Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume14 Chapter2
Chapter 2 - The Awakened Girl
"Please come this way."
Led by head maid Natalia, Kamito and company arrived in front of Judia's room.
To avoid frightening her with too many people showing up at once, only Rinslet, Mireille and Kamito entered the room.
Initially, Kamito wanted to decline, thinking it would be best if the two Laurenfrost sisters entered alone, but Judia's apparent wishes were to have Kamito brought along as well.
(...Oh well, I'm hoping to ask her some things too.)
"—Judia, we're coming in."
Rinslet called out nervously then pushed the door open lightly.
Gentle sunlight was streaming into the room through the window.
Over there, lying on the bed was an endearing young girl.
Her emerald eyes and pretty platinum-blonde hair were common characteristics shared by the Laurenfrost sisters. However, she gave off a different vibe compared to her other two sisters.
She seemed like a girl of fantasy, so fragile she might break upon touch.
(So this girl is Judia Laurenfrost...)
Kamito examined the girl carefully.
Judia's imprisonment in cursed ice by the Water Elemental Lord had happened before the Calamity Queen's rebellion, on that day of the Water Elemental Festival held in Laurenfrost four years ago.
Rinslet's junior by three years, she should be thirteen right now, but her appearance was much younger than her actual age. Currently, she looked roughly as old as Mireille.
It was possible that her physical body's growth had been halted during her imprisonment in cursed ice.
While she was lying on the bed at this moment, Judia's gaze was empty and suddenly wandered.
Kamito heard her hoarse voice. It was like calling for someone far away.
"Judia... Thank goodness... This is truly wonderful..."
"Nee-sama... Nee-sama... I..."
Judia buried her face in Rinslet's chest, crying.
"There was not a single day when I was not thinking of you."
Rinslet sounded like she was about to cry. It was truly rare to see her acting this way in front of others, given her overweening pride.
"...This voice, Mireille?"
Reacting to Mireille's voice, Judia's hollow gaze began to wander again.
This unnatural movement of her gaze filled Kamito with a sense that something was wrong.
Mireille seemed to notice something was off and cocked her head.
"I'm over here, you know?"
Called by her younger sister, Judia's gaze looked towards the space over Judia's head.
Rinslet looked up suddenly.
Instantly, her expression froze.
...So she noticed too.
"...Your eyes, don't tell me..."
Judia's emerald eyes had lost their shine.
Due to being imprisoned in cursed ice for many years and the influence of the Otherworldly Darkness, the girl's body and mind had been corroded—
"Worry not, Nee-sama—"
Judia shook her head lightly.
"I am guilty of handing my mind over to that darkness and destroying the Forest of Ice Blossoms—"
"You are not at fault for anything, Judia!"
"I-Indeed. Onee-sama, you were only possessed by something bad!"
"No, even if my mind was controlled, the fact remains unchanged that I enabled Zirnitra to revive and destroyed the Forest Dweller's homeland."
Rinslet spoke in a pained voice while she gently wrapped her arms around her younger sister's shoulders, embracing her against her bosom.
"I will arrange for the best healers. Surely, healers from the imperial capital will be able to do something for those eyes—"
"Thank you, Nee-sama, but I believe that spirit magic probably cannot heal these eyes."
Judia shook her head helplessly.
—Suddenly, she looked up as though noticing something.
"May I ask who is the person over there?"
"I'm Kazehaya Kamito, Rinslet's classmate."
Kamito approached the bed and knelt down in front of the girl.
Instantly, the girl's face lit up.
"It was you who liberated me and Zirnitra."
"Rinslet's the one who saved you, not me."
Kamito shook his head.
"If she hadn't hurried over that time, I would've been locked in cursed ice too."
"Yes, I still remember. Nee-sama and you rescued me together."
Kamito exclaimed in surprise and exchanged looks with Rinslet.
"You were conscious inside the cursed ice?"
