Leviathan:Volume 6 Chapter 1
Chapter 1 - Aboard Solomon's Ark
The spaceship Anastasya was equipped with many astounding capabilities.
First of all, one must introduce the miraculous properties of the QX metal serving as the power source.
Just by exposing molten QX metal to special radiation then letting it come into contact with "copper," the copper would start flying away at super-high speed in a straight line.
This allowed for impressive flight capabilities, sufficient to escape the Earth's surface, break past the atmosphere and fly to the farthest reaches of the universe.
This massive force of propulsion was generated using the unique properties of QX metal—restricting the motion of the constituent copper particles to a fixed vector.
Hal—Haruga Haruomi—was an adventurer and scientist who had traveled throughout the universe.
His spaceship, the Anastasya, was fitted with a QX engine. Using the same underlying principle, the QX cannon was able to fire super-high performance nuclear bombs with yields of twenty-thousand kilotons, sinking even the large spaceships of space pirates in a single strike...
"Senpai, this is my first time hearing about a spaceship that uses metal for fuel."
It was inside the Anastasya's control room.
Shirasaka Hazumi was sitting in the co-pilot's seat in front of the navigation sheet.
She was dressed in Kogetsu Academy's uniform. Hal wondered if he should ask her to change into a form-fitting pilot suit to accentuate her bodily curves.
Devising a plan with ulterior motives, Hal was in the pilot's seat. He was also wearing a school uniform.
"In the past, this would've been a very high-tech setting. After all, it's a retro system capable of flying between the stars for a science fiction journey without using stuff like antimatter or degeneracy reactors."
"S-So much difficult jargon."
"Hmm. During a time when it was possible to communicate without using this slightly complicated jargon, like in science fiction or space operas—those space novels serialized in pulp magazines—they frequently used copper as a propellant to fly spaceships into the universe."
Sitting next to his junior/assistant, Hal explained talkatively.
This was clearly a story set in the distant future, yet he was talking about an ancient, more modest age.
"They would purchase copper ore and copper products in bulk from hardware stores in town."
"How long ago was this?"
"From the 1920s to the 40s... America during the era of Lovecraft, the writer of horror fiction that I mentioned before. He would comment on other authors' works of science fiction and once wrote 'the only flaw in this story is its use of other planets as the stage'."
He offered positive comments for the overall story but concluded with that sentence.
"If I had to use modern Japan as analogy, it'd be like a fantasy novelist at M● Bunko J criticizing a peer's romantic comedy 'using a school as the stage is too lowbrow.' His own novels were clearly published in pulp magazines, in particular, the horror magazine Weird Tales as well as Amazing Stories and Astounding Stories both of which specialized in publishing science fiction novels."
"I don't quite follow, but it does sound a bit strange."
Incidentally, H. P. Lovecraft also seemed to have changed his mind while writing the Call of Cthulhu, a space horror novel.
He even used extraterrestrial planets such as Kadath to serve as the stage for stories.
"Old Mr. Lovecraft wasn't a bad guy, but he often said one or two things that he shouldn't have. He seemed like a delicate man who was hard to get along with. By the way—"
Hazumi nodded and even began to take notes.
Seeing her so innocent, Hal felt his mood brighten up while he continued to make inconsequential conversation.
"Among readers who enjoy Japanese light novels, there are occasionally people who want to know more about the Cthulhu mythos after seeing references in games or anime. I think it's pretty interesting to read more works from the past and not rely only on searching information from the internet. Lately, there have been books taking old classics to add explanations and comicalize them. Also, author circles have risen up where experts can come together in their efforts to research Lovecraft, or even someone arguably more important than the experts—like Mr. Derleth—have been able to discover information that one wouldn't learn just from reading catalogs of the Old Ones that are no different from monster picture books."
Hazumi moved her pen hastily, writing the knowledge into her notes.
It was a different matter when interacting with his childhood friend or Luna Francois, a bird of the same feather as him, but contrary to what appearances may suggest, Hal actually kept himself under pretty good control when in the presence of Hazumi or Orihime.
However, he accidentally revealed some of his true depths today.
"If you're interested in the Cthulhu mythos, you can dig deeper by reading books written by authors from the same period like R. E. Howard, E. E. Smith, Edmond Hamilton, or works dating earlier such as E. R. Burroughs—Doing research on American science fiction and fantasy novels from that time period can be very fun. Recently in Japan, a bunch of novels popped out inexplicably, revering Burroughs as their 'orginator.'"
"Mr. Burroughs, is that right?"
"In simple terms, he's the guy who created Tarzan the king of the jungle. He's the one who wrote the original novels in the Tarzan series."
"I've heard of Tarzan!"
"A Princess of Mars is also considered one of his signature works and Di●ney recently made a movie out of it. The granddaddy of adventure stories set in another world, it's an exemplary masterpiece of 'this is where it all began'... The story is about Captain John Carter, a wounded Confederacy officer during the American Civil War, who looked out into the sky one night and was somehow sucked away to Mars."
Speaking of which, Hal had casually flipped through a similar novel before.
Champion? Campiote? The title was something along those lines. In a similar manner, this book kept bringing up scholarly knowledge about mythology from all over the world—Or more accurately, drivel of no particular importance.
Since it was a different publisher, doing that once in a while was probably harmless.
While thinking about inexplicable matters on his own, Hal continued, "Look, you've probably seen it before, the kind of plot about a Terran getting summoned to another world. Then Captain Carter, who was already a powerful man on Earth, became even more powerful after arriving on Mars. You can even consider him the strongest hero on Mars. Thus, he embarked on a great adventure across war-torn Mars, driven by his sense of justice to extend a helping hand to people in need. He even rescued an imprisoned princess and fell in love, marrying her. Finally, he became Martian royalty. Leading armies on the battlefield in magnificence, he became the great hero who united Mars."
Summoned to a life of adventure in another world and making it big—
This pattern had always been very popular in juvenile adventure novels.
Recently, there was apparently a revival of this trend in Japan, centered in the internet.
In fact, as the granddaddy of them all, the Mars series practically included all the delicious flavor and essence found in similar stories.
