Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume13 Chapter2
Chapter 2 - Demon King's Inheritance
As soon as he finished breakfast, Kamito began to pack his luggage for the upcoming trip to Laurenfrost lands.
"...Although it was said already, I can't believe I'm actually going to a place like Laurenfrost."
"What about a place like Laurenfrost, Kamito-san? Although it is on the Empire's border, indeed, I'll have you know that my homeland is a picturesque place with beautiful scenery."
"No, I'm sorry, you're getting the wrong idea from what I said."
Kamito frantically apologized to Rinslet.
Rinslet pouted angrily.
After possessing Fenrir earlier, Iseria's consciousness had returned to Astral Zero already. Due to being corroded by the otherworldly darkness, the other Elemental Lords required a great deal of her energy to suppress. As a result, she could only make appearances that were very limited in time.
Continuing to pack, Kamito silently prayed in his heart.
(She must still be alive, definitely—)
Accompanied by the anomalous Gate, the girl in the black dress had appeared in the borderland forest.
...Perhaps this really was just a coincidence.
Simply speculation carrying a wonderful wish. Kamito understood clearly in his heart.
Nevertheless, he was still willing to believe in the slight possibility.
(—You must wait for me, Restia.)
Kamito secretly committed his determination while swiftly packing all the equipment needed for crossing snow-covered mountains.
The equipment was borrowed from the Academy's training room and included Artifacts specialized for use in snow terrain.
The shortest route to Laurenfrost territory—The Kyria Mountain Range—was currently under heavy snowfall for unknown reasons. Although back at the Instructional School, Kamito had already undergone plenty of training for expeditions across snow terrain, he knew that crossing snow-covered mountains without appropriate equipment was equivalent to suicide.
"Well, having prepared this much, it should be enough..."
Kamito patted the bulging backpack and confirmed the equipment while talking.
"Kamito-san, please do not underestimate the Kyria Mountain Range."
Rinslet spoke with a serious expression.
"That mountain range has already taken the lives of hundreds. Although I can understand your feelings that compel you to set off as soon as possible, if you don't want to die there, no amount of preparation is too much."
As the daughter of the margrave ruling those lands, Rinslet's words carried extra impact.
"...But I still need to thank you, Rinslet."
In the middle of packing, Kamito paused his hand and spoke.
"Umm, I'm really glad that you're accompanying me."
Rinslet's face instantly turned bright red.
Just this morning, when Kamito made his decision to travel to Laurenfrost territory, Rinslet had suggested going with him because she was familiar with the local terrain and road conditions. Since it was his first time visiting Laurenfrost, Kamito could not be more glad to receive her assistance.
"Th-That would be because I was planning to go home in the first place. I-It's not like I am going back just for your sake, Kamito-san, please do not get the wrong idea."
Rinslet turned her face shyly to the side.
Already used to this kind of attitude from her, Kamito could not help but smile wryly. Despite looking like an overbearing girl at first glance, she was actually just bad at expressing her feelings. At her core, she was really a kind young lady.
"...~! W-What are you smiling at, Kamito-san?"
Rinslet glared angrily at Kamito.
Kamito frantically turned his gaze away.
"Speaking of which, won't Claire get mad if we take her stuff without asking?"
Kamito picked up a spirit crystal nearby and asked worriedly.
The spirit crystal he had just put in the bag was found in Claire's cupboard. Although it was an inferior item with very low purity, even so, it was still quite an indispensable tool for elementalists.
"No problem. Claire frequently eats my snacks without asking too."
"...I guess that's true."
Claire frequently took snacks to eat from Rinslet's room without permission, but she did not hog them all to herself. Using the stolen food as tea snacks, her roommates Kamito and Fianna, as well as Scarlet the actual perpetrator were all accomplices in a certain sense.
...Oh well, it should be okay given that Claire and Rinslet grew up together as childhood friends.
Despite feeling guilty, Kamito still "borrowed" the cans hidden in the depths of the cupboard. As much as he hoped it would not happen, if they actually got stranded in the snow on a mountain, this would serve as extremely precious emergency rations.
(...She should forgive me if I explain properly to her next time. It seems like she's become less violent lately.)
Meeting her older sister probably helped calm her down. Although they had met under those circumstances, in spite of that, Rubia still managed to convey her reasons for betraying the Elemental Lords as well as how much she missed her sister. For Claire, this could be considered some kind of salvation.
Back when Kamito first encountered her, Claire would close off her heart like a wounded little animal, always attacking others. However, that kind of personality had already disappeared now.
(...Yeah, she was a kind and gentle girl to begin with, after all.)
Just as Kamito was thinking about the girl who had already returned to her homeland...
"These spirit crystals—"
Rinslet murmured softly.
