Arriving at Sakuya, Izumi boarded her back.
Around were the fragments of earthen dolls, and flattened soldiers of the mechanized unit.
Once everyone had gotten on her back, Sakuya took to the sky.
‘What are we supposed to do after we’re in the air?’
To the voice, Izumi.
“Head towards Rudel. But I recommend against helping it out…”
Where Sakuya was had become a mountain of rubble. Each minuscule move of the dragon would destroy surrounding buildings, and if she rampaged for real, Celestia Castle would quickly be leveled to the ground.
(So not even a dragon could beat the ancient weapon?)
Brushing aside her hair disheveled by the wind, Izumi looked at the castle down from Sakuya’s rising back.
A blazing smoke rose from a number of places.
The black of night was lit with an ominous light, as the giant quadrupedal ancient weapon slowly crashed into Celestia’s defensive wall.
“The hell’s that…”
As Aleist leaned his body in, the ancient weapon’s single eye spouted fire, melting down the surrounding walls and buildings.
Its whole body illuminated by the inferno it spewed, it really did look just like the ornaments sold at the souvenir shops.
Unlike those easy-to-break articles, however, the ancient weapon showed no sign of stopping as it made straight for the palace.
Its movements were dull, the evacuating citizenry fled in the opposite direction of the weapon.
Seeing the sights from the air, Cleo,
“… Please take me to the guardian deity.”
As she said that with a serious face, Millia returned fire.
“Why!? If you go to a place like that, your life–”
“Even so! If you can’t get too close, then just as close as you can! This is an order from a princess of Celestia! … I can’t cause any further trouble.”
To Cleo who leaked a sob with those words, Aleist spoke.
“You’re saying it again… don’t you think you’re besmirching Emilio!?”
“I’m fully aware I am! But it cannot be helped. This is all I’m capable of. I was born and raised for this sake. Telling me to live a different life at this point… take me to that guardian deity this instant!”
With a face of pure earnesty, she shed tears as she spoke.
There, not from the direction of Sakuya’s flight, a different gust blew through.
Rudel skillfully landed on Sakuya’s back, removing his helmet to speak.
“Unfortunately, the orders I received were to ‘Guard you to the ceremonial alter’ tomorrow morning. I cannot follow your orders.”
“Rudel, glad you’re alright.”
Sakuya rejoiced, Izumi was relieved. Izumi looked at the ancient weapon from Sakuya’s back.
“It’s an order. I beg of you.”
“I refuse. I’m a knight of Courtois, after all. Oh, right, perhaps I should say this? I’m a member of the Dragoons, the strongest knights of Courtois. It’s an insult for the world to think we remained on a losing streak with this weapon forever. I shall be settling the score.”
Rudel looked at the ancient weapon and laughed.
Izumi touched her right hand to her face as she spoke.
“Rudel, show some prudence.”
“My apologies. But as long as we defeat that thing, it will all be over. My mission was, from start to finish, to safely deliver Cleo; I was never told not to obliterate any guardian deities or ancient weapons or whatever it is.”
Millia was amazed.
“They never said it! Sure enough, they never said it, but…!!”
Nate looked at Rudel and shook her head to the side.
“You haven’t changed from your student days, I see. For better or worse, that is.”
Aleist was looking at the earth.
“… The small ancient weapons are moving around. I’ll deal with those.”
As Aleist showed some motivation, Rudel smiled. The black knight’s face turned a little sorrowful.
“Rudel, I was Emilio’s friend… perhaps not, but I’m sad that he died. While I’m not going out for revenge, I could at least put in some effort ‘til it’s over.”
Understanding from the fact the man wasn’t there, Rudel kept it short.
He muttered. And he put down his helmet and turned to Aleist.
“I’ll stop that ancient weapon with Sakuya. I’ll try to lead the fight outside as much as possible, but there will be collateral damage. Can you take care of evacuation too?”
Seeing the two of them meet fists, Cleo spoke.