"Stories of Terrans running over to another world probably existed as far back as two thousand years ago. Still, I believe that Burroughs should be seen as the originator based on the criterion of attaining popularity through novels whose only objective was entertainment of the masses. Descendants and distant descendants continue to show up endlessly even now, subconsciously emulating his works or making minor changes. This might actually be a bit similar to the relationship between progenitors and their kin in vampire novels. Nowadays, there are already many people in the publishing industry who have never even heard of the Mars series..."
A strange phenomenon took place when Hal reached this point in his explanations.
The Anastasya was a ship with the highest specs in the solar system.
Namely, Hal and Hazumi's spaceship. Reaching almost thirty meters in length, its streamlined teardrop-shaped fuselage shook violently.
Until now, it had been cruising smoothly on an orbit around Venus.
The shaking did not happen just once. After that, the fuselage continued to vibrate mildly!
"D-Did an accident occur?"
"No, we ran out of fuel. This ship is a total glutton..."
This spaceship could be operated by a crew no bigger than the number of people needed to run a personally operated small business.
Yet this tiny craft was the fastest in the universe and equipped with firepower that could only be described as overspec'd.
This was a tradition tacitly accepted ever since the earliest space novels. Custom made inventions created by genius scientists were innumerable.
However, there were occasionally stories that would impose weaknesses upon them.
Hal and Hazumi's beloved spacecraft, the Anastasya, was one of them.
"Anyway, this ship is a big eater. Using a human analogy, it needs to be served five snacks and four special meals in addition to the three staples of breakfast, lunch and dinner, not to mention a smoothie before breakfast and dinner has to include a serving each of ramen and chazuke. That's why it suddenly ran out of fuel and couldn't continue flying..."
Hence, the Anastasya began to crash.
One might consider it fortunate that after losing control, the ship did not end up as scrap metal floating in the endless universe.
The spaceship crashed into the Venus atmosphere nearby.
In this time period, the various solar system planets including Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter had been terraformed by future technology to make them inhabitable by mankind.
However, that did not mean they could be equated to "safe lands."
The Venus situation was such that the majority of the land was covered by jungle or filled with marshes. Dangerous beasts and monsters inhabited these jungles.
The Anastasya made an emergency landing at one of these jungles near the equator.
"It finallys stabilized..."
"L-Let's go outside to have a look, Senpai!"
Hal and Hazumi finally breathed a sigh of relief.
Their energy source, the QX engine was completely silent.
Even electricity could not be produced, much less propulsion for a spacecraft to take off. Carrying flashlights, Hal and Hazumi opened the hatch manually and exited the ship.
After that, they walked in the jungle for about three hours.
Using sizes on Earth as a reference, it would not be strange for the giant trees growing in the jungle to have lived as much as centuries.
The sky and the sun were obscured by the foliage of the towering trees growing on Venusian soil. It was currently daytime yet the inside of the jungle was dark.
The air was humid and stuffy.
The Kogetsu Academy uniforms they were wearing soon became soiled by sweat and mud.
While exploring under unpleasant conditions, they sent out flying devices equipped with tiny cameras to get a grasp on the surrounding geography.
They also measured the terrestrial magnetic field to determine their latitude and longitude. This allowed them to confirm on the map that there was a Venusian settlement roughly fifty kilometers ahead.
Then they took a break at a lake flowing with clear water.
The great jungles of Venus were all dark and gloomy environments like this.
However, Hal felt incredibly satisfied amidst all this.
"Mm-hmm. Speaking of Venus, it's the planet of giant jungles after all as well as the headquarters of the solar system library or the Galaxy Patrol."
"Yeah. This is functional beauty as defined by retro science fiction. Also, Mars is basically a planet that's one big wasteland, which feels like there maybe ruins left from the extinction of a super ancient civilization or remnants of canals."
"Fufufufu. That's wonderful, Senpai! Say—"
After smiling like an angel as always, soothing Hal's heart and soul, Hazumi asked, "I'd like to take a bath here. May I?"
"What did you say!?"
Hal jumped in shock and alarm and instantly shook his head.
"No, absolutely not."
"I can't...? I'm all sweaty and we finally found clean water, so I'd like to rinse myself."
Having lost power, the Anastasya could not activate its water purification system either.
Hazumi should be allowed to make use of nature's blessings to take a bath as desired. However, Hal still replied mercilessly, "Listen carefully, Shirsaka. Bath scenes offering legal fanservice definitely are the highlights elevating B movies to top-class entertainment, but there's a common pattern. Heroines who go off alone unnecessarily will most likely meet a fate to please the audience. If you go take a bath on your own, you might get attacked."
"Just in case, I'll stay on guard next to you. Otherwise, I won't allow you to take a bath."
Hal took out his gun from his hip holster.
But instead of the magic gun he always kept with him, this was a large-caliber blaster, bigger and more in line with retro sci-fi settings.
In an adorable tone of voice, Hazumi said, "...Excuse me, Senpai. Even for you, that is still 'naughty naughty!', you know?"
"Why do you say that?"
"Because you will see me in the nude, Senpai. Please leave this lake for now, Senpai."
Hal went "hnng!"
Simply hearing Hazumi, the obedient girl younger than him, gently scolding him "naughty naughty!" wa enough to fill Hal's body and soul with indescribable contentment. So adorable. Too adorable.
He wanted to take the easy way out, but that would not guarantee his protege's safety.
Hal did not back down.
"Then I'll turn around and look away from the lake and you, Shirasaka."
"That way, even if enemies attacked, I'd still be able to take care of them quickly. If no one shows up, of course I won't take a single peek at you. What do you think?"
"Fine... I guess that'll have to do."
After some hesitation, Hazumi chuckled and agreed to Hal's suggestion.
"On further thought, it's not like you'll do anything weird, Senpai."
"That goes without saying!"
Hal turned his back to the protege who trusted him completely.
Then he heard the sound of friction between clothing.
Hazumi was currently removing her uniform. Then the splashing of water implied she had entered the lake.
Immediately after that, a sinister beast's roar was heard.
"Just as I predicted!"
Hazumi screamed loudly. Hal immediately opened his eyes and looked back.
A giant squid, roughly four meters in length, had appeared out of the water, extending one of its tentacles towards Hazumi who was standing in the lake's shallows.
Naturally, Hazumi was unclothed.
Completely naked, she gave off vibes like a lake fairy that were amplified by the location of a jungle on another planet, and a jungle spring at that.
Her limbs were so delicate that it seemed like they would break under the pressure of a hug.
