Leviathan:Volume 8 Chapter 4
Chapter 4 - The Conclusion between the King and the Imitation
Asya and Juujouji Orihime had stayed on the Moon to control the Rune of the Mother Dragon.
Normally, it would be impossible for anyone to know Haruga Haruomi's situation thirty thousand kilometers away on the orbit of an Earth satellite—But it was different for these two girls.
The mini-wyverns encircling Princess Yukikaze had reduced in number from forty thousand to less than a thousand five hundred.
For this large group, the two girls who had conducted the birth ritual were their mothers.
This was a magical bond that rivaled that between lord and vassal.
Precisely because of that, the mini-wyverns could share their sensory data with the girls.
"The Crimson Queen..."
Asya spoke in astonishment.
Just earlier, Princess Yukikaze had been wounded grievously in a distant battlefield. However, the princess' human form had separated from the dragon body to attack the Crimson Queen that was hiding in satellite orbit.
Then she had used some kind of magic—
This caused the powerful Crimson Queen to start collapsing.
The ruby-like dragon scales lost color, turning into what looked like century-old weathered brick. The gigantic body began to flake and fall apart.
The body seemed like it could no longer sustain its form, having lost its source of magical power.
Sooner or later, it would crumble completely, weathered.
In human form, the princess witnessed with satisfaction the red dragon's demise, riding her magic surfboard to soar again. Her destination was the white dragon body floating in space. She was planning to merge with her injured body again.
However, the two witches on the Moon were in no mood to pay attention to Princess Yukikaze.
"What happened to Haruomi...?"
"Look at this, Asya-san."
Orihime called out to Asya in a completely unemotional voice.
With a hollow expression, and reluctance to face a vague realization of the truth causing the brain to shut down, she showed the back of her left hand to her witch companion to see.
"The Rune of the Bow—Haruga-kun's rune has disappeared..."
Asya had lost her soul link to Haruga Haruomi when she became a Tyrannos.
If this link remained, she would be able to have his emblem, the Rune of the Bow, manifest on the back of her left hand any time. Orihime should be able to do this too—
Asya used flight magic to fly into the sky.
She summoned her blue partner. Rushalka had been standing by, flying over the Rune of the Mother Dragon at the Plato crater.
"Let's go! Attack target is Princess Yukikaze, follow me!"
This was the only chance to bury Princess Yukikaze and eliminate this threat forever. She and Rushalka had no chance of winning except by attacking the wounded princess.
Hence, Asya valiantly flew into the sky without any hesitation.
More importantly, this was a battle of revenge. She was to avenge Haruga Haruomi, who had lost to a dragon king.
The blue wyvern flew over, following her master who was flying towards Earth's satellite orbit—
As for the Crimson Queen...
Hinokagutsuchi's former body and Haruga Haruomi's avatar had started to fall.
It was gradually approaching the blue planet's ocean.
Drained of power, the Queen could not even overcome the Earth's gravity.
The shock and heat from crashing into the atmosphere was mercilessly obliterating the red dragon's body.
In the process of crashing to an altitude of ten thousand meters, the gigantic body became more and more severely damaged—
The Crimson Queen was now in the sky over the northern Pacific. She had lost her lower body, left arm, and most of her two wings.
Nevertheless, someone still succeeded in transporting her there.
"Glinda, I am counting on you again! Gravity Control!"
Master-class witch Luna Francois invoked pseudo-divinity a second time.
At the Hawaiian island of Kauai, on a beach near Kilauea. Luna and Glinda, the three-headed lion leviathan, were looking up together at the falling Crimson Queen.
From this vantage point, the Crimson Queen looked like a meteor crashing to the Earth's surface.
Catching the powerless Queen, pulling her towards the Earth's gravity—In fact, it was Luna Francois and her partner using pseudo-divinity, drawing the Queen on a trajectory leading to the Earth's surface, then applying force to bring her to Hawaii's immediate waters.
"I managed to bring her here at last..."
Maintaining maximum magical power output from Glinda, Luna murmured to herself.
Since the Crimson Queen happened to fall into the sky over the northern Pacific equator, Luna was able to drag the Queen over forcibly. A little farther away and even the master-class witch might not have been able to accomplish such a feat.
"Luna-san, Minadzuki is warning us! She says "
"I know! Don't worry, leave it to Glinda and me!"
Shirasaka Hazumi was on the shore too, while Minadzuki was standing by in the sky.
The two of them had removed their winter coats and changed into lighter wear, looking up at the stars dotting the night sky on this island of eternal summer.
The Rune of the Bow on the full moon had disappeared.
Same for the rune that was supposed to be manifested in the two witches' left hands. The implied significance left Hazumi in terror. Even so, Luna still issued orders.
"Glinda, final attempt. Truly the third time, Gravity Control!"
This was gravity manipulation for deceleration.
Ruohhhhhhhhh! Ruohhhhhhhhhh! Ruohhhhhhhhhh!
Glinda's three heads, the lion, the goat, and the dragon all roared at the same time. The eruption of magical power sustained the gravity that was pulling and guiding the Queen.
After a few minutes, the moment arrived.
The giant dragon body of the former Crimson Queen landed on the sea at Kilauea like a landing craft that had used a parachute.
"Hazumi-san, let's go!"
Ships, helicopters and ground units of the US Armed Forces were standing ready at the back to support them.
The two witches, one Japanese and one American, made the call to head over to the Queen's landing spot with the military and nodded to signal to them.
Twenty minutes went by.
Luna and Hazumi had boarded a US Marine helicopter and flown to the sky directly over the Queen that was floating on the sea surface.
Normally, the Queen would have sunk into the water, but Glinda was supporting the body using pseudo-divinity.
However, Hazumi instantly gasped when she looked at the red dragon on the sea from the helicopter.
"This is one out of many possible outcomes, so naturally, I predicted it, but..."
Luna Francois sighed lightly too.
The Crimson Queen was floating on the sea, face up.
Everything below the waist, the left arm and both wings were practically gone. The rest was all covered with wounds and missing bits and pieces. More seriously, the two open eyes showed no signs of life. One could not sense any consciousness or reason from them.
Deep in the Queen's left chest—The heartmetal had stopped beating.
No signs of movement, no magical power. The giant red body had turned into a corpse.
"Senpai—Senpai... Sob sob sob sob sob!"
Hazumi collapsed on her knees, her head down, crying.
As for Luna Francois, she was a seasoned warrior despite her young age and had gone through similar farewells many times. However, she felt a certain liquid, one that she had never seen before until now, slide down from the corner of her eye. In that very instant—
Luna looked left and right, surveying the interior of the helicopter.
She perked her ears then stared at the sea surface—the Crimso Queen's remains—then placed her hand on the back of the softly sobbing junior witch.
"I am sorry, but it looks like we have a mission to complete."
"With the Earth's fate on the line, we must find something lost."
With great fortitude, Luna nodded at Hazumi whose face was wet from angel's tears.
"Over there, huh?"
Riding her magic surfboard, Princess Yukikaze approached the Earth's atmosphere.
Because her injured dragon body had drifted to this region.
Pursuing her other body that was floating in space, she ended up in a zone five hundred kilometers above the Earth's surface, quite near the orbit of the International Space Station.
(As a side note, altitudes beyond a hundred kilometers were essentially a vacuum and considered part of space by humans.)
At this very moment—
"Her body that was on the brink of death" was lying there in front of her.
The white dragon king had been sniped from a great distance by Haruga Haruomi and ended up all covered with wounds.
Roughly fourteen meters in body length, her body was the most petite among the dragon kings. Right now, unable to fly on its own power, it could only drift like a reed in the sea of stars.
However, a smile appeared on the face of the princess' human form when she recalled the culprit responsible for this.
"Fufufufu, that Haruomi."
Quagmire. Formidable foe. Tumultuous events. Challenge.
These were all what Princess Yukikaze loved deeply. She felt the most alive when focusing her mind fully on overcoming extreme crises.
Tasting joy for the first time in a long while, the princess was in a very good mood.
"Going this far to delight me... How adorable of him."
Smiling, she focused her mind.
Of the wyverns that had attacked the princess' dragon form, there should be more than a thousand left, but they were apparently not nearby.
Did they scatter like a ragtag army that had lost its master?
"Or are they planning a comeback...?"
I hope so—Princess Yukikaze thought.
She needed to regroup in case of emergencies.
The white dragon's left arm and left wing were about to fall off. Injuries large and small covered her entire body. The right eye was blinded too.
"Let me have a look."
Princess Yukikaze used runes of Ruruk Soun.
The arrangement of "healing hands." A spell for treating her dragon form that was on the verge of death.
Although she had no idea when she learned it, the princess also possessed the ability to control "goddess power." Just like True Genbu-Ou.
The white dragon's minor wounds began to heal and close up.
"Impossible to recover instantly, huh...?"
The injuries were not light enough that healing magic could cure them instantly.
Princess Yukikaze shrugged. In the next instant, her body and the surfboard both vanished. She had merged with her dragon form.
"Although this ending isn't boring... Hmm?"
An adorable girl's voice was coming from the white dragon king's jaws. At this moment, the princess noticed.
The approach of a dragonslaying aura.
However, it was not the dragonslaying bow, instead, it was most likely—
"The chain user, huh?"
Her right eye's vision had yet to recover.
