Dragoon 167: Epilogue

 

 

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.

“Rudel.”

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!”

Sakuya laughed.

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.

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Dragoon 166: Dragoon

 

 

Having fled the sickroom with Izumi, Rudel looked over the sky from Sakuya’s back.

Her four wings drawing grand arcs, Sakuya soared through the wide-open sky. A dragon’s body was protected by magic, letting a human endure even at high altitudes.

Izumi sat on Sakuya’s back, her back turned towards Rudel.

Rudel sat with his back pressed against hers.

“Izumi, cheer up already.”

There, Izumi rased a bashful, embarrassed voice.

“You said you’ think of the words to confess. I haven’t heard those words yet!”

Hearing that, Rudel was surprised at first, but net he laughed. He laughed, and drove Sakuya to plunge into a cloud.

“Whoa!”

Once they breached the clouds, Izumi felt a slight chill over her body. A layer of dampness rested on her skin and hair.

Sakuya led the two further and further into the sky, below them a carpet of clouds unfolding.

Rudel lifted Izumi up and held her tight.

“I like you, I’ve fallen in love with you! But I don’t know if I can make you happy. For just as much as I love you… more than that, I’m in love with this sky.”

Boldly, Rudel divulged his true feelings. Izumi nodded.

“I know. It was always your dream to fly on a dragon’s back. I’ve heard that time and again.”

But in five years at the academy—Izumi who’d spend those days with him had come to sympathize with Rudel’s feelings.

“If you said I was number one, I’d be doubtful.”

Rudel spoke.

“How cruel. But still, I want you. I fought with my life on the line. No one will mind if there’s just one thing I have freedom over.”

There was no telling what was to come. Courtois was in great turmoil, and it was possible that Fina would be enthroned as queen.

Disposing of the nobles who raise an insurrection, and as this was the first the empire had ever cornered them so far, military reforms would be needed as well.

No, first and foremost, the country of Courtois itself needed reform.

“Just one, eh. Do what you want. I’ll just follow along.”

As Izumi hugged Rudel back, Sakuya gave a bashful roar. It was as if she was congratulating them, and she sounded exceptionally happy.

And just like that, the dragon swooped down, piercing through the sheet of clouds.

 

 

After escaping from the sickroom, Aleist met up with Eunius and Luecke.

Before long, they were drowning their cares at the tavern.

“I can’t do it! That many women is impossible, I tell you!”

He said with a sip, his form prostrate over the table unthinkable of the black knight

“I told them to give up on me. Somehow that increased their numbers. And then comes the throne! It’s inconceivable!”

He proclaimed he would throw everything away, and lost all the cheats he had been blessed with. He lost his unnatural level of charm, he no longer had the talent or mana he had before.

But there were more women around Aleist than ever before.

Eunius and Luecke pat his shoulder to console him.

“Hey, do your best. We’ll do our best to not cause you trouble. Rather, I kinda think it’s not your fault this time. So have at it, your highness.”

“Good for you. If you attain kingship, then no matter who gets thrown into your harem. Queen Fina’s at the top. You’ll never have to worry about ranking.”

Aleist raised his face.

“Don’t give up! You’re all for forcing it on me, aren’t you!”

Eunius scoffed.

“Hah! No shit Sherlock. Who in their right mind would willingly take power in this pain-in-the-ass postwar period? What’s more, we’re definitely entering a pain-in-the-ass era after that.”

The Kingdom of Courtois was trying to change. No, it had no choice but to change. At the same time, what would become of their enemy, the empire… there was a mountain of problems.

The work required would be incomparable to peace times. Both future archdukes fully understood that when they fled from the throne.

But Luecke breathed a sigh.

“From my point of view, Rudel was better off King. Considering my marriage with Lena, that would let me welcome her as the legal wife instead of a mistress… hah.”

While he sighed, his reasons were solely for self-interest. Aleist clung in tears to the man who wouldn’t even bring up the country’s distress as a formality.

“Didn’t you used to go on about nobility or something!? Then save me. Fulfill your duty as a noble and save me!”

Luecke removed Aleist’s hand and smoothed out his clothes. Albeit, he was dressed in an infirmary gown.

“You fool. You’re just as much a noble yourself. Do something about it on your own… wait, I’ve got it!”

Aleist and Eunius glanced at Luecke.

But the idea that hit him—

“I can just take her as a mistress, and not marry a legal wife. In that instance, for all intents and purposes, wouldn’t the mistress be the legal wife!?”

— Was about Lena.

Aleist removed his eyes, Eunius sipped his ale. In a “this guy’s hopeless” sort of air, the two opted to just ignore the man.

(So it’s true how they say there’s a paper-thin line between idiot and genius.)

Eunius poured some ale into Aleist’s glass.

“Well, you know. Break a leg.”

After downing the freshly-poured liquid, Aleist spoke.

“This is messed up!”

 

 

“Those bloody fools, I’m never gonna forgive them!”

Briskly proceeding her preparations, Fina had put her all into laying the groundwork so she could be enthroned as queen. She was needlessly proficient, and in abilities alone, Fina was the one worthy of the position.

However, the problem lay within.

She had already prepared the papers and was arranging to distribute them to the relevant divisions.

“Just you watch. When I’m queen, I’m dismantling those pesky dragoons of yours! Fwahahahah, I can see my master, crying, begging for forgiveness!”

Looking at Fina were Sophina and Mii.

Seeing her expressionlessly accomplished one job after the next, all while swearing vengeance, they were somewhat creeped out.

Mii spoke.

“Princess, I mean your majesty, don’t you think that’s a bit much.”

Fina looked at her.

“Oh, what’s wrong? It’s alright, Mii… if he cries and grovels, he can have my forgiveness.”

Sophina sounded fed-up.

“No, that’s the same as saying you won’t forgive otherwise. Rather, to be serious for a second…”

Seriously speaking, with the Diade and Halbades Houses assisting her during the time of Aileen’s insurrection, whether she wanted to carry our reform or anything else, she was unable to slight either house.

Moreover, she didn’t hold enough power to do so.

“Goddammit! It’s because these archdukes exist that Courtois’ national power was shaved away! Quit screwing with me, bring out the manager! In this scenario, should we be centralizing power!? You think the empire’s going to wait!?”

Mii tilted her head.

“Umm, but I heard the empire was considerably exhausted in this loss.”

At Mii’s inquisitive gesture, Fina loosed a satisfied drool in her head. And she began speaking in regards to that.

“For now, that is. But just you wait, give them a decade, a century. Their national power will plummet, the way they’re going, either civil war or separation, the empire’s going to change. You think they’re guaranteed to change for the worse? I hate that sort of wishful thinking.”

Sophina spoke to Fina.

“In that case, shouldn’t we launch something from our side—”

“You fool!”

Fina hit her on the fed. The high knight’s eyes turned teary.

“We don’t have hands to send around as it is! The country’s in tatters, and there’s absolutely no merit in stealing the barren wastelands of the empire! What I’m trying to say is that their side is the one with all the pieces in place for proper reform!”

How much time and energy did they have to deal with the movements of surrounding powers while proceeding reform in the country? The larger the country was, the greater hassle it was to govern its landmass.

With this as an opportunity, there may be lords scheming to gain independence.

“Even if we get rid of as many of those who sided with sister’s rebellion as possible, and increase the kingdom’s national power… AAaaah!! My head hurts!”

Fina’s desire to marry Rudel wasn’t just only of self-interest.

Forming a composition with the nation’s strongest force- Rudel- by her side would be a nightmare to the others.

With Ruel’s strength backing her, it was her aim to force her reforms through.

“… But I, Fina Courtois! I shall be one to stand tall through such times of troubles! I’ll get master on his knees!”

Seeing her return to work with those words, Mii and Fina shook their heads.

At the end, Mii,

“On the contrary, why is it I get the feeling her majesty’s the one who’s going to be groveling to Rudel-san…”

She said, but Fina didn’t hear.

 

 

A few years later.

Rudel stood on the soil Askewell had once invaded and brought to ruin.

By the current Queen Fina’s new policies, a majority of nobles were to relinquish their land to the state, instead living in the center off an annual pay from the kingdom.

A portion of those who opposed were ordered to change territories to the border, and Rudel was there on a mission as a dispatch from the capital.

The renewed fortress had ten dragoon knights stationed.

The empire had fallen into civil war, its division giving rise to the birth and fall of many new countries, and in the midst of that struggle, there were many who marched to claim Courtois’ land.

At times, there would be strife with nobles in his own country plotting rebellion against Fina, giving him no shortage of work.

While his life had grown hectic, Rudel was busy in the dragon stables washing Sakuya’s back with a deck brush, humming a merry tune. Sakuya looked quite comfortable.

His subordinate, a new dragoon called over to him.

“More letters, Castellan. From her majesty, the capital’s black knight, and the Diade House and Halbades House… that’s an amazing assortment.”

Castellan was Rudel’s station. While fulfilling the role of a dragoon, he was concurrently the one in charge of the fort.

