At the funeral of Lux’s mother, there was no one of the imperial family.
Probably because of their social position after they were banished from the Imperial Court, it was so plain that it was hard to imagine that she had been a queen.
Even so, it did not matter for Lux.
What should be done from now on and how to protect his little sister Airi, who was lying down in sickness.
Lux was just looking vacantly at the stained glass in a church.
After a while, he came out of the church to go back home.
In front of his mother’s gravestone where the few relatives had already left, someone was standing.
A silver-haired man wearing black clothes.
Lux was slightly familiar with that man of a calm demeanor.
“About your mother, it was regrettable.”
The man’s name was Fugil Acadia. He was Lux’s half-brother.
He did not stay long in the Imperial Court, and even Lux who was estranged to the power struggle somehow understood.
That this man –– he was somewhat different from the other members of the imperial family.
“Little brother. If you want to achieve something as royalty, you may ask me. In the imperial family, even if you are banished from the Court, there are some special privileges you still have as royalty. It may be difficult by yourself, but if I put in a good word for you, you may be able to learn a thing or two.”
When he said “able to learn a thing or two”, he was speaking about various studies including tactics and administration, and Drag-Rides.
Be it decorations or a diplomatic tool, Lux would not be blamed for raising his “quality” as a royalty by basic education.
“It will be a long and steep way. But perhaps your determination may change the Empire. Do you want to try?”
From that day onwards, the relation between Lux and Fugil began.
Permission to access the royal library, and Drag-Ride guidance. And––
Then, one day after seven months, Fugil witnessed a certain scene.
“What is going on? Little brother.”
One of the Machine Dragon practice field located in the Imperial Capital.
There were a pile of destroyed <Wyverns> in the corner.
At this time, Fugil had funds with which Lux used to operate a Drag-Ride, but he heard about repeated injuries and Machine Dragons’ damages from his attendant, and came to see the situation.
“I’m sorry. I failed a little––”
“It’s not like you. How is it possible that you, who has shown a skill which should be called a natural talent as a Drag-Knight until now, fail to operate––. Hmm…?”
Fugil who noticed the abnormality opened his eyes wide.
The destroyed <Wyverns> had a strange common point.
The armor from the right arm wielding the blade to the back wings was squashed in a strange shape and broke.
And on the other hand, one part of a wall covered with a board of steel was shattered and disappeared.
A wall which a sword could not cut and a shelling could not shatter, either.
“This doesn’t look like you operate the Drag-Ride commonly. Did you try some kind of special method of operation?”
Fugil who grasped the unlikely situation inquired as he could not hide his surprise.
With an expressionless face, Lux plainly replied.
“With just an “ordinary strength”, I will come to regret once again. In order to protect the things important to me, I want a stronger power.”
The memory faded and became blurred.
That’s right. I can’t forget.
There was a promise which he swore to himself.
And then, Lux woke up.
Under the night sky where the moon floated, Krulcifer was standing.
The church site designated as the place of the duel was located in the outskirts of the Fort City third block.
A desolated abandoned building which was destroyed after becoming the battlefield against an Abyss which appeared about two years ago.
That site, where numerous debris were scattered about and the outer wall destroyed in every direction remained, was at least 1km away from a town where there were signs of people.
Moreover, there was stage where Drag-Knights were deployed for lookout and dispersing unrelated people.
Standing there were Barzeride and Alterize.
“I came at the agreed time, my future wife. I believed that you would safely finish the mission of ruins investigation and return.”
As Barzeride exaggeratedly said so, Krulcifer, face to him, slightly frowned.
“By the way –– what about that man whom you said about being your lover? I heard that he safely return from the ruins, but did he fall from fatigue? Or –– did he get scared and run away?”
“I had him go back.”
Krulcifer was not shaken at his entwining-like provocation.
She said so as to brush it away and turned her cold piercing eyes towards the two people.
“I cannot let him get involved with such worthless farce any more than this––”
Then, she calmly unsheathed her Sword Device that was hung to her waist.
Barzeride seeing that smiled and loudly spoke.
“The start time is from now on. The conclusion will be until either, when the worn Machine Dragon is cancelled or when the two opponents of the duel accept to surrender.”
As to follow, Alterize, a servant of the Einvolk House also drew her Sword Device.
“Intentional escape from this church site which is the stage of the duel will be considered a defeat. Other than that, the rules are conformed to those used in the tournament held in the Capital of this country. You’re fine with that, right? Miss.”
“Yes, I have made up my mind. Since a long time ago––”
Krulcifer’s words which somehow had a hidden meaning.
Repressing her faint unrest, Alterize inhaled.
“––Come forth, dragon symbolizing immortality. Turn into the fangs of the linking Earth. <EX Wyrm>!”
Countless particles of light danced at the same time she said the pass code, and the <EX Wyrm> which was a reinforced ground-type Machine Dragon was summoned.
The greatest military power given to a skillful Drag-Knight not possessing a Divine Drag-Ride.
Barzeride turned a look of admiration to Alterize’s Drag-Ride.
“As expected of the Einvolk House. To think that even a butler Drag-Knight has the skill of EX-class. I look forward more and more to my engagement with you.Krulcifer.”
“Could you please stop acting familiar with me? It is a waste of time.”
Krulcifer returned a cold voice to Barzeride’s praise.
“I am an orphan. When you are living in the house of other people for a long time, you can understand certain things. Such as what others really think of you.”
Soon after Barzeride muttered so, Krulcifer set up her sword.
“––Reincarnate. The Giant Dragon of calamity imprisoned by worldly treasures. Become the equivalence of an endless desire, <Fafnir>.”
Immediately after, the surrounding space was distorted and countless particles of light gathered.
Having been formed was a huge silver Machine Dragon reminiscent of an ice statue.
When it opened from the inside, it instantly changed into armor which wrapped Krulcifer’s body.
Barzeride, who saw the summon, grinned.
Then, he himself also equipped his body with <Aži Dahāka>, glanced at Alterize and urged her to give the start signal.
“Then duel, start!”
Soon after Alterize shouted, Krulcifer’s <Fafnir> flew.
She threw a Dagger aiming at Barzeride and swiftly set up her special armament –– the <Freezing Canon>.
