- Cirdan Lunae
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Serena: [――Such unskillful command.]
Standing by the window of the command center within the Fortified City of Garkla, Serena Dracroy muttered so whilst gazing through the sole gap in the towering walls that defended the city.
Among the soldiers of the Vollachian Empire, there were none who did not grasp the importance of controlling the skies.
It was to the extent that, even in this besiegement, the greatest concern was the allocation of air defenses. The People of Shudraq, powerful masters of archery, had exceptionally numerous opportunities to play an active role.
The reason why so many of those women were being instructed to keep watch on the sky was because the opposition’s potential aerial assets required that level of vigilance.
And yet, with sporadic attacks from the deployed undead flying dragons which could hardly be called successful, the Scorching Lady herself, owner of the foremost flying dragon squadron in all of Vollachia, even felt a sense of irritation towards the enemy.
Serena: [Though if I was the enemy’s commanding officer, I’d be able to bring down this city far more efficiently.]
???: […At the height of this decisive battle, could you please not say such frightening things?]
Serena had clicked her tongue with dissatisfaction towards the opponent’s tactics, and interjecting upon having heard that was a delicate man occupying the same command center, Otto.
He was a man who had guts despite his gentle appearance, and Serena also had a high evaluation of his character, but regrettably he had a tendency to not let others take risks.
Serena: [You only let yourself take risks… that’d be fine for a subordinate, but you’d be a boring man to have as a lover.]
Otto: [If you were to say that you have taken a fancy to me, Countess Dracroy, I would feel as if I was being told there was a flaw in my personality, so I do not object to your assessment, but…]
Serena: [Hmph, I see. So you don’t like a woman with a scar on her face?]
Otto: [I can say with confidence that my attitude does not change based on one’s appearance. It is far more important to be able to converse and come to a mutual understanding with each other. And even with your scar, I do find you to be quite beautiful, High Countess.]
???: [Whatcha two talkin’ ‘bout? Get yer acts together.]
Serena folded her arms as she stood near the window, and Otto had responded to her with a look of dumbfoundment. And having been dumbfounded by his response, was the emissary from Kararagi, Anastasia.
Opposite to the dumbfounded Anastasia, Berstetz, paying no concern to what the rest of them were going on about, looked over a laid out map as he restlessly exchanged words with a soldier who served the role of dispatching orders.
For some time now, the war situation was being reported without interruption, and orders were being shouted back and forth loudly. The hectically changing situation and the bursting of blood and lives―― it was the fragrant scent of the battlefield.
Serena: [This is precisely what it means to be in the Empire. My sense of smell for battle has grown dull under the reign of His Excellency. I of all people had forgotten that war is a part of everyday life.]
Anastasia: [If ya try ‘n say that’s what the Empire is, ya ain’t properly repayin’ the Emperor-san who tried to rule in peace.]
Serena: [What, I’m a poor loser. If I was discontent with His Excellency’s rule I ought to have done something about it through my own strength. Since I have not done so, the likes of my words are nothing more than jest. He attempted to impose a reign that was contrary to imperialism, and the method he used to implement it was imperialism… sadly, His Excellency is symbolic of the Empire.]
While the person in question would likely not desire sympathy, she could not help but pity how he walked a path of solitude.
Though it was true that Vincent shunned battle, if he twisted the tenets of others for that purpose, then that would fall into the realm of the “law of iron and blood”.
――Only in the midst of conflict and struggle, could precious things be born.
Regardless of whether the Vollachian “law of iron and blood” declared so or not, that was Serena’s own interpretation of the Imperial way, and she had accepted those values. She understood that it was ephemeral to love things that could only be born amidst that, but it was in her nature.
Serena: [――So you haven’t come, Balleroy?]
Staring at the vast, desolate sky, Serena muttered as if she still had one final regret.
The battle had been ongoing for quite some time, and the armies of both sides had suffered no small amount of casualties. The first wave and vanguard of this battlefield had been completely finished off―― that was to say, the Magical Sharpshooter, who followed the principle of concluding battles with minimal casualties, was not flying in the skies of this battlefield.
If he had come, Serena’s heart would have been shot out a long time ago.
Tracing the vertical scar that ran across the left side of her face, Serena closed her eyes for a few seconds.
Emerging on the back of her eyelids, was the slightly dirty boy she had found during her younger days. The figure of him growing up, losing his life, and in the end, revived as an undead, pointing his spear towards her――,
Serena: [That last one is merely my own delusion.]
