Continues on to Chapter 3 – The Night Before the Finale, The Calm Before the Storm
Continues on to Chapter 5 – The Fight of the Sacred Knights
Early morning — in the boys’ dormitory, Apollo House.
Celes awoke in Oscar’s bedroom. The bright rays of morning sun burst into the room through the cracks of the curtains. It appeared as though today would have clear autumn weather. This kind of weather was perfect for the final events of the Five Hundred Years Festival.
“…So this day has finally arrived?”
With the mood of a soldier preparing for battle, Celes muttered to herself. She reached out to grab the eye patch that had been placed beside her pillow, and then put it on her left eye. A desire to hide the physical features which she did not want others to see — Celes held such feelings, similar to how Ash used bandages to hide the <Seikoku> on his left arm.
“The more I think about it, the more infuriating it is…”
Realising that she had something in common with Ash caused Celes to pout angrily. She felt amazed at the fact that of all days, it had to be this morning that she realised this fact. After Celes got up from the bed, she began to get dressed. She put on her jet-black outfit with familiarity, she combed her silver hair and tied it into a ponytail, and with that, the Celes-style maid ensemble was complete. After checking herself in front of the mirror, Celes moved to the bedside.
“…I’m grateful, Oscar. My days as your personal maid have actually been quite enjoyable. Even if I only became your maid because I was following orders from that person…”
Oscar was still fast asleep on the bed. The breasts that she normally kept carefully hidden had now been liberated, and were clearly bulging underneath her pyjamas. Celes quietly stared at Oscar’s sleeping face for a good while.
“If you were raised as a girl…then you would surely have a bunch of guys from the court chasing after the hems of your dress.”
Celes muttered as she fixed Oscar’s sleepwear.
“When I think back about it, your mother was also rather cruel.”
After Celes covered Oscar with a blanket, she turned around. She walked over to the table and picked up the pen that sat upon it. After writing a letter of farewell, Celes put the pen down and then headed for the door. There was a bright red bag at the entrance. Celes had secretly prepared it and placed it there last night. The bag had a black skull embroidered onto it, Celes’ favourite. As Celes exited the room and stepped into the corridor, she reached out backwards with her hand to quietly shut the room door.
“I seem to remember that that filthy insect lives on the third floor.”
After bringing the bag up to her shoulder, Celes headed towards the stairwell.
Whilst lying in bed, Ash suddenly received a sweet nibble on his earlobe and could not help but feel goose bumps.
“Ngh…you can’t, Eco…”
It had already been a long time since Eco first practiced a dragon’s peculiar habit of nibbling on its owner. Most likely because it was before the final battle, Eco had also begun to feel nervous. However, the alarm clock hadn’t yet sounded, so Ash hoped to sleep for just a bit longer. Ash turned over, and freed himself from Eco’s entanglement at the same time.
But Eco chomped down on him again. This time it was his flank.
It was such a pleasant sensation that Ash’s entire body arched as if in climax.
“This can’t be possible! I didn’t think that Eco’s nibbling would feel so comfortable…!”
Ash cried out unintentionally. Indeed, Eco never knew how to restrain her power, so she only ever gave Ash pain.
“Fufu. You finally realised.”
A tender, heart-warming voice teased Ash’s eardrums.
As soon as he opened his eyes, Ash was dazed by the scene before him. It was because a completely naked Navi was straddling on top of his body. Moreover, even Ash was completely nude. There was only a piece of thin white silk covering the lower half of his body.
“Could this place be…!”
Ash frantically looked around. The floorboards had a checkered black and white pattern. The walls were lined with sets of armour for what seemed like the human body and the place was reminiscent of a castle. A mosaic of crystal chandeliers containing Bright Dragon Crystals hung down from the ceiling. In the middle of the room was an antique bedframe, and Ash was on top of it. It was a rather familiar sight. It happened during early summer — when he was taking part in the Selective Training Camp at Allonnes Lake, Ash recalled the incident where he attempted to ride Gawain. Ash was severely injured at the time, and his body was transported to this room through Navi’s power.
“Welcome to the Dragon Workshop. It’s been a long time since we last saw each other like this.”
Navi smiled as she said so. Regardless of whether it was that lustrous pink hair or the outline of her facial features, both Navi and Eco looked very similar. However, Navi was at a different stage of growth compared to Eco, and she was already a mature person. The horns on her head were as sharp as a dragon’s, and her body was also quite slender. Despite her young and beautiful appearance, Navi was actually the embodiment of knowledge that dragon race had accumulated over time. Ash naturally could only understand this to some degree, but she was basically like an intelligent being that had sprouted from the vessel of information itself.
“Navi, why did you bring me here? Is it an important matter?”
Although Ash tried to ask in a normal tone, the problem was the fact that both of them were completely naked. His voice was uncontrollably high pitched and sharp. Moreover, there was only a thin piece of silk draped over Navi’s body, while her lower body was closely affixed to Ash’s abdomen, separated only by a thin piece of silk. Even if Ash was in a ‘normal’ bodily state, he could still clearly feel Navi’s soft touch against his own body.
“Ara, you’re no fun. I can’t call you over if there isn’t a problem? Ever since Eco received <<Avalon’s Bracelet>> from the Mother Dragon, I’ve had to train her every day. What’s wrong with rewarding a bit of my hard work?”
As if she was trying to get a closer looks Ash’s face, she brought her own face closer. Looking closer, her expression seemed to have calmed. But she was right, saying something like ‘Is it an important matter?’ as soon as he saw her was rather rude. Ash reflected on his own words.
“Speaking of that, is the training going well?”
“Eco is actually working pretty hard. Although she’s full of complaints, that child is serious about wanting to learn how to use <<Avalon’s Bracelet>>. I wonder if it’s the power of love that’s driving her to work so hard?”
“W-What are you saying!?”
Seeing Ash act so flustered, Navi shook her large breasts, as if to further his embarrassment. Ash quickly averted his eyes while his heart pounded so wildly that he could even heart the flutter of his heartbeat in his own ears.
“Fufu. Since it’s a rare opportunity for us to be alone, let’s not talk about such uninteresting topics. If you want to…do you want to have some fun?”
“Wait a second! This isn’t right!”
Navi tilted her head sideways a bit, and seductively reached out with her right hand. Her right hand gently caressed Ash’s chest and abdomen.
“Ooh…! A-As I said, stop…!”
“Fufu. Isn’t this like how I teased you the first time we met?”
Navi’s moist lips suddenly sucked on Ash’s neck. And then, Navi’s lips slid across Ash’s skin. Navi’s silky long hair also accompanied her movements and tickled Ash’s skin. Ash was struck with a thrill of pleasure and couldn’t help but arch his body. The thought of ‘If I let Navi do as she pleases, it might not be bad to see where she leads me to…’ streaked across his mind.
Ash continued to pant loudly, while Navi also gradually became aroused as she exhaled hot breaths. Navi, who had always been calm and seemed to be in a detached position actually seemed excited right now. This only caused Ash’s heartbeat to race even faster…. But in the next instant, Ash came back to his senses.
“I can’t do this after all, Navi! I like you too Navi, but we can’t keep on playing around like this!”
“Do you feel as though…doing something like this is equivalent to betraying Eco?”
“T-That is also one of the reasons…”
Ash endured Navi’s caresses while he squeezed out a reply.
“Don’t worry, playfulness like this will one day transform into one of Eco’s own experiences.”
Navi stopped sitting on top of Ash’s body and lay down beside him. She held his face up with her hands and looked carefully at Ash’s face. Every move she made was filled with a sexy charm, and even though he knew that he shouldn’t look, Ash couldn’t separate his gaze from Navi’s body. Her bright red eyes glistened and reflected Ash’s face within them.
“Didn’t I explain it to you before? Eco will become one with me in the future, and she will reign at the summit of the dragon race. As long as you think of it like this, then it’s not cheating.”
