—At three o’clock in the afternoon.
All members of Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor Knights assembled in the meeting room of Julius Hall. As it was generally a time when people would get a little hungry, both Cosette and Eunice gracefully entered, bringing with them enough snacks and tea to go around for everyone. In addition to the two full-time maids, Anya also joined the ranks of the kitchen staff. Although Anya had her designated role as the pilot of the magical ship, she still retained her position as a waitress at the student restaurant <La Tene>. The cat-eared maid costume had already become an inseparable part of her.
“Here you are.”
Anya placed a teacup down in front of Linda. Hot white steam still simmered from the surface.
“Wow…! This black tea smells really good.”
“Fufu. It was brewed with ‘El Gloriana’ tea leaves from Chiron. Eunice-san provided them.”
After Anya smiled and explained, Linda murmured with a deeply moved expression,
“So, this is the legendary…”
“It’s amazing isn’t it, Linda?”
“Yes, nii-san! These cakes are also delicious!”
“Haha, these pastries are fit for serving at the palace after all. Savour them slowly…wait a minute, no!”
Ash finally took notice of something.
“Why are you here, Linda? You’ve got nothing to do with the student council or the Knights!”
Linda didn’t feel the least bit guilty as she continued to savour the aroma of the black tea with confidence.
“Why not? I’m the ‘Commander’s younger sister’, so there’s nothing wrong with attending meetings with you, is there?”
“That’s not the point. You’re a student in the Junios course now, and there are a lot of things for you to learn—”
“It’s alright. What does it matter?”
Rebecca stepped forward to help defend Linda.
“Your younger sister was also one of the victims in the attack. She’s definitely eligible to participate in today’s meeting. As for whether she’s allowed to join the group, that’s something which can be discussed at any time in the future.”
“Alright…I guess so.”
After Ash nodded with a slightly conflicted expression, he glanced at Silvia from the side.
“Then, could you please read the report, Princess-sama?”
Following Ash’s signal, Silvia immediately stood up.
“…Ahem. There are various difficult details in the report. From an academic perspective, could I please trouble you to go over that first, Mirabel-anesama—”
In addition to the various report documents next to Silvia, there was also a heavy-looking envelope. Silvia picked up the seemingly heavy envelope and handed it to Mirabel.
After silently opening the envelope, Mirabel began to glance over the information with a cold expression. Although Mirabel occasionally acted like a young maiden in love recently, her expression was nonetheless scholarly whenever she meant business. Silvia allowed her sister to concentrate on the data as she continued her report.
“As I’m sure you all remember, when the attack occurred a few days ago, Brünhilde’s abdominal armour was damaged by a direct attack from Ash’s holy sword, Excalibur. We later collected that armour fragment and handed it over to the Knight Country’s government — the test results have finally been released.”
Ash’s throat twitched and he gulped nervously. Everyone appeared nervous as they waited for Silvia to announce the results.
“The metal material used in Brünhilde’s armour is — mithril alloy.”
The moment that Silvia made her heavy announcement, the meeting room was instantly filled with tension. Everyone had anxious expressions, but Eco timidly raised her hand.
“Yes, Eco? Did you have something to share?”
Silvia asked, seemingly impressed by Eco’s courage.
“M-Mithril alloy…what kind of metal is it?”
Eco asked, slightly embarrassed. As soon as she asked the question though, it immediately eased the tension in the room.
“You’re still a young dragon, so it’s normal that you don’t understand, Eco. Ash, please explain to her.”
“Ah, right. Mithril is expensive and incredibly strong. Even ordinary nobles wouldn’t be able to afford it…to put it simply, it’s an extraordinary metal.”
Ash explained as beads of cold sweat formed on his brow. He couldn’t come up with any specialised terminology that he could use for explanation. Because mithril was a material that often appeared in folk tales, Ash’s knowledge only provided him with a rather vague impression…
“I can’t believe you, Ash! It seems there isn’t much difference in your knowledge and Eco’s!”
