Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume11 Chapter4
Chapter 4 - The Truth Three Years Ago
Kamito opened his eyes—
Only to find himself in a space enclosed by walls of stone.
(This place is...?)
After one revolution of looking at the surroundings, he suddenly noticed.
He had recollections of this place.
(...Could this be the Elemental Lords' sanctuary!?)
Kamito suddenly gasped. The flames flickered slightly on the candlesticks on the wall.
Before his eyes, a door stood open, leading to a long passage whose end was nowhere in sight.
It was the endless corridor that led to the True Sanctuary. Let alone ordinary princess maidens, even the continent's five Queens were forbidden from stepping inside.
The only exception was—
(...The Blade Dance's winner, right?)
Muttering to himself in his mind, Kamito looked down to check out his appearance.
Gorgeous, waist-length black hair. A foreign dress with a fairly long hem, resembling ritual attire. His left hand was holding a dark and sleek longsword.
This appearance belonged to the Strongest Blade Dancer three years ago—Ren Ashbell.
(...A dream. Furthermore, it's the memories of three years ago.)
These were the memories he could not recall no matter how hard he tried.
(...In other words, I will proceed to—)
The sound of a door slowly opening behind him could be heard.
Turning his head back, he saw four princess maidens emerge, dressed in top ritual attire.
Naturally, those appearing here could not possibly be ordinary princess maidens.
They stood at the pinnacle of all princess maidens. Four Queens.
Back then, Rubia's successor had not been decided yet. Hence, the Fire Queen's position was still vacant.
The Queens bowed respectfully towards Kamito who was the winner. Then one of them took a step forward.
She was slightly older than Kamito. On her neck was a necklace weaved from silver threads. Kamito recalled that silver symbolized the Queen serving the Holy Lord.
At this moment, the girl spoke.
"Have you already decided on the Wish to ask of the Elemental Lords?"
Ren Ashbell answered in a clear and pure voice.
Back then, Kamito's voice had not changed yet. Although Greyworth had reminded him to avoid speaking too much, he was still able to maintain a girl's voice if it were merely two or three sentences.
"—Is that so? Very well."
The Queen nodded and smiled.
Kamito had expected the possibility of being asked about his Wish's content and therefore thought up a different answer. However, that seemed to be unnecessary worrying after all.
(Right. The me back then—)
Did not have a Wish to fulfill.
The blade dancing that Kamito exhibited in the Blade Dance had greatly satisfied the Fire Elemental Lord. The anger incited by the Calamity Queen's betrayal was hence appeased.
This already counted as returning Greyworth's favor. The witch had made Kamito participate in the Blade Dance because she wanted to appease the Elemental Lord's anger towards the Ordesia Empire through Kamito's blade dance.
Greyworth did not hide this motive deliberately. Also, she did not say anything regarding Kamito's own Wish.
However, she had warned that a Wish beyond one's means will lead to one's own demise.
The miracle of the Elemental Lords was not of this world.
Hence, the greater the Wish, the higher the price demanded.
Rumors often circulated about the elemental lords' miracle being able to grant all Wishes but never mentioned anything about a price. However, the Dusk Witch was the Blade Dance victor twenty-four years earlier after all. Her words naturally carried weight.
In any case, Kamito did not have any Wish motivated by self-interest at all.
From the beginning, he had entered this Blade Dance only to fulfill her Wish.
However, Restia had not told him her Wish yet.
She simply repeated that she would naturally tell him when the time came—
Hence, he finally arrived at this juncture.
Gripped in his left hand, the Vorpal Sword still remained silent.
"—Well then, please follow this endless corridor and keep going straight forward."
The Queen pointed to the other side of the door.
"The path onwards is a special place separated from normal space. Along the way, the corridor will have passages branching off to the side but absolutely do not step foot into them. In the past, a number of Blade Dance victors have vanished into the dimensional gap."
Ren Ashbell gulped, nodded and stepped into the corridor that stretched ahead endlessly.
(...Not... good—Ahead of here...)
He felt a splitting headache. An ominous premonition.
Kamito knew clearly what the future result lay ahead.
(...No! If you continue forward, you will lose Restia—)
However, Kamito's consciousness could not interfere with Ren Ashbell.
This dream was simply reenacting memories of reality that had already happened.
"What an incredible space..."
Walking along the dimly lit corridor, the Kamito from three years ago muttered.
—Your hand is shaking, Kamito.
A girl's adorable voice sounded in his mind.
Kamito stopped walking and stared with displeasure at the demon sword of darkness in his hand.
"...Why didn't you speak earlier?"
—Sorry. Who knows if we might be monitored in the shrine, so there was no way to talk secretly. Furthermore, the Empire's intelligence agency is also investigating you.