"Many of them don't have sealed spirits inside."
On closer examination, the spirit crystals in Rinslet's hands had lost their shine indeed. If crystals had spirits sealed inside them, even without infusing divine power, they should still give off a weak glow.
"Throwing them into the back of the cupboard like this, she totally failed to maintain them properly."
"...Seriously, how lazy of her despite clearly being an honors student."
Rinslet shrugged in exasperation.
Spirit crystals served as temporary residences for spirits. Hence, they must be carefully wiped and frequently undergo purification rituals to create a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere for the spirits living inside. Otherwise, the spirits might break the seal on their own and escape. This was doubly true for poor quality spirit crystals like these ones.
"Then I shall head over to the Spirit Forest to catch a few fire spirits."
"Yeah, I'll go find that hag Greyworth to get permission to leave."
Saying that, Kamito took down Terminus Est that was hanging on the wall.
"Going to the school building?"
"—I'm guessing she's probably at the Academy Town."
Leaving the Academy's front gates, Kamito stepped onto the main road that went through the entire Academy Town.
"...It's already four days huh."
Looking at the wide streets at the foot of the mountain, Kamito muttered quietly.
Using the Great Festival of the Spirits as an opening, seven militarized spirits had attacked the Academy Town. Even the Imperial Knights' tactical-class militarized spirit Glasya-Labolas was corrupted by darkness and had gone on a rampage, wrecking the town.
The wrecked town's reconstruction was being carried out under the leadership of the Imperial Knights. However, the most heavily damaged Undine Area was still a wasteland.
Walking on the rubble-buried road, Kamito saw the figure of a familiar rock spirit. Its giant rock-covered body was currently clearing away scattered soil and stones.
"I see, this should be moved over to... Hmm?"
Riding on the rock giant's shoulder, the short-haired girl looked back. It was Rakka from the Sylphid Knights.
"...My, isn't this Kamito? What are you doing here?"
"Just looking for Greyworth for something."
Rakka jumped down lightly from the rock giant's shoulder.
"She's helping with the town's revival work. How amazing."
"This Cabracan is really suited to this kind of work, you know?"
Hmph, Rakka puffed out her chest with pride.
"I have to work hard enough to do the Captain's share as well while she's recuperating."
"Ellis did say she had to get back to the Knights' duties as quickly as possible."
Injured in the attack incident earlier, Ellis was currently receiving treatment at the Academy Town's medical facility. Although she had insisted she was fine, Ellis definitely suffered corrosion from Lurie Lizaldia's demon sword. Having inherited the Demon King's power, Kamito was a totally separate matter.
"The Seraelle Hospital has the most advanced medical facilities, so she should be discharged soon."
"You should go visit her, Kamito. I think the Captain will definitely be happy to see you."
"Yeah, I'll pay her a visit later."
Bidding Rakka goodbye, Kamito continued on his way.
Finally, he reached his destination—a military installation under the Imperial Knights' jurisdiction.
"Is Greyworth here?"
"Oh it's you. She should be present every day during this time—"
After showing his authorized pass to the guard, Kamito entered the facility successfully. Due to a top-level alert, the only people allowed into the underground installation were Greyworth and Kamito.
Guided by the light from spirit crystals on the walls, Kamito followed the underground passage.
The atmosphere underground was exceptionally oppressive. No matter what, this was a facility used for military research during the Ranbal War.
(...Such a creepy place, I can't believe she's still coming here every day.)
After walking for a while, he saw Greyworth's figure in the distance, holding a lantern.
Probably hearing Kamito's footsteps, Greyworth looked back.
"So it's you, lad."
"Yeah~ Don't you get tired of visiting this kind of place every day?"
This was a wide open space in the underground passage. The surrounding walls were crumbling and the ground surface was also sunken.
The center of the destruction was where Kamito had battled Lurie last time.
Stepping on debris underfoot, Kamito walked over to Greyworth.
"You should bring a bodyguard at least. Clearly you're no longer the continent's strongest witch."
"Oh? The lad is worrying about me?"
"You're overthinking it."
Kamito averted his gaze.
"Hoo~, in the end, you're more adorable when you lost your memory."
Greyworth shrugged and looked up at the ceiling of the devastated underground space.
"I wouldn't want anyone aside from myself to come here."
Kamito followed her gaze.
For no particular reason, simply due to the endless darkness spreading from there...
However, he could feel a vague sense of dissonance.
There seemed to be something there.
Greyworth probably felt it too.
"The Demon King's Burial Chamber huh..."
The Burial Chamber—a treasure vault bestowed to eligible Demon Kings.
That was what Lurie Lizaldia had mentioned.
Sealing away the possessions of the Demon King from a thousand years ago, it was a special dimension with magical properties. At the same time, it was the place where Est had been sealed when Kamito had lost his memories at the sanctuary of the Elemental Lords.