After jumping d own from Sakuya, Rudel accepted the letters and unsealed them on the spot.

“I don’t really care about Fina’s. Eunius wants to go drinking, Luecke… oh, his first child! So Lena’s a mother now. But does he really plan on not having a legal wife?”

The letter from the queen was a lengthy apology and a plea urging him to return to the center. Rudel personally preferred the border to the center, the letter hit all the usual points, so he immediately read through it and quickly lost interest.

Eunius was an invite to the town, while Luecke reported in great joy how a child had been born.

“Now then, Aleist is… I-I see.”

According to Aleist’s letter, for some reason, his harem members increased and breached thirty. With so many children, he had no idea what to do at this point, or so his screams of anguish were spelled out in paper.

As to be expected, Rudel had no idea what to write back.

“He has it rough. I guess I’ll consult with Izumi and write up a reply.”

Rudel’s subordinate looked at him with a sigh.

“Castellan, if you return to the capital, you’ll be assigned a considerable status. Are you sure you won’t go back? I don’t see anything stopping you.”

While Rudel was in charge of the fort, he would have preferred it if he could assume his duties as a single knight. He even thought he had too many unnecessary duties.

Normally, anyone would want a promotion and a station at the center. But Rudel couldn’t discern any value in that. He had gone as far as to push the status of Arses House head onto his younger brother Chlust he held far too little interest in status or promotion.

“I’m not interested. If you can fly through the sky, everywhere’s pretty much the same. As long as I’ve got Sakuya and my wife, it doesn’t matter where I am.”

Hearing those words, Sakuya delightfully groaned.

His subordinate shrugged his shoulders.

“Bragging? I just think it’s a waste. You should be aiming higher.”

Rudel smiled. From his subordinate’s point of view, life on the border was something he wanted to be done with soon so he could get back to civilization. Rudel had no intent to deny that way of thinking.

Going off of that, the man asked with deep intrigue.

“Come to think of it, there’s a rumor going ‘round that you refused not only your Archduke position but the throne as well, but is that true?”

Leaning the deck brush over his shoulder, Rudel made back towards Sakuya.

“Who knows? I’m not really interested in that sort of thing. For now and forever, I am but—”

Turning back, Rudel smiled.

“A single dragoon.”

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Dragoon 165: You’re There, and I’m Here

 

 

Aleist had lost consciousness at some point.

In a deep sensation as if his body wasn’t his own, he heard a voice. A voice he knew, it was the voice of the existence who sent him to the world he was now.

Thinking back on it, he was extremely embarrassed by how he was back then.

‘Did you have fun in the world you wished for?’

Were those words cynicism, or honest curiosity?

Aleist couldn’t tell, but he spoke honest as could be.

“It was fun, no I mean, it is and will be fun. They accepted me even as I am after all. Back then… for sending me to this world, truly, thank you.”

When he reincarnated, Aleist wished for status, for power, for everything. Yet when he was supposed to have obtained it all, he hadn’t obtained a thing.

“I made friends. I never thought I’d be friends with the side character Rudel. When he was just supposed to be a stepping stone support role, he longed to ride dragons, grew earnest, put his all into each and every day… he was a really radiant existence. I’m the one who ended up the stepping stone side character.”

It was as if their roles were reversed. But the moment he accepted that, Aleist felt he had matured quite a bit.

“I never mastered the cheat you gave me, and yet I went and traded it off… sorry about that.”

The voice sounded somewhat amused.

It must have been considerably pleased with Aleist’s answer.

‘It’s a power I gave you. Use it however you want. However, I never thought you’d let go of it at the end. You surpassed my expectations, and so too did he. It all stemmed from but a single incident. That unplanned action rewrote everything.’

Action? As Aleist grew curious, the voice spoke.

‘A boy pleaded to his parents to see a dragon on his birthday. His parents heard his wish, and a single dragon that was never to take flight soared through the sky… the one who witnessed it was Rudel.’

A surprise indeed.

“Ahahah, then I’d very much like to thank that boy. Otherwise, who knows where I’d be around now.”

The voice spoke gently.

‘Did your real wish come true?’

Aleist spoke strongly and clearly.

“It has.”

There, the voice told of a world to come.

‘The world was nothing more than a reproduction of a game. I can’t guarantee what happens after the game’s been cleared. You’ll have to manage. No visible fate, no existences to get in your way. Whether things get better or worse is all up to you.’

Aleist was hard-pressed for words. There was something he had to ask no matter what.

“Umm, did this world distort because of me?”

The voice plainly informed him.

‘That’s right. But if it weren’t for you, this world wouldn’t even have existed. I’ll leave the rest to you and your friends. This is the most fun I’ve had in a while.’

After it had said that, the voice really did fade into the distance. Aleist could clearly tell. And at the end.

“… Thank you.”

He gave his thanks.

 

 

Aleist opened his eyes. He was in a place he recognized all too well, a sickroom he often used in his years as a student.

“… Huh?”

When he looked around, the usual suspects lay on the other beds, their bodies wrapped in bandages. Rudel alone, a red mark on his face… he had the traces of a slap.

Aleist was distraught.

(D-don’t tell me I went back in time!? I mean, this is the academy, and there’s Izumi-san next to Rudel, and… h-huh!?)

While Aleist wondered if he had been turned into a time traveler this time, Luecke explained from the bed beside him.

“What are you so surprised about? There were so many injured parties, that we were carted around and pushed into any available facility. Good grief, I never thought I’d be in this room’s care after graduation.”

Eunius meanwhile yawned.

“Let’s just take it easy. Rudel’s little brother can take care of cleaning up. Rather, that Clust kid’s got talent. Rallying together such numbers, and even leading them to victory.”

Chlust’s evaluation was on the rise. Aleist looked at Izumi bashfully peeling fruit.

Rudel hung his head in shame.

“Hey, what happened?”

Luecke looked at Rudel and Izumi. Touching a finger to his forehead, he breathed a sigh.

“That Rudel, it seems he barely got any sleep before the battle. So after it was over… he said something misleading, and fell asleep in the most misleading way.”

Rudel had fought alone, day after day through the waves of marching imperials. The effects of his sleep deprivation had him out cold the moment he loosened up.

That ha invited in misunderstandings galore, and apparently Izumi had tears in her eyes as she slapped him. Of course, only after he was healed and had opened his eyes.

Eunius laughed.

“I hear everyone gathered around and gave him a moment of silence. At the center of it, ‘He’s just sleeping, okay!’ Izumi was screaming with her face all red.”

Luecke spat out his words.

“Good grief, what a troublesome guy.”

Aleist looked at Rudel. Rudel was apologizing to Izumi.

“Izumi, please hear me out. Even I have my limits.”

With her face bright red, Izumi shoved a fruit slice into Rudel’s mouth. After chewing and swallowing, Rudel went on.

“I’m sorry. I apologize.”

But perhaps that wasn’t enough, as she shoved another fruit into his mouth. Upon seeing that,

“Maybe I should get a girlfriend,”

Eunius said. Luecke sighed.

“Not you too. Good grief, when I’m still suffering from my failed confession.”

Aleist was somewhat surprised. He thought things were going well enough with Lena.

“Really? She turned you down?”

Eunius immediately yelled at Aleist.

“You fool, don’t touch that one!”

Luecke grinned as he began detailing the circumstance.

“Well now, the truth is, after that, I went over to Lena to confess. I carefully chose out all my words and was going to convey my feelings… but before that, ‘Luecke-san, I like you,’ she told me. My proposal was a complete failure.”

Eunius made a reluctant face at Aleist.

“Aaah, this is going to drag on. Aleist, you take responsibility and listen. He goes on for about two hours. And wait, I can only imagine he’s lying when he says he was confessed to instead, dammit.”

Luecke turned Eunius a smile.

“Hey now, Lena just guessed what was going on when I was trying to set a mood and squeeze out my voice. It was definitely my failing, but it’s true she confessed to me. Don’t be jealous.”

Aleist thought.

(… What is it, this hazy feeling. When Millia is still avoiding me…)

It was at that moment Millia dropped by the sickroom.

“Is everyone doing well? Oh, Aleist you’re up. That’s good.”

Millia looked at Aleist with a smile. With that alone, Aleist found happiness.

(Aah, Millia really is my goddess.)

His heart momentarily ruled by envy cleared to blue skies. Meanwhile, with fruit shoved in his mouth one after the net, Rudel was nearing his limit.

“If you’re well, you’re up for a meeting.”

“Meeting?”

On Millia’s beckoning, wearing a tiara and a garb more extravagant than usual, Fina Courtois entered the room.

Aleist’s honest impression,

(Oh right, she was a princess or something.)

His impression of her as a junior at the academy was too strong, he was prone to forgetting. It was also a problem that Aleist himself was so bothered by other things he didn’t pay much attention to Fina.

Rudel’s eyes sparkled as he looked at Fina. Surely this would end Izumi’s wrath, even temporarily.

