The individuals who had entered the sickroom were Izumi and Millia.
Meeting by chance in front of the infirmary, they were heading to the same place, so the girls had come to Rudel’s sickroom together.
Izumi and Millia had exchanged little more than a greeting, the atmosphere turning exceedingly awkward along the way. Renewing their resolve, they opened the door with a smile, only to find Fina, Mii and Sophina sitting on the floor with reddened faces.
“… What happened?”
From his bed, Rudel directed Izumi a smile, but Luecke and Eunius were both averting their faces. Aleist alone, with his confession, was averting his eyes from Millia with a red face.
Millia looked around in wonder, but no one answered the words that came from her mouth. No, when Rudel was about to try explaining, Izumi breathed out a sigh. In the five years since she came to the academy, Izumi’s gestures had become mature.
Rudel and the others had grown in height, gaining muscles, their bodies had grown to adulthood. Their faces had been drained of their youth, and all four of them boasted mature features. But their insides were children nonetheless.
“Hah, Rudel, what did you do this time around?”
Izumi arbitrarily placed her basket of fruit on the shelf before folding her arms and staring at Rudel.
To Izumi’s gaze, Rudel replied with a smile.
“Listen to this, Izumi! I finally learned how to use my magic eyes. If you just kinda gather some mana in your eyes and tune it, while it doesn’t reach the realm of petting, you can make someone feel good…”
“Stop right there, Rudel.”
Halting Rudel’s explanation, Izumi headed over to the three sitting on the floor. After sitting them up in the chairs around the sickroom, she made for the side of Rudel’s bed. There was already a seat prepared at Izumi’s regular spot, and after sitting, she gazed over Rudel.
Rudel also looked at Izumi with serious eyes, but after a while, he averted those eyes. It was only at that moment that he noticed he had done something wrong.
“… Did I do something wrong?”
The boys who had grown heated over the magic eyes looked over Rudel and Izumi.
“Quite a few thing. It’s no good to put the princess on the floor, and it’s no good to use your magic eyes on a woman.”
“Wait, Izumi! If you seal off my magic eyes, then just who am I supposed to practice on…”
As he looked over the sickroom, the bedridden boys entered his eyes. Luecke and Eunius immediately looked away.
“Don’t look this way, Rudel!”
“I-I’m not into that!!”
The two of them displayed firm refusals, but Aleist was different. Rudel had displayed the might of his magic eyes before his own eyes. And in the sickroom, the one he had confessed to, Millia, had come to pay a visit. If some mistake did occur, Aleist wouldn’t be able to bear it.
The magic eyes’ effects had already been cut, but in order to cover Millia’s eyes with his hands, Aleist moved his body. He forcibly stood from the bed, but as he headed towards Millia, an intense pain assailed his body. He had suffered injury incomparable to anything he had taken before.
There was no helping that his body wouldn’t move as he willed it. More than that, it was surprising he could even stand from his bed.
But the result was terrible.
“Millia, look out!”
“Eh? … Kyaaaaah!!”
As Aleist suddenly leapt up from the bed, Millia’s small chest ended up in his tight hold. Millia’s palm violently flew towards Aleist’s left cheek.
“… Are you alright, Aleist?”
Having been forcibly returned to his bed, Aleist held his left cheek as he turned his face towards Rudel’s worry.
“Do I look alright? I’m in tatters all over.”
As Aleist gave a depressed reply, Luecke held back his laugher to enter the conversation. Eunius openly laughed as he joined in.
“Mainly psychologically. To think we had a big show of Rudel’s level among us.”
“Even Rudel doesn’t do anything that direct!”
“… Yeah. Hey, Izumi. What does everyone think I am? I definitely have an interest in women, but I haven’t done anything too terrible.”
“I wonder. From the eyes of those around, it looked as if you naturally pull off even greater things.”
Unable to accept that he had been used as a comparison in Luecke and Eunius’ dialogue, Rudel smashed the question at Izumi. Izumi knew Rudel probably hadn’t realized, returning a slightly sharp tone.
On those surrounding reactions, it wasn’t Aleist, but Millia’s face that went red. She had been confessed to, so she thought it was her obligation to respond, for argument’s sake, so she had paid a visit. But the sickroom didn’t have the sort of atmosphere where she could give her answer.
(Erk, this isn’t the right atmosphere to reject him.)
Aleist definitely had a future full of hope, but Millia was a long-lived elf. Unlike the human race, the time after her graduation was considered too early for marriage. Once nobles graduated, they would be married on their family circumstance, for favorable relations between houses. You could say that now was the only time they had to play around.
