Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume15 Chapter3
Chapter 3 - The Distance between Sisters
Under the rising sun's rays, the modified military ship, the Revenant, landed in the Forest of Ice Blossoms near Winter Gulf Castle.
The ship's armor was flaking off severely with signs of damage all over.
It must have had an intense battle against Ordesia's Aerial Combat Knights in the imperial capital's outskirts.
Kamito and his team hastily got prepared and met up in front of the flying ship.
"Natalia, I am leaving the rest to you."
"Affirmative, we of the Wolf Ritters will do everything we can to protect Mireille-sama."
The captain of the knights, Natalia, saluted with a straight posture. Behind her, everyone also saluted at the same time. Not just the Wolf Ritters but all the soldiers in the castle had come to see them off. This showed how much Rinslet was loved by the people of the castle.
"Mireille, you have to listen to Natalia and Milla properly."
"Don't worry, Onee-sama. Until you return, I will definitely complete Laurenfrost's restoration."
Mireille nodded in an exaggerated manner.
"Mireille-sama, you can count on me."
Milla Bassett whispered softly.
"As a Laurenfrost daughter, I will do everything in my power too."
Rinslet hugged her other sister tightly who was sitting in a wheelchair.
"Somehow, it feels like the land of Laurenfrost will be fine."
"Yes, with such excellent retainers, I feel there is no need to worry."
Claire nodded in agreement.
Soon, the military ship's hatch opened and a metal gangway descended.
Next to appear was Rubia Elstein in military uniform.
Gazing at Kamito's group below, she said:
"Fianna Ray Ordesia's extraction has evidently succeeded."
"Yeah, except that the Murders merchant arranged by you betrayed us."
Kamito answered her sarcastically.
Back then, had Virrey the special operative knight not assisted them, Kamito and company might still be wandering underground at the imperial capital right now.
"So the Bald Rat betrayed us... The money paid to him should have been more than enough."
"He took the Holy Kingdom's side very readily. Don't put too much trust in people who can be bought."
"—I shall bear that in mind."
Saying that, she turned to Fianna.
"Have you made your decision? Second Princess of the Empire, Fianna Ray Ordesia."
"Yes, I shall serve as your pawn, Rubia-sama—no, Rubia Elstein."
Fianna looked squarely into Rubia's eyes and replied fearlessly.
The Calamity Queen and the Lost Queen—previous best friends at the Divine Ritual Institute in the past, their gazes crossed—
"Very well. A meeting will be held in half an hour. Rest in the ship first."
With a flip of her military jacket, Rubia returned inside the military ship.
Just as Claire called out to her... She closed her mouth again rapidly.
"What is it?"
"I still haven't had a chance to talk with you properly, Nee-sama..."
Claire said sadly.
Indeed, despite meeting again at last, the two of them had not had a conversation as sisters.
Although Rubia gave a cold impression as though a single touch could set off her anger, Kamito wondered if that was because he did not know what she was like in the past. Perhaps back when Claire was small, she had been very different from now.
Perhaps a decisive change had occurred to her past self that was familiar to Claire.
...On that day when the insane Fire Elemental Lord had destroyed a town on earth.
"Oh well, no need to be anxious. Before we reach Dracunia, there should be plenty of chances to talk."
Kamito placed his hand on Claire's shoulder.
"Hmm, I have not had a proper chat recently with my esteemed sister either."
"...Y-You're right. I'll try."
Claire nodded and bit her lip hard.
Kamito and company got their belongings ready and boarded the ship. Claire shared a room with Rinslet and Fianna whereas Ellis roomed with Velsaria.
Kamito, Est and Restia had one room to themselves.
"Uh, this place, is it...?"
Led by a girl working under Rubia, he opened the door to his assigned room.
Inside the room was Restia, dressed as a maid. She reacted with surprise on her face.
With a small broom in her hand, it looked like she was currently tidying and cleaning the room.
"So you have already arrived. I didn't even notice..."
"Because this room doesn't have windows..."
Kamito rested Est on the wall by the door and sat down on a bed's edge.
Unlike his last time here, the room was different, very cleaned up.
"It was so dirty before but now it's completely different."
"Since I am unable to help out with the ship, I wanted to do some cleaning and tidying at least... I enjoyed it very much."
Restia put down her broom and sat down cautiously next to Kamito. Speaking of which, the corridor had also become sparkling clean, presumably thanks to Restia's cleaning efforts.
"Was it scary for you?"
Kamito asked. To make it easier for Kamito's team to infiltrate the imperial capital, the Revenant had gone to Ostdakia's outskirts to draw the Imperial Knights' attention. Judging from the crumbling armor, it must have been an intense battle.
"Yes, it was very noisy outside, so scary. Thank goodness the red-haired person accompanied me."
