—In the past, it was said that there were foolhardy brutes who had bonded with the infamous black winged dragons.
The dragon knights of a fallen country.
The name of the people with that blood coursing through their veins was Strauss.
Sword and wings played in the winds of the battlefield, and they mowed down everything mercilessly like a storm.
Just like every man born in a knight household of Garuna, I grew up hearing the constant clash of metal with metal.
‘You will one day die in the battlefield, too’ is what has been drilled into my mind since birth. I was in a family where even my parents would tell me that. It was a household with long history.
My great grandfather, grandfather, dad, and my three brothers had accomplished that teaching of our ancestors with the unyielding resolve of a dragon.
They all became legends in the battlefield.
Fought to their very last breath, killed many, scraped away on their own lifeforce, and became songs that would be sung in banquets as they were engulfed into the sea of stars!!
…Aah, Strauss. Flying dragon knights thirsting for blood and battle crazed.
I as well…intended to follow that tradition. And yet, why…why am I alive?
…Why am I drinking cheap alcohol in this bar in a remote countryside?
—— 9 years ago.
…No matter how many times I think about it, I should have died that day.
“Are you prepared, brat?”
The old dragon Ares was treating me like a brat even in a time like this…
“Shut up, Geezer. I am also a Strauss. I have been prepared for death since I was a child.”
Good grief. What are you implying with that laugh? …Well, there’s no doubt he is making fun of me!
The old dragon bends his long neck and looks down at me with his golden eyes at quite the high height. Dragons have high pride and think of humans as insects. This guy does so as well.
Even though he has retired a long time ago, he still thinks he is the strongest dragon…
Making his black scales shine with a haughty attitude, Ares showed an ill-natured smile.
“Ye don’t fear death, huh. Good grief, you of the Strauss are battlejunkies.” (Ares)
“…Don’t talk bad of my family. It is because you don’t hate us that you have been with us all this time, right? For a whole 300 years.”
“Kinda. As always, only your tongue shows any prospects.” (Ares)
“That’s not true. My sword, spear, and bow skills are number one within my family’s young ones. That’s why I am currently before you. I was chosen!! You as well should find it an honor that your death will be together with me!!”
“…I see, you are indeed a Strauss.” (Ares)
The old dragon Ares shakes his injured body, and allows me to ride on that big body of his.
I didn’t voice it out, but I am moved. A dragon had obeyed me. It acknowledged me as a dragon knight… I am no longer a dragon knight in training! I can die as a true dragon knight!
There’s no dragon knights here to give me their blessings, and His Majesty Verius is not here either.
…Even so, the strongest dragon, Ares, had acknowledged me. I was able to become the last dragon knight of Garuna!
This is the best promotion.
In front of the residence that my family has lived for several centuries, in my homeland where windmills are lined up…I had become a dragon knight.
I can die as a true dragon knight and become a song! There’s nothing as joyful as this!
“What’s the matter, brat? It is not as if you have gotten weak-kneed, right? Go ahead and ride on my back. There’s no need for words between us. You guys are simplistic after all.” (Ares)
As always, Ares doesn’t pick up on how I feel. But he is right. The 300 years between Ares and the Strauss were a long enough time to not even require any words.
There’s nothing to say. Everything that was required saying has already been said.
…And most of all, we are simplistic!
“That’s right. Fight, kill, steal. Those are the precepts of the Strauss family.”
That’s all we are. The number one spear of the Demon Lord Verius is a barbaric and idiotic family.
I jumped onto the back of the old dragon. My body felt so light to the point that the weight of my armor was not bothering me. This might be a sensation that only men raised in a knight’s household would understand.
We are heading to our death right at this moment, you know?
Even so, my heart is dancing. There’s nothing as happy as this.
I don’t know of a moment where my heart has danced this much.
“Now then, let’s go, Ares!”
“Umu. This is a nice day to die.” (Ares)
The mountain range of Garuna dyed by the morning glow. While watching this, the old dragon, who had carved many a legend, spreads his wings wide. Obviously, those wings have many scars. They are proof that Ares has fought and survived for these 300 years…and also proof of his old age.
It is said that the lifespan of flying dragons is around 250 years. For us humans that’s way too long, but Ares was something else. He has already lived for more than 300 years. Stepping into his fourth century, he has been participating in war with my family all the time.
That legend will end today.
We are going to break through their lines. In a few moments from now, we will be plunging into one of the enemy bases on our own.
The name of the enemy is the Varmoa Union army.
In the past they were weak countries, but in recent decades, these eastern countries had gained power. This is an allied army formed from those countries.
Leaving aside the quality of their soldiers, they are high in numbers. They use strategies that take advantage of their numbers. They may not be efficient ones, but they were logical ones.
Most of the brave generals of Garuna have died. They were sung as having being surrounded by numbers and slowly being crushed.
Our lord, Verius, who is praised and feared as the Demon Lord, seemed to have seen our incoming fall as well. His Majesty called back the soldiers fighting in various locations to the capital, reunited with the heroic soldiers of our allied country, Faris, and will be heading for one last decisive battle against the Union.
The chances of victory for our lord are zero. With these much difference in resources, there’s nothing that can be done.