Even so, she was still showing volume in all the right places.
Only fourteen years of age, her body traced out beautiful curves that made the viewer look forward to her growth. Still, Hazumi's body was "maidenly" from head to toe without giving anyone the impression of excessive maturation.
One tentacle had tangled itself around Hazumi's wrist.
(...I think I've seen this giant squid before.)
It was identical to the monster they had encountered at the Izu waters before.
While thinking that, Hal fired four times consecutively from his blaster. One of the shots struck and blew away the tentacle entangling Hazumi's wrist.
All that was left to do was shooting and destroying this mysterious giant organism that had appeared in a freshwater lake even though it was a squid.
My shooting skills are faster than the eye can follow.
As the hero of this action scene, Hal was virtually unstoppable across the entire universe.
"Thank you, Senpai!"
This was followed by what would be a staple scene.
Utterly grateful, Hazumi threw herself into Hal's embrace.
Hal caught his protege's wet body. Her appropriately bulging breasts was pressed against Haruga Haruomi's stomach.
This included those pink parts adorning the front tips of her breasts.
Crap, crap, form is no different from emptiness, and emptiness is no different from form...
To suppress thoughts of lust, Hal summoned his sage's mind that was immovable as a rock.
Speaking of which, it was not too long ago when he had grabbed Shirasaka's breast in his right hand to inject magical power directly into her heart.
Just as Hal's vivid memory of that sensation were revived—
He suddenly came to his senses.
The impressions and memories of physical contact, branded upon the palm of his hand—They made his consciousness reconnect with his body's sensations.
Hal instantly became wide awake.
"Where am I...?"
He looked around him.
There was nothing. If anything, it was just a gray space.
The background was gray. The was also gray. Before his eyes was just endless "gray."
There was clearly no floor or ground, yet Hal remained sitting firmly in this gray space. Rather than "sitting," it was more like hovering in the air.
He was holding Shirasaka Hazumi in his arms.
In the final moments of the retro sci-fi farce that seemed like a weird dream, he had been holding Hazumi like this—His current posture was identical to that.
Hazumi's eyes were tightly shut. She was sleeping soundly. However, she murmured in her dream, "Sorry, you warned me beforehand, Senpai..."
She must have experienced the same dream as Hal.
She was still inside that farce, imprisoned by magic in a strange realm of sleep and dreams—
Hal suddenly noticed.
Hazumi was not wearing her school uniform but casual clothes. This was the same set of clothes she was wearing during the battle against dragon king Hannibal at New York during the summer vacation.
"What on earth happened?" Hal muttered to himself.
Hal took a deep breath and began to organize his memories.
"I remember after the fight with Hannibal, Solomon's legacy, the Rune of the Ring, had appeared together with the seventy-two serpent souls and they were releasing magical power over our heads."
His thoughts grew more and more lucid.
"Next, the Ring said to us in an extremely deep voice..."
Something about accepting King Solomon's invitation.
As one would expect, the reason why the attack struck Hal directly without him being able to defend against the magical power released by the Ring was because an instant before that, his deathmatch against the strongest dragon king had just concluded.
Right now, he was imprisoned inside a mysterious gray space.
A world of gray as far the eye could see.
The scenery remained constant all the way to the far end of the horizon. Nothing resembling an exit was in sight.
"Is this a prison for locking away Shirasaka and me?"
Hal muttered quietly, holding his sleeping junior in his arms.
But he mustered his determination and deliberately laid Hazumi's delicate body on the ground.
Like Hal, who was sitting on gray air, the sleeping Hazumi also floated in the air. She happened to hover at Hal's feet.
Given this incomprehensible situation, the space must have been created by magic no matter how you looked at it.
In other words, I should use this to counter it—Hal summoned his "magic wand" to his right hand.
Rather than a retro sci-fi blaster, it was his usual steel-colored magic gun.
"I wasn't killed in my sleep—" said Hal to the magic gun.
"I guess that's because Solomon-senpai doesn't have enough power to do that?"
"You are probably correct."
Residing inside the magic gun, the former dragon queen, Hinokagutsuchi, replied.
Her tone was slightly sarcastic as usual and sounded quite malicious.
"What a wise idea, ambushing a fierce tiger in its sleep... However, if one were to step on the tiger's tail by accident, they would be torn apart by the awakened tiger's claws in a single swipe."
"In that case, might as well let it sleep—Is that what he's thinking?"
"Precisely. Solomon has a trickier captive. He cannot afford to spend all his power on you."
A trickier captive?
Hal tilted his head then had a flash of insight.
On further thought, the red dragon king should be exhausted just like the rest of them.
This meant that Hal had to take the strongest dragon's presence into consideration when planning his escape and counterattack...
While Hal was putting his mind to work, Hinokagutsuchi said, "Have you noticed, brat? Your trump card was stolen again."
Now that she mentioned it, Hal hastily focused his consciousness on his own chest.
The heart beneath was specially crafted. It was the organ created by merging with the heartmetal belonging to Hinokagutsuchi—the dragon queen—in the past.
It was also linked to her dragonoid body...
Indeed. The dragon king-class husk of the Crimson Queen which obeyed Haruga Haruomi's orders.
However, Hal could not sense the queen's presence at all right now.
"Solomon-senpai got me again."
During the battle against Hannibal, Solomon's ghost and the Ring had stolen the Crimson Queen from Hal, taking perfect control of her. The same situation had happened again.
"A practically equal opponent is such a hassle."
It was a back and forth battle with both sides taking advantage of each other's openings.
The thrill and experience was different compared to an intense showdown against a dragon king, far stronger than himself.
However, Hal was not really the type to indulge in the pleasures of battle itself. He grumbled and bit then sighed lightly.
No matter what, he had to escape this place and awaken Hazumi.
"Although fighting a second round isn't really my thing..."
No helping it. Hal touched the magic gun and used Dispel magic.
It was definitely no easy task to overcome the magical power belonging to Solomon, the great ancient sorcerer, but with Haruga Haruomi at a comparable level right now, it should not be impossible—
Certain of this, Hal extracted magical power from his own heart.
In the next instant, the surrounding scenery changed.
Hal's location was no longer the unnatural gray space.
He had moved to a stone hall with gigantic pillars of white stone standing upright all over the place. Described using an experiences from Earth, it looked very similar to marble.
