The Wise Dragon King Imbolc’s bloodline was split into two, namely, Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor Family and Nehalennia’s Dark Dragon King Family. A never-ending war broke out between the two families that repeated itself generation after generation.
—From the ‘Old Testament of the Stella Biblia’.
—The seasonal changes in weather gave off strong hints of spring. The month of Aries also entered its latter half.
“…I’m so bored.”
Eco lay on a mat that had been spread out on the deck of the Escavaron, soaking in the sun. Surrounding her were the three Maestros consisting of Cú Chulainn, Arianrhod and Gawain, as well as the Asia Brigid, all of whom were also lying down asleep. Only the Hydra Rhiannon who liked staying in water or wetlands huddled beneath the shadow of the bridge. The bright spring sun was warm and comforting, making it easy to accidentally doze off. However, it wasn’t actually the time to act so leisurely. The only Maestro not present was Lancelot, because it was presently carrying Silvia and Cosette to Fontaine City. First Princess Veronica had issued a summons for her a few days ago.
At present, Ansarivan Dragon Riding Academy was in a state of disorder due to the alert of the Maschinen Drache attack. Staff meetings had been ongoing for several days, and the faculty also announced the suspension of all classes. Even the ‘Aries Dragon Riding Festival’ that Eco had been looking forward to was cancelled. Ash and the other student council members had also been summoned to meetings at all levels, and they continued to repeat their reports on the attack. Today, Ash and the others had once again gone out to attend various meetings. However, this time they weren’t attending a meeting at the Academy. Instead, their meeting was with the city council of the Academy City of Ansarivan. Sitting through hours of long discussions in a stuffy room of the city council would’ve only been torture for Eco. That was why she declined to join the trip to the city hall.
“…How long until Ash and the others come back?”
Rebecca and Mirabel had been summoned to the city council along with Ash. In a way, those two were the most suitable members to accompany Ash to the meeting. However, because both of them had certain feelings for Ash, Eco inevitably felt a bit restless psychologically….
A sigh naturally leaked from her mouth. More and more beautiful girls and women who appeared equally attractive in Eco’s eyes seemed to surround Ash. Those who could be regarded as rivals in love already numbered more than could be counted on one hand. Even that was a conservative estimate, and it seemed like the number was almost more than could be counted on both hands. Lately, even First Princess Veronica was no exception to that. She revealed an innocent, girlish side whenever she ran into Ash. Although Pope Raquel was only an innocent nine-year-old girl, she could certainly become a formidable opponent in around five years’ time…. In addition, Linda’s existence was also worrying. Since she was Ash’s blood-related little sister, there was logically no need to worry about her becoming a rival in love. However, Linda’s words and actions constantly seemed suspicious to Eco. Eco’s sixth sense had constant alarm bells which reminded her not to ignore Linda. To Ash, Eco was a unique and irreplaceable companion. It was something that Eco had always been proud of, and she was convinced that there could be no deeper relationship than the one they shared.
“The thing is, being his Pal isn’t a secure position…”
Feeling slightly depressed, Eco’s shoulders slumped. Indeed, she could no longer rely on her position as his Pal and watch others take advantage of it.
“Should I just do it…and get pregnant with Ash’s child?”
Eco absent-mindedly muttered.
Someone suddenly fell from the sky.
“Owowow…that hurts you know…”
The person who angrily yapped at Eco was Navi. Every other time, she’d descended from the sky with grace. Her landing failed today and her hips appeared somewhat bruised.
“Navi? What are you doing?”
“That nonsense you said is what caused me to fall.”
Navi rubbed her hips as she slowly got up from the ground. It was the first time that Eco had seen Navi in such an embarrassing state, and she almost laughed — but her face immediately went pale.
“Nonsense? You couldn’t have…heard what I said to myself!?”
“Should I just do it…and get pregnant with Ash’s child?”
Navi had imitated her voice and tone to such an extraordinary degree that Eco immediately stomped in rage.
Eco’s entire face went red, and she uttered an odd cry of incoherent words. In fact, her entire body had become hot and red. She hid her face with both hands as she fell over and rolled non-stop across the deck.
Cú Chulainn and the other dragons all gaped in disbelief at Eco’s strange reaction.
“Say…don’t you have any awareness of your position as Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor?”
Upon hearing Navi’s sharp statement, Eco swiftly straightened herself up.
“So, what are you here for today? Surely you didn’t come all this way just to complain to me, right?”
“Naturally, I came here to give you a piece of advice today.”
