Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume17 Chapter10
Chapter 10 - The Two Blade Dancers
—Dispassionate Queen of Steel, the sacred sword that incubates true darkness.
—Now form the Sword of the Celestial Demon and be the power in my hand!
Lurie Lizaldia reached into the air.
Millennia Sanctus' body then turned into particles of light and vanished.
Seeing the object that manifested in Lurie's hand the next instant—
(...! What the hell?)
Kamito mentally jumped in surprise.
His memories from the underground battle under the Academy town awakened. The elemental waffe he had witnessed back then was supposed to be a terrifying demon sword, quite similar to Greyworth's.
But this time, held in her hand was a double-edged sword shining with silver-white sacred light.
Although the spirit Iris had described her as a being neither spirit nor human—
Since she could turn into an elemental waffe, that meant she was a spirit after all?
Kamito stared at the silver-white sword held up in Lurie's hands.
Probably a sword spirit like Est. The hilt's decoration also seemed a bit similar.
Although probably not in the same class as the Demon Slayer, given that Millennia could also take on human form, then surely she must be high-level spirit.
Kamito's neck perspired a little.
"Hand over the sacred relic, Ren Ashbell."
"What lies hidden in the deepest part of this Tomb."
Lurie held up her sword-shaped elemental waffe at a slant.
Kamito had never seen such a stance before. It was not Ordesian swordsmanship.
"How ironic. The Holy Kingdom considers the Demon King's Coffin a sacred relic?"
"—Fufu, how utterly ignorant."
Instantly, Lurie's blood lust exploded.
A flash within a breath's duration. Lurie closed the distance all at once.
This was terrain reduction, a basic martial arts skill executed by concentrating divine power underfoot then exploding it. However, her speed was extraordinary. In merely an instant, she had closed in on Kamito far away to engage in combat.
A scattering of sparks. The violent clash of steel resounded throughout the temple.
Using the Demon Slayer, Kamito blocked the heavy first strike.
(...! What's with this crazy strength!?)
Using her momentum, Lurie swung her sword fully.
Kamito was blown away by the impact.
Hastily, Kamito stabbed the Demon Slayer into the floor to resist the force.
With a savage grin on her face, Lurie stepped forward.
Boom—With a noise resembling the firing of a projectile, she charged.
Kamito swung his sacred sword from its downward pointing position, using the reaction force from his movement to deflect Lurie's blade.
While the sword traced out a semi-circular flash, Kamito jumped at the same time.
Moonlit Sky Dash—This was a half-baked move of the Absolute Blade Arts that did not consume divine power.
The Demon King's black garb spun in the air. Then—
"Absolute Blade Arts, Second Form—Meteor!"
Kamito crossed his two swords and swung them down.
The astounding impact was unleashed together with the sound of an explosion.
The stone floor was dug up radially, forming a huge crater.
—However, he was a moment too late. Lurie had already jumped.
Follow-up attack. With his back to the scattering debris, Kamito kicked the ground.
"Absolute Blade Arts, First Form—Purple Lightning."
He released explosive divine power in an instant. Leaving an afterimage, he charged right up to his enemy.
The activation speed of this move was as quick as lightning streaking across the sky, hence its name.
However, Lurie was already prepared. Her lips fluttered slightly.
"—Day of wrath, sword apostles, to your positions with haste!"
What appeared before Kamito were countless swords of light, sprouting from the floor.
This was spirit magic of steel affinity. It would be easy to use the Demon Slayer's strength to sweep them all away, but—
(A trap, huh?)
Kamito felt from instinct. There was something ominous about Lurie's sword stance.
The spirit magic was a ruse to lure him into charging in.
Kamito stabbed his sword into the ground to halt his momentum. Immediately, he jumped sideways next.
Lurie's eyes widened slightly. Sure enough, she had planned to counterattack.
All pointing at Kamito, the swords of light began to pursue him like a shoal of fish.
"Absolute Blade Arts, Third Form—Shadowmoon Waltz, Double Turn!"
Three simultaneous flashes of the sword completely shredded the swords of light.
He landed. Just as the hem of his garment touched the ground, Lurie instantly closed in from the front.
Exhaling sharply, she executed killing sword move.
It was a swift thrust rivaling the Purple Lightning Kamito had just performed.
Too late to block. Kamito twisted his head in the nick of time and dodged. His cheek was scratched lightly, producing a splatter of blood. Had he evaded a beat slower, Kamito's head would have separated from his body.
Kamito lost balance slightly. Immediately—
A storm-like flurry of sword strikes attacked Kamito.
Kamito hastily used both swords to defend. However, he failed to deflect everything. The frenzy of silver-white sword moves mercilessly slashed Kamito's shoulder.
Est cried out.
