About the Reckless Girl who kept Challenging a Reborn Man like Me

By Kohigashi Nora

http://ncode.syosetu.com/n8273ds/

 

‘A prodigy at ten, a genius at fifteen, a common man passed twenty.’

Where I come from, there’s a saying like that.
No matter how far a child’s abilities are above the others, if they grow too conceited in them, those skills won’t pass through once they become an adult; it was a saying that served as a warning.
Or perhaps even if one won an award as a child, once they grow up and see how vast the world is, they learn their own abilities are insufficient, it could also be used in that sense.

Anyways, well, regardless of the praise you receive as a child, one mustn’t be satisfied in it; you must continue to put in the effort, always aiming to improve yourself, it’s that sort of life lesson sort of phrase.

… However,
To me, that saying held a slightly different meaning.

 

 

 

 

* * * * *

 

“Sieg! Now! It’s time for us to compete in test scores once more!”
“Anja… this again…”

Regardless of whether classes were over or not, a single young girl raced over to me with sparkling eyes.
Her pale blue hair cut short, a kerchief1 draped around it, this was the small young girl who went by the name Anja.
Her age was eight, the same as mine. A young child in her second year of school.
… No, I mean, I’m also young, but…

“What’s this again!? I’ve yet to win even a single competition with you!”
“You… when you usually act so unconcerned, when it comes to competing with me, you get way too heated…”
“Of course I do! Now that that’s settled, hurry up and pull out your test results.”

Anja held up her own grades in one hand, as she prodded my shoulder to urge me on. Good grief, I thought, as I pulled out the test I’d tucked into my bag once more.

“Here we go… we’ll show each other on go… I hope you’re ready for this…”

Anja’s face was flushed. She couldn’t contain the rising of the corners of her mouth.

“… Anja, do you have that much confidence in this time’s fundamental magic calculations test?”
“Hmph! That’s something you should decide from seeing my points! I’ll shock you into silence, you hear!”

And it seems she still couldn’t contain her eagerness, rushing through the ‘Ready, set, go,’ as fast as her mouth would take her.
I hurriedly exposed the test results in my hand over the desk.

“…”
“…”

Hmm, that’s amazing. Anja got a 97. This time’s test was filled with practical application problems, and I doubt there were any other students who could achieve such a score.
In essence, she had excellent grades, extraordinary reflexes, and possessed a level of mana a cut above the rest.
An honor student among honor students. That was what she was.

Her face grew pale.
Feebly opening her mouth, astonishment was plastered onto her face.

“… 100 points!? Sieg, you… got 100!? On a test that hard, you got 100…!?”
“Y… yeah… looks like this test went well…”

But even so, I’ve never once lost to her.
That was simply because my grades were better than hers.

“———————–!”

Anja’s eyes grew teary.
Her mouth shut tight as she grit her teeth, desperately holding back the tears that might leak out.
She must’ve had considerable confidence in this test. She must’ve studied a considerable amount. The test was difficult, and it wasn’t difficult to imagine that scoring a 97 was a Herculean feat.
I’ll even declare it. That score of 97, if you excluded me, would put her at the top of the grade.

But even so, she didn’t reach me.

“……!”
“Ah! Wait! Anja……!”

And Anja ran off.
Was it out of chagrin, or did she not want to show her tears? Whatever the case, like the wind, she ran off from before my eyes.

“… Looks like… she really was confident this time…”

Her spirits were higher than usual, and even if she lost, it had never gone as far as to make her cry. She put considerable effort into this test, and had considerable confidence in it.

… I felt like apologizing to her.
She had tried as hard as she could.
But I was cheating. I cheated to hammer out my 100 points.
Normally, I was the sort of person who was never supposed to step onto the arena and the sort of person who shouldn’t have any ties with someone who put in as much effort as Anja.

But that truth was one I could never say to anyone.
If I said it, they’d doubt my sanity, and even if I proclaim it, I can’t think anyone will believe.

The truth is, I’ve…

 

… Been reborn.
I hold the memories of a life passed.

 

 

 

 

* * * * *

 

It was a special winter day, a heavy snow intense enough to leave records was pouring down.
Cold… I think it was a cold day, but I don’t really remember it too well. Rather than not remembering, I had never felt it.

My cause of death in my past life was natural causes.
From the window, I gazed at the large beads of ice falling in droves. I I forced my head up from the bed, holding envy at the pure white scene I could see from the pure white hospital room.

At the time I was twenty-eight. I was employed at the sort of magitech manufacturer you could find anywhere, and I’d worked just like the sort of person you could find anywhere.
It was the sort of job you could find anywhere, but I couldn’t bear the hardships. It did seem I was the sort of person who boasted a nature one could call ordinary, and even if I did the same job as the others, I felt like I had to work more than anyone to produce the same results.

But I’m sure that was the same for everyone else. If we didn’t work more than anyone, we wouldn’t be able to achieve the workload demanded by society. That was just how society turned.
No particular excellence, no particular failings. In that sense, I was evidently ordinary.

Too busy with a job where I had to work harder than everyone else, I had broken up with my girlfriend. Well, I’m sure that’s just a common tale.

And in that life filled with events you could find anywhere, I fell to illness. Ironic as it may be, that was my sole special quality that made me different from others.

My body could no longer move, I could only manage to turn my head to look out the window. What I could see from there was a scene of snow shrouding the world, and in my vague, hazy consciousness, I heard from someone it was a special blizzard the likes of which had never been recorded.

I held despair.
I envied the snow.
This blizzard was definitely special, it would surely leave memories and records for countless people.

I wanted to be special.
I wanted to be a special person.

Arbitrarily embracing envy towards the climate, a god humans mankind could do nothing about, I slowly shut my eyes.
My consciousness cut off as the curtain closed on my life.

 

 

… But a rebirth occurred.
I had no way of knowing why or how.
All I knew was that I carried on the memories of another life.

 

 

 

 

* * * * *

 

“But even if I’ve gotten to walk a special life… I really can’t wipe away this sense of guilt.”
“What are you secretly whispering about, Sieg? Look, today’s the day for another competition.”

From a seat in the corner of the classroom, in contrast to the snow from that day, I watched the sun’s incessant downpour of light onto the sweltering schoolyard as I whispered to myself… but by the time I noticed it, Anja was to my side.
Crap, I had intended it as the sort of mutter no one was supposed to be, but she always strays over to my side, so it seems she heard my voice.

“… Did you hear what I was saying?”
“Not at all? But if you don’t want anyone to hear, you’re better off not saying it at all.”
“… You’re exactly right. Silence is golden, they say…”

Right now, we were eleven. It was the highest school year of elementary school.
Incorrigibly, our competitions continued on, though it felt like she was just one-sidedly assaulting me.
Written tests, magic practical exams, all sorts of special extracurricular lessons… Tacking something on, she would bring the challenge to me, and they all ended with my victory.

You could only call it natural. For an elementary school test, once you’ve been through adulthood, they’re an affair anyone could score 100 points on. We’ve yet to face anything with the slightest chance of me losing.
But even though I longed for specialness so much in my past life, I would continue winning her challenge, and every time she made such a defeated expression, I would feel a sense of guilt.

In the end, my results came from the passage of a special experience called rebirth, and they weren’t something brought about by my own abilities or effort. When she believed in her own abilities and gave it her utmost effort, was it only natural I felt guilty when I shot down her effort? Or does it mean that my mentality is still that of an ordinary?

“God! Seriously! Why do you have another 100!? There’s no way for me to win like that! It’s unfair! You’re unfair, Sieg!”

Anja was about to cry again.
I’ll make a clear statement, but she’s a genuine genius and she never neglects a good work ethic. It’s certain she’s the sort of capable an ordinary like me should never be compared to.
If things continued at this rate, she’d graduate a good high school, graduate a good university, and find employment in a splendid company. She possessed splendid talent that made it painfully clear even now.

But as with the warning, ‘a common man passed twenty,’ that’s only a story of if she continues her hard work.

In order to comfort that sulking girl, I handed over the sweet I’d bought in advance.
It was something of a penalty for my victory, and in order to buy these sweets, I was using up a majority of a child’s meager allowance.
I had to take into account her tastes alongside the special feeling that came with seasonal and limited goods, and understanding a complex woman’s heart to buy the right candy to soothe her was exceedingly difficult. If I picked the wrong sweet, I’d have to spend the rest of the day gazing at the side of her sullen face.

Though the usual Anja was exceedingly cool, when I was involved, she flared up, always vexed at her losses, yet constantly charging at me and having her emotions swayed left and right with an assortment of candy.
Grasping the inner working of a woman’s heart was harder than any test.

 

 

 

 

* * * * *

 

“Kuh… I see you properly got 100 points this time…”

Holding her test sheet as per usual, there was the form of Anja with a reddened vexed face and grit teeth.
The girl had changed a little these past few years.
Her short hair that just might touch her neck or not had grown to hair just long enough to hand over her shoulders.
Her girliness had increased ever so slightly.

On top of that, her attire had changed. What was once free selection had changed to the school-designated uniform… meaning to say we had become middle schoolers.

Anja and I enrolled in the same middle school as a matter of course.
We took the spots for first and second place academics in the district and entered the number one private school in that district so it really was the natural result.
More so, having lived 28 years and having received an ordinary salary, by being accepted into a private institution, I probably felt sorry for my parents. Thinking over the school’s yearly tuition, and my past life’s annual net income, it made my eyes spin a bit.

When I said I was fine with a normal public school, ‘A child shouldn’t worry about something like that,’ my parents told me, and Anja also casually threw out, ‘Then I’ll go to a public school too,’ so I had lost the margin of choice.
I felt sorry for my parents, but I couldn’t let a genius of Anja’s level rot away in a local public school for my sake.

I considered taking up a part time job, but when I was wondering over what place would hire a middle schooler, I ended up getting a 97 on the middle school’s first exam.
Even with 28 years of experience, I couldn’t get 100 with practically no study. It made me think over how different middle and elementary school were.

‘Fufufu! The 100 point stronghold has finally crumbled! The day I seize victory from you cannot be far off!’

Anja loudly proclaimed with tears in her eyes.
She had gotten an 89. From her point of view, most definitely a disgrace. Because it was a prep school, the tests were purposely difficult, and I thought it was a satisfactory score, but it just goes to show both she and I were making light of middle school. Though I must note, she still got the second place score in the grade.

After that, I somehow found a place to work and got around to properly studying.

“Kuh… so you managed to lock in 100 points again…”

And her lines would be the first thing to inform me it was working.
If I properly studied, it seems my twenty-eight years of experience were still largely applicable.

“Sieg, just what sort of studying are you doing? You work part time, bring money into your house, and you still get 100 points… are you sure you’re not cheating…?”
“…”

I’m cheating. I have the greatest cheating method called reincarnation, but there’s no way I could say it.
Anja pinched my cheek, but even so, the strength put into her fingers was weak.
In this test, she had scored a 93. Of course, her grades were second in the grade, but the fact her desperate studies had only raised her grade four points made her a little depressed.

If you’ll let me have my say, that’s plenty, and this was a prep school. I felt the tests were much harder than in the normal middle school I attended in my past life. Within that, she got 93 points, so I think she should be prouder of herself, but perhaps it’s because I ended up getting 100.
Anja grew a little faint of heart.

I took out a newly-released candy as I spoke.

“… The trick to studying, the first thing you have to do is grasp the root of the unit. Everything lies in the unit’s basis, and everything else they teach you is grown from…”
“Aaaah! Wait! Wait! On second thought, no! That’s no good! Don’t tell me anything!”

Anja twisted her body as she frantically separated from me.

“I can’t let myself receive salt from the enemy!”

She said as she took off in a straight line from the classroom and returned home.
Taken aback, I stared into blank space before making for my part time job.

 

 

 

 

* * * * *

 

“… On second thought, teach me how to study…”

Anja drudged over to my desk and muttered feebly. Her face a bright red, she endured the disgrace, turning her face a little away so she wouldn’t look me in the eye as she said she wanted me to teach her.

There was a large end of term exam.
With my twenty-eight years of past life, I just barely succeeded in maintaining full points in all subjects. I don’t know if I’m one to talk, but I had to study quite a bit.
It goes without saying Anja ranked second in the grade and she hammered out 750 points across eight subjects.

That was a splendid score but to Anja, it was no means for celebration, apparently.
It seems a 50-point gap with me was difficult for her to accept, and when I asked later, it seems that regardless of her rivalry with me, she personally felt the test was a failure. It was an exceptionally difficult test so I don’t think there’s any helping her score, but even so, she said it was the first time she was this vexed in something without any relation to me.

She bent her own pride and came to learn from me.

It was the first time it had happened in the seven years I’d known her.
Her body lightly shaking, her face bright red, when I was just watching from the side, I could practically feel her high heat and the accelerating beat of her heart.

“… Got it. I’ll help you out.”

I answered in short.
I prepared a seat across from my own and sat the stiff girl down then and there.
Leaving her hanging would be pitiful so we started studying at once. Given her personality, I thought she would slip right into it.
Of course, to the side of the desk, I readied the candy I’d bought.

“I said it before, but what’s important is to grasp the root of the unit. Everything lies in the unit’s basis, and everything else they teach you is grown from the root.”
“… Grown?”
“Right. Don’t do something as momentous as memorizing everything in the textbook from end to end, first you seize the root of its contents. From there, you study on as if growing out the branches.
For example, when it comes to history… right… the most important event on this time’s test was the Battle of Lesvokis. The influence of that battle remains in all history to follow. And the history that occurs before it is also often the causes, the factors that led to the Battle of Lesvokis. A majority of the era turns with the battle at its center, and it isn’t just the history of this country, it’s granted an influence to the history of other countries as well.
If you think of the influence of the era front to back, think of what binds them side to side, and study as you link events, it makes it easier to get your thoughts in order, and deepens your understanding from simply reading the text…”
“Binding…?”
“Right, binding.”

When she was shaking so much, Anja was quite something, and with just a little lecture, her head had entered study mode. With a dignified countenance, she concentrated and listened in to my words.

“You could say the same thing about the other subjects.
In math, the first important thing you learn is this formula. All the fundamental ways of thought in the unit are formed with that formula as the base, and the other formulae and application problems are set up around that fundamental formula. When you’re troubled by an application problem, first, try to return to the basis and try to ascertain the goal.
The goal exists within the basis, and in order to reach it, what sort of progress do you have to make, and what sort of numbers do you need? It comes down to thinking about that.”
“… The basis?”
“Right, basis. What did you get wrong in this test? Could you show me?”

We studied intently in the corner of the classroom, and while the sun set, until a teacher came to caution us, we didn’t even think of leaving.
By the time I noticed, the sun had almost vanished behind the horizon, dying the classroom a deep red in its final light.

“Sieg… you’re good at teaching.”

Her pale blue hair was colored in a warm hue.

 

 

 

 

* * * * *

 

“Hey! Sieg, is it true you’re helping people study!?”

One day, a girl from class asked with good momentum.
A number of girls rushed over to the side of my desk, closing in their faces as they asked such a thing.

“Hmm? Well… if you ask me to, I have no reason to decline, but… where did you hear about that…?”
“You know, the talks have spread of how Seig, first in the grade, has been teaching Anja after school day after day… and the rumors say he might just teach us too!”
“A… rumor like that..?”

Surrounded by girls, I hesitated as I took a sidelong glance at Anja, but… Ah, it seems Anja’s in prim and proper mode. As if to say this had nothing to do with her, she was briskly preparing for the next class.
When a competition with me wasn’t involved, she was fundamentally nonchalant.

“Oy, oy, oy! You popular bastard! You’re going to teach the girls, and you’re not teaching us!?”
“Like hell we’ll let you be surrounded by girls alone! Help us out too!”
“Urp!”

The class rascals wrapped an arm around my neck, half in envy, half for the girls, with just a little left over for academic ambition.
Wait… you’re strangling me…
I tried tapping out, but until the words of commitment came from my mouth, it seems they didn’t intend to let me go.

“G… got it…”
“Yay! We’re studying with Sieg!”
“Aight! My allowance raise hinges on the next test! I’m all yours! Sieg!”

While the stranglehold was undone and the surroundings grew rowdy, all I could do was give an exhausted laugh.
Just how did it come to this?

But strangely, it didn’t feel too bad at all.

Classes came to an end.
My eyebrow twitched at the number of students much higher than I’d expected, what a bother, I said as I walked around watching everyone study.

I expressed my thoughts on studying I’d expressed to Anja, told everyone how I studied and made rounds to everyone’s desk giving them practical assistance.
By the way, Anja didn’t participate in the study session. Sure enough, she didn’t like the sort of atmosphere with everyone making a ruckus together.

