「There’s no need to bother your mistress. We will make preparations to go in ourselves. How can we reach the venerable palace?」
「Yes, of course. I’m really sorry, I haven’t called him yet, but an escort will come to pick us up and take us to the palace. I will now summon our escort to the palace. There’s no need for you to swim. Ah! I was about to summon him, but he’s already here.」
Just when I start thinking what a disappointment it was to come here all the way here not to swim, both my eyes and Vaje’s turn towards a spot on the surface of the ocean where a black shadow has just surfaced… did something just break through the surface right in front of us?
A huge turtle appears, and it is so big that even an adult dragon such as I feels pressured under the sight of such a mountain-like creature.
Though its huge size is sure to attract a lot of attention, its main feature is that it seems to have a house on top of its shell, which despite just coming out of the sea, does not seem to be wet at all.
「What a huge turtle! Is it really alright for us to wait inside that house? Seems to be suitable for giants, but it may not be so much for us.」
「You will not be able to enter there while in dragon form. However, since most of the dragons who live in the palace are in dragon form, we must take either dragon form or human form when entering the palace.」
The demi-dragons, also called Dragonians, have the features of both humans and dragons alike.
In the same fashion as Miu, who is a cow-girl, they have mostly humanoid bodies with one part being that of a dragon, and they have the highest magic power, physical strength, wisdom and spirituality among the hybrid races.
There are some of them who have the ability to temporarily transform into an adult dragon or such.
「Well then, I shall go first.」
Liu Yu changes from her dragon form into a demi-dragon as she heads for the top of the giant turtle.
The rest of her body begins to change as a shining light appears at the tip of her tail and other extremities, and as she lands on top of the giant turtle, her whole body changes into light. By the time she landed facing the front of the house, her body had changed into a girl in her late teens.
Her lacquer-like shiny black hair is long enough to reach her buttocks, and it’s neatly cut over her eyebrows. The hair that hangs from each side of her head reaches her waist in length.
Her skin is so white that you can see her blood vessels under it, and it has a somewhat silky luster.
Her large, blue eyes shine with such a glitter that it makes one wonder if they wouldn’t trump the shining of the stars. Her lips are so pale that they might as well have been made out of a cherry tree’s petals, and her facial features have been carried to such an extreme that it would be strange if it didn’t turn heads of men and women alike.
This dark-haired girl, who now wears a beautifully exotic costume, is still clearly a dragon. She has a horn-like crooked protrusion from the tip of each of her ears, as well as from each side of her forehead to prove it. Moreover, a blue-scaled tail can be seen emerging from her backside, under her red sash.
Occasionally, a blue-scaled pattern may appear on Liu Yu’s neck, the area around her eyes, or near her eyebrows, depending on her mental state and the way the light reflects on her skin. Her hands, which she gently waves towards me, have completely changed into perfect and delicate human-like hands.
As she looks up at us, I want to compliment her incredible transformation, but I fear that Vaje might not take that too well.
「Tsk, having to transform into a human is such a bother!」
Vaje, who was standing behind me, lets loose a calm roar, and wrapping herself in flames, heads for the huge turtle just like Liu Yu before her.
For a moment, my face and the surface of the sea both shone brilliantly with the flames that Vaje had produced, and her body began to change as I narrowed my eyes against the flame’s radiance.
When the flames which enveloped Vaje’s elegant scales disappeared, she had transformed into a tall, beautiful young woman with brown skin and hair as red as blood, and landed on her bare feet a little farther away from Liu Yu.
This beautiful woman’s body is almost the exact opposite of Liu Yu’s, with an emphasis on a voluptuous outward appearance, emanating an exuberant vitality from a highly seductive body.
Well then, now’s my turn. Like Liu Yu and Vaje, I began to change my body into countless beads of light, which gathered together on top of the great turtle’s shell and transformed into my new body.
It’s the body of a farmer’s boy, a little taller than most men of my age, with black hair, blue eyes, and a bit of a suntan. I don’t quite feel it myself, but my mother, Airi, and others tell me that I have a good looking face.
Liu Yu and Vaje, who were by my side by the time I finished transforming, took a good look at my body from head to toe. Their faces looked like this was roughly what they were expecting, as they both rolled their eyes and grumbled slightly.
「Are we getting in? We’ll be in trouble if we don’t get into the turtle’s house.」
After hearing my true voice, the two of them hurriedly followed me into the house.
The inside of the house has an unfamiliar eastern style, with hanging scrolls depicting drawings made only with ink, strangely shaped flower vases, and in the center of the room, a huge round table that could seat six people, seemingly made out of coral.
White smoke rises from a golden incense burner, which faintly mixed the tidal scent of the house with a sweet aroma.
