Continues on from Chapter 1 – Ash’s Determination and the New Student Council Organisation
Continues on to Chapter 3 – Ash’s Little Sister
The day after the student council’s new organisation was announced.
In a room in the new Apollo House, Ash lay in a light sleep. He was almost awake and his mind was already clear and sober, but he felt that it would be a pity to wake up like this, so he turned his back to the rising rays of sunlight that shot in through the window.
Eco began to bite on Ash’s side whilst still asleep.
Although he said that, Ash was actually filled with simultaneous joy and nostalgia. After all, this was a long-awaited nibble. Nibbling was a characteristic only seen in newborn young dragons, and Eco was probably about to progress from that stage…or so Ash originally thought, but it seemed that she still had this characteristic. However, Ash didn’t have much time to continue enjoying it. Eco’s nibbling grew harder and more intense with each passing second, and it had already exceeded the level of mere ‘nibbling’. Naturally, Ash had already become accustomed to it. As Eco’s jaw gradually increased in strength, he casually rolled over. This caused her sharp teeth to gently part from his flank.
Eco made a displeased grunt as if she was a dragon that had accidentally allowed its prey to escape. Even in a state of deep sleep, she probably still had the feeling of ‘letting prey escape’. Eco then tossed and turned for a while, until she finally ended up resting her head on Ash’s shoulder. She then curled up and began to breathe in a steady, regular pattern. Her adorable appearance made Ash’s heart skip a beat. Up until this point, she had been cute much like a small animal. But it was different now — when she snuggled up close to Ash with an angelic sleeping face, she was undoubtedly a girl. Ash gazed carefully at Eco’s sleeping face. In the latter half of the next month, Eco would celebrate her first birthday. In the process of living together, she had gradually begun to look more and more like a girl.
Finally, Ash’s gaze rested on Eco’s lips.
Her rich, cherry coloured lips exuded a certain lustre. Ash found his eyes glues to her rosebud-like lips. Eco really is cute — such thoughts welled up in his mind.
—I really want to kiss her.
Ash normally suppressed himself with sound reason and logic, but he was unusually excited and uninhibited this morning. He obeyed his instinctual emotions and slowly yet surely approached Eco’s face.
Someone suddenly knocked on his door. Like a child caught in the middle of a prank, Ash instantly shot up.
Because Eco had been resting on Ash’s shoulder, she abruptly fell onto the bedsheets as a result.
The knocking repeated itself. It certainly wasn’t an auditory hallucination. Ash flipped open the cover of the silver pocket watch beside his pillow, noting that it was only eight o’clock. Although it wasn’t considered early, it was still spring break, so it wasn’t a particularly appropriate time for a visitor.
“Who could it be…?”
Ash rubbed his drowsy eyes as he walked over to the door. The locks in the new Apollo House had been upgraded to a two-tier system. Ash unlocked the first one and slowly opened the door.
Ash was taken aback as soon as he caught a glimpse of the person outside through the crack in the doorway.
Indeed, the person who stood leisurely in front of his room door was the <Scarlet Empress>.
“W-Why are you here at this time!? Is there an emergency?”
After heaving a sigh, Rebecca crossed her arms in front of her chest.
“You’re too lax, Ash. It may be spring break, but you’re the president now, so you should be trying your best to do simple things like sleeping early and rising early.”
Ash shrunk back. Upon seeing this, a smile emerged on Rebecca’s face.
“Oh, I didn’t come here to lecture you though. U-Umm…there’s something I have to discuss with you.”
Rebecca’s attitude took a turn as she suddenly appeared shy and her gaze wandered about unsteadily.
“You wanted to discuss something with me, Rebecca-san?”
Ash gazed at Rebecca in surprise. Whilst it was possible for Ash to seek Rebecca out for advice or discussion, the opposite of that was totally unimaginable.
“I’ll be waiting for you in St. Durham Square at eleven o’clock today, and I’d be very grateful if you can come. That’s all I wanted to say…so make sure you come, alright?”
After repeating this confirmation, Rebecca walked off. Ash stood in a daze as a wave of her sweet and refreshing fragrance lingered over him. Rebecca’s request was certainly a surprise, but what was even more concerning was her expression and demeanour. She was practically like a maiden in love who gave off a warm, affectionate vibe. The next instant, a snow-shite hand extended from beside Ash, pinching his cheek hard and pulling it to the side.
At some point unbeknownst to him, Eco had snuck up behind Ash.
“Eho!? Wore walweady awake?”
“Thanks to a certain someone who suddenly bounced up, my neck hurts, you see.”
Eco answered with displeasure as she let go of Ash’s cheek.
“Never mind that. So, you’re going on a date with Rebecca today? You’ve got guts to make secret appointments behind my back, you know?”
A chill ran down Ash’s spine as he faced the glare of her fiery red eyes.
“I-I-It’s not a date! It seems like she wants to discuss something serious with me.”
“Rebecca wants to discuss something with you? That’s rather unusual.”
Eco tilted her head in surprise.
“I also get the feeling that Rebecca-san seems to be acting is somewhat different from usual.”
“Okay…fine, I get it.”
After Eco heaved a deep sigh, she let go of Ash’s cheek.
“It feels like I’m the bad person if I stop you from seeing Rebecca, so I’m letting you go.”
“In return, you have to treat me to a crepe when you come back! Also, if you dare to do anything weird to Rebecca…I’ll trample you!”
Eco sternly commanded before letting out a yawn and returning to bed.
With an endlessly clear blue sky overhead, it was truly excellent weather for a date.
“…Geez, what am I getting excited about!?”
After muttering such words of reprimand to himself, Ash stepped into St. Durham Square. In order to commemorate the completion of the Academy’s reconstruction, street vendors who would not normally be seen had set up stalls everywhere. Among the vendors, there was also a stall that sold the crepes that Eco wanted. The restaurants and shops that faced the square also had gorgeous decorations at their entrances or windows, creating a lively and festive atmosphere. There were clearly a lot more tourists around than usual. Ash marched through the crowd and eventually stood beside the statue of St. Durham. It was a customary meeting point that people used when dating. In any case, Ash felt relieved that he had arrived earlier than Rebecca. About five minutes later, when Ash’s silver pocket watch indicated that it was ten to eleven—.