"Couldn't you just speak in my mind like now?"
—Among high-ranking princess maidens, there exist those who can listen to mental speech. Do not be careless. On that point, this space is completely isolated from the outside world and is perfectly suited to secret conversations.
The demon sword of darkness dissipated into the air as particles of light.
Fluttering black feathers obscured Kamito's view as the adorable maiden in the pitch-black dress appeared.
"Stop sulking, Kamito. Next, let me tell you my Wish."
Restia smiled and drew her face close to Kamito's ear.
—I hope you can assassinate them. The five Elemental Lords.
His consciousness suddenly went dark in the dream.
In the next instant, Kamito found himself standing before a huge set of ornate gates.
This was the door at the deepest point—The door to the True Sanctuary where even Queens were forbidden from entering.
"...Seriously, can that actually be done?"
Kamito kept repeating the same question to Restia who had turned back into the demon sword's form.
Assassinating the elemental lords.
The reason was not clear why she would want that to happen, being a spirit herself.
She said it. It was for saving the world.
This was the only way to return the world to normal.
(...Well then, I'll just have to realize her wish.)
Because to Kamito, she was the meaning of life itself.
—Don't worry. You are the strongest warrior, Kamito.
As though pushed by that voice, Kamito went up to the gate.
"I will do it. So long as it's Restia's wish."
—Thank you, Kamito.
The conversation ended there.
Kamito silently gripped the hilt of the Vorpal Sword.
After he touched the gate's surface with one hand, the heavy gates slowly opened.
Appearing before his eyes was a massive stone staircase.
At the top were five dazzling lights.
Kamito breathed in and took a step forward.
In this manner, he gradually climbed up—
Assassinating all the elemental lords straight away on the spot was impossible.
But killing at least one of them would be enough—That was what Restia had said.
(...The assassination target is the Holy Lord Alexandros who wields the greatest influence over the human realm.)
While walking, he looked up at the top of the steps.
(The Holy Lord's throne is over there, huh...)
Kamito stepped onto an intermediate landing. Suddenly...
—Your blade dance this time was outstanding.
As though shaking the space, the voice echoed in the giant hall.
Kamito stopped walking.
(This won't be easy, huh...)
He was too far from the target's position. This distance was not ideal for assassination.
However, if he continued to walk forward, surely he would be punished.
Placing the Vorpal Sword on the floor, Kamito knelt down on the spot.
—We can grant one Wish through a miracle to reward you for your blade dance.
—You, what would you request of us?
Feeling as though his heart was being gripped tightly, Kamito whispered.
There was only one chance. If he failed, there was nothing but death waiting for him.
(...Is it really possible to kill them?)
Once again, he asked in his heart.
She did not reply. The sword's dark blade seemed to reflect Kamito's own heart.
"My wish... is—"
Keeping his head bowed—
"—The death of the elemental lords."
Kamito spoke the Wish she had entrusted to him.
While speaking, Kamito began to sprint.
Without thinking over unnecessary things, he closed the distance in one breath.
(—I am the weapon born for destruction.)
This was his mental switch, instilled in his body's memory through the teachings of the Instructional School.
In that instant, the Strongest Blade Dancer turned into a cold-blooded assassin.
(—O lost darkness, residing in my hand, turn into my strength!)
Infusing divine power into the Vorpal Sword—the elemental waffe that had defeated numerous enemies—he drew his sword.
Hit and run. He would use the demon sword of darkness to pierce the elemental lord and then pull it out and withdraw as quickly as he could.
While calmly deciding on the sequence, Kamito rushed up the steps.
The Elemental Lords did not show any visible reaction. Originally, Kamito's body was supposed to be destroyed the instant he stepped beyond the landing.
It was as Restia described.
The miracle employed by the Elemental Lords was a power that did not come from the elemental lords' own abilities. Hence, the miracle would fulfill the Wish as much as possible.
It was akin to some kind of system. That was what she had told Kamito.
A miraculous power that even the rulers of this world, the Elemental Lords, could not control.
At the same time, this power would bind the Elemental Lords, the executors of the miracle.
Historically, this was an unprecedented Wish.
Seeking to bring about the death of the elemental lords.
(—But that will last but for an instant.)
The elemental lords' death was an irregular Wish.
The miracle's power was not going to destroy the elemental lords who served as its executors.
Very likely, the miracle would be interrupted once it judged Kamito's Wish to be invalid.
He was still a few more steps away from the Elemental Lords' thrones.
However, those few steps could easily be mistaken for an infinite distance.
Death followed closely like a shadow. If he did not make it in time, both Kamito and Restia were going to be annihilated.
(Two more steps—)
Kamito ran as he judged the distance visually.
