“I am the true descendant of the illustrious Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor Family…mine own name is Eco Pendragon Aurora…”
Eco immediately tossed <Avalon’s Bracelet> up into the air as soon as she jumped out of the magical ship. After chanting her lengthy full name, she loudly declared,
“I shall bewray mine own true form here!”
Her petite body was instantly enveloped by a dazzling radiance. An enormous amount of magical energy erupted from her body as gale force winds swirled about.
“Hmm. It’s still just as spectacular…”
Silvia stood on the Escavaron’s deck as she gazed down at Eco’s transformation, but just moments later, she became the one who was gazed down upon.
Three mighty angular horns. A silvery pink mane. Bright red eyes which seemed to peer into the abyss of the world. Her enormous body made the Escavaron look like a mere toy. An elegant piece of jewellery hung around her neck. The majestic Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor sat alongside the Escavaron. Perhaps bewildered by the inconsistency between her mind and her body, Eco momentary looked a bit dazed — but she abruptly shifted her gaze to Silvia who stood upon the deck.
Beads of cold sweat dripped down Silvia’s forehead. Without Ash, did Eco really have no way of maintaining her own will?
“Calm down, Eco!”
If an ungoverned Eco went out of control here, not only would the Escavaron be wrecked, the entire Ecbald Autonomous Region could also be destroyed. All of their efforts until now would be in vain. Although avoidance of this outcome was necessary, Eco turned a deaf ear to Silvia as she made a heavy stomp.
Silvia was so frightened that tears welled up in her eyes and her knees trembled unwillingly.
Through her slightly opened mouth, Eco’s densely packed teeth could be seen.
“Eco, no! I can assure you that I don’t taste good at all!”
Silvia slumped to the ground, frightened to the point that she almost wet herself—
However, Eco’s demeanour instantly softened as she extended her right forelimb out. It seemed as though she was beckoning for Silvia to get on.
“Y-You…you were purposely toying with me, weren’t you!?”
Silvia grumbled in anger as she sat on Eco’s forelimb. Eco then lifted her forelimb and carried Silvia to the top of her head. Although the height made Silvia feel a little timid, she eventually found the courage to stand firm. Eco had clearly maintained her consciousness. Silvia no longer had anything to be afraid of. Although sweating profusely, a smile of relief spread across Silvia’s face.
“Let’s go, Eco! Our goal is the Necroplant’s body!”
Along with a thundering roar, Eco’s three horns and the sharp claws on all of her limbs glowed pink. And then, she soared into the night as if slashing the darkness apart—.
At the same time, in The Shrine of Jylhä’s <Inner Sanctuary>.
“Haa, haa, haa, haa…”
Ash spread himself on the ground, panting breathlessly and sweating profusely.
“Haa, haa, hu…”
Lucca also lay beside Ash, similarly exhausted. The way that her sweaty silvery hair clung to her cheeks was somewhat enticing. Both Ash and Lucca’s fatigue had reached its limits. They had hardly slept these past two days as they desperately continued their training. Casting their gaze to the lake, Lancelot and Gawain could also be seen grazing there to rest. Maestros were certainly in a league of their own — their expressions and breathing appeared calm and steady. It seemed as if they still had the stamina to take off into the skies again.
Despite his exhaustion, Ash managed to summon a small ounce of strength. He turned his face to the side and began a conversation with Lucca.
“Was my earlier performance worthy of around eighty points?”
Lucca sat up and gazed at the sky. A faint outline of the trajectory that Ash and Lucca had made was still visible in the sky. It was a twin-winged emblem majestically splayed out across the sky. Ash thought that he’d done a pretty decent job, but—
Contrary to his expectations, Lucca’s scoring standards were rather strict.
Ash dejectedly looked down as if disappointed. Having said that, it was the first time that he had scored seventy points, so it was a definite improvement.
“If I had another month, no, even if I only had another two weeks…”
After voicing his grievances, Ash gazed into Lucca’s eyes.
—It’s fine. I believe that you can do it, Ash.
—You’re right. I also have faith in you, Lucca.
They were able to communicate with each other just by making eye contact. Putting their Dragon Riding Dance performance aside, the mental results were certainly sufficient. After learning about how the other thought, a spontaneous surge of confidence arose between them. Lucca opened a flask and then poured tea into the lid which acted as a teacup.
“Oh, thank you — wait, isn’t this thick black liquid that one?”
“Yes, this is the last cup…<Arlandel’s Spiritual Herbal Tea>.”
“I see, I think it’s best that you drink it yourself, Lucca…”
“No. You’re more exhausted than me, Ash.”
“In that case…”
After drinking half the cup, Ash handed it back over to Lucca.
After staring at the edge of the flask lid for a while, Lucca finally drank its remaining contents. After drinking it, both of Lucca’s ears went bright red and she averted her eyes from him. In the past, Ash might’ve felt confused by such an expression. However, Ash was no longer the same. He immediately realised that Lucca’s mind was filled with thoughts of an indirect kiss. Ash began to feel embarrassed simply because he’d gotten caught up in Lucca’s mood. It was at that moment — a flash of light burst before their eyes, and a shining door emerged out of thin air.
