Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume13 Chapter7
Chapter 7 - Zirnitra of Dominating Ice
Faced with Judia Laurenfrost's unexpected disappearance—
Rinslet seemed totally lost as though her soul was gone.
"Where... Where has she gone...?"
In front of the shattered cursed ice, she had collapsed to her knees in shock.
Kamito's gaze fell upon the shattered fragments of cursed ice all over the floor.
The fragments were scattered in a radial shape, implying that the cursed ice was not melted from outside but broken from within instead.
(Judia Laurenfrost broke the magic ice on her own? That's totally ridiculous—?)
Cursed ice that all the elementalists in the nation were unable to melt could not possibly have been destroyed by a human's power.
That left the possibility of the Water Elemental Lord releasing the cursed ice, but Iseria Seaward herself had rejected the notion.
She had said that even herself could not melt the cursed ice until she recovered her full power.
Besides, supposing Judia was released from the cursed ice, then why did she not return to her family at Winter Gulf Castle first?
(...What on earth happened here?)
Just as Kamito was stuck in deep thought—
Crash—The temple was suddenly shaken.
A deep rumbling sounded from the earth. Columns of ice fell from the ceiling.
Kamito frantically shielded Rinslet who had crouched down.
"Staying here further will be dangerous, let's get out first."
Rinslet nodded, still half-dazed.
After they hurried out of the temple—
They were met with an unbelievable sight.
"...What... is that!?"
Dozens, no, fully a hundred—
Near the peak of the Kyria Mountain Range, countless ice dragons were circling in the air.
"So many ice dragons, where on earth did they come from..."
Rumble, rumble rumble rumble rumble rumble rumble—!
The ground shook violently.
"The Kyria Mountain Range is shaking...!"
The long, giant mountain range. The snow accumulated on the surface of the mountains were sliding off, causing avalanches.
With a flash of lightning, a giant tear appeared in the air above the Kyria Mountain Range.
"...That thing, is it really a gate to Astral Zero!?"
"Impossible, how could such a massive Gate be possible to open in the human realm!?"
"Something's coming out...!"
The tear in space expanded. Violent blizzards began to blow.
Appearing from the tear were countless ice dragons swirling in the air as well as—
A massive claw. It enlarged the tear further.
Frozen in space, Kamito was unable to utter a single word.
It was an immensely huge sculpture formed from blue ice.
Spreading its wings in darkness, the emperor of ice dragons.
There was a tragic sense of beauty about its appearance.
"Domination ice spirit Zirnitra..."
Rinslet held her breath.
Zirnitra flapped its wings, shaking the atmosphere.
"...Could it be that the Elfim in the forest released the seal!?"
"Why would they do that kind of thing...!?"
While muttering, Kamito recalled a certain term.
(...Queen of Ice Blossoms. The princess maiden appearing in the forest huh?)
Did the appearance of the guardian spirit have anything to do with that?
At this moment, the spirit seal on his right hand generated slight pain.
'—Kamito, that is likely a being similar to me.'
He heard Est's voice in his head.
"...A super-ancient spirit weapon, is it?"
Spirit weapons—an umbrella term used for spirits that were deployed in battle during the Spirit War that had occurred several thousand years ago.
During the Blade Dance, Kamito had battled Muir Alenstarl's Valaraukar which was also a spirit weapon. But the pressure he could feel from the domination ice spirit far surpassed that of the demon flame spirit.
From atop the peak, the domination ice spirit flapped its wings fiercely, flying into the sky.
Mixed with hail, the wind swept towards the forest, causing many shards of ice to cut open the ground.
"...Tsk, it's going to the center of the forest—"
There was impatience in Kamito's voice. The forest was Restia's possible location.
"...Rinslet, return to the castle first."
Saying that, he gripped the Demon Slayer's hilt.
Seeing that, Rinslet seemed to realize Kamito's intentions.
"...Going alone will be very dangerous."
"I'm not going to fight that spirit. I'll just look for Restia and come back."
"What are you talking about? It's already so dark now, how are you going to look for the darkness spirit—"
"Once I get close, it should be clear."
Kamito shook his head and rested his gaze upon the spirit seal on his right hand.
"As long as she's still alive, there will definitely be a reaction—"
Kamito poured his divine power into the Demon Slayer.
Instantly, the blade gave off dazzling light, illuminating the surroundings.
—Just at that moment.
Multiple dark shadows descended upon them.
A group of ice dragons, baring their fangs and claws. Crying out shrilly, they breathed out cold air.
Kamito swiftly drew his sword to block the cold air. However, he was unable to deflect cold air that was released in a wide area. Thus his feet were frozen to the ground. As sharp claws attacked from the side, Kamito instantly pulled the blade back to deflect the claws. Then stabbing the blade into the ground and releasing divine power, he instantly shattered the ice on the ground.
