One small notice: The author uses a unique language for certain terms. If I don’t forget it, I’ll add them as ruby above the English words. I’m not sure if the previous translations include those as I haven’t explicitly checked, but if there’s some inconsistency in spelling, please feel free to tell me in the comments. Thanks!
When the night was driven away by dawn after the farewell party, a delegation of fifty people with Tigre as chief delegate departed the capital. By the way, it was decided for Titta to come along as Tigre’s personal attendant, and although he wasn’t included in the delegation, Damad was treated as his official attendant.
“Is that alright with you?”
Gerard and others openly frowned at the treatment of Damad, but Gaspal said, “I don’t care,” without showing any signs that he actually minded it.
It wasn’t as though Gaspal didn’t harbor his own sentiments towards Damad as someone who suffered severe injuries in the war against Muozinel. But, he comprehended Tigre’s intention. Moreover, he believed that he had to make up his inability to be useful in the previous war by helping out his friend whom he regarded as a little brother.
“However, won’t it have a bad influence on Lord Tigrevurmud’s reputation if he’s too close to a Muozinel?”
“I can’t believe that something of such a level would worsen Tigre’s…Lord Tigrevurmud’s standing, but even if that were to be the case, it’d be our duty as his deputy delegates to handle it in some way, right?”
It was called a delegation, but most of its members were soldiers. Their duty was to protect the gifts split up across ten two-horse carriages. The few civil officials were Gerard’s subordinates, and had the task to keep the gifts’ numbers and states in check.
In the morning of that day, Regin extended words of farewell to Tigre, Gerard, and Gaspal in the audience hall.
“I’m looking forward to your achievements. It will be a long journey so soon after the war has ended. Please take care of yourself.”
“Your Highness, please be at ease and leave it to us. We will definitely bring back a positive reply from His Majesty Viktor.” Tigre answered, representing all three.
Regin looked at Tigre with eyes that had a faint trace of passion for around three breaths, but she didn’t say anything else. Next she extended words of gratitude towards the three Vanadis around Elen.
“Without your cooperation, our country might not have seen this day. We would like to further maintain a relationship where we can call each other friends, sharing peace and victories.”
“We shall pass on Your Highness’ appreciated message to His Majesty word by word. I have also grown fond of this land. Next time, when visiting this royal palace again, I would like to come as emissary of peace and friendship, wearing something a bit more charming and elegant than a battle attire.” In this group, Elen answered as representative of the three Vanadis.
When Elen’s speech reached its latter half, Mila reflexively broke out into a grin, but immediately pulled herself together after being lightly tapped on the shoulder by Sofy.
Regin had listened to Elen’s words wearing a gentle smile, but just for a very short moment, she stared at Elen’s face with a suspicious look as if she might have felt something like a tinge of discomfort. Only Elen, who was right in front of her, perceived that change. Even if Regin had realized that Elen was hiding it from her surroundings, she didn’t reveal it on her face in the slightest. She immediately expressed her sympathy towards Elen with a smile. The silver-haired Vanadis left the audience hall while feeling a strange uneasiness.
After sending off the delegation, Regin wrapped up the governmental affairs and returned to her office. When she had spent around one koku with a peaceful rest, Prime Minister Badouin showed up with a pile of documents. All of them required Regin’s approval. While receiving the documents from him, Regin directly confronted the cat-faced, old prime minister with the anxiety that had been lurking in her heart for a while now.
“I don’t believe it likely, but Tigre…Lord Tigrevurmud not coming back anymore is impossible, right?”
After Badouin stared at the princess with round eyes like a surprised cat, he showed a smile as if to give her a peace of mind, and slowly shook his head.
“Did you have a bad dream, Your Highness? About something like him not coming back anymore.”
“It’s not like that…”
Regin’s reply was evasive. It was just something you could call a vague feeling.
Unusual considering that it was him, Badouin said with an encouraging tone, “He will definitely come back. In the first place, he’s just going to a friendly nation as emissary and then coming back. I’m sure that King Victor will take his feelings into consideration as well.”
Regin nodded her head, and returned to her governmental duties. What she could do for Tigre now was to steadily restore and stabilize this country.
Several days had passed since the delegation left the Royal Capital Nice. They headed north along the main road, and took rests in towns when the sun went down. As soon as dawn broke, they would leave the towns, and advance on the road again. As they didn’t encounter any bandits either, their journey was proceeding very favorably.
The inns had been arranged by Mashas in advance. Whenever they arrived at a town, the town mayor came out to greet Tigre’s party, and guided them to their inn. Even in the current town, an inn of especially good quality had been entirely booked for the delegation. Outside the inn, people to take care of their horses, people to wash their clothes for the next day, and people to help them with changing their clothes awaited Tigre and company standing in rows.
Tigre was a hero, representing the kingdom, and Elen’s group were important guests of honor. Considering that, it would be fine to even call this a meager reception. When Mashas carried out the arrangements in advance, there were even talks about making them welcome by putting the whole town to their disposal. Since neither Tigre nor Elen wished for that, it was settled with something of this level.
The town Tigre was visiting today was called Dourdan. Located in the south of Lutecia, it was governed by a subordinate of Duke Ganelon in the past. The current mayor had been dispatched by Regin. Such measures had been adopted for almost all towns and cities located in Lutecia, not just Dourdan. Those, who had obeyed Ganellon, were altogether punished or exiled.
Tigre, who had been led to the inn, was doing maintenance on his black bow in his own room. In the cities and towns they had visited so far, he had been dining with the governors and the influential people without any time to calm down at the inns, but in Dourdan this was scheduled to take place tomorrow morning. Hence, Tigre had nothing else he ought to do.
If you were to ask why, it was owed to Gaspal, who was awfully motivated, doing almost everything in place of the youth. The control of the goods, and the finer inspections were single-handedly taken care of by Gerard. Tigre trusted them, and thus left these matters completely in their hands.
For this reason, Tigre could fully devote himself to carefully doing the black bow’s maintenance for the first time in a while. Outside it had become dark as the sun was about to completely sink down beyond the horizon, but this room had a bronze chandelier hanging from the ceiling. As a dozen candles illuminated the room, it was plenty bright in here.
This black bow was a weapon related to Tir Na Fal, the Goddess of Night, Darkness, and Death. Considering that, it was possible to think that it might not require any maintenance. However, Tigre made sure to not miss tending to it whenever it was practicable. It wasn’t only because you could call it an heirloom of the Vorn House, or an old habit. Aside from his feelings towards Tir Na Fal, Tigre felt grateful towards the black bow.
I wonder how many times I’ve been saved by this bow?
Finishing the maintenance, he leaned the bow against the wall near his bed. Then Tigre stretched his body lightly.
──Hmm, I guess I’ll head over to either Elen’s or Titta’s place.
Elen’s room was on the right, next to Tigre’s, and Titta’s on the left. Because the soldiers were watching while they were on the road, he didn’t talk with Elen much. As for Titta, it applied all the more since she had been inside a carriage. Right now the soldiers had gone out into town. The only ones staying in this inn were Mila, Lim, and Sofy besides the three. Since they knew about Tigre’s relationships with Elen and Titta, there would be no problem. Just when Tigre resolved himself to go to Titta’s room first, there was a knock on his door.
“I wonder if I may take up some of your time,” he heard Sofy’s voice asking.
When Tigre gave his affirmation, Sofy entered the room, with Mila in tow.
“What’s wrong for both of you to come here?” Tigre asked.
Sofy smiled at him while making her gently wavy, blond hair sway. Whenever she pulled off such gestures, it had a charm that seemed to fascinate the youth against his better judgment.
“It’s not like we have any business in particular. We just dropped by for a visit.”
Tigre smiled wryly, and offered chairs to the two Vanadis. However, Sofy slipped past Tigre’s side, and sat down on his bed. She hit her hand on the sheet, next to her, as if telling him to sit down there.
As Tigre was bewildered, Mila said, “Isn’t it fine every once in a while?” with a voice that sounded somewhat annoyed.
While unable to grasp their intention, Tigre walked over to his bed, and sat down next to Sofy. Thereupon, Mila sat down on the other side of Tigre, as if to sandwich him in with Sofy.
Becoming restless, Tigre let his eyes wander to the left and right. Sofy wore her usual, gentle smile. Mila had a slightly sullen expression. Both of them were staring at Tigre. When he was wondering whether he should talk about something, Sofy spoke up first.
“How are things going with Elen and Titta these days?”
Tigre became flustered due to the point-blank question, and his cheeks dyed red.
“H-How, you ask?”
“I’m asking whether things are going well between you. I wonder whether you’re arguing, whether you’re making them sad by carelessly saying things better left unsaid, or whether you make them angry.”
By the way, Sofy had heard from Mashas that Titta had become Tigre’s lover. The old earl didn’t have any intention to spread rumors about their relationship, but he didn’t feel any need to hide it either. And Mila was told by Sofy.
“That is, I think we’re doing fine…”
Tigre’s voice lacked confidence as he replied. Next, Mila tossed a question at him, “Have you come up with some kind of method to marry a Vanadis or something?”
“No, I’m still groping in the dark on that front.” Tigre shook his head.
He believed that the excuse of him having many other things to think about and do wouldn’t cut it. Mila sighed in an unnatural manner.
“Do you possibly have no interest in thinking about it seriously? I wonder, are you waiting for Eleonora to break up with you because she couldn’t stand it?”
As expected, Tigre got angry at her, but he immediately reconsidered. His current situation was such that it was inevitable for a third party to regard it like that.
Just how many days have passed since the day I told Elen for the first time that I would handle it somehow? Summer is already about to come to an end.
Watching Tigre remain silent, Mila put on a disappointed expression. It was no mistake to say that around half of the feelings she harbored within her heart were those of condemning herself.
“You see, this is no more than a legend, but…”
As if it was something trivial, Mila continued to speak. What she brought up was a story about Foumar, a person from the past who held the nickname 『Northern Sea Baron』. Tigre’s expression turned into one of admiration upon hearing the tale of Foumar serving three countries and being awarded land and peerage by each.
Mila said, “For example, if you became a noble of Zhcted through some kind of method…I think even a title like Knight of the Moonlight would work…but if something like that were to be granted to you, I believe it would also open up a possibility for your relationship with Eleonora.”
“I see… I hadn’t really considered that option.”
“Normally you wouldn’t.”
Mila said, but for Tigre it was a useful legend.
I’m trying to do something outside the norm. So I probably tried to believe that it might not suit my personality.
“At any rate, why are you telling me about this, Mila?”
