Chapter 1 – Bad News and the Return of Veronica
The sound of a bell rang in his ears. This was the warning bell for the morning. It meant that in five minutes, classes for the day would begin.
“Mmm…is it morning…”
Ash faintly opened his eyelids in bed. Even though it was an incredibly familiar ringing sound — it felt so far away. It reminded Ash of a single fact — he was currently in a patient room which smelled of disinfectant, and not the dormitory of Apollo House. —Ansarivan City General Hospital. That was the name of the hospital that Ash had been admitted to. Speaking of which, it feels so warm this morning…Ash thought. Even though it was almost winter, the bed underneath the blanket felt so nice and warm that it was unbelievable. Just when Ash tried to sit up straight, his right hand inadvertently caught something.
—Something soft and fluffy?
He tilted his neck and glanced to his right—
Ash suddenly jumped up and rolled off the bed in astonishment. Due to the extreme shock, he didn’t even utter a single sound. Having crashed onto the floor, his back felt so painful that it numbed his entire body, yet it wasn’t the time for him to cry out in pain. Like a goldfish poking its head out of the water, his mouth twitched repeatedly. There was someone sleeping soundly on Ash’s bed. That person was — the one known as the <Ironblood Valkyrie>, Veronica Lautreamont. Her eyes which were as sharp as an eagle’s were concealed by her eyelids. And her shoulders which were vaguely exposed by the slipping blanket revealed that she wasn’t wearing any clothes. Ash suddenly recalled the sensation that lingered in his right hand. It had felt so soft that it seemed fragile, yet it also seemed to absorb the palm of his hand. It didn’t feel like he had touched it through a layer of clothing. In other words, if he pulled the blanket aside, Veronica’s fully nude body would be revealed…!
“W-Why is P-Princess Veronica sleeping on my bed? No, why isn’t she wearing anything!?”
After Ash drowsily muttered so to himself, his expression warped into one of surprise again.
“…Hold on, why am I naked as well!?”
Unexpectedly, all Ash had on him was a pair of underwear. Aside from his underwear, the only other thing that covered the skin on his body were the bandages wrapped across various parts of him. Besides the bandage which was used the cover up the <Seikoku> on his left arm, all of the other bandages had been applied by doctors or nurses.
—My shoulders, chest, abdomen, and my limbs…
Compared to when he was first admitted in an almost mummified state, it was already a considerable improvement. And the bandage wrapped around his head which certainly made him look like a patient was also taken off. Even so, it didn’t change the fact that Ash’s body was bruised all over. Leaving the matter of bandages aside — an unclothed man and woman had actually spent the night together. The woman also happened to be Veronica. What was the meaning of all this…? Although Ash was flustered, he desperately tried to evoke his memories of last night. However, no matter how hard he tried, not even a single clue came to mind.
“Hmm…what…happened? It’s so noisy…”
Veronica had finally awoken from her slumber. She muttered with a scowl on her face as she awoke, and slowly sat up on the bed at the same time. Bathed in the morning light, her glowing blonde hair splayed across her porcelain white skin like threads of golden silk. The blanket covering Veronica’s body then slipped down to her knees.
Upon baring witness to her transcendent beauty, Ash held his breath. Her figure was like that of a goddess’ white alabaster statue, only carved in the flesh. Despite knowing that it was indecent for him to do so, Ash couldn’t help but stare. Veronica’s cheeks suddenly reddened. And then — she said something that made him doubt his very ears.
“U-Umm…your performance last night was incredibly masculine.”
Although the tone of her voice was rigid and frightening, Ash was still shocked by her words.
“Princess Veronica! What do you mean…?”
While Ash was flustered and overwhelmed, Veronica suddenly raised her right hand. Ash was transfixed in fear by the motion, but Veronica began to use that hand to touch her own belly. Ash couldn’t help but stare at Veronica, dumbfounded. What kind of sorcery was this? The <Ironblood Valkyrie> was acting like a kind mother as a gentle and caring smile surfaced on her face. It felt as though — there were other reasons that had made her become like this, aside from the lack of armour.
“…Y-You’re so dense. There must be a new life in my belly now. Needless to say, the seed is yours, you know?”
Although she still had a rigid tone which resembled a chant, every single word carried a tremendous impact.
Upon hearing that, Ash couldn’t help but cry out.
