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131: Erselica Rises to the Stage

 Pasette Yulineria was decoding the journal she obtained in the cave.

The room she stayed had a simple desk and lamp, so even when night fell, she was able to read. Her tired roommate was already in her bed, in a world of dreams. She was a commoner girl, who kicked the cover away to expose her undergarments.

Standing once from her chair, Pasette re-draped the cover over her.

Normally, she tied her slightly-curling brown hair back, but for now, it was down. Her hair that grew just barely reaching her back, the girl thought it was just in the way. She wanted to cut it short, but with the reactions of her surroundings, she wasn't able to.

Her parents opposed, saying it wasn't good for a girl to have her hair too short.

Pasette herself strongly wished to cut it, but she couldn't make it any shorter.

She returned to the desk and say in the chair. To the side of the journal, Pasette had her memo pad and references scattered around, which she began to clean up. She intended to go until she reached a good stopping point. But it seems she had grown heated and hurried forth a bit.

"I should call it quits for today."

The journal detailed the region the hero had lived in. Time-wise, it was an era tormented by the Gora. If it was before the founding of Courtois, then it would also have to be before the warring states period. When she read about his daily life, she grew excited and tried to compare it to the books she used as reference.

But she felt something was off. The individual who wrote the journal, she got the feeling his thought process was too close to their own... to that of their own era. There were descriptions of the inconvenience he felt at the technologies that were likely brand new at the time.

There were places where the old paper had been ruined and rendered illegible, but Pasette was curious about the last page. Alongside a message to entrust the Holy Sword to whoever found it, it gave Aleist's name. Pasette had thought it was the name of the diary's author.

But would they really write their name on the last page? It bothered her.

"The book's covered is too tattered... hah, even so, our captain sure is mysterious."

From Pasette's point of view, Aleist was the same age as the rest of them, and an elite entrusted with a commanding role. But in actuality, he had cleaning duties shoved onto him for more than half a year, and the members of his platoon were all women.

All things considered, the personnel selection seemed too mismatched. At first, Pasette didn't have any interest in Aleist. But as they journeyed together, she was among those whose hearts were moved by the gap between the leisure he showed and his usual conduct.

"When we were cleaning, I'd always wonder if he'd be alright, but the black knight is different after all."

Relaxing and stretching her stiff body, Pasette extinguished the lamp atop the desk and made for the bead. Once the room's light died down, she could see the lights outside. The light of the stars, and the slightly-distant lights of the business district.

As she absentmindedly gazed from the bed out the window, she heard a voice from the room next door.

'Prepare yourself, Captain Aleist!'

'Noooo!! Stop, don't be violent!!'

'It'll end in no time. Just count the number of stains on the ceiling!'

'I don't want to! I... I want my body to stay pure!'

'Ah, don't run! At this rate, there's a possibility your body will be forever defiled! In that case, can't you just give your first time to me!?'

'A girl shouldn't crawl into someone's bed! I'm begging you, just let me sleep!!'

Alongside those boisterous voices, she could hear the sound of the door slamming open with good momentum, and Aleist running down the corridor. A little later came the footsteps of her colleague giving chase. Ever since they had acted alongside Lieutenant Keith, the anxiety amongst the female knights had grown.

For the sake, these sorts of exchanges had grown in numbers.

(So today it's Fizz.)

Fizz Brandt was the third daughter of a Baron House. When she learned she would become the second wife of a noble who'd lost his first if she stayed, she ran off to the academy, and stayed there until she became a knight. Older than them, and having been born into a relatively affluent household, she was a woman who received a firm and proper education... or that's how it was supposed to be, but with such a tasty meal before her eyes, it seems she was unable to hold back.

(Fizz does get blinded by appearance, after all.)

Close in age to her, and be that as it may, he came from a high status. To Fizz, it was a chance she couldn't let get away.

The current Aleist was definitely set to take one of Courtois' two princesses as a bride. When that happened, it would mean the rise of Aleist's Hardie House. To marquis, or even archduke... perhaps the era of Three Lords would change to four.

A new archduke house would be born. To the nobles of Courtois, this was a serious affair. It meant the factions would largely shift. What's more, the Hardie House was an upstart with few usable vassals. Even if they scraped them up from their relatives, there's no way that would be sufficient.

