Continues on from Chapter 2 – The Nation-Saving Hero
Continues on to Chapter 4 – The Beginning of a New Life, and an Investigation of the Omen
Chapter 3 – The Academy City Aims for Reconstruction
The next day was calm and warm, with good weather overall.
The sun warmed up early in the morning, casting some doubt over the fact that it was already early winter. Ash and Eco took off in the Escavaron as they headed for Ansarivan.
“Well, while it would be faster if I transformed into a dragon and flew, using this for transport is more comfortable!”
Eco could hardly conceal her excitement as she peered from the cockpit to the scenery below. Ash found it amusing that she had developed a sense of rivalry towards the magic ship as a dragon.
“Since the weather is clear today, we should arrive in Ansarivan in the afternoon if things proceed smoothly.”
Mirabel said. Although she wore a gorgeous evening dress last night, she had reverted to a simple and clean outfit this morning as she sat proudly in the captain’s seat. Anya sat at the helm, responsible for steering the ship. Despite her current situation, it was actually Anya’s first time at the helm just two days ago, and Mirabel believed that she had a natural talent for it. In fact, the magic ship could actually be put into autopilot mode once its route was set. Upon learning of this feature, Ash was shocked by the technical prowess of the ancient civilisation that had constructed the ship.
“It feels like we’re on a trip, onii-chan.”
Raquel tugged on Ash’s sleeve as she spoke.
—I want to give my condolences to Dragonar Academy which has suffered severe damage.
That was the reason she gave for her insistence in following Ash. Although Cardinal Penelope was strongly opposed to the idea at first, given Raquel’s nature as a child, it appeared that she was quite stubborn once she had her heart set on something. In the end, Raquel’s decision to give her commiserations was final. However, the attached conditions were that the Espada Holy Wing Knights led by Penelope would remain on board the Escavaron, and the Holy Ship Esperanza would also accompany it. Ash couldn’t help but feel a little dumbfounded by this, and he also felt that the Pope truly did as she pleased. However, a sense of warmth was undoubtedly generated in his heart as he watched the innocent Raquel. Most importantly, every time she called him ‘onii-chan’, Ash was reminded of his own little sister whom he had left behind in his hometown.
—I wonder how Linda is doing…
She was supposed to be twelve years old this year, and Ash worried about whether she had been obedient and looked after their mother. When Ash left his hometown to enrol in Dragonar Academy, she was only eight years old. She was a year younger than Raquel right now.
—Onii-chan, please don’t go…!
Even now, Ash still had a vivid impression of how Linda had cried and sobbed as she begged him not to leave. As he thought back on Linda’s crying face, Raquel actually seemed much more mature by comparison. After all, she was a girl who had ascended to become the Pope at just nine years of age, so it was only natural that she would be more mature than other girls her age…just as Ash thought that—
“Eco, let’s play together!”
Raquel jumped onto Eco’s back.
“Fuwah! W-What are you doing!?”
“Argh! I’ve already said many times that my horns are sensitive!”
Eco shed tears as she fled away. On the other hand, Raquel displayed a wide grin as she chased Eco around. From the perspective of an onlooker, it was a rather heart-warming scene. Though, it probably felt more like torment to Eco.
Even Cardinal Penelope who stood by the wall smiled and giggled as she watched the innocent and playful young Pope. Although the Cardinal seemed to be a strict person at a glance, it was clear now that she deeply cared for Raquel.
“Geez, that’s enough! If you keep going, I’ll flatten you!”
However, as soon as Eco prepared to retaliate against Raquel, Penelope’s expression became stern. It appeared that Eco’s words had aroused her.
“Hey! Are you planning to turn all of the believers of Rosa Maria in the world against you!?”
Ash snuck a glance at Penelope’s expression as he hurriedly attempted to soothe Eco’s temper.
While the sun was still bright, the magic ship Escavaron arrived in the sky above the Academy City Ansarivan. Under Mirabel’s direction, the magic ship landed in the Academy’s courtyard. The accompanying Holy Ship, Esperanza, also followed suit and landed. Since it was a dedicated field for dragon riding competitions, there was plenty of space even with two magic ships docked. Naturally, there was also a lot of commotion in the Academy City due to the unexpected arrival of two magic ships—
“…What a terrible sight.”
