Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume16 Chapter2
Chapter 2 - The Darkness of Zohar
Dawn. After a few hours of sleep, Kamito exited his room while carrying a bag of souvenirs, then made his way towards Dragon King Bahamut's throne room.
Kamito wanted to express his gratitude for the recovery of Restia's memories. More importantly, Kamito could not help but worry about her after the ordeal from Millennia's Otherworldly Darkness corrupting her.
Advancing along the corridor of rugged stone, he arrived at the throne room.
At the entrance, two guards were standing in front of the massive door. Noticing Kamito's arrival, they silently saluted him.
"I wish to pay my respects to the Dragon King."
"His Majesty has given you permission. Please enter."
Bowing his head slightly at the two guards, Kamito walked through the door.
(...It seems like she knew I'd come over.)
Due to being cursed by the Earth Elemental Lord thousands of years ago, she was confined to this fortress, unable to take a single step outside. However, she kept herself well-informed about happenings in the fortress.
As he continued along the corridor, accompanied by his own echoing footsteps, he finally reached a great hall lined with stone columns.
This was the throne room, the place from where Dragon King Bahamut of Dracunia ruled.
Kamito approached the pedestal—
"—Welcome, preordained one. O member of the habitually slothful race."
A thunderous roar, seemingly causing the ground to shake, echoed in the hall.
Kamito halted. Bright light was generated overhead, illuminating the top of the pedestal. Thick mist appeared underfoot, instantly filling the surroundings with an unpleasant atmosphere.
Behind the curtains draping down from the ceiling, a humongous silhouette came into view.
It was the shadow of a fearsome giant dragon with a pair of curving horns.
"I, king of kings and the ruler of dragonkind, have been waiting for thee—"
"...Uh, could you cut it out with the acting?"
Kamito interrupted the booming voice with eyes narrowed.
After a brief moment of silence...
"...My goodness, to think I took the trouble to prepare and all."
The curtain over the pedestal rose continuously. Dracunia's Dragon King revealed her true visage.
Sitting far back behind the curtain was not a giant dragon—
Instead, it was a young girl with a pair of bewitching eyes of red.
Glowing faintly with phosphorescence, her lustrous hair was lapis lazuli in color. Kamito could not help but feel mesmerized by her pale and slender limbs.
However, the girl featured traits that were clearly not human.
On the sides of her head was a total of two beautifully curving horns.
Indeed, the true form of the Dragon King ruling over Dracunia, a major power in the international scene, was—
This dragon spirit with the appearance of an adorable young girl.
The dragon spirit girl, Bahamut, was pouting and glaring at Kamito. She was a bit offended that her painstakingly prepared performance had been disregarded.
"...From what I can see, it looks like you're fine?"
Towards the girl before him, Kamito averted his gaze slightly and said.
This was not because of the imposing presence of the strongest dragon spirit. Instead, he was avoiding her gaze that was malicious as always.
Pale as a polished pearl, her arms and legs like exquisite sculptures.
Furthermore, there were the two gentle mounds on her chest.
Her beautiful body, seemingly the masterpiece of gods, was in Kamito's full view without reserve.
Although her breasts and lower abdomen were hidden among the branches and leaves of trees, Kamito was still quite stunned by her racy appearance.
Did she sense Kamito's response?
"Oh dear, were you worrying about me? I, the Dragon King—"
She smiled mischievously.
"Yeah, I guess so..."
"Fufu, what a lovely feeling, to have someone worry about me. It has been thousands of years since the last time."
Nothing less expected from a spirit. The Dragon King casually referenced a time scale of unimaginable magnitude. Kamito ascended the steps up to the throne and sat down on a tree next to the throne.
"...? What is with this very fragrant aroma?"
The Dragon King furrowed her brow and remarked while sniffing.
"I brought souvenirs to visit you. That being said, I'm really sorry it's only cheap stuff..."
Kamito took out a bun, unwrapped the oilpaper around it, and handed it to the Dragon King.
This was a snack he had bought at a stall he had passed by when Leonora was taking him on a tour of the city.
It consisted of minced meat and finely diced vegetables wrapped in pastry, then deep fried after sprinkling a generous helping of pepper.
