The unveiling display over, the new knight recruits were officially recognized by the knight brigades they were enlisted in.
Even if they had left the academy, the work environment wasn’t kind enough to fully recognize new hires. That held the same for knights who had piled up experience. The knights who were stationed to elite units had to train themselves up from square one once more.
From brigade to brigade, the necessary skills differed.
As a dragoon, Rudel had to learn how to handle a dragon. There were some things he could never obtain from Mystith’s partial wisdom. No, perhaps it was more accurate to say what she couldn’t teach him was the majority.
A man specialized in techniques no longer necessary in the modern era, that was the dragoon called Rudel.
But Rudel had the fundamental techniques pounded into him by his superior officers, and now he stood in the training ground, before the captain and vice-captain of the brigade
Around, the term’s newbies and a few veterans took part.
Before the new recruits, Oldart mixed in some jokes with his usual smile as he explained.
“I see you’re making some nice faces. With this, you’re a member of our oddball squad. But this charmer in his prime is a separate story, so don’t group us together!”
“… Oldart, no one cares, just get on with it.”
Alejandro’s forehead twitched at his captain’s joke as he offered some words of caution. Rudel and the other recruits had already been informed what they had been called for.
One on one battle with a veteran dragoon.
This was largely to have the recruits feel upfront what their current selves were lacking. What’s more, the veterans who kept close to the king consisted of nothing but competent ones.
Those newbies would suddenly be put against those with top-class abilities.
“This is why people who don’t get jokes are… well then, we’ll go ahead and announce your opponents! But first off, Rudel!”
As Rudel replied, taking one step forward, Oldart continued on with an unpleasant look on his face.
“I really, really can’t stand it, but your opponent is me. I don’t want to fight that giant girly and a battle junky like you, but this is part of my job description, so I’ll reluctantly take it on. Follow me! … Everyone else, confirm your opponents with the vice-captain.”
Ordering Rudel to follow, Oldart walked out of the training grounds.
Chasing after his back, Rudel started to question it, and seeing his expression, Oldart breathed out a sigh.
“Why am I the only one fighting in a separate place? That’s the face you’re making. Listen here, you and your girly are special, so we’ll fight in a place where the collateral damage doesn’t matter.”
“Is that true? Then I can fight seriously without paying mind to my surround–”
“Idiot! Are you trying to kill me!?”
Seeing Oldart seriously reluctant, Rudel made a regretful face. He had been given the chance to fight the active captain of the dragoon knight brigade. Surely Rudel wanted to have a serious match.
“I’m already at that age. If I was just a little younger, I’d be able to give it my all.”
“That’s unfortunate. I wanted to fight a serious captain.”
“… Why do you look so disappointed? It’s that, you know. In my golden days, I really was amazing, you hear. I was ridiculously strong; around the time I first enlisted, my superior told me I’d be the next captain. Even if I can’t go all out, I’m not going to lose to you.”
“Is that true?”
“No doubt about it. You really should be thankful I’m a charmer in his prime. If I was a little younger, in my energetic, popular days, I’d be sending you right to the hospital.”
“I’m already used to be carted off to hospital rooms, so I’ll be fine!”
“… T-that so.”
Rudel took his lie as fact, but if he was chosen as next chief when he enlisted, then Oldart would have to have been appointed captain much, much earlier.
“Hey, I might joke around a bit, but you really are easy to fool. You should learn to doubt others.”
“Look! Like if I was selected as the next captain, then the previous captain must have been in service for a long, LONG time! I’m waiting for you to say something out. It’s an obvious lie!”
“Lie… so you were deceiving me!”
“You’re late to the party! Ah, I don’t like this guy.”
In that case, perhaps his strength is also a lie, Rudel began to doubt. You couldn’t say Oldart was high in stature. And rather than Alejandro, who gave off the air of a seasoned warrior at a glance, his face was well in order, and he was usually joking around.