The sound of something knocking on the cobblestone road caught Ash’s attention. He couldn’t help but look toward the direction of the sound. A beautiful lady walked into the square.
Ash’s eyes widened. The instant that the beautiful woman entered his field of view, time seemed to stand still. Even the colours of the square seemed to change all of a sudden. The citizens and tourists who were present also focused their attention on the sudden visitor. She simply continued to stride forward, and the crowd naturally parted to the left and right for her.
“She…it can’t be……!”
Ash fell silent as he was mesmerised by the movements of the beauty. Her fiery red hair was elegantly tied up with a ribbon and hung over the left side of her chest. Her pure white blouse clearly accentuated the lines of her cleavage. On her lower body was a black miniskirt and knee-high lace-up boots. Ash watched on in fascination as the beauty crossed the square, the heels of her boots clicking with each step. At last, she stood before Ash and stopped.
“Sorry to keep you waiting, Ash.”
As her awe-inspiring voice met his ears, the spring breeze carried a refreshing scent with it.
“Umm……you’re Rebecca-san, right?”
“Ufufu. And who else would I be?”
Her appearance made her seem like a totally different person compared to when she was in her uniform. Although the citizens in the square were all awed by Rebecca’s beauty, none of them seemed to have discovered that she was in fact the former student council president of Ansarivan Dragon Riding Academy.
“It’s because…you feel completely different compared to how you normally are, Rebecca-san…”
“Yet here you are, neatly dressed in your uniform today. It’s currently spring break, so there’s no need to wear your uniform outside the Academy, you know?”
“Oh, there’s no need to apologise. But, Ash? Don’t you have anything to say about my casual dress?”
Rebecca straightened her back and posed like a model. It was as if her standing posture was enveloped in bright red flames, and she even gave off a somewhat sacred aura.
“Y-You’re very beautiful, and it really suits you…!”
If Ash had the talent for poetry, he might’ve been able to give her more intimate compliments, but this was already the best that he could manage with his vocabulary. Fortunately, it seemed at least his sincerity had been conveyed.
“Thank you, Ash.”
Rebecca smiled contently and then began to walk.
“Since it’s a rare opportunity, let’s talk while we eat.”
Ash and Rebecca left St. Durham Square side by side.
—It’s almost like a date…
Everyone who passed by would first take notice of Rebecca’s beauty, and then stare at Ash who walked beside her. Ash began to feel embarrassed by the countless number of gazes that were directed at him. In any case, the current Rebecca seemed completely mismatched with him. However, he gradually began to hear various voices from his surroundings.
“Hey, isn’t that Ash Blake-sama!?”
“It really is! It’s the Nation-Saving Hero Ash Blake-sama!”
“Who is Ash-sama’s companion? Could it possibly be his lover!?”
“I feel as though I’ve seen that beauty somewhere…?”
It seemed even Ash was unaware that both his name and appearance had already become widely known. In particular, Ash sensed a warmth and passion from the eyes of women.
“Fufu. You’ve already become a celebrity.”
Rebecca jokingly said.
“C-Certainly not…I’ve still got a long way to go.”
“This charm is one of your strengths, so just be aware of it in the future. Ash Blake, the young dragon Eco, and Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor Knights have indeed become famous. Especially in the Chevron Kingdom, Avalon’s popularity has risen exponentially.”
“Really!? I always tried to be careful to avoid being in the spotlight…”
“That’s probably something that Oscar — no, Oscaia I did. She publicly declared that she was able to ascend to the throne only because of Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor Knights.”
“I don’t think Oscar meant any harm, but it’s a bit troubling to have too much fame and attention.”
“Going by past examples, trends in the Kingdom will spread to the Knight Country in about a years’ time. In another year, perhaps Avalon will be all the rage here in the Knight Country.”
Rebecca said with a hearty laugh.
“Kuh…by that time, I may no longer be able to walk down a main street like this anymore.”
Upon seeing Ash’s shoulders droop in disappointment, Rebecca revealed a mischievous smile.
“Oh, it should be possible with a bit of a makeover. In fact, it seems no one recognises me as Rebecca Randall. Maybe it’s because I leave too strong an impression when I’m wearing my uniform.”
“I see, a makeover huh. In that case, I should wear glasses like Max to try it out.”
“No no, don’t you have the special move called ‘Ashley’?”
“What!? How did that turn into my special move!?”
For Ash, his experience of cross-dressing was a past that he did not want to look back on.
“Haha, I’m just kidding. Max is probably the only one who would be happy about you cross-dressing. Having said that, no one in the world should recognise that that lovely girl is actually Ash Blake in disguise. From this perspective, don’t you think that cross-dressing is unexpectedly useful?”
“Well, I suppose you’re right about that…”
Ash nodded with an anguished expression just as Rebecca suddenly stopped.
“I think this store is good.”
What stood before them was a building constructed of red bricks. The design of the door was rather ornate, creating an atmosphere that was somewhat intimidating for entry. It seemed like a specialty restaurant of Chevron cuisine.
“Do you like Chevron cuisine, Ash?”
Upon hearing this abrupt question, Ash scratched his head.
“Rather than a question of whether I like it or not, Chevron cuisine seems to have a high-end feel, so…I’ve pretty much never had it.”
“Then, this is a good opportunity. To celebrate Oscaia I’s coronation, this store just so happens to be running a discount promotion.”
Rebecca took Ash by the arm. As soon as he was drawn in, his elbow met with Rebecca’s bosom.
The surprisingly soft sensation caused Ash to subconsciously hold his breath.
“Oh my, why is your face so red?”
Like a little devil, Rebecca mischievously peered at Ash’s face.
“I-It’s nothing! L-Let’s head in then.”
With Rebecca’s touch and a fragrance that was reminiscent of a mature woman, Ash walked through the restaurant’s door.
