The Arses House manor.
Many armed knights and soldiers crowded into the stretch from the gate to the front door.
In the noisy state, preparations were underway to intercept the Gaia Empire encroaching on the national border. While the troops had gathered, it wasn’t the best gathering.
Two thousand had been scraped together, but both their equipment and training fell short.
Sitting atop the roof, Lena Arses looked over them with a stretch and a yawn.
“With our territory, it’ll be hard to get any more.”
Their misgovernment was running its course.
When they heard of Courtois’ crisis, there were even nobles and knights who fled. The soldiers were few to gather, making it evidently clear how little adoration the Arses House held.
That they could gather two thousand even so must have been their status as Archdukes.
Looking at troop numbers far too low for the scope of their territory, Lena spotted Erselica conversing with a knight.
“Erselica’s gotten around quite a bit, but this is going to be harsh.”
Even if they marched out now, and gained the assistance of the nobles who would cooperate, it would take time to reach the border. Any missteps, and they wouldn’t make it in time.
Lena hung her spear over her shoulder and looked up at the sky.
Nostalgic… a truly nostalgic wind swept over her. Feeling the abnormal flow of air fanned by a dragon’s wings, she leisurely stood.
A blue, beautiful dragon blatantly glaring at her before her eyes—Mystith looked down over Lena.
While the surroundings grew panicked, Lena could be no calmer.
‘I’ve found myself quite the impertinent human, I have. I don’t know where you learned it, but your whistle– reached me.’
She had whistled at the sky. But that was no ordinary whistle.
It was a whistle to summon a dragon. To be more precise, it was the whistle that had been taken up between Marty and Mystith. A whistle that could be heard no matter where the other might be.
Lena turned to Mystith with a smile.
“I don’t really remember the specifics. But you know… I thought I could do it. And I thought you would come for me.”
Flapping her wings, Mystith narrowed her eyes to gaze at Lena.
‘… So that’s how it is.
Opening her mouth in a laugh, Mystith addressed the young girl.’
‘It’s been a while, Marty… you’ve gotten quite cute when I wasn’t looking.’
Lena laughed alongside her.
“Right you are, Mystith. But I’m sorry, but there’s barely anything I remember. Right now I’m Lena… Lena Arses, and a girl. And… I want to save my brother. Could I have your cooperation?”
Mystith slowly lowered herself onto the ground, bringing her eye-level to Lena’s height.
‘So you want me to lend a hand. But Marty—’
“It’s Lena. I’m Lena Arses, Mystith.”
Lena said with a smile.
“I want to save my brother.”
‘To think you were Rudel’s little sister. Is this some sort of fate?’
On Mystith’s words, Lena hung her head a bit in thought.
It wasn’t like she knew everything. She simply had a slight hunch she had a past she didn’t know. It was impossible for her to determine whether that was true or just her delusion.
(I think I remembered when I was with broski. Right, that time when he came over with my—the book the past me wrote.)
While it was vague, it happened when Rudel brought her a book she had written in a past life. At that moment, Lena remembered a time before.
A stranger’s memory. And the fact that a past life self existed, to Lena at the time, it was an exceedingly heavy truth to swallow?
Just who was she? She started to think her own existence was a fabrication. Yet to Lena, Rudel would speak on and on about just how great Marty was. He would preach honest praise, strengthening both their aspirations to be a dragoon—
“… My brother’s an idiot, isn’t he.”
‘… He is.’
Mystith openly agreed with that one.
“When I looked at my brother like that, it felt so idiotic to think too hard about everything. Not like I wasn’t an idiot myself. I decided not to think too hard. It’s a new life after all. Why not have some fun with it? But…”
This time, she was going to live her life as Lena. That’s why she never thought she would involve Mystith in her life.
“Surely, there was some reason I was my brother’s little sister, I think.”
Lena said and stroked Mystith.
Mystith spread her wings wide, she seemed delighted d at Lena’s touch.
‘Welcome back, Marty. And it’s a pleasure to meet you, Lena Arses. You are my third partner.’
At the palace, Fritz looked at the edge of the sword he’d been given.
Looking over that sword, embedded with gemstones and made with the latest technology, he confirmed his preparations were in order before tucking it into its sheath.
“Fritz-sama, the preparations to depart are complete. And it does seem the black knight made it out of the capital.”
Ritz said and left the room, heading for the palace courtyard where his dragon awaited.
His subordinate following behind made an anxious face.
“Fritz-sama, there’s no need for you to personally subjugate the black knight—”
An irritated Fritz glared at his subordinate before increasing his walking pace.
“Do you think I’ll lose or something?”
Fritz was impatient. It was all well and good that he became Supreme commander, but it was quite clear to him that his surroundings didn’t accept him.
Without any achievements to speak of, Fritz had completely become a decoration. His last ray of hope, Aileen, seemed to be under the impression if that would keep him out of harm’s way, it would be fine.
(Like I could accept that.)