"Freezing fangs of ice, go forth and pierce -- Freezing Arrow!"
As soon as she spoke, the aimed arrow instantly pierced an ice dragon's head with perfect timing.
"Kamito-san, I'll cover you!"
Switching the Demon Slayer to a reverse grip, Kamito instantly chopped down two ice dragons that had landed behind him. At this moment, Rinslet's next wave of projectiles rained down, turning the ice dragons' giant bodies into ice sculptures.
Although he had a tough battle on the snow mountain last time, mere ice dragons were no match for Kamito to begin with. Landing one after another, the ice dragons fell to Kamito and Rinslet's combination attacks.
—That being said, the enemy numbers were quite problematic.
(We'll just have to force our way through.)
"Dance, a storm of ice summoning destruction—Diamond Dust!"
Suddenly, an awe-inspiring voice sounded in the forest.
Dazzling light appeared in the air before their eyes. Just as Kamito was thinking it was about to explode, a powerful blizzard started blowing with Kamito and Rinslet's location as the eye of the storm.
As many as dozens of ice dragons were trapped in ice within the blink of an eye, turning into immobile ice sculptures. This was high-level spirit magic as well as being combination magic requiring multiple casters of top caliber.
"No, it was not me."
As Kamito turned to look at her, Rinslet shook her head.
"This spirit magic must be—"
Accompanied by the sonorous sounds of horses' hooves, a shout came from the darkness.
Out emerged several knights riding dappled gray horses.
The leading knight raised a torch, illuminating her face.
Kamito opened his eyes wide.
A girl clad in silver-white light armor. Upon closer examination, it was the head maid who had presented the food for dinner at Winter Gulf Castle.
(...So she's really a spirit knight.)
The knights swiftly dismounted and knelt down before Rinslet.
"Princess, are you unharmed?"
"Natalia, why are you here?"
"Mireille-sama said you had come here, Princess... Any injuries?"
"I am fine."
"Princess, please return to Winter Gulf Castle immediately. The castle is under attack from ice dragons."
"...What did you say!?"
Surprised, Rinslet looked in the castle's direction.
A swarm of shadows was converging towards the castle walls lit by the numerous watchfires.
"Why would this...!?"
"Thanks to the isolation barrier, they can still barely manage to endure, but Mireille-sama is not capable of commanding the Wolf Ritters—"
"...Hmm, then I shall return immediately."
Rinslet nodded and looked at Kamito.
Whether he should head to the forest to look for Restia or return with Rinslet to Winter Gulf Castle for defense—
Just as Kamito was hesitating between the two choices...
"Kamito-sama, I have a request for you."
Natalia spoke up.
Kamito repeated the words. Natalia nodded and said:
"Yes, elites of the Wolf Ritters have headed out to attack Zirnitra. It is my hope that you could converge with them, Kamito-sama, and join the attack party."
"You can't be thinking of fighting that thing, are you?"
"Zirnitra is the culprit summoning the ice dragons. Unless we drive it back to Astral Zero, the castle will fall eventually. The lands of Laurenfrost would surely be ravaged as well."
Natalia spoke with an expression of determination.
"However, our current forces are insufficient for defeating a spirit of that level. Also, we have no choice but to divide our numbers for the sake of the castle's defense... We have a very good idea of your power, Kamito-sama, for you have fought alongside our princess in the Blade Dance. Please lend us your assistance."
"Kamito-san, I am begging you too."
Rinslet faced Kamito.
"You are the only one who can oppose that spirit, Kamito-san."
Kamito nodded lightly.
"I am not good at joining forces with others, but I'll try my best. Rinslet, you can focus on protecting the castle."
"Very well, leave it to me."
Kamito turned his gaze to the domination ice spirit flying towards the center of the forest.
(...If it's defeated, Restia should be safer to some extent.)
Crack—The ice sealing the ice dragons began to show fissures.
The magical resistance of dragons was nothing to sneeze at. They were probably going to break out of the ice very soon.
"Quick. Hurry before the ice dragons wake up."
"Kamito-san, I am counting on you."
Rinslet gallantly mounted one of the dappled gray horses of the knights.
"—May you be victorious."
"Yeah, don't worry."
Kamito nodded and ran towards the forest with the Demon Slayer in hand.
"—Found you, darkness spirit!"
The voice of Luminaris resounded through the forest.
Her gaze was directed straight towards the girl standing in front of the temple.
Despite a change in attire, the girl before her eyes was undoubtedly that darkness spirit.
In her surroundings, Elfim princess maidens could be seen trapped in blocks of black ice.
(...An internal struggle? Or did the darkness spirit do it?)
While drawing her sacred sword and starting to charge, Luminaris was struck by doubt regarding the incomprehensible situation.
(No, now is not the time to care about such matters—)
The prey she had been chasing after was finally before her eyes.
(—With this, I can redeem my subordinates' honor.)