“Sieg, about this problem, you know… when I look at the answer, the calculations, and the process, I can understand it, you know, but I can’t understand why I shoulda calculated it like that. If it’s going to be like that, then if the same sort of problem comes out on the test, my only hope is to memorize it.
Like, you know… this is hard to explain… you… get what I’m saying,,,?”
“Yeah, I get it, Marco. Just by looking at the answer, it’s often you won’t get the problem’s root and way of thought. So what’s important is…”
“The basis you talked about before, eh? And so? Where is the basis of this problem?”
“This is, let’s see… the textbook’s… right here. When you boil it down, this problem’s just an application of the moment.”
“Hmm…”

Looking over everyone’s studies like this, I realized this wasn’t a prep school for nothing, and everyone had a good head on their shoulders.
They easily took in my teachings, quickly understanding and applying them. There were times the questions they asked me were a bit of a shock. By which I mean to say, thoughts patterns I would never be able to reach in my past life’s middle school days were being cognized by the children before my eyes.
The kids were already beginning to mull over the way of thought I finally got around to realize around high school and college.

I caught a glimpse of the difference between ordinary and genius.
And it was something I felt when I taught Anja as well.

Perhaps it was around that time.
I was beginning to see what sort of path I would tread in this life.

“Even so, you sure are good at teaching, Sieg!”

A girl from the class said it.
I could naught but give a bashful laugh.

I think this is something based in my experience called rebirth.
It’s not as if I can just study better than a normal person, I’m pretty sure it’s because, after desperately studying once for college exams, I went through my second run of elementary and middle school classes.

As most ordinary people must, I studied for college entrance exams like my life depended on it.
By doing so, the things I began to see in regards to studying began to change. The efficiency of study, the point of study, the way to study, the knack to study… those sorts of things were boiled down, boiled down, and boiled down to my second try at the exams, and after all that studying, I took elementary classes anew.

In my second round of classes after going through such an existence, the way I saw the lessons had completely changed from in my first life.
I got around to see the intent of the teacher’s classes, something I could never understand in my first life, and I got around to see what the main point of the lesson was.
There were times when I thought this teacher’s way of teaching was better than my first life’s one, and times I felt the reverse was true.

Seeing it on repetition, for the times I thought the lesson was well done, and the times I thought they should’ve emphasized that point more, impertinent as it may be, I had birthed my own evaluation for the teachers’ classes.

… Though it was way too brazen I couldn’t tell a soul.
In my middle school days, if I only blabbed about it to anyone, that would be enough to make it my black history. From anyone’s eyes, it would look like I was getting way in over my head.

That’s precisely why I tucked it into my heart, but regardless, I had begun to hold my own personal view when it came to teaching.

“Yes, yes! Mr. Sieg! I don’t understand this at all!”
“Yes, yes, just give me a minute, Lina…”

 

 

 

I think I was happy.
I think I was happy that I could be useful to my friends.
It was the delight I felt from my ‘special’ coming in handy for once.

The day went on, the study session ended. It happened when I was walking down the dark night road on which the sun had already set.
During that day’s study session, I had definitely felt a sense of satisfaction, my chest filled with a fulfillment at having been useful to my friends; I walked the way to my house with light steps only to find that person before me.

That person who stood imposingly right in the middle of the road home.
Mouth curved into a sharp frown, her legs spread wide, her arms crossed as she intimidated me.
Her large eyes continued to glare at me, so there was no doubt I was her target.

Uwah, thought I.
No matter how you look at it, she is not happy.

Anja was completely blocking off my path.

“… Hmph!”
“Um… Anja…? Ms. Anja…? Why might you be so angry?”

I unconsciously went polite.

“I’m not particularly angry or anything! It’s not like you did anything bad, after all!”
“Uwah…”

What do I do… about this…
I had no idea what I was supposed to do, and I couldn’t really tell what sort of anger she was caught up in.
… No, I could tell the cause lay in me getting along and studying with everyone, but I had no idea how she was processing that in her head.

… If I give her candy, will she regain her temper?

“… Anja… do you want… some candy…?”
“Hmph!”

With nimble hands, she snatched the whole tin of candy, but her mood didn’t improve.
I failed.

“Um… do you want to participate in the session next time onwards…?”
“Oh don’t mind me! I don’t like studying with lots of people at all!”
“As I thought…”

Well, I already knew that. I was giving up hope.
I can’t believe the girl ringing her nose and standing so dauntingly before me was given the nickname ‘Goddess of Ice’ in school.
She usually acts cool, this girl. Seriously, believe me. She’s just completely different when she’s in front of me.

“…… It just irritates me.”
“…… What does?”
“… I don’t know.”

Anja didn’t undo her stance as she said it.

“Aaah! Fine, whatever! Now help me study too! We’re going to study the hell of it! Here and now!”
“Eh!? Now!? It’s already night, and the school isn’t open, you know!?”
“Then we just have to do it in my room, right!? We’re going to have a study session through the night, just the two of us!”

A night study session…?
My heart skipped a beat.

“Today, we’re going to keep studying until you say you can’t go on anymore! No! Even if you can’t go on, I’ll force you on! Prepare yourself!”
“Hey… w-wait a second…”

My hesitant hand was yanked by Anja and forcefully led off to her den.
My chest continued to strike, ladum, ladum, my body was heating. A stream of blood was racing all around me at an incredible rate.

A night study session, Anja’s room, the two of us, until I can’t go on anymore… even if I can’t go on…

Strange words continued spinning around my head as I was led by the hand to Anja’s whim, staggering as I wandered the night path.

 

 

 

Let me get one thing straight.
… Nothing happened.
… We just studied.

I mean, yeah. It was obvious. We were still only 13.
Disgust. Like my own red blood, a disgust towards myself circulated around me.
Anja fell asleep studying until she couldn’t go on, so I carried her to her bed, neatly draped the cover over her, and had Anja’s father accompany me to my own house.

I mean, yeah.
Self-loathing. With all my self-loathing and embarrassment, if there was a hole, I’d throw myself into it.
I wanted to punch myself to death for letting my heart race so.
Even if my body was young again, to think I ended up lusting for a 13-year-old girl…

Pedophile? Am I a pedophile?
When I’m 28 add 13, you mean to say my chest grew hot at a 13-year-old, and I ended up holding expectations as a man?
Crap, Crap, Crap.
Impossible. Nope. Not happening.
A large sin on my life, a capital crime. It’s a sin worthy of the death penalty.

After returning home, I slammed my head against my room’s desk a number of times.
Until my mom noticed me eccentricities and stopped me, I continued hurting myself time and again.

Aaaaaah……………………..
The guillllttttt…………… the guiiillllllltttttt……………………………………..

“Good mo… wait, Sieg, what happened!? Your forehead, it’s red! And those are some crazy bags under your eyes!”

When she came to school the next morning, those were the first words to come out of Anja’s mouth.
My forehead had swelled so large it might burst, and bags had firmly taken root under my eyes.

I couldn’t sleep. I’ll leave it at that.
Even relieving myself felt like a sin, and I admonished myself more. I had spent a hazy night. I was riddled with guilt.

“…… It’s nothing.”
“Hmm… then I’ll leave it at that, but… today night, we’re having another study session in my room, you hear! That’s a promise!”
“A… again…?”

I saw her off as she returned to her seat, leaving only those words, after which I promptly fell prostrate over my desk.

In the next test, I was unable to achieve 100 percent.

 

 

 

 

* * * * *

 

The months went by, and we enrolled in high school.
The one we attended was, of course, a famous preparatory school.
What’s more, I was able to enter that nationally accredited prep school on a scholarship.

No tuition fee. It was the most I could do for my parents. I couldn’t help but think back to my salary in my last life.

In a sense, someone with the grace of ‘reincarnation’ like me taking the privilege of scholarship was quite natural, but Anja who had won over that position with her own power was truly amazing.
As a childhood friend, I took pride in her.

Right. We were already childhood friends.
Competing as rivals for close to 10 years, endeavoring in our studies side by side, and walking down life together.
To me, past life included, it was 10 out of 43 years. But to her, it was 10 of 15.

Right. It’s already been ten years.
… Already ten years.

‘High school is the real battle! I’ll catch up to you in no time, and defeat you in a test! You’d better prepare yourself!’

Right after the entrance ceremony, Anja proclaimed it with spirit.
Her attitude took a complete change when she became a high schooler, but to me, when I heard that proclamation that hadn’t changed in the slightest from when we first met, I couldn’t help but leak a laugh.
Her face puffing up just a bit, ‘Now’s the last time you’ll be able to put on airs!’ she said and rung her nose a ‘hmph’.

 

Yet a girl like that somehow managed to earn the nickname ‘Ice Queen’ after spending about three months in school… I really don’t get people.

About nine months from enrollment, the incident happened.
It was the type of incident no one else would think an incident at all. But even so, between Anja and I, it was the greatest incident there could be.
Especially to me, this was the turning point, I think it was the time the crease started to show.

“… Huh?”

Anja opened her eyes wide as she looked over the large board of third-semester midterm rankings posted right outside the entranceway.
Her eyes blinked again and again in surprise as she stared intently at the ranks of people who did well in the test. After rubbing her eyes once, she looked over it again.

‘1st Place: Sieg 785 Points
2nd Place: Anja 785 Points’

The ranking table laid it out so.
A red tinge quickly spread across her face, her eyes giving a glimmering sparkle.

“Sieg!”

She raced in a straight line towards me, bringing along a full-face smile to look over me with.
It looked almost as if her delight was becoming a steam gushing forth from her body.

“Sieg!”

Closing in, she called me again. There was no meaning to it, I think she was simply filled with elation.

“I finally caught up to you! It’s the first time! The first! The first, I say! The first time I lined up with you!”

Delighted, she continued repeating the word ‘first’ time and again.
In elementary school, there were times when we lined side to side with 100 points each. But she wasn’t satisfied with that. To her, two 100s was a sign of an impossible measurement, meaning a failure of the measuring device.
When it came to that, it was nothing more than a draw. What’s more, to her, it was a draw she was never too happy about.

So this was the first time we ever tied with anything besides full marks, and she didn’t hesitate to rejoice at the notion.

“We lined up! Side by side! All that’s left is for me to overtake you! To win! We lined up! I lined up next to Sieg!”

Happy, she looked truly happy. Enough that just looking at her made me happy as well, her eyes gleamed and sparkled and shined like gemstones.

“Prepare yourself!”

She said and laughed. As if her future was paved with jewel boxes, she held such a hope in her chest as she laughed.

 

 

 

… But Anja.

It’s already been 10 years.
10 whole years…
10 years have passed since we started competing…

The seams are starting to come apart, Anja…

 

 

 

 

* * * * *

 

It didn’t take much longer for the seams to widen.

“I won! … I won! I won! I won! I won! I won!”

‘1st place: Anja 786 Points
2nd place: Sieg 781 Points’

The midterm of the second term of the second year, I lost to Anja for the first time in my life.
When it came to test scores, it was my first defeat in this life.

When Anja first saw the rankings, she was left in a daze.
She saw something she couldn’t believe, rather, she couldn’t tell what was going on and the inside of her head had gone pure white. She absentmindedly raised her head, opened her mouth, and widened her eyes as the inside of her head crossed the expanse of space.

Perhaps it was after about five minutes.
Her consciousness finally returned to her body, she processed the visual information coming in, and the curtain opened on her delight.

“I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it……!”

She hopped up and down with her face a bright red, displaying her delight with her whole body in a way completely unbefitting any icy nickname she received.

“I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it……!”

And once more she ran a straight dash towards me, taking me- her supposed enemy- by the hands-, and shaking those hands up and down. Smiling from ear to ear, she tossed a feverish gaze at me.
There was nothing more I could do than give a troubled laugh.
There was no other path.

“I did it~~~~~~~~~~!”

Said Anja, as she heatedly ran out the school gates.

“Ah! Wait a second! Anja! Come back! Get back here! Classes aren’t over yet!”

Forgetting classes just like that, the impulse sent Anja running out of school. Forgetting herself, she ran.
There was no time for me to stop her, 10 years’ worth of delighted heat ran rampant sending her off like a tornado.
… The next day, she received an ample lecture from the teacher.
Her figure was quite a scene to behold.

While it was a sight, from that day forth, I knew the collapse within me had become distinct. This wasn’t the shock of loss. My first loss didn’t particularly vex, or irritate, frighten me one bit.

A certain resolve was beginning to sprout within me.
The time that was destined to come approached. I felt that, and I began to feel I had to settle my resolve.

The seams were already coming apart.
They had come started separating from middle school… no, I’m sure it was even before that…

I knew the day I parted from her wasn’t far.

 

 

 

 

* * * * *

 

At first, her time was spent in simple delight.

With that day as a boundary, I got into a cycle of wins and losses with her.
Taking the composite of our grades in our second high school year, I was the victor.
But when we entered our third, my win rate had fallen to 50… no, she had slightly exceeded me. Since she kept such orderly records, I could find out in an instant if I just asked her, but I was too embarrassed to ask.

From around that time, she got to studying in an extraordinary enjoyable fashion.
Up to then, she always studied desperately with a somewhat haunted look on her face, working for nothing more than to take me down and hoist up her flag, but with our cycle of close fights, it seems the fact we could never tell who would win made learning fun to her.

Every time she made a new discovery, she would leak a smile.
When that happened, strangely enough, her academic progress was rising at a rate evidently faster than when she studied like the devil.

“Are you having fun?”

I asked.

“You can tell?”
“Yeah… I’ve known you long enough…”
“It’s already been ten years. Ah, how long, how long. And what a bother it was.”

Right. It’s already one of those stuck together sorts of relationships.
Even when we were competing in academics like this, for some reason, our study sessions together continued. Is there really any point? I would say from time to time, but even so, she would ask me what she didn’t know, and I would do the same.

‘Sieg, your teachings are easier to understand than the teacher’s.’

When she told me that, I could no longer say I wanted to stop these study sessions.

“Right… it really was long…”

I looked up at the ceiling of her room as I reflected on the path it took to reach this point.
OF elementary, of middle, and of lately, our high school lives.
… No, even further. A lot further back than that, I looked back on my past life. Lately, I had gotten around to reflecting on my past life more often.

“… Hey, what do you mean, ‘it really was long…’ why are you putting that in past tense? Sieg, you and I are both going to the same college, so we’ll be stuck together for ages to come.”
“… Yeah, that’s right. You’re right.”

Our first choice university was the top university in the country.
It couldn’t be called anything but natural. We attended a nationally prestigious prep school, and within it, we competed over the first and second place ranks. It made perfect sense for us to aim for the hardest and greatest academic center in the country.
To add onto that, our mock exams gave us the highest acceptance rate of A. While I wasn’t going to let my guard down, the way things were going, we were going to enter the same university.

But that’s all there was to it.
Our… no, the gap between my seams continued to widen, and they were entering a realm beyond repairs. No, from the start, this was a time bomb the likes of which no repairs would mend.

We would attend the same university.
But the moment we parted wasn’t far away.

“Hey… Sieg, what’s wrong…?”

When Anja called out, I was taken aback.

“Ah, I’m sorry. I was spacing out. It’s nothing.”
“Liar…”

She saw through me in no time.

“Hey… can I ask…?”
“A-about what…?”
“What you’re hiding…..”

I staggered. For an instant, my heart received a jolt, sending shivers through my body.

“These days, you… look like you’re thinking hard about something… taking something onto yourself… worrying…
At first, I thought it was just a worry. I thought maybe you were worried about how I was catching up to you in studies.
But that’s wrong. I’ve known you long enough, so I know. It’s completely wrong…”
“…”
“So I thought you were hiding something. That’s something everyone does, and it’s nothing for me to care too much about. If you wanted to consult with someone, I’d be all ears, but what you’re holding is a little different. The thing you’ve been hiding lately is… a little different…”

The room went quiet. There wasn’t the slightest sound apart from her words.
So I could hear the strong beat of my heart all too well.

“… I never noticed until recently. We’ve been together so long I finally noticed.
That you were hiding something… all along… a long time… from the first time we met… a long… long time… you’ve been worrying…”

I was dazed. My secret I had never told anyone about was lain bare before her eyes.
Anja held her knees, hiding half of her face and peering at me with upturned eyes.

“Hey… is it something… you can’t say to me…?”
“……”
“……”

A long silence descended. The only sound I could just manage to hear was the sound of me gulping my own spit.

“… I can’t say.”

Those were the only words I could say.
Her face was tinged with the color of despair.

“Just a few more years… I want you to wait a few years…”
“… Eh?”
“At that time… I’ll tell you everything……”

When I said that, Anja gave a few small nods. With a serious face, she bobbed her head up and down.

I bent my body to look up. The ceiling of her room had already become a familiar scene.
A few years to go. Just a few years and everything would come to light.

It would be the time the seams all crumbled away, and she would be disillusioned with me.

Anja, did you know?
I’ve been cheating.

To tell you the truth…
From middle school, I’ve been doing high school studies, I’ve been studying for college exams.
When I started seeing the seams, I grew terrified and studied ahead and ahead of that.

