This is "Ahsha" who worries about "Antero", who left her without return. Because she has fallen into emotions resembling guilt, the ranunculi of her body mutate, turning from fresh red to orange. The enormous mood change led to a rare case, that the flowers of bioroid bodies mutate. Ironically, that brought out Ahsha's slumbering part. Ahsha is not a girl who sinks in sorrow forever. She established an investigation team and recruited volunteers to search for information of Antero, and she communicated with friends in different countries she made in the past. Finally, the search at a global scale began. The days of living in sorrow has gone. To find back the important family member---her thoughts bring out a stronger power. The impressive red has turned into the questioning orange. And, the orange, with her perplex gone, became pure white. No matter what sad future awaits, the pure white flowers supported by strong thoughts never wither.
Monthly Bushiroad Short Novel (January 2017 Issue)
In the Nation of Green
Winter---the snow falls down and accumulates, painting the land in endless white. This is a season that turns fairness to harshness.
"Hoo~ So cold..."
Even "Neo Nectar", usually covered in vivid green, changes its form in this season.
Flowers of most plants wither, and their lives prepare for the next season. Although there are seeds which germinate in the winter, they are few when compared to those that germinate in other seasons. But, it is another unarguable fact of truth that in the season of white, the warmness of this green land has its own charm.
"But, this scenery is really good... achoo!"
In order to view this scenery before anyone does, "Ahsha" woke up early to see the first silver white world of this year. However, Ahsha is a bioroid born from the factors of flowers, so she is no exception to be weak to the cold.
"If I had brought a coat..."
"Your Highness, your coat is here."
After her second sneeze, a warm-looking coat was presented to her.
"Wow, thank you... eh?"
"Please wear it. Because it is very cold here."
"Yes! Musketeer Antero is at your side."
The young man knelt on the snow, not caring that the snow would make his knees wet. He is one of the members of "Musketeer Security Team", the elites among Musketeers of Flowers who are responsible for the security of Ahsha and her mansion.
"No, that's not what I meant... When have you been at my side?"
Ahsha has made significant achievements in the two recent incidents, "The Rebellion of Shadow Paladin" and "Spacetime Catastrophe", so she has been treated as an important person of the nation. About the security team, although she had rejected its establishment many times, saying that "I already have many trustworthy caretakers", she was convinced by the words from an old friend, a certain knight from "United Sanctuary", that "With security is better than without", so the security team had been established gradually about two months ago.
"Yes! Since you left the mansion!"
"Doesn't that mean you've been at my back from the very beginning?!"
"Yes! The mission of the security team is to protect your Highness from all sorts of danger... so this is also my own wish."
"Hmm... I know, so raise your head. I'm going home, so it's good for you to go back early too."
"That cannot be done. What if bandits attacked Your Highness on the way?"
The security team's captain, "Mia Reeta", is a lady so cheerful that one could hardly see her as a captain. Because of her, Ahsha feels a bit relieved about the security team. However, the one assigned to keep Ahsha's security at her side is Antero, an earnest young man with a personality totally different to Mia Reeta's... although Ahsha does not intend to badmouth anyone, Antero is stone-headed and never gets around regulations.
"Then, please stay in somewhere I can see. Appearing suddenly is scary..."
Letting the discussion go on is not going to go well. With this conclusion, Ahsha began her return. On her way, Antero's walking sounds could be heard from some distance behind her. That could not keep the protected one at ease.
"Your Highness, I am returning to the resting room of the security team. If anything happens, please call me immediately."
(Uuu, I really want some freedom... but he has no bad intentions, it'd be difficult to say that...)
Upon arriving at the mansion, after confirming that Antero had returned to the resting room, Ahsha laid on her bed.
While Ahsha was enjoying her rare stay at home, her eardrums were shocked by the explosion sound. That was the sound of explosions commonly heard in the battlefield, caused by gunpowder or magic.
"What, what's happening!?"
