Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume17 Chapter3
Chapter 3 - The Desert of Red Death, Ghul-a-val
It was daytime on the second day after Kamito and company set off from the fortress city Mordis.
On the sea of the endless desert, a small ship was currently sailing across the sand.
Designed to follow leylines, sand ships suffered from the limitation that they could not decide their course freely. However, compared to flying ships, there was the advantage that the helsman was less strained.
"Quite an old and worn ship... Can this really move across the desert?"
Although Claire had her concerns, this ship had apparently been remodeled by Vivian Melosa. The interior was unexpectedly reassuring.
In emergency situations, the ship could even switch its power source. From what Kamito had heard, a military spirit mechanism had been installed. This contraband item was something that Rubia had obtained through her connections with Murders.
(Great, so now that we've finally entered Ghul-a-val—)
On the deck, Kamito kept wiping the nonstop sweat from his forehead.
Forsaken by the power of spirits, this was a blood-red and desolate desert.
Was there really some kind of Demon King's Tomb in this place?
"...Hmm, by the way, it's so hot~..."
Leaning against a railing on the ship's edge, Claire spoke with exhaustion.
Even a flame elementalist like her would still feel the heat in hot places.
Having unbuttoned her uniform collar that was drenched with sweat, she kept fanning herself with her hands.
...For a while now, Kamito had been catching tantalizing glimpses of the front of her chest, a rather dangerous situation indeed.
Kamito hastily looked away.
Only to see before his eyes—
Someone was lying on the floor like a beached mermaid.
"...Ughhh, so hot~... I am going to die from the heat~"
She was rolling on the deck, completely ignoring the fact that she was the noble daughter of a duke.
It was also heart-wrenching to see the damage in her long shining platinum blonde hair.
...This scorching desert was too harsh for a young lady hailing from snow country.
"Rinslet, are you okay? Maybe you should rest in bed?"
When Kamito asked her, she replied:
"No, Kamito. Thank you very much for your concern, but I respectfully decline. Compared to the rest of the ship, this place is best."
"Well, I guess you're right..."
In fact, the ship's interior was even hotter than the deck that was exposed to sunlight. The spirit mechanism kept releasing great amounts of heat after absorbing power from the leylines.
As a military ship, the Revenant did feature cooling systems, but this sand ship had nothing of that sort. Naturally, there were no bathing facilities for ritual purification either.
"Summon Fenrir. At least it'll be a bit cooler."
All covered in sweat, Claire suggested.
"Fenrir is a spirit born in Niflheim, the coldest extremes of Astral Zero. Summoning him in a place like this would be too cruel."
Rinslet refused weakly.
(...What a kind and gentle young lady.)
Kamito could not help but exclaim in his heart. The reason why Rinslet was so loved and welcomed by the maids and residents of Laurenfrost and the spirits at the Academy was probably thanks to this kind personality of hers.
"You have a point... Wait, Scarlet, go back to Astral Zero."
Hearing Claire's command, the flaming hell cat meowed and shook her head. It looked like Scarlet enjoyed the scorching desert.
Although the flames on Scarlet's body were nowhere near as hot as real flames, it still contributed to visual suffering.
"You two, please endure this heat."
At this moment, Fianna's voice was heard coming from somewhere.
Kamito and company looked around—
Only to see the knight spirit Georgios sitting on a large wooden crate.
The knight spirit's head portion opened with a clang to reveal Fianna poking her head out.
"I can't believe you ran off to a place like that...!"
"Fufu, the interior of this armor is isolated from the outside world. So cool and refreshing."
"If I remember correctly, isn't the inside of Georgios connected to Astral Zero?"
"The Gate to Astral Zero is currently closed, so it is fine for me to enter here."
...I see. Now that is well thought out.
"Your Highness, this is so unfair!"
"L-Let me inside too!"
Together, Claire and Rinslet kept hammering Georgios' armor.
"My condolences, but Georgios is a royal spirit exclusive to the imperial family."
After speaking nonchalantly, Fianna closed the helmet with a clang.
"The greatest tyrant in all of Ordesia's history!"
The two girls hammered the armor with anger and hatred, but the knight spirit's armor remained completely unmoved.
"You two, doing this will only make you hotter."
"I am at my limit~"
The two girls collapsed in exhaustion on the deck once more.
At that moment—
"My goodness, to succumb to this level of heat, you really lack training."
A gust of cool wind blew past Kamito and company.
