The palace of the Kingdom of Courtois was driven to react to the activity shown by the Gaia Empire.
While the matter with Celestia had them in a hurry about awarding medals, in order to deal with the sudden movements of an enemy country, a meeting had been opened.
King Albach looked at the lines of ministers and yelled.
"What is the meaning of this!? For what reason has such a report not been raised to this point!?"
There, one of the ministers jovially laughed as he spoke.
"Now, now, your highness, please keep it at that. We'll just have to put the dragoons to work. We can decide who's responsible later and replace them. We need to prepare for the ceremony."
Albach lowered his fist on the table.
"What idiocy do you speak of!? Why are we making light of our foe!? Just how much of our blood do you think Gaia has made flow? How can you declare the enemy will repeat the same actions as before!? Where is all the information!? I know we have more than enough forts stationed at the border!"
As no report was ever raised, the country was unable to put up any decent countermeasures. Sensing some ill intent, Albach glared at the ministers.
But Courtois had never lost before.
The reason being they had the strongest dragoons. As long as they were there, even if casualties came out, they would surely never lose, the ministers were certain of it. At the same time, Courtois' land was bountiful, leading to a lowered sense of crisis.
"What are you doing!? We must investigate, send scouts...!"
Holding his chest, Albach wiped sweat from his forehead. On top of a pain in his chest, his voice wouldn't come out. Breathing took all his might, his dizziness wouldn't allow him to stand any longer.
Those nearby approached him, and the meeting was put on hold.
(Don't just close it there, fool. Someone take command in my place... anyone!)
As his consciousness grew distant, Albach felt something black and squirmy moving in a corner of the room. But Albach lacked the means to confirm if it was really there.
His voice sealed, from his chest pains, he couldn't move.
With the king unable to do a thing, Courtois was thrust into a state of war.
She awaited her graduation ceremony.
She had acquired all the required elective and class credits, there were no problems with her graduation.
As the second princess of Courtois, Fina had achieved excellent grades, but... with bags under her eyes, she sipped coffee as she looked at the blinding morning sun.
"... The night has let up again."
The one who built similar bags under her eyes, with her violet hair ruffled up, her glasses out of place, was a woman called Sophina.
Fina's exclusive guard, at present she was a commanding officer of the declining order of high knights.
Regardless of the fact she was in a school dorm, Fina's room luxuriously spread out. In such a room, the floor was littered with documents, and a demi-human of the white cat tribe was pitifully collapsed.
"Don't give me that, the night has let up schtick! Your school days are about to end buried in a sea of paperwork, princess, are you really okay with that?"
Her expressions unchanging from the time of her birth, Fina expressionlessly made a fist and stuck up her thumb.
"I have no regrets. I've made a friend in Mii, fluffed up so many comrades, I was able to meet my master... I'm so happy I think I'm going to go crazy."
While expressionless, her delight was the real thing. Sophina lamented over whether it was really alright for her master to rejoice over such a thing.
"Let's make some better school memories while we still can! You're the only one chased around your room by government papers!"
The bags under her eyes were deep, the ink staining on her hands was terrible. But while Fina was expressionless, she gave off an air as if she had received enlightenment.
"A lifelong friend and a master, what more can I wish for? Once this is over, I'll be satisfied just with controlling the country from the shadows. Right, to one day raise the status of demi-humans, I'll get my hands on all the strings!"
"You really are the worst."
At the sound of Sophina bursting into tears, her subordinates entered the room. They were the subordinates of a high knight, but the problem lay in that Sophina's subordinates would not enter the room over an exchange of that level.
Their faces were the epitome of severity. Sophina turned her face serious as well as she sought confirmation.
One of her subordinates spoke.
"Captain, a messenger has come from Aileen-sama. We were told to return Fina-sama to the palace at once."
Hearing that, Sophina turned to look at Fina.
She had finished her coffee, and breathing a sigh, Fina looked at the collapsed white cat Mii.
"... Let me put Mii to sleep. I'll get myself ready, so could you please tell them to wait?"
But the female knights brazenly entered the room. This attitude against Fina was a great discourtesy, and on top of that...
"Second princess, Aileen-sama is waiting at the palace. You needn't prepare anything. Please make for the carriage at once."