But even so, you caught up to me.
And you were about to surpass me.

That’s the sort of person I am……

 

 

 

The two of us safely passed our entrance exams.
Without any danger, I obtained the ticket to enter the most prestigious body of learning in the country.

When we graded our own entrance exams afterward, my score was above Anja’s.
Anja had put some considerable spirit into it, so she was considerably irritated.
Seeing that, I laughed.

This was my final show of stubbornness.

 

 

 

 

* * * * *

I saw a dream.

A dream of heavy snow.

It was a dream of that special day of snow, the day I once died.
In a pure-white room, staring at the downpour from the window.

The entire surface was white. Not in grains that could be called flakes of snow, at this point, a living body of snow was falling top to down without any end in sight.
It was a snowstorm to leave records.

I held envy towards the snow.
I envied what was special.
The me of my past life could never escape the realm of ordinary, yet no matter now I looked over my past life, I couldn’t remember ever trying to leave my life of mediocrity.
I cried, laughed, got angry, felt troubled, worked hard, solved problems, and put in effort…

Life was a difficult thing, and even if I made use of 120% of my own power, the path wouldn’t let me tread down it so easily. The walls prepared by the troubles of life are high. Yet they’re the sort of thing you’ve got to cry, stamp your feet, and scream unfair, unreasonable while your body’s left in tatters as you barely manage to overcome them.

And that was an ordinary life.
In my past life, I was a common man, and the path I tread was a common life.
There was happiness, there was pain, there were times where I was beaten and I couldn’t go on… that was an ordinary life.

… I yearned for special.
I yearned for a special like the heavy snow.

And a reincarnation occurred.

Now how would I turn out this time around?
Was I able to become special?
Sure enough, my grades in school almost always placed me at number one, I graduated a good high school, and was able to enter the hardest university.
I was special. From the eyes of any other person, I was special.

But how about it?
Compared to this heavy snow, how do I weigh up?
Do I have enough power to completely change the world? Am I equipped with even a single small sliver of this snowstorm’s intensity?
Was I able to become the heavy snow I envied so?

… There was no way I ever could.
Not a single part of my nature had changed from my past life.
This window wouldn’t serve as a mirror; my form would never change into the snow.

The identity of the seams was simple enough.
I was simply never of the caliber to stand next to Anja.

 

 

 

 

* * * * *

 

Even after entering university, my competition with Anja continued.
It was business as usual, or so I wanted to say, but most of the tasks in college were reports, and there were few things that could be objectively marked up like tests.

She was enraged.
Then how are we supposed to compete!?
As I’d already experienced university once, I already knew, so I could only give a troubled smile at her words.

There were courses that would have tests at the end of the term.
Anja took them with enthusiasm, it’s a battle! Have at me! She’d happily made a declaration of war. But she didn’t know. At the university, the results of the finals were rarely returned, and we had no way of knowing our own scores.

When break came around, she flew into a rage once more.
The real shocker came when she dragged me by the arm and directly infiltrated the professor’s office. Give me back my final, tell me what score I got, she demanded.

The professors were troubled as well.
Did regulation allow them to provide it on such short notice or not? Without giving them time to look into it, she hit them with blazing enthusiasm prompting the return of our graded tests against their better judgment.
All at once, Anja had become famous among the faculty.

The test results had me on the losing end.
My win rate was somewhere around 30 percent. Hmhmm, a triumphant expression anyone could understand plastered on her face, she seemed exceptionally happy.
‘You sure you’re up to par?’ Anja tried to rile me up, but, ‘Just wait until next time,’ I responded.

‘Wait until next time’? I said something all too insincere.
That’s all I could say.

 

 

 

“… Eh? You mean… me…?”

With a blank look, Anja pointed at herself as she spoke.
One of Anja’s reports had been evaluated highly, and she received a recommendation from the professor to attend an extramural panel discussion.
Now isn’t that amazing? As expected of Anja. I sent her words of encouragement, but she couldn’t conceal her hesitant hues.

From her complexion, a certain thought was transparent.
‘Why wasn’t Sieg chosen, why just me…?’
I could see what was on her mind all too well.

So Anja took part in a panel at another university, while keeping up excellent grades.

At yet another time, her name was raised as one of the proficient students within our year.
Her results on her reports, her scores on the finals, taking them all into consideration, her grades had pierced into the upper ranks.
At that time as well, she was simply perplexed.

The difference was becoming clear.

In our university, major selection began in the second year. Even if it was called that, the initial selections were just there to get a taste of the subject, switching time and again within the school year they were there to allow students to experience all sorts of fields. In that trial period as well, Anja was a target of expectations.

By all means take part in our seminar, by all means in ours, having left vibrant results in her first year, Anja was pulled in all directions.
Of course, no such thing happened to me.

Now then, the troublesome thing is that in her head, it was already decided she would enter the same lab as me. So which one are we going to join? She consulted with me on which lab we would enter together.
I gave a bitter smile.

“Don’t you think we should both choose a subject we’re interested in?” When I put out that opinion, her mood grew visibly worse. “Right… that’s the correct choice…” I was able to gain her reluctant acceptance.
I produced a seasonal sweet from my bag, somehow regaining her mood.

Looking at the end result, Anja entered the magitech research and development seminar.
And I chose the magitech research and development seminar.

… No, wait a second, this really was a miscalculation.
When she said point to it on go, after the ready, set, go, we both pointed to magitech R&D.

I had served at a magitech research and development firm for around five years of my past life, so I thought I might be able to apply that experience and chose the lab. But she just thought it sounded kinda interesting and chose it.

“Why did it come to this…”

I muttered beside a- for some reason- triumphant-looking girl.

 

 

 

We became third years, and her activity only increased in intensity.
Her thesis was evaluated highly, earning her an award from the academic society, she was invited to another convention, she was steadily extending her results. From students to the faculty of other universities, she had gained the opportunity to mingle with many, and she was busily fluttering around
She was invited to a collaborative research project with other universities and corporations, continuing to put out excellent results even there.

Nothing particularly special happened to me.
If I had to say, ordinary… I was spending a college life no different from anyone else.

“Why…!”

Anja cried out before me alone.

“Why is it only me……!”

That sort of rage she couldn’t direct anywhere, couldn’t do anything about, she would expose it before me.
In her head was an illusion of competing with me forever, she was feeling an irritation that her fiction wasn’t playing out in reality.

But it’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen, Anja.

“… I’m sorry.”

When I said those words, she made a sorrowful face, “I’m sorry,” she emitted a small voice barely in my auditory range before leaving from the spot.

The seams were no longer seams, it was a full-fledged tear.

 

 

 

 

* * * * *

 

“Contest?”
“Right, a contest!”

Holding up the flier for the magitech production contest brought to the lab before my face, Anja cried out with rough nasal breath.

“We’ll compete with this!”

To put it simply, you had to develop an item that satisfied the designated level of performance and produce it. It was a contest where the magitech device would be judged over efficiency, design, concept, and various other points of view.
It was a contest held within the university, and one that required a skillset close to actual magitech production.

My heart danced just a little.
A contest that demanded practical abilities. With five years of practical experience under my belt, it was a favorable contest to me.
I could compete with Anja for the first in a long time. When I thought that, I leaked a slight smile.

Perhaps sensing my niceties, she gave a smile filled with renewed expectations.

I devoted my all into that contest.
Through morning and noon and evening, I would think over my creation with zeal, putting down every single idea I had on paper. When I made a trial product, a washed out all the problematic points and made a revised model. Failure is an accessory to successful production, I had learned that in my job from my past life. The most important thing was to try moving your hands.

I made prototype after prototype, repeating improvement after reform. At times I would calm my head and gaze at my opus from another angle. Past ideas, or perhaps a hint was hidden in a different product entirely? I probed around to find out.

I dredged up my memories.
Was there any way I could better use my five years of practical experience? Was there any hint hidden in all the work I did back then? Were there any better ideas? Were there any better improvement plans…
Simply recklessly… I recklessly devoted myself to developing my magitech device.

“Hey… Sieg, are you… alright? Aren’t you pushing yourself too hard…?”

Anja nervously worried for me.
Regardless of the fact she brought the competition to me, she panicked as she worried for her own rival.
Alright… I’m alright… I told her and pat her on the head.
At that moment, I ended up tripping myself up a bit.
I only made her needlessly more worried.

But I had to put my all into it.
This might be the last.
This might be the last chance I had to compete with her.

I already knew.
That the gap between us had been closed in, opened up, and it couldn’t be closed again.
That I could no longer answer to her full effort.
That I couldn’t satisfy her anymore.

Even if I was reborn, I was still the ordinary me.

So at the very least, at the end…
At the end…
With all I have…
All my soul…
I’ll bet my all.

Please let me have a contest with her…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day of the contest.
A wide open hall. A number of universities took part, and that vast hall was buried in with students.
It was an influential competition that had gone on for many years, great numbers of corporations and reporters watched over the students’ gallant figures, searching out the talents who would lead them to the future.

The contest went on.
The contest went on.
The contest went on.

Anja was amazing after all.

Her magitech’s ingenuity, functionality, design, no matter the field, it worked beautifully.
In terms of a test, 100 points… no, it was completion deserving 120 points.
From the start, her amazingness wasn’t something that could be measured with a 100 point test.

The results came out.
Her work took its place as the runner-up.
Out of over 1000 participants, she hammered out a splendid result as second place.

And I…
I…

 

 

 

 

* * * * *

 

The snow fell.

It fell heavily.

My vision was completely covered up in white.
According to my friend in meteorology, this was a downpour the likes of which hadn’t been observed in 50 years.

Cold.
White.
My entire world was covered up in snow.
There was about as much falling as there was on the day I died.

“… You shouldn’t go outside… on a day like this…”

As I sat on the bench, there was a woman who held out an umbrella for me.
It was Anja. Anja came to look for me.

“Ah… I’m sorry…”

I said as I accepted the umbrella, but the umbrella held no meaning at all.
A small umbrella wasn’t able to protect against the special snowstorm and the snow simply continued to pile over my body.

“It was a shame… to be unselected… Sieg, you worked so hard, and yet…”

Right, my work was unselected. It failed the preliminaries.
At the earliest stage of the contest, my greatest effort disappeared from the stage.

“…… It was the natural result.”
“… Don’t say… something like that…”

The contest was large in scale, there were participants from many universities.
It was a competition assembled of real genius. There’s no helping it if my product didn’t go through.

“Hey… if you stay out here, you’ll catch a cold… let’s go inside the house, okay?”
“…… I’m… going to watch the snow a little longer… Anja, you should go home.”
“… I’m not going back until you do.”

With those words, in the heavy downpour, she sat down beside me.
The snow swallowed up all color and sound.

“…… I’m sorry.”
“Eh?”
“I can’t reach you anymore…”

In a small voice, I said it so she was the only one who could hear.
Regardless of the fact no one else was there, regardless of the fact there was only snow.

“This is the end of our competition… from here on out, you should compete with real geniuses.”
“Sieg… what are you talking about…?”
“Turn your eyes towards the wide world. You’re a real genius, and… I’m sure there are other geniuses out there who can compete with you. From here on, your efforts… should be directed towards them…
This is the end for me. This is where we part ways.”

I looked her in the eyes.

“I couldn’t become special. I couldn’t become special like you.”

It was all I could do to keep the tears from spilling from my eyes.

“What… what do you mean… Sieg…?”
“That day was a snowy day as well…”

I looked up at the snow that thunderously fell. Up and down, left and right, an unchanging scene buried up in snow spread out.

“The day I died was a snowy day. I turned the neck of my unmoving body to gaze at the snow out the window. I held a strong envy towards that snow…”
“…?”
“The twenty-odd years leading to it had been a life worthy of being labeled ordinary. It wasn’t anything bad, but… I didn’t have anything I particularly excelled in, and unable to walk any extraordinary path, never once did I ever score 100 points in a school test…
… I longed to be special. An ordinary like me longed to be special…”
“… What’s wrong? … What are you saying, Sieg?”

The reply I couldn’t give her at the end of high school, I would give it to her now.

“I was reborn, Anja. I died once… and carrying on my memories, I was born again.”
“………… Eh?”
“Can you believe it?”

Averting my face from her dumbfounded state, I started talking.

“To someone who’s gone through life once, an elementary school test is a simple matter. That’s a given. And unaware of all that, you challenging me was rash, or should I say thoughtless… the only thing that couldn’t be helped was the fact you didn’t know.
Up to middle school, it was my complete victory. I was able to unobjectionably exhibit my treasure of 28 years.
But in high school, our grades lined up… at the end, you turned the tables. That was only natural.”
“…”
“High school studies are a hard thing indeed. Even if you’ve been through high school once, the questions are no longer the sort you can get 100 points on so easily. If you asked a passerby, ‘If you could do high school all over again, do you think you could get into the toughest university?’ I doubt you would get many ‘yes’es.
It’s because I was doing high school and college-level studies all throughout middle school that I was able to compete with you, but I was never the sort of person who possessed academic abilities great enough to enter the hardest university in the country.”

I was reaching my limit. No, I had long since passed it.

“In college, it wasn’t even a contest.
Obviously. I don’t have the ability to win an award from the scientific community. The magical advantage cast on me was nothing more than the use of experience from a past life. The ability to construct a superior thesis in an abstruse college subject… I… never had it from the start…”

She absentmindedly listened to me.
While the snow fell, without opening her mouth, she only focused on listening.

“A prodigy at ten, a genius at fifteen, a common man passed twenty… the magic called reincarnation started to show its seams after fifteen years. It’s a magic that’s advantage disappears, that’s effects wane the more time passes by. Anja, you desperately worked to surpass me, but making sure you didn’t leave me behind was the best I could do.
The plating called rebirth was stripped away, and the ordinary man rose to the surface. Time has crumbled the magic cast on me.”

I couldn’t endure it.
Tears spilled from my eyes.

“I wanted to be special like this snow. I wanted to compete with the special you forever.
I’m sorry… I couldn’t become special… I’m sorry…… I’m sorry……”

My sobs leaked.
I repeated the words, I’m sorry. I couldn’t catch up to her. Even with 20 years, I would never reach her.

“I’m sorry…!”

I was the same ordinary person as ever, not a single thing had changed.

“Idiot… you idiot……”

Crying.
She was crying again.
Seeing my crumbling form, she ended up crying.

“I don’t get a single thing… you’re saying, and… saying you were reborn or something… there’s no way I could believe it, and… I don’t understand, and… I can’t take it, and…”

The snow was getting to her.

“I don’t understand what you’re saying at all, and… I can’t accept it all of a sudden, and… I feel really, really bad for saying this, but… I can’t understand this ordinary thing you keep talking about…
That ordinary sensation… I don’t get it at all…”

There’s no helping that.
Genius doesn’t understand ordinary. Anja can’t understand me.

“But, but you see… there is something I do understand……”

Anja wept as she continued her words. Letting large, mortified teardrops blow, she tossed her words at me.

“Sieg, you’re at your limit… you can’t go any further… you can’t push yourself anymore… I can tell.
I can tell that much. I mean… I’ve been by your side a long, long time.  I’ve been… looking at you a long time.”

I see… I see……
So she had already seen through… she had seen through my plating peeling away…

Then this really is goodbye…

“But… but you know…”

Anja held my body tight.

“Don’t say… we have to part… don’t tell me… we have to say goodbye… not being able to compete with you is… sad and… regretful and… it hurts my heart, but…… but… stay by my side for ever and ever. Be with me forever………
…… I’ve loved you for 15 years, you know……”

My heart leapt. I could feel the blood race around my body.
And I finally……. Noticed…

“…… It’s cold.”
“Yeah.”
“You’re cold.”
“… Yeah.”
“Your body’s cold.”

She was holding me.
With her cold, pale arms, she was holding me.

“That’s no good… you… shouldn’t be out here… you’ll catch a cold…… everyone… has their hopes on you… you have to look after your body……”
“I said it, didn’t I. I’m not going home until you do.”
“………”
“Hey, let’s go home, okay?”

She laughed.
She cried and laughed.

“Stop longing after some snowstorm… let’s return to a warm home, okay?”

 

 

 

 

* * * * *

 

I was still in a daze.
Gazing up at the ceiling of her room, I was still spacing out.

I had intended to inform her of our parting. Today, I would confess everything, and we’d go our separate ways.
So why am I in her room again, and why did I even borrow her house’s bath?

“Ah! That was refreshing!”

Said Anja, still letting off bath steam as she entered the room.

“And so? How much of that talk from before was true?”
“About the reincarnation?”
“Of course. What else is there?”
“… All of it. I understand if you can’t believe it, but I haven’t told a single lie.”
“No way~.”

