Leviathan:Volume 8 Chapter 1
Chapter 1 - The Moon Palace
The critical moment had arrived.
At this very point in time, the greatest and most powerful enemy was standing right before Haruga Haruomi's eyes.
The black-haired young beauty, dress in a white summer dress. The lovely yet haughty dragon king's human form. Her elegant face bore an expression of excitement and extreme joy, almost like "a little girl who finally got her wish to visit an amusement park."
Simply stated, "she could hardly wait."
(Why is she getting so excited when the opponent is someone like me?)
Hal thought to himself poignantly. He really wanted to stare up into the sky and sigh.
However, Hal carefully avoided her since they were "fated rivals of destiny!" after all. This girl was probably not petty enough to launch an attack while her opponent's gaze was directed elsewhere...
Indeed. The two of them possessed the runes of the Bow and the Arrow respectively.
Among the dragonslaying runes, this pair was a special combination.
Ever since time immemorial, the successors of the Bow and the Arrow in every era would feel strongly drawn to each other, clashing in conflict, to duel intensely—
"...Fated rivals of destiny, huh?"
"Hmm? What is the matter, Haruomi? Why the surprised look?"
"Nothing much. It just struck me how I've come this far by the time I realized, doing something that really doesn't suit my personality."
"Fufufufu. By this juncture, you still speak incomprehensible words like these."
A dignified smile appeared on the princess' adorable face.
The "flying surfboard" under Princess Yukikaze's feet was her magic wand. Like Hal's magic gun, it was a magic artifact for controlling the power of dragonbane.
Whoosh. The white dragon king jumped down lightly from the surfboard.
Standing the on the same ground as Hal, she stared sharply at him.
The location was a certain middle school's yard—
None of the school's students were within the premises. However, Hal and Princess Yukikaze were silently watched by Asya, who had become a Tyrannos at some unknown point in time, Juujouji Orihime, Luna Francois, Shirasaka Hazumi, as well as Hal's classmates, Mutou-san and Funaki-san.
This was because the duel between Princess Yukikaze and Hal would determine the fate of all humanity.
At this very moment, the white dragon king stood before the cowardly human, speaking with superiority, "No matter. This is part of your style. As a powerful dragon king, I, Yukikaze, shall display great magnanimity, even regarding your unique style as one of many amusements."
"Really? Then I hope you could do me a favor."
"Actually, about that duel of destiny, I'd like you to postpone it for a few days."
Princess Yukikaze suddenly became quite displeased, glaring viciously at Hal.
"Haruomi, I have quietly waited for the conclusion between you and Pavel Galad. Are you asking me, Yukikaze, to wait further?"
"Uh, that's because I just finished such an intense battle."
Not even fifteen minutes had passed since the death of the formidable foe who wielded the Rune of the Sword.
"Let's be honest here, I'm all drained, half dead from fatigue. I'd lose miserably in thirty seconds if I fought you in this state. Unless you're fine with that."
"Since you've already waited until now, what does three or four days more matter?"
Princess Yukikaze bit her lower lip hard, like a sulking child.
Were this a regular battle against a regular warrior, negotiations would be out of the question entirely.
As the defending champion, all the princess needed to do was pummel the weak and exhausted Hal with her overwhelming strength.
However, since the princess wanted an all-out fight against a special Tyrannos—
"Let me be clear on this. My patience has limits, understood?"
"Yes, indeed, but I think you're only choice is to wait. I may look fine right now, but an hour ago, I almost died."
The princess frowned with displeasure.
Although this situation was quite bizarre, so long as she desired a spectacular fight more than Hal did, Hal would hold the upper hand in negotiations. It was with full understanding of this that Hal had seized the opportunity to make his proposal.
As expected, the princess agonized for quite a while before speaking unhappily, "...Very well. I shall wait three days and no more."
"Really? Thank you so much!"
"You must rest properly during these three days in preparation for our duel, understood?"
"Of course! Leave it to me, I'm an expert in relaxing and doing nothing."
"Running away is forbidden, got that? You must rest your body and mind for the upcoming duel, staying within my sight at all times, understood?"
"That goes without saying! I won't let your kindness go to waste!"
"Excellent. Then come with me."
The princess grinned when Hal agreed so readily.
As though responding to a playmate's prank with an equally crude prank, it was a childish smile.
"Fufufufu. I, Yukikaze, shall allow you to rest thoroughly for these three days, but on one condition. You must stay by my side the whole time. Otherwise, we fight immediately!"
The unexpected condition made Hal jump in surprise.
"I'm not going to run away even if you don't go so far, okay!? Regardless, I can't escape a dragon king's eyes no matter where across the Earth I escape to!"
"Yes... You definitely will not escape."
