- Cirdan Lunae
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
――Heinkel Astrea was not even a Stargazer.
As was known, neither was he the Sword Saint, nor had he received the sword name of “van” that was granted to those who had made distinguished accomplishments through their own swordsmanship; his position as Deputy Commander of the Kingdom of Lugunica’s Royal Guard was likewise just a decoration.
Generally, he was a man who had not been chosen for a single thing that could only be obtained via being chosen; that was the person known as Heinkel, and that was not something that would change even when coming to the Vollachian Empire.
Having been swept along, he had participated in the battle, had his heart fractured by sights utterly unthinkable for this world; just barely had he escaped death upon his retreat, and once again, having been swept along again, he found himself returned to the same place, clinging to a feeble hope.
That hope, too, was merely a signpost for escape presented by someone who expected Heinkel to play the role of a sacrificial pawn, and after abandoning all thought, he was too stupid to even realize that such was the intention.
――Therefore, unlike Rowan Segmunt, who had opposed the plan of attack due to his own insane reasons, he himself had drawn the short end of the worst possible stick, trying to play his role in an honest manner.
Heinkel: [Fucking hell…]
Of the five bastions of the ramparts which served as the keystone of the Imperial Capital’s defenses, the southern and southeastern points that were supposed to have been split between himself and Rowan were both now the responsibility of Heinkel alone; he thought that he ought to capture the first bastion, which had originally served as the city gates which allowed entry and exit to the Capital, so he headed south.
To put it simply, that was a reasonable decision, and an appropriate choice that had nothing to do with eccentricity.
Thus, Heinkel had finally come to face the result of his reasonable, of his appropriate choice.
???: [――I, am Mezoreia. In accordance with the voice of mine dear child, I shalt become the wind from the heavenly skies.]
That majestic figure of the white Dragon spread its wings as if safeguarding the first bastion, and then――.
The room was cluttered with heaps of jewelry.
Craftsmanship abundant in the use of gold and silver, hair ornaments and clothing adorned with gems, various fine articles were all lined up, scattered about, and left lying around in the room with splendor that was clamorous to the eyes.
Right in the middle of the dazzling room, Madelyn Eschart awakened.
Blinking her sweet, golden eyes several times as they hazily overlapped with reality, the two black horns that grew from her sky-blue hair swayed from side-to-side, and her petite body stood up. In an instant, she collided with and fell into the surrounding jewelry, but Madelyn was unconcerned with it being violently scattered across the floor.
Jewelry and treasures of gold and silver, she rather liked such dazzling things.
She did not like that humans were so noisy in spite of how weak and fragile they were, but their craftsmanship utilizing gems and gold had an irreplaceable charm.
It was not a bad idea to fulfill the tasks assigned to her by humans, so she could receive such things as a reward.
Heaping those up in her den, cramming them in, and surrounding herself with them as she slept took an important role in Madelyn’s quality of sleep. ――However, neither gems nor gold could fill the hole in her heart.
Swinging her upraised head around, Madelyn pushed the door of the den open.
It was a den different to the one Madelyn had been living in for a while after having become a Divine General. Rather, it was a new one, hastily put together for this occasion.
It was lacking in her own scent, and the treasures were things that had been gathered from inside the Palace, so while she was far from feeling satisfied, it was better than nothing.
Above all, there was enough reason here to abandon the den she had grown accustomed to living in, and relocate.
Exiting the burrow and crossing through the passage, coming out to the balcony where a tepid wind blew, the figure of a flying dragon resting its wings was present.
Its name having been called, the flying dragon turned its head towards her―― the scales across its entire body had painful-looking cracks running through them, and golden irises loomed within its dusky eyes; a clear indication of the state of this vessel, which had lost its life.
Similar to the humans being resurrected one after the other, there was no small number of flying dragons being brought back from the beyond.
Only, she could not communicate with specimens that had gone untamed during their lives, but instead, she could establish understanding with the ones like the flying dragon before her―― the ones like Carillon, who had been tamed.