This was a losing battle.
But there’s worth in buying time.
We can have the women and children evacuate to Faris and the demi-human countries. Demon Lord-sama is popular with the demi races as well after all. The Garuna blood will most likely be mixed with the elf and dwarf countries as well. Our country may fall, but…the songs etched in our blood will continue.
I don’t like that I won’t be able to have my own child, but I am currently only 17 years old. I am the fourth child, so my engagement was pushed till later. My elder sister who had married with a noble of Faris has gone silent, so…yeah. I should put my expectations on my little sister.
The man that will one day be raised in my little sister, please let it be the reincarnation of one of our brothers. Please let it be a man that admires the songs of the battlefield, and one day take flight into the sky together with a dragon. Be brave. Enjoy the battle. Don’t fear the day you die in the battlefield.
Because we will already be gathered at the other side waiting for you with a feast.
“Have you finished your prayers?” (Ares)
“…Yeah, let’s go!”
“Umu. Now then, my wings, I have pushed you for many a century, but…this will be the last. I am counting on you for one last job.” (Ares)
Saying this, Ares flaps his wings, and wind spreads.
Aah, it is just as always. What a strong wind. The wind made by the old dragon rushes past the village, breathes life into the fields that were just harvested, and scares the early birds that were enjoying the leftovers.
The birds run away to the skies. But they don’t fear Ares. Because the old dragon flying in the sky was already a natural sight in this land. The old dragon doesn’t eat his flying comrades. Light meat like that wouldn’t fill that greedy stomach of his.
He needs bigger meat than that.
For example; the meat of a varmoan soldier.
The dragon kicks the ground and returns to the sky once more.
Ares moved his old wings, and together with his starting jump and his flapping, he controlled the air.
Once you ride the wind, there’s no need for unrefined movements. You just need to silently spread your wings and gather wind there, slowly turning when needed.
“Now then, this is the last look. Watch, brat. Your homeland.” (Ares)
“…Yeah. It is a small village, but it was quite the place. And what about you? How about greeting the birds?”
“Hmph. There’s no need for farewells with flying comrades. Even in death, our souls reside in the sky after all.” (Ares)
The familiar birds fly through the morning sky lined up with the old dragon. The birds have no care for the conflicts between the people. Today as well, they will only look for food, fly, and sing. They are as simple as us. We also only look for food, sweet battles, and fly to kill.
“…Rather than the birds. Is that okay?” (Ares)
“Look down.” (Ares)
Ares moves his big chin and guides my gaze. My house was at the pointed place. And in the garden, there’s Cecil who has barely reached 7. With red hair similar to mine swaying with the wind, she was waving her hand at the sky.
With a loud voice. She had a voice that was loved by the wind as it travelled well into the sky. With that energy, there’s no doubt she will be able to give birth to a good child.
I raised my dragon longsword and give her a sign. That was enough.
As a member of the Strauss family, that should be enough to convey what must be conveyed, right? If you don’t, ask mom.
“Now then, let’s go.”
“Umu. The soldiers will be coming from the east.” (Ares)
Playing with the wind using his wings, Ares tilts his body heavily and changes his flight direction. The birds rode the wind that Ares created, and fly to even higher heights. Looks like the birds find it fun to play in the wind that the old dragon’s wings create.
At the direction where the sun was trying to rise from.
That’s where our enemy is.
After a few minutes of flight, the old dragon finds the enemy’s ‘nest’. The smell of preparing food, and the smell of blood flowing from the injured soldiers. For Ares and I, they were both smells that stirred our appetite. Our primal senses were telling us to fight, kill, and steal.
But there’s etiquette with warriors as well.
Even a knight of the Demon Lord army is no exception. No, it is exactly because I am the last dragon knight that there’s a duty as a warrior.
“Sing, Ares. Wake them up from their sleep!!”
“Hoh. Is that okay, brat? We could kill even more if we plant a preemptive attack here, you know?” (Ares)
“Surprise attacks are boring. I won’t allow a single blemish in our song.”
“…Kukuku. That’s a Strauss for ya.” (Ares)
The body of the old dragon swells slowly. He accumulated oxygen in his lungs. Jarring sounds as if the ribs of Ares were creaking were made as he rose, and in time the sound stops.
The dragon sings.
The sky shakes. The trees of the forest dance, and the animals on the ground trembled at the cry of a king. The soldiers of the Varmoa Union must have been shocked by this sudden song of a dragon that was poured down from the sky. They hurriedly come out from the tents and were arming themselves.
Did you think all dragon knights perished?
Don’t get conceited just because you have defeated my dad and my brothers.
…There’s still Ares and I in this country.
“…We have given them the time to prepare for battle. Let’s go!!”
“Umu. Let’s pick at the fools!!” (Ares)
Ares lowered his head and folded his wings. The wing passed by us and the weight of the planet pulls us down. It was a freefall.
The varmoan soldiers were shooting fire arrows at us. There’s a lot. There were enough fire arrows to cover our view. What nice killing intent. It would be troubling otherwise. If our last battle were a boring one, it would be saddening.
“We are going as low as possible!!”
