This is "Chronofang Tiger", to whom "Chronojet Dragon" has lent "Gear Groovy", or "G Organs", internal organs which wielded the same power of "The Twelve Time-governing Factors". When "Chronojet Dragon" formally became the plenipotentiary representative of "Gear Chronicle", he has become Chronojet's agent and solved many incidents. As Chronojet is now in a position less convenient to act, cases that require brutal force are assigned to solely Chronofang. By releasing the limits of G Organs, he can unleash power equal to "Stride" and "Stride Fusion" without actually striding. His current main mission is monitoring "Luard", whom Chronojet considers a potential threat, and he is ordered to block and arrest Luard if necessary. Acting on one's own without caring about others, that is Luard now and himself in the past... to rectify the young man's future from stepping out of line, the tiger punches with his red fists.
Monthly Bushiroad Short Novel (July 2017 Issue)
"Master Luard. It is because we have been planning to approach you near in time."
In the ruins where "Gear Chronicle" uses as its headquarters, a lady's beautiful voice resounded. The voice was so unearthly that one would be enchanted by the voice and ignore the content of her words. But,
"I remember, your name is Uluru, right? You said, it's your original plan to meet me... right?"
The young man facing "Uluru"---"Luard" the black-robed mage, was not enchanted by her voice and asked in surprise.
"Exactly, that is---"
"Granddad asked Uluru and me to find Luard!"
The petite dragon boy took Uluru's sentence in jumps and bumps. Luard was interested, and asked in a much gentler voice,
"Granddad? Who's that granddad?"
"Granddad is granddad!"
Their chat was interrupted by a "humph".
"Just as Chrono Dran said, we were ordered to approach you... that is the order of our master, Lord Chronojet."
Uluru supplemented Chrono Dran's words.
"Chronojet Dragon... the boss of 'Gear Chronicle' mentioned me by name...?"
Luard, with a serious face, wanted to ask further, but Uluru replied before he could ask.
"You are thinking... why our master would mention a mere mage by name, I suppose?"
Luard could not ask, and held his questions in.
"Then, first... before discussing this issue, Master Luard. I would like you to do a favor."
"Abrupt it is... speak."
"Please re-examine yourself. Your current power and hidden talents are comparable to those praised as heroes in the history."
"Hey, that's flattering... I can't repay your compliments, you know."
"Are you thinking that we are overestimating you?"
Luard tried to respond to her praises with a smile. However, seeing the seriousness in Uluru's eyes, he noticed, that Uluru did not "praise" him.
"I have no intention of overestimating you. Your power is reaching that level. This is why, our master made a just evaluation..."
And her following words,
"And at the same time, he sees you as a risk factor."
Were so shocking that they made Luard's eyes pop out.
"Your time-manipulating boss... treats me as a risk factor?"
"Yes. And the reason... I suppose you can understand after learning the just evaluation of your power."
Luard somehow got the idea. He averted his gaze from Uluru momentarily.
"We have investigated your personal history."
"Desire for vengeance... the dark emotions within you perturb our master."
Hearing Uluru directly spoke out the term "vengeance", Luard showed a self-deprecating smile.
"Hehe... you've looked through everything, haven't you?"
"Luard... you became so scary all of a sudden."
Chrono Dran had been playing around, but as he sensed the unspoken rage of Luard, he jumped on Uluru's shoulder to stay away from Luard.
"I'll ask once more, what is your objective? To constrain the risk factor? Or..."
Luard pulled his hat down to hide his eyes, and used his other hand to create a magic circle. This was the preparation for "Dragshift".
"You wanna kill me?"
"It is too early to make a judgement. We have no intention of attacking you at this stage."
"You think I'm gonna put my trust on someone who peeped on my past?"
Luard stared at Uluru and stretched his arm covered by dragon scales. His eyes were filled with hostility and murderous intent. He approached Uluru slowly in intimidatingly loud footsteps.
"If we have had the intention to constrain you, we would not have brought you here. We would have brought you into the Spacetime Prison when you were unconscious... there would not have been a talk."
