The boar and the bird, their bodies growing considerably smaller along the way, somehow managed to reach the academy.
At first, they both boasted large and imposing forms, yet now not a shadow of that glory remained. They had shrunk to a size that would fit atop the palm of a hand. The two of them waited for night before getting into contact with Rudel. They got the feeling their dignity would diminish even further if they appeared during the day.
Once night came along, they snuck into the boys’ dorm. Making sure not to be seen, they made their way to Rudel’s room only to find the form of Rudel educating Sakuya.
“Don’t let the book on your head fall! That’s proof of bad posture. Keep walking like that.”
“H-how strict! If you’re this harsh on me, I’m going to cry!”
A book balanced on her head, Sakuya shook as she walked. Looking at that, Rudel similarly placed a book on his head to show by example.
“If you end up crying here, you’ll never become a dragoon, former goddess!”
“It’s Sakuya now! But you have a point. I was mistaken, Rudel! Now let’s hurry on to what comes next!”
“That’s the spirit.
The two beasts felt almost as if they were watching a skit, stationing themselves before the doors like actors awaiting their parts.
‘… How tedious.’
‘Really? Looks fun to me.’
When Rudel and Sakuya entered a break, small as they were, the two beasts put up an imposing air as they entered the room. At their forms as they tried their best, Sakuya stifled a laugh. Rudel thought their entrance was related to getting a dragon, so he hurriedly placed them on his desk to hear them out.
They were somewhat dissatisfied with that treatment, but losing to Rudel’s serious expression, they gave the details of what had happened. The fact that they couldn’t find a dragon willing to be his mount, and that an undead dragon had taken in their comrade, the black fog. For argument’s sake, they were once the same entity, so out of pity, they made it sound like the undead dragon had sealed her.
Right, they had lied. No, to be more precise, the two of them avoided mentioning that the fog had made a mistake, causing Rudel to misunderstand.
“I see, so getting everything together, the black fog has been seized by an undead dragon. And the situation is a dangerous one where it will go on a rampage within a year.”
‘… That’s right.’
‘You’ve got the idea.’
Sensing the dubious air surrounding the two, Sakuya directed a dubious glance at the boar and bird on the desk. At her doubtful eyes, the two of them averted their eyes evasively.
“Aren’t you two a bit suspicious? More importantly, I’d appreciate it if you returned my powers as a goddess, you know?”
‘Can’t. The one who absorbed your powers is the black fog.’
‘To go even further, the black fog is also on the verge of losing her powers. It’s best you think that you won’t be getting them back.’
Pissed at the bird’s words, Sakuya hoisted both of them up in an eagle grip. Lifting them and bringing them to her face, she glared with enough intensity to kill.
“What did you just say? What is it you just said, you beasts!?”
“Sakuya, put them down already. But that really is a possible. The country’s capable of subjugating an undead dragon, but when the target’s a dragon, it’ll be perilous even for a knight brigade. I should report the details to the king by letter, and make sure their preparations are perfect…”
In his head, Rudel considered what would happen to the Kingdom of Courtois if an undead dragon ran rampant. It was clear the casualties would be enormous. But this time, they had the information beforehand. If they used it to its fullest, he knew the subjugation would be an easy task.
But on the words from the two, Rudel was troubled to respond.
‘According to the black fog, she wanted to use that dragon corpse and make it Rudel’s dragon, it seems.’
‘Well there’s no helping it in this case, so I’m sure he’ll give up.’
He’d get a dragon of his own. On those words, Rudel erred. Normally, if the country laid out the perfect groundwork, and challenged it with the right measures, its defeat was certain, but Rudel’s desires twisted him.
“… You said there was about a year of deferment.”
‘There’s something more important than that.’
‘Rudel, either supply us with magic or return us to your sword. We’re already disappearing…’
Close to their limits, the two shrunk even further and entered Rudel’s blade as if melting into it. How rejuvenating, and I’m sleepy, they said as they gained a source of mana.
Rudel hurriedly wrote a letter to get in touch with Basyle. It was in order to ask about the blacksmith who purchased the boar’s tusk. According to the boar, his tusk was a material of the highest quality. What’s more, when taking on one of their own, he said it would definitely be useful. As the undead dragon took in the black fog, it would surely have an effect…
Believing the boar’s words, Rudel immediately put them to action. He would ask them for whatever remained of the tusk, and have it made into armor. If it was a smithy that specialized in swords, then he thought he’d leave the armor to another merchant as he hurriedly went into preparations.
He decided not to report the undead dragon to the country. But he did write that an investigation was necessary, and sent in a separate report to the country through his house. And by that, Rudel would be doing the initial investigation himself, he decided.