“Of course!!” (Ares)
Ares’s head lowers further and I also lower my body, controlling the center of gravity. The sound of the wind hitting my armor and helmet grew stronger. The fire arrows flew past our heads after we had made a drastic change of trajectory. That’s right. We don’t plan on having you hit us so easily.
Kukuku! What nice momentum! Just a little bit more before we hit the ground!! That’s right, it is now, at this place!! In this timing!!
The big body of the old dragon hits the wind, and the trajectory of the fall makes a sudden turn. I also moved my body violently to contribute in this reckless change of trajectory. I feel an acceleration weight that’s as if my body will be twisted off, but I endure it.
Ares flies at the bare minimum altitude so as to not crash onto the ground.
Being engulfed by the winds created from the big body and wings of the dragon, the varmoan men were blown away. But there’s no way we would let it end with just that.
“Burn them down!!”
A fire breath. The fire breath of the dragon burning in bright red was lighting up the camps. Ares was burning their lines left and right as if bringing them the most pain possible.
In the blink of an eye, we fly away from the crowd of enemies.
“…Fly. Arrows are coming!”
I hit Ares using the back of my boots and Ares flaps his wings with that hit as the signal and raises the altitude. The arrows pass below us. However, one arrow was pierced in my right arm. I pulled it out. It hurts but I pay it no mind.
“…We didn’t pass this uninjured.”
“It wasn’t a bad charge, but the varmoan bows reach pretty far.” (Ares)
There’s also several arrows pierced in the body of Ares. That just means if they shoot in numbers, they will hit at some point. As long as they have well-trained archer units, being in the sky won’t change the fact that we are at a disadvantage.
If two of my brothers were still alive, we could have attacked from three different directions and burned them down with fire alone while they were confused, but…with only us alone, we can’t use the dragon knight tactics that have been honed for more than 500 years.
“Now then, we are going down to the very center of the enemy lines!! Let’s have a match to see who kills the most!!”
“Conceited. Don’t think you can beat me, brat!!” (Ares)
Twisting our bodies, we once again make a sudden descent. This time around, Ares uses a fire breath at a further location from before. It was thin, but because of that it was able to reach a longer distance and was faster, burning the ground and soldiers. We are cleaning the way!! The middle of the enemy territory is our stage!!
Shouting a battle song, we charged into the crowd of enemies.
The giant claws of Ares’s legs shaved off the ground as he brakes. The soldiers that were rammed by that action of his became casualties.
“Uaaaaah! A-A dragon!!!”
“A v-vanguard of the Demon Lord!!”
The varmoan soldiers were scared by the giant dragon’s figure. But this is not the time to be scared with only the dragon, you know? …This is a dragon knight. The dragons of Garuna are always accompanied by the quick-tempered and foolhardy swords of the Strauss.
“My name is Solje Strauss! The fourth son of the Demon Lord’s winged general, Kayn Strauss!!”
I jumped off the back of the dragon. Shouting while taking a stance with my dragon longsword. And then, aiming for the enemy soldiers loitering around close by, I swing down with brute force.
The dragon longsword is made from a mix of magic silver and iron. Not only is it light but also sharp. But this dragon longsword which blade surpasses the 1.5 metres will of course end up being heavy. That’s how the dragon longsword is completed. The ultimate blade that combines weight and sharpness!!
The varmoan soldier had his head sliced together with his helmet. No, not only that, his whole body was cut right down with a single stroke.
As expected of the technique of the Strauss and their sword. Today I am hellishly strong!!
The man sprays out blood from his body as if he had exploded, and I accelerate while being bathed by that blood. I have already introduced myself. Now all that’s left is to kill each other.
Cutting into the enemy lines, I rampage while becoming one with the dragon longsword.
You bastards have probably never fought against this katana. Because the ones who have fought it should have already been sent to their graves after all!!
The dragon longsword is strong!! A regular longsword or spear wouldn’t be able to endure the heavy and fast sword dance of the dragon longsword. In the blink of an eye, I had cut down seven soldiers, and dash through the battlefield aiming for more prey.
No discrimination! No mercy! Every human entering my sight is being cut down by my blade!
Kill. Kill! Kill!!
My blood was boiling and my voice raised. I am being stirred up. Because Ares was singing.
The old dragon was breathing fire, his tail sweeping away soldiers along with tents, his claws slashing, crushing, and with his fangs he crunches the soldiers.
Blood and screams were spreading in the whole area.
Ares was showing the nature of an evil dragon that has been sung of since long in the past. He was enjoying the blood spraying onto him and was getting drunk on the dance floor of slaughter.
I have to win against that!!
If I lose, it will end up in a boring song!!
Just like a hungry wolf, I kick the ground and mercilessly attack my prey guided by my bloodlust.
Cut, cut, cut!!
There were soldiers who managed to put a fight of a few swings against the dragon longsword. It is not as if all the varmoan soldiers are weak. But don’t think you can easily stop a Strauss yearning for a song!!
Pushing the opponent with five swings, six swings, I spin and cut open his stomach as if it were brushing gently against it.
Blood and screams spurt out. But I am merciless. Without bringing ease to this man who was about to welcome death, I attack the next prey.
