Leviathan:Volume 2 Prologue
New York State, United States of America.
Then there was the great river flowing slowly across this land, the Hudson River.
The river island at the Hudson's mouth was called Manhattan, which used to be New York City's center and in a certain sense, the world's center as well.
A metropolis filled with towering skyscrapers, a central hub for economic and cultural prosperity—
But now, the buildings, residences and structures distributed throughout this island were all deserted. They were simply empty ruins. Amidst the silence shrouding the current Manhattan, it was hard to believe how bustling it had been in the past.
Nowadays, this vast collection of ruins was known to mankind as the dragon concession territory of Old Manhattan.
"Fufu. It has been a while, wind on the ground."
The devastated city should not have any people, but she made her appearance here.
This was the place formerly known as the Empire State Building, a high-rise structure standing out particularly from all the other skyscrapers. On top of the roof, which stood at 380m above ground, was the iconic 60m-tall antenna spire.
Standing on the roof, she was on the very edge where a further step forward would mean stepping onto air.
Calm and composed, she looked out towards the sky.
"Hmm. Despite my long absence, I still find my homeland to be the best."
She half-closed her eyes happily and murmured lightly.
At the same time, she confirmed the feeling of the wind blowing across her entire body. Her beautiful, long, black hair and the hem of her white one-piece dress fluttered in the wind while she tracked these movements with her gaze.
This sort of carefree behavior felt truly delightful.
She spontaneously smiled. However—
The height of this place was akin to the pinnacle of a super-tall structure. The blowing winds were howling gales. One would expect a young girl's delicate body to be blown away instantly.
Nevertheless, she was enjoying the wind while viewing the world below, leisurely observing the scenery of skyscrapers.
Categorized according to human races on the ground, the girl would be considered oriental. Roughly fifteen years of age. Her face exuded a sense of silent beauty akin to a snow fairy's...
Even the strong wind blowing at an altitude of 380m was unable to shake her balance.
In the past, she had challenged all sorts of mysterious realms, broken out of various predicaments, overcoming dangers among dangers. So long as the "protection" she had trained over this long journey remained, she would continue to stand imperishable and undefeated.
"That guy hasn't changed the slightest, still so attention seeking as always."
Discovering her old friend's figure on the far end of the sky, she smiled faintly with wryness.
The weather was quite sunny. One could not help but feel joy from the bottom of the heart just by standing under these clear skies. Out in the far distance, thick clouds could be seen floating leisurely.
However, a fierce beast, rivaling these clouds in enormity, was also flying majestically through the clouds.
The creatures known to contemporary humans as dragons.
The color of the dragon's scales and wings were crimson. The scales in the chest area were shaped into an armor-like exoskeleton. In addition, his hand was holding a big and long spear.
A spear that surpassed the giant dragon's length. The shaft portion was black while the spear tip exhibited a dark steel color—
This was precisely the majestic figure often sighted in New York State and neighboring areas, the flying dragon king whom the human world nicknamed "Red Hannibal."
However, the girl called out to him, flying in the distance, using the title known only to their kind.
"I came to meet my old friend, Flame Emperor!"
The girl simply exerted her throat a little, but that was already sufficient.
Thirty seconds later, the Flame Emperor vanished from the distant sky while at the same time, red dragon scales suddenly appeared overhead, blotting the sky above.
Using teleportation magic to traverse space, he arrived in the sky above Manhattan.
But his size was outrageous. Her beautiful eyebrows in a frown, she looked up at the massive number of red dragon scales extending across the sky. The red dragon king's body currently spanned kilometers in length.
Standing underneath, it was impossible to see the shape of his entire body.
"I know you like to put on flashy shows, so it doesn't bother me, but don't forget you have a guest who came all this way just to see you. It would only be proper manners to show your face."
'Hahahahaha! I see you are still shameless as ever, clearly the uninvited guest here!'
The instant the girl grumbled, the sky began to shake violently.
The giant red dragon laughed heartily, producing vibrations that shook the entire area. Not just the sky but even Manhattan's ground and its towering ruins were shaking noisily as well.
Only the girl's slender figure remained completely motionless.
'Princess! Princess Yukikaze! I shall be there in a moment. No need to be so impatient!'
Heaven and earth shook again. Then the dragon scales blotting the sky vanished completely.
Instead, one saw a descending dragon. Covered in red scales, carrying a spear, this figure could only belong to the being known as the Flame Emperor—nicknamed "Red Hannibal."
However, his body length had now adjusted to twenty meters or so.
There was not much point for dragons to take on such a gigantic form unless they desired to walk on the ground on their own legs.
