During the break before the second term, Rudel returned home. There, an event awaited him. To be more precise, it was a happening related to Aleist’s event. After Chlust received disciplinary action, the Arses House grew mindful of its standings, and decided an engagement for Rudel.
That partner would be a competent individual with the trust of the crown. Originally, they would search out a match suitable for the house’s social status, but the Arses House was a declining lineage, and that wish fell on deaf ears. With various circumstances involved, the chosen candidates were two dragoons, Cattleya Ninias and Lilim. Cattleya hailed from a low-ranking noble house, but she was praised as a genius dragoon, and trusted by royalty.
Lilim was an elf. But from her aptitude in magic and her longevity, she was an outstanding talent the dragoons had their expectations on. She was chosen, for argument’s sake, but no one ever thought Lilim would be chosen. In short, she was there to provide the illusion of choice. This was a form of harassment against Rudel.
The Arses House discriminated against demi-humans. And yet the only marriage candidate they could get was an elf… it was surely a disgrace. What’s more, the other party was a dragoon… it was impossible to simply laugh off her lineage, or so some shallow thoughts were weaved in.
And it’s true it had invited in some snickers…
Oblivious of all that, Rudel returned to his home. Once he got back, he handed his sister Lena some souvenirs, and told her all about the academy… Lena was acting strange. And once he noticed, he asked…
“My engagement!? … no, it’s nothing strange, but this came straight out of nowhere.”
“You’re still just deciding between marriage candidates! I heard they were two female dragoon knights.”
On those words, Rudel was deeply moved! Enough to make him hop up and down…
“Is that true, Lena!? So they’re dragoons… then I’ll have to hurry and prepare!”
“Bro… you look happy.”
“Of course I am! I may be able to meet dragons! Dragons, Lena!”
“… You haven’t changed a bit.”
The day of the meeting, the two rode their dragons towards the lands of Arses. The towns spreading out beneath their eyes, even from the skies, they could see the lack of vigor. Human traffic was abysmally low… to the Dragons who knew of other lands, the Arses rule was abnormal.
“Marrying into this territory would be the worst.”
Cattleya muttered as she rode her Red Dragon… aboard the Wind Dragon flying beside her, Lilim answered her mutterings.
“Your engagement is a done deal, but I think you’re being hasty, Cattleya.”
“Hmm, you sure have it nice, senpai… there’s no way in hell you’ll ever be picked!”
Cattleya was no good at dealing with Lilim. She had a bad affinity with her fighting style, and she was her senior… what’s more, she was a competent one chosen by a Wind Dragon, so Cattleya couldn’t even complain.
Lilim was of blond hair and pale skin… but her eyes remained closed. It wasn’t as if she was blind… she had a reason she couldn’t open them.
“I heard from my little sister, but apparently he isn’t a terrible person, you know? The vice-captain said he had considerable skill, so I can’t understand why you hate him… is his face not to your tastes?”
“… His face is normal… but him alone, I’d like to avoid! That kid is…”
Cattleya’s face darkened… inferring it from the atmosphere, Lilim said no more on the matter.
That dubious journey through the sky came to a close, and the two of them landed their dragons on the Arses House courtyard… but there, a single individual leapt out. For someone to jump out unafraid of the dragons… they had nothing but bad feelings about this.
But that individual… embraced the dragon. In opposition, the Wind Dragon moved its wings to resist. As there was a danger he would be killed at this rate, Lilim warily approached that individual.
“What are you doing?”
“… I’m sorry. I was just so happy… I’m reflecting on my actions.”
That individual was Rudel after all. Opening her eyes a little, Lilim confirmed the clothes he wore, and compared his appearance to her sister’s description. She dropped her caution and soothed the dragon.
Seeing a dragon up close, their large bodies and demonic forms invoked much fear. For there to be an oddball who wasn’t even a dragoon to leap at one… such was Lilim’s first impression of him.
Led inside the mansion, the ladies found themselves in the room the meeting was supposed to take place. While their first meeting was planned to be in that room to begin with… as Rudel had done such a discourtesy, the two of them were currently sipping tea on standby.
“He’s a strange one, right senpai? I’m here on my house’s orders, but why didn’t you decline?”
Cattleya asked as she sipped her tea, and Lilim answered.
