Having become a high knight, Izumi’s first job was to clean up the room the high knights used at the palace.
As there was no longer the required personnel to maintain the organization, a notice of its official dissolution had been handed down. The guard of important personnel the high knights had risked their lives on had been taken up by the royal guard.
Promptly after entering the force, Izumi was put to processing documents.
“Hah, this is definitely not what I was expecting.”
In the reference room the high knights used, Izumi muttered as she tidied up forms alongside the other high knights. From the start, she had become a high knight to become a noble.
But this year, there were absolutely no high knights who came from the noble class.
Factional disputes were already going on within the palace. As nobles, the archdukes leading the two great factions, and Archduke Arses who planned to use both of them had started to move.
Knight brigades… within military circles, there was a recruitment war going on between the royal guard and defenders.
The only ones you could call irrelevant were the dragoons. Due to their special standing, neither force could carelessly pull them from their positions.
Having the dragoons feud amongst themselves and cutting the number of dragons would be akin to largely chipping away the country’s military might. At the same time, the royal line and authorities greatly feared the dragons turning against Courtois.
As it stood, the dragoons had a tacit rule of noninterference.
For the sake of Courtois’ superiority, while they didn’t fully understand the situation, the royal guards and defenders hadn’t lain hands on them. Fina herself did want to try reaching out, but in the end, she stopped herself.
That was simply how vital the pillars of the country, the dragoons, were.
In contrast, the status of the high knights had been snatched up by the royal guard.
No one could have imagined they would decline so much in only a few years. It was a result of the organization being cornered into dissolution by both Aileen and Fina simultaneously.
For Aileen, it was for her own sake.
Fina for her own desires, and just a little for the sake of the country…
When the high knights once shouldered the protection of vital personnel, this treatment was simply terrible.
But the high knights were elites. Their wisdom went without question, and they were the capable elites of Courtois. After the organization’s dismantlement, their members would undoubtedly find work in one of the two fronts.
Through simple chat, Izumi had also come to know the circumstances of the palace. Feeling anxiety for her own future, Izumi began cleaning up when a voice called out to her from behind.
“Oh, Izumi, you’re working hard.”
“Yes. Is something the matter, senpai?”
The ones who came over to her were senior members of the high knights. A group of three and fresh nobles without any backers.
“No, I just wanted to know if you’re free after this. Someone I know from the royal guard called out. You at least want to hear them out, right?”
They weren’t hitting on her, it seems they wanted to carry Izumi over to the royal guard. In the intensifying recruitment wars to come, they wanted to gather as many people and contribute as much as possible.
Izumi took on a refuting attitude. Through Rudel, she had already found a station with Luecke and Eunius. The two of them had promised to mediate if Izumi’s clan wanted to come under their one of their factions.
“That so, well, you better think over where you’re going in the near future.”
The party of three left; they wouldn’t push her too hard. They weren’t selected as high knights for nothing, and they knew what would happen if they overdid their movements.
But the fact that such solicitation would come out on the job was proof that the high knight brigade was growing lax as a whole.
“Even if you tell me about the royal guard and defenders…”
While she knew the general gist of things, Izumi didn’t know the specifics. If she knew this was a petty sibling fight within the palace, she would surely drop her shoulders in disappointment.
Speaking to scale, it couldn’t even be called a fight anymore. Within such a situation, Izumi plainly continued on her work.
“Well then, henceforth we will be putting your abilities to the test. Just because you’ve managed to contract a dragon, they alone won’t make you a first-rate dragoon. Don’t forget that you lot are merely standing on the starting line!”
Before the former captain and vice-captain, the nine new recruits saluted in file.
It was a training grown a long way off from the palace, and not in ceremonious garb, the newbies with training clothes wrapped around their bodies had come to the field without their dragons.
“From here on, you lot will be looking after the dragons as you learn the basics. What’s needed of a dragoon is the ability to lead a dragon to your will. No matter how strong a dragon may be, if you cannot use its power, you won’t be the slightest use in battle.”