Ellis jumped down with Ray Hawk in hand.
She had apparently been doing spear training on top of the cabin until just now. Her bangs were wet from sweat.
Her uniform also turned partially transparent, revealing the lines of her underwear beneath—
However, pointing this out would be embarrassing, so Kamito had no choice but to silently avert his gaze.
"I cannot believe you are still training in such hot weather."
"After all, I was born with Wind's Blessing."
"I am so jealous..."
"Well, it will become cool again at night."
"More than cool, the nights are chilly... Sigh."
Muttering, Claire looked out at Ghul-a-val, red as far as the eye could see.
"By the way, Kamito."
Seeing Claire stare at him for some reason, Kamito panicked a little.
"What did you talk to my sister about before boarding the ship?"
"O-Oh... Umm, all kinds of stuff..."
Kamito looked away, trying to dodge the issue.
(It's not really for me to reveal...)
Rubia should be the one to convey her own words.
"Hmph, what the heck. You're acting weird..."
Seeing Kamito's attitude, Claire cast a displeased look of suspicion.
In a field of dreams, as white as snow—
Est woke up.
(...That dream... again—)
She coldly murmured to herself in her thoughts.
Despite waking up, she was unable to move her body freely.
Her consciousness was sealed inside a sacred sword, embedded in a rock, inside a certain temple.
During the war in Astral Zero several thousand years ago—
Previously employed as the ultimate spirit weapon, on the very day when the world had split into Astral Zero and the human realm, she had fallen onto this continent.
A spirit that no one had been able to use no matter how many tried.
A sword impossible to pull out no matter what.
This was the sword spirit—Terminus Est.
Although her strength was far weaker than when she was in Astral Zero, she was still far too powerful for humans.
Hence, the sword did not fall into anyone's hands, spending eternity in this tiny temple merely as an object of reverence.
—That was supposed to be the case.
After Est landed on the ground, two thousand years passed.
One day, a girl who had ascended the mountain to collect firewood arrived at the temple.
Dressed in a woolen outfit of pure white, the girl had an adorable face.
She had most likely lost her way and accidentally got there.
Completely unaware that the strongest spirit was sealed there, the girl—
Casually drew her out.
Till now, countless people had attempted to take possession of her.
Some sought fame, others sought the power to save the world.
However, the girl was different from all the humans who had previously come.
What the girl sought was not the sacred sword's power—
Only a desire for a friend—That was her wish.
(...No... Don't, if you contract with me, you will—!)
In the pure white dream, Est's consciousness cried out.
However, her voice did not take form—
Carrying Kamito and team, the sand ship continued to advance across the boiling desert.
The sun was setting, producing long shadows on the deck. However, there was not an oasis in sight no matter where they went in this sea of red sand.
"At this rate, it looks like today will be fruitless too..."
Leaning against the railing on deck, Kamito sighed.
"Did Princess Saladia really come here?"
"Who knows? We might even have overtaken her—"
"Well, that's not impossible."
"If only we had more clues—"
Muttering, Kamito took his hand off the railing.
"Where are you going?"
"Oh, to check out Est."
"Hmph... You're doting on Est as usual."
After replying and patting off the abundant sand stuck to his uniform, Kamito walked towards the cabin.
Two days earlier, Est had had a dream about the past.
Ever since, she started showing mysterious facial expressions of unease.
At first glance, they resembled her usual expressionless face. However, Kamito noticed subtle changes in his partner's expressions.
Back to the cabin, he opened the door—
He noticed a small bulge in his bed.
From a corner of his sheets, he could see messy silver hair poking out.
"What's wrong, Est?"
It was rather common for Est to slip into Kamito's bed.
Wait a sec, for that to be common would be a problem in itself...
Kamito approached his bed and gently lifted the sheets.
He saw the sword spirit, completely naked except for a pair of kneesocks, staring at him with a dazed look—
In the next instant, she spread her slender arms and hugged him tightly.
Kamito instantly understood that this was not her usual behavior when she simply wanted to be pampered.
She must have dreamt another unsettling dream.
Furthermore, this was not the only difference from usual.
"E-Est, what is going on!?"
Kamito could not help but exclaim in surprise.
Instead of her usual black kneesocks, she was wearing multi-colored striped kneesocks instead.
In response, Est widened her violet eyes and started to create new black kneesocks frantically.
"I have disgraced myself in front of you."
"Not exactly, I really don't get your hangups..."
