| The unveiling display two days away, the main street of the capital was lively.
The newbie dragoons walked boldly down that rowdy main street. They didn't particularly intend to put on air, but they were elites, and the dragoons recognized as the heroes of the country.
Showing humility and servility was also a problem.
Within that group, Rudel was in high spirits. Saas, who often spoke to him in the brigade, grew curious and ended up asking.
"You're in quite a good mood, Rudel. Since the vice-captain called you out to remove you from the formation, I thought you'd be down."
Saas was a man with sharp eyes and a bad mouth on him. But among their colleagues, he was the closest to Rudel. Despite the hatred that occasionally escaped his mouth, he was a man who worried for his comrades, in the past half year they spent together, Rudel had noticed it.
"You can tell? The truth is, it looks like the flight formation matter will work itself out. We can't do any acrobatics, but I'm sure you'll be surprised."
Recalling his conversation with Mystith, Rudel smiled. His surrounding colleagues, Saas included, seemed relieved to see a satisfied Rudel.
His dragon had run away once, and they had been worried she would run away again.
Gathering the eyes of the people- especially the men- passing by on the main street, Enora walked beside Rudel. Ever since their dragoon dogfight, she began to treat him like a good friend. She would often invite him out for lunch on their days off, and the distance between them was definitely closing in.
Such an Enora was a tad bothered by the ruckus of the main road.
"What's wrong, Enora? Do you dislike a festive air?"
As Rudel directed his eyes at Enora, his other colleagues' eyes gathered on her as well. For better or worse, Rudel had become something of a leader to the new recruits.
This was probably related to his partner Sakuya's official rule over the dragon stables.
Rather than the other eyes, receiving a look from Rudel caused Enora to deny it in a bit of a panic.
"I don't particularly hate it, but when it gets to this level, entering a store will be dreadful. They're all fully occupied by the new knight recruits from all over the place."
Enora said, as she directed her eyes to a nearby shop. Sure enough, the pub-ish shops facing the main road had been conquered by droves of knight-ish young knights. It wasn't particularly a bad thing. Around this time of year in the royal capital, one could call this scenery a harbinger of the season.
But the dragoons couldn't drink tomorrow. A brigade regulation... or rather, it was an order from Oldart.
'When I can't play around, to hell with the new recruits having fun on their own. I'm banning all alcohol on the day before the expo!'
The new recruits couldn't tell whether he was joking or serious. But it definitely was bad for the dragoons to be hungover during an important display. They accepted that.
"It looks like most of the shops that serve alcohol are full."
Rudel muttered as he looked over the knights happily drinking, when Luxheidt made a proposal. When it came to these matters, Luxheidt was the most reliable of his colleagues.
Enora knew a few famous stores in the capital, but when it came to bars, that was outside her area of expertise.
"I thought this might happen! I took the liberty of hearing this and that from our superiors."
"As expected of our Brahms and Liszt head."
"Eh? That's what I'm head of? I thought I was on the general planning committee."
As Luxheidt returned a joke to Saas' cynicism, everyone smiled. Seeing those newbie dragoons, the surrounding passersby seemed perplexed.
"That aside, they're always crowded around this time. From what I heard, it seems we're best off going to a high-class shop. They have good service to start with, and they're rarely filled up., they say."
The drunk knights of the outskirts often picked fights with the elite dragoons. It felt idiotic to have to waste time every time, so he recommended a store with relatively nice goods.
"If it's too expensive..."
While Saas seemed reluctant, Luxheidt explained away.
"A dragoon can't quite go to a cheap place, right? From time to time, it's important to go to a place befitting your status. And look, our salary is nothing to laugh out."
Right, a dragoon's salary was truly high. Rudel didn't really pay it any mind, but to those from knight-class families, nobles in name alone, like Saas and Luxheidt, it was an unbelievable sum.
"No, I get that."
