Leviathan:Volume 3 Chapter 4
Chapter 4 - Queen of the Arrow
Four days had already elapsed since the dragons occupied Tokyo New Town.
During this period, Mutou Natsumi aka Mutou-san stayed at a shelter the whole time. That particular facility was originally a large community center located at Minamikasai in the Edogawa ward. As a venue for theater performances, orchestra concerts and the like, it was quite spacious.
"I really don't know when I'll be able to leave this place..."
At around 11am on the fourth day, Mutou-san murmured quietly to herself.
She happened to be in the dining hall at the time, casually watching television.
For the past four days, all channels without exception were broadcasting special reports about "What on earth happened to Tokyo New Town?" The same went for this moment. There were roughly twenty other people watching the same program, paying various levels of attention. They were all residents from the neighborhood.
The male newscaster was summarizing information on television.
Content consisted of headlines such as "a dragon attack threatening human minds has rendered the majority of residents unconscious," "New Town residents are unable to escape," "citizens fortunate enough to be unaffected are living in shelters within New Town," "thoughts from various evacuees," "calling for all residents in Tokyo's outskirts to evacuate as quickly as possible" etc.
"But since phones and the internet are not blocked, at least information can still be exchanged..."
However, humans could not leave New Town to go "outside."
Since food and water were plentiful, living was not a problem as long as one ignored the dragons circling all over the place.
However, this situation was tantamount to torment with no end in sight.
Mutou-san sighed. Including her, evacuees who remained "unfrozen" had all dutifully accepted the current situation, living obediently in the shelter.
This was probably the incident had happened less than a week ago. Their stress had yet to build up seriously. Furthermore, there was the shocking video of dragons mercilessly killing people who were willfully escaping.
Sure enough, the reason was the intense impression the video left on people?
There were also rumors that the dragons flying in the air were monitoring the people who walked outside.
"Since there's nothing else to do anyway, I guess I'll do some volunteer work."
Due to the mental attack from the dragons, 90% of the citizens were "frozen."
In that state, they were being kept directly at the shelters where they were present when the dragons attacked. However, they were laid out like goods at spacious venues such as school gyms or the like, lying down packed together tightly, literally "kept"—
This task was still in progress. Volunteers were also being recruited with great gusto.
Most of the unaffected people like Mutou-san were participating, using the chance to secure a "slightly better bedspace" for their family and friends while they were at it.
But at this moment, her classmate Funaki-san walked over. She was also a resident in the neighborhood, which was why she was living in the same shelter as Mutou-san.
"Mutou-san! The handsome guy's fever finally subsided!"
"Oh, finally. Then let's go check on him."
Informed by Funaki-san, Mutou-san replied.
The silver-haired handsome young man had been carried into this elementary school gym four days earlier. Since then, his high fever had persisted, keeping him in a state of delirium. However, there were very few hospitals in normal operation because the majority of medical professionals had fallen unconscious.
A patient with no diseases or external injuries apart from a fever would not be allowed to be hospitalized, which ended up causing him to be sent here directly.
"Besides, he can basically speak now, although he doesn't really like to talk."
"Where is he from? He's probably not Japanese."
Passport, foreigner registration, wallet, credit card.
The mysterious and handsome man with none of these articles on his person was a silver-haired Caucasian. Ever since four days ago, Mutou-san had been curious about his identity.
"Well, he's been keeping a poker face the whole time. Let alone where he's from, he won't even reveal his name. But that's what makes him cool. Handsome guys have it so good."
Listening to her classmate's report, Mutou-san smiled wryly.
Funaki-san had been diligently checking on the "mysterious handsome guy" in this manner.
She had even applied cooling gel pads to his forehead and even prepared ice packs.
This sort of care was the result of plain hospitality and a fan girl mindset of wanting to look after a handsome man, combined with a situation lacking in entertainment. Mutou-san would occasionally go along with her too.
The pair made their way to a large Japanese-style room on the second floor of the community center.
This place seemed to be frequently used for flower arrangement and other classes offered by the community. Moving a futon over, they had turned it into a sickroom for the silver-haired man.
"Ah, you're trying to go out again!? You can't!"
Arriving in front of the Japanese-style room, Funaki-san suddenly yelled.
Leaning unsteadily against the wall for support, the mysterious silver-haired man was trying to leave the room.
"It's very dangerous outside and you can't leave Tokyo either. Haven't you heard?"
While Mutou-san was offering a honest advice, Funaki-san rushed over to support his body.
The silver-haired handsome man's expression darkened while he coldly tried to shove Funaki-san away, but all he could manage was bump against her shoulder. It looked like he could not exert any strength.
"See, you can't do anything with your body like this, right?"
"Although hiding is not my preference, it is still acceptable... But I absolutely cannot tolerate being sheltered by the likes of humans. This is a taint to my pride!"
Warned by Mutou-san, the handsome man argued back in fluent Japanese. Furthermore, his voice was extremely pleasant to the ear. Although Mutou-san felt as though she might have heard his voice somewhere recently, it was probably her imagination.
Next to her, Funaki-san commented emotionally, "This guy is too amazing. Even when he's just speaking, it feels like an acting performance."
"Because he's a foreigner after all. Cultural sensibilities are different."
It looked like they had picked up a weird man to care for.
For the first time, Mutou-san was struck by this fact.
Hal and Asya arrived at the school's infirmary, taking one other person with them.
"Anyway, let her lie down here for now."
"Then I'm putting her down. Heave-ho!"
In one go, Asya unloaded the weight on her back to the bed Hal had indicated.
President M. After delivering the oracle at the cultural clubs building, this massive 140kg creature had suddenly fallen asleep. Using Muscle Enhancement magic to increase her physical strength, Asya had carried her here. Meanwhile, Hal followed along to assist from behind to maintain balance.
"Let's check on her two hours later."
After saying that, Hal left the infirmary with Asya.
Although they could return straight to the library, Hal motioned to his childhood friend with his eyes when they were passing the cafeteria. This alone was enough for Asya to understand.
"Do you have something to say?"
"Yeah, about Rushalka."
The two of them entered the cafeteria and bought milk coffee at the vending machine.
Then choosing a nearby table, they sat down face to face.
"I'll cut straight to the chase. Since Rushalka's birth ritual will be held in Hinokagutsuchi's absence, I hope you'll assist me by taking over her share."
"...Yes, after all, you took her heartmetal to use as a research sample."
As expected of Asya, her comprehension was instant. She immediately understood what Hal meant.
"You can't ask her for help as before?"
"I can't. So that's the situation."
"You could've completed the birth ritual first before making a move to secure the heartmetal, right?"
"But she's a seasoned warrior and exalted queen. I doubt she'd be deceived. And how should I put it? After all, she's..."
"After all, she saved your life, so you can't bring yourself to deceive her—Right?"
"No no no, I'm just slightly hesitant because I'm still indebted to her."
"Very well, I'll take your word for it."
"That's why I'm planning to have my gun preside over the ritual. As a partner who has entered into a covenant with me, Asya, you're also linked to that gun. Can you help me to check the ritual procedure?"
The two of them gulped down milk coffee while chatting casually. The ability to swiftly resolve business under this kind of ambiance was precisely the advantage of being stuck with an inseparable friendship.
Next, Asya closed her eyes after receiving the magic gun Hal summoned.
Giving up on words and language, she meditated, so as to facilitate comprehension of magical guidance through imagery.
"...I think I understand it mostly."
After roughly ten minutes, Asya finally opened her eyes and placed the magic gun on the table.
Then sighing, she reported, "The principles behind this ritual magic. Its intent. The technique's key points. Also, what happened during the past two rituals, recorded in the Rune of the Bow in your possession..."
"If the conditions are not fulfilled completely, chances of success seem to be very low, right?"
"Correct. It doesn't work unless a great deal of magical power is prepared in advance. And it must be similar to what's generated by those dragon heartmetals... Indeed, magical power heavily steeped in the attribute of fire."
"I knew it, so that's what's missing. Just as I suspected."
Because the two previous rituals were also conducted under conditions of frighteningly concentrated magical power.
Hal instantly took out the piece of red agate from his uniform's pocket. Hinokagutsuchi's heartmetal. Looking at its scarred surface, he whispered softly, "Juujouji had given birth to Akuro-Ou's body in one go back then, whereas Shirasaka was bringing about Minadzuki's rebirth together with her heartmetal. I'd like to revive Rushalka no matter what..."
"Yes, that's what I hope for too. But that being said—"
Asya suddenly changed the subject.
"Thanks to my link with that gun, the mystery is finally solved."
"Yes. It's the reason why you've steadfastly refused to give details about the birth ritual's procedure."
Hal jumped in fright in response to Asya's direct stare.
Speaking of which, he had completely forgotten to tell Asya about what he had done with Orihime, Hazumi and Hinokagutsuchi. Neither had he written it into the report!
Hal hastily returned the heartmetal to his pocket, coughed lightly and cleared his throat.
"I can't believe you cleverly deceived Orihime-san and Hazumi-san, making them undress to that extent, and even placed your paws on their tender skin... This behavior is virtually no different from that of a brutal and conniving little pervert. Obscene."
"No, it's supposed to be something like faith healing."
"A-And this time, you're even trying to do the same to me—!"
Spontaneously, Asya's face turned bright red and she glared at him viciously.
Hal muttered "eh?" to himself. Indeed, Asya had a point. Since a birth ritual was going to be held, he would have to subject Asya to the same treatment as Orihime and Hazumi. However, he had completely failed to realize this the whole time. Why?
"Uh, umm, what can I say...?"
"I-I really don't get you, Haruomi. I originally thought you were 100% herbivorous, completely unaroused even when you have a lively young beauty like me by your side."