"It reminds me of Islamic mosques..."
The architectural style was unlike any in modern Japan.
The ceiling glowed faintly, serving as illumination.
Hal's official assistant was lying on the stone floor. The girl went "mm..." adorably and slowly opened her eyes.
"Senpai... Where on earth are we...?"
"Probably Solomon-senpai's ark that we awakened—Somewhere inside it. Anyway, we need to start planning our escape."
He nodded at the still drowsy Hazumi.
"It's like a temple..."
Hal said quietly.
Several minutes earlier, after explaining the situation to Hazumi, he had decided to take a quick tour.
This was inside the building made of white stone. There was not a single person nor did he encounter any wild beasts or monsters. It was quite all around.
Precisely because of that, this place felt rather holy.
While the two of them were walking aimlessly along a passage like this—
"Well, this is the mansion belonging to Solomon-senpai the great sorcerer of legend. Calling it a temple wouldn't be wrong."
Walking next to Hal, Hazumi asked, "I remember that King Solomon was the king of Israel... Wasn't he?"
"Yeah. But that Israel refers to the ancient kingdom founded by the ancestors of the Jews, the Kingdom of Israel. Of course, it's different from the Israel in the modern Middle East."
According to the Old Testament of the Bible, the first monarch of this kingdom was King Saul.
The one who succeeded Saul was not his son Jonathan, but Jonathan's best friend and the great hero who had defeated Goliath the giant—David.
Solomon was the son of David.
During King Solomon's reign, the Kingdom of Israel reached an unprecedented height in power.
However, after the great sorcerer king's death, the kingdom fragmented into two pieces, one north and one south, never recovering again—
"But somehow, something doesn't feel right."
After walking for an hour or two, Hal felt doubt rising in his mind.
They had discovered almost ten rooms including small rooms resembling studio apartments as well as great halls where one could hold dance parties.
One would definitely not consider this an exceptionally extravagant arrangement.
Most Japanese people would probably understand if the analogy of "pretty much the same as a community hall you can find anywhere" was used to describe the building's floor area and number of rooms.
However, this was the strange part.
Solomon's ark had been summoned from the other side of the sea of stars.
This ship was definitely huge. Reaching thirty meters in length, it was definitely big enough to serve as a coffin for a giant, but even so—
In terms of interior space, wasn't it a bit too vast?
"Senpai! There's an exit!"
While Hal was feeling puzzled, Hazumi said to him in elation.
She pointed ahead in the passage with her right index finger. There was a wide exit where dazzling light was streaming in from the outdoors. It looked like sunlight...
Hal and Hazumi quickly walked to the bright exit.
They were finally outdoors.
Overhead was a vast blue sky.
Hanging high above, the sun was radiant.
The land underfoot was a small island floating in the air. The island had only one building, the stone temple they had just exited.
A more careful look revealed several—no, hundreds—of similar islands floating in this blue sky.
Every island featured at least one temple of similar appearance.
"What's with this place!?"
"This doesn't look like this ship's interior!"
Hal and Hazumi were shocked, but Hinokagutsuchi said in boredom, "This trick isn't actually that amazing. That guy Solomon simply used magic to expand and contort space. He probably set up some kind of barrier inside the ark."
Residing within the magic gun, the former dragon queen spoke calmly.
So far unable to give up an ordinary person's sensibilities, Hal whispered in a hoarse voice, "So this place is still inside Senpai's ship huh..."
Hazumi was dumbfounded in astonishment next to Hal, sweeping her gaze in a circle to look at the endless blue sky before her.
It was rare for the obedient and gentle Hazumi to scream like this.
One could hardly blame her. This was because she was currently skydiving without a parachute or a lifeline, holding hands with Hal.
The location was the starting point where Hal and Hazumi had just woken up—A sky island.
Standing on the edge, they took a great leap into the air.
Naturally, the two of them began to free fall, crashing down headfirst. The intense howling of strong wind rushed past their ears.
"Don't worry, we'll land safely!"
Hugging Hazumi, Hal yelled out.
Naturally, he was falling together with his protege, which was why Hal used Feather Fall magic. Thrown off Akuro-Ou mid-flight, Asya had used the same magic in the past.
Immediately, their rate of fall decelerated sharply.
Hal and Hazumi floated downwards lightly like a falling feather.
This speed could not be called free fall anymore. Used to counter gravity, the magic felt like a giant's hand, setting the two of them down gently.
"Senpai! We're flying in the sky!"
Hazumi's screaming instantly turned into words of joy.
The magic developed by the modern magic association, SAURU, could not control a skill as high-level as flight.
But it could allow one to take on the sky a bit in this manner.
"If possible, I'd like to try ascending in addition to landing," Hal muttered while concentrating.
This was to correct their falling direction. A number of sky islands were floating in the air within their view.
However, there was no telling which island they would land on if they simply allowed themselves to fall. In such a situation, the two of them would drift left like a dandelion seed as soon as Hal thought "to the left a bit" to himself.
They enjoyed a very buoyant and unusual free fall for about five minutes.
Then they landed on a certain sky island.
Like the island at their starting point, this one had a "temple" too.
Its size and appearance resembled a "grand stadium" except built entirely with white marble.
There were ancient ruins of temples in the Mediterranean and Middle East—
This temple was reminiscent of that kind of architecture. Perhaps this was the architectural style of the ancient Kingdom of Israel.
"Anyway, let's search this place too."
After the first island, Hal and Hazumi stepped into the temple on the second island.
Roughly one hour passed...
Walking out of the temple, Hal looked dissatisfied while Hazumi had a confused expression.
The brilliant sun hanging up high continued to radiate heat and light, illuminating the blue sky where hundreds of islands were drifting in the air. Even so—
The mood was gloomy.
"Let alone food, we can't even find water..."
"I am a bit hungry..."
"Given her poor fuel efficiency, Asya would surely be raising a fuss by now if she were here. But then again, she might be able to find food using her beast-like sense of smell..."
Inside the building that was styled like a solemn temple, there were no usable supplies at all.
If anything counted as something they found—
"Although the search wasn't a waste of time, we still need a way to handle hunger."
From his pocket, Hal took out the result of their search.
It was a piece of pure gold, but only as big as the tip of one's little finger.
Gold, silver, treasure and gemstones could be found all over the temple on this sky island.