Anja laughed as she asked me about my past life.
Swaying half-way between daze and lucidity, I talked about whatever she urged me on.
About my past life. But even if I called it that, it wasn’t a particularly interesting life. It was an ordinary life, I had this sort of trouble, this funny thing happened, I had this strange friend, this is how I walked down life.
It was just that sort of incoherent ramble.

Anja happily listened in to those trifling stories.

“I finally feel like I’ve caught up to you.”
“…… Eh?”
“How should I put it… I finally feel like I’ve become your childhood friend.”

She said and laughed.
My 28 years I never told anyone about were filled in just a bit.

“So what are you going to do now?”
“… By which you mean?”
“You don’t have to shoulder it all anymore, so can’t you just live how you want to? Why don’t you do something fun?”

Sipping warm cocoa, she spoke in such a light matter.

“I wonder… I definitely have a better academic record than in my past life, so no matter where I go, I’ll have an advantage, but……”
“Ah…! God! Advantage and disadvantage! That’s not what I’m talking about! What do you like, and what do you enjoy doing!?”

Touching one hand to her hip, she pointed firmly at me with the other to match her strong tone.

“What I like… huh…”

I closed my eyes to think. But I got the feeling it wasn’t something I would find so easily.

“I guess I’ll take my time figuring it out…”
“No! I can tell! And I’ll teach you! What you like, and what you’re good at!”

Eh? What? What’s all this then?
Why is Anja proclaiming my preferences?
Taken aback, I awaited Anja’s words.

“The path suited for you is teacher! I mean, the reason being, You’ve nurtured me all the way here!”

She stuck out her chest as she said it.
Teacher. Hearing that, I felt something gently fit into my chest.
During middle school, I remembered how my friends and I would often hold study sessions.
I was happy to be relied on. I was happy when they understood what I was saying. I was happy to be useful to my friends.

“Your childhood friend is telling you! There’s no doubt about it! You were my teacher!”

I know everything about you, she made a triumphant face as she laughed.

Led along by her, I ended up laughing myself.

 

 

 

 

* * * * *

 

When the snow came down, I would recall.
The day I died, the day I held a strong envy for special.
Just what part of me did my ‘special’ called reincarnation change?

Because of my reincarnation, various things happened to me. But precisely what change would you say came about to my own ordinary nature?
The answer won’t come, in the end, I even get the feeling I was as ordinary as ever.

But…

“Teacher! See youuu tomorrow!”
“Later, teach!”
“Ah, be careful of the snow on your way home.”

Today, as per usual, I watched over my students’ growth as I spend my days.
It was ordinary, but it was a job I felt was worth doing.

“So everyone went home… and I’m on overtime…”

I had paperwork to processes and tests to grade.
… Come to think of it, there were some kids who were competing over test scores. I wonder how they did this time around.
Now on the grading side, I couldn’t help but let out a smile.

 

 

 

“Oh my, welcome home dear.”
“Papa! Welcome hooome!”

As I opened the door to the house, my wife popped her head out, and my daughter latched onto my leg.
When I held her up, my daughter happily laughed aloud.

My wife is a special person.
Enthusiastic in her research, she’s aiming to become a university professor, writing up paper after paper. She was raising quite exceptional results, showing her face at conferences overseas time and again.
She’s currently seen as a young and competent researcher.

But to me, that wasn’t what I meant when I said special.
she held a different sort of special.

By which, I mean I love her.

“Did you make dinner today.”
“Yeah, I won’t be going anywhere far for a while. I’ll think I’ll be back early.”
“So papa and mama will be together for a while!”
“I brought some candy back with me.”
“Yay! Papa! Thank you!”
“Eh? What’s this, what’s this? What candy is it today? Hey, hey? What’s today’s flavor?”
“… Don’t latch on stronger than our daughter…”

While I was the ordinary me, I watch over my students’ growths and live with my special wife and daughter.
I tread such an ordinary, comfortable life.

Right now, I am walking a warm path of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Footnote

[1] The exact term used for the cloth wrap is a Katusha, in reference to the character in Count Tolstoy’s Resurrection, and her usual depiction in movies. This is a commonplace term in Japan used to describe the hairstyle, and not a specific reference.

Posted in misc | Tagged | 74 Comments

Extra: Songstress 2

 

Racing down the main road of the capital was a young man known as the black knight.

“Pardon me!”

Leaping over a cart pulled by an old man, he changed directions as he landed, desperately running off. Mindful of his back, he looked around and decided the direction he should run.

His curly blond hair flowed back as he ran. His mismatched eyes were a beautiful sight to behold, blue in the right and green in the left. His well-trained body acted as a spring, letting him bound freely over the main road. But what he made use of wasn’t his physical body alone.

By channeling mana into his body, he was enhancing it. Desperate enough to use every means at his disposal to flee, whenever he’d passed by a woman’s side, his Jetstream would flip their skirts. Whenever he was about to run into someone, it was always a young girl or a pretty older woman.

“Like hell I’ll stop here!!”

Shouting as if his soul was crying out, Aleist didn’t even try to peer into the flipped skirt. He continued avoiding all the young girls in his way with magnificent footwork.

They would call him ‘That harem bastard,’ with envy, jealousy, resentment.

But from the point of view of the man in question, that wasn’t a result he obtained because he wanted it. Aleist understood that a harem was a special privilege only granted to the chosen few. That didn’t mean to say assets or strength. What was most important was what could be called the qualifications to keep a harem.

… and the power to maintain that harem, even when surrounded.

You can be dense as hell. You can pretend you don’t see. Even lucky perverts are permitted. But you mustn’t run away. A man with the caliber to accept all harem members… meaning a main character’s disposition.

Aleist lacked that.

Before that even came into question…

“Don’t run away, Aleist-sama!”
“What is the meaning of this, captain Aleist!”
“That should be our line. We’re his fiancées! And yet he goes on a trip with nothing but women? Fat chance!”

The women chasing him from behind were catching up, even when he ran at full force. There were those running in skirts, and those riding horses to give chase. A majority of them were knights who had graduated the academy, the Courtois Kingdom’s educational institute, while the others were women who possessed equal power.

Aleist endured the cold eyes directed at him by the surrounding men as he screamed from his heart.

“No, I already have someone my heart’s set on!”

But the world was full of uncertainty.

“If you’re a noble, just give it up!”
“In the first place, that girl you’re after doesn’t think anything of you!”
“Aleist, just give up!”

Noble ladies, knights and those of the beast tribe, various sorts of women chased after Aleist. It was a dream many a young boy had dreamed of. But Aleist’s heart was set on another. An elf girl called Millia.

Yet the one he loved would never chase him, he was the one giving chase. What’s more, his rival was more than up to par.

The white knight Rudel. He knew that man didn’t think anything special of Millia, but even so, Millia had not given up on him. To Aleist, it was quite a sorrowful thing.

The fact Rudel was his close friend only made their relationship more dubious. Even so, Aleist didn’t give up.

“Like hell I’ll give uppp!!”

There was no telling what they’d do to him if he was captured. Imagining them making sure he could no longer run away, Aleist raced down the main road. It was at that moment. As he entered an alley off the street where the paths grew a little complicated, Aleist was grasped.

The one who caught him was a blue haired underclassman from his student days… one of his fiancées.

(Ah, it’s over. Farewell, my innocence.)

Aleist’s expression had already given up on everything.

It was Nate. Her curling blue hair grew to her back. Her pale skin and eyes the same blue as her hair were exceptionally beautiful. Her meeting with Aleist had been at the graduate sendoff party, an outrageous encounter where she ended up on top of him. But without Aleist having the slightest idea of what was going on, she had become engaged to him.

“How troubling, senpai.”

Nate grasped Aleist, smiling gently as she made a plea. You could call it a bargain.

“I have just a small request, but if you’ll grant it, I’ll save you here and now.”

“W-what is it? I’m not giving you my body!”

“That does sound appealing, but this time’s different. Well, you could call it a problem with my house, or perhaps something of the sort… there’s a place I want you to go with me. Of course, if you’ll go then I’ll save you, and I won’t lay a hand on you.”

Aleist cowered from the sound of the approaching footsteps, thinking a little before giving a nod.

(If that’s all it takes, it’s a cheap buy.)

He thought and nodded, but that would turn out a tremendous mistake.

“Very well, then wait a moment.”

Nate walked out of the alley, in a theatrical voice, proclaiming to the pursuing women where Aleist had run off to.

“Big trouble! Senpai leapt over that building and went that way!”
“Good work, Nate!”
“Don’t let him get away, find him!”
“If that’s where he went, I can use some friends from the knight brigades to encircle him!”
(I’m scared. They’re scaring me. Let’s learn to be just a little more graceful, ladies…)

Once everyone had left under Nate’s deception, she beckoned to him. Aleist left the alleyway, relieved he had been saved.

“You really saved my back there.”

“You don’t need to thank me. Because you’ll be properly working in exchange. Yeah, now that I know you’re going to help me out, that’s a huge load off my shoulders.”

Nate pat her chest in relief. And Aleist recalled he had never asked for the destination.

“Come to think of it, where are we going?”

“Ah, about that… it’s the Kingdom of Celestia. My House flowed in from there, and there’s been a bit of a request made to us this time around, so I have to make the trip. I really am relieved you’re coming with me. I mean, one wrong step and we’d have an international incident on our hands. No, perhaps bigger than that?”

“… Eh?”

Before a delighted Nate, Aleist’s understanding was unable to catch up.

The air passage from Courtois to Celestia was, to the five of them, a fresh experience.

Flying through the open sky was a white dragon with four wings. Its body was a size larger than the normal wild dragon. With the size of its body and wings, its arms were also thick and burly. But if you said such a thing, you would hurt that young maiden of a dragon.

Among the dragoons, the most famous knight’s partner… riding Sakuya’s back, Izumi Shirasagi’s ponytail flowed in the breeze. Her silky hair swayed to and fro. Normally, the gale would be much worse, but the barrier erected with magic protected the five on the dragon’s back.

Hailing from a foreign region called the orient, Izumi was a beauty of black hair and black eyes. She was once Rudel’s classmate and a person who understood him well.

More than friends, less than lovers, both sides accepted that.

At present, while being enlisted in a knight brigade of elites called the high knights, she was granted the position of special inspector to keep an eye on Rudel- who caused problem after problem. They were going to a foreign nation this time around, so she wore the blue knight clothing worn by high knights. Her chest was large enough to force up her clothes, and at times eyes of envy were concentrated on her.

“The kingdom of Celestia is a small nation. I’ve only ever read about it in books, so I’m somewhat looking forward to it.”

When Izumi said that, the girl of long green hair beside her muttered disinterestedly. Differing from humans, her ears stretched a great deal. A woman with the characteristic ears of the elves… Millia looked towards Rudel with her green eyes.

Izumi had said she couldn’t take on the role of special inspector alone, and by calling to her fellow alumni Millia, Millia also became one of Rudel’s inspectors. Note, her modest chest was never the target of any envious eyes.

“It’s that place with the large volcano, right? I’m surprised people are able to live in such a place. It seems pointless, or perhaps even admirable.”

Millia’s statement was answered by the overly serious Rudel.

“It’s true it’s an active volcano, but while I don’t know how, it’s a country that somehow controls the volcano. And because they’re close to a volcano, the hot springs are famous. It seems the land’s suited for growing fruit. Courtois also imports its fruit wines, haven’t you ever drunk it before?”

“There’s no way any of us have ever tasted the sort of wine you drink, Rudel.”

Averting her eyes from Rudel, after spitting some cynicism she shut her mouth. She did seem to have a nature that couldn’t be honest with itself, and Izumi could only think that was doing nothing but harm to her as she gave a bitter smile.

“But this is a surprise. I thought you’d return to the outer reaches at once, Rudel.”

In order to change the subject, Izumi recalled the contents of this time’s special mission. To summarize, by sending an especially conspicuous dragoon, they were to show the dignity of Courtois. There may have been political motivations behind it, and Izumi worried whether Rudel would be against those sorts of things.

Their job on the outskirts wasn’t over yet. Despite that, they alone were carrying out such a decorative mission. As long as it was an order, she knew he would accept it, but she worried what he would be thinking underneath.

The man seemed quite enthusiastic to be heading off on a mission. But at Izumi’s question, he made just a bit of a troubled face.

“… I want you to keep this from Sakuya, but she got real worked up when I told her we were going to do a special mission. See, last time we did something big, she had to keep house… as long as Sakuya’s happy, it can’t be too bad. Even if it’s just at the level of an errand.”

An outrageous reason. Rather than the importance of the mission itself, he took it up to dote on his dragon. Hearing that, Millia breathed a sigh as she spoke.

“You’re the same dragon idiot as ever.”

Izumi touched the white back beneath her as she smiled.

At times, the dragon would let out a resounding roar. To Izumi who could hear the thoughts she transmitted, she could tell that was a happy roar. Her appearance was that of a dragon much too splendid, Sakuya was a child born not a few years ago.

She was often judged on her appearance but was still a child who needed to be looked after.

‘Special mission! Sakuya is strong! Sakuya is cool!’

Sakuya sung as she flew through the sky, and Izumi and Rudel watched her with smiles. A subspecies of gaia dragon that lived in the earth, Sakuya wasn’t skilled at flying. Her movement speed was much lower than the average dragon. But this was a laid back mission. They had parted from the occasionally hectic border, and Izumi felt these sorts of missions weren’t bad from time to time.

She turned towards the envious gaze coming from Nate.

“So what sort of business do the two of you have with the Kingdom of Celestia? As I recall, the decree just said we have to accompany you there and back, but…”

Before their departure, with an official decree from an organization called the defenders, came Nate and another individual. Aleist looking at Millia recalled how Nate had told them at the last minute they would be riding as well. In the midst of their busy departure, they accepted the decree and let them right on.

They were well acquainted, and they intended to confirm the paperwork while in the sky.

“Ah, you don’t have to pay it any mind. While you’re at it, I do recommend you pluck those things off your che… ow!”

As Nate envied her ample bosom with a smile, Aleist hit her on the back of the head.

“M-my apologies, Izumi-san! This girl has absolutely no breasts, so she gets jealous of those with a large chest.”

Aleist followed through for her. You’re not supposed to say that, or so Izumi only grew more worried. For the one on Aleist’s mind Millia was a modest one on the opposite side of the spectrum from Izumi.

When Izumi looked at Millia, she saw a vein popping out on her forehead.

(Ah, this is that pattern of failure.)

Izumi looked at Rudel to find him humming along to Sakuya’s song. He likely had no interest. Before she could become collateral damage, Izumi moved to Rudel’s side and listened attentively to Sakuya and Rudel’s tune.

‘You’re strong, Sakuya. Amazing, Sakuya! All~ The enemies go down in one blow!’
“Yeah, Sakuya, you’re the best!”

Looking at Rudel and Sakuya, Izumi chose not to lend an ear to the fight going on behind them.

“Well excuse me! I’m sorry for having such a small chest!”
“You’re wrong, Millia! Rather than large, I prefer a more reserved one!”
“Then that means I’m senpai’s type! Millia-senpai, being flat isn’t bad you know. Those lumps of fat are only ever in the way.”
“When someone so envious of them says it, you’ve got no persuasive power!”
“You’re wrong, both of you! What’s important is balance, and size isn’t every—”
“Come to think of it, Senpai, your big sister was stacked, wasn’t she?”
“Why are you sending such a pitiful glance at my chest!?”
“Nate! Don’t go there! You shouldn’t touch on that one!”
“Aleist, so you were thinking it too! That’s right, in the end, I’ve got nothing! Even when my sister’s stacked, they always say!”
“… I know I’m not one to speak, but Senpai, you’re a little off there.”

Izumi ignored the quarrel behind her, but perhaps Rudel grew curious as he turned around. Looking at the circumstances of their argument, he made a face as if he didn’t understand.

“… Izumi, what exactly did Aleist do wrong?”

Seeing Rudel tilt his head, Izumi shook her own. To be completely honest, Aleist’s mistakes were beyond count. When he had a girl he liked, bringing a different woman along was yet another one of those mistakes.

(Ah… he was wrong from the very start. Well, whatever.)

Giving up, Izumi only prayed Rudel wouldn’t turn out like Aleist.

“No, if you don’t understand, then that’s fine. Just stay the way you are, Rudel. That way, you’ll reduce the casualties around.”

The honest Rudel didn’t understand but nodded anyway.

“I-I see. I’ll do my best.”

Seeing Rudel fail to comprehend, Izumi was relieved. He loved dragons so much he had little interest in anything else. But he had a status as a future archduke, and he had obtained a standing as a dragoon, the knights called the heroes of Courtois. It would be stranger if there were no women around her.

In truth, many women approached him with affection, but with his status and dragoon position, he declined their association. He always made it clear when it came to those things, a relief to Izumi.

… The reason she didn’t go out with him was also such a problem of status.

“These sorts of missions aren’t bad.”

