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Chapter 6 – Atelier of Machine Dragons and Enrolment Exams
Castle town of the Imperial Capital. In the drawing room of a small mansion in the outskirts, Lux and a guest were sitting.
Five Years Ago, April.
The feudal lord of the North East from the Imperial Capital, Count Atismata gathered the resistance of every place and raised an uprising 20 days later.
Coupled with the support of neighboring countries, he was ready to lead an army of 70000 soldiers and 207 Drag-Knights and decided to invade the Imperial Capital.
To convey this very important and highly cla.s.sified information, Fugil came.
It was exactly ten days before his little sister Airi was to head to the Frontier Count.
Fugil, who tightly wrapped himself in a robe from head to toe, sat on a seat at the table illuminated by a candle flame, and slightly stuck out his head.
“The matter is proceeding as planned, little brother. As you planned, everything is going well.”
Lux bowed and then put the Sword Device which he was wearing on the table.
“I’m also ready.”
“As expected of you, little brother.”
Fugil who heard that nodded with admiration.
“You’ve far exceeded my expectations. Being the youngest user in the history, you displayed your ability by gaining several hundred victories in the training and mock battles of the Empire army. Originally, that unprecedented exploit is something which should be praised all over the country and also by the Emperor –– but this Empire ended up being corrupted to the root.”
In a voice mixed with resignation, he continued further.
“You’re the illegitimate seventh Prince. Moreover, you’re a person who objected to the politics of the Empire. No matter how much skill you have –– even if you are praised for your achievements, you hold a differing opinion which doesn’t garner attention towards blood legitimacy. This means that such a person can’t be a “Hero”.”
“I’ve never thought to set myself up as a hero. Just––”
To the answer of the calm Lux, Fugil smiled.
“But, I’ll ask you once again, shouldn’t you stop that way of fighting? You don’t expressly have to put yourself in danger in order to save the enemy. If you feel like it, though there will be sacrifices, you can choose a safer way––”
Not even shaken by the voice of Fugil who invited him, Lux raised his face.
“This way, even supposing that the plan succeeds, there will be no meaning.”
“Most men of the army are puppets of the imperial family. While wielding the absolute weapon which is the Drag-Ride, they would blindly obey orders of oppression and ma.s.sacring of innocent people. So, you can’t a.s.sert that they have no responsibility.”
“But, they might just be forced to execute orders which they don’t want. Even the people of the army have family.”
“Phew… Geez, your resolve deserves great admiration”
Fugil, somewhat amazed, smile wryly and then stood up.
“Well then, see you in three days then. As per your instructions, I will come here again. Until then, give me a definite answer. Whether you will cooperate with a and fight alongside my ? Or––”
“Like I thought, we should kill those guys and cut off the bad habit. Will you keep asking about something which won’t change? Will you give up everything for what you are trying to change? As a Prince of the Empire, if you possess the pride to fulfill it, then––”
Looking at Lux who did not change his expression, Fugil got ready to go back.
And with a hand, holding back Lux who tried to stand up and see him off, he slowly opened his mouth.
“Ah, which reminds me, Lux. That matter which you asked me to investigate about. About the medication and experimentation on a human body that the Empire’s army was running.”
To the words which were released, Lux showed a faint agitation.
The trend of the androcracy which went to extremes.
All the women are tools.
In the imperial traditional culture, the fact that women obeyed men was taken for granted.
The scene where any male aristocrat made up a reason and abducted citizens or young girls of poor family as an outlet of his desire and manpower was not unusual.
But this time, a more horrible thing was happening.
The extremely horrifying affair where the military authorities were said to use very young girls for a certain special human experimentation.
On the surface, it was a clinical trial for making medicine to cure plague.
However, in reality, it was human experimentation for poison and weapon.
With the fact that the majority of the results were either unknown after-effects or death, they returned to their family.
“Young children –– Among them, it seems that a subject chosen by a certain standard was the most suitable for the experiment; and this time, even several n.o.ble children seem to have been taken to the military facilities. Philphie Aingram. Including that childhood friend of yours with whom you were getting along with.”
The moment when he heard this, Lux’s expression slightly stiffened.
“It seems that the elder sister Relie went to the imperial court to appeal for letting her go while crying, but, she was flatly refused. And it seems that the medication and surgery –– the experiment will begin within two weeks at the earliest.”
Even so, immediately regaining his composure, Lux answered.
“Then later, little brother. I believe in your resolution.”
Fugil left the mansion before one could noticed.
However, there was only darkness and the sound of rain there.
Several days since Lux came to the Royal Knight Academy.
Lux was spending his first holiday in a two person room of the girl’s dormitory.
“––Nii-san, Nii-san! Please get up.”
Feeling someone shaking his body, Lux woke up.
As he half-opened his eyes against sleepiness, he first saw his little sister’s face. Then, the near ceiling of the bunk beds came into view.
Airi seemed to have come into the room where Lux was sleeping to wake him up.
“Get down quickly and come to the dining room. I have to talk with you.”
Probably because it was a holiday, Airi wasn’t wearing her school uniform, but a casual chic dress.
For Lux who had hardly lived in the same place as her, with only that, deed emotions welled up within him, but––
“I wonder how many years it’s been since you have come to wake me up, Airi.”
“More importantly Nii-san, what is the meaning of this?”
The skin around the eyes of Airi who smiled suddenly darkened.
“Ah, no, um…”
Gently holding the cheeks of Lux who unintentionally averted his face with her hands, she glared at him with scornful eyes.
“During the time I didn’t see you, you’ve become quite lazy. Please come to the dining room in less than three minutes.”
“You don’t even give me time to change my clothes?”
“Is that so? So usually, you change your clothes leisurely with your roommate around.”
Turning a fleeting glance under the bunk bed, Airi said.
To her cold voice, Lux could only answer “I will come at once”.
“Well then, I’m waiting, so.”
Seeming amazed, Airi briskly left the room.