"W-Well, I am a healthy boy after all."
"Looks like that's definitely true. So that's why you're trying to make me a target of your lustful impulses... That's so indecent, so dirty."
"I-It's a long story. H-How can I explain it?"
From Hal's perspective, Asya was something like a blood sister.
Hal almost never saw her as a member of the opposite sex. Wasn't this precisely the reason why he had directly declared Rushalka's rebirth without anticipating this development to unfold naturally?
Just as he was about to spill the result of his impromptu self-analysis, Hal suddenly noticed.
He originally thought his childhood friend would surely feel anger and disgust at his lust.
"So perverted—I-I-It makes me unsure what to do."
But for some reason, Asya was staring at Hal with moistened eyes.
Somehow, he felt that there was no anger in her eyes. Instead, he could catch faint glimpses of reassurance and hesitation, as well as some kind of overjoyed emotion...
In addition, she even said with a bit of a dilemma, "B-But I'm slightly relieved. Before, I've always thought Haruomi was harboring a fatal flaw as a living creature, a boy who'd simply live a wasted life just like that..."
"Is that how far your imagination has gone...?"
"S-Since you're spending your days in frustration, secretly harboring irrepressible desires for me as a woman... In that case, I'll do everything I can to help you as your childhood friend..."
With her blush expanding from her face to her neck, Asya was speaking softly.
In that moment, while he was stunned by her words, the childhood friend's fairy-like countenance drew near Hal's face. Asya was a flawless beauty in appearance, after all. Hal could not help but feel his heart racing.
"I-I have a suggestion."
"Uh, umm... Oooooooooh~~~~~~~!"
"W-What's wrong!? Asya!"
"I! I'm bound by duty to correct you, Haruomi, to prevent you from becoming a notorious pervert! And this is necessary for reviving Rushalka too... S-So, let's practice!"
"Y-Yes. Let's rehearse first for Rushalka's birth ritual!"
Asya suddenly sat down next to Hal.
"Come! Like what you did to Orihime-san and Hazumi-san, please ravage me with your bestial lust—I mean, please do the same thing as what you did during the ritual!"
"I-If you don't have the guts, Haruomi, then I'll take the lead!"
Asya brought her fingers to her uniform—the buttons on her shirt—and prepared to unfasten them.
Despite her assertive words, her fingers moved very slowly. But even so, she still undid her buttons one by one.
Finally all unbuttoned, she then pulled her shirt hem out from her skirt—
The clothing covering Asya's upper body was parted left and right down the middle. From the gap, Hal could see skin as white as milk.
Naturally, Hal knew of her pale complexion. Nevertheless, he never imagined it would be to this extent—
Like white porcelain, her delicate skin was so beautiful that it was overwhelming. Furthermore, that narrow waist was also making his heart pound. All Hal needed to do was wrap his arms around her and Asya's slender waist would be drawn entirely into his embrace.
The little navel exuded shyness and cuteness. Also, looking upwards—
From the gap in the shirt, he could even catch a faint glimpse of the blue underwear covering her petite bust. At that very moment, Hal realized he had made a cognitive mistake.
Compared to Orihime, Asya's bust size was definitely inferior.
However, his silver-haired childhood friend was very svelte after all.
Yet in spite of that, her chest, hips and buttocks were somewhat fleshy, tracing out unexpected curves—
Petite though it may be, this well-proportioned figure was full of feminine charm.
Hal gulped down a gasp. As though reaching perfection through a maiden's form directly, this body was definitely equipped with a fairy's dangerous charm.
"S-So, Haruomi, please put your hand here..."
Asya took Hal's right hand and moved it to the surface of her abdomen.
Although Hal was greatly surprised by the tender smoothness of the pale skin, he immediately realized. Conducting a birth ritual necessitated touching the abdomen of the witch who served as the medium. This was a dry run.
Using his right palm where the Rune of the Bow resided, Hal stroked that delicate abdomen.
Such a slender waist might perhaps elicit jealous sighs from fellow ladies. Was it really okay to entrust the heartmetal of "serpent" to such a thin and frail body?
Despite his worries, Hal still kept stroking Asya's belly, allowing his fingertips and palm to wander all over the place.
Suddenly, Asya showed a painful expression. Clearly, he had not done anything violent, right?
"W-What's the matter?"
"I don't know if I should say it's tickling... or a bit embarrassing..."
Asya was evidently suffering—No, Hal noticed.
Instead of pain, she was enduring the faint ticklish feeling caused by skin contact.
Perhaps his childhood friend was very sensitive to this sort of tactile contact. However, Asya did not try to escape from Hal's right hand despite feeling ticklish.
Not only that, she partially closed her eyes as though feeling pleasure, allowing Hal to do as he pleased.
"It feels so warm... So comfortable."
Probably due to the continuous rubbing, Asya's abdomen heated up.
Hal had felt a cold sensation initially. Realizing this was because female body temperatures were lower than male's, he secretly nodded to himself.
Asya made another expression of endurance. It looked surprisingly seductive.
Hal was confident that he knew everything to know about his childhood friend. However, to think there were this many facial expressions to see for the first time and things to learn for the first time—Hal's heart kept pounding furiously.
Soon after, Asya whispered, "U-Umm, over here... Do you want to practice a bit too?"
"I-If the procedure is the same as for Hazumi-san, then you need to extract Rushalka's heartmetal through my heart... In that case, you need to touch this part too—!"
Hal recalled the ritual last time.
Indeed, so-called touching the heart—Hal could not help but look up and meet Asya's gaze. With moistened eyes, his childhood friend nodded.
Then taking Hal's hand again, she moved it over to her breast.
Hal's right hand finally reached the body part clad in the blue underwear. Petite yet soft, there was a comfortable sense of elasticity. More importantly, it could be held in one's palm like a lovely little flower from the wild. This stunned and moved Hal as though he had been electrically shocked.
Just as the beating in his heart reached its highest point...
Hal and Asya both jumped in surprise at the same time. This was due to a sudden surge in magical power.
Furthermore, it was coming from Haruga Haruomi's heart, when clearly magical power could only be generated in the human realm from a witch's heart or the Clockwork Mage!
"What is going on here...?"
"Did practicing the ritual with me trigger an awakening...?"
Perplexed, Hal muttered together with Asya.
Bit by bit, the magical power was flowing out endlessly like from an inexhaustible spring.
"S-Seems like a lot more will flow out... Magical power rich in the fire attribute—It's almost like it were generated from a dragon's heartmetal..."
After saying these words quietly in amazement, Asya suddenly fell into deep thought.
Furthermore, Hal also thought back earlier. Just now, President M had struck his chest lightly. Wasn't that location right above the heart? The president's oracle flashed through his mind.
'Your guiding light has been in your hand since a long time ago...'
So long as they had this magical power generated from the heart, perhaps—
"What the birth ritual lacks is a great volume of magical power..."
"Haruomi! Let's revive Rushalka right away!"
Hal's right palm immediately began to heat up. The Rune of the Bow surfaced.
Thump. Thump. Thump. The dragonslaying rune was throbbing in his hand like a heart's pulsation, hot and powerful.
This heat was alerting Hal. The rune paired with the bow had arrived.
"Asya, hurry and tell everyone to hide! She's here!"
"She? Who do you mean?"
"Last time's dragon king...! The one that looks like a girl!"
Grabbing his magic gun from the table, Hal rushed outside.
—In order to receive the dragon king, Princess Yukikaze.
Hal was heading to the sports ground on campus.
This was because he believed that a wide-open place would be better. That way, even if anything unexpected happened—even if a dragon king went on a rampage—damage could be minimized.
Standing in the center of the field where the baseball team frequently practiced, Hal looked up into the sky.
It was quite sunny today. Isolated white clouds were scattered across the clear blue sky. However, something was tearing through this beautiful contrast.
A flash of white, flying from the far end of the sky.
In merely ten-odd seconds after Hal confirmed with the naked eye, the flying flash of light arrived in the air above the school. Seemingly lightning speed, it was supersonic flight.
"The queen finally arrives..."
What had only appeared to be a flash of light moments earlier was landing at Hal's sports ground.
Clad in a white one-piece dress, the girl was standing sternly on her surfboard of a "wand." She was the dragon king whom Hal had witnessed offshore of Haneda three days earlier, Princess Yukikaze.
The "wand" carrying the princess descended before Hal's eyes, hovering motionlessly in the air.
"What a face, totally lacking in ambition..."
The white dragon king was the first to murmur poignantly.
"Hearing that the human who inherited the bow was here, I came here to pay a special visit. Forgive me for the delay since our last encounter. I went on a tour to look around because it's been a long time since I last visited this country."
Despite the haughty attitude, her tone of voice was quite relaxed and cute.
"By the way, your face—Neither dignified nor manly at all. But taking an alternative viewpoint, it could be described as 'an interesting face.' Yes."
"Thanks for the praise..."
Princess Yukikaze was gazing down, examining Hal as though appraising him.
Never expecting her to judge his appearance, Hal squirmed with displeasure.
"Not at all, no need for gratitude. A man's caliber cannot be judged from appearance. I, Yukikaze, am not a bumbling ruler who fails to understand such a principle. However, it's true that there's no harm in comporting oneself with greater poise."
"If it's about my appearance, I hope you'll complain directly to my parents instead."
Hal never expected to be conversing with a dragon king like this one day.
The situation was supposed to be terrifying, but Hal felt rather composed.
The fall from a great height last time, equivalent to jumping off the top of a high-rise building, as well as the experience of fighting a giant dragon head on must have affected him greatly. Both his body and mind were gradually growing accustomed to shocking incidents.
