In the arena's noble visitor room, the princesses gazed at Rudel and Frits, who were facing and speaking to one another. While the princesses were rooting for different people, they were quite serious. Aileen gripped both her hands in front of her chest, while Fina expressionlessly thought…
(Fritz is done for!!! Now get your ass handed to you by master. And it's getting to be a right pain, so drop my sister's evaluation of you while you're at it! We have no calling for a Fritz who isn't even fluffy!)
Before the serious princesses, the surrounding high knights held conflicted thoughts. While they didn't let it show on their faces, Aileen's guards were displeased with the commoner Fritz' speech and attitude. As their princess loved him dearly, they could never say it.
Fina's guard Sophina had gotten a better grasp of Fina's personality lately, and she felt conflicted as well. It was impossible to imagine what Fina was thinking, as she never asserted herself, but there was no way it was anything decent. And seeing Rudel's serious face as he met eyes with Fritz, Sophina found her face heating up.
The hall had somewhat recovered from its previous stillness, and cheers were beginning to rise.
"Don't lose to some upperclassman, Fritz!" "Show him the difference in your ability!" "Teach him who's the strongest, Fritz!"
The underclassmen jeered while the upperclassmen hesitated to speak. A majority of the third years recalled their previous selves, growing irritated as they heard jeers directed at Rudel's class. The second years knew Rudel had beaten Aleist, and they knew even now Rudel got along well with the second princess, so they didn't know what to say.
"Can you hear these cheers for me? … These are the voices of the world, senpai."
Before the match began, the two spoke a bit. The ref read the mood, and thinking a little would be alright, he kept quiet.
"By shaping your mana, you can invoke a mock magic sword. And strengthening it further, you use it for defense… I looked into it. So I'll tell you… I've already reached and surpassed you."
"I see. More importantly, I give thanks in regards to my brother. If it's like this, it seems Chlust can still get back up."
Rudel didn't show much interest in Fritz' words. But he did have some gratitude when it came to his brother, so he gave some simple thanks. But that attitude irritated Fritz.
And the referee declared the starting sign.
Coincident with that, mana covered Fritz' body, and a large quantity of it flowed down his sword. At his form as if he was clad in sword and armor of light, the arena raised cries of surprise. At those armaments of magic, the underclassmen were excited as they grew convinced of their victory.
"This is my full power! I didn't even need to show it to your brother."
Fritz turned his wood sword to Rudel and cried out. But Rudel held his own sword in his right hand without taking a stance. Let alone a stance, he didn't even try to flow magic into the wood.
"You plan to make an excuse that you lost because you didn't get serious? There really is no helping you noble trash… in that case, repent all you want on an infirmary bed!!!"
In an instant, Fritz closed the distance and lowered his sword. But in that same instant, his body was slammed against the ring, Rudel's right foot resting on his chest. No, trampling into it.
"Then use your full power to endure this."
Before Fritz could comprehend Rudel's words, he felt an immense impact through his body. And just as blood spat from his mouth, he lost consciousness.
Seeing the match that ended a few seconds from its start, Luecke and Eunius showed different expressions. Luecke was making a troubled face.
"Hah, it really wasn't an interesting match at all. He really should think about entertaining the guests some more… The high-level fighters might roar, but like this, I doubt the underclassmen will understand what happened."
After easily moving his body to avoid Fritz' haphazard attack, Rudel had used his left hand to grab Fritz' arm before tripping him up. Rather than falling, Fritz was slammed into the ring, and once Rudel pinned him down with his right foot… he commenced some sort of attack.
It was an attack intense enough to hollow out a round crater centered around the two of them… Fritz spat up blood from his mouth, lost consciousness, and the match was over.
"Interesting… that guy really is the best."
In contrast, Eunius' ferocious smile caused Aleist and Chlust sitting to his sides to draw back. While even Eunius didn't exactly understand what Rudel had done, that last attack was powerful enough for a cold sweat to flow down his spine. The friend he recognized had grown so strong while he wasn't looking.
"I can't wait for next year's second term."
While Eunius said that and rejoiced, Aleist sitting to his side averted his eyes as he held his head.
(D-dafaq!? I had no idea you could attack like that, and wait, what the hell was that!? The way I'm going, I won't be able to win against Rudel… what should I…)
Aleist felt depressed that the difference in ability had grown outside of his knowledge. Chlust looked at his brother standing over the ring, before losing consciousness from the relief. As he fell, Izumi stood from her guest seat to support him up.
There were two disguised dragoons mixed in among the crowds. A little dressed up, Lilim and Cattleya weren't able to hide their surprise at the match between Rudel and Fritz. It was only natural he had grown stronger after he'd fought them, but this was a growth rate you could even call abnormal.
The two of them contained their excitement over Rudel as they turned their eyes towards the noble visitor room. Sending their voices over to their dragons resting on campus, they got their preparations in order.
'That child of man, no, Rudel won, it seems. Are you happy, contractor?' 'Like for real!? I only heard the voices, but that was an instakill, right!? Just how freakishly weak was his opponent? What's more, after asserting his dominance so long in the match before… how uncool!'
