Leviathan:Volume 8 Chapter 5
Chapter 5 - The World Thereafter
Almost a year and a half had gone by since the great battle that took place outside of Earth.
It was early March. Tokyo New Town had just entered the spring season. The weather still seesawed between warm and cold while true spring gradually approached, day by day.
On this afternoon...
The witch Shirasaka Hazumi got off from school early.
The middle school division of Kogetsu Academy was nearing graduation, hence there were only morning lessons.
Hazumi did not return home immediately. Instead, she remained in uniform as she traveled alone to Higashikomagata station of the New Town Loop Line.
In front of the station, she entered an unassuming mixed tenant building. She passed by establishments such as a curry shop, a cafe, a massage parlor and a DVD shop before entering the glass door of Mirokudou, a used bookstore on the fourth floor...
"Hello, it's been a while. May I ask if it is alright for me to intrude right now?"
"Oh of course. As you can see, we're open for business right now with practically no customers. Stay for as long as you wish."
Hazumi greeted the shopkeeper behind the counter as soon as she stepped into the store.
The young man had stubble despite his handsome face and was dressed in a creased white shirt. The black apron, part of store attire, was also dirty. His name was Kenjou.
He used to be employed at the Tokyo Branch of the research organization SAURU.
Currently, he was the premier instructor at the Tokyo main office of GUILD, a civilian security company.
"By the way, this lady here apparently has no intention of contributing to the store's sales. Be my guest, have a chat with her."
"It's not my fault. Who asked this store to carry such extreme genres?"
The only female customer replied to Kenjou.
She was wearing glasses and dressed tidily in a suit. Her makeup and attire belonged to style of women in their twenties, thus presenting a very youthful impression. However, she was probably not the right customer for this hardcore and a little filthy used bookstore, which carried not a single comic book.
Hiiragi Yukari. Back when she worked at the research organization SAURU, she had looked after Hazumi with care.
Now, she was the head of the human resources department at the Tokyo main office of the civilian security company GUILD—
"From what I have heard, Hazumi-san, lately your health has improved from before, hasn't it?"
"Yes. After that incident with Princess Yukikaze... and Senpai, my health has been getting better and better." Hazumi recalled the commotion on that night, something she had not thought about for a long time now, and replied.
"Asya-senpai says it might be because my health used to be poor because my heart and mind were unaccustomed to a witch's power the whole time. But after Minadzuki awakened goddess power, the strain on me seems to have lessened a lot."
"So in the end, that night was a turning point for you too, Hazumi-san, not just the world."
On a certain summer night, a mysterious magic symbol had appeared in an obvious manner on the full moon.
In addition, a large dragon and several leviathans had fought, using low Earth orbit as the stage for an intense and haphazard battle.
Finally, there was a mysterious meteor that almost crashed into Tokyo, but exploded in the stratosphere—
That night was named the "Full Moon Nightmare" incident. The media in every country competed to report on it. Nowadays, there was almost no one who did not know about it.
The was dramatic change in the world's relationship with magic, with the night of the nightmare as the turning point.
"After that, SAURU's business and staff in Tokyo New Town and the Kantou region... were all taken over by our civilian enterprise, GUILD," commented the young Mr. Kenjou poignantly, probably because it stirred up deep feelings in his heart.
"Synthesizing leviathans, supporting various witches, devising strategy against dragon activity, on-site combat command, as well as serving as communication channels between various involved parties. Oh man, we expected the new faction GUILD to succeed easily as long as SAURU lacked the dragonbane advantage, but—"
"We never expected to win over contracts with all autonomous organizations across Japan not long after establishing GUILD for a year. How surprising..."
Even Hiiragi-san was in awe. Hazumi laughed.
"Smith-san was grinning when he said this was the matter-of-fact result."
"Clearly he is a weirdo for liking such a comedic name."
"Yes, the most surprising is our CEO after all... Oh right. I remember today is when the show airs! Kenjou-kun, could you turn on the television!?"
