Chapter 6 –The Demonic Dragon Subjugation
“What’s the matter, Flora? Didn’t you return to the orphanage?”
Julis tightened her face and calmed down Flora as she bent down so as to match her gaze.
“Y-Yes! I intended to do so, but something terrible happened in the city…!”
“Something terrible, you say?”
“Um, many lizard-like things huge like this are flying in the air, so I was scared and came back.”
While jumping quickly in a bouncing way, Flora spread both her arms as to describe their size.
They didn’t know to what extent it deviated from the actual size, but it was probably about the same as that of a human adult.
“The city is already in a panic state and vehicles aren’t moving at all, either.”
“No way, are those things attacking people?”
“N-No, it did not go up to there yet…”
“Hmm… All right, Flora. You wait for a while in this villa. It’s safe here.”
After Julis kindly said so, she turned her gaze to Ayato and the others.
“If I go see my brother, I’ll probably be able to get information about the situation. I’ll head out to the royal palace. Depending on the situation, I may go out for a little, but…”
“In that case, I will come too. I’ll change my clothes, so can you wait just a little?”
As Ayato got up from the bed, he strongly stretched his body. The prana’s flow was back to normal and there were no pain or physical unease in particular, either.
“Ah! Then, I’ll prepare the change of clothes!”
Flora hurriedly prepared clothes.
“No, but you’re still…”
“My body is already fine. More importantly, from what I hear, it looks like it’s Gustave’s doing and if so, we aren’t unrelated, either.──Saya, Kirin-chan, what will you do?”
As Ayato asked so while wearing his clothes, the two girls nodded immediately.
“I’ll go too.”
Julis who heard that wryly smiled with a face expressing that it could not be helped.
“I got it. Then prepare yourselves quickly.”
Even if she did not say that, they quickly completed their preparations; and the four people immediately headed to the royal palace.
When they arrived at Jolbert’s room, a group of people with tense looks came out as if changing places with Ayato and company. They were anxious as one among them, a past middle-aged man who noticed Julis, had a really difficult expression, but the group of people left the royal palace at a quick pace as it is.
“──Oh, it’s you guys, huh.”
Whether he was sleeping or awake, Jolbert looked somewhat sleepy.
“You came to hear about the commotion in the city, right? Then, you came at a good timing. I’ve just received a report.”
“How is the situation?”
“It seems that strong creatures about one meter long suddenly appeared in the city center. Their numbers are unknown, but there seems to be at least a dozen of them. Looks like they are lizards with wings ── well, if I’ve to say, it’d be dragons, I guess.”
As Julis asked briefly, Jolbert answered while suppressing a yawn as if bored.
“I’ve also contacted Solneige and Frauenlob, but they’re really dull to react. It’s doubtful whether they’ll move their troops. Fortunately at present, they don’t seem to attack people and it’s to the extent that even our police force can deal with, so they might have concluded that it isn’t that much a threat. Really, it’s awful.”
Jolbert ruefully complained.
“However, we can’t possibly ignore it. After all, there are a lot of them, so the police mobilized its entire staff to deal with them.”
“…Its entire staff, you say?”
But there, Julis knitted her eyebrows.
“In other words, do you mean that even those who were deployed in preparation for Gustave Malraux’s attack?”
“Yes. After all no matter how you think about it, this is his doing, right? It’s precisely in preparation for such a time that they were deployed, so isn’t it natural? Ah, of course I properly asked to leave necessary personnel in the main facilities including this royal palace, so you can rest assured about that…”
“──I see, so that’s it.”
Without hearing Jolbert’s words until the end, Julis clicked her tongue in vexation.
“This is probably a diversion.”
“A diversion? But in that case, there are many other ways to do it…”
For the moment, it didn’t seem to be a situation serious enough that Ayato and company had to expressly come out, but Julis closed her eyes and shook her head.
“Even if I say diversion, it isn’t to lead us out. It’s so to speak a decoy in order to gather people beside us. If we fall into this trap and gather the personnel into the city center, other parts of the city will inevitably become short-handed.”
“That’s also strange. Just now, Julis’ brother said that he has properly left necessary personnel in the main places──”
The eyes of Saya who spoke with a dubious face opened wide as she was talking.
“Right. In the main facilities, that is.”
