Chapter 7 – Ash and Eco’s Determination
Late at night, on the fourth storey of Fontaine Castle. Taking charge as the royal representative in place of the King, Veronica issued orders from the office. Up until now, it had been one piece of bad news after another. The most shocking news was the fact that the Chevron Kingdom’s embassy in Fontaine City was completely deserted. Another item that invited uneasiness upon them was news that merchants from the Chevron Kingdom appeared to be withdrawing from Fontaine City. The business owners always had their own information network. For example, if a message such as ‘the situation in the Knight Country is dangerous’ circulated among the merchants, then…it would have a lot of credibility.
“That bastard Uriel, does he really intend to annex the Knight Country?”
Veronica angrily muttered. The captain of her personal guard, Glenn, stood by her side in silence.
“Damn it, I didn’t expect our own suzerain state to bare its fangs against us. In the past, the alliance between the Kingdom and the Knight Country was formed in the presence of the Pope as a witness. The Kingdom has unilaterally broken that covenant with the Knight Country, which is tantamount to sacrilege against the Holy Espada Agency!”
At that time, having remained silent up until now, Glenn submissively said
“…If this goes on, even the Holy Espada Agency will be unable to remain silent. Even if we can’t avoid a battle against the Chevron Kingdom, righteousness still belongs on our side.”
Although Veronica nodded in agreement with Glenn’s opinion, she still frowned.
“But I don’t understand. Our Knight Country has the taken on the heavy responsibility of managing the dragons. Correspondingly, we also have the protection of the dragons. So long as we make use of the dragons’ potential, there is nothing to fear even if the Kingdom does attempt an invasion. It is precisely because the dragons have such tremendous strength that they were entrusted to the Lautreamont family which adheres to the spirit of chivalry in the first place. Our Lautreamont Knight Country has never shown any dissent since the first Paladin Durham, and we’ve always coexisted peacefully with the dragons…”
“Yes. Our power is strictly for defence, and not for the invasion of other states — that is the policy of the Knight Country. We would never abuse the power of the dragons to invade another nation.”
“I don’t think Uriel would play a game he has no chance of winning, so what exactly is he trying to plot…?”
And then, a knock came from the office’s door.
The one who pushed the door open was the Captain of the Order, Ursula. During this incident, the Lautreamont Order of Holy Dragonars was once again caught in a disadvantageous position. Even so, as the captain of the Order, Ursula hadn’t shown the slightest hesitation. Up until now, she had maintained a calm and unrelenting attitude, causing many to admire her.
“Are there any new changes to the situation?”
“Princess-sama, please listen calmly to my report. According to the latest information that we have, Ansarivan City’s Academy seems to have turned into a sea of flames.”
“…What is the meaning of that!?”
“The dragons kept in the Academy went berserk and destroyed the Academy and various other facilities. It is said that the manner in which they lost control bears a resemblance to the incident with Tristan just recently.”
“I see…that’s the trick he’s decided to use.”
Veronica couldn’t stop herself from kicking a chair in anger. Aside from Celestina Lafon, there were other Pluto Children in existence, and if that mysterious power was used — Veronica was slowly able to figure out Uriel’s plan.
“I also have other bad news—”
Veronica gently waved her hand and interrupted Ursula’s report.
“…That is enough. I can guess even if you don’t say it. Those frenzied dragons are now gathering here to launch an attack — am I right?”
Ursula nodded silently.
As Oscar looked up, she couldn’t help but utter such words of extolment. Just as Mirabel predicted, there was indeed an underground city in the lowest layer of the natural cave system. The underground city depicted on the map had looked like an ant’s nest, but its true internal roads were surprisingly wide, enough even for the Maestro Tristan to stride through. If this underground city was purely for humans, it would have been sufficient to make the roads just wide enough for humans to traverse. Perhaps when the ancient humans built this underground city, they had taken into consideration the physiques of dragons. Otherwise, dragons themselves must have been involved in the construction of it — Oscar began to let her imagination run free as such ideas ruminated through her mind.
