Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume14 Chapter4

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Chapter 4 - Return to the Academy

Part 1

After parting ways with Rinslet and setting off from Laurenfrost territory, Kamito's group spent a night at Frost Town in the Kyria Mountain Range then arrived at Areishia Spirit Academy the next day at dusk.

Thanks to Simorgh's protection, the return journey was quite comfortable, with a refreshing breeze in the morning while a thin layer of wind enveloped them at night, insulating them from the cold.

"...It's only been a couple days, but it somehow feels so nostalgic to be back."

Looking up at the Academy Town's gate, defended by guardian spirits, Kamito muttered.

It felt like an eternity had passed since hearing about Restia's sighting from the Water Elemental Lord and crossing the Kyria Mountain Range with Rinslet under a raging blizzard.

(Well, a ton of stuff also happened afterwards.)

Kamito turned his head to look at Restia who was walking beside him. With widened eyes, she was looking at the Academy Town's various sights.

...As a side note, she was still dressed in the maid uniform provided by Milla.

"What a magnificent town. It's completely different from what I imagined."

"It's nothing compared to the imperial capital. This is just the Academy Town."

Claire made a thumbs-up and replied.

"Such a big town, all of this belongs to the Academy's premises..."

There was probably no town bigger than this in Restia's current memories.

Recalling memories from his visit to the imperial capital with Restia in the past, Kamito felt a pang of heartache.

"That is because this part of town did not get caught in the militarized spirits' attack and the Knights have hastened the reconstruction of the town as well. The Academy side is still a vast stretch of rubble."

Ellis whispered with a solemn expression.

Kamito's group passed through the main gate and stepped foot into the Academy Town.

After a while, they started seeing collapsed buildings just as Ellis had said. These were marks left behind from the attack perpetrated by Lurie, the former member of the Numbers.

Kamito looked towards the plaza and spotted a rock spirit at work, moving debris away.

"And that's—?"

"Yes, it is Rakka's Cabracan."

Ellis nodded.

"I will go tell them that we are back. See you later, Kamito."

"Yeah, got it. Then we'll head back to the Academy first."

Kamito saw Ellis off while she walked over to her friends.

"What should we do? How about we go somewhere and get some food or something?"

Then he asked Claire.

"U-Umm..."

For some reason, Claire blushed and stammered.

"I-I've got something to do in town first."

"Something to do?"

"Yes, umm, I'll make dinner for you tonight."

"...Huh?"

Kamito could not help but ask again.

"Dinner? You'll make it, Claire?"

"Yes, I'll cook for you, Kamito!"

Turning bright red, Claire yelled loudly.

For an instant, Kamito worried

...Then he thought carefully again.

(I see, so she wants to show someone that her cooking skills have improved.)

Kamito had had a similar experience in the past.

Three years ago, when living in Greyworth's house, Kamito had been forced to cook food he had never cooked before in order to satisfy the witch's demands.

Greyworth's standards were exceptionally high. Under great stress persisting every single day, Kamito developed a secret hobby, namely to have the person he held dearest, Restia, taste test his newest culinary creations.

(Back then, I felt so happy whenever Restia praised me, which also helped me to remember cooking techniques.)

Thus, Kamito recalled a wave of nostalgic memories.

"What? Are you that worried about my cooking?"

Claire pouted.

"I'm not going to make charcoal anymore, okay..."

"No, that's not what I was thinking about. I'll look forward to you cooking, Claire, in a normal way."

Kamito frantically shook his head.

"R-Really?"

"Yeah."

Kamito nodded.

Claire lowered her head slightly.

In truth, her cooking had definitely improved. This was not only due to the fact that she had become able to control her flames. Living in the Academy with her, Kamito knew better than anyone that she was someone who could put in a hundred times more effort than the average person.

"Then what are you planning to make?"

"U-Umm... I'd like to try making macaroni gratin."

"Gratin huh? For a novice in cooking, isn't that a tad difficult?"

"Don't worry, I've already mastered the control of flames, also..."

Claire looked down and poked her index fingers against each other before her chest.

"Hmm?"

"K-Kamito, you mentioned before that gratin is your favorite."

"Eh... Oh... I see. I'm surprised you still remember something like that..."

Kamito had faint recollections that he might have mentioned it slightly during self-introductions back when he first enrolled into the Academy.

"O-Of course I remember..."

"Impressive as ever, honors student."