Meanwhile, the dragon king who looked like a girl answered cheerfully.
"What are you talking about? Although appearances are inborn, one's demeanor will convey the owner's mind and way of life. Don't blame your parents, clumsy brat."
"I see. Perhaps you're right."
"Yes. By the way, your face does not look like a warrior's, no matter what."
The "wand" carrying the princess was hovering roughly three meters above the ground.
Whether physically or mentally, the "lofty" girl scoffed with a chuckle.
"However, I heard of your splendid victory against a warrior whom I, Yukikaze, had approved—That silver dragon. Fufu, after learning of this illustrious battle achievement, I find your silly facial expression even more amusing. There's an air of nonchalance."
"Don't be ridiculous. I'm not a piece of tea ware or antique..."
"Hmm, are you referring to the tea ceremony? You know of that art too? Very well, I, Yukikaze, shall serve you tea in the future. However, it also rests upon you surviving until then."
The princess responded to Hal's throwaway comment in this manner, prompting him to stare wide-eyed.
"Can I ask where exactly did you learn about the tea ceremony?"
Unlike Hinokagutsuchi, the way Princess Yukikaze spoke and acted seemed quite young.
Hence, Hal deliberately used the "kimi" form of second person reference to address her. Although he had no idea how many centuries she had lived as dragon, her mental age felt similar to his.
"A long long time ago. I don't remember much but it should be when I last visited this nation of Japan. Back then, the people's clothing and buildings were totally different from now."
In that case, she must have toured Japan back in the Edo or Warring States periods!
Hal thought swiftly. The super ancient creatures known as dragons had returned to earth at the end of the twentieth century, most likely after an absence of two or three thousand years. That was why it was called the "return of the dragons."
Prior to their return, the dragons were supposed to have slept deep under the sea beyond the reach of humans.
However, the battle where Hinokagutsuchi cast away her heartmetal had taken place roughly eight centuries ago. Furthermore, Princess Yukikaze had witnessed early modern Japanese culture and even learned the tea ceremony.
"Both you... and the Crimson Queen have a long history with humans."
Facing the beautiful maiden of pure white, Hal said softly, "Taking human form to go traveling around the world, sometimes worshiped as a goddess by humans—I'm starting to feel interested in how you dragon kings have lived for the past two thousand years. At least, you don't enter hibernation like the other dragons, right?"
"That goes without saying. We dragon kings sleep whenever we want to sleep, getting up whenever it suits us. There are also dragon kings who establish their territory underground or at the bottom of the sea, happily partaking in the pleasures of a nap—"
Princess Yukikaze answered proudly in a quiet voice then pointed straight at the sky.
"However, that's not my style. The wind is something that flows in the air, isn't it? From the start, I, Yukikaze, have spread my wings to ride the wind and soar across the distant sky. Flying past the moon and the red planet, I reached the ocean of stars. Occasionally, I returned to earth... But the majority of my journeys all took place in the ocean of stars."
Listening the princess' casual explanation, Hal sighed.
Speaking of which, dragons were capable of breaking past the atmosphere nonchalantly, establishing colonies on satellite orbits or the moon. The "ocean of stars" was apparently what they called the universe.
If one became a dragon king, would going on one or two space journeys be a matter of fact too—?
"Fufu, I'm seeing a fresh expression on your face, bow user."
Due to the princess smiling suddenly and commenting, Hal could not help but exclaim "Eh?"
"It looks like you have exercised your mind much during this short duration. That silly face of yours has taken on some measure of a sage's appearance. I see, so that's the kind of person you are."
"I'm nowhere worthy of being called a sage. And this is the first time anyone has said something like that to me."
"People will say this eventually. I, Yukikaze, guarantee it."
After asserting that, the princess smirked.
"Seeing that you are this knowledgeable, I will ask you this. Different from you, the silver dragon that inherited the Rune of the Sword is a warrior whom I, Yukikaze, approved. Even among the dragons, he is a most excellent hero."
The elite dragon, Pavel Galad. Successor of the Rune of the Sword.
Hearing Yukikaze bring up the dragon he wanted to find the most, Hal jumped in surprise.
"Compare yourself to him. In what area do you think you've surpassed him?"
"Not even a single one. I won last time simply because my comrades are stronger... However, I believe he deserved to lose."
Using this excellent opportunity, Hal intentionally asserted an unnecessary claim.
Because he wanted to see how an incumbent dragon king would react to his viewpoint.
"Even if he hadn't lost to us, in the process of following this Road to Kingship game, he'll surely meet defeat and setback somewhere. He... I don't know if I should call him too brave? As a beginner in that game, he overdid things in my opinion."
After hearing Hal's view, Princess Yukikaze laughed heartily.
"Impressive, bow user! I never expected something like that from you! However—Fufu, I definitely agree with part of what you said."
Seeing the maiden dragon king express agreement, Hal jumped in surprise.
This meant that Hal's impression of the monumental trial known as the Road to Kingship was not incorrect. But in the next instant, Hal trembled all over in terror.
Because Princess Yukikaze scoffed with a conceited smile while glaring sharply at him.
"Isn't it time for you to introduce yourself?"
"My name is... Haruga Haruomi."
"Very well, whatever Haruomi. Your intelligence is definitely amusing. However, it is all in vain unless you possess valor matching your intelligence. Next up, show me your martial prowess and valor."
Carrying the princess who was standing sternly, the surfboard "wand" slowly ascended.
"Naturally, as a dragon king, I, Yukikaze, surpass you greatly in martial prowess! Nevertheless, Haruomi, I shall test you to see if you have the caliber to overcome this trial!"
"Fufu, you could try your best to escape. I, Yukikaze, shall turn into the dragonslaying arrow that pierces all prey, chasing after you relentlessly!"
"I-I can't possibly dodge an arrow flying at Mach speed!"
As one might expect, developments unfolded in this manner—Without even time for grumbling, Hal immediately summoned his "wand" too.
A magic gun of steel and gold. The weapon from materializing the Rune of the Bow. Then without hesitation, Hal selected his firing mode. Click, click.
Accompanied by two operating sounds, the magic gun adjusted to fully automatic fire.
"I'm counting on you!"
Hal pulled the trigger, causing thirty bullets of red light to fire continuously from the muzzle.
This was a technique of assured annihilation, instantly depleting all bullets in the magazine. Since triple bursts were ineffective against the princess' minion, his only choice against the master was an even stronger trump card. Nevertheless, Hal still harbored doubts secretly.
Unless he used his most powerful attack, perhaps he might not even achieve a restraining effect?
Believing his worries while firing continuously was probably the right decision. However—
"Hahahahaha! Excellent, Haruomi. This vicious vigor is exactly to my liking!"
The maiden dragon king's method of defense was unexpected.
When the thirty bullets of red light approached, the surfboard "wand" carrying her instantly accelerated.
Then turning into a flash of white light, it rapidly ascended the vast blue sky that was adorned by scattered white clouds.
The princess gradually increased her lead over the thirty bullets of light.
"She doesn't even need to turn back into a dragon huh... Chase faster!"
At Hal's orders, the thirty bullets of light chasing Princess Yukikaze all sped up in order to pursue and pierce the target that had accelerated first.
"Ha! Trying to match me in flying skills, are you!?"
The princess laughed in apparent joy in the air. Then her "wand" changed trajectory.
Previously, it had been flying straight through the sky, but now, it suddenly made a U-turn and doubled back towards the ground.
Also, it seemed like—She was charging headlong into the thirty bullets of light aimed at her.
Naturally, the princess would be mercilessly riddled with holes in a head-on collision with fully automatic fire of assured annihilation. However, she managed to dodge them. Hal could not help but feel stunned by surprise.
"I-Is this possible?"
Using aerial mobility with skill, the princess had completely dodged the approaching rain of thirty bullets.
As though controlling a flying surfboard, she moved between the bullets, making minor adjustments in position with sudden lefts, rights, ups and downs, evading every attack.
However, the thirty bullets of light truly lived up to the name of assured annihilation.
Even after missing their target, the bullets immediately changed directions to attack the princess again. Nevertheless, the princess and the magic surfboard dodged them repeatedly.
"Hahahahaha! You have much to learn, Haruomi!"
Repeatedly dodging the rain of annihilation bullets, the princess was like a surfer riding on wind and waves.
Her soaring form was refined and elegant. Laughing cheerfully, her beautiful face was filled with child-like airs as though frolicking between ocean waves.
However, two beasts suddenly appeared, interrupting her enjoyment.
"Akuro-Ou! Attack with fire magic—You must use a finishing move!"
"Rushalka! Invoke the rune and pseudo-divinity simultaneously, full burst!"
The white nine-tailed fox-wolf, Akuro-Ou.
The crumbling wyvern with wounds all over, Blue Rushalka.
Two leviathans materialized in a pincer attack to catch Princess Yukikaze while she was surfing in the air.
Furthermore, each leviathan was accompanied by multiple flying "arrowheads." Like Hal's magic gun, they were weapons materialized from the Rune of the Bow.
The nine black arrowheads led by Akuro-Ou shot explosive flame from their tips.
The fourteen white arrowheads led by Rushalka shot freezing wind from their tips.
Fully automatic fire combined with a leviathan's pseudo-divinity, this was a technique of assured annihilation. As a result, the sky above the school turned into a storm zone covered by flames, hot air, ice shards and freezing wind.
Caught by surprise before she could dodge, Princess Yukikaze was swallowed by the swirling vortex of flame and freezing air.
This was because she had focused wholly on Hal and the magic gun, only noticing the ambush a step too late.
"As expected of Asya and Juujouji..."
If one were to launch a surprise attack, this would be the only opportunity.