Staring intently at Haruga Haruomi's face, Princess Yukikaze asserted.
Hal felt a chill. He had a feeling, the princess' adorable eyes seemed to possess a dragon king's eyesight, capable of seeing through a person's true character in but a single glance.
"Nevertheless, I know not whether you will listen to me and rest properly. Haruomi, despite your superficial image as a lazy good-for-nothing, aren't you excessively serious in odd areas?"
The princess was perfectly right. Hal scratched his head.
THe princess' age was estimated to be over a thousand despite her child-like appearance and personality. She was apparently a dragon king who had existed since the Kamakura period.
Would Princess Yukikaze be offended if one were to call her "the older the wiser"?
In any case, she smiled smugly, posturing like an elder sister.
"To prevent you from not resting, I shall supervise by your side. Relax, I am not asking you to remain in my presence at all times. All you need to do is recuperate for a period of time by my side."
"No helping it..."
It would be far better than fighting right away.
The instant Hal was about to nod in agreement, he mentally jumped in surprise.
He and the princess were standing in the school yard of a middle school one could find anywhere.
By the time he noticed, there were twenty-four runes of Ruruk Soun underfoot
The sequence of symbols meant "O starship, become my wings." Even the surfboard hovering in the air—a magic wand—began to glow with silver-white light.
"Fufufufu, I knew you would agree. Let us waste no more time. I shall invite you to my territory immediately. Worry not, it will be a comfortable stay."
"Eh? So soon!?"
Staring at the happily smiling Princess Yukikaze, Hal was rooted to the spot.
Standing so close to Princess Yukikaze, he should have noticed something at least, such as focusing one's mind to cast a spell, the flow of magical power, breathing, a look in her eyes, etc.
Without any change, the princess had silently used magic without any sign.
The way she used magic was as natural as breathing!
(This is a super strong skill used by some kind of master!)
In that case—Resistance was futile.
He might have been able to put up a fight using defensive magic, but it was too late by now. The glow from the runes of Ruruk Soun swallowed Hal, seizing him tightly with mysterious power.
As one might expect, the gap between a dragon king and a dragon king-esque human was too great...
Painfully aware of the vast chasm between the two, Hal then heard familiar shouts.
"Harry!" "Senpai!?" "Haruga-kun!" "Haruga-kun!?"
The master-class witch from America, the underclassman who was like a reincarnated angel, the two girls from the UFO Research club who were classmates too—
They were all calling for Hal worriedly.
In addition, there were two others.
"I won't let Haruomi be alone!"
"Don't forget us!"
Two girls rushed over to grab Haruomi.
They were the silver-haired childhood friend and the black-haired Japanese classmate—Asya and Juujouji Orihime. In the next instant, they grabbed Hal, and he felt a mysterious floating sensation.
An illusory feeling like his body was forcibly lifted, as well as an unpleasant sense of nausea.
The two feelings attacked simultaneously. The scenery all around him became contorted.
The school yard and his friends' figures gradually became warped, like a fish-eyed view—
By the time he realized, Hal was in space.
Tens of thousands of stars were shining in the darkness. Orihime was holding Hal's right hand, whereas Asya was holding his left.
Before him was the smiling Princess Yukikaze.
Hal and the rest of them were currently standing at the very center of the cosmic abyss.
Twenty-four runes, "O starship, become my wings," were underfoot in an oval arrangement, glowing like a magic circle.
In the distance below the runes was a magnificent blue planet.
Hal had seen this many times before. They were images taken by observation satellite of the Earth, the planet that nurtured life.
"We will presently arrive at my castle, Haruomi. Welcome."
"Castle... Is it something like the monolith at Old Tokyo?"
The Old Tokyo Concession, formerly the heart of Japan as represented by the twenty-three special wards of Tokyo, was currently under Princess Yukikaze's occupation.
One would be highly likely to encounter the princess by visiting to pitch-black triangular prism of a "Monolith" towering in the Ginza district.
Hal had speculated on his own that the princess had made her base there.
"That is a secondary residence on Earth, a villa of sorts to me. I, Yukikaze, have invited you to my domain located in the sea of stars. Be grateful to me."
"The sea of stars, in other words, I knew it...."
It was what dragonkind called space. Hal sighed.
Thanks to dragonkind's wisdom that he had learned as a Tyrannos, Hal actually understood the instant he looked underfoot. This arrangement of runes was used for jumping through space to traverse between planets.
"So we're travel through space in the flesh, huh..."
"Genbu-Ou... The minion responsible for my transportation is dead. Consequently, I must use magic. Haruomi, you ought to show me your gratitude."
"Taking me to your Old Tokyo villa would've been enough."
"On the other hand, surely I did not invite those two little lasses, you know?"