The existences called Rudel and Aleist were a hindrance to him. Defeating Aleist who ran away was his last opportunity to demonstrate his own abilities.
(Even if he’s the black knight, I have a dragon on my side. Like hell I’d lose.)
He’d obtained a new sword.
It was a powerful blade, just by the look of it, and when he actually tried using it, it truly was fearsome. With that might, Fritz would defeat Aleist, demonstrate his own strength, and become supreme commander not only in name alone.
(I won’t let myself become a decorative piece.)
Going out with that on his mind, Fritz looked at the gray dragon on standby in the courtyard. His partner, upon seeing him turned him its back. The surrounding servants looking after it distanced themselves as Fritz jumped on and wrung out his voice.
“We’re striking down the black knight. Now fly!”
Abiding by Fritz’ order, the gray dragon flapped its wings and rose into the sky.
A few horse-drawn carriages left the outer wall of the royal capital.
Out of the luggage loaded into the back of one, Aleist popped his face.
“W-we somehow managed.”
With some peace of mind, having rounded the outermost bounds of the city, Aleist looked around with a relieved expression. His faithful steed Heath was pulling the carriage in disguise.
He remained on guard a while, but there were no signs of enemy attack. A few kilometers away, Aleist showed his whole body from the shadows of the luggage crates.
“Well now, I was worried they would notice, but it looks alright.”
Following on from Aleist, the female members appeared one after the next.
“Even so, at our pace, the time to the border is—”
All of a sudden, Aleist looked up at the cloth stretched over the ceiling, promptly leaping out of the carriage and looking up at the sky.
A gray dragon was headed their way from the castle, and looking around, there was a strange scarcity of passersby using the main road.
It was the road that led to the capital, quite an unnatural state of affairs.
“So they did notice.”
Shedding a cold sweat, Aleist pulled his pair of swords from their sheaths. As the dragon flapped its wings to maintain its position overhead, he heard Fritz’ voice.
“Did you think you left unnoticed? Well so be it. Black Knight Aleist, you are going to die here.”
As the gray dragon opened its mouth about to fire its breath, Aleist enveloped his surroundings in a sphere of his own shadow to harden his defense.
Yet before a dragon’s breath, Aleist’s defenses were torn down all too easily.
With his defenses breathed, Aleist looked up to see Fritz’ descent.
The women around him readied their weapons, but as they tried to cut at him, the Dragon landed to intimidate them. Aleist redirected his stance at the beast before him.
“What a bother. We’re in a hurry here.”
Sensing Aleist’s panic, Fritz laughed a bit.
“You’re not going to make it regardless. Instead of your useless plight, please just die by my blade.”
When Fritz drew his sword, Aleist looked perplexedly at it.
(Haven’t I see that sword somewhere…)
Ritz cut at him. Was it the weapon’s specs, or perhaps his own ability?
He had gotten quite a bit stronger than before.
“I always wanted to cut you down like this. I can’t forget my grudge from the academy!”
The grudge he spoke of involved Aleist instantly taking him out at the Academy Tournament. Thanks to that, Fritz had been terribly belittled by those around him.
Blocking Fritz’ slack with both blades, Aleist kicked forward to destroy his footing. But Fritz took distance and cut in again. Aleist parried it with the sword in his left hand, only for Fritz to contain Aleist’s right arm with his own left.
(This bloke’s far stronger than last time…)
The gemstone embedded in Fritz’ sword let off a light. The sword was strengthening his body.
“It’s water under the bridge! What are you even doing here!? You’re—the supreme commander, aren’t you!?”
Aleist took distance as he fired a few spears made from his own shadow at Fritz, but Fritz cut them down.
An irritated Aleist.
Inside, his anger towards Fritz was welling up
(You’re the supreme commander, dammit. What are you doing here!? Go prepare for war or something.)
As the Kingdom of Courtois readied itself for invasion, it was unthinkable that the army’s commander personally came out to defeat Aleist.
From Aleist’s point of view, he wanted to come to Rudel’s aid without a second to lose.
Fritz laughed. But his smile was a dark one.
“Supreme commander? At this rate, I’ll be a decoration. No merit or achievement. Who’d seriously listen to my opinion? … Made light of for being a commoner, mocked by the nobles. They treat me like I’m your replacement… like I can put up with that!”
Rushing at Aleist, Fritz went into a consecutive stream of cuts. Skillfully handling them with two swords, Aleist cried out as the sparks flew around him.
“Like I care! That’s what you asked for!”
From Aleist’s point of view, Fritz’ circumstances were the least of his worries. Diving into his shadow to avoid one of Fritz’ attacks, he moved behind him to cut him down.
Yet in Fritz’ time of crisis, the dragon roared, averting Aleist’s attention.
“Dammit! If the dragon weren’t there, it’d be over in no time!”
Irksomely taking distance, Aleist saw his comrades taking up positions to surrounding Fritz.
(Even if we all go at him at once, the dragon will get in the way. This guy’s out here playing for own merits…)
If Fritz really intended to crush Aleist, he could have managed by riding his dragon and launching breath attacks from that sky.
