Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume14 Chapter9
Chapter 9 - The Research Tower of Guas Gibai
Seeing the merchant captured, the rogue elementalists instantly scattered and fled. Hired by money, those people most likely had no loyalty to speak of.
Besides, she was the natural enemy of rogue elementalists.
"...So what the heck are you doing here?"
Kamito narrowed his eyes and glared at the girl.
Black hair cropped short, slender and beautiful eyes. Dressed in a combat outfit of black leather. Boyish airs.
This was precisely Ninth of the Numbers—Virrey Branford.
Belonging to the Ordesia military's Umbra, she was a special operative knight specializing in espionage.
The last time Kamito met her was before setting off for Laurenfrost. He remembered she had said at the time that she was heading to the imperial capital, acting as Greyworth's bodyguard for the All Nations Conference.
"This is Umbra's backyard, you know? Taking of sewer rats is our job."
Virrey tied the man up with a rope and tossed him to the ground.
"...You knew that we had contacted this man?"
Claire asked warily.
It could not be coincidence that a special operative knight of Umbra had arrived.
However, supposing she had come to arrest Kamito's group, it would be far too unbelievable for her to show up alone.
"After all, I had received reports that you had broken out of prison at the Academy Town facility. From that I was certain you'd come to rescue the Second Princess. There are few routes that people from outer city could take to enter the nobles district. Hence, it wasn't hard to predict that you'd approach a Murders merchant—"
"You knew early on that we were going to infiltrate the imperial capital?"
Kamito placed his hand on the Demon Slayer.
"—So, what do you want? Do you intend to arrest us who are trying to rescue Fianna?"
He stared sharply at Virrey.
Virrey Branford was definitely no pushover. Although her contracted spirit might prioritize espionage abilities due to her position under Umbra, she was still a member of Numbers, the Empire's most elite knights.
"Good grief, don't jump to conclusions like that. I'm not here to arrest you."
Virrey hastily waved her hands.
"What I mean is that I'm not here on Umbra's orders. Instead, I'm acting on private motives. In other words, I am the only one who knows that you've infiltrated the imperial capital—"
Kamito frowned in surprise and let go of his sword's hilt.
Of course, this did not mean that Kamito believed her completely. However, it would definitely be mind boggling for her to show up alone if she really intended to arrest Kamito's group.
"Kamito, here's a deal. Allow me to use you for once."
"...What do you mean?"
"My goal is to rescue Dame Greyworth who has been imprisoned by Arneus."
"...Rescue the headmistress?"
Kamito, Claire and Ellis stared at one another.
Virrey had investigated Greyworth in secret at the military's orders before. However, it was hard to imagine any other connection between the two of them.
"I mentioned last time that I was taken off the mission of tracking down Lurie Lizaldia, right?"
"At the time, it was Dame Greyworth who took me in after I was reassigned from Umbra. That's why I am in her debt."
"A debt huh? But is this really enough to make you willing to take such a great risk given your position in the Numbers?"
Greyworth was currently a suspected co-conspirator in the emperor assassination incident, a major criminal. Rescuing her meant rebelling against the Empire.
"Of course, there are more reasons than that—"
Virrey confessed quite readily.
"Kamito, I have come to harbor suspicions against the Empire because of this incident."
She lowered her voice.
Kamito had a clue what she was implying.
"You mean the fact that the Holy Kingdom's reach has extended into the Ordesia?"
"Why do you know about this!?"
Virrey widened her slender eyes.
"Well, I've got a source—"
Without exposing Rubia overtly, Kamito answered ambiguously.
"I am quite curious about your source... Oh well, that makes things easy since you already know more or less. Ordesia's upper echelon is currently under the Holy Kingdom's control..."
Virrey recounted symptoms of suspicious changes in the Empire recently.
It first began with the cessation of Lurie Lizaldia's pursuit, then there was the Sacred Spirit Knights trespassing Laurenfrost territory at the border, as well as the Empire's acquiescence regarding that.
Next was the attempted assassination of the emperor.
Even without being involved directly in the investigation, Virrey had many doubts regarding the incident.
