Extra: Surpass Marty 6

 

“S-so even the secret arts don’t work…”

‘It’s all slimy and gross.’

Before Sakuya returned to the dragons’ dwellings, Rudel tried applying the dragon petting skills he had devoted his being too. But if he pet her, she just said it was ticklish. The hidden technique was just gross.

Rudel looked at both his hands. He had polished his technique. On Lena’s words, he had regained the love. But it didn’t have the slightest effect on Sakuya. Before Rudel’s eyes, he could see Sakuya calling the lotion disgusting as she played around.

Sakuya was an immature dragon born only recently. Marty’s dragon said it would look after her a while, so it was decided she would temporarily return to the dwellings.

“W-what am… I supposed to do…”

“I’ve lost my motivation (What’s with you, master… you’ll happily be sent off to the outskirts? Are you an idiot?).”

As Rudel fell into a slump, Fina was on her room’s bed, hugging her knees as she stared at the wall. As always, Mii and Sophina were loitering around. On that all-too-familiar scene, they no longer felt motivated to cheer her up.

“I even secured the funds. I haven’t gotten formal permission, but I’ve already started things to motion… and yet, it’s impossible for the captain to be absent, right!?”

Displaying her needless competence, Fina had built up an organization to oppose the royal guard, but here a miscalculation came out. As Rudel was thinking of heading off to the outskirts in the future, he easily denied Fina’s request to appoint him captain.

“I’m supposed to be the princess of this country, right? Why do I get denied so easily? Are you telling me I fall short of that black hair!?”

Seeing Fina let off a black Aura, Mii finally came to console her.

“T-that isn’t true, princess. You’re beautiful and kind… there’s no way you fall short of Izumi-san.”

“Is it the breast? If there’s one field I lose out to black hair in, it’s got to be the breasts! I’m sure master likes them big! That’s why he shows no interest in my transient chest!”

“No, I’m sure it’s what’s inside.”

Fed up as she was, Sophina muttered at a level Fina couldn’t hear. In all honesty, she did actually hear it, but to Fina, it was but a trivial detail so she left it be. Her first priority was Rudel. At this rate, she thought she might have to take black hair hostage to conquer Rudel.

“Black hair was aiming to be a high knight, was she not… if her clan is placing its expectations on her, I can use this. Sophina, call black hair here at once. I’ll negotiate on the spot, and make sure she can’t make light of me from now on!”

“That’s not happening.”

“… Eh?”

“Black hair, Izumi Shirasagi has already received a tentative offer to become a high knight. With the formation of the royal guard, our already-present shortage of hands only increased in severity. The paperwork has already gone through, and alongside her graduation, Izumi Shirasagi will become a high knight. Well, she has more than enough aptitude, and it was a decision made with her relations taken into account.”

Due to the formation of the royal guard, Izumi’s instatement as a high knight had been set in stone. The knights who served Aileen had been estranged from their ranks. All the while, a crevice was forming among the high knights. The high knights were displeased with the formation of the royal guard.

But speaking to results, a number none-too-small had found enlistment in that same royal guard. Greatly harmed by this result, the high knights’ shortage of personnel only deepened the gap between them and the ones who had transferred to the royal guard.

With their shortage of personnel, it was only natural they would move to secure more. It was decided there were no problems with Izumi’s abilities, and she was among the many new recruits they were going to enlist this year.

“Black haiiirrr!! (Dammit! If it’s a tentative offer, I can’t make any poor moves! If I push it and threaten black hair anyways, I’ll have to erase her offer, and even master will grow suspicious. I-if master comes to hate me, but fluff utopia… my fluffadise will grow distant. Should I take the bet? Threaten black hair… but the risk is too high. For now, I should proceed with caution… right, I just have to offer a deal! With a deal that’ll put me at as slight an advantage I can get, I’ll threaten black hair! It’ll be an official deal, so there won’t be a problem!)”

There was another large reason Izumi was tentatively offered a high knight position. Her personal relations. The high knights had evaluated the fact she was a good friend with all of the Three Lords’ eldest sons. She was seen highly as an individual capable of opposing the exorbitant Rudel

To the high knights who faced a drop in power, the ability to suppress the young ace of their rivals, the dragoons, was a large bonus.

“… You can’t hide and threaten her either.”

Sophina looked at Fina as she drove in the point. Her thoughts read, Fina panicked, but her face was expressionless.

“T-threaten? Your words do me ill, Sophina.”

“Is that so? Until just a moment ago, you were all up to threatening. Well, I can see why you’d panic… but if you’re worrying about Rudel, I think it’ll work itself out.”

“Fwah!?”

Changing her posture to sit on her soles, Fina raised her voice as she looked at Sophina. Her expressionless face pressured her to go on, and Sophina ended up taking a step back.

“Y-you’re too impatient. Try thinking about it. He’s the eldest son of one of the three lords, and the white knight who contracted a giant dragon no one’s ever seen before. There’s no way the palace would ever send someone with such a degree and worth to the outskirts.”

“You have a point. I had forgotten about that white knight and dragon bit. It seems no one’s noticed. Master’s true worth doesn’t lie in such meaningless titles… hmm, no matter the era, you’ll find great men who never receive the assessments they deserve.”

Worn out, Sophina gave some vague yeahs in response to overcome the situation.

‘I’ve realized my own ineptitude. I’m going on a journey. Don’t look for me.’

Receiving the letter from Izumi, Eunius’ hands were shaking. Not in fear, he was shaking in anger.

“T-that idiot!! Who does he think he is, going on a journey at such an important time!!?”

His rage wouldn’t subside even after tearing the letter apart, so he let out a roar. At Eunius’ rage-twisted form, there were some students who began to cower.

The location was the school cafeteria, and apart from Izumi who had brought the letter, Luecke was also there reading a book. After they’d finished their lunch, Izumi had shown Eunius the letter Rudel had entrusted to her.

The reason Eunius was so angry was that the individuals’ tournament was close at hand. It was their last large stage, and there was a possibility the enemy he swore to defeat wouldn’t even show up It was something Eunius couldn’t bear to be.

“He certainly is an idiot, but whether Rudel participates or not is up to him.”

Luecke, who was uninterestedly reading his book, wouldn’t be taking part in the individuals’ tournament. No, he had a reason he couldn’t.

“I’m not participating either. Well, this year, I have a reason, so I can’t take part.”

“What do you mean either!? Rudel is going to participate whether he likes it or not! I won’t let him run off with a win under his belt!”

The reason the uninterested Lucke couldn’t participate was deeply tied into the tournament itself. More so, it was Rudel and the others’ fault Luecke couldn’t take part. However, something like that was irrelevant to Eunius. With Rudel’s disappearance, he thought the individuals’ tournament would become boring.

Izumi looked at the two as she let out a sigh. Gathering up the torn scraps of the letter, she tucked them away in her uniform pocket.

“Rudel didn’t write that he wasn’t participating. I’m sure he’ll be back in no time.”

Even though she said it herself, Izumi recalled Rudel’s late arrival to the selection test. To Rudel, if there was something of more value to him than the individuals’ tournament, then would he really take part? More than that, she grew curious about what basis he had to declare his ineptitude.

She suddenly recalled Rudel’s murmurs.

‘The secret art didn’t work.’

“… Ah, this might be bad.”

“What?”

Izumi’s shoulders fell as she recalled Rudel’s conduct and began putting the pieces together. She had never even considered he might disappear just because his dragon petting wasn’t going well.

But with Rudel, wasn’t it possible? Once she explained the surrounding events to the other two, Luecke put down his book, while Eunius started shaking in anger once more.

“Let’s see. Looking at the result, it’s sufficiently plausible. If you ask me, I’m more surprised there was a dragon Rudel’s petting didn’t work on. From what I’ve heard, it seems his sister Lena was able to win a red dragon over.”

“T-the bastard… we’ve come all the way here, and he fixates on petting!? Now’s not the time for that! What he needs to care about is the individuals’ tournament!”

“I agree wholeheartedly.”

While the three of them worried for Rudel, Rudel had submitted the official paperwork to the academy to go on a journey. Petting various animals and rereading How to Pet a Dragon, it was a training without a definite direction. He walked as he thought over what he was lacking.

“Just what am I missing. I have the technique. I do love Sakuya. Then just what could it be…”

As Rudel earnestly mulled over it, when looked upon from the side, surely he was a refreshing sight. But the man himself was serious to no ends. He honestly worried.

As Rudel walked, three individuals stood to block his path and called out. Wearing different clothing than usual, ‘twas Fina, Sophina and Mii. The other guards simply didn’t make themselves apparent, they were properly stationed.

“You seem troubled, master.”

“I told you I’m not your master. What’s more, I’ve only just been reminded of my own ineptitude. There’s no way I could take a disciple.”

“Hmph, do you think you can run away with that reason forever? I heard you’ve already been initiated into the secret arts. From my, no from anyone’s eyes, it wouldn’t be strange for a master like you to have an apprentice.”

As Fina bit on, Rudel decided she had a point. He didn’t plan on taking a disciple, but it was true he had learned the secret arts. In that case, he thought he would have to make Fina understand he simply wouldn’t take a disciple.

“Sure enough. But I cannot accept my current self. I must climb to greater heights, so I am unable to take a disciple. Do you get where I’m coming from?”

Hearing Rudel’s words, Fina was expressionlessly convinced of her victory.

“Master, you’ll never reach any heights like that.”

“What?”

“I’ll admit you’re splendid, for being able to regain the techniques lost for a hundred years. But try thinking about it. The way things are going, they will only be lost again. Even if another aspired for greatness, whether or not they could reach your height is…”

“And what are you trying to say?”

“Let me be blunt. Master, you’re mistaken! If you don’t let your craft be passed down and polished, you’ll never rise any higher. The techniques made to be handed hand after hand will rot away in no hands but your own. If he saw you right now, then surely Marty-sama would lament. When a successor finally came to inherit his art, for that successor not to take a disciple… learn some shame.”

