Chapter 8 – The Knight Who Drives a Maestro On
—High up in the air, at the border between the Chevron Kingdom and the Knight Country.
The magic ship Claíomh Solais hovered through the air like an eagle eyeing prey below it. There were many other small magic ships which surrounded it on all sides, acting as a convoy. The main force of the Chevron Kingdom had gathered in this airspace. Uriel and Cassandra were in a particular room of the Claíomh Solais. Not long ago, they had both received a report that the <Schwarz Drachen Panzer> had departed from Ansarivan and was marching north. Uriel savoured the taste of the finely aged red wine in his glass as a grin surfaced on his face.
“Next, we just have to wait for the Order of Holy Dragonars protecting the capital to come out, and victory will be in our grasp. Even one as strong as Cú Chulainn is unable to resist the command of Kriemhild. The Order of Holy Dragonars may be renowned, but they are still vulnerable.”
“They shouldn’t be capable of doing any more than watching as their Pals fall into the hands of others.”
Cassandra faintly smiled. She wore a cut-out evening dress which emphasised her cleavage while she leisurely relaxed on the leather sofa. Despite being a princess, the vibe that she gave off was closer to that of a prostitute. Even so, she maintained a certain distance from Prince Uriel.
“I wonder how the next event will develop.”
“After Kriemhild takes command of most dragons in the Knight Country, I’ll order her to destroy Fontaine City first. Then it will be time for me to make my appearance.”
“I see. At that time, you’ll lead the Kingdom’s army into Fontaine City — under the guise of protecting the people of Fontaine City from the deadly dragons which are attacking them. Besides, so long as Kriemhild orders it, the dragons will stop their destruction…fufu, no one would suspect that it was all directed by you.”
“Those ignorant civilians will all welcome me as their saviour. Regardless of the era, people always love a hero.”
“The only thing worth keeping an eye on now is the whereabouts of Ash Blake and the young dragon Eco, as well as Oscar and Tristan.”
“Worry not. Even if Eco and Tristan join forces to launch a counterattack, the difference between the two sides will be worlds apart once Kriemhild takes control of the Order of Holy Dragonars. It’s not even worth worrying about.”
“Is that so?”
“Moreover, Klaus has already taken action against Ash Blake and Eco. The power of the Avalon Princess is certainly attractive — but it’s a shame that there are too many uncertain factors.”
“Fontaine City was almost turned into a pile of ashes by her.”
Cassandra brought up the incident that occurred earlier this summer when Klaus forcefully awakened Eco, causing Fontaine City to fall into a crisis.
“Exactly. It’s better to simply get rid of the Avalon Princess. The Holy Dragons’ Emperor Family has already lost all value, after all, I have you by my side now.”
“To be precise, it’s not me — but the Dark Dragon King attached to my body, right?”
As she made a seductive smile, Cassandra stroked her abdomen. It was almost as though she was a pregnant mother speaking to the unborn child in her belly.
In the Fontainia Plains that surrounded the capital of Fontaine City, there was a slightly taller hill at the southern end. Built on top of that hill was a stronghold known as Kingsley Fortress. If enemy forces broke through it, the path to the capital would be wide open, leaving it completely defenceless. That was why it was truly the final fortress. The guards who stood watch at the sentry tower looked through their binoculars as they cried out
“Enemy figures confirmed! Distance of two thousand! Estimated numbers…eight hundred!”
Under the cover of the night, the demonic dragon troops which marched northward without rest finally invaded the Fontainia Plains. The Lautreamont Order of Holy Dragons had already gathered around the fortress. The squadron that Ursula L. Selwyn commanded had a total of five hundred knights. The Pals of all of those knights were Maestros. Included within this group of five hundred knights was Veronica’s personal guard which was led by Glenn. He had come to fight under Veronica’s orders.
In contrast, the <Schwarz Drachen Panzer> had four Maestros, around three hundred Stradas, around three hundred Asias, and approximately two hundred Hydras. Although their numbers were inferior to their adversaries, the Order had an overwhelming advantage in terms of combat power. Even if a group of average dragons were assembled together, they weren’t nearly as strong as a Maestro. Moreover, because the enemy’s Hydra troops travelled upstream along the Astraea River which ran through the Knight Country, rather than across the plains, they were separated from the main force. This river had a tributary named the Durham River which ran through the centre of Fontaine City. A total of two hundred Hydras attempted to make their way into the capital via this waterway. Naturally, a Hydra unit belonging to the lower ranks of the Order was also sent to the Astraea River. There was also a Strada unit responsible for patrolling the airspace above the capital, and an Asia unit for patrolling the city.
At first glance, although it seemed as though the Knight Country had the upper hand, there were actually two major concerns. One of those was the Knight Country could not kill any of the dragons that had fallen into enemy hands. These dragons had originally formed a contract with the students of Ansarivan’s Academy. This meant that their objective was not to kill them, but to return them to normal. In addition, the act of dragon slaying had always been regarded as the gravest taboo in the Knight Country. Anyone who took the life of a dragon was fated to be given the stigma of a Dragon Slayer, just like Prince Julius. The second problem was the method with which the enemy controlled the dragons. According to the latest information that they had received from Ansarivan, the enemy had used a strange kind of magic — they appeared to use the voice of a girl as a medium for controlling the dragons. If the sound of a song was enough to control the soul of a dragon, then countermeasures were first necessary. Riding the Maestro Galahad, Ursula shouted to the entire army with vigour
“We have information that the enemy will use a strange song to charm all of the dragons. When our forces advance, make sure that you use magic to build a protective barrier that blocks all sound waves.”
Gazing at her heroic glow — Captain Ursula, often regarded as a reincarnation of Saint Rosa Maria, caused all members of the Order to rally and shout for her.
