Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume17 Chapter4
Chapter 4 - The Sphinx of the Tomb
"...Sheesh. No wonder this is called the Desert of Red Death."
"My goodness, Lady Rubia. She should have told us ahead of time."
"Don't blame my sister. Nee-sama might not know this kind of monster was living here."
Listening to Fianna grumbling while brushing off the sand stuck to her hair, Claire shrugged and replied.
After sundown, in the desert at night—
Kamito and company were sitting on the sand, looking up at the starry night sky.
Swallowed by the desert vortex, the ship had a huge crack, almost turning it into wreckage.
The exposed drive reactor's spirit crystal glowed with pale white phosphorescence, faintly illuminating the surroundings.
...This only happened because Kamito screwed up—Not.
While Rinslet was using Freezing Arrow to seal the monster's movements, Kamito had executed a special move from the Absolute Blade Arts, spectacularly defeating the giant jawed beast in one hit.
...However, what happened next was unexpected.
In the desert vortex, unbelievably, there were dozens of Antlions with even bigger jaws.
"Who could have thought that the center of the vortex was the beast's lair. Even I failed to discern that with my very own eyes."
"Yes, no one could have expected so many monstrous beasts like these to be gathered together, normally speaking..."
Seeing one of their own defeated, the enraged swarm of beasts crushed the sand ship with their jaws.
In the nick of time, Kamito and company escaped the ship and successfully defeated the beasts, but ended up stranded in the middle of the desert with no choice but to camp outside.
A survey of the surroundings revealed a graveyard of many sand ships buried in the sand apart from the one Kamito's team was riding. Most likely, numerous merchant ships heading into Ghul-a-val had been swept into that monster's lair after losing contact.
"...The sun has completely set."
"The drive reactor's spirit crystals are intact. Can't the ship be repaired?"
"That would be far too difficult."
Glancing at the ship's broken remains, Ellis shook her head.
Even for Ellis, whose expertise in carpentry had allowed her to build a home for Kamito in three hours, with the aid of Simorgh's powers, repairing the ship here would be impossible.
"Looks like we have to camp here tonight."
Advancing through the desert blindly without any sense of direction would be tantamount to suicide. Having been dropped off in the wilderness during his Instructional School days, Kamito had poignant memories of such experiences.
Fortunately, the majority of their luggage had been given to Fianna to keep inside the alternate dimension inside Georgios and was thus safe. Had they lost their food and water too, everyone would most likely perish here, with the desert as their grave.
"O flames, dance—"
Claire ignited some broken timber embedded in the sand to serve as illumination.
"O eternal wind, grant us peace—Air Wall."
Ellis recited an incantation, using a wall of wind to cover the vicinity of their camp.
"What a disaster. I hope Princess Saladia is safe—"
Fianna sighed and murmured.
Indeed, there was no guarantee that Saladia Kahn could remain safe in this desert where monstrous beasts lurked. Even though the princess was reputedly a powerful elementalist herself, one would not expect her to last long defending against wave after wave of attacks from beasts.
"I heard Princess Saladia has a bodyguard."
"Yes, according to rumors, someone apparently took care of the Theocracy's royal guard."
"Must be quite an amazing guy—"
Suddenly, Kamito looked at the ground by his feet, only to see the sand bulging slightly.
Kamito deftly inserted his hand into the sand and grabbed the wriggling object under the sand.
He held it up for a look, only to see a sand-colored creature with large mandibles, resembling a lobster.
"What? Is this a young version of the Antlion just now?"
"Kamito, this is a sand scorpion."
Eyes brightening up, Rinslet stood up.
"Don't tell me, it's edible?"
"...The red color creeps me out. I'd rather not."
Making a subtle expression, Claire commented.
"Although there is some paralyzing poison, if you cut off the tail and drain out the poison, it will be fine."
"Just leave it to me—Come, Fenrir!"
At the snap of Rinslet's' fingers, a demon ice spirit appeared out of thin air, surrounded by a blizzard. From his mouth that was connected to Astral Zero, kitchenware kept emerging one after another.