Fina grasped the hem of her skirt, deeply lowering her head.

“As a representative of Courtois, I would like to express our thanks for everyone’s work on this occasion.”

Hearing that, Luecke’s and Eunius’ faces turned serious. Rudel was the same. Aleist alone didn’t notice.

With Fina before him, Rudel climbed off the bed onto his knees. Both Luecke and Eunius followed Suit, and Aleist barely managed to copy.

But Fina stopped them with a hand.

“We are not in an official space.”

Rudel spoke as representative.

“Would it be in order to address you as Her Majesty, the Queen?”

Fina shook her head to the side.

“That is still a work in process. In that regard, my master… pardon. Rudel-dono, I have a request to make of you.”

Rudel lowered his head.

“Yes, say the word.”

Aleist thought.

(I see, if she’s representing the country, that means the second princess is becoming queen? That’s different from the game… no, this is already a different world.)

Fina spread out her hand.

“I alone am insufficient to reconstruct our dear country. Won’t you shoulder that weight with me? Courtois had prepared a seat on the throne for Rudel Arses.”

Aleist honestly rejoiced at Rudel becoming King, but it was there he noticed.

(Huh? Wait a second. If you say that to Rudel…)

Rudel raised his face and smiled.

“I refused. I am but a lowly dragoon. As a single knight, I swear to my heart I shall continue to support ‘Her Majesty the Queen’. There are those far more worthy than I.”

Saying that, Rudel sent a look around. Before anyone could move, Eunius stood and declared.

“I, Eunius Diade! Swear it on my sword to cut down the enemies of her majesty!”

And Luecke stood as well.

Aleist thought.

(Crap! I’m too late!!)

“I, Luecke Halbades devote an oath of loyalty to her royal highness.”

A rattling sound from the doorway, King Albach made his appearance in a wheelchair. The one pushing the char was Sophina.

“W-wait. Boys, wait a second. Then what is it? … You’ll decline the position of King!?”

Fina had frozen in place expressionless.

Rudel, Eunius and Luecke were all looking at Aleist.

“… Aleist, I believe in you.”
“Aleist, I ain’t gonna complain if you rise to power.”
“Yeah, you have my full support.”

The three of them shoved the throne on him with wonderful smiles.

Aleist shouted.

“Wait a second! I mean, it’s King, right!? Wouldn’t you want that, normally!?”

Rudel averted his eyes as he spoke.

“O-of course. But I’m not worthy… and so, fare thee well!”

Suddenly sprinting off, Rudel hoisted Izumi over his shoulder and jumped out the window. With Sakuya retrieving him outside, he achieved a perfect escape.

Eunius shouted.

“The bastard got away! Umm, as my first duty to her majesty, I shall chase him down!”

Luecke also jumped aboard the ship.

“And I as well. Good grief, what is that man thinking?”

When the two of them were gone, a dubious air enveloped the sickroom. Albach silently gazed at Aleist.

Aleist looked at Millia. But she turned away his gaze.

Fina sat on the spot, expressionlessly muttering…

“Master, you idiot. I laid all the groundwork, but it’s because sister stirred everything up that it wasn’t perfect yet… now that it’s come to this, I’ll make it an established truth whether you like it or not… no, perhaps I can even fabricate I t. I mean, I’m queen. I am the law.”

Aleist looked at her and thought.

“Huh? What!? Is it just me, or is this kid saying some scary things!?”

Alback opened his mouth.

“Aleist-kun… you won’t run, right?”

Aleist stood, he took a step back.

(No way. With kingship and such, isn’t that normally a position you’d even spill blood to reach!? Why did they all run!?)

With a bitter smile, Aleist slowly retreated further. The door forcefully burst open with the entrance of his harem members.

“Aleist-sama!?”

Faaaai!

To his surprise, the group had clearly grown in numbers since he last saw them.

“Aleist-sama, we’ve come to a conclusion!”

“D-did you now?”

(I see, so they’ve finally lost interest in me—)

We don’t mind if we’re not your number one. So please, keep us by your side! We came to understand as we watched you fight for the country under that hopeless situation. That you are a hero!

“D-did you now!? … huh?”

By the time he noticed it, everyone told him they didn’t have to be number one. Millia burst into laughter.

“Aleist, you sure are loved.”

But Aleist,

“Now wait! I’ll be very upfront here, I can’t love you all equally, and there’s someone I’m in love with—”

“Even so!”

His harem members’ faces were serious.

(I-inconceivable. Don’t have to be loved? Don’t have to be number one…? That’s just wrong, that’s just crazy!)

Aleist jumped out of the window in a half-laughing frenzy.

“I’m sorry, it’s impossible for me!”

Was it impossible to marry Fina, or impossible to accept his harem… he couldn’t accept either.

Posted in Dragoon | Tagged | 24 Comments

Dragoon 164: Last Battle

 

 

By the collision of Sakuya and the dark dragon, the sun’s light pierced through the battlefield covered in thick clouds.

Neither side could pull back. On that bog of a battlefield, Eunius rushed over to Luecke. The reason being, the enemy had begun to amass around Luecke’s forces.

Issuing orders from the center of a magic formation, he seemed to be carrying out some form of preparations.

“What the hell’s so important you’d isolate yourself away to do it!? The enemy’s at your doorstep!”

Without turning his face to Eunius’ yell, taking notes and calculating something out, Luecke indifferently answered.

“This magic formation is anti-dragoon. I’m going to use it.”

Recycling the formation the enemy had been using, he would help out Rudel and Aleist. Luecke earnestly carried out his calculations.

Eunius thought.

(No use talking to him. But will this guy’s troops hold out?)

The enemy on their last stand, they stood in unity charging straight forward without knowing retreat. Luecke’s army detached from the main force was nothing more than an easy target for them.

It was partly due to their lack of a proper offensive that they were trying to reuse their circle in the first place.

The empire’s soldiers were strong. Eunius recalled his own honest impression as he gave up on persuading this idiot of a friend.

“… No way around it. I’ll buy you some time. How long do I have to hold out?”

Hearing Eunius’ voice, Luecke’s memo taking hand stopped for a brief moment. Once it had resumed, he made his request.

“… One hour. If we use it once, the enemy will see it coming the next time, so it’ll be a one-time thing. But that alone should be plenty for Rudel up there.”

Eunius turned Luecke his back and walked off.

“Then I’ll protect you while you get on with this thing. If the time comes, I’ll drag you away whether you like it or not, remember that.”

“Thanks,” came a small voice from Luecke.

 

 

Her body draped in golden armor, with two new black arms, Sakuya exchanged blows with the dark dragon.

The black arms gripped golden weapons, its right hand the white knight’s sword, its left hand the black knight’s. Two golden shields floated to protect her, fending off the dragon’s fists.

The two grappled, they punched, they cut at one another and exchanged dragon breath. The attacks from these two giants generated massive shockwaves, and in no time at all, the surrounding clouds had almost all been blown off, giving way to a blue sky.

The dark dragon bit into Sakuya’s neck. Each and every one of its sharp fangs concealed power greater than a magic sword fashioned to slay dragons.

Opening her mouth in a scream, Sakuya hammered a body blow into the dragon’s stomach. A stroke from her thick arms caused cracks to race across the dark dragon’s tough skin.

Writhing in pain, the dragon’s mouth wretched open as it parted from Sakuya’s neck. Before it could get away, Sakuya lowered the golden sword at its head.

While the dragon immediately took evasive action, Sakuya grabbed it with both arms to hold it in place. By turning its head to one side, it contained its injuries at a portion of its horn and one eye.

‘Nggh, my wounds aren’t healing. Why!?’

Even as blood dripped down her nape, Sakuya offered the dragon an answer.

‘Sakuya’s power is being drawn out by Rudel and Aleist. So she won’t lose. Sakuya is strong!’

Young. Terribly young, yet Sakuya gave off the will to never lose.

Spreading its remaining eye wide, the dark dragon opened its large mouth to roar.

‘You sham lizard! When you’re merely a cobbling of sham odds and end, who do you think you’re biting back at!?’

The dragon who would call Sakuya a sham went right on to drive a breath into her. Yet the black and red muddled mana gathering in its mouth found itself bisected by a sword of light, exploding before release.

There stood the enraged form of Rudel.

“Bastard! You got something to say about my Sakuya!? Very well, I’ll answer that deathwish!”

Spitting smoke from its mouth, the dark dragon cried out Askewell’s name.

‘Askewell! What are you doing? Kill him already!’

Sakuya and the dragon. Using both airborne beasts as footing, Rudel, Aleist and Askewell fought.

But Askewell found himself held up by Aleist.

“What do you think I’m doing!? If only, if only you didn’t exist!”

A wrinkle gracing his brow, Askewell swung his lance with the face of a demon. Shockwaves and magic emitted with each revolution before the point abruptly shot towards Aleist.

But Aleist turned it aside with a magic sword, and with his other sword, he cut at his foe. Askewell sacrificed his left arm to take the attack. While the blade cut deep into his flesh, it stopped just short of lopping the limb off.