Looking over the lively three, Rudel spoke. Izumi was in agreement.

“Right. A carefree trip through the sky isn’t bad at all. But Rudel, this is a mission in a foreign land, so you must exercise caution. In umm… various things.”

Celestia was an allied nation, and she fretted over whether he might cause an incident. Rudel nodded with a smile.

“Leave it to me. It’s not like I intend to cause any problems.”
‘Sakuya is fine too, Izumi!’

Hearing Rudel and Sakuya’s responses, Izumi gave a warm smile and thought.

(Now I’m worried.)

They were responses that didn’t give her the slightest peace of mind.

Emilio walked irritantly down a corridor in Celestia castle.

(Dammit! It’s because that useless king relies on other countries…)

He had been notified that Celestia had requested the dispatch of a dragoon from its allied nation Courtois. The details that the knight brigades were all rounded up to hear were little more than a proclamation those knights weren’t trusted.

But there was something more than that Emilio couldn’t forgive.

(The plan went amiss. I have to do something…)

Thinking back, the mistake came with that party of three. Gathered in order to protect a gate that held no particular value, they were hoodlums, soldiers in name alone. But perhaps their awareness along was high, as despite their paltry wages, they had risked their lives to give chase.

(When they’re lower than the mercenaries hired to make up for numbers, my plan was…)

To add onto that, those hoodlums were following behind Emilio. All three were smiling. On top of the shoddy armor they were granted, they wore even shoddier medals granted to them for saving the princess.

What’s more, by that they rose in rank to be official soldiers.

Celestia was not a large nation. For that sake, they prepared elites as knights, but when it came to soldiers, they were only gathered for the numbers. Normally, it was the knights who would carry out the mission. It was a country with few troops, but there was a reason for that.

In that past, Celestia was at war with the large power of Courtois. And as Courtois invaded with their dragoons as the main shaft, the god of the volcano revered as the country’s protector repelled them. It was an event of about eighty years prior.

(Clinging onto past glory forever, it’s because they worship something like that as a god, that this country is ruined!)

From then on, the people of Celestia were convinced that they were a people protected by god. For that sake, the notion the military might be unnecessary spread like the plague.

While being a small nation, they maintained an equal relation with Courtois… no, one wrong step taken and they’d be made light of, and that was largely due to these sorts of occurrences.

And come so far, the failure of the knight brigade was doing its work. Because the ceremonial articles were lost, it would take some time before the ceremony could restart. Irrelevant to the populace, the crowd or the castle, that dissatisfaction was directed at the knights.

The knight brigades remained in order to maintain public order, but in the attack on the princess, the populace began to hold their doubts. For that sake, the royals and nobles had an allied nation send in a dragoon, mainly to send a message.

When Emilio thought of just how much incompetence that showed, it irritated him to no ends.

(Because of that inept top brass, this country is…)

Once he had thought that far, a voice called to him from behind. IT was the party of three.

The unshaven large man was Ben. The tall slender man was Pano. The short and plump man was Passan. With splendid smiles, the three of them called Emilio…

“What’s wrong, captain?”
“Keeping it bottled up isn’t good for your body, captain.”
“If you’re hungry, let’s go to the cafeteria, captain.”

When he thought of how this lot had gotten in the way of his plan, Emilio was filled with a feeling of helplessness.

“…Y-you guys…”

He held his head. Just where did he go wrong? The soldiers who protected Cleo were now stationed as Emilio’s subordinates. This was something even Emilio, heralded as a genius couldn’t predict. Of course, Emilio understood full well he was no genius.

He wasn’t average. He was just a little talented.

(Why did my plan go so awry? I won’t say it was perfect, but even so, I spent a long time preparing.)

Emilio’s head began to hurt.

… But even so, he didn’t give up.

(I can still correct it. Somehow the princess… the princess, with these hands…)

Emilio’s sharp eyes still hadn’t given up.

He suddenly heard a rowdy voice from inside the castle. At the ruckus, the party of three looked inquisitively at Emilio.

“… Let’s go check it out.”

Their flight over, Rudel’s party descended into Celestia.

“We’re a little earlier than scheduled.”

At the designated landing point, the soldiers and knight platoons who caught wind of the ruckus were beginning to race in. Taking on the shape of a fortress city, the capital had a splendid castle erected in the center.

While the troops entered and gathered, they wouldn’t approach. It was only natural. There weren’t many men brave enough to see Sakuya and think to challenge her.

But while they tried to land at the spot they’d been scheduled for, it was too small for Sakuya. Carefully maneuvering her into that space, Rudel praised her.

“Well done, Sakuya.”
‘Praise me, praise me! Praise me more!’

When Sakuya wagged her tail in delight, Izumi cautioned her.

“Rudel, put a stop to Sakuya’s tail. At this rate, there will be collateral damage. This isn’t Courtois. If you break too many things, it will cause a huge problem.”

Hearing that, Rudel immediately soothed Sakuya and calmed her down before dismounting her back. But there, Nate began to lead Aleist off somewhere.

“Ah, well then, we’ve got our own mission to deal with.”

“Wait, mission? Eh!?”

Watching Nate pull Aleist off by the hand, Rudel grew anxious as he found out the man hadn’t seemed to have confirmed the contents of his own mission. At the same time, he was curious just what sort of mission it might be.

(I guess It’s got nothing to do with me. You do your best, Aleist.)

While Rudel waved his hand at his friend, Aleist cried something out.

“You said it was personal! Where did that official decree come from!? Hey, are you listening!?”
“You’re being noisy, senpai! When you’ve come so far, just resolve yourself! It’s fine, the decree is the real deal… its origin point is just a little dubious.”
“As I thought!”

Rudel’s worries only grew, but this was Aleist’s problem so he decided to leave them be. He just sought some confirmation with Izumi.

“Izumi, Aleist’s decree was genuine, wasn’t it?”

“There’s no doubt about it. Though it was a little suspicious.”

While Rudel and Izumi lost themselves in thought, Millia in her defenders uniform looked at the entrance of the plaza and spoke.

“Guys, looks like our welcome party is here.”

“Now then, let’s execute the mission. You two stay behind me. You’re supposed to act as my attendants, after all.”

As Izumi and Millia nodded, Rudel got his specially-made white knight uniform in order as he waited for an envoy of Celestia to arrive.

Posted in Dragoon | Tagged | 19 Comments

Extra: Songstress 1

 

This is a story without much relation to the main plot. It is my hope you enjoy it as a side story where dragoon characters make an appearance.


 

 

Down a path buried up by droves of people passed the caravan of gorgeous carriages.

The sky was blue. The scenery colored by fluttering confetti was one to sing praise of a single princess in the largest carriage.

Inside that carriage rode only that single beautiful girl, alongside the young knight that served as her guard.

The cheers buried up the surrounding noises. From inside the carriage, the white dress-clad young girl waved her hand. Her skin was pale and her frail, slender body gave off the impression it might snap in two. And then was her curling blue hair, that could be called her most notable feature.

Her waving, gleaming blue hair grew to around her lower back. As she waved from the window, her hidden left hand gripped her pendant… the item that proved she was of the royal line, a small gold egg-shaped item engraved with the cursed seal of Celestia.

Everyone celebrated the birth of a new shrine maiden, rejoicing as they offered up Princess Cleo Celestia of the Celestia royal line.

With this they’d be safe. They’d be at peace for another few decades. Cleo understood what was on everyone’s minds.

In the first place, these cheers and the smiles on the peoples’ faces, all of it… was delight over her own sacrifice.

The green-eyed Cleo, under her smile, she wasn’t able to think anything. She had been born to do so. Her role had finally come, nothing more, nothing left.

It would be too pitiful for her young little sister. Her brothers wouldn’t be able to fulfill the role.

The clan raised as sacrifices would regularly offer up a woman every few decades. The people would think of them as maidens offered to their guardian god.

Cleo was royalty. But for the peace of the country, she would offer her very life to the protector… How tragic. From the eyes of the people who knew nothing, it looked as if the royal family was fulfilling their obligation.

In truth, royal blood did flow through Cleo’s veins. But that blood had been carefully prepared outside the current royalty. Cleo’s family was merely being kept alive, a clan of sacrifices royal in name alone. The energy supply of the ancient weapon, that demanded life every few tens of years.

In order to replenish it, Cleo was henceforth set to die.

She would continue on the carriage, making for a mountain on the edge of the continent. She would enter the ruins on that active volcano of a mountain, offer her life to the weapon, and that would be the end of it. Right, that’s where it was supposed to end.

Cleo first thought it strange when the carriage stopped at a spot it wasn’t planned to stop. When she thought they had run upon some trouble, in the next instant, the surrounding knights acting as guards started charging straight ahead.

And knights gathered around them as well. Wearing white, ceremonial armor, those elites of Celestia bragged that their training and devotion fell not short of the high knights of the large power of Courtois.

“Protect the princess!”
“No matter what, we have to protect her from these bandits.”
“Dammit! They were hiding in the crowd!”

Things did not seem to be going very well outside.

“Why did it come to this…”

While Cleo was the surprised, the young knight hung over her.

“Princess, get down! It will be dangerous if an arrow flies our way!”

Even if they tried to run, they were unable to go out into the main street crowded with people. They could only trust in the carriage, built not only pomp, but sturdy as well.

So following the words of her guard… no, the knight keeping watch over her, Cleo had no choice but to meekly quiver.

The young knight’s name was Emilio Balhart. His green hair grew long, and he was a fair knight of Celestia. Called the wonder child of Celestia, once in knight school, he easily changed that name to genius.

Even after enlisting in a brigade, his rumors would all extol him. His service only covered a few year, but it was said he was on the way to becoming knight captain and he was stipulated to be the country’s strongest knight.

Many women would envy a position of being protected by him. But thinking to the contrary, that meant there was a need for strong enough surveillance to dispatch such an elite knight.

(Mother…)

 

Cleo felt the sounds of battle outside gradually grow in intensity, too scared to help it. But while she had lived for nothing more than to be a sacrifice, she hated the thought of dying without fulfilling her role. Otherwise, her young little sister would be offered in her place.

(Just to the ruins… we just had to make it to the altar.  Why won’t they just let us be?)

To protect the girl on the verge of tears, Emilio, who’d been keeping watch of the outside, let out his voice. Cleo required just a bit of time before she realized that.

“It’s dangerous here, princess! We need to withdraw.”

“… Eh? We can’t, Emilio. The ceremony can’t start without me. What’s more, if we return come so far, the palace’s standing will…”

“Right now, your life is more important, princess! We’ll withdraw and reorganize our formation. The carriage ahead’s been attacked, so we can’t go further in this. We have to go outside.”

The carriage in front carried the ceremonial tools. It took quite some time to prepare them. While she didn’t want to cast them aside, she saw there was some sense in Emilio’s words and jumped down from the carriage.

Emilio pulled her by the hand, and as they left the carriage, the street buried in cheers had changed to the intense sounds of battle. Outside, she could hear even more noises that rung through her ears. Alongside the din of clashing metal, the sensation of magic being fired off.

Cleo wanted to hurry from the spot. She didn’t feel sorry for the surrounding knights, for this was their job. And her own job meant for her to offer her life.

She told herself so as she fled with Emilio who pulled her down the way. In their way, a man who had likely slipped into the crowd held a weapon in hand as he came at them. Emilio pulled his sword to knock it from his hand.

“Stand down, ruffian!”

For now, perhaps prioritizing their escape, Emilio sprinted into the gap between buildings on the main road without landing the finishing blow. Cleo had never been somewhere like that before. Unlike the main streets, an unpleasant smell wafted about.

At the same time, there was trash littered around the place making it difficult to run.

“Princess, just a little further.”

“I’m sorry, Emilio. I’ve caused you nothing but trouble…”

As Emilio continued running through the small spaces between buildings, he looked to Cleo like a reliable knight. When she had no idea where she was and she had even started to forget which way they’d gone, Emilio continued proceeding on.

He turned a right, and next a left. He ran down the stairs.

Once the left the narrow path, a small river was flowing. A different terrible smell came from there. It was the smell of a drain.

“This might be harsh on you, princess, but this is all to get away.”

“I know. I don’t intend to fixate on these trivial matters.”

Thinking Leo’s hand would let her get away, as the sounds of battle grew distance, Cleo found a little of her composure. If an ally appeared here, she would have more peace of mind. But it seemed the ones who appeared were no allies.

“It’s a dead end this way.”

Just as they tried to cross the bridge, they were pincered in the front and back. Unlike the ones who had slipped in with the people, the men this time wore robes with swords hung at their waists. From the leisure with which they held themselves, they likely thought they would win if they pressed through with numbers.

Three in the front, and two in the back.

Cleo gave Emilio’s hand one strong squeeze before letting go. Emilio shifted the sword he held in one hand to a two-handed grip.

“Princess, leave this to me.”

“I’m counting on you, Emilio.”

If it was Emilio, even called Celestia’s strongest knight, then he would be able to break through this dilemma. Cleo believed so.

The robed men drew their swords. Emilio took a stance as well. Protecting Cleo in the center of the bridge, he kept wary of foes on both sides.

… It was at that moment.

“Princessss!”

It wasn’t elite knights but soldiers who rushed to their aid. The robed men clicked their tongues before running away.

“We’re saved, Emilio.”

Relieved, Cleo called over to Emilio. But Emilio didn’t look so optimistic. His grip on his sword remained firm as he glared at the soldiers rushing over.

(Has the enemy donned a disguise?)

She felt awkward, doubting the soldiers who rushed to their aid, but if Emilia didn’t let his guard down, she thought she would imitate.

The soldiers noticed they were being suspected and hurriedly stowed their weapons.

“We’re, um… we’ve been assigned to guard the small gate beyond this point. We’re on break right now, and we’d gone to the main road. Wanted to catch a glimpse of the princess off to the ritual. So anyway, we saw the princess and companion running and hurriedly rushed to your aid. My apologies.”

The city was surrounded by walls, and apart from the main gate for standard use, there were other gates one could pass through. The sluice gate to let in the river water fit that description. There were a number of small gates, and in order to protect them, there were usually soldiers permanently stationed.

But it wasn’t the sort place knights were deployed. If anything happened, they could seal the gates at a moment’s notice, so such places were occupied by hired soldiers.

Cleo looked over their equipment and saw the plating the gatekeepers wore around their waists.

The large leaderish man boasted an unshaven face and looked especially wild. The slender man with the spear looked to be in ill health and somewhat unreliable. For the small fat man, a portion of his stomach even stuck out of the provided equipment.

The men looked suspicious by all accounts, but they were looking at them apologetically. As Emilio stepped out front, knights and soldiers began to appear behind them.

“Found them!”
“Really!?”
“It’s true. They really survived!”

One of the knights who raced over was one of Cleo’s guards. Seeing his face, she felt truly relieved. The small, fat man spoke with just a bit of pride.

“Hmhmhm, I thought this would happen, so I called out to the soldiers. I drew arrows on the wall along the way, making sure they could get here no problem. I mean, we got lost the hell of it.”
“Not bad, soldier!”
“It’s true. You did good, kid!”

The unshaven man and the tall man praised the small one. Seeing that, Cleo was at a loss for words. But it was certain they were allies. Holding up his sword, Emilio spoke.

“Looks like it’s alright.”

“Yes. It does seem they’re on our side. I was one step away from cutting them.”

Sheathing away his sword, Emilio looked at the three-man soldier party.

“Yes, I’m truly glad it never came to that.”

A relieved Cleo was led right off towards the palace, protected by knights and soldiers. When she returned to the main road that had been suppressed, the knights had walked following the arrows the plump man drew. Looking back at the path she had rushed down too fast, the maze-like back alleys and the smells made her head spin. All the tensions she had never felt before had been put off until that moment.

There, the man in charge muttered apologetically.

“My apologies, princess. It’s about the ceremonial tools, but they were destroyed in the attack. A bolt of magic struck the carriage directly, and they’ve all been rendered impossible to use.”

Which meant the ceremony couldn’t be held. The tools prepared specifically for that day were lost, and Cleo lamented she would be unable to fulfill her duty. When she had been born to fulfill her role, that was no longer possible.

“There can be no helping it. I’m sure father will prepare a replacement at once. We must exercise patience.”

On Cleo’s words, the knights made vexed faces as well. They couldn’t fulfill their role. You could call it natural. Within all of that, Emilio along made a disgruntled expression.

In the royal palace of the Kingdom of Courtois, three knights temporarily recalled from the outer reaches showed their faces at the office of the knight brigade they were affiliated with.

Self-proclaimed charmer in his prime Captain Oldart gave a smile before those three. His gaze was mainly directed at the good Major Bennet. A female knight of the wolf tribe, and tamer of a water dragon, she was the highest-ranking officer of the three.

“Yeah, good work on your mission in the outer reaches, Major Bennet.”

“Sir! It is an honor.”