Kamito exhaled mightily. Instead of faltering, he stepped forward.
Caught by surprise, Lurie hastily backed away.
"—Go forth and pierce, Vorpal Blast!"
Released from the demon sword's blade, jet-black lightning poured towards Lurie—
"—Day of punishment, may the branded be protected!"
A magic circle appeared in front of her. The barrier of light neutralized the demon lightning of darkness.
Grand Alexandros—Top-tier spirit magic only talented individuals bearing the rank of saint were capable of using.
"—What a shame. A darkness spirit's power doesn't work against me."
Indeed, the holy spirit magic she used was extremely unfavorable for Restia, a darkness spirit. This was precisely why during the Blade Dance three years ago, Ren Ashbell had faced an unexpectedly tough battle against the paladin Luminaris.
Among all the opponents Kamito had ever fought, Lurie was undoubtedly top-class.
If Greyworth's sword was like a storm, then Lurie's would be like swift wind.
Sure enough, last time they fought underground of the Academy, she was only testing him.
"Strong as they say, expected of the strongest Blade Dancer."
Lurie spoke praise.
"Same goes for you. Miraculous Healer, gimme a break."
Holding his shoulder, Kamito brought up her nickname back when she was part of the Numbers.
"Healing is my profession. Swordsmanship is just a hobby."
"Liar. You're stronger than anyone in the Numbers."
Saying that, Kamito spat blood at his feet.
"Yggdra Saint Asoritess, winner of the Blade Dance fifteen years ago."
"Ah, so you know—"
Hearing him, Lurie smiled wryly.
"Even though my appearance is completely different from back then."
She was a top-tier healer. Altering her appearance would have been a piece of cake.
"Why are you joining forces with the Holy Kingdom when you're a Blade Dance winner?"
Entering a stance with the dual swords of darkness and steel in his hands, Kamito asked.
"I'll tell you if you can defeat me."
Likewise, Lurie readied her sacred sword at a slant.
"We are both winners of the Blade Dance. Let us decide here and now who deserves the name of the Strongest Blade Dancer."
"...Both winners? Please—"
Kamito laughed fearlessly.
"There are plenty of Blade Dance winners, but I am the strongest of all time and no one else."
Saying that, he took off the Garb of the Lord that he had been wearing.
"...? What are you doing—"
Unable to understand Kamito's actions, Lurie frowned.
Kamito moved his neck in a circle and pressed his hand on his shoulder.
There were no wounds at the place where Lurie's sword had slashed.
Presumably, the Garb of the Lord had defended him. Living up to its name as a legendary artifact, its properties were nothing to sneer at.
'Kamito, what are you doing!?'
Seeing Kamito take off the black garment, Restia grumbled.
"...Wait, you must have noticed halfway through."
When confronted with his argument, the darkness spirit stayed silent in embarrassment.
"Although I'll have to say sorry to Iris-san, but this is too far away from my own style."
In fact, Kamito had felt a tiny sense of dissonance when he first put on the black garment—
He confirmed it when he performed an Absolute Blade Art—Purple Lightning.
Apparently, the curse woven into the black fabric would disrupt the flow of divine power.
Even though its defensive properties were outstanding, wearing it would dull the sharpness of the Absolute Blade Arts, which required precise control of divine power.
Sure enough, this was something that only Demon King Solomon could use to full effect.
Back in his familiar Areishia Spirit Academy uniform look, Kamito performed a few swings of the sword in a relaxed manner.
"I knew it, this outfit prepared by the hag suits me better."
"Are you sure? Ren Ashbell."
Watching him, Lurie spoke.
"It was all thanks to that black outfit that you escaped a critical wound just now, right?"
Kamito admitted it simply.
Just as she had pointed out, if the slash earlier had cut him directly, his shoulder would have been deeply injured.
"Don't worry. Your sword will no longer hit me."
"...! What a joke—Ren Ashbell!"
Lurie's blood lust exploded.
"What on earth are you doing!?"
"W-What choice do I have? We'll both get turned to charcoal if I refused."
While walking along the main road, Ellis and Claire were whispering to each other.
They glanced behind them—
A spirit with the appearance of a young girl was walking a few steps behind them, looking at the buildings with curiosity.
For some unknown reason, the spirit seemed to like Claire in particular, asking about this or that in the streets and even inquired about things such as customs in the human realm.
(...Who exactly is this child?)
She was undoubtedly quite a high-ranked spirit, but in that case, why was she traveling with the Holy Kingdom's knights? Suppose she were a spirit converted for military use, there was no way she would be able to behave so independently and arbitrarily.
(Or maybe she's not part of their group?)
No matter what, the current situation must be unexpected for the Holy Kingdom's knights too.
