Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume13 Chapter1
Chapter 1 - The Awakened Girl
—Great Festival of the Spirits. On that day, militarized spirits of unknown origin had taken the opportunity to attack the Academy.
Not only the Academy but the town at the foot of the mountain was also caught up in this incident. Several days had passed since then.
Almost half of the attacked Academy was wrecked. Led by Greyworth, the teachers were actively discussing solutions. Including Ellis the captain, all members of the Sylphid Knights ceased their duties since lessons at the Academy were also suspended in the meantime. The majority of the highborn daughters had returned to their families' territories. Even the Raven Class dorm where Kamito lived was no exception.
Kamito's roommate, Claire, had returned home to meet her parents who had been released. A special pardon had been granted due to Team Scarlet's victory in the Blade Dance.
The other roommate, Fianna, had already set off even before Claire, making her return to the imperial family. Although Fianna had already given up her succession rights to the throne and left the imperial family, due to retrieving her power of the spirit contract, no matter how reluctant Fianna felt, occasions when she was summoned back as an important member of the imperial family were gradually getting more frequent.
Hence, the only two people currently remaining at the student dormitory were Kamito who had nowhere else to go and Rinslet who had yet to return to her family's territory. Her departure was delayed because recent snowfall contrary to seasonal norms had blocked the mountain route back to Laurenfrost territory.
(...That snowstorm might be related to the rampage of the Elemental Lords.)
Thinking over these matters, Kamito picked up the cup of black tea prepared on the table.
"...Mmm, smells so good."
"That goes without saying, these are top-quality tea leaves, a Laurenfrost local specialty."
Sitting on Kamito's right, Rinslet smiled proudly.
"Yeah, but I think it's because you brewed the tea personally, Rinslet."
"...! You are not getting anywhere even if you flatter me."
Blushing, Rinslet went "hmph" and turned her face away.
There were also many tasty-looking snacks on the table, the scones she had baked this morning. Sweet syrup was dripped over the crisp surfaces of the scone. Truly delicious.
Having taken off her Dark Est outfit, Est had changed into her uniform and was stuffing herself with scones beside Kamito. Meanwhile, sitting on the floor, the white wolf was using its paws to hold a teacup nimbly, enjoying the black tea.
"It is truly suffering that this body cannot enjoy the tea and snacks that you've prepared specially. I would really love to savor those pancakes of yours again some time."
"Just let me know any time and I could make offerings to you at the imperial capital's shrine."
Rinslet bowed her head respectfully and answered.
After a short while, Kamito returned his cup to the table and said:
Cutting straight to the point.
"So what is the important thing you mentioned just now?"
"...Yes. Counting today, it is something that happened four days ago."
The elemental lord's incarnation appearing in a white wolf's form—Iseria—started speaking solemnly.
"The Divine Ritual Institute's Queens have observed the appearance of a Gate at a certain location in the human realm."
"You mean an Astral Gate?"
At special locations such as the Spirit Forest, it was perfectly natural for Gates leading to Astral Zero to manifest. In actual fact, the Academy's Sylphid Knights were frequently troubled by the spirits and beasts that accidentally pass through the Astral Gates.
"...That Gate, is there a problem?"
"A Gate appearing in the human realm is in itself nothing particularly special. However, that forest is not a place where ordinary gates can manifest."
"...A gate outside of the Spirit Forest, you're saying?"
"Is something like that even possible?"
Seeing Rinslet not entirely convinced, Iseria nodded solemnly.
"Indeed. Due to the Elemental Lords going insane, it is uncertain whether anomalies could occur between Astral Zero and the human realm. Feeling a bit concerned, I sent subordinate spirits to investigate the place where the Gate had appeared. In the end, nothing anomalous was found, but—"
The white wolf's round eyes stared straight at Kamito.
"The spirits I sent over there found something strange in the vicinity."
"—Yes, a girl with hair the color of darkness, wearing a dress of black."
Kamito stared wide-eyed.
That image of her, carved into his mind, instantly surged forth.
"—A final farewell, Kamito."
Tears streamed down her cheeks.
"Miss Sacred Sword, please protect... Kamito well..."
(...Yeah, she—should have disappeared already. Only remaining in my heart.)