Near the round table, there’s a pushcart with some tea utensils. Tea must be served here to quench the guests’ thirst.
「Hmm, this room could be made wider at will, right? It seems that it could be extended infinitely as well. This room has been imbued with quite some Dragon Magic, has it not?」
「Oh, yes. This house was built with Dragon Magic from the age of Lord Shinryuu. Please, have a seat. Tea will be ready soon.」
It seems that there’s still some disturbance about my transformed body, but still, Liu Yu approaches the pushcart and pours some amber liquid from a white porcelain teapot with coral drawings into three white porcelain teacups.
As I sit at the round table hoping to taste the sweet-scented tea, Vaje stares me straight in my eyes and opens her mouth as if to say something.
The chair seems to have been made specifically for demi-dragons, since there’s a large portion missing from the spot where the back of the seat and the sitting part connect, presumably so that one’s tail could hang from there.
Before long, the sensation of the huge turtle slowing down gives me the impression that we are about to reach our destination.
Looking out through a square window and into the brighter exterior, I can see a huge castle built in a different style from the kingdom and the neighboring countries in front of the huge turtle.
The palace looks like a place fitting people who would live extraordinarily in the vast oceans, being built with huge precious metals, materials, being built to remain standing for all time, so much that it could never be reproduced by any human nation above ground.
We return the empty teacups and follow Liu Yu out of the house on top of the huge turtle.
Instead of the sweet scent that filled the house, the outside was filled with a refreshing air with a faint tidal aroma.
A water current seems to be drawn into a huge building, which could be what the huge turtle uses to come and go between the palace and the surface. Looking outside the house, I can see a harbor-like place, with white stone pavings and walls, and huge corals that are used instead of pillars.
Mermen, mermaids, and demi-dragons were lined up by the side of the carpet, all dressed in the same eastern-style kimonos as Liu Yu, and robes so thin that they could almost be seen through under the surrounding light. As we greet them, they bow to welcome us.
The demi-dragons looked like Liu Yu, all with their horns and pointy ears and tails. The mermen and mermaids all had the lower half of their body resembling that of a fish, some of them with bifurcated thighs, and their ears looking exactly human-like. Each of them has certain differences to some extent in their fins shape and size.
「I have brought our lady’s guests, Lord Dran and Lady Vaje. Everyone, please help them feel at home.」
As a shrine maiden, Liu Yu’s status is high even inside the palace, and you can hear the unmistakable respect that the court ladies put into their voices when answering her.
I feel like a grandfather admiring a granddaughter’s growth, looking at Liu Yu sweeping away her childish attitude, and taking up the role of a proper shrine maiden that earns the respect of the court.
After much walking inside the palace, Liu Yu finally stopped in front of a huge obsidian door with a golden dragon decoration and a metallic frame.
The mistress of this palace, Lady Ryoukichi, should be behind this door. I feel struck by the magic power on the other side of the door, and I also hear Vaje gulping quite loudly due to her feeling awfully tense.
Hmm, she certainly might be stronger than Vaje and Liu Yu, but it’s not that bad that it will make me lose my grip like that.
Of course, even though she’s an ancient dragon, to me her power would be like nothing but the diluted power of an offspring, so if I were to feel Ryoukichi’s power like Vaje just did, would I feel the same tension?
「Milady, it’s Liu Yu, your shrine maiden. I bring you Lord Dran and his companion.」
Liu Yu bowed in reverence as she announced us in front of the door with a military air about her, and an inquiring voice as beautiful as the strumming of a guitar played by the gods of music replied.
「Thank you, Liu Yu. Please, do come in.」
Still bowing down and looking at the floor, Liu Yu opens the door and takes a step inside.
I’m not particularly versed in matters of courtesy, and it seems that personal guests are somewhat forgiven for their ill-mannered behavior, but I wonder how far I should brace myself for.
The ladies of the court who had accompanied us thus far are staying outside, while Vaje and I follow Liu Yu, who hasn’t lifted her head yet, into the room.
Thin silky curtains slightly dyed in yellow, pink and blue hang from the ceiling. Our footsteps resound over the red crystal-covered floor, and as we reach a vermillion-lacquered ivory table in the middle of the room, we finally meet the beautiful demi-dragon woman sitting in a coral chair.
The golden and lacquered main rack, cabinet, and the light-purple smoke emanating from the golden incense burner along with its perfume, and the furniture inside the room, which is at least over five hundred square feet wide, all add up to a value that no aristocrat back in the capital would be able to afford even if they were to pay with their very eyes and limbs.
And the beautiful woman who takes the form of the most important demi-dragon in the room, a pillar of the Great Three Dragon Lords, the Water Dragon Empress Ryoukichi. Her beauty and elegance are truly fitting the grace and splendor of the room.