The Night Before the Finale, The Calm Before the Storm
In the third match of the Dragonar’s Gunnar Bout, Oscar easily defeated Max with her overwhelming strength and progressed into the finals. The Five Hundred Years Festival had progressed smoothly, and it was now the evening of the fourth day. The streets of the Academy City Ansarivan were no different than usual, and they were bustling with a lively atmosphere. Even at night, the city was lit-up as if it was a city that never slept. For an urban area of the Knight Country that was known to be conservative, one could say that this was unusual. The Chevron Kingdom’s magic ship, the Claíomh Solais  was parked outside the city walls. Zacharias III had come to visit Ansarivan for the final day of the Five Hundred Years Festival — this news had spread throughout the streets in the blink of an eye. After the incident in which the capital, Fontaine City, had been attacked by an enormous dragon, Zacharias III blamed the Paladin of the Knight Country, Oswald, causing relations between the two nations to become tense. During this precarious international situation, Zacharias III decided to personally visit the Five Hundred Years Festival, so it was naturally understandable that the citizens of the Knight Country felt relieved. It seemed as though it would still be a while until the lights in the city would fade back to their usual calmness.
Inside the magic ship Claíomh Solais — the audience room.
Zacharias III appeared calm while on the throne. Although his hair was already white, his beard was a shade of silver, and he looked like an old man who could pass away at any time, his eyes were still full of spirit, showing his obsession with life. Aside from the Chevron Royal Family and the proud Royal Guard in the room, there were also various foreign ministers and other important government officials. In addition, the queen consorts ranked from one to twenty had been allowed to attend. They were the Queen Group that people spoke of. The Queen Group was an idol-like existence in the Chevron Kingdom. The thing that amazed people was the fact that the ranking of the Queen Group was decided by a national vote by the citizens. The top twenty ranked queens were allowed to attend various types of formalities. With this kind of system, it was said that the queens ranked twenty-first and below never once ceased their fierce struggle behind the scenes as they competed for a more prominent ranking…. Amidst this scene that seemed to be choking with the scent of perfume, there was a group that was particularly unexpected. They were the Knight Country’s First Princess Veronica Lautreamont and her personal guard. Veronica’s personal guard was composed of seven people. Including Glenn McGuire as the captain of her personal guard, all of the members were first-class Dragonars. Why did Zacharias III commission Veronica to act as an escort — the noble kneeling down in front of the King plainly understood the reason. Dressed in formal attire, Oscar Brailsford’s attitude was still just as elegant as usual while he spoke words of greeting according to the script.
“I wish Your Majesty absolute safety and good—”
The elderly king answered with a dull expression
“You can spare me from these fake greetings. Your brazen attitude is like Uriel’s, and it’s worse than ever.”
“You flatter me. Compared to that older brother, I’m just an ordinary person.”
Zacharias III suddenly laughed.
“The master of the Maestro Tristan dares to call himself an ordinary person? It seems you still do not understand the reason why I commissioned Princess Veronica as an escort.”
“Your Majesty, you have no need for worry. If those were my intentions, I certainly could summon Tristan over, and it would indeed be possible to flatten you and the throne, Your Majesty.”
Every corner of the room suddenly burst into uproar. There were even members of the Royal Guard who reached out to place their hands on the hilt of their swords. Even so, Oscar made a declaration with an unyielding tone
“But I am not such a despicable person. To succeed the throne in a just and dignified manner so as not to shame the Chevron Royal Family’s name — that is my dream.”
“Hmph. I didn’t call you hear to listen to such false and unrealistic platitudes.”
“Then, for what reason Your Majesty?”
“…I am old. I reminisce of my youth when I rode my favourite horse, and of the Royal Family’s sword Tír na nÓg  that has been handed down from generation to generation. I hope to be able to return to a form where I can freely wield that treasured sword again.”
After Zacharias III murmured with sorrow, his eyes drifted to the side of the throne. There was a gigantic sword in its scabbard that stood upon a dedicated pedestal.
