Having fled the sickroom with Izumi, Rudel looked over the sky from Sakuya’s back.
Her four wings drawing grand arcs, Sakuya soared through the wide-open sky. A dragon’s body was protected by magic, letting a human endure even at high altitudes.
Izumi sat on Sakuya’s back, her back turned towards Rudel.
Rudel sat with his back pressed against hers.
“Izumi, cheer up already.”
There, Izumi rased a bashful, embarrassed voice.
“You said you’ think of the words to confess. I haven’t heard those words yet!”
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Hearing that, Rudel was surprised at first, but net he laughed. He laughed, and drove Sakuya to plunge into a cloud.
Once they breached the clouds, Izumi felt a slight chill over her body. A layer of dampness rested on her skin and hair.
Sakuya led the two further and further into the sky, below them a carpet of clouds unfolding.
Rudel lifted Izumi up and held her tight.
“I like you, I’ve fallen in love with you! But I don’t know if I can make you happy. For just as much as I love you… more than that, I’m in love with this sky.”
Boldly, Rudel divulged his true feelings. Izumi nodded.
“I know. It was always your dream to fly on a dragon’s back. I’ve heard that time and again.”
But in five years at the academy—Izumi who’d spend those days with him had come to sympathize with Rudel’s feelings.
“If you said I was number one, I’d be doubtful.”
“How cruel. But still, I want you. I fought with my life on the line. No one will mind if there’s just one thing I have freedom over.”
There was no telling what was to come. Courtois was in great turmoil, and it was possible that Fina would be enthroned as queen.
Disposing of the nobles who raise an insurrection, and as this was the first the empire had ever cornered them so far, military reforms would be needed as well.
No, first and foremost, the country of Courtois itself needed reform.
“Just one, eh. Do what you want. I’ll just follow along.”
As Izumi hugged Rudel back, Sakuya gave a bashful roar. It was as if she was congratulating them, and she sounded exceptionally happy.
And just like that, the dragon swooped down, piercing through the sheet of clouds.
After escaping from the sickroom, Aleist met up with Eunius and Luecke.
Before long, they were drowning their cares at the tavern.
“I can’t do it! That many women is impossible, I tell you!”
He said with a sip, his form prostrate over the table unthinkable of the black knight
“I told them to give up on me. Somehow that increased their numbers. And then comes the throne! It’s inconceivable!”
He proclaimed he would throw everything away, and lost all the cheats he had been blessed with. He lost his unnatural level of charm, he no longer had the talent or mana he had before.
But there were more women around Aleist than ever before.
Eunius and Luecke pat his shoulder to console him.
“Hey, do your best. We’ll do our best to not cause you trouble. Rather, I kinda think it’s not your fault this time. So have at it, your highness.”
“Good for you. If you attain kingship, then no matter who gets thrown into your harem. Queen Fina’s at the top. You’ll never have to worry about ranking.”
Aleist raised his face.
“Don’t give up! You’re all for forcing it on me, aren’t you!”
“Hah! No shit Sherlock. Who in their right mind would willingly take power in this pain-in-the-ass postwar period? What’s more, we’re definitely entering a pain-in-the-ass era after that.”
The Kingdom of Courtois was trying to change. No, it had no choice but to change. At the same time, what would become of their enemy, the empire… there was a mountain of problems.
The work required would be incomparable to peace times. Both future archdukes fully understood that when they fled from the throne.
But Luecke breathed a sigh.
“From my point of view, Rudel was better off King. Considering my marriage with Lena, that would let me welcome her as the legal wife instead of a mistress… hah.”
While he sighed, his reasons were solely for self-interest. Aleist clung in tears to the man who wouldn’t even bring up the country’s distress as a formality.
“Didn’t you used to go on about nobility or something!? Then save me. Fulfill your duty as a noble and save me!”
Luecke removed Aleist’s hand and smoothed out his clothes. Albeit, he was dressed in an infirmary gown.
“You fool. You’re just as much a noble yourself. Do something about it on your own… wait, I’ve got it!”
Aleist and Eunius glanced at Luecke.
But the idea that hit him—
“I can just take her as a mistress, and not marry a legal wife. In that instance, for all intents and purposes, wouldn’t the mistress be the legal wife!?”
— Was about Lena.
Aleist removed his eyes, Eunius sipped his ale. In a “this guy’s hopeless” sort of air, the two opted to just ignore the man.
(So it’s true how they say there’s a paper-thin line between idiot and genius.)
Eunius poured some ale into Aleist’s glass.
“Well, you know. Break a leg.”
After downing the freshly-poured liquid, Aleist spoke.
“This is messed up!”
“Those bloody fools, I’m never gonna forgive them!”
Briskly proceeding her preparations, Fina had put her all into laying the groundwork so she could be enthroned as queen. She was needlessly proficient, and in abilities alone, Fina was the one worthy of the position.
However, the problem lay within.
She had already prepared the papers and was arranging to distribute them to the relevant divisions.
“Just you watch. When I’m queen, I’m dismantling those pesky dragoons of yours! Fwahahahah, I can see my master, crying, begging for forgiveness!”
Looking at Fina were Sophina and Mii.
Seeing her expressionlessly accomplished one job after the next, all while swearing vengeance, they were somewhat creeped out.
“Princess, I mean your majesty, don’t you think that’s a bit much.”
Fina looked at her.
“Oh, what’s wrong? It’s alright, Mii… if he cries and grovels, he can have my forgiveness.”
Sophina sounded fed-up.
