After Rudel healed her sprain with healing magic, Enora could no longer look into his face.
It went without saying; Rudel had seen such a deplorable side of her. But she still had time left on her surveillance duty, and she couldn’t quite abandon her mission to run away.
Her face turning red every time she observed Rudel’s form, Enora was definitely a failure at her job.
Cattleya, who met up with them along the way, looked at Enora with wonder.
“What’s up with you?”
“N-no… it’s nothing.”
“No, something clearly went down. Why is your face so red?”
“And I’m telling you that it’s nothing!”
Ignoring their unproductive quarrel, Rudel was riding a shield of light he had produced over the lake. That shield that used magic to glide along the water’s surface was practically a board.
Atop the water, Rudel was moving about freely.
From the lake, orbs of water flew from the mouths of child dragons. As he avoided them, Rudel seemed to be enjoying himself.
“That one was close!”
Growing irritated, the dragon children desperately tried to hit Rudel with their orbs. At times, they would leap out of the water to take him from surprise, occasionally targeting him from the air as well.
But they were unable to capture Rudel.
It was almost as if he had eyes on the back of his head, and he managed to dodge everything coming at him. But that was only something he was capable of because he was up against those immature dragons.
Watching over them carefully for days, he had seen through the habits and tendencies of the dragons.
It would be questionable to say Mystith was thinking that deeply when she had him take care of the young children, but Rudel had grown some.
He had gained a deeper understanding of dragons. The practical experience he could never get in a book had Rudel take another step forward as a dragoon.
Seeing that scene, Cattleya created a fireball in her hand and threw it at Rudel. At that attack she had fired with the premise of Rudel dodging it, Enora showed a face of surprise.
Because it was on a level where he wouldn’t get off with a scratch of two if it hit.
“What are you doing, brat!!”
When the ball of fire hit the surface, it raised a small pillar of water. Rudel was swallowed up by its wave, tossed from his shield into the lake.
“You look healthy, Rudel. More importantly, could you explain this situation?”
‘Oy, don’t bully that one too much. I’ll be killed.’
Seeing her own fearful red dragon, Cattleya clicked her tongue. She had somehow managed to push responsibility onto Lilim, but her own dragon cowering from Mystith was simply too pitiful.
“Yes ma’am. I was bored, so I thought up a new way to use my shield. While hovering was apparently a failure, I’m sure there must be another effective way to use it.”
As Rudel popped his head out of the water to answer, Cattleya felt her head hurt.
“… And where is your dragon? We’re just about running out of time here.”
“She’s returned a few times, and it seems there’s just a little more to go.”
“She came back? Why didn’t you take her back, then!?”
Crawling out of the lake, Rudel corrected the positioning of his waist wrap before turning to face Cattleya. Dripping with water, his facial features were well set from the start, making Rudel appear terribly dashing.
And he was almost naked.
Cattleya swallowed her breath.
“No, it seems she’s almost perfected it. Her sure-kill combo to take down the boss.”
‘Combo! What’s more, sure-kill!? Why didn’t you stop her, you idiot!’
As Cattleya’s dragon started acting up, Rudel soothed him to calm down. While he was carrying himself calmly, if one had to say who was mistaken, it was Rudel.
“I believe if it’s Sakuya, she’ll be fine. Even if she loses, she’ll surely get back on her feet!”
Rudel believed in Sakuya, but that didn’t make the red dragon happy at all. More than that, having her come at him for real would be a problem.
Even if he defeated Sakuya, there was the scary Mystith waiting behind her. It wasn’t by much, but he didn’t get the feeling he’d be able to win. So he feared winning this battle was the scarier option.
Losing to the newly-born Sakuya would be a disgrace, but it beat having Mystith after his life. Cattleya’s dragon teared up.
“Good grief, why are you so pitiful?”
‘Don’t screw with me! When it’s not even my fault, try thinking of the guy who’s going to get the crap kicked out of him!’
Seeing Rudel and Cattleya delightfully conversing, Enora’s feelings only turned needlessly darker. While she was mainly shouting at Rudel, both she and Rudel frankly spoke their minds, and Enora looked on it enviously.
It seemed to her that Cattleya possessed everything she could never have.
(Both father and Rudel, a talented demon sword holder… when I don’t have anything…)
Enora thought the sort of things that would make a knight who couldn’t become a dragoon want to smack her. Yet suddenly, it all began to feel idiotic to her.