“…But, doesn’t that make you feel lonely?”
Perhaps realising that Ash was serious, Navi’s expression also became serious.
“Why? I’ve always been an existence created for such a purpose, so I don’t feel loneliness. This is the law of nature for the dragon race.”
“I can’t accept that! Even if the dragon race agrees, I absolutely won’t!”
Ash energetically sat upright. He grabbed onto both of Navi’s shoulders and pushed her down on the bed. In an instant exchange of positions, Ash had gone on top, while Navi was below.
“In my eyes, Navi is also an important companion.”
“I don’t want to lose Navi, not even a bit.”
“I-If you say such things…it troubles me.”
It was the first time that Navi appeared to be embarrassed in front of Ash. Not only was Navi shaken, her entire face was also flushed and she seemed fidgety.
“Navi? What’s wrong?”
After Ash asked in surprise, Navi turned her face to the side with an overwhelmed expression.
“You’re such a cunning man. If you say such things, then I…”
Not only her cheeks, but even Navi’s earlobes and neck had turned completely red. Moreover, her previously bold attitude where she seemed undaunted for anyone to see her nude body was completely different now, and she crossed her arms in front of her chest in apparent shyness. After saying that much, she turned silent and seemed self-conscious.
Ash persevered with his question, but Navi still refused to answer. Ash was staring at her so intently that he even forgot to blink. The usual Navi who was always rather devilish and overbearing when she enjoyed teasing Ash was now like a pure maiden with a delicate expression. However, this reaction was by no means a rejection of Ash’s intentions. The evidence was that Navi would occasionally steal a peek at Ash, as if waiting for him to take the next step. And as soon as her gaze intersected with Ash’s, she would immediately avert her eyes in a manner that made her look increasingly shy.
—Kuh, you’re the cunning one Navi! If you act so cute in front of a boy, even I won’t be able to resist stepping over that boundary…!
Ash’s reason was on the brink of collapse — and at that moment, Ash’s body felt an astonishingly powerful sense of attraction, instantly pulling him away from Navi’s body. Ash frantically looked behind him and noticed that a dark vortex had appeared near the wall.
“Uwah! What’s going on!?”
Navi quickly stood up from the bed and stared directly into the dark vortex. The expression on her face now was the same calm expression that she normally had.
“Someone is trying to forcefully awaken your body. You had best go back early to—”
With no time to finish listening to Navi’s words, Ash’s body was sucked into the darkness of the vortex.
“—Hey, you filthy insect.”
A sharp voice awakened Ash from his slumber. Ash awoke drowsily, as he was still half-asleep. It felt as though he had a rather flirtatious dream with Navi—
“Mmm…please. Let me sleep for a bit longer…then I’ll be fine…”
Ash turned back around into a comfortable sleeping position. Feeling a bit cold, he reached for his blanket. But he couldn’t find his blanket no matter where he reached for it. Did Eco snatch it away from him?
“Tsk, just how long are you going to keep sleeping for!?”
All of a sudden, he felt a powerful pressure against his back.
Ash was fully awake at last.
—That’s right, I was supposed to be with Navi in the Dragon Workshop…
When he recalled Navi’s lavish and alluring nude body, Ash couldn’t stop himself from blushing and his heartbeat from accelerating, but his reason was quickly restored. Yes, the reason why Ash’s consciousness was forcibly sent back here was because someone had insisted on waking up Ash’s physical body. Although it was a dimly lit room, there were rays of sunlight which passed through the cracks in the curtains, so it was not entirely dark. Ash wanted to jump straight up, but contrary to his expectations, he was unable to move. There was a strange pressure against his back. Like this, Ash lay on the bed, unable to move.
“Is that you Eco!?”
Ash struggled to turn his head to the side, and looked towards the direction of the pillow. He saw Eco holding onto a stuffed dragon soft toy, showing a sweet face while immersed in her sleep.
It seemed as though the perpetrator was not Eco.
“Hey, where are you looking? I’m over here!”
Under the scathing correction, Ash turned to look at the other side.
“Uwah! Why are you here!?”
Ash lay on the bed in astonishment. He simply watched as Celes crossed her arms over her chest, while she stepped on his back with one leg.
“P-Please take your foot off…it seriously hurts!”
“Hmph. If you’re a man then you shouldn’t be screaming about an ache of this extent.”
After the eyepatch maid fiercely shot back, she exerted even more force. The pressure against Ash’s back grew stronger and stronger.
Celes’ seemingly slender frame didn’t convey the strength of her legs. Although it wasn’t as scary as Eco when she used her full power, it felt as though she had undergone some intense training. Why had Celes infiltrated Ash’s room? Did Oscar send her? No, it can’t be…Ash immediately gave up on that possibility. Oscar had absolute confidence in her own strength, so it wasn’t possible for her to resort to such underhanded means on the morning of the decisive battle. …However, the most pressing problem was Celes’ current position. She had raised one of her legs to stamp down on Ash’s back. Compared to the average maid outfit, the black dress she wore had a rather short skirt. So from the perspective of Ash as he lay on the bed, her black underwear with its lace decorations were all in full view. After Ash averted his eyes away from Celes crotch, he quietly said
“So even your underwear is black huh…”
After Celes let out a strange cry, she hurriedly retracted her leg and held her skirt down with both hands.
It was rather unexpected that she was someone quick to become embarrassed.
“I should say this first; I didn’t look at them intentionally, but accidentally.”
Ash explained as he quickly straightened himself and sat upright.
“…Forget it. I’ll get right to the point.”
Surprisingly, Celes didn’t seem to pursue the issue any further, and instead went to open up the bag that had been placed on the ground by her feet. It was a red bag with the pattern of a skull embroidered onto it. From the rays of light that penetrated through the gaps in the curtains, the contents of the bag were vaguely visible.
“Hey! You…! That’s…”
Ash had a bad feeling about this. The item that Celes removed from the bag was a set of the Academy’s girls’ uniform and a wig of long hair. As well as feminine undergarments to top it all off.
“Here, hurry up and change into these.”
Ash began to sweat profusely.
“T-These couldn’t be…”
Celes sneered as she said
“That’s right, this is the beautiful Ashley’s special costume.”
“You’re forcing me to cross-dress again!? Why!?”
Ash’s brain was in disorder. If Oscar won today’s decisive battle, Ash would have to cross-dress as her bride. And at that time, Ash would be forced to live his life as Ashley Blake from then on. Of course, Ash’s dragon Eco would also have to live together with Oscar. On the other hand, if Ash was to become todays’ victor, Oscar would no longer pursue Eco, she would have to give up on her ambition to marry Ash, and she would also withdraw her inappropriate marriage proposal to Rebecca. …That was what Ash and Oscar had agreed on. The battle against Oscar clearly had not begun yet, so why did he have to dress like a girl?
“Pipe down, you filthy insect. If you don’t cooperate obediently…”
As Celes spoke with a threatening tone of voice, she reached into her bosom. And from there she took out a clump of steel. The instant that he grasped the true identity of that object, Ash felt goose bumps across his entire body. The object that Celes had taken out and pointed at him was a small magic pistol. Its design utilised energy from a Bright Dragon Crystal to fire bullets.
“…Are you threatening me with that? I don’t think Oscar would be happy with you doing something like this.”
“Hmph, you sound as though you’re quite familiar with Oscar. But you know, it’s true that Oscar doesn’t like to use underhanded means.”
“Then why are you…?”
“Because this is my own decision. Enough of this, hurry up and change, or else I’ll—”
After saying that much, Celes moved the muzzle slightly. The muzzle was aimed at Eco’s innocent figure.
“Don’t blame me for shooting off her limbs.”
The expression in Celes’ eyes was serious.
“Umu, it looks…delicious. Munya munya…”
Even though it was clearly a life or death situation, Eco still continued to sleep talk while remaining carefree.