The place where Est had been sealed.
It automatically manifested at the Demon King's base of operations. Only those possessing true eligibility to become the Demon King were able to unseal it.
"Truly quite an unbelievable dimension. No matter what system of magic, it cannot be analyzed."
Greyworth nodded, slightly impressed, then looked back at Kamito.
"Lad, try using your power to activate the Burial Chamber."
"It's not like it's that easy to do."
Kamito shrugged helplessly.
There was no way for Kamito to open the Burial Chamber by his own will—Lurie had said so. Hence, she only barely managed to activate the Burial Chamber by resorting to the method of putting Kamito in a desperate crisis on the verge of death.
"...Indeed, it's still no good the way you are currently."
"There's no use provoking me. Besides, I don't need that kind of thing."
"Are you sure? Sleeping inside there are absurdly powerful spirits, you know?"
The Burial Chamber—The Demon King's treasure vault. If that were really the case, it was highly likely that the seventy-two spirits commanded by the legendary Demon King Solomon were sealed inside.
Although the majority of the Demon King's spirits had gone missing, rumor had it that some were sealed while others were modified into militarized spirits, there should be some left inside the Burial Chamber.
"...Don't need them."
Worn at his waist, the Demon Slayer spoke.
"Kamito already has me as the Demon King's weapon of choice and does not need any rubbish spirits."
A tone of absolute certainty. Calling the Demon King's spirits rubbish, this was Est who had slain the Demon King as the Sacred Maiden's personal sword.
"...So that's the way it is. I don't need whatever Demon King's spirits."
Kamito patted the sword at his waist lightly while he spoke.
"Is that so? Oh well, if that's the case, never mind. Then let's seal off this area first."
Speaking with slight disappointment, Greyworth—
"Say, why exactly did you come to find me?"
Only then did Kamito remember—
That was close. He had almost forgot his initial reason for coming here.
Kamito hastily took out the request form from his shirt pocket.
"I'd like long-term permission for leaving school grounds. Sign here please."
Reading the request form, Greyworth made a surprised look.
"Yeah, there's something urgent."
Kamito repeated what Iseria had said this morning about the girl resembling Restia who was sighted in Laurenfrost.
Things regarding the Elemental Lords were an absolute taboo from Iseria's perspective, so Kamito skillfully avoided this subject.
After listening to Kamito, Greyworth said:
"Lad, is this information reliable?"
"...Probably, I guess."
Kamito nodded vaguely.
"I have heard that heavy snow is currently falling in the Kyria Mountain Range leading to Laurenfrost. Will I permit my precious students to go somewhere so dangerous for the sake of such uncertain information?"
"...One time in the past, a certain person was apparently thrown into a snow-covered mountain for many days as so-called training. I wonder if you still remember?"
"That's long long ago. Forget it."
Seeing Greyworth still making that look, Kamito sighed helplessly.
"...I also know that this news is very low in certainty. However, as long as there's a shred of hope, I—"
Kamito clenched his fist hard.
Greyworth gazed at Kamito with gentle eyes.
"You're always so concerned about that darkness spirit... It makes me feel a little envious."
"...Then so be it. But when little miss hell cat returns, won't she be mad at you?"
"If it's Claire, I'm counting on you to explain to her when the time comes."
"I'm sorry but I probably won't be able to help. I will be leaving the Academy soon."
"Leaving the Academy at a time like this?"
The school was being rebuilt currently. During a time like this, Greyworth should be needed even more as the Academy's headmistress.
"Precisely because it's a time like this. You should have heard from Fianna too about the All Nations Conference to be held at the imperial capital. The continent is currently in an unprecedented state of emergency."
"The coup d'etat at the Theocracy huh..."
Several days earlier, Sjora Kahn had murdered the hierarch in the neighboring Alphas Theocracy. Furthermore, she had taken command of the demon scorpion palace, Scorpia. Very clearly, the upheaval was not going to subside with that. The hierarch faction in the Theocracy was rioting all over the place, starting wars everywhere, plunging the nation into chaos.
"There are also reasons on that front, but my true worries lie over with the Holy Kingdom instead."
"...The Holy Kingdom of Lugia?"
Hearing unexpected words from the witch's lips, Kamito tilted his head in puzzlement.
Speaking of the Holy Kingdom of Lugia, it was a very stable country like Ordesia. Ever since the Principality of Rossvale declared independence, nothing concerning had been heard from there in recent years—
"—A witch's intuition."
Greyworth narrowed her gray eyes.
"It's the same feeling I experienced just before that war. At this All Nations Conference, I am going to personally verify the Holy Kingdom's inclinations. Kamito—"
(...A witch's intuition huh.)