The target for elimination was the Holy Lord. Kamito charged towards the central throne all at once—
—But just at that moment.
A sense of dissonance grew.
Approaching this close, only now did Kamito noticed for the first time.
Brimming with dazzling light, the central throne.
What should exist on top of it—
Did not exist.
(—How could this be possible?)
Kamito yelled in his heart.
Why was the central throne empty where the Holy Lord should be?
—Kamito, the situation is abnormal!
Restia's voice sounded in his mind. The situation was apparently beyond her expectation.
However, the assassination could not be stopped—
Withdrawing now meant only death.
Kamito infused divine power into the Vorpal Sword.
Darkness erupted from the demon sword's blade and sliced light apart.
Kamito instantly switched targets and swung the demon sword towards the throne next to that of the Holy Lord's.
Towards the throne of the Water Elemental Lord—Iseria Seaward.
A sword strike with godlike speed pierced the shining light on the throne.
His arm felt a definite hit. However—
Kamito widened his eyes in surprise.
Amidst the dazzling light was—
A young girl, completely nude, with hair the color of shimmering water.
(...This is—an Elemental Lord?)
Stabbed into the girl's chest, the demon sword of darkness was exuding astounding miasma.
—Thank you. With this, I am finally liberated.
Opening her eyes slightly, the girl murmured.
(...Liberated? What's going on—)
Just as this question rose up in Kamito's mind...
—No good, Kamito! Hurry and leave!
Restia's screams echoed in his mind.
In the next instant, amidst the light where his sword was embedded, a great amount of darkness spewed out.
The overflowing darkness instantly swallowed Restia and Kamito.
His view became black. The sticky darkness entangled his entire body, gradually pulling Kamito's body into the abyss.
(...This... This ominous darkness, is it the true form of the elemental lords—?)
At this moment, Kamito noticed.
The sword that should be held in his left hand had suddenly vanished.
Most likely, he had loosened his grip when swallowed by the darkness.
(Restia... Where are you, Restia...!)
In the bottomless darkness, Kamito yelled.
However, despite his will to resist, Kamito's consciousness was gradually being devoured by darkness.
—Kamito, sorry... I—
Inside the mud-like darkness—
Kamito finally found signs of the sinking demon sword.
"Wait up, I'll save you right now..."
Just as he reached out towards the darkness...
Kamito suddenly noticed.
The center of the vortex in the abyss that was swallowing Restia, over there was—
Instinctive fear dominated his entire body.
Easily surpassing a human's mental strength, this fear was carved in the body of flesh.
At the bottom of the abyss.
—An existence beyond this world was writhing restlessly.
(...What...? What, that's...!)
Restia kept sinking towards the center of the abyss.
Desperately reaching out, his fingers still could not reach.
—Kamito, can you hear me? Kamito...!
"I'm here, Restia!"
Her voice gradually grew distant.
Kamito kept sweeping the sticky mud of darkness aside as he advanced.
—The promise back then, do you still remember?
The demon sword of darkness turned and drew a complicated pattern in the space.
Kamito frowned—He quickly realized her intentions.
A magic circle. She was preparing to invoke spirit magic while in the demon sword's form.
"Restia, you're going to..."
As soon as he touched the magic circle, Kamito's arm immediately turned into particles of light and disappeared.
(...This is transfer magic!?)
Restia was planning to transfer Kamito to somewhere else.
"No, Restia! I-I must stay with you together forever, Restia—"
However, Restia began to speak in a calm voice.
Had she given up already—?
(...No! Restia intends to make a request to me!)
Kamito's entire body was enveloped in the glow of the transfer magic and was gradually disappearing.
Under these conditions, her voice continued to be heard.
—Kamito, if one day I should become no longer myself...
Amidst his sinking consciousness—
Kamito woke to a start.
"Huff, huff, huff..."
Breathing irregularly, he was also breaking out in cold sweat all over.
"I'm here, Kamito."
Her voice came from above.
Clear and pure, a comforting voice.
Inclining his head to look up, Kamito found her deep dusk-colored eyes gazing quietly at him from above.
Kamito immediately lifted his body as though trying to jump up, causing the girl in the dark dress to emit an adorable scream.
"Seriously, don't scare people, Kamito."
Kamito stared intently at Restia before him.
Gorgeous black hair. Lustrous wings of pitch black.
Yes, this was no dream.
The contracted spirit girl whom he had lost three years ago was now returned to Kamito's side.
Through the spirit seal on his left hand, he could sense Restia's presence.
That filled him with incomparable joy.
...Just at this moment, Kamito realized.
She was sitting here, which meant that—
Kamito had been lying down, using her lap as a pillow.
"...Uh, you've been providing me with a lap pillow all this time?"
"Didn't we do this often in the past?"