—One day, that sword will also belong to me…!
Zacharias III coldly said to Oscar who had quietly made that strong determination
“For that reason, I need the blood of the Avalon Royal Family. Bring the young dragon Eco to see me as soon as possible. For a student of Dragonar Academy like you, this should be an easy task.”
This moment had finally arrived…Oscar felt nervous.
“The deadline is tomorrow evening — before I leave Ansarivan.”
In that instant, a multitude of things emerged in Oscar’s mind. A well-known figure such as Zacharias III had actually come to a small place like Ansarivan — even if the ‘Ansarivan Five Hundred Years Festival’ was supposed to be a grand festival, the definition of ‘grand’ was only relative to the size of the Knight Country. In the eyes of the Chevron King, this was nothing more than a small festival that was held by a neighbouring regional city. The real reason why the King of Chevron had come to Ansarivan was not to watch the dragon riding competition, but for Eco’s blood—
—Those who drink the blood of the Avalon Royal Family will gain eternal life and eternal youth.
It was an ancient legend that circulated around the continent. Unfortunately, Oscar’s mind was much more level-headed than the old King’s, and he scoffed at the concept of immortality and eternal youth. However, Oscar also clearly understood that trying to say anything else to this old King would simply be a waste of time and effort.
“As you wish.”
After a moment of silence, Oscar lowered his head deeply.
“You’re late, Oscar.”
Celes greeted Oscar who had just left the audience room.
“Sorry for making you wait.”
“…Let’s hurry up and return. There’s no point in us staying on this tattered and rotten ship.”
Celes was strangely fidgety, and her expression seemed impatient. I haven’t seen Celes like this in a long time — Oscar thought. When she had just arrived at the Brailsford family, Celes was a weak and slender girl. After taking care of Oscar’s daily life for a while, her temper had somehow grown…
“To actually say that the Chevron Royal Family’s magic ship is a rotten boat, as expected of Celes. I don’t mind though, because this ship will become mine sooner or later.”
Celes seemed to sink into deep thought, and she didn’t say anything.
“Look at your unhappy face. Did the people from the Lafon family say something?”
This was the inside of the magic ship Claíomh Solais for the Royal Family, so it was only natural that most of the servants on board the ship were from the Lafon family. Celes had become an adopted daughter of the Lafon family when she was young, but she was unable to assimilate into that environment, so she was left out. So for Celes, staying here made her uncomfortable, and that was understandable. Oscar placed her hand on top of Celes’ head, and smiled at her.
“…You’re right. It’s best that we leave this ship sooner. Let’s go, Celes.”
Celes returned a fierce look and swiftly threw off Oscar’s hand.
“D-Don’t treat me like a child!”
And then with an expression filled with anger, she began to storm off.
“Oh my, is she embarrassed?”
After Oscar smiled playfully, she chased after Celes.
That night, the members of the Student Council gathered in the student restaurant <La Tene> to hold a meeting.
“Mmm~! <La Tene>’s meat dishes are truly quite tasty! Seconds!”
Eco only thought of enjoying the ‘Grilled Lamb’ while the contents of the meeting’s discussion simply went in her left ear and out her right ear. She impatiently turned to the waitress Anya to order more.
Anya was constantly summoned by Eco, but it seemed as though she had already gotten quite used to her attire as a waitress. She also gave off the impression that a maid outfit was the most suitable appearance for her.
“Don’t you think you’re working Anya too hard?”
Ash smiled wryly as he reprimanded Eco.
“This is my job, so it doesn’t matter…ah, it would be better to say that guests should feel free to request anything.”
“Thank you, Anya. But we are similar in age, so you don’t have to be so respectful to us. It’s alright to be a little more relaxed when you speak to us, okay?”
“I-Is that so…?”
“I wouldn’t mind you calling us by our names directly either.”
“Then, can I call you Ash?”
“Yeah, just like that.”
