Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume19 Chapter2
Chapter 2 - The Truth Twenty-years Prior
After the demon spirit Vlad Dracul showed up, Kamito and his friends went over to the headmistress' office.
With her gray hair was bobbing about, Vlad Dracul was quite cute.
Kamito had crossed blades with her in her elemental waffe form at Dracunia—
"I can't believe there's a demon spirit with human form..."
Kamito spoke quietly, out of earshot of the girl walking in front.
"That's the highest-ranked spirit out of all the demon spirits, crowned with the title of 'Duke.' Truly impressive as ever, the Dusk Witch, to be able to tame such a powerful spirit."
"Don't tell me you're acquainted with her?"
"Only by reputation. After all, she went on a wild rampage during the Spirit War—"
"Yes, Miss Sword Spirit over there, I've fought you before, you know~"
The girl looked back and giggled, baring her sharp teeth.
"Pretty much every Elemental Lord's direct subordinate was strong, but this wild child Est was super dangerous. To be honest, I really don't want to go against her again."
"Est, do you recall any of this?"
Upon hearing Kamito's question, the sacred sword at his waist flashed several times. Separated from her principal body, Est currently retained only fragments of her memories from the Spirit War.
"What~, you don't remember~? Tsk."
The demon spirit girl grumbled quite disappointedly then half-skipped half-ran up the stairs.
"According to the Spirit Research Society's understanding, it is theoretically impossible for humans and demon spirits to communicate with each other. I never expected a spirit like her to exist."
Claire murmured with curiosity.
"You elementalists might think you know everything about spirits, but there are still many more mysteries in Astral Zero."
"Can't deny that."
Claire admitted it honestly with a shrug.
Arriving before the headmistress' office, the demon spirit girl pushed the door open without knocking.
"I brought 'em here~, shitty witch hag~"
"Who do you think you are calling hag? I'll annihilate you, demon spirit."
Sitting at the office desk inside, Greyworth invoked void spirit magic without delay.
Kamito hastily dodged.
"Ehehe, so scary—Woo♪"
Somersaulting in the air with a flutter of her skirt, the demon spirit Vlad dodged the magic projectile spectacularly.
The floor was dug up with a huge hole in the office wall.
"You're in the way, lad. I need to teach a disobedient bad spirit a lesson."
Still with her finger pointed at the demon spirit girl, Greyworth spoke with a serious demeanor.
"What's wrong with calling a shitty hag out for being a shitty hag?"
"How dare you—"
Vlad stuck out her tongue.
"Shitty hag so scary, Vlad's gonna play outside now~"
With a turn of her jet-black overcoat, she immediately escaped out of sight.
"...My goodness. My previous contracted spirit was so much better, even though they're both demon spirits."
"Where did you contract this spirit from?"
Kamito asked while walking into the office.
"A sealed spirit kept in secret by the Ordesian military. Unearthed from ancient ruins, but no one was able to tame her. Okay, please take a seat—"
Greyworth stood up and invited Kamito and company to sit down on the sofa for guests.
Leaning Est against the side, Kamito sat down on the sofa.
Occupying his left and right were Claire and Restia respectively. Faced with Greyworth, who looked like she was the same age as them, Claire seemed a bit nervous.
Well, who could blame her? After all, the legendary witch recorded in the Academy's textbooks was appearing before her, looking identical to during the olden days.
"Have you recovered?"
"Yeah, pretty much. At least I can walk."
Nodding, Kamito shrugged a bit.
"I see. Sorry for pushing you too hard, lad."
Greyworth spoke quietly with a solemn look.
"What's going on, this is totally unlike you."
"I became the Holy Kingdom's pawn and hurt you. I must apologize for this first."
Saying that, Greyworth slowly bowed her head.
Seeing that, Claire widened her eyes in surprise. Kamito gasped too.
To think the witch would bow her head. Was history being made?
"What happened to you in the imperial capital? It's not like I don't care about what happened twenty-four years ago, but I want to clear this up first. An elementalist of your level, manipulated by others, that's unthinkable—"
"...You are right."
Lifting her monocle, Greyworth stared intently into Kamito's eyes.