Compared to his earlier appearance, a dragon's original size would be far more convenient to move around, after all. In spite of that, he was flying around in that ridiculously massive body, most probably intending to intimidate the humans in the lower realm.
Like the games of children, however...
This type of prank did not annoy her. She—Princess Yukikaze—grinned.
"Anyway, it's wonderful that you haven't changed particularly. I wouldn't feel like sitting down for a chat if you were swapped with gloomy guys like the Lightning Emperor or the Sea King. Indeed."
"Hahaha. It is my honor that the princess is satisfied!"
The girl in the white one-piece dress was sitting on the pinnacle of the Empire State Building.
Then there was the dragon king face to face with the girl, hovering motionlessly in the air with his giant wings spread out. What a bizarre combination—However, the parties involved started to chat nonchalantly.
"By the way, Flame Emperor."
"Wait. To be frank, recently, I have grown fond of the name the surface dwellers chose for me."
"Red whatever... Hannibal, isn't it?"
The Black Lightning Emperor lurking in Europe had also announced his title to the people of Earth.
In contrast, the Flame Emperor had simply introduced his name casually without making a big deal out of it. Hence, the humans had made up a nickname on their own, using this name to address the red dragon king.
"Flame Emperor is not a bad name, but it's too similar to that guy's... that utterly sinister and arrogant piece of work, the Black Lightning Emperor... It feels a bit—no, it feels extremely displeasing. I have felt that way since a long time ago."
Despite being a great dragon king, he was also a childish warrior.
Displaying this characteristic subtly, Hannibal aka the Flame Emperor explained sonorously. His voice was an astoundingly rich baritone.
"Furthermore, I heard that the general who originally bore this name was an amazing character. Burning and laying waste to an entire mighty empire with only one army under his command, his aspirations were ultimately doomed to failure..." muttered Hannibal as though savoring the famous general's life of hardship on the tip of his tongue.
"As a man and warrior, one ought to seek the meaning of life along that sort of path. Perpetual invincibility is an inane wish holding absolutely no value at all."
"Really? But I, Yukikaze, wish to win at all times, you know?"
Red Hannibal was the great hero who had maintained his position as the strongest in over tens of billions of battlefields.
In the end, he could no longer derive any attraction from the "mediocre result" of victory. But Princess Yukikaze was still young. It was impossible for her to reach his level of enlightened detachment.
"To be honest, I really hate losing."
"What a young little lass you are, Princess! You are no true warrior unless you can enjoy the pleasures of defeat!"
"Then allow me to ask you a question amidst your blathering. How many times have you met defeat in your life?"
"Hmm... Twice—No, probably once. No wait. Although there should be slightly more than that, I cannot quite recall. Allow me to think for a moment, Princess."
"King Hannibal. Even when compared among the ranks of the dragon kings, it is possible that you are the one closest to the title of the strongest."
Excessively bold in personality, sometimes overly careless, he was the leader of the dragons.
Very familiar with his sloppy ways, Princess Yukikaze spoke without mincing words, "The way I see it, you've never lost in your entire life, have you?"
"Hmm. Now that you say it, I think you could be right. Perhaps that really might be the truth. 'Winning without realizing it' once a battle begins, that is indeed my bad habit."
Hannibal sighed as though deeply regretful of his misconduct.
This seemed more like an emotional response coming from a human surface dweller than a member of dragonkind.
"Is there no one strong enough to pop out somewhere to threaten my hegemony? ...By the way, Princess, it is really quite difficult to speak when meeting in this manner."
After muttering quietly, the giant red dragon's impressive figure disappeared from the sky.
Then instead, a man with a massive physique appeared next to the princes on the Empire State Building.
A human. At least in appearance. Standing at roughly 190cm tall, he was quite muscular in build. A brawny man in his prime. With facial features that could be considered quite well-proportioned, there was an unbelievable sense of charm to him.
His attire consisted of a red long coat over a shirt and slacks. He would not look out of place walking around on the ground dressed like this.
"Good. This makes speaking much easier."
The towering man spoke in an astoundingly rich baritone voice. It was identical to Hannibal's voice.
The dragon king had transformed into this appearance by using extraordinary magic.
"However, Princess, are you still unable to transform into a dragon at will?"
"Yes, but what does it matter? If I encounter enemies I cannot handle without transforming, my body naturally turns into a dragon. There is no inconvenience at all."
As the youngest among the dragon kings, Princess Yukikaze was still not mature enough.
Hence, she had not completely mastered the super magic residing in her body and soul.
Nevertheless, it did not weigh on her mind. Like Hannibal, she was born as a "hybrid." Unlike those of pure blood, she did not find human appearances to be disgraceful.