“Arrows!! Bring down the dragon first with arrows!!”
A soldier wearing red clothes… A varmoan commander. Using orders, he was trying to reorganize them in this crumbling chaos brought by confusion. The archers make a file and prepare their arrows. They are aiming for Ares. The ancient dragon that has been in my family for the longest and I respect the most!!
“—Roar, spear of the thunder monarch ruling the dark clouds!! [Arc Blitz]!!” (Solje)
I release thunder magic from my left hand. The fast thunder burns the archers in an instant. However, it didn’t burn them all. Several of the arrows released by the archers rained down on Ares who was wearing mithril armor.
“Gufuh!! …Fuhahahaha!! Nice arm. As expected, these arrows pierce through magic silver!!” (Ares)
Is he impressed by the wisdom of the enemy, by the metal of their weapons? But that’s not all there is to it. The prideful dragons are all -without exception- far and wide more quick tempered than the Strauss family.
“Unforgivable, inseeects!!!” (Ares)
He begins to burn the battlefield with a specially big fire breath, its hot wind charring the land. Seven archers were burned to death, and theirs bows catch fire, melting metal and all.
The full swing of an axe attacked me from the back.
Sorry to say, but I had bend over a second before it was about to hit me. My helmet made an ear piercing sound as it flew into the sky.
It is fortunate that I didn’t get knocked out by it. I make steps solely paved from experience, sweep my dragon longsword, and cut the attacker in two.
But I stumble.
Damn it, that sound that rung in my eardrums and bewildered my brain had entered deep into my head. It will take several seconds to recover.
Enemy soldiers rush to attack me without leaving any opening.
“You inexperienced bunch!!” (Ares)
The ancient dragon kicks the ground and runs. And then, he tramples on the crowd of soldiers rushing towards me. The cruel charge continued, and Ares had plunged into a crowd of soldiers. He ended up receiving attacks from all directions. His whole body sheds blood intensely. But the ancient dragon didn’t falter. His big body rampaged and killed the soldiers.
I will…I will go as well, Ares!!
Laugh. Baring my fangs, making a cruel expression, I run into the rampaging space of the dragon.
Swinging around the dragon longsword, I cut down soldiers one after the other.
An arrow hits my back. Pain runs through my body every time I breath. Did the arrow hit a bad spot in my muscles? My left arm is not moving properly.
But as if I care!!
I grab the throat of an enemy soldier with my left hand, and immediately crush it. I throw his corpse right onto the enemy group!! And then roar!!
While releasing an aura of bloodlust, I rush into the horde of enemies!! A storm of slashes that were solely strength and speed. While offering the blood of my enemies to the wind, I perform a crazed sword dance.
The fearful enemies had their movements dulled, and their souls were sacrificed to the dragon longsword. I slaughter. The Strauss blood inside of me boiling up allowed me to feel no exhaustion!!
“You damn monsteeer!!”
A brave man for a varmoan soldier took a stance with his horseback spear and it was stabbed deep into the side of Ares. Ares puked out blood mixed with fire, but the next instant, he uses his long tail and smashes the spear soldier in anger.
“Mages, cut that old dragon with wind!!”
The commander shouts.
But I won’t let that happen.
I throw the dragon longsword at that commander. The dragon longsword pierces the body of the commander.
The wind mages, who saw my current defenseless self, laugh with a strained expression. Am I being underestimated? For a mage, is a barehanded swordsman a small fry?
…Or did they laugh at the fact that my arm didn’t move well? I should have thrown it at the mages!! Damn it! There’s moments in the battlefield where things just don’t work in our favour!!
“Hahaha! Brat, we will make you a victim to our wind first!!”
Good grief, every single damn one of them is treating me like a kid.
“I am Solje Strauss-sama!!” (Soulje)
“Hiih?! Get away, you pawn of the Demon Lord!!”
That man shot a wind spell at me. The void blade cuts my body. I am wearing armor, so I won’t die, but the places not protected by the armor sprayed blood. Even so, I didn’t stop. Opening distance against a mage is the epitome of stupidity!!
Without minding the bleeding and the damage, I simply charge towards my prey!
I swing my fist with anger guiding my hand!!
A punch from this body that was trained in order to freely ride a flying dragon!! That kind of punch was driven into that man’s face. The thin neck of a mage wouldn’t be able to endure the strength of a dragon knight. It reached past its limit and snaps just like that.
It was practically an instant death. A nice way to die. It is a whole lot better way to die than the bunch there who are burning and writhing like dying insects, don’t you think?!
I steal a saber from a soldier burned by the breath of my dragon. I wouldn’t call it a good sword, but it does have decent enough killing power. I clash with a soldier close by, overwhelm him, and test the sharpness of it with his flesh.
It cannot be compared to the dragon longsword by miles, but it is still good iron.
“…As expected of the son of Kayn Strauss.”
A calm voice resonates in my eardrums. I am not familiar with it.
But I do understand that he has had some sort of connection with my family.
He did say my father’s name in a nostalgic manner.
But no matter the case, you bastard are a varmoan soldier!!