"I'm on it, boss lady."
Young Mr. Kenjou was actually older, but he was Hiiragi-san's subordinate in rank.
He replied respectfully as always and placed a portable LCD television on the counter, then turned it on and changed channel to show an afternoon variety show.
'Today, we have as our guest, the representative of the much talked about company GUILD. Welcome, John Smith Haruga-san to our studio~!'
The female announcer introduced in a cheerful voice.
”Oh? Looks like it happens to be his turn now."
"L-Luna-san is there too!?"
"I requested for Miss Gregory to provide support on the side as part of marketing. Think about this. Although our representative's abilities and social skills are so high that we have no choice but to admit defeat, his knowledge of common sense in the human world is still not enough..."
The three of them stared at the small television together.
Just then, the host and the female announcer was preparing to invite "today's guest" to enter the show's talk corner segment.
The television showed a closeup shot of the guest sitting on the sofa.
It was a red-haired man whose muscular physique was obvious even through the screen.
He was dressed as a businessman of sorts, in a suit, but crimson in color. His white shirt had the top two buttons unfastened and he did not wear a tie. Based on attire alone, one might think he looked more like he worked at a host club.
Furthermore, he was openly crossing his legs in front of the camera.
This arrogant attitude and gaudy clothing would most likely earn criticism in normal situations.
However, who knew if it was because of his natural charm or royal charisma...
Mr. John Smith Haruga, the representative of the civilian security company GUILD, was rising in popularity all over Japan and the internet world.
For some reason, his exaggerated yet natural speech and behavior was quite well liked. 'I am John Smith Haruga, the CEO of this company GUILD. Today, I'd like to explain to you all what role my company plays in Japan's new anti-dragon defense plans, as well as its significance.'
After saying this with a tense expression, he grinned mischievously and added, 'Oh. I welcome personal questions through email or fax. You can even send them directly to the GUILD, and I will answer them later. But let me be clear, it will depend on availability of time and staff.'
This grinning brawny man looked around thirty or forty years old.
However, his actual age was maybe thousands or tens of thousands of years. Age indeterminate, in any case. Only very few people knew his other name.
The Flame Emperor. Red Hannibal. The dragon king himself who had conquered New York.
After the show, he returned to the room that television crew had prepared for him to rest.
When Luna Francois was the only one present with him, Hannibal said contentedly, "Today's show was quite interesting. This broadcast media called 'television' is quite a good match for one such as I after all."
"I think so too. But I think it's a bit dangerous to go on shows."
Extremely naturally, Hannibal slipped back into referring to himself as "one such as I."
Luna calmly responded to the dragon king who possessed social skills one would not expect from a dragon. Though she normally preferred dressing up in Gothic lolita, today she was wearing a black suit.
"Fufufufu. You should turn a blind eye to that. So-called combat instinct is accumulated through actual experience. And isn't it because I devote so much effort to promotional activities that GUILD has taken control of Japan's defense network in only a year's time?"
"Plan out, not take control." Luna corrected Hannibal's brutally honest choice of words.
However, she did not correct the content of what he was saying. Unlike SAURU, which was originally a secret association, GUILD's policy was to boldly disclose information to Japan and the entire world. In other words, they widely publicized the fact that only witches and leviathans were capable of fighting dragons, and that GUILD was the organization devoted to using, researching and popularizing them.
By spreading knowledge far and wide, the number of people wanting to become witches would increase.
A greater pool of candidates would make it easier to find the talented ones. Increasing the number of excellent witches would promote competition and interaction between witches, thereby raising overall quality naturally.
Hence, they made the decision to publicize information.
That being said, the policy remained of withholding from the public the existence of elite dragons and dragon kings with the high intelligence and potent magic.
In addition, regarding knowledge of dragonslaying runes, the policy was "it was okay to tell new witches if they actively asked" and give the standardized answer "secret techniques akin to finishing moves that only certain leviathans are capable of using" without hiding much in particular, because—
Juujouji Orihime, Shirasaka Hazumi, Luna Francois, Asya, as well as Haruga Haruomi—
One of GUILD's objectives was to slowly increase their members from this small permanent lineup.
