Leviathan:Volume 7 Chapter 2
Chapter 2 - A Gathering of Old Foes
Urayasu City in Chiba Prefecture was on the coast of Tokyo Bay.
Located there was what used to be the nation's biggest theme park.
However, when the Old Tokyo Concession was established roughly twenty years ago, the former capital was turned into an uninhabited wasteland. The population in Tokyo and its surrounding areas was dramatically reduced.
Tourist numbers went down as a result and the theme park was moved to the Kanagawa area...
"If possible, I'd rather this be a usual raid."
A high-speed helicopter was flying over the former site of the giant theme park.
Riding a helicopter on a beeline to Tokyo Bay, Hal spoke quietly.
The visit to the Juujouji residence was already last night. The next morning at 5am, he had boarded the helicopter.
"Instead of attacking New Town, the invading Raptors yesterday gathered at a mysterious island that had suddenly appeared in Tokyo Bay... An elite or even higher ranked dragon must be behind this, no matter how you look at it."
"Senpai, so it must be a dragon king after all?"
"Either a dragon king or someone—or rather, a dragon—in the same position as me. That's the most likely case."
Hal replied to the only witch present in the helicopter cabin, Hazumi.
...At roughly 8pm last night, Raptors had flown down from satellite orbits. At the same time, a cataclysmic event happened in Tokyo Bay.
A sudden shift in the Earth's crust—
The seabed suddenly bulged up, producing an island within the span of merely one night.
Then a hundred Raptors gathered, circling over the island and its vicinity. The witches of New Town had exterminated them last night.
Nothing worthy of note had happened during the elimination process. The mission was accomplished without issue.
After exploring the island using investigative magic and drones equipped with night vision cameras, they finally made their way to the scene this morning.
"So that's the island huh..."
Coming into a view was an island floating all alone in Tokyo Bay.
It was roughly the area of a fort built on reclaimed land.
This piece of land was quite breathtaking. The center of the island rose up high, looking like an underwater volcano that had become active and surfaced from the ocean due to volcanic activity.
"Were these waters located near the Ogasawara Islands or the Izu Islands, it'd still be possible to explain this as volcanic activity along the Pacific Ring of Fire, causing an underwater volcano to surface."
"It took us less than thirty minutes to fly here from Tokyo..."
"Because this place is pretty close to Tokyo, after all."
This was not a part of the sea with tectonic activity. This part of Tokyo Bay was visible from the shore of Urayasu City—the former site of a large theme park.
Hal and Hazumi were sitting in the back seats with the cockpit in front of them.
The pilot and the co-pilot were seated in the cockpit, in charge of operating this JMSDF high-speed helicopter. They were currently on a mission.
"Excuse me. Please let us off here, just as the plan dictated," said Hal to the pilot and the co-pilot.
They were about to get on the island to start investigating.
However, it would be to risky to deploy their entire team at a clearly unsafe place.
Hence, the trio of Asya, Orihime, and Luna Francois were on standby at the theme park's former site. Hal took only Hazumi with him.
Her partner, Minadzuki, was also flying in front of the helicopter.
The emerald serpentine dragon was moving her gigantic body gracefully, swimming through the sky over the sea.
Normally, the job of entering a dangerous area as the vanguard should be left to the strongest witches such as Asya or Luna, but Hal had chosen Hazumi on purpose.
After a while, the helicopter landed on the rocky and uneven shore.
Hal and Hazumi were the only ones to disembark. The pilot and the co-pilot waited inside the helicopter. They were to fly away immediately if any emergency situation came up.
"Senpai. Minadzuki... is wary. She says there is a unpleasant smell—and it's a smell she has encountered before!"
"Figures, so it is someone from before, huh?"
For the time being, the two of them were making their way to the center of the island.
The center rose up like the peak of a mountain. One could even call the entire island a mountain.
However, it was a lifeless mountain of rock. Since it had been under the sea until half a day earlier, the lack of life was only normal. However, there was not even a single weed growing out of the ground.
Only rocks no matter where they went, it was a land devoid of vegetation.
Furthermore, the ground underfoot was moist from seawater, giving a sticky feeling when walking over it.
Fortunately, they had brought slip-resistant hiking boots. The two of them advanced to the center while taking care not to slip or fall. Suddenly, Hazumi cried out.
"I sort of guessed it, but I'd really prefer if I didn't have to meet him."
The giant body of a dragon suddenly appeared at the peak in the center of the island.
He had probably used teleportation magic. The dragon was ten-odd meters in body length, his silver scales glittering brilliantly under the sunlight.
Pavel Galad, the Tyrannos who had inherited the Rune of the Sword.
The peak where Pavel Galad had appeared was a few kilometers away from Hal and Hazumi's position.
Spreading his silver wings in leisure, he flew slowly towards them.
"It has been a while, Haruga Haruomi, successor to the dragonslaying Rune of the Bow."
Despite the distance between them, the silver dragon's youthful and beautiful voice reached Hal and Hazumi's ears with great clarity.
A type of sound transmission magic must have been used. Pavel Galad's voice was as clear as if he were speaking while standing in front of them. Hal responded normally since Pavel could hear him regardless.
"So it seems like you've been skulking around Tokyo lately?"
"Have I been discovered? You are truly a man not to be underestimated."
Despite having more than a kilometer betwen them, they could converse normally.
"So the reason why you've entered the stage openly... It's for that, right? This time, you're going to have a showdown against Princess Yukikaze for real?"
"Oh? How rare to see you asking such a question."
"What do you mean?"
"Given your intelligence, I would expect you to know without needing me to explain."
"Needless to say, I returned only to cross blades with Princess Yukikaze. Nevertheless, Haruga Haruomi, you are an important rival too. I regard you as one that I must defeat..."
"I wish you could be more friendly to me, if possible."
Pavel Galad's gigantic body was flying straight towards them.
Slowly and carefully, he lowered his altitude. A double-edged longsword suddenly appeared in his right hand. It was a rugged silver sword.
Hal had seen this sword before. It was the manifestation of the Rune of the Sword...!
"Hohohoho, I hereby swear that I shall defeat you this time. No matter what obstacles I must surmount, I will be victorious against you!"
"Damn it! I don't want to see that sword ever again!"
An additional layer of pearly light surrounded the silver dragon that was wielding the dragonslaying sword.
Imperishable protection. This was the defensive barrier that Hal and others regarded as a valuable treasure too. Fully armed, Pavel Galad approached by air—And that was not all.
"I offer prayer to the seal in my possession, that of the Divine Sword of the Heavens. Let the thunder god's sword manifest here and now!"
"Uh, a finishing move right off the bat!?"
Nineteen magical symbols appeared along the blade of the dragonslaying sword.
All runes of Ruruk Soun. Hal had some recollection of this arrangement, which signified "I summon the thunder god's sword to unsheathe in haste"—
In the next instant, the dragonslaying longsword flashed with electrical radiance—
Together with the dragon wielding it, the sword descended upon Hal and Hazumi swiftly from above!
"Let my mystic sword serve as the signal to herald a new war. Here I come, Haruga Haruomi!"
"You're hot-blooded as always, never stingy with the big moves!"
Hal grumbled, looked at the witch beside him and requested, "I'm counting on you, Shirasaka!"