According to Leonora, this was apparently the most delicious food in the entire city. Kamito had tried one at the time and indeed, it was very delicious.
"What a rare offering... Is it food?"
Looking at the bun, the Dragon King examined it with a gaze of intense curiosity.
"It's one of Dracunia's famed specialties, the deep-fried bun... Don't tell me you haven't heard of it?"
"It is my first time seeing it. One would be hard pressed to find the food of commoners appear among offerings."
"You are the king, after all. Aren't you able to get your hands on any kind of offering you want?"
"Impossible. As the king, my dignity would be utterly obliterated if I were to demand the food of commoners."
"...I see. It's tough being the king sometimes."
Kamito remarked honestly.
"Indeed. Things are already better nowadays. There were times in the past when a hundred cattle or live sacrifices of young women were offered to me. Well, I suppose I am simply getting my just deserts as the culprit for crafting the image of the ferocious Dragon King in the first place..."
"...You've got it rough."
Saying that, the Dragon King suddenly shrugged and presented her tender lips to Kamito.
Puzzled, Kamito could not help but tilt his head.
"Well, could you hurry up and feed that to me?"
"Well, my hands... are bound. Due to this infernal curse."
"O-Ohhhh, I see—"
The Dragon King's body was bound to this land because of the Earth Elemental Lord's curse. The slightest motion from her and branches would wrap around her limbs, immobilizing her.
"But if that's the case, what do you do with the offerings served by the princess maidens?"
"All this time, I simply dismiss them after sniffing their scent. Presumably, my princess maidens end up sharing my offerings among themselves."
True, spirits did not require food to sustain their existences. All they needed to do was replenish their spiritual energy, divine power.
Although spirits were also able to derive some energy from food, princess maidens served food to spirits as offerings only for the sake of pleasing them. For example, Est and Scarlet joined Kamito and company at meals, but for spirits, this was not essential. However, Kamito felt bad for Bahamut to have food in front of her yet be unable to eat it.
"...Fine, I get it. Umm, open your mouth."
Cough cough. Kamito spoke after coughing a little.
"Hmm, w-well, this is making me a little nervous..."
The Dragon King spoke, quite embarrassed apparently, opening her adorable lips with an "Ah."
To avoid looking at her naked body, Kamito mustered all his willpower to divert his gaze. With his fingers, he pushed the bun into those lovely lips.
"...Umph. Umph umph."
The Dragon King savored the bun carefully. Anyone watching this scene would probably have difficulty associating her with King Bahamut of Dracunia, feared by all the nations on the continent.
"Ahh, to think that such a delicacy existed in this world!"
With crumbs all over her mouth, she exclaimed with a radiant smile of happiness.
Kamito was glad that she enjoyed it.
"Hey, it's all over your mouth."
Kamito was just about to wipe the corner of her lips when...
"H-Hold it right there. What are you doing!?"
Blushing intensely, the Dragon King tried to escape.
"Be a good girl and don't move."
"...Excuse me, need I remind you that I am the Dragon King of Dracunia? As Ren Ashdoll's trusted commander, I am the strongest dragon spirit, legendary class according to the classifications of your kind—Mmph!"
"Yeah yeah, whatever..."
Kamito carefully wiped the lips of the Dragon King who kept struggling.
...The Dragon King's dignity was rendered completely moot.
"See, it's all clean now."
"Ooh, to think that you are the first one to put me, the Dragon King, in such a state of embarrassment—"
The Dragon King glared tearfully at Kamito again.
Smiling wryly, Kamito stood up.
"Well, it's time for me to head back."
"...I see. I understand."
The Dragon King spoke with a hint of loneliness. A tree branch reached for Kamito's forehead and left a small mark behind. This was Dragon's Protection for travelers, praying for safe passage, a traditional Dracunian good luck charm.
"I will pray for success in your Theocracy mission."
"Yeah, you can count on me."
Kamito nodded seriously.
The aforementioned Theocracy mission was part of Dracunia's terms for recognizing Legitimate Ordesia. This mission involved rescuing the Theocracy's second princess, Saladia Kahn, from imprisonment.