For the sake of saving Kamito from the Darkness Elemental Lord's control—
Looking at his left hand where the spirit seal had already disappeared, Kamito then stared at the elemental lord's incarnation in front of him. An anxious voice was squeezed out of his throat:
"...This must be a coincidence. I'm sure girls dressed like that can be found everywhere."
"Indeed, it could be a coincidence. Girls in dresses can be found in any number on this continent."
Iseria nodded honestly.
"However, that girl suddenly appeared in a forest at the border. How large of a coincidence is that? And the gate also happened to be observed four days ago."
"Speaking of four days ago—"
Rinslet spoke up in surprise:
"That would be the very day when Kamito-san retrieved his memories, isn't it!?"
Four days earlier, in order to retrieve Est who was sealed in the Burial Chamber, Kamito had gone to the underground military installation. That was where he had been attacked by Lurie Lizaldia of the Numbers. Severely injured on the verge of death, Kamito had awakened Restia's consciousness, reviving his own memories.
Was this still coincidence?
"...Restia is still alive, isn't she?"
Iseria shook her head.
"I do not know. Perhaps I have merely given you a bubble of hope. Your contracted spirit, Restia Ashdoll, had disappeared completely, this is what you experienced personally, what you witness personally with your own eyes. However, suppose... Suppose a part of her remained and passed through the Gate to the human realm—"
The left hand's spirit seal had vanished completely... Yes.
Currently, he could not even sense her presence the slightest.
A girl resembling Restia had appeared in that forest.
...That was all. There was no proof to confirm at all.
Kamito looked at the seal on his right hand.
...She's here, only here.
"That is all I have to tell you. I will leave the rest to you, Demon King's successor."
Iseria shook her head lightly and spoke.
Kamito bowed his head.
He exhaled deeply.
It was impossible to assert that the girl was Restia.
Perhaps this would bring even deeper despair.
Suddenly, Kamito felt something tug his sleeve.
Kamito looked back to find Est's mysterious violet eyes currently staring at him.
"That darkness spirit is my rival. She will not disappear so easily."
Est held Kamito's right hand tightly.
The hand where Restia's crest was branded—
Kamito took a deep breath and nodded.
(...For me, my decision is already more obvious than anything.)
Indeed, no matter how small the possibility.
—No more hesitation.
Kamito turned to face Iseria and asked:
"So, where exactly is it? Where did the Gate appear?"
"The boundary between the Ordesia Empire and the Holy Kingdom of Lugia, the border forest."
"The Empire and the Holy Kingdom's boundary? In other words—"
"Indeed, it is Laurenfrost territory."
The girl opened her eyes—
First to enter her view were the leaves covering the ground and the ceiling.
(...Where is this?)
Just as she was about to get up, she noticed.
It looked like she was lying on a bed woven from grass.
There was almost no sunlight streaming in. A dark room. Incense was burning, filling the air with a choking smell.
Her gorgeous hair of darkness draped down, scattered.
Just at this moment—
"Oh, Onee-chan has woken up!"
"Hurry and tell Rana-sama!"
Suddenly, she heard these voices.
She looked over to the direction of the voices.
In front of the room's tiny door, a group of children was gathered.
Their snow-white complexion was reminiscent of white oak. Hair the color of green jade. Pointy ears. Pairs of shining crimson eyes were watching her in curiosity.
(...These children are?)
...She searched her memories desperately.
Why was she in this kind of place?
Before losing consciousness, she was definitely wandering in a forest, it should be something like that—
(Right, I was being chased by something...)
Gradually, her memories grew clear.
When she first woke up, it was in a cold, dark forest.
Hearing terrifying howls everywhere, she ran desperately.
She could not remember what was chasing her.
All she was certain was that she was just about to be caught by something.
(...But I tripped over something and fell.)
...That was only natural. Sitting up in bed, the girl confirmed her condition. Under the long hem of the black dress, she was wearing boots decorated with cute ribbons.
...Attire unsuited for running in the forest no matter how you looked.
Inside the dark forest, the girl could not move.
If she continued to lie down there, she would probably become food for wild beasts eventually. Or lose her life to something even more terrifying.
Indeed, just like forest spirits—
(But in the end, what I encountered were not spirits. Right, they were—)
...She remembered. They were humans.
Passing through the forest, an old human couple who were carrying firewood on their backs.
(Those two people saved me and gave me food and water—)
One of the children called out. The boy's clear voice brought her back to reality from her thoughts.
