From early in the morning, a large number of knights had gathered at the palace.
They were all prim and proper, and even the sounds of voices couldn’t be heard.
In the country of Courtois, the appointment ceremony of its elites- the high knights, dragoons… and royal guard- was carried out in April. This was a standing tradition and the unchanging start of the year for all knights.
Those with excellent grades at the academy, those whose efforts as knights were evaluated, and those who had accumulated achievements were chosen as elites, and given the right to attend the ceremony.
Here, the new knights to represent Courtois were lined up.
Rudel was boldly lined shoulder to shoulder with them. Unlike his time as a student, his arms had passed through the sleeves of the official dragoon ceremonious knight garments.
If anything differed, it was that he was there as one from an archduke house, lined up in the very front row, his ceremonial knight clothing made of valuable white material. From the fabric to the gold decorations, even among the knight clothes the craftsmen had prepared for the elites, his was surely of the highest workmanship.
He stood by Aleist, who was participating as an exception, and they certainly stood out.
Aleist’s enlistment in the defenders was decided. But there was no way they could have the black knight- a key figure in the nation’s founding- not take part in the ceremony.
As if to contrast Rudel, he wore truly beautiful knight garments fashioned with black as the base and silver ornaments.
Perhaps he was nervous as his face was serious to no end.
Since their graduation from the academy, starting with Rudel, Luecke, Eunius, Aleist, Izumi… and Fritz had been granted extravagant knight clothing to stand in the ranks.
It was rare for graduates to line in the ceremony on that very same year, and apart from Rudel’s group, the others were those who had put in at least a few years of knight work and had their efforts or achievements recognized.
But it wasn’t unprecedented for early academy graduates to stand among them.
Called a genius, Cattleya stood for her ceremony when she was only seventeen.
What’s more, that was after she was forcibly graduated like Fritz. When Cattleya obtained her red dragon, the dragoons were a majority gray dragons with very few natural ones.
For the dragoon knight brigade that prided their contracts with dragons, to speak to the contrary, a lack of natural dragon contractors could raise doubts that the organization was weakening.
It came at a bad time, and Cattleya was held up high as a genius.
In that reception hall where Rudel and the others stood in file, the high ceiling was held up by large pillars. Prepared for the day’s ceremony, the carpet was brand new.
The morning air was, at most, cool on their skins, and the lined knights felt it gave just the right feel. Rudel could feel himself growing tense.
In such a hall, the orchestra informed them of the king’s appearance.
There were other authorities walking behind him as he came out before the knights.
Without the slightest signal, those elite knights simultaneously fell to their knees and lowered their heads to signal their devotion. The king was satisfied with those splendid movements.
Moving just his eyes, the king looked at Rudel in his bright knight garments.
(So he’s finally come this far. He does seem to be quite the stubborn one, but that’s all the better.)
Seeing Rudel who hadn’t given up to the end and had become a dragoon, the king rejoiced without changing his expression. Rudel had sent a letter saying he would save much more people as a dragoon than as an archduke.
The king himself had a hand in the royal guard that would break that promise. But by his daughter’s secret dealings, those plans went largely amiss and he became a dragoon.
As one of the authorities signaled the start of the ceremony, the proceedings went on in solemnity.
After the ceremony, the new recruits were gathered in the rooms allotted to each knight brigade.
From their status, Luecke and Eunius had special standings, and treating it as training, the two of them would spend a few years at the palace. Luecke as a civil official and Eunius as a military officer, they would be stationed in normal knight brigade.
But the two of them were future archdukes. Despite being newcomers, they were granted considerable posts.
Rudel sat in the dragoon meeting room alongside the other new recruits as he awaited the captain’s arrival. This year, there was a change in captain and it was decided that they would use this opportunity to reorganize their formation.
The newbie dragoons calmly awaited the captain and vice-captain’s arrival. It was there that the meeting room’s door was slammed open with good momentum.
Before everyone could feel surprised, they stood from their seats and corrected their postures.
“Oh! That’s quite a nice reaction. Looks like I can count on this year.”
A middle-aged man of tidily kept beard looked over the faces of the new recruits and nodded. His hair was silver, all swept to the back, while his face was pristine.
He was shorter in stature than the vice-captain, but he had a muscular build.
In contrast, the vice-captain had a scar on his face. His orange, wavy long hair was collected at the back, and tall in height, he brought to mind the image of a seasoned warrior.