Long-range high speed precise shooting which was Krulcifer’s battle style.
The moment when Barzeride strengthened his barrier in order to flip the Dagger, Krulcifer immediately pulled the trigger.
She aimed her attacks towards the direction where he dodged and at the opening when he blocked.
A blue flash tinged with cold pierced the dark night and impacted Barzeride.
*pakin*! A sound of freezing instantly resounded and Krulcifer confirmed the hit.
“For a surprise attack, it lacks in appeal, but I praise your judgment and skill. Krulcifer.”
Krulcifer shuddered at Barzeride’s calm voice.
What had been frozen was a lump of debris that <Aži Dahāka> threw out in front of itself.
A piece of a collapsed building that fell into this place which was the church site.
He smashed it with his halberd and defended against the <Freezing Canon> by rolling it up as another shield.
The mass was not being enough being just dug-up debris, so it was usually difficult to implement this countermeasure.
So having chosen this church site for the duel was within Barzeride’s plan.
“I was careless. To come up with a countermeasure so early. Is this your doing? Alterize.”
A countermeasure which was the only weak point of the <Freezing Canon>.
There was also the possibility that Barzeride himself, who saw it once in the battle of the ruins investigation, came up with it, but if someone who knew of it beforehand suggested the plan––
“What might you mean?”
Alterize’s <EX Wyrm> jumped towards Krulcifer flying in mid-air.
When Krulcifer barely dodged the twin swords sharply swung, Alterize showed a smile.
“Your skills grew dull. Miss.”
Rotating the Machine Dragon’s airframe in the air, she further came slashing with the other blade.
“The naïve one is you.”
The blade’s slash was blocked by the automatic special armament which activated regardless of the user’s will –– the <Auto Shield>.
But at that moment, the <Devil’s Glow> which extended from both shoulders of Barzeride’s <Aži Dahāka> had set up its aim on Krulcifer.
“With that special armament, can you also defend against this?”
*doun*!, two lines of shelling attacked <Fafnir>.
This attack itself could be blocked with the <Auto Shield>.
But, in that case, it would cause her posture to collapse and Alterize would probably follow after.
At this rate, it would gradually turn into a defensive battle.
(As expected –– I have no other choice but to gamble.)
Krulcifer judged so while grasping the two people’s movements.
With a body in which injury and fatigue by the ruins investigation remained, she would be the one at a disadvantage in a drawn-out battle.
Therefore, she activated <Fafnir>’s Divine Raiment <Wise Blood>.
The foresight ability which perceived the future within a radius of a dozen of Mel several seconds ahead.
When she dodged the attacks with that Divine Raiment, Krulcifer perceived her path to victory line.
“I see –– you’re strong. You’re indeed strong.”
From a remote location, Barzeride repeated that as he was impressed.
“But you know, Krulcifer? You should quietly become my wife after all. That way, you can be happy. I don’t want to hurt you even by any chance. Could you please surrender now?”
To Barzeride who uttered an ingratiating voice, Krulcifer leaked a sigh.
“Sorry but –– I am not fond of talkative men.”
And at the same time she replied, she began to move.
Leaving Alterize who was in front of her in a lurch, <Fafnir> accelerated.
With the flight device of the back wings at max power, she charged at Barzeride at a speed which the eyes couldn’t catch.
“Are you actually challenging the ground-typed Machine Dragon <Aži Dahāka> as the opponent to close-range combat? Interesting.”
Barzeride set up his halberd with a fearless smile.
In contrast, Krulcifer brandished a medium-sized blade and slashed at him.
Without any fear to the halberd which was let out as to flip her blade up, Krulcifer charged.
“In the case of a simultaneous and mutual clash, it’ll be my victory, you know?”
Krulcifer was aware of the fact that the armor and barrier possessed by <Aži Dahāka> boasted of a unmatched defensive power.
The moment when each other’s weapon was about to cross––,
“I wonder about that.”
Krulcifer suddenly smiled.
Soon after, Barzeride opened his eyes wide.
The canon of the special armament installed on the right shoulder of the Divine Drag-Ride <Aži Dahāka> shattered.
She was aiming at the special armament on the shoulder and the Force Core from the start.
Then, she dodged the blow of Barzeride who should have the advantage in close-range combat by a hairbreadth.
“The ability to read the future, it’s your Divine Raiment…”
Future foresight by <Wise Blood>.
While dodging Barzeride’s attack using it, she set up a counterattack.
“Nicely done, Krulcifer. Though there are some flaws, I will praise your skill for having broken my right shoulder as splendid.”
“It’s good and all that you praise me, but I have not done anything special yet.”
“Lord Kreutzer! Please, step back! It is dangerous at that range!”
From far behind, Alterize’s shout could be heard.
However, it was too late.
By <Wise Blood>’s future foresight, Krulcifer would be able to predict all of the offense and defense in close-range combat.
And in this land where debris were buried here and there, it would take at least three seconds until Alterize’s <EX Wyrm> could catch up with them.
Even a long-range shelling would be blocked by the <Auto Shield>.
All was according to Krulcifer’s calculation.
“Well then, goodbye.”
She did not let her guard down until the end.
When Krulcifer’s blade was about to break the Force Core which was under the battery of the shattered shoulder––
“Do you really think that you can beat me?”
Suddenly, the image of future foresight disappeared from Krulcifer’s field of vision.
Barzeride’s attack which she foresaw swayed like haze, and from the special armament of <Aži Dahāka>’s left shoulder, the canon was shot at almost point-blank range.
The <Auto Shield> instantly activated, and an impact and flames burst in front of the seven shields.
While subtly groaning, Krulcifer stared at the burst of explosive flames before her eyes.
“Kuh…!? Why did Wise Blood> again––!”
Her physical and spiritual strength should not have run out yet.
Of course, it was a fact that she was already exhausted before the duel, but still she made a plan where she could use only the Divine Raiment and her special armaments.
“That is because you mistook my ability.”
Flame and smoke rising like a pillar.
Being hidden within their shadow, Barzeride’s <Aži Dahāka> took a roundabout path to <Fafnir>’s flank.