Particularly striking was a deep pot with metallic luster.
"What are you planning to make?"
Seeing that, Ellis asked.
"Special curry made with sand scorpions."
"Curry? What is that?"
"I suppose it is not common home cooking in Ordesia, after all. Curry first originated in the Balstan Kingdom but nowadays, it is more famous as food cooked by the Divine Ritual Institute's princess maidens."
"This was made by the Queen serving the Earth Elemental Lord, for princess maidens undergoing strict training. Not only does it nourish and strengthen the body, but also replenishes divine power. In the Divine Ritual Institute, they serve curry once every week."
Fianna, who used to live at the Divine Ritual Institute, raised an index finger and explained to the group.
"I see. Then I look forward to it."
"First, I need to cook some spices to make a roux. Claire, ready Miss Hell Cat spirit."
"Sheesh, Scarlet isn't a stove, okay?"
Despite complaining, Claire still summoned her hell cat spirit.
Crouching in a small ditch in the sand, Scarlet curled up into a ball. After putting the pot on Scarlet's back, Rinslet rhythmically added powdered herbs and spices into the pot one after another.
Soon after the pot was lidded, boiling sounds could be heard.
Everyone sat around the flames enveloping Scarlet, waiting to the curry to be done.
"...In any case, going after the Demon King's Tomb right now would be the worst idea."
Claire sighed and murmured to herself.
She was right. Now that they had lost the ship, their only choice was to retreat to a town with an oasis.
"Where in Ghul-a-val are we?"
"No idea. Spirit crystals for identifying direction do not work here."
"We should be approaching the central region of the desert, but we cannot even find a single sign of ruins."
"Besids, we do not even know what the Demon King's Tomb looks like."
Ellis and Rinslet shrugged together.
"...I really wanna find a place to purify myself. Too much dirt and the circulation of divine power gets affected."
Claire looked down at her uniform, all covered in sand. Indeed, putting aside Kamito, a boy, not being able to take a bath would be a matter of life and death for these young ladies of nobility.
"Are we going to find an oasis?"
"I do not think it will be so easy to stumble upon one. After all, this is the Desert of Red Death, forsaken by the spirits—"
At that moment—
Fianna, who had been lost in deep thought with her head down, saying not a word, suddenly lifted her head.
"Say, who wants to try a sand bath?"
"A sand bath?"
Claire and the rest of the girls raised their eyebrows with surprise on their faces.
"Yes, did you know that sand that has been purified by sunlight is as clean as pure water?"
"I-Is that true?"
"I have never heard of this."
"There is always a first time for everything, come—"
Confronted with questions from Claire and the others, Fianna nodded and replied with a confident look.
With his view completely dark—
"...H-Hey, are you done yet?"
Kamito timidly asked.
However, all he could get were answers of this sort.
"To be honest, this posture is quite uncomfortable..."
The blindfolded Kamito tried to turn his body.
However, the sand weighing upon him did not budge the slightest.
Well, he could squirm his way out if he really wanted to escape—
But in that case, he would have to prepare himself to suffer attacks from Claire and all the girls.
...He could hear what sounded like alluring rustling of clothing.
Could it be that they happened to be removing their underwear...?
(...By the way, this looks really bad from all kinds of perspectives.)
Kamito sighed deeply in his heart.
His entire body was buried in the sand, and he was blindfolded to boot.
If anyone were to see this, they would probably treat him as some kind of massive freak... No, this was deviant enough even without requiring an observer.
Sigh, that being said, being buried in the sand like this also counted as a sort of purification.
(Rather than blindfolding me, why not get changed somewhere farther away?)
That was what he thought.
Rather, Claire and the girls possibly thought that he was far enough away.
...Only at times like these did Kamito truly curse his especially keen hearing, honed during his training at the Instructional School.
"S-Somehow, my heart is beating especially fast, a-as soon as I realize I am getting naked outdoors..."
"Y-Yes... I feel like I am doing something unmentionable..."