His childhood friend had probably spearheaded this initiative. As her follower, Juujouji was also very courageous. Furthermore, Hal could hear other voices.
"Senpai! We're over here!"
"Harry! It's time to conclude the diversionary task!"
Taking a closer look, he saw Hazumi and Luna Francois arriving at the side of the sports ground.
Presumably they had been observing the entire process while hiding earlier. Asya and Orihime were also next to them, worriedly watching their partners in the sky.
While rushing towards the girls, Hal also glanced at Rushalka.
Particles of light kept falling from all over Rushalka's body. This summoning could very well be her last time to materialize. Rushalka's physical body was reaching its limit.
Even so, the blue wyvern still hung on to invoke the Rune of the Bow.
However, just as Hal reached the witches—
"I hereby decree to my emblem, the Arrow of Sirius..."
Listening to the voice descending from the sky, Hal instantly shouted loudly, "Asya, Juujouji! Make your 'serpents' disappear. Otherwise, it'll be too late!"
"I, Yukikaze—will now transform into the dragonslaying arrow!"
The white dragon king had invoked the incantation for a technique of assured annihilation. Hal had heard this mantra many times in his dreams.
The instant her voice resounded in all directions, an orb releasing pure white lightning manifested in the air above the swirling vortex of explosive flame and freezing air.
Riding the magic surfboard, Princess Yukikaze was standing sternly in the center of the light.
Completely unscathed as though it was matter-of-fact, she also showed quite a delighted smile.
"Although in sloppy manner, you went out of your way to use a trump card, after all. In that case, manners dictate that I must respond with an equally worthy technique. O imitations, pay attention and take on the dragonslaying arrow!"
"Rushalka, emergency dispel of material form!"
"A-Akuro-Ou, same for you! Please hurry and—!"
The instant the witches yelled, the princess and the surfboard flew, shrouded in lightning.
The pure-white lightning traced out two lines in the air.
The first line ran from Princess Yukikaze's hovering position to Rushalka's chest while the other line went towards Akuro-Ou's chest, resulting in V-shaped symbol.
Immediately, the raging storm of fire and ice in the air was completely dispelled.
Deep wounds were inflicted on Rushalka and Akuro-Ou's chests. Scorched black, the wounds exhibited the shape of an oval enclosed inside a slender isosceles triangle—Hal recognized it on sight.
That emblem was precisely the Rune of the Arrow!
In addition, after being struck by the dragonslaying arrow's attack, the two leviathans gradually turned black, starting from extremities such as the tips of feet or wings. Parts that turned black were immediately weathered away.
Probably thanks to the earlier orders for them to "disappear"...
Before the blackening weathering effect could spread to their torsos, Rushalka and Akuro-Ou vanished.
They had released their material forms in the nick of time, thus avoiding fatal injuries. However, pure-white lightning proceeded to descend towards Hal's group from overhead.
This was to strike the true target, Haruga Haruomi. Hal immediately commanded his magic gun.
The pearly light enveloped Hal and the four witches next to him.
At that moment, pure-white lightning—the dragonslaying arrow—struck them.
In a violent collision, the dragonslaying arrow finally struck the imperishable protection guarding Hal and his friends.
In that instant, the erupting lightning lit up the sports ground and the surroundings as though it was daytime, meanwhile producing explosive wind and an intense shockwave.
Hal had withstood Galad's technique of assured annihilation before, the "thunder god's sword." This attack was many times stronger than that.
However, the imperishable protection was able to defend Hal's group well. Although everyone inside the pearly light lost balance and fell on the ground due to the severe impact, they did not suffer anything worse than bruises or concussions.
But just like that time against Galad, Haruga Haruomi's heart stopped again.
Hal collapsed on the ground, his body limp and immobilized. His consciousness was also hazy, gathering only a weak sense of the surroundings.
"Hmm... Only this much martial prowess and valor. I'm a bit disappointed."
Riding the surfboard "wand," the princess descended near the ground again. Bored, the white dragon king stared at the unconscious Hal.
"In that case, it can't be helped. I'll hurry up and end everything with a beheading..."
"I-I won't let you do that!"
Listening to Princess Yukikaze's murmuring, Hazumi yelled out, unbelievably.
She was still lying on the ground, perhaps unable to stand after getting hit by the earlier shockwave. But even so, she still mustered all her strength to sit up.
"Please, Minadzuki... Save Senpai!"
"O priestess, please do not make such an unreasonable demand."
Looking up at the emerald serpentine dragon leviathan materializing in the air above the school, Princess Yukikaze said quietly in pity.
"Even an imitation goddess has no choice but to bow down in submission before a dragon king—O goddess, you have done enough. Take a break."
Hearing that voice which could even be described as gentle, Hazumi could not find words to speak.
After appearing once in the air, Minadzuki immediately vanished, her massive emerald body disappearing within the blink of an eye. This was due to dispelling her material form.
Princess Yukikaze was wielding stronger control over a "serpent" than the partner she was actually contracted to—
A dragon king's authority was undoubtedly horrifying. Although Hal already knew this before the battle, the massive gap in power was huge, to the point of despairing. No matter how he thought about it, there was no chance of winning.
He looked around him, only to see Orihime currently lying on the ground.
She looked like she had lost consciousness. Or perhaps, she was suffering from a concussion.
In contrast, Luna Francois and Asya were trying to get up, albeit stiffly. They looked like they had only suffered bruises, probably because they had deployed defensive magic to protect themselves momentarily.
The American witch sighed with a troubled expression.
But even so, Luna Francois still prepared herself a weapon. From under her skirt, she took out a 9mm semi-automatic pistol. Apparently, she kept the holster strapped to her thigh.
Despite heavy injuries, Asya still looked at Princess Yukikaze with eyes of unwavering fighting spirit.
She had not given up hope on seeking victory... Or rather. Hal understood. Asya had already banished all notion of winning and losing, instead putting her determination into fighting their way out of this severe predicament.
At this rate, perhaps they might be able to find a way to survive.
Hal—or more precisely, Hal's consciousness—sighed.
"But that's all we could do. After all, we had no chance of winning from the start."
Modern humans were stuck in quite a despairing situation.
Although the media and the governments of various countries had put in touching amounts of effort to hide this fact, so long as the dragon kings and elite dragons exerted themselves seriously, humanity as a race could very well go extinct within two years.
The dragons had not done so only because they were the ones doing the hunting and exploiting.
It was advantageous for them to allow their targets, the humans, to survive. Coexisting with such unfriendly neighbors, humanity had not choice but to struggle desperately.
Hal mentally committed his resolve. Rushalka must undergo rebirth.
However, even the grand combination of a dragonslaying rune with top-class leviathans had ended up disappointingly ineffective before a dragon king. He needed a little something extra as a trump card...
"I've got no choice but to resolve myself."
"Resolve, is that it...?"
Just as Hal was muttering to himself, Hinokagutsuchi's voice responded.
"Have you resolved yourself to coexist with the dragonslaying bow, to advance along the Road to Kingship?"
"No, I've simply resolved myself to feign participation in that ridiculous game with the ostentatious name, meanwhile devoting myself to researching secret techniques and clever ways to exploit loopholes in the system."
By the time he knew it, Hal's consciousness had fallen into dense mist, obscuring the surrounding scenery completely.
Princess Yukikaze and his companions had vanished too. However, the young girl in the scarlet kimono, Hinokagutsuchi, was nearby.
This was because the former queen of dragons had now invaded Hal's consciousness.
"Hmph. You are uttering bizarre things as usual."
"Say, the more I understand the situation, the more I've become convinced of this... From an RPG perspective, that Road to Kingship has really piss-poor balance. If you dutifully resolve matters in sequence, you'll surely die somewhere in the early or middle stages, right?"
Hal glared viciously at Hinokagutsuchi while he spoke.
This was an exchange between minds. If one were to calculate the actual duration in physical terms, one or two seconds probably elapsed at most. Hence, they were able to converse like this while disregarding what was happening "outside the mist."
Guided by the magic gun—his "magic wand"—Hal understood this as well.
"Judging from Galad's and my strength, it seems like we're at a level where we could still get taken out by elite dragons no matter how much we rack our brains, right? Like running into a dragon king this time where the enemy is insanely strong. It's impossible to beat the boss no matter how I think about it."
"Fufu. Disregarding this while aiming to become "king" is precisely what it means to be a dragon."
"Unfortunately, I'm a human."
Hal grumbled at the snickering Hinokagutsuchi.
However, the man in black, Sophocles, had given out the biggest hint. There were indifferent participants who had unintentionally become dragon kings.
In other words, didn't that stand as evidence that making a serious attempt would be a shortcut to death?
"That elite named Galad really should rein in his hot-blooded fervor. He clearly understands better than me what the game is about, so why does he still want to take the challenge head on like a hero...?"
"That is because he is capable to begin with. According to your theory—"
Hinokagutsuchi's face revealed a diabolical smile that suited her extremely well.
"His caliber probably allows him to survive until the midgame. So long as his luck holds out."
"Then it's even more impossible for someone like me. I knew it, taking the secret techniques route is my only choice."
Hal looked up at the sky. Then he recalled the matter of the red agate.
At that moment, the divine treasure that was formerly Hinokagutsuchi's heartmetal appeared in the right hand of Hal's conscious entity. As expected of the mental world, things could be conjured by imagination alone. How convenient.
"Sorry, but I'm going to use this thing now."
This was the only thing he could use as the ace up his sleeve. Hal declared firmly, "As the representative of weak humans, I'm got no choice but to become the proverbial fox that borrows the tiger's—or rather, the dragon's—clout."
"So this is your intention after all."
Hinokagutsuchi shrugged haughtily.
"Because you saw 'my past self'..."