Right now, the knights were surely sending spirits to track them. Although Ellis had sent out wind spirits to interfere with tracking, however—A fight was guaranteed as soon as they encountered each other.
(Before that happens, we have to meet up with Kamito as soon as possible...)
While strolling the streets with the girl and keeping her happy, they had to look for Kamito without the Holy Kingdom's knights finding them. This was quite a tough mission.
"Hell cat girl, what is that building? I sense the powers of my fire spirit kin."
With eyes filled with curiosity, the girl pointed to a building that had a chimney.
"That's a pottery workshop. Inside, they have fire spirits working kilns for firing pottery."
A knowledgeable honors student, Claire explained to her.
"Oh I see... Earth is good. Even though earth is stubborn, we get along well."
The girl nodded with satisfaction, murmuring incomprehensibly to herself.
"Large pottery workshops would also have water spirits and wind spirits, as well as princess maidens to serve them. Water spirits are in charge of kneading clay while wind spirits are in charge of drying them."
"Water... That girl is hard for me to deal with..."
Tugging Ellis' sleeve, Claire whispered in her ear.
"Hmm, she doesn't seem to be that bad a spirit. Let's continue observing."
"I have no opinion on that. However, why are you the only one she acts friendly towards? Any clues to that?"
"Like I said, I just happen to resemble the princess maiden who used to be contracted to her—"
"Are such coincidences likely?"
"What are you two whispering about?"
Secretly conversing, the two girls instantly jumped in surprise.
"J-Just discussing where to continue our tour next."
"Hmm, then it is fine—"
Hearing Claire's explanation, the girl soon returned to a good mood—
"Then what place are you showing me next?"
With eyes filled with anticipation, she looked at them.
Claire pondered briefly—
"Before I lead the way, there's something I'd like to ask."
"Request permitted. You are in my favor. Ask away."
Always maintaining her haughty attitude, the girl nodded.
"Just now in the plaza, weren't you together with those Holy Kingdom knights? Are they your friends?"
"Those people, huh—"
Hearing that, the girl fidgeted with her hair in boredom.
"I merely lend them some power because they said they wanted to borrow my help. As for what they are doing, I have no idea."
(...In other words, even though they're cooperating, she's not being commanded?)
Claire wondered in her mind.
"Then they were the ones who asked you to wreck the city?"
"Hmm. More precisely, they asked to open a hole in the pyramid."
Sure enough, the straight line of destruction in the city was merely for creating a shortcut.
"W-What!? I cannot believe you wrecked the city for such a reason!"
As expected, Ellis began to get mad.
"Why get so worked up? Aren't there plenty of such mere buildings?"
"Ellis, calm down!"
Claire hastily tried to restrain the justice-minded Ellis—
Then she asked the girl, who was tilting her head in puzzlement.
"...I get it now. But please don't burn the city any more."
Claire looked straight into the girl's eyes.
In response, the girl blinked her eyes, which happened to be the same color as Claire's—
"...So alike, as I thought."
She murmured quietly.
"Very well. I burned it only because it was in my way. Unnecessary destruction is not to my liking either."
(...Hmm, she does listen.)
Originally worried if she might get angry, Claire breathed a sigh of relief.
...Next, the trio continued to walk the streets, arriving at another plaza.
There was not a single person in sight in this plaza. Probably due to the explosion earlier, everyone had fled.
"Looks like Kamito had been to this plaza—"
Hearing whispers from the wind, Ellis spoke.
"Jeez, where the heck has he run off to..!?"
Never did it occur to the two girls that he was already inside the pyramid.
Just then, the spirit girl sniffed.
"There is an aroma in the air. Hell cat girl, what is it?"
She pointed at an unattended shop.
"It's a food stand. Until just now, this should've been a busy market—"
"But everyone seems to have fled."
"I-I already said I wouldn't!"
The girl looked away in embarrassment.
"By the way, is that an offering?"
With a flutter of her scarlet dress, she walked briskly to approach the shop.
"Oh no, don't take things without permission!"
"Stealing is wrong!"
Claire and Ellis hastily chased after her.
It seemed to be a shop selling baked goods.
Unlike the fashionable shops at the Academy town, there were no glass display windows or the like here.
What the spirit girl was especially interested in were baked goods resembling donuts with abundant sugar sprinkled over deep-fried dough.
"Hell cat girl, I want that one."
"Wanting it is fine, but you have to pay properly."
"No. Isn't it a matter of fact that whatever I want must be offered up to me?"
She brought up a barbaric philosophy in response.
"If denied to me, I suppose I might as well burn everything—"
"W-Wait, stop it right there! Why are you jumping to that conclusion!?"
Seeing a fireball appear in the girl's hand, Claire could not help but shout.
"Didn't you just promise not to destroy the city!?"
Unexpectedly, the girl nodded obediently and dispelled the surging flames.