Presumably unaware that Kamito could hear them, the girls began to whisper among themselves.
"But this feeling of liberation is really great. Even addictive...♪"
"Fianna, w-what are you talking about!?"
"...Ugh, th-the sand... is getting into weird places... Ah... What a pain."
"The sensation... ugh... feels a bit disgustng. I-I prefer bathing with water after all."
Rustle... The sound of thighs rubbing together.
(Hey, give me a break...!)
In the sand, Kamito could not help but blush.
"U-Uwah! W-What is this...!?"
Just then, Ellis cried out.
"Ellis, what is the matter?"
"N-Nothing... Uh, umm..."
"Wait a sec, what is with that underwear! It's constricting your breasts tightly, isn't it!?"
"And here I thought Ellis was so prim and proper. You are unexpectedly bold..."
"Captain, th-this is indecent!"
Ellis denied with a sobbing tone of voice.
"What do you mean, wrong?"
"Th-This is my esteemed sister's swimsuit! Looks like it got into my luggage by accident..."
"Ah, I see..."
"A unexpectedly clumsy girl."
Fianna murmured with some exasperation.
...Unable to see anything, Kamito imagined the scene.
Compared to Ellis' outstanding figure, Velsaria would definitely be considered slender.
If Ellis were to put on her underwear, what would it look like...?
...No matter what, Kamito was a teenage boy.
Currently, girls in his age group were putting on embarrassing underwear nearby.
Even though his eyes were covered, it only stimulated his imagination further.
Kamito could not help but shake his head, trying to dispel the annoying thoughts surfacing in his mind.
However, the girls began to purify themselves with a sand bath, ignorant of Kamito's efforts.
"Okay, let us first rinse our bodies with sand."
Fianna seemed to be enjoying herself.
"I-I feel a bit repulsed..."
"It feels weird."
Despite their verbal grumbling, Kamito could hear the rustling from the girls scooping sand.
"...~, nn... Ah... The feeling of sand moving feels so itchy."
"It is getting to my bottom... Nn, it is sticking..."
"...Ah, s-sliding across... my breasts... Hyah♪"
"Ellis, bathing like that is not going to get your breasts clean♪"
"Y-Your Highness, what are you doing, guh... Ah♪"
Even moans were coming from the usually prim and proper Ellis.
(W-What the hell is going on...!?)
Kamito could not help but gulp.
...At this rate, it felt like all kinds of crazy things were going to happen!
(I-I guess I'll dive into the sand and leave first...)
Earth Stealth Movement—Using an assassination technique from the Instructional School, he twisted his body, burrowing into the sand.
But perhaps because of this, or possibly because it was not tightly tied in the first place, his blindfold fell off.
Thus, the scene illuminated by fire entered Kamito's eyes.
Claire froze, in the middle of removing her panties to get rid of the sand. Rinslet had her adorable butt raised in Kamito's direction. As for Fianna, she was using sand to rub Ellis' soft breasts, overflowing from the triangular pieces of fabric straining to contain them.
The dream-like scene made Kamito's brain short circuit for an instance, leaving him frozen in his spot.
"...! U-Uwah! K-Kamito, w-what, w-what are you doing!?"
Noticing his gaze, Claire cried out with her face all red.
"K-Kamito, what a pervert!"
"N-No wait! The blindfold accidentally fell off—"
Realizing his life was in danger, Kamito instantly stood up from the sand.
Seeing his bare upper torso, the girls screamed.
"W-What are you exposing to us!? W-What a pervert! Exhibitionist! Lewd beast!"
"Now who's the exhibitionist, look at yourselves..."
Hit by Claire's one-sided wave of accusations, Kamito did not back down.
"B-Besides, if you're going to take a sand bath, why not do it somewhere farther away!?"
"Certainly not. It's not every day that I get to wear a swimsuit. Kamito-kun has to take a good look♪"
"Y-You, y-you, what are you talking about? You idiot princess, you perverted princess!"