The birth of a new power would be the trigger for large change in Courtois' stagnant noble society. For better or worse, Aleist was at the center of that.

"Hah, in that case, do the captain's rivals have the upper hand? They're archdukes to begin with, so maybe there's no room for him to step in."

The violent mistress candidate dispute had reached a dreadful impasse. At first, Pasette thought as long as it would aid in her excavations, she would raise her name as a candidate. But as she continued interacting with Aleist, she came to hate herself for that.

"I never should've fallen for him... if I didn't fall, then right around now, I'd be able to act for nothing more than my own profit. I really am an idiot."

Passing for a book-loving girl before Aleist, Pasette was also considering taking action like Fizz. She hated that part of her.

(I wonder what other stories the journal has to tell.)

Closing her eyes, Pasette fell asleep. Those two would probably return eventually. It was unknown whether Aleist would be caught and dragged back, or he'd run until dawn and Fizz would give up.

'After you've made a woman do so much, you're running away!?'

'Man and woman doesn't matter! What's important is how we feel about one another!'

'Feelings and shit like that will work itself out later! I've already prepared my heart, mind you.'

'And I haven't prepared mine! Seriously, stop it! Why is my platoon full of so many carnivorous beasts!?'

'If it's going to be stolen anyway, then give it to me! What are you unsatisfied with!? I know I shouldn't be the one to say it, but my appearance isn't a problem, is it!?'

'It's what's inside! Show a little more prudence!'

The voices came from outside the inn. Pasette knew the two of them had run out, and she grew fed up over what they were doing. But she did hope Aleist would run away.



Aleist kept low in a small lane between buildings.

The darkness that clad the black knight... freely manipulating his shadow, he hid from Fiss.

(Why am I using the black knight's abilities to run and hide... and this isn't the harem I imagined. It's too muddled, I can't take this anymore.)

The Platoon's composition was an order from up high. Even when Aleist exercised his authority, it was splendidly crushed to bits. Looking out the darkness, he saw Fizz draped in a gown pass nearby.

"He got away again. The captain should just give it up already."

Passing straight by him, Fizz returned to the inn. Aleist showed his form from his shadow, getting his messed-up pajamas in order. As a nightcrawling countermeasure, he placed his slippers where they could be worn in an instant, so he wasn't barefoot.

Fizz's late start came from her exercise of the minimum level of womanly modesty; she had searched for a gown and slippers, making her a little late to leave the room.

"This is definitely wrong. Why am I going through something like this?"

Lamenting, Aleist determined it was too dangerous to return to the inn. In order to kill a bit of time, he sunk into the shadows and gazed at the sky.

The sky he could see between the gap in the roofs looked more pretty than the one from the world he had been. Inside, he dreamed of looking up at the stars with Millia, in a place vaster than this.

But that was impossible, he had come to understand as of late. Whatever the case, Aleist's standing was still dubious. He was an upstart noble, and with his house's momentum, the surroundings had taken an adequate distance to watch them. Aleist's parents' thought processes were closer to a merchant than a noble, so they were pretty much neglecting the obligations of a noble.

He had received a noble's education, but he was dim on the topic of noble marriages to continue on the house.

Just as a fiancée had been decided for Rudel in his student days, Luecke and Eunius had numerous candidates. Magic granted a level of longevity so they wouldn't be wed in their student days, but even so, it wasn't rare for there to be a formal engagement for a student.

And since he'd been recognized as the black knight, women were flocking around Aleist.

"For some reason, it's quiet around Rudel, though."

What he couldn't accept was Rudel's situation. Aleist was paying caution to the rumors surrounding Rudel. But he didn't hear the slightest rumor of engagement or women. When he heard talks of some noble plotting a marriage, in the next week it was as if nothing happened at all.

"Having just one wife... is it really impossible?"

There was a time where he wanted to be surrounded by lots of women, but now, Aleist had someone he liked. When he had someone in his heart, he couldn't think of laying hands on another woman. But by the time he noticed it, he was in a situation that wouldn't permit it.

"Hah, what do I do if the number increases again..."

Dry up and die. That wasn't a joke, that situation truly was encroaching on him. At present, it was decided a princess of Courtois would marry into the Hardie House. Normally, Rudel marrying one of the princesses and succeeding the throne would be the ideal.

But the man in question had no such will, and the palace was moving as if it detested the very notion. A member of the dragoons, the heroes of Courtois, and rider of a rare white dragon, there was no one in the world better to make a symbol.