Since it was just after eleven o’clock, there weren’t many people in the restaurant. The only customers who had arrived earlier than them were an old couple and a pair of young lovers. Even though Ash was unfamiliar with Chevron culture, he could feel the owner’s commitment. Everything in the restaurant from styling to decoration was clearly Chevron-style. Upon a stage at one end of the restaurant was a young performer who played the lyre. Their graceful melody was reminiscent of court music. Perhaps it was a piece of music from the Kingdom. With the waitress’ guidance, Ash and Rebecca sat down at the innermost table. In reading the menu, Ash found that it was indeed a high-end restaurant, but they also had unexpectedly inexpensive meals available. Both Ash and Rebecca ordered a simple set lunch meal. While waiting for their food to be served, Rebecca gazed at Ash with strangely passionate eyes.
“Fufu. This atmosphere makes it feel like a tryst.”
Ash nervously answered. He had been restless and unable to calm down.
“What’s the matter, Ash? You’re not nervous, are you?”
Ash made a stiff smile. He was sitting at a table opposite the <Scarlet Empress> in a restaurant. Moreover, a particularly dolled-up Rebecca rested her chin over her folded arms on the table. As she gazed up slightly at him, the smile on her face even appeared to be one directed towards a lover. It would’ve been odd if he wasn’t nervous. Rebecca chuckled as she said,
“Oh my, those aren’t the words that a hero praised by the Paladin should say, right?”
“It’s because I’m here with you, Rebecca-san.”
After Ash said so in a straightforward manner, Rebecca displayed a rare expression of surprise. Perhaps it was just Ash’s imagination, but it appeared as though her cheeks were slightly flushed.
“…You’ve matured a lot too. I didn’t expect you to say that so lightly.”
Rebecca’s expression was tinged with a hint of reluctance as she averted her gaze from him. In that moment, Rebecca looked so cute that it was difficult to even imagine her usually decisive manner. Just as Ash’s heart pounded restlessly, the waitress finally delivered their meals. Each meal was only served with a small portion in the centre of the plate. For growing young people, it was on the light side, but this was probably a tradition of Chevron cuisine. Moreover, Chevron cuisine seemed to place special emphasis on the presentation of each dish. Every plate was colourfully decorated to give people the sensation that they were admiring an array of gemstones. It almost seemed like a pity to eat it. The two of them put their hands together at the same time and offered a prayer to Saint Rosa Maria.
“Alright, let’s eat.”
Rebecca gracefully picked up a knife and a fork, and Ash followed suit. The first course that Ash chose was sautéed duck breast.
“I’ve heard that duck meat is the most flavourful of all poultry.”
“Really? It’s my first time having duck.”
Ash gulped and then placed a bite-sized piece of meat into his mouth. The instant that he bit down, he was impressed by the crispiness of the skin and tenderness of the meat. At the same time, the sweet and spicy flavours of the sauce and meat juices on the tip of his tongue intertwined for a lively duet that left both his mind and body in awe.
“It’s so good…!”
“Fufu. That’s great.”
Rebecca revealed a mature smile as she seemed to have finally recovered her usual calmness. Ash and Rebecca discussed the dishes that sat before them while they ate. Because the atmosphere between them was so pleasant, Ash momentarily forgot about the focus of today. Rebecca also seemed to avoid the subject. The sweet serenade of the lyre also added to the pleasant atmosphere. Just as their bavarois desserts were brought to the table — Ash braced himself and finally asked,
“Umm, Rebecca-san? When you said that you wanted to discuss something with me, what did you mean…?”
In an instant, as if a spell had been undone, Rebecca’s expression became serious.
“There’s actually something that’s been bothering me. It’s about…my future.”
In that moment, Ash thought to himself, ‘she’s finally going to say it’. Rebecca wasn’t just the former student council president, she also possessed immense strength and ability as an Ark Dragonar. Ash had always been curious about Rebecca’s future pathway. From Ash’s standpoint, he naturally hoped that Rebecca would continue to stay in Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor Knights. But, if Rebecca wanted to use the opportunity of her graduation to take another pathway, then he couldn’t stop her.
“…Do you know about the ‘Maestro Award’?”
Upon hearing this abrupt question, Ash tilted his head.
“Uh…I think I might’ve heard of it, or maybe not…”
“Back when I was in my second year of the Senios course, Paladin Oswald personally presented me with that award. I think it would’ve been a fairly big deal at the time…”
“Sorry. I didn’t have a Pal back then, so I was too busy worrying about myself…”
“Ah that’s right, Ash Blake used to be called ‘The Academy’s Number One Problem Child’.”
Rebecca made a wry smile as she explained,
“The Maestro Award is given to students for their achievements at the Dragon Riding Academy. A so-called newcomers award, if you will. It’s said that the criteria for the award is very strict, and if you want to find any of the winners before me, you’ll have to go back at least ten years.”
Ash widened his eyes. When it was equated to a newcomer’s award, he thought that someone must’ve been selected every year.
“Naturally, I’m still proud of having received that award…but the problem lies in its prize.”
“What kind of prize was it?”
“To join the Lautreamont Order of Holy Dragonars as an officer cadet. At the time, I signed the contract without hesitation…”
Rebecca directed her gaze to the untouched bavarois as she softly sighed.
“In the past, I’d always aimed to work for the Order of Holy Dragonars. I even went to their training facility as a special trainee and asked Captain Ursula to train me…but, Ash. Now, the Order of Holy Dragonars isn’t that attractive anymore.”
Rebecca lifted her face. Her emerald eyes wavered slightly as she stared straight at Ash.
“Now, I want to be a member of Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor Knights and support you as I stand by your side.”
Rebecca made a shy expression and she gently extended her right hand. The back of Ash’s left hand which sat on the white tablecloth was smothered by a warm touch. Rebecca placed her hand over Ash’s hand — the distance between them seemed to shorten all at once, and Ash’s heart skipped a beat. With a sincere look in her eyes, Rebecca then said,
“No matter what obstacles appear, I want to be with you.”
“For you, I plan to return the Maestro Award back to Paladin Oswald. As for the contract to join the Order of Holy Dragonars, I intend to cancel it—”
Just when Rebecca resolutely said so…
“Don’t underestimate my intelligence network! I know you’re in here, Rebecca!”
A caustic voice resounded through the restaurant. The performer had already taken cover in the back room as their elegant melody abruptly stopped. An uncomfortable silence filled the restaurant. The restaurant’s atmosphere gradually grew more serious, and the lingering silence seemed as though it was on the verge of collapse. Suddenly, a sequence of heavy footsteps like those of a funeral procession resounded. It seemed that the unknown visitors wore iron-soled boots.
