Three days had already passed since Lux became Krulcifer’s “lover”. In order to handle the “lover role” requested by her, they continued life that looked like it as they did practice together or as a pair as much as possible and had their lunch together in the dining room. Thanks to that the initial awkwardness somehow disappeared, but. “Still, I’m envious of Krulcifer-san.” “But, it’s her who won the contest, so there’s no helping it.” “Yes. It’s frustrating, but they look good together. Be it appearance or ability––” One day after school when such voices had begun to be whispered among the female classmates. “Today after this, I want you to go on a date with me.” With her usual cool smile, Krulcifer said so. And it was still in the classroom in which many classmates were still present as the lesson had just ended. “D-Date!? Or rather, why are you expressly saying it here!?” “…………” Being turned a cramped smile by Lisha at a corner of the classroom, Lux confusedly protested. But, Krulcifer calmly acted flirtatiously and bent her head slightly to one side. “It just occurred to me, so I said it –– was it bothersome?” “I-It wasn’t, but…” “I see, thank you. I’m glad.” (N-No good –– I was completely sucked by her pace) “Kuh, endure it, endure it…” They came out to the corridor leaving Lisha who grumblingly muttering so in the classroom. Then, at the moment when there weren’t any signs of other students, Lux began to speak. “Um, that declaration just now, perhaps was it on purpose?” “Of course. If we don’t properly make everyone think that it’s the “real thing”, the messenger of the Einvolk House that will come soon will find it suspicious that it’s a fake.” “…………” To Krulcifer who smoothly declared, Lux could not say anything. “But… Even if you don’t go so far––” Even if it’s said that a messenger will come from the Einvolk House, would he go as far as to doubt Krulcifer’s words and try to collect evidence? “You will understand those circumstances right away. The date itself is true, so we shall prepare a little.” While curtly answering Lux’s question, Krulcifer said so in front of the dormitory. After returning to his room and preparing his outfit, he met with her in front of the school gate ten minutes later. “First, let’s go buy clothes.” They left the school premises and walked down the main street of the first block. Ahead of them after walking for about 30 minutes, was the commercial area for relatively affluent customers even among the Fort Cities. The noticeable establishments were upper class-oriented high-class hotels, restaurants, tailor’s shops, monasteries and free medical institutions. Stately mansions built on a large site were standing in a row in a place where Lux had not come by that much for odd jobs. The Fort City was also an important base for investigating the ruins. There were many Drag-Knights nobles living in this city, and there were also a lot of examples of even people living in the Capital having built a secondary residence here. Even now when the system changed after the outbreak of the coup d’état five years ago, such things remained unchanged. But––, “It’s really interesting.” Krulcifer walking beside him suddenly muttered. “Eh…?” “It’s not that rare a cityscape, right? For you, a former Prince.” She seemed to have said it as she saw Lux looking curiously around. “Do you often come to such places, Krulcifer-san?” “I rarely come.” Krulcifer’s reply was plain. “I see. I think that someone like Krulcifer-san is more suited for the atmosphere of such a refined town more than me––” As Lux looked at her profile while saying such a thing, “That isn’t the case. After all –– I hate it.” “Eh…?” Still looking forward, Krulcifer said clearly. “I don’t like people such as aristocrats.” “…………” After that, the conversation stopped for a while. (What the hell does she mean by that…?) Krulcifer was a daughter of an Earl of Ymir. The reason why she, who was from a prestigious family, hated the same aristocrats. I don’t think it’s for something as simple as antipathy to political marriages of convenience. “––Over here.” When Lux thought about such a thing, Krulcifer suddenly stopped. There was a big tailor shop decorated with a beautiful signboard and carvings there. “It’s a shop which seems to be quite expensive.” “Really? I thought that you, former royalty, was used to such things though.” When Krulcifer said so with a smile, Lux smiled wryly. “Having dressed in nice clothes in the Imperial Court is a thing of the past. I don’t remember it any longer.” “Then, it doesn’t seem to be so enjoyable for you, huh. Then, let’s finish this as soon as possible.” Saying so, Krulcifer entered the shop first. Lux followed after her. “…………” After measured his body size and choosing clothes, they had the tailor fix those according to his size. And, one hour later. “…Wait, was the shopping for my clothes!?” In the cityscape wrapped in dusk, Lux who came out of the shop unintentionally cried. “Rest assured. As far as you trying them on, you looked quite good in formal clothes. As expected of a former Prince.” Krulcifer returned so with a smile as if it was somebody else’s problem. “Whether you like it or not––, I can’t accept such expensive stuff!” Lux, who was bought formal clothes and shoes by Krulcifer, hurriedly declined. They settled with the tailor that the clothes would be completed after three