Leviathan:Volume 1 Chapter 5
Chapter 5 - Akuro-Ou, and the Bow Stars of the Southern Sky
"But Haruga-kun, your preparations turned out to be quite meticulous," commented Orihime from the front passenger seat.
This prompted Hal to answer "What?" from the driver's seat.
Carrying the two of them, the car passed through Ryougoku Bridge's gate and sped along Yasukuni Street in Old Tokyo. Hal had called Kenjou to borrow his personally owned car.
"You had this access pass prepared ahead of time even before you decided to go to Old Tokyo, didn't you? Isn't it very time consuming to obtain this sort of thing?"
"Oh... Actually, it's nothing special."
It was after Hal and Orihime skipped school and met Hinokagutsuchi at the Haruga residence.
Picking up the readied car and documents at the Mirokudou that was closed for business in the manager's absence, the two of them then proceeded directly to Old Tokyo.
"Forging documents is easy because there's a replica of the verification stamp and lots of equipment at the SAURU branch we just visited. There are very few people who would want illegal entry into a Concession's wasteland, so naturally, there are many openings to exploit."
"So the people of SAURU all operate in a suspicious gray area..."
Hearing Orihime's murmuring, Hal retracted his neck.
After all, Hal was what Hiiragi-san called a "professional treasure hunter." Due to this line of work, he had become acquainted with many people involved with the organized theft of international artwork. As a result, Hal was quite aware of his position in a gray area lying closer to black.
While they were chatting, the car continued to advance without impediment. The sun was about to set.
"By the way, about Hinokagutsuchi—Kagutsuchi-san..."
On her own, Orihime had assigned a nickname to the spirit that looked like a young girl.
Even when facing something non-human, Orihime's special ability of rapidly getting acquainted still seemed to be intact.
"Why does she want to help me and you, Haruga-kun?"
"You should ask her directly. But don't expect her to give a serious answer."
(Oh my oh my, you refuse to believe that I am offering assistance out of noble-minded benevolence?)
Hinokagutsuchi's voice suddenly interjected into the conversation.
"After all, there are too many suspicious things about you... I probably would have ignored you if it wasn't a crisis of life and death."
Hal's grumbling elicited laughter of mockery from Hinokagutsuchi.
(Fufufufu, don't say it like that. I will be secretly watching over you at least, until the day you die out there in a ditch somewhere.)
"Rather than a guardian angel who only watches, I'd prefer a numinous spirit that prevents me from dying out in the wild..."
Soon after, the car arrived near the destination.
The place where Hal had rolled in pain all over the floor—Tokyo Station.
Hal and Orihime entered the station through the Marunouchi entrance.
It was the place where Soth had fought against Hinokagutsuchi's remains last time.
The dome-shaped ceiling of duralumin towered majestically above, still retaining a style befitting what used to be the entrance of a major terminal station.
Although there was no illumination, the interior of the station was still relatively bright.
Light from outside was streaming in due to the damage Soth had inflicted upon the walls using his massive body and powerful strength.
"My remains only collapsed and scattered not too long ago. Right now, just by gathering the remnants of my power lingering here, it is enough to carry out the birth ritual."
Materializing, Hinokagutsuchi spoke softly in a solemn tone of voice.
In the next instant, Hal felt an intense chill down his spine. He could feel a massive amount of magical power flowing here from the depths of the station—flowing towards the vicinity of the girl who called herself the devil.
This magical power was so dense that it was frightening, even to the point that it felt like one could touch it by hand.
"W-What is this feeling...?"
Orihime also felt quite unsettled. As expected of a witch candidate, she was quite sensitive towards magic.
On the other hand, Hinokagutsuchi nostalgically looked around the space that was overflowing with magical power like miasma.
"I seem to recall that the imitation created by contemporary humans is called a leviathan? Using that kind of spell to revive it is not a bad idea, but there is a flaw."
Smiling mysteriously, Hinokagutsuchi proceeded to explain tirelessly.
Orange sunlight shone into the station. The sun was apparently starting to set.
"Using contemporary methods, the connection between the 'serpent' and the sacrifice's priestess is not strong. Once the priestess falls into darkness and strays from the proper path, she becomes unable to draw out any significant power. That is insufficient. Furthermore, it is a principle of nature that the sacred light of the priestess can be used to bring the demonic 'serpent' closer to divinity..."
Compared to the age of myths and ancient times, modern humans' disposition towards magic was rather dismal.
Hal recalled what his father had said in the past.
"This time, I shall edify the two of you on ancient ways—Come, O wandering spirit of the young serpent, the priestess whom you ought to follow is here. Make haste and heed the queen's summons."
Mid-sentence, Hinokagutsuchi's voice turned into a shout. Then immediately—
A "shadow" started occupying a spot in the station where the setting sun's rays did not reach.
It was the silhouette of a giant beast. The outline resembled that of a quadrupedal mammal. Overall, it looked quite slender and seemed to be carrying something huge on its back.
"Isn't this the shadow of the 'serpent' which Asya-san summoned on that night...?"
"I can't believe it got called here so easily..."
Hinokagutsuchi instantly said to the surprised Orihime and Hal, "Very well, it is finally time to begin the final stage. Brat, hold the divine artifact. Girl, hurry and strip."
" "......" "
Hal and Orihime fell silent simultaneously. Regarding the "ritual" that was about to take place, they had already heard the explanation during the car trip. Although they had already acquired full understanding of the procedure, whether they were mentally prepared for it or not was a separate matter...
Orihime fidgeted awkwardly, hesitating for quite a while before suddenly turning to stare at Hal shyly.
"U-Umm, Haruga-kun, just like you promised, do not look until it starts. Otherwise, I will probably hate you for a lifetime. Before I say ready, you must keep facing the other way!"
"I-I got it."
Hal frantically shifted his gaze away from Orihime and turned his head to the side.
After a while, he could hear the sound of friction from the fabric of clothing. Then there was the sound of light fabric sliding to the ground. She was undressing.
In order to let the entire body feel and accept the spiritual energy of the "serpent," all unnecessary clothing was probably removed—
This was what Hinokagutsuchi called the "necessary reason."
"Hmm. I knew it... Just as I predicted. O priestess, your physical maturation is excellent."
"K-Kagutsuchi-san, don't suddenly say such strange things!"
"Why are you angry? I am praising you earnestly and sincerely. Fufufu, feeding from those spectacular breasts, your babies will undoubtedly grow up healthy and strong. That waist is also the narrow type, my favorite... Yet such a voluptuous posterior... Bearing any number of children will not be a problem like this. Yes."
"Hold on, this must be sexual harassment! Kagutsuchi-san, there's a boy listening on the side!"
"Fufu. Even if you protest against whatever sexual harassment, I have totally no idea what the term means."
Despite boasting of being a diligent learner and even knowing what chess was, she feigned ignorance, only intent on teasing others.
As much as he sympathized with Orihime, Hal remained indecisive whether he should cover up his ears. To be honest, his curiosity was extremely piqued, overwhelming him with the desire to transform his entire body into ears to listen carefully.
"Very well, this level of undressing is sufficient. Turn your head here, brat—"
"Not yet! I still haven't prepared myself. Ooh, this level of exposure is similar to a swimsuit's, relax, relax... Haruga-kun, y-you may look this way now..."
Having obtained permission, Hal slowly turned his head over.
The setting sun's orange rays were shining into the ruins. A maiden with a wonderful figure was currently standing there, instilling in the viewer an irrepressible urge to call her a goddess of beauty. Naturally, she was Orihime.
Even covered by underwear, her glamorous physique could still be seen clearly.
In this state of undress, Orihime was standing there frozen in embarrassment.
She still had her uniform shirt hanging on her shoulders, but it was draped like a cape without any of the buttons fastened. Hence, if anything, the shirt had almost no effect in reducing the nudity level, instead contributing to a slight element of atypical seductiveness.
Hal almost gave in to the urge to lean forward suddenly. He frantically restrained himself.
However, Orihime had already seen through the thoughts in his heart.
"Haruga-kun... Although you are making a serious face, aren't your eyes glimmering subtly?"
"No, well—I am a healthy high school boy, after all."
"S-Shouldn't you attempt to lie in this kind of situation, even if just going through the motions!?"
"Hmm, these scraps of fabric might possibly get in the way... O priestess, remove them—"
"I'm not going to strip, Kagutsuchi-san! I absolutely won't strip!"
After a commotion took place...
Under Hinokagutsuchi's directions, Orihime obediently lay down with great reluctance.
In the end, lying in front of Hal was a beautiful girl of the same age with an uncommonly outstanding figure.
With her left knee raised, Orihime was peering at Hal's expression. At the same time, her cheeks were scarlet from embarrassment.
Her bust, very well developed despite her young age of fifteen, was bulging up firmly despite her lying down position. One could feel a kind of tender bursting tension.
Perhaps—No, undoubtedly they must be F-cups...
Hal's speculation turned into certainty.
"H-Haruga-kun!? You were just nodding very seriously. You wouldn't be thinking of something weird by any chance, right!?"
"Juujouji, I'm sure you should have noticed by now. Despite appearances, I am actually a closet perv—"
"I don't want to listen. I already understand fully that you're a boy, Haruga-kun, so please stop saying things that will make others embarrassed~~!"
While arguing with Orihime, Hal did not forget to start working dutifully at the same time.