Claire kept hammering her fists against Fianna. Her developing body, clad in swimwear, was so adorable that it made Kamito's heart race.
"A-Anyway, Kamito, turn around now!"
Seeing Claire about to swing her whip any time, Kamito hastily turned his gaze away.
Just as he was sighing "good grief"...
He could not help but make a stupid sound.
In front of him was—
A giant floating in the air, glowing with blue-white light.
Before he could finish saying the word "what," in that instant...
THe giant landed on the ground.
"W-What is going on!?"
The landing's shockwave blew away everything in the surroundings, creating a massive cloud of sand and dust.
"...! W-What is this thing!?"
Barely managing to stand firm, Kamito opened his eyes and looked at the giant before him once more.
The giant had a muscular body and a bull's head.
Carrying a massive double-edged sword, it stood with upright posture while staring down intently at Kamito.
"W-What the heck, you...!"
Coughing repeatedly from the sand, Claire shouted, still in her swimsuit.
"...! How dare you... the curry... Unforgivable!"
Rinslet swiftly deployed her elemental waffe bow. Blown away by the wind, the empty pot was rolling at her feet.
...The curry was a total loss.
"Hold on, you two!"
Seeing Claire and Rinslet about to attack, Fianna hurried to stop them.
"That is a spirit, you know?"
"A spirit? But Your Highness, aren't there no spirits in this desert?"
Ellis raised her doubt.
Indeed, there were no spirits residing in Ghul-a-val... That was the way it was supposed to be.
(Then what the heck is this thing...?)
Kamito secretly jumped in surprise.
...No, the giant in front of him was definitely a spirit.
Moreover, it was very close to humanoid—A high-level spirit. Indeed, it would come to no surprise if a high-level spirit had been living in the desert all along—
In the next instant...
Wham—The bull-headed giant swung the great sword in its hand.
The tip of the sword was pointed right at Kamito's nose.
Claire cried out in fright.
However, Kamito remained motionless, because he did not sense any hostility.
<I am the judge—the one to judge whether thou art worthy.>
The giant spoke. The deep voice echoed throughout the desert at night.
"Worthy? Of what?"
<My master welcomes only the worthy to the Tomb—>
"Did you say tomb'?"
Kamito instantly realized with alarm.
(Could this spirit be...?)
"The guardian of the Demon King's Tomb...?"
Behind him, Claire spoke with surprise.
"...I see. So you're the door guard."
Staring at the sword tip pointed at him, Kamito said.
The Demon King's Tomb had some kind of guardian, this was expected.
However, he never thought the guardian would actively show up like this—
(But this is actually to our advantage...)
Since this spirit appeared—
Then it was highly likely that the Demon King's Tomb actually existed in this desert.
Glaring back at the spirit, Kamito spoke.
"Then how do we prove whether we're worthy or not?"
<—There is only one method to judge. Demonstrate thy power.>
He took a few steps back and pulled out the two swords, his contracted spirits, embedded in the ground nearby—The Demon Slayer and the Vorpal Sword.
Then he smiled fearlessly.
"—Suits me just fine."
If the condition demanded was royal blood or something like that, Kamito would honestly be in a bind—
But an opponent that only needed to be conquered by force, that made things easy.
'—Kamito, better not be careless.'
As soon as he picked up the demon sword of darkness, Restia's voice sounded in his mind.
"Restia, do you know this spirit?"
'Yes. This was is one of the seventy-two spirits used by the Demon King in the past, the guardian spirit, the Sphinx. According to the human system of classification, it's archdemon-class.'
Among missions at Areishia Spirit Academy, this was a target of maximum difficulty. They were said to be spirits that lived only in the deepest reaches of the Spirit Forest. Even Velsaria Eva had taken several weeks to singlehandedly take down an archdemon-class spirit.
However, Kamito was unfazed.
"It's not like legend-class or mythic-class, right? No problem—"
Throwing out bold words, Kamito poured divine power into his two swords.
The sacred sword of steel glowed with silver-white brilliance while the demon sword of darkness became shrouded in jet-black demonic light.