Holding the signed permit, Kamito returned to the ground surface, taking a deep breath of fresh air.
(...Oh well, it's got nothing to do with me, I guess.)
For Kamito, how political issues between countries ended up had nothing to do with him. However, if it was related to searching for Restia, then it would be a different matter—
Hunching his body slightly, Kamito walked over to the shopping street in the Sylphid Area.
Food ingredients and other daily necessities could be bought here. In fact, students at the Academy almost never came here to shop. Most of the consumers here were residents of the Academy Town. But for Kamito who was not a noble, this was an important place for buying cheap food.
Luckily, because it was quite far from the heart of the Academy City and there were no military installations nearby, the attack several days earlier did not affect this place.
Kamito had come here to buy a gift for visiting Ellis. Because he was leaving the Academy temporarily, it was only natural for him to inform Ellis who was his teammate as well as the captain of the Sylphid Knights he was a member of.
After buying Ellis' favorite honeydew melon at a grocery store, Kamito made his way to the facility where she was hospitalized.
Saint Seraelle Hospital—The facility was named after a Queen who had served Holy Lord Alexandros several centuries ago. Although Areishia Spirit Academy's hospital also had high standards, it was still far inferior to Seraelle Hospital.
Kamito went through the front door to enter the building's center. The girl at the reception was so frightened that she gasped.
"...T-The bestial king of lust!"
This was already his fourth time visiting Ellis. Kamito's appearance was apparently committed firmly to memory by now.
(...If possible, could you please remember my name as well?)
Feeling deeply hurt, Kamito finished handling the visiting procedures then walked to Ellis's sickroom.
Knocking lightly at the door, Kamito asked softly:
"Ellis, are you still awake?"
"...Yes. K-Kamito!? Oh, yes. I am awake!"
After a clatter of noises, her frantic answer was heard.
"Okay, then I'm coming in—"
Opening the door, Kamito saw Ellis lying in the sickbed.
Her pink lips parted slightly, dressed in a loose white gown, her ponytail untied, Ellis looked quite different from usual, almost like a scene from fantasy.
"Ellis, how's your health?"
"O-Okay. I have almost recovered... I should be able to get back to my duties at the Knights soon."
"Really? ...That's great."
Kamito sat down on the chair next to the sickbed. Ellis's face seemed a bit red.
"I bought your favorite, Ellis, honeydew melon. I'll cut it up for you right away."
"...O-Okay. I feel so sorry for troubling you all the time."
"Ellis, it's thanks to you that I'm still standing here. So just leave this kinda stuff to me."
Kamito took out a knife from his shirt pocket and sliced the melon into small pieces, arranging them on a plate in an experienced manner.
"Speaking of which, what were you doing just now?
"Before I entered the room, I think I heard a clatter of noises. If I disturbed you, I'll apologize—"
"...~! That was, u-umm... nothing I was doing, nothing at all, honestly!"
Ellis went bright red in embarrassment, turning on her side in bed. At this moment, something fell out of her shirt.
Ellis frantically went to pick them up... But it was too late.
Kamito's gaze stopped on the books fallen on the bed.
"...'Nectar Dripping in the Night'?"
Kamito seemed to recall seeing Claire read this novel a few days ago.
"T-This, this is not what you think!"
Ellis frantically picked up the books and stuffed them under her shirt.
"T-These are, umm... books confiscated by the Knights, I was just, umm, checking them! ..."
Glared at by Ellis, Kamito kept nodding.
"B-By the way, have some melon—"
Ellis stared at the plate carrying the sliced melon...... Apparently at a loss of words, she was acting very awkward.
"...? What's the matter, no appetite?"
"No, umm, my hand... cannot move very well."
Ellis suddenly said that.
"...? Weren't you fine just now?"
"I-It suddenly started hurting!"
"So, umm, basically... umm..."
"Y-You can... feed me, right?"
Ellis lowered her head and looked up into Kamito's eyes.
Faint glimpses of her cleavage flashed in and out of view, drawing Kamito's gaze coercively.
With an uneasy expression, Ellis bit her lip hard.
Seeing her ask in this manner, how could Kamito possibly refuse—
"...I-I get it, okay."
Kamito shrugged helplessly and used a fork to pick up a piece of melon.
"...Here, open wide."
"Hmm, are you ordering me?"
Ellis was pouting but she actually looked a bit happy.
"Hmm, the tone of an order does not feel bad, actually..."
Swallowing the melon, Ellis held her hands to her cheeks in bliss.
Like a young chick waiting to be fed, she parted her adorable lips.
"...I surrender. Here~"
Ellis made another cute sound.
"...Looks like you really love eating melon."
"N-Not exactly. What I love is not the melon but..."
