Dragoon 29: The Protagonist and the Supporting Role

The Second day of the tournament began with a peculiar air. The first year student matches ended without issue, and the princess’ class claimed victory… Chlust also participated as a representative and showed off his mettle. There were a number of matches that were suspicious no matter how you looked at them, but before the royal family, they were fought fair and square.

And the base of that abnormal air was, of course, Rudel. Rudel’s classmates were in tatters, but Rudel’s state was much worse. That was simply how severe his fights with the top candidates Luecke and Eunius had been.

Right, he was worn out, but…

“It’s finally here! We’re definitely going to win!”

He was terribly energetic. In the hall, Luecke and Eunius who had slipped out of the infirmary… and Vargas alongside the upperclassmen who trained with him every morning were there. Mixed in with them, Basyle had also come to cheer him on.

In such a hall, Aleist’s class on the opposite side of the ring looked at Rudel’s tattered comrades in relief. They had been wary of Rudel’s class, that had managed to win its way through this block of strong foes, but with this, they were sure they could come out on top.

And from the start, the finals were a heated affair. Regardless of the leisure Aleist’s class let off, Rudel’s class somehow managed to hang on. At the final matchup, the results were set at two to two, and with this, everyone knew they could count on an exciting finale.

Rudel stood opposite Aleist, waiting for the referee’s signals. And as he waited, Aleist called over.

“Looks like someone’s on fire… but even so, you’re in quite a terrible shape over there. When I’ve finally gotten a stage to show off, I’m worried it’ll just look like me bullying the weak.”

In contrast to Aleist’s cynicism, Rudel was a manifestation of seriousness itself. Right, Rudel had been waiting for this moment, and from the results up to now, he took Aleist’s cynicism to be only natural… but he’d prove him wrong! With that on his mind, Rudel prepared his wooden sword.

As he focused his attention on the match, the pain in his body seemed to fade away.

Seeing Rudel like that, Aleist grumbled over his light response as he took a stance. Confirming both sides were ready, the referee gave the signal.

Watching from the noble visitor room, the royal family swallowed their breath at the fight unraveling before their eyes. This was no longer a contest between students of the fundamental curriculum. Between these two who could easily be compared to upperclassmen or even full-fledged knights, the hall itself held its breath.

(M-master!!! Why are you so beaten up! You’re going to lose at this rate! My master’s going to lose!!!)

Fina panicked left and right within. At the match, Aileen,

“Oh  how wonderfully strong Aleist-sama must be!”

He saved her little sister, and that beautiful appearance. His form overlapping with the knight she once loved, to Aileen, Aleist was the ideal knight.

But the impression the queen held was something else entirely. Folding up the fan she used to cover her mouth, she leaned a bit forward to get a better look. Sensing the queen’s growing interest in the match, the king tried asking for her impression.

“How about it? Do you see something you like?”

Leaving a space of silence, the queen answered the query.

“Yes, that boy called Rudel, the Arses House’s legitimate heir is strong. But… how shall I put it, the Hardie House’s Aleist is… quite light, I’d have to say.”

The queen’s eyes open wider than usual felt Aleist’s strength as something light. The queen who would describe strength in such a way… from the start, the queen had a liking for a strong man. In his youth, Albach had excelled in the sword, and it was accurate to say she fell for his skills. But forced to sit through a tournament of students- the fundamental curriculum even- their crude matches and untrained movements were unbearable to watch… she thought.

But in reality, starting with the Three Lords’ sons, she was able to bear witness to some interesting fights. However…

“What a letdown…in the finals, what’s more, the final match… one of them’s in tatters before the match even begins, the other’s strength has no weight to it. If that’s how it’s going to be, then yesterday’s match between Rudel and Eunius was leagues better.”

The Queen opened her fan once more. It seems she had lost interest.

“Then who do you think will win?”

On the king’s nonchalant question, the queen gave an uninterested response.

“Well, the winner will be…”

Unnoticed by her parents, Fina expressionlessly…

(My fluffing! The fluffy kingdom of my dreams!!! Master!!! Hold on!!!)

Faithful to her desires to no end.

It was a harder match than Aleist could have imagined. In both swordplay and magic, Aleist thought he would come out on top, but Rudel wasn’t losing. No, you could say he was winning. Rudel…

(Aleist’s swordplay falls short of Eunius! His magic is nowhere close to Luecke! It isn’t strength… Aleist lacks an overwhelming level of technique. If I’m to win, I’ve no choice but to stab into that flaw!)

Thinking that, he parried Aleist’s attacks that pushed through with brute force and aimed for a counter. While Aleist had been pushing from the start of the match, he had failed to land a single hit. In contrast, suppressed as he was, Rudel’s attacks landed accurately. Even so, the fact he was dragging his beaten body at a disadvantage hadn’t changed.

In the hall, the voices in support of Aleist- who saved the princess- comprised the large majority. Receiving their encouragement, Aleist had started out in high spirits. But when it came down to it is, he was hard-pressed to win. What’s more, the opponent was Rudel. That Rudel! Inept and prideful! Rudel who only existed as a hindrance!!!

“Why are you getting in my way… just fall already!”

Growing irritated, hastily used magic sword. His wooden sword was clad in flames, taking on the form of a blade made of fire itself. But its size was around twice that of a human. As Aleist swung it around, he launched an offense on Rudel.

“You! Someone like you! Should just dissapeaaar!!!”

Horizontally, vertically, Aleist swung his sword… as he avoided it, Rudel also flowed magic into his blade. His special sword he had made to imitate magic sword. Rudel’s magic sword of pure magic ran parallel to his wood sword, taking the shape of an orderly blade.

Its length wasn’t anything great… but as Aleist’s blade came down to consign Rudel to oblivion, even when he knew it wouldn’t reach, Rudel swung his own sword. The magic surrounding it left the blade, but in exchange, Aleist’s magic sword had been cut through.

“W-what’s with that! I don’t know such a move… how cowardly!”

The moment he tried to protest to the referee, Rudel closed in right to his side. He hurriedly lifted his sword to block, but perhaps both wooden swords had already reached their limits as they snapped the moment of impact.

“R-ref! I can’t use my wooden sword. Temporary time ou…!”

The moment his sword snapped, Rudel instantly changed to close combat. Aleist used the abilities he had been granted… he dodged with his talent in martial arts, but he faltered against Rudel’s difference of spirit. HE felt fear at Rudel’s serious eyes.

(Why!? Why did it come to this!? This is my world, right… isn’t this a world where I’m the lead role!!!?)

A high-level display of hand-to-hand combat unfolded between the two, but Aleist couldn’t help but draw back. No matter how strong he was, in what he lost out in force of will, he could only find it in him to block. Unable to do anything but block, Aleist recalled his life before his reincarnation… the truth of the true Aleist’s bullied life.