However, Aleist was a dual blade user, and in the moment Askewell’s attention was occupied, he immediately used his other sword to inflict a followup blow on his stomach.

“Kuh!”

He didn’t bleed. Askewell’s body swiftly regenerated, but without faltering, Aleist kept up an offense.

“Rudel! Help out here too! The most I can do is hold him in place!”

And yet, Aleist let out a pathetic voice. It only served to rub Askewell the wrong way.

Askewell forcefully swung his spear to knock Aleist back. But using that intent to take distance, Aleist produced a stream of spears from his own shadow, sending them flying towards him.

While Askewell easily hit them all down, those black spears burst, emitting a smoke that stole away his vision. In that opening, Rudel cut down from above.

Despite him catching it with his spear, Rudel’s strike with all his weight behind it bisected the shaft, carving deep from Askewell’s right shoulder to his abdomen.

Seeing that, Rudel offered a word.

“Even that won’t do it.”

Not shedding a drop of blood, Askewell’s body had already begun restoring itself, causing Rudel to take distance. With a large lurch of the dark dragon he was using as footing, Askewell’s stance was thrown a bit off.

“What are you doing!?”

Askewell grew irritated, however, they were in the sky… with uncertain footing, and the stage being atop a dragon’s back, every aspect favored the dragoon.

Without a moment’s delay, Rudel cut again, and Askewell’s leg soared through the sky. Following on, having recovered his footing, Aleist cut in to finish the job with his arm.

Thrown into freefall, Askewell attempted to float on his own while regenerating his body. But right before his eyes came the white approaching fist of a dragon.

“What non—”

He was likely about to question the nonsensical nature of coincidence. But to the dragoons who could communicate telepathically, the knight and dragon existed as a set, and their coordination was to be expected.

Smacked, sent flying, with a large portion of his body crushed, while Askewell continued falling, his body was still regenerating. His healing was gradually growing slower.

“Why. Why are you—”

His body back in order, Askewell stood on the battlefield once more. Against Rudel and Aleist, a battle of numeric inferiority.

 

 

On the ground, Eunius was pushed into a close fight to protect Luecke.

“Don’t let a single one through!”

Swinging down his greatsword, he cut aside an imperial soldier as he cried out; his surrounding subordinates wrung out their voices in response.

A battlefield over which flew mud, flew iron, flew blood, and flew flesh, this truly was a hell on earth. The imperial soldiers pushing in on them wave after wave were driven mad by the fear of inevitable death.

Believing in Luecke, Eunius would protect this point to his last breath, swinging his sword. Before his eyes, a knight-looking man stepped out front.

A glance was enough to know he was strong. Swinging about a large hammer, he mowed away allies as he charged towards Eunius.

“So you’re their commander!”

Eunius laughed at the enemy knight’s words.

“And what if I am!?”

Magic sword. A swing with all his weight and might, the enemy was split in two- hammer and all- no longer able to move. Eunius gasped for breath as he looked forward.

No matter how low their numbers fell, the imperials would even climb over their friends’ corpses to grit their teeth and press on.

“Just surrender already!”

Swiping his great sword to the side, he sliced down another when an impact rang out behind him. Both friend and for turned an eye towards it.

“What now!?”
“Did Courtois do something!?”
“That light it—”

Behind Eunius’ forces, a light broke out from the magic formation Luecke had been working on.

“The bastard really did it!”

Believing in Luecke’s success, Eunius issued a manifesto to his troops!

“One final push! If we overcome this, it will be our Courtois’ victory!”

A war cry resounding across the battlefield, and the intense collision of two camps.

 

 

In the center of the magic circle, Luecke stationed shield knights over various places in and out of it as he looked to the sky.

Light flooded up from the formation, amplifying his magic even further.

A look up to two dragons fighting in the distance.

With a magic called farsight, Luecke confirmed his foe’s positioning before nodding. Vargas sent over a shout.

“Young master, this shield’s at its limit!”

Luecke laughed.

“Vargas, don’t call me that! But this is the end. Rudel, you’d better not waste my aid… my and Eunius’ aid.”

Hoisting his right arm high, when he snapped his finger, an orb of light formed above the formation. With fire, water, wind, lightning, earth attribute magic revolving around it, the round was fired into the sky towards the dark dragon.

After seeing it off, Luecke collapsed at the knees. The light vanished from the circle, Vargas rushed over to him.

“Oy, Luecke!”

With Vargas calling him what he once had before, Luecke smiled.

“You fool. I’m your employer, Vargas. But not bad… Vargas, we’re going to help out Eunius.”

Forcing himself to his feet, Luecke issued out orders to send reinforcements to Eunius.

 

 

Rudel clanked down from the sky.

He was in the midst of cutting at Askewell when he noticed something was fired from below. He immediately identified it.

Perhaps it could be called instinct, or perhaps one might say he could trace the thoughts of his close friend from his school days… he understood help was on the way.

“Luecke! I owe you one!”

Rudel’s words greatly irritated Askewell.

“Don’t look away on the battle—”

Rudel kicked Askewell away as he collected up Aleist, making a dash for Sakuya’s shoulder as he cried out.

“Sakuya, get back!”

Sakuya immediately followed his orders to take distance from the dark dragon. The wound-ridden dragon and Askewell thought to use this chance to heal their wounds—

‘What!?’
“From below!?”

A little late to notice the lights encroaching on them from below, they shifted to evasive action. However, the light went right on to capture the dragon, the mana within it exploding, wrapping the prince and dragon in a blazing inferno. Immediately after, water broke out to drown them, and electricity after that.

A harsh wind blew, trapping the two in a storm, and finally large rocks mixed in with the gale smashing into them.

To Rudel’s side, Aleist watched over the scene, reeling back somewhat.

“I’m surprised they’re enduring that one.”

Aleist was tattered two. A portion of his armor had been blown off, he was covered in wounds with blood dripping down his face as well.

Rudel wasn’t much better. Wound-ridden, his shield dented, chips running down his sword.

Rudel took in the surrounding circumstance and determined now was the change to seize victory.

Holding out his left hand, he gripped his fist.

“… Aleist, the next one will decided.”

His serious voice compelled Aleist to nod.

“Got it. I’ll bet my all one this. We’ve made it this far. With everything I’ve got le— huh! What!? Whaaat!?”

Aleist’s surprise was justified. Sakuya suddenly grasped the two riding on her shoulders. Rudel in her right hand, Aleist in her left, she prepared for the next step.

Aleist cried out hysterically.

“Wait! I can see where this is going, but don’t tell me!”

Rudel laughed.

“You’re quick on the uptake. That’s right… Sakuya’s going to give us a boost. Wager it all on this one blow, Aleist.”

Sticking up his thumb, Rudel directed Aleist a smile. In the gaps between her fingers, Aleist hung his head, letting out a dry laugh.

“Aha, ahahahah… goddammit! Let’s do this shit!”

The two of them had made their resolve just as the magic bolt from the ground faded out.

Askewell and the dark dragon released from it were covered in wounds, their regeneration wouldn’t make it in time.

“Sakuya… chuck us.”

‘Yeah!’

Rudel flowed magic into his sword and shield. He poured in the techniques he had forged to that point. As he imbued his armaments with magic, the light waved and flickered like a flame. A wind blew around him, swaying the flames even more.

Aleist similarly flooded his two swords with magic.

His inexhaustible mana was long gone. What he had was what he had cultivated himself, Aleist’s own mana. That which Aleist could shape however he liked coursed through his two swords like black lightning.

With their preparations in order, Sakuya swung both her arms at once, throwing them towards the dark dragon.

The dragon roared, Askewell emitted mana from all over his body.

While they readied themselves to intercept, Rudel made for the dragon, Aleist to Askewell, both on a complete offensive.

“This is—”

“— The end!!”

The dragon’s roar shifted into a breath aimed at Rudel, yet from right within its stream, Rudel blocked the damage with his shield as he pressed on. He extended the blade of the sword in his right hand, and cut at the dragon.

‘If only, if only you didn’t exist!!’

Askewell put every ounce of his being into facing Aleist. Sparks flew as his spear met with Aleist’s crossed swords.

“This world went mad because of you… it’s you, it’s all your fault!”

Hearing Asekwell’s words now, Aleist no longer had any hesitation.

“I do feel guilty. But, even so… I want to press onwards with my friends! I decided we’re all moving forward together!”

As Askewell heard Aleist’s words, his power softened. Aleist’s swords tore through his spear and then him.

As the two of them were thrown into the air, Rudel used his air movement to collect Aleist. Returning his sword to his sheath, he directed his right hand at Askewell and the dragon.

Aleist looked over the scene in awe.

“So many dragons…”

Enclosing the dark dragon and Askewell, the dragoons and dragons were stationed, their mouths at the ready to fire their breath.

Sakuya was also at the ready, and with Rudel clenching his open palm as the signal, each and every dragon opened fire at once.