After seeing the appearance of the holy relic that sat at the bottom of the underground city, Oscar was rendered speechless. Anya and Celes couldn’t stop their lips from quivering as they looked up at it either. It was as though they were believers of a faith who had a chance encounter with god on a pilgrimage. Eunice was the only one who maintained a calm manner as she brewed black tea for Mirabel. Even though they had made a breakthrough, it seemed as though tea was still necessary.
“It truly is amazing…!”
It was rare to see Mirabel show such interest in anything, and her excitement was made clear by how her body trembled. It was the first time that Oscar and the others had seen Mirabel with such an ecstatic expression, a clear contrast from her usually cold demeanour. What appeared before all of them was an ancient magic ship. According to Mirabel, the magic ship was from a super-ancient civilisation — a legacy of the Zono Ton Civilisation. Ancient text was painted on the side of the ship, and the pronunciation of it seemed to be something along the lines of ‘Escavaron’. Mirabel explained that it was likely to be the name of that magic ship. However, the most striking thing of all was that the entire magic ship seemed to have been preserved in pristine condition. Whether it was the Kingdom’s Claíomh Solais or the Knight Country’s Silvanus, both of their hulls had been manufactured through modern means, and only the internal machinery used components that had been excavated from ancient ruins. This was also the case for the Holy Espada Agency’s prided holy magic ship, the Esperanza. Oscar had never once heard of a magic ship that was in such good condition that it seemed untouched. Having said that, is this old antique really the key for us to return to the surface? Oscar couldn’t help but feel doubtful. However, Mirabel turned to face everyone, and declared in a completely natural manner
“Let’s all find the entrance first. We don’t have any more time to waste. This is a dire situation, and our only chance at survival lies with this magic ship.”
“The situation may be dire, but how do we do it…? Your Highness Mirabel, surely you do not believe that this thing will move, right?”
Although Oscar asked in jest, Mirabel replied with a solemn tone
“Generally speaking, the Millennium Bright Dragon Crystals used as a power source should contain a vast amount of energy. As far as the outer appearance is concerned, the preservation of the hull is excellent, so there is a high possibility that it will be able to function normally.”
After Mirabel calmly finished her analysis, she strode towards it. Regardless of the era, the design of magic ships didn’t seem to differ too much, and so Mirabel was easily able to locate the entrance at the side of the hull. After Mirabel pressed the button that she suspected of being the one, the entrance opened. The exterior section which appeared no different from the hull’s wall slid open, revealing the entrance. Mirabel stepped through the rectangular hole that stood before her without any hesitation.
After Oscar ordered Tristan to keep watch outside, she followed the others in. Naturally, the interior of the ship was pitch-black, thus Oscar used an Oracle to illuminate their surroundings. After walking down a narrow passageway, they arrived at an area that appeared to be the bridge. After continuing up a spiral staircase, they arrived at the very top of the magic ship. Obstructing the path in front of them all was — a rather sturdy looking metal door. An abstract pattern was engraved onto the surface of the door, and it seemed to somewhat resemble a royal emblem. Oscar was well-acquainted with all of the family crests of every noble house across the continent, yet it was the first time that she had laid eyes upon that emblem. If one had to liken it to something, the emblem seemed to have a slight resemblance to the <Seikoku> on Ash’s left arm.
“This should be the cockpit.”
Mirabel stepped toward the unknown territory, and fearlessly began to investigate her surroundings. After a moment, she stumbled upon a switch and pressed it. The large door smoothly slid open, inviting them all in. As soon as Oscar stepped in, she couldn’t help but admire the sight before her eyes. Celes and Anya also gawked at their surroundings with widened eyes. Only Eunice showed signs of indecision as she seemed a bit lost as for where to push the trolley for brewing black tea that she had somehow brought along. There were glass windows in front and on both sides which allowed them to overlook the scenery outside the ship. Various complicated controls and devices covered the walls and panels beneath the windows. Once Mirabel stood in front of the operating controls, she began to investigate each of the devices, seemingly at random. This was something that Oscar was powerless with, even if she did want to help, and so she was forced to simply watch Mirabel from behind. Anya probed around near the steering column, Celes appeared to yawn out of boredom, and when Eunice finally decided on where to position the tea trolley, she prepared to brew another pot of black tea. After a short while — Mirabel dropped her shoulders in apparent disappointment as she slumped into what seemed like the captain’s seat. Her depressed look was a far cry from her usual expression.
“Your Highness Mirabel, what is the matter?”
After Oscar asked that in puzzlement, Mirabel blankly stared straight up at the ceiling.
“…I’m lost. I’ve finally been able to determine that the magic engine is still operational, but I can’t find the key to launching this magic ship’s system…what else could be missing?”
After saying that, Mirabel isolated herself in silence and refused to speak another word. Even though Eunice had brewed a pot of black tea for her, Mirabel remained lost in thought and she didn’t even glance at her favourite black tea. A gloomy atmosphere soon descended upon the cockpit.
In Fontaine City — someone knocked on the door of the castle office. Veronica did not turn her eyes away from the window which overlooked a view of the capital, and she simply said
“You may enter.”
The one who entered the room was the personal maid of her father, Frieda Shelley. As soon as she noticed Frieda’s expression, Veronica was able to understand what had transpired.
“…I see. So even the Order of Holy Dragonars has been defeated?”
“Yes. Kingsley Fortress has fallen. The enemy has taken control of all five hundred Maestros that the Order rode for their own army, turning them into a large brigade with more than thirteen hundred dragons. At present, the status of the knights that Captain Ursula led is unknown. The group including Captain Glenn whom you ordered to help out at Kingsley Fortress is also…”
“I didn’t think that knights as strong as even Ursula and Glenn would be defeated so easily…”
“Captain Ursula’s combat strategy was to have the dragons deploy a wind-based magic barrier to try and block the sound waves emitted by the enemy…but the voice of that girl on the enemy’s side seemed to be transmitted directly into the dragons’ minds.”