Kicking the ground to take a leap, she closed in on the darkness spirit all at once. In that very instant...
A chill down her spine forced her to halt.
Correction—She was halted.
The source of that presence—A girl standing before the temple.
Her platinum blonde hair was illuminated by the bonfire.
Empty eyes of emerald were staring at Luminaris as though observing her.
"...What business do you have?"
Shocked by the bizarre atmosphere exuded by the girl, Luminaris put on a stance with her sword.
(...A human princess maiden?)
The Elfim race was proud and xenophobic. It was hard to imagine them accepting a human girl as a princess maiden.
Za, zaza, zazazaza, za, zazaza—
Strange noises leaked out of the girl's mouth.
Instinctively, Luminaris jumped backwards.
Black cursed ice instantly spread, freezing the surrounding ground.
(...Spirit magic? No, this is—!)
Failing to dodge, her left foot was frozen, immobilizing her position.
Instantly, her entire body was struck by a powerful sense of fatigue.
(...No way, it is absorbing... my divine power...!)
Luminaris could not help but tremble. This cursed ice apparently had the ability to steal divine power.
Then that meant the princess maidens trapped in ice were also having their divine power stolen?
The black cursed ice attacked Luminaris whose foot was caught—
At the very last moment, one of her subordinate knights blocked in front of her.
Stabbing her sword elemental waffe into the ground, she used her entire body to block the cursed ice.
"...Please hurry and escape...!"
Along with her elemental waffe, the knight was instantly imprisoned in cursed ice.
Using the sacred sword to shatter the cursed ice, Luminaris made a thrust at the girl.
Readying her sword while in the process of running, Luminaris swung Murgleis sideways without the slightest hesitation.
But there was no feeling of striking anything. The girl vanished from sight like a mirage.
"Luminaris-sama, the darkness spirit!"
She heard her subordinates call out from behind.
Swiftly turning her gaze, she found the darkness spirit running towards the depths of the forest.
"Don't let her escape, chase her!"
But before her orders could reach them—
"Uwaaaaah!" "W-What is this!?" "Kyahhhh!"
Suddenly, a powerful blizzard blew in the forest.
The view was instantly blocked. She could hear her subordinates screaming on the other side of the blizzard.
A group of ice dragons was flying above the forest.
Flying freely in the blizzard, they attacked.
"...Regroup! Don't lose sight of the darkness spirit!"
While chopping down the attacking ice dragons, Luminaris hollered.
But her voice was drowned out by the blizzard's rumbling winds.
"Damn it, I cannot believe this would happen, by this point..."
Luminaris's voice trembled.
(...I will not let you escape!)
Luminaris raised her drawn sacred sword overhead.
Her beautiful blonde hair stood up amidst the howling gales.
"Ancient guardian of the Holy Kingdom—Thou art Murgleis, the sacred sword defending the country!"
She spoke the words of releasing.
Pouring in divine power beyond the limit, this was a waffe release with the intention of causing the elemental waffe to go out of control. Giving off powerful light, Murgleis instantly exploded.
Accompanied by a blinding flash of light, sacred flames melted the randomly flying pieces of ice, instantly clearing up the field of view—!
The burning sacred flames instantly incinerated the surrounding trees. Circling above, the ice dragons also fell one after another with painful roars.
"Huff, huff, huff..."
The sacred sword lost its light. Stabbing it into the ground, Luminaris observed the surroundings. There were no signs of that princess maiden. Luminaris decided she must settle the score with that girl assuming she was still in the area.
Her subordinates, the Sacred Spirit Knights, were safe and sound because Murgleis's sacred flames would absolutely not burn anyone protected by spirits with the holy attribute.
(—The darkness spirit?)
The sacred flames of Murgleis were supposed to cause astounding pain for darkness spirits. Even if she evaded burns from the sacred flames, the secondary effect of sacred light should be enough to stop her from moving.
But Luminaris's hopes were soon dashed.
"Luminaris-sama, look over there—!"
Hearing her subordinate's voice, she shifted her gaze to see the figure of the darkness spirit running through the forest.
Luminaris could not help but exclaim.
(—To think the sacred light of Murgleis had no effect on a minion of darkness?)
—At this kind of distance, it was supposed to cause critical injuries to the darkness spirit.
Luminaris gripped the sacred sword's hilt tightly.
"—Chase her down. Everyone still able to move, follow me. The rest should focus on healing your wounds."
Saying that, she chased after the darkness spirit that was disappearing into the forest.
The darkness spirit ran through the forest with stumbling steps.
Compared to during the Blade Dance, she seemed much weaker than before.
(...Is she really that darkness spirit?)
At the very least, that darkness spirit was a high-level spirit capable of fighting Luminaris on equal terms.
She was able to use powerful spirit magic of the darkness attribute. During the Blade Dance, she had paired up with Nepenthes Lore to defeat numerous teams.