As the first person to alight the Escavaron, Ash was stunned by the scene that stood before his eyes. As the sun softly glazed over the Academy, its appearance was leagues away from the one that Ash was familiar with. If that scenery had to be described with a single phrase — perhaps it would be best described as ruins from the aftermath of a fierce battle. Both the old and new school buildings, the Seventh Dragon House, and various facilities…the majority of the buildings had virtually burnt down, and if not, they were at least half-destroyed. Even from a distance, it was shocking to see just how much destruction had occurred. The silver lining amidst all of this was that the occasional roars of dragons could be heard, carried along by the wind. The dragons once under the control of Kriemhild which had become a part of the <Schwarz Drachen Panzer> seemed to have safely returned. As he heaved a sigh of relief, Ash felt thankful in his heart.
“We’re finally here…”
Following him, Eco’s tired voice came from behind. When Ash turned around to look at her, she looked extremely exhausted and much worse for wear.
“Thank you for accommodating Her Eminence Raquel to play, Eco.”
Cardinal Penelope calmly walked past Eco as she expressed her gratitude. The members of the Espada Holy Wing Knights followed closely behind her, lining up into a small squadron.
Penelope carried Raquel in her arms, who had fallen asleep after playing so spiritedly. Her lips formed a fluid shape as she murmured in her sleep.
“Your horns are so adorably cute…”
As soon as those words entered Eco’s ears, she instantly shirked back and attempted to protect her head. Her experience of being chased around by Raquel had probably been a somewhat traumatic encounter. After seeing Penelope and the others off as they returned to the Esperanza, Ash gently caressed Eco’s head.
“You did well to endure patiently, Eco.”
“Geez! That’s why I hate children…”
Eco crossed her arms in front of her chest in apparent discontent.
“Okay okay, there’s no need to be angry. You can have as many crepes as you want, it’ll be my treat.”
“Hey, don’t think that I’ll be won over by some food now!”
“…When you smile like that, the words coming from your mouth hold no persuasion at all.”
Indeed, although the words she uttered were meant to convey anger, as soon as the word ‘crepe’ escaped Ash’s mouth, Eco couldn’t help but smile.
Just as Eco clenched her fists—
“Ash! Eco! I’m so glad that you’re both safe!”
Ash immediately recognised that beautiful voice. It belonged to Rebecca who stood atop Cú Chulainn’s head. No, Rebecca wasn’t the only person who had come. Silvia, Lucca, Jessica — and even Raymond and Max rode on Cú Chulainn’s back. Perhaps it was Rebecca’s idea that instead of splitting up with everyone riding their own Pals, it would be more expeditious to let Cú Chulainn carry everyone in one swoop. After Cú Chulainn landed beside the magic ship, the entourage of people climbed down from its back.
“As a princess of this nation, I must thank you! Ash, Eco, you’re both nation-saving heroes!”
Silvia rushed ahead to be the first to shake Ash’s hand. Her watery eyes glittered in the light, and emotions took control of her expression, making it seem as though she could burst into tears at any time. It appeared that the news of Ash and Eco’s successful defence of Fontaine City had already made its way to Ansarivan. Ash made a wry smile.
“That is an overstatement, Princess-sama. Besides, why would you think that? We simply did what we should have done.”
“Yes, that’s right. I also consider the Knight Country to be my homeland. And…I’d also be very grateful if you stopped squeezing Ash’s hands so tightly and let go.”
Eco raised her brow as she casually reprimanded Silvia. Silvia’s face quickly reddened once this was pointed out.
“T-There’s nothing wrong with just holding hands! After seeing you leave Ansarivan, I was constantly worried sick!”
Unexpectedly, Silvia rebuked Eco, but the next instant—
“Uwah! Hey! You two…!”
Jessica and Lucca performed a joint attack to instantly whisk Silvia away from in front of Ash.
“Ash-sama! As soon as the very thought of anything untoward happening to you entered my mind, no matter how small the chance, it made my heart feel as though it was suffocating!”
“Sorry for having worried you, Jessica…”
“But, Ash-sama! I have an extremely effective idea, and if we make it a reality, I’ll never feel lonely no matter how far apart we are!”
Upon seeing Ash stare back blankly in confusion, Jessica clenched her fists and continued,
“Ash-sama, so long as I can bear your child, I will naturally develop unconquerable resilience! Ash-sama, please come to my room tonight — ah!”
At that moment, Lucca leapt forth and interrupted Jessica.