“Because I felt like it,” Mila averted her face. “I was just slightly curious whether Vanadis could marry important people of other countries. I thought that our path could change depending on that.”
The youth consented in his mind. If Tigre and Elen overcame the obstacles standing in the way between the two, it might result in showing a new path to the other Vanadis.
“Thanks. I don’t know whether I will be able to make use of it, but I will try doing my best.”
“──By the way, Tigre.”
Seemingly having assessed that Mila’s talk had reached a stopping point, Sofy called out to him. Tigre turned his head in her direction with a confused expression. The blond Vanadis had drawn so close to him that their clothes were touching each other.
“Sofy… Umm, aren’t you kinda very close?”
“Really?” The Vanadis inclined her head to the side.
Tigre looked back at Mila as if looking for her agreement, but the blue-haired Vanadis had also shortened the distance without him noticing.
“This much shouldn’t be a problem, right? It’s just so that we can talk easier.” Mila said as if holding a monologue while facing away from Tigre so as to not meet his eyes.
Feeling how their body heat was transmitted to him, Tigre felt nervous for no reason.
As he was wavering in his decision whether he should get away from the bed, Sofy bluntly confronted him with a question with an attitude as if if was not worthy of mention, “I wanted to ask you about this for a while now, but why did you turn Titta into your lover?”
Tigre was at a loss how to answer. It was difficult to imagine for him that he would be able to get them to understand by telling them about it. Sofy moved her eyebrows, narrowing her eyes, and brought her body even closer to Tigre. With very natural motions, she twined her arm around his right arm.
“Nope. I won’t let you go until you give me a proper answer.”
While saying so with a tone similar to an adult chiding a child, Sofy showed a bewitching smile, and pressed her abundant chest, which was covered by her silk garment, against his right arm. Her breasts changing their shape under the pressure, her rich cleavage, and her white skin fully jumped into his visual field as her breast’s soft touch was transmitted through his arm. Tigre turned his face towards the other side in a panic.
Over here, Mila was pinching the sleeve of the youth’s clothes, obviously not wanting to separate, while blushing in embarrassment. It seemed as though she didn’t intend to allow Tigre to get away either.
“Tell us, Tigre,” Sofy asked him with a calm voice, “I wonder what are you feeling about Elen?”
“Of course I cherish Elen.” Because these were his feelings without any exaggeration, he could openly answer without any delays. However, he still hadn’t answered the previous question. Making up his resolve to be scorned and looked down upon, Tigre continued, “But, I want Titta to also be at my side. Not as a maid as she had been so far. I’m aware that it’s not integer, but…”
When he had said it up to this point, a chuckle slipped out of Sofy’s mouth.
“We don’t have any intention to blame you for it. It isn’t rare for landed nobility to possess concubines. However, right now you’re treating Elen and Titta as concubines, aren’t you? Is that because there’s someone you want to take as a wife?”
“No, that’s not it.”
Finally grasping the aim behind her questions, Tigre felt relieved. He was still bothered by her face being close and her breast being pressed against his arm, but after calming down, he was able to give her the answer she desired.
“It’s just that the shape of our relationships haven’t been decided yet. And there’s also the reason that we can’t even make it public.”
“The shape of your relationships hasn’t been decided, eh…?”
It was Mila who snorted while looking bored. Just when Tigre was about to explain it to her, the door to the hallway was suddenly thrown open, and a single girl entered the room. She was holding a bottle in her hand.
“Tigre, I got my hands on a good apple cider. Let’s dri──”
It was Elen. The moment she took one step into the room, her movements froze. Interrupting her words, she glared at Tigre and the two Vanadis.
“Aren’t you two awfully close to him? I don’t believe that it’s that cold yet.”
Her voice was flat, containing no emotions. Tigre was about to speak up in order to appease his lover’s anger, but Mila provoked Elen before he could.
“Do you have any qualifications to raise any complaints as a concubine?”
With Elen becoming her opponent, Mila had apparently regained her usual spunk to some extent. She took her eyes off the silver-haired Vanadis, grabbed Tigre’s arm, and grinned with an innocent look.
“Tigre, if I told you to make me your concubine, would you?”
This declaration not only surprised Tigre, but even Sofy and Elen. The youth intently stared at Mila with his cheeks dyeing red. Sofy watched the course of events with her beryl eyes sparkling with curiosity and anticipation. And Elen was gazing at Mila while holding the bottle in both hands.
However, what the blue-haired Vanadis did next was completely outside the expectations of the other three. She let go of Tigre’s arm, stood up from the bed, and whirled around, facing the youth. While showing a mean smile, she extended her index finger, and lightly poked Tigre’s nose who was in a daze.
“I’m obviously joking, you know?”
For Tigre this was the most he could muster as an answer. Mila pulled her finger back, put on a serious expression, and folded her arms. Her blue eyes that reminded one of a frozen lake zoomed in on Tigre.
“Be careful, Tigre. Once they learn that you possess several concubines, people, who believe that their family members would also qualify as an option, will definitely pop out from the bushes. It’s dangerous if you don’t make your standpoint clear in advance.”
Tigre nodded with a serious expression. It meant that a new trick would be added to the frequent approaches of having women serve him as maids, and requests for marriage meetings.
“Thanks. I will make sure to keep it in mind.”
“I see. I’m going back to my own room then.”
As if having finished her business here, Mila turned her back on Tigre, and left the room without looking back or gazing in Elen’s direction. Watching the door closing while nestling close to Tigre, Sofy sighed gently. Mila had forcibly closed the topic by using a joke as distraction. At the same time it also meant that this topic was over with for Sofy, who had decided to yield the first move to the blue-haired Vanadis.
──Well, I guess I’ll leave it at this much for now. There will be other opportunities.
However, Sofy decided to also pull a little prank at the very end.
Being addressed by Sofy, Tigre looked in her direction without being on guard in particular. And then stared in surprise. The blond Vanadis had bent herself forward while still having her arm twined around Tigre’s right arm. Sofy’s face with its eyes shut approached right in front of him, her glossy lips being so close that he could even perceive her faint breathing. Her sweet scent tickled his nose.
If he were to move his head even the slightest bit forward, the youth’s lips would likely be able to steal hers. Tigre mustered all his strength, resisting the impulse.
Sofy moved. Her lips lightly pecked the tip of Tigre’s nose. In the instant Tigre looked bewildered, Sofy separated from him with very fluid motions. Flashing a smile like a child who succeeded in mischief, she asked, “Did it startle you?”
“I thought that my heart might stop beating…” Tigre replied while feeling relieved.
Once he pressed his hand on his left chest for some reason, his heart was racing. He realized that his entire body, and his face were hot all over.
“In that case, I wonder, is it fine for me to interpret this as still having a chance as well?” Sofy laughed with plenty of charm while placing a finger on her lips.
“Sofy, cut it out!”
Elen, who walked over with long strides, sat down on the spot where Mila had sat before. Sofy warded off her glare, tinged with wrath, with a smile.
“Elen, can you give me some of that wine as well?”
“Sure, if you tell me the full account of what you and Ludmila have been doing in here.” Elen answered with a sour look, and entwined her arm around the youth’s left.
Answering, “I don’t mind,” Sofy began to talk without hiding anything. While listening to her, Tigre shrugged his shoulders. It wasn’t as if he was unhappy, but it seemed as though him being released would still take some time.
It was a space as if gaplessly blanketed by fragments of darkness – a darkness so thick and stagnating that it spurred on the optical illusion that any attempt to lit a light in here would end in devastating failure, fully swallowed by the surrounding darkness. The air drifting in here was freezing, and dried out like the one at a graveyard that had been abandoned in a distant past.
Three beings were moving within that darkness. Not one of them lamented over the lack of light. After all they, unlike humans, didn’t require light to see.
“──It looks like the 『Bow』 has passed through this place with owners of draconic tools.” A young voice said with a melodious tone. While causing a sound as if chewing on something.
If this place were to be illuminated by light, one might have seen that the voice’s owner was a youth giving one a cheerful impression. He had a medium build, and wore thick clothes with pelts added to the collar and sleeves. An emerald cloth, spilling down to his shoulders, shrouded his short black hair. What he had been gnawing on since a while ago while leaning against a wall was a gold coin.
“It’s going to head to Zhcted along the sea route, huh?” A hoarse voice answered the youth.
The one speaking was a small, old man clad in a black robe that seemed to melt with the darkness. Standing in the middle of the room, he intently peered into a crystal ball with the size of a clenched fist that didn’t project anything but darkness as it rested in his left palm.
“What’s there to worry about? It’d be best to leave it alone.” The quizzical voice of a man reverberated.
If one just listened to his voice, they could think that he was in his forties, but if one were to see his appearance, they might tilt their head in confusion. The man was short, had a small build, and wore a gaudy silken attire with a small hat on top. He didn’t have a single strand of hair on his head. His eyelids were abnormally large whereas his eyes were narrow. In short, an abnormal and alien appearance. The man gazed in a bored manner at his two peers while leaning against the wall opposite of the youth gnawing on the gold coin. A single black lizard was crawling around his feet.
The youth was called Vodyanoy, the old man Drekavac, and the one with the unusual appearance Maximilian Bennusa Ganelon. Neither of them was human. But then again, even if he were told so, Ganelon would doubtlessly deny that. Drekavac and Vodyanoy wished to change this world, and Ganelon had temporarily joined forces with them because his interests aligned with theirs to an extent.
Although, depending on the circumstances, Ganelon intended to give a damn about something like a small coincidence of interests, and the other two knew of Ganelon’s notion. Their relationship was considerably twisted.
The one who answered Ganelon’s remark just now was Drekavac, “No, we’re going to challenge it at this point.”
Swallowing down the gold coin, Vodyanoy asked, “You’re saying we should keep going towards the ritual in one go?”
“No, that’s not it. Although just a bit, this place has become inconvenient. The power of … has unexpectedly increased by a lot.”
The old man in the black robe admitted his miscalculation. A part of his words becoming oddly obscure was owed to him voicing the name of a certain goddess from a distant era. That goddess was a being capable of intervening in the middle of Drekavac’s group holding their important ritual.
“It’ll be a smoke screen,” Drekavac quietly explained his aim. “It’ll give the 『Bow』 and its friends the impression that everything was planned to be done in this place.”
“How cautious of you.” Ganelon commented.
He had also noticed that the goddess’ power had gained in strength, but he didn’t think that it reached the point of them having to switch places. However, Ganelon didn’t try to push his own opinion.
“Assuming we abandon this place, where are we going to have the goddess descend?”