Ahsha's room was the only place where she could rest well without being watched by the security team. Although the explosion did not happen in her room, that did hurt her, for she intended to enjoy a good rest relieved from pressure. Her fluster was too much for a warrior who had prevailed in many battlefields.
"No need to panic. It seems that someone trying to enter the border illegally was found."
"I, i, illegal immigrant?!"
"I said that's fine. According to Sir Antero's recent report, it has been suppressed. Although the explosion seems to have made a big problem."
"E, e, explosion!? Really!"
"Haa... even though I've explained, it seems that's not enough to calm you down. Then,"
In front of Ahsha in a panic, Padmini gently flicked the lotus bloom on her hat with her finger. Then...
"E, e, e... Ah, that smells nice."
"I should have done that in the very beginning..."
Looking at Ahsha who had calmed down all of a sudden, the competent head caretaker relaxed her shoulders.
"So, the person who caused the trouble has been caught by the security team, right?"
"I see. Then I am going to have a look."
"Maybe there's someone injured."
"No! That's illegal immigration! Finding one means there may be more, so don't go! It's too dangerous! No!"
Hearing Ahsha's words of unawareness, Padmini was worried this time. Padmini's way of speaking made Ahsha smile in a mixture of confusion and wry smile.
"That isn't a vermin..."
"Anyway, no! You can't go out today, whole day!"
"Oh please, you are rushing into trouble without thinking as usual. Do you know? Lady Ahsha is now treated as the nation's important person? So please be a bit conscious about---"
When Padmini turned her head, she saw no one. There were curtains blown by the wind, and windows opened wide. And, at where Ahsha had sat, a large piece of flower petal was left.
Making a deep breath, the deepest of these few days, Padmini made preparations to pursue Ahsha.
Let time be rewound a bit earlier before Ahsha's precious rest was disrupted by merciless sounds of explosions. Massive ships docked at the dock of "Neo Nectar", and their raised sails showed that they belong to "United Sanctuary", a friendly nation of Neo Nectar. Disembarking were young passengers in costumes of mages, so they were considered students who headed to "Great Nature" University for short-term abroad study. The students wore mainly white and blue, giving impressions of clarity. However, among the students stood a garishly-looking young man. If one simply looked at his appearance, he or she would only be surprised at the level of "Oh, a stylish man." However,
"Hey, you! Stop!"
The young man ignored the immigration officer and passed directly. Perhaps he did not notice he was called, or perhaps, he ignored it deliberately, he simply walked forward.
"You, stay! I said stop!"
The young man's shoulder was gripped by a soldier standing aside the immigration officer, and the young man finally stopped. His face looked confused, like he did not know what happened.
"...Someone seems to have been called, is it me?"
"Who else except you!"
"Sorry. Because my name isn't called, I didn't notice."
"Who knows your name?! Suspicious guy!"
Saying so, the young man turned back, and his form made other soldiers stepped back. He is a bit slender, but when compared to the huge soldiers, he stood even taller. In addition, he wore a long hat, making his height look much taller than it actually is. Also, his black costume gave an utterly different impression to other visitors from the Sanctuary. And the young man, without considering the soldiers' thoughts, pointed his thumb and introduced himself.
Saying "Bye" and patted the soldier's shoulder lightly, Luard took his steps in high spirits again.
...With the thought that Luard's doings could not be forgiven, the soldiers surrounded Luard immediately.
"C, catch him! That suspicious guy!"
"What's going on..."
Without the slightest thought of apology, Luard scratched the back of his head, in an annoyed face.
Luard did not think he had done anything wrong, and of course, he was not going to be caught without resistance. With a single hand, he broke the formation of the soldiers. The shockwave blew the soldiers away, and made numberless cracks on the road.
"What, that guy's magic...!?"
"A d-dragon's arm!?"
The soldiers witnessed Luard's ominous power of "Dragshift" they have never seen before, and confusion spread among them. Luard used magic unknown to his opponents, and fear grew in the soldiers' hearts, reducing the number of soldiers with enough guts to stand against him. If he could put off his opponents like this, he should have successfully escaped. However,
"I get the situation. Leave it to me, and you go find the Captain."
