Leviathan:Volume 7 Chapter 4
Chapter 4 - Lost Witches
The equilateral triangular prism of pure black, towering at over a thousand meters, stood in the Old Tokyo Concession at the former district of Ginza.
People called this type of object a "Monolith." However, dragonkind simply called it a "wedge."
Of course, humans of Earth were unaware of this difference.
The only exceptions were probably Haruga Haruomi, who had frequent contact with dragons—and one other person.
That man was named Sophocles.
A tall handsome man in the prime of life with very mature airs.
His complexion was too dark for a Caucasian, his facial features too deep-set for an oriental, no negroid characteristics. Let alone his real identity, even his race was indeterminate.
Sophocles was standing on the top of the Monolith.
Again, he was dressed in a black suit today, always showing up in front of others in this attire.
"Princess, your mood seems... not too great."
"Say no more. I cannot believe that Haruomi dared to lose before our duel... Defeated by the likes of that silver dragon. What a disgrace!"
The eccentric dressed in black inquired why Princess Yukikaze was unhappy.
This was a height over a thousand meters from the ground. Strong gusts of wind were blowing across the top without any hindrances.
In spite of that, the princess and Sophocles were conversing normally.
"The Road to Kingship, a game whose participants are Tyrannoi aiming for the position of dragon king... Shouldn't this victory be seen as a brilliant comeback executed by the latecomer Pavel Galad? Such open-mindedness is only fitting for a dragon king."
"I, Yukikaze, could not care less."
Princess Yukikaze's tone was clearly sulking.
Acting in this manner when her appearance was that of a fourteen or fifteen year old made her seem very childish. In contrast, Sophocles was talking to her with a calm and respectful attitude the whole time.
"Then why did you allow that dragon to have a match against the young man?"
"Do you even need to ask? This was to tell Haruomi that he is not worthy of dueling me, Yukikaze, if he were unable to overcome a trial of that level."
"Meaning you had no intention of fighting Pavel Galad from the very start?"
"Not necessarily. However, to this day, I, Yukikaze, have confronted similar opponents countless times. It has long become stale and boring. In that case, I prefer to fight Haruomi. He—"
Princess Yukikaze was outlandish, seeking not just simple victory or life and death but also pleasure on the battlefield.
Due to this type of personality, she asserted firmly, "He is far more interesting than others and pleasing to me."
"But that young man lost."
Sophocles' tone was gloomy.
"Just as you say, princess... He is not even worthy of competing against current royalty, much less ascending to the position of dragon king. Your discerning eye has proven this."
Even when praised, Princess Yukikaze still turned her head away with displeasure like a sulking child.
She was the youngest dragon king. Very youthful in mind as well as appearance—Or rather, young. Full of childishness.
Preciesely because of that, her mood would not improve simply because a suspicious human being offered her a few words of praise.
However, it was not like she would sulk nonstop.
"Fine. I, Yukikaze, shall reward that silver dragon a little as befits the victor. I shall personally send him to the afterlife."
"Your name is Sophocles, isn't it? What are your plans?"
"I—There is a matter that intrigues me."
If Princess Yukikaze was a conqueror and warrior, then Sophocles was the game master who saw through everything from a god's eye view. Out of a game master's sense of responsibility, he said calmly, "Pavel Galad gained the advantage by carefully setting up the combat arena. However, the young man's allies—those priestesses—have yet to exit the stage."
"Now that you mention it, there were always a few humans hanging by Haruomi's side."
"Those girls are fairly resourceful. Perhaps they may become the key to victory—The second key."
Noticing Sophocles' intent, Princess Yukikaze finally smiled.
It was a radiant smile exuding pride and ambition. It was also evidence that the beautiful maiden, reminiscent of a snow fairy, had switched to a seasoned warrior's countenance.
"In other words, you believe there could be further twists and developments."
"Who knows? Mere speculation on my part. I cannot make any guarantees to you about whether the situation would unfold in this way unless I bear witness with my own eyes."
"Hahahaha. In that case, make haste and be on your way. Use your eyes properly to watch clearly!" Recovering her former vitality, Princess Yukikaze commanded gallantly.
"In the meantime, I, Yukikaze, shall play with Pavel Galad a little while waiting for your good news. Off I go to enter the fray. Heaven and earth shall bear witness—Even with the Rune of the Sword in his possession, the dragonslaying arrow cannot be stopped!"
Inside the barrier created by Pavel Galad...
A great battle was taking place in the mysterious ruins resembling an open-pit mine. Four witches and four leviathans were cornered.
A huge number of Raptors had them heavily surrounded.
The initial pack of more than five hundred dragons were finally reduced to three hundred or so.
However, the girls were still severely outnumbered.
Furthermore, the aces Asya and Luna Francois were incapacitated. They lacked the power of dragonbane on their side yet the enemy possessed the Rune of the Sword.
No chance of victory at all.
Even so, Juujouji Orihime still stood up straight and glared at the Raptors flying freely in the sky, equipped with the dragonslaying sword.
The enemy had yet to launch an offensive, because Akuro-Ou and Minadzuki were growling to keep them at baby.
Akuro-Ou kept her head and upper torso low while raising her rear in a threatening pose. The nine tails were standing on end, completely extended, like an open fan.
On the other hand, Minadzuki was hovering closer to the witches.
Instead of intentionally putting on a ferocious appearance, the emerald serpentine dragon growled, staring aloofly at the enemies in the air.
Looking at her injured companions, Minadzuki's gentle partner showed worry.
"Everybody..." Hazumi said sadly.
Glinda had a massive wound on her back while Rushalka had her left wing completely amputated. Luna had fainted and looked unconscious. Sprawled on the ground in pain, Asya was groaning.
All Hazumi had to do was ask Minadzuki and she would be able to use the power of healing to cure everyone.
