“I can’t stand this anymore!”
Expressionlessly tidying up her paperwork, Fina ruffled up her blond hair as she cried out. But even still, she hadn’t the slightest emotion on her face. On the contrary, the made it scarier.
But already used to it, Mii looked at Fina as she prepared some tea and snacks. It tasted worse than when Sophina prepared it, but Fina more readily accepted tea brewed by Mii.
“When you have both an elf and a wolf by his side, why haven’t you lain hands on them, master! And you call yourself the lord of fluff? Or could it be you’re teasing and playing around with me?”
“Rudel-sama doesn’t have any fixation on fluffies, after all.”
“Right, even if you didn’t force him to choose, he’s for dragons and dragons alone.”
Helping out in Fina’s work, Sophina and Mii processed documents. Perhaps they had built a resistance to Fina’s conduct and speech up to now, as they were calm as could be.
“Dammit… I put such a cute wolf tribe girl by his side! And because I forcefully pulled out that clutzy commanding officer, my workload’s increased! What’s more, that Aleist guy keeps saying, ‘I don’t want to be away from Millia’ or something… it was irritating, so I recommended her for special inspector! Yeah, it was me, whatcha gonna do about it!”
“Princess, I think that’s terrible.”
With much to think about love and marriageable ages, Sophina glared at Fina. Mii also pitied Aleist, so she didn’t send Fina an affirmative look.
Noticing that, Fina hurriedly followed through.
“I-it’s alright Mii. Aleist will soon have his eighth fiancé, and he really will dry up.”
“Isn’t that no good? Do you have some sort of grudge against him, princess?”
Thinking of a dried up black knight, Sophina brought up her memories of his fiancés that were still at the academy. One of them was a female knight who excelled in the sword, and it was already decided she would skip grades.
She had surely done her best for Aleist’s sake, but Sophina had felt something terrifying from her, so she could foresee something terrible happening.
For the other one, a girl of the tiger tribe, Fina had done everything in her power to pull her into the defenders. It was only at times like these that Sophina had to tip her hat to Fina’s abilities. Though she held a flaw of only ever working for her own desires.
“Hah, for the princess of a country to spend her school life buried in paperwork…”
While Sophina pitied Fina’s present situation just a little, Fina expressionlessly embraced Mii and started fondling various things. The one in question looked happy enough.
Before that usual scene, Sophina returned to work.
… Doing paperwork that wasn’t even part of her job, her absolute lack of resistance was also a problem. The two of them had been corrupted.
In the port town of Beretta, Millia was watching over Rudel
Separated from Rudel, who had work at the port, Izumi was discussing matters with Bennet at the knight brigade station.
“Do something about your living conditions?”
The topic of their consultation was the fact they slept under the same roof as Rudel. While it was a problem that Millia didn’t see it as much of a problem, Izumi generally wasn’t fond of this situation.
Thinking of his future, she thought this might become trouble for Rudel.
“Why is that? While simultaneously observing him, the two of you were allotted to the future archduke Rudel, were you not? That’s how I and the others understood it.”
Bennet had no ill intent. It would be stranger if the future archduke Rudel didn’t have anyone by his side to look after him. Young and beautiful, Izumi and Millia were seen as Rudel’s mistress candidates, or perhaps his servants or convenient women. To Bennet and the rest who didn’t know the happenings of the capital, they thought the top brass had even gone as far as to tack on a reason and give them a post as, ‘Special Inspectors’.
“… There is no ulterior motive behind our directive. We really are just here to watch Rudel.”
Once Izumi corrected the misunderstanding, Bennet started to think. She looked tiny behind the large desk and chair that were prepared because the dragoon called Elrond used them as well.
“Then this really is a problem. Not only Rudel, it will bring about an influence to your futures as well. I do want to do something on my side, but…”
As Bennet made a difficult expression, her tail apologetically drooped down from her chair.
But perhaps she had a good idea, as her tail suddenly regained its vigor, swaying to and fro.
“Then the two of you can come over to my place.”
“Is that alright? And I don’t think it’s wise to keep too far from him.”
There was no telling what Rudel might do, and even if it was knight, there was no meaning to their inspector posts if they were too far away.