"I-It's not like that... Enough about that. Anyway, I'll make your favorite gratin for dinner tonight, okay?"

"Yeah, I'm really looking forward to it."

Kamito patted Claire on the head and she purred like a cat.

"T-Then I'm going shopping now... Hmm, cream sauce, cheese, macaroni... Canned peaches, canned crab, canned mayonnaise♪"

Claire happily hummed a melody while skipping off to the shopping district.

(...Hmm, somehow I still feel a bit worried.)

Secretly groaning in his heart, Kamito turned his head to look at Restia.

"So, should we head straight to the Academy or would you like a brief tour of the Academy Town?"

"...Huh?"

Restia cocked her head slightly.

"Well, you've been looking at the streets inquisitively from the very start. Is there anywhere you're interested in?"

"Yes, there are so many different shops. Simply looking at them is already very interesting."

Restia nodded candidly.

"Then how about we take a brief stroll nearby?"

"...Can we?"

"Sure. It'll be a perfect way to kill time before dinner."

Part 2

Thus, Kamito took Restia on a tour of various parts of town.

The nearer they got to the town center, the more packed the crowds. Although the sun had already set and the sky was dark, reconstruction was still ongoing.

Walking among the crowds in the main streets, knights in military uniform were the most conspicuous. Rather than soldiers garrisoned at the Academy Town, they were new knights sent from the imperial capital. After suffering the attack from the militarized spirits, the garrisoned knights had become quite paralyzed in functionality in the days ever since.

"...So many people... Kyah..."

Kamito grabbed Restia's hand just as she was about to be swept away in the crowd.

Then he pulled her to his side.

"U-Umm..."

"We have to hold hands properly because it's crowded here."

"...U-Uh..."

Suddenly, certain nostalgic memories surfaced in Kamito's mind.

"It's the opposite of what happened before."

"...Before?"

"Yeah, six years ago, when you and I visited the imperial capital."

—On the day of the Great Festival of the Spirits six years prior, back when Kamito was nine years old, the Instructional School had sent him on a mission to steal militarized spirits that were used in the ceremony.

Still a young boy then and shocked by the large amount of people and seeing the gigantic size of the imperial capital for the first time in his life, Kamito had walked in the streets, holding Restia's hand.

"...I see, so we've known each other for that long."

"In the beginning, all we did was fight all the time."

Kamito said with a wry smile. But if anything, rather than fighting, it was actually more like Kamito getting hit one-sidedly by Restia's lightning.

"Look look, over there—" "The Demon King of the Night has a new girl with him." "Forced to dress up as a maid." "Has he tired of the students in his cohort?" "Nothing less expected of the Demon King..."

Thus, they heard students whispering among themselves everywhere in the streets.

"...Demon King?"

"Please, forget about those comments."

Kamito groaned and replied to Restia who was tilting her head in puzzlement.

"But the Demon King mentioned by those young ladies is referring to..."

"A-Anyway, let's get out of here first!"

Gripping Restia's hand, Kamito began to walk quickly.

Part 3

Leaving the central plaza, they reached the shopping district. A delicious aroma was drifting in the air.

There were many road-side vendors set up at the former site of buildings that had been destroyed by the militarized spirits.

Business seemed to be going well for the vendors. People who had worked on reconstructing the town during the daytime would gather here in the evenings.

"There is a lovely aroma in the air."

Restia looked at the vendors with great interest.

"Don't tell me you're hungry?"

"...!?"

Hearing Kamito's question, Restia instantly blushed.

"C-Certainly not...!"

"Oh well, lunch was quite a long time ago. Claire's cooking looks like it'll take a long time, so let's find some snacks for now—"

"I-It is fine! I did not mean to imply—"

Restia denied frantically.

However, she could not deceive Kamito who had lived with her for so many years.

"I get it, I get it..."

"...Y-You clearly have the wrong idea..."

Kamito smiled wryly and approached a vendor selling crepes nearby.

Suddenly, Kamito felt a strong tug on his right arm, stopping him.

"Well, no need to be shy... Huh?"

Wait, it should be his left hand that was holding Restia's hand.

...Tug. Tug. His right arm was pulled twice more.

"...?"

Kamito turned his head.

"Kamito, I am very hungry too."

"E-Est!"

Holding onto Kamito's arm was a beautiful young girl with dazzling silver-white hair.

With mysterious eyes of violet, she was staring expressionlessly at Kamito.

