Continues on from Chapter 1 – The Ancient Magic Ship Escavaron
Continues on to Chapter 3 – The Academy City Aims for Reconstruction
Chapter 2 – The Nation-Saving Hero
Afterwards, Ash and the others decided to rest in Fontaine City for a night. Despite the fact that Ash wished to return to Ansarivan as soon as possible, the Paladin Oswald who had been safely released insisted on inviting Ash to a banquet. Moreover, Ash’s injuries had yet to fully recover. Not only did Fontaine Palace have an excellent and renowned doctor who could provide medical treatment, there were also soft and comfortable beds to get a good night’s rest.
Returning to his guest room in the palace, Ash fell into a deep slumber before he was even aware of it, and that was perhaps one of the reasons why his worries were temporarily put to rest as well. When he finally awoke, the silver pocket watch that never left him indicated that it was five o’clock. The glow of sunset sprinkled into the room through the windows.
It was then that Ash noticed that a note had been left on the desk. The childlike handwriting that was scrawled over the note meant that it had unmistakably been left behind by Eco. Her message was something along the lines of having to take a bath and dress up in order to be ready for tonight’s banquet. Although there were parts of the message that Ash was unable to decipher, most of the meaning was quite clear to Ash. She had chosen to leave a message so as not to wake Ash up — it was the first time that Eco had been so considerate. Eco continued to grow and mature, day by day. As such thoughts were reflected in Ash’s mind, a smile naturally formed on his face.
It’s like I’m a father watching my daughter grow up into a fine young lady…although such a thought momentarily crossed his mind, Ash immediately denied it. Their relationship was nothing like that. I see Eco as a girl, and I even find her rather cute in that regard. Ash genuinely believed that to be his own version of the truth — though on the other hand, Silvia’s smile surfaced in his mind.
Ash clutched his head in distress.
I like Eco, and my feelings for her are absolutely true.
However, Ash was also strongly attracted to Silvia at the same time.
“Speaking of which…”
As those words escaped his mouth, Ash began to think back. It was actually the second time that he had been invited to dinner by Oswald. The first time that he attended, Silvia had also been present. Even now, the sight of her in a beautiful dress like a blue flower in full bloom was still clearly emblazoned in Ash’s mind. Like most fathers, Oswald repeatedly stressed how much he adored his daughter, and he then gave a stern warning to Ash.
—If you dare put your claws on Silvia…I, in the name of Paladin Oswald, vow to personally punish you! Do you dare to swear? Swear that you will never touch even a single hair of my Silvie?
Oswald’s voice endlessly echoed about in Ash’s mind. To put it simply — Oswald was a well-mannered and pure-hearted king who did nothing to offend others. However, a single mention of something related to Silvia could cause his disposition to change, and that was how he came to threaten Ash.
It had been several months since the first dinner that Ash was invited to, and his relationship with Silvia had made considerable progress. Ash unconsciously touched his own lips. He could clearly recall the sensation of his kiss with Silvia…
“If the Paladin finds out that Princess-sama and I kissed, he may really punish me…”
Just as Ash muttered his thoughts aloud to himself…
“I’m back, Ash!”
The room door was pushed open so suddenly that Ash panicked and tightened his mouth into a slit. The person who appeared at the entrance to the room was Eco, wearing a pure-white evening dress. Numerous small diamonds were sewn on at the neckline, giving it the appearance of being studded with crystal snowflakes. The hem of the skirt was slightly frilled and emphasised the slender curves of her waist.
Her pink hair which was tied up with a silver ribbon gave her a more mature look. Ash was so entranced by Eco’s dolled-up appearance that he even forgot to speak. Noticing Ash’s passionate gaze on her, Eco couldn’t help but blush. She fidgeted as she remained affixed to the spot, seemingly shy and self-conscious.
“U-Umm…well…you look good?”
Even as dense as Ash was, he quickly understood what kind of praise Eco was hoping to receive.