“Not even ash will remain. Rest in peace.”

With Rudel’s whisper, the dragon and Askewell disappeared into the light.

Only Askewell’s severed torso fell towards the ground.

While they wanted to chase after it, both Rudel and Aleist were close to their limit. In the midst of their fall, Sakuya gently caught them, the gold armor and black arms having faded away.

‘Rudel, it’s getting quiet down there.’

‘… So we really did it. The fatigue’s kicking in.’

Rudel said and closed his eyes in Sakuya’s hand.

 

 

Askewell lay battered on the ground. What had regenerated of his body was mere human flesh.

Opening his eyes, he saw Mies and his subordinates nearby.

“Askewell-sama! I-I’ll get a doctor at once. So get a grip—”

But while his surface wounds had closed, he couldn’t say the same for underneath. Askewell could sense his own death wasn’t far off.

This had to be the compensation for borrowing that black existence’s power and overexerting himself.

(I see, so this is where I end.)

Askewell grasped Mies’ arm. To Mies’ surprise, he squeezed out a faint voice.

“Mies… t-the responsibility for this war… is mine.”

“Please don’t talk, Askewell-sama!”

Spitting up blood, Askewell continued on.

“I-I have to. Someone has to take responsibility. Otherwise… even more chaos…”

Askewell knew of the empire’s exhaustion. He knew they needed an existence to smash their discontentment into. It would soften their hatred, if only slightly. And he thought over what he was capable of as he was now.

“Y-you just have to take me to the empire. This life will finally find its meaning on the gallows… so… so, take me to the empire. There, before its people…”

As he went on coughing blood, Mies wept.

“Let’s run, Askewell-sama. If it’s just a few of us, we’ll be able to keep low.”

“We can’t! That won’t work, Mies… I’m begging you. Please.”

Breaking into tears, Askewell wished for an end executed by the empire. As the big bad who impoverished and brought ruin to the country, he would become the existence for them to alleviate their hatred.

(I see, so I ran away… this all happened because I gave up on my dreams and ran here.)

Askewell spoke.

“Mies, there are rooms full of research material at my manner. They’re all on agriculture: nothing but failures, but I’d be happy if you made some use out of them. I won’t say it’s for the empire’s sake anymore. The empire will eventually fall apart. But for the future… please.”

Mies gripped Askewell’s hand, and shedding tears, she nodded. With a warm smile at her, he gave the order for his own capture and a retreat back to the empire.

 

 

Izumi looked at the retreating imperial army.

Courtois was too exhausted to give pursuit.

Chlust looked up at the sky.

“My brother’s coming back. You should go to him.”

“you have my gratitude!”

Of the dragons descending to the ground with teetering feet, Izumi picked out the single white dragon among them.

Sakuya slowly descended, gently placing Rudel and Aleist on the ground. As soon as she saw him, Izumi jumped right at him.

Similarly, Aleist’s harem members crowded around Aleist. It looked as if Aleist was going to be crushed.

Perhaps he could no longer speak, as Aleist could only entrust his body to the female members.

Izumi embraced Rudel.

“… You keep pushing yourself. You’re wounded again.”

As Izumi said that, Rudel opened his eyes ever-so-slightly and smiled.

“My bad. But I feel somewhat pleasant.”

“… Rudel?”

Upon seeing a smiling Rudel, Izumi grew worried.

“You finally overcame it.”

Her voice was shaking.

“Yeah, so I have to work hard from here on.”

Rudel reached his hand towards Izumi’s face.

“You know… I’ve been thinking.”

“About what?”

“My achievements this time… I think I’d like you as a reward. If Chlust can do a good job with the Arses House, I think I’ll confess my feelings to you.”

Rudel’s hand brushed up against her face. She gripped it.

“Yeah, and I’ll accept them. I’ll always accept them, so…”

Rudel smiled.

“That’s great. Then I have to think of the right words to propose… I’ll consult with Eunius or Luecke… do you think Aleist will do?”

Rudel’s voice turned just a bit dubious. Izumi spoke in jest.

“I don’t know about those three. Rudel, how about you think something up? I won’t be surprised no matter how off-beat it is. So…”

As Izumi shed tears, Rudel wiped one away with his fingers.

“I’ll get thinking… don’t get mad if I fail.”

Rudel closed his eyes.

“I won’t be mad! So… so stay with me!”

Rudel took just one deep breath.

“Yeah, now that the relief’s set in…”

Rudel’s hand slipped out of Izumi’s and fell to the ground. Izumi bawled out her voice as around, starting with Bennet, a great many individuals surrounded Rudel.

Every closed their eyes to offer a silent prayer.

Posted in Dragoon | Tagged | 22 Comments

Dragoon 163: Versus

 

 

Rudel fought the vile serpent through the sky. It could be called a one-sided battle, mostly consisting of his attempts to corner and land a final blow on the beast.

Sakuya opened her large mouth, and as she was about to fire a breath, the serpent laughed. It stopped running to turn towards Rudel and Sakuya.

Before Rudel and Sakuya—a dragoon of one man and one dragon, the tattered serpent. But now a look of triumph spread across its face.

‘You did well making it this far. You have my praise… dragoon.’

While continuously calling Rudel an irregular, here it was, stopping to evaluate him. But Rudel—

“I see, then disappear. Sakuya!”

Rudel had Sakuya fired on it no questions asked.

‘HYAAaaah!!’

Highly condensed mana swelled to a massive size, the light fired off from it drawing a spiral in its flow as it swallowed the dark dragon whole. With that output before her, Izumi narrowed her eyes.

“It’d be hell if that hit the ground.”

It’s output… Rudel was definitely right in his decision, parting from the ground to avoid dragging anyone else in.

All the clouds around them were blown away by the force of that breath, the thick clouds clearing to shine light onto the battlefield.

But the serpent that took the breath, while it had lost a majority of its body, remained floating in the air. Its disintegrating bones showing, it laughed through its ominous visage.

‘You are strong. No, you ‘two’ are strong together. Very well… I shall admit that.’

Feeling a bad premonition, Rudel immediately readied Sakuya for a second shot.

‘It’s too late!’

The black smoke rising from the ground enveloped the serpent. Prince of the Empire Askewell looked at Rudel from his place in the air.

Rudel grimaced.

“You’re a stubborn one. Did Aleist let you slip by?”

While it was a problem that couldn’t be cleaned up with the word stubborn, Rudel was of the simple belief that he need only defeat him again. I essence, that was the only option.

Askewell opened his mouth.

“Aren’t you—”

“Sakuya, fire.”

“Wait! Rudel!”

Izumi stepped in to stop him but she didn’t make it in time.

Before he could hear Askewell’s words, Sakuya fired her second round.

‘Fly awaaay!!’

Sakuya’s breath assailed the black smoke and Askewell. Yet, Askewell brushed that blast aside with one hand.

Seeing that, Rudel immediately considered countermeasures.

(He redirected it? Luecke had a magic quite similar to that. Then should I beat him in close combat?)

Askewell showed no surprise, nor did he condemn Rudel for his actions. It was almost as if he had foreseen it happening. He plainly continued to speak.

“Aren’t you irritated?”

“… Irritated? That I let your imperial invasion get so far? Or the fact I couldn’t win on my own?”

They were both irritating to him. He couldn’t fulfill his duty. He couldn’t protect his country. That was why he had to take Askewell down and drive the imperial army out of kingdom territory.

That was Rudel’s job.

Askewell lightly laughed.

“Aleist, was it? For the sake of such a good-for-nothing existence, both me and you were put through the wringer. You were to be nothing more than a stepping stool in his life… I was forced into the role of enemy. You’ll overlook such unreasonability?”

Askewell’s voice was the epitome of serious. These were the screams of his soul.

“No matter how I tried to save the empire’s people, it was all futile! The reason I kept winning when I went out to the battlefield was all for this day. None of it was my own power! For the sake of that man… for that sort of man, can you imagine how many humans have suffered!? Doesn’t it irritate you!?”

Looking at the prince before his eyes, Rudel thought.

(What is he talking about?)

It was a simple, honest question. And he understood the answer.

“I see, so you made it Aleist’s fault that things aren’t going your way. Good for you, you found an excuse.”

Askewell’s eyes opened wide. A vein surfaced on his forehead. In rage and surprise towards Rudel’s words. His face was one of all sorts of emotions swirling about.

“You want me to sympathize? I’ll do plenty of that once this battle is over. So… die.”

When Rudel directed his right arm at Aleist, the black smoke manifested a number of offensive shields around Askewell. Those spiked shields closed in from around as if to crush him whole.

“I see… when you made your dream come true, I…”

Those several hundred large shields crushed Askewell and exploded. His hair ruffled out of place by the blast wave, Rudel narrowed his eyes as he looked at Askewell.

“If you’ll let me have my say, you’re the unreasonable one here.”

At the end of Rudel’s slightly envious expression, was the form of Askewell riding the back of the dark dragon. And now the form it took on was terribly reminiscent of Sakuya’s. A purple halo floating behind its back, six wings, and four large limbs.