“…Jessica. Please restrain yourself and do not go overboard.”
After giving Jessica a stern warning, Lucca turned to face Ash. In her hands was a peculiarly shaped teacup. As Ash inspected it, he noticed that it was filled with a black liquid that emitted a warm mist.
“Please drink this, Ash. It is good for your body…”
As soon as the tea cup was presented to him, a pungent smell immediately invaded Ash’s naval cavity.
“T-This seems like a rather intense drink, in many ways…”
Although the herbal tea that Lucca normally prepared in the past was already considered strange, it could still be described as ‘tea’. However, the substance before Ash’s eyes was as dark as squid ink. It was the kind of drink that made Ash feel as though both his mouth and stomach would be stained black as soon as he ingested it.
“Don’t worry…although it has a deep colour…it’s effects are just as brilliant.”
“Right, I shall graciously accept then.”
With slight trepidation, Ash received the tea cup. Although both the odour and appearance of the substance were fearsome, Ash believed that Lucca’s herbal concoction skills were trustworthy. Ash held his breath and swallowed the liquid in a single gulp.
As soon as he swallowed the liquid, a wave of heat raptured from his stomach. And slowly, his body began to warm up.
“This is totally different from the herbal tea that you used to make for me…”
After Ash murmured that to himself, Lucca nodded and replied,
“This is the <Arundel Herbal Tea> that has been passed down from generation to generation in the Ecbald tribe. It can activate…all the cells in the body and strengthen them…it enhances self-regeneration abilities. An affluent person would be willing to pay even a large sum such as a million Eccles to get their hands on it.”
“A million!? Are you sure you can give such incredible medicine to me for free?”
As Ash broke into a cold sweat, Lucca calmly nodded.
“It feels like power is rushing through my entire body…!”
Ash looked down at his own body in amazement. The heat that swelled in his body hit a peak. According to Lucca, it meant that all of the cells in his body had activated.
“—In any case, I’m relieved to see you so lively.”
Rebecca spoke to Ash in an earnest tone.
“Do you still remember what I once said to you? ‘Whether past or present, the only one who can surpass me is you’.”
“Of course, I still remember.”
Ash straightened his posture.
“I simply never expected that you would surpass me so soon — it seems I must admit defeat. After all, you saved the entire Knight Country with Holy Dragon Emperor Eco.”
“Please don’t say that! Eco may indeed be a descendant of Avalon’s Holy Dragon Emperor Family, and it’s true that she has unfathomable power…but I’m still lacking in many ways.”
“Fufu. Despite accomplishing extraordinary feats and becoming a hero, you’re still so humble. Perhaps that’s why I’m drawn to — ahem!”
“I-It’s nothing. Absolutely nothing.”
Ash tilted his head in confusion.
What did Rebecca-san want to say just then?
He felt as though her demeanour was not as prideful nor firm as it usually was.
“Damn Ash, I can’t believe you’ve stolen President Rebecca’s heart as well! Ah, how I envy you!”
Seeing the look on Rebecca’s face, Raymond was clearly frustrated. On the other hand, Ash simply looked confused.
“Who would’ve thought that the Academy’s number one problem student would become the nation-saving hero? Life really is unpredictable. Anyway, it’s nice to have you back.”
Contrary to his usual poker face, Max revealed a genuine smile as he gestured for a handshake with Ash.
“Thank you, Max—”
Just as Ash returned a smile—
“Hey! It looks like Ash and Eco are back!”
“The hero has returned in triumph! Put your work down! Let’s welcome them back everyone!”
Following the yells that echoed across, a swarm of students suddenly lurched towards them. Because everyone rode atop their dragons, a ‘stampede’ was the only way possible to describe their overwhelming sense of momentum.
In the blink of an eye, everyone’s cheers filled the entire courtyard.
Thanks to Rebecca, all of the students were eventually persuaded to return to their reconstruction work, giving Ash and Eco a much-needed break. If she hadn’t done so, the onslaught of congratulations and questions from the students might have continued without end.
Afterwards, Ash and the others decided to go to the students’ restaurant <La Tene> in order to discuss their plans for the future. Since most of the buildings on Academy grounds were almost totally destroyed, <La Tene> was in fact fortunate to have survived and remained intact.
“Welcome to <La Tene>!”