The stare of Luard's dragon eyes could frighten even veteran warriors, but Uluru stayed perfectly calm. Her eyes did not look away one bit even when Luard's sharp claws were close enough to tear her face.
Luard clicked his tongue, and his hand was covered by a magic circle to resume its normal form. At the same time, the suffocating tensions of the room dissipated.
"Speak your mind. You wanna defend your statements, right?"
Even though Luard's suspicion against Uluru was no more, he wasn't friendly to her because he was being monitored. He sat away from Uluru with a deliberately hostile face.
"My sincere gratitude for your understanding. Then, please allow me to explain once more. Chrono Dran, please take this time to revise again."
Uluru carried Chrono Dran in her arms, and placed him on the ground. Then, she adjusted her posture, and began the explanation.
"Let us begin. I shall elaborate on the confidential project of 'Gear Chronicle' in process---Project Different World Ride."
"Cray residents like us possess the lifeforms of another planet... that is part of Project Different World Ride, right?"
"Exactly. This is a grand project which is only made possible with the application of the power of Messiah, one who is strongly connected to that planet and Cray, and the teleportation technologies of 'Gear Chronicle'."
"Then, the experiment subjects are called Diffriders... that sounds absurd. If I had not possessed that puppy's body, I would not have believed that at all. That planet... it's called Planet E, right? What is the meaning of going there bearing enormous risks?"
"The ultimate objective is to unveil the power connecting the two planets... the current objective is safe teleportation to planet E."
"Haha, experiments are accompanied by failures. Then, what happens to those failed?"
"...About that question, we have no clear answer."
"Hmm, that's fine. I'm quite interested in that dangerous experiment, but what catches my attention now is not the experiment itself."
Luard seemed uninterested, and in a serious face, he asked the key question.
"You purposely told me such confidential information... that means, something about this project is related to my revenge."
"As you expected. But, before we give you the information, there is another issue---"
Uluru's voice turned from inorganic to instructional.
"Please promise me, that you will not act on impulse after hearing the information."
"That depends on the content."
Luard did not notice that his answer worked badly until nearly five minutes of Uluru's silence. He sensed the strong will of Uluru, that she would not say anything until he made the promise.
"Got it. I won't get mad no matter what your information is about. Is that okay?"
Luard raised his hands like he was giving in, but he had no intention of keeping to his words... his attitude spoke the truth. Of course, Uluru knew what he was thinking. But,
"I believe in your words, let us continue."
Say nothing until Luard makes a promise, even if was a superficial one. That was the most important thing that Uluru heard from her master.
"One can only teleport from Cray to Planet E with Messiah's blessings."
The following information would shake Luard. Even Uluru might be harmed. Even so, that was better than Luard learning the truth from other sources... that is the decision of Chronojet Dragon.
"The Diffriders with Messiah's blessings must send signals to Messiah routinely. That is to let us know they are still alive."
At that moment, Luard sensed.
"However... some time before, several Diffriders have been missing. And we received a disturbing report... Diffriders unknown to us emerged."
(What are you talking about?)
"Combined with the reports from the surviving Diffriders, and the investigation of those who disappeared from our world... the comparison of reports from multiple sides gave us a list of suspicious targets."
(I, know that.)
There was only one possibility.
"The reason behind their travel to Planet E without Messiah's blessings, and their current whereabouts, are still being investigated. But, on the list of suspicious targets---"
Before hearing that name, the fire of anger was lit. The searing flame of hatred scorched Luard's heart.
"There is the name of your enemy, Shiranui. In other words, it is highly likely that Shiranui is in planet E at this moment."
Luard knew the time was at evening after leaving the dark ruins.
"You saved me, but I caused you trouble, sorry for that."
The setting sun reflected in those eyes of the same colour. Luard turned his head back, and spoke to Uluru and Chrono Dran who guided him to the exit of the ruins.
"Please do not take it to heart. This is originally our fault for dragging you into the experiment."
"Haha, so serious of you. I almost got terrified by your seriousness."
Luard laughed brightly. One could barely imagine that this laughing young man was the same one who sat in the ruins with a disturbed face.
"I haven't been this exhausted for a while. After returning, I shall take time to---"
"Please stay for a moment, Master Luard."