"It suddenly occurred to me when I was making detailed inquiries to my gun about whether the birth ritual could be held without you. What would happen if I tried to use this to conduct the ritual?"
It had been half a month since he had obtained this "magic wand" of a magic gun.
Although this tool included many uses including combat and ability control, what Hal held in greatest regard was actually its function as a "guide to the unorthodox path." Thanks to that, he found the space to ponder secret techniques.
The likes of Pavel Galad probably would never think of this.
But as a weak human, Hal had no choice but to ponder how to survive beyond today.
"But even if the ritual were to succeed... Will you be able to command the 'queen'? That red heartmetal remains intimately linked to my soul—the soul of the former sovereign."
She had a point. Hal silently nodded.
This could be foreseen based on the fact that after he obtained the rune, Hinokagutsuchi had immediately resurrected that in the ruins of Tokyo Station—a place where her heartmetal was not at hand.
"If I were to interfere... What would you do?"
"It's already a gamble. But no matter how stacked the odds are against me, my only choice is to keep gambling," Hal replied while looking straight at the ghost of the former dragon king.
If that situation were to arise, they would probably need to confront Hinokagutsuchi before facing off against Princess Yukikaze. He must exhaust the limits of his wits and magical power and use every means possible to stop the self-styled devil from interfering.
"Then go ahead and try."
Hinokagutsuchi responded with something like a taunt. However, she was smiling.
This was not her usual smile of arrogance. Rather it seemed like the expression of a sacred guardian, watching from up high while powerless humans struggled in desperation. It was a smile belonging to a goddess with a young girl's appearance.
"I already know that you are craftier than I can imagine. Show me your caliber by taking action next!"
Hal nodded and gripped the heartmetal of red agate harder.
At the same time, he focused more attention on his own heart. Magical power began to pour from his heart like flames, spilling out of his body. Furthermore, it seemed endless like an eternal spring.
The intense magical power was in no way inferior to what was present at Akuro-Ou and Minadzuki's births.
Under such conditions, platinum-colored flames surrounded the heartmetal in his hand.
"Please, use this... use Hinokagutsuchi's heartmetal—to perform the birth ritual!"
Hal instructed the Rune of the Bow residing in his right palm as well as its manifestation, the magic gun.
Indeed—He had considered this before. By putting her heartmetal through rebirth, Minadzuki's physical body was also resurrected. In that case, what if he did the same thing using Hinokagutsuchi's heartmetal?
Back then, Akuro-Ou and Minadzuki had borrowed the wombs of witches to undergo birth.
But as a man, Haruga Haruomi did not have the ability to conceive and bear a child. Then what could he use as a substitute?
Taking the heartmetal that was burning with platinum flames, Hal pressed it hard against his own chest.
The objective was to merge it with Haruga Haruomi's heart.
Without any resistance, the heartmetal entered his chest swiftly.
Indeed. Since he was unable to give birth to life, his only recourse was to share out his own life!
Hal's heart absorbed Hinokagutsuchi's deceased heartmetal. Furthermore, it began to beat anew. At the same time, blood, life and magical power flowed into the dead heartmetal.
This also meant that Hal's body was starting to meld with Hinokagutsuchi's remains.
The living heart and the dead heartmetal merged into one, resulting in a transformative rebirth of new life—
Hal literally experienced the miracle occurring in his body. At the same time, he also tasted excruciating agony. Perhaps this was the so-called pain of childbirth when a baby was pushed out of its mother's body.
this pain caused Hal to scream as loud as he could.
Hal did not know how long his pain lasted.
This was inside his mind, where the passage of time differed from that in the real world. Regardless, Hal's heart and Hinokagutsuchi's heartmetal were slowly taking on a new form, turning into one life.
Thump. This was the beating of the new heart, and equivalently, heartmetal.
Next, the surrounding mist suddenly dispersed, because Hal had recovered consciousness.
By the time he regained his senses, Hal found himself lying on the school sports ground.
Orihime and Hazumi were lying collapsed nearby. Asya and Luna Francois had forced themselves on their feet in preparation to fight. Their gazes were directed towards Princess Yukikaze.
Riding the surfboard "wand," she was hovering above ground at a height of roughly four meters.
"Luna! Buy me a bit of time no matter how little!"
Despite getting up quite stiffly, Hal still yelled as hard as he could.
His body still could not move in full accordance with his will. But he had no choice but to say those words. Next, the witch carrying the 9mm semi-automatic pistol responded just as he predicted.
"Affirmative! Glinda, Invisible Walk!"
Luna Francois released astounding magical power from her entire body.
A witch's heart could not possibly generate magical power of this magnitude. It was almost as great as the magical power released when a "serpent" activated pseudo-divinity.
Clearly, her partner, Glinda the Good Witch of the South had yet to materialize!
Luna Francois called out while invoking the pseudo-divinity of Gravity.
After pouring in magic for gravity manipulation, Luna fired her pistol consecutively. Instead of 9mm Parabellum bullets, spheres resembling concentrated darkness were fired from the gun's muzzle.
Numbering seven in total, the dark spheres all flew towards Princess Yukikaze in the air.
Pearly radiance manifested around the princess in the white dress.
Imperishable protection. Almost at the same time as the appearance of the light, the seven spheres fired by Luna—magic bullets for compressing targets through gravity control, thereby crushing them—arrived en masse.
However, even as many as seven shots of gravity bullets still could not crush imperishable protection, simply squeezing the pearly defensive field.
However, Princess Yukikaze frowned from behind her power of protection. She probably found it incredible for a witch to suddenly use pseudo-divinity.
Then the princess glared sharply behind Luna and Hal's group.
"Hiding over there, are you...? Show yourself."
At the dragon king's command, the gigantic body of a "serpent" instantly appeared in the school sports ground.
It was a fierce lion with orange fur. However, there was also a green dragon head on her right shoulder and a black goat head on her left—
Naturally, she was Glinda the Good Witch of the South.
By using the Invisible Walk command, master mage Luna Francois had summoned her partner while maintaining invisibility.
Secretly, she had used Glinda's second pseudo-divinity, Illusion.
This was probably a trick she thought up after witnessing Hazumi's failure. Nothing less expected from the abilities of someone certified as master-class.
"No need to hide yourself anymore, Glinda, go all-out—Gravity Wall!"
The lion, dragon and black goat heads all roared simultaneously from behind Hal and company.
Hence, four black magic circles—each roughly Glinda's size—suddenly appeared above, before, behind and below the maiden dragon king who was standing in midair, applying pressure from four directions.
The four magic circles were precisely walls of gravity for crushing Princess Yukikaze!
Apart from that, the seven gravity bullets released earlier also applied pressure on the princess at full force.
Nevertheless, none of these deadly sources of gravity were able to touch Princess Yukikaze.
"Now that I know the method, it's nothing to be concerned about. Disappear."
While shielding herself with imperishable protection, the princess casually issued the order.
In that instant, Glinda's massive body, the seven gravity bullets and the four black magic circles all instantly vanished without trace matter-of-factly.
Even a Level 5 master-class witch could not prevail against a dragon king's authority.
However, Luna Francois had succeeded in stalling for a minute or two. This duration was as precious as gemstones. Back when the gravity bullets were fired, Hal was already taking action.
Hal focused his awareness on his heart—or rather, the heartmetal.
Abundant magical power instantly surged from his heart and began to fill up the school sports ground.
Thus, the conditions were fulfilled. Next, Asya looked at Hal.
From the moment Hal had spoken, his childhood friend had been like this. She instantly rushed to him, but not to celebrate each other's safety.
During the practice ritual earlier, their minds intents had already become one.
"Haruomi! Rushalka and I are ready any time!"
Asya arrived behind him and Hal reached his right hand into her chest.
Instead of grabbing her petite breast, his hand was sucked into his childhood friend's body to grab her strong and vigorous little heart. In that instant, as a mysterious effect of birth magic, the interior of Asya's body became linked to that of her partner Rushalka's.
At the same time, Asya's heart was switched with Rushalka's heartmetal.
Holding the heartmetal, Hal moved it downwards towards his childhood friend's lower abdomen.
"Mm... Mm, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"
Asya could not help but scream loudly. It was probably quite painful.
Since Orihime and Hazumi had experienced overwhelming pain in the past, the ritual needed to be conducted with utmost care. However, there was no time now. He had to swiftly and urgently finish everything.
"I'm okay... So hurry...!"
Tearful from the pain, Asya panted while she spoke.
Using human birth as an analogy, this situation would be akin to an emergency Caesarean surgical operation. Although Hal seemed to hesitate out of consideration for his suffering childhood friend—He must not stop now.
Instead, Hal used his free hand, his left, to hold Asya's left hand.
Asya gripped his hand tightly as though seeking help, to the point of hurting him.
Then in the next instant...
The instant he drew his hand out of her body, Asya screamed loudly.
Instantly, she collapsed, utterly drained. After all, the ritual was extremely harsh despite its short length. Sitting limply on the ground, exhausted, his childhood friend's shoulders shook while she panted heavily.
However, her eyes were staring proudly at the object held in Hal's right hand.
A blue sphere—the heartmetal of the reborn Rushalka.
Burning inside was a tiny flame.
Leaving Hal's hand, the heartmetal floated into the air on its own.
At this moment, Princess Yukikaze had just eliminated Glinda from the sports ground. As though taking her spot in line, the blue heartmetal showed up and ascended towards the sky.
With flame residing inside it, Rushalka's heartmetal was glowing with dazzling radiance in the air.
This light turned into a wyvern's strong and massive body. The wings sprouting from the two shoulders were long and majestic, the head was adorned by a blue mane, while a long horn protruded from the forehead—
The wyvern with a single horn like a unicorn's, Blue Rushalka.