After Ash replied with a smile, Anya looked down seemingly embarrassed, and she twisted about slightly. That brave warrior girl had now donned a maid outfit, and displayed a shy side. There were also the fan-promotions from the re-opening — Anya was still wearing the cat ears and tail accessories. They seemed to be more popular than expected, so the manager ordered an extension of the special service promotion. It just seemed as though Anya herself didn’t have much of a say in it. Ash couldn’t help but fall into a daze as he stared at Anya.
At some point—
Eco, Silvia, Lucca and Jessica all began to look at Ash with sharp gazes. Even the sound of their dissatisfaction was no less than to be expected from four people.
“T-Then I’ll get back to work!”
Most likely because she was intimidated by the presence of the girls, Anya hurriedly hid back into the kitchen.
“Ah, I haven’t ordered yet…!”
Ash’s call did not make it out, and emptiness echoed back in mid-air.
“Ufufu. Ash-sama certainly is not easy.”
Standing behind Silvia’s seat, Cosette giggled happily.
“—Speaking of which, after eating so much with such a petite body, I’m curious as to where all the food actually goes?”
Seeing Eco constantly eat and drink, the academy principal Mirabel murmured in amazement. Mirabel rarely engaged in school activities normally, but she had made a rare appearance tonight.
“From a physical point of view, it seems quite impossible…”
“I-It’s only natural that common sense cannot explain it, aneue . Moreover, Eco is a dragon. She must have at least five meals a day…”
The person who timidly responded to Mirabel was Silvia. She seemed rather respectful towards her cold and collected older sister, and her attitude was as polite as it would have been to an outsider.
“Principal, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to attend today.”
Even if it was Mirabel, Rebecca still upheld a generous attitude as she spoke. Her injuries had already healed so she was discharged from hospital, and she returned to her full capacity as the president of the Student Council. In contrast to the healthy Rebecca, the accountant Max had injured his right foot in the third match of the preliminary round and was still hospitalised. Ash decided to wait until the Five Hundred Years Festival had successfully concluded before going to visit him. As for Oscar who had defeated Max, no one knew where she had run off to today, and there was no trace of her. No one had seen her personal eyepatch-wearing maid either. After Rebecca looked around at everyone, she cleared her throat.
“These four days, all members of the organising committee have performed outstandingly. Thanks to everyone’s contributions, not only have this year’s activities received much public praise, there are also many newspapers and magazines that have expressed their hope for an interview.”
Rebecca normally maintained a serious expression during meetings, but she displayed a rare smile tonight. Seeing Rebecca smile like that, Ash’s mood was also uplifted.
“As the Student Council President, I feel incredibly proud. After getting through tomorrow, the Five Hundred Years Festival will have ended in success. But we cannot grow lax now, so we should all review the schedule for tomorrow.”
After she glazed over the small brochure in her hand, Rebecca continued
“The competitions to be held in the morning include the long-distance finals of the Dragon Riding Race, as well as various other finals. Following that is lunchtime, and then the highlight of the Dragonar’s Gunnar Bout will begin in the afternoon—”
At this time, a stern voice interrupted Rebecca. And then the ‘clank…’ of metal was heard. After hearing such noises, Ash could not help but shudder. When he nervously turned around to look—
Sure enough, the person who had arrived was the First Princess Veronica Lautreamont. Following behind her with a blank expression was the captain of her personal guard, Glenn McGuire. Both of them were faces that Ash had not seen in a long time. They had heard that a few hours ago — Veronica had boarded the magic ship Claíomh Solais in the name of the King of Chevron, though it seemed as though her mission was already over.
“Your Highness Veronica!”
After Anya just so happened to come out from the kitchen to realise that Veronica was present, she suddenly called out.
“Oh, it’s Anya. How is your new life?”
“I’m very well. Everyone is very kind to me so I’m very grateful to them.”
A faint smile appeared on Veronica’s face and she put her hand on top of Anya’s head.
“Then that’s good. Hmm, this waitress outfit really suits you. You should stop your life of violence and fighting, so that you can strive for a future of happiness.”
“T-Thank you very much…!”
