This is one of the possibilities of "Shiranui", the head of "Shiranui" clan of "Nubatama". Like the other many Stride Fusions, his physical capabilities are enhanced. In addition, his "evil eye" is drastically empowered. His evil eye power is different from other powers common in Cray, like magic and science, so it cannot be blocked by these powers. The countermeasure is "to avoid the gaze of his evil eye", but it is an impossible task for common creatures, given Shiranui's speed is further enhanced by Stride Fusion. His comrades of the past "exist there" in another form... Shiranui has overcome his own past in planet E, but what awaits him is a demon of revenge, created by the sins he committed in the past. Now is the moment he must stake his own life to save "Shiranui" clan from the curses of the past. Catching sight of the nostalgic village, the stealth dragon rides into the jaws of death alone.
Monthly Bushiroad Short Novel (November 2017 Issue)
Finale of the Prologue
Abandon swordsmanship, choose knowledge, seek new power. I did everything for this day, for this moment.
(The end is near.)
I have sworn. I shall achieve it. No matter what kinds of crimes and atrocities I need to commit.
I have decided. Not only my body... the knightly order, my comrades, my mentors, my friends, all can be sacrificed for my cause.
(End everything, with my hands.)
The consciousness would have been engulfed by dark emotions, if it had not been shone upon by the beam of light. The memories of the past, the view of someone's wide back. Sometimes he taught me how to swing a sword. Sometimes he scolded me for dangerous actions. Sometimes---
(I should have ended everything.)
Walking beside the armored man is a blond boy, his smile is warm like the sun. That should be my past memories.
(Big-bro, what should I do... I should have carved your silhoutte in my eyes.)
The man with a nostalgic aura, the man who is always in his armor to prevent ambushes, who is he?
(I should have called your name, more than anyone else.)
The man who patted my hand with his palm full of calluses, who is he?
(...I can't even recall.)
Gear Chronicle had launched an expedition to arrest the frenzied Dragwizard Luard. The participants were few, but they were elites of planet Cray. The success rate was estimated to be 60%.
"Even the heroes of this generation cannot stop him, huh?"
However, all warriors who had confronted Luard were downed. The expedition ended in failure. His power had greatly surpassed the latest data of "Gear Chronicle".
"He seems to be growing at a stunning pace. But I think that's due to Dragshift."
Far away, two people were observing the operation. A silver-haired man looking at the sky, and a black-haired lady looking at the man.
"I should not have passed Shift Magic to the later generations. He is lured to the wrong path by Dragshift. Everything is my---"
The silver-haired man---"Ildona" clenched his fists so tightly that blood spilled from the gaps of his fingers. His remorse was exposed on his face.
"I don't want to hear an old man's complaints. If you have time for repentance, why don't you use it for the future?"
The black-haired lady---"Luquier" interrupted Ildona's voicing his mind.
"And," she continued, "I have failed to guide him back to the right path. But that's not the end of everything. Shouldn't we do our best in the range we can intervene?"
Ildona closed his eyes as he listened to Luquier's justified statements. And, as he opened his eyes,
"...You're right. There's no time for anguishing."
Seeing Ildona resume his calmness, Luquier smiled. Somehow embarrassed, Ildona cleared his throat, and said,
"We cannot do anything that intervenes in the world's future publicly---accepting this prerequisite, we obtained graces that denizens of the outer world cannot reach."
"Right. We can use this space beyond the world's laws to observe the future a bit later. Thanks to the Sage of Time."
"But exactly because of this, we cannot take actions that violate the laws. The laws of the Sage of Time are absolute."
"Right. But there're other methods."
"Without a doubt. It's fine if we don't directly use that. For this, we beheld the past and found this 'fragment of memories'. Then---"
At that moment, the space in front of them distorted. This was apprently abnormal, but both of them stayed calm.
The distorted space returned to normal gradually. In the place where nothing existed, a door appeared. That was an archaic-styled mechanical door composed of numberless gears.
"Speak of the dragon."
As if responding to Luquier's words, the valve on the mechanical door turned like it was acting as a key. Heavy low noises echoed in the space.
"We have been waiting for you."
They knew the visitor. Ildona spread his arms.
"One who presides beyond the laws, yet is allowed to intervene those within the laws."
The door opened.
"Fathomer of events' causes. Chanter of the history's heritage. Guide of the world's vicissitudes. Creator of the finales."
From a blinding radiant light, a massive silhoutte appeared.
"The moderator of time, Chronodragon. No... now, your name should be Chronojet Dragon."
And at the same time, something happened in a corner of Dragon Empire.
"Lord Shiranui! Finally, you have returned!"