Aside from the houses, churches and gathering areas within the underground city, there also appeared to be sections which resembled schools. As there were large ventilation holes in the centre of the city, there was no need to worry about a lack of oxygen. A cool breeze could also be felt, despite how they were situated beneath the ground. Although they encountered several lurking monsters as they walked through the underground city, a single stare from Tristan was enough to scare all of them into retreat. However, this didn’t mean that their entire journey went smoothly either. There were traps that had been set up throughout the underground city. Such traps ranged from holes in the ground to falling ceilings, as well as spear mechanisms which protruded from the walls. There were also traps in certain passages where large boulders came tumbling down. If not for Tristan’s protection, there might have been a serious threat to their lives. In fact, skeletal remains could be seen all over the underground city. Judging from the clothing that remained on these skeletons, they seemed likely to be adventurers who bravely tried to explore this city in the past. Leaving aside the situation in the underground city — the most intriguing thing was the situation on the ground. Occasionally, they could feel the tremors that came from aboveground despite how far down they were. It seemed likely to be from the Imperial soldiers who had successfully infiltrated the Academy and begun their assault.
—The girl with two eyes of Pluto.
Tristan had just barely been able to overcome the hidden magic in her song. This was all thanks to the special training of Oscar and Celes as well — Diabolos.
But what about the other dragons? Are Ash and Eco safe?
“We should return to the surface as soon as possible…”
Relying on the transportation ability of Tristan, Oscar and the others had already arrived at the nineteenth underground level. If they had walked on their own, they might still have been wandering around on the first level. Oscar hopped down from Tristan’s head and used its neck as a long slope to slide down to its back where Mirabel and the others sat. Having undergone Oscar’s strict discipline, Tristan was able to behave obediently even though people other than its master rode on its back.
“Anya-sama, please do not move around.”
The attacks of the magic soldiers seemed to have caused some harm to Anya, and she was currently being treated by Eunice who applied wet cloths to her stomach.
On the other hand, since Celes didn’t appear to have anything congenial to discuss with Mirabel, she kept her distance from the other three and sat alone whilst hugging her knees. It was simply the nature of Celes’ personality — and Oscar couldn’t help but smile to herself upon seeing that.
“Your Highness Mirabel, are we still far from the lowest level?”
After hearing Oscar’s question, Mirabel raised her head from the map that she had been focusing on.
“Once we make it past the nineteenth floor, we’ll reach the lowest level.”
Even though everyone else clearly displayed such sullen expressions, Mirabel still looked just as bright as ever, like a glittering pearl in the ocean. Perhaps Mirabel is actually the most determined one among the four sisters of the Lautreamont family — Oscar thought to herself as she climbed back up onto Tristan’s head. Shortly after, the scene before them spread out.
“Is this a dead end…?”
Oscar narrowed her eyes as she looked around. It was a large plaza with dome-shaped ceiling. The mural painted on the ceiling depicted angels and dragons flying around Saint Rosa Maria, a rather common artistic composition. Oscar’s gaze suddenly stopped in the centre of the plaza. A six-pointed star was there, but it wasn’t just any ordinary emblem. The six-pointed star was clearly made of metal, and on each of the six corners were pink Bright Dragon Crystals.
“Pink crystals? Which means that they’re the same as what Eco produced…are they all Uranus?”
“It’s likely. Those should have been produced by the ancient Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor.”
Mirabel had suddenly whispered that right next to her ear, causing even Oscar to nearly tumble off Tristan’s head in surprise. Oscar used every ounce of strength in her body just to grab hold of Tristan’s head to maintain balance.
“Your Highness Mirabel, when did you…!”
“It seems you still need more training.”
Mirabel stood at Oscar’s usually exclusive spot with a look of indifference as she pointed to the six-pointed star.
“Perhaps that is the elevator which will take us to the bottommost level.”
Eco, Silvia, Navi, Angela and Julius — these people gathered in the living room that was filled with a tense atmosphere.
“…Although saying this would be rude to Captain Ursula, I do not believe that the Order of Holy Dragonars can hold out against such a powerful force. In my view, their Pals will be stolen from them before they can even lay a hand on the possessor of Pluto.”
“That can’t be possible! The Order have Maestros more powerful than even Gawain and Lancelot!”
Silvia shouted out in bewilderment.