But doing so would present an opening to the enemy. The instant Minadzuki stopped keeping them at bay, would the Raptors in the air attack at the same time?
This premonition gave pause to Hazumi. It was probably not paranoia on her part.
Then at that moment, the witches jumped in surprise.
The one most dear to them was thinking of them, worrying about their safety—For some reason, they knew with certainty.
The feeling just now only lasted a brief instant. Hazumi and Orihime were stunned.
Alone on the Earth's surface, stuck in a crisis—He had transmitted his thoughts through a brief connection. In his fight against a fellow Tyrannos, he had been stabbed by the dragonslaying sword in the end. With his fading consciousness, Haruga Haruomi recalled his companions and transmitted his thoughts...
"Oh no! At this rate, Senpai will—"
"Then no one can go save him? Oh my goodness...!"
Thinking of the worst outcome, the two girls were very shocked.
Such a reaction was very normal for Hazumi and Orihime who had grown up in Japan.
Indeed. They were the exemplars of kindhearted girls and wholesome humans. Hence, Anastasya Rubashvili was highly unusual to think of such things.
That was the way things were. The difference between her and the Japanese witches was as great as night and day to begin with.
"What the heck..."
The phantom pain felt as though her left arm had been severed whole.
While groaning because of this unbearable pain, Asya figured things out at the same time. In a powerless voice as though on her last breath, she murmured, "The link between our minds with Haruomi's... did not disappear—It's just hard to confirm its presence because we're on a different world line..."
However, thanks to Haruomi's intense worry for the witches' safety, their minds had connected for an instant.
In other words, this spiritual link could be created through artificial means. In abject agony, Asya was certain of this.
It was apparently thanks to that mysterious crystal ball that the enemy was able to use the Rune of the Sword—
Such methods were unorthodox.
However, if Europe's strongest Shootdown Ace and her companions were doing it, her senses and magical power as a witch were sufficient. Through my own strength, I must reproduce the link with Haruomi!
The pain had caused Asya's recent pursuit of "increased feminine prowess" to vanish from her mind completely.
Probably because of that, at this very moment, Asya began to perform a magic technique of extremely challenging difficulty, as a "complete witch" devoid of all impurities.
"O ancient... divine seal of purity. Once again, grant me and Rushalka power."
She petitioned the pentagram worshiped by witches and leviathans.
It was not a prayer. Rather, she was "extracting" power from that magical emblem.
Naturally gifted, Asya had been certified as a master-class witch at an early age, hence, her understanding of magic was founded upon inborn instinctive sensing rather than knowledge.
So-called magic was not a method where one prayed to others, hoping for someone else to make your wish come true.
Suppose magical power existed here. Powerful magic that could demolish an entire city if one were to mistime one's breathing by a fraction of a second—
Using the spellcaster's sensitivity and knowledge to subjugate such power and make it obey.
That was magic.
Failure never crossed her mind. Even if she actually failed, she would not care either. Even if it meant that a city would be blown away, there was no helping it. She would simply succeed next time.
Only by attaining a realm of such an extent could one achieve Ars Magna, epic magic.
Prayer, altruism, or some such should be left to any random religion. Arrogant recklessness, certainty of one's success, self-centeredness, only those with their soul tainted by darkness and fiendish qualities could attain the same realm as exemplified by Asya and others!
Sprawling, Asya barely managed to lift her upper torso.
Her left shoulder was in excruciating pain. In fact, it was impossible for her to move normally in this state. But by this juncture, even pain itself had turned into an important factor to increase concentration instead.
She focused her mind to forget her body's pain, then felt it.
On her chest—the left breast, closest to the source of magical power's creation, a witch's heart. Something was fondling her small breasts, in the same manner as how Haruomi had done so in the past.
"Rushalka, use the Rune of the Bow."
Almost about to faint from pain, Asya smiled confidently.
The "tilted half-moon," the emblem of the Rune of the Bow, appeared on the back of her left hand.
Traversing worlds, a spiritual link between her and Haruomi had been reconstructed. The brief instant earlier had told Asya the key principle to this magic. Simply stated, all that was required was recreating "the same feeling as from that time." Even though it was a difficult undertaking, Asya succeeded in her goal through her natural magic talent.
That being said, Haruomi seemed to be unconscious in the other world, wandering on the brink between life and death—
Oh well, he should be able to hang in there a little longer. He could watch his life flash before his eyes or whatever, so long as he endured until Asya executed her attack.
"Rushalka, begin attacking with pseudo-divinity. Technique of assured annihilation!"
Asya yelled hoarsely, as hard as she could.
Her blue partner was no slouch either. Having lost one wing, fallen on the white desert, groaning, she was in no state to fight. However, Rushalka still raised her head bravely, glaring forcefully at the sky, and roared with all her might.
Two white arrowheads suddenly appeared over Rushalka's head and hurtled towards the dead center of the three hundred Raptors in the sky that were biding their time to launch a heavy offensive.
Thus, through Asya and Rushalka's desperate efforts and magical power, a technique of assured annihilation was unleashed.
"Isn't that—Haruga-kun's power!?"
A smile bloomed on Orihime's face.
Rushalka had suddenly used offensive magic. Ice, snowflakes, and cold air were blowing in the sky above, rampaging unchecked, slaughtering the sword-wielding Raptors.
Apart from the blizzard, Rushalka also created white arrowheads.
Similar to ceramics in material, their texture resembled white porcelain.
These beautiful arrowheads were vicious too. Firing sweeping blue-white lasers from their tips nonstop, they sliced through the Raptors' bodies.
Unmistakable. Asya-san was using the Rune of the Bow!
Orihime glanced at Asya the senior witch, lying on the ground nearby.
The feedback of Rushalka's pain had rendered Asya unconscious, but the former Shootdown Ace of Europe had succeeded in her difficult task.
Attacked by the technique of assured annihilation, the Raptors in the sky above were now in disarray.