It was hard to imagine her doing that based on her icy demeanor. But after seeing that she had taken in the helpless orphan girls from the Instructional School, Kamito wondered if she might actually be very good at looking after others.
(...After all, she even tamed Muir.)
In that case, her attitude to her younger sister Claire became even harder to understand—
"...However, I just had a very terrifying dream earlier."
Restia said quietly.
"A dream? ...What was it like?"
"Inside pitch-black darkness. Inside icy cold darkness where there was nothing and no one. Although I clearly knew it was a dream, I could not wake up... It persisted like that."
Kamito was shocked. He recalled how he had seen the same dream the night before.
"Restia... Did you call out to anyone by any chance?"
"...Um, I think I called your name..."
Kamito fell into deep thought and his gaze settled on his left hand in the leather glove.
After waking up from the dream last night, his left hand had hurt. Could it be due to the link from his contract with her, trying to reconnect itself?
Suppose this was a sign that Restia was going to recover her memories, then it was nothing Kamito could want more. However, if her memories as Restia Ashdoll, the terminal of Darkness Elemental Lord Ren Ashdoll, were to awaken, what would happen to this Restia?
Perhaps, considering her personal happiness, it might be possible to have her live a peaceful life by leaving her like this without recovering her memories...
"...What's the matter?"
Seeing Kamito suddenly withdrawn into silence, Restia showed a gaze of surprise.
"Oh, it's nothing... Don't worry."
Kamito hastily shook his head—Suddenly, he noticed something.
"Eh, where did Est go?"
Est had somehow gone missing from where he had left her against the wall.
After placing her belongings in the room properly, Rinslet left Claire and Fianna to go to the galley on her own. She wanted to prepare a simple breakfast for everyone before the meeting started.
(Minds will be slow without a breakfast...)
Walking along the ship's narrow corridor, she arrived before the galley whose location Claire had told her about—
Suddenly, she smelled something burning.
Black smoke was coming out of the galley's ajar door.
"W-What are you doing!?"
Rinslet rushed hastily and pushed open the door.
The stone stove inside the galley was on fire.
Next to the stove, two identical girls in combat outfits were standing expressionlessly.
"Fire." "Yes, it's burning."
They murmured quietly.
Despite there being a pair of strange girls, Rinslet had no time to bother with them for now.
"Th-The ship will catch fire... Come, Fenrir!"
Rinslet hastily summoned Fenrir.
The white wolf appeared out of thin air to open his great jaws, producing a violent blizzard.
The flames disappeared instantly, leaving glittering ice crystals fluttering in the air.
The twins applauded. Their motions were very synchronized.
"W-What are you two doing!?"
Arms akimbo, Rinslet yelled.
The twins tilted their heads together.
They were roughly the same age as Judia, around twelve or thirteen. Judging from their clothing, they were probably Instructional School orphans taken in by Rubia as subordinates.
"Making breakfast." "More people, tried higher heat setting."
"...Are you two normally in charge of cooking?"
Hearing Rinslet's question, the twins shook their heads in unison.
"Normally, the Cardinal does it." "But she seems busy today, so we tried to help."
"I see... That is certainly admirable, but I never expected the Revenant to almost crash and burn from a fire before issuing the declaration of Legitimate Ordesia..."
Having prevented the worst-case scenario, Rinslet breathed a sigh of relief.
"How about letting me take over here?"
When Rinslet asked that...
"Don't butt in." "Outsider help not welcome."
The twin girls glared at Rinslet together.
Although they were children, they were assassins raised by the Instructional School after all. Their gaze were so sharp that Rinslet could not help but feel a chill.
However, she had her own reasons for not backing down. Rinslet could not tolerate another fire hazard on the ship.
"In that case, allow me to teach you how to cook. That would be fine, wouldn't it?"
Faced with Rinslet's suggestion, the twins looked at each other then nodded at the same time.
"In that case." "Fine."
"Then let us begin with the basics of breakfast, sugar toast."
Rinslet snapped her fingers and Fenrir produced ingredients from his mouth.
"May I have your names?"
"Good names. Velka and Delia, I will first teach you how to beat eggs."
"Got it." "Understood."
Several minutes later...
The aroma of sugar toast filled the entire galley.
"Smells so good..." "Looks very tasty."
Looking at the frying pan, the twins' eyes were glimmering.
"The secret trick is to let the cinnamon's flavor out... Oh my?"
At that moment, Rinslet spotted Est's lonely figure, standing at the door.
"Miss Sword Spirit, what's the matter?"
It was very rare to find Est walking around alone without Kamito by her side.
"I am the older sister, so I have to be tolerant."
Unable to understand what Est meant, a question mark floated over Rinslet's head.
"By the way, I smelled an aroma. What are you doing, snack person?"
"Uh, my name is not snack person, please..."
Rinslet shrugged with a troubled look.
Est was not the only one. All the spirits living in Areishia Spirit Academy recognized Rinslet as the "snack person" who would share leftover snacks with them, secretly worshiping her.