Held in his left hand was the white copper mirror—the Grave Good or magical apparatus for enshrined object emulation—that had caught Soth's eye.
It was the divine artifact with historical roots, to be used as the newborn leviathan's Heartmetal, and was brought by Orihime.
As soon as the mirror was taken out, the "shadow" in the depths of station instantly shook.
The leviathan spirit born for Orihime's sake—the quadrupedal beast's silhouette—was overjoyed to find the divine artifact for it to possess.
Then Hinokagutsuchi's delicate hand reached out to touch the mirror of white copper.
Instantly, the mirror in Hal's hand began to burn, enveloped in scarlet flames.
Seeing the mirror burning, Orihime went through a violent shudder while waiting out front. Knowing what was to come in the procedure, she was probably afraid.
But after drawing in a deep breath, she looked up at Hal with moistened eyes and said, "Y-You may put it in, Haruga-kun... Please..."
Her voice trembled slightly but carried firm resolution.
Hal moved the burning mirror towards Orihime's pale abdomen. Her tight and slender waist was very seductive.
Together with his left hand, Hal inserted the mirror into her belly.
Orihime's beautiful face became contorted, displaying an expression of pain. Surely it was very painful.
Hal recalled the pain he had experienced last time at this same venue. Instantly, he wanted to withdraw his left hand and take out the mirror.
Although it was unknown whether she had sensed his movement, Orihime reached out and grabbed Hal's right hand.
"Don't worry. I'm okay, so persist until the very end... Haruga-kun."
Orihime's delicate hand was gripping Hal's right hand with astounding strength.
She was probably trying to endure the pain in desperation. By the time he noticed, Orihime was covered in sweat, her entire body drenched, glimmering under the red rays of the setting sun.
She was panting and had hollow eyes out of focus.
Her grip on Hal's right hand gradually weakened but her breathing began to slow down. It looked like she was growing accustomed to the pain.
With glazed eyes, Orihime looked up at Hal.
Hal nodded at her. Although she was still suffering, Orihime smiled bravely.
The white copper mirror, which Hal had inserted into Orihime's abdomen, changed in form. The object grasped in his left hand felt completely different from before.
Hal immediately withdrew his left hand.
Orihime screamed loudly—But this was supposed to be the last sensation of pain.
Seeing the object he had taken out with his left hand, Hal nodded. The white copper mirror had transformed completely, turned into a white metallic sphere.
Despite being only palm-sized, it was quite heavy.
Altering in shape and properties while within Orihime's body, it had transformed into the leviathan's core, the Heartmetal.
Then the metallic sphere floated up into the air on its own and was gradually absorbed into the quadrupedal beast's shadow.
In the next instant, the shadow acquired material form.
The quadrupedal beast was canid in appearance but impossible to categorize further as either a wolf or a fox. Its massive body was covered entirely in white fur, but under the illumination of light, there was a crimson glow released as well.
Furthermore, there were nine tails.
Nine long and thick tails sprouted from the body. Wriggling independently as though they had their own wills, the tails moved like serpents.
Carrying nine serpentine tails, a vulpine-lupine leviathan.
This was Orihime's partner.
"Are you willing to fight alongside me...?"
Despite her disheveled state of attire, Orihime got up unsteadily.
The newly born "serpent" cried out. It was the sound of a puppy begging for the owner's attention.
The giant fox-wolf's affectionate behavior caused Orihime's lips to smile naturally.
"Fufu... You must name this little one. O priestess, have you any ideas?"
Perhaps feeling satisfied by the result, Hinokagutsuchi was smiling.
"Umm, I can't think of one on the spot... But I'd prefer a cooler name. This child seems to be a cool beauty, so I think that kind of name would suit her better."
"A beauty huh... Well, I guess I can't disagree."
Hal nodded while agreeing with Orihime and gazing up at the majestic appearance of the "serpent."
The fox-wolf's demeanor was proper and dignified, looking very pretty. Indeed, among specimens of this type of beast, she could be considered a "beauty" perhaps.
Praised so strongly by the girl who was her covenantee, the white beast raised her head proudly, her solemn face brightening up.
'In the early hours before dawn, the JMSDF exterminated a group of Raptors.
'But one of them escaped at the time and allegedly went north from Tokyo Bay to apparently lurk in the vicinity of Shin-Kiba. Currently, an evacuation order has been issued to the surrounding area—'
This was publicly announced not long after Soth's occupation of the Mansion was confirmed.
Due to the "rule" of concealing information regarding elite dragons as much as possible, New Town's administration had fabricated this cover story.
Thanks to that, Shin-Kiba's redevelopment zone became deserted.
The sun had already set and the night sky was black.
Asya was driving a military jeep, heading to the Mansion alone.
Soth's curse had spread throughout this area. Commoners would simply die for nothing if they stepped foot into here because they were not witches.
Hence, Asya had no choice but to take action alone.
The situation at hand was anxiety inducing. Originally, the plan was to gather all of the few witch-"serpent" pairs in Japan to assemble a team to battle Soth.
Unlike Europe, where the Black Lightning Emperor lurked, or the relatively nearer North America, which was under Red Hannibal's rule, witch-related personnel in Japan had not developed a sense of crisis awareness against elite dragons.
"Were there just a little more time, we could get people from overseas..."
Asya stopped the car and went outside. The air was frighteningly cold.
The cold felt like it would freeze one to the very bones. This was not due to chilling wind but being surrounded by a "Death Curse."
"Rushalka, I'm counting on you," said Asya lightly.
No sooner had she spoken, faint blue light instantly enveloped her body.
She had asked her partner to strengthen the power protecting her. This isolated her completely from the curse, to the point that even the coldness in the air could not be felt.
The sea was nearby.
Asya walked along the shore that was protected by tetrapod breakwaters.
A mini-Monolith stood in one corner of the reclaimed land that was reportedly used as a landfill in the past. The leviathan, Minadzuki, was still coiled around it.
But the originally transparent and colorless triangular prism was now bright red like fresh blood—
Dressed in a hooded robe, a half-man half-dragon was waiting next to the mini-Monolith.
Interested parties had tentatively named this form "Draconian." This was probably the form taken by Soth. Asya knew Soth was waiting here because she had heard his call.
"My apologies for calling you here suddenly, girl of the mortal race," the Draconian said.
As expected, it was Soth's voice.
Two hours prior, a voice had reportedly reached the MPD urban rescue force patrolling the immediate vicinity outside the Death Curse and issued an announcement.
'I wish to meet all of your priestesses immediately. If I fail to meet them, I shall descend upon your city at the stroke of dawn to indulge my joy of playing with fire.'
This was why Asya had made her way to face off against Soth without waiting for backup.
"You're welcome. Thanks to you, I was able to personally witness this particular appearance from one of your kind. This is actually my first time seeing an elite dragon away from the front lines."
"Elite... Is that what humans call one of the Zizou such as I?"
Due to Soth's strange reptilian face, it was impossible to tell whether he was smiling or not.
However, there was clearly an element of mirth in his staid voice.
"This is nothing much. I am simply taking this rare chance to make a display of the magic I learned out of boredom a long time ago."
"Frankly speaking, I think it'd be better if you made yourself even more like surface dwellers—more like humans. Given the magic of your kind, turning completely human should be quite easy."
"Of course it is possible, but pray forgive me for noncompliance."
Despite Soth's polite choice of words, his attitude was quite arrogant.
"Dragons pride themselves on eschewing primate form in the first place. Although there exist hybrids as exceptions... At least, it is not the style of I, Raak Al Soth."
"By the way, may I ask why you wanted to see me?" said Asya while smiling fearlessly.
Elite dragons were very strong. Soth's combat power was undoubtedly above that of Rushalka and hers. Even so, Asya still smiled. This was to apply self-suggestion of "victory is mine."
If she admitted defeat in her heart, that would mean the battle had ended before it even started!
"I basically interpret it as receiving a letter of challenge..."
"That would not be wrong. But allow me to elaborate further."
But with leisure and composure, Soth evaded the fighting spirit displayed by Asya.
"Rather than fighting you, I am currently facing an even more meaningful challenge. For this purpose, I must build up my energy. Hence, the imitation summoned by you shall serve to lend me some blood."
"That Monolith-like object—Is that your 'power' too?"
"Fufufu, you shall understand immediately. Putting that aside, I shall first enjoy the pleasure of battle!"
Soth's robe suddenly exploded.
A xenomorph suddenly appeared. Despite a humanoid shape, the entire body was covered in dragon scales the color of bronze with a small pair of dorsal wings and a short tail attached to the lower back.
Soth instantly turned from his Draconian form to a gigantic being within the blink of an eye.
The two wings became large, majestic and ominous while the tail extended in length—Within the brief duration of ten-odd seconds, Soth had rapidly turned back into a giant bronze dragon.
However, Asya noticed something.
The scales covering Soth's entire body were severely blackened. A pitiful sight to behold.
It was as though the scales had lost their luster after being scorched by super-high temperature flames.
"Imitations they may be, but they do closely resemble female dragons of my race. With your blood, my stone tower will be able to acquire enough splendor. I offer you my thanks for this!"
Soth reached for Minadzuki that was coiled around the blood-red mini-Monolith and violently pulled off the unconscious serpentine dragon's giant body, tossing the leviathan away casually.
