| The first princess of Courtois, Aileen. Ever since she was attacked by monsters, she had developed an intense hate of demi-humans. The beastmen tribes were no exception, and she even drove the demi-human knights around her from the castle. In Courtois that was harsh on demi-humans from the start, that didn't prove to be a problem.
But Aileen was, as Fina would put it, a fluff hater. She ended up imagining demi-humans whenever she saw them. Even if she could endure horses and other necessary animals, she couldn't permit the pet dog the family treasured.
"Get rid of this beast!"
With just those words, the large and fluffy pet dog was gotten rid of. Her family members, the king and queen only learned of this after the fact, but with the blow Aileen suffered to her heart, they couldn't condemn her for it. But the one who never learned of that dog's disposal was Fina.
Fina doted on her beloved dog. With her lack of expression, at the time, those around were troubled with how to deal with her. Within all that, only the dog could sense her emotions. When she was lonely he would snuggle close. When she wanted to cry he would stay by her side. He was a gentle dog.
Aileen's attack happened when she was young. And Fina was even younger. At her age, everyone around tried to be mindful, and she was never told about the dog. With her expressionless face and the fact she hadn't yet learned to properly talk, they were all sure she would forget about him in no time.
From the day her beloved dog disappeared, Fina would go search for him every day. She had grown bigger, and even if she no longer knew what she was searching for, Fina would search the palace for her beloved dog on vague memories she could barely recall.
Even now, somewhere in her heart, Fina searched for her fluffy pet dog.
"... A dream?"
(I kinda get the feeling I had the bestest fluffiest dog by my side...?)
Opening her eyes on the bed of her private room, her eyes stopped on Mii of the white cat tribe sleeping beside her. Her soft breaths as she slept in peace... Fina expressionlessly stroked her head. And she remembered the dog she had met in a dream.
"Am I lonely?"
(It must be god's way of telling me not just a white cat, I should get someone of the dog tribe in my hands as well. Hmm... what a greedy woman am I.)
If he saw her now, even her pet dog would shake his head to deny it. But paying no mind to that, Fina started fluffing Mii up.
"P-princess! Good morning... where do you think you're fondling!?"
Waking up from the fluffing, Mii noticed that Fina was stroking and fondling her all over.
"Good morning Mii."
(Where? Everywhere of course, my little kitten!!!)
"The punishment is on hold?"
"Yeah, to be quite honest, this is a problem beyond the academy's hands. Though we'll still be demanding repair charges for the proving ground from both your houses."
Rudel and Aleist had been summoned by the headmaster. In his office, they were informed of what was to come. The palace's orders only told them to be zealous in their studies at the academy.
Opinions were divided in the palace, and they were only trying to stall for time. Luckily enough, they were both already knights of the country. While they would face some increased discomforts, it was concluded there would be no problem for them to continue studying hard at the academy.
"B-but what are we supposed to do henceforth?"
"Aleist-kun, just act nor... no, just don't cause any problems. You are both talented students, so keep studying until you graduate. But when it comes to your future careers, you might have to follow the palace's orders."
Rudel reacted to those words. On those vague words of 'the palace's orders', it felt as if his path to be a dragoon was far.
"Headmaster, around when will we be able to hear the palace's orders?"
"At the very least, the second term of your fifth year... around a year. Right, you have a year, Rudel-kun."
Rudel understood what the headmaster wanted to say, as he gave the date the palace said it would issue its orders. You have to do something in that one-year timespan. That's how Rudel took it.
"Thank you, Headmaster."
After giving a bow, Rudel withdrew from the headmaster's office. And left behind, Aleist also bowed and chased after him. In the office, the headmaster looked at the doorway they had left through as he muttered.
"A year, that's how long you have for your efforts to bear fruit."
But wouldn't Rudel be able to accomplish it? The headmaster had his hopes.
"Obtain a dragon in a year? Are you sane, Rudel?"
Chancing by Luecke on his way back from the headmaster's office, Rudel told him of the palace's orders and the headmaster's words. And he told Luecke his current objective.