“Haa, don’t get angry…”
At the sleep-talking of Philphie which could be heard from under the bed, Lux smile wryly.
“I’m going. Phi-chan.”
The dining room of the girl’s dormitory was opened even on holidays.
However, since the time when meals were offered, was fixed, even if one woke up early in the morning, he could not get a meal immediately.
So, there were almost no students here at this early a time during holidays.
In the meantime, Lux and Airi were facing each other on the seats of a small table.
“It’s good to see that you’ve considerably gotten used to the academy. You seem a little too close to your roommate though.”
Airi said such sarcasm as she sipped her tea.
“Like I said…, that was inevitable… When I searched, the girl’s dormitory had no vacant room, and I don’t know why, but there was no roommate in only Philphie’s room, um––”
“Hmm. Thus, you may stay at the room of a female childhood friend, huh. It’s indecent, extremely immoral. Would you like me to tell Princ.i.p.al Relie?”
“I’ve already told Relie-san about it. And then, she replied “I leave my little sister to you”, “it’s fine if it’s Lux-kun” with a smile…”
In the end, Lux was sent to Philphie’s room in the girl’s dormitory until a place where he could stay was found.
Philphie, as usual with her easy-going personality, far from minding it seemed to be pleased, but Lux spent every day where he could not sleep easily.
It seemed that the three girls of the Triad and Airi already knew about it, but they wanted to keep this matter a secret as much as possible.
“It looks like before correcting Nii-san’s common sense, I should first admonish the princ.i.p.al, eh…”
As her exchanges with Relie immediately came to her mind, Airi sighed.
“So, what business do you have with me today? Airi.”
“Ara, so I can’t talk with you if I have no business? Nii-san.”
Lux’s question was returned with a mischievous smile.
Unlike a long time ago when she had a weak const.i.tution, she had become a lady very skilled at bargaining.
“Well then, errr… are you doing well in the academy, Airi?”
“Yes, everyone takes good care of me, so Nii-san doesn’t need to worry about me.”
“I see. You’re loved by everyone, huh.”
“Don’t put it like that.”
He smoothly said with a refreshing smile.
“…As expected, you’re good at dealings with things as usual.”
Lux said with a wry smile, but he also had slightly mixed feelings.
Even if she was ejected from the succession struggle early, Airi was a “woman” of royalty.
When her mother died when she (Airi) was young, her position became complicated in various ways; if she did not acquire a determined personality from a tender age, she would not have been able to survive so far.
When he thought so, he also thought of wanting to spoil her more as her brother, but.
“And Nii-san as usual seems to always get dragged only into troubles and difficulties. If you need any help, please tell me.”
“…Ah, it’s all right.”
Without words to return coming out, Lux returned a mixed smile.
It looked like he was the one getting spoiled.
Really, my little sister has gotten strong.
“Do you also have jobs from now on today?”
“Yes. After eating breakfast, it’s been planned that I will go to the “Atelier” in the academy.”
“Is it for a request from a student?”
“I think it’s from the academy. But, they say that it isn’t a pressing business.”
“Without it, you would have received invitations for a date on the holiday from the young ladies, eh.”
“W-What are you saying!? There would be no such thing––”
When Lux got fl.u.s.tered as he was teased,
“Haa…, this is why Nii-san is… Though you’ve been like that since long ago. Please, be a little aware of how others see you. Thanks to the fact that Nii-san stood out early, I also receive a lot of requests for you, you know?”
Airi said so with a sigh.
“I wonder what the young ladies here are thinking, asking to arrange a place where they can speak with Nii-san or to casually appeal for them.”
“Yes. In the Old Empire, women of citizen level or below were oppressed, and even most of the n.o.ble women were treated as tools for political marriage, so they apparently never felt that much close to men.”
“…I wonder if it’s what you call peace.”
“I think it’s a little exaggerated to say peace, but since the establishment of New Kingdom, there has been no major incident, so there may be no helping it. It’s only been five years since the Old Empire which laid out a tyrannical rule for many years has been destroyed. I’m sure that for the people of the New Kingdom, it’s still like a dream, like they are in the middle of a happy festival.”
She whispered and then sipped her tea.
Contrary to her cynical words, Airi’s expression did not seem that dissatisfied.
“Yes, it would be good if it continues like this forever.”
“For that, don’t forget our other purpose. Okay, Nii-san?”
The moment when Lux agreed, in the almost deserted dining room, Airi dropped the tone of her voice.
“… Yes, I know.”
Similarly in a lower tone, Lux replied.
“Then, I can feel relieved. The a.n.a.lysis regarding the output of that Machine Dragon will be over soon, so until then––”
As Lux nodded, Airi finished drinking her tea and stood up.
“Huh? Aren’t you eating breakfast with me? Theres still time before the cook arrives though––”
“I’ll pa.s.s. If just the two of us are seen by everyone of the cla.s.s, they’re likely to be jealous after all.”
To Airi’s words which posed as a joke, Lux smiled wryly.
“No, there’s no way that would happen. After all –– we’re siblings.”
“Besides, if we’re together anymore than this, I would be more reluctant to leave.”
She said in a small voice mixed with the fragrance of tea.
“It’s a joke, Nii-san. Well then, please be careful so as not to draw out that sword.”
Saying so at the end, Airi left the dining room.
After finishing his breakfast, Lux decided to begin today’s ch.o.r.es.
By the way, the written requests addressed to Lux, far from decreasing as the curiosity at first disappeared, increased in number as time pa.s.sed, and he had already reach a physically impossible domain.
Therefore, Lux settled down in the way of whether to accept the tasks judging from the importance and the degree of relative priority.
“Well, I’m used to not having days off, so it’s fine anyway.”
Rustlingly looking through the bundle of requests dropped in, Lux sighed.
The jobs such as watering the flower bed, studying and helping with cleaning the dormitory were still better.
Baggage carrier for shopping, help changing clothes, ma.s.sage, being a person to talk to during tea a party and the like exceeded the mixing up of public and private matters; it was very likely that they were mistaking Lux for a butler or something.