With pallid skin and lifeless golden eyes, the undead form of Balleroy was something that Serena had never seen.
In the battle for the Imperial Capital he had aimed for Vincent in the Crystal Palace, and at the coupled dragon carriages he had carried Lamia away with her shattered soul. However, during both of those opportunities, Serena had been unable to meet Balleroy.
And, Balleroy was not here at the Fortified City either. That was reality.
Serena: […It would probably be fine for you to hate me.]
Muttering so, Serena stood by the window while picturing the undead Balleroy who had not appeared. While standing there, she had no choice but to admit to her unforeseen state of mind.
She would not have minded being killed if it was by Balleroy. That was why she had gone out of her way to expose herself via the window, and had been awaiting the sniping of the Magical Sharpshooter.
Anastasia: [I thought you’d already settled yer feelin’s?]
Closing one eye, Anastasia was examining Serena’s expression from the side.
As Anastasia looked at Serena with her round turquoise eye, it seemed as if that gaze was seeing through her inner thoughts; along with Otto, merchants proved to be quite shrewd.
It must have been under unthinkable fortune that Flop and Medium had been able to survive in the cunning world of commerce.
Thus, to the extent that she was mentally dodging it with useless thoughts, the bullseye that had been struck was not shallow by any means.
Anastasia: [If the enemy’s aimin’ for the commandin’ officer first, that’d be the same as targettin’ the people in this command center. So, you’ve gone ‘n put yerself right in the firin’ line… couldn’t’cha at least consult with us first before doin’ that?]
Serena: [Sorry. I had thought it would have been easier to deal with a situation in which it was obvious who was going to be targeted, instead of a situation where it was unknown who would be shot. With all the wise people present here, you guys would be able to calmly deal with things if my head was suddenly blown apart, wouldn’t you?]
???: [Even supposing that were the case, I think it would be best to search for a route where it is not blown apart, and I am not confident that Ana or I could remain so composed. We are not like Otto-kun.]
Otto: [Though even I would jump bolt upright if you were to suddenly die!?]
Otto raised his voice upon receiving an unexpected evaluation, but Anastasia exchanged glances with the Spirit accompanying her―― Echidna, and shrugged her shoulders.
Serena would generally be in agreement with them, but in any case, Serena’s expectations had been off the mark.
Serena: [With Balleroy’s absence, considering that no flying dragon squadron composed of undead has emerged, the value in retaining my living flying dragon squadron has fallen. If there are any fronts of the battle with unfavorable prospects, have them be deployed there. They’ll overturn any disadvantage in the blink of an eye.]
Anastasia: [That’s right. It’s a foolish plan to deploy assets one by one, but it’s just sloppy gamblin’ to be pushed back while keepin’ the units with high offensive capability in reserve. I agree that it’s fine to use ‘em. Only…]
Otto: [――It is concerning that it seems as if the opponent does not have a flying dragon squadron.]
Anastasia furrowed her thin eyebrows in concern, and Otto muttered the following words in her stead. In response to their concern, Serena slightly exhaled a “hmm”, and,
Serena: [There’s not a high probability that any undead flying dragon riders have successfully paired up with their deceased flying dragon… be that as it may, it’s certainly unnatural that there have been absolutely none. In that case――]
Otto: [――Rather than the usual application of a flying dragon squadron, there is a high possibility that one is being used in an unorthodox manner, correct?]
Serena: [Unorthodox… that’s…]
And, it happened right as she was about to reach the heart of the matter. ――With such force as if to break the door of the command center, somebody had come rushing in with a report.
Out of breath, the messenger made an urgent expression as they shouted “Excuse me!” in a quavering voice. Receiving that, Berstetz, who had been looking down at the map, raised his head,
Berstetz: [To the point.]
Messenger: [Yessir! A target requiring caution has appeared! Enemy flying dragon squadron, confirmed!]
Serena: [――Have they come?]
Hearing the messenger’s report, Serena’s expression grew severe, as if to say that someone who ought to have come had finally arrived. Then, Serena looked closely out the window, searching for signs of the enemy in the sky.
But, she could not find the enemy flying dragon squadron. Behind the suspectful Serena, the messenger proceeded with the continuation of the report.
Messenger: [――The enemy flying dragon squadron has passed over the large mountain behind the great fortress, and has invaded the airspace above the fortifications! They are deploying enemy soldiers, the undead have breached the city!]
――Medium O’Connell possessed the Divine Protection of Morale.