“Our goddess is also being worshiped in Zhcted.”
That was Drekavac’s reply.
“Won’t that turn into a problem? We’ve chosen this place because of the big amount of blood spilled here, didn’t we?”
“We have more than enough blood. It won’t be an issue even if we carry out the remaining process in Zhcted.” Drekavac responded to Vodyanoy’s question with the tone and expression similar to that of a scholar who would perform an experiment he was familiar with.
While casting a sidelong glance at Ganelon, Vodyanoy sighed unnaturally, “Zhcted, huh…? It might have been a bit easier if Granny Baba was with us.”
The demon called Baba Yaga, who used to be Drekavac comrade, had been annihilated after being devoured by Ganelon in Zhcted. Hence, Vodyanoy was teasing Ganelon about that matter. However Ganelon ignored him, and asked Drekavac, “How are we going to move in specific?”
“I’ll go up to the surface. I’d like you two to remain here on standby to watch the situation and give support as necessary.”
“You will?” Vodyanoy leaned himself forward in surprise.
The stagnated air in the room stirred. Ganelon also moved slightly, apparently blindsided by this proposal.
“I’ll rely on you.”
Giving that short answer, Drekavac fell silent at that point. Silence descended upon the room. With each breath, it seemed as though the darkness continued to quietly become denser.
Artishem is the central city of Lutecia, which was formerly governed by Ganelon. It’s a major point unifying Brune’s north with main roads leading away from it in all cardinal directions. However, in the civil war two years ago, Artishem was set on fire by no one other than Ganelon, suffering a blow that could very well be called devastating. Moreover, with Saint-Groel, which was located beneath the city, destroyed, it was visited by the calamity of having its city center cave in.
Afterwards Artishem fell under the direct control of the royal family as Ganelon was considered to to have lost his life. After the royal palace dispatched a governor to Artishem, the city started to walk the path towards restoration.
“So this is Artishem, eh…?”
Tigre, who had entered the city through its gate, gazed at the streets overflowing with liveliness, surprise dyeing his face. Even Elen, who was next to him, had an expression betraying her admiration. Tigre’s memories of Artishem were extremely hazy. That was only understandable, seeing how he had been unconscious most of his time during his stay here, but he knew that it had been razed down by flames, and that he had blown away the city’s center with the power of his black bow.
However, what was now spreading out in front of the youth’s eyes was a city that had partially accomplished its reconstruction, and was aiming to grow beyond a perfect restoration of its previous state. Along the streets, new houses lined up, or stalls filled the remaining gaps. Merchants were loudly praising the various wares in their hands. Many pitiful traces of the past, such as the destroyed sections of the wall, and a temple, which had been left standing after having burned down, were noticeable, but once he looked closer, he could see craftsmen striving to repair the wall, and children using the ruins next to the burned temple as playground.
“They really did well to get back on their feet after something like that.” Elen’s murmur stemmed from her insuppressible feelings of admiration as a lord.
She had witnessed the disastrous state of the city that had been reduced to ashes when she went to rescue Tigre. Her feelings likely originated from only knowing the Artishem she had seen back then.
“Well, it’s a strategic point of our country’s north, after all.” Gaspal, who was serving as deputy delegate, lightly tapped Tigre’s shoulder. “People frequented the city anew after it had recovered its functions. But then again, it looks like it was a thorny path up until that point.”
The people, who had lost their family, friends, and fortunes to the fires, had left silently. Almost none of the original residents were willing to engage in the reconstruction while remaining in the city that had completely burned down.
“Her Highness the Princess and His Excellency the Prime Minister apparently worked very hard to somehow get it done. They hired craftsmen and continued to send them here in great numbers. They also recruited immigrants from the surrounding towns and villages.”
Eventually, the governor of this city showed up together with his subordinate. He was a man in the middle of his thirties with such a bountiful beard that it fully hid his chin, and dull black hair. His name was Isidore, and according to Gaspal, he seemed to be a governor nominated by Badouin. In other words, he possessed suitable abilities.
“You are Earl Tigrevurmud Vorn, right? I have heard rumors of you. And in addition, the Vanadis ladies, as well.”
Tigre and the others returned greetings to Isidore, and inquired about the state of Artishem.
“As you can see, the restoration is proceeding at a good pace. However, I think it will take several more years for it to recover its former splendor as a metropolis.”
Tigre thought that he was a likable man with a level-headed attitude.
Guided by his subordinate, the soldiers of the delegation, and Zhcted’s soldiers headed to the inn first. However, with the atmosphere of the city being different from until now, Gaspal and Rurick remained with Tigre. Tigre asked Isidore to guide them to the city’s center. Elen and the others accompanied Tigre, too. They walked along the streets that had traces of the fire remaining all over.
Isidore stopped in front of a huge hole in the shape of a basin, situated at a place where two main streets were originally supposed to cross. Tigre advanced another ten steps, standing at its edge. He looked down at the hole, which was partly buried by debris, with a stiff expression.
He had heard from Regin that they decided to postpone the reconstruction of this place, but now that he was looking at this vast cave-in, Tigre shuddered with a chill running down his spine. This was something he had created, using the power of the black bow currently resting on his back.
“──If I consider that it had been you who opened up this hole, I kinda feel a mixture of trustworthiness and fright.”
Suddenly standing next to Tigre, Elen grinned as she said this with a tone as if cracking a joke. Tigre felt how the anxiety lurking in his heart melted away while looking at her face. The stiffness of his expression didn’t come undone yet, but he nodded at her with an awkward smile.
“It made me reconsider once again that I should face this power with a good portion of seriousness and caution.”
It’s a terrifying power, but we won’t be able to fight the demons without it. I’ve got no choice but to continue holding my own against it so as to not get swallowed up by the power until the need to rely on it vanishes one day.
Mila and Sofy also walked up to the youth, and stared down.
“Saint-Groel or whatever it was called is beneath this?” Mila asked.
When Tigre nodded silently, Sofy placed a hand on her cheek, and sighed, “With things like this, an investigation will be impossible.”
“Inevitably, huh?” Elen also lamented.
Tigre went away from the hole, returning to the others. At that moment, the youth noticed that all those accompanying them – Titta, Lim, Gaspal, Gerard, and Rurick – were looking at him with faces as if handling a fragile porcelain bowl. The only one with an unchanged attitude was Damad who didn’t have a clue about the circumstances.
While having Isidore guide them to the inn, Tigre talked about various matters with him.
“Are there any records about Duke Ganelon left?”
“Unfortunately, no, ” the governor pulled a long face, shaking his head. “I have been told to look for those records by Her Highness and His Excellency as well, but with Ganelon’s mansion having completely burned down to ashes…”
Ganelon was a man who tried to murder Farlon and Regin. It was only natural for Regin to have the governor look for any clues connected to Ganelon. As for Tigre, he wanted to know about Ganelon’s relation with the demons, but it seemed to be impossible either way.
Soon after, Tigre arrived at the inn.
In the evening of that day, there was a reception for Tigre and his party at Isidore’s mansion. Since he had fortified his defenses without moving from this city during the wars against Sachstein and Muozinel, Isidore particularly enjoyed listening to the war stories. And he looked very disappointed about the prospect of Tigre and the others leaving on the next morning.
Before it would become too late, Tigre’s group took their leave from the governor’s residence, returning to their inn.
Terribly loud roars echoed throughout the city in the night. Tigre immediately woke up, jumped off the bed in a hurry, and tightly grasped the black bow.
For an instant he considered that option, but he immediately rejected it. The sounds resembled thunderbolts, and were yet different. Something a lot more dangerous. Grabbing the quiver which he had placed next to his bed, he walked up to the window, and opened its louver door. During all that time, he could hear the thunderous roars occurring several times in succession.
The silver moon shone high in the night sky with countless stars twinkling as backdrops. Beneath, numerous buildings stood out as pitch-black shadows. The reason for the city to lack illumination was likely owed to the late time, and the restoration still not having finished.
Once again a roar that seemed to make the atmosphere tremble resounded in the far distance. A sound of destruction, which wasn’t inferior to the preceding roar in intensity, followed right after. Neither the roar nor the sound of destruction were limited to a single instance, but instead overlapped into a cacophony.
Tension traveled throughout Tigre’s entire body. These roars sounded familiar to him. He finished changing his clothes in a hurry, and hooked the quiver to his waist belt. Just when he thought that he could hear footsteps running through the corridor in a hurry, someone knocked against his door.
“It’s me, Tigre.”
It was Elen’s voice. Tigre rushed over to the door, and unlocked it. Opening it, he found not only Elen, but also Mila and Sofy standing outside. The three were in their usual battle attires. Most likely having also heard the roars just now, they three had dignified looks, wearing their expressions as Vanadis. All of them were tightly grasping their respective draconic tool.
They nodded at each other, and ran through the pitch dark corridor. When they went down to the first floor, they encountered several shadows. From the voices, it was obvious that it was Lim and Rurick. They had also been woken up by the roars. Not one of them was still half-asleep.
“What happened?” Lim asked as a representative for all those present with her usual, calm voice.
“We’re about to go have a look now. All of you, gather in the back of the building and stay on standby so that you can escape at any time. If you have some leeway, assemble the other guests in the back, too.” Tigre replied.
Elen declared with a confident voice so as to reassure them, “Don’t fret. Not only is Tigre here, but three Vanadis as well.”
There might not exist any other words as reliable as that. Lim answered with a sharp voice, and began to act together with everyone else.
Tigre’s group rushed out on the main street through the inn’s front entrance. Within the darkness it was evident that many people had also come out. Some were carrying lamps, others were shivering as they only wore their night-clothes. What all of them had in common was their confusion and fear due to the roars and sounds of destruction reverberating without break.
“──Oh gentle light, illuminate the dark sky.” Sofy muttered with a solemn voice as she held up her Light Flower.
As soon as silver brilliance was born at the tip of the golden bishop’s staff, it turned into countless light particles and burst open within the darkness. The dazzling light illuminated the inn’s vicinity as brightly as it was during the day. The people, who had been standing still on the street, stirred, and approached the group while walking unsteadily.
“You people, immediately evacuate that way!”
“It’s fine! There’s nothing to fear! Keep walking slowly without panicking!” While shouting loudly, Tigre pointed at the inn they had just left with his black bow.
Elen also brandished Silver Flash, leading the people into the inn while hurling strict instructions at them.
“Once you enter, head to the back. Obey the directions of the people there! Got it!?” Mila also issued instructions at the people while hoisting up Frozen Wave.