As soon as they stepped through the entrance, a line of waitresses dressed in cat ears and tails greeted them with a synchronised and uniform bow. Ash was rendered speechless upon bearing witness to this scene. Even Anya was present among the line of waitresses.
“Anya!? Weren’t you just in the cockpit of the Escavaron?”
Upon hearing Ash’s exclamation, Anya shyly cast her eyes downward.
“While you were surrounded by the entire school, I rushed off to explain the situation to the store manager…and the manager forced me to wear this…”
As usual, it seemed that Anya was unable to refuse a request from the manager.
“I see. Well, I think you look cute when you dress like this anyway, Anya.”
“Nya!? You said I’m c-c-cute…?”
Anya was clearly embarrassed by his comment, and a shade of red surfaced across her tan skin. As she panicked, she slipped and fell.
Ash quickly threw his hand forward to render assistance, and Anya managed to grasp his hand just in the nick of time. However, Anya’s body had already been thrown off balance, and so she dragged Ash’s hand with her as she collapsed to the floor.
Ash was pulled forward and also fell towards the floor. Although Ash narrowly managed to evade impacting his face against the floor, his body bore the full brunt of the hard floor, leading Ash to cry out in pain.
Just as Ash attempted to get back up, he was given quite the shock. Sitting on the floor, Anya’s legs were spread wide apart like the letter ‘M’. Her most intimate area which was obscured only by a layer of pure white cloth was brazenly presented before Ash’s eyes.
“Anya! I-It’s showing…”
Although Ash quickly averted his eyes, the contrast between her cute underwear and her brown skin had already made a deep impression on him.
Embarrassed and in a panic, Anya scrambled up from the floor. She was probably so embarrassed that she wanted to hide herself in a hole. By the time Ash managed to stand back up, Anya had already slipped off and vanished. It was almost certainly the first time that Anya had ever exposed herself in such a manner to someone…
Cold glares shot right through Ash’s back. They originated from Eco, Silvia and Jessica. Even the normally subdued Lucca joined them in glaring at Ash. As if saying ‘you’re hopeless’, Rebecca shook her head and shrugged as she muttered with a wry smile,
“…Geez, you haven’t changed a single bit.”
Just as Ash lowered his head and apologised—
“—You’re all too slow.”
A clear voice resonated through the restaurant. Having been the first to alight the ship, the Third Princess Mirabel enjoyed a cup of Eunice’s black tea as she cast a sharp gaze towards Ash and the others. And in this way, everyone initiated a meeting as they enjoyed a late lunch.
“What? Apollo House was burned down…is that true?”
Before Rebecca could finish giving a report on the Academy’s damage status, Ash couldn’t help but interrupt out of sheer surprise.
“…Indeed. Of all the student residences, only Apollo House was affected by the battle. Unfortunately, the dormitory has been burnt to ruins, so it is impossible to repair it.”
Ash seemed to become lost in thought. Apollo House was the dormitory that had been allocated for male students in the Senios course. Ash’s time of residence there was less than a year, at best, only seven months. But his room was filled with many of the memories that he had made living together with Eco. Ash couldn’t help but grit his teeth in facing this sense of loss. Fortunately, Eco had temporarily moved to Silvia’s room during that time, so both her dragon plushie and her personal belongings were spared. Moreover, since the male Senios course students had lost their place of residence, they currently resided in shared accommodation in the old school building that had narrowly been protected.
“It will take at least four months to rebuild Apollo House. During this period, the male students of the Senios course may have to rough it out…though the problem is you, Ash. How will you deal with your residence?”
Rebecca’s question grounded Ash back to reality. This prompted Ash to think ‘yes, now is not the time to be wallowing in loss’.
“Although it seems that you are not in need of hospitalisation…you are still injured. Just a few days ago, you were seriously injured and had to be confined to a hospital for monitoring. Having you sleep on the floor with all of the other male students could impede your recovery. So instead, why don’t you use Julius Hall, as it is perfectly intact—”
“Please wait, President!”
Silvia suddenly raised her hand to put forward her own thoughts on the matter.
“There is indeed a lounge attached to Julius Hall, but it is only meant for brief usage to unwind and is not suitable for overnight stays. Moreover, since Ash has now become a distinguished hero, as a princess of this nation, I absolutely cannot agree with someone of his calibre staying in Julius Hall!”
After Silvia’s resolute declaration, she cast an expressive look at Ash.