(Harassed day after day… I finally croaked in an accident, and reincarnated into the world of the game I loved! I even got cheats! I even got status! My face wasn’t ugly! … and yet, and yet, even here… you’ll bully me here!!!)

As Aleist’s face warped in fear, it was taken in by Rudel’s fist. Blown back, Aleist crawled atop the ring. It was a scene no different to his past life.

(I’m scared! Scared! Scared! … Am I going to be bullied again? By this stepping stone of a character…)

As Aleist wasn’t getting to his feet, Rudel didn’t pursue. He simply stood before him. The fearful Aleist wasn’t even able to look at him.

Around, voices of encouragement for Aleist… he could hear jeers raining down on Rudel.

“Stand up! Why aren’t you fighting me, Aleist!!!?”

Rudel’s fist shook in his strong grip. Was it from anger… of emptiness, Rudel flared up. At his voice, Aleist felt even greater fear.

“I’m fine with losing! Just let me lose!!!”

On Aleist’s voice, the referee tried to declare the match’s end. But Rudel stopped it.

“Please stand! I’ve finally come all the way here… for what sake did I… I came here with my sights on you! I wanted to win! I wanted you to recognize me! And yet… Aleist, you’re strong, aren’t you!!?”

With those words, Aleist stood against Rudel. Rudel answered him, getting into a punching match once more. But this time’s match was a clumsy one, a blind exchange of blows.

Unlike the high-level match up to now, it was practically a fight between children. But even that exchange was cheered on by the crowd.

“Which side is winning?”
(What pointless thing do you think you’re doing!? Stupid master!!! You just won, didn’t’ you!? Just take that guy down already, and take me off the fluffy paradise!!! … Fluffy paradise? Fluffadise… huh? Not bad at all!!! Fluffadise! Fluffadise!)

She expressionlessly got excited alone.

And her sister, the first princess,

“How barbaric… I hate that Arses House brat!”

And the king,

“Now this is quite a manly fight. Even so… with this, isn’t the Arses House child at a disadvantage?”

Her fan still opened, the queen’s expression didn’t change. She looked down over the ring on the ground. Perhaps convinced her predictions weren’t off the mark, she wouldn’t answer the king.

The headmaster looking over the royalty and his students gazed quietly over the match. They were both students of the academy… so he thought. If this match’s results became a good result for the both of them…

As the two exchanged blows, their footing turned unsteady. Their arms took large swings with barely any power behind them. Even in such a situation, the audience gather in the hall cheered on. A majority of them cheered Aleist on, but there were definitely some rooting for Rudel.

“Fall already… isn’t that enough!”

Aleist and Rudel made terrible faces. One of Aleist’s blows got him in the face. But Rudel didn’t go down, sending another blow in return. Neither of them would stand down.

But their limits were close. Rudel had been at his limit from the start. The only reason he still stood was his will not to give up. His drive for victory wasn’t just because he wanted to stay at the academy… for some reason, Rudel was fixated on Aleist. The individual himself has noticed it. A sensation he had never felt before had become Rudel’s will.

Wringing out his last power, Rudel clad his fist in a magic of wind… At the end of the end, running his magic dry, Rudel’s fist came at Aleist to settle the match, knocking him off of his feet.As the hall swallowed its breath, the two of them collapsed Rudel who had run out of both stamina and magic, Aleist who had been pushed this far for the first time in any of his lives… after they lay immobile a while, some surrounding voices came to cheer them on.

“Stand up, Aleist-sama!!!”
“Don’t lose to someone like him, Aleist-senpai!!”
“You can’t lose to that idiot!!!”

The students rooting for Aleist mocked Rudel. Within all that, starting with Vargas, the upperclassmen started calling out to Rudel. In loud voices, they cheered him on.

“Don’t lose, Rudel!!! Show them the results of your training every day!!!”

Luecke and Eunius cried out as well. Despite their injuries and Mana deficiency, they forced themselves to cry out! Millia’s voice mingled in with theirs.

“I won’t forgive you if you lose here, Rudel!!!”
“Stand up quickly! And you call yourself the man who beat us!!!?”
“Quite sleeping there and stand already!”

On the words of the heirs to the Three Lords’, the surrounding classmates also sent words of encouragement. And the voices of Rudel’s class weren’t losing out.

“Stand up, Rudel!!!”
“You promised you’d be with us to the end!!!”
“Don’t lose to the likes of Aleist!!!”

At the end, Izumi called out in a large voice!

“How long do you plan on sleeping there, Rudel!? Strongest… the strongest knight, you’re going to be a Dragoon, right!!!?”

The collapsed Rudel tried to use his arms to raise his torso off the ground, but he instantly collapsed. He tried again and again… and right at that moment, a dragon passed over the grounds. For just that brief instant, a dragon’s shadow passed over Rudel. And…

“That’s right… I decided I’d definitely become a dragoon! For that sake, I can’t always be on the losing end… I’m going to become strong! I decided I’ll be the strongest dragoon who won’t lose to anyone!!!”

Rudel rose with shaking feet. All the voices of support raised cries for joy. And Aleist didn’t even try to stand. His shaking legs wouldn’t listen to him. His heart had long recognized his loss, and no matter how high his abilities were, he was unable to stand.

“Goddammit…”

Aleist’s wrung-out voice was drowned out by the cheers resounding through the hall. There, the referee declared the victor.

“Victor, Rudel Arses!!!”

In the noble visitor room, Fina expressionlessly stood from her seat. Making a gist with both hand, she raised them both to the sky to express her delight. She even let out her voice.

“Yeeeeesssss!!! He wonnnnn!!!”
(Master woooonnnnn!!! You really are amazing, master! My heart skipped a beat there, you know!!! Even when there was nothing fluffy related, it skipped a beat!!!)

“W-what are you doing, Fina?”

The king looked at his daughter with worry. The queen dropped her fan, while the elder sister held her mouth open in surprise. Within all that, the headmaster clenched his fist triumphantly where no one could see.

On the ring visible from the room, the classmates gathering around the victor. They hurriedly tried to drag him off to the infirmary, while Rudel said something incomprehensible about how the match lasted until the closing ceremony, and argued… It seems he said he wanted to stay to the end, but it was clear his hazy head wasn’t thinking clearly.

(So you overcame it… how about Aleist-kun…)

The headmaster thought of Aleist, who had already been carried off. ◇

Aleist was carried off in a stretcher. He was told to lay down in the waiting room for a while, before he was left alone in the room. In that waiting room without anyone, Aleist wept.

“I… no matter where I go, I can’t change.”