“That voice just then, it couldn’t possibly be…”
Ash trembled as he spoke, and his entire body stiffened up. The voice that yelled out earlier was certainly familiar, and he had previously experienced this heavy atmosphere as well. Unsurprisingly, the person who majestically appeared was dressed in a full suit of armour — First Princess Veronica Lautreamont. Behind her, in addition to the captain of her personal guard, Glenn McGuire, a platoon of brawny knights also marched in single file.
“So, you personally came for me, Your Highness…”
Rebecca knelt down politely in front of Veronica.
“Rebecca. You were awarded the prestigious Maestro Award, but I’ve heard that you plan to nullify your contract to join the Lautreamont Order of Holy Dragonars…”
Veronica spoke in a cold voice, and at the same time, she shoved a document into Rebecca’s hands.
“This is the contract that you signed with the Order of Holy Dragonars when you received the Maestro Award. Didn’t you plan to join the Order as an officer cadet immediately after your graduation?”
Rebecca couldn’t help but hesitate. Due to her serious personality, it probably made her quite uncomfortable to break the contract. Veronica’s insight and mobility was also impressive given that she was able to determine Rebecca’s mood and come to Ansarivan. This was also proof of the high hopes that she had for Rebecca.
“Rebecca. Don’t you think that invalidating a contract that has been officially signed is an act which goes against the spirit of chivalry?”
With a pained expression, Rebecca remained silent. At that moment, Ash finally returned to his senses. Because he had been so startled by the situation, he remained seated in a daze, and only now did he hurriedly kneel down beside Rebecca.
“Princess Veronica, I implore you! Indeed, I also believe that a contract should not be broken. However, a long time has passed since the contract was originally signed. It’s reasonable for one’s life goals to change, is it not? I think Rebecca-san’s feelings right now are most important.”
“Huh!? Ash!? Y-You were here as well…?”
Surprisingly, Veronica’s momentum weakened as soon as Ash voiced his opinion. On that topic, Ash thought back. Veronica’s attitude towards Ash seemed to have dramatically changed ever since the dinner banquet that was held in Fontaine Palace. The reaction that she displayed was like that of an innocent maiden. If Veronica could understand his sincerity, perhaps—
“S-Shut up! Ash, I may owe you a great debt, but these two matters shouldn’t be confused!”
Unfortunately, the slight expectation that Ash had fell short. After all, in order to persuade Rebecca, Veronica had travelled all the way here, and her attitude wasn’t going to be softened just by Ash’s intervention.
“…Sorry to interrupt, Veronica-sama. I think, by now, it’s no longer possible to persuade her with words. How about enacting ‘Plan B’?”
Her guard captain Glenn politely interjected.
“Yes…I suppose it can’t be helped.”
Veronica finally seemed to regain her composure.
“Rebecca. I’ve heard that the Dragon Riding Academy hasn’t held its graduation ceremony yet, is that right?”
Veronica suddenly changed the subject.
“…Yes. We did our best to complete the reconstruction work before the beginning of the new semester. Although the reconstruction was successfully completed, the graduation ceremony was repeatedly delayed…and it has been decided that it is scheduled to be held at the end of this month.”
Rebecca calmly responded.
“Then, for this year’s graduation ceremony, why don’t I plan a special event?”
“On the day of the graduation ceremony — you will bet your own future on an official duel against one of my knights. If you win and determine your own path, then I will allow you to void the contract. You will be free to do as you wish. However, if you are defeated, then you will obediently join the Order of Holy Dragonars. Moreover, you will not be given the elite path of an officer cadet, and instead, you will start from scratch as a rookie knight!”
“Princess Veronica! With all due respect, this is—”
“You keep your mouth shut, Ash!”
Veronica bellowed at Ash, and then glared at Rebecca.
“What’s wrong, Rebecca?”
“…It sounds like it’ll be a rather memorable graduation ceremony.”
Ash couldn’t help but shudder as he saw a blaze instantaneously ignite in Rebecca’s eyes.
“I understand. The fault for this lies with me, yet you’ve still given me an opportunity, Your Highness Veronica. I thank you for your generosity.”
Despite the respectful choice and tone of her words, Rebecca’s eyes were undoubtedly burning with the fighting spirit of a knight. Ash was reminded that Rebecca was most certainly a true knight.
“The deal is struck. As for your opponent, I will select them from the elites of the Order of Holy Dragonars. That is all!”
After Veronica made such an announcement resolutely, she flipped her cloak as she prepared to turn around and leave. But…she suddenly stopped. Clang…her iron boots ruffled and made noise.
“By the way, Ash? It might be a bit late to ask, but…why are you here? You wouldn’t be…here alone with Rebecca…on a date, would you?”
An astonishing air of intimidation suddenly erupted. Like a frog being glared at by a snake, Ash couldn’t help but sweat.
“N-No! I swear to Saint Rosa Maria, I haven’t done anything untoward!”
“…Hmm. You swear to the Saint, huh. If you say so, then I’ll believe you.”
Ash exhaled and heaved a sigh of relief, but it only lasted for a moment.
“By the way, Ash!”
Ash straightened his posture, and Rebecca coughed dryly to clear her throat.
“Umm, well…whenever you feel like it…you can come to visit me in the palace.”
This time, Veronica actually took her leave. In this manner, he somehow managed to survive—
“By the way, Ash?”
Rebecca suddenly leaned towards Ash with a troubled look on her face.
“What’s the matter?”
The two of them grew so close that there was barely any distance left between their noses. Ash found himself at a loss in the face of such a peerless beauty.
“Ash, I’m thinking, there isn’t…something going on between you and Her Highness Veronica, is there? I got the feeling that Her Highness was watching you, as if with a strangely passionate gaze.”
“N-No, that’s impossible!”
“Hmm, how suspicious…”
Rebecca drew even closer. Ash couldn’t help but panic in the face of her unexpected questioning.
The days that followed flew past—.