"You've already recovered?"

"Yes, I had a good sleep, Kamito."

The sword spirit nodded lightly and replied.

Due to using up too much energy, she had remained in sword form the whole time after the battle against Zirnitra. Finally, she revived now.

"...This girl is Miss Sword Spirit?"

Restia interjected in their conversation, thus prompting Est to finally notice her presence. Staring intently at Restia in her maid uniform...

"...Darkness spirit."

"Nice to meet you, Miss Sword Spirit."

Restia nodded slightly and bowed.

"Do not 'nice to meet you' me. That is wrong, darkness spirit."

Rumble rumble rumble rumble rumble rumble rumble rumble...!

Instantly, Est gave off a terrifying aura from all over her body.

This was the sword pressure coming from the legendary sacred sword that had vanquished the previous Demon King. Commoners in the surroundings turned to look at them.

"...Excuse me, M-Miss Sword Spirit?"

Frightened, Restia involuntarily hugged Kamito's arm.

Rumble rumble rumble rumble rumble rumble rumble rumble...!

Confronted with this scene, Est began to exude an even stronger aura.

(Oh right, these two always rubbed each other the wrong way to begin with!)

"—Kamito, get away from there now. Otherwise, I cannot erase the darkness spirit."

"W-Wait, Est, this is a long story—"

"...?"

Est cocked her head slightly.

"Umm, right now, Restia has lost all her memories of the past."

Hearing that from Kamito—

The aura of Est's anger weakened slightly.

"Lost her memories...?"

"Yeah. Not just forgetting about you and me, but even the fact that she's a spirit. So she's completely forgotten all her past interactions with you—"

"..."

Est slowly turned towards Restia.

"Darkness spirit, have you truly forgotten all memories from your time as a spirit?"

"Y-Yes..."

Restia nodded with a troubled look.

"Have you also forgotten about attacking Kamito many times and even forcibly stripping off my kneesocks?"

"D-Did I do something of that sort!?"

Restia replied, seeming quite shocked.

(Oh, the kneesocks stripping happened at Ragna Ys...)

"..."

Thus, Est stared into Restia's eyes—

"...I see. You have truly lost your memories."

She murmured in a whisper.

"In that case, darkness spirit, you and I are the same kind of existence."

"Est..."

—You and I are the same. Kamito swiftly understood what she meant by that.

Indeed, Est was separated from her main existence, resulting in a state of almost complete amnesia.

"Darkness spirit—"

Est suddenly pointed at Restia.

"You may stay by Kamito's side while you have lost your memories, but—"

She spoke expressionlessly.

"Please remember this carefully. I am actually your older sister."

"...Older sister?"

While Restia was taken aback, Est walked over to the vendor.

"..."

"—Oh well, looks like it's a done deal."

Patting Restia on the head, Kamito smiled wryly and remarked.

"Kamito, I want to eat crepes too."

"...Got it, got it."

Kamito frantically chased after Est.

In the crepe vendor's vicinity, Kamito heard a familiar voice.

"Tasty crepes, fit for a king, would you like one fresh from the frying pan?"

"...Umm, why are you here?"

"...Hwah, K-Kamito-sama!?"

Working at the crepe stand was Carol the maid.

Part 4

"Could it be that your expedition has already returned...?"

"...Uh, what are you doing here, Carol?"

Kamito asked in exasperation. Carol smiled lightly.

"Yes, it was too boring in milady's absence, so I wanted to try a part-time job."

"What part-time job? Have you thought carefully about what your real job is?"

Kamito spoke with narrowed eyes.

"So milady has remained at Laurenfrost."

"Yeah. They have all kinds of troubles to attend to over there."

"...Fufu. Milady is already quite amazing as acting head of the Laurenfrost family."

"Come on Carol, you too need to learn from Rinslet a bit and work seriously."

"Yes, I will work hard to make this crepe stand prosperous!"

Carol clenched her fist.

"No, I'm not talking about that..."

"Could you please keep the fact that I am working part-time a secret from milady?"

Carol brought her index finger to her lips and smiled.

"...Sure, no problem. Then how about you give me a discount on the crepes?"

"...That's neither here nor there!"

"...You're showing some unexpected backbone here."

Kamito shrugged.

At this time, Est tugged the corner of Kamito's shirt again.

"Kamito, is the crepe not ready yet?"