Those blown away by Luard stared at the latter, and a man stood out bravely. His falcon-like sharp eyes focused at the mage in black, and unsheathed his sword without making the slightest mistake.
"Are you the source of this turmoil?"
"Source... I've just got on a nice looking ship, and got off at the port."
"Illegal immigration. Humph, exactly a crime."
The man walking forward---Musketeer Antero stared at Luard like looking at a piece of dirt, and spoke words near insult. Although Antero intended to provoke his opponent, he didn't expect the outcome.
"Eh, wait, is that a crime?"
Like the soldier whose shoulder had been patted by Luard, Antero couldn't say anything. The next moment, his face blushed in anger.
"Of course! Are you mocking me?!"
"No, sorry. I didn't know that... gimme a break."
Luard lowered his head guilelessly. However, his attitude only made the opposite response on Antero, who firmly believed that Luard was messing with him.
"...That is, impossible!"
Before the sentence came to its end, Antero thrust his sword, aiming at Luard's neck.
"That was close..."
Luard raised his transformed left arm. He intended to parry that attack easily, but the tip of the sword scratched at Luard's face, and left a trail of blood.
"Criminal... I will let you receive your punishment."
"Words are useless... then I have no choice."
Most magic users fight at mid to far range, and are weak at close range combat. Antero, seeing Luard's mage costume, thought his opponent was not good at close range combat, and charged towards his opponent. In truth, Luard blocked all attacks, and no lethal damage was dealt. Saying so, the shock could not kill Luard, but small wounds were opened one after one on Luard's clothes and muscles.
"Although it seems that you're using some strange magic, if you think that level of threat could deter me, you are making a grave mistake!"
"Threat, is it...?"
That sentence changed Luard's eyesight.
"And this marks the end!"
Antero's sword was thrust into Luard's abdomen... or at least it appeared so.
It was Antero who raised his voice. At the front of his sight, he saw his sword, with its tip broken.
"Sorry, I didn't intend to hurt anyone in the first place."
Beneath the edge of hat, Luard's eyes looked down.
"But, if you despise this power, I can't pretend I didn't hear."
Looking at Luard's slit pupils, Antero thought of a certain creature.
"This man's eyes... they're just like a dragon's---"
Holding his broken sword in front of his chest, Antero tried to protect himself. But, even Antero himself knew that was meaningless. He couldn't evade at this distance. The decision of closing distance checkmated him.
(This attack, if I can't block it with my sword... I'll be ended... Gu!)
Luard fell on the ground in a sudden. Behind him stood a lady, looked like a Musketeer. Luard's arm was locked by the lady, and the lady used her another arm to point the light pink sword at Luard's neck.
"Please don't move. If you keep on making trouble, your head will be off."
The lady suppressed Luard on the ground, and stepped at his back. Although her body was much smaller than Luard's, and didn't seem to have any special power.
But, Luard couldn't escape from her armlock. On the contrary, when Luard tried to use his power, his arm was locked even more. Without a doubt, that is a kind of fighting techniques of some place... and the lady is an expert.
(No, it's going to be broken...!)
"Myra~!You're too quick~!"
When Luard thought his arm would be torn, a voice resounded, with a tone that didn't fit the air of this scene at all.
"...Mia. The matter is settled, restrain him quickly."
"Yes, yes, thank you for finishing it so fast, although a bit violent."
"No, no, nothing at all..."
Running to the port was a female Musketeer with pure white hair. Seeing her appearance, the already stuporous Antero recovered from shock.
"Captain Mia Reeta!"
"Antero, you've worked hard too."
"No, I haven't done anything... it's all Lady Myra's work."
"Not really. We're all late, and it's you who won us time."
Hearing Mia Reeta's words of solace, Antero's facial expression was a bit distorted. If Mia Reeta and the Musketeer she summoned, "Myra", had arrived a bit later, he would have been defeated, and his unsightly form would have been exposed to everyone. Thinking so, he found it hard to accept any reason for exculpation.
