When Rudel returned to the dragoon lodging house, the active members were waiting for him.
The brigade members Alejandro led were knights of famed houses. That was Alejandro’s faction, but in the dragoon brigade that couldn’t help but be a meritocracy, there were many who hailed from low-status backgrounds.
In regard to Rudel going too far in this matter, he had called them to at least make a show of being harsh on him. This more or less included an intent to show their authority.
They wanted to show that Rudel was a dragoon of their own noble faction. On the other side, the knights of low status, and the nobles who didn’t join any faction watched on from a distance.
There were those up to the heads of Viscount houses serving as active dragoons, but when it came to the level of Count, the head could never serve such a role.
For those in houses with status greater than Count, those without the need to succeed their houses might become dragoons. In contrast, Rudel was a future archduke.
From Alejandro’s position, he could either add Rudel to his faction, essentially placing him as its leader, or form a connection. After announcing the strict punishment in store for him, he calculated as far as to save him from it and sell him a favor.
He had wrung out his knowledge that let him survive in noble society in his own way, but it was all in vain.
Seeing a ragged Enora and Falk, Alejandro’s face turned red in an instant. A beaten dragon was one thing, but he couldn’t forgive the fact his daughter’s clothing looked strangely stripped.
The traces of treated wounds only made him lose his head faster.
“What happened!? Cattleya, explain this situation!”
As Alejandro became emotional, Cattleya expressionlessly approached to whisper into his ear.
“Vice-captain, you’d better clear away the others. By the way, if you fail to do so, you are the one who will be placed at the disadvantage.”
Glared at by Cattleya, Alejandro ended up faltering from her imposing attitude. While he didn’t show it on his face, he took to carrying out Cattleya’s orders.
Even if it wasn’t here, he had thought to sell a favor, but it was this side of him that prevented him from becoming captain.
Watching Alejandro lead off Cattleya, Rudel and Enora from afar, Oldart issued orders to one of his men.
Guessing the situation to an extent, it was largely as he had predicted, and he chose to take action.
“Oy, go fly to the palace as soon as possible. Tell them our little archduke’s come back.”
Once the knight he ordered ran off, Oldart headed off towards his own dragon. Enora hadn’t returned beforehand to inform them of Rudel’s return, what’s more, both she and her dragon were in a terrible state.
While Sakuya wasn’t injured, there was soot on her scales.
He didn’t know the reason why Cattleya’s dragon was the first to return, but Oldart had a general idea of what was going on.
(That Enora girly snapped at either Rudel or Cattleya. From how they’re not reporting it… does Cattleya plan to play it off?)
When it came to Cattleya herself, while there were some problems with her personality, he saw her as proficient. And seeing how Cattleya didn’t report it first thing, he had a vague inkling that something had happened.
He had thought something was off from the moment Sakuya and Falk approached the training grounds, when the dragoons on patrol hurriedly rushed over to him.
Oldart called a few of his subordinates and issued some more orders.
“Oy, once the future archduke finishes talking with the vice-captain, bring him over to me. I’ll be taking him right off to the palace, so give the vice-captain my regards. While you’re at it, call the former captain and vice-captain as well.”
“Yes sir! … But captain, does the vice-captain know of this matter?”
As a knight returned a question to Oldart’s order, Oldart gave an ill-spirited grin.
“Like hell he does. I’ll be in the palace a while, so push all the small stuff onto the vice-captain. I’m sure our predecessors will be able to do something about him.”
Alejandro had a sense of hostility towards Oldart, refusing to obediently listen to his orders. But if the previous captain and vice-captain were involved, that was a different story.
Successfully pushing his work onto Alejandro, Oldart was in a good mood.
With light steps, he headed for his dragon, his men seeing him off with sighs on their breath.
In a meeting room on the training grounds, Rudel watched Alejandro take his anger out on Enora.
Taking the chairs and desk with her as she flew through the air, Enora slumped powerlessly onto the ground. While Rudel tried to stop him, Cattleya held him back.
She was calmly looking at Alejandro and Enora.
“Y-you stupid daughter! While being a proud dragoon, just what disgrace have you…”
Through her ruffled hair, Enora looked at her father’s rage. But not left with the power to respond, or perhaps lacking the intent, she didn’t open her mouth.
“Not only did you use a dragon in a personal affair, you attacked a superior? Are you of sound mind!?”
Gripping his fallen daughter by the lapels, Alejandro lifted her up. Unable to watch anymore, Rudel stepped in to put a stop to it.
“Vice-captain, any more is…”
But as he stepped in, Alejandro screamed at him.
“This is a problem between father and daughter! You keep your mouth shut!”
On those words, Rudel ended up taking a step back. Before the relationship of father and child he couldn’t possibly comprehend, he mulled over what sort of words he was supposed to call out.