"Sigh, I feel like I'm being dragged around by the nose..."
Claire sighed and took out some silver coins that she had exchanged earlier.
"We have to put down the money properly. Then it's okay, right?"
"...That still is not right, but I shall overlook it this once."
The rigid Ellis seemed to acquiesce.
Holding a donut, the spirit girl stared intently at it.
"What's the matter, you're not going to eat it?"
"How do I eat this?"
"Take a bite, like this—"
Claire opened her mouth and bit a donut. Daughters of nobility normally had little chance of coming across this type of food, but Rinslet frequently made donuts as refreshments
Although the donut was not fresh out of the fryer, it was sweet, fluffy with a crisp surface. Very delicious.
Imitating Claire, the girl began to take big bites.
"I see. This is good. Praiseworthy."
With her mouth stuffed with donut, she looked as adorable as a small pet.
Probably because she was in a good mood, the tips of her curved horns even had small flames lighting up.
(...If I had a little sister, would she be like this?)
Claire suddenly remembered something.
"What is it, hell cat girl?"
"...What is your name again?"
Ellis had panic on her face.
Asking a high-level spirit for their name would be regarded as rude behavior.
In fact, the girl seemed quite angry when Claire asked for her true name previously.
"After all, it's hard to address her without a name."
Claire argued back.
"It doesn't have to be a true name. A nickname like Scarlet is fine too."
"Hmm, a nickname, huh? In that case—"
The spirit girl nodded.
"I am addressed as Lord."
"Hmm, how now, what is with your reaction?"
"Uh, you got the wrong idea—"
Just as Claire was about to complain...
A sharp voice resounded across the entire plaza.
Claire looked back—
Only to see a team of knights with swords drawn, surrounding the plaza.
The voice belonged to Luminaris of the Sacred Spirit Knights.
"...! We are discovered—!?"
Ellis immediately deployed her elemental waffe—Ray Hawk.
Ayla Cedar was the special operative in the Sacred Spirit Knights. She specialized in espionage and tracking. Presumably, her shadow spirit, Shade Wolf, had followed them.
Luminaris' eyes widened in surprise.
"Claire Rouge of Ordesia. Why are you here!?"
"...! Claire, what do we—"
Ellis bit her lip and asked Claire behind her.
...But Claire did not answer.
Ellis looked back—
"...Did you say Volcanicus?"
Gone pale in the face, Claire was staring at the spirit girl.
Lurie Lizaldia's thrust traced a trajectory like lightning. This was a sword skill executed with extreme mastery of terrain reduction. Its speed was comparable to Purple Lightning's.
Faced with such a blade—
"Don't think you're still fighting the me just now—"
As the two fighters crossed, Kamito used his demon sword to counter her move.
Timing perfectly to take into account his enemy's sword speed and even the angle of her blade, Kamito mounted a perfect counterattack.
Her thrust was designed to execute a follow up attack any time even if the first strike failed to connect.
But Kamito easily thwarted that intention.
Lurie was shoved aside, blown away while brushing against the ground.
The brightness of divine power left a trail of afterimages in the darkness. In that instant, she spun and kicked the ground, slashing with her sword like a whip.
However, Kamito read her attack in advance. Forcibly executing an attack while off balance would lead to critical openings—Kamito raised the Demon Slayer fluidly.
With the acute noise of metal clashing, Lurie's arm was deflected upwards.
Kamito immediately swung the demon sword of darkness, striking the body of her blade heavily.
Witnessing his blade dance movements that almost seemed like spectacular performance, Lurie shuddered in terror.
His entire body's movements were completely different from just now.
Did such a massive change come about simply from him taking off the black outfit?
"...I see. Looks like you weren't bluffing."
Probably realizing she would be overwhelmed in close quarters combat, she kicked the floor and backed away.
Then making a hand sign, she swiftly chanted spirit magic.
Zap zap—seven spheres of light appeared out of thin air with lightning, hurtling towards Kamito.
This was Lightning Ball—high-level spirit magic that launched a homing ball of holy elemental lightning.
There were only a handful of elementalists in the Holy Kingdom capable of reciting the incantation seven times simultaneously.
"Can you dodge all of them, Ren Ashbell!?"
"I don't need to dodge!"
Kamito took a breath and spun around, swinging the Demon Slayer.
Glowing with silver-white brilliance, the blade swept away the lightning balls surrounding Kamito all at once.
"You erased them simply with the sword's aura!?"
Lurie's face was contorted by shock.
Amazingly, simply touching the divine power enveloping the sacred sword's blade was enough to erase high-level spirit magic.
"Sorry, petty tricks don't work on me—"
Kamito exploded divine power under the soles of his feet against the ground, closing the distance in one go.