Finally, she was reborn in a perfect state of health. However—
"The imitation from earlier? Although it looks slightly more lively, it's ultimately still a loser. You'll only repeat the same mistake, you know?"
Standing on the flying surfboard, the dragon king spoke with boredom.
Of course, Hal understood her logic. Rushalka and Akuro-Ou were both vassals of dragonslaying power, which prevented them from submitting even if the princess commanded. However, that was all as far as differences went.
There was an unbridgeable gulf between a dragon king and "imitation dragons."
Nevertheless, Haruga Haruomi's heart had now absorbed a former dragon king's heartmetal—Hinokagutsuchi's. Hal focused his consciousness on this new internal organ of his.
Immediately, a giant crimson appeared in front of him.
"—The Crimson Queen!?"
For the very first time, the dragon king on the magic surfboard showed an expression of surprise.
If Hinokagutsuchi's heartmetal was used in a birth ritual, the Crimson Queen would resurrect—
That was how the magic gun had replied to Hal's whim of an idea.
On further thought, Hal remembered how the dragon king's ghost had suddenly resurrected her past self during Raak Al Soth's attack on the Old Tokyo Concession.
By doing the same thing, Hal resurrected the red dragon king before his eyes right now.
Twenty meters in body length. Featuring dragon scales of vivid crimson, this dragon had the most strongly built physique he had seen so far. Long and large, the wings stretched out wide.
Nine golden horns were growing on the head. The chest region was ossified into an exoskeleton while shining with golden luster.
"O Haruomi... I never expected you to hold such a hidden ace."
From the air, Princess Yukikaze murmured softly.
Her beautiful face, resembling a snow fairy's, clearly expressed her surprised and impressed thoughts.
"Fufufu. Perhaps you intend to use this trump card and allow me to enjoy myself for a while? To allow me, Yukikaze, to fight the Crimson Queen again as the arrow's successor—!?"
Riding the magic surfboard, the princess looked straight down at the ground.
Not only did she ignore the reborn Rushalka, but she even showed no intention to attack the newly revived Crimson Queen. She wanted to see what move the other side would make.
Clearly, Princess Yukikaze's obsession with the Crimson Queen was extraordinary.
"Drive away the queen of the arrow like how you got rid of Soth last time...!"
Seizing the opportunity, Hal stared at the giant red dragon's back and whispered.
But no matter how he tried to transmit his thoughts, the queen remained motionless.
'But even if the ritual were to succeed... Will you be able to command the "queen"? That red heartmetal remains intimately linked to my soul—the soul of the former sovereign.'
During the mental conversation earlier, that was what Hinokagutsuchi had said.
Right now, the invisible queen's voice was also ringing in his ear.
'You are the bow's successor, after all, and even claimed my heartmetal. It should be possible to resonate with the queen's body, the former wielder of the bow, and control it after all. Just like how that puny Soth or whatever was driven away. However—'
Standing between Hal's mental communication with the queen was a more powerful "mind." Namely, the spiritual entity of the ghost, Hinokagutsuchi, who called herself the devil.
'If I interfered in this manner, what are you going to do!?'
"Nothing in particular! I'll cross that bridge when I come to it!"
Out of secret techniques and clever tricks, Hal yelled loudly.
From here on, all he could do was struggle to the very end. Hal summoned the magic gun to his right hand where the Rune of the Bow resided then pointed the muzzle at the Crimson Queen ahead and Hinokagutsuchi.
"Sorry, but I'm taking both your heartmetal and former body! Ghosts should act like ghosts and obediently yield to living people!"
Increasing Hal's magical power, the magic gun amplified his thoughts.
Encouraged by the magic gun, Hal used a tiny weapon shared by all of humanity. With every last ounce of "spirit and spine," he yelled loudly, "The queen's body—is mine!"
As a member of SAURU, Hal had experienced many difficult jobs.
Hence, he could safely assert the following. Under conditions of great adversity, what finally decided everything was "spirit and spine." He believed that a difficult job that could not be overcome in this way did not exist in this world.
However, was a mere human's meager spine enough to prevail against a dragon king's ghost?
Hinokagutsuchi's "mind" dispersed with astounding ease. The scattered remains of the spiritual body were then sucked into Hal's magic gun.
Hal immediately pulled the magic gun's trigger.
Due to firing all the bullets just now, the magazine was empty. But conversely, the Crimson Queen opened her gigantic jaws and discharged flames towards Princess Yukikaze who was standing in the air!
"Finally awake! However!"
Her mortal enemy's revival made Princess Yukikaze's eyes shine. A dragon's style as one would expect.
Pearly light—imperishable protection—enveloped the fiercely belligerent maiden dragon king, blocking the Crimson Queen's flames completely.
"Truly powerless, a body carrying the regrets of past death!"
"R-Rushalka! Engage in close quarters combat!"
Kneeling the whole time, Asya yelled.
One look at the side of her pained face was enough for Hal to know that she had not recovered from the birth ritual's ordeal. However, she had issued orders to her partner because she instinctively knew that things would be bad at this rate.
On standby in the air, Rushalka flew towards Princess Yukikaze.
Her flying was as smooth as water flowing downstream. Using her vigorous momentum, the blue wyvern aimed the horn on her forehead at the princess!
However, Rushalka's horn was also blocked by the princess' protection.
"Hmm... Looks like I won't get a tough battle even when it's two against one. Too bad, I'll just have to take care of them straight away."
After exhibiting impregnable defenses, the princess commented with a face of boredom.
Despite his short time facing her, it had already become readily apparent how she would react when she deemed her opponents weak. Fearfully, Hal looked up at the princess in the air.
"I hereby decree to my emblem, the Arrow of Sirius... I, Yukikaze, will now transform into the dragonslaying arrow!"
Carrying the princess, the magic surfboard began to ascend rapidly.
Rising fiercely like a rocket, they passed through the cloud layer within the blink of an eye, hurtling towards even greater heights in the sky. Her target was probably the stratosphere.
Naturally, she was not running away.
Hal knew as the successor of the bow, the weapon paired with hers. The queen of the arrow intended to accelerate continuously while descending from a great height, crashing down with unprecedented power.
Turning into what could erase everything without trace in a single attack—The ultimate arrow.
As though to prove Hal's certainty, an ominous emblem appeared in the distant sky.
A horizontal oval stretching a kilometer long. Inside it was a sharp isosceles triangle. This was the dragonslaying rune he had just witnessed earlier.
"The Rune of the Arrow..."
And under that arrow emblem, twenty-one runes of Ruruk Soun also manifested.
This arrangement signified "Obtaining divine signs of lightning, I descend from heaven, turning into a whistling arrow to pierce the ground." Hal committed his determination. He was going to control the Crimson Queen to block that arrow.
Using the dragon's gigantic body—and himself—as a shield, he could at least reduce the arrow's destructive power.
"Luna, take everyone who can't move and escape. I'll try to use myself and the red dragon to stop the falling dragon king."
"Haruomi!?" "H-Haruga-kun...?" "Senpai!"
Asya, kneeling on the ground, Orihime, finally regaining consciousness, and Hazumi, still unable to get up, all exclaimed in surprise. However, Luna Francois, the only one still mobile, shook her head.
"In that case, I believe it would be best for Rushalka and my Glinda to assist together."
"No. That firepower is no joke. That's why..."
The fewer victims the better—Just as Hal suppressed these words and prepared to answer...
A truly feeble voice whispered "hmph" by his ear.
Then the magic gun in his right hand informed Hal about "a certain method." It was apparently transmitted to Asya and Orihime as well, those who were bound by vassal covenants.
"Haruomi! If we're going to do it, we should gamble on this method!"
"Indeed, you are not allowed to fight on your own like last time! Didn't you kneel down to promise me!?"
"I-I wasn't kneeling, it was just seiza, Juujouji..."
After a quick rebuttal, Hal made his decision. There was no time for hesitation.
"Since I don't know if escaping is possible, I might as well use this move. Fly!"
In response to his direction, the Crimson Queen flew into the air.
Fragments of stone crumbled and fell from the dragon's gigantic body. In addition, the color spontaneously turned faint with the crimson dragon scales, the golden horns and chest armor gaining translucence.
This was due to the weak link between this unstable body and the mortal realm. Perhaps it might even collapse it a matter of minutes. However—There was apparently a way to compensate.
"L-Look out! It's like a shooting star!"
Finally able to stand up, Hazumi pointed at the sky and cried out.
Just as she had pointed out, a shooting star enveloped in white lightning was falling towards the ground.
The estimated crash site was of course the school's sports ground, namely, the location of Hal and company. And amid the white lightning descending from the sky was a dragon.
It was not Princess Yukikaze racing gallantly on a magic surfboard.
Instead, it was a white dragon whose physique looked slender and agile. The chest and shoulder areas were covered by an exoskeleton of blue crystalline material. Flying downwards majestically, the long and large wings were spread out. This was Princess Yukikaze's transformed appearance that Hal had seen before in his dreams.
The snow fairy-like beautiful maiden was finally unleashing a serious strike!
"Rushalka! Receive... the queen's power!"
Then Asya yelled loudly.
In that instant, the Crimson Queen happened to be flying next to the blue wyvern.
So fast. The red dragon lunged towards Rushalka as though colliding—Then the dragon king and the imitation dragon merged together.
The queen's translucent body was gradually absorbed into Rushalka.
Next, the blue wyvern's massive body gained ruby-colored plating—armor for protecting the chest and torso. Furthermore, this armored portion even sprouted two arms.
Indeed, two arms, left and right. Arms for holding tools and wielding weapons.