"...Yeah, sorry. So you two, what flavor do you want?"

"I want a bean curd crepe."

"Umm, I don't think you can choose bean curd."

"Although bean curd isn't available, you can choose marshmallows."

"Then get me one of those. Restia, what are you having?"

"I-I'd like... umm..."

Looking at the menu on sign board, Restia was in a dilemma due to having too many choices.

"I recommend the chocolate banana crepe here♪"

"Sure, then get me one of those."

"Two crepes, one marshmallow and one chocolate banana, is that right?"

Carol started up a flame spirit crystal and started cooking crepes skillfully on a frying pan.

"Carol, you're able to use spirit crystals?"

"Yes, although I have not been formally trained, I can still use them if it's just simple spirit magic."

"Potential as an elementalist huh... Speaking of which, I'm quite surprised you know how to make sweets."

"Yes, I eat sweets prepared by milady all the time."

...While they chatted away like this, the crepes were quickly prepared.

The pancake part of the crepes was slightly browned. Then fruit such as banana or strawberry was added with a generous helping of fresh cream. The chocolate topping looked really delicious.

"Here, enjoy. Feel free to take huge bites."

"Be careful you don't drop it on the ground."

"Kamito, I am so happy♪"

"T-Thanks..."

Est munched away expressionlessly while enjoying her crepe. On the other hand, Restia looked troubled, confronted with food she was eating for the first time.

"...Umph."

Restia took a bite decisively. Cream spilled out from inside the crepe, sticking to her cheek.

"Look, on your face—"

Kamito wiped Restia's cheek with the tip of his finger.

Instantly, her face turned bright red.

"...~!?"

"What's wrong?"

"N-Nothing at all..."

Restia bowed her head shyly and began to munch away, imitating Est.

"...So delicious."

Restia's expression spontaneously turned joyful.

Seeing her like that, Est said:

"Darkness spirit, I want to try yours too."

"Please help yourself, Miss Sword Spirit."

"Yes."

Nodding once lightly, Restia presented her half-eaten crepe to Est.

"Then you try this marshmallow crepe too, darkness spirit."

The two contracted spirits exchanged crepes and munched away.

...They looked virtually like a pair of sister who got along well with each other.

"Fufu, they're so close."

Carol watched them happily.

At that moment, Kamito turned to her.

"Come to think of it, did anything happen here while we were gone?"

He suddenly asked about something that had been bothering him.

STnBD V14 103.jpg

It was roughly five days ago when Kamito had set off for Laurenfrost, so nothing should have happened, but no matter what, ever since that incident, it would not be strange for commotions such as conflicts between students to flare up, fueled by unease.

"Nothing particularly important happened since that day."

Carol shook her head.

"However, the knights sent from the imperial capital have increased with every passing day."

"...Yeah, I thought so too."

The terrorist attack a few days ago had caused the Academy to lose many spirit knights and militarized spirits. In order to fill that void, the imperial capital had sent knights from their army.

"The Sylphid Knights are also working hard to uphold law and order in town."

"...I see. Well, I guess it's great that nothing happened—"

Just as Kamito breathed a sigh of relief...

"O-Oh no!"

"There's a rebellion at the Academy!"

People could be heard shouting in the streets, causing a great commotion.

"...Rebellion?"

Hearing such unsettling words, Kamito frowned.

"D-Did something happen?"

"...Your guess is as good as mine. You two, let's hurry back to the Academy first."

"Kamito, I am not done with my crepe—"

Part 5

Taking Est and Restia, Kamito returned urgently to the Academy, only to find a commotion at the gates.

The Academy's students had set up a barricade in front of the main entrance and looked like they were having a fierce argument with the Empire's knights.

Dressed in armor, even the Sylphid Knights had their spirits summoned for some reason, restraining the Imperial Knights that were about to break the barricade.

It was like a powder keg waiting to be ignited any moment.

(...What the heck happened?)

Kamito wondered.

"Oh, it's you, Kamito."

Carrying heavy looking shopping bags, Claire ran over to him.

"Claire, what the heck is going on here?"

"It seems like part of the student body is protesting against the headmistress' arrest."

"...Huh?"

Kamito doubted his ears.

"Greyworth has been thrown in jail?"

"Read this—"

Claire took out a piece of paper from her front pocket.

It was a newspaper extra issued by the imperial capital. Reading it, Kamito's eyes widened.

"...What!?"