Ahem~ Due to being too embarrassed, Ellis cleared her throat deliberately.
Kamito put down the fork and said:
"Umm, Ellis. I've got something to tell you—
"W-What is it!?"
"I'll be leaving the Academy for a while."
Ellis widened her dark-brown eyes, so shocked that she could not speak.
Facing Ellis, Kamito recounted what had happened this morning.
"...Because of that, I have to visit Laurenfrost to search for Restia. As for when I'll be back, I still don't know yet—"
After listening to Kamito, Ellis nodded obediently.
"If possible, I would like to go with you—"
"O-Oh~ I'm very glad that you want to do that, but given your current state of health, I don't think you should push yourself that much."
Saying that, Kamito stroked Ellis's head.
Ellis's face seemed to be giving off steam.
"Then I'll be—"
"H-Hold on, Kamito—"
Ellis grabbed Kamito's hand just as he was getting up to leave.
"Umm, if you are going on a long journey, it would be more convenient to be enchanted with Wind's Protection."
"...Oh, that'd be wonderful if you can, but..."
Among all kinds of spirit blessings, Wind's Protection was the one most prized by travelers. Turning the surrounding wind into one's allies, it would also improve movement speed.
"But is it really okay?"
Among different kinds of spirit magic, magic that persisted for long durations also consumed massive amounts of divine power. Hence, Kamito could not allow Ellis to push herself in her hospitalized state.
"Do not worry. My physical body aside, my energy has already recovered fully thanks to the princess maidens."
Ellis nodded and finally released Kamito's hand.
"...Please close your eyes for a moment."
Kamito closed his eyes obediently.
He could hear the sound of Ellis beginning to chant prayers near his ear.
"O wind sweeping across the land, please bestow upon this traveler thy protection—"
A gentle breeze blew in the room, caressing Kamito's face. His entire body was enveloped in the mild wind—
Suddenly feeling a soft sensation from his lips, Kamito opened his eyes wide in surprise.
He could see Ellis, her face flushed red—
"Y-You have the kind of constitution that renders magic ineffective unless this is done, right?"
Ellis shyly shifted her gaze away and said.
"That's... true, but..."
"H-Hmph... Wind's Protection is granted to you without fail now!"
Ignoring Kamito who was totally lost, Ellis frantically buried her face in her clothes.
(...Wind's Protection huh?)
Exiting the hospital, Kamito scratched his face and muttered.
...His heart was beating so fast. The sensation of those gentle lips still seemed to linger.
"—Kamito has no fidelity."
Worn at his waist, the sacred sword complained unhappily.
"M-Misunderstanding! Ellis was just giving me Wind's Protection."
"Steel's Protection alone is enough for guarding Kamito!"
...Est did not say anything after that, completely in a sulk.
"...Well, anyway, it was a great help."
If going on a journey, being able to lend the power of wind was worth celebrating. Because under the action of wind, there was a dramatic increase in speed.
"Next, I guess I'll go help Rinslet catch spirits."
Saying that, Kamito walked towards the Academy.
"—The very image of the Demon King of the Night as always. Kazehaya Kamito."
A jeering voice. Kamito hastily looked at the voice's direction.
Out from the shadows of the building, a petite girl with a boyish haircut emerged.
"...Ugh, it's you, Virrey Branford!"
Kamito's face was very awkward.
She was number nine of the Empire's elite spirit knights—Numbers.
A special operative knight who belonged to the Umbra agency that specialized in foreign intelligence operations.
She was under orders from the Empire's top echelons to monitor Kamito. From Kamito's perspective, she was someone whom he wanted to avoid like the plague.
"What do you mean by 'ugh,' Kazehaya Kamito?"
The special operative knight stared at Kamito, walking in front of him nonchalantly.
"I saw you enter the sickroom of Duke Fahrengart's granddaughter... Could it be that you were engaged in something shameless and immoral?"
"...You've been following me all this time huh."
Nothing less expected from the dark side of Numbers, although she was hiding her presence in the Academy Town, to think that even Kamito had failed to notice her.
"Stop talking about made up things, how could I possibly do something shameless and immoral?"
Kamito denied firmly. Indeed, it was just a ritual necessary for Wind's Protection. Definitely not something shameless and immoral... Probably.
"Your eyes are wavering, Kazehaya Kamito."
...True to her name as a knight of Umbra, she saw with a single look.
"In my view, your getup is even more shameless."
Kamito was forced to retaliate, forcing the Numbers girl to go red with embarrassment.
In actual fact, the highly revealing black leather suit made Kamito at a loss where he should look.
"T-This was developed specially for combat, the combat outfit for special operative knights!"
Virrey drew her handgun from her waist and pointed it at Kamito.
"How dare you look at me with such lewd eyes, you, you bestial king of lust!"