To that room, a single classmate entered. Once Aleist realized it was the student who always tried to get involved with him, he made a displeased face. To that point, none of the other classmates had come. He was sure they were speaking ill of him. From his bullied experience, he had long-since realized.

But…

“Y-you were close, Aleist… I’m sure you’ll win next time… I think.”

His classmate hesitantly called over. Even now, he tried to become friends with Aleist. Should I refute those words or depreciate them… as he thought that, Aleist cried again.

(Ah, I see, so that’s it. Why hadn’t I noticed… I wanted a friend. The reason I came to love a game where everyone liked the main character, I’m sure it’s because I wanted someone to like me… why couldn’t I realize something as simple as that…)

“A-Aleist! Are you in pain!? I’ll call the doctor over.”

Seeing off his classmate’s hurried rush for a doctor, Aleist listened to the cheers he could hear through the open door… will someone like me be able to be his friend…  as Aleist thought over it, he cried and smiled.

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Dragoon 28: The Sword Idiot and the Dragon Idiot

Steadily winning its way through, Rudel’s class was to go against Eunius’ in the semi-finals. In their block with nothing but strong foes, by the time they reached the semi-finals, both sides were in tatters. In truth, Eunius was injured here and there. But Rudel…

“R-Rudel, are you alright?”

Izumi asked Rudel in worry. In his match with Luecke, he had taken a hit from advanced magic. And before that, he had taken on a consecutive stream. After that, he had easily managed to win his way through, but… here and there, his body was wrapped in bandages, making him a painful sight.

“No problem at all. My body can move.”

He said as he spun his shoulders. His body moved… don’t you mean moved with pain? Izumi thought, but this tournament was one they had to win at all costs. Even if they had to push themselves, she thought and concentrated on match.

And the match that began… up to the final matchup, they somehow obtained four straight wins! Rudel’s class’s advancement was already set in stone. While both sides were worn out, when it came to feelings, Rudel’s class was winning.

The final match held a surprisingly subdued air. With the semifinal score at four to one… from the tattered Rudel’s point of view, there was no reason to push himself here. Right, normally, he should’ve just preserved his strength for the finals without damaging his body any further.

Rudel and Eunius stood opposite one another, waiting for the referee’s signal. Within all that, Eunius struck up a conversation.

“Good grief… why does my class have to be such a nuisance? Hey, Rudel… I know I’m being selfish, but could you take me on seriously? No, even if you don’t, I’ll be going at you with the intent to kill.”

Not with his usual raptor-like smile, Eunius made a grin full of self-derision. Rudel gave his request a serious answer.

“What are you talking about? Of course I’ll fight you seriously! I’m going to protect the promise we made on the grounds!”

Eunius’ eyes widened in surprise as he burst into a bit of laughter. The wood sword he had prepared for himself was a longsword intended for use in both hands. As he held it aloft to take a stance, Rudel prepared his own sword as well. The referee- who had been hesitating over whether to interrupt their conversation or not- determined that as long as they weren’t going to carry out a half-assed fight before the royal family, then all was well as he signaled the start.

“I’ve taken a liking to that idiotic part of you! Now come at me for real, Rudel!!!”

The two clashed head-on. Eunius focused solely on his sword, while Rudel adopted a style of freely switching between wood sword and spell. Comparing the two of them, Eunius displayed a surprisingly elegant array of skills, while Rudel’s fighting style was rough and violent.

Rudel’s swordplay that focused on winning as the premise was closer to a mercenary’s than a noble. His magic added on, it was a battle Eunius was unfit for… those around were sure to think.

But in truth, Rudel was being pushed back. With Eunius’ flowing sword strokes, and the difference in power born from his physique… they all served to torment Rudel, and Eunius was used to dodging magic. With magic as his weak suite, Eunius’ fighting style was a simple one.

Don’t give them a chance to use magic. If they do use it, then dodge.

Simple in concept, difficult in practice, Eunius exhibited the full brunt of his philosophy against Rudel. What’s more, his attacks were connecting. Rudel was the one unable to handle his barrage.

“Are you having fun, Rudel!? Right now, I’m having the time of my life!!! That you can follow me to this level- that you’ll take me on seriously- you really know how to make a man happy!”

Rudel fended of Eunius’ consecutive attacks. Knowing things would be bad at this rate, he channeled magic into his sword to cut through Eunius’ blade of wood. But sensing the irregularity, Eunius took distance from him. Seeing Rudel’s glowing sword, Eunius noticed.

As he took distance, Rudel switched over to a mid-range magic battle. And dodging his attacks, Eunius,

“Pouring magic into your sword? Nice… that’s one way of doing it!”

Stopping in his tracks and taking a stance, Eunius cut right through the magic coming at him. Sending magic into his blade, he had mastered the same magic technique in an instant. But there was one difference. As Eunius never used any magic, he had plenty of it to spare.

In contrast to Rudel’s sword that could at most give off a faint glow, Eunius’ wooden sword shook as his magic reserves poured from the blade. Using that quivering stream of energy, Eunius cut at Rudel. Rudel naturally stopped it with his own sword, but the sword’s magic coating moving like a whip slicing into Rudel’s face.

This time, Rudel tried to take some distance, but Eunius wouldn’t allow it. Rudel was instantly put at a disadvantage.

The man called Eunius who showed rapid growth in the midst of battle, in the game he appeared as the ‘Sword Prodigy’. While being a noble, he preferred freedom, and he was a reliable existence gentle to everyone. He had a sense of duty, and if you put him into the leadership role of a party, there was no doubt it would become a main force… he was that sort of character.

But that setting had always tormented Eunius. As a high-ranking noble, reasonable sword talent was more than enough. As his role would be to take command on the battlefield, Eunius would never go out on the front lines.

Eunius loved his own sword, and he earnestly took on his training. But he had no stage to test his limits. Everyone showed restraint from his position as a high noble. Even in the school’s matches, they’d all come and lose to curry favor with the boy.

Precisely from his talent, Eunius could notice it with ease. It all felt so empty. He had once even thought to cast aside his status. But his sense of duty wouldn’t allow it. Casting away his family… his people, and living by the sword? Eunius was incapable of such a thing. So he had given up on ever having a serious locking of blades.

Everything else was favorable. He had good friends in school, and even a girlfriend. He’d slip out of the academy and hit the town, and if  it all came down to enjoying his student life, there were no problems.

The one who appeared around that time was Rudel. He met the boy who could only set his sight on being a dragoon, even if meant throwing away his family and people. Eunius had his hopes. If it was against him, perhaps he could have a serious match… there were no problems with his ability or will.

Around when he came to think it, talks of this tournament came around. To Eunius who couldn’t tell if Rudel’s feelings would ever change, if he let this chance slip by, he might never have the match he sought for the rest of his life… he thought.