"Did you hear from the princess about the attempted assassination of the emperor?"
She was referring to how the Bloodstone in Fianna's possession had run amok and released a powerful demon spirit during the Imperial Council's discussion of how to handle the Theocracy's coup d'etat.
"I was labeled a traitor to the country and imprisoned in the infamous tower of Guas Gibai. Everything was planned by the Holy Kingdom backing Arneus."
Guas Gibai. Commonly known as the "torture tower," it was a military research facility used during the Ranbal War for a series of cruel human experiments involving cursed armament seals and others.
While Kamito and his companions were infiltrating the imperial capital, the Numbers special operative knight Virrey Branford had disappeared there during her mission to rescue Greyworth.
"I heard that the Holy Kingdom's warrior priestesses are implanted with faith towards the Holy Lord using mind magic—"
Resting her chin on her hand, Claire murmured.
"It was not mind magic."
Greyworth shook her head in response.
"I'd have trouble believing that an elementalist like you could get brainwashed by mind magic, even having lost your peak power."
Restia commented while preening her jet-black feathers.
"Oh? I never expected to receive such high praise from you, darkness spirit."
"Oh my, I have no choice but to acknowledge how scary you are. After all, you are the witch who took away my Kamito before."
Faced with Restia's combative gaze, Greyworth smiled wryly in return.
(...Oh well, I can't imagine this witch getting brainwashed either.)
Also, it would not explain why she had regained her youthful appearance either.
Like resurrection of the dead, regaining one's youth was not something any spirit's power could achieve.
If there was an exception, it would only be—
"The Holy Kingdom made me remember my covenant from the past."
"Indeed. Twenty-four years ago, I entered into a covenant with the Holy Lord."
Greyworth began to narrate in a calm tone of voice.
Twenty-four years ago, the month of the white lion...
It was the day when Greyworth Ciel Mais had emerged victorious in the Blade Dance as the Empire's representative.
She had gone to the Elemental Lords' altar to present her longtime wish.
Back then, the wish she had made was a young girl's naive fantasy.
"...What did you wish for?"
Hearing Kamito's question, Greyworth smiled wryly in self-mockery.
"—A world without war."
"That foolish little girl wished for such a dream to come true."
Kamito could not help but stay silent.
A foolish wish—The witch's words were excessively heavy.
The Ranbal War. Before Kamito and his companions were born, two great wars had broken out on the continent.
It was said that war had started due to squabbling over mining rights of spirit crystals, but there was no definitive narrative of the true reason.
With the entire continent gripped in war, the ultimate witch had applied herself to the battlefield, earning the title of hero in her homeland.
However, what the girl known as the witch sought was not fame or praise.
On the battlefield where numerous comrade-in-arms and contracted spirits perished constantly—
With a singlehearted wish to put an end to armed conflict, she plunged into the midst of war.
Hence, that was the first wish the girl made.
It was precisely for the sake of achieving that wish, the girl had won every fight throughout her Blade Dance tournament.
However, that wish—
That pure wish was absolutely impossible to achieve exactly because it was too pure.
Kamito knew this already.
(...Fifteen years ago, there was another girl who made the same wish.)
Lurie Lizaldia—That girl's wish did not come true.
"The Elemental Lords said that it was a wish beyond the power of miracles. At that moment, I realized for the first time that the Elemental Lords were not omnipotent."
In front of the Elemental Lords' altar, the girl fell into the abyss of disappointment.
From the beginning, she was uninterested in any other wish.
I might as well leave without making any wish, she thought.
It would serve as a tiny "take that" directed at the powerless Elemental Lords—
But just then...
"—A voice appeared in my mind and spoke to me."
"Was it Holy Lord Alexandros...?"
Greyworth quietly nodded when Kamito spoke that name.
Three years ago, the Holy Lord was absent when Kamito was granted an audience with the Elemental Lords.
What had the Holy Lord said to Greyworth twenty-four years ago?
"The Holy Lord proposed a certain deal to me."
"The Holy Lord told me this. I can make your wish come true. I can create a world without war, a world where conflict between people will no longer exist—"
—Become my right arm to achieve that world.
