Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume11 Chapter1
Chapter 1 - Calamity Queen
—Four years ago, the Divine Ritual Institute's supreme council selected Duke Elstein's eldest daughter, Rubia Elstein, to succeed the position of the Fire Elemental Lord's Queen.
The previous Queen had already passed the age of twenty-five and her ability to commune with spirits was beginning to wane. Although her age still qualified for an incumbent elementalist, the Fire Elemental Lord desired to be served by young girls.
Back then, Rubia was just a young maiden who had just reached the age of fifteen. However, no one objected to her being chosen.
The prestigious House of Elstein had produced many Fire Queens in the past. Given that her talent was already flourishing and bearing fruit, it was only natural for Rubia to be selected.
The populace offered their blessings to the new Queen. In turn, the young Rubia responded to the people's expectations and devoted all of her attention to serving the elemental lord.
Her kagura ritual dancing pleased the Elemental Lord, bringing happiness and fortune to the people on the continent.
That was what she once believed firmly.
"—Back then, I was nothing but a foolish and ignorant little girl."
Rubia's voice trembled as she mocked herself.
"Offering my kagura to the Elemental Lord without the slightest doubt, I prayed for fire's blessings to bring peace to the continent. I firmly believed that it could bring happiness to the people—"
"Nee-sama, you were the object of our admiration."
Claire sobbed as she spoke.
"Nee-sama, you were praised as the continent's most gentle Queen... I-I also resolved myself to become a princess maiden like you when I grew up, Nee-sama."
"Rubia-sama was once the goal of all the princess maidens at the Divine Ritual Institute. Ever since Rubia-sama was selected as the Fire Queen, the power of flames was augmented and the populace was delivered from the hardships of cold winter—"
This time, it was Fianna's turn to speak.
Speaking of which, Rubia and Fianna had apparently been close friends during their time at the Divine Ritual Institute. Kamito suddenly recalled this fact.
"—Indeed, I once believed firmly. Those acts were for the people. The great Elemental Lord was a being who brought blessings to the people."
Rubia's prim and proper face was twisted in pain as she lamented in despair.
"—Until that particular day."
"...That particular day?"
Kamito frowned and asked.
Rubia bit her lip as though to suppress the rising anger in her heart.
"—Indeed, that particular day. It was roughly half a year after I became the Fire Queen. A small town on the Empire's border was obliterated from the land."
Claire suddenly opened her eyes wide.
"Could it be the disaster of Dylus?"
"Yes. The town known as Dylus no longer exists."
"...That incident was not your fault, Nee-sama."
Claire shook her head in denial.
"...Back then, it was only thanks to your nonstop prayers, carried out with neither sleep nor rest, that the Fire Elemental Lord's wrath was pacified—"
"Umm, could you pause right there?"
Kamito interrupted at this point.
"Say, what's the disaster of Dylus?"
Hearing Kamito's question, Claire's face was filled with disbelief.
"...Is it possible that you don't know about that incident?"
"Although there was a gag order at the time, it's a monumental incident that is known to virtually everyone in the Empire."
Fianna also cocked her head in puzzlement.
"Four years ago, I was still in the Instructional School. The children who grew up there are not taught anything unrelated to their missions."
Even though Kamito had acquired basic knowledge from Restia's education, he was still completely ignorant of events that happened outside the facility at the time. Hence, he had never heard of the incident known as the disaster of Dylus.
"...Fair enough. Particularly after Nee-sama's betrayal, people seldom bring up that incident again. It's normal for Kamito not to know."
Claire shrugged and spoke quietly.
"The disaster of Dylus refers to the incident where the little town of Dylus on the border of the Ordesia Empire was obliterated from the land because they angered the Fire Elemental Lord."
"Yes. Bathed in a rain of fire for three days and three nights, not a single trace remained."
Claire sorrowfully bowed her head.
"...Umm, and the reason?"
"The reason for the elemental lord's anger. That's really unusual for an entire town to be destroyed."
Kamito's question prompted a layer of gloom to cloud Claire's face.
"The people of Dylus failed to prepare enough offerings—Supposedly."
"Yes, due to the protracted drought that year, lands on the Empire's borders were unable to harvest enough grain to make offerings to the elemental lord. This ended up incurring his wrath."
"...! J-Just because of something like that—"
Kamito was dumbfounded.
Throughout the entirety of history, there had been multiple instances of monumental disasters caused by the Elemental Lords.
Storms, severe earthquakes, river floods, volcanic eruptions—These monumental natural disasters, recorded in the continent's history, were essentially all caused by incurring the elemental lords' wrath.
However, who could have thought a city could be destroyed over such a thing—
"—Indeed. Precisely because of such a thing."
Rubia remarked sharply.
"Precisely because of such a thing, that town was turned into ash."
Her eyes burned with dim flames as she spat her words out in utter contempt.