First of all, there was the Bloodstone from which Fianna had released the demon spirit. Although the prime minister had provided it as a co-conspirator, how exactly did he get his hands on a spirit crystal on the level of a national treasure? Why was Greyworth's former contracted spirit sealed inside it—?
The prime minister's suicide was also highly suspicious. However, the Imperial Knights had hastily declared the investigation complete instead of addressing these issues.
"There should be many people who find the current incident suspicious, but with the Second Princess faction rendered prisoners, everyone fears Arneus, or rather, the Holy Kingdom that is backing him."
Virrey bit her lip hard.
"Currently, Ordesia is very abnormal. As a knight who has sworn loyalty to the Empire, I wish to rescue Dame Greyworth out of personal conviction, unrelated to the organization. As such, I need your assistance—"
"In other words, you'll take the opportunity to rescue Greyworth as long as we cause a commotion while saving Fianna, right?"
"—Thank you for understanding so quickly."
Virrey nodded in response to Claire.
"Besides, rescuing the Second Princess is also Dame Greyworth's orders to me before her arrest. Assuming everything goes as planned, I will aid in the escape."
"Rescuing Greyworth is what we want too. It'd be a great help if you succeeded too."
"—Then we have a deal, I guess?"
Nodding, the maiden special operative knight smiled.
With special footwork making no sound at all, the special operative knight from Umbra advanced quickly in the dark.
Criss-crossing vast underground ruins, the path was so long that it seemed endless—
Finally, spirit crystal lighting revealed a certain bizarre manmade structure in the passage ahead.
A gigantic iron grate stretching all the way to the ceiling.
Virrey walked up to it. After turning one of the rusted bars in the grate several times, she took off a section in the middle, thus creating a gap that a person could squeeze through.
"I cannot believe a place like this exists under the imperial capital..."
Ellis could not help but exclaim in surprise.
"Is this Umbra's secret entrance?"
Without responding to Kamito's muttering, Virrey silently advanced in the dark.
Suddenly, they were struck by an intense rotting stench, forcing Kamito to frown.
The disgusting sticky feeling underfoot seemed familiar, like the corpse of some kind of small animal.
"...Could this place be—"
"Yes, the palace's trash heap. However, what gets abandoned here includes more than trash."
Whispering profound words, Virrey stopped in front of the trash heap.
On top of the mountain of trash was a circular shaft built from brick and mortar.
Light from the surface leaked in from there, illuminating the surroundings, instantly revealing an unsightly scene.
Mixed in the trash was a large amount of white bones. Although the majority belonged to small animals like rats, there were also bones of bigger sizes.
A sight Kamito had grown used to seeing during his childhood. The abandoned corpses of children that had died during harsh training.
"...K-Kamito, this is...!"
Claire covered her mouth and groaned. Ellis was also speechless from shock.
"The Research Tower of Guas Gibai, have you heard this name before?"
"...First time I'm hearing it."
"A research facility during the Ranbal War, it was also known as the Torture Tower."
"The Torture Tower?"
Hearing Claire's whisper, Kamito asked.
"Yes, during the Ranbal War, the Empire was conducting inhumane experiments that included cursed armament seals. Among them, the Research Tower of Guas Gibai was infamous as a record of the Ordesia Empire's scandalous history."
"Right, but the tower itself was already sealed off long ago. This trash heap beneath an affluent nobles district can be considered a relic of that era—"
"...What a disgusting place."
Kamito spoke as though spitting.
"—The place where Dame Greyworth is imprisoned is that Torture Tower."
"...Huh?" "What?" "Say that again!?"
The trio exclaimed involuntarily.
"But isn't the tower sealed off—"
"Several months ago, Arneus opened the tower. He forced the imperial council to pass the resolution by calling it a military research facility. A military facility in name but Arneus' personal possession in fact. Besides the researchers working under him, rumors even say that a cardinal from the Holy Kingdom has been sighted coming and going there—"
"The headmistress is in that kind of place—"
"Their agenda is unknown. But Dame Greyworth's body of eternal youth is probably an excellent test subject for those people—"
"The old lady..."
Kamito gritted his teeth and looked up at the shaft.
—After climbing up the shaft, they were surrounded by a flourishing forest.