Hal had chosen "something that looks very valuable, but the smaller the better" and pocketed it. To avoid it getting in the way during their escape, he did not take very much.
"B-But Senpai, is this really okay? Taking things without permission..."
"I think so. This is inside Solomon-senpai's ark and I'm legitimately inheriting his fortune as the successor."
He replied decisively to the apologetic Hazumi.
Prior to the battle against Hannibal in New York, Hal had carried out the Legacy Inheritance ritual, which resulted in Solomon's ark flying over from space.
In a certain sense, one could say that Hal had already obtained the original owner's consent.
Completely unfazed, he continued, "Of course, a proper archaeologist wouldn't do this, but I—We treasure hunters rely on these things to supplement our incomes, because our work necessitates many expenses."
"You're right... I guess."
Hazumi smiled immediately after a moment's hesitation.
"Perhaps that is how things work. Fufu."
She seemed to realize Hal's reason for saying "we."
Despite some weight on her conscience, the girl who loved adventure stories about the likes of gentleman thieves and grave robbers set in ancient ruins still chose to become an "accomplice."
"But right now, I'd rather find bread and wine than treasure—That's my honest opinion. If only investigative magic was working."
Hal specialized in magic including Sense Magical Power, Heat Sensing, Enemy Detection, etc.
Probably because the interior of the ark was within King Solomon's barrier, Hal could not gather any information even when using those spells.
That was why they had to charge into the temple without knowing anything.
In the end, they did not see any humans, animals, magical creatures or mechanical lifeforms. Even the most necessary food and water could not be found.
At this rate, they were going to faint from malnutrition and lack of calories.
"If you think about it, this place is the coffin and graveyard for the long dead Solomon-senpai. The serpent souls placed along with him are like non-corporeal ghosts. Even if gold, silver and treasure were put in as grave goods, I suppose they wouldn't prepare stuff like food, right...?"
Hal made an ominous deduction.
They were originally hoping to find the exit at least, but that was in vain too.
"The only method left is to catch Solomon-senpai and make him release us through either brute force or negotiation. But that requires locating Senpai first."
"Senpai, wouldn't it be better to fly by using Minadzuki as a mount?"
"That's definitely more efficient than floating down slowly."
Hal began to ponder Hazumi's suggestion.
However, there was a problem with that method too.
'Serpents' were extremely conspicuous due to their strong magical power and great size. Flying in the sky with virtually no obstructions, they would be discovered sooner or later. Even if they used stealth magic like during the infiltration of the Dragon Palace Court, effectiveness would still be unknown.
That being said, flying would definitely make movement and exploration much easier. Hal nodded in agreement.
"I wouldn't be surprised if Solomon-senpai has discovered that we've lifted the sleeping spell. In that case, let's pick the fastest method to get us out of here. Counting on you, Shirasaka."
Thus, Hazumi summoned her partner.
The emerald serpentine dragon leviathan, Minadzuki, featured a pair of wings glowing with golden radiance. Despite using up substantial stamina during the Hannibal battle, her physical condition and magical power had recovered during the time when Hazumi had been imprisoned by the dream magic.
Originally over twenty meters in length, Minadzuki was currently much smaller.
She had shrunk down to five meters or so at Hazumi's request.
Even so, she was still a size larger than the majority of large reptiles such as crocodiles.
Hal and Hazumi mounted the miniaturized Minadzuki together near the spot where the pair of wings sprouted.
As a side note, Hazumi was sitting in front as the "pilot" with Hal behind her.
"I'd like to get a grasp on the overall situation inside the ark. Can we fly up first?"
"Very well. Please do that, Minadzuki."
Responding to the witch's request, the serpentine dragon leviathan began to soar.
Speaking of which, Minadzuki apparently used unbelievable magic during the battle earlier—
Hal remembered. Back then, Hannibal was about to deliver a fatal blow to the battered Crimson Queen. However, Minadzuki's use of healing magic had helped the Crimson Queen to recover slightly and launch a counterattack with her blade...
Carrying Hal while he contemplated, the emerald serpentine dragon flew into the sky.
She twisted her body while moving forward, resembling swimming more than flying.
However, about ten minutes after she started flying, a creature came out from nowhere and blocked in front of their graceful journey in the air.
Simply stated, it was a gray winged dragon.
Like Rushalka that Hal and Hazumi knew so well, it was a gigantic winged creature.
It lacked forelimbs despite resembling the bodies of dragonkind. Instead of arms, a pair of wings were connected to the shoulders. Furthermore, this wyvern featured even more striking characteristics.
Its head had a crest and the beak was also extraordinarily sharp.
As it result, its entire head looked like a triangle to Hal.
The appearance of this flying creature was very similar to the most famous species of pterosaur.
Rather than a category of dragon, it was a winged dinosaur in paleobiology. However, one would have to assume there were giant pteranodons from the Cretaceous Period with wings spanning twenty meters in the first place.
This winged dragon flew directly towards them.
With its wings spread wide, it rode the wind to glide with agility.
The pair of eyes on the triangular head stared straight at Minadzuki as well as Hal and Hazumi who were riding on her back.
"Maybe we accidentally invaded that thing's territory?"
"W-What should we do, Senpai!?"
"Anyway, let's try driving it off first."
Sitting on Minadzuki's back, Hal summoned his magic gun and casually fired a shot.
The bullet of red light traced out a curved trajectory in the air to shoot at the gigantic pteranodon. Hal had no intention of making a direct hit. He wanted the bullet to fly past the pteranodon's head and scare it.
"Runes of Ruruk Soun!?"
Fifteen magic symbols appeared in front of the giant pteranodon.
This arrangement of runes formed a defensive wall to deflect the magic gun's warning shot. The fifteen elite runes signified "shield."
"Something not a Raptor and not an elite but dragon-like and capable of using Ruruk Soun magic... Is it an ancient leviathan!?"
Genbu-Ou in Princess Yukikaze's service. The octopus dragon subspecies appearing at the Izu waters.
This winged dragon was one of their kind as well as the ancestor of modern leviathans like Minadzuki.
The serpent souls that had appeared during the Hannibal battle were the spirits of ancient leviathans that had lost their physical bodies. However, a leviathan had evidently survived to the present day.
In other words, she was one of King Solomon's minions—
Realizing the giant pteranodon's origin, Hal immediately commanded, "Hurry and deploy imperishable protection!"