“Why go so far… if only I become a sacrifice, no one has to be hurt.”
To that opinion, Izumi.
“Rudel’s all over the place, but he’s a man who’s true to his word. Up to now, and from here on… that’s the sort of man he is.”
Millia grumbled as she added on.
“I’ll be on the ground too. Aleist, you’d better give some decent orders.”
Aleist, a little nervous.
“L-leave it thoo me!”
He fumbled his words.
Nate uninterestedly muttered.
“Millia-senpai again? Just so you know, everyone’s going to hear about this when we get back. Well, it’s partly to protect myself, but… sharing information is the ironclad rule of the harem.”
(He’s got it rough, that Aleist.)
Rudel addressed Sakuya.
“Sakuya, land in an adequate place. After that… we’re going to be settling the score with that weapon.”
He sounded like he was having fun.
(If he didn’t have that side to him… if he was just a little settled…)
Izumi grumbled in mild delight.
Cleo stared at the dragoon attempting to challenge the impossible.
After landing on the ground and separating with Aleist’s group, Sakuya immediately took to the sky once more.
As the surroundings received a downward gust strong enough to put out the flames, Aleist looked around.
“I’ll have Millia relay orders from a high point. Izumi-san will be fighting, so… Nate, you guard the princess.”
Nate breathed out a sigh.
“Well, with these members, that sounds about right. Now let’s be off.”
Cleo handed over the silver pendant to Aleist.
“Oh? And this is?”
“From Emilio to you. Perhaps Emilio thought of you as a friend as well.”
“I see… so I’ve lost a friend.”
As Aleist let out a sorrowful voice, Cleo spoke.
“No, Emilio… my brother was happy. I wasn’t able to do anything so you have my gratitude as well. It was made from an ore called an exchange stone. I heard something similar was used in the ancient weapon’s core.”
The hand Aleist used to grip the pendant shook.
(So it’s something that dangerous?)
Cleo told him about the stone.
“As the name implies, you can exchange something for a wish. A small price for a small wish, a large one for large… though you’re better off not using something like that.”
At Cleo’s powerless laugh, Aleist tucked the pendant away in his breast pocket.
“… I graciously accept it.”
Nate led Cleo off by the hand and evacuated her from the site.
Aleist drew a sword.
Nearby, dolls just like the ancient weapon, albeit smaller, were beginning to gather.
Izumi took her stance, offering Aleist some advice.
“Cutting them is pointless. Unless you smash them to pieces, they just regenerate.”
Aleist protruded a spear from his shadow, reshaping the tip into something like a hammer as he shattered one of them to bits.
Despite Izumi’s surprise, Aleist let out a sigh.
“If I couldn’t do this much, I’d be left in the dust. Now let’s go.”
Racing off, Aleist and Izumi went around smashing ancient weapons.
High in the sky, Rudel challenged the ancient weapon to battle with Sakuya by his side.
As Sakuya delivered a punch up front, its surface easily split.
But its insides weren’t empty…
Sakuya instantly drew back her hand, a gush of boiling magma accompanying it.
By the regeneration of its surface armor, the weapon’s contents quickly came out of sight.
“What do you think you’re doing to my Sakuya!?”
Producing a large shield, he projected it in front of the single eye that had begun to gather light as they spoke.
Just as the shield appeared, a blaze streamed out, lighting everything around in a red.
Sakuya’s hand wasn’t badly injured.
A dragon that could get off just by complaining magma was hot was fearsome. But if they smacked their foe away here, magma would scatter about their surroundings.
(If we keep blowing it away until it runs out of innards, will it stop moving? No, if that’s how it works, then surely the dragoons wouldn’t have retreated…)
To Sakuya who was rubbing her right hand with her left, Rudel spoke.
“Sakuya, take to the sky.”
‘I hate this thing!’
Sakuya voiced her complaints in a child’s voice as she rose into the sky.