However, using just her remaining left eye, she could see clearly. The imitation lacking in forelimbs—a blue wyvern—was approaching.
Next to her was the successor of the Chain.
The Tyrannos and her vassal were under imperishable protection.
"Aren't you going to run or hide!?"
"Normally speaking, dealing with the likes of you would be a waste of time."
Fufufufu, Princess Yukikaze in dragon form laughed suggestively.
"After all, you are but a baby bird that became a Tyrannos for barely two days. Nevertheless, for this battered body of mine, an opponent like you may prove just right. More importantly—"
The Tyrannos of the Chain confronted the white dragon king squarely, glaring viciously at her.
Sharp, intense, yet without loss of wisdom. Though her experience was lacking for a Tyrannos, here eyes belonged to an excellent warrior.
"The fighting spirit you exude... is not bad. I, Yukikaze, like it."
"Then it's my turn after Haruomi?"
"Hahahaha. Only if you can compare to Haruomi. I am not expecting that much. Show me your mettle. Bring it on!"
"You don't need to tell me that! I'll be the one to avenge Haruomi!"
"Haruga-kun... He didn't—die... did he?"
Unable to cry or get angry over it, neither did she dare accept it.
Juujouji Orihime was sitting paralyzed on the Moon, her mind blank.
The significance of the Crimson Queen crumbling as she fell towards the Earth, and the significance of the Rune of the Bow disappearing from her left hand, she knew.
Even so—As long as she refused to confront it, refused to acknowledge it...
Perhaps she could still believe in miracles.
"Probably... impossible. Because Haruga-kun despite being a boy, he is a complete mismatch for descriptions like resilient or immortal. Why on earth did he get roped into this kind of thing...?"
Haruga Haruomi's talents were actually the opposite of his original personality.
So far, this juxtaposition ended up being the reason he could compete against the immensely powerful dragon kings. But the gap in power had finally manifested now.
Still, this was probably inevitable.
There was no method for obtaining greater power except by turning into a dragon.
But taking such a path would mean he would lose his memories as Haruga Haruomi, probably undergoing a dramatic change in personality—
"So long as he is still alive, perhaps that might be a better outcome."
Orihime finally spoke those taboo words.
Tears welled up in her eyes. Impossible to control. Her tears flowed without stop. She could hear nothing except her own sobbing. However.
"I must go after... Asya-san..."
Sitting on the Moon, Orihime clenched her fist.
Just as she mustered what little was left of her energy, intending to go after her companion who had left on her own, Haruga Haruomi's childhood friend—
Orihime's parter howled softly to emphasize her presence.
The white nine-tailed fox-wolf's massive body was ten-odd meters long.
Using her giant face—her white fur-covered cheeks—she rubbed against Orihime's body.
"A-Are you comforting me?"
Though leviathans were known as "serpents," they were not violent magic beasts.
They were intelligent, loyal, and quite considerate of their partners. Especially Akuro-Ou, probably because of her canid nature, she was gentle like a loyal dog.
Orihime finally lifted her head. Seeing the white fox-wolf's expression, she gasped.
Akuro-Ou seemed to be pleading with her, pleading "give me power—" The one and only partner, shouldering the fate of fighting dragons together with witches, was definitely asking Orihime "give me more power."
"Could it be for avenging Haruga-kun...?"
Orihime dismissed her speculation as wrong as soon as she finished her sentence.
Akuro-Ou's eyes were clear. Neither anger nor hatred were visible, instead, her eyes were filled with selfless determination to complete the mission whatever it took.
"What—are you trying to do...?"
Her partner simply gazed at her sincerely.
Then Orihime noticed. Why were they still alive?
"We are clearly on the Moon..."
What had been protecting Juujouji Orihime from all unfavorable elements in space and on the Moon—lack of oxygen, weak gravity, radiation, solar heat, low temperatures in places shaded from sunlight—was the barrier known as "imperishable protection."
Normally, it was pearly in color. Previously, Haruga Haruomi had turned the protection transparent at Asya's suggestion, which was why Orihime had not noticed instantly.
The protection granted to Orihime by the young man Haruga was still in effect? If he were gone, then the protection would no longer be sustained, right!?
"No way—Is it you? Akuro-Ou."
She focused her mind and tried to sense where the power protecting her was coming from.
No mistake. With certainty, Orihime asked. The nine-tailed fox-wolf rubbed her face against Orihime again in apparent affirmation.
"Why are you able to...?"
Only Tyrannoi and dragon kings were capable of using imperishable protection.
Akuro-Ou could not possibly possess this power. Could it be—Orihime remembered. There was one decisive difference between her partner and the others such as Minadzuki, Glinda and Rushalka.
"The connection is still there?"
Saying that, Orihime noticed.
Earlier when taken to the silver dragon's barrier, she had made the same mistake. Her link with Haruga Haruomi's soul had not vanished completely.
It was simply harder to connect because the two of them were in different worlds.
Haruga Haruomi was the one who had conducted Akuro-Ou's birth ritual. Orihime's partner was the leviathan with the most intimate bond with him.
Not only that, but Akuro-Ou's senses were sharp, beyond any comparison with humans.
Hence, she could not jump to conclusions that the link between their two souls had been broken...
"I couldn't help it. I saw with my own eyes the Crimson Queen crumbling and falling to the Earth."
Orihime's lips were grumbling, but a smile appeared on her face.
Akuro-Ou noticed. Even though the link seemed like it was no longer present, it was still possible to summon the power of dragonbane as long as they prayed with sincerity.
Then to protect Orihime—
"You used power for my sake..."
Akuro-Ou called out in apparent confirmation.
The white fox-wolf's eyes were calm with no signs of vengeance. She was still pleading with Orihime "give me power—" However, the power Akuro-Ou wanted was most likely—
"Let me try!"
She was finally able to comprehend the thoughts of the partner who could not speak.
"It is the second time now. Even without Asya-san's presence, I will succeed! O Rune of the Mother Dragon, let the blessing of life descend upon here!"
Orihime and Akuro-Ou were still at the center of the Plato crater.
This time, she performed the secret ritual of life on her own, manipulating the Rune of the Mother Dragon, the magic symbol in the shape of an infinity sign.
Naturally, Orihime's magical power could not compare with Asya who was a master-class witch, and on top of that, a Tyrannos.
However, she had a trump card.
"Akuro-Ou, pour the power of the sun into the Rune of the Mother Dragon!"
The Moon's cycle of night and day took fifteen days to complete. Fortunately, it was currently daytime at the Plato crater on the Moon's surface.
Sunlight—The "fire of life" that nurtured all life was abundant right now.
Orihime tired to use the spiritual power of the Rune of the Mother Dragon to activate the secret ritual of birth. For her, sunlight was the most reliable ally. Using magical power from the pseudo-divinity of the Sun as well, Orihime and Akuro-Ou focused, trying to elicit a new miracle.
The land underfoot began to glow golden.
The infinity sign on the crater began to give off light again.
In addition, the white mini-wyverns from earlier had gathered in the air above by the time she noticed. There were more than a thousand of them, those that had not self-detonated in the fight against Princess Yukikaze.
They were all taking surprising action.
One after another, the wyverns landed in front of Orihime and were absorbed into the infinity sign on the Moon.
The goal was not returning them to the rune that had given birth to them.
"These children are willing to led us their power. This will probably succeed!"
Juujouji Orihime was trying to bring about the birth of something else—
Over a thousand wyverns had returned to the Rune of the Mother Dragon, offering their bodies as sacrifices, to become part of it.
Understanding that through intuition, Orihime nodded vigorously.
"Allow me to say this in advance for the record."
Hinokagutsuchi had said this prior to teaching Hal the secret ritual of turning into a ghost.
"This is not a spell for creating a ghost that cannot die."
"Then what is it used for?"
"A secret technique to reincarnate a person into an immortal god."
An unexpected term had suddenly cropped up. Immortal god. The power of dragonbane and dragon kings were plenty grandiose already, but this even god was mentioned.
"Something along these lines? Transcending beasts, transcending humans, turning into a god..."
"More or less. A thousand years ago, before I fought that lass Yukikaze—I had already lived long as a dragon king. Hence, I was honestly a little bored."
How long exactly was "long" for a dragon king?
Definitely more than a millennium or two. Five thousand years. Ten thousand years. Possibly more than a hundred thousand years. Indeed, getting bored after sitting on the throne for so long would be all too natural.
"As such, I decided to devise a secret technique for becoming a god, a good way to kill time while I was at it. But there was one major problem. It was impossible to know how much power one would obtain after performing the ritual, and it was irreversible too. This prevented me from mustering the effort to give it a try."
"Because it's basically a secret ritual for reincarnation."
"Indeed. It would be a problem if I could no longer shower my love upon the beauties in my harem."
"And you said you were bored? Looks like you were really enjoying yourself!"
"Hmph, that is neither here nor there. In any case, it was not a spell one could recklessly experiment upon oneself. Even if I tricked a few random people to serve as experiments, they would not be able to learn the spell at all unless they were mighty warriors on the level of dragon kings."
"I'm so glad the devil's plan ended in failure."
"In the end, during my fight with Yukikaze—"
"You took a fatal wound, so you used the spell for reincarnating into a god, right? So how did it go?"
"I would not call it a success... Compared to an ordinary ghost, indeed, I am free. However, the power is still nowhere near an 'immortal god'."
