“And. I’m. Saying. Why didn’t he invite me!?”
His ash blonde hair swept back, the tan skinned Eunius Diade had some ale in his system, making him more quarrelsome than usual.
“Don’t drag me into this! In the first place, that was a dragoon mission, and you had nothing to do with it!”
“Fighting an ancient weapon, and even Gaia’s mechanized unit! I wanted to join in on the fun.”
“Like I care!”
His silky blond hair grown out, Luecke Halbades sat across the table from his friend from his academy days.
Two other friends had suddenly returned from a mission, so they got together to drink.
That much was fine.
But Luecke and Eunius were the only ones around that round table downing their glasses.
Turning an eye to the nearby seats, there Rudel and Aleist were both at different tables, accompanied by their female encampments.
When looked upon from the side, both of them were surrounded by lovely ladies, but those around made sure to take their distance. There were even customers who left the shop.
That was simply how tense the restaurant’s air was.
“Eunius, if you want to know why you weren’t taken along, you can just ask those two.”
As Luecke sipped his drink and said that, Eunius reached his hand for a snack as he vetoed the notion.
“Like hell I can do that!”
Having just returned from the Kingdom of Celestia, Rudel Arses was a young man of silver hair and blue eyes.
He was currently surrounded by seasoned warriors of the Dragoon Brigade as he drank. It was quite accurate to say Rudel saw the woman affiliated with the dragoons as his idols.
Luecke looked at Rudel’s enjoyable-looking table.
“The ones with him are Major Bennet, Cattleya Ninias, Lilim, Enora Campbell… a brilliant gathering of elite dragoons, that is.”
While he said that with a hint of cynicism, ability-wise, those girls truly were elites.
Among the elite dragoons, it was as if they were chosen to be elites among elites.
Before the valorous dragoons putting checks and restraints on one another as they closed in on Rudel, the man in question was happily enjoying his meal.
Perhaps Izumi was in tune with those restraints as she spoke less than usual. Everyone at Rudel’s table was smiling, but some part of it birthed a tingling tension.
It seems Rudel spoke of what happened in Celestia, at least to the extent he was free to speak on.
Bennet alone seemed innocently delighted at her subordinate’s achievements.
(Compared to that, Aleist’s table is…)
Luecke looked at the other pitiful table.
Aleist made a pale face, as he desperately explained how nothing happened with Nate- one of his harem members- while they were alone in Celestia.
Numerically, they were a greater gathering of beauties than Rudel’s table, the number was more than double.
There were plenty of drunks at the bar, but no one even thought to pick a fight with the beauty-surrounded Aleist. More than that, they directed eyes of pity.
A harem member from its early days, Seli took charge.
“And so, Alest-sama, you say nothing happened between you and Nate?”
His face increasingly pale, neither food nor drink passing through his throat, Aleist Hardie levelly answered the question.
Curling blond hair, mismatched eyes of blue and green… his features were of the beautiful sort, but some part of him gave off a most unfortunate air.
“Nothing happened. Nothing at all. I was able to get some sound sleep, so I preferred it over there. I want to return to Celestia.”
At the end, he leaked his true feelings, causing the other woman to barrage him with questions as well.
Eunius ate his meal as he looked between Rudel and Aleist’s table.
“When we just got together to drink, they came in one after the next and casually surrounded them. I’d like to have some stupid banter at least at times like this.”
Luecke shared the sentiment.
(Dammit! I wanted to consult with them on Lena! Read the mood, you lot!)
Unable to speak out against Aleist’s harem members or the warriors surrounding Rudel, Luecke downed his glass.
For some reason, Millia was present at Aleist’s table.
“Hey, I think I’m irrelevant. Can I go over there?”
As Millia pointed at Rudel’s table, her sister elf Lilim who heard that waved her hand.
Lilim, whose eyes were closed as per usual, waved with a smile. Seeing that, Millia felt just a little annoyed.
The store had specially prepared the table and chairs, there were quite a few people at Rudel’s table, and it didn’t look like it would fit anymore.
Eunius looked over the elven sisters.
“Looks like things are getting complicated over there.”
Luecke, to his friend who said such a thing.
“Over there as well, you mean. But what’s with these members… that blasted Aleist, he’s long since past ten. At the rate things are going, in a few years, I won’t be surprised with twenty or thirty.”