Then Soth breathed fire at the blood-red mini-Monolith.
"O blood of a female dragon's, accomplish my revival!"
Bathed in dragon flames, the mini-Monolith exploded. The blast engulfed Soth's massive body as well.
Devoured by the fiery explosion, Soth roared in pain.
However, the black scorch marks disappeared from his giant body within the blink of an eye and the metallic luster of bronze was gradually restored. His wounds were healed!
"You imprisoned a leviathan for the purpose of this magic?"
"Indeed. I shall also drink blood from your summoned imitation as my nourishment!" yelled Soth in the face of the surprised Asya.
A long metallic rod suddenly appeared in his right hand. Elite dragons were not mere beasts. Like humans, they were capable of using dexterous hands to wield tools.
Reportedly, they especially loved to use "magic wands" as aids in controlling magic.
Furthermore, Soth's wand was no ordinary metallic rod. It was a polearm with a blade affixed to one end of the shaft—In other words, a "spear."
Asya looked up resolutely and chanted a song of summoning.
"I pray to the ancient divine seal of purity! Send the transient blue dragon to the ground!"
Blue Rushalka instantly materialized in the night sky.
She was the leviathan in wyvern form, lacking the front limbs corresponding to arms.
"Rushalka, this might be the final time... Fight by my side!"
Rushalka roared in response to Asya's orders.
Starting the battle, Soth flew towards Rushalka, wielding the "spear" in one hand.
At the same time, he launched an attack at Asya to pin her down. Soth cast a glance of magic at the ground, the Evil Eye, a technique allowing magic to be cast with just a look!
Asya instantly jumped back.
A small explosion instantly occurred at her former location.
Soth had mischievously delivered a diversionary attack but Asya evaded by jumping back a number of meters with feline movements. This was possible thanks to swiftly casting Leaping Power Enhancement on herself to augment her physical abilities.
Since Haruomi and Orihime were not present this night, Asya did not have to worry about needing to use Rushalka as a shield.
"Let's make our move too. Full force at maximum speed!" commanded Asya swiftly.
There was nothing to hold her back anymore.
Now was the time for a quick and decisive battle with no holds barred—Prepared for a last stand, Asya and Rushalka were at peak morale.
This was more than mere idealism because in the world of magic, powerful magic could only arise from strong willpower and conviction!
"Rushalka! Focus your pseudo-divinity on long-range attacks. Fire!"
The wyvern spread her wings wide and soared through the sky.
A magic circle appeared in front of her. The pattern of a pentagram was traced inside the circle, its blue light depicting the ancient seal of purification in the night sky.
A moment later, a large volume of water poured out from the center of the magic circle like a torrential flow.
Eight torrents shaped themselves into serpentine heads with gaping jaws lined with teeth.
In the previous battle, Rushalka had used a large volume of water to make a two-headed serpent. This time, there were eight multi-headed serpents. The eight water serpents all flew with astounding speed.
Then tracing out different trajectories, they attacked Soth with their jaws.
Rushalka had invoked her pseudo-divinity of Water, turning it into a ranged magical attack of the highest potency.
"O Secret Runes of Ruruk Soun!"
Soth chanted briefly, deploying defensive power in an instant.
Several runes appeared before him, signifying Shield in their arrangement. This was the "magic shield" for defending Raak Al Soth.
One after another, the giant water serpents pounced at the elite dragon protected by the shield of secret runes.
It felt like a large waterfall crashing into a plunge pool all at once.
Every water serpent brought with it a frightening amount of water, pressure and super-high speed.
Blocking this intense torrent, the runes of the Shield became severely distorted, almost losing to the water pressure and getting washed apart.
However, Soth pointed the "spear" in his hand at the sky and yelled, "O magic wand, release the beast within me!"
The magical power surrounding Soth suddenly expanded dramatically.
At the same time, the runes guarding Soth also glowed white, allowing him to hold his ground motionlessly, rendering the previous scene of almost submitting to the water serpents' pressure seem like a lie.
"...I knew it."
Rushalka's full-powered attack was blocked, but Asya nodded.
Since the enemy was elite, this outcome was predictable but Asya still insisted on going head to head with brute force.
This was for the sake of using strategy and skill to craftily strike at enemy openings after the contest of strength.
"Rushalka, switch pseudo-divinity to Moon and disappear behind the shadow."
Asya contained her burgeoning fighting spirit and quietly whispered.
—"Pseudo-divinity" referred to the magical affinity of leviathans. Wind pseudo-divinity would allow the use of atmospheric and wind-related spells while Fire pseudo-divinity offered access to flame-type magic. Naturally, Rushalka's affinity was Water.
However, "serpents" often developed a second divinity when covenanting with powerful witches.
Rushalka was the same, holding both pseudo-divinities of Water and Moon as a rare dual-element leviathan.
Switching to Moon divinity, Asya ordered Rushalka to use a new spell.
This pseudo-divinity's base nature was that of faint moonlight, dark nights and disorientation. At Asya's command, Rushalka's figure melded into the dark night and vanished.
Soth was alarmed to see the enemy disappear.
At the same time, the eight water serpents finally disappeared along with the last of their momentum. Having fulfilled their job, the defensive runes gradually vanished, leaving Soth alone in the sky.
In the next instant, Rushalka suddenly appeared behind him.
Using a mystic technique originating from lunar divinity to erase her appearance and presence, Rushalka successfully teleported from darkness to darkness—
Soth had apparently focused too much on the grand contest of strength, thus exposing an opening. While he was reacting a moment too slow, Asya gave permission to attack.
"Rushalka! Bite and sever Soth's throat!"
The blue wyvern roared and extended her neck to attack Soth.
Only then did Soth turn his head with a "Hmm!" and sweep his "spear" horizontally in an attempt to intercept. However, Rushalka dodged skillfully to approach his chest, finally biting the elite dragon's body. But due to evading the "spear," her aim deviated slightly.
Rushalka's sharp teeth sank into Soth's left shoulder.
But this was not a problem. So long as the shoulder was ripped off together with the left arm and chest, a severe injury would be inflicted.
At Asya's directions, a blue-white glow emerged from Rushalka's mouth.
The Fire Breath of dragons had incinerated many human cities. Leviathans, too, were able to discharge similar kinds of attacks from their mouths. However, such attacks required a cooldown of roughly ten minutes between consecutive shots.
Hence, Asya wanted to pour attack power into the enemy's body without reserve.
The instant she saw her partner bite Soth's left shoulder, she ordered the attack.
Struck by the blue-white heat beam at zero range, Soth screamed.
Rushalka instantly released her jaws and pulled back from her target, flying away nimbly.
A large v-shape was gouged out from Soth's left shoulder to his chest with mercury-colored blood spurting from the wound.
Not a critical wound but quite a severe blow at least—but Soth scoffed and sneered.
"A splendid job considering your wounded state. Looks like I have no need to show mercy!"
Right now, Soth's left shoulder was gouged open but the left arm remained barely attached to his body.
Using just his right forearm, he swung the "spear."
"O winged lizards of Jabones, hasten forth to become my sword and my scales of steel!"
He summoned Raptors—lesser dragons.
Dozens of lights descended the overhead starry sky like a meteor shower.
The swarm of Raptors numbered thirty, all flying dragons of a familiar bronze color. The individual strength of Raptors was nothing special, but if one had to handle this many of them while fighting Soth at the same time—
Furthermore, two of the Raptors had separated from the group to fly rapidly towards Rushalka!
At this moment, Asya heard a familiar voice issue orders.
"Akuro-Ou! Eliminate all of them!"
Asya involuntarily cast her gaze in that direction—As expected, it was Juujouji Orihime. Dressed in the uniform of the same high school as Haruomi, she was currently charging here.
Appearing behind her, an infinity symbol was materializing, turning into a quadrupedal beast—
Before Asya's eyes, the white-furred vulpine-lupine leviathan manifested. On her back were nine tails resembling great serpents.
The white nine-tailed fox-wolf responded to her summoner's orders and jumped high into the air.
Moving her limbs casually, she started soaring with just a light kick against the ground.
No longer moving her legs, the flying fox-wolf moved through the air in a straight line like a speeding comet.
Its flight was powerful and rapid beyond compare. The white fox-wolf rushed over to Rushalka's side in less than ten seconds, intercepting the two flying Raptors.
In the next instant, two of the tails on the fox-wolf's back suddenly moved.
The long and thick tails reached towards the Raptors.
Then the ends of the tails struck the lesser dragons in the face like whips, sweeping them away.
Asya realized that those nine tails were weapons!
Upon closer examination, each tail had black fur on the end, with symbols resembling Sanskrit glowing mysteriously at the very tip.
The nine tails apparently served as the white fox-wolf's "horn counterpart."
Struck by the tails, both Raptors' necks were broken and bent.
Apparently killed, the two winged lizards turned into stone and crashed down.
"Hoh—" muttered Soth in the air upon seeing the arrival of an unexpected enemy.
Asya was also staring at Orihime with surprise all over her face. Bringing about the birth of Orihime's "serpent" was supposed to take much more time, but... Why?
"Looks like I made it in the nick of time. Reinforcements are here, Asya-san!"
Meanwhile, Juujouji Orihime was speaking with her naturally cheerful personality.
In the sky above the Shin-Kiba redevelopment zone—
Under Soth's command, there were close to thirty Raptors gathered like a flock of birds.
