By the time it was all over, two villages were wiped off the map, and a town was half-destroyed.
Thinking of the situation when they came, the dragoons who had prevented the situation from worsening were worthy of praise, but that wasn’t a tale of the outskirts, it was one of the central capital.
From the townsfolks’ point of view, a large number of monsters had suddenly flooded into the area where they were peacefully living their lives. The numbers easily exceeded a thousand. The soldiers protecting the town had perished, and the villages the monsters passed through were annihilated.
When the night opened up and noon was almost upon them, the monster cleanup had finally been completed. To be more precise, the final checks began around dawn, and they were finally completed at noon.
The monsters had been taken care of before the sun rose.
“It really is amazing.”
Izumi tossed a monster corpse into the hole piled up with other bodies like it, pulling back as she watched Heleene fill the pit with a fiery breath.
“We have to clean up quickly, after all. When it comes to these things, having a dragon makes it go much faster.”
Even if they didn’t have enough people, as long as they had a dragon they were a match for a thousand, Izumi had witnessed a dragoon’s ability. Not flustering before over a thousand monsters, they finished their work in a day. The monsters who had fled upon the arrival of a dragoon were all wiped away by Keith. It wasn’t as easy as it sounded.
“Keith… Lieutenant Keith is quite something too.”
“While you might hate him, that guy does his job. I’d like him to be that earnest on a regular basis, but as long as you properly do your work, our organization’s much laxer than the high knights.”
As Izumi stood in conflicted sentiment, two of the robed, masked knights appeared. The horses they led along looked to be a size larger than the others. Izumi stood on guard, but Bennet held up a hand and began talks.
“Is there anything else?”
“No, as expected of the dragoons, is all we wanted to say. We’ve got much to think over in this incident as well.”
“I see, then you can return to your job. The knight brigades should arrive within a few days.”
Keith had already made off to report; the knights would soon rush in. But it was hard to say how much supplies they would bring with them.
As it was a territory near the border, and there was some money invested into its military. If it was a territory out of danger’s way, then local armies and militia would serve well enough, but the feudal lord who reigned over the town possessed his own knight brigade.
“The least we could do is offer our thanks. Well then…”
After lowering their heads, the two knights mounted their horses. As they did, the horses’ heads changed to those of eagles, and their front legs to a bird’s as well. Only their back halves remained in a horse state.
When they took to the air, Heleene glared at them.
“You can’t eat them, Heleene.”
The dragon sent a single roar into the sky, and the hippogryphs hurriedly soared out of sight.
“Who are they?”
“Yeah, well… they’re folks without a name.”
Izumi mulled over whether she should ask any further, but Bennet made a troubled face, so she decided to leave it at that. While they were talking, Rudel approached. But their expressions were a little confused.
When Bennet came to the plaza, she found Eunius there, quite fed up. Sitting on a wooden crate, a sleepy look on his face.
All the knights had worked through the night. The fatigue from unfamiliar work was also coming out.
“To hell with what’s wrong! Why didn’t you come sooner!? The town’s a mess is it not!? I’ll let you know I’ve got a wide face around the capital.”
The merchant-esque man was perhaps speaking as a representative of town. With his connections in the center, his attitude remained large before a knight.
Bennet knew this was going to be a pain, but she didn’t show it on her face. Her tail simply dropped powerlessly in exhaustion.
In the corner of her eye, she could see Aleist wrapped in a reed mat with his mouth gagged in cloth. While he was desperately trying to cry something out, she couldn’t understand what he wanted to say. But having received an explanation from Rudel along the way, she had a general grasp of the situation.
“You might think you’ll receive some sort of medal for saving us, but I’ll definitely never let it happen!”
“Is that so. In that case, do what you want. The knight brigade should be coming in the near future, so we’ll stick around to guard you until then.”
Bennet didn’t seem to pay it any mind, and after dealing with the representative man, she called everyone to follow. Aleist alone was taken off over Eunius’ shoulder.
All the gazes that fell upon the party came from unfavorable eyes. It was only natural. When they had suffered such casualty and loss, these folks would sit back in the center, showered in medals and rewards. When they imagined it, they couldn’t help but feel irritated.
