It was enclosed by stone walls and iron grills; a plain isolation cell with one bed and a bathroom.
Neither handcuffs nor fetters were attached on him, but all his personal belongings were confiscated.
Of course, even the two Sword Devices which were hung to his waist. A stolen knife, a tool kit and even the pochette which he got back from the cat were seized.
Though he did not know the exact time, as he saw light coming in through the skylight, Lux guessed it was probably the time of breakfast.
“What a bummer! Even though a work reservation was made today…”
With a sigh, when he carefully though about it, he noticed that it wasn’t the time for that.
“I mean, my real identity was also completely exposed…”
Lux’s characteristic –– his silver hair inherited from the Old Empire’s royal family.
And, the black collar which showed the “criminal” who received amnesty from the new royal family.
With that much evidence gathered, his identity had probably been already specified.
The Old Empire Acadia which had laid out tyranny for a long time, was destroyed by a coup d’état.
It was about five years ago that Lux who was a survivor of the old imperial family was released by the amnesty of the New Kingdom Atismata––, and signed a contract with the condition of “undertaking miscellaneous affairs of any people”.
The contents of the miscellaneous affairs varied from domestic servant, bar waiter, carpenter and blacksmith to field work.
At the beginning, alone without doubts, he managed the work given by the New Kingdom as if it was a matter of course, but now he was acknowledged for being a “convenient guy” by various people, up to a schedule of one month later, he had become so popular that he was swamped.
In order to handle a new request this time too, Lux had plans to head to a certain place, but––
“No matter how you look at it, I won’t make it in time for work…”
Looking at a page of his notebook, the only thing which was not confiscated, Lux grumbled.
Even though the job schedule is still tightly packed.
From the afternoon to the half-day rest, he was out of luck to have come across that cat.
“If I drop the job that I already promised to do, my debts will increase again. What on earth should I do––”
“Are you awake? Prince.”
Lux was startled by a voice which he suddenly heard.
Before he was aware, on the other side of the iron grill, one girl was standing there.
With blond hair in which one part was tied up with a black ribbon, and deep crimson pupils, sharp like the point of a sword.
Wrapping her body in a white uniform, she displayed a smile which somewhere had a shadow.
It was a light-complexioned girl with a height slightly lower than Lux’s and a small stature.
Nevertheless, the girl’s presence was fearfully strong.
She was clad in fearless, strong and absolute self-confidence which did not let anyone get closer.
It was a girl who gave the impression of having both sweetness and heat just like an ignited cake containing plenty of alcohol.
“Fufufu” that girl suddenly laughed in a low voice.
“Thank you for the help last night. Incidentally, it was a wonderful pick-up line. To the extent that I was unintentionally charmed.”
For an instant, Lux raised his voice.
She was the girl whom he had held down by force when Lux fell into the bathroom last night ––
To the presence which got filled with the girl’s anger, Lux felt cold sweat streamed down his back.
“Fufufu. Well, there is something I really want to tell you though. Besides, the Principal want to talk with you. Follow me.”
As she turned her smile which had a shadow somewhere to Lux, the blond girl opened the lock of the prison.
“Hou. You have an honest face, and your mouth also stands. Do you intend to say that you creep in this girl’s dormitory without knowing?”
At the girl’s reply, Lux raised a voice of surprise.
He hurriedly took out his notebook and looked at today’s date.
[Workplace] Fort City, “Cross Feed” Academy.
[Client] Principal, Relie Aingram.
[Work contents] New Kingdom, Maintenance of Drag-Rides in the fourth Machine Dragon Hangar.
“Th-Then, don’t tell me here is… where I was scheduled to come work at, this time ––”
The Girl’s academy of Drag-Knights founded by the New Kingdom Atismata.
That’s why the girls who had attacked me yesterday were using Drag-Rides, huh.
As Lux who realized it was standing petrified and half amazed,
From the girl in front of him, words and a smile came back.
“It’s my name. New Kingdom First Princess –– commonly known as the Scarlet Princess. I’m the Princess of the New Kingdom which destroyed your empire five years ago. Nice to meet you, Prince.”
