Leviathan:Volume 4 Chapter 4
Chapter 4 - Monsters and the Night at the Remote Island
Naturally, the brief battle at the open-air bath plunged the inn into chaos.
No wonder. After all, not only were screams and gunshots heard, there were also the shredded remains of eerie white tentacles and countless scattered scraps of flesh all around the open-air bath.
Leaving the confounded inn staff, Hal and company made contact with SAURU's Tokai branch and important members at Tokyo New Town. Using their connections to the police and authorities in the Izu and Shimoda area, they swiftly cleaned up the mess in secret.
Finally, after getting embroiled in unnecessary trouble, the group welcomed dawn the next day.
Hal and company went out to sea from the Sagaminada coast.
Naturally, this was part of their search for the Dragon Palace. What they borrowed was a multi-purpose support vessel from the JMSDF base at Irouzaki, the SDF facility closest to their accommodations. It was a small ship roughly seventy meters in length, normally used for transportation, supplies and rescue operations.
This time, it had set sail to aid witches and "serpents."
That being said, there was no specific destination for this voyage. Inside the ship, enough to carry forty passengers, a cabin had been set up as a "witches' prep room." Hal and company were holding a meeting in there currently.
"The shrine worshiping Goddess Hinokagutsuchi apparently holds a ceremony to pay respects to the Dragon Palace once every few years," said Hal while looking at his usual laptop.
Asya, Orihime, Hazumi and Luna Francois—The witches were all gathered in one room too.
"It's said that an exceptionally good-looking shrine maiden had to set sail with the signpost in her hand. 'If a shrine maiden sets sail together with this stone, a messenger will greet her as a guide to reach the Dragon Palace...' Hinokagutsuchi seems to be the type to issue divine decrees, I guess."
The laptop was displaying the shrine information he described. In addition, Hal had talked at length with the local priest to obtain all kinds of information.
"According to records, they apparently held this ceremony during the century from 1602 in the late Sengoku era until the Kyouhou Reforms."
After listening to Hal's report, the reserved but inquisitive Hazumi asked incredulously, "May I ask why the ceremony was later discontinued?"
"Probably because of decreasing magical power in successive generations of shrine maidens in charge of carrying out the ceremony, thus preventing them from using the signpost successfully. In fact, shortly after the stone came into Asya's possession, those slimy tentacles that showed up probably came to greet us."
"But weren't we on land the whole time yesterday? We didn't set sail at all."
Equally incredulous, Orihime spoke up too.
"Why did it come all the way ashore?"
"I'm thinking it might be because Asya's magical power is too strong. Those capable enough to be certified as master-class are extremely rare in both ancient and medieval times."
"About that signpost stone..."
Pensively, Asya murmured.
"I tried many times to pour magical power into it. Perhaps that's why it activated a little. Look, like this."
Asya pointed to the black stone on the table in the cabin.
The stone's surface was black with a slight tinge of green. After merely seconds, this blackness began to glow with faint golden light. After settling down for two minutes, the stone turned golden again for roughly two seconds. Two minutes later, it glowed for two seconds again.
This golden blinking persisted after this in repetition.
Seeing that, Luna Francois commented with interest, "It's almost like a slowly beating heart."
Yesterday at the open-air bath, Hal and the others had definite witnessed it. The always elegant American girl had trembled in rage for the first time—But after that, Luna Francois quickly resumed her facade of "the elegant, intelligent and scheming beauty."
Ultimately, Luna was seen in anger for only an instant.
Glancing at the blonde beauty's indifferent face, Hal said, "To verify the hypothesis step by step, our only choice is to set sail on a ship to imitate the legend. Let's see if we come across anything by circling randomly in nearby waters."
Luna Francois picked up the signpost stone.
"Perhaps contrary to expectations, we might make contact straight away? Based on the timing yesterday, we should be 'greeted' very soon."
The current time was slightly before noon. More than two hours had elapsed since setting out to sea.
It was a perfect sunny day yesterday while today's cloud cover was rather thick.
On this overcast day, Luna would be proven correct seven minutes later.
A large creature was rapidly approaching the ship.
Prior to the ship announcement, Luna Francois had already made a further prediction.
"Glinda's bloodlust has risen slightly... It seems that some kind of hostile entity with a certain level of combat ability is currently closing in on us."
Glinda, the "Good Witch of the South," was Luna's partner.
As a safety precaution, she had materialized on the deck as the "sailor on lookout duty."
"Luna, I'll be in charge of attacking, so I'm leaving defense to you. Orihime-san and Hazumi-san, please standby, ready to take action as necessary!"
Asya swiftly moved to the deck and issued orders.
Less experienced in battle, Orihime and Hazumi nodded obediently. Her equal, Luna Francois, did not raise any objections either. Although the two of them were master-class witches and had fought side by side many times before as well, perhaps they had reached a consensus beforehand that Asya would take command on the front lines.
Then on the deck—
Under the gray sky covered with dark clouds, the four witches and Hal arrived in haste.
The wind was very strong today. The support vessel sailed forward, slicing through tall waves. The enemy caught on marine radar and detected by Glinda had yet to come into sight.
In a certain corner on the deck was a three-meter-long magic beast.
A maned lion with orange fur, except with a dragon head connected to the right shoulder and a black goat head on the left—This was Glinda.
Normally speaking, leviathans should be around ten-odd meters in body length.
However, materializing a leviathan at her original size would cause continuous strain on the witch. When a witch reached her limit, she would experience symptoms akin to anemia. Hence, Luna had shrunk Glinda to the smallest size in order to minimize the burden of sustaining the manifestation.
In addition to powerful moves as befitted a Shootdown Ace, she was also adept in performing intricate techniques of this sort.
After showing off skills as befitted a master-class witch, Luna Francois commanded quietly, "Glinda, we shall protect this ship together. Gravity Wall!"
Responding to her partner's instructions, Glinda's three heads roared simultaneously.
Immediately, the pseudo-divinity of Gravity was invoked. The transparent force field surrounding the seventy-meter-long support vessel was a supergravitational barrier capable of deflecting all objects daring to trespass its interior.
A minute or two later...
Close to a hundred writhing tentacles shot out from the sea.
The tentacles were white and slightly translucent like the ones at the open-air bath.
However, they were blocked by Glinda's gravity barrier this time, unable to invade anywhere within ten meters of the support vessel. Seizing this opportunity, Asya chanted loudly, "I pray to the ancient divine seal of purity! Send the transient blue dragon to the ground! Let the star of purification manifest over our heads!"
Directly above the support vessel, a pentagram of light manifested in the sky over the sea.