“I am an elf, and no matter how much I achieve, I will never be granted a family name. The only exception is marrying into a noble house, where the child born of the union will take up its name… this is partly the request of the elven elders, but… I heard he was an individual my little sister was interested in, so I wanted to check him out. Well, it seems I’m just here to harass the house head.”
Even now, Courtois treated demi-humans poorly. The reason they could even become knights of the country was due to the fact that the Gaia Empire next door was a military state. If they didn’t prioritize ability, then a gap would open in no time.
That was the ‘Setting of the World’.
As if to interrupt their conversation, the head- Rudel’s father- made his entrance.
“I apologize for that previous discourtesy… from that bumbling son of mine. I hope you’ll forgive him.”
While his words did form an apology, his attitude was clearly looking down on the two. The two paid it little mind, as they stood and offered the archduke some knightly bows. As that was happening, it was Rudel’s turn to appear.
“I-I’ve kept you waiting!”
“Rudel! What were you thinking!? You disgrace of the Arses House… keep our guests company at once.”
As he said that, Rudel’s father left the room. That was usually an unfeasible interaction, but from the Arses House’s point of view, they were dealing with a small-time noble, and a demi-human. If they weren’t dragoons respected by the country, Rudel’s father wouldn’t have seen them as any more than pebbles on the side of the road.
“It is a pleasure to be of your acquaintance, Rudel-sama. For this auspicious honor, I do… hah.”
While Cattleya tried to give a greeting, she stopped partway, gave a sigh, and sat down in her chair. She didn’t even try to look Rudel in the face. To be more precise, she remembered her malice whenever she did.
“Cattleya… my apologies, Rudel-sama. I’m sure your dissatisfied with me, but shall we talk a while? I am Lilim… as you can see, I am an elf.”
Rudel grew down over Cattleya’s attitude… it felt similar to being hated by his favorite idol. But once Lilim gave her greetings, he instantly perked up.
“I am Rudel Arses. It is an honor to meet the dragoon I admire most!”
Rudel knew almost all of the dragoon knights. Irrelevant to popularity. And among them, he naturally knew the prominent name of Lilim. As Rudel approached with sparking eyes, Lilim took a step back.
“You’re just as my sister said… do you really admire dragoons so?”
“Yes! I’ll definitely become one!”
… Lilim thought it would be difficult. Even for herself, she knew that her becoming of a dragoon was a miracle. She didn’t think it possible for Rudel who only received reasonable evaluations.
But perhaps that was why… she invited Rudel outside to ride on the back of her own dragon.
Lilim rode with him. I’m glad he’s so delighted by my prided Wind Dragon’s speed… she thought. The air resistance was blocked out with the dragon’s magic. Because of that, no matter how fast they moved across the sky, they could freely look over the ground.
“Are you satisfied, Rudel-sama? Have your worries been blown away…”
There was another reason this engagement was arranged. It was to make Rudel aware he was the next archduke. To tell him to stop dreaming of dragoons forever.
“You’ll likely be marrying Cattleya, and you need to better look at reality. If you marry, then as the heir, it will become important for you to help out the current archduke.”
“W-what are you talking about? Lilim-sama, I…!”
“I heard about you from my sister. Excellent grades, and while you may have a problem or two, you’re tolerant towards demi-humans… you should be putting your territory first, and acting upon it. Give up on becoming a dragoon. Your wife Cattleya will do your share of knightly duties as well.”
The words he received from his respected dragoon were ‘give up’… those wirds felt extremely heavy to Rudel.
Once the meeting with Rudel was over, the two ladies set out for their lodging house. The day grew dark, and by the time they reached, it would likely be night, thought Cattleya as she teased Lilim.
“Did you successfully promote yourself, senpai? Even so, you sure are cruel… telling him to give up.”
“Oh shut it… that was originally supposed to be your job.”
“Well, well… but he’ll probably give up with this. I mean, he heard it from an active dragoon… and that look on his face when he got back! It was seriously an end-of-the-world face!”
Lilim found it a little strange… normally, Cattleya wasn’t the sort of person to say these sort of things. She was a genius, and while she looked down on her surroundings, it was never this terrible. She even grew curious as to what could driver her towards such negative feelings.
“… I felt a little sorry for him…”
Lilim’s words didn’t reach Cattleya.