Anya submissively bent over and bowed to Veronica. Speaking of which — Anya was released because of Veronica’s forgiveness. Ash remembered that this had happened.
“Avdocha-san hasn’t gone out today?”
In response to Anya’s question, Veronica simply touched on it lightly.
“That’s right. I’ve only assigned other tasks to her…would you like to see her?”
“Yes. When I was under being detained in the city, she took great care of me. Though I still don’t really understand why she was so kind to me. I originally thought that it was the friendship between fellow people from the same hometown, but that doesn’t seem to be the case…”
“She has her reasons. Speaking of which, aren’t you Ash Blake?”
Veronica suddenly cast her sharp gaze towards Ash. Ash quickly stood up.
“L-Long time no see, Princess Veronica…”
“Hmph. After not seeing you for a while, you seem to have grown a bit manlier.”
Never imagining that Veronica would praise him, Ash felt deeply surprised.
“—Even so, I cannot hand Silvia over to you yet.”
“A-A-Aneue! What are you saying…!”
Before Ash could say anything, Silvia voiced her objections. Seeing her younger sister like that, Veronica shook her head with disappointment and sighed.
“Seriously, I was only joking but you seem so shaken…it seems like you’re still immature. It’s because of your willpower being too weak that you won’t be able to become an Ark Dragonar. You should look at Rebecca as a role model.”
Silvia suddenly became pale, and words could not leave her mouth. After Veronica joined in, the interrupted meeting resumed once more.
“In this Five Hundred Years Festival, aside from the Paladin Oswald, there are also many other members of royalty and nobility who have come to watch, and tomorrow’s VIP seats will certainly be decorated with national guests. Needless to say, they’ve all come to watch the final battle of the Dragonar’s Gunnar Bout.”
As one of the participants, Ash could not help but feel nervous and jittery.
“The Third Prince of the Chevron Kingdom Uriel came to watch on the first day, and Zacharias III will also be present tomorrow. This will inevitably require even more stringent security measures.”
Upon hearing the names of the Third Prince Uriel and Zacharias III, Ash’s nerves tingled. He recalled the information that Oscar had revealed.
—The prince who desired domination of the continent and wanted to annex the Knight Country.
—The old King who desired Eco’s blood because of a fallacy.
If what Oscar said was true, Ash did not want the two of them to meet Eco.
“I see. So is this is the reason why Veronica ane-sama  and Mirabel ane-sama have come to this meeting today?”
Veronica nodded solemnly in response to Silvia’s question.
“Mmm. I would like to finalise the matters related to security as soon as possible with the principal and Student Council.”
“Our Student Council is actually so valued by aneue…!”
“I don’t value you people. I’m just afraid that you’ll hold us back if a problem arises, and that will be troublesome.”
Veronica coldly replied to Silvia who was initially spirited.
“So that’s how it is…”
Silvia was disheartened, and her shoulders weakly collapsed. At this moment, Mirabel put her teacup down with a ‘ding…’. Based on the way that she put her cup down, it was vaguely possible to tell that she was not in a good mood.
“…How irritating. Someone ruined my cute Silvanus and dares to show their face before me.”
Mirabel directed her complaints towards Veronica.
“…Are you trying to pick a fight, Mirabel?”
“Veronica ane-sama is one of the VIPs? I suggest that you occasionally change into a beautiful dress, and stay at father’s side like a princess should. It’s because you’re so rough that no man has ever dared to approach you.”
The colour of Veronica’s face immediately changed.
“It seems like that petty personality of yours still hasn’t changed after becoming principal…!”
“I’m simply pointing out the facts.”