"Let's talk about something else, King Hannibal. The dragonslaying bow seems to have surfaced."
"Oh, the power of dragonbane that had disappeared along with the Crimson Queen!"
"I came to pay you a visit only because I was thinking you might know something."
"You are very curious as the owner of the arrow standing as its pair, aren't you? My apologies, but I have no idea. You would best ask a certain human regarding such matters!"
Originally conversing in the guise of humans, the dragon kings spontaneously turned their gaze to the western sky in unison.
Because they had noticed the silhouette of a dragon flying from afar.
"One of the Zizou? How rare for dragonkind to venture into my city."
The race known to humans as elite dragons was what dragonkind referred to as the "Zizou" among themselves.
Dragons with intellect, capable of language and magic. The approaching Zizou had dragon scales of metallic silver. Bathed under the sunlight, the scales shone with silver luster.
Soon, he arrived in the sky above the Empire State Building.
"O Gildar, those have conquered the Road to Kingship to ascend gloriously to the thrones of true kings."
With his scales glittering silver-white, the dragon said, "Although I fully understand your vast accomplishments and authority, I still feel compelled to speak my mind. My name is Pavel Galad. Merely one of the Zizou at this moment, but I am also an impudent rebel who intends to defy the kings."
"Hoh? Did you hear that, Princess? This fellow wishes to challenge two dragon kings."
"Loud and clear. What an exciting declaration. I am getting all fired up."
The two dragon kings nodded simultaneously in response to the bold introduction.
Especially Princess Yukikaze. Realizing her lips were smiling naturally, she grinned even more. Without exception, she loved everything to do with adventure, challenge and conflict. That was her inborn personality.
Then turning her beautiful face, akin to a snow fairy's, towards Pavel Galad, she asked him, "Answer me, what is your reason for challenging us?"
"Nothing beyond ordinary. As one of the Zizou, I, too, am seeking the runes of dragonbane in my attempt to challenge the Road to Kingship, but my Heartmetal was damaged during my journey. Since it is incurable, I fear my life shall be ending soon."
Pavel Galad discussed his own death with indifference.
"Then it occurred to me that I should do something as a conclusion to my life. Including myself, all of the Zizou have sworn to become dragon kings, but I no longer have the time to actualize this wish. In that case, I might as well gamble everything to challenge dragon kings, possibly obtaining victory to seize a throne—"
"You wish to challenge royalty because you are unable to pursue the Road to Kingship to its conclusion, is that so? Silver Dragon!?"
Galad nodded firmly in response to Princess Yukikaze's gruff question.
"Precisely. Please allow me to turn hot blood into blades in this act of traitorous usurpation against the two of you."
"Haha! What a quick and decisive answer!"
The princess laughed happily with exhilaration surging in her heart.
"King Hannibal, leave this guy to me. I wish to personally send him to the underworld with a dragonslaying arrow to pierce his Heartmetal. This kind of man must die in heroic martyrdom, it is my responsibility—Yukikaze's—as a conqueror!"
"Hmm, Do as you wish if that is what you want. I have no objections."
The ensuing battle was not worth describing in detail.
Pavel Galad was an especially powerful member of dragonkind. In addition to expertise in magic, he also possessed an extremely resilient body and mind.
The princess took on his challenge squarely, even to the point of countering with a devastating blow to him instead.
It could not be considered a tough battle. Despite her youth, Princess Yukikaze was a dragon king, after all. A Zizou without the power of dragonbane could not possibly cause her any trouble.
Neither turning her body into a dragon nor summoning minions, she had defeated the silver dragon singlehandedly through her own strength and magic wand.
The battle lasted no more than a few minutes, probably. Utterly exhausted, Pavel Galad crashed to the ground—Central Park, the leisure facility for New York citizens in the past.
The park was quite vast with a number of lakes within its premises.
In the past, the park had been kept in excellent shape for people to enjoy a simulated form of nature, but now, the area was only occupied by unmaintained mixed forests and overgrown weeds spreading unchecked.
And above this park, Princess Yukikaze was currently hovering in the sunny sky.
"You have successfully engraved your valor in my—Yukikaze's—heart. Take this as a parting gift, Silver Dragon. For the sky to be so blue today, it is certainly a good day to die," said Princess Yukikaze as though singing an eulogy.
She was motionless, roughly ten meters above the ground. What allowed her to hover in midair was a streamlined board underfoot.
Surface dwellers would probably guess it was a type of surfboard based on its size and shape.
This was precisely the "magic wand" Prince Yukikaze used habitually.