"C-Come on, you..."
Kamito's face turned red and he could not help but turn his gaze away. Childhood aside, he felt quite embarrassed to be enjoying someone's lap pillow even after growing up.
Seeing Kamito's reaction, Restia chuckled and smiled.
"...My apologies. I made you see something frightening."
She gently caressed Kamito's head.
Her fingers sliding through his hair was a nostalgic feeling, causing Kamito to be speechless for a moment.
"...The dream just now... You?"
"—Yes. Those were the lost memories of three years ago."
Adjusting her disarranged skirt hem, she nodded.
Kamito recalled the dream just now with a suffering mood.
The lost memories. The experiences of that day that he could not recall no matter what.
The truth of the elemental lord assassination.
Yes. Those were indeed Kamito's own memories.
"...On that day, I failed. The elemental lord assassination you hoped for."
In terms of results, Restia was swallowed by that mass of darkness and separated from Kamito.
Then engulfed by the same darkness, Kamito had awoken in the forest on the Empire's borders.
Having lost his memories of that day, inside the elemental lords' sanctuary—
After a long awaited reunion after three years, he had countless things to ask her.
Hence he was at a loss where to begin—
"Restia, you, who are you actually?"
Finally, he spoke.
"I am Restia Ashdoll. The guide tasked with the mission of awakening the Demon King."
Gazing directly into Kamito's eyes, the darkness spirit girl answered.
"...Restia Ashdoll. Is that your true name?"
"Yes, because I was born from the Darkness Elemental Lord, Ren Ashdoll, an existence akin to an alter ego."
"...Ren Ashdoll, huh."
Kamito repeated apprehensively.
"...I don't get it. Why would that guy's power be dormant in a human like me?"
"—That goes back thousands of years."
Then as though reminiscing, she closed her dusk-colored eyes.
"After losing the war against the five elemental lords, the Darkness Elemental Lord, Ren Ashdoll, during the last instant of his life, invoked magic to reincarnate his power into a human male. This was for the sake of retrieving his power one day to exterminate the five elemental lords. That's Kamito—You."
"Why choose a human male?"
"Spirits cannot become vessels for other spirits—The same way that powerful spirits cannot make use of elemental waffen. Even an elemental lord is no exception. Ren Ashdoll predicted that the human race was going to start thriving in the future and gradually become able to command spirits. In that case, they were the most suited as a vessel for reincarnating his power."
That said, this is only my speculation—Restia added.
"Reincarnating in a male might possibly be for the sake of deceiving the eyes of the humans who obey the elemental lords. This is because it is a commonly believed rule that only pure maidens are able to commune with the elemental lords."
"...Making so much trouble for me."
An inborn power to become an elementalist.
Only because of that power, Kamito was taken to that insane facility.
"...Thanks to that, I also met you, Restia."
Casting his gaze on his left hand's spirit seal, Kamito muttered softly.
Restia smiled lightly and continued:
"As for me, I shoulder the mission of guiding those who inherit the Demon King's power, the will of the Darkness Elemental Lord, Ren Ashdoll. Over millennia of human history, quite a number of humans appeared who had inherited the Demon King's power. However, virtually all of their lives ended before they could encounter me. Or like the legendary Demon King Solomon, they would awaken in an irregular manner, devoured by the power they could not control, thereby turning into a concentrated cluster of resentment."
"Are you referring to that Nepenthes Lore monster?"
"Yes. That was a portion of the lingering Demon King's power, given form through forbidden magic."
"...I get it now, yeah."
Restia was the spirit born to guide those who inherited the Demon King's power. Hence, that was why she executed the will of the Darkness Elemental Lord, Ren Ashdoll, to use Kamito to destroy his enemies, the Five Great Elemental Lords.
Kamito could understand up to this point, however—
(...Obeying Ren Ashdoll to seek revenge on the Elemental Lords. Is that really the goal?)
...Something didn't feel right somewhere.
"That mass of darkness was—"
"What exactly was the mass of darkness that swallowed us?"
The pitch-black Wish overflowing from the throne of the Elemental Lords.
Was that the true appearance of the Elemental Lords who ruled the world—?
"—That is something beyond this world."
"Rubia used the same description. Is that some kind of metaphor?"
"No. It's literally as the words say, a substance belonging neither to Astral Zero or the human realm. An existence that came from another world."
"In other words, an unknown existence?"
"...I can't deny that. However—"
Restia paused and looked into Kamito's eyes.
"Undoubtedly, it caused the Elemental Lords to go mad."
...Kamito fell silent. He recalled what Rubia had said.
She said that the Elemental Lords were mad—
"Restia, at the time, you—"
Kamito licked his parched lips.
"...were planning to save the world?"
