Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume13 Chapter3
Chapter 3 - Team Inferno Reborn
—A few days prior to Kamito and Rinslet's departure from the Academy...
Claire returned to her homeland by herself—The former territory of Elstein.
"Father and Mother are here, right..."
In front of a small house by the riverside, Claire pressed her hand against her chest, adjusting her breathing, trying to calm down.
It was already four years since she was separated from her parents. Four years ago, due to the Calamity Queen's betrayal, Claire's parents were stripped of their noble status and thrown into the imperial capital's Balsas Prison.
Due to having served the Ordesia imperial family for many years, they were not treated like other convicts of heavy crimes despite being imprisoned. With only their freedom restricted, it was a state more akin to house arrest.
However, these long years of prison life finally came to an end recently. During the Blade Dance held earlier, the Ordesia Empire's team had obtained victory. As the leader of the winning team, Claire Rouge was rewarded by the Empire.
Naturally, Claire's wish was a pardon for her parents.
The Empire's council was greatly divided over this matter, hence her wish did receive an official response. But due to the increased prestige and influence of the second princess, Fianna's words now held greater weight and finally under her efforts, Claire's parents finally regained their freedom.
However, their noble title was not restored, and their castle and lands were taken by the Empire. All that was left for the Elstein family was a small patch of land and this house.
Compared to their former castle, this was a very modest house.
Standing at the door to the house, Claire looked around nervously.
She pressed the spirit crystal at the door. After a brief wait, the door opened slowly inwards.
Inside the tiny home, Claire's parents came to the door to greet her, dressed in simple clothes.
"—Welcome home, Claire."
"...You've grown so much now."
Hugging her parents tightly, Claire cried her heart out like a little child.
Dinner that night consisted of potato and bacon stew, walnut bread, boiled eggs and pheasant roasted until its skin was crisp. Dessert was Claire's favorite peach tart.
There was no need to reminisce about former dinners eaten in the Elstein castle. Although this meal was very simple, to Claire, her mother's cooking was more delicious than anything in the world.
Sitting around the table in the room, there were too many things to talk about after being separated for four years.
Life in the prep school, enrolling in Areishia Spirit Academy, entering the Blade Dance, also about Kamito—
"Eating canned food all the time is not good for your health."
Her mother reminded with care and concern.
"I-I've already started cooking recently."
Claire puffed out her chest proudly.
"...Really? In a previous letter, you even said there was a boy who cooked for you—"
Claire's gaze began to wander and she mumbled her words.
"Or perhaps, you mean you're cooking particularly for that Kamito child?"
Duke Elstein seemed to catch on to a sensitive topic.
"N-No way. Why on earth would I cook particularly for him—"
Blushing red, Claire shook her head vigorously.
"Is that so...?"
"K-Kamito is just a slave... And a teammate, that's all! Anyway, putting that aside—"
Claire coughed lightly, hastily changing the subject.
"I met Ren Ashbell in this time's Blade Dance."
"...Ohoh, the girl who placated the Fire Elemental Lord's wrath."
"Yeah... I worship her very much. This time, I finally got to meet her."
With great fervor, Claire kept telling her parents about her(him). Not the Strongest Blade Dancer she idolized from three years ago but the Ren Ashbell who had fought alongside her as a teammate.
"She(he) is stronger and kinder than anyone. A very gallant person—"
Only when talking about Ren Ashbell was she the most able to express the feelings in her heart with honesty and forthrightness.
(W-What should I do, these feelings in my heart are suddenly surging forth...)
In the middle of the conversation, noticing her feelings towards Kamito, Claire's face went fiery hot.
Even so, she still continued to talk about her(his) deeds...
These feelings, suppressed for such a long time, flowed out in a torrent.
(...So these are my true feelings huh?)
Claire pressed hard against her chest.
...These were the true feelings she was unable to convey to Kamito's face.
The feelings that she had always kept buried in the bottom of her heart ever since their first encounter by the spring in the Spirit Forest.
"When I was alone, she(he) reached out to me..."
Indeed, Kamito had always stayed by Claire's side.
"...She(he) is the one I love."
Claire blushed to her ears.
"Is that so—?"
Smiling, her mother caressed Claire's scorching hair.
"...You've made very good friends, I see."