In contrast, Asya and Orihime only had two "serpents."
Rushalka spread her wings wide whereas the wingless fox-wolf hovered lightly through the air using her own peculiar flying powers, thus the two leviathans stood on guard over the witches' heads.
Asya said to the junior witch who had arrived by her side, "Akuro-Ou... Is that her name?"
"Yes. We thought up a number of candidate names together and finally decided on the coolest sounding one."
Orihime showed great liveliness in voice and expression and was quite composed as well.
Of course, she also seemed a little nervous with a slightly stiff expression. But for her first time fighting, this was composure beyond normal standards. Where did her calmness come from?
"Fighting... is probably okay. Although I'm not too sure what to do exactly, that child—Akuro-Ou—will protect me and she even told me to leave everything to her."
"But that 'serpent' is just a newborn!?"
Asya was shocked after hearing her junior's report but understood at the same time.
The protection of a "serpent" was able to defend a witch from fear and uncertainty to a certain extent. However, Orihime should have no more than one day's experience. Receiving this much protection from a "serpent" required Level 3 power—
Asya chuckled and decided to forget about this question.
The most important thing now was simply the arrival of apparently dependable reinforcements.
"No time to lose. I'm counting on you. Is that okay?"
"Yes. This is my first time so I don't know how much I can help... But no matter what, please do not hold back with directions. I will do my best!"
Orihime voiced her worries honestly but also expressed optimistic sincerity and fervor.
Hearing an Orihime-style response of honesty, Asya nodded and gave directions.
"If possible, please awaken the pseudo-divinity of the 'serpent' to clear out the Raptors. If that's beyond you, allow my Rushalka to—"
"No, it's not a problem. Akuro-Ou is currently all pumped up!"
Staring at the group of Raptors in the air, the two girls discussed.
Asya readily gave a great nod. Orihime had apparently succeeded in synchronizing with her "serpent" to establish a deep emotional bond of partnership.
The tips of Akuro-Ou's nine serpentine tails suddenly started to light on fire.
A fireball suddenly appeared at the tip of each tail. The blazing flames of red—Unmistakable. Akuro-Ou was a leviathan possessing the pseudo-divinity of Fire!
In the next instant, the nine fireballs suddenly expanded.
Each mass of flame had grown to roughly the same size as Akuro-Ou before flying towards the dozens of Raptors.
They were as fast as shooting stars.
Like trains smashing little lambs that had accidentally wandered onto railways, the nine fireballs advanced, crushing the Raptors in their path.
The crushed Raptors instantly combusted all over, enveloped in flames.
Then burning, they turned into stone and crashed towards the ground.
Those Raptors were all dead. Not satisfied with killing a single Raptor each, the fireballs continued flying in search of their next prey. Displaying the properties of speed, power and auto-homing, this magical attack was perfect beyond impeccable.
Witnessing the scene, Asya said to her partner, "Rushalka! Of course, our opponent is—!"
The blue wyvern responded to Asya's call and started to soar.
Her target was Raak Al Soth, of course. The bronze dragon opened his reptilian mouth and recited an incantation.
"O Secret Runes of Ruruk Soun, present the arrangement of scorching heat!"
Hence, an arrangement of runes representing Fire appeared over Soth's head.
This was magic for increasing the power of flames, but Asya and Rushalka were already prepared.
"Rushalka, switch pseudo-divinity to Water!"
This was Asya's third time to order her partner to use magic tonight.
Things resembling gray dust kept flaking off from the blue wyvern's body.
The breakdown of her body still persisted. Making Rushalka use magic would speed up the collapse, but even so, Asya had no choice!
"Turn yourself into holy water!"
"O imitation, burn to cinders!"
Rushalka's massive body turned faint blue. Then the instant this blue color turned even fainter, becoming as transparent as pure water, Soth breathed out blue-white flames.
The firepower was on a completely different level compared to the previous night's—
Even Rushalka would not be able to survive a direct hit.
But this time, Rushalka received almost no damage despite taking on the conflagration head on. At most, only a slight portion of her body was vaporized into steam.
Soth muttered then immediately stabbed with his "spear."
This attack also struck Rushalka. The spear's tip penetrated deeply at the location of the heart, but Rushalka still remained completely unharmed.
This was because Rushalka's body had already turned into holy water by the time Soth struck her.
Through the Blessing of Holy Water, the body of the "serpent," composed of scales, flesh and bone, had transmuted into a liquid mass possessing Rushalka's outline.
This was no ordinary liquid but holy water capable of extinguishing evil dragon flames—
Simply stated, Soth's attack had simply plunged the "spear" into water.
No matter how great the force, water would not be destroyed by such an attack.
Once in the form of holy water, Rushalka would not suffer any damage even if Raptors interfered in her duel with Soth. She could simply ignore them.
Also, turning into water did not mean she was unable to attack.
Following Asya's order, Rushalka instantly accelerated.
Still maintaining her holy water form, she pounced at Soth. This was a colliding attack using her body. Using such a large volume of water to strike at super-high speed, the water pressure would be quite powerful.
Unable to invoke the Shield in time as previously, Soth suffered a direct hit and reeled back greatly.
However, this did not seem to have inflicted too much damage. The dragon said nonchalantly, "Fufufufu, you fight quite well for a body on death's door..."
Soth glared viciously at Rushalka who was now transparent after turning into holy water.
Then he swung the "spear" lightly with a whoosh. He already knew that the "spear" was useless as a weapon but used in its original purpose—as a magic wand—that was a separate matter.
"O Secret Runes of Ruruk Soun, claim the invisible hand!"
Five runes appeared above Soth's head and gave off blue light.
This arrangement of symbols were the runes for Telekinesis. Next, the "spear" in Soth's hand released a telekinetic pulse from its tip, surging towards Rushalka like a ripple!
Rushalka was instantly surprised. Having turned liquid, she was not supposed to be affected by physical attacks.
However, a mysterious attractive force was now trying to pull Rushalka's massive body towards Soth! That was why the "serpent" cried out.
Asya instantly issued a command, ordering her partner to accelerate in flight—
Hence, the blue wyvern started to fly in a different direction, still in her holy water state, with speed incomparably faster than before. Like water flowing from a ruptured dam, Rushalka flew.
Fortunately, Asya's partner escaped the telekinetic pulse and regained her freedom.
However, how long could she elude capture?
The runes of Telekinesis continued to flash and glow above Soth's head.
Asya was a Level 5 witch, meaning she could invoke pseudo-divinity five times a day. This usage counter was not going to reset until the following night's arrival.
She had used divinity thrice tonight already. As the covenantee, Asya felt a premonition.
Most likely, during the instant when she used it for the fourth or fifth time, the collapse of Rushalka's body was going to accelerate all at once, resulting in sudden death.
The trump card equivalent to the value of her partner's life—She must absolutely use it at the right moment.
The true critical moment was coming up next. Asya took a deep breath.
Meanwhile, retracing time a little further back—
Hal and Orihime were traveling by car from the Old Tokyo Concession to the vicinity of Shin-Kiba. As a member of SAURU, he was able to pass without any questioning from traffic restrictions. In the distant sky, Rushalka had finally started the battle against Soth.
Then Hal watched as Orihime hurried over to Asya.
(That girl has Akuro-Ou following her. At the risk of sounding like I am praising my own handiwork, the little one is amazing and will not let the priestess die so easily.)
"Even if you say that, I don't really feel it..." replied Hal to Hinokagutsuchi who was simply whispering without showing herself.
As a side note, the name of "Akuro-Ou" was one of the suggestions offered by the dragon ghost.
"By the way, is it really okay for an unfriendly guardian angel like you to be here, making irresponsible comments? But if you really want to help, I don't mind if you serve as a volunteer."
(Do not be ridiculous. Compared to taking care of others, I love myself more.)
"What a great answer, simple and easy to understand. I'll do as I see fit next."
Hinokagutsuchi seemed to behave diligently only during "deals."
Since this type of selfish mindset seemed to fit her style more, Hal could not help but nod.
(But brat... If assistance were required, you could have taken the opportunity to persuade the priestess to become a vassal when you were parting ways earlier, yes?)
(Yes. Or do you mean to say you have not noticed?)
Hal frowned. This self-styled devil was talking in riddles again...
(Fufu. After all, you did witness the instant when such massive magical power was employed for a serpent's birth. To you, this might have been excellent stimulation.)
"Cut the crap. If you just want to talk shop, shut up."
Hal started running. A different direction from Orihime's.
Soth's target was said to be Haruga Haruomi. For this purpose, Soth had used strange magic to create a mini-Monolith and captured Orihime's cousin and her "serpent."
Of course, since Hinokagutsuchi was the one who said it, total veracity was as yet unconfirmed.
Even so, Hal was feeling even more unpleasant than if he had an eel stuck in his throat. Also, if a girl younger than himself were to be sacrificed—
"Asya and Juujouji are fighting so near here. Who knows if the Mansion might get caught up in the destruction at some point..."
Slightly turning his gaze towards the other end of the sky, Hal saw Soth and Rushalka's aerial battle enter his view.
Rushalka had gone as far as to invoke Moon pseudo-divinity. This was truly all-out war and Hal hoped to rescue the girl inside the Mansion before anything unpredictable happened.
Even if he could not fight Soth, this was something he had to accomplish at least—
Finally reaching the Mansion's entrance, Hal exhaled greatly.