All three of them were less than twenty years old, but they were warriors who had traversed many battlefields while leading several thousand soldiers. Their voices carried well even within this situation, and possessed a force compelling the people, who heard them, to obey.
The light created by Sofy might also attract the source of the roars. Before the owner would show up in this place, it was imperative for them to allow the people to escape to a safe place. The golden-haired Vanadis let her eyes wander across the darkness, holding Light Flower at the ready.
“I don’t know who it might be, but now that they’ve started such mischief, we must give them a good scolding.”
Once the evacuation of the people within their field of view had finished for the time being, Elen shouldered Arifar, and asked Tigre, “What do you think? Just who the hell is causing all this?”
“It’s just vaguely, but it wakes a memory in me.” Tigre replied while nocking an arrow on his black bow.
Mila also readied Lavias. “What a coincidence. I feel the same.”
At that moment, a rumbling could be heard from the ground. The vibration reached even the feet of Tigre and the others. A lukewarm wind gently teased their cheeks.
The figure of a huge being blocked the main street which was broad enough to allow two carriages to pass each other with surplus. While dragging its belly across the ground as it moved slowly onwards, the shadow headed straight towards them. The dazzling light, which had been created through Sofy’s draconic art, revealed the true identity of the shadow.
Its physique resembled that of a lizard. However, its big frame very likely measured more than eighty chet (eight meters). Short horns were growing on its head. Its short and stout body was covered by brass-colored scales, with its limbs short, and its claws thick. Its golden eyes glittered in delight over having discovered new prey. Its widely torn-open mouth was smeared with red blood, and things that seemed to be scraps of clothes and chunks of flesh were caught in the arrays of its sharp fangs.
“An earth dragon, huh…?” Tigre’s voice was filled with faint surprise, and instead, an ample amount of anger.
Of course he hadn’t expected that they would be able to save all people in a situation like this. However, the appearance of victims had definitely enraged the youth.
“It being brass-colored is truly appreciated.”
The look of Mila as she stared at the earth dragon was cold as well. In Zhcted, the homeland of the three Vanadis, it was prohibited to kill young dragons or dragons with black scales. She intended to wield her draconic tool, following her heart. It was the same for Elen and Sofy.
Once again, an earthen tremor caused the atmosphere to shake. It came from the opposite direction from where the earth dragon had appeared. Once Tigre and Sofy turned their eyes that way, another dragon was in the process of heading their way.
Its size and physique was similar to that of the earth dragon, but this one had its big frame covered by brown scales with long body hair growing out from the gaps between those scales. Moreover, sparks were blended in the breath escaping its mouth.
“So a fire drake as well.” Sofy muttered with a voice clad in nervousness.
“I’ve got no clue why they appeared in this place, but──” Elen stepped towards the earth dragon in front of her while still shouldering Arifar.
Mila headed towards the fire drake while carrying Lavias. Tigre and Sofy didn’t move from their spots. They planned to assist the two Vanadis from the rear while watching the situation. Elen stopped at a place around a dozen steps away from the earth dragon. Arifar’s blade, which she had raised overhead, was already tinged in a bluish-white radiance while cladding itself in a spiraling wind. As the surrounding night air was completely sucked towards Silver Flash, the visible wind blade instantly gained in thickness.
“──Tear the atmosphere apart!”
Producing a ferocious roaring that wasn’t all that inferior to the dragon’s roars, the cluster of wind was unleashed. Ripping through the atmosphere while gouging out the ground, the storm blade cut the earth dragon, which was in the trajectory of the slash, right in half.
Its scream was drowned out by the wind. Its sturdy scales which didn’t allow iron swords and spears to pass, its frame which was so big that you’d need to look up, its horns, claws, and fangs were shredded into small pieces. Countless chunks of meat, which used to be a dragon, rained down on the ground that had been cleaved open deeply.
At the time when Elen took a breath with her silver hair fluttering in the wind, the battle between Mila and the fire drake came to an end as well.
The Snow Princess of the Frozen Wave had been far bolder than Elen. Without slowing down, she had challenged the drake from the front. The fire drake mercilessly spit its flames at this foolish prey. For the fire drake, which mostly devoured ashes, charcoal, and ores, it was a natural act to burn its prey down to the core with its own flames.
It was merely an instant that it looked as though Mila had been wrapped up by the flames. She broke through the waves of fire while standing with Frozen Wave thrust out straight in front of her. Not a single burn stained her body. Lavias had fully engulfed her body in a thin layer of frost, protecting it from the scorching flames to the end.
At the moment she had gotten close enough to the fire drake, Mila stopped. She rotated her spear, and stabbed its spearhead into the ground. A light tinged with cold air was released from Lavias’ tip, forming a crystalline domain at her feet.
“──Freeze the heavens!”
Even while her yell hadn’t finished, a huge amount of chilly air formed a vortex around the fire drake. The earth was frozen in an instant, and countless ice spears protruded out from it. The ice spears easily penetrated the brown scales, and extended with such a speed that the wounds got frozen even before blood could begin to flow, literally skewering the drake. Once Mila lightly tapped the ground with the spear’s butt end, the ice spears exploded in response. A white, chilly fog fully wrapped up the drake’s corpse. Its dead body heeled over, crumbling down alongside a loud tremor. Fragments of the frozen scales danced in the air while blended with a cloud of dust.
Even after they had slain the two dragons, the two Vanadis didn’t move away. Both stared into the darkness with their draconic tools ready to strike.
“An earth and fire dragon, huh? That’s a combination I remember rather well.” Elen muttered.
It was at the time when she fought against Threnadier’s army during Brune’s civil war. Threnadier’s army had prepared three earth dragons, one fire drake, and moreover a double-headed dragon to face off against the 『Silver Meteor Army』 led by Tigre.
Tigre shifted his eyes, focusing on a building towering on the other side of the main street. It was a commonplace house with a triangle-shaped roof. Neither Tigre nor Sofy failed to notice how the darkness in its background squirmed.
“──Congregate before me, gleaming waves.”
Sofy held up Light Flower. The loops decorating the tip of the bishop’s staff clearly rang. A great number of golden lights spilled out from there, forming into a perfectly round halo in front of her. The golden halo expanded soundlessly, becoming a transparent light wall. It towered over the surroundings so as to protect Sofy and Tigre.
In the next instant, the building, which both had watched, was blown into pieces alongside a thunderous roar bursting one’s eardrums. Countless fragments of rubble and roof poured down after scattering, but being blocked by the wall of light, not one reached Tigre and Sofy.
While gray smoke rose within the darkness, a single dragon slowly showed up. Going by its physique, it seemed to be an earth dragon, but it was one size bigger than the previous two. Its golden eyes fierily shone within the darkness as it looked down on Tigre and Sofy. However, the youth with the dark red hair at the end of the dragon’s line of sight had already nocked an arrow, and powerfully drawn the bowstring to its limit. A blackness as if the arrowhead had been created by erasing darkness – the jet-black vortex at the arrow’s tip depicted a chilly spiral
The bowstring’s sound vibrated through the air. The released arrow flew straight for the earth dragon’s forehead as if homing in on it, and then blew half of its head away. The light vanished from the dragon’s eyes, and it dropped into the ruins with a loud crash.
“You’ve become even stronger than at that time, didn’t you?”
The Vanadis with the pale blond hair looked at Tigre with eyes full of admiration.
The youth shook his head, “It’s because you protected me, Sofy. Thanks to that I could concentrate on shooting my arrow.”
Afterwards, both turned their eyes at the dragon that was defeated moments ago. The smile was wiped off Sofy’s lips, and a faint grief dyed her beryl eyes. For her, who loved dragons, this battle appeared to be unpleasant.
“Is it over with this?” Elen tilted her head to the side.
Even though she strained her ears, she couldn’t hear any roars and rumblings any longer. All that reached her ears were distant screams and noises. This disturbance might have been settled down for the present.
However, the silver-haired Vanadis repealed her own question through her actions. She swiftly looked back, glaring at the earth dragon defeated by Tigre ─ or to be more precise, the darkness around it. Mila likewise turned her eyes, which had a freezing fighting spirit dwell within, in that direction. Both of them sensed someone’s presence over there. Tigre and Sofy also didn’t take their eyes off that place while keeping their weapons ready.
A small figure showed up atop the earth dragon’s corpse. That, which was illuminated through Sofy’s draconic art, had its body wrapped up in a black robe.
The atmosphere had completely changed. Tension traveled down the spines of Tigre and the others. The aura enveloping the black robed person was obviously different from that of a human. A weird pressure weighed down on their whole bodies, making them feel an oppressiveness as if being caught in darkness by just standing off against it.
“Dragons…” The black robed person released a hoarse voice, lifting its face slightly.
The face, which was illuminated by the light, was that of a wrinkled, old man. His small eyes emitted a golden radiance making one remember a dragon. The old man continued with a majestic tone as if reciting a true tale, “Dragons are essentially something like this. Merely a single individual tramples down 10,000 soldiers, destroys a single city, crushes everything and anything beneath its feet, and devours to its heart’s satisfaction. Its scales won’t be penetrated by iron swords, its claws tear up anything, its fangs bite apart everything…”
The old man’s eyes moved, turning into Tigre’s direction.
“Isn’t it said that a human has to use the terrain, make good use of his intelligence, and rely on luck to finally get to see a single ray of hope, if he challenges a dragon, Tigrevurmud Vorn?”
Tigre swallowed his breath. In the past, the youth had encountered a dragon while he was hunting deep in the mountains. This old man appeared to not only know of Tigre’s name, but also of that event.
“Who are you?” Tigre asked in order to shake off his eerie gaze licking across his body rather than expecting a reply.
However, surprisingly the old man gave a response, “My name is Drekavac. I share a little fate with you people.”
Tigre raised an eyebrow at the term fate.
Just like Vodyanoy, Drekavac is the name of a fairy. I’m pretty sure that he’s their comrade, but is that the fate he’s talking about here?
But, Drekavac’s next words were completely unexpected for Tigre and the Vanadis.
“In the past I happened to cooperate with Duke Thenardier. I lent him several dragons that would obediently listen to what humans told them.”
“So you…!” Tigre yelled in reflex.
Elen and Mila also looked up to Drekavac with shock dyeing their faces. This old man was saying that he had been the one who arranged for the earth and wind dragons that attacked Alsace, and the dragons which Elen and Mila fought in the Villecresnes Plains.
Drekavac took his eyes off Tigre, and looked at Elen, Mila, and Sofy in turns.