“Captain Ursula surely has some kind of countermeasure. Judging by the direction of the dragons’ advance, they’ll most likely engage in an all-out clash with the Order. If they fall, then Fontaine City will be completely lost.”
Julius’ analysis was agreed upon by everyone. A heavy, breathless silence enveloped the room for a long time. Only the occasional crackling that came from the burning firewood could be heard.
“—However, we still have hope.”
Julius broke that silence. His sharp gaze pierced through his mask and at Eco. Silvia, Angela and Navi followed suit as they turned their gazes toward Eco as well.
Eco blinked in astonishment. What was Julius thinking? He stared intently at Eco as he explained
“Eco. You are the descendant of Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor Family.”
“What point is there in bringing that up now?”
“As you know, Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor Family and Nehalennia’s Dark Dragon King Family once stood at the apex above all other dragons. I believe that your influence over the dragons — no, your dominance is probably far more powerful than you think.”
“You aren’t…telling me to try and convince the dragons, are you?”
Eco shuddered. The ‘Avalon Princess’ was more than just a hollow name, but the great horde of attacking dragons had all fallen under the spell of Kriemhild’s song. Even if Eco tried to use the reputation of Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor Family, it wasn’t such a simple task to restore sanity to those dragons.
“Clearly, they’re not beings who will be swayed by mere words. So I’m afraid that even if the current you tries to shout or scream at them, Lancelot and the others won’t pay it any mind.”
Julius plainly admitted.
“Then what do you hope for me to do?”
Eco glumly tilted her head. At that moment, Silvia suddenly lifted her face whilst sitting beside Eco.
“Brother, don’t tell me you mean…!”
“Indeed. It’s exactly what you’re thinking.”
After Julius nodded at Silvia, he directed his eyes back toward Eco.
“I see, so that’s what it is.”
Angela also seemed to figure everything out on her own. Her expression as she stared into Eco’s eyes was incredibly sober. At last, Eco also understood what Julius’ plan was. Earlier, Julius had specifically used the phrase ‘even if the current you tries to shout or scream’. In other words, he was referring to the fact that Eco in the form of a young girl was unlikely to be capable of performing that task. Almost unconsciously, Eco reached out to touch the bracelet on her right wrist. It was <Avalon’s Bracelet> that she had received from the Mother Dragon during the summer break. Eco quietly stole a glance at Navi, but Navi simply nodded with a solemn expression. Her expression was almost like that of a parent who was ready to send their child off on their own. In essence, Navi had always been Eco’s teacher after all. Eco looked straight back at Julius.
“In short, if I change back into the form of a dragon, then I’ll be able to stop those rogue dragons — is that what you mean?”
“I’m sorry, Eco. I really feel bad about pushing all of the heavy responsibility of the task onto you. But, in order to save the Knight Country, we must rely on your strength—”
“I can’t do it!”
With teary eyes, Eco moodily stood up.
“After the Imperial Army forced me to turn into a dragon, I completely lost my mind and I had no idea what I was doing! Even if I do manage to somehow turn into a dragon today, I can’t guarantee that I won’t attack you or the city! If the situation spirals out of control, I might even bring forth a more terrible disaster than those dragons controlled by Pluto…”
After Eco weakly yelled out those pessimistic thoughts of hers, Navi stood up and walked right up to her.
“To put it bluntly, you’re saying that you’re not confident, right?”
Eco said nothing in return as Navi’s words pierced a deep wound in Eco’s heart.
“What else can I do!? That’s right, I don’t have any confidence! You don’t understand my feelings either! That’s why you asked me to do something like that!”
Eco bolted straight for the door. The door had remained in a half-open state ever since Navi and Angela returned to the living room. Just as Eco was about to run through the doorway of the living room with teary eyes—.
She ran straight into something in front of her. A familiar scent reached her nostrils. The first thing captured in her view was a yellow tie. It was the uniform of — Dragonar Academy’s Senios course.
Eco lifted her teary face and looked ahead.
“Don’t worry, Eco.”
The person who stood before her was none other than Ash. Although Ash was supposed to have been resting in the bedroom, he had suddenly come out and welcomed Eco into his arms. Logically speaking, it should have been extremely difficult for him to even stand given his current condition.