“Major, in this case, I was nothing but a hindrance. So I don’t deser–”
Feeling the eyes of the townsfolk, Rudel suggested he would turn down the rewards. But Bennet shook her head. After they had separated from the residents, she explained to him.
“They’re not giving a medal for your sake alone. This is a medal granted for the frontier. You guys better remember that too.”
Making a tired face, Millia seemed perplexed. Perhaps that explanation didn’t satisfy her as she opened her mouth.
“What’s that supposed to mean? If they’re giving out medals and rewards, shouldn’t they use those funds for restoration?”
“That’s the right way to look at it. It’s so righteous it’s bringing tears to my eyes. If that was possible, we wouldn’t have any troubles.”
Bennet explained how in the territory on the border, there was the feudal lord’s own knight brigade alongside some dispatched forces. They were one of the dispatchments. And when it came to the territory, that was the feudal lord’s responsibility. To be more precise, Bennet’s dispatchment hadn’t received a request, so they were under no obligation to save them.
However, she didn’t have the option of not saving them. It was precisely because they possessed the large powers called dragons that such a thing would never be permitted of a dragoon. If she overlooked it, then blame might even be attached.
Dragoons were the heroes of Courtois. But Bennet didn’t think of herself as a hero. For the sake of the country, she played the part of the ideal dragoon.
Her expression distorting, Millia shifted her gaze from Bennet, so Eunius explained in her place. Placed in a position where he had to use people, Eunius knew.
“… This might sound cruel, but if they don’t give out medals or praise anyone, no one’s going to move. Meaning it’s about profit. The country is the one profiting from it. Territory management is the feudal lord’s responsibility. Originally, the law states that the knight brigade and soldiers were supposed to deal with it. But the borderland also has knights stationed by the country for national defense. Well, I’m sure the situation’s special this time, since those guys were here as well.”
Bennet took over Eunius’ explanation. Those guys referred to the knights in the masks. Those who specialized in covert operations. Not wanting to talk too much about them, Bennet retook the conversation a little forcefully.
“If they commend us, then of the surrounding territories, some will start to send aid. Willingly at that. On top of selling a favor to this territory, this tale will become the talk of the area. The folks who want to put on airs will gather.”
Once Bennet arrived at the tent they set up for camp, everyone took a seat. Izumi was already at her limit, her complexion was taking a bad turn. The way Rudel worried for her looked considerably cute. But Bennet spoke on for her subordinate and his comrades.
“Just because you saved them, there’s no guarantee everyone will be thankful. It’s more often that demi-humans will find themselves discriminated against.”
As she took a fleeting glance at Millia, Millia averted her face. Along the way, she heard that the representative man insulted Millia, angering Aleist.
“But if we didn’t come, they would’ve been annihilated, right? They got in the way when we were fighting, and even if we save them, they spout off complaints.”
Finally freed, Aleist gave an irritated rebuttal to Bennet. He didn’t understand why they’d be insulted when they saved them. Bennet recalled her experiences from when she was a new recruit, for some reason thinking back on them warmly.
“That’s how it works. Or could it be you seriously thought you would be praised and lifted up as a hero? Lining nothing but pretty words won’t help them live their lives. Show a bit of understanding.”
The anger they had nowhere to place, they slammed it against who was available. This was the result of going through such troubles and risking their lives to protect them.
“Then what’s the point of sa…”
While Millia brought her mouth that far, she couldn’t say the rest. She couldn’t see the value in going as far as to be insulted to save them. And she had no such obligation.
With a haggard face, Izumi asked Bennet.
“Major Bennet, what do you think of it?”
Bennet gave an immediate response. Within her, that was an unwavering fact.
“My? In my case, it’s simple. I do it because it’s my job.”
Based on how they were taken, those were cold words.
As they waited for the lord’s knights to arrive, Millia assisted Rudel and the others in restoration work. They moved the collapsed buildings and rubble blocking the paths.
Those works could generally be left to the dragons, so Millia helped the men out on patrol.
“What about Izumi?”
“She was sent around to the food lines. It would be harsh for the Major alone.”
She spoke with Rudel. Normally, Millia would’ve been put on the food lines as well, but cooking was her weak point. What’s more, she was well aware she would lower the efficiency of the work. Because of that, Millia was patrolling with Rudel.