Rudel couldn’t understand why she was angry, but Fina’s words did leave a deep impression on him. He thought of the feelings Marty had gone so far as to leave as a book. He thought and misunderstood. Surely Marty wanted it passed on…

The truth was much simpler. Marty simply wished to immortalize his love for his own dragon as a book. He overdid things and wrote of the technical details as well, but he stressed the words to his dragon, and at the beginning and end, he wrote love was the most important of all. He hadn’t the slightest thought for the world to come.

If he had such intent, he would surely have reported such high-level techniques to the country. Fina had noticed that, but she had lied in order to deceive Rudel.

“I-I see. You’re right. I cannot let all that’s been built up collapse. I have to answer up to Marty-sama’s expectations!”

“That’s right, master! (Yay, he fell for it. Master sure is easy.)”

Inside, Fina was drunk on her victory, but Rudel’s words left her in a daze.

“Then from here on, as you’re to be my disciple, I’ll call you Fina on all non-formal occasions. And also, I planned to use this journey to train. You’re coming with me.”

“Eh? U-um, master, I came to bring you back…”

“No backtalk! The only answer you need is yes. Now follow me!”

“… Yes.”

Fina walked at Rudel’s back, and seeing them off the other two were left dumbfounded. From the start, this was an outing to drag Rudel back. They weren’t at all prepared for a journey.

“What are we going to do about this?”

At Mii’s anxious look, Sophina wanted to cry. It wasn’t as if she could just scream, ‘How should I know!?’ so Sophina decided to negotiate with Rudel… as a result, it was decided the four of them would travel together.

Posted in Dragoon | Tagged | 49 Comments

Extra: Surpass Marty 5

 

A few days after Rudel had fallen onto the hall, Sakuya and all…

In a room of the palace, Fina received a report from the two dragoons. She wanted to hear the events that transpired in the dragons’ dwellings, and the reason they were late to the selection test. The two of them had already submitted their reports, but Fina called them out saying she wouldn’t be satisfied unless she heard the details directly.

Classes in the academy had already begun, but the palace was in a frenzy, causing them to take measures they wouldn’t usually take. The fact Fina had yet to return to school was because of all the confusion surrounding Rudel and Fritz.

Who was more worthy of being royal guard captain? No matter how you looked at it, that was Rudel, but Aileen’s faction wouldn’t permit it. From Fina’s point of view, it wasn’t a problem however the hell Aileen moved. So in order to leisurely draft up her future course, she had called out Rudel’s two guards.

She looked expressionlessly at the two before her eyes, Lilim and Cattleya, as Sophina put them under scrutiny.

“So after he obtained a dragon, they were training it to fly? You mean to tell me it’s a child at that size?”

She tried to hear out their testimonies but there were too many peculiar points. First came the dragon. Rudel’s dragon was even larger than a wild dragon. It was a size larger than the largest gaia dragon. It was such a dragon, and yet they said it was doing flight training, making it late to the test.

Anyone would doubt it.

“No, I did say it was an adult, size-wise. But it was only born a few weeks ago…”

Correcting the position of her glasses at Lilim’s report, Sophina continued her questions.

“Newly born and an adult… I’m an amateur when it comes to dragons, but I do know it takes some time to grow after they hatch from their eggs. Well, let’s just move on. For what reason did so many wild dragons follow along?”

Cattleya answered that one.

“That’s because the dragons said they wanted to give their thanks or something, and they wanted to look after Sakuya.”

“Oh, can such a thing happen? Dragons are famous for getting less involved with one another than humans. I’ll have to verify that one with Rudel-dono. Continuing on, why did you stay until after the deadline had gone by?”

From Sophina’s attitude, it was clear as day she wouldn’t believe them even if they reported the truth. Cattleya always had a tendency to look down on high knights, and her answers were becoming quite half-baked.

Understanding Cattleya was irritated, Lilim decided to answer everything on her own.

“Truth be told, when the white dragon was born, it seems she was unable to fly, and still immature as a dragon. The other dragons insisted their pride wouldn’t allow them to send her into the world like that…”

“So everything is the dragons’ fault. How convenient. It’s something we’ll never be able to confirm, so, well, power to you. But during that time period, what exactly were you two doing?”

“No, um… Rudel-sama said he would look after Sakuya, and wouldn’t hear us out, so we had to accompany him.”

While Sophina was irritated, she took care not to say anything too incisive. But to the earnest Sophina, Lilim and Cattleya’s report was irritating.

“Report on the details! I’m getting tired of all these careless, vague remarks. The two of you have some responsibility in this, you know!”

“Yeah, yeah.”

As Cattelya averted her eyes, her attitude showing she wasn’t repenting in the slightest, the blood rushed to Sophina’s head. Things wouldn’t go anywhere like this, so Fina swapped out. Seeing Cattleya suddenly revise her attitude, Sophina mumbled complaints to herself.

“This isn’t getting anywhere. Let me step in. Both of you, can you give a detailed report on the events from the dragon’s birth to your arrival at the hall? (Hmm, you’ve got a ways to go, Sophina. You’re dealing with my master… it’s impossible to think things went down normally! Now what sort of report will I be able to hear!!? I won’t be surprised no matter what you tell me!)”

Amused within, Fina heard out the flow of events that led them to the hall.

First, after arriving at the dragons’ dwelling, they were put to sleep with medicine, and in that space, Rudel obtained a dragon. But in order to obtain that dragon, Sakuya who forcefully came along became a sacrifice… they gave a simple explanation of how that made it so the dragon born was far more immature than its appearance would suggest.

“… Is that so. That girl was…”

Even Sophina couldn’t understand what Fina was thinking. But expressionless as she was, she looked sorrowful.

“That’s where the problems began. The dragons started to get entangled with the white one in excess.  It seems they were looking after her, and they said something about atoning for something.”

The reason Lilim’s words were so muddled lay in that even her own contracted dragon hadn’t given her the details. She was unable to talk with the other wild dragons. So she couldn’t learn anymore.

“They taught her how to fly in the sky, and how to hunt prey; meanwhile, we were living a survivalist lifestyle, but… Rudel-sama started training alongside a former dragoon’s water dragon.”

Fina’s shoulders were shaking a bit. She silently looked at the two before her eyes. Tell me what happened, quickly, Sophina could see her applying a silent pressure.

“At first, it was training on a dragoon’s way of combat. But along the way, it devolved into horseplay, and they started fooling around.”

As Cattleya recalled Rudel’s few weeks, she could only see it as them playing around. But Lilim to her side’s complexion changed as she revised Cattleya’s report.

“No, that wasn’t anything so lukewarm! Rudel-sama was definitely not playing around!”

“Eh? Wait, Senpai?”

“Lilim, go on. (What’s with their reactions… more importantly, I’m curious about this water dragon he got involved with. I doubt it, but…)”

Lilim got worked up as she spoke of the new skill Rudel had picked up.

“It was an application of water magic. Applying a slippery property to water, you use it to cover their body. It was considerably slippery, so at first I thought he was learning how to use traps or something. But that wasn’t it! That… that was a lost art omitted from the book!”

Slippery water… it was lotion. Meaning Rudel had learned lotion play. It was an ultimate technique Marty hadn’t noted down in his book. After that, Rudel perfected a special art of his own, but that is a different story.

“W-what was that!? By book, you couldn’t mean…!”

Lilim’s powerful explanation even shocked Sophina. Fina was expressionless, but she held up a hand to hold Sophina back as she urged Lilim on.

“To think ‘How to Pet a Dragon’ was still incomplete… in that case, could this water dragon you spoke of be the dragon of legend? (For real… come so far, master’s reached a height beyond my reach. No, this is a godsend! I must rejoice that what was lost has been revived!!)”

“Rudel-sama was considerably depressed, so he devoted everything he had, and lost himself in training. In the last few days, the dragon initiated him into the secret arts! At this point, there is no one in the world who can best Rudel-sama…”

“P-princess! This is a national crisis!!”

“Calm down, Sophina. I’ll take some measures… but this has become something terrible. Both of you, make sure not to speak of this matter outside. (It’s heeeerrre!! Master’s finally gone and done it!! I can’t sit still. I have to move at once… first, I should do something about that royal guard.)”

Left behind by the surrounding situation once again, Cattleya honestly began to wonder if she was the strange one.

(Is it me? Am I the odd one out!? What’s the meaning of this!! Senpai’s been like that from the start, and that high knight I don’t like was surprised, and more than anything… the princess’ hands are shaking!! Am I really the strange one!?)

Fina immediately started thinking of what was to come. She had finished investigating into the knights who were sent out to search for Rudel, and the minister responsible. She learned they had only pretended to search for him, and she caught onto Aileen’s schemes. There were plenty of ways she could make use of both facts.

“After that, we lost our sense of time until your messenger came by, and, well…”

Lilim struggled to go on, but Fina had already lost interest. To be blunt, she couldn’t’ care less. If being late meant Rudel was initiated into the secret arts, she would even reward them for it.

“Good work, both of you. You shall hear of your punishment later, but as you’ve heard out my selfish request, I’ll make sure nothing bad becomes of you.”

“Your grace!”
“Your grace!”

Seeing off the two as they left, Fina ordered Sophina to lead the minister in.

“If you plan to punish them, shouldn’t we report to his majesty?”

“Punish? What could you be talking about, Sophina? There is no point in reporting to father. The one who used the minister was my sister, and soft on the finish as she was, my sister accomplished her goal. It wouldn’t be strange if there are some among the higher-ups who simply left my sister’s actions be.”

“Then what good comes of calling them?”

“That’s simple. I just have to make it all go as my sister wants. The royal guard will be established, and her boyfriend Fritz can be captain for all I care. Let’s have the minister help out too.”

Sophina couldn’t accept that Fina was letting Aileen be. She thought Fritz’ conduct at the academy would be unnecessary at the palace. But Fina’s plan was the opposite.

“Are you questioning my actions? I’m not leaving them be. More so, I’m helping my dear sister out. We’ll establish the royal guard, and station everyone who shares in her ideologies there. (The demi-human discrimination is terrible among the palace’s knights. We’ll gather them all up in one place, and steal away their authority… when that happens, they’ll be short on hands, will they not! And if they don’t have enough people, then they have no choice but to supplement them from elsewhere!!)”