Before the impact arrived, the flash of his sword came first.
"Absolute Blade Arts, Introductory Form—Bursting Cherry Blossom Flurry!"
The liberated rain of swords fell with countless afterimages.
This was an offshoot skill derived from the Destructive Form, ninth of the Absolute Blade Arts.
An anti-personnel sword skill that was key to mastering the ultimate move, Bursting Blossom Spiral Blade Dance.
A frenzy slashing dance of light and darkness.
The countless consecutive attacks performed by the two swords were overwhelming Lurie's defense by sheer quantity.
The speed and precision of his sword was on a completely level than before.
Soon enough, Lurie's defense was forced open and she took a misstep.
"—I've waited a long time for this, Lurie."
Seeing that, Kamito said.
"—This is Ren Ashbell, the Strongest Blade Dancer."
Using the Demon Slayer, Kamito dealt a heavy blow to her raised sacred sword.
With a scattering of sparks, her petite frame was sent flying from the impact.
Looking down at her, crouching on the floor, Kamito pointed his sacred sword at her.
"Someone on your level should be able to understand. You can't beat me."
"It's not, over yet... Ren Ashbell...!"
Lurie stood up, stabbing the sacred sword against the floor.
Her entire body became shrouded in holy light as her wounds slowly began to heal.
She smiled savagely.
Kamito noticed what supported her formidable strength.
No matter who—
Even accomplished martial artists would be vulnerable to instinctive fear in their subconscious.
However, Lurie did not fear injury.
Her talent as a miraculous healer was inborn and would automatically heal her injured body without needing conscious intent.
Hence, her instinctive fear of injury was weakened.
Indeed, this could be considered a kind of strength.
A very twisted kind of strength. It was also a kind of strength that one obtained only through painful experiences.
Lurie used both hands to raise her glowing sacred sword.
"Come, let's continue our blade dance, Ren Ashbell—"
Kamito readied his dual swords again.
'—Kamito, you understand, right?'
Hearing Restia's voice, Kamito nodded lightly.
Even though he held the advantage all this time—
...This was unsustainable. The battle must not drag on.
Consecutive use of the Absolute Blade Arts would consume divine power, causing Kamito's own reserves to dwindle.
(This will be bad unless I settle things as quickly as possible.)
"...Did you say Volcanicus?"
Claire was so surprised that her entire body froze.
There was probably no one on the continent who did not know this name.
Fire Elemental Lord Volcanicus, ruling over the fire spirits, was one of the five Elemental Lords.
(Don't tell me... this child is...?)
Her mind in chaos, Claire suddenly remembered something.
(Come to think of it, Nee-sama said before—)
She remembered it was when they were heading to rescued the imprisoned Fianna—
On board the flying ship, her sister had mentioned it.
At the Elemental Lord's shrine, they had liberated the Fire Elemental Lord from the Otherworldly Darkness' corruption.
At the time, the Fire Elemental Lord vanished and was transported somewhere—
Wasn't that the holy capital of Alexandria?
(Right, no mistake...)
Claire bit her lip hard.
This girl was the incarnation of the Fire Elemental Lord.
She was the same as the Iseria Seaward's incarnation that had teleported to Astral Zero.
In that case, it was only natural for her to wield powers capable of destroying a city in an instant.
(This child is the Fire Elemental Lord... who destroyed my homeland...!)
"Lord Volcanicus, please distance yourself from those people!"
At the plaza's entrance, Luminaris called out.
However, the spirit girl glared at her.
"What is the matter with you people? I am currently having fun with them."
The girl's crimson hair stood up on end, wavering like flames.
That astounding aura of wrath made the Sacred Spirit Knights all freeze.
Only Luminaris managed to stand firm and hold her ground.
"O Lord, please forgive us. We are only fulfilling our responsibilities as your bodyguards."
"Oh? Who are you to worry about my safety?"
Confronted by the Fire Elemental Lord's blazing wrath, Luminaris turned deathly pale.
The only reason why the Fire Elemental Lord had not turned the paladinss into charcoal was because she had promised Claire just now.
"I have no need for bodyguards. I shall remain in these people's company."
Saying that, she turned to Claire.
Now, she noticed for the first time.
Claire's gaze towards her had changed completely.
"...What is it?"
"You really are the Fire Elemental Lord..."
Claire's twintails were standing up like burning flames.
As though looking at a mortal enemy, Claire glared at the girl.
"What now, hell cat girl?"
"You, it's all because of you, Nee-sama and my parents...!"
Tears flowed out of her clear ruby-like eyes.
The downpour of the rain of fire. Cities burning in a blaze. Endless cries of suffering. The people rushing to the castle.
With the people's curses in the background, that very day when she had been banished from the castle together with her parents—
"...What are you talking about?"