If Rudel didn’t see the value in a serious match with him, then never again… would he come at him with enough force to kill? He wondered.

Rudel ran around, and Eunius gave chase… at the moment he thought that pattern would repeat. Rudel went on the offense. Stopping his use of magic, he cut at Eunius with all his might. That wooden sword with magic channeled in, if it hit the wrong place, it would deliver a swift demise.

“That’s right! Come at me like you’re trying to strike me dead!!!”

Eunius put all the magic he had into his sword. And in regards to Rudel’s attack, he had decided to counter. Rudel barely dodged. But Rudel’s wood sword had been torn to pieces. In the instant he knew he couldn’t hit Rudel, he had changed focus to his sword.

“It’s my win…!!!”

Enuius tried to convince himself of his victory. But throwing down his sword, Rudel  stepped into Eunius’ bosom emptyhanded. Fearing not Eunius’ instant response to counterattack, he touched the palms of both hands to Eunius chest… firing compressed wind magic with all his might.

Without any time, a single attack in a lapse of concentration… but even so, it was an attack from point blank. There was no way it was ineffective!

Enius was blown out of the hall. He tried to stand, but by the rules, those who left the premise were disqualified. Even so, he tried to stand… feeling an intense pain run through his chest, he found his body wouldn’t rise as he willed it.

“Winner, Rudel Arses!”

And Eunius lost. He had lost a serious match. As he heard the cheers from the audience seats, Eunius collapsed down and looked up at the sky. It was already evening, the sky was died a shade of orange.

“Why can’t I move… let me have a bit more fun! Just a little more…”

Eunius’ tears came out. The more fun he had come to learn, the more he couldn’t forgive when it came to its end. There, dragging along his body, Rudel stepped down from the ring.

“It was fun, Eunius. Let’s have another match… if we do, I’m sure I can rise to greater heights.”

Rudel said such a thing with a smile. Of beaten body, the two of them were in terrible states. The one the prodigy Eunius lost too was an average man whose talents fell short. But his form as he continued setting his eyes on higher sights, Eunius saw greatness in him.

“You’re amazing… yeah, let’s fight again. So you have to stay in the academy.”

Their classmates raced over to them.  And the two were quickly carried off to the infirmary… even with shorter matches, the tournament had taken more time than expected, and the finals were to be postponed to the following day.

The finals against Aleist’s class was the only match that remained.

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Dragoon 27: Big Sister and Little Sister

 

The tournament’s first round fights had all concluded, and the second round was about to commence. As the royal family was watching this time around, the match times had shortened. And in the first round, they were conducted using other facilities as well. Fina’s hopes taken into account, they had set their eyes on Rudel’s block.

“The second round, eh… the next class is a strong one.”

Izumi looked at the tournament’s match sheet as she muttered to Rudel. Rudel had his own thoughts on the matter.

“Is there anyone strong in it? The strong people in our year… I won against Luecke, but apart from him, only Aleist and Eunius are coming to mind.”

At Rudel’s thought process, Izumi felt her head hurt. From the Rudel- constantly in the academy’s top rankings- point of view, the other students weren’t a threat. But this tournament was a team competition. There was no point if Rudel won his match alone.

“Hah, if the rest of us don’t win, we can’t rise in this tournament.”

To Izumi’s words, Rudel smiled.

“It’ll be alright! We’ll definitely win!”

Rudel answered full of confidence. Seeing him like that, the other representative of his class smiled too. Switching gears, Izumi stated the name of her next opponent.

“Millia… so I’m taking on the elf Millia.”

Right, the second battle put Izumi up against Millia.

So Rudel’s class entered the second round, and by the time it came down to Izumi’s second-to-last slot, the score was at one win and two losses! Izumi was burdened with quite the heavy responsibility. And her opponent Millia was also a problem… for some reason, she was glaring at her. Not because this was a competition, or because she was serious… she was just glaring.

“Do your best, Izumi!”

Mixed in with her classmates cheering her on from outside the ring, Rudel rooted for her with all his might. And the more he did, the more Millia glared. Equipped with a bow, she stood with a load of practice arrows prepared.

Millia’s mind was plagued by Rudel. And she felt disdain for his goal of being a dragoon. The reason lay in her elder sister Lilim. While being an elf, she had become a dragoon, one of Courtois’ elites.

Lilim held considerable abilities, even among the elves, and the clan placed their expectations on her… after realizing Lilim’s secret, her elven betrothed annulled their engagement. With that as a trigger, Lilim began taking distance from the notions of elves and clans.She had chosen to be a dragoon of Courtois over an oppressed elf.

Millia’s beloved sister was now a dog of the humans… and this time, the dragoons had even enraptured the one on Millia’s mind. While she was well aware her anger was misplaced, she still couldn’t bring herself to like the organization.

“… I have no grudge against you. But I shall be fighting with all my might.”

Alongside the starting call, wings appeared on Millia’s back. Half-transparent glowing wings… and Millia freely jumped about the area over the ring… right, it wasn’t flight, it was hopping.

“Kuh! What movements!”

Taking distance, and once she circled around back, she launched a stream of attacks with her bow. Izumi reacted well and dodged… but it was at that moment. Izumi ended up muttering. The bug often seen in the kitchen… the black demon that hopped around.

“Just like a bug!”

Snap! The ring’s air change so suddenly it was almost audible. Those wings that were an elf’s specialty, or rather trait, it’s not as if you couldn’t say they resembled a bug’s wings over a bird’s. And her flapping whenever she leapt, they were just assisting her jump strength, but… it did look quite bug-like.

Elves were aware of that, and mindful of it. Reactions varied by the individual… Millia went into the frenzy.

“Y-you… what did you just say? No, I heard you, don’t bother answering… you called me a bug. You’d better prepare yourself!!!”

Millia accelerated in her next bound. Unable to keep up with her movements, Izumi took some practice arrows across her body. Even if they were for practice, if they hit, they would hurt and inflict injury.

In regards to Millia’s violent bounds, Izumi stopped moving altogether. Sharpening her senses, instead of seeing Millia’s movements with her eyes, she tried to foresee them. Feeling the sound of her rhythm and the attacks of her bow, Izumi made a prediction, closed the distance in an instant and hammered in an attack.

Millia avoided Izumi’s swipe by the breadth of a hair. But Izumi didn’t let the gap she created slip through. In that space, Izumi grasped Millia’s ankle, making for a one-sided development. As Millia was unable to move, Izumi thrust her wooden sword at her neck.

And unable to escape, Millia vexingly muttered.

“I-I admit my loss.”

Hearing that, the referee declared Izumi’s victory. Feeling that she had successfully fulfilled her responsibility, Izumi pat her chest. And as she did, Rudel jumped at her.

