In front of Aleist’s eyes, a large man was sent flying to the side.
No, perhaps it was more accurate to say he was blown away. Rudel and Eunius exchanged fists nearby, while a little further away, Luecke used his magic to blow away the knights that swarmed around him. The civil officials who tried to capture Eunius were thrown and littered about the streets like garbage.
At the surrounding disaster, Aleist’s face went pale. He instantly sobered up.
“Yep! This looks bad. This is definitely bad, Rudel!”
The two locking fists wouldn’t lend an ear to his cry. On the contrary, despite the unveiling the day after the next, the two of them were punching each other in the face. When the others were carefully punching away from the face, the two of they laughed as they blatantly took aim.
Just as they had been in the academy, they were serious. The form of them seriously enjoying that exchange of blows caused Aleist to draw back.
“I’m telling you to stop it! You aren’t kids anymore.”
“Aleist, what makes you think you can stay an onlooker?”
When Aleist tried to stop the two of them, Luecke placed a hand on his shoulders. As he turned, Luecke began to scold him, a frigid smile floating over his face.
“You… no. The defenders really have been a thorn in my side. The overtime I go through every day, and the mountains of paperwork, they’re all because of the defenders. Did you know? Who do you think prepares all the budget you guys run through like water? And who do you think checks over the documentation?”
“I haven’t the slightest.”
Aleist was a lieutenant, but he generally didn’t attend meetings. No, he wasn’t invited to them. He simply worked at the palace on cleaning duty. That was all.
When he was suddenly brought into talks of funding there was no way he could answer.
“It’s me. It’s my duty to process it! Even so, it’s my job. If it’s a necessity, I won’t complain. But you see… the quantity and details of the papers surrounding you guys is abnormal!”
Aleist could hear a grating sound from the shoulder Luecke grasped. HE was definitely angry. Definitely enraged. Not wanting to take on Luecke when he was like that, he tried to laugh and play it off, when…
“Do you know about the magic called earth hand?”
As Luecke snapped his fingers, the dirt behind him swelled into the shape of a gripped fist. The size of that fist was as large as a grown man.
“W-what do you plan to do with that?”
“Isn’t is obvious? You use your shadows, so I’ll be using magic. I’m not suited to duking it out like those guys.”
Aleist’s eyes turned to Rudel, confirming the form of the two rampaging about, destroying everything around them.
Looking back at Luecke, Aleist broke into a cold sweat at the earth hands that had multiplied in number while he wasn’t looking.
“Now why don’t we start.”
“This is way too unreasonable!”
Around that time, the culprit behind Luecke’s anger, Fina, was processing paperwork in her private room at the palace.
“Hah, this is for the sake of the country… I cannot be negligent (I’ll pass this proposal and augment our budget! Just you wait, Halbades! I’ll show you a thing or two about how this works. Hihyaaaah!)”
“Princess, please stop with the lies. A majority of these documents pertain to demi-humans, correct? What’s with this special facility? The budget’s become something incredible.”
“Fluff fluff land.”
“For the sake of my dreams of fluffadise, I must first start with a house of fluff.”
Sophina’s face was stiff as she looked at Fina, who didn’t have anyone to stop her lately. She had worked too hard, transcending her fatigue and ending up in a state of high tensions. Naturally as it was, once the individual calmed down, she would surely come to regret it.
The current Courtois didn’t have the budget to send around to such things. But through her needless proficience, her papers were able to skillfully draw funding from the country. Meaning the official documents made it all the way to the top brass. They would likely be torn up there, but it was no joke for the government officials who had to deal with it along the way.
At this point, Luecke’s sending back of the documents had become Fina’s motivation. Luecke’s overly serious personality had backfired.
“I’ll call my master to fluff fluff land, and spend my days by his side gazing at fluffies being fluffed! I’m saying goodbye to this life of paperwork!”
“Get a grip on yourself! Why are you trying so far? When you’re usually so useless!”
“… Sophina. You just called me useless, did you. I now understand how you see me on a regular basis.”
Seeing Fina suddenly turn serious, Sophina flinched.
After staring expressionlessly at Sophina, Fina turned to her desk and restarted her work. Atop the desk, there were a number of serious documents scattered about. A report on the border was one of them.