The halberd was struck at a sharp angle.
The <Auto Shield> automatically activated and tried to prevent that attack, but––
The seven shields deployed in the air were flipped and the halberd hit the airframe.
Although it hit the barrier, the power that its (halberd) weight carried could not be completely suppressed.
While being blown off along with <Fafnir> and rolling on the ground of the abandoned building, she bumped into a mountain of rubble.
“Kaha…! Uh, ah…”
Her usually composed face twisted in pain, and Krulcifer writhed.
“Oops, sorry. It’s the important belly which will someday conceive my child. I’ve got to be a little gentler.”
Contrary to his words, Barzeride was laughing with an expression free of any sense of guilt.
(It’s strange. Why did something like this––)
The fact that the future foresight by the Divine Raiment <Wise Blood> was erased and that the <Auto Shield> which boasted of an absolute defense was broken through.
It did not happen due to Krulcifer’s mistake or the fatigue.
Her spare energy calculation should have been accurately done.
And yet, what was this reality?
Besides, Barzeride, a “man” who should have already hit his limit due to his Machine Dragon aptitude value being low showed no signs of being tired yet.
Did it mean that not only his skill enough to be called “Title Holder of the Kingdom”, but also his Machine Dragon aptitude was not average?
(But––, I’m not yet…)
In a desperate situation enough to make one lose his (their) fighting spirit, Krulcifer repressed her pain and stood up.
“Do you still intend to fight? Though your perseverance deserves praise, you no longer have any chance of winning.”
“We won’t know until I try.”
When she took a deep breath and changed her mood, Krulcifer flew with a trajectory describing an arc and brandished her blade.
Then, she once again activated <Fafnir>’s Divine Raiment and read the future several seconds ahead.
While reading Alterize’s shelling from behind and avoiding it, she feigned a slashing attack and tried to strike the <Howling Roar> on <Aži Dahāka> –– but,
“Don’t make me repeat myself.”
“––!? The foresight again…”
Once again, the effect of the future foresight by <Wise Blood> disappeared and a shelling was released from <Aži Dahāka>’s left canon.
It erased the <Howling Roar>’s impact and pulverized the debris far behind.
“Why did the attack just now––”
The <Howling Roar> was an attack originally used in order to flip a throwing attack.
The enemy had accurately set up his canon against the attack of Krulcifer who was taken aback.
Just as if he predicted everything.
“Did you think that I wouldn’t able to read your movements?”
At the same time with his voice, the halberd was swung once again.
The blow which creaked the tenacious armor of <Fafnir> hit directly; exactly at the same place of just a while ago.
She was once again blown right off besides and her back struck the broken wall.
She violently hit her whole body and her breathing stopped for a moment.
Even so, when she tried to fight back, <Fafnir>’s armor arm which grasped the <Freezing Canon> was swiftly knocked down.
“How unsightly––. Don’t disappoint me, my future wife. Don’t struggle unnecessarily in a fight that you’ve no chance of winning. That’s what I believe.”
Barzeride suddenly talked as to persuade her.
Alterize probably also felt the same way.
Not starting pursuit with the <EX Wyrm>, she was watching the course of events at that place.
If there were other spectators here, anyone of them should have thought that the outcome was decided.
“I am sorry to disappoint you––, but I am not fond of men who tell obvious lies.”
Suddenly making her usual serious expression, Krulcifer asserted.
“Disappoint you? No, you should have been glad. For tormenting me like this –– for this expected development.”
Barzeride’s expression which was revealing a faint smile instantly changed into a cold one.
“You are cancelling my Divine Raiment. Probably for that reason –– in order to read the scope of my power, you joined that ruins investigation. Even saying that you took a liking to me as a wife is also a lie. It’s because it looks like you can use me as a tool, right?”
Barzeride, showing no signs of interrupting, was silently listening to the words of Krulcifer who indifferently told that.
“Besides––, about when we were attacked by Drag-Knights in the upper class residential area. Wasn’t that also your doing? In order for people like them to enter that zone, the guidance of an influential person is necessary. If you saw my <Fafnir>’s ability over there, it would have saved you the trouble of tagging along in the investigation, right?”
At the same time when Krulcifer concluded her words, Barzeride revealed a wicked smile.
And, he applied pressure to <Fafnir> with <Aži Dahāka>’s stout arm.
With a power which could by no means destroy the flesh, but to the extent of fully giving pain, he slowly applied pressure so as to not let Alterize who was on standby behind notice.
“As expected of a girl which becomes a “key” of the ruins. You were able to read so far.”
About the fact that she was a human from the ruins and that she had the ability as a “key”.
Being told about her true identity which should have been secret, Krulcifer’s face turned pale.
“How sad, Krulcifer. What a sorrowful girl you are. To think that the likes of tool of the Einvolk House –– the thing sold over to me now was that clever.”
In a grieving tone, Barzeride continued.
“Yes. It’s as you said. Krulcifer.”
Barzeride muttered so in a whispering voice.
“Anything and everything has been plotted by me. Hearing about you who is a “key” which open the ruins, and approaching that butler with the engagement. Though someone got in the way earlier and defeated the bandits. And also having summoned a new Abyss at that time in front of the ruins. Everything––”
“But you know? Even if you know the truth, you can’t do anything after all. You, who is no more than a “tool” in this world, can in no way change this reality.”
A look full of contempt and a twisted mouth.
Barzeride Kreutzer’s true character could be seen there.
To that word thrust at her, Krulcifer’s body trembled.
Her skill as a Drag-Knight and even her trusted <Fafnir> had been defeated.
Krulcifer’s mask which did not come off despite this was about to collapse.
She was picked up as a survivor of the ruins by the Einvolk House, and in order to acquire the bonds of a family she was not born from, she accumulated efforts oozing of blood (desperate efforts).
But, however much honor she was given, her desire of the family she wanted just drifted further away––
(No, it’s wrong––. From the start, I didn’t have it…)
“You don’t understand, Krulcifer. The likes of a tool like you mustn’t oppose me.”
An ice-like cold sensation took away the temperature from her body.
Comrades who could acknowledge her existence might be in the ruins.
If she was a human of the present era, her family might have accepted her.