Est stood on tiptoe to peer at the frying pan.
"I am currently making breakfast for everyone."
"Although it's not bean curd, bacon quiche is delicious too, you know?"
"Then let me help out—"
Est disappeared into thin air. In the next instant, what appeared in Rinslet's hand was—
"This is a... kitchen knife?"
Rinslet widened her eyes.
The silver-white kitchen knife was light as a feather and excellent to handle.
...This was Est's newest transformation, the Demon Slayer Kitchen Knife.
"Th-Then I gratefully accept the offer..."
Rinslet was just starting to gently slice the bacon when—
"Amazing, a gentle push is enough to cut through."
The thick bacon was cut into thin slices in no time. Next were the onions, finished rapidly with flowing motions like running water. The cross-sections were extremely smooth, looking as though one could put the sliced pieces together to make a complete onion again.
"Such incomparable sharpness, I don't tear up at all even when cutting onions!"
Rinslet could not help but exclaim. Behind her, the twins applauded.
"Master, amazing." "The spirit is amazing too."
"—I am a sword spirit. This is nothing."
In kitchen knife form, Est replied indifferently.
...Unbeknownst to Rinslet herself at the time, she had become the third wielder of the Demon Slayer in history after Sacred Maiden Areishia and Kamito.
"Jeez, where on earth did Scarlet go?"
Claire looked around while making rounds inside the ship. Scarlet had disappeared without her noticing back when she was arranging her belongings in her room.
"And I wanted to feed her some treats..."
Although she could call Scarlet with a summoning, it would be too much of a waste to expend precious divine power on something like that.
It looked like Scarlet was not inside the ship, so that left the outside. Claire went up the steps to the deck.
Only to see—
As soon as she opened the door to the deck, Claire was taken aback.
At the front of the ship, she could see crimson hair fluttering in the wind like fire.
This was the image of her back, whom Claire had been chasing after since childhood.
"What's the matter?"
A glare from those silently burning eyes of ruby made Claire feel like running away.
(...W-What's with running away? I have to have a proper talk.)
Claire tried hard to stand firm then looked resolutely into her sister's eyes.
"Oh, umm, uh..."
Nervous, she could not find her words for a moment. Although she wanted to have a proper conversation, faced with her dramatically changed sister, what exactly should she say...?
"Do you have business with me, Claire Rouge?"
Rubia spoke at this time. Unlike the gentle older sister from the past, her voice was very cold.
Pierced by the sharp gaze, Claire could not help but look away.
With her gaze settled elsewhere, she could see Scarlet at Rubia's feet, worriedly watching the sisters.
...Speaking of which, Scarlet was very close to her sister to begin with. Back when Scarlet chose Claire instead of Rubia as her contractor, all the retainers at the Elstein household had found it unbelievable.
Under the awkward silence, Scarlet skipped and ran back to Claire's feet. Claire gently picked up the hellcat spirit and took a deep breath.
"N-Nee-sama... I saw Father and Mother at Elstein."
"Is that so—"
Rubia answered without any change in expression.
"...They are both worried about you, Nee-sama."
The parents never bore a grudge against her elder sister.
Even though they did not know the reason why she had betrayed the Fire Elemental Lord to become the Calamity Queen, to this day, they still believed in her—But Claire had not been able to convey this.
"...What meaning is there in telling me this?"
Claire was at a loss for words.
However, she mustered her courage and looked up again.
"I hope for the day when I can return to Elstein, together with Mother, Father... and you, Nee-sama, to live together. So—"
"Rubia Elstein is an existence that has already been banished from this world. I have no intention to get involved with the dukedom of Elstein again."
Rubia interrupted Claire.
"Presently, I am the Cardinal who has awakened from Inferno. Also, you are not my sister either."
Hearing such merciless words, Claire froze in shock.
The one before her eyes, was truly no longer the elder sister whom Claire knew so well.
Tears appeared in her ruby-like eyes.
"So your soul is still trapped by vengeance directed at the Elemental Lords—"
"...Indeed. Even now, my soul is left to burn in Inferno."
After saying that quietly, Rubia went directly to where Claire had come from. Claire found herself unable to even lift a finger. Just as she passed by Claire's shoulder, she glanced at Scarlet held in Claire's arms and said:
"You still have not fully brought out your contracted spirit's true power—"
"In order to convey your thoughts, you must take control of commensurate power. Otherwise, there is nothing to say."
Claire wanted to make her stay, but her voice could not reach Rubia.
With her long and beautiful crimson hair fluttering behind her, Rubia disappeared into the steps leading into the ship.
Hugging Scarlet, Claire stood there motionlessly.
(I-I still haven't fully brought out Scarlet's true power...?)
Held against her bosom, Scarlet looked up at Claire with an expression of puzzlement.
