“Shibaid-dono, are you alright? You’re not acting like usual.”
He had come to Falnido’s estate for Girard’s funeral and also have a reunion with Shin. Shibaid was seated deeply in a chair, arms crossed, relaxing himself.
It was hard to tell if he was a human or beast, but as a Dragnil, it was clear to see that he was unsettled.
He was acting so strange that Shumaya Uru Kilmont, envoy and representative of the emperor of the Dragon Empire Kilmont, began to get suspicious.
“It’s just that I was a bit surprised. As an escort, it is quite pathetic of me to have worried our representative.”
Despite saying so, there was no indication that Shibaid’s mood had changed at all.
Even if he wasn’t composed, his emotions weren’t necessarily negative ones, such as impatience or anxiety. Rather, they seemed to be something positive; it seemed like he was holding himself back from bursting out in laughter.
Shumaya smiled at Shibaid’s answer.
“No no, on the contrary, I’m pleased to see this different side of you, Shibaid-dono. So even the hero of the Dragon Empire is unable to conceal his joy.”
The smile of the first imperial princess, who also served as the general of the imperial troops, was a rare occurrence that few have seen.
She had a human body with the wings, tail, and horns of a dragon. Emotions were more expressed on Shumaya’s compared to Shibaid’s, whose head was completely that of a dragon’s. When she smiled, she squinted pleasantly with her jet-black eyes and her crimson hair shook delicately.
“I still have some ways to go, thus I’m still immature. No matter what I do I can’t seem to control my emotions. The reason I’m happy is that this is what we desire most.”
In response to Shumaya’s smile, Shibaid spoke with deep emotions.
When he was with Shin he endured it, but now Shibaid relaxed his tail, covered in distinct Dragnil scales, and it hovered just above the ground.
If Shibaid had been a beast like Girard or Cuore, the tail extending from his back would have been fiercely wagging from side to side.
For the Dragnil, however, to show emotion with one’s tail was proof of being immature. So Shibaid earnestly minded his heavy tail.
“We, huh…So you mean to say it was the same for Girard-dono?”
“Ah, him. Without a doubt he knew this feeling.”
The corners of his mouth raised as he declared this.
He had been shaken when he received the news of Girard’s death. However, looking at Girard’s satisfied face in the coffin however, and comparing it with what he’d heard from Shin, he felt certain that Girard had left this world content.
Maybe if he had been killed by some stranger from a far off land, he may not be able to hold back the negative emotions. Girard had worried he might die without proving his loyalty. But during his illness, Shin had watched over him, and assured him he had already done so.
It was exactly for this reason that Shibaid could enjoy the reunion with Shin.
“May I ask what is it that you desire most?”
“Sorry, but I can’t discuss it. It’s not something I need to hide, but neither is it something I can go about freely proclaiming to all.”
“I see. I began to think something auspicious had happened so that I need send a gift, seeing Shibaid-dono so joyed.”
“Your words are sufficient. It’s about time for the conference. I need to head to the hall.”
Failing to master his emotions meant he was still immature. While thinking that, he tried to distract himself by encouraging Shumaya to join him.
“Shibaid-dono never requests my company. Maybe I’ll go and attend to business as is expected of me.”
As Shibaid stood up, Shumaya began to get ready.
The countries outside Falnido, too, had seen much change since Girard’s death.
This included Kilmont, of which Shibaid had been its founder. In Kilmont not only the imperial family and soldiers who had met him, but also the commoners were still mourning Girard’s death.
Girard and Shibaid had spent long years together on the battlefield following the High Human, both as friends and as rivals.
Girard with his technique and speed, Shibaid with his strength and defense.
They were different from one another, but it had happened often that they were an equal match as vanguards.
“It’s nothing to fret about if those who scheme get caught.”
Girard was the symbol of the beasts, and coincidently the deterrence towards troubling elements.
There are people who hold contempt towards heroes that are loved by all. Girard’s death seemed like it might unearth things long dormant. At the conference they were to discuss what to do about it.