Minadzuki instantly responded.
Pearly radiance covered the serpentine dragon leviathan's entire body as well as Hal and Hazumi riding on her back.
In the next instant, the giant pteranodon flew past Minadzuki with a "whoosh" directly above.
When passing by Minadzuki's head, the winged dragon's right hind limb—the four talons on the tip of its foot were like giant sharp swords—delivered a kick at Minadzuki.
This attack was blocked by the light of protection.
Hal felt a pain in his heart. Damage blocked by imperishable protection would accumulate bit by bit in Haruga Haruomi's heart.
"P-Please look at that!"
"As expected of Solomon-senpai's minion... It can use the same tricks as us, right?"
Hazumi pointed out hastily and Hal muttered quietly.
The ancient leviathan in pteranodon form, featuring a wingspan of twenty meters by visual estimates, was also enveloping her gigantic body in pearly light.
Indeed. King Solomon possessed the Rune of the Ring.
Conversely, Hal was the heir to the Bow and the Twin Katana. They were both holders of dragonslaying runes. However, Minadzuki had currently shrunk herself to a size of five meters or so.
There was a decisive disparity in body size.
Furthermore, she was carrying two people on her back.
Fighting a melee air battle under such circumstances could accidentally drop Hal and Hazumi.
"We have a crisis..."
"Senpai! That magic from just now, please use it again!"
Just as Hal gulped in nervousness because of the dire combat situation, Hazumi made a suggestion.
Realizing her intent, Hal instantly took action.
Carrying his junior's delicate body in his arms, he jumped out. From Minadzuki's back, he leaped into the air, like jumping off the roof of a building. Hal instantly shouted, "Counting on you, Shirasaka!"
"Yes! Don't worry about us, Minadzuki!"
While falling, Hal cast Feather Fall magic on Hazumi and himself.
Meanwhile, Hazumi ordered her partner to cancel miniaturization. The serpentine dragon leviathan swiftly returned to her original size of twenty meters or so.
Inside the ark of King Solomon's legacy, a battle began between leviathans, one ancient and one modern.
What a wondrous and unbelievable showdown.
Just by using the magic of Feather Fall, one would float lightly towards the ground like a feather.
However, that was only when used by witches. After leveling up repeatedly as a Tyrannos, Hal had even surpassed the power of Level 5 witches.
With Hal as the one using this magic, the rate of descent could be reduced even further.
Falling merely a few centimeters in one minute—Such a difficult feat was possible.
Virtually stationary in the air, Hal watched the violent clash between two leviathans while holding Hazumi in his arms.
Minadzuki cried out shrilly while the giant pteranodon roared.
In the next instant, the two leviathans attacked simultaneously. They discharged scorching breath from their mouths.
However, these attacks did not succeed into coming into contact with the other's body.
Due to the pearly light guarding them—imperishable protection—these giant monster breath attacks were kept outside.
"If only I could summon the Crimson Queen at least..."
Seeing both sides well-matched in power, Hal commented quietly.
In that case, he could either overpower the enemy by going two against one or powering up Minadzuki by having her switch to Queen Form. However, this option was not available.
"But Senpai, although winning is impossible if this continues, we won't lose either," pointed out the junior fighting by his side.
Hazumi was experiencing slow free fall together with Hal.
She looked like she was enjoying this stalemate situation a bit.
Despite being a witch, Hazumi had a gentle and honest personality. She probably wanted to minimize harm on both sides.
But in the next instant, the stalemate was broken.
The giant pteranodon used new magic.
"Eh? I remember that's—"
Seeing the fourteen runes of Ruruk Soun, Hal was surprised.
The fourteen high-level runic symbols were shining over the crest on the giant pteranodon's distinctive head. It signified "armistice." Armistice meant "the lowering of weapons."
Hal recalled seeing this arrangement of runes somewhere before...
Just as Hal was puzzling over it, Hazumi widened her eyes.
"Th-The protection vanished!"
The two leviathans, one modern and one ancient, were facing off in the air.
The pearly radiance surrounding their gigantic bodies suddenly disappeared. First was the giant pteranodon's protection followed by Minadzuki's.
"It was True Genbu-Ou! That guy used the same kind of magic to seal away the Rune of the Arrow and eliminate the Rune of the Bow!"
"D-Do your best, Minadzuki!"
Watching the battle with Hal, Hazumi cried out.
Next, the emerald serpentine dragon began to call out with a voice as beautiful as a musical instrument.
It was a song for invoking pseudo-divinity and using the Rune of the Bow. The air suddenly began to flow, swirling around in a vortex of air currents.
The two leviathans were engaged in aerial combat.
The air around them turned into howling wind, then immediately developed into a tornado to swallow the pteranodon.
Unable to resist the storm's mad rotation, the giant pteranodon was at its mercy.
Minadzuki's pseudo-divinity of Wind was imbuing the tornado with powerful strength and sharpness like blades. The raging wind ravaged the giant pteranodon while turning into vacuum blades, slicing the gigantic body all over.
In addition, it was also infused with the Bow's dragonslaying magical power.
The giant pteranodon's blue blood splattered in the air, turning the spinning storm into a light-blue tornado.
It was quite a tragic sight.
However, Hal still could not rejoice even after seeing Minadzuki gain the upper hand.
"She's cautious as always, but..."
It was possible that Minadzuki committed to using a finishing move because she knew the enemy was very strong.
She understood that under the command of the peaceful Hazumi, the situation would get more and more unfavorable as the battle dragged on. However—
Swallowed by the tornado, even with thousands of lacerations ripped across her body, the pteranodon still refused to fall.
Fifteen runes of Ruruk Soun—the "shield"—protected her body, helping her to barely survive Minadzuki's magic attack.
Next, when the raging storm finally ceased, when the killing wind stopped...
All covered in wounds, the giant pteranodon glided unsteadily to show she was still alive and even used magic.
Over the flying winged dragon, seven runes of Ruruk Soun appeared.
The arrangement signified "healing hand." The "serpent" serving King Solomon had all her injuries rapidly healed, restoring her to her original condition.
"It's like with True Genbu-Ou... A leviathan that has awakened goddess power?"
"Senpai! I will have Minadzuki use that once more!"
"No, let's wait first," said Hal to his brave junior.