“Whoa! What is that…?”
Ash widened his eyes as Celes peered across from the edge of the door.
“So this is where the two of you are!”
“Celes? Is this door your doing…?”
“Of course not! When I brought Oscar to The Shrine of Jylhä in preparation…the door suddenly appeared by itself!”
“…How did that happen?”
Ash wondered to himself, and Lucca murmured,
“It seems like the time has come. That’s why…the door opened automatically.”
“I see, so that’s how it is.”
“Now is not the time to leisurely nod and ponder! Do you know how critical the situation outside is!?”
Celes’ right eye emitted a fierce glow.
“If you don’t come up with something, the entire Ecbald Forest may get wiped out!”
Upon hearing that, both Ash and Lucca stood blankly on the spot, completely dumbfounded.
Once Eco was in flight, Silvia looked down upon the vast forest that lay below.
“Hmm…what should I say?”
The Necroplant continued to erode the forest as it slowly moved forward. On the other hand, the <Gates> that totalled a number of twelve illuminated a pale light which clearly disclosed their location from the sky above.
“It’s already too late to start destroying the <Gates> one by one. We’ve got no choice but to take down the main body directly.”
While Silvia muttered that to herself, she was suddenly shocked by something that caught her eye. The Shrine of Jylhä was located along the Necroplant’s current path.
“No! We have to stop it from getting close to the shrine!”
Regardless of how powerful Kiira was, she was probably unaware of the fact that Ash and Lucca were currently training in the <Inner Sanctuary>. It had probably become Kiira’s top target of destruction purely because it was a sacred site for the Ecbalds.
—I absolutely can’t allow the Necroplant to get close to The Shrine of Jylhä—!
Silvia knelt down on one knee and gently stroked Eco’s head.
“Eco, do you understand me? First, hit the enemy from the side to change their direction of travel! After that, drive them out of the forest!”
That was the plan that Silvia had come up with. In fact, allowing Eco to use a breath of fire was the most effective way, but the breath of Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor was too powerful. It would not be worthwhile if the forest was transformed into a patch of scorched earth. Eco followed the instructions and glided ahead steadily.
Eco then landed directly beside the Necroplant. Due to her rapid descent from the skies, her enormous body and tail crushed a large area of the forest. Although Silvia felt somewhat heartbroken by this, there was no choice but to seek forgiveness from the Ecbald Tribe for collateral damage of this level.
Eco let loose a tremendous roar as she stood up on her hind legs. As Silvia’s perspective was elevated to a higher degree, she once again had a panoramic view of the vast forest.
As Silvia shouted, Eco’s hind legs forcefully kicked the ground.
A loud noise and earthquake shook the entire forest, as if two large mountains had collided with each other. Eco’s sturdy forelimbs pushed against the trunk of the Necroplant. Her sharp claws pierced into the bark, and thick black sap trickled down like streams of blood. Despite the immense pressure that Eco exerted on it, the Necroplant remained on course, insistent on advancing in the direction of The Shrine of Jylhä.
“Don’t give up!”
Just as Silvia cried out as if in prayer—
“Ha! So even a glorious Dragonar can be at their wit’s end, huh? There is a limit to stupidity though!”
A spiteful taunt came from atop the Necroplant.
“Open your eyes and feast them upon this!”
With a cruel snicker, Kiira snapped her fingers. In response to that signal, the Necroplant stopped moving. After a while, an entanglement of vines slowly descended from above.
Silvia gasped. Like a butterfly caught in a spider’s web — a completely constricted Rebecca was dangled before her eyes.
Silvia yelled as her face turned pale. Rebecca’s entire body was limp, and she gave no response. She had probably fainted and fallen unconscious, or perhaps — a most terrifying thought flashed through Silvia’s mind. Silvia’s fists trembled in disbelief. Her bright red Ark had vanished. Her uniform was in tatters and it looked like torn rags that clung to her skin. Fresh red scars could clearly be seen on her exposed skin.
Eco was probably taken aback by this as well. She seemed to release a regretful, low-pitched growl from the depths of her throat.
“Don’t worry, there’s still breath in her yet. Fufu…”
“Are you using her as a hostage? How despicable!”
“What are you talking about it? Even without any hostages, as long as I have Gawain here with me, I’ll be able to wipe the Ecbald Tribe off the face of this world in a single night.”
“If that’s the case, what’s your intention in capturing her…?”
“It’s plain and simple. I just want to see what expressions humans make in their moment of despair — just like your face right now. It’s gorgeous. Haha!”
“I can’t believe a woman as deplorable as you can exist in this world!”
Silvia clenched her fists as her body quivered.
“Hmph. I didn’t want myself to turn out like this. The Mother Dragon is to blame as the ultimate culprit.”