"Hmm~ eh... right, that's fine! Bind him strict and tight!"
Without noticing Antero's upset, Mia Reeta took an object, like a green rope. That was "Gnome Vine", a magical plant used in "Neo Nectar" as an alternative of ropes.
"Roll, roll, and roll~ That's done."
In a blink of an eye, Luard was bound by Mia Reeta. Although Luard tried to cast magic when Myra was a bit further from him...
(I can't activate Dragshift.. these vines, are they enchanted by magic?)
Unable to cast magic, and Myra was around. Mia Reeta, a lady who seemed to be quite powerful, was staring at him. Luard analyzed the situation calmly.
(Now, I can do nothing but wait for the chance of escape, is it... Geez...)
In a very unhappy face, Luard forced himself to accept the situation.
"Viskam Alba" is the only prison of "Neo Nectar". Massive plants extend multiple vines from a massive stem, creating a natural prison. If one walks into the depth of the prison, he or she would find that the vines are entwined in a more sophisticated form. This is why more dangerous and sinful criminals are kept in the deeper part of the prison.
"It hurts... that woman, really wants to break my arm..."
The restrained Luard was kept in a prison cell near the center of the prison. While common illegal immigrants would not be kept in such a place, he was kept there for his unknown power of Dragshift. And, his hands, the only parts that he could use to break the vines binding him, were restrained by shackles made of hardened vines.
(Unable to use magic... of course this is to be expected.)
His many attempts of escape gave only one conclusion.
In this situation that he was unable to use Dragshift, he could not escape on his own.
"What should I do..."
Luard closed his eyes and pondered. When he opened his eyes again,
An unfamiliar girl stood in front of the prison cell's door.
"...What, who are you?"
Luard's first contact with "Neo Nectar" could be said as one of the worst forms, so his impression towards the clan had fallen to the nadir. That was why he stared hostilely at the girl who attempted to talk with him.
"I am Ahsha. How do you do?"
But, Ahsha didn't show any sign of fear, and simply lowered her head and said her greetings.
Because Ahsha's action was different from what he expected, Luard spoke his name inadvertently. Without noticing the young man's confusion, Ahsha lowered her head again.
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Luard."
"Ah, no, I should say so..."
Why is this girl lowering her head to a mere criminal...? With this thought, Luard lowered his head as well. Perhaps this was due to the girl's fascinating aura. Ahsha looked at the confused Luard, and continued her words with a smile,
"I would like to ask Mr. Luard something... can I?"
"According to your question, it's not something that cannot be done. As you can see, I am in this situation."
"Ah, ahaha. That is."
Luard showed his restrained hands, and answered in a mirthless grin. Seeing this, Ahsha could only smile wryly. But she made a fake cough, and regained control of the situation.
"Eh... ahem, ahem, then... Mr. Luard, why did you get on the ship without going through the procedures?"
"...Because I didn't know."
"...Just going to another country, I didn't know the necessity to go through any procedures."
"I-is that so... but, why do you come to this nation?"
"This isn't my destination. I'm travelling around the world to search for legends and lores about dragons."
"Legends of dragons, is it?"
"Yes. Do you know anything?"
"Guardian Dragon...! That's, please tell me all about that, please!"
"Yaargh! Please, please calm down!"
"Ah, ahhh, geez!"
Luard stood up suddenly, and almost stuck his face at the prison cell's door, which shocked Ahsha. Hearing her scream, a familiar voice resounded from afar.
"Your Highness! Are you alright?!"
"I'm fine! And it's best if you don't come!"
To stop Antero from approaching, Ahsha answered immediately. From the messenger's report and the condition of the port, Ahsha speculated that the illegal immigrant's action was not done with vile intentions. A person with neither malice nor hostility, should not be kept in the prison... that was Ahsha's thought.
"Is it... if anything happens, please call me immediately!"