In that instance, Aleist would make it look like he was blown away, covertly recovering his members to overcome the situation. Contriving a means of escape in a corner of his mind, Aleist turned Fritz a smile.
“Are you satisfied, winning under a dragon’s protection… Fritz?”
In his attempted provocation, Aleist looked at his face to confirm his irritation.
With a furrowed brow, Fritz readied his sword.
“I’m different from a pathetic man who’s protected by his women.”
“Kahah! That so. Never thought I’d hear that from someone protected by Princess Aileen and allowed to do whatever he pleases. You mean to tell me it wasn’t Princess Aileen who appointed you as Supreme Commander in the first place?”
Seeing Fritz grit his teeth, Aleist thought.
(I see, so he noticed. That’s why he’s forcing himself to kill me. But look, kid…)
“… You, you really need to look at a mirror. You prattle on about commoners and nobles, but in the end, you’re only looking out for yourself.”
Aleist said, despite his thoughts.
(Well, not like I’m one to speak.)
For now, enraging Fritz was the priority. Reaching a hand behind his back, he signaled for his comrades to gather behind him.
His comrades slowly moved into position.
“A wealthy bastard like you who’s got everything can’t understand what—”
“Yeah, I can’t. I’m not going to sugarcoat it… but what does that make you? Protected by Princess Aileen, she even made you supreme commander. And yet, people aren’t listening to you, so you go off on your own to take me out? Didn’t you despise those blasted nobles who ignored their people and went off on flights of fancy? Man, you really have it wonderful. I’m sure they’ll sing songs of praise. Of that damn fool out lusting for glory.”
From Aleist’s point of view, the commander going out front and fighting was unthinkable.
Of course, he only thought so because he knew a past life.
As Fritz said, those placed under a knight with no deeds of arms, no real life experience could only be anxious.
Anyone would prefer an achieved soul abundant in experience.
“Fritz, you’re becoming the person you hate most. I can tell. I’m not too different. So—”
“—You’re the same as me? Impossible. That’s definitely impossible!”
In the end, Aleist’s compassion came out. He wanted Fritz to somehow notice, because he got the feeling he was practically looking at himself.
His past self—his past portion so stuck up looked the same as Fritz to him.
But his words wouldn’t reach.
Turning expressionless, Fritz moved to the side of where he was standing.
“That’s enough. Burn away.”
The moment Fritz stepped away, the form of a gray dragon, a breath prepared in its wide-open mouth came into sight.
(Here it comes!)
Measuring out the right time, Aleist was about to move to rescue his party.
But it was there, the dragon suddenly closed its mouth, picked up Fritz, and soared into the sky.
“Wah! Oy, I didn’t order you to—”
It must have been unexpected for Fritz as well. He was panicking.
Where Fritz had been a moment ago, a mass of water—a number of orbs showered down. They burst upon colliding with the ground, soaking Aleist and his cohorts.
Aleist looked to the sky—
Riding a dragon with blue scales, the form of a small-built young girl with silver hair.
“Sorry for that. Couldn’t hold back.”
Bennet said, intimidating her opponent with her own dragon. The difference between a wild dragon and a bred one was far too different from the get-go. To add to that, the difference in strength between its partner Bennet and Fritz was great as well.
The gray dragon retrieved Fritz and retreated for the palace.
It wasn’t just Bennet on the Dragon’s back. Izumi was there with her.
“Get on. We’re on a direct route to Rudel.”
Aleist nodded, immediately gathered his comrades and put them to preparations.
Having returned to the palace, Fritz immediately reported to Aileen that the dragoon brigade had turned coat.
“Fritz-sama… We have already received a report from Captain Oldart of the Dragoon Brigade that a portion of the dragoons have defected. However, we are in a state of affairs where we are unable to chase after them.”
Around a troubled-sounding Aileen, the knights of good pedigrees waited upon her. Taking the name of guards, the knights who were stationed near Aileen in Fritz’ place.
They looked at Fritz with eyes of scorn.
“You should really get a grip, high and mighty supreme commander. At this very moment, you are the responsible party for all military affairs.”
When he was told it wasn’t supposed to be Aileen receiving these reports, Fritz clenched his fists. The knights looked at him and laughed.
Aileen spoke to soothe him.
“They shall receive the appropriate recompense after the war. Does that work out?”
Aileen said as she sought confirmation from the knights around her. With their nods, an order was handed down to Fritz.
“Then Fritz-sama. As our general, why don’t you go take down the foolish Gaia Empire invading upon our lands?”
Fritz kneeled and accepted the order.
“Yes, Princess Aileen.”
But he was conflicted inside.
Despite becoming supreme commander, the knights—the young nobles of good households made light of him, and he was being sent off to the battlefield as a mere decoration.
(… What the hell am I even doing here.)
Aleist’s words, ‘you’re becoming the person you hate most,’ abruptly flashed through his head.