A light captain and a reliable vice-captain- that was the impression the newcomers held.
“Captain, promptly tell them of our schedule henceforth. I have work to do.”
To that vice-captain, whose intensity even reached his voice, that captain pat him on the shoulder as he informed him he would go at his own pace.
“Don’t be so stiff, Alejandro. Deepening our friendship with these guys is included in our job description! Your daughter’s here too, and if you don’t tell the men not to lay a hand on her, she’ll be eaten right up.”
“Oldart, shouldn’t you be the one doing something about that loose personality of yours?”
From the vice captain’s fed-up face, the captain turned to the new recruits. Directing his white teeth, hs commenced his self-introduction.
“I’m Oldart Billums, high and mighty captain of the dragoon brigade. I’m a charmer in his prime turning forty-eight this year, you better remember that. By the way, my partner’s a gray dragon.”
Once he finished a light introduction, Oldart looked at his vice-captain.
“… Alejandro Campbell. My partner is a wind dragon.”
Once he finished his simple introduction, Alejandro handed the documents he brought to one of the new recruits. That nearby newbie took his share before circulating the rest of the forms.
His eyes fell only once on a female knight, but those around didn’t pay it any particular mind. Oldart alone was directing him a detestable grin.
After making an unpleasant face, Alejandro gave a simple explanation of what was to come.
“During the new recruit training, the previous generation’s captain and vice-captain will serve as instructors and lead you. There will be other active members serving as instructors, and they will pound the fundamentals of being a dragoon into you within the next half year.”
Oldart crossed his arms, nodding as he added onto the explanation.
“In half a year, we’ll have an unveiling to the public. Though we’ll just be flying in formation around the palace. Until then, you’ll be doing grunt work for three months! And in the remaining three months, you’ll be mastering flying in formation. By the way! I made sure all the active dragoons instructing you are manly men!”
The new recruits reacted poorly to those words. Rudel simply wondered if there was a reason he wouldn’t make a woman instructor.
“This year, we have a future archduke coming in, and the higher-ups told us to let our beauts teach him… that would make me jealous as hell, so I decided to do some harassment.”
As Oldart confessed his true feelings with a smile, Alejandro felt the urge to spit out a sigh.
“This year’s been a stream of unprecedented events. I doubt it’ll go as it does every year, so you should all keep that fact in your heads. Be at ease until the instructor arrives. We’re going, captain.”
“Already? Whatever. Well then, new recruits, we’ll meet again soon.”
After Oldart left the room laughing, the unsociable Alejandro followed behind.
Once the captain and vice-captain’s footsteps grew distant, a single young man loosened the collar of his knight clothing as he sat in his seat. With chestnut hair, he gave off the impression of an amiable young man.
“That vice-captain has some intensity… though I get the feeling the captain is a bit too light.”
As the young man unraveled his impression of the two, a nearby female knight sat and began talking about the captain.
“Sure enough. Having a gray dragon for captain and a wind dragon for vice-captain, it’s a peculiar tale.”
The nine newcomers in the conference room sat in their chairs at ease, and as it was a break time, they began to converse.
“And we’re even getting a future archduke entering this year. You’re Rudel, aren’t you?”
A knight with gray hair and a sharp look in his eyes looked at Rudel, taking on a provocative attitude. The surrounding knights were surprised by his bearing, but Rudel didn’t flinch.
“Yeah, I’m Rudel. So?”
“Don’t be so cold. From here on, we’re going to be fellow dragoons, right? I hate all that stiff, serious stuff, see. And we’ve got another interesting one with us this year.”
The knight with sharp eyes directed his gaze at the female knight with orange, wavy long hair.
“You’re Enora Campbell, aren’t you? Having a father and daughter both become dragoons is amazing.”
“… That has nothing to do with it.”
As the knight with sharp eyes called out her name, Enora reacted without any particular change in her reaction. While those gathered here were all elite knights, they were just a bit idiosyncratic.
Rudel knew about the Campbell House, and he had some interest in the name that put out dragoons generation after generation.
“The Campbell House is famous for turning out many dragoons. Do they make you do anything special?”
“Ah, that sounds interesting.”
The knight who was the first to open his mouth endorsed Rudel’s question, leaning his torso over the meeting room table. Enora was of ample chest and fine features.
Even though she wore the same uniform, from her measurements, it looked as if she almost wore a completely different one from the other female knights. And yet, her waist was slim, and her limbs were slender.
Such a girl smiled as she answered all the knights in the room looking at her.
