Several hundred years passed from the time Rudel was in service.
The Kingdom of Courtois left only its name as kings and nobles faded out, the curtain quietly closing on an era.
The forms of the dragoons who once served the country now gone, the view of airships crossing the sky had become standard. With the skies above no longer a land beyond reach, mankind eventually stopped keeping their dragons. The development of technology soon gave rise to propeller planes.
Knight brigades were abolished. Uniform armies became standard, and the know-how to utilize a dragon was lost to time. The dragoons were quick to go. With their high upkeep and the capricious temperament of their mounts, they had become more than they were worth.
Airships, airplanes… once those were in hand, dragons had become unnecessary.
Yet the supreme rulers of the sky still remained, as they had always been, the beasts of legend.
It was only in the past few decades that the vast lands of the dragons’ dwellings became a land of dispute among the humans
In a sacred place with a lake, Sakuya watched the small dragons similar to her in appearance playing around her.
Her wings had naturally increased to six, and her large body had grown a size larger. Both the splendid gemstone in her head and her horns had grown, the young spirit she had held in her days with Rudel nowhere to be found.
Sakuya lifted up her head to look at the sky.
She let out a short and loud roar. With that alone, the Dragons’ dwellings gradually grew boisterous as dragons took to the air one after the next.
Sakuya too spread her wings to rise up and face her rude uninvited guests from the country once called the Gaia Empire.
From over thirty airships, the fighter planes took off in orderly succession.
A vast, fertile plot of land, what’s more, the Dragons’ Dwellings were abundant in natural resources. To humans, dragons were no longer comrades in arms, they had already gotten to recognize them as enemies.
Sakuya looked upon the scene and muttered.
‘Have they forgotten what became of the last Courtois Army that tried to invade?’
Wind dragons zoomed between the fighter planes, luring them into a dogfight. One by one, the crafts were shot down to the ground.
The red dragons breathed their fiery breath, sinking the airships behind them. Protruding cannons from their hulls, the airships commenced a bombardment on Sakuya.
The cannon shells failed to scratch her.
Sakuya opened her large mouth, and as her breath was released, it dispersed through the air. The shots assailed airship and airplane alike, bringing them to the ground.
While there were enemies who tried to flee, they were quickly circumvented and crushed.
Similar to Sakuya, a white dragon with four wings approached her.
‘Mama, it’s over. All that’s left is the clean-up.’
Sakuya kept her eyes on the falling crafts as, after a large flap propelling herself up a distance, she took off somewhere.
Perhaps curious, Sakuya’s child tagged along.
It was where the capital of the Courtois Kingdom once stood.
Now ruined and abandoned, not a trace of its former glory remained.
Having brought her feet there, Sakuya mimicked a human form as she descended, her child copying her and changing shape as well.
The form Sakuya took on was as if the once-goddess Sakuya had grown into an adult. Her child boasted the same blue eyes and blond hair- cut short. A blue gemstone embedded in his forehead.
But unlike Sakuya, his hands remained disproportionately large, and it seemed he wasn’t yet completely accustomed to taking human form.
“Mama, why did you come here? There haven’t been any humans here for quite some time.”
“You’re right,” Sakuya muttered, as she walked through the royal capital buried in rubble and sand.
The reason the capital fell. It all lay in the limits of the Kingdom. The kingdom had welcomed in a golden age under Fina Courtois- the great leader who was said to have rejuvenated the dynasty- alongside her prime minister Luecke Halbades.
But from then on came a slow, gradual decline.
They had their share of wise rulers, but in the end, they launched a war on the dragons, and the capital was destroyed by the force led by Sakuya.
Indeed, the one who burnt it down was Sakuya herself.
As she walked through such a place, from all over, the goblins and orcs showed their faces. They seemed to think of Sakuya in her human form as mere food as they approached.
Those goblins and orcs were cleaved through by a single swing of her child’s arm.
“Who do you think you raise your blades against, you lowly curs!?”
Sakuya stopped him from chasing and hunting down the ones who fled.
(… I’ve gotten more children who think of dragons as the strongest race on earth, looking down on the others.)
In their battles with humans, a greater number of dragons were beginning to think of themselves as the true rulers of the land. It was becoming a large worry for Sakuya.
Leading her child by the hand, Sakuya headed towards it.
What was once the very center of the city. In a now-broken fountain, with Fina at the center, then Rudel, Aleist, Luecke and Eunius, the statues of those who had contributed to Courtois’ heyday.
Sakuya brushed off the dust and sand, cleaning off only that spot to look at the statue of Rudel. It was dubious to say it resembled him to a great degree, but as long as people considered a representation of him, she couldn’t treat it poorly.