The captain was required to be apt in negotiations with the higher-ups and to have an affinity for paperwork. For that sake, there were rumors that he might fall short in ability, that the vice-captain was the real power behind the organization, and the captain was to be a dragoon skilled in governmental affairs.
Considering that possibility, Rudel felt he would have preferred to fight the vice-captain.
A few hours later, Rudel was being chased by Oldart over the backwoods distanced from human habitation.
“Hey, what’s wrong.”
Straddling his grey dragon, even in aerial combat, Oldart gave off an air of leisure. The giant Sakuya was unaccustomed to flying. If she was on the run, she’d be easily caught up to.
Turning towards Oldart and his dragon approaching close behind, Rudel stuck out his left hand and produced his shields of light. Their numbers climbed to several dozens, impeding Oldart’s path.
But that didn’t change the speed he gave chase.
He followed, avoiding them as if it were only natural. The shields in his way were destroyed by a small consecutive firing of his dragon’s breath. He closed in using only the minimum necessary movements.
“Those are some convenient shields, but humans aside… they’re less than paper before a dragon. And that’s no good. You’ve taken your mind off your dragon. The way you’re going…”
Cautioned by Oldart, Rudel noticed and shouted orders to Sakuya.
‘Wowowhoah, I-I can’t!’
Rudel had been too mindful of his rear, and through the link that connected their minds, Sakuya had grown negligent of what was in front of her as well. By Rudel’s mind being too taken by the rear, Sakuya had been unable to discern where her own consciousness was directed.
As a result, Sakuya was just about to collide with the slope of a mountain. Noticing just in the nick of time, she got off with just her scales scraped along the mountain crags, but because of that, Sakuya’s speed had fallen as she swayed unsteadily in the air.
Before Rudel and Sakuya full of openings, Oldart went on the offense.
“No good. No good at all.”
Flying as if to draw a circle with Sakuya at the center, Oldart’s dragon finely tuned its altitude as if made sport of Rudel and Sakuya.
“Sakuya, steady and brace yourself. You can brush off a few attacks, right?”
The two had decided to wait for Oldart’s dragon to make a move, but unlike his past fight with Enora, this felt faster. They were surely going slower than a wind dragon, and in truth, the captain’s dragon boasted relatively average abilities as a gray dragon.
But ever since the fight with Oldart began, Rudel had been unable to go on the offense.
(He isn’t fast. This person… the captain is skillful.)
While Rudel prepared all the techniques he had to cope with the onslaught, Oldart showed a smile from atop his dragon.
“No good. The way you’re going, I can’t even give you a fifty.”
Evaluating Rudel’s actions, Oldart issued orders for his dragon to begin its attacks. All the attacks that hit Sakuya were low in output, but they were pinpointed at her vitals.
Unable to properly beat her wings, her stance was easily crumbled.
As Sakuya fell, squirming through the air, Rudel leapt down. There, Oldart descended with his dragon.
While the match had been settled, it seems they were going to continue. But it wasn’t dragon on dragon. This would be a land battle between Rudel and Oldart.
“Back there, you should’ve used the mountain to protect your rear. And the narrowness of your field of vision when you’re being chased… looks like you’re not ready for real battle yet.”
Oldart laughed as he pulled the sword at his waist, so Rudel pulled his blade as well. Both of them had been wearing the robes of the dragoon brigade, but thinking it would be a hindrance, Rudel threw his robe down.
Watched over by Sakuya, dizzy from her fall, Rudel challenged the captain to a match. He swiftly circled around to the captain’s back, but perhaps his movements had been read, as Oldart lightly stepped to the side to dodge him.
Growing irritated, Rudel used his instant movement, but Oldart hummed a tune as he dealt with those blows.
“Your emergency stops are still unpolished. When you get used to it, they’re too easy to deal with. Well, I guess this is what you can expect from a student’s level.”
