On the back of a gray dragon, a lone rider made for the capital.
A gray dragon could move hundreds of kilometer in the air, but to Fritz, it felt far too slow.
Even now, Aileen’s life could be in danger. When the thought struck him, he wished to save her, pure had honest.
At first, he thought he was lucky. Being liked by the princess and receiving preferential treatment, from captain of the royal guard to supreme commander…
But now, Fritz would throw it all away to go save Aileen.
“I see it!”
The view of the capital from the sky.
Smoke was rising from the palace in the center of the large city. Even seen from afar, it was clear something had gone awry.
“I have to hurry and—”
The dragon flew to the palace for Fritz’ sake. On one of the verandas of the palace, there was a cornered Aileen.
Around here were those who saw to her everyday, and knights who were only good for appearance’s sake. They wouldn’t be of any use at all.
Flames had broken out in various parts of the building, it seemed the battles still raged on.
Fritz approached the palace.
Looking up at him, Aileen smiled.
But cruel as could be, it was then that enemies flowed into the room where she hid. The defenders and the personal army of an archduke house broke through the royal guard, and the knights of Aileen’s fraction to flood in.
The knights and servants by her side were immediately apprehended.
“Kuh! Do it!”
To save Aileen, Fritz ordered his dragon to breath fire. But the gray dragon shook its head to the side. It wasn’t that it had ignored Fritz’ orders.
If it fired its breath, Aileen would be drawn into its midst.
Before Fritz’ eyes, Aileen was taken in.
The enemy used her as a shield, they seemed to be well aware he wouldn’t be able to attack.
Just as Fritz drew his sword and was about to jump down, the rebel army led by Fina made its appearance. Protected by the high knights around her, Fina expressionlessly looked up at the sky.
Aileen turned to Fina and cried out.
“Why have you done this—Fina! I… I was only trying to make Courtois a better country.”
Fina wouldn’t turn to face her. The high knights around readied their shields to solidify Fina’s defenses.
“Fina-sama, please step back!”
“The enemy is a dragon!”
“Keep Princess Aileen close!”
Fina brushed off their advice to go out onto the balcony. She stared straight at Fritz.
“Why did you hoist insurrection at such an important time!?”
Receiving his anger, Fina opened her mouth.
“It’s precisely because it’s this time. Just as you want to save my sister, I want to save my master– Rudel-dono. But if I left you people to your own devices, even if Rudel-dono returned, you’d devise some reason to have him executed, wouldn’t you?”
As she plainly stated, “That’s why I raised a rebellion,” as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, Fritz was at a loss for words.
“… You’re mad. You rebelled for that reason alone!?”
Fina lightly spread out her arms, and expressionlessly, she advised Fritz to surrender.
“I don’t think you’re one to talk. Well, so be it. Now turn yourself in. Do so now, and you can still be decapitated as a noble knight.”
Perhaps that was compassion to Fina, but to Fritz, there was no way he could accept it.
“Don’t mock me!”
Fina lowered a hand.
“I see. That is a shame.”
Holding her right hand up, Fina snapped her fingers.
Aileen looked beyond Fritz, to the skies even higher and cried out.
When Fritz looked up, there were six dragoons closing in on him. His gray dragon arbitrarily withdrew from the spot.
“W-wait! I still have to save—”
As Fritz was pulled away from the balcony, Aileen looked at him with an expression of despair. Fritz reached out his right hand.
He powerlessly muttered.
As Fritz made off to the distance, three dragoons chased after.
Fina saw them off before returning from the balcony to the room.
Sophina beside her wiped her sweat.
“That was way too reckless, no matter how you look at it.”
Sophina candidly chastised her thoughtless conduct. Upon hearing that, Fina answered expressionless and indifferent.
“You’re right. I’m sorry, Sophina.”
“I see you’re not repenting in the slightest.”
She hadn’t known her a long time for nothing, Sophina read Fina’s emotions.