“So this is as far as—”
Watching as Veronica sighed, Frieda spoke resolutely in a plain tone
“Princess-sama, please retreat immediately. Although your personal guard may not be here, we maids of the Shelley family vow to protect you, even if comes at the price of our lives.”
When Frieda yelled, Veronica exposed a gentle smile and then placed her hand on Frieda’s shoulder.
“It is fine, Frieda. You should know that I, Veronica Lautreamont, would never run away from an enemy.”
“In that case, at least…allow me to accompany you as a retainer…”
Although Veronica whispered such a complaint, she did not openly refuse. Concluding her conversation with Frieda, she stared out the window once more. The bad news of danger descending upon the city had been spread to all of its residents. While sirens rang out across the city, roads became crowded with people who all tried to board dragon carriages, horse-drawn carriages, as well as some citizens who tried to pull their own carts along. On the other hand, fierce battles broke out just outside the city walls between the squadron of Hydras which attempted to invade the city via the Durham River and the knight squadrons.
Beyond the chaotic city — the moon which hung in the sky cast a pale light over the Fontainia Plains, illuminating the figures of various dragons. A grey cloud of dust trailed behind the dragons on land as they mightily marched closer to the city. Veronica could also feel the shockwaves which rippled across the earth. The singing voice of that girl on the enemy’s side had yet to affect the urban area of the city. However, if the enemy’s advance continued, the defence team protecting the capital would soon face the same fate as the Order of Holy Dragonars. At that moment, the dragon leading the enemy’s army suddenly sped up, and after breaking off from the larger group, it began to accumulate magical energy. Veronica felt goose bumps as a warning signal from her instincts. Frieda also seemed to have an ominous premonition, and she took out a pair of binoculars as she rushed to the window to investigate.
“Princess-sama! That dragon’s fur may be painted black, but that is indeed Lancelot!”
Veronica gnashed her teeth.
“To think that they would send Silvia’s Pal to the forefront…how vile…!”
Veronica complained with a rarely-seen voice of agony as her expression turned bitter. Despite anticipating the general flow of the situation, Veronica was reluctant to simply sit still, and so she prepared to take hold of her favourite great sword to put up some resistance—. But at the last moment, she allowed her fingertips to slip away from the hilt. And then — Lancelot let loose an Azul Ex-Blizzard. An ice-blue blast rocketed straight toward the spire of Fontaine’s castle, and a blinding glare smothered Veronica’s vision.
“I love you, Silvia…”
Just as those words were about to accompany the last breath of the valiant <Ironblood Valkyrie> — First Princess Veronica Lautreamont…
Along with a roar that seemed as though it could tear the night asunder — a majestic and grandiose figure beyond all belief descended outside the city walls. It was a dragon of extraordinary size, greater than even that of the castle itself. With three horns, crimson red eyes, and a regal stance — it was precisely the same dragon that had brought disaster to Fontaine City in the summer of this year.
With a single swipe of her forelimb, the offensive magic was deflected — the magic carved out a beautiful parabola in the night sky before it fell onto a plain and exploded, turning that area into frozen tundra.
Veronica immediately lifted her face and snatched Frieda’s binoculars for herself and looked through them in shock. On top of the dragon’s head was a student wearing the boys’ uniform of Dragonar Academy—.
“It’s Ash Blake! Does that mean he’s managed to control Eco…!?”
Veronica could do nothing but stare at Ash and Eco in amazement.
The <Schwarz Drachen Panzer> which had absorbed a force of five hundred Maestros was only a short distance of several hundred metres away from the walls of the capital, Fontaine City.
“Why!? Why has the Avalon Princess appeared in this place…!?”
Responsible for the army’s rear guard, Klaus couldn’t help but clench his fists as he stood on top of Cú Chulainn’s head. The Dragonised Eco was like an impenetrable wall as she positioned her own enormous body in front of Fontaine City to act as a shield. Klaus had also been able to confirm with his naked eye that someone was riding on Eco’s head. Although he was too far to make out their appearance, it was probably Ash Blake given that he was riding on Eco.
—Ash and Eco.
The destruction of Klaus’ airship, the Beowulf, was the incident which had caused his status and position within his country to fall tremendously. And the culprits behind that incident now stood in his way.
“The special task force failed huh…!”
Klaus cursed in disdain. According to his original plan, Ash and Eco should already have been captured as prisoners of war.
“Master, what should I do now?”
Kriemhild temporarily stopped singing, and turned to ask him that question with a blank expression. Her emotionless face only further provoked Klaus’ fury. Klaus yelled out as if a bout of madness had engulfed his entire being
“You have the gall to ask such a stupid question!? Your task is to control all dragons and have them fall to your dominion! Eco is also a dragon, so use your voice to overpower her! She is the reason for your existence!”
“…Understood, Master. I shall sing with all my strength.”
The two Pluto beneath her mask let off an even stronger glow than before—.
The <Schwarz Drachen Panzer> which had seemingly fallen into chaos due to Eco’s appearance began to charge forth like an avalanche as soon as Kriemhild’s voice pierced through the air. The thirteen hundred dragons moved in an orderly arrangement.
Eco was stunned. Even though her appearance had transformed into that of Avalon’s Holy Dragon Emperor, she was still the young girl Eco on the inside who was accustomed to school life on the campus. The sense of incongruity between her mind and body was still unreconciled. Even now, she was unable to erase the feeling that she was simply sitting inside a large shell and controlling its movements. Moreover, Kriemhild’s song constantly attacked Eco’s mind as well. The reason why she was able to preserve her sanity was probably in part thanks to her royal blood as a descendant of Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor Family. Pluto was originally a weapon developed by Nehalennia’s Dark Dragons’ King Family. In other words, Pluto had the attribute of being a polar opposite to Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor Family. Therefore, it seemed likely that the <Demonic Attribute> of Pluto was offset by Eco’s innate <Holy Attribute>.