Glaring at the girls at Hal's sides, Princess Yukikaze grumbled quietly.
The dragon king displayed obvious displeasure. Even the two fairly brave girls were intimidated to the point of straightening their backs.
However, Asya tensed her countenance and spoke candidly.
"I know I might be overstepping my bounds to say this, but I believe I have the right to come along."
"Because... Although it happened only recently, I am the Tyrannos inheriting the Rune of the Chain, after all. In terms of position, I am Haruomi's equal, right?"
"Indeed that is correct. Nevertheless, you are his equal merely in position."
Confronted with the Earthling girl who held her ground, the adorable dragon king laughed "fufu."
"There are many sorts of Tyrannoi. Putting aside those like Haruomi, who have the necessary achievements... A newcomer who has never fought another Tyrannoi, much less a dragon king, has no right to challenge me, Yukikaze, to a fight."
"However, I do not dislike your mettle."
"Hmph. Do as you wish."
Suppressing her terror and nervousness, Asya had displayed resilient determination.
Perhaps it paid off. Princess Yukikaze generously permitted Asya to accompany them. Then her sharp gaze turned to the other girl—Juujouji Orihime.
At that moment, before the princess spoke, Orihime seized the chance.
"B-Because Haruga-kun and I are partners!"
"Meaning we are companions who must not separate no matter what, I suppose? Surpassing the level of an irreplaceably dear friend, the other half to one's soul, an intimate relationship where we can know through the same breath what the other person is thinking... I-In any event, if I were gone, Haruga-kun could very well drop dead all of a sudden!"
Orihime finished in one breath and sneaked a glance at Hal.
"Am I right, Haruga-kun!?"
"Uh, yeah. Juujouji is right. Without her, I can't sleep, I have no appetite either. So I hope you'll agree to let her come with us!"
"Simply stated, she is your minion?"
Hearing Hal concur, Princess Yukikaze inclined her head with doubt in her tone.
"On further thought, I used to enjoy the company of Genbu-Ou. Very well. Black-haired girl, I, Yukikaze, permit your presence."
"Thank you very much!"
Princess Yukikaze displayed generosity probably because Orihime's forcefulness won out.
The white dragon king was a magnanimous maiden to begin with. Just now, she had been displeased only because someone had intruded on her "alone time" with Hal, making her sulk.
(I really don't need this kind of uncute jealousy...)
Hal could not help but smile stiffly.
He reasoned that Princess Yukikaze's feelings for Haruga Haruomi could not possibly be love and admiration. She probably regarded Hal as a rival or playmate.
The princess merely disliked her "duel, belonging to the two of them only" to be disturbed.
Meanwhile, the one who should be on Hal's side, Asya, had narrowed her eyes for some reason, glaring at Hal and Orihime.
"That explanation just now sounds like you are lovers, Orihime-san and Haruomi, lovers bound together by the red string of destiny..."
"D-Does it really!?"
"O-Of course not. Asya, don't get the wrong idea!"
Orihime and Hal hastily refuted together.
At that moment, Hal noticed that the magnificent Earth, directly below just now, had become a small bead.
Conversely, a beautiful white satellite was gradually approaching.
"Is that the destination...?"
Like the blue Earth, Hal had frequently seen this satellite in photos too.
Always presenting the same side towards the Earth—The Moon. This was the satellite known to Earthlings since time immemorial.
"L-Luna-san! Senpai, Nee-sama and Asya-san have been taken away!?"
"Yes. It seems that we were blindsided."
In contrast to the panicking Shirasaka Hazumi, Luna Francois was quite calm.
"However, the situation shouldn't develop into the final battle immediately as long as Harry keeps things going as the current pace. I don't really know if I should call it fortunate or not, but Asya and Orihime-san went along with them."
The instant after the runes of Ruruk Soun had warped space...
The white princess of dragonkind as well as Hal and his two companions had been swallowed by a ball of white light, flying towards the sky with a "whoosh!"
Fast as a rocket.
"Especially Asya. I don't know what happened, to think that she managed to become a Tyrannos like Harry in such short time. Were this taking place in a Japanese manga, this would be one of those scenes where you tell everyone 'no need to rush'."
"B-But..." murmured Hazumi, who had entered a state of shock when the transportation magic activated.
However, Luna Francois, who had remained calm the whole time, spoke in a relaxed tone like a commander overseeing the whole situation.
"The snow princess is a monster capable of charging into the Science Patrol headquarters from Ultraman as easily as taking a stroll after dinner. Had she the desire, the fight could begin three minutes later. In the end, it all comes down to Harry whether he can stall long enough to recuperate."
"I-I suppose you are right."
"By the way, I deliberately chose not to grab onto Harry just now."
