Fort City first block. A white stately mansion located in the dwelling district of the wealthy. Two persons were sitting on a sofa in a spacious living room. One of them was a man characterized by his blond hair and high stature, Barzeride Kreutzer. The other was an existence with sharp piercing eyes which put on a jet black robe and a hood which covered over his eyes. Inside, the house was illuminated by the sunlight flowing in through the windows and there was no presence of other people such as servants. “So –– how is it? The condition of the Divine Drag-Ride <Aži Dahāka> that I sold––” “Yeah. It’s splendid, my friend. I was finally able to perfectly master its Divine Raiment. I still content myself with third place in the tournament of the Capital for now, but––. If I feel like it, this country’s Drag-Knights will no longer be opponents for me.” To the existence with the robe, the blond man full of confidence answered while returning a smile. “I see; it’s as expected of you, my sworn friend. Then–– I count on you for the matter we have talked about.” Barzeride smiled at the familiar voice. “If I remember correctly, it was about me marrying that young woman of Earl of Ymir, right? The fact that she is a foreign woman will be a bit of a problem, but is there anything special with her?” “She is a “key”. The key to unlock the seal of ruins, she has that kind of power. In order to reach a deep level where humanity has never gone in until now.” “Then––” “Yeah, I want to entrust it to you. Therefore, it doesn’t matter whatever means you use. Be sure to conquer (subdue) her and by using her power –– I want you to wrench the doors of the ruins open. If you do so, I’ll leave half of the ruins’ treasures and this country’s rule which will someday fall into our hands to you.” “Kuku, I understand. That woman seems to be quite proud, but such a female is worth breaking. I’ll live up to your expectations, my friend.” Barzeride shook his shoulders and joyfully laughed. As he imagined his military rule in the future. “Well then, I will take my leave. You don’t need to see me off.” “Yeah, see you again, my friend.” Saying only that, the existence with the robe soundlessly left the mansion. After Barzeride went up to the second floor of the mansion, and saw with his own eyes from the window that the figure disappeared in the alley, “Hmph. Don’t think that you can tame me forever. Well, it’s fine; if you say I can use whatever means, then there are many measures to consider.” Saying so, Barzeride tightly grasped the Sword Device at hand and clicked his tongue. “I’m looking forward to it. This country’s next King ––will be me.”
“Phew…” It was the day after they agreed to a duel with Barzeride. Lux who welcomed lunch break in the classroom was a little sleepy. Since he handled a classmate’s request today from earlier this morning, he was a little tired. This was because he thought that it wasn’t good that he gave so much priority to Krulcifer’s request that he hardly listened to other girls’, but–– (As expected, I overdid it a little, I guess…) On account of his life of odd jobs, when it grew dark, he went to bed and made sure to relieve fatigue for the next day’s work, but, since he came to this academy, he had worked even more as much as he was usually taken care of. He didn’t know whether or not she guessed it, but Krulcifer unusually released Lux saying “I have some business to take care of today”. Though it wasn’t a bad feeling to live as Krulcifer’s “lover”, as expected spending time with her who was much more elegant than him was unexpectedly nerve wracking. Thus, when it had been long since he lazed; lying down on the desk, Tillfarr, one of the Triad, gently poked the shoulder of Lux who was half asleep. “Oh my, I see that your girlfriend isn’t here today. Lux-cchi, you’re lonely, right?” To the carefree smile like a flower, Lux raised his face with a wry smile. “Errr, is it for a work or something?” “Oh, you may say that, I guess? Seems like you’ve been abandoned. Then, can you tag along with me a little?” Tillfarr naturally took Lux’s hand and left the classroom with him. Other students who were withholding due to the matter of Krulcifer’s “lover” were showing faces saying “damn it, I was late”. “Okay. It’s here.” When they walked down the corridor a little, they arrived in front of a certain room before he was aware. “Huh? This is the drawing room, but––?” It’s originally a room for visitors or guests, but is it all right to enter now? As Lux was thinking so, “It’s all right. There is no plan for it to be used today, and we got permission from the Principal. Well then, I’ll go prepare, so wait. Ah, peeping is forbidden.” The mastermind Tillfarr who brought him along left Lux and went somewhere. “What on earth does this mean…?” Rather, what does she mean by peeping? Lux sat on the sofa while being puzzled, but probably because of fatigue, he had fallen into a light sleep. “N, Ngh…” “Sorry to keep you waiting! Then, excuse me!” When he suddenly woke up and raised his face, he heard a knock on the door and then Tillfarr’s voice. “Ah, welcome––, wait, eeeeh!?” Lux who was still half asleep couldn’t help but doubt his own eyes as he saw the outfits of the girls who entered. “––I’m coming in, Lux.” “Lu-chan. You’re drooling.” Standing there were Lisha and Philphie dressed in unfamiliar maid outfits. Following after them was Tillfarr holding plates of food in both hands. “So, in order to heal Lux-cchi’s daily fatigue, let us serve you. Master, rest slowly.” Looking at Tillfarr’s who winked and the other two’s appearances, Lux opened his mouth flabbergasted. It was a plain black maid outfit with a white brim, but as the clothes were a little customized, the skirt was cut rather short. As for Philphie, her big breasts were also emphasized and it was a very bewitching appearance. “Errr –– what is this?” “Well you know, master. I was also consulted by Lisha-sama as to how to make Lux-cchi happy. Because the Princess says that she doesn’t really know what can make a man your age happy, so––” “H-Hey. You promised not to say that, right!?” At Tillfarr who openly talked, Lisha blushed in panic. “––And then, we reached the conclusion that imagining the scene of the time when Lux was a Prince, and serving you as maids was the most pleasing to do.” “But, I hadn’t gotten maids to take care of me that much––” “Then, you should use this opportunity to fully enjoy it. We’re all amateurs though.” As expected of the class’s mood maker, she forcibly pushed forward the talk. Then, she began to display the dishes on the table.
Since it was just lunch time, too, they seemed to want him to eat here. (Is it all right to do something like this in the academy’s drawing room…?) Though it isn’t as if Lux didn’t think so just a little, “Um –– Is it troublesome? Doing something like this suddenly…?” Looking at Lisha in her maid outfit averting her eyes slightly embarrassed, he changed his mood. “No, I’m very happy. Thank you, Lisha-sama.” “……!? N-No, um –– f-for the time being today, you may think of me as being your maid and do somewhat indecent things like when you were young…” “I won’t do that!? What do you think I was when I was young!?” “I-I see. Tillfarr said that such things seem to be a maid’s work, too…” “…………” As Lux turned a surprised look, Tillfarr whistled acting as if she knew nothing. Though Lux found it really troublesome, he was honestly happy that they were concerned about him who was tired. “Lu-chan. The meal will cool down.” “Since it’s a rare opportunity, a maid will feed you. Lisha-sama.” “……!? A-As expected, that’s more embarrassing, or rather––” “…Shall I do it?” “N-No, let me do it after all. Can I, Lux!?” Though Lisha was somewhat reserved, she said so as to oppose Philphie. Then, she picked up a sandwich put on the plate and held it out to Lux’s mouth. “U-Um, thank you for the meal.” Since the other two were watching steadily, it felt somewhat awkward, but Lux ate the sandwich from Lisha’s hand. It had the taste and texture of fresh vegetables, ham, eggs, spices, and sauce. Since there was also the fact that Lux was also hungry, the sandwich which seemed to be homemade smoothly went into his stomach. “U-Um, how is the taste? Just to note, we had the dining room’s cook help us with it––” “It’s very delicious.” As he replied so to Lisha in her maid outfit who asked with upturned eyes, “Haw…!?” Lisha blushed and stiffened on the spot. “Lux ate it… It’s somehow very exciting. Doing something like this.” While leaking a seductive sigh, Lisha carried the sandwich to Lux’s mouth with tottering hands. The dish which was put on a large plate was eaten in no time. “Here, water. Afterwards well, let’s see; shall I massage your shoulders?” As Lisha was looking outside from the window from the room with an entranced expression, Tillfarr gave him water and gently massaged Lux’s shoulders. Then, Philphie who was silent until now also put a large plate on the table. “I made a dessert.” “T-Thank you –– wait, the dessert after the meal is this!? Isn’t it a little unreasonable!?” It was a circular pancake –– no, it which was made in seven thick layers could already be regarded as a cylinder. When Lux hurriedly questioned so, “…Lu-chan is, cold. Even though you gladly ate it long ago.” Abruptly looking away as if her pride was wounded, Philphie sulked. Pancakes were certainly Philphie’s specialty when they were young, but–– “N-No. I like this, too. It wasn’t so much in the old days –– b-but, it’s so nostalgic, I’m happy.” When he hurriedly corrected himself like so, Philphie’s good mood returned as she said “really?”. “Then, let’s eat together. We can finish it if we eat together.” Philphie showing a gentle smile and Lux began to eat the pancake tower together. After eating two layers, Lux was down and unable to continue; in the end, Philphie ate up the rest in the blink of an eye. Though it was quite interesting and was a feast for his eyes, Lux thought at last with a wry smile. (In the end, the three of them were not maid-like at all…)
“Oh, you finally came! I was waiting for you, Lux.” Then –– After school of that day. Lux showed up in the Drag-Knight’s atelier by Lisha’s request. The unique smell of metal and oil which acridly assailed his nose. And, countless assembled Machine Dragons standing in a row was a magnificent view no matter how many times one saw it. One could understand by seeing that Lisha had put on a white gown on her uniform, and was doing her work as an engineer. “Errr, so, for today’s work––” “W-Well…, leave aside the talk of work for the time being and make yourself comfortable. I’ll get you some tea now, so––” “Oh, then I’ll do it.” As Lux offered so due to his usual odd jobs’ habit, and was about to head to the small kitchen located in the back of the atelier. “No. There’s no need. I, the younger one, should do it.” “You should just sit down there, Nii-san.” “Huh…?” Standing there were two familiar girls, his little sister Airi and her friend Nokuto. “Why are you here, too––?” “We had a little business regarding Machine Dragons; since it’s a rare opportunity –– are we in your way? Nii-san.” Airi said with a somewhat implying smile. “Ah geez, Lux! Come back here!” Lisha who saw that called out to him from the sofa. “Geez, I can at least explain it by myself…” Judging from Lisha somehow discontented, Airi and Nokuto seemed to have forcibly intruded on here. After a while, tea poured into cups was carried, and Airi and Nokuto also sat down before the work unit. And, Airi spread several sheets of papers there. “This is––” “Yes. It’s the output analysis result of <Bahamut> that Nii-san uses. I observed the last battle on Nokuto’s <Drake>.” “…………” Lux slowly looked over the bunch of paper. Starting with the estimated output when he used the Divine Raiment, detailed records such as the estimated time of operation limit were written. Airi probably collected them over many hours for Lux to use <Bahamut> someday. By increasing the output, one would be able to momentarily generate a strong power, but in return, the consumption would be huge. A precise adjustment of the output of the Drag-Ride and each armament was carried out in accordance with the ability and aptitude of the user. However, unlike a general-purpose Machine Dragon, for a Divine Drag-Ride whose existence was confirmed and it was said that there was only one for each species in the world, there was no standard value of adjustment, and it was the present fact that analyses aren’t readily advanced. Especially regarding <Bahamut>, since Lux could not afford to use it very often, time was required to analyze it. But––, “While looking