The horde of demonic dragons kicked up a grey dust storm as they approached. The screams which were like cries of madness and the roars which were like ripples of an earthquake only deepened the fear within Eco’s heart. Perhaps noticing Eco’s distress, Ash shouted from atop her head
“Don’t be afraid, Eco! They’ve all just fallen under the influence of Pluto. As long as you call out to them, they’ll definitely turn back into the gentle dragons that they originally were!”
After Ash shouted those words of support, Navi also offered some words of advice from the Dragon Workshop.
—First, use defensive magic to enshroud Fontaine City! With the power of Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor, you should definitely be able to do it!
—I understand…I really want to say that, but the problem is that I’ve never used magic!
—Do not worry. You only need to follow my lead and repeat the spell’s chant once.
—…T-Thank you, Navi.
—There is no need to thank me. So long as you desire it, you can integrate yourself with me, and thus all of the magic recorded in the Dragweiss will be free for you to use. But, both you and Ash see me as a companion…so if there’s anything that I can do for you two, I’m happy to do so.
Strictly speaking, Eco didn’t particularly like Navi in the past, but she now found her incredibly reliable. Eco thought that if the status quo was maintained, Navi could continue to provide strong support, and things would turn out fine even if the two of them didn’t merge.
—Alright, look at me then!
Eco thought as she expelled a valiant roar.
After Eco released an extraordinary roar, Ash couldn’t help but turn and look at Fontaine City behind them. There was a gigantic magic circle which floated above the city, letting off a brilliant radiance. A vast amount of magic instantly shaped itself into a dome-shaped shield, covering the entire city. Ash had seen a fair number of defensive magic barriers from dragons in the past, but it was the first time that he had seen magic which could be deployed on a city-wide scale. It was probably an ability that only Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor was capable of. The winged dragons, the Stradas which had already flown over Eco’s head and attempted to attack the city were suddenly blocked out. Although they appeared to be trying their best to destroy the dome-shaped magic barrier, their attacks didn’t surmount to even a scratch against it.
“…You’re amazing, Eco!”
Ash couldn’t stop himself from offering such words of praise to Eco, but—
Intense pain suddenly struck the wounds on his shoulders, chest and sides. Beads of cold sweat quickly ran down his forehead. But he refused to kneel down at such a time. Eco had successfully Dragonised, and she was fighting hard to protect the capital, and to protect the country. As her knight, he couldn’t allow himself to be taken down by one or two mere injuries, especially at such a crucial moment. At that moment, Navi’s voice resounded within Ash’s mind.
—Be careful, Ash. For the time being, I don’t think there’s any need to worry about the safety of the capital…but you’re still wounded right now. I think you should leave this to Eco, and head into the city to take refuge first—
Although Ash felt happy about Navi’s well-intentioned concern, he endured the pain as he replied
“Thank you, Navi. But my injuries are a trivial matter compared to all of the obstacles that Eco has managed to overcome.”
Ash boldly looked down at the large army that had begun their advance towards them.
“I won’t run away! I want to fight alongside Eco!”
The <Schwarz Drachen Panzer> had finally made it to the area right in front of Eco. Just as Navi said, even though the main target of Fontaine City lay right before them, the troops which had been blocked off directed all of their firepower toward Eco, who had become gigantic.
Eco activated magic once more, and constructed a sturdy barrier in front of herself. This was also another high-level type of magic. Although it was something that she had only just learnt through a crash course with Navi, Eco was instantly able to deploy a shield composed of a countless number of hexagons. The barrier was of such a grand scale that it almost matched Eco in height. Needless to say, Ash who rode on top of Eco’s head was also covered by its protection.
The dragons began ramming into the barrier at high speeds, resulting in deafening bangs and frequent tremors. The colourless and transparent surface of the wall absorbed all of their attacks and emitted frequent flashes of light with each point of contact. The Hexagonal Shield was just barely able to withstand the combined assault of the dragons. However, a single failure didn’t deter the dragons, and they continued to collide against it over and over again.
—Please, everyone! Please hurry and remember your true selves!
Eco desperately cried with a roar. However, even though Eco roared until her throat became coarse, the dragons showed no sign of stopping. On the contrary, their attacks grew fiercer, and they continued their assault against the Hexagonal Shield. Some dragons chose to ram their bodies against the barrier incessantly, while others used offensive magic against it. In particular, the dragons which originally belonged to the Order of Holy Dragonars were all top-notch Maestros. Every single one of their moves packed immense destructive power. Just as Eco felt that the barrier would eventually give way, three Maestros broke through the barrier with a concentrated assault.
—This is bad!
Although Eco immediately repaired the hole, those three dragons that had made it through charged directly at her body. Eco quickly realised that those three were Lancelot, Gawain, and Arianrhod. Even though their entire bodies had been smothered with a black coat, Eco was still able to recognise them based on the characteristics of their figures. After the three dragons rapidly ascended into the air, they began to circle above her head.
The three dragons issued intimidating growls while the one that they gazed upon with malicious stares was—
Located behind the large army, Klaus stood on top of Cú Chulainn’s head with a lively expression on his face.
“Hmph. That’s it, that’s right! As long as you can kill the Dragonar, even the Avalon Princess will become helpless without Astral Flow!”
With this, I’ll be able to take my revenge on Ash Blake and the young dragon Eco. I’ll then join hands with Prince Uriel, and the road to fame and power will lie open…!
Klaus’ entire body was enraptured with a sensation of mad joy.
“Kriemhild, it’s almost time to sing the finale!”
Under Klaus’ orders — Kriemhild’s singing finally approached its apex.
Lancelot, Gawain and Arianrhod — when these three dragons appeared in front of Ash, he immediately shouted
“Eco! Don’t touch them!”
Ash looked up at the three Maestros which hovered above him in the sky, and he spread his arms wide to show them that he held no hostility.
“You three. Do you really…not remember who I am?”