The pentagram immediately changed to a "∞" sign before turning into a blue wyvern.
"Rushalka, melee combat."
Standing with arms crossed on the deck, Asya calmly issued orders.
In the sky, Rushalka immediately spread her wings and dashed towards the sea surface. Like a seabird hunting a school of fish, she dipped her resilient hind legs into the water then ascended rapidly.
Rushalka kept rising.
Caught in the sharp triple claws of her extended hind legs was a squid roughly seven meters long.
However, unlike normal squid, it had almost a hundred tentacles instead of ten. Blocked by the gravity barrier and unable to approach the support vessel, the vast number of tentacles all belonged to this massive squid.
Nauseatingly long with frighteningly numerous tentacles—What a bizarre monster.
"A relative of the giant squid huh..."
While Hal watched, Rushalka continued to ascend.
Carrying a large squid with an astounding number of tentacles, she flew high in the sky.
"Rushalka, Laser Breath!"
Hearing Asya's command, the blue wyvern released the massive squid's body.
Dropped from the sky, the squid spread itself out in free fall towards the sea. As a marine creature after all, it was not equipped with flight capability.
After locking on the target, Rushalka fired a blue-white heat beam from her mouth.
Direct hit. The massive squid's head and mantle were instantly blown apart, leaving the hundred or so tentacles to fall into the sea with successive splashes.
However, at the moment of victory, Luna Francois whispered, "Looks like the visitors don't intend to leave yet. Glinda, show everyone your true power!"
Glinda had been shrunk to her minimum size at a body length of roughly three meters.
The orange three-headed lion suddenly expanded, turning back into her original form within the blink of an eye—A magic beast ten-odd meters long.
Glinda released her entire body's magical power to strengthen the gravity barrier.
In the next second, a new monster appeared from the sea. Unbelievably, it was even bigger than the previous one.
"Th-That thing would be an octopus... Right? Nee-sama!?"
"If anything, it seems more like a hybrid offspring between an octopus and a dragon..."
One could hardly blame Hazumi and Orihime for whispering to each other while on standby.
The head of the monster surfacing from the sea was very similar to that of an octopus.
But apart from that, it closely resembled an elite dragon in both body shape and size.
Ten-odd meters in length, its entire body was covered with dark green scales with a pair of bat-like wings on its back. The two forelimbs serving as arms looked resilient yet agile. Dozens of tentacles sprouted around the beak of its octopus-like head.
Each of those tentacles was wriggling like a snake.
The octopus-headed dragon subspecies roared. Immediately, the dozens of tentacles around its beak extended simultaneously towards the support vessel protected by the gravity barrier, moving as carnivorous snakes would to strike prey.
The barrier deployed by Glinda kept the attacking tentacles at bay for now.
"This strength and magical power feels as though it could rival an elite..."
Luna Francois frowned.
However, almost simultaneously with her murmur, someone counterattacked decisively—Asya.
The other Shootdown Ace called out sonorously while moving to the deck's far point—The prow. Presumably, she wanted to send commands and magical power to her partner from as near a distance as possible.
"Rushalka, use pseudo-divinity to restrain the enemy. Ice Prison!"
This was a command to turn her blue partner into a pseudo-god of water.
In response, Rushalka spread her wide wings and started to glide. Countless small white orbs of light were released successively from around her wings.
The numerous light orbs resembled scales more than snow, drifting down to the sea surface.
The octopus-headed dragon subspecies was bathed in them—
The monster was half-submerged with the lower half of its body in the sea.
As a result, the sea targeted by Rushalka instantly froze into ice. Transformed into something akin to an antarctic ice shelf, the sea trapped the dragon subspecies, immobilizing it.
Immediately, six runes of Ruruk Soun appeared above the octopus head. Hal was shocked as soon as he read its meaning. This arrangement signified "dispel magic"!
The newly frozen sea surface turned back to ordinary seawater within the blink of an eye.
"I can't believe that octopus head can even use runes of Ruruk Soun...!"
Hal could not help but click his tongue. However, that was not all.
The sea surface was suddenly split open to reveal another octopus-headed dragon subspecies.
The second one spread the wings on its back and flew into the air. At the same time, it extended the dozens of tentacles around its beak to attack Rushalka in the sky above!
The blue wyvern flew diagonally upwards nimbly, dodging spectacularly.
Finally recovered just last month, Europe's strongest "serpent" was in command of excellent reaction speed. Meanwhile, on the deck of the support vessel carrying Hal and company, the Trans-Pacific region's strongest "serpent" was growling.
Glinda's three heads—The lion, the black goat and the dragon.
While roaring simultaneously in warning, the three heads glared at the other octopus-headed dragon next to the ship.
"Even though the enemy can use Ruruk Soun magic, Glinda and I will guard here... Harry and Orihime-san, you two attack and take down the enemy as quickly as possible!"
Hearing Luna Francois' quick shout, Orihime responded firmly.
Compared to the gentle Hazumi and Minadzuki, Orihime and Akuro-Ou were more suited to attacking. While nodding at the correct choice of candidate, Hal also shouted to the underclassman who was showing a stiff expression.
"Standby farther back. Best to pick somewhere that allows you to get back inside the ship any time!"
"Y-Yes. I understand!"
The honest Hazumi immediately moved. Presumably, she was either aware that she was not good at combat or had noticed that her presence on the front line would only be a hindrance.
However, something unexpected happened no sooner had Hazumi taken a couple steps.
All fired up to fight, Glinda suddenly stopped howling.
"What's the matter, Glinda?"
"Eh, no way!? Haruga-kun, look at that..."
"Don't tell me—it's a dragonslaying rune!?"
Hal and company saw it. A pictograph similar to the "巳" kanji had appeared on the forehead of the octopus head—the dragon subspecies near the support vessel.
It was most likely the fourth dragonslaying rune to appear after the Bow, the Sword and the Arrow—
Hal understood this instinctively while standing next to Orihime and Luna Francois.
Immediately, the octopus-headed dragon subspecies extended dozens of tentacles again to assault the deck. Unlike the previous time, a "巳"-like rune appeared successively on the tip of each tentacle!
Imbued with the power of dragonbane, the tentacles broke through the gravity barrier this time, rushing at the group.
Hal immediately deployed imperishable protection. The pearly radiance proceeded to spread in his surroundings to protect Luna and Orihime in addition to its user.
While enduring the tentacles' mighty force, Hal was attacked by a sharp pain in his heart.