Clearly, striped kneesocks were quite cute too—
...Putting that aside, nothing like this had happened before.
...This implied how unsettled she was.
"Est, are you okay? Did you dream about the past again?"
—Kamito had some idea.
(Est's past memories awakening has happened before...)
It was the night before the first round of the Blade Dance tournament. In order to erase the cursed brand that Rubia had cast, Est had used her power as a sacred sword to the limit.
Although only temporarily, her spirit contract with Kamito had been interrupted. Memories of the genuine Demon Slayer—Est's main body located somewhere in Astral Zero—had awakened as a result.
Perhaps similar to last time, Est's current dreams were the result of the real Terminus Est's memories flowing to her here.
In that case—
Kamito's gaze fell upon the sword spirit seal branded on his right hand.
(...Could it be that Est's spirit contract is about to return to normal?)
In fact, the contract between Kamito and Est was quite incomplete. The current Demon Slayer was capable of mustering at most one tenth of the original Est's power.
Could it be that the original power was about to return to Est?
Est clutched Kamito's clothing tightly.
"Kamito, I am so afraid."
Her shining long silver-white hair shook, looking as though it might disappear any moment.
"Every time I see that dream, I feel like I am no longer me—"
Seeing the sword spirit like that, Kamito gently stroked her head.
"To me, Est is only you. Only you are Est."
Est raised her head forcefully, her violet eyes blinking.
—At that very moment...
Suddenly, the ship shook violently with a rumbling noise like an earthquake.
"...! W-What's going on!?"
Rushing to the deck, Kamito was stunned by the scene before his eyes.
A gigantic vortex in the desert was about to drag the sand ship into it.
"...Hey, what the heck is that?"
Leaning over the railing, Kamito shouted.
"I-I don't know either!"
"Suddenly, it appeared in front of the ship's course!"
On the heavily tilted deck, the young ladies were evidently in panic too.
Hearing Fianna, who was using all her strength to steer the ship, Kamito asked.
"It is a kind of vortex produced when a leyline's flow is disrupted. Normally, it only appears out at sea—"
Creaaaaak—With the sound of compression, the ship tilted even more.
Seeing Claire lose her balance and roll on the deck nonstop, Kamito hastily caught her in his arms.
"There... now, are you okay?"
"...Y-Yes... T-Thank you."
Blushing, Claire nodded.
"...! No good! The ship is being pulled over there!"
Although Fianna kept pouring divine power into the spirit crystal embedded in the helm, the ship's course remained unchanged. Not only that, but the ship kept getting drawn towards the center of the vortex.
For starters, this was a ship that derived energy from the divine power flowing in leylines. Relying on divine power poured in by a princess maiden would not be enough to control the ship.
"At this rate, the ship will crack—"
Claire said with anxiety on her face.
"Ellis, can you use wind spirit magic to levitate the entire ship?"
"...No, levitating such a large ship would be too hard."
Ellis shook her head. Even so, she still used Ray Hawk to control the wind, doing as much as she could to counter the ship's tilt.
"Look! There is something in the center of the vortex!"
Fianna shouted loudly. Kamito focused his eyes and looked into the depths of the sandstorm.
In the center of the vortex, he could see an object resembling a giant pair of scissors.
The pair of scissors was opening and closing as though waiting for Kamito's ship.
"Is that... a spirit? No wait, is it a magic beast...?"
"—It is the antlion, commonly known as the Ship Breaker."
At this moment, the Vorpal Sword at Kamito's waist spoke out.
"Restia, you need to tell me earlier if you know things like that!"
"After all, I didn't expect a monster from a thousand years ago to still live in these parts."
Kamito had a feeling that Restia was mentally sticking her tongue out despite her demon sword form.
"G-Give a break~..."
"If those giant jaws catch us, this ship will be crushed easily."
"Yeah, I can imagine that—"
Kamito scratched his head then stood on the prow.
"Kamito, what are you going to do?"
Seeing that, Claire asked him.
"Anyway, I've got to defeat that monster first—"
"Got it. We'll cover you."
Picking up her flaming whip, Claire nodded. Ellis and Rinslet also deployed their respective elemental waffen.
In this area, they had already developed tacit understanding.
Chanting flight magic, Ellis formed a vortex of wind around Kamito.
"Let's go, Restia."
"Fufu, leave it to me—"
The demon sword of darkness erupted with jet-black lightning.
Wielding the Vorpal Sword, Kamito flew towards the vortex in the sand.