In a pub that gave off a dampened air, tensions suddenly surged as Aleist stood to face Eunius’ table.
More than himself being mocked, he couldn’t’ forgive the fact they looked down on Millia as a demi-human. While those around Rudel instantly stopped him, the women from the defenders were unable to do the same for Aleist.
He glared at the knights who flocked around Eunius, and the one who said it stood, a grin on his face.
Aleist was the black knight, the eldest son of the Hardie Count House. Even that title, before an archduke was overshadowed. No matter how important the black knight was to the country, his role in the palace was cleaning duty. It was surely only natural that the knights made light of Aleist. Even if they heard tales of his strength, they had never seen it in person.
Humans had a tendency to lend an eye only to what was most convenient.
The laughing knight was tall in stature, over a head above Aleist. When Aleist glared at him, he trembled in a joking manner.
“Oh, how scary. Our little black knight is angry.”
“You lot better take back those words.”
Rudel watched as Aleist ignored his foe’s reactions, closing in and telling them to take back their remark. He decided to leave it to Aleist. Seeing through the enemy’s strength, he saw that two people weren’t necessary. But his eyes drifted to Eunius. While Eunius directed fed-up eyes to his followers, he didn’t give off the same intensity he had at the academy. He held an expression somewhat close to resignation.
“Hah, don’t push your luck, newbie. No matter how strong you say you were at the academy, we’re official knights here. We’re in a different class from your petty games.”
“Class? You definitely do seem low-class.”
Receiving that provocation, a few more knights stood to take on his offer. Unable to watch any further, Eunius breathed out a sigh as he apologized.
“My bad, Aleist. You lot sit down. We have an important expo the day after tomorrow. I don’t want any trouble.”
Before the knights who took their seats, Aleist was still unsatisfied, Grabbing the lapels of the knight who provoked him, he forcefully lifted him to his feet.
“That’s all well and good, now apologize. Eunius’ apology and your statement are a separate matter!”
His lapels grasped, the knight’s face turned red as he gripped his fist. There, the defender female knights finally stepped in to stop Aleist. Millia seemed unmotivated, while she had stood, she just watched without holding him back.
“… You’re being a bother. Sit down.”
“Eh? … Okay.’
Seeing Aleist dejectedly step down on Millia’s words, those around put their best efforts into containing their laughter. From the surrounding seats, small stifled laughs escaped, and some even had their shoulders shaking.
Though the air surrounding Eunius and Luecke, and those around them was something else.
“Even so, it sure is quiet.”
Rudel reached a hand for the food and ale brought to the table as he spoke.
Luxheidt put in an order for some extra ale from the waiter who brought their food as he cheerfully answered Rudel’s doubts.
“Of course, when we have three archdukes, plus some followers from their factions, it’s going to be tense. The only ones who’d dare make a ruckus in this heavy air are our little Enora in love, and that black knight over there.”
While it didn’t sound like the sort of thing anyone’d laugh over, Luxheidt was also a dragoon. He had gone through his share of experiences, and obtained a dragon. It was natural for him to be able to stay calm.
Rudel looked at Aleist’s table, seeing a situation where Aleist wanted to talk to Millia, but everyone around kept getting in the way.
Looking at Izumi, she simply ate her meal with the knife and fork she was once so terrible at using. When he thought nothing had changed, Rudel notices those around him were beginning to change, little by little. But more than that, Rudel showed some interest in Luxheidt’s statement. He had also gained some bonds with his comrades, and perhaps he had changed as well, he thought…
“Love? Enora has someone she likes?”
“Hey! … It seems the alcohol has reached Aiguille-san’s tongue.”
While Enora was caught off-guard by Rudel’s sudden statement, she instantly smiled and gazed at Luxheidt. It was here that Rudel made a misunderstanding.
“What’s this? So the two of you were dating?”
“Wow, even I’m taken aback. I never would have thought you could look at that smile on Enora’s face and come out with those words. Rudel, look a little closer… her eyes aren’t smiling, right?”