After having dinner, Claire went to sleep, squeezing onto the same bed as her mother.
Like when she was young, Claire hugged her mother's arm.
She had been hesitant whether she should tell her parents about her sister. But if she did that, it would involve the matter of the Elemental Lords going insane. About the Otherworldly Darkness eating away at this world, the water elemental lord had forbid them to tell anyone else.
(...Mother, I will surely bring Nee-sama back.)
Held in her mother's arms, Claire secretly steeled her determination.
Balsas Prison was a fortress prison situated on the north side of the imperial capital.
All inmates of this impregnable prison were either high-ranked nobles in the country or elementalists who had contravened the Empire's laws. Hence, unlike ordinary prisons, multiple layers of barriers for sealing spirit magic were erected here.
At the deepest level of this prison, a place where not the slightest light seeped through—
"I heard someone upstairs got pardoned. How lame."
The voice of an arrogant youth.
"Hey, you think so too, right?"
Doing one-handed pushups, the youth struck up conversation with his neighboring inmate.
"...I don't care. No matter what, I'm on a life sentence."
The woman who replied had crimson eyes and jade-green hair.
Vivian Melosa. A merchant belonging to Murders who had infiltrated the Academy Town several months earlier to sell Cursed Armament Seals to students. Condemned with a death sentence, she finally managed to avoid death thanks to the Dusk Witch's help. However, having committed atrocious crimes, she was probably never going to see the light of day again.
"I was too foolish. To think I could get away with doing such things right under the witch's nose—"
Thinking over these things, she could not help but clench her fist hard, producing creaking noises.
"...Hmph, stop making me laugh."
The youth switched to a one-armed handstand.
"...I will surely escape from here."
The grinning youth's arm was hanging loosely. Although the wounds had healed, it was impossible to swing a sword properly without trouble.
"—Then I'll kill that guy."
Visible under the faint lighting was a face branded with seals.
Jio Inzagi. The former Instructional School assassin who was imprisoned by the Empire after his defeat at Kamito's hands in the battle at the Academy Town's abandoned mine. With one arm amputated and the power of the Cursed Armament Seals lost, only the flames of hatred still burned violently, flashing in his eyes.
"—I'll kill him, kill him, kill him, kill him!"
While standing upside down, he repeated those words nonstop like a curse. But he could not even remember at all what the target of his vengeance looked like.
"Damn that accursed darkness spirit. I can't believe she wiped my memory—"
All memories related to that boy had vanished completely.
While he was being handed to the Imperial Knights, she had cast a spell on him.
To prevent Jio from seeking revenge? Or to avoid trouble arising if Jio told the Imperial Knights about that boy—
"I'll definitely find you, the guy who took away my left arm..."
"...Futile. No one can escape from this prison!"
"Hmph, how will you know if you don't try it!?"
Jio jumped down from his bed and threw a punch at the cell's bars.
"Oahhhhhhhh.... That really hurts!"
The sound of finger bones breaking seemed to have sounded. The bars had been strengthened using spirit magic, not something an Instructional School assassin could break barehanded.
"...Oh my, watching your stupidity makes me want to cry."
"...Shut the fuck up!"
Spitting, he turned to the other side.
"Hey, what about you? I've heard that you're quite something."
But there was only silence in the depths of the single cell shrouded in darkness.
"...Tsk. Every single one of you is so pathetic..."
Jio Inzagi lay down in annoyance. Just at this time—
Suddenly, there was violent shaking, causing even the deepest level of the prison to shake.
"...W-What's happening!? Is it because of my punch just now?"
Jio Inzagi yelled. Just at that moment—!
Accompanied by a deafening sound, the prison's ceiling crashed down.
Jio stared wide-eyed, unable to speak.
A collapsed ceiling. Billowing dust in the air. On a small pile of debris, a giant monster appeared.
A frighteningly massive body, stout legs as thick as prison pillars, blood-red compound eyes flashing in the dark—An impossibly large spider.
"...A militarized spirit!? Why in this place—"
"An enemy!" "I-Impossible..." "How could this place be attacked—uwahhhhhhh!"
The soldiers guarding the prison screamed pitifully one after another. For the central region of the imperial capital to be attacked, it was totally unthinkable.
"Haha, kick them all away—Ungoliant!"
