| Mystith and Sakuya had temporarily returned from the north sea, and the large load of pent caesars that carried back left Luxheidt, who had subbed in for surveillance duty, in mute amazement.
"You brought back quite a bit."
'Amazing, right!? They're for you.'
Sakuya put her hands to her hips in pride as she bent her back backwards. A majority of the pent caesars had been beaten in the face.
The dragon children started biting onto the giant sea creatures.
Apart from them, from the lake, slightly larger dragons on the verge of adulthood began gathering as well.
'Well, I hunted a majority of them. Sakuya, you see, she finally managed to do hovering, but she's not putting her body weight into her fists and tail.'
As Mystith made a punching motion, Rudel nodded. Her straits were of especially good form.
"I see Sakuya's working hard."
'As long as my feet touch the ground, I'm perfect! One, two, finish! Is what you do, and the boss is down for the count!!'
As Sakuya swung her fists around, the wind pressure shook the trees. Seeing she had regained her energy, Rudel smiled as well.
Unlike Rudel, Luxheidt's complexion was only going paler.
Having heard out the reason for Sakuya's running away, he knew his own dragon wasn't unrelated. Seeing Sakuya's punching motions, he worried for his partner.
"That's the spirit! ... But you see, Sakuya. I have some bad news. The dragon stable's boss is Lieutenant Cattleya's red dragon."
'O-oh no! I thought he was a good dragon...'
While Sakuya hung her head, Mystith to her side was shaking. After a moment of silence, she let out a roar to the heavens. Her roar practically contained enough force to part the clouds.
'That trash-tier dragoooonnn!! I'll send him straight to hell!!'
Having witnessed that scene, Luxheidt decided to resign from his surveillance duty. Meanwhile, Luxheidt's partner gray dragon informed its comrades at the dragon stable of this truth.
The stables were shrouded in the atmosphere of a wake.
"Formation flying? I've never seen it either."
'I see, I thought if anyone, you'd be the one to know.'
As Luxheidt's health took a turn and he went to bed, Mystith sought confirmation with Rudel about flying in formation. It was something that didn't exist in Marty's era, and something Mystith hadn't any interest in, so she didn't know.
But with the matter with Sakuya, she couldn't ask any of the dragons currently contracted to active dragoons.
So Mystith seriously began thinking over what to do in the request she had taken up from Sakuya.
"Ah, but I do know what they're going to do. It seems they're going to line up and fly over the airspace of the capital."
'That sounds easy enough.'
"No, apparently they need to do some aerial maneuvers as well. It's something of an established practice that happens every year, and it's for the new and old dragoons to display their mettle. Since it takes place every year, they try one-upping each other each year, so the level of difficulty's risen to a problematic level."
While Rudel explained, based on Sakuya's condition, he had the notion of not taking part in his field of vision. If it was possible, he wanted to participate, but he wasn't particularly fixated on it.
To Rudel, Sakuya was more important.
'Aerial maneuver? Over a city? As that child is now, there will be some substantial collateral damage.'
Right, for the current Sakuya, even turning around in midair was dangerous. Just by falling onto the city, the total damage would be considerable.
"That's right. I intend to withdraw."
'You idiot! You enormous idiot!! You might be alright with that, but that child will mind. Hah~, how troublesome.'
Looking at the rare sight of a dragon in thought, Rudel mulled over it seriously as well.
"Apparently, it's fine as long as you have impact, so could we give up on the aerial maneuvers and focus on something else? Dressing Sakuya up nicely or something?"
'I see, I'm not sure what to think about dressing her, but it's fine as long as there's impact, huh. That makes matters simple. We just have to put that child at the center and have the others do acrobatics around her.'
"Certainly. But Sakuya's large, so it will be a hard task for the new recruits."
The flight formations were done in groups split between newbies and veterans. From the fact there were nine new recruits that term, the formation would consist of nine steeds.
Rudel tried imagining the giant Sakuya with the other newbies' gray dragons and Enora's wind dragon flying around her.
But that lacked the impact.
It would appear too crude for the people who came to watch the dragons flying in formation each year.
'Leave it to me. I'll lead along some of the good-looking ones... if that's what it's come to, it'll take a bit of time.'
Mystith began preparing for her own flight formation.
"So I'm on surveillance again."
"Are you dissatisfied?"
"No... I, Enora Campbell, take on the duty of watching over Rudel."
In the vice-captain office, Enora saluted her father Alejandro. But Alejandro was on the clock, and he didn't treat her as a father would his daughter.