at it, I made a fine output adjustment to <Bahamut>. As expected, it was hard to do it until now since there was no data. I cut the output which is likely to be vainly used as much as possible, so I think you can fight quite easily more than before.” “Thank you, Lisha-sama.” As Lux turned a smile, Lisha suddenly blushed and averted her eyes. “Ah, yes… If you say it like that, then it was worth my doing my best. U-Um, as a reward, if you could hold me––” “Nokuto and I also helped, Nii-san.” “Ah, thank you both of you.” “Yes. I feel obliged.” “––H-Hey!? I haven’t finished talking yet!” Ignoring Lisha who shouted from behind, Airi continued the talk. “By the way, it doesn’t mean that I want you to fight for a long period of time. So, please do not act rashly. That –– you understand, right?” “Ah, yes. I know.” To Lux’s smile, Airi also returned a smile. “With that said, Nokuto. I cannot trust Nii-san, so I can only rely on you.” “Yes. Roger, Airi.” “Hey, hey!? What do you mean? You don’t trust me!?” “It’s obvious, right? Even though you always ignore my advices and rampage as you please.” “…………” When being told so, he thought that she was actually right; so his ears hurt. “Well, in tomorrow’s ‘Abyss subjugation’ and ‘ruins investigation’, as expected I don’t think <Bahamut> should be used.” Lisha suddenly muttered as she folded her arms. “Ah, speaking of which––” The ruins’ investigation by “Knight Squadron” that he was told about by Relie. The day for that to happen should be tomorrow. The objective was the subjugation of a Golem, a large Abyss which appeared around the ruins. As well as the sixth ruins –– Garden’s investigation. Originally, that mission would be carried out by a unit whose members were half composed of those elected from the “Knight Squadron”, but this time by Relie’s recommendation, Lux was also going to tag along as an exception. Of course, he could not afford to let <Bahamut>’s existence be known to the other members of the “Knight Squadron”, so he did not want to act too much rashly, but–– “Don’t worry. After all, the commanding officer this time is me.” Drinking tea contained in the cup, Lisha stuck out her chest. “While we are it, I also prepared the most recently drawn map of the “Garden”, so please keep it in mind during this evening.” “Ah, yes. Thank you.” Lux nodded and thanked Airi’s consideration. The ruins were labyrinths whose existences had been confirmed to number seven in the world presently and in which ancient technology slept. Drag-Rides, Abysses and unknown technology. This place was an existence which brought various things in the world and prompted rapid evolution and development in these past ten years. Among the three ruins which were in the territory of and around the New Kingdom, the sixth ruin, the “Garden” was the place where investigation had advanced the most in the present situation, but even so –– its whole aspect had not been clarified yet. But, since it was a matter which had continued since the Old Empire era, it was a path which could not be avoided. “This time, as expected Krulcifer won’t tag along. So, you may rely on me without reserve, Lux.” “Is that so?” To Lisha who tapped his shoulder smilingly, Lux returned so. “Yes. In her case, there is that “condition” after all.” Krulcifer was a foreign student of the religious country Ymir. Therefore, on the occasion of fighting in this Atismata New Kingdom, her unique standard was determined. When it came to the subjugation of a dangerous Abyss, Krulcifer should basically not participate. (I wonder if she’ll be right by herself. Krulcifer-san…) However, Lux was anxious about going and leaving her alone. It should be the safest if she didn’t go to the ruin investigation, but–– “Okay, this talk is over. Therefore, how about you young girls go back? I want to talk with Lux about a slightly personal matter, you see?” “A talk?” “Ah, yes… well.” When Lisha was about to begin talking, knock-knock* They heard a light knock. “Good evening!” Before they could reply, opening the door and entering was Tillfarr of the Triad. “What are you all doing? It looks very interesting, so let me in.” “As usual, you’re someone who can’t read the atmosphere…” Lisha turned reproachful eyes at the cheerful Tillfarr and sighed. “Why did you come here for? Tillfarr.” As she couldn’t just watch that without doing anything, Nokuto also of the Triad asked just as amazed. “Well, there is a message for Lux-cchi. From Principal Relie; she said that tonight after about five o’clock––, you’ll be able to enter the bathroom.” “Ah, I see.” At these words, Lux also forgot their talk about the ruins and stood up. About the bathing in the girl’s dormitory, Lux was basically prohibited from going in, but there was a certain period of time when he could use the bathroom; about once a week. When the female students finished their bathing and there were no other users, he was called out by the manager such as the dormitory leader and was allowed to enter all alone. Since he usually got it over with only wiping his body with a towel dipped in cold or hot water, bathing was a rare opportunity for Lux. “Then, even if I go––” “Hmm…, it can’t be helped. Let’s call it a day. Let’s talk about this another time.” With Lisha’s permission, Lux left the Machine Dragon’s atelier. And he went straight to the large public bath of the girl’s dormitory.
“Phew. It’s been a while since I was in a bath––” He carefully knocked on the door of the dressing room and bathroom, and after having confirmed that there was nobody inside, he put the plate “under cleaning” outside and took off his clothes. Although he had properly gotten permission from the Principal, as expected he couldn’t help being nervous just by being in the bathroom of the girl’s dormitory. Marble pillars, and the large bathroom which lamps faintly illuminated. After dashing hot water over himself at the washing place, he slowly washed his body and finally immersed his whole body into the bathtub. I was regularly bathing in my Imperial Court life when I was young, but after beginning my life of Chores, I was hardly able to take a proper bath; so this is also a side benefit, Lux thought. He relaxed his whole body and entrusted it to the buoyancy of hot water. The sensation of his muscles, which got tired with daily odd jobs and training, getting loose was comfortable. “Haa…” Originally a time of the supreme bliss that he could rarely taste. Nevertheless, there was a certain concern in Lux’s head. It was about the duel over Krulcifer’s engagement. There was no problem to the fact that it had come to a duel –– to the fight itself. However, aside from the woman butler Alterize, Barzeride was a dangerous opponent. And, he was also worried about Krulcifer who had also decided to fight. (I don’t really understand though. She doesn’t seem to have a very good relationship with her home––) Of course, since it was about Krulcifer, she was probably doing well; but it somehow felt like she did not trust the members of the Einvolk House. This might be because Lux, who was treated as a parasite among the imperial family before, put himself in her place that he ended up thinking so. “…………” Lux gently closed his eyes while being soaked into the bathtub. Tomorrow, Lux would join the ruins investigation by the “Knight Squadron” for the first time. “I hope we’ll be able to come back safely––” As he talked like so to himself. chapun*. The sound of water splashing could be heard immediately nearby. “Eh––?” When he spontaneously opened his eyes and looked at the figure hidden in the white steam, “…… Huh?” A familiar pink-haired girl looked at Lux with her absentminded eyes and tilted her head to the side. “––Wait, eeeeeeeeeeeeeh!?” Standing with a splashy sound, Lux could not help but draw back in the bathtub. As he flung his back on the wall, he finally grasped the present situation. “It’s rude. Lu-chan.” When Philphie who let her hair down said so with a serious look, “Ah, s-sorry–– not that!? Why is Phil…Phi-chan here!? Um, wasn’t there a plate “under cleaning” outside!?” “It’s because I came back late for training today. Onee-chan said that the bath is still opened––” “…………” At her indifferent words, Lux guessed. This situation was definitely Philphie’s mischievous big sister, Principal Relie’s doing. “Geez, what is she thinking!? That person…!” No matter if they were childhood friends, she should not let a young lady and a man their age sleep and take a bath together. It looked like Philphie herself did not mind it, but there was a problem after all. “S-Sorry. W-Well then, I’ll immediately go out, so––” As Lux, thinking so, was about to get out of the bathtub, “––Why?” Philphie returned a straight face. “No, after all!? Even Phi-chan hates it, right!? To take a bath with me, a man––” As Lux confusedly said so, “I will never take a bath with a man I don’t like.” Bending her head slightly to one side, she replied with a serious look. Lux’s face reflexively became red “N-No, I’m not talking about that––” When Lux said so while covering his eyes with his hand, “It’s been a long time since I took a bath with Lu-chan. It’s really nostalgic…” Philphie smiled as she said so in a hearty tone. “…………” Her tone looked really happy for her, who was usually taciturn, and Lux somehow hesitated about getting out of the bathtub. (N-No, but––, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s ethically wrong!) Within his whole body conflict and embarrassment seethed, Lux threw a fleeting glance at the figure of Philphie slightly away. It was beautiful.
Her big amber eyes and her flushed cheeks. Her fluffy pink hair got wet and slightly stuck on her skin. And, her white, firm skin and big chest which floated in the bathtub–– (Wait, looking more than this is bad…!) Lux looked away and somehow maintained his reason which almost collapsed unintentionally. As he threw a fleeting sidelong glance at Philphie after calming down after several deep breaths–– “…Kukah” “She actually fell asleep!? Wait, you can’t sleep here, Phil––” Unintentionally drawing near, he lightly shook Philphie’s shoulders soaking in the bathtub. Her vivid body temperature and the feel of her smooth skin. The rich swelling which shook together with Philphie shaken back and forth. (W-Wait, I can see her breasts…! From the front is bad!) Lux’s gaze was attracted to her half exposed big chest floating in the hot water, and his throat quickly got dry. In order to restrain himself, as he got up from the bathtub at once, put his hands on Philphie’s shoulders from behind and lightly shook her–– “Huh––?” For an instant, a strange sense of discomfort cooled down Lux’s mind. Lux himself, not knowing immediately the reason, stiffened for about several seconds. “Ngh… what’s wrong? Lu-chan” “N-No… M-More importantly, you shouldn’t sleep in the bath, Phi-chan.” “…Yes. Thank you.” Philphie who woke up turned her head to thank him. So as not to see her naked body over the transparent hot water, Lux, after averting his eyes, finally realized the true identity of the sense of discomfort. “H-Hey, Phi-chan” “…What?” “Wasn’t there scar on your back? A small one diagonally from the right shoulder––” “…Maybe there was. I don’t really remember though.” With slow movements, Philphie passed one hand onto her back and traced it with a finger. Right, I’m sure there should have been one. Lux remembered having heard that it was a scar she had gotten by having fallen down in her childhood before meeting with him. It was not that deep a scar, but one could tell by sight that it was an old wound. But, as far as Lux saw a while ago, the scar had neatly disappeared. Could the wound which left a scar that remained from the time of childhood be healed at this age? “Lu-chan. Be careful tomorrow.” “E-Errr…?” Lux came to his senses at Philphie’s voice. “You’re going to the ruins, right? I won’t also be able to go with you this time due to orders. It’s regrettable, but I was told so by Onee-chan.” He had the feeling that slight loneliness was mixed into her usually leisurely tone. It seemed that she wouldn’t be able to sortie together with them as a member of the “Knight Squadron” this time, too. Although a military power to protect the Fort City was also necessary, it isn’t like that problem did not occur to him, but “Y-Yes. It’s all right. I’ll come back again properly.” As he promised so, Lux, after having allowed Philphie to get up first, left the bathroom. –– About ten minutes later. In order to pass time so as to not see Philphie changing her clothes, it seemed to have been a longer, leisurely bath than he thought. It took a while for Lux, who felt dizzy, to return to his room.