Fortunately, no one was hurt at all. But unexpectedly, in the next instant, five tentacles wrapped around the sphere of imperishable protection, picking up Hal and the two witches together with the pearly radiance, pulling them away from the deck with astounding strength!
...Towards the sea where this bizarre monster was located, towards the octopus head's giant beak.
"Like us, the enemy wields the power of dragonbane—"
"Meaning that my Glinda is unable to fight it head on..."
"!? That monster's face is getting close!"
Hal, Luna Francois and Orihime were guarded by imperishable protection, but tentacles imbued with a dragonslaying rune were wrapped around the pearly shield, gradually pulling the trio towards the octopus head's beak.
Confronted with her own helplessness and expressing her anguish through her voice was Luna.
The blonde Shootdown Ace snapped her fingers with a look of frustration. Glinda instantly vanished, apparently de-materializing after receiving her partner's command.
This was a wise decision. It was not yet time to give up.
With the battle situation up in the air and an opponent wielding the power of dragonbane, it was possible to receive a fatal injury any moment. Such an outcome must be avoided no matter what.
"Akuro-Ou, come fight by my side!"
On the side, Orihime shouted words of summoning without a moment's delay.
Looking above the enemy, she kept staring at the air over the strange octopus head. Soon after, a glowing pentagram appeared at that space then turned into an infinity symbol, finally transforming into a nine-tailed fox-wolf.
The leviathan, Akuro-Ou, materialized.
Motionless in the air, Akuro-Ou exhaled a breath of flame at the enemy from diagonally above.
The octopus head roared in pain. The tentacles dragging Hal's trio also stopped.
"Haruga-kun, I am ready any time!"
"Okay. Looks like that side is almost ready too. We should hurry and make our getaway."
Responding to Orihime, Hal looked over to "that side."
Rushalka was currently flying at high speed. Riding the wind as light and agile as a swallow, she sliced through the air.
The second dragon subspecies was pursuing her. Writhing restlessly, the tentacles extending from around the octopus beak chased the blue wyvern. Although Rushalka's speed was superior, the enemy was able to use dangerous runes of Ruruk Soun. The situation looked bleak.
Hal summoned the emblem appearing in his right palm.
It was a pictograph shaped like a fully drawn bow—The Rune of the Bow.
"Grant the rune's power to Juujouji and Asya—!"
The Rune of the Bow instantly appeared on the back of Orihime's right hand. Not far away, surely the same thing happened to Asya's right hand.
"Akuro-Ou! Use fire magic to finish it in one go!"
Orihime issued an attack command again. This time, the Rune of the Bow appeared on the tips of Akuro-Ou's nine tails then shot nine projectiles of flame.
Struck by the scorching assault, the first dragon subspecies' entire body turned into a fireball.
The octopus head, the dozens of tentacles and the body similar to an elite dragon, all was devoured by tongues of flame.
On the other side was Rushalka with a long horn on her forehead like a unicorn.
Until just earlier, the situation had consisted of an aerial battle with the wyvern relentlessly pursued by the second octopus head, but now, the Rune of the Bow appeared on both of Rushalka's wings at the same time.
In the next instant, the blue wyvern performed a swift aerial turn, circling to her enemy's back within an eye's blink.
A blue-white beam was fired from her horn. Undoubtedly, it was a beam capable of slaying dragons. Skewered, the octopus head began to crash.
However, Hal did not lower his guard. He stared intently at the flames released by Akuro-Ou.
The crimson blaze incinerated the sea surface, producing quite a surreal scene. In the depths of this sea of flame, Hal could sense the "巳"-like dragonslaying rune shining with brilliant splendor.
Apart from that, the imperishable protection defending Hal and his two companions—the pearly defensive shield—
The five tentacles ensnaring this layer of protection remained intact despite bathing in the intense flames.
In that instant, Hal understood the meaning represented by the rune resembling the "巳" character.
No mistake. This was the Rune of the Chain.
At that moment, as though in response to Hal for discerning its true identity, the tentacles entangling the imperishable protection suddenly transformed into steel chains.
Instantly, the clanging noise of chains colliding sounded all around.
Kuoooooooooh!? Perhaps feeling fear, Akuro-Ou howled in surprise. By the time Hal noticed, chains had extended towards the nine-tailed fox-wolf, tying her up.
The surrounding scenery also changed dramatically, from the surrounding waters of Sagaminada to a pitch-black space.
The chains constricting Hal's imperishable protection vanished, leaving darkness to spread continuously in Hal and company's surroundings.
"W-What on earth is going on...!?"
"Enemy magic. Looks like they intend to capture us. Be careful, Harry!"
Within the pitch-black darkness, Orihime was bewildered while Luna issued a warning.
Hal also noticed something new: this was not simple magic but a technique of assured annihilation—A finishing move belonging to a dragonslaying rune.
In that case, they might lose their lives if they were to react a moment too slow.
Hal immediately summoned his magic gun and chose fully automatic fire. At the same time, he simultaneously cast Enemy Detection and Aim magic to locate and snipe the Rune of the Chain's main body in the darkness.
Hence, his right arm moved autonomously then settled in front of Hal.
He pulled the trigger. Since the enemy had used a technique of assured annihilation, he had to respond in kind with fully automatic fire to sweep away all restraining enchantments. The magic gun's thirty bullets turned into crimson flashes of light, released all in one go.
—I feel a hit.
The surrounding darkness swiftly dissipated as the group returned to the same sea as before.
Suddenly falling into the sea, Hal cried out without thinking.
He saw Luna Francois and Orihime also falling into the sea nearby. Hal thrashed his arms and legs desperately to prevent his body from sinking while maintaining a water treading posture.
Due to his clothed state, it was impossible to swim well like yesterday when they were playing in the sea.
"I suppose it's natural for us to fall into the sea once the chains trapping us disappeared..."
"I-I can't see the SDF ship and Rushalka... Where are we!?"
Luna Francois accepted the current situation with resignation. Orihime was showing a stunned expression.
Hal tread water while looking at the dusk sky. Although the enemy had clearly attacked at noon, the sun was already setting now.
"Looks like we're in for some trouble..."
Fortunately, amid all the misfortune, the nine-tailed fox-wolf was casually floating on the water.
Ensnared by chains earlier as well, Akuro-Ou had been forcibly dragged here too.
Not confined to land or sky, leviathans were also capable of moving freely in water. Even a sacred beast, dozens of meters long, could still frolic gracefully in the water like a whale. Hal and the two witches began to swim in order to hold on to Akuro-Ou's white fur.
"Looks like we'll have to spend the night here," muttered Hal while walking on a paved concrete path.