Ash shouted to them in a sincere tone. In contrast, those three dragons made explicit displays of their hostility as they let off low-pitched growls. It was possible for them to attack Ash at any moment. Ash first called out to Lancelot which was in the centre and tried to sway it with emotion
“Lancelot. I still remember that when the enormous Necromancia appeared in the city, you let me ride on your back. It was all thanks to the help of you and Princess-sama that I was able to defeat the Necromancia. During the summer break, I also rode on your back and we went to the Albion Church together, remember? It felt like we were going out on a trip, and it made me so happy. And in the Dragonar’s Gunnar Bout, you finally bestowed your Ark to Princess-sama, didn’t you? Are you really willing to let someone manipulate you with such lowly trickery?”
Ash then turned his attention towards Gawain.
“Gawain, I haven’t known you for a long time, and you hurt me pretty badly when we first met…but everything that we experienced together in the Selective Training Camp is a precious memory to me. Although there was a Necromancia appearance back then as well, and the situation was critical…we were able to overcome that difficulty thanks to everything that you and Lucca did. Please don’t tell me that you’ve forgotten those feelings when you completed your first Dragon Riding Dance together with Lucca!”
Just as Ash was about to shift his focus to Arianrhod — he suddenly coughed.
The palm of his hand that he scarcely covered his mouth with had been dyed red. The aftertaste of blood remained in his mouth, he grew short of breath, and his heartrate also accelerated as a strange coldness prickled against his body.
—This might actually get pretty bad if I can’t make things right this time…
Even though there was the risk that he could pass out at any moment, Ash mustered the willpower to keep himself awake.
“Arianrhod. Because Max is always so stiff, I haven’t had many shared experiences with you…but Max, Raymond and I are practically inseparable. Even though it’s clear that our three personalities, preferences and grades are completely different, the strange thing is that we all get along. It’s always me and Raymond who do stupid things and then get scolded by Max…it’s truly been so much fun…”
Before he even realised, Ash had begun to cry. Tears constantly rolled down his cheeks, and with his vision blurred, even the outlines of those three Maestros had become faint. Lancelot, Gawain and Arianrhod still looked at Ash with the same fierce glares though, much like a congregation of animosity.
The three dragons unrelentingly roared in unison, their cries an embodiment of pure aggression—.
Eco was no longer able to endure, and she prepared to launch a counterattack against the Maestros hovering above her head with a breath attack. Even though they were precious comrades, she couldn’t sit still and allow them to kill Ash. After using that defensive magic, Eco had gained a certain degree of awareness about how powerful her own magic was. Even if she cut her destructive power down to the minimum, there was still a chance that it would cause fatal injuries to Lancelot and the others. Even if it was possible that she might inadvertently kill them, if it was for the sake of protecting Ash—
Just as Eco was about to begin, Ash screamed out again and told her to stop, confusing Eco. It was only after Eco directed her gaze at Lancelot that she noticed all three of the dragons were acting strange. Lancelot, Gawain and Arianrhod all appeared to be struggling in pain. Although they managed to remain in the air, it seemed as though they could fall at a moment’s notice.
—What is happening?
In bewilderment, Eco witnessed the moment of their change. The jet-black fur of Lancelot and the other two dragons gradually turned back into a silvery-white sheen. After a short while, they regressed to their beautiful Maestro forms. There was no longer any trace of hostility toward Ash and Eco in those eyes of theirs. And in that moment, Eco received a message from Navi in her mind.
[This is a truly unexpected result. The <Avalon Knight> certainly has a way with things. Perhaps Ash is the key to reversing this predicament.]
“What are you saying!? Can’t you see that Ash’s body is about to collapse!?”
[Calm down first, Eco. Right now, you must do you best to help Ash exert his greatest strength.]
“…Even if you say that, what am I supposed to do?”
[It goes without saying. This is the moment for you to bestow your complete Ark to Ash.]
“I can’t do it!”
Even though Eco immediately refused, Navi was unconvinced.
[Don’t be afraid. You’re the Avalon Princess now, and you’ve already fully awakened. All limits and restrictions have been released. The same is true of your ability to be a creator.]
Confidence began to fill her up as she listened to Navi’s words, and for a moment, Eco almost believed it, but she eventually dismissed those thoughts. Even if she succeeded in creating a perfect Ark for Ash, he was currently severely injured. If there was even the slightest mistake, the armour could take Ash’s life away…! Perhaps understanding Eco’s worry, Navi offered her some firm assurance.
[A complete Ark will never burden a knight’s body. Moreover, a complete Ark should be the first priority to protect a knight.]
“Is that so…?”
So all of the burden that Ash had endured in the past was caused by her own immaturity — Eco was saddened by this truth, but it was not the time for her to lose sight of her purpose. Eco cheered herself up. Now was the time for her to bequeath the perfect Ark to Ash, in order to make Ash a perfect <Avalon Knight>. Instantly, an image appeared in Eco’s mind. The image was so sharp and clear that even Eco felt surprised. In her mind, Eco was able to imagine the heroic manner in which the <Avalon Knight> rode atop her Dragonised form in the air. It was the ideal image that Eco hoped for Ash to become. Just a few days ago, Eco had struggled just to draw a sketch of an Ark. However, that bitterness was like a fabrication now, and a clear and fixed blueprint had manifested in her mind.
“Could this be…!”
[That’s right. This is the shape of the Ark that you must bestow upon Ash. Well done, Eco.]
“…I really don’t want to merge with you.”
[Did you say something?]
“I was talking to myself! Alright, I’m going to begin!”
After Eco focused her mind, she began to gather all of the magical energy in her body.
Lancelot, Gawain and Arianrhod — after the three Maestros came back to their senses, they took up the role of guarding Ash on all sides. As soon as a demonic dragon broke through the magic barrier, they would immediately move forward and engage them. They also contributed with their own magic to repair damage to the shield. Seeing the braveness and vigour of Lancelot and the others, courage began to rise up within Ash. Even though his entire body suffered from severe pain, he couldn’t fall now. However, the problem was that the most important person right now, Eco, had gone silent for a while, and Ash couldn’t help but feel worried as he noticed this.