"In terms of results—Yes, that was supposed to happen."
—Three years ago on that day, Restia mentioned saving the world.
For that, it was necessary to assassinate the Five Great Elemental Lords.
But back then, the elemental lord assassination failed and Restia was swallowed by darkness.
"On that day, I was contaminated by the darkness from another world. But more disastrously, through me as a medium, Ren Ashdoll's will was contaminated."
"...So something like that happened."
During the Blade Dance's final round, Kamito had heard a voice calling the Demon King to awaken.
That voice was not Restia's.
It was the voice of the Darkness Elemental Lord—Ren Ashdoll.
"Ren Ashdoll's will intended to completely liberate that darkness using the Demon King's power dormant in your body. The darkness that leads the world towards destruction—"
"You intended to exterminate the elemental lords, destroying that darkness at the same time?"
"No, I had no intention of exterminating the elemental lords."
Restia gripped her skirt hem tightly.
"Three years ago, what you killed was the Elemental Lord's insane personality. The Elemental Lord's original consciousness had not been completely contaminated and continued to linger in that darkness."
"...I see. That Water Elemental Lord was like that."
Piercing the elemental lord's throne with the Vorpal Sword, Kamito had seen the young girl's figure.
The girl spirit was sealed underground in the abandoned city.
Speculating from the current conversation, she was probably the Water Elemental Lord's consciousness that had split off—
"The plan three years ago was to use the Demon King's power to liberate the Elemental Lords' personalities that had not been contaminated yet."
"But I failed—"
In terms of results, he had successfully freed the Water Elemental Lord, but in turn, Ren Ashdoll's consciousness, sealed inside Restia, was contaminated.
"By separating from the Darkness Elemental Lord's will, I was able to escape contamination. I hoped to awaken you, Kamito, as the Demon King before Ren Ashdoll awakened inside me. And this time, it was for releasing the elemental lords from that darkness—something beyond this world."
For this purpose, Restia had formed an alliance with Rubia Elstein.
But even though their plans were aligned for awakening Kamito as the Demon King, their final goals were completely different. Restia's goal was to liberate the true elemental lords. On the other hand, Rubia's goal was exterminating the elemental lords.
Rubia firmly believed in exterminating the insane Elemental Lords. However, once the elemental lords were destroyed, Astral Zero would lose all order, thus bringing calamity to the human realm.
All along, Restia had advocated liberating the elemental lords but Rubia did not accept the words of Restia who carried Ren Ashdoll's will.
"—That said, it's impossible to assert that her method is wrong. The liberation of the elemental lords has already failed once. Furthermore—"
"Ren Ashdoll had awakened before I awakened as the Demon King."
"Yes. Although the Darkness Queen was there to suppress it at the time, who knows when Ren Ashdoll's contaminated will is going to reawaken again—"
"In other words..."
Kamito fell silent to organize his thoughts.
Three years ago, in order to rescue the Elemental Lords who were contaminated by the unidentified darkness, Restia made plans to assassinate the elemental lords.
However, the plan failed. Even though the consciousness of the Water Elemental Lord was successfully rescued, Restia and Ren Ashdoll's consciousness ended up contaminated.
The contaminated will of Ren Ashdoll attempted to use the Demon King's power to summon that darkness to the world on this side. Finding out about that, Restia planned to awaken Kamito first before Ren Ashdoll could fully awaken, in order to make another attempt at liberating the consciousness of the Elemental Lords—
Kamito looked up.
"...What on earth should I do now?"
He clenched his fists tightly.
Just as Restia said, the Demon King's power still existed inside Kamito.
Ren Ashdoll's contaminated will could resonate with the Demon King's power and dominate Kamito again.
"This is decided by your own will, Kamito."
Restia held Kamito's hand lightly.
"I have already told you everything. Next, all you need to do is make a decision."
"No matter what decision you make, I will stay with you."
By the time he noticed—
Her sad dusk-colored eyes were already right in front of him.
Her gorgeous lips breathed out softly, tickling his face lightly.
Her mischievous smile was causing his heart to race—
"—What are you doing, Kamito?"
A voice was heard, as cold as a sword's blade.
Kamito frantically jumped up from bed.
Without him noticing, the sword spirit was on the bed, completely nude except for kneesocks.
Her cold gaze stared straight at Kamito.
"...Kamito, what were you doing with the darkness spirit over there?"
Her face was expressionless as usual.
However, Kamito knew.
...She was angry. Est was very angry.
"E-Est, calm down..."
As Kamito tried to appease her, Restia interrupted.
"Oh dear, do you have any objections, Miss Sacred Sword?"
Restia smiled tenderly.
She withstood Est's freezing gaze head on.
"Darkness spirit, please leave. Kamito is my master."