“I know it’s only been a few days since you’ve taken your post, and there’s no helping it if you haven’t been able to make rounds, but you should at least learn who lives next to you.”
“And that would be… you, Major Bennet?”
On Izumi’s words, Bennet’s tail violently wagged. She must have been greatly pleased, as it even showed on her face.
“I’ll return early today. The two of you should come around to my house today. Luckily, our lodgings are next to one another, so I don’t mind if you leave your belongings at Rudel’s place.”
“While you have a point, won’t it be a bother?”
“I was the one under a misunderstanding. And when my subordinates cause a problem, it’s my responsibility as well. I plan to deal with it as a superior officer.”
While Bennet made a stern expression, in contrast, her tail was lashing out as if she couldn’t endure her delight.
(What’s she so happy about?)
Izumi couldn’t help but be curious about the individual called Bennet.
Within the day, Izumi explained the situation to Millia and took her belongings to the civilian house that Bennet used as a dwelling.
“Wasn’t that fine as it was?”
While Millia didn’t particularly see a need to change houses, Izumi was greatly opposed. She went as far as to give an order to dragon Millia to Bennet’s house.
“There’s something called the eyes of society. You should be more aware that me and you are both unmarried women.”
Due to being raised in a closed elf village, it did seem Millia minded not the eyes of society. No, she was raised in a closed environment where she would have to mind it, but from her special position, she ended up quite dim on the matter.
Having heard about Lilim from Rudel, Izumi thought she might develop a headache. Even if recognized a differing sense of values, Izumi wanted to avoid Rudel being put at a loss over something like this.
Even if she might be paying undue worry, Rudel was even denser to his surroundings than Millia. At least someone had to care about it.
The neighboring house was of the same construction as the one afforded to Rudel. As they stepped through the threshold, Bennet came out to greet them in her apron.
“So you’re here. Leave your luggage in an empty room.”
The scent of a seafood soup, and the smell of roasting meet filled the area. Perhaps she had gone out of her way to prepare it for them, as three plates were already prepared in the kitchen.
“When you’re already letting us stay, you’re even cooking for us… my deepest apologies.”
“Don’t mind it. While there is always left over with one, if we have three people, then nothing will be left to rot. You haven’t been stationed long, so think of it as your celebration. Eat without restraint.”
The food was the same, but the room was casually put in order. Even Millia, who was fussy over cleaning, looked over the room and mortifyingly conceded…
… She muttered.
Even from her eyes, it was clean. After spending more than half a year cleaning the palace, Millia had developed a fixation for cleanliness. Izumi, who had only spent a few days with her, found herself cautioned time and again.
(Bennet-san is amazing… and she can even cook.)
But there was one thing that bothered Izumi.
Perhaps she didn’t want it to wag while she was cooking, as she had her tail tucked away in her apron. That was also cute, but the problem was the apron. Fitting with her appearance, the frilled apron was fine in itself, but the character embroidered on it was definitely a simplified cat.
Looking like she’d start humming at any moment, Bennet bestowed the finishing touches onto the food.
(When she’s a wolf, she has a thing for cats?)
Izumi was bothered by quite a trivial thing.
“Now then, this is a bother.”
In the house Izumi had left, Rudel thought aloud.
The fact Izumi and Millia had left was one that was a deep relief to him. Living with a man before marriage would definitely invite needless trouble to their futures.
But there was a problem.
“I have no idea what I’m supposed to do.”
… Right, Izumi had never lived alone before. Even when he was endeavoring through his training and studies, at the dorm, the servants would look after his room.
While the girls might not have been aware, the young nobles had their cleaning and laundry taken care of by the servants attached to the dormitory. To add to that, Rudel generally couldn’t cook.
For argument’s sake, he could make the sort of food he’d prepare in the wild, but he had no idea what he was supposed to do alone.
As he had become a dragoon right after graduation, he had skipped right over the cleaning and house work that would be assigned to the low-level grunts. To the elite dragoons, even if they may clean the dragon stables, they were never troubled with the necessities of life.
“It would be rude to go ask them at this point.”