“…I mean, about half of them aren’t jobs that I, a man, should do!?”
He unintentionally retorted to the bundle of requests.
But, this was not a joke and since there seemed to be a lot of students who have written seriously, he had a headache.
Be that as it may, if there were jobs which should be given priority, he could use them as an excuse and turned down those requests, so for now he could relax.
The job which he had to do today was a request from the academy.
[Workplace] Royal Knight Academy Machine Dragon research and development site, Atelier
[Client] Machine Dragon Research and Development Chief
[Work contents] Machine Dragon Operation Test
The atelier was a large detached building located in the corner of the school premises.
He had several times helped with blacksmith works, but an atelier for Drag-Rides was a first for him.
He was slightly anxious about doing a job he was not familiar with, but he was also looking forward to it.
Originally, he intended to come to work as a mechanic apprentice of Machine Dragons, so it was welcoming.
“Excuse me. It’s Lux Acadia. I came for the commissioned work.”
He lightly knocked and greeted in a loud voice.
However, the answer to Lux’s greeting which was slightly tinged with tension was only silence.
He once again checked by looking at his requests note and the academy’s big clock.
There was no error.
Both the place and time should be right––
As he tried to turn the doork.n.o.b, he found that it was not locked.
“That’s really careless…”
The existence and technology of Drag-Rides should be top secret in any country.
Just because it’s within the school premises, I wonder if this is all right.
While smiling wryly, Lux quietly stepped inside.
“Excuse me. Is there anyone––”
Lux unintentionally swallowed his voice which he was about to utter.
A large s.p.a.ce in this brick building filled with the smell of oil and metals.
At the back where innumerable parts and tools were scatter about, there was a monster.
In the court of the imperial capital a long time ago.
Since he became the ch.o.r.e Prince, he had seen many Machine Dragons in the Machine Dragon hangar before holding a mock battle.
But––, this was totally different from them.
A strange Machine Dragon which fused halves of the bodies of a and a was over there.
“Ngh… what the heck is it? So noisy––”
As Lux was looking at it in utter amazement, he suddenly heard a voice from the nearby sofa.
Sleeping there covered with a thin blanket was Lisha dressed in a white gown on her uniform.
Probably because she had stayed overnight, her whole body got slightly dirty and her hair was also slightly disheveled.
Incidentally, her uniform was also very messy and her blouse was turned inside out. Lux unintentionally averted his gaze.
“What are you doing in a place like this?”
“…Huh? Lux, why are you here––? …Ah, I see. Now I remembered, I had requested you. Fuhaa…”
While rubbing her sleepy eyes, Lisha said something which he did not really understand.
When Lux went out again and got tea in the dining room, Lisha who fixed her messed up clothes drank it in one gulp.
“Fufu. You’re quite thoughtful, eh, Lux. As expected of the man that I acknowledged!”
With a behavior unlike a Princess’, Lisha showed a happy smile.
She probably came for a visit of the atelier and ended up staying overnight.
“Good morning. By the way, where is the chief of the atelier?”
As Lux asked after calming down,
“Here, here, right before your eyes.”
Lisha pointed at her small face and said.
“You still haven’t noticed? It looks like I need to somewhat correct my a.s.sessment regarding your insight! I’m saying that I’m the chief.”
No, she’s certainly wearing a gown which seems to be for work, but…
Honestly, it only looked like a child’s playing attire.
The hems were so long that they dragged on the floor.
“Whew. You’re very good at provocation. All right, I’ll ride on it.”
As Lisha proudly laughed, she drew out the two Sword Devices hanging on her waist at the same time.
“––Come out. The Primordial Chaos Dragon that is the perforating wedge against Heaven and Earth. !”
At that moment, the strange Machine Dragon which could be seen at the back of the atelier turned into photons, and was transferred behind Lisha.
“A connection should not be necessary. All right, go back.”
Lisha simultaneously wielded her two Sword Devices and put them in the sheath.
Then, the Machine Dragon which was summoned once again changed into light particles, and went back to the depths of the warehouse.
“…What is it, that thing?”
Staring in wonder at it, Lux muttered.
“How’s that, were you surprised?”
Lisha, who was pleased with Lux’s reaction folded her arms and stuck out her chest with pride.
“. It’s the world’s first original Drag-Ride which I’ve developed.”
Lux doubted his ears.
Drag-Rides were ancient weapons excavated in ruins.
Since they had been discovered more than ten years ago, their concrete principle even now remained a mystery, and at best only adjustments of the degree of either installing the existing parts or replacing them could be performed.