Thinking only about chasing these possibilities, she had desperately sought the truth until now.
“I will make all the ruins’ technology and treasures my own and ultimately stand at the top of this country. You’re a tool for that purpose. If you behave yourself, I’ll cherish you from now on.”
He took down the halberd which he was grasping, and stroked Krulcifer’s belly with the fingertips of his Machine Dragon.
“You understand, right? There is nobody in this world that will come save you. So, accept it. Your fate of devoting yourself to me, your master–– …!?”
While he was speaking, <Aži Dahāka>’s armor arm was taken away from Krulcifer’s belly.
After just a moment, a blade glittered in that space and a dagger pierced the ground.
“Who is it!?”
Barzeride retreated and looked up at the night sky.
There was one dragon there.
The symbol of destruction which overwhelmed those who saw it and inspired awe.
With the pale moon in the background, Lux wearing <Bahamut> calmly looked down at the battlefield.
Krulcifer who looked up as if getting hook on it muttered in mute amazement.
“––I’m sorry for being late, Krulcifer-san. I heard the circumstances from Airi.”
Lux showed a gentle smile and called out to her.
『Not that! I did not intend to get you involved anymore!』
She sent a sorrowful cry to Lux through the dragon voice.
『Why did you come wearing <Bahamut>!? Like this, even your true identity will be––』
His <Wyvern> was seriously damaged in the ruins investigation and could not be used.
Even Lux himself got injured protecting Krulcifer and ended up consuming his strength.
And he couldn’t afford to let these two people know his true identity which was the “Black Hero” now.
Therefore, even though she made Lux sleep with medicine at that time and engaged in the duel alone––
“I’m Lux Acadia, a duel opponent. Currently at this time, I enter the battle.”
When Lux said so in a voice full of determination, he landed in front of Krulcifer and stood in the way.
“A jet black Divine Drag-Ride…? Who on earth is he––”
Alterize muttered as she was perplexed and tightly grasped her twin swords.
Alterize had also heard about the story of the “Black Hero” –– the legend which destroyed the Old Empire.
But, it was just a wild tale of a foreign country.
Even with the real thing just before her eyes, she was not immediately aware of his true identity.
At the same time, Barzeride burst into laughter.
He glared at Lux with a happy expression.
“Look whose here, I mistook you. I was sure you ran away. To think that you reveal your true identity just to save one woman––. It looks like you are an unexpectedly stupid man, eh, “Black Hero”.”
To Barzeride’s pointing that out, Lux changed his expression to a sharp one for an instant.
“––“Black Hero”!? No way, this boy is…!?”
Though Alterize confused also shouted, Lux did not move an inch.
He was just calmly staring at Barzeride in front of him.
“No, shall I say the rumored “Self-proclaimed Hero”? Stop doing such a meaningless thing. Even if you fight in spite of your injury and fatigue, this woman won’t bring you any benefit.”
Krulcifer inwardly chewed her teeth to that being pointed out.
He probably saw through Lux’s fatigue and small injuries from the slight gap of his center of gravity.
Although arrogant, as expected of someone from the Four Great Nobles and the Drag-Knight called “Title Holder of the Kingdom”.
Even his ability was not just a decoration. But––
“I refuse. Lord Kreutzer.”
Lux, not even shaken, stared at Barzeride and said.
“You don’t understand at all how worthy she is.”
At the same time as his voice, he set up his large jet black sword.
And when he put strength into his feet to jump in a straight line––,
*gow*! Creating a gust of wind, Alterize sprung at Lux.
“Lord Kreutzer is worn out by fighting with her. This is a two vs. two formal duel. First, I shall be your opponent.”
She made use of her physical strength strengthened with the <EX Wyrm> to the maximum and slashed at <Bahamut> with her twin swords.
A surprise, instant attack.
When Krulcifer called out to him from behind, the outcome was already decided.
“Wha…!? This is––!?”
The twin swords held by the <EX Wyrm> were cut and moreover the right wrist was destroyed.
One counterattack flash by <Bahamut>’s Divine Raiment, <Reload On Fire>.
He temporarily decelerated his own time and accelerated it up to several times afterwards.
He easily defeated Alterize by using the Divine Raiment of compression strengthening.
Having lost her two weapons, Alterize took distance from Lux.
“It’s not over yet!”
Then, she set up a canon with the remaining left arm and tried to continue the battle,
In a calm voice, Barzeride’s <Aži Dahāka> applied its hand on her <EX Wyrm>’s shoulder from behind.
Immediately after, light disappeared from the <EX Wyrm>’s armor and Force Core.
Energy consumption or forced system shut down?
In any case, the <EX Wyrm>’s energy rapidly decreased and Alterize knelt down on one knee.
“W-Why did such thing…!? The Machine Dragon’s system is––”
As it was an unexpected phenomenon, the calm Alterize showed confusion.
Then, Barzeride talked in a chilly voice.
“I want you to leave this to me. You’ve no chance of winning now anyway, and above all –– at this point when he went easy on you, the outcome is already clear.”
It meant that it was because Lux carefully considered her position and pride that he stopped at only one arm’s destruction of the <EX Wyrm>.
He went easy on her in respect to a powerful person who entered the top ten in the religious country Ymir.
And in consideration for Krulcifer who was a friend.
Alterize who noticed that reality nodded while grinding her teeth, and withdrew.
“To think that he’s really the legendary––”
Was it the true identity of the “Black Hero” who destroyed the Old Empire before?
The owner of legendary strength (class) surpassing that of super first class.
“Why did he…? For Miss…”
While muttering her doubt, Alterize got away from the abandoned building, thus withdrawing from the front.
Then, with a strange fatigue different from that of the battle, she removed her armor.
“Also, what is this…? This feeling…”
Alterize sat down as such and lost consciousness.
“Be careful, Lux-kun. The ability of that man’s <Aži Dahāka> is unknown.”
Leaning on the broken wall, Krulcifer called his attention.
At the same time Lux lightly nodded,
“Is your strategy meeting over? Then, I’m coming! “Black Hero”!”
Barzeride kicked the ground and pounced in a straight line.
