Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume18 Chapter7
Chapter 7 - Return to the Academy
Twenty-eight hours after setting off from Zohar, Kamito's team took a land route to enter the Spirit Forest in the Alzanu earldom bordering the Theocracy.
Just as Rubia had predicted, slipping into Ordesia was not that hard. Although Earl Alzanu was among the nobles on the Emperor's side, he had not deployed any troops to monitor the Spirit Forest, a notoriously terrifying realm.
(...I guess only suicidal armies would invade this kind of forest.)
It was night. Kamito's team were forcing a march through the dense and lush forest.
Since it was a new moon tonight, there was no moonlight in the forest. However, even during a full moon, moonlight would likely have trouble penetrating such a dense forest.
The ground was illuminated by nothing more than the flame on Scarlet's tail.
"...So eerie. I can clearly sense breathing, but there are no sounds from wild beasts at all."
"The Spirit Forest hates living things. Looks like we're not welcome."
Hearing Claire's murmurs, Kamito replied.
"Avoid making noise as much a possible. The spirits in the forest dislike outsiders."
"Yes, I know."
Across the human realm, the Spirit Forest was the location closest to Astral Zero. In the depths where the density of divine power was highest, it was not unusual to encounter archdemon-class spirits.
(...Greyworth brought me here before.)
Just then, Kamito recalled an unpleasant memory.
Even though he was trained as an assassin at the Instructional School, abandoning the twelve-year-old Kamito in this kind of place was not something a normal person would do.
That being said, this was undoubtedly the fastest route to the Academy.
Assuming safety considerations could be ignored, of course.
"Onii-sama, this is scary♪"
Holding Kamito's arm, Muir pressed her developing bosom against it.
Even though she was only thirteen, her chest was starting to show bounciness.
"H-Hold it right there, get away from him now!"
"No. Onee-chan, isn't his other hand free anyway?"
Sparks flew from Claire's twintails as though they had ignited.
"Settle down, you two. The spirits in the forest have started to clamor."
Walking in the lead, Ellis warned.
"Captain, have we not reached the Academy's area yet?"
"We should be close..."
Ellis murmured. Perched on her arm, Simorgh crowed.
In the forest, maps and compasses were completely useless.
All they could rely on were directions from Simorgh whose hunting grounds was the forest.
Eight hours had gone by since they entered the Spirit Forest. Even for well-trained elementalists, advancing through a danger-filled forest in the night without any rest would naturally be quite exhausting.
"I'll give you a piggyback ride if you're too tired. Just tell me, don't be shy."
"I-I can still manage!"
"The Temple of the Contract should be up ahead."
"The Temple of the Contract?"
"It's where I released Est."
Claire glanced at Kamito beside her and explained.
"Really? So we're around there..."
It was a place where Kamito had suffered greatly soon after transferring into the Academy. In order to protect Claire from Est who had gone out of control, Kamito intervened and established a spirit contract with Est.
Failing to obtain Est, Claire had complained and insisted on taking Kamito as her slave spirit—
(...Now that I think back, everything started at that temple.)
Kamito reminisced with emotions stirring within him.
Although it was merely a couple months of time, those bewildering days at the Academy really felt longer to him than the three years he spent wandering around in search of Restia.
"Y-You jerk! You're remembering the sight of my naked body, a-and groping my chest, right!?"
Claire glared obliquely at Kamito.
"What? I have never heard of this!"
"This is my first time hearing of it!"
Ellis and Rinslet interrogated.
"Y-You've got it wrong! It was Claire herself, swinging Flametongue around wildly..."
"...! What, you did grope me there, didn't you!? And you even said something about poorly developed breasts and having no interest in a child's body, right!?"
(...Crap, now I've really poked a hornet's nest!?)
Probably recalling her experience from that time, Claire flew into a rage.
"Poor you! Claire, your breasts have grown even if only a little!"
"Wait a sec, Rinslet!?"
"Onii-sama, I can't believe you said you're not interested in a child's body. I can't let that slide!"
While the group began to fight—
"Quiet, all of you—"
Velsaria, who had been quiet so far, spoke sternly.
Scolded by the former captain of the Sylphid Knights, Claire and the girls could not help but stand up straight.
Velsaria placed her hand on the sword at her waist and kept staring into the darkness.