(But her current self? No different from a weak prey—)
Feeling a strong presence, Luminaris stopped.
On the ground was a giant shadow from something covering the night sky.
She saw a super large ice dragon, formed from blue ice, flying the air, looking down at the world below.
"...A spirit...is it!?"
Luminaris murmured in surprise. The knights under her command all stood rooted to the spot, speechless.
An elementalist of her level would be able to deduce a spirit's level by presence alone.
That thing was undoubtedly a spirit of the highest rank, archdemon class.
A monster that required the decisive deployment of a major power's knights in order to vanquish.
The super large spirit's roars caused the forest's trees to shake intensely.
As though responding to its sound, the ice dragons circling nearby all roared, summoning fierce blizzards.
"Is that something like the king of ice dragons—?"
Just as she was murmuring to herself, acute murderous intent appeared behind her back.
An arrow flew past her neck with the sound of slicing wind.
Then immediately, several more arrows were shot from the trees.
"—O Sacred Shield of protection!"
Luminaris instantly chanted spirit magic to deploy a defensive barrier of light.
"Stay out of my way, Elfim. Do you wish to seek death?"
The archer was an Elfim living in the forest. Although he was of no consequence, getting in the way of the darkness spirit's pursuit was annoying.
"Foolish human, Zirnitra will destroy you!"
Readying his bow and arrow, the youth yelled.
As though responding to his voice, which was of course, actually impossible—
The ice dragon king dominating the sky blew towards the forest on the ground.
The powerful cold air, covering a large area, instantly swallowed the Forest Dweller's settlement.
"...Th-The village!" "Zirnitra-sama!?"
Elfim screams were heard one after another.
Zirnitra flapped its wings and slowly descended towards the ground.
The ground shook as a result. The giant tail of ice swept mercilessly through the forest, felling trees.
"Zirnitra-sama, please calm your wrath!" "This forest is your domain—" "Your enemies are the humans, not the forest!"
Tragic screams came one after another.
—However, their pleas were easily drowned out by the sounds of trees breaking.
Luminaris murmured with agitation.
"How could the likes of you possibly control a spirit of that level?"
The reason why a large number of strategic-class militarized spirits were sealed and scrapped was because even the military of major powers could not guarantee 100% stability of control.
Suddenly feeling a sense of dissonance, she frowned.
(...These people, are they actually completely ignorant of this?)
The Elfim was a race far closer to spirits than to humans. It was hard to imagine them summoning an archdemon-class spirit without preparing control methods beforehand.
Then that meant—
(—Powerful mind control, huh.)
Feeling an astounding presence, Luminaris turned around.
The human princess maiden who had disappeared earlier was there.
Behind the girl were Elfim boys and girls following her.
All of them staring lifelessly at Luminaris.
(...All of the Elfim inhabiting this settlement are under mind control?)
However, human elementalists could not possibly cast mind control on the Elfim who had magic resistance to begin with, and on so many people simultaneously.
"...Who are you? Are you the one who summoned that spirit?"
Pointing the sacred sword at her, Luminaris asked.
She was no mere princess maiden.
But she did not seem to be a humanoid high-level spirit like that darkness spirit.
...It was something even more terrifying.
Za, zazaza, za, zazazazaza, za—
Strange noises were coming from the princess maiden's mouth.
Instantly, the children behind her were instantly trapped in black cursed ice.
The girl's hair gave off faint light as the divine power within her expanded all at once.
"Luminaris-sama, this is..."
A knight subordinate gasped.
"—Indeed, a veritable monster."
This was what intuition told Luminaris.
This thing before her eyes was far more dangerous than the archdemon-class spirit in the air above.
The girl reached towards space and made noises as though summoning the giant spirit.
Za, zazaza, za, zazazazaza—la, lalala, la, dolulululu—
Suddenly, the girl's body hovered lightly to approach the spirit.
Her fingers touched the spirit's chest—
With that, the girl's body was sucked in, buried inside the blue ice.
"...Unbelievable, she merged with the spirit!?"
Witnessing an incredible sight, Luminaris could hardly conceal her surprise.
"The west side's barrier is broken, send troops over immediately!" "Fear not, just strike them down!" "Princess maidens go strengthen the barrier, holy magic users go heal the injured!"
Faced with the fierce onslaught of countless ice dragons, Winter Gulf Castle was trying its best to maintain the defensive line.
As a secure stronghold and border defense center of Ordesia, Winter Gulf Castle could not fall that easily. Nevertheless, if these fierce attacks continued at this rate, the isolation barrier protecting the castle was going to reach its limits sooner or later.