"I've got a plan. It'll probably be tough on you, but I hope you can have Minadzuki buy us a bit of time. Just stay on the defensive and focus on resisting the enemy's attacks."
Hazumi agreed to Hal's request and clasped her hands together before her chest.
Entering a prayer pose, she wished for her partner to fight vigorously and safely.
Meanwhile, the showdown between giant monsters in the sky was—
The giant pteranodon finally switched to offense after healing herself. Riding the wind, she swiftly approached Minadzuki and attacked using her four-clawed hind leg.
The serpentine dragon leviathan's body was a beautiful emerald color.
Four scratch wounds were carved on her dragon scales, bleeding four trails of blue blood.
Of course, the battle was not over with this. Minadzuki craned her neck and counterattacked by attempting to bite the enemy.
However, the giant pteranodon rose up swiftly and succeeded in evading.
The pteranodon flew at high speed and attacked Minadzuki again with four claws. Thus, she attacked and evaded repeatedly using this "hit and away" pattern—
Hal glanced at Minadzuki, whom the tides of battle had turned against, and surveyed their surroundings.
There were five sky islands within the airspace of the battle.
Assuming there were no other enemies apart from the pteranodon, that should most likely be over there. Hal nodded and fired five consecutive shots with the magic gun in his right.
The five magic bullets flew towards different targets—The five sky islands.
Every island was more than ten kilometers away from Hal and Hazumi who were floating in the air.
Next, Hal closed his eyes.
This was to scout out everything on the ground at each of the five bullet's destinations. This was to confirm what was present and to detect the unorthodoxy.
This was not a feat that a human could accomplish, not even a master-class witch.
However, it was possible for Haruga Haruomi the magic gunner and great sorcerer. As much as he hated to admit it, his magical power had definitely surpassed human limits.
Hal's five magic bullets reached the sky islands and pierced into the ground.
At the same time, he sensed the magical pulsation coming from a temple on a certain island.
"Over there, I see..."
Should he use the magic gun to snipe? No.
Hal shook his head. It was not his style to act like a merciless sniper. More importantly, it would be a poor influence on his assistant and protege.
Then go with a warning. There was one magic spell that came in handy in this kind of situation.
"No helping it. I'll try out that arrangement."
Hazumi stared blankly, presumably due to the five runes of Ruruk Soun appearing in front of Hal.
They signified "heat and explosion." Hal's formidable enemy in the past, Pavel Galad, had used this magic before. Hal shot this runic arrangement with his magic gun and the red bullet of light flew forward along with the five runes.
Naturally, the destination was the sky island where Hal had sensed the pulsation of magic.
"S-Senpai! You're able to use the magic of dragonkind too!?"
"Yeah, I can use it as long as it isn't magic that's too difficult," answered Hal with a sigh.
Due to his increase in power as a Tyrannos, Hal was finally able to draw out the wisdom of Ruruk Soun from his "magic wand," the magic gun.
At this time, the runes of "heat and explosion" reached the target sky island.
The five runes caused a violent explosion on the ground.
Like the previous island they had visited, all these sky islands had was a stone temple, but the flames and blast would not affect the interior. Hence, Hal's objective was only to issue a warning.
Hal summoned magic symbols to his hand again, three this time.
They were runes of Ruruk Soun, signifying "telepathy." Suppose the other party was a sapient lifeform, it would allow them to communicate across barriers of language and race.
After casting this magic on Hazumi and himself, Hal addressed the giant pteranodon that was using "hit and away" tactics to bully Minadzuki, "Help me pass this message to your partner—Excuse me for making such a cliched threat, but if you don't cease this battle, I won't miss my next shot."
The winged enemy paused so Hal continued.
"I wish to speak with your master and we will be heading to that island now. If you dare escape... I regret I'll have to snipe you in the back. Unless you are an expert highly adept at magic, I don't think you can escape from an attack of the Rune of the Bow, can you?"
He added another threat to prevent the other party from escaping.
When Hal finished, the giant pteranodon suddenly vanished.
The message evidently got through. Obeying the witch with whom she shared a covenant, the ancient leviathan de-materialized.
Next, all Hal had to do was make his way to that sky island—
Hal shrugged at Hazumi and said, "I had a hunch that her partner definitely was nearby. How should I put it? It's because she acted a bit similar to how Rushalka behaves under Asya's command."
This was intuition honed from his many years of observing his childhood friend cooperating with her partner.
Moreover, he was certain that the giant pteranodon's partner was not King Solomon. Otherwise, she would have been using the Rune of the Ring frequently.
Hal had skillfully resolved the situation and Hazumi looked at him in admiration.
"You are amazing, Senpai... I can't believe you drove away the 'serpent' so easily."
"Not at all. I was just lucky."
This was not modesty. Hal was quite serious.
In the event that their encountered opponent was True Genbu-Ou, this trick would not have worked.
Furthermore, Haruga Haruomi made his living as a treasure hunter. Being praised in an area outside his field of expertise would only make him blush.
That being said, this battle might hold important significance.
Hal glanced at the sky island where he had caused a runic explosion.
There was a witch there who controlled an ancient leviathan. She was probably someone in service of Solomon the great sorcerer—
Finally a chance to obtain information.
Hal nodded firmly and prepared to meet the witch he had never seen before.
Many lacerations had been left on Minadazuki's body from the pteranodon's claws.
The wounds were definitely not light.
Fortunately, none of them were critical. At this level, the resilient life force of a "serpent" was sufficient for natural healing.
Riding on Minadzuki's back, Hal and Hazumi moved to the newest sky island.
The witch controlling the giant pteranodon should be in the temple on this island.
"Thank you, Minadzuki."
After thanking her partner, Hazumi dispelled her physical form.
Then she entered the temple with Hal.
The ancient kingdom governed by the legendary King Solomon... This facility was probably built during that time period.
Its style was quite similar to Doric architecture as exemplified by the Parthenon of ancient Greece, adorned with simple decorations all over the place without glamor.
Overall, the temple gave a solemn impression, perhaps because only white stone was used to build it.
She was standing next to the entrance.
"I apologize for earlier. My name is Haruga Haruomi and this is my associate, Shirasaka Hazumi. I would greatly appreciate it if you could tell us your name."
Standing next to him, Hazumi nodded in support of Hal's self-introduction.