『Many humans won’t rival a dragon. Just like the residents of this city. However, a dragon won’t rival you people either. ──Vanadis. Immortal battle girls, you have inherited the weapons left behind by the Black Dragon. I shall devour you so that not a single piece of flesh and drop of blood remains.』
Drekavac’s voice was strangely hoarse. The air around him surged, winding into a maelstrom. The corpse of the earth dragon beneath him creaked, unable to bear the pressure. His small body suddenly swelled up with his black robe being torn from within and being blown away after having become a tattered rag. His exposed body was covered by iron-colored scales. Huge forefeet with thick, sharp claws struck the ground. That which was energetically waving around within the dark was likely a tail. His face stretched out to the front like that of a reptile, and countless fangs peeked out from his greatly widened mouth. The gleam in his eyes gained in intensity, and as his forehead cracked apart, a new crimson eye appeared from within the fissure.
Tigre and Sofy intently watched the transformation of Drekavac in shock. Elen and Mila tightly grasped their draconic tools while immediately becoming unable to move.
Within the mere time of three breaths, that which had been an old man changed into a monster possessing such a huge frame that the earth dragon, let alone a human, dwarfed in comparison.
──Torbolan has also owned such a big body that you had to look up, but…
Tigre groaned, unable to speak up. This one was different from the demons he had faced so far. That which glared at Tigre’s group was the very definition of a demonic dragon.
Elen and Mila, who had pulled themselves together at last, tried to move, but an instant faster than they could, a red light gushed out from the crimson eye in the dragon’s forehead. Basked in that light, Tigre experienced a light numbness, and then felt something uncomfortable in his legs in the next moment. All feelings were gone from his legs, making them completely unmovable. Once he looked down, he saw that his legs beneath the knees were steeped in a lifeless, gray color. Even his boots had lost their former colors.
Tigre gasped. He was about to reflexively extend a hand towards his leg, but he reconsidered, and tried to tap them with the tip of his black bow. The response returned was as if he had hit something hard and dry.
──They’ve turned into stones…!?
It wasn’t just Tigre either. Elen, Mila, and Sofy were afflicted by the same phenomenon. Furthermore, the petrification didn’t stop beneath their knees, but instead started to creep upwards. Dread and panic were reflected on the faces of Elen and Mila. Both readied their weapons, trying to forcibly release their draconic arts from where they were standing.
Sofy didn’t lose her composure at all. At the moment she had raised her bishop’s staff, her draconic tool, overhead, she chanted, “──Petals, dance and purify the ground I’m standing on.”
In her hands, Light Flower rotated while cutting through the wind, drawing golden tracks in its wake. A large flower, formed by countless light particles, manifested above her head, and a golden brilliance spilled over from it, just like true petals. The dazzlingly beautiful light kept expanding as the petals successively melted into the ground. And then, at the moment when the light reached the ground beneath Tigre, Elen, and Mila, the abnormality, which had afflicted their legs, quietly vanished.
Tigre’s boots and shins, which had been dyed gray, recovered their former vividness, and the sensation in his legs returned. Sofy’s draconic art had purified the malicious light released from Drekavac’s third eye.
“Sofy, you’re a lifesaver!”
At the same time of yelling, Elen kicked off the ground, jumping. Immediately following, Drekavac’s foreleg slammed down at the place where the silver-haired Vanadis had stood an instant ago. The ground was gouged out, and clods of earth as well as stone fragments were sent flying alongside a shock wave.
“Elen, Mila! I will focus on the enemy’s eye!” Sofy shouted while focusing on Drekavac’s third eye.
Going by Elen’s and Mila’s reactions, she had determined to be the only one possessing a means to oppose that kind of attack.
“Please do, Sofy! Leave this side to us!” Mila yelled back while shortening the distance to the gigantic dragon in the same way as Elen.
Tigre stood next to Sofy, and nocked a new arrow onto the black bow. So as to not get Elen and Mila mixed up in it, he had to avoid shooting the arrow while being charged with 『Power』.
On the other hand, Drekavac didn’t look overly surprised, despite his own ability having been thwarted. Pulling back the foreleg which struck and missed, he breathed in. The wind howled with him only doing that much.
“──Arifar!” Elen, who had been drawing close to Drekavac, loudly called out to Silver Flash in her hand.
It also served as a warning to Mila who was further away from her. Elen hoisted up Silver Flash. A squall blew violently at the center of its blade. At the same time black flames mixed with miasma burst forth from Drekavac’s muzzle. Elen held her ground, scattering the imminent, raging flames with her wind.
The black flames scorched the atmosphere, and charred the soil. Jet-black sparks swirled around in a furious dance, vanishing after falling to the ground.
Sweat ran down along Elen’s cheeks. If those were average flames, Arifar would have been able to easily scatter them. However, these black flames were different. Even while fiercely swaying within the wind caused by Silver Flash, they slowly eroded the wind. That had been transmitted to Elen through Arifar. If she were to lose focus for a little moment, the black flames would mercilessly devour the wind, immediately swallowing up Elen.
A dozen steps away from the spot where Elen was rooted thanks to the black flames, Mila, who had shortened her distance to Drekavac, was in the process of sharply stabbing Frozen Wave’s spearhead into the ground.
“Freeze the heavens!”
A white coldness burst forth around her, and a multitude of ice spears was created and started to ferociously stab away at Drekavac. However, the instant the swarm of ice spears got in contact with his scales, they brittly broke apart, and dispersed, transforming into white fog.
The foreleg of the gigantic dragon demon swooped down on Mila from above while making the wind howl. Even just one of its claws was likely big enough to tear apart the blue-haired Vanadis. Mila immediately readied Lavias, trying to block the blow, but the demon’s foreleg didn’t reach her. The black arrow that came flying from behind her shot up Drekavac’s foreleg, diverting its aim.
Of course that had been Tigre’s arrow. The arrowhead had precisely hit the foreleg’s joint, broken through the scales, and drilled out a deep wound, causing black blood to spill from it.
Mila brandished Frozen Wave sideways alongside a yell of fighting spirit, and fell back. She didn’t have the spare time to thank Tigre. The point of her Frozen Wave scratched the surface of Drekavac’s foreleg, stopping at inflicting a very shallow cut.
“So far as it goes, it means I can wound him as well.” Mila muttered calmly while taking distance from the demon and getting her breathing in order.
Elen came running in her direction after having withstood the black flames. Both drew close enough to hear each other’s words while alertly readying their draconic tools against Drekavac.
“Did you see any chains?” Elen asked curtly without looking at Mila.
Mila answered in the same way, “Nay.”
Elen and Mila knew of the mysterious chains possessing a power to negate draconic arts. Both had experienced those chains for the first time during their battle against Duke Threnadier. Drekavac had previously brought up Threnadier’s name. Going by that fact, they thought that this demon would have such chains coiled somewhere around its huge body.
“Still, the existence or absence of those chains is of no consequence.”
An indomitable fighting spirit dwelt in the blue eyes of the Snow Princess of the Frozen Wave. The silver-haired Vanadis also flashed a daring smile at that in confirmation. There was no doubt that the two girls were facing off against an outrageous monster, but that didn’t mean that the two were the only challengers. Sofy and Tigre were present as well.
Tigre stared at Drekavac while nocking a new arrow onto his bow. He had been surprised that Mila’s draconic art didn’t get through, but seeing that the motivation hadn’t disappeared from her face, he felt relieved.
Drekavac’s crimson eye cast light once again. Tigre shifted his look towards his legs by reflex, but there was no change to his boots or legs at all.
──What is it this time…?
The moment he wondered about that, an intense sleepiness assailed Tigre. His body heeled over with his consciousness about to black out. At once Sofy negated the sleepiness triggered by the gigantic dragon’s powers by using her draconic art.
“Sorry, I was late to notice it.”
Shock and tension were blended into Sofy’s apology. Her delayed response, even if it wouldn’t register as anything but a moment, was owed to Drekavac’s third eye exhibiting a power different from a little while ago.
『I see. In that case…』
Drekavac twisted his huge body. In the next instant, a thunderous roar ripped through the atmosphere, and a house, which had stood right next to the demon albeit just barely as it had already been partially destroyed, was blown to smithereens. Something huge, iron-colored approached Tigre’s group at an abnormal speed while carrying lots of debris with it. It was Drekavac’s tail, something that was visibly capable of striking through a spire that had toppled over. Humans would have their flesh and bones smashed upon impact, most likely being tragically crushed to death.
“──Oh glittering spray, dash ahead of me!”
Sofy raised Light Flower, and light particles were released from her staff’s tip like a torrential rain. It only lasted an instant, but that light blinded Drekavac. Elen grabbed Mila’s arm, and powerfully kicked off the ground, flying up high in the air by borrowing Silver Flash’s power.
At the same time as the Brilliant Princess of the Light Flower unleashed her draconic art, Tigre pushed her down on the ground. In that posture he shot his arrow clad in 『Power』 at the tail. The tail blanketed in iron-colored scales had its trajectory slightly diverted upwards due to the impact it received from Tigre’s arrow. While causing a gust and a buzzing, it passed through empty air at a tremendous speed. Debris and stone fragments poured down on Tigre and Sofy who were laying on the ground while thickly shrouded by a cloud of dust.
Drekavac lowly groaned as he felt no feedback of having crushed humans. In the next instant, a sharp pain assailed the gigantic dragon. Elen, who had escaped into the air, had used the momentum of her fall to slash at his tail, and Mila had fully thrust her spear into the cut produced by Elen.
The gap between his scales had been widely cleaved open with black blood gushing out from there. The two swiftly turned around without following up with further attacks, and took their distance from the gigantic dragon.
“How tough…” Elen cursed while lightly shaking her hand.
Her silver hair was disheveled, and her face was badly smeared with dirt and soot. Mila also had her blue hair stick to her face as it was drenched in sweat.
“Just getting a blade to pass through is already a feat.”
Behind them Tigre got up while being protected by the two. Unlike them who had escaped into the air, his body was screaming in pain since he got hit by a rain of debris, be it head or back. Blood was streaming down from his head, and his clothes were torn all over with his body covered in wounds. While doing his best to get his breathing in order, he extended a hand to Sofy, helping her get up.
“I’m fine thanks to you protecting me.”
Her gently waving blond hair and her silken garment with green as basic tone had become dirty with mud and dust, and blood was oozing out from her shoulders and knees, but Sofy smiled at him in a stout-hearted manner. In reality, the blond-haired Vanadis having only suffered minor injuries was owed to Tigre having covered her with his body.
“Let’s change our approach on how we fight.” Glaring at Drekavac, Tigre called out to the three Vanadis with an antsy voice.