*Plop*, his shoulder was tapped by the smiling girl.
Her eyes were not particularly laughing.
Lux’s scream echoed in the underground prison.
“Phew… then in the end, let’s say that this time was an unfortunate accident, okay? Lux Acadia-kun.”
Lux who went to the Principal room was receiving an explanation from Principal Relie about the school itself which was the scheduled workplace at the same time as he talked about the circumstances which led to this uproar.
This was the academy of Drag-Knights officer candidates managed by the New Kingdom Atismata.
It was a place which trained the so-called officer –– high-rank persons even among the government officials including military and civil officials, and moreover speaking in detail––
“An academy which trained humans engaged in Drag-Rides, huh…?”
“You can say that.”
At Lux’s question, Principal Relie nodded with a smile.
Although the Principal, she was still young.
She was probably in her late twenties or so. Even if one said teacher, the woman of allowable looks called herself Relie Aingram.
She herself was also the daughter of a financial group which held a market directly associated with the nation, in other words one of the native cased young ladies.
And –– she was one of the few acquaintances of Lux who was from the former imperial family.
Both the Drag-Ride and the Sword Device were weapons which were used as a pair.
Drag-Rides were usually enshrined to a place called “hangar” in various places; by pulling out the Sword Device from the scabbard and pushing a button in the grip, one could transfer –– summon the matching Machine Dragon.
With weapons other than Drag-Rides, such a thing was not possible.
It was a possible feat precisely because there were the Mithril Dite, metal which turned into light and enabled the metastasis of the space, and the Force Core, a nuclear stone which was the source of power of a Machine Dragon.
The structure of the transfer itself was not yet clarified.
That the Drag-Rides were ancient weapons excavated from the ruins, and that the investigation of the ruins themselves was not readily progressing due to certain circumstances was the main cause.
But even so, the power which the Drag-Ride held hid a too extraordinary power to refrain from use by the reason “the technology cannot finish clarifying it”.
Therefore, the competition on the survey (research?) about the structure and even the principle clarification of the Drag-Rides was carried out intensely in each nation.
“It has been more than ten years since the Drag-Rides have been discovered from the ruins. Their use has almost been prohibited to us women, due to the trend and the system of the androcracy that the Old Empire laid. But––”
As Relie cut her words, Lizsharte who was standing beside Lux suddenly opened her mouth.
“With the coup d’état five years ago, that perception completely changes after what the New Kingdom established. Aside from the exercise aptitude to use for the handling, the data reported that the compatibility aptitude of the airframe control of women was far above, and thereafter, they established a special training organization, and concentrated their efforts on that upbringing in order to prepare Drag-Knight officers who won’t lose to those other countries–– something like that.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
To Lizsharte’s supplement, Relie nodded.
Drag-Rides were super weapons to the extent that they rendered the existence of swords, guns, cannons, and horses which were the main force war, nonexistent.
Since their appearances, one already came to the point where it was impossible to talk about anything without words including war, diplomacy, commerce and industry.
Taking that into consideration, even Lux knew at least that a Drag-Knights training institution existed.
“B-But, why was I called?”
It was the principal Relie who made the request of work.
As Lux asked about that with a bemused expression––,
“Oh my. I see that the “weakest undefeated” of all people is quite modest, eh.”
A seemingly mature, teasing smile returned.
An Official Mock battle which made use of Drag-Ride was held once a month in the coliseum of the royal capital.
As there was also a prize depending on the military record, it was the nickname attached to one who boasted of the most participation frequency from his combat style, and Lux was called so, but––
“It’s probably strength in no way inferior to that of Lizsharte-san who is one of the best users even in this academy. I think that it’s by no means an inappropriate job for you though.”
As if to disapprove Relie’s words, Lizsharte twitchily shook her shoulders.
(I-I have a bad feeling about this…!)
“I-I don’t mean that, it seems that this place is a girl’s academy, so for me to work here––”
“It’s regrettable, but we lack manpower.”
Relie answered before Lux’s rebuttal.