And––, the morning of the next day. Lux and the members of the “Knight Squadron” had gathered to the waiting room of the practice field for the mission. The objective was the subjugation of a Golem, a large-sized Abyss which wanders around the ruins, and the internal investigation of the sixth ruins “Garden”. Lux and company were exempted from today’s lessons, and it was scheduled that they would return before the tomorrow evening The members who would sortie were about 14 people. It was planned that after defeating the large-sized Abyss –– Golem, a few elites with remaining power among them would enter the ruins. ––No, they intended to do so. “Well then, I will inform you of a few points about the change of plan of today’s strategy execution.” Instructor Raigree said with a slightly bitter face. As the one supervising the strategy this time, it plainly showed that an unexpected and troublesome incident happened. “First of all ––I will have the foreign student Krulcifer exceptionally participated in this strategy. Her participation to the strategy was strongly requested by the person herself. She asked not to have special treatment and to carry out the mission as a member.” “Eh…?” “Why did Krulcifer-san––?” The members of the “Knight Squadron” could not help but leak out voices of surprise. Lux also felt the same way. Even though by order of the religious country Ymir, she should’ve said that she would not get involved in dangerous missions–– “Please, take care of me. Everyone” The person concerned, Krulcifer simply got it over with a greeting without explaining her reason for tagging along. A volunteer to the ruins investigation which they didn’t even expect. Though that alone deserved enough surprise–– “And this person is––” “Ah, I will personally introduce myself. I cannot afford to cause you trouble, Instructor.” Lux was familiar with that haughty tone, and theatrically exaggerated behavior and expression which coerced others. “What is the meaning of this? Why is this guy––” The mutter of Lisha, who could not hide her confusion, could be also heard by Lux beside her. “My name is Barzeride Kreutzer. I act as assistant lord of the Bergeijk region. I graduated as the top student from a Drag-Knight’s military academy two years ago. I thought to offer my cooperation hoping to be of help regarding the duty of this Abyss subjugation as well as the ruins investigation.” “…………” Noise. Unrest which could not be hidden ran through the “Knight Squadron” which should be used to unusual events and fighting scenes (bravado). Which wasn’t surprising. No matter how you think about it, an aristocrat with a position to govern a territory –– and a former military employee at that suddenly participating in a mission of the “Knight Squadron” was not common. “Instructor. What the hell does this mean?” As if speaking for the voices of all the members present there, Lisha took a step forward. “That is––” When Raigree who was asked was suddenly at a loss for words, “No matter if he is a person from one of the Four Great Nobles and also associated with the army–– He is an outsider in this Royal Military Academy. I can’t consent that such a person suddenly participated in this important strategy. Is what you want to say, right? Your Highness the Princess.” “Hmm…” Lisha frowned at Barzeride who talked with a smile as he saw through her. “No worries, I don’t intend to interrupt or interfere in the mission contents. Help –– yes, I just purely intend to help. Rather, shouldn’t you be happy with that? After all, I, who gained the seat of third place in the tournament of the Capital, have volunteered for the shield role of delicate (frail) girls like you––” It was a statement which posed as a gentleman’s at first glance. However, his real intention which treated the female students here with contempt and looked down on them was clearly transmitted. (What is he planning…?) Even Lux could not yet understand what Barzeride had in mind. That alone was uncanny. “That is what’s called “minding your own business”, Lord Kreutzer. If someone who didn’t participate in the coordination training is added to the strategy, our actions will be inhibited, too. To begin with, if a “Big Noble” such as you were to be injured, the academy side could not take responsibility, either.” Even so, Lisha showed a will of refusal to Barzeride who did not changed his strong will. The other party was from one of the “Four Great Nobles” which had governed a very large territory from the Old Empire era. Lisha who was the New Kingdom Princess was the only person in this place that could speak as an equal. But, “You do not need to worry, Princess Lizsharte. I just stop by the Principal room a while ago and had written a covenant. Even if something was to happen to me, you will not be held responsible.” Barzeride calmly replied so. When Lisha turned a fleeting glance to the side, Instructor Raigree gave a small nod as she gave up. This matter had probably already been settled prior. “I see. I understand the situation. But, why going that far––?” When Sharis of the Triad suddenly asked, “If you’re asking for a reason, there is one. The girl who should become my future wife will be there. In case anything should happen in this dangerous mission––” Barzeride bragged with a smile. Small ripples spread among the members of the “Knight Squadron” that heard that. “…………” Krulcifer who was thrown gazes looked the other way seeming totally unconcerned. Was she disgusted or maybe she didn’t want to show a reaction? Or it might be both, Lux thought. “––Well then, I will have Lord Kreutzer act only as support in the Abyss subjugation. He will not be involved with the investigation. Understood, everyone?” When Instructor Raigree said so, there was no further objection. When the strategy meeting ended, Lux and company changed into dress gear and came out to the practice field. Afterwards, each of them equipped their Machine Dragons and began to move towards the target location, but–– “Um, Krulcifer-san. Why are you taking part in this mission––?” Before departure, Lux approached Krulcifer and asked. Participation in a dangerous mission should’ve been originally prohibited by order of the religious country Ymir. As Lux tried to ask the reason, “I will tell you in detail later. Right now, it is one of the few opportunities for me to achieve my purpose.” Krulcifer returned so in low voice to Lux while paying attention to the surrounding. What does she mean by the investigation of the ruins was her purpose? Is it also somehow related to Barzeride’s unnatural participation? Though Lux had such a speculation, “And, that has nothing to do with that person. When I forced the matter of my participation in this investigation to the Principal, I do not know where he heard about it from; but he just selfishly came along.” “Those are really cold words, eh, my future wife.” As he had heard their conversation, Barzeride appeared from behind Lux. Then he turned an affixed-like smile to Krulcifer. “Hey, can you stop with that future something? I remember having said that you and I are just strangers.” Krulcifer replied in a cold tone. If the woman butler Alterize who tried to make the engagement saw that, she would fly into rage, but “Ah, sorry for that. But well, I thought that the result of the duel that will be held tomorrow night has already been decided.” Barzeride returned so with a calm expression. A duel to decide the establishment or cancellation of the engagement. About that fight which Krulcifer was the prize, he was probably thinking that his victory was already a matter of fact. “Still –– it’s unexpected.” Then, as he turned his face to Lux who was immediately nearby, Barzeride showed a frivolous smile. “To think that a man who can do nothing other than defending himself is participating in such a mission. Geez, there is nothing more ludicrous than this.” A tone filled with clear provocation and contempt. Though Lux did not react and remained silent to that clear hostility, “Could you stop talking about unnecessary things, Lord Kreutzer?” Lisha suddenly called out in displeasure from behind. “And I’ll say this while I’m at it; Lux has the important mission of going into the ruins with us this time. If you intend to hamper the strategy by saying more nonsense like that, I shall ask you to leave right now. Even if you have some other purpose.” “Sorry for my rudeness, Miss commanding officer.” Barzeride replied in a polite tone and quietly withdrew. “You’re a lifesaver, Lisha-sama.” “Ah, no. Well… Yes, d-don’t mind it.” Lux smiled wryly to Lisha who scratched her head slightly embarrassed. “We will depart soon, Miss commanding officer.” “Tch, interrupting us when we’re in a good atmosphere… Well then everyone; equip your Drag-Ride. We are departing!” Being urged by Krulcifer, Lisha took command. Finally, the operation commenced.
A few minutes after they equipped their Machine Dragons and departed. All the members arrived at the ruins of the New Kingdom territory about 20 Km away from the Fort City. A huge white cube which had grown from the ground of a wasteland. That building called the sixth ruins –– “Garden” was endowed with an inorganic, majestic appearance. 『The target has been confirmed. Everyone, get ready for battle!』 Lisha who acted as the commanding officer this time urged vigilance through the dragon voice. Lux also overlooked the ruins while setting up his blade. “This is the “Garden”…” There were three ruins, which appeared from about ten years ago, existing within the New Kingdom’s territory. The ship type “Ark” floating on the open sea. The “Babel” extending from the land of the border, breaking through the clouds and soaring. And this “Garden” close to the Fort City. In the interior where six sides were surrounded by a square wall, there were a forest, lake, cave and the like, it seemed like a structure connoting one small world. It seemed that Machine Dragons and technology from the past were sleeping at the altar at the that center, but–– “It’s really curious. Is this also the first time for you, a Former Prince of the Empire, to be seeing this?” Sharis wearing a <Wyvern> and flying beside Lux accosted him as such. It seemed that only third-year students in the “Knight Squadron” had experience with investigation. “I have worked as a guard, guarding the surroundings due to odd jobs––, but this is my first time seeing it this close.” “I see. In this place, only the third-year students who came along have experience in investigations. You have probably heard about it in the prior strategy meeting, but if there is anything, you can ask me without reserve.” “Understood.” When Lux nodded, 『Hey. Be careful, everyone! Abyss confirmed ahead!』 Soon after, Lisha urged everyone to be cautious. At a closer look, a huge lump appeared from the shades of the “Garden” where there were several castles. “That’s––!” Reflected in the eyes of the Drag- Ride clad in Lux was a giant metal soldier whose half body was covered with rock scales. It was a kind of Abyss commonly known as Golem. A large-sized Abyss which boasted of its big frame and superhuman strength. Although it had weaknesses such as its slow pace and its monotonous attacks, it possessed a hard, sturdy metal body; it was proud of its power in which a single blow delivered from its weight was impossible to defend against and to which a fatal wound was unavoidable. Escape would be easy for a competent Drag-Knight, but the subjugation was a nearly impossible formidable obstacle. The only consolation was that because it was not an active kind for an Abyss, if one did not approach carelessly, there was a very small risk of being attacked; but since it had appeared, it could not be left alone forever. “It looks like it will be quite worth defeating it, Lux” Even so, Lisha calmly muttered while looking at the target. The distance between the Knight Squadron’s platoon and the Golem was about 500 Mel by eye measurement. It had been established by past battles that the location of its core was in the chest, but its outer shell would probably not be pierced with half-hearted long-range shooting. “Errr, in the prior strategy, if I’m not mistaken ––” Ordinary long-range shooting wouldn’t be able to make even a dent on it. First attract the enemy’s attention with the high mobility of a <Wyvern>, then attack its chest with <Wyverns>’ Breath Guns loaded at full power from the ground and continue shaving its shell until the core is exposed. The strategy which had been planned on the previous day should be something like this, but–– “It will take too much time.” “Eh?” As Lux reacted to that mutter, Krulcifer turned her face to Lisha. “Can you leave the diversion and attack to me? It will be faster that way.” “W-Wait a minute! Do you intend to do it alone!?” Lisha hurriedly tried to stop Krulcifer’s proposal, but she was not shaken at all. “It is possible with my <Fafnir>. If there is not any problem, then let me go.” “It’s certainly true, but––” “Then –– I will start moving.” The moment when Lisha was at a loss for a rebuttal, Krulcifer moved. “––!” Immediately after, not only Lux who tried to call out to her, but the members of the “Knight Squadron” also gasped. <Fafnir> accelerated leaving behind all the people present in an instant. (Fast…!) A speed to the extent that even Lux who possessed a superhuman kinetic vision and reading lost sight of her figure. With its extraordinary mobility, <Fafnir> closed in upon the Golem in an instant. Ooooooooh… The Golem which reacted to <Fafnir>’s approach issued a strange noise from its head and let its strong arm howl It pulled (wielded) its fist like a thick huge rock and let out a blow describing an arc. “Watch out!” The fist approached from behind <Fafnir> as it came too close. A female student reflexively shouted at the blow released from a blind spot. ––But, “Eh…?” The moment when it looked as if the fist hit, <Fafnir> evaded it without even looking behind. A minimum movement without too much waste considering it immediately moved after sensing the presence. It set up a sniper rifle and fired light bullets while coolly receiving the sudden gust which arose. Several shots impacted on the Golem’s opened underarm and bluish white lights burst. Guh…! Ooooooooh! The Abyss raised a groan and launched an attack with the other arm, but Krulcifer did not move. “Krulcifer-san! Dodge it!” Lux raised his voice this time, but Krulcifer still floating in mid-air did not move an inch. But, a strange thing happened again. Whether it used up all its strength or its posture was broken by the shooting earlier, the Golem’s fist stopped exactly just before hitting Krulcifer. “…Eh?” Using that opening, Krulcifer once again pulled the trigger.