"Onee-chan was captured by humans."
"Yeah! That's why we rescued Onee-chan."
The children in the surroundings all nodded.
"...You rescued me?"
On the bed, the girl leaned her head forward.
"Could it be, you took those friendly elderly people and—"
The girl cried out, her face deathly pale.
"—We didn't kill them. Just scared them a bit then stole their memories."
A girl dressed in a princess maiden's outfit of white, roughly the same age as her.
The children all made way for the girl who had entered. The girl named Rana walked over to the bedside and placed her hand over the awakened girl's forehead.
"Looks like you were caught in our magic too."
"...What do you mean?"
"We Forest Dwellers will erase human's memories if they catch sight of us."
The girl cocked her head.
"You're different from those humans?"
Hearing this question, Rana and the children all exchanged glances in surprise.
"Isn't that obvious?"
Flashing with wondrous light, those crimson eyes stared into the girl's eyes.
"—Because this is the forest of the Elfim race."
"—You there, did you really see a girl in a black dress?"
"Y-Yes, no mistake about it..."
At the northern limits of Laurenfrost territory in the Ordesia Empire, a dense and flourishing forest grew along the border with the Holy Kingdom of Lugia. Even during the daytime, sunlight did not penetrate inside.
A small village at one end of the forest had been taken over by a band of strange people.
Girls dressed in gray overcoats.
A total of five. All carrying swords. They swept their gazes across the frightened villagers.
"...What do you think?"
The girl, apparently the commander, pointing her sword at the old man while asking her subordinates behind her.
"It is most likely that darkness spirit, no mistake about it."
"Hmph, so Des Esseintes turned out to be correct in their predictions—"
The girl murmured quietly to herself and turned to the old man again.
"So, you lost the girl that you rescued in the forest?"
"Y-Yes, that's right. When me and the ol' missus were walking together, dense fog suddenly came down. By the time we realized, the girl had suddenly disappeared."
The old man was trembling all over in fright, shaking his head desperately.
(...Doesn't seem to be lying, I suppose?)
The girl slowly withdrew her sword—
The Holy Kingdom's knight—Luminaris Saint Leisched—sighed in exasperation.
(Mischief wrought by forest spirits? If the darkness spirit were to fall into the hands of other powers apart from the Holy Kingdom, it would be troublesome.)
It was already a few days ago when Des Esseintes had confirmed the anomalous Gate appearing in the forest on the Ordesia Empire's border. The Sacred Spirit Knights' direct superior, Cardinal Millennia Sanctus, instantly issued orders to arrest the being that had appeared near the Gate—the darkness spirit.
Although this was the border, it was clearly illegal for the Holy Kingdom's knights to enter Ordesia territory. If they were to be discovered, it would develop into a foreign relations problem between countries.
(Going this far to capture her, is the darkness spirit really that important?)
...All sorts of doubts swirled in her mind. But as a knight, she was not supposed to harbor doubts.
The Holy Kingdom's knights were simply executors who fully carried out the will of Des Esseintes.
(I lost in the Blade Dance against that girl and also failed the mission to exterminate the darkness spirit.)
Before this mission is accomplished, I am probably not permitted to step back into my native soil.
In order to recover the Sacred Spirit Knights' honor, I must find that darkness spirit no matter what—
"Everyone, because of that, we—"
She was interrupted by Ayla Cedar.
"What is it?"
"There are problems with invading the forest."
She could not help but laugh wryly and quietly.
White snowflakes were dancing in the forest, fluttering in the air.
Even for the Laurenfrost region that was known for its cold climate, normally speaking, snow was not supposed to fall this time of the year.
A great snow contrary to seasonal norms.
"Ever since the Blade Dance ended, the Laurenfrost region's climate has been very anomalous."
"The Empire should have received the Elemental Lords' blessings."
"If this can be considered blessings, it's truly unacceptable—"
Although not as bad as the Spirit Forest, this forest was also a very dangerous place. Besides, going on an expedition in this kind of weather, merely coming back alive was already uncertain.
"How about we return for now and call for reinforcements?"
Hearing her subordinate's suggestion, Luminaris shook her head.
"How could we possibly turn back empty-handed? To recover the tarnished honor of the Sacred Spirit Knights, the darkness spirit must be captured and taken back no matter what."