That attitude of Cattleya, who was pretty much a mass of talent, was one thing, but she couldn’t even triumph over Rudel who claimed he had no talent at all. She knew from the start.
Enora had accurately assessed Rudel and feared him for it. Even if his dragon fell short of the others, Sakuya possessed many things the other dragons did not.
That’s why she panicked when Rudel decided he wouldn’t shirk his trainee responsibilities, yet still exerted himself to find a way to clear the test. While Enora did have a few parts to her different from other people, she had given Rudel a proper evaluation.
As if a thread was reaching its limit, she could almost hear the sound of it snapping.
It was at that moment.
Sakuya fell straight into the lake, with Mystith appearing a little later. With a fed-up look on her face, Mystith nonchalantly explained Sakuya’s failed landing.
‘That’s why I told you. You have to lose altitude with care… you’re in too much of a rush.’
Sticking her head out of the lake, Sakuya looked at Mystith.
When a build as large as Sakuya’s dived into the lake, the water that brimmed over rained down on everyone in the area. That water that advanced on them like a wave soaked them down to their socks.
As Cattleya pushed her hair to the side, she searched out Sakuya’s partner, Rudel. She wanted to get in a complaint or two, but Rudel had already leapt at Sakuya.
“Sakuya, I was waiting for you!”
Sticking himself to Sakuya’s head, Rudel began stroking her. Delighted, Sakuya spoke proudly of her results in the northern sea.
‘Ahem! Sakuya has finally learned her sure-kill one, two, finish! With this, I’m sure I can defeat the boss!’
As Sakuya rejoiced, Rudel suddenly recalled something and scanned the area for the red dragon. But just as Rudel had, the red dragon had leapt off somewhere.
Leaving Cattleya behind…
“T-that stupid dragon!!”
Cattleya’s scream resounded through the forest.
With Sakuya’s preparations finished, they were to hurriedly return.
Mystith had some business to attend to, and Cattleya decided to ride on Sakuya’s back. This may have been because not a white horse, Rudel on his white dragon seemed to overlap just a bit with her own ideal.
In truth, Sakuya was large, and whether she ferried one person or two, it wasn’t much of a difference. Rudel was also returning, leaving behind his waist-wrap state for the first in a long while.
As the red dragon had run away, the soaked Cattleya had to borrow clothing from Enora. But while Cattleya wasn’t on the small side by any means, the breast area seemed to have ample space to spare.
“Are you ready?”
“I’m fine. Enora, you return first and give a report.”
After Cattleya finished dressing, she ordered Enora to return first and report. Enora saluted and followed orders, but she didn’t seem to have her usual smile.
Rudel was a bit mindful of that, but after straddling her wind dragon, the girl in question swiftly rose away into the sky.
Rudel looked up at the sky Enora disappeared into with a serious look on his face. His eyes were a little sorrowful.
“No, I just felt a little nostalgic.”
Cattleya was mindful of her chest as she mused. Rudel turned once towards Cattleya, peering deeply into her eyes.
While her face turned mildly red as she averted her eyes, Rudel silently leapt onto Sakuya’s back. After a moment of surprise, Cattleya puffed up her cheeks.
Because while she had some light expectations, but Rudel didn’t do anything.
But to Rudel, it looked as if Enora overlapped with the Cattleya of the past. He understood as far as the fact the target of her hatred wasn’t him, but Cattleya this time.
From time to time, the look in Enora’s eyes would turn sharp, and that was only ever when Cattleya was there. The eyes once directed at himself were now pointed in Cattleya’s direction.
A little curious, Rudel situated himself on Sakuya’s back before lending Cattleya a hand up and questioning her.
“Is Enora a past acquaintance of yours?”
“Hah? Never heard of her. I’m pretty sure we were in the same year at the academy, but… oh, you have a thing for that girl? What are you going to do about black hair?”
Rudel didn’t seem bothered by Cattleya’s cynicism. His attitude irritated her. Yet Rudel’s profile she once detested, looking at it now, it was close to her idea.
Perhaps that only made him needlessly more irritating as she turned her face away.
“Sakuya, it’s about time to go.”
Sakuya slowly floated into the sky, before giving her wings a few powerful beats. While she fell short of a wind dragon, or any other dragon for the matter of fact, Rudel liked the sensation of flying with Sakuya.