In fact, having responded to Madelyn’s call, Carillon quietly lowered its head on the spot.
Even if the other deceased flying dragons―― the undead flying dragons, came into contact with Madelyn, they would regard her as someone who had life, and would relentlessly begin attacking her.
Of course, she had no mercy to spare for those who did not know their place, and did not hesitate in shattering them to pieces.
Madelyn: [I, the dragon, am friggin’ sorry for shattering you.]
Caressing the neck of Carillon’s lowered head, the corners of Madelyn’s mouth stiffened upon feeling how cold it was.
By nature, flying dragons did not have superfluous body fat in order to soar into the air, so their body temperature was low. Be that as it may, the temperature transferred to her fingertips was about as cold as touching decorative jewels.
Unlike jewels, however, she did not feel any splendor or beauty.
Even so, for Carillon to be present before her and moving around like this was of irreplaceable value.
――For Madelyn, Carillon was the flying dragon who had been tamed by the first human she had ever laid eyes upon.
As the final dragonkin in existence, Madelyn had lived without coming into contact with anything outside of the Cloud Sea in which she had been born, partly due to the nature of Mezoreia, a dragonhusk.
Excluding Mezoreia, the only beings that Madelyn had had opportunities to come into contact with were the wild flying dragons that lived in the surroundings of the Cloud Sea, but even so, they were nothing more than beings that obeyed the dragonkin.
There was a difference between lifeforms; a separation between herself, a dragonkin, and the flying dragons.
That was something rooted in instinct, something that left no room to think about the reason or the purpose. No room was left for pessimism or doubt to be yielded regarding the divide that was only natural in their existence.
Someone who had never bore witness to the beauty of gold would never desire a golden crown.
However, Madelyn’s satisfied days of not knowing about what was beyond the Cloud Sea, had abruptly come to an end.
Bringing about that end was none other than this Carillon, and, soothing his beloved dragon who was reluctant to ascend due to the presence of the Cloud Dragon, Mezoreia, the straggler who had plunged right into the middle of the Cloud Sea――.
Madelyn: [――Where the frig’ is this dragon’s darling, Balleroy?]
While tickling the back of its neck, Madelyn posed a question to Carillon.
The vocalized name was one exceedingly familiar for Carillon, and placing that sound upon her tongue, it seeped into Madelyn’s chest like a delayed poison.
This pain, akin to a poison eating into her very soul, was the very reason why Madelyn had run away from the Cloud Sea, and descended to the surface where the humans lived.
But, right now, the pain of this poison was on the verge of becoming something different to what it had been until then.
Madelyn felt the pain of the poison within her heart. Next to her, Carillon slowly raised its head as it was still being caressed, and made a soft sound with its throat.
Realizing that the gesture and cry were indicating behind her, Madelyn turned around.
Then, the figure of a person stepped out from the passage connected to the balcony. That figure gave a wave of its hand, and assumed an easygoing attitude when faced with a dragonkin.
Madelyn: […Such insolence, if it wasn’t you, this dragon would’ve friggin’ chewed you to pieces with her fangs.]
???: [Well, if it wasn’t me, there ain’t nobody who’d take this kinda attitude when faced with an exalted dragonkin. That’s what I’d like to say, but contrary to what you’d expect, there are actually tons of rude individuals among the Generals.]
Madelyn: [That’s friggin’ right. Humans really are so tedious.]
???: [Tahaha, there’s nothing I can say to that.]
As the person shrugged their shoulders with a strained laugh, Madelyn exhaled through her nose in an exasperated manner.
But, feeling that she had let the emotions that were difficult to hide slip into that sigh, she admonished her restless heart, and brushed off her mouth as if to conceal her impassioned breath.
The emotions that were difficult to hide―― that was her ceaselessly overflowing passion for the person before her eyes.
Even if their complexion and eyes appeared to be completely different, her emotions would not lie.
The amount that she treasured Carillon, who had become an undead flying dragon, was something that she felt even more strongly towards him.