days, but the fees seemed to have been paid in advance. “You do not need to mind it. It’s in the range of funds that I can use freely. It’s also not a great amount.” “…………” Lux had just brought clothes worth the amount of money that he would’ve spent in three months during the time he was doing odd jobs, so he once gain realized that she was after all an Ojou-sama. No, it might simply be that he did not just seem like a former Prince, but–– “We take the trouble to come to town, so shall we have a meal and then go back? I will pay.” They left the high-class commercial area and came out to a large street. Probably because of the time period when it was growing dark, there was nobody in the neighborhood and it was dusky. “U-Um –– as expected, even I can pay…” No matter how often he was made to go along with only Krulcifer’s plans, Lux also had his pride. “I kind of like such manly sides on a boy. Though you usually have a face like a girl––” “T-That has nothing to do with it, right!?” It had been a long time since he had his appearance spoken about, so Lux’s face turned red. At that time when the tension somewhat loosened––, “…!? Watch out!” At the same time as he shouted, Lux jumped towards Krulcifer and hugged her. Immediately after, something like a whip extended at high speed and wound the empty space. In other words, the space on the street where Krulcifer was standing until just a while ago. A passage slightly away from the upper class area. Lux was familiar with that weapon which extended from the shade of a vacant house. “A wire tail…! A Drag-Knight, huh!?” He promptly drew out his <Wyvern>’s Sword Device from his waist. “Don’t move! If you move, I’ll shoot!” But, almost at the same time, five Drag-Rides which appeared from the surroundings had set up Breath Guns towards Lux and Krulcifer. The five people operating the Machine Dragons were men who wounded their heads with a cloth. Their unfamiliar rustic impression totally harked back to thieves. “There are five <Drakes>, huh. We were careless…” Krulcifer seeing that raised both her hands as to surrender. Lux also reluctantly followed it and put his sword at his feet. “Remain like that. Don’t call any Machine Dragons. In any case, you can’t escape anymore.” The <Drake> –– these Machine Dragons called customized general-purpose Machine Dragons, unlike the other two kinds, had unique abilities. One of them was the power of “camouflage” they had used just now. It erases the drive sound and light, and conceals itself by lightly projecting the scenery of the surroundings. Therefore, they were able to nudge at Lux and Krulcifer’s opening and take the first move in downtown. “Well then, we’ll tie you, so can you stay quiet? It’ll be uncomfortable, but I will have you endure it.” The man at the vanguard said so within the darkness. Is their purpose kidnapping? They’re probably bandits aiming for Krulcifer, a daughter of an Earl. As Lux who guessed so quietly took a deep breath, “You’d better stop it.” He spoke like so towards the men. “What…?” To Lux’s attitude which, far from begging for his life, showed no signs of being perturbed, the male thief uttered a dubious voice. “Yes, you’re right, you’d better stop it. If you don’t want to be hurt, that is.” Similarly, Krulcifer beside him also muttered as to follow. “Fuhahahaha! This is why the aristocrat people are… You don’t seem to understand reality. Well it’s fine; you guys, catch them quickly–– gugah!?” The man in the vanguard who began speaking suddenly fell, leaning forward with his Machine Dragon and groaned. “…Wha!?” When the other Drag-Knights squared off, Lux led Krulcifer by the hand and began to run. “W-Wait!?” The remaining four <Drakes> who saw that moved in a hurry. When they were going to chase the two people so that they won’t escape into a narrow passage, “Errr. Will you stop?” A huge purple Drag-Ride stood in between Lux and the men. “What…!?” Divine Drag-Ride <Typhon>. It was a ground-type Drag-Ride specialized in close range combat that, although both arms weren’t equipped with weapons, overwhelmed the enemy in hand-to-hand combat with claws and fists. “Good evening. Lu-chan” His childhood friend who was the user of that Machine Dragon called out like so to Lux. “Philphie… You came after all.” As Lux smiled wryly and replied to it, “Hey Lux! I’m also here, you know!? Look here, too!” Lisha wearing the <Chimeric Wyvern> had already knocked down one Drag-Knight. “Lisha-sama!” “Why are you two in such a place?” “N-No… Um, isn’t it just a coincidence? It isn’t really like we were concerned about the relation between you two and followed you or something like that…” “Ah, I see…” As Lux turned an indescribable face to Lisha who averted her eyes and blushed, the three Machine Dragons driven by the remaining men Machine Dragon moved simultaneously. “There are only two enemies! Beat them and kidnap them!” The <Drakes> respectively set up their small-sized blades and attacked <Typhon>. But, “Eeih.” Contrary to the leisurely voice, a quick fist was let out by <Typhon>. A strong arm probably twice as big as a common Drag-Ride’s. The <Drake>’s right arm which was holding the blade that was hit with that fist was pulverized with one blow. “W-Whaaaat…!?” In front of the man who opened his eyes wide in surprise, <Typhon> made a somersault. The Drag-Ride, a weapon built up with metal frame, accelerated