"Someone capable of taking control of the whole situation and issuing commands to various parties needs to stay behind... Though I know very well it was an excellent chance to throw caution to the wind, stick to Harry, and show my love aggressively."
Luna frowned, murmuring quietly as though trying to persuade herself.
This would be a display of her calculative wits—calm wisdom—that earned her nickname as the little devil.
"When Harry returns, I will surely have him make it up to me."
"L-Luna-san, you are so amazing. I can't believe you thought so much in such short time."
Shirasaka Hazumi praised Luna with an adorable expression like an reincarnated angel. One would presume that her only thoughts were of the safety of their companions.
Luna chuckled and smiled at the middle school girl who was her opposite.
"In any case, let's get in touch with SAURU's Kantou branch first, as well as Tokyo New Town's government departments and the Ministry of Defense."
"May I request you two to help?"
Luna winked at the two other high school girls.
They were Mutou-san and Funaki-san, Haruga Haruomi's classmates and members of the UFO Research Club. During the fight against Pavel Galad, they had been a lot of help.
"I will add hazard pay and special compensation on top of your official wages."
"Really!? Ahaha, rich people really are quite something."
"Oh well, I'm guessing the evacuation shelters won't be much safer, so I might as well earn some money, of course."
Energetic as always, Funaki-san's eyes glowed with excitement.
Mutou-san was an athletic girl with an androgynous short haircut. As usual, her response was based on her traits of rationality and being on top of all the latest gossip.
"By the way, shouldn't we get our club boss over here?"
"Oh—right. President M said she was going to stay at school, waiting for us, instead of evacuating."
"You're referring to the most mysterious woman in the world, right?"
Luna Francois had heard a little about her too.
President M, an eccentric who possessed superpowers completely different from those of witches and magical races. Her presence would definitely be more calming.
"Leave the front line to Harry and company. Let us work behind the scenes to do more preparations. This will be busy."
Red Hannibal looked up at the moon in the night sky and muttered quietly.
He was currently in human form, a brawny man dressed in a red coat. He was standing alone on the roof of the Empire State Building, one of Old New York's landmarks.
"The other side is making a move at last, huh?"
The human Hannibal grinned.
It was supposed to be noon in Tokyo, but late night in New York. Due to the thirteen-hour time difference between the two, a clear bright moon was hanging high in the night sky.
It was not yet a full moon, which would probably arrive in two or three days.
The moon and its surroundings would be considered a special place for dragonkind.
The random attacks against the Earth's surface by small dragons, Raptors, were known as "dragon strikes." Raptors mostly began their journey from either the Moon's surface or their lair on satellite orbit, then broke through the atmosphere with their own strength, venting their urge for destruction on the cities of the human world...
"Very well. The princess should be capable enough to prevent him—that Tyrannos brat who demanded to strike a deal with me—from getting his way..."
Smiling, Hannibal imagined how the young lad and lass would end up.
Hannibal had lived eons as a dragon king. Whether the Tyrannos or Princess Yukikaze, both were akin to newborn little snakes to him.
How much could they achieve?
With great anticipation, Hannibal watched the night sky.
"O dragonslaying spear, for now, let us bide our time together for the opportunity to arrive."
In addition to the bright moon, there were countless stars in the night sky.
Among them was the seal symbolizing the Rune of the Spear, the tail portion of the constellation known to Earthlings as Ursa Minor.
A long tail with a stationary star at its tip.
Mankind called it the North Star. Dragonkind called it the royal star. Ursa Minor's tail was the "spear shaft" while the North Star was the "spear tip."
"So be it, if the princess defeats the brat. Conversely—suppose he were to demonstrate the ability to subdue the princess... I shall seriously consider making a deal with him."
The strongest dragon king calmly muttered to himself.
"Although Princess Yukikaze proudly declared she would lead us to her domain, the buildings and rooms here are so desolate."
Orihime seemed a bit disappointed.
"As one would expect, these are ancient runes constructed by the dragons, right?"
Hearing Asya's comment, Hal also voiced his opinion. "Really? I doubt they'd construct buildings with staircases. Perhaps these were left behind by an ancient alien civilization on the Moon?"
"Aliens? I've heard of them. They look similar to an octopus, right?"
"Unfortunately, that's a Martian."
"And the H. G. Wells version to boot. Like War of the Worlds'."
Hal and Asya spontaneously shared in a joke.
Princess Yukikaze brought the group to a corner in her "castle."
There were twenty or thirty towers resembling square buildings, standing randomly on a lunar plain. Hal and company were currently inside one of these towers. Built completely from stone, they were a gloomy white in color.
This tower was four stories tall. Hal and company were on the top floor.
Judging from the use of stairs to move between floors, the building structure quite resembled architecture on Earth. However, there was no partitioning within individual floors. Each entire floor was a single room. Very plain.