"I was kept in an unconscious state, in a place that was essentially pitch black. But from time to time, I would regain consciousness like a dream. Hence, I could not help but remember that Rinslet-neesama came to visit me at the shrine countless times."
Rinslet asked in a trembling voice and Judia nodded to her.
Hence, Rinslet's voice, thinking of her sister, had—
Definitely reached the depths of her little sister's heart, imprisoned in Otherworldly Darkness.
(However, if that's the case...)
Kamito felt excited.
"Judia, I've got something to ask you."
"...You want to ask me about something?"
"Yeah. Umm, though it might be a memory you don't want to recall—"
Kamito spoke slightly hesitantly but soon made his decision.
"Do you by any chance remember what happened when that darkness devoured you?"
Instantly, Judia's expression froze.
Her fingers, clutching her knee, began to tremble uncontrollably from fear.
"Onii-sama?" "Kamito-san, that is too—"
"...Did you see something?"
Holding the girl's trembling hand, Kamito asked again.
Before long, the hand's trembling subsided—
Judia nodded slightly and began to speak gently.
"Yes, I still remember. What I saw on that day, I remember clearly."
"On that day, what I saw in the darkness, packed densely in the darkness, countless angels—"
Hearing such words from the girl's lips—
Kamito could not help but gasp.
Somewhere deep in his mind seemed to hurt.
(Yes, I definitely saw it too—)
On that day when he had emerged victorious from the Blade Dance tournament, earning the privilege for an audience with the Elemental Lords...
Just before he could reach the Fire Elemental Lord's throne, Kamito's entire body had been devoured by Otherworldly Darkness.
—I had seen it.
Restless inside darkness that did not exist in this world, they were neither spirits nor humans.
—Thousands if not tens of thousands strong, an army of countless angels.
(Sure enough, I was not mistaken.)
Cold sweat broke out of the hand he was holding.
Winged humanoid giants glowing with silver-white light.
According to legends on the continent, angels were primordial beings that gave birth to spirits.
However, the existence of such beings had never been proven, not even once.
—I don't think there was any mistake in what we saw.
Kamito did not know if what he had seen was truly a so-called angel. But ultimately, given such an appearance, it was inevitable he would associate them with the beings he recalled from bedtime stories.
(But it looks like Judia is thinking along the same lines as me...)
Judia's dull pupils wandered emptily while she continued.
"I was simply stunned by that sight. Too afraid, I could not move at all. At the time, one of the angels arrived before me out from the darkness. The silver-white radiance swallowed me—"
(A being from the depths of the Otherworldly Darkness—an angel? And it chose Judia?)
So far, Kamito had pegged the Otherworldly Darkness as a calamity that corrupted the Elemental Lords' minds, an existence with neither thought nor free will.
However, according to what Judia recalled, the angel that had made contact with her was clearly sentient.
"Umm, what did you feel when you were swallowed by the darkness?"
Kamito asked urgently again.
However, Judia shook her head.
"...I am very sorry but that is all I can remember from that day. Afterwards, inside the darkness, all I have are fragmentary memories form the few times when I regained consciousness—"
Then she rubbed her temples painfully.
"Judia, are you alright?"
Rinslet asked with worry.
"...Do not worry. I just have, a little headache..."
"Then you'd better get some rest. Besides, you only just woke up from your coma."
"...Indeed. Yes, I'm a bit, tired."
The girl on the bed smiled briefly.
"...Sorry for making you remember unpleasant things."
"Not at all. I am very glad to be of slight assistance."
Seeing the girl shake her head to muster optimism, Kamito stood up from the bedside.
"Then I'm leaving first. Sorry for intruding on your reunion as sisters."
"You don't have to worry about that, Onii-sama. After all, we're both going to end up as your sisters in the future, Onii-sama."
Hearing Mireille, Judia cocked her head in puzzlement.
"...Uh... M-Mireille, what on earth are you talking about!?"