Although there were restrictions, after her death, Hinokagutsuchi could still use her magical power from when she was alive, appearing and disappearing elusively, even materializing herself to eat things. More importantly, she did not move on to the afterlife, spending a thousand years idly, occasionally interfering in human society—
A transcendent being that was on the level of cheating for sure, but nowhere near as powerful as an omniscient and omnipotent god.
"I believe it can re-purposed. Further improvement could turn it into a secret ritual for reincarnating into a lich or a vampire lord," Hal said with a sigh after listening to the earlier explanation.
This had happened in the Moon ruins when he was alone with Hinokagutsuchi, after meeting Sophocles.
"There's really no time for that, though."
"However, brat, I am deeply surprised that you intend to settle things with Yukikaze by turning into a half-baked immortal. Are you giving up on being human?"
Hinokagutsuchi laughed maliciously to mock Hal, who glared at her.
"Giving up is irrelevant here. I stopped being human long ago."
"By this point, I can only consider it the same as accepting body modification surgery. After all, using a body that's about to turn into a dragon is not enough to defeat Princess Yukikaze."
Hal was already one of those monsters that could hardly be called human.
He had to admit that he had merged with a dragon before.
"Putting that aside, things were going pretty well during my fight against Galad until the Crimson Queen absorbed my consciousness. I want to take a gamble. As far as I know, you're the most resilient ghost in the whole wide world."
"Ha! Would a crafty brat like you ever take a seat at this sort of gambling table, the kind where luck is the only factor!?"
"I can't help it. I don't have a single card left in my hand. Apart from leaving it to fate and draw a new card from the deck, I don't have a choice."
Hinokagutsuchi had thoroughly mocked the demoralized Hal.
Even so, she still generously instructed Hal on the secret technique for turning into a ghost. Hal originally had doubts on whether it would go smoothly, but it ended up succeeding.
On further thought—
He was forced to make a job change to a ghost from a man who was about to turn into a dragon.
This situation was so tragic that it actually felt a bit comical. Perhaps the self-styled devil had been willing to instruct him without reserve precisely because she saw this point. Furthermore—
Perhaps there was something similar to a bond between him and Hinokagutsuchi—No no no.
They were not the type to go sentimental.
Haruga Haruomi and the former dragon queen were supposed to maintain a relationship based on aligned interest the whole time. Thanks to that, Hal had barely managed to survive...
Even though he could maintain his state as an astral body, Hal overturned his earlier thought.
(This isn't really "surviving.")
To be exact, he was currently on the beach of a certain island.
Time was night. The air seemed quite clean. The starry sky was very beautiful.
Thrown ashore by the waves was a semi-automatic handgun with the color of steel and decorated with gold.
Hal's soul was affixed to his personal magic gun, barely hanging on to remain in this world.
The princess' "purification of evil spirits" had almost erased him, but Hal had survived the crisis in the nick of time, entering the Crimson Queen's body.
That being said, the Queen had also started to disintegrate immediately.
Inside the Queen was the magic gun that had been absorbed before the battle, so Hal imitated Hinokagutsuchi and possessed it too.
(In the end, I fell down to Earth together with the Queen's body...)
After crashing into the atmosphere, the red dragon was damaged all over.
The magic gun was included in the fallen remains.
Based on scenery Hal saw on his way down, he deduced that he was somewhere in the northern Pacific Ocean. Probably the Hawaiian archipelago.
(Not Hawaii Island or Oahu but more to the northwest—where the Battle of Midway had taken place.)
He was very worried about Orihime and Asya whom he had left on the Moon.
His childhood friend could still draw on her powers as a Tyrannos, but if Hal's beloved lacked imperishable protection, she probably would not last more than an hour—
(I hope Juujouji will actively take my power to use.)
In fact, even though one of them was on Earth while the other was on the Moon, their bonds through the Bow and the Twin Katana ought t o allow him to ascertain her safety immediately.
But as he was right now, Hal could not do it. Possessing the magic gun barely allowed him to keep his soul in this world, like the weakened Hinokagutsuchi, unable to do anything else.
(Contacting my companions on Earth—Can't do that either.)
Was he going to be swallowed by the waves and sunk into the sea just like this?
Was Orihime okay? What were Princess Yukikaze and Asya doing now?
He was worried sick. But not falling into the sea was plenty fortunate already—
(...That's not completely right.)
Hal took back his earlier words.
A man was walking on the beach where waves were breaking on the sand.
An eccentric man dressed in a suit, Sophocles. He was the super ancient man who had described Haruga Haruomi as very similar to him. A former Tyrannos, he had lived thousands of years without turning into a dragon, possibly by using some method to alter the nature of his body, like Hal had done—
If possible, Hal wanted to meet Sophocles and clear up his questions, but...
(I'm pretty sure nothing good will come out of meeting him at a time like this.)
For some reason, that was what Hal instinctively thought when he saw the expressionless Sophocles.
He sensed a crisis. Why? Was it because his sixth sense had sharpened due to becoming a spirit-only existence? He had an intensely bad feeling of premonition.
"Haruga Haruomi, my how you have changed."
His voice was magnetic as always.
"I know you are a young man who dislikes fighting. For surviving all the way till now despite disliking fighting, I truly wish to praise you from the bottom of my heart."
(D-Despite saying that, you're—)
Sophocles calmly spoke to the semi-automatic handgun that had fallen on the shore.
He apparently discerned Hal's state with a single glance. Hal tried his hardest to convey his thoughts to Sophocles.
(Aren't you being much scarier than usual? I can sense carefully concealed intent to kill... Something like that.)
Ominously, Sophocles neither confirmed nor denied.
"Actually, I was thinking. Princess Yukikaze harbors incredible affection for you. Although you are on the brink of death right now, you did keep your promise and survived. In that case—I expect the princess to keep the Tyrannos of the Bow and the Twin Katana as her pet, until he breathes his very last breath."
(Who knows? I do think she'll keep her promise.)
Hal remained wary of Sophocles' intentions while answering.
(But given her personality, she'll probably ask me to continue fighting her once I recover.)
"Very likely. But you already... have no more options apart from turning into a dragon. Unless you turn into a dragon to fight, you will only achieve as much as this time, at best."
"But apparently, you would rather die than turn into a dragon."
"Fufufufu, willing to turn into a ghost, yet refusing to walk the road to becoming a dragon king? I really wish to support you, but regrettably, that will be challenging. Because you not only possess the Bow and the Twin Katana, but have also obtained the Rune of the Ring."
That was the dragonslaying rune he had stolen from King Solomon, the Tyrannos from ancient Israel.
Hal secretly felt alarmed. Sophocles was impressive as ever, to think he even knew about this rune that had not been publicized.
"Very well. A Tyrannos who possesses as many as three dragonslaying runes, yet has no hope of becoming dragon king. Would it be right or wrong to allow him to roam free? Or —"
The strange man in black muttered.
"Given the opportunity, erase his existence to liberate the powers of the Bow, the Twin Katana, and the Ring. Wouldn't this be more beneficial to maintaining balance in our game, the Road to Kingship?"
(That's what you intend... to do?)
"No, I am simply stating one possible perspective."
(Th-Then what are you doing right now?)
The arrangement of runes he had seen earlier was appearing over Sophocles' head.
"Purfication of evil spirits," the secret ritual performed using goddess power. If struck by that move again, Hal's soul would most likely begin his journey to heaven or hell for real this time!
(You're going to use this spell on me!?)
"Oh, I forgot to mention to you, but ancient serpents and priestesses are not the only ones capable of employing goddess power. A long long time ago, at Hyperborea in the sky, during the pinnacle of the human world, among male priests there existed some who possessed the same ability. In fact, I was one of them."
(Y-You are definitely changing the subject on purpose, right!?)
"I shall not make excuses. Farewell, Haruga Haruomi. I sincerely applaud your achievements... However, it is time for you to exit the stage."
Hal was facing a gigantic crisis that he could do nothing against.
This was possibly the most dangerous situation after his first enemy—the elite dragon Raak Al Soth.
"Glinda, Laser Breath!"
An unexpected strike. A heat beam shot out from the side, sweeping across.
It caused Sophocles to vanish from before Hal, i.e. the magic gun.
The breath released by the lion, the center head of the three-headed leviathan, had vaporized the eccentric man.
"This is Senpai... Isn't it!?"
"The cavalry made it in time, okay, Harry?"
Luna Francois was holding the magic gun, i.e. Hal, in both hands. Shirasaka Hazumi was standing next to her, watching worriedly.
Thinking he ought to be able to communicate telepathically to these two girls, Hal replied:
(Yes, thanks to you, I'm saved. Thanks.)
The two witches cheered. Sure enough, it was very hard for them to sense that Hal was still alive when he lacked a physical body with nothing left but a gun.
They had left the shore and gone to the back of the beach.
There were several coconut trees there. A tropical land, apparently.
Futhermore, two familiar "serpents"—Glinda the Good Witch of the South, and Minadzuki the guardian of Tokyo New Town—were waiting ready in the starry night sky.
(Where exactly is this place...?)
"The northwest of the Hawaiian archipelago—A small island among them where ancient Hawaiians lived a long time ago. It took me a lot of work to pull the Queen to these parts after she crashed down from satellite orbit."