The precise shooting which could also be called divine feat which she showed in the mock battle again the temporary instructors before. But, even if it had been hit by an attack of several shots, the Golem did not move an inch. “I’ll go, too. As expected, it can’t be defeated with just a rifle. We have to cooperate––” I don’t know why, but Krulcifer hurried ahead. As Lux who intuitively felt so was going to back her up, 『You do not need to come.』 Through the dragon voice, Krulcifer’s voice could be heard for all of the members of the Squadron. 『It looks like I will soon defeat this enemy.』 “Eh––?” The other members, at the same time they blankly opened their mouths, understood her reply. Guh, …Oooooooooooooooh! At first glance, the movement of both arms of the Golem almost stopped. “Looks like it.” Lisha who had worn the <Chimeric Wyvern> took a breath as she saw it. It had been frozen. The mechanical giant soldier covered with thick rock skin. The joints of both elbows and wrists were frozen and its movements were sealed. “That is <Fafnir>’s special armament –– the <Freezing Canon>. It basically has the same high efficiency of a sniper rifle, but that armament holds the ability to freeze the parts shot. It’s a troublesome weapon which, if you defend, would freeze you together with the part used to defend. In the case of a mock battle with her, you can’t help but avoid her attacks.” “... Amazing.” While listening to Lisha’s explanation, Lux leaked a voice of admiration. She said to avoid, but it was probably a level where it might be said it was impossible to evade all the precise shootings of that <Fafnir>. “By the way, <Fafnir>’s Divine Raiment seems to be the ability of future foresight called <Wise Blood>. It was probably thanks to that, that she was able to one-sidedly attack while dodging the enemy’s attack earlier.” “That was <Fafnir>’s Divine Raiment––” A Divine Raiment of offense and defense which foresaw an opponent’s attack and aimed at their opening. Moreover, Krulcifer had precisely frozen only the joints of the Golem. With that –– the enemy could no longer fight back. As its chest was finally also frozen, the Golem began to behave violently as it struggled, but because of its own weight and muscular strength, the self-destruction of its joints began. 『Krulcifer, leave the rest to us. I’ll finish it off with long-range shooting.』 When Lisha was going to call out to Krulcifer with the dragon voice, Guoh… Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! The Golem with neither mouth nor eyes raised a muffled roar. At the same time, its huge head cracked opened like a cotyledon which buds. “……!?” The moment when Krulcifer raised her guard, a straight flash was released from the huge jewel which was there. It would be meaningless if she didn’t consciously activate the precognition ability which is her Divine Raiment. “Krulcifer! Deploy a barrier!” Before Lisha had finished shouting, a line of light flew to <Fafnir> and an explosion occurred. Boom! With a roaring sound, the storm and impact reached up to Lux and the others who were away. “Krulcifer-san!” Lux could not help but raise his voice, and headed to her rescue with his <Wyvern>. But, “I remember having said that you do not need to come. Lux-kun.” Suddenly, Krulcifer’s cool voice tickly struck Lux’s ears Soon after, a needle-like shooting released from <Fafnir>’s <Freezing Canon> pierced the Golem’s frozen chest. “Eh…?” The moment when the white smoke which was obscuring the field of vision cleared up, it was reflected on Lux’s eyes. She was unhurt. On the front of <Fafnir>, seven octagonal shields tinged with a bluish-while light were unfolded. “That’s another special armament of <Fafnir>, <Auto Shield>.” Such explanation flew from Lisha from behind. “A defense type armament which automatically protects the main body in response to an enemy’s attack. It is said to be several times harder than an ordinary barrier.” An armament which symbolized solid scales symbolizing the gigantic dragon Fafnir. Lux couldn’t help but feel admiration before her ability to easily use up the two special armaments. Precise shooting impossible to defend, high-speed mobility and moreover an impregnable defensive barrier. Krulcifer who boasted of a flawless strength overwhelmed the Abyss all alone. “But, to be able to manage the Divine Raiment and the special armaments to such extent, is related to Krulcifer’s aptitude value.” “Aptitude value, huh?” “Yes. Her Machine Dragon aptitude value is exceptionally high even among the female students of this academy. Normally, it’s an unbelievable numerical value. In such a meaning, you’re quite unnatural, too.” Saying so, Lisha turned her gaze to Lux. “That’s––” When Lux raised his voice, Gu… Ooooaaaaah! The Golem whose chest was torn by <Fafnir>’s rapid-fire and core crushed collapsed. The frozen joints broke to pieces with a roaring sound and dust soared highly. “She did it!” “You’re amazing, Krulcifer-san!” As they were released from the tension, the female students of the “Knight Squadron” raised cheers. “…………” But, Krulcifer, in contrast to her comrades in high spirits, was staring at the outer wall of the “Garden” with an expression as if brooding over something. 『Eeih, be quiet! We’re still in the middle of the plan.』 Lisha shouted at the unit by dragon voice as to chide them. “Well then –– we’ll get down to the ruins like this.” At that moment, Krulcifer plainly declared so. 『W-Wait, Krulcifer!? It should have been planned that it will be the members of the Triad, Lux and I to investigate the ruins!』 The investigation of ruins was also accompanied with the danger of the appearance of a new Abyss. Therefore, a few elites would penetrate the ruins and a powerful person would also be left outside and prepared just in case something unexpected happened. In such a meaning, the members who had not fought yet and still had spare energy left should participate in the investigation, but–– “I can still fight. So, you don’t mind, right?” “Krulcifer, san…?” (Is she by any chance… impatient?) Lux was perplexed at Krulcifer’s behavior which was calm at first glance, but somehow hard-pressed. As it is, they started moving to get down to the “Garden”. Something doesn’t feel right. When Lux thought so, “Kukuku. As expected of my future wife. That’s a splendid skill –– but” In the rear, Barzeride who came along wearing a general-purpose type <Wyrm> suddenly laughed. When Lux had his attention attracted by his voice for an instant, 『Everyone! Be careful –– something is coming!』 Tillfarr who was on land raised a voice of warning. 『Signs of an enemy confirmed by radar. It’s a new type of Abyss.』 The moment when Nokuto with her <Drake> added that, it could be seen. “…!? W-What is that? …!” A Knight Squadron’s girl wearing a <Wyvern> leaked a small scream “Don’t tell me…!” In the sky where the cloud of dust had cleared up, a strange-looking demon was floating. A big frame which easily surpassed a standing big bear’s, reddish brown skin and huge jet black wings. It was a monster which let its dagger-like fangs peep out all together in a line and savagely twisted its dark red mouth. It leaked a smog-like purple breath, occasionally opened wide its bloodshot eyes and licked its lips. It showed no sign of hiding at all. But, it slowly and surely shortened the distance to the Knight Squadron. “If I’m not mistaken, that’s––” “A Diabolos… huh!” Lisha, frowning, cried. Lux had also never seen it until now, but he had already read about it in the ruins’ investigation book. A brutal medium-sized Abyss strong enough to able to destroy a small town. It was a type of Abyss among the flying kinds just like the Gargoyle which he had fought before, but it was an existence several times more dangerous than the Gargoyle. Probably because it rarely appeared, there were no details written about it even in the books in the library of the Capital. But, by confronting it like this, they were naturally aware of how dangerous it was. It was said that this was a creature which must not exist in this world. “––Gieeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!” Raising a growl-like scream, the Abyss’s eyes shone. When most of the members reflexively shrank their bodies, the Diabolos kicked the sky. “Shaaaaaaaaa!” It caused a gust which burst the atmosphere and with an explosive speed, swooped down on Nokuto who was wearing a <Drake> down below. “––!?” Although Lisha and the others who were in front of the ruins also reacted, they could not catch up. So as to mow the girl’s face which revealed despair, its stout arm was keenly swung down. I won’t make it in time! When anyone who was there thought so and was about to cover their eyes, a sharp metallic sound resounded in the sky. “Kuh…!?” Using his large blade as a shield, Lux stood in between the Diabolos and Nokuto. “Lux…san!?” “It’s fine–– so get away!” Nokuto, realizing that she would get in Lux’s way, hurriedly jumped back. A tremendous weight as if being hit by an iron stake. Lux defended against the blow let out by the demon with perfect timing and position; that blow had a power to the extent that the blade got cracked. Moreover –– that alone could not completely stop it. Lux tried to crush it with an inhuman, herculean strength from the position where he stopped the blow. The small fissures on the blade turned into a crack with cracking sounds. (At this rate –– it’ll break!) When Lux perceived danger, Boom! A light beam emitted from the canon of the <Chimeric Wyvern> was fired at the Diabolos’s flank. “Guaaaaaaah!” The Diabolos which perceived it struck Lux’s <Wyvern> with its other arm, leapt back using the recoil and avoided the canon. At the same time, it sneaked behind Sharis who came close in order to help Nokuto. “What…!?” Sharis, turning around, slashed at it with her blade –– but, far from being avoided, it had been caught by the Diabolos’s right hand.