“That was amazing, Izumi! Catching a skipping elf!”

Rudel happily praised Izumi. But seeing that, Millia only glared at her more. As the foe who beat her, and the woman who called her a bug… and while she didn’t quite understand why, she recognized Izumi as a source of her unease.

“That was quite a boring match. An elf doing nothing but running away!”

Princess Aileen gave her impression of the match. In regards to that, Fina surprisingly held the same opinion. An elf just running away… there should have been more contact, more fluffing! As she thought such a thing, Fina…

(When there wasn’t even any petting involved, I hate myself for getting so heated up! Hah, hah… let me nibble on those eaaarrrrs!!!)

Unlike Fina, Aileen hated demi-humans.

The demi-human hater Aileen. Once upon a time, her carriage was attacked by goblins on the move. To be more precise, it faced an attack from multiple monsters. Seeing the attacking goblins up close, Aileen cried and screamed, making for quite a sorry sight. That itself wasn’t much of a problem.

Aileen was young at the time, and if monsters attacked, then anyone would feel fear. But the problem was that Aileen was a princess. A princess attacked by monsters… of course, responsibility would have to be taken by the knight who served as her guard. And the one in question happened to be Aileen’s first love.

By a stroke of ill luck, or perhaps fate, the knight who carried out the execution was a demi-human. She had shown her disgraceful form to her first love, and after a period of brooding, she only learned of his death a long while later. A young girl at the time, she couldn’t get by without someone to hate, yet at her base, she still remained a kind girl.

It was around that time that she started to twist. The demi-humans disturbing public order should just go away… then we’d have a peaceful world for humans alone… Aileen honestly believed it.

“Calm down, Aileen… just look at Fina. She’s always calm, never flustered by anything. You have to take a lesson from her as part of the royal family.”

The king soothed Aileen’s agitation. The one he compared her too was looking at Rudel’s split-second defeat of his opponent in the final match.

(As expected of master!!! Just a bit of genius! And there he goes! But make sure you hold back when you’re going against fluffies!)

Expressionless to the end, and free to no ends.

 

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Dragoon 26: The Magic Idiot and the Dragon Idiot

In the tournament waiting room, the second years of the fundamental curriculum gathered. Everyone present was a representative of their class, and a person of skill. Within all that, the matches commenced one after the next… and it was finally time for Rudel’s class to go up against Luecke’s. Both classes exited the waiting room. Rudel and Luecke walked alongside one another.

“I’ll be giving it my all, Rudel.”

“Yeah, I won’t go easy on you either. I’ll fight with all I have.”

Without locking eyes, the two of them entered the hall, waiting until the final match came to pass. It was a team battle between five representatives, and Rudel’s class won the first and second matches to make the score two on two. With that, it would all be decided by the final bout, but more than any of that, the two of them could only concentrate on the worthy foe before their eyes.

“And now the round’s final battle shall commence!”

Alongside the referee’s signal, Luecke began to take distance to contest with his specialty magic. But Rudel wouldn’t allow it as he closed in the gap. Luecke was aware he couldn’t beat Rudel when it came to speed. So he cut forward to lock up his sword.

“…!!!”

The wooden sword Luecke had swung to protect against Rudel’s was splendidly knock and sent spiraling through the air. And as Rudel went right on the offense,

“Not yet!!!”

Luecke used magic at a close range. Normally, using it like that would be much too dangerous… normally, that is! But even so, there was some worth in his cast. The explosion blew him back, letting him take distance from Rudel. Luecke had suffered injury at his own magic. But even so, he had taken distance. And it was from here that Leucke could exhibit his proper role.

Shooting a consecutive stream of elementary magic at Rudel, he prepared his own trumpcard. It wasn’t as easy as it sounded, and there was a possibility of failure. But even so, Luecke had decided to challenge this match with all his might.

He attacked Rudel with a magic of wind, but the attack was evaded by Rudel’s
magic-enhanced stride. Even for Rudel, it was difficult to avoids shots from the magic-specialized Luecke.

“Even so!”

Rudel dodged faster than he could speak. But still invoking elementary magic, Luecke continued his stream of attacks. As Rudel avoided it, he tried to close the distance once more.

Just like Luecke, he used elementary magic as a diversion to close in… then stopped. The moment he tried to draw closer, Luecke had finished his preparations. Sensing the danger, Rudel leapt back, and Luecke used a majority of his mana to invoke advanced magic.

Wary of that previous self-damaging move, Rudel had drawn back, but now he felt a sliver of regret. He should’ve just closed in the distance.

For the students of the fundamental curriculum, advanced magic was much too dangerous… but Luecke’s magic activated perfectly. Flames mingled in with a tempest of wind, the ring that made up the contest grounds wrapped in a pillar of flames.

“How about that, Rudel!!”

From an overuse of magic, and the damage he inflicted on himself, Luecke staggered. The hall raised a stir over Luecke’s magic and concerns for Rudel’s safety. Just as the referee hurriedly stepped in to call an end… the storm of flames split in two and faded away… Atop the ring, Rudel’s wooden sword let off a faint light. Rudel had taken a downward swing…

Perhaps he had pushed it, as Rudel’s breath was also rough.

“… Impossible. You really are something, Rudel!”

Giving a delighted laugh, Luecke knew he had to answer to his first friend besides Eunius who he could go up against so seriously, firing his magic… but with his advanced magic and consecutive use of elementary spells, he was already running out of mana. Even so, he kept his ground without giving up on the match.

Luecke could see Rudel’s approach in slow motion. He recalled the environment he had found himself in from a young age. A harsh education devoid of any existences he had called friends. Even back then, Luecke had loved magic, and he wanted someone to talk about it with. He wanted to talk all about his beloved magic. But even after coming to the university, his status as heir to an archduke name caused those around to take distance.

The lone exception Eunius remained focused on his sword, and their conversations wouldn’t match. Even if he talked about his beloved magic, everyone would only affirm him. At the end, he found out they would affirm even if he told a lie. A boring life, day after day.

And yet Luecke had finally found a friend he could talk with. Rudel. Generally, magic went without saying, but he could follow along in conversations besides that, and talking about magic with the Rudel- ever earnest in everything- was fun… though he still couldn’t accept that book called How to Pet a Dragon.

While Rudel’s intuitive remarks stood out, Luecke would laugh as he went on about the theoretics. From those around, it looked like a foolish talk between men, but it was really a conversation over high-level magics.

And Luecke had challenged Rudel to a serious match. He had considered holding back to save his friend. His first true friend… if possible, he wanted to enjoy his school life alongside him.

But even so… he knew Rudel wouldn’t find any delight in such a thing, and he couldn’t hold back against his friend. His vision teetered and it became difficult for Luecke to set his focus.