“Ash? That conversation earlier…did you hear it too…?”
Eco continued to sniffle ceaselessly as she looked at Ash’s face.
“Yeah. I got the general idea of things.”
“Ash…do you share the same opinion as everyone else?”
“Umm. Well, given the current state of affairs, aside from asking you…there seems to be no other choice.”
Eco felt disheartened, and she couldn’t help but look down dejectedly. As soon as Eco realised that Ash shared the same thoughts as the others, that he was only concerned for the safety of the Knight Country, and he disregarded the uneasiness and fear that she felt, she became deeply saddened. Ash reached out with his bandaged hand and gently stroked Eco’s head.
“But you know, Eco, my thoughts are somewhat different from the others.”
Ash took a step forward and fixed his gaze on Julius. From the side, Eco was able to see the strong determination concealed in his eyes.
“If Eco is going, then I’m going along with her. It’s because I’m the <Avalon Knight>…no, it’s because I’m Eco’s knight.”
“You can’t, Ash! Right now, you’re…”
Hadn’t he just lost consciousness due to a high fever? It was still going to take a long time before he fully recovered from all of his injuries. Even the doctor had repeatedly pointed out that he had to rest, otherwise, there was even the risk of death….
“Listen to me, Eco.”
Ash used a rare, serious expression as he looked at Eco’s face. Eco couldn’t help but feel her heart pound more rapidly.
“Ever since I came to Dragonar Academy, everyone has always called me the ‘The Boy Who Can Ride Any Dragon’. Even now, I don’t understand why I have this ability. But you know what, Eco? To this day, I still haven’t managed to properly ride the one I should be riding. Perhaps, that moment has arrived.”
“Let’s give it a go, Eco. Let’s work together to protect everyone. You can leave all of the problems that occur after you become a dragon to me.”
Without regard for everyone else’s stares, he gave Eco a warm and gentle hug. Although Eco felt so startled that her heart continued to pound heavily against the walls of her chest, she obediently accepted his embrace. Her cheeks pressed up against his strong chest. The palm on her back felt warm and reassuring. And then — Ash made a firm declaration right by the side of Eco’s ears.
“I’ll show you that I can definitely ride you as I want, Eco!”
Eco immediately blushed and felt so embarrassed that steam almost burst out from her ears. Like a newborn baby, her heartbeat constantly jumped and fluttered. She felt such joy that she almost passed out—. Inadvertently, Eco also found that Ash’s heartbeat was clearly audible to her. Upon closer inspection, Ash’s face had also gone red as well. His heart was beating just as hard as Eco’s, and his face was flushed red like hers as well. Eco no longer felt doubtful.
“You’re the one who has to make sure that you listen to me.”
It wasn’t until someone went made an unnatural ‘ahem!’ cough that Eco returned to her senses.
Ash looked around at everyone’s faces in a panic. But even so, Eco didn’t seem to have any intention of separating from Ash. Likewise, despite his embarrassment, Ash continued to embrace Eco’s body.
“You two really are…”
The person who coughed — Silvia stood up and walked away from the sofa. Her expression was one of reluctant bitterness.
“Logically speaking, sending you out right now is ludicrous, Ash. Don’t forget that you’re heavily injured and it’ll take three months for you to fully recover.”
Silvia glared at Ash with a sharp gaze in order to stop him from making excuses.
“Having said that, since both of you have shown the determination to do so even in the face of death…we have no reason to stop you.”
Ash and Eco shouted at the same time. Eco thanked Silvia in her heart as she sent her a sidelong glance. Julius then stood up as well.
“Ash and Eco, I sincerely thank you. And as a former prince of this country, I also give my gratitude.”
When Julius lowered his head and his body to perform a deep bow, not only did he shock Eco, but even Ash felt completely stunned.
“P-Please don’t do that! Please lift your head!”
As Eco looked at Ash’s panicked face from the side, a burst of warmth smothered her heart. She felt glad that Ash was her knight. The uneasiness that she had originally felt about Dragonising had long been forgotten.
