The Dragon Kingdom
Meili's Witchbeast Observation Record III
The sky gleamed white. And it was in that moment of realization that a portion of the desert vanished into oblivion.
A tempest of wind-swept sand soared skyward, only to descend back down from the clear, blue sky like rain. Their vision blurred in a yellowish haze as the fine grains of sand permeated the air, threatening to contaminate each and every breath.
“Cover your mouths tightly!” Reinhard yelled. “The sand is infested with Miasma! Be careful not to accidentally breathe it in!”
“I can’t bear the taste of this sand anymore,” Flam moaned.
“The taste of humiliation,” Grassis concurred. Pulling their anti-sand cloths over their mouths, the petite figures sitting side by side on the driver’s seat hollered with all their might as Meili clutched her own mouth shut, stifling her own cries. She felt the crimson scorpion that had made her hair its nest pop out and start snapping its pincers in alarm. Meili could totally understand how the excited small crimson scorpion was feeling, but no matter how it protested this small witchbeast…no, everyone there including Meili, could do nothing. Except for one person.
“Reinhard!” she cried out to the Sword Saint, whose name resounded, who was the reason they hadn’t turned to dust.
The red-headed knight, descending from the dragon carriage that traversed the sandy terrain, stood at the brunt of the swirling light. Raising his sheathed sword, housed in a white scabbard engraved with the claws of a dragon, he gazed intently over the expanse of the desert. A moment later, another burst of light surged forward as the swinging sword met it head-on, cleaving through its attack.
The severed light emitted a splashing sound as it dispersed, demonstrating its destructive force in the distance, missing its original target and creating yet another massive crater in the great sandy plains of the Augria Sand Dunes.
The second blow, following closely behind the first, held the power to vaporize not only Meili’s petite form but the dragon carriage that carried her, leaving no trace behind should they be struck directly by the light’s tremendous force. Yet it was nothing more than a mere act of exhaling for their opponent.
“It was the same with Naked Ladyy. But why is the reception soo extreme!?” Meili said through a stifled scream, voice brimming with indignation.
Despite having painstakingly overcome the challenges of Sand Time, as Meili and her party ventured toward the tower beyond the desert, what had awaited them was a rough greeting from Shaula, the self-proclaimed Star Keeper of the tower. They had barely survived the previous encounter thanks to the strenuous efforts of Emilia, Julius, Subaru, and Beatrice. And with the loss of Shaula, they never expected such a situation to arise again. However…
“What did you say to that dragooon!?” Meili cried. Far, far away, a breath of light radiated from the tower of sand in the distance. The source of the light was a massive, blue-scaled Dragon, perched atop the tower as a proxy for the absent caretaker.
“The Divine Dragon, Volcanica,” a voice muttered from inside the dragon carriage as the menacing sound of a little red scorpion snapping its pincers rattled in their ears. Such was the rough welcome to Meili as she made her return to the Pleiades Watchtower.
The time was two days before facing the tumultuous welcome of the Divine Dragon, Volcanica.
“Got it? You must never open your heart so easily,” warned the younger Annerose, as Meili’s lips twitched in response to the seriousness in her face and voice. Annerose carried a strong sense of responsibility and was keenly aware that she had been entrusted with Meili’s safety by someone important. So, I get why she’s so anxious, but…
“I’m still a former assassiin…” Meili started.
“Regardless of your past, it’s evident that you’re currently captivated by Emily, are you not? So nothing you say grants you the power of persuasion. Persuasion is something achieved through action.”
“Hmph…” Annerose stood there with her hands on her hips lecturing Meili, who was unable to come up with a rebuttal. In truth, Emilia and Subaru played crucial roles in her backstory. After becoming acquainted with those two naive characters, it’d be absurd to continue playing the role of a ruthless assassin. Annerose should understand more than anyone.
“I’m somewhat thankful to them, you knoow,” Meili acknowledged.
“Yes, I know,” Annerose replied. They were both moved by similar people, so Annerose understood her feelings and nodded. “So I won’t say any more. Not to you, at least.” However, as expected from her, Annerose added a cautionary note.
As if to back up the slight worry Annerose had…
Felt came towards them flashing her fang with a smile and waving her hand. “Yo, you ready to go? We’re all here.”
Felt, another royal selection candidate and one of Emilia’s rivals, was accompanied by her knight, Reinhard, and three other attendants: a small boy and two girls, equally petite. Those girls look so much alike, they’ve got to be twins…
“This little guy over here is Ezzo. He’s my strategist. And these twins are Flam and Grassis. They handle the food and cleaning and stuff,” Felt explained, introducing her companions.
“Miss Felt, that’s a bit of a sloppy explanation. First of all, your strategist is Sir Rom,” Ezzo pointed out.
“Old Man Rom says he doesn’t need a fancy title,” Felt clarified. “So he’s my advisor, and you’re my strategist. Flam and Grassis are my caretakers. Reinhard’s the violent one.”
“Lady Felt, you’re rather harsh on the young master,” said Flam.
“But it’s true,” said Grassis.
“If you had at the very least said ‘powerful’ instead of ‘violent’, it would have been easier to process…” Reinhard lamented.