The timing was just right. He had obtained permission to go to the dragon dwellings, and he could have Lilim take him. Rudel thought it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
“Looking at the time, it’ll be right before the selection test.”
Scanning the calendar, he confirmed when his preparations would be complete alongside the date of the selection test. Rudel wasn’t quite on board the selection test, but it was an order from the country, and he had no choice but to join in. A few months. That was the time afforded to Rudel. Sakuya watched his serious expression with worry.
“Why do you have to push yourself? Just get the gray dragon! If you try to do the impossible and fall short…”
Izumi will be sad. Before she could say that, Rudel looked at her and tried persuading her.
“It’s just my own selfishness. I don’t want to drag anyone else in. And you see, it’s been decided they’ll send two dragoons. It’ll be fine even if worse comes to worst. No matter what happens, the country will deal with the problem before the dragon starts to move.”
He had lain the groundwork. He had reported the undead dragon matter required investigation from the country. And knowing that fact, the country had decided to send him two dragoons. As Rudel had become the white knight, they were dispatching guards just in case.
But they didn’t put much emphasis into Rudel’s report of the undead dragon. It was taken with doubt. It was for that reason their allowance of Rudel’s arbitrary actions and the country’s own countermeasures were so lax. Even if he reported the truth from the start, they wouldn’t have believed him all the same.
In the worst case, his own death would surely make the country move. Rudel had been resolved to risk his life to get a dragon from before he could remember. For he was aware there were mountains of knights who died unrecognized by the dragons.
“Sakuya, I have a request. Can you keep this a secret from the others?”
Rudel tried to persuade, but as he requested her silence, his eyes wouldn’t accept any dissent. Unable to resist those eyes, Sakuya quietly nodded. It was at that moment she understood. That Rudel was resolved for death.
As Rudel started to action to obtain an action, his movements were swift. In the third term of his fourth year, he heard back from Basyle, identified the smithy, and once he learned they manufactured armor as well, he instantly put in a request. For Lilim as well, he informed her by letter he was aiming to head to the dragon dwellings around the beginning of his fifth year’s second term.
He had known it would be dangerous from the start, and there was nothing for him to panic over at this point.
But Sakuya who knew the truth was a different story. Even as she accompanied Rudel’s training, she couldn’t understand why he’d risk his life to try obtaining a dragon. If he made a compromise, even if he couldn’t become a dragoon, he’d still have a dragon in his hands.
And Sakuya didn’t like hiding things from Izumi. Lately, she had gotten around to avoiding her.
But when she encountered Izumi in the school cafeteria, they would end up eating together. To the current Sakuya, that was painful.
“When the graduation ceremony’s over, do you want to have a party? Ah, right, there’s the princess’ party. I also got an invitation. A high knight came all the way over to the boys’ dorm to deliver it.”
Luecke and Eunius sat at the same table, the five of them eating lunch together. The topic had turned to the fifth year student graduation. Rudel had quite a few acquaintances in the fifth year. The tiger tribe girls, and ness of the black cat tribe, he knew a few on a personal level.
“Right, it seems Fina-sama is personally gathering her acquaintances together to hold a party. Getting together those who got along, she wants to see off the graduates.”
As Eunius placed his invitation on the table, Luecke took it and confirmed its contents.
“… It’s the same as the one that came to my place. But aren’t these participants strange? You know these names too, don’t you, Rudel? A majority of them are from the best tribes, and I get the feeling there are very few young nobles here. It also feels almost as if the fact we were invited was just to show those around a certain level of status was necessary.”
As Luecke read into it, Eunius said he was thinking too deeply and laughed it off. As a matter of fact, calling the eldest sons of the Three Lords to silence the nobles who weren’t invited was included in Fina’s plans. The other reason was of course, for Rudel’s participation.
“I do know quite a few fifth years.”
Rudel recalled the faces of his acquaintances and noticed a majority of them were beastpeople. Because of Fina, his social circle had grown skewed, but Rudel was thankful for all the new encounters. Once they graduated, there would surely be some he’d never see again, but Rudel wanted to see them off with a smile.
“I didn’t get an invitation, so I can’t go. The three of you can enjoy yourselves.”
“Aah, it’s that thing where all the good food is lined up, right? But that strange woman will be there, so what should I…”
Izumi didn’t feel any unease letting the three of them go alone. It was a party the princess was holding. Knowing she wouldn’t match, she had given up from the start. But Sakuya didn’t understand that area. She had an interest in the party part of it, but when she knew Fina was the organizer, she mulled over whether to go or not.
“What are you talking about? You can just come with me.”
Rudel voiced Izumi’s participation as if it were only natural. Sakuya also told Rudel she wanted to go, and he permitted it under the condition she didn’t eat too much.