“It will be fine. There is an official heir to be the bearer of 『Crushing Moon』. He’s still young, but he seemed skilled enough to me. Don’t you agree?”
“Fumu. If Shumaya-dono saw him and thought so, one can rest easy.”
Coming from the imperial family, Shumaya had judged many people, so Shibaid was relieved to know that she thought so.
Even Shibaid, who had encountered people of all kinds, struggled to see through people’s true nature.
If other party was a warrior, he could identify their character even without a meeting on the battlefield; but not all were warriors.
Shibaid acknowledged Wolfgang as a successor from his warrior’s intuition. But if he could just get Shumaya to agree, he would have peace of mind.
In addition, Schnee had previously mentored Wolfgang on occasions. If there was something to be concerned about, it was expected to had been addressed together with Girard.
“I’m ready. Shall we go?”
As a warrior and as a man, his skills could not be doubted. But what about as a statesman?
In order to figure it out, Shibaid headed towards the conference with Shumaya.
It was the day after reconfirming the alliance between the two countries.
Shibaid had taken to the sky in order to return Shumaya to the empire.
He had heard that Shin and company would return to Bayreuth temporarily, so in the meantime Shibaid will prepare for his own departure while they were there.
“It’s nice to fly like this.”
“Yeah. We can’t fly with these wings of ours, after all.”
Nodding to Shumaya, who flew alongside him, Shibaid looked down upon the landscape extending below him.
Among the Dragnil there were some whose appearance were almost identical to humans and some whose appearance were close to dragons.
Whether one had wings on their back was decided by birth.
Despite that, no matter how big or small their wings, the Dragnil couldn’t fly, as stated by Shibaid.
They could flap their wings, but gliding for a short amount of time was the limit of its use. This remained unchanged even after the ‘Dusk of the Majesty’; players and NPC alike were still unable to fly.
If he were to fall from the wyvern he rode on, even if it was Shibaid, how could he come out unscathed?
However, falling from an altitude of more than 1000 mels, the extent of damage received would be light for Shibaid. With his skills, strength, and equipment thing would turn out all right.
“A giant wyvern would be nice, though.”
“Don’t start with that. Those are for transporting materials in times of emergency. And, you’re speaking strangely.”
Shibaid was wary of Shumaya, whose behavior had changed completely since they left Falnido; she was listless and spoke in a flat voice. With no one around besides Shibaid, the real Shumaya had come out.
Shumaya thought of getting on a giant wyvern so she would be able to bind herself to Shibaid during the confusion, but he had realized immediately what was going on. The first imperial princess of Kilmont was quite honest about what she desired.
Even though he renounced the seat of the Dragon Emperor, there were none in Kilmont who didn’t know of Shibaid’s character and abilities; his reputation was immeasurable.
If Shumaya could make him into her groom, the benefits would be numerous: a mightier army, increased support for the imperial family, strengthening ties with Schnee Raizar, etc. And if she could make it happen now, an extra benefit would be being affiliated with High Humans.
“Born with it or not, huh.”
Surprisingly, if you traced Shumaya’s desires, most of them were bound up with the interests of the empire. Such a behaviour of bouncing around usually turned into profits. Shibaid didn’t know if the person in question was aware of it or not.
In any case, Shibaid reciprocate to Shumaya’s feelings towards him.
Shumaya’s father was the current Dragon Emperor, and thereby Shibaid’s comrade in arms. Along with the empress, they were close friends who had experienced many battles together.
He had also helped from time to time when she had been a child, so Shumaya was like a daughter to Shibaid.
He was glad that they were close when she was younger, but to be seen as a potential mate was a problem.
“We’ll arrive at the castle soon. No more sulking about.”
“How presumptuous of you to say.”
Shumaya drew her lips into a pout. Shibaid just gave a strained smile.
“Don’t act like that. I still have things to do – still had, at least.”
Shumaya noticed a change in Shibaid’s voice. His eyes weren’t there; they were looking at something far away.
“Wyvern over there, slow down!”