Thinking it would be troublesome if they applied too much damage, Rudel considered his options.
(If we block off the roads, destroy the surface and control the flow of the magma…)
After he had thought that far through, the movements of the weapon turned strange.
“What is it now?”
‘That thing, something’s.’
Before Sakuya could say something was squirming inside it, the ancient weapon’s surface began to crack.
Spouting magma, the armoring crumbled away bit by bit.
“What’s this supposed to mean? Is it broken?”
‘No, here it comes.’
As Sakuya rose, the fire from the weapon’s split, round torso jetted out in her direction. Not by coincidence, they could feel an intent to attack.
“Kuh! Sakuya, Right!”
Sakuya veered right, but the flames gave chase.
“What is this?”
Just as before, Rudel manifested a large shield. But as the flames collided, the shield broke, and from within the flames, a mass of squirming magma showed itself.
The magma continued to burn a dark red as it took form.
A humanoid shape sprouting wings from its back, it took on quite a sinister shape.
“… Doesn’t look like a guardian deity to me.”
‘Not at all.’
Moving its large one eye, opening its mouth, the monster that emerged from the ancient dragon flew straight at Sakuya.
Rudel amassed a few hundred swords of light and shot them at the enemy.
Those small swords exploded as they stuck into the massive foe in quick succession, but only scattering magma, they didn’t seem to be very effective.
“So we should try destroying it all at once with massive firepower… but it’s surprisingly fast.”
As the monster chasing Sakuya opened its mouth, it fired a number of fireballs from it. Those attacks that followed closely as if each shot held its own will, Rudel crushed them by preparing shields. Looking down, they were distancing themselves from Celestia’s castle town.
“Now then, if we want to fight seriously, we’ll need to go a little further away.”
Searching for an adequate site for battle as he fled, Rudel turned to the beast letting out an uncanny roar.
“Don’t be so impatient. We’ll properly eliminate you.”
For some reason, he found himself saying.
Rudel found it a little perplexing why he said it himself.
“No, it just felt as if it was crying out to be eliminated. Sakuya, are you up for it?”
Sakuya seemed happy she was being relied on, and Rudel sent a warm smile.
Turning to look at the monster, it was once again about to fire attacks at them.
A mass of fire larger than any before it, it looked almost as if a large boulder had been clad in flames.
“… That one won’t end well.”
As he said that, Rudel held up his right hand.
Manifesting a large spear of light, he pierced through the boulder before it could be fired, raising a large explosion.
Magma scattered, falling onto the ground.
The monster’s upper body had been blown away, but magma quickly welled up from its lower half, regenerating it in the blink of an eye.
Sakuya reeled back.
“An ancient weapon… it seems we’ve met a worthy foe!”
While Rudel seemed delighted.
But be that as it may, he also thought over it with a level head.
(Now then, to prepare a large attack, we’ll need some distance and time, but that one doesn’t look like it’ll let us get away. If we close in, Sakuya will…)
Observing the enemy chasing them, Rudel simulated how he would fight with the beast.
Even if Sakuya might be able to blow it away in one attack, if the attack was directed thoughtlessly, some village or town may face casualty.
It would have to be something big enough to change the area’s geography.
And considerable time would be needed to store enough power.
They could close in and beating it down until there was nothing left, but the heat was harsh on Sakuya.
“How troublesome. I’m starting to see why my seniors called it a draw. But if we win here…”
‘Will Sakuya be praised?’
To the young child desperate for praise, Rudel nodded.
“You’ll undoubtedly be praised. Mystith-sama will be delighted!”
‘I’ll do my best!’
After saying that much, Rudel thought.
“Sakuya, can you produce water?”
“As I thought. I doubt I can make enough to stop that one.”
Rudel thought about using water to lower the magma’s heat and harden it.
But there was no meaning in small amounts.
(I’m sure a water dragon would have an affinitive advantage.)
Thinking he could never say that in front of Sakuya, Rudel reached that conclusion.