"I managed to survive..."
Relief, resignation, surprise. These emotions were mixed in his sighing.
On the way here just now, the air within roughly a kilometer of the Mansion felt extremely cold. His skin also stung as though pricked by needles.
Even though it was clearly spring, it felt as chilly as midwinter in a cold region because of entering the Death Curse's area of effect. Also from time to time, he discovered the cold corpses of SDF and police related personnel.
Nevertheless, Hal still managed to reach the Mansion safely.
Just as the severe chill felt unbearable and he was convinced that he was destined to become a frozen corpse on the roadside, Hal gritted his teeth and thought, How could I possibly die here just like that?
Then he immediately stopped feeling the cold air.
His supernatural resilience(?) had apparently triumphed over the elite dragon's magic.
That being said, it was quite a nerve-wracking challenge to sneak into a dangerous place without tangible protection.
(Sigh, brat. Has anyone ever told you that you are a nice guy to a fault despite your twisted personality? Without any guarantee of safety, why do you need to go so far to rescue this girl whom you have never met before—)
"Quiet, just shut up..."
(Fufu, do know that I am praising you. Men need to be a little idiotic in order to be adorable.)
The girl who called herself the devil was chuckling while exaggerating things on purpose.
Hal did have some self-awareness of how misfortune gravitated towards him. Frowning, he entered the Mansion.
Walking inside the building, he took out his pocket watch.
Not his father's memento but another Clockwork Mage.
Hal performed Heat Sensing magic. With the magic of death occupying the indoor environment, objects exceeding a certain temperature were limited. Living humans like Hal, for example.
Holding the chain, he dangled the pocket watch from his hand, advancing through the building in this manner.
There was no reaction on the first and second floors. When he reached the third floor, the watch began to swing nonstop.
It oscillated particularly intensely in front of a certain door. Something with an elevated temperature was apparently inside.
Hal reached for the door handle—The door was not locked. He opened the door.
Inside was a bedroom with a bed, a table and a closet. All household items were expensive without exception. The room was clean without a speck of dust and organized with immaculate attention to detail. For someone like Hal, staying in this kind of room actually felt uncomfortable instead.
This was most likely the personal room belonging to the witch in charge of this Mansion.
Hal made his deduction based on the room's expensive tastes. Then he subconsciously looked at the bed—And jumped in surprise.
"She's really a girl who's like an angel..."
The beautiful girl was so pure and adorable that one could almost mistake her for an angel.
The witch, whose photo Orihime had shown Hal, was lying asleep on the bed.
The girl was making light breathing noises through her nose. Hal recalled that her name was something like Shirasaka Hazumi.
She was wearing the uniform of Kogetsu Academy's middle school division. Even when Hal was standing next to the pillow, she still showed no signs of waking up. Hal tried to shake her shoulders hard but there was no response at all.
"Asleep... No, hypnotized?"
Soth had probably cast sleeping magic on her.
Deducing that, Hal reached into his waist bag to search among his "tools of the trade." He planned to confirm the situation by putting on a monocle to obtain magical sight—
However, he stopped before he took it out.
Shirasaka Hazumi was asleep, lying face up. Her entire body was enveloped in faint white light.
This was the glow of magic. Clearly he did not see it earlier, but now he was suddenly able to see the light.
"Magical sight manifested because I wanted to see...?"
There were apparently more secrets to his special constitution. Hal muttered with heartfelt emotion.
"But carrying Sleeping Beauty using pure arm strength seems a bit laborious. If only there was a stretcher somewhere."
The sleeping magic cast by an elite dragon was impossible for someone like Hal to dispel.
But right now, time was at a premium. Even searching the building would be a waste of time. Besides, the beautiful girl before him was petite in stature and looked quite light. Hence, Hal gave up on the thought but just as he intended to carry her on his back—
(Why do you believe that you cannot rouse her from slumber?)
He suddenly heard the whispers of Hinokagutsuchi by his ear.
(As long as you call out, your voice will surely reach the heart of the priestess—the girl of the sacrificial serpent.)
Hal could come up with many reasons to refute this baseless proposition.
However, he found himself wondering "Is that really true?" while beginning to imagine.
Prompted by Hinokagutsuchi's reminder, Hal sensed it too. Indeed, this did not seem to be difficult—
Hal gazed into the girl's delicate and proper face.
She was someone who shared her life with a "dragon" or its close relative. In that case, surely she must be able to hear his voice.
Because for dragonkind, I am—we are—their natural enemy, a tyrant and a hated existence as well as being the target of their fear, loyalty and betrayal.
Since the girl was listed in the lineage of dragons, there was absolutely no way for her to ignore his call—
Driven by an inexplicable sense of certainty, Hal reached out lightly to touch the girl's face. At the same time, he also reached her heart.
"You... Can you get up?"
The instant he called out, the girl suddenly opened her eyes. Hal hastily withdrew his hand.
Just awoken, the witch stared blankly with her sleepy eyes for quite a while. Then she turned her glazed eyes to the male stranger by the bed and froze for ten-odd seconds.
Then she emitted a brief and sudden scream.
"Umm, I'm not a suspicious person."
(What are you talking about? You have already sneaked into a young girl's bedroom and peeked at her unseemly state of slumber...)
Hinokagutsuchi's whispers were correct this time.
But stupid as Hal was to overlook this point until now, he tried his best to put on a harmless look and made an overconfident attempt to pretend to be a "reliable older brother," nodding to the witch who was younger than him.
Fortunately, the girl—Shirasaka Hazumi—could not hear Hinokagutsuchi's voice, apparently.
"O-Okay. Sorry, I screamed too loudly. By the way, why am I here...? I remember going to the courtyard, then... I met a transformed dragon."
"Yeah, you were captured by an elite dragon named Soth."
Confronted with Hazumi who seemed to be remembering what happened before she was hypnotized, Hal answered, "I am your cousin Juujouji-san's... acquaintance. My family name is Haruga."
"I've heard about you."
After Hal brought up Orihime's name to reassure her and gain her trust, Hazumi sat up straight in seiza posture.
She was sitting formally on the bed, gazing at her cousin's acquaintance. Feeling such an honest gaze, Hal instantly felt a little timid.
Her eyes were even more vigorous than what the photo showed. Hal felt as though he might get sucked into them involuntarily.
"I heard that you belong to SAURU and you're Orihime-neesama's new friend."
She brought up the title that Hal had deliberately avoided.
Hal did not deny it. Somehow, he could not find a reason to deny.
"Juujouji is busy right now, so I came over to check things out."
"I understand now... Excuse me, Haruga-san, may I ask you a question?"
Shirasaka Hazumi seemed like a sheltered classy young lady.
Her choice of words was very polite but the generous tone of voice made her very approachable.
"This building should be quite dangerous for ordinary people to enter, but why are you...?"
The Mansion was still filled with a curse of Death.
Hal's magical sight could see this deadly magic swirling in the air as tiny gorgeous silver scales. As a witch, Hazumi should be able to see the same thing.
However, why was Hal safe and sound? Confronted with this most natural question, Hal replied, "Simply stated, my constitution is a little special."
"A special constitution!?"
"But I just don't have any inclination to use this constitution for secret activities as a masked hero. Since the future is still undecided, I'd like to keep this a secret for now. I'd appreciate it if you could help out with that."
Since he had no intention of explaining in detail and there was no time either, Hal decided to just gloss over things.
Hazumi tilted her head with an incomprehensible expression but did not question him. Evidently, she was the obedient and reserved type, unlike her cousin.
Feeling fortunate, Hal was about to end this embarrassing conversation when...
"I see, so something this unbelievable actually existed..."
However, Hazumi was murmuring to herself with an impressed expression and kept staring intently at Hal's face.
Her gaze was forceful indeed. Perhaps due to a guilty conscience, Hal was unable to avert his eyes. Then Hazumi suddenly chuckled, surprising him.
"Oh, nothing much, it's just that I find this quite interesting. Please do explain in detail next time if you don't mind. I will be very glad..." said Hazumi with a faint and staid smile.
Although Orihime was also a girl akin to a "princess," her cousin was no less suited to the same description.
Hazumi's generous honesty and distinctive pace made "a princess who grew up in a sheltered boudoir" an apt description of her. Furthermore, her laughter exhibited both cheerfulness and what could be called genuine purity—
Just as Hal could not help but stare, mesmerized...
The sound of rupturing was heard from overhead. An explosion nearby had apparently happened.
Hal and Hazumi exchanged a glance then went to the balcony together.
"So many dragons!? And there are two 'serpents'..."
"Those are the leviathans of Juujouji and Asya—my friend! They are currently fighting the elite dragon that captured you. But it seems like they're having a bit of trouble..."
The night sky above the redevelopment zone had turned into a battlefield between dragons and serpents.
The Raptors numbered roughly thirty.
Driving them away was the nine-tailed fox-wolf, Akuro-Ou. Orihime's leviathan was controlling nine giant fireballs while dashing back and forth freely across the night sky at the same time.
As soon as Akuro-Ou caught up to a Raptor, she would attack using her horn counterpart.
Using the nine tails as whips, she inflicted heavy blows on the Raptors' faces and chests. She also used the claws on her four limbs to tear enemies apart and bit them with her wolf-like jaws.