(Well I’m beat. The movements of the knight brigades stationed on the border are worse than I thought. They’re not even particularly incompetent, so why are…)
She seriously considered anti-empire measures and moved some hands around, but it seems she had lost the initiative.
While she had sent around members of the defenders as well, but even so, if you asked whether they were enough to maintain the border, that would be impossible. A number of choices encroached on Fina. Within all that, what would become her trump card would have to be the dragoons. From the founding of the nation, they had protected the kingdom.
(They’re too skilled. We’ll eventually have to pay the bill for relying on them too much. Even if we overcome this situation, it’ll be bad if we don’t have some reforms.)
As she troubled her head over the dragoons, Fina remembered Rudel. In preparation for the expo in two days time, the members of each knight brigade were probably making a ruckus right around now.
“I’m sure it’s rowdy outside.”
On Fina’s words, Sophina hurriedly gave a response.
“I-It happens every year. We’ll have to spend tomorrow repairing the destruction.”
At the expo that could be called Courtois’ specialty, the young knights would run rampant every year. It was also a sort of stress relief. You could say that area was sponsored.
“It’s an annual event. If the fountain isn’t destroyed, you can’t say it’s that time of year.”
“The area around the fountain on the main road is the perfect place for a fight, after all.”
Perhaps recalling her time as a new recruit, Sophina gave a nostalgic nod. There was no problem about the exchange of blows between knight brigades.
If it was on the level of a scuffle, they would often be condoned. It was a part of the festival. A part of the festive eve.
Fina wondered if Rudel was also raising a ruckus right around not. That didn’t sound bad, thought she as she looked at the desk. For Fina knew now was the only time he could play around.
The four out of breath fled from the plaza surrounding the fountain.
As knights protecting the capital came in droves, Luxheidt and the others bought them some time. But Eunius and Luecke’s followers were apprehended, unable to run away. Rudel had hopes that Luxheidt would manage to do something about that as well.
“W-why are we running? Just own up.”
While Aleist gave a short-winded lament, the other three laughed. Rudel gave his first grand laugh he had given in a long time. The four of them hadn’t changed. They were the same sort of idiots they had been in their school days.
“No, couldn’t help it.”
Eunius rubbed the place Rudel had smacked him as he laughed. Rudel had cut the inside of his mouth, blood dripped from the corner of his lips. As he wiped that, Luecke began to speak.
“Now then, what are we going to do now?”
“Let’s get a drink. It won’t be any fun if we broke up here.”
On their exchange, Aleist recalled their followers.
“Huh? What about your men?”
“I’m sure they’ll be released in no time. That’s just the sort of day it is.”
“Once they’re shoved in a cell, even those lot will quiet down a bit, right? Oh right! I can use that as a reason to increase their training hours. My body’s aching to move around.”
On their light correspondence, Rudel recalled his own comrades. Luxheidt, Saas, and Enora would likely be fine without him.
And he thought over Izumi, but he couldn’t turn back to invite her now. If he showed himself, he would be apprehended.
“Then we have to find a store that’ll take us.”
Rudel proceeded down the depths of an alley, and following behind him, the other three walked. Being in an alley, Aleist walked mindfull of his surroundings.
From behind, they could hear the clamor of the main street.
“Oy, was that really alright?”
Leaving the fallen to the knights charged with security, Luxheidt had freed his company. Saas seemed worried about letting Rudel run away and pushing their job onto the other knights.
But Luxheidt laughed.
“It’s fine. Rather, I already told them who the principal offenders were.”
“You sold Rudel out?”
Enora scowled at him, so he said that was an overstatement and brought seriousness to his face.
“The culprits are the three lords and that black knight, right? It’ll be more troublesome for them to actually arrest them, and as punishment, the four are going to help with the cleanup tomorrow. This is for the best. I’m sure they’ll be delighted, being given a legit reason to avoid some troublesome work.”
“You really see it going down that well?”
Saas glared at him, so Luxheidt shrugged his shoulders. He didn’t particularly get the feeling he handled things perfectly. He hadn’t stopped Rude. If he did, it wouldn’t have come to this.
Even so, Luxheidt had his own reasons for not stopping Rudel.
“Well, I just have to do better next time.”
“So I hope.”
On Saas’ words, Luxheidt gave a bitter smile.