“What’s wrong, Eco!?”
Ash persistently tried to converse with her, but Eco simply stood still on the spot, motionless as she stared straight ahead. However, it was clear that Eco’s entire body was gathering magical energy.
Does she have some kind of countermeasure?
Suddenly, Eco roared loudly toward the night sky.
The strange thing was that no aggression could be felt from that roar. It seemed the origin of the roar was not rooted in anger. Rather, it actually sounded more like it was a blessing for something.
But faced with this unfavourable dilemma, what exactly is Eco trying to bless?
At that moment, Eco gently flapped her wings and took off into the air. Ash’s hair also swayed with the wind as they ascended. After departing from the ground, Eco hovered in the sky above Fontaine City. Ash was able to overlook even the spire of Fontaine Castle, and he could vaguely also see Veronica standing by the window. Lancelot, Gawain and Arianrhod also took action — they hovered in mid-air around her like loyal followers. Seeing the jet-black demonic dragons try to pursue them, Eco unleashed a mighty roar. It was a fierce roar that allowed one to sense the iron will behind it. Even under the influence of Pluto, the demonic dragons flinched in fright, and they didn’t dare to advance any further. At that time, the <Seikoku> on Ash’s left arm let out a burst of dazzling light. The unusual heat that he felt on his left arm made him wonder whether his left arm would burn off. In fact, the sleeve and bandages that covered his <Seikoku> had burned to ashes in the blink of an eye. Eco’s voice was transmitted through the burning <Seikoku> on his arm.
—Almete, Gorjal, Peto…
That voice was undoubtedly the same as when Eco recited the chant to bestow his Ark. However, it wasn’t entirely the same as it was in the past. The weight of each and every word felt much heavier than it had ever been. Eco’s unwavering willpower could be felt in every word.
—Espaldar, Brafoneras, Faldaje…
It didn’t feel rushed or flippant as it did before. Eco’s calmness seemed beyond belief, and it was almost as if she already had immense confidence. Perhaps in fear of her mighty presence, all of the demonic dragons stopped moving or flying through the air as they settled on the ground and simply gazed up at Eco without batting an eyelid.
—Escarcelas, Bufetas, Hombreras…
Ash suddenly felt uneasy.
As I am now, do I have enough physical strength to wear the Ark that Eco has created for me…?
After all, the incomplete Ark had put a great burden on Ash’s body in the past. Somehow though, the confidence in Eco’s chant unconsciously eliminated all of the doubts in Ash’s mind after a while.
—Brazales, Codales, Antebrazos…
Surprisingly, whenever Eco chanted the name of each part of the armour, Ash felt that corresponding part of his body pulsate. For example, Ash felt a jolt in his chest when she said ‘Peto’, and his shoulders also jolted when she said ‘Hombreras’.
—Manoplas, Quijotes, Guardas, Grebas, Escarpes…
Eco’s chant gradually approached the end, and her speed also increased along with it. The various parts of Ash’s body continued to pulsate, and even the tips of his fingers were not exempt to this. The pattern of his <Seikoku> also quietly expanded to cover his entire body. The sensation of it was almost as though a circuit had been carved upon his flesh.
And then, a powerful flash obscured everything in Ash’s field of vision.
Oscar was struck by surprise as she watched the lights on the control panel switch on without warning, and the main system start up on its own.
“Your Highness Mirabel, what has happened!?”
“Don’t panic, just stay calm.”
Even though Mirabel had told Oscar to remain calm, she also had trouble hiding the confusion on her face. After standing up front the captain’s seat, she stood in front of the centre console. Oscar quietly looked around beside her. Celes and Anya also peered over from behind. Eunice was the only one who tried to keep a teacup warm. Upon the centre console — the words ‘Avalon Knight Dragner’ emerged and flickered.
“…Avalon Knight Dragner? What does that mean?”
While Oscar remained puzzled by it, Mirabel calmly answered
“It should be a key phrase related to the <Avalon Knight>…but it seems superfluous. ‘Knight’ itself carries the meaning of a knight, but the extra word ‘Dragner’ — simply refers to a dragon-riding knight, a Dragonar.”
“It does certainly feel a bit redundant, but it sounds cool, doesn’t it?”
Mirabel stared at the side of Oscar’s face with a puzzled expression.
“I just can’t understand how you boys think…”
Upon hearing this, Oscar recalled that she hadn’t yet told her about how she was merely cross-dressing.
“In any case, how should this phenomenon be explained? Could this magic ship have some kind of link to the <Avalon Knight> — or with Ash, in other words?”
“That could be a possibility. Though the question remains…why did the control panel start up at this exact point in time?”
“Perhaps something has happened on the surface…”
“If that’s true, then it’s best we hurry.”
After Mirabel murmured that blankly, her fingers began to wander around the console. A series of short electronic noises continued to ring out. After a while — Mirabel turned around to look at everyone with an expression that was filled with confidence.
“The preparations are complete, so let’s get it started.”
After making a proud declaration, she returned to her spot in the captain’s seat.
“Umm…Your Highness Mirabel. Will this magic ship really move?”
Anya tilted her head as she asked.
“Didn’t I say so before? The ship has been fitted with Millennium.”
Although Oscar and the others still had somewhat dubious expressions, Mirabel gave no further answers and she simply issued orders.
“Very well, you should all find a spot to sit down in as well. The steering column…that would be most suitable for you, Anya.”
Anya was stricken by dread as she gawked at Mirabel. After all, she had only driven military vehicles of the Imperial Army at best.
“Magic ship Escavaron, set sail—!”
Mirabel declared after having taken up the self-proclaimed role of captain.