Deep behind the crisscrossing trees, there was a deer with large antlers.
"An ancient divine beast spirit inhabiting the Spirit Forest. Do not make a sound."
Everyone held their breaths. This was a high-tier spirit whose appearance had become identical to an animal's.
"I never expected to encounter a spirit of that level not that deep in the forest..."
"I guess we'd better make a detour now."
"Yes, no matter how much longer a path it takes—"
Just as Claire quietly prepared to retreat.
Whoosh, there was a sound of something slicing through the air.
Countless shadows attacked Kamito's group from between the trees.
Kamito hastily jumped and slashed the shadows closing on his feet.
However, Kamito was the only one who managed to react to the sudden incident in the nick of time.
"Kyahhh, what is it doing... Ahhh♪"
Shadows resembling tentacles ensnared the young ladies' legs within the blink of an eye, tying them up onto the trees.
"...Guh... W-What is this...? Uwah, d-do not touch me there!"
Deprived of her armor, Ellis' voluptuous bosom was vulnerable to all kinds of groping.
"D-Damn it... I cannot believe I would end up, ah..."
Suspended in a bizarre pose, Velsaria was thrashing her limbs, struggling.
Her innocent skirt was boldly lifted. Kamito could see her pure white panties seductively wrapped around the well-developed root of her thighs.
"...! R-Ren Ash—Kazehaya Kamito, what are you staring at!?"
Glared at by her ice-blue eyes, Kamito frantically avoided eye contact.
"Yahh, Onii-sama, save me...♪"
Muir was the only one who seemed a little happy.
Kamito approached the wriggling tentacles with the glowing Demon Slayer.
Very quickly, he saw the true identity of the tentacles.
...It looked like they were merely plant vines.
"They seem harmless."
Kamito exhaled in relief.
"What are you talking about? Aren't I harmed right now? Hyahhhhhhhh♪"
"I-It has even made its way into my underwear... Nnnn♪"
"...I-In front of Kamito... Huahhh♪"
Entangled by vines, the young ladies kept moaning.
Kamito did not know if Scarlet thought her master was playing or if it was due to a cat's instincts, but Scarlet kept jumping around nearby.
"K-Kamito, stop watching and start helping!"
"I-I got it!"
Kamito hastily swung the Demon Slayer.
"What are you people doing here!?"
A girl's voice echoed throughout the dense forest.
Kamito turned around—
Only to see a familiar girl riding the back of a giant wolf.
Inside a certain temple in the forest, fire light was flickering. Hanging on the wall were large decorations made of bones. The pungent smell of herbs filled the air.
"My apologies to you all."
Saying that, the girl bowed towards Kamito's group sitting by the fire.
Her blue eyes were as clear as a lake's surface. She had platinum blonde hair.
Like Kamito and his friends, she was wearing the Academy's uniform.
The girl's name was Horin Shareilia.
She was the druid girl of Team Cernunnos.
A powerful user of a beast swarm spirit, she had defeated Kamito and Claire before in the school tournament. She was one of only a handful of powerful elementalists in the Academy.
Earlier, Kamito and the girls had triggered the traps she had laid in the forest.
"No, we were in the wrong for trespassing."
Kamito apologized. This part of the forest was apparently something like her backyard.
Born in a forest clan, Shareilia was a rare elementalist not hailing from a noble family.
Because of that, even though she was attending the Academy, she obtained special permission to live inside this Spirit Forest together with animals.
"If your home is here, that means that Academy town isn't far off, right?"
Claire asked while drinking herbal tea.
"Hmm, you will soon reach it after going down the hill."
"How are things at the Academy town?"
Shareilia shook her head at Ellis' question.
She was still in the forest when conflict broke out between the students and the Imperial Knights, which was why she could not return to the Academy. Left without a choice, she came to this temple to sleep. As it so happened, Kamito and his group triggered the traps in the yard.
"Why did you set traps like those?"
"It would be dangerous if students accidentally wandered into the forest."
Hearing Rinslet's warning...
"—I set them to prevent those people from damaging the historical sites in the forest."
She replied with a serious look.
"Did you say historical sites?"
Claire and the others exchanged glances.
There were many historical sites in the Spirit Forest, dating back to the age of myths.