“Yeah. You’re really—”
Unfortunately, Ash’s words of praise were mercilessly interrupted. A mob of court maids poured in like an avalanche.
“It’s Ash-sama’s turn next!”
“I’m so thrilled to see the hero who rescued our nation!”
“I shall help to prepare the finest clothing for you!”
Contrary to their polite tones, the group of maids brushed aside all resistance as they collectively hustled and carried Ash away.
Even though Ash tried to speak up, it was all in vain as the group of maids took him and withdrew from the room in the blink of an eye. Ash felt as though he was a piece of candy that was being carried off by an army of ants.
“Geez! What is this!?”
Eco’s thunderous roar reverberated through the corridor, and her hastened cry also made its way into Ash’s eardrums as he was carried away at an extremely fast pace.
Adorned with colourful embellishments of dragon crystal lamps, the radiance of Fontaine Palace majestically emerged from the night—. Led by a court maid, Ash and Eco made their way towards the dining room. What surprised Ash and Eco the most was how people treated them when they walked past each other in the corridors. As soon as each person saw Ash and Eco’s faces, they immediately retreated to the wall and offered them a deep bow. They were treated like state VIPs. It seemed that both Ash and Eco were treated like nation-saving heroes. However, this kind of treatment only made Ash feel numb and uncomfortable. After all, he was an ordinary citizen, and he couldn’t help but think ‘can’t you treat me with a more natural and easy-going attitude…?’.
“Hmm hmm hmm ♪”
Contrary to Ash’s dissonance and discomfort, Eco didn’t appear to feel anything from the way that other people treated her. She simply hummed a tune as she moved forward with great strides. The Imperial Princess of Avalon’s Holy Dragon Emperors’ Family was truly extraordinary.
“I wonder if I’ll be able to eat Chevron marbled beef today? I’m looking forward to it!”
However, her mind was dominated by her strong appetite, and she had already cast aside her dignity as a princess. When Ash and Eco entered the dining room, most of the invited guests had already taken their seats on time. Just like the last time that they attended, the length of each table was frighteningly long, and every seat at the table was lined with cutlery and napkins.
“Oh, Ash Blake and Eco-dono!”
Noticing their arrival, the Paladin Oswald was the first person to greet them. Despite the fact that he had been a prisoner who was almost executed, a relaxed smile formed across his face. Oswald had been taken captive and was paraded as a prisoner by Prince Uriel as a result of his trip, and he was even sentenced to execution. Even though he had just narrowly escaped the despair of death, he was able to maintain a calm and relaxed demeanour. Perhaps he was actually braver and more resilient than he let on.
“I am glad that you are unhurt. Paladin…”
After Ash gave a respectful bow, Oswald heartily laughed.
“Ash, what are you doing!? You and Eco-dono are the guests of honour tonight! Had you two not taken action, Fontaine City might’ve become a ruin. Not to mention that my very own life may already have been forsaken…now, sit down with pride!”
There were two vacant seats in front of Oswald. Following the Paladin’s greeting, Ash and Eco sat down next to each other. Contrary to Ash who was filled with fear and trepidation, Eco seemed so excited that she could barely contain herself, and her eyes shone brightly as she looked around. An enticing and appetising aroma drifted towards them from the kitchen. Inadvertently, Ash’s gaze met with the girl who sat opposite him. Surprisingly, that person was in fact Raquel IV. As expected of a religious figure, she did not particularly dress in a fancy manner for the occasion, but the usual priest-like clothing that she wore seemed very fitting for her.
“Tehee, we meet again, Ash-oniichan.”
Ash had almost carelessly tacked on ‘Your Eminence’ out of habit again, but he quickly swallowed such words. Although Ash felt uneasy with thoughts such as ‘Is it really okay for me to address the Pope by her name…?’, he had no choice but to push forward and oblige given that she had ordered him to do so. However, Cardinal Penelope who sat beside Raquel instantly directed a murderous glance at Ash. The look in her eyes was no different than that of a killer, and they were filled with apparent hatred for Ash. This only heightened Ash’s worries that he could be assassinated by her someday. The person who sat opposite Penelope was Mirabel.