"Kamito, we'll fight too."
"I must avenge my curry!"
The young ladies had readied their respective elemental waffen and were about to rushing over.
However, Kamito shook his head.
"Thanks, but it's better if you girls stand back—"
"Even if it is us, we are able to help!"
"Yeah, I know. But you won't be able to make the most of your contracted spirit's power unless you properly finish purifying yourselves, right?"
Claire instantly became speechless.
The Flametongue in her hand only had a fraction of its usual flames. Ellis and Rinslet's elemental waffen were also in a similar state.
"Everyone, leave this to Kamito-kun."
You leave me no choice—Muttering, Claire dispelled Flametongue.
"Kamito, you're on your own if you lose, okay?"
Kamito silently nodded and stepped forward.
In fact, there was another reason why Kamito had chosen to fight alone.
This spirit had said—Demonstrate thy power.
If the whole team ganged up to defeat the spirit, they might not be recognized as worthy.
The judge—The Sphinx—roared, shaking the ground like an earthquake
The atmosphere instantly grew tense. Kamito felt an intensely oppressive aura stimulating his skin.
"Perfect timing. Now let's see if I'm worthy or not—"
In the next instant, he released the divine power concentrated beneath his feet and charged forward all at once.
(A large archdemon-class spirit, I'll use the Destructive Form to end this in one go!)
The combat style of performing a blade dance was very different from that of hunting spirits.
The former emphasized exchanging exciting and varying sword moves with the opponent while the latter emphasized the direct clash of power against power.
Pouring his entire divine energy into his elemental waffen, Kamito unleashed a heavy strike in one breath—
This was the hunting method that Greyworth had taught him through practical combat.
The glowing divine power released from hi entire body illuminated the night desert brightly.
Kamito unleashed a dual-wielding move from the Absolute Blade Arts—Bursting Blossom Spiral Blade Dance, Thousand Strikes of Swift Thunder.
Rather than an anti-personnel sword technique, this move was created for defeating large spirits.
The Sphinx swung its large sword horizontally.
Accompanied by a howling sandstorm, it attacked Kamito.
Confronted with a mad dance of innumerable wind blades, Kamito dashed forward resolutely.
The trajectories of the wind blades were impossible to discern.
However, just by seeing the flow of sand in the air, evasion was nothing difficult.
The wind blades brushed past his cheek, splashing blood, but Kamito lunged at the giant's chest, completely unfazed.
"Absolute Blade Dance, Destructive Form—Bursting Blossom Spiral—"
Suddenly, he stopped the sword move's activation and took a defensive stance with his twin swords crossed.
A crimson heat beam silently flew past the edge of the swords.
An explosion produced a shockwave, sending Kamito flying.
While he was recovering his posture and landing on the sand, a second heat beam shot at him.
Before his mind actively made a decision, his right hand reflexively swung the Demon Slayer.
Clang—A harsh sound rang out.
Deflected, the heat beam struck somewhere diagonally behind him. A giant pillar of flame erupted with the sound of an explosion.
A direct hit would have turned Kamito to charcoal in an instant. No, even an attempt to defend would have been futile if he did not have the strongest sword spirit in his hand.
Such terrifying power and accuracy in attack—
(...Tsk, that attack just now was—)
Kamito could now read the Sphinx's movements completely.
In that case—
Kamito forcefully looked up into the sky.
Only to see—
A dog-headed giant floating in the air, holding a staff in its hand.
"...Tsk, there's another one!?"
Kamito's expression stiffened involuntarily.
"Wait a sec, no one told me anything..."
In contrast to the bull-headed Sphinx specialized for close combat, the dog-headed one seemed to be the type focusing on long-range attacks.
'—The Sphinx is a system of four entities in charge of different roles.'
"What the heck, telling me after the fact is so unfair!"
'Kamito, you will surely find a way to handle it.'
Restia replied nonchalantly.
...Her words were the exact same as when Greyworth tossed him into a forest three years ago.