"Still... I never thought we'd ask the great dragon king of New York to take on this kind of job."
"Indeed. I am deeply surprised too."
Hannibal chuckled "hohoho."
The decisive battle against Princess Yukikaze happened a year and a half ago. There was no winner, and after the battle ended with the princess' complete surrender—
The plan to establish the civilian security company GUILD entered the execution stage.
At that point, they hired New York's Red Hannibal to serve as their consultant.
Reportedly, Hannibal had already entered into a private contract with Haruga Haruomi to establish a "Trans-Pacific Alliance" between Tokyo and North America to support each other. This was in consideration of a diplomatic strategy against the pure-blooded dragon kings whom they had yet to meet but may encounter eventually—The Black Lightning Emperor and the Blue Sea King.
Because compared to a pure warrior race, a human dragon king was more suitable as an ally.
Hannibal was quite interested in Haruga Haruomi's suggestion, but he added a condition. He might consider it if he could take Old Tokyo from Princess Yukikaze's possession—
Hence, the dragon king of New York became GUILD's ally.
He actively enjoyed this situation, taking on human form to visit Tokyo New Town, and even showed up frequently for meetings.
Thanks to him, not only the witches but even ordinary company staff knew him as the "mysterious Japanese-American man of mixed ethnicity, John Smith Haruga." People outside of GUILD, such as Tokyo New Town's metropolitan governor and city councilors, key persons in business sponsors, all knew of him.
That being said, apart from Haruga Haruomi's inner circle, no one knew his true identity.
It was at that time that a question popped up.
Very well, who was going to be the company's boss?
Founder Haruga Haruomi claimed "I'm not suited as leader, and I have after-effects to deal with, so count me out. Pick a witch and let her be the high school girl CEO." Asya and Luna said "it's definitely better to choose someone Japanese." The Japanese-born witches also said "find someone a bit older..."
A certain member of staff randomly suggested "Why not have Mr. Smith take the job?"
There was virtually no opposition.
Important people outside of GUILD who learned of this news (mainly Orihime's grandfather, etc) all gave active support.
Even though his resume was a little suspicious, compared to "the high schooler who somehow became a treasure hunter with deep knowledge of dragonkind's magic" and "the world's top-class witches, but they are high school girls," ultimately the preferred leader was an adult man in his prime—That was what conservative commoners tended to think.
The main point was that the man who returned from America, calling himself John Smith Haruga, definitely exhibited human charisma that satisfied such thinking.
Project leader Haruga Haruomi finally reached a conclusion.
'Our goal is not limited to Tokyo but to expand our business across all of Japan as well as the entire Trans-Pacific area. I've been thinking since a while ago, for this purpose, we need a representative who can serve as a mascot and go on television all the time. Mr. Hannibal might be a great choice as long as he's willing to do it.'
When they asked Hannibal, he immediately answered "Leave it to me."
Thus, the CEO who devoted himself full time to promotional activities without taking part in running the company (more precisely, he was not authorized to participate) was born.
Time went by—
Effective use of the CEO's qualities in promotional activities.
Possession of multiple master-class leviathans capable of effortlessly defeating large dragons that were more dangerous than Raptors, who had also played key roles in the "Full Moon Nightmare" incident.
An attitude of explaining magic and the metaphysical body of knowledge in simple terms.
Perhaps thanks to all of these advantages, the civilian security company GUILD expanded with rapid growth beyond expectation, to the current day...
The nominal leader said solemnly, "The path to happiness is fraught with hardship. The enemy I should be most wary of right now is the legendary weekly magazine Sentence Spring, I suppose? The conqueror from dragonkind and dragon king in New York, the leader of a startup of rising prominence in Japan—They must not find out about this spectacular double life."
"Normal people wouldn't think of this possibility, it's not like we're talking Arsene Lupin here."