Catching Rudel’s sword with the one handed sword in his right hand, he instantly stepped in to seal off his movements. From his left hand concealed in his robe, he thrust out a dagger, stopping it just short of Rudel’s throat.
“I-I admit defeat.”
Rudel, who had been a bit in doubt over his opponent’s abilities, shed a cold sweat as he looked at the laughing captain.
“Oy, oy, don’t look at me like that. You’re making me blush.”
“Honestly, I never thought you’d be this strong. As a member of the brigade, I deeply apologize for doubting my captain.”
“Uwah… he ignores my jokes and hits in with pure honesty. That’s the sort of thing you’re not supposed to say even if you think it. A charmer in his prime is weak to stabs at the heart, you should treat him with care.”
The two of them conversed as they sheathed their swords, and even now Oldart looked full of openings. Rudel still seemed perplexed over his own loss, so Oldart took a seat on a rock that went about up to his knees. Stroking his chin, he began answering what Rudel was probably questioning.
“Now then, about your evaluation… to be totally honest, spec-wise, it would be easier to count your ranking in the dragoon brigade starting from the top. You’ve surpassed me as well.”
As Rudel corrected his posture where he stood, Oldart told him to take a seat as well before continuing on. In order to find out what he was lacking, Rudel was directing him with serious eyes.
“However! … Your performance is lower-middle class, at best. Do you know the reason?”
On Rudel’s words without any fabrication, Oldart nodded.
“Alright! I want to caution you on not giving it any thought, but I’m sure you’d have done better if you already knew. Why don’t you try thinking over it yourself fo… no, wait, you really should stop using your head after all.”
Covering his face with his right hand, Oldart breathed a sigh as he informed Rudel of what he was lacking.
“It’s simply that your combat techniques are shoddy. And your field of vision is too narrow. Those two points. You were so focused on yourself you hadn’t the mind to spare for your little girly. While you’d usually be fine, when backed into a corner, the cracks start to spread. You instantly try to do something about it yourself and fail as a result.”
Oldart used the shields of light he put up to impede his path as an example. Those were pretty much useless before a dragon. If he wanted to, he could have rammed straight through them and proceeded on.
And it wasn’t as if everything ranked lower than taking on dragoons. If he took on troublesome monsters, then there were enemies who were fearsome in their pure bulk.
“You’ve no leisure in battle. Sure enough, the girly has plenty of things she’s no good at, but if a mid-tier dragoon was controlling her, I’d have no choice but to change my approach. That’s just how powerful that girl’s weapons are. You should trust in your partner a bit more.”
‘… Rudel, Sakuya is working hard too.’
Seeing Sakuya worry for him, Rudel recalled he had definitely tried to do it all on his own.
Oldart informed, not using the terrain, and having Sakuya, who wasn’t good at flying, be on the run was a mistake. Rudel nodded as he listened to those words.
“For your field of vision, just try to have a bit more leisure. There’s no point in panicking. There’s a possibility you might mistake your decisions. Look around a bit more, and think of the power difference between you and your foe.”
Unlike his usual attitude, Oldart was saying some earnest things, and to Rudel, he looked like a true charmer in his prime.
Patting off his robe as he stood, while it was still early, Oldart proposed for them to return.
“Now then, let’s end the lecture there and go back. It’s been a while since I last trained, and my hip is…”
“Please fight me again!”
When Rudel pleaded for another fight, Oldart’s face stiffened.
“I understand that I have things I am lacking. But rather than understanding it in my head, I think it would be better for my body to remember it. If I fight you again, I’m sure I can climb to greater…”
“Ah~, no, I really am tired, or rather… eh? You’re serious?”
‘Sakuya will do her best too!’
Having recovered, Sakuya stood and roared to answer Rudel’s expectations. Oldart and his partner gray dragon were making truly reluctant faces.
It had already grown dark when an exhausted Oldart returned to the training ground, leading along a tattered Sakuya and Rudel.