The exchange of words left Meili feeling dizzy.
Annerose appeared to share the sentiment as she let out a small sigh, then clapped her hands to get their attention. “Alright, alright,” she started. “Lady Felt, thank you for introducing your companions. As Meili is an important member of our camp, we couldn’t entrust her to someone whose identity is uncertain,” Annerose expressed with concern in her voice.
“If we’re talkin’ identity, I’ve gotta be the most suspicious of all of you,” Felt said, laughing heartily, while Reinhard and the rest of the people around her sighed.
“Lady Felt…” Surprised at Felt’s nonchalance in describing her own upbringing, Meili surveyed her camp once more. She wanted to take a better look at the members who would be heading to the Pleiades Watchtower with her.
Accompanied by Annerose, Meili had an audience with the Council of Wise Men at Lugunica Castle. There, she used her ability to manipulate witchbeasts as a bargaining chip, requesting indemnity for her past crimes. The Council of Wise Men agreed, but with a condition: Meili had to prove her usefulness.
In other words, Meili must prove that she could traverse the Augria Sand Dunes with her power, and in order to prove that, the ones who had volunteered to accompany her were…
“But are you certain about joining us, Lady Felt?” Annerose questioned.
“It was I who provoked them,” Felt insisted, confidently pointing her thumb at herself. “And it was probably fate that I was there. On top of that my testimony holds more weight since I’m from a different camp, wouldn’t ya say?”
“You do have a point,” Annerose said, nodding reluctantly at Felt’s suggestion. As Roswaal’s appointed representative, Annerose herself couldn’t accompany them on their return visit to the Pleiades Watchtower. Thus, she had no choice but to entrust Meili’s care to Felt and her companions, which must have been embarrassing for her to be clearly indebted like that. However…
“I won’t get into the details of who owes who what for something as small as this. I’m also thinkin’ of doing something about Priestella,” Felt declared.
“Understood.” Annerose bowed to her as if in resignation, as Felt offered a wide smile. “I appreciate your kind offer.”
With that, Meili’s well-being had been securely entrusted to Felt and her companions.
“By the way, about the Divine Protection of Witchbeast Manipulation. Sir Reinhard, do you not have the same Divine Protection?” Ezzo asked curiously.
“Unfortunately,” he replied, “only one of her Divine Protection can exist at a time.”
“I see. That makes the responsibility heavier and heavier for us, doesn’t it?” Ezzo pondered.
“It’s quite the tough role, isn’t it?” Flam commented.
“A pain,” agreed Grassis.
“You two, please don’t talk about it as if it were someone else’s problem; I expect you to give your best, too,” Reinhard chided with a wry smile. The twins nodded at his words with emotionless expressions.
Beside them, a boy called Ezzo approached Meili. “I am Ezzo Cadner,” the diligent-looking guy introduced himself, adjusting his cloak and bowing respectfully. “I have had the honor of serving Miss Felt ever since a particular incident, and am delighted to accompany you on this intriguing journey. Let’s fulfill our roles together.”
“Yes, let’s do that…” Meili said. “So what can you doo?”
“I’m a magic user. I’m the second best in the kingdom, much to my annoyance,” Ezzo replied, irritation mixed into his otherwise intelligent countenance; it seemed that he was in a complicated situation. Despite the small stature of the boy, he had a certain air about him that could not be underestimated…and he wasn’t the only one.
“It seems those twins have more to offer than caretaking, hmmm?” Meili commented.
“You have a good eye,” complemented Flam.
“You know too much,” muttered Grassis.
Flam and Grassis, along with the members of Felt’s camp, each had their own unique quirks and idiosyncrasies. Particularly noteworthy were the sly royal candidate and her first-ranking knight, the Sword Saint, both of whom found themselves entangled in unexpected circumstances. Subaru and Emilia sure have their fair share of challenges awaiting them, Meili thought.
“So weiiird,” Meili muttered, wondering why she felt anxious at their problem as if it were her own.
“Lady Annerose, everything is in order. Ready,” Clind, Annerose’s butler, interjected in his typically subdued manner. Clind played an important role in Meili’s trial, which encompassed this journey to the Pleiades Watchtower and overcoming the Augria Sand Dunes. He would transport them all the way from the royal capital, Lugunica, to the dunes in a single bound.
“Miss Meili, good luck to you. Expectation.” Clind bowed deeply, surprising Meili and Annerose.
“I wouldn’t be so afraid of you if you’d just say one word to cheer me up like that,” Meili jested.
“Clind always has much to say, doesn’t he?” Annerose chimed in. She took Meili’s hand again and continued, “Meili. I wish you the best in winning back your future.”
“Yes, thank youu. I’ll do my beest,” Meili replied with her usual light-hearted tone at the younger girl’s—Annerose’s—sincere words. No matter what grand schemes lay ahead, the girl closest to Meili remained unfazed. She’s the strongest person I’ve ever known, always standing her ground. That’s why I believe that the most powerful thing one can do is always be true to oneself.