Thanks to the scorching summer heat, his drenched clothing was almost dried out.
The sun was about to sink completely into the ground. The sky was dyed orange by the rays of dusk. At this moment, night was about to fall upon this remote island.
Roughly an hour had passed since Hal fell into the sea with Orihime and Luna Francois.
After that, the trio had mounted the totally drenched fox-wolf's back and discovered an isolated island several hundred meters away.
They had to hurry to find dry land before night.
Flying through the air towards the target, Akuro-Ou landed swiftly.
Judging from what they could observe before landing, this island had a fair amount of area.
Apart from that, they could see a few rooftops. While pondering that the total population could be less than a thousand, Hal asked Orihime to land at the pier, but...
After circling around the pier's immediate area, Hal came up with an idea.
Meanwhile, walking by his side, Orihime smiled cheerfully.
"Fortunately, there was an inhabited island nearby, thank goodness. Although I have no idea where this island is at all, it should be within Japan's borders, right?"
Orihime pointed at the stop sign reading "tomare." It was undoubtedly something from Japan.
Hal looked at the sky. The darkness had intensified. Even though it was still early in the evening, he could recognize the Summer Triangle constellation whose corners were defined by the stars of Vega, Deneb and Altair.
Incidentally, although it had been cloudy at noon, the sky was clear now.
"Judging from the position of the stars, we probably haven't gone too far away from the sea near Izu. Let's pick a random home to enter and gather information."
"Why not ask a resident directly?" Orihime asked with a wry smile after listening to Hal's analysis.
"Well, we'll probably get treated as weirdos if we ask these types of questions. But I guess it's still necessary to ask around. Moreover, we must take care of lodgings for tonight... Oh, but I didn't bring my purse," said Orihime, suddenly making a pensive look as though something had occurred to her.
"It would be a bit shameless, but do we have to resort to the 'please let us stay over for one night' approach...?"
"If it's only accommodations, I do have enough money for that."
"You are amazing, Haruga-kun!"
"Rather than a work habit, it's more like a occupational disease. It comes in handy once in a while."
Haruga Haruomi was both a student and a treasure hunter.
Hence, as a precaution against emergencies, he had already developed a habit of carrying bank notes of large denominations in various currencies including US dollars and credit cards in a waterproof container, hidden in either a shoe or a secret pocket in his pants. Doing this allowed him to enter all kinds of venues without money troubles as long as he was not trapped in some kind of uninhabited wilderness.
"But it still hurts that I didn't bring wireless radio or a satellite phone. Based on the current situation, they might be more useful after all..."
Listening to Hal's muttering, Orihime made a questioning look.
In any case, he did not expect the beautiful and resilient Japanese beauty to have any major problems in either mental or physical stamina. Even confronted with this type of situation, she remained lively as ever. Although some level of unease was unavoidable, given who she was, she would probably overcome it straight away.
On the other hand, whom he needed to worry about was the blonde Shootdown Ace instead.
"Although I am not Asya, I still would like to have dinner first, if possible..."
Luna Francois grumbled in exhaustion.
Hal did not know if she was tired or conserving energy, but she had given up walking on her own. Instead, she had materialized Glinda in her smallest size, riding on her back for transportation.
No matter what, the trio had just experienced various ordeals including fighting, swimming and drifting in the sea.
Perhaps Luna Francois was the normal one for feeling utterly exhausted.
"I must take a bath or a shower later. Ideally, a hot spring would be best... Followed by an air-conditioned room. Japanese summers are hot and stuffy, simply staying outside for too long makes me fatigued..."
"After all, we had so much sweat today and even fell into the sea."
Orihime smiled and concurred with the Luna Francois' complaining.
"Let's hang in there a little longer, Luna-san. Even if there isn't any air-conditioning, I think they'll surely have electric fans."
"I suppose you're right... I must pull myself together even if we've arrived on an isolated island filled with obstinate, malicious and anti-social senior citizens. Look forward to it, Orihime-san. I shall make full use of my abilities to deceive encountered islanders and secure a cool and comfortable night for us!"
"That's the spirit. Although I can't agree with everything you just said, that's more like the Luna-san I know!"
However, five minutes later, their hopes were dashed completely.
Finally coming across a village where ten-odd homes were gathered, they could not see the slightest bit of lighting. The houses were separated by at least ten minutes of walking distance from one another. It seemed like a farming or fishing village no matter how you looked. More importantly, it did not feel like anyone was living here at all. They were all derelict and empty houses.
The fact that they could let Glinda walk openly on the road indicated several symptoms:
First of all, they had not encountered a single islander on their way to this village. Secondly, it was already dark but no streetlights were lit. Thirdly, the few fishing boats moored at the pier were all in damaged and abandoned states. Fourthly, there was a subtle atmosphere of desolation on the island, etc—
Overhead, the night sky was so beautiful.
The black night finally shrouded the desert island completely.
Hal took out a penlight and made an inauspicious prediction.
"Judging from appearances, island might've been uninhabited for many years already. Or due to population loss caused by dragon attacks nearby, it finally turned into an uninhabited island... That's what it looks like."
Lifelines such as water, electricity and gas had presumably stopped operating.
Quite suddenly, the trio began a desert island adventure.
"Anyway, this should be enough for basic equipment."
Inside the first village they found, Hal went searching for an hour or so on his own.
He handed to his two companions items he had gathered that seem like they could come in useful.
Packs of dry cell batteries, two flashlights, bug spray, machetes, straw hats, old clothing such as t-shirts, towels, rags, Chinese cooking pots, a gas stove, gas canisters, soft drink-flavored bubble gum, biscuits sealed in a can, etc...
He displayed the various spoils of his hunt, laid out on someone's doorstep, illuminated by a flashlight.
Watching this series of actions, Orihime remarked, quite impressed.
"You seem very experienced as always, Haruga-kun."
"How sharp of you, Juujouji. Actually, I've honed this type of skill in wastelands, raiding residences in classic RPG style."
"You're referring to opening people's cupboards and taking items without permission, aren't you...?"
"I also got my hands on some intelligence too. Based on position, this island should lie within the Izu Islands area, which would put in the outskirts, relatively far from Japan proper."
He had reached this conclusion by looking at maps and notepaper with addresses inside houses.
If they were to ride a leviathan and fly into the sky, they could very likely find an inhabited island nearby. But since it was already dark, flying in the sky over the sea during night would be quite dangerous.
Orihime said quietly, "Then for tonight, let's stay on this island until dawn—"
"It'd definitely be safer. There are plenty of houses suitable for staying overnight."