Preoccupied with fleeing from the dragonslaying laser beams, they even forgot about attacking Orihime and the others on the ground. However, whether this attack alone was able to wipe out the enemies... One could not be so sure.
Orihime had a faint feeling that Rushalka would probably exhaust her strength before then.
Was it a witch's instinct? For some reason, Orihime was quite certain. She had to do something herself too.
"Akuro-Ou... Lend me strength."
If Asya-san could do it, so can I.
Such a thought did not cross Orihime's mind at all. Juujouji Orihime had neither the talent nor that kind of confidence. However—
"Simply stated, all that was required was recreating the same feeling as from that time...!"
After feeling "connected" to Hal for a brief instant, Asya had immediately summoned the rune.
Through this, Orihime reasoned out the cause on her own. She knew that chances of success were not high, but regardless, what she needed to do now was do everything in her power and struggle as hard as she could.
Taking the challenge. Courage. Determination. Foolhardiness. Resignation. Trusting to chance.
Orihime's mindset was optimistic and a little irresponsible, while very resigned to the notion that "In the end, success still depended on whether God was accommodating"—
She thought of the boy she loved the most in the whole wide world.
To be honest, she felt that Haruga Haruomi had quite a lot of flaws despite his areas of excellence. Lack of sociability, keeping many secrets, inexplicably obstinate.
But even after pointing out so many of his flaws, Orihime could not help but say.
(But I love you. I love you so much.)
She truly dared not say this in front of others. Too embarrassing.
These words should be left until a time when the two of them were alone. Besides, Orihime thought, I love Haruga-kun so much, and Haruga-kun also _____ me, so—
"The bond between us should be enough for him to transmit magical power to me across worlds."
This confidence allowed her to recall the feeling when she was "one with" her beloved.
Then Orihime felt it.
Something was fondling her chest—the left breast nearest to a witch's heart. Probably as before, it was his right hand groping randomly.
"My goodness. Sure enough, Haruga-kun is so perverted."
By now, Orihime had already memorized the sensation of these hands.
"I will let you... grope as much as you want. You are the only one I would say these words to. Because that is how much—I love you."
Carefully savoring her loving feelings for Haruga Haruomi, she reconstructed her spiritual link.
The Rune of the Bow appeared on the back of her left hand. Then all she needed to do next was use a technique of assured annihilation as usual, unleashing magical power to the max—
At that very moment, Orihime and her partner Akuro-Ou underwent a dramatic change.
Feeling as though she were struck by lightning, Orihime came to a sudden realization.
In the past, Haruga Haruomi had said the following to Juujouji Orihime.
I don't think you're cut out to be a witch. You are too upstanding, too wholesome. However, former dragon king Hinokagutsuchi had said that descent into darkness and unorthodoxy was not the only path available.
'It is a principle of nature that the sacred light of the priestess can be used to bring the demonic 'serpent' closer to divinity.'
Orihime reestablished her link with the companion in another world.
Originally, Orihime's power should not be capable of accomplishing this, but she knew—Her thoughts and feelings for her beloved would be sufficient to enable her to surmount this challenge.
Even without tainting herself with darkness and fiendish qualities, she could still become stronger.
This confidence pulled Orihime to a higher realm, granting her new blessings.
Orihime whispered lightly.
The affinity of her partner, Akuro-Ou, was Fire.
However, leviathans with multiple affinities would occasionally arise. There were two of these rare cases right by Orihime's side.
Asya's "Blue" Rushalka had dual attributes of Water and the Moon.
Luna's "Good Witch of the South" Glinda had dual attributes of Gravity and Illusion.
Both were renowned leviathans whose stature in the witch world had earned them monikers, due to their powerful magic, varied abilities, and capable partners.
Orihime had personally seen these "Shootdown Ace-class" leviathans in action.
Hence, she instantly understood the identity of what resided within Akuro-Ou, the fire-aligned leviathan.
It was an awakening, growth.
Rather than darkness granting Akuro-Ou a new power, it was the growth of a witch with a sacred heart and soul that allowed a second pseudo-divinity to appear in Akuro-Ou—the new power unleashed by Orihime.
This happened to take place just as Rushalka's full burst attack ended.
"Akuro-Ou, use sun magic!"
Roaring, her partner invoked the second pseudo-divinity.
Akuro-Ou was an emulation of a fire deity. The new power was the Sun. Emitting light and heat to illuminate the world, it was a solar deity's power to banish darkness.
What this sacred power created was of course—
At the ruins that resembled an open-pit mine, there were four leviathans and hundreds of wounded Raptors.
Seeing the product of Akuro-Ou's pseudo-divinity, hanging high above—in the sky—Hazumi was very touched.
"It's really like the sun... Nee-sama, you are so amazing!"
Akuro-Ou had created a "gigantic sphere of light" in the sky.
Seventy or eighty meters in diameter, it was giving off sacred golden light.
This sphere occupied the air above them. The targets—the hundreds of Raptors equipped with swords—were circling there. Even though Akuro-Ou and Minadzuki were growling to keep them at bay, they continued to fly haphazardly in the air, looking for a chance to attack.
Next, the offensive began. The sphere of light fired invisible rays in a frenzy.
Without activating magical sight, Hazumi would not be able to see these rays.
From all over the "giant sphere of light," the rays shot out in every direction.
Even a glancing blow was fatal. Raptors melted with a sizzle when struck, instantly vaporizing. They were like snow sculptures coming into contact with super-high temperatures.
Accuracy in aim was not high, but the rays were too many to count.
Furthermore, they were invisible and impossible to dodge. The Raptors were vaporized one after another.
This was a combined skill between the pseudo-divinity of the Sun and the Rune of the Bow that had crossed worlds to grant Orihime power. Its potency made Hazumi watch in fascination. At that moment, she heard a feeble voice call to her.