He was looking at his colleagues in his own way; while Saas had a sharp look in his eyes, he worried for his comrades. Enora was engrossed with Rudel, but lately, she had lost her tension, and let the power leave her shoulders. She had talent from the start. He recognized her abilities.
Whenever he looked at Rudel, he found himself amused.
He felt he was looking forward to whatever he would do. While he was a person unsuited for organizations, that being the case, he would draw people to him.
(Is this how a hero is supposed to be? Well, if that’s how it’s going to be, it sure is lucky to have a hero among your colleagues.)
Seeing Luxheidt chuckle, both Saas and Enora, and the other dragoons found it creepy.
Right as they exited the alley they found themselves at a stall near the river.
Rudel and the others walked over to it and took their seats at the provisional chairs outside the stall. The table wasn’t fixed, it wouldn’t stop wobbling.
The sound of flowing water and the exchanges of the surrounding customers rung comfortably against their ears. While they were covered in wounds, their clothes in tatters, the stallkeeper accepted them with a smile.
Eunius handed over some money and told them to bring out whatever. In no time, the table was lined with snacks and ale. The plates were cheap, and the ale wasn’t anything high class, but the four of them raised their glasses on the spot.
Aleist alone seemed vaguely unpleased. Seeing his expression, Eunius pat him on the shoulder and laughed.
“What’s up? You look down, Aleist.”
Luecke munched on the potatoes put out as a snack, and perhaps they were surprisingly tasty, as he continued reaching out for them. And with Eunius leading in, he tried consoling Aleist.
“Are you mindful of what happened back there? I’ll forget about it, so why don’t you have a bite too? These fried potatoes are splendid.”
“No, I’m not angry or anything. How should I put it, I don’t hate this sort of thing. It’s just, I’m on cleaning duty, and I’m anxious about what’s to come, or rather…”
It seemed Aleist had his worries. Rudel recalled Aleist’s expression as he saw it in the high-class shop. It didn’t quite look that he was living a fulfilled life. Though he knew that he was troubled, being surrounded by women.
“Are you worried? Then it’ll be easier to talk about it.”
“It’s that, right? Millia, right? The rumor’s been going around the palace.”
Eunius bit off some meat from a skewer, telling Rudel Aleist’s rumor in the palace.
In the first place, while being a lieutenant of the defenders, he was surrounded by female knights. What’s more, they were all beauties. It was natural for male knights to resent him. Yet such a man was in love with the female elf knight called Millia. And the target of his affections wasn’t giving him the time of day.
“You know, when you already have five fiancés, there are even talks of getting the princess with you as well. That’s why you’re so hated.”
“Five mistresses is a bit much, don’t you think. Rudel, could you pass that fish over there.”
Luecke asked Rudel to hand over the fish he hadn’t tried yet. Rudel cleaned up the empty plates as he handed Luecke the plate of fish.
“This one? Well, I think it’s too much as well.”
The three of them warned Aleist about his engagements, but to them, Aleist dropped an even bigger bomb.
While he was drinking his ale, on Aleist’s murmur, Eunius ended up spilling his cup. Luecke also dropped the food en route to his mouth.
“Aleist, if that wasn’t a mistake, did I just hear seven?”
As three sets of eyes gathered, Aleist downed the contents of the cup in his hand. He cried out.
“That’s right! Seven! It went up. It went up while I wasn’t looking… my parents said she was the daughter of an important business partner and took her. And after that, even a childhood friend popped out.”
Rudel looked at Luecke and tilted his head.
“Are childhood friends the sort of things that suddenly pop out?”
“No, they usually don’t suddenly pop out. Tell us more, Aleist.”
Aleist poured alcohol into his cup and sipped it as he began to speak. His eyes were already teary.
“A long while back… well, there were a few reasons, and there was a kid who moved over. Rather than moved over, she was the daughter of my old private tutor and she lived at the mansion with us.”
“I see. A common tale.”
Eunius gave an adequate response before putting in an order for extra ale. While he was surprised they had increased, it seems he had no interest in how love began. More than that, he was directing a smile at the stallkeeper’s cute daughter who came to take their order.
“No, well… that kid had this and that going on, and we got along well. But I forgot about her, or how should I put it…”
“Now that’s terrible.”
The reason Rudel could say that was because of his few encounters in life. The nobles Luecke and Eunius had plenty of places to meet people. Within all that, there were quite a few faces they had forgotten.