"Yes! Minadzuki—Protect us!"
Hazumi's order was quite vague, but for her partner, this was enough.
This leviathan was not only intelligent, but among Hal's comrades, the power she had mastered was also the most special and rare.
The serpentine dragon leviathan, Minadzuki, had been waiting ready behind them the whole time.
She charged head on towards Pavel Galad who was flying at them. Held in Minadazuki's right forelimb was a white jewel.
Inside that glowing orb, a magical symbol similar to a half moon appeared.
It was Hal's seal, the Rune of the Bow. After a long absence, the sword was finally reunited with the bow. These two powers of dragonbane—did not clash.
The prayer of Hazumi and the howl of Minadzuki, a sacred beast rather than a demonic beast, resounded in all directions.
Fourteen runes of Ruruk Soun appeared behind the serpentine dragon leviathan's back. This arrangement signified "armistice," abandoning the use of force.
The runic arrangement for the lowering of weapons—enacted a miracle!
Pavel Galad was very shocked.
This was because the dragonslaying sword, enveloped in lightning of maximum power, had vanished from his hand.
The jewel held in Minadzuki's forelimb also disappeared at the same time. This was a mystic rite for sealing away the weapons and dragonslaying powers of both sides.
Only Hazumi and Minadzuki, a "serpent" that had awakened this kind of goddess power, were capable of using such a spell.
Seizing this opportunity to attack was Hal's job—
"Queen! Use a technique of assured annihilation!"
The giant dragon, standing twenty meters tall, instantly appeared.
It was Hinokagutsuchi's form in the past—The Crimson Queen. Enormous and dignified, it even made Pavel Galad look inferior in contrast.
The giant dragon, akin to Hal's avatar, was holding a bow in its right forelimb.
A crimson longbow. The dragonslaying bow. The queen nocked the arrow—an arrow of light and flame—drew the bow and shot it.
Attacked by the arrow and the scorching blaze, Pavel Galad howled loudly.
Currently, twenty-one runes of Ruruk Soun had appeared overhead of the archer, the queen.
The arrangement signified "I will fire the sun-shooting divine bow at the sky, to exterminate the sun."
This was Hal's most powerful trump card. The result of mastering even King Solomon's legacy, the Rune of the Ring, meant that he was finally capable of firing the sun-shooting divine bow on his own.
—Sealing away both the enemy's and one's own power of dragonbane, then unleashing the most powerful attack.
Hal had chosen to bring Hazumi with him in order to execute this surprise attack.
Just as planned, the crimson arrow struck Pavel Galad directly. Wailing while scorched by intense flames capable of even burning dragons to ash—
Seeing the silver dragon laughing to himself despite being immolated, Hal muttered to himself.
Next to him, Hazumi was speechless. She knew better than anyone that the holy mystic technique of a goddess had definitely sealed away Galad and Minadzuki's powers of dragonbane.
However, the dragonslaying sword reappeared in the silver dragon's hand.
In addition, the sword was pointed straight at them. Using the tip of the sword, he blocked the arrow—the divine bow's arrow.
The arrow, capable of shooting down the sun, shattered that very instant.
Pavel Galad extended his longsword and seventeen runes of Ruruk Soun manifested on the body of the blade.
The arrangement signified "O blue sky, I beseech you to grant the sword god's favored affection unto my blade."
Hal widened his eyes. Blue-white flames surrounded the entire dragonslaying sword.
The flames were imbued with extremely powerful magic. Presumably because of the flames' effects, the dragonslaying sword's potency and magical power had greatly increased.
In the next instant, the ground underfoot shook violently, accompanied by a thunderous "BOOM!"
The Tyrannos who had defended against the surprise attack and technique of assured annihilation—Pavel Galad—landed on the ground.
"I thought we'd made that sword go away..."
"Do not underestimate me. For the sake of fighting you again, I too have made many preparations."
"Here you go again, doing things that dragons don't normally do..."
"What are you talking about? I learned all this from you. Precisely when you cannot match a formidable opponent in strength do you have to rack your brain and struggle with every power at your disposal. Hohohoho."
Having effortlessly countered Hal and Hazumi's surprise attack, Galad laughed with satisfaction.
If one were to use an RPG analogy, Pavel Galad would undoubtedly be a "hero"-class dragon and larger-than-life character. Hot-blooded and possessing excessive righteous fighting spirit.
However, in the case of the Road to Kingship where the dragon king's throne was the goal—
Confronting enemies head on, fair and square, could lead to death.
Now, Galad had finally grown accustomed to this excessively challenging and unfair game.
"You don't have to use me as a strategy guide..."
Every dog has its day.
Hal recalled this idiom—How uncharacteristic of his style.
During the battle against Princess Yukikaze before the summer break, Hal and allied temporarily with Pavel Galad. Perhaps what he had seen and experienced back then had changed him.
No matter what, this crisis must be resolved. Hal switched mindsets.
There was a strange feeling in his chest.
His heart—or rather, his heartmetal—was scorching. His entire body also heated up. Furthermore, something was also happening to the Crimson Queen.
The red body of the former dragon queen was entirely covered in flames.
The intense blaze instantly expanded.
Using the sun-shooting divine bow had pulled some kind of trigger, as though turning heightened fighting spirit and magical power into burning flames—
Crap. At this rate, the Crimson Queen was going to awaken for real!
Hal was utterly terrified.
"S-Senpai? Are you okay...?"
Probably noticing the color was off in Hal's face, Hazumi inquired in concern.
As expected of the angel on earth, she was considerate and attentive. However, Haruga Haruomi was currently too preoccupied to answer. All he did was touch his chest—the area near his heart—in surprise.
The next instant...
"Fufufufufu. I, Yukikaze, smelled a fight and came to look. Surprisingly, it was you two."
An adorable and gallant voice descended from the sky.
Hal looked up. Just as expected, a girl dressed in a white one-piece dress entered his view. She was standing confidently on top of her "flying surfboard" of a magic wand, looking down with amusement at the silver dragon and Haruga Haruomi who were facing off on the ground.
"Hello again, both of you. I see that the two of you have taken great pains to prepare a venue worthy of receiving my presence. This place is not half bad!"
A nostalgic voice entered Hal's ears.
During the summer break, he had met Princess Yukikaze at Izu.
Watching with delight at the desperate struggles of the two lower-ranked Tyrannoi—This was the confidence and composure of the current queen.
The elusive dragon king, Princess Yukikaze, had arrived.
"We didn't work together to make this special arena," said Hal to Princess Yukikaze, putting aside his strange feeling and crisis awareness for now.
Now that even Princess Yukikaze had shown up, who had time to deal with that kind of stuff?
"That guy over there seems to be responsible, though I don't know the details either."
"Yes. I devoted a fair amount of effort for the sake of eliminating my fated rival and the white dragon king at the same time. A mighty fine job, if I should say so myself..." Wielding the dragonslaying sword, Pavel Galad declared proudly.
Present here was the Crimson Queen, armed with the dragonslaying bow, and Pavel Galad with his prided massive body of metallic silver. In appearance alone, both of them looked stronger than Princess Yukikaze.
However, the young girl who was stronger than everyone here smiled in leisure.