Hearing that from Luxheidt, Rudel looked back at Enora to find her gazing at him intently with upturned eyes, her face a little red. He thought it was a little early for her to be drunk, but he managed to understand the two of them were not going out.
“Oy, Luxheidt. It doesn’t look like Rudel gets it.”
Even Rudel had to deny that one.
“How rude. I understand now that those two aren’t going out.”
Rudel was certain that he understood what Saas was trying to say, and both Saas and Luxheidt sighed. Seeing the two of them, their other comrades laughed.
“Hah, it’s scary to see how a woman can change. Anyways, Rudel, how’s that black knight over there? Is he as creepy a guy as he looks?”
Luxheidt looked tiredly at Enora. And after turning his eyes towards Aleist, he asked Rudel about his nature.
“You’re interested? He’s a little strange, but he’s a good person. From what I know, he had five fiancés, but… looks like it’s on the rise.”
“For real? Just what sort of oddball does he have to be for you to call him strange?”
“Saas, I get the feeling you’re making fun of me.”
When Saas sent a truly surprised look at Aleist, the other dragoons looked at him as well. They were curious just what sort of oddball he had to be for even Rudel to think he was a strange person.
… But if they made a ruckus in that quieted-down store, then naturally, the other party would hear it as well. On top of that, receiving pitiful eyes from all the dragoons, even Aleist would notice.
“Hold it! I don’t want to be called strange by you, Rudel! I haven’t destroyed any training grounds or facilities!”
To a teary-eyed Aleist, a voice came from an unexpected place.
It was Luecke.
“Oh, now that’s quite an intriguing statement, Aleist. From what I can tell, a sum far exceeding the annual budget has been wasted on the defenders.”
Resting both his elbows on the table, Luecke folded his hands to cover his mouth as he glared at Aleist. For some reason, his follower civil officials also sent some bitter expressions at the defenders.
“N-no, I mean, I haven’t broken anything, you know? And it’s not like I have any say in our budget or anything.”
“I agree that Rudel is also a problem, but several tens of times the funds required to fix the broken training grounds and buildings are moving around. You really should think a bit about funding. You don’t want to be seen as the same as some muscle heads who come under the misconception that money is an inexhaustible resource, right?”
“S-sorry, and wait… I do treasure the tools I use for cleaning, and I’m economizing as much as I can with detergent…”
Aleist’s touching efforts, before the outrageous sum moving around fell short of even chickens feed. But it was better than doing nothing, Rudel nodded in honest admiration.
“… no, Rudel? You really should repent.”
Saas cautioned a nodding Rudel, but his statement was cut off halfway. Smashing his glass, a knight stood to his feet to glare at the civil officials. It seemed Eunius had no intent to stop them this time as he left it be.
“And who could these muscle heads be? I’m sure you’d be happy to tell us, beansprouts.”
The knight who stood had a hand on his weapon. The pub instantly regressed to its original tense state. There were some who had already finished paying to retreat, it was a right bother to the store.
“What’s this? Isn’t it precisely because you’re aware of it that you’re so irritated? This must be a show of the caliber of your owner.”
Luecke downed the contents of his glass, quietly placing it on the table. When his eyes met Eunius’, Eunius violently slammed his glass down, shattering it. Both sides exchanged a glare, and naturally, their surroundings reacted as well. But the officials were looking around, their eyes pleading for help.
“You two, why don’t you call it quits? The expo’s in two days.”
Receiving those pleading eyes, Rudel remonstrated them. But with a bit of drink in them, the two of them didn’t seem to have their usual level-headedness.
“Hah? Shut it Rudel. He’s the one who picked the fight. Then it would be rude if I didn’t take him up on that. To pick a fight you know you’re going to lose, you sure are a strange one.”
As Eunius stood and gripped his sword, Luecke gave a scornful laugh.
“Fight? It seems you still don’t understand. If you still think everything can be settled with violence like in our student days, then you really are unsalvageable idiots. You’re better off shoved in the dungeon. No, it’s your jobs that should be locked away. This’ll be a good laugh.”