with swift movement like a wild beast. And, a kick of the Machine Dragon pierced through the body (of the Drake) which became defenseless as the arms were destroyed. “Ga…aah!?” The bandit was sent flying dozen of Mel behind and fainted in agony. The barrier which was deployed at maximum output was also smashed and the Machine Dragon’s connection was immediately cancelled. “Uwah…!?” Lux seeing that strange combat style could not help but cry out. “Is it your first time? Watching directly how she fights with her <Typhon>.” Krulcifer who escaped into the shade of an alley with Lux asked so. “Philphie. So you can do such things…” Taijutsu attacks using a Drag-Ride. Then, she caught the blade of another <Drake> with the palm of her Machine’s hand this time and crushed it in an instant. She launched a punch with the other arm almost simultaneously and smashed the armor with one blow. Philphie who had learned martial arts seemed to be good at close combat.
That human bullet attack which made use of the weight and output had the destructive power to easily defeat a general-purpose Machine Dragon even with defense. Such a flexible and quick carriage (movement) which made it hardly thinkable that she was wearing armor. Lux had never seen a Drag-Knight use a roundhouse kick from martial arts. “I-Is she a monster, this girl…!?” The fifth bandit, whose comrades were defeated in an instant, started escaping using his <Drake>. When the man turned his back as he escaped to the alley where it would be hard to chase him with <Typhon>’s big frame, “<Pile Anchor>” At the same that Philphie muttered, a thick dark gray wire was shot from the armor (shell) of <Typhon>’s both arms. “Wha!?” As the metal, which is at the tip of the wire that came flying bit at the opened <Drake> like the jaw of a big snake, the man was pulled back at high speed before Philphie. “That’s––!?” “It’s <Typhon>’s special armament. At first glance, it’s a weapon of the capture system like the wire tail, but it seems that it can be emitted from various parts of the armor and can capture an enemy within range.” At the same time that the <Pile Anchor>, which was shot from the left arm and caught the enemy, pulled him back at high speed, <Typhon> raised its right arm. When the forceful counterattack, that was released while drawing in the opponent, was about to burst in front of his eyes, “H-Help––!?” “I went a little far … I guess?” poof*, Philphie cancelled the <Pile Anchor>’s restraint and released the <Drake>. But, the <Drake> which had been pulled back at high speed toppled sideways by the force of inertia and crashed into the wall. ––It stopped moving. “Hey, airhead girl. Don’t let your guard down!” Lisha shouted while restraining the Drag-Knights whose armor was destroyed using the <Chimeric Wyvern>. “…Huh?” The moment when Philphie turned her gaze at the Drag-Knight that she had beaten, the man wasn’t in the <Drake>. When she looked around, the man could be seen running down a back alley as he cancelled the connection. Escaping after casting aside his Machine Dragon –– no. Ahead of where the man was running away, a slender woman was standing. “D-Don’t move! The woman there––!” Pulling a knife from his waist, the bandit shouted. He probably wanted to hold her hostage. “Watch out!” Lux unintentionally cried out, and was about to run to help her, but–– “There is no need to go help her.” He was quietly restrained by Krulcifer with a serious look. “Eh…?” Meanwhile, when the bandit approached the woman and was going to thrust the knife at her chest, “It’s really bad, eh. This country’s public order (security)––” kin*! Soon after the woman calmly muttered, the bandit’s knife flew in midair. “Wha…!?” “Please do not move. Otherwise, my hand will slip.” The bandit who fell on his backside on the spot had the tip of a long sword thrust at his throat. Countless silver lines were running on the surface of the long sword held by the woman. “A Sword Device…!? That person, who on earth––” At the same time Lux that muttered, the woman with a cool-headed expression calmly raised her face. “Long time no see. Miss” “Eh…?” Next to the confused Lux, Krulcifer sighed. “She is an acquaintance of mine. The butler of the Einvolk House, Alterize McClair.” “Then, perhaps she is––?” “Yes, she is the Einvolk House’s attendant who came to see how I do.” “May we change the place? This place is inappropriate to have a talk.” The woman called Alterize calmly suggested so. “…………” After handing over the bandits to the guard soldiers who arrived late, Lux and company followed after Alterize.