"Luna-san! Are you okay!?"
Just earlier, Glinda had been struck by the dragonslaying sword.
After fainting from the resulting pain, Luna Francois now regained consciousness. Hearing the senior witch's voice, Hazumi rushed over to her side.
"I will ask Minadzuki to heal you now!"
"No... Before that, we need to do that together first."
Supported by Hazumi, Luna Francois managed to sit up.
It must be very painful. Luna had her right hand pressed against her magnificent bust—in the area over the heart. Her beautiful face also looked haggard.
However, the blonde master-class witch was gazing at Hazumi with intense energy in her eyes.
"Namely, to slice open this barrier by using the same method as Asya and Orihime-san to borrow Harry's rune. It should be possible if the Rune of the Twin Katana could be used."
"B-But will I manage?"
Hazumi's cousin Orihime had awakened Akuro-Ou's dual attributes.
Hazumi believed instinctively that Orihime's power as a witch was most likely even greater than the Level 3 Shirasaka Hazumi.
Hearing Hazumi's question, Luna Francois replied without hesitation, "I suppose not. Orihime-san's current power is probably Level 4... Possibly master-class, even, but you haven't reached that yet. So, you will be in charge of supporting me. Just as you can see, I am in this sorry state."
Due to the earlier damage, Luna was all haggard. Speaking faster than normal, her usual mischievous composure was nowhere to be seen.
"But rest assured, there is no reason why I can't do it if Asya could in her injured state. So please help me out, because controlling the twin katana is harder than the bow. Understood?"
"But Luna-san, in your condition..."
"Silly child. Don't think about such matters until we succeed in the magic!"
"If you used other magic first, you might forget the feeling of Harry's touch just now. Because of that, we have to finish before that happens."
Without the slightest hesitation, Luna chose her pride as a witch over the condition of her body.
Common sense would dictate the opposite. Rather than bothering about stuff like magic, it would be only right to worry about a companion's health from a humanitarian perspective. However, Luna reprimanded Hazumi for having the wrong notion.
This was her "rotten" side that she normally masked using gentle words and behavior.
"Hurry up. Orihime-san can't possibly last forever!"
Hazumi extended her left hand and clasped the senior witch's left hand, thinking single-mindedly about Haruomi-senpai who was in a different world.
A minute or two later, a cross-shaped emblem appeared on the backs of their left hands.
"...Excellent. According to the feeling just now, Harry was clearly about to croak, but it looks like he managed to survive. Did someone perform first aid...?"
Compared to Hazumi who simply felt innocent joy, Luna was thoroughly practical.
Despite seeing the same Rune of the Twin Katana, the two girls reacted completely differently. It was not simply because of age and experience, but presumably related to a difference in resolve and mental strength too.
I must work even harder—Hazumi thought intensely to herself.
Just as during the summer break in New York, what she had learned from Shamiram inside that ark.
Meanwhile, Luna Francois finally got ready to activate the technique of assured annihilation.
"Yin and yang... Combining diametrically opposed elements into an attack embodying the rivalry of complementary opposites. Even without Harry here, I must make it succeed...!"
Holding hands with her junior, the master-class witch declared boldly.
Hazumi secretly glanced to the side.
"Good Witch of the South" Glinda was collapsed powerlessly on the white sand. No signs of standing up. The twin katana did not look like they were going to appear.
Even with a master-class witch's power, was this highly challenging task too great a burden?
However, Luna gave a great shout, "The opposite powers of light and darkness must reach a balance in order to use this rune. Compared to the 'darkness' I am responsible for, the 'light' seems to be too weak. Holy and evil, right and wrong, yin and yang, demonic and divine... Hazumi-san, you and Minadzuki need to become even more sacred existences!"
Hazumi did not know what counted as sacred existences.
She simply knew she must not falter. Picturing her ideal single-mindedly, making maximum effective use of her magical power and partner, she strove for that goal, just as what Luna Francois was doing right now.
"I wish... for all the people I treasure to be safe and sound. I don't want to see them hurt. So please, Minadzuki!"
She conveyed her sincere prayer to the leviathan.
Hovering near them at that very moment, Minadzuki cried out clearly.
Nineteen runes of Ruruk Soun appeared over the emerald serpentine dragon's head, glowing with platinum splendor.
'I summon the twin blades of exorcism, to deliver seraphic punishment to nefarious evil dragons.'
This arrangement signified exorcism and the purification of evil magical power.
Minadzuki possessed two forelimbs. Her right forelimb usually held a jewel, but this time, the jewel had transformed into a great blade at some point.
Naturally, the kodachi was held by the left forearm. With a sword in each hand, she became a dual-wielding swordsman.
However, unlike the stances of human swordsmen, she was holding both swords in reverse grip. Using the two swords—slicing vertically with the larger and horizontally with the smaller of the two—Minadzuki carved a cross on the ground of sand.
This was the mark of the twin katana. Hazumi rejoiced from the bottom of her heart.
The serpentine dragon leviathan then stabbed the twin blades into the ground as though concluding, pouring a great quantity of magical power into the cross emblem on the sand!
"We did it... Thank goodness!"
Not only that, but Minadzuki used magic again. This time, seven runes of Ruruk Soun appeared to signify "healing hand."
The effects were readily apparent.
Wounded in the back by the dragonslaying sword, collapsed on the ground until now, Glinda the chimera—the lion leviathan with a goat head on her right shoulder and a dragon head on the left shoulder—slowly stood up.
She stretched. The wound on her back had healed!
"Well... In the end, you still used the power of healing."
The painful expression vanished completely from Luna Francois' lovely face.
Her quickened breathing also returned to normal. She seemed to be in much better shape. Now that her partner had recovered, the pain felt by the witch also vanished.
However, Hazumi apologized on reflex. Doing so had clearly gone against orders.
