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23: The Boy and a Chance

 While Lilim had come to report to the academy, she was also to look into Rudel and the incident. She investigated into things outside of Cattleya's report. Whether the rumors around the boy were true... the matter was resolved surprisingly quickly.

For her little sister Millia knew a majority of it.

"I don't really know about Aleist, but he's quite strong, and everyone says he's the strongest in our year. Rudel... tries really hard, and while he sometimes spins his wheels in vain or goes off in the wrong direction, he's a good person."

In order to resolve the rumors circulating around the palace, she continued asking about the truth.

"Chlust saved the princess? Not in a million years, sis. I mean, he ran away and was nowhere to be found. More importantly, if Rudel wasn't there, we'd all have been sacrifices..."

On these contrary accounts, Lilim wondered whether the report had been falsified. The more she looked into it, the more her questions were resolved.

(So it's Cattleya after all... even if you hate him, you'd go this far!?)

But as the two of them drank their tea, down the hallway visible from the school cafeteria, a single high knight unsteadily crossed, half in tears... it was Sophina.

Lilim tried to call out to Sophina. But noticing her, Sophina raced off in the opposite direction. Finding it suspicious, Lilim looked down the path she came...

"That's the way to the infirmary, right? Why was a high knight running in tears from such a place?"

After thinking a while, she offered her sister Millia some parting words before heading off. In that infirmary that held the same facilities as a hospital, she stopped a random nurse and inquired.

"She left the room with the Three Lords' sons in tears!?"

This was a surprise. A high knight was a holder of considerable skill, the proud shield of the crown... for such a knight to leave in tears, Lilim could only imagine the worst. Even if they were children, they were three young men... as a fellow female knight, she felt some anger as she headed for the room of the Three Lords' sons.

"Pardon me!"

Silencing the guards in front of the door with her aura of anger, she forced her way in, only to find Rudel alone. He stood, a serious expression on his face as he thought over something. Seeing him like that, Lilim couldn't think any of the indecent things she imagined had occurred. Just as she thought she was imagining things...

"Ah! L-Lilim-san? W-why are you here..."

Noticing her, Rudel offered a somewhat awkward greeting. As she returned it, she felt somewhat awkward herself. There's no way she could say she barged in under her own misunderstanding. So she changed the subject.

"Don't worry about it. More importantly, is there something troubling you?"

She asked what she shouldn't have.

"T-truth be told, because of my own inadequacy, I was unable to convey the wonders of this book to my acquaintances..."

The book he held out was, of course, 'How to Pet a Dragon'... seeing the book, Lilim gave a bitter smile. She didn't know what to say about that book whose title alone made one lose the motivation to read on. Seeing Lilim like that, Rudel,

"U-um! Just a little... could you let me pet you? This is definitely an amazing book! I want to prove it!"

As Lilim had entered the room under a misunderstanding, she thought it would be fine if she allowed that much. As a result, just like Sophina, red to the ends of her long elf ears, she ran from the infirmary half in tears. And Rudel was left alone once more.

"So it was no good after all? Do I have to practice some more?"



A few days from those happenings, the palace sent the academy an unexpected proposal. To deal with it, the teachers gathered in the meeting room early in the morning... its contents stated...

"The royal family is coming to watch the fundamental curriculum tournament!? We haven't prepared anything for them!"

"It seems they want to see the strength of Aleist and Chlust-sama who saved the princess... even so, this is too sudden."

"The king said he would personally bestow a reward to the victor."

The academy faculty had gathered to discuss yet another painstaking issue. The headmaster thought a while over its contents. It was unprecedented for the royal family to personally go to the academy right after an incident. Was there anything bothering them?

Among the possible candidates, Rudel's circumstances came to mind.

"Hmm, then the academy will be busy all the way up to the third term. Everyone must do their best to assure no negligence in this tournament's preparations... meeting adjourned."

The headmaster's reaction was surprisingly light, causing the surrounding teachers to look on with wonder. But as the royal family was coming, they had no choice but to make this tournament a success. In order to do that, they would have to start hurriedly preparing. Standing busily from their seats, the teachers left the meeting room...

Left alone in that room, the headmaster,

"Will this be his chance, or will it be another pinch... if his class does manage to win, I'm sure he'll grow closer to his desires."

When the headmaster first heard of Rudel's dream to be a dragoon, he thought it was a good thing to hold such a dream while you're still young. Even if you were frustrated when it didn't come true, as long as you were young, you could start over and grow from it... that's what he thought at first, but now was different.

"I want to grant his dreams. If his dreams- all too pure- ever collapse, he'll crumble before he can ever stand again. More than anything, after dragging so many people in with him, it won't just end with him saying, 'I couldn't do it'."

The headmaster laughed as he looked through the documents.

Like that, the third term's fundamental curriculum class tournament became something never seen before. The king was personally coming out. By various motivations, many would use this opportunity to show off their ability. Within all of that, the headmaster couldn't wait to see how far Rudel would go.



"Did you hear, Rudel!? The royal family's coming to this year's class tournament... what's more! If you come out on top, you'll receive a reward. I talked it over with the class, and we decided to ask him not to force you to graduate!"

Racing to Rudel's room in the infirmary, Izumi had hurried to deliver the information... but, Basyle was already there, telling him just what she wanted to say.

Luecke and Eunius had already been discharged, and when Rudel was supposed to be the only one there, Basyle somehow got the drop on her.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I already told him."

"... Is that so."

Izumi was a little vexed, but once she saw Rudel's reaction, she gave a smile.

"So I have another chance... I still want to learn in this academy! I want to compete against Aleist, and there are still upperclassmen stronger than me... more than anything, if I'm with everyone in class, with everyone who moved to help me... let's win this tournament."

Rudel stood from the bed, a serious look on his face. Taking off the bandages wrapped around his body, he took out his own clothes and tried to leave the infirmary room... only for Izumi to hurriedly step in and stop him.

"W-what are you doing!? You need to rest your body for now!"

"No problem! I've been moving my body around the past few days, and I seem fine. What's more, I don't want to spend my time resting here, only to regret it later."

Seeing Rudel, Basyle,

"As expected of Rudel-sama! ... But if you push yourself and break something, you won't be able to participate in the tournament. So don't push yourself, let's start out with some light exercise to build up your stamina."

She hammered in the point with a smile. Hearing it from both of them, even Rudel couldn't push himself too far... or so it should have been.

"You're right, the basics are important... should I train myself from the ground up again? Or should I learn a new special move?"

As Rudel thought to himself, Basyle informed him.

"Rudel-sama, could you make some time in the coming break? If you do, I, Basyle , shall offer you the finest training there is."

As she said something, Izumi felt somewhat doubtful, but she couldn't' think Basyle would do anything to put Rudel at a disadvantage, so she stayed silent. Based on Rudel's response, she intended to join in as well.

"Really!? Then I'm all yours."

Rudel gave an energetic reply. Smiles on their faces, the three of them boldly tried to exit the infirmary, only to be stopped by the doctors and nurses.