Rinslet instantly turned bright red and started hammering her fists on Mireille's shoulder.
Smiling wryly, Kamito exited the room.
Kamito muttered while walking along the corridor.
He originally thought that by asking Judia about the Otherworldly Darkness, he could find clues to recovering Restia's memories that were lost after the darkness devoured her.
(...But it seems like something a bit unexpected happened.)
Restless in the depths of the Otherworldly Darkness, an army of countless angels. Simply having one of them possess a human princess maiden to manifest in the human realm was already enough to obliterate the Forest of Ice Blossoms.
(...If this army of angels appeared in the world all at once...)
Just imagining it made him feel bone-chilling terror.
He encountered Claire coming up the stairs.
"...Claire. Where's everyone?"
"Ellis is sleeping in the room. Well, it's only expected since she had been using her spirit throughout the night since yesterday. The darkness spirit is at the tent, helping to treat wounded soldiers."
In the past, Kamito had received Restia's treatment before.
Naturally, as a darkness spirit, she could not use healing-type spirit magic. All she could do to help was simple things like applying medication and bandages.
(...She was unexpectedly clumsy at that.)
"Kamito, what's wrong?"
Kamito shrugged and walked alongside Claire.
(...I'd better not mention that "angel" topic to Claire and the rest of them for now.)
There was too little information and even Kamito himself had not organized what little he had in his mind.
Also, unlike Judia's room, someone might overhear if he brought up the topic here. Spies sent from Ordesia might have already infiltrated the castle.
"What were you doing just now, Claire?"
"Since everyone was feeling cold, I used magic to light up the furnaces in the castle."
"That's really wonderful, Claire. You're amazing!"
"Ehehe... Hey, what the heck!? Your gaze looks like you're praising a child!"
Claire acting shy for a bit then pouted angrily.
"By the way, how's Judia's condition."
"Oh, she's currently resting because she's too tired, but it doesn't seem like she has any memory problems. However—"
"Her eyes can't see anymore—"
"I think it might be something like an after effect of being locked in cursed ice for a long period of time. She might recover naturally or with healing from spirit magic—"
Claire murmured with a complicated expression on her face.
"Even if spirit magic were to be used, trying to heal eyes that have gone blind is still very difficult, especially since she spent many years imprisoned in an Elemental Lord's cursed ice."
"Even the imperial capital's best healers are helpless?"
"No matter how high their healing powers, trying to recover lost flesh would already be a problem on a totally different level. This is really something that can only rely on a miracle from the Elemental Lords."
At this moment, this word jolted Kamito's memory.
"Speaking of miracles..."
"...Well, I was wondering if it's her, she might be able to heal Judia."
"Eighth of the imperial knights' Numbers—Lurie Lizaldia the Miraculous."
Kamito spoke the name that had surfaced in his mind.
"...A-Are you serious?"
"...I know. But it's just a question of possibility."
Faced with Claire's shock, Kamito shook his head.
As far as Kamito knew, Lurie was the top-ranked healer even across the entire continent. If it was her, she might have a chance at healing Judia.
But those miraculous healing hands had currently gone missing.
Why did Lurie conspire to use militarized spirits to attack the Academy? Her motives and goals were still unknown. Also, why did the higher-ups in the imperial army cancel the mission given to special agent operative knight Virrey Branford, to stop tracking Lurie down?
(...Oh well, anyway, that's that.)
Kamito tried to think about it. The reason why Lurie had been able to lurk for many years among the Numbers was because there was a traitor among the ranks of the Empire's top echelon.
The Ordesia Empire was a major nation with a long history. Precisely because of that, its internal corruption was reaching an irredeemable state.
Back when Kamito was living in Greyworth's house, the corruption perpetrated by the Empire's nobles was already a common sight. The imperial council was where demons walked the earth, a demonic den of political and power struggles.
That was a world where the Strongest Blade Dancer's sword skills did not work.
At this point in his thoughts, Kamito began to worry about Fianna who was at the imperial capital.