"Luna-san and Glinda worked very hard!"
Through information provided by the two witches, Hal basically understood the situation.
The two girls had rushed to the observatory on the Mauna Kea volcano, then did everything they could to make the Crimson Queen fall nearby, and taken a transport ship from the US military to reach here.
(So that's how they were able to meet up with me so fast, huh...?)
Reasonable reasons. However, Luna shook her head.
"This is one of the reasons, but not all of it. We initially thought you already died. After all, the Crimson Queen that we took such pains to retrieve had disintegrated."
"But someone told us to hurry and find your gun, Senpai."
"That voice—belonged to Hinokagutsuchi-san."
"It seemed to be her last words... just before she vanished together with the Queen's dragon body."
Hazumi's eyes were filled with tears. Even Luna seemed beset by grief.
Hal deliberately avoided responding to this. The self-styled devil had apparently provided some after-sales service at the last moment. Was this the spirit of service for a transaction partner, or personal sentimentality for an accomplice who had shared in many crimes together?
"But I'm actually quite surprised that a shady guy like Sophocles got taken out just like that." Luna Francois voiced her doubt.
"Did he pretend to get hit, but actually escaped? Like a lizard severing its tail to survive."
(Possibly. And perhaps...)
Sophocles was reportedly a Tyrannos in the ancient past.
Perhaps he had modified his own body to prevent dragonification, thus losing his previous combat ability, thus allowing Glinda's surprise attack to defeat him so easily—
Hal thought of this possibility, but there was no concrete evidence.
There was a much more practical problem to consider instead of this speculation.
(Putting that aside, what happened to Princess Yukikaze? Juujouji and Asya too!?)
"We have yet to receive updated news on Orihime-san..."
"Right! Asya-senpai is currently engaging Yukikaze-san in an aerial battle!"
"We confirmed already using the Mauna Kea observatory and spy satellites. The white dragon and Rushalka are fighting a super high altitude battle near the stratosphere. Probably thanks to you injuring the princess, the battle is currently even. Quite good."
(Asya and Princess Yukikaze!?)
This latest news was too surprising. Hal became extremely anxious.
(Hmm. What Asya needs most right now is support, but the way I am right now, I can't even rush over to her side! The Crimson Queen is out of commission too.)
(If I could use magic at least...)
Possessing the magic gun allowed him to anchor his soul, just barely.
This was Hal's current predicament. Even the most basic of magic was beyond him. His life was literally hanging on a line, barely staying in this world. However, doing this was already consuming all of his energy—
If he had a body right now, he would be gnashing his teeth.
Hazumi gently picked up the magic gun, i.e. Hal!
"Senpai, please leave this to me!"
It was so sudden. Hazumi, the second-year middle schooler, only fourteen years old, hugged the magic gun tightly, pressing her developing bosom against it.
"Last time when you turned into a dragon, Senpai, doing this turned you back! Surely, this time again—!"
Hazumi shouted while pressing her bosom against the magic gun.
Unfortunately, Hal could not feel that soft sensation despite having merged with the magic gun. It might have been different if he were in dragon form, which was at least biological...
(I-It's okay, Shirasaka. Even if you do this, I currently—)
"Harry, what are you talking about!? Let's try this first, desperate times call for desperate measures!"
Surprisingly, even Luna snatched the magic gun from Hazumi's hands and pressed her bust, the most magnificent bust known to Hal, against it.
No, that was not all.
She even placed the magic gun in her cleavage—
Hal recited the legendary, even magical onomatopoeia.
At this very moment, Haruga Haruomi was encountering surprisingly good fortune, like the early members in the story of collecting Dragonballs.
"N-No, Luna-san! Please let me do it!"
"No, have you forgotten, Hazumi-san? Fulfilling human desires to the limit will help Harry to recover. We must cooperate and do this together."
"Right—Th-Then for me to join in... is alright?"
"Of course. Come, let us help Harry 'puff-puff'."
"!? I have never heard of such a term!"
"I have yet to confirm, but I am confident that Harry will enjoy this immensely. So together, we will..."
"Y-Yes. Senpai, how does it feel?"
"I am so glad that you are the one with me, Hazumi-san. Had it been Asya, her chest is too flat, 'puff-puff' would've been impossible."
"Physically challenging. How is it, Harry? Is my love reaching you?"
"Luna-san!? Y-You are kissing Senpai too!?"
"Why not? Because I love Harry. You can do it too, you know?"
"Sorry, looks like that would be a bit too hard for you."
"N-No! For Senpai—Senpai, I too..."
Luna and Hazumi's kisses kept producing smooching sounds.
Then the repeating "puff-puff" needed no description. Even so, Hal could not feel anything, having lost his human body.
How unfortunate. How futile.
O God, of all times when I need a human body so very much!
Hal's very soul screamed for the first time in his life.
Not a gun and not a dragon, he wanted to return to a human body. He did not mind even if he lost all his abilities and magical power as a Tyrannos. For this moment—I want a corporeal body!
A wish and desire coming straight from the heart.
Having lost his body and warm blood, what boiled as a substitute was Hal's soul.
No theory or petty trick could compare to Hal's wish this very instant.
Next, perhaps the soul-level wail created an opening—Haruga Haruomi's magical power instantly exploded!
It was possible now. Hal uncharacteristically shouted in hot blood.
(At least—give me human form!)
Next to Hazumi and Luna, Hal's human appearance came into view.
Using magic, he had created an illusion of himself, recreating Haruga Haruomi in uniform, the sleepy-eyed male high school student. Since it was an illusion, his body was translucent, sorry about that.
"Harry, your magical power recovered!"
(Yeah. Although I can't recover to normal, something this trivial is still within my power.)
"Oh right, Senpai! Please accept that!"
As soon as Hazumi called out, the surroundings suddenly darkened.
The emerald serpentine dragon leviathan flew lightly over the two witches, blocking light from the full moon and the stars.
The object referred to by Hazumi was held in Minadzuki's left forelimb.
She was holding a red metallic orb. Hal recognized it straight away. It was the most important organ in a dragon's body.
(The Crimson Queen's... heartmetal!)
"Indeed. When we rescued her, the Queen had already lost more than half her body. I immediately extracted the heartmetal and asked Hazumi-san and Minadzuki to use healing magic."
Luna handed the magic gun to Hal's illusion.
"I think this is the reason? The Queen's body has fallen apart, yet that heartmetal continues to give off beautiful light... Say, Harry, don't you think you get a chance for a retake when you fail your final exam?"
To be honest, Hal believed he had no chance of defeating Princess Yukikaze no matter how much he struggled.
But perhaps he could struggle a little more. During this time when the girls were cheering him on.
Hal, in his soul-only state, sent his thoughts to the magic gun and the heartmetal.
(Come back to me again.)
The magic gun and the heartmetal gradually de-materialized and merged with Hal's soul.
Perhaps due to absorbing powerful artifacts, Hal's magical power increased again—
(This time I have to materialize my body!)
The instant his thoughts were conveyed, the translucent illusion acquired mass.
Haruga Haruomi's body and uniform were converted into physical matter perfectly. This was the mystic technique of materializing the soul, which the ghost progenitor Hinokagutsuchi occasionally used.
"Hmm—Does this mean I've changed from a partial dragon to become more human or less human...? Anyway, I succeeded in reviving. I wonder how long it'll last...?"
"Who cares? No matter what, it's hundreds of times better than dying!"
"I-I think so too!"
The devil and the angel, the two witches with opposite personalities were all smiles.
Hall nodded. Stepping on the Hawaiian beach, he looked at the western sky.
"I should get going. Asya is fighting alone, right? And—Juujouji seems to be calling me."
"Yeah, looks like she worked hard on the Moon."
Hal's magical power had recovered to its peak.
Thanks to that, the soul links of dragonslaying runes were also completely restored. Hal's super senses could fully receive the thoughts of the person who had been working hard alone on the Moon.
(Haruga-kun, did you revive!? Can you hear my voice!?)
Yes. I hear you clearly. I am coming to you now.
Hal transmitted his thoughts to the full moon hanging hight in the Hawaiian sky. The moment just as he prepared to depart...
"Oh, Senpai, please wait. Someone had a message for you!"
"Yes, from President M."
The person brought up by Hazumi was surely not one to be ignored. Hal straightened his back.
"Did President M offer a prophesy or life principle?"
"Yes. First of all, 'as much as possible, avoid fighting fair and square'."
President M had pointed out the core of the matter right away, leaving Hal speechless. Although it was no help even if he kept this advice engraved in his heart, he was still utterly impressed by President M's clairvoyance.
"President M is terrifying as always... What else?"
"'Follow your feelings and go crazy to your heart's content!'"
"'Follow your feelings and go crazy to your heart's content!'"
"Harry, is there any profound philosophical significance to this advice?"
"Who knows? Maybe it's to be taken literally, 'follow my intuition and act boldly.' Anyway, I really have to go. Thank you, both of you!"
Hal thanked the two girls again and de-materialized.
He dispelled the corporeal body he had just constructed and returned to spirit state to rush to the sky. He did not even use flight magic.
This would not have been possible if he still had a body of flesh.
Anastasya Rubashvili, aka Asya.
Until a couple of months ago when her partner's condition suddenly deteriorated, she had always been the witch known as Europe's strongest Shootdown Ace. Furthermore, she was one of only a handful of Level 5 witches in the entire world.