To speak plainly, the Divine Protection of Morale was something that would boost the physical capabilities of one’s body in concert with how roused their spirits and determination were.
Medium was unaware of her own Divine Protection, and even her older brother Flop did not know that his younger sister was the possessor of a Divine Protection. Only, at times when she had to persevere, power would surge within her as she thought “I gotta do my best!”, and as her brother would tell her “Do your best!”, she felt the sensation of power surging within her.
Hence, with the specifics unknown to them, the siblings’ relationship of supporting each other had always remained the optimal solution, and that rare precedent was also the secret behind the strength of the O’Connell siblings.
But, the troublesome aspect of the Divine Protection of Morale was undoubtedly that fluctuations in one’s mood influenced their ability; while the elevation of one’s feelings would enhance their abilities, it was a double-edged sword: to the extent that their feelings were down, they would become unable to display their capabilities.
Ergo, it could be called the most suitable Divine Protection for the bright, positive Medium, but it had backfired when events sorrowful to the greatest degree had occurred within her life.
There were three times in the past when Medium, who was like the personification of a positive attitude, had been depressed.
The first was when a member of her family, Miles, had died.
The second was when another member of her family, Balleroy, had died.
And the third, was when she found out that Balleroy, who should have been dead, had been turned into an undead.
During the first and second times, she thoroughly wept and cried, and it took her several days to recover.
The impact from the third time was not something inferior to those past two times, but there was no time for her to spend a few days crying due to the grievous event.
If so, did Medium participate in the battle with a face stained with tears, disheartened as it was?
――Certainly, that had not been the case.
Medium O’Connell had stopped crying in a true sense.
It was not as if the sorrowful event of the third time had not resonated as much as the first and second times. As an impact of the greatest degree in her life until now, it ripped her chest, her mind, and surely her heart to shreds.
However, as Medium hugged her knees and cowered, Flop did not leave her alone.
Flop: [Dear sister, I’m sorry I hadn’t said anything. It was a situation in which people who had died were being resurrected one after another. It was not as if I hadn’t considered the possibility that Balleroy was revived.]
The coupled dragon carriages had arrived at the Fortified City, and Medium continued to shut herself away in the room allocated to her; having come to her side, Flop spoke so regarding their encounter with the undead Balleroy.
When she heard her brother’s words, Medium felt the sentiment, “As expected of big bro!”, but she had been unable to say it aloud like usual.
Contrary to having feelings of wanting to condemn her brother for having not told her, she questioned why she had been unable to notice, and hated her own stupidity for never thinking about anything.
By nature, she was not very good at thinking. That was why she always left that duty up to Flop.
That was why, in exchange, it was her job to rampage, she was happy with it being divided up that way. And yet, it was weird for her to now lament her own slow brain.
No, that was not it.
Medium: [I really love you, big bro.]
Flop: [Ahh, thank you, that makes me happy. I love you too of course.]
Medium: [I also really love Sisrena, and I really love Big Bro Miles too.]
Flop: [I know. I’ve never doubted that. Of course, I also love those two.]
Medium: […I really love Ballebro as well.]
While burying her head into her knees, Medium sniffled as she falteringly spoke. Kneeling down on one knee, Flop listened to her with a calm look on his face. She was grateful that for the last one, when she had spoken about Balleroy, he had just responded with a short nod of his head.
She was grateful, but she was also frustrated.
Medium: [Even though I really love them, I haven’t been thinking about the people I love.]
The possibility that the deceased Balleroy would be resurrected as an undead.
Flop had said that he had been unable to say it, but he had still thought about it. On the other hand, Medium had not even considered it.
That was not because Medium was slow in the head, but because she had been averting her eyes.
Even though she loved her family, even though it was the family she loved, she had not realized it because she had been averting her eyes. ――Even though Medium had once regretted that very act to the point of death once before.
Medium: [When Big Bro Miles died, and then after that, Ballebro went and did that thing and also died, I was so frustrated with myself.]
She thought it would have been better if she had been by his side back then, even if he would have hated her or kept her away.
It would have been better for his sibling to make a noisy, loud, annoying racket by his side, and make it so Balleroy could not polish his plan to swoop down on Abel.
Because she had not done that, she had ended up letting Balleroy die.
Even though Medium should have been aware.
She should have been aware that after Miles died, Balleroy would start to worry himself with those sorts of thoughts.