Ash stared blankly at her as he expressed his greeting. On this particular occasion, Mirabel had dressed herself in an extraordinarily extravagant manner. She wore an elegant lilac evening dress, and she also wore a crown to symbolise her status as a princess. The exposed skin around her neck and chest were adorned with jewellery that was inlaid with many Bright Dragon Crystals. Before his very eyes, Mirabel had transformed from a cold scholar into a pure princess.
“I-If you keep staring at me like that…I’ll feel embarrassed.”
The instant their gazes met, Mirabel’s cheeks were dyed a bright shade of pink. She acted in a shy manner as if there was something that unsettled her. Speaking of which, ever since they separated from each other in the cockpit of the Escavaron, she had continued to look somewhat distracted. Ash couldn’t help but feel confused about what had happened to Mirabel.
“G-Good evening, Ash…”
Ash glanced across as the person sitting beside Mirabel greeted him.
At first, Ash had failed to recognise her. It was not until he saw her piercing eyes and brown skin that it dawned on him. Anya had let down her hair which was always in a ponytail, and she wore a one-piece dress that was adorned with flowers. Since it was a rare evening banquet, Ash thought that it would’ve been nice if Anya wore an evening gown as well — although it seemed like a pity to Ash, perhaps it was Anya’s decision. To her, perhaps the one-piece dress that she wore was the most that she could accept. Even so, the dress didn’t diminish her cute charm, and it caused Ash to feel somewhat fascinated. It seemed as though Anya felt unqualified to partake in tonight’s banquet. She looked rather nervous, and it was apparent to everyone else with just a glance. After Ash gave a wry smile, he pointed at Eco who sat beside him.
“You don’t have to feel so nervous. Just take a look at Eco…”
Even though the appetisers had yet to make their way onto the table, Eco already held a knife and fork in her hands as if she could hardly wait to begin eating. Eco’s calm self-confidence was an object of envy. Seeing Eco like that, Anya couldn’t help but giggle. Her laughter was refreshing and hearty, like that of a simple country girl—.
“Thank you, Ash. I feel a little more relaxed now.”
“I-I see. That’s good to hear.”
Ash was fascinated by Anya’s smile and his heartbeat accelerated despite his desperate attempts to remain calm. Fortunately, Eco’s mind was focused solely on the feast, as it was otherwise likely that she would’ve kicked Ash under the table. For some reason, Ash suddenly thought about Navi. After getting dressed, he had tried to ask if she was willing to attend, but she had declined his offer with a wry smile. As Navi did not possess a body of flesh and blood, there was no need for her to eat. Just at that moment—.
The doors to the kitchen suddenly burst open, and an assembly of palace maids who briskly pushed pushing dining carts forward emerged from within. The dining carts were filled with a variety of appetisers and drinks.
Ash had a nagging feeling that he had forgotten about someone’s existence.
“Ladies and gentlemen!”
Nonetheless, Oswald raised his glass with great fervour, and so Ash pushed the matter to the back of his mind as he straightened his posture.
“First of all, let us raise a toast to express our endless gratitude to our nation-saving hero!”
And so, the dinner party began.
Eco’s wish came true as the main dish of the night was Chevron beef of a certified grade — it was also filet mignon of a virgin cow. According to the head chef, the steak was cooked in a stone-fired oven, rather than just an ordinary hot plate. As soon as the meat was cut into with a knife, its juices would overflow along with a sizzling noise. Contrary to its crispy, burnt outer appearance, the inner layer of meat was a beautiful shade of pink. Even as someone who didn’t normally pay much attention to his food, Ash couldn’t help but drool as he thought to himself ‘It looks really delicious!’. Ash immediately picked his knife and fork up to cut and send a bite-sized piece of the beef into his mouth.
