‘Rudel Arses… Evaluation: D-Rank’
As he looked at the document indicating his evaluation, Rudel’s expression was serious.
Sakuya was also out on the training grounds, but her wings and tail unfit for her large build were folded in. Perhaps discouraged, her expression was somewhat dark.
“Don’t mind it. I don’t really care.”
The reason Rudel’s evaluation was so low lay in his partner Sakuya. A gaia dragon subspecies, Sakuya was specialized in offense and defense.
While she was bad at flying, she possessed skills to make up for it. But as a dragoon’s dragon, she was a failure.
No matter how proficient Rudel might be, if Sakuya’s evaluation was so low, he would never rise in rank.
Sakuya had received training from Marty’s dragon Mystith, but that wasn’t for long. It was hard to say she had learned all of the necessary skills. Even more than that, there were skills the dragoons had polished after Mystith had left.
Starting with ‘hovering’- stopping on the spot in midair- things like flight formations hadn’t been necessary in Mystith’s era.
Now that group combat had become the norm, a majority of the fighting techniques Mystith taught her were outside of the grading scale.
‘But if we don’t become C-Rank (?) we can’t go out in battle…’
Right, just barely obtaining D-Rank, Rudel and Sakuya wouldn’t be able to enter the fray. It meant they couldn’t escape the label of newbie.
While Rudel possessed the necessary abilities of a dragoon, Sakuya was just somehow able to manage a D.
“Don’t worry. We just have to raise our rank by one. And you don’t have to worry about the evaluation.”
Rudel tried to console Sakuya, but there he heard yet another grand dragon cry from the direction of the dragon stables. The fact it was different from a normal roar made Rudel curious.
Every time Sakuya heard that cry, she would lose her spirit. Conversations would cut off.
‘… It’s nothing.’
Even through the conveyance of thought that came between contractors, the weakening of the ends of Sakuya’s words bothered Rudel. He grew excessively anxious.
“If something’s wrong, then tell me. You’re my precious partner.”
While Rudel worried for Sakuya’s lack of energy, in contrast, Sakuya only grew more depressed.
Enora watched Rudel cheer Sakuya up from afar.
“Serves you right.”
On the words she spat out, the dragon she had contracted to looked at Sakuya.
‘A kid with a story from Mystith’s place? Looks like he likes her quite a bit. I do have some sympathy for her upbringing, but I don’t have the mind to support her to such an extent.’
Mystith was the most powerful dragon in the dragon dwellings, but her territory was surprisingly small. When there were dragons that followed her, it was only natural there would be those opposed.
Enora’s dragon was one of those opposing ones.
In order to look after her own dragon, Enora removed her gaze from Rudel and Sakuya. Unstrapping the tools used at the training grounds, her expression turned to a dark smile.
It was a huge difference from her usual self.
“No matter how proficient he is as a knight, that’s no good at all.”
‘If she can’t even fly properly and her breath is so half-baked, then there’s no helping it.’
In order to commence air raids, it was necessary for a dragon to accurately hit a mark with their breath. Within all that, Sakuya was terrible at firing her breath during flight.
Even if her output was on the high side, her accuracy was exceedingly low. Even if Rudel was controlling, she rarely ever hit.
“It’s fatal to have a D evaluation at the three-month point. There’s no way they can add him to the flight formation. This future archduke sure has fallen. There’s a reassessment exam next week, but that’s definitely not something at a level he can do anything about.”
The fundamental training had ended, and now, they would have to learn to fly in formation for the unveiling event. But at present, Sakuya’s abilities hadn’t reached that level.
‘Well, being this bad is an embarrassment to our kin. The grays are making a ruckus.’
Seeing the ones she thought would be her greatest rivals- Rudel and Sakuya- be the biggest failures among the newcomers, Enora was delighted. Her wind dragon explained what the gray dragons he scorned as grays were doing to Sakuya.
‘You never see a wild dragon this terrible, after all. The jeers are flying left and right. It’s unbearably noisy.’
“Now isn’t that nice. If that’s all it takes to crush them, they have my thanks. But I can’t stumble in a place like this.”
Within Enora’s head, she had already lost interest in Rudel. But her hostility towards Cattleya who she was constantly compared to burned bright.
While she did hold a high evaluation of Rudel himself, if his dragon was no good, there was no point in paying him any mind.
On his lodging house bed, Rudel looked at the evaluation notice as he desperately searched for a solution.
“Hovering… halting in the air for a fixed amount of time. Shooting… destroying the marks set up while in flight. If we accomplish these two, then we can get a C-Rank.”
Rudel looked at the documents attached to the evaluation notice and looked over two entries. While there were other shoddy places as well, he would have to do something about those two points that were evaluated highly as the essentials.
To be honest, Rudel didn’t care about rank. There wasn’t a problem as long as he could go out in battle. In this instance, it was fine even if he couldn’t take part in the flight formation.
But Sakuya was depressed.
“I have to do something to give her self-confidence. If I do… no, it won’t be a problem! Just what am I thinking.”
Leaping up from his lying position, Rudel rushed straight off to Sakuya.
Once the day of the reevaluation came around, surrounded by the instructors, the other newcomers and their dragons, Rudel and Sakuya went into preparations.
“Alright, we’re doing it just as planned, Sakuya!”
Confirming his preparations were complete, Rudel turned to an instructor and sent a signal. There, the instructor gave the order for him to commence hovering.
Rather than Enora who had lost interest, the sharp-eyed Saas seemed strangely unsettled as he looked at Rudel.
“Will they be alright?”