"I'm lucid. If I don't do something in this period, the royal palace is going to chain me down. With the sturdiest of chains at that... now's all I have."
"I'm sure there are a number of means, but are you going to go out searching at once?"
Go and search... right, apart from the gray dragons managed by the country, he would have to go looking in the deep forests the dragons made their homes. But while there were dragons who would tie contracts with humans, there were others who would attack them. If they didn't recognize him, he would have to resolve himself to fight.
And the forest was strictly managed by the country. In order to meet the country's valuable fighting force, the dragons, you would have to undertake harsh examinations. Even if he wanted to be granted a gray dragon, it was only natural as he would be becoming one of the country's elite dragoons.
From Rudel's lineage and the fact the king thought well of him, the examination wouldn't be a problem... Luecke thought. But dragons weren't the sort of existence that would recognize you solely if you had talent. Even if Rudel was strong, if the dragons wouldn't recognize it or came to hate him, that was the end.
"Are gray dragons no good?"
"I-it's not like I hate gray dragons or anything! But taking the time into account, it won't be possible. There are quite a few knights who set out to be dragoons due to their popularity, and dragons have a high maintenance cost. There are no spare dragons idling around so I would have to wait for someone to retire."
If a dragoon retired or perished in battle, an opening would come out. But when they died in battle, it was often the case the dragon would die as well. That in mind, one would generally have to wait for an active dragoon to retire if they wished to obtain a gray dragon.
"... The examinations will take time too, right? Then you should keep the option in your field of vision. Wild dragons are much too dangerous."
Right, the fact the dragoon vice-captain rode a gray dragon was a sort of proof. Dragons generally didn't recognize mankind. It wasn't very common for anyone to receive their blessing. Both Cattleya and Lilim were abnormal existences among the dragoons.
"You're right. I'll keep that in mind. More importantly, why are you keeping silent, Aleist?"
Aleist was surprised to have the conversation suddenly turn his way. After mulling over whether to say it or not, he decided to consult with Rudel and Luecke.
"T-the truth is... I was confessed to."
"By Yunia? Then there's no helping that you mull over it. I heard you said you had someone in mind and rejected her... well, her house just put her up to it, wanting some connections to your house."
Luecke recalled the rumors he had heard from his followers, and Aleist knew that was how it went in the game so he wasn't surprised. He wasn't surprised, but the problem wasn't Yunia.
"That's not it. Yunia is one thing, but this time, another girl confessed to me."
"You're as popular as ever, Aleist."
While Aleist hung his head, Rudel spoke with a smile. Aleist continued on.
"The first years Seli and Juju confessed to me."
Hearing those names, Luecke was surprised. Luecke was on the dimmer side when it came to women, but even he knew those names. They were famous within the academy.
"... the former noble Seli and the tiger tribe's princess. I've heard Seli's swordplay might even line her up with Eunius, and then there's that girl who's known for being small for a tiger tribe woman. You have it rough."
They were both pretty. Imagining those two you could even call beauties, Luecke felt pity for Aleist. The reason was simple. They were pretty, but they had strong personalities. The strong-willed female knight, and the princess of the tribe with the strongest martial arts. If it were him, he'd reject them, thought Luecke.
In their event, Aleist would be smacked as a means of them hiding their embarrassment. It's because he knew it would happen that he was so depressed. There was no pain beyond the screen, but within it, the protagonist was writhing on the floor. And right now, he knew that would happen to him.
"I've heard those two names before. I don't really know the specifics, but it's important to make things clear, Aleist."
"If you reject them you get hit. If you date them you get hit. What am I even... but I don't want to give up on Millia."
Rudel and Luecke pat Aleist's depressed shoulders. Ever since Aleist awakened as a black knight, numerous confession events from numerous girls had sprung up. Among them were some who aimed for him solely as a valuable gem, but there were some who just honest-to-goodness liked him.