Fianna Ray Ordesia, the Empire's Second Princess, and Dame Greyworth Ciel Mais, formerly first ranked of the Numbers, had been arrested for an abortive assassination attempt on the emperor.

—The details were as follows.

During a session of the imperial council, the Empire's Second Princess Fianna Ray Ordesia had released a demon spirit, attempting to assassinate His Majesty the emperor. A petition signed by members of the anti-Arneus faction had also been discovered in the Second Princess' room.

Based on this, the incident was speculated to be a conflict born from the question of imperial succession.

Furthermore, the demon spirit released by the Second Princess was Dame Greyworth's contracted spirit. Thus, she was also thrown into jail as a co-conspirator.

"What the heck is going on!?"

Kamito could not help but scrunch the paper into a ball and yell.

"So you don't know anything about it either."

Claire shook her head.

"But there must be a mistake somewhere. Fianna clearly abandoned her position in the imperial family..."

"Yeah, I fear she was most likely framed."

"...Huahhhh!"

Hearing a sudden voice, Claire jumped in fright.

Out from Claire's shadow, a woman in a suit emerged silently.

"Freya-sensei!"

She was Miss Freya, the shadow elementalist and the homeroom teacher of Raven Class.

"Sensei, what on earth is going on? Who framed—"

"I am in the process of gathering information too. Claire Rouge, calm down first."

"How could I possibly calm down!? Because Fianna is now—"

At this moment, a small explosion was heard outside the barricade.

Someone on the Academy side had unleashed spirit magic.

"Stop that, idiot, don't use spirit magic!"

Surrounded by turmoil, Ellis yelled to stop the students from rioting.

"B-But Captain—"

"Throwing the headmistress into jail is unforgivable! Without even an official sentence—"

"The Imperial Knights are too tyrannical!"

(...This is a bad situation.)

Kamito pulled the frightened Restia and hid her behind his back.

As much as Kamito hated to admit, the respect and admiration the students afforded to the Dusk Witch and hero of the Ranbal War rivaled the popularity of Ren Ashbell, the Strongest Blade Dancer.

It would not come as a surprise if the students' anger exploded as a result of Greyworth's imprisonment.

However, rioting on the student side would give the Imperial Knights a pretext to suppress them.

"Claudia-sama, please authorize our use of spirit magic."

"This is legitimate defense. Let us hurry to arrest these rioters."

The woman named Claudia, clad in a high-ranked knight's armor, issued orders in a cold voice.

The spirit knights under her command released their elemental waffen at once.

The girls on the inside of the barricade began to feel afraid. There were almost no students capable of fighting professional spirit knights. Ultimately, only a small selection of honors students were able to summon contracted spirits and deploy elemental waffen with certainty.

"W-What are you doing? Do you intend to violate the Academy's right to autonomy—"

Ellis yelled as hard as she could but the Imperial Knights mercilessly destroyed the barricade.

"Dame Claudia, please ask your subordinates to withdraw—"

Ellis spoke to the leader of the opposing knights.

Engraved on the armor of the knight named Claudia was an emblem of an eagle with outspread wings.

It was the Fahrengart family crest. In other words, these knights were all inferior in position to Ellis, the daughter of the current family head.

However, the subordinate knights all ignored Ellis and forcibly arrested the resisting students. Screams were coming from girls who had their arms grabbed.

"...You—"

Reaching the end of her patience, Ellis summoned Ray Hawk. Just at that moment...

Scorching flames appeared from thin air, blocking the Imperial Knights.

"That's enough from you—"

Using Scarlet's intense flames, Claire threatened the surrounding knights.

Seeing a powerful spirit, far surpassing the level of students, the knights were taken aback.

"Claire...?"

"You are the Calamity Queen's sister."

However, Claudia stood her ground and stared coldly at Claire.

"Then the one over there must be Kazehaya Kamito."

Then she turned her gaze towards Kamito who was hiding Restia behind his back.

"...Yeah, so what?"

"Perfect. Orders from the higher-ups include your arrest."

"...What?"

"What do you mean by arrest!?"

Claudia drew her sword and swung the blade at Kamito.

"Because the friends of the Second Princess cannot be allowed to roam free after her assassination attempt on the emperor!"

"...Fianna can't possibly have attempted an assassination!"

"Irrelevant. I am merely a pawn that follows the military's orders."

Claudia brandished her sword while her subordinate knights swiftly surrounded Kamito and company.