This was probably a forest inside the vast nobles district for royalty and aristocrats to engage in recreational activities such as horseriding or hunting. That being said, nobles would probably not ride to such a dense part of the forest.
The sky was shrouded by gray clouds.
If it rained, the sound should be able to cover up their footsteps.
"...What about the guards outside?"
"Should be few in number at this hour. Furthermore, the First Division of the Imperial Knights apparently moved out to handle a military ship of unknown nationality in the imperial capital's outskirts right now."
Kamito and Claire exchanged a glance.
...Almost assuredly, it was Rubia's Revenant.
"The Second Princess is currently imprisoned in the underground Temple of World Isolation beneath the Grand Shrine of Areishia. I'd be very grateful if you could cause a big commotion to divert attention."
"I don't really want to overdo it, but I guess it can't be helped."
Hearing Claire's murmur, Kamito concurred.
That being said, it would be unrealistic to think he could storm the place without even drawing the Demon Slayer. Elite high-level knights were guarding the shrine along with the Empire's strongest, the Numbers.
"And the Numbers guarding the shrine are?"
"The knights in charge of guarding the Great Shrine of Areishia should be under the command of Leschkir Hirschkilt, third of the Numbers. Dame Leschkir uses Typhon, a gravity spirit."
"A gravity spirit huh? I think it might be tough to handle with a sword spirit."
"However, first-ranked Dame Sephira, second-ranked Dame Irvine and fourth-ranked Dame Dunei are currently heading out to intercept the military ship. You should count your blessings already."
Kamito stared at the towering Great Shrine of Areishia in the distance.
"I'm leaving Greyworth's rescue to you, Virrey."
"Yeah, good luck to you too."
The instant she activated her magic—
An image of Kamito was carved deeply into Fianna's mind.
Clearly different from an ordinary person's, that presence had a sort of nostalgic feeling to it too.
Undoubtedly, it was the presence of the Kamito whom she knew so well.
—In that case, now is not the time to be sitting around in this place.
Doing everything to concentrate, Fianna stood up.
Using her trembling finger, she dipped it into the blood on the ground and wrote a magic circle on the prison wall.
Despite a lack of divine power, with the aid of a magic circle, the act of summoning itself should be possible.
(Although I'm filthy all over and haven't purified myself—)
The holy knight who served as her right hand would surely come.
With this conviction, she chanted the words of summoning.
"—Thou, servant of the king of the child of man, knight and master swordsman! —By the contract of the old blood, become the sword that protects me, come forth and do my bidding!"
The princess maiden's clear voice pierced the silence of the Temple of World Isolation.
Responding to her words, the magic circle of blood glowed blue-white.
A silver light flashed through the air.
A sword of steel tore through space and out from the crack appeared a silver-white knight.
The knight spirit Georgios—the high-ranked spirit passed down the Ordesia imperial family.
"...Thank goodness... You came..."
Smiling, almost about to collapse, Fianna was caught in the knight spirit's powerful arms. Next, after placing her slowly on the ground, the knight spirit drew his sword and severed the chains binding Fianna's arms and legs in one strike.
"...Thank you. I think I kept a healing crystal inside—"
The knight spirit opened up his chest armor and took out a spirit crystal from the void.
Fianna held the spirit crystal against her bosom and poured divine power into it.
"O benevolent unicorn, heal my body with the light—"
Holy light of healing enveloped her entire body and her drained stamina returned slightly.
(Right now, this is all I can do...)
—That being said, she should have recovered to the point of being able to walk.
Fianna took out a ritual dagger from Georgios' chest and sliced off her dress' bloodstained hem for ease of movement.
Then she walked over to the tightly shut door. Other protective magic had been cast on the door, but there was no time to dispel it now.
(...Since I can't open it, I might as well break it.)
Fianna raised her hand at the door.
"—Destroy it, Georgios!"
Obeying his liege's order, the knight spirit attacked the door fiercely with his massive sword.
Severed in a single strike. With a loud sound, the door shattered into fragments.
"...What, the Second Princess!?"
"I-Impossible, how could a contracted spirit—"
"R-Report to Dame Leschkir, hurry—"
The guards stationed at the Temple of World Isolation cried out in surprise and fled one after another.