"Hey, pulling out a gun on the streets is very dangerous."
Kamito took Virrey's gun and held it up high.
"G-Give it back. Bad guy!"
It looked like it was really very precious to her. Virrey suddenly burst into tears, jumping up and down trying to snatch her gun back. But very unfortunately, her height was totally not enough.
"Before I do that, let me ask you something... Why are you still in town?"
Holding the gun up high, Kamito asked. According to what Greyworth had said, she should have gone to chase the escaped Lurie.
Virrey was speechless for a moment. Then—
"The mission for apprehending Dame Lurie has been... called off."
With a trembling voice, mixed with regret.
"...What on earth happened?"
Although it was true that she had failed to realize Lurie was a spy, that was not her fault alone. As a special operative knight, there should be no one more suited than her for hunting down Lurie.
"Those are orders from above, demanding Umbra to cease hunting Dame Lurie."
"...No way, how can the culprit who caused such a huge incident be... just like that..."
Kamito could not help but cry out... Suddenly hearing such an unacceptable thing.
"Of course, I have suggested continuing the hunt to the higher-ups. However, totally set aside. 'With the All Nations Conference coming up, do not make a big deal out of this matter.' That was the answer from above. I am very concerned whether the higher-ups are hiding something."
(The Empire's top echelons are shielding Lurie on purpose—Is that it?)
If the Empire's interior—in other words, there were traitors in the council—it made sense how Lurie was able to lurk in the Empire for so long.
Besides, Lurie Lizaldia—who on earth was that woman?
While Kamito was in deep thought, Virrey finally snatched her gun back.
"It would still be okay if she's still in the area near the Theocracy, but as soon as she crosses the border, there's nothing we can do about her. We have also lost touch with Umbra spies who have infiltrated Murders."
"Is it because of that coup d'etat as well...?"
Under these chaotic conditions, trying to hide one's tracks was probably not a hard thing.
"About her past, did you manage to dig up anything?"
Virrey shook her head.
"Seven years ago, she appeared in the Empire and was called the miraculous healer. But how she infiltrated the Empire, how she was recruited to Numbers, regarding her past, everything is still unknown."
"...I see, come to think of it—do you have any idea about the name Yggdra?"
Virrey stared at Kamito with a very surprised look.
"...Yeah. During the attack on the Academy, that girl in vestments mentioned the name... Have you heard of it?"
The girl with the eyepatch, host to the Otherworldly Darkness—Millennia Sanctus. On the day of the Great Festival of the Spirits, she was the main culprit who had summoned the militarized spirits, letting slip of that name in front of Kamito.
"Could it be that Yggdra failed?"—That was what she said.
That name might be linked to Lurie's true identity perhaps.
"Any idea would be an understatement—"
Virrey said with a surprised face:
"—That's the name of the Blade Dance winner fifteen years ago."
An unexpected answer—Kamito could not help but make a weird sound.
Greyworth was the winner of the Blade Dance twenty-four years ago.
Then three years ago, Ren Ashbell was the winner.
But there was also a Blade Dance held fifteen years ago.
The country that had obtained victory fifteen years ago should be—
(...The Holy Kingdom of Lugia, right?)
In any case, Lurie currently looked about twenty-five years in age right now. Based on that, she could not possibly have competed in the Blade Dance fifteen years earlier... That was probably no relation to her at all.
"Seriously, this is just a deduction based on ordinary common sense. Oh well, compared to the Dusk Witch and Ren Ashbell the Strongest Blade Dancer, Yggdra-sama is not very famous, but that can't be helped either—"
"If it bothers you, I could go investigate it. I will be returning to the imperial capital next."
"Back to the capital?"
"My latest mission is to serve as the bodyguard for Dame Greyworth who is participating in the All Nations Conference. Although she has already retired, she is still highly influential."
"...I see. If it's the imperial capital, that would be completely opposite the direction to Laurenfrost."
Saying that, Kamito exhaled deeply.
...In any case, he would not need to be monitored by this girl anymore.
"...Hmm? Could it be that you're going to Laurenfrost?"
Virrey raised an eyebrow and asked.
"Are you tired of living? The Kyria Mountain Range is currently being ravaged by a great snowstorm of unknown cause, you know?"
"I know that too. Oh well, since I've got someone reliable to lead the way, there probably won't be a problem, I think."
"...Hmph, not like your life or death is any of my business."
Virrey shrugged with exasperation.
"Oh, speaking of Laurenfrost—"
Virrey casually thought of something and said:
"Umbra has apparently received reports that the Holy Kingdom's knights have been discovered in the forest near the border."
Kamito's face instantly went livid.
"—Hold on, please tell me the details about this report."
"Uwah...! Your face is too close, Kazehaya Kamito!"