Ash bitterly clenched his teeth. Celes had taken action on her own, and it had nothing to do with Oscar. Just what did this mean? No, even if Celes insisted that this was her own ‘arbitrary’ behaviour, was it really true? It was possible that someone was secretly manipulating Celes. The first person that Ash could think of as a suspect was Zacharias III of the Chevron Kingdom.
—The old king who covets Eco’s blood…
Although he couldn’t rule out the possibility of Celes being a pawn for him, when Ash thought about his options, he believed that his top priority was to protect Eco’s safety.
“…Fine. I’ll listen to your request so put the gun away.”
—Seriously, what am I doing…?
Ash thought as he held down the wig that was nearly blown away by the cool early morning wind. Celes took Ash who was disguised as a girl boldly through the Academy’s front entrance as they left. Although there were many teaching staff, guards, and dragon stable workers on the campus grounds as they walked through, no one seemed to have any doubts about Celes or Ash. On the contrary, those people even held warm expressions as they stared at Ash from head to toe while breathing in a strangely excited manner.
—Seriously, please don’t stare at me so much with eyes like that…
While sighing, Ash realised the reason why he was forced to change. Ash had recently become something of a famous celebrity. Since he held the spotlight, if he was discovered to have left in the morning with Celes, it would look suspicious to anyone. That was why Celes forced Ash to cross-dress as a girl. Once he had cross-dressed as a girl, unless he came across someone that he was well acquainted with, it was almost impossible for him to be recognised as Ash.
“Come on, move faster.”
Celes picked up her pace as she walked onto a road with few pedestrians and hurried Ash along. In the end, Celes stopped her legs at the dragon coach station. There was just one dragon carriage parked there.
“Please take us to Lake Rubina.”
After Celes gave the destination, the old coachman apologetically answered
“Because of the Five Hundred Years Festival, all roads have been blocked off for quite a while. If guests are insistent on departure, I’m afraid it will be a large detour…”
“I don’t mind.”
“Well, hop on then ladies.”
After Celes and Ash boarded, the coachman started the dragon carriage. After a while, the dragon carriage left the city through the main gates. From here on, it was considered to be outside the city. Just as the coachman had said, streets had been closed off, and the dragon carriage weaved through uneven roads and detours as it advanced. There were no passer-by’s or vehicles in the vicinity. While enduring the rattling of the four-wheeled carriage, Ash asked Celes
“Hey, Celes. What are you trying to do by taking me to Lake Rubina?”
“Who said you were allowed to ask questions? Also, don’t forget that you’re Ashley right now. Use a feminine voice for me and speak like a lady.”
“Don’t be so unreasonable. Why not speak for yourself, you’re clearly a woman, but you don’t act ladylike at all.”
“…Did you say something?”
After being fiercely glared at by Celes, Ash shut his mouth in silence.
After more than an hour, Ash and Celes finally arrived at Lake Rubina. Speaking of Lake Rubina, this was the fateful place where Ash had stumbled upon Oscar’s secret. The memory of Oscar’s naked body inadvertently surfaced within Ash’s mind, causing his cheeks to become hot. After the coachman accepted the fare from Celes, it appeared that he didn’t find it strange at all for two girls to come to the lake so early in the morning, and so he drove off.
“I wish he was more doubtful…”
Ash sighed as he saw off the dragon carriage that gradually disappeared from view. Although Lake Rubina was a tourist attraction for picnics and fishing, it was rather desolate right now. After all, it was still early, and today was also the last day of the Five Hundred Years Festival. The people who would visit Lake Rubina on a day such as this would certainly be rather odd ones.
“What are you dreaming about? Hurry up and move.”
“You want me to move, but where to!? You didn’t come here for a leisurely fishing trip right?”
“Hah? Since when did I say I’d come fishing with someone like you? Look, the destination is over there.”
There was a dilapidated old house that stood not far from the lake. No, it felt more appropriate to describe that house as a ruin. It looked like a villa from a bygone era.
“Let’s go, we’re going in there, Ashley.”
“Hold on, even if it’s a ruin, we can’t just trespass there!”
Upon hearing Ash’s cry, Celes turned around sharply with a fiery expression on her face.
“Hey, filthy insect. Your current identity is Ashley. So behave more like a girl!”
Celes reached out with her right hand and flipped Ash’s skirt upwards. A cool breeze blew across his lower body.
Ash reflexively pushed his skirt down. His thighs involuntarily moved together and his knees hugged each other. Ash’s entire face had gone red. In fact, he had also been forced to change into girls’ underwear, so he didn’t want anyone to see that no matter what.
“Hmph. That’s a pretty cute reaction. That’s more like Ashley.”
After Celes smiled mischievously, she walked through the rusty gate.
Originally, the rusted entrance was locked, but Celes took a lock-picking tool out of her red bag and easily unlocked the door.
“Hey…why do you have tools like that?”
“Nonsense, all maids keep these things by their sides.”
“I don’t want these kinds of maids!”
The two of them exchanged harmless arguments as they stepped into the house. After reaching the end of the hallway that was covered in cobwebs, Celes picked one of the guest rooms. As soon as Celes opened the door, the Oracle mechanisms activated, illuminating the interior. Although the building itself seemed to have been abandoned, the crystal lights were still able to function. Inside the room, there was only a small desk and a bookcase for reading, as well as a bed. The windows were blocked by nailed wooden planks, so the only light source came from the dragon crystal lights that hung from the ceiling.
—What does she want to do by bringing me to this isolated place…?
The reason why Ash was so obedient was purely to protect Eco’s safety. Since he had already come to a location so far from the Academy, his original objective had been achieved. So, now was a good time to hear the real purpose of this excursion from Celes’ mouth.
“Say, Celes. Isn’t it about time you tell me what you—”
Unfortunately, Ash was interrupted just as he had opened his mouth to speak. It was because Celes had put the bag down by her feet, and then pushed Ash without warning.
Because Ash had received an unexpected attack, he fell onto the bed without any resistance. Not only was the bed’s mattress damaged quite severely, it also smelt somewhat mouldy.
“W-What are you doing!?”
Ash complained, but Celes took advantage of this opportunity to fix the hem of his flipped-up skirt before leaping on top of him like a female leopard. She also used both of her hands to hold Ash’s cheeks tightly. After being gripped by her cold palms, Ash shivered as he looked straight back.
“What are you trying to do?”
“Looking at you like this…you’re actually quite a beautiful girl.”
Her clear eye fixedly gazed upon Ash’s face. Feeling Celes’ breath against his skin caused Ash’s heartbeat to rapidly accelerate. She had delicate doll-like facial features and a black leather eyepatch. There was also a whiff of a minty fragrance. Celes reluctantly frowned, and then let out a sigh.
“It’s truly quite a complex feeling when a man is actually prettier than me.”
After saying that, Celes finally let go of Ash. Despite her abrupt personality, that depressed look of hers was filled with girlhood, and Ash couldn’t help but find it pleasant.
“How could that be, aren’t you way cuter than me, Celes?”
Celes’ cheeks turned bright red. Her adorable expression seemed quite refreshing, but Ash’s expression was serious.
“Celes, tell me honestly. What is your motive?”
Celes suddenly lowered her head, and used a muffled voice to answer.
“My current actions are all for the sake of that person.”
“This so-called person…are you referring to the King of Chevron?”
Celes didn’t reply. She simply stared at Ash in silence.
“How strange. Since the aim of the King of Chevron is Eco’s blood, you’re working towards that…but why hold me hostage? By reason, Eco should be a better choice for a hostage, right? Or could it be that your aim is to separate me and Eco first!?”
Ash felt a chill run down his spine. If there were other accomplices to help Celes, then Eco was in danger. Eco was currently completely oblivious to the situation, and she was leisurely asleep. But Celes avoided Ash’s questions.