"Calm down. Ice dragons are a type of dragon with excellent flying abilities. Ordinary weapons cannot pierce dragon scales but the wings are not that resilient. Aim for the wings—"
Dressed as a maid, Milla Bassett was patrolling the surroundings of the castle walls, directing the ordinary soldiers manning the catapults. Despite losing the contracted spirit in her Demon Sealing Eye, she used to be an elite knight serving under the Principality of Rossvale's Rupture Division after all. Her tactical command skills were quite superb.
"...Milla, are things okay?"
"Mireille-sama, do not come out here. Hurry and return to the castle—"
"...Yes, yes. But I'm worried about you, Milla..."
Mireille's emerald eyes harbored unease.
She only knew Milla in her maid phase and knew nothing about the Milla Bassett who was born as a military weapon and belonged to the knights serving the Principality of Rossvale.
Milla gently stroked Mireille's head.
"...I am fine. Thank you."
Normally expressionless, she smiled faintly.
At this time, cheering came from the plaza at the foot of the castle walls.
Milla looked back to see Rinslet exiting the castle gates. Natalia of the Wolf Ritters had brought Rinslet back.
Mireille could not help but smile.
"Ohoh, Princess!" "The princess has returned!" "Thank goodness she is safe and sound..."
"Everyone, my apologies for making you wait."
Having entered the castle from an underground passage, Rinslet gave encouragement to the wounded soldiers while climbing the steps leading to the top of the castle walls.
Natalia hastily followed behind her.
"Princess, the castle walls are very dangerous. You should at least command from the inside—"
"No, I shall command from here. Taking the lead on the battlefield's frontlines is part of my obligations as both an Ordesian noble and an elementalist. Furthermore—"
Standing openly on the castle walls, Rinslet raised her bow elemental waffe.
Firing numerous arrows into the air, she shot down ice dragons that were flying in the sky.
"I enjoy being the center of attention."
With a fearless smile, she nocked her next arrow.
"...Sigh, that is the kind of person who the princess is."
Natalia laughed wryly and shrugged.
"We cannot lose either!" "Wow, the princess is watching!"
Rinslet's heroic figure standing on the castle walls seemed to be rousing the soldiers' morale inside the castle.
Set up on the castle walls, the catapults and ballistae fired in succession upon the ice dragons that were frozen and fallen on the ground.
"...By the way, the numbers are too great."
"Yes. Indeed. Unless the ice dragon king Zirnitra is defeated—"
While using a spear elemental waffe to pierce an ice dragon's wing, Natalia concurred.
Rinslet directed her gaze towards the center of the forest in the distance.
Zirnitra was currently rampaging at the Forest of Ice Blossoms, blowing trees down.
(To think that the guardian spirit of Laurenfrost would be destroying the forest...)
She was concerned about her younger sister's sudden disappearance.
(...Where on earth has she gone?)
Natalia yelled acutely as an ice dragon penetrated the barrier and collided towards the castle walls.
Their foothold collapsing, a large amount of rubble was falling onto the plaza below. The screams of soldiers were heard.
"...! The barrier has been..."
"Winter Gulf Castle's barrier makes use of the leylines in the Forest of Ice Blossoms. Most likely, Zirnitra's revival has disrupted the leylines in the area, causing the barrier to lose its original power."
Damaging the castle walls, the ice dragon attacked Rinslet.
At the last moment, Natalia blocked in front, using her spear to defend against this strike.
Instantly, the spear elemental waffe shattered into particles of ice. She had apparently depleted a great amount of divine power through sustained combat against the ice dragons, causing her contracted spirit's power to reach a limit. Natalia's spirit—a small wolf very similar to Fenrir—dissipated into particles of light and disappeared.
The ice dragon opened its jaws, preparing to use dragon's breath.
"...Not so fast!"
Rinslet instantly nocked three arrows and fired them simultaneously. Two struck the wings while one hit the interior of the mouth. Losing control, the breath exploded, causing the ice dragon to fall down the castle wall.
"Let the soldiers retreat to the castle. I will hold the ice dragons off from here."
Since the barrier was broken, ordinary soldiers who were not elementalists would have a tough time fighting dragons.
Swiftly issuing orders to Milla Bassett who was in charge of commanding the west side, Rinslet then hurried over to Natalia who had collapsed on the ground.
"Princess... A thousand... apologies..."
"Natalia, you should go back inside the castle walls too."
"Don't worry. I shall take care of defense here on my own."
Rinslet stood up and readied five arrows at the same time.
She shot them simultaneously. The freezing arrows struck down multiple ice dragons at the same time.
"Princess, when exactly did you acquire such power..."
Looking up, Natalia was staring wide-eyed.
As Team Scarlet's archer, having obtained victory throughout the harsh trials of the Blade Dance, Rinslet's current power level was enough to rival spirit knights on active duty.
Furthermore, this was the territory passed down generations of the Laurenfrost family, the place best suited to bringing out the full power of the local spirit Fenrir.
—But that was not all.
Currently, her body was also harboring another power that she had never possessed before.
