In the arena, atop the round, circular ring, the man and woman faced one another.
One was Izumi, taking an iai stance, while the other was Rudel, his wood sword held low, and his left hand held out up front. While it looked like he was taking a low stance with his sword, Rudel had simply loosened the power in his right arm to concentrate on his left.
The white knight Rudel’s weapon was the shield. Letting off light, the shield that could protect from all manners of attack… he prepared to use his trump card from the start.
The spectators who knew of his fight with Aleist the year before grew interested to see if Izumi could cut through that shield of light.
Izumi herself also focused her mind on a serious Rudel. After giving one laugh, Rudel’s expression turned grim and his atmosphere changed as well.
Izumi changed her grip on her curved, wooden sword, keeping her eyes wide open as she unleashed her most powerful strike yet. Immediately afterwards, a horizontal line was cut into the arena wall.
Rudel couldn’t defend against it. Everyone present imagined him being cut through, but Rudel had evaded into the sky. Seeing him take a large leap, the spectators with a bit of knowledge thought the battle was settled.
Rudel in the air, and Izumi taking her stance… the hasty spectators began to believe in Izumi’s victory. In the air, Rudel directed his readied left hand towards the ring, his head facing to the floor in an upside-down state.
“That was a bit of a failure. Tuning it is difficult.”
Recalling his prior action, Rudel found his next area to work on. When he evaded Izumi’s slash, Rudel had exercised a bit of a strange means of travel.
It was something Marty devised, and a battle style later officially taken up by the dragoons. But there were few who could use it to its fullest, and at this point, it was only an emergency means of repositioning.
Seeing some baffling points in Rudel’s movements, Izumi fired a few slashes to investigate. In the spectators’ seats, Luecke was tempestuously crying out orders, desperate to make sure the barrier could withstand them.
At that moment, an unbelievable spectacle entered the spectators’ eyes.
It was one thing for Rudel to change his posture in the air, but his trajectory also took a violent change. When they thought he had evaded the slashes, he had landed on the ring in the next instant, almost instantaneously moving from the spot.
Izumi’s slashes rained through the path he had taken, but none of them were able to capture him.
As Izumi tried to read ahead of his movements, Rudel’s wood sword was lowing towards her. She intended to parry, but on those movements she had never anticipated, she ended up forced to catch the blow.
Rudel’s heavy strike crumbling her stance, Izumi leapt back for a moment. The moment she had come in contact with him, Izumi gained a general grasp of things.
“This is magic?”
What she felt on her skin was an unnatural flow of wind. The wind swirling with Rudel at the center pushed him into the air once more.
On those movements that could no longer even be called human, the spectators couldn’t even raise their voices.
Izumi undid her iai stance, holding her sword at the center of her body. She felt that a stance like iai- which amassed power into a single blow- put her at a disadvantage when it came to swift reaction. Now she pointed the tip of her blade at Rudel standing on the ring.
“That’s quite a rash way you’re using it.”
Receiving the mutter Izumi gave once her breathing was in order, Rudel showed an even greater acceleration in his movements. To those unaccustomed, perhaps it seemed as if Rudel had appeared behind Izumi in an instant,
Izumi turned around, but where she turned, Rudel’s wood sword was gently touching her cheek. Izumi let her sword fall from her hands, falling to her knees as the ref gave a grand declaration of Rudel’s victory.
After watching Rudel and Izumi’s match, Luecke had noticed the secret behind Rudel’s movements.
“He’s crazy. Purposely having his magic explode on him, I would never do it by choice.”
Having successfully maintained the special field Lena named barrier, Luecke let out a sigh of relief as he watched Rudel extend Izumi a hand.
Lena was to his side, seeking an explanation towards her brother’s movements.
“Hey, hey, Luecke-san. Could I move like that too?”
“Those movements? No, I’m sure you could do it, but I wouldn’t recommend it. That one’s dangerous. It might look like he’s brute forcing it, but actualizing that would need a precise control of magic. One wrong step and the explosion should send his body spiraling out of control.”
After hearing Luecke’s explanation, Lena smiled.
“Oh, so I can learn it too!”
“No, I’m telling you it’s dangerous…”
“Alright, I’ll do my best! Ah, Luecke-san, you’re good at magic, right? Teach it to me.”
When Lena grabbed Luecke’s white robe in her fingertips, Luecke spoke with a straight face…
“Leave it to me, I’ll make a splendid magus of you.”
Nearby, Vargas who had come to discuss his next positioning, was making an inexplicable face before his employer.
While Luecke was usually expressionless, giving those around a cold impression, when he was with Lena, he looked younger than his age. It seems he was bad with personal relations from the start, but having come so far, he was slowly improving.