“Listen carefully, Ashley. No matter what happens in the arena, you’ll be safe as long as you stay here. Be good and stay here the entire day for me.”
“What? I don’t get what you mean…”
“You don’t need to understand.”
After Celes let go of Ash’s body, she cast her face aside. Ash could only try to ask in another way
“Say…Celes, do you really have to do this? The final battle of the Dragonar’s Gunnar Bout is the biggest event of the Five Hundred Years Festival. Oscar may not have verbalised it, but she was really looking forward to this match, right? I don’t think she’ll be happy to win without a fight.”
“I understand that more clearly than anyone else!”
Although she was usually rather cold, Celes’ expression changed, and she suddenly turned into an active volcano as she roared out.
“…Damn you! I lose control of my emotions every time I talk to you. The time for talking is over.”
After gloomily muttering that, Celes jumped back on top of Ash’s body again. In the next instant, Ash’s entire body stiffened. Celes’ lips sealed Ash’s mouth. On top of that, her warm tongue forced its way through his lips, and into Ash’s mouth. Ash tried to resist, but both sides of his cheeks were tightly clasped between Celes’ hands.
It was a tongue kiss that was sweet, yet also carried a taste of danger. Could it be the taste of Celes’ saliva? There was a flavour that seemed to resemble peppermint that gradually spread in his mouth. Ash was so surprised that he subconsciously couldn’t help but gulp and swallow the mouthful of liquid into his stomach.
Eventually, Celes slowly moved away from his lips. A strand of saliva connecting the two of them stretched as they separated, but it soon broke.
At that moment, Ash’s body quickly shivered, and it felt as though the entire world spun around him. No, Ash was the one who tumbled down. As if being unable to withstand the weight of his body, Ash was paralysed upon the bed.
“T-This is…how could…? My head……it’s diz……zy…”
His consciousness had become hazy, and it felt as though he was about to fall asleep at any time. At some point in time, Celes’ right hand had grabbed a small bottle.
“Don’t worry, it’s just a sleeping drug.”
Ash understood the significance of that sudden kiss.
“Why did you have to do it…Celes? You…I don’t understand…”
Celes turned around without saying a single word. Her silver ponytail swayed along with her head. Her back looks so lonely…Ash thought. With her back to Ash, Celes quietly said
“No matter what happens, please don’t give up on Oscar as a friend.”
Her tone was completely different from the usual Celes, and it was extremely gentle.
“What are you saying…?”
“Ever since she got to know you, Oscar has inexplicably become full of life. Even I couldn’t help but feel jealous…that’s why I don’t want to let you die.”
After saying that, Celes clicked her tongue. What exactly was going on? The only thing that was certain right now was the fact that Celes truly cared for Oscar…. —After considering that much, Ash realised that he was no longer able to support himself. His consciousness felt heavy as if he was sinking into mud. If he relaxed for even a moment, it felt as though he would sink into a deep slumber. Even so, Ash clenched his teeth and managed to maintain his consciousness.
“Hey, Celes…please tell me. Who are you fighting against…?”
However, Ash had already reached his limit. Unable to wait for Celes’ reply, Ash’s consciousness was sucked into a deep slumber.
The effect of the sleeping drug was powerful, and Ash fell into a deep sleep. It was an extremely potent drug made from the Lafon family’s knowledge of medicinal herbs that had been passed down throughout the generations. Its effects would most likely not endanger his life, but it would allow him to sleep for as long as half a day.
“Hmph, even your sleeping face is like a beautiful girl’s…”
After Celes coldly mumbled, she recalled the sensation of her lips when they had been affixed to Ash’s, causing her entire face to instantly turn red.
“N-No! I did that so that he could quickly swallow the drug, it was a last resort…there are no other people here, so who am I explaining this to!?”
As if to vent her anger, Celes kicked away the bag at her feet. When she kicked it like that, the black fabric that was in the bag fell out. It was a crumpled robe. It looked like a wizard’s robe from a story. Celes took off her maid outfit to reveal her doll-like nude body. The dragon crystal lights clearly revealed her white porcelain skin.
“It would be more appropriate for the current me to wear ugly clothes like this…”
While deriding herself, she put on the long robe along with its hood.
“After all, I am a descendant of <Pluto >…I never had the right to accompany you, Oscar.”
Finally, Celes took a mask out of the bag. It was a smooth, white mask. Because there were no decorations on it at all, it let off an eerie and demonic atmosphere. After putting the mask on, Celes turned around to look at Ash’s sleeping face as she whispered
“Filthy insect — no, Ash Blake. Even if Oscar is to be wanted as a traitor…you must believe in her.”
[—Hey, Ash! What are you doing!? No matter how much you love the bed, you should know when enough is enough!]
Immediately after the voice that rebuked him came the sound of a pounding at the door. Even the heavy sleeper Eco couldn’t stand that noise.
“Uun…what is it…?”
Eco rubbed her sleepy eyes as she murmured. Based on the voice and its tone, she could infer that the person knocking on the door was Silvia.
“Mmm…Ash…why aren’t you getting the door? Silvia is looking for you…”
She didn’t hear any response from Ash for a long time. Eco found it strange, so she reached out to her side. All that her hand felt was the cold touch of the silver pocket-watch that had been left on the bed.
Realising that something was amiss, her drowsiness was instantly swept away. She jumped off the bed and looked around the entire room. But Ash was nowhere to be seen.
[Ash! What’s going on!? Answer me! It’s already long past the meeting time!]
Silvia’s voice continued to resound outside the door.
[Ash-sama, are you feeling unwell?]
The voice that sounded uneasy belonged to Jessica.
[The meeting time has already passed. To be late…is simply unfitting of Ash’s style.]
It was also vaguely possible to hear Luka’s voice.
[Ash isn’t an undisciplined kind of person. He couldn’t possibly have overslept on such an important day…]
As for this calm sounding voice, it belonged to Rebecca. As if seeking help, Eco opened the room’s door. As soon as the door opened, Silvia, Jessica and Luka all consecutively tumbled into the room.
Eco struggled awkwardly underneath the three people who had fallen on top of her. Rebecca was the only one who stood by idly.
“Eco! Where is Ash? Is he still asleep?”
Silvia asked with an interrogative tone.
“I don’t know either! When I woke up, Ash was already gone…”
“Could he be in the toilet?”
Jessica interjected between Silvia and Eco.
“No, that’s not possible.”
Rebecca pulled out her silver pocket watch to confirm the time.
“It’s already been fifteen minutes since we came to Ash’s room. Using the toilet for fifteen minutes is too long. So he should be in a restaurant or the shower room…”
“I’m going to search the dorms just in case!”
Jessica frantically rushed off.
“I’ll go with Gawain…to search outside the dorm.”
After Jessica ran off, Luka also quickly flew off.
“We should first investigate this room in the meantime. Excuse us, Eco.”
Seeing Rebecca’s calm attitude, Eco felt somewhat relieved. As long as the problem was left to such a strong and reliable Student Council President, she felt as though she would definitely be able to solve the problem that she herself was unable to.
“Eco, are these Ash’s pyjamas?”
Rebecca kneeled down on the floor to examine Ash’s pyjamas.
“Hmm. Although it’s not obvious, there’s still a faint trace of body heat.”
In her surprise, Eco could not stop herself from repeating the phrase. Turning to look at Silvia by her side, her face was also dyed red.
“Oh come on, what are you two maidens reacting to?”
A grin surfaced on Rebecca’s face as she admonished Eco and Silvia.
“In any case, we can probably be certain that Ash changed out of his pyjamas before leaving. But if that really is the case, then it’s somewhat dubious…”
Rebecca’s gaze drifted towards the wall. The uniforms of Ash and Eco were hung up on the wall. In fact, Eco was rather fond of the image of how both of their uniforms were hung up like a matching pair. Rebecca took a glance at the boys’ uniform and then folded her arms in front of her chest in thought.