These arms were forged from ruby-colored metal and even came equipped with joints. Five fingers were on each hand, tipped with sharp claws. Identical to the forelimbs of dragons.
"Almost like a dragon..."
No wonder Orihime murmured in response. Rushalka was originally a wyvern, i.e. a dragon with no forelimbs, but currently, her appearance was astoundingly similar to dragon kings and elites.
"Rushalka, use the Rune of the Bow!"
This time, it was Hal's turn to yell. As a result, a weapon appeared in the ruby left arm.
A crimson bow. An item carrying the same firepower as the Bow used by the Crimson Queen of past. The dragonslaying bow. The true power of dragonbane, only usable by dragon kings.
Then an arrow of light appeared in Rushalka's glowing right hand.
Next, twenty-one runes of Ruruk Soun manifested behind her. This arrangement signified—
"I will fire the sun-shooting divine bow at the sky, to exterminate the sun... O little girl Yukikaze, after a thousand-year absence, you shall taste my divine bow again!"
"Hahaha! You're over there, still not dead yet, queen!"
Hal's magic gun roared using a girl's voice. After seeing Rushalka and the bow, the dragon that was falling like a shooting star laughed happily.
The estimated time until the violent impact between the shooting star in dragon form and the school's sports ground was a hundred seconds.
"I can't believe you became that guy's minion!"
"Nonsense. This is—an alliance!"
Counting to the impact on the sports ground. Ninety seconds, eighty seconds, seventy... At that moment...
The arrow of light, wrapped in blazing flames, was shot from the divine bow to clash directly against the white dragon king who was descending upon the school, enveloped in flashing light.
The dragonslaying bow and the dragonslaying arrow clashed violently again after eight hundred odd years.
A blinding light erupted, turning the school—no, the area of the Sumida ward around the school—white. Shockwaves and explosive wind rampaged, smashing all glass on buildings and vehicles.
"Glinda, Gravity Wall!"
"Minadzuki! Please, protect us!"
Luna Francois and Hazumi instantly summoned their "serpents."
The massive lion-like and serpentine-dragon beasts hovered overhead above Hal and the witches, using their own bodies as shields. Next, Glinda deployed a gravity barrier while Minadzuki created a wall of reverse wind to consolidate their defenses.
Thanks to that, despite being in extremely close proximity, the school and Hal's group were spared...
Indeed. The dragonslaying arrow did not fall on Hal and company.
Then the explosive flash of light finally subsided and the field of vision gradually recovered in clarity.
Holding the crimson bow, Rushalka was the first to land on the school's sports ground. A single look at her exhausted appearance was enough to tell that she had depleted all her stamina and magical power.
Then there was the other one.
The white dragon, Princess Yukikaze's transformation, also descended slowly on the sports ground.
Hal jumped in fright. On that blue crystalline exoskeleton on the chest—the armor for protecting the heartmetal—there was a large hole. The fearsome queen of the arrow had been injured during the clash with the dragonslaying bow!
"I, Yukikaze, was too careless... I suppose—"
The princess' adorable voice came out of the white dragon king's mouth.
Despite the element of mirth, this dark voice would only come from someone reveling in the pleasures of battle.
"Fufufufu... After learning you had recruited the former queen to your side, I couldn't help but feel overjoyed, so I recklessly launched an attack. What I got in exchange was a serious wound..."
Turning her giant eyeballs, the princess stared at the ground sharply.
It was very clear that she was staring at Haruga Haruomi. Feeling the fighting spirit and bloodthirst conveyed in her gaze, Hal instant felt his back run cold. Even so, he still took on the princess' gaze squarely.
He totally had no idea how his life would change from here on.
Nevertheless, quaking in fear every time something similar happened would not be an option.
"Hoo—I suppose it might be fun to continue the battle while ignoring this serious wound."
Hal noticed that the princess' tone had recovered in cheerfulness.
"However, I never expected that a rematch with the bow user would be possible after a thousand years... It would be boorish to succumb to momentary impatience. Fufu, Haruomi."
Her voice was very lively now, even producing an impression of calm composure.
"I, Yukikaze, intend to take my time to enjoy our contest. Let us pit our wits and valor against each other, I as a sovereign and you as the Tyrannos, in a bid for hegemony."
"M-Me and you...?"
"Indeed. First, take out the silver dragon that's in hiding, to claim the 'wedge' in this so-called 'Toukyou' city, shall we?"
"If possible, I hope you won't involve the residents of New Town..."
"Fufu. If you have any objections, don't waste your breath on words. Just fight back with force. I, Yukikaze, welcome a fight any time. Bye for now, Haruomi. As well as the former Crimson Queen!'
Leaving behind these words, the white dragon king spread her wings and slowly rose up in the sky.
Her flying speed was quite slow, completely different from the princess who flew as swiftly as an arrow earlier. Perhaps damage to the heartmetal was a consideration.
However, from Hal's viewpoint, it looked like the following.
Perhaps she was wistfully bidding goodbye to her new mortal enemy—
In any case, Hal and company managed to survive a dragon king's attack.
No one spoke for five minutes after the white dragon's exit. Not a single word.
Instead, they all stared blankly at the sky—where Princess Yukikaze had flown away. Whether Hal, Asya, Orihime or Hazumi. Even Luna Francois.
The encounter and battle was this shocking.
But soon after, Orihime finally spoke up.
"Although so much has happened, I'm glad we survived."
Phew~~ She expressed her opinion while sighing deeply. Then sweeping her gaze across everyone's face, she seemed to inquire "Are you okay?" with a carefree smile. Influenced by her, Hal smiled wryly in return.
"Yeah. I guess that's right, Juujouji."
"Thank goodness. Seeing such depressed looks on everyone, I was thinking someone might raise an objection."
Orihime winked and joked.
She was deliberately being humorous to ease the atmosphere. At times like these, Orihime would always be the first to show care for others, trying to change the ambiance. To Hal, this aspect of hers was very dazzling.
"I-I'm not depressed at all..." Asya concurred. She had her head lowered limply.
"A technique of assured annihilation, right? When firing the queen's divine bow, Rushalka needed to Double Cast pseudo-divinity to pour in magical power..."
Hal's childhood friend murmured, looking utterly drained.
To think she tasked her "serpent" with such a challenging job in that instant, Asya was impressive as always. And Hal also knew what she was going to say next.
"Due to the aforementioned reason, I'm completely famished..."
An expected confession. Hal smiled wryly again.
Orihime smiled cheerfully as well. On closer examination, the corners of Hazumi's lips finally curled up too. As for Luna Francois, she was shrugging in a somewhat exaggerated manner.
Hal concluded he had to make things clear sooner after all. He walked over to Hazumi.
"Shirasaka, can I have a word with you?"
"Y-Yes. Is something the matter!? Senpai."
"About what we talked about last time... I want to entrust the rune's power to you."
"But let's be blunt, this is something like the devil's temptation. If you continue to follow me, I'm guessing there will be repeated encounters with monsters like earlier. Monsters that think nothing of elites. You might even shoulder unnecessary burdens."
"Since that's the kind of invitation it is, I won't force you. The same goes for Asya and Juujouji. If you don't think you can follow me to the bitter end, I don't mind if you stop assisting me."
Hazumi and Orihime showed surprise in their eyes while staring at the shrugging Hal.
Perhaps the number of comrades to entrust the power of dragonbane might increase from now on.
However, Hal believed that this type of behavior was tantamount to the devil's temptation. The exact same as when Hinokagutsuchi had invited Haruga Haruomi in the past. Nevertheless, Hal was also a SAURU agent who had cultivated many witches.
The self-styled devil and Hal's positions were very similar to begin with—
One could perhaps assert that. Meanwhile, Asya sighed and cast a warm gaze—more precisely, it was lukewarm at a somewhat low temperature—towards him.
"You intend to seriously confront this matter—involving stuff like dragon kings and the power of dragonbane, etc... Is that what's going on?"
"Yeah. For the moment now, I'll work on a rental basis per offer."
"Like lending the power of dragonbane to the TPDO or autonomous entities like Tokyo New Town, then exacting a reward for every contract?"
After Hal voiced a roughly conceptualized plan that had been sitting in the back of his mind, his childhood friend swiftly understood and nodded in response.
This sort of mercenary-like system was precisely Asya's business model.
Namely, signing contracts that specified the compensation amount per sortie to provide Asya's outstanding power as a witch and Rushalka's services to local authorities, government agencies, military organizations, NPOs, etc around the world.
"This is not a bad idea. But since the rune's power can only be conferred upon specific 'serpents'... Wanna operate the business together?"
"Yeah. Come to think of it, that's no different from before."
Hal had returned to New Town originally because of Asya's invitation.
Like the two of them accepting the job of making Juujouji Orihime a witch, they had also worked together in the past to handle jobs referred to them from SAURU.
"...Since it's decided, I'd like to make a suggestion to Luna."
"Is it something interesting? I love under-the-table deals where I can profit without lifting a finger."
Seeing Luna answer so confidently, Hal wondered if she might have already guessed what he was going to say.
While feeling a sense of camaraderie as "birds of a feather" towards Luna Francois' excellent perception, Hal said, "Basically, I'd like to invite you to serve as something like a representative for me."
"Oh my, you mean handling requests coming from various places then negotiating with the other parties?"
"Yeah. You've got a wide network and an excellent way with words, so there shouldn't be any problem... But this will have to wait until the current mess gets settled."
Hal looked west. The other witches followed suit.
In the distance, the imposing Monolith could be seen. A triangular prism of pure black, over a thousand meters in height. It was a terrifying landmark in the Tokyo area.
If one were to stare intently using magical sight, the Rune of the Sword would be faintly visible in the air over the Monolith.
