The story of The Duelist begins after Reinhard’s transfer from the Hameln II. Assigned to do paperwork on military expenditures he notices something that is not right. When he reports his findings to his boss, he is told that his role is merely to limit the amount of abuse to the system. This leaves him despairing about the state of the military and wanting a return to combat duties. When presented with an opportunity to meet with his sister and her few allies, he quickly volunteers his services to one of her friends who needs assistance in a duel.
The episode begins back on Odin where Kircheis and Reinhard are hard at work processing paperwork. They are both bored with their jobs and Reinhard wishes he were back on the battlefield earning honors. At this post, he could see why aristocrats preferred working at desks and as a result he told Kircheis that when he leads a large fleet he would do so from the front. A few seconds later, something caught his eye. There was a discrepancy between the resources sent from Iserlohn to other bases and the amount that was consumed by those bases. Kircheis gave the numbers a look and he concurred while being impressed at Reinhard’s level of detail.
They then report their findings to their commander, who is also impressed, but also informs them it was meaningless work. They disagree that it was meaningless, but then the commander lets them know that everyone knows this is happening. He views the misappropriation of resources as a perk to get people to serve on the front lines. Instead, the Inspection Department serves to merely put limits on a “necessary evil.” As for an official explanation, it would be considered a loss during shipment. He continued to explain that nothing would be gained by going after this while insisting that the two of them learn how the world really worked.
Reinhard came away realizing just how degenerate the military was. Kircheis told him now was the best time to lay low, but Reinhard was yearning for a return to the battlefield. He felt powerless as a lieutenant and as a result he couldn’t do anything for his sister. Kircheis told him it was best to stay on Odin for now because they could be close to Annerose. However, to see her, Reinhard would have to ask the Kaiser for permission, which he was not about to lower himself to the level of doing.
Fortunately a few days later, there was a “chance” meeting where they could meet Annerose at Viscountess Schafhausen’s residence. Westfalen, who was also there, had an opinion on Reinhard’s superiors; mainly that they are useless for not doing anything that could jeopardize their future promotion. She says that doesn’t apply to Reinhard and Kircheis, but she warns them if they work too hard they could make many enemies.
Later, as Schafhausen prepares tea, she appears worried. Westfalen then reveals the details. Schafhausen’s husband was caught in a dispute with Count Helksheimer over a recent discovery in one of Schafhausen’s mines. Westfalen went on to trash Helksheimer as a womanizer. Reinhard says that the dispute could be settled in the courts, but Westfalen says that instead he has chosen to settle the dispute with a duel. The aristocrats had agents who fought the duels for them, but Helksheimer and his allies made sure that Schafhausen would have access to none of the agents. Her husband would either have to fight himself or give in to Helksheimer’s demands.
After a few seconds, Reinhard offers to do the duel for her. Westfalen was delighted, while Annerose and Kircheis objected. He reassured the others that although he wasn’t a trained duelist he was a professional soldier, plus he also had to repay all the favors that Annerose’s allies had provided her. Kircheis observed Annerose and noticed she couldn’t act at this point because Reinhard had put her in an impossible situation. She couldn’t object without throwing her ally under the bus. Kircheis then stepped in and tried to volunteer in Reinhard’s place, but Reinhard said he volunteer first so he gets to do it. When Kircheis asks what to do if something happened to Reinhard, Westfalen assures him that the duel is a mere ritual where death is rare. Winning by killing an opponent would harm the winner’s reputation and they would be laughed out of aristocratic society. However, she notes that one can’t be held criminally responsible for what happens in a duel. Kircheis tries to object again, but it was more in the manner of Reinhard always taking the good parts.
Actually there are a couple of things I found interesting here. Westfalen must be especially close to Annerose to think that she could call Kircheis Seig. There is also the sense that she wants to help Reinhard more than her friend in the way she introduces the topic and quells dissent against his request to help. Also, though Kircheis objects to being called something that only Annerose can call him, he doesn’t object. Plus, there was the sense by the end that he was trying to white knight in for Annerose rather than help Reinhard.
Reinhard asks Schafhausen if everything was okay, then Westfalen interjects and asks that she take up the offer. As Annerose looked worried, Westfalen assured her that things would be okay and she would take care of the costumes and other arrangements that would have to be made. Since Annerose did not actively object, Reinhard would become the agent for the duel.
As they traveled back from the residence, Reinhard wondered if Annerose was upset. Kircheis said that he shouldn’t do things to make her worry. Reinhard says he wasn’t doing it out of boredom, but that he simply wanted to do something for her. Kircheis understood and said he would do all he could to keep Annerose from worrying. Reinhard then reveals that he didn’t really know all that much about dueling beyond picking a weapon and fighting. Kircheis was a little worried by that, but there was no immediate danger.
The narrator then ran through dueling in the Empire. Basically it became an event to bet on as agents for aristocrats dueled to settle disputes. As the agents were professionals, they became good at not killing each other.
However, the business of the duel quickly came to the attention of a certain Benemunde, who sensed an opportunity.
Thoughts: This is already looking fairly dodgy from a plot perspective. It all seems way too contrived in how it is set up, supposedly super-safe even if there was no criminal risk for killing someone. Obviously, Benemunde is going to have one of the agents try to kill Reinhard, they will fail and then everyone will move on to the next phase of their lives. Of course, there’s still 3 more episodes of this to go.