Enthusiastic about her work, Bennet boasted a short status and cute appearance, but sticking her chest out, she gave a splendid salute. The captain shifted his eyes to the side to look at the remaining two.

The first was Lieutenant Keith. Similar to Bennet, he was a dragoon who rode a water dragon, but the captain didn’t want to get too involved with him, so he gave a vague compliment.

“Ah, Keith, you did alri–”
“Your words are too much for me! To convey my greatest delight, today let the two of us–”
“And finally Rudel.”

Cutting Keith off early, Oldart finally looked at the real target, Rudel. The knight who rode a white dragon… a future archduke, a young man with both status and fame. Even within the elite dragoon brigade, he was considerably conspicuous.

From the moment of his enlistment, he kept creating legends, and he was a troublesome young man some called the new legacy. Of silver hair and blue eyes, he looked at the captain as a child would.

“Rudel… it’s that. You need to work a little harder.”
“Why is that!?”

From Oldart’s personal reasons, his evaluation of Rudel was low. As Rudel fell into a slump, Bennet called over to him.

“Rudel, you’re before the captain. Stick out your chest. If you’re displeased with your evaluation, then put in the effort to change it. You’ve no time to be down. What matters is results.”

On Bennet’s words, Rudel nodded and straightened his back. There, Bennet nodded as well.

“That’s right.”

Seeing that relation of superior and subordinate, Oldart spoke to Rudel.

“This is why I hate you!”

The scene of the dragoon’s idol-esque existence Bennet being kind on her subordinate Rudel was one Oldart couldn’t bring himself to accept. From her… from Bennet’s lovable appearance, she was a valuable existence doted on by subordinate and superior alike.

(And I’ll tell you, the form of Bennet-chan fidgeting nervously after a subordinate calls her cute is the cutest!)

He was that sort of terrible captain, but he cut the jokes there. In order to talk about work, he pulled an envelope from his desk drawer. In it detailed a mission that wasn’t thought to be particularily important.

“Now then, that’s all for the jokes. I’m changing the subject, but Rudel, a separate mission has been prepared for you.”
“Why is that!?”
“That’s terrible, captain!”

This time Bennet and Keith raised their voices. Oldart breathed out a sigh as he continued on. Bennet didn’t want her ideal subordinate Rudel to leave. Keith… after thinking that far, Oldart shifted his thoughts.

“I told you, I’m not joking. This isn’t a long term mission. You know of the country of Celestia we’ve tied an alliance with? We were told to prepare a dragoon guard for them.”

Placing the envelope on the table, Oldart produced a paper from it. On it, the details of the incident in Celestia were written out. Rudel accepted the paper and made a conflicted face.

“Based on what’s written, isn’t it bad for them to use a knight from another country?”

Oldart waved his left hand dismissively as he answered.

“With the attack, there’s the civilians’ feelings, you see. They want to give the image that they’ve pulled in a dragoon and they’re working him to the bone. This is getting political, but it would be troublesome for Courtois if a small country dragged on past matters forever. Since it’s come to that, they’re sending in the flashy you and Sakuya to show them how much better we are! Or so the higher ups are thinking. Also, this and that happened, concerning the result, it would be better if we dispatched someone.”

When it came to politics, Rudel had too little information to work with to make a decision, so he stuck the papers under his arm and gave a salute. Oldart was relieved Rudel hadn’t declined the mission. If he did, with that dubious title of future archduke, it would spell trouble.

In that regards, it was a real help he was diligent in his work. While he joke about lowering Rudel’s evaluation, he was rightly evaluating Rudel’s work in itself. Even when flown off to borderland, he knew he was working hard in his duties and the region’s development.

From Oldart’s point of view, if only his status was removed, he’d be a proficient subordinate.

“But captain, Rudel has designated overseers.”

Bennet brought up Rudel’s overseers… the ones who followed him under the name of special inspectors, causing Oldart to recall those two female knights.

“Ah, those girls. Take them along, why don’t you. No, definitely take them along. I’m anxious with Rudel alone.”

“… If you’re worried, should I go too? Even if I look like this, I’m more knowledgeable on etiquette than some foreign woman and elf woman.”

When Oldart said he was worried, Keith stepped into the conversation. He got the feeling there was some wrath included in the ‘woman’ portion, and that was likely not his imagination.

However…

“Rejected. I can’t send you into an important allied country. Good grief.”

To Oldart’s exasperation, Keith was moved. Just how do you misinterpret that in a way so convenient to you, Oldart looked at Keith’s expression and thought.

“Captain, you want me by your side so b–”
“Wrong! Don’t get any closer!”

 

Oldart grew angry for real, and standing from his chair, he put his back against the window as he cried out. Both Rudel and Bennet looked over the two in wonder. But it was a mission, so Rudel looked over the contents of the documents once more. Perhaps Bennet thought the conversation was done as well, as she strayed over Rudel’s side and confirmed the contents.

“If they’re sending my subordinate, they’ll need my signature.”
“You’re right. There’s a line for your signature, Major. It’s all yours.”
“Quite right. Because I’m your commanding officer!”

Seeing Bennet rejoice over the words commanding officer, Oldart felt healed as he tried to do something about this situation with a dangerous individual closing in.

“Oy, Keith, don’t cross that line!”

“Isn’t it fine, captain? Just look over there, this is all part of superior, subordinate communication!”

“You fool, stay back!”

Oldart’s office was quite chaotic.

Posted in Dragoon | Tagged | 21 Comments

Dragoon 131: Erselica Rises to the Stage

 

Pasette Yulineria was decoding the journal she obtained in the cave.

The room she stayed had a simple desk and lamp, so even when night fell, she was able to read. Her tired roommate was already in her bed, in a world of dreams. She was a commoner girl, who kicked the cover away to expose her undergarments.

Standing once from her chair, Pasette re-draped the cover over her.

Normally, she tied her slightly-curling brown hair back, but for now, it was down. Her hair that grew just barely reaching her back, the girl thought it was just in the way. She wanted to cut it short, but with the reactions of her surroundings, she wasn’t able to.

Her parents opposed, saying it wasn’t good for a girl to have her hair too short.

Pasette herself strongly wished to cut it, but she couldn’t make it any shorter.

She returned to the desk and sat in the chair. To the side of the journal, Pasette had her memo pad and references scattered around, which she began to clean up. She intended to go until she reached a good stopping point. But it seems she had grown heated and hurried forth a bit.

“I should call it quits for today.”

The journal detailed the region the hero had lived in. Time-wise, it was an era tormented by the Gora. If it was before the founding of Courtois, then it would also have to be before the warring states period. When she read about his daily life, she grew excited and tried to compare it to the books she used as reference.

But she felt something was off. The individual who wrote the journal, she got the feeling his thought process was too close to their own… to that of their own era. There were descriptions of the inconvenience he felt at the technologies that were likely brand new at the time.

There were places where the old paper had been ruined and rendered illegible, but Pasette was curious about the last page. Alongside a message to entrust the Holy Sword to whoever found it, it gave Aleist’s name. Pasette had thought it was the name of the diary’s author.

But would they really write their name on the last page? It bothered her.

“The book’s covered is too tattered… hah, even so, our captain sure is mysterious.”

From Pasette’s point of view, Aleist was the same age as the rest of them, and an elite entrusted with a commanding role. But in actuality, he had cleaning duties shoved onto him for more than half a year, and the members of his platoon were all women.

All things considered, the personnel selection seemed too mismatched. At first, Pasette didn’t have any interest in Aleist. But as they journeyed together, she was among those whose hearts were moved by the gap between the leisure he showed and his usual conduct.

“When we were cleaning, I’d always wonder if he’d be alright, but the black knight is different after all.”

Relaxing and stretching her stiff body, Pasette extinguished the lamp atop the desk and made for the bed. Once the room’s light died down, she could see the lights outside. The light of the stars, and the slightly-distant lights of the business district.

As she absentmindedly gazed from the bed out the window, she heard a voice from the room next door.

‘Prepare yourself, Captain Aleist!’
‘Noooo!! Stop, don’t be violent!!’
‘It’ll end in no time. Just count the number of stains on the ceiling!’
‘I don’t want to! I… I want my body to stay pure!’
‘Ah, don’t run! At this rate, there’s a possibility your body will be forever defiled! In that case, can’t you just give your first time to me!?’
‘A girl shouldn’t crawl into someone’s bed! I’m begging you, just let me sleep!!’

Alongside those boisterous voices, she could hear the sound of the door slamming open with good momentum, and Aleist running down the corridor. A little later came the footsteps of her colleague giving chase. Ever since they had acted alongside Lieutenant Keith, the anxiety amongst the female knights had grown.

For the sake, these sorts of exchanges had grown in numbers.

(So today it’s Fizz.)

Fizz Brandt was the third daughter of a Baron House. When she learned she would become the second wife of a noble who’d lost his first if she stayed, she ran off to the academy, and stayed there until she became a knight. Older than them, and having been born into a relatively affluent household, she was a woman who received a firm and proper education… or that’s how it was supposed to be, but with such a tasty meal before her eyes, it seems she was unable to hold back.

(Fizz does get blinded by appearance, after all.)

Close in age to her, and be that as it may, he came from a high status. To Fizz, it was a chance she couldn’t let get away.

The current Aleist was definitely set to take one of Courtois’ two princesses as a bride. When that happened, it would mean the rise of Aleist’s Hardie House. To marquis, or even archduke… perhaps the era of Three Lords would change to four.

A new archduke house would be born. To the nobles of Courtois, this was a serious affair. It meant the factions would largely shift. What’s more, the Hardie House was an upstart with few usable vassals. Even if they scraped them up from their relatives, there’s no way that would be sufficient.

The birth of a new power would be the trigger for large change in Courtois’ stagnant noble society. For better or worse, Aleist was at the center of that.

“Hah, in that case, do the captain’s rivals have the upper hand? They’re archdukes to begin with, so maybe there’s no room for him to step in.”

The violent mistress candidate dispute had reached a dreadful impasse. At first, Pasette thought as long as it would aid in her excavations, she would raise her name as a candidate. But as she continued interacting with Aleist, she came to hate herself for that.

“I never should’ve fallen for him… if I didn’t fall, then right around now, I’d be able to act for nothing more than my own profit. I really am an idiot.”

Passing for a book-loving girl before Aleist, Pasette was also considering taking action like Fizz. She hated that part of her.

(I wonder what other stories the journal has to tell.)

Closing her eyes, Pasette fell asleep. Those two would probably return eventually. It was unknown whether Aleist would be caught and dragged back, or he’d run until dawn and Fizz would give up.

‘After you’ve made a woman do so much, you’re running away!?’
‘Man and woman doesn’t matter! What’s important is how we feel about one another!’
‘Feelings and shit like that will work itself out later! I’ve already prepared my heart, mind you.’
‘And I haven’t prepared mine! Seriously, stop it! Why is my platoon full of so many carnivorous beasts!?’
‘If it’s going to be stolen anyway, then give it to me! What are you unsatisfied with!? I know I shouldn’t be the one to say it, but my appearance isn’t a problem, is it!?’
‘It’s what’s inside! Show a little more prudence!’

The voices came from outside the inn. Pasette knew the two of them had run out, and she grew fed up over what they were doing. But she did hope Aleist would run away.

Aleist kept low in a small lane between buildings.

The darkness that clad the black knight… freely manipulating his shadow, he hid from Fizz.

(Why am I using the black knight’s abilities to run and hide… and this isn’t the harem I imagined. It’s too muddled, I can’t take this anymore.)

The Platoon’s composition was an order from up high. Even when Aleist exercised his authority, it was splendidly crushed to bits. Looking out the darkness, he saw Fizz draped in a gown pass nearby.

“He got away again. The captain should just give it up already.”

Passing straight by him, Fizz returned to the inn. Aleist showed his form from his shadow, getting his messed-up pajamas in order. As a nightcrawling countermeasure, he placed his slippers where they could be worn in an instant, so he wasn’t barefoot.

Fizz’s late start came from her exercise of the minimum level of womanly modesty; she had searched for a gown and slippers, making her a little late to leave the room.

“This is definitely wrong. Why am I going through something like this?”

Lamenting, Aleist determined it was too dangerous to return to the inn. In order to kill a bit of time, he sunk into the shadows and gazed at the sky.

The sky he could see between the gap in the roofs looked more pretty than the one from the world he had been. Inside, he dreamed of looking up at the stars with Millia, in a place vaster than this.

But that was impossible, he had come to understand as of late. Whatever the case, Aleist’s standing was still dubious. He was an upstart noble, and with his house’s momentum, the surroundings had taken an adequate distance to watch them. Aleist’s parents’ thought processes were closer to a merchant than a noble, so they were pretty much neglecting the obligations of a noble.

He had received a noble’s education, but he was dim on the topic of noble marriages to continue on the house.

Just as a fiancée had been decided for Rudel in his student days, Luecke and Eunius had numerous candidates. Magic granted a level of longevity so they wouldn’t be wed in their student days, but even so, it wasn’t rare for there to be a formal engagement for a student.

And since he’d been recognized as the black knight, women were flocking around Aleist.

“For some reason, it’s quiet around Rudel, though.”

What he couldn’t accept was Rudel’s situation. Aleist was paying caution to the rumors surrounding Rudel. But he didn’t hear the slightest rumor of engagement or women. When he heard talks of some noble plotting a marriage, in the next week it was as if nothing happened at all.

“Having just one wife… is it really impossible?”

There was a time where he wanted to be surrounded by lots of women, but now, Aleist had someone he liked. When he had someone in his heart, he couldn’t think of laying hands on another woman. But by the time he noticed it, he was in a situation that wouldn’t permit it.

“Hah, what do I do if the number increases again…”

Dry up and die. That wasn’t a joke, that situation truly was encroaching on him. At present, it was decided a princess of Courtois would marry into the Hardie House. Normally, Rudel marrying one of the princesses and succeeding the throne would be the ideal.

But the man in question had no such will, and the palace was moving as if it detested the very notion. A member of the dragoons, the heroes of Courtois, and rider of a rare white dragon, there was no one in the world better to make a symbol.

Though he’d hate that, Aleist gave a bitter smile.

When he dropped by the port town of Beretta, he saw Rudel get all muddied up as he did his best. Aleist was honestly envious. He seemed truly delighted as he worked.

“It’s a good thing for a dream to be granted. But dreams, eh…”

Aleist thought over what he was aiming for. Beating the last boss was natural. Otherwise, the country would cease to exist. Even if it remained, it would be cornered into a harsh situation.

But what did he seek beyond that? To Aleist, it was much too obscure.

They were lives of pretty much running down predetermined rails, but even so, Luecke and Eunius were putting in the greatest effort they could. Even as they shouldered responsibility and expectations, the way they did what they wanted was envious.

“Just what is the protagonist supposed to be…”

Stabbed with a difference of values, Aleist looked at the sky and muttered.

In a café of the capital, Erselica and Lena were led to a private room.

As with the building’s exterior, there was considerably craftsmanship put into the inside as well. That shop that nobles would use by choice was a harsh shop where customers were also requested to follow a certain level of manners.

Erselica turned to look at a restless Lena.

“Calm down a bit.”

“No, I mean… I haven’t worn a skirt in a while no, and dresses are a bit…”

Normally preferring Rudel’s hand-me-downs and men’s wear, Lena grabbed and lifted up the hem of her skirt. At that gesture, the host’s expression reacted with a twitch, so Erselica stopped Lena with a glare.

The reason the two of them had dressed up and come to the capital was definitely not to play.

It was to hear of the palace’s current state of affairs from a certain Luecke Halbades. Erselica had investigated into Luecke as much as she could. He shared what could be called a close friendship with Rudel, and he had no relations to the traitors Chlust was worried about… at the very least, she approached him with the hopes he wasn’t related.

She had similarly tried to get in contact with Eunius, but as luck would have it, he was currently out of the capital.

“Walk this way.”

The host who led them to the private room with polite gestures closed the door behind them. Inside, a different employee was preparing tea.

Light streamed in from the large window. But from the positioning of the tables and chairs, there was no worry of it becoming too bright.

“Luecke-san!”

“Wait, Lena!”

As Lenna suddenly let a loud voice into the calm café air, Erselica panicked. The employee was about to caution her when Luecke got the better of him.

“My apologies. We’ll be talking a while, so after the tea is prepared, leave us be a while.”

“Understood.”

After preparing three people’s worth of tea and snacks, the employee left the room. Erselica pinched her skirt’s hem to give a curtsy, and Lena did her best to imitate. Unlike when she was holding a spear, why did she look so unreliable? Erselica was perplexed.

“Well, take a seat. We don’t need any of that stiff stuff today. If you make me act like that even on my days off, you’re going to wear me out.”

(He’s an adult.)

Erselica felt relieved at the leisure Luecke gave off. Taking a seat with Lena, she gave a simple greeting. The air he gave off was different than that of the boys she would usually meet, causing her to feel something close to admiration.