A triple life as a gentleman thief / Russian noble / policeman.
Luna named the superhuman who was capable of handling these multiple surreal missions simultaneously.
"Actually, I think your resume fraud is the easiest to get caught."
"My latest academic qualification is at Harvard Business School, right?"
"However, I used my connections to have someone help make arrangements in America, so I don't expect it to be exposed so easily. That human form, which you've shown to the Governor of New York, apparently has been classified as top secret by the US government, on the same level as Area 51."
"Excellent... Oh, by the way, where is that guy?"
"Yes. I expected my nominal nephew would surely visit the studio today."
Hannibal's newest alias, John Smith Haruga.
The backstory was that he was Haruga Haruomi's uncle.
Luna shrugged and said, "That is the plan, yes, but today, Harry's chronic ailment seems to have flared up again, so he didn't even go to school and is resting at home."
The duel against Princess Yukikaze was a year and a half ago.
Even now, Hal still did not believe he was the winner.
However, with that incident as the trigger, "Princess Yukikaze's complete surrender!" became reality, and Haruga Haruomi's new life began too. This was the truth, no doubt about it.
In addition, there were occasional flare ups of a chronic ailment, troubling Hal—
During the duel with the princess, Hal had used the technique that Hinokagutsuchi had taught him directly to turn into astral form. However, he had also learned magic for materializing his body.
Nowadays, Hal was using a "temporary body" to live out his daily life.
Eating, going to school, working at GUILD, fighting dragons, sleeping. Despite being a temporary body, it was still capable of doing most things well. However—
When he woke up this morning, Hal found himself transformed to astral form.
No, more precisely, he had "reverted to astral form." This chronic ailment would flare up regularly.
"My body has become both convenient and inconvenient..."
Sure enough, astral form was his default state.
Three or four times a month, he would suddenly become unable to sustain a corporeal body. At times like these, he had to spend roughly half a day in astral form, unable to materialize unless he waited a while. Today, it happened again in the morning.
Hence, Hal used the spell of "transmit my voice yonder" to inform his acquaintances that he needed an emergency break.
Then in astral form, he went for a random stroll in the sky.
"I guess I'll head home. I'm tired of wandering outside."
His current altitude was almost 200 meters. Under him was the blue-green South Sea, stretching endlessly to the horizon in the distance. He was hovering aimlessly in the sky over the Pacific Ocean quite close to Australia.
"Still, it's thanks to this body that I'm no longer turning into a dragon."
More correctly, "this is a temporary body, hence every time I switch to a new one, the dragonification symptoms reset."
"Here I... go."
With just a thought, he instantly returned to the entrance of his home at Tokyo New Town.
In astral form, he could even reach space in one or two seconds.
This level of elusive mobility was as easy as eating or breathing to him. Hal directly phased through the door and walls to enter his bed in the bedroom.
"Let me take a nap to kill time until I can materialize..."
He closed his eyes and fell asleep.
After two hours or so, someone whispered in his ear.
Half asleep, Hal answered in a vague voice. And ended up getting scolded.
(Haruomi, get up. Your wife came to pay you a special visit.)
"But... My usual ailment... I can't materialize for now..."
(No. Enough time should have passed. The wife is never wrong, okay? Haruomi, show me your mettle.)
"Mm... But... I want to stay in bed longer..."
By this point, Hal still tried to resist.
"GUILD is already on track, my work has lessened quite a bit... I was thinking it's time for me to take a long break and go on a vacation for the time being..."
(Fool. Didn't we already decide that if you are going to take a break, we will go on a trip together?)
(Know that I, Yukikaze, am paying you a special visit precisely to go on a honeymoon with you, got that?)
"No no no. We were saying next week..."
(In any case, get up now. I desire to have a pillow talk with you, my beloved husband, to whisper sweet nothings to each other. Get up get up get up get up.)
Though the princess was sulking, she had no intention of rousing Hal by force. She kept whispering softly in Hal's ear.
Hal felt poignantly this was part of the princess' cuteness.