The differences that stood out were its aggressive, barbed scales and the look in its eyes.

(… I want to ride it a bit.)

From the point of view of one who had desperately become a dragoon, he had a complaint or two for Askewell, who had mimicked one at the drop of a hat.

Even if he was barking up the wrong tree.

The dark dragon opened its mouth.

‘Don’t think this makes us equal. We surpass you on all fronts. In order to restore these glaring errors, the more your abnormality increases, the stronger we become.’

Rudel folded his arms.

‘I see, so you don’t start out almighty. Then there are ways to go about it.’

Izumi wondered if the calm and collected Rudel had some ingenious idea.

“You have a plan?”

But Rudel offered an immediate reply.

“None! But since it’s come to this, there’ no choice but to grow stronger than we are now. If we do that, we can surpass our enemy.”

Izumi breathed a sigh.

“You heard it, if you get stronger, they’ll also—”

“Then I’ll surpass what comes next. You worry too much… I’m quite used to fighting guys stronger than me.”

As Rudel made a smile, Izumi shut her mouth. She looked in the direction of the dark dragon and Askewell. Gripping the hilt of her katana.

“Got it. I’ll try to help out. I have to make myself at least a little useful.”

Rudel laughed aloud.

“That makes it three against two! It’s our win.”

 

 

On the ground, the Kingdom of Courtois fought the imperial army under Chlust’s command. With Aleist fighting on the frontmost lines, they barely managed to hold out without crumbling.

That was the most they could do. A gathering of odds and ends, the Courtois army had no coordination. Even if some was established, before the empire’s trained troops, it was a last-second veneer.

“Keep everything down to the basics. That’s all we can do!”

Chlust issued simple orders. With the quality of the gathered soldiers all over the place, they had to keep their objectives to the absolute basics.

The army moving especially poorly belonged to the Arses House.

Having not done any decent training, they had become a deadweight.

(If the black knight and his elites weren’t here, we’d be screwed.)

Looking up in the sky, two water dragons intercepted the wyverns raining down on them.

They were fighting so they couldn’t bring casualties to the ground troops, and none were to die to stray shots from above. However, because of that, their forces had mixed into a muddled mess with the imperial. This prevented them from receiving dragoon support.

Chlust had been driven off to the outskirts, and there he had learned how to command. Yet when an army far too large was placed under his command, his panic began to show.

“The dragoons will protect the sky! We’re going to do our part!”

At the same time, he thought.

(To think the empire’s training would be on this level.)

In one on one, the imperial army surpassed Courtois. They could only fight because they had the black knight. Additionally, the soldiers of the imperial army fought almost as if they were walking death row.

As the fight devolved into a chaotic melee, the dragons couldn’t attack. With that in mind, compared to fighting the dragons up high, the Courtoan soldiers before their eyes weren’t scary in the slightest.

And they couldn’t pull back.

They really were dead men walking.

“… Brother, we won’t hold out much longer.”

Regardless of the grudge he held towards his brother who shoved command onto him, Chlust could only do what he was capable of.

 

 

“Take that!”

Swinging two swords from his horse, cutting down streams of imperial knights and soldiers, Aleist was terribly stained with the blood spurt.

The gora disappeared into black smoke, while Askewell had fled into the sky.

He had no means to give chase, and so he fought on the ground. But these crazed soldiers were cornering him into a close fight. While his harem members were strong, they were flinching before the enemy’s death-driven insanity.

“Should they usually withdraw after incurring casualties this high!?”

More than twenty percent of the whole. The imperial army’s casualty figures had long since exceeded that, but he couldn’t discern any signs of retreat.

More so, these were soldiers who’d lost anywhere to run to.

While the tides were already in Courtois’ favor, even so, the rate things were going would leave tremendous casualties on both sides.

As Aleist helped out his allies while gathering enemies towards himself, a giant white mass approached from the sky.

It was Sakuya.

“… Wait a tic.”

Falling towards the battlefield, there were traces of burns on her surface. A heavy gray cloud swirled a spiral, and from it, a black dragon resembling Sakuya slowly showed itself.

“Kuh!”

Racing his trusty steed Heath, Aleist tried to part from the course of Sakuya’s fall when he caught a glimpse of a flash of light.

The one who fell from the sky was Izumi, holding her Katana.

“Izumi-san!”

Izumi looked at the ground, prepared to draw her blade, and in one flash—

“Hah!”

Slashing up the imperial soldiers around Aleist, she landed out of breath before looking at the sky.

Aleist got down from his horse to hear out the situation.

“What the hell happened up there!?”

Izumi responded at once. Wiping off the grime on her face, she explained the fight in the air.

“Seven times.”

“Seven what?”

“… Rudel and Sakuya, and myself managed to corner that black dragon seven times. But every time, that thing just revives stronger than before. It’s getting beyond our ability to cope.”

Both armies took distance from where Sakuya fell. While that brought a temporary ceasefire, a look at the sky revealed the black malign dragon looking down over them. On its head, Askewell was also visible.

He wore sinister armor, equipped with a lance, his arms folded.

As Sakuya fell, in order to support her from below, Rudel made a great many shields of life, killing her momentum before she landed.

“Rudel!”

While Aleist called out, Rudel seemed considerably vexed.

He heard a voice from on high.

“You did splendid to hold out so long. But this is the end. Once I defeat you, the world will finally be free of your influence.”

Askewell’s bitter expression was directed at Aleist.

Renewing his grip on both his swords, Aleist grimaced. Come so far, would they really fall short?

(It’s my fault… then I should be the one to settle it…)

He would protect his comrades, even if it cost him his life. It happened the moment he thought that.

Slowly standing Sakuya’s massive body, Rudel came over to him. His expression was straightforward to no end—

“As you can see, there’s nothing I can do to take that thing down on my own. Aleist, you’re coming with me. The two of us and Sakuya will kill it.”

Aleist flew into a confusion.

“… Eh? Say what you want, but I have no idea what to do.”

“No worries, no problem. For now, just lend a hand. It’s a bothersome one that immediately revives when you’ve almost got it. I’d love to blow it away before it restores itself, but I’m lacking in firepower.”

For the Rudel-Sakuya combo to have insufficient firepower? From Aleist’s point of view, that was a nightmare. Even with his help, he started to think when.

“Hey, let’s get going. Izumi, I’m sorry, but could you go help out Chlust? I’m going to push my limits a bit, so I wouldn’t recommend riding with me any further.”

Izumi shrugged her shoulders.

“That so? That’s a shame.”

Looking up, Sakuya’s palms were approaching the two of them. With a skillful grip, Sakuya boarded Rudel and Aleist on her back.

 

 

Once Rudel was on Sakuya’s back once more, he looked up at the dark dragon alongside Aleist.

“Just a little more to go. When there was just a little left, it restored itself seven times.”

Seeing an irritated Rudel, Aleist shook his head to the side.

“I get that, but it would be troublesome for you to rely on me here. All I can do is control shadows, that sort of thing. To clear things up, I don’t have unlimited mana reserves anymore!”

Rudel directed Aleist a smile.

“Yeah, no problem. When I was dead, Sakuya told me. You won’t lose what you’ve cultivated yourself. And if it’s mana you’re looking for, Sakuya’s got it.”

Rudel looked down at Sakuya and smiled.

“By Sakuya, you mean the goddess, don’t you? To think she’d be waiting at death’s door for you, well how should I put it… no, doesn’t really matter.”

As he slowly raised his head, the dark dragon emitted a stream of wyverns out of his body. That scene was a nightmare in itself.

“Is it not landing a finishing blow because it’s got the leisure?”

Aleist thought the enemy was trying to belittle them, though Rudel begged to differ.

“I wonder. If it had leisure, it would have come to finish us off by now. Perhaps its been weakened so far it’s unable to.”

Sakuya slowly spread her wings and roared, while Rudel felt out the flow of mana in her body.

“Aleist, try manipulating Sakuya’s mana. If you just change it up a bit and form the shape, Sakuya will go and do something.”

Despite his confusion, Aleist leaned over and stroked Sakuya’s back.

“Now that’s arbitrary. Whatever happens, don’t blame me.”

As Rudel and Aleist touched Sakuya’s back, white and black symbols surfaced over her body as mana raced across its surface. The two of them stood, and Rudel’s right hand. Aleist’s left hand. After the two formed fists to bump with one another, Sakuya flapped her large wings and rose into the sky.

The halo appeared behind her back again.

While the golden armor manifested to protect her, this time that wasn’t all. Her third pair of wings formed, and from both shoulders, a new set of arms emerged.

Black, and protected in golden armor, those arms gripped weapons of gold.

And as the wyverns approached Sakuya, hundreds of snake heads emerged from the exposed skin of those arms to bite into them and tear them apart.

“That’s new. Looks like you get an autonomous intercept.”

Ignoring Rudel’s delight, Aleist looked around somewhat perplexed.