“If you are challenging me, introduce yourself!! If you want to be cut by my sword and become part of my song!!” (Solje)
“I have no interest in your culture, but I am Kaien!! One of the three swordsmen of the Union!!”
The black haired swordsman introduces himself, and ran towards me. He is fast.
Damn it. If you are going to come out, come from the start. Because of the amount of enemies, my movements are dulled!! I don’t want to pull a pathetic fight. Gah!! If you are a warrior of name, come at me from the beginning!!
Slash and slash cross.
In that place where the fire of a dragon and the screams of soldiers reverberate, the long black haired swordsman and I cross swords. When swords clash, you can feel the skill of the other party, but this guy is not only skilled, he is highly skilled. If it is only in swordsmanship, he might be in the same level as my brothers.
…No, he might be in the level of my father.
Kaien and I clash our swords over and over, but the fight was not ending. I feel like I have gotten closer to my father at this point in time. No, I might have surpassed him. If I were in full condition, I might have been able to overwhelm this guy after all…
“An opening!!” (Kaien)
It was like a black gale. That’s right. It reminds of the time father told me: ‘There’s a fearsomely fast swordsman in the east. Fast like a jumping shadow and hard to read. His swordsmanship was heavy, my sword broken, and he scarred my face…!’
The saber I was holding had been half broken by the black gale’s slashes. As I thought, metal forged by someone other than dwarves are not trustworthy.
And then, Kaien danced, his slash’s flight aiming at my neck. I twist my body and head, and avoid a fatal wound.
—I managed to protect my life. But the price was big.
My left eye was dyed in darkness.
When I felt a burning sensation and saw a big light, the next instant, the vision in my left side was gone. Looks like one of my eyes was cut off. Hm, what nice technique. If I hadn’t remembered the words of father, my head might have been the one flying out.
“I’ve got you, brat.” (Kaien)
“…No, you don’t.” (Solje)
Receiving the disgrace of having my left eye cut, my dexterous fingers grab the wrist of Kaien’s dominant hand. Let me teach you…the grip power of a dragon knight can easily crush the bones of an old man like you.
Making a sound as if a dry tree had split, the swordsman’s wrist cracked. With the pain and its mechanism now broken, the strength in his fingers is lost. That’s why, even with rough hand movements like this, I can steal the katana from you.
I hit his wrist with my hand and steal his katana. The inside skin of my hand was deeply cut, but I pay it no mind. It is no time for that. He is trying to take out a knife from his other side.
From now on it will be a speed contest.
With the katana I had stolen from him, I make a deep cut on his face.
“With this, we are even. One-eyed fellows.” (Solje)
“Don’t get cocky, boy!!” (Kaien)
Even with that, Kaien stabs with his knife and I receive that knife with my arm. Piercing through my mithril armguard, the sharp blade had reached the meat.
It is no fatal wound, but it entered pretty deep.
Kaien is an experienced fighter.
He also paid the lost of his eye no mind, and with his non-dominant hand holding the knife, he moved the knife wildly like the fang of a beast, cutting my body.
It is not his dominant hand, so the dexterity decreases by a lot. That’s why he is compensating with speed and number of moves.
Meaning that he has no other methods left other than overwhelming me with momentum.
The knife attacked me several times, and I get injured here and there.
Not only that. Kaien was attacking me with his severely injured right hand as well. My katana and armor were hit by his fist, and it ends up injuring him more than it does me, but he was exhibiting swordsmanship and bloodlust that demanded to regain the momentum.
A wounded beast that has been cornered to no escape is dangerous.
—Well, it goes both ways.
I tried to avoid the knife by crouching.
He hurriedly tried to correct the trajectory with his arm, but the only thing that he cut was my red hair.
He too lost an eye just recently. Looks like he was unable to process the sense of distance just yet. And because of this, he ended up making a wide move. In other words, he was trying to hide his loss of accuracy with reach.
In that case…the weakened me will mimic the technique of my senior. He is an elderly strong opponent with longer experience than me, but…knife and katana! In difference of reach, I am the superior one!!
Taking a stance, I slash at his body while roaring.
It didn’t cut him in half, but his armor caved in, and a number of Kaien’s ribs were broken. His body having received a severe injury, he retreated against his will. His center of gravity is in disarray after all. Being prepared is simply not enough to deal with this kind of things.
Utilizing this distance created, I released a thrust while closing my eyes.
If I am going to be shown illusions with my unfamiliar one-eyed vision…it would be a whole lot better to just rely on the instincts of my body that have been drilled into me with training.
That decision made through the whisperings of my family’s blood was correct.
My thrust drew the usual trajectory, pierced the chest of Kaien straight on, and dug into even the trained chest of this old veteran -skewering his heart.
“…As expected…of that man’s child… But…there won’t be an honorable death…for your king…” (Kaien)
Leaving ominous words behind, another true warrior crosses the river.
Pushing away the corpse of the man which was beginning to tilt, I pull out the katana.
—The next instant.
I sensed a presence, and used my left arm to protect my head.
If I still had my eye, I would have been able to slap it away… But against an attack that’s coming from outside my field of vision, I just couldn’t do much against it, and ended up getting an arrow pierced in my left forearm.