Even though Veronica was emitting a powerful murderous intent, Mirabel remained nonchalant. Seeing the two sisters argue noisily, Ash felt confused. No, Ash was not the only person who was confused. Everyone present was dumbfounded as they silently observed the two heated sisters, Veronica and Mirabel. No one dared to stand up between the fight of these two princesses, and the atmosphere in the restaurant plummeted to a freezing point. In light of this, Mirabel appeared to hold a grudge against Veronica for her destruction of the magic ship Silvanus. The designer of Silvanus was actually Mirabel. It was just that, strictly speaking, it was not Veronica’s fault that Silvanus was destroyed. In order to rescue Eco who had awakened in the capital, sacrificing the Silvanus was the only way. If one was to pursue that further, Prince Julius was actually at the helm at the time. Strictly speaking, Veronica was also a victim. By reason, Mirabel already knew about this from the reports that she had received…
“When I handed Silvanus over to someone whose brain and chest is all muscle, that was indeed a mistake.”
“What did you say…!”
Veronica stood up and was accompanied by the clattering sound of her armour. She then swiftly drew out the claymore which hung by her waist, and pointed it straight at Mirabel’s nose.
“Hmph. That personality of yours which immediately resorts to violence never changes. Eunice, ready my sword.”
Mirabel also stood up from her seat, and received a rapier from Eunice. Eunice didn’t seem the least bit worried about her master’s safety, and she blandly followed Mirabel’s order with obedience. The First Princess and Third Princess respectively raised their weapons and prepared their stances. The flames of war were imminent. Ash did his best to maintain a natural tone while he asked Silvia
“Hey hey…is it alright not to stop them? What’s happening to the two of them?”
Silvia let out a long sigh.
“The two of them have always been like this, they’ll start a fight every time they meet. Their relationship is as incompatible as fire and water…”
“But is it really okay to get to the point where their swords are against each other?”
“There’s no need to worry. Despite how Mirabel ane-sama looks very scholarly and academic, once she picks up that rapier, she’ll turn into a master who won’t lose even to a first-class swordsman.”
“It doesn’t seem to match her appearance…”
While Ash murmured that, either consciously or subconsciously, his eyes drifted towards the door. Glenn, who served as the captain of Veronica’s personal guard, also seemed to be quite accustomed to the habits of these two sisters. He quietly stood upright by the door and didn’t move.
“You should think about what words you want to have engraved on your tombstone — Mirabel!”
“I’m simply here to guide you on what a lady’s achievements should be, you muscle demon!”
As their killing intent spread, they began to trade fierce blows with each other. Mirabel’s smooth swordsmanship allowed her to fend off Veronica’s swings of brute force. And with a sudden thrust so fast that it was barely visible, the flowing movements of her sword were like water.
“Princess Mirabel is amazing too…”
Although he felt bad for Veronica, Ash could not help but feel captivated by Mirabel’s incredible skill.
“Hey! You’re not allowed to look at Mirabel ane-sama with impure thoughts!”
But Silvia glared at him, and Ash felt embarrassed.
“You misunderstand! I absolutely don’t have any strange thoughts, I simply think that it’s very beautiful. And why are you angry about this, Princess-sama?”
“Y-You don’t even understand something so simple!?”
“Ash-sama, Princess-sama is jealous.”
Cosette casually commented from the sidelines.
“Idiot—! Don’t spout such nonsense!”
Probably because her reason had been leaked out, Silvia’s face turned as red as a cooked octopus.
“Hold on! I can’t let that go after hearing it.”
This time, Eco pulled on Ash’s sleeve. Although he thought that all her attention was focused on eating, it seemed as though she had been eavesdropping. When Ash was attacked by both Eco and Silvia, Veronica and Mirabel had both also gotten quite fired up.
“Damn it, these little tricks!”
Veronica seemed somewhat frustrated as she brandished her claymore wildly. If she blocked it directly, then Mirabel’s rapier would snap in an instant.
“Moves that just rely on brute force won’t work on me!”
Mirabel was naturally well aware of that. That was why she deliberately angled her rapier so that she could disperse the pressure of Veronica’s swing. Her fighting style seemed to revolve around a predictable flow.
To some extent, her swordsmanship was an example of her scholarly style. However, the sisters couldn’t be permitted to continue fighting like this mindlessly. After all, the important meeting had been delayed because of their confrontation, and it would also cause problems for the restaurant. Ash spoke to Rebecca while trying to pretend as though nothing had happened
“Rebecca-san…isn’t it about time to stop them…?”