Rudel looked over Saas' reluctance with a smile. With his large family, Saas was sending most of his money home. In contrast, Luxheidt was in a position where he didn't have to pay mind to those sorts of things.
"Let's listen to Luxheidt here. Lest we spend precious time searching for a shop."
As Rudel directed them towards Luxheidt's opinion, everyone accepted and started off towards a famous high-class pub.
Before the unveiling in two days' time, Cattleya had dropped by her superior Lilim.
Originally, she wanted to submit a report before taking the new recruits off drinking. But Lilim stopped her with a smile that wouldn't take no for an answer.
Cattleya's platoon was a part of Lilim's company, and she couldn't go against her orders. More than that, Lilim still held a grudge over having the responsibility of Rudel's case shoved onto her.
In an office those of Major rank could use, Cattleya was helping out with paperwork. She accepted the fact she had foisted off the responsibility, and felt sorry about it. But her dissatisfaction escaped her mouth.
"Aah, I was planning to go drinking, you know."
Every time Cattleya finished up a form, a complaint would come out of her mouth. Lilim was silently completing more than double the amount of papers. Finally reaching the end of her patience, Lilim warned her.
"Cattleya, could you give it a rest already? You understand that a majority of these documents are a result of the responsibility you had me take, right?"
Lilim opened her eyelids, faintly showing her pitch black eyes.
"Is that so? But in the end, the vice-captain took responsibility, right? Then shouldn't that be the end of it?"
"... Right. In the end, the vice-captain did indeed take responsibility. But the work you pushed onto me didn't go away!"
"Taking responsibility is the responsibility of the one responsible, Major."
To Cattleya's attitude as she closed up that conversation and picked up her next form, Lilim gripped her shaking fist. If she was up to it, Cattleya was capable of work. More than that, she was able to complete paperwork on Lilim's level.
She just didn't, which made it all the worse.
... Once the forms were done with, Lilim poured Cattleya some tea. She felt it would be too awkward to just drive her away like that. The topic of conversation turned to the new recruits.
"So do we have any promising kids?"
"... Four of them, I guess. Well, two go without saying, and the other two give off a real ruffian feel. A rebellious one and a light one, I guess."
As she thought over the two of them, Cattleya recalled Oldarts face. Their captain Oldart, if Cattleya had her say, was a ruffian as well.
"I see, so it looks like four will be able to add to our main force."
Lilim muttered as she drank the tea she put out. Unlike Cattleya, she was a long-lived elf. Of course, that held an advantage of having a long period over which she could work. The core of the dragoon brigade had high hopes for her.
While the two of them carried out a serious conversation, when the topic of Enora came out, Cattleya suddenly started complaining.
"More importantly, that Enora girl! That breast monster, lately she's been on the attack when it comes to Rudel, she keeps trying to make a pink air. It's irritating. Just the other day, she clung onto him, you know."
"... That really is a problem. Yes, she's disrupting the public morals of the brigade."
"Exactly! Whenever she clings onto Rudel, the vice-captain's mood goes hell."
"Come to think of it, he was a bit angry when he came to the capital a few days ago."
"Ah, that one was different. It seems even he got irritated with Rudel not noticing Enora's feelings."
"Some things never change.
While Lilim's tone was worn, Cattleya didn't overlook it. For just a moment, Lilim had made a delightful expression.
As Rudel and the dragoons entered the shop, luckily enough, there were open seats.
What's more, some familiar faces were conveniently gathered. The ones he had spent his academy life with, Luecke, Eunius, Aleist and Millia. Even Izumi was there.
"What's this, so you all came as well."
While Rudel secured a seat with a smile, the surrounding air was truly heavy. The other tables were happily conversing, but around the area Rudel had taken his seat, there was little talk going on. No, it seems Rudel's arrival began the conversation.
"Been a while."
Catching sight of Izumi, Rudel was relieved to see her pulling off the stylish high knight uniform. While she gave off a more mature air than she had half a year ago, he was relieved to see she had barely changed.