I swear to God, I seriously can’t remember.
“I-I remember last night…”
Ash racked his brains and tried to recall the events of the previous night—.
“Damn, I really don’t understand! Just what does Silvia fancy about you!?”
Up until the lights went out, Veronica had been drinking alcohol all night. As for the reason why Veronica stayed in Ash’s patient room, perhaps that line was a sufficient enough excuse. At the same time, those words made Ash feel as though it was only the beginning of a long lecture. —The situation could be traced back to the final day of the [Five Hundred Years Festival] which had been held last month. It was a traditional competition in the Knight Country — something had happened prior to the decisive battle of the Dragonar’s Gunnar Bout. When Silvia courageously announced the players’ speech, Veronica realised the truth. Her favourite little sister had fallen in love with Ash…. Ash’s patient room was meant to be for a single person. It had been specially prepared by the hospital as a sign of respect for Ash who had been appointed as an Ark Dragonar. However, just three weeks ago….
As if it were only natural for her to do so, Veronica barged into his patient room. Moreover, she also ordered someone to move her own bed into this small room which had limited space in it. Veronica had gotten caught up in the turmoil which the authorities of Ansarivan City later named ‘The Pluto Incident’, amidst the chaos, she injured both her left and right leg. Her injuries were so seriously that when she was first admitted to the hospital, she had to rely on a wheelchair to move around. However, she was already capable of walking with crutches now. The regenerative abilities of her body were incredible. Given Veronica’s personality, it would’ve been reasonable for her to return to Fontaine City even if she had to drag her legs along. However, she continued to stay in Ash’s patient room and refused to leave.
—This is for the sake of monitoring Ash.
There was only a short distance of two metres between their beds. And once the lights were switched off, it was even possible for Ash to hear the sound of Veronica’s breaths when she fell asleep. At the beginning, Veronica displayed incredible self-discipline in order to focus on recuperating from her injuries. But as her leg injuries gradually healed, her hostility towards Ash gradually increased. Eventually, she even developed a habit of drinking wine and venting the frustrations in the depths of her heart at night. That was no exception for Veronica last night either, and she had ordered her personal guard to prepare wine for her.
“Umm, Princess Veronica. Could it be that you drank too much…?”
In response, Veronica held her glass up, and urged Ash to take a drink. Her eyes were clearly lost in trance.
“Drink for me.”
“N-No, I’m not of age yet.”
“Uh~. The Princess Veronica Lautreamont herself offers you a glass of wine, and yet you dare to refuse…?”
Veronica appeared to be in an episode of intoxication.
“If the Princess says you can drink…the you can drink! Just treat it like the blood of Saint Rosa Maria when you quaff it down!”
Since even Veronica had become so pushy about it, Ash decided that there was no use in trying to resist any further. Resigning himself as he accepted the wine glass, he gulped down the ruby-coloured liquid all at once. The flavour which lingered in his mouth was both bitter and spicy. It had to be something of a so-called ‘mature’ taste. Just as his stomach began to heat up, Ash realised a single fact that made him blush. It was the fact that only one glass had been prepared in the room.
—Just now…does that count as an indirect kiss with Princess Veronica?
Just as Ash analysed the situation and began to panic—
“Mmm…it feels somewhat hot.”
Veronica suddenly took off her outer robe.
Ash quickly averted his eyes from her. At the moment, Veronica was only wearing a set of silk pyjamas. The fabric of her pyjamas was thin and transparent enough to see her skin beneath it, making it almost no different from being naked. Although the impression that Veronica normally gave off was far from that of an ordinary princess, the nightwear that she wore was truly expressive of her qualities as a princess.
“Seriously…you’re so rude.”
Her intoxicated eyes gazed into Ash’s face. Ash had never seen Veronica make such an expression before.
“Y-Your Princess has shown you this much skin, and yet y-you…immediately turn away and look elsewhere. Such timidity, and yet you call yourself an Ark Dragonar…?”
“E-Even if you say that…”
Ash’s heart throbbed violently, and it felt as though it was on the verge of bursting.
“Moreover, it’s only me and you alone in this secret room. I already informed my personal guard early on that they are forbidden from entering this patient room unless there is an emergency.”
Dumbfounded, Ash left his mouth agape and seemed unsure of how to respond. Veronica quickly stood up.