"Don't worry, though I don't think you needed to apologize," said the blonde genius witch calmly.
She had regained her usual composure, probably because the healing was very effective.
"This would seem to be a huge matter for you. Besides, the all-important mission is accomplished. I have no reason to complain."
Minadzuki had stabbed the twin blades into the desert at a point.
With that point as the center, a zone twenty or thirty meters in radius had turned into an "ocean."
What had been clearly an endless white desert earlier now had this one sea-blue zone turning into seawater.
Rather than a vivid blue, it was the color of Tokyo Bay.
Once the transformation into seawater was complete, they would be able to return to their original world... Informed this by instinct, Hazumi listened to Luna Francois.
"In our world of witches, results are everything. Regardless of means taken, the winner dictates what is considered right and proper. Hence, Hazumi-san, well done."
Luna Francois winked casually at her and made a thumbs-up.
Hazumi was dumbfounded by her frivolous attitude when it happened.
The pseudo-sun that had been firing invisible rays nonstop—It suddenly vanished.
There were some remaining Raptors left in the gray sky. Although only a few dozen, surviving remnants were still targets. Why had the attack stopped when there were still enemies remaining?
Orihime was collapsed nearby.
Staring at the gray sky the whole time, she had ordered Akuro-Ou to use pseudo-divinity of the Sun. Unfamilar magic had sapped her strength excessively, finally causing her to collapse.
The nine-tailed Akuro-Ou also dematerialized and vanished.
Now that the rays that had been killing enemies every few seconds vanished, the sword-equipped Raptors fleeing all over the sky calmed down.
There were fifty or sixty enemies remaining in the sky.
On their own, they flew towards the ground—to attack again!
However, Minadzuki still had her twin blades stabbed into the "sea-blue ground." Pouring in her own magical power, Glinda supported the dual-wielding swordsman.
"L-Luna-san, what should we do!?"
"Minadzuki needs to control the twin katana while Glinda needs to maintain her assistance. Neither of them are free to intercept the enemies..."
At this rate, they were sitting ducks to be slaughtered by the Raptors.
Just as they held their breaths nervously, an unexpected savior descended from the heavens.
Blue Rusahlka. Her lost wing had been restored. Hazumi's earlier prayer for the safety of everyone she treasured had not only healed Glinda but Rushalka too.
The wyvern with the lone horn on her forehead charged into the flock of Raptors.
A blizzard and dragonslaying lasers. Another full burst attack. She had used the Rune of the Bow.
"I guess she's trying to make up for her spectacular failure just now..." Luna Francois murmured.
In the next instant, Hazumi, Luna and the fainted Orihime suddenly began to sink. The sea-blue ground finally transformed into "total seawater."
The three witches gradually sank into the sea.
Hazumi looked up at what was no longer a gray sky but dim seawater.
The dozens of Raptors and Rushalka also disappeared gradually from sight, replaced by the seawater surrounding them in all directions—
Then the overhead view turned into the blue sky of Earth.
Instead of sand, their foothold was the JMSDF escort ship that had been transporting them several hours earlier—On the deck.
Minadzuki's super senses detected that the air smelled the same as that of Tokyo in September.
By using the Rune of the Twin Katana to slice through part of Pavel Galad's barrier, they finally managed to return to their original world.
Naurally, the escort ship carrying Hazumi and company was floaing in Tokyo Bay rather than a desert.
Returning together with the witches, the three leviathans—Glinda, Minadzuki, and Akuro-Ou—dematerialized. The "serpents" gradually disappeared.
"How is Nee-sama!?"
Hazumi hastily looked for her cousin and was relieved. Orihime was lying close by.
A peaceful sleeping face. The moment she exhaled, Hazumi realized something.
"Where is Asya-san...?"
She looked around but could not find any signs of the silver-haired witch.
Did she hide? Or—Worry surged from the bottom of Hazumi's heart.
Shrugging, Luna Francois said very calmly, "Once we finish gathering information to figure out the current situation clearly, we must make haste to set off. Harry is more than likely in a crisis. We need to work as hard as we can."
It seemed like she had chosen her words on purpose to ignore the fourth person.
"At last—It's over for now, huh?"
After some time, Asya could finally take a break and relax.
Although it took quite some work, Asya finally wiped out every Raptor that Pavel Galad had left inside the barrier.
This was after the three witches and three leviathans had returned to the Earth together.
Asya and Rushalka had used the Rune of the Bow to attack the flock of Raptors with sweeping fire for ten-odd minutes. Then after that, she watched out for reinforcements but no signs showed up even after ten minutes.
Hence, it was worth it for her to stay behind on purpose to help her companions retreat.
The white desert stretched endlessly towards the gray sky. Right now, there were no living creatures in this extremely bizarre world apart from herself and Rushalka. At least, within her vision.
Holding the rear to help everyone else escape—
Asya made the call that this job must be left to her.
"That being said, the price is I have to stay back alone. There was no other way," she told herself.
Back then, no one else could complete this task. Also, there was one reason that she could not ignore.
"I wouldn't be able to sleep at night unless I repaid my debt to Luna."
The reason for Rushalka and Glinda suffering heavy wounds during this battle.
In particular, Asya was to blame due to her mistake. Back then, she had taken action with the belief she could wipe out all the enemies surrounding Glinda in one fell swoop—In the end, two enemies survived.
This caused the two master-class witches' partners to suffer severe injuries.
"Luna is so smart. I'm sure she noticed."
The two of them were equals. Even if Hazumi and Orihime did not notice, Luna Francois must have discerned Asya's mistake.
Rather than getting mocked by Luna for this later, it would be better to settle the score upfront first.
She would be lying if she denied having such thoughts. Hence, Asya had left the group discreetly to take on this responsibility.
The rightful star of the battlefield, Shootdown Ace Asya, must tend to this backstage role—
No. Actually, there was another option.