I glare at the enemy while trembling in anger using my remaining eye.
There, a unit of bows and spears had taken formation. Only 12. Their numbers are not high, but for Ares and I who are tired and injured, this was plenty fatal.
They pulled their bows to the limit, and add precision and power to it. It was a decisive chance that was created from the sacrifice of their comrade. They are also desperate.
The shadow of the black dragon covers my body.
If this were a summer day, this would make me happy, but in this moment where death approaches, that darkness was ominous.
Well, that’s fine. Let it be ominous. Because it looks like this will be the last charge.
Ares, we both have shed way too much blood. Our bodies broken to the extreme. It will be impossible to move in just a few minutes.
“…What an ideal moment. My fire and your charging -and their ranged weapons. Let’s have a match to see which has the cruelest power.” (Ares)
“…Fine by me. Doesn’t sound bad. We are having a match of straight on power. Simple is best. That’s just like us…dragons and Strauss. This kind of battle is what we desire!!” (Solje)
I take a stance with the katana, and lower my waist. Preparing to charge.
If it is unavoidable, don’t avoid.
Offer the whole of my body, and kill as many as possible. Fight even a second longer. That’s the song of the Strauss.
Cecil, I am counting on you. Give birth to an even more fearsome monster than I!!
Warrior that will one day succeed this song…please massacre the Varmoa Union’s soldiers who killed our relatives. I will become a song that will guide your still unknown self!!
Are you fearing me after seeing me smiling? Is a man who smiles in death’s door creepy? That view is shallow. We simply have a deeper song than life itself.
The red clothed varmoan commander raised his voice up high.
Orders…are unneeded between a dragon knight and their dragon in the moments when there’s only one thing required to be done.
Ares breathes the utmost fire breath he can bring out.
The fire breath shakes the trajectory of the arrows, but the arrows go through the fire, and fly straight.
I simply run.
While my body is being burned by the fire, becoming one with the fire, I aim for the enemy lines and charge.
Mutual death arrived for both sides.
People who were being burned to death, people who were pierced and died, people who were cut down and died. Death mixed, and in a madness where nothing could be recognized anymore, I simply controlled my weapon blindly, and express my bloodlust.
Pain, happiness, suffering; they jumble up to create a song of death.
My consciousness will die out eventually…I feel as if I am being freed. Are my siblings bringing out my soul from my body and inviting me to their village in hades?
I feel as if a cold something had entered my heart… This must be the fingers of the Death God. No, they must be the fingers of my relatives.
While deciding that was the case, my tired-out body falls into a deep sleep…
- Prologue: Part 2
—By the time I noticed, Ares was dead in front of me. An old dragon with his head slightly sunk into the ground was in my vision. Covered in blood without moving an inch.
It was raining. A cold rain.
So I failed to die, huh.
This is troubling. My family, even though this was the perfect timing to die…
I raise my body that was being hit by the rain. My whole body was covered in injuries, mud, and burns…however, I noticed something strange. I can see…from my left eye.
“…Wasn’t it cut?”
I don’t understand. What’s happening…? Was it shallow? There’s no way. It was to the point I even felt as if it could have cut all the way to the bone too, you know?
In this moment when I was confused, a nostalgic voice resounds.
“…Oh, so you have woken up, Solje.”
The old dragon was also alive.
Ares opened his mouth languidly and was letting out a hoarse voice along with blood. I was happy to hear that voice. Because only in my childhood, when I took a sword in my hand, would Ares obstinately call me by my name.
—I have been acknowledged by the ancient dragon in the truest of senses.
“…Don’t distort your face in happiness…” (Ares)
“…Of course I will smile. It basically means you have acknowledged me after all…” (Solje)
“…Well, yeah. I have acknowledged you…as a fully-grown Strauss…” (Ares)
“I see… Haha… It was worth failing to die.” (Solje)
“…I hope that’s the case.” (Ares)
“…What do you mean by that?” (Solje)
“…The birds have told me…the King has died.” (Ares)
“The King has… I see.” (Solje)
I don’t mind. This was natural.
That’s right. The king took arms together with the brave warriors of Faris and made a final decisive attack. In order to reach the main base of the enemy, we accepted the mission of exterminating the right-wing side of the group.
King Verius has died.
We were acquainted, but in a savage and small country deep in the mountains that is Garuna, even the king is a soldier. Losing in war means being annihilated.
What’s left is to become shields for the women and children in order to preserve our lineage. And for the sake of showing our tenacity as warriors, we die in battle.
There’s no problem.
There should be no problems, and yet, what’s the matter, Ares?
You are making a sad expression.