The exquisite taste as it graced his tastebuds overwhelmed the very core of his being, and it made him feel as though he had been submersed into a pool of unparalleled happiness. How was it possible for the meat to taste so tender and smooth? The feeling of happiness itself spread through his mouth. In addition to the taste of the meat itself, the special sauce of red wine, black pepper and garlic was incredibly sweet and smooth. In a heightened mood, Ash unreservedly took a second bite. As for Eco who was beside him, she had already lifted up her plate and shouted to a maid ‘Give me another plate!’…in the blink of an eye, she had already devoured a single person’s serving of the mignon steak.
“Haha! As expected of Eco-dono! The way you eat is most certainly bold! Hurry to the chef to request more filet steak!”
Oswald laughed heartily as he conveyed Eco’s request to the maids. At some point, he had already gotten drunk, and his completely reddened face was proof of that.
Amidst the cosy atmosphere of the dining hall, a door was suddenly opened, albeit softly. As Ash casually turned to look at the door, he noticed an elegant lady standing there in an evening dress. Not long afterwards, everyone’s conversations diminished into silence as they focused their gazes at the entrance.
—Such a beautiful woman.
Ash honestly thought so. She was a tall and slender woman whom he had never seen before. She appeared as though she was in her early twenties. Her pure blonde hair was done up in a gorgeous manner, and she wore a low-cut evening dress. Perhaps due to a mismatch in the size of her dress, her ample breasts looked like they were about to burst from the seams, and the hearts of everyone who laid eyes on her pounded against the walls of their chests. Based on the fact that a tiara similar to the one that Mirabel wore was on her head, she was probably the princess of a country. For some odd reason, her facial features seemed to bear a close resemblance to Silvia’s. Although she had a sharp pair of eyes like those of a falcon, her demeanour was oddly pure. She looked somewhat shy, like a flawless innocent maiden. Under the watchful gazes of everyone present, she lowered her face and slowly moved forward.
Since she appeared unaccustomed to wearing high-heeled shoes, every step forward that she took seemed to require a tremendous amount of courage. As everyone else watched on, they couldn’t help but feel nervous for her.
As Ash wondered ‘Just who is she?’, the lady raised her face. For some reason, her eyes drifted towards Ash. Ash thought it was just his own imagination, but she was indeed looking at him — no, she was definitely staring at him. Ash was lost as to why she made such an expression at him.
“…Umm, Paladin? May I ask who that lady is? She looks like a rather important person…”
Ash asked Oswald with a feeling of expectant trepidation.
However, Oswald simply widened his eyes in apparent disbelief. His face went pale as if his consciousness had suddenly resurged from a drunken state. The ghastliness of his expression made it appear as though he was about to pass out.
“—Long time no see, Ash Blake!”
A tan-skinned girl suddenly appeared from behind the noble lady. No…Ash was well aware that that woman’s age was not nearly as young as her appearance. She nonchalantly rode atop a relative of the Asia inside the castle — the Basilisk-riding girl was in fact [Avdocha the Convicted]. After Avdocha snuck a peek at Ash, she loudly declared,
“Ash, you must be blind! Open your eyes and take a closer look!”
For some reason, Avdocha pointed at the noble lady with pride.
“The person over here is…she is…fu…kuhahahaha! O-Oh, I can’t help it! It’s seriously too funny!”
All of a sudden, Avdocha burst into laughter. Even her partner Basilisk shook its entire body as if it was trying to resist the urge of laughter. The lady immediately raised her fist and unrelentingly smacked Avdocha’s head. As a loud ‘thud’ resounded, Avdocha tearfully wailed back,
“It really hurts!”
“Imprudent girl! How dare you show such disrespect to laugh at your own master!”
As soon as he heard that stern voice, Ash instinctively stood up.
Once he recognised her, he became certain beyond any doubt that she was indeed Veronica. Because Ash was too accustomed to seeing her in a sturdy set of armour, he had not been able to immediately recognise her. Upon closer inspection, he was also able to see Captain Glenn of Veronica’s personal guard quietly hiding behind the door. He gave off the impression of an overly protective father as he kept his eyes on Veronica.