Pavel Galad was currently hiding somewhere. Tokyo still remained under his "occupation."
Evening at the Academy—
In order to deliver the still unconscious President M to a police hospital, Luna Francois had summoned a police officer from the MPD. The witches all went over to help.
Meanwhile, Hal went to the sports ground on his own.
Under the setting sun that was dyeing everything bright red, Hal spoke aloud on purpose, "...In the end, you still accepted my proposal."
"Nothing noteworthy. After all, there seems to be more value in using you than I originally thought. Rather than squeezing you dry, it would be better to extend a helping hand as your benefactor."
The girl dressed in the scarlet kimono appeared next to Hal and bragged.
Naturally, it was Hinokagutsuchi, the one whose resume included titles such as former dragon queen, ghost and self-styled devil.
"Although you're currently taking residence in my gun... Is that really okay?"
"I am guarding your wand, fool. Now that my wisdom is added to it, this wand houses supreme power that is in no way inferior to the wands of dragon kings."
When Hal attempted to control the Crimson Queen, the interfering Hinokagutsuchi had been dispersed by Hal's fighting spirit, causing her spiritual body to enter the magic gun.
"Be that as it may, I am exhausted from using too much power recently. I might very well vanish if I did not find something to possess. This happens to work out perfectly, yes."
"No option to move on obediently to the afterlife huh..."
Despite exchanging annoying words with each other, the atmosphere between them had changed greatly from before.
Perhaps because during that moment in the contest for control over the queen, Hinokagutsuchi had compromised on purpose.
Then again, it was also possible that Hinokagutsuchi had revised her opinion of Hal slightly in a favorable direction.
"Listen here, brat. I would like to have the man named 'Solomon' resurrected in the modern era."
"By Solomon... Are you referring to the ancient king of Israel? The one who controlled seventy-two demons?"
King Solomon was a legendary sage as well as a great mage. The son of the hero, King David.
Hal was taken aback by the unexpected name.
"You sure know some weird stuff even though you're clearly a dragon... Why the heck?"
"Well, it's just for fun. After all, I am dead with nothing else to do. And it was a request from someone long ago in the past. If memory serves me correctly, it might have been a human little girl—from somewhere."
"That's really crazy. Who would make such a ridiculous request?"
"Hmph. To think you would pry into a lady's past. How tactless of you, brat?"
"Technically speaking, you're a female dragon, not a lady."
"Rein in your twisted logic. It seems that we still need to get along for a period of time. Never forget that kneeling in worship is necessary to appease me."
"Come on, change it to 'a show of care' instead."
"Furthermore, allow me to continue in assisting birth rituals. It is too dangerous relying on you alone."
"...Somehow, I get the feeling that you're harboring impure motives."
"...Then I shall try a different description. Give me some perks. Excellent opportunities for enjoying the tender skin of young ladies should not be wasted, after all."
"You're honest only during times like these. How unreliable."
Regardless, with the subject concluded, Hinokagutsuchi disappeared again.
By the time he noticed, the setting sun had sunk far in the west. Just as he was about to return to the school building, Hal noticed Orihime waiting for him there.
"...Have you finished talking to Kagutsuchi-san?"
"I guess. It feels like we're slowly going back to normal."
"Isn't that great? She is our comrade after all. Oh right, by the way, about what you said earlier regarding working with Asya-san..."
Orihime smiled mischievously and pointed at herself.
"The prior assumption is that I will be participating too, right?"
"Are you sure? Although it seems like you'll be handsomely rewarded, life will most likely be tough. And the effort demanded might rival sweatshop labor. There's so much work to do that it even feels like I've got no choice but to revise the plan I've been brewing for many years, 'saving up a huge sum of money so as to retire in leisure at the age of thirty,' postponing my retirement to the age of forty instead."
"Haruga-kun, your plan is so dull and lifeless even though you're only in your teens right now..."
After expressing her poignant opinion, Orihime said cheerfully, "Although I'm not one to go looking for hardship, I believe it is a good thing for work to be busier. Besides, it's not like I can keep foisting troublesome tasks on you and the others, Haruga-kun."
Smiling in a carefree manner, Orihime looked dazzling as always to Hal.
Whether the former dragon of shady origins or a human like Hal with a suspicious business for a career, she considered both of them "comrades" whom she could confide fully in.
"...Wait a sec, this is about kings, right? Wouldn't it be fun if we simply made Juujouji the figurehead sovereign while I serve as the regent or archbishop? Asya lacks charisma as a leader, so she's not suited to be the sovereign..."
"What was that, Haruga-kun? Look at you, muttering to yourself over there alone."
"Nothing much, a thought just occurred to me."
This was a notion brought about by Hinokagutsuchi's mention of "King Solomon."
However, what they currently needed to think about was the unknown whereabouts of Pavel Galad as well as the possible upcoming battle. As it happened, night was soon about to fall. With the rising of the moon, the consumed usage counts of pseudo-divinity by Rushalka and the others would be reset.
Side by side, Hal and Orihime walked into the school building.
On the fourth night after the mystic spell of Ruruk Soun had been cast on Tokyo New Town...
Pavel Galad was scowling inside his sickroom, a Japanese-style room in a community center that had been converted into a shelter. The futon, which had remained laid out until this morning, was folded and set aside in a corner.
Galad was still maintaining human form. Also, there were two visitors present.
They were the two girls who had remained unaffected back when the magic spell known as "Freeze" to those in the anti-dragon field was cast, thanks to the barrier deployed by Galad.
"Aren't you going to eat dinner, Mr. Handsome? It's pretty good, actually."
"The people from the SDF helped cook it. Although I've heard rumors before, it really is much tastier than the retort pouches and instant food distributed by police and fire department personnel."
With a stiff expression, Galad refused the food brought by the two high school girls, Funaki-san and Mutou-san.
The menu consisted of hamburger steak with vegetables minced into it, stew, coleslaw salad and white rice. The girls were chattering away while eating.
However, human food was unnecessary for Galad.
Had he the intention, eating was possible too. Be that as it may, this human body was created using the magic of dragons, hence it did not require nourishment. On the other hand, the girls in front of him—
Absorbing their blood and essence might replenish his energy, actually.
However, these two were humans, after all, which meant their blood volume was limited. Unless he greedily ingested blood from female serpents, the "imitations" assisting the successor of the bow last time, it was probably impossible to heal his original massive body of a dragon.
Still, speaking of users of dragonslaying power—
Galad left the girls and walked over to the window.
He looked up at the night sky where only stars could be seen. However, he had definitely spotted the Rune of the Arrow shining in the sky during the daytime. The white dragon king, Princess Yukikaze, had arrived in this city!
Currently, fighting at full strength was beyond him, filling Galad with abject regret.
According to the rules of dragons, this city was currently under Galad's authority. Whether intercepting the princess who had invaded willfully or negotiating with her, both were supposed to be his responsibilities.
"But to think I am this incompetent—!"
For the past few days, his body had been extremely weak, to the extent that he could not move as he wished.
And the whole time, he was being sheltered by humans, by these girls before him. With a human face, Galad began to gnash his teeth.
To think that a dragon was accepting charity from primates, the side being exploited and preyed on—
This was unprecedented humiliation. However, there was gratifying news. Probably thanks to lying down quietly for a number of days, Galad's human body had recovered some energy. He felt that he was now able to move around and use magic slightly.
He had to leave this place as soon as possible—Just as Galad was thinking that...
"Could it be that you want to get some outside air?"
"You've been sleeping in the room the whole time, after all. Want us to take you outside?"
Mutou-san and Funaki-san suggested to him.
Twenty minutes later, led by the two girls, Galad arrived outside of the community center.
Since this center was also a large facility used for events such as public speeches, the parking lot at the front entrance was quite spacious. The three of them walked here.
Keeping their pace slow, Mutou-san and Funaki-san walked in front.
This was out of consideration for the semi-patient who was sometimes not too steady on his feet. However, Galad followed them silently without noticing this.
"Oh, they've been flying around a lot lately. It's scary."
"I overheard a conversation between SDF members. Those things are currently searching for something extremely dangerous—That's the gist, I think. But what on earth is it?"
Galad frowned and stared at the sky, causing Funaki-san to cower uncomfortably. Meanwhile, Mutou-san revealed this piece of inside information.
The trio were looking at a blue Raptor soaring in the night sky.
This area was Minamikasai in the Edogawa ward. The blue Raptor seemed to be flying at low speed in a large circle over this neighborhood, meanwhile gazing at the ground with a dragon's sharp gaze.
Then Galad noticed.
There was magic residing in the winged lizard's gaze—
An elite somewhere had probably cast detection magic. Even when the target was using Transformation magic to hide his appearance, those eyes would still be able to see the dragon flames hidden inside his body.
Circling in the sky over Minamikasai, the blue Raptor suddenly began to cry out.
It was a call for its comrades to gather, because that winged lizard had discovered its prey, Pavel Galad, the successor to the Rune of the Sword.
"W-What is going on!?"
"I-I-I've never seen this kind of situation before, what do we do~~!?"
"This place is about to turn into a battlefield—Simple as that."
Feeling the warning signs of war, Galad clicked his tongue.
Normally, he would happily prepare for battle even when injured. This was a dragon's nature and instinct. However, to be discovered and attacked by the enemy simply because he went out for a brief stroll—Galad finally realized now.
The only reason why he could spend the last few days in peace was undoubtedly thanks to the humans hiding him.
He became aware of this fact. For Galad, a pure-blooded dragon, this was ultimate humiliation and a irredeemable stain on his reputation.
Gritting his teeth hard with emotion, Galad glared angrily at the girls beside him.
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