A crimson mantle fluttered in the night wind, swaying up and down like a wave. Ash found himself shining radiantly like a burning meteor.
“This is Eco’s Ark…!”
Ash looked down at his own body in awe. Although the overall colour was dominated by a silver-white tone, there were also ornaments or pure gold and crimson everywhere. The curves of each part of the armour were beautiful, and each piece was like a dazzling work of art. A work of art which seemed as though it was a craft of the gods — as if to symbolise this masterpiece, Eco’s firm will could be felt from every angle. Contrary to its heavy appearance, Ash was astonished to realise that he could hardly feel anything over his body. Its weight was extremely light, and it was only now that Ash realised that he had a helmet on his head. Ash felt more comfortable with it than he had before, and he even thought to himself ‘I wish there was a mirror in front of me’. More importantly, the Ark that he wore gave him warmth — it was almost as though Eco herself was holding him in a tight embrace. He could clearly feel that he was being protected by Eco. After equipping the Ark, Ash didn’t feel any burden on his body, and he could distinctly feel the pain across his entire body slowly dissipate as well. His consciousness which had grown dim was now crystal clear. Another thing that surprised Ash was how Eco had gone unusually silent after chanting the spell to create this Ark. Ash had thought that she would begin to boast, so it was only natural that he felt astonished when she became so quiet.
[Eco feels shy.]
At that time, Navi’s voice resounded in his mind. It was only when Navi reminded him that Ash noticed. Eco had started to writhe around a bit and she seemed rather fidgety. She looked indelibly embarrassed. Even though she had transformed into the magnificent form of Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor, her shy look was no different from the usual Eco, and it was a rather amusing sight.
“Why is she shy…?”
[To dragons, bestowing an Ark upon their master is a proof of physical and mental dedication. Haven’t you learnt this?]
“Yeah, I think that was supposed to be the case…”
I see, so after properly bestowing her Ark, Eco is acting all jittery like this because of her sense of embarrassment as a dragon.
Ash kneeled down on one knee and gently touched the ground — no, he gently touched Eco’s head.
“Thank you, Eco. I have received your feelings.”
Eco replied with a cute-sounding cry that seemed almost unfitting for a dragon.
[Congratulations. You’ve finally awakened as the <Avalon Knight Dragonar>.]
[Don’t worry about that now, your priority is to return all of the dragons to normal! Quickly pull out Excalibur!]
Prompted by Navi, Ash summoned his own Ark Weapon.
“O all-conquering steel that slashes through all, the holy sword destined for the knight of all knights — its name is, Excalibur!”
A great sword that shone with divine light manifested. Perhaps due to the fact that his Ark had a gained a solid form, the treasured sword of Avalon’s Holy Dragons’ Emperor Family had also transformed into a shape that was different from its previous form, a statement to say that this was its true form. The appearance of the scabbard had become more beautiful, it felt more sacred, and its size was even greater than before. The crystal mounted on the golden hilt emitted a brilliance that Ash had never seen before, and his intuition told him that it was a Millennium. The instant that he gripped the sword with both hands, it felt as though the heat of the sun was scorching his hands. In the face of such a powerful weapon, Ash couldn’t help but grow a little fearful.
“Hey, Navi…I don’t think even dragons will be able to withstand the power of this sword. For the sake of everyone at the Academy and the Order of Holy Dragonars, I can’t kill them…”
[Don’t worry, Ash. The strength within you is far greater than you think. You will not use the holy sword to cut apart the flesh and blood of the dragons themselves. You need only cut off the curse that binds the dragons.]
“To be honest, I’m not all that confident…but I’m willing to try. Because that’s how I’ve always overcome the obstacles ahead, one step at a time.”
Ash widened his eyes as he gazed into the night. The <Schwarz Drachen Panzer> which had once been stunned by Eco continued their assault under the oppressive song of Kriemhild.
Kriemhild continued to sing atop Cú Chulainn’s head, but even her throat was approaching its limit. Although it seemed as though she was singing, it felt more like an endless retching of blood to her. Even though the power of Pluto was limitless, the body of Kriemhild did not differ too much from that of an ordinary mortal. Indeed, in her childhood…Kriemhild was no more than an ordinary Imperial citizen. She was born into a small but wealthy family, and her father worked at an Imperial research institute. And ever since Kriemhild became a part of that small family, the three of them would always go to enjoy operas on every holiday — they were a picturesque example of a happy family. Kriemhild especially liked the opera named ‘Die Zauberflöte’, and she had also wanted to become an opera singer when she grew up.
But one day — Kriemhild lost her ability to see due to a horse-carriage accident. The accident occurred on her way home from the opera house in the capital — her parents had only suffered minor injuries, but Kriemhild was thrown out of the carriage and hit her head on the ground. After the accident, her parents continued to try and take their best care of her, but the situation changed not long afterward. Ever since her mother gave birth to a healthy younger sister, her attitude towards Kriemhild completely changed. As time pushed on, Kriemhild’s parents began to view her as a burden. At last, her parents left her in the care of a hospital affiliated with the Imperial Army, and they never visited her again. Kriemhild knew that she would be locked away in a prison-like hospital room forever, and that the remainder of her life would be meaningless. Her dream of becoming an opera singer slipped away like grains of sand falling through her fingertips, a fleeting illusion…. During that period of despair — on one particular day, the Count of the Vandenhaar border, Klaus, visited Kriemhild and presented her with a contract. He claimed that he had already received consent from both of her parents.
—It doesn’t matter if I can’t stand on a stage, so long as my own voice can be of use…
Encouraged by such thoughts, Kriemhild accepted Pluto and began to call Klaus ‘master’. Even if her actions were wrong, none of that mattered at this point. As long as she could give a performance on the stage that had been provided by her master, Kriemhild would sing — and continue to sing!