Hal, Asya and Orihime, the three Earthlings, were gathered here.
After bringing them to the Moon, Princess Yukikaze said "make yourselves comfortable wherever you like" and flew away.
The trio had no choice but to find a random tower to serve as their temporary accommodations.
"If I were to critique from a science fiction angle," Asya wagged her finger and observed, "This is clearly a mysterious historical site on the surface of the Moon, yet you can breathe normally inside, experiencing gravity identical to the Earth's, how implausible... Terraforming here must have taken place on an absurd scale."
"I gave up on critiques back when I visited the Dragon Palace at the bottom of the sea."
"Now that you mention it, there was no consideration for water pressure or being in the sea. Everything was handled with 'magic takes care of everything because this place is related to dragonkind'."
"May I ask a question, Asya-san? What was that terra- something you just mentioned?"
"Terraforming. It's a word invented by science fiction writers in the past, basically modifying another planet's environment to become more like Earth's."
"Insistence on this issue is an indicator of science fiction mania."
"Yes indeed. Like a loyalty test, even if you don't go to the summer and winter comikets, you have to attend the annual SF Convention."
"By the way, a recent Japanese anime used Mars as a setting, but unbelievably, the gravity was identical to Earth's. They must have erred on purpose."
"Not surprising. No matter how much detailed research or fact checking you put into it, you're not going to be pleasing modern audiences much. I would've done the same."
"Sorry, you two are delving into a world unfamiliar to me."
The trio chatting looked like it could have been a scene on Earth.
However, if one were to lean out of a window, where there was no glass, and look up at the sky—
"Hmm—The Earth is blue as ever."
"We have absolutely nothing to do here. No giant step for mankind, that's for sure."
"I never thought I'd have a chance to leave Earth."
Following Hal, Asya and Orihime came to the window.
Over the trio's heads was a sky filled with stars.
There was no air on the Moon, hence, nothing to scatter sunlight to make the sky look blue. The view overhead was a jet-black sky filled with stars.
Mankind's cradle, the blue Earth looked about the size of a basketball.
Blue oceans covering 70% of the Earth's surface, white clouds, greenery and the earthen color of land stood in stark contrast to one another. But this was also a view that felt surreal.
"Is it because I'm witnessing this without going through astronaut training like certain brothers?" Wondered Hal in a tone that even he himself found unmotivated. "What a pity that I don't feel touched."
"I guess it's the same principle as 'catching your own fish tastes better'," answered Asya poignantly. "But Haruomi, since dragonkind's return around 2000, the Moon and the satellite orbits have essentially been their territory. I heard there are many Raptor lairs in that zone, but monitoring work hasn't progressed very much. Perhaps we could earn some pocket money by making detail records of the situation here."
"Oh—NASA or JAXA might be willing to buy information from us, right?"
"More importantly, Asya-san, now that Princess Yukikaze has left, it's about time you tell us in detail what happened."
Hal and Asya were going off on a tangent about economics completely removed from the dreams of space, Orihime clapped her hands once.
"When exactly did you learn to use the Rune of the Chain?"
"Yes—as I mentioned earlier, I simply stole a flint from Pavel Galad's stockpile and drew out the Rune of the Chain. In the process, I did cheat a little, asking that rumored person to give me a hand."
"That rumored person—You mean Sophocles?"
"Yes. Just as I had heard, he's an extremely suspicious man. I can't believe he came all the way into the barrier... Anyway, that's what happened."
Asya extended her hands.
Proof of her identity as Hal's vassal, the Rune of the Bow, originally imprinted on the back of her left hand, but had disappeared without a trace now. Replacing it was the new rune in the center of her right palm.
The magical symbol resembling the "巳" character—
This was the Rune of the Chain that they had seen during the summer holiday excursion.
"I am now the successor to this rune."
Even Hal's childhood friend, whom he had known for more than ten years, had inherited a dragonslaying rune. Hal was planning to complain about this, but swallowed his words before he could speak.
In truth, he had been using multiple spells of investigative magic while they were chatting.
One spell had provided intriguing information.
"What is this?"
"Haruga-kun, what's the matter?"
"Nothing really. I used runes of Ruruk Soun to create an Eye to observe this historical site and the surrounding geography. By the way, expressed in lunar landscape terms, our location is the northeastern part of 'Sea of Showers' in the northern hemisphere."
"Huh? We're in a sea!?"
"So-called seas on the Moon are areas whose surfaces are covered by dark basalt. When viewing the Moon from the Earth, these areas look black." Hal explained to the surprised Orihime.