Kamito suddenly leaned up close, causing Virrey's face to blush bright red.
"I recently heard about the Holy Kingdom's knights appearing near the border. Had it been normal times, the Empire would surely raise objections on grounds of territorial invasion. But since it's the sensitive period of the All Nations Conference right now, to avoid provoking the Holy Kingdom, the higher-ups have apparently decided to just watch for now—"
"Is it Luminaris Saint Leisched's team?"
"Seems to be—"
Kamito released Virrey's shoulder.
(...Why are the Holy Kingdom's knights appearing in Laurenfrost now?)
...A foreboding sense. During the Blade Dance, the Sacred Spirit Knights led by Luminaris had taken action to exterminate Restia.
...This was absolutely no coincidence.
(...Now's not the time to be dallying leisurely.)
"O Salamander born from primordial flames, I hereby beseech thee to make thy way here—"
Hidden behind a tree, the salamander spirit entered the spirit crystal in her hand with a whoosh.
Behind the school building, Rinslet was currently preparing indispensable fire spirits for crossing snow-covered mountains.
"...Hoo, spirits in the area have reduced greatly in number too."
"Probably affected by the attack several days earlier, it looks like the forest's trees have been contaminated."
The maid Carol answered.
Just as she pointed out, the damaged tree's edges had already turned black.
Spirits would not live in hated land that was contaminated by darkness. Although the princess maidens tried to use prayers for purification, returning things to the way they were would still require a very long time.
"At this rate, the sun will be going down. Should we go deeper into the forest?"
As Rinslet walked into the depths of the forest, Carol followed in a patter of footsteps.
That said, students were only allowed into the outskirts of the Spirit Forest. Going deeper, not only the Sylphid Knights but even teachers were not permitted to enter.
After walking briefly in the forest—
Rinslet stopped walking and coughed once.
"I-I am about to go on a journey with Kamito-san, just the two of us..."
"U-Umm. Going on a journey with a boy, this will actually be the first time. To be honest, it is a bit unsettling."
Indeed, in actual fact, Rinslet was very nervous right now.
"No problem, milady. I've heard that journeys will help deepen feelings between opposite genders."
Carol smiled "fufu~"
"...! W-What deepening feelings, nothing of that sort is within my considerations at all!"
Rinslet denied with her face red. Carol whispered into her ear:
"...A small trip with only milady and Kamito-sama alone. This is a great chance to get ahead of everyone else!"
"I-I did not propose accompanying Kamito-san for such reasons!"
Rinslet turned around guiltily.
"Indeed, I simply, simply want to become Kamito-san's strength, that is all—"
(...But was that really the case?)
Kamito was always surrounded by many cute girls—
Rinslet had almost no opportunity to spend time alone with Kamito.
But this time, it was a small trip just the two of them.
...It would be lying if she said she was not looking forward to this at all.
(...Although Est-san is with us, she's almost always sleeping during the day.)
Her heart could not help but pound.
...Speaking of which, the novel she had borrowed from Claire a few days earlier was about a man of low status falling in love with a highborn young lady. While they were eloping, resting together, the couple had naturally embraced tightly in bed—
(...Ah, w-what manner of perverted delusions am I imagining!?)
Huff... Huff... Huff...!
Rinslet shook her head forcefully. Just at this time—
On the forest trail, Kamito ran over frantically.
"...Sorry, can we set off immediately?"
"...Eh? But I still haven't collected enough fire spirits."
"These ones we have on hand are enough. Let's set off now."
"Why are you suddenly so impatient to leave?"
"Apart from us, there seem to be others searching for Restia."
Kamito briefly explained about the Holy Kingdom's knights appearing near the border.
"...! Now is definitely not the time for slow preparations."
Rinslet nodded and turned to face Carol.
"I am leaving the rest to you, Carol."
"Yes, please rest assured, milady."
Carol nodded solemnly.
"Then let us depart, Kamito-san—"
On the grass-woven bed, the girl opened her eyes.
She had already changed out of her torn dress of black and was currently wearing black clothing prepared by the Forest Dwellers. This outfit only consisted of simple cloth wrapped around the chest and the waist. The more she looked at it the more it seemed like being half-naked.
Even so, she did not feel cold at all, apparently because this type of fabric was blessed by forest spirits.
"Spirits—I definitely know of existences like them."
As though confirming her memories, she murmured softly.
"Existing in another world different from this realm, special beings—"
Her memories related to this realm only consisted of lingering fragments. For example, the being known as humans—they were the most flourishing race in this world.
(...At the same time, they are the ones hunting for me.)
—However, she had virtually no memories about herself.
After waking up in the forest, her only memory was the single word "Restia."
Saying the word aloud gave her a mysterious, nostalgic feeling, just this single word.