Ash awkwardly scratched his head. Upon glancing around, he noticed that Jessica, Raymond and Linda had also lowered their heads in embarrassment.
“Geez…all of you…”
Silvia heaved a sigh and then began to explain,
“According to chapter eight of [The Ansarivan Dragonar Tale]—”
“Hold on! Why are you using a story to explain this now?”
Ash couldn’t help but retort.
“Ash, what are you saying!? The plot of the novel is certainly fictitious, but it also uses a lot of information based on fact, which is also one of the reasons that it is so adored by many readers.”
“Yes. Mithril can only be excavated from the mines in the holy land of Orcsis—”
“Wait a minute, Silvia. The holy land of Orcsis is a fictional location.”
Mirabel, who had been focused on browsing the materials handed to her, casually interjected with a correction. Although it appeared as though she was totally absorbed in the material in front of her, she was also listening to the meeting at the same time.
“Uh! Y-Yes, that’s right…”
Silvia hesitated and was tongue-tied as she couldn’t argue back. It seemed that even Silvia’s knowledge was of little use.
“Umm…Mirabel-san? Would you please be able to explain it to everyone?”
At such times, as anticipated, Mirabel was the most trustworthy source of information. After Ash asked, Mirabel lifted her eyes from the reading material in her hands.
“Mithril is a rare metal that reacts easily to magic. The mines that produce this metal are concentrated in the [Dragon’s Tail] — in other words, the Labrock region. The supply of mithril is controlled by the Labrock Trade Union.”
As expected, Mirabel gave an explanation that was both concise and simple.
“The most important feature of mithril is its ability to work seamlessly with magic. By channelling magic into mithril, once can freely adjust its properties. Moreover, it’s a well-known fact that mithril is even harder than steel when combined with various metals to form an alloy. In addition, it can also be used as a barrier to block magic.”
“A barrier huh…I see.”
A mysterious girl was concealed beneath Brünhilde’s armour. Perhaps the reason why even Navi wasn’t initially aware of the girl’s existence was because the armour was made of mithril alloy.
Mirabel suddenly tilted her head as she pondered something. Just after she had finished explaining mithril to everyone, she immediately glanced back through the information in her hands, probably because she remembered seeing something that was relevant.
“What’s wrong, aneue?”
“Hmm. This is the signature of the person who was in charge of performing the analysis. Professor Ascelpius — a rather familiar name.”
“In order to get more accurate results, Veronica-anesama commissioned the Holy Espada Agency’s university to perform the analysis. By any chance, is that someone you know?”
Upon hearing Silvia’s question, Mirabel looked up again.
“It’s more than just that. She’s my mentor.”
Ash then recalled — before Mirabel became the headmistress at Ansarivan Academy, she was previously studying abroad at a university in the Holy Espada Agency.
“Professor Ascelpius is undoubtedly the smartest person in the world right now. Although she’s over a hundred years old, you can tell that she’s still just as animated as young people based on the information that she’s included in this report.”
“Right! In that case, why don’t we ask the professor to investigate Eco’s bracelet? Since she’s one of the most intelligent people in the world, perhaps she knows of a way to drive Ouroboros from the bracelet.”
Ash proposed his idea to Mirabel as soon as the spark of inspiration ignited in his mind.
“No! What if she’s even more of a weirdo than Angela?”
Eco interjected from the side. It seemed that her abduction by Angela around a year ago had left an indelible trauma in Eco’s mind.
“Surely not. She’s a scholar at the university, right? She must be a very respectable person. Isn’t that right, Mirabel-san?”
However, Mirabel was expressionless and didn’t utter a single word.
“Wait…why did you suddenly go quiet?”
“…There are some things in this world that you’re better off not knowing — that’s all.”
Upon closer inspection, Mirabel’s face looked a tad pale. Perhaps Professor Ascelpius was a rather troublesome figure to her.
“See! That professor really isn’t a good person!”
Eco expressed her indignation as Max jumped in from the side,
“Speaking of mithril, did you see the newspaper this morning, Ash?”
“Not yet. What’s wrong?”