A remodeling into a totally different Machine Dragon like this should existed nowhere in the world––
“If you can process the Mithril Dite and Force Core, there seems to be a lot of things which can be produced. Afterward, the performance and output of that body are quite impressive, but it’s a little neck <–(neck?) that="" one="" has="" to="" use="" two="" sword="" devices="" for="" the="" activation.”="" ="" he="" had="" never="" heard="" about="" the="" fusion="" of="" two="" kinds="" of="" machine="" dragons="" and="" dual="" wielding="" sword="" devices.="" ="" if="" she="" had="" combined="" two="" original="" machines="" and="" even="" learned="" to="" operate="" two="" swords,="" then="" this="" girl="" concealed="" an="" unimaginable="" potential="" as="" an="" engineer.="" ="" “um,="" who="" are="" you="" really,="" lisha-sama?”="" ="" “fufu.="" did="" you="" get="" a="" better="" opinion="" of="" me?”="" ="" smiling="" contentedly,="" lisha="" sat="" on="" the="" chair="" before="" the="" work="" unit="" and="" looked="" up="" at="" lux.="" ="" “praise="" me="" more.="" you="" know,="" it="" isn’t="" because="" i="" have="" the="" position="" of="" the="" princess="" of="" the="" new="" kingdom="" that="" i’ve="" been="" allowed="" the="" foolishness="" of="" letting="" you="" admit="" into="" the="" academy.="" this="" is="" because="" i="" show="" ability="" and="" gave="" results="" enough="" to="" be="" entrusted="" a="" personal="" atelier="" at="" this="" age.="" how’s="" that,="" are="" you="" surprised?”="" ="" “by="" the="" way,="" at="" the="" back="" there,="" there="" is="" something="" which="" looks="" like="" a="" serious="" burn="" mark="" or="" rather="" trace="" of="" an="" explosion="" though…”="" ="" as="" lux="" pointed="" at="" the="" room="" kept="" opened="" as="" the="" door="" was="" broken="" and="" asked,="" ="" “…failure="" is="" the="" mother="" of="" success.”="" ="" holding="" down="" her="" slight="" agitation,="" lisha="" a.s.serted.="" ="" not="" inquiring="" any="" further,="" lux="" asked.="" ="" “perhaps="" is="" this="" research="" the="" reason="" why="" you="" always="" sleep="" during="" cla.s.s?”="" ="" “that’s="" half="" correct.="" but,="" i="" do="" properly="" listen="" to="" lectures="" and="" i="" can’t="" really="" be="" half="" asleep="" during="" the="" practical="" training.="" instructor="" raigree="" is="" also="" totally="" merciless="" to="" me="" who="" is="" the="" princess.="" if="" i="" skimp="" in="" the="" machine="" dragon’s="" training="" or="" don’t="" take="" it="" seriously,="" i’ll="" have="" a="" hard="" time.="" she="" really="" deserves="" respect.”="" ="" lisha="" was="" not="" sarcastic;="" she="" really="" admired="" her.="" ="" “then,="" what="" about="" the="" other="" half?”="" ="" “take="" this,="" it’s="" your="" sword="" device.”="" ="" not="" answering="" the="" question,="" lisha="" took="" the="" sword="" device="" which="" was="" on="" the="" desk="" and="" handed="" it="" to="" lux.="" ="" that="" which="" lux="" received="" was="" undeniably="" the="" sword="" matching="" his="">.
“If I’m not mistaken, I should have asked the mechanic for the repair of this––”
“Yes. I’ve fixed your Drag-Ride here”
As she smoothly said so as if it was a matter of course, Lux doubted his ears.
A Machine Dragon’s repair, maintenance and adjustment were so difficult that an expert other than the user was required.
Lux’s was partially destroyed in the fight with the Abyss, so he thought it would take quite the time and money to repair it, but––
“Is it true!?”
“It’s the Machine Dragon of the hero who saved the school. You don’t really have to be surprised. But, I stayed up all night several days and finished it just this morning.”
“Thank you very much!”
Lux unintentionally bowed with a smile.
She was skilled to the extent of taking apart two Machine Dragons and building a new Machine Dragon.
For a naturally gifted engineer like Lisha, this much might be simple.
But, even Lux could easily imagine how much hard it was for a small-sized girl alone to repair a Machine Dragon built of a large, heavy metal.
“Hmm… I-It’s not a bad feeling to see you so happy… P-Praise me more; if y-you can even pat my head––”
Lisha suddenly blushed and lightly scratched her head.
And looking at Lux who asked back “eh?”, she cleared her throat confusedly.
“W-Well then, test it at once to see whether it moves properly.”
Lux drew the Sword Device hung on the belt of his waist and muttered the pa.s.s code.
“––Come forth, the Branded Wing Dragon which is the symbol of power. Obey my sword and fly, .”
Light particles gathered before Lux and it instantly transferred –– summoned beside him.
There, his blue Machine Dragon which should have been destroyed was completely––
Lux c.o.c.ked his head in puzzlement.
Completely –– the appearance was different from what Lux had been using.
Among the three types of general-purpose Machine Dragons, the was the Machine Dragon with the flight ability.
Lux had the mechanic adjust it with that (flight ability) as a base and put on a thicker armor, but…
“Hey, what is this!?”
There was a strange dragon with an abominable appearance there.
Breath Guns linked on both shoulders and an injection port for flight in the back and legs.
Although the large-sized blade which he was using before remained to a very poor degree, more than half of the thick armor was chipped off and became sharp like the blade of a naked sword.
“Ah, while I was repairing it, it was interesting in various ways. So I remodeled it a little.”
“This is beyond the level of ‘a little’!? You’ve even installed something like a drill on the left hand!? What is this!?”
“Oh that? It’s cool, right? It’s a rare parts even among those found in the ruins.”
To Lisha who looked happy, Lux was at a loss for words.
He recalled the bad things about the engineers and craftsmen, which he had seen during his previous odd jobs up until now.
“To begin with, it’s weird. That Drag-Ride which you were using, that is.”
Before he could speak, Lisha began to talk.
“In addition to the basic air frame, there were only parts of armor strengthening stuck here and there. Things like uselessly thickening the armor of a flight type Machine Dragon and raising the weight are stuff that a complete amateur does, you know? Like this, it can’t even show its original performance at all. To begin with, judging from the appearance, it’s too lame.”
“No, I don’t think appearance has anything to do with it…”
To Lisha’s angry look, Lux, though restrained, reb.u.t.ted. But,
“Are you an idiot! Concerning Drag-Rides, functionality is first, and the coolness is the second most important thing! Just looking at this, I will become miserable for having been unable to win against such a quack Machine Dragon!”
It’s a cruel way of putting it…
Lux thought so and sighed.
“Um, I’m sorry… It isn’t like I don’t understand your feelings. But, could you return it to how it was? That was the handiest for me and I was also used to it, so––”
What Lisha said was not off the mark.
No, it was a matter of fact. Far from being painfully true, in the first place, it was all as she said, but––, even so Lux had a reason for why he didn’t want to change it.
“…No matter what?”
He bowed his head.
“It can’t be helped, eh. Even though this remodeling took a lot of time…”
Rather, didn’t it take time because of the remodeling?
Lux could not help but think so, but Lisha, while grumpy, somehow compromised.