The vice-captain took a single large leap before taking a few more steps in the air.
In that empty airspace, his form almost as if he was kicking the atmosphere left the newbies surprised. Before the surprised new recruits, the former captain gave a proud explanation.
It was almost as if he was looking at his past self, and he felt a sense of nostalgia.
“This is only the beginning. At the very least, you will have to be able to carry out two mid-air movements. This one is mainly an emergency recovery measure for when you fall off your dragon. Well, it does have its uses in battle. Now then, those who can already use this technique, step forward. We’ll have you set a good example for the other new recruits.”
Watched over by the instructors, Rudel and Enora stepped forwards.
This was largely expected and the instructors wanted to confirm their abilities. Each year, there would always be an extent of new recruits who could pull it off.
But they generally wouldn’t carry the necessary techniques with them.
What the vice-captain showed off was nothing more than the minimum. Once the new recruits proudly unveiled their midair movement, he would show off an even higher level of movement.
Here, Enora took four air jumps before landing full of confidence.
On top of the graceful form of a beauty flying through the sky, the male knights’ attention was especially devoted to her large, swaying chest.
“How was that?”
After directing a provocative smile to the instructors, Enora switched out with Rudel. Seeing Rudel a little tense, she smiled and offered some advice.
“You should really relax your shoulders.”
“Ah, thank you.”
As she passed Rudel by, Enora predicted he might even fail. He was the youngest one among them, and he didn’t look to have much battle experience… she thought.
The instructors who received the report that Rudel had mastered air movement had been a little naïve as well. They thought that those seeing the technique for the first time might have overevaluated him.
But as Rudel leapt above the training grounds, the first thing that surprised everyone was the height.
“… Now that’s high (No, isn’t that a bit too high? Jumping that high is usually impossible, isn’t it).”
On the former captain’s words, no one was able to react. Rudel climbed to a considerable height and began executing air movement.
A small point seen from the ground seemed to be carrying out impossible fluctuations. Rather than a jump, he was already flying.
“… Oy, someone go set an example as his senior (That’s not happening).”
The former vice-captain’s words caused the active dragoons to shake their heads at once.
“Not happening! That one’s impossible!! And aren’t you supposed to set an example, vice-captain!?”
“I’m getting old. I can’t be getting in the way of you young’uns forever (Oy, oy, I’m begging you, read the mood a bit, Rudel-sama).”
As the former vice-captain and the active dragoons selected as instructors began to argue, the former captain muttered in his heart.
(This guy… what am I supposed to say.)
Within all that, Enora alone directed Rudel a gaze not of praise. What dwelled in her eyes was an intense hostility.
To Enora who was raised to be more of a dragoon than anything else, Rudel who boasted abilities that exceeded hers was simply unpleasant.
As if glaring, she watched Rudel fly freely through the sky.
The place the dragons were kept was called the dragon stables.
Around when evening was fading away, Rudel and the other new recruits were cleaning those very stables.
While there were exclusive caretakers, it was regulation that the newbies would spend their time cleaning the stables for the first three months. There was no denying the fact the dragons were lifeforms. They generally smelled, and there were dirty places to be found.
In such a space, Rudel almost felt like breaking into a hum.
Despite being the eldest son of an archduke house, the drive he held as he carried out odd jobs caused those around to see him as an odd one.
“Oy, I’m surprised you can clean so happily. When I thought you would be the first one to snap at our superiors. Hah, looks like I’ve lost this bet.”
The sharp-eyed knight, Saas Venia, revealed he had been placing bets with the other newcomers.
“That’s right. With the brat with the light personality and the two women, we placed our bets. Over how long you were going to hold out. And then you’re pleasantly cleaning the stables? Looks like Enora’s the only winner here.”
“Ah, the Campbell House’s… in that case, she thought I would hold out. How rare.”
The way things had gone up to now, Rudel found it more understandable for people to doubt him. Being evaluated by a person he didn’t really know left him a little lost.
But if it was a bet, then perhaps she aimed for the greatest turnout, or so he changed his train of thought.