They gave bitter smiles at their own dragons' responses. Lilim's dragon who would always call her contractor now called Rudel by name. Meanwhile, Cattleya's dragon had a bad mouth.
"Now then, is the princess alright?"
Cattleya looked between the noble visitor room and Rudel on the ring as she posed Lilim the question. They didn't particularly expect the princess to take any unreasonable actions, but they were called just in case, so they had to keep cautious.
Atop the ring, Fritz was loaded onto a stretcher as the arena filled with an indescribable air. Those who couldn't comprehend the sheer difference in ability scattered cries of 'coward' and the upperclassmen had begun to boo those ignorant underclassmen.
"Doesn't look like she's giving the signal. But I did get to see something nice."
Looking at the visitor room, Lilim recalled Rudel's gallant figure as her face flushed red. Cattleya breathed a sigh as she turned to her senior.
"You're not engaged anymore, you know…"
Over in the noble visitor room, the two dragoons seemed so worried about, a bit of a ruckus was breaking out.
"T-that one didn't count! I can't accept a match like that!"
Unable to admit Fritz' loss, Aileen was raising a protest. But the result showed the unconscious Fritz' complete loss. It wasn't a loss through luck or ill fate. It was a complete loss of ability.
"No matter how many times you repeat it, the result won't change, sister." (Of course, it's impossible for your prince to defeat my master. No matter what you say, master is the man who'll become my husband in my pursuit of fluffadise… huh? Wait. Then isn't master a prince as well? How about 'Sovereign of Fluffadise'? Oh, I like the sound of that!)
Fina's expressionless, emotionless tone only made Aileen unnecessarily more irritated. As she knew(?) her sister's circumstances, she didn't stick in her mouth, but she felt great irritation.
"… I definitely won't forgive him."
No one could hear Aileen's mutter. Fina only stared expressionlessly at Rudel on the ring. Yet Aileen's mutter that even the high knights around her couldn't hear contained an emotion you could call conflicted.
The third term safely (?) come to and end. Discharged, Chlust had made his way to the academy gates. A carriage from the Arses House had come for him. It's an embarrassment, so don't go to the graduation ceremony, his parents had told him, and this carriage was one that would take him straight to the outer regions of the country.
From his loneliness and shamefulness, Chlust was full of anxiety, but even so, a few people had come to see him off. Starting with Luecke and Eunius of the Three Lords, there was Vargas and Basyle, Aleist and Fina surrounded by her guards. But Rudel wasn't there.
"H-hey, why isn't the big brother Rudel here? This is too awkward, and I have no idea what to talk about."
Aleist translated the atmosphere into words, but everyone only averted their eyes without offering any salvation. Everyone around had come thinking Rudel would be there. They had never even considered it might come to this.
Time passed in silent, and being mindful, some did try calling out to Chlust, but the conversations would never last. After such a situation continued a while, Rudel appeared alongside Izumi, a basket in hand. Aleist and those around him felt a bit irritated at the rosy air the two of them let off.
"You're late, Rudel!"
On Luecke's voice, Rudel scratched his head and apologized.
"S-sorry. I never thought he'd be going off without a stop at our house. I realized he might grow hungry on his way to the border, so I made some sandwiches in the dining hall."
Rudel held out the basket. Izumi carried one as well, and she went to hand it to the servants driving the carriage. Rudel's basket went over to Chlust.
"If Izumi didn't help me out, it would've taken even more time. I'm glad I met her along the way."
"If he had just told me, I'd have had it ready. Rudel acts on a whim too often."
Hearing their conversation, why aren't they going out yet? Some thought. Curse you black haaaaiirrr!!! Thought another.
"I-I don't mind taking it."
Chlust still didn't know how to interact with his brother, and even now he used an abusive tone as he took the basket. Rudel called over to him.
"You better survive, Chlust. Otherwise your dreams'll never come true."
Still not knowing what to say, Chlust made off towards the carriage. He had spent the day before thinking up what he wanted to convey, but he couldn't get it across at all. The surroundings smiled as they looked over those siblings. But where Chlust was headed was the border with the empire, a danger zone rife with monsters.
Perhaps they would never meet again. Everyone thought so, calling over to Chlust and saw off the carriage. Once the carriage had passed through the gate, Chlust leaned his body out the window and cried out.
"T-thank you brother!!!"
Until his brother's carriage was out of sight, Rudel continued waving his hand.
Noon came around, and once the carriage stopped for a break, Chlust opened the basket and took out a sandwich. There was also a small canteen inside, alongside misshapen sandwiches and some of tidy shape.
"H-hmm. These misshapen ones are definitely the ones my brother made."
Chlust said as he bit into one.
"H-how terrible… it's saltier than the salt of the earth."
Biting on in a trance, as Chlust washed it down with the green tea in the canteen, tears were flowing from his eyes.
"Thank you… thank you, Rudel."
Weeping and eating, he made just a bit of a happy face as he recalled Rudel's words.
"I'll survive, and next time I'll say thank you to your face… I'll definitely survive…"