“Eek… Woah, it’s really high up!”
The view had drastically changed when the crouched earth dragon stood up. Naturally, it was different from what she was used to, making her let out a gasp of excitement.
“The breeze up here feels so nice… This makes me feel like a princess.” said the beautiful young red-haired girl sheepishly while clinging on to the thick neck of the earth dragon. She was saying it jokingly, but if you were to consider her pretty appearance, you wouldn’t be able to laugh it off as a joke. At least that’s what Wilhelm, who was supporting her, thought. Wilhelm was riding on the earth dragon with the young girl and had his hands wrapped around her slim waist. The innocent attitude of the cheerful young girl brought a slight smile upon the face of the man known as the Sword Demon. His usually cold demeanor towards others melted away in the presence of the pretty girl.
“Hey, Wilhelm, are you listening to me?”
The girl turned her head towards Wilhelm. She pouted her lips, annoyed by his lack of response.
“My bad, I wasn’t listening. My breath was taken away.”
“You mean by the scenery?”
“No, by you.”
“—Hic, st-stop, saying things like that.”
He was just being honest about how he really felt, but the girl reacted dramatically to his words. She looked forward, turning her head away from him, her ears and nape of her neck turning bright red.
She probably doesn’t want me to see her blushing as red as an abble. I don’t know what I did to make her blush, but I want to see her adorable flushed cheeks.
Wilhelm removed one of the arms holding her waist and tried touching her cheek.
“No-don’t…I don’t want you to see my face, right now.”
“I want to see it.”
“You’re so mean! Oh, honestly…”
Wilhelm became further amused when she looked down shyly and writhed uncomfortably. Then he leaned forward and gently grabbed the girl's chin, turning her around—
“—Leave it there, Trias.”
A sharp and deadly sword-like aura struck Wilhelm from the side.
Wilhelm glanced around and saw another earth dragon running next to them. The sword-like aura was coming from the person riding it. It was a beautiful swordsman with blonde hair and green eyes, and she was directing her aura mercilessly—no, the tip of her long sword—at him. Wilhelm was amazed that she was willing to go that far and then spoke up while thinking so.
“I’m…no longer a Trias,” he retorted tiredly, leaving aside the frustration of his expression of love being interrupted.
“Carol, you shouldn’t be so quick to draw your sword. The people of the ranch also got really surprised, you know.” The red-haired young girl scolded with puffed cheeks and her hands on her hips.
The person being scolded—Carol, the blonde female swordsman—lowered her head in deference. She was no longer emitting a murderous sword aura, so Wilhelm didn’t feel in danger anymore, but…
“My apologies, Lady Theresia. I lost my composure at Trias’s insolent behavior…”
“Don’t make me repeat myself. The House of Trias is no more. I am no longer a Trias. And you don’t seem sorry at all.”
Wilhelm directed a harsh glare and harsh words at the still hostile Carol. She glared at him and opened her mouth to stir up the futile fight all over again.
“Alright, that’s enough! Both of you, no fighting!”
The one who came between and stopped the fight before it started was the red-haired girl. Wilhelm and Carol were considered to be formidable swordsmen of their own right, but the red-haired girl was undaunted by it.
If she couldn’t handle a fight like this, then how could she have accomplished the great feat of stopping the Demi-Human War. Setting aside whether her unwavering bravery was a quality he wished for himself, Wilhelm could not have achieved such a great feat. The red-haired girl's name was Theresia van Astrea. She held the title of Sword Saint, which only the best swordsman was given, and was also a champion that had stopped a lengthy war. Nonetheless, she had relinquished her title and had just begun her life as a newlywed.
“Come on! Why does everyone keep getting in our way?” asked Wilhelm. “You know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you?”
“Don’t get carried away, Tri…Wilhelm. I have been ordered by Lord Bertol to keep an eye on you so that you don’t go too far with your insolent attitude towards Lady Theresia. I’m definitely not acting like this due to a personal grudge.”
“The only reason you answered like that is because you feel that way…”
“Youuu guys are fighting agaaain!” Theresia shouted, stopping the two who were about to go at it again.
