! Have a match with me. I’ve raised my skills even higher in this past year, so perhaps I’ve even surpassed you.”
“That so, then I’d better take you on with all I’ve got.”
Rudel and Lena jumped out of the window. It was something they had done since they were kids, and an action they took without feeling anything was off. Holding up wooden sword and spear in the yard, the two of them contested until evening set in.
“You want to see the academy? You’re still only twelve. Wait three years and you’ll go whether you want to or not, right?”
While they were in the middle of break, Lena suddenly began holding interest in the academy as she incessantly pestered Rudel about it. As it was his sister’s request, he would happily talk about his life at the academy. But that was a school life with Rudel at its base.
To put it lightly, it was a mistaken school life.
“It’s a place where you destroy strong walls with magic and have life-or-death matches with your classmates, right? I want to go check it out now!”
There were around two weeks left of break, but Rudel thought. Maybe that wasn’t a bad idea, he decided. When he confirmed it with the butler, his father’s reply came back as ‘do what you want’. Until that point, he wouldn’t even answer if Rudel said such a thing.
It really made him feel uncomfortable, so he wanted to go to the academy. At the academy, there was Izumi and the former goddess so he wouldn’t be bored. And if he brought Lena there, then she would probably be happy. He decided with such light sentiment.
“Whoooaah!! So this is the school cafeteria.”
Rudel returned to the academy from his house’s manor. When he came back with a week of break remaining, besides Izumi, Luecke and Eunius had returned as well. Coming to the academy and first heading towards the boy’s dorm, Rudel ran into Luecke at the boy’s dorm dining hall.
“This is the boy’s dorm’s dining hall. The school cafeteria’s in the school building, so I’ll take you there later.”
“Rudel? You’re back quite early… who’s that you’ve got there?”
As Luecke grew curious of the individual besides Rudel, that Individual- Lena- smiled and gave her greeting. The clothes she wore were hand-me-downs from Rudel, so she was a belle in men’s clothing.
“Pleasure to meet you! I’m my big brother’s little sister, Lena.”
Luecke looked at Lena and ended up thinking of her as a female version of Eunius. In that case, he had no idea what to say, so he turned the conversation back to Rudel.
“Even if you wanted to take your sister here, isn’t it a bit early for that? You couldn’t wait until next year?”
Seeing Lena, given her height, Luecke thought she would be coming to the academy in a year or so. After Rudel explained about his little sister Lena, Luecke was surprised.
“Twelve!? You’re a big one for twelve… no, my apologies.”
“Don’t worry about it, more importantly, is there a person called Eunius around these parts?”
“Are you Eunius’ acquaintance? You have some business with him!”
Then and there, Lena pulled out the spear she kept over her back. She spoke with true delight.
“My broster said he’s strong so I wanted to try fighting him!”
“You’d better give it a rest, Lena. It’s a bit too early for you.”
After Rudel calmed Lena down, Luecke was starting to see her as a Eunius-like woman. A young girl as if Eunius and Rudel were added together and averaged out. That was Luecke’s impression of her. While Luecke would often quarrel with Eunius on a regular basis, when he saw a similar point in Lena, he thought.
(O-oh god, why is my heart racing!? No, it couldn’t be, something like that’s…)
One look at Lena had Luecke feel emotions he had never experienced before. And without him being able to hold a proper conversation with the girl, she and Rudel headed off to the girls’ dormitory.
The reason he headed for the girls’ dorm was the retrieve the former goddess he had left in Izumi’s care. During the break, he had handed Izumi the money he thought her food expenditure and various other expenses would take and asked her to look after her. Rudel could practically enter the girls’ dorm without question. Rudel thought that was normal and paid it no mind.
“What sort of person is Izumi? Your girlfriend?”
“… No. She’s a precious friend.”
“Eeh, but you’re always so happy when you talk about her, right? Why are you lying to me?”
Lena was interested in Izumi, who Rudel would talk about at the mansion. Being able to finally meet her, Lena was excited within. And yet she felt dissatisfaction at Rudel’s statement that concealed his true feelings.
As they were talking, Izumi and the former goddess were eating in the girls’ dorm dining hall. As the former goddess scarfed down a mountain of cake, Izumi gave a bitter smile as she sipped her tea and watched.
“Hey, you’re not supposed to talk with food in your mouth, right? Welcome back, Rudel… and the one beside you is?”
“Oooooh! It’s Izumi in the flesh! I’ve found myself a real live Izumi!”