The spirit girl made a perplexed look, standing there frozen.
Most likely concluding this to be the best opportunity to reclaim her—
"Please leave them, Lord."
Luminaris drew her sword and charged swiftly. She intended to take this opportunity to take Claire out.
"—Do not think you will succeed!"
Holding Ray Hawk, Ellis blocked her path.
"Get lost, small fry!"
Luminaris swung her sacred sword, Murgleis.
Faced with that sword, glowing with holy light—
Ellis blocked using the shaft of her magic spear.
Luminaris widened her blue eyes in shock.
She never expected her merciless strike to be blocked.
"Is this all you can do, Dame Luminaris?"
Wind gathered at Ray Hawk's spear tip, producing a thunderous rumble.
Releasing the compressed air, Ellis blew away the holy sword.
Not expecting a counterattack from whom she thought was a small fry, Luminaris lost balance.
Ellis did not miss the opportunity. Immediately, she rotated her magic spear and attacked with lightning speed.
Enveloped with magical wind, the spear tip pierced the paladin's mythril gauntlet, shattering it.
Luminaris was plunged into confusion.
The second daughter of Duke Fahrengart, hailing from a prestigious Ordesian noble house with generations of military tradition.
That was the extent of what Luminaris knew about her.
When entering the Blade Dance, Luminaris had focused virtually all her attention on Ellis' adopted sister Velsaria Eva, completely unconcerned about the younger sister.
"Dame Luminaris, I used to admire you, having blade danced against Ren Ashbell—"
Spinning the magic spear of wind fluidly in one hand, Ellis spoke.
"—But as I am now, I am stronger than you."
She stepped forward, closing the distance all at once.
The thrust of godly speed, enveloped in a storm, was deflected by Luminaris with the holy sword.
"Don't get too full of yourself, mere student knight!"
"I return the same words to you. Do not belittle the Sylphid Knights!"
Their elemental waffen clashed intensely again.
A hurricane-like storm surrounded the crossing blades.
Just as their blade dance gradually intensified—
Claire and the Fire Elemental Lord continued to stare at each other silently.
"Hell cat girl—"
Volcanicus was the first to break the silence.
"Do you hate me?"
Claire was speechless.
She was not even sure of her own feelings.
(...Is this child really the Fire Elemental Lord who destroyed my homeland?)
No wait, this girl was undoubtedly the incarnation of the Elemental Lord, but—
Claire thought back to the Water Elemental Lord's incarnation she had met on Ragna Ys.
(She had lost virtually all of her memories as an Elemental Lord...)
In that case, this Fire Elemental Lord might have lost her memories too.
In other words, she might not remember what she had done in the past.
"...Can I ask a question?"
"Do you still remember the name of the princess maiden who resembles me a lot?"
The Fire Elemental Lord shook her head calmly.
"I do not remember her name, but—"
She replied with apparent sadness.
"She is my precious friend. This is the one thing I recall clearly."
"...I see. In that case—"
Claire steeled a certain measure of determination in her heart.
This girl was the enemy who had destroyed Elstein. However—
"Volcanicus, I want to bring you to meet someone."
"Make your decision now. Will you return to those Holy Kingdom people or will you come with us?"
The Fire Elemental Lord stared intently into Claire's ruby-like eyes. Perhaps through Claire, she was looking at the image of the dear friend who greatly resembled Claire.
After several seconds of silence—
"...That will not be possible."
She shook her head.
"I am bound by a covenant with those people. I cannot break it."
With a weak smile, the Fire Elemental Lord fluttered her dress.
"Although it was brief, I greatly enjoyed myself on this occasion, hell cat girl."
Surrounded by intense crimson flames, the girl gradually disappeared.
Claire went "ah" but could not chase after her.
"...W-What the heck, this sucks!"
Unable to vent emotions that she could not tell was anger or something else, Claire kept stomping the ground.
Holding the magic spear, Ellis landed softly next to her.
"She went back to Astral Zero, right?"
"Yeah, looks like it..."
Nodding, Claire straightened her standing posture.
She looked around, only to see the two of them surrounded by ten members of the Sacred Spirit Knights.
...All things considered, chances of victory were slim if they had to fight this many knights at the same time.
"Break through the encirclement and retreat."
Saying that, Ellis readied Ray Hawk while Claire deployed Flametongue.
The two girls ran at the same time.
On the stage where the Demon King and the Sacred Maiden had dueled, came endless sounds of blades clashing.
Coincidentally, one of the combatants was a princess maiden whom people called a miraculous sacred maiden—
While the other was the Demon King's successor, wielding the Demon Slayer.
The blade dance being performed all over this grand hall seemed to reenact a past era of legends.
"This very day, the blue sky wails, the earth shakes with anger—"
Pure white vestments fluttered up. Lurie Lizaldia chanted spirit magic.