Having barely ever talked with his parents, Rudel could only grip his fist and hand his head.
There, scratching her head, Cattleya entered the conversation.
“Vice-captain, this is no longer a problem of father and daughter alone. Both me and Rudel are victims, and your daughter is the perpetrator. And while my house is a Viscount house, Rudel’s is an archduke house… the Campbell House is also a Viscount House, right?”
While Rudel didn’t mind it, status was something a noble couldn’t ignore. Even if they were dragoons, they were still but single knights, and of all things, Rudel was the victim in the matter.
“… My daughter will commit suicide.”
On Alejandro’s mournful mutter, Rudel opened his eyes wide. But perhaps she just about understood it, as Cattleya didn’t show any surprise.
“W-why is that!?”
It wasn’t Enora but Rudel who drew close to Alejandro. There was some rage mixed into his voice, a rare sight of the usual courteous Rudel.
“I’m thankful that you won’t make this matter public. But that doesn’t resolve it.”
Rudel couldn’t forgive Alejandro’s explanation. It wasn’t a problem he had the right to stick his mouth into, but he recalled the reason she had given for attacking Cattleya he had heard on the way back.
‘I wanted to be recognized.’
Enora’s twisted emotions had ended in a regretful, yet due outcome, but even so he couldn’t forgive it.
“You mean for a parent to tell their child to die!?”
“That’s what it’s going to come to regardless! If that’s how it’s going to be, then if I, her father is the one to do it, we’ll at least have an excuse to give to our ancestors.”
Before Cattleya could stop him, Rudel leapt out.
His right fist sunk into Alejandro’s left cheek, and in the next instant, Alejandro was flying through the air. This time, Cattleya opened her eyes in surprise.
“W-what are you doing!?”
Perhaps never considering he would hit him, Cattleya pinned Rudel down. Enora was also surprised by his actions.
“… Not being recognized really is painful. Not having anyone look at you really is miserable. But not being recognized by the one you wanted to look at you most is most painful of all!”
Sent flying, perhaps Alejandro never thought he would actually be hit, as he had been completely defenseless. As a result, he was knocked out on his impact with the wall.
“Seriously, what’s with you! What reason did you have to hit the vice-captain…”
“With this matter, I’ve put the vice-captain in my debt. Now that I’ve hit a superior officer, that makes us even, right?”
“Like hell it does, fool! This isn’t a child’s brawl!”
By hitting the vice-captain, in the end, the problem was left hazy. Cattleya apprehended Rudel and tossed him into a disciplinary cell.
After that, Oldart, who had grown tired of waiting, went to retrieve him.
“Gyahahaha, so that’s why Cattleya shoved you in a cell. But that must have been a nice blow. Feeling refreshed?”
I wanted to smack my superiors too, but don’t hit me, as Oldart said such things, Rudel was a little surprised. He thought he would be on the receiving end of something harsher.
From Cattleya’s attitude, he couldn’t believe Oldart’s correspondence.
‘Muh, Rudel didn’t do anything bad!’
Sakuya stuck up for Rudel as she flew, but Oldart was unable to hear her voice.
Temporarily released from his disciplinary cell, Rudel headed to the palace with Oldart.
“I deeply apologize.”
After thinking long and hard over it, Rudel felt he had done something wrong. Lowering his shoulders, he apologized to Captain Oldart. But he had yet to apologize for his stay at the dragons’ dwellings.
Oldart thought it was an apology including the dragon dwellings’ matter. But Rudel had assisted his partner dragon in her time of crisis, and he had no intention to repent over it.
“Well as long as you’re repenting, then isn’t that fine? Nothing good will come of punishing you, and on the contrary, ain’t it a good thing you put Alejandro in your debt? You probably shouldn’t have hit him, but compared to what Lady Enora’s been through, it’s nothing.”
As Oldart said it boldly, Rudel was filled with a sense of relief. But from Cattleya’s attitude, he still wondered if something was wrong with it.
“Is that really the problem?”
Understanding he wasn’t in the position to say anything about it, Rudel was worried whether he had disrupted law and order.
“It’s fine. Those who’ve been recognized by the dragons, apart from me, they’ve all got a screw blown out of their heads. Just think about it… there’s no way a dragon would ever follow any decent human being. Besides me.”
Oldart spoke as if he had completely forgotten he was at the head of that group of lost screws. Meanwhile, Rudel was sending him a look of admiration.
It’s not as if that Alejandro hates Lady Enora. He did love her in his own way… well, as punishment, I guess she’ll be in the disciplinary cells for a week just like you?“
“I know it’s strange for me to say it, but will we really be let off with that?”
“As. I. Was. Saying. You’re a special case. I can’t treat you the same as the others. But personally, I do feel apologetic.”