“Ash’s uniform is still in this room — this means that he didn’t leave for the meeting.”
What Rebecca stated was certainly reasonable. If he was going to attend a meeting with the Student Council, then it stood to reason that Ash would change into his uniform. In a sudden burst of inspiration, Eco ran to examine the wardrobe. She examined each one of Ash’s casual outfits, but the more she investigated, the stranger it seemed.
“Is there something wrong, Eco?”
After Silvia asked, Eco stuck her face out of the closet.
“…How strange. Just what kind of outfit did Ash wear outside?”
“In other words, all of Ash’s clothes are in this room without a doubt…?”
Silvia tilted her head in confusion.
“Hmm. Something doesn’t match up…”
Rebecca folded her arms as she solemnly contemplated the problem. Eco’s uneasiness only grew.
“—Hey, you three!”
At that moment, someone burst into the room while shouting loudly, startling Eco so much that her shoulders twitched. The uninvited guest who stood at the door catching their breath as their shoulders heaved up and down was Oscar. Although Oscar was wearing her usual uniform that had undergone some minor adjustments, her hair was in a mess and she didn’t look like a noble at all. It was safe to assume that she had gotten out of bed not long ago. What is he panicking about…? Eco thought to herself in surprise.
“Have you seen Celes?”
“Calm down first, Oscar. What happened to Celes?”
Rebecca still maintained her calm demeanour as she looked at Oscar.
“Celes disappeared after leaving behind this message!”
After saying that, Oscar took out a piece of note paper. Rebecca took the piece of paper and quietly read its contents. Because Rebecca looked at it for a long time and didn’t say anything, Eco couldn’t supress her anxiousness and peered in from the side to find out what was written. All that was casually written on the piece of paper was a single sentence.
“…[You don’t have to forgive me.]? What does that mean?”
Eco pondered, while at the same time—
“…I see, so that’s what’s going on.”
Rebecca’s expression suddenly showed understanding as she murmured.
“President? What kind of clue did you gain from that information?”
Silvia stared at Rebecca. Rebecca kept her arms folded as she expressed her opinion in an objective manner.
“Mmm. A pair of pyjamas that have been taken off and a set of uniform that was left behind are in this room. Moreover, not a single item of clothing is missing from his wardrobe. Also, Celes has disappeared at the same time. It can be assumed that the disappearance of these two people is not entirely unrelated. Based solely on the message that has been left behind, Celes seems to be rather determined.”
“Geez—! That’s too long-winded! Just tell us the conclusion!”
Eco was anxious and couldn’t help but complain impatiently.
“Then, to draw a conclusion. Just what did Ash wear when he left…we’ve constantly been thinking around this issue — but since we know that Ash’s disappearance is related to Celes, things are a bit different.”
After Rebecca revealed a smile, she placed her hand on top of Eco’s head.
“I think we can be certain now that Celes forced Ash to cross-dress before she led Ash away.”
“—How could this be!?”
As Rebecca came to such a conclusion, Oscar’s limbs went became weak, and she knelt down on the ground.
“In the end, is Celes a member of the Lafon family? Is it because she had to obey the king’s orders that she had to separate Ash and Eco first…?”
Oscar murmured as if recalling something. Because of her low volume, Eco was unable to hear it. All of a sudden, Silvia stepped forward.
“Oscar-san, forgive me for saying this plainly. This afternoon will be the final battle of the Dragonar’s Gunnar Bout. Even if Celes has disappeared, that’s not a reason for you to withdraw from the tournament. The agreement you made on that day must be upheld.”
Oscar didn’t say anything. After Silvia turned around to look at Rebecca, her expression appeared serious.
“President. I will be going to the seventh dragon house while it’s still morning to join Lancelot so that I can prepare for the Dragonar’s Gunnar Bout. Hence I will not be able to participate in the search for Ash, is that alright?”
“Yes, I don’t mind. Although there is a mountain of work for the Student Council, you should concentrate of preparing for the decisive battle Silvia.”
“Thank you, President. Then I’ll be going first.”
With no further concern, Silvia prepared to turn around to leave. Eco swiftly grabbed onto her arm.
“Hold on! Silvia, are you planning to just leave Ash behind and concentrate on your own preparations? I never thought that you would be such a cold woman!”
Silvia narrowed her eyes at the infuriated Eco.
“Don’t be so naïve, Eco.”
“What did you say!?”
“The Dragonar’s Gunnar Bout is the most prestigious dragon riding competition of my country. Since I am participating today as the Knight Country’s Fourth Princess, I must naturally take care of all preparations. If I fight too disgracefully, I may receive ill fame for a thousand years.”
“How could this…”
“I believe that Ash will definitely return before the decisive battle begins. Ash is also an upstanding man. If he believes that his opponent has been troubled by his personal issues, it is possible that he may not be able to use his full strength out of guilt.”
Eco realised something from the sincerity in Silvia’s eyes…. Looking closely, Silvia’s fists were constantly trembling. In truth, she also wanted to search for Ash’s whereabouts. But that was not part of Silvia’s current job. As Ash’s opponent in the decisive battle, Silvia had made up her mind to do the best that she could in her own way — that was her decision. After Silvia placed her hands on top of Eco’s shoulders, she revealed a gentle expression.
“Finding Ash is your job. You must bring him back safely.”
Eco’s face suddenly turned red, and she irritably turned her head aside.
“E-Even if you don’t say it, I know!”
At nine o’clock in the morning, the finals of the long-distance dragon racing competition began on schedule. Not only was the arena’s audience seating completely full, but the number of standing audience members was steadily increasing. The dedicated seating area for the VIPs was located in one corner of the arena. Until yesterday, there were still many vacancies in the VIP seats but they were completely full for this grand occasion today. The Chevron King Zacharias III calmly sat in the central position of the VIP seating area. Led by the First Queen, the ‘Queen Group’ was also in attendance surrounding the old King, making it seem as though the whole area was a completely different dimension.
“So that’s the King of Chevron huh. F-For someone to sit alone amongst so many wives…how shameless!”
Sitting upon the Maestro Brigid’s head as she flew a hundred metres above the arena, Eco was suddenly filled with anger. On the other hand, Eco noticed earlier that although the Paladin Oswald was also in the VIP seating area, he looked rather poor when compared to the royalty and nobility of the Chevron Kingdom. In contrast to the humble Oswald, the Third Princess Mirabel was like a diamond emitting a dazzling light. Although she was not interested in the events of the tournament as she sat there silently reading a book, even her routine book-reading mannerisms deeply attracted the attention of those around her. Like her name of the <Argento Magus>, it was as if she was shrouded in a silver light. Also, it was possible to see the Second Princess Cassandra sitting leisurely on the left side of the Paladin. In terms of presence, she and Mirabel formed a kind of balance on the left and right side. However, as the name <Diabolic Belladonna> suggested, her beauty carried a seductive quality that was the complete opposite of Mirabel. Seeing Cassandra’s figure, Eco felt an inexplicable fear. By reason, the First Princess should also be present, but Veronica was busy patrolling the venue, and it looked like she had not made her way to the VIP area yet.
“…Now is not the time to be dawdling. I need to find Ash!”
Eco felt as if she had a mission of her own as she rode Brigid up high into the air.
“Haah…the thing that I need most at a time like this is Navi’s power, but that woman is…!”
Eco recalled the events that transpired not long ago, causing her anger to fire up. —It was something that happened just a few hours ago. Eco visited the Dragon Workshop to seek Navi’s assistance. She didn’t originally want to rely on Navi’s power, but it was an urgent situation. However, Navi sat in her usual chair with a dazed look, and no matter what Eco said, it was as if she wasn’t listening to her at all. Her cheeks were also dyed as red as a maiden who had fallen in love, which was extremely strange. Eco had no idea about what had happened to Navi.