But the one he was in love with was the problem. If she was a fair noble daughter it would be another thing, but the other party was Rudel’s sister and a tomboy. What’s more, from her status, it didn’t look like his love would bear fruit.
Lena was tall in stature, just a little to go before she reached Luecke’s height. Her appearance was beautiful enough, but because she wore men’s clothing, if her hair wasn’t long, then perhaps she could be taken as a peerless pretty boy.
(Rudel’s sister is also quite something… she’s thirteen, was she? Two more years then.)
Seeing Lena who would come to the academy someday, Vargas recalled the teacher camp who had come to him in tears. Thinking that the academy surely had hard times ahead of them, he wanted his employer to notice him already.
It was just around that time that the headmaster- keeping the royal family company in the noble visitors’ room- felt a chill.
The next match ended safely without any greater enthusiasm than before.
It was a match between Eunius and a fifth year, but Eunius easily pinned down his victory. In a separate visitor room from the one for royalty, Eunius and Luecke’s parents had come to see their own sons’ hours of triumph.
But as there was an abnormal zeal this time around, the archdukes who got along like cats and dogs were placed in the same room. The other rooms were all filled with marquises and counts, and this was the only room left adequately furnished to accept an archduke.
They did seek confirmation from both houses, and the academy decided there wouldn’t be a problem. But these were houses with deep-seated grudges.
Once Eunius’ match ended, the Diade House Head raised a grand laugh.
“He should fire up the crowd some more. That boy needs to learn to pay mind to his surroundings a bit…”
As truth would have it, Eunius had fought making sure not to scratch the ring. The reason was simple. If he wanted to fight Rudel as soon as possible, then the ring’s repairs would get in the way.
“Hmm, then why don’t you try paying mind as well? You’ve been hollering for a while now.”
Luecke’s father, Archduke Halbades, put the drink he’d been offered to his mouth as he spit out the words. The Diade House and camp glared back… the Archduke room was filled with an exceedingly tense atmosphere.
But there was some distance between the two houses, and they wouldn’t break into anything. The empty seats in the center were originally supposed to be occupied by the members of the Arses House who were supposed to come. But no one had made their way to the competition.
The two archdukes found it strange. They thought the man was irritated at having a son too talented, but they couldn’t think of a reason he’d show such contempt in a public space.
If he actually came, the other two archdukes may have actually had to concede defeat and kneel to that ill-natured Archduke Arses. It was strange that such a conceited man wouldn’t come to see a son he could boast about.
They had heard of Rudel from their own sons. As nobles, being swept up by his proficiency would be troublesome, but looking at it as people, having good friends was a good thing. They truly lamented he was from such a problematic lineage.
“Hmm, that man is a vindictive one. Is it really so hard to accept him? He looked like a son to be proud of to me.”
“You should watch your words. You might be calling him Your Majesty soon.”
Archduke Halbades cautioned Archduke Diade on his words, but he had already heard of Rudel’s nature from Luecke. From his point of view, he was a failure as a noble. But seeing how his son had matured, perhaps he was a good person. The archduke concluded so.
The probability of Rudel becoming king was by no means anything small. He also thought that Luecke being his friend would become a large contribution to the Halbades House in times to come.
(If his bearing as a king is enough to pull people to him, then there’s no problem as long as his surroundings support him up.)
The other Archduke, Archduke Diade was, if one had to choose, a noble who idolized military might. That Rudel had obtained a dragon more powerful than ever seen before was enough for him to call Rudel his king.
Of all else, to him, the word strong was important. He sought strength as a symbol. He didn’t seek for Rudel to take to the front lines. He didn’t seek for him to take command.
But he wanted a king who could order his troops to fight. In that regards, what he had heard from Eunius gave Rudel a passing grade.
Perhaps it was ironic that both Archdukes had recognized him. The space in the center of the room looked terribly lonesome.
After Eunius’ match, the next match was held promptly.
In Rudel’s match with Izumi, the ring was left in tatters, so some time was required to repair it. And it was time for Fritz, the one who bore the hopes of the common man, to take to the stage.
In the noble visitor room of royalty, Aileen happily waved her hand at the window sill. Seeing that, both the king and queen shook their heads, while Fina dealt with the dragoons who came to report.
The ones who entered the room were Cattleya and Lilim. They had some connections with Fina, so they were appointed to inform the royal line of the security situation.
But the room’s dubious air left the both of them troubled.
As Fina sent a lifeboat to the troubled two, Cattleya gave her report. When Lilim entered, the eyes of the royal guard grew sharp. Aileen was engrossed with Fritz, and she hadn’t noticed Lilim.
“Yes, we came to report that there is nothing to report about the security in the sky…”
“Is that so. Then would you two like to watch the match as well? The headmaster is busy dealing with father and mother, so I wanted someone to provide commentary.”