“Men never show interest in me, and they don’t even see me as a woman…I’ll always remember that.”
Just as Ash felt shocked, he watched on as Veronica lost balance. Even though her injuries had greatly healed, it was likely still impossible for her to walk without the support of crutches.
No sooner than he had said that, Ash reached out to support Veronica’s body. Although the wound at the side of his abdomen began to ache again, Ash clenched his teeth as he endured. The drunken Veronica entrusted the full weight of her entire body onto Ash. An alluring aroma wafted into his nostrils from her blonde hair. The aroma was reminiscent of a large rose, both noble and elegant.
The next instant, Veronica pushed Ash down on his bed. The seemingly soft double peaks on her chest pushed tightly against Ash’s chest. Noticing that Ash’s entire body had stiffened up, Veronica slowly lifted her upper body away from him. Straddling over Ash’s body, she took her nightwear off. Ash resisted the nosebleed which was on the verge of spouting from his nostrils and turned his eyes away from her. Without a single item of clothing on her figure, Veronica then planned to strip Ash bare as well.
“Please wait, Your Highness Veronica? Have you lost your mind!?”
Even as Ash put up a desperate struggle of resistance, it was futile against the <Ironblood Valkyrie>. The strength of her arms was incomparable to those of an ordinary person’s. In addition, Ash was still injured, making any resistance from him rather feeble. However, in the blink of an eye, the clothes that Ash had been wearing were stripped off, leaving him with just his underwear. Veronica’s thighs sandwiched the sides of Ash’s abdomen. The sheer contact of their skin caused Ash to shudder.
“Y-You can’t do this, Veronica-san! It’s not wise to do something like this when you’re drunk…!”
Veronica ignored Ash’s admonishment, and pressed her upper body down on Ash again.
After a soft object was pressed against Ash’s chest, its incredible elasticity caused it to change shape. This level of contact was plentiful enough to make Ash feel as though he was ascending towards Heaven. Whilst pressing Ash down with her own body, Veronica brought her mouth towards his ear. A warm breath stirred his earlobe.
“Am I not good enough? Ash…”
Ash was speechless. Although she had become irrational due to her intoxication, he had never once imagined that such words could come from Veronica’s mouth….
“…I’m sorry, Princess Veronica.”
After concluding his reminiscence, Ash bowed and apologised with guilt.
“I tried searching through my mind, but that’s all I can remember. It’s very possible that I passed out because I was drunk…”
“Yes, and then?”
Whilst resting on the bed, Veronica appeared calm. Ash continued to sit on the floor as he made a solemn declaration.
“I swear to Saint Rosa Maria that I absolutely haven’t done anything immoral with Princess Veronica!”
“Immoral behaviour? Like what for example?”
“U-Umm, like the sort of thing that would make a girl pregnant…”
Even Ash felt as though his cheeks were burning bright red. Veronica sombrely looked down at Ash, who was on the floor for a while, and then she sighed.
“Ah…forget it. It’s almost like I tried to set you up.”
“If you fell for my temptations, I would’ve had a reason to pull you and Silvia apart. I had resolved myself to achieve that goal, even at the expense of becoming pregnant with your child, but…”
Ash was so shocked that he became tongue-tied.
“Hold on! That means you were basically trying to frame me!”
“But, because of that, you also…ah, umm…also would have been able to take my virginity, that of Princess Veronica Lautreamont. I-It wouldn’t have been a bad deal, right?”
Veronica’s tone was somewhat hesitant, and she seemed embarrassed by it. It wasn’t until then that she suddenly realised and quickly decided to cover up herself up with a blanket, even though she had boldly exposed her breasts just earlier. Ash couldn’t help but feel that Veronica seemed rather cute like this, and butterflies were set aflutter in his heart. Right at that moment—.
As if to break the silence between those two, someone knocked on their room door. After Veronica quickly raised her head, she answered the door as if nothing had happened.
“Yes, come in.”
“Wait! We haven’t gotten dressed yet!”
Ash hurriedly got up from the floor, but—
“—I’m coming in.”
A female knight dressed in dazzlingly bright armour majestically walked into the patient room. Ash could instantly tell that her armour was an Ark. At the same time, he was drawn to the sublime beauty of her face which was visible under the helmet. The female knight’s face had a sacred, witch-like atmosphere. The female knight glanced alternately at Veronica and Ash before she softly said
“…Did I disturb you two?”