Her neck and back were furnished with the proper equipment for a knight to ride. Sakuya had run away, so she hadn’t brought them along, but during his surveillance duty, Luxheidt had tactfully brought them a pair.
Cattleya felt just a little restless riding on the back of a different dragon.
In the air, Cattleya looked over Sakuya’s back, getting a real sense of its breadth.
While Sakuya was giant from the start, from the point of view of a human, Cattleya’s red dragon was giant as well. The first time she straddled his back, she felt it was endlessly vast as well.
But Sakuya was extraordinary. And therein lay the problem.
“It’s considerably spacious, and stable, but… are we even moving?”
“Well, she was originally a gaia dragon subspecies, so please don’t expect too much from the speed. But Sakuya’s strength and destructive power are incomparable to the average dragon!”
“You’ve already told me that.”
Tired of Rudel’s praise for Sakuya, with the snail’s pace they were going at, Cattleya was growing bored. She didn’t usually talk much with Rudel, and she couldn’t grasp how she was supposed to interact with him.
She was trying to apologize for what had happened before, but she had missed the right timing.
The feelings from back then, the hatred, the loathing, the desire to crush him, looking back on them now, she still couldn’t understand them. She was informed she had been possessed by the black fog, but before the man she had hated, she found it quite hard to apologize.
Unable to be honest, Cattleya mustered her courage to give an earnest apology…. And it was at that moment that Rudel cried out.
“Sakuya, heads up!”
Coincident with Rudel’s cry, Sakuya altered her flight path. There, from directly above them, a breath rained down. Those masses of magic a dragon would fire off came down on Sakuya in consecutive bursts.
What Cattleya saw when she looked straight up was the silhouette of a wind dragon. But they had already parted from the dragon dwellings, and it didn’t seem to be a wild dragon.
On the violent, rapid rotation of Sakuya’s back, she felt a weight she usually couldn’t feel. But she didn’t remove her eyes from the wind dragon assailing them.
During her surveillance of Rudel, she had noticed that Rudel and Sakuya would never be attacked by wild dragons. And yet, come so far, a dragon attacking them was strange.
If they didn’t anger it by trespassing on its turf, then she couldn’t’ comprehend the cause.
(This is bad… this child won’t be able to shake it off.)
Confirming they were dealing with a wind dragon, Cattleya concluded it was impossible for Sakuya to outrun it. The wind dragons were said to be the most lacking in firepower, but they boasted fearsome speed and aptitude in aerial battles.
Their rate of breath rapid fire was considered top-class among the dragon subspecies, and while there were differences among individuals, a dogfight put Sakuya at a disadvantage.
Among wild dragons, the ones with the greatest numbers were the wind dragons. within the dragoon brigade as a whole, among their wild dragons, the wind dragons were most numerous as well.
Knowing of Lilim’s wind dragon, Cattleya perceived the unfavorable ground over which they were hovering. And the enemy dragon was a young and powerful one.
That it was too young for its own good was perhaps their sole salvation.
Its breath didn’t have the same power as Lilim’s dragon. It’s rapid fire had a ways to go.
“Rudel, keep dodging!”
As Cattleya looked at Rudel and issued orders, Rudel relayed those orders to Sakuya.
“Got it! Sakuya, don’t let it set its aim. Go right into a zigzag and…! Raise altitude!”
Rudel suddenly changed his orders, but Sakuya managed to obey and swerved up. The wind dragon passed right below them.
In the moment Cattleya had taken her eyes off of it, the wind dragon had tried to grapple with Sakuya. Sticking onto a gaia dragon like Sakuya was, to put it bluntly, an idiotic act. The sort of action a normal dragon would avoid.
But at the moment their foe passed below them, Cattleya saw.
The fact that there was a person riding the dragon’s back… and the fact that person was Enora.
“Enora… why are you…!”
Much faster than Sakuya’s rise, Enora and her dragon climbed into the sky. There was no chance of defeating a wind dragon in the air. While they considered descending to the ground, they would simply be tormented to death by shots from up high.
“… Sakuya, we’re subduing them.”
“What are you talking about!? When even winning will be difficult, there’s no way you can pin her down!”
While Cattleya refuted his words, Rudel’s will was steadfast. And he didn’t lack the means. No, he didn’t need a plan from the start.
“You can do it, can’t you, Sakuya?”
‘I won’t lose!’
As Sakuya roared in the sky, Enora’s wind dragon fired a breath in response.