Fina stood from her seat, placing the cup in her hand on her desk.
"I cannot leave my good friend like this. I'll put her to sleep on my bed, you could at least give me time for that."
There, one of the intruding knights let out their voice.
"A demi-human as a friend? It's because they let you attend this academy that it came to this."
While she heard those words, Fina carried herself calmly. The captain of the knights who came in thought a bit before nodding and approving of Mii's transfer to the bed.
Fina issued the orders, and Sophina lay Mii down.
"Well then, high knights, you will be leaving your weapons behind."
On that further demand, Sophina's eyes went sharp.
"What is the meaning of this? This is almost as if..."
... Almost as if we're being apprehended, as Sophina tried to say it, Fina quieted her down.
Walking up before the captain of the knights, she spoke.
"You're a knight of the royal guard. Very well, take me where you will. But will you provide an explanation of the situation?"
The knight spoke.
"Aileen-sama will personally do so at the palace."
Meaning there wouldn't be any explaining along the way.
(Ah man, so she's finally made her move. That's a bit earlier than I thought. My preparations aren't even complete yet.)
Thinking she hadn't made it in time, Fina had Sophina and her subordinates disarm themselves before leaving the room.
A while later, once everyone was gone, Mii lifted herself from the bed with a pale face.
In the palace, leading her knights, the first princess Aileen showed a smile of leisure before the king and queen.
The king was holding his chest, he tried to rise from the bed, but perhaps he couldn't get any power into his body, as he was failing miserably.
The doctor restrained Albach with a desperate look on her face, the queen threw the fan she usually carried at her daughter.
The one who cut that fan down was Fritz, captain of the royal guard.
Brown hair, wearing the uniform of the royal guard, he made a slightly pale face himself.
The queen cried out.
"Aileen! Do you know what it is you're doing!?"
The queen who usually spat cynicism yet remained unperturbed was enraged. The king remained immobile, his disturbed breath causing him to keel over.
Aileen opened her mouth.
"I do. If father cannot move during this great crisis, then someone will have to take his place. The Gaia Empire is making its move. We will have to erect countermeasures of our own."
The queen's expression wasn't directed at her daughter, she sent it to Fritz standing by her side.
"So the princess of our country has been deceived by a single man... I never liked you, but I never thought you would go so far."
As the queen voiced her displeasure towards Fritz, Aileen flew into a rage.
"What do you mean by that!? Fritz-sama is my splendid knight! If you mean to insult him, then even my mother will have no mercy from me."
As the knights readied their weapons, the knights around the king took their weapons in hand as well. With many knights of the royal guard around, to look at the numbers, they were surrounded.
Aileen continued on levelly.
"Just watch on from here. The day Courtois is reborn anew... where status doesn't matter, I shall show you the actualization of a world where everyone lives equally."
On those words, the queen.
"I don't see you capable of accomplishing such a thing. You'd do well to learn, even if you do something like this, no one will recognize you! The rumors will all say Albach's ailment was surely your doing. The times will resent you."
Albach had collapsed from mysterious illness, even the royal physician was unable to treat him.
Aileen had gone on the offense. Albach had two daughters, Aileen and Fina.
Restraining her mother the queen, she had made preparations to restrain fina as well.
"... Mother, once everything is over, I'll release you. Fina as well. That child is my sister. From here on, I want her to live more freely."
Hearing that, the queen laughed.
"Aha ahahaha! Aileen, you're under a misconception."
At the queen's words, the knights looked at Aileen. Holding them back with a hand, Aileen conversed with her mother.
"A misconception? What do you mean by that?"
"It's simple. You misunderstand who Fina is. That child properly understands it. Though it seems you've taken a liking to moving in the shadows. The talks of your marriage with Aleist... do you know who it was that brought it forward?"
Aileen looked between Fritz and the queen's face.
"So you mean to tell me that child did such a thing."
The queen spoke to Aileen.
"I'm sure there won't be a next time so remember this. Feuds between siblings are not restricted to the royal house, they're a tale you can find anywhere. The Fina you find so adorable might turn out a wild beast, you know."
Aileen expressionlessly led Fritz and the others out the room, leaving knights to keep watch.