“It’s all right if the armaments are the same, right? The large-sized sword being the main weapon, and the Breath Gun, Daggers and Wire Tail the sub-weapons. I will thicken the whole armor mainly with the PL – 12 type, I’ll also raise both the barrier and output, and as for the roar generator of the head, with a high output possible type––”
As Lux answered, Lisha promptly began the maintenance with practiced movements.
“But you know, it’s weird after all. This Drag-Ride…”
Lisha muttered so with an expression which was not somewhere lively.
“It’s really strange; the balance is obviously a problem. If you want to crush your opponent by endurance and firepower, it will be better to use a Ground-type Machine Dragon whose gross weight could be raised; in a Flying-type Machine Dragon which has high mobility, there is no meaning to go so far to strengthen the defense. Rather, it will become heavy and slow, it will unnecessarily increase the burden on the user too, –– are you a m.a.s.o.c.h.i.s.t?”
“Well, it’s fine. There are also things which only the human user can understand after all. It’s none other than your request.”
Lux was relieved inwardly.
Any ordinary Machine Dragon mechanic would feel a sense of incongruity to Lux’s .
He could not talk about the reason and he could not let the reason be noticed, either, but––,
Suddenly being called to, Lux’s spine slightly shivered as he was taken aback.
“By the way –– may I leave only the drill?”
With her loveliest smile so far, Lisha said.
“You’re really stingy, even though you’re just a former Prince!”
“That has nothing to do with it.”
With that last exchange, the silent work continued for a while.
In the early afternoon, Lux’s Machine Dragon was completely restored.
For the time being, it was good that his Machine Dragon was repaired.
Lux felt relieved so, but,
“All right, then it’s time to go.”
“Isn’t it obvious? What do you think I stayed up all night to repair this for? Of course, it’s for your new workplace.”
Seeing Lisha with sparkling eyes, Lux got a bad feeling about this.
Even in the afternoon of the holiday, a part of the school facilities was opened.
Though few, club activities also existed and there were also students who were active on holiday.
But, it was in the waiting room of the practice field that Lux who was brought by Lisha went to.
It was a slightly wide room for changing into Dress Gear –– exclusive clothing in order to equip with Machine Dragon, and for discussing tactics.
Several dozens of students wearing Dress Gears were waiting for Lux there.
Of course, there was no man other than Lux.
There were students whom he recognized, Krulcifer and Philphie.
And Sharis, Tillfarr and Nokuto of the Triad.
As the students gathered regardless of cla.s.s and grade, more than half of them were unfamiliar faces.
“Do you really intend to let him join the “Knight Squadron”, Lisha-sama?”
A tall female student whom Lux didn’t even know the name of, said so as she looked at him.
“That goes without saying. He will show his ability from here on. It’s for that reason that I repaired Lux’s Drag-Ride after all.”
“Errr –– what are you guys talking about?”
As Lux c.o.c.ked his head in puzzlement not knowing what they were talking about,
“Princess Lizsharte would like to recommend you to this unit. A guerrilla unit which can also use Drag-Rides, other than during practical skill exercises while being an officer cadet. That’s the special unit “Knight Squadron”.”
The third-year student Sharis said with a refreshing smile.
As he heard the explanation in detail, it was apparently something like this.
In the current New Kingdom, there was always a shortage in talented Drag-Knights who could perform in actual combat.
Moreover, this place was the Fort City which could be called the bastion (defensive position) of the capital.
Therefore, not letting young students with outstanding talent and ability fight in accordance with the rules was pearls thrown before swine.
Thereupon, a guerrilla unit –– the “Knight Squadron” which holds special battle permission while being composed of officer cadets was established, and they delved into long day and night fighting techniques.
If one belonged to the “Knight Squadron”, he could get a reward by a.s.sembling a platoon with several people and receiving missions from the army.
Thus, even in the perspective of Lux’s “ch.o.r.es”, it would be a very useful place, but––
“But you know, the “Knight Squadron” isn’t some kind of place where anyone who wants to join can join.”
As Sharis’ explanation ended, a girl whom he was not familiar with muttered so.
“You must get a high evaluation with the results of the campus battles. Your level as Drag-Knight should be more than the intermediate level. And, the majority of members of the current “Knight Squadron” should acknowledge your ability and vote for the approval of you joining.”
These three things seemed to be the conditions for joining.
“Um, but I attended the academy since only several days ago, and my practical skills are also––”
“Unfortunately, it seems to be so. I’ve heard the rumor about you being the “Weakest Undefeated” though.”
As the female student who seemed calm said so with a wry smile,
“I don’t mind.”
Lisha cut off the flow, full of confidence.
“The first two conditions are just a given. Most of the students who are here should already know Lux’s ability. After all, he had a draw in a one-to-one fight against me and went against the Abyss all alone.”
“Well, it’s true, but…”
Overwhelmed by Lisha’s momentum, the tall girl faltered.
“But, now the third-year members of the “Knight Squadron” aren’t there. We can’t decide about it at such a time…”
A small-sized girl said so as to add to the tall girl’s case, but
“The whole majority is properly here. Even if all those who aren’t here vote ‘no’, it won’t matter if all the members here agree, right?”
In the end, Lisha settled the talk.
“Why aren’t the third-year students here?”
As Lux asked Sharis who was beside him in low voice,
“Well, currently the third-year students went to the capital for practice for about two weeks. Due to some circ.u.mstances on my end, I couldn’t go this time.”
“Then, won’t it better to decide after the third year members come back?”
“Well –– I think that it’s just the opposite.”
Suddenly, Krulcifer who kept silent until now reacted to Lux’s question.
“The Princess believes that precisely now is the best time of let you join. The third-year leader of the Knight Squadron is quite the man-hater after all––”
“Third-year student, Celestia Ralgris. An influential person who is the daughter of a Duke House and is said to be the strongest of the academy. She’s also popular and a lot of students admired her too. If that person was presently in the academy, it’s probably more likely that even something like letting a man attend the academy would have revoked.”