However…

“Ah, Luecke-san, could you tell us about noble relations? Me and my brother are no good with that stuff. But Erselica said she wanted to hear, so…”

“… Lena, how could you be so rude? You’re before a future archduke. Even if he told us to act normally, the minimum level of etiquette m–”
“Leave it to me. I prepared in a way that’s easy to understand.”

All for it, Luecke handed the documents to Erselica. On it, the general relationship between the current noble houses was spelled out. There were a number of pages, so he must have gone through some effort to prepare it. But something smelled fishy to Erselica.

“Are you done preparing for the academy?”
“We’re all good. I rented out big bro and Sacky, so me and Erselica are going to have an elegant trip through the sky. Ay, this cookie’s nice.”
“I see. If anything happens, just tell me. There are some things Rudel won’t be able to deal with when he’s out on the border.”

As Lena and Luecke spoke with smile, Luecke casually took a memo of the name of the sweet Lena said was good. When Lena directed her eyes at Luecke’s plate, he gave a warm smile as he passed it over. And then there were none.

(… Huh? He’s acting somewhat different than before.)

Sure enough, he had perfectly looked into what was request. And Erselica was satisfied with the contents. But leaving her to the side, the sight of the pleasant chat between the two brought a few things to mind.

(As I thought, Rudel’s friends are usually strange.)

Erselica scanned through the documents as she thought such a thing.

Posted in Dragoon | Tagged | 27 Comments

Dragoon 130: Aleist’s Harem

 

Aleist took a journey from the port of Beretta to a town near the border.

Taking up a merchant’s request for guards, he made for his destination. They didn’t have much leisure, time-wise, but even so, it was an action he had determined necessary.

His own platoon was composed of female knights and it wasn’t as if everyone was suited for combat. A squad needed rear support as well. Perhaps the archeology enthusiast Pasette Yulineria was a good example. If it had to be stated, she possessed most of the functions of a thief.

Starting with trap evasion, she was skilled in disarming locks as well. They were techniques she had taken up in the process of aiming for the beloved archeologist path she desired, and it wasn’t as if she aspired to rob anyone. Her skillset was merely on the thief side of the spectrum.

Draped over her green coat, her leather bags stowed many more tools than weapons. She loved books, and she was a female knight with the sort of decisive power to just run out and get something done at the drop of a hat.

Inside the swaying carriage, she was trying to decipher the hero’s journal she had gotten her hands on. As long as she had the time, she would look at the journal every day.

Aleist sat across from her. As she read through the passages again and again, he called over.

“Is there something special about that journal?”

In-game, it was no more than a single item, but when Pasette lifted her face from the book to look at Aleist, her cheeks flushed. While Aleist noticed the affection directed at him, he pretended not to notice.

“U-umm… it’s… interesting?”
“Why did you make that a question?”

When Pasette thought of how her face was reddening, she sent him a troubled look.

“Because I’m not often understood. The other girls keep asking me what’s so fun about reading other peoples’ diaries.”

To Pasette’s bitter smile, Aleist could only mutter ‘I see’. He was making sure not to stick his mouth in problems between women. While this might not be the best way to put it, as long as they didn’t go too far, Aleist would ignore it.

He wasn’t trying to be heartless, his intervention would only create more problems. Whoever he helped would only be recognized as an enemy by the surroundings.

(Girls sure are scary. They make factions and… huh? Girls? Rather, aren’t they already adults?)

As Aleist looked at the journal, Pasette opened her mouth.

“Before the Kingdom of Courtois was formed, it was an era with small countries jumbled all over the place, and there were plenty of skirmishes. But this journals comes from a little before even that era. Because it details how the Gora were still wielding their fury across the lands.”

Hearing of Gora, Aleist tilted her head, so Pasette hurriedly offered an explanation.

“Gora are vicious monsters that live in the empire. There are legends they can grow as big as mountains, they have four arms, and back then, they were in Courtois as well.”
“They’re not anymore? (S-so there was such a scary monster!?)”

Having never heard of Gora, Aleist was a little startled, but he played serenity. Nodding, Pasette told him it was alright as she continued her explanation.

“Ever since the dragoons made their appearance, they were eradicated from the Courtois side. Since we have dragons, the Gora in the empire don’t wander over. That’s why the important people say they must be quite clever.”
“I-I see. (Thank god! Seriously, thank you!!)”
“At the time, they didn’t have a common language, so I can’t completely decipher it. There are words mixed in, or rather, the same sentence or word can have a different meaning. If we knew where exactly the owner of this journal came from, that would make things easier. Like you know how we have a slightly different use of words in the south and north? It’s like the dialects were stronger back then, and there are some things we’ll never find out unless we can ask a local.”

Seeing Pasette describe it so happily, Aleist recalled the self of his past life. He recalled his experience of the things he loved being belittled by others.

“… I’m sorry. It’s not interesting, is it? Listening to this babble.”

He loved games and he especially enjoyed playing fantasy ones. Even after he reincarnated, he could recall how it hurt his heart when his classmates called that creepy. It felt as if they were denying him as a person.

It would’ve been better if he had a friend who shared the same hobbies, but unfortunately, in his serious prep school, he was unable to find any gaming friends.

“No, I’ll admit I don’t get it, but I can understand you really like it. And looking into the past is kinda romantic, don’t you think?”
“Romantic? You’re the first to ever say something like that to me, captain.”

The laughing Pasette’s hair was fashioned into a ponytail. Her hair itself wasn’t very long, so the tail portion was short. When she laughed like that she looked like a child, or so was Aleist’s frank opinion.

After that, until it was time to change out guards, Aleist continued talking with PAsette.

And he thought…

(Yeah, they’re all alive after all.)
“What’s wrong, captain?”
“It’s nothing.”

In the past, even if they entered his field of vision, he thought of these characters who didn’t appear in the game as little more than part of the mob, but like this, he could see full well they were living their lives. He had experienced this feeling once more after he left the environment of the academy, and he was beginning to develop an interest in the pasts of the people he’d encountered.

(Bennet-san is the same. And Rudel’s sister of a different mother… Lena as well. I wasn’t looking at my surroundings.)

He repented at how narrow his field of vision had been before he enrolled at the academy. And until his lookout shift came around, Aleist enjoyed conversing with Pasette..

By the time they reached their destination, the sun had gone down.

The caravan Aleist’s platoon had taken up a request to protect arrived at a large town near the border. By Aleist’s knowledge, as it was close to borderland and in the farther reaches of the kingdom, it was a town with a prospering weapon and equipment industry. Before searching for a weapon, taking care of the other equipment was important.

Generally, knights of Courtois would make use of their supplied weaponry, but the use of personal armaments was also recognized.

In the town that gave off an uncouth impression unfit for sightseeing, Aleist decided to search out an inn.

“For now, let’s look for the inn they told us about. If they don’t have any rooms, we should be safe if we take one on the slightly pricey side.”

The female knights abided the orders of their superior Aleist. They all carried their own luggage as they made for the place the merchant had told them about.

Aleist thought they were wearing conspicuous clothing, but that didn’t seem to be the case. There were many travelers passing through, and be that as it may, there were plenty wearing the same attire as them.

“Aren’t there a few too many travelers around?”

When Aleist brought forth the question, Pasette walking immediately behind him gave an answer.

“It’s because there are plenty of equipment craftsmen here. There are lots of merchants who come to stock up, or sell daily necessities.”

Meaning they would need guards to accompany them. For merchants that managed large-scale shops, it wouldn’t be strange for them to have their own personal guards.

After Aleist nodded at that explanation, their destination inn came into sight. A sign near the door informed them there were vacant rooms. As they got closer, it even detailed the prices and the sorts of food they would offer if you took up a stay.

“Hmm… breakfast is included, and for dinner, you can use the restaurant on the first floor. What’s more, it’s a pretty place.”

Personally, Aleist preferred a pretty inn with good service. Not only was he the young head of a noble, his past life was one of a high school student in modern japan. Putting up with a cheap inn was close to impossible. Additionally, his subordinates were all women.

If it was possible, the best inn was one that wouldn’t displease them.

The point of their dissatisfaction was directly tied to the atmosphere of the platoon, it was something Aleist had come to learn as of late.

When he was traveling with Eunius, he was technically traveling with the son of one of the three lords. If Eunius told them to stay at a cheap inn, they would keep their mouthes shut and abide. This did not hold true for their captain Aleist.

“Looks nice. If it’s got a bath, then I’m all for it.”
“I can’t complain if they’re providing food.”
“It’s a bit on the expensive side, but we’ve been camping a lot, so I want to sleep in a fluffy bed.”

Nobles, commoners, and demi-humans… the various members of the female camp used their own sense of values to give a favorable rating to the inn before their eyes. A commoner knight was just a little mindful of the price.

“Then it’s settled, we’re staying here. (Thankfully, it looks like we don’t have to go around looking for another inn).”

If they didn’t like it, even if they didn’t complain to Aleist, the air of the platoon would take a turn for the worse. In-game, he made use of cheap inns when he was low on funding, but when he looked at reality like this, he was reminded it wouldn’t go so easily.

For now, he gave thanks to the fact they had found an inn before it grew dark as he led the party through the door.

As he opened the door, the nice smell from the dining hall on the first floor hit them. The smell of roasting meat, the scent of simmering soup… for his party worn out from their journey, it was exceptionally appealing.

“Welcome! Are you here for a meal or a stay?”

As the energetic poster girl of the place approached the party, Aleist confirmed to see if they had enough openings.

“So it’s a party! We do have the openings, but singles rooms for everyone are a bit… if you’re fine with doubles, I don’t think there will be a problem.”

When he turned to look at his subordinates’ faces, everyone nodded. With hunger and fatigue, no one complained they would prefer to sleep alone. Rejoicing inside, Aleist told the young girl that would be fine and checked how much it would cost.

“If possible, a few days. Could you take us in for three days?”

“That’s perfectly fine. If it was an extended stay, then if any singles rooms opened up, we wouldn’t have minded if you moved into them.”

Extended stay… then did that mean three days wasn’t enough? Giving a bitter smile, Aleist told them they would book three days for now and paid the fee.

Moving from the entrance to the counter, the girl called out to the young man behind it.

“It’s a party. They’re staying three days, and for the room…”

The man handed the registry over to Aleist for him to write down names. As Aleist entered everyone’s information, his movements were truly accustomed. Eunius threw these sorts of things right out the window, so they naturally flowed down to him. While it would be fine if he left it to his subordinates, their sense of values differed so greatly they would argue over choosing inns.

There was no helping it, so Aleist took on these sorts of tasks.

“I’ll show you to your room.”

Taking charge of the keys, the girl showed Aleist and his party to their rooms. From a number of customers, it seemed business was going well. After they were led to separate rooms scattered across different floors, Aleist was the final one led to a singles room on the fifth floor.

“This is the room the white knight once stayed in, you know.”

“The white knight? You mean Rudel?”

“Oh, you know him? He came to this town a few years ago. Back then, there were also a lot of dragons, and it was a huge ruckus in town. I was helping out back then and I accidentally entered the white knight’s room, but he was kind and cool.”

The reminiscing girl called her encounter with the white knight her pride. With a bit of a conflicted feeling, Aleist gave a bitter smile.

The next day.

Having finished breakfast Aleist’s party was moving independently, the day having been designated as a vacation.
They hadn’t had any rest to that point, and as this was a perfect opportunity, Aleist decided to walk through town on his own. Holding the cloth-wrapped holy sword under his arm, he searched for the eastern craftsmen who had produced his armor.

“Can they use this?”

He recalled it was registered as a material, but it didn’t give any particular effects. That’s why he saw the holy sword as little more than a meaningless item to fill up a bag space. But before the threat of the Gaia Empire, he wanted as proficient a weapon as he could find.

Not just for himself to hold, he needed to assemble equipment for the rest of his party.

He intended to polish their abilities, but with that alone, from how his surroundings were growing, he wondered if that might be insufficient. Especially with Rudel, Eunius and Luecke, those three were outside the norm. He didn’t know how it happened, but the three of them had continued down their own paths at a breakneck pace.

In such a situation, Aleist wasn’t stupid enough to think the enemy would remain weak.

“At the very least, if it has a slight effect…”

If he found the opportunity, he wanted to circulate weapons outside his part as well. That alone should have some effect. As he walked, thinking over such a thing, he was able to spot his destination smithy.

When it came to the blacksmithy run by people of the orient, it was famous in town. He located it in no time. The fact everyone knew it meant it was surely well known.

… Though whether that was in a good or bad sense was a separate issue.

“Good of ‘ya to come, punk!”
“How’s yer armor feelin’? Crazy, right?”

When those kimono-clad quiet-looking craftsmen-esque men caught sight of Aleist, they approached him with words that felt off from their appearance. Those words that brought a delinquent to mind were something Aleist was no good at dealing with.

“T-today, I’ve come for–”
“Haah?”

While they were likely acting normal, they had originally flowed to this town and lived in the slums. They had picked up the language there, so it couldn’t be helped that their words were rough. And as those words actually went through, the craftsmen lost the chance to correct their way of speech.

“N-no… um, this.”

He presented the cloth-wrapped holy sword to one of the craftsmen. But Aleist was growing weak at the knees as that scary-faced man accepted it with careful hands. The moment he took the sword out of its cloth, the man’s eyes opened wide.

“It’s rusted through, damn fool!”
“Bastard, how in the ‘ell could you let it get this bad!?”
“I’m sooooorrrryyy!”

Quite a bit of time was wasted before he finally managed to inform them the holy sword was something he found.

Led inside the smithy, Aleist sat across from a man called Zouken.

Having returned to find his smiths making a ruckus, Zouken found himself taking it up. Zouken was a swordsmith, the most knowledgeable when it came to these sorts of weapons.

And after hearing Aleist’s circumstances, he laughed with a troubled face.

“Then I must apologize for that. It’s not as if they had any ill intent, it’s just, the place they learned their words is… when I was out buying and selling, they were finding daily work in the slums.”

In the harshest of times, Zouken went out to sell his katanas, while the other craftsmen worked in the slums to eat. Now they had worked together to borrow a workshop and they were making goods to sell.

“I see. Even so, you’re making all sorts of things here.”

The inside of the room was decorated with the weapon’s they’d made. Looking over them, Aleist was growing interested in the peculiar equipment. His own armor was the same, but he felt an affinity with these pieces that had a somewhat Japanese make.

“We make to order, after all. Never troubled with putting food on the table.”

Zouken appraised the rusted, rotted sword in his hands as he conversed with Aleist. Zouken’s group was one thing, but there was something else that piqued Aleist’s curiosity. It was the famed blade they were supposed to possess.

The sword’s name was Yakumo… in the kata line, it was the blade that boasted the highest class specs. While Aleist couldn’t use it, he thought it might prove useful to Izumi so he decided to ask.

“Pardon me, but do you happen to have a sword called Yakumo?”

That expensive sword was something that, forget early game, it was an item considerably beyond one’s reach through mid game as well. But the current Aleist had some financial leisure. Despite everything, he was still the eldest son of a Count. He had carried considerable funding with him when he left on this journey.

“You know about Yakumo? Unfortunately, I sold it. I consider that man my savior, you see. I can’t bring myself to buy it back.”

“Ah, if it’s been sold, then it can’t be helped. There’s just this oriental woman I know, and that person wields a katana.”

Aleist recalled Izumi. .Come to think of it, she had received a katana from Rudel as a present. HE heard it was something cheap, but he remembered the way she rejoiced to be something amazing.

“Gifting a katana to a lady… is that the trend these days?”
“No, not that I’ve heard of.”

As the two of them exchanged some trifling words, confusion began to set on Zouken’s face.  As he looked at the holy sword in his hands, he gave a firm tilt to his head.

“What’s wrong.”

Finishing his appraisal, Zouken spread a cloth over the ground before carefully laying the holy sword over it. He unraveled a number of points bothering him.

“Is this really something of the past? No, this rot is definitely one of years, but… the make is, you see…”

Aleist explained the circumstances behind how he obtained it and gave a general outline of the era from the journal. Taking those into perspective, it was definitely a relic of centuries past. Zouken didn’t seem satisfied but he continued on.

“It’s not as if I don’t believe you, but this one’s make is too new.”
“New?”

As Aleist directed his eyes at the sword placed on the ground, Zouken explained it so he could understand.

“It’s the technique, or rather the manufacturing process. Its make is more advanced than what’s going around now. Tempering some sort of magic-imbued material into the metal, and there’s the stone embedded into the blade. That is a sort of gemstone with mana sealed into it. I’ve heard that the blacksmiths of the royal capital have only recently managed to create a sword like this. From what I’ve heard, this one is of a much higher completion, but…”

Struggling to say something, Zouken mulled a bit before giving a suitable hypothesis. And he forcefully made himself come to terms with it.