The result was that whenever Akuro-Ou or one of the fireballs moved—
The number of Raptors decreased surely and steadily. The battle was completely one-sided.
The problem lay on the other side where Rushalka the blue wyvern was dueling Soth.
The "serpent" had currently turned her body into holy water, rendering flames and physical attacks ineffective.
But over the head of Soth while he was holding his "spear"—
Five runes were giving off radiant blue light. Was this also due to his special constitution? Hal was able to decipher the runes' nature with just a single look.
"Magic symbols for Telekinesis!"
Soth was currently releasing telekinetic force that could be described as an invisible hand, trying to capture Rushalka.
He was probably trying to stop his opponent from escaping before casting Dispel on the holy water transformation.
"Th-That is magic that only elite dragons can use, isn't it...?"
Nodding in response to Hazumi's question, Hal said, "Yeah. Those are the Secret Runes of Ruruk Soun. Although elites seem to know many different kinds of magic, only these runes are effective against the leviathans and their strong magic resistance."
Finding Hazumi quite unfamiliar with knowledge in this area, Hal decided to explain.
Speaking of which, the incidence of the magic-wielding elite dragons was relatively low in East Asia.
Hence, it was only natural for her not to have crossed paths with such knowledge.
"The runes of Ruruk Soun are on the same level of power as the pseudo-divinity of 'serpents'—but differ in the number of times they can be used. Asya is Level 5, meaning she can invoke divinity five times at most, but those elites seem capable of using runes many more times..."
Then Hal discovered something.
The mini-Monolith, originally standing on the reclaimed land that had turned into a battlefield, had disappeared at some point!
Hazumi cried out, causing Hal to follow her gaze.
The leviathan in the form of a serpentine dragon, Minadzuki, was currently lying in a corner of the reclaimed land. Possibly affected by the Blood Drinking magic that Hinokagutsuchi mentioned, she was unable to move at all.
"Since she's still materialized, she shouldn't be dead yet, right!?"
"Y-Yes, but she has become quite feeble at the moment. I must hurry and release her material form...!" said Hazumi with worry as she clasped her hands together before her chest as though in prayer.
Then closing both eyes, she whispered in a gentle voice, "You don't need to suffer any longer... Hurry and escape from here!"
Lying on the ground, several hundred meters away, the serpentine dragon responded to her partner's prayer.
Turning into particles of light, she disappeared from the ground surface. Opening her eyes to confirm Minadzuki's retreat, Hazumi exhaled with relief.
—Once the partner witch issued the order, a leviathan would instantly disappear.
Fearful of that happening, Soth probably placed Hazumi in deep sleep to prevent that.
The reason why she was not killed was because the leviathan would perish once the covenantee died. Also, Soth was uninterested in the lives of witches and the like—
"Was it because that guy wanted to use Minadzuki's blood...?" whispered Hal softly.
Soth's target was Rushalka in holy water form, flying all over the place.
But at this moment, the bronze-colored elite dragon suddenly turned his back to the blue wyvern as though he had lost interest in the battle and flew in this direction—towards the Mansion!
I see. Hal realized.
Making the "serpent" disappear was the partner's special right. Then who could have released Hazumi from her unconscious state—?
Minadzuki's disappearance would surely alert Soth to the arrival of his "target." As expected, this acquaintance of a dragon landed in the heart of the Mansion's grounds and stared intently at the balcony.
"D-Dragon...!" gasped Hazumi next to him, shrinking back in fear.
Hal stepped forward to shield her behind him. No, of course he knew clearly that as a witch, Hazumi was a million times stronger than him, but this frail girl was completely different from his inordinately durable childhood friend.
At a time like this, Hal could not possibly hide behind Hazumi's back, right?
While Hal made this decision with slight resignation, Soth spoke to him in excitement, "Rousing the priestess from my coffin of slumber—I knew it was you, Tyrannos."
"Don't decide on your own to address others by weird names..."
"Temporarily though it may be, I still wish to express respect towards the wielder of the dragonslaying bow. Although I would have liked to have subjugated those imitations to suck their blood dry first—Now that the two participants of the promised rematch are present, delaying the duel on account of entertainment would be too boorish..."
Soth snickered to himself.
"Bathed in the blazing flames ignited from the blood of female dragons, my Heartmetal is currently aroused in excitement. If it is right now, I can even manage to emulate the techniques of dragonbane... Fufu, heaven ordains that I shall become the dragonslayer to challenge you today!"
The white fox-wolf roared and flew over. Akuro-Ou.
Taking a closer look, Hal discovered that all the Raptors spread out in the night sky had been destroyed. Scattered on the empty land in this redevelopment zone were the remains of the petrified lesser dragons.
Struck down by Akuro-Ou, they had crashed down at various places.
Like someone who had defeated swarms of foot soldiers and was finally about to slay the general, Akuro-Ou pounced ferociously at Soth from behind.
As agile as a wolf, she attempted to bite Soth's throat.
With the speed of bestial reflexes, Soth swept the "spear" horizontally. The sharp spear tip slashed open Akuro-Ou's flank.
This sent Akuro-Ou's massive body flying away, causing her attack to end in failure.
However, the fox-wolf's fur apparently possessed toughness on the same level as dragon scales. The wound inflicted by the "spear" was not very deep. Moving so rapidly that she did not seem injured, Akuro-Ou began to fly again.
The sharp lupine eyes displayed the willpower to attack again.
However, the target did not regard her heroic posture as a threat.
"O imitation, you are too boorish. I was just starting a revolt by challenging the Tyrannos. This is dragonkind's most noble crusade, so do not interfere!"
Roaring arrogantly, Soth's entire body instantly began to burn.
As a bronze dragon, his giant body was enveloped in white—platinum-colored—flames.
Hal had seen this type of flame before. A few days ago when Hinokagutsuchi had saved Hal in Tokyo Station, these were the same flames that had surrounded her remains.
"Asya-san, what is with that dragon!?"
"No idea. This is my first time seeing that kind of phenomenon too!"
In order to chase after Soth who had suddenly flown away, Asya and Orihime broke into a run.
Taking off first, Akuro-Ou had attacked the elite dragon next to the Mansion. After that, Raak Al Soth's entire body had started to burn with platinum-colored flames.
Like steel that had turned white-hot inside a furnace, he hovered into the air in that state.
The magic wand in his hand also burned as well.
"O sacred spirit of the radiant Ruruk Soun in the sky, O rune of runes, confer upon me, Raak Al Soth, the blade of dragonslaying!"
Soth recited a mantra—an incantation. As a result, the magic wand, burning with platinum flames, changed in appearance, turning into a giant sword.
With a straight and broad blade, this greatsword was as thick and sturdy as a woodcutter's hatchet, rather unrefined in craftsmanship.
However, ten-odd runes of Ruruk Soun were carved beautifully on the blade, giving off airs like some kind of foreign cultural artwork.
Although shocked by Soth's perplexing magic, Asya and Orihime still managed to arrive in the Mansion's vicinity. Orihime instantly yelled, "Akuro-Ou! Can you still use the same magic as just now!?"
Kuohhhhhhhhhhh! The fox-wolf roared vigorously in response.
Orihime seemed to have gotten used to controlling a "serpent." The nine serpentine tails began to ignite at their tips. The pseudo-divinity of Fire was releasing fireballs from each tail.
These fireballs flew towards Soth again, but—
Orihime was taken aback by surprise. So was Asya despite her veteran experience.
Soth was confronting the nine flying fireballs without guarding even though he always deployed defensive runes to protect himself against pseudo-divinity attacks in the past.
After the nine fireballs struck Soth directly—Unbelievably, no damage was inflicted on Soth's incandescent body.
Flying leisurely in the air, the bronze dragon's body did not even flinch. From his perspective, Akuro-Ou's magical attack probably felt like a breeze.
"I already said do not interfere."
Raising the sword in his hand, Soth pointed the blade at Akuro-Ou.
In that instant, Akuro-Ou halted just as she was about to pounce.
"Akuro-Ou!? Hurry and move! It's fine if you don't attack but at least dodge that sword!"
Orihime called out in worry but her "serpent" did not respond.
Soth flapped his wings open and started to fly, making a beeline towards Akuro-Ou.
"Fufufu. Confronted with the majesty of the dragonslayer, their natural predator, a mere imitation cannot possibly resist at all. Your corpse shall fall here."
The incandescent Soth casually made a thrust with the sword.
Akuro-Ou showed no intent to resist, like a traitor kneeling before the former master after challenging the king and unfortunately meeting defeat. Orihime yelled, "Akuro-Ou!?"
In addition, Asya was also shocked by a new discovery.
Soth's left shoulder that Rushalka had gouged earlier had fully recovered!
Was this thanks to the incandescence as well? Either way, at this rate, Akuro-Ou was facing certain death!
Asya ordered her partner to charge in the air, still in the form of holy water.
Akuro-Ou was the target. The power of water pressure pushed the white fox-wolf away. This was an emergency measure to make her dodge Soth's sword. In return, Rushalka was pierced by the sword. But being a physical attack after all, it should not pose a problem—
Rushalka's roar sounded like a death cry.
The instant she was pierced by Soth's sword, the blue wyvern easily reverted back from her holy water form to a material body, resulting in a skewered state. At the same time, she screamed with all her might to express the pain.
Could that sword be carrying some kind of divine might, capable of severing even holy water—?