I can’t imagine a cold or fever being possible in the Dragweiss…
“In the end, the only members of Ash’s search team are you and me. I’m counting on you.”
Brigid joyfully responded to Eco. Eco subconsciously pulled out the silver pocket watch from her pocket. It was too bizarre that he had forgotten to carry the silver pocket watch that was proof of being a Dragonar…. These days, Eco was always being led around by Ash who was becoming more masculine, and it had already been a long time since she had the feeling of being the master in their relationship.
“As I thought, Ash is useless without me!”
The final battle was scheduled to begin at one o’clock in the afternoon. —There were four hours until the deadline.
After ordering Brigid to stop in the centre of the Academy City — in the air over the centre of the Academy grounds, Eco began to concentrate. She concentrated every ounce of her consciousness into the Astral Flow that linked the two of them.
Worn on her right wrist, <Avalon’s Bracelet> slowly began to resonate. Under Navi’s strict guidance, Eco had gradually discovered the characteristics of this bracelet. This bracelet was more than just a device to control Eco’s dragonisation. She felt that aside from acting as a switch between her human and dragon forms, that it also had other special abilities. Eco understood that the bracelet contained immense magical power. It seemed like Eco’s ancestor — the ancient Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor placed their surplus magic power into it. Depending on how it was used, it seemed possible to demonstrate a variety of effects. Currently, the complex tree-like pattern of the Astral Flow was being projected in Eco’s mind.
“As long as I follow the direction of the Astral Flow, I should be able to find Ash’s <Seikoku>—”
However — the projection of the Astral Flow only went halfway before it suddenly disappeared.
“Haah…so it’s still no good.”
Eco dropped her shoulders in frustration. The master could liberate the power of the <Seikoku> to find their lost Pal. In fact, when Eco was abducted by Angela, Ash had used his <Seikoku> to find Eco’s location. But, it seemed like there was no way for a Pal to find its master through the Astral Flow. But there was also the possibility that it was simply because Eco hadn’t matured enough yet. After all, knights and dragons were always together — perhaps this was the conclusion.
“Since it’s come to this, I’ll just have to look around everywhere.”
Eco took out a piece of paper from her pocket. It was something that Rebecca had prepared for Eco just earlier. She had gone to an arts teacher to ask for Ash — no, to ask for a portrait of Ashley. It was also painted in a very lifelike manner.
“Kuh! The more I stare, the prettier it looks…!”
Eco stared at the portrait somewhat reluctantly. In the next instant, the portrait was snatched away by the hand that swooped in from the side.
The surprised Eco hurriedly turned to look at her side.
“Oh, it’s drawn quite well. It has perfectly reproduced the charm of Ashley.”
The noble who had suddenly appeared stood straight on top of the Maestro Tristan’s head.
“Oscar!? What are you doing here?”
Eco’s eyes narrowed as she glared at Oscar, only to see Oscar reveal a seemingly lonesome smile.
“…I’ll help you out as well. After all, a master is responsible when their servant causes trouble.”
Although there were many doubts in her mind, since there was someone willing to help, Eco welcomed it with open arms. After all, she was in need of manpower to right now.
“Then, let’s head to the central plaza to ask around!”
With their destination set to the central plaza, the two of them glided in the air on top of their Maestros. Simultaneously with the descent of the two Maestros, the central plaza burst into an uproar as the shrill cries of women resounded. Oscar had the appearance of a handsome and elegant noble, and it seemed as though she was just as popular even when she had left the Academy and come into the Academy City. But in the blink of an eye, Tristan had become surrounded by a group of young women.
“You see, we’re currently looking for someone. We’re looking for the student in this portrait—”
Oscar opened her mouth as she raised the portrait of Ashley in front of everyone.
“Haah…. We didn’t even end up hearing even a single eyewitness testimony.”
After the crowd dispersed, Eco disappointedly lowered her head. She buried her entire face into Brigid’s soft fur. Strictly speaking, Oscar’s strategy was not bad. But the disadvantage of it was that it only attracted young women. Moreover, they all became suspicious of the relationship between Oscar and the missing female student, and by the end it had turned into a question corner for Oscar. The situation had turned into this, and they were emptyhanded in their search for Ash.
“It can’t be helped, let’s split up and work. Eco, you keep asking for information while I go and visit each one of the places where Ash might be at.”
“Alright. Let’s meet back up in the central plaza, so tell me right away if you find out about anything.”
“This is all for the sake of my future wife Ashley, so I will do my best.”
“Who are you calling your wife~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~!”
Eco furiously roared, but Tristan had already flown up into the air together with Oscar.
In the ruins at Lake Rubina — Navi appeared next to Ash who had been drugged asleep. The hems of her gorgeous dress fluttered in the abandoned room.
“…I never imagined that such a day would actually arrive.”
Navi whispered as if in self-mockery. This body that she had constructed with magic used the same principle as to how the Mother Dragon appeared, and existed in this world. To a highly intelligent vessel of information like Navi, a physical body was unnecessary. Having said that, today’s Navi was unable to refrain from her impulses to appear in this physical form. She withheld information from Eco, and appeared alone by Ash’s side. After Navi sat down on the edge of the bed, she placed Ash’s head over her lap. Because it was rare to see him with a wig on, Navi continued to let him wear it, and didn’t take it off.
“Fufu. I never expected that you’d be so suited for crossdressing, how surprising.”
Navi muttered in a calm tone of voice as she gazed attentively at Ash’s sleeping face while her body gradually became hot. Her artificially crafted heart began to race ‘dokun dokun…’ and accelerate. Navi smiled as she stroked the cheeks of Ash’s sleeping face.
“You really are such a sinful man. For you to be able to evoke these kinds of feelings in the Dragweiss. As a result, you actually led me to refuse to help Eco…”
Navi recalled her meeting with Ash this morning in the Dragon Workshop.
—But doesn’t that make you feel lonely?
—I can’t accept that! Even if the dragon race agrees, I absolutely can’t!
—In my eyes, Navi is also an important companion.
—I don’t want to lose Navi, not even a bit.
“I was born from the Dragweiss to teach the immature Eco, and in the distant future, I will become a part of Eco, to continue to act as her knowledge base. Although my [self] will vanish, I never had any doubts about my own destiny. But…”
Navi closed her eyes as tear droplets rolled down her cheeks from the corners of her eyes. The transparent droplets vaguely moistened Ash’s forehead.
“I’ve always wanted to be by your side—”
In that instant, a faint noise came from Ash’s lips, surprising Navi.
“It can’t be…! How could he wake up so soon?”
Navi had already analysed the sleeping drug that were prepared by Celes. Because the effects of the drug would not cause harm to the human body, Navi planned on staying here alone with Ash until Eco found this place. She never considered the possibility that Ash would be able to wake up on his own.
Ash’s eyebrows quivered, and large beads of sweat streamed down his forehead. He struggled and stretched out his hand into the emptiness of the air, as if trying to grab onto a lifeline. He appeared to be struggling to resist the effects of the sleeping drug.
“What incredible willpower…”
Navi felt amazed. It seems there was much more to the Avalon Knight than just the name. She tightly grasped the hand that Ash had stretched out.
“Do your best, Ash…!”
Navi whispered encouragement into Ash’s ear. Perhaps this was the first time in her life that she had cheered someone on with such ardent passion. After a while, Ash faintly opened his eyelids.
A single word escaped from his trembling lips. When Navi’s figure was reflected in his eyes, the name that Ash called was Eco’s. In that instant, Navi understood the fact that she could not be compared to Eco, and she revealed a lonely smile.
A shiny pink lustre flashed within his blurred vision. Despite his hazy consciousness, Ash determined it to be Eco’s hair. That was why he called Eco’s name.
“…How rude of you to mistake a woman’s face.”
However, the voice that answered was a mature voice that seemed to have a rather prickly tone. After his eyes focused, Ash’s face turned red in embarrassment.