In other words, using the chance when that man-hating leader is absent, Lisha wanted to rush the matter into a fait accompli..
“Krulcifer, don’t talk nonsense. I only do what I should do as the New Kingdom Princess.”
Lisha who heard the talk cheekily reb.u.t.ted.
“The Abyss’s sudden attack without warning the other day. Although it didn’t lead to serious consequences, the cause is still unknown, so it’s under investigation. Ensuring (or securing) an immediate a.s.set is the natural judgment. Especially all the more since the majority of third-year students are absent now.”
She says something that sounds really good.
Lux admired inwardly.
He had thought that she was unlike a Princess, but unexpectedly, she also seemed to have political ability.
“But as expected, even I won’t think of letting him join without him going through any procedure.”
Before a reb.u.t.tal came, Lisha who was at the center of the waiting room looked around everyone.
“We will hold a Machine Dragon confrontation battle in teams from here on. And with the battle outcome, we should decide whether or not to allow Lux to join.”
She said so and quickly began to choose the opponents.
(She completely ignored my opinion, huh…)
Lux really wanted to say so a little bit, but…
“Lux. If you do missions and security guard jobs in the Knight Squadron, you’ll also get rewards. It will help you pay off your debt! You should just gladly work like a horse!”
As he saw Lisha smiling, he felt that it would be useless even if he refused.
As Lux who was at a loose end watched around the waiting room,
“I mean, so Philphie was also a member of the “Knight Squadron”?”
As Lux who caught sight of his childhood friend in the corner asked,
Philphie who gnawed snack biscuits did not react.
As he thought that she didn’t and called out to her again,
“…It’s Phi-chan, right?”
In a slightly emphasized tone, Philphie muttered.
“Eh…!? D-Do you want me call you that even here …!?”
Philphie nodding with a serious look, Lux’s face turned red.
If it weren’t for this, she would really be a good girl, but––
But that aside, it was unexpected.
The last time they met was seven years ago; in the Old Empire’s society before the coup d’état, women had little opportunity to get in contact with Drag-Rides.
Therefore, Lux had no memory of having seen Philphie ever used a Drag-Ride.
But, to think that this girl with a gentle atmosphere had enough ability to join the “Knight Squadron” ––
“Phi…chan, are you strong?”
“Ordinary, I guess.”
As he awkwardly called her by her nickname, a simple answer came back.
But upon close inspection, not a Sword Device of a general-purpose Machine Dragon, but a short sword decorated with a unique design was in the scabbard hung on her waist.
“She’s very strong, this girl. She is the user of the Divine Drag-Ride after all. Together with my .”
As Krulcifer added, Lux unintentionally opened his mouth.
To think that Philphie possessed enough skill to be able to use a Divine Drag-Ride which even first-cla.s.s Drag-Knights couldn’t handle so often.
And also Krulcifer.
Even if they were called “Knight Squadron”, they were still officer cadets after all.
It looked like his preconception was greatly wrong.
Even excluding the third-year members, if there were even three users of Divine Drag-Rides, it was a military power worthy of threat.
Which meant, even the missions given were more likely to be suitable as such.
From now on whether he wanted to or not, he might be sent on dangerous missions.
(…What shall I do?)
『For that, I hope that you didn’t forget the other purpose, Nii-san.』
He recalled the words said by Airi early in the morning during breakfast.
Before attracting a curious attention, he started thinking to decline joining the unit.
He was thankful that a hefty reward was given, but if he got involved in too deeply, it would be likely to affect the “other purpose”.
“Hey, Lux. I settle the talk.”
While he was thinking about such a thing, his shoulder was patted by Lisha.
“You and I will team up and fight against the opposition’s team. Hurry up and go to the compartment to change into a Dress Gear.”
It looked like it was already too late.
“What? You may also change without hiding if you want, you know?”
“I am not worried about that!”
As Lux’s face turned red as he panicked to Lisha’s teasing,
“You peep, but you don’t want to be seen yourself, huh.”
Even Krulcifer who was in the corner mutter in a subdued voice, and Lux was at wits’ end.
“I’ll go change!”
Lux hurried up and changed into the Dress Gear he was given and came out of the compartment.
“So––, I understand that Lisha-sama and I will team up, but how many people are there in the opponent team?”
“Yes. It seems to be all the members here that met with Lux-san for the first time.”
In other words, all the members present except Krulcifer, Philphie and the three girls of the Triad.
“Wait, isn’t it reckless no matter how you look at it…?”
Lisha was strong.
Even compared to Drag-Knights that Lux had confronted so far, she was probably the most powerful.
But it should also be the same for the Knight Squadron’s members present here.
“It’s all right. According to my calculations, even this should work out good enough. If it’s not enough, well let’s see, it’s not too late to change your Machine Dragon to attack specialization even now––”
“…I’ll do my best as it is.”
“Is that so? I’ll fight with the , but–– well it’s fine. We’re outnumbered anyway. Once it starts, even you’ll have no choice but to fight.”
To Lisha’s words which somewhere had a hidden meaning, Lux sighed.
Both parties finished their preparations and went out to the practice field.
And the mock battle began.
“What the h.e.l.l, geez!”
Immediately after the team confrontation battle which ended in no time.
Lisha who returned to the waiting room of the practice field was shouting like a spoiled child.
Most of the “Knight Squadron” members had already changed and left the room, only Lux, Lisha and several acquaintances remained in the room.
“Please, cheer up already. We’ve won after all.”
As Lux calmed her so with a troubled face,
“Why didn’t you attack even once!? I should have also got on the opponent team! You wasted a rare chance! You fool!”
Lisha raised her voice with somewhat teary eyes.
The team confrontation battle for letting Lux join the “Knight Squadron”.
Overturning the overwhelming handicap of two against ten, Lux and Lisha had won.
By the way, it was Lisha who defeated all the opponents’ Machine Dragons.
While Lux was dodging and defending against the enemy’s attacks, the battle ended.