Reunited with Restia, Kamito chatted with Restia for a while then made his way to the ship's conference room when it was time. Although he was curious about Est's disappearance, he dismissed it as something that happened often after all. She was probably taking a stroll inside the ship.
"Hmm, what's this aroma I smell..."
He pushed open the conference room's door to look—
"Oh dear, Kamito-san, you are the earliest to arrive."
Holding a pot of black tea, Rinslet turned around.
On the table in the conference room with solemn decor, a very delicious breakfast was laid out.
A mini-salad made from several kinds of vegetables, fluffy sugar toast, spinach and bacon quiche, fresh milk, and fruit yogurt for dessert.
"You made breakfast for us? I'm amazed you did that in such short time..."
Kamito could not help but offer praise.
Thanks to Greyworth's education, Kamito could be considered a cook, but it would be asking for the impossible if he had to prepare breakfast for so many people in such short time.
"I didn't do it alone. It was all thanks to Velka and Delia's assistance."
"...Velka and Delia?"
Kamito asked in response. At that moment...
"Master, the teacups are here." "Master, what do we do next?"
Two identical girls poked their heads in from the gap in the door.
"It's fine now. Both of you worked very hard."
Rinslet patted the two of them on the head.
"Understood—" "Master praised us—"
The twins ran noisily along the corridor after saying that expressionlessly.
By Velka and Delia, she was apparently referring to the twins. Judging from their combat outfits under the aprons, they were probably Instructional School orphans taken in by Rubia.
"That's amazing. I can't believe you totally tamed assassins from the Instructional School..."
Kamito muttered while he sat down. Next...
"Kamito, I helped out too."
Under the table, Est poked her head out.
"What? So you went to the galley, huh?"
"Miss Sword Spirit helped in cutting ingredients."
"No fingers were cut, right?"
"No, I only cut ingredients, Kamito."
...Kamito never thought Est would turn herself into a kitchen knife.
As though competing against Restia, who was seated on Kamito's left, Est took over the seat to his right.
"Good morning, Miss Sword Spirit."
"...Good morning to you, darkness spirit."
However, when Restia greeted her with a smile, Est also returned the greeting politely.
...Somehow, it felt like Est's relationship with the amnesiac Restia was pretty good.
"Oh my, this is the fragrance of black tea."
Soon after, Fianna and Ellis entered the room.
"Which varieties of black tea would you like, everyone?"
"I would like to have Laurenfrost tea leaves, please."
"Same for me."
"I want to add honey and milk—"
After everyone indicated their preference, the two girls sat down opposite to Kamito.
"Ellis, how's Velsaria?"
Kamito asked the question, since the two of them were supposed to share a room—
"My esteemed sister is recuperating in the room. It seems that she pushed herself too much during the battle against the Imperial Knights."
With a slightly depressed look, Ellis answered.
She had displayed the Elemental Panzer's astounding destructive power back when Kamito's group were imprisoned at the Academy town. Due to its massive strain on her health, its operation time was apparently limited to only a minute, but reportedly, Velsaria had fought with power beyond the limit in order to buy time for Kamito's team to infiltrate the capital.
"...I see. I should visit her later."
"Hmm, if you come, I think my esteemed sister will be happy."
At that moment, Claire entered.
Seeing her appearance, Kamito felt strange.
...She did not look too energetic. A bit distracted.
"Claire, what happened? You don't look too well."
Noticing her childhood friend's change, Rinslet asked with concern.
"R-Really? You're imagining it. Just your imagination."
Claire hastily shook her head and answered in a cheerful voice as usual.
"Looks like a very delicious breakfast. Oh, it's my favorite sugar toast!"
(Your acting is a bit fake...)
...Did something happen between her and Rubia?
A while after everyone had sat down, Rubia was the last to appear.
"—All present I see. Well then, let me explain the plan from this point onwards."
Kamito did not miss it. At that moment, Claire had awkwardly avoided eye contact.
"—With this, we will cross the border to seek refuge in the Dragon Duchy of Dracunia."
Rubia spoke after taking her seat.
Everyone nodded silently. Since they had already heard about this before infiltrating the imperial capital, there were no questions raised.
"Will it really be okay? I don't want to be shot down as soon as we cross the border."
"Nothing of that sort will happen. We have already reached an agreement with the other side."
"Why Dracunia in particular?"
"There are two reasons. First of all, Dracunia's interests are aligned with ours—once the Ordesia Empire becomes the Holy Kingdom's puppet state, the balance of power between the various nations on the continent will be broken. The Dragon Nation is very concerned about that. Secondly, the Dragon Nation has the military might to deter the Empire from making a move. Otherwise, there would be no point in asking them to back us."
So that was the situation. Dracunia was not the only nation opposing the Holy Kingdom. There were others such as the Principality of Rossvale, but without the necessary military power to support them, those countries would not be able to protect the Legitimate Ordesia that existed in name only.