“Rudel, you alone are…!!!”

The magic he wrung out the last of his power to fire would never go off… Rudel’s wood sword perfectly touched against the nape of his neck.

“W-winner! Rudel Arses!”

After a while of silence, the referee’s voice resounded through the hall. The space filled with the mingled cheers and jeers of all manner of spectators. Hearing that, Rudel put away his wood sword, out of breath. As if finally able to rest, Luecke crumbled at the knees. Rudel lent him a hand to stand.

“Luecke, thank you.”

“… It’s not like I let you win. I’ll be the victor next time… so don’t lose until then.”

Watching their match from the noble visitor room, the royal family, and their high knight guards… the headmaster was also present.

“That was splendid… that archduke heirs have grown up wonderfully.”

Hearing her father’s words, Fina was supposed to be delighted.

“Yes. Rudel-dono is strong… Luecke-dono as well.”
(The hell are you doing, Luecke!!? You trying to make master lose? Aren’t you friends!? Just give it to him!!! And why are there nothing but monsters in master’s class’s block… someone must have set this up!!!)

… Instead, she was considerably flustered. She sent a glance at the headmaster. In her head, the headmaster was one of the suspects.

“But… headmaster, isn’t this time’s tournament just a little bit strange?”
(Out with it already! If you try to crush my plan… I won’t keep quiet about the fact you twisted up my testimony on the incident!)

The headmaster answered Fina’s expressionless glance. By the way, the one who twisted Fina’s testimony in the report was not the headmaster.

“Sure enough, there are many of the top contenders in this block. But the academy hasn’t done any injustice.”

Fina doubted the headmaster’s words. The rest of the royal family watched the next match in disinterest… as truth would have it, this tournament’s ordering had been decided by lots drawn by class representatives. No one had done any dishonesty.

The headmaster looked at Rudel returning to the waiting room at the start of the next match as he thought.

(No matter how many times we redid it, all the strong foes ended up in this block. Even after redoing the drawing five separate times… that child’s path is a harsh one.)

Resisting the urge to let out a sigh, he explained the next match to the royal family. And listening to that explanation, the king looked at the daughter, the start of these events… from an early age, she wouldn’t show expression on her face… no, perhaps she couldn’t. And this was his daughter’s first selfish request.

To save the person she owed her life to… after some investigation, he learned that the reports regarding Rudel had been overwritten to an abnormal extent, and he had even considered reexamining his verdict. But the Arses House in question wished for punishment unto the individual, and even if they were royalty, there was a limit to how far they could stick their mouths into the circumstances of an archduke house.

For that sake, he had made this visit alongside the tournament. Even if he didn’t come out on top, he would award him some sort of reward for his effort… and saying that, he would see him off to a proper graduation, or so he had thought, but…

(I got to see something surprisingly interesting. Rudel and Luecke… and Eunius. What interesting children.)

In this visit, he had discovered a separate something outside his daughter’s request. He wished he had a son of that caliber… could it be those three had become friends? Had they supported each other to this point? Would they hold each other up henceforth? King Albach thought.

The King of Courtois, Alabach Courtois, was even more of a side character than Rudel in-game. He was treated in a manner where you could almost call him a mob character. His name came out a few times, his face flashed across the screen only once in the war event… as the surrounding female members had much more of a role than needed, the king never said a single word.

As such a character, the king didn’t have any detailed setting to back him. When even the queen had a hidden romance event… if you thought of it like that, perhaps he was quite the pitiful king indeed.

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Dragoon 25: The Doll Princess, The Three Idiots, and Royalty

As the school entered its third term, Rudel’s class was the epitome of seriousness. They prepared for the tournament to such an extent the homeroom teacher said it was the first he had ever seen in all his years of teaching. The class year separated tournament was a place to show the fruits of one’s work over the past two years. It was a passionate event every year, but as the royal family was coming this time around, the passion put in was something else entirely.

And Rudel’s class was even above that, they put in their passion to save Rudel from his forceful graduation. And in this tournament with a new level of passion, the top pick class held a strained atmosphere.

After the incident of the second term, Aleist had become the academy’s hero, but the class’ air took a turn for the worst. The verbal brawls in the forest still held a resounding effect. But even so, there weren’t any student able to launch a complaint against Aleist’s strength, so the class’ dissatisfactions would only build up. At this point, speaking ill of Aleist- who rarely ever came to class at this point- had become their diversion.

Within that situation, the tournament was about to open.

And as Rudel’s class devoted themselves to training, Leucke and Eunius appeared, leading along the representatives of their own classes. In that evening ground, the students of three classes gathered, letting out something of a peculiar air.

“Rudel, I heard the story. I know your class’s goal in this tournament.”

On the words Luecke started up with, Rudel’s class embraced a light hope of his possible cooperation. Even Izumi thought, if it was these Three Lords who got along well, then… she hoped. But Eunius continued on.

“We heard, but we’ve decided to beat you down with all our strength. In this time’s tournament, you’ll face Luecke in the first match, and if you win, you’ll be going up against us. And if you manage to luck your way through that one, Aleist’s class will be your final opponent. You’ve got no hopes of victory.”

After saying that, the two of them led off their class representatives. Those words caused Izumi to feel down. The two of them towered over the rest in the fields of magic and swordplay. If they wanted to win against those two classes, they would have to utilize the fact this was a team battle. A stream of one-on-one matches… the moment she thought that. Rudel called out to the two leaving parties.

“I’m participating in the last slot! How about you two?”

He boldly proclaimed his order in the lineup! Within the dubious air that surrounded the space, the two simply raised their hands to answer before walking off.

“W-wha-what are you talking about, Rudel!!?”

Izumi’s voice echoed through the grounds.

The class representatives that tagged along the leaving two called out to their own class leaders.

“A-are you sure about this, Luecke-sama? If Arses-sama doesn’t win this time around…”

To the representative who said that, Luecke spoke.

“Just you try slacking off in the tournament. I’ll never forgive you.”

As Luecke stated it coldly, Eunius stopped and looked over everyone. And with his ferocious features, he made a declaration.

“In this time’s tournament, holding back is more unforgivable than losing! I don’t care about the other classes, but don’t go light on Rudel’s class!”

“Hah, Eunius… in that case, you can’t complain if you lose before you even go up against Rudel’s class.”

In regards to Luecke’s sigh, Eunius answered with a laugh.

“Are you an idiot? As if we’d ever lose to anyone besides Aleist’s or Rudel’s classes… I decided I’d never hold back against him.”

It wasn’t as if Luecke or Eunius were giving it their all because they hated Rudel or anything. They recognized his skill, so they would give it their all. They’d seriously take him on, and wouldn’t complain whether they won or lost… that was their conclusion.