“What do you think, Ash? Just like you did during summer vacation, why don’t you stay in my royal suite in Epona House for the time being?”
No sooner than Silvia brought up the topic did Jessica express her disapproval. Beside her, Lucca also nodded to express her agreement with Jessica. On the other hand, Eco quietly contemplated her own opinion.
“It should be fine. I already live in Silvia’s room right now anyway, and Cosette is also there, so it’s unlikely that anything unreasonable will happen…moreover, I’d never let such a thing happen anyway!”
Seeing that their meeting had swiftly devolved into a dispute, Ash quickly stood up.
“Although everyone regards me as a hero, I don’t feel as though I’ve done anything worthy of respect. I simply wanted to protect this country from Prince Uriel’s destruction — in fact, that’s the simple idea that drove my actions. It is my hope that you won’t continue to give me special treatment…”
Eco frowned in surprise.
“So, I plan to live with the other male students in shared accommodation.”
Silvia reacted in a loud voice. Everyone else also took note of Ash’s declaration.
“But I do hope that you’ll continue to allow Eco to stay in your room, Princess-sama. Although this arrangement may trouble you—”
A cool voice suddenly interrupted Ash. Everyone’s gazes naturally gravitated towards the owner of that voice. The person with another point of view was Mirabel, who had remained silent up until now.
“I’ve come up with an excellent idea. How about this? We’ll simply have Ash live on the magic ship Escavaron. What do you say, Ash?”
Ash was momentarily stunned.
“That ancient magic ship seems linked to you as the <Avalon Knight Dragonar>. The interior of the ship also has living areas and medical equipment. Moreover, I’d like to perform a deeper study of the relationship between you and Escvaron. S-So…”
Mirabel’s cheeks turned slightly red as she made a determined expression.
“Starting from today, I will also live in the Escavaron.”
Her unexpected declaration instantly caused an uproar. Silvia raised her eyebrows as she interrogated Mirabel,
“Aneue! Do you mean to say that…starting today, you intend to live under the same roof as Ash for a while? S-Such a shameless proposal completely goes against your values! You might even be alone with Ash in the same room—”
“I-It cannot be helped. It is for the sake of important research…”
The <Argento Magus> rarely ever responded with such hesitation.
“Going by your attitude…you seem to be hiding something, aneue!”
“W-What would I have to hide!?”
“Even your face has turned red!”
“M-My reddened face is merely a symptom of high blood pressure…”
“How is that even related to blood pressure? In fact, as I recall, you seem to have an issue with low blood pressure, isn’t that right aneue?”
Before she even realised, Mirabel’s eyes had become watery.
“Aneue! Did something happen between you and Ash!?”
“A-Absolutely not. I speak the truth.”
“Hmm…do you dare to swear that before Saint Rosa Maria?”
Everyone present anxiously bore witness to the back and forth exchange between the two of them. The argument between the two princesses exuded an extraordinary atmosphere, and it felt as though no one could intervene.
“Anyway! Please be more aware of your charm, aneue! In the worst case, Ash may lose all rationality and commit a sin against you!”
After Mirabel’s cheeks seemed to wildly flush red with a ‘poof’, she instinctively hugged her own shoulders. In all fairness, Mirabel was far more underdeveloped when compared to Silvia in this regard. Exactly what kind of image did she conjure up in her mind…?
“Hey, don’t paint me in such a bad light! You’re treating me like a total pervert!”
Ash reprimanded Silvia at the first opportunity.
“Umm, I do have an idea in that case.”
Cosette, who had been standing behind Silvia in silence the entire time suddenly smiled and clapped her hands together, as if she had come up with a brilliant plan. Ash had an ominous premonition as he gazed at Cosette’s overly cheerful smile.
“Why don’t we all live together in the Escavaron? That way we’ll have nothing whatsoever to fight over, right? Ufufufufu.”
Sure enough, Ash’s premonition became a reality—.
“In order to help analyse the ancient magical ship Escavaron that Princess Mirabel has discovered, the members of the Student Council will immediately begin living in the ship.”
Shortly afterwards, the Student Council publicly announced that decision to the entirety of the student body.
“Reconstruction Plans ~A.S.B.1365.11~” is closed.
(All 5 of 5 parts) (24/10)
Continues on to Chapter 4 – The Beginning of a New Life, and an Investigation of the Omen