(That child... did such a thing!)
Feeling she'd been betrayed, Aileen walked down the palace corridor. Taking along her knights she called out one order after the next.
"Gather all the main members at once. The white and black knights should be here to receive their medals. They both hold vital roles, make sure to call for them without fail."
Fritz watched as the knights moved on Aileen's orders. While he was supposed to be captain of the royal guard, his men were all moving on Aileen's orders.
"Aileen, what exactly is going on? When the Gaia Empire is invading, why is the palace so..."
She had raised what was almost an insurrection. No, it was insurrection.
Aileen smiled at Fritz.
"It's alright, Fritz-sama. I will definitely make fulfill your dreams."
Come so far, Fritz felt something terrifying in Aileen's smile. But having grown so involved, Fritz had lost the option to run away.
Having ventured to the capital to receive a medal, Rudel had come to the front of the dragoon training facilities.
It was a place he was stopping at for the first in a while, but the ones who awaited him were knights prepared for battle. His brigade captain Oldart Billums and the vice-captain Alejandro Campbell.
The other dragoons were also preparing for battle, waiting for Rudel's arrival.
Rudel could see his colleague Luxheidt Aiguille making an apologetic gesture behind the dragoon brigade in full battle formation.
Bennet who had accompanied him there was also perplexed by the situation.
In the first place, Rudel had dropped by to train with Enora. But when he arrived, he found the dragoons preparing for war.
Of course, it confused him.
Failing to grasp anything, Rudel asked the captain.
"Captain, what's all this about? Do you need me to do anything?"
The self-proclaimed charmer in his prime Oldart made a belligerent smile as he spoke to Rudel.
"No, you see... we're just going to put some restraints on the damn fool who laid hands on the dragoon brigade's idol. We're just going to crush a newbie who's gotten on his high horse just because he's got a bit strong. This isn't a personal grudge or anything."
The vice-captain with a scar on his face, Alejandro spoke.
"... Leading beauties around, a guy who's even in a position to lay hands on my daughter. There's no way I could leave him be. We will be setting things straight here."
Thinking they were misunderstanding something, Rudel sent a glance at Luxheidt, who seemed to be the only one still sane.
While Luxheidt apologized, he looked like he was enjoying it.
Having been looking forward to her training with Rudel, Enora was deeply irritated as she looked at the other brigade members getting in their way.
"Hey, isn't this a bit too terrible? Did you really need to assemble these numbers to take on Rudel? We're a bit busy here."
Feigning calmness, perhaps Bennet was a little scared as her tail curled up.
"T-that's right. What's more, using dragons for personal affairs is strictly prohibited. Captain, this is surely no good."
Rudel surrounded by women.
And Rudel with women sticking up for him.
The will of the dragoon brigade became one.
"Don't screw with me! Bennet-chan, you have to wake up! That man is a wolf!"
Hearing that, Bennet's ears slumped down. Of all else, Bennet was a demi-human, a wolf, and he made it sound like...
"... I'm part of the wolf tribe."
As she said that, Oldart started making excuses. "Men are all wolved beneath the belt," he said as he broke into a sweat.
"You should get a bit of a better eye for me! It's Rudel we're talking about. That Rudel!"
Being called a that, Rudel made a dubious expression as he sent a glance over to Izumi, who kept silent all the way. Trying to keep out of it, Izumi seemed truly reluctant to receive that glance.
"Hey, am I really that terrible?"
"In a different sense, you're considerably terrible. No, I think you're a really good guy, normally."
Seeing Rudel delighted at Izumi's praise, Enora seemed displeased and Oldart let out a shout.
"You don't have to sweat the small things! We're right here, and so is Rudel! Then there's only one thing to do!"
"We'll show you hell!"
"Today is the day you die!"
"Bury the bastard!!"
Answering their dragoons' cries, the dragons also roared and soared into the skies. Straddling their dragons, the dragoons danced through the air.
Oldart spoke to Rudel.
"Rudel, we'll take you on. Get on up there."
As he said that, he soared into the sky, and the dragoons began flying around as if to draw a circle.
Seeing that, Rudel's eyes began to sparkle.