He sighed at Aleist’s ever expanding harem.
What was stranger than anything was the fact the man in question was in love with Millia, who had eyes for Rudel. At present, he had no desire for a harem.
In his student days.
At first he had admired harems, calling out to women, and wasting his efforts in futility. After losing an interest in a harem, he chased after Millia. And yet, from that point onwards, women began to gather around Aleist.
To the one in question, it was nothing more than a bother.
Eunius leaked his real feelings.
“As I thought, Harems are only fun to watch. I do feel jealous, but if you say I’ll turn out like Aleist, I’ll have to decline.”
Luecke was the same.
“My thoughts exactly. I can only handle one… no, if I had to, two at most. Yeah.”
While Luecke was zealous towards Rudel’s stepsister, given her status as an illegitimate daughter, he might not be unable to take Lena Arses as a legal wife.
Therefore, if he wanted her by his side by all means, she would be treated as a mistress.
Perhaps sensing Luecke’s feelings, Eunius spoke tiredly.
“And is that one Lena? You really are… well, I guess you’re better off than when you were a straight-laced asshole.”
“Don’t stick strange names on me!”
Luecke found himself being teased, but there he heard Bennet’s voice.
“Eh, no… I mean, I’m the one who graduated first.”
At Bennet’s great fluster, wondering what had happened, the two of them quietly observed. Rudel explained with a smile.
“What are you talking about, Major? You’re the same age as us. Those born to the wolf tribe are considered to be one year old at birth, with age counting up every New Year, right?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“You were born in the twelfth month, right?”
“No, I was definitely smaller than those in my year, they always called me small, but…”
Bennet looked anxious.
“You became two soon after birth, and enrolled in the academy at the same age fifteen as us, right? But that means you were actually thirteen. When you graduated on the two year course, you were fifteen, so you should be younger than Lieutenant Cattleya.”
Bennet blankly opener her mouth and looked at Cattleya. Cattleya didn’t seem very amused.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m the older one. What’s more, I’m a lieutenant, a lower ranking officer!”
Seeing Cattleya down her drink all at once, Bennet started making excuses.
“I-I mean no one ever told me I was supposed…”
Perhaps the drink had put Rudel in a good mood.
“That’s got nothing to do with it. I mean, you’re a Major. Even if you’re not her direct commanding officer, you’re still her superior!”
Bennet’s ears standing sharply upwards drooped miserably as her face turned red and she hung her head. Covering her face with both hands, her tail began to quiver.
“… When I’m the younger one, I’m sorry for acting condescending. I’m sorry for sticking a -chan on your name. From here on, I’ll call you senpai. I’m sorry.”
When she said such a thing, Cattleya snapped.
“If a Major talks to me like that, I’ll just be troubled.”
Lifting up her orange hair, Enora to Rudel.
“Looks like our commanding officers have it rough. Rudel, you want to train together next time? You’ll be in the capital a while, right?”
To Enora who asked in a fawning voice, Rudel crossed his arms and looked at the ceiling.
“I think that’s possible, but…”
There, Lilim to Enora.
“Yey, brigade member over there! What are you trying to make him promise in the confusion?”
There, Enora spoke with a face of leisure.
“My apologies. I mean, it looks like our superior officers are all busy, and this is the special privilege of his peer in rank. See, me and Rudel are peers.”
Lilim gripped the cup in her hand so hard one wondered if it might break. Looking over that, Rudel spoke.
“Izumi, is it alright for me to participate in training?”
Izumi, who had kept careful watch, made an expression as if to say, don’t turn this towards me.
“Rudel, why are you checking it order with Izumi-san? Let’s just let the two of us…”
“No, Captain Oldart told me, ‘You should never take any action on your own,’ after all. He sounded really disheartened, so breaking those words all of a sudden is a bit…”
It seems the problem with Celestia had the higherups whittle the captain away quite a bit.
As Izumi possessed the title of special inspector, Rudel sought confirmation with her.
Surrounded by these valorous members of the dragoons, Izumi responded.
“No, as long as you’re acting alongside other dragoons, I think it should be fine…”
Unable to endure the pressure from Cattleya and Lilim, Izumi spoke nothing more than the truth. Enora heard those words and lightly clenched her hand in victory.