Julis spat out with disgust.
“Answer me, Big Brother. The people who were here just now had come to talk about that, right?”
“…Oh boy, you got me.”
Jolbert exaggeratedly shrugged his shoulders and looked up at the sky.
“That’s quite an insight, my dear sister. As I also said just now, we seem to be short-handed you see. They were saying to have the guards withdraw in unnecessary places and invest them to deal with the situation. ──As a matter of course, the slums were the places whose names were raised at the very beginning. They originally disliked the fact that guards were dispatched to those places (slums).”
“…Did you approve it, Big Brother?”
“What else could I have done? In the first place, it isn’t as if they were completely wrong. It’s still all right now, but you can’t omit the case where the dragons may suddenly begin to attack people. If they aren’t quickly dealt with, it might become something serious.”
“Besides, Julis, even I want to protect Flora and I also feel that I want to do something for the orphanage you like. But even so, my order of priority doesn’t change. After all, the most important person for me is you.”
Jolbert stared straight at Julis and told that as to admonish her.
“Can you please consider my feelings and stay here quietly?”
But this time too, Julis flatly declared that and left the room.
When Ayato and company rushed after her afterwards, Julis flung her fist against the wall of the corridor.
Her face was dyed in anger, mana around her rustled disquietingly.
“Julis, calm down.”
As Julis greatly took a deep breath once, she smoothed her hair upward and turned around to Ayato and company.
“Gustave has moved assuming that we will notice this diversion. In other words, he should be waiting at the slums. Even so, I have to go. There are the Sisters in the orphanage, but naturally, they aren’t flawless… I’ll tell you just in case, but you don’t particularly need to come along with me.”
“What are you saying now?”
Ayato said with a wry smile, and Saya and Kirin nodded as they agreed with him.
“…We’re also related to this, this time.”
“That’s right. It isn’t only Julis-senpai who is targeted.”
Julis smiled wryly to their words, but she immediately tightened her face.
“──Then, I have a plan. Could you move per my instructions?”
- ψ -
The night wind going across the lake was especially cold.
Besides, if one flew at a fierce speed as to cut that wind, all the more so.
“I see, so this is the shortcut… no wonder you arrived early that time.”
Flapping wings of flames made with Julis’ ability, Ayato was flying just barely above the lake’s surface.
“T-This is to the bitter end one of the shortcuts. Until I was able to master this technique, I was using a different route. After all under the present conditions, this method is definitely the fastest to arrive at the orphanage.”
Julis, in a posture where she was held by Ayato, muttered in a small voice.
“Julis? What’s the matter?”
“N-No, it’s nothing! I mean, your face is too close!”
As her face turned bright red, Julis forcefully pushed Ayato’s face away.
“…W-Well, never mind. Anyway, like this we can cross the lake in less than 5 minutes. Let’s do this first.”
The big moon was flickeringly swaying on the slightly swelling lake surface.
When turning their eyes to the east, the dazzling night view of the town center appeared.
On the other hand, it was needless to compare it with the lights in the slums’ whole area, which spread out on the opposite shore in the front, as they were few.
“──I see it, over there is the orphanage.”
When looking ahead of where Julis pointed at, certainly a tall church-like silhouette dimly appeared in the darkness.
But, just before it ── there is an unpleasant scenery of a concrete structured river dike on the lake shore of the slums, but one man was standing there waiting for Ayato and Julis.
“Well, well, you arrived faster than I expected.”
You could see that Julis bit her molars.
“I had no doubt in my mind that you would come”
“I hope you didn’t lay your hands on the orphanage.”
Calmly receiving Julis’ shooting-like gaze, Gustave lightly laughed.
“Please, rest at ease. Frankly speaking, it isn’t as if I didn’t think about that, but there is a slightly tough one blended with the Sisters over there you see. I have no other choice than to settle this as a side job.”
“Humph…, then it’s fine.”
Julis who snorted slowly landed with Ayato.
The distance from Gustave was approximately five meters. It was a distance as to enter into Ayato’s range by stepping forward a little more.
“As for me, it’s enough as long as you people can come out. My Dora-Colchis’s, which I send to play in the city center, are harmless as they don’t indiscriminately attack people. After all, there are staffs of the Integrated Enterprise Foundation there, so it’ll be troublesome afterwards if I were to carelessly hurt them.”