“Because Rudel would never forgive us if we held back on him.”

“That bastard… he even made a challenge to us. What are you going to do, Luecke?”

Turning to Rudel’s class in the distance, Luecke,

“It goes without saying, I’ll take him on personally… I’ll be taking the last slot.”

On those words, Luecke’s class made a stir. If they wanted to win, then it would be best not to put Luecke up against Rudel. But continuing on with that answer, Eunius also,

“And of course so will I! I wanted to fight him at least once.”

Eunius also turned towards Rudel’s class. There, he could confirm the form of Izumi chasing Rudel around. And caught by Izumi, Rudel called out towards the two.

“I… No! We will definitely win!!!”

A smile at that voice, the two walked off. Chased behind by their classmates… and even further back, they could hear the laughing voices of Rudel and his class.

The day of the tournament. In the assembly hall, the King of Courtois, Albach Courtois, his Queen, Ciel Courtois, and the First Princess, Aileen Courtois took their places in the noble visitor room, looking down over the hall that was to be the stage of this tournament.

Protected by high knights, the three of them quietly looked over the hall. To their side, the headmaster made himself scarce. And to that room, the Second Princes Fina made her entrance. Right, the one who invited her family was Fina.

“You look well, Fina. Though it’s only been a month since we last met.”

Her father, the king, said and laughed.

“You still can’t show expression? I thought you would get better if you attended the academy, but…”

Her mother, the queen, spat some cynicism. After the king soothed her some, the queen,

“Fina, how’s school? I never attended, so I’m quite interested… you wouldn’t say anything about it during the break, could you tell me about how things are going?”

“It’s been quite a while, father, mother… and sister.”

As she gave a perfect curtsy, Fina’s expressionless face showed no signs of change. The emotions she held towards her family,

(Our royal family really is a hopeless one… Aileen’s especially dangerous! If she ever found out about my little kitten Mii… that girl would definitely come to kill her! I say it with conviction! Mother’s, well, she’s the same as always, and father is… I guess he’s decent?)

She held a subdued impression of her family.

Fina took her seat in the noble visitor room, looking over the assembly hall… in the hall filled to the brim with students, there were various banners and flags hoisted up in support of their own classes. The zeal of the hall was only heightened by the presence of royalty.

(How sweltering… when I can endure the heat of Mii’s fluffiness, how should I put it… if it’s for the fluff, then I…!!!)

As she expressionlessly thought over such things, her father posed her a question.

“So how is it? According to you, the Arses house’s eldest son is a proficient one, and I’ve heard something similar from both a high knight and dragoon… how should I put it, with all these reports coming in from the left field, I’m troubled to respond. Cattleya seems to hate him considerably, you know? And from the documents, it’s hard to say that he’s skilled. Though I will say he’s interesting.”

“The Arses House is a disgraced one. At present, they’re included among the Three Lords in name alone… the moment I heard you had interest in such a house’s eldest son, to be honest, I felt doubtful, Fina.”

Her mother who couldn’t even speak if she didn’t mix in some sarcasm. As she naturally ignored it, her sister Aileen,

“He’s a battle lover, right? Such savage folk, they’re no different from the demi-humans. I hate those sorts! If it’s about holding power, then the Hardie House’s Aleist-dono Cattleya spoke so highly of is most ideal. Don’t you think so, Fina?”

“… Perhaps?”

Fina gave a vague reply. But inside…

(Eh? That homo’s your type? So that’s the sort of thing you’re into… I don’t think I’ll ever get you, sis. Nothing greater than fluff exists in this world! Ah! But master is separate! That man is a national treasure of Courtois! A treasure!!! Even so, it seems she hates fluffi… I mean demi-humans as much as ever.)

As they carried on such a conversation, the competitors offered a bow to the royal family. The family waved their hands in response, but…

“Good grief… to waste my time on something like this…”

“There are demi-humans among them. Why are they sending out demi-humans? They should just cut down their numbers and send some humans out…”

“Hah, calm down a bit, both of you. Try learning from Fina.”

While the conversation was shifted to Fina,

(Oy, oy!!! Look at all the demi-fluffies… hah, hah… forgive me, Mii! I might end up cheating on you!!!)

… she was the worst off of the bunch.

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Dragoon 24: The Upperclassman and the Boy

They were the events of the second term’s end, where the school entered an extended break. While Rudel would usually return home, he followed Basyle’s orders, informing his house, and remaining at the academy. Though a letter of complaint did come in from his younger sister Lena…

“And so? What are we supposed to do?”

Izumi- who didn’t return home every year- told Basyle she would take part, forming up a party of three. In the academy cafeteria, Basyle replied to her question as if it was natural.

“I’ll have you pick up real combat experience. Not in the sort of forest the academy would have an outing to, we’re going to a place of higher danger.”

Saying that, she spread a map across the cafeteria table. Marked on it was a place not too close or too far from their present location. Named Mt. Aberless, the mountain wasn’t particularly tall.

“On this mountain, monsters appear every year and inflict casualties on the villages in the area. This year, the casualties were especially great, and it seems they’re quite troubled.”

“Wait, so you mean… you’re putting me and Rudel to work? What part of that is training!?”

Izumi interrogated Basyle. Basyle had in fact taken up a job, and planned to earn money from it. But without letting those emotions show on her face,

“True combat experience outweighs all else. And as snow piles in the area, the footing is bad. Battle will be dangerous… but will that stop you, Rudel-sama?”

To Basyle’s question,

“No, that’s just what I want. If I don’t go that far, I’ll even feel uneasy going up against Aleist, Luecke, and Eunius.”

“The training period is two weeks. During that period, you’ll fight the monsters attacking a village, and protect it from damages.”

Hearing that explanation, Rudel and Izumi… Izumi felt it was almost as if they were accepting a job, feeling somewhat angry over its contnts, but she decided that as long as Rudel agreed, then there was no helping it.

“… And lastly”

“Hmm?”

“Could you call out to one more person? That’ll increase the efficiency.”

Izumi was more than convinced this was a job under the pretense of training. And at Basyle’s convenience, one of the academy’s remaining students was to become a sacrifice… Vargas.

As he wasn’t returning to his hometown this year, and he was planning out how to spend his time at the academy, Vargas was apprehended by Rudel. At first he was reluctant, but once he learned Basyle was coming along, he suddenly became eager. Already a fourth year student, there were no objections to Vargas’ basic fighting capabilities. And with his participation, Basyle was delighted as well.

“Oy! Oy, Rudel!”

Entering a village almost buried in the snow, the four carried out lookout and subjugation. But it’s not as if they were always fighting monsters. So when they had time, they shoveled the snow so they wouldn’t be buried in it.