“Kuh––!?” Her weapon caught, Sharis’s judgment suddenly became dull. The demon’s left arm which was thrust out using that opening was frozen. “Guooooooah!” Krulcifer’s <Freezing Canon>. Using that opportunity when the demon’s attack was stopped, Sharis abandoned her caught sword to get out of the Abyss’s range. When the Diabolos also took distance at the same time, deep sighs leaked out from the Knight Squadron’s members. A face-off after taking distance. In this unpredictable situation, the sound of unsheathing (a sword) could be heard suddenly from behind. “––Well then, it’s my turn soon, I guess.” The owner of that leisurely voice was Barzeride who tagged along. Slightly behind from Lux and the others, he cancelled the armor of his <Wyrm> and equipped a new Machine Dragon which he summoned. His body changed into a Drag-Knight with thick armor dyed in ultramarine like midnight black. “That’s––” All the people present, while also being cautious of the Abyss, turned their looks towards his Machine Dragon. Divine Drag-Ride <Aži Dahāka>。 Barzeride’s Divine Drag-Ride which could only be used against high rank opponents even in mock battles in the Capital. It was the battle figure of the man called “Title Holder of the Kingdom”. “Fuhahahahaha!” At that moment, Barzeride’s loud laughter resounded, and the canons connected to both his shoulders moved. <Aži Dahāka>’s special armament already seen in the tournament, <Devil’s Glow>. The two muzzles were charged with purple light and suddenly spouted flames. The two flash of light attacked aiming at the Diabolos –– but, the enemy evaded the attack by a hairbreadth escaping into the sky. “Kyaah…!?” All the members of the “Knight Squadron” held their breath at his attack. They had reflectively dodged it, but <Aži Dahāka>’s shelling had grazed the members of the “Knight Squadron”. But, Barzeride whose shelling was evaded still turned a composed smile to Lux. “How’s that, fallen Prince? Do you want to play a game with me? About which of us will defeat that Abyss first––. If you can defeat it before me, I’ll make it you guys victory at this point in time and withdraw that duel’s promise.” “Quit the joke, Barzeride.” Before Lux could answer, Lisha cut in with an uncanny look. “This isn’t hunting for fun! If you intend to do more unnecessary things than this, I’ll first beat you up here.” However, Barzeride simply ignored Lisha’s anger and continued. “Aren’t you confident? Lux Acadia.” “Kuh…!” In contrast, Lux ground his teeth as he heard that. Though Barzeride was probably serious, the problem was not there. ––This man fired at a distance which also involved the members of the “Knight Squadron” around in the shelling. If by chance something was to happen, this man for sure –– intended to cover it up as an “accident”. “You––” At this time when Lux’s voice trembled in anger, “Would you please stop fooling around?” Krulcifer who came back to his side broke in with an unusually serious voice. “Kuku, that’s quite a cold attitude, my future wife. But, I’ll allow that much. That’s why you’re worth being conquered.” <Aži Dahāka>’s armor bowl softly tapped on <Fafnir>’s shoulder. After calmly shaking it off, Krulcifer took a deep breath, “I will dispose of the enemy earlier than you. In that case, there is no problem, right?” She declared so with a cool expression. “Ooh, how promising. So, you still have spare energy left, huh.” “Krulcifer! Don’t act rashly! Retreat temporarily and fix your posture!” Lisha ignored Barzeride’s statement and said so. But, “It’s all right. I will not cause you trouble with my rash actions this time. Besides –– time is precious.” With an expression which repressed her feelings Krulcifer set up the special armament <Freezing Canon>. And, she flew towards the Diabolos which was far away and was watching the situation. Lux was surprised by the action of Krulcifer who was good at long-range shooting. “Krulcifer-san!” It was probably in order to draw away Barzeride’s attention and not let the others become involved. Certainly, Krulcifer was the owner of an outstanding ability even among the Knight Squadron’s members, but that Diabolos was not an ordinary Abyss. “This time for sure –– I will shoot it down.” At the same time as she approached the Abyss, she set up the <Freezing Canon> and aimed at it. Since she could use the Divine Raiment future foresight in offense and defense at point-blank range, Krulcifer should have the advantage. Or at least, it should like that. “…!? Why did <Fafnir>’s foresight––?” The moment of opening hostilities, agitation ran through Krulcifer’s profile and she stopped moving. Not overlooking that opening which suddenly appeared, the Diabolos spouted hellish flames. “Guaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!” “––––” Dispelling the cold of the <Freezing Canon> shot reflexively, scorching raging flames approached Krulcifer. “Watch out!” Lux who rushed at once at max power thrust Krulcifer away. “Ushaaaaaaaa!” Although Lux did not end up being rolled into the flames, it directly received the fist of the Diabolos which drew near as it followed. “Guh…!” He issued a muffled groan and was knocked down on to the ground as such. “Lux!” As the same time that Lisha and the remaining Knight Squadron’s members shouted, they poured concentrated fire on the Diabolos. But, that barrage of more than ten shots was all dodged with smooth flight movements. “Kuuh…!” When all the members over there were astonished at the enemy more formidable than expected–– “––Good grief, so my help is necessary after all.” From Barzeride’s <Aži Dahāka> which was on the ground, a shelling of <Devil’s Glow> was released. As if it was natural, the Diabolos dodged it with mobility which did not match its big frame –– but, “Guaah!?” On its chest, a halberd was sticking out as if it grew. “…Eh?” Lux and Krulcifer who saw it, no, all the members present were dumbfounded. For a moment, no one had noticed that that halberd was a close-range weapon thrown by <Aži Dahāka>. Among the Drag-Rides’ weapons, the halberd was a heavyweight class weapon. Besides the abnormality of Barzeride with <Aži Dahāka> which threw it at the speed like an arrow, the problem was the applied process. The Abyss was in the sky with no obstacles around. Even if Barzeride could predict that the Abyss would dodge, he shouldn’t be able to predict where it would dodge to. It was a blow as if he foresaw the future like <Fafnir>’s Divine Raiment, <Wise Blood>. “Guru…. Aaaaah!?” Maybe because it was fatal wound which reached its core, the Diabolos suddenly stopped moving; and while its whole body went into convulsions, it began to spout blue blood. “This game –– it’s my victory, right? Fallen Prince.” Barzeride who saw that looked at Lux and Krulcifer and contentedly smiled. But Lux did not care about such a thing now. “…Why? I––” Although ostensibly uttering calm voice as usual, But, Krulcifer was confused to the extent that Lux had never seen before. This was probably because the future foresight by <Fafnir>’s Divine Raiment, <Wise Blood> suddenly became impossible to use. Moreover, the Abyss had been shot down by <Aži Dahāka> operated by that Barzeride. The girl’s calm and perfect face had been distorted with unrest by these two unlikely events. “Kuhahahaha! As expected, there is nobody who can match me, Lux Acadia.” Barzeride’s shrill laughter resounded around. He’s certainly strong. He possessed strength outstanding enough to be called “Title Holder of the Kingdom”, Lux thought However, (Something doesn’t feel right––) When Lux had his attention attracted by that sense of discomfort for a moment, “Don’t relax yet!” Lisha’s voice could be heard from a distant place. “Gu, aaaaaaaaaaah…!” The Diabolos which suffered a fatal wound, vomited blood and fainted in agony. Its chest with a hole opened that was gaping wide suddenly swelled to more than double its size. “…!? Leave quickly!” The Knight Squadron’s members who saw that hurriedly shouted. 『Everyone, deploy your barrier at max power!』 Immediately after Lisha’s shout was heard through dragon voice once again, red cracks appeared on the Abyss’s whole body and it was tinged with light. Among the Abysses, several kinds of individuals who self-blasted had been confirmed. When all the members took a defensive posture, Lux noticed that something was strange about Krulcifer who was beside him. “Why doesn’t it move? My <Fafnir>––” Next to Lux, Krulcifer’s airframe began to shake with a rattling sound. Despite the impending danger approaching, the shield of the special armament <Auto Shield> on the contrary dropped from around <Fafnir>. The control confusion due to the user’s exhaustion –– the rampage began. “Krulcifer-san!?” Immediately after, the Abyss’s body exploded with a flash. A scorching torrent born with a roar swallowed everything along with screams. With the blast and impact, it was impossible to breathe. Enduring a pain as if his lungs and heart would be crushed, Lux desperately embraced the dumbfounded Krulcifer, thus becoming her shield. Then, he lost consciousness.
The sound of rainfall could be heard. What he recalled was the memories of more than five years ago. A carriage which broke had rolled down the cliff along the route where a forest was close by. Whether the ground collapsed or the wheels came out, or it slid due to rain, the cause was unknown. Although it was said that it was cliff, it was not so high. It was just a height of about four Mel from the route above the cliff. But, the coachman and horses had already died by the impact of the fall. There were only two survivors; a lady dressed in a plain dress –– Lux’s mother was also bleeding from the head, but she was still breathing. “Please! Please, help us! We are from the Imperial Family! We are the Acadia people living in the Phillend territory!” While holding his arm broken at the time of the fall, he desperately shouted. It was an incident of two years ago that Lux’s mother’s side family was alienated by the Imperial Family and banished from the Imperial Court. After his mother’s father –– that is, Lux’s grandfather stated a candid advice for imperial politics, there seemed to have been a dispute there, and his grandfather was sent to prison for the crime of defamation and Lux’s family was treated coldly. After being banished from the Imperial Court, they had been living modestly on the outskirts of the Capital, but this accident occurred when they went for an outing from the house. “Please! We will reward you. If I don’t take her to a doctor as soon as possible, my mother will––” A few carriages were coming and going on the route above the cliff. The sound of rainfall was not strong. Though there was also fog, his cry for help should reach there. But, no one responded to Lux’s voice. “Please! Somebody! ––!?” What came down instead of a response were stones. Blood flowed from Lux’s forehead and half of his silver hair and face were dyed red. Looking up ahead, despair was standing. “Shut up! You damn kid!” “That’s right! Do you know what you royalty and nobles have done to us!?” “Even if we won’t help you guys who have been banished from the Imperial Court, we won’t be accused of crime! Just drop dead like that, you bastard!” The figures of people filled with hatred and raising voices of resentment. The day when Lux learned that reality for the first time. All the fights began.