“…You’re quite talkative, Gustave Malraux. And while we’re at it, I don’t mind even if you also spit out the name of the one who requested such a foolish thing.”
Mana swirled around Julis.
Ayato too activated and lowered his waist.
“No, no, I may look like this, but I’m a pro, if not much of one. So, you shall pardon me for not revealing only that. However──”
Gustave opened his arms with an exaggerated gesture without being shaken.
At the same time, a huge magic square never seen so far appeared in the lake. Its diameter was around 30 meters.
“In exchange, I shall introduce you to my best masterpiece.”
The magic square emitted light and snake heads emerged out of the lake’s surface like tentacles.
The number ── there were nine in total.
To the figure which slowly rose from underwater… No, to its size, both Ayato and Julis couldn’t help being lost for words.
It wasn't an exaggeration to liken that monster, which grew nine snake heads from its body like that of a four-legged dinosaur, to a small hill. The lower half of its body was still in the lake, but as for its length, only its trunk was 20 meter; if you include from the point of its head to its tail, it might exceed 40 meters (of length).
As expected, it somewhat resembled the dragon which Ayato and Kirin fought in the underground ballast area before, but the size was incomparable to the one of before. Just looking at first glance, it was easily around more than double (of the one before) in size.
Its eyes which fierily shone were eerily red and its mouth where sharp fangs lined up in a row was likely to swallow whole a car let alone a person in one gulp.
“This is, a Hydra…?!”
“That is indeed correct, Your Highness.”
To Julis who squeezed out her voice, Gustave nodded with an extremely joyful face.
“Don’t you agree that it’s the same as the one described in the myth… no, it’s a more heroic, and dignified figure than the mythical Hydra, right? It’s the ultimate magic beast which I spent three years to create.”
The nine heads simultaneously raised roars which rattlingly shook the air.
Perhaps noticing the unusual phenomenon with that, the slums which were ruled by a gloomy stillness similar to dead suddenly became noisy, screams and angry voices resounded from here and there.
“Kuh…! But are you sure you want to do this? If such a monster was to run wild, the army might take action.”
In fact, it could already be regarded as a big monster.
Thinking normally, the army deploying was highly probable.
“Well, I wonder about that”
However, Gustave laughed as he was fully composed.
“Due to my intruding of the royal palace the other day, Solneige and Frauenlob should’ve already understood that this is my doing. Naturally, my purpose will have definitely been revealed.”
Gustave rumbled his throat with a simmering sound.
“When considering the , you people’s existence is probably troublesome even for them. Of course, if this Hydra was to attack the town areas, they would have no choice but to take action… But, if the place is this slum, then it’s another story. An abandoned land and the abandoned people who live there. I think that the Integrated Enterprise Foundation’s resilience is fairly strong.”
Julis kept silent as is and only bit her lips.
That’s telling that Gustave’s words were true.
“Be that as it may, if I take too much time, I don’t know what will happen. So let’s get it over with as quickly as possible.”
As Gustave said so, one of the Hydra’s heads greatly opened its mouth.
One could see that a huge amount of mana was swirling in there.
“!” “Ayato, dodge it!”
Ayato’s body moved even earlier than Julis’ warning.
A moment later, the light released from the Hydra’s mouth blew away the concrete dike as it scooped it out.
“…It can match the power level of Saya’s lux.”
If Ayato had received it head on, he would not get off with simple bruises even if he invested his prana to defense.
“Well then, I shall excuse myself with this. Please fully enjoy yourself.”
As he said that, Gustave greatly leapt back and disappeared within the darkness.
As to block the way of Julis who tried to chase after him, the Hydra once again released a light ray.
“Julis, watch out!”
Ayato held Julis and evaded it just barely.
“S-Sorry. You saved me.”
“Let’s leave Gustave. Anyway for now, we must deal with this.”
Ayato once again looked up at the huge figure before his eyes. The Hydra which has slowly gone ashore from the lake revealed its whole body now. It seemed to be just like a skyscraper.
While mowing down the barracks on the lake shore with an earth tremor, the Hydra slowly advanced as it crossed the slums.
Ahead of it ── was the orphanage.
If it aimed for there, it probably knew well that Julis would never abandon it.