“That’s a secret.”
“Now that’s unfortunate.”
Rudel shrugged his shoulders, but it wasn’t as if he was expecting her to tell him from the start. He just wanted to converse with the other dragoons who would become his colleagues.
The other knights were also just a little let down by her words. There weren’t any who intended to pry any further.
As expected of those chosen as elite knights, they were all relatively calm and collected. And like that, the break time ended with some light conversation and self-introductions.
“I cannot accept it! Why wasn’t I chosen!?”
The one who captured the captain and vice-captain as they walked down the hall was Cattleya. Having returned from the border and been officially appointed head of a platoon, she had the qualifications to train the new recruits.
She had personally volunteered to help train the newbies of the term.
The fact Rudel was there was part of the reason, but newbie training was a required prerequisite for promotion. If she wanted to aim higher than lieutenant, Cattleya would have to carry out newbie rearing.
Within the brigade, Cattleya had gained strength and distinguished herself, and Oldart dealt with her with a smile.
“No, well… right! This and that happened between you and Rudel so we took it into consideration. I mean, when you were formerly engaged, the other side broke off the engagement, right? Man, the captain really has to read the mood in this sort of thing, you know.”
Cattleya was once a candidate to be Rudel’s fiancé. After she raised a problem, the talks were broken off by the Arses House.
“Ah, that’s already gone and done with. Or do you think I intend to get revenge?”
At Cattleya’s words, Oldart laughed within.
(No, it’s because I do think so that you were removed. Have you forgotten what happened a few years ago?)
By the confusion Cattleya caused, the dragoon brigade went through a period of turbulence. A few years back, Oldart headed a battalion.
He had memories of the considerable strife he had to go through with countermeasure meetings and human resources.
This time, Alejandro admonished Cattleya with a tired expression.
“This time, the higher-ups told us to treat our archduke with care. It is my belief that the knights we selected as instructors are a sensible lot. You’re still young. You can try again for an instructor position next year.”
But the real reason Cattleya didn’t become an instructor wasn’t Rudel. Alejandro had used Rudel as a reason to persuade Oldart, but the real reason was Cattleya’s youth, and his daughter Enora.
Praised as a genius, Cattleya was undoubtedly an outstanding talent, even within the dragoons.
Age-wise, she was twenty-three, and even younger than some of the new recruits this term. Rudel was the youngest recruit, but apart from him, many of the others were over twenty-five. And Cattleya was the same age as Enora.
Becoming a dragoon at seventeen, she had put in six years of service. More than anything, she was capable of using her demonic sword. Given a few years, Alejandro was certain she would even surpass him.
For her dragon she had contracted a young, powerful male, and as a dragoon, Cattleya’s value was exceedingly high.
As Alejandro looked at Cattleya, he felt a sense of panic. While being of a famed name that put out dragoons generation after generation, his daughter was at the end of her talent
Even when he returned home, he couldn’t help but see an unfavorable comparison. Those feelings would come out in his attitude, and it would often end in him mentioning Cattleya’s name to Enora.
(Even if it’s my responsibility, we can’t go like this.)
He had intended to raise her worthy of being a dragoon, but Alejandro had noticed the darkness in Enora’s heart. While she usually looked meek, Enora held an extraordinary sense of hostility towards Cattleya.
This time, Rudel- who held relations with Cattleya- was also instated as a dragoon.
“See? That’s just how it is, this time around. Well, if you want to do it no matter what, you could help this charming captain in his prime practice his night flying skills…”
“… Even if I knew it wouldn’t work out, getting such an immediate response is painful. Try being a bit more tactful. I’m a delicate man.”
“A delicate man doesn’t say such indecent things.”
Among the dragoons, night flying was just the sort of innuendo it sounded to be.
“… That’s why you can never get a boyfriend.”
“Oy, even for a captain, there are things you should and shouldn’t say. Do you want me to explain certain things to your wife again?”
“H-hey! That’s a no go! Now that one’s one of the things you shouldn’t say!!”
“It’s only because your conduct is so bad, that you would be troubled by such a thing, charmer in his prime (lol).”
“Then I’d better watch out. I wouldn’t want to be blasted off to the border like you, genius (lol).”
The two of them glared at one another, continuing on their comedy routine.
While Alejandro was mulling over his daughter, Oldart and Cattleya had started such a back and forth. Alejandro looked enviously at his ability to get together the strong personalities of the dragoons.