“…The Mother Dragon’s criteria are indeed strict. If not for a true miracle, I would have dropped out of the selection.”
Indeed, on that fateful day when she was seven years old — Silvia had also participated in the <Orphan Ceremony>. If she had participated alone, there was no doubt that she’d have been eliminated. However, she happened to run into Ash, and that reversed her situation. Lancelot, who was originally meant to be awarded to Ash, ended up residing in Silvia’s body.
“—But, Kiira! Even if you were eliminated, it’s far too unreasonable for you to resent the Mother Dragon!”
“You’re only able to say such self-righteous words because you succeeded in becoming a Breeder! You wouldn’t understand the pain of not being chosen!”
“You are…certainly correct. However, even if my position differs from yours, there’s one thing that I can say with certainty — it’s not the Mother Dragon’s fault that you’ve been reduced to what you are now!”
“…Oh. Then, pray, tell me whose fault it is then?”
“Naturally, it was caused by your own weakness!”
Silvia fearlessly declared.
For the first time, Kiira seemed to waver.
“I was once a weak person myself, so that’s how I can relate. In the past, I always put a wall up around myself to keep others at a distance. But in truth, I was just afraid that other people would see through my weaknesses…”
“…What are you trying to say?”
Just as Kiira interrupted Silvia, something in a bush shone brightly. The light flickered on and off like some kind of signal. Silvia confirmed the source of light in the periphery of her vision without making a move as she continued to stare at Kiira.
“If not for a friend, I’d have spent all of my time and effort on study and dragon training…I wouldn’t be who I am now if I didn’t get to know Ash. At the very least, I can say with confidence that I’m stronger than I was before! And that’s why I can’t help but look down on your weakness, Kiira!”
“Tsk. You’re damn talkative…!”
“To begin with, did you ever consider Lucca’s feelings after you abandoned your hometown? If you truly regarded Lucca as a precious friend, you should’ve offered your blessings to her! But, given how narrow-minded you are…I’m guessing you didn’t even say ‘congratulations’, right?”
Seeing Kiira pause to gasp, Silvia seized the opportunity to continue her assault.
“Even if you couldn’t become a Breeder, there were still so many ways that you could have lived your life as Lucca’s friend, right!? In the end, you’re just frustrated that you lost to Lucca, and became corrupted because you couldn’t bear to face the reality of it — you’re an immature brat!”
While Kiira was still stunned, Silvia jumped up.
“Give me an Ark!”
After Eco roared, a blue light engulfed Silvia’s body. In an instant, Silvia had transformed into a majestic princess knight. With a golden crown on her head, the armour that covered her body was as radiant as the brilliant full moon that hung in the night sky. Although it was only a replica that Eco had constructed, it was common knowledge that it was just as good as the original. Silvia flew through the air, summoning her Ark Weapon.
“Dragonar Gun Arondight — [Royal Halberd]!”
A pale light erupted from the muzzle of the manifested Dragonar Gun. With a flash of light, the vines that entangled Rebecca were instantly torn apart. Rebecca’s body drifted through the air.
As Kiira yelled, the Necroplant tried to recapture Rebecca once more.
“Now, Cú Chulainn!”
As Silvia shouted, Cú Chulainn, who had been waiting in ambush among the forestry lurched forward.
It extended its forelimbs to catch Rebecca, and then flapped its injured wings to fly away. It escaped the onslaught of the Necroplant in the nick of time.
“Excellent, we rescued the President!”
Having returned to Eco’s head, Silvia clenched her fists after watching Cú Chulainn fly towards the Escavaron. Silvia had taken note of an earlier signal that Cú Chulainn was lying in ambush nearby in the forest. The flickers of light in the periphery of Silvia’s vision were none other than Cú Chulainn’s signal. Thanks to that signal, Silvia understood what Cú Chulainn’s intentions were. Given its severe injuries, the best thing that Cú Chulainn could do was a tactical retreat with Rebecca.
“You damn bitch! Did you deliberately say all of that just to make an opening!?”
Contrary to the fury that Kiira displayed, Silvia remained calm.
“That was one of my intentions. I had to cooperate with Cú Chulainn in order to safely rescue the President. However, I didn’t say all of that just to upset you, Kiira. If you can’t even understand that, then you really are just a shallow child.”
“You can’t even find the words to deny it? Very well, it’s our turn to attack! Eco, we have to push the Necroplant out of the forest for sure this time!”
Following Silvia’s order, Eco bared all of fangs as she roared. Magical energy erupted from her entire body, and the surrounding area was filled with a radiant silvery light. Eco charged forward, hitting the Necroplant with everything that she could muster. The violent impact caused the earth to tremor.
Eco then extended her forelimbs and slowly pushed the Necroplant away. The Necroplant’s body finally began shifting to the side.
Just as Kiira prepared to give new orders to the Necroplant—. Silvia pointed to the sky — or more precisely, to the full moon that illuminated the night sky with incredible luminosity.