The wheels of the legs of the ground-type Machine Dragon <Aži Dahāka> rotated at high speed and instantly shortened the distance.
Then, it mowed down the large-sized halberd it held in hands before his eyes.
Lux moved his body backward and dodged it by a hairbreadth; and using the rotation of when he swung completely, Barzeride chased him.
From horizontally mowing down to vertically swinging down.
The moment when the blow, coupled with the iron lump’s weight attacked Lux’s <Bahamut>,
“<Reload On Fire>”
<Bahamut>’s airframe shone and released an ultra-fast slash.
Divine Raiment of compression strengthening which devours its own time and accelerates several times.
When Lux’s swung large sword was about to smash <Aži Dahāka>’s armor,
At the same time with a sneer-like voice, the point of that sword cut the sky.
He pretended to swing downward his halberd, and deployed a barrier with the maximum output before Lux.
Blocked by a threefold wall of light, the large sword could not pass through.
Soon after Barzeride received a total of seven flash slashes,
The halberd tinged with a red light was flung aiming at <Bahamut>’s head.
Krulcifer’s scream came up from far behind.
A roaring sound resounded and the impact shook the atmosphere.
When a thick cloud of dust rose up around, Lux fled to the sky.
“Hou. So your complexion doesn’t even change one bit, even after your Divine Raiment is defeated, huh. As expected of the man called the “Black Hero”. But––”
While he was speaking, Lux once again activated <Reload On Fire> and slashed at him.
Instead of waiting for an opportunity to launch a counter; aiming the “Quick slash” which brought down the opponent, he set the first move by himself with an ultra-fast slash.
<Aži Dahāka> generated the threefold power barrier.
Lux loaded energy to the tip of his large sword so as to tear them up one-by-one.
But, unable to break through the last fold of the barrier, he once again retreated to a suitable distance.
“As expected… so that was it.”
“Hou. What, you speak as though you understood something. Do you intend to make excuses?”
“<Aži Dahāka>’s Divine Raiment is to steal other Machine Dragons’ power, isn’t it?”
At Lux’s statement, Barzeride revealed an uncanny look.
Krulcifer reflexively raised her voice.
“I’ve also heard rumors about the “Title Holder of the Kingdom”. That beside his bold character full of ambition and though originally being a man not having a high Machine Dragon aptitude, he boasts of a threatening endurance.”
“But, it is impossible. Without a high Machine Dragon aptitude, energy should have immediately dried out. If he uses a Divine Drag-Ride which has intense consumption, then all the more––”
“Yes. That’s why he absorbed power. From the other Machine Dragons and people around. If he can steal energy while fighting, he can compensate for the weakness of exhaustion. And he should probably also be able to steal a Divine Raiment. A little while ago, he was clearly reading my movements.”
“…Then, that was my––”
“Yes, he was probably using <Fafnir>’s Divine Raiment, <Wise Blood> that he stole. He steals a Machine Dragon’s energy just by getting close, and by touching it, he can temporarily steal even a Divine Drag-Ride’s ability and use it. That’s the true nature of <Aži Dahāka>’s Divine Raiment –– <Avestā>. Isn’t it?”
It was probably because of that that Alterize’s <EX Wyrm> which withdrew from the front suffered a system shut down, and she also suffered from severe consumption.
Not denying Lux’s answer, even so Barzeride’s composed attitude did not collapse.
“Hou, that’s a pretty keen reading. I shall praise you for having seeing through it. But –– even if you understood it, you can’t defeat me after all.”
As he suddenly glared at Lux, he activated the <Devil’s Glow>, the canon which was the special armament on the left shoulder.
Its muzzle was turned not to Lux, but to Krulcifer who could not move anymore.
“You wouldn’t be able to prevent it in your weak condition. But, that woman’s limbs will become somewhat crippled, however I don’t care at all.”
Simultaneously with a mocking voice, the shelling was shot.
Lux appeared before <Fafnir> and prevented it with a barrier at max power.
A roaring sound and explosive flames.
Lux who put himself in this vortex noticed an abnormality.
The wire tail which <Aži Dahāka> had at hand twined around <Bahamut>’s right hand.
“You fell for it. “Black Hero”.”
At the same time when Krulcifer raised her voice, Lux cut the wire tail with his large sword.
But, if we consider this as a contact between Machine Dragons, then…
“Oops. Sorry, but –– it’s too late. With this, I’ve obtained the Divine Raiment that your <Bahamut> possesses.”
Barzeride threw away the cut wire tail and revealed a wicked smile.
The reason why he aimed at Krulcifer was to make Lux create an opening.
“You false Prince and self-proclaimed Hero. I’ll now end your meaningless struggle.”
<Aži Dahāka>’s armor feet firmly stepped on the devastated ground of the abandoned building.
With steps convinced of his victory, he intentionally gained time, thus applying a strong pressure on Lux.
“You’ll die if we fight like this, but are you still fine with it? If you beg for your life and admit defeat, then I may overlook you here.”
Like a sweet temptation, Barzeride said to Lux.
Lux, far from shaking, showed no opening at all and stared at Barzeride.
Within a desperate situation, even judging from Krulcifer, where <Reload On Fire>, the Divine Raiment he mastered in order to become the strongest was stolen and his energy got absorbed by <Aži Dahāka>, Lux was smiling.
He said in a cold voice and with cold eyes enough to give a chill to those seeing it.
“After Alterize-san concluded the engagement and returned to her country, you’re going to use your subordinates and attack by surprise, right? A more certain method as to not get your hands dirty. ––I’m getting really tired of seeing it, Barzeride. Of that way of doing things exactly the same as the Old Empire’s royalties, that is.”
At that attitude completely different from the usual Lux’s, Barzeride fell silent just for a moment.
Then, he suddenly burst into laughter.
“I see, you’re an interesting man. All right, “Black Hero!” Show me what you can do in this situation by struggling and entertaining me as much as possible!”
<Aži Dahāka>’s airframe wore a pale light.
At the same time, Lux’s <Bahamut> kicked the ground and charged at it.
With a blade clad in energy and while twisting his body, Lux slashed at Barzeride.
“After rattling so much, is it only this level?”