When Luard was going to take flight, he heard Uluru's voice from behind. The voice sounded inorganic as before, with the only difference that it sounded like Uluru was suppressing her emotions.
"...Your wanted posters are still distributed in the Sanctuary. Please be careful on your way back."
Uluru kept silent for a moment, but eventually, she continued her words. The suspicion against her had totally disappeared in Luard's mind.
"That's surprising. I expected you to make suggestions for me to repay my crimes."
"Now is not the time. I have some premonitions... that the day your power is needed, is coming soon."
"You're Chrono Dran, right? Be a good boy and don't trouble Uluru."
Luard smiled, leaving those words before taking flight. There were secret passages near the territory of the Sanctuary. Unlike Luard leaving with a full smile, the remaining duo looked gloomy.
Uluru raised her head to look at the sky where the mage had left, and held Chrono Dran lightly.
"Luard looked especially scary... the scariest of today..."
Tears came from Chrono Dran's half-closed eyes. Uluru held him gently.
"Hmm, just like the reports described... a man poor at telling lies."
I see, I see... Shiranui. You are not in Cray... it is impossible for me to go to Planet E. Even if I ask "Gear Chronicle" for permission, they know my information, and they would never allow me to go. As long as you aren't here, I can't get my revenge... that said, I can only wait helplessly for that thing whose return is unknown.
<No, this is not true.>
Isn't that a good way to hurt that thing? Aren't they on Cray, those nurtured by that thing---
His most precious treasure, the clansmen of Shiranui.
I heard something unpleasant. Silence. You asked if I could get happy in that way? Of course, this is so joy-inducing. Just as I think about that, my laughs can't even stop, hahaha!
Oh my, that's my own voice.
"Kuku, this area has not been investigated yet... evil eyes, activate."
In the dead of night when even grasses and trees are asleep, four shadows move insidiously on the road to the capital of the Sanctuary.
"Your master, Kokusha, hearby order. You two, investigate the mountainous areas. You, investigate the road."
Receiving the orders from the petite dragon "Kokusha", the other three shadows make their move.
"Kuku, that works all right."
The dragon, having checked that its associates move in accordance to its orders, hid in the dense forests. It planned to let its chess pieces accomplish the dangerous missions, so it could hide in a safe spot and leisurely wait for their reports.
"With these evil eyes granted by Lord Shiranui, I can improvise chess pieces on the spot."
Kokusha was imagining its splendid and glorious future.
"The first individual task is too easy, that's disappointing. That said, this could mean the date of my promotion as a jōnin (high-ranked ninja) is near."
It licked its lips unconsciously. It must be having a very happy dream. But,
"Eventually, I shall become the strongest stealth dragon of the clan---"
The last thing it saw in reality was a tongue spilling blood in the air. Before it could find out that was its tongue, its consciousness was no more. Its body fell in two slides. Kokusha was severed from its back silently.
The killer of Kokusha wore black clothes that covered even his face. This is why one could sense neither his breathing nor his murderous intents. But, his form of leaving without cleaning his bloodstained claw made him look like a demon. After that,
The demon found his new target. That was a man ordered by Kokusha to investigate the road---from his pure white armour and sword shone by moonlight, one could tell the man was a swordsman of "Royal Paladin". His sword was a general armament with few decorations... he was likely a newcomer who had just joined the knightly order for a short time. The swordsman's eyes were dull, and he routinely stopped and recorded something. Even if the mesmerizer was dead, the mesmerization was still active.
Death followed the swordsman's back. Just like killing Kokusha, the demon approached the swordsman silently yet quickly. Without responding, the swordsman was going to be severed.
---At that moment, a powerful impact repelled the claw. The unexpected situation knocked back the demon greatly. The intruder suppressed the demon's claw with his left steel claw, and delivered a heavy blow on the demon's face. Finding the fist unavoidable, the demon tried to used his other hand to block this attack.
The attack was much heavier than before, several times heavier than the demon's body weight. As the demon's claw was suppressed, he could not step back to avoid the damage. The shockwave penetrated the palm and reached the face, tearing the black cloth from the demon's face.