An organization called the royal guard would likely hate simply doing odd jobs around the palace. Foreseeing that, Fina hurried to form her own planned knight brigade of demi-humans. Her sister Aileen’s actions had actually made it easier for her to move.

Even if, hypothetically, Aileen made a move, the royal guard would be her pieces. Fina would have to prepare pieces of her own. Her honest thought was to use that as a reason to create a brigade of fluffies. Persuading her father and mother, Fina prepared an opposing force.

She based her actions on the belief that Aileen would surely run reckless.

“Now things are going to get busy. First, let’s put that minister to work… (Those small-time villains are basically just there to be crushed, and I won’t even feel bad about it! How wonderful!)”

Sophina wanted Fina to put just a little bit of that decisiveness towards the country’s well-being.

Changing locations to the academy, Rudel was talking to Izumi. When it came to the main event of the second term, for the fundamental curriculum, it was the wilderness training. For the upperclassmen, the individuals’ tournament.

But the topic of their conversation was gradually drifting away from the tournament. At first, they spoke of who they’d go up against this time, and how Rudel’s mana regulation was going. But once Rudel said he had learned a new technique, Izumi held her head.

“Isn’t it amazing!? Marty-sama’s dragon personally initiated me into the secret arts! I have a long way to go to reach Marty-sama, but I think I’ve gotten just a little bit closer… Izumi, does your head hurt?”

“Rudel, from the context, I can understand you had some harsh training pounded into you. But you see. Why did you only train that side!? That’s clearly strange, isn’t it!?”

“What!? What about it? What part is strange? The application of water magic was truly difficult to learn. That slipperiness, or rather that exquisite sensation was considerably difficult to reproduce.”

Before Izumi, Rudel heatedly spoke on about lotion play. Izumi held her head as she muttered.

“Rudel, just what exactly are you aiming for? That’s got nothing to do with dragoons. The strongest knight won’t be doing anything like that.”

“You’re wrong, Izumi! It’s precisely because I’ll be strongest that I have to take it to the limit! Do you want me to tell you Marty-sama’s legends? Like how he leapt into an enemy camp alone? There was this one time he even punched the king, you know!”

“… Isn’t that treason? A major problem?”

That conversation that didn’t mesh continued on a good while longer.

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Dragoon 77: The Oath and the Little Brother

Once a conference on the country’s future course was held in the chaotic grounds, Rudel called Izumi and the others to a tent that had been temporarily set up. Gathering Luecke, Eunius and Aleist, he started explaining everything in order. The black boar, the sinister bird, the black fog… and he told them about Sakuya. He told them slowly so his emotions wouldn’t take over.

As Rudel calmly went on, he gave off a terribly cold impression.

He showed the will Sakuya had given Lena to everyone.

He told them how Sakuya, her life running out, had cast down that life for his sake. As he did, Aleist punched him. Growing emotional, he rained Rudel with jeers.

“To hell with that! If you had a grip on things, there wouldn’t have been a problem, dammit! Why do you look so indifferent! She died for your sake, didn’t she!?”

Eunius and Luecke held him back, and by their hands he was pulled out of the tent. In the end, Luecke and Eunius decided to leave the space to Izumi.

“All yours.”
‘Don’t worry, we’ll calm this guy down.’
“Hey! Wait! I still have something I want to say…”

Confirming they had left the provisional tent, Rudel stood and gave a bitter smile.

“Haha, that was something. To think I’d be punched by Aleist.”

He did stand, but he averted his eyes from Izumi. Perhaps tired from the long trip, Sakuya was sound asleep in the tent. Izumi lay a hand on Sakuya’s forehead as she called over to Rudel. Rudel was sure he was in for another put down.

He knew he had done enough to deserve it, and he intended to accept it all. But Izumi’s words betrayed his expectations.

“Did you cry, Rudel?”

“? Yeah, I think I cried… I was crying the moment I opened my eyes. I can barely remember it, but I cried and walked out of the cave. There were lots of dragons flying through the sky. It seems they were celebrating Sakuya’s birth.”

Rudel tried to change the subject, but Izumi paid it no mind.

“I see… did you cry after that?”

“No, I don’t think I did. I was too busy. We had to train Sakuya to fly, and there were quite a few things I needed to hear. I had lost my sense of time entirely, and until the messenger from the princess came, I hadn’t even noticed. From there, I hurriedly prepared to return to the manor and made it just in time. No, I was late.”

I learned a new technique, Rudel gave a laugh as he spoke. Izumi wondered if Rudel’s business was him trying his best not to think about it.

As Rudel spoke with some jest mixed in, Izumi embraced Rudel, wrapping her body tightly around his. Rudel’s face was buried in her chest. As the power left his body, Rudel crumbled at the knees, and Izumi sat down to match his level.

“I’m sorry. For letting you go through the pain alone… it’s alright. You can cry if you want to, Rudel.”

Izumi gently pat his head. Rudel shed tears as he spit out his own feelings. Rudel could never rely on anyone, but the truth was that he was terrible at relying on people. To Rudel who never had people he could depend on from his childhood, he was unable to comprehend the events around him.

He had only actually understood Sakuya’s actions once everything was over.

“I-if only I’d been more level headed! It’s just as Aleist said. If only I looked at Sakuya more, it never would have come to this! … But some part in my heart was actually happy I obtained a dragon. I’m the worst. The worst piece of trash! And yet, and yet for someone like me, Sakuya…!”

In the letter Sakuya left behind as a will, there were lots of words for Rudel. Izumi had faintly recognized Sakuya’s affection towards him. But her realization of it only made it more heartbreaking.

“She told me to be the strongest, she told me to protect someone! I have no choice but to do it! Even when I’m like this, it’s my promise to her… I… I have to continue being Sakuya’s ideal knight. I have to keep being the strongest or I’ll never be able to look her in the face!”

Like the string holding him back had been cut, Rudel spewed his emotions. As what he was holding in came out, it came out with tear after tear.

“You don’t have to endure it, Rudel. You can cry now.”

Rudel wept loudly, and Izumi held him the whole time. Izumi was shedding tears as well.

Outside the tent, there were three eavesdropping on their conversation. It was Luecke, Eunius, and Aleist. Aleist alone was in a slump, regretting the fact he hit Rudel. The one who looked after Sakuya was Rudel, and he recalled how he didn’t do anything in particular for her.

Eunius and Luecke thought back over all the unnatural occurrences, and as they thought, they looked at the sky.

“W-why am I always…”

“No, neither you nor Rudel ever reads the mood. It’s not like this is a first.”

Cutting down a depressed Aleist with a single stroke of the tongue, Luecke recalled the contents of Sakuya’s letter. He had been in it as well, and she wrote it was fun. He was seeing Sakuya, who knew she was going to die, yet hid her feelings, in a new light.

Eunius reflected in a similar fashion. Saw her anew, and cast some words to the sky. Even if he knew they wouldn’t reach, he couldn’t stand by without saying them.

“Good grief, she really was a good woman. I should’ve called out to her.”

The sky dyed with twilight; some part of it was suffocating.

Sakuya’s letter.

With her shoddy, large lettering, Sakuya had left a letter. It was a sort of will, but the one in question hadn’t written it with that intent. She simply wanted to write her feelings.

‘I’m glad I came to the academy. I was happy.’
‘I didn’t have time, but even I was able to hold a dream.’
‘My dream never came true, but I’m becoming one of the dragons so,’
‘I’m becoming a dragoon with Rudel, so maybe it came true after all?’
‘Thank you, everyone.’

She wrote down lots of names- the people who looked after her. Starting with Rudel, she even wrote the names of the cafeteria lunch ladies. Aleist and Fina alone were addressed dubiously. Stupid Aleist and Weird Fina. She thanked them both as well.

She wrote thank you a lot of times. Once it came to the latter half, she wrote her memories to that point, and the feelings she held towards Rudel. As the letter shifted into that portion, there were many places where the text would blur. It was clear she had written it while crying. She wrote she was happy he would read picture books to her.

She wrote she was happy she got to eat so many sweets. She was able to make so many friends… the last part was so blurred it was difficult to read. There were traces she had rewritten it a number of times. She left words as if to dote on Izumi.

‘Do you think someone will remember me? Do you think Izumi will cry?’
‘If she reads this, that means I’m already gone, right?’
‘Was I useful? Was I of any use to Rudel?’
‘I found my reason to live. Thank you, Rudel.’
‘I’ve lived a long life, but these few years were the most fun I ever had.’
‘Parting is sad, but thank you for everything.’
‘Bye bye.’

And there, the letter of shoddy letters came to a close.

Once he had finished crying, Rudel stood and wiped his tears. Seeing Sakuya asleep, his face turned refresh. Deciding he wouldn’t cry anymore, Rudel touched his hand to Sakuya’s forehead. Izumi stood as well, similarly placing her hand on Sakuya.

The blue gemstone on her forehead reflected the two of them like a mirror.

“Thank you, Sakuya, it’s because of you I was able to become a dragoon. I’ll never forget.”

“Sakuya, you saved Rudel. You were more than useful… I’ll never forget you, Sakuya.”

Rudel and Izumi linked hands. The large gemstone on Sakuya’s forehead let off light giving a feel as if Sakuya had replied.

As the two of them smiled, Rudel swore an oath to himself.

“I’m not alone anymore. My dream was a dream everyone made true… now it’s my turn to grant everyone’s dreams. I’ll be the knight everyone wishes for. I’ll be the strongest of knights. I’ll become the strongest dragoon!”

Rudel took a deep breath before muttering the rest.

“I won’t let this dream end as my own selfishness.”

As if to give a response to Sakuya’s final words, Rudel swore an oath to the sleeping dragon.

Outside the tent, Aleist wept as he muttered he would never forget Sakuya. Luecke closed his eyes as he prayed for her to rest in peace.

Eunius looked up at the sky, swearing he would never forget.

Within the next few months, word of Rudel spread all throughout the Kingdom of Courtois. It came in the form of an article, giving praise to the white knight who became a dragoon. The one reading the article was Chlust, the boy sent off to the outer reaches of the kingdom.