As expected, he couldn’t completely cut through <Aži Dahāka>’s threefold barrier which was firmly stretched.
Before reaching the opponent’s armor, the power was suppressed and the blade of the large sword was flipped along.
“Then, allow me to attack now. <Reload On Fire>!”
Immediately after, <Reload On Fire> stolen by <Aži Dahāka>’s Divine Raiment <Avestā> activated.
The halberd was swung at a speed which the eyes could not catch, and <Bahamut> was blown away.
He violently struck a pillar remaining to the abandoned building and crashed into a mountain of rubble.
Going after him, Barzeride accelerated <Aži Dahāka>’s wheels.
“Kukuku! This power is splendid!”
Raising a cry of delight, Barzeride started pursuit.
A super acceleration that was several times faster after having decelerated his own time up to a fraction.
Through the ability to see everything that was polished in thousands of battles, Lux evaded the attack and aimed at Barzeride’s chest, but after having stopped it with his tenacious armor and barrier, Barzeride released continuous attacks.
On the other hand, with an enemy strengthened with <Reload On Fire> as opponent, Lux also could not use quick slash.
Even when letting out a counterattack by attacking the opening at Barzeride’s <Reload On Fire>, Lux’s attacks were all blocked by <Aži Dahāka>’s threefold barrier.
“But, this ability to accelerate time is really difficult. Even if I have it, it looks like it’s impossible to master it immediately.”
When Barzeride sighed like so, he suddenly reduced his speed.
Perhaps because fatigue spouted out at the same time, <Aži Dahāka>’s threefold barrier became thin.
At that moment, Lux glided and let out a high-speed thrust.
The moment when energy was concentrated at the tip of the large sword, and looked like it could pierce the wall in a one point breakthrough,
At the same time with Barzeride’s fearless smile, an unusual phenomenon occurred.
The threefold barrier which became thin and weak increased in thickness and shine just before Lux’s sword touched it and, far from preventing the sword’s hit, flicked off <Bahamut> itself that had rushed.
Being instantly blown away dozens of Mel to the rear, Lux struck his back on the debris.
Though the armor did not break, his charge at full power was repelled and a faint groan leaked out.
“Kukuku, it seems that I’ am able to master this Divine Raiment. “Black Hero”.”
“No way…, did he strengthen the Machine Dragon’s barrier?”
Krulcifer who saw that muttered in blank amazement.
<Reload On Fire> was a Divine Raiment of compression strengthening.
Lux used it in time acceleration by predicting with his superhuman reading and attack movement, but it looked like Barzeride used it to compressed strengthen <Aži Dahāka>’s threefold barrier.
If he did future foresight several seconds ahead, using <Fafnir>’s Divine Raiment <Wise Blood> at the same time, he would be able to attack with the strengthened threefold barrier at the moment of the hit.
Normally speaking, having used his power to that extent, if he were to go as far as simultaneously use the Divine Raiment, an unimaginable burden and fatigue would be put on the user and he would immediately run out of power.
But, Barzeride enabled continuous actions by stealing Machine Dragon energy from Lux.
Therefore, escaping from <Avestā>’s striking range was the best plan, but––
“––Why does he not escape…?”
Krulcifer already understood the reason.
If Lux were to take distance and gain time, Barzeride would probably attack Krulcifer again.
Precisely because of that, she did not understand.
About why Lux went as far as to reveal his true identity as the “Black Hero” and was fighting for someone unrelated to him.
『That is Nii-san’s good point, but also his bad point.』
When thinking so, a voice reached Krulcifer through dragon voice.
The voice of Airi, Lux’s little sister.
『Please, act as if you have not yet noticed. Krulcifer-san.』
Airi told in a very calm voice.
『Right now, Nii-san’s plan is being implemented, so please wait only a little. And then––』
Airi exhaled and told.
『Please watch it without losing consciousness. That fighting for your sake––』
They crossed swords about ten times.
Slashes at a speed which the eyes couldn’t catch were mercilessly damaging <Bahamut>’s armor.
Each time, getting his energy absorbed by <Aži Dahāka>, Lux’s breathing became rough.
Even so, he was keeping a match on equal terms with Barzeride who was using <Reload On Fire> which he wasn’t used to, but Lux’s body was also finally reaching its limit.
Along with Lux’s breathing becoming rough, even <Bahamut>’s airframe began to gradually shake with a rattling sound.
“So the omen of rampage has come. The conclusion is near, “Black Hero”.”
Barzeride who struck a smile approached Lux with a composed expression.
He foresaw that with the attack of Lux who lost <Reload On Fire>, he would no longer be able to break through <Aži Dahāka>’s threefold barrier.
“Isn’t it time to admit your defeat already? “Black Hero.”
While continuing fighting, Barzeride interjected in an amazed tone.
“Since it’s a rare opportunity, I’ll tell you something good. As a Prince, you seem to be fighting for atonement –– but such a thing is just a vain effort. No, I should say it has the opposite effect.”
Lux, confronting him, kept silent.
While breathing with his shoulders moving up and down, Barzeride calmly stared at him.
“I… The “Title Holder of the Kingdom” am trying to save this country’s future. Do you know? Lux Acadia. The crisis which is approaching this country currently –– something called the Ragnarok.”
Lux answered briefly.
The negative legacy of the Old Empire, together with the other countries of major powers it was soon going to befall as the New Kingdom’s misfortune. After waking up, he heard about it from Lisha.
Also about the fact that the New Kingdom’s Prime Minister issued instructions; so as to stop anything which could cause harm to Barzeride.
“Then, it saves me the long talk. There are no Drag-Knights appropriate for subjugation with that monster as the opponent at this time in the New Kingdom. Except me, that is.”
Barzeride raised his voice so that even Krulcifer could hear.
“I’m saying that in order to save this New Kingdom, I will be fighting that monster. Therefore, it’s necessary to obtain further military power from the ruins. So, it’s necessary for me to marry that girl. And from here on, I must use that woman as soon as possible, let scholars check her body in various ways and dig up new weapons and technology from ruins.”
Krulcifer hearing that revealed a scared expression.