About ten minutes after they walked away from the scene. They decide to gather in a bar a little near the academy site and to have a light talk. Although access to bars was not allowed in school regulations, Alterize said that she would take responsibility. Lux, Krulcifer and Alterize sat on a table for three people, and Lisha and Philphie sat on the table immediately nearby. The latter two should originally have nothing to do with the matter, but they ended up coming together along due to the course of events. “First of all, well. It is good above all to see you in good health, Miss. Is what I would like to say, but––” Alterize glancing at Lux and the others, began to talk so. The Einvolk House, a noble House of the religious country Ymir and a prestigious family which produced Drag-Knights in large number. It seemed that she, who served as a butler, was herself an excellent Drag-Knight, and one of the strongest people called Ex-class in the religious country Ymir. “There is no need for unnecessary concern just because we are in front of my classmates.” As Krulcifer curtly said so, Alterize leaked a sigh. “Well then, straight to the point. Please be a little more careful. Your body belongs to the Einvolk House.” “Then, being targeted by thieves is also the fate of a prestigious family, so it can’t be helped.” “…………” In a tone mixed with sarcasm, Krulcifer returned like so to Alterize’s words which were somewhat disagreeable. Lisha, who saw it, muttered “What is it? Are they on bad terms?” at the table nearby. (But certainly, I feel like it’s a little different from a normal master-servant relation…) Lux who was watching it also had the same impression. Be it good or bad, it felt like there was no reservation to each other. “There‘s not much time before the curfew of the girl’s dormitory, so it will help if you make it short. The reason of you coming here is obvious anyway.” “It is because Miss is insincere like that that I had to come here.” To Krulcifer’s words, the woman butler returned in a strong tone. The butler Alterize with a strict character and the somewhat elusive Krulcifer didn’t seem have that good of a relationship. (Alterize-san’s business which Krulcifer-san says is… after all) While listening to their exchange, Lux recalled the circumstances until now. Krulcifer’s mission in which she must find a fiancé during attendance at the academy. About how he was asked to become her lover in order to deceive the attendant of the Einvolk House. “By the way––, who is that man?” Alterize suddenly said as she turned her gaze to Lux. “He’s my lover. It’s great, isn’t it?” “……!?” The moment Krulcifer replied so, the shoulders of Lisha who was sitting nearby twitchily shook and she looked at their table. “Your lover? That boy is…?” Alterize asked with a dubious face. “Yes. He may not be that familiar to you, but he is a Prince of the Old Empire, Lux Acadia. He is my classmate who commutes to the Royal Military Academy as the only male student there. Is there any problem?” “…………” “There is a problem. Lux will from now on in various ways–– Mmm…!?” “I-I will listen to you later, so please be quiet for now.” Alterize suspiciously stared at Lisha, who interjected from the table nearby, and Lux who held her mouth as to calm her. And after heaving a deep sigh, she muttered. “I see, that’s really troublesome, the truth is––” “Well, well––, I was looked down upon, too.” “……!?” To the man’s voice uttered suddenly, all the people present gasped in surprise. The man wearing a red, gorgeous overcoat with treated golden embroidery was standing behind Alterize. A tall and thin man who let his limbs peep out from under the overcoat. Although with his golden hair and upright face, he seems to be a handsome man of gentle manners at first glance, but his slightly hypocritical smile and sharp eyes let one feel a somewhat overbearing atmosphere. A knight with a strong confidence –– or rather, clad in an armor of ego. If it was someone seeing it for the first time, nine out ten people would have such an impression. Having appeared before Lux and company was such a man. “Lord Kreutzer!? Why are you here? I am sure that the dinner was scheduled for tomorrow, but––” “Yes, it isn’t like I’ve forgotten. Alterize-dono.” The man called so returned a smile to the surprised Alterize. “I may not look like this, but I’m an annoying guy about fixed dates, you see. ––But yes, if I dare to speak about my shortcomings, I’m a little bit impatient. I want to see the girl who will become my wife in the future one step earlier.” grin*, twisting the edge of his lips, he turned his face to Krulcifer. As he let his look crawl from her head to toes as if licking, the man satisfactorily nodded. “Ooh. She’s really a beauty as the rumors say. I may not look like this, but I’ve showed up several times to the social parties of the Capital, but–– I’ve never seen such a beautiful girl. Your bodily build is slightly modest, but I look forward to your growth.” “I am honored that you praise her.” Replying so was Alterize. “Alterize. Who is this person?” As Krulcifer asked so with a cold expression, “I see. It looks like you had not yet talk this through. Well then, I will give my name. My name is Barzeride Kreutzer.” “……!?” The moment when they heard the man’s words, tension ran through Lux and Lisha –– no, throughout the whole bar including the customers around. “…Don’t tell, one of the four Great Nobles!?” “Why is the “titleholder of the Kingdom” here––?” As several people inside the bar realized his identity, they turned their gazes with low voices. “You mean Kreutzer of that House?” Alterize nodded at Krulcifer’s question. “One of the four Great Noble Families with historical lineage which continued to this day since the Old Empire era. Particularly, it is a noble household which produces many knights and Drag-Knights from generation to generation. This gentleman is its heir.” (If I remember correctly, the Kreutzer House is––) Lux recalled after a little thought. It was indeed a well-known noble House as a noble, but at the same time it was famous as the hawks of the Old Empire. Regarding pedigree, influence and fortune, it was an outstanding House even in the New Kingdom.