Aleist and Eunius were currently on break and asleep. It was a town that had just suffered tragedy, but if they let their guards down for a moment, the bandits would gather.
There were also those who might try something strange. In order to put checks on those sorts, it was their duty as knights to keep watch, or so Bennet taught them.
“Even so, little by little, people are starting to help out.”
Each time they looked over town, the number of residents who had begun clearing away Ruble increased ever so slightly.
While there were people whose occupations weren’t an absolute necessity, once they finished clearing up, they opened up shop. A bakery they passed by was distributing bread to people free of charge.
“Oh, if it isn’t the knights. Take this with you.”
The well-bodied proprietress of the bakery handed a brown sack of bread to Millia and Rudel. There were loaves of freshly baked bread lining the front of the store, and while the inside still seemed to be a mess, there was a white smoke rising from the chimney.
While Millia made a troubled face, Rudel paid it no mind and accepted the offer.
“Hahaha, just a bit of thanks for saving us. Why not come over some day to make a purchase?”
“I definitely will.”
Holding up the bag of freshly baked bread, Rudel gave a response to make one think he really would come again. Millia had been around him for a considerable amount of time, and she saw that part of him hadn’t changed.
As they walked, Rudel started into the continuation of the previous conversation.
“This is what the Major said, but an empty stomach thins the heart. That’s why meals are so important. Once they have some leisure, their bodies will move.”
“Yet you move even without the leisure. Aren’t you pushing yourself too hard?”
Millia worried for Rudel, who had continued moving for the past few days without rest. But the man in question was too sturdy for that, and gave a smile.
“I can go on!”
As she breathed out a sigh, the two of them took a seat on the wreckage of a collapsed building. The sun had come to a high point in the sky. It was quite probably noon. As they sat side by side, eating the bread they’re received, the town women who passed by clicked their tongues.
Looking down, Millia recalled the insults she received a few days ago. The representative man told her, a demi human shouldn’t stick in their mouth, they need only work until they die. The fact there were still people like that around saddened her.
It felt as if she’d been shown a clear delineation.
“Don’t mind it. The Major said nothing starts with mulling.”
“I know that. But there are some things that get to the heart.”
Stuffing his face with breath, Rudel consoled Millia. Gazing at the spot where she and Rudel sat, she felt there was a clear delineation there as well. As he gulped water from the flask hung at his waist, Rudel had already finished his meal.
When Millia tried to eat the bread in her hands, a single young boy entered her eyes. From the shadow of a tree in their line of sight, he seemed to be peering at them. Perhaps Rudel was waiting for Millia to finish eating, as he was looking at the sky without noticing the boy. No, while he did notice, it’s possible he was just ignoring him.
No matter how you looked at him, the boy was still young. Wary that even a kid like that would say something against her, her eye met with the boy, who would occasionally pop out his head There, the boy frantically hid himself.
Finishing up her bread, Millia tried to leave at once. She had no obligation to hear out his complaints, but as she stood, the boy hurriedly leapt out of the tree’s shadow.
“No, it looks like he’s got some business with you, Millia.”
Rudel noticed the boy look at her with straightforward eyes, grasping Millia’s hand as she tried to depart. There, the boy glared at Rudel.
While Millia made a displeased face, Rudel seemed somewhat amused. He didn’t seem to be an ill-natured boy, so he surely had some sort of reason. Thinking that, Millia turned her whole body towards him.
The boy looking down held both his hands behind his back. The way she was looking down over him couldn’t be helped from his height.
There, the boy brought the hands he kept behind to the front. Millia readied herself for a knife, but what she found instead was a bouquet of flowers, wrapped in the brown paper the bread was distributed in.
They were flowers that grew around the area, by no means difficult to reach, but the boy who seriously collected them’s face turned red. Once he’d gone so far, Millia understood as well. Leaning down to match the boy’s eye level, she accepted the bouquet.
“… Are you sure you want to give them to me?”
The young boy couldn’t look her in the face, looking to one side.
“You saved me, so… I have to say thank you.”
As he watched over the two of them, Rudel was all smiles. With a conflicted psyche, Millia stared at Rudel. There, the boy took off running, his face a bright red.
Along the way, he turned around and yelled at Millia.
“I-I love you!”
Never expecting it to go as far as a confession, Millia was surprised. While Rudel watched her expression change with a grin, the boy had something to shout at Rudel as well.