Dragonar Academy — the sporting grounds. Under Rebecca’s command, the raging fires within the Academy were finally extinguished. All of the teachers and students of the Acadamy took refuge in the centre of the field. Due to the cold weather and dim light, a bonfire was made. Half of the school buildings had been declared as collapsed or destroyed, and the male dormitory Apollo House was also burnt to ruins. Many other facilities had also been mercilessly destroyed. It was probably the first time in the history of Ansarivan that such a terrible disaster had befallen it. Perhaps the silver lining amidst all of this was that despite the buildings becoming so badly damaged, not a single life had been lost. It was no exaggeration to call it a miracle that only around fifty people had suffered minor injuries. All of those injured were moved to a temporary tent where a medical team led by Jessica were responsible for treatment. The deputy team leader there was Lucca, and treatment went smoothly with the help of students who had studied medicine. The effects of the herbal medicine produced by Lucca were particularly astonishing, and it was well-received by those within the treatment tents.
“Given the current situation, it wouldn’t be strange for anyone to become disconcerted due to excessive anxiety…though I didn’t expect everyone to be quite so calm.”
Rebecca muttered as she cast her gaze across the situation of all the teachers and students of the Academy.
“It must be a result of your strong leadership, President.”
The person who answered was the one currently acting as Rebecca’s deputy — the accountant Max. Max said that because he sincerely admired Rebecca, it wasn’t just a polite gesture. The Ark that Cú Chulainn had gone through painstaking efforts to bestow upon Rebecca brilliantly reflected the bonfire’s radiant glow, giving it a shiny lustre. Rebecca’s majestic figure was even viewed as a symbol of hope by the other students.
“Now I’m just worried about…whether Eco and Silvia were able to successfully protect Ash.”
Max nodded deeply as he echoed Rebecca’s sentiment.
“Indeed. It’s really taking them a long time to come back—”
Just as Max looked somewhat distressed—
“—President, we’ve returned!”
It was Silvia’s voice. Rebecca and Max aside, all of the other students in the school turned their heads toward the direction of the school gate. A single dragon carriage leapt through the half-destroyed main entrance, and rushed toward the location where everyone else was. Silvia poked her face out of the carriage window and waved her hand.
“Ash is safe and sound!”
Upon seeing the faint smile on Silvia’s face as she shouted that out, both Rebecca and Max couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief.
Ash, Eco, Silvia, Navi, Julius and Angela — the group of them were invited to a conference tent which was set up in a corner of the field. The heater which was powered by a Bright Dragon Crystal within the tent was a blessing for the inured Ash. Rebecca and Max greeted them all first. After having so many people squeezed into the tent at once, it became rather cramped. In particular, both Rebecca and Silvia were equipped with their Arks which were somewhat space-consuming. Ash was sandwiched in between Eco and Silvia on each side, and the air between them was still fidgety despite the serious occasion. It was because both of their shoulders were constantly pressed against his. Leaving that aside, the presence of Julius and Angela was rather shocking for Rebecca and the others. To start things off, Silvia gave an update of the situation to Rebecca and the others.
“…So, our only trump card here is Ash and Eco. Hence, the next problem that we face is — choosing the location for Eco to Dragonise.”
“I see. So you’ve concluded that you’ll use the Academy grounds as the location for Eco’s transformation?”
Rebecca looked at Silvia and Eco with a serious expression.
“Yes. Either the central plaza and the arena, or the broad plain outside the city walls…we’ve selected various candidate locations, and Eco will have the final say on the decision.”
Eco hesitantly nodded in agreement with Silvia’s words. It was clear to see that her cheeks were faintly red.
“I-It’s because this Academy is like…it’s like the hometown that I was born in. Although it might bring trouble to everyone…but…I still want to transform here, can’t I?”
After making a wry smile, Rebecca placed her hand on Eco’s head.
“Why wouldn’t you be able to? Rather, I’m rather honoured as the student council president that you consider this Academy to be your hometown.”
Rebecca’s honest words of gratitude caused Eco to blush.
“Then, I will explain your situation to all of the teachers and students of the Academy in the most suitable manner. Ash, you take a rest first—”
At that moment, Jessica and Lucca suddenly barged into the tent and interrupted Rebecca. The surprising thing was that both of them wore white uniforms, making them both look like nurses. No, upon closer inspection, they weren’t wearing white outfits, but pink nurse uniforms. It was a somewhat different taste compared to the white outfit, and Ash couldn’t help but feel somewhat overwhelmed by this.