Seeing that, Luecke muttered.
“Looks like they’re enjoying themselves more than at Aleist’s table.”
He gave his honest opinion.
“Only in comparison, that is.”
Only a few hours after the drinks with the female camp began, were Rudel’s group able to slip out of the pub, flee into a back alley, and drink in peace at a stall.
As if rehearsed, the four of them went up together to pay the tab and slipped out of the back door.
While they did feel bad about it, from the start, it was intended as a drink among men.
Removing their upper coats, the top few buttons of their shirts opened, the four raised their glasses.
“It’s that. As I thought, it’s nice to take it easy and just have a drink between men.”
On that statement from Rudel, Luecke spoke in surprise.
“What’s this, you were actually able to read the mood? Well, sure enough, if you asked me to drink in that sort of atmosphere…”
“No, so… it’s good to be surrounded by women you admire, but you’re always mindful of them, or how should I put it.”
Mindful, Rudel put it. With an amazing smile, Aleist strongly slammed down his glass of ale on the table.
“You’re lying. I saw how much fun you were having! My stomach was grating, and I could feel all the blood leave me, you know.”
Seeing Aleist on the verge of tears, Eunius gave a grand laugh.
“You reap what you sow. And the numbers keep steadily increasing even after you’ve graduated. So are you still after Millia?”
Not at his drink, Aleist’s face reddened at the topic Eunius brought up. Teasing the easy-to-understand Aleist, Eunius reached for the food.
The food wasn’t anything refined, but even so, the atmosphere was much better than that pub from before, making everything naturally taste better.
“Oh, this isn’t half bad.”
As he said that, Luecke reached out a hand as well.
“Then I don’t mind if I do. More importantly. Rudel, your little sister… I’m not talking about Lena, this is about Erselica. She came to my place asking around.”
Sipping his drink, Rudel made a surprised face. While Rudel and Erselica were siblings, it was hard to say they got along.
Unlike his stepsister Lena, he never really talked with Erselica Arses.
“That’s rare, perhaps? I’ve heard some things from Lena, but I’m relieved she’s not moping around anymore.”
He said with a swig. Rudel,
“It was while I was having some tea with Lena. She asked me various things about the factions, but do you know her intent?”
Perhaps worried for her, Luecke made a serious face.
Rudel had no idea what Erselica was trying to do.
“Who knows? I haven’t heard anything.”
“I see,” said Luecke, leaving his glass on the table to look at Rudel.
“There have been some unsettling movements in the palace as of late. Especially around Princess Aileen… it was the same when we were at the academy, but I don’t know what she’s planning this time.”
Aileen Courtois had some connection to Rudel’s group. Of course, that was only through her favorite young man called Fritz.
Of common descent, Fritz was a knight hailing from the territory governed by the Arses House.
By Aileen’s work, he was also the captain who commanded the royal guard.
He held an emotion close to hatred towards Rudel, and often stood against him in their student days. But Rudel himself didn’t care about it all too much.
“The princess, eh. Come to think of it, Fina’s about to graduate, isn’t she?”
It was time for the second princess Fina Courtois to graduate the academy. To Rudel, that relation was the more important one. Not as man and woman, she was his disciple who pursued the means to pet a dragon by his side.
Hearing of Fina, Aleist joined in on the conversation.
“Graduation… eh. What do you think I should do? How should I put it, there are some new recruits scheduled to join my platoon, but they’re all women.”
At Aleist who butted into the conversation, Eunius shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.
“I thought it might be more elegant than nothing but men, but after seeing that, I don’t want any part.”
Luecke was, meanwhile, laughing.
“I’ll have to agree.”
Rudel looked at Aleist.
“The defenders have it rough. Rather, isn’t it strange that the female knight ration is only skewed around Aleist? I’m sure they’re all proficient, but Aleist is the only man there.”
Looked on from the side, it was a vibrant workplace where he was surrounded by women.
That was Aleist’s station in a knight brigade called the defenders. Within that, Aleist was the head of a platoon.
Of course, all he ever did was clean the palace.
“I can’t take it anymore! It’s grating on my every day, and the talks are all going in strange directions! No one ever listens to my opinion, yet they still come to me to hear it out! What’s that supposed to mean!? Asking me who’s my number one, don’t bring out those questions that only make things worse! They all know my number one is Millia, dammit!”
