‘Sakuya can do it!’
Rudel and Sakuya were having a rare quarrel. From the side, it only looked like he was trying to anger his dragon, but to Izumi who could hear her voice, it was a pleasant scene.
This all started when Bennet watched Rudel’s treatment of Sakuya, and…
“Send Sakuya on an errand… Alone.”
“That’s not happening.”
When Rudel denied it with a smile, Izumi recalled how pitifully Bennet’s tail slumped.
“Listen, Sakuya. The outside world is full of dangers.”
(No, you’re talking to the strongest dragon on land, right?)
‘Uuurrh, but I can do an errand!’
(Yeah… rather than an errand, it’s carrying cargo.)
Gazing over their quarrel Izumi leisurely sipped some tea as she listened to the somewhat mismatched conversation. They were on break at the moment, and Bennet also sat beside her, listening to the quarrel.
At times, she would ask Izumi to translate what was being said.
“Hah, what does he think his partner is supposed to be?”
While Izumi agreed with Bennet’s sigh-mingled amazement, the fact she knew the circumstances too well meant that she couldn’t say anything too strongly against Rudel.
To Bennet, no matter how she saw it, he was going too far.
“That’s not how you raise a dragon. He’s being too overprotective when she had to develop some self-confidence.”
“Is that so? Sakuya is technically the boss of the dragon stables, it seems.”
When she heard Sakuya had become the boss of the dragon stables, Bennet’s bearing wasn’t exactly the best. As she contracted a rare water dragon, she was always sent around, and she hadn’t been to the stables in a long while.
She probably thought to do something about that distorted environment.
Sending her out on an errand was a form of education.
“If she has that much power only a few years from her birth, I’m a bit worried for her future. For now, she has Rudel, so it won’t be a problem, but in a hundred years, it will be scary when there’s no one left to hold her reigns. Worse comes to worst, this country is done for.”
That’s going too far, thought Izumi, but as she looked over the problematic duo of Rudel and Sakuya, she grew anxious.
“If we have an older dragon look after her…”
“A dragon’s sense of values is different from a human’s. That’s why dragoons exist. If they would abide a human’s values, we would need not be any more than normal knights.”
Bennet gazed at Izumi. Perhaps she hit on something as her tail swung to the side.
“I-is something the matter?”
“Very well. Special Inspector Izumi, is it not about time you went to the palace to report?”
“Eh? Oh, yes, it’s about time I headed to the palace to report our present situation. I was thinking of leaving it to Millia…”
“No, special inspector, I do think you should go. I’ll even arrange for your transport. With this, you’ll be able to cut down on time.”
Bennet was looking at Sakuya, so Izumi did have a vague idea. She planned to have her send Sakuya off.
But Izumi had a reason she couldn’t leave this site.
… She had to protect Rudel from Keith.
“I understand your reasoning, but I cannot quite leave my po–”
“I’m sending Elrond out shopping as well.”
“… I’ll go.”
Learning that Keith was going away, Izumi resolved herself to make for the capital with Sakuya. Bennet entrusted her with a letter to Captain Oldart.
Seen off by a depressed Rudel, Izumi had Sakuya land in the designated site near the capital.
“I’ll finish my report quickly, so you have to wait quietly.”
‘Can I dig a hole?’
“You cannot. Once we get back, we’ll ask Major Bennet for the next spot to dig.”
‘… Come back soon.’
The area had become rowdy, so Izumi took her documents and headed for the palace. She was to give a regular report to the captain of the high knights, but she had come with bad timing, and both the captain and her superior officer were out.
As she stood troubled in the hallway, she noticed she couldn’t spot Aleist and his platoon, who were usually somewhere around, cleaning.
(Last time I was here, this was about the time they cleaned the hallways… were they given another mission?)
The way things were, she wouldn’t be able to return within the day. As she stood troubled, she spotted the dragoon captain and vice-captain coming from the opposite side of the hall, so she raised a hand and approached.
The captain Oldart smiled, raising his right hand in greeting, but Vice-Captain Alejandro made a troubled face.
“Hey there, little lady. You look like you’re doing well.”
“Yes. It has been a while, dragoon captain.”
“How stiff. Well whatever, Sakuya-chan’s here, right? I don’t see the future archduke around, but is he off somewhere?”