But Theresia, who usually had a soft spot for Carol, had begun to feel closer to Wilhelm during their time alone together. She put her hand on Carol’s shoulder and said, “Carol, I’m happy that you are worried, but…we're on our honeymoon, you know? So please. Give us some space.”
“But Lady Theresia…” replied Carol. “I’m worried.”
“Yes, I know. But I have a really dependable husband.”
Theresia, who had straightened her posture, leered at Wilhelm sitting behind her. It was a very seductive gesture and she was unaware that it was a bad move.
Seeing Theresia growing closer with the likes of Wilhelm was making Carol more and more hostile towards him. But, even so, Carol turned towards Wilhelm with a look of pain, saying, “Wilhelm, take care of Lady Theresia…”
“Does it really torture you that much to trust me to take care of her?”
It was probably after going through a lot of pain that she decided to trust me with Theresia, but she’s really acting like she doesn’t want me to be with her at all. And like—
“—She’s just going to ride an earth dragon for the first time.”
Wilhelm’s sigh came out in vain on the plateau of the Earth Dragon Capital, Flanders. The rancher holding the reins of the earth dragon in the distance could be seen waiting with a lost look on his face for the three of them to settle their dispute.
Theresia had ridden on dragon carriages before but had never ridden an earth dragon. She had unexpectedly told Wilhelm that on their journey to Flanders.
“We had earth dragons back at home and my eldest brother was a master dragon rider but…”
“But you didn't have any talent for riding them?” inquired Wilhelm.
“No, it isn't like that...it's just that I was afraid of touching animals,” she replied with a lonely smile, holding her hands close to her body.
Her fear of touching animals was something that arose due to her divine protection: the Divine Protection of the Death God. How it created wounds that would never heal when she cut something made her sensitive and terribly afraid of wounding others. That was probably the reason why she had been hesitant about interacting with earth dragons. However, now that she had given up the sword and had better control of her divine protection, she felt like she had the right to give riding an earth dragon a try, something she wasn't able to do as a child. And she was going to exercise that right of hers here in the Earth Dragon Capital while on her honeymoon.
“And then there's this retainer here who won't leave us the hell alone.”
Wilhelm cussed at Carol, who was trying to get in the way of their fun by complaining about everything.
Theresia smiled gently at Wilhelm’s words. “Forgive her, Carol is just worried about me. Thames...my eldest brother...was a lot like her.”
I’ve heard that two of her elder brothers and her younger brother were killed in action during the civil war. In short, it means that the overprotectiveness of her brothers are lodged inside Carol alone. I guess if I think about it that way I can see why she’s constantly interfering.
“Although forgiving her for that is a different story.”
“Hmmm, well, yeah, you’re right…”
Theresia smiled wryly and Wilhelm squinted looking at her smile. And then they heard the rancher. “We are ready to go,” he said.
I wonder if he was waiting for us to finish talking. We've really been troubling this kind-looking rancher for a while now.
While feeling sorry about that, Wilhelm held Theresia’s waist again and made the crouching earth dragon stand up.
Theresia trembled with a faint sensation of excitement as the view became higher instantly. She had been interrupted the first time while she was still trying to enjoy the view. This time, however, the pest didn't get in the way, and Wilhelm, well aware of her feelings, didn't do anything to ruin it.
Naturally, Theresia was in a position where she was looking down at the wind-swept plateau. She narrowed her blue eyes that looked as if a clear blue sky had been locked within them and gazed compassionately at the world below.
“Hey, Wilhelm, do you know? About the different types of earth dragons and where their names came from?” Theresia asked the silent Wilhelm out of the blue. Wilhelm thought about her question for a bit and then shook his head. There were several types of earth dragons that had adapted to their local climates and environments. To start with, there was the Flanna species, which was the most numerous and versatile. Next was the Eliq species, which had adapted to the cold regions of the world. Then there was the Agaress species, which were suitable for desert environments. And lastly there was the Diana species, which were said to have the most superior blood of all. These are some examples of existing earth dragon species.