“I also feel that way, but this is a duel between women. It would be rude if we recklessly intervened.”
Even Rebecca had no choice but to surrender with a bitter smile, but she suddenly turned to look at Silvia.
“Yes, Silvia, as their younger sister, you must know the solution to this, right? You should understand your own older sisters more than anyone else here.”
“M-Me? But…once the two of them start fighting, they won’t listen to anyone’s persuasion. I think we can only wait until they run out of energy…”
After saying that, Silvia sighed heavily.
After waiting until Veronica and Mirabel finally stopped—
Eco was already fast asleep at her seat. She probably couldn’t resist the temptation to sleep after eating her fill. Even during the meeting earlier, Eco was the only one who ate continuously.
“It can’t be helped.”
Ash revealed a bitter smile. He took off his uniform jacket and draped it over Eco. Eco’s sleeping face was still as innocent as ever. Even if he watched all night long, he wouldn’t grow tired of it. Inadvertently, Ash’s gaze stopped on <<Avalon’s Bracelet>> that Eco wore on her right hand. This was the special bracelet that was given to Eco by the Mother Dragon. So long as she learned how to use the bracelet, it seemed like Eco would be able to choose between her dragon form or human form. In order to reach that goal, Eco nested in the Dragon Workshop every day to practice. She was working hard to prevent a recurrence of a similar incident to the one that had shocked the capital of Fontaine City—
After Ash secretly strengthened his determination, the time for dessert had arrived. Anya came around to place the plates of dessert on the table one by one.
“Fuwafuwa…eh, this smell…could it possibly be…”
Although she was originally yawning, Eco seemed to have been awoken by the smell of the baked pastries. She suddenly opened her eyes wide, and sat her body upright.
“Your snack has also been prepared.”
Anya smiled wryly as she placed the plate down in front of Eco. The item on the plate was a Mille Crepe that was widely welcomed by students.
“Uwah…it looks delicious…!”
Although she hadn’t eaten any yet, Eco’s face was already in a daze. To Eco who loved crepes the most, the crepe which had pastry that was stacked layer upon layer with fresh cream in between was equivalent to being the most delicious thing in the world. At this moment, Mirabel suddenly lifted her head.
“—Yes, there’s something that’s always been on my mind.”
All of the people who were about to pick up their fork stopped, and their eyes all focused on Mirabel. Eco was the only one who hungrily opened her mouth to chomp down on the crepe.
“I’m very curious as to what the black crystal on the Maestro Tristan’s forehead is. My impression is that I once saw a very similar black crystal in a piece of literature in the past…but I can’t recall what it was exactly, so it’s quite frustrating.”
“…I thought it was just a normal decoration. There are a lot of students who have their Pals wear accessories, and there aren’t any rules to strictly prohibit them in the academy.”
Silvia replied in a swift manner, though the expression on her face appeared to be one of surprise.
“When you mention it, it does indeed feel a little unpleasant.”
“I’ve also discovered…that black crystal seems to harbour a strange power.”
Eco and Lucca expressed reactions contrary to Silvia. Eco was a dragon, so her intuition was much sharper than a human’s. Because Lucca was a member of the Elbaff Tribe, she also had a unique sense of intuition. Since both of them held suspicions, perhaps there really was some kind of unknown secret — Ash felt somewhat anxious.
“The Calm Before The Storm ~A.S.B.1365.10~” is closed.
 Meaning ‘Sword of Light’ or ‘Shining Sword’, Claíomh Solais is a sword from Irish mythology used in many folktales as a heroic or divine sword.
 In Irish mythology, Tír na nÓg means ‘Land of Youth’ and is depicted as a supernatural realm of everlasting youth, beauty, health, abundance and joy.
 A respectful manner of addressing an older sister.
 A respectful manner of speaking about an older sister.
(All 5 parts) (10/11)
Continues on to Chapter 4 – Ashley Trapped