After all, Balleroy was――,
Flop: [――Medium, I won’t be going to the Imperial Capital. My wounds haven’t finished healing, and I don’t have any fighting ability. I’d certainly be a burden. But, you’re different.]
Medium: [Big bro…]
Flop: [I think Balleroy will be in the Imperial Capital. Being this backed into a corner, the only chance our side has to turn the tables is to defeat the oppositions’ leader, who’s likely in the Imperial Capital. If the opposition can predict that His Excellency the Emperor-kun will be going there, then…]
Medium: [Mm, yeah.]
She knew what Flop was trying to say, even if he did not say everything.
When fighting, Balleroy would always choose the method with the fastest conclusion. That did not change when he became a soldier, and it did not change when he became a Divine General; it was a fundamental part of Balleroy’s personality.
Balleroy would undoubtedly target Abel. Therefore he was in the Imperial Capital.
Therefore, if she went to the Imperial Capital, she would meet him.
Flop: [It seems like you’ve cheered up a little, haven’t you?]
Medium: […As expected of big bro, you really know me well.]
Flop: [Ha-ha-ha, that’s because I’ve been Medium’s big brother for a long time now! Well then, as a brother who can’t go to the Imperial Capital, I’ll exhaust all means necessary for the sake of my sister!]
Wiping her teary face, Medium tilted her head with bloodshot eyes. Seeing his sister’s state, Flop placed his hands on his hip, and while smiling,
Flop: [You know, even if you say you want to go, we don’t know if His Excellency the Emperor-kun will accept. So in order to make him accept, we should think hard about the flow of persuasion, right? You don’t need to worry. I know His Excellency the Emperor-kun’s weak point.]
Medium: [Incredible! As expected of big bro! What’s Abel-chin’s weak point?]
Flop: [――Decidedly, it’s love.]
Raising a single finger, Flop spoke with full confidence.
If the one hearing that was anyone other than Medium, they would have all tilted their heads, not understanding what those words meant, and may have made a peculiar face.
But, no matter what Medium was told by Flop, she would give a broad smile and answer.
Medium: [As expected of big bro! I’m counting on you!]
――Thus, Medium O’Connell had obtained the qualification to participate in the ultimate decisive battle for the Imperial Capital.
Thinking back on it, it seemed like a miracle that so many coincidences had piled up for her to finally reach this point.
The first was at the Fortress City of Guaral. Ever since she and Flop had noticed Subaru, Rem, and Spica trying to enter that city, this strange course of events had begun.
Medium: [Thank you for meeting me and big bro back then, Subaru-chin.]
Along the way, as the dragon carriage headed for the Imperial Capital, Medium had expressed her gratitude, to which Subaru was surprised.
With his body still in a smaller state, Subaru’s profile looked like he was thinking about something with the utmost effort and a frightfully sharp look in his eyes, but only when he was told this did his eyes widen.
At once, Subaru became gentle, and with the tender face he would always face Rem and Spica with,
Subaru: [What are you talking about, Medium-san? If we’re giving thanks, then I’m the one who should be grateful to you. Thinking about what things would be like if I hadn’t met Medium-san and Flop-san back there, it makes me shudder.]
And amid his bashfulness, he had provided the opportunity for Medium’s selfishness to be granted.
A settlement with the undead-turned Magical Sharpshooter, Balleroy Temeglyph. ――For that purpose, he had sent a tremendously reliable backer with her.
Medium: [Thank you for supporting me, Ros-chin.]
Feeling her hair sway in the wind, Medium spoke these words of gratitude in the midst of the air.
The person she spoke them to, was a being who was carrying her horizontally while floating in the sky―― a companion of Subaru and Emilia, the person lending Medium strength in her battle, Roswaal.
At Medium’s thanks, he smiled with a “Nooo~ no”,
Roswaal: [I am the one who ought to show gratitude to you for letting me accompany youuu~. As a matter of fact, the person you desire to face off against is an exceedingly formidable enemy. I wish to have as many cards in my hand as possible, even if only by a single card more.]
Medium: [――? I’m not a card, I’m a woman you know?]
Roswaal: [I’ve blundered. You’re the same type as Emilia-saaama~.]
As Roswaal spoke that with a soft, wry smile, a question mark floated over Medium’s head.
Perhaps he had meant it in the sense that she was not as heavy as she looked. In reality, Medium was quite tall for a woman, and she stood at around the same height as the tall Roswaal. Even so, he was easily carrying her.