Countless blades of holy light flew across the floor, slicing rows of stone pillars at their base.
However, Kamito had already disappeared from the ground.
Jumping freely between the collapsing stone pillars, he charged at Lurie to engage in combat.
This was high-level three dimensional movement—Assassination skills from the Instructional School.
For someone on his level, walls and floors were no different for him.
"—Go forth and pierce, Vorpal Blast!"
Released from a dead angle, jet-black demon lightning followed an unpredictable trajectory to attack Lurie.
In response, Lurie chanted defensive magic to neutralize the demonic lightning.
"A darkness spirit's power is useless against me."
"Of course I know that!"
With the fall of the stone pillars came an expanding cloud of dust.
In this environment with their vision completely obscured, a silver-white blade flashed.
The Demon Slayer and Lurie's nameless sacred sword crossed, producing sparks repeatedly.
"This is not a knight's swordsmanship, Ren Ashbell. Are you getting anxious?"
"We are dueling here, not performing a blade dance for an audience."
Crossing blades up close, Kamito shouted.
Speed, power, judgment, experience, divine power, level of contracted spirit—
In all these respects, Kamito was superior to Lurie.
(But I'm the one who's getting cornered, huh?)
He groaned in his thoughts.
Lurie's vestments glowed with phosphorescence.
Her injuries would always heal in an instant. That inborn freakish power—a power that one could very well call a curse—kept protecting her automatically.
It would do the same even if she herself did not want it, right?
Defeating the miraculous sacred maiden would require delivering a fatal blow to her in one hit.
However, Kamito could not bring himself to kill her. After all, there were things he had to ask.
...No, that was not the real reason.
(I am no longer an assassin of the Instructional School.)
Restia and the friends he had met at the Academy had given him a human heart.
Hence, he would never use the power of spirits to take other's lives.
Then the only way to defeat the endlessly regenerating Lurie would be to wait until she exhausted her divine power.
However, Kamito could not do that either.
He had a troublesome time limit.
If he were to keep consuming divine power like this—
The Darkness Elemental Lord's power would devour him.
No, the power of darkness ahd already started invading Kamito's consciousness.
Time was running out.
He had to decide.
"—Your sword has slowed down, Ren Ashbell!"
Lurie's sacred sword flashed.
Instead of using orthodox knightly swordsmanship, she was using moves modified from the dance of princess maidens.
She had trained in blade dancing, originally meant to serve as offerings to spirits, and attained dizzying heights in mastery.
"Are you being sarcastic?"
While blocking sword strikes, Kamito spoke.
"I feel exhilarated purely from engaging a blade dance with the Strongest Blade Dancer."
Kamito felt a dull sting in his heart, as though pierced by a small barb.
What he was about to do—
In a certain way, it might be even more cruel than taking her life.
If he were to use this move from the Absolute Blade Arts, she would never be able to blade dance again.
This was a taboo Absolute Blade Art that Greyworth had forbidden him to use.
After using it once, he had sworn to never use it ever again.
Kamito kicked the ground, jumping back.
Lurie stopped where she was instead of chasing after him.
The two backed away from each other, facing off.
"Are you out of options, Ren Ashbell?"
Saying that, Kamito stabbed the Vorpal Sword into the ground.
Restia reacted with a surprised voice.
"—Sorry, Restia. This move of the Absolute Blade Arts cannot be used with two swords."
Also, the darkness element was ineffective against Lurie.
Restia seemed to realize what Kamito was about to do and soon fell silent.
Kamito held the Demon Slayer in both hands.
"What are you planning?"
"I'm not going to say 'don't hate me.' Prepare yourself."
He concentrated the divine power circulating through his entire body into the sword's blade.
—He had not used this move for three years.
But his body still remembered this Absolute Blade Art.
Ironically, that was because he had the most misgivings about this one move.
Probably feeling Kamito's silent pressure...
Lurie poured divine power into her nameless sacred sword in return.
The two of them moved.
Both took a step forward at the same time and ran.
Lurie used a move similar to Purple Lightning.
A thrust of reckless abandon, executed by one who did not fear injury.
As for Kamito—
He bravely and decisively took the blow with his left arm.
The blade entered his flesh. Intense pain. But Kamito endured that and—
Aiming at the heart where all circulating channels gathered, he stabbed his sacred sword right there.
Instead of steel, the Demon Slayer was a sword of pure light.
Up until this point, everything happened just like the time when he had pierced Velsaria's heart—
Last time, Kamito had erased a cursed armament seal.
"Absolute Blade Arts, Void Form—Soul Extinction!"
The instant Kamito shouted, the release divine power ran amok inside her body.
"Looks like this is the end."