“You were way too slow to realise, Ash! I dressed up especially for tonight’s banquet! Do you know how much time went into dressing up like this!?”
“But, Your Highness, why did you willingly go so far? As I remember, Princess Veronica always wears her armour except for when bathing and sleeping…”
Veronica instantly blushed and her gaze shifted around unsteadily. Every move she made resembled an innocent girl’s, causing Ash to feel embarrassed. Her vastly changed appearance even made Ash begin to doubt whether the woman who stood before him was truly the <Ironblood Valkyrie>. For a moment, Veronica raised her face as she mustered the courage to speak, and she murmured,
“I simply thought that wearing my armour to congratulate you as the nation-saving hero would be too stiff…moreover, you are my…u-umm…b-benefactor…so that’s why. Do you have a problem with that!?”
“No no no, of course not! Princess Veronica, you’re incredibly beautiful and enchanting right now. How do I put this…in any case, you look very much like a princess. Even if it’s just once in a while, I hope you’ll continue to show this side of yourself in future — wah, I’m sorry. Just a slip of the tongue as I got too carried away!”
Indeed, even though she looked beautiful when dolled-up, she was still the <Ironblood Valkyrie> nonetheless.
“I-It’s fine…you don’t have to worry so much about identity and status tonight.”
Despite her indifferent response, Veronica’s entire body began to turn red. Her face, nape and chest…all of her exposed skin tingled as it became a fiery red.
“L-Let’s not speak of such things. I’m not very used to wearing high-heeled shoes…it’s certainly hard to walk in them. Umm…if you consider yourself a gentleman, then please lend me a hand.”
Although she was clearly quite embarrassed, Veronica gently stuck out her right hand.
“If it’s a trivial matter like that, then please leave it to me, Princess Veronica.”
Just as Ash smiled and prepared to take Veronica’s hand — Avdocha unreservedly revealed a malicious grin.
As if in retaliation for being smacked earlier, she thrust her hands at Veronica’s back and gave a sudden push.
Veronica already had enough trouble as is, and that push caused her to lose balance.
Veronica’s cleavage zoomed straight towards Ash’s face. Ash’s face was buried into the valley of her soft and deep bosom as they collapsed together onto the floor. The sensation that enveloped his cheeks was so idyllic that he almost forgot about the pain of his backside against the ground.
Veronica slowly lifted her body. Her gentle demeanour was completely unlike her usual self.
“I-I’m fine so long as you’re not hurt, Princess Veronica—”
Before Ash could finish speaking, his face turned as white as a ghost.
“Wah! Princess Veronica! Y-Your chest…!”
As if in response to Ash’s panicked cry, all of the people sitting around the table cast their eyes towards the source of the commotion. Eco’s fury suddenly ignited as she stood up.
“Hmm? What about my chest…?”
In puzzlement, Veronica looked down at her own chest…and then froze in horror. The impact of her fall just earlier had caused the cloth that once tightly covered her chest to fall down. Two pink cherry blossoms were exposed in all their glory before Ash’s eyes.
During the banquet that night, Princess Veronica unleashed a bashful maidenly shriek unlike any that she had before.
After Veronica and Avdocha joined the banquet, the feast entered its latter stage as it transitioned into a lively wine festival.
“What a blunder…how could I have been so careless…”
In order to recover from her earlier mental trauma, Veronica downed flask after flask of red wine.
Halfway through a glass, she suddenly lifted her face and called out to Mirabel who sat diagonally across from her.
“I just noticed, but why are you dressed so formally tonight as well? Why is the nerd who’s always been too lazy to dress up suddenly wearing an evening dress and a tiara…could it be that you’ve also fallen in love with As—”
“T-That’s not the case!”
This time, it was Mirabel who was shaken — the way both her knife and fork slipped and dropped onto the ground was the most compelling evidence.
