In the academy first two compulsory years, the class tournament was the largest of events. Before it was held, the number of people training in the morning increased. And in the boys' dorms, two to three times the usual number of students were practicing their swords and magics so early in the morning.
"There are a lot of them today."
Rudel finished up his practice, and as he looked around, he was impressed by the abnormal number of people. But Vargas,
"Give them two to three days, and the number will half. Just working hard during the tournament period won't get you anywhere. More importantly, is Miss Basyle here yet?"
Basyle was teaching him the practical uses of magic in battle. But she was terrible in the mornings. She rarely ever arrived on time. Even if she came, her hair was a mess, and her clothing would consist of a jersey-like garb that held not a shred of the appeal of her usual clothing… but even so, she was quite popular with the boys who training in the morning.
"It seems she hadn't been wandering around at night lately, but she's still bad with mornings."
"Ah~, how unfortunate… the sway of her breasts through those clothes is magnificent!"
Rudel was amazed to see a number of nods from the boys around. At this point, he could only laugh.
"More importantly! You have to do your best in the tournament. Based on your results, those affiliated with the night brigades may set their eyes on you."
Right, the purpose of the tournament, alongside confirming the quality of the students, was to spot out pupils with promising futures. Nabbing them at the bud was its real intent.
Rudel was the sort who would put in more effort than usual if it would let him approach his dream. But sadly… perhaps you could call it fate. His opponent was Aleist, the strongest in the year.
As the academy welcomed in the first day of the tournament, the class representative gathered in the arena for the opening address before retiring to the waiting room. The room was wrapped in a peculiar sense of tension.
"Oh, the winner was from the class with the most commoners… as I thought, those noble classes sure are frail."
The one who let out such provocative words wasn't a representative of a commoner class. He was an individual who no one could caution no matter what he said… Eunius Diade, hailing from one of the Three Lords much like Rudel. Boasting a large body, Eunius had his personal large wooden sword over his back.
Blond hair bundled up behind, his blue eyes made him out as more of a ferocious animal than a noble… while he was abysmally bad at his magic classes, in swordsmanship, he had even surpassed Rudel to take the first spot. But as Eunius had never directly gone up against Rudel, he had some complaints about that ranking.
"How noisy… if you love commoners so much, then just go off and become one. We don't need any trash that can't fulfill a noble's obligations."
The one who directed those complaints at Eunius was similarly from a Three Lord House. Luecke Halbades' near-transparent pale skin and red eyes peer through his straight blond hair.
Ranked number one in magic… though he had never directly compared himself to Rudel, so Luecke himself had some dissatisfactions about it.
No one could step into the conversation between these too… or at least that's how it was supposed to be…
"How about the two of you calm down? We're going to fight either way."
The one who acted without reading the mood was a certain Aleist Hardie. If Rudel had said it, no one would complain. Rudel was also of the Three Lords. And the two of them were clearly conscious of him.
But Aleist was called the strongest in the school year… and he had interest in the two. So they continued on their conversation.
"The eldest son of the Hardie House, eh… what do you want to say by intruding on our conversation?"
Luecke's cold eyes glared at Aleist. Neither Luecke nor Eunius thought too highly of him. They had much to think about the Hardie house that had suddenly extended its influence and rose before anyone realized it, but more than anything, they couldn't stand Aleist's abnormal level of competence.
Aleist's grades weren't at the top. He had points deducted due to his attitude during lessons. Yet with that taken into account, Aleist still managed to stay around the upper ranks… there's no way he wasn't suspicious.
The two of them were individuals who never failed to put effort into their sword and spell. And they had talent. That's precisely why they could tell… that he was downright shady… on the contrary, the one their instincts told them to fear was Rudel. The boy who managed to grind out grades catching up to them in both fields with pure, untainted effort.
The two of them knew Rudel was the one they had to be wary of.
"If you're curious of each other's strength, then you'll know once you fight. It'll be much more productive than any pointless conflict here."
"You say some nice things! That's just the sort of opinion I like… Oy, Arses! What do you think?"
Eunius suddenly turned the subject to Rudel. Eunius and Luecke both turned to face him, and finally Aleist looked as well. Feeling the three of them were strong, Rudel knew he would reach a greater fight if he fought against them.
But if you asked him what he thought, it would be troubling. To Rudel, and dealings before the match would be a hindrance. For now, he just wanted to concentrate on the battle. And he knew the two were looking at him. He was sure their words were meant to provoke him…
"Nothing in particular… I simply want to become strong. Strong enough to be a dragoon."
"I see, then you're a failure as a noble. You're not fulfilling an obligation fitting of your status."
When he heard that from Luecke of one of the Three Lord houses, Rudel felt the weight of his selfishness. Right, normally, Rudel wouldn't have the leisure to aim at becoming a dragoon. It was an action akin to abandoning the suffering people of the Arses territory.
"If being a noble's to live freely, then Arses' right. Living free's his family motto, after all!"
Eunius provoked him. Rudel quietly closed his mind. Finding it hard to look at, Izumi tried to call out, but
'The next match shall soon commence! Will the class representatives please get ready!'
On the orders that came from the broadcasting equipment, Rudel stood… Those of Aleist's class stood as well, exiting the waiting room and heading for the arena.
Once Rudel and the others had left the waiting room, Luecke and Eunius continued talking. The Halbades and Diade houses didn't get along by any means. They each stood at the top of their own large faction. But right now, they were deep in talk about Rudel.
"What do you think?"
On Eunius' vague question, Luecke,
"Aleist's honestly abnormal. But Rudel's also a monster."
"Right… swordplay second only to me, and magic skills surpassing even you… think you could win if you made an enemy of him?"
"I think you mean swordplay surpassing you, and magic second to me. If I could beat him so easily, we wouldn't be having this conversation… but I don't know whether he can beat Aleist or not."
While there was a disparity in their recognition of the situation, their opinions aligned. It would be difficult for Rudel to defeat Aleist. But that was just how abnormal Aleist was.
"Rune knight, rune blade… there are various ways to say it, but a magic knight's greatest trait is 'Magic Sword', a fighting style where they imbue magic into their blade. The amount of time he can grant it to a wooden sword can't be long… but Rudel's at too much of a disadvantage."
"Is it really that amazing? He's just covering his sword in magic, right?"
Eunius doubtfully listened to Luecke's explanation.
"Are you an idiot? If he coats his wooden sword in fire or something, you'll be burnt just by locking blades. If he raises the output, Rudel'll be burnt black…"
"… Now that's terrible. But there's a way to counteract it."
"Cut him down before he can hit you… are you an idiot?"
Perhaps they got along surprisingly well.