“No, you don’t have to worry about it.”
“Is that so?”
The female knight then calmly walked straight up to Veronica. Ash found it rather unbelievable that she had interrupted a situation in which a naked man and woman were involved, yet was absolutely unperturbed by it. She either had to be an exceedingly brave hero, or a dense idiot with a dull personality….
“She’s Ursula L. Selwyn.”
Upon hearing Veronica’s introduction, Ash was surprised for a moment. He felt as though the name sounded familiar, but he couldn’t quite place where he had heard it before. And then, Veronica suddenly knit her eyebrows together.
“…Hey, as a citizen of the Knight Country, don’t tell me you’ve never heard of the name of the captain of Lautreamont’s Order of Holy Dragonars? What are you even learning at Dragonar Academy!?”
Ash finally remembered. Veronica’s anger towards him was justified.
—The Lautreamont Order of Holy Dragonars.
They were the top elite knights of the continent who lived up to their name. The captain of that Order could be described as one of the most important people in the Knight Country. Only the riders of Maestros were qualified to join that organisation of Dragonars. And those who held roles from the middle of the hierarchy and above were all Ark Dragonars without exception. In the Xenoglavia War which broke out fifty two years ago, the Chevron Kingdom was only able to successfully repel the mechanised forces of the Empire’s army thanks to the performance of the Order of Holy Dragonars. Back then, the knights were commanded by the Paladin Bertram. He was also the grandfather of Veronica and Silvia. However—.
Starting from this year, the evaluation of the Order of Holy Dragonars had slightly…no, their reputation had sharply fallen. Ever since Eco was born in the month of Aries, a series of strange events had taken place in the Knight Country. The first of those was when Ansarivan City was attacked by a Necromancia. The next incident was when they held an intensive training camp in the early summer; immense turmoil ensued when they countered another Necromancia at Willingham Mausoleum. Later on, even the capital of Fontaine City came under attack by a gigantic mysterious dragon, and the Continental Congress <Elysium> had to be suspended. After this string of chaotic events, the Pluto Incident also occurred on the final day of ‘Ansarivan’s Five Hundred Years Festival’. By reason, these incidents should have been resolved by the Order of Holy Dragonars. Therefore, it was not surprising that most citizens began to vocally criticise the knights for their delayed response to every one of those incidents.
“—Ursula. This boy is Ash Blake.”
In turn, Veronica introduced Ursula to Ash.
“…Ash Blake? You mean to say that he is the young dragon Eco’s…?”
“Yes, that’s right. You must’ve seen that name several times in the reports for all of those chaotic events.”
“I see, so it seems that you’re the legendary Ash Blake…”
Along with the creaking of her armour, Ursula took a few steps in order to stand in front of Ash. The expression of her face could be described as one that lacked emotions. No, strictly speaking, she didn’t seem to have an expression at all. Ursula remained silent, and simply stared down at Ash.
“Y-You couldn’t possibly…be mad at me, right?”
Before he realised, cold sweat had begun to perspire from Ash’s body. To a certain extent, Ash could be described as the top murderer of the Order of Holy Dragonars reputation. It was possible that even the entire Order harboured hatred towards him—. All of a sudden, Ursula kneeled down in front of Ash. She reached out with both hands, and enclosed Ash’s right hand with hers. Like a sweet innocent girl, Ursula tilted her head as she peered up at Ash’s face. Their faces were extremely close. Ursula’s body also seemed to let off a sweet, flowery aroma. Ash instantly became flustered.
“Why would I be angry at you? If not for you and the young dragon Eco, as well as Her Highness Silvia, Rebecca and the others, we might not have been able to minimise the damage caused by those incidents. The evaluation of the Order by the outside world is but a trifling matter not worth taking to heart.”
Ursula had a clear voice which felt reminiscent of the refreshing autumn air.
—Captain Ursula is far too generous…!
Despite feeling deeply moved, Ash remembered that he was only wearing his underwear at the moment. He felt so embarrassed that his cheeks were instantly set ablaze.
After Ash hurriedly jumped up from the ground, he instantly grabbed the white pyjamas which he had been given by the hospital. After covering up his exposed body, he no longer felt nervous.
“Let’s get back to the point, Ursula…I clearly gave an order that you should be responsible for protecting the capital in my absence…so for what purpose have you specially come here?”
