Rudel had taken Fina, Mii and Sophina along to the dragons’ dwellings. In order to learn what his current self was lacking, he had come to meet Marty’s dragon.
While he had technically dragged the princess along on a journey, at this point, he didn’t see her as anything more than a disciple. Even if he showed his respect on formal stages, his attitude would take a complete change in private.
“You don’t even have the basics down!? What’s the meaning of this!?”
“W-wait, master! Don’t drop me into the lak…. Gyaaah!! (I don’t want this anymore! He doesn’t teach me anything, and I can’t put up with all this basic training.)”
Mii and Sophina watched in suspense as Fina was expressionlessly sent flying off into the lake. In the week since they’d arrived at the dragons’ dwellings, day after day, Fina would be put to building her basic stamina and carrying out fundamental magic training.
But under the tutelage of Marty’s Dragon, Rudel was learning the necessary abilities of a dragoon. He had already learned all the secrets she knew about petting, and the dragon didn’t have anything left to teach him. But there were plenty of things he had to learn when it came to dragoons.
Once Fina was flung into the lake, Rudel turned to face the dragon once more.
‘You’re too kind. Treat her like that, and that princess will never advance.’
“I know, but she’s still a princess of all things, so I don’t think I can be harsher than this.”
‘You think? When this idiot prince ran his mouth on some stupid thing like wanting to ride my back, Marty smacked him and ran to this forest with me… with all of us.’
While Marty’s dragon was the water dragon, she was also the boss of the dragons at the time. If the boss said she was going home, then even the dragons with contractors would follow along.
This didn’t infringe on the promise made between human and dragon when contracting. It was a legitimate possibility. A dragon promised it would lend its power, but it wasn’t as if it had to obey. The one who scrapped Marty’s contract was the prince, and Marty returned to the forest with all the dragons.
‘That guy’s face when we said we’d be going home was a masterpiece! The palace was destroyed while we were at it, and I spent about two months here with Marty. That Marty, he got himself a grass skirt and spear and enjoyed it all the way.’
According to the dragon, the royal family took their knights along to apologize after two months. But it was a disgrace to the name of Courtois, and the truth had been twisted before it was handed down.
“Ah, I’ve read something about that in a number of books. But they didn’t say anything about Marty-sama, you know? It did say he struck royalty, but he was never punished, so I thought it might be a lie.”
‘Lie? What are you talking about? Marty was young at the time, and he was amazing! He was old when they ordered him to retire, but even so, Marty was amazing.’
Reminiscing over it, the dragon continued to speak of fond times. Rudel was delighted to be able to hear out the dragon he admired. But to Fina who crawled out of the lake- and to Mii and Sophina- it only looked as if he was talking to himself.
After that, Rudel would occasionally let out a surprised voice, at times breaking down techniques, and as he spoke of how he was going to deal with Fina, the three of them fearfully inclined their ears.
But Fina was bored, and once she got tired of being afraid, she tried testing her petting on Mii. There, while it took a bit of time, Mii’s face did indeed turn red.
“P-princess, any more is… I… I’m turning strange…!!”
Her body lurching in an instant, Mii collapsed on the spot.
Sophina looked at Fina’s expressionless face at the time, but she would later tell her men it looked almost as if she was laughing.
“F-fwahahaha!! It seems I can do it too. (What’s this? So I can do it if I try! If that’s how it is, then even without master, my goal… I can become the ruler of fluffadise!!)”
“P-princess, where are you going?”
Holding confidence, Fina expressionlessly told Sophina.
“Isn’t it obvious, Sophina? Until this point, I needed master’s technique. But as I am now, I will be able to fulfill my objective. I no longer need my master. No, I no longer need Rudel.”
“What are you talking about!? Princess, get a grip on yourself!! Rudel is an indispensable individual to the country’s future, right? Saying you don’t need him… what about all the plans you’ve set up!!?”
The expressionless Fina turned her back to Sophina as she headed towards Rudel and the dragon. Drowning in her technique and stepping off her path, Fina walked towards her parting.
“No, no, you’ve finally become his disciple, so why are you ruining that on your own? Listen to people when they’re talking to you!!”
Lately, Sophina had lost a large portion of her dignity as a high knight, and she grieved from her heart for Fina’s parting with Rudel. Of course, it was a worry that came from ulterior motives.
At the back of Rudel, engrossed in his conversation with the dragon, came the voice of his technique-drowned disciple. Feeling a terrible presence from that voice, Rudel turned, looked in Fina’s eyes, and understood it all.
Seeing her make the eyes of one who had lost themselves in their own power. Rudel- who had been smiling to that point- made a serious face.
‘This is bad. That child is making the eyes of one drowned in power. She does have a grasp of the fundamentals, but I never thought she’d lose herself so quickly…’
‘Hey, Rudel, play with me.’
‘Quiet down and watch, Sakuya. This is a match between master and student.’
With Marty’s dragon and Sakuya watching over them, the two humans stood atop a log floating in the lake. In that place where neither side could avoid or step back, they could only let their technique collide.
Having obtained the technique she wanted, Fina had determined Rudel was unnecessary. But she wanted his technique on her side, so she told him to become hers.
Rudel thought of Fina’s position and gave an immediate refusal. Neither side would back down, so things settled as a duel.