“What is the most important thing that you should be thinking about right now?”
Navi revealed a serious expression as she asked with a sharp tone.
“During the battle with Annegert, you lost the ability to dragonise due to the corrosion of <Avalon’s Bracelet> by Ouroboros — shouldn’t you be thinking about how to resolve this problem?”
After Eco squeezed out a groan, she gazed down at <Avalon’s Bracelet> on her left wrist. The bracelet that once constantly dazzled with a silvery-white brilliance was now polluted by darkness. As a result, Eco was unable to remove the bracelet no matter what she did — as such, Eco had lost the ability to dragonise. It was both an urgent and a serious situation, and Eco naturally understood that. However, Eco’s mood was extremely calm at the moment, and even she found that surprising.
“A-About that issue…”
Eco sheepishly lifted her face and glanced at Navi.
“I was thinking…there’s nothing wrong with keeping things the way they are.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Even if I can’t transform, I can still create an Ark. Besides, it feels as though people are treating me like a normal girl now. Naturally, I don’t there’s anything wrong with relying on my status as a dragon…but if possible, I hope that I can be just an ordinary girl in Ash’s eyes…”
With every word that she spoke, Eco’s face grew hotter.
“Alright alright, that’s enough. It’s nauseating.”
Navi arched her neck and shoulders, as if she was trying to imply ‘I can’t deal with this anymore’.
Eco had finally mustered the courage to reveal her true feelings, but she was brushed off with just a few words. Although Eco puffed her cheeks out in anger, she managed to clear her mind. She decided to ask Navi the questions that had been hanging over her mind these past few days.
“Never mind that now. Regarding that girl — what are your thoughts?”
“Are you talking about that girl who was kept inside Brünhilde?”
“That girl had two horns on her head. Maybe she’s actually a dragon…since you’re the Dragweiss, please tell me about what you know.”
“…Unfortunately, my existence is like an encyclopaedia. Although I know everything about the past, the current problem has me baffled. I certainly do have a couple of theories, but as things stand, it would be inconvenient for me to tell others about my speculation.”
“Geez, you’re so useless just when we need you.”
“Naturally, I’ll let you guys know if I have any substantial information — to Ash, that is. Ufufu…”
“Hold it! Don’t use that as an excuse to get ahead!”
As soon as Eco puffed out her cheeks, Navi had already disappeared without a trace.
“Geez, she just does whatever she wants.”
After heaving a sigh, Eco lay back down on the deck again.
“What’s Ash doing? He’s not back even though it’s this late…”
Before she even realised, thoughts of Ash had taken over her mind. Eco stretched out and fumbled around, her fingers touching the feet of a plush toy that had been brought to the deck. It was a plush of a miniature dragon that Eco regarded as a treasure. Without the natural dominance or aggressiveness of a normal dragon, its round and cute appearance was quite characteristic. It was originally one of Silvia’s belongings, but was handed to Ash during the <Orphan Ceremony>, and it now belonged to Eco. Eco held the plush toy in her arms for a long while, and then suddenly sat up. She put it down, and then sandwiched it between her legs so that it was standing before her.
“Listen up, okay? From now on, you’re going to be Ash’s substitute!”
After making such a declaration, Eco lightly coughed to clear her throat. She then began to whisper towards the plush toy that was supposed to be Ash.
“Hey, Ash? It seems like you’re already able to mount and ride me as Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor. I-I’m really happy about it…”
After saying that much, Eco paused and took a deep breath.
“B-But! Just that is not enough. I won’t be satisfied with that alone!”
Her heart thumped and its beat accelerated.
“S-So…I…I hope that when I’m not a dragon, and I’m just an ordinary girl…t-that you can also…familiarise yourself with mounting me! …Ah, what kind of embarrassing stuff am I talking about~~~!?”
Just after Eco impulsively yelled towards the azure blue sky—
Someone suddenly spoke with a puzzled voice as their footsteps simultaneously echoed across the deck.
Eco jolted in surprise and she quickly turned around in search of the source. At some point unbeknownst to her, Ash had appeared at the doorway to the deck.
“W-Wait…Ash? When did you get there!?”
“When…well, just now.”
“The things that I just said…you didn’t hear all of it, did you?”
“Well, to be precise, I thought ‘a voice is coming from over there’. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, okay?”
“W-Why didn’t you tell me that you came back!?”
“Well, I certainly did call out to you. You just didn’t hear me, Eco.”
Eco felt so deeply ashamed that tears almost spilled from her eyes.