"Do know that I am the one who first contracted with Kamito. Instead, you should be the one to stop hindering Kamito and my long awaited reunion."
"Kamito's current contracted spirit is me. Leave Kamito."
"No. If you must insist no matter what, please back up your words with power."
Rumble rumble rumble rumble rumble rumble rumble rumble...!
Invisible sparks were flying as the darkness spirit and the sword spirit glared at each other.
"S-Say, both of you..."
Kamito sighed helplessly.
"Can't contracted spirits just get along together?"
"No." "How rare for our opinions to coincide. I agree."
They answered immediately.
Restia stood up on the bed.
"We could settle this here and now. Let's see who is more worthy of being Kamito's contracted spirit."
"As you wish, darkness spirit."
"W-Wait up, you two—Don't damage the Divine Ritual Institute's facilities!"
Ignoring his pleas to stop—
"O black lightning, even capable of incinerating souls to oblivion—Hell Blast!"
Restia's released lighting smashed a wall in the room.
"For me who possesses the strongest anti-magic properties, spirit magic has no effect."
Est remained standing amidst the sparking lightning as if nothing had happened.
"Nothing less from the legendary Demon Slayer. However—"
Est widened her violet eyes. The intense lightning strike was nothing but a distraction. Restia instantly circled her way to Est's back.
"What about this?"
Pinning Est's arms behind her back, Restia dragged her over to the bed at the same time.
"...What do you... intend to do?"
"Fufu, to you, this would be something very embarrassing."
Restia pushed Est down and placed her fingers on the tip of Est's kneesock.
Est instantly froze.
Her expression remained blank except her face turned red.
"Miss Sacred Sword, I remember you are particularly ashamed of exposing your bare feet, yes?"
In one motion, Restia pulled down the kneesock from Est's thigh to below the knee.
"Miss Legendary Sacred Sword, who could have thought you'd make such a cute sound?"
"...Don't do this... Stop..."
Est desperately tried to lift her kneesock, however...
Restia continued with her task and pulled the kneesock down to Est's ankle.
"...Ooh, ah... Nooo..."
Tears glimmered in Est's eyes as she tearfully looked at Kamito.
"Restia, w-what are you doing!?"
"Oh dear, Kamito, don't you want to see this child's bare foot?"
Kamito was instantly speechless.
Est absolutely refused to show her bare feet.
...To be honest, he could not deny his definite curiosity.
"See, Kamito wants to look as well."
Just as the fingers holding onto the kneesock's tip were about to expose the heel—
Kamito recovered his senses and shook his head.
"R-Restia, that's enough!"
He pulled her away from Est.
Restia puffed her cheeks and sulked.
"Hmph, Kamito is taking sides with Miss Sacred Sword now."
"No, it's not like we have enemies and allies here..."
While scratching his head, Kamito answered, feeling troubled.
"Let's continue next time, Kamito."
Then she kissed Kamito on the cheek.
Spreading the black wings on her back, she flew out of the window.
Left behind, Kamito continued staring in a daze.
Beside him, Est swiftly pulled her kneesock up properly.
"Kamito, did you see it?"
"Did you see my bare foot?"
Her mysterious violet eyes stared at Kamito.
"I-It's okay! Just a little, I didn't even see the heel!"
Kamito frantically shook his head.
"...Kamito is such a perv."
Still expressionless, Est's face went slightly red.
Beautiful black wings were fluttering beneath the sunset sky.
Flying through the air, Restia lightly stroked her gorgeous black hair.
"How unsightly of me. To think I would be jealous."
Grumbling in self-mockery, she closed her dusk-colored eyes.
Then as though in contrition, she brought her hands to her chest.
—I told you a lie.
In a secret underground passage beneath the elemental lord's sacred domain of Ragna Ys—
Rubia Elstein was stumbling as she walked.
She wheezed painfully as she made her way step by step along the walls of the passage.
Her body was fast approaching its limits.
A Cursed Armament Seal was carved on her heart to sustain the contract with Laevateinn.
The price was too great. Even if Laevateinn did not demand her soul, her life was not going to last long.
(...But I can't die yet.)
While coughing blood, she murmured in her heart.
Yes, not yet. She still had things to do.
(...How odd. Earlier, I had clearly prepared myself to die.)
Who could have thought that a contract made using life as a medium could be severed—
(Kazehaya Kamito, you never fail to surprise me—)
Rubia could not help but smile faintly.
In her mind, the image of his back surfaced.
The young man wielding dual swords.
—Rubia, I will protect you even if it means putting my life on the line.
He had promised her that.
Thump—A commotion in her heart.
This was not pain that tormented her body. Rather, it was a sweet kind of pain that gripped the heart.