“Ngh… Hum…” Lux woke up with an anguished groan. His body became stiff when he tried to move, due to the dull pain as if his whole body was fractured. “…!? That’s right, everyone is––!” Recalling about what had happen just a while ago, Lux forcibly got up. Then–– “Eh…?” Lux’s surrounding was covered with a grass thicket which grew in abundance, rugged big rocks, a lake which was visible from the gap in the trees and a ceiling which illuminated the ground with a soft light. It was a mysterious place as if he lost his way in an uncivilized forest. “Where the hell is this place…?” “Probably –– inside the sixth ruins “Garden”.” “Uwaaah!?” At the voice which he suddenly heard from behind, Lux’s body shook in surprise. When he looked back, Krulcifer wearing dress gear like Lux was standing; her Sword Device hung to the belt of her waist. “I understand how you feel, but do not shout that much. I have not grasped the situation yet, so it is dangerous.” “Ah, sorry…” At her usual very calm, and composed expression, Lux was a little relieved. She was calm now unlike the Krulcifer of a little a while ago. “What on earth happened? If I remember correctly, the Abyss exploded and––” “Immediately after the Garden shone, it looks like the people and things around were drawn to inside here. It’s also only a little while ago that I woke up.” Saying so with a sigh, Krulcifer sat down beside him. “Thanks to you protecting me, it looks like I’m all right. Thank you.” “Ah, no. I’m glad that Krulcifer-san is safe.” As Lux unintentionally looked, there was a bag containing tools for investigation at the place where he was sleeping. I thought that he had lost it during the battle, but it seemed that luckily this had also been drawn to inside the ruins. “Beside us, it seems that several members of the “Knight Squadron” were also sucked in, but other than that, I don’t know the rest of the details.” “If I’m not mistaken, when we entered the ruins, our course of actions was already decided, right?” Lux took out a memo of the strategy operation from his bag. The “Garden” had a system such that the gate opened and closed by a cycle of fixed times. There were access gates in each wall side of the six faces of the cube, and at the same time as the opening and shutting, things from outside were drawn in, and things inside were ejected. “In case the invasion to the inside of the “Garden” succeeded, the first move is aiming for the altar in the center. Afterwards, carry out the investigation in the altar for about two hours max and then move to the gate of the inner wall after completion. Wait for the opening and closing time and return outside. It will be like this if we proceed as planned, eh.” Krulcifer who seemed to have memorized the strategy contents confirmed as she read smoothly. “Yes. But––, now…” An unexpected incident had already occurred and the situation was different from the usual investigation. It was a state of emergency where they were attacked by an unexpected Abyss and the members were also scattered. Under the present conditions where they didn’t even know how many other members were drawn in, the Knight Squadron’s members’ safety should be top priority. “Well then –– let’s head to the altar at the center tomorrow. Everyone should surely gather there, too.” Krulcifer calmly muttered. “Is your body all right, Lux-kun?” “Y-Yes, well––. Not that, is it okay!?” “What do you mean?” Being asked so with a serious look, Lux hesitated. Then, he alternately looked at the memo in his hand and Krulcifer’s face in panic. If they were in perfect condition, it would be reasonable to proceed with the ruins investigation like this. But, in case that there were casualties or that the members’ fatigue was profound, they should cancel the investigation and a judgment about withdrawing should be required, too. In that case, they should camp near the gate of the inner wall from the start without going to the altar which was the center, and wait there to escape by the opening and closing of the ruins. In other words, in this case–– “We shouldn’t overdo it. Um –– we also have that duel tomorrow night… Even your body is tired, isn’t it, Krulcifer-san…?” <Fafnir>’s rampage shown earlier. The failure of Krulcifer who is always calm and composed. What Krulcifer desired should be the cancellation of the engagement plan selfishly forced on her. For that, preserving her strength by not overdoing it in this mission and then winning the duel against Barzeride and Alterize should be the ideal scenario. And yet, Krulcifer was trying to forcibly defeat the Abyss a while ago. Though Lux felt uneasy at that behavior that was too much unlike her, “It’s all right. At that time, I was just a little tired, and I’m not injured. What about you?” As she turned her usual calm voice and look to him, he wasn’t able to say the words he should say. “I’m also all right, but… ––Ah.” While touching his body, Lux noticed, The blade of the <Wyvern>’s Sword Device which was hanging onto his waist lost its light. This state showed that the corresponding machine was in a “serious damage” state. Like this, he could not even summon it let alone wearing it as armor. <Bahamut>’s black sword was fine, but since he couldn’t use it just like that, it would probably be the last resort. “I wonder if it is broken. It’s because you protected me, huh.” “N-No, we were both safe, so we’re pretty lucky.” Considering that situation, that much was helpful enough. However –– when thinking about tomorrow’s duel, it was also a troubling problem. “If you want, you can just wait in front of the gate without overdoing it here. I’ll go alone.” Krulcifer said not in a sarcastic or provocative tone, but in an earnest one. That instead stimulated Lux’s uneasiness. “N-No––. I’ll also go! I can’t let you go alone, Krulcifer-san!” “…Thank you.” To Lux who expressed his strong will, Krulcifer revealed a relieved smile. The moment when Lux’s heart skipped a bit at Krulcifer’s slightly feverish gaze, “By the way, Lux-kun. You –– are you good at cooking outdoors?” “Eh…?” Krulcifer suddenly said that and looked up at the ceiling of the wild wall. “I do not know the theory behind it, but in this “Garden”, the system seems to be such that it will become dark in conjunction with outside time. At this rate, it will be night soon.” “E-Errr, um––” “In the case that we are in the “Garden”, camping goods such as firewood can be procured locally. This was also written, right?” “Ah, yes…” To Krulcifer who had suddenly returned to her usual self, Lux did not know what to say. “And –– the securing of drinking water is necessary, too. The points (locations) of drinkable spring water should have been sketched on the drawn map from past investigations, so can you please give it to me, too?” “Ah, I understand that, but Krulcifer-san is…” “I will watch over the baggage near this vicinity. I’ am counting on you, Lux-kun.” “…………” She had asserted like so with an extremely calm face. In a peremptory tone… “T-Then, I’ll be right back, so be careful, too, Krulcifer-san––” “Lux-kun, you are a man after all. How reliable.” When she earnestly said so, he could no longer complain. (B-But well, it somehow feels like it’s been a long time since Krulcifer-san behaves like herself.) He was still feeling pain here and there, but since he had shown off, he could not pull back. That’s what being a man is, Lux thought. (I feel like I have been beautifully led around by Krulcifer-san, but…) Lux, enduring fatigue and dull pain, collected firewood and drinking water and decided to take a rest that day. ………… There was no sun in the “Garden”. Nonetheless, the light of the ceiling disappeared just as if the day had set, and nature and the neighborhood were wrapped in azure darkness. They made a small bonfire at the waterside and built a simple tent stretching a cloth on the side of rocks and trees. As they nibbled the dried meat and rye bread which were in the bag and finished their simple dinner, they were finally able to settle down. “Speaking of which, I wonder if everyone is safe…” Lux anxiously muttered so. He presumed that Lisha and the others who were near had probably also been drawn inside the ruins, but he did not know. “If there was <Drake> user we would be able to detect the position of biological reactions and Machine Dragons .Though that is also impossible in this situation.” “Which means, we can only advance to the altar at the center. If we’re lucky, we might be able to join them there––” “…………” As silence filled the neighborhood, Lux was thinking. About the fact that Krulcifer did not seem to have an ordinary relation with the Einvolk House. About the reason why she was so obsessed with this ruins investigation. And–– “We should decide soon about the lookout and sleeping order.” As if sliding into Lux’s thinking, Krulcifer muttered. Fortunately, there were no ferocious carnivores inside the “Garden”, so they didn’t have to worry about being attacked by a beast. But, there was also the possibility that an Abyss might appear in the “Garden”, so as expected they should avoid relaxing their vigilance openly. “T-Then, I’ll look out first.” When Lux proposed so, Krulcifer quietly nodded, “Understood. After a little time has passed, please wake me up.” As she lied down on the sheet which was a simple tent, “Don’t attack me, okay?” “I-I won’t do something like that!?” To Krulcifer’s teasing voice, Lux unintentionally shouted. “I see… But just to note, you have a criminal record.” “Like I said, that was a misunderstanding!? That I’ve broken into the bath before was because––” “Yes, I know. Judging from how you panicked, you surely will not do anything. Well then, good night.” “…………” As usual, he was played with. When Krulcifer turned her back on Lux, she began to leak a sleeper’s breathing (the breathing of a person sleeping) calmly after a while. “Ruins, huh…” After sighing once, Lux looked up at the dark space. An existence which should also be called the treasure warehouse of the world that brought about a tremendous development due to Drag-Rides and ancient documents. The fight to solve its mysteries was accelerating as time passed. It appeared to be what Fugil had said; Lux was also in possession of the golden horn which could summon the Abysses, but there was no reaction so far. Was the key to reaching the ruins’ depths that Airi who, deciphered ancient documents, was talking about was something different? And on the night of the next day, a duel with Barzeride was waiting. “It would be good if nothing happens…” Towards the ceiling of the Garden where the sky could not be seen, it looked like invisible dark clouds were hanging over.