(...Fianna is in that kind of demonic den right now.)
Although Greyworth was with her, Kamito still felt a bit worried.
—Thus Kamito and Claire returned to their bedroom.
"What do we do after this?"
"My initial goal is achieved. Now we take Restia back to the Academy."
Kamito replied to Claire's question with a shrug of his shoulders.
"...We'll probably be a nuisance for Rinslet if we stay here for too long."
—Thus, Kamito and his friends immediately started to pack up and get ready to leave.
"...Y-You could stay a few more days before going, you know?"
In Winter Gulf Castle's hall, Rinslet murmured, looking very disappointed.
After bidding Kamito and the others goodbye, Milla and Mireille had gone ahead with Claire, Ellis and Restia, apparently to get the horses ready.
Hence, Kamito and Rinslet were currently alone.
"Well, it's because we sneaked out of the Academy because of my willfulness. Also, we'll probably be a nuisance for the people in the castle if we keep staying here."
"...Of course not."
Rinslet gripped the hem of Kamito's clothing tightly.
Until Margrave Laurenfrost returned from attending the All Nations Conference at the imperial capital, Rinslet had to manage the castle as the head of the Laurenfrost family.
Normally, she could leave the job to Mireille and the Wolf Ritters garrisoned at the castle, but that was not an option given the current circumstances.
"I'm so grateful to you, Rinslet. Thanks to you, I was able to bring Restia back. If I had been alone, I would've definitely met my demise in the Kyria Mountain Range in a blizzard."
"Not at all. I did not really help that much~"
Rinslet shook her head.
"Kamito-san, you are the one I should thank. You helped me rescue Judia and Laurenfrost itself. As the head of the Laurenfrost family, I hereby offer you my gratitude."
Faced with her bowing her head at him sincerely, Kamito smiled wryly.
"Okay, see you back at the Academy. You can count on Claire and I to copy down lecture notes for you."
"Oh, p-please hold on—"
Just as Kamito was about to leave, Rinslet tugged his clothing.
Pulling his sleeve, she fidgeted for some unknown reason, her face turning bright red.
"U-Uh... Well, umm.."
A surprise kiss.
Rinslet's gorgeous lips had pressed themselves upon Kamito's lips—
Then reluctantly, she parted lightly from his lips.
"Y-Y-You... What are you doing...?"
Kamito was rendered incoherent by her sudden action.
"...~U-Umm... I, well, huaaah..."
Compared to Kamito, Rinslet was in even greater confusion. Her entire face was red, even her ears.
"Calm down, Rinslet, I should be more confused than you."
Kamito's comment finally calmed her down. She cleared her throat and looked at Kamito with her clear, emerald eyes.
Kamito was mesmerized by those watery eyes. His heart raced.
Rinslet took a deep breath and her lips vibrated to speak.
"D-During our journey, Kamito-san, there was something that bothered me greatly."
"Something bothered you greatly?"
"Ah, yes, umm, when on the snowing mountain with you... during that k-k-kiss, I felt a mysterious power flowing within me."
"W-Wait, what are you talking about?"
Kamito yelled frantically.
"I-I am not lying. It was the same as when the ice dragons were assaulting the castle. I-It was thanks to your kiss, Kamito-san, that I was able to achieve victory!"
"What the heck is going on here!? W-Why would a k-kiss with me cause..."
Blushing, Kamito stuttered. That time in the mountain ravaged by a blizzard, the series of actions she had performed to heal his wounds surfaced clearly in his mind.
"...~Uh, I am not too sure myself why this phenomenon arose."
Rinslet cast her glance away in extreme shyness.
"But I-I definitely received power from my kiss with you, Kamito-san."
Before he could say "this can happen," Kamito suddenly realized something.
(Come to think of it...)
He recalled what Ellis had told him this morning.
...Before setting off for Laurenfrost, what had happened before leaving the Academy.