Hence, the three of them arrived in front of a certain house.
While Hal had gone to ransack homes on his own, the girls had entered this house illegally and cleaned up the interior.
"It was that rune just now that dragged us here—Is that correct?"
"I think so... Why couldn't it have dragged us all the way to the Ogasawara Islands in the south? That way, we might've been able to contact the SDF base at Iwo Jima or the TPDO garrison for help."
"Oh by the way, Luna-san, why don't you try some of this food?"
Pointing at the gathered provisions, Orihime asked the other girl present.
Looking very demoralized, Luna Francois had her shoulders in a slump.
"Though they might not be filling enough, the biscuits have not passed their expiry date. As for chewing gum, there shouldn't be a shelf life limit."
"Gum is a good idea. Humans can erase the feeling of an empty stomach just by chewing stuff."
"Speaking of which, gum could replenish sugar too... Hmm, the biscuits are fine. They haven't gone soft from humidity while the flavor is ordinary but still good. Come, Luna-san, have some too?"
After eating a biscuit as a test first, she offered a second piece to Luna.
It was quite fitting of Orihime's style to keep her spirits up even in the face of adversity such as this. Despite having no survival experience on a desert island, her resilience was enough to put Hal and Asya to shame.
Accepting the biscuit, Luna Francois murmured softly, "Harry aside, Orihime-san is quite adaptable too. Almost like Asya..."
"Oh dear, you are flattering me too much."
"But if you really had to compare, they might actually be equals."
"Haruga-kun, please do not make comments that leave others at a loss on how to respond!"
While encouraging Luna and arguing with Hal, Orihime spontaneously became the lubricant for the trio to get along. As someone good at looking after others, perhaps one third of it was intentional on her part. As for the remaining two thirds, one would attribute it to her inborn nature of kindness.
On the other hand, there was the blonde girl who was neither naive nor would look after others—
"As a child of civilization, this is quite an ordeal. Despite what appearances may imply, I totally cannot tolerate life without these three things: baths, air-conditioning and automobiles."
Putting on a rare expression of displeasure, she told the other two.
Next, she turned to face Hal and grumbled with dissatisfaction, "Somehow you seem quite happy to me, Harry?"
"Not at all. But looking at you right now, you probably don't have any spare energy to set up some kind of honey trap. At least I can relax a bit for now."
"How dare you say that when you were enjoying yourself so much previously..."
This silence undoubtedly signified tacit admission.
However, the third person present, excluded from the topic, jumped in surprise upon hearing this sudden conversation.
"Eh!? Luna-san did something of that sort to Haruga-kun?"
"After all, I believe it is necessary to conquer Harry sooner and make him my captive," the blonde strategist sighed and explained to the dumbfounded Orihime.
"Don't tell me you have fallen for Haruga-kun!?"
"Of course not. It is for a more practical reason. From the standpoint of combat strength, it would be advantageous if I became able to use the dragonslaying rune as well. This has been proven in the battle just now, right?"
"I-I see. Thank goodness..."
Orihime could not help but widen her eyes. She was probably surprised to learn that her experienced senior, the master-class witch, was pursuing practical interests with such frightening frankness. This sort of reaction was only natural for someone with an inborn conscience like Juujouji Orihime. However, Hal found her occasional furtive glances at him and look of relief a bit inexplicable.
Meanwhile, Luna Francois spoke up in an annoyed tone of voice, "Now that we've reached this juncture, there is no helping it. I need to alter my approach."
"You mean you're terminating the plan for deceiving me into giving you the power of dragonbane?"
"Of course not. Rather, the most pressing matter at hand is how to live comfortably on this uninhabited island. For this purpose, it is even more necessary to deceive you, Harry. By the way, I've been feeling thirsty for a while now. Then if feasible, I would like a bath as soon as possible."
Then Luna Francois finally smiled elegantly.
"If I spoil myself by offering a kiss to Harry's cheek, would it speed up preparations for me?"
"Actually, your desire for comfort without labor strikes a bit of a resonant chord in me, I quite like it. But if possible, could you make someone else a target...?"
"Please regard this as an honor."
While Hal felt his emotions stirring inside, Luna responded with a blooming smile.
"You are the first man for me to acknowledge as valuable enough to exploit. On a global scale, I feel that the probability of a second one showing up would approach zero, so Harry, you might very well be 'number one' and the 'only one.'"
"Even if you speak as though quoting lyrics from Japanese pop music, it's still useless."
"Who cares? If it were some ordinary male in your place, I would've called Glinda. A single threat would've obtained instant obedience."
It looked Luna Francois had recovered in spirit.
Having never lived as a savage outside of civilization, she was gradually adapting to the situation in her own manner. Despite her ambitious declaration to use Hal, the fact that she said it out openly like a stern and seasoned veteran left Hal no choice but to smile wryly.
Perhaps Orihime was thinking the same things as him. With an expression like a mother looking at a naughty child, she shrugged and said, "In that case, I'd feel bad leaving Haruga-kun to labor alone. Let me report to you that I've discovered something very awesome."
Two hours later—
A well had been discovered outside the village. The water looked very clear and was perfectly drinkable after boiling. Water supply systems on remote islands were imperfect hence they were still using wells in contemporary times. This was quite fortunate for Hal and company.
After drinking water, they rationed out the limited food to satisfy their hungry stomachs—
Splish splash, the sound of water.
Next, Hal heard the two girls release sighs of relaxation from the bottom of their hearts.
"Although today was so tiring, it currently feels like my fatigue is being swept away all at once..."
"This is all thanks to you, Orihime-san... I originally thought that a bath would be an unreasonable demand, yet never did I expect we would be able to have a leisurely hot spring soak like this..."
"Save your thanks for Akuro-Ou. I simply asked for her help..."
"Don't be so modest. The accomplishments of 'serpents' belong to their partners' credit. Hoo—"
A natural hot spring had been discovered in the rock formations on the shore. Orihime and Luna Francois had come to this rustic secret bath to enjoy a healing moment for their minds and bodies.
Chatting occasionally, the two of them exhaled in relaxation every now and then.
Prior to this expedition, Orihime had read a travel guide for the Izu area.
Since the Izu Islands were volcanic islands, there were many natural springs. While Haruga Haruomi was searching through houses, Orihime had recalled this fact and sent Akuro-Ou to search for hot springs on this island.
In the end, the clever Akuro-Ou returned successfully with a report of a hot spring's discovery.
At this very moment, Orihime and Luna Francois were stretching their limbs, completely naked in the hot spring, thoroughly relaxing their minds and bodies. It was such bliss that it would not be an exaggeration to call it paradise on earth.