(...What is this feeling—)
Opposite to the divine power flowing in her body, unknown divine power.
Every time she used the power of spirits, that power would gradually strengthen.
It was the power she had felt during the kiss with Kamito in the ice cave at the Kyria Mountain Range.
Her heart kept beating faster while her emotions heightened more and more.
"Go forth and blow, raging storm of ice—Icicle Storm!"
Using high-level spirit magic released through her elemental waffe, she blew away all of the ice dragons swarming towards the castle walls.
"Huff, huff, huff... Finally, I wiped out half of them..."
Rinslet kept panting. Despite striking down the majority of them, the numbers in the air were still increasing. The temporarily frozen ice dragons were also going to break out of the ice eventually.
"This castle cannot... fall yet."
Suddenly, the ice dragons' fierce assault stopped all at once.
Rinslet could not help but exclaim.
It was a very bizarre sight.
As many as hundreds of ice dragons—
...were facing the same direction, completely motionless in the air.
The ice dragons' gazes were directed towards Zirnitra that was flying through the sky.
Zirnitra roared towards the sky.
The atmosphere shook as a result. Then the howling blizzard in the Forest of Ice Blossoms was instantly blown away.
In the next instant...
Natalia pointed at the sky and called out.
The ice dragons in the air surrounding the castle were all flying towards Zirnitra.
A strange silence arrived.
The soldiers in the castle were all exchanging glances with puzzled expressions on their faces.
"What on earth happened..."
Just as Rinslet was murmuring to herself, a sharp pain suddenly appeared on her left hand.
'—t... Rins... let...!'
'—Listen to me... I have... something, I must, tell you.'
—Meanwhile, a giant demon bird was flying in the air above the Kyria Mountain Range.
"Ellis, I never knew your spirit could carry two people at once..."
"Hmm, it is normally not possible, but right now, I am in excellent shape."
This was Ellis's demon wind spirit Simorgh.
The enlarged Simorgh was flying casually over the Kyria Mountain Range after the blizzard subsided.
Although they were unsure why the blizzard over the mountains had suddenly stopped, the situation at the Laurenfrost forest at the foot of the mountain left them with no attention to spare for the blizzard issue.
"Look, dragons are gathering in the forest."
Hugging the demon bird's wing tightly, Claire pointed below and said.
The bizarre scenery caused Ellis to hold her breath.
Countless dragons were circling in the air above the Forest of Ice Blossoms.
A blizzard was blowing in the air above the forest. A mass of ice could be seen faintly in the center of the blizzard, but it was hard to get a grasp on its full appearance due to the darkness of nighttime.
"...What on earth is happening at that forest?"
"Ellis, lower the altitude. We might be able to see clearly if we get closer."
"I want to do that too, but getting closer will be dangerous. We will be in trouble if we get caught up in a blizzard."
After crossing the mountaintop, the demon wind spirit's flying had shown large-scale instabilities.
Almost falling off, Claire grabbed the base part of the wing.
"...We cannot keep flying anymore. Let us land first."
"...No helping it. There is a village over there."
The demon wind spirit cooed and landed at a small village at the foot of the mountain.
While landing, the two girls jumped off from Simorgh's wings.
The village was instantly in a commotion.
"W-What people are you!"
Holding torches, the villagers hurried over.
The flames illuminated the faces of Claire and the others.
"...Eeek, th-this frightening demon bird!"
Seeing Simorgh appearing in the darkness, the villagers screamed and fell on their bottoms.
"How rude. Simorgh's feelings will be hurt."
Ellis said with displeasure.
"Do not mind them, Simorgh. Thank you."
"Yeah, you worked hard."
Ellis gently caressed Simorgh's head and the demon bird cooed, transforming into its elemental waffe form.
"C-Could you two be noble ladies?"
At this moment, an old villager asked in trepidation.
"We are students from Areishia Spirit Academy. What on earth happened to this forest?"
"The Forest Dwellers did it. Those people revived Zirnitra!"
"It's a name for the Elfim who live in the Forest of Ice Blossoms. I heard Rinslet mention it before. Anyway, what's this about Zirnitra? I remember it being the Laurenfrost guardian spirit, sealed in the ancient past, right?"
As an honors student, Claire roughly knew the legends circulating in various lands.
The old man turned his gaze to the center of the forest where the blizzard was howling.
"There is a giant ice dragon at the center of the blizzard. That's Zirnitra. The Forest Dwellers awakened that spirit in an attempt to regain control over these lands."
"But the spirit seems to be destroying the forest..."
Ellis calmly pointed out. Supposing the Elfim had revived the ancient spirit, then why was it destroying the forest they lived in?
"It's gone berserk. There's no way that kind of spirit can be controlled so easily."
At this time, a large scream was heard in the village square.
Strong winds toppled the watchfires, turning the surroundings pitch dark.