It wasn’t as if Fina kept the two dragoons on her own selfishness. The entrance of two outsiders had let her parents regain their composure.
Fina had enough of having to divert her attention away from Aileen. After Lilim went to inform the dragoons they would be placed on guard duty temporarily, Fina felt just a little disappointed.
Having as many lovers (fluffies) by her side was what Fina wanted. If Sophina knew the real reason, she would surely call it selfish.
“But is that truly necessary? I do see some high knights present.”
As Cattleya looked around, she saw some faces she had once seen among the high knights, but at this point they had transferred to the royal guard. Having returned from the outskirts only recently, Cattleya didn’t have a grasp on the situation in the palace.
“It’s fine. Sophina has gone into heat over mas… Rudel, and she won’t explain anything to me.”
Fina had tried teasing Sophina, but Sopphina truly did grow flustered. As Fina didn’t have any interest in battle, she didn’t particularly want commentary on the battle. But Sophina’s face grew redder than she had expected, so Cattleya opened her mouth.
“Eh? But isn’t she married already…”
“Hold your tongue, Cattleya! … Just don’t touch that matter.”
Fina’s tact stuck deeply into Sophina’s heart. Cattleya had been convinced that Sophina was married. While they had seen each other’s faces a few time, the two had rarely spoken of anything outside of work.
When Lilim returned to the room, the air only grew worse.
Around the time Lilim returned, Fritz’ match was already over. It wouldn’t take any time to mend the ring, and next up was Aleist’s match with Millia.
As they climbed up to the ring, the older sister Lilim felt pride as she saw how much her little sister had grown. But behind Fina, Sophina and Cattleya were persistently carrying on a woman’s quarrel.
Climbing up to the ring, Aleist took a deep breath.
A head he had never felt before, and a peculiar air, he calmed his heart to make sure he wasn’t swallowed in. The reason he couldn’t calm down was surely because he was up against his beloved Millia.
While Aleist held a wood sword, Millia had a training bow. The arrow tips were covered in rubber, and they were made not to stick into anything. But if they hit, they really hurt.
On the appearance of the rumored black knight, the arena grew rowdy at once. Those cheers almost held enough force to shake the ring itself, making Aleist a little embarrassed.
Have I become a bit more worthy of their cheers? The thought lingered within him. But those who knew Aleist saw the scene from a different perspective.
“Oh? Mister black knight likes Ms. Elf!?”
On Lena’s loud voice, the nearby spectators reacted. Perhaps happy he could answer Lena’s questions, Luecke spoke of all without deceit.
“Yeah, but that elf, Millia, truth be told, Rudel is the…”
“Oy, young master! Don’t tell the young lady of her brother’s love affairs!”
Thinking that was going too far, Vargas went in to stop Luecke. But Luecke gave a gesture to shoo him away, and he reluctantly abided.
Where he went was Basyle, her stomach grown in size, with Izumi sitting to her side. The reason her stomach had grown was, of course…
“Will it be born soon?”
“Yes, I hope we have healthy child.”
Once Izumi moved from the waiting room to the audience, she reunited with Basyle, so she sat beside her. Basyle wasn’t wearing anything too revealing, so it was hard to notice her at a glance.
As Vargas approached Basyle, telling her to look after herself, the eyes gathered on him. From the contents of their conversation, it seems they had realized Vargas and basyle were a couple.
“Dammit, when my face is better…”
“Accursed winners in life.”
“Don’t think it’ll all be moonlit nights.”
Bathed in the envious eyes of men, Vargas’ shoulders fell.
“Why am I…”
When he was worried for his wife, he was showered in envy, and his employer was in love with a child seven years his younger. He was one of the people who live’s had been greatly altered by Rudel.
Ever since the confession, Millia had become estranged from him. For Aleist as well, ever since that point, even if he met her, he was left in a state where he couldn’t say a thing. The two were in quite an awkward relationship.
They had grown taller since they first met at the academy gates. Since then, they had both changed considerably.
Millia had transformed into a woman, and Aleist had looked at himself anew. Such was the two of them, but…
“You really are the worst.”
Millia’s expression was seriously filled in anger. To look at it objectively… Aleist was the lord of a harem. At the point he confessed to Millia, he was already dating a number of women.
But with the violent characters Seli and Juju, he had already completed some considerably painful events. With a misunderstanding, he was hit hard enough to be slammed into a wall, and almost became rust on a sword.
And the other girls also boasted considerably strong personalities. Otherwise, they would have pulled away from Aleist already.
But from the eyes of those around, such a thing was irrelevant. It was unforgivable that he was surrounded by multiple women in his school days.
“Laying hands on so many women, and even trying for me… I’ll have you regret it!”
Millia had taken a stance with her bow, so the referee nonchalantly signaled the match’s start before fleeing the ring.