For example, the temple dedicated to worshiping Est was one of these sites. The most famous historical site in the forest was probably the gate that allowed people to teleport to Astral Zero.
"Hmm, a bunch of weird looking people entered the forest and took away the gate historical site near the lake."
"Took away? How do they take away—"
"They used militarized spirits—"
Shareilia spoke with chagrin.
According to her, the suspicious group had released militarized spirits in the forest, slicing apart the giant rock that constituted the historical site and carried it away.
"They are not the Empire's knights?"
"I don't know. All of them were wearing strange masks. Animals have left because these people chopped down trees in the forest."
"It is hard to believe the Imperial Knights doing something like this—"
Ancient sites were products left behind from a past age when Astral Zero and the human realm were one. The technology of modern spiritology was unable to replicate the power of even the most basic historical sites.
Thus, historical sites were protected by international treaty. Let alone damaging them, even moving them was strictly prohibited. If the Empire's army had taken away the site, it would surely draw violent criticism from domestic nobles and foreign nations.
"What are they planning by taking a historical site away?"
"...I have a bad feeling about this."
"Yeah, we better hurry—"
Kamito nodded. Hearing that, Shareilia stood up and whistled.
"There is a shortcut to the Academy town ahead. I asked wolves to lead the way for you."
S.. Scr... Screeeeeeeeech...!
The noise of something massive being dragged could be heard at a large training ground at Areishia Spirit Academy.
Under the Imperial Knights' supervision, several large militarized spirits of type Glasya-Labolas were combining gigantic stones together, each as tall as themselves.
This was the historical site they had stolen from the Spirit Forest, the gate dating back to age of myths.
"Excellent. This is sufficient for the gate."
Sitting on the shoulder of a militarized spirit, a girl spoke.
Millennia Sanctus, a cardinal of the Holy Kingdom.
She was separate from the Millennia at the imperial palace in the capital, yet also the same being.
The ability to exist simultaneously across anywhere in space was part of her powers as a spirit.
The militarized spirits were employed by the Holy Kingdom's warrior priestesses instead of the Imperial Knights.
Wearing pure white masks, they belonged to an execution force under the direct command of Des Esseintes—
Moving a gate from the age of myths. Despite such an atrocity happening before their eyes, Ordesia's Imperial Knights were unable to intervene.
Because Cardinal Millennia came here bearing a decree from Emperor Arneus.
The Empire's knights were merely informed that the gate was to be used to perform a large-scale summoning magic experiment.
"Dame Millennia, the third set is complete. Do we begin as planned?"
Just then, a masked warrior priestess reported.
"Very well, let us begin as soon as possible."
Saying that, Millennia curled her lips and smiled.
"—The very first Astral Shift."
Led by forest wolves along a shortcut, Kamito's team emerged to instantly see the familiar scenery of the Academy town.
Surrounded by town walls, the center of the town showed the use of search lights.
That was the location of Areishia Spirit Academy's school building.
The barricades set up by the student resistance were in the Undine district where small theaters, cafes, clothing stores and various entertainment facilities were gathered.
This was the part of town most familiar to students. Kamito and his friends frequently went there to shop and even held a party in a restaurant once.
There was still plenty of time before dawn.
Overhead were flying militarized spirits with search lights.
"Don't look up, be careful of getting spotted."
In the shadow under trees, Claire whispered.
"Hmph, as a noble, I do not sneak around. Allow me to show you how to shoot down that thing."
Rinslet drew her bow confidently.
"Hold on—Stop it!"
Claire hastily pulled her back by her hair.
One could hear the sound of a neck cracking.
"That really hurts! What are you doing!?"
Rinslet protested with tears in her eyes.
"The patrolling militarized spirits are all connected. As soon as you attack, the army will know where we are."
Watching them, Muir said with exasperation.
"This level of security is nothing. Let's hurry."
"Wait, Muir. You're fine on your own, but we'll definitely get spotted if we move with this number of people."
"Oh my, Onii-sama, just kill whoever sees us."
Muir replied innocently.
...Those with Instructional School origins were all like this. Kamito sighed.
Nothing needed to be said about Kamito and Muir's prowess. Claire and Ellis were somewhat capable of stealth operations, but Rinslet and Velsaria did not quite seem suited to infiltration.