"Huff, huff... Guh..."
However, Fianna felt a wave of dizziness and had to lean against a wall. In her current state, maintaining Georgios was too much of a strain, running the risk of losing consciousness.
"—Go back, Georgios. Thank you."
Obeying his liege's command, the knight spirit nodded then disappeared as particles of light.
"Wait for me, Kamito-kun..."
After a quiet murmur, Fianna began to run along the corridor in the shrine.
The heavy clouds started to rain.
Kamito's sharp senses detected a faint presence of tension in the air.
"Follow the plan and take the roundabout route, Kamito."
The shortest route to the Great Shrine of Areishia would be to go straight along the main road leading to Nefescal Palace. However, one would naturally expect plenty of knights stationed there. Getting stalled there for a moment and reinforcements would probably arrive quickly.
"—O wind, grant us thy protection."
Ellis chanted spirit magic, deploying a wind barrier around the three of them.
The wind barrier's effects included the erasure of footstep sounds and slightly improving movement speed.
Under the sound of unrelenting rain, Kamito and company passed through a passage in the nobles district.
Leaving the area of noble residences, they moved to where government agencies were situated.
They still did not see any knights along the way... The streets were unexpectedly quiet.
"...How weird, there's not a soul in sight."
"Yes, after all, the anti-Arneus faction was thrown into jail not too long ago—"
While perking her ears to listen to surrounding signs, Ellis whispered.
At this moment, the voices of guards could be heard up ahead.
Kamito and company stopped and hid in the shadows of a mansion.
"What an embarrassment. We must find the princess at all costs!"
"She shouldn't have escaped too far yet!"
A group of guards were running along the passage with noisy footsteps.
Kamito and friends looked at one another.
"What's going on?"
Kamito began to think quickly.
Was this timing coincidental? Or somehow, she had detected the movements of Kamito's group and tried her best to accommodate—
"...Well, I guess Fianna doesn't have the personality of an imprisoned princess."
"Yeah." "...Hmm, I suppose."
It was that princess after all. Breaking out of jail on her own was not that surprising.
Back when she had lost the power of the spirit contract and was known as the Lost Queen, she did not spend her days cooped up indoors and wallowing in sadness.
She had made preparations aggressively with the intent to win the Blade Dance and recover her power, even resorting to cheating so as to enroll in the Academy to meet Kamito.
Fianna Ray Ordesia was a girl with a stalwart heart.
"...Either way, this situation is an opportunity."
"Yeah, it's a lot easier than trying to rescue her while she's jailed."
"I hope we find her sooner, before the guards arrive."
"In that case, rather than working as a group, I think it would be better for us to split up in search of her."
"Yeah, from what I can see, the knights haven't taken action yet—"
Hearing Kamito's suggestion, Claire nodded.
"Then let's split up here and contact one another as soon as we discover Fianna."
Ellis chanted spirit magic quietly and summoned wind spirits.
They were tiny fairies with a flower-like dresses.
"This spirit can pass messages along the wind."
The wind spirits circled in the air before resting on Kamito and Claire's shoulders.
"Absolutely avoid fighting the knights. Run away immediately if you encounter them."
"Yes, I know. Kamito, you be careful too—"
The trio nodded at one another then started running in three separate directions.
Kamito was sprinting along a street, wet from the rain.
Every time he heard footsteps of approaching guards, he hid discreetly and observed the situation.
(...Fianna, where are you?)
He could not imagine her walking along the main road. However, if she were to take the criss-crossing alleys, the guards familiar with the terrain would quickly catch her too.
Perhaps she was headed to an area densely packed with noble residences to seek sanctuary. However, with all the anti-Arneus nobles arrested, would other nobles extend a helping hand to her in good faith, given how isolated she was at the palace to begin with?
—Suddenly, Kamito thought of something.
(—I remember it was mentioned that there are secret passages known only to royals.)
Perhaps she might use one of those.
(...If that's the case, there's nothing we can do.)
Naturally, it would be best if Fianna could escape to safety on her own—
At that moment...
—to... Kamito... -kun... Where, are, you...?