Claire snapped her fingers, summoning the fiery hellcat in the air.
The flames lit up the surroundings, showing shadows that had gathered on the square.
Ice dragons with flashing eyes of crimson.
"...Two, three... A total of six huh..."
"A bit troublesome—"
Licking her lips, Claire murmured. The scales of dragons possessed excellent magic resistance. For Claire and Ellis who were contracted to spirits belonging to the traditional five major elements, dragons were challenging enemies.
(And clearly we have to hurry and find Kamito...)
Claire knew Kamito's strength quite well.
Mere ice dragons were no match for Kamito no matter how numerous.
...But that did not mean she would not worry.
(...Seriously, to think he's making me worried, I'll have to teach him a lesson later!)
Claire turned Scarlet into her elemental waffe Flametongue.
"Ellis, I'll take care of them. You haven't fully recovered, right?"
"Hmph, no need to worry."
Standing back to back with Claire, Ellis readied Ray Hawk.
—Just at that moment...
Just as Ellis was about to release wind blades, Claire stopped her.
An ice dragon had pinned a girl to the ground, trying to feed.
"...Ah, sob... sob sob...!"
She was clearly wearing clothing different from the villagers, a leaf-green garment.
It was the traditional clothing of the Elfim race.
"Why is one of the Elfim appearing in a human village—"
Under the ice dragon's foot, the girl moaned in pain.
The instant she made eye contact with the girl, Claire gasped.
Illuminated by the light of fire, the girl's face seemed familiar.
"No way... Y-You are!?"
(...Damn it, what the heck is going on!?)
Sharp frozen branches sliced open Kamito's clothes while he was running through the forest.
The Forest of Ice Blossoms was too harsh an environment for humans, totally impossible to step into.
The Elfim's barrier had already vanished and no longer interfered with pathfinding. But the closer to Zirnitra, the stronger the blizzard.
Kamito stared at the giant body that was faintly visible on the other side of the blizzard.
(...So that's the guardian spirit of Laurenfrost, huh.)
However, given the way it was destroying the surrounding forest, it did not look like a guardian spirit no matter what.
Instead, it looked like it had a grudge against the forest.
With a flash of light, the forest was instantly dyed white under the night sky.
Someone had apparently started engaging Zirnitra in battle.
Was it the Wolf Ritters who had gone ahead first, or—
(—the sacred sword of Luminaris, right?)
Kamito increased his running speed further.
He used the Demon Slayer to chop away all branches blocking his way.
Finally, a wide open space appeared before him.
Seeing the bizarre scene, Kamito was rendered speechless.
On the ground were the bodies of countless dragons, piled into mountains. A number of giant ice pillars were standing upright on the ground. The Elfim settlement was wrecked beyond recognition.
"Were they wiped out by the spirit they summoned themselves...?"
Kamito poured divine power into Est, instantly lighting the surroundings with powerful light.
In a corner of his view, Kamito discovered a girl collapsed on the ground.
Dressed in ritual attire, a girl with jade-green hair—one of the Elfim.
"Hey, are you alright!?"
Kamito frantically rushed over and picked up the girl in his arms.
...She was still breathing. Placing his hand on her chest, he injected divine power to apply a shock, causing the girl to recover her breath.
"...Who, is it...?"
The girl opened her eyes slightly, panting painfully.
...It looked like her life was not in any danger for now. Kamito secretly breathed a sigh of relief.
"...'re a... human...?"
"Yeah, that's right."
"...Tell me. What happened here exactly?"
Hearing Kamito's question, the princess maiden moved her trembling lips.
"The Queen of Ice Blossoms... summoned, forest's guardian spirit..."
"...Queen... A human princess maiden?"
The girl nodded slightly in response to Kamito's question.
"That queen failed to control the spirit?"
This time, she shook her head weakly.
"She... No, it, from the start, was planning, to use Zirnitra..."
"What do you mean?"
"...It... merged with Zirnitra."
"Merged with a spirit?"
Kamito asked, unsure of the meaning.
Perhaps the girl was talking nonsense due to a hazy consciousness.
—At this moment, the blowing blizzard stopped.
Kamito looked up at the sky in surprise. Then...
He groaned in his throat.
The flying Zirnitra was catching and eating all of the ice dragons in the surroundings.
Catching the circling ice dragons one after another, Zirnitra ate them without holding back at all.
Every time it ate an ice dragon, the domination ice spirit's giant body would expand further.
Crack, crack—Accompanied by loud noises of rupturing, ice grew out of its back.
Kamito's forehead was breaking out in cold sweat. Indeed, there were spirits that would feed on creatures in the human realm to replenish their divine power, but this thing—
(...isn't absorbing divine power.)
Instead, it was absorbing the ice dragons, assimilating them completely.
Even demon spirits could not do that.
This was no longer a spirit but just a monster.
The girl touched Kamito's face with her fingers.