Dracunia's intention was probably to undermine Sjora's administration using Saladia as a puppet. Despite the Dragon King's appearance of a young girl, in this context, she was ruler who had governed this nation for centuries, after all.
(...The Alphas Theocracy, huh?)
This was the land that had given rise to the Instructional School, stood as the headquarters of the Demon King cult, as well as being the birthplace of the Demon King.
With his current and gradual awakening as the Demon King, Kamito felt the hand of fate in his going to the Theocracy at this point in time. He quietly clenched his fist.
Meanwhile on Dragon's Peak on Kelbreth Mountain, Claire and her comrades were inside the temple of the dark dragon, where Rubia had previously trained, working hard to surpass their own limits.
Using an ancient device invented by the Elfim race, the girls had been transported to alternate dimensions to face their own respective trials. Right now, they kept drawing out the potential hidden within themselves.
"Let's go, Scarlet!"
Responding to Claire's summon, a girl wrapped in flames flew out of thin air. Moving between the trees with speed faster than the naked eye could follow, Scarlet unleashed a sweeping strike with her flaming scythe.
Foolish darkness spirits were instantly burned to ash. Over there—
"Turn in to charcoal!"
Claire's prided skill of Fireball exploded with perfect timing.
The surrounding darkness spirits were obliterated together with the trees.
Spinning in the air, Scarlet landed securely on the ground. Despite making a thumbs-up at Scarlet and showing a carefree expression, Claire exhibited clear signs of fatigue on her face.
"Huff... Huff... I knew it. Sustaining this form requires frightening amounts of divine power."
Panting, Claire sat down on the spot.
Although she had defeated the illusion of her elder sister, liberating Scarlet's true form of Ortlinde by her own will, Claire still had far to go in mastering control of the supreme flame spirit.
"...With this, I can't summon an elemental waffe either."
"With sustained training, you will surely attain complete control of me, because Master, your talent surpasses Rubia-sama's."
"Me, stronger than Nee-sama? No way, you must be kidding—"
Claire objected, shaking her head.
"Master, I chose to form a contract with you instead of choosing Rubia-sama. Please be more confident in yourself—"
Twitching her fiery ears, Scarlet encouraged Claire.
"I have been watching the whole time, even as a hell cat, watching the way you have worked hard, Master. You will definitely be fine—"
Claire stood up unsteadily.
Murmuring, she sounded like she was talking to herself.
"...That's right, I have to stand by Kamito's side—"
In other dimensions, the trio of Ellis, Rinslet and Fianna should be undergoing their own trials too. As the leader of Team Scarlet, it would be unacceptable to give up here.
"Now that is the spirit, Master!"
Scarlet nodded firmly. Although her expressionless demeanor rivaled Est's, there was definite warmth and feeling in her words.
"...Then let's keep going... Eh, hold on a sec—"
...At that moment, Claire suddenly felt concerned about something.
"Just now, you said you were watching me the whole time... The whole time? Even at night while I'm sleeping too...?"
Claire's face was flushed completely red.
"L-Let me make myself clear. Don't get the wrong idea about what I do every night before going to sleep, okay? I-It's just exercise for upping my bust size!"
"...Really? I thought you were pleasuring yourself every night while thinking of Kamito-sama—"
"...Y-You idiot! You've got it totally wrong!"
With her red hair standing on end, Claire kept hammering her fists against Scarlet's shoulder.
The sky over the desert was currently shrouded by thick black clouds.
The Theocracy's capital of Zohar was the city that Demon King Solomon had founded a thousand years ago.
During the Demon King War, Sacred Maiden Areishia had led the Salvation Army to burn down the city, turning it into ruins. A couple centuries later, it was revived as a major metropolis, serving as a transport hub in continental trade.
At the heart of Zohar was Scorpia, the Demon Scorpion Palace where the hierarch resided.
Although people always thought of Scorpia as the castle where Demon King Solomon lived, that was actually not true. During the time of the Demon King War, it was merely the location of a military stronghold. The Demon King's true residence remained a mystery to this day.