One night passed in the “Garden” –– the next day Lux also seemed to have fallen asleep before he was aware, and when he woke up, Krulcifer was sitting in front of the bonfire. It looked like Lux himself was unexpectedly quite exhausted. After he had the same meal as yesterday, they began to walk to the place called the “altar” at the center. They did not use Machine Dragons to move because Lux’s <Wyvern> had been greatly damaged. Though <Bahamut> and <Fafnir> were available, now when fatigue still remained, there was the need to preserve them in case of emergencies. In this sense, it was a situation where they couldn’t let their guard down even for a moment. “It looks like it is going to rain.” Krulcifer who was walking in front while holding up her hand to her face said. “It looks like it is going to rain.” “Rain? Does it even rain in this place?” “Based on past records, it looks like it. It seems that the structure has not yet been clarified though––. Let’s hurry.” Krulcifer said so and accelerated her pace. But immediately after, her slender body suddenly staggered (slanted) a bit. “Watch out!” When Lux hurriedly supported her body, it was tinged with a high fever. “Krulcifer-san. Don’t tell me that’s––” The reason why she left the physical work to Lux for last night’s camping. If Lux’s prediction proved right, they should return as soon as possible. “…I am all right. I also said so yesterday, right? Thank you for helping me.” But even so, Krulcifer began to walk looking only forward. A small amount of sweat oozed on the nape of her neck. The inside of the “Garden” was by no means hot. Lux was convinced that her leg was injured. “It’s just a little twisted. It’s not a big deal.” “As expected, shouldn’t we go back? I’ll take you until the gate of the inner wall with <Bahamut>, so if we just stay still there––” “I am sorry.” As she painfully cast her eyes down, Krulcifer still did not stop walking. “I must by all means go. This is one of a few chances I have, so––” “…I understand.” Therefore, Lux also decided to go on. “In return, let me walk in front.” As he said only that, Krulcifer also nodded slightly. For a while, the two people silently advanced. “Hey, Krulcifer-san.” “…What is it?” As if to loosen the awkward atmosphere, Lux called out to her. “Krulcifer-san, why were you looking for the “Black Hero”?” At Lux’s question, Krulcifer remained silent for a short while. “For the same reason that I am heading to the altar now. There is something I would like to know by all means.” She lowered her gaze and softly muttered. “Have you heard from anyone that my Machine Dragon aptitude value is strangely high? Normally, no matter how rash human acts, there is a limit for the continuous operation of a Drag-Ride. But––” “But?” “If the legend of the “Black Hero” is true, if he really annihilated the imperial army in one night, then that Drag-Knight has almost no limit. Surely just like me –– something like that.” “…………” Unable to say anything at Krulcifer’s meaningful words, Lux continued walking. And after about ten minutes, “This place is, um––” Krulcifer and Lux had finally arrived at the altar at the center. Around a circular floor, white columns stood in a row and a silver gem placed on the central platform was tinged with a mysterious light. A strange structure (Object) which they seemed to be familiar with and unlike any other thing. It (Object) which was made of the same white metal as the walls of the “Garden” was the altar. “It looks like we are the first to arrive, huh…” Krulcifer quietly approached that jewel while looking around. “Well then, we will wait for everyone here––” When Lux proposed so, 『Ga, gagaga…』 A strange sound could be suddenly heard. “……!?” Though Lux and Krulcifer placed their hands on their Sword Devices to their waists at once, “An Abyss… it doesn’t look like it!? This voice is –– a person’s!?” 『Ga, gagaga…! Existence of the <key> recognized. Performing special code unlock. If there is no problem, begin the transfer.』 A voice which directly resounded within the brain like the dragon voice was suddenly audible. “This sound!? Is it by any chance from this altar––!?” At that moment, the pattern depicted on the floor emitted a dazzling light. “This––!?” They reflexively closed their eyes –– when they opened them, all the scenery had changed. “––It looks like we were transferred to the inside.” An inorganic corridor surrounded by bluish-white metallic plates and where innumerable rubble rolled. It was the inside of the altar that they had heard about. “This place, is my…” When Lux was surprised at the unfamiliar scenery, Krulcifer moved as if she was in a hurry. And, when she put her hand on a strange box-shaped object, a white light ran. 『Confirming key’s authentication. By level authority, removing lock to the second layer management room.』 “The object, talked…!?” To that mysterious occurrence, Lux opened his eyes wide in surprise. The strange voice which was emitted from the object. Has it reacted to Krulcifer? “So…I was right after all, huh.” With a small sigh, Krulcifer’s hand separated from the object. And then she slowly walked towards a shelf which was in the side of wall side of the room. “Krulcifer-san!? That place––” Numerous <Boxes> were placed on the shelf. Inside the ruins, boxes which stored Machine Dragons’ parts and ancient documents –– <Box> existed. However, because the seams were firm and couldn’t be opened, originally there should be no other method of opening it other than bringing back the entire box with a Machine Dragon, and then taking time to break it, but… “…………” 『Confirming key’s authentication. By level authority, removing lock to the second layer management room.』 Krulcifer, with a serious look, softly held up her hand to the edge of a Box and moved a finger as if softly stroking the space. “Eh…!?” With only that, the box, which should not open, completely opened with a small sound. Inside of it, there were numerous general-purpose Machine Dragons’ armaments and parts, and a bunch of papers written in ancient characters. Krulcifer looked over the pages of the ancient document as she turned them. Each time she shook her head while saying “that’s not it…”; she walked to the doors at the back. The metal walls lying on top of one another automatically opened by her only touching them. Ahead of that, there was a staircase which continued further underground. “I still don’t know. Deeper… I should search deeper. ––!” While muttering, the moment when she put her hand on the opened door at the back, Krulcifer’s body suddenly fell. “Krulcifer-san!” “Uh…” As she shook her head in order to shake off the pain, Krulcifer tried to get up. But, she could not get up straight. Her body which Lux supported was tinged with a strong fever. “So hot, don’t tell me…?” “…I’m all right, I can still––” 『Gagaga…, pipipipi––!』 The moment when Krulcifer answered like so, vibrations ran around. “An earthquake? No––” 『Danger. Due to vibrations, the inside collapsed. Please evacuate to a safe room.』 Soon after the voice was emitted from the object, as it said the ceiling began to crumble. “……!” Supporting Krulcifer who could no longer move, Lux slipped into a nearby room. The vibrations settled and the surroundings regained its silence once again. ……………… “It looks like the outside of the door has been blocked with rubble.” Having escaped from the collapse for the time being, Lux who heaved a breath of relief muttered so. Though the collapse was small, as expected this layer seemed to be dangerous. That was surely the result of various predecessors breaking and digging through the building in order to get Machine Dragons and materials related to them. Depending on the location of the ruins, there also seemed to be parts which became relatively fragile. “Let’s settle down for a little while. With your body like that, it’s impossible to use <Fafnir>. I’ll look over the situation around here a little, so––” After the vibrations from the collapse settled, Lux told so to Krulcifer who cast her eyes down and stood up. Probably because of the shock, most of the light around disappeared and darkness wrapped the vicinity. “…I am sorry.” He heard a faint voice from the girl who hung her head down. “No. Don’t worry about it. More importantly ––eh?” When Lux was going to state his concern about Krulcifer’s body, her thin fingertips softly held his hand. “Could you allow my selfishness just for a little bit? I would like you to hear my story.” “…………” “I am not a human of this world. I am–– a survivor of the ruins.” “A survivor…?” Lux couldn’t help but become speechless at the words suddenly spat out.
“I see, so –– were you able to confirm her function as a “key”?” The same time at Fort City. In a room of a stately mansion located in the dwelling district of the wealthy, two figures were sitting, facing each other. They were Barzeride Kreutzer called “Title Holder of the Kingdom” and an existence wearing a jet-black robe. “Yeah, I expressly tagged along for sightseeing, but in order to protect that woman from the Abyss’s explosion, it looks like I was drawn to the ruins. When you expressly came here to say that I should marry a woman of the religious country Ymir, I wondered what it was about –– but with this, I understand now.” Barzeride contentedly muttered so and inclined the wine glass in his hand. “If we get that “key”, it will be possible to arrive at the depths of the ruins. Wonderful. With this, I will get the “strongest power” and the “greatest fortune”.” “That’s good for you. Then in order to control her easily, shall I sell you a special medicine? I can make a docile –– living doll for you.” The figure in robe said so as he warped his mouth. Although his eyes couldn’t be seen as they were hidden under a hood, his voice was distorted with bottomless malice. “I’m sorry, but I don’t use those kinds of means.” But, Barzeride calmly shook his head while returning a smile. “I took a liking to that woman, you see? If I don’t make her yield directly with my own hands, I won’t be satisfied. Be it the pride or dignity she has piled up, I’ll pin all of it and make her become my thing. In this country, women are no more than tools for us men to push on our way to the top. I have to make her thoroughly understand that. Her skill as a Drag-Knight is also excellent, and besides –– even as a tool for night time, it looks like I can enjoy it for a long time.” “What a good hobby you have, “Title Holder of the Kingdom”.” The figure in robe who understood his intention contentedly nodded. “But for the engagement with her, it has turned into a strange duel. Do you have any chances of victory?” “That’s a stupid question, brethren.” As Barzeride replied immediately, he softly touched the hilt of the Sword Device hung to his waist with his fingers. “The Divine Raiment of <Aži Dahāka> which I bought from you is the strongest. I don’t feel like losing no matter who the opponent is. Even if that legendary “Black Hero” is to appear, he won’t be a match for the current me.” “Yes, Speaking of which –– there is one thing I have to tell you about that, Lord Kreutzer.” The figure in robe changed his frivolous voice to a serious one and told so. Opening his gray pupils, hidden in the shadow, wide to the limit, the man laughed. “The Old Empire’s legend –– the Black Hero’s true identity and his Divine Raiment. Don’t you want to buy this information?”