The drink getting to him, Aleist’s tensions were rising.
Eunius poured ale into Aleist’s cup as he grinned.
“Hmm, the black knight has it tough. And from the look of it, you’re getting more female knights? I’d be envious if I didn’t know any better.”
Aleist instantly downed the refilled ale.
Taking a few deep breaths after drinking it, he vented the anger he was usually storing up.
“Envious? Then switch out with me! This personnel assignment is definitely the doing of someone with a grudge towards me! What’s with this, what did I do to deserve this?”
Rudel also drank some ale as he spoke.
“I get the feeling you were thirsting for women at the start…”
There, Luecke snapped his fingers and nodded.
“Come to think of it, my image of you running around’s grown too strong, but Aleist, you really were terrible before that. You’re easy to talk to now, but back then, I wouldn’t even think of approaching you unless you had some ale in your system. Ah, come to think of it, he used to sound so full of himself.”
As Luecke reminisced and nodded, Eunius reached for the food, a tired look on his face.
“You’re the one who changed. What’s this? Saying whatever you want about noble obligations, you’re getting all heated over Rudel’s sister. Have you forgotten how you made a misunderstanding and challenged me back at the academy?”
Luecke was earnest in his student days, no… he was so earnest he let off an air that made people distance themselves.
He and Eunius were like cat and dog, leading along their followers to snarl at once another. From the start, both their houses held the top spots in the factional wars, with enough reason and history to hold a feud.
But like this, the two of them now drank together at the food stalls.
Aleist recalled how he was when he enrolled at the academy, poured himself another glass and downed it at once before looking at Rudel.
“You say that, but I think the one who changed most was Rudel. In the first place, I always thought you were strange from the first time we met.”
Rudel tilted his head.
Luecke and Eunius shook their heads and received some water from the man running the stall. Pushing that water onto Aleist, they seemed deeply concerned.
“The one who changed the least was Rudel, right? Going on about dragons and dragons from dawn to dusk, and after graduation, it’s still dragons all the way down. You’ve got to respect that.”
Rudel acted a little bashful.
“You think so?”
Sparingly sipping his ale, Luecke cautioned Rudel.
“Eunius wasn’t praising you. But I have to agree Rudel hasn’t changed. Changing so little in the time since we met, isn’t that actually amazing? Rather, when I heard him talk about how he was really going to become a dragoon, looking back on it now, I’ll say it, but I thought it sounded stupid.”
Eunius agreed as he drank.
“Yeah, me too. I thought it was interesting but definitely impossible.”
Aleist also nodded.
“Yeah~, I remember that. No one thought you’d make it. You surprised me too.”
The drink getting to Rudel again, his face turned a little red.
“Aren’t you being terrible? No, but my probability of becoming a dragoon was considerably low. I couldn’t get the rights to meet a grey dragon, and my screening forms were…”
Seeing Rudel begin to think to himself, Eunius pat him on the back. That hurts, Rudel said as he looked at Eunius.
“You’re a dragoon now, so don’t worry about it. Even so, it really was fun. Going to matches, cutting at one another, bashing each other’s faces in.”
“Yeah, I remember a whole lot of smacking.”
Luecke looked at Eunius and Rudel nodding and reminiscing, and made a truly incomprehensive face.
And the one staring intently at a tired Luecke was Aleist.
“No, aren’t you the same, Luecke? You butted heads with Eunius over the duel, right? I’ll just say it, but just switching out fists for magic doesn’t change much in the grand scheme of things. From my point of view, you’re all the same sort. Plain old battle maniacs!”
Eunius stood from his chair and pointed at Aleist.
“Don’t screw with me! You also exchanged blows with Rudel! What’s more, not winning by a paper-thin margin, the only time you ever won was the first time!”
In his matches with Rudel, Aleist only ever won once.
In his first match after enrolling at the academy, Rudel lost to Aleist.
Perhaps recalling that, Rudel seemed delighted.
“And after that, I’ve got two wins and one draw. Man, both those matches I just barely got through, and we were carted off to the infirmary every time.”
Aleist pulled back.
“Why do you sound so happy? You’re the only one who gets hospitalized enough to get a reserved bed in the sick room.”
Eunius spoke loudly as if recalling.