"Well said, silver dragon! In that case, I, Yukikaze, hereby command you."
Perhaps because she was standing on a flying surfboard, roughly thirty meters off the ground...
Princess Yukikaze was "in a higher position" both physically and mentally, looking downwards at Hal and Galad, issuing a royal decree.
"Defeat Haruomi first then call for me. You must redeem yourself for your past defeat and prove that you have the ability to challenge a king."
"That was my intention all along. O Princess, thank you for accepting my challenge."
"Do not thank me so hastily. It appears that you have learned plenty, but petty tricks of that sort belong more in Haruomi's domain. Whether the dragonslaying sword can reach the same heights as I, Yukikaze... I certainly look forward to finding out."
"Uh, excuse me—"
Galad looked all fired up with hot blood while Princess Yukikaze brought up Haruga Haruomi's name as though showing off her own toy.
Hal still had self-awareness as a mortal, more or less. He cautiously suggested, "I'd rather join forces with one of you to take out the other opponent first..."
As "members of a warrior race," elite dragons could not possibly agree to such a request.
Hal was merely saying it as a test. Princess Yukikaze scoffed while Pavel Galad showed no reaction, completely ignoring it.
Oh dear. Hal shook his head and changed the subject.
"Then at least postpone the battle until tomorrow. You suddenly asked me to fight, but I'm not mentally prepared yet."
Pavel Galad's reaction was quite mysterious.
He first stared at Hal then shifted his gaze to the Crimson Queen. After some thought, he muttered "I see now" to himself.
He felt a wave of unease as though he had been stripped naked completely.
"I do not mind. If you have such a need, would you like to change the duel's venue too?"
How surprising. This small island that had suddenly appeared on the surface of the ocean must have been land created by Galade through magic. In other words, this was completely enemy territory.
It was anyone's guess where the traps were located on this island.
Hal originally thought Galad would naturally want to fight here.
Apparently seeing through Hal's thoughts, the silver dragon said nonchalantly, "We are capable of soaring the skies. After the battle commences, we could fly to wherever we want."
"Well, that's true."
"Then let us set the duel to begin tomorrow morning. Anywhere in Tokyo is fine with me. Just call my name at your preferred location and that would be where the battle begins. Will that do for you?"
"...Nah, this place is fine."
It looked like Pavel Galad intended to treat Tokyo New Town as a battlefield without any restrictions.
Realizing this, Hal rejected the suggestion. Though this small island was suspicious, the fact that it was uninhabited was pretty convenient.
Also, since the day of the duel could be postponed to tomorrow, there was time to come up with countermeasures...
"In exchange, I want to investigate this island and see if you've cast weird spells or set traps. If I find anything, I'll decide whether I eliminate them or postpone the battle further."
"Very well. Investigate as much as you like."
Still the same as always, Galad answered with full seriousness.
Spreading his pair of silver wings, he flew south.
Investigate as much as you like—True to his word, it looked like Galad did not intend to get in Hal's way. For an opponent demanding a personal duel, he was quite fair and upstanding.
As for the other dragon—
"Fufufufu. The day of our duel is drawing near... The assumption is that you must defeat that silver dragon."
By the time Hal noticed, Princess Yukikaze had lowered the altitude of her surfboard.
From five or six meters above Hal, she gazed down upon him.
"Do your best, Haruomi. We are the ones who hold the bow and the arrow forming a pair. Muster your full power, bearing in mind that I, Yukikaze, desires fervently to fight you."
Leaving these parting words, Princess Yukikaze flew away too.
She went west—making a beeline for the Old Tokyo Concession.
Even a randomly tossed comment had such a poetic quality to it. This princess was full of personality as always. Feeling nostalgic while finding her too dazzling to behold, he muttered, "Everyone just talks without listening."
Staring off into the sky where his foes had disappeared, he recalled Funaki-san's report.
Eyewitnesses had spotted Pavel Galad's human form at a number of locations. In addition, the use of investigative magic across New Town resulted in the detection of strange signals recently—
Was this island actually a red herring while the true trap was hidden in Tokyo New Town?
If that was the case, then sure enough, fighting inside Tokyo would be very risky. Declining Galad's suggestion had probably been the right decision.
"Dragons are clearly battle maniacs, yet they still cause me such headaches..."
Unable to put his mind at ease, Hal thought to himself.
In many ways, the silver dragon Pavel Galad had changed from before. Hal had to wage a great decisive battle tomorrow against such a monster—What a burdensome feeling.
Three hours later, Hal left the island after conducting various investigations.
In addition to investigative magic—SAURU's magic—Hal even made use of Ruruk Soun's magic to investigate carefully. The leviathan Minadzuki also used her sense of smell and a sacred beast's super sensitivity to help search for anything unusual or dangerous.
Other than the surface, deep underground was also included as part of the search.
However, nothing suspicious was found anywhere. It was merely "a small island raised up from the seabed by the magic of dragonkind."
"Anyway, I asked Luna to go over there and take over the investigation in our place."
To return to Tokyo New Town, they had asked the JMSDF to send a small transport ship.
Inside the seventy-meter-long ship, Hal was speaking with Hazumi in a cabin.
"That being said, I'm guessing the investigation won't come up with anything."
"What about Nee-sama and Asya-san?"
"I asked them to investigate New Town because I heard that Galad has been wandering all over the place for the past few months. However—"
"To be honest, I don't think any clues will turn up. If anything could be found, I'm sure one of us would've discovered it long ao. After all, Tokyo is our territory."
"Yes. Minadzuki hasn't warned me this summer."
"I'm putting the odds at fifty-fifty. If he really didn't play any tricks..."
"Or perhaps Galad-san was very cautious and even came up with measures to counter magical investigation when he was setting up his trap..."
"Yes, that's right. You really know a lot, Shirasaka."
"That's because you taught me a lot, Senpai."
Hazumi was smiling demurely at Hal from up close.
This was a cramped cabin inside a transport ship. Hal was sitting on the bed as so was the excessively pure junior student.
Not only was she sitting on the same bed as Hal, but she was leaning very close to him.
Why was she sitting here when there was clearly more space? To be honest, Hal was completely baffled. However, leaning against him, offering support, Hazumi's touch and warmth made him feel very comfortable in mind and body.
Letting this continue might not be half bad—Just as this notion surfaced in his mind, Hal shook his head.
"Oh—Shirasaka, shouldn't we give each other a bit more space?"
"But Senpai, you looked so unwell just now."
"Yes. When the dragon king—Princess Yukikaze—showed up, you looked like you were beleaguered by coldness, like you had a high fever, the look on your face was very scary..."
Hal could now understand why Hazumi was leaning against him. However, he found it odd.
Even so, this distance was too close. What was Hazumi thinking? Even if it were out of worry... This was virtually... As his thoughts reached this point, Hal jumped in surprise.
Because Hazumi reached out gently with her left hand and touched his right hand.
The junior student's sudden action made his heart skip a beat. Hal did not know if his adorable protege was aware of his feelings, but she said worriedly, "Also, Senpai, your body is so cold and hard."
"Yes. It feels like metal, you know?"
Metal. Hal recalled the giant lifeform he had been fighting several hours earlier—the silver dragon—and could not help but think.
Perhaps he too might turn into something like that...