If she was going to the prison, Antero would follow for sure. But, if Antero was here, the dialogue with the prisoner would never be successful. With this in mind, Ahsha chose a compromised plan. Until she reached the prison---that was, she allowed Antero to accompany her until they reached the place where Antero could not hear her dialogue with the prisoner. As usual, Antero opposed this idea firmly, but this time, Ahsha did not give in, so Antero had to.
"Huu... that was close."
"I've done a bad thing... bad it is, but come on, can you tell me about the Guardian Dragon?"
"Okay, got it. Eh, I remember... a long, long time ago, there was a great Sacred Tree somewhere..."
"No, I only want the part about the Guardian Dragon. The prologue is fine..."
"After that, peace finally returned to the nation of green. And they all lived happily ever after... that's all. How is it?"
"...I got it roughly."
When Ahsha finished the story, it had been two hours after her arrival.
"The Guardian Dragon of this nation was born from the great tree I saw on the ship. That's different from how the Sanctuary's Guardian Dragon was born..."
"It's only a tale after all. And I don't know if it's true..."
"Most of these stories mix truths and lies. I'm sure it isn't all fake."
"That's... that sounds more fantastic!"
"...It does. Thanks a lot for telling me these interesting stuffs."
"You're welcome. Then..."
Saying the words, Ahsha reached out her hand to Luard. When her slim finger touched the shackles on Luard, the mana-restricting vines lost their power.
"Now, you should be able to use magic again."
"...Is that okay?"
"When I arrived at the port, I saw no one injured, despite the turbulence you had made. Everyone just lost consciousness because of the shockwave."
When Ahsha arrived at the port, she saw cracked ground and walls shattered by the shockwave, so she searched if anyone was injured. But, while she was walking towards the center of the commotion, she saw only hundreds of unconscious soldiers. To add to that, non-combatants like the immigration officers remained unharmed. Before Luard fought with the soldiers, he conjured defensive barriers around the non-combatants. That was likely a consideration, to prevent the non-combatants from being involved in the aftershock of the battle.
"A man who could fight with Antero in equal strength caused turbulence at that level, but no one was injured, that is strange. I think so. Oh, the port was broken a bit, though."
Luard lit a tiny glow on his palm, to confirm he was able to use magic again. After that, he apologized, a bit timidly. While Ahsha's brows were a bit knitted, she laughed, "Ahaha." This time, Luard faced her sincerely.
"This is why I've come here. To see clearly who you are. And the result is as expected."
"...Thank you. If it weren't for you, I would have been stuck in this situation."
"You're welcome. Also, you can escape by digging down, through the sewage. You can dig silently with your magic at night. Try your best not to be found, and go out in some place far from here."
"No, that's unnecessary."
"Also, choosing that method may expose the fact that you help me escape."
While saying the words, Luard's left arm gradually transformed into a dragon's claw. The composition of bones, muscles, nerves, everything were re-composed, and hard scales were formed on the surface in place of skin. Although he had transformed his arm many times, to confirm the result, Luard still raised his arm.
"In this way, I can escape on my own...!"
Ahsha tried to say something, but a pillar of light appeared around Luard. The surrounding vines were all burnt, but as Luard had conjured defensive barriers, the waves of heat did not touch Ahsha. That was why Ahsha could see clearly his transformed state. His clothes hardened as scales, and black wings stretched from his back. That form, was like,
"A black dragon..."
"My fault for making a mess in the end. I hope the day I can return your favor comes."
Leaving those words, Luard's form disappeared. The light pillar was the evidence he had activated "Stride Fusion". By hosting his future possibility on his own body, Luard successfully extended the range of Dragshift.
"Wow... how should I say, this..."
Although Luard is sensitive of others' lives, it seems that he never cares about the surrounding environment. Ahsha, while seeing the burnt prison cell, heard the approaching hurried footsteps of prison keepers and Antero.
Luard landed off in a forest several kilometres away from Viskam Alba.
"Well then, it should be okay here."