“Come to think of it, his majesty came too! Back then, we were so frantic to lower our heads through our injuries! Thinking back on it now, you think he would’ve burst out like that if we were in public?”
Aleist cried out.
“That was lese majeste, you hear! Really, just don’t! Rather, I didn’t know about that one…”
Luecke put down his glass with a serious face.
“The truth is, I’ve had to go and lower my head to him quite a few times…”
Aleist held his head.
“Why!? I thought you were the most decent, but why!?”
Rudel addressed Aleist.
“Don’t mind it. I’ve been cautioned more times than I can count, but I’m still just fine!”
Aleist looked to be on the verge of tears.
“You’re not fine at all! Why are you still a problem child after graduation!? Hey, let’s act a little more grown up.”
Looking at Aleist, the three laughed.
Aleist began to laugh as well.
Hitting glasses together, the four of them talked and reminisced over their student days, drinking the night away.
In a room of the palace, the first princess Aileen took a single document in hand.
Confirming its contents in that dark room, she set it ablaze and tossed it in the fireplace for it to burn through.
The document that instantly burned away, it detailed that the plan Aileen brought forth was at a stage where it could be executed.
The sender was an enemy nation, the Gaia Empire.
The knights on standby in the room gazed at Aileen with nervous faces.
And turning away from the fireplace, Aileen directed a smile to those knights.
“Could you call Fritz here? Things are going to get busy, so I’ll have to start preparing.”
Under Aileen’s orders, one of the knights left the room.
The first princess was of a kind heart, a beautiful princess.
Despite being of the royal family, she held antipathy towards the corrupt nobility and made her favorite commoner knight Fritz into the captain of the royal guard.
And in order to see Rudel’s mortified face, she even granted a gray dragon to Fritz.
In the Kingdom of Courtois, dragons were a valuable war asset. The knights who rode them needed to be elites.
In order to obtain their own dragons, there were knights who sought out wild ones. But even those knights couldn’t enter the lands the dragons lived without the kingdom’s permission.
Without treading into any of those procedures, a gray dragon managed by the country- born and raised in Courtois, it was smaller than a wild dragon- was granted by Aileen unto Fritz.
The young captain of the royal guard, and the young man who obtained a dragon, receiving such special treatment from Aileen, Fritz did have his dissatisfactions.
It could not be said he lacked any talent.
The young man called Fritz definitely did have talent and strength. But for surrounding eyes, that wasn’t enough.
Just in his own generation, starting with the White Knight Rudel, there was the Black Knight Aleist, then Eunius and Luecke, the four with strength and fame towering over the rest.
They graduated the academy together, they started work as knights together.
Speaking to position, Fritz was far above any of them.
But Fritz was no noble.
In regards to Rudel’s group that all possessed, Aileen thought that might be another large reason her Fritz was looked down upon.
From within the room, one of the knights asked Aileen.
“Princess, from here on, we will be…”
Aileen nodded with a smile.
“Yes, we will be at war. But don’t worry. For the empire has agreed to fall back in exchange for a designated portion of land. And there won’t be just one battlefield. Once the Gaia Empire lays hand on fertile soil, they will be satisfied.”
Unlike the abundant lands of Courtois, the Gaia Empire lay on an exceedingly harsh terrain. For that sake, they had challenged Courtois time and again for their soil.
Aileen was a lover of peace.
“On top of falling back after obtaining a portion of land, we will be able to tie friendly relations for times to come. This will be our final battle with them.”
… No matter how dearly she held it, she had absolutely no talent. Her little sister Fina had talent in the field, her little sister Fina knew the reality.
But Aileen was different.
Raised sheltered within the palace, she grew up without ever learning how such things worked. She honestly believed the world was gentle and just, she had no doubt the other party would honor their promises.
“With this, Fritz-sama will surely obtain social status. And a better future will come upon Courtois.”
The knights held anxiety towards Aileen’s joy. But they wouldn’t try to stop her. The reason being, Courtois had never once lost to the Gaia Empire.
The dragoons never lost on the battlefield.
To that point, the powerful existences called the dragons had protected Courtois time and again. From the point of view of the knights, they were sure this wouldn’t lose this time either.
The Gaia Empire.
His blonde hair that grew to his shoulders swept back, a young man stood.