Through Clind’s enigmatic power, Meili and the members of Felt’s camp were instantly teleported from the royal capital to the entrance of the Augria Sand Dunes. Boarding the dragon carriage prepared for their journey, they moved the witchbeasts out of their way using Meili’s ability, then slowly but surely made their way towards the Pleiades Watchtower, visible in the distance, without any hiccups. It was when they had somehow managed to survive the difficult Sand Time that they got a violent greeting from the Divine Dragon mentioned at the beginning.
“Geez, why are we in such a mess!?” Meili lamented her bad luck in frustration with a high-pitched voice inside the violently shaking dragon carriage. As far as she knew, the Dragon, which had resided in the Pleiades Watchtower for a considerable amount of time, was at Emilia’s beck and call. If she remembered correctly, then it had been asked to protect the tower on behalf of Shaula. This can’t be happening. Was it Emilia’s typical vague remarks that drove the Dragon to commit this heinous act?
“He’s most likely just been startled by my presence,” Reinhard explained as he fended off the overwhelming onslaught that greeted them.
“Huh?” Meili exclaimed, her eyes widening in disbelief, when she realized that he was replying to her scream. She couldn’t believe her ears that Reinhard had the leisure of having a conversation in a situation like this as he leaned forward.
“Ezzo, I’ll leave you in charge here. I’ll handle the Divine Dragon!” With these words, the red-headed knight swiftly departed a great distance, the sound of his footsteps like the firing of magic stone cannons. Beneath his feet, a massive crater formed in the sand, an impossible feat for anyone with mere human leg power. Reinhard’s prediction appeared to have proven true as he was propelled into the air.
The emerging light from the distance changed course, moving away from the dragon carriage carrying Meili and the others, and began to chip away at the desert in pursuit of the airborne Reinhard.
“The light appears to be targeting the young master,” Flam observed.
“Caught in the middle,” Grassis added.
“Don’t be so blunt!” Ezzo scolded. “Oh, this is a disaster! Miss Felt! I don’t want anything to happen to you! Stay close to me…”
“Don’t be ridiculous!” Felt retorted, brushing off a hand reaching out from the driver’s seat. “How am I your top priority now? Now that that damn Reinhard flew off somewhere, your duty’s to protect Meili!”
As it was, Felt embraced Meili protectively, who was curled up in a seat on the dragon carriage. She glared at the little crimson scorpion clacking its pincers atop the startled Meili’s head. “I’m not tryna hurt your master!” she scolded. “Hey, Meili!”
“Don’t lose focus. If you mess up, we’re all in trouble!” Meili paused momentarily, and Felt continued. “Show us just what you can do. You’re the only one with the map to this maze. We can only follow you.”
Felt tightened her grip on Meili’s shoulder, her eyes radiating determination. Meili gulped, feeling her powerful gaze. The situation was just as urgent to Felt as it was to Meili, yet despite this, Felt remained unflinching, reminding Meili that she, too, possessed her own exceptional qualities. She, too, possesses unwavering values. A special quality, similar to Subaru and Emilia…and Elsa.
“Well? Ya gonna answer?” Felt snapped.
“I don’t need you to remind mee,” Meili retorted. “It’s my job to do thiis.”
“Heh, well said. Ezzo! Flam! Grassis!” Felt called out the names of the three in the driver’s seat with a wide grin showing her fang. They turned toward her, silently awaiting her command. “Reinhard will secure the victory! We need to make sure we don’t lose! So buckle up!” Felt’s voice rang out with fiery determination, igniting sparks of fervor in the eyes of her three followers. Everyone in the camp, including Reinhard, who was unable to hear what she just said, sought the best outcome.
Witnessing their dedication, Meili couldn’t afford to lag behind. “Pleease, just stay stiiill…!” she pleaded. Despite the tower guardian’s absence, the intensity of the Miasma in the dunes showed no signs of diminishing. The violent nature of the witchbeasts that abound in the Augria Sand Dunes and their unnatural, undeterred willingness to fight, even to the death, remained strong due to that. Had Meili not ordered them to stand by, the bloodthirsty witchbeasts would have swarmed in on them.
However, unlike the climactic battle at the tower, the current scenario had the witchbeasts entangled in a fierce struggle against the forces of nature. Meanwhile, the battle between Reinhard, the Sword Saint, and Volcanica, the Divine Dragon, intensified.
In the midst of the chaos, the two tasks at hand were protecting the dragon carriage from the shockwaves from the battle and protecting Felt and the others from senseless danger. Not only must we reach the tower, but I also have to prove that I’m capable of saving someone.
That alone held the key to a new life for Meili Portroute.
“You know your role, don’t you?” Felt asked, a mischievous smile playing on her lips as she glanced at Meili, fully focused and oblivious to her surroundings, sweat glistening on her forehead. Her gaze extended toward the decisive battle exploding over the expansive desert. “I’ll bet the girls who went to the Empire haven’t the slightest clue that we’re here fighting the Dragon,” Felt said, wetting her lips with a flick of her tongue.
Meanwhile, to the complete ignorance of Felt and her camp, Emilia and Priscilla had simultaneously clashed with a Dragon in the fortress city. Thus, each royal candidate was in the midst of their own intense battle.