In "Nubatama", the long-missing leader of the "Shiranui" clan had returned.
"These kinds of things had happened when I was not here..."
Some were crying, some were demoralized, the underlings were surrounding Shiranui, returned at last. They could not be blamed, for numberless clansmen had been killed, and they were not safe even in the Empire.
The Shiranui clan was completely debilitated.
(It was I who led to this situation. Everything was my fault, for I have been self-abandoned and addicted to the power of evil eye.)
"My apologies... my apologies, to all of you."
Shiranui lowered his head, and apologized in whimpers. The cost of turning his back from the future, the results of his whimsical actions, is the deaths of his many subordinates. Shiranui's tears could not be fought back, and soaked the tatami wet.
"L, Lord Shiranui..."
Witnessing Shiranui's tears, his underlings stopped rumbling.
(I must atone for everyone. I must stake my life to atone... but, that is...)
Shiranui raised his head slowly, and looked around to see the faces of all the members in the place. All of his subordinates were watching him worriedly. Then, as their leader, he should take action.
"All of you, fear no more. For I will stop that man."
The strength in his eyes and in his words heartened his subordinates. Unlike the noises they made before, they cheered in joy.
"For sure, with the power of Lord Shiranui's evil eye of domination...!"
"Ooh! Lord Shiranui!"
All of their voices were filled with praises towards him. Hearing that, Shiranui smiled.
"I don't need companions. Although that man seems to have marked me as his target, I cannot guarantee that he does no harm to you."
"Understood! Please return safely, Lord Shiranui!"
"...Humph, I'll leave the aftermath to you all."
After saying that, Shiranui's form disappeared from the house. He moved so quickly like he had cast teleportation spells. That was a technique only the best ninjas could use. Shiranui looked at the houses from a rooftop, and he moved again, his mind filled with stoic determination.
(I must head to the barrens, away from the village.)
He ran. He ran without stopping. To protect his brethren who are still living. To settle the sins he had committed in the past.
"This is my last atonement."
How long has passed since he last ran till both legs were exhausted? He had ran far from the capital, reaching a wasteland with no air of civilizations.
(Here should be far enough.)
He resumed moving. Something sharp scratched his face... he was attacked by someone.
(In the air!)
A barrage of magical blasts rained down from the sky. But only the first could touch Shiranui, the others hit nothing but the ground. Shiranui's dynamic vision and movement speed were astonishing. But, what was more astonishing were,
"How can it be...!?"
The attacker's flying speed and stealth ability. Shiranui was convinced of the attacker's identity, and stopped.
(This was the attacker aiming at killing me... and his avatar.)
The pitch black dragon descended before Shiranui. Shiranui could sense the attacker's brimming hatred and murderous intent targeting him, even though the attacker said nothing.
"Is the hide-and-seek over?"
Low and turbid, Luard sounded totally different from his original voice. Perhaps that was because of the semi-transformed vocal cords.
Shiranui kept his body from trembling before the egregious negative emotions. Then,
"What trickery is this?"
Luard stared at Shiranui, his katana on the ground, his hands raised up. The land crumbled under Luard's feet, as if crushed by Luard's almost-materialized murderous intent.
"I have come, not to struggle, but to concede my life to you."
"No excuse can mitigate my responsibility of your comrade's death."
"So, please put an end to it here. My subordinates are innocent. Please---"
"I must say,"
As Shiranui attempted to lower his head, Luard suddenly appeared before him. An eerie pressure struck Shiranui, it felt dreadfully suffocating. Shiranui had not sensed such pressure since he last met "Gastille".
"Why do you wanna die like a good guy? Enough, take your katana."
Luard pointed at the katana on the ground with his chin.
"...I have no intention to fight you. I have no reason to resist."
Shiranui declared resolutely, yet Luard still stared at him. And Luard's face,
"Ahhhh, is that so? I get it. Then---"
Was distorted in mixed ecstasy and anger.
"Then I shall resume hunting 'Shiranui' clan."
Fear circulated in Shiranui's body. What did that man say? Hunting "Shiranui" clan?
"Let me give you a 'reason' to fight. If you find that it's not enough, I shall kill until the number of corpses can fuel you."
Indignation emerged on Shiranui's face. He activated the evil eye on his forehead.
The evil eye was not Shiranui's original power, but an unorthodox power which Gastille bestowed upon Shiranui. Therefore, it could not be blocked by magic. Though Luard had not known that yet, he escaped the view of the evil eye reflexively.
"Yes! That's right!"
"None shall harm my subordinates...!"
"...You and I are sinners alike. No more dreams for a clean death."
"Then I have no choice. You asked for it. Stealth Dragon Shiranui shall be your adversary!"