The other party was a beautiful woman in the prime of youth.
Her deep-set facial features had an exotic air to them. Black hair.
Her figure was extremely outstanding. The red cloth wrapped tightly around her body made her image strongly reminiscent of a passionate exotic dancer.
However, Hal felt something was not quite right.
Just as he was puzzling over "what is this feeling?" The beauty gave her name.
A calm and beautiful voice. However, something was still strange.
In any case, Hal decided to ignore this unknown sense of dissonance. The conversation came first.
Although he was still gripping the magic gun, Hal tried to converse in as cordial a tone as possible.
"It's definitely a bit much for me to demand this after doing that with this gun, but I hope you'll talk to us. We don't intend to be unreasonable, so please help—"
The beautiful Shamiram said lightly as though interrupting Hal.
The smile hanging on her lips was beautiful enough to be called seductive. Or perhaps bewitching would be the right word.
"Lord Tyrannos of the Bow... I intend to seek your help too."
"I believe in your power and implore you to extend a helping hand... I hope you could release me from the curse imposed upon me by my master."
Hal was very confused by the beautiful witch from an ancient kingdom, staring at him intently.
Expecting nothing but a brief chat, starting up a conversation first to see whether he could gather any hints to figure out the ark.
That was Hal's original plan, but the other party suddenly brought up an unexpected request. That was not the only problem.
...Hal thought silently to himself.
This older lady's eyes are so sexy. I can't say no to her...Wait, hold on.
He must not allow the ladies to discover such lustful thoughts of his.
He tensed his mind and deliberately asked in a firm voice, "Lady, could you tell me who is this 'master' you speak of?"
"Of course, it is none other than His Majesty, Master Solomon the great monarch of my kingdom. He is the great sorcerer who had inherited the power of the dragonslaying ring—Like you."
"Serving my master, I was one of the followers of the unorthodoxy. Prior to his death, he commanded me to guard this ship, thus I boarded the ship together with the serpent souls."
In other words, the manager of a tomb—A gravekeeper?
Shamiram smiled at the nodding Hal, looking like she was tempting him.
"My master's magic cannot be dispelled even if one were to gather a thousand mediocre spellcasters."
"I'd think so too."
"But you are different. At first glance, Lord Tyrannos of the Bow, your power as an adherent to the path of the unorthodoxy is equal to my master's—Given that is the case, I am certain you will be able to lift this spell."
Shamiram the beautiful witch looked at Hal seductively.
Bowing his head to glance at his magic gun as though to escape her gaze, Hal inquired of his gun.
"Hey, do you know what kind of curse Solomon-senpai cast on her?"
"'Follow my orders with absolute obedience'...This is a curse of coercion."
As expected of a former dragon king. Hinokagutsuchi saw through it at a single glance.
A curse of coercion—Hal cocked his head.
"I can't believe he used this kind of magic on his own subordinate. Isn't he being a bit too petty and distrustful?"
It was hard to understand.
Hal did not want to take rash action without figuring out the situation clearly, but—
"Excuse me, Senpai. Can't we help Shamiram-san to lift her curse? I can't believe a spell of absolute obedience was cast, I feel so sorry for her..."
Having remained silent behind him until now, Hazumi walked to Hal's side and spoke sympathetically.
She must have heard Shamiram's request and Hinokagutsuchi's analysis and was moved to pity. Unlike Hal, this junior student was very pure of heart.
If possible, Hal really wanted to reassure Hazumi, but...
He went straight to the point.
"Why did Solomon-senpai cast a curse of absolute obedience on you? Unless this is cleared up, I really can't help you."
"It is very simple. Lord Archer, may I ask you to step over here, please?"
Shamiram beckoned with her hand. Hal walked forward, stopping in front of her.
At that very moment, the beautiful witch from the ancient kingdom took Hal's right hand and drew him closer, making his hand sink into her breast forcefully.
Furthermore, with her left hand superimposed upon Hal's right hand, she exerted more force.
The fabric of Shamiram's garment was quite sheer with a rather low neckline. Thanks to this clothing, Hal was forced to experience "her texture" regardless of whether he wanted to or not.
He cried out incoherently. Bluntly stated, she had a massive bust.
This extraordinary volume was clearly beyond Orihime's and had even surpassed Luna—
Meanwhile, Hazumi had her eyes widened staring intently at Hal's hand on Shamiram's breast.
It looked like her mind had froze, unable to keep up with the unexpected development.
Then Hal finally recovered from his shock.
"What is it?"
"Your skin is extremely cold... like ice. And it's very taut and hard, not soft at all..."
He commented honestly.
Shamiram smiled back seductively.
"Also, I can't feel any heartbeat, pulse or body temperature suggesting life. I don't know if I should say this, but your body seems identical to rigor mortis..."
"Meaning that, don't tell me you're—"
"It is just as you surmise. I am of the non-living. This body has died once already."
" "!?" "
Hearing this overly shocking truth, not only Hal but Hazumi was also rendered speechless.
The earlier sense of dissonance must have been this. By his instinct as a mage, Hal had subconsciously sensed one of the non-living, the presence of death—
"When Master Solomon assigned my mission to me, he took my life... He ordered me to follow him to the grave. Furthermore, my master revived me as the 'living dead' to serve as the gravekeeper in the ark."
The living dead, the undead.
In fantasy RPGs, those in such a state would gather to form a powerful faction. The most representative of them was probably the zombie. Ghouls, ghosts and vampires also fell in this category.
Facing the speechless Hal, Shamiram then admitted, "After all, the living cannot be expected to stay on watch inside the ark with the serpent souls for a thousand years. That must have been what my master thought. In other words, Master Solomon is both my former liege and the one I detest."
Shamiram smiled seductively.
However, all emotion suddenly vanished from her face to show a terrifying and merciless expression, the very image of a death mask.
It was so intimidating that Hal could not help but feel a chill along his spine.
"Consequently, my master cast this curse of obedience on me to prevent me from ever defying him. However, Lord Tyrannos of the Bow, if you could be so kind as to lend your assistance... I would be able to regain my freedom."
What are your thoughts?
Hal did not know how to answer. He never expected the first person to encounter in the ark would be a beautiful witch with this kind of background.
An unexpected development was gradually unfolding upon the battle and grand adventure revolving around Solomon's legacy.
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