Try as he might to not think about this, such a possibility was impossible to rule out no matter what.
Just as he was about to be imprisoned in this pessimistic mindset—
"Senpai, your body is really cold. E-Excuse me!"
Sitting next to him, Hazumi suddenly took off her shoes and moved over the bed.
Kneeling on the bed, she hugged Hal's head. As a result, Haruga Haruomi's face was buried into her bosom—
"Can.. we stay in this posture for a while? I'd like to do something."
Hazumi's voice sounded full of determination.
Her usual self, polite and reserved self, was nowhere to be found. Next, the junior student began to stroke Hal's head gently. Round and round, it seemed like her motions intended to massage and soften the hard surface.
During this time, Hal's face remained buried in Hazumi's chest.
For a fourteen-year-old, Hazumi was "very well developed" and fairly busty. Hal never thought he would ever get a chance in his life to confirm the sensation of her chest in this manner—
"Oh, Senpai, you're relaxing a little now."
"I-I see. That's good to know."
Damn it. Form is no different from emptiness, and emptiness is no different from form... Exercising self-control to prevent his mind from having inappropriate thoughts, Hal mentally thanked Hazumi for her care and concern from the bottom of his heart.
The kind-hearted junior student was probably doing this out of worry for Hal's health.
Of course, Hal felt very embarrassed that he was being held and comforted in this posture like a baby. However, Hazumi's kindness and her voluptuous—were soothing his heart even more. Both his mind and body were relaxing...
Feeling an indescribable sense of comfort, Hal's consciousness gradually faded.
On further thought, he had made the Crimson Queen use the sun-shooting divine bow by his own power alone.
This was his first time to attempt this. His magical power was surging to the point of overflowing. His entire body felt unusually hot. Conversely, he must have accumulated a lot of fatigue too.
Now that Hal finally obtained reprieve for his tensed mind, his exhausted body was attacked by the onslaught of drowsiness.
"Senpai, did you fall asleep...?"
With his face buried in Hazumi's bosom, Haruomi-senpai drifted into slumber.
She could hear gentle breathing. Trying to avoid waking him up, Hazumi kept her movements as light as possible while shifting her arms and body to lay Senpai down on the bed.
Having confirmed that he was sleeping peacefully, Hazumi reached out again.
She touched Senpai's face. Not only was Haruomi-senpai not fat, his physique was on the skinny side. However, his cheeks were very soft and fleshy to pinch.
Then she even touched Senpai's head, right arm, left arm, feeling his body nonstop.
"Thank goodness. Looks like what I just did is working." Hazumi exhaled in relief and a smile finally surfaced on her face.
After that—after the Crimson Queen had used the technique of assured annihilation—Hazumi had felt bothered ever since.
Today, Haruomi-senpai was wearing a t-shirt with pants.
After using the technique of assured annihilation, the parts of his skin not covered by clothing, such as his face or his arms, would reflect sunlight from time to time, shining brightly. It did not seem like an illusion at all.
It shone as though the surface was covered by a layer of glass.
Worried, Hazumi had stuck closely to Senpai as soon as they had entered the cabin, so as to confirm the texture of his skin, and was greatly shocked.
In addition to appearance, even the tactile sensation was like glass.
Cold and hard.
Furthermore, Haruomi-senpai himself had failed to notice this. Most likely, this was one of the symptoms of transforming into a dragon—Hazumi felt certain of this. Just as he had been unaware of his memory loss, it was also very difficult for him to notice the hardening of his body.
Hence, Hazumi had forcibly suppressed the shock in her heart to prevent Senpai from noticing. However—
"I shouldn't have pointed out Senpai felt like metal to the touch..."
As soon as he heard these words, Senpai's face turned dark.
Hence, to make up for her mistake, she had hugged Haruomi-senpai's head. She guessed that such intimate contact might possibly cause Senpai's body to change in a positive direction.
After pressing her bosom against Senpai, she found the change she was hoping for.
Haruomi-senpai's hardened body gradually turned soft, recovering a human body's "pliable" texture.
"Fortunately, it's just like what Hinokagutsuchi said..."
Hazumi currently breathed a sigh of relief from the bottom of her heart. She even felt overjoyed.
"Senpai recovered... Does this mean that even a body like mine is able to make him happy?"
At New York during August, the former dragon queen had said, 'Obtaining combat power and the wisdom of the unorthodoxy would lead Tyrannoi and hybrids to become more like dragons...'
'Conversely, the opposite situation can happen too. Pleasures that could only be enjoyed as a human would occasionally cause someone farther along the path of becoming a dragon to revert back to human appearance.'
Indeed. According to this logic, Senpai would derive intense satisfaction as a closet pervert from erotic behavior and revert slightly to being human.
Hence, Hazumi mustered her determination to give it a try this time.
If only things would continue to be this easy—Hazumi sighed with worry and suppressed the uncertainty in the bottom of her heart.
"That silver dragon... Pavel Galad, yes?" Hinokagutsuchi spoke with mockery in her voice.
She was with Hal and Asya, walking in Kogetsu Academy's campus. Roughly half a day had gone by after the wielder of the dragonslaying sword had reappeared.
The morning sun they had witnessed from the tiny island in Tokyo Bay was already setting in the west. It was roughly 7pm right now.
"Yes. How did that dragon become so strong within just a few months? I can't believe even Hazumi-san's trump card didn't work..."
"Hmph, what is there to be surprised about?"
Asya was baffled while Hinokagutsuchi remained unfazed.
Inside the school, the young girl in a scarlet kimono should be quite conspicuous, but it was already after school and evening to boot. Practically no students could be seen along the path to the library.
Walking with her head up and chest puffed out, Hinokagutsuchi smiled arrogantly.
"The brat did it too. Do you believe the silver dragon to be less capable than he is?"
"I see, so that's the principle here?"
"Warrior, mage, hero... I'm confident that I'm inferior to him in talent for every job class," Hal could not help but agree.
Furthermore, Hinokagutsuchi continued, "If only that was all there is to it... Fully knowledgeable dragons would embark on long adventures for the sake of conquering the Road to Kingship. Up into the heavens, down into the oceans, deep into space, even crossing dimensions on occasion. Only by discovering flints and the power of dragonbane during their arduous travels can individuals become Tyrannoi—"
"A treasure hunting quest, in other words."
Hidden in the possessions left behind by Haruga Haruomi's late father was a treasure of dragonkind—a flint.
Only the flames generated when this type of stone shattered were able to awaken dragonslaying runes. Whether the Rune of the Bow or the Rune of the Twin Katana, both would be nothing more than symbols without the flints.
Hal had experienced this first hand. In other words—
"Having completed that challenging quest, Galad's abilities as a 'treasure hunter' might be superior to mine—I guess this could be a possible deduction..."
"The items and knowledge he obtained over the course of his travels ought to be quite abundant too..."
Previously, Pavel Galad had limited himself to "only sending the hero into battle."
But this time was different. Was he going to bring out all of his abilities in his attempt to defeat Haruga Haruomi followed by Princess Yukikaze?
After pointing this out, Hinokagutsuchi vanished into thin air.
They had reached the library, chatting while they walked. However, rather than the library, Hal and Asya's destination was the cultural clubs building opposite to it.