Today was the day of the graduation ceremony. All of the students in the academy had already become aware of Rebecca’s wager to determine her future. After the graduation certificates were issued in the morning, everyone waited in the arena for the match the start. The audience stands were already full. Most of the audience members were students who had come to cheer for Rebecca, as well as citizens who had caught wind of the rumour and came to join the festivity.
First Princess Veronica had arrived well in advance. She sat in an area specially reserved for the royal family, surrounded by the members of her personal guard. The officers of the student council and members of Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor Knights also gathered in a corner of the gallery. Eco and Silvia sat on the left and right sides of Ash respectively, while Lucca and Jessica sat behind him. Mirabel and Anya also attended, along with the particularly conspicuous maids Cosette and Eunice. Raymond and Max sat side by side next to this group of gorgeous women.
—A bell rang out, indicating that there was still fifteen minutes before the match would begin. The audience members made use of this time to enjoy their food. Although this was a very important match for Ash and the others, it was only a form of entertainment for everyone else. Salespeople offering lunchboxes, snacks, drinks and liquor were all busily running all over the arena.
“We have crepes from street vendors for sale, they’re freshly baked!”
Eco’s ears twitched as soon as she heard such words.
“Wait, crepe vendor! Me, me!”
Eco quickly stood up and waved at her.
“I want a strawberry crepe!”
The crepe vendor trotted over to Eco with a smile on her face. She was a lively girl who looked to be just a little older than Ash.
“Hey, don’t just randomly order stuff! Didn’t you just have lunch?”
Ash reprimanded Eco as she puffed out her cheeks.
“It’d bring shame to the dragon race if I didn’t eat a crepe that was right in front of me! It’s my family motto!”
“Don’t copy other people! And what kind of family motto is that!?”
Silvia spiritedly said to Eco, who had boldly made such a declaration.
“What does it matter!? I just wanted to talk about it suddenly!”
“Don’t fabricate a family motto just because you ‘wanted to talk about it suddenly’!”
With Ash in between them, Eco and Silvia began to quarrel.
The crepe vendor still had a businesslike smile across her face as she remained rooted in place, so Ash hurriedly took his wallet out. She had gone out of her way to come to the seating area for the student council, so he would’ve felt sorry for her if they didn’t buy anything.
“Sorry…I’ll pay for it. Please give me one strawberry crepe.”
The instant that Ash spoke to her, the girl’s eyes lit up.
“Excuse me! Are you Ash Blake-sama of Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor Knights!?”
The girl asked with flushed cheeks, making Ash feel somewhat confused.
“Huh? Uh, yeah…”
“It’s an honour to meet you! Uh, this…consider it a gift for protecting the Knight Country. No need to pay!”
“No, I couldn’t possibly—”
“I love you, Ash-sama! Kyaa, I said it~”
The girl ran off before Ash could finish his sentence. Left in Ash’s hands were two crepes which had been wrapped with thin paper. The crepes were probably baked just a while ago as they still emitted warmth. The sweet scent of strawberries and cream stimulated his nostrils. The next moment, a terrifying aura was emitted from beside Ash.
“I can’t let my guard down for even a moment…”
“Geez. You have such a lustful expression, Ash!”
At some point, Eco and Silvia became allies as they glowered viciously at Ash. Both of them crossed their arms as their eyes burned with rage. At the same time, Ash noticed that Mirabel, Jessica, Lucca and Anya also had uneasy expressions on their faces.
“No, wait! I didn’t do anything at all, you know!? That girl selling crepes suddenly gave me a present…since she gave it to me anyway, do you want to have it?”
With a haughty expression, Eco firmly extended her hand.
“Shouldn’t you decline on this occasion!? Don’t you have any pride?”
Silvia scolded Eco in amazement.
“But the crepes are innocent. Ah, mmm…! Yum~! It tastes just like the crepes from the street stalls!”
Thanks to the crepes, Eco had become as docile as a kitten. With a thud, she sat back down next to Ash.
“Hmph, such a snob…”
Perhaps having run out of energy to get angry, Silvia also sat down in her seat.
“Though, I wonder who Princess Veronica assigned…”
Ash casually asked, after waiting until Silvia’s mood had recovered.
“…It does make me wonder. The match is about to begin, but aneue hasn’t announced her opponent, so something feels a bit weird.”
Silvia pensively frowned. The only dragon waiting next to the stage at this moment was Cú Chulainn. As for the other knight, not even their Pal had appeared yet.
“I don’t think it’s Captain Glenn. He’s still on duty as a guard at the moment.”
Ash looked towards Veronica’s personal guard. Captain Glenn was still busy issuing various instructions to his subordinates as they focused on protecting Veronica’s perimeter.
“Yes. It doesn’t seem like it’ll be Glenn-san or any member of her guard. No, wait. If aneue is serious about winning, then perhaps…”
Silvia suddenly frowned and sank into silence, causing Ash to feel an ominous premonition. At that moment, the audience erupted with cheers. It seemed that Rebecca’s figure had appeared in front of the audience. She wore a crimson Ark, and it was also her second form. The magic spear Gáe Bolg was firmly gripped in her right hand. Rebecca walked towards the centre of the arena and then lightly hopped onto Cú Chulainn’s head, who was standing by. The audience became even more enthusiastic with each moment. Cú Chulainn let out a majestic roar, and then with a heavy thud, it stepped up and walked onto the stage. Rebecca waved her hand with a smile in response to the cheers of the audience. She didn’t look the least bit nervous, and totally calm.
“As expected of Rebecca-san.”
Just as Ash muttered to himself with a hint of pride — a thundering roar caused the air in the venue to tremble. The shocked audience members lifted their heads and gazed to the sky in unison.
Ash also caught sight of it. A single Maestro gradually approached from the far end of the sky. The Maestro’s enormous body inspired a sense of grandeur. It was probably the largest Maestro that existed. Like a falling meteor, the Maestro landed in the centre of the stage with a loud boom. Its wings fanned a roaring wind, and the audience members that sat in the front row were almost blown away.
“—Sorry to keep you all waiting.”
The Ark Dragonar that rode on top of the Maestro’s head spoke with a clear voice.
“It can’t be…!”
As if to compensate for the sentence that Ash was unable to finish…
“<Silent Virginia> — Captain Ursula and Maestro Galahad!”