On that level, Dracunia the military state was definitely a reliable choice. Although the nation's overall resources were inferior to Ordesia, the strength of its military power was enough to intimidate its neighboring countries. With internal strife unresolved, even Ordesia would not dare to invade the Dragon Nation recklessly.
"By the way, I can't believe you even had contacts in Dracunia..."
"Aren't you backed by the Theocracy and the Demon King Cult?"
"The Theocracy intended from the start to exploit all the value they can extract before disposing of me. Hence, I consider them merely my previous insurance. After all, I know that Dracunia's Dragon King is interested in the plan to assassinate the Elemental Lords."
"What do you mean?"
Hearing that, Kamito frowned.
The plan to assassinate the Elemental Lords—This was Rubia's plan intending to bring about Kamito's awakening as the reincarnation of the Darkness Elemental Lord's power so that he could assassinate the Elemental Lords while entering an audience with them as a Blade Dance victor.
Dracunia's Dragon King had expressed interest in that plan, in other words—
"...The Dragon King is opposed to the Five Great Elemental Lords?"
"Dragon King Bahamut used to command forces on the Darkness Elemental Lord's side during the Spirit War between the Five Great Elemental Lords and the Darkness Elemental Lord. Hence, that king continues to regard the Elemental Lords as enemies."
"The Dragon King is a spirit on the Darkness Elemental Lord's side..."
Looking at the Water Elemental Lord's seal on her left hand from Iseria, Rinslet whispered quietly.
"I see now. It must be for the same reason that Dracunia is opposed to the Holy Kingdom which now holds the Fire Elemental Lord, right?"
"Probably yes... However, the Dragon King apparently has other designs—"
"I am not too sure on the veracity of that."
"However, there is no need to be concerned with that. Regardless, our interests are aligned. So long as we share the Holy Kingdom as a common enemy, we will be able to keep using this nation of Dracunia."
To exploit everything available in order to achieve a goal. Orphans from the Instructional School, militarized spirits, Murders, the Alphas Theocracy, the power of the Darkness Elemental Lord, Restia, Velsaria, and now Dracunia—That was probably her resolve as an avenger.
"Next, I shall issue the declaration of Legitimate Ordesia under Dracunia's protection, is that right?"
When Fianna asked, Rubia nodded calmly.
"Indeed. At the same time, expose and condemn the relationship between Arneus the foolish ruler and the Holy Kingdom. Although the neighboring nations will likely choose to observe for the time being, within the Empire itself, the anti-Arneus faction and some of the neutral nobles will probably respond to us. Ordesia will then become divided into two. We will make use of that chaos and use Dracunia's military power for support to seize the imperial capital back from Arneus' control."
"This will develop into a large-scale civil war..."
"Yes, but you should have prepared yourself already."
"Yes, I know very well..."
Fianna nodded with determination.
"However, with that, it would seem especially regrettable that we were unable to rescue Headmistress Greyworth at the imperial capital..."
Ellis murmured quietly.
Hearing that, Kamito and Fianna looked at each other.
"Yes, if only we could get Areishia Spirit Academy on our side."
"Oh, about that..."
Kamito spoke up. After all, the issue could not stay secret forever.
"What is it, Kamito?"
Ellis asked with a surprised look.
"Greyworth has fallen into the hands of the Holy Kingdom. She's hostile to us now... I think."
"What did you say!?" "What happened!?"
Ellis and Claire widened their eyes. Even Rubia could not help but frown.
"Kamito, what is going on?"
"I don't really know what happened either. It's just that those Holy Kingdom people seem to have done something to Greyworth."
Kamito recounted everything he had seen and heard at the time. Currently, Greyworth looked like a young girl and had recovered the power from her peak condition. The one controlling her was the Holy Kingdom cardinal, Millennia Sanctus, who was there with her.
"No way... The headmistress, I can't believe she became our enemy..."
Claire lamented in surprise.
Ellis and Rinslet were equally shocked, unable to speak.
"Is there any method to undo the headmistress' brainwashing?"
"...None at the moment, but I will absolutely find one."
"However, in the event that you cannot—"
Rubia spoke this time.
"Are you able to kill that Dusk Witch?"
Kamito was rendered speechless. At that very moment...
A loud siren started blaring in the ship.
As soon as Kamito and company arrived on the deck, they saw the enemy fleet in formation up ahead.
Three Wyvern-class escort vessels and one Gigantes-class battleship. This lineup was sufficient to shoot down the Revenant, a mid-sized military ship, despite its modifications.
"The Empire's Aerial Combat Knights, huh? They moved faster than expected."
While observing with a cylindrical telescope, Rubia commented.
"So they intend to shoot us down before we cross the border huh..."
"Is there any way to shake them off our trail?"
