| The death match with Lilim over, Rudel's party was delivered to the nearest town on the vice-captain's dragon. While six people on a single dragon's back did feel narrow, Rudel was in high spirits all the way. The vice-captain of the knight brigade he so looked up to was going out of his way to transport them, so there was no helping his delight.
"Sit still, Rudel. From here on's the hard part. With me and Eunius, if we send a letter home, they'll move to some extent. But when it comes to your house..."
In regards to Luecke's strained and muddled last words, Rudel answered with a bitter smile. Luecke and Eunius knew of Rudel's household environment. When he was supposed to be the next head of the house, they were unnecessarily... no, abnormally harsh on him. That harshness wasn't something carried out with his future in mind. It was something there simply to give him a hard time.
It was unthinkable Rudel's house would move from a single letter. On the contrary, it wouldn't be strange if they moved in complete opposition to Rudel's will. That's what Luecke thought.
"It'll be alright. Father and mother, they're good at hushing up these sorts of things... they aren't too concerned about me, so perhaps it's best I don't send a letter. I've been writing to them ever since I got to the academy, but I only get form letter-like ones back."
Eunius prodded his elbow into Luecke for turning the conversation towards something dark. And up to the town, they spent their time in a bit of an awkward air.
In a town near the border, Mies wrapped herself in a tattered rag as she walked down the main road. The rag itself smelled terrible, but Mies also reeked of the smell of the smokescreen she used to escape.
"Goddammit... I managed to retrieve the confidentials from the inn, but isn't telling me to get out a bit too rude? And all the shops are way too cold to me! I can't even do a bit of shopping... this is why I hate the kingdom!!!"
The scented smokescreen had helped her escape from the dragon. But Mies knew they would use that very stench to track her down. She stuck out like a sore thumb. She stank!
"I'm hungry... I want to eat a sizzling steak... ow!"
As she walked with her eyes to the ground, Mies collided with the person walking in front of her. 'Twas Rudel who had returned to the town. Vargas and Basyle had made for the hospital, while Rudel was on his way back to the inn with Luecke and Eunius, a bunch of freshly grilled meat skewers bought from a nearby stall in hand.
Her eyes locking on, Mies' stomach let out a grand rumble, and Rudel smiled as he took one skewer out and presented it to her. To Mies, Rudel looked simply radiant to her. But,
"One skewer is five ces."
"You're charging me!?"
Mies cried out. Reluctantly producing money from her wallet, she exchanged it with Rudel for some precious food provisions. Luecke and Eunius looked at her from a bit of a distance... due to the smell.
"You wanted to buy them but they wouldn't let you, right? Your monologue was so loud I could hear everything. Or could it be you wanted me to treat you?"
"Eh!? F-from what point did you hear?"
"From when you said you were kicked out of the inn, I think. Well, I don't think there's any helping it with that smell, but... I recommend that you stop shouting out your hatred for the kingdom. The knights are real tense right now, so they'll drag you off in no time."
Mies hurriedly thought over a way to get out of town. But her stomach was still empty, and crossing the border in her current state was bad. Wanting some more provisions, Mies drooled as she looked at the many skewers in Rudel's arm.
Seeing that, Rudel tried handing over the entire bag of skewers to her.
"Fifty five ces for the lot."
"...! G-got it! I'll buy them all! I'll let you sell them to me!"
Not knowing if she was embarrassed or happy, Mies handed the money to Rudel, and just as she was about to take the bag, she looked at Rudel's face. Becoming even more ashamed, Mies looked away... but that was her mistake.
Mies' hand slipped, what's more, in her hurried motions from her embarrassment, what Mies' hand grabbed... was Rudel's pants. To make matters worse, Rudel's belt had broken in his fight with Lilim. As Mies pulled with good momentum, Rudel was caught off guard. And as a result...
"W-what are you doing!?"
"Eh? ... Gyaaaaaah!!!! Dragoooon!!!"
Mies ended up pulling Rudel's pants down in their entirety. With his lower half fully exposed, Rudel could only panic. What's more, on top of Mies having taken a long, hard look at him, the girl herself had taken flight with the bag of skewers... Luecke and Eunius were distanced, leaving a pantsless Rudel behind.
As an even greater turn of ill fate, it was Cattleya's turn to enter the stage.
"So this is where you were. The vice-captain told me to transport you to the acade... wait! What do you think you're doing!?"
"N-no! My pants were just pulled down a moment ago."
Saying that, Rudel pulled his pants back up. Cattleya sighed, but she had also taken a calculated glance at Rudel's lower half. Losing interest in a fully clothed Rudel, she looked around only to find some document-like forms scattered around. Concluding they were surely Rudel's, she started gathering them up as she complained. But then she noticed.
"Good grief... I'm not sure what happened, but please do treat documents more carefully. Once you become a knight,you'll be forced to write up so many you'll hate the sight of... what are these?"
Taking a slight glance at their contents, Cattleya held her suspicions. They detailed something of an observational diary, but the way they were written and the lettering intrigued her a bit. After reading on, she found her explanation for the movements of the imperial soldiers in this incident.
"That's not mine. Those papers were dropped by a girl. Hah, I'll have to deliver them to her."
"We're giving chase. What are her characteristics!?"
"Eh? ... She smelled terrible, I guess?"
Hearing those words, a smile leaked across Cattleya's lips. It was by no means a gentle smile... dark, a ferocious smile as if she had encountered a fearsome foe. Seeing that smile, while she smells, I guess Cattleya is a beauty as well, or so Rudel thought an irrelevant thought.
(That imperial woman who put me through such shame... I'll definitely find her and put her on the rack!)
"I'm going to chase after that woman, so you three return to the inn."
Saying that, Cattleya ran from the spot. And finally, Rudel was left alone.
"... I guess I'll go back to the inn. More importantly, Luecke, Eunius! Quit laughing and help me out."
Pushing their way through the onlookers who had gathered before he knew it, Luecke stifling his laughter and Eunius laughing grandly made their appearance.
"N-no, my bad. It was just so sudden I was late to react."
"Going half-naked on the main road... as expected of Rudel. I've got to tell Izumi about this sometime."
"W-wait! Why are you bringing Izumi up?"
The three laughed as they returned to the inn. By the documents Mies dropped, Lilim's crime had become lighter, but they would only learn that after they returned to the academy.
The empire had been conducting battle tests on their weapon known as a strengthened ogre. And while it may have been a coincidence, she had saved Rudel's party that had become the test subjects. With that fact in place, Lilim got off with a severe demotion and house arrest. Rudel himself forgave her murderous exchange after the ogre was slain, and as they were in a betrothed relationship, it was eventually overlooked.
But with this incident and their actions up to now, Cattleya and Lilim's engagements to Rudel were both officially annulled.