But apart from their species, I've never really thought about where their names came from.
“Flanna, Eliq, Agaress, Diana…it’s said that all of them were flowers that existed long ago,” Theresia explained. “All earth dragon names adopt the names of flowers.”
“The names of flowers…”
“Yes. Isn’t that wonderful?”
I'm not sure if it's wonderful or not, but I can't stop thinking about the fact that earth dragons are named after flowers. I don't know who named them, but I wonder why they named these friendly and loyal creatures after flowers.
“...It’s just as I had heard, they don’t try to harm people at all,” muttered Theresia while riding the earth dragon with Wilhelm and rubbing the scales on its neck. The initial wave of nervousness melted away from her expression, and she seemed to have fallen into a sense of ease riding on the earth dragon’s back.
In fact, a lot of people who get on top of earth dragons are surprised by their calm temperament and their consideration for the riders and come to trust them.
This reminds me of my own first time. I was a child, and it was before I started learning swordsmanship. I think my brother was the one who helped me.
Wilhelm also had two older brothers. Both were now deceased, however. He had carried his grief, accepted it, and overcame it. He thought he had gotten over it, but doing this with Theresia reminded him of the past, and—
“My two older brothers were no good when it came to the art of the sword. Though they were both bookworms, and reliable individuals, so dad and mom gave the domain to them.”
Theresia hadn't anticipated Wilhelm's response to her call. Nonetheless, after widening her eyes once, she immediately closed them and listened to what he had to say.
It was Wilhelm’s first time telling Theresia—no, anyone—about his family. Everyone involved in the war knew that his family, House Trias, had perished in the midst of the Demi-human War. Theresia knew it, too. That's why neither she nor people close to him asked any questions that might open up old wounds. He then came to the sudden realization that he had been taking their kindness for granted. Unable to keep quiet now that he was aware of that, the memories he had of his family flowed out of him unreservedly.
I was scolded often by my eldest brother. I always fought my elder brother. My father lamented my behavior that it wasn’t befitting for an aristocrat, and my mother often hid my sword. But my eldest brother patiently tried to talk to me, and my elder brother always came to help me even if my foes outnumbered me. My father instilled in me the customs and the manners of the aristocrats saying that I’d never know when and where it would come in handy. My mother often hugged me whenever I did anything reckless.
That’s the kind of people they were. —We were once that type of family.
“...I see.” Theresia replied in a faltering voice after Wilhelm had finished speaking.
—But he felt that he was able to truly mourn the family he had lost for the first time.
“Hey, Carol! Over here! Hurry up!”
“La-Lady Theresia! Please slow down… Wait for me!”
Carol, who was unable to speak properly,yanked on the reins and chased after the excited Theresia. The two earth dragons ran like the wind, and Wilhelm watched it from a distance and was impressed by Theresia’s skills, who had improved by leaps and bounds in a matter of just a few hours. As one would expect, she improved immediately after she got the hang of it. Perhaps it was down to the earth dragon’s considerate nature, but now Theresia’s riding skills had surpassed Carol’s who was a veteran rider. Wilhelm would also be in danger of falling behind if he didn't practice.
“The madam is riding wonderfully,” muttered the smiling rancher next to Wilhelm while watching Theresia try to do a difficult maneuver like trotting.
We made this man, a rancher in Flanders, accommodate us a lot since it's Theresia's first time riding an earth dragon. I want to repay his kindness somehow, but...
“That earth dragon has become completely attached to the madam, so…how about that one?”
He’s good, Wilhelm thought, narrowing his eyes, before observing the yellow earth dragon that Theresia was riding. The bright color of its scales matched well with her red hair.
“What’s its name?” Wilhelm asked.
“Yes,” answered the rancher, smiling gently and rubbing his hands together, “the name of that earth dragon is…”
Wilhelm gazed in wonder after hearing his reply. And then he laughed out loud, which was something he rarely did.
—Since the name of that earth dragon was also a flower that held a lot of memories for Wilhelm and Theresia and was very precious to them.