"We have the advantage in speed, but the fleet has blocked our route of advance. If we make a detour, I fear we may be caught in a pincer attack from additional reinforcements."
"So breaking through is the only way huh..."
Kamito crossed his arms and muttered.
"Does this Revenant have anti-ship weapons?"
"Compared to the battleship on the other side, virtually nil. The remodeling was limited to mobility."
"In other words, we'll be blown to bits in a direct fight."
"Shall I head out to persuade them?"
Fianna suggested then.
Indeed, there were people within the Empire's military that were dissatisfied with the current emperor, Arneus. If they were lucky, perhaps the entire fleet might change allegiance.
"Unfortunately, that probably will not work..."
"Why is that?"
"The flagship's banner belongs to Dame Arakeel of the Numbers. She has a straitlaced personality and therefore extremely loyal to the Ordesian throne. I do not expect her to be swayed."
"Arakeel... That blockhead, stubborn as a rock. Indeed, she is not one to listen to others."
Fianna sighed and shrugged.
At that moment...
"I shall sortie—"
A voice came from behind Kamito's group.
Limping on one leg, Velsaria appeared from the hatch.
"Velsaria, is it okay for you to walk?"
"...Hmph, this is nothing... Cough, huff..."
Velsaria groaned in pain, falling to her knees. Ellis rushed over to support her.
"Velsaria Eva, you are in no state to mobilize. If you use the Elemental Panzer now, know that you will turn into an utter wreck."
Rubia declared icily.
"No matter, I am one who has died once already."
Saying that, Velsaria grabbed the Blood Stone hanging on her neck.
"Stop it, you idiot!"
Kamito swiftly caught her hand.
"Ah, ooh... Y-You impudent knave, m-my, m-my hand...!"
Instantly, Velsaria blushed to her ears.
"I will find a solution here. Just leave it to me—"
"By finding a solution... Kamito, what is your plan?"
Hearing that, Claire asked.
"I will assault the flagship and eliminate the commander. Using that opening, you guys find a way to break through."
"It seems that is the only option open to us—"
Rubia nodded in agreement.
"Kamito, you are unable to fly, right? I shall deliver you to the fleet."
"Yeah, counting on you—"
Faced with Ellis' suggestion, Kamito nodded. Back in the Sylphid Knights, he had teamed up with Ellis plenty of times. With her, he had tacit coordination and understanding requiring no need for special training.
"Est, please turn into twin swords this time."
"Yes, I am Kamito's sword, your wish is my command."
Kamito held Est's hand and poured in divine power. Instantly, a pair of swords appeared in his hands, one black and one white. The dual wielding form was comparatively lower in the consumption of divine power and very suitable for chaotic battles on ships.
(...I've got to be careful not to get swallowed by Ren Ashdoll's power again.)
"I-I'll go too!"
Holding Flametongue, Claire spoke.
"No. As you are now, you will only be a burden."
Hearing Rubia's cold words, Claire bit her lip hard.
"Sorry, if I had to carry two people at the same time, I will lose mobility."
"...I-I got it, okay."
When rejected by Ellis as well, Claire gave up.
However, Kamito appreciated her goodwill greatly. He patted Claire on the head.
"H-Hwah... W-What are you doing, jeez..."
"Wait for me. I'll finish this quick and be back."
Standing at the deck's front, Ellis summoned her demon wind spirit.
"—Time to depart, Kamito!"
Kamito held Ellis' hand and they flew into the blue sky.
"Kamito, do not let go of my hand under any circumstance—"
"Yeah, I know—"
Kamito nodded. It would be over if he let go; he would fall straight to the ground.
"O-Of course, I do not mean for a lifetime or anything like that!"
"S-Say what again?"
Weaving through the artillery fire raining down upon them, Ellis controlled wind magic to fly acrobatically. With her amazing speed, she closed in on the formation of ships ahead of the Revenant.
Kamito could see the situation on the enemy decks. Probably not expecting a lone elementalist to attack directly, the Aerial Combat Knights were thrown into confusion. Almost all the knights on the ships were elementalists controlling flying spirits, but in terms of speed, Kamito was going to reach the deck faster than they could sortie.
"S-Shoot them down!"
Standing in formation on the decks, the knights fired countless arrows of spirit magic.
"—Incoming, Kamito, take care not to get shot!"
"Taking care is... Whoa!"
Ellis unleashed wind to further accelerate. She zigzagged in the air to skillfully dodge the curtain of spirit magic projectiles. With his view spinning, unable to tell up from down, Kamito did his best to hold onto Ellis' hand.
Although an arrow brushed past his cheek, scaring him for a moment there—
However, Ellis avoided all attacks perfectly.
"Great job. Ellis, the sky is your domain!"
"But it is impossible to get close to the ship like this—!"
While dodging the second wave of magical projectiles, Ellis cried out. Indeed, if they got stalled here, the Aerial Combat Knights were going to deploy their elemental waffen to intercept them directly.