After having spent a year of his life in the borderland, he read the article on his brother Rudel draped over his desk, a smile on his face. The brother who trained him had become a dragoon. As his younger brother, it was something to be proud of.

“Oy, captain, did they write anything interesting?”

Calling Chlust captain and approaching was a large man of unshaven face. He was a commoner-turned-knight from the outskirts, and he served as Chlust’s adjutant. In this far-off fortress where noble knights rarely proved any use, he was a man who had made light of Chlust at first.

But within the span of a year, Chlust had gained the man’s recognition.

“Yeah, my brother became a dragoon. I was just rejoicing.”

As he showed the article, the unshaven large man’s read through with his eyes open wide.

“Now this is amazing. So the captain’s big bro is an elite! Well, he’s still a youngster without any real combat experience, so maybe you’re the stronger one.”

Gahaha, the large man gave a large laugh. As Chlust recalled Rudel, he was sure his brother had grown even stronger than before, so he probably wouldn’t be able to win. Recalling Rudel’s strictness, Chlust gave a bitter smile.

“More importantly, did something happen?”

“Oh, that’s right. You remember the unnatural monster corpses and village attacks that have been going on in these parts? It seems the area’s finally calmed down, but they’ve started breaking out around another fort. I did order the men not to let down their guard, but… hah.”

As the large men breathed a sigh, Chlust breathed one as well. Starting with the fort’s higher ups, the knights of noble birth slept from the morning, and they wouldn’t wake until noon came alone. Even if they were awake, they would often drink ale and head off to the nearby villages. They even laid hands on the fort’s funds.

Ever since Chlust got around to manage the assets, even they knew they couldn’t go against the Arses name. But their attitudes hadn’t changed in the slightest.

“Got it, I’ll do something about the report. I’ll have to reorganize the platoon’s composition later.”

“All yours, captain. We’ve got confidence in our strength, but reports are a no go. They’ll be so bad you’ll be crying for pity. With the other guys, they’ll accept it if I tell them the captain’s handling it.”

In a harsh environment, Chlust had grown as well. Tucking the article on his brother into his desk, Chlust thought of the report and troop composition as he gathered up some of the documents under his charge. Some of the latest documents were collected on the bookshelf.

From there, he pulled out the necessary files.

They had been increasing as of late, the reports of a black ogre. It was still on the level of a rumor, but they said a black ogre was rampaging through Courtois. On the appearance of a black ogre no one had ever even heard of before, Chlust also felt a sense of crisis.

In certain villages, it would attack only humans, and in others, it would only harm livestock. By the villagers’ testimony, they had heard human voices as well.

But in Chlust’s fort, the matter had been processed as a mistake on the villagers’ part. It was unthinkable that humans would act alongside an ogre. And the fact it would only harm livestock was concluded as it wanting to fill its stomach.

Gathering up the documents, Chlust began investigating into the black ogre.

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Dragoon 76: The Young Man and the White Dragon

 

The academy’s vacation ended and the second term began. But Rudel had yet to show himself at the academy. Even when they confirmed it with the Arses House, a reply came back that he had yet to return. The country also sent out an investigation, but it had yet to show any results.

A certain rumor was spreading through the campus it was…

‘Rudel is dead.’

They would whisper. Even the two active dragoons didn’t return, so the rumor was even spreading through the castle. In the end, it was no good. The voices that said he should’ve just given up had increased.

“Try saying that again! I’ll split open that empty head of yours!”

As Eunius raised a serious yell, the cafeteria fell silent at once. He used one hand to lift up his opponent by the lapels, bringing his face close. His opponent was Fritz. Practically anyone would cower, but even if Fritz looked at Eunius, all he could see was a farce.

“About how Rudel died? It’s true, isn’t it? Ah, perhaps he got scared and ran away. Oh, he might come back for next week’s selection test.”

Having exchanged a contract with a dragon, it was already decided that Fritz would become the royal guard captain. Once he graduated, he would work at the palace. Convinced that he had triumphed over Rudel, his usual attitude had inflated even more. They held true even when dealing with a high ranking noble.

Even worse were Fritz’ followers. By the fact that Fritz was strong, and that the first princess knew him well, the young nobles would always fall silent. Those around Fritz had gotten around to think that was only natural, and even if Eunius yelled, they wouldn’t try to stop him. On the contrary, Eunius’ followers stepped in to bring a ceasefire.

“Eunius-sama, you’re picking a fight with the wrong guy.”
“Let’s just calm down here, alright?”

As his followers pulled him from Fritz, Eunius clicked his tongue. Before turning his back to Fritz, he gave a warning.

“That guy, you know. He never gives up, and he never runs away.”

Seeing off Eunius’ back as he walked off, Fritz made a dark smile. By Aileen, his state was completely on cloud nine. He was certain he had the power to change this country. Recognized by a dragon, he had gotten the idea he had triumphed over Rudel, and he misunderstood that he had the ability to back it.

Gray dragons were more docile than their wild variant, and as long as you had a certain level of skill, you could make a contract. But Fritz didn’t know that.

In the cafeteria, Izumi who had been looking at the ruckus from afar, shifted her eyes to the outside of the window. She prayed he would come back, perhaps on a dragon or something, acting as if nothing had happened at all. But her heart felt strangely uneasy.

“Come back soon Rudel, Sakuya…”

The words Izumi muttered at the window sill, no one came to give a response.

The day of the selection test came to pass, but Rudel had still yet to appear at the academy.

Izumi grew worried, and she decided to participate in the event to wait for Rudel. Rudel was forcefully obligated to take part in the event. To speak to the contrary, it would be a problem if he wasn’t there.

Izumi looked over the legions of knights filling the hall. For the same reason, they had come to the selection test, but Eunius and Luecke didn’t have any interest in the royal guard position either.

Aleist alone was overly mindful of the imperial guard. He was worried about Rudel as well, but to those around, it looked as if he wanted to become captain himself. The real reason he was there was because royal guard captain was the protagonist’s official post. As Aleist had been largely separated from the story, he had only taken part out of curiosity of who would be chosen.

The royal guard would fulfill a large role in the story’s war arc. Aleist wanted to confirm who would bear the burden.

There were lots of acquaintances to be found in the hall, but they were far outnumbered by active knights. There were a few high knights taking part while the dragoons conducted security. The high knights protecting the royal family looked at their comrades with conflicted emotions. The dragoons alone were knights who had already been chosen by dragons, so they didn’t hold the qualifications to participate.

Just by being chosen, you would become the captain of a new special unit that ranked up with the dragoons and high knights. The hall was wrapped in a peculiar excitement. But Izumi and the others would have none of it, simply looking around in worry.

‘Henceforth, the selection test for royal guard captain shall be conducted! To you knights who think you have what it takes please approach the dragon on the stage!’

Watched over by the royal family, the gray dragon guided by the dragoons descended onto the stage. The knights lined up on stage paid their respects to the king before walking up to the dragon one by one. Even if it was a gray dragon, there was no doubt it was a dragon nonetheless. It held an intensity to it, and there were many knights who were frightened just by approaching it.

But the dragon accustomed to humans showed no interest in anything as it simply watched on.

There were many knights taking part, and there was still a long while to come. Izumi concluded so as she waited for Rudel.

(It’ll probably take a while, but if Rudel doesn’t make it back by then… the royal family’s watching, and even if he came now, he’d be late. Even when he’s never been late to class before.)

As the number of knights in the hall gradually diminished, those around her waited irritatingly while Izumi grew restless. But as someone she recognized made it up to the stage, the dragon showed interest.

Izumi thought this selection test was, in itself, a rigged race in order to make people recognize Rudel’s position, so the sight surprised her. The dragon snuggled close to Fritz as it recognized him as its contractor.

“Izumi, have you seen Rudel?”

While the surrounding knights fell into a slump, Luecke walked over to Izumi’s side. He was looking around, but he couldn’t’ see Rudel anywhere.

“… I haven’t. But what’s all this about? Wasn’t Rudel supposed to be selected?”

“I don’t know either. It was something decided from the start, but for things to be settled before Rudel even got here… more importantly, Izumi, look at the king’s seat. Doesn’t that look unnatural?”

Hearing that from Luecke, Izumi looked to where the royal family sat. The ministers who seemed to be responsible had drawn close to the king. They were making a ruckus over something, but all eyes in the hall had been gathered on Fritz. She saw the high knights frantically pull the curtain to cut off her line of sight.

From the king’s bearing, she could tell this was an unexpected event. The queen was also receiving an explanation from the high knights. But before the curtain close, Aileen and Fina alone quietly watched over the event. Though the knights around Fina were in a frenzy.

“Princess Aileen did hate Rudel. And the one the dragon chose was Fritz… you think that’s a coincidence?”

To Luecke’s thoughts, Izumi didn’t think they would actually go that far. She wanted to reply as such, but thinking back to all Rudel had done to that point, there were some parts she could nod to.

“It was a setup? In that case, right now, Rudel could be…”

A bad premonition entering her head, Izumi’s face turned pale. Her heart had been restless as of late, and she could only think of the worst.

“I don’t think they’ll do him in so easily, but Rudel’s already been recognized as the white knight. Taking his power into consideration, as long as they prepared some highly skilled knights, they could capture him and kill him with ease. But no matter how you look at it, that’s a terrible hand to play. Killing him would be of no benefit to the country. They normally wouldn’t do it, but Rudel obtained permission to enter the dragon dwellings.”

While Izumi and Luecke thought, the hall hurriedly moved onto its next event. Fritz was officially appointed as captain of the royal guard.

“Rudel…”

Izumi muttered in worry as she believed in his return.

Where the royal family gathered, Fina looked around with a calm air. She knew it was a rigged election, and she was convinced Aileen had made a move. Calling out to Sophina, she confirmed the present situation.

“Sophina (Oh my~, so she made a move after all. Though I never actually thought she’d go this far. Looks like I’ve got a ways to go. That aside, are we really going forward like this?)”

“Yes, princess.”

Gazing at her father Albach, she called Sophina close. Just like Fina, the queen was also seeking confirmation. But the area around Aileen alone was calm. A number of Aileen’s guards headed to the king, and alongside the minister, they tried to persuade him to accept Fritz as captain and see how things went.