“Damn! So, he means ‘if you want to protect it, try to stop this guy’…!”
Julis, who couldn’t help but curse so, quite lost her cool.
“Julis, I leave the evacuation of the residents to you.”
“Wha! Don’t tell me you plan to stop it by yourself?”
“I’ll see what I can do. Besides, Saya should be almost ready now.”
Julis put on a face showing that she still could not consent.
“I don’t know this area very well, and above all everyone will listen if you’re the one to lead them, right?”
“…I got it. But, be careful not to act rashly.”
As soon as she said that, wings of flame manifested on Julis’s back.
Ayato, who saw off Julis flying away as is, went up to the roof of a nearby building and confirmed the situation. Since the Hydra was just intently going straight ahead without even minding the buildings, a straight way was newly made. But it was quite slow on its feet, so there should be enough time to stop it.
In fact, when Ayato ran after it while going along the buildings’ roofs, he was able to quickly catch up with it.
“That said, how to deal with this…?”
Although he looked for a chance while maintaining a certain distance from the Hydra and keeping pace with it, it was a more troublesome opponent than expected. Its movement was slow compared with the magic beasts so far; but because it built up a defense zone with no blind spots thanks to its nine heads, it was obvious that Ayato would be countered if he attacked carelessly.
After all, the opponent had this huge body. In order for one to set an attack, he would have no choice but to jump using the buildings’ roofs as footholds and slash at the Hydra; but movements in the air are limited, so evasion would also become difficult. Even the state of “cognition” would be helpless with only this much.
“I guess there’s no other choice but to mince it bit by bit to the best of my ability.”
As Ayato fixed his breathing, he jumped into the Hydra’s range at a stretch.
The Hydra stopped its advance and along with a roar, three heads released light rays towards Ayato.
Ayato greatly jumped as he dodged all of them by a paper thin distance and swung .
The front head was bisected from the middle with a single stroke, and a high-pitched scream resounded through the night sky.
Light rays attacked so as to aim at his landing, but that much was taken into consideration by Ayato.
Ayato changed his trajectory as he kicked the wall of a building in mid-air and easily avoided it ── but,
Before his eyes, something unexpected happened.
When he thought that the head that he had cut down just now bubbled with a burbling sound, it gradually swelled and soon regenerated to how it was before.
“Is even this point like in the myth…?”
If his memory served him right, the Hydra of Greek mythology was a monster that would grow two heads from the place where one head, other than the central one among its nine heads, was cut. So it was better to say that it did not only regenerate, but also doubled; but in the myth, it should also be mentioned that the regeneration could be stopped by burning the cut part. If so, then it wasn’t as if he didn’t think that would apply in the case that a head was cut with this , but──
“Well, even if I say that, it can’t be helped I guess.”
At least, now that it came to this, it would be necessary to change tactics.
“Even if I aim at the central head, I think that the other heads would just protect it… So first, I must get rid of them.”
Fortunately, since it takes a while before completely regenerating, he had no choice but to do something in the meantime.
As Ayato set up , he returned again to a roof and once again estimated the distance.
If the timing in which he is to step in was off even a little, the next instant either Ayato’s body would be blown off by that light ray or it might as well end up in the Hydra’s stomach.
He flowed prana to every corner of his body and shortened the distance little by little by sliding his feet.
At that moment ── Ayato’s perception which was expanded by the state of “cognition” grasped something moving within his battle range. When he hurriedly turned his gaze to that direction, one young woman was sunk down there in the shade of debris as she failed to escape.
She was probably paralyzed with terror. It looked like she was unable to move decently.
Moreover, the worst thing was that the debris which covered her looked like it would collapse at any time.
Ayato reflexively jumped out and kicked flying the debris as to protect the woman.
Though the woman opened her eyes wide in surprise, unfortunately Ayato had no time to call out to her. This was because he’d already sensed a bloodlust directed to him.
He immediately tried to change position so that the woman wouldn’t be involved, but just before that, one of the Hydra’s heads sneaked around before Ayato’s eyes.
He promptly set up again, but even he understood that he would be slightly late.
Just before the huge jaw was opened, and the large sword-like fangs and the deep crimson tongue which flickeringly wriggled were about to seize Ayato──
Immediately after the head fell down, it rolled over and writhed.