Heroically making playthings out of the approaching Raptors in the air, then accelerating swiftly during the seven or eight seconds before her friends returned to Earth, descending. Meeting up with them at the last second to return as one group—
Too early a descent and she would end up drawing the enemies to her friends.
She needed Rushalka to fly faster than every other leviathan without any miscalculation in timing. Asya and her partner should be up to this task.
Instead of doing that, Asya chose the safe route.
She had a premonition. She might be a fraction of a second late in timing her descent, or she might fail to make Rushalka fly at her rightful top speed.
"My sensitivity and magical power has dulled a little, even though in all honesty it is just a tiny bit..."
Under the gray sky, Asya was standing alone in this abnormally white desert.
Perhaps only because no one could hear her talking to herself, Asya was able to voice these words. Finally admitting her long-held doubt, the words slipped out of her mouth.
The self-hypnosis to improve feminine prowess. Loss of appetite as an apparent side effect.
Along with that came doubts of "My power as a witch seems to have weakened!?"
Many symptoms had came up over the past month or so, but Asya had relegated things to the back burner because they had survived the intense battle against dragon king Hannibal.
More importantly—She was reluctant to admit it.
It was precisely thanks to the feminine prowess granted by that hypnosis spell that she had found the opportunity to make a comeback on the romance front.
She had not dared to consider the possibility of this magic having side effects. But this time, the hypnosis' effect surfaced to the forefront in this manner...
"I'm so hungry."
Gurgle rumble rumble rumble. Her stomach growled for the first time in a long while.
After using hypnosis magic, Asya's stomach had never growled. Most likely, it was injured Rushalka's feedback of pain that had caused her witch nature to become exposed.
What an annoying noise.
Asya desired nourishment intensely. Calories, fulfillment—The source of magic.
"Urghhhh. But all my earlier efforts would be for nothing if the spell fell apart now..."
Asya was wearing her usual military jacket.
The jacket was not cute at all, the furthest thing from feminine. But it was durable and she did not need to worry about getting it dirty. In addition, it featured Asya's own clever design.
She had added several secret pockets to the inner lining.
Due to force of habit over many years—These pockets always carried small packets of food at all times.
Ten-odd candies, biscuits, heat-resistant chocolate commonly issued as part of US military rations, assorted dried fruits and nuts, cereal bars, beef jerky, crackers, powdered milk, niboshi, sports youkan, energy jelly, seasonings such as salt, pepper, and sugar...
Even after her appetite was reduced to a normal person's, Asya still replenished and replaced the food in her jacket.
She never found the chance to wean this habit. Or perhaps somewhere in the back of her mind, she was worried whether this food might come in handy one day.
Rumble rumble rumble rumble rumble rumble.
A low noise. Her stomach growling again. This was the longest rumble yet.
At least I'll have a candy—Just as Asya reached for her secret pocket, she shook her head forcefully a few times. All would be lost if she ate this.
She was informed by instinct. That candy could very well render her hypnosis magic to lose effect.
If she were to lose her hard-earned feminine prowess, her life could very well become hopeless!
"I get the feeling it won't succeed even if I tried to hypnotize myself again..." Asya murmured.
This was her instinct as a witch. Conversely, if hypnosis could be applied repeatedly—That would be quite dangerous too. After all, it was powerful hypnosis capable of altering personalities, a kind of brainwashing, even leading to the possible collapse of one's ego...
She raised her voice in an attempt to distract herself from hunger.
Asya suddenly raised her right arm. Rushalka flew down from the sky, but not in her usual giant body length of ten-odd meters. Asya had shrunk her down to roughly one third in size.
The severed wing had been restored successfully.
It was all thanks to Hazumi and Minadzuki's healing magic.
Asya had already cast Leaping Power Enhancement on herself. Light as a swallow, she jumped nimbly onto Rushalka's back.
Next, she was going to travel, riding on her wyvern partner's back.
In front of her was the mysterious set of ruins resembling an open-pit mine. Her destination was the bottom of the pit, over five hundred meters deep by visual estimates.
"By strengthening the Rune of the Sword, Pavel Galad was able to oppose Haruomi's whose power had risen to the point of matching Hannibal..."
Earlier, a blue spark had shot out from the bottom of the ruins.
This was what produced the Rune of the Sword and the reason why Asya and her companions had fought such a difficult battle.
"If the secret of the power up is as I suspect..."
There was no other witch here to aid her in using the Rune of the Twin Katana to execute the technique of the rivalry of complementary opposites, so she had no way of escaping this dimension either. In that case, satisfying her own curiosity would be more constructive.
Hence, Asya and her partner took flight, making her way to confirm whether her hypothesis was correct or not.
When Hal regained consciousness, the first to appear in his mind was a question.
(...Who are these people?)
He was lying face up on the ground with three boys and girls next to him.
If this were a bedroom, they would be standing next to the pillow, but this was a soft lawn. Hal felt a sharp pain in his chest—His heart.
He seemed to remember getting stabbed by a sword there...
A bit lost, Hal decided to sit up first.
"Thank goodness! Haruga-kun woke up~!"
"But it looks like he's not fully conscious yet. He's spacing out, there's no light in his eyes."
The trio seemed to be worrying about him.
Two girls and a boy.
The two girls were making a lot of noise. One seemed to be a lively short-haired girl while the other was short and wearing her hair in twintails. They both looked like they knew Hal.
The third person, the boy, had his head bowed, looking at Hal silently.
He was wearing a summer knit hat. With a slender physique, his entire being oozed style. Few of Hal's acquaintances cultivated this kind of image.
The trio seemed to be high school students. Although their uniforms had differences due to male and female styles, they belonged to the same school.
Okay, who the heck are these people? Hal was very perplexed.
(They know my name, so they're acquaintances after all, right?)
Besides, why was he lying on a lawn?