After Veronica questioned like so with doubt, Ursula cut straight into the matter.
“The Chevron Kingdom issued an ultimatum last night.”
“…I’m guessing that it isn’t good news.”
With a frown, Veronica sighed as she faced Ursula. Ash also had the same premonition. In order to make a direct report to Veronica, the leader of the Order, Ursula, had rushed over to Ansarivan. An extremely unusual situation must have occurred. Ursula looked straight at Veronica unflinchingly, and she began to speak with a calm voice
“The Kingdom’s government has decided to execute the Paladin Oswald—”
Compared to the grave and depressing nature of her report, not even the slightest trace of panic could be felt from Ursula. It was almost as if she was simply reading out the details of some kind of business deal. Due to the great discrepancy between Ursula’s demeanour and the content of the report, Ash was unable to immediately respond to the content of the report.
“That can’t be possible, the Paladin Oswald will be…”
Regarding this matter, all of the royalty and aristocrats had been led away by the King of Chevron and they escaped in the magic ship Claíomh Solais during the Pluto Incident which Celes sparked. At the time, the Paladin Oswald also got caught up in the mess and boarded the ship together with them….
“Veronica-sama, there is something which is difficult to tell you.”
“It doesn’t matter, just tell me.”
Veronica’s expression seemed urge Ursula along.
“Yes. The Knight Country’s government actually has no clue on the whereabouts of the Paladin, and before they received this ultimatum from the Chevron Kingdom, everyone was simply surprised that they hadn’t seen the Paladin in person for a long time.”
Contrary to how she described it as ‘difficult to tell you’, Ursula’s tone was rather calm.
“Damn the vile Chevron government. If they have the time to draft a useless ultimatum, they should’ve hurried the punishment along. Then, I’d be able to openly support Silvia for the throne.”
“Princess Veronica!? Those words are too…!”
Ash immediately faltered. No matter how much she actually wanted Silvia to take the throne, the way she spoke as if she was just a bystander on the sidelines inevitably gave off a cold and ruthless impression.
“Hmph, I’m just joking…half-joking.”
Only when Veronica took some of that back did Ash sigh in relief. But, the way she said ‘half-joking’ still caused him to feel worried.
“That man is the Paladin, and my own father to begin with, so I won’t simply stand by and watch him be killed for no good reason. The immediate problem is that the Kingdom’s government seems to be targeting our Knight Country, and this is probably the first such case since the founding of the Lautreamont Knight Country. The Kingdom is trying to use Oswald’s life as a bargaining chip, but what are they after…?”
Ash recalled the information that Oscar had once revealed to him.
“That’s right, I heard that the Third Prince Uriel seems to have the ambition to annex the Knight Country…”
Ash’s murmurs evoked a reaction from Ursula.
“After Zacharias III returned home, it seems he became bedridden, and there’s also news that he’s on the verge of death. Hence, it does seem very likely that the Third Prince Uriel is behind this decision.”
Veronica nodded in agreement with Ursula’s opinion.
“Yes, it’s a possibility that can’t be denied. So that damned Uriel plans to swallow the power of the Knight Country and the dragons all at once…I won’t let his ambitions succeed!”
After Veronica yelled in complaint, she stood up without the support of her crutches. This time, she stood tall and proud, seemingly indomitable. Both her feet remained affixed to the floor, and she didn’t appear to tremble at all. It was just that her entire body was bare, and Ash couldn’t muster the courage to stare directly at her nude body.
“Call Glenn over for me! I’m returning to Fontaine at once! My armour! Is my new armour ready?”
Veronica’s abrupt decision caused a fair amount of commotion for the hospital, and the entire hospital became filled with the chaotic atmosphere of a marshalling army.
Two hours later—. After Veronica equipped her brand-new armour, the First Princess of Lautreamont and her captain Glenn departed from Ansarivan riding atop his Pal Fergus. The captain of the Order Ursula also set off along with Veronica.
“Paladin Oswald, I hope that you’re safe…”
As Ash gazed at the receding figures that drifted away through the window of his patient room, he offered a sincere prayer. The only thing that he could do for now was pray.
“The Evil News ~A.S.B.1365.11~” is closed.
(All 3 of 3 parts) (21/10)
Continues on to Chapter 2 – The Dark-Eyed Girl