“Well, it’s possible that an old manufacturing process was lost, and it’s only being rediscovered now. When you think of it like that, those craftsmen of the past must have been quite advanced. Though it vexes me to say it as a blacksmith myself.”

Aleist agreed with Zouken’s words, and he restarted the conversation.

“So will you be able to use it to make something?”
“I can. Rather, it’s the best possible material. From what I can see, it’s got quite a bit of use into it.”

Relieved that it could be used, Aleist requested the making of a weapon. But there, Zouken made a misunderstanding.

“Show me your sword and your hands.”
“Yes?”

As asked, he displayed his two swords and his hands. Zouken nodded a few times as he started taking notes.

“So you’re fine with it being augmented into those two swords, right? It’ll take a bit of time… half a year. No, if you give me three months, I’ll show you I can get it done.”
“No, um…”

Aleist noticed Zouken was trying to use the holy sword as a material to reforge his own blades. He tried to deny it, but Zouken smiled.

“To be able to make a weapon for a swordsman of such caliber, my skills are crying out. I’ll call for my craftsmen friends at once, and make you the finest of swords.”

He looked extremely delighted. And Aleist…

“I-I’ll leave it to you.”

Was unable to tell him it was a misunderstanding.

Posted in Dragoon | Tagged | 14 Comments

Dragoon 129: The White Dragoon’s Ability is?

 

A few months since Rudel was flown off to the outer reaches…

Above the water, a little away from the port town of Beretta, three dragoons were flying through the sky.

Izumi and Millia gazed upon the scene from a place overlooking the port. While it looked like they were flying in formation, they were fighting two on one.

The two blue dragons were flying circles around the white one. The white dragon that fought, pincered by two others, looked at a glance to be at a disadvantage.

“You think they’ll be alright?”

While Millia seemed nervous, Izumi was worried. While she knew it was dangerous from the start, in order to measure their abilities, it was concluded there was no helping it.

If possible, it was something she wanted to avoid, but if it was something those three had agreed upon, then this wasn’t a problem Izumi or Millia could stick their mouth into. The three dragoons enthusiastically took part in this combat.

“It’ll be fine… probably.”

“You’re certain? Can you look me in the eye and swear it?”

Millia doubtfully sent a glance at Izumi. It wasn’t as if Izumi didn’t believe in Rudel, but she averted her gaze from Millia. Thinking of his current abilities, it wouldn’t be strange if some sort of problem broke out.

Two on one. She wanted to believe he was alright.

When the two of them took their eyes off the battlefield, a light broke out over the water. That dazzling light caused the two of them to raise their arms to protect their eyes, and once the light died down, they looked at the dragons. There, they found the form of two dragons, going at it one-on-one.

That vision-stealing light must have been exceedingly troublesome for the three in an upfront confrontation.

“So the first one to fall was Spinnith!”

There was no mistaking it, the first ones down were the Keith and Spinnith team skilled in aerial battle. But it was questionable whether any of the others had the ability to do it.

“That can’t be!”

Shifting from the dragon’s movements, Izumi confirmed Spinnith had fallen into the sea. Bennet’s dragon Heleene was taking distance from Sakuya. But none of her long-distance attacks were reaching Sakuya.

Distance-wise, she was in range. But Sakuya remained unscathed.

Eventually, Sakuya began to give off light. While her roar reached all the way to Izumi’s ears, it was something the air vibrations conveyed to her entire body.

Noticing the disadvantage, Heleene, charged at Sakuya, bringing her all the way to sea level, only for the surface of the ocean to freeze over in an instant. It looked almost as if the water dragon was offering a place for Rudel and Bennet to fight.

“So she realized Bennet-san was at a disadvantage in the air.”

A portion of the water truly had been swiftly exchanged for an arena.

“There’s no helping it. No matter how faster they are, the time they can stay in the air is short.”

The two were more worried for Bennet than Rudel.

Before she could fall into the sea, Bennet leapt up onto a footing of ice.

Taking a stance with the wooden boomerang on her back, she checked left, right, and up. While she had confirmed he had sunken into the sea with Sakuya, it was unknown what direction Rudel would come from.

He wasn’t tempered so soft that sinking would be the end of him. He had already grown to the level where she couldn’t stand up to him in aerial battles. Rudel was the sort who would keep at training the basics like an idiot. Therefore, she thought it would be fast as soon as he picked up the knack, but he had far exceeded Bennet’s expectations.

“From where… below!”

As Bennet heightened her senses to keep wary of her surroundings, she suddenly turned her face straight down and hurriedly left from the spot.

Right after that, the ice was smashed, and a pillar of ice rose. While she was bathed in the seawater that gushed out, Bennet’s expression didn’t change. She concentrated to search for Rudel. There, she heard a slight sound, so she used her boomerang in place of a shield.

Regardless of the mana she flowed in to strengthen it, her gripping hand conveyed a grating sound to her. Determining it would break at this rate, she instantly discarded her boomerang, and tossed another one from her back at him.

The boomerang that spun fast enough to hum through the air gave chase to Rudel, but ended with no more than cutting up his own afterimage. The next instant, Bennet equipped the wooden daggers she kept at her waist in both hands. Crossing them, she caught the wooden sword Rudel lowered from right above her.

They were atop a chunk of ice bobbing in the waves, but at the impact of that attack, cracks spread from where she planted her feet. The ice as a whole took one large bob below the water before coming back up and stabilizing.

Bennet forcefully parted him, and as she corrected her stance, Rudel landed before her. She instantly sent a kick, but Rudel grabbed that leg in his left hand, throwing it off.

Correcting her positioning in the air, Bennet threw the dagger in her left hand. While Rudel deflected it, Bennet took a light hop on the ice.

It was something like a habit for Bennet, but as she would always enter high-speed movement right after, she had never come to recognize it as a weakness.

However…

(Crap.)

By the time she noticed it, Rudel had extended his left hand towards her face. Rudel had got her in his sight.

While she returned fire with her remaining dagger, the intense clash had her lose in brute force, and Bennet was beginning to be pushed back. In speed, power, and technique, Rudel had matured. When it came to the technique part, she could likely still win out, but that was no longer enough to bury in the other gaps.

Even as she moved her fastest, those sharp bolts of lights pursued to capture her. When she thought of her footing crumbling into smaller and smaller pieces, Bennet was losing all options besides an upfront conversation.

(My subordinate’s grown… but I can’t just lose here.)

Bennet opened her eyes wide, instantaneously accelerating to insert a kick in Rudel’s stomach. But there, a small shield had manifested. Rudel took on Bennet’s kick that had lost its momentum, jumping back, pretending to be blown away.

When she chased to close in the distance, Rudel tossed the sword in his hands at her. Entering hand to hand combat, they each fired a series of fist and foot. But both sides could do naught but capture the other’s afterimage, and neither side was scathed.

From the eyes of a third party, they were surely too fast to perceive. Even if they could be seen, after Bennet fired a roundhouse kick with her right leg, they would’ve sworn they saw her left instead… it would surely cause such a misapprehension.

But that scuffle was also greeting its end. Unable to catch up to Rudel, Bennet received a blow to her abdomen knocking her off her feet. Correcting her stance as she rolled across the ice, she saw Rudel had stopped moving.

Right after, Bennet stood on the spot and tossed her dagger to the side. Raising her hands, she showed a pose of surrender.

“Once you’ve gone so far, I’ve no choice but to concede… it’s your win, Rudel.”

Above the surface of the ice, the swords of light gleamed in their numbers, as if to cover up the sky. Their points were directed at Bennet, and if they came at her from all directions, Bennet wouldn’t come out unharmed.

As Rudel stood to his feet, the swords turned to grains of ice, fading out as they were swept away by the wind.

“Thank you. Major.”

Her prided subordinate who had shown such results in such a short period gave a delighted smile. Bennet felt just a little lonely when she looked at his smile. She didn’t have anything left to teach him. Perhaps he wouldn’t look at her like a superior anymore she grew anxious for just a moment.

There, Keith who had crawled out of the sea sent a smile to Rudel, out of breath.

“N-nice fight.”

“Thank you! Lieutenant!”

When Rudel hurriedly rushed to help Keith up, Keith continued to smile as he collapsed on the spot. He had pushed himself considerably.

The three dragons who’d returned were sopping wet.

At the port, the dragons climbed out and lied down. They had used up their stamina, so they were resting, but Sakuya alone was full of energy.

‘And you see, you see, when Spinnith was coming at her, Sakuya decided it with a counter!’

Happily informing Izumi of her contributions, Sakuya made a fist and began shadow boxing. She was too energetic.

“I see, you worked hard too, Sakuya.”

‘That’s right. I was punching it out with Heleene in the water too!’

The punched dragons looked at the energetic Sakuya and let out some large sighs. They looked worn out. But finally, Heleene…

‘You lost to me in the water, dammit!’

Exhausted, on her side, it seemed Heleene was showing the backbone of the water dragons.From how Spinnith averted his face, though, it was quite likely he lost to Sakuya.

‘N-next time, I’ll use my sure kill one, two finish to…’
‘I can use that one too, you hear!’

Unable to imagine a punching match between dragons, Izumi could only give a bitter smile. In half a year, Rudel and Sakuya had defeated competent members of the dragoon brigade. It goes without saying that was due to their own training.

But it was also a fact they possessed latent abilities that high. The talent of Rudel, who had continued training his foundation like an idiot, was blooming as a dragoon.

The man in question lay down an unconscious Keith as he spoke to Bennet.

“Was it your idea to steal our sight with light?”

“No, my close friend Aleist said something of that effect, so I thought I might be able to do it, and practiced.”

Rudel had used a surprise flash to daze Keith, letting Sakuya defeated Spinnith while the dragon was unmanned.

“It wasn’t bad. If you’re able to coordinate it into your attacks, it’s effect will rise. And also…”

The two of them continued talking about the battle. They were both the epitome of seriousness, and Izumi gave up on entering the conversation. If Keith were awake, he might be able to.

But Bennet’s face grimaced.

“So you got me here too.”

Taking off her gloves, Bennet looked at the swelling on the back of her right hand as she muttered. While it didn’t seem to be broken, she had been injured in the midst of battle without noticing it.

“Major, I can use healing magic.”

“I see, then I’ll leave it to you.”

Bennet held out her right hand, and Rudel reached to grasp it. Seeing that scene, Millia was just a little jealous. But Izumi opened her eyes wide as she foresaw the development that was to follow.

(Rudel’s healing magic… hold it!)

Leaping out, Izumi grasped Rudel’s arm. Sakuya pestered Izumi to keep listening to her story, but there was something greater she had to stop. As she put some considerable force into gripping Rudel’s arm, the man was perplexed.

“Izumi, that hurts.”

“W-what’s wrong, Izumi?”

While Bennet was worried as well, Izumi looked into Rudel’s face. There, she confirmed just one thing.

“Rudel, when did you learn that healing magic?”

“Listen to this! The truth is, Mystith-sama personally taught it to me!”

“What sort of effect does it have?”

“What are you talking about? It’s healing magic, so of course it has a healing effect… ah, it’s also got a side effect of decreasing the pain usually felt during healing and–”

Once she had heard that much, Izumi put more power into her hold on Rudel’s arm. When she gripped it, water was squeezed from Rudel’s soaking wet clothing, and a grating sound could be heard. Izumi informed Rudel with a smile.

“Rudel.”

“Y-yes?”

“That is also banned.”
“Say what!?”

Rudel informed Izumi of how he had tested it on his colleague Enora, and how it definitely had a healing effect, but by no means would Izumi give him a nod. In her long relation with Rudel, this was the moment where Izumi’s instinct had prevented the dangers of petting.

Unable to accept it, Rudel pleaded; he told her it definitely wouldn’t hurt. But Izumi kept denying it saying that wasn’t the problem.

“… Um, what about me?”

Bennet looked over the two of them, a troubled look on her face.

Rudel’s colleague from the dragoon brigade, Luxheidt, had temporarily returned from his dispatchments station.

He needed to report, and he wanted to take some vacation. As a secret fan of Rudel, Luxheidt was also considering dropping by the port town of Beretta.

Stopping by the palace for the first in quite some time, the somewhat strained air he sensed was definitely not to his liking.

“It’s quite tense here.”

Holding his report, Luxheidt walked down a corridor of the palace when he happened to pass by a certain room used by the civil officials. There, he heard a delighted voice. Rather than a work room, it was a room used to take breaks.

‘You did it, young master!’
‘Vargas, I’m sure I told you to stop calling me that. Well, I’m in a good mood today, so I’ll permit it.’
‘But that girl really is a strange one.’
‘Well it’s surprising that she’d want to hear about noble relations. But with this, I can invite her out to tea!’
‘Um, if that’s what you want, then I guess that’s fine.’

Hearing a conversation between subordinate and superior, Luxheidt mused it was a peaceful conversation as he hurried on.

At least the civil officials are at peace, he thought as he made for the dragoon captain office, but it was there that Luxheidt came to the understanding he wasn’t one to talk. The reason being, there was a slip on the office notifying him they were in the middle of a meeting.

“Huh? I’ve never heard of a slip like this being on the office before.”

It wasn’t normal to have a meeting in the captain’s office, it was normal to borrow a conference room. Luxheidt did consider coming back later, but it was there he heard a voice from the room.

Growing intrigued, he put his ear to the door to listen in. He had confirmed there was no one else in the corridor, and it was an action that came from pure curiosity.

And he would regret it.

‘W-what… was that…?’
‘I’m telling you, he’s dangerous! My niece told me, Rudel has an absolute advantage when it comes to demi humans!’
‘M-my brothers and sisters were saying the same thing!’

It seemed the captain and a few dragoons were discussing something. Rudel’s name came out, so Luxheidt’s interests welled. But the conversation rapidly strayed.

‘Then that mean’s Bennet-chan’s in danger, does it not! That baster, I’ve got no interest in women, ‘s the sort of air he gave off, but he was actually aiming for this!’
‘No, you’re the one who sent him off to the border, captain! What are we going to do!? At this rate, the position of we who protect Bennet-chan are…’
‘In his student days, he had a free pass into the girls’ dorm, and he entered it boldly! For some reason it’s highly classified information, and it was a real pain to look into! But Rudel-sama is a man of valor who’s even managed to tame the tiger tribe!’

(Ah, looks like we’re not ones to speak.)

Picking up on the contents of the conversation, Luxheidt felt like apologizing to those civil officials from before. There, a hand was placed on his shoulder.

When he turned, he found the vice-captain Alejandro standing with a dubious face. While he wanted to chastise Luxheidt for his actions, more than that, he worried over what Luxheidt was going to do, now that he had learned the secret of the dragoon brigade.

“You… heard?”

Looking at the vice-captain who would calmly send people off to borderland, Luxheidt broke into a cold sweat.

“…”

He knew it would be pointless to deny it here, and from the vice-captain’s face, he knew he couldn’t say anything foolish.

“Listen, don’t tell anyone about what you’ve–”
“Vice-captain, I have an idea!”

From the vice-captain’s behavior, Luxheidt sensed he had no particular fixation on Major Bennet and decided to take a gamble.

It would be a pain to be stationed any further away. Luxheidt proposed a plan to crush this secret gathering.

In Beretta, a summons from the palace came for Rudel and the other dragoons.

“Are they going to award us for that monster subjugation?”

“Yeah, I thought they’d just send something and that would be the end of it, but it seems they’re handing it out at the palace.”

Bennet read over the letter as she confirmed Rudel and Keith’s schedule. At present, there weren’t any delays in the development of the port town. The construction using dragons was proceeding faster than anticipated.

Even if the three of them slipped out temporarily, there was little to worry about.

For Rudel, if he returned, he would be able to see Eunius and Luecke, so he thought he wouldn’t be bored. Keith thought the same.

“The palace, eh… I can see the captain and vice-captain!”

Seeing Keith’s delighted face, Rudel arbitrarily misinterpreted it as an immense admiration for those two great men. While he wasn’t wrong, it was in a vaguely different direction.

But Bennet wasn’t making a happy face.

“What’s wrong, Major?”

“No… it just seems I’m hated within the brigade, see. If I go, there will be some troubles.”

“That can’t be! You’re a splendid major!”

Rudel was convinced there was no way Bennet could be hated. He couldn’t believe someone like that could exist, so he decided to ask for a name.

“Just who could hate you, Major?”

“Rudel, you can’t ask something like that.”

When Keith cautioned Rudel, Bennet laughed a bit.

“Everyone’s got people they love and hate. I don’t mind it, so you don’t have to either.”

“… Understood.”

Bennet put a plan together and informed the two of their day of departure. With the changing schedule, she informed them they would have to work quickly for a while.

“You can take some vacation at the capital as well. Well, it’s not like we can’t fly through the night, but there’s no need to push yourselves.”

And so, they were given a day of vacation at the capital.

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