Shumaya was interrupted mid sentence as they approached the castle; four wyverns approached them. They were Kilmont’s Dragon Knights, charged with protecting the skies of Kilmont.
“My name is Shibaid! I have brought Lady Shumaya Uru Kilmont, the first imperial princess! Here is my proof!”
Shibaid flew up to the knights and unfurled the banner of the imperial family.
It was imbued with magic, and would respond to magical equipment carried by the Dragon Knights.
“――Authenticity has been confirmed. We apologize for the formalities.”
“Good. You men are the guardians of my country’s skies! Continue on and return to your posts.”
At Shumaya’s command the men saluted and flew off. The two watched as they flew away in perfect formation. By watching them one got a sense of the training the knights underwent.
“Hm? It looks like there’s a welcome party.”
Following Shumaya’s eyes, Shibaid looked at the castle and saw on the wyvern dock a group of people. At the front was someone Shibaid knew well.
Once they had landed safely that man approached them with a servant beside him.
“It’s good to see both of you back. You returned earlier than I expected.”
“Father, what are you doing here?”
The man Shumaya had just called father was unmistakably Zaikuin Baal Kilmont, Dragon Emperor. His body that rivals, or may even surpass, Shibaid’s was covered in deep crimson scales, and his violet horns towered majestically above him.
“I had a feeling you might be coming back today. It seems there were no issues.”
“Yes. Girard-dono’s descendants are distinguished individuals.”
Zaikuin nods in satisfaction to his daughter’s answer.
Even though they were father and daughter, presently they were conducting what seemed to be a business-like report between an emperor and his retainer.
“If Shumaya says so, then I am sure there are no problems. We can talk about the details later. Now it is time for you to rest after your journey.”
“Yes, my Lord.”
Shumaya left the dock and made for the castle, and Zaikuin told the guards who had stood vigilant behind them to withdraw. Knowing the emperor would be safe with Shibaid accompanying him, they obeyed without a second thought.
“Now, before Shumaya gives her report, I’d like to hear from you. You have time, surely?” asked Zaikuin; With his guards gone, he relaxed his tone somewhat.
“Yes, I also have something to discuss with you, your Grace. I will set aside time tonight.”
After a moment of slight surprise, the emperor nodded.
It was just the two of them; there was no one to object to Shibaid ignoring the emperor’s request.
It was later, at night. Shibaid had been brought to Zaikuin’s private room.
“There is no need for formalities here. What did you want to discuss with me?”
“Before that. I apologize, but I’d like to request the men hiding to leave the room.”
“…it seems it’s something very important.”
Zaikuin ordered the men hidden under the floor and in the ceiling to leave. Normally the emperor would never be allowed to be alone with an adventurer, but if it was the former emperor Shibaid, that was a different story.
“Now then. What on earth has happened? Does it have to do with Girard-dono?”
Zaikuin’s voice echoed throughout the quiet room. Due to Girard being the topic of discussion, the tone of his voice seemed to show worry for Shibaid.
“No, it’s not about him. Girard passed away content and at ease. His face looked peaceful after he had gone.”
“I see. After I heard the news I thought it would be impossible, but I’m relieved to know that he went without regrets.”
Hearing what Shibaid said, Zaikuin let out a sigh of relief. He, too, had once fought side by side with Girard.
Like Shibaid, although not to the same extent, they were both rulers, warriors and comrades with a long-standing relationship. He didn’t want to imagine Girard suffering as he died.
“However, if it’s not about Girard-dono, what is it you wish to discuss?”
With the circumstances as they were Zaikuin believed it must have to do with Girard. He looked at Shibaid slightly confused.
“Let me apologize in advance for my bluntness. I will leave the empire. It doesn’t worry me, but from now on it will be difficult for me to help you.”
“…so this means you don’t plan to return?!”
Zaikun’s astonishment was so obvious it could be seen clearly on his dragon face.
Up until then Shibaid had worked in the heart of Kilmont. What he had just said, however, made it seem like he would leave and never return.
“Perhaps, a new High Human based had been discovered?”