For Rudel, who had few encounters before he came to the academy, he felt forgetting was terrible.
Sensing his difference in temperature from those around him, Rudel inclined an ear towards Aleist’s story.
“Y-yeah. And you see, it seems we made a bit of a promise when we were little, and…”
“A verbal agreement? I can’t endorse the fact you let someone grasp your weakness.”
“You should learn to evade it a bit more.”
Luecke and Eunius pressed Aleist on his verbal agreement. That was also something that came from their special environment. And as such a mismatched conversation carried on, Aleist’s present situation came into light.
Meaning, while proclaiming he loved Millia, he had increased his number of fiancés. There were seven at the current stage. Thinking of how either Fina or Aileen might be added on, the three of them could no longer laugh it off.
Because his serious worry was an increase in his amount of engagements.
“Then just reject them.”
The words Eunius said through a laugh were the closest thing he had to an answer. His indecisiveness was the problem, Rudel agreed with that.
But Aleist understood it as well.
“I did! Rather, I flat out rejected them! But… but… one of them was a daughter of a merchant business partner, and my parents said it was for the future of their transactions, and the other side was all up for it. And when there’s a girl with a smile that says she’s waited for this moment her entire life, um, I couldn’t straight up say no, or how should I put it, my words didn’t get through at all.”
The three faces gradually grew sympathetic. There was no helping it if it was about the connections between houses, thought Rudel as he consoled Aleist. But here, Luecke changed the topic.
The three of them had noticed. Aleist had some fault in it…
So that was the end of the matter. There was nothing more for the three of them to do. They weren’t able to stick their mouths into the circumstance of other houses.
“Come to think of it, Rudel, your sister’s enrolling in the academy next year, right? … Is Lena doing alright?”
“Lena? I heard she’s going fine. They grow up so fast.”
“I-I see. Then I want to send her something to commemorate the event. What would be nice?”
“Hey, I’m not done yet.”
Having lost interest in Aleist, Rudel and Luecke began talking about Lena’s enrollment. Eunius had started hitting on the stallkeeper’s daughter.
He was being a bit incessant, so Luecke glared at Aleist. His eyes were the epitome of seriousness.
“Can you keep quiet a bit? I’m talking about something serious here… so if I’m sending her something, would a spear be nice? I can arrange for one of the highest quality at once.”
“I think it’s a bit early for that. In that case, I something simple that fits her physique would be nice. As a brother, if possible, I’d like to do something for Erselica as well, but… Aleist, I’ll hear you out some other time.”
Rudel spoke with Luecke about his sisters as he put off Aleist’s talk to another time.
Separated from everyone, Izumi and Millia walked down a path a little away from the rowdy main road.
The voices of the knights in festive spirits reached all the way to them.
Millia and Izumi walked side by side as they made for the lodging house. The two of them stayed silent.
Perhaps being tactful, Izumi started a conversation about the events of the day.
“Today really was something. Even so, those four are the same as ever.”
Seeing Izumi’s bitter smile, Millia suddenly grew irritated. Rudel had smacked away the knight who tried to lay a hand on her. It felt as if she had been shown just how important Izumi was to Rudel.
(When I already decided to forget.)
“And Aleist is going after you as alwa–”
“Quiet! Shut up!”
Stopping in her tracks and screaming out, Millia looked blankly into Izumi’s face. With that sudden cry, Izumi’s expression showed she was mindful over whether she had said something bad.
Handing her head, Millia threw out all the feelings she had been keeping silent about. Hearing her own shaking voice, she noticed she was crying.
“I’m jealous of you. The only one he’ll ever look at is you, Izumi. It was the same at the academy. Always by his side. When I could only ever watch, you were always having fun with him.”
She understood these weren’t words to direct at Izumi. She understood, but with the alcohol in her system, she was doing a bad job at controlling her feelings.
She didn’t particularly hate Aleist. But the one she came to like was Rudel. Within Millia, there remained still emotions she couldn’t shake off. No matter how hard she tried to forget, it was no good. It would only remind her, inform her of how much she thought of Rudel.
“Even now, I still like Rudel.”
… And yet, I can’t win against Izumi.
Understanding she couldn’t’ win, It was the voice of Millia’s heart.