“I am not a human of this world. I am–– a survivor of the ruins.” To Krulcifer’s words, Lux could not help but freeze. In this altar room where they couldn’t move from due to the collapse, a quiet voice resounded. “A human of the ruins…, don’t tell me––” “I was found in the ruins of the religious country Ymir––, a place called the “fourth ruins – Hole”. No, saying that I was excavated would be correct.” “By that, what do you mean?” “Do you remember the <Box> of a little while ago? A treasure box in which the inheritance of the old times sleeps in. Similarly, it seems that I was sleeping within a box with a form different from that. I, who was still very young, that is. At that time, the Head of the Einvolk House who was doing the ruins’ investigation –– and currently my foster father found me.” “Then, for the Einvolk House…” “Of course, since it is a proper House, I was taken in as an adopted child. Or so I thought. They probably have some kind of expectation from me. They should have wanted me as a clue connected to the ruins –– and a lost past. I, who had no memory at all of the past, was living in the Einvolk House, knowing nothing about such a thing.” “…………” “Around the time when I was also enough, I had understood that I was an adopted child. My parents, my siblings, the employees, everybody was somewhat distant, so I naturally became aware of it. That I–– was different from the people of this house. That’s why I worked very hard. In order to please to everyone and in order to have them accept me as a member of the family someday. Really no matter how hard things were, I endured them and kept working hard.” “Krulcifer, san…” “And like that, before I became aware, I was called a genius. Be it study or etiquette… also as Drag-Knight, I was recognized as a first-class user. But… in the end, the thing I wanted the most, I was not able to obtain it.” “…………” The Einvolk Family, A distinguished family of knights and Drag-Knights. Because she had no blood relationship, the girl struggled for a place to stay. So, she piled up ability and results through years of hard work and reached the top. But––, “No. Far from it, before I became aware, they became more distant. The harder I was working, the bigger the distance to them became. I, who possessed a skill to the extent of being given a Divine Drag-Ride at this age, was avoided by my siblings before I was aware. As expected, it was because of the fact that I am a creature different from them. One day, I had accidentally heard about it when my father and my big brother were talking.” Resignation and loneliness were mixed in the tone of Krulcifer who talked indifferently. “And finally like this, I was also kept away from the House. The rampage that occurred in the ruins of the religious country Ymir; after that incident, I was treated like an angel of death and thus sent to another country. Not having taken my Divine Drag-Ride was probably in order to give some weight to it as an article for sale.” “Is that why you were so obsessed with this ruins’ investigation?” “Yes… I always wanted to confirm it. Whether I was really a human of the ruins. I thought that maybe what I had heard until now was some kind of mistake, and that the real me is just an ordinary human and a person from the Einvolk House, but––” Treasure and technology which slept in the ruins. Lux understood that she was not interested in such a thing that many people sought. “My true identity is, after all, a human of the ruins. After seeing the ruins’ reaction to me, I’m now sure of that. But–– I was not able to remember anything about the me and the events of the past.” Quietly casting down her eyes, Krulcifer sighed. “Y-You cannot jump to conclusions yet! It isn’t as if you examined everything here, too; and perhaps, there might be other clues in the ruins in Ymir––” “No, it’s fine already.” “Eh…?” To the words which suddenly fell, Lux could not help but doubt his eyes. Krulcifer’s lean figure was trembling little by little. “I have already become scared now, so… I wonder why. Even though I hated so much the family of the Einvolk House… even though I wanted to know the truth, if I came to know that I am really an outsider and “different”, then I would become helplessly frightened. If I continued to explore the ruins here, and if there was any other people from the ruins like me or ordinary people accepting my existence –– When I think so.” “Krulcifer…san” To Krulcifer who showed a fleeting profile, Lux silently stretched his hands. “I’m sorry. For having made you go along with my selfishness, for such a nobody like me––” “That’s not true!” Lux raised his voice, and grasped Krulcifer’s hands. “Lux…kun?” “Neither the religious country Ymir nor the Einvolk House matters. Krulcifer-san is a friend the same as us, and for now –– my love… partner right?! So –– no longer say such lonely things…”
Lux, who became embarrassed at his voice which got excited, quietly looked away while saying that still holding her hands. “…………” After Krulcifer stared at Lux with a blank face for only several seconds, “Fu, Fufufu…” She burst into laughter with a face as if she was enduring something. “…Eh?” “Lux-kun. I will give you one advice. You should not easily believe a woman’s complaints.” “Eh, eeeeeeeeeeeeeh…!?” Krulcifer who suddenly returned to a cool expression said so as to tease him. “Wait, was what you said a while ago a lie!?” When Lux confusedly released Krulcifer’s hands, “You should stop sympathizing with other people’s misfortunes. Your only weakness is being generous with others, so I said that just to test it; but this reaction of yours was more than expected. Be careful at the time of the duel.” “…Ah, Hahaha.” To the words of Krulcifer who looked as if nothing had happened, Lux smiled wryly for a while. “But really, why are you so softhearted. Even you were a Prince of that notorious Old Empire––” “Though I think that it isn’t really like I’m softhearted. This is surely because such was my fate.” To Krulcifer’s mutter, Lux answered with a distant look. “Eh…?” “I had been banished from the Imperial Court along with my mother and my little sister Airi because of an admonition of my maternal grandfather. My grandfather was a former feudal lord, and he had also worked as the person in charge of the imperial family’s education, so I think that he wasn’t able to remain silent after witnessing the Empire’s way of doing things. But––” At that time, the Emperor and Prime Minister imprisoned his grandfather and also banished Lux and company from the Imperial Court as punishment. And then, one day after two years, an incident occurred. When the carriage that Lux and his mother rode on slipped down a cliff, the territory people, out of the grudge of being oppressed by the Old Empire, let Lux’s mother who was injured die. They did not get rescued. Because they had offended and were banished from the Imperial Court, his father the emperor did not even come to the funeral. Lux and company were shunned and forsaken by both the imperial family and the people. “That’s a really tragic story… Did you not resent anyone?” “I resented them, of course.” Lux awkwardly laughed and replied. “The Emperor who is my father, the imperial family, the Old Empire, the territory people, I resented everyone around me. I think that I probably cursed even this world. I became desperate. I became disgusted by anything and everything –– but” “But?” “Philphie saved me. I, who also lost almost all value as royalty, she had been by my side all the time––. She slipped out of her House and came to see me every day. But one day, she got lost, and I decided to go looking for her.” Even to Lux’s wry smile, Krulcifer did not laugh. “I noticed then. That I didn’t actually want to hate anyone. Because of the Empire, I didn’t want to hate those important to me–– or those who might become so.” “…………” “That’s why I wanted to change the country. I wanted to create a country where no one would have to hate those that they like… See, I also have something like lineage, but I was in the lowest rank of the royalty.” He said so and turned a smile to Krulcifer. “––You really are a good person, eh.” “That’s not right. After all, I…” At Krulcifer’s earnest words, Lux returned so. “If you had ended up becoming the Prince of the New Kingdom, would you also have saved me?” “Eh…?” “No, it is nothing.” The moment when Krulcifer returned again to her usual smile, “Hey! Are you under here!? Lux! Krulcifer!” From upstairs, Lisha came down with the sound of friction caused by metal. “Lisha-sama!?” bakii*! Knocking a nearby ceiling, four Machine Dragons got down. “Ooh, they are here! Finally found you, Lux!” When looking up at the broken ceiling, there were Lisha wearing the <Chimeric Wyvern>, and the three girls of the Triad respectively wearing each a general-purpose Machine Dragon. They seemed to have dug through until nearby with the armament attached to the <Chimeric Wyvern>’s right arm. “Everyone, have you come to rescue us!?” “Yes. I was able to perceive your positions with my <Drake>, so –– it’s good that you’re safe above all.” Lux heaved a sigh of relief at Nokuto’s voice. “It’s almost the time when the gate will open. I’ll carry you, so let’s go quickly.” When Lisha said so, she was about to first carry Lux with the <Chimeric Wyvern>’s left hand, but “You should first take Krulcifer-san. She seems to be hurt.” Nokuto calmly pointed out so. “…Wha!? B-But… Thinking carefully, my right arm is equipped with a drill, so there will be no sense of stability to hold an injured person. Hey Sharis, I leave Krulcifer to you whose both hands are empty.” “Good grief, what an incorrigible Princess.” While smiling wryly at Lisha’s order, Sharis wearing a <Wyvern> got down. “We have already given the excavated ancient documents and Machine Dragons’ parts to the other members and made them wait near the “gate”. And now with you two safe like this, we can say that the strategy this time is a success.” While Sharis said so, she picked up Krulcifer. “What a relief. Everyone is safe. Well then, let’s go back.” After Tillfarr added that at last, they all started moving. On the way to the “gate”, fortunately no Abyss appeared and they were able to safely escape from the ruins.
“So in the end, there was no results obtained related to the “key”, huh? Even though your <Wyvern> was seriously damaged––” When Lux returned to the girl’s dormitory and finished his medical checkup, he was given instructions of “complete bed rest” for a while. In the medical office in the evening, there was no one else except just Airi and Lux now. Although Lux had not suffered apparent injuries, since fatigue had accumulated due to injuries like bruises and his Machine Dragon’s operation, he was told not to fight for a while. Krulcifer and the Knight Squadron’s members who travelled along also ended their medical treatment, and were now under rest. “No, like I said, sorry.” “I am angry because Nii-san has not reflected on anything at all. In addition to that, the ruins are dangerous, and yet you acted recklessly again––” About that, when he protected Krulcifer from the collapse of the ruins, he had hit his body here and there; so there was no helping it, but “In the end –– that horn was not a “key”, huh?” “Yes. In that situation, I was afraid to use it and even when I held it up inside the ruins, there was no decent reaction which made it look like a key.” Something which was a possibility having arrived at the depths of the ruins. But, he could not say yet that he had found a different “key”. About the fact that the path to the door had been already opened by the power of the girl of the ruins that was Krulcifer. “I see… It’s regrettable that there was no progress with this, but there’s no helping it.” With this, the ruins investigation rights that the Atismata New Kingdom owned had been fully used once. In order to investigate the ruins once again, they had to win the off-campus confrontation battle against the neighboring countries by using Drag-Rides and acquire those rights. For the off-campus confrontation battle in one month, a campus selection battle would begin in one week. Lux also had to decide what he would do for that battle. But, before that… there was something he had to do. “Then, Nii-san. Please, drink this.” As Lux forcibly raised half his body, Airi held out a cup containing a dark brown liquid to him. “This is––?” “It’s a medicine. Since you will make it in time for the duel, please take a rest at least for now.” “…Yes. Thank you.” Lux took the cup containing the medicine and drank it up in one gulp. “…Ngh, hum” After a while, he closed his eyes and groaned a bit. As he fell asleep before long, he started leaking small sleeper’s breathing. “––Are you satisfied with this? Krulcifer-san.” “Yes, thank you.” Immediately after, Krulcifer entered into the medical office. Then, after seeing Lux lying down on the bed, she leaked a small breath. “Like this, we can feel at ease for the time being.” With her usual cool expression. “Is it all right? If you ask Nii-san, I think that he will fight with you.” When Airi asked so wonderingly, “He will certainly. But––” Krulcifer muttered as she cast down her eyes with hesitation. While Lux would still be sleeping due to the medicine with strong sleep effect, the duel would be over. It was also Krulcifer who asked Airi for the concoction of a medicine for that purpose. “I cannot afford to get your brother involved with my situation any more than this. He has already helped me a lot.” “In any case, it will be impossible for Nii-san to fight tonight.” Airi, staring at Lux’s sleeping as such, calmly concluded. “Not only injuries and fatigue during the ruins investigation, but his <Wyvern> was also seriously damaged. He can’t fight properly with it just slightly repaired. And against two powerful people in the duel at that.” “That’s right.” With an attitude saying that she understood, Krulcifer turned her heels. In any case, Lux did not have a Drag-Ride to fight with. “Besides –– since we are talking about Nii-san, if compelled, he might try to use <Bahamut>.” The “Black Hero” who destroyed the Old Empire five years ago. If he used <Bahamut>, his true identity might be known by those two opponents. If that happened, in exchange for victory, Lux would draw further danger to himself. Therefore, Krulcifer, after consideration, made this decision. A way to bring her fate to an end by herself without relying on Lux. “Well then, I’ll leave him to you. You surely understand even without me saying it, but if he were to wake up, tell him that the duel was called off––. This request also will be over by tomorrow.” Putting the request of the matter on a nearby table, Krulcifer left the medical room. After the sound of her footsteps disappeared, Airi sighed. “As expected, you still know nothing about Ni-san…” Airi muttered in a resigned, amazed and somehow casual tone. Suddenly, the door was strongly knocked on, and Lisha came in. “Hey, Lux? Are your injuries all right? ––Wait, the little sister is also here, huh.” Slightly disappointed, Lisha turned her gaze to Airi. “Is there something the matter? Lizsharte-sama.” “No. I checked a little with my authority about a matter which Lux had asked before. That man called Barzeride –– he is quite suspicious. He’s an ambitious person and it seems that he had hired bandits as private soldiers several times in the past.” “That is certainly strange.” “But, the situation is much worse now. It was written in the letter delivered from mother just a while ago. The reason why we mustn’t overthrown Barzeride and his aim. This New Kingdom’s crisis will be––” And Lisha began to talk next to Lux who was sleeping. About the conspiracy of the “Title Holder of the Kingdom” hidden in this matter.