Even for Kamito, Aerial Combat Knights were not easy to handle.
At that moment, a huge number of magical arrows flew at the two of them...
...were struck down by a rain of arrows coming from behind, exploding in midair.
Kamito looked back, only to see—
Rinslet standing on the Revenant's prow, holding her bow of magic ice.
Unbelievably, she was able to shoot from that distance to strike down every enemy arrow.
She tossed her long platinum blonde hair and made a thumbs-up sign proudly. After the rigors of the Blade Dance tournament, Rinslet's archery skills had improved dramatically.
Tiny crystals of crushed ice spread in the atmosphere, covering the view of Kamito and Ellis.
With the rain of arrows interrupted during this opening, there was no reason not to take advantage of it—
"Now is the moment to charge, Kamito!"
"Yeah, counting on you!"
Ellis swung Ray Hawk in response to Kamito's voice.
"Kamito, hold on to the spear's shaft—"
Kamito did as told and grabbed Ray Hawk.
"Then off you go—"
A rumbling and fierce storm began to gather at the spear tip.
Figuring out what Ellis was intending, Kamito could not help but cry out.
"Hold, are you for real!?"
"Of course. Break through the wind—Fahrengart style of the spear, Flying Strike!"
Ellis used all the divine power in her body to launch Ray Hawk with Kamito holding on to the spear.
The power of the wind, concentrated on the spear, was released all at once, turning it into a projectile of godlike speed.
Strike. The spear tip pierced the deck's surface—In that instant, an explosion occurred.
With explosive noise, the gigantic ship shook. The wooden floorboards were lifted up in a radial pattern, flying away from the deck with a scattering of debris.
Before the impact, Kamito had already let go to land with a crouching stance.
After evading the shockwave, he instantly stood up.
(...Quite crazy method, but oh well, it is quite efficient—)
While smiling wryly, he swiftly checked out his surroundings. Near the center of the explosion, Aerial Combat Knights had collapsed after getting blown away. They probably did not have enough time to chant defensive magic.
Standing upright on the ship, Ray Hawk turned into particles of light and disappeared.
Ellis' job was done. Next up—
(It's my turn to enter the stage—)
Kamito drew two copies of the Demon King's Sword, wielding one in each hand.
"S-Surround him! "The enemy is only one man!"
One after another, knights not caught in the shockwave began to surround Kamito with elemental waffen in their hands.
However, it was a poor decision.
"Absolute Blade Arts, Third Form—Shadowmoon Waltz!"
The black and white slashes traced out arcs to sweep away the surrounding knights. Easily breaking through the encirclement, Kamito ran towards the back of the military ship.
(Where's the commander?)
While taking down knights in his path successively, Kamito looked for the commander. Logically speaking, Ordesian knights would stand personally on the deck to give directions.
At that moment—
A blonde knight was standing openly at the bridge.
Despite being surrounded by chaos, she remained firm and unwavering.
Most likely, she was Dame Arakeel of the Numbers.
Sweeping away the glowing projectiles of spirit magic, coming from all directions, Kamito kicked the ground to gain speed.
"Oh? To come forth singlehandedly, how foolish—"
The Numbers knight—Dame Arakeel—laughed lightly and jumped down from the bridge.
"Become strength in my hand—blacksmith spirit Vulcanus!"
While she was yelling, gauntlets with shields merged with them appeared on her hands.
The heavy armor caused the ship's floorboards to sink.
Judging from the form of the elemental waffe, she seemed to be a power-type elementalist.
(I can't waste too much time—)
Kamito closed in instantly and lunged at her torso.
Aiming at a gap between the armor, he swung the two Demon King's Swords.
However, Arakeel instantly readied her shields and effortlessly blocked Kamito's attack.
(I knew it, relatively low-power attacks won't work huh—)
Kamito clicked his tongue mentally. Then—
Arakeel swung her gauntlet-clad fist.
Kamito jumped sideways in the nick of time to evade the attack.
However, the ensuing wave of attacks struck him. Kamito was blown away.
(...W-What's with this monstrous strength!?)
Kamito instantly renewed his stance and readied the twin swords.
Arakeel charged with great momentum, unleashing a fierce punch.
Kamito poured divine power into the twin swords, straining to block the punch.
Sparks scattered around instantly.
(...Not bad, it's so heavy—)
Witnessing the power of the Empire's strongest, the Numbers, Kamito could not help but click his tongue.
This was not a punch with strength alone. Instead, it was the pinnacle of martial arts combining offense and defense into one.
"Pretty good, brat. Were you not an enemy, I would have wanted to enjoy this thoroughly."
The heavy knight with the prim and proper face showed a savage grin. It looked like Ellis was right in calling her a straitlaced knight. The impression he got was completely different from Leschkir.
Creak creak creak creak... While blocking the punches whose pressure kept increasing, Kamito spoke up.