“…It seems the king’s army…didn’t reach the enemy’s main base…” (Ares)
“Were they hit by the union’s army on their way…?” (Solje)
“…No…that’s not it… The truth is disgraceful…” (Ares)
“What happened, Ares?!” (Solje)
“Before leaving the castle, the king had been killed… It was a betrayal.” (Ares)
“…It was Faris. They weren’t brave warriors of our allied country… They were just a bunch of assassins… Damn…that Faris…!” (Ares)
“…Wait, mother was supposed to escape to Faris though! And Cecil, too!!” (Solje)
“If Faris is in cahoots with the Union, there’s no assurance of the alliance… The Union…won’t forgive your mother. She was formerly a mage of the Union, and after being kidnapped by your father, she gave birth to four dragon knights… You dragon knights have killed more than ten thousand soldiers of the Union.” (Ares)
“…Mother will most likely obey her fate. But what about Cecil?! That girl is only 7 years old!” (Solje)
“…I don’t know…in this kind of things…I can’t tell what will happen. Damn you, deceivers of Faris…! Tainting our war!!” (Ares)
“…God damn it!! Ares, can you fly?!” (Solje)
“…Sorry, Solje. I can’t. Because…I am already dead.” (Ares)
“What are you saying? You are speaking with me right now!” (Solje)
“…Look closely…that’s the work of the magic eye that I have conferred to you.” (Ares)
I try blinking a few times. And then…Ares suddenly returned to being a corpse. The head that was supposed to have been raised and was looking at me…was still sunk into the ground moistened by the rain.
Was I hallucinating?
“No, I see… It is this new eyeball?!” (Solje)
“That’s right. That’s the magic eye…the same as mine. Shining golden, an eye that has ancient magic reside in it…” (Ares)
I could hear the voice of Ares from his corpse.
“Could it be…I am seeing the soul of a dragon?” (Solje)
“…No. You are seeing remnants of my thoughts. An unexpected benefit. To think a new power would appear from the eye that was supposed to only serve to save you who was on the verge of death…” (Ares)
“…I don’t understand the situation well, but…I am talking to your already-dead self?” (Solje)
“You are talking to a farewell letter. I am a mirage. I will soon disappear… But Solje, I have saved your life. Can you grant a wish of mine?” (Ares)
“…What wish?” (Solje)
“I…can’t forgive Faris who tainted our battle.” (Ares)
“I feel the same way…” (Solje)
“…Then, exterminate them.” (Ares)
“Destroy that country…” (Ares)
“If it is battles, I will do it as much as you want… But destroying a country…? What should I do? I have no understanding of strategy, you know?! …Also, I have no dragon anymore!!” (Solje)
“Live, learn…gather strength…If you can’t do it…gather people who can…steal them away. Snatch…and then…eradicate the royalty of Faris…!” (Ares)
He is saying quite the difficult thing. To a Strauss who only has brains for dying in the battlefield?!
“…I am burning in regret…!” (Ares)
“Ares…to that extent… Okay, I will do it. I will try to… Failing to die also has its reasons after all…!” (Solje)
“…I am counting on you…Solje Strauss. Take my horn. I have gathered mana into it. A proficient dwarf…can make a sword out of it…” (Ares)
“…Yeah. From now on, you will be together with me.” (Solje)
Exchanging a promise with the dying ancient dragon, I drag my dying body, and seek a new battlefield…
My homeland had been destroyed.
My house and village had been burned down, and there wasn’t anyone alive. The soldiers of the Union and Faris gathered the villagers in the church, and burned them down there.
The light rain of my native land is cold, but it felt as if it were tenderly cooling the pile of charred bones.
I…use my magic eye.
My magic eye showed me…the last moments of my mother and little sister…!
They look down on my family saying that there’s no exceptions for people related to the Demon Lord army. They beat them up, tied them up, and burned them alive…
I found the bones of the two thanks to Ares.
Even though I loved the two, if I didn’t have the magic eye, I wouldn’t have been able to tell which ones were their bones. I didn’t have the time to make a proper burial for everyone. I just gather the bones of the two.
Even though I should have died with the best of feelings… Just what have you done?
If I had died just like that in the battlefield, I could have served the king in the afterlife as well, you know.
With all my family.
Aah, small bones.
My little sister, who was supposed to one day give birth to a red haired boy similar to us, has become such a small fragment of herself…!
I won’t forgive you…
The Union and the traitors of Faris!!
With only the horn of Ares and the bones of the two carried in my arms, I leave in quick pace my homeland that has now become enemy territory…
What pathetic flight!
This is an act that goes heavily against dragon knights.
Dying together with your dragon.
That’s what us Strauss are, and yet…!!
Tears of blood flow down.
It is so mortifying, so mortifying, it is unbearable. The philosophy that forms my pride is being completely negated by my fleeing.
I want to die.
I want to fight the enemies and die in battle.
Just like heroes!!
But…the promise I made with Ares, and the phantom of Cecil that cried as she burned, made me unable to choose rushing to the enemy base.
Anger, pride, shame, and sadness were making my heart into a jumbled mess. Even though I haven’t eaten yet, I felt like puking. How does that even work? Is my broken heart being washed out from my stomach?
I don’t know.
But…after endless pain, I had found the answer.
I don’t need to become a hero.
I have failed to die, so I have already lost the qualifications for that.
I will become an avenger.
Endure this shame…and achieve my revenge.
That’s right. The Union, Faris; I will destroy everything.
I still don’t know what to do… I have no idea yet, but…I won’t give up.
I wandered the mountains for several days, and arrived at the holy grounds of flying dragons.