But the commoner student Millia was different. As an official or officer, she had come to the academy to work for Courtois. This was her showing that she’d abide the country as a demi-human, and it was hard to say she was working with loyalty.
But she had become first rate, and she did have the desire to get out of the academy and confirm the breadth of her own abilities.
As Millia held her head, Fina, who had been silent to that point, approached.
“You’re Millia-senpai, right?”
Suddenly called out to, Millia’s voice turned inside out. She hurriedly corrected her posture, when Fina told her they were in the academy, and nowhere public, so she didn’t have to mind it.
And before Aleist, Fina solicited to Millia.
“Have you decided your course after graduation? (Well, I already know you’re off to the border. But Aleist’s right here, perfectly enough, so let’s try making an invitation.)”
“Y-yes. It’s been decided that I’ll be stationed near the border.”
It was a station she had just a bit to complain about, but even so, she had a light hope that if she worked hard out there, her work would be recognized. To Millia, Fina gave a smooth and natural invitation to the defenders.
“Is that so. A knight of your caliber sent to the border… that sounds like a waste.”
“Is it a waste? I do think the border is an important position.”
“No, I certainly must lower my head to the knights and soldiers working hard on the border. But I have only just witnessed your abilities at the tournament.”
Millia gave a bitter smile, recalling how her emotions had gone out of control and how she showed such a shameful side before royalty. But Fina’s impression was something different.
“The courage you showed, not stepping back a single step before the black knight, was splendid. So I have a proposal. I would love to add your power to the newly formed defenders. I was ‘a little’ involved with their formation, so I’d definitely like to gather some hopeful knights for it.”
On Fina’s act, Mii and Sophina whispered to one another.
“The princess is amazing. To think she could make such a serious proposal.”
“Yes, but not just a little, she was the ringleader behind the whole mess. I wish she was that decent on a regular basis.”
While Fina did hear their whispers, she confirmed Aleist had bit onto Millia’s future, expressionlessly taking Millia’s hands and turning her face.
“Senpai, how about it? (Let me nibble on those earrrrss!!)”
“U-ummm, if you ask me so suddenly, I’ll be troubled, or how should I put it…”
To her indecisive attitude, it wasn’t Aleist, but Rudel who stuck in his mouth. By Rudel’s entrance into the conversation, Fina put a pause on her invitation.
“Millia-san, do you hate the defenders?”
“I don’t particularly hate them.”
Seeing Rudel look at her so seriously, Millia ended up averting her face. She still had some part of her that hadn’t given up, and come so far, she wavered.
“If you don’t have a reason, you should make use of this chance. It’s important for proficient knights to seek out a place where they can perform. So when blessed with such a chance, if you don’t grasp at it, you will regret it later.”
Rudel didn’t think the demi-human Millia would be able to perform on the border. It may be different if she was blessed with a good superior, but even if they had the skill, there were many knights without a place to perform. To add to that, he didn’t think her work would receive a proper evaluation in the current Courtois.
His house had been prejudice one, and Rudel would often hear such a tale. The knights of his house would brag about the achievements they stole from demi-humans over a laugh and a drink.
Rather than paying mind to Millia, he wanted to say there were more chances to be had in the defenders than the border. Rudel had seen the ugly side of humans, but before coming to the academy, he had little interest in people unrelated to him.
That he got around to caring for others was a large step forwards. As Millia looked down, Fina called out.
“I am not seeking an answer here and now. Let’s see… I’ll wait until the second semester. Until then, Millia-senpai, please come out with an answer you’re satisfied with. (Master got in the way, but I don’t have to push here. It’s more than enough that Aleist bit on! If the girl ends up in the defenders, I’ll be nibbling on her ears!!)”
Fina forcefully solicited her and tried to shove her into the defenders, but after accomplishing her goal, she gracefully stepped back.
“Hmm, It’s precisely because of Lena’s quick wit that I was able to maintain the barrier. By opening up a hole at the top, I was able to give yours and Rudel’s mana a means of escape. My affinity with Lena is totally the best. You could even call this a date!”
Luecke bragged proudly to Aleist, but this was something Eunius had already heard a number of times. By opening a hole in the barrier’s roof, he let the impacts escape to the sky, where there weren’t any spectators. By that, Luecke was able to maintain the barrier, and retain the face of the Halbades House.
Since his hospitalization, Aleist had already heard the story three times. It was a stream of him being teased over his confession and hearing out the same bragging in rotation, and to his side existed Rudel and Izumi, letting off a pink air.
As Izumi peeled fruit, she distributed cut fruit pieces to the others besides Rudel as well. But it was clear that her efforts were going to only Rudel’s pieces.