At the same time, Ayato got contacted in his portable terminal.
He quickly operated it and opened a space window; projected there was Saya with a sight visor.
『…It was a close call.』
“Saya! Thank you, you saved us!”
『My preparations are complete. Is this snake-like thing the target?』
“Yes. It’ll somewhat turn into monster extermination, but I leave the support to you.”
Saya should currently be on the lake shore near the royal palace. The hit just now was a long-range sniping.
In other words, Saya pulled it off from a place located on the opposite bank of the lake. There should be easily 3 km even if she placed herself in the nearest place, but as one would expect of Saya. It was a remarkable skill.
『Roger. I want to confirm the situation at any time, so please leave the space window open.』
“I got it.”
While nodding at her words, he led the woman of a while ago to a safe direction with his line of sight. He wanted to accompany her until a safe zone if possible, but as expected there was no room to do that.
“Saya, we probably can’t kill this thing unless we cut its central head. So before that──”
『…I’ll get rid of the other heads.』
“Right. Even if we were to cut off the other heads afterwards, they will regenerate a short time later; so be careful about that point, too.”
『I understand. Are there any other conditions?』
『Ok. Well then ── let’s do it.』
With Saya’s words as the signal, Ayato dashed at the Hydra with a stretch.
As if it was a matter of course, the nine heads turned around so as to intercept him and released light rays aiming for Ayato.
But, just before one of the heads spat out a light ray, it exploded like a little while ago.
The coordination of the nine heads was perfect with no opening at all, but conversely speaking, if even one of them was destroyed, one could easily create an opening. Although Saya’s attack had not enough power to completely blow off the head, it was enough to create an opening.
Ayato greatly jumped while slipping through the light rays, and swung down with all his strength.
Its blade easily bisected the first head in the front and then another one with the sword returning.
“With this, that makes two!”
He jumped from roof to roof and immediately moved to attack again even if from a somewhat reckless posture.
This was the only way in order to not give it time to regenerate as much as possible.
In return, he was also left greatly opened to attacks, but──
『…Next, right and diagonally to the rear.』
Those openings were splendidly covered by Saya’s shooting.
Even without Ayato saying anything, she shot the head he wanted her to attack the most and in that timing he attacked what she wanted the most. Conversely, before Ayato told her, Saya knew almost intuitively which head he wanted her to aim at.
“With this, that makes four!”
After mowed down the fourth head, Saya laughed a little on the other side of the space window.
『…It’s really been a long time since I acted as Ayato’s backup like this.』
“Hahaha, that’s right.”
Ayato also smiled wryly while evading the light rays.
Certainly, he had fought all the time through the with Julis, and there was also a time when he jointly fought with Kirin, but it was since when they were children that he fought together with Saya like this.
『Ayato is amazing after all. You move as if you’re reading my thoughts.』
“That goes for you as well ── all right, that makes six with this!”
There are three heads remaining.
But, the two heads he cut off first were almost completely regenerated.
He’d better hurry.
“Saya, let’s settle it with the next move.”
『…I got it.』
Ayato fixed his disturbed breathing in an instant and poured prana into .
The black pattern surrounding the blade expanded and the pure white blade grew long easily exceeding Ayato’s height.
──It was Meteor Arts.
Although it was not flexible and the sword’s speed was slow, but if it was now when the heads decreased to three, there should be no problem.
As Ayato who jumped in the air mowed down , two out of the three remaining heads were bisected.
Although it had been skillfully dodged by the central head which was the main head, this too was within expectation.
As the central head was about to release a light ray towards the defenseless Ayato after the attack, Saya’s sniping prevented it.
(Next, I should fix my stance and then another blow──)
The moment he was thinking that, a chill ran down his back.
When looking, the head which he cut off first had already finished regenerating and greatly opened its mouth.
Considering the regeneration speed, there should’ve been a little deferment before the regeneration was complete.
However, that question was immediately solved.
The regeneration of the other heads had stopped.
(So, it accelerated its regeneration ability by narrowing it down to one…!)
A direct hit was unavoidable in this timing.
“In that case──!”
He risked everything and brandished in that unreasonable posture.
It was a blow aiming for a simultaneous strike, but it couldn’t be helped.