"Those numbers are a bit much. That's more than twenty dragons. Rudel, just go home for today."
Bennet was also worried.
"This is a personal affair. There won't be a problem if you refuse."
She seemed worried for her subordinate Rudel.
Izumi looked over the worried two as she spoke with a resigned face.
"There's nothing you can do when he gets like that. Rudel, make sure you don't get hurt too badly. It will be bad if you get hospitalized before you get your medal."
"Yeah, leave it to me... it's just when my enemy's so serious, wouldn't it be rude not to get serious myself?"
As he said that, Rudel smiled and whistled.
From a large hole near the facility, the white dragon Sakuya popped out her head and roared. The dragons soaring through the sky weakly roared back in answer.
Sakuya landed before Rudel and turned him her back.
A smiling Rudel boarded her in an instant. As he lifted into the air with Sakuya, Bennet sighed.
"You're at a real disadvantage with those numbers. I'll lend a hand. Heleene."
As Bennet called her dragon, a blue beautiful dragon descended to the ground. In her mouth was a mass of meat she had procured from somewhere.
It seems she was in the middle of a meal.
After crushing that boned meat in her teeth and swallowing it down, she directed her back at Bennet.
Enora as well.
"I-I can also... Falk, get over here!"
Appearing in response to that voice was the wind dragon Falk. Spreading out his large wings, he roared and once Enora had gotten on his back, he took to the sky.
Seeing all that, Izumi breathed out a deep sigh.
"Hah, guess I should start running."
She said as she fled from the spot.
In the sky, the dragoons flocked around the white dragon.
"Dammit! She won't fall!"
"She's way too hard!"
"Oy, someone go stall the other two!"
As a subspecies of gaia dragon, a species that faced difficulties in aerial combat, Sakuya flapped her four large, white wings.
Double the size of the gray dragons that made up a majority of the dragoons, she held a different level of intensity. As this expedition had failed to recruit any gaia or red dragons, they lacked any real means to get damage through.
And such a dragon was being guarded by Bennet and Enora's dragons.
While Bennet could perform well on ground battles, in the air, she exhibited abilities lower than the average dragoon. Regardless, she was accompanied by a wild water dragon.
Enora's wind dragon made use of its speed in aerial combat to stand superior.
Against those three dragoons, Oldart's forces numbered over twenty.
But even with seven times the forces, they were unable to put a dent on Sakuya, who struggled in aerial combat.
"No, she's way too hard! It wasn't like this before!"
The one who answered Oldart's panicked voice was Bennet.
"I did my best to train her!"
Looking at Bennet answer full of confidence, Oldart,
"Bennet-chan really is cute~ but Rudel... I won't forgive you!"
Atop Sakuya's back, Rudel blocked the breath attacks coming in from around with his shields of light. And if a dragon got too close, it would be batted away by Sakuya's large arms.
(I planned to beat him down to show him there are still people better, but... so he grew this strong.)
Even as he raised this stupid ruckus, Oldart was amazed by Rudel's growth. He was convinced his own decision hadn't been mistaken.
(It wasn't a mistake to leave him with the strongest in land and air, Bennet-chan and Keith. God dammit, if only Keith was able to eat him up along the way. But eating up Bennet-chan, really cut me some slack.)
Before Rudel who normal dragoons were no longer a match for, Oldart showed a smile.
(Just how strong will he grow.)
Oldart and his dragon took a round around Sakuya as she kept stagnant, blowing away any dragon that got too close. Looking closely, there was also a wind dragon battle between parent and child going on.
"Enora, call it quits already!"
"You're the one who should call it quits!"
The wind dragons were playing a game of chase.
Turning his eyes to Bennet, he saw she was keeping a moderate distance from three dragons, going on the defense to hold them in place.
(Hah, I wanted to be over there. But we can't leave this one like this.)
Oldart looked at Rudel, issuing orders to his subordinates.
"Don't get close, continue circling and sprinkling attacks! Let's see just how long Rudel can hold out!"
There, with a smile of madness from Sakuya's back, Rudel seemed delighted.
"That's just what I wanted!"
He said such a thing.
(... Oh my, this guy's scary.)
It was a tower to shut away royalty.
Within that prison made by royalty was a luxurious cell for royalty.