"...Next, let's pray that Haruga-kun won't come here to engage in mischief."
"...I knew it, we should've bound Harry's hands and feet beforehand then added a blindfold so that he couldn't engage in mischief even if he wanted to, right?"
The two girls began to shift their conversation to the boy who was not present.
After listening to Luna Francois' overly radical proposal, Orihime smiled somewhat forcibly.
"I-I think it should be fine? Although he is both closeted and perverted, losing control on occasion, at least he still holds himself to his claim of being a 'gentleman'..."
"Losing control huh...? You are correct. I never expected to be seen in the nude by him in such a manner..."
Perhaps recalling the commotion yesterday, Luna could not help but frown.
Orihime looked a bit flustered for some reason. Suddenly, she raised the pitch of her voice and inquired, "L-Luna-san, you are in the process of seducing Haruga-kun, aren't you!? Don't tell me that circumstances yesterday were part of your plan!?"
"Nothing of that sort. Although it's true that I did consider manipulating him using a similar lure."
"Could Harry actually be a fearless fighter with an unexpected abundance of life experiences who dares to brazenly invade bathrooms? Based on my personal observation, his experience with women probably runs contrary to his twistedness in personality, simply at the level of a new recruit. Logically speaking, he shouldn't have any real experience to speak of, but what is the truth?"
"Th-That definitely is the impression that Haruga-kun gives..."
"However, to be that calm in a situation surrounded by naked girls—Orihime-san, could it be that you have secretly allowed Harry to earn experience points behind our backs, somewhere unbeknownst to us?"
Luna Francois questioned in a tone of rationality that did not quite match the topic of conversation.
Recalling various events over the past few months, Orihime was taken aback with shock. Whether Asya or her cousin Hazumi, she had too many secrets that must not be revealed to them. In any case, she had to hurry and respond, "W-What do you mean by that, Luna-san!?"
"For example, didn't you show your naked body generously to Harry?"
"It was not generously! It was an accident. I simply forgot to cover myself for a moment because I was too worried about Haruga-kun!"
"Even if you say that, Orihime-san, I'm afraid that at the current stage, you are the one who treats Harry as a member of the opposite sex the most."
"I beg to differ. Think about it, isn't there Asya-san too...?"
"No way. She is the one person for which it is impossible whether physically or morally. Asya is a being that has transcended the likes of femininity or gender to reach the realm of Japanese house spirits."
"Oh no... In my view, Asya-san is a very attractive girl..."
"I already found it strange yesterday," said Hal, sitting cross-legged on a rock by the sea.
He was roughly ten meters away from the bathing girls. There was massive rock blocking between him and the hot spring, preventing him from seeing anything. He was talking to Hinokagutsuchi who had materialized again after a day's interval.
The same as last time, he was at a distance where he could hurry to the rescue as soon as any kind of trouble occurred.
The attack yesterday had taken place during bath time too. Hal had the magic gun on his lap while he stayed vigilant of surroundings.
"Despite liking girls so much, you don't enter the female bath very often."
"Pay it no mind. This is simply a principle of mine. Whenever I summon a girl to the bath, I must not stop until I have given every inch of her skin some loving..."
"How can anyone not be curious about the life of a queen that lives with such a principle!"
Shocked by the unexpected answer, Hal changed the subject.
"By the way, I still have many questions about you guys. Whether Genbu-Ou from a while back or the octopus dragon earlier, do the minions of dragon kings include other creatures in addition to dragons?"
"Fufufu. About that huh—"
"Those things earlier are close relatives of dragon subspecies, right? Namely, imitations of dragons. In other words, the same as the leviathans of humans—"
"Yes. They are creatures created by a mystic ritual for synthesizing fake dragons."
After smirking, Hinokagutsuchi said quietly, "Even contemporary humans are able to synthesize immature 'forgeries.' The same goes for your forefathers. It stands to reason that we dragon kings are capable of using the same art."
"I knew it."
"Naturally, our creations are superior and closer to gods. Especially the likes of Genbu-Ou, a 'forgery' bestowed with a goddess' semblance and conferred a power that even ordinary dragons are unable to use freely."
Hal nodded greatly.
Hinokagutsuchi was a valuable source of information but was unsuitable as a teacher.
Hence, Hal aimed for Hinokagutsuchi's rare and talkative moments.
Due to her personality, she found it tedious when asked to instruct others earnestly in detail. Even if he requested that she "tell everything she knew without omission, disclosing with honesty and efficiency," he would not get a serious answer.
His only recourse was to pose questions when she was in a good mood, then organize the obtained information afterwards.
"Why choose subspecies for minions instead of Raptors or elites...?"
"Hmph. Speaking of dragons—especially the pureblooded—more often than not, they are rash and hot-blooded. Except for attacking and fighting, missions are rarely accomplished even when orders are issued."
At this point, Hinokagutsuchi changed the subject.
"Putting that aside, how about the reason you were attacked?"
"I am referring to the signpost. It has been confirmed during yesterday's incident that it is a piece someone had chipped off the Dragon Palace Court's shell to create a whistle. By pouring magical power into it, sound will be transmitted to the Dragon Palace Court."
"What court? Is that the official name of the Dragon Palace where you used to live?"
"Yes. As long as the sound transmits successfully, the Dragon Palace Court will head over to welcome the user."
"You make it sound like your palace is a mobile castle. But why did tentacled monsters come to welcome us?"
"Indeed. Precisely because of that, it raises a question."
Hinokagutsuchi scoffed furiously, looking quite displeased.
"The queen has not lived in the Dragon Palace Court for almost a millennium. Some lowly peasant from somewhere has taken advantage of the master's absence to take up residence until now... Not entirely implausible."
"Feeling guilty when suddenly hearing the transmitted sound, that guy sent a subordinate, the tentacled squid to scout—"
"Yes, that is very likely too."
The former dragon queen nodded in agreement with Hal's speculation.
But as luck would have it, the Dragon Palace Court's new master turned out to be a successor of dragonslaying power—
"By the way, where did we put that signpost stone later on...?"
Hal and company had obtained the signpost to the Dragon Palace two days earlier.
The situation had been a mess after falling into the sea. He had almost forgotten about t.
Hal traced back his memories. At noon today, the group had held a meeting in the cabin and placed the signpost stone on the table. During that time, Luna definitely picked it up. After that, they had detected the incoming enemy and exited the cabin—That should be what happened.
"Is that stone still in Luna's possession?"
No sooner had Hal spoke than the magic gun on his lap suddenly vibrated.