Standing from his chair, for now, Rudel decided to heat up yesterday’s leftovers. Before the stove, he lit a fire with magic and placed the pot over it.
He still had the soup Izumi made, he would likely hold out a day or two.
But what would happen after that?
“Well, I’m sure it’ll work out.”
More than twenty years old, Rudel lived by himself for the first time in his life.
Three days later…
Three women looked over Rudel’s house with stiff faces.
On top of the dirty table, the kitchen was heaped with unwashed dishes. Apart from that, perhaps the laundry wasn’t being done, as there were dirty garments left here and there.
“Rudel, what is the meaning of this?”
As Bennet glared at Rudel, the man in question made a troubled face.
“Even if you ask me… how did it come to this?”
After hitting Rudel’s head with her palm, Bennet breathed out a sigh. She thought a man might be bad at this sort of thing, but even so, wasn’t this a bit too terrible? She looked over the room once more. When she thought of the state of spaces she couldn’t see, her heart sank.
It began during the day’s work, when Izumi had grown worried and asked Rudel if he was properly eating.
Early to bed, early to rise, there was also a problem in how Rudel was never home to begin with.
(There’s no helping what’s been done, but this is too terrible, oh subordinate of mine!)
On the question of whether or not he was eating properly, Rudel said this.
‘I still have takeout, so I’m fine.’
Just what part of that is fine, Izumi and Millia teamed up to cross-examine him. Then Bennet had begun to worry and joined in.
“Good grief… before your mission comes into question, you can’t even properly live your life?”
“M-my deepest apologies.”
Leaving a noble like Rudel alone was a problem, but neither Izumi nor Millia thought it would be this bad. It was the weak point of the top-scoring Rudel.
The sun was already going down so they couldn’t do laundry now. If they started cleaning, it would carry on to midnight.
“Hah, I’ll prepare food for you today. Izumi, Millia, come over once you’ve cleaned up the kitchen.”
Heading off to her own house, Bennet had concluded that rather than making anything in Rudel’s ingredient-less house, making a large portion in her own place would be faster.
(What sort of thing would a man like to eat? It has to be meat, right?)
Swiftly equipping her apron, she tucked her tail into it so it wouldn’t swing around. The box loaded with ingredients was filled with magic-made ice alongside seafood and various meats.
(Yeah~, what should I make…)
As she thought that, she heard a scream. The voice belonged to Millia.
‘Why can’t you do something as simple as this!? And wait, how are you able to live in a room like this? I can’t believe it!’
(Oh no, they’re getting mad at my subordinate. I really don’t think there’s any helping it, but Millia-chan is scary.)
Hurriedly making arrangements, Bennet looked over the three who appeared once the food was done. Millia was letting off a prickly air, while Rudel lowered his shoulders. Izumi was trying to cheer him up, saying she would teach him how to do laundry the next morning.
“You really are hopeless. Today’s special, don’t expect me to do this again.”
Before the food lining the table, Rudel delighted at his first decent meal in a while. Seeing his face, while she didn’t let it show on her expression, Bennet rejoiced as well.
(Yay! It doesn’t look like he hates it.)
The four of them sat around the dinner table, and as expected, talks went towards Rudel’s lifestyle. Even if they told him to do better starting tomorrow, there was no way Rudel could do that. For the time being, Izumi and Millia would do something about it.
And the topic changed to the food.
“Is it good?”
Bennet asked Rudel, happily chowing down, and the man in question gave an energetic reply. He was already on his third plate.
“Yes! Major, you are an amazing cook.”
“You can skip the flattery. With a house of your stature, I’m sure you’ve eaten the food of top-class chefs from before you could walk. I can at least understand that much.”
“Is that so? I was never too fixated over the taste.”
Unfamiliar about Rudel’s early childhood, Millia seemed to be curious over what Rudel ate. Izumi knew he had been treated terribly, but she had never asked about the contents of his meals.
“So what sort of things did you eat?”
“… First off, vegetables and things with high nutritional value.”
“Being able to eat something nutritional is something to be thankful for. So how was it prepared? (Maybe I’ll try it out next time.)”
Bennet had some interest in a noble’s cooking as she awaited Rudel’s answer.
But the answer that came back crossed was more than she could handle.