After the palace learned of the black and white knights, Rudel's dragoon application become a problem. The examinations showed no problem, but that was as an individual. Was there really a need to make the Arses House's eldest son and the white knight Rudel a dragoon? It had caused some dispute in the palace.
"The white knight a dragoon? As if we could accept such a thing!"
"Then you say treating him as a high knight would be more proper?"
"Even if they're waning, he's one of the Three Lords. Just put him to work as a feudal lord."
"We should keep him under management at the palace! A dragoon is no more than a simple knight!"
"The problem's if he gets a dragon and ends up running away."
"That's an if! Reality might have him killed by that very same dragon."
That drawn-on meeting had been going on for a number of days, and it didn't look as if it were reaching an end. But there, a single piece of good news came out. A single dragoon knight put in a retirement request giving his old age as the reason.
"A gray dragon has opened up?"
The one reporting to the king was the vice-captain of the dragoons. Hearing that report, the king proposed to grant Rudel that dragon. The statesmen participating in that meeting decided to take up that request. But they decided to put on a bit of a condition.
Even if they gave him a dragon, they wouldn't let him fly freely. Give him status and fame, and a title in name alone... that was the statesmen's decision. Even if he rode a dragon, they wouldn't make him a dragoon. From their point of view, they needed Rudel and Aleist to become symbols.
"Won't there be some opposition if we forcefully push him into it?"
"He'll be a knight recognized by a dragon. Where lies the problem?"
"There'll be backlash regardless."
"Then we just have to smooth it over, be it in appearance alone."
The meeting went on, and certain things were decided. It was to use a single gray dragon to select the captain of the royal guard. The royal guard captain also got a dragon, and everyone apart from the high knights could try for the position. Those were the contents.
Meaning they would make it seem as if Rudel was chosen before everyone's eyes. It was a setup. A completely new organization called the royal guard was being formed for the sake of Rudel alone. Meanwhile, the black knight Aleist was from a noble house you could call upstarts... there were any number of ways to get him under their wing, the ministers thought.
"His obsession with dragons was the problem, so on the contrary, well give him one, eh."
"We were just troubled by his lack of interest in status or power. This is just right."
"You need only give a toy to a noisy child."
The ministers who had worried over their white knight problem, their nerves grew lax as if finally headed towards its resolution. And hearing the talks of those statesmen, the new royal guard became the hottest rumor among the palace's servants. As the rumor spread on it was followed by embellishments and the lies some added on for mischief's sake until eventually, Aileen caught wind of it.
In order to confirm the truth of the rumor, Aileen called out to a single minister. Successfully grasping the weakness that lay in his corruption, Aileen succeeded in confirming its authenticity.
"Then the formation of the royal guard truly has been decided."
In a secret meeting behind closed doors, Aileen was protected by a high knight who got along with her as she talked to the minister.
"Y-yes! For no other reason than to push Rudel into it, the unit's formation has been decided. Once he takes position, it is thought he will be shifted over to territory management..."
"I don't care about that!"
Aileen interrupted the minister's words and made a certain proposal.
"Well then statesman, around when will the selection open up?"
"At earliest, when both Rudel and Aleist are in their graduating years."
Hearing those words, Aileen made two requestion.
"Then I have two things to ask of you, statesman. First, have them hold the exhibition in the second term. When the matter's still hazy it should be possible. As for the other, there's an individual I want you to include by all means."
"? I don't really mind, but at the very least, it will be difficult unless they have obtained knight qualifications."
Aileen smiled and told the minister it wouldn't be a problem. The future she envisioned went as follows. Having just obtained knight qualifications, Fritz managed to be chosen by a dragon in the exhibition he just happened to participate in. Aileen knew how to make it happen.
After the minister left, Aileen recalled her hated Rudel and smiled.
(I shall put you to shame for everyone to see! For Rudel who humiliated Fritz-sama, I shall be the one to get revenge!!!)
The corruption of a minister with influence over the exhibition. Having been able to get her hands on such information, from Aileen's point of view, it was the greatest of luck. But from the point of view of the setting, it wasn't luck or anything else. It was simply an event.