"...Say, could you temporarily turn a blind eye to that ship?"
"What now? Are you begging for mercy?"
"Arneus is the Holy Kingdom's puppet. If you have the Empire's interests in mind—"
"Hmph, you are truly blind to attempt persuasion. Every generation of my family consists of knights serving the imperial family. I will take orders from no one but the emperor alone!"
"Like I said, that emperor is—"
Arakeel's fist shone with an intense flash of light. It was the glow of massive divine power.
Kamito kicked his opponent's gauntlet to jump back. In the next instant, the fist of destruction shattered the ship's floorboards with an impact strong enough to shake the entire vessel.
(...I get it now. She really is as stubborn as a rock. Looks like there's no way to convince her.)
Kamito jumped onto the ship's edge. Instantly, a rain of glowing projectiles from spirit magic fell towards him. This was not Arakeel attacking but cover fire from the spirit knights.
(It's time to decide the match, or else I'll get completely surrounded...)
While using his twin swords to deflect the rain of magic arrows, Kamito closed in again.
Arakeel's defense was quite solid—Penetrating it was the key.
However, it was not like he could use Absolute Blade Arts repeatedly. The Absolute Blade Arts consumed a great amount of divine power to enhance the body. Once he ran low on divine power, that power of Ren Ashdoll's might start devouring him again.
(—I don't want to become the Demon King again.)
Hence, he had to create an opening sufficient to defeat the enemy. And he already had an idea.
"Assassination technique—Twin Snakes!"
Closing in the enemy from the front, Kamito released a sharp combination of strikes.
"This type of attack is useless against my Vulcanus!"
"Yeah, that maybe true—"
Arakeel widened her eyes.
Indeed, the haphazard slashes from the twin swords were part of Kamito's move for making the opponent underestimate him.
Blocking the attack easily, Arakeel was about to counterattack when in that instant—
(—Est, Mode Shift.)
The Demon King's Sword's dual sword form vanished. What appeared in Kamito's hands was the Demon Slayer.
This was the true form of the strongest sword spirit, Terminus Est.
Arakeel's blue eyes widened.
The weapon's sudden transformation made her react a beat too slow.
People capable of using elemental waffen with multiple forms were rare, but those who had mastered dual wielding and two-handed swords simultaneously were almost nonexistent.
Kamito's full powered strike was blocked by Arakeel hastily with her gauntlets. However, she did not manage to dissipate the impact. An opening appeared in her stance, then—
"Absolute Blade Arts, Sixth Form—Crushing Fang!"
The Absolute Blade Arts move for destroying weapons, which had defeated Hakua of the Four Gods during the Blade Dance, erupted.
The gauntlets blocking the sword were shattered.
Faced with Arakeel who had lost her defense, Kamito swiftly positioned his blade against her neck.
"Stop all ships from firing! Otherwise, her life is gone!"
In a voice loud enough to reach the entire deck, Kamito shouted.
"No way, Dame Arakeel has been...!?" "C-Curse him, that male elementalist!"
All the spirit knights surrounding Kamito changed expressions with alarm.
"Forget me! Kill this man—"
Arakeel called out loudly, but her subordinate knights did not move.
—Just as Kamito predicted.
Speaking of Ordesia's Numbers, they were heroes among heroes, idolized by the masses. Furthermore, this knight called Arakeel seemed like she would be deeply trusted by her subordinates.
Besides, this mission was not one that they undertook willingly. The Imperial Knights swore loyalty to the Ordesia Empire, not the imperial family—They would not go so far in following Arneus' orders as to the point of sacrificing Arakeel's life.
The battleship's artillery ceased firing. Soon after, the escort vessels also stopped their cannons.
Using this opening, the Revenant advanced calmly.
While threatening Arakeel with his sword, Kamito walked over to the ship's edge.
"Kamito, over here!"
Claire waved from the Revenant's deck.
Kamito took his sword away from Arakeel's neck and said:
"Sorry about that, let's have a fight, fair and square, next time—"
Saying that, he jumped off towards the deck of the Revenant that was passing directly beneath the battleship.
In an ideal situation, it would naturally be best to take Arakeel along as a hostage, but keeping a Numbers knight in captivity continuously would be quite a challenge. There was a possibility that she might rampage on the ship.
Behind the Revenant, which had gotten past them, the Empire's ships swiftly began to turn around. However, it was impossible for them to catch up to the remodeled Revenant's full speed.
"Well done, Kamito—"
Having returned to the ship first, Ellis raised her hand to high-five him.
"Seriously, you solved the problem alone..."
Claire murmured quietly.
Carrying Kamito and company, the Revenant flew swiftly between the clouds.
"Very soon, we will be crossing the border into the Dragon Duchy of Dracunia..."
Fianna pointed at the Kelbreth Mountain Range, visible ahead.