However, fighting two archdemon-class spirits simultaneously was not a challenge he had encountered during Greyworth's inhumane training—
'Low-level spirits like these are no match for Kamito.'
Est chimed in with a comment in the same vein.
From Est's perspective, perhaps even archdemon-class spirits were merely on that level—
While grimacing in his heart, Kamito readied his two swords.
...Sigh, he had already bragged to Claire and the girls that he would handle things alone.
Even if his opponent increased by one, he had no choice but to charge head on.
(I have two ultimate spirits on my side after all—)
The bull-headed giant roared and charged.
This Sphinx probably symbolized strength.
A close combat type with emphasis on strength—This was not hard to handle for Kamito.
(The dog-headed one is the problem, huh—)
Hovering in the air, the dog-headed one seemed to be responsible for covering the bull-headed one. Finding an opening would not be that easy.
Faced with the Sphinx's downward swing at full strength—
Kamito used the back of the Demon Slayer to block and parry.
A simple contest of strength would be too disadvantageous for him. With nimble footwork, Kamito—
"Absolute Blade Arts, Third Form—Shadowmoon Waltz, Major Double Turn."
He executed a flowing flurry of haphazard strikes.
The storm of black and white slashes instantly swirled. The particles of divine power constituting the Sphinx's body were scattered on the red desert like droplets of blood.
However, the archdemon-class spirit did not suffer critical damage.
(Too weak, huh—)
Shadowmoon Waltz was a move from the Absolute Blade Arts for group battles.
Despite the overwhelming quantity of attacks, it was somewhat inferior in power.
(No, that's not the issue here—)
The Sphinx's great sword swept across. Kamito ducked down slightly, evading the sword in the nick of time.
(I'm subconsciously scared of using divine power—)
The Absolute Blade Arts required unifying the manipulation of divine power with the attack motion. If he were to consume too much divine power by accident, the Darkness Elemental Lords's power lying dormant in his body might awaken. Overly afraid of this, Kamito was unintentionally limiting himself.
However, this made it impossible to defeat highly durable spirits.
(One instant. Within a very brief instant, an explosion of divine power—)
While evading the massive swinging attacks, Kamito stepped into his opponent's opening.
(Ten seconds—No, seven. I'm going all out. Will you endure it?)
'Leave it to me—'
The strongest twin swords replied with white and black brilliance.
The Sphinx in front of him swung its great sword, enveloped in a gale. Dodging the strike in the nick of time, Kamito stepped on the flat of the sword while it embedded itself into the ground, then jumped on to the enemy's head.
"Absolute Blade Arts, Second Form—Meteor!"
A move derived from Purple Lightning—Meant to kill in one strike, it struck the head violently.
The Demon Slayer, infused with his entire body's divine power—
Smashed the Sphinx's horn.
Restia warned. Of course, Kamito was aware. In the earlier attack, he had learned to read the preparatory motions of the Sphinx in the air.
While landing, he immediately moved. Kamito circled around to the bull-headed spirit's back, using its massive body as a shield.
The downpour of heat beams rained down, piercing the Sphinx's body all over.
An explosion. Even with the spirit as a shield, one would not survive unscathed if caught up in the explosion.
However, Kamito was no longer visible there. The moment the heat beams struck, Kamito had used the dust cloud as cover to approach the Sphinx in the air.
The dog head turned, creating countless fireballs around its staff.
Kamito skillfully launched the Demon Slayer.
However, instead of aiming at the Sphinx above, the target was the ground a couple steps in front of him.
Gathered at the staff's tip, the fireballs turned into heat beams, pouring down as a scorching rain of fire—
In that instant, Kamito jumped high. Stepping on the hilt of the sacred sword embedded in the ground, he allowed his divine power to explode.
This was different from ordinary Terrain Reduction executed by concentrating divine power beneath his feet and letting it explode—
Instead, he caused the divine power poured into the Demon Slayer to return to him, in a very violent manner.
"Absolute Blade Arts, Seventh Form—Biting Dragon!"