Although they won as a result, Lux’s joining was rejected by the majority vote, and Lisha was furious.
The reason that he was not able to earn an affirmative vote was because Lux had not attacked even once.
Though he felt bad for Lisha, Lux was inwardly relieved.
“Was my strategy a failure? Or…, was there a problem with the opponent team formation…? But, by my initial expectations…”
While grumblingly muttering, Lisha began to change her clothes on the other side of the compartment.
(It will be bad if I go back without permission, right…?)
When Lux who had finished changing from the Dress Gear into his uniform first, sat down before the table of the waiting room and was waiting.
“Good work, Lu-chan.”
Philphie who was sitting in the opposite side suddenly called out to him.
The vote ended; his childhood friend who had finished changing into her uniform remained in the waiting room, peeled a fruit and ate it.
Or it was supposed to be like this, but––
“…Uh huh. Thank you––. Wait, what is this?”
A brief answer came back with the peeled orange.
She pinched the fresh fruit flesh where the white pith was removed with her thin fingertips, and held it out in front of Lux.
“No, I understood by seeing, but…”
“I help you remove the orange’s white peel.”
Such words were said with an indifferent tone.
Lux brooded over their meaning for just several seconds,
“Eh…? Is it, by any chance –– what I think it is!?”
Suddenly, his cheeks became hot.
Lux remembered that when they were children, Philphie used to peel the pelt of the orange which he was not able to eat as he disliked that part (pelt).
“T-Thank you, Phi-chan. B-But, I’m not a kid anymore, so I can’t do that much alone…”
When he answered so as he was a little embarra.s.sed,
“…You don’t want?”
Philphie intently turned her pupils and looked into Lux’s face.
It was a somewhat dejected and lonely tone.
“T-That isn’t it––”
When he was at loss, Philphie softly pushed the orange’s flesh to Lux’s lips.
Seeing that he received it with his mouth, Philphie slightly smiled.
“Is it delicious?”
(…Rather, it’s so embarra.s.sing that I can’t taste it…!)
Looking at Philphie who was somewhere happy, Lux was bewildered,
“It’s all good that you’re so close, but I think you should watch your surroundings a little more.”
“…!? N-No, this is––”
Teased by Krulcifer who was in a corner of the room, Lux became fl.u.s.tered.
When he turned his eyes around as he wondered whether they were seen by others,
“…Hmm. Even though I’m unusually troubled, to think that you flirt with another woman before my eyes. I’m envious, Lux.”
Lisha who had finished changing and came out muttered as she was amazed.
“However…, I see. There was that way (hand), huh…”
And walking at a quick pace, she came before Lux who was sitting.
(It’s bad. I’ll be scolded––)
As Lux closed his eyes thinking so.
Something was slapped on the table before him.
What was put on the table was a sheet of paper –– a request for a job.
“W-Which reminds me after this, you shouldn’t have undertaken any job requests in particular, right?”
Lisha who sharpened her lips leaned her face immediately to Lux’s.
When he was sure that she was angry, her cheeks somewhat turned red and she averted her eyes from Lux.
“Eh, well… yes.”
…I wonder what the matter is.
When Lux replied as he wondered so, Lisha quickly took a breath and stuck out her chest.
“T-Then, it’s an additional request. Um––, come with me now.”
Cross-shaped Fort City, Cross Feed.
From the sunrise until late at night, the people’s bustle and hustle had not stopped in this first block which was located in the center.
Probably because of the early spring, the evening sunlight was still strong.
Lux and Lisha were walking on the main street of maintained stone pavements with a lot of pedestrian traffic.
(She asked me to come along, so it was for shopping, huh… I was surprised.)
『U-Um…, I think that in order to form a partnership, it’s important to know each other well. After all, I still don’t know much about a man of the same age…』
The reason why Lisha invited Lux to go out seemed to be something like that.
(But, I’m still nervous. To be with a Princess of the same age, only the two of us is––)
When looking to the side as he thought so, Lisha who was also somewhat restless was looking at the cityscape.
『Oh my, to think that you’re going out with the Princess; not bad, Lux-kun』
He remembered that when he parted from Lisha once to go prepare himself, he was told so by Princ.i.p.al Relie who happened to pa.s.s by in the neighborhood.
『Someone like Lizsharte-sama who immerses herself only in fighting and research has no immunity in the love area. If she was suddenly pushed into a boy she likes, she might easily fall, you know?』
『No, I don’t think it can be something like that…』
At that time, Lux denied it with an indescribable expression, but––
“Come to think of it. Lisha-sama, do you often go out into town?”
“N-No…, not at all.”
To Lux’s question, Lisha firmly shook her head.
“These days, I was always working in the atelier after all. I was busy with the Drag-Ride’s remodeling…”
While looking around curiously, Lisha turned a fleeting glance at Lux,
“Um…, d-do you often go out? With other girls––”
She asked so in an irritated tone.
“N-No… I also have a debt to pay off, so I’ve no time for that.”
As Lux denied, Lisha smiled as she was relieved,
“All right. Then, since it’s the first time for both of us, I shall escort you! If I’m not mistaken, there is a good restaurant in this urban area… No, wait.”
When she suddenly stopped moving, Lisha touched her uniform (as she was searching something) and made a bitter expression.
“U-Uh huh… Well, it’ll be all right, I guess. I’m a Princess, so I should be able to ask for a credit…”
“By any chance… did you forget your wallet?”
“Ugh… Um, it was just accidentally today…”
To Lisha who looked downward as she was embarra.s.sed, Lux smiled wryly.
Seeing her all fl.u.s.tered, he felt somewhat relaxed.
I guess she isn’t really used to going out.
Then––, within the range possible in my meager experience, I wanted this girl to enjoy herself.
Lux thought so.
“It’s not good. The New Kingdom Princess shouldn’t easily ask for credit.”
“T-Then, what…? Are you already saying to call it a day…?”
Looking at the somehow lonely Lisha, Lux kindly smiled.
“If you don’t mind me, I will offer you hospitality.”