Scorpia at Zohar had been built three hundred years ago. Due to the tyrannical administration at the time, it was known as the era of the Mad Lord, Targal Solomon, who styled himself as the reincarnation of the Demon King. He was assassinated by his retainer Hajid Kahn. Thereafter, his legacy was inherited by his descendants as successive hierarchs of the Demon King cult.
Right now, the one sitting on the hierarch's throne was Sjora Kahn, the Witch of Venomous Snakes.
After the conclusion of the Blade Dance tournament, she had assassinated her own father to usurp the throne.
The witch with eyes of red—
"...What a pain. They keep popping up endlessly like maggots no matter how many we kill."
Standing at a balcony of the palace, Sjora looked at the plaza and gnashed her teeth in annoyance.
Displayed on the palace plaza were the decapitated corpses of traitors.
This was meant to warn those who disrespected her. However, even after executing more than half of the old retainers, traitorous rebels still kept appearing out of the woodwork.
Thanks to the Holy Kingdom's aid, the coup d'etat itself was a success, but Sjora's control of the nation was nowhere near firm. Opposition to Sjora's ascension was erupting all over the Theocracy, producing insurgencies in various cities. Led by Dracunia, first and foremost, the surrounding nations were also watching menacingly. Then there was Murders, the merchant faction local to Zohar, that regarded this as a business opportunity and was secretly fanning flames of civil unrest.
"...Why, why isn't everything in my control!?"
Unable to suppress her anger, Sjora threw a wine glass against a wall, smashing it.
"Sjora-sama! Is something wrong!?"
Hearing the commotion, princess maidens ran to the balcony in panic.
A girl named Valmira had been looking after Sjora's daily needs ever since childhood. She was Sjora's closest of confidants and her only trusted retainer in the palace.
"...Nothing. Go bring me a replacement glass."
"As you wish—"
Looking at the timid girl who had her head down, Sjora asked impatiently:
"Do you have something to report to me?"
Valmira hesitated before shutting her mouth.
"Out with it, quick. Or would you like to join those people lying in the plaza?"
After Sjora spoke with threatening tone, Valmira finally mustered her determination and spoke:
"Just now, I received news of the rebel army gathering at the military stronghold of the Demon's Fist."
"The Demon's Fist—"
Sjora narrowed her eyes slightly.
The Demon's Fist was an impregnable fortress built at the mining city of Mordis, situated northeast of Zohar. On top of a rocky mountain, it was named for its appearance that resembled a raised fist. Mordis was not only an important military base but also the top producer of spirit crystals in the country. Without a hold on Mordis, any talk of unifying the country would be utterly ludicrous.
"All previous rebellions had been small in scale within towns and cities, but this time they have united together. I fear that relying on our domestic forces will no longer be enough."
Valmira's gaze showed urgency.
In truth, the Theocracy's army was pitifully weak compared to that of Ordesia or Dracunia. Furthermore, their morale had fallen dramatically after suppressing these increasingly serious rebellions. Not only that, a substantial proportion had deserted the army and betrayed the hierarch by secretly joining the rebel army. If their own nation's army failed to quell the rebellions, it would give other countries a pretext for military intervention.
"Of course, these traitors deserve nothing less than the hammer of punishment—"
Valmira timidly sneaked a glance at her monarch's face.
But unexpectedly, Sjora did not show signs of anger.
Licking her blood-red lips, she sneered with delight.
"Is that so? For them to gather in one spot, how perfect."
"...May I ask what do you mean by that?"
"I have grown weary of playing with bugs. This is an excellent chance to exterminate them in one fell swoop, these fools who dare to oppose me."
"Well, you have a point there, but..."
Valmira swallowed the words that were about to leave her lips.
Easier said than done. Since ancient times, the Demon's Fist had been an impregnable fortress. That was presumably the reason why the rebel army had chosen it as their stronghold. Given the Theocracy's current military strength, conquering it would not be that easy.
"—Let's use that and we'll be able to take care of them instantly."
Valmira cocked her head... What on earth was she talking about?
"Yes, it would be perfect as a test subject, wouldn't you agree?"
The moment Sjora Kahn grinned with a sneer...
Valmira finally understood her intent.
"...No way, you intend to release that seal!?"