“Isn’t that a bit creepy? No, I get I’m the one who made it, but how to put it…”

As Sakuya rose to the same height as the dark dragon, the two sides exchanged a glare. Askewell looked at Rudel and Aleist, pointing the tip of his spear.

“It’s the same no matter how many times you stand. There is no victory for you.”

More than a hundred wyverns had already manifested around the dragon once more, and the battles on the ground had already resumed.

Within that, Rudel.

“Pretty much everyone’s told me it’s impossible too many times to count, but here I am. And how many times have you said those words? I’m starting to lose trust in them.”

Rudel’s words put Aleist into a panic.

“Could you please stop riling up your opponents just this once?”

The thick clouds drew a spiral, the lightning letting off light and sound. On the battlefield where the rain was about to fall, Rudel looked to the sky.

“… And also. You’ve wasted too much time.”

Turning to Askewell, as if proclaiming his own victory, Rudel pointed at the sky.

Wild dragons shot out from the clouds one after the next, having finished exterminating wyverns, and come over to help.

Askewell’s brow twitched.

“If that’s all the help you’ve rallied, then—”

Rudel smiled.

“No, that’s not all. That’s not all, prince of the empire!”

In addition to the wild dragons, gray dragons with dragoons on their backs entered the stage. Even the dragoons had arrived.

Aleist looked at the ground.

“There are allies below as well…even father.”

Starting with Aleist’s home, the Hardie house, the armies of various regions were gathering.

Rudel urged Askewell to surrender.

“… It’s over. The fact our allies have arrived means we have reigned triumphant on the other battlefield. There is no victory for you. Surrender.”

At the point the dragoons came as relief. Rudel could see their victory was secured on the other field. As a matter of fact, that was precisely the case.

However, Askewell wrung out his voice.

“Not yet. It’s not over yet. I’m right here. Victory to the empire… for the empire’s future, I shall hold victory in these hands!”

Rudel turned to Askewell with a slight mutter.

“I see, that’s unfortunate.”

On Sakuya’s roar, Rudel and Aleist lowered their hips. Sakuya and the dark dragon smashed into one another, the shock wave raising a wind around.

With the two closing in the distance, Askewell jumped over to Sakuya’s back, making his way towards her riders.

Rudel with his sword and shield.

Aleist readied his twin blades, and on Sakuya’s back, their weapons met.

“— I’ll make this the end.”

As Rudel said so, Askewell grit his teeth.

“I’ll be the one ending it. This bad joke of a destiny—and my fate with you two!”

Posted in Dragoon | Tagged | 27 Comments

Dragoon 162: Sword and Magic

 

 

Eunius straddled his horse, commanding the private army he brought with him to face off with the army of General Bahn.

On this chaotic battlefield, both sides had their command in relative order. Albeit, only relative to the rest. The reason they couldn’t pay undo mind to keeping formation lay in the black giant nearby—the gora recklessly thrashing around.

Eunius took a glance in its direction.

“I’d like to end this while Aleist is keeping it busy; then I can go help him out.”

Even if the sky was beyond him, he could help as long as it was on land. But regardless of what wanted to do, the matter wouldn’t be settled so easily.

Bahn Rhoshwas—a general who had worked his way up, a seasoned veteran of the empire, and a strong opponent in land battles. While he didn’t stand out due to the existence of the dragoons, Eunius’ father had held a close fight with him more than a few times.

The dragoons would come out before the victor could be decided, so there was no score to keep. Which side was stronger? Both countries likewise regarded the question as wholly inconsequential.

Yet on a battlefield where they couldn’t borrow the dragoons’ aid, it would hold a large meaning. The quality of troops at Eunius’ home the Diade House was high.

But the opponent was a prominent force of the empire.

Eunius licked his lips.

“Go at it making light of them, and we’ll be devoured.”

He said, pulling his sword as he looked at the faces of his enemy—the faces of elite soldiers.

“Run them down!”

The numbers were even, or perhaps the other side had a slight advantage. The empire had supplemented a majority of their forces with monsters. For that sake, the numbers of humans were lower than expected.

The soldiers Eunius led wrung out their voices, gripped their weapons and collided with enemy forces.

The frontmost soldiers clashed, filling the air with the sounds of clanging metal and shouts.

With both sides accustomed to battle, slight casualties didn’t fluster them in the slightest.

But perhaps the opponent’s side was short on time, they came out with hard offensive measures.

A large-build man on a horse grandly brandished his battle axe, butchering soldiers on Eunius’ side.

Swinging around a large axe that- at a glance- made clear the strength of his arms, he made a straight line towards Eunius.

The official to Eunius’ side cried out.

“Young master! He plans to take you out and pierce straight through our army.”

Eunius gave a small laugh.

“Is he mocking me? Or is he out of time… looks like both!”

Kicking his horse’s stomach, he had his allies ahead of him stand back as he raced towards the unit led by General Bahn.

Upon seeing that, Bahn performed a wide swing with his axe to cut Eunius down; but Eunius caught the blow with his greatsword. The horses both rode had stopped in their tracks, their hooves sinking into the earth

Once a conspicuously large metallic sound had chimed across the battlefield, both enemy and ally had begun taking distance from the two.

General Bahn glared at Eunius.

“Youngling, are you related to Diade?”

Eunius held up his greatsword in one hand, directing its tip towards the general.

“The eldest son. You’re Bahn Rhoshwas, right? I’ve heard about you. Heard there was some bloke my old man couldn’t take out.”

As General Bahn clenched the hilt of his battle axe, it let off a grinding, grating noise. His muscles swelled and raised a sound.

“Oh quit it. You’re just another coward protected by the dragon, I’d usually say. But if your Diade’s brat, that changes things up a bit. You lot are just about the only ones to hold back my army’s charge.”

Each side holding high their weapon of choice, what followed was a simple clash of steel.

Sparks scattered.

“But youngling… now you’re in the way. I’ll send your old man down afterward. Go wait for him in hell.”

Holding his sword horizontally to block the strike from on high, Eunius grit his teeth.

(What weight. This guy really is strong.)

Eunius felt his own horse’s shaking legs and tried to ward the blow aside, yet his attempt had General Bahn forcefully blow him off of his horse.

“Protect the young master!”

The knight who went out front was promptly cut down.

Eunius rolled across the ground before immediately standing and shouting out.

“Don’t get in the way! I’ll take him down.”

Looking down on Eunius from horseback, Bahn scoffed at those words.

“You look halfway competent, but you’ll stand before me with that level of skill? Your head’s in the clouds.”

But Eunius had properly measured out his opponent’s abilities.

“That so? But I got it with that one. I’d love to have fought you in your heyday, old man.”

It was a provocation, that the aged Bahn was lacking.

“… Youngling, I’ll praise your tongue if nothing else!”

General Bahn galloped his horse, lifting his axe, charging at Eunius to slice him in twain. Eunius lowered his hips and watched his movements.

(You’re definitely strong, old man. But you know… I’m even stronger. And I know people far stronger than me!)

As he watched his foe’s movements, Eunius was overcome by a sensation as if time was passing by in slow motion. He concentrated, and matching General Bahn’s motions, he swung his great sword.

The sword was clad in light, and as that light grew stronger, he finished his cut before the general was within sword range.

“You fool. You grew impatien—nngh!!”

General Bahn spat up blood. Holding his mouth, he fell from his horses back; his axe pierced into the ground as he fell to his knees.

A single large wound across his chest.

Eunius’ magic sword has inflicted a blow on him. Seeing that, Bahn siped his mouth, stood, and took a stance with his axe.

“Hey now, I felt quite some resistance.”

While Eunius felt resistance on his blade, it did seem General Bahn was far tougher than he’d anticipated. The general laughed.

“Gahahahah! Youngling, I’ve been fighting from before you were born. Like hell it’d be so easy to off me. But… I’ll admit you’re not all talk.”

While his subordinates gathered around him, Bahn had them step down.

“… No complaints, having you as my last foe. No, guess you wouldn’t want this old man. I’d have loved to have fought you ten. Nay, twenty years earlier.”

Eunius laughed.

“Don’t be stupid. You’d cross axe with rattle?”

The two laughed, their looks gradually shifting to serious as the surrounding air tense up. Around them, ally and enemy fought, yet their minds were taken by the duel.

And the two stepped in and passed by.

It happened in an instant.

A large cut opened up on Eunius’ arm, leaking some blood.

But General Bahn collapsed right on the spot.

The ground flowed with a heavy torrent of red.

“… Youngling. Your name?”

“Eunius. It’s Eunius Diade.”

“I see. A good name. I’ll be waiting in hell. Until our next match…”

When General Bahn used up the last of his strength, the surrounding imperial soldiers lowered their weapons one after the next. Eunius saw that and shouted out.

“Don’t kill those who’ve surrendered. Spread the word… Bahn Rhoshwas has fallen to Eunius Diade! Cease your resistance!”

His subordinate raced over.