"Why don't you try using visualization magic too? We're currently on the Moon's surface. From a bird's eye view, you can clearly see famous lunar features like the Sea of Tranquility and the Aristoteles crater. Moreover, something unusual is happening in this historical site's vicinity."
"On the Moon's surface?"
Just as Hal nodded in response to Asya question...
The wand he had been holding in his right hand the whole time, the magic gun, said quietly, "Hey brat."
Hard, cold, heavy, the touch of steel. Apart from the soul residing in this magic vessel, no one else on Earth would address Haruga Haruomi as "brat."
Using Hinokagutsuchi's child-like voice, the magic gun spoke haughtily, "I know not whether this could move you, but should you desire to see something interesting, why not investigate that anomaly in detail?"
"What do you mean?"
Intriguing words, but—
Hal jumped in surprise just as he was about to lean forward. The building they were inside was shaking violently.
Next to the window, Hal hastily poked his head out. Then he understood.
A dragon king's gigantic body whooshed past the sky above. Ten-odd meters in length, it was a white dragon with massive wings outspread.
The white dragon king, Princess Yukikaze.
This was the lively young beauty's dragon form.
'Haruomi, I, Yukikaze, must speak with you! Come out!'
The huge voice came from the sky.
Booming like thunder, nevertheless, it was clearly the princess' adorable voice.
The dragon king flew past in the sky over the tower containing Hal and company, then slowly flew back.
Her flying was quite vigorous, worthy of a king's.
Deciding that pretending to be absent would be highly unlikely to work, Hal grumbled.
"And collecting information is so important too."
These were his honest thoughts as a treasure hunter, not a warrior.
If possible, he wanted to rush over to "a certain scene" as quickly as possible. If he were to answer the dragon king's summon, the anomaly could end in the meantime.
"So, Juujouji, I've got a favor to ask of you."
Orihime stared wide-eyed. A white furry fox-wolf was lying prone on the ground behind her.
As big as a thoroughbred horse, with nine tails to boot—Akuro-Ou shrunken down to minimum size. In case of emergencies, Orihime had summoned her ahead of time.
As expected of a leviathan whose appearance resembled a canid fox, Akuro-Ou not only had a sharp nose but also sensitive hearing.
"Crouching" on the stone floor, she stared at the ceiling—towards the sky—growling in a warning voice.
"Haruomi, do you find my celestial palace comfortable?"
"Although the scenery is even more desolate than the desert planet where Luke Skywalker grew up, I guess it isn't exactly uncomfortable." Complaining surreptitiously about his accommodations, Hal asked, "What was it you must speak to me about?"
"Fufufufu. What are your thoughts on how I look—this magnificent form—to you?"
Princess Yukikaze's answer was unexpected.
They were located at a plaza in the heart of the neighborhood where dozens of stone towers stood. Hal and Asya had just sprinted here with Asya. The two of them were panting heavily.
Fierce and stately, Princess Yukikaze looked at the two humans below.
Her form as a dragon measured ten-odd meters in length.
The white dragon king had landed in front of them in this manner.
"Even if you ask for our opinion... All I can reply is 'so big,' okay?"
The sudden question left Asya confused, who cocked her head and said, "But maybe Hannibal has a slight upper hand in physique and impressiveness, if I remember right."
"You didn't remember wrong. Hannibal is definitely two sizes bigger than her."
Despite the dragon king's powerful body in front of their eyes, the two of them still discussed calmly.
This was a far cry from long ago when the sight of an elite dragon—Raak Al Soth—would scare them stiff. For better or worse, they were used to it.
Facing these two rude humans, Princess Yukikaze seemed quite offeneded.
"Tyrannos lass, I did not ask you. Speaking of which, I, Yukikaze, summoned only Haruomi alone."
She was grumbling quietly in a fuming voice.
Nevertheless, even one sentence such as this, when uttered from a dragon king's mouth, would resound all around, shaking the atmosphere like distant thunder.
Even so, Asya remained unafraid despite being a new Tyrannos. Impressive as ever, Asya.
"What does it matter? Haruomi and I have declared war on you."
"Tsk. No matter. In any case, Haruomi, I, Yukikaze, would like you to take a careful look at my majestic appearance."
"Why? I knew long ago how powerful you are."
"Nothing much, because I am unsure whether I will be able to transform next time, when I duel you."
"What do you mean?"
The unexpected answer made Hal jump. The princess proceeded to tell him, "Fufufu. Apparently due to my young age, I cannot successfully take dragon form every time unless I am sufficiently excited."
Princess Yukikaze was probably a human who had turned into a dragon king—It appears that Hal's earlier guess was correct.
Hal nodded vigorously. The princess continued, "However, I am in excellent shape today, possibly because I invited you here. My transformation succeeded straight away. Hence, this is my reward for you."