"Huh? No one's here."
Hal tilted his head. He had agreed to meet up with his companions here.
Juujouji Orihime, Shirasaka Hazumi, and Luna Francois. None of the trio were here.
"Let's get going first, since they will be coming later anyway. It'd be a hassle to keep that person waiting."
"You're right," Hal agreed with Asya's suggestion and walked up the stairs of the cultural clubs building.
The destination was the third floor. The room of the UFO Research Club.
"So you two have come."
The one they sought was waiting behind the door.
President of five cultural clubs, namely the Drama Club, the Mass Media Research Club, the Literature Club, the Science Insider Club, as well as the UFO Research Club, and at the same time, an extremely suspicious prophet.
Dressed in an outfit resembling maternity wear, gender indeterminate.
Her name was President M. Calling herself the "mother" of all club members, she was a superhuman unparalleled in both physical and mental greatness.
"I have been waiting here, focusing my mind, only because you lot requested for a discussion with me."
"Much appreciated. What we wanted to discuss is the same as what I mentioned over the phone last time," Hal immediately went straight to the point.
"I'll cut to the chase... We don't know if our enemy, who could potentially wreck Tokyo, be setting up some kind of trap?"
"How would I know? I am neither a clairvoyant nor Zhuge Kongming."
President M immediately offered a valuable oracle.
"Well, considering various circumstances, why not just handle things flexibly?"
"Is this a suggestion coming from one of your skills?"
"No, Haruga, this is simply my personal opinion and common sense."
Laughing wryly, Hal conversed with President M.
Forget it. He had not hoped for much to begin with. Trying to push the issue could end up bringing divine retribution. These were the feelings behind his wry smile.
"Can't we think of a solution? This is a crisis that could sink not only Tokyo but even all of Japan. It might even be the prelude to the world's destruction. Please offer us more of your guidance."
"My, how greedy you are."
They were on fairly good terms, perhaps because Asya had been under President M's tutelage on a one-to-one basis.
Asya made her request assertively, believing there was no need to be formal with President M. The prophet and possibly revolutionary species of human closed her eyes and began to meditate. The atmosphere was quite solemn.
"Let me see... From our conversation over the phone, there is one matter that bothers me greatly—That... trump card? ...Which the little angel used, you said the enemy blocked that move."
"Oh, yeah, that's right. The mystic ritual of a goddess to eliminate dragonslaying weapons." Asya nodded.
Still with her eyes closed, President M continued, "Rather than blocking it... The enemy rekindled the flame instead. That is the answer to the riddle."
"How did he do it?"
"I am not the one who should be figuring that out."
"Got it. Can you give us more concrete advice?"
"How shameless of you. When encountering situations where feminine charm cannot be applied, you really turn into a monster the farthest thing away from being useless."
"W-Why are you bringing up feminine charm now!?"
"Fine, fine—Oh, but I seem to be seeing something vaguely. Let me see, 'Counter a treasure with another treasure. You are advised to release the stored goods'."
"Such a cryptic oracle..."
"Something is better than nothing. A drowning man would gratefully grasp for even straws."
President M suddenly opened her eyes and stopped meditating.
It looked like that was her last piece of advice. As far as Hal and Asya knew so far, President M's prophesies always matched "the future's outline." Hopefully, it would be the case this time too—
Regardless, the paradoxical being of the "Amazon of indeterminate gender" told Hal and Asya, "Allow me to add a final word. When it is time to make a decision, think about the future—three months from now, three years from now. What consequences will your decision have on the future... If you take that into consideration, things will work out perhaps?"
"In a way, the President might be the most reliable of all humans."
"That's because the President often gives us honest advice, though it's mostly impossible to understand."
"This time, she was like a real fortune-teller, leaving so much room for interpretation and concluding with a suggestion that's like life advice."
"I really wish she'd give hints that were easy to understand."
Hal and Asya exchanged remarks poignantly.
They had left the UFO Research Club's room and were standing in front of the clubs building again.
It was almost 8pm but Orihime, Luna, and Hazumi still had not arrived. They could not be reached by cellphone either. What happened?
While Hal was puzzling over this, Asya suddenly said, "Anyway, let's go. I think there must've been a minor mistake or accident. If it's a serious incident, I'm sure Hiiragi-san would contact us, so there shouldn't be anything to worry about."
She made a good point.
Hence, Hal and Asya began to wander aimlessly on campus during the evening.
The school yard was deserted. All the students in athletic teams and clubs had apparently gone home already. In an unexpected turn of events, Hal and Asya got to spend time alone with each other.
"But are you sure you don't need to have dinner?"
"I ate a sandwich before coming to school, so that's plenty enough."
Plenty enough! Hal could not believe he heard these words coming from Asya on the subject of eating.
The bottomless abyss of a stomach and humanoid typhoon—Recalling his childhood friend's former image, Hal was overcome with a strong wave of nostalgia.
But he ought to accept this sort of change with an open mind, probably.
Hal switched mindsets and decided to change the subject.
"Say, I never thought we'd be studying at a normal school."
"And we're taking our studies pretty seriously too."
"By the time I noticed, even though it's not a lot, I've gotten to know a couple of people I can call friends."
"Didn't you gain a whole bunch of female friends over the past six months?"
"Well yeah, but the people I know have always been skewed towards the female side. After all, my line of work revolves around witches."
Walking side by side with Hal, Asya poked fun at him, "Haven't you always insisted you'd never date a witch?"
"That's because all witches are weird... No, all witches have too much personality. They're fine as coworkers, but dating is out of the question."
"That's what you claim, but what's the truth? Right now, Luna is pursuing you, Hazumi-san calls you 'Senpai♪' and super likes you, Orihime-san is on really good terms with you, and finally, even the WotC in New York..."
"But judging from the situation, it looks like you've retracted your statement."
"What you said just now, that 'dating is out of the question.' It's quite infuriating, but at the same time, I feel a sense of relief too."
"What do you mean?"
"Because—It means that I count as one of your romantic prospects."
Asya's sudden bomb drop caused Hal to freeze on the spot.
Just as he was thinking "what did Asya just say?" in surprise, the childhood friend continued.
"You still don't get it? I think of you as a prospective romantic partner and I want to go out with you—as girlfriend and boyfriend."
"Speaking of which, didn't we kiss in New York last time?"
"Then how much do you fail as a man if you still don't get how I feel? Yet when it comes to others, you're always so nitpicky."
Asya chuckled with a smile and looked up to gaze at Hal's face.
The two of them naturally stopped walking. The silver-haired childhood friend was shorter so of course, she had to look up. Hal's heart skipped a beat.
The way she was looking at him seemed to emphasize her adorable and fairy-like face.
Being together with Asya like this—It could very well be the first time.
Furthermore, her gorgeous lips looked irresistible, as though urging him to do something. All Hal needed to do was bend over slightly, and Asya to tiptoe a little, and they could probably touch. A kiss was within reach.
Hal was certain of this—then he jumped in fright. What on earth was he thinking?
He knew his heart was beating rapidly.
Hal was at a loss. The person in front of him was neither Luna Francois nor Juujouji Orihime, yet she was making him feel in this way...
In addition, he had no choice but to admit this.
