The tournament ended without incident, and the injured… it was around the time the seriously injured Rudel, Luecke and Eunius were bedridden in the infirmary as per usual. Rudel's window seat you could already call his reserved spot, Luecke at the center, and Eunius's bed closest to the corridor.
In that infirmary room, Izumi distributed the fruits she had gotten quite good at pealing among them. Only Rudels were cut to imitate the shape of a killer rabbit.
"It looks like a dragon's head, so I can't eat it… can I use it as decoration?"
"T-that's a killer rabbit! It's a bunny, so please, just eat it."
"Oh, I see, it's a bunny… then I guess I'll eat the bunny… no, but…"
Wounds all over his body, Rudel refused to eat the fruit slice Izumi had brought over to his mouth. As Luecke and Eunius watched over the two with sidelong glances, they seemed fed up at Rudel's exchange with Izumi that words couldn't describe. And outside the room, the individual who had come to eavesdrop…
(Bunny!!? He's eating a bunny girl? I-in a sexual way, tight!? You eat them sexually, right master!? Let me in on the fun!!!)
… It was Fina. Following behind her were some high knight guards, the headmaster, and King Alabach himself. They had snuck in to congratulate Rudel for his class's victory.
This time's victory gave Rudel a high assessment among the royal family and academy… but by no means was this all sunshine and daisies for Rudel.
"Pardon my intrusion… the three of you look well… wait, what are you doing!? Stay at east!"
As Albach casually entered the room, its four occupants got onto their knees… among them were three patients with serious injuries. The first to move was Izumi, but following right after, Rudel moved his aching body onto the ground… his form caused Eunius' sense of competition to burn bright, and Luecke didn't want to be the only one left out so he followed suit.
As a result, the injured three kneeled before the king. His subordinate knights looked at him as if they wanted to say something. While he admired their courtesy to kneel despite injury, the three of them were the future Three Lords…
"Just lie down! You don't have to force yourselves to get on your knees!!!"
(Ah, father cried out… how interessssting!!!)
Fina expressionlessly enjoyed the situation, while the headmaster and knights sent the king some glances to get them to stop. In such a sickroom, the king's voice resounded…
Once everyone had calmed down, and the circumstance was one that allowed for conversation, Albach started up.
"Congratulations for your victory in this time's tournament. I never even imagined you would be so skilled… and so. I want you to officially succeed the Arses House. I got the general gist of things from Fina's letter. That you saved Fina, and that there was clear malice against you contained in the official reports…"
The king had taken a complete turn from the false reports to that point, handing Rudel a proper evaluation. At that, Izumi rejoiced, and both Luecke and Eunius were relieved. But Rudel alone was purely unsatisfied.
"No, it is true that I exposed the princess to danger, and it is true that both Luecke and Eunius here were dragged into a mess by me! Just my continued attendance of this academy is more than enough for me!"
To Rudel, the Three Lords… succeeding his archduke title would mean giving up on his dream of becoming a dragoon. When he had finally grown closer to his dreams, returning to being a simple heir wasn't Rudel's intent.
"No, no, with the exception of the reports, putting together numerous sources has led me to the conclusion you will make for a splendid archduke. Your grades are in the top ranks of the academy, and you're able to interact with people regardless of race and status."
In regards to the king's praise, Rudel- not wanting to inherit any status- thought hard. At this rate, it would be difficult to become a dragoon… if the king ordered him to take over the position, then Rudel would have to get more involved with the territory than ever before. Once he left the academy, he would instantly have to stick his hands into internal affairs… his father would push busy work onto him, and he would have to go out into a high society he had never even experienced before.
Rudel didn't have that sort of time. He had come all the way here to become a dragoon. To Rudel, an archduke title was useless.
"… I… have no interest in archduke status."
"… Is that for the sake of your dream? Surely the dragoons are heroes among heroes within our lands, but if you become an archduke, then you'll be able to save many more than you could from the standing of a single knight."
On the king's words, Rudel made a conflicted face.
"But even o, I do not want to give up on my dream!"
Rudel's will didn't change. The king was impressed by his strength of will, and he expected great things from the strength in his eyes. That's precisely why he said it…
"Starting with the crown, to protect the country and its people. Such is the duty of a knight. From the very start, your answer was contradictory… I'll put the archduke matter on hold. But as long as you can't give an answer that satisfies me, I won't let you become a dragoon, and your archduke rights will be confiscated… let's end things here for today."
With those words, Albach and his knights took their leave. After taking one look at Rudel's brooding form, Fina followed her father and left the room.
After the queen left, Rudel made for the roof. The infirmary… the roof of the facility you could already call a hospital, he had begged Izumi to take him there. Noon had gone by, the winds were blowing… the roof where the laundry made a ruffling sound.
Bandages wrapped all over his body, wrapped so much Rudel could barely move the fingers on his hands. Sitting on the bench, he thought over the king's words. And sitting beside him, Izumi worried.
Izumi knew of Rudel's dream. She knew of his will to throw aside his people if it was for that dream… so having come this far, the words from the king put a stopped in his way. Izumi herself knew a large number of people would be saved if Rudel inherited the Arses territory, and she knew the king's words were just, but…
"Rudel… don't feel so down."
Even so, Izumi wanted to grant his dream. So she called out, but,
"Izumi, how am I supposed to talk my way out of this? I can think of a number of appropriate reasons, but… I can't hit on anything that hits the nail on the head."
"… Rudel? You plan on deceiving the king!?"
"Deceiving? Your words do me ill! I know what the king was trying to say… but in short I just have to save more people as a dragoon than I ever could as an archduke, right? I'll become a knight, become a dragoon, and save loads of people!"
His body covered with injuries, Rudel lacked any fragment of persuasive force. But finding his words reliable, Izumi smiled as she looked over him.
… Watching over the two of them from the shadows. Luecke, Eunius… and the headmaster. The three of them had been searching for the right time to call out to the depressed Rudel, but the boy himself was surprisingly… no, on top of being more energetic than they had anticipated, they learned he was trying to deceive the king.
"You can't just deceive him!"
Luecke quietly retorted.
"Tricking the king, eh… it all comes down to how he plans on doing it."
"Why do you look so amused, Eunius!? Rudel's trying to trick the king of our nation. Let's stop him."
"No way. Of course I'm amused… and Rudel said it, didn't he? He'll save more people than he could as an archduke anyways."
While Eunius found enjoyment and Luecke began arguing, the headmaster seemed relieved as he saw Rudel's high spirits. And he was also relieved that the boy was thinking over what was to come after he became a dragoon.
(I'm glad he isn't losing his way…)
After that, Rudel wrote up a letter to the king. It was meant as an answer to the king's question, and as he read it, King Albach was put into quite a good mood.
'I will become a dragoon that can save many more people than I could as an archduke.'
That was Rudel's answer to the king.