“Young master! The sky!”

Looking in the direction he pointed, the gora had vanished, lacing a scene of black smoke rising up onto the sky.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this… Rudel, just end this already.”

 

 

Meanwhile.

Luecke’s army marched in close formation.

Vargas barked from nearby.

“Maintain formation! Don’t disperse under any circumstances!”

Knights toting shields engraved with magic circles stood at predetermined positions hoisting up their shields Upon confirming that, Luecke used his magic.

A pale green flame broke out around, his army, dispersing the lightning that rained down from above. An intense explosive sound rose as the earth was gouged out.

“We’re lucky the ground was damp. Otherwise, the dust cloud would be terrible.”

Vargas cried out at Luecke’s words.

“Not that it matters, young master! Do something about this. At this rate, the magic will keep coming down, and we won’t get any closer.”

The enemy was stationed on a low hill, having prepared a circle there, and was firing off magic from it. That alone wasn’t a problem, but the magic output was way too high.

If they took on a single blow, it would be enough to inflict serious damage unto the entirety of Luecke’s forces.

He managed to elude those attacks, utilizing the shields to cast large-scale spellcrafts.

Luecke toughed his hand to his chin.

“But how curious. With that setup I can make out from a distance, they should have a higher output. That’s what I’ve been preparing for with each defensive measure but… is it not yet complete? Still preparing?”

As one who used magic, he held a genuine curiosity. This was despite Vargas’ pleas.

“You can think about it later, but just do something now. If it gets complete, we’re all in danger!”

Luecke felt somewhat let down.

(If this had nothing to do with Rudel and the others, and our motherland wasn’t in peril, I wouldn’t mind waiting for them to complete it… more so, I should invade after insuring it’s complete to thoroughly investigate their circle. No, there’s no such time… what a waste. If Lena weren’t here, I’d watch a while longer.)

While he looked the type to prioritize his own interest, at the same time, he was also considering his means of attack.

“… Vargas. The enemy is clearly making light of us. Otherwise, they can only launch incomplete attacks because their magic circle isn’t fully prepared. I’d rather it not be number one. That would mean with all that careful preparation, they can only fire magic on this paltry level.”

Vargas leaked a sigh. Even in that instant, lightning rained down from the sky to be blocked by Luecke’s magic.

“You wouldn’t believe how thankful I’d be if they were just putting on a show.”

Luecke ignored him and explained.

“Their strength is either equal to, or slightly greater than our magic formation for a simple shield. In that case, it’s simple. We will maintain this formation and charge towards the enemy.”

Hearing that, Vargas opened his mouth.

“Pardon?”

“Charge, I said. Charge.”

Those around couldn’t conceal their hesitation either. They couldn’t think the heir to the Halbades House actually voiced a word like charge. No, they would indeed charge from time to time.

But that was after they had done something about the opponent, and they wouldn’t charge to force through enemy lines like the Diade House.

“… How do you figure?”

With Vargas acting as a representative of surrounding opinion, Luecke spat a sigh.

“Fool. We need only move while keeping the shield up. If our opponent changes the attribute of their magic, we’ll immediately adapt. You’ve all been trained to do so. Simple, right?”

Vargas’ eyes turned teary.

“I’ve said it before, but you know… aren’t you in the wrong family!? Young master, I thought you were kinda… a bit more apt to using your brain!”

“Vargas… don’t think I’m a muscle head like Rudel and the others. I’m an intellectual. All I’m saying is that this is the optimum means of victory. I’ll admit, it vexes me I can’t win over our foe with magic.”

He chose a charge for victory, there wasn’t any particular impatience in Luecke’s eyes. Knowing he didn’t thoughtlessly choose a reckless assault on his first campaign, Vargas didn’t rebut him anymore.

However…

“Alright, you’ve all got to properly fulfill your own roles. We’ll be swiftly changing formation on the move. Everyone’s coordination will be the key.”

Vargas cried out yet again.

“Change formation in transit!? This isn’t any ordinary formation, young master! The spells are reproduced by the positioning of the shield knights, and asking them to—”

Luecke shook his head, placing a hand on Vargas’ shoulder.

“Do it. That is an order, Vargas.”

When he was so kindly informed with a smile, “Yes” was all that was left to say.

And the Halbades House’s moving army spread about a bit from its close-knit formation.

Luecke began his move to the center.

As they would have to make delicate adjustments to their positioning, while Luecke rode a horse, the shield knights had to dismount theirs and go on foot.

The march began once Luecke was in place.

This time, a mountainous load of large fireballs was fired off from the enemy camp. While they were many in numbers, they also had a speed, and it was in a rain of fire that Luecke’s men were to move.

“Change formation. Water.”

Abiding by his orders, the shield knights hastily moved and took their places as a pale blue light enveloped their surroundings.

The flames that collided directly went out. The places on the ground set ablaze by those that missed faded away as soon as they touched against the pale light.

Luecke watched for his foe’s reaction.

(Now then, what’s their verdict on our approach… here it comes. )

The soldiers- presumably guards- on standby took up their weapons, and started on their way towards him. As the imperial soldiers approached, Vargas and the others drew their weapons at the ready.

But the enemy troops were few in numbers.

Luecke grimaced.

“… Decoys.”

While the magic from the enemy camp had stopped for a moment, the problem was that they were preparing for another round.

“Vargas, the shield knights shall prioritize maintaining formation. Everyone else, protect the shield knights.”

Drawing his sabre from its sheath, Luecke began commanding his troops.

Vargas retorted.

“It’s supposed to be the other way around! We were brought up to protect you and our allies!”

Luecke shot back.

“Shut it! Just do it! If you guys misstep, we won’t be able to block enemy fire!”

As soon as he had said that, the enemy camp was at it again.

“Next earth!”

As Luecke ordered the shield knights to change formation, the others provided support. The imperial soldiers were few in numbers, and while they fought desperately, they were taken down one after the next.

(They don’t mind firing on allies, eh. Can’t say I respect that. But it’ll pick up the pace.)

“Here it comes!”

The enemy soldiers outside the formation were swept up into a tornado and blown into the air. Upon seeing that, many soldiers gave up their resistance.

Cast down your weapons and surrender. We are increasing our speed to the enemy camp.

Vargas posed Luecke the question.

“Will the enemy wait for us? Shouldn’t they already by—”

But Luecke firmly declared.

“They’ll be there. They can’t move. They’re too fixated on their magic after all.”

And with those words, the Halbades House army continued its advance.

What they came upon once they were right at the camp were the magicians who had still remained on the site.

In chaos, abandoned by their guard knights and soldiers and left behind.

In the center of the magic circle, a single unhealthy-looking man in a robe raised his voice. His ear perked at the chipped and uncanny voice, Luecke urged on his horse.

“Y-you utter fools! Don’t let those brutes into the circle! Don’t step there! What do you take this artistic magic circle for—”

Luecke looked down on the screaming man—Leor.

“It certainly is a work of art. This deployment, and the sheer beauty of the sigils… I’m sure no ordinary man c ould even imagine it.”

To Luecke’s words, Leur knew he had found a kindred spirit. His expression brightened right up.

“Y-you can tell? I never thought I’d find someone in Courtois who could understand this—”

Luecke’s sabre stuck into Leor’s chest. Witnessing such a scene, the magicians—Leor’s assistants raised screams. Those assistants were quickly apprehended and restrained.

Luecke pulled out his sabre.

“W-why? If you let me live, the secrets of this magic circle could be…”

A portion of the circle was incomplete.

To add to that, there were spots he had erased because the enemy had come.

“You’re right. It really is a pity… but even so, I am a noble, and a knight of Courtois. I have to see beyond the magic. And someday, I’ll unravel the secrets of this circle, just you wait.”

Hearing Luecke’s words filled with confidence, a slight smile crossed Leor’s face.

“That’s impossible. The likes of you… I am a genius…”

Confirming Leor had breathed his last breath, Luecke issued orders to Vargas.

“Vargas, have those with the knowhow accurately copy down the magic circle. The positioning of all the ceremonial equipment as well. Record it all, copy it all, preserve everything important and—”

But before he could finish, Luecke looked at the sky.

In his eyes was a scene of black smoke rising to the sky.

Luecke narrowed his eyes.

“Young master?”

To Vargas’ worried voice, Luecke shook his head.

“Vargas, lead all troops. We’re moving.”

“Are you sure? Isn’t this magic supposed to be amazing?”

Luecke immediately mounted his horse and started off.

“I’ve got something more important to attend to.”

Luecke looked at the sky and muttered.

“Rudel, I can’t really lend a hand if he’s so high up.”

There, Vargas spoke.

“It’d be a whole lot easier if we could attack the sky with this thing.”

Luecke immediately took a look at the circle. It was around sixty percent complete. While a portion had been erased, from what he could see, at the very least, those portions could be reused.

He jumped down from his horse.

“Vargas!”

“Y-yes!?”

“… Well said. Gather up all the shield knights at once. We’re putting this to good use.”

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