Shiranui made a hand seal in front of his chest, and his body was engulfed in a pillar of light. A new armor took form on his body. Against this, Luard,
Spread his wings,
"fight till the death."
Kicked the ground,
And charged straight forward. He tackled Shiranui. Luard's nose penetrated Shiranui's abdomen like a blade. Shiranui could not bear it and swung his katana, but Luard had disappeared. Shiranui looked around, but found nothing.
"Is that all?"
Luard appeared behind Shiranui and gripped the latter's shoulder, breaking it.
"You have defeated big-bro, haven't you? You have defeated that big-bro! Yet, why are you so weak?"
Luard cast a glance at Shiranui, who is squarting in pain. He had let down his guard and did not keep moving.
"If you don't work hard, you can't save your cute underlings, you know?"
Ninjas undergo harsh training that allows them to tolerate most kinds of pain. The loss of one arm somehow reduced Shiranui's combat performance, but it does not render him totally defenseless. He pretended to be severely injured in order to make Luard careless.
"...You're in my hands!"
One instance was enough to immobilize Luard with the evil eye. However, Luard disappeared from Shiranui's eyes.
"What's in your hands, you say?"
The sound came from above Shiranui's hand, and an impact struck his legs. He felt blood from his legs. Then, the barrage of magical blasts struck Shiranui again.
"No trickery this time, huh?"
Shiranui's injuries were too heavy that he could not dodge the barrage of magical blasts.
"That body can't fight well, can it?"
(I have done my best to protect my organs from a direct hit...)
"I'd like to shred you into pieces, but I can give in."
Luard raised his arm, and covered it with a high density of mana. That shape was like a blade of light. He swung several times at the ground to test the blade's sharpness. That was enough to ravage the ground. After that,
"Your head will be my prize."
He raised the blade slowly,
(Finally, I can protect them, this time...)
He swung down the blade, at a deliberate slow speed so that Shiranui could see it clearly. But,
(Big-bro *%@, with this, it is fin---)
The blade of overwhelming sharpness could not reach Shiranui's neck. It was blocked by something.
(The blade of mana can cut down all matter. Blocking this is...)
"Wrong! It's Chronodragon Gearnext!"
The bizarre blue dragon Chronojet Dragon appeared, not in his common dragonman form, but a quadrupedal form like a Tanystropheus. And,
"And Chrono Dran, has entered the fray!"
Chrono Dran held the massive head and stood on it.
"...What is it now?"
Chronojet Dragon possessed power comparable to deities in the realm of men. Direct confrontation was unwise... even though Luard's mind was filled by hatred, he was analyzing enough to think about how to make the situation in his advantage.
"It's not like killing this thing will destroy the world. Why does a big-shot like you cling to this thing?"
"We must save uncle ninja as well, but we came to save you!"
"Save me? What're you talking about?"
"Because Luard's too strong!"
"And you use that power to do bad things. Power should not be used to hurt others, you should have learnt that in child times."
"...It's no use negotiating with a kid. Chronojet Dragon, your turn."
But Luard heard no response. He tried to attack Shiranui again, and Chronojet moved correspondingly.
"You keep your intentions a secret, yet you stand in my way?"
Luard spread his wings and filled them with mana. His murderous intent spread from Shiranui to cover the gear dragons.
In the blink of an eye, Chrono Dran slid from Chronojet's head. Luckily, Luard did not notice it.
"Death has come to you, deity-pretender. All who stand in my way... are my enemies!"
"Chronojet Dragon... truly a mysterious being. I sense a feeling similar to a guardian dragon."
"That's noteworthy. But please study it after settling the matter."
"Humph. I have entrusted the fragment of memories to Chronojet Dragon. Let us see how he can relay that to Luard."
"Certainly. Nothing can enter Luard's ears now."
"As expected, he must do it by force..."
"Maybe he can use his mighty power to show the memories to Luard."
"Isn't that too ideal? Even with magic... no, if he uses that kind of power..."
"Right. They use a power beyond Cray's magic and science. So, he may be able to..."
The blade of mana was swung down at Chronojet's head. The blade was composed of super dense mana, a lot denser than that used for cutting Shiranui's head. Yet,
The blade was deflected by Chronojet's spacetime shields, without even making a scratch.
"The spacetime shields are unexpectedly strong. If I cannot break through them, I have but one solution."
Luard dispelled the blade and became invisible... no, he moved at a speed that one would perceive as disappearing from the space.
(Worm my way into the gap between the shields and the body, and strike all my mana into his body, destroying from inside.)
Luard raised his speed, breaking through the sound barrier and making sonic booms whenever he kicked the ground.