“What of ma… Rudel-sama? (More importantly, master. I don’t care about some royal guard, and since it’s come to this, I can just alter my plan and it won’t be a problem! I’ll use them for all they’re worth, but first… Where are you maaassssttteeeeerrr!!)”

“That has yet to be verified. It seems he did not come to the hall.”

“Is that so… (This is bad… if master isn’t here, then that will produce a delay in my grand plan. I can use the royal guard so they’re not a problem, but if master isn’t here, then my dream of Courtois Fluffy Land is gonecasseee!!)”

“The whereabouts of the two dragoons is also unknown. Was it really the best option for us to have moved on our own?”

“Obviously. What sort of care-free things are you saying? You read the report they filed, didn’t you? I’ve got a good idea on how things went, so look into the high knights trying to persuade my father, and that minister as well. (When she’s so naïve, I’m genuinely surprised my sister actually succeeded… I was right to choose his guards.)”

She recalled the unnatural report. In spite of the requested search, the report was vague and untrustworthy. She got the impression they never planned to conduct the search from the start.

Fina had read that report at the start of the first term. From there, she had Sophina’s subordinates move on their own.

Fina gazed at the confusion surrounding her. It was at that moment. One of Sophina’s men raced in. His brow oozed with sweat as he screamed an emergency request. He pleaded for the royal family to evacuate from the spot.

It wasn’t just the heads in confusion. The hall was also in a panic.

“Fall back! Quickly, run away!! If you’re here, you’ll be trampled down!”
“I’m telling you to get the hell away!!”

The ones who suddenly descended down were Lilim and Cattleya. As their dragons flew down, they evacuated the knights and other relevant parties that remained in the hall. Lilim and Cattleya’s dragons positioned themselves to protect the royal family.

Izumi rushed over to the two and asked about Rudel. She had been told they were stationed as Rudel’s guard, and she determined they might know something.

“Excuse me! Are Rudel… Are Rudel and Sakuya safe!?”

Izumi didn’t overlook the moment of clouding that came over their faces. But the two of them soon looked up tot eh sky and cried out.

“Ah, oh no.”
“Everyone get down!”

Everyone followed their line of sight. There, they could confirm the form of a large dragon led along by legions of smaller ones. But it was a scene everyone could only doubt. The small dragons, even looked on from afar, didn’t give off an impression of being young.

More than that, the single large dragon was abnormally large. That much was fine. That much was fine, but the large dragon was unsteadily teetering through the air. It looked almost as if it wasn’t used to flight.

The selection test hall, with all the participants, it had been set up outside. IT was impossible to conduct it at the palace, so it was held on a plain. If it wanted to land, then anywhere was fine. Everyone around thought so. But the unsteadily flying dragon headed straight for the hall as if sucked into it.

The knights and staff started panicking again. Izumi could tell by instinct Rudel was riding that dragon.

The dragon that approached was larger than any of the dragons one could normally see. Its overall body was slim, but its overgrown forelimbs and its four large wings that held up its large build could be called its characteristics, or perhaps could be called characteristic of it. It was a white and pretty dragon.

On its forehead came the glimmer of a blue gemstone. And there was a person on its head. At the individual in armor, Izumi gave a loud cry and waved her hands. While she didn’t know why, seeing the dragon caused her to think of Sakuya.

“Rudel, over here!”

Spotting Izumi waving her hands, the dragon started falling straight towards her. When its flight was so unsteady, only its nose-dive looked sharp and elegant. Right, it was falling.

“You fooolll!!”
“Why’d you have to call for it!!?”

“E-eeeh?”

Izumi couldn’t understand why Lilim and Cattleya were closing in on her. Rudel was finally here, so she thought it was best to be close to him. Bht the two who knew the situation knew the intensity of the problem. Cattleya cried for those around to get out of there at once, while Lilim offered Izumi a simple explanation.

“That child is still terrible at flying!”

The idea had never occurred to Izumi and she looked up at the sky once more. The white dragon was falling straight towards her. At the same time, the legion of dragons started positioning themselves to protect the surroundings from that white meteor.

“S-so I made it in time!”

‘Yeah, I tried hard… praise me.’

A number of dragons came to dig out and support up ‘Sakuya’, who had collided with the ground. Rudel looked around and searched Izumi out. The white subspecies that had become Rudel’s dragon, ‘Sakuya’, had started a rapid descent upon starting her.

Still only able to use shoddy sentences, Sakuya had nothing in the ways of memory or knowledge. Naturally, she wasn’t supposed to remember Izumi. But once she saw her, she happily swopped down. Not listening to Rudel’s attempts to stop her… as a final measure, he pleaded for the dragons around to help.

“Yeah, you did your best. But everyone else also worked really hard, so you should thank them.”

‘Okay, thank you.’

Sakuya roared at the wild dragons around. Rudel jumped down from Sakuya and spotted Izumi. Sitting on the ground, Izumi was looking up at Sakuya.

“Izumi!”

As Rudel called out, Izumi stood and drew close. But perhaps in her confusion, she became emotional and threw words at him one after the next.

“You’re late, Rudel! And why did it come to this? Couldn’t you make for a safer landing? Is it my fault? Is it because I called out!?”

“… Don’t worry. It’s all my fault. And who’s in charge around here?”

He looked around, but he could only see knights looking up at Sakuya, and knights cowering from the wild dragons. Izumi also looked around, but with everything that had gone on, she didn’t remember where the staff had gone. In exchange, Luecke and Eunius rushed over.

Behind them, Aleist walked, looking over Sakuya. Eunius walked up to Rudel and made a mess of his hair. He yelled at him, but his face was smiling.

“Worrying us like that! What were you doing all this time, Rudel!?”

Luecke made a tired face, but looking up at Sakuya, he congratulated Rudel for fulfilling his dream.

“Your dream came true, Rudel. With this, you’re a dragoon.”

Looking at the two of them, Rudel smiled, but Izumi couldn’t honestly rejoice. She got the feeling he was hiding something. Aleist also approached, standing bashfully before Rudel as he spoke.

“C-congratulations.”

Rudel spoke with a smile. From Izumi’s point of view, he was smiling, but it was a somewhat sorrowful smile.

“Yeah, thank you, everyone.”

Once the confusion died down, the royal family and those involved looked at Rudel’s dragon. A large and beautiful build that made large wild dragons look like children.

The king looked at Rudel with a smile, keeping his mouth shut as he hit his hands together in applause. Following on from the king, Fina also sent Rudel an applause. She looked at Sophina, and pressured her into clapping.

On, and then another, the number of people applauding increased. In the hall as well, many were wrapped into clapping praise of Rudel.

Aileen loathsomely looked on the scene in the hall. The knights around her weren’t clapping.

Before his own dragon, Fritz was on his knees as he looked on from a distance. Rudel’s form was the very form of the knight he dreamed to be as a child, and his dragon was beautiful. Watched over by the wild dragons, and the knights around were sending him applause.

All the commendation he was supposed to receive, he felt it had all been stolen away by Rudel.

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Dragoon 75: The Goddess and Those that Don’t Exist

‘Are you fine with that?’

The water dragon walked up front, and Sakuya followed behind. There were nothing but dangerous dragons around, and a moment’s lapse could have her killed. To ease Sakuya’s tensions, the water dragon had heard out her goal. It had heard of the undead dragon, but it didn’t think that was a problem Sakuya could do anything about.

But after hearing Sakuya’s goal, the water dragon turned despondent. Her life was short, and she had made the decision to end it… to the dragon who valued the soul, Sakuya’s further actions felt exceptionally noble.

“I-I’m so scared I can’t stop shaking. B-but you see… there’s nothing that can be done! I can’t live even if I want to! I wanted to try harder! I wanted to be together longer! So… at the very least, I should be helpful at the end.”

As Sakuya’s eyes went teary, the water dragon lowered its back. The sudden happenings left Sakuya surprised.

‘I haven’t let anyone ride me in over a hundred years. Be grateful. From now on, I’m going to have to insist I’ll never let a man ride me. Temporary as it is, right now, you are a splendid dragoon.’

“Thank you.”

Sakuya leapt onto its back. The water dragon spread out its large, pale, transparent wings, and took to the sky.

In the cave that reeked of decay, Rudel took on the undead dragon. Perhaps it hadn’t completely awakened, as its lower body couldn’t move, only its upper half and right wing showing a range of motion. It was mostly bone, but some rotten flesh still ardently stuck to it. It was an extremely unsightly dragon.

‘W-why… why are you alone…’

At Rudel’s appearance, the black fog that had been taken in let out a cry that was almost a scream. But her voice had weakened from before, and it seemed the fog’s awareness was gradually growing dim. The boar gave Rudel a simple explanation of the situation.

‘This is bad. The black fog has been almost entirely taken in, and the undead dragon is attacking everything, no questions asked. To be quite honest, I think you should give up and retreat.’

“That’s not an option. While it’s also for my sake, Sakuya has business with the black fog. She can’t be helped if it fades away. I can’t step down, and it doesn’t look like it’ll let me.”

The undead dragon used its arms to move towards Rudel. As a subspecies of gaia dragon, its arms had developed more than the other dragons. Its rotten flesh and body of bones was much faster than it appeared.

Pulling his sword, Rudel held his left hand up front and shot a bolt of light.

A number of those shots rained down on the undead dragon and exploded, but it continued its advance as if they had no effect at all. As Rudel tried to move from the spot, a sticky something that wasn’t mud captured his feet. It had a stickiness to it, and to Rudel who had thought to fight a hit-and-run battle, he was conducting combat in an exceptionally disadvantageous location.

“It’s faster than I had imagined!”

‘You’re in luck it isn’t at full power. But if you want to use your full power, you’ll have to get outside… it’s a bit deep ahead, so be careful.’

The bird calmly relayed information on the dim cave interior to Rudel. A battle where it was hard to see had him hard-pressed. But as he had awoken as a white knight, the battle actually raged on quite favorably. He used his light bolts, and when an opening was made, he’d cut with his magic sword.