(...There are seven spirit knights. Out of them, three are highly skilled.)

Kamito calmly assessed the enemy forces while holding Est's hand.

"Est, I'm counting on you—"

"Yes, Kamito. I am your sword, your wish is my command—"

After Kamito recited the incantation of release, Est's figure turned into particles of light that disappeared into thin air, transforming into the Demon Slayer, shining with silver-white radiance.

"What can one person do? Attack!"

As Claudia yelled, the surrounding spirit knights rushed in.

Kamito poured divine power into the Demon Slayer and kicked the ground hard.

"Absolute Blade Arts—Third Form, Shadowmoon Waltz!"

A flash of numerous slashes.

In the next second, all the attacking knights collapsed on the ground.

"Now way... In an instant... the three elites among the spirit knights...?"

"Sorry, I won't hold back if soldiers are my opponents."

Kamito adjusted his stance with the Demon Slayer and stared at the remaining knights.

"Count me in as well!"

Wielding Flametongue, Claire kept the knights pinned down.

"As expected of the victors of the Blade Dance tournament. It seems that ordinary means are not enough."

Claudia shrugged and stabbed her sword into the ground. Next—

"Which is why such a method—"

She snapped her fingers.

"Ah!"

Behind Kamito, Restia screamed.

"Restia!"

Kamito looked back to see a translucent serpentine spirit wrapped around Restia's head, choking her throat. This was a small militarized spirit used by the Imperial Knights for espionage.

"...Ack... Urgh..."

"This girl seems to be important to you, even though her identity is unknown."

"...You bitch!"

Kamito roared and glared angrily at Claudia in front of him.

"Stand down with your elemental waffe, Kazehaya Kamito."

"Damn...!"

Kamito gritted his teeth hard.

He was to blame for failing to watch over Restia properly, but did all spirit knights belonging to the imperial army stoop so low as to take hostages?

"Dame Claudia!"

Ellis yelled in reprimand.

"As a member of the Fahrengart Knights, how could you—"

"I am simply fulfilling my duties as a knight, Lady Ellis."

"...What are you talking about...?"

"...Kk... Urghhhh...!"

Strangled by the neck, Restia was wheezing painfully. In her darkness spirit days, she could easily pulverize low-ranked militarized spirits, but right now—

"...I got it. Please stop...!"

Kamito stabbed the Demon Slayer into the ground and raised his arms to surrender.

Claudia instantly ordered her subordinates:

"Seize Kazehaya Kamito and the Calamity Queen's sister."

"W-Wait, what are you doing... Kyah!"

Kamito and Claire were instantly captured by the army's binding spells.

Part 6

"...Ooh... Hmm..."

Inside a dimly lit room, Fianna woke up.

She could sense from this room an unusual pressure that did not stem from its crampedness.

Without any windows, no sunlight entered at all. The only light source was a spirit crystal glowing on a candlestick.

This was the Temple of World Isolation located underground, under the Great Shrine of Areishia in the center of Ostdakia, the imperial capital. In the past, it used to be a place where princess maidens of royal blood trained.

Due to seals on the stone floor, all links to Astral Zero were severed completely. Let alone summoning a contracted spirit, even using spirit magic was impossible.

A princess maiden had accidentally died during training in this room during the previous emperor's reign. As a result, the room had not been opened for a very long time now.

(It turns out to be quite handy as a place for imprisoning princess maidens.)

Those who made attempts on the emperor's life would normally be locked away in the lowest level of Balsas Prison, but the prison had been half-wrecked in the attack a few days ago and was under repairs.

"...Guh... Ah."

Her arms ached intensely when she twisted her body.

Bound by chains with spells written in them, Fianna's body was suspended from the ceiling. The pure white dress she was wearing at the assembly was tattered in a sorry state, most likely ripped while she was forcibly taken here.

Her consciousness was still hazy.

Was it mind manipulation magic? Or perhaps they had used some kind of drug.

—After the incident, Fianna was instantly arrested and imprisoned in this room.

According to the knights, the anti-Arneus faction's signed petition was discovered in Fianna's room. All the great nobles with their signatures there were arrested.

Lord Conrad had committed suicide by poison in his own room. According to the Imperial Knights' interpretation, the prime minister had committed suicide as the main conspirator after knowing the plan had failed.