“Kiira, keep your eyes open and look carefully. The moon is beautiful tonight. I’m sure it’s the perfect stage for those two to show off their skills.”
“…What does that mean?”
Just as Kiira murmured in a low voice — two specks of light with elongated trails flew into the night sky, unleashing a dazzling brilliance. Like rising meteors that went against all common sense, they soared into the sky at an alarming speed.
“It’s time for you to stand in awe now!”
“It can’t be—!”
“That’s right, it’s Ash and Lucca!”
After making that loud declaration, she revealed a triumphant smile. In the centre of the night sky — Ash and Lucca flew at extremely high speed as they gradually traced the outline of a twin-winged emblem.
“That’s impossible! The only Dragon Riding Dance that needs two Dragonars is the ‘Twin-Winged Oratorio’. But, why…?”
“It’s obviously so that the curse of <Galatea> can be lifted! In order to save Oscar, and to save the Chevron Kingdom which can only be protected with Oscar’s help — those two are risking their lives as they resolutely challenge the ‘Twin-Winged Oratorio’!”
“Huh, so that’s what it’s for. Certainly, it might be possible to heal her with the ‘Twin-Winged Oratorio’. But, you’re all deluded! It’s impossible for any race other than the Ecbald Tribe to perform a Dragon Riding Dance!”
“Whether it’s impossible or not, I’ll let you be the judge of that after you see the two of them dance for yourself!”
Echoing Silvia’s enthusiasm, Eco also continued to push forward with all her might. The Necroplant’s body continued to be pushed all the way to the western end of the forest.
“You can do it, Eco! Once we push it to the plains outside the forest, we won’t have to worry about the safety of the Ecbald Tribe anymore, so we can set the Necroplant ablaze!”
After Silvia yelled with an energetic voice, Eco responded in kind with a spirited roar. At that moment—.
Kiira was confused. Dancing the ‘Twin-Winged Oratorio’ with Lucca was the dream that Kiira once had. It was a dream that could never be achieved. Logically speaking, there was no one in this world capable of acting as Lucca’s partner. That was the only consolation that Kiira had. She didn’t want to see anyone else dance the ‘Twin-Winged Oratorio’ with Lucca. She didn’t even want to imagine it. It was something forever impossible — a dream that no one could make come true. Because of that, Kiira treated it as a good memory that she locked deep in her heart. However — as if to forcibly pry open the treasure chest that she kept hidden deep in her heart…the twin-winged emblem gradually took shape in the night sky, stroke by stroke. Even from a distance, it was clear that their flight speed was beyond imagination. No, it wasn’t just their speed that was surprising. The coordination and synchronisation of Ash and Lucca was incredible. Unless the two of them truly understood and deeply trusted one another, it would be impossible for them to match each other so seamlessly. The two of them were firmly united in the depths of their hearts—.
“Tsk. You guys…it seems like any more chatter will be useless.”
Once her anger tipped over its boiling point, her mind gradually regained its calm. Kiira had experienced similar mental states like this in the past.
“…Gawain, show off your flying skills too!”
After Kiira shouted, the entire Necroplant began to act odd. Magical energy gushed out of its body like a raging wave. The Necroplant was clearly affected by Kiira’s emotions.
“This isn’t good! Get away from it!”
Eco obeyed Silvia’s instructions, jumping away to maintain a distance from the Necroplant. A whirlwind of magical energy appeared to surround the Necroplant now. The surrounding trees were snapped in half one after another.
Silvia struggled to stay firmly planted on Eco’s head. If not for the assistance that her Ark provided, she probably would’ve been blown away by the powerful winds.
The earth rumbled as a tremendous boom rung out.
“…The Necroplant is floating? She really plans on having such an enormous mass fly into the air!? Besides, does a plant-based life form…really have a way to fly!?”
As if to defy Silvia’s notion of common sense — the Necroplant slowly floated into the air. The absurdity of it was like watching a city float into the air. A hazy cloud of dust filled the air, obscuring Silvia’s vision. Dirt and rubble fell from the sky, blowing towards Silvia along with the gusty winds.
The harsh conditions made it impossible for Silvia to even keep her eyes open. All she could do was lie on Eco’s head as she endured the strong winds. However, the air pressure only continued to increase, almost breaking through the protection granted by her Ark.
Even despite her enormous body, Eco was unable to resist the force of the winds as she was steadily forced to retreat.
“Hold on, Eco!”
After a while, the wind gradually died down. Silvia looked up in amazement.
“That can’t be…”
The Necroplant was well and truly flying. Its creepy appearance was exposed for all to see under the illumination of moonlight. It was almost as if scenes from the end of the world were being played out before their eyes.
“—My Pal Gawain! Concentrate all of your magical energy on offense!”