“No, just normally. Raw, I mean.”
Millia was surprised.
“Is that strange?”
Izumi looked around, perplexed by Bennet and Millia’s reactions. She was sure he meant some sort of food prepared raw, showing little surprise.
“… You mean a salad?”
“No, we just kinda ate it whole. They were bitter, so my little sister would always swallow without chewing. Generally speaking, there were a lot of cold dishes, I guess? I think the bread was on the harder side, and I get the feeling the meat was lightly seasoned…”
Rudel was the only one able to smile.
After hearing the specifics, they wouldn’t imagine that as the meal of a future archduke.
“So that’s why you always said the dining hall food was the best…”
“Hey, no matter how you look at it, that’s not normal.”
“… Do you want another?”
As Bennet held out her own meat dish, Rudel ate it with delight. Seeing him like that, Bennet was on the verge of tears within.
(Poor subordinate of mine… I’ll have to do my best in cooking from tomorrow onwards.)
“Maor, your food is the best!”
When he happily praised her, Bennet grew happy as well.
“For the time being, I’ll provide your meals. It will be troublesome if you collapse, after all… what’s wrong, you two?”
There, Izumi and Millia looked at Bennet.
“U-um, would it be possible for you to teach us how to cook as well?”
“Hmm? I don’t mind.”
As the faces of the two women approached, Bennet felt something dreadful.
(Eh? What’s this? Hey, you’re scaring me.)
The next morning, Izumi taught Rudel how to do laundry as promised.
(Come to think of it, Millia was doing everyone’s laundry for the past few days.)
It was curious how she had no resistance to washing a man’s undergarments. No, as the sight of her gleefully doing laundry floated in her mind, Izumi shook her head. She was reading too far into it.
Before the tub, Rudel hesitated as he washed his own clothing.
“The water’s grown murky.”
“When your clothes are so dirty, of course it would. Don’t change out the water, just keep washing.”
“I could use magic and…”
“It’s not like you couldn’t, but you know that clothing is valuable out here, right? If you make a mistake, you really will have nothing to wear.”
He had proposed resolving the problem with magic, but after that was declined, he got back to work. Watching his back, Izumi was filled with an inexplicable urge to help out.
But Bennet had told her to make him do it on his own.
Once he finished the washing in the house’s yard, he hung the clothes up to dry. Looking over the large load of drying laundry, it was clear he still had a way to go, but for argument’s sake, Izumiconcluded he would be alright.
Inside the house, Millia was doing the minimum amount of cleaning she could bear.
“It’s meal time. Come over.”
Once Bennet called across the yard, taking Millia along, the three of them headed for Bennet’s house. There, around the entranceway stood a man with his blue hair tied at the back. He was talking about something with Bennet.
“You sure took your time.”
“Don’t ask for the impossible. Even like this, I made haste.”
The male knight who looked older than them had the robe of a dragoon draped over their shoulder. Once Izumi and the others came out, Bennet introduced them to the male knight.
“This is my subordinate Rudel, and his two inspectors. The one with the black hair’s called Izumi, and the green haired one is Millia. Remember that.”
“Hmm… My name’s Keith. Keith Elrond. Pleasure to meet you.”
The male knight gave a splendid smile as he approached Izumi and the others; along with his introduction, he reached out and took a hand. But the way he gripped it wasn’t one that they could come to like. He was acting overly familiar, or so was Izumi’s frank opinion.
The way he touched it was a little indecent.
During that space, Keith had reached out his left hand and wrapped it around a shoulder as well. It was nothing more than a handshake, but it was almost as if his ulterior motives were on show for all to see.
“What is it, umm~…”
“I’m Izumi. Could you let go of that hand?”
“And why’s that?”
Keith flippantly resisted with a smile. On his expression, dark emotions on a level she had never experienced before began to well up in Izumi.
… Hatred, detestation.
A sensation similar to that ruled over Izumi as she simultaneously recognized Keith as an enemy. Izumi glared at him with a straight face.
It was the moment that within Izumi, a person she couldn’t like no matter how hard she tried had been born.
And she spoke.
“Listen, just release Rudel’s hand and shoulder already.”