Izumi was somewhat surprised, being referred to as such, but seeing the color of Lena’s hair, she wondered for just a moment if she had come from the orient.
“This is my little sister Lena. She said she was interested in the academy, so I brought her over.”
Rudel carried out the second introduction, but the Lena in question was lifting the former goddess up like a child and looking at her with wonder. It looked almost as if an adult was doing an upsy daisy! To a child.
“This is a former goddess? I was kinda imagining something more impressive. What a letdown.”
“H-hey you! What do you think you’re saying!? Even if you add a former, I’m still a goddess! And yet what do you have to be disappointed with!?”
Seeing Lena’s dejected face, the former goddess raged on with cream sticking to her mouth. But having lost interest, Lena remembered it was right about noon. And this was the girls’ dorm dining hall… she looked at Rudel with pleading eyes.
“Yeah, you can order whatever you want.”
“As expected of my brother! Then a large serving of the special, and a large serving of that one ala carte, and should I eat this one too? Last is dessert, but… well, whatever.”
“Hold it right there! When they have such delicious desserts, you order them not, instead ordering a large portion of everything on the daily menu? And you call yourself a woman?”
Having finished her cake, the former goddess looked at Lena who showed no interest in dessert as if she was looking at an endangered species. Ignoring all that, Lena received her heaping portions from the lunch lady, took her seat and started eating with good momentum. It could only be called the grandest of gobbling techniques.
“She ignored me! Rudel, that woman just ignored me!”
“I’m sorry, I’ll put a word in later. That aside, you… haven’t been causing Izumi any trouble, have you?”
Rudel turned his eyes from the frozen former goddess to Izumi. Izumi gave a slight smile as she explained it was alright. And the former goddess worshiped her for it.
Adding on Izumi and the former goddess from the girls’ dorm, the four of them walked off together. And just as they did, came the form of Aleist running away from the tiger tribe. Having resigned himself to training over the long vacation, Aleist leapt at Rudel as soon as he spotted him. Grabbing Rudel by the lapels, Aleist wept as he spoke.
“R-Rudel… what have you done!!!?”
“Hmm? What’s up, Aleist?”
“Don’t what’s up me! Worked to the bone by those scary faces every day! I thought time and again I was really going to die, you hear! Those guys are way too serious, and I can’t keep up with their flow and… geh!”
Noticing something, Aleist swiftly ran off, and this time a few tiger tribe men came running in pursuit of Aleist. As they passed by Rudel’s group, they lowered their heads to Izumi.
Seeing Izumi’s bitter smile, Lena spoke.
“Izumi-san’s an amazing person. To have those scary people lowering their heads… is she actually scary?”
“N-no! That’s, well… I only permitted it because Rudel said he needed it no matter what for Aleist’s sake. I never thought it would ever come to this.”
Izumi tried to resolve Lena’s misunderstanding, but as a matter of fact, she had become an existence the demi-humans couldn’t ignore. Both nobles and commoners kept an eye on her. The reasons being she could speak normally with those related to the Three Lords, and she was the one in control of Rudel’s petting. Oblivious to her true importance, Izumi didn’t have a grasp on the surrounding situation.
Once Lena went back off to the house, Eunius just missed her as he met up with Rudel’s group. Having spotted Luecke, Eunius had heard about Lena and gone searching for Rudel.
“What’s this, so Rudel’s little sister already went back?”
“It’s your fault for playing around. Well, she was a good girl.”
At that moment, he recalled the talks that came up when he had returned to the house. In exchange for a loan, the Arses House put forth talks of an engagement between Erselica and Eunius. Eunius’ father and the surrounding nobles were against it, so the discussions were washed away.
“Come to think of it, Rudel, there were some talks about an engagement between me and your sister.”
“Say what!? Then what am I to call you henceforth? Since we’ll be relatives, brother-in-law? Or brother of mine?”
Rudel reacted seriously to Eunius’ joke. Usually, that would be fine, but hearing that story, Luecke came under a misunderstanding.
“A-an engagement to Rudel’s sister (Lena) you say!?”
“Hmm? That’s right, there were some talks about an engagement to her (Erselica).”
Hearing that talk, what sister did he mean? Rudel thought. But Luecke was sure it was the little sister Lena. While he knew of Erselica’s existence, Eunius’ sudden statement and the impression of Lena whom he’d just met had remained in his mind.
“What’s up with you?”
Eunius asked as Luecke hung his head. And raising his face, Luecke made a proclamation. Everyone present was surprised at the words they’d never usually hear from him.
“It’s on… Eunius, I challenge you to a duel!”