"What incredible speed..."
Shiranui, witnessing their fight, could not but tremble. For Luard had totally exceeded him.
Luard moved at an astonishing speed, yet he forced himself to stop several times to change directions irregularly. His moves could not be predicted.
(But, that kind of movement would eventually drive him to his limits, no matter how staunch his body has become. Seems... he is aiming at something at the cost of an overload.)
Shiranui's guess was accurate. Luard, bearing the burden to his body in mind, staked his life to attack.
(After all, the dragon transformation can only last so long.)
Luard concentrated to observe his opponent's eyes, and noticed the moment Chronojet could no longer track his movements. He grasped the chance.
(Should I miss this chance, I have no more.)
Chronojet took actions of "defense". From this, Luard was confident that his attacks were effective, or else Chronojet would not have defended at all.
(Must... hit him.)
Luard struck from the upper left and entered Chronojet's vision again. He unleashed a barrage of magical blasts, but they were all blocked by the spacetime shields. Yet,
(Found it, it's here...!)
He fired the magical blasts not for "attacking", but for finding the gaps between the spacetime shields. He flew through the gap and placed his palm on Chronojet's chest.
Luard put all his mana into this attack, but,
At that moment, Luard felt something enter his body as well. Chronojet was aiming at the chance to touch Luard, so he deliberately showed a mistake in order to lure Luard into drawing close. In exchange, Chronojet took damage. His chest armor exploded as Luard's mana burst from inside the armor.
"This light is..."
That was the thing Ildona entrusted to Chronojet.
That was the truth behind the death of "Dagda", the big-bro of Luard---a fragment of memories of the world.
When Luard realized, he found himself standing in a forest, under the rain.
"This, it can't be..."
The place where he had been practicing with the one he respected as a brotherly-figure during childhood.
"Right. It's this forest..."
Without even noticing his form returned to normal, he wandered in the nostalgic forest.
"And, this rain is..."
His big-bro also died in a rainy day. As he thought so, he saw,
A view of someone's back, in black armor, with a nostalgic air.
Seeing that silhoutte, Luard ran in a hurry, like a child lost in the forest. But, as he extended his arm,
The armored strong man shook powerlessly. He was so severely injured that blood stained his footsteps. His last strength only allowed him to make a few steps, and finally, he leaned on a tree and breathed his last.
When seeing that dragon standing before his dead brother, Luard's face instantly turned red with anger.
"A, ahhhhh... wretch! You wretched being!"
That was the abominable enemy---Shiranui. But, he murmured without noticing Luard.
"Oh, don't blame me. Your existence has exerted bad effects on him."
Luard, though agitated, sensed something was wrong.
"Because he is our dear candidate. A candidate to become our other 'vessel' necessary for my Lord to descend here."
His words and aura were totally different from the Shiranui he had just confronted.
"But, it is uneasy to act in this way... the body of another person is uneasy to be used, I guess. Hmm, I shall consider this a chance to practice Diffride."
"What is this thing saying?"
Luard was confused, and he stared at Shiranui's face. Suddenly, he heard massive thunder, while the lightning shone Shiranui's face.
That moment, he saw a face with an evil smile. That was not Shiranui's face, but someone else's.
"This isn't Shiranui!? This thing is---"
"Well, that is enough to seal your fate, I suppose. I have high expectations of you---Luard."
After saying that, Shiranui closed his eyes and stopped moving, as if he had lost consciousness. But that lasted only for several seconds. He opened his eyes again, and looked around.
"What is this...? What!?"
Shiranui smelled the scent of blood, and found the knight's corpse lying on the tree. His face was filled with confusion. And he noticed quickly, that he was the "murderer".
"...Is that The Reverend Gastille's doing? I don't know why he used my body to commit such an act... O foreign knight, please forgive me."
Shiranui mourned before the knight's dead body, but he suddenly turned his head like he was being touched by something. Luard saw his eyes.
"...Can he see me?"
With that in mind, Luard took his position, but found that he was wrong. Shiranui turned his head because he heard the approaching footsteps. In place of Shiranui, who suddenly disappeared, a blonde boy appeared, panting. The boy, with a weak and unreliable look, rushed towards the knight.
Hearing the boy's scream, Luard's lost his consciousness.
Luard thought he was knocked down, but he recovered immediately. He looked around in a hurry, and saw Chronojet Dragon in his normal form. Shiranui and Chrono Dran stood behind Chronojet.
"Right, I have been fighting---"
He took his stance, but he found his body oddly dull.
(Then I shall activate Dragshift...)