High in stature, he boasted a trained body. And in his hand, he gripped a single document.
A prince of the empire, if he was on the battlefield, it was said they were sure to win. The empire’s hero.
A girl called Mies Licorise nervously watched over his state. Her long, blonde hair curled at the tips.
Of small build, she was useless as a fighter, but she had come to assist Askewell as a researcher. And her research was finally to see the light of day.
To her side, a pale, slim, old man, Reole, mumbled something in a small voice. Perhaps thinking of his hatred towards the folks who never recognized his magic, perhaps hitting on a new magical discovery entirely, he gave a low chuckle.
When looked at from the side, he looked like a limitlessly dangerous man, but even like that, a proficient magician of the Gaia Empire. No, perhaps it should be said he had been too proficient.
The past tense was what suited him most. Discarding his family name, and calling himself the archwizard, Reole was a strange, one, but he was a man Askewell recognized.
On Mies’ opposite side stood a general who’d climbed his way up.
Ban Lochuas stood on many a battlefield with enemy countries, swinging his battleax and burying many an enemy.
Whether it be man or monster, as long as they stood before him, they would be cleaved in two.
He wore full armor over his muscular body, a well-ordered beard as his trademark around his mouth, the general was subordinate to Askewell.
Ban spoke to his leader.
“Have the cowards of Courtois moved yet? They really are taking this easily.”
Letting out a light chuckle, Reole made light of Courtois.
“When they haven’t offered what we desire, they’re nothing but fools for believing in such an agreement. Or could it be they plan to crush us with dragons once we march to invade? That sounds interesting. I need only burn the dragons to death with my magic. Kihihi!”
Mies broke into a cold sweat.
For this looked to be too unworthy an assortment to follow the rule of one of a prince like Askewell. But there was no doubt they were proficient.
Askewell turned his eyes to the documents as he spoke to Mies.
“Are the preparations in order, Mies?”
“Y-yes! We can move at any moments! We have already started limiting their food, increasing their brutality, and if I may speak to the contrary, it will be dangerous if we keep them on standby any longer.”
What Mies had prepared.
It was an army of black monsters. Starting with ogres, they had even prepared wyverns as a countermeasure for the dragoons.
Their knights had already begun training to ride the wyverns she produced.
To that point, they had been one-sidedly attacked from the sky, and with all the losses under its belt, when it came to invading, the Empire couldn’t help but take every caution.
“My brother said he wished to borrow the wyvern unit. If father accepts those conditions, then it can be said we will be attacking on two fronts. Come so far, I’ve no intent to refuse, but what numbers should I send around to them?”
While Askewell showed a clear lack of motivation as he asked Mies, he had his reasons.
Of all else…
“The Wyvern unit is it? If it’s to hold down the dragoons… they might need three hundred. In that case, the number we can bring along ourselves drops to two hundred.”
“That’s plenty! The Gora’s preparations are ready. I’ll give him however many wyverns he wants. But my brother truly has a faint heart. When I said I’d lend him Gora, he readily declined.”
While Askewell gave a grand laugh, to the people of the Empire, the monster known as Gora were nothing but fear itself.
A normal army couldn’t hope to win against one, what’s more, their large form and uncanny appearance. They boasted four arms, and when strengthened, they even sprouted wings.
Even with the techniques to control them, they were nothing more than a source of fear when too close.
Standing to his feet, Askewell crushed the document in his hand and made a serious face.
“… Henceforth, we will be going to take Courtois. Trample them down, and attain plentiful land for the empire. I don’t know what idiot set this up, but if they intend to catch us in their trap, we’ll rip them away and make them regret it.”
Mies swallowed her breath, the two on her side laughed.
Thinking Askewell was serious, some part of her wished the researcher he once told her about would come back.
Thinking of the people of the empire, doing his best to bring fertility to their lands, or to secure a source of food, the Askewell of his younger days.
But his research was nothing but failures, and once he was forced to the battlefield, in contrast to his research, he found nothing but success. He won and he won and got around to being called the hero of the empire.
The man in question, as long as it was for the empire’s sake, didn’t care if he was a military man or hero, he intended to fulfill his role. And the conclusion Askewell had finally reached…
“We will be invading Courtois! Prepare to depart!”
… To steal fertile soil form the people of Courtois, and save the people of the empire.