He continually secured points his opponents attacks couldn’t reach as he began to push the undead dragon back.

“When it’s head is practically bone, it’s a mystery how it can tell our location.”

As he ran the undead dragon gave chase, and Rudel calmly put up countermeasures. But the way things were going, he could foresee his loss in the end. Avoiding the arms and wings it swung around, he thought of nothing more than to save the fog.

‘Sorry to intrude when you’re in a good state of mind, but at this rate, you’ll run out of mana or stamina. You’ll eventually lose.’

The bird’s conclusion was right. Having been able to fight so far on his own, Rudel was strong, but to the end, it was a human’s strength. When compared to a dragon, it was only natural he was a bad match. Without any comrades to help him, Rudel fought by on his own as he tried to think up a means to get the black fog out of it.

“More than victory, saving the fog is our first priority. I came here to obtain a dragon. There’s no point in just winning!”

On those words Rudel told himself, the boar gave a simple explanation.

‘There is a way, but the dragon’s original soul is the problem. On top of being ruled by feelings of fear and isolation, it’s blocking off all interference from the outside.’

The bird took over the bird’s explanation.

‘Meaning your voice won’t reach it. Its guard is so strong the black fog failed when it tried to interfere with it directly. It’s the sort of monster that devours life to steals its soul away, and there’s no point calling out to it from the outside… from the outside, that is.’

As Rudel ran around, the undead dragon started taking different action from before. Both its wings began to move, and gradually the rest of its body followed along. Alongside an overwhelming difference in physique, the limited space pushed Rudel into a corner.

I have to attack with all my might, otherwise… thought Rudel, but as the undead dragon unleashed its own full might, it exceeded his expectations. His goal had changed to saving the black fog for Sakuya’s sake, and he had to give his all to avoid his own annihilation. He had been much too greedy.

“So I was too hasty…”

A red light took residence in the eye sockets of its skeletal head. As if to take the place of eyes, they focused on Rudel. Correcting his stance, Rudel laughed before the undead dragon.

His selfish self was strange. When he was aiming to be a dragoon, the very fact he was fighting a dragon was strange. And that he wouldn’t give up even in this situation was even stranger. He had chosen such an idiotic option of challenging a dragon alone… but he didn’t regret it.

“I’ll definitely make you my dragon!”

Rudel took a large step towards the dragon before his eyes.

Sakuya and the water dragon finally reached the cave. From the entrance, they would hear the screams of battle and the sound of explosions. Light tremors broke out here and there.

‘… This is a place a dead dragon remains prisoner. To think an empty husk could move again… I can’t bear to see its eternal torment.’

The water dragon grieved the pain of its brethren, but there was fundamentally no means to save it. Neither side could interfere with the others. Sakuya on its back hardened her resolve as they set foot into the cave. It was originally a cave excavated out by a dragon, and the water dragon could pass through it with ease.

‘You’re nervous. It’s not too late, you know?’

“I’m not giving up. I mean… this is the only way I can be useful.”

Trembling as she smiled, Sakuya was too worried about the events going on in the cave to help it. If Rudel died, there was practically no point in her objective.

‘They’re cornered. The child inside, and you… hold on tight.’

As the water dragon hurried on in, the intense sounds of battle suddenly weakened. The explosions stopped ringing out entirely. In a panic, Sakuya called out Rudel’s name.

“Rudel!!”

As he crashed into the wall, Rudel no longer had the power left to move a finger. Because of his sturdy armor and shield, he had managed to persist in one piece, but his energy and mana to move had run reached its end. He had tried fighting the undead dragon with everything he had, but even with his full-power attacks he had prepared as his trump card, defeating the dragon was impossible.

Sakuya’s voice suddenly entered his ear, but he was unable to respond to it. He noticed the large footsteps and vibrations gradually approaching him weren’t those of the undead dragon.

‘She’s here!’
‘You’re late, Sakuya!’

Having leapt out of Rudel’s sword, the boar and bird had used what mana they had left to project their original bodies, frantically clinging onto the undead dragon to protect Rudel. But as the dragon thrashed about to remove them, they were only able to cling on. There wasn’t any time.

They had preserved their power for that moment alone, but if Rudel died, then everything would be lost. The two had manifested. Manifested and bought some time.

“Rudel…!”

His form Sakuya witnessed, it was the form of his dented, chipped armor with injuries around his eyes. It was impossible to tell from over his armor, but perhaps his body was in a terrible state as well.

His armor was stained black, and while his breath wasn’t strange, it was weak. She couldn’t see his usual self, full of confidence. But she didn’t despite. Up until her mouth came close, she was smiling.

Finally sensing Sakuya’s presence, blood flowed from Rudel’s mouth as he wrung out his voice.

“S-Sakuya, r-run…”

He was surprised at the entrance of another dragon, but having lost his vision, he couldn’t confirm it. For now, he could only think of letting Sakuya escape to report to the country. He had pushed it and caused the undead dragon to awaken. Rudel recognized his own irresponsibility as he accepted his failure.

Not that he regretted working hard for his dream, he simply accepted the result. Sakuya thought that acceptance wasn’t like him as all, but she could feel that his battered form had put up resistance to the bitter end. In truth, he was losing a lot of blood, and Rudel was on the verge of death.

But as Sakuya approached, she planted a kiss on Rudel’s forehead.

“I’m sorry, Rudel. But if nothing else, I’ll grant your dream…”

“Wha.. ar… ou…”

Sakuya’s tears fell onto his face. Rudel couldn’t understand what Sakuya was trying to say. His consciousness began to grow distant…

“Please, help me out! Take me over to it!”

Parting from Rudel, Sakuya requested help from the water dragon. The boar and bird weren’t enough to hold back the undead dragon. Sakuya had intended to end things before it came to this. But speaking to results, Rudel was in critical condition, and the undead dragon had sprung to action.

‘… Very well.’

The water dragon opened its mouth, creating a sphere of water and firing it with good momentum. It wasn’t that the water came from its mouth, it gathered water from the area and shaped it into a spear. It smashed a number of those into the undead dragon, sending it flying into the opposite wall.

It was weakened from its battle with Rudel, and the water dragon was a dragon abundant in combat experience. It wasn’t a simple attack, the dragon had compressed a considerable amount of water, and as those orbs collided they burst as if explosion. By compacting the water, it was able to fire something like a laser as well, but that didn’t suit its objective, so it held back in its attacks.

The boar and bird separated from the undead dragon, and this time the water dragon pinned it down from above. Perhaps it was losing its ability to maintain its body as its bones and flesh easily tore and snapped. But even now, there was no sign it would stop moving.

While it was held down, its skeletal head remained as it was. It violently moved its mouth, its red glowing eyes fluttering tempestuously. There, the black fog began to regain consciousness.

‘T-this is… so that’s what it is.’

Sakuya approached the undead dragon’s mouth with her body that was nearing its limit. Perhaps understanding the general gist of things, the black fog confirmed the present situation with the boar and the bird.

‘Even bringing a dragon here, and yet Rudel still hasn’t a dragon of his own?’

‘It’s just as we thought. Rudel will never be chosen by a dragon.’
‘The dragon holding it down is one that Sakuya brought.’

‘… You’re the goddess from back then, right? You’ve thought up quite the audacious thing.’

The boar and bird kept it simple, but they explained the events up to now. As the black fog consented, it altered its ignition goal. At first, it had intended to use the undead dragon’s remains. But here they had Sakuya, a girl with the soul of a goddess. If everything was assembled, there was no need to waste it.

‘Sakuya, was it? Are you fine with this?’

The skull of the undead dragon before her eyes. Sakuya felt fear as she nodded. The water dragon saw that, and everyone apart from Rudel could guess what she was going to do.

For the sake of just a single human, Sakuya and the three beasts would become sacrifices.

Sakuya turned only once to looked at Rudel, shedding tears as she muttered with a smile. Seeing the unconscious, fallen Rudel, she recalled all that happened since she obtained a body. A majority of her happy memories only came after she attained physical form. Someone was always with her and she was never lonely.

It was all things she could never obtain in her time as a goddess.

“Goodbye, Rudel. I loved you.”

Sakuya leapt into the mouth of the undead dragon. In what was originally the sturdy jaw of a gaia dragon, Sakuya lost her life in an instant. But her soul was taken in… and that was her goal…

‘Looks like it went well… is it my turn next?’

‘You’re going first?’
‘It doesn’t matter. We’ll disappear all the same.’

The water dragon parted from the undead dragon that had stopped moving. Seeing the actions of Sakuya and the three, it had a good guess at everything they were trying to do. So it made a proposal.

‘You’ve saved my kinsman, so I’ll help out too. You lot are much too awkward for the task.’

‘I see, thank you.’

After giving a word of thanks, the black fog stopped resisting and plunged into the undead dragon on its own.

‘You have my deepest gratitude for your assistance. I’m leaving Rudel to you.’

The boar said its thanks, turned to mana, and faded away. As its body dissolved into grains of light, those grains made off in Rudel’s direction.

‘Why am I even here… it doesn’t look like I can pay back this debt.’

The bird complained, but the water dragon shook its head.

‘It was originally our problem for not being able to save this one. I can only wonder why we left it so long to begin with… anyways, don’t think of this as a debt. Go forth with peace of mind.’

‘… It really is a strange tale. Why are we… it couldn’t…’

The bird tried to say something before disappearing like the boar. But the three of them gave off a satisfied feel. The bird dissolved into light, and as that light headed off towards Rudel, the water dragon roared in the cave. At the same time, the dark cave was wrapped in a warm light. That roar from the cave resounded all throughout the dragon dwellings.

As Rudel regained consciousness, he couldn’t see, but he felt he was being protected by something warm. Opening his eyes, he found he wasn’t in the cave; it was a vast space of white nothingness.

“T-this is… my body doesn’t hurt. What happened to me? Why can I see? Where’s Sakuya!? What happened with the undead dragon!?”

As he regained consciousness, he gradually recalled the events that led him there. But he couldn’t understand the situation. Keeping wary of his surroundings, he thought, when a voice called out to him from behind.

‘Rudel, it’s alright.’