“I simply decided to put on a decent outfit to attend tonight’s banquet. Besides, aneue, even if someone has saved your life, you don’t have to act so stiff…I never imagined that you’d think like an overly-innocent maiden, so I was really surprised, aneue.”
Mirabel immediately retorted with a verbal counterattack of her own.
“That’s incorrect! You’re completely wrong, Mirabel!”
“Oh, are you saying that I’m mistaken?”
As expected, whenever Veronica and Mirabel encountered each other, they’d inevitably be at each other’s throats. However, perhaps the gorgeous evening dresses of the two had sweetened their relationship somewhat, as they weren’t arguing as intensely as they normally would. It was perhaps a silver lining. At that moment, with a wineglass in her hand, Avdocha walked over to Ash’s side and whispered into his ear,
“I’m going to tell you the truth, Ash. Veronica has been acting strange ever since you saved her that night. She gets lost in thought all of a sudden, and then she’ll suddenly heave a deep sigh. I thought she was bothered by something, and then she suddenly demanded [Prepare me a dress!], sending the city into an uproar.”
Apparently, there was a lot of commotion that occurred in the city whilst Ash was asleep during the day.
“Speaking of which…if it were the usual Princess Veronica, she’d have immediately rushed over to inspect Escavaron, but that doesn’t seem to have happened.”
“Mmmhmm. When a report that Mirabel had discovered an ancient magical ship was delivered, I was worried that Veronica would want to take it for herself, but that didn’t eventuate. And that’s because Veronica’s interest has been diverted to something else right now.”
“What else could it be?”
“Kufufu. That is not something for me to say.”
After Avdocha revealed a smug smile, she immediately became serious again.
“Leaving that aside, I’ve been worried about you extending your claws to my adorable Anya, and it’s even been making it hard for me to sleep.”
“Why would I do such a thing!? Avdocha-san, just what kind of person do you see me as!?”
“The saying goes that even heroes are weak to the charms of the beautiful — you’re a true hero right now, so even if you do try anything unsavoury, people will just turn a blind eye.”
“Can you please not slander me? I’m not going to lay my hands on anyone!”
Realising that he was constantly being smeared, he was suddenly reminded of something important.
“That’s right. How is Kriemhild doing?”
“Ah, that little girl? I didn’t expect her to be so calm. She was also very cooperative with us during the investigation. Based on what we’ve heard from her, it’s clear that she was only being used by Klaus. Don’t worry, we won’t harm her.”
“That’s a relief…”
Ash sighed with relief.
“…Hey. It couldn’t be, right? You’re not planning on extending your fulsome claws to Kriemhild, are you?
Avdocha stared intently at Ash’s face with a stern look.
“Where would I even get such ideas from!? I just hope that she’ll be able to find happiness!”
However, Avdocha didn’t listen to Ash’s rebuttal at all.
“Anya, long time no see. I’m glad to see you safe and sound! That outfit really suits you.”
With moist eyes, Avdocha went and embraced Anya tightly.
“It really has been a long time, Avdocha-san…!”
Anya also shed tears of joy as she soaked in the happiness of her reunion with Avdocha. Watching those two, Ash also felt emotionally touched by the scene.
Around an hour passed by—.
After dessert was served, Ash turned around and looked at his neighbour.
“Mmm…my stomach…I can’t eat any more…”
Eco was slumped over and asleep with the side of her face against the table as she muttered such words dreamily. Her sleeping face was so innocent, and it even inspired a feeling of joy in those around her. It’s great that I was able to protect this smile — just as Ash genuinely thought so from the bottom of his heart…
“Mmm…I definitely won’t lose…to Veronica’s breasts…”
Ash panicked as soon as he heard such words slip from Eco’s mouth during her sleep-talk.
“Princess Veronica ~A.S.B.1365.11~” is closed.
(All 5 of 5 parts) (30/6)
Continues on to Chapter 3 – The Academy City Aims for Reconstruction