However, this veteran warrior was currently engaged in a battle she had never experienced before.
Flying at the super high altitude near the stratosphere with Rushalka, Asya had the Earth's vast blue oceans beneath her.
More importantly, her enemy was a monster feared by humanity and known as caesar draconis.
In the guise of the white dragon king, Princess Yukikaze chuckled.
She was flying at supersonic speed sufficient to escape the Earth's gravity.
Furthermore, Asya and Rushalka were pursuing her closely at the same speed, trailing 300 meters behind.
The dragon king who was like a snow fairy was clearly confident.
"O Tyrannos of the Chain, you sure can fly! Rare are those capable of keeping up with these wings of Yukikaze!"
"Oooh. Stop being so full of yourself."
The princess' superior attitude made Asya grumble.
At first glance, both sides' speed were on the same level.
Asya and Rushalka were using the "high-speed flight" arrangement of Ruruk Soun runes, using everything at their disposal to surpass their speed limit.
Not only were they holding back nothing, they were pushing themselves to the absolute limit. Furthermore.
Princess Yukikaze had yet to fully heal her wounds.
The wing that was almost severed seemed to have healed gradually, but the left arm did not regenerate, neither did the gouged out right eye. The effects of healing magic had yet to take on in full.
Her body was in an awful state.
In spite of that, Rushalka still failed to catch up to the princess.
"We won't be able to keep up once the princess recovers..."
Of all the leviathans used by witches, Rushalka's flight speed was the fastest.
This situation was thoroughly devastating Asya's pride and confidence. She originally thought that with the power of Ruruk Soun, no dragon would be abe to match her speed—
"Nothing less expected of a dragon king."
Asya's right arm was wrapped in a chain from elbow to wrist.
This was the magic wand she had personally synthesized. Having just started on a Tyrannos' path, Asya gained much help from her magic wand. However, ultimately what she trusted most was still—
Side by side, Asya and Rushalka were flying at high speed, guarded by imperishable protection. These partners, whose hearts and minds were one, instantly took action to fulfill their mission.
"Let's decide the match before the princess accelerates. Magic Missile!"
"Fu—O Rune, protect Yukikaze!"
Rushalka launched an attack at the princess flying ahead.
Using four runes of Ruruk Soun in the "scatter shot" arrangement, she consecutively fired three hundred glowing scorching projectiles of light. However, the two runes of "holy shield" appeared behind the princess who was dodging this way and that, blocking the consecutive shots coming from behind.
"Using the magic of dragons to decide the match... Sure enough, that's not going to work either."
Asya murmured to herself. Since she had expected this outcome, she was not discouraged.
"Rushalka, the next thirty seconds of battle shall determine our fate. I don't care if it shatters my heart and your heartmetal—"
Pressing her left hand, where the Rune of the Chain had surfaced, against her left chest, Asya declared loudly, "I will use full power beyond the limits of full power!"
Rushalka's flight speed increased all at once.
A boost of almost 30%, instantly reducing Princess Yukikaze's 300 meter lead, bringing them right behind the white dragon king.
Princess Yukikaze attempted to lose Rushalka by using tight cornering but Rushalka pursued closely.
In that case—The princess kept turning, turning, and turning. However, Asya and Rushalka were committed to exhausting their physical stamina and magical power, and would rather die than get shaken off!
"How insolent—Hmm? Ohhh!?"
With the rapid increase in strain on her heart to produce magical power, Asya groaned in pain. Rushalka seemed to be suffering too, but even so, she still responded loyally to the witch's will.
Princess Yukikaze clicked her tongue—Then jumped in surprise.
Because Rushalka had instantly accelerated and used a new attack.
"Rushalka, double cast pseudo-divinity of Water!"
"Hmm. Freezing arrangement, I leave it to you!"
The blue wyvern produced a huge amount of "water" in the surroundings, pouring all of her magical power into it, turning the water into incomparably powerful pillars of water.
In other words, ultimate water cannons. However, Princess Yukikaze used the arrangement of "subzero freezing" to stop the water pillars—
All of the water turned into ice crystals.
Countless transparent flower-like crystals danced around the princess, Asya and Rushalka, adding glamor to this intense battlefield.
Asya's consecutive attacks were not over!
"O jailer of heavenly imprisonment and chain of the executioner—Complete your second mission!"
"Haha! Taking out the dragonslaying chain at last!"
Eight chains shot out from Rushalka's chin.
A technique of assured annihilation for killing dragons. The chains flew at Princess Yukikaze at high speed, aiming to tear her to pieces—
The princess suddenly rushed upwards twenty meters.
The eight chains chased the princess and altered course. However, the princess' action was not to escape.
"I hereby decree to my emblem, the Arrow of Sirius... I, Yukikaze, will now transform into the dragonslaying arrow!"
Using a technique of assured annihilation as well, the princess descended swiftly.
The Rune of the Arrow appeared on the soles of the white dragon's feet to attack the eight chains like performing a flying kick. At that very moment...
"Rushalka, convert pseudo-divinity to the Moon!"
Asya shouted at the calculated moment, causing Princess Yukikaze to react in surprise again.
This was because Rushalka and the eight chains had merged with space. Governing darkness and illusions, the pseudo-divinity of the Moon possessed this ability too. Furthermore, to perform this move without even Princess Yukikaze noticing, only a master-class witch like Asya was this capable.
"Technique of assured annihilation. O jailer of heavenly imprisonment and chain of the executioner—Complete your mission!"
This time, she gambled everything and shot out the dragonslaying chain.
Only a single chain appeared from Rushalka's chin. It wrapped itself several times around Princess Yukikaze, depriving her of her freedom, tightly constricting her.
"Wow! Are you trying to seal my wings away!?"
The earlier attacks were all to lay the groundwork for this attack.
Repeated visual interference combined with diversionary movements to disrupt the enemy, then striking at a moment of guaranteed success. This attack was the culmination of the Shootdown Ace's experience and battle instincts that were as sharp as a wild beast's. Even a dragon king could not possible defend against such a move. Sure—
The chain tangled layer after layer, finally restraining Princess Yukikaze completely.
Asya began to descend at high speed with Rushalka. The blue wyvern held the chain in her teeth. Naturally, the princess was still securely bound by the chain.
The dragon king's massive body was descending together with them at supersonic speed.
Thirty thousand meters from ground level. Twenty thousand. Ten thousand. Five thousand. Three thousand—The urban wasteland below was a familiar sight.
"Rushalka, throw the princess—over there!"
Asya's finger was pointed to a Monolith.
A massive pitch-black tower. The landmark of the Old Tokyo Concession. An equilateral triangular prism standing as high as a thousand meters. Owned by Princess Yukikaze. During the aerial battle, Asya had been using Location Awareness to keep tabs on her position in the sky.
In fact, it did not matter where exactly she smashed the princess. However.
"There's a Monolith at Old Tokyo, and it also saves me the time of a return trip..."
Thus, Rushalka brought the dragon king wrapped in chain, dragged over here from an altitude of fifty thousand meters at Mach speed—and threw her downwards hard.
Smashed against the gigantic tower that was sturdy than every substance on Earth—the top of a Monolith.
The astounding impact finally caused Princess Yukikaze to howl.
It was almost evening in Japan, but the sun had yet to set on Tokyo in late summer. The sky was still quite bright.
The Moon's distance from the Earth was 1.283 light seconds.
In other words, it only took around 1.3 seconds at light speed to reach the lunar world thirty-seven thousand kilometers away. Only after becoming a spirit-only being did Hal finally know this.
"So I can move at light speed in this state, huh..."
He was deeply impressed.
Hal's mind was currently hovering at an altitude of 400 kilometers.
The same height as the International Space Station's orbit. Looking down, one could see the blue Pacific Ocean and the islands of Japan, as well as the eastern part of the Eurasian landmass.
"Impressive as ever, this secret technique invented by a dragon king. My capabilities are so great that ordinary ghosts and astral bodies can't compare at all."
On further thought, Hal currently possessed a complete heartmetal.
This was his greatest difference from the ghost Hinokagutsuchi.
"It's not surprising for my abilities to be better than her, who had lost her heartmetal..."
Using the same principle as how witches performed spirit body separation, he flew up in the sky.
He arrived in space in less than a second. Speaking of which, someone once said that "thoughts" were actually electrical currents in the brain.
In that case, the speed of thoughts, i.e. electrical currents, ought to be quite close to light speed.
"That being said, I currently don't even have a brain."
Hal grumbled while thanking Hazumi and Luna in his heart.
Backed into a corner, he had finally recovered his energy and magical power thanks to those two girls' help. He did not know how he could thank them enough.
He needed to thank her too. His childhood friend was still fighting alone.
Facing a true dragon king, she and Rushalka remained resolute. Right now, they happened to have restrained the princess and landed in Tokyo.
Judging by this situation, she should be able to hold out a bit longer.
He must make preparations for a minimum counterattack durign this time and hurry over to support Asya.
Hal sent a magic eye to the Moon to check out the situation there.
From several hundred meters above, he looked down at the Plato crater. The magic symbol in the form of an infinity sign in the center of the crater was glowing golden.
The girl he loved was standing at the center of that glow.
Akuro-Ou, the white fox-wolf with a body length of ten-odd meters, was waiting by her side. As well as newborn life—
'Haruga-kun, you finally came.'