Naturally, it was impossible for Fianna to believe such an explanation. The prime minister's objective was to prevent Arneus, the Holy Kingdom's puppet, from succeeding to the throne at all costs.

(The prime minister isn't stupid. How could he possibly use such a reckless method as assassinating the emperor?)

STnBD V14 115.jpg

But in that case, why did the prime minister hand that Bloodstone over to Fianna?

(...Was he not aware that a demon spirit was sealed inside?)

Assuming that was the case, he must have fallen to someone's trickery. The demon spirit's rampage was a show engineered and put on by the Arneus faction with the purpose of taking down all Fianna-faction nobles in one fell swoop, but—

There was still one more fact that bothered her.

(The rampaging demon spirit was the headmistress' contracted spirit...)

The existence of the Dusk Witch, currently holding extreme political clout, was probably quite an obstacle to the Arneus faction. Hence, they used the demon spirit formerly employed by the witch to successfully frame her. However, what kind of method did they use to seal up an archdemon-class spirit, and The Dusk Witch's contracted spirit to boot...?

In her hazy consciousness, numerous questions surfaced in her mind.

At this time, a heavy sound of the door opening was heard in the Temple of World Isolation.

"...!?"

A ray of light from the outside world shot into the dim space, forcing Fianna to squint.

"Kukuku... What a splendid sight, my little sister—"

Hearing that voice made Fianna frown in disgust.

Entering with his arms spread ostentatiously was Arneus.

Fianna cast an angry gaze of complete hostility on her older brother's face.

"Dear esteemed brother—no, perhaps it would be better to address you as Your Majesty, Emperor Arneus?"

"I'm not the emperor yet, not yet—"

Smiling like that, Arneus brought his face up close, enough for her to feel his breath.

"However, my father is currently confined to bed, infected by the miasma from the demon spirit you summoned. Naming me as his successor is only a matter of time—"

"It must not have been easy for you to devise such a plan. Is the Holy Kingdom backing you by any chance?"

"...!"

Arneus' face instantly changed in alarm.

"...Hmph, you'll be executed in a few days anyway, Lost Queen."

Spitting out such words, he left the room and closed the door violently.

Part 7

"Your Highness, Prince Arneus."

He heard that voice as soon as he stepped out of the Temple of World Isolation.

Arneus turned his gaze towards the voice's source. In the shadows of a stone pillar was a woman in a knight's uniform.

Her black hair was gorgeous to the point of seductive. Those dark blue eyes of hers seemed filled with dark flames.

Dame Leschkir Hirschkilt, a member of Numbers.

"Ah, Dame Leschkir—"

"Your speech earlier was splendid, Your Highness."

With a seductive smile on her lips, she offered praise.

What had taken place several hours earlier was a speech delivered to the gathering of national representatives from across the continent. Weeping sorrowfully for his bedridden father the Ordesia emperor, he had strongly condemned the mastermind behind the abortive assassination attempt, the Second Princess.

"I can't believe you were capable of that, Dame Leschkir. I was scared out of my wits when the demon spirit was rampaging..."

"Ultimately, it was just a shadow of power sealed into a spirit crystal—merely a 'manifestation.' As one would expect of the Dusk Witch's spirit, even a Numbers knight would not be able to emerge unscathed in a battle against it."

"...I see. Well, that being said, your acting skills were top-notch."

Arneus smiled malevolently.

"However, are you sure you want to kill His Majesty just like that?"

"...No, killing him is not the best method."

Arneus shook his head and said:

"My father still has to complete the important task of naming me as his successor. Also, he can no longer rise from bed after approaching that demon spirit and coming into contact with the miasma of death."

"Indeed, he is already no different from a dead man."

A seductive smile surfaced on Leschkir's face.

Filled with potent malice, that smile made Arneus feel a chill along his back.

However, it was only for an instant and Leschkir soon left his side.

"Then I shall take my leave. It would not do if anyone witnessed this scene."

After bowing gracefully, she disappeared into the shadows behind the pillar.

(What a terrifying woman even though I know she's clearly on my side.)

Arneus wiped sweat from his forehead and whispered in his mind.

Although she was aiding the Arneus faction, she was not allied to him personally.

Dame Leschkir was one of Lurie Lizaldia's subordinates. In other words, she was in league with the Holy Kingdom.

(...What should I do with the Holy Kingdom that's currently backing me?)

Arneus had no interest in the Holy Kingdom's goals at all. All he had was an ambition to become emperor like any other person.