At this very moment, Haruga Haruomi was seeing his childhood friend, whom he originally considered family, as a girl!
"U-Uh, although it was so long ago, New York, umm..."
"Those were my feelings for you. It was an action I took, hoping you'd understand that I love you."
Asya's response could not be more direct. There was no room to misinterpret.
"It's because I can't lose to Luna. Or Orihime-san. Or Hazumi-san."
"I-I don't think this is a contest..."
"No, but precisely this is the kind of issue we have here, winning and losing is quite important. Perhaps you're currently very conscious of the girls around you, causing you to spontaneously set your sights on others, making it hard for you to express a clear stance."
"I-It's not like that."
As soon as he spoke, Hal remembered last night.
This memory made Hal unable to make any counterarguments. While he was silent, Asya added, "Actually... I am very certain."
"Yes. Even though you are surrounded by many girls right now, I'll definitely become number one in your heart."
Asya asserted with secret confidence in her words.
Adorable and mischievous, it seemed like she was teasing her childhood friend Hal.
There was an attractiveness in her movements and expression that Hal had never seen before. While surprised by this new side of Asya, whom he knew for so many long years, Hal also found it very novel and refreshing.
Faced with this Asya who was practically like a different person, Hal felt his heart pounding nonstop.
"Fufufufu. It's almost time to change the subject. Too serious a chat might affect tomorrow's decisive battle."
"I-I'm glad you're willing to change the subject."
"But Haruomi, please don't forget. Once the matters of Princess Yukikaze and Pavel Galad are resolved... I'll show you my true power."
"Yes. I will make sure you know that even Luna, Orihime-san, and Hazumi-san will seem to have no presence when compared to my charm. Even someone as dense as you will be able to easily decide whom to choose."
Asya's gallant declaration sounded even a bit awesome.
Incredibly, her confidence and assertiveness did not feel off-putting. Rather, it would be better to say that it paired well to emphasize her coolness and charm.
Feeling that the gallant Asya from the battlefield seemed to be making an appearance in everyday life, Hal was rendered speechless. His childhood friend was undoubtedly a beautiful maiden of limitless attractiveness right now.
If he had to find a flaw to nitpick, there was only one thing at most.
Indeed. At most, there was a tiny sliver of doubt, was Haruga Haruomi's childhood friend really someone like this...?
"Okay, let me have a look over there."
After parting ways with Haruomi in the school yard, Asya went back the way she had come.
Her destination was somewhere between the cultural clubs building and the library. This time, instead of the UFO Research Club, she was headed to the underground level of the library.
She entered an underground floor that only SAURU personnel had authorized access.
Asya had locked one of the rooms there. Furthermore, this was Padlock magic cast by a master-class witch.
Finally releasing the lock, Asya stepped into the room.
"Sorry everyone, thanks for being patient."
Asya greeted first. Three girls responded to her.
"My goodness! Where did you run off on your own while imprisoning us here!?"
"How dare you set a trap for me..."
Shirasaka Hazumi, Juujouji Orihime, and Luna Francois Gregory.
They were the trio who had failed to make the appointment. In fact, Asya had called them to the library's underground level ahead of time, trapping them here and confiscating their cellphones.
This was all done so that she could spend the evening with Haruomi alone.
The kindhearted Orihime and Hazumi simply looked uncomfortable, but Luna Francois was clearly very displeased.
Asya told her three companions very simply, "I went to see Haruomi—Since all of you have been secretly seducing the Haruga family's Haruomi-kun behind my back lately... Please allow me to ask—"
Deciding she should cut to the straight directly, Asya inquired, "What on earth are you trying to hide by excluding me?"
" "!?" "
The two honest Japanese girls jumped in surprise and looked at Luna.
She was evidently the one who had issued the order to leave Asya out. The American girl shrugged and grumbled with displeasure, "You really haven't been acting like yourself recently. I never thought you'd be woman enough to notice something like this."
"I am no longer my past self. Please don't underestimate me."
On the evening prior to the decisive battle, Asya's purpose for imprisoning the three girls was not just for the sake of spending time alone with Haruomi.
"Not just you three, but Haruomi himself is also acting sneaky."
"Indeed... Asya, I admit that you are no longer the same. The reason why I excluded you was because I feared your feminine charm was too lacking—"
"So that's why..."
"After all, this matter is of paramount importance to Harry currently. But since you have devoted so much thought into this already, perhaps I could allow you to help..."
Luna Francois sighed.
"But do know that this is a very depressing topic. The situation is more serious than Harry himself realizes and he will soon become cornered. Do you still wish to listen?"
Step by step, Luna Francois began to explain the situation.
After understanding the whole story, Asya found her heart dominated by surprise and anxiety.
Night went by and the promised day agreed with Pavel Galad arrived.
It was roughly 8am. The JMSDF dispatched an escort ship to sail towards the small island that had appeared off the coast of Urayasu. Both Hal and Asya were on the ship.
Seeing Hal suppress a yawn, Asya said to him, "How much sleep did you get last night?"
"Around five hours. I'd prefer if I could sleep for triple that amount of time, but there's an important event today, after all."
"Then the opening ceremony and the event itself would have to be canceled just because you overslept."
"I'd rather cancel it if that were possible, but I naturally woke up at dawn, probably because this event gives me stomach cramps."
The two of them were walking along the deck since there was nothing to do inside the ship. Staring off into Tokyo Bay, they waited for the operation to begin.
Hal and Asya's ship was not the only one to be mobilized.
In addition, there were two other escort ships and three submarines moving through these waters. A JASDF base nearby also had helicopters and fighter jets ready to sortie as dictated by the situation.
All this was for the sake of supporting Hal's team.
Incidentally, Orihime and Hazumi were participating in the operation on a separate ship.
As the commander, Luna Francois was working alongside the two Japanese girls.
Only the childhood friends combo of Hal and Asya were together on this ship, because the two of them had to serve as the vanguard and be the first to land on the island.
This was to avoid deploying all their forces at once and getting wiped out.
Their approach was the same as yesterdays, but the trump card would only be debuting today.
The combination of Haruga Haruomi with Asya and Rushalka was unsurpassed in all aspects including combat strength, adaptability, and coordination, making them the best suited to taking on this role.
Even Luna had not raised any objections.
Hence, Hal and his silver-haired childhood friend were together right now, enjoying the sea breeze.
(So I guess last night's topic of conversation will be postponed...)
Her declaration of "I'll show you my true power."
Asya had said she would put this matter aside for now because of today's decisive battle.
From their previous meeting several hours ago till now, Asya had not broached the subject again. Thanks to that, Hal was able to chat casually with her without worrying—
Leaning against the guardrail on the edge of the deck, Hal breathed a sigh of relief.
Asya suddenly came beside him.
Their elbows and upper arms were touching, a distance that was too close.
"Haruomi, let the two of us seize victory today. It's a promise, okay?"
With a calm and confident expression, his childhood firned smiled at him.
Her adorability and her fairy-like beauty amplified each other, leaving a deep impression in Hal's mind, setting his heart pounding.
Leaning close to Haruomi, Asya nodded mentally to herself while maintaining the refreshing smile on her face.
Just as she expected, Haruomi was unsettled. Every attack from her, conducted with feigned naturalness, were striking right on target. There was no better description than "Just as planned!"