This was a warning. A wielder of extremely strong magical power was approaching. Hal quickly looked out at sea then gulped.
The pitch-black Pacific Ocean was illuminated by the bright moon and the stars.
A gigantic turtle, as big as a small mountain, had appeared on the sea surface. It was very similar in form as the hundred-meter-long minion, Genbu-Ou, that had served Princess Yukikaze.
However, the total length of the monster this time was at least a kilometer. It was like a small mobile island.
Upon closer examination, the surface of the monster's carapace was extremely level, like flattened land.
On that vast space were symmetrical buildings of varying sizes to form the scenery of a spectacular palace. The architecture was probably based on ancient Chinese styles.
All rooftops were covered with golden glazed tiles.
The pillars and railings were all built using white jade.
And in the center—a entire road was laid in a straight line from the back of the gigantic turtle's head to its tail. Along the road, several large gates and a magnificent main palace had been constructed in an orderly design.
"Hmm, no mistake about it. That there is the Dragon Palace Court... The minion that used to serve as my residence," said Hinokagutsuchi softly.
As predicted, it was minion belonging to the same lineage as Genbu-Ou.
However, the size difference between them was out of this world. Hal was rendered speechless.
Hinokagutsuchi suddenly vanished with the Dragon Palace Court's entry to the stage.
In exchange, the magical power in the magic gun surged higher than usual. As soon as she saw the imminent battle, Hinokagutsuchi had suppressed her consciousness to transfer all magical power to the weapon known as the "magic wand."
Hal nodded and ran towards the natural hot spring.
He could not predict what move the unknown usurper or dragon king with indeterminate motive would make. He must reunite with his companions as soon as possible!
Then Hal reached the hot spring's edge—
"Haruga-kun, look at that!"
"Yeah, I know. Any unusual circumstances?"
"None. Say, Harry, aren't you a little disappointed?"
At the hot spring in the rocks facing the sea, the two girls were already on high alert.
Approaching the shore of the rock formation, out in the distance was the dreadnought-class giant turtle monster. Orihime pointed at the massive body with her finger while Luna Francois showed a tense expression.
The two girls were tightly wrapped in bath towels to cover up their naked bodies.
Incidentally, these bath towels had been found by Hal earlier while searching through the houses.
"I-I am not disappointed. I was just thinking how prepared you two were."
"It hasn't even been a day after all. We have been vigilant the whole time, taking precautions against weird dragons or Haruga-kun that could appear any moment."
"This is called 'better safe than sorry,' Harry."
After the girls finished speaking calmly, Hal refreshed his mindset.
It was admittedly worth celebrating the fact that they had finished preparing to attack, however, despite having been wrapped around their upper torsos, the bath towels still could not completely hide the cleavage and voluptuous busts that belonged only to these two girls. Their thighs and feet were also exposed to a dazzling degree...!
Naturally, Hal did not let these lustful thoughts show on the outside. He tensed his facial expression and said, "Juujouji, please summon Akuro-Ou."
"Yes, leave it to me!"
The white nine-tailed fox-wolf instantly appeared in the night sky above the remote island.
However, just as Akuro-Ou showed up, another magic circle also appeared in the air above the Dragon Palace Court.
Platinum-colored light traced out a triangle with dozens of Ruruk Soun runes arranged in a circle to surround the magic circle, rivaling Akuro-Ou in size.
The triangle instantly transformed into an octopus-headed dragon subspecies.
Not only that, a pair of them were attacking right off the bat this time!
"Two against one—Haruga-kun, please pass the power of the rune to me and Akuro-Ou!"
Naturally, he had no reason to refuse a request from Orihime.
As soon as Hal recited an incantation, the Rune of the Bow surfaced on Orihime's right hand. A black arrowhead appeared on the tip of each of Akuro-Ou's nine tails.
Accompanied by the nine arrowheads, Akuro-Ou flew at the two enemies.
"Akuro-Ou, use fire magic and the Bow's power simultaneously to greet them with a finishing move! In a fight, the first strike is the most important!"
Orihime commanded forcefully. With the Rune of the Chain at their disposal, of course the enemies could not be defeated easily. Orihime must have issued her orders after careful contemplation.
Using a powerful attack to restrain the enemy from the get go, meanwhile gauging the enemy's strength—
This was probably her plan. A novice witch whose career had only begun a few short months ago and also a kendo girl who had won a national tournament, she was steadily accumulating concrete combat experience.
Led by Akuro-Ou, the nine arrowheads began to burn intensely.
Thus, the arrowheads turned into burning projectiles to attack the two octopus-headed dragons.
The nine flames struck their targets with surprising accuracy. Four of the arrowheads connected with the first dragon while the other five pierced the second, defeating and incinerating them, resulting in a giant explosion.
The two octopus-headed dragons were crushed in an instant, rendered into flaming charcoal.
" " "!?" " "
Faced with this landslide victory, Hal, Orihime and Luna Francois could not help but stare wide-eyed.
But at that very instant, the sound of clanging chains appeared. Apart from that, they could hear the chain user's mantra—A dragonslaying incantation.
"I hereby pray to my seal that shines in the sea of stars, the Chain of Heavenly Imprisonment. Grant me power to enslave yonder female dragon."
The enemy recited quietly in a gloomy voice.
An iron chain suddenly flew in with a square counterweight on its tip.
With lightning speed, the chain wrapped around Orihime, who was clothed in nothing but a towel, immobilizing her in merely an instant.
Leaving a scream behind, the improperly dressed Orihime vanished just like that.
Orihime had suddenly gone missing. Immediately, her newly victorious partner, Akuro-Ou, also disappeared from the sky.
Seeing Orihime and Akuro-Ou vanish, Hal's mind instantly went blank.
With irrepressible rage, he stared at Orihime's former location, then the iron chain, all the way to the opponent wielding this chain—The enemy had shown up extremely up close by the time he noticed.
The "chain user" was standing on a rock merely a couple meters away.
Hal raised his gun to shoot without saying a word, aiming for the user's heart.
However, the bullets were deflected by a pearly barrier. Obviously, that was imperishable protection.
Surrounded by imperishable protection, the chain user was standing on two legs, featured a pair of arms, but was covered with scales. The face and head were like a ferocious reptile's. A pair of dragon wings sprouted from the back.
This was a half-human half-dragon form that elite dragons took on through magic.
A body colored gray on the surface, dressed in a black robe. The gray Draconian was gripping one end of the long chain in his hand, presumably the manifestation of the Rune of the Chain similar to Hal's magic gun.
The iron chain was roughly ten-odd meters in length.