The room had a fluffy bed, a carpet spread out. All the furniture was in order, and bookshelves were prepared as well.
But they didn't contain books.
Fina looked over the room.
"Good grief, to shove me into a place like this."
She said and breathed a sigh.
There were iron bars running across the window from which the light streamed in. It was impossible for Fina to leave through them.
Across the entrance door were two female knights on watch. Sitting on the sofa, Fina thought over what would happen now.
"... They'll let me look after animals, won't they? I should put in an order."
In her life of boredom, she thought of what would give her warmth. Showing a surprising amount of leisure, it wasn't as if Fina never considered it would come to this.
"Wait a second... if they're going to lock me away like this, that means I don't have to work and I can spend all my time fluffing up fluffy animals, right? Oh me oh my! That might be amazing!"
The expressionless Fina stood, raising both her hands as she did a jump for joy.
"The first one should be a dog, perhaps? And then a cat..."
Just as her fantasies expanded, a knock came at the door.
Before she could answer, the door opened up.
Standing there was her elder sister Aileen.
Leading along her prided knights, she appeared before Fina with a smile.
(What's this, she's appeared without delay.)
Fina stopped her dance and curtsied to Aileen and Fritz.
"It has been a long while, sister."
Aileen motioned her to sit. There were tables stationed with a sofa in-between, and after Aileen took a seat first, Fritz stood diagonally behind her, keeping wary of Fina.
If anything happened, he seemed ready to cut at her.
(Bringing along her favorite knight, looks like someone's having fun.)
While she wanted to complain, Fina endured and sat before her sister. There, Aileen offered an apology.
"This is all happening so fast we haven't found someone to look after you. I can't serve you any tea, I'm sorry Fina."
Fina shook her head.
"Don't worry about that. And so? Can I ask why you've called me here, sister?"
Knowing Aileen would make a move, Fina knew this day would come. Of course, she intended it to be her sister shut in the royal tower instead of herself.
(Well, family feuds are only good sense for the royals and nobles. Perhaps I was a little too naïve. Thought my preparations have gone a considerable way.)
Aileen's face turned from a smile to serious as she explained the present situation.
"Fina, father has collapsed. Luckily, there is no danger to his life. But he is suffering difficulty speaking. To add to that, the Gaia Empire has made its move. Don't you think someone has to take charge in such a situation?"
Fina listened in expressionlessly.
But she closed her eyes.
(Ah~, I just pulled an all nightery, I'm sleepy. They didn't even let me sleep in the carriage. I want to drink some coffee. A straight shot should get me right up.)
She was thinking over something completely different, but Aileen knew Fina's expression wouldn't change and went on.
Perhaps she thought the girl was taking it meekly.
"If we show weakness in such a crisis, the archdukes will take advantage of us. So I have decided to take command. But even if I can suppress the palace, I can't do anything about the knight brigades or the army. So I'm going to have Fritz-sama do his best."
Aileen's gaze turned to Fritz. Fritz stuck out his chest as he came out before her.
(Oy, oy, you really sure about that? He doesn't have any experience leading a large force, does he? Rather, he doesn't have any achievements for anyone to recognize him by.)
Fina opened her mouth.
"... What happened to mother. Also, starting with the three archduke houses, a large number of nobles won't be satisfied with Fritz."
Aileen narrowed her eyes, she took on quite a displeased expression.
"For now, I cannot be bothered to care for such a trifle. What's more, we have many who will cooperate with us. Fina, the current Courtois is mistaken. The nobles only ever think of themselves, ignoring the people..."
Fina thought the same. But all she agreed with was the part about Courtois being mistaken.
Right, themselves included.
(We rely too much on the dragoons. An environment of abundant land watched over by powerful dragoons... the surrounding countries have polished various things to go up against us, yet we do nothing at all. We have no prince to succeed, Courtois is filled with problems... it really is a hassle.)
Aileen informed Fina of just how disappointing Courtois' nobles were, and of the pain they caused their people.
And using this as an opportunity, Aileen...
"With a commoner like Fritz' achievements as an opportunity, Courtois will undergo a large change. It will no longer be people for the country, but a country for the people. We will need to make this a country where everyone's equal, where as long as you're skilled, you'll be recognized."