“Master, no, Rudel. You don’t want to become mine? Even like this, I’m the princess of a country. There’s no problem with your house or status. (Now what are you going to do? It’s no problem to me whether I win or lose. I already have the technique I desire in my hands!! Now as long as I can obtain Rudel, it’ll be perfect, but I don’t have to push it anymore!)”
“I understand I’m not in a position to say this, but right now, you’re making a mistake. I’m sure I’ve told you your engagement will create problems across the country as a whole. And you aren’t looking at me… as I thought, taking you as a disciple was a mistake.”
Atop the log drifting freely across the water, neither side gave the slightest twitch. For argument’s sake, Fina had been trained in battle from a young age. But to the utmost, that was for self-defense and to make sure she didn’t suffer from a lack of exercise.
The reason she got the mind to go so far was that of a disillusioned state where she had convinced herself she could do anything. It was an exceedingly dangerous state. If Rudel overlooked her here, Fina would undoubtedly step off her path. She would become a demon who wouldn’t stop until she pet all the demi-humans in the world.
For the sake of Fina who had become his disciple, Rudel had accepted the duel.
“Rudel, if only you were satisfied with me… but you had to be tricked by that black hair!”
“Izumi has nothing to do with it!”
As a fish leaped to break the water surface, the two sprung to motion. In every possible way, Rudel held the advantage, but Fina had no attachment to the outcome. She saw this as no more than a ceremony to get Rudel to give up. But as the distance closed between the two, the one to get the first move was Fina.
“You let your guard down, Rudel! (Yaaay!! Now you’re mine!!)”
With all the technique she had, Fina exercised her petting on Rudel, but Rudel showed no reaction. As Fina panicked, Rudel gently wrapped her in an embrace.
To a surprised, Fina, Rudel declared his own victory.
“I already told you. The most important part… is love. Though it seems you’ve forgotten.”
As mana emitted from Rudel’s body, and expression was born on Fina’s expressionless face. Her face turning red, it was a miserable face, but it was the first expression she ever made. From afar, Mii and Sophina looked on with disbelief.
“E-erk! (Crap, this feeling is…!! The inside of my head is going white… auh)”
Once Rudel released her, Fina unsteadily collapsed into the lake. Hit by the water spurt, Rudel silently looked at Fina’s floating body. Her expression was already gone, but her face held a faint red tinge.
The two dragons watching over the showdown each held a different reaction.
‘Marty, your will has been handed on.’
Perhaps Sakuya retained a dislike of Fina, and while she was happy Rudel won, her mental state was a conflicted one.
‘Play with me too!’
Rudel jumped into the lake himself, lifting up Fina’s body and creeping out of the water. Once he reached land, he put Fina over his back and called out.
“How was it?”
“… I’ve lost. I’m sorry master. I’m sorry… I was wrong. (He really is amazing. My master is the best!)”
Rudel continued shouldering Fina as he made for Mii and Sophina. As he walked, he continued sending words to Fina on his back. Not the words of a harsh master, but the gentle words for a comrade.
“We’ve both got a long way to go, but the path is a long one. Do you think you can keep up?”
“I see, I’ll be harsh again tomorrow.”
Mii and Sophina watched them draw close, but they couldn’t keep up with what was going on. More than, that, Fina had finally shown expression, but the problem was that it wasn’t the sort of expression they could tell anyone about. There’s no way they could report a maiden’s deplorable visage.
“Sophina-san, was I mistaken? I can’t understand what the princess wants to do anymore.”
“What a coincidence. I can’t understand those two either. She insisted this would be a premarital trip, and said she was going to build it as an established truth, but now…”
As the two exchanged a glance, Rudel reached their side. Fina had heard the contents of their talk, but she spoke to them in an enlightened matter. It was only come later, after she had returned to the academy, that she regretted the fact she didn’t’ establish a truth.
But at that moment, she was completely satisfied.
“Both of you, marriage is a sacred rite. It is not something to undergo with such impure motives. Sophina, you’re almost passed that age, so please take it a little more seriously.”
The hair on Mii’s tail and ears stood on end as she opened her eyes wide. The princess of her ideals was before her. Nowhere could she see the form of Fina, who would always sexually harass her.
It was at that moment that Mii feared Rudel from the bottom of her heart. You definitely cannot go against him, she needed to tell her clan…
But with her marriageable age brought up, Sohina had not the time for that. The fact she was the most mindful of was pointed out by Fina, who was usually the worst. Humans are hit hardest when they are told the truth. And by the worst person there was… she was filled with seething sentiment within, but she lowered her head and stood down.
Seeing Sophina twisted by Rage, Rudel made a misunderstanding. From her bloodshot eyes and shaking fist, he thought she was tense. Her hair had lost its gloss, and he concluded she had built up some stress. With his promise to Izumi, he remembered he couldn’t pet her, but he thought everything else might be fine.
He couldn’t pet, but Rudel was growing by the day. There was no problem with a massage. It was a wonderful idea if he did say so himself, so once he lowered Fina from his back, he went on to actualize it.
“Sophina-san, you seem considerably worn out. I made you tag along with my selfishness, so won’t you let me give you a massage?”
“Ha? What are you… wait! Get those hands away!! … Ah.”
The lascivious voice of a woman echoed through the dragons’ dwelling. She was caught off guard, but for a while to follow, Sophina’s mood reached an all-time high.