Like an arrow leaving the bowstring—
Fired upwards, Kamito swung the demon sword of darkness in the air.
Together with the staff in its hand, the Sphinx was cut into two immediately.
The dog-headed spirit turned into particles of light, disappearing into thin air. As expected, this Sphinx was lacking in durability.
Somersaulting using his residual momentum, Kamito then landed on the sand.
"Now, it's one versus one—"
Pulling out the Demon Slayer, Kamito turned around to face the bull-headed Sphinx.
"Let's end this next—"
Pouring divine power into both swords, Kamito readied himself to execute the Absolute Blade Arts' ultimate move—the Destructive Form.
<—Thy power, comprehensible.>
The Sphinx lowered the great sword in its hand and spoke.
<—The Tomb's path opens. The Demon King's successor is granted an audience with the Queen.>
Saying that, the Sphinx's body turned into particles of light and gradually disappeared—
Before Kamito could stop the Sphinx—
It vanished without trace.
...Only leaving dust in the wind.
"Uh, I guess, I'm approved...?"
Faced with a conclusion that came too anticlimactically—
Kamito could not help but feel drained, frozen to the spot.
The girls rushed over from behind the ship's wreckage from where they had been watching the battle.
"Kamito-san, are you alright?"
"Yeah, it's nothing..."
Kamito nodded ambiguously.
Although the two archdemon-class spirits were formidable fores, compared to the Greyworth in her prime that he had fought at Dracunia, they were nothing at all.
"By the way, what exactly is that worthiness..."
Kamito muttered to himself. Just then...
"What is that!?"
Ellis shouted, pointing out into the desert where sand was blowing.
Everyone looked in the same direction.
Only to see—
"W-What is that—?"
From beyond the horizon, a giant shadow emerged.
"It clearly was not there just now..."
The young ladies murmured in surprise, exchanging looks.
After a beat's delay—
"Say, could it be..."
Fianna slow began to speak.
"...Is that the Demon King's Capital?"
Late at night. Inside an office where a small lamp was lit—
Rubia Elstein was currently reading secret documents uncovered from Scorpia.
Most of these secret documents were about the Ranbal War.
This great war started from a minor territorial dispute between Ordesia and the Holy Kingdom of Lugia that finally drew in the entire continent.
Even though an eternal truce had been signed between the two nations since twenty-odd years ago, the war's effects still linger everywhere.
(Experiments for transferring to power of spirits to humans, experiments for inducing spirits to self-destruct so that their internal energy went amok... This is more terrifying than imagined—)
Rubia lit a fire at her fingertips and burned the stack of documents to cinders.
Such severe crimes, going as far as to turn spirits into instruments of war, it was nauseating.
The Theocracy was not alone. In those days, every country did similar things.
Even her home country, the Ordesia Empire, had been researching cursed armament seals and strategic-class militarized spirits that had been modified into weapons of mass destruction.
(I have no right to mock such folly, I suppose—)
Rubia Elstein narrowed her ruby-like eyes and mocked herself.
She had corrupted her own body with cursed armament seals for the sake of obtaining power, thus disqualifying herself as a pure princess maiden.
Of course, she had no regrets. But—
(This filthy body no longer has the right to hold my little sister's hand—)
This was the only thing that she missed, weighing on her mind.
(But that man—)
Suddenly, Kamito's face appeared in her mind.
Recalling the first time in her life to show her naked body to a man, she instantly blushed, her face turning hot.
She had never experienced such feelings in her entire life.
As soon as she thought of him, her heart became strangely unsettled.
Just then, suddenly, she felt intense pain from her right hand.
Her face contorted by the sharp pain, as acute as being burned by fire, she cast her gaze upon her right hand, only to see—
A crimson emblem, symbolizing fire, was glowing brilliantly.
Rubia widened her ruby-like eyes.
This was the brand that had not disappeared even after she had disqualified herself as a princess maiden.
—The seal of the spirit contract formed with the Fire Elemental Lord.