“And I hate yoouuuu!”
Watching the boy run off screaming he hated him, Rudel was surprised as well. Millia looked at Rudel like that and burst into laughter.
Sha laughed and laughed, and perhaps she had laughed too hard, as her tears came out, and she wiped them with her fingertip. While Rudel was also laughing at the end, Millia grew curious, so she ended up asking.
“Could it be you knew he was going to confess?”
“Yes, when he making such serious eyes, I’d notice whether I wanted to or not. And wait, you never noticed? Millia, you can be a bit dense.”
“I don’t want to hear that from you!”
Being called dense from the densest of them all, Millia cried out in a voice that resounded through town.
When they returned to the tent where they camped out, they found Aleist and Eunius cleaning up after the food lines. They were washing the cooking utensils nearby the tent. They looked quite sleepy.
They had probably started helping out as soon as they woke.
“You two are late. Did something happen?”
When Eunius said that to Rudel with a broad grin, Aleist was flustered. He looked at Rudel and Milia with worried eyes, but Rudel…
“Yeah, Millia was confessed to. The one who confessed mistook me as her boyfriend because I was nearby.”
As Rudel said that with a laugh, Aleist held his head. Rudel couldn’t understand what he did wrong, so he looked at Eunius. There, Eunius shook his head.
“You don’t have to worry about it. Rather, it’s best you don’t do anything.”
He knew Aleist loved Millia from their student days. While he wanted to do something to help out, it was his weak field, so he decided not to stick in a hand.
Millia was also making a conflicted face, but it would be bad to confuse Rudel with any unneeded help, or so she remonstrated herself. Having heard the voices, Bennet appeared from inside the tent.
“You’re late, you two. The soup’s gone cold, so I’ll put it on the fire again.”
“No, we’re fine with it like that.”
Rudel refused, not wanting to cause Bennet any trouble. But Bennet rejected that refusal.
“I’m doing it to make sure you properly do your work. So return the favor by working it off.”
“… Thank you. Major, if I may?”
“What is it?”
As she walked off to warm the soup, Bennet turned around to look at Rudel.
“To you, what is your job?”
Having thought about his work ever since then, Rudel wanted to ask about her sense of values when it came to working. Otherwise, he would see Bennet as the sort of person who only helped people because it was her job.
He couldn’t find an answer himself, so he asked her directly.
“It’s nothing to think so hard about. But, if I had to say… it’s how I live my life.”
Rudel thought a bit before giving a satisfied not. It was an answer he was satisfied with. He knew that Bennet didn’t say it was work with cold-hearted thoughts.
“Hmm, to rejoice over hearing such a thing, you really are an idiot.”
When Bennet turned to walk off, her tail was delightfully waving from side to side. Leaving Aleist- still holding his head- to the side, Eunius walked over to Rudel and watched Bennet’s back as he struck up a conversation.
“Even when we were just a hindrance, perhaps Ms. Major brought us along for our … no, for you and Aleist’s sake.”
While Eunius called Bennet Ms. Major, it didn’t seem to be out of sarcasm. He had recognized her in his own way.
“… You might be right.”
Rudel looked at Bennet’s back as he agreed. Unlike them, Bennet had graduated the academy on the two-year curriculum. From a situation where she didn’t even have a knight’s qualifications, she had gotten a dragon to recognize her and climbed up the ranks.
If Rudel and the others were elites, then Bennet really was a self-made soldier.
“When she’s got her troubles, she’s good at looking after people.”
Rudel and Eunius understood why Bennet went out of her way to bring them. She wanted to show them where it all happened. Not only out of good will, with their unstable positions, there was no telling when Rudel and Aleist would rise up the ranks.
It would be troubling if they rose without knowing anything, or perhaps she had calculated so. But that wasn’t all, the two thought.
“I’m proud to have her as my superior officer.”
On Rudel’s boast, Eunius laughed and joked.
“I want one at my place too. Hand her over.”
While the two of them were exchanging jokes, Aleist held his head in serious thoughts. Millia looked perplexedly over the three men.
A few days later, switching out with the first dispatchments of knights, Rudel returned to the port town of Beretta.
Around that time, Aleist ended up in a petty quarrel with the boy in love with Millia.