In front of Asya's eyes, the sword was pulled out.
Rushalka's giant body instantly fell to the ground. She no longer had the strength to fly.
Seeing her partner crash down, Asya stared wide-eyed from just one look.
"Orihime-san! Can Akuro-Ou still use divinity!?"
Interrupting Orihime's voice that was panicking from shock and guilt, Asya asked her own question.
"Y-Yes. There should be no problem using it one more time..."
"Just as I thought... But this really doesn't seem like a beginner's power."
As expected, Orihime really did possess Level 3 power. Asya nodded greatly.
"Then don't use the final invocation of pseudo-divinity on a direct attack."
"I-I understand. What about your 'serpent,' Asya-san...?"
"Apparently—not dead yet. But using a human analogy, she seems delirious... She won't respond even if I call to her."
The spiritual connection between her and Rushalka was not severed. This proved that her partner was still alive.
But no matter how Asya communicated telepathically, Rushalka still had no response at all. The situation was clearly quite urgent.
Hence, Orihime's face went tense and she said slowly, "In that case, Asya-san, I will do my best for a while. I might not last very long but please take this opportunity to confirm her... confirm Rushalka's condition!"
The junior witch's care and consideration was forcing Asya to think rapidly. She originally intended to give Orihime orders to retreat to the back and provide cover fire.
But if she could make her way to Rushalka's side, it might be possible to bring out her last power and invoke pseudo-divinity.
"Can I... depend on you?"
"Yes. I have Akuro-Ou here so we are the same. Since Rushalka is about to die, you must stay by her side, Asya-san!"
Orihime was a resilient girl at heart and would never say anything like being unable to fight alone.
Rating her junior highly on her exceptional maturity, Asya ran as fast as she could at the same time—
Thanks to using Leaping Power Enhancement earlier to improve her agility, Asya could move as fast as a champion Olympic sprinter. Just earlier, she was running normally to accommodate Orihime who was unable to use this magic, but now, Asya was dashing at full speed with all her strength.
Asya ran towards where her partner, the blue wyvern, had fallen.
"Rushalka! Please, respond to my voice!"
When next to Orihime, Asya needed to act calm and composed as the "senior."
But there was no need for that anymore. She called out desperately to her dying partner.
Platinum flames suddenly surrounded Soth.
A spark drifted down from him in the sky. Falling on the balcony, it started to burn.
Hal and Hazumi hastily rushed out of the Mansion. Thanks to Soth's attention getting diverted towards Akuro-Ou, the two of them reached the first-floor entrance safely.
"Was Rushalka taken out!?"
Arriving outside, Hal instantly yelled out.
Seeing the wyvern fall after getting skewered by Soth's sword, Hal clenched his fist tightly. She was his childhood friend's "serpent" and could be considered the "serpent" closest to him in the entire world. Hal never expected to see her perish in this manner—
Thinking about Rushalka, Hal instantly felt anger surge in his heart. Then immediately—
Hal suddenly looked up. He seemed to be hearing calls.
It was the sound of an injured beast seeking its partner. But the voice was very feeble, unable to reach the recipient no matter what...
No, wait. Why was Haruga Haruomi able to hear this kind of sound?
However, Hal became even more certain of something.
—Rushalka was still alive. But at this rate, it was only a matter of time. The childhood friend's "serpent" needed more power. Power to resist impending death, power to annihilate the formidable foe named Soth, power to protect the partner who shared her life—
"Excuse me, Haruga-san...?"
Perhaps worrying about her cousin's friend who had fallen silent, Hazumi spoke up.
Hal quietly looked up and said slowly:
"I'm sorry but could you walk on your own from here? Anyway, as long as you go in a direction where you can sense the police and the SDF, it'll be fine."
Probably due to being forced to sleep for a very long time, Hazumi's back and legs were a little weak.
Although she was able to walk by herself, her steps were unsteady. Along the way here, Hal had to support her a number of times.
Hal felt irresponsible for abandoning her in this state, but he had no choice.
He committed himself decisively. The one who needed him most right now was somewhere else.
Staring at Hazumi, Hal was thinking it would be bad if he made her cry. The younger girl nodded lightly. After seeing Hal's serious expression, she seemed able to sympathize.
"I-I understand. Then where are you going, Haruga-san...!?"
"I've got somewhere I need to go. I need to give the devil a bit of help."
Leaving behind the wide-eyed Hazumi, Hal ran as fast as he could.
His destination was the clearing where Rushalka had crashed down, collapsed. Meanwhile, Akuro-Ou was invoking pseudo-divinity in the air.
This time, there was a mirage instead of fireballs.
Mirages were supposed to be illusions occurring in hot deserts.
Like images of cities and oases wavering on the far side of scorching sand and hot wind—a mirage projecting Akuro-Ou's image had appeared. And not just one or two.
Filling up the night sky, there were at least two or three hundred mirages of Akuro-Ou.
This huge number of mirages were dashing across the sky individually as though every one of them was the real Akuro-Ou, flying nimbly around Soth with wolf-like agility.
'Akuro-Ou! Don't let him figure out which is the real one or else you'll get taken out in two or three hits!'
Hal could sense Orihime giving directions from somewhere in the distance.
Rather than hearing with his ears, he was sensing her words vaguely.
Hal was the one who had brought Akuro-Ou and Orihime together. It seemed like he might have acquired a spiritual connection of fate to the two of them at the time, hence allowing him to hear.
"O Tyrannos, looks like you are about to unsheathe your weapon at last."
The target that needed to be handled, Soth, ignored the large swarm of mirages and turned his gaze straight towards the ground.
Hal. Right now, whether in dialogue or battle, Soth only directed his attention to Hal, caring for nothing else.
"Then I too shall forge a new weapon. Fufu, my 'dragonslayer' is ultimately just an imitation... But I definitely can't meet my end here!"
Yelling loudly, Soth pointed the "sword" in his hand up high towards the sky.
"O secret ritual of transience, present before me the royal authority of dragonbane once more!"
Then a dramatic change occurred in the ground.
The Raptors that Akuro-Ou had wiped out earlier using pseudo-divinity were completely dead, fallen upon the ground as stone remains. Due to the impact of falling, their bodies were virtually all pulverized.
These remnants of corpses, which could hardly be called remains anymore, suddenly started to burn, enveloped in the same platinum flames as the incandescent Soth!
A large number of corpses, burning with platinum flames, hovered into the sky, flying to Soth's location.
Then the great amount of fine sand, burning with platinum color, instantly transformed.
Seven giant dragon skulls were formed—
There was nothing below the heads. Head specimens of giant dragon skeletons, large enough for even Soth to sit on them without problems. Seven of these dragon skulls had manifested in Soth's surroundings.
They were like knights or royal guards defending a king or a general!
The seven dragon heads breathed out fire at the same time.
Blue-white flames. The sudden blaze turned the entire night sky blue. Burned by these flames, Akuro-Ou's mirages were blown away and destroyed one after another.
The hundreds of mirages filling up the sky were gradually decreasing in number.
(Turning minions into a dragonslaying force then commanding them as the general? This fellow is good. It is unbelievable how he can imitate the grand techniques of dragonbane so convincingly. It seems he has researched the path of unorthodoxy very seriously.)
Hinokagutsuchi remarked lightly, impressed.
On the other hand, there was a girl who showed no signs of fear throughout. Namely, Orihime.
'Don't just stand there taking blows, Akuro-Ou, you have to move! Get those fakes moving too and run around as hard as you can!'
With almost a hundred of them remaining, Akuro-Ou's mirages started to move rapidly.
Dashing through the air, they flew all over the place. To evade the flames breathed out by the dragon skulls under Soth's command, they moved randomly.
During this time, Hal finally arrived at the clearing where his target was.
The blue wyvern was lying on the ground, powerless.
Asya was there too. She was looking at her partner worriedly, looking up to observe the aerial battle every now and then.
"Haruomi... Why did you come here?"
Seeing Hal arrive by her side, Asya was surprised.
One could hardly blame her. After all, this was a "zone of death" that killed commoners as soon as they entered.
"There's no time so I'm omitting the explanation. How's Rushalka?"
"I-I see. Probably—This is the end for her."
Asya's sorrow probably exceeded her surprise. Obediently, she answered Hal's question.
Gazing at Rushalka, Asya's eyes were misty. Although she had prepared herself for this a long time ago, the thought of parting with her partner still made her sad.
However, Asya was Asya after all. Immediately, she said, "For now, I've strengthened my bond with Rushalka temporarily. She can still use divinity twice so I'm going to use them together to snipe Soth before she passes away..."
Asya looked into the sky with her slightly moist eyes.
Leading the seven dragon heads, the elite dragon was rampaging without regard for the "serpent" at all. However, Soth was absurdly strong right now and could do whatever he wanted.
Then Hal understood Asya's intent.
She planned to use the two remaining magical attacks of pseudo-divinity simultaneously. Dual invocation of divinity was known as Double Casting. Although extremely difficult to control, it was said to be absurdly powerful.
If Asya was the one doing it, she might very well succeed.
But that required her partner to be in a perfect state of health—Hal said, "This won't do. Even if you go ahead, it might not be enough to defeat Soth."
"That guy seems to be stronger than all the dragons that we know. He could very well be a match for the Caesars—those on the level of dragon kings."