Wondering if they had been out looking for Rudel, Izumi answered normally.
“No this time, it’s just me and Sakuya. Rudel is keeping house.”
On Izumi’s joke-mingled response, the vice-captain covered his face with his right hand. Seeing Izumi’s face as she wondered what she had done wrong, Oldart informed her of the reason.
“You haven’t noticed? It’s not a good idea to show a dragon following someone besides their contractor. Who’s decision was it?”
“… M-my apologies.”
“From that look, it doesn’t look like it was you. In that case… it’s not Rudel, so probably Bennet-chan?”
Oldart called Bennet with an added –chan. There, Alejandro gave a reluctant mutter.
“That’s why I said I didn’t want to leave him with Bennet.”
“It’s not going to help anyone, saying something like that so late in the game. And when we discussed how we didn’t have anyone besides Bennet-chan we could leave him with, you couldn’t say a thing. You just nodded.”
The sight of the dragoon top dogs arguing was a troubling one. Izumi began to worry over whether the actions she had thought so little over would develop into a massive problem. But Oldart smiled and reassured her.
“Ah, you don’t have to worry. It’s just in bad taste, but these sorts of things happen quite a bit. You see, every time this happens, the folks who want to try taming a dragon start to make a ruckus.”
Unlike Oldart, Alejandro was making a tired face.
“And we’re the ones who have to deal with it.”
They sure are troublesome, said Oldart as he directed an eye to the documents in Izumi’s hands. Once he realized it was a report, he offered to hold onto them for her. While she wondered if she should really show them to someone who wasn’t her superior, once she heard her boss was on a long-term business trip, she decided to entrust them.
They were documents Oldart was supposed to look through anyway, and he said he would explain the situations surrounding them.
Relieved, Izumi asked about the two dragoons stationed in the port town of Beretta.
“Bennet-chan and Keith?”
“Yes. I don’t know much, or rather, I don’t know a thing about them.”
Exchanging a glance, Oldart and Alejandro exchanged a look as if wondering how they were supposed to explain it. Izumi did seem curious, so Oldart led her to the dragoons’ office in the palace.
Leading Izumi and Alejandro to that room in the palace, Oldart had a subordinate prepare tea and sat Izumi down on the sofa.
“Telling you about them would be easy, but before that, I guess I’ll ask. Young lady, how do those two look to you?”
While Oldart seemed to be testing Izumi before her eyes, Alejandro didn’t show any particular reaction. He reached a hand for the sweets the servants of the palace had prepared.
“Major Bennet is, um… a reliable one. But Lieutenant Elrond is…”
That was close to the answer he expected, and Oldart gave a grand laugh. There was definitely no mistake in their rankings. Their quirks were just too strong, that most people would always mistake them. It was always like that.
“A cute commanding officer, and a dangerous manlover, is the impression you got, right? That’s not a mistake, you don’t have to worry.”
Perhaps thinking she was being teased, he sensed Izumi put up her guard, so Oldart cut into the main topic.
“Well, this is a perfect opportunity. I wanted someone who knew the situation.”
“Is that really alright?”
When Alejandro entered the conversation, Oldart only nodded.
If Rudel and Sakuya opened their hearts to her, Oldart determined it wouldn’t be a problem. What’s more, he had looked into Rudel and Izumi.
When he sighted Sakuya today, Oldart had decided he would talk.
“This is something they themselves haven’t been informed of, but you know how the area around the border’s been noisy lately?”
Seeing Izumi surprised at the sudden change of topic, Oldart continued on.
“Well, it seems someone’s wary, so we decided to station the strongest forces we had on hand. But there are quite a few folks who would grow noisy if we stationed so many around the border, so we decided to place our strongest dragoons in land and air at the port town of Beretta, where it’s close enough to send reinforcements.”
“And that’s those two?”
“They don’t look it, right? But they really are our trump card.”
While Oldart gave a laugh, Alejandro made a somber face. While he didn’t want to admit it, their capabilities were certain.
Extending a hand to the documents, he started to explain. Things were going largely as he had expected. If he wanted to train Rudel, then rather than sticking him under some half-baked instructor, he had decided to put him under the strongest dragoons in active service.
The fact he was blessed with an opportunity, he saw it as a true stroke of good luck. Those two that led around rare water dragons were exceedingly busy. Their mission sites were often close to the border, and they rarely ever returned to the capital.