Riding her white streamlined magic wand, the princess looked down at the ground below.
Pavel Galad's massive body was lying there. One strike from her arrow just now had pierced his silver-white chest to leave a huge gaping hole.
"I shall ask you once again. If you have any lingering regrets and wish to continue living, then become my possession. A warrior of your caliber is qualified to join my camp."
Pavel Galad simply lay on the ground without answering.
He was probably unable to make even a sound. But as though pleading "hurry up and deliver the final blow," he closed his eyes. Without uttering a single word, he conveyed his will clearly.
"Fufu. What remarkable resolve. What a remarkable final moment. I, Yukikaze, am impressed!"
The princess focused her thoughts so as to control the streamlined magic wand.
She wanted to end Galad's life in as harsh a manner as possible, so as to maximize the magnificence of this man's death. Hence, she must pour her full strength into the finishing blow—
The instant Princess Yukikaze swore to herself, her entire body heated up. This was the warning sign prior to turning into a dragon!
In response to her rising tide of emotion, her body was preparing to explode with the strongest power. Just as Princess Yukikaze intended to simply release her entire body's heat—
"Please wait, Lord," spoke a rather hoarse voice, sounding almost rusted.
It was a familiar male voice. Princess Yukikaze halted her dragon transformation and looked down at the ground again. A human had suddenly stood next to the collapsed silver dragon.
"What a nostalgic face. You've come."
"I appear anywhere as long as the need arises. This is my destiny. I will go everywhere be it the bottom of the ocean, Hyperborea in the heavens, or even the farthest ends of the universe, the Forgotten Realm beyond the astral gate."
The male acquaintance's wording was quite polite. Both his attitude and tone of voice were very respectful.
However, not the slightest bit of servility could be felt. Like an honest butler in service of a royal palace, he spoke with an aloof tone, carrying himself in an elegant and polite manner.
"Dedicating himself to the Road to Kingship, he has exhibited potential as a successor."
"Oh? In other words, this guy is your target today?"
The man nodded silently in response to Princess Yukikaze's question.
In the prime of life with tanned skin, he was dressed in an ordinary black suit that one could buy in any city. Matching his voice, his proper-looking facial features gave an impression of experienced competence.
"Precisely. During his long search, this dragon has obtained a flint."
"A fragment of the flint star? That's quite capable of him, to think he has already satisfied one of the requirements."
Princess Yukikaze felt satisfied to find out that Pavel Galad was an accomplished figure.
She had not misjudged him after all. Then she focused her gaze upon the man in the black suit again. Speaking of the devil, Hannibal had just mentioned "a certain human" earlier and now he was here.
Among those who were not dragon kings, this man was closest to the secrets of Ruruk Soun.
In other words—Princess Yukikaze saw through the man's intentions and smiled with a "hmph." A the same time, she gave up on the thought of delivering a finishing blow. All the excess heat vanished from her body instantly.
She suddenly jumped off the streamlined board. Landing firmly on the ground, she said, "Which rune do you intend to give this silver dragon?"
"If he wishes—This one."
The man in the black suit opened his hand to instantly reveal a secret rune of Ruruk Soun in the middle of his palm.
It was a magical symbol composed from three "<" inequality signs stacked in a straight line. Its shape was evocative of a sharp weapon.
It was undoubtedly a rune of dragonbane, infused with the power of dragonslaying.
After Princess Yukikaze nodded, the man in the red long coat also approached.
"Ohoh, how nostalgic. Isn't this the Rune of the Sword?"
Hannibal exclaimed in praise. Spontaneously, he landed on the ground in human form.
"I still remember the dragonslaying sword's sharpness quite well. Now that is one good rune!"
"So this is the situation, Pavel Galad."
The man in the black suit called out to the silver dragon still collapsed on the ground.
"If you can hear me, muster all strength available to you. If you succeed in grasping this, you will step upon the staircase to kingship. Become the dragonslaying sword's successor to challenge the Road to Kingship."
The man invited in a tone of voice that was too sincere to call diabolical.
Road to Kingship. As soon as these words were heard, the silver dragon instantly opened his tightly shut eyes.
"Naturally, conferring the power of dragonslaying to you comes with corresponding conditions. I hope you will first face the trial I present to you. If you have no objections to this covenant, extend your hand."
Pavel Galad's giant body suddenly shook once.
With his Heartmetal pierced, this body should not be capable of anything except waiting for the inevitable demise.
However, he slowly lifted a silver-white left hand stiffly. Bearing five fingers, this dragon palm reached bit by bit towards the man in the black suit.
This was the instant when the dying silver dragon accepted the covenant.
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