This park looked quite large. What had I been just before losing consciousness? He had faint memories of falling from the sky and his right hand grabbing something...
Hal clenched his right hand into a fist subconsciously then everything came to him.
He had grabbed something soft and elastic at the time—Recalling that instant, he remembered the name of the classmates in front of him.
"Uh. Mutou-san and... Funaki-san. Why are you here?"
"Wow—Haruga-kun, you finally went back to normal."
"So true. You weren't reacting at all just now. I was worried, wondering if we should send you to the hospital~"
Mutou-san grinned and Funaki-san sighed in relief.
"The prez told us 'I am a bit worried the red dragon might lose' so we came to check things out. But man, the prez is amazing. She predicted 'you might run into Haruga' and she was right."
"The prez—Oh, President M?"
The one referred to as the prez by Hal and Mutou-san was the eccentric President M of the UFO Research Club.
Hal managed to remember President M too. However, he glanced at the silent handsome guy. This guy... Who was he? No idea at all.
Was this their first encounter, or had Hal rudely forgotten him?
"Oh right, Haruga-kun, you've never met him. He's a member of the UFO Research Club too. This is Sakuraba-senpai. I think I've mentioned him to you before, right?"
"Yeah, now that you mention it," said Mutou-san.
Sakuraba-senpai—Hal had definitely heard this name before.
Priding upon his superior investigation abilities, he spent all his time chasing scoops outside of school.
Since he seldom visited the clubroom, Hal had never seen him before. They met at last today...
However, Sakuraba-senpai remained quiet the whole time. Even after Mutou-san introduced him to Hal, he did not say a single word.
Simply looking at Hal's face, he nodded silently in acknowledgement.
"Maybe he doesn't come around the clubroom because he's shy and doesn't like to talk?"
"Correct. But it was thanks to Senpai that we were able to find you. When the silver dragon—the one transformed from that handsome guy—and the red dragon flew into New Town, he did not evacuate. Instead, he was taking photos from a rooftop in Kinshichō."
Mutou-san made thumbs-up towards Sakuraba-senpai.
"When the fight between the two dragons was won by the silver one and the red one fell here—Kiyosumi Park—he caught it on his camera too. Also when the prez ordered all of us to find the red dragon, Sakuraba-senpai told us the red one fell here as soon as we called him."
Sure enough, his ability to gather information was far beyond a student's.
In addition, Mutou-san told Hal that she and Funaki-san had biked over from Ryougoku where the school was located.
A distance of roughly two train stations, but traffic over road and rail was restricted during dragon strikes. Apart from aircraft, bicycles were the most efficient means of locomotion in Tokyou currently.
"Say, what was the situation when you found me?"
"Well... Sakuraba-senpai said 'I saw the red dragon fall in this park!' so we followed his testimony and entered to check things out. Then we found you lying next to the unconscious dragon."
"...But the red dragon isn't next to me anymore."
"It suddenly vanished before you woke up. That's called 'dematerializing,' right?" Still learning magic terms, Mutou-san explained to him.
Hal focused his mind and examined the state of his heart—The heartmetal. It had been aching ever since he woke up.
(The current output of magical power... Probably about 30% of the usual.)
However, the damage was lighter than imagined. How incredible.
His heartmetal, i.e. heart, had been pierced by a deep stab of the dragonslaying sword. It would not have been surprising if the Crimson Queen had perished together with Haruga Haruomi's soul that had merged with her.
However, both of them had survived. Since his heartmetal was fine, he should be able to resummon the queen.
(It's Asya and Juujouji who saved me...)
For some reason, Hal was deeply convinced of this. Although just for an instant, Hal had connected his hazy consciousness with the minds of the witches who had disappeared from Earth.
After that, he should have entrusted the power of the runes to the witches who seemed to be in a crisis of their own.
This part of his memories was quite vague, but there was something he remembered clearly—
The sensations from his right hand came in two categories. The really small belonged to Asya while the overflowingly abundant was Orihime's.
Having personally experienced how they felt to his touch, his memory could not possibly be mistaken.
For some reason, contact with the girls had decreased the synchronization between Hal's soul and the queen.
That was probably the reason. When the wound was inflicted on the queen's chest, only 30 or 40% was reflected onto Hal. As a result, he survived luckily.
Putting aside for now why "the sensation of breasts" would have this kind of effect.
Hal raised another question. "The silver dragon didn't come to deliver a final blow?"
"Nope. Because it looks like he's busy. Over there."
Mutou-san pointed at the sky. In the direction indicated, there was an aerial battle in progress.
Wielding the dragonslaying sword, the silver dragon Pavel Galad was chasing a white dragon—it was the dragon king's gallant form that had not made an appearance for a very long time.
Princess Yukikaze's dragon form was much more slender than the Crimson Queen's.
Successor to the Arrow that formed a pair with the Rune of the Bow in Hal's possession, she turned her white body into a single dragonslaying arrow. Pavel Galad flew as fast as he could, trying to attack the fearsome Princess Yukikaze, but—
Unable to catch her. Unable to catch her. Unable to catch her.
The princess was not only fast but her flight trajectory was also very complicated.
Zig zags, sudden turns, spiral flight. Pavel Galad was no slouch in the speed department, but he picked the wrong opponent.
"He's playing such an intense game of tag, of course he doesn't have the time to come to me..."
It looked like Princess Yukikaze saved his life.
Phew. Hal sighed. Time for a change of pace. Right now, he had to drive the happily rampaging dragons out of Tokyo.
Next, Hal was inspired to play a little trick that even he found "a bit underhanded."
"Let's try it, I guess...?"
The ones who rescued him, Mutou-san, Funaki-san, and Sakuraba-san were looking worriedly at Hal, who did not seem quite alright. Despite a whole pile of mysteries, the trio did not try to pry and question him. Surely, it must be because they knew it was currently an emergency situation.