He sensed that he had cast the spell, but the magic was not activated. That means his remaining mana is insufficient to activate any magic. Even so, he tried to confront them, and in his mind,
A gentle sound echoed. He understood immediately, that he was listening to Chronojet's own voice.
"What's that... you can speak, after all."
"You have 'seen' the truth. Do you still want to kill him?"
Chronojet turned back and glanced at the mortally injured Shiranui, and looked at Luard again. Luard let down his guard. Then,
"...I, have been living only to slay the murderer of big-bro."
He spoke in a powerless tone, and fell on his knees. He lowered his head, letting out words with raw emotions.
"For this, I've done everything... taken countless lives... reached the point of no return... then you tell me everything is fake, a lie, a fraud, he isn't my true enemy... I... what should I do from now on..."
His tears ran out like a flood over the dam.
Before Chronojet's words could reach him,
Chrono Dran cried out. Unknowingly, a black oval appeared beneath Luard. The blackened ground became like a swamp, slowly engulfing Luard's body.
"Luard! Get away from there! You're sinking!"
Luard was too desperate to react. His body was slowly sinking. Chronojet noticed the danger and attempted to save Luard. But,
Numberless hands stretched from the swamp and pressed down on Chronojet. Meanwhile,
Luard's body had completely sunken into the swamp of darkness. Chrono Dran rushed out without thinking,
But he was frightened by the man emerging from the swamp, and fell back.
"Sorry for appearing from beneath."
An eerie man showed up. The arms pressing down Chronojet were actually extensions from his body. He showed no intention of hiding that he was the culprit of creating the swamp and dragging Luard down.
"Glad to meet you all for the first time. I should say so. But..."
The man wore a mask with five eyes. He smiled at Shiranui.
"There's someone here I've met before."
"...The Reverend Gastille."
"Oh my, you still call me The Reverend even at this stage? That's my pleasure."
Gastille laughed, looking very happy. His form seemed normal, but he looked composed even when unleashing power capable of suppressing Chronojet.
"I must present my profound gratitude to you all. Actually, you have followed my conduct to complete the vessel... oh my."
Chronojet took his "Gearnext" form again, releasing himself from the restraints by tearing down all of Gastille's extending arms. Even so, Gastille showed great composure.
"That said, you have abetted him with some unnecessary matters, and did cause some hindrances at the last moment."
Chronojet showed no intention to attack. Chrono Dran shouted out,
"Granddad! We must hurry and defeat this guy, and save Luard! Ah..."
Even so, Chronojet stood still. That was different from the time when he fought Luard, when he had been focusing on defense to prevent him from damaging Luard.
"Boy, that's futile. He cannot take action. No, he does not allow himself to take action. If he is lost, Gear Chronicle will be completely crippled... Fufufu, it seems that you know very well, about your position and importance."
"W, what's that! Why have you been laughing all the while!?"
Chrono Dran was angry at the laughing Gastille. He tried to rush forward, but he was stopped by Chronojet.
"We're both users of supernatural power... fighting me is not trivial to him."
Space-shields were deployed around Gastille.
"The same techniques as Granddad's...!"
"With my Lord's divine power, a simulation is too easy."
"I finally understand."
Chronojet's voice resounded. Gastille responded with a smirk.
"Understand, is it? As expected, only you can notice."
"The origin of your power is that evil deity... the antagonist of 'Messiah', the Dragon of Creation."
Hearing that, Gastille finally burst into laughter.
"Hahahahahaha! Yes, exactly! Chronojet Dragon, I'm so happy. I didn't think you're someone who would know my Lord! Right, please go on! Say it! Here, say the name of the deity!"
Chronojet wanted to do that. Not to respond to Gastille's words, but to bring out the culprit of everything to the surface.
Gastille cheered in a high tone. After some time of laughter, he made the declaration in contrasting calmness.
"...Fufufu, excuse me. Now is the time to say farewell. I came only to collect the vessel in the first place."
After saying that, Gastille created a swamp of darkness under his feet. The swamp was totally different from the one used to drag Luard down, releasing dreadful miasma that dominated the place.
"W, wait! What're you doing to Luard!? Give him back!"
"Boy, I'm busy. I have lots of things to do outside of Cray. But, well. If you are still alive when everything ends... at that time, I shall tell you."
Chrono Dran was frightened by Gastille's smirk, and closed his eyes.
"Buruburu... I, I'm not afraid! I'm not afraid of... eh?"
He spoke strongly, but he opened his eyes in fear. However, Gastille had already disappeared.
"Granddad, what should we do from now on...?"
The subordinates of the Dragon Deity of Destruction were taking action. Even Luard was taken away. But that is only the prologue. The prologue of a new threat that shall engulf the world with despair.