"Fufufufu. I, Yukikaze, allow you to admire my magnificent form as a dragon. Let the sight of my powerful body burn onto your retinas."
"This is more like mental torture than a reward..."
Princess Yukikaze's unconventional thought process compelled Hal to grumble. The thought of "praising the powerful body of an imminent enemy's" was something a muscle fetishist might have, but not a nerd like Hal.
Observing the princess' dragon form at such close range, Hal could not help but exclaim.
"Well, you look very awesome right now, or maybe pretty is the word. From that perspective, I guess it could be considered a reward."
"Yeah. Hannibal is definitely bigger and looks stronger too. But you, Princess Yukikaze, definitely look prettier. White and slender, you resemble those humanoid weapons drawn by a certain designer and manga artist whose settings tend to be overly surreal."
"Haruomi, are you referring to those M●rtar whatevers that were later renamed into Goth●c something or others?"
"Yes, that's right. The designs are a bit similar. My boyish mind is strangely excited by this."
"...What on earth are you talking about?"
Hal accidentally started chatting with Asya about a topic only comprehensible to the two of them, causing Princess Yukikaze to glare coldly. He hastily put on a smile to appease the princess.
"Simply stated, your dragon form is very wonderful, yeah."
Hal's praise was quite clear.
However, the princess simply scoffed and ignored him, remaining in her dragon form. Evidently, she valued power and ferocity far more than intangible beauty.
(Is she an elementary schoolboy?)
(I got it. She's the type that would find space-age humanoid military mecha cooler the more feathers it has on its back, like the Str●ke Freedom.)
(Personally, I also like those that attack with maces or wrenches.)
While whispering to Asya, Hal pondered.
Bringing his childhood friend along was for the purpose of drawing the white dragon king's attention together. Meanwhile, their companion was supposed to be using this time to investigate "a certain lunar anomaly."
With the duel against Princess Yukikaze so imminent, perhaps this was pointless curiosity.
However, the lazy self-styled devil had unexpected given Hal a push.
What exactly was the meaning in her words? Hal thought silently, hoping to hear Orihime's report as soon as possible.
"U-Umm, Kagutsuchi-san? Will Akuro-Ou really be alright?" asked Orihime apprehensively.
She was outside the tower that served as their temporary lodgings. Ahead of them was the northeastern sky where her partner Akuro-Ou had flown.
"Even if Akuro-Ou is a leviathan, she is still a creature of flesh and blood after all. Would it be too much to have her fly outside without any equipment..."
"Too much? Nonsense," coldly replied the magic gun that Haruga Haruomi had entrusted to her. "There is nothing to fear from even the void of the sea of stars as long as you have imperishable protection. Furthermore, are you aware that the territory under your feet is this safe only because of Yukikaze's protection?"
"I-I know very well..."
The white dragon king's territory. A mysterious historical site on the Moon.
In truth, this area was secured to an air-tight degree, by a pearly dome-shaped barrier—imperishable protection.
Outside of the protection lay an endless desolate scenery of white sand and rocks.
The exterior was a zone affected by a variety of problems encountered only outside of Earth such as vacuum, low gravity, low temperature, ultraviolet light, radiation, space dust, etc.
It was not a place where Earth creatures could venture in the flesh.
However, Akuro-Ou was a "serpent"—a leviathan.
Orihime was wearing just a school uniform against the Moon's harsh environment.
It was truly surreal. Orihime sighed and shook her head. I have to focus and change my mindset.
"Very well, seeing as I've ventured into the bottom of the sea and alternate dimensions, what is there to fear from the Moon now..."
Telling herself this, Orihime pictured the white fox-wolf in her mind.
Akuro-Ou was heading somewhere on her own. Orihime began to link her partner's soul with her own to enable remote control.
"Akuro-Ou, respond to me!"
The instant Orihime prayed, their souls were successfully linked.
Her soul left her body and flew as though swimming in the sea to Akuro-Ou, who was hovering over the Moon's surface.
They were on the Moon's northern hemisphere, flying in the vicinity of the north pole.
Their location just now was the Sea of Showers on the Moon.
Nearby were the Sea of Serenity, the Sea of Tranquility, Montes Appeninus and Montes Archimedes, etc. As for Orihime and Akuro-Ou's destination—
"Akuro-Ou, that place is apparently called the Plato crater."
This was the biggest crater on the Moon.
It was relatively close to the Sea of Showers, but in more concrete terms, it was about several hundred kilometers away.
"Let's accelerate using magic!"
The white nine-tailed fox-wolf obeyed Orihime's command and invoked the pseudo-divinity of the Sun.
This was the ability that Orihime had obtained through her power up several hours prior. After spending forty or fifty seconds to charge up, Akuro-Ou started to move at the same speed as sunlight.