Her crimson eyes reflected the pain in her heart.
"Please, let Zirnitra rest in peace..."
"...Yeah, I got it."
Even without needing her to beg, that sort of thing was not supposed to exist in this world.
Kamito nodded and moved the girl to a spot shaded by fallen trees.
At this time, he suddenly remembered and asked:
"Can I ask a final question?"
"Uh—Did you ever see a girl?"
"Yeah, wearing a black one-piece dress... A very pretty girl."
The princess maiden widened her eyes suddenly.
"...You saw her?"
"That girl was definitely here. I was responsible for taking care of her."
"...! Then where is she now?"
The girl lowered her eyes and shook her head.
"...Probably, escaped into the forest."
Kamito stood up.
He really wanted to chase after Restia.
(...I have to defeat that monster first.)
He glared at the giant spirit that kept merging with a large number of ice dragons.
"...What exactly happened there!?"
Rinslet was riding Fenrir, passing through the forest where trees have fallen left and right.
All the soldiers were left in the castle while she made her way towards the deepest part of the forest.
The ice dragons that had attacked Winter Gulf Castle were now gathered around Zirnitra, offering themselves to be eaten. Having merged with a large number of ice dragons, Zirnitra no longer resembled its original form. Its entire body being eaten away, bulging with pillars of black ice that resembled stakes.
"That's the legendary guardian spirit of Laurenfrost?"
'Wrong. That is no longer something that could be classified as a spirit—It has been replaced.'
Iseria's voice resounded in Rinslet's mind.
"What do you mean?"
'That is a sin that my past self committed—Iseria Seaward's sin.'
Then she told the whole story.
The truth of that day, buried in the memories of the insane Water Elemental Lord.
"O sacred sword that vanquisheth evil, thou shalt turn the enemy into ash—Murgleis!"
Releasing silver-white light, the blade tore through darkness to pierce Zirnitra's head.
—But that was all. Having melded with ice dragons, turning into a strange block of ice, the monster quickly regenerated.
"...Huff, huff... This monster!"
Luminaris was kneeling on the ground, panting. She had vanquished archdemon-class spirits before, but that was achieved while leading knights under her command.
(Also, this thing no longer counts as a spirit...!)
Peeling off from Zirnitra's body, ice fell on the ground, causing noise and the scattering of dust.
Luminaris instantly went pale in the face.
There were reasons why she could not leave this place which was under the falling ice.
Because of her subordinates from the Sacred Spirit Knights, trapped in cursed ice.
...They should still be alive, but taking them all away was impossible. At this rate, they were going to get caught up in Zirnitra's attacks eventually, or die from the cursed ice when completely drained of divine power.
(Before that happens, this monster must be exterminated...!)
But after sustained combat against ice dragons and one instance of waffe release, Luminaris had almost depleted all her divine power. Driving her current self was nothing but stalwart willpower.
No reinforcements. Fighting here, she was the last person remaining. The three Wolf Ritters sent from Winter Gulf were already devoured by the cursed ice after depleting their strength.
(...Oh well, at least it worked in buying some time.)
Staring at the pitch-black sky, Luminaris adjusted her breathing.
At this time, Zirnitra underwent changes in the air.
Unable to support its body weight after excessive expansion, it started to free fall.
The landing impact shook the ground.
The wind pressure swept away the trees in its surroundings. The impact created a small crater on the ground.
Luminaris hastily released Shield magic to protect her frozen subordinates.
After landing on the ground, Zirnitra had released cold air from its giant body, freezing the surrounding land, causing the trees in the Forest of Ice Blossoms to wilt gradually.
"It has already become a monster that only knows to devour everything huh..."
Standing up unsteadily, she readied Murgleis again.
(But while it has fallen on the ground, there are still chances for victory—)
But soon, she realized that this notion of hers was too naive.
Suddenly, the ground swelled as countless ice blades rose up in the surroundings.
Assimilating the Forest of Ice Blossoms, Zirnitra was turning the very ground itself into blades of ice.
Caught unprepared, Luminaris reacted an instant too slow.
Pierced all over her body by the sharp blades of cursed ice, she screamed from her throat.
(...Is this... the end...?)
A tear slid down Luminaris's cheek. Ever since she suffered defeat three years ago at the hands of that Strongest Blade Dancer, she had vowed to never shed another tear again.
Her final thoughts were with the subordinates who had followed her faithfully all along.
Her fingers had no more strength. The sacred sword fell from her hand to the ground.
The cursed ice invaded up to throat level. Just as Luminaris sighed in despair, at that moment...
"—Don't give up. Your past self never gave up back when you were fighting her."
A flash of white light. The cursed ice covering her entire body shattered with a crisp sound.
Thrown into the air, she was caught by a pair of powerful arms.
"—You look like you're struggling, Miss Paladin."
Team Scarlet's male elementalist.