"Rudel, it's been a while. Have you been well?"
"Yeah, Sakuya's doing well too."
"I see, that's good."
Hearing their conversation, Enora sat beside Rudel. Rudel didn't seem to mind, and he was just about to introduce Enora when Luxheidt whispered into his ear.
"Hey, what's with these members? And what's this heavy air?"
Hearing that, he looked around for the first time. Sure enough, Luecke and Eunius weren't talking. Their followers seemed to have undergone a complete change after moving from the academy to the workforce. In the past, they had all eaten at the same table, and Rudel did feel something was off.
"Luecke, Eunius, what's wrong?"
As Rudel called out to the two of the, the knights around Eunius directed sharp looks. But once they noticed Rudel's party was a party of dragoons, their eyes suddenly swam around the room.
The two of them said it was nothing, and the conversation was cut off once more.
An atmosphere different from that around ruled the area. But the one who could no longer endure it was Aleist
"You look well... or not. Aleist, what's wrong? You look worn."
Aleist's expression felt as if he was forcing himself to smile. Seeing his table, there was quite a biased male-to-female ratio. Luecke and Eunius' table were nothing but men, while Rudel had two women at his.
But only Aleist's place had a single man surrounded by eight women, a clearly florid scene.
"Well, this and that. Ahaha."
Aleist gave a bitter smile, but there were quite a few unfamiliar faces at his table. Rudel called out to Luxheidt sitting to his side. When it came to these sorts of things, his colleagues recognized Luxheidt as the one most knowledgeable on these matters.
"How does that table look to you?"
"Eh~? I'm meeting them for the first time, so I don't know anything. But let's see, it seems strangely tense. That black haired girl was probably just dragged into the mess? Besides her and that elf girl, are the others all the guy's girlfriends? But it feels like the guy's going after the elf. I think that about sums it up."
"I see, so Aleist increased his number of girlfriends again. This is a problem."
"That's right. Though I also think not noticing is a problem as well."
As Rudel failed to grasp Luxheidt's words, he looked over at Aleist's table. Aleist was definitely surrounded by women. It was a familiar scene from the academy. But here as well, his member had undergone a complete change.
Surely they weren't all his girlfriends, and he was supposed to already have five fiancés. Won't anymore be a bit too harsh, or so Rudel worried. It was Aleist's problem, so thinking it wasn't his place to stick in his mouth, he tried to call over.
It was there that, like Aleist, those unable to endure came out.
From Eunius' table, a few young knights called over to Aleist's table.
"Hey, girls of the defenders, how about you entertain us as well."
"Our Eunius-sama over here is the heir of an archduke house, you know."
"You could at least pour him a drink."
Looking at Eunius' expression, he was truly displeased. It seems these were followers who didn't understand Eunius' feelings.
Eunius was about to stop his followers. But his voice was interrupted by Luecke.
"Good grief, this is why the Diade faction is so troublesome."
While eyes gathered on Luecke at once, the man in question continued eating as if nothing had happened. In contrast, Luecke's followers were growing panicked.
"Hah, they did it again."
From how Aleist held his head in anguish, this had likely happened a number of times before they had come in. Rudel sent a glance at Izumi and she shook her head.
"It's been like this every time they open their mouths. It's troublesome how they keep angering Millia."
"I'm not angry."
From how she immediately interrupted Izumi, Rudel understood Millia had something to say on the matter. But this time was something different from before.
"Tsk, what an ungrateful bunch."
"They're the sort that take along a demi-human and a foreign girl. It's our fault for getting our hopes up."
"Sure enough. One's tastes speaks volumes to their character."
Such laughs broke out at Eunius' table. Just as Rudel stood, Aleist stood as well. Enora and Luxheidt swiftly grabbed Rudel's arm, but it seems Aleist's table was too late.
Aleist headed off for Eunius' table and glared at the folks who were laughing.
Perhaps the surroundings sensed the dangerous air as the shop itself returned to silence.