...Hence, this was probably her own name.
(Saying that I've lost my memory because of these children's memory manipulating magic—)
But that was not the truth. Several days earlier, when she appeared in this forest, she was already unable to recall the past.
The girl sighed and sat up from bed.
Inside a tent made from animal hide, some kind of herb was burning. The choking smell stimulated her nerves. Perhaps this was used for some kind of ritual.
Then she walked out of the tent to the outside. Stretching endlessly was a vast forest of frost-covered trees, frozen all the way to the branches.
Frozen branches hanging on the trees resembled blooming flowers, hence this place was known as the Forest of Ice Blossoms.
In this forest, the children of the Forest Dwellers were playing.
Incredibly, this village consisted only of children. The eldest was perhaps the princess maiden known as Rana.
(...Or perhaps, this is what the Elfim race is like.)
There were no memories about the Elfim race in her mind. From Rana, she had learned that unlike humans, the Elfim were a race that had come from Astral Zero.
The children playing in the forest noticed her and waved. She waved back amiably.
The Forest Dwellers were all very friendly. Not only did they offer her shelter from being hunted by humans, but also offered warm hospitality to her.
...But she still did not know why they saved her.
She suddenly heard a girl's voice.
Looking back, Restia found the princess maiden Rana standing behind her, staring at her.
"Don't walk outside carelessly. The forest is a very dangerous place."
Restia apologized honestly.
Then she turned to look at the children playing in the forest again.
"...It seems, there's only children here."
"The adults here were driven out several decades ago in a war against the humans. We princess maidens of the Elfim were able to stay here due to wielding elementalist powers."
Rana bit her lip with chagrin, her voice filled with resentment.
"Do you hate humans very much?"
"All of us Forest Dwellers are like this. Because the humans of the continent want to take away our forests..."
"In that case, why did you still save me?"
Hearing Restia's question, Rana tilted her head in puzzlement.
"Because, I'm human too."
Restia's dusk-colored eyes stared straight into Rana's crimson eyes.
Dusk-colored eyes—At least, Restia was certain that she was not part of the Elfim race.
Rana's wavering eyes carried hesitation—
"Because you resemble a certain esteemed one very much."
"A certain esteemed one?"
"Yes, the Queen of Ice Blossoms."
Restia repeated the word without thinking. This was the first time she had heard of a queen in this village.
"She's not one of the Forest Dwellers?"
"No, the Queen of Ice Blossoms is not one of the Elfim. However, she is not human either. Although called human, yet different from humans, in this regard, you are very similar to her."
"Although called human... yet different from humans."
Restia was confused... It was getting more and more incomprehensible.
(Also, very similar to me...)
"Okay, let's go in and have a good long talk. I'll brew you some tea."
Saying that, Rana entered the tent and sat down on the fur rug.
Then she recounted the story of the girl known as the Queen of Ice Blossoms.
—This had happened before Restia's appearance in the forest.
Like Restia, the girl had lost her way in the forest. She possessed a miraculous power, inconceivable to the Elfim race. Unbelievably, the ice dragon, thought to be extinct in Laurenfrost, would obey her control.
"Ice dragons are the minions of Zirnitra, the guardian spirit of Forest Dwellers. Being able to control ice dragons at will, she must be the princess maiden sent by Zirnitra, the true princess maiden we have been looking forward to for centuries—"
Rana spoke in an excited tone of voice. She seemed like she really worshiped that girl.
Putting aside the matter of the guardian spirit's princess maiden—Restia was very intrigued by the topic of the Queen of Ice Blossoms.
...Perhaps she might recall something if she carefully dug into her memories.
"If only I could meet this Queen of Ice Blossoms directly."
"Yes, you will have a chance to meet her eventually."
"...I can't meet her now?"
"She is currently in slumber. The Queen of Ice Blossoms will not wake up unless she sleeps for a period of time."
"...What do you mean?"
"The Queen of Ice Blossoms is currently forced to store up power for a certain important ritual. So she has been sleeping in the Forest Dwellers' shrine for a while now."
"...I see. That's too bad then."
"But she should be waking up soon. In a few more days."
"A few more days..."
Restia fell into deep thought.
"I don't want to stay here for too long—"
"...Eh? Why is that?"
Rana widened her eyes in surprise.
"Those human pursuers must still be hunting for me."
Continuing to stay here would bring trouble for everyone.
"Don't worry about that at all. This forest has an ancient Barrier. Even elementalists have no way of finding this place. Also—"
Saying that, she looked at Restia.
"Imminently, the Queen of Ice Blossoms will revive Zirnitra who is sleeping in the Kyria Mountain Range. Once we obtain the guardian spirit's power, there is nothing to fear from humans at all."