The Necroplant began to act erratically as soon as Kiira screamed her new orders. Branches, vines and tree roots entwined with each other intricately, gradually constructing a long and thick cylinder. Silvia’s eyes widened. The Necroplant’s entire shape and appearance had transformed in order to strengthen its offensive ability. It eventually became a floating fortress, with a cannon that could rival even the main gun of a large magical ship. Its new form completely complied with Kiira’s orders, and it poured all of its magical energy into an attack. The muzzle was clearly aimed at a corner of the night sky — where Ash and Lucca were.
“Damn it! She’s totally serious!”
Silvia was in awe as she understood Kiira’s intentions. If such a large calibre magical cannon was to be fired, it would not only hinder their Dragon Riding Dance, but it would also result in collateral damage for Ash and Lucca. Kiira had gone astray in the first place because of her zealous obsession with Lucca. And now, she wanted to mercilessly kill Lucca—
“Eco! We can’t let her have her way no matter what!”
In response to Silvia, Eco ascended from the ground with a flutter of her wings.
Kiira barked as she stood above them on the Necroplant. A countless number of vines rained down from the sky and attacked Eco. In an instant, Eco’s limbs and wings had become entangled.
In addition, a stream of seed pellets struck her in succession. Attacked on both sides by a web of vines and a barrage of seeds, it became increasingly difficult for them to approach the Necroplant. Seizing the moment in which Eco was constrained, the Necroplant’s body began to glow green. It looked like it was accumulating magical energy. Silvia couldn’t help but shudder as she sensed an immense magical reaction.
“I’ll set you free straight away!”
After Silvia raised the [Royal Halberd] up, she used the power of her Ark to soar through the air. She circled around Eco’s body, cutting away at the branches and vines that entangled Eco’s limbs.
“Good, now you can fly—”
Just as Silvia cut the last vine and shouted back to Eco…
A seed pellet landed a direct hit on Silvia’s abdomen.
The powerful impact generated a crack in her Ark, and her body lost its buoyancy — causing her to fall into the ocean of trees.
—Silvia was shot down!
In disbelief, Eco prepared to land so that she could locate and retrieve Silvia.
[Don’t, Eco. Do you want Silvia’s efforts to be in vain? Before the next wave of attacks arrive, you must protect Ash and Lucca from the Necroplant’s magic cannon.]
Navi dissuaded Eco via telepathic communication.
—But, I can’t just abandon her like that…!
[Don’t worry about Silvia. I sensed signs of life from her, and her damaged Ark is also functioning as a life support system.]
[If Silvia was still here and conscious, what do you think she would tell you?]
Despite Navi’s calm tone of voice, her words seemed to stick in Eco’s mind. It seemed as though Eco immediately sobered up as a result.
After shrouding her entire body in magical energy, Eco flew up and made a beeline for the Necroplant which floated above. While doing so, she also dodged left and right to evade the seed projectiles fired at her. Unlike the somewhat unpredictable nature of the vines, the trajectory of these projectiles was quite simple. Even so, the barrage of seeds was a fierce wall that prevented Eco from advancing, and the Necroplant seized this opportunity to widen their distance. Growing increasingly anxious, Eco asked Navi for assistance.
—Navi! What do I have to do to stop her!?
[Well…since it’s already transformed into this, the only way is to shoot through the core.]
—Core? You mean that the Necroplant has a weakness? Besides, how do you know!?
[Oh, don’t forget that I am the Dragweiss. Of course I know about the Mother Dragon’s biological structure.]
—So, if the Mother Dragon’s weakness was her core, then the same goes for the Necroplant?
[Good answer. Since the Necroplant was transformed from the biological tissue of the Mother Dragon as its base, it would inevitably have the same weakness. However, its outer skin is composed of extremely thick tissue, and even you may not be able to penetrate the core…I can’t guarantee it.]
Just as Navi sighed…
“Magical energy has been charged! Take aim at the target!”
Kiira sharply yelled. The Necroplant’s cannon barrel began to move in accordance with those instructions. The cannon slowly fine-tuned its angle and direction as it prepared to bombard Ash and Lucca who were soaring back and forth through the night sky.
—Kuh! It doesn’t look like I’ll be able to stop it! In that case…!
Eco steeled her determination. If there was no way for her to stop the bombardment from happening, then she would just have to act as a sacrificial shield.
—No matter what, I can’t let it disturb Ash and Lucca…!
Eco quickly changed course after giving up on approaching the Necroplant. Even if she did manage to break through the seed barrage and web of vines to approach the Necroplant, it would be difficult for her to stagger the gigantic fortress. In that case, it was more pragmatic for her to act as Ash and Lucca’s shield instead. Eco darted off at full speed and then stopped at the midpoint that stood between the Necroplant and Ash and Lucca.
—Navi! Teach me how to cast the most durable defensive magic shield!
[Understood. I will teach you the sturdiest of all magical barriers, the absolute defence — <Sacred Shield>.]
Navi agreed to Eco’s request without any further words.