Holding her sacred sword, Lurie Lizaldia collapsed on the spot.
She seemed to understand what had happened to her.
The phosphorescence enveloping her vanished. The miraculous power would no longer heal her, presumably.
Stabbed by the Demon Slayer, her chest showed no scar or wound.
However, something of paramount importance to elementalists had been destroyed by Kamito.
Absolute Blade Arts, Void Form—Soul Extinction.
The Absolute Blade Art that his master had banned.
He had shattered the circulation system in the human body for controlling divine power.
She could no longer chant spirit magic or form contracts with spirits.
The miraculous power to heal others. This power, which had saved innumerable people in the past, had been wrecked at Kamito's hands.
Kamito did not regret it. After all, there was probably no way to defeat her any other way.
Precisely because she was strong, Kamito to resort to this forbidden move of the Absolute Blade Arts.
Kamito looked down at Lurie, collapsed on the ground.
"You promised to tell me if I win, right? Can you tell me why you served the Holy Kingdom when you were already one of the Empire's Numbers?"
"...I suppose I did promise. Sigh, so be it."
With her head down, Lurie muttered to herself.
"I was born with the power to heal. I thought that using this power to save people was the mission entrust to me, so I healed the numerous injured on battlefields."
However—She smiled weakly at this point.
"My belief was wrong. For each life I saved, double that would be lost when those I saved returned to the battlefield. Such absurdity repeated time and again."
Lurie recounted in a calm voice, which made her despair stand out more and more.
"Hence, that is why I wanted change. To take this absurd world and—"
"Then you entered the Blade Dance to—"
"Yes, hoping to change the world, I placed all my hopes on the wish granted by the Elemental Lords—"
Lurie looked up, staring off into space as though reminiscing about fifteen years ago.
"Uh, your wish..."
Mid-sentence, Kamito halted.
...It was clear as day once he thought about the current state of affairs on the continent.
"Yes, it was impossible. Even the miracle of the Elemental Lords could not grant the wish—"
"...But it was at that moment, in my disappointment I heard my master's voice in my mind."
Kamito repeated her words. Lurie continued.
"Three years ago, when you won, wasn't there an empty throne?"
Kamito gasped violently.
The Lord of Light—Holy Lord Alexandros.
Was this Lurie the one who had liberated the Holy Lord?
"What is the Holy Lord's goal? What is the intention in secretly controlling the Holy Kingdom behind the scenes?"
Kamito's voice turned rough as he interrogated Lurie.
Lurie giggled, possibly because she enjoyed seeing Kamito lose composure.
"My master intends to rebuild the world from zero, to return everything to their rightful state. To take this world, which has strayed into the wrong path because of the Darkness Elemental Lord's mistakes—"
"...! What do you mean by—"
"You will understand eventually, Ren Ashbell. At the Elemental Lords' shrine, you saw that too, didn't you?"
Kamito silently gulped.
At the Elemental Lords' shrine, devoured by Otherworldly Darkness—
Kamito had saw that scene.
—An army of countless angels standing amid endless darkness.
"Sooner or later, that will be here."
Lurie Lizaldia spoke in a sadistic voice.
"...What did you say!?"
Kamito was speechless.
...What the hell did she mean?
"All we can do is be prepared for when that time arrives. For this purpose, the Coffin hidden inside this Tomb is essential—"
Lurie shook her head lightly then stumbled up to her feet.
"...! Lurie, you...?"
As she was now, she should not be able to do anything, but—
'Kamito, I have a bad feeling about this—'
Restia's voice warned in his mind.
Just then, Kamito noticed.
There was an eerie glow from her heart as she stood up like a ghost!
Shining on her chest was a spirit crystal the size of a fist.
Also, it was blood-red Bloodstone—
Kamito groaned involuntarily.
This was a spirit crystal of the highest purity that could only be excavated from the sanctuary of Astral Zero.
Previously, Kamito had seen Jio Inzagi use one to dominate spirits.
Compared to normal spirit crystals, it was able to seal much more powerful spirits.
"Have you heard of the weapon called spirit detonation?"
Saying that, Lurie Lizaldia smiled savagely.
Spirit detonation was a weapon from the Ranbal War era that had been designated sealed by international treaty.
It was capable of sealing hundreds of spirits together, compressing them then inducing them to react with one another to produce a massive explosion.
Its firepower was enough to level a small city easily.
It was a product of insanity, created during wartime.
"This pyramid is used to protect the Coffin's seal. Hence, all I need to do is destroy the pyramid itself."
"...! You planned this from the start—"
"...It was just a last resort."
"...I am honored to have had a blade dance with the Strongest Blade Dancer. These are my true feelings."
Saying that, she stabbed herself in the heart with her sacred sword.
In that instant, crimson light exploded in a flash.