“The market price of mithril seems to have soared abnormally over the past few years. That upward trend still hasn’t stopped. Have a look at this.”
Max flipped open the newspaper that he just so happened to have on hand. It was the [Ansarivan Times] that was a familiar sight in the academy city. The article that Max pointed to contained a chart illustrating the changes in the mithril price over the past few years.
“You’re right…the price has skyrocketed without any end in sight.”
—The price of mithril is continuing to soar.
Even though Ash didn’t have a clue when it came to economics, he could surmise the meaning of this phenomenon. It meant that there was an immense influx of orders in the market, and that the demand was far greater than the supply. The logic made complete sense if it were to be interpreted as the Magic Association <Demiurge> purchasing a large quantity of mithril in order to manufacture weapons such as Brünhilde.
“It seems our first task is to conduct a joint investigation of this with the Labrock Trade Union. The situation in that country is rather complicated. Just thinking about where to start is exasperating…”
After saying so, Silvia frowned.
“If we want to use our identity as Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor Knights to visit, we first need to establish a relationship. As long as we seek assistance from the Knight Country’s government, they should be willing to act as an intermediary…in short, it’s not going to happen straight away. If we follow the formal diplomatic procedures, it could result in an indefinite delay.”
Mirabel also showed a troubled expression.
“By the way, Ash, how much do you know about Labrock?”
Ash couldn’t help but panic when Rebecca asked with a mischievous expression.
“Uh…it’s the region known as the [Dragon’s Tail] in the south-eastern part of the continent of Ark Strada. There are quite a few city-states there…and Labrock is the coalition of those countries, right?”
Ash answered whilst recalling the knowledge that he had picked up in class.
“Well, you’re not wrong, but it’s only on the level of a first-year student in the Junios course.”
Rebecca made a sardonic smile.
“Hey, Ash. Do you actually listen when you’re in class?”
In contrast, Silvia gave him a sharp glare.
“Uh…I don’t like sitting in the classroom.”
“It can’t be helped. Let me explain—”
Ash pricked his ears up and listened carefully to Mirabel’s explanation.
—The Labrock Trade Union.
Known as the [Dragon’s Tail], Labrock originally consisted of numerous large and small city-states. Those city-states used to be independent, but around fifteen years ago, seven large metropolises and sixteen small cities united to form the Labrock Trade Union. The representative of the coalition is known as the [Doge] and is chosen by elections. The city-states originally united in order to further economic development, but the economic disparity between the east and the west had recently grown more severe, leading to a somewhat tense situation. Compared to the eastern part at the tip of the [Dragon’s Tail], the western side, including the capital of Respighi was experiencing economic prosperity and tremendous growth. What would happen to a society when the disparity between rich and poor was too wide? Supposedly, the present situation in Labrock meant that there were fierce protests and riots by those in poverty, and even atrocities such as the assassination of high-ranking officials from time to time. The capital of Respighi was even stigmatised as the [Demonic Capital Respighi]. The previous Doge, Enzo Sabbatini, was attacked by terrorists last autumn. It happened two months after the cancellation of the Continental Congress <Elysium>. Although he managed to survive, he was forced to retire. The current Doge was Francesca Machiavelli. She was a talented woman who had taken the reins of Labrock at just twenty-five years of age.
“—The fastest way will be to see how we can contact Doge Machiavelli. If the Trade Union is supplying mithril without knowledge of <Demiurge>, we should ask them to cut off further supply. As long as we explain what a dangerous organisation <Demiurge> is, they should be able to understand.”
Ash and the others nodded in agreement with Mirabel.
“The question is how we can arrange a meeting with the Doge—”
Just as Rebecca muttered in thought…
There was a sudden loud noise akin to an explosion that came from beside the Escavaron.
“Did something happen? Is it an attack!?”
Ash anxiously jumped up from his chair—
“It’s okay, Ash-sama.”
Cosette, who happened to be standing by the window, reported in a gentle tone. Her gentle smile and tone immediately relieved the tension in the meeting room. Everyone gathered by the window, looking down towards the entrance of Julius Hall.