“Ash-sama, I always believed that you would be safe!”
As Jessica advanced forward, she began to race toward Ash as if she was trying to push him down. However, she suddenly fell in an awkward manner and her face approached the floor. Along with the sound of abrasion as she glided forward a certain distance, she stopped in front of Ash. Her precious nurse outfit had gotten covered in mud.
“W-What are you doing!?”
After Jessica lifted her upper body from the ground, she turned back and protested loudly.
“It’s sly of you to sneak ahead…”
With her usual expressionless face, Lucca expressed her thoughts. Interestingly, she held a tight-fitting mini-skirt in her hand.
“Uwah! Jessica, below! Below!”
Ash was stunned at first, and he soon averted his eyes away from Jessica, but it was already too late as the image of her pink garter belts, pink panties, and her soft pink thighs had all been clearly burned into his eyes. The reason why Jessica fell so badly was because Lucca had pushed her from behind.
Jessica’s entire face went bright pink as she snatched her mini-skirt back from Lucca.
“That’s so mean, Lucca-san! A-Although…I don’t mind being seen by Ash-sama…”
While Jessica whined and put her skirt back on, Lucca took advantage of the opportunity to crouch in front of Ash with a bowl of steaming hot soup. It appeared to be some kind of herbal tea with a unique aroma. The colour of the tea was a dark green which was close to being black.
“This is a herbal medicine passed down by the Ecbald people.”
The pungent odour and terrible colour made Ash hesitate to reach out and accept it.
“It has an extraordinary effect on blood circulation. I made it especially for you…Ash.”
As she said that, Lucca’s face reddened. Her long ears which were unique to the Ecbald tribe twitched incessantly. Finding her appearance far too adorable, Ash couldn’t help but feel dazed by her, but the ice cold stares directed at him from the surroundings immediately pulled him back to reality.
“Thank you for you kindness, Lucca.”
After Ash thanked her, he accepted the tea bowl from her and then gulped it all down in one go.
Although the taste was as bitter as he had expected, his body slowly began to warm up after drinking it, and the pain from his wounds also seemed to lessen.
After getting fully dressed again, Jessica came running over.
“If you feel uncomfortable anywhere, please let me know! As the medical team leader, I will do my best to serve you!”
“I’m grateful, Jessica.”
Leaving aside her extreme enthusiasm, Ash was genuinely able to sense Jessica’s good intentions, and so he thanked her in his mind.
“Oh, but Ash already has me as a nurse, you know?”
This kindled a fierce sense of competitiveness within Navi as she interjected from the side. Indeed, Navi was still wearing the same nurse outfit even now.
“Hey, please don’t start with that…!”
Ash nervously watched Jessica, Lucca and Navi in fear, and then shifted his eyes to the side as if nothing had happened—.
Sure enough, he found Eco puffing her cheeks out and scowling at him in anger.
Not long after Rebecca explained the situation to all of the teachers and students of the Academy—. Ash and Eco finally arrived at the centre of the field. Taking into account the size of Eco’s body after Dragonising, the students all retreated to a corner of the field first. Everyone’s mouths felt dry as they nervously waited in anticipation, praying for Ash and Eco from a distance. The icy night wind blew against the bonfire vigorously, but Ash didn’t find it cold. It was because Eco was snuggled up by his side. The warmth brought forth from their linked hands boosted his spirit.
“Alright, let’s get started.”
Ash said in a deliberately relaxed tone to Eco.
Eco nodded as she returned an innocent smile. Even though she was probably filled with fear and anxiety on the inside, she remained steadfast. Ash hoped to respond to Eco’s courage as best he could.
—I’ll also support you from the side.
Having returned to the Dragon Workshop, Navi also expressed her support for the two of them.
“…I’m going to transform.”
Eco gently closed her eyes and concentrated. Her body was enveloped by an astounding volume of magical energy as she let off a blinding glow.
After a while, <Avalon’s Bracelet> made a quiet metallic sound as it automatically came loose and floated above Eco’s head. Eco maintained her original form and stayed perfectly still. She was probably remembering all of the special training that she had undergone with Navi day after day. With her eyes closed, Eco said in a soft voice
“Please…hold onto me tightly, okay?”