“What is it, Vargas?”

Wearing a thick coat over his equipment, Rudel’s snow-shoveling hands stopped as he turned to face Vargas.

“Isn’t this strange? It’s strange, right! We’re supposed to be guarding this village, and yet we’re out here guarding the folks who go into the mountain to shovel snow… that’s definitely strange!”

Vargas shook, his hands stopped as he spoke to Rudel. From Rudel’s point of view, this wasn’t a job. But this was a bonafide request Basyle had taken up, and while doing odd jobs in the village connected to the mountain, they were doing honest-to-goodness work.

“You think? It lets you train up your legs, and the story the elders tell are interesting. Then there’s moving without a presence, and living alongside the mountain…”

“What are you enjoying yourself for!? Not that, I’m asking whether doing something like this will make you stronger or not! I’m fine, but you can’t lose, right!?”

On Vargas’ words, Rudel burst into laughter.

“W-what are you laughing for?”

“Sorry, sorry… I was just so happy, I couldn’t help it. And I think I’m on the verge of grasping something, so I’m fine.”

So with a smile, Rudel resumed shoveling snow. Rudel thought there was a deep meaning in why Basyle had chosen this place. It’s true Basyle intended for him to experience real combat… but that was about it.

Rudel simply sought out meaning in it. Just as those who sought to learn could learn from anything, Rudel learned much from the people living alongside the mountain. And even from his enemy monsters… he learned the fact they were alive.

“Don’t go against a large force, you have to use its flow against it. Gather your power on one point. Your body’s center should always be…”

As Rudel started muttering to himself, Vargas tried asking.

“What’s that?”

“The people of the village were talking about it. I’m sure it’s the fundamentals of something.”

To be blunt, it wasn’t a fundamental of anything. Within the villagers’ daily lives, the words came out when they spoke of how to move a heavy object, and Rudel just read too deeply into it. From there, Rudel dragged out the knowledge contained within himself and thought. He thought and thought… and finally realized.

It was the final day of that two-week period. A number of large monkey-shaped monsters appeared on the outskirts of town. Wrapped in white fur, they were ferocious carnivores that could move swiftly across the snow. Their size was around that of a human, but on snowy terrain, no human legs could catch up… it was the moment such monsters appeared.

Rudel went out alone. As if he didn’t even hear Basyle and Izumi’s calls to stop him, and when Vargas hurriedly rushed out to bring him back in… one of the monkeys came at Rudel.

Vargas cursed his ill fortune that Izumi and Basyle weren’t nearby.

But Rudel lightly swung the sword he had in one hand… splitting the monster in two.

“Eh? Eeeeeh!!?”

Upon witnessing the scene, Vargas couldn’t keep silent. Just two weeks! Could someone really become so strong just from protecting a village? No! They couldn’t!!! But even so, Rudel produced results.

Surprised by his strength, the other monsters attacked to avenge their comrade. While two came at him simultaneously, Rudel didn’t move from the spot, fire magic on his left hand and the sword in his right… As the two of them launched his attack, he sent a small ball of fire magic at one.

From its miniscule size, the monster charged without fear, but once it collided with the ball, it raised an explosion. Blown back, it became a black lump of charcoal alight… around that time, the remaining monster was cut down the moment it entered the range of Rudel’s sword.

It was an abnormal scene. So abnormal Vargas didn’t know what to say. The small fireball was actually a magic compressed to its very limit, and by channeling magic into his sword, he had created a shockwave. To be blunt, it was crazy.

“Still too many unnecessary movements. I have to somehow approach Aleist’s level before the tournament, no I have to surpass him…”

As Rudel put his sword away… Vargas thought. He looked at Rudel, who failed to give off the air of someone who had fought a dangerous monster, standing neatly over the snow.

“You’ve already surpassed him!”

Vargas unintentionally shouted out. His strength would pass as an upperclassman, and Vargas thought he may even eat into their upper ranks. Rudel had likely become even stronger than him… but Rudel,

“No, I still have a ways to go. I still want to become strong. Not just in power and technique, I want to become strong of heart.”

“You’re plenty strong already! As you are, you can become a dragoon, I tell you!”

Shying away bashfully at Vargas’s words, Rudel answered.

“I’m sure if I’m satisfied, then that will be the end… continuing to look higher is just right for me. And this world is vast, with plenty of people stronger than me. If I don’t keep setting my sights, I’ll be left behind in no time.”

Vargas suddenly felt as if those words were directed at him. As if they were addressing his thoughts just now, that he would be no match for Rudel.

“I’m no match for you… always looking forwards, never giving up. I’m envious.”

As he said such a thing, Vargas made a sorrowful face.

“Vargas, do you have a dream? An objective?”

“M-my dream? … Well, I want to ease the load on my place back home, and become a big brother my little brothers and sisters can be proud of… but I don’t have a splendid dream like you.”

Approaching Vargas, Rudel grasped his shoulders with both hands.

“That’s a splendid dream! A while back, I made fun of my brother’s dream. I regretted it throughout my hospitalization, and I was thinking to apologize. It’s never a mistake to work hard towards your dream. And… if they saw you now, I’m sure your little siblings will see a brother to be proud of!”

Rudel knew Vargas was working hard. Waking up early every morning to train. They saw each other every day. As Rudel said such a thing with a serious face, it was Vargas’ turn to be bashful. He was happy, but from the village, the villagers were looking over them with warm smiles.

“T-thanks. This is kinda embarrassing… more importantly, we should clean up.”

Saying that, Vargas pointed at the monster corpses. Ending the conversation, they went into the cleanup, but Vargas remained bashful, and a little glad.

From the village, Basyle looked over that heartwarming duo, Rudel and Vargas.

“You’re not going to help out?”

On Izumi’s question, Basyle shrugged her shoulders. Her usual light wear would be too cold here, so now she wore a thick coat, but her body’s lines were still vaguely evident.

“I’d feel sorry for them if I went out now. Let’s show some tact.”

“When you just want to slack off… even so, when did Rudel learn that technique?”

The swordplay and magic Rudel displayed… just knowing they were on a different level than before cost the two a bit of mulling. But Basyle,

“Well, with this it looks like I won’t have to change my employer, so I have no complaints. I never even imagined he would grow this strong, after all.”

Basyle smiled as she looked over Rudel and Vargas. Izumi had lost her understanding of Basyle. Why had she done such a thing? In the first place, when Rudel couldn’t become an archduke anymore, from her point of view, he should have lost his value. While Izumi’s thoughts started showing on her face, Basyle,

“Rudel-sama sure is interesting… I’m sure I won’t tire of him anytime soon.”

Gave a vague answer as she returned to the village inn… so she ran after all. Izumi concluded.

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