| A few days after Rudel had fallen onto the hall, Sakuya and all...
In a room of the palace, Fina received a report from the two dragoons. She wanted to hear the events that transpired in the dragons' dwellings, and the reason they were late to the selection test. The two of them had already submitted their reports, but Fina called them out saying she wouldn't be satisfied unless she heard the details directly.
Classes in the academy had already begun, but the palace was in a frenzy, causing them to take measures they wouldn't usually take. The fact Fina had yet to return to school was because of all the confusion surrounding Rudel and Fritz.
Who was more worthy of being royal guard captain? No matter how you looked at it, that was Rudel, but Aileen's faction wouldn't permit it. From Fina's point of view, it wasn't a problem however the hell Aileen moved. So in order to leisurely draft up her future course, she had called out Rudel's two guards.
She looked expressionlessly at the two before her eyes, Lilim and Cattleya, as Sophina put them under scrutiny.
"So after he obtained a dragon, they were training it to fly? You mean to tell me it's a child at that size?"
She tried to hear out their testimonies but there were too many peculiar points. First came the dragon. Rudel's dragon was even larger than a wild dragon. It was a size larger than the largest gaia dragon. It was such a dragon, and yet they said it was doing flight training, making it late to the test.
Anyone would doubt it.
"No, I did say it was an adult, size-wise. But it was only born a few weeks ago..."
Correcting the position of her glasses at Lilim's report, Sophina continued her questions.
"Newly born and an adult... I'm an amateur when it comes to dragons, but I do know it takes some time to grow after they hatch from their eggs. Well, let's just move on. For what reason did so many wild dragons follow along?"
Cattleya answered that one.
"That's because the dragons said they wanted to give their thanks or something, and they wanted to look after Sakuya."
"Oh, can such a thing happen? Dragons are famous for getting less involved with one another than humans. I'll have to verify that one with Rudel-dono. Continuing on, why did you stay until after the deadline had gone by?"
From Sophina's attitude, it was clear as day she wouldn't believe them even if they reported the truth. Cattleya always had a tendency to look down on high knights, and her answers were becoming quite half-baked.
Understanding Cattleya was irritated, Lilim decided to answer everything on her own.
"Truth be told, when the white dragon was born, it seems she was unable to fly, and still immature as a dragon. The other dragons insisted their pride wouldn't allow them to send her into the world like that..."
"So everything is the dragons' fault. How convenient. It's something we'll never be able to confirm, so, well, power to you. But during that time period, what exactly were you two doing?"
"No, um... Rudel-sama said he would look after Sakuya, and wouldn't hear us out, so we had to accompany him."
While Sophina was irritated, she took care not to say anything too incisive. But to the earnest Sophina, Lilim and Cattleya's report was irritating.
"Report on the details! I'm getting tired of all these careless, vague remarks. The two of you have some responsibility in this, you know!"
As Cattelya averted her eyes, her attitude showing she wasn't repenting in the slightest, the blood rushed to Sophina's head. Things wouldn't go anywhere like this, so Fina swapped out. Seeing Cattleya suddenly revise her attitude, Sophina mumbled complaints to herself.
"This isn't getting anywhere. Let me step in. Both of you, can you give a detailed report on the events from the dragon's birth to your arrival at the hall? (Hmm, you've got a ways to go, Sophina. You're dealing with my master... it's impossible to think things went down normally! Now what sort of report will I be able to hear!!? I won't be surprised no matter what you tell me!)"
Amused within, Fina heard out the flow of events that led them to the hall.
First, after arriving at the dragons' dwelling, they were put to sleep with medicine, and in that space, Rudel obtained a dragon. But in order to obtain that dragon, Sakuya who forcefully came along became a sacrifice... they gave a simple explanation of how that made it so the dragon born was far more immature than its appearance would suggest.
"... Is that so. That girl was..."
Even Sophina couldn't understand what Fina was thinking. But expressionless as she was, she looked sorrowful.
"That's where the problems began. The dragons started to get entangled with the white one in excess. It seems they were looking after her, and they said something about atoning for something."
The reason Lilim's words were so muddled lay in that even her own contracted dragon hadn't given her the details. She was unable to talk with the other wild dragons. So she couldn't learn anymore.
"They taught her how to fly in the sky, and how to hunt prey; meanwhile, we were living a survivalist lifestyle, but... Rudel-sama started training alongside a former dragoon's water dragon."
Fina's shoulders were shaking a bit. She silently looked at the two before her eyes. Tell me what happened, quickly, Sophina could see her applying a silent pressure.
"At first, it was training on a dragoon's way of combat. But along the way, it devolved into horseplay, and they started fooling around."
As Cattleya recalled Rudel's few weeks, she could only see it as them playing around. But Lilim to her side's complexion changed as she revised Cattleya's report.
"No, that wasn't anything so lukewarm! Rudel-sama was definitely not playing around!"
"Eh? Wait, Senpai?"
"Lilim, go on. (What's with their reactions... more importantly, I'm curious about this water dragon he got involved with. I doubt it, but...)"
Lilim got worked up as she spoke of the new skill Rudel had picked up.
"It was an application of water magic. Applying a slippery property to water, you use it to cover their body. It was considerably slippery, so at first I thought he was learning how to use traps or something. But that wasn't it! That... that was a lost art omitted from the book!"