Eating that cut fruit, Aleist only listened to Luecke’s love stories so he wouldn’t get in the way of Rudel and Izumi beside him. Eunius also heard the story, but he pretended to be asleep to escape.
And the reason he quietly listened to Luecke was that even if he rebutted, he would only get sophistry in return. There was no one more eloquent than Luecke in the sickroom so no one would be able to counter. It was more decent for everyone to just shut up and listen.
Once Luecke was satisfied and the story was over, this time Rudel struck up conversation with Aleist. He sought confirmation about the armor he had ordered a while back.
“Aleist, are you fine with the sizes you sent in for your armor?”
“Eh? Oh, the armor. Yeah, you don’t have to change the size. Even if it’s a bit off, they can still do some fine adjustments, right?”
“Yeah, they’ve already started on it. As long as your size hasn’t changed from when they measured before, they said it would arrive before the graduation ceremony.”
Aleist was also curious about the armor he had requested from an eastern craftsman. He was waiting in expectation to see what sort of armor would come out.
As Rudel and Aleist spoke, this time Izumi added on.
“Are you talking about those craftsmen? Rudel, they’re adjusting your armor, right?”
“Yeah, I needed some sizing, and they said they wanted to see it too. It took more time than expected, but when they came over here to meet me, I didn’t want to get in Aleist’s way, so I wasn’t able to ask back then.”
“I don’t really mind.”
“… Can you have them take a look at my katana too? I’ve been maintaining it since you gave it to me, but I want it looked at before graduation.”
Rudel instantly answered Izumi’s request.
“No problem. I also plan to put in a request for a spare weapon, so I’ll order it while I’m at it.”
“A weapon, huh. My parents said they put in a request to a famous blacksmithy.”
Aleist had asked Rudel about the armor because his house didn’t have any craftsmen that could make armor. It took a considerable amount of money to keep a talented smith under your wing, and all houses were looking around to take them in.
Even if you didn’t have exclusive contracts, you could still but in a request, and since it was a blacksmith recommended by one of the three lords… or so he received a letter of consent from his parents. In exchange, they wrote they would search out a famous blacksmith to make his weapon.
“You did say you wanted the armor before graduation, but they were all up for it, so it might be finished even sooner. They were delighted that they had made something really nice.”
Aleist rejoiced at Rudel’s words, but Izumi’s expression wasn’t the best. Rudel noticed her down face.
“What’s wrong, Izumi?”
“… No, I think it’ll be alright… um, I’m sure those eastern blacksmiths are skilled enough, but…”
Unable to say it clearly, Izumi played it off at the time. Rudel and Aleist both grew a little curious, but after being told it was nothing to worry about, they didn’t ask any more.
On a later date, this matter would bring Aleist some terrible regret.
As Rudel expected, the armor was completed considerably early.
Before the final vacation, it was delivered to Aleist. But before the delivered armor, Aleist fell to his knees.
“How about that, boss!? This armor’s workmanship crazy good!”
“Totally! You won’t find another like it. It has that real perfect thing going!”
“Just look at the horns on it, like dude! It’s just the best!”
Giving off craftsmen vibes, some sturdy-looking middle-aged men and an aged one said such things with serious faces. The reason was simple. When they first came to Courtois from the east, they had lived in a slum-like environment. The words they learned there didn’t quite sound so elegant.
They were words they had said with an earnest intent, but they had made themselves sound terribly light.
The fact Aleist’s armor arrived meant that Rudel and Izumi were present as well. Before their eyes was a jet-black set of armor, with two splendid golden horns growing from its head. At a glance, rather than an ally, it was an enemy general… a sinister armor one might associate with a lord of evil had been completed.
“Mannn, when boss Rudel told us about black knight, we put all our minds together, and this what we came up with. But isn’t it cool!”
When an extremely scary-faced blacksmith sought affirmation with such a tone…
“… It’s cool.”
Aleist was unable to object. Izumi put a hand on her forehead with a face as if to say, I knew it.
“I’m sorry. I never thought they’d actually go this far.”
As Izumi apologized to Aleist, Rudel tilted his head.
“Why? Isn’t it cool?”
Before a perplexed Rudel, the polished armor of the white knight was placed. In contrast to what clearly belonged to a knight of justice, Aleist’s armor seemed to belong to a demon lord. What’s more, gold horns, red mantle, and the gold craftsmanship bestowed around it let off a strange sinisterness.
Dark hero or demon lord, the armor seemed to demand its wearer to take their pick.
“As expected of boss! He really gets it!!”
“Rudel-san, you understand!”
“Boss is saying it, so there’s no doubt about it!!”
As the serious-faced craftsmen used such light words, Aleist could only gaze on expressionlessly.