There, the knight standing to his side poked fun.
“You’re more of a worrywart than you look. Well, let’s just see how far they’ve managed to come in a week.”
The knight of light personality relaxed as he looked at Rudel and Sakuya. First came the hovering evaluation but here, Rudel took an action no one expected.
Of all things, he produced one of his specialties, a shield of light.
“… The hell’s he doing?”
While someone muttered, Sakuya leapt up and mounted that shield. That form as if a dragon was riding a board left everyone dumbfounded.
One of the instructors loudly verified it with Rudel.
“W-what are you doing!? Get to hovering at once!”
Rudel also answered loudly.
“There is no problem! The assessment entry describes it as, ‘halting in the air for a fixed period of time’! And see? We’ve stopped, haven’t we!?”
Sakuya was just sitting on the shield of light Rudel had produced. She wasn’t doing anything.
“No, that’s true! But that’s not what we had in mind!!”
Seeing the instructor’s troubled face, the surrounding newbies gave bitter smiles. But Enora alone made a mortified face.
“To think he would come out with such a means!”
The other female newbie looked at her face from the side.
“No, is this really where you should be angry? More than that, isn’t it a laugh?”
Enora Campbell was quite off herself.
Following on, the shooting evaluation test commenced.
In the place prepared for shooting practice, there were only dragoon facilities around.
The goal was to hit the brick walls erected along the flight path. Those walls were made strong, making sure even a dragon’s breath wouldn’t be able to destroy them.
Destroying the walls wasn’t the objective, the aim was to demolish the planks posted up on those walls. They were made just strong enough that a dragon wouldn’t be able to break them if it wasn’t serious.
Flying at a certain level of speed, they would have to destroy the marks set up.
Once the ten targets were successful posted, the instructor issued Rudel the order.
Sakuya flew off into the distance to build up speed.
With that previous hovering case, the instructors were worried whether or not Rudel would do something. Not just the brick walls, the targets themselves were made difficult to destroy by human hands, so they had some piece of mind. As Sakuya was terrible at hitting marks, the instructors and new recruits watching took more distance than usual.
Saas worried in a different way than before as he muttered. As expected, the knight with the light personality responded.
“It’ll be alright this time, won’t it?”
“No, even if you ask me… but that last one was interesting. Sure enough, he wasn’t wrong, so perhaps he might just pass.”
Raising her speed, Sakuya passed down the designated route, approaching the target.
But even when the mark entered the firing range of a normal breath, Sakuya didn’t even try to fire. At her mouth, she was either preparing to fire a breath, or simply gathering mana.
“… Isn’t it a bit large?”
As an ill-natured knight muttered, without aiming at the mark, Sakuya continued to come closer and closer. The mana converging in her mouth was exceedingly large.
Not a single shot fired, Sakuya flew right up to the first target.
“What are they doing!?”
Saas was worried, but outside of the surrounding worry, under Rudel’s orders, Sakuya dropped that mass of mana.
Sakuya was unable to fire a powerful breath from the air. Taking that into account, Rudel hit upon the idea that instead of firing it, he could just do an airdrop.
Rudel had chosen to clear this challenge by dropping a lump of mana right over the target. Rather than risking holding back too much to aim at the target, he bet it all on a single powerful blow.
As that spherical lump of mana fell, Sakuya instantly fled into the sky. Seeing her rise in altitude, the instructors turned to the newbies and cried out.
From their experience, the instructors determined that mass of magic was dangerous. They turned to the recruits and ordered them to retreat.
All called their dragons, and it was at the moment everyone tried to flee the area. The mass of mana didn’t fall on the target.
As it found its destination in the very center of all those scattered targets, a cloud of smoke and shockwave ruled the space. Following on, the sound of explosions turned the area into a sea of fires.
… The explosions took it all in, swallowing down the targets on the walls in its wake.
The training ground was reduced to scorched earth.
Luckily, there were no injuries, but everyone gathered could only look upon the scene in mute amazement.
“We did it, Sakuya! With this, we’ve risen in rank!”
Descending upon the barren ground, Rudel and Sakuya rejoiced that they had destroyed all the targets, wall and all. Sakuya also let out a delighted howl.
“No, you’re still D-Rank, you know.”
The next day, Rudel received the conclusion from the instructors who had discussed the matter. Perhaps you could call it the natural result.
Rudel and Sakuya’s evaluation remained at D-Rank.
As Rudel approached the instructor in utter surprise, the active dragoon shied back as he explained.
“I mean, dude, boarding a shield of mana in hovering is downright cheating.”
“We halted in the air for a set period of time!”
While they definitely stopped, that wasn’t by Sakuya’s power, but by Rudel’s. In contrast, Sakuya hadn’t done a thing. She simply laid back on Rudel’s shield of light.
“And just because you can’t hit the target, you decide to blow the whole training ground away? Your imagination is terrifying!”
“But it was never stated in detail how we had to aim at the target!”
“No matter what you say, this is what’s been decided among the instructors… I’m begging you, just clear the tasks normally. We’re not asking for wit here.”
As the instructor with dropped shoulders handed the document to Rudel, he took his leave as if completely worn out.
“What am I supposed to say to Sakuya…”
While Rudel was depressed, he would have to inform Sakuya of the outcome. Recalling how Sakuya was looking forward to her result, Rudel felt a weight on his mind.
“I thought it was a perfect plan! How am I supposed to try clearing them next time…”
While Rudel used his head further, he couldn’t think of any way to raise his evaluation by valid means.
The next day, after learning the results, Sakuya ended up running away.