With Luecke’s words as the trigger, Eunius’ men picked up their weapons and kicked the table down. As a high knight, Izumi stepped between them to mediate.
“Give it a rest already. I must ask you to refrain from making a ruckus before the unveiling.”
Just like in their student days, Eunius and Luecke of them stopped in their tracks on Izumi’s arbitration, but they were the only ones who did.
“Shut your mouth, a mere foreign woman thinks she can stand before us!?”
Eunius’ follower thrust at Izumi. In the next instant, Rudel had smacked the knight who thrust at Izumi. It happened in a flash. While the knights thought there had been a bit of distance between them, Rudel ignored that fact, closing the distance in an instant to punch and knock that knight out.
“… You’ve got some nerve. If you want to fight so badly, then I’ll be your opponent. Everyone let’s take this outside.”
Rudel sent a glance to both Luecke and Eunius, and picking up on something, the two of them smiled a bit.
But seeing his serious eyes, the follower knights directed a glance to Eunius. They were hesitant to pick a fight with a dragoon.
“It’s too late to go weak at the knees. But this ain’t bad… it’s been a while since I’ve gone on a rampage. You lot, you’re all going outside. You picked a fight, so it’s only natural, right?”
Eunius gave the order to his followers. He wouldn’t let them run away.
“Hmm, for such a meritocratic bunch, it doesn’t sound bad at all for a civil official to shut them up. Everyone who wants to join in, go outside. And when we’re up against those guys, don’t expect me to protect you. If you’re taking part, you have to fend for yourselves.”
Saying they could take part if they wanted to Luecke rolled his shoulders to show his will to fight. Within all that, Aleist of the defenders was the only one who tried to stop those three.
“What are you thinking!? Do you understand we’re in an important period? Quit fighting like a student, let’s calm down a bit!”
While he had stood to stop the three of them, Rudel and Eunius silently placed their hands on Aleist’s shoulders to lead him outside, Dragged along, Aleist’s expression showed he had no idea what they were angry about.
“Eh? W-what? What is this?”
To Aleist’s confusion, an empty-handed Luecke tossed some unreasonable words.
“No you see… I was a bit jealous, seeing you surrounded by women. I’m going to take out some of my anger.”
“What’s with that!? When I’m not happy about it at all, forcefully dragging me off is way too unfair!”
“It really is unfair. I know that. And since I know that, I’ll just say it. You’re participating whether you like it or not.”
As Luecke explained something he wasn’t even thinking to Aleist, the four of them went outside. With a late start, the follower knights and civil officials left the store as well.
Seeing Rudel off, Luxheidt finished the remaining food before emptying his glass.
“H-hey! You’re going to leave them!?”
The sharp-eyed, often sarcastic Saas seemed worried for Rudel. Enora looked like she would bound off at any moment, but perhaps she wanted to ask Izumi about her relationship with Rudel as she was fidgeting.
Luxheidt smiled as he told the waiter to get the person in charge. A little while later, the owner of the shop frantically raced over to Luxheidt.
“W-was there any problem on our part?”
While they were the ones who caused the problem, the owner was unable to go against the dragoons, the heroes of the country, so he gave an apology.
“No, no, that should be our line. We really are sort. Send the repair fees and trouble fees around to a mister Rudel Arses. Ah, also, we’ll also foot the bill for the other tables… everyone went outside, after all.”
Right, the women of the defenders had left Izumi and Millia to give chase to Aleist. They would likely return later, but that would be trouble for the shop. Those who owed money should pay. But saying it was Rudel’s responsibility for causing a problem this time, Luxheidt pushed the payment onto Rudel.
“… That’s a big help.”
As the owner said his thanks, Luxheidt handed over a simple memo. Accepting it, the owner left at once.
“How’s that going to work out for you?”
“The payment? It’ll be fine, I plan to sell him a favor. Now then, it’s right about time for us to go watch the fight.”
Urging on a worried Saas, Luxheidt dragged a nervous Enora out of the store. So love really can change a person, he thought as he looked at her.