“The history of Drag-Knights is rather short, isn’t it? Most of the users of the Old Empire which monopolized the Drag-Rides for many years have died with the coup d’état. In that case, though reluctant, I can do nothing but regularly invited a male cooperator. Be it a Drag-Ride’s mechanic or a Drag-Knight.”
“…I can hardly do maintenance, you know?”
“You just have to learn hereafter. Just having a prerequisite knowledge as a user is valuable.”
Relie replied immediately.
“The New Kingdom fourth Machine Dragon hangar is located in the premises of this academy. Your work is there, so from today I will have you go by there three times a week. It’s dirty, the work is hard and there is also the danger of injury. I can’t give such a job to young ladies from good families, can I? Don’t you think that you should also feel honored and privileged to have been born male?”
With a teasing voice, Relie smiled.
(She’s pushy as usual, eh…)
Lux thought as he smiled wryly.
It had already been several years since he had met Relie for the first time, but nothing about this quite indifferent personality, deftness and malice had changed.
She should be the eldest daughter of the Aingram House, the big mercantile House of a financial combine class, but she was quite unique.
When Lux inwardly sighed, Relie took another deep breath,
“I’m still thinking about what work to give you as a Drag-Ride user, so I will tell you soon ––okay?”
“Right”, when the conversation was settled,
“Principal. Can I have a little time?”
Suddenly, Lizsharte stuck out her hand and interrupted the conversation.
“I understood the story. But, we haven’t admitted this man yet.”
She stared at Lux with a sharp look and said.
The edge of her mouth made a faint smile.
Is she really a Princess, this child?
How to put it, I feel a really bloodthirsty presence.
No, well, I did such a thing in the bath, so it might only be towards me though.
“My doubt has not cleared up. This man is guilty of being a peeping tom, a molester and a pervert underwear thief. There is no way we would let such a ‘man’ work in this academy. I mean, we should first hand him over to the army. And we should judge him in a judicial place and let him get some fresh air after he ate smelly food for several years.”
“N-No, like I said, it was a misunderstanding––!?”
Lux tried to object, but being thrown a glance at by Lizsharte, he shut his mouth.
“I see, he said that he accidentally intruded into the bathroom as he was chasing a cat. But, how can he prove that? Principal. I think that giving shelter to a criminal who is not worth trusting is rather dangerous.”
“You’re right. We are acquainted, so I know Lux-kun really well, but––”
Relie said that and smiled wryly.
“I can’t assert at all that this uproar was really caused accidentally.”
“Shouldn’t you assert there!?”
With somewhat teary eyes, Lux complained.
He was sure that she would support him.
“But actually, no one can prove about whether or not it was on purpose. Then, he is also a victim in this matter, and so is Lizsharte-san who is the top student of the second year, too. May I leave his punishment to your discretion?”
(Why you leave it to her!?)
Lux desperately swallowed the cry of his soul and endured.
As a pardon at the time of the New Kingdom establishment, Lux was forgiven for the crime of being former royalty and released on parole, but at the same time by the contract which he signed, he was charged with a debt of an amount equivalent to 1/5 of the national budget.
That such ‘offender’ Lux becoming a criminal furthermore was very inconvenient––
Lizsharte who saw that Lux panicked scornfully laughed in a low voice,
“Then, let’s see. I will give you one chance of redeeming yourself.”
“Whether you are really worth enough to work in this academy as a ‘male’ Drag-Knight. Or just a simple pervert. I will test your fighting spirit and ability.”
Saying so, Lizsharte touched the handle of the sword to her waist and at the same time slowly walked before the door of the principal’s room.
“If you are defeated by me, you will be taken to the prison as a criminal; if you win, I won’t mind you working by acquittal. The match will be a mock battle of a one-to-one fight using Drag-Rides. ––It’s all right with that, isn’t it? Curious onlookers.”
The moment that Lizsharte said so and turned the doorknob of the room,
The female students who had gathered over the door noisily fell into the room and were overlapping on one another.
They were apparently concerned about the treatment of Lux whom they heard rumors about, and it seemed that they were listening outside, over the door.