Madelyn: [Balleroy, where the frig’ were you just now?]
Taking half a step closer to him, who had already come right before her, Madelyn enquired so.
He had been by Madelyn’s side at the time she had fallen asleep in the treasure-filled den. If possible, she would have wanted him to stay by her side the whole time until she woke up.
Madelyn’s question left those things unsaid, and as if sensing her unspoken feelings, Balleroy touched his head and said “Sorry”,
Balleroy: [Somehow, it seemed like there were some rats scampering about in the Imperial Capital. His Excellency Palladio was making a fuss when they caught his eye, so I just went to do a bit of recon and report back.]
Madelyn: [Rats… did you friggin’ kill ‘em properly?]
Balleroy: Nah, these were some tenacious rats. When I said I’d let ‘em slip, His Excellency Palladio gave me a dress down, I’m talking a real darn dressing down.]
Loosely shaking his head, Balleroy’s words caused the pupils of Madelyn’s eyes to narrow.
The Palladio he spoke of was, if she remembered correctly, a resurrected member of the Vollachian Imperial Family. He was a man of the Evil Eye Tribe who, during the Vollachian custom of siblings killing each other, had lost to Vincent, the one who came out on top and became the Emperor, and he was resurrected thereafter――.
Madelyn: [If he’s causing trouble for this dragon’s darling, this dragon will tear him apart with her own hands.]
Balleroy: [Don’t say such frightening things. Even if he died once, he’s still a member of the Vollachian Imperial Family… Among those who got revived, the ones unconditionally obeying him ain’t few in number. You’d be making those guys your enemy as well.]
Madelyn: [――Hk, are you friggin’ saying that I, the dragon, and Balleroy would lose to those dead people!?]
If he was, he would be greatly mistaken.
There was no way that the undead could win against Madelyn and Balleroy, who had previously cooperated with them. If anyone were to get in their way, they would utterly crush those people and put an end to them.
Madelyn’s breathing grew heavy; however, as Balleroy gently held her slender shoulders,
Balleroy: [That’s wrong. It was never a question of whether we’d win or lose, now was it?]
Madelyn: [What are you…]
Balleroy: [You oughta understand. After all, the freedom of us corpses is held tightly within the hands of that Witch.]
At Balleroy’s seemingly chiding statement, Madelyn forcefully bit down on her molars and fell silent.
The Witch was the person responsible for filling this Imperial Capital with undead, the being who had created the reason why Balleroy and Carillon were standing in front of Madelyn like this right now.
The Witch, who had constructed an unnatural body which resembled the dragonhusk of Mezoreia, was involved with secrets of Od Lagna that even Madelyn, a dragonkin, was unaware of.
For that reason, she had been able to call back this many souls, and reconstruct them in their living state.
But on the other hand, if the Witch were to interrupt that miracle on a whim――,
Balleroy: [As you said, Madelyn, if we were to fight, we’d win against almost all those guys. But, we’re just two people and a single flying dragon, while His Excellency Palladio can command several hundreds and thousands of people. I ain’t got a clue which one the Witch would find more useful.]
Madelyn: [Instead of us dragons, she’d pick the humans?]
Balleroy: [Dunno. After all, nobody knows what the Witch’s extravagant desire is.]
Though it was nothing but vexing, Balleroy’s answer had a point or two.
The Witch, whose thoughts were utterly incomprehensible, was occupying the Crystal Palace, and had positioned Madelyn there on the condition that the latter would cooperate with her. It was aggravating to be put to work in such an arrogant manner, but she had already swallowed that disgrace when she had initially accepted Berstetz’s proposal and descended to the surface.
What was hard to swallow, was the fact that she did not understand the other party’s motives.
As Balleroy had said, as long as they did not know the Witch’s objective, the situation was tantamount to Madelyn constantly having the tip of a blade piercing her reverse scale.
If not for that, Balleroy would not have resigned himself to this situation, and he surely would have escaped to beyond the Cloud Sea together with Madelyn, vowing upon their promised wedding ceremony.