“Fallen Prince. If it’s you, you should understand, right? This is something necessary. It’s for the future of the New Kingdom. There is no victory without sacrifice. With one girl of a foreign country coming over to me, this country will be saved. Even so, are you saying that you’ll still get in my way? After having failed to save this country, are you once again going to plunge this country into a crisis?”
Listening to the speech full of deceptions, Krulcifer’s expression became cloudy.
Barzeride was trying to break Krulcifer’s heart by using Lux.
In order to throw her into despair and make her yield, he was telling Lux himself to abandon her.
There is nobody who will save you.
Lux knew it and took a posture of resistance. At that time––,
“It’s fine already, Lux-kun.”
To Lux’s roughly breathing, Krulcifer plainly said.
“It’s enough already. You have properly accomplished my request.”
“That’s not true. It isn’t over ye––”
“No, it’s fine. Since it is now, I will tell you –– but I was using you. It is only with this intention that I approached you from the start. That’s why you no longer need to feel either responsibility or obligation.”
Krulcifer revealed her usual cool smile and continued.
“That’s why, give up already. You should not have to die in such a place. You will fight for a country that is your ideal, right?”
With thoughts like vomiting blood, Krulcifer span her words.
That she wanted him to abandon her.
With an ice-like expression, she continued so.
“For me, you were just a tool. Therefore, I want you to say so, too. That you are a tool… If I had explained so from the start, it would’ve ended without expecting something like “maybe”. I wouldn’t have ended with such thought, so––”
A single tear drop, as she was not able to bear it, streamed down Krulcifer’s cheek.
The solitary, noble, and icy girl.
Something that she, who kept on smiling without revealing to anyone any weakness, truly desired.
Perhaps, we might be able to become a family.
She had kept fighting alone with only one thought in her heart.
『If you had became the Prince of the New Kingdom, would you also have saved me?』
Now, he clearly understood the true feelings that Krulcifer was hiding.
That’s why Lux asserted.
“You’re–– my lover. So, I will definitely save you.”
Then, he turned to Barzeride and glared at him.
“Hou, even though you’ve no chance of winning, you still want to continue? Your so-called “lover”, she doesn’t seem to want that, though. In the first place, how do you intend to save the New Kingdom from the crisis after defeating me?”
“I’ll look for someone more suitable than you and persuade him. If I don’t find anyone –– at that time, I’ll go out.”
Shaking the large sword, Lux declared.
Lux looked back again at Krulcifer whose eyes were moist, and smiled.
“It’s because I also want to be taught how to study by Krulcifer-san again. You were very kind to me. I want to be your strength. Please let me fight. For you who is important to me––”
Then, he turned his bottomless gray pupils that those who saw them felt fear, towards Barzeride.
“––It’s a match, Barzeride.”
The only wish which he swore in his younger days.
In order to achieve it, he had killed his self and sharpened his sword to the utmost limit.
Lux’s <Bahamut> which was gradually shaking further creaked.
The lines carved on the airframe were tinged with red light as if it was on the brink of collapse, showing signs of rampaging.
Shaking the shoulders so as to repress it, Lux brandished the large sword.
“Ha! How foolish. Your boring talk––”
At that moment, Lux moved while muttering.
<Bahamut>, who was shaking until just now on the verge of rampage so far shone red and swung the sword.
“Fool! As if you can break this barrier with your power!”
Suddenly, the special armament possessed by <Fafnir>, the <Auto Shield> built a shield barrier in front of <Aži Dahāka>.
“…!? You stole even my special armament!?”
<Aži Dahāka>’s Divine Raiment which had been hidden until now.
An ability which temporarily stole even the right of control of a Machine Dragons’ special armaments.
From there, Barzeride furthermore activated <Reload On Fire>.
The absolute defense <Auto Shield> and the threefold barrier where the compression was strengthened.
The armor of the title holder that had never received one scratch not only in the tournament of the Capital, but even with an Abyss or a Divine Drag-Ride as opponents.
He intended to block Lux’s sword with that absolute shield.
“Die! You Fallen Prince and self-proclaimed Hero!”
When he saw through the moment of the attack with the future foresight by <Wise Blood> and the barrier strengthened with <Reload On Fire> was about to crush Lux––,
“I don’t want to become a Hero. But––”
Lux’s mutter quietly echoed at the moment of crossing under the moon.
“At that time, from that day when I swore to destroy the Empire –– I had already made the resolution to fight.”
A dissonant sound which informed of the collapse (of a collapse, but it’s not a physical collapse right it’s metaphorical) echoed in the church site at night.
Lux’s slash, coupled with a spin, was sharply released.
That flash in no way inferior to the Quick Draw in speed easily flipped the shield of the <Auto Shield> on all four sides, easily pierced the threefold barrier several times strengthened and hit directly <Aži Dahāka> which boasted of its hard armor.
A shock, like that of hundreds of millions of needles, spreading from the point of contact of the blade which touched the top of the shoulder broke through and the Machine Dragon began to collapse.
The mountain of rubble behind and even the hard ground of the wasteland were also smashed up by the aftereffect of the shock.
Barzeride who was in the middle of that destroyed space gushed blood from his whole body, vomited blood and fainted in agony.
“Impossible..! Why is such a thing…, such a thinnnnnnnnnggg?”
Barzeride who screamed as he was in agony, nonetheless struggled to wield the halberd.
But, the brandished halberd and even the <Devil’s Glow> of both shoulders activated, then cracked and simultaneously broke into pieces.
Be it his Drag-Ride or Divine Raiment, all of these were lost.
『Shall I tell you? Lord Kreutzer』
To <Aži Dahāka> which received a fatal destruction, Airi sent her voice through the dragon voice
『This is –– the second hidden technique that Nii-san created, “Recoil Burst”. A special ultra-move where he intentionally lets his own Machine Dragon rampage and releases it against the burden of just before self-destruction.』
Recoil Burst was a skill released by an approach completely opposite to that of the Quick Draw which combined two operating systems simultaneously.
A hidden technique which creates the accumulation of utmost limits by restraining, through one’s own mind processing, an action at full power by body manipulation.
An attack at full power and the order to stop it.
It originally releases an ultra-powerful blow which is contradictorily performed through powerful operation at the same time as the Machine Dragon was intentionally allowed to rampage.