As Oldart’s face turned serious, Rudel corrected his posture. He had already heard that Oldart had skillfully dealt with his and Enora’s cases.
Mixing in jokes, he laughed at how he was only decreasing his fighting force and increasing his own work. But even Rudel understood that Oldart was being tactful.
In that incident with the evaluations, and this time’s dragon runaway case, Oldart even wanted to apologize himself.
The envy and jealousy towards a future archduke had led to a harsher evaluation for Rudel. On top of that, Rudel himself was the white knight… but Oldart said he had no mind to put a stop to the current situation.
“This time’s evaluation was one thing, but to be honest, these sorts of things fall under the realm of everyday occurrence. If I spoke up to stop them, they’d only trouble you on a different front.”
Recalling all that had happened, Rudel was unable to say it would be different. Even if he was seen as a future king, that alone would create opposing factions.
Among the commoners, there were many who resented the Arses House.
He wasn’t just an individual, Rudel shouldered the signboard of the Arses House. Oldart was telling Rudel to show enough competence to blow those signs away.
“For better or worse, you aren’t normal. And it’ll be the same from here on… Lady Enora is one thing, but we have this thing called status. If this incident was perpetrated by a normal knight, I’m sure heads would fly. Rudel, you shouldn’t forget that. What you’re seeking is something outstandingly large.”
“… I just wanted to become a dragoon, that’s all I wanted. Well, when I tried, those around me didn’t even try to recognize it. And now that I’ve become one, I’ve got around to thinking over things lately. Looking back on it now, it was a tad idiotic.”
Come so far, Rudel recalled his youth. Everyone laughed that it was impossible. Everyone told him it would be impossible for him. And it was almost as if even the world wouldn’t try to recognize him.
Within all that, the faces of those who recognized him floated up in his head.
Rudel tenderly stroked Sakuya’s back. Recalling his promise with Sakuya, he looked ahead with eyes full of resolve.
“A young man’s earnest dreams are a nice thing indeed. But you see, right now, you’re a single dragoon. You’d best remember that… now then, that’s enough for the lecture. You’d better think up some magic words to explain yourself away to the king and his men.”
“It’s alright! This is my second time!”
Recalling his student days, Rudel honestly answered Oldart. But perhaps the answer he wanted wasn’t coming back, as Oldart was a little confused.
Oldart looked at Rudel and thought a bit.
It was a facility used by the dragoons, and Enora had been placed in a disciplinary cell.
In a corner of that narrow room, Enora sat scrunched up, burying her face into the space between her knees. The clothes she wore had been switched out from a knight’s garb to the crude clothing of a prisoner.
A few hours after she’d been placed in the cell, she heard the approach of a single set of footsteps. Enora knew those footsteps, they were steps that made her scrunch herself even smaller.
As she shrunk her body as far as it would go, those footsteps stopped before her self.
“How wretched it is.”
Enora couldn’t answer, but her body was shaking.
“It seems Oldart managed to play off the problem. Your sins will be forgiven with this cell alone ……………… I’m sorry.”
After saying only that, Alejandro walked away from the cell. As if drawn in by those unexpected words, Enora made for the entrance of her cell, calling out to her father’s back.
Turning back to his adult daughter, Alejandro simply nodded. He had noticed that his wretched was a word he had directed at himself.
“I’m a small man. The former captain and vice-captain had some choice words for me… good grief, they really have this job down. I should apologize to you as well. You’re a daughter too good for me.”
He gave a bitter smile, and after saying that, he made his way off. It seemed he was making quite an awkward face, but he wouldn’t let her see his face in full.
Enora, upon hearing those words, she clung to the iron bars and let her tears flow.
“Sorry, I’m sorry… father…”
The captain and vice-captain left a record of that day.
In the years to come, they were used as documents to prove Rudel’s unprecedented behavior, but that is surely a tale for another day.
‘When I told him to make an excuse to the king as a joke, he said he was fine because it was his second time.’
‘When I flew into a rage and hit my daughter, Rudel smacked me. My left cheek’s swollen. It hurts. I can’t go out in public.’
Having become a dragoon, and successfully entered their ranks, Rudel’s legend went as follows.
‘He destroyed the training ground facilities in his first years. After that, his dragon ran away, and he himself spent a few months in the dragons’ dwellings. He smacked his superior officer, and after that, in the palace… at the unveiling…’
With half of his first year still to come, he had built up so many legends.
These documents would come under terrible scrutiny in later years. It was determined they were much too far from reality.
His second time explaining himself away to the king, and smacking a superior officer. It wasn’t by much, but they weren’t the most believable of events.
Normally, he should have been subjected to severe punishment, causing these events to be suspect to fabrication.
But as other documents detailed Rudel’s further outrageous actions, the line between truth and fiction quickly lost its clarity.