In the continent of Eltnia there were several bases the High Humans had left behind. Among them were the famed flying castle Rashugum and Palmirack, which now served as a stronghold of the church.
However, with continental drift several bases had disappeared. The base of Shin, Shibaid’s master the ‘Dark Blacksmith’, had yet to be found.
Looking at the worried Zaikuin’s face, Shibaid says calmly.
“No, it’s not that. Nor am I staying in Tsuki no Hokora.”
“Well, then why is it you need to leave? The only other thing I can think of would be demons. But I haven’t heard any news since the ‘Dusk of the Majesty’.”
“It’s not that either.”
“So what then? You might as well just spit it out,” said Zaikuin, letting out a disgruntled sigh. He trusted Shibaid, so when there was no one else around, the emperor could let his manner slip.
“A companion who I swore allegiance to has returned. Do you understand what I am hinting at?”
“You can’t mean…!?”
Zaikun’s eyes opened wide. The pupils staring at Shibaid were filled with something beyond astonishment; there was admiration in them.
“It’s certain. And sooner or later there will be others who’ll notice. That’s why I’m informing you now,” said Shibaid, looking straight at Zaikuin.
“From now on, under no circumstances are you to confront our master. Should you do so, I will need to draw my sword against you.”
Sitting before him was not an SS-rank adventurer, nor the founding Dragon emperor of the empire. It was a single warrior who had sworn allegiance to his master. It was written in his eyes: we may have fought many battles together, but oppose me and you will find no mercy.
“…I see. He truly has come back.”
In the face of Shibaid’s resolve Zaikuin was silent. After a few moments he exhaled quietly.
It’s not as if a farewell isn’t sad.
But Shibaid could see it in Zaikuin’s expression; they had spent so many years together that the emperor understood how he felt.
“I am sorry. I can’t just stand idly by, now that we have met once again.”
“Don’t apologize. I’m on your side. I would be glad to have someone like you following me. Your master must be glad as well. When we first met, you were always staring off into the distance. I knew that you were still longing for something.”
“You didn’t know? I suppose the person themselves never notices.”
This bastard, chuckled Zaikuin.
To Shibaid, Zaikuin’s smile looked just as it had in the days when they had first met each other. It was his true smile, the one that lay beneath his emperor’s facade.
“Shumaya will be very upset,” said Zaikuin with a sigh, as if to sweep away the tension.
“She’ll be fine. She’s tough.”
“You’re the only one who would think that.”
Shibaid frowned as Zaikuin shrugged off what he said.
It was Zaikuin who knew that his daughter had feelings for Shibaid, but did nothing to stop it from developing.
“So, when will you leave? You’ll allow us to send you off?”
“I have some assignments to take care of first. They shouldn’t take long.”
“I see. It will be difficult to explain to the others, though. It’s not as if I can tell them the truth, after all,” said Zaikuin, scratching his chin, his face filled with concern.
A High Human had returned. Were the news to spread, many groups would begin to mobilize. The Black Faction of the Shiten cult would be overjoyed; they would certainly attempt to make contact with him.
The news wasn’t all good, however.
There were fools who, not comprehending the power of the High Humans, might seek to manipulate them. And to most people, the High Humans were the stuff of legends; they thought of them as fairy tales, not understanding what was the truth and what was not.
“I expect nothing but your best to keep the secret. However, their time spent being anonymous won’t last long. Schnee is already accompanying him, and I’ve heard there are others too. Even if I were to do nothing, their name will still come up.”
“So it is. Strong men are a magnet for trouble. You’re no exception.”
Zaikuin seemed to want to say something to Shibaid who looked puzzled.
“I understand if you don’t want to stay here. But for now, for old times sake…join me for a drink. For me this may be a time to mourn, but for you it will be a drink of celebration.”
“Fumu. Let’s drink.”
As Zaikuin brought a special bottle, Shibaid pulled out a treasured item from his Item Box.
They may never meet again.
Knowing it would be so, the two Dragonewts, one jet black and the other crimson, raised their glasses to one another.