Immediately after Kiira’s order, a powerful flash of light erupted through the air, almost whitening the entirety of the night sky. The accumulated magical energy of the fortress-like Necroplant gushed from the muzzle without reservation. The magical energy became an astonishingly thick beam of light which pierced through the sky from bottom to top.
Positioned along the direct path between the Necroplant and Ash, Eco let loose a deafening roar and then deployed a shield in front of her to defend against the magic attack. The emblem of the ultimate shield was one and the same as the family crest of Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor. While the shield exuded a noble lustre reminiscent of a diamond, it endured the magical beam that was fired from the Necroplant.
“Impertinence! Hurry up and blast straight through that obstruction!”
Under Kiira’s orders, the magical cannon’s firepower visibly and significantly increased. Even so, Eco obstinately resisted. She stubbornly remained in the line of fire and showed no intention of retreat from her position. While Eco desperately endured the assault, Ash and Lucca continued their dance in the air. The outline of the pair of wings had already been completed to perfection. They would probably be done once the feather lines were drawn. At some point, the pair of wings drawn by the Dragon Riding Dance just so happened to overlap with Eco’s wings.
Kiira’s eyes widened and she fell silent. In her eyes, it was as if another pair of wings had sprouted from Eco’s back.
—Kuh. What’s going on in the forest!?
Ash’s mind was filled with various doubts as he performed the Dragon Riding Dance. In a corner of his vision, he spotted Eco’s transformed figure as Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor. Amidst the dark forest, Eco’s fur had a silvery glow that revealed her location. Even without Ash there to act as her knight, she had made her own decision to join the battle, and that was a testament to the seriousness of the situation. Moreover, it was obvious that Eco had put herself in the role of a sacrificial shield in order to protect Ash and Lucca’s airspace.
Ash clenched his teeth. Circumstances permitting, he hoped to be by Eco’s side as soon as possible.
Suddenly, the wind rustled his ears as Lancelot and Gawain passed by each other closely in the air.
The distance between them was only a finger’s width at best. If their trajectory deviated even slightly, there was the possibility of a head-on collision. The moment that they passed by Gawain, Ash took notice of one thing — Lucca’s eyes seemed to be telling him something. She felt the same pain as Ash.
—That’s right. I must focus on the Dragon Riding Dance for now…!
Eco and the others had stepped up and fought hard. Even if Ash ditched the Dragon Riding Dance to help them — would they actually feel happy about it? No, it was the exact opposite. Doing so would be tantamount to a betrayal of Eco and the others. Ash cleared his mind and averted his gaze from Eco. He then gave the Dragon Riding Dance his undivided attention. Once they reached the second half, the difficulty of the dance continuously increased. From here on, not a single distraction was allowed. The wind screeched again as Lancelot and Gawain passed by each other in the air. In that fleeting instant, Ash and Lucca’s eyes met. This time, Lucca seemed to respond with a smile.
—Kuh! The shield won’t hold for much longer…! What kind of magic is she using!? This is insane!
Eco had been pushed to the brink of desperation. By following Navi’s guidance, she had successfully deployed the <Sacred Shield>. However, the Necroplant’s attack showed no signs of weakening or pause, in fact, it felt as though it was an endless stream of magic. At some point, Eco had become cornered. The <Sacred Shield> that she had managed to put up would soon be gone.
—Navi, how is this possible!?
[As expected of a monster that has been transformed from the biological tissue of the Mother Dragon, its magical energy is on another level. After all, the Mother Dragon accumulated a tremendous amount of magical energy during her long history…]
Navi’s tone also seemed to convey a slight sense of urgency.
[The situation isn’t good. If this goes on, you won’t be able to protect Ash and Lucca…]
—Argh, enough! If you’re going to say such pointless things, you might as well just shut up! Even if the <Sacred Shield> disappears, I won’t leave this spot!
[Eco, what are you trying to do!?]
—Isn’t it obvious!? I have this uselessly big body! I’ll use my body as a shield!
Eco could clearly imagine the look on Navi’s face as she gasped. She was surely stunned. Eco herself recognised that this was an irrational act. Despite having the body of Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor, it wouldn’t last long against such an astonishingly powerful magical cannon. Even so — this was where she had to hold her ground. She absolutely couldn’t allow Ash and Lucca’s Dragon Riding Dance to be interrupted…! Unexpectedly, Navi didn’t seem to have any intention of dissuading Eco.
[…You’ve gotten stronger, Eco.]
Instead, she gave her blessing like a mother to a child, gently encouraging Eco. And so — the <Sacred Shield> collapsed. The royal crest of Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor family fragmented, shattering into magic crystals that scattered through the air like snowflakes.
And then, a tremendous amount of heat assaulted Eco’s body. Eco hastily outstretched her forelimbs in order to catch the blast of magical energy. The tremendous impact almost caused Eco to fall out of the sky. However, she clenched her teeth and held steady. An incredible burning sensation spread from her palm all the way through her entire forearm.
—It’s so hot! How is it this hot…!?