Silvia uttered both of their names. It seemed that a decision had been made for Rebecca’s opponent to be Captain Ursula L. Selwyn today.
An ocean of enthusiastic cheers surged forth from the audience. The majority of the audience leaned forward to get a closer look at Ursula’s beauty. It could be said that the Lautreamont Order of Holy Dragonars didn’t have any achievements last year, but even so, Ursula’s popularity remained undiminished.
“That sister of mine! She’s so immature to send the captain out in a match like this…”
Silvia bitterly said. Puzzled, Ash asked,
“Hey, Princess-sama? Now that I think about it, I…hardly know anything about what kind of person Captain Ursula is. As a Dragonar, what category does she fall into?”
Silvia furrowed her brow as distress appeared to dominate her expression.
“…Hmm. She’s a very admirable person…but doesn’t seem to be very good at leadership. She’s said so herself publicly. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why the Order of Holy Dragonars didn’t perform well last year. However—”
Silvia paused for a moment and swallowed.
“If we’re talking about a one-on-one battle, Captain Ursula could be described as the strongest in the world. For example…even Captain Glenn is no match for Captain Ursula at all.”
“No match at all!?”
Captain Glenn was the leader of Veronica’s personal guard, and if he didn’t even compare to her, just how strong was she?
“It may not sound nice to say this…but if I had to describe Captain Ursula with a single word, it would probably be ‘monster’.”
Ash couldn’t help but sweat upon hearing such an astonishing description.
“Hmph, I can’t just pretend not to hear that! If we’re talking about the strongest in the world, it’s naturally going to be me and Ash as partners!”
Eco proudly interjected. She had already polished off both crepes, and a bit of cream lingered around the side of her mouth. Ash was about to wipe it off with his fingers, but he wasn’t afforded the opportunity. Because…Ursula made a proposal to Rebecca in that moment.
“Allow me to give you a handicap, Rebecca. If your attacks can damage my Ark even by a scratch, then it’s my loss.”
Her voice was certainly not too loud. Moreover, her tone seemed rather calm. Yet, her clear voice seemed to have reached every corner of the venue. A commotion was immediately stirred up among the audience. Ash glanced at the royal box without reservation. Although Veronica appeared unhappy at first, her expression gradually turned into a wry smile. It seemed that the offer of a handicap was Ursula’s own decision, which explained Veronica’s change in expression. However, the reason why that became a smile was likely just evidence that she trusted Ursula. The combat instructor serving as the referee loudly declared,
“The one-on-one battle begins now! The basic rules are in accordance with those of the Dragonars’ Gunnar Bout, though as proposed by Ursula L. Selwyn, a handicap will be given to Rebecca Randall. Both sides, get ready!”
The next moment, Ursula began to recite a chant.
“Appear, the two-dimensional sacred sword — its name is Fragarach.”
What appeared with a flash of light was an unbelievable sword. At first glance, only the sword’s hilt could be seen, but upon closer inspection, it was possible to see that the blade was composed of magic. Due to the constant flow of magical energy, the part that was equivalent to a blade turned it into a sword with very different properties when compared to a conventional steel sword.
“What does the ‘two-dimensional’ part of the name mean?”
Doubting his own ears, Ash turned to look at the side profile of Silvia’s face.
“It’s a sword where the blade’s thickness is extremely close to zero…that is, the blade is a perfectly flat surface. No matter how hard the material is, the sacred sword Fragarach can cut it apart like paper. Even an Ark would be no exception to that—”
Just as Ash gasped in amazement, the bell rang to signal the start of the match.
Simultaneously as the bell rang, Rebecca ordered Cú Chulainn to take flight.
“Magic spear Gáe Bolg — [Wheel of Fortune]!”
She suddenly opened fire and performed her ultimate technique.
Surprisingly, Ursula didn’t take any evasive action. The [Wheel of Fortune] was a weapon that put the consequence of a ‘hit’ first and then established the cause of the ‘attack’ later. Regardless of what evasive manoeuvres were taken, it was impossible to avoid a direct attack. Perhaps because of that — Ursula deliberately took Rebecca’s attack head-on. The shockwave kicked up a cloud of dust. The attack’s trajectory was undoubtedly straight at Ursula. Rebecca herself also felt the impact of landing a hit. However — as the dust settled, the scene laid out before Rebecca’s eyes was unbelievable.
“…Not a bad attack. With your current strength, you could serve as the leader of a hundred man squadron in the Order of Holy Dragonars.”
An extremely calm voice made its way to Rebecca’s ears. Ursula leisurely held her sacred sword, completely unscathed. There weren’t even any indications that she had put up a defensive magic shield. It appeared as though the sacred sword Fragarach had slashed the destined fate of Gáe Bolg apart, along with all of its magical energy.
“It’s my turn next.”
Accompanied by a shockwave, the figures of Ursula and Galahad disappeared. As if they had actually disappeared, they were gone from Rebecca’s field of view.
While Rebecca was flabbergasted, she heard a whisper right by her ear.
As she heard that faint voice, an impact suddenly came from behind Rebecca.
She wasn’t hit by the blade. She had been hit with the hilt — by the time that Rebecca had realised this, her body was already falling like a meteorite. If she had been slashed with the blade, then the outcome of the match would’ve been decided already.
Rebecca unleashed the energy that had accumulated in her Ark and finally managed to stop in mid-air. A powerful feeling of gravity invaded her body, making her weight feel several orders of magnitude heavier than before. In terms of regulations for the Dragonars’ Gunnar Bout, falling off one’s dragon meant defeat. Her feet couldn’t touch the ground no matter what.
The next instant, Galahad provoked Cú Chulainn.
Both dragons extended their forelimbs as a fierce struggle brewed between them. As soon as Ursula leapt off her Pal, she made a beeline for Rebecca, mercilessly brandishing a blade of magical energy.
Rebecca somehow managed to dodge the series of attacks at the very last moment. Although she had thought to use her magic spear to parry, such an idea could be described as reckless considering the characteristics of Ursula’s weapon.