Asya was certain that the two of them, leaning close together on the escort ship's deck, definitely looked like a young and inexperienced couple to the eyes of outsiders!
Of course, they might feel that it would be unseemly for them to be acting lovey-dovey just before a crucial and decisive battle.
However, Asya had learned the bad news of "Haruga Haruomi was currently turning into a dragon" through last night's interrogation...
The trio of Orihime, Luna, and Hazumi seemed to be hiding something—
The past Asya most likely would not have noticed, but in her current state with augmented womanly powers, she had discovered the symptoms, just like how she sensed danger during battles.
Obtaining dragonslaying runes had forced her childhood friend to confront a life-threatening crisis.
Now that she knew, there was no way she would not provide assistance. Making physical contact with him unobtrusively, or touching him directly, she would repeat this again and again, so as to contribute to Haruomi's recovery!
It was also thanks to her augmented womanly powers that Asya was able to come to this decision.
(I knew it, that magic is so useful!)
Hypnosis magic had resulted in an unnatural increase of abilities like doping.
Just as Asya was overjoyed at its effects from the bottom of her heart, next to her, Haruomi suddenly spoke, "I-I'm going for a drink of water."
"Sure. I'll wait for you here."
Haruomi turned around and left, looking like he could not withstand the insane pounding of his heart.
He was distracted and there was a lack of calmness in his expression, tone, and movements. However, he did not look unhappy. Rather it was because he was too conscious of Asya's "girlishness."
Asya felt satisfied and fulfilled as never before.
She had been fighting dragons since childhood, but combat and victory had never brought her such a strong sense of fulfillment...
Humming happily, Asya unintentionally slipped her hand into her pocket.
She was wearing her usual military jacket, but it was time for her to buy a new one. There must be clothing more suited to her—
There was a memo in her pocket.
She unfolded it and saw the words "it will be too late by the time you regret it," written in red. This bubbly handwriting was familiar to Asya. For the past few months, she had been training herself under this person's tutelage. And this handwriting was identical to what this person had wrote on whiteboards and notebooks...
Come to think of it, Asya's breakfast this morning consisted of a banana and a cup of cafe au lait.
"It'll be fine. I managed to pull through during the battle against Hannibal too. I... should be able to do it!"
As though engaging in self-suggestion, Asya voiced the words in her heart.
The ship had already arrived near the island that was to serve as a special arena. The plan was for Asya and Haruomi to land here as the vanguard to fight against Pavel Galad—
Instantly tossing matters of love to the back of her mind, Asya began to focus on combat.
This was a job she had been doing since childhood. Again, she would return to form as "Anastasya Rubashvili, Europe's strongest Shootdown Ace."
Asya had a feeling.
Seeing her in action, Haruomi would most likely become captivated by her all over again.
At that moment, a giant silver-white body flew in from the southern sky.
Pavel Galad, the elite dragon that had inherited the dragonslaying Rune of the Sword. Even though she was familiar with this mortal enemy's appearance, Asya doubted her own eyes.
"Four of them?"
Indeed. There was more than one silver-white dragon of the sword.
Four dragons, identical to him in appearance, were approaching, flying in formation like a squadron of fighter jets.
"Magic of Ruruk Soun!?"
An alarm of "Dragons sighted!" blared inside the ship.
Hearing the alarm, Hal rushed out to the deck and looked at the southern sky using the magic of Enhanced Vision. Four Pavel Galads were approaching at high speed.
There were seven magical symbols behind the four dragons.
Naturally, runes of Ruruk Soun. They signified "clones."
" " " "Hohohoho. Welcome, humans!" " " "
The four Pavel Galads spoke simultaneously.
His stylish and beautiful voice resounded all around the island serving as the duel arena.
The real one should be hidden among the four dragons. Presumably, the other three were either illusions or fake copies of Pavel Galad created using magic.
However, even through the eyes of a Tyrannos, it was impossible to tell which was the genuine article!
The intricacy of these counterfeits was praiseworthy, succeeding in confusing Hal's faction.
"Followers of my mortal rival, good work so far—But pray forgive me!"
"This is a duel between successors to dragonslaying runes!"
"There is no room for interference from you humans!"
"Please leave immediately!"
One after another, the four silver dragons declared war.
Undisguised in each of their right hands was a longsword—
The dragonslaying sword, of course. The four longswords shot out lightning from their blades, launching an indiscriminate attack in all directions, striking the sea surface and the escort ships carrying Hal and the others. Perhaps even the submarines underwater were caught in the attack.
Hal's escort ship was struck on the side by the lightning and about to be sunk—No.
"Rushalka, use imperishable protection!"
Hal heard his childhood friend issue a command.
The blue wyvern materialized in the sky over the escort ship, giving off pearly radiance from her entire body.
This was "imperishable protection," the defensive barrier protecting dragon kings and Tyrannoi. This glow enveloped not only Rushalka but also the escort ship, blocking dragonkind's lightning in the nick of time.
As expected of Asya the Shootdown Ace, she managed to protect the ship with her swift reaction.
As for the other escort ship...
Akurou-Ou, Minadzuki, and Glinda—Three leviathans had appeared in the sky above it.
The nine-tailed fox-wolf, the emerald serpentine dragon, and the three-headed lion chimera. These three leviathans also deployed imperishable protection to defend their ship from Galad's lightning attack.
There was another escort ship that had neither witches nor leviathans on board.
That ship was struck directly by the lightning and could only sink into the sea!
The human side swiftly mustered a counterattack against the four silver dragons responsible for the destruction. From close range, the ships carrying Hal and Orihime launched anti-air missiles designed for a range within thirty kilometers while firing 127mm machine guns continuously, aiming at the silver dragon and his three clones!
However, the four Pavel Galads also glowed with pearly radiance.
Imperishable protection. These barriers were difficult to breach unless using attacks on the level of assured annihilation techniques. Naturally, human attacks were thoroughly blocked, a mockery of their impotence.
"Well, not surprising..." As someone equipped with the same defenses, Hal muttered to himself.
However, he immediately went "Huh!?", doubting his vision.
Indeed. Luna Francois' partner started to crash.
The lion leviathan was supposed to be flying in the sky to intercept the four silver dragons.
Her majestic figure crashed helplessly towards the surface of Tokyo Bay, almost as though someone had ordered her to "jump into the sea."
Simply floating on the sea like a buoy, Glinda did not return to the battlefield.
She remained motionless. Incidentally, in the next instant, Akurou-Ou and Minadzuki—the partners of the Japanese witches—also fell into the sea.
Like Glinda, these two leviathans were also floating on the sea.
"What the heck is going on!?"
His companions on the other ship were apparently confronting some kind of emergency.
Just as Hal was about to check on their status using his cellphone—no, the power of the runes—he heard his childhood friend's acute voice.
"Haruomi, let me use the Rune of the Bow!"
The silver-haired beauty was running towards him.
Her face was beautiful as ever, but the vibe was completely different from just earlier. She not only looked cool but also dignified and fearless. For some reason, Hal breathed a sigh of refief.
Asya's warrior expression was the look familiar to Hal.
"No matter what, Rushalka must singlehandedly oppose those four dragons at the same time. The rune is essential!"