While that was the correct thing to do, for Enora, her father was always a dragoon. Even when he returned home, she barely saw any difference.
"Cattleya shows not the slightest motivation in this case. I'm placing my hopes on you."
While Alejandro didn't notice it himself, he was constantly comparing Cattleya and Enora. Enora was definitely his daughter, and he did love her, but that was precisely why he couldn't accept that she fell short of Cattleya.
And such words would always leave deep wounds on the girl.
The man himself had only spoken the truth. Cattleya was also involved in the matter at hand, and he hadn't the mind to compare her and his daughter.
(So my father plans to push the job Cattleya's unmotivated to do onto me.)
Alejandro wanted her to hurry and become a first-rate dragoon, he was sure he was being harsh on her for that sake. But his daughter Enora knew not such intent.
(Cattleya, Cattleya, Cattleya... if you like her so much, then just adopt her already!)
Leaving the office, Enora passed by the captain, Oldart, give a salute before leaving with swift feet to prepare for her mission.
Having been passed by, Oldart breathed out a sigh. He had noticed Enora's expression as if she was cornered, and sensed things weren't going well between Alejandro and his daughter.
The fact he knew the man was mindful of his daughter through his work led him to instantly understand Alejandro's lack of emotional leisure was the cause.
"What sort of face is that? That Alejandro, there really is no helping him."
A worn look on his face, Oldart dropped by the vice-captain office, entering the room without so much as a knock. There was a bundle of documents gripped in his hand and they were documents pertaining to the training ground Rudel had destroyed.
"Yo! I went and finished all the miscellaneous stuff."
These sort of matters were what Alejandro was supposed to do. Command of Rudel and Sakuya's search should have been taken by Oldart. In truth, a majority of the brigade members knew it would go better like that.
"You could at least knock. More importantly, about Rudel. When he gets back, we should have some severe punishment in store."
"Against an archduke? You're an idiot, aren't you."
Alejandro's serious intent to punish Rudel severely was blown away with a smile. In essence, the top brass of Courtois wasn't seeking that much from them.
More than that, it was more problematic that the vice-captain was seeking heavy punishment in the first place.
He was white knight, a future archduke, and there was even a possibility he could become the next king. Within all that, the authorities couldn't possibly accept Alejandro's opinion.
"What's wrong with seeking harsh punishment on a dragoon and a knight of this country!? If we treat him specially, we won't be able to set an example for the others!!"
"Don't get so angry. And just look here, Rudel and his dearest are a bit special. You need to learn to adapt and improve."
Alejandro's opinion was sound. At present, Rudel was but a single knight, and he had an obligation to obey orders from the top.
But Rudel's position was special, and what was asked of him was different.
"Adapt and improve? I don't want to hear that from the man who ends up behind in everything."
"Yeah, yeah, so... anyways. Did you find Rudel-kun?"
"... He's living a survival lifestyle in the dragons' dwellings. And to think he's enjoying it, how easygoing can he be."
Elsewhere from the words Alejandro spat out, Oldart gave a grin.
(Now that's an interesting one. If it were me, I'd decline having to camp out in that dangerous land. Well, it looks like it's going to be a pain, even after he gets back.)
Oldart looked at Alejandro, letting out a sigh at the stiff expression of his vice-captain.
(Hah, guess I'll have to follow through. Though Alejandro's going to be angry.)
A few days later, having switched out with Luxheidt on Rudel's surveillance duty, Enora was looking at Rudel.
Unlike last time, he had now received a new task from Mystith, and he was casting recovery magic on the child dragons.
As a knight, he was only required to know recovery magic to the extent of first-aid.
Seeing him start working on it so late in the game, Enora looked at Rudel with mocking eyes. Lowering her hips onto the tree stump that had become her favorite, she called out to Rudel, who continued his treatment a little ways away.
"Even if you do that much treatment, I don't think it'll make you a better dragoon."
But without even turning his face, Rudel responded.
"If I'm told it's something necessary for a dragon, then it's something necessary for me. I have to polish this healing magic more."
"Hah, isn't there something more important for you to do? Why don't you master your other magics? It's your specialty, right? Graduating the academy with top grades, winning the individuals' tournament, it all sounds too good to be true."
"... I'm not good at magic at all. That's why I desperately worked on it. I only have a bit of talent in swordplay and martial arts. If I went about it normally, I'd never beat genius. That's why I polished it. And even now, I'm training every day."
When Rudel said he couldn't win against genius, Enora shot back.
"What's with that!? You had talent, didn't you!? That's why your grades were at the top and you dominated the tournament, right? You say that's not talent? Don't make me laugh!"