Indeed, their unfulfilled promise would finally――.
Madelyn: [Finally, we meet again like this.]
As impulse overcame her, Madelyn hugged Balleroy’s body right before her.
Balleroy was far taller than Madelyn’s small build, and as Madelyn leaned her body against him, it seemed as if her black horns would pierce through his neck. Nimbly evading them, Balleroy patted Madelyn’s back.
Upon that gesture, Madelyn recalled how, once upon a time, she had been overcome with emotion and hugged him, only to have her horns pierce him with full strength, causing a catastrophic accident in which Balleroy lost a lot of blood, tears beginning to well in her eyes.
The embrace of his body was cold, and the skin she made contact with was not soft whatsoever.
His eyes, which used to be the same color as Madelyn’s blue hair, had become black eyeballs with golden irises that gave no sense of warmth, so his emotions were easily obscured by his outward appearance.
Nevertheless, they shared memories. Nevertheless, he knew of her wishes.
Losing his life, being parted by death, and now once again making contact with her, neither blood nor heat flowed in his body. So, what did that matter?
Madelyn: [Balleroy is here with me… This dragon, does not desire anything more than that.]
It had nothing to do with life or death.
The dead did not necessarily need to be under the soil. If, by some chance, the dead overflowed above the soil, and a treasured person happened to be present among them, who had the right to deny that repulsive miracle, and judge it as an error?
In front of this dragonkin, Madelyn Eschart, what kind of person would say that?
Madelyn: [――They’ve come.]
Burying her face in the chest of her beloved person, Madelyn, who had been enjoying the cold rendezvous, groaned in a low voice.
Guessing what the tone of her voice was indicating, Balleroy, who had been gently patting her on the back, stopped his hand, and turned his gaze to outside the balcony―― far in the distance, to the south of the Imperial Capital.
Something had been caught. By Madelyn’s senses―― no, by the senses of the dragonhusk, Mezoreia.
No matter what came, Madelyn had been ordered to safeguard that place.
This would be repeated once more. There was indeed resentment. But, Madelyn would not hesitate. The thing she wished for, was right here.
Madelyn: [I’m friggin’ going now. Balleroy, this time――]
Balleroy: [I gotcha. As long as I’m not called upon, I’ll be by your side.]
Madelyn: [――Just as expected of this dragon’s darling.]
Things like “I’ll definitely never leave you”, or “I’ll always be by your side”; he would not say things that he could not do.
In an easygoing manner, Balleroy understood exactly what was within his reach, so without any needless expectations or disappointment, Madelyn could love him just the way he was.
She ascertained that once again―― Suddenly, Madelyn’s body lost its strength.
Her limbs growing languid, Madelyn collapsed on the spot. Promptly drawing her body towards himself, Balleroy firmly supported the unimaginable weight of her small stature.
Then, in his arms, he picked up Madelyn, who had lost consciousness―― No, she had regained consciousness.
Balleroy: [I gotcha. I’ll be sure to carry her gently.]
Softly groaning, his beloved dragon was worried about the limp Madelyn.
Nodding at Carillon’s cry, as Balleroy turned his eyes to the state of the Imperial Capital once more,
Balleroy: [Even if she dies, we’ll meet again. I don’t desire anything more than that. I’m the same as you, Madelyn. ――As long as we meet again.]
――The battle started one-sidedly, and it ended one-sidedly.
To begin with, a battle was a clash between those who had fighting spirit, and they would clash with all their soul till their will to fight was exhausted.
Following that definition, if one of the parties lost all their will to fight in a single moment, then that would not be a battle.
That, was a person so weak that they could not even be called a threat.
With that said, there was no other suitable term to call those who turned up whilst still harboring hostility and malice. Thus, “an inconsequential threat” would be the most fitting expression.
In reality, the inconsequential threat had been blown away by the swing of a tail, akin to how leaves would be swept away by a broom, and was buried in the dust of the surrounding buildings that were also caught in the strike.