Ursula’s blade scraped over Rebecca’s breastplate, leaving a horizontal scratch across Cú Chulainn’s refined cuirass. Before the sacred sword Fragarach, even an Ark was equivalent to nothing more than a thin sheet of paper. Feeling mortified, Rebecca used the power of her Ark to float through the air. As soon as she made it back onto Cú Chulainn’s head, she immediately launched an assault on Galahad with her magic spear.
Just as Galahad let out a displeased roar, Rebecca and Cú Chulainn flew up high into the air. Common sense wouldn’t help in dealing with the sacred sword Fragarach. The ‘Two-Dimensional Blade’ wasn’t a bluff, but a genuine article. Close-quarters combat was too dangerous, so the best option was to deliver a fatal blow from a distance—
Rebecca unleashed homing-type magic bullets one after another. On the other hand, Ursula mounted Galahad again and dodged the magic bullets that came flying at her in sequence. The next moment, everything in Ursula’s surroundings began to explode. This wasn’t part of Rebecca’s strategy, rather, it was caused by Ursula. The evidence of that was…even despite the whirlwind caused by the explosions, Ursula remained in place, calmly hovering in mid-air. By evading — no, Ursula had cleverly manipulated the magic bullets so that they all collided with each other. In this way, the fate that was destined by the [Wheel of Fortune] had automatically been cancelled. Moreover, it appeared as though Ursula still wasn’t serious yet.
“Time for me to make a move—”
Ursula faintly whispered and then quickly moved right in front of Rebecca.
In Rebecca’s eyes, it was an instantaneous movement. She had finally managed to put some distance between them, but it ended up being completely pointless. A ruthless blade attacked Rebecca. There was no time left to dodge. Rebecca reflexively blocked it with her magic spear.
It was almost an absurd sight as the magic spear was instantly divided into two. Even so, Ursula’s hand did not stop, and she continued to attack at a pace that the naked eye could not keep up with. At the same time, the whirlwind generated by the sacred sword culminated in shockwaves that impacted Rebecca’s body.
Rebecca let out a pained moan as the Ark that covered her upper body suddenly shattered into pieces. The shocking thing was that each and every piece was actually a beautiful diamond. A countless number of diamonds glimmered as they flew through the air. Those constantly rotating diamonds were like a cluster of stars. Surrounded by scenery that seemed to be from a fantasy world, Rebecca’s consciousness also faded into darkness.
Ash was so shocked that he stood up almost subconsciously. Eco, Silvia and the members of the student council around them all stood up in unison. Rebecca’s naked body continued to fall in a straight line—
Cú Chulainn instantly sprung into action. It raced past Galahad and then sharply descended. Just as Rebecca was about to fall off the stage, Cú Chulainn caught her on its back. Engulfed by Cú Chulainn’s soft fur, Rebecca was saved from defeat. However, Ursula was not so soft-hearted that she would stop attacking because of this. She immediately ordered Galahad to descend and the two dragons began to brawl.
Cú Chulainn deployed a Hexagonal Shield to block Galahad’s body charge. Numerous hexagons manifested to form a protective barrier. However, Galahad’s mighty onslaught continued. Just as Cú Chulainn retreated, Galahad unleashed a fiery breath at zero distance!
Like the shattering of glass, the Hexagonal Shield collapsed. Immediately afterwards, Galahad slammed into Cú Chulainn with its body again.
Cú Chulainn was brought to its knees on the spot.
“This is checkmate.”
Accompanied by a frighteningly clear voice, Ursula jumped and landed on Cú Chulainn’s back, and then she coldly glanced down at the naked Rebecca. Rebecca didn’t budge an inch. She lay face down, with her bare back exposed in front of Ursula. Just as Ursula had declared, it was already ‘checkmate’. Even the Pal that she relied on, Cú Chulainn, had suffered serious injuries and was immobile under Galahad’s suppression.
“You did your best, Rebecca.”
Remaining expressionless, Ursula lifted the sacred sword high up over her head. As if she had no interest in Rebecca at all, her eyes drifted elsewhere.
“What is Captain Ursula planning to do? Isn’t the outcome already known…”
Just as Silvia murmured in confusion, Ursula said,
“Rebecca Randall. As proof that I have defeated you, I will remove one of Cú Chulainn’s horns. In future, whenever you see your Pal’s asymmetrical horns, you will remember this defeat. If you don’t want this to happen, then stand up.”
Ursula actually pointed her sacred sword at Cú Chulainn’s left horn.
“Ah, that woman, how could she…!”
With teary eyes, Eco covered her own horns with both hands. To a dragon, it was surely a particularly horrifying sight. Ash clenched his teeth. If this continued, Rebecca would truly lose. Cú Chulainn’s horn would be taken away, and that would be a humiliation for the rest of their lives. Ash absolutely couldn’t allow such a thing to happen. However, this was an official match, an in front of the royal family no less. If Ash tried to help, he would completely violate the rules. So, I have to at least convey my thoughts to her — Ash thought.
Ash loudly shouted with such volume that it even startled himself.
“The Rebecca-san that I know isn’t someone who would be defeated so easily!”
Eco, Silvia, Lucca, Jessica, Mirabel and the others also looked to Ash in surprise, but Ash didn’t pay any heed to them at all. Ash was well aware that yelling like this was completely inconsistent with his usual image, but even so, he couldn’t help himself. He couldn’t stand that this would be how Rebecca would separate from him. With all the strength that he could muster, he entrusted his emotions to his voice.
“I want you to stay by my side forever, Rebecca-san!”
The duration of time that Rebecca was unconscious for was actually only a few seconds. However, her body couldn’t move as she wanted it to. Her hands and feet were numb, and her whole body felt as heavy as a sandbag. The reason why her back felt so cold was because her Ark had been destroyed. With her back laid bare, she wondered how unsightly she probably looked at this moment. The other students who saw her like this were probably frustrated and disappointed.
—Is this as far as I go? Or is Captain Ursula just way stronger than the average person…?
Regardless of the reason, Rebecca had been utterly defeated. Just like twisting a child’s hand, Ursula had defeated Rebecca with ease. Rebecca was quite shocked that her strongest move, [Wheel of Fortune], had been disintegrated in such a way. Even though she had regained consciousness, she was basically an empty shell. At this moment, the audience’s mood was at its boiling point. The cheers which came from all directions simply swept over Rebecca’s back. Amidst those cheers, a single voice clearly reached Rebecca’s ears.