Ash frowned. A Strada had landed on the ground, and the land surrounding it had become something like a crater. Judging by their physique, the rider appeared to be female. She gracefully leapt off the Strada’s saddle and then gazed up at Ash and the others. She then pushed her goggles up toward her forehead, revealing a piercing set of eyes.
“First-class palace messenger, Orletta Blanc, at your service! Is the Commander of Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor Knights and Student Council President — Ash Blake-sama here?”
It seemed she was the palace messenger who produced craters in the ground every time she came to Dragonar Academy. Moreover, her rough dragon riding skills seemed to overshadow the fact that was quite an attractive and beautiful woman. She had also delivered letters to Ash in the past.
Ash leaned out the window and identified himself to Orletta Blanc.
“Long time no see, Ash-sama! Thank you for your help in keeping our capital of Fontaine City out of danger!”
The incident that she described was in reference to the attack by the <Schwarz Drachen Panzer> that was led by Klaus. At the time, a girl with Pluto for both eyes — Kriemhild, used her song to manipulate all of the dragons in Dragonar Academy. The manipulated dragons were assembled into an army and marched upon the capital of Fontaine City. If the situation at the time had worsened, Fontaine City could’ve been destroyed. Speaking of which, I wonder how Kriemhild has been doing lately…Ash recalled the girl who had Pluto for both of her eyes.
“Ever since that incident, your heroic deeds have become the gossip among people in the city!”
“It’s not that big of a deal…”
Ash couldn’t help but feel embarrassed as Orletta gazed at him with a sincere expression. Silvia then pushed Ash aside and stood at the window.
“Orletta! How many times have I warned you to stop using such a dangerous landing method!?”
Orletta immediately broke into a cold sweat.
“I-I totally understand! It’s just that…every time I get on the saddle, I get so excited…”
“I admit that you’re an outstanding messenger, but your personality takes a complete one-eighty as soon as you mount your Pal. Can’t you change that about yourself?”
“Uh…I’m really, really sorry.”
Orletta was so ashamed that she couldn’t even lift her face.
“Well, Orletta-san seems to be reflecting quite deeply on it, so let’s leave it at that…”
After pacifying Silvia’s outburst, Ash said to Orletta,
“Orletta-san, what did you come to see me for today…?”
“That’s right! I’m here to deliver you a letter from the Labrock embassy today! I was commissioned by the Labrock embassy a few days ago!”
“Labrock? This timing is way too coincidental…!”
Silvia widened her eyes.
“It certainly is a coincidence…”
Ash also had a surprised expression as he stood by the window. Just as they were all discussing how to get in touch with the Labrock Trade Union — they took the initiative to send a letter. Ash got the distinct feeling that two gears had just clicked into motion.
After watching Orletta ride away on her Strada, Ash and Silvia returned to their seats.
“Speaking of which…when she said it was a letter, it thought it’d be exactly that, so how did it turn out to be a wooden box?”
Ash felt awed. The item that Orletta handed over was not an envelope, but a wooden box that had to be held with both hands. The lid and sides of the box not only had exquisite carvings but were also embedded with shiny gems and metal pieces. It was practically a treasure chest.
“Just the box itself feels like it’s worth a lot of money…”
Silvia murmured in shock.
“In any case, there’s no point in just guessing and not taking a look inside.”
Ash nodded in agreement with Mirabel.
“Alright. I’m going to open it.”
Ash reached out with both hands and slowly lifted the lid. Inside the box was an extremely delicate-looking dragon statue. The statue had two sharp horns and enormous wings that spread to the left and right. Given the shape, it seemed to be a depiction of a Maestro.
“It’s an exceptional piece of work.”
Rebecca murmured in admiration. Ash carefully lifted the wood-carved dragon statue out of the box and then gently set it down on the table. The statue looked so realistic that it might actually move.
“I remember now…I’d heard before, but the Labrock style of letter delivery seems to be rather unique, and it’s my first time seeing the real thing. I suspect that the letter is hidden inside the statue.”