A sensation of pain that could knock her out at any instant coursed through Eco’s body. Despite the immense torture that she endured, she remained steadfast in holding her position. After all, Ash and Lucca were performing a Dragon Riding Dance behind Eco—. Eco didn’t make a single sound as she simply swallowed all of the groans that the pain might have induced. If she let out a single moan, Ash would immediately hear and understand. As such, Eco couldn’t reveal any single piece of information which could inform Ash of her suffering. Ash’s first and foremost task right now was to complete the Dragon Riding Dance. Therefore, Eco decided to sacrifice herself in order to protect Ash as his Pal!
—Nothing will make me back down—!
Just as Eco roared in her mind as a means of self-reassurance…
The power of the Necroplant’s magical attack suddenly weakened.
Eco felt confused. It stood to reason that the Necroplant’s body should still have a lot of magical energy stored up. Yet, its offensive power gradually declined — eventually, it came to a complete halt. In the next moment, a powerful light obscured all of Eco’s vision. The light gave off an extremely peaceful and warm feeling, much like the gentle spring light that spilled through the crevices of foliage in a forest.
“This place is…?”
Having returned to the form of a human girl, Eco tilted her head in confusion as she found her entire body shrouded by a white light. Here, her sense of direction became ambiguous as she couldn’t tell front from back or left from right, and the soles of her feet also seemed to float in the air.
At that moment, upon hearing a charismatic voice calling her name, Eco turned around and looked back. A graceful woman stood there in silence. She had green hair and emerald eyes. Upon her head were the horns of an adult dragon.
“Are you…the Mother Dragon?”
When Eco asked with hesitation and confusion, the woman nodded.
“You still have a consciousness!”
“No, strictly speaking…I’m already dead. To put it another way…I’m a fragment of the Mother Dragon’s memories, I should say.”
“I don’t understand if it’s that complicated! The thing is, what’s going on…with this current situation?”
Eco turned and looked around.
“Eco, listen to me carefully. My body is under the complete control of Kiira Brava Henriksen’s drug. However, your inner cry has awakened me, albeit temporarily.”
Eco held her breath as she gazed at the Mother Dragon’s face.
“From here on…I’ll use all of my strength to interfere with the Necroplant so that I can create a unique opportunity for you. Please…you must seize the opportunity to extinguish that abominable Necroplant.”
In truth, there were so many things that Eco wanted to say. After all, the person before her was like her mother. However, upon actually meeting each other, the words just didn’t come out…. Seeing the tears that filled Eco’s eyes and her tightly pursed lips, the Mother Dragon suddenly extended her hand. She then gently stroked Eco’s head.
“You’ve suffered a terrible fate…and I have failed to be a competent mother. I’m truly sorry.”
“I don’t want to hear an apology now! Idiot idiot idiot!”
Eco burst into tears. She didn’t actually want to say such mean things. She just wanted to grasp every minute and second that she could spend with her mother. But, as if to dissolve the wish that she hoped for — the distance between Eco and the Mother Dragon instantly widened.
Eco cried out as teardrops scattered from her eyes.
“I want to tell you that you don’t have to apologise to me at all, mum!”
Upon actually meeting each other, Eco found herself speechless. However, there was just one thing that she had to say, because she knew that she would definitely regret it in the future if she didn’t say it out loud now. So, Eco opened her mouth and shouted,
“I’m really happy that I got to be Ash’s Pal! Thank you so much for letting me meet Ash…!”
In that moment — Eco saw the Mother Dragon reveal a brilliant smile reminiscent of a blooming flower bud.
[Eco? Are you okay? Please respond, Eco!”
Navi anxiously uttered a stream of words. As if drawn to her voice, Eco returned to the real world. Her scalded forelimbs immediately ached with severe pain.
—It hurts…I’m back, Navi.
[You’re finally awake, Eco.]
It seemed as though Navi just thought Eco was unconscious.
—I just met my mum.
[…What nonsense are you talking about? Anyway, look at the Necroplant! It suddenly began to deform, and now it’s revealed its core! Why would it reveal the location of its own weakness?]
Eco widened her eyes. Just as Navi said, the Necroplant was still undergoing a transformation. Kiira appeared to be anxiously shouting something, but the Necroplant completely ignored her. Moreover, a longitudinal crack seemed to emerge from its hardened bark, revealing a purple sphere within.
—That’s the core!
Eco suddenly realised that it was the ‘unique opportunity’ which the Mother Dragon had said she would create. There was a limit to how long the Mother Dragon could interfere with the Necroplant’s consciousness. If she missed this opportunity, Eco and the others would no longer have a chance of winning. That was why it was ‘unique’.
—Thank you…I won’t waste the opportunity that you’ve worked so hard to create, mum!
Eco used her remaining strength to glide through the air.
[…Eco? What are you going to do?]
—I’m going to copy what Silvia did when she destroyed the Claíomh Solais! Shooting at zero distance will definitely destroy the core!
Eco used her sharp claws to hold onto the bark of the Necroplant. She then directly faced the core that was larger than her own head.