But, the whole family’s way of thinking virtually inherited the Old Empire’s ideas, and Lux had not heard that many goods rumor about them from the past. “An heir of the four Great Nobles…? Alterize, don’t tell me you––” Krulcifer who heard this slightly knitted her brows. “Yes. While very selfish, I went ahead with the talk to introduce Miss to Lord Kreutzer by the dinner that I had scheduled for tomorrow, and have you exchange an engagement there. But––” “Why didn’t you inform me, the person concerned, of that?” As Krulcifer asked in a amazed tone, “It is because if I do not do at least this much, Miss will give a reason again and run away.” Alterize calmly replied without being shy. It looked like although the relation between the two girls was not good, they knew each other’s personality very well. In short, seeing through the action of Krulcifer of avoiding the engagement by giving a reason one way or another, Alterize seemed to have scheduled to bring the fiancé she personally chose. Thanks to that, it became quite a chaotic situation. “I see. But, it’s really a shame. As you see, now I have a man I’m going out with. Isn’t it? Lux-kun.” “Eh…? Ah, yes. Kind of––” Lux became confused as the subject was brought forth by Krulcifer. “Lux…? Ah, I see. That appearance––, so you’re a survivor of the Old Empire’s royalty. This is the first time we exchange words directly like this, eh.” Barzeride who was quiet until then approached Lux. After staring at his face for a while, he slowly opened his mouth. “Hmm… It’s a weak look hardly thinkable of someone from former royalty. As expected of a dog which was let to live by the New Kingdom’s amnesty. ––You’re really worthy to be called the Chore Prince.” “…………” A smile and tone including contempt. As Lux remained calm even when being shown such clear hostility, “Alterize-dono. Is there really a need to postpone this engagement because of a man of this level?” Barzeride added so as to incite him. “Certainly, he is from the former royal family. In such a meaning, he may have a lot of influence in various places, but now he’s just an unsightly fallen Prince. He’s a man only living by receiving others’ leftovers. I judge that he isn’t a man worthy of the lineage of the religious country Ymir’s prestigious family that you serve, the Einvolk family” “Certainly, that is––” The moment when Alterize was pressed and was about to consent, “Haa. Even if you claim to be from the four Great Nobles, it’s only to this degree after all.” A girl’s dignified voice suddenly cut off the conversation. The voice was from Lisha sitting by the nearby table. “To think that you can’t even see through the worth of the man before you. I’m really glad for having the number of rivals decrease, but could you refrain from such a rude tone? Lord Kreutzer.” After talking with a proud smile, Lisha scowled at the two people at last. Though he did not seem to be overwhelmed by it, Barzeride shot back a gaze. “If I remember correctly, you’re––” “First Princess of the New Kingdom, Lizsharte Atismata. Lux is the man who is going to become my partner. If you dare to insult him, then I will riposte.” After Barzeride remained silent for several seconds to Lisha’s sharp words, “…Kukuku. Hahahahaha!” He suddenly burst into laughter. “What’s so funny?” “What do we have here… so that’s it. It looks the fallen Prince of the Old Empire is quite good at currying girls’ favors. However –– the era from here on will be one of battles/fighting. Powerful people who destroy the appearing Abysses and win against other countries in the fight for ruins are sought above all. And we, the royalty and titled nobility, must excel at the skill in operating Drag-Rides. The power as a Drag-Knight and strength as a leader are sought above else.” Prefacing so, Barzeride once again turned his face towards Lux. “Unfortunately, I’m on an entirely different level from this man. It’s a waste of time. Alterize-dono, I would like you to arrange the engagement as soon as possible, even tomorrow would work.” “Yes. ––Then tomorrow night as scheduled.” When Alterize was going to settle so, “Could you wait for a moment?” Holding back Lisha who was about to complain again, Krulcifer said so. “Hou. What’s the matter? Do you want to talk with me? My future wife.” “From here on, power as a Drag-Knight and power as a leader are above else. You said so, right?” “Yes, the Einvolk House also thinks so. Therefore, Lord Kreutzer who is from the four Great Nobles and the “titleholder of the New Kingdom” is suitable as a fiancé––” “Is that really so?” As she interrupted Alterize’s words, Krulcifer revealed a smile. “What do you mean?” “If it’s about skill as a Drag-Knight, my lover doesn’t lose, too. Because he is the “Weakest Undefeated” famous at the New Kingdom’s tournament after all.” “Fuhahahahaha!” Barzeride who heard that burst into laughter once gain. “The “Weakest Undefeated”, huh. Now that you mention it, there was also such a shameful nickname, eh. But –– my future wife. Wise as you are, you understand, right? That a coward who only defends himself can’t gain anything.” “But, in the tournament of the Capital, it isn’t like you also won against him, right?” “What…?” “And, could you please stop that way of calling me “my future wife”? You and I are still just strangers.” “…………” The expression of Barzeride who