Powerful magical energy erupted from Eco’s body. But even so, Ash did not hesitate. He tightly clung onto Eco’s slim body.
The moment Eco murmured that, the Bracelet of Avalon that had been floating above her head let out a sudden flash. The students were all in awe. While in the embrace of Ash’s arms, Eco recited words that resembled a chant.
“I am the true descendant of the illustrious Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor Family…”
—Such immense pressure…!
Although Ash shuddered on the inside, he didn’t let go of Eco. On the contrary, he tightened his embrace.
“Mine own name is Eco Pendragon Aurora Christa Lena Angeles Iria Lorence Liliane Muirel Octavia Robertine de la Rosa L’Espérance van Compostela de Avalon—”
And then, Eco opened her bright red eyes.
“I shall bewray mine own true form here!”
A beam of light shot up into the night sky, piercing straight through the dark clouds above.
Ash was swallowed up by the pillar of light—.
Eco was unsure of how long she had been unconscious. After the column of light faded, she opened her eyes ever so slightly.
She had wanted to scream out ‘kya’, but what came out from her throat was a powerful roar. The shockwave that it generated was so tremendous that the ripples of that soundwave could be felt as they shook the air. The reason why Eco suddenly felt frightened was because she had ascended to an extraordinary height. In her eyes, even the school buildings in the Academy had become so small that they were like miniature models. Eco hesitantly looked down at her own body. Under the moonlight, her fur was lustrous and shiny. Her forelimbs were strong, her hind limbs sturdy and powerful too. Her tail was so long that it reached beyond the school gates. Her folded wings had yet to be spread. Avalon’s Bracelet had also become a beautiful collar which hung around Eco’s neck, letting off a dazzling golden glow.
—I’ve transformed into a dragon…and I’ve fully maintained my consciousness…I did it!
Inadvertently, Eco captured all of the Academy’s teachers and students who were on the grounds in the corner of her vision. The first thought that emerged in her mind was somewhat rude, though nonetheless true in her current state ‘Wow, people are like small ants…’. In the eyes of the current Eco, that was just how small of an existence human beings were. But she immediately rebuked herself — and told herself that these were the ones who needed her protection. Perhaps because she had just let out an unrelenting roar just earlier, most of the students showed signs of vigilance and fear. It was clear that many students felt the urge to escape upon seeing Eco’s grandiose form. However, the students who stood at the forefront — Rebecca, Silvia, Lucca, Jessica, Raymond and Max were different from the others. Their eyes carried absolute faith as they looked up at her. Fortunately, thanks to Rebecca and the others leading by example, all of the other students eventually calmed down and returned to normal. And then, Eco noticed that Ash was riding on top of her head. Although she felt slightly bitter that she was unable to see him, she could feel his definite presence there…! Just as Eco felt so overjoyed that she was about to let out another roar, an electric current passed through her body.
Although she initially thought that something had gone wrong after transforming into a dragon, that turned out not to be the case. It was because there was no pain or discomfort. However, when Eco realised that Ash was riding on her, an incomprehensible feeling had struck her heart.
—W-What is this feeling!?
Inadvertently, Eco came to the shocking realisation that the sensation was called ‘pleasure’, making her feel awkwardly embarrassed. The feeling of comfort that it gave her almost seemed like a violation of morality at the same time. It was almost as if she was presenting her naked body before Ash’s eyes, making Eco feel too embarrassed to…
—N-No…! If Ash is going to continue to ride me, I will…!
Tears welled up in Eco’s eyes as she contorted her body.
She couldn’t stop herself from issuing a roar that quaked through the air. That tremendous roar even dispelled all of the clouds that previously obscured the stars. Eco lost balance of her body, and she almost fell over. She used her left and right forelimbs to support her body, triggering a sudden earthquake. Clouds of dust slowly filled the air as a result. This phenomenon allowed Eco to once again realise just how incredible her body was.
Perhaps having made the mistaken thought that Eco had gone mad, some students issued shrill screams.
—Ahh, geez! Why is it like this…ah!