He turned to find Sakuya standing there with a smile. Relieved, Rudel tried to approach Sakuya, but no matter how far he proceeded, the distance between them wouldn’t shrink. Feeling some anxiety, Rudel called loudly for her.

“Come over here, Sakuya!”

Sakuya made a troubled face as she shook her head. And this time, some voices came from his right. The voices of the fog, the boar and the bird. They were in their original large forms, letting out an air as if they were relieved. But he wasn’t able to approach them either.

“What’ happened!? Where are we!? Are you all…”

Some part of him understood that his bad premonition had hit the mark. But he couldn’t’ accept it. Sakuya looked at Rudel’s panic, giving a warm smile as she held her hands out as if to splash water on him. Atop her palms floated something that gave off a warm light.

‘I managed to persuade him. I managed to obtain his body… this child will return to the flow of souls, and he said we could do what we wanted with his body. He told me to tell you he’s sorry.’

“What are you talking about!? Just get over here already!”

Reaching out his hand, Rudel tried to grasp Sakuya. But Sakuya started to let out light, without even trying to move. This time the black fog called over to Rudel.

‘Making a fool of yourself, and at the end, you give up with a satisfied look about your face!? What happened to your promise with me, you damn fool! … I’ll forgive you just this once. There won’t be a next time.’

Next was the boar. Saying it was his turn, he sent some words to Rudel.

‘It was surprisingly fun. When we were born for nothing more than to get in your way, I get the feeling we were able to oppose it in the end. This is my gratitude. I want you to accept it… turn it into the power to oppose.’

As the boar disappeared, the armor and sword equipped on Rudel let off light. The armor that gave of an uncouth feel was adorned with lovely ornaments. On both the armor and the sword, a pattern began to surface. In his left hand, the shield he had never held appeared. It wasn’t a large shield, but it was adorned with decorations to match the sword and armor, a pattern across it.

That same pattern on the boar and the bird faintly surfaced on them all.

That white, gleaming form was surely worthy of the white knight.

Next, the bird called over to Rudel. As those around began imparting words of parting, Rudel thought his heart was being plucked out. He wanted to scream at them to stop, but his voice wouldn’t come out.

‘Since you injured your eyes, do you want me to give you some? I have a lot of eyes, I always thought I had a few too many. Oppose it to the end… it’s unfortunate I won’t know how it turns out, but if it’s you…’

Right after, Rudel felt something in his eyes, but now wasn’t the time for that. Before his eyes, the bird had disappeared. He desperately sprinted, but the distance would never close. It was the black fog’s turn.

‘From me, you’ll be getting a heart. It’s a heart I obtained from changing my path, but it’s not like ill intent was all I ever gained. I shall give you the heart of a dragon… when I’ve done so much for you, next time, you better not give up until the end! Everyone’s cheering you on.’

The black fog disappeared as it if had cleared up. Rudel looked at Sakuya and reached out his hand again. But Sakuya didn’t try to take it. She only looked at him and smiled.

“What I shall give you is a goddess’ soul. With this, you have a dragon’s body, heart and soul together. I’m sure you’ll get an amazing dragon! You’re inheriting the goddess Sakuya-sama’s soul after all!!”

Seeing her usual energetic form, Rudel turned sorrowful. It was all a result of him not wanting to drag anyone into his dream, and it had all backfired.

“Is it my fault? Was I wrong? Why do you guys have to go so far!? It’s just my petty, selfish dream! There’s no reason for you to sacrifice…”
“There is!”

Sakuya confronted Rudel, screaming to interrupt his words. Touching both her hands to her hips, she made a pose to clearly signal she was angry as she scolded him.

‘You dream is my dream too! It’s a dream everyone wants to grant! So it isn’t a dream for you alone anymore. It’s a dream that Izumi and Luecke and Eunius and Lena and Stupid Aleist all want to come true! There are lots of them. There are lots of people supporting your dream!’

“But even so, this is a seed sown by my own selfish actions. It’s all my fault!”

So you don’t have to become a sacrifice, Rudel tried to continue on, but he ended up stopping. Because Sakuya was crying.

‘I’m sorry. It must have been lonely. It must have been painful. But Rudel, you’re not alone anymore. I’m begging you, please notice it! You’ll make everyone sad.’

On those words, Rudel cried as well. He didn’t know why, but his tears welled out. Sakuya wiped her tears and smiled as she made a plea to Rudel.

‘Can I make one final request?’

Rudel wiped his tears as well as he smiled at Sakuya. It was the sort of painful smile where you could tell he was forcing it. But thinking that Sakuya wouldn’t want to see any more of his pitiful form, Rudel made a smile.

“Sure. It’s my time to do something for you.”

‘You have to look after Izumi, okay? Treasure her. And tell everyone I said hi. And also, and also…’

After a stream of trifling requests, Sakuya finally made a serious face as she looked at Rudel. She told Rudel to kneel and offer up a prayer, so Rudel abided. After taking a deep breath, Sakuya returned to her goddess speech as she did with Izumi.

Her current form was more sublime than it had ever been before.

‘I am she who doth show the way; I am she who shall show he who opposes fate his path… Thou shalt be the strongest of dragoons. Thou shalt be the strongest of knights. Thou shalt become the shield that protects the country and the weak. Henceforth, you shall be the White Dragoon… farewell, mine beloved.’

Rudel’s consciousness grew distant once more…

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Dragoon 74: The Legend and the Dragon

 

Arriving at the dragons’ dwelling, the first thing Rudel’s party did was secure a place to spend the night. With thick forests, deep seas and tall mountains, it was a holy land that humans couldn’t inhabit, or at least that was the official stance. But as there were actual dragons living there, it was simply a dangerous place.

In that danger zone, you could call them lucky to be able to secure a campsite while protected by dragons.

But a problem came out at once.

“Why did you come along!? More importantly, how did you sneak in!?”

As Sakuya popped out of the luggage laden on her own red dragon, Cattleya held her head. She couldn’t’ forgive that it had hidden the fact from its contractor, but it was even less permissible that the red dragon, called the most dangerous variant, let itself be approached so carelessly.

“Hah, it looks like someone’ll have to send her back.”

Seeing Lilim breathe a sigh, Cattleya tried to personally escort her back to Arses Territory. But the red dragon refused. Lilim’s Wind Dragon also said it didn’t want to return, if possible. They didn’t want to send Sakuya home only to be stroked all over by Lena.

“You’re my dragon, so listen to what I have to say!”

To Cattleya’s scream, the red dragon offered an obstinate refusal.

‘No way, fool! I-I decided not to get involved with that one again! My pride is in tatters. If you’re my contractor, then you can at least notice that much!’

“Like I care! Just take her back!”

It seemed impossible for Cattleya, so Lilim directed a glance at the Wind Dragon. But the Wind Dragon averted its eyes to signal its refusal.

“… We’ll be quite troubled if neither of you wants to do it.”

‘I refuse.’

In the end, they could only permit Sakuya’s company.

“Why did you do something like this? In the worst case, you’ll be punished, and you won’t be able to become a dragoon.”

Having secured a place to sleep, Rudel and the others warily made their way through the forest. They needed to pay respect to the dragon whose territory they set up camp in. A water dragon living in the lake was the ruler of this area. It was higher ranking than both Cattleya and Lilim’s dragons, and a dangerous one to make an enemy of, or so the two dragons had warned them.

On the move, Rudel felt irritated at Sakuya as he asked for her reasons. When she was aiming to be a dragoon just like him, he was irritated she would choose an option that might sacrifice her future. The air she gave off didn’t make it seem she was taking any particularly calculated actions, so Rudel wanted to confirm her reasons.

“I-I was just a bit interested, and it’s not like I’m irrelevant to this matter. I have a reason I need to meet with the black fog… right!”

As she put a hand on the sheath of Rudel’s sword, the boar and bird who had been sleeping within corroborated her story. It was the most they could do to match  Sakuya’s absurdity.

‘Y-yeah.’
‘That’s right. She needed to meet her quickly.’

The two who knew Sakuya’s plan made sure Rudel alone didn’t catch on as they frantically unraveled a reason off the top of their heads. There was a defect in the body the black fog produced, and they explained it required some tuning.

“Is that true? Why didn’t you tell me sooner? You’ve certainly been in poor shape lately, but…”

Even if he understood, Rudel couldn’t quite accept it, and as he was mulling, they reached the lake. In the thick forest, only the area of the lake received ample light from the sun. Reflecting that radiance, the lake gave a beautiful glimmer.

‘Rudel, make sure to leave no discourtesy. You are dealing with a dragon ranked higher than we, and this one is very hard to please.’

As the wind dragon explained, the two in Rudel’s sword let out their voices.

‘Isn’t that the dragon from before?’
‘That it is. When it’s supposed to be hard to please, that one was a reasonable dragon willing to hear us out, but…’

It was a water dragon they had previously met at the lake. It was here that Rudel encountered a legend…

The first semester was over, and once the academy went on vacation, Fritz was invited to the palace by Aileen. Having become a third year, Fritz had wanted to spend the break training himself in preparation for the individuals’ tournament, but as it was Aileen’s request, he left for the palace.

Raised in the countryside of Arses Land, Fritz had become an adventurer and left the sticks to work. Having been able to raise a name for himself in cities on the outskirts, Fritz was quite something himself. But always a big fish in a small pond, even after he went outside, he still failed to understand his own position.

The cause was Aileen.

When it came to Aileen, she publically interacted with him as a princess, but when they were alone, they would drop the honorifics. Aileen herself took a liking to it, but those around weren’t quite so pleased.

Having become a knight from a commoner, and always so upfront with her, Fritz was Aileen’s ideal in itself. That’s why she couldn’t permit it. By no means had she actually recognized Fritz’ power. The reason Fritz’ twisted recognition of himself grew to such a level was surely Aileen’s fault.

Let into a detached installment of the palace, Fritz entered the facility where the gray dragons were raised. There, Aileen waited with a number of high knights. Aileen greeted Fritz with a smile.

“Fritz-sama, I am glad you were able to make it.”

“Aileen-sama, what business have you called me for today?”