“Spread it to everyone in the academy. The more spectators, the better. A show where the New Kingdom’s princess will beat the Old Empire’s prince.”
The female students who heard that raised happy voices and left.
“It has become something big! Lizsharte-sama challenges this pervert to a duel––”
“It seems that the other party is the ‘weakest undefeated’. Does anyone know the details?”
“In the first place, he is a prince of the Old Empire, isn’t he? That underwear thief, I mean.”
“Appearance-wise, he’s my type –– but it’s a shame.”
Hearing such voices along with Lizsharte who got out from the room, Lux became speechless.
At this rate, this talk would spread all over the academy before the duel.
Somehow, it has become something big…
“I wonder if I should review the educational system a little. Don’t forget that this place is a diligent academy.”
To Relie’s amazed mutter, Lux unintentionally swallowed his words,
No matter how you look at it, it’s your influence…
“By the way, Lux-kun. Before the duel, there is a place I want you to stop by a little.”
“Errr… where is it?”
“The reception room immediately nearby. Your younger sister is waiting for you there.”
To Lux who raised a surprised voice, Relie returned only a smile.
“Geez, what is Nii-san doing? I’m amazed.”
The Academy reception room for visitors.
As expected of an academy where noble children gathered, in this room which gave a high class impression along with the furniture and furnishings, two female students were standing stock still.
One was a calm black-haired girl who ringed a bell.
The other was a girl who had the same silver hair and the same collar as Lux.
Her graceful and calm atmosphere like a high class antique doll looked somehow more mature than her big brother Lux’s.
“Um––, I’m sorry for a lot of things. Airi.”
First of all, Lux lightly apologized to the girl, Airi Acadia who was his younger sister.
Airi who saw that shrugged her shoulders along with a sigh, and moved her gaze towards the girl beside her.
“She is my roommate in the girl’s dormitory. Her name is–– may I ask for it?”
“Yes. I am… first year, Nokuto Leaflet. I apologize for last night.”
The girl who gave a quite calm impression softly bowed her head and stared at Lux.
Last night was the bathroom intrusion incident.
She was one of the tree girls who chased him at that time.
“It seems like you were really running after a pochette which was stolen by a cat. I am sorry for having treated you like pervert.”
“I-I am sorry, too. Um––, I didn’t think that there was underwear in it… But, what a relief. It looked like your baggage is safe.”
He thought that she was a fairly severe child last night, but she apparently seemed to be an honest and good child.
(I’m happy that she believes me…)
As Lux looked at Nokuto and let his troubles melt––
“Um, though I’m sorry to interrupt your happy conversation.”
Airi who was looking at their exchange with reproachful eyes coughed, seeming to be in bad mood.
“Because of Nii-san, it isn’t time for that now though.”
The moment Lux came to his senses, Airi sighed once again.
“Hah… Even though for appearance’s sake, I have told to my surroundings that you’re a cool older brother, what on earth will you do about it? Peeping tom, underwear thief, molester. To think that a relative of mine is a criminal, please think about my position in the academy.”
“F-For appearance’s sake, huh… not that, like I said, it was a misunderstanding!?”
“Yes. I think that only your face seemed to do Prince. It is a little unreliable though.”
“…You’ll be cleaned off if you thought that she was praising you!?”
It was simply shocking.
As expected, this girl called Nokuto is a little strange.
“Shall I get down to the main issue?”
*cough* clearing her throat, Airi sat on the sofa.
As Lux did the same sat opposite to her, Nokuto poured tea in the tea cup from a teapot which had been prepared.
“To be frank. I think that it will be good that Nii-san occasionally sees painful experiences, but––”
Not paying heed to Lux’s reaction, Airi continued with a serious look.
“This time only is a little special. If Nii-san was to be caught, how will I be able to pay the debt alone?”
(It’s a cruel way to put it…!)
The brother and sister of the Old Empire’s royalty were coldly treated.
In the amnesty contract exchanged at the same time as the New Kingdom establishment, one became a “person in charge of odd jobs” and worked bearing a part of the national budget of the New Kingdom.