A pain that she experienced for the first time, being a girl who had undergone a princess maiden's strict education since early childhood.
(...This unbelievable emotion, what is it?)
The unidentified emotion was causing Rubia anxiety.
(Now is definitely not the time for turbulent emotions—)
The world's fate was entrusted to Kazehaya Kamito's choice.
No matter what choice he made, the human realm was sure to undergo monumental chaos. Chaos would instantly sweep across the continent, finally erupting in a conflict surpassing the Ranbal War.
That was the only thing that must be avoided absolutely.
Suppressing chaos required overwhelming military strength.
There was the Murders organization that possessed extensive networks across the continent, her connections with the Demon King cultist faction in the top echelons of the Alphas Theocracy's military, as well as the private army whose core comprised Instructional School orphans.
(I will first use those girls to bring the Alphas Theocracy under my control—)
With burning flames in her ruby eyes, Rubia continued her way forward.
The underground cavern led to the eastern part of Ragna Ys. The small flying craft that Lily Flame had prepared should be there.
Most likely, the Empire had already sent troops to pursue her. Rubia in her current state would not be able to offer any resistance if they sent Numbers-class spirit knights.
(I... must hurry...)
Just as Rubia stumbled as she supported herself with her hand against the wall...
A dagger sliced through wind to pierce Rubia's arm.
Suppressing a scream, she stared into the darkness.
What struck her was a dagger used for assassination, dripping with blood.
"...Who are you?"
Rubia asked the darkness. In her current state, having lost the contracted spirit and the Sacred Maiden's power, she did not even have the ability to sense the enemy's presence.
"To think you'd use 'who are you' as a greeting. Clearly we belong to the same team."
The light of magic glowed.
"Sjora Kahn, you..."
Rubia gritted her teeth.
Appearing out of the darkness was the scantily clad witch of the Theocracy.
Behind her, a crowd of girls in crimson military uniforms stood on guard, surrounding Rubia.
White masks appeared in the darkness. All of them held daggers in their hands.
"The Theocracy's Snake huh—"
Pulling the dagger out from her wound, Rubia groaned.
This organization of executors was not under the military's authority. Most likely, the Theocracy had issued orders for them to execute Rubia for failing her mission of winning the Blade Dance.
(—In any case, they came to silence me.)
Rubia knew that country's dark side all too well.
It was only natural for the military to consider silencing her through death.
Rubia extended her right hand in a posture for counterattacking. Although losing her contracted spirit rendered her unable to use flame spirit magic, she was still able to use flames that did not originate from spirits—Frost Blaze. Inside the narrow tunnel, she should be able to defeat two or three opponents.
(But that would be all I can manage. Given my current state—)
"The Theocracy's Snake? Sorry, you're wrong."
The witch jeered and snapped her fingers.
The girls in military uniform took off their white masks mechanically.
All were girls whom Rubia had seen before.
These were the assassins with unusual powers whom Rubia had gathered from the continent—The Instructional School's orphans.
A total of thirteen girls. They stared coldly at Rubia with dim and hollow gazes.
"The girls you cultivated have been absorbed outright into the military as my private army. Although they originally possessed a redundant sense of self, the Theocracy reeducated them."
"Witch, how dare you!"
Rubia released flames of absolute zero.
"Poor little princess."
Instantly, a dark figure appeared out of thin air.
The shadow roared, then its giant jaws expanded several fold and swallowed the roaring flames of blue in one gulp.
"...That spirit, could it be—"
Four sturdy limbs. Eyes glowing red ominously.
A pitch-black demon wolf making an astounding roar that shook the atmosphere.
"Good boy, Fenrir."
Sjora Kahn stroke the demon wolf's neck.
"Even the 'flames of absolute zero' that can freeze everything are useless against this demon ice spirit—The Laurenfrost's daughter really gave me quite an excellent present."
She walked over to Rubia who had collapsed, exhausted.
Her expression proceeded to change.
"What a pity. You were simply dancing in the middle of my palm."
Seeing the witch suddenly change her tone of voice, Rubia frowned.
"Although I did not obtain the Demon King's body, it was still quite interesting. Breathing the so-called outside air is not bad after so long."
"...Who are you?"
"How unexpectedly slow of you, Sacred Maiden. There is only one who seeks the Demon King's body."
"Could it be...!? You should have perished a thousand years ago..."
"Ha, that is what the contemptible Divine Ritual Institute's history books recorded."
That which bore Sjora Kahn's appearance was stepping on the side on Rubia's face.
"...What... is your goal?"
"I've said it many times already. I want a complete body. This decrepit snake princess' body does not allow me to release my power. Oh well, it would be asking for too much—"
Her lips in a twisted grin, Sjora revealed the glowing spirit seal on her right hand.