Though he'd hate that, Aleist gave a bitter smile.

When he dropped by the port town of Beretta, he saw Rudel get all muddied up as he did his best. Aleist was honestly envious. He seemed truly delighted as he worked.

"It's a good thing for a dream to be granted. But dreams, eh..."

Aleist thought over what he was aiming for. Beating the last boss was natural. Otherwise, the country would cease to exist. Even if it remained, it would be cornered into a harsh situation.

But what did he seek beyond that? To Aleist, it was much too obscure.

They were lives of pretty much running down predetermined rails, but even so, Luecke and Eunius were putting in the greatest effort they could. Even as they shouldered responsibility and expectations, the way they did what they wanted was envious.

"Just what is the protagonist supposed to be..."

Stabbed with a difference of values, Aleist looked at the sky and muttered.



In a café of the capital, Erselica and Lena were led to a private room.

As with the building's exterior, there was considerably craftsmanship put into the inside as well. That shop that nobles would use by choice was a harsh shop where customers were also requested to follow a certain level of manners.

Erselica turned to look at a restless Lena.

"Calm down a bit."

"No, I mean... I haven't worn a skirt in a while no, and dresses are a bit..."

Normally preferring Rudel's hand-me-downs and men's wear, Lena grabbed and lifted up the hem of her skirt. At that gesture, the host's expression reacted with a twitch, so Erselica stopped Lena with a glare.

The reason the two of them had dressed up and come to the capital was definitely not to play.

It was to hear of the palace's current state of affairs from a certain Luecke Halbades. Erselica had investigated into Luecke as much as she could. He shared what could be called a close friendship with Rudel, and he had no relations to the traitors Chlust was worried about... at the very least, she approached him with the hopes he wasn't related.

She had similarly tried to get in contact with Eunius, but as luck would have it, he was currently out of the capital.

"Walk this way."

The host who led them to the private room with polite gestures closed the door behind them. Inside, a different employee was preparing tea.

Light streamed in from the large window. But from the positioning of the tables and chairs, there was no worry of it becoming too bright.

"Luecke-san!"

"Wait, Lena!"

As Lenna suddenly let a loud voice into the calm café air, Erselica panicked. The employee was about to caution her when Luecke got the better of him.

"My apologies. We'll be talking a while, so after the tea is prepared, leave us be a while."

"Understood."

After preparing three people's worth of tea and snacks, the employee left the room. Erselica pinched her skirt's hem to give a curtsy, and Lena did her best to imitate. Unlike when she was holding a spear, why did she look so unreliable? Erselica was perplexed.

"Well, take a seat. We don't need any of that stiff stuff today. If you make me act like that even on my days off, you're going to wear me out."

(He's an adult.)

Erselica felt relieved at the leisure Luecke gave off. Taking a seat with Lena, she gave a simple greeting. The air he gave off was different than that of the boys she would usually meet, causing her to feel something close to admiration.

However...

"Ah, Luecke-san, could you tell us about noble relations? Me and my brother are no good with that stuff. But Erselica said she wanted to hear, so..."

"... Lena, how could you be so rude? You're before a future archduke. Even if he told us to act normally, the minimum level of etiquette m-"

"Leave it to me. I prepared in a way that's easy to understand."

All for it, Luecke handed the documents to Erselica. On it, the general relationship between the current noble houses was spelled out. There were a number of pages, so he must have gone through some effort to prepare it. But something smelled fishy to Erselica.

"Are you done preparing for the academy?"

"We're all good. I rented out big bro and Sacky, so me and Erselica are going to have an elegant trip through the sky. Ay, this cookie's nice."

"I see. If anything happens, just tell me. There are some things Rudel won't be able to deal with when he's out on the border."

As Lena and Luecke spoke with smile, Luecke casually took a memo of the name of the sweet Lena said was good. When Lena directed her eyes at Luecke's plate, he gave a warm smile as he passed it over. And then there were none.

(... Huh? He's acting somewhat different than before.)

Sure enough, he had perfectly looked into what was request. And Erselica was satisfied with the contents. But leaving her to the side, the sight of the pleasant chat between the two brought a few things to mind.

(As I thought, Rudel's friends are usually strange.)

Erselica scanned through the documents as she thought such a thing.
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