heard that suddenly changed into a dangerous one. “Lord Kreutzer. Please excuse her rudeness––” When Alterize was hurriedly going to intercede, “I see. Isn’t the Einvolk House’s daughter quite a capable person. I like you more and more, Krulcifer.” Distorting his mouth into an arc, Barzeride remained composed. But, Lux knew. That behind his expression apparently calm at first glance, a quiet anger burned. “Well then, let’s see. How about a match between me and that fallen Prince? A duel with Drag-Rides, that is.” “––––” At Barzeride’s words, tension ran within the store. “L- Lord Kreutzer, that’s––” When Alterize uttered so in surprise, “Certainly, it looks like you didn’t inform her of the talk of engagement. It’s your fault for not having gotten her consent on this matter. However, there is no way she would consent if you forcibly concluded an engagement here, right? After showing my ability, the marriage would go smoothly.” Sending a gaze at Krulcifer as if asking, Barzeride said. His intention of wanting to make this stubborn, yet smart girl yield on this occasion was transparent and visible. “To the fight this time, there will be no “draw”, but you don’t possibly intend to run away, do you, Fallen Prince?” “…………” Being provoked, Lux hesitated to speak. Thinking about the future, he mustn’t stand out too much. He understood that well. But, “––Understood. I’ll do it.” After a slight hesitation, Lux nodded. If he did not accept the duel here, the engagement between Krulcifer and Barzeride would’ve almost been decided. He could not use <Bahamut>, but he had no choice but to do it. “No, I cannot afford to cause Lord Kreutzer trouble…” When Alterize could not consent and was about to interject as such, “On this occasion, why don’t you also participate in the duel?” Krulcifer suggested so calmly. “…What do you mean?” “It will not look good if I, the person concerned and you, the person in charge who approached with this matter are just spectators. We might as well make it a duel of two vs. two altogether; how is that?” “W-What are you saying now!? Please stop with the joke! Do you think that Lord Kreutzer would ride on this––” “It does not fit my nature to just be waiting for the result like a commodity.” As Krulcifer said so without hesitation, “Kukuku, I don’t mind.” Barzeride readily consent with a fearless smile. “Isn’t it good, Alterize-dono? A fight without grudge is the very purpose of the duel. Besides, I’m a pacifist, but there are often times when I want to go all out. After all in the tournament of the Capital, I instinctively hold back so that there are no injured” He extended his hand to the hilt of the sheathed Sword Device and swung it with a clank. Probably, a Divine Drag-Ride was stored in the scabbard with a showy ornament. “It’s regrettable for tomorrow’s dinner, but we’ll cancel it. Then, let’s say the night three days later. I’ll prepare the place for the duel. On account of the work, I’m staying at the Fort City for a while. Don’t run away.” When only saying that, Barzeride let his luxurious overcoat flutter and left the bar. “…………” A flaccid atmosphere flowed before long and bustle return to inside the bar. “Phew…” As Lux whose strain loosened sighed, “You two, do you know what you have done?” Alterize frowned with a tone as to admonish them. “Not only did you reject the engagement, but on top of that –– you also challenged a member of the four Great Nobles to a duel. You carried your joke too far. Lord Kreutzer possesses the Divine Drag-Ride <Aži Dahāka> and is skilled enough to be called “titleholder of the New Kingdom” in the Capital, you know?” Barzeride boasted of the record of last year’s third rank in the tournament of the Capital. Lux who had similarly appeared in the tournament also knew that, but–– “If it’s a Divine Drag-Ride, I also have <Fafnir>. There is no need to be so afraid, right?” Looking at Krulcifer who showed no signs of being perturbed, Alterize anxiously held down her head. And after several seconds, she raised her face. “I understand. However, that person’s ability as a Drag-Knight ––and his influence is something clear even in the New Kingdom now. And it looks like I have also spoiled you too much.” “Spoiled me? You were just afraid of touching the tumor, right? Same as the people in that House––” “…………” At Krulcifer’s smile which mixed sarcasm, Alterize tightened her expression. As she quietly stood up from her seat, she put some money tickets on the table. “I will leave it as it is for tonight. I will show no mercy in this fight with you two.” Saying just that, the woman dressed as a butler left the bar. (What on earth did she mean by “the people in that House”––?) Lux wondered whether anything happened between the Einvolk House and Krulcifer in the past. A strange silence flowed among Lux and the others. “It’s almost the time of curfew. Let’s already go back for today.” To Krulcifer’s words emitted before long, Lux and company decided to go back.