Whoosh—They swiftly arrived on top of the gigantic crater.
Practically instantaneous movement.
They were currently a thousand meters or so above the Moon's surface. Under Akuro-Ou was a majestic lunar feature resembling a gaping mouth, the Plato crater, with a diameter of a hundred kilometers and an average depth of a kilometer or so.
In spirit form, Orihime drew closer to her partner.
Casting Enhanced Vision on herself, she saw an astonishing sight the instant she activated magical sight.
"Something... is emerging from the Moon!?"
Despite distortions, the Plato crater was essentially round.
Many spheres resembling gas or soap bubbles were emerging like mad from the center of the hundred kilometer long diameter.
"Th-There must be hundreds here..."
A casual glance revealed over three hundred spheres.
The spheres were all transparent and colorless, glinting iridescent like soap bubbles. However, their surface seemed hard, resembling crystals a little.
"Is this what you wanted us to see, Kagutsuchi-san!?" Orihime cried out to the accompanying Hinokagutsuchi who resided in the magic gun. "What on earth is—"
"Hmph. Confirm with your own eyes now that you are already here."
"I-I suppose you are right. Akuro-Ou, get closer!"
Hinokagutsuchi sounded a little impatient. Orihime nodded in agreement and ordered Akuro-Ou to speed up immediately.
The white nine-tailed fox-wolf swiftly descended. Even if they were not on the Moon, only spiritual entities would be capable of flying at such high speeds.
Thanks to that, Orihime was able to witness a shocking scene soon after.
"Aren't these Raptors!?"
Sleeping inside each sphere was a Raptor.
There were slight variations in body size, ranging from seven to eight meters in length. These were the small dragons called "winged lizards" by the elites.
They lacked forelimbs for grasping objects and the ability to speak or use magic.
The three hundred or so spheres were hovering inside the Plato crater, with dormant dragons hidden in them.
"Oh my? They... seem smaller than usual."
Orihime nodded. There was no mistake.
The Raptors sleeping in the spheres were half as big as usual.
Furthermore, their color was different, not the steel gray Raptors usually seen. The small Raptors on the Moon were clearly lighter in color.
Upon closer examination, even their facial features were less sharp...
"They seem to be juveniles?"
Orihime commented based on intuition, then a thought came to her.
Hundreds of crystalline spheres with young Raptors sleeping inside them. They were like the eggs of amphibians, insects or reptiles...
She focused her senses as a witch.
Don't think, feel. This was the trick to magic that Asya had taught her before. The wise words of a great martial arts master. Orihime followed Asya's advice and felt the flow of magic that filled the entire crater. Below—
What Orihime focused her attention to was not the hundreds of "eggs" hovering throughout the air, but below—the Moon's surface.
She concentrated, squeezing out the necessary power.
Magical power whooshed out, causing Orihime's senses to become even sharper. As a result, she saw the gigantic rune near the center of the crater.
It was an infinity sign.
"I've seen this design before..."
In fact, this was a very familiar symbol for witches like Orihime.
When summoning a leviathan, a pentagram magic circle would first appear in the sky. Then the pentagram, signifying evil exorcism, would immediately transform into an infinity sign.
"Please do not compare this with the imitation you humans use. For dragonkind, this is the one and only source of life, the Rune of the Mother Dragon."
However, the former dragon king residing in the magic gun, Hinokagutsuchi, spoke softly as though mocking her idea.
The Rune—of the Mother Dragon.
The instant Orihime's heart was shaken by these words, the situation changed.
Every "egg" started to crack all at once.
The small Raptors sleeping in them hastily opened their eyes, spread their wings and flew unsteadily.
Some flew off to elsewhere on the Moon while others headed to the Earth.
There were also a few Raptors going off in completely different directions. Furthermore, some of the small Raptors immediately formed flocks.
"Are you stunned? Priestess, this is birth for dragonkind."
Orihime looked to the side, only to see that Hinokagutsuchi had manifested in the air at some pointin earlier.
It had been a long time since the young girl dressed in a red kimono left the magic gun.
"There are no so-called women among pure-blooded dragons, no females. What gives birth to them is the land itself, with the Rune of the Mother Dragon carved upon it."
"I see now..."
The Crimson Queen of the past then said to the astonished Orihime, "Most of the newborn winged lizards will encounter death somewhere. But over decades and centuries, individuals might accumulate enough wisdom and magical power, suddenly awakening into elites. Disregarding hybrids such as Hannibal, this would be the likely origin of Pavel Galad."
"A rune giving birth to pure-blooded dragons...!"
The polar opposite of dragonslaying runes.
The secrets of life were truly too profound. Having witnessed this scene with her own eyes, Orihime was stunned speechless.
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