He finally made his body materialize.
Princess Yukikaze's judgment was spot on, flawless.
Thus, even though the sun was up, Haruga Haruomi was still in bed, face to face with a beautiful young maiden—Princess Yukikaze dressed in a white summer dress.
"Fufufufu. You should be saying something more pleasing, Haruomi."
Despite grumbling, Princess Yukikaze softly drew her face nearer.
She approached the face of the sleepy-eyed Hal. Very near. Thus, she kissed Hal. A sudden kiss. Morning kiss. And not only once.
Under the same blanket as Hal, the princess mounted him.
Smooch. Smooch smooch smooch smooch smooch smooch.
Without saying anything, she kissed Hal again and again.
"A-Aren't you being a bit too passionate?"
"What are you talking about? When we were facing off in the sky, the one who took Yukikaze's lips by force—these virgin lips that Yukikaze had never allowed any man to touch... Isn't that you?"
The princess spoke softly with a look of ecstasy.
"Ever since, my heart has belonged to you. No, perhaps even earlier, I have harbored affections for you."
"It is all because my beloved Haruomi asked that I stopped the battle, you know?"
This was the result of Hal following President M's advice, to go crazy to his heart's content during the difficult battle.
After some twists and turns, Princess Yukikaze had declared her love for Hal and totally surrendered the battle, resulting in the current situation.
That being said, the princess did not cling to Hal at all times.
Sometimes she would return to the Old Tokyo Concession, or elsewhere on Earth, the sea of stars, or long expeditions transcending dimensions.
Then she would come back to see Hal.
"B-But I already have Juujouji..."
"Kissing Yukikaze by force when you already have a love interest? Fufufu. It is only after entering this kind of relationship with you that I have discovered, Haruomi, you are quite a Casanova. You lecher."
"Ah, oh no."
From her words alone, one might think Princess Yukikaze was reprimanding Hal.
However, the princess was gazing gently at Hal with steady sexiness in her eyes. To think that the maiden dragon king with a personality as straight as an arrow would have such a side to her.
In addition, the princess even said this, "Besides, Haruomi, how many times have I told you that I couldn't care less if you have other women? Rather, as Yukikaze's husband, it is only right that you have concubines numbering a hundred or two."
"Have as many affairs as you wish, but in the end—Return to Yukikaze's bosom."
Still riding Hal, the princess was under the same blanket as him.
She gently hugged Hal's head against her chest. Haruga Haruomi's face was directly pressed against her flat chest that was definitely nowhere near voluptuous!
A word of unknown meaning almost slipped out of his mouth.
The princess' chest was very petite yet full of overwhelming acceptance. It was enough to make Hal, who considered himself firmly in the "large" camp if he had to choose between large or small, slowly lean towards neutrality.
Every time he had intimate contact with the princess, Hal would feel this deeply.
Physical quantity of flesh was too low a bar for Princess Yukikaze.
A brief tangent. Recently, the angel on Earth—the junior student Shirasaka Hazumi's chest had matured substantially, showing a trend of catching up to her cousin, hence Princess Yukikaze was the most slender girl in Hal's circle—
No matter what. Hal thought.
Letting her have her way with me like this isn't half bad... No no no.
"Hey Princess. Your suggestion is great, but it's totally beyond a little guy like me, or rather, it doesn't suit—"
"Fufufufu. What a weirdo. Your wife Yukikaze is already not bothered by it."
"Like I said, we're not married!"
"That can be solved by getting married right away. By the way, having dragged for this long, it is time to consummate the husband and wife relationship. Yukikaze shall offer everything to you."
"C-Could you stop trying to destroy my self-control, okay!?"
Hal and Princess Yukikaze were enjoying sweet times together. Then.
The bedroom door suddenly opened.
In entered Juujouji Orihime. His childhood friend Asya was also here. Seeing the dragon king and the Tyrannos "acting lovey-dovey" in bed, the two witches stared in wide-eyed surprise.