A forbidden technique where, if he could not perfectly perform the braking of energy flowing from the Force Core, <Bahamut>’s power would go on a rampage midway, and he would expose his surroundings and even his body to the danger of death.
That power boasted of a power dozens of times that of an normal blow released at full power.
Thus, it was able to destroy even <Aži Dahāka>’s “wall” equipped with the special armament of absolute defense and a strong barrier in one blow.
“D-Don’t be kidding me! As if such thing could happen! Such a––, *gobo*! Something like this!”
“The match is already over. But––”
Lux calmly said, and stared at Barzeride’s face at last.
“If you intend to interfere with her again or anyone of the academy any more, then I’ll have no mercy. –– Can you promise that?”
Barzeride who heard that leapt back with an ugly smile.
The partially destroyed <Aži Dahāka> raised a harsh roar.
“That just now––”
“Kukukuku…! It’s just a signal. To my private army –– my subordinates; Drag-Knights deployed to disperse the surrounding neighborhood from the duel, that is!”
“…Does that mean that you had planned that from the beginning?”
Lux calmly stared at Barzeride and asked so.
Since Alterize fainted midway, there was no eyewitness.
If he disposed of even Lux saying it was by an unfortunate accident, he could threaten Krulcifer and kept her quiet.
He had prepared the place of the duel with that intention from the beginning.
“This is also a splendid plan, Hero. Matches are such things! The “Title Holder of the Kingdom” can’t afford to lose! Even you, a Prince of the Empire, should know that!”
Barzeride revealed a triumphant smile.
Lux who used his hidden technique and Krulcifer’s stamina had already exceeded their limits.
They should have no spare energy to further defeat Barzeride’s private army from here.
The last plan considered so.
“I know. After all the Old Empire’s way of doing, I saw it enough times that I got disgusted when I was a child.”
“Kukukuku…, so that’s what you mean by you’ve resolved yourself, huh? Well then––”
The moment when Barzeride was about to send a dragon voice, or send a message through the dragon voice to his private army––
“––Are these guys your private soldiers that you talked about? They’re quite reliable people, eh.”
*gashan*. A man wearing an <EX Wyvern> was thrown down near Lux and company from the sky.
When Barzeride looked up at the sky with his eyes wide opened, a giant red dragon was there.
The New Kingdom Princess Lisha and her Divine Drag-Ride <Tiamat>.
One of the prominent strong persons (individuals) even in the Royal Military Academy was staying in the sky where clouds floated.
“Where did the other guys go!? There should have been 50 machines including mercenaries! I must quickly make them––”
“Lu-chan, are you all right?”
In response to Barzeride’s shout, a dull voice came from behind.
Having appeared carrying dozens of private soldiers whose armors were cancelled was Philphie wearing the Divine Drag-Ride <Typhon>.
“Sorry, but I will have you tell me all your evil plots, Lord Kreutzer.”
In addition, Sharis wearing a <Wyvern> declared so.
“Yes. Well, you can’t make excuse at this late hour. I also heard it. Resign yourself.”
Tillfarr with a <Wyrm> consented, and Nokuto who was behind her also put up her Machine Dragon’s arm.
“Yes. With the monitoring function of my <Drake>, I register (recorded) the conversation within range. About how you had threatened Krulcifer-san, a student of the academy. The suspicion of having employed thieves. And the suspicion of the rules violation of the duel as well as the attempt to kill your opponent intentionally. We had the people of the army you brought along confirmed all of this, so––”
“U, gu… uh!”
Sharis’s father was a soldier of the New Kingdom and he acted as vice-commandant.
Using that connection, she requested the guards of the Fort City to tag along and had them standby in the neighborhood.
In order to avoid interference, Barzeride deployed his private soldiers and had them dispersed people from the duel place, but those obstacles were easily broken through by Lisha and Philphie.
“Give up, “Title Holder of the Kingdom”.”
Lisha wearing <Tiamat> solemnly told so from the sky.
It was no longer Barzeride’s personal problem.
While being aware of his defeat, he executed his last action.
<Aži Dahāka> which already lost all its weapons turned its back to Lux and the others and started running.
“Wait! Are you trying to run away!?”
A dense forest spread immediately near the church site.
Had he also prepared an escape course?
Did he intend to escape from the Fort City, go back to his territory and leave everything unsettled using his influence?
Or, live under an organization outside the country and plan his revenge?
When he set up this match,
A translucent voice and a gunshot resounded in the church site.
Immediately after, the shooting of <Fafnir>’s special armament, the <Freezing Canon> froze <Aži Dahāka>’s armor.
Lux stared in wonder at the very precise shot of the girl whom he thought had run out of strength long ago.
“I said, right? That you should not underestimate me.”
Showing her usual cool smile, she muttered as if speaking to herself.
Krulcifer had the highest Machine Dragon aptitude value in the academy.
If she could prevent even the absorption of energy by <Aži Dahāka>, it would mean that she had accumulated enough power to be able to shoot back once.
<Aži Dahāka> which had already received fatal damage fell and completely shattered; and the user Barzeride lost consciousness.
“In the end, you are the only person who did not abandon me until the end.”
She suddenly showed a somewhat farsighted profile to Lux and continued.
Barzeride, who, though evaluating the girl called Krulcifer as the “best tool”, threw her away and fled.
“That isn’t true.”
The moment when she showed her sentimental side, Lux suddenly smiled at Krulcifer.
“When I said that I will go to the duel, everybody cooperated. Lisha-sama, Philphie and even every one of the Triad… So––”
As Lux looked at Lisha who landed next to him and said so,
“Is that right…?”
“Errr, well yes…”
Lisha who was suddenly accosted slightly blushed and averted her gaze.
“It seems that I got you to cooperate even when you saved me the other day. Besides –– it was Lux’s request after all. With that said, I beat that man’s private soldiers, so from tomorrow when the request will be over, give him back to me.”
“It’s me who beat more than half though.”
When Philphie muttered so behind her, “Ah geez, shut up!” shouted Lisha and dodged it.
Krulcifer seeing that chuckled.
As both of them cancelled their armors, Lux took Krulcifer’s hand.