“… Rudel, I can barely remember your face anymore.”
Her memories from her youth gradually faded away.
The time she had spent with Rudel and Izumi, to Sakuya, it was no more than an instant. In the times that followed, after the two had gone, a little while later, Mystith and all the dragons who looked after her were gone as well.
Before she knew it, Sakuya was the one leading the dragons, and their relations with humans were breaking down.
It was all far too painful for her.
The child gazed at Sakuya before looking at the statue,
“I can’t believe you ever let some human ride your back. That’s crazy.”
Sakuya hid her face with her right hand, turning to the child.
“You’ve never ridden a human on your back before. No, you’ve never ridden a knight. When dragon and human hearts connect, they become a dragoon. It was once only normal.”
The child’s cheeks puffed up.
“Humans are incompetents with nothing but numbers. If it were up to us, we’d have burnt them all down.”
Sakuya took the words with sorrow; she felt the reality of how wide the gap with humans must have grown for the dragons to develop that mindset.
There, the sky suddenly grew rowdy.
An ominous dark shadow overhead—impossible to make out whether they were living or dead, they had grown in numbers lately, those things that weren’t monsters, and one of them was being chased by a fighter plane.
The child shrugged his shoulders.
“One of those bugs that’ve been multiplying lately? Now that’s a good match for those pesky humans.”
That ominous something with the form of an arthropod was finally cornered and shot to death by the craft. But the plane was also shot and burst into flames.
“It’s going down.”
While the fighter plane continued on a downward trajectory somewhere, the pilot jumped from the cockpit with a parachute strapped on.
Oddly enough, right towards where Sakuya was.
As the pilot landed, the parachute draped over him, and as he squirmed his way out of it, he held a pistol in his hand.
The moment before her child swung his arm, Sakuya saw the pilot’s face and lowered a fist on her child’s head. She lowered it with enough power a vivid clang rung out.
“Mama, that hurt!”
“… I’m sorry. But wait.”
If she used only words, then surely the human before her eyes would be dead. The pilot seemed quite bewildered before Sakuya and the child.
He pulled off the helmet covering his head, removed his goggled and spoke. With distinctive silver hair and blue eyes, the pilot kept his pistol at the ready.
“Civilians? You’re in quite an odd place for that.”
The young man said, looking at the child’s large arms and observing the two of them. From a human’s eyes, there was no possible way Sakuya would be able to come here as lightly equipped as she was.
But with the young man before her, Sakuya burst into tears.
“A human life is short. But…”
The young man approached, his gun trained on Sakuya. While the child intimidated him, Sakuya held up a hand to put it to a stop.
Touching a hand to the young man’s cheek, Sakuya muttered a name. The man seemed quite flustered, he jumped back to take distance.
“You’re not human. A form of monster? Or a new type of bug? Where did you learn my name?”
Hearing it wasn’t just his face but his name as well, Sakuya gave a small smile. She changed to her dragon form on the spot.
Upon seeing that massive dragon, Rudel’s eyes opened in surprise. However, he didn’t show any fear.
He looked on with pure intrigue.
“A dragon!? Moreover, the lord of the Dragon Den!”
Sakuya rested Rudel on her hand and raised him into the sky.
‘I’ll deliver you somewhere close to where humans live. I once rode a fine human on this back. This is the least I could do to return the favor.’
From the palm of her hand, Rudel looked up at Sakuya.
“A dragoon!? I never thought they actually existed… how interesting, then let me ride on your back too.”
How brazen could he be? The child returned to dragon form, flying to Sakuya’s side as he complained at Rudel.
‘Don’t get in over your head, human! Who do you think you’re talking to!? Do you think mama would let a dirty lowlife like you rest on her back!?’
But Sakuya exchanged words with the man.
‘You know of the dragoons, you know of the world, yet still, you wish to ride on my back?’
Rudel struck his right hand to his chest.
“Of course. You’re far stronger than a fighter plane. If I ride you, I can annihilate those blasted bugs!”
Even now, her child was poised to attack ay any minute. His fangs bared, his eyes wide open, he would kill the man at the slightest opportunity.
Rudel went on.
“And the small stuff doesn’t really matter. I just want to ride on your back!”
A human life is short. But they go in cycles… Those were the words of Mystith, who had once lost Marty to gain a new partner in Lena.
Finally understanding what she meant, Sakuya brought her hand to her back and set Rudel onto it.
‘Very well. Then ride me you will… new-age dragoon.’
‘Mama!’ the child cried out.
Once Rudel was on her back, he spread his arms wide and smiled.
“Yes! I feel right at home. Like this, I’ll be able to annihilate any bug that comes my way!”
And so the first dragoon in several hundred years would forge a new legend—but that is another story.