—Take this! <Sacred Breath>!
Eco converted all of her magical energy into a single breath and unleashed it at the core.
Ash felt as if he had become one with the wind. Although Ash was distracted by the combat situation of Eco and the others, Lucca’s glance had given him a reminder, and before he knew it, he had united with the wind, flying freely through the air. In his present state, it was as if his flight route materialised in front of him. His synchronisation with Lucca was also perfect. They were able to naturally fly at the same speed and make turns at the same time. At the beginning of their special training, Ash had found such basic skills insurmountably difficult, but it was now all a breeze. Before he knew it, an incredible sense of excitement spontaneously swept across Ash’s mind.
—I see, so Lucca feels the same as me?
Ash finally realised. It wasn’t just their flight speed and trajectory that was in perfect harmony. Even their minds were. So — Ash and Lucca initiated a full-speed sprint for the final stroke of their trajectory. With all of their feelings on the line, they traced the final stroke.
“Dragon Riding Dance, Zeroth Dance — ‘Twin-Winged Oratorio’!”
They shouted in unison, having at last completed the two wings.
Waiting in The Shrine of Jylhä, Celes held hopes and prayers close to her heart as she looked up at the night sky. Celes’ prayers were not in vain. The Dragon Riding Dance ‘Twin-Winged Oratorio’ perfectly concluded with a grand declaration.
Celes gazed at the pair of wings painted in the night sky as she exclaimed in admiration. The left and right sides were perfectly symmetrical. Even the fine details of the feathers were exquisitely drawn. It was such a beautiful work of art that she wanted to share it with the entire world.
The pale moon also added a mysterious brilliance to the ‘Twin-Winged Oratorio’. No, the dazzling full moon itself seemed to be part of the portrait of the ‘Twin-Winged Oratorio’. And so, the completed Dragon Riding Dance evoked its magical effect. The wings released a dazzling light, dyeing the entire night sky with a shade of white.
“Kuh! It’s such a blinding light…! As a bearer of Pluto, it feels a bit uncomfortable…”
Celes groaned as she shielded her right eye with one hand. At that moment, something extraordinary occurred. A thick black miasma suddenly erupted from Oscar’s body as she lay on the altar.
“Whoa! What’s happening…is this part of the curse?”
As Celes anxiously entered a defensive stance, the miasma dissipated like smoke under the pure radiance of the light.
And then, a faint moan entered Celes’ ears. Oscar’s fingers faintly twitched.
“Oscar? Hey, Oscar!”
Celes rushed over to the altar and grasped Oscar’s shoulders. Her once cold, stiff and doll-like body had regained its warmth and softness. Moreover, a fiery determination lit up her void-like eyes.
Celes felt so moved that she burst into tears and was about to bury her face in Oscar’s arms—.
However, Oscar suddenly let out a big yawn and said,
“Mmm, that was a good sleep.”
Celes suddenly kicked and sent Oscar hurtling away.
“T-That hurts! What are you throwing a tantrum for!? …Besides, why am I dressed like a girl? No wait, I am a girl, so that’s not really a valid question. I’m a bit speechless! Anyway…where is this? It looks unfamiliar, but…”
In an instant, Celes threw herself into Oscar’s arms.
“Ah…you’re…you’re truly healed! Oscar! Oscar! Oscar!”
Celes cried and bawled like a child.
“It looks like…I’ve made you worry.”
Oscar put away her grin as she gave Celes a sweet, gentle embrace. And then, she raised her eyes to gaze at the glorious twin-winged emblem that was emblazoned across the night sky.
“It feels like…I’ve been dreaming. A very long dream.”
“Indeed. In my dream, even if Ash and the others were injured in battle, they continued fighting nonetheless. It seems…Ash and the others have saved me once again. I’ll have to thank them later.”
“Yes, that’s right. The depth of their kindness is a debt you may never be able to repay…”
“I can’t thank you enough either, Celes. You’ve been by my side the whole time, haven’t you?”
After saying so, Oscar placed her hand on Celes’ head.
“D-Don’t say such embarrassing things out loud!”
Celes’ face instantly reddened.
Having watched everything in silence from the side, Tristan slowly stood up.
“…I also made you worry.”
Oscar couldn’t help but smile as she stroked her Pal’s nose. Tristan purred and seemed glad to enjoy Oscar’s caress. After watching that for a while and immersing herself in the warm atmosphere, Celes wiped the tears from her eyes as she revealed a serious expression.
“Listen to me, Oscar. There’s no time for you to rest right now! Defeat those incompetent princes as soon as possible and seize the throne!”
A fearless smile emerged on Oscar’s face as she took Celes’ hand and stood up.
“Hmph, very well. My body is feeling a bit rusty, so I’ll treat it as a bit of exercise for my muscles—”
“The Resurrection ~A.S.B.1365.12~” is closed.
(All 13 of 13 parts) (12/03/21)
Continues on to Epilogue