“The Rebecca-san that I know isn’t someone who would be defeated so easily!”
Rebecca’s fingers twitched slightly.
“I want you to stay by my side forever, Rebecca-san!”
Without a doubt, it was Ash’s voice. Ash had belted that out without a shred of embarrassment.
—As I thought, I still…like Ash.
In that instant, something seemed to rush towards Rebecca’s chest. Her entire body felt hot like it was on fire.
—That’s right, I can’t just go down like this…!
This time, Rebecca’s body could finally move freely. Just before the cold blade was about to hit Cú Chulainn’s horn — Rebecca slid herself in front of Ursula and released the remaining magical energy in the gauntlets that she had managed to keep intact. At the same time, she used both hands to halt the sacred sword’s blow.
Heat emanated from the sacred sword, and Rebecca’s body also generated heat. Every millimetre that the sacred sword advanced, intense frictional heat was generated. At last, a creaking sound was made, and a terrifying heat reached Rebecca’s hands. Her gauntlets were about to melt at any moment…and the situation was ever so worrying. Even so, Rebecca endured. For a short while, the arena became silent.
Although only for a moment, it was the first time that Ursula’s eyebrows jerked in reaction.
A surge of enthusiasm burned in Ash’s chest as he watched Rebecca’s heroic gesture of blocking Ursula’s attack at the very last moment. The sacred sword Fragarach — its blade was supposedly two-dimensional. No matter how thinly a sword was made, it was still a three-dimensional object that would never be free from the shackles of three dimensions. Yet, it seemed that the Maestro Galahad had made the impossible possible. By constructing a two-dimensional blade, it had created a weapon capable of cutting through everything. Looking from the side of the sword, only a straight line that was thinner than a thread could be seen. Thinking rationally, using both hands to block such a blade could be described as an act of bravery. With any momentary misjudgement, the sacred sword could easily slip past Rebecca’s hands. If one wasn’t careful, fingers could easily be cut off. Even so, Rebecca’s had rushed over there without hesitation. Moreover, she clamped the two-dimensional blade between her hands in front of everyone’s eyes. Rebecca had also turned the impossible into possible.
“…Most impressive, Rebecca. You’re the first person to block my sacred sword with your bare hands.”
Although her eyebrows slightly twitched, Ursula still spoke as calmly as a narrator,
“I understand why Her Highness Veronica was reluctant to let you go. But if you continue like this, your hands will be scorched and cut into pieces.”
Rebecca had no reply. No, she didn’t have the time to answer. She had exhausted all of her energy just to maintain this stalemate. Just as Ursula said, her hands which blocked the sacred sword had already been severely burned and she had reached the limits of her pain endurance. There was barely any sensation left in her hands. Still, Rebecca smiled.
“I’ve won, Captain Ursula.”
In the distant horizon, a star unleashed a dazzling flash of light. It was Rebecca’s final trump card. Rebecca’s [Wheel of Fortune] hadn’t actually been completely broken. The star of hope that was waiting up high in the sky had responded to Rebecca’s strong emotions at this moment. With Ursula as its target, it flew straight towards her.
“…So, this is your move.”
Ursula’s expression remained calm, but there was very little that she could do. The sacred sword Fragarach was sealed in place by all the strength that Rebecca had left. Naturally, she could evade this attack by letting go of the sacred sword, but Rebecca had speculated that Ursula wouldn’t choose such an option. To maintain pride as an Ark Dragonar, it was impossible to abandon the Ark Weapon that their Pal had dedicated to them. Even more so for Ursula as the captain of the Order of Holy Dragonars. At last, Ursula used the gauntlet on her left arm to protect her head against the magic blast. Intense flashes of light simultaneously exploded with a loud bang. With the resulting shockwave, Rebecca herself was almost thrown off, but she managed to cling onto Cú Chulainn’s back. She continued to stare at Ursula as she stood in place.
At first glance, Ursula seemed to maintain her composure. Not a scratch could be seen on her Ark. However, that magic bullet from earlier should have landed a direct hit on Ursula’s forearm…
“Kuh. I used all of my strength, but it missed?”
Rebecca bitterly said, just as a change occurred.
Although it only seemed like a crack at first, Ursula’s gauntlet actually shattered, exposing her pure white skin. Her arm was so beautiful that it seemed difficult to believe that it belonged to a knight.
“The victor is — Rebecca Randall!”
The instant that the referee announced that sentence with a serious tone — a thunderous round of cheers and applause erupted in the venue.
“—I was thinking…but I didn’t think it was true, Captain Ursula.”
Enveloped in a bath of confetti that danced all over her body, Rebecca walked towards Ursula.
“In order to have everything come to an end, you decided that this would be the result from the beginning, didn’t you?”
Ursula silently withdrew the sacred sword Fragarach, and then quickly turned around. Her eyes seemed to rest on Galahad as if she wanted to swiftly jump back onto it.
“Please wait a minute, Captain Ursula! With my current strength, I’ve exhausted everything I have just to scratch your Ark…you saw this coming from the start, didn’t you? That’s why you proposed a handicap — isn’t that right?”
Ursula didn’t respond and simply kept her back to her. Rebecca continued,
“In the first place, someone praised as a saint like you couldn’t possibly take aim at Cú Chulainn’s horn. In doing so, was your intent to inspire me…?”
Ursula finally looked back over her shoulder and smiled.
“Regardless of the reason, a loss is a loss.”
“And, one more thing. Compared to my encouragement, Ash Blake’s voice was much more effective, right?”
Rebecca’s heart suddenly throbbed. She was startled by how hot her face felt. She was regarded as the <Scarlett Empress>, and although she warned herself that she couldn’t allow her face to be flushed like a young girl — at this moment, it felt like her entire body was on fire.
“Continue to work hard in your training, Rebecca Randall.”
Leaving these words behind, Ursula leapt onto Galahad’s head. In this manner, Rebecca Randall officially determined that she would continue to remain in Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor Knights after graduation.
“Rebecca VS. Ursula ~A.S.B．1366.03~” is closed.
(All 11 of 11 parts) (31/5/21)
Continues on to Chapter 3 – Ash’s Little Sister