Normally speaking, he should hurry and tell them to evacuate. However, Hal made the following suggestion intead, "Hey everyone. If it's okay with you guys, I've got a favor to ask."
Meanwhile, he wondered to himself. Perhaps President M predicted even this as well?
After parting ways with his school mates, Hal was left alone.
Walking steadily along the Kiyosu Bridge, he was making his way to the front lines where Pavel Galad and Princess Yukikaze were fighting.
Currently, an emergency evacuation alert had been issued in New Town.
A great number—countless cars were stopped on the streets.
Apart from designated emergency vehicles, all road traffic was prohibited during the alert. Drivers immediately abandoned their cars and checked on their cellphones for the nearest shelter.
Places such as stadiums, parks, river banks, or schools with vast sports grounds were used as shelters.
The residents in this neighborhood seemed to have all evacuated. Hal was the only person walking on the road, surrounded by silence.
Along the way, Hal went "Huh...?"
How odd. Noticing something felt off about himself, he paused in his steps.
Rather than physical discomfort, it was a matter of the mind. Those fellow members of the UFO Research Club whom he had been talking to earlier—Those three.
Hal had forgotten their faces and names again.
Apart from that, his memories of the sixteen years that he had lived as Haruga Haruomi were fuzzy.
Come to think of it, what am I? A human? A high school student? A treasure hunter? A Tyrannos who had inherited dragonslaying runes?
No way—Hal realized a certain possibility.
Could it be that his transformation into a dragon had progressed all at once because there was no one to chat with him?
All kinds of memories had gone fuzzy, but there was one thing he remembered very clearly.
The battle with Pavel Galad. The battle he had experienced only hours earlier. Towards the end, he had merged with the Crimson Queen to clash head on with the silver dragon...
The enemy was a hot-blooded Tyrannos. Feeling fervor and fighting spirit from up close, Hal had fought intensely with him.
He recalled every second vividly in his mind.
The enemy used the dragonslaying sword to attack him and he defended with imperishable protection. However, the impact and magical power unleashed by the blade was transmitted mercilessly to Hal—no, the queen—shaking his skeleton and internal organs...
What remembered these details was not Hal's brain but his heart, i.e. heartmetal, probably.
The most important organ of a dragon told him that this was what dragonkind considered supreme joy and pleasure.
"S-Sure, whatever... I don't want to experience that ever again..."
His conscious fading, Hal denied with all his might.
However, these thoughts did not reach his heart, i.e. heartmetal. The thoughts of ××××ga ××××omi held very little power to command now. After all, he could not even remember his own name exactly, much less the events of his life...
"Hey brat, the situation is bad here."
He heard someone's bored voice by his ear.
However, Hal could not even tell who was speaking. Most likely someone who knew ××××ga ×××××××...
By the time he noticed, his stride had lengthened.
Every step would take him a great distance forward. His footsteps also sounded inexplicably heavy. Hal stomped the ground with a "thud!", shaking the road surface and even flattening the railing.
Before he knew it, his eye level had risen in height.
While walking, he could gaze down on traffic lights and utility poles...
He noticed that his leg length, body weight, height—everything had increased to outrageous levels. Right now, he was probably standing around twenty meters tall.
A long, thick tail seemed to be extending from his coccyx...
He looked at his hand. It was covered with crimson dragon scales.
His arms, his chest, his torso, below the waist, everything was a dragon's.
Thud. Thud. Thud. With heavy footsteps, Hal marched on forward.
The urban scenery around the Kiyosu Bridge followed a "trendy metropolitan" style, but to a dragon's eyes, it was nothing more than paper props, instantly wreckable with a gentle poke...
In fact, it definitely would be wrecked. Because right now, his was a dragon king's body.
However, his legs felt harder and harder to move.
"My condition isn't too good, I guess?"
His chest—the heartmetal—was hurting. The wound had clearly closed up—Hal did not know if someone performed first aid on him—but it seemed to be rupturing now.
The dragonslaying sword had forcefully pierced this energy source of a dragon's body.
Forget about a puny human, in his current state, there was no way he could move a dragon king's body.
"I suppose I'll... rest for a bit."
Pavel Galad and Princess Yukikaze were engaged in a fierce battle somewhere in the sky over New Town.
Fortunately, it was not nearby. He should be able to find a quiet place to lie down and let his heartmetal rest. But time was running out.
"If I take too long, the princess might dismember Galad..."
Purely in terms of power as a dragon, Pavel Galad was no match for Princess Yukikaze at all. No matter what, the innocent-looking beautiful maiden was a dragon king. That being said, the silver dragon had no choice. Hal could not imagine him gracefully admitting defeat either.
"This seems like a nice spot."
There was a middle school next to the Kiyosu Bridge. Hal entered the school premises.
There were no people inside. They had probably evacuated. Passing through the courtyard that happened to be in the shade, he curled next to the school building.
He entered a coiled up sleeping posture.
Using ×××××× ××××omi's knowledge, he thought to himself, if this were a J. R. R. Tolkien novel, I would be using an underground dwarven treasure vault beneath a mountain as my bed...
Thus, he nodded off for now. Not deep slumber, but just a nap.
When the crimson dragon smelled humans—and female at that—he shifted his body slightly. Rather than one, three females were approaching. Footsteps were heard too.
He growled as though talking in his sleep. His eyes remained tightly shut. Neither did his posture change.
I just want to sleep. What are these people doing here?
Are they trying to mess with me? If that's the case—
The napping dragon snickered. How should he deal with these rude people? Breathe fire on them? Swat them away with his tail?
Or should he give them riddles to solve, devouring them if they failed to give the right answer?
Everything depends on how I, the dragon, am feeling.
Waiting for the human visitors, the dragon whose former identity was ×××××× ××××××× napped while entertaining himself with fantasies of their demise...
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