| Izumi returned to the girls' dorm, and when night fell, Rudel slipped out of the infirmary. His hand was clasped around a sword. Noticing his movements, Luecke held some suspicious and decided to tail him. There, Eunius called out.
"Just leave him be."
"Like I could ignore someone going out with a weapon! And there's no telling what he's going to do."
Eunius rose from his bed, scratching his head as he motioned for Luecke to follow. Abiding by that, Luecke walked behind Eunius.
The two went out to the infirmary veranda. There, Eunius pointed his finger downwards... the sound of the swinging sword reached even the second floor, and Leucke could see the form of Rudel in tears as he swung it around. The pitiful form of a young boy wrapped in bandages, desperately swinging his blade.
"He's doing good with that beaten body of his... he's been doing it every day for these past few days."
"Why is he crying? He didn't give of that feel during the day. Going on about special attacks, and taking it easy reading a book on Dragon Petting or something..."
"Like I know! But, well... not just those around him, hated even by his own family, but even so he aimed to be a dragoon. And then came this incident. It's only natural for him to want to cry."
Undenounced to the two of them, Rudel was crying for a slightly different reason. From Rudel's point of view, the responsibility for this case lay with him. Leucke, Eunius... and even Aleist had been unreasonably dragged into the battle, and that was without a doubt his fault.
He knew his house would never recognize him. He was aware that the surrounding assessments of him were low. But even so, if he put in the effort, he would be recognized... he believed he could become a dragoon. And he still believed it.
The reason Rudel wept: the simple fact that there were people who would act for his sake. Everyone in his class stood up for him. To Rudel, that was something to fill him with delight, but at the same time, after exposing his classmates to danger, he felt ashamed he wasn't even able to protect them.
Rudel wanted to become stronger, and but for now he could simply swing his sword towards that ideal.
The morning of the next day, the academy's staff were gathered, and a meeting was held. This was a large problem, and they had to make it clear who was responsible for exposing the princess to danger, but the problem here was...
"To think the Arses House would say such a thing..."
"Even if they tell us to expel Rudel-sama, no matter how you look at it, this is..."
"The palace is telling us to hurry it up. Perhaps obeying them is for the best."
The Arses House demanded Rudel be expelled, stating they would take responsibility for this incident. The rumors had spread even further in these past few days. Rudel had exposed the princess to danger... the younger brother Chlust had protected her. As those rumors were intentionally circulating, they were already beyond anyone's hands.
"So the Arses House chooses Chlust-sama over the eldest son Rudel-sama."
As the headmaster let out a sigh, the faculty made doubtful faces. The siblings were full of problems, but while Rudel earnestly set his sights forward, focusing on pursuing his dream, Chlust was a simple problem child. As he took along his followers and walked around the campus, he bought in the animosity of commoners and demihumans.
The answer the academy reached was to postpone matters until the target of responsibility disappeared... but Rudel alone would be forcefully transferred to the two-year track and made to graduate. From there, the title of knight would be granted to him, to leave him the possibility of becoming a dragoon.
Taking in the demands of the Arses House, this was the best the academy could do to protect the boy.
"What about the investigation?"
"I heard it's under royal jurisdiction."
"Even so, it sure is ironic... the deserters are saved, and those who stood firm face the hammer."
Within that dark conference room, the headmaster looked over the documents as he spoke.
"Protecting the crown is a noble's duty, huh... for the Arses house to discard such a splendid successor."
A teacher who felt a sense of danger at the headmaster's words started speaking as if to cut him off.
"But it's that! With this, Rudel-sama can pursue a dragoon's path without any constraint!"
On those words, a number of teachers joined in, making for a brighter conversation than any the meeting had seen.
"If he becomes a knight, he'll obtain the qualifications to become a dragoon."
"If he can become one, that is."
As that conversation of empty bravado carried on, the headmaster thought over the future. Just how was he going to protect Rudel...