"Fufu, looks like it is my turn to enter the stage—"
Just then, Restia reverted to her original form and spread her jet-black wings.
"Do you have a solution?"
Hearing Kamito's question, Restia began to chant spirit magic.
"O dark night, clothe me as a robe of black—Darkness Mist."
Kamito's group was instantly covered by black mist.
"Hyah! W-What is this!?"
"Totally pitch black!"
"Spirit magic of the darkness element. With this, you can go about unseen, hidden in darkness."
"But my vision is dark too. How can we do anything like this?"
"Your eyes will soon adjust."
Just as Restia claimed, the darkness covering their vision gradually turned clear.
It was apparently possible to look out of the mist.
"I see, that's really handy."
Covered in black mist, Kamito's group used wind magic to land on the town wall.
Unnoticed by the patrolling militarized spirits, they made their way towards the Undine district. In addition to hiding them from view, the Darkness Mist magic apparently erased footsteps and presence too.
Just as they reached a wall that separated districts—
Kamito turned around and stopped his team.
...The footsteps of multiple people running were approaching.
Claire asked quietly?
"Who knows? Compared to the sound of military boots, they sound a bit light—"
"...Wait, this noise is familiar."
Ellis realized with surprise. She chanted wind spirit magic to gather surrounding sound.
"This is Rakka's sound. And also the Sylphid Knights—"
Ellis nodded at Claire's question.
Soon after, girls in the Academy's uniform appeared. Wearing the Sylphid Knights armor on top, they were familiar to Kamito.
"Rakka! And Reishia—"
As soon as Ellis called out to them, the black mist automatically disengaged.
Ellis was originally teammates with Rakka before joining Team Scarlet for the Blade Dance. Rakka rushed over.
"I apologize for worrying you."
"So you are safe, Captain—"
Likewise another former teammate of Ellis', Reishia teared up.
"Excuse me, Captain, why are you and your team here?"
Just then, Rakka asked.
Thus, Ellis gave brief and simple explanation of what led them to come over to reclaim the Academy.
"I see. That is reassuring."
Reishia replied happily.
"Everyone will be so encouraged now that the Blade Dance's victorious team has returned to the Academy."
"Then why are you here? Isn't everyone in Undine district?"
"We came to collect supplies. After all, the town gates are shut."
Rakka answered Claire's question. Although the Undine district itself had many restaurants and did not lack food, most daily necessities had to be moved from the Sylph district, their current location.
"Of course, we keep records at all the shops where we have borrowed supplies. The Sylphid Knights will pay off every debt."
"It is an emergency, after all. You had no choice."
Hearing Reishia's explanation, Ellis nodded.
"How many Imperial Knights are garrisoned in the Academy?"
"At least a hundred or so regular knights. The commander is Dame Alendora of the Numbers."
"Dame Alendora huh—"
Velsaria crossed her arms and murmured.
"Do you know her, Velsaria?"
"Seventh of the Numbers. I heard that she is quite accomplished."
"A hundred spirit knights, and on top of that, a member of the Numbers huh..."
Considering each spirit knight was each a formidable warrior in their own right, one could say that the Ordesia Empire had gathered substantial military force here. In addition, they probably possessed plenty of militarized spirits.
"On the student side, there are not a lot of people who can fight. The majority of the teachers are researchers and students using combat-oriented contracted spirits are in the minority. It is anyone's guess how long the barriers and barricades will hold—"
The usually cheerful Rakka spoke in a somber tone of voice.
"In any case, let us head to the barricades first. Please lead the way."
"Yes, right away!"
"Everyone will surely welcome you, Captain."
Hearing Ells, Rakka and Reishia nodded.
Just then, the glow of the Demon Slayer's blade flashed.
"Kamito, I sense an ominous aura."
"Yes, I feel it too—"
"What is that!?"
Restia pointed into the air.
"...What the hell!?"
Kamito widened his eyes in shock.
A gigantic pillar of light had appeared at the Academy's school building.
The pillar of light went straight up into the clouds, opening a large hole in the sky.
Eerie red light leaked out from between the clouds, pouring onto the town at night.
At the same time...
There were repeated sounds of explosions in the distance.
"What is that noise?"
"—The barricades are in that direction!"
Rakka shouted and started running towards the sound.