Suddenly, he heard a garbled voice in his mind.
Rather than Ellis' wind spirit, it was sounding directly in his head.
"Fianna, where are you!?"
Kamito stopped walking and could not help but yell.
However, there were no signs of Fianna in the surroundings.
(...Spirit magic for projecting thoughts?)
Kamito closed his eyes and focused his mind to listen to the voice in his head.
Assuming it was that sort of spirit magic, then this voice was unidirectional only. Kamito's voice could not transmit back.
—Kamito-kn... I am... in the shrine's... north corridor—
Right now, Kamito was at the south side where the main entrance was located. He was on the opposite side.
(...I guess it'll be faster to cut through the palace directly?)
Located at the center of the imperial capital, Nefescal Palace should have a large number of knights guarding it securely.
(The risk would be way too big...)
Kamito gritted his teeth. Although it was the shortest route, he would be getting his priorities wrong if he failed to pass through. The only choice was to pass through the labyrinthine nobles district and circle over to the north side.
Having made his decision, he was about to start running when...
Suddenly, he felt a wave of intense noise in his mind.
Kamito could not help but hold his temples and groan. At the same time, Fianna's earlier intermittent thoughts seemed to be cut off. He could no longer hear her.
(...It sounded something like a scream.)
...Had she encountered something, or perhaps—
Kamito gritted his teeth hard and gripped the Demon Slayer tightly.
Then he looked at Nefescal Palace's massive outer gate.
There was no time to hesitate.
"...Looks like I have make a ruckus after all."
Fianna ran as hard as she could, splashing puddles.
She could still sense Kamito's presence earlier, but it was suddenly cut off.
No, not just his presence. By the time she realized, both the footsteps of guards in search of Fianna and the relentless rain had vanished. Even Fianna's own footsteps too—
It was as though her surroundings, the entire space had been isolated.
(...Is this an isolation barrier? No, that's not right—)
At this moment, the space before her eyes suddenly became distorted.
For a second, she thought she was feeling dizzy but—
In the next instant, she found herself pinned to the ground by an invisible force.
"...Gah, cough... A-Ah... Ahhhhhhhhh—"
Intense weight. Heavy pressure that felt like it would crush her limbs had completely immobilized her. All the bones in her entire body were screaming in pain. That intense agony was making Fianna scream unintelligibly.
"Oh dear, so here you are, princess—"
Fianna was unable to turn her head to look at the voice's owner.
"It's necessary to teach a lesson to a bad kid who escaped, refusing to give up—"
Saying that, Leschkir Hirschkilt licked her lips in delight.
The sounds of a commotion could be heard coming from the central area of the nobles district.
(...Looks like Kamito is doing great. Now it'll be easy to sneak in.)
Kicking a guard that was collapsed at her feet, Virrey Branford stormed the door to enter.
The Research Tower of Guas Gibai. This white tower was notorious during war time. All alone, it stood inside a forest within the palace's premises.
Not especially large in scale, the tower was also quite inconspicuous in appearance.
But in contrast, what was with this eerie pressure that made one's hairs stand on end—
(I never had this kind of feeling before when I went inside to investigate...)
Virrey dispelled the barrier and stepped into the tower.
There was warmth in the air with the presence of people.
(...Soldiers on watch? Or perhaps researchers working under Arneus—)
Virrey walked silently and ventured into the depths of the tower, ignoring the staircase leading up. The upper levels consisted of reference rooms and research labs. Assuming Greyworth was imprisoned here, she would be underground.
"Oh my, a naughty rat has found its way into my toy chest."
A sudden voice made Virrey look behind her.
Appearing behind her, completely unnoticed was—
A girl with an eyepatch, dressed in vestments of pure white—Millennia Sanctus—was standing on the stairs, giggling with a smile as she looked down at Virrey.
(...I can't believe I failed to detect her presence even when I'm a special operative knight!?)
Virrey reflexively drew out her gun and poured divine power into it. She had no intention of showing mercy even if the opponent was a child. That thing was a monster. A terrifying monster that was corroding the Empire.
"Fufu, little fool."
Millennia smiled adorably and licked her lips.
"—Well, perfect timing to use for that experiment♪"