If Fina could make any expression, she would be laughing. What's more, with a belittling smile on her face.
But the words that came out of her mouth...
"You're right. That is important. I do think to evaluate talented personnel and assign them important roles is important. It's just, I cannot quite agree with Fritz-dono being the representative of that. He does not have any achievements."
Aileen remained displeased.
"... He need only start building them up now."
"Big sister, there are no absolutes in war. Fritz-dono."
Fina directed her eyes at Fritz. He seemed a little surprised, but he instantly replied.
"What is it?"
"The war this time around... do you think we can win it?"
Fritz stuck out his chest as he clearly declared.
"We will win. Using this chance Aileen has given me to prove even a commoner can rise in the country of Courtois is something of a duty to me."
"Is that so," Fina said and looked down a bit.
Aileen to Fina,
"Fina, you'll cooperate with me, won't you? In the academy, you interacted not only with nobles but with commoners as well. Can you understand how I feel?"
As she sought out Fina's approval, Aileen seemed to be trying to increase her allies.
What Aileen spoke of was correct. Fina also wanted to make the system more meritocratic than it currently stood.
It wasn't as if she didn't see the need to reform Courtois that relied on the dragoons so much it ruined itself.
But this wasn't the time.
It hadn't come to that stage.
That was Fina's conclusion.
Fina expressionlessly looked at her sister Aileen head on as she spoke.
"I'll have to decline, sister (A country for the people, eh. That's wrong, sister)."
Seeing Aileen's expression of disbelief, Fina thought.
(It's not people for the country or a country for the people. It takes both sides for a country to live on. As I thought, the two of us are incompatible.)
Fina decided to give Aileen her farewell.
Rudel brought his feet to the palace.
It was to receive his war medals.
In the past, he had saved a town attacked by monsters. The ruckus about Celestia's ancient weapon was finally dying down, and the Kingdom of Celestia sent over some choice words of gratitude.
Receiving them, Rudel and Aleist would receive some medals as well.
Rudel was rarely ever at the palace, Rudel was unable to settle as he looked around.
His accompanying inspector Izumi posed him the question.
"What's wrong? It's rare to see you so restless."
The surroundings were the same, but Rudel felt a sort of tingling sensation on his skin.
"No, that's not it. It's just, this sort of..."
In the middle of their conversation, Rudel spotted Aleist in the hall and called out to him. Leading along his subordinates, for some reason Aleist was holding cleaning supplies.
"Ah, good morning."
Izumi made a dubious face.
"It's been a while since I last saw you like that. Rather, aren't you supposed to be receiving some medals today, Aleist?"
"That's right. That's why I have to finish up my job before that. After this, I just have to return to the room and get ready."
Leaving the palace's cleaning to the heir of a Count House was quite the peculiar tale.
What's more, Aleist was the black knight.
Rudel spoke up.
"Aleist, the palace feels strange, but did something happen? Does it always feel like this?"
To Rudel's question, Aleist.
"No, I did hear a rumor his majesty collapsed. But there are lots of other strange rumors, and I can't tell you what exactly happened."
As Aleist seemed troubled, "I see," Rudel said as he decided to make for the waiting room.
"I'll go on ahead. You're coming later, right?"
As he said that, Aleist nodded with a smile.
"That's right. But I just can't get used to walking around the palace not in these work clothes."
Seeing Aleist's laugh, is that really alright? Thought Rudel, but he kept silent.
The man in question seemed to enjoy his job, and he got the feeling that wasn't something for an outsider to stick his mouth into.
"I'll be waiting."
As Rudel said that and led Izumi off, Aleist waved his hand.
"Yeah, I'll be there before you know it."
As they separated from Aleist's group, Izumi began to chuckle.
Rudel seemed puzzled.
"Something funny happen?"
As he asked, Izumi shook her head with a smile.
"No, I was just thinking you and Aleist really have become friends. I just thought it was strange."
Being told that by Izumi, Rudel felt a bit awkward as he scratched his face with his fingertip.
At the same time, the atmosphere of the palace still bothered him for some reason.
(I have a bad feeling about this. I hope it goes without issue.)