"I should have known! Haruomi-kun, what are you two doing!?"
"How dare you openly engage in impure interactions between genders in broad daylight~~~~! Even if God might allow it, I, Asya-san, shall not forgive you, Haruomi~~~~!"
The two uninvited guests screamed and scolded.
Although it was the beginning of a new conflict, Hal no longer needed to fight his own self-control. Hal inhaled deeply, finally getting a chance for a breather.
"Sheesh. That Haruomi bastard, always acting so submissive submissive submissive submissive whenever he meets her!"
Asya shouted in anger.
She was eating and drinking ravenously at the counter of M, a cafe that did not sell alcoholic beverages, in front of Tokyo New Town's Narihirabashi station.
Running counter to contemporary trends of this era's flourishing cafes, this shop employed Shouwa period ambiance and classy interior decor as its selling point.
Naturally, smoking was allowed in the cafe. There was no separate smoking zone. Neither was there any non-smoking zone.
Shopkeeper M was manning the counter.
"Oh? I heard that the princess ran over to Haruga's home yesterday?"
Shopkeeper M. Naturally, this was President M from before.
President M started working here as soon as she graduated. After just one week, the owner already appointed her as the shopkeeper and even allowed her to change the cafe's name.
"Getting a monster girl who lives only for battle and adventure to fall head over heels for him, and even made her his commuting wife, that guy did pretty well, I'd say."
"I-Isn't this your fault, Shopkeeper!?"
"Oh dear, how so?"
"Before the battle, didn't you give Haruomi advice along the lines of 'follow your feelings and go crazy to your heart's content!'? That's why that bastard Haruomi did something so unlike him, kissing someone...!"
"If you put it that way, I really can't refute you..."
Shopkeeper M gave a perfunctory response to the blame-assigning Asya.
The counter was covered with food. Spaghetti neapolitan served on a hotplate. Vanilla ice cream with pancakes. Egg salad sandwich. Pork chop cutlet sandwich. Toasted sandwich. Western-style omelet rice with ketchup. Cream soda. Furthermore, there were very popular items that were available in spite of the cafe setting, such as tempura dishes, a miso pork chop set, hamburger steak with rice, plum seaweed tea, etc.
All were ordered by Asya. And there was more.
"Thank you for waiting. Here's your French toast and large fries."
The waitress bringing the food over was Asya's acquaintance.
Funaka-san, the twintailed girl who ended up assigned to the same class this year. There was another waitress as well.
"This is Shopkeeper M's special handmade soba noodles and mini tuna ricebowl meal set, limited to ten orders every day. By the way, Asya-san, I will be heading to the main office later."
The short-haired girl, Mutou-san, deftly placed the food on the table.
These two girls were still working part-time at GUILD, in charge of helping with handling clerical work for the main office and various offices in the Kantou region.
Something had changed, while others had not.
After the two waitresses went over to serve other customers, Shopkeeper M slowly started to speak. "However... Let me tell you this. You act so entitled while grumbling about the relationship between Haruga and the princess, but you don't have any legitimate or necessary right to complain."
Stab! Feeling her soul about to get pierced, Asya shuddered.
"Because you and Haruga are merely childhood friends."
"I-I am only concerned about their effect on public morals, they'll be a bad influence on children!"
"Shut up and listen, okay? If we use a certain famous romantic comedy as an analogy for the current situation, Princess Yukikaze would be Lum and Haruga's lover, Orihime-san, would be Shinobu."
"I-I don't think children nowadays have read this manga!"
"Those who haven't read Taka●● Rumiko-sensei's representative work are ignorant and lacking in common sense, forget about them. In any case, we have a young maiden is not human but super beautiful as the wife who moves in by force, as well as the Earthling lover. These two characters are the leads in the romantic comedy. As for you... a side character who shows up every now and then."
"If you hide your feelings for Haruga at the bottom of your heart like the dear little angel, 'avoiding action and saying wrong things,' the type to stay by his side always... Perhaps, there's a chance of trailing number one as number two or three, then making a sudden comeback in the final round."