And the other would live in a place where the royal family’s eyes would reach.
It was agreed that if Lux were to run away or commit misbehavior, Airi would be punished instead.
However, Lux had not thought of this agreement in itself to be dissatisfying.
Although there was the restriction that he must receive miscellaneous jobs from anyone, he was the “property of the Kingdom”, so he had not received compulsive treatment so far.
To begin with, it would not be strange even if the Old Empire’s imperial family, which had been exerting tyranny for many years, was killed with the unjust resentment of anyone.
In such a meaning, they were made to work to pay debt –– so as to atone for their crime; and depending on the situation, it could be said that they were protected by the New Kingdom.
Well, there were also other little circumstances which were concealed though.
“With that said, Nii-san must win against Lizsharte-sama by any means necessary. However––”
Starting saying so, Airi faltered.
“Is that child strong?”
This was because in the tournament of Drag-Knights held in the capital where he had fought, Lux had no memory of Lizsharte participating in it.
“We, students of the academy, are not admitted to participate in the tournament. It is also for the concealment of military strength, and if an officer cadet’s student were to lose, it would not look good enough to be shown publicly.”
“I see… which means.”
“Yes, instead there is regularly something like a campus battle in this academy. Lizsharte-sama is currently undefeated. Moreover, after having begun to use a Divine Drag-Ride, she continued winning successive victories with an overwhelming strength.”
Being able to handle it, which held a special power among the Machine Dragons would certainly mean that she was a powerful opponent.
To Airi’s words, Lux was troubled,
“Well, it’ll be a little tough, I guess.”
As he scratched his head…,
“Yes. Then, I will advise a way so as to be able to withdraw the duel to Lizsharte-sama.”
“Oh my. You shouldn’t, Nokuto.”
With a gentle smile, Airi stopped Nokuto who offered so.
“It’s best that he takes responsibility for his own actions himself. Geez, since a long time you immediately act when you make up your mind and you can’t become calm at all, so you only encounter such bad experiences.”
“Uwah, you’re cruel!? Even though I have been doing my errands of “person in charge of odd jobs all along since the day of the contract!?”
“Hmm. Then Nii-san, are you saying that you want to become the hostage of the New Kingdom in my stead?”
Airi took up Lux’s rebuttal with a cool expression.
And just now, she ran her white fingertips onto the back of Lux’s neck.
“…!? Wait, Airi, what are you––!?”
As she approached his face until a distance as to seem to kiss him, Lux got excited.
“Nii-san. Being watched as a hostage is really hard, you know? Because of this collar, I’m always seen in a strange days (light) by others. Even so, I earnestly think that my personality and the fruit of my efforts that enable me to maintain smooth human relations. Ah, and then, even I considerably contribute to the debt repayment after all, you know? If I concretely have to say how much I earn in the side job which extended until midnight while studying the deciphering of ancient manuscripts excavated in the ruins or the update of the Drag-Ride’s manual in the academy––”
“U-Understood. It was my bad…”
“Fufu, I’ve won again. With this, it’s 102 games, 102 victories. I wonder when the day will come when I will be defeated by Nii-san”
With a childlike smile, Airi abruptly stood up.
It’s always like this…
In his fights of these several years, there was no precedent where Lux was able to win.
This young sister honor student had a weak constitution a long time ago and always clung to her mother and Lux, but now she was very strong.
As Nokuto found such an aspect of Airi unexpected,
“You get along quite well, eh.”
She said and smiled wryly.
“Well then, shall we go already? Follow me.”
“Go? To where?”
“To the Machine Dragon hangar. An airframe check before the mock battle is an indispensable matter in the academy after all. Just in case, I will guide you up to there. And while we are at it, I will teach you a countermeasure against Lizsharte-sama.”
Saying so lightly, Airi left the reception room ahead.
As Lux followed afterwards while sighing,
“Well but, if you haven’t yet lost to anyone, I guess Nii-san is also like her, right?”
A voice full of conviction tickled Lux’s earlobes.
And after heading to the Machine Dragon hangar which was away from the academy and having Lux’s Sword Devices returned––