"The rain of fire brought destruction to Dylus over three days and three nights. The flames incinerated people's homes completely. The surrounding soil was utterly ruined. The populace's lamentation was unheeded, their pleas rejected as well—"
Claire raised her voice to object.
"At the time, Nee-sama, your prayers did manage to reach the Elemental Lord. Everyone said that you pacified the disaster of Sidonia—"
"...Indeed. At the time, I saved that town."
Her voice trembled. Then the sound of gritted teeth was heard.
"The people of Dylus did not blame me. They even thanked me. They thanked me, the one who could do nothing about the town that was engulfed by flames. Everything went according to the Elemental Lord's wishes. This was all their own fault for incurring the elemental lord's wrath—!"
Crying out with erupting emotion, Rubia hammered a stone pillar with her fists.
(...The townspeople accepted their destruction without harboring any doubts.)
Kamito muttered in his heart.
In the human realm where everything borrowed the power of the spirits, the judgment of the Elemental Lords, the rulers of Astral Zero, was absolute. People were not permitted to harbor the slightest doubt.
(However, back then, she...)
—Doubts formed in her mind.
As a Queen who served the elemental lord directly...
(Absolutely forbidden doubts were formed—)
Rubia spoke as though she were reading Kamito's thoughts.
"Indeed, that was the first impetus giving rise to my doubts."
"—Indeed. The disaster of Dylus was just the beginning."
After that, the Elemental Lord's judgment swept through various lands in the continent on several occasions.
Every time, Rubia would beg for mercy and prayed to appease his anger. But on each occasion, by the time her prayers finally went through, people had already lost all their possessions.
"I was powerless at the time. I could do nothing but lament my powerlessness...!"
Erupting from her throat were cries of sorrow.
The flames of hate burned intensely in her eyes of ruby.
"One day, the first time I voiced the doubt hidden in my heart was at the supreme council. I questioned the elemental lord's unreasonable instances of judgment. Next, I requested for a chance to have a direct audience with the elemental lord."
"An audience with the elemental lord!?"
Fianna cried out in surprise.
For her who was once a princess maiden at the Divine Ritual Institute, these words carried special significance.
Even for the Queen who was chosen from among hundreds of princess maidens, wanting to meet the True Sanctuary's Elemental Lords was absolutely taboo.
Throughout the entirety of history, there did exist Queens who were admitted to a direct audience with the elemental lords, but they all died unnatural deaths without exception.
"Of course, I did not receive permission for a direct audience with the elemental lord. The supreme council imprisoned me for the crime of irreverence and that ended up causing more displeasure to the elemental lord."
Repeated tragedies. Prayers that absolutely failed to get through.
Carrying these doubts, lamenting her own powerlessness, even so, she continued to plead for mercy.
During those days, filled with despair—
The decisive event occurred, prompting her betrayal to become the Calamity Queen.
"The elemental lord demanded a certain offering from me as the price to appease his anger."
It was quite common for high-ranking spirits to demand offerings from humans.
The Divine Ritual Institute's princess maidens made offerings of the dance performances they had learned. Elementalists offered their divine power to contracted spirits.
However, what exactly did the Fire Elemental Lord seek from Rubia—
"The elemental lord demanded from me..."
As though squeezing her voice out from the depths of her throat, Rubia spoke:
"—Elstein's True Flame."
Everyone's face froze.
Elstein's True Flame.
These words meant—
"—Is it possible that it meant using Claire as an offering?"
Rubia's silence gave the answer.
Elstein's True Flame. These words meant the House of Elstein's bloodline.
Carried by the two sisters, the heretical flames that transcended the world's laws and principles.
Claire murmured in shock.
"The Elemental Lord wanted my life?"
"This is impossible to believe, Rubia-sama."
Fianna instantly rejected it.
(...Indeed, it was inconceivable for an Elemental Lord to demand a living person's life as a sacrifice.)
Spirits who demanded live sacrifices were rare indeed. This was fact.
However, those spirits that ruled over people through fear were successively defeated by human heroes over the generations.
It was possible for an evil spirit of the earth, but it was completely inconceivable for an Elemental Lord to demand this kind of offering as one of Astral Zero's exalted rulers.
"Whether you believe it or not, that is the truth."
Dim flames in her eyes, Rubia spoke.
"At first, I could not believe it either. I thought it was a test of loyalty for me, the one who had doubted the Elemental Lord's judgment. I regretted my suspicions and pleaded for absolution. I kept offering kagura dancing and prayers so that the demand for sacrifice would be withdrawn. Every night, until I fell unconscious to the ground, I kept at it nonstop, nonstop, nonstop..."
However, those prayers were completely in vain.
"I pleaded to use my own life as a sacrifice. My body also carried Elstein's True Flame. I hoped my younger sister's life could be spared in exchange for mine."
The answer was no.