Slippery water... it was lotion. Meaning Rudel had learned lotion play. It was an ultimate technique Marty hadn't noted down in his book. After that, Rudel perfected a special art of his own, but that is a different story.
"W-what was that!? By book, you couldn't mean...!"
Lilim's powerful explanation even shocked Sophina. Fina was expressionless, but she held up a hand to hold Sophina back as she urged Lilim on.
"To think 'How to Pet a Dragon' was still incomplete... in that case, could this water dragon you spoke of be the dragon of legend? (For real... come so far, master's reached a height beyond my reach. No, this is a godsend! I must rejoice that what was lost has been revived!!)"
"Rudel-sama was considerably depressed, so he devoted everything he had, and lost himself in training. In the last few days, the dragon initiated him into the secret arts! At this point, there is no one in the world who can best Rudel-sama..."
"P-princess! This is a national crisis!!"
"Calm down, Sophina. I'll take some measures... but this has become something terrible. Both of you, make sure not to speak of this matter outside. (It's heeeerrre!! Master's finally gone and done it!! I can't sit still. I have to move at once... first, I should do something about that royal guard.)"
Left behind by the surrounding situation once again, Cattleya honestly began to wonder if she was the strange one.
(Is it me? Am I the odd one out!? What's the meaning of this!! Senpai's been like that from the start, and that high knight I don't like was surprised, and more than anything... the princess' hands are shaking!! Am I really the strange one!?)
Fina immediately started thinking of what was to come. She had finished investigating into the knights who were sent out to search for Rudel, and the minister responsible. She learned they had only pretended to search for him, and she caught onto Aileen's schemes. There were plenty of ways she could make use of both facts.
"After that, we lost our sense of time until your messenger came by, and, well..."
Lilim struggled to go on, but Fina had already lost interest. To be blunt, she couldn't' care less. If being late meant Rudel was initiated into the secret arts, she would even reward them for it.
"Good work, both of you. You shall hear of your punishment later, but as you've heard out my selfish request, I'll make sure nothing bad becomes of you."
Seeing off the two as they left, Fina ordered Sophina to lead the minister in.
"If you plan to punish them, shouldn't we report to his majesty?"
"Punish? What could you be talking about, Sophina? There is no point in reporting to father. The one who used the minister was my sister, and soft on the finish as she was, my sister accomplished her goal. It wouldn't be strange if there are some among the higher-ups who simply left my sister's actions be."
"Then what good comes of calling them?"
"That's simple. I just have to make it all go as my sister wants. The royal guard will be established, and her boyfriend Fritz can be captain for all I care. Let's have the minister help out too."
Sophina couldn't accept that Fina was letting Aileen be. She thought Fritz' conduct at the academy would be unnecessary at the palace. But Fina's plan was the opposite.
"Are you questioning my actions? I'm not leaving them be. More so, I'm helping my dear sister out. We'll establish the royal guard, and station everyone who shares in her ideologies there. (The demi-human discrimination is terrible among the palace's knights. We'll gather them all up in one place, and steal away their authority... when that happens, they'll be short on hands, will they not! And if they don't have enough people, then they have no choice but to supplement them from elsewhere!!)"
An organization called the royal guard would likely hate simply doing odd jobs around the palace. Foreseeing that, Fina hurried to form her own planned knight brigade of demi-humans. Her sister Aileen's actions had actually made it easier for her to move.
Even if, hypothetically, Aileen made a move, the royal guard would be her pieces. Fina would have to prepare pieces of her own. Her honest thought was to use that as a reason to create a brigade of fluffies. Persuading her father and mother, Fina prepared an opposing force.
She based her actions on the belief that Aileen would surely run reckless.
"Now things are going to get busy. First, let's put that minister to work... (Those small-time villains are basically just there to be crushed, and I won't even feel bad about it! How wonderful!)"
Sophina wanted Fina to put just a little bit of that decisiveness towards the country's well-being.
Changing locations to the academy, Rudel was talking to Izumi. When it came to the main event of the second term, for the fundamental curriculum, it was the wilderness training. For the upperclassmen, the individuals' tournament.
But the topic of their conversation was gradually drifting away from the tournament. At first, they spoke of who they'd go up against this time, and how Rudel's mana regulation was going. But once Rudel said he had learned a new technique, Izumi held her head.
"Isn't it amazing!? Marty-sama's dragon personally initiated me into the secret arts! I have a long way to go to reach Marty-sama, but I think I've gotten just a little bit closer... Izumi, does your head hurt?"
"Rudel, from the context, I can understand you had some harsh training pounded into you. But you see. Why did you only train that side!? That's clearly strange, isn't it!?"
"What!? What about it? What part is strange? The application of water magic was truly difficult to learn. That slipperiness, or rather that exquisite sensation was considerably difficult to reproduce."
Before Izumi, Rudel heatedly spoke on about lotion play. Izumi held her head as she muttered.
"Rudel, just what exactly are you aiming for? That's got nothing to do with dragoons. The strongest knight won't be doing anything like that."
"You're wrong, Izumi! It's precisely because I'll be strongest that I have to take it to the limit! Do you want me to tell you Marty-sama's legends? Like how he leapt into an enemy camp alone? There was this one time he even punched the prince, you know!"
"... Isn't that treason? A major problem?"
That conversation that didn't mesh continued on a good while longer.