That irritation was turned at himself.
“Should I try guessing your thoughts?” Comprehending what Tigre was planning, Elen smiled happily, “Ludmila and I will draw that guy’s attention. Sofy will suppress his weird powers. And you will bring him down. It’s simple, but that’s about it, right?”
“Keeping it simple is out of consideration towards you, isn’t it? It will be troublesome if we were to fail with a complicated plan because you mess up.” Mila smack talked Elen while readying Frozen Wave. However, she immediately reverted her tone to that of a calm warrior, “I approve. Seeing how our draconic arts won’t get through, we don’t have much of a choice either way.
Tigre’s arrow clad in 『Power』 didn’t get negated like their draconic arts. In the first place, choosing the attack with the highest chance to bring down the enemy was natural for them as warriors.
“Tigre,” Elen looked at her lover’s face from the side, “An opponent who’s immune to draconic arts is certainly annoying, but a Vanadis isn’t just defined by her draconic arts either. I think you should be well aware of that.”
Her worry of him that he could detect as clear undertone, beyond her words, erased the youth’s irritation. Tigre pulled himself together, and returned a firm, “Gotcha.”
He had to force Elen and Mila into stalling for time in a disadvantageous situation, so he couldn’t afford to make the girls worry about him.
“So my task is to deal with that eye, huh?”
“Yes, please. I will protect you to my best abilities.”
Tigre nocked a new arrow on his bow. There were only three arrows left in his quiver. Most of the other arrows had been scattered across the ground when he threw himself down to dodge Drekavac’s tail. Going around to pick them up in this situation, where debris and stone pieces cluttered the ground, would be difficult.
──That’s why he was able to come out all alone while knowing that there would be four of us.
Tigre looked up at Drekavac with a face full of tension. If Sofy hadn’t been here, and Tigre, Elen and Mila had fought this huge dragon by themselves, they would have likely been wiped out at the moment when they got basked in the third eye’s light. Tigre was sure that they would have literally been pulverized without being able to do anything after having turned into stone.
──He should be aware of that as well. There’s no need for him to kill Sofy. It’ll be enough to wear her down so much that she won’t be able to use her draconic arts anymore. I think Drekavac will keep attacking with that aim in mind.
Elen and Mila started to run. Without looking back at Tigre, both headed straight for the demon. Sofy also stared with a resolute gaze at Drekavac’s forehead.
──That’s right. I’ve got to answer everyone’s trust in me!
Tigre spurred on himself, and drew the bowstring. 『Power』 began to gather at the arrow’s tip.
Around the time when Tigre’s group and Drekavac were fighting on the surface, a demon and something, that was neither demon nor human, faced each other in the underground enveloped in darkness.
“What’s the idea?” Vodyanoy asked Ganelon, who was standing directly opposite of him, with a faint smile on his lips.
Ganelon was grasping a magnificently worked broad sword adorned with gold at its hilt and guard. The Sword of Invincibility. The treasured sword, said to have been entrusted to Charles, the founder of Brune, by a spirit serving the gods, alongside Magic Horse Bayard. 1 It had been stored in the royal palace of Brune, but was stolen by Greast, Ganelon’s confidant, and then passed on to Ganelon.
“I think that’s pretty obvious.” Ganelon laughed scornfully.
The sight of a very small man easily lifting a broad sword that any average man would need to hold using two hands was mismatched and extremely eerie.
“It’s not like you really believed that I would cooperate with you guys, did you? It’s simply that now the right moment has arrived.”
A black lizard was crawling around Ganelon’s feet. It was a part of Drekavac’s body. Ganelon and Vodyanoy watched the situation of Drekavac on the surface through that lizard, looking for a chance to assist him. At least that was the plan.
“Going by his state, Drekavac won’t be able to come back anymore, and you bastard will perish in this place.”
Vodyanoy warded off Ganelon’s words by shrugging his shoulders. Contempt and scorn dwelt in his eyes.
“Stop this, Kosch―”
Ganelon thrust out the broad sword before the frog demon could even finish speaking. Vodyanoy had expected that response, and thus kicked off the ground. A scrap of his white cloth with the size of a nail fluttered in the air. The blow unleashed by Ganelon had torn off the edge of Vodyanoy’s attire, but it didn’t graze the demon himself.
Vodyanoy, who shortened the distance to Ganelon in one breath, changed his stance, and sharply kicked at Ganelon. Ganelon blocked the kick with his free left hand, and then tried to crush the demon’s foot alongside the shoes he was wearing. However, what was crushed in his hand was only the shoe.
The air circulated as if a sudden gust was blowing. Vodyanoy jumped backwards, taking distance from Ganelon. He still had a smile clinging to his mouth, but it was blended with a minuscule amount of rage. But then again, feeling irritated by the enemy in front of his eyes applied to Ganelon as well. The hat, which had decorated his head, had disappeared without him noticing, and was now resting on Vodyanoy’s palm.
“You spoiled not just my clothes, but even my shoe…” Vodyanoy sighed while pulverizing Ganelon’s hat in his hand.
Ganelon responded without the slightest change in his expression, “A monster doesn’t need clothes, right?”
“Aren’t you wearing clothes as well, fake human?”
Vodyanoy’s eyes shone golden. Miasma, that reminded one of a violet fog, blew out of his body, fully enveloping him. Within the fog, Vodyanoy’s face widened, turning into something that couldn’t be called human or frog. His mouth tore open to the sides. He grew tall, his shoulder width broadened, and his skin changed its color into a poisonous-looking violet. His arms and legs became so thick that one could vividly feel their strength. Between his fingers grew something similar to webs, beginning with the hair on his head, all body hair was dissolved by the miasma, not leaving a single strand behind.
The miasma dispersed. All that was left was Vodyanoy standing there, wearing a single white cloth with golden embroideries around his body. The heavy pressure and bloodthirst oozing out of his whole body was incomparable to before his transformation. Even a somewhat brave person would likely freeze on the spot, cowering.
Ganelon was about to step forward, trying to shorten the distance, but gave up on that idea.
In the next instant, something that was fired from Vodyanoy’s face broke the ground at Ganelon’s feet with a dreadful speed and sharpness.
It was a tongue. Vodyanoy had shot out his tongue just like certain frogs would extend their tongues to catch their prey. If he had been directly hit by the tongue, even Ganelon might not have come out unscathed.
Ganelon rearranged his posture, shouldering Durandal, “──Is it fine for you to not go help out that shitty Drekavac?”
Even though he was puzzled by that sudden question, Vodyanoy faithfully answered, “Don’t worry, I’ll immediately go after crushing your head.”
“I see. Drekavac is something pitiful as well, isn’t he?”
A red light shone in Ganelon’s eyes. An abnormality occurred at his left hand which was peeking out of his silken clothes’ sleeve. While a white miasma started to be emitted from there, the skin melted, the blood vaporized, and the flesh fell apart, exposing the hand’s bones. That skeletal hand was clad in a yellow phosphorescence.
Vodyanoy narrowed his eyes, obviously vigilant. The frog demon fully knew what that hand was. His brethren’s hand, and power.
“In the end you’re just a fake human after all.”
Ignoring the demon’s words, Ganelon kicked off the ground.
The huge dragon’s roar echoed towards the distant skies where dawn was still but a fleeting dream. Within the darkness, the residents of Artishem had been trembling and shivering in fear over the monster in their city. It was a blessing to them that the monster didn’t try to move from a certain location. Moreover, around now the governor Isidore had started to work on relief while leading the soldiers.
Of course Tigre and the three Vanadis didn’t know anything of those circumstances as they squared off against Drekavac. They didn’t have the spare time to look away when standing in front of this gigantic dragon.
Drekavac spit out black flames. Staring at the flames blended with miasma, which would burn down everything to cinders they touched, Mila readied Frozen Wave.
The chilly air released from the tip of Lavias held back the mad charge of the black flames. However, it only resisted for the time it took to count to two. The miasma-filled flames suddenly gained in force, devoured the cold air, and approached Mila.
The blue-haired Vanadis widened her eyes, but didn’t show any signs of trying to retreat. She believed in the power of Frozen Wave, the heirloom she had inherited from her mother. Knowing that there was nothing to fear even if the black flames were to approach right in front of her eyes.
“That’s right, isn’t it Lavias?”
Because she had used her draconic art twice already, she felt quite the exhaustion weighing down on her. But Mila mustered her remaining strength, and released her third draconic art. A crystal of white coldness was created at her feet, and countless ice spears thrust out from within alongside a storm carrying a freezing essence. Those two scattered the black flames, just to close in on Drekavac’s fiendish jaw in the next breath. But, before the swarm of ice spears could touch Drekavac, they were blown apart into very small pieces altogether. Those fragments turned into a storm of ice, fully enveloping the dragon’s head.
Drekavac shook his head once as if driving away a fly, and erased the ice storm. However, Elen had used that instant to rush at Drekavac.
Her silver hair fluttered with her whole body clad in wind. Elen slashed many times over at the foreleg of Drekavac. The surface of the scales, or maybe pieces of them, were shaved off, and released a dull light after being basked in light as they danced in the air.
Drekavac swiped his foreleg, trying to knock down Elen, but the movements of the silver-haired Vanadis, clad in wind, couldn’t be grasped easily since they were quick and nimble, like those of a bird of prey that had spotted its target.
Each flash was small, but if you were to continue pouring slashes at the same spot over and over again, the scales would get damaged, leading to a crack that would eventually break apart, exposing the flesh beneath. Elen tried to stab Silver Flash into that wound, but on the verge, she reconsidered and kept her attacks to just cutting shallowly. That was her role in this, after all.
If Tigre hadn’t been with them, neither Elen nor Mila would have chosen this way of fighting. Compared to the blows delivered by their foe, the drain of power on their side was clearly more intense. Their trust towards the youth with the dull red hair urged them on, rallied their will, and kept them struggling.
Drekavac swung his foreleg. Elen leaped back widely, dodging the claws. Even just the wind pressure of the passing claws seemed like it would blow her away. Elen raised Silver Flash overhead while putting her stance in order. Its blade was enveloped by a spiraling wind, taking on the shape of an invisible big storm hatchet.
“──Tear the atmosphere apart!”
That blow wasn’t aimed at Drekavac, but the ground. It cleaved open the soil with a thunderous roar, violently blowing up the remains of the destroyed houses alongside lumps of earth.
Drekavac’s left foreleg slipped, sunk into the tear, and got stuck.
“Did you see?” Elen looked up to Drekavac with a triumphant smile.