When it came to enough effort to make one taste blood, Enora had done it as well. While being a girl, she had trained with her spear day after day until her hands turned rough and callous.
In studies and magic, under her father's words, she had desperately studied.
Yet even she couldn't reach the top of the academy. Her grades were in the upper ranks, but she was constantly compared to Cattleya, who went and graduated first.
She was different from Rudel, who delightedly trained every day because he wanted to become a dragoon.
Once Enora's voice converted to a scream, the young dragon by Rudel's side shot a ball of water. The orb racing towards Enora was small, but even so, it was something fired by a dragon, young as it was.
On that sudden occurrence, Enora was late to react. Hit by that orb, she ended up blasted back.
At that moment, she failed in her landing and twisted her leg.
The wind dragon nearby Enora opened its mouth wide, letting out a roar and taking up an intimidating stance towards the child dragon.
All the young dragons present took off at once, diving deep into the depths of the lake. Rudel was the only one left on the spot.
"You rascals, if you're going to run, then you shouldn't do mischief in the first place... those precious little things."
While the wind dragon intimidated Rudel, he didn't seem bothered by it. More than that, he knew that if it was really angry, the wind dragon would have killed him.
Heading over to Enora, he decided to look at her injury.
Removing her soaked clothes, Enora draped a robe over her undergarments.
She prepared an open fire to dry off her clothes. While she had a change of clothing prepared, she planned to change into it after she had Rudel look at her sprained leg.
Feeling a bit guilty, Rudel volunteered to treat her. More than anything, the swelling was a bit severe. As Enora was bad at healing magic, she chose to leave it to Rudel.
"There's a slight crack in the bone. Well, at this level, it'll work itself out."
"... I'm sorry about before. I got too emotional."
"Sure enough, you get emotional quite easily."
Seeing Rudel smile as he affirmed it, Enora's face went stiff. If she said something like that, she had thought a majority of men would deny it.
With the conversation going differently to how she expected, Enora ended up closing her mouth from embarrassment.
"Then I'll start... it's been a while since I tested on a human, but even if it hurts, do your best not to cry."
"I won't cry!"
But in the next moment, Enora's tears flowed.
"Kuh, any more is... no! I'm already..."
Slumped on the ground, her leg stuck out towards Rudel, Enora's robe had lightly peeled off. Every time she wrenched her body, her robe would reveal more.
Her face was red, her breath rough. And her eyes were unfocused. At first, she was sitting, showing only her leg, but now she lay with her hands frantically grasping the weeds that grew on the ground.
"Does it hurt? It's going to be over soon."
Rudel grasped Enora's ankle with his left hand to fix it in place, letting off a warm light of magic from his right. It was a healing magic, and a special healing magic he had learned from Mystith.
Healing was always accompanied by pain, and it was a magic specialized to relieve that pain as much as possible.
"Wrong! That's not ieeeek!"
As she gripped the weeds on the ground, she put in too much power and plucked them away. Her back arching, Enora bit onto the edge of her robe to prevent herself from letting out any more of her voice.
She couldn't raise any more embarrassing sounds.
Her mouth pulling away the bottom of her robe, Enora exposed her bare legs to Rudel. But now wasn't the time to care about that.
She felt her consciousness would fly away a number of times, and within that, Rudel put a stop to his magic.
"Are you alright?"
"Hah, hah, I-I'm fine... eh?"
It was only there that she recognized her own situation. She had writhed around so much her robe had almost completely come off. Her lower half was completely exposed to Rudel.
Growing embarrassed, she tried to restore her robe only for Rudel to restart his treatment.
"I see, then I'll go on. There's only a little more to go."
"W-wait! Wait I saaaayy!!"
Her agony continuing a little while longer, once the treatment was over, she was left laid over the ground, her robe fully open and exposing her body to Rudel.
From the sheer intensity of her treatment, there was saliva dripping from Enora's lips. At times, some meaningless words would come from her mouth.
"Yeah~, it looks like I've got a long way to go. But is a sprain really supposed to be that painful? ... I-it couldn't be! You mean my healing magic was extremely painful!?"
When Rudel was aiming for a healing magic that lessened the pain, this was a serious problem.
"When I was casting magic so the dragons wouldn't feel any pain, if it brings such torment to the all-important human patients, I won't be able to use it! Damn, I'll have to relearn it from the ground up."
A depressed Rudel, and Enora, who lay powerlessly.
Rudel was in a waist wrap, and Enora in her undergarments. If anyone saw, it was a scene open to all manner of misinterpretation.