Kriemhild finally coughed up blood. Her body swayed, and she was unable to remain steady on her feet. If she fell off this large dragon, it was unlikely that she would be able to escape death. Death is fine — Kriemhild thought. It was because she had been able to sing to her heart’s content, until she began to cough up blood. Tonight, she had truly become the <Queen of the Night>.
—I no longer have any lingering attachments to this world…
Instantly, her vision was dyed pure-white.
“Lies…this can’t be…!”
Kriemhild was tongue-tied, unable to utter a single word. Over the past decade, her vision that had been enclosed in darkness was now filled with light. Since her eyes had been replaced by Pluto, it was reasonable to conclude that she would never see anything again—. Caught in this pure-white world, Kriemhild realised something — the clothes that she had been wearing had vanished, and she was completely naked. However, Kriemhild was more concerned and reluctant to show others the Pluto in her eyes, rather than her naked body, so she covered her face with both hands. Between the gaps of her fingers, Kriemihild saw a lone boy. The heroic boy was dressed in brilliant and lustrous armour, and he looked like the quintessence of a legendary knight. Kriemhild immediately guessed that the boy who stood before her was Ash Blake. Ash drew a sword from its scabbard. Kriemhild thought to herself that the sword was surely the one known as Excalibur. Its radiant white and silver brilliance shone bright like a star. It would be no exaggeration to call the sword with exquisite engravings across the blade a treasure.
[I can finally see you…your name is Kriemhild, right?]
Despite clearly being an enemy, Ash’s expression was gentle and kind. Kriemhild silently nodded.
[Why are you doing this?]
“…Because I like singing. Because I want to sing. And, this is also for the sake of my master who saved me from imprisonment…”
[Do you truly believe that your actions are just? If the dragons attack the capital, all of the citizens living a peaceful life — those innocent people will instantly have their happiness stolen from them!]
“…Life to begin with is unpredictable and impermanent. I became blind due to an accident in my childhood, and I lost my dream and my parents. Tell me, what is the difference between the accident that took everything away from me and the disaster that is about to befall the people of Fontaine City?”
[I feel sympathy for the misfortune of your accident. My sympathy may not make sense…but if everyone pities themselves for their own misfortunes and tries to vent their emotions on other people, then there will be no end to the cycle of hatred, will there? And the point is, in doing so, you will not find salvation — Kriemhild.]
“Master has saved me once. I am already satisfied.”
[Is the master you refer to called Klaus? You’ve sacrificed yourself by singing until you bleed, and yet how has he treated you?]
Kriemhild allowed her consciousness to drift back to the real world. Through the imaginary space that the holy sword had created, Kriemhild was finally able to see the appearance of Klaus. Klaus gently placed his hand on Kriemhild’s shoulder, after she had coughed up blood and curled up on the ground. His facial features were far more refined and masculine than Kriemhild had imagined.
—Master is a masculine and gentle person after all…
It was not long after Kriemhild felt moved that a cold and terrifying expression hung over Klaus’ face. It almost felt as though she was staring at a machine.
‘Kriemhild, what are you doing? If you’re just coughing up blood, I will not allow you to stop singing. Can you not see that the dragons have slowed down?’
After Ash sighed, he gazed straight at Kriemhild.
[Did you see that, Kriemhild? That is Klaus’ true nature. It’s just like when he imprisoned Eco and forced her to awaken. He hasn’t changed one bit.]
“E-Even so…I don’t care…”
[Do not deceive yourself. Did you not say that an unfortunate accident took away your vision, your dreams, and the love of your parents? What you fear the most is deprivation, but if you look at Klaus now, he is planning to deprive you of even more things. Are you really willing to let him do anything and everything to you?]
“…I am. He is my master who gave me a stage to sing upon.”
[Is that so? I won’t allow that though—]
Kriemhild didn’t have the time to react. In the blink of an eye, Ash had brought himself right in front of her and reached out with his armoured limbs to gently embrace her nude body.
[Kriemhild. I will not allow you to forgive Klaus, and I absolutely cannot forgive Klaus myself.]
Even though they were separated by a layer of armour, Ash’s warmth still made its way into Kriemhild’s body. Before she realised, Kriemhild had begun to cry. Ever since she lost everything, this was the first time that she had felt such warmth. She had long forgotten that the warmth of another human could feel so comforting—.
[You do not need to say any more. Leave everything to me.’]
After saying that, Ash’s presence gradually faded away, and the world of light also disappeared. At that moment, a loneliness that even Kriemhild was unable to understand was born in her heart.
The full moon which shone above the capital had, at some point, begun to spill its pale light onto Ash’s body.
“Just wait, Kriemhild. I swear that I’ll tear you away from the cruel world that has only plundered from you, and I’ll show you a world where you can be in control of your own happiness!”
After concluding his conversation with Kriemhild, he lifted Excalibur up high.
“…I’m not good at showing off my power, so I’m just going to go with the flow!”
The way the holy sword shimmered as it was bathed in moonlight made it look somewhat mysterious. The divine radiance from the blade instantly covered the vast land area of the capital. Even the people crowded all over the city who were rushing to take cover became entranced as they looked up at the night sky. Moreover, the light from Excalibur was able to fully illuminate the figures of the <Schwarz Drachen Panzer>, leaving them with no place to hide. It almost seemed as though their sins were about to be exposed.
Eco roared as if she was uttering a battle cry in Ash’s place. After Ash lifted the holy sword up, he shouted into night sky at the top of his lungs
“Listen to me, all of you! I will not bore you with words—”
The light from the blade strengthened, and it was now possible for him to clearly see even the figures of Klaus and Kriemhild who stood on Cú Chulainn’s head at the very back of the army. Ash swung the holy sword down with all his might.
“Just shut up and follow me!”
The divine light cast itself across the dark and gloomy night, turning everything into a scene as bright as day—.
“Excalibur ~A.S.B.1365.11~” is closed.
(All 16 of 16 parts) (12/1)
Continues on to Epilogue