“Well, at least the dragon had some sense to spare, and I knew they wouldn’t attack if we used my sister as a shield. The dragon Fritz rides is a gentle one, after all.”
There were individual differences among dragons.
The one Fritz rode was comparatively gentle, and a good dragon that would listen to the orders of its partner knight.
Fritz was afforded a dragon that was easy to handle, so that went without saying.
“A dragon’s breath could have easily eradicated two princesses.”
There, Fina uninterestedly brushed her hair aside.
“Even so, I wanted to try it. Otherwise, Fritz would—”
Aileen restrained by the knights yelled at Fina.
“Fina! Do you understand what it is you’ve done!? And what do you think you’re doing to Fritz-sama?”
Fina turned back to Aileen.
“… If he was taken in there, he would have his head cut off. I meant precisely what I said. Or would you prefer he be tortured and executed as a heinous criminal?”
Aileen crumbled at the knees.
As Fina looked at Aileen, the archdukes Halbades and Diade entered the room.
“If it isn’t Fina-sama, it looks like you’ve managed to accomplish your objective.”
To the two shamelessly approaching, Fina breathed a sigh inside.
(Their timing is impeccable… well whatever.)
They had surely come to confirm Aileen’s safety. Perhaps they needed a proper check if they wanted her to take responsibility at the gallows.
As Fina walked off, the archdukes walked side by side with her.
“Now then, how do you intend to deal with Aileen-sama?”
To Archduke Diade’s question, after thinking a bit.
“… Officially, she’ll be executed. After that, confinement. If we don’t know if I can have kids yet, we’ll need some insurance, won’t we?”
Archduke Halbades nodded. He seemed just a little delighted.
He seemed happy Fina could make a proper judgment as royalty. No, perhaps because there was a spare, he was happy to know Fina would always have a replacement.
(If I’m too stupid, these bastards will pull a fast one, and if I act too smart they’ll come to kill me. Good grief, this is why I wanted to chip away their power.)
If Aileen was killed, Fina would be the only direct descendant of Courtois. In that case, while Fina’s own safety was assured, in the case she didn’t have children, an archduke would be net in line to be enthroned.
In the case of Aileen’s prolonged survival—if Fina used the power of the state against the archdukes, there was a possibility they’d raise Aileen up and have a rebellion of their own.
As to what she wanted to say… no matter which way the ball rolled, Fina was in a harsh situation.
(I’ll have to be wary either way. Aaah, this is why I wanted to end it before these guys could arrive.)
Like that, upon confirming her victory at the palace, Fina quickly entered preparations to send reinforcements.
“… Now then, I’ve secured a place for you to come back to, master.”
A small mutter and Fina had immediately gotten to work.
In the sky, Fritz hit the dragon’s back again and again.
“Why did you run!? Get back there at once! Go back!”
Fritz cried and pounded his fist, but it was clear even if he remained, he wouldn’t have been able to save Aileen.
Even so, he wanted someone to blame so badly, he couldn’t help himself.
This wasn’t his fault. He needed to know it wasn’t his fault.
Before he realized it, he had deserted under enemy fire, while his last ray of hope Aileen had already been taken in and lost her authority.
As one who had a dragon, the dragoons would be in a mad frenzy to find him. And what awaited him when he was taken in…
“Haha, ahahahah… dammit! What an insignificant life! Come so far… after coming so far.”
All that awaited was despair. Run as he may, there was nowhere to go. As he considered defecting to the empire, a black fog had begun to gather around him.
As Fritz looked around, the gray dragon roared.
Before him, a winged giant—a Gora was being formed.
A four-armed giant bald only on the head, it was far larger than a gray dragon. The gora’s fist smacked into the dragon, slamming it and Fritz onto the ground.
(What is it now…)
Fritz’ consciousness grew distant.
(H-huh… I’m alive?)
When Fritz opened his eyes, before them was the form of a gray dragon, its wings plucked off, its body bleeding all over.