But, Roswaal’s speciality did not seem to be in his physical strength, but rather in his aptitude for magic. That was also the truth of how he was carrying Medium and flying in the sky like this.
When Medium had been at Serena’s place, she had experienced flight many times, but all of those occasions were riding on flying dragons. This was her first time flying while being carried by a person.
Medium: [The trick to flying in the sky is to believe in the person lending you flight, and to entrust everything to them!]
The experience she had once learned from a flying dragon rider she trusted, would now support Medium in this moment.
Whether that partner was a flying dragon or Roswaal, the method to gain wings was to believe.
Roswaal: [I’d like to tell Otto-kun and Petra-kun about your courage and trick, as they aren’t quite accustomed to fliiight~.]
Medium: [Is that so? Well then Ros-chin, wouldn’t it be better for you to get along with the two of them more?]
Roswaal: [Ahhh~ hahaha, that’s painful to my eaaars~.]
Deepening his smile at her straightforward opinion, Roswaal slowly shook his head.
Seeing that reaction, Medium sensed that Roswaal was not really smiling deep down, and that it was a smile that attempted to deceive. He was probably not very good at getting along with people.
Medium had recently come to the realization that such people existed. Abel was also like that.
She did not understand why they would go out of their way to distance themselves from others―― no, she was beginning to understand it a little now. By doing so, one could try to ensure that they would not be hurt.
Medium: [But, if you always do that, you’ll end up regretting it.]
Medium: [That’s why, I’ll make myself a role model for Ros-chin and Abel-chin.]
Right after Medium spoke, a fierce, thundering roar echoed beyond the flying duo.
It was to the east of Medium and Roswaal―― in that place where thick clouds were accumulating one by one, there was present the form of a Dragon so fearsome that it caused the very world to tremble.
In accordance with what had been decided beforehand, Garfiel was the one who would fight the Dragon.
And while Garfiel was subduing the Dragon, everyone else would begin to move.
One grouping among them, was the combination of Medium and Roswaal.
She deeply inhaled, and deeply exhaled.
Once it began, there would be no going back. But, she was fine with that.
Roswaal: [Shall we get started? There’s no need to get worked up. ――After all, I’m the strongest magician in the wooorld~.]
Right after Roswaal declared so, for a moment, Medium felt goosebumps over her entire body.
That was at the moment Roswaal had suddenly unleashed magic that was supernatural beyond anything Medium was capable of imagining, causing flames to be sent above the thick clouds that blanketed the Imperial Capital, targeting the Crystal Palace from directly above.
While using such a ultra-high-class magic technique, Roswaal progressed his flying magic with Medium still in his arms.
It was an intricate feat akin to one using their right arm to draw and their left arm to compose a song, while also using their mouth to recite verses of poetry and using their eyes and brain to decipher an unknown language.
But, for Medium, who did not understand its value, she had no valid reason to praise it as being amazing.
Therefore, Medium did not voice praise with her mouth, but instead demonstrated it through her actions.
Staring into the distant sky, a chain of bright-red flames exploding could be seen above the Crystal Palace within the deepest part of the Imperial Capital; cutting past the blossoming crimson balls of flame one after the other, a flying dragon soared at a high altitude.
Far, far away, many kilometers in the distance, as a small speck in the sky, it had been clearly seen by the current Medium as somebody whom she wished to see, with whom she wished to converse, and whom she wished to touch.
――Medium O’Connell possessed the Divine Protection of Morale.
The Divine Protection of Morale boosted one’s physical abilities in concert with how roused their spirits were, and it was the most suitable Divine Protection for the bright, positive Medium.
And now that Medium was before a person whom she had wanted to meet to an absolutely unbearable extent, the performance of her Divine Protection was manifesting its greatest, most powerful effects in all the time since she had been born.
The thing she wanted to do and the thing she must do coincided, and smashing through her regrets of the past, she clutched what her older brother had entrusted to her within her chest; together with a reliable ally, she would challenge a beloved visage.
Ergo, Medium spoke to Balleroy, who had likely seen her from far off in the distance.
Medium: [Jeez, I won’t let you go off wherever you please anymore. Come and talk to me properly, Ballebro.]
――The next moment, a bullet of light had been fired after a beat had passed, and Medium cut it down with her unsheathed barbarian sword.
Though the impact tore through her entire body, both Medium, and Roswaal who was carrying her, were uninjured.
And thus, separated by an ultra-long distance, the curtain rose on the fiercest bout of aerial combat in the history of the Empire.