“Now then, once this is cleaned up, we can call it a day.”
Once Saas tried to bring the cleaning to the end, the other newbies increased their pace. Rudel thought he felt Enora’s gaze, but she was conversing with the only other of the two female knights.
“I’m going off to look at my own dragon.”
“Again? Well, that kid’s a special one.”
Saas directed his gaze outside the dragon stables at the conspicuously large hole that had been dug out. In it was a dragon that even the splendidly constructed stables couldn’t contain.
A subspecies of gaia dragon, Sakuya was even bigger than the standard gaia, and if she entered the dragon stables, there was a fear of her breaking the building.
For that sake, as an exception, it was permitted for Sakuya to dig a hole and use it as a place to sleep.
As Rudel approached, Sakuya popped her head out of the depths of the cave hole. If it was a small animal, it would’ve been cute, but Sakuya was a dragon. What’s more, her size was double that of the other dragons.
If any layman saw her, they’d surely be at a loss for words. But to Rudel, she was the dragon he had made a contract with.
“I kept you waiting, Sakuya.”
‘I’m hungry… this place doesn’t give enough food.’
For Sakuya who ate quite a portion, the palace had prepared a considerable portion. But it does seem it still wasn’t enough for her.
“I see, in that case, I’ll tell the instructor.”
Right after Rudel made a pampering remark, the roar of a dragon came from the stables. While Rudel couldn’t’ understand the contents of that roar, Sakuya did seem to make un unpleasant face.
‘… It’s nothing. I’m going to sleep for the day, good night Rudel.’
“Y-yeah, good night.”
Normally, they would enjoy a conversation there, but lately, Sakuya was lacking in spirit. When Rudel became a dragoon, it was decided Sakuya would live in the stables.
While she dug a hole and lived there as an exception, for some reason, she seemed to be losing energy day after day.
She was in high spirits when she left the forest where the dragons lived. While Rudel was a little worried, he decided to wait for the time when Sakuya would divulge her own worries.
If he worried too much, he thought it would have an opposite effect and make Sakuya overly conscious.
He did know she was hiding something and making sure he wouldn’t find out.
After spending some time cleaning up the front of the cave, Rudel took his leave. He was definitely mulling over Sakuya, but for now, he didn’t know any resolution.
She didn’t seem to be sick, so he suspected it was something psychological.
(Is she stressed out from a change in environment? But she was delighted at the start.)
Troubling his head over Sakuya, Rudel returned to the dragon stables.
In the instructor room, the former captain and vice captain were exchanging a drink
It was passed working hours, and they planned to sleep after downing a glass. Watching over the new recruits was left to the other active dragoons.
“Hah, even so, this year is a hard one.”
“Right you are.”
Both poured a slightly-expensive wine in their glass before drinking it down. Reaching their hands to the snacks left on the table, they began discussing Rudel.
“Does the archduke even need training? Why not just add him to the main force already?”
“That’s going to be a hard one.”
They exchanged bitter smiles as they evaluated the year’s new recruits.
“The runner-up is Enora, and next, I guess Saas is showing a bit of promise? For now, I don’t know about the others.”
“They’re elites chosen by dragons but, well, there’s still a ranking to things. The two who managed to obtain wild dragons will definitely support the core force in times to come.”
Being recognized by a wild dragon was several times harder and more dangerous than contracting a gray dragon. The dragoons who succeeded in such a task were truly outstanding talents.
“From tomorrow onwards, training’s gradually going to grow harsher, but let’s see… I guess a B-Rank evaluation is guaranteed.”
A dragoon was evaluated on a five level evaluation system ranging from E to A. While all of them held competence as knights, dragoons were mainly focused around dragons.
Controlling a dragon freely was what made one first-rate.
“So I’m sure.”
But managed by the dragoons, gray dragons would move faithfully. Wild dragons were hard to handle, but in exchange, they boasted performance greater than a gray dragon.
While they had placed their expectations on Rudel and Sakuya, in the evaluation exam held a few weeks from that day, the two of them received a D-Rank evaluation.