Using the Holy Kingdom as a means to that end, that was what he intended from the start.

"Things are proceeding quite smoothly, Prince Arneus."

"...!?"

Arneus jumped in fright at the voice he suddenly heard from behind him.

He looked back to find a man in his prime, standing there without him knowing, holding a scepter in his hand.

Arneus felt a chill down his spine. That man was Lord Conrad the prime minister who was supposed to have died, poisoned by Arneus' subordinates.

"...How tasteless, Lord Prime Minister. If anyone were to see you in your carelessness..."

"Don't worry, there is no one here."

Despite Lord Conrad's appearance, the adorable voice belonged to a girl.

Immediately, the prime minister's appearance became distorted, transforming in an instant.

Before his eyes was a cute girl in sacred vestments.

Twelve or thirteen years old in appearance, lustrous blonde hair shining brilliantly. Her right eye was a mysterious violet but her left eye was covered by a boorish eyepatch.

She was one of the Holy Kingdom's cardinals, Millennia Sanctus.

Facilitating Sjora Kahn's coup d'etat in the Alphas Theocracy and masterminding the attack on the Academy with Lurie Lizaldia, she was the girl with Otherworldly Darkness residing in her.

Held in her hand was an unsettling mask of pure white.

"Fufu, obtained from Sjora, this is quite convenient in its ability to simulate the memories and personality of the person whose shadow was stolen in addition to their appearance."

Unbeknownst to Arneus, the mask in her hand was the elemental waffe, Proteus Mask, of the demon spirit Baldanders. During the Blade Dance tournament, Sjora Kahn had used this elemental waffe to subject Team Scarlet to great hardship as well as making the Quina Empire's Four Gods team fall into her trap.

Fianna's guess that the prime minister had been exploited by the Arneus faction was actually not far off from the truth. Last night, it was Millennia Sanctus who had visited Fianna's bedroom in the guise of Lord Conrad. The real prime minister had already been assassinated the previous day.

"With the nobles in the Second Princess faction all thrown into prison, there is no one capable of stopping you now."

"Hmm, yes, I am most grateful for the support from the Holy Kingdom of Lugia."

Arneus bowed his head unnaturally. To be honest, it would have been very difficult for him to take the Ordesian throne without the Holy Kingdom's support.

However, he felt inexplicably intimidated by such a young girl.

"So, will you hand the witch over to us as agreed?"

The girl looked up at Arneus and asked.

"Yes, as you wish. I will have that woman transported to the tower at Guas Gibai immediately."

"Very well, I shall wait at the tower."

"But is there any value left in that woman to exploit? Having lost the power to contract with spirits, that witch can no longer pose any threat against us."

Arneus asked in puzzlement. What this girl wanted was the witch's body, what on earth was going on?

"It is none of your concern, Your Majesty."

An adorable smile appeared on Millennia's face with a chuckle.

Instantly, Arneus felt an extremely terrifying presence.

"I-I see. Indeed, it is none of my concern..."

Like a broken puppet, he kept nodding.

Part 8

Several hours passed after Kamito and company were taken away by the Imperial Knights.

A military flying vessel arrived in the sky near the Academy Town.

It was a strange ship, a flying vessel that did not belong to the Ordesia military.

The ship's shape resembled the battleships commonly used during the Ranbal War era. An unregistered ship, the hull had signs of large-scale modifications. Rather than a sculpture of the Elemental Lords as was customary, what decorated the ship's prow was a lion's head, enveloped in flames.

Slicing through clouds in its wake, the ship advanced like a shadow.

There were two figures on the ship's deck.

A girl wearing a crimson mask and a girl clad in a knight's armor.

"—How is the situation?"

"A report from subordinates infiltrating the Academy Town. All of them have been arrested by the Ordesia army."

The girl with the crimson mask placed the spirit crystal she was holding into her front pocket. It was a spirit crystal officially used by the Ordesia military for long-distance communications.

"We arrived too late, did we? ...Is Ren Ashbell at a military facility?"

"Most likely—"

"In that case, I shall head out."

"Are you sure? Your opponents will be the Imperial Knights."

"No matter, I have already forsaken my life as a knight. Furthermore—"

Saying that, the girl in armor touched her heart's location on her chest with her fingertips.

"A perfect chance to take this on a test run."

Her dispassionate voice whispered, as cold as steel.