Caesar Draconis, in other words, a dragon king.
These were publicly recognized powerhouses such as Red Hannibal or the Black Lightning Emperor. It was said that just one of these monsters could single-handedly wipe out humanity from the surface of the planet.
After saying this, Hal felt a greater sense of acknowledgement.
In fact, Soth had mentioned the same as well. Dragon king. Perhaps Hal's special constitution was closely related to those super lifeforms and conquerors. But right now—
"Asya, do you want to beat up that guy together with me... Beat up that bastard Soth? Rushalka needs 'power.' And I need power from the two of you too!"
"No matter what, I need Rushalka and you... Asya!"
Although Hal talked about helping out, he had no intention of carrying out a "diabolical" deal.
Hence, Hal admitted his thoughts without reserve as a non sequitur and extended his hand towards Asya—However, Asya's reaction to his proposal was unexpectedly dramatic.
"Y-You mean you want me... You want to claim everything of mine as your own?"
"Not everything. Rather, I hope you'll give me what's the most important."
"H-Haruomi! Please don't joke around in this kind of emergency. Y-You need to pick the right timing and location for this type of confession. No common sense at all. You're such a big jerk!"
Asya suddenly closed in.
Clenching her tiny fist hard, she looked like she was about to pummel Hal's head viciously. Speaking of which, during fights in their childhood, her fists always moved even faster than her mouth.
However, the childhood friend opened her fist and held Hal's hand tightly.
"I-If we get back safely, I will carefully consider the request you just made. Let's put it on hold for now. I-I will cherish it in the depths of my heart..."
Blushing red, Asya turned her gaze away while speaking softly.
Verbally, she was passively refusing. But Hal was certain that Asya had accepted. Although the reason was unknown, that was her wish.
Just like the time when he had "reached Hazumi's heart"...
Hal was able to connect to the minds of those listed in the lineages of dragons!
Hal heard Orihime yelling somewhere.
Looking up, he saw the sky completely covered by the blue-white flames discharged by Soth's faction.
The great amount of flames was rampaging unchecked, making it almost impossible to see the darkness of the night sky and the light of the stars. The white fox-wolf descended to the ground from this patch of ominous sky.
Rather than crashing down uncontrollably, Akuro-Ou was still flying, albeit slowly.
Reaching the ground, she landed stiffly before collapsing. Hit by the flames just now, she was still heavily injured even though she did not die.
"Just as you can see! I am ready to start any time!"
Leading the seven dragon heads, Soth challenged from the sky.
Having exterminated the interlopers, he intended to press on the attack. Hal nodded.
"Sorry, because there's no time, let me do it directly!"
"Eh, Haruomi!? —What is this power!?"
Hal embraced Asya in his bosom. This was to get a deeper experience of the bond connecting him with Asya.
Her body, as delicate as a fairy's, felt even softer and warmer than imagined. Held in Hal's arms, Asya changed her expression in alarm.
"Magical power! Haruomi, why are you able to—"
A massive amount of magical power was surging from Hal's scorching right hand.
Hal did not need to look. That particular rune was probably manifesting in his palm. While Hal and Asya were embracing each other, rays of light traced out a familiar rune underfoot.
The magical symbol of Ruruk Soun, the Rune of the Bow.
Instantly, Asya tensed her expression. The rune underfoot constructed a "magical bond" between itself and her, the same kind of bond as between a witch and a leviathan—
This spiritual union allowed Asya to understand Hal's intent.
Shoot Soth down. For this purpose, pour this power into Rushalka and seize victory!
"I'm counting on you, Asya!"
"V-Very well. Let's stand up together again, Rushalka!"
Despite some hesitation, Asya still issued the order.
Immediately, Rushalka's giant body, limp and powerless, began to burn. With platinum flames. The same flames as what Soth controlled and what Hal had used a few days ago.
While becoming white hot like steel that had been thrown into a furnace, Rushalka lifted her body at the same time—
Slowly, she spread her blue wings and started flying in the sky towards the heights where Soth was waiting with the seven dragon heads under his command.
As soon as Rushalka took flight, the platinum flames instantly vanished from her body.
However, her flying was vigorous and powerful and did not seem affected by her injuries at all.
"Fufufufu. I have grown impatient, Tyrannos. Now is the moment for the decisive battle!"
Soth and Rushalka clashed in midair again.
However, the elite dragon was speaking to Hal who was on the ground. As for the willpower residing in Rushalka, wanting to defeat dragonkind, that came from Hal.
(Indeed. The technique of dragonbane allowing one's followers to become "dragonslayers"... The magic of Soth's ilk is merely an imitation after all. Confirm with your own hands the true power I have entrusted to you!)
Hinokagutsuchi goaded Hal by the side of his ear.
(Now issue orders to your rune, the Bow Stars of the Southern Sky, to fire the dragonslaying bow!)
Bow Stars of the Southern Sky. That seemed to be an unexpectedly majestic name.
Embracing Asya with his left arm, Hal pushed his other hand forward.
Compared to last time, Hal understood more clearly the method of usage. Aiming the Rune of the Bow, carved on his right palm, towards Soth in the sky, he prayed silently for Rushalka who served as the medium.
—Using this rune, perform the magic of the Bow.
Instantly, the Rune of the Bow also appeared in front of Rushalka as she flew through the air.
The size was almost as large as the leviathan's body. This was proof that the enchanted armament of the "dragonslaying bow" had conferred magical power to the blue wyvern's body and soul.
"Rushalka! Frost Breath!"
While Hal gave his command, Asya also issued an order at the same time.
The blue wyvern released an attack from her mouth.
Cold breath for freezing everything in its path—that was the dragonslaying arrow shot by the Bow this time.
"Magic for increasing the shooting ability of dragons obeying the master huh..."
Hal muttered in his mouth.
What Hinokagutsuchi called the Bow was just a concept after all.
Simply stated, its true form was combining a supreme Ruruk Soun rune with either a dragon's overwhelming magical power or a leviathan's pseudo-divinity, thereby launching magic to annihilate dragons—
While Hal was finally understanding this, the freezing breath flew, tearing through the air.
Intercepting it were the blue-white flames expelled simultaneously by the seven dragon heads.
"O false king, suffer my flames of rebellion!"
The cold air exhaled by Rushalka collided head on with the flames from Soth's faction.
The two attacks not only aimed for their opponents' lives but also expanded to engulf the entire sky in the area.
The blue-white flames exhaled by the seven dragon heads turned into torrential flows, scorching the night sky of spring.
The cold air released by Rushalka was mixed with countless shards of ice, blowing as fiercely as a blizzard, mercilessly freezing the air above Shin-Kiba, recreating the kind of sky situated above permafrost.
Fiery hot air and freezing cold air were irreconcilable.
Vying for supremacy, the hot and cold air clashed with each other. Holding onto Hal for support and leaning tightly against him, Asya gripped hard as though trying to suppress her unease.
At first glance, the two sides seemed equally matched in power.
(This brat named Soth definitely studied the path of unorthodoxy diligently.)
Hinokagutsuchi sneered lightly.
(But ultimately, it is mimicry of limited knowledge without the possession of flint. Although this side is an imitation as well... Thinking that an attack of this level could destroy the Bow would be truly underestimating the Bow's force of will!)
Almost at the same time as the queen's shout, Rushalka finished exhaling her Frost Breath.
However, the attack did not end there. Instead, it was the opposite. Starting from this instant, the exhaled cold air became even stronger. It was no longer something so gentle as to be called a breath—
While Hal and Asya watched the sky above, a storm of absolute zero temperature was blowing violently.
Its cold air and wind strength even surpassed the great blizzards blowing across permafrost.
The dragonslaying storm could even extinguish the heat and flames residing within the body of dragons.
Strong as Soth may be, even he felt greatly shocked because the sudden ice storm instantly wiped out the flames that he and the seven dragon heads had breathed out.
Furthermore, Hal's instincts told him that the Rune of the Bow had yet to exhaust its offensive power.
That being said, using a bow and arrow analogy, the remaining power was probably on the level of a single arrow.
In that case, the best option was—
"Another shot... Aim and fire!"
Responding to orders, Rushalka's "horn counterpart"—the horn on her forehead began to release electricity.
Erupting from that point, blue-white lightning streaked across the sky in a straight line, intending to pierce the chest of the incandescent Soth—in other words, the equivalent location for a human's heart!
It was an arrow shot out as though a sky god had taken aim and fired lightning as a projectile.
"Guh...! The Bow-wielding Tyrannos doesn't even have a wand. This Bow is nothing!"
Soth raised the long and broad sword directly in front of him, intending to strike down the arrow of lightning.
Then he deployed before himself dozens of Shield runes—the Secret Runes of Ruruk Soun—with protective functions, establishing a formation of total defense.
However, the arrow of lightning pierced this defense to strike the elite dragon's massive body.
In that very instant, Raak Al Soth was frozen in midair.
Instant death—just as Hal believed with certainty, the storm of cold air rampaging in the sky also devoured the seven skulls that were Soth's minions. The bodies of the dragon master and servants were shredded by the cold air, raging wind and ice shards, disintegrating and scattering within the blink of an eye.
Currently, the only super lifeform remaining in the air was Rushalka.
In the center of the storm, the blue wyvern roared as though boasting of her victory.
|Back to Chapter 4||Return to Main Page||Forward to Epilogue|