“––Just a while ago, I did something bad to you, Lux-kun.” Krulcifer muttered so as the four people were on their way back walking to the academy side by side. At her unusually depressed voice, Lux hurried shook his head. “No… But more importantly, are you really fine with that?” The mission of engagement imposed on Krulcifer. Though he had certainly heard about it, Lux was inwardly surprised at the emotional resistance that did not seem like her who was always calm. “I see, in other words Krulcifer didn’t want a political marriage of convenience and asked Lux to play the role of her lover, huh. Thank god… I’m now relieved.” Lisha stroked her chest as she felt relieved and then cocked her head in puzzlement. “But, that butler –– was it Alterize? For a mere butler, she is impudent, or rather she was a somewhat strange fellow.” “…………” Lux also felt it. Even disregarding the point that it was a strict noble family, he felt like that butler and Krulcifer did not have the ordinary master/servant relation for some reason. That it was something which was not a mere intimate or bad relationship. “Don’t mind it. Alterize has been like that since long ago after all. That aside, you saved me by accepting the duel proposed by Lord Kreutzer.” Krulcifer smiled and looked at Lux walking beside her. Being stared at by her transparent, beautiful pupils, Lux’s heart could not help pounding. “M-More importantly, is it all right? A duel with those two…” “Although I was calm at that time, it’s really troublesome, eh. If you could use that Divine Drag-Ride, there would have been no problem, but––” The “Black Hero” who destroyed the Old Empire five years ago. Lux could not afford to let Barzeride and Alterize know that he was <Bahamut>’s user. Moreover, in terms of strength the opponent this time was in no way comparable to the temporary instructors a few days ago. On one hand, an Ex-class’s Drag-Knight prominent even in the large country Ymir of the North. On the other hand, a Drag-Knight who was the user of the Divine Drag-Ride <Aži Dahāka> and the third rank in the tournament of the Capital. Even if it was a pair with Krulcifer who had the Divine Drag-Ride <Fafnir>, it could be said that it would be fairly tough to fight only with a <Wyvern> against those two people as opponents. “What, there’s no need to be afraid. Lux was able to defend with his <Wyvern> even against my <Tiamat> as the opponent. Then, other male Drag-Knights whose Machine Dragon aptitude values are low should soon be worn out if you gain time.” “It will be good if it goes like this––” Lux somehow guessed the meaning of Krulcifer’s words, too. In the tournament of the Capital, the battle time is a little short and rules had been established to be advantageous to men. There were traces of the rules established in the Old Empire era, but even if deducting it, it seemed that Barzeride would handle a Divine Drag-Ride without difficulty. Therefore, now that the Old Empire was destroyed, he’s called the “titleholder of the New Kingdom” as a leading figure of the new era. Lux did not know about <Aži Dahāka>’s Divine Raiment, except its name <Avestā >. Moreover, it was a duel where he could not aim for a draw this time. Fighting under such conditions, even Lux also felt somewhat uneasy. “You don’t get angry, huh.” As he was lost in such thoughts, Krulcifer beside him suddenly muttered so. “Eh…?” “Normally, you will be angry for having been dragged into such a duel. Even though you are not a real lover––” “No… It’s something I said myself after all.” Honestly speaking, Even Lux didn’t know why he had decided to accept the duel at that time. He would probably be scolded by his little sister Airi for that. “Thank you. I will say so first for the time being.” But, Lux did not regret anything. Rather, he thought that he wanted to know more about Krulcifer who thanked him shyly. “All right! Well then, let’s hurry back at once; I will strengthen Lux’s <Wyvern>. This time for sure, for the specification of attack specialization––” “Ah, you don’t need to do that…” As Lux returned a serious look and shook his head, “Kuh! T-Then…, I will equipped it with a special hidden function which I had thought about since some time now––” “You know?” Philphie who had been tagging along in silence until now muttered with a serious look. “If we don’t hurry, the curfew will pass.” “Eeeeeeh!?” They looked at each other and unintentionally cried out. They hurriedly ran back, but in the end they did not make in time. The early morning of the next day, the four people received the punishment of cleaning duty.
That night when Lux and company were hurrying on their way back, a meeting was held. Sitting on the seats of a round table illuminated by a chandelier were seven men and women dressed in dress, formal clothes or military uniform. The three people who sat down at the head of the table were Queen Raffi, the Prime Minister and the vice-commander of an army of the New Kingdom. The remaining four people were the most prominent Dukes called the Four Great Nobles. Family heads of prestigious families which governed the territories of the Old Empire for a long time, and held great influence and power even afterwards. There was a big middle-aged man with a good complexion, a white bearded old man whose eyes became hollow like a skeleton, a gentleman in his prime with well-ordered features and, a long-haired man who put on a dark red overcoat with an ornament of steel. That room where the New Kingdom’s influential persons gathered together was filled with solemn tension. “I wonder how many years it has been since we were all summoned like this.” The old man’s hoarse voice first broke the silence. “Isn’t it since the New Kingdom establishment? I almost forgot your faces. After all, business is