"Got it! Do it however you want—"
"As if I would allow you to do as you wish."
The instant Hal was responding to Asya's request, someone interrupted their exchange.
Out of the blue, a SDF officer walked up to the two of them.
The man was wearing the predominantly white uniform of the JMSDF, but for some reason, Hal could not get a clear view of his face. Something haze-like was obscuring his face.
Hal realized with sudden alarm that this was stealth magic.
"Witches... Isn't that what your ilk is called? I apologize for ambushing small fry like you, certainly a taint on the honor of dragonkind, but—Honestly, you lot are very much in my way."
This beautifully masculine voice belonged to Pavel Galad.
The SDF officer of unknown appearance extended his right hand. A symbol consisting of three "<" in a series appeared on his palm.
It was the Rune of the Sword. Pavel Galad's mark.
Aiming at the silver-haired beauty, the mysterious SDF officer fired white light from his rune—!
The instant Hal came to his senses, he summoned the magic gun to his right hand.
Fire. Without hesitation, he opened fire on the SDF officer. Imperishable protection was deployed, defending his entire body, resisting Hal's attack.
However, the impact caused the SDF officer to lose aim.
The light fired by the SDF officer, meant to pierce Asya, ended up missing her, deviating to the right slightly.
"Well defended, Haruga Haruomi."
Despite failing to strike his target, the SDF officer spoke in a carefree manner.
The haze obscuring his face dissipated. A head of silver hair. Pale complexion, handsome face. Hal remembered this face, which he had seen once before—It was Pavel Galad's human form.
In the next instant...
Galad in human form charged forward with a thrust of his longsword!
Hal blocked the blade using imperishable protection. Naturally, the sword was the dragonslaying sword. Instantly, the opponent's attire transformed into a summer jacket, a shirt, and pants, probably disguised using illusory magic previously.
"So the four dragons rampaging in the air—They're all fake!?"
"Smart as always. I had considered, if presented with the opportunity... I would attack your retainers in this form, to eliminate them secretly."
"Nevertheless, as one might expect of your followers, they were all very sharp and alert. I had a feeling that it would not be easy to dispose of them even if I disguised my appearance, hence—"
Hal was in shock for a moment, but immediately stopped worrying.
He was originally afraid that the three leviathans had crashed because something had happened to the witches, but that was apparently not the case. Even now, Asya had started to sprint at full speed, distancing herself from Galad's human form.
She ran into the ship from the deck to avoid getting in Hal's way.
"Anyway, Haruomi! I'm leaving the rest to you!"
Asya never did anything reckless beyond the limits of her own abilities.
Impressive as always, the judgment of a seasoned warrior. However—Runes of Ruruk Soun suddenly appeared under her feet, signifying a "binding curse."
Asya's sprint was halted unnaturally.
The silver-haired childhood friend had been immobilized by restraining magic!
Hal yelled then witnessed with his own eyes.
Soaring gallantly in the sky, Rushalka stopped flapping her wings and crashed.
After falling into Tokyo Bay, she floated helplessly on the sea surface like timber from a shipwreck. The other three leviathans were in the same state.
"You used the same 'binding curse' on the others too!?"
"Yes. As for you—I would like us to embark on a journey together."
Runes of Ruruk Soun were shining over the head of Galad's human form.
A total of four runes. Their arrangement signified High-Speed Flight. Hal's body immediately floated off the ground.
Even though her body could not move, Asya could still use her voice, apparently. Hal heard her scream in surprise.
However, Hal did not stop flying as a result, Together with Galad's human form, he rose up gradually, flying away from his childhood friend and the escort ship.
"Sure enough, transforming into a human is quite tiring."
Galad's human form began to shapeshift in front of him.
Within the blink of an eye, the handsome young man turned into a silver-white elite dragon. His height also increased all at once from 180cm or so to a body length of seventeen or eighteen meters.
"Where are you taking me!?"
"First to Tokyo, I suppose. Now that I have eliminated the hindrances around you, Haruga Haruomi, I should be able to take my time dealing with you..."
Hearing that "hindrances" were "eliminated," Hal looked downwards in shock.
Thirteen runes of Ruruk Soun had appeared on the sea surface. They were extremely large, almost the same size as the 130m-long escort ship.
The arrangement signified "Open, door to another world."
Teleportation magic. A spell for transporting objects to another location...
"I'm not letting you succeed!"
"Excuse me, but those are exactly my words to you."
Hal immediately used Dispel magic, trying to erase the teleportation spell.
Dispel failed to produce any effect. Upon closer examination, he noticed that runes of Ruruk Soun for "spell resistance" had appeared before the chest of his enemy's gigantic body, having returned to a dragon's form.
Negating magic cast at extremely close range, it was a type of defensive magic.
Breaking through this spell required pouring in magic on the level of a technique of assured annihilation or pulling the spellcaster away to create some distance—That was what his magic wand, the magic gun, told him.
But it was too late.
The leviathans floating on the sea—Rushalka, Akuro-Ou, Minadzuki, and Glinda had disappeared, sucked away by the thirteen runes of "Open, door to another world."
This was not offensive magic burying them at the bottom of the sea or annihilating them completely.
Instead, it transported them to somewhere else.
"Asya! Juujouji! Shirasaka! Luna!"
Hal kept calling out to this companions. Not only were they companions but also individuals who were connected to Hal through magical bonds, hence, he immediately noticed.
No matter how loudly he yelled or how desperately he searched, he could not reach the girls.
Haruga Haruomi's retainers—their very existence—had vanished off the face of the Earth. Even though instinct told him that the four girls were not dead, Hal still felt that they did not exist anywhere on the Earth...
Galad's mystic spell of "Open, door to another world."
This magic's terrifying effects caused not only the leviathans but also their partners to vanish from the escort ships.
"Where did you transfer them to!?"
"...All I can tell you is none of the above. Try to search carefully after you defeat me."
Hal interrogated the dragon in front of him, but the other party remained nonchalant.
While Galad was moving Hal to Tokyo at lightning speed, Hal wanted to sigh from the bottom of his heart.
"You put that island in such a conspicuous spot simply as a diversion?"
"Yes, indeed. Anything would have sufficed. So long as it drew your attention—preventing you from realizing my intentions."
"So separating me from the witches was also part of your plan."
Were their positions reversed, Hal definitely would have done the same, Hal thought gloomily.
The first step towards cornering Haruga Haruomi required eliminating the witches who assisted him.
"Still, I never thought I'd fall into your trap..."
The obsession with victory belonging to the warrior race of dragonkind.
And the meticulous caution lacking in the warrior race of dragonkind.
Having witnessed how terrifying his old foe had become after changing his ways, Hal gulped hard. How much resistance could he put up against such a monster?
Guarded by pearly protection, his body and mind were tensing up from uncertainty and nervousness.
Once again, Hal became painfully aware that "I'm not suited to battle after all." Haruga Haruomi was a not a fighter whose will to fight would ignite under such circumstances.
Even so, he had no choice but to take the bull by the horns.
Driven by duty rather than fighting spirit, Hal yelled with reckless abandon, "Queen, I beg you! Act as my limbs and settle the fight with this guy!"
With Tokyo New Town as the stage, the second round of the duel between Tyrannoi was finally beginning.
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