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111: Friends and the Display

 In the capital preparing for its expo in two days, the revelry could be heard, even on the unpopular road back to the lodging house.

The two women who met each other on that road, a green haired crying elf, and a black haired beautiful oriental woman.

She understood she would never be able to say it so bluntly. She knew it would only be trouble if she said that. To Izumi, Rudel was close to her life's savior. So she didn't want to trouble her savior Rudel.

And yet, Millia said she was jealous.

"Say something... laugh at my efforts as futile. Rudicule me! Say I'm a stupid woman! Make me give up already!!"

While Millia painfully wrung out her voice, Izumi shook her head. It was a sensation as if Millia was speaking her own feelings, causing the tears to build in Izumi's eye. Enduring the urge to cry, Izumi took a deep breath before slowly looking over Millia.

The fact she looked like a young girl trembling in her anxiety was surely because she was an elf. Raising her head, she readied herself.

"I'm the same. No, I'm even worse. I always liked him. That's why I stayed by his side. But even that was no good. I'm not good enough to stand by Rudel's side."

When she put what she understood to mouth, she felt ashamed of herself. But even so, Making a smile, Izumi spoke to Millia.

"We're similar, you and I. Falling in love with a person our hands will never reach, we're both stupid women."

"... But you're all the way up there, so far ahead of me. I don't have a single memory with him at the academy..."

"Even so, that doesn't change the result."

Izumi's tone wasn't as if she was speaking to Millia, it was as if she was telling it to herself.



The next day...

In the plaza with the broken fountain, under Cattleya's watch, the Three Lords and Aleist were cleaning up the wreckage.

Eunius and Luecke's followers they had forcefully brought in had taken paid leave and were currently hospitalized.

"Why is it just us? There were definitely others who went on a rampage."

"My thoughts exactly. I'm no good at physical labor. Can't we leave this to the laborers?"

To the two who spilled complaints, Cattleya gave the whip in her hands one strong smack against the ground. That strike from the whip made quite a painful sound.

"Yeah, yeah, you two over there, get back to work. Otherwise, we'll never make in time for tomorrow's display (Not just this time, we haven't had idiots that destroyed it this bad in years)."

As the new recruits were placed under Cattleya, she had to take responsibility and keep watch over the four. It was decided that Cattleya was the only viable option, but truth be told, Oldart pushed the job onto her because she looked bored.

(Hah, why am I even here.)

She issued orders to the four, putting them to work, but any normal knight would be too fearful to order them around. With various things having happened in the past, it was decided Cattleya would be alright.

She looked at the two seriously doing work a little away. It was Aleist and Rudel.

"Huh? Rudel, why are you smiling like that? It's creepy."

"Yeah, you should look forward to tomorrow's display. I can't talk about it yet, but I'm sure you'll be surprised."

(What are you planning? Well, the ones who'll be troubled are that Charmer in his Prime and Mr. Straight-laced so I don't really care.)

As Cattleya let out a sigh, she got around to thinking that her amount of troubles had increased as of late. Perhaps her state had been witnessed as the four of them gathered to look at Cattleya.

"What's this? Does your superior have someone she likes? Come to think of it, she used to be your fiancé, right Rudel?"

As Eunius checked it with another dragoon, Rudel, the man in question tilted his head.

"I'm not good with those sorts of rumors, but... I don't think she does."

(... Well I'm sorry for being single. Even like this, I'm at least trying.)

With younger men gossiping over her love life, it got to her head, but Cattleya persuaded herself to endure it.

"Hmm, well, with that personality, you know. She must be troubled with no one wanting to take her. This is why boorish women are troublesome."

Aleist followed through on Luecke's cold words. As Aleist took some fleeting glances at her, Cattleya grew irritated.

"N-no, well! Appearance-wise, she's beautiful, and she's a dragoon, so that sort of thing is..."

"Well sorry for only being beautiful appearance-wise! Now get back to work already."

When she hit her whip against the ground, three of them returned to work. Eunius the manual labor, Luecke used magic to repair the broken portions. Aleist carried out miscellaneous jobs.

But Rudel...

"Lieutenant."

"What is it?"

He came over to Cattleya, and after struggling a bit over what to say, he directed her a smile. As Cattleya worried whether that smile would turn her face red, Rudel...

"I don't know what happened, but do your best!"

Cattleya expressionlessly approached Rudel before lightly hitting him with her whip. While Rudel's seemed confused, she yelled out loudly.

"This is your faullttt!"

"Why!?"

Seeing Rudel's incomprehensive face, Cattleya screamed some more.



Fritz wore the gorgeous knight uniform he had gotten accustomed to over the past half year as he paid Aileen a visit.

As captain of the royal guard, escorting Aileen was part of his duty. It was a role he was responsible, and definitely a problem to be handled, but it wasn't as if he didn't have any proficient subordinates he could leave it to.

Originally, guards of firm status and capability would be selected.

But it hadn't been long since the royal guard's creation.

To add to that, Fritz had graduated on the academy's three-year curriculum. He had become captain without learning all the things he should. That being the case, he had problems when it came to paperwork jobs. The executives of the royal guard had circled him around to Aileen's security.

Otherwise, on top of Aileen's mood spiraling downwards, work wouldn't get done. Keeping Aileen company as she sipped tea on the terrace, Fritz had begun to hold questions as of late. Was it really alright for him to be here doing this? Wasn't there something else he should be doing?

But he had already become captain of the royal guard, and he had not the freedom.