Silvia thoughtfully said as she folded her arms in front of her chest.
“This dragon statue should have a locking mechanism. I think you just have to insert this key into the hole at the back and turn it.”
Mirabel picked up a silver key after examining the contents of the box.
“I’ll insert and turn it then.”
Ash took the key and inserted it into the back of the statue. He then turned it clockwise as if winding a watch. And so — the clockwork mechanism of the dragon activated. The dragon statue’s wings flapped on both sides and its jaw opened up.
[I am letter number 9914-356-07 of the Labrock Trade Union.]
Although it was just a few words and phrases, the dragon statue did indeed speak in the Chevron language. The crafts of the Labrock Trade Union were world-famous and adored by all royalty and nobles around the world. After seeing it with his own eyes, Ash realised that its technical marvel far exceeded his imagination.
[Recipient — Ash Blake-dono.]
Ash instinctively held his head high and straighten his posture as he answered. Although Ash thought that his reaction was somewhat ridiculous, not a single person made fun of him. After all, everyone was fascinated by the talking statue.
[From — Doge Francesca Machiavelli.]
The room fell into a momentary silence. Everyone was nervous and anxiously awaited the next part of the statue’s message.
[…Dear Ash Blake-dono. Tales of your heroic deeds in resolving the Knight Country’s crisis and helping Queen Oscaia to ascend to the throne…have also reached the ears of the Labrock Trade Union. Led by you, Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor Knights…are attracting the world’s attention as a newly founded nation…]
The mechanical statue softly relayed the Doge’s message.
[Our Trade Union is of course no exception to this. I would like to express my deepest respect and admiration for your successes. We hope to establish a treaty of friendship with your country. I await your favourable reply—]
After saying all that, the statue fell silent. Its wings also stopped flapping. Ash tried turning the key once more, but there was no response at all. It appeared that the ‘letter’ became just an ordinary statue once its message was relayed.
“It’s quite direct of them to ask for a friendship treaty…”
The unexpected development left Ash slightly confused.
“Fufu. In light of your achievements, it’s not surprising that the Doge wishes to establish a friendly relationship with us.”
Rebecca smiled widely after saying so.
“As expected of Ash-sama! However, I hope that you will be careful, Ash-sama, lest even the Doge is fascinated by your charm.”
Jessica’s warning went in a somewhat odd direction.
“Ash is certainly amazing…”
Lucca cast a passionate gaze toward Ash, showing her clear admiration for him.
“This must be what they call a blessing from god.”
Silvia tightly clenched her fists.
“The only trouble is that we’ll have to request leave from school in order to travel…”
Ash’s written test results had never been very good, and if possible, he wanted to avoid missing any classes.
“Don’t worry about schoolwork, Ash. Due to the attack, all classes have been suspended. Coupled with the vacation on the first week of next month, you can rest easy when it comes to schoolwork.”
Mirabel swiftly dealt with Ash’s doubts. Mirabel was also the headmistress. With this strong support, Ash’s worries were put to rest.
“Thank you, Mirabel-san.”
After Ash thanked Mirabel sincerely, their eyes met. Perhaps having realised something, Mirabel’s face instantly went red.
“I-I…haven’t done anything worthy of your gratitude.”
Mirabel’s gaze wandered unsteadily as she gave a coy and bashful reply. Upon seeing this adorable behaviour, Ash felt so entranced that he forgot that he was still in a meeting. A sweet and refreshing noble scent stimulated his instinct.
Ash suddenly returned to his senses and realised that all of the women surrounding him had cold glares that were directed at himself and Mirabel.
“L-Let’s make a decision to set off at the beginning of next month then! I’ll write back to Doge Francesca Machiavelli without further ado!”
Ash hastily made a declaration in order to get himself out of a sticky situation.
“The Sign Manual ~A.S.S. 1366.04~” is closed.
(All 2 of 2 parts) (9/12/21)
Continues on to Chapter 2 – The Boundless Overia Sea