In this land where only the Strauss family knows, I make a grave for my mother and little sister.
They will be able to sleep peacefully here.
That’s right. I will offer you the heads of the Union’s leaders and the head of the king of Faris.
“…Would that mean I would have eaten a country?”
I am no general skilled with military tactics, and have nothing but recklessness in me. I feel as if I can’t do anything complicated. That’s why I will pledge in this holy grounds of the flying dragons.
“—Dragons!! I will pledge here!! I will line up the heads of our foes!! I will not become a hero!! I will become a pathetic avenger!! But I will for sure!! By cleaning away this disgrace, proof to you that I am also a mighty Strauss!!”
In this valley with thick mist, my shout echoes.
Did the souls of the dragons hear my pledge?
Did they hear the pain and wish of Ares residing in my eye?
…There’s no doubt they did. As long as I am a Strauss, the dragons are always by my side after all.
—It is already going to be almost 9 years since that pledge.
The traitors of Faris ruled over the Union, brought together their new territory, and are now calling themselves the Faris Empire.
My battles always lost the initiative.
At first I joined a guerrilla organization that were playing as bandits, and then I also participated in a resistance group made by the demi-humans oppressed by the Empire. We were able to gain victory in localized areas.
They were supposed to have all been battles worthy of the name Strauss, but…just killing a few thousand won’t be able to stop the expanding territory of the Faris Empire.
I continued opposing them. I continued to…and managed to kill a few of the ringleaders of the former Union.
But they were simply pathetic losers who had been dropped from power.
My current objective is narrowed down to the present emperor of the Faris Empire, Yuandart.
To assassinate him, to capsize their order…I didn’t have the power or wits for any of that.
And most of all…Ares!!
You have placed your chip on me!!
“…Sorry for reeking of alcohol. It has been a while since coming back here, and I felt like drinking something… In my drunken frenzy, I was complaining about my subordinates… Sorry about that, the alcohol still isn’t out of my system…”
I place a bouquet of flowers on the grave of Cecil and my mother who I haven’t visited for 3 years. Just for the record, I wasn’t the one who chose this cute offering, you know? I have no taste for that after all.
These blue and yellow flowers mean repose and peace.
Their names are…damn it, I forgot. They are flowers named in a hella old elf language after all. It is hard to remember. They are flowers chosen by an elf girl I have been acting together with since 2 years ago.
An elf girl that had her village burned down by the Empire.
Those kind of anti-imperialism people, at some point in time, began to gather before me. Right now, we have a decent number of people.
I was a former member of the Demon Lord army, so I am apparently famous with the demi-humans, you know?
“…The small resistance groups are being crushed by the assassins sent by Faris. The oppression towards the demi-humans is worsening day by day. But it is not only bad news. The dwarf old man apparently saw a dragon… I -a dragon knight- couldn’t find one even when searching for 9 years though…”
But I can’t throw away hope.
I have pledged to my family and the dragons after all.
“…Now then, it is about time to go. I have to join up with my companion, you see. Next time…I will come without forgetting about the name of those flowers, Cecil… They are apparently special flowers that only grow in the elf forest. I am sure you would have loved them… Well then, see you later.”
The Cecil in my memories plays with those flowers and makes a crown out of them.
My mother must be watching over the still seven year old her with a kind gaze.
Looking back is scary.
What if it is not a memory, and I end up seeing an hallucination?
What if I saw my family and Ares at the bottom of this cliff?
If they were smiling at me?
…I would feel as if I have been forgiven, and might end up jumping off the cliff. It is a deep cliff. After feeling the wind for a few seconds, I will be at peace. My pain will be over. My shame will end. The song that I had wanted to become so much in my childhood days -right now, I even think there’s no need to become one.
It is not as if I am tired of the battles.
The loneliness is attacking me, and my heart is worn down.
That’s why I didn’t look back at the grave of the two, and leave this place.
I don’t want to allow this dryness that still hasn’t been quenched.
Yuandart. Until the day I cut that head off you, I…will stay a lonely beast.
Being covered in the veil of peaceful death…can come after that.
Listen here, you pieces of shit of the Empire, don’t forget my anger.
My name is Solje Strauss.
An avenger that has lost his homeland, family, and dragon…!
—In the past, it was said that there were foolhardy brutes who had bonded with the infamous black winged dragons.
The dragon knights of a fallen country.
The name of the people with that blood coursing through their veins was Strauss.
Sword and wings played in the winds of the battlefield, and they mowed down everything mercilessly like a storm.
—Everything melts into a song.
The soul of a knight and dragon were offered to the ever shining starry sky.
It is already a passing story.
Even the bards have stopped singing about it.
—The person who has succeeded the fire of the dragon.
A one-eyed red haired swordsman.
With a longsword of melted dragon horn, he wanders the world without destination.
Endless days of disgrace with no song to offer.
—The person who refused being sung of.
Wandering the battlefield, roaming the present.
With the steps of a ghost, he hungers, crazes, unending.
Does he seek for new wings? Or his companion archer?
Now, let’s talk tonight. About the legend of the one-eyed man that danced with dragons and slaughtered the evil emperor.
…The song of Solje Strauss!!