Like a living snake, it writhed about.
Currently, it was coiled in a spiral. The counterweighted tip quivered rhythmically like a snake's head and formed an arch.
"What did you do with Juujouji...?"
"Valuable treasure should fall into the hands of the worthy. Nothing more than that."
Hal asked in a low voice and the gray Draconian replied gloomily.
By touching his magic gun's body with his left hand, Hal could still clearly sense his vassal bond with Akuro-Ou and Orihime. They were probably imprisoned rather than killed off.
Hal nodded greatly and aimed his gun at the chain user again.
"I'm not opposed to talking if there's room for negotiation, you know?"
"Foolish. Are you a newcomer ignorant of the ways of the dragons? Tyrannos of the Bow."
The ways of the dragons—Needless to say, that meant fighting.
Normally, Hal would never go along with a taunt so easily. But now that Juujouji Orihime had been captured, he pulled the trigger with surprising readiness.
Fully automatic fire. This was the technique of assured annihilation that instantly consumed thirty bullets.
Since he had chosen to resist through violent means, it would be pointless to retaliate without sufficient force.
However, in response to this technique of assured annihilation—
"O Chain of Heavenly Imprisonment. Depict a ring to manifest the fortress of stars!"
The Draconian chain user pulled out his own trump card.
The chain activated again and clanged, turning into a spiral to encircle him. It looked almost like a spiraling vortex of stars.
The spiral chain completely blocked the thirty bullets shot with fully automatic fire!
"No effect at all!?"
Informed by the magic gun, Hal was shocked.
The Rune of the Chain was definitely not an easy power of dragonbane to control, if simply used for offense. After all, as the manifestation of a "chain," it could not be used purely as a weapon. Conversely, a chain was suitable for special purposes such as binding, sealing or defense...
"Meaning it's the transforming type?"
While muttering softly, Hal noticed something else.
Could this Draconian chain user be a dragon king instead of a Tyrannos?
In the past, when Hinokagutsuchi saw the radiance given off by Pavel Galad, the user of the Rune of the Sword, she had exposed the fact that he was not a dragon king. This time, Hal had witnessed the Rune of the Chain multiple times. Its platinum-colored splendor was much more powerful than his own or Galad's...
He had zero remaining ammunition whereas the only "serpent," Glinda, could not oppose a dragonslayer.
Furthermore, if the enemy was dragon king-class—Hal exhaled deeply. In that case, he had no choice but to unleash everything he was capable of.
"Harry, if the situation turns desperate, I could send Glinda on a suicide run to secure an escape route."
"Thanks. In the worst-case scenario, we might really have to do that, then I'm counting on you when the time comes. But in a word, let's try out my final trump card first..."
He thanked Luna, whose tone of voice was nervous and stiff rather than calm.
Hal forcefully focused his consciousness on his own heart. This was the organ that had merged with the heartmetal of the Crimson Queen—Hinokagutsuchi in the past—a month ago.
"I'm counting on you. Serve as my limbs, Queen!"
After Hal shouted with all his strength, a crimson dragon immediately appeared in front of him.
This was the most ferocious entity known to Hal. Not only did the body exceed twenty meters in length, but the head also had nine golden horns standing upright like a crown, the chest area had ossified into an exoskeleton that shone with golden light.
Hal activated the "power to control the Crimson Queen" which he had obtained a month earlier together with the heartmetal.
"Hmm? Could the Crimson Queen have survived to this day... No."
Witnessing the return of the former dragon king, the Draconian chain user muttered quietly.
"Not only has the Tyrannos stolen the Rune of the Bow but also her remains. What a heartrending story."
"Screw that! It was a legitimate deal with mutual agreement!"
With a shout, Hal activated the will to attack.
The Crimson Queen instantly swung her right forelimb. The five sharp claws slammed down at the chain user, ready to tear him apart.
The enemy defended differently against this attack.
The Draconian chain user's body suddenly expanded, turning back into a dragon's form. Using his forelimb, he pushed the queen's sharp claws away.
"Now that I have to face the Crimson Queen, a corpse she may be... I must take to the battle in my former appearance."
The chain user used an elite dragon's body and stance to declare boldly.
A body surface of gray. In terms of physique, he seemed more delicate than any elite that Hal had encountered so far, but there was no impression of weakness at all. The aura exuded would be more akin to that of a slim but sharp blade.
And by the gray dragon's side—
A gigantic chain matching the size of his massive body, arched in a sickle shape like a snake's neck, coiled around his body.
"This pressure... Can only be matched by the white dragon king encountered last time."
Luna Francois murmured stiffly.
The gray dragon's elite body was shrouded in strong magical power. Combined with the ferocity and stern dignity exuded from his entire body, he did not seem inferior to Princess Yukikaze or the Crimson Queen at all.
So the enemy was dragon king-class after all—?
Hal frowned intensely. Although he had resurrected the Crimson Queen successfully, it was only temporary. Although he was not an Ultra warrior from a certain Land of Light, the combat duration was limited to only three minutes or so.
Beyond this time limit, the queen's body would naturally crumble.
Aware of the odds stacked against him, Hal suddenly felt the magic gun in his hand vibrate. A warning—No, the "wand" serving as his guide to the magic wanted to tell him something?
It was almost like a reminder to him to further discern the enemy's true nature—
Just as Hal focused his eyes to stare, the gray enemy spoke up, "O Tyrannos of the Bow, let us postpone this battle and select an alternative time. I also request this as a gesture of respect towards the queen's remains that you control."
Five runes of Ruruk Soun appeared in front of the gray dragon.
This arrangement signified "shadow transformation." Soon after, his gigantic body turned into black mist, instantly dissipating his physical form.
"You are the puppeteer who controls the false queen. I am but a shadow of a past dragon king. With neither side completely prepared, there is no haste to decide the victor between us..."
"You call yourself the shadow of a dragon king? What is your name—"
"I am the Gray Aristocrat. Chase after me if that is your intent, but I shall strike back mercilessly. All the female dragons in your possession shall become mine after I defeat you, a perfectly welcome outcome..."
The black mist, still a dragon ten-odd seconds earlier, slowly moved out to sea.
What lay ahead of him was the Dragon Palace Court, the magnificent palace built on top of a island-like carapace, the minion that had been serving the Crimson Queen until eight centuries ago.
After introducing himself as the Gray Aristocrat, the chain user drifted into the palace in the form of mist.
Now that Orihime and Akuro-Ou had been abducted by that dragon(?), Hal was confronted by a development completely different from his anticipations before setting off on this expedition.
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