It seemed as if the demon’s movements had been impeded, but it didn’t harm his composure in the slightest.
『Dragons are different from beasts』
Drekavac powerfully kicked up the foreleg, which had been caught in the smashed ground. The tear spread, was wrenched open, and got blown apart from within. While making a pillar of earth and rubble erupt into the sky, the huge dragon swung down his foreleg.
Elen readied Silver Flash while the dirt rained down on her, and took on his fierce attack. However, unable to withstand the impact, she was blown away, tumbling across the ground after giving off a short scream.
Drekavac didn’t attempt to pursue her. After all there should be other enemies targeting him. Tigre who was empowering his black bow, and the Vanadis of the Light Flower standing at his side. The arrow nocked by Tigre had already amassed plenty of 『Power』. If he were to take it head on, even Drekavac might not be able to escape his destruction.
The gigantic dragon began by casting red light from his third eye. Sofy negated its effect with her draconic art. In the next instant, Drekavac spit out black flames all around. Mila brandished Frozen Wave, creating a wall of coldness that stopped the flames from advancing any further. Black sparks fluttered like small fireflies through empty space, depicting an uncanny, black rainbow.
At this moment Drekavac sensed that something was out of place. Why doesn’t he shoot his arrow? Is it because the 『Power』 isn’t yet strong enough to defeat me? Or, is he deliberately determining a target so as to not miss?
Drekavac had a reason why he couldn’t kill Tigre. Tigre was the 『Bow』. His tail attack back then was unleashed in a way so that it would envelop Tigre, but Drekavac had calculated that Tigre would likely survive it, even if he used his full power.
However, what about now? Isn’t the 『Bow』 standing there all too defenselessly?
After hesitating for the time of half a blink, Drekavac twisted his huge frame, wielding his tail at Tigre and Sofy. A new building was blown away, and fragments of debris and stones were scattered accompanied by a loud crashing sound as Drekavac swung his tail, covered in iron-colored scales, from the right to the left.
Tigre and Sofy remained standing without even showing any intent to dodge. When the tail passed through the space where the two were, their figures disappeared.
Drekavac let his eyes wander left and right. On the left side, seen from him, he discovered Sofy and Tigre at the spot where Elen had collapsed moments ago. Tigre had resolutely readied his bow, and Sofy was next to him, propping herself up with her bishop’s staff.
『A camouflage using light, eh?』
Drekavac saw through it in an instant. They had disappeared by dazzling their whereabouts with light through Sofy’s draconic art. While stealthily moving after using this skill on Tigre and herself, she had pretended that they hadn’t taken a single step from their previous spot by projecting illusions of them. This was only possible because Elen and Mila had drawn Drekavac’s attention by boldly challenging him to a fight.
Moreover, right now enough 『Power』 had accumulated on the arrow, and with Elen’s Arifar pouring its power into the arrow as well, the jet-black arrowhead had become much stronger.
Drekavac still kept his calm, and spit his black flames towards Tigre.
“──Congregate before me, gleaming waves.”
Sofy brandished her golden staff. A wall of light materialized in front of Tigre and her, blocking the black flames.
The arrow left Tigre’s hand. With the bowstring trembling, the arrow soared.
Drekavac was about to dodge the arrow, but he didn’t need to. The arrow shot by Tigre didn’t fly towards the huge dragon demon, but instead missed its aim widely, flying towards empty space.
Drekavac was stumped. It was impossible for Tigre to miss his aim at such a distance, and Drekavac was well aware of that. It caused him to stop moving out of surprise.
It was at this very moment that the arrow, which had appeared to keep flying towards the empty sky, changed its direction and drew an arc.
Drekavac muttered unintentionally after comprehending all of it. Tigre had distorted the arrow’s trajectory through the power it had received from Elen’s Arifar.
The arrow drilled halfway through Drekavac’s nape. The scales, which ought to be sturdy, and chunks of flesh poured down on the ground while scattering vast amounts of black blood. First the third eye, and then the other two eyes lost their brightness. Small flames blended with black blood were vomited out of the jaw with its arrays of sharp fangs, and vanished before they even reached the ground. Drekavac’s huge frame rocked to the right, then to the left. Within his faint consciousness, the huge dragon seemed to do his utmost to not collapse, but as soon as his body tilted to the left after a violent shaking, he completely dropped to the ground. A huge cloud of earth and dust enshrouded the area, accompanied by an earthen tremor.
Drekavac’s four legs and his tail were loosely sprawled to the sides, and it didn’t look like he would be able to raise his body again. Blood continued to spill out from the huge wound, creating a pool of black blood on the ground with such a vigor that it permeated into the underground as well.
Even after the cloud of dust had settled down, Tigre stared at Drekavac with a grave expression, and didn’t try to get close. With an opponent like this he couldn’t afford to discard his wariness. Besides, unlike humans, it wasn’t as though Drekavac’s voice wouldn’t be able to reach them unless they got close to him.
“How many are there of your comrades?”
There was a faint trace of light in Drekavac’s eyes. That seemed to be mere capriciousness of someone whose body was slowly getting seeped in death.
『Would you believe my answer?』
Those words didn’t come out of the huge dragon’s mouth, but resounded as the hoarse voice of an old man in the minds of Tigre and the others. It was quiet and felt dispassionate, but lacked any frailness.
Tigre threw a new question at him, “Is it true that it’s your objective to remake the world?”
『Hasn’t the goddess taught you anything?』
The old man’s voice was tinged with emotions, albeit only faintly. It seemed as though he was amused. It wasn’t that Tigre was provoked by that, but while keeping a serious expression, Tigre replied, “My goddess is really unsparing. She told me to find it out by myself.”
Drekavac didn’t answer right away. It wasn’t clear whether he was pondering about something, or if it was simply owed to him being about to run out of strength.
After a time of around five breaths had passed, the demon muttered with a voice as if he was enjoying himself in some way, 『As expected, then…』
The rest of his words disappeared into darkness. Once the light completely vanished from the dragon’s eyes, his body lost all color in the blink of an eye. Its scales took on a color similar to mud, lost their hold and slid off, crashing against the ground and breaking into small pieces soundlessly. It was as if they had been made out of soil from the very start.
When all scales had fallen out, the flesh began to crumble next. The legs lost their shape, and the tail fell apart into many pieces. One part after the other stopped maintaining its shape, and the whole turned into many piles of earth. The claws and fangs also broke apart, starting with the tips, as if they had been created by kneading flour together. Even the pools of black blood on the ground continued to shrink away as the blood evaporated.
Tigre gazed at this spectacle, appearing to be out of this world, in a daze, unable to say anything. The expressions of Sofy, Elen who stood by lending Sofy’s shoulder, and Mila who walked their way while using her spear as a walking stick, were mostly no different from Tigre’s.
Tigre lifted his face, letting his eyes wander across the vicinity. The corpses of the earth and fire dragons, which Elen, Mila and he had defeated, were still there. Only the remains of Drekavac were about to fade away.
──If I remember correctly, Liza had said something similar, didn’t she?
『Princess of the Thunder Swirl』 Elizavetta Fomina was the only one among the living Vanadis who had witnessed the last moment of a demon. She said that the white ogre demon Torbolan turned into burnt black earth when he died after being defeated by Alexandra Alshavin, also known as Sasha.
“I wonder, is it over with this?” Sofy said in a deliberately cheerful voice.
Elen shrugged while separating from Sofy and standing on her own two feet.
“That’s what I’d like to hope. If the comrades of this demon were close-by, they would have shown up long ago, I think.”
“Still, what was the objective of this attack?” Mila knitted her eyebrows while staring at Drekavac who had turned into a pile of earth.
As the wind blew, the heap of earth crumbled away in front of the four. Tigre and Elen looked at each other.
“Maybe Saint-Groel? If it’s this place they attacked out of all possible options…”
“That would mean they beat us to the punch before we could clear away the debris and investigate those underground tunnels, huh?”
“Is there something down there that would be inconvenient for them?” Sofy looked slightly doubtful.
Tigre replied, “We discussed it a bit at the archive as well, but there was a drawing of Tir Na Fal in a passage leading to Saint-Groel. I don’t think it’s unrelated.”
At that time they could hear the sounds of armors rattling echoing over from within the darkness. Tigre’s group turned their eyes in that direction. However, they immediately lowered their vigilance. The ones walking towards them were Governor Isidore, and a dozen soldiers following him. Some of them held torches with the flames flickering within the darkness.
“Earl Vorn! And the Vanadis ladies as well! I see, you’re safe!”
Isidore, who had confirmed that it was Tigre and the others, hurried over. Still, as one would expect, he swallowed his breath when he saw them being dirty and wounded due to the battle after getting closer.
“Just what happened here…?”
Being timidly asked by Isidore, Tigre’s group informed him of the attack by the dragons, and their demise. Their explanation turned Drekavac into the boss of the dragons. You might say that it wasn’t a wrong way to put it.
Catching sight of three dragon corpses, Isidore was apparently unable to say any more as he was deeply shocked. It was the same for the soldiers accompanying him. For them dragons were only beings appearing in fairy tales.
During the explanation, the group around Lim and Rurick also came out of the inn. Given that the roars and sounds of destruction had ceased, they apparently got curious and ventured out to check the situation. Once Tigre and the three Vanadis heard that the inn’s guest as well Lim’s group were safe and sound, they thanked Lim, Rurick and the other soldiers for their effort.
In the meantime Isidore had apparently recovered from his surprise. He had been silently staring at the dragons’ corpses, but eventually he breathed out deeply, showing that he had come to terms with the facts.
“If you allow me to speak honestly, until just moments ago I had wondered what the heck was going on. Terrifying roars which were unimaginable to originate from beasts, the wall that looked like it had been crushed by something huge, many houses that were smashed into small pieces… I wasn’t sure whether I had wandered into a nightmare.”
By just listening to Isidore, Tigre and the others understood what had happened in this city. Drekavac had three dragons enter the city from outside. Very likely for the sake of magnifying the chaos.
Once Tigre realized the present state, his mind as a ruler started to race. Tigre frankly asked Isidore, who was looking at him with eyes full of admiration, “What’s are the damages? Is there anything we can do to help?”
Isidore furrowed his eyebrows, pondering while staring at the dragons’ corpses.
“Earl Vorn, do you believe that any more dragons will appear tonight?”
“Since we killed their boss, I don’t think so, but…”
Tigre’s response was evasive. If it came to taking on demons, many things were uncertain.
“Can I have you stay and take a rest in this inn then? If new dragons were to appear, we wouldn’t stand any chance against them. At such a time I’d like to request your assistance.”