"Or like little miss Luna, biding her time while she waits for rivals to fail or destroy themselves, calmly thinking 'oh well, even if he marries someone else, it'll be fine as long as I do a illicit & kidnap marriage later on♪', then you'll have a pretty good chance too in the future."
"But in the end, you're simply here, eating like mad while wallowing in self-pity and despair, grumbling nonstop... If you flame someone anonymously on the internet, how will that solve love problems in the real world?"
"But speaking of which, you totally lost in love a year and a half ago. Give up the past and move on, finding a new romance might be more productive..."
Asya wailed unrecognizably and collapsed her head on the counter.
"By the way, why didn't that Haruga guy come this morning? Lately, he has been coming here for breakfast when he doesn't have school on weekends."
"Oh, that's right!"
Shopkeeper M's question prompted Asya to bounce up in surprise.
"That bastard Haruomi took the chance to ask Orihime-san out on a date. He said 'Just the two of us, let's go out on Saturday tomorrow'!"
"Oh dear, is that so?"
"Yes, it's true. I overheard them chatting at Haruomi's house yesterday."
"I knew this would happen some day. That's why I've been building cordial relations with Princess Yukikaze. I'm gonna ask Rushalka to deliver a message and secretly tell the princess about this. I hope their sweet little rendezvous turns into a big incident that'll shake the world!"
"Girl, you need to put your efforts in the right direction..."
The Saturday date arrived.
Hal and Juujouji Orihime could finally spend time together for once, without anyone else interfering.
"So, Haruomi-kun? What excuse did you find this time?"
"Nothing, the princess was in my bed before I knew it... You know, right? Walls and locked doors mean nothing to her."
"I know, but your complacency is part of the reason!"
One could consider it a date for explaining and apologizing too.
Trying hard to plead with the sulking Orihime, he had to find a way to make her go "there's helping it" and forgive him. This had happened so many times over the past year and a half already.
Incidentally, in the beginning—
'I know you were cornered during the battle with the princess, b-but why did you kiss her!?'
'She, sh-sh-sh-she said she is your wife!? H-Have you and I divorced already—No! Speaking of which, we aren't married at all yet!?'
Pretty much like that.
However, whether Princess Yukikaze or Hannibal, negotiation and friendship building were necessary against enemies who could not be handled by force alone.
Thanks to Orihime agreeing to this point, GUILD was able to develop so smoothly now.
Today, the two of them went out on a date early in the morning.
They had agreed to meet up at ten in the morning, to watch a movie then have lunch at a trendy cafe.
(Recently, Hal and Orihime both liked to visit the M, the cafe run by Shopkeeper M, but they unanimously decided it was not right for a date. Hence, the two of them went to a cafe at Kiyosumishirakawa to have a light lunch, a place which was not especially fun but at least they would not be running into people they knew.)
Then they went to a seaside park at Gasai—
This park had a huge lawn, facing Tokyo Bay.
And it was quite close to Shin-Kiba too. It was here when Hal, Orihime and Asya met for the first time and were attacked by Raptors.
"The place where Hazumi was captured was at a pier nearby, right?"
"Indeed. On further thought, that happened so long ago."
There were no clouds in the sky on this day in early March.
The weather tended to seesaw between warm and cold, but today's weather was excellent.
Warm. The wind was very gentle. It was totally spring weather. Hal and the smiling Orihime were strolling on the lawn on this holiday.
Their conversation was not particularly interesting.
But incredibly, just being by Orihime's side made Hal felt very contented.
Presumably, Orihime felt the same. He really wished such days could continue forever, but—
"It's almost time for you... to depart, right?"
"Yeah. GUILD has developed very smoothly, so it's fine for me to leave Earth. I'm about to go on a journey of exploration."
Hal calmly described his plan.
"If in the long run, GUILD is to fight dragon king-class enemies and Tyrannoi who'll come into being sooner or later, in addition to Asya and me..."