Having been informed by the veterans on their areas to work on, the new dragoon recruits were conversing over the stations they would be appointed to the following day.
They were comrades who had trained together, and while their ages differed, they spoke with the smiles of colleagues.
“Saas, you were stationed in the trade city?”
On Luxheidt’s question, Saas nodded cynically.
“I’ve no complaints I was stationed at such an important point. Besides the fact my job’s mainly hauling cargo.”
Dragons were able to fly through the sky, and due to their high maintenance cost, they would have to take on jobs like these. The more were sent to the outskirts, the more terrible their financial circumstances became.
It was laughed that the reason dragoons were stationed in trade cities with plenty of people and adventurers was to scrape together spare change. But it was also true there was no safer transport of goods than by dragon.
“It’s us dragoons’ greatest worry, after all. By the way, Enora is… from how depressed she looks, I doubt it’s the outskirts.”
Everyone looked at Enora, who had grown dark, before shifting their gaze towards Rudel, who rejoiced over being sent to the far off reaches of the kingdom. While it was all and well for him, Luxheidt knew Enora had proposed she would follow Rudel.
(So her old man declined.)
“I’m going to be stationed right in the capital… hah.”
By the problems Enora had caused, at this point, it seemed her relationship with her father had improved a bit. But even so, Enora’s trip to the outskirts wasn’t granted.
With a wild dragon obeying her, Enora was a valuable addition to the dragoon brigade. Thinking of her future, they wanted to nurture her in the capital with care.
And yet, Rudel was making a perplexed face.
“Enora, you don’t like your station? Well, there will be a transfer in a few years, so just place your hopes on the next one.”
It was natural if they hadn’t gotten the positions they wanted, but with the man in question not noticing the underlying problem, the air grew awkward. Those around looked at Luxheidt, so he shrugged and sent out a lifeboat.
“But Enora, you have it hard, making a contract with a wind dragon. You’ll be flying all over the place, carrying messages and doing urgent missions… you might have to send some messages to the outskirts as well.”
But Enora didn’t perk up. Her main problem was the new position that had been created. From the high knight brigade on the verge of dismantlement, an officer had been sent to keep watch over Rudel. She would follow Rudel to the outskirts. What’s more, she was a classmate, a girl who got along well with him at the academy.
It would be stranger if no problems occurred.
“Right, I might go from time to time. But if the two who are always together become lovers… I don’t think I’ll be able to recover.”
(This girl is a pain. Well, she’s easier to talk to than before, but the gap with her appearance is amazing.)
While she gave off an air as if she might play around, Enora’s wholeheartedness left her surroundings perplexed.
“So Rudel, where exactly on the outskirts are you headed?”
Giving up on cheering Enora up, Luxheidt smacked the question into the person he was most curious about. The only one he was interested was Rudel, who had determined to be interesting.
“It’s a recently set up post. They started constructing a port there a few years ago… The town’s called Beretta.”
“Beretta, eh… as I recall, the place is dangerous, so they have other dragoons dispatched as well. It’s a port town, so two water dragons, and one gray dragon.”
Rudel looked through the documents on his new workstation and offered a correction to Luxheidt’s explanation.
“No, since I’m being stationed, one of them’s being taken off. It’s just two water dragons now.”
The area’s development wasn’t getting anywhere, so to put it all in order, the kingdom had invested its valuable water dragons into it.
Luxheidt thought the empire’s current state of affairs was dangerous. The information coming in was scarce, but still, he felt a sense of danger.
(Is being stationed in a place like that a condition to be a hero?)
While he felt sorry for him, he also found Rudel’s deployment to be interesting.
“They say it’s a pretty place, so if I ever get a day off, I might go and see.”
As Saas called over, Rudel rejoiced and said he would show him around at that time. Luxheid tactfully turned that talk towards Enora, giving her a chance to go to the outskirts to see Rudel.
Seeing Enora’s delight, Luxheidt thought.
(She really is easy to please.)