Orihime's thoughts were sent from the Moon.
In a short amount of time, Juujouji Orihime had obtained what witches would consider valuable experience. Just now, she had used the rune connection to sense Hal's position and transmit her thoughts to Earth.
'I was really worried if you were truly gone this time.'
"I'm sorry. My body ended up falling completely apart."
'Evidently... You're capable of anything, and I don't know whether I should be relieved or worried about that.'
Incredibly, simply receiving thoughts from the girl he loved made Hal feel as though his heart had been filled.
The key to recovering dragon kings and Tyrannoi who had strayed too far from human was probably this kind of fulfillment. Hal sincerely hoped he could turn back into a normal human as soon as possible.
However, he had to go save Asya first, and settle the match with Princess Yukikaze too.
Orihime had already prepared his trump card for him.
"Say, you really did it spectacularly."
Using the blessing obtained from the Rune of the Mother Dragon, Orihime had created a gigantic beast—
Still a dragon. Its body was a size bigger than Akuro-Ou, shining golden all over, gold with a faint tint of red.
A special radiance akin to the sun's own light.
However, this gold dragon's exterior was quite familiar to Hal. Except for the difference in color, it looked identical to the Crimson Queen.
'I based it on you and Kagutsuchi-san. Last time, didn't you two help me to create Akuro-Ou? I was wondering whether I could accomplish the same by borrowing help from the Rune of the Mother Dragon.'
"So you tried it."
'Yes. And in Sentai shows on Sunday mornings, whenever combining robots get destroyed, a new model always appears to turn crisis into opportunity.'
Orihime's thoughts were clearly filled with joy.
'We can use times like these for an upgrade event!'
"Those who enjoy hero stories tend to have pure and simple thoughts, it's nice. Thanks to you, I can do a return match straight away. But—"
Hal transmitted his thoughts from low Earth orbit to the Moon thirty thousand kilometers away.
Feeling that the other side was right in front of him, he grumbled emotionally.
"I totally have no idea how to beat Princess Yukikaze..."
'What does it matter?'
'Sometimes you will come up with a plan halfway through, right? The more desperate you are, the more you'll rack your brain, which should allow you to devise tactics that you never thought of before.'
"That sounds very much like twisted logic, but it seems to make sense."
Haruga Haruomi was most likely the type that tended to over think.
Thorough preparations had brought him earlier successes, but he knew a long time ago that petty tricks were completely useless against Princess Yukikaze, a real dragon king.
Wing it. Take the plunge. Leave it to fate. Things will work out somehow.
Hal commanded himself to abandon the small-minded concept of "take responsibility for your own actions" and forced himself to emulate a man of grandeur.
He looked down at the blue planet that occupied his entire field of view.
When looking at the Earth from the Moon, the scale felt like "a blue ball far away" but Hal's current position was only four hundred thousand meters from the Earth, that near.
The planet that nurtured life was astoundingly large.
Confronted with a view that would change even an astronaut's outlook on life, Hal thought to himself.
Given how huge the Earth is, I suppose a more destructive battle wouldn't be a problem, right?
"I will follow your spirit and take the simple and obvious path. Lend me your power."
Hal used summoning magic while speaking.
This was a spell that elite dragons used to summon Raptors.
Next to Hal's spiritual form, a large number of glowing particles of light appeared, then materialized into the girl he missed very much.
"I waited so long for you, Haruga-kun!"
Dressed in a school uniform, completely incongruent with the environment of space, Juujouji Orihime was smiling.
Undoubtedly the happiest smile in the whole world. Responding to Hal's summon, she had teleported here from the Moon.
Akuro-Ou, the nine-tailed leviathan that had been born by Hal's hand, also materialized.
Furthermore, the white fox-wolf performed a deft somersault as soon as she appeared. Graceful and agile.
The gold dragon that had been born for the sake of this decisive battle also appeared—
"What should we call this child?"
"No time to ponder, let's just call her the Imitation. The Golden Imitation. She is my avatar, so this kind of knock-off name is a pretty good match."
The dragon created for Hal alone.
However, though the giant golden body looked quite sacred, the Imitation had no vitality in her eyes.
There was no soul in her body. Deciding it was time to let his golden avatar awaken, Hal materialized the Queen's heartmetal he had obtained from Minadzuki earlier.
The red metallic orb was sucked into the Imitiation's chest, merging with her.
The Imitation's hollow eyes began to glow while the entire body started releasing red magical power.
Rushalka's fierce attack sent Princess Yukikaze colliding hard against the Monolith, a gigantic black tower.
Under normal conditions, this would have been a finishing move. The heavyweight impact caused even the princess to cry out in surrpise.
After smashing against the top of the Monolith, the white dragon king did not fall to the ground.
She hovered briefly in the air, shook her head to wake up her hazy consciousness and muttered, "Well done, to think you managed to surprise me..."
"Only surprise, huh?"
Asya clicked her tongue.
How nostalgic to see the ground again, and Old Tokyo to boot. Asya decided she needed to find a place to land and picked the roof of a certain high-rise building, two hundred meters above ground.
She looked up towards Princess Yukikaze and the top of the Monolith—
Neither was harmed in the slightest.
For the princess, it was probably just "a little stunned."
The Monolith was unscathed. There was not even a nick on the black stone material. The structures created by dragon kings and dragonkind were all sturdy beyond common sense.
Even so, the Rune of the Chain continued to keep Princess Yukikaze restrained.
Just as Asya was about to command Rushalka to attack—
She felt intense pain in her heart.
Due to using magical power beyond her limit during the intense attack just now, she had subjected herself to massive strain. However, if only she held out a little longer—
"Rushahlka and I!"
We can do it. While Asya forcibly subjected herself to self-suggestion, she saw.
"Fufufufu. Your performance has surpassed my expectations."
With a pearly glow radiating from her body, the princess forcibly broke the dragonslaying chain that was wrapped many times around her.
With powerful strength, imperishable protection had broken the chain binding its master.
"O chain user, I, Yukikaze, must praise you a little. A mere greenhorn Tyrannos, to think you would earn a 'not bad' rating from me!"
Asya stopped flying and landed on the roof of a building.
Rushalka flapped her wings and stayed in the air, facing off against the white dragon king. She was already too exhausted to perform high-speed flight.
Also, Asya noticed.
Princess Yukikaze's severed left arm—Had already regenerated.
The tainted white dragon scales had recovered their luster, exhibiting beauty akin to white jade...
"The healing art finally took effect, huh?"
Princess Yukikaze commented gallantly.
"Although my right eye still cannot see... Fufufufu, it will recover sooner or later. I shall presently take on the dragonslaying arrow's form with full power."
The white dragon king narrowed her eyes, looking at Asya and Rushalka.
The blinded right eye had definitely not recovered yet. However, how much of a disadvantage would the loss of one eye present to a powerful warrior holding absolute superiority?
"She's definitely too strong for me to fight..."
Absolutely no way of winning. Asya felt that deeply.
Back when she was the Shootdown Ace, people kept praising her extraordinary inborn combat sense. Many people also described her talent as wild instinct.
During the series of attacking and defending maneuvers earlier, Asya had employed all her talent and experience.
The judgment that led her to realize she only had a chance in a quick battle and made the call to attack from afar, the superb skill allowing her to chain diverse attacks together, improvising them into a vicious tide of offense, and the mental strength that allowed her to draw out magical power beyond her limit through sheer force of will.
However, all this added together—
Still could not hurt a real dragon king.
"A mere Shootdown Ace is still too far from dragon king-class, huh..."
Her childhood friend would occasionally comment how he was not cut out to be a dragon king.
Asya painfully felt the same way.
Europe's former Shootdown Ace possessed a witch's power, battle experience, wild instinct, mental strength, judgment—Even with so much capability, she still could not surpass the enemy blocking in front of her!
"I don't think I can beat her at all, even if I train for a hundred years, much less ten. I hate this feeling."
Escape was the only option. Both instinct and reason were warning Asya.
Beasts would not continue fighting a war with no chance of winning. Neither would smart soldiers. Asya was approaching her limit.
She still could not escape.
"I can no longer shamelessly claim to avenge Haruomi, but at least, I have to connect one attack...!"
"Fufufufu. O chain user, your fighting spirit is not bad. However, it is not fresh enough to make me want to savor it carefully."
"At least, I, Yukikaze, shall bury you with my trump card."
From the ferocious white dragon's mouth came a gentle voice.
The instant Asya looked up in alarm, Princess Yukikaze had already flown high up with great speed, making herself look as small as a seed.
"Technique of assured annihilation!?"
The mystic technique of turning oneself into a dragonslaying arrow to charge in a straight line.
Not too long ago, the princess had used the same move against Rushalka. But right now, her speed, altitude and vigor were clearly different from that time.
Asya stared wide-eyed. Princess Yukikaze was finally serious—
"Rushalka! Defending is useless no matter how much magical power you use! Run away desperately if you want to live!"
Blue Rushalka cried out mournfully, responding to Asya's reflexively issued order.
Until now, she had stayed near the top of the Monolith—The air at an altitude of a thousand meters, letting her wings rest.
Right now, she spread both wings wide and started to glide, borne by wind from the ground, spurring her utterly exhausted body to flee.