"I can explain your action of killing the Empire's spy as an act to protect your own nation."
The intruder caught the demon's powerless hand, and lifted up the demon's body so that their eyes were on the same level.
"But, whom you were trying to kill? Isn't that a warrior whom you should consider a comrade?"
The demon was tall and slender, but the intruder's deep red body was even bigger than the demon. The intruder clenched his metallic fist, at a size outmatching his body.
"I, Chronofang Tiger, shall not forgive those who betray their own comrades. With this in mind, I ask you,"
The deep red tiger---Chronofang Tiger, stared at the demon.
"Luard, why are you committing such an atrocity?"
Chronojet Dragon, one who leads "Gear Chronicle" and represents the Zodiac Time Beasts, cannot act freely. But, many situations in this world can only be solved with his power. This is why he promoted Chronofang Tiger as his agent. He had hesitated to make Chronofang Tiger his subordinate, as Zodiac Time Beasts are of equal positions, but Chronofang Tiger accepted without demur.
"Based on your answer, I can arrest you on place."
The investigation of Luard's past and the monitoring of his actions were carried out by Chronofang Tiger, according to Chronojet Dragon's will.
"If that is the case, be prepared for severe injuries."
His monitor target was Luard, the dragon who possessed two possibilities, a hero to save the planet, or a risk factor to harm the planet. Should he commit savage acts, most warriors cannot stop him. Chronofang Tiger was an exception. He was given the power of "G organ", which Chronojet Dragon was enlightened in the previous great war. He should be able to suppress Luard by force.
"O mage of dragon, answer me. I am not patient. Should you not give me an answer---"
"You're gonna settle this by force, right?"
As Luard made a murmur-like sound, a light pillar emerged around him. Chronofang Tiger would have been blown away by the afterwave of "Stride Fusion" if he had not anchored his claws onto the ground.
The massive claws of Chronofang Tiger stuck in the ground barely, and the rocks were becoming cracked.
"I am not that kind of man."
As the afterwave became weaker, Chronofang Tiger raised his head. Luard jumped out from the light pillar and delivered a blow to Chronofang Tiger's face. But,
"But this suits me better."
Chronofang Tiger stopped the fist firmly. The fist would be able to knock down a ten-metre-level dragon, but Chronofang Tiger could stop it with the power of his activated G organ. Luard withdrew his fist, and drew distance from Chronofang Tiger.
"You're no small fry, I see."
"...I shall ask once more. Why are you trying to kill your comrade?"
"Comrade? That guy is manipulated by Shiranui's underling, isn't he? Then---"
One could see the changes of Luard's limbs and wings only, but Luard's internal organs and mana were also boosted by Dragshift. The mana level of dragons surpasses humans'.
"He is also Shiranui's underling, isn't he?"
Luard has activated Dragshift with his right leg's mana, making a burst. That was a risky move to generate an exceeding level of mana that could even destroy a dragon's leg if anything goes wrong. In this drastic acceleration, Luard stretched his left leg.
"No more can be said, can't it?"
Luard attacked Chronofang Tiger like a lightning bolt.
Countering his move, Chronofang Tiger stepped strongly against the ground, and punched with his clenched fist. The dragon's leg and the tiger's punch clashed, and the impact made a massive crater on the ground.
Their fighting power seemed to be equal, but Chronofang Tiger was forced back a bit.
(At this level...!)
The enhanced kick was totally different from the previous attack. Chronofang Tiger found it could become a decisive failure, and adjusted the angle of his punch. At this moment, two of Chronofang Tiger's claws were crushed. Luard smiled. But,
Several magic circles appeared near Chronofang Tiger's arm. The arm was purged from the body, then,
The arm exploded. The change of attack and the sacrifice of claws were to make Luard careless, so that Chronofang Tiger could purge his mana-filled arm and make it explode. Even Luard could not block such an attack.
Luard's form returned to normal. To protect himself from the explosion, Luard's mana for Dragshift was drained. Blood burst from his limbs, and those body parts that overused Dragshift were damaged. His right arm looked broken, and could not be lifted up.