Seeing the back of the terribly wounded gray dragon, Fritz lifted his body.
Beyond the dragon, a gora with a hole in its chest, collapsed to its knees.
“Did you do it?”
Fritz couldn’t believe his own partner had fought that brutal monster and come out on top. The likes of a gray dragon compared to a wild dragon, it was clearly inferior.
Comparing it to Rudel‘s dragon, he even saw it as shoddy. And yet, that dragon had fought, its life on the line to protect its partner Fritz.
It fought to protect an unconscious Fritz, and now afflicted with a fatal blow, it didn’t look like it could rise or fly any longer.
Blood flowed from his mouth.
‘… I am a dragon born of the Kingdom of Courtois. One of the first of my kind.’
The dragon that had never conversed with him before was suddenly making a speech.
‘I was raised with love. But my brothers are already all gone. While some died to illness, a great many fell in battle.’
Fritz stroked the gray dragon. He had always found her unsympathetic, he had never tried speaking from his side. For that reason, he didn’t know the first thing about his own partner dragon.
“Then why did you save the likes of me? If you submitted me to them—”
‘I have my own pride. As a dragon… the pride to protect my partner. I’ve lost my partner knights too many times. Each time I would feel regret. Among them, there were terrible knights. But a majority of them treated me as a partner. They treated me dearly. That’s why I swore to protect them, no matter what sort of partner they may be.’
When Frit was about to say something, the Dragon gave her last words—
‘… Let me say one last things. You should look around a bit more. It might be too late, but… you have the talent.’
After one final deep deep breath, the dragon collapsed and died.
When Frit’ tears began to flow, this time, the gora’s mouth moved.
‘How dare a lowly gray dragon… but you are no longer necessary. It’s all going as planned…’
The mouth of the dead gora moved, causing Frit to draw his sword. Upon seeing its blade, the gora’s eyes narrowed.
‘That is not your weapon. And I’m already done with you. It’s time for the stand-in to leave the stage. Your place has already been prepared…’
The gora dissipated into black fog and swallowed Fritz up.
“S-stop it! I still—”
The black fog swallowed Fritz, leaving some parting words, it faded away.
“It’s all according to plan. To deliver the sword to Aleist someday…”
When he came to, the black fog-swallowed Fritz was sitting in the middle of a wasteland.
His enemy gora was gone, the husk of his partner nowhere to be found. The place looked a bit different from where he had been before.
In his confusion, Fritz stood, and caught sight of a group on the move. A gathering of merchants and travelers, but it seemed they were being attacked by monsters.
“What’s with that group?”
But seeing the members, Fritz felt something off. They were wearing equipment of quite an old style, and the way they fought was peculiar.
He couldn’t stand and watch.
With that on his mind, Fritz drew his sword and helped out the caravan.
— After that.
The group of horse-drawn wagons offered him a lift, and it was then he learned his words wouldn’t get through. The towns and villages they led him to seemed somewhat off from what he knew.
He felt almost as if he had been flown off to another world.
Left with nothing but a borrowed sword and the clothes on his back, with no people he could speak for, Fritz would spend the rest of his life finding a place for himself in this strange new world.
On Rudel’s battlefield, a peculiar scene unfolded.
Before the eyes of Rudel as he gave a troubled laugh, Askewell had been taken in by black fog, and assimilated with a Gora to stand before him.
But that wasn’t what bothered him.
Perhaps it could be called ironic… right above the gora, consisting of black and red lines, a sinister dragon beat its large spread wings.
The reason Rudel was so troubled lay in that the black fog had gathered, and changed into a dragon.
The dragon looked down over him.
‘This is where you disappear.’
Come this far, Rudel never thought he’d be facing off against a dragon. He smiled a bit.
“Good grief, someone up there must like messing with me…”
The fated foe of one who sought to be a dragoon, at the end would face Rudel in the form of a dragon.