“Navi!? I-I’m sorry! When I saw the colour of your hair, I thought it was Eco…”
“I’m not particularly angry. After all, my appearance was originally a forecast of Eco’s appearance once she became an adult. Since it was purely a prediction, I can’t guarantee that she’ll grow up to look exactly like me.”
“Since you’re here Navi, then that means I’ve come to the Dragon Workshop again…damn it, Celes actually fed me that kind of drug! Owow…”
Ash grimaced as he suddenly felt a headache. He couldn’t help but press against his temple with his fingers.
“This isn’t the Dragon Workshop, it’s the real world.”
“Eh? But Navi, your current appearance is…what’s going on?”
Ash felt puzzled. Navi had once appeared in the real world. At that time, she had possessed Eco’s body. But the current Navi had the same appearance as when he saw her in the Dragon Workshop. Leaving that aside, Ash realised that his head was resting on top of Navi’s lap, causing him to quickly jump up.
Feeling the pain of the headache again, Ash’s face contorted in pain. His limbs still felt numb. He finally climbed back up, but not long afterwards, his upper body began to sway unsteadily again.
“Don’t move, and lie here okay.”
Like a kind mother, Navi held Ash’s head against her own chest. Ash’s face was buried into the cleavage of her enormous breasts. The softness and warmth was the same as when he had touched Navi in the Dragon Workshop. Whilst being enveloped with such a comfortable sensation, Ash’s consciousness gradually began to dim…. As if singing a lullaby, Navi whispered into Ash’s ear with a soft voice
“Although you’re awake, the drug’s effects haven’t completely subsided.”
After Navi laid Ash’s body down flat, she rested his head on her thighs again. Although the sensation of resting on top of Navi’s thighs made Ash’s heart beat erratically, he soon came back to his senses.
“Navi! Tell me what time it is right now! I have to hurry back to the Academy for the decisive battle!”
“It’s impossible. Even if you drag your body along to the tournament, I’m afraid you won’t even be able to ride Brigid. By the way, the time right now is fifty nine minutes past twelve.”
Ash’s face was drained of its colour. He hoped that Navi was joking with him. Late participants would automatically lose their right to participate. But there was one minute until the match right now…!
“Kuh…even if I’ll be late, I still have to go. I can’t throw away the chance of victory in the Five Hundred Years Festival that Rebecca-san painstakingly prepared me for!”
“It’s destined to be ruined the moment you’re late.”
“That’s right, but…”
“Let me tell you something. Originally, I could have told Eco that you were here, but I didn’t do that. When Eco came to ask for my help, I…coldly refused.”
“What did you say!?”
In contrast to her indifferent tone, Navi’s eyes appeared warm and moist.
“Please, Ash. Forget about the match, and just look at me, alright—”
Ash could not help but feel surprised. Was there something wrong with Navi? The usual Navi was filled with intellect, had a calm temperament, there was always a leisurely smile on her face, and though she was occasionally a bit too mischievous — she would always rise in a timely manner to act as support for Ash and Eco during critical situations. But the present Navi was like a different person. Not only did she seem overly desperate, every one of her gestures also seemed somewhat unnatural. But, Ash didn’t dislike her current appearance. In fact, he thought that she was more attractive than usual, which is why he didn’t know what to do.
“Just for now, be someone that belongs only to me—”
After Navi quietly said that with a serious expression, her moist lips slowly approached Ash’s face. In that instant — a flash of light shone brightly from Ash’s chest.
“This light is…!”
The blinding glare forced Navi to hold out her hand to cover her eyes. Pink and silver rays of light radiated out with Ash’s body as the epicentre. It was an extremely warm light. Bathed in the warm glow, Ash’s headache and the numbness in his arms and legs gradually receded. With his entire body shrouded in this light, Ash climbed up from the bed. A mysterious energy was circulating around his body. It also felt rather awkward as his skirt fluttered about. After standing in front of the stunned Navi, Ash reached into his pocket. The thing that his fingers felt was — the object that even Ash forgot that he was carrying. The Bright Dragon Crystal that Eco had produced.
“Hmm…I guess I really can’t beat that child.”
Navi smiled bitterly as if she had given up.
“The Bright Dragon Crystal produced by the Princess of Avalon has a special name, it’s called Uranus . Uranus has a power far greater than a normal crystal. However, cases of resonance between Uranus and the master’s thoughts to cause automatic activation is very rare. Seriously…it’s Eco’s victory.”
“Well, it’s useless even if she wins. If I can’t return to the Academy, then it’ll count as my loss due to absence. This is bad.”
Ash was distressed. Even if the condition of his body had returned to normal, the fact that he was in a dire situation had not changed.
“Ara, don’t you have Uranus though? In that case, there’s only one way.”
“You can’t mean…!”
Ash immediately understood what Navi meant, while the question ‘Is it really possible to do this kind of thing?’ floated into his mind.
“There’s no problem because Eco is a dragon. As long as the master summons, she’ll immediately — fly across time and space.”
“…I know, I’ll give it a try.”
Ash held Uranus up high and concentrated on it. This was obviously his first experience of summoning his Pal. He recalled the time when Rebecca had summoned her Pal, and tried to follow it.
“I command you in the name of Ash Blake. Respond to my summons, Eco!”
However, the light released by Uranus gradually faded, and it finally became silent.
“…What does this mean?”
Navi shook her head and shrugged as she sighed to Ash. Seeing Navi almost back to her usual self, Ash felt happy, yet also lonely at the same time.
“That won’t work. You have to call out her full name.”
“Full name? Just [Eco] isn’t enough?”
“It doesn’t matter for other dragons if their full name isn’t used, but Eco is the Imperial Princess of Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor Family. You only have the right to decide on the first name, as the other names have strict rules. For example, the names from the second onwards must come from the names of ancestors and so on. Even her surname Avalon is only a part of the whole.”
“This is the first time I’ve heard of this…”
Ash’s face went pale. As if his last sliver of hope had disappeared, he felt a blow to his heart. Moreover, when he realised that he didn’t even know what Eco’s full name was, he felt useless.
“It can’t be helped.”
A wry smile emerged on Navi’s face, and it looked as though she were a mother looking at her naughty child. Ash suddenly remembered. Navi was the Dragweiss. Logically speaking, she was all-powerful when it came to knowledge of the dragons…!
“That’s it, you should know Eco’s full name, right Navi!?”
Asking for Navi’s help in such a situation without responding to her earlier feelings felt much too shameless. But it was an urgent situation. It was not the time to be worrying over such problems.
“…Fine. To begin with, I only brought you this trouble because I got carried away by my personal feelings, so I’ll answer to your request.”
“Thank you, Navi!”
“A-Again, it’s nothing to be grateful about…!”
Navi suddenly averted her face, and the colour of her cheeks resembled that of roses. Ash was almost captivated by Navi’s exquisite beauty and he felt a little lightheaded, but now was not the time to be getting excited over feminine appeal.
“But, before that—”
After a faint smile emerged on Navi’s face, magic was released from her fingertips. A pale blue and white light enveloped Ash’s body. The wig disappeared in the blink of an eye, and the girls’ uniform also turned into a Dragsuit.
“Amazing! My clothes have changed!”
Ash looked down at his own body. This Dragsuit felt like it was a better fit than the one designated by the Academy, and it was also lighter. It was also designed with a silver white tone that an elegant and refined appearance.
“This is a special service I’m giving you. Summoning your Pal for the first time in girls’ clothing isn’t cool at all, you know?”
“Thank you, Navi. Let’s get started then.”
The two of them stood face to face in the middle of the room. Navi reached out to touch Ash’s forehead. A vast amount of knowledge immediately entered his mind. It was like a string of incantations.
“This is Eco’s full name…?”
“Quickly call her over.”