A girl's adorable voice resounded in the underground darkness. The giant spider spirit waved its eight legs, sending the surrounding walls and soldiers flying like cut grass, creating a total mess.
"...! That girl..."
Jio remembered the appearance of this petite girl.
Gray hair tied as twintails on the sides of her head. Blue eyes as clear as ice.
"You, aren't you the Instructional School's number two—Muir Alenstarl!?"
Sitting on the spider's head, the girl looked back, narrowing her eyes at Jio.
"...Are you Jio Inzagi? What the heck are you doing here?"
"...This kind of thing should be totally obvious. I was caught by those damned knights! By the way, why are you even here? You're not here to save me, right?"
Muir Alenstarl was totally speechless.
"Why would Muir save a small fry like you?"
"Wha... small fry?"
Jio angrily hammered the iron bars but of course, the bars remained unmoving.
"Hey, get me out right now, Monster!"
The instant he yelled at Muir—
The giant spider's front leg descended before Jio's eyes.
The ground was split into two. Jio's forehead broke out in cold sweat.
"Don't call Muir with that name, or else you'll suffer the same fate as these destroyed cells."
"—Muir, ignore that guy. Continue destroying."
Amidst the screaming and shouting, another girl jumped down from the spider.
"Once the Numbers arrive, it'll be troublesome."
"Hmph, Muir got it, Lily—"
The spider-shaped militarized spirit spewed out a great amount of silk, wiping out the soldiers guarding the prison. Having gotten off the spider, Lily walked past Jio's cell, coming in front of Vivian's.
"Hey hey. Stop ignoring me, bitch!"
"Shut up, fake Demon King. Scum like you are completely worthless—"
A spirit crystal's light shone on Vivian who was sitting in a corner of the cell.
"—Murders merchant, Vivian Melosa."
"You should feel honored. The Cardinal holds expectations for your power."
"...Give me a break. Just let me continue to stay here."
Sitting there, Vivian Melosa answered emptily. Apparently, her fear of the Dusk Witch had completely crushed her mind.
"You don't want to regain your freedom?"
"If you wish to stay here like this, be my guest. I have no intention of forcing you—"
The sound of hard military boots were coming from the depths of the darkness.
Slowly appearing was a woman wearing a red mask, dressed in the Theocracy's military uniform.
Vivian held her breath. Jio was also stunned by her powerful presence.
Ignoring those two, the woman walked over to the farthest cell.
To confront inmate who had remained silent all this time, completely unfazed by the situation at hand.
"Hey, you bitch! Don't ignore me—"
Regaining his senses, Jio yelled at the woman.
"You need power, right? Then take me. I am the Instructional School's only successor of the Demon King—"
"Successor of the Demon King, you say?"
Cardinal stopped walking and looked back.
"...Yeah. I am the man nearest to that Demon King—Solomon."
Jio grinned as he spoke.
Behind the mask, those crimson eyes shone with sharp light.
"Amusing. Then allow me to try using that power."
She pointed her finger towards Jio's cell. Generated from her fingertips, the flames instantly melted the iron bars that were protected by spirit magic.
"Hmph, show your gratitude to the Cardinal's magnanimity, Jio Inzagi."
Lily glanced sideways at Jio.
Having obtained his freedom, Jio swiftly ran out of his cell, but—
"...Gratitude? Hoh, how unfortunate for you, kind-hearted lady!"
With that, he escaped into the depths of the darkness...
"Jio Inzagi, you bastard!"
"Ignore him. Just let an insignificant character like him go."
Leaving the furious Lily, Cardinal turned to that cell.
She was standing before the cell. The presence inside seemed to waver slightly.
"What business do you have with me? Fake Ren Ashbell."
"Ah, you discerned it?"
She seemed a little surprised.
"I happen to know the real one."
"I see. Come to think of it, you have fought her(him) before."
The flames at her fingertips illuminated the cell brightly.
Shining blonde hair. Clear blue eyes. An even more powerful will exuded from the deepest level of the prison.
"Then I shall be brief, glorious knight. I need your power."
"I am already shouldering sins. Do you believe I will do as you say?"
Looking at the inmate in the cell, the masked girl sighed.
"Atonement huh? However, the more you act like this, the more I want you."
"...What are you talking about?"
Cardinal took off her mask to show the other party her true appearance.
"—I am saving this world."