“Are you sure? Well, it’s a party held by a student. Its scope is limited, but…”
Luecke thought a bit over the two’s participation, but Eunius sighed that his thoughts were too stiff.
“It’s not like it’s going to be on the scale of the usual ones, right? The participants are mainly beastmen so just go in your school uniform and have a bit of fun while you’re at it.”
While the three of them usually fooled around together, Luecke and Eunius often attended parties. Rudel’s case, where he had never attended a party before, was far more abnormal. The two accustomed to it weren’t nervous. Hearing it was a party Fina was holding, Rudel wasn’t the slightest bit nervous either.
Once Sakuya learned she could take part, she began scheming over how she could avoid Fina while eating as much food as possible… but Izumi alone was acting strangely.
“Eh, no, umm… I don’t think I’ll go. I’ll just be a bother.”
Losing her composure, she nervously declined the invitation. Rudel wasn’t interested if Izumi wasn’t going. So…
“Are you worried about the invitation letter? Then wait right there. I’ll get you one at once.”
He stood right from his seat and walked off towards the girls’ dorm. The four of them watched off his back, but in little over ten minutes, he returned with two invitations in hand.
“C-curse you, black haaiiiiiirrr (That woman… using master to extort an invitation from me is downright cowardly!)”
On her bed in vexation… Fina expressionlessly held her knees as she recalled when Rudel had come a little passed noon. When she thought he was stopping by for the first in quite some time, the reason was Izumi.
She pouted that Izumi would be taking part too. Fina’s guard Sophina sighed at her expressionless irritation as she watched over her.
“Isn’t it fine? We’ve already prepared so much, so it shouldn’t be a problem if we have a few more on this occasion.”
It was a party of beastpeople gathered for Fina’s sake, but she had to lay an extensive groundwork to even carry out the preparations. She couldn’t let Aileen learn of it, so on the surface, she had made it something to send off the graduates.
“What are you talking about, Sophina? Because of master, the number of nobles saying they want to participate has grown. If you think it’s so light, then take some responsibility and help me out.”
As if to hoist off the responsibility, Fina handed over a load of letters from her noble upperclassmen. If Rudel and the others were taking part, Fina thought they would show some prudence, but Rudel’s actions had twisted that notion. If commoners can join in, then shouldn’t we be able to? Or so it was thought.
“Eh? No, even if you give me so many letters…”
“You’re a high knight, so take some responsibility in your own remarks. (Ah, I think I’ve stopped caring. Let’s just push it onto Sophina. Hah, I won’t be able to fluff up the tiger girls or Ness, will I. How lonely… huh? Wait a tick. I’m a princess, aren’t I? Isn’t this the time for me to use my authority?)”
Hit with so much extra work, Sophina later went to consult with the academy side. Now with free time on her hands, Fina began to move things behind the scenes.
Over the next few days, it became clear that the numbers hoping to take part were far greater than expected, so that year, the academy decided to officially sponsor the graduate-centric party. When it came to graduates, there were those that finished schooling in their second and third years as well. Their numbers were nothing to make light of.
“If it’s come to this, what are we supposed to do?”
At the details of the party posted up on the boys’ dorm bulletin, Euinus tried asking the usual members. Rudel and the others were enrolled, and it wasn’t as if they were graduating.
“It seems they’re taking volunteers to help out with construction.”
Luecke confirmed the contents, amazed that the scale had more than doubled from the start. The academy had never held a graduate party before, but Fina’s arbitrary actions had moved their hand. The academy was likely abiding the princess’ orders.
Unaware of the party until that point, Aleist recalled how he’d seen these happenings in the game. It was originally a party Fina held for the protagonist. Recalling how it was supposed to be the final event of the school chapter, he noticed it was happening a year early, but at this point, Aleist didn’t even question it.
“For enrolled students, as long as you help out with the constructions, preparations, or cleanup, you can attend, it seems.”
On Aleist’s words, Rudel instantly volunteered.
“I see, then I’ll help out. Do I just have to fill this out?”
Rudel wrote his name on the paper stuck to the board. Seeing that, Sakuya said she would join as well and wrote her name. They were misshapen letters, but she proudly showed them to everyone gathered.
But while Rudel pat her head, everyone else’s reaction was cold.
“Sakuya? Oy, oy, isn’t your name supposed to be Flan, former goddess?”
As Aleist emphasized the former goddess part, Sakuya sent a dirty look. In regards to that, Luecke opened his mouth as well.
“Flan AlaMode, wasn’t it?”
As Luecke asked considerably seriously, Eunius burst into laughter. Looking over everyone’s response with teary eyes, the goddess proceeded to plunder everyone’s dessert in the following meal.