going well in my territory.” “At any rate. Does this mean that Her Majesty the Queen needs our help?” Ignoring the middle-aged man who responded with a joke, the man in his prime summarized. The Queen who was asked calmly nodded and urged the Prime Minister beside her. “It is the matter of the letter sent to you two months ago. Regarding the Heiburg Republic and its three allied countries.” “Don’t tell it’s still the incident due to that black marketer? I heard that not only did he circulated a large quantity of Drag-Rides to the Heiburg Republic, but for some reason, he has also wholesaled suspicious devices (tools) in even this country, but––” To the old man’s voice, the Prime Minister shook his head and answered. “It is not about that. It is about the Ragnarok this time.” Hearing that, the middle-aged man raised his face. “Ragnarok, huh. I have heard about it several times from the Old Empire era, but to think it really existed.” Ragnarok. There are seven Abysses which concealed paranormal power of which it’s said that there exists only one for each of the ruins. It was said that the legendary class monster whose hugeness and strength were on an entirely different level from a common Abyss erased several towns and villages in the territory eight years ago in the Old Empire era and moreover, destroyed territories of other countries and even small countries themselves. However, because it was an event which the Old Empire’s administration had kept secret, only a restricted number of persons knew that truth even now. “I see. So you are trying to say that on top of this, the evidence about the Ragnarok’s existence, that was said to have appeared from the ruins of our country, was collected?” To the words of the man in his prime, the Prime Minister nodded with a bitter face. The serious damage which one Ragnarok, released after the Old Empire wrenched the ruins open, once brought upon every place in the world. The responsibility of that was demanded to the New Kingdom several years after the Old Empire was destroyed. On the occasion of the coup d’état five years ago, one of the government officials who fled into a foreign country spread a document of the Old Empire related to the Ragnarok, and the Heiburg Republic which took that proof had impeached the New Kingdom. “The Heiburg Republic was originally a major power second to the Old Empire. They have a big influence in the neighboring countries now. If we reject this appeal, let alone the three allied countries, we will make enemies of the whole world, right?” “Thus we shall discuss a counter-measure–– huh? But, wasn’t the Ragnarok’s subjugation completed seven years ago?” “It seems that it’s temporarily petrified and is just lying dormant. According to the scout’s reports, the petrifaction of the Ragnarok which is at the Lidneth seashore has begun to melt (loosen?) gradually a few months ago. Therefore––” “Do you want to say that they want us to engage it once again?” “The Heiburg Republic demands of us the Ragnarok’s subjugation. However, it’s too dangerous to fight the Ragnarok, which was finally put to sleep after cooperating with other countries even in those days, with only the New Kingdom army.” “Even if we make the small number of high level Drag-Knights strike all together, the odds of victory will probably be small. As expected, Divine Drag-Rides’ users have to lead the subjugation unit––” When they reached that conclusion, silence rose for a while. They understood even without any words. That the Ragnarok’s subjugation was accompanied with a high death risk. And that there was no suitable “Hero” which could settle it in the current New Kingdom. “––In that case, I will send my son.” “…Lord Kreutzer!?” Not having uttered a single word despite being there, the man who remained silent spoke. That man which wore the ornament of steel on his body and emitted an unusual intimidating air was named Warg Kreutzer. “My son has a Divine Drag-Ride called <Aži Dahāka> which he obtained one year ago. He’s also skilled at handling it and has enough ability to be ranked third in the tournament of the Capital. I think that he is qualified enough to be the commanding officer, but what do you think? Your Majesty the Queen Raffi.” Queen Raffi was cautious (looked out) to Warg Kreutzer who talked with a fearless smile. Among the Four Great Nobles, certain black rumors did not die out about the Kreutzer House. Dangerous rumors such as whether this great Noble who possessed a vast territory and was followed by many private soldiers was not originally scheming for a takeover of the Old Empire. “We cannot afford to expose Her Highness Princess Lizsharte to danger. Please, leave this matter to this subordinate.” “––Understood.” Queen Raffi finally nodded to Warg who suggested this while exaggeratedly bowing his head. At the same time, Warg revealed a smile as if to say that he was waiting for this time. “However, for this important task where I’m likely to lose not only the Drag-Knights of my territory, but also my son and his Divine Drag-Ride, aside from war funds, soldiers, and Machine Dragons, I think I would also like to have a certain reward.” “That’s––” “It’s the full authority on the Atismata New Kingdom army. I would like you to give me the position of General on the occasion when my son Barzeride achieved the mission.” With eyes full of ambition, Warg said so.