A pattern of crystallized ice.
"I have found something interesting in this demon ice spirit's memory. For some reason, an alter ego of an elemental lord seems to be sealed in the abandoned city."
"...A sealed Elemental Lord? How on earth...?"
"There is no point in telling someone who is about to die here."
Sjora's fingertip produced a dazzling flash of light.
"Kuku, don't worry. Your useless little sister will be joining you on the other side soon."
Just at this moment...
Accompanied by an astounding explosion, the underground cavern's walls crumbled.
Sjora Kahn hastily dodged.
The Instructional School's girls swiftly surrounded her to protect her.
Where the cloud of dust and debris settled—
A strangely shaped giant was standing.
Formed from amorphous water, the giant looked female.
"Looks like we made it, Lily."
Sitting on the giant's shoulder, a girl spoke.
The other girl jumped down from the giant's back.
She swiftly hurried over to the collapsed Rubia's side.
"It's... Lily huh..."
"Please don't speak. Save your strength."
Lily took out a healing spirit crystal from her bosom and pressed it against Rubia's arm.
A warm glow enveloped Rubia's arm and began to heal the wound.
Lily glared at Sjora Kahn.
"You've rebelled, witch!"
"Hey hey, in terms of using each other, the same goes for you eh?"
Jeering, the witch turned her gaze to the girl riding on the giant's shoulder.
"—That thing is the tactical-class militarized spirit Apsara, I suppose."
"Yes. Obtained during the Tempest, one of the three militarized spirits. Colossus and Garuda are already broken from use, but this is still unused so I saved it."
Tossing her ash-gray hair, Muir Alenstarl replied.
"The Snake's elites should have gone to silence you?"
"All taken care of."
Muir answered immediately.
"Don't underestimate Muir. You will be killed too."
"Hierarch, please step back. Let us—"
The Instructional School's girls warned in an inorganic voice and readied their daggers.
"Heh, these third-rate flunkies, who didn't even qualify as one of the Ranked, you intend to fight Muir huh—"
Muir smiled in amusement.
"If you want to die that much, Muir will play with you, okay?"
The Instructional School's group wavered.
Top combat specialists in the continent were faltering from a single girl's intimidating presence.
However, Sjora shrugged and stepped forward.
"Aren't you confident? But this is your last militarized spirit. If you were to fight all my pawns, you should understand that this thing will break halfway through."
"Then Muir will just destroy this entire cave."
"Are you stupid? You'll die too."
"Muir won't die. Surely, Muir will live for Onii-sama."
Muir's expression remained unchanged as she murmured softly.
"...Damn Monster. Insane."
Sjora clicked her tongue.
"Muir is serious. You don't want to lose the majority of your forces here, right?"
Hearing Lily's words, Sjora instantly displayed a look of contemplation—
"...Retreat. This is a waste of time."
Next, she walked towards the darkness.
Her subordinates also followed quickly behind her and disappeared.
A few seconds' silence. Then—
"Muir, well done. I never knew you were that good at bluffing."
"That was no bluff. Muir really is serious."
Muir tilted her head in a daze.
"What, y-you intended to bury us alive here!?"
"If you're lucky, you won't die."
Lily sighed deeply and turned to Rubia.
"—Thank goodness you are safe, Cardinal."
"Sorry, Lily. The Instructional School people have been taken away. This is my oversight."
"No, this is because I didn't gather enough intelligence. Although I knew the Theocracy could not be trusted, I never expected them to act this swiftly."
"They most likely conspired together with Murders. With the Divine Ritual Institute and the Empire's spirit knights in pursuit, there is no place for me to hide now."
The situation had changed dramatically.
Since her military forces had been taken by the Theocracy, Rubia had to reconsider her direction anew—
Rubia stood up—
"What about you?"
"Like I said, there is currently no place for me to stay. I've lost my power as an elementalist. There is no need to follow me."
"You must be joking."
Lily knelt down before Rubia.
"You were the one who freed us from the Instructional School and treated us like people. I have no intention of serving anyone else. Henceforth, please continue to command me as you please."
Rubia placed her hand on Lily's shoulder.
"—Well then, follow me. Lily Flame."
"It can't be helped."
Muir jumped down from the militarized spirit.
"Muir will ally with you as well. Having no place to go is shared by Muir as well. Although Muir hates you, she hates the Theocracy's people even more. Also, Lily can't do anything without Muir by her side."
"Th-That's you, okay! Without me, you can't even cook!"
"Lily, shut up or be killed."
"Your request for an alliance is accepted, Muir Alenstarl."
Crimson hair fluttered as Rubia walked towards the depths of the darkness.
...As though crushing underfoot the destiny waiting for her ahead.
"—A war is about to begin."