When Kamito had gone to visit the hospitalized Ellis, she had kissed him to apply Wind's Protection, a blessing for keeping travelers safe.
(Indeed, I heard that Ellis recovered her physical strength rapidly after that—)
Looking very surprised, Rinslet frowned.
"Have you found some kind of clue in your memories?"
"...N-No, I don't think it's like that..."
While Kamito was frantically trying to gloss over things to get out of the embarrassing situation, Rinslet pretended to cough.
"P-Please do not get the wrong idea. I-I simply... wanted to receive that mysterious power, nothing more!"
Twisting her hair around her finger, she seemed very embarrassed.
"...O-Oh okay, I get it."
When Kamito nodded repeatedly...
"My goodness! Kamito-san, you don't understand anything at all—"
Sneaking another surprise kiss, Rinslet blushed and ran away.
"Kamito, what the heck were you doing!?"
"The sun is going to set if we do not hurry and depart."
At the castle's main gates, Claire and the others had the horses ready, waiting for Kamito.
"...S-Sorry. I was too engaged in the conversation with Rinslet."
"With Rinslet? ...Hmm, that somehow sounds a bit suspicious."
"What did you talk about?"
Glare—Claire and Ellis were staring at Kamito with widened eyes.
Scarlet also seemed to have suspicions about Kamito and meowed before walking back and forth at Kamito's feet.
"I-It was just a farewell conversation. Let's hurry and head out—"
Taking his horse's reins in his hands, Kamito avoided the girls' eye contact and spoke.
"By the way, where's Restia?"
"The darkness spirit is over there—"
Kamito followed Claire's pointing finger to look.
"...N-No, not this side...!"
Restia was currently struggling against a pony.
"Restia, you don't know how to ride a horse?"
Kamito approached Restia and asked. Restia pouted in a sulk.
"I know nothing of the skills required to ride a horse."
"...Well, it can't be helped."
Restia probably never rode a horse before losing her memories, because she possessed a pair of jet-black wings. They were extremely beautiful. Speaking of which, how could there be spirits who would ride a horse when they had a pair of wings of their own?
"Then ride with me."
"...D-Don't worry. Just watch and I shall master the skills required to ride a horse!"
"The sun would've set by then. Upsy-daisy."
Kamito suddenly wrapped his arms around Restia's waist and seated her on his own horse.
"See, now you're riding, right?"
"S-Seriously, you scared me..."
Restia pouted and sulked.
"Hmm, Kamito..." "...You are spoiling the darkness spirit too much!"
Ellis and Claire pouted angrily.
"...Wow—it feels higher than I expected."
"You'll get used to it soon enough. Grip the reins tightly, okay?"
Restia shifted herself forward a bit and Kamito held the reins too.
"—Then let us depart. O bird of calamity ruling over demonic winds, I beseech thee to use thy wings to guide us towards the correct path!"
On horseback, Ellis raised her hand in the air and gestured, summoning the demon wind spirit to lead the way.
Appearing out of midair, Simorgh responded to his master's call, gliding in the sky.
"What an adorable bird~"
Everyone looked at Restia at the same time without thinking.
"...Did you say cute?"
"Yes, the feathers are so fluffy, it's too cute."
But upon hearing Restia's praise—
Suddenly, Simorgh cried out emotionally while soaring in the air.
"Wow, Simorgh is so happy that he is crying..."
"...C-Crying? I don't get it at all."
"I knew it, your spirit is a bit scary..."
Simorgh flapped his wings fiercely, creating a great gust of wind. Demon wind spirits were spirits that conferred the wind's protective effects upon travelers.
"—Well then, let us hurry back to the Academy."
With Ellis in the lead, Kamito and company advanced on horseback.
At this time, Kamito glanced back—
Standing on a balcony in Winter Gulf Castle, Rinslet was waving goodbye to them.
Waving lightly to her in return, Kamito thus departed from Laurenfrost territory.