"We might need more dragonslaying runes—"
"That's why I have to go find them. It'd be a different matter if we could live forever without any chance of dying by accident."
"Anyway, I'd like to check out Mars or Venus first, which are closer, then beyond the solar system. One day, I'll have to go to the vast universe outside the galaxy—maybe even to another dimension."
Beyond Earth, dragons made expeditions to the sea of stars or alternate dimensions.
Hal had heard about this more than once. However, he never expected himself to step into that territory too.
He planned on leaving the Rune of the Twin Katana at Tokyo for now.
This way, even if he lost his life during his explorations, he would still be able to leave the power of dragonbane with his friends...
"We will need flints in the future too, and maybe I'll even discover a secret technique allowing me to be reborn in a better body. Also, though Asya's current level as Tyrannos isn't that high, so dragonification isn't an issue... One day, she might end up how I used to be."
Slowly losing memories, even the body turning into a dragon.
Once that happened, a new hybrid dragon would be born, and with it, Hal's childhood friend would be lost.
"I think the best way to handle issues in this area is to search for knowledge of Ruruk Soun outside of Earth."
How incredible. Hal smiled wryly.
After doing so much labor that was not his style, Haruga Haruomi finally returned to his original career.
Namely, a treasure hunter and explorer.
Probably because of that, he felt unbelievably relaxed and liberated even though he was about to set off to an unknown world.
Orihime gazed at Hal with a smile—Past tense. Her gaze instantly turned sharp, startling Hal.
Hal braced himself, was she finally going to ask about that?
"Then the one leading the way for you would be Princess Yukikaze..."
"I... I can't help it. Forget about Sophocles who can't be located. I am heading somewhere no human had ever gone before, and Hannibal has GUILD work to do."
Hal forced a smile to block Orihime's sigh.
"It's not like I could ask anyone else—Eh?"
He suddenly felt a pulse from the rune that was paired with his Bow.
Hal immediately looked up at the sky. A small dot of light was approaching from the western sky—the direction from the Arrow user's residence at the Old Tokyo Concession...
"Princess Yukikaze is coming! Why!?"
"H-Haruomi-kun, did you tell her you'll be here!?"
"No way! I tricked her, saying I'll be dealing with desk work at the main office!"
"Anyway, let us hide first! That aquarium looks good! It's near too!"
It was like last time when they were attacked by Raptors at Shin-Kiba.
The two of them had sprinted at full speed to evade dragons. But last time, Hal tripped along the way, almost dooming them both.
This time, they ran together.
People spending a leisurely weekend at the park looked at them questioningly.
"By the way, Haruomi-kun, I thought of something!"
The athletic Orihime with excellent physical stamina said joyfully.
A sprint of this level was not very exhausting for her.
"That extraterrestrial expedition, why don't I come along too!?"
"W-What are you talking about!?"
As for Hal, his physical stamina was still a normal person's, disregarding magic and secret techniques. Hal was already panting heavily when he jumped in surprise.
"It will be a very tough journey!"
"Don't worry, Akuro-Ou will be there, and you too, Haruomi-kun. More importantly, the reliable dragon princess will lead the way for us!"
This move, huh? Hal laughed.
Hearing that her rival had proposed this, Princess Yukikaze might be taken aback.
Hal definitely thought the idea was not bad at all. In any case, the journey would most likely be filled with challenges. In that case, perhaps the more companions the better...
"Why not ask Asya too, while we're at it?"
"Good idea. She will surely manage to find delicious food there and cook for us!"
On July 1999, dragonkind returned to Earth.
After that, more than twenty years passed by within the blink of an eye. Humans resurrected artificial dragons—the magic beasts, leviathans, also known as "serpents"—as a means to oppose dragonkind.
Currently, great changes were occurring in the way mankind was surviving on Earth.
Thrown into the very center of this vortex was Haruga Haruomi. Laughing with the girl who was his reliable partner, he imagined the scenery of the stars far beyond.
The journey was soon about to begin.
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