“Eco! I’m here, don’t be afraid!”
At that moment, Ash spoke out to Eco with the same misunderstanding. His powerful will as a Dragonar was injected into Eco’s body. It was almost as if the roots of a large tree had dug down and intertwined with the earth. Ash had done his best in an attempt to get Eco to obey him.
—N-No, Ash! If you do this, then I’ll…!
However, since it was impossible for her to throw Ash off her head, Eco felt distressed. It felt as though she was deeply integrated together with Ash. Although Eco felt somewhat ashamed, she also felt an unbelievably sweet pleasure at the same time. As soon as a rush of excitement hit her, she began to feel comforted by it. A feeling of numbness wallowed in the depths of her stomach.
–Wahh…! W-Why…does it feel so comfortable! N-No…Ash, he wants to go deep…into my body…inside……!
The core of her body quickly began to feel soft. It almost felt as though Ash’s body was constantly tumbling about within Eco’s body. The immense pleasure that Eco felt caused her to even momentarily forget about the crisis threatening the country’s survival. She barely managed to stabilise her rationality and call out to Navi.
—Hey, Navi! What is this feeling? You’re the Dragweiss, so you should know! Ah!
With a smile, Navi answered
—This is the power of ‘The Boy Who Can Ride Any Dragon’. In the past, all of the dragons ridden by him have been conquered by this pleasure, and they were obedient to him.
—What did you say!? If that’s the case, I’ll have to forbid him from riding other dragons from now on! I-It’s such a depraved feeling…ah! I won’t allow it! Kuh!
—You’ll soon get used to it. In any case, the more you refuse to combine with Ash, the more you’ll be affected by Ash’s will as a Dragonar to subdue you. I suggest that you don’t think too much about the minor details, and open your heart to fully accept Ash.
Although she wasn’t fully convinced, what Navi said certainly did make sense. Eco recalled all of the days that she spent engrossed in training as she concentrated with all her might.
Seeing the emotionally swayed Eco regain her calm, Ash finally breathed a sigh of relief. Raising the volume of his voice, he bellowed out to those below
The students below immediately showered them with warm applause. After all, it was only natural that no one dared to step forward when it seemed like Eco was almost out of control. And then, Rebecca’s voice resounded through the night sky
“The future of the Knight Country rests in your hands. We’re counting on you!”
Silvia waved her hand as she shouted
“I wish you the best of luck!”
Jessica also raised her voice as she cried
“Just this once, I ask you to please protect Ash-sama, Eco!”
Lucca also spoke up with an unusually loud voice to express her support for Ash.
“I will prepare Ecbald herbal tea…it’ll be waiting for you when you come back!”
Standing amidst the student council members, Raymond gave a thumbs up as he shouted
“Ash, you have to save Brigid for me as well!”
“Please go on a date with me when you come back safely, Ashley!”
Max pushed Raymond aside as he shouted that out from the bottom of his lungs. Lately, it seemed as though his serious image was constantly being tarnished — and Ash couldn’t help but make a wry smile in response. Following the lead of Rebecca and the others, the remaining students also began to send them off with cheers. The students who had been scared for their lives due to Eco were now enthusiastically waving. The warm atmosphere that they produced was no lesser than what it had been during the climax of the Dragon Riding festival.
“Can you fly, Eco?”
After Ash asked, Eco raised her neck and looked toward the night sky. It was as though her answer was ‘Who do you think I am?’. With a flap, Eco spread her wings wide. Rather than the wings of a dragon, they seemed more like the wings of an angel. The night sky was filled with silver particles. The excess magic that overflowed from her body crystallised into extremely small Bright Dragon Crystals that drifted down from the sky like snowflakes. The spectacle caused all of the students to exclaim in amazement.
—The ‘Avalon Princess’ certainly isn’t just a hollow name!
Ash also felt truly proud and honoured. With this mixture of feelings swirling inside him, Ash shouted
“Let’s go, Eco!”
Letting off a majestic roar, Eco flew up high toward the stars in the sky—.
“Fly Up in the Air ~A.S.B.1365.11~” is closed.
(All 8 of 8 parts) (27/12)
Continues on to Chapter 8 – The Knight Who Drives a Maestro On