After a few minutes. Lux and Lisha sat side by side at the curb of the central open s.p.a.ce and were looking at the sunset.
The apple pie which he gave to Lisha was something reputed to be the most delicious even in the stands of the Fort City, and it was a shop where Lux once worked at for odds jobs.
“How is it? Lisha-sama”
“Hmm. it’s sweet and delicious. Thank you…”
While biting the apple pie from the paper package, Lisha frequently sent a pa.s.sionate gaze to Lux’s face.
Lux did not have that much on hand, but looking at Lux who was accompanied by Lisha, the employee of the stall gave them to him for free.
In the end, giving his thanks together with Lisha, he decided to gratefully accept them, but––
“However, being well known even to the stalls, you are appreciated by the people of this city, eh.”
“My face is just known due to working odd jobs.”
To that mutter of admiration, Lux replied with a wry smile.
“B-But, it’s strange… Even though I planned to make you appreciate me, but like this…, instead I’m––”
To Lisha who mutter in a low voice; Lux c.o.c.ked his head in puzzlement,
“What’s the matter?”
“N-No, how to put it –– this area is glug-glug since some time now…!”
Looking at Lisha whose cheeks reddened, and that set a hand on her chest,
(I wonder if she’s nervous after coming out to downtown after a long time.)
Lux thought so.
“Are you all right? If you aren’t feeling well, we should rest somewhere…”
“I-I’m all right… If I sit for a little bit, I think I’ll be fine…”
“I haven’t that much knowledge in medical treatment. But, I know a place of good and free medical treatment; so if there is anything, please tell me immediately.”
After giving a vague answer with a flushing expression, Lisha entrusted her body to Lux for a while.
“S-Speaking of which –– do men prefer girls like your childhood friend?”
To the words suddenly released by Lisha, Lux looked puzzled.
“I don’t really understand… I haven’t thought that much about wanting to be spoiled by someone, or being together with someone else. But––”
While muttering with upturned eyes, Lisha timidly held out an apple pie to Lux.
“Hey, can you taste this for poison?”
“You’ve already started eating it though…?”
“D-Don’t worry about trivial things!? Just do it!”
No, I think it’s pretty important though…
Swallowing such a retort, Lux bit the pie which was held out.
The crunchy pie crust and the sweet fragrance of the apple spread in his mouth.
“T-There is no poison. Now, can you rest a.s.sured?”
As Lux smiled, Lisha once again ate the pie while staring at him with feverish eyes––
“Uh, auh… Fuuh…”
After her face became red to the extent that it could be clearly seen even in the evening, her body lost all its strength there.
“Hey!? What’s the matter? Lisha-sama!”
As Lux hurriedly caught Lisha who was about to fall,
*munyu*. A soft sensation was transmitted to Lux’s palm.
Her chest that was being rubbed, although of a pet.i.te built, firmly a.s.serted its size; Lisha’s thin body shook in Lux’s arms as she was startled.
(s.h.i.t! she’ll get mad…!)
Although he held her on the spur of the moment, he had done a terrible thing.
(But…, it was very soft, huh. Lisha-sama’s–– not that! What am I thinking!?)
“Ah, um –– I-I’m sorry!”
As Lux who changed the position of his hand apologized while being confused,
“W-Well, I will forgive… But, more importantly––”
Lisha said so and tightly grabbed the collar of her uniform,
“I-I don’t really know why, but since some time now, my chest is hot and I feel dizzy…”
While exhaling a feverish breath, she muttered as such.
“W-What’s wrong? Um, I will bring you to the nearby house for free treatment––”
“I-I’m all right… I will get better after a short time, I think, probably…”
Lux anxiously supported Lisha for a while, but after a few minutes, she regained her composure before long and returned to her usual condition.
The curfew time was approaching, so they decided to return to the academy and began to walk slowly.
Lux was also surprised by Lisha’s sudden request this time, but
“T-Today, um… it was quite fun. Thank you, Lux…”
With just such a sentence from Lisha, he felt like he had been rewarded.
“Speaking of which, I’m sorry. For not being able to join.”
Several minutes later. As Lux once again said so while walking his way back on the deserted street,
“Don’t worry about it. I can do the joining recommendation in the next month after 5 more days later after all. From tomorrow after school, we will begin with the coordination training at once.”
Lisha replied so with a smile on her whole face.
“Do you still intend to get me into the “Knight Squadron”!?”
“Well, as for the strategy. You plunge right in the middle of the enemy camp, and I blow away the opponents who have their attention attracted to you one after another. Afterward, while I defend you, you can at least defeat one machine.”
“Isn’t it a little too cruel…? In various meanings.”
Unintentionally, it was tactic which brought a cold sweat to the spine.
Judging from Lisha’s tone, probably… she was serious.
“…More importantly, about Lisha-sama’s … That was amazing, eh.”
“Hmm? Did you come to want it? I had quite a hard time making it, but if you want, I could specially make another one for you.”
“Can you make many machines like that?”
“Even if I make it, it will be useless now though. it is 50% stronger than a general-purpose Machine Dragon, but the burden of stamina aside, the operation difficulty isn’t on the same level as that of an average Divine Drag-Ride. Even the Sword Devices’ dual wielding can’t be used by anyone other than me. Do you want to try it?”
“No, thank you…”
Honestly, Lux also thought that it was impossible.
The conception of combining two kinds of Machine Dragons performances was certainly amazing, but it could probably not be master by anyone except Lisha who was a genius engineer and also a first-cla.s.s Drag-Knight.
“How about somehow improving it in a way that it will be easier to use? To the extent that even only the students of the “Knight Squadron” are able to use it. As a Princess––”
Words came out naturally so.
There were not words in order to go along with the talk, he truly thought so.
He might have voice out what he was vaguely thinking all the time inwardly.
The rule of the empire for a long time.
And precisely because they were released from it now, he wanted her to become a good Princess.
He wanted her to be a Princess who thinks about the people and considered others’ feelings.