He checked the surroundings carefully, and deactivated Stride Fusion. At the same time, the level of Dragshift decreased gradually, and the transformation returned to only his left arm.
(I've come this far, I should be safe for a while.)
When he was thinking that...
At the moment he let down his guard, something sharp scratched his cheek. He looked at what was behind him carefully, and found a throwing knife of which edge was thrust into the tree trunk behind him.
"Black mage... only you, I won't let you run away! How dare you place Her Highness in danger!"
"You again... you pursued me this far, seriously?"
"The essence of my power, is turning my feet muscle fibres into tenacious vines to boost my feet's strength."
(In the battle on the port, he hasn't used this power. That means we both hid some tricks, huh?)
"I won't let a busker like you run away, absolutely!"
"I see. Just boosting one's feet muscle fibre... this is, no, is this..."
Luard, for some reason, began murmuring. Antero didn't care, and drew his sword.
"We haven't exposed our trump cards that time, and so I've treated you lightly. But this time, I know what your magic technique is, that strange left arm, if I cut---"
Antero drew his sword, but the sword did not leave the sheath. Luard appeared behind him at a speed beyond bare eyes, and attacked the back of Antero's defenseless neck with a hand chop.
"This, it's okay not to transform the whole body, but focus my mind at one point."
Luard's right leg turned into a form beyond humans'. It was covered by dragon scales, just like his left arm.
(Not only, the arm, is it...)
"Your Highness... I owe you, an apology..."
"Although I don't like you, but thanks to you, I've improved."
Before Antero's consiousness sank into darkness, he heard Luard's voice from behind.
"So, your debt of calling me a busker is written off. "
As Antero was going to fall with his face hitting the ground, Luard stretched his arm to carry Antero, and put Antero on the ground lightly.
"I'd better tell them the place... He likely came on his own without permission."
Dragshift moved from Luard's right leg to his left arm again, and a fireball was fired to the sky and exploded. The loud sound of the explosion resounded in the sky afar like fireworks.
"This should be big enough to make someone notice..."
Looking at the cloudless sky in squinting eyes,
"Where to go next...?"
The mage murmured alone.
Several months after the prison break in "Neo Nectar".
Ahsha used a communication device with visual projection functions, and talked to someone in her room. The projected image belonged to a green-haired young man with trails of immaturity, of age similar to hers. Under his knight armour was black cloth shaped at his skin, that was a traditional clothing style of desert residents. The projected image placed his hand beneath his chin, and he tried to answer Ahsha's question, but failed.
"Luard of Shadow Paladin... really, I haven't heard that."
"Even you don't know, that means there's really no telling..."
"Sorry for being unable to help you."
"No, no, Shadow Paladin is a secret organization, isn't it? Or something like that? There's no way."
"If I get any notice, I'll inform you. By the way, about the missing Musketeer, Antero."
"Eh... what is it?"
"After he left you, he contacted with an inspector from 'Gear Chronicle'."
"Another inspector in our nation has checked the record of entry and exit of their base. Antero's name was found."
"Then, Antero is...!"
"Sorry... other than that..."
"Ahhh, I'm looking forward to it."
Facing Ansha waving her hand, the knight also raised his hand.
(Hu... I haven't used honorifics for a long time.)
After saying goodbye, the discussion was ended.
"Antero... where have you gone...?"
Confirming the projected image was no more, Ahsha buried her head into the bed.
[Your Highness, I am afraid to say this, but I, Musketeer Antero, would like to take a period of leave.]
[Leave? Eh, that's fine...]
[I am most grateful. I will return in a form Your Highness expects. I will not give another chance to a danger like the mage's intrusion.]
The last talk repeated and repeated in her mind.
(The investigation is going on. No problem. They can find him for sure, for, sure...)
The tension of continuous investigation for several days, puts Ahsha into a deep slumber.
Where the black dragon goes, turbulence arises. Will the turbulence spread fortune, or breed misfortune? None except the creators can predict at this point in time---That only exists in the future of this planet.