This was coupled with his personal desire to not have Keith come back.
Having stepped down from active duty, the former captain and vice-captain didn’t have the stamina left in them to train someone as out of the norm as Rudel. And those two were already training the members that had caught their eyes. They thought he would have no choice but to train on his own.
But there, among the active dragoons, the strongest on land Bennet, and the strongest air fighter Keith got together. When they were sending Rudel off to the outer reaches, Oldart even sensed a hint of fate.
“Bennet-chan is good at looking after people, so if anything happens, you should ask her. You should really avoid asking Keith anything.”
While Oldart laughed, Alejandro averted his face. Knowing what had happened, for the sake of the vice-captain’s honor, and the stability of his heart, Oldart decided not to touch on old wounds.
“Are they really that strong? Neither of them said anything of the sort.”
“They’re strong, or rather, they’re in another dimension. An idiot who’d try to pick a fight with Bennet-chan… doesn’t exist. Her appearance is that, but anyways, she’d doted on. If anyone tries to pick something with her, the defenders will come flying over. Ah, by that, I don’t mean the official one, Bennet-chan has her own personal defenders among the dragoons. They really will come flying, so watch yourself.”
“That’s nothing to laugh about. Good grief… I don’t know what your intention is, letting such a dangerous group be for so long.”
“No, Bennet-chan’s a former subordinate, and she’s a good girl. She’s not losing out on anything with her appearance, but the way she worries about it is cute. I’d really like a certain boomerang girl to learn from her.”
By the way, the captain of the defenders was Oldart. He was the ringleader who set up an assembly to protect Bennet from the shadows.
“I never noticed they were that strong.”
“Well, when it comes to demi-humans, you can’t really help it. Normally, it wouldn’t be strange if she stood out even more than Cattleya, but for better or worse… that girl has no talent in driving dragons.”
The reason Bennet specialized herself in land battles, it was because she was lacking in talent when it came to flying dragons. In contrast, Keith excelled in his dragon control.
Even so, she had made a contract with a water dragon. In a situation where she could no longer say she had no talent, Bennet had chosen her own form.
“I put her in the Major spot left open for Cattleya, but if it’s troubling her, maybe I should think over it.”
Finishing his tea, Alejandro offered Oldart a warning.
“Whatever the case, it’s already been decided. She leads a valuable dragon. It would be troublesome if she doesn’t do her best as a Major.”
Looking over the report, Oldart sensed she was worried and ended up groaning. While things were fine as they were, he needed to prepare some subordinates for Bennet, and fast.
Perhaps after she had trained Rudel, he would place some new recruits under her.
“Um, did Rudel know they were both so…”
“That guy? He knew. Well, it seems he didn’t know their exact strength, but on the contrary, I’m the surprised one.”
Inside, he wondered how he found out, but thinking that he would be able to look into it with his status, he swallowed down the word, ‘creepy’.
Perhaps as revenge for being smacked, or because he couldn’t forgive the fact his daughter had fallen for him, or perhaps both at once, Alejandro spat some cynicism.
“Hmm. It’s best for him to learn of reality. In this world, there’s always someone higher.”
“Well, the two of us have already reached the summit, mind you.”
As Oldart laughed over his joke, Izumi seemed lost in thought.
On the way back to the port town of Beretta, Izumi looked up at the sky as she called out to Sakuya.
“Hey, Sakuya. Do you think I have the qualifications to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Rudel?”
‘I don’t really get it, but Izumi belongs with Rudel. And with Sakuya too!’
You’re right, she muttered.
Izumi looked at the orange-dying sky as she thought over her current self.
(When everyone around is going ahead, is it really alright if I stay like this? Shouldn’t I search out my own form…)
Once she had thought that far, she suddenly recalled Rudel’s back. That back she had chased after from her student days, she was assailed by a sense of unease that it might fly far away once more.
Even when she knew it would never reach, Izumi looked at her right hand with a sorrowful look on her face.
(At the very least, I want enough strength to stand next to him.)
The place she should never wish for. It was by Rudel’s side. But at the very least, in work, in her mission, she wanted to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him.
For that sake, she needed strength.
Once she returned, Izumi decided to consult with Bennet.