I guess half of it are his true thoughts, and the other half is likely an indirect recommendation for us to take a break.
Tigre exchanged looks with Elen and the others, and decided to take up Isidore on his offer.
“By the way, why is only this place as bright as daytime?” Isidore looked up to the light in the air, which was brightly illuminating the whole place, with a mystified expression.
Holding her golden staff in both hands, Sofy answered with a smile, “I can use a little spell…magic trick.”
“Magic trick, it is?” Isidore looked back and forth between the light and Sofy in obvious confusion.
While making her blond hair, which had become dirty during the battle, sway, the Brilliant Princess of the Light Flower retorted, “Illuminating all of Artishem is impossible, but if it’s at the level of one plaza, it wouldn’t be a problem. The anxieties and fears of people will be alleviated a bit as long as there’s light, I believe.”
Isidore showed an inkling of hesitation, but that didn’t last for more than a single breath.
“As long as that would be alright with you, Lady Vanadis, I’d like to request it by all means.”
The other party wasn’t a suspicious spell caster, but a Vanadis of Zhcted. Tigre didn’t show any particular signs of interrupting either. That fact cleared away Isidore’s uneasiness, and bolstered his confidence. Isidore immediately led Tigre’s group to a plaza which had fortunately been spared by the dragons. Using her draconic art, Sofy illuminated the plaza as brightly as it was during the day.
“You have my thanks, Lady Vanadis. Well then, let me ask you once more, please take a rest.”
Entrusting the rest to Isidore, who expressed his gratitude while bowing his head deeply, Tigre and the others returned to their inn.
Around the time when Drekavac completely perished on the surface, a conclusion was reached underground as well. Without a change, the room was engulfed in darkness, but the air was thickly seeped with miasma. Cracks ran along the ceiling and walls, which also had quite a few holes of various sizes drilled into them. Debris was littering the floor. The fellow beings that couldn’t be counted as humans had clashed not withholding any of their hostility. One could already describe it as a miracle that the room hadn’t caved in.
Vodyanoy had slumped down on the floor, skewered to the wall by Durandal piercing his bulky chest. His feet were sprawled to the front, and his arms were loosely hanging down, powerlessly. The black blood streaming out of his chest wound didn’t seem like it would stop anytime soon, and kept forming a pool around Vodyanoy. Only his two eyes hadn’t lost their cold gleam as they stared at Ganelon.
“──It looks like Drekavac perished, doesn’t it?” Ganelon laughed scornfully while looking at the unmoving black lizard laying on the floor.
Astonishingly, the flesh was gone from a part of Ganelon’s face, exposing the skull beneath. It wasn’t limited to just his face either. His left hand and right foot had also just their bones remaining. His hair was disheveled, and his clothes were torn at many spots, hindering them from performing their duty. Fatigue dyed the part of his face still covered by flesh.
“You would have ended up in the same way, sooner or later. That means I just prevented the delay of an inevitable outcome.”
Ganelon lifted the corners of his hanging mouth, forming a twisted smile. The small demonoid pushed his palm against the frog demon’s chest.
Vodyanoy mocked his opponent with a hoarse voice, “You sure act as it was a breeze, Koschei. In spite of having been so desperate…”
Wrath dyed Ganelon’s eyes. He stabbed five fingers deep into Vodyanoy’s chest. The frog demon leaked a pained groan, but he didn’t scream.
“My name is Maximilian. Even though my appearance has become this unsightly.”
Vodyanoy smiled dryly at the words of the demonoid who had fully suppressed his rage.
“You thinking that you’re unsightly is owed to your half-assed state. Right now you aren’t even Koschei anymore.”
“…I guess we’ll leave it at that.”
The smile vanished from Ganelon’s face. Vodyanoy quizzically narrowed his eyes due to that change.
“Let me ask you before I devour you bastard. ──What was Drekavac scheming?” The demonoid demanded with a low voice.
It had a timbre accompanied by a coldness and darkness that would make anyone shudder.
“A smoke screen for Tigrevurmud Vorn and the Vanadis… That’s all fine and so on. What bothers me is why he had to play the vanguard.”
If diverting the attention of Tigre’s group to Saint-Groel was the objective, it should have been fine even if Vodyanoy had gone to the surface. Rather, you might even say that Vodyanoy was more suited as he possessed the experience of having fought the current Vanadis’ many times, and also the ability to resurrect after death. And yet Drekavac went out to the surface as if it had been predetermined by fate.
As far as Ganelon knew, Drekavac wasn’t a demon finding his enjoyment in battle. If he found himself in disadvantage, he would quickly retreat, and depending on the circumstances, he had no problem with letting his comrades die. He wasn’t cut out for this duty going by his personality.
“I can’t believe that Drekavac wouldn’t realize that I’d devour you if it was only me and you remaining in this place. I actually thought that he had lured me into it because he set up some kind of trick, but…”
Besides, not once during the battle did Drekavac ask for the help of Ganelon and Vodyanoy. Leaving aside whether Vodyanoy might have had the leeway to respond to such a call, it was still weird if you considered their original plan. In reality, Drekavac perished, and Vodyanoy was also about to perish after being eaten.
Drekavac’s term smoke screen gnawed at Ganelon in a corner of his mind. It was something aimed at Tigre’s group, but was that really all? Wasn’t that also a term aimed at Ganelon?
“──Are you scared?” Scorn flickered up in Vodyanoy’s narrowed eyes. It should cause him a considerable amount of pain to talk because of Durandal, but the frog demon continued croaking as if it was nothing worth of notice, “You’ve been glossing it over with boring prattling, but in short, you’re scared because you don’t know what Drekavac thought, right? If that’s the case, draw in your horns without doing anything, and get lost.”
It was a blatant provocation, but it strongly piqued Ganelon’s fighting spirit. In the first place, Ganelon had challenged Vodyanoy exactly because he was determined to show them that he would overcome any trick they might try to pull off.
Black miasma rose from Vodyanoy’s chest as it was deeply gouged out by Ganelon’s fingers. The demonoid sucked up the faint amount of vitality remaining in the frog demon’s body. Probably because it was impossible for him to move due to Durandal, Vodyanoy didn’t resist. His burly arms and legs continued to dry out rapidly, and he watched how his own fingertips started to crumble away as if they were made out of sand with an unconcerned look.
Ganelon watched Vodyanoy, puzzled. The one who had blocked his ways to move so that he couldn’t resist was Ganelon.
Still, are these demons really that obedient when on the verge of their destruction? I believed that he’d pointlessly insult me to the bitter end, or unleash an attack after spotting an opportunity.
The frog demon’s large body lost its arms and legs after they transformed into ash, quietly dropping to the floor. Suddenly only Vodyanoy’s right eye moved, staring at Ganelon. Immediately following, his head, altogether with the torso, crumbled away.
Ganelon looked down at the ash that used to be Vodyanoy with an emotionless face. After a time of around three or four breaths, Ganelon lifted his face, and pulled Durandal out of the wall. While shouldering it, he turned his back on the pile of ash, and started to walk through the darkness.
“Zhcted next, huh?”
A sigh escaped his lips. Ganelon had been in Zhcted last year in winter, but it only revived memories of him being fed up with the bitter, strong drinks.
“No way around it. It’s for the sake of allowing the goddess to descend.” He persuaded himself.
Of course it wasn’t for the sake of Drekavac and the other demons. Ganelon would have the goddess descend for his very own goals.
“Only when I devour the goddess and absorb her power into this body…”
With a thin smile playing on his lips, Ganelon quietly walked away within the darkness. What he left behind was emptiness.
At dawn the full extent of the damage Artishem had suffered became visible. The wall surrounding the city was almost completely wrecked. The main street was also crooked after being trampled down. Close to 50 buildings had been blown apart by the dragons. The casualties amounted to approximately 300. But then again, there was no doubt that this number would still continue to rise.
Governor Isidore said so with a sad face when he visited Tigre’s inn and made his report. Because he had been pacing around the city all night, continuing to give instructions without rest, his face was ghastly pale. The shock apparently had doubled his fatigue.
“It’s limited to such a low number of casualties because of you all. Allow me to thank you.”
Tigre and the others couldn’t do much more but to bitterly nod at Isidore, who bowed his head deeply while smiling tiredly. Drekavac had attacked this city, targeting them. However, there was no meaning in divulging that fact.
Just like last night, Tigre asked whether there was anything they could do.
Isidore’s answer to that was something like that: “Can I have you depart from this city as scheduled then?”
With the youth surprised, Isidore continued speaking with a serious look while maintaining his smile, “Safely sending off the delegation that stopped over is my duty. If we caused your arrival to be delayed, I wouldn’t be able to apologize to Her Highness the Princess and His Excellency the Prime Minister.”
What he was saying was very reasonable. Not to mention that Tigre’s delegation was currently transporting ten wagons full of gifts.
“Understood. I’m going to write a letter to the capital as well.” Tigre said, thinking that he should inform the royal palace of the situation in as much detail as possible from the viewpoint of a concerned party.
He informed Isidore that he would send a letter to not only Regin and Badouin, but also Mashas. By doing that, Isidore’s honor would be likely preserved without causing Regin to be confused. Moreover, Tigre thought that he might get Mashas, who knew about the demons and Tir Na Fal, to investigate Saint-Groel.
It would likely take quite a bit of time for the rubble in the hole of the city’s center to be fully removed in this situation, but it should still be requested as soon as possible.
Exchanging a firm handshake, Tigre bid farewell from Isidore. Once Tigre tried to give him at least some pep talk, Isidore laughed, allowing for his indomitable will to peek through from within his exhaustion.
“What, I was able to make this city revive once. So I just have to repeat the same.”
Tigre saw off the black-haired governor with a look full of respect.
Several days after leaving Artishem, the delegation arrived at a port city called Dieppe, located at the northern end of the highway, without any particular incidents. From here they would head to Zhcted’s Legnica by ship.
The mayor of Dieppe welcomed Tigre’s group, leading them to the port first. Many ships were anchored at the wharf, which was crowded with several times more passengers than their group had, sailors, and seamen. The mayor said that Tigre’s group would board the two ships anchored at the furthest edge. They had apparently prepared two ships for the sake of allowing all horses and wagons to be loaded as well.
“Once we have loaded everything that needs to get on board, you will be able to depart at any time. What would you like us to do?”
Being asked so by the city’s mayor, Tigre informed him that they’d depart within the day without any hesitation. As soon as the preparations were done, Tigre and the others left Brune.