Perhaps this was foolish behavior, merely postponing death from five seconds later to fifteen seconds later.
However, if she could stall for thirty seconds or so, she and Rushalka would be able to counterattack the princess with a strike during that time...!
'No! Do not flee, Asya-san!'
In that instant, Asya heard her friend's voice.
No, not a voice. They were thought waves coming from outside of Earth.
'Hold your position. Trust us!'
The instant she received the thought waves—
Asya commanded Rushalka to make an emergency stop. For the very first time in her life, she ignored her judgment as an outsanding warrior and changed her mind, choosing to trust her companion instead.
Rushalka swiftly braked, interrupting full-speed flight, thus managing to stop with great effort.
0.1 seconds later, the white dragon king descended like a shooting star. Practically at the same time, something flashed in the eastern sky.
"O miracle of lightning, let Yukikaze transform into the dragonslaying arrow!"
"Rushalka, do not move under any circumstance!"
'I am counting on you, Akuro-Ou, use the flashing cross slash! The princess will definitely descend in a straight line, so just fly over to the spot slightly above Rushalka!'
A second before Princess Yukikaze, turned into the dragonslaying arrow, collided with Rushalka...
A flash of light dashed over from the eastern sky and intersected with Princess Yukikaze.
Juujouji Orihime's partner, Akuro-Ou, had flown over at light speed.
The white nine-tailed fox-wolf horizontally swung the larger blade in her right tail while the smaller blade held in her left tail chopped downwards, thus manifesting the Rune of the Twin Katana.
The two blades drew a cross shape in the air, practically a cross-shaped slash at light speed—
Orihime had asked Rushalka not to move in order to predict teh princess' path of descent!
The outcome of the clash between the dragonslaying arrow and the cross-shaped slash was that both sides were deflected.
Wielding the twin katana, Akuro-Ou crashed directly into the ruins of Old Tokyo. Princess Yukikaze calmly stopped herself in the air.
The damage was probably similar to smashing her against the Monolith.
The princess laughed with joy using her dragon body.
"Hahahaha! I, Yukikaze, see it now, the emblem of the twin katana cross star!"
'Ooh. I cannot believe it did not result in a one-hit kill even when I took pains to bluff just now.'
Juujouji Orihime's ashamed voice was heard.
Next to Asya who had landed on a building's roof, shining glowing particles of light appeared, then materialized into the form of the Japanese witch.
The holder of the Twin Katana had probably used teleportation magic to let her return to Earth.
"Orihime-san, so Haruomi is still alive after all...!?"
"Yes, he ended up surviving. He asked me to pass a message to you—"
"Ohh, what is this!?"
Before Asya had a chance to get details, Princess Yukikaze cried out in surprise.
Stopped in midair, the white dragon king looked up to the sky in great surprise. An excessively giant crystal of light had suddenly appeared in the air over the Old Tokyo Concession.
And it was falling extremely quickly—!
"A giant meteor!? If something like that crashed into Tokyo...!?"
"Haruga-kun said he was aiming at the princess. There won't be a problem, I hope?"
"Uh, so Haruomi is responsible!?"
Hearing Orihime's explanation, Asya was left speechless.
The rapidly descending mass of light was like a comet crashing to the ground.
It probably hurtled from outside the atmosphere. Estimated speed was more than thirty kilometers per second, which would be a hundred Mach or so. The second cosmic velocity for escaping the Earth's gravity was 33 Mach, so this object had effortlessly achieved three times of that...
Meanwhile, Princess Yukikaze saw the suddenly descending flash of light and was overjoyed.
"I sense it. The Rune of the Bow—the presence of my fated rival! Fufufufu. I knew it, Haruomi is certainly talented at pleasing me!"
Princess Yukikaze did not even look at the two witches and the two leviathans.
The graceful dragon king flew up in the air. Was she trying to head into space again, to have another duel between the dragonslaying runes of the Arrow and the Bow?
"True, I suppose our level is too low to fight her..."
"Nothing of that sort."
Asya went "hmph" and grumbled unhappily, whereas Juujouji Orihime's radiant smile was reminiscent of summer sunshine.
"It is all thanks to you, Asya-san, for bringing the princess to Tokyo, that Haruga-kun was able to make it in time and prepare that thing."
"What is Haruomi planning to do?"
Looking at the ominous sky, Asya cocked her head in puzzlement.
The mysterious glow was bright enough to illuminate all of Old Tokyo, which used to form the heart of Japan. Next, it was gradually crashing to the ground.
Like an arrow, Princess Yukikaze rapidly shot up towards the light—
"This really looks like Independence Day or a 'the sky is falling!' colony drop attack. I've got a bad feeling about this."
"Haruga-kun called it 'Operation Spirit Bomb'."
"Just now, he was still in space—it's called satellite orbit, right? Around there, he was shouting dialog like 'everyone, share your spirit energy with me!'"
Just to err on the side of caution, Asya inquired about the detailed plan from Orihime.
"If anything goes wrong, that move could cause a crisis that destroys the Earth. Is Haruomi simply giving up because the enemy is too strong?"
Asya muttered quietly.
Ideally, things should be done with minimum effort.
In addition, it would be best to maximize gains.
This was Haruga Haruomi's guiding philosophy. After meeting up with Orihime, he looked down at the Earth from satellite orbit, an altitude of four hundred kilometers.
He suddenly thought, "Eh? Isn't this a perfect opportunity?"
No, calm contemplation made him realize. There were too many problems with this plan of action. The slightest misstep and he might end up being the man who destroyed civilization on Earth.
However, if there was no way of winning against the dragon kings unless he went this far—
"Sigh... All I can do is take a gamble. If we don't persevere to the end, the humans of Earth will have no path but extinction."
Follow your feelings and go crazy to your heart's content.
Using President M's message as his scapegoat, Hal issued the first command to the golden imitataion Queen.
"Use the Ruruk Soun runes of 'telekinesis' and gather up all the satellite and meteor fragments floating in the Earth's vicinity. Like 'everyone, share your spirit energy with me!'"
The wisdom of Ruruk Soun was a prided repository of mystic rituals and ultimate techniques—
Among them, "telekinesis" would be considered extremely basic magic. But for Hal right now, this was the most effective spell.
"Let's make a scene using 'Operation Spirit Bomb'!"
After he had explained the essentials of the plan to Orihime and transported her to Earth to support Asya...
The golden imitation Queen used telekinesis to gather up space trash such as satellite and meteor fragments to the same location—
The result was "a ball scrap metal and rock roughly ten kilometers in diameter."
The Imitation seemed to have great potential, seeing as she was able to accomplish so much in such short time. That being said, Hal had heard before that the Earth's vicinity contained as much trash as several thousand tons, so abundance of material was one reason. (Of course, he excluded the inhabited International Space Station as a target for collection.)
When Hal used the Rune of the Bow on it...
The Gold Imitation responded to his will summoned a golden longbow into her left hand.
"Let's go, technique of assured annihilation. The arrow... is the scrap metal you gathered!"
The Gold Imitation roared loudly.
In front of them was a rough sphere with a diameter of ten kilometers—a mass of scrap metal and rocks.
Namely, an improvised meteor compressed using telekinesis.
Using bow-wielding left arm, the Imitation struck this gigantical artificial object hard. Heartmetal output was raised to the maximum, pouring magical power into it without any reservation.
"As long as I all of the Imitation's and my power to shoot this thing down from satellite orbit!"
The destructive power ought to surpass the sun-shooting divine bow...!
The artificial meteor's surface became covered by "the tilted half-moon," in other words, the symbol of the Rune of the Bow, and crashed towards the Earth.
At first, its motion was quite slow, but the meteor soon began to gather speed.
The planned impact point was Princess Yukikaze who had been taken to the Old Tokyo Concession.
"A meteor that might have caused the dinosaurs to go extinct sixty-five million years ago—I remember its diameter was around fifteen kilometers or so."
Hal dug out this piece of trivia from a corner of his brain.
"This meteor's size is pretty close to that, so I guess the destructive power would be similar..."
It was one of many theories about the cause of the dinosaurs going extinct.
The meteor had crashed in the Yucatan Peninsula, resulting in a gigantic crater and sending a huge amount of sand and dust into the air. This state of affairs persisted for at least a decade, even blocking out sunlight, causing dramatic changes to the entire Earth's climate and ecosystems, plunging the dinosaurs in famine.
Even if less serious than that, with this meteor so big, a crash would probably cause an astounding impact on the sky and earth—
"But... Princess Yukikaze will definitely intercept it."
Hal was very sure.
He used this plan because he understood the princess' personality and extraordinary abilities.
"Oh right—This counts as a technique of assured annihilation invented by me, right? In that case, I'll name it 'the bow of human extinction' or something like that..."
Mid-sentence, Hal realized he really stood a chance of terminating mankind, and felt deeply awkward about it.
He paid attention to the meteor's movement.
The artificial meteor crashed into the atmosphere and began to burn. In a few minutes, it was going to smash hard into the ground at the Old Tokyo Concession, devastating eastern Asia with terrifying destructive power.
"So it really is coming!?"
"To you would use such a large-scale attack for my sake—Praiseworthy, Haruomi!"
Princess Yukikaze flew up.
Releasing white magical power, her flight was the very image of a rising dragon.
