| The academy grew busy as it entered its third term. Its graduate classes with their futures... while its enrolled students put zeal into the inter-class tournament.
"Well then, Rudel-kun and Izumi-san, next is..."
It was the same in Rudel's class. Those with good grades, or who the teachers saw as competent were asked to represent their class. It was possible to decline, but few ever did. Participating as a representative of one's class was generally seen as an honor.
An honor for the nobles, and a chance for the commoners to get their names out there.
Class had ended, and it was already decided Rudel would be one of the participating members. At present, he was reading a book in the afterschool classroom. As he had to return a library book today, he planned to read and return it before returning to the dorm.
Rudel was living a fulfilling life at the academy. From the early morning, in a terrible state without even her hair in order, Basyle would teach him the practical uses of magic, and those around him had begun talking to him without restraint.
To Rudel's side, Izumi was similarly reading a book in the classroom. Throughout the third term, she had continued acting alongside him. But rather than reading the book... she was looking at Rudel.
From Izumi's eyes, Rudel was a strange, but upfront person. He declared he would become the strongest dragoon in the country, and his form as he endeavored was quite likable. What's more, her school life had been saved by him on the first day. Izumi thought of Rudel as something beyond a good friend.
... Not that Rudel could tell.
Rudel finished reading his book, placing it down on the desk. As he did, he struck up a conversation with Izumi.
"The inter-class tournament... our first match is with Aleist's class, right?"
As Rudel suddenly started into the topic, Izumi panicked inside.
"Y-yeah... are you anxious after all?"
"Anxious? No, if possible, I want to fight Aleist. Just how far have I grown, what am I lacking... if I fight Aleist- the strongest in our year- perhaps I'll understand it. And... if I'm doing it, I'm going for the win."
To Rudel, defeat held no meaning. He could just stand up again. But more meaningless than that was a victory without any benefit.
Rather than fighting a weakling and winning, fighting someone strong and losing held more value to the current Rudel. Right now, he was in a learning environment, and this was a match...
"You're always so optimistic, Rudel... I'm envious."
As Izumi looked down, Rudel tried asking what had been on his mind all this time.
"What do you have your sights on, Izumi? You came to this academy because you have a goal, right?"
Izumi started speaking, a little embarrassed. Izumi's dream was to gain knight status in Courtois... and not just any ordinary status. Above the standard knights, she wanted to be part of the elites generally known in Courtois as high knights... it was a lot on the shoulders of a foreigner like Izumi, but even so, she was sent to help out her brother, and the rest of her house that would follow behind.
High knight wasn't a one-generation position. In Courtois that valued accepting in new blood, it would mean obtaining noble status. But the examinations and standards were set as high as you'd expect.
"Why do you want knight status in Courtois? Isn't your house a knight house in your country?"
Rudel wasn't too knowledgeable on foreign affairs. At most, he understood diplomatic relations. He couldn't understand why Izumi wanted to become a knight in Courtois.
"... We lost the coup. My clan can no longer get involved with politics. And the persecution may get worse... in short, we want to emigrate. But even so, my clan is a line of military men. If we get a high knight out of our family, it won't just be a temporary knight status, our clan will be recognized as a knight lineage."
The difference between dragoon and high knight; while high knights didn't ride dragons onto the front lines, they were a defensive role, a shield that protected the important figures of the country. If the dragoon were the spear, they were also one of the essential existences in Courtois.
"They'll tell you to abandon your country, and swear loyalty to Courtois. You'll be casting aside the country you were born in... does your clan have that level of resolve?"
"You ask some harsh things... yes, we have the resolve. That's why I'll become a high knights. If do end up being a high knight and gaining noble status, I may become trouble to the Arses House."
Rudel thought it was about simple factional relations. Serving under a high ranking noble was only natural for the younger houses. Even if you lined up ideals, no matter how talented your house may be, you wouldn't be able to survive if you made an enemy of the larger noble houses.
"I see, I'll support you, and I'll support your clan. But that is my individual position... if you're going to come under someone's umbrella, then you'd better refrain from the Arses house. You'll only taint the status you went to such lengths to obtain."
It was Rudel's turn to hang his head. The Arses house's affiliated nobles were leaving one after the next. Its internal affairs were in shambles, and it would take quite some time for it to rebuild. A waning house... that was the Arses House.
"Aren't you the next head? Then someday..."
"As long as he lives, my father will never hand his status over to me. I'm sure he's still got a few decades in him... I do feel sorry for the people, but that's another reason I want to be a dragoon. You see, Izumi, that's the sort of man I am. Someday, I'll become a feudal lord and stick my hands in internal affairs... but I have no idea whether I can better the Arses territory in my lifetime."
Rudel was aware of his own selfishness. He was abandoning his suffering people to become a dragoon. But even so, he wanted to be a dragoon.
"You should go search for a noble to support you while you can. Luckily, there are two other eldest sons from the Three Lords here, and there are a few folks from Marquis Houses enrolled."
"... Yeah. Perhaps you're right."
As the classroom dyed orange in the setting sun, the two of them stood and returned to their own dorms. Izumi was just a little saddened. If she asked Rudel whether he'd become a dragoon, or take her, then surely he'd choose dragoon without hesitation. It was clear enough...
And it was because she could understand how serious Rudel was... that she would try her best. She renewed her resolve.
The character called Izumi in Aleist's secret notes was a Yamato Nadeshiko, and a young girl at the mercy of her clan. In her love event, an important choice where you told her she didn't have to be held down by her house was the key.
Izumi was 'unable to become a high knight', and by her clan's decision, she was to become the mistress of a high ranking noble, only for the protagonist to swoop in and rescue her. Looking at that information, Aleist lay in his room as he talked to himself.
"We're almost at the tournament event, and Izumi's events are going to start... but honestly, Vargas is a dubious character. I'm not particularly proceeding his events, but I guess it doesn't matter."
Aleist held no interest in the country boy Vargas. Vargas, an older brother-like character... but Aleist planned to fill out his party with women. It felt idiotic to let Vargas take up his time.
So he thought.
By the way, Izumi's partner was to be Rudel of the Arses House. Perhaps the two were bound by a strange sort of fate.