Her health recovered, and her fluff levels fully replenished, the Second Princes Fina looked on in horror at the document brought by the high knight who had come to her room to report.
"What is the meaning of this..."
(What's this? It's become that Chlust protected me from that blasted bird, and master spread panic, exposing me to danger!!? No way in hell! Rather... where was MY opinion taken into account? In the first place, what Chlust protected me from was a killer rabbit, and when that bird came out, he was nowhere to be found!)
The reporting knight had her long, purple hair in order. An older beauty with glasses who gave off a cold impression. She had a harsh personality, and Fina herself classified her as a person she was terrible at dealing with. She had no sense of flexibility.
"It is just about decided that Rudel-dono will take responsibility for this matter. The academy is leaving matters unresolved, allowing him to graduate, but I am against it. Such a man is unworthy of becoming a knight."
From there on, the high knight continued to take lines from the report to say Rudel's punishment was too light. Just because he is next in line to the title of Archduke Arses, they've done nothing but remove him! She asserted, but Fina...
(This is bad! Master has yet to pass on his technique! If he graduates here, it will be a heavy blow to my fluffy life... but why does master's house hate him so much anyways?)
Looking at the high knight who continued to offer some harsh opinion on Rudel, Fina thought.
(Should I have her investigate? While that's going on, I'll write a letter to father and mother. Meanwhile, I'll sit back with Mii and do all sorts of... I can't! If I fail here, then my national treasure of a master may be erased by the Arses House.)
In essence, Rudel would take an active knight role upon his graduation, but by the orders of his house, he would likely be stationed in a high level danger zone.
"... Sophina. This report is mistaken."
The expressionless princess panicked within as she persuaded the high knight Sophina.
"It's mistaken? But this is the official document. It couldn't be..."
(That's why you let your years slip by! Your thoughts are way too rigid in any and everything! There aren't any lies written down, but don't you think this thing's been written in a way that invites in misunderstanding? I'm no good with her! I want to go do this and that with Mii already.)
Thinking some considerably rude things, Fina spoke on.
"Rudel-sama risked his life to protect me. Protecting the crown is a noble's duty... he said as he stood against great danger. There is no way he should be judged for those actions."
"But right here, it says...!
As Sophina's voice grew louder, Fina expressionlessly added on.
"Then make a decision with your own eyes. The whole truth is not contained in paper, and I believe I was saved by Rudel-sama."
(A look at master's technique will change your life! Putting that aside, if she investigates on her own, she'll definitely notice something's strange! Now go prove master's innocence(?)!)
"If you insist it so... but if my eyes tell me there is no mistake to be found, then I shall punish him as harshly as the palace dictates."
Seeing Sophina's enthusiasm, Fina thought yet another rude thing.
(It's because you make such scary faces that the men run away... you're already at a good age, so just get married already. Always at work, no chance to see anyone... if only you had cat ears, I would've doted on you! I'd have kept you by my side all the while! A harsh-natured cat-eared beauty... that's a yes!!!)
Oblivious to everything moving around, today once more Rudel and two others got along well across their infirmary beds. And the conversation blazed about the book Rudel was reading, 'How to Pet a Dragon'.
"Why is there an application of such high-level magic theory!? Why is there a theory that puts technical books to shame in this book about petting!?"
Detailing magic theory so complex it even surprised the magic-centric Luecke, 'How to Pet a Dragon'. Theories and formulas that had even surpassed present knowledge had been developed for no more than to stroke a dragon.
"Oy! It even ends it all by saying, 'But the most important part is love'! Isn't that strange!? Applying technique close to the essentials of martial arts towards petting, and in the end it's all love!!!"
Eunius cried out. Written there was a petting method focusing on the applications of anatomy and the martial arts... After detailing all the finer points, it tied it all up with love. 'How to Pet a Dragon'.
"See? Isn't it amazing!? The author of this book was a former dragoon who lived a hundred years ago... if only I could've met him."
Ignoring their shock, Rudel thought about his senior separated by a gap of a hundred years.