The Kingdom of Courtois had even granted Fritz a dragon. Letting Fritz do as he pleased was an impossible request.

"What seems to be the matter? Are these sweets not to your liking... then I'll call the bakers."

"N-no. that isn't the case."

While he had gotten around to using words he wasn't accustomed to, he was told that in private, before Aileen, he was to speak normally. From that, his manner of speech had become a mismatch. The reason for his panic was Aileen.

If she didn't fancy them, she would instantly change out the bakers.

If it was so easy, then couldn't he be next... the thought crossed Fritz' mind. He had unskillfully succeeded, so he couldn't' let himself drop from his current status. The elevation of commoner living standards he wanted to carry out, put in the wrong station he wasn't able to push it forward.

(It's not yet the time. If I wait a bit more, I should be able to move freely.)

Smiling, sipping tea with Aileen, Fritz feared when the smile of this beautiful princess might be directed at another.

(Want. I want Aileen.)

Her blond hair was long and beautiful, her blue eyes seemed they just might suck him in.

Fritz held affection towards Aileen, who had supported him so far. It was something, looked on from the side, was a fleeting, and hazardous scene to behold.



"Father, what knight brigade is that one!?"

A small girl held an ice cream cone in her right hand as she asked her father giving her a piggy back ride about the knight brigade members marching in file.

"That's the royal guard. There aren't many high knights this year, so they might be the centerpiece in years to come."

The father had lived in the capital for many years and he had watched the displays from a young age. As the years went by, he had begun to view them with the strict eyes of an examiner.

The royal guard was a hurriedly constructed brigade, and their movements couldn't' help but lack in polish.

"They aren't moving well. I heard some high knights had transferred over, but their ranks are slightly misaligned. If that's how they're going to be, then while they're lacking in numbers, the high knights are the prettier sight."

"Ah, father, look, look! There's a person wearing amaaazing black armor over there."

As the girl started squirming on her father's shoulders, 'Don't drop your ice cream,' he said as he gave a wry smile.

"One of this year's centerpieces. That's the black knight."

"Black knight?"

"Black full-plate armor and a red mantle... those gold horns and ornaments are lovely. He's even riding a nightmare, he's on a different level from the other knights."

A nightmare was a beautiful horse monster with a long, black mane. But as it possessed intellect, it was possible to domesticate it. The sharp horn growing from its forehead and the red lines that drew a pattern as they ran around its body were a charming sight.

"Ah! There's a dragon flying in the sky! Are is that a dragoon?"

"Hahaha, with just one dragon, I can't say that's a dragoon. It's circling over the royal guard, so I'm sure that's the captain's dragon. But it does look lonely flying along like that. When the new recruit and veteran flight formations are the centerpiece each year."

The royal guard passed in front of the two, followed by the new recruits of each knight brigade. The residents living in the capital looked to the sky, knowing the real show was yet to come.

"My neck hurts."

"Just watch a little longer. I'm sure you'll never forget it."

There, the girl raised a cheer. The surrounding townsfolk all looked up at the formation of dragons flying through the sky. Cheers and whistles. And as if they couldn't hear a lick of it, the two looked up at the sky.

"What was that!? What was that!"

"That was some high-level flying. There was a wind dragon at the lead, so I'm sure that person's going to become an amazing knight of the dragoons someday. When they picked them up in less than a year, those movements were splendid."

The dragons flying through the sky flew in a way they could show off their skill to the residents of the capital.

The delighted young girl waved her hand at the dragons in the sky. But the dragons had already gone.

"They're gone."

"It's not done yet. The real show starts now."

The father's eyes sparkled, without blinking his eyes, he looked up at the sky. His expression was one that wouldn't let the slightest movement go unnoticed, the face of a child.

There, a completely different unit of dragons from before showed movements as if they were dancing through the sky. On those movements on another level from before, the girl could only cry out, "Amazing, amazing!"

The father shouted, "No way, an aileron roll there!? Oy, oy, now that's a combo!" he said in great excitement. The seasoned eyes of the capital's residents had nothing but praise for the year's flight formation...

"Father, that was amazing!"

"Yeah, but there weren't many wild dragons this year. The captain has a gray dragon, so perhaps the dragoon's quality is on a decline after all. Their movements were nice, but I wanted to see something more gallant. They used to swoop down so low you could almost touch them, but I guess they're paying mind to safety..."

"Father?"

(Come to think of it, wasn't the white knight supposed to come out this year? I believe... he had a gaia dragon, but I didn't see it back there. They say he's a future archduke, so maybe he'll come out at the end.)

The man checked to see how the daughter on his shoulders was faring. The girl who liked festivities ate her ice cream on her father's shoulders as she looked at the sky.

She looked at the sky enthralled, waiting to see if they would come again. Seeing his daughter like that, the man recalled his own past self.

He reminisced over how he had ridden the shoulders of his father, now a grandfather, looking up at the dragons like this. Back then, he had dropped his ice cream on his father's back. Recalling how angry he had gotten, he gave a bitter smile, only for his daughter to drop her ice cream.

"Hey, you have to keep a proper hold on it."

He didn't get as angry as his father before him. When dealing with his daughter, he couldn't help but soften his words. But his daughter stayed silently staring at the sky.

His surroundings grew silent as everyone stared. Feeling suspicious of his daughter and the surrounding residents who wouldn't say a word, he looked up at the sky as well.

"What's this..."

No one would answer the man's words. No, no one could answer.