"This is the end. Mage Luard, with my rights, I hereby arrest you."
Luard pressed his injured arm, and gritted his teeth in agony.
A fierce smile emerged beneath his hat. At this moment, Chronofang Tiger was attacked. From behind.
"Next time, come earlier."
In front of Luard's eyes, behind Chronofang Tiger, a long-haired young man appeared suddenly. The young man stretched his arm, with massive dragon claws.
He was "Ogma", a powerful Dragwizard summoned by Luard from the distant future.
"An ambush... is it?"
Chronofang Tiger's back armour, directly hit by Ogma's flame blasts, was charred. His body received severe damage as well. His massive body could not be maintained, and he almost kneeled.
"Deliver the killing blow---"
"This should be enough. Luard, time to go."
"Leaving this alive would make a future threat. Killing this thing is a better choice."
"Then do it yourself. I came to vent my overflowing destruction impulse, not to kill someone for your sake. Also---"
Ogma fired a flame blast at the knee-bent Chronofang Tiger. But, the fireball disappeared before hitting Chronofang Tiger.
"Now you get it. This guy's power was not limited to level. He was hit only because of the ambush."
Ogma spoke out the truth without considering Luard's emotions. Luard gritted his teeth.
"Misjudging the power of your enemy means a quick death, remember it."
"I didn't summon you for a lecture. Time to retreat."
"Then, we shall retreat. Considering your current condition, fighting me could cost you your life. So, please don't pursue us."
After making the one-sided warning, Ogma flew with Luard and disappeared from the place. Chronofang Tiger got Ogma's warning, and did not pursue. With his injured body, he flew back to the headquarters.
"Luard's growth had greatly surpassed Chronojet Dragon's expectations... we must devise new measures as soon as possible."
Several days later, in the territory of Dragon Empire. In the village of "Shiranui" clan of "Nubatama".
"Lord Morishige, an urgent report!"
"Oh, Toranaga. What makes you look so full of dread?"
"The scouts of our clan have been missing one by one this month!"
"Toranaga", a chūnin (middle-ranked ninja) of "Nubatama", half-knelt and reported the crisis of the clan to Morishige.
"This is obviously a threat targeted at us, the Shiranui clan. We shall never turn a blind eye to such atrocities!"
Seven scouts had been lost. The grief on his face told the severity of the incident. But,
"No way! Taking vengeance is a disgrace to the ninjas' honour! Leave aside the contemptuous act of hunting one man with many!"
"Morishige", a jōnin (high-ranked ninja) of Shiranui clan, turned down his proposal. Morishige always accepted Toranaga's suggestions about tactics and stratagems, which are his weakness. But outside the aspect of tactics and stratagems, he does not always listen to Toranaga. Morishige is a resolute man who earns his position of jōnin with personal might only. He favours a fair fight, and sometimes he values his own aesthetics over his duty as a ninja. His respect of might and honour makes it unlikely for him to accept tactics to exploit the advantage of numbers.
"B, but, if we do nothing, the casualties would grow without stopping..."
Even so, Toranaga did not give up. This is because he understood the severity of this incident more than anyone else.
"And the solution is to hunt one with many!? Preposterous! This violates the code of warriors! Shameful it is!"
"Enough! Never say that again!"
"...As you wish."
(Amongst the killed scouts, some of them possess the might of jōnins. Can we really neglect this...?)
Unfortunately, Toranaga's premonition came true. One month later, the casualty count reached ten. Two months later, the casualty count reached thirty. That was nearly one fifth of Shiranui clan's population. This mysterious killer alone had reduced their strength by one fifth.
(This is a grave situation. Where has Lord Shiranui gone...)
Toranaga tried his best to reduce the number of sent out scouts so that less would be killed. But that was not a thorough solution. Without a doubt, the mysterious scout aimed at crushing Shiranui clan. Sooner or later, the attacker would attack the village directly.
(Lord Shiranui, please return quickly.)
An ominous thought emerged in Toranaga's mind. "Hunting scouts was simply the appetizer." A cold sweat came from his head and dropped on the ground.
(Our clan might be rooted out in this crisis...)