“No, that’s the same as saying you won’t forgive otherwise. Rather, to be serious for a second…”
Seriously speaking, with the Diade and Halbades Houses assisting her during the time of Aileen’s insurrection, whether she wanted to carry our reform or anything else, she was unable to slight either house.
Moreover, she didn’t hold enough power to do so.
“Goddammit! It’s because these archdukes exist that Courtois’ national power was shaved away! Quit screwing with me, bring out the manager! In this scenario, should we be centralizing power!? You think the empire’s going to wait!?”
Mii tilted her head.
“Umm, but I heard the empire was considerably exhausted in this loss.”
At Mii’s inquisitive gesture, Fina loosed a satisfied drool in her head. And she began speaking in regards to that.
“For now, that is. But just you wait, give them a decade, a century. Their national power will plummet, the way they’re going, either civil war or separation, the empire’s going to change. You think they’re guaranteed to change for the worse? I hate that sort of wishful thinking.”
Sophina spoke to Fina.
“In that case, shouldn’t we launch something from our side—”
Fina hit her on the fed. The high knight’s eyes turned teary.
“We don’t have hands to send around as it is! The country’s in tatters, and there’s absolutely no merit in stealing the barren wastelands of the empire! What I’m trying to say is that their side is the one with all the pieces in place for proper reform!”
How much time and energy did they have to deal with the movements of surrounding powers while proceeding reform in the country? The larger the country was, the greater hassle it was to govern its landmass.
With this as an opportunity, there may be lords scheming to gain independence.
“Even if we get rid of as many of those who sided with sister’s rebellion as possible, and increase the kingdom’s national power… AAaaah!! My head hurts!”
Fina’s desire to marry Rudel wasn’t just only of self-interest.
Forming a composition with the nation’s strongest force- Rudel- by her side would be a nightmare to the others.
With Ruel’s strength backing her, it was her aim to force her reforms through.
“… But I, Fina Courtois! I shall be one to stand tall through such times of troubles! I’ll get master on his knees!”
Seeing her return to work with those words, Mii and Fina shook their heads.
At the end, Mii,
“On the contrary, why is it I get the feeling her majesty’s the one who’s going to be groveling to Rudel-san…”
She said, but Fina didn’t hear.
A few years later.
Rudel stood on the soil Askewell had once invaded and brought to ruin.
By the current Queen Fina’s new policies, a majority of nobles were to relinquish their land to the state, instead living in the center off an annual pay from the kingdom.
A portion of those who opposed were ordered to change territories to the border, and Rudel was there on a mission as a dispatch from the capital.
The renewed fortress had ten dragoon knights stationed.
The empire had fallen into civil war, its division giving rise to the birth and fall of many new countries, and in the midst of that struggle, there were many who marched to claim Courtois’ land.
At times, there would be strife with nobles in his own country plotting rebellion against Fina, giving him no shortage of work.
While his life had grown hectic, Rudel was busy in the dragon stables washing Sakuya’s back with a deck brush, humming a merry tune. Sakuya looked quite comfortable.
His subordinate, a new dragoon called over to him.
“More letters, Castellan. From her majesty, the capital’s black knight, and the Diade House and Halbades House… that’s an amazing assortment.”
Castellan was Rudel’s station. While fulfilling the role of a dragoon, he was concurrently the one in charge of the fort.
After jumping d own from Sakuya, Rudel accepted the letters and unsealed them on the spot.
“I don’t really care about Fina’s. Eunius wants to go drinking, Luecke… oh, his first child! So Lena’s a mother now. But does he really plan on not having a legal wife?”
The letter from the queen was a lengthy apology and a plea urging him to return to the center. Rudel personally preferred the border to the center, the letter hit all the usual points, so he immediately read through it and quickly lost interest.
Eunius was an invite to the town, while Luecke reported in great joy how a child had been born.
“Now then, Aleist is… I-I see.”
According to Aleist’s letter, for some reason, his harem members increased and breached thirty. With so many children, he had no idea what to do at this point, or so his screams of anguish were spelled out in paper.
As to be expected, Rudel had no idea what to write back.
“He has it rough. I guess I’ll consult with Izumi and write up a reply.”
Rudel’s subordinate looked at him with a sigh.
“Castellan, if you return to the capital, you’ll be assigned a considerable status. Are you sure you won’t go back? I don’t see anything stopping you.”
While Rudel was in charge of the fort, he would have preferred it if he could assume his duties as a single knight. He even thought he had too many unnecessary duties.
Normally, anyone would want a promotion and a station at the center. But Rudel couldn’t discern any value in that. He had gone as far as to push the status of Arses House head onto his younger brother Chlust he held far too little interest in status or promotion.
“I’m not interested. If you can fly through the sky, everywhere’s pretty much the same. As long as I’ve got Sakuya and my wife, it doesn’t matter where I am.”
Hearing those words, Sakuya delightfully groaned.
His subordinate shrugged his shoulders.
“Bragging? I just think it’s a waste. You should be aiming higher.”
Rudel smiled. From his subordinate’s point of view, life on the border was something he wanted to be done with soon so he could get back to civilization. Rudel had no intent to deny that way of thinking.
Going off of that, the man asked with deep intrigue.
“Come to think of it, there’s a rumor going ‘round that you refused not only your Archduke position but the throne as well, but is that true?”
Leaning the deck brush over his shoulder, Rudel made back towards Sakuya.
“Who knows? I’m not really interested in that sort of thing. For now and forever, I am but—”
Turning back, Rudel smiled.
“A single dragoon.”