After Ash nodded, he lifted Uranus up high above his head again.
“I command you in the name of Ash Blake. Respond to my summons—”
Ash then called out Eco’s name with mixed feelings.
“Eco Pendragon Aurora Christa Lena Angeles Iria Lorence Liliane Muirel Octavia Robertine de la Rosa L’Espérance van Compostela de Avalon!”
The sound of the bell to announce that it was one o’clock in the afternoon rang out through the air. After Eco descended onto the Academy’s rooftop with Brigid, she looked down over the campus below. Because all of the staff and students of the Academy had gone over to the arena, the campus was significantly deserted.
“Ah geez! That Ash, just where did he go!? If I remember correctly, we’ll lose the right to participate if we’re late, right? So Ash will lose without fighting? …Then won’t that mean Ash will have to cross-dress as a woman to get married with Oscar!?”
“—You don’t have to worry about that problem.”
A cool voice drifted downwards as Tristan landed down next to Brigid. Standing on top of Tristan’s head was Oscar.
“It’s you…! I thought you’d have gone to the arena already.”
“Please don’t look at me so flatly. Didn’t I say that a master was responsible for their servants’ mistakes?”
Eco looked at Oscar with slight admiration.
“D-Don’t think that I’ll thank you!”
“Haha, you’ve not very flattering. The important point is that if both Ash and I forfeit due to absence, then victory will fall into Princess Silvia’s hands. I seem to recall that the reward for her stupid victory was to be engaged with Ash?”
Eco felt as though she had suffered a blow to her mind. All of a sudden, Silvia had become her greatest obstacle, so this was an unexpected situation for Eco—
“T-Then what should I do?”
“In any case, the top priority is to find Ash. I heard some information from a staff member who stayed behind at the Academy. It seems as though Celes and Ash took a dragon carriage at the station.”
“Then we have to find that coachman or else we won’t know where they went!”
“I did try looking…but once I started searching, I realised that looking for a dragon carriage that doesn’t stop moving is a rather difficult task. It seems I underestimated coachmen a bit too much.”
“You…you’re way too disappointing!”
“What about you Eco? Did you find any clues?”
Eco dishearteningly showed a dejected appearance, but anger gradually began to well up in her.
Why is it that such misfortune only comes down on my head? Why did Navi refuse to help? Ash is also such an idiot! No matter what was going on, how could he just disappear without saying a thing!?
Although Eco may have been wrong for sleeping so soundly, couldn’t Ash rely on his Pal just a little more…. Eco shouted into the clear autumn sky.
“ASH YOU IDIOT~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~!”
After Eco’s echo reverberated back a few times, silence returned again.
“Have you let off all of your steam?”
“I’m just tired…hah, hah…”
“In any case, it’s already been determined now that he’ll forfeit due to absence. Since time is no longer a factor to consider, we should perform a thorough search, what do you think?”
“That’s right. I also think that would be — kuh!”
All of a sudden, Eco felt an unfamiliar sensation, and she couldn’t stop her shoulders from trembling.
“I-I don’t know…but I feel strange. It feels as if my body is being pulled by a very powerful force…what is this?”
It felt as though someone was trying to pull the soul from her body. Eco could not help but felt uneasy as she had no idea what kind of strange phenomenon was happening to her own body. And after a while, the sound of someone else’s voice seemed to ring out in her mind.
—…I command you. Respond to my summons…
“This voice! Could it be Ash!? Ash, is it you!?”
Eco looked up and around in every direction.
—Eco Pendragon Aurora Christa Lena Angeles…
Ash’s voice continued to resound. He seemed to be reciting some kind of incantation.
“Ash! Where are you!? What are you saying!?”
At that moment, Tristan roared out and turned towards the north. Eco and Oscar also followed suit to look at the sky in the north. Located at the far northern horizon was the vast Fianna Forest. Eco could see a column of light rising into the sky.
“That light is…!”
Upon hearing Eco’s low whispers, Oscar tilted her head in confusion.
“I can’t see anything…right! Could it be that this is something that only dragons can see?”
As if to affirm Oscar’s speculation, Tristan let out another roar. Ash’s voice continued to ring out in Eco’s mind.
—…de la Rosa L’Espérance…
Hearing Ash’s voice that seemed like an incantation, Eco began to feel extremely anxious.
“No…it’s like my body is being pulled away! What’s happening to my body!?”
I really want to fly over to Ash’s side as soon as I can.
I really want to protect Ash.
I really want to stay by Ash’s side.
I really want to embrace Ash tightly.
All of these thoughts circulated within Eco’s mind.
“Don’t resist, Eco. Open you heart and accept these feelings.”
As if to cheer Eco on, Oscar placed her hand on top of her head.
“Ash is calling for you right now.”
Eco stared at Oscar’s face with disbelief. Dragons summoned by their masters would always appear across space — Eco had personally witnessed this phenomenon several times. In fact, she had always been envious of the other dragons who could traverse space to appear beside their masters. However, she never believed that it was possible for her as a dragon with a human appearance. As time passed, she even gave up on this idea.
“Ash? Are you really calling for me…?”
Eco muttered to herself with overflowing emotions. As if to respond to Eco’s words, Ash spoke the last part in a single breath—
—van Compostela de Avalon!
Eco felt a force of attraction that was even greater than before. Before she realised, a gate transcending time and space had appeared in front of her. Because Oscar did not seem to show any particular response, it was likely that this gate could only be seen by dragons.
Oscar smiled so with a smile. An endless darkness lay on the other side of the gate. Although the terrifying appearance scared Eco a bit, she immediately overcame her fear.
“Thank you, Oscar. I have to go!”
After Eco made up her mind, she clung onto Brigid’s head.
“You too, Brigid!”
As Brigid let out a roar, it leapt through the gate.
The entire wall of the ruin was blown apart along with the sound of a violent explosion.
Grey dust filled the air, obstructing Ash’s vision.
A nostalgic voice broke through the grey veil, and made its way to Ash’s ears. Eco ecstatically rushed over. With a ‘pon’ sound, she buried her face into Ash’s arms.
“Eco? Is it really Eco!?”
It was almost like a dream. Following Ash’s call, Eco had traversed the space between them.
“Idiot idiot idiot! You made me so worried!”
Eco cried as she pounded against Ash’s chest with her fists.
“I’m sorry, Eco.”
Ash used all the strength in his body to tightly embrace that delicate body. Eco also brought her arms around his back to hug him tightly.
“—Ahem. Sorry to interrupt your touching reunion, but weren’t you in a hurry to get to the arena?”
Behind Ash, Navi spoke up. A bitter smile emerged on her face as she looked at Ash and Eco embracing each other. Upon hearing that, Eco suddenly showed a tempestuous expression.
“Navi!? Why are you here!? And why do you have a body!?”
“Well, I wonder why?”
After Navi replied with an innocent tone, she curled her hair through her fingers in circles.
“You two…couldn’t have been hiding here doing some shameless things right…!?”
Eco rapidly burst into a fit of anger.
“You’re overthinking things. If I didn’t have Navi’s help, I wouldn’t have been able to summon you Eco.”
Ash was flustered. Even though he didn’t tell a single lie, as soon as he recalled how Navi confessed to him, he was unable to calm down.
“I-In any case, even if I forfeit due to absence, we should still show ourselves at the arena. Since we’ve troubled the President and the guests, we should properly apologise to them.”
Brigid also seemed to be in agreement with Ash’s opinion. After letting out a mighty roar, it moved its body away from the half-destroyed house. And then, it ascended into the majestic blue sky while carrying Ash and Eco on top of its back—.
“The First Summon ~A.S.B. 1365.10~” is closed.
 The kanji has an alternate meaning: Hades Stone.
 The kanji has an alternate meaning: Holy Star Stone.
(All 11 parts) (28/12)
Continues on to Chapter 5 – The Fight of the Sacred Knights