“Speaking of which, Eco, about what you just said…”
“F-Forget all about it right now!”
“I can’t forget. I can’t just do that on demand, you know?”
The next instant, Eco was pulled into the embrace of Ash’s arms.
Smothered by the warmth of Ash’s body, Eco was paralysed. Her heart throbbed so hard that it felt as though it would burst.
—No…Ash is a lot more aggressive than he normally is…
Because they had been busy with meetings and ongoing investigations these past few days, the two of them rarely had the opportunity to be close with one another. Moreover, perhaps listening to Eco talking to herself just then also ignited the passion in Ash’s heart.
—Now that I think about it, Ash and I haven’t been romantic like this for a long time…
“Ash…we can’t do it in a place like this. The dragons are all watching…”
“If they want to watch us, then let them watch us.”
The two of them gazed deeply into each other’s eyes. Ash’s cheeks had also turned slightly red. At such times, silence was golden, and Eco quietly closed her eyes and lifted her chin. She also lightly stood on her tiptoes. The spring breeze gently caressed Eco’s hair. Their lips came together as if the two had been longing for each other. As they kissed, Eco felt as though their hearts intersected and her entire being was filled with happiness.
“…There’s actually something that I want to give to you, Eco.”
After their kiss, Ash shyly removed a small box from his pocket. The box was delicately packaged and was decorated with a golden ribbon on top. Eco was also too embarrassed to look up, and she stared at the small box in front of her as if trying to divert all attention there instead. Ash softly cleared his throat and then said in a sincere tone,
“Happy first birthday, Eco.”
Thinking back, the Dragon Riding Academy had held the ‘Aries Dragon Riding Festival’ on this exact day one year ago. It wasn’t until this moment that Eco recalled that today was her birthday. Naturally, it was also the very first birthday present that she had received from anyone. Her heartbeat intensified uncontrollably. Feeling overjoyed, Eco began to open the box. She carefully unfolded the wrapping paper so as not to tear it — because she decided to put it away with the wrapping paper for safekeeping. The instant that she opened the lid, she couldn’t help but exclaim,
“Wow…it’s a pocket watch!”
The silver pocket watch emitted a dazzling glow beneath the sunlight.
It was quite similar in shape to the pocket watch that Paladin Oswald had once bestowed upon Ash. The numerals were semi-transparent, allowing for a view of the mechanical clockwork within. The constantly rotating gears that clicked with rhythm were a fascinating sight to behold, and Eco didn’t seem to tire of looking at it.
“I’m sorry, Eco.”
Upon seeing Ash scratch his head as he apologised, Eco simply revealed a confused expression.
“Why are you apologising? Shouldn’t I be the one thanking you right now?”
“Not really…to be honest, everyone originally planned to organise a birthday party for you. But, because of the attack, that whole plan never eventuated…”
“You don’t have to apologise for something like that. The real eyesore is that person called Annegert. B-Besides…”
Just the fact that Ash said happy birthday to me makes me content…just as Eco was about to voice her feelings—
“—We’re back, Ash!”
At some point, Lancelot’s majestic figure had appeared in the sky. Riding on Lancelot’s back were Silvia and Cosette.
“Uwah! Why are you guys peeping!?”
“You can’t just go around slandering other people! We just got back to Ansarivan! By the way, you two…you wouldn’t happen to have been doing anything indecent, would you?”
Silvia stared at them fiercely with eyes like those of a hawk.
“O-O-O-Of course not!”
Fortunately, Silvia had an urgent matter to attend to, so she didn’t press them any further in her questioning. After commanding Lancelot to land on the deck, she immediately leapt off its back. Silvia had been summoned by First Princess Veronica the day before yesterday and went off to the capital, Fontaine City. She had personally gone to obtain an investigation report of the ‘attack’ that occurred a few days ago.
“It may be a bit hasty to jump straight in as soon as I’m back — but thanks to aneue, a new truth has been revealed. Call an emergency meeting straight away, Ash!”
Ash’s body tensed up like a small animal being glared at by its predator. Perhaps it was because Silvia returned at an untimely moment that he was so flustered.
—Geez. Although he’s completely different compared to before, he still reacts like this in such situations…oh well, maybe this is also one of Ash’s good points.
Eco silently thought to herself.
“Eco’s Birthday ~A.S.B 1966.04~” is closed.
(All 1 of 1 parts) (22/10/21)
Continues on to Chapter 1 – Magic Metal Mithril