Fritz started the conversation still on his feet, but no one would call it disrespectful. This was because Aileen permitted it. Internally, the high knights wanted to knock him off his feet. No, they could cut him down too.

“I do feel greatly pained to invite you to such a place. But when I think of Courtois’ future, there is something I must accomplish by all means.”

As Aileen began speaking of the country with an enigmatic face, Fritz’ heart skipped a beat. The country was in a critical condition, and he was happy to be relied on. To Fritz whose desire to be a hero far exceeded the average man, Aileen’s words were sweet on his ears.

“Can you give me the details?”

“Certainly. Have you heard the rumors of the white and black knights?”

Fritz nodded with a reluctant look on his face. Because Rudel and Aleist were existences Fritz couldn’t forgive. He couldn’t forgive that those two had been selected for knight positions you could equate to the heroes of yore. It was simply a child’s jealousy, and Fritz understood that.

“The black knight is an upstart of a noble, so the palace will be able to take the appropriate measures. But the white knight is Rudel of the notorious Arses House. The palace has devised some adequate means, and that is what the Royal Guard is to be. That would mean granting a powerful level of authority to Rudel.”

Simple as he was, Fritz easily believed Aileen’s words. To Fritz, the Arses House was evil. Some part of him was convinced they were seeking out greater authority.

“Rudel is of an archduke lineage, so if he was so minded, he would be able to take me or my sister as a wife. If that happens, then Courtois is over… Fritz-sama, won’t you come to our salvation?”

“Save? If there’s something I can do, I’ll help out, but…”

Hearing Fritz’ words, Aileen gave a bewitching smile.

“Fritz-sama, in these halls lies the dragon that will be used to select the royal guard captain… do you think you could tie a contract with that dragon?”

Aileen’s plan was steadily moving forward, but unlike her sister Fina, she was soft on the finish. She had ignored the fact Rudel had made for the dragon dwellings. It would be a godsend if he croaked out there, was all she thought of it. If Fina were in her position, she would definitely have sent in assassins.

And as reality would have it, Rudel’s guards turned out to be the ones closest to him, his former fiances. That had been a result of Fina’s schemes.

Meanwhile, Rudel was so surprised, his voice wouldn’t come out. As the water dragon appeared from the lake, its large size and beauty had stolen his eyes. What’s more, he recognized the traits of the dragon before him.

Lilim’s dragon gave a purr to call that dragon, and it showed respect to its superior. On top of that, it explained the situation. The dragon called out looked over Rudel and the others. Perhaps it wasn’t particularly interested as it started off back towards the lake.

While it permitted their stay, it indicated that it had no mind to let Rudel ride its back.

But looking at the back of that beautiful dragon, Rudel cried out in a loud voice.

“Are you the dragon of Marty Wolfgang-sama!?”

Everyone was surprised, but the reactions varied. The two dragons were surprised he committed such discourtesy against a high-ranking foe, while Cattleya and Lilim wondered who that was to begin with. Sakuya alone, after a moment of surprise, began sending the same dreamy eyes as Rudel.

“A-amazing! To be able to meet the dragon of the real Marty-sama!!”

But the most surprised of all was surely the water dragon. It was usually a hard to please one without the slightest mind to converse with humans, but to make sure everyone could hear, it sent its voice to everyone’s head. It reminisced as its tensions rose with Rudel’s words.

‘I’m shocked. To think there was a human who knew about Marty… what’s more, even adding a –sama, you sure know your stuff! Name yourself.’

“Rudel, I’m Rudel Arses!”

The water dragon approached him. The distance between them was a meter, but facing a dragon, the intensity was on another level. But the two active dragoons had no recollection of the name Marty.

“Senpai, who’s Marty?”
“No idea. Since he knows a dragon, could he be a former dragoon?”

But the two dragons did remember Marty. To be more precise, they knew the rumors.

‘Oy, they’re talking about that guy, right? That crazy old man, right?’
‘Fool! Don’t say anything to ruin this!’

The red dragon was still categorized as one of the younger dragons, and its mocking statement at Marty received a proper recompense.

‘Brat over there! What did you just saaay!!?’

A dragon larger and higher-ranking that it snapped at its neck and pulled it into the lake. Leaving aside the dazed surroundings, a number of pillars of water broke the surface. After a number of intense impacts, the area suddenly went silent. The water dragon came up once more, and a little later, the red dragon bobbed to the surface.

Seeing her own unconscious dragon, Cattleya couldn’t keep up with the situation.

“Eh? Huh!? Wait, what’s going on!?”

Lilim bound her arms behind her back and calmed her so talks could restart.

‘I never thought I’d hear Marty’s name from a human tongue. How truly nostalgic… urrrgh, Why’d you have to go off and die, stupid Marty!! You said we would be together forever! So why’d you have to go off on your own!!?’

Reminiscing and bursting into tears, it was quite a busy dragon, so Lilim thought as she covered her ears. For a dragon to weep, it would mean for a roar. The air shook to an extent she could feel with her body.

As they waited for the dragon to calm down, Rudel preciously produced a single book from his bag. How to Pet a Dragon… the book Marty left behind. Turning to the final page, he conferred Marty’s words for the dragon.

“It was written in the book. ‘To the one I love, I’ll surely be the first to go, but do not grieve. And do not let yourself be caught. I didn’t want to place shackles on your freedom after my death. Because I loved you’.”

Rudel let the dragon hear the words that made those gathered want to vomit up sugar. Lilim writhed in embarrassment, while Cattleya was visibly bashful. Inside, her girly side wanted to be told something like that.

Once Rudel finished reading, the dragon began to sob. Seeing that scene, both Lilim and Cattleya teared up too. They were surely separated by death. They concluded from the dragon’s manner of speech. Even if he rode a dragon, he was human at the base. When the time came, he would be killed in action.

“What a beautiful relationship. But for him to die early…”
“I’d like a certain idiot dragon to learn a thing or two from them. Well, he was a dragoon, so he must have fallen in battle…”

‘What are you talking about? Marty didn’t die in battle. He stayed in active duty to the age of eighty.’

“Eh?”
“Hah!”

‘Around the end of it, these important looking guys would come every day to complain on and on, and he would ignore them. But when they made fun of me in front of Marty, Marty would get angry… they would fight quite a bit. Even after he passed sixty, he received numerous cases of disciplinary action. At the end, they sent us off to a place called the borderland(?) but we were happy nonetheless.’

That’s gone way passed the level of a problem child, right? The two dragoons thought as they looked at the dragon. After that, the two boyfriend-less souls reluctantly listened in as the dragon spoke fondly of him. Opposing seemed dangerous, so they listened with obedient looks on their faces, but their expressions were stiff.

‘I was with Marty since he was twenty, so I was only able to be with him for a mere sixty years! What do you mean, eternal happiness!? Show a bit of willpower! Don’t you think he could’ve held on a bit more? The presents and memories he gave me every year were…’

The two of them reaffirmed the difference in sense between human and dragon, but Rudel and Sakuya were deeply moved as they heard out her story.

The first night since they came to the dragons’ dwelling. Rudel carried out a final check on his weapon. Once he checked everything from start to finished, he recalled the sleeping drug he had mixed in their dinner. He had made sure to prepare something that wasn’t dangerous. The three of them would likely sleep until noon, he thought as he lay himself down.

He did have some resistance to putting medicine into a woman’s drink, but Rudel had a goal he couldn’t concede. There was no way his two guards would permit the sheer danger of his actions. And it would be too dangerous for Sakuya. He decided to put the three of them to sleep.

But there, he felt a presence outside of his tent.

“Sakuya?”

“Hehe, can I come in?”

As Sakuya entered the tent, she held a picture book dearly in both her hands. It was one of the dragoon picture books Rudel would read to her.

“You can’t sleep?”

Rudel had his misgivings the drug didn’t work, but Sakuya’s answer was a simple one.

“I’m sleepy, but before I slept, I wanted you to read this.”

Thinking it might be the final night, Rudel agreed to read her the book. And Sakuya fell asleep before he could read it to the end. She slept with an extreme look of relief.

The morning of the next day, equipped with a sword and full-body armor, Rudel made for the undead dragon’s cave under the guidance of the two beasts. For the two dragoons sleeping soundly, he left a letter detailing the circumstance.

And he made a plea to the two dragons.

‘Let you go alone? I can’t say it’s a bright idea for you to move around on your own.’
‘Yesterday’s granny was kind to humans, so it wasn’t a problem, but the next one you meet might come at you without question.’

“No problem. And when you face a dragon, you have to be alone… I’m leaving those three to you.”

The two of them saw Rudel off. Right, if you tried to obtain a dragon, there would always be dangers. If you had strong guards with you, a dragon would never recognize your merit.

Once Rudel walked off, it was Sakuya’s turn to wake. She had heard about the drink from the boar and bird, so she was able to avoid it. Leaving her bags behind, she traveled lightly as she tailed Rudel. But in the path Rudel walked, the two dragons stood in her way.

“What are you doing!? Step down already!”

‘Not happening.’
‘I made a promise with him. To look after you three.’

Sakuya wanted to hurry, but she couldn’t’ do anything against two dragons. Having come so far, there was no meaning if she couldn’t do anything. She prayed to the heavens as she wondered if there was anything she could do. But under the heartless sky, only time would pass by.

It was there that a single large dragon approached. It was Marty’s dragon.

‘Looks like you’re doing something interesting, you guys.’

As the two dragons got the jitters, Sakuya alone clung onto the water dragon. With a serious look on her face, she tried persuading it to take her to Rudel who had made for the undead dragon.

“Please help me! I absolutely have to go beyond this point! I’m begging you…”

The water dragon’s large eyes glared at Sakuya. As Sakuya didn’t take a single step back, the water dragon was reminded of Marty in his youth. Straightforward and desperate eyes. Resolved for something, the eyes of one who would risk their life.

‘I like those eyes. I won’t let you on my back, but you may follow behind me.’

‘T-that would be troubling…’
‘Well now, I guess I didn’t see anything after all.’

“T-thank you!”

Sakuya hurriedly chased Rudel as he made for the undead dragon. Time-wise, she was a few hours late. If she didn’t hurry, she would never make it in time.

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