It was a rather unsatisfying result. But, it was not something that needed to be especially lamented or pitied.
As living beings, that was the unparalleled gap between a Dragon and a human.
Facing off against a Dragon, who differed from them in their very nature of existence, humans would easily turn to dust, quite literally.
There was no choice but to recognize that for some reason, in extremely rare cases, there were people to whom such would not be the case, but those were a mutation that emerged within the human species, and were, to put it frankly, some other entities that were not human.
Whatever those other things may be, as living beings, they were ultimately no match for a Dragon.
That fact would eventually need to be proven in a trustworthy manner, so once the inconsequential threat was moved out of the way, it would be acknowledged once again in a stronger manner, with the notion that this was how things ought to be.
In that sense, there was value in the existence of this inconsequential threat.
It yielded the result of the mightiness of the Cloud Dragon, Mezoreia, being made known to the Witch once more, and granted the Dragon itself the opportunity to reexamine the value of its own existence――.
???: […Fucking, hell.]
Suddenly, upon hearing a voice that seemed to curse this very world, the movement of the Cloud Dragon ceased.
The Dragon had flapped its wings, turned its back on the mowed down street, moved to return to the ramparts. That was in order to demonstrate that no matter what kind of malice may approach, it would be unable to break through this location.
Those movements had ceased. Because a voice that should not have been, was heard.
The Dragon slowly turned back around, and with a clattering sound, the mountain of rubble collapsed.
The street that had been destroyed by a strike of its tail, and the wreckage of buildings that were heaped up into a spire; crawling out from within in a battered state, was a filthy human of red hair and blue eyes.
The human who had been judged as an inconsequential threat, and had turned out as such in reality.
Following the definition of a “battle”, if they had crawled out, and had drawn the sword from their waist once more and faced this direction, then the battle that was thought to have ended had still yet to reach its curtain’s close.
However, there was no fighting spirit or drive whatsoever within the body of the human who had crawled out.
Human: [It’s always, like this…]
Perhaps because dust had entered their lungs, the human muttered that out whilst violently coughing.
Once again, that was a voice that seemed to only curse. And it was not the Dragon, but the world that was being cursed. The foundation beneath them, the atmosphere enveloping them, anything and everything surrounding them, and above all else, their very self at the center of all of it; that entirety was being cursed by their voice.
Human: [At the most crucial moments, I’m completely abandoned by luck――]
Listening to those resentful complaints was deeply unpleasant, so this time it would drive its tail into them in a vertical movement.
Previously, the street had gotten caught up and was swept away, but this time, the Cloud Dragon drove its tail into the feeble figure that stood totteringly, scooping it up.
The tail did a single backwards revolution, and suffering that direct blow, the human’s body was blown away like a pebble that had been kicked. Boring holes through walls and buildings, they went through three or four blocks.
If one were to look down from the sky, the townscape of the Imperial Capital was laid out in a very satisfying manner.
The blown away body of the human was chaotically destroying that; since their way of being, their way of flying, and even their way of dying were all so unshapely and unsightly, the Dragon’s nerves were thoroughly irritated.
The fact that beautiful things were being spoiled for such a person, was immensely infuriating.
And at the end of all that――,
Far away, after crashing through many blocks, a groan could be heard.
No matter how great the damage they had received, no matter if it was the strained breath of somebody who was on death’s door, such a thing should have never been heard in the first place.
Having suffered a strike from a Dragon’s tail, a being whose life did not burst apart, should not exist.
Human: […I, am.]
It should not, exist.
Mezoreia: [ALL OF YOU, FRIGGIN’ DISAPPEEEEAR――!!!!]
Surging up, letting the uncontrollable impulse fill its breath, white destruction was fired from the mouth of the Cloud Dragon, from the mouth of Madelyn Eschart, clad in the dragonhusk, and rained down upon the human who was supposed to be an inconsequential threat.
This was not a battle.
It was the beginning of a one-sided, or at least what was supposed to be a one-sided, slaughter.