What the elemental lord sought was not Rubia's flame but the flame of her sister, Claire.
Next, the elemental lord's flames of wrath were stoked by the Queen's persistent pleas for mercy.
The flames of his wrath were directed towards the people of Ordesia. The elemental lord issued a decree that threatened to rain down destruction upon the imperial capital equivalent to Dylus' plight if the sacrifice was not offered.
"Even for an Elemental Lord, such an atrocity cannot possibly be accepted!"
Fianna objected sharply.
"What did the Divine Ritual Institute's supreme council say?"
"The elders completely ignored my appeals. Despite their doubts about the disastrous decree, they simply kept repeating that the Elemental Lord's will is absolute."
Rubia gritted her teeth hard and shook her head.
"I despaired. Towards the Divine Ritual Institute, the elemental lord, as well as myself, powerless to resist—"
Then the night before the imperial capital was about to turn into a burning inferno...
She made her decision.
At daybreak as judgment loomed over the imperial capital.
Rubia broke the Divine Ritual Institute's taboo and entered the deepest part of the shrine.
This was a place where even Queens were absolutely forbidden.
Astral Zero's True Sanctuary.
She went before the guardian spirit that protected the True Sanctuary.
It probably had not expected a Queen would break the taboo. Suffering a surprise attack, the guardian spirit was devoured and destroyed by the mystical flames of absolute zero before it noticed Rubia's intentions.
The one hindering her from gaining an audience with the Elemental Lord no longer existed.
In the first place, only Queens were permitted to step foot in the shrine. Stationed outside the shrine, the spirit knights could not notice what happened inside.
Passing through the endless corridor leading to the True Sanctuary, Rubia reached the deepest room.
Then she opened the towering final gates.
Following the steps that led high above, she reached the top level.
She arrived at a throne that was covered by a massive curtain.
"—I saw that."
Her entire body shuddered from terror.
This girl who was the Strongest Blade Dancer's imposter...
Rather than anger, she was trembling from pure terror.
Seeing her pale expression, the trio involuntarily swallowed a mouthful of air.
"What was it—"
Kamito was the first to speak.
"At the True Sanctuary where the Elemental Lords reside, what did you see?"
The color of fear clearly surfaced in her eyes of ruby.
"—You must have witnessed the same sight as I did. Three years ago."
Kamito recalled the feeling that felt as though a sharp blade had stabbed into his heart.
Cold sweat broke out from his forehead and dripped on the ground.
"Kamito and Nee-sama both saw the same thing?"
Claire frowned with surprise—
She instantly understood.
"...Th-That's right. You were the previous Blade Dance's—"
(...Come to think of it, Claire already knows.)
Turning his gaze away, slightly embarrassed, Kamito sighed in his heart.
Claire's gaze towards Kamito did not show any signs of reprimand. Although Kamito still had some doubts, he swept them aside for now—
(...I saw the Elemental Lords three years ago?)
Having an audience with the Elemental Lords was an absolute taboo even for a Queen.
However, there was one and only one exception.
—Namely, the winner of the Blade Dance.
The elementalist who obtained victory throughout the brutal blade dances was rewarded with the chance to personally voice their Wish in front of the Elemental Lords ruling from the True Sanctuary.
Throb—Instantly, Kamito's brain felt a pang of intense pain.
Whenever he tried to recall what had happened back then, his thoughts entered a hazy state.
"...That day, I probably saw the same thing."
Recovering barely enough to speak, Kamito shook his head lightly.
"But I have no memories of that time at all."
That which existed in the deepest part of the True Sanctuary.
The only image he could recall was the darkness that devoured Restia.
Kamito's gaze was drawn to the demon sword of darkness gripped in his left hand.
(Restia, you should know, right?)
The true identity of that which had caused the Calamity Queen to despair.
"That day, what I saw was—"
Just as Rubia was about to speak...
Raging flames suddenly poured out from thin air.
Kamito swiftly readied his dual swords—
Next, he suddenly turned his gaze towards Rubia.
Rubia was crouching on the floor, groaning in pain.
Many beads of sweat appeared on her forehead while red droplets of blood dripped from her arms.
"N-Nee-sama, what's going on!?"
The first to notice Rubia's unusual symptoms, Claire held her hand.
As soon as she touched the dripping blood, Claire screamed softly.
The blood flowing from her body was boiling like seething lava.
"What... is this... Nee-sama, what on earth, happened...?"
Rolling up Rubia's sleeve, Claire could not help but hold her breath.
Covering her arm was an ominous seal that resembled a snake.
(That's a Cursed Armament Seal...!)
"...Looks like the final moment has arrived."
Losing all color of blood from her face, Rubia smiled in a dreamlike manner.
"The final... Nee-sama, what on earth... is going on...?"
"—The flames of purgatory are demanding my soul."
Suddenly, the crimson flames that had manifested out of the air bared their fangs towards Rubia.