No rocket, no matter how advanced, could compare to her. The princess' speed easily exceeded the second cosmic velocity required to escape the Earth's gravity, and the third cosmic velocity required to escape the sun's gravity. Her speed increased every 0.1 second—Currently reaching roughly fifty kilometers per second.
Far faster than the falling artificial meteor.
This was the full power and top speed of the dragon king who had transformed into the dragonslaying arrow!
"H-How is such speed possible!?"
With wide-eyed amazement, Hal looked down from an altitude of four hundred thousand meters.
Far below, roughly sixty or seventy kilometers above ground—the area before the stratosphere—the ultimate bow and the ultiamte arrow finally collided with great force.
"Oooh. As expected of the princess, she singlehandedly pushed back the meteor..."
The artificial meteor fired by the Imitation's bow could be considered a mass-based weapon.
A diameter around ten kilometers. Its fall was powered not only by the Rune of the Bow but also the power of gravity. The pure white draogn king had blocked it singlehandedly, pushing it back to space!
Furthermore, the princess herself was the "dragonslaying arrow."
An energy body that utterly smashed everything it came into contact with, even capable of slaying dragons.
Simply colliding with the princess already caused the falling artificial meteor to start crumbling. At this rate, it was going to to explode in midair sooner or later. Just as Hal had predicted.
"Causing human extinction would be pretty bad..."
He did not care if the artificial meteor got destroyed.
However, when it exploded, it would definitely catch Princess Yukikaze in the blast. At this moment, Juujouji Orihime should be asking Hal's childhood friend for a favor, to borrow the tool needed for this situation.
A magic symbol similar to the "巳" character appeared on the back of Hal's right hand.
The was the Rune of the Chain lent to him by Asya from Earth. This was just like the time when he had borrowed the Rune of the Sword from his fellow Tyrannos, the silver dragon Pavel Galad.
"Imitation! In the instant of the explosion, use the dragonslaying chain to bind Princess Yukikaze. Otherwise, she might escape using her extraordinary speed!"
The Gold Imitation roared deeply in response. Her left hand was holding a golden bow, while the remaining right hand manifested a counterweighted chain that was akin to a live snake craning its neck.
Hal finally finished laying his trap of assured victory. Just as he nodded...
He heard the proud voice of the girl who was supposed to be somewhere else.
"Hahahaha! Sure enough, Haruomi is different from the others!"
The magic surfboard was flying over with lighting speed.
Aiming for the bow and chain wielding Imitation's face, the surfboard's front end collided with the golden snout with a "clong!"
Quite a powerful blow. The Imitation's massive body was sent flying hard.
Hal—more precisely, Hal in astral form—used telekinesis to halt the Imitation.
In the zero gravity environment of space, it was anyone's guess how far one would fly as a result of such an impact. However, the Gold Imitation apparently took substantial damage. She did not move.
Unconscious. One-hit knock out.
"That move was the dragonslaying arrow too... Amazing."
"Fufufufu. I, Yukikaze, is the one who wants to praise you for being amazing. The power of your dragonslaying bow is astounding."
The magic surfboard flew to just before Hal's astral form.
On it was the girl in a white one-piece dress. Just like several hours earlier, this was Princess Yukikaze's human form, again separated from her dragon form.
"I forgot you had this move too..."
"You have apparently learned new tricks."
Princess Yukikaze narrowed her eyes, because Hal immediately materialized his own body, using the same principle as how he materialized on Earth.
Below was a magnificent sight, the Earth's landmasses and blue oceans—
Hal and the Princess Yukikaze faced off.
"Because I can't be treated as an evil spirit and get sent to the afterlife just yet."
"I am surprised you thought up something like that. But conversely... It means I can do this."
Whoosh. Princess Yukikaze's human form jumped down from the surfboard.
Jumping through the air with agile movements like a fairy dance, she kicked Hal from the side. Hal wondered if she had used flight magic to execute combat moves in zero gravity.
"Oh? You are quite amazing."
Hal reflexively used imperishable protection to guard himself. He also used telekinesis immediately to halt his body, which almost got kicked to the other side of the universe.
However, what awaited him was the princess' smile and follow up attack.
The ferocious girl of white again danced with fairy-like agile movements, swiftly closing in.
Just like that, she grabbed Hal's shoulder with her slender left hand, then attacked Hal with a karate chop from her right.
"Take this barehanded strike that can shatter a winged lizard's skull!"
Hal used telekinesis on both hand, trying to intercept the dragonslaying karate chop.
What a close shave. However, the artificial meteor and Princess Yukikaze's dragon form were currently colliding in the Earth's atmosphere. The time of the great explosion was gradually approaching.
Probably two or three minutes remaining...
"Damn it! It wasn't easy holding out this long!"
Holding the princess' knifehand with both of his hands, Hal felt poignantly.
He was corneered. Haruga Haruomi had no chance of winning anymore. Princess Yukikaze probably understood this and said with delight, "Fufufufu. For a Tyrannos who cannot become a dragon king, you have done very well. You deserve praise from me."
"Ooh. You're totally saying that with condescension!"
However, Hal could not refute her at all.
The advice given to him before the battle lingered in his mind.
'No matter how many cheap tricks you pull out, struggling like a pathetic rat to bite the cat to death, your teeth will never tear into a berserk dragon king's throat.'
'As much as possible, avoid fighting fair and square.'
'Follow your feelings and go crazy to your heart's content!'
Don't tell me—Only now did Hal start feeling regret.
Originally, he had kept to unorthodoxy and the ambush approach, but in the end, he slipped again into fighting "fair and square." However, Hal could not think of any strategy more crazy than this...
"By the way, Haruomi, I believe I have told you this."
"Huh? Told me what?"
Hal and Princess Yukikaze were still locked in their postures in the barehanded struggle.
As a result, their faces were very close with only thirty centimeters between them. Hence, Hal could admire the princess' snow fairy-like beautiful face from up close.
"If you're fortunate enough to survive, you shall become mine."
"Why were trying to send me straight to the afterlife earlier despite saying that!?"
"I could not help myself. Forgive me. Forgive Yukikaze and take this attack without a fuss. If you are fortunate enough to survive..."
"End of conversation! This is an endless repeat!"
Although he still had the princess' karate chop clamped, his hands and telekinesis were reaching their limit.
The knifehanded strike gradually came closer. Hal's arms were out of strength, but he used his remaining willpower to squeeze out telekinesis, deflecting the karate chop to the side slightly.
THanks to that, the view of the princess' adorable face became even clearer...
"Besides! Why do you have to keep harassing me every time!? Even if I hold the Rune of the Bow, it's not like I have any direct relationship with you!"
By this point, there was no need to hold back anymore. Hence, Hal grumbled without reserve against the adorable king.
"Why can't you leave me alone!?"
"What are you talking about? I, Yukikaze, am so interested in you."
The great dragon king looked quite surprised.
"I, Yukikaze, hope that you would obediently kneel before me and swear eternal fealty to me."
"Then recruit me properly! Don't just dangle half-baked treats in front of me, but end up forcing me to get killed by you!"
"That is because I am displeased by your indecisive manner."
The princess went "hmph," looking a little offended.
"You ought to be more resolute and dignified. However, you did quite well earlier, when you brought up for the first time what would happen if you were to defeat me."
Hal remembered he had something quite rude to Princess Yukikaze went he got carried away in the mood.
Something like "a promise that already assumes I'm gonna lose is outrageous. In case you lose, what are you going to offer me."
He was very surprised that the princess actually liked this kind of attitude.
"Yes, it is quite manly. Regrettably, I hoped you would add to that 'If I win, I will take the princess as my minion'."
"Hmm—I'm not good at dealing with stuff like that."
"Naturally, I, Yukikaze, understand that is how your personality is. Nevertheless, I believe it wouldn't hurt for you to be more forceful back then."
"I do not know how to answer that. However, it will be more to my liking if you acted that way."
"Uh, meaning you'll like me more?"
Eh? What was with this conversation?
Hal was totally lost, and banished to the back of his mind the matters of the princess' barehanded chop and the artificial meteor that was about to explode.
Could it be possible that she harbored a certain level of affection for him? No, the princess herself seemed totally unaware too.
If he exploited this situation with determination and forcefulness, perhaps he could easily—
(However, wouldn't that interpretation be a bit too narcissistic of me...? Kind of like a boy in puberty, baited by a girl's unintentional actions, finally ending up in ruin—)
Hal's self-control overruled his deduction.
However, Princess Yukikaze's face was right before his eyes, frowning in puzzlement. She was probably feeling the same sense of dissonance as Hal's from the conversation just now.
The otherworldly beautiful maiden dragon king did not look displeased as a result of this—
(Since I'm destined to lose to the princess no matter what... In that case.)
He might as well muster his courage and go crazy.
Hal committed his resolve and brought his face close to Princess Yukikaze.
The princess tried to speak but he sealed her mouth with his lips.
This was a historical moment, a kiss between the successors of the Bow and the Arrow, between the imitation dragon king and the genuine dragon king.
Next, the artificial meteor below exploded spectacularly near the Earth's surface.
Normally speaking, Princess Yukikaze's dragon form should have flown away at full speed, to avoid getting caught in the blast.
However, possibly because her human form's mind was blanked out by Hal's kiss—
The white dragon king's massive body did not engage her prided super speed, and was completely swallowed by the perfectly timed explosion...
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