"Was that the covenant? Between you and the Holy Lord—"
Greyworth's gray eyes darkened.
"Having witnessed too much death, the little lass was dealt a serious blow by despair. She believed those words that were filled with hope. Or rather, she entrusted everything to that sliver of hope—"
Hence, the Holy Lord and the Witch established a covenant.
The Holy Lord granted a portion of the power of miracles to the maiden. Completely unaware that true identity of the miracle was the darkness corrupting the Elemental Lords, the maiden accepted the power.
"It was thanks to the power of miracles shared by the Holy Lord that my appearance remained unchanged over so many years. And also because of that, my divine power did not wane until now—"
"I see, so that's what happened..."
Claire held her breath, unable to hide the surprise on her face.
(...Speaking of which, Lurie Lizaldia also kept her youthful appearance.)
Just then, Kamito recalled that.
However, Lurie apparently had the ability to alter her appearance using spirit magic as well..
"On that day, I became the Holy Lord's right arm. While serving my homeland Ordesia as the first of the Empire's Numbers, I waited for the right time."
"The right time?"
Greyworth's sharp gaze shot straight at Kamito's face.
"Yes. I was waiting for one who had inherited the Demon King's power to show up."
Kamito widened his eyes in surprise.
The one who had inherited the Demon King's power. In other words...
"You, Kazehaya Kamito."
Greyworth exhaled gravely.
"All this time, I have been waiting for you to appear, lad."
"...Waiting to meet me? You?"
This was the most shocking statement she had made so far.
Feeling intense thirst in his throat, Kamito gulped.
In Kamito and Greyworth's first encounter, they were respectively the assassin and assassination target.
That was actually all part of the plan?
"The Holy Lord predicted that the Darkness Elemental Lord's reincarnation would be born in this era, and therefore looked forward to his awakening."
"The Holy Lord wanted me to awaken? Why...?"
The Darkness Elemental Lord was supposed to be the Holy Lord's enemy.
Then why on earth did he want her to resurrect...?
"In response to the Darkness Elemental Lord's awakening, that which had sealed the Holy Lord's soul would be liberated—That was what the Holy Lord told me. Back then, I did not fully understand, but now I finally do. You must have realized too, lad."
"...! So that's what's going on?"
That which had sealed the Holy Lord's soul.
It was referred to the one who had turned into a spirit crystal due to Est's power, and was thus sealed underground in the Demon King's Tomb for a thousand years—
...He had suspected this before.
Why had the Holy Lord not released the Sacred Maiden's seal for so long, the past thousand year?
The spirit Iris' barrier was not the sole reason.
Until the Demon King's successor awakened, the Sacred Maiden likewise could not wake up.
"Then in that case, you raised me as Ren Ashbell because—"
Confronted with the question asked by Kamito's trembling voice, Greyworth answered.
"My mission was to hasten your awakening as the Demon King."
He felt as though his vision turned pitch black.
In that case, those memories back then with her raising him—
Instruction at the witch's mansion, training in the Spirit Forest, inheriting Absolute Blade Arts, etc—
(All that was to complete her mission as the Holy Lord's right arm...?)
Presumably realizing Kamito's thoughts—
Greyworth showed sorrow on her face.
Seeing her expression, Kamito clenched his fist hard.
...The thought of condemning Greyworth did not cross his mind.
No matter what her motive, she had personally raised Kamito.
However, it was a feeling akin to loss and desolation that tightly gripped Kamito's heart.
"In the beginning, I took you in because of the mission. That is the truth."
Greyworth confessed everything.
"But while I was raising you, confusion appeared in my heart for the first time."
"Perhaps I developed feelings over time. If you were to awaken as the Demon King, you would become the enemy of the world, destined to walk a path of no return, bearing the brunt of hatred and resentment from numerous peoples. When I realized that, I—"
Suspicious of the Holy Lord's words for the first time, Greyoworth explained.
"It was then that I figured it out. The Holy Lord's true objective."
Kamito and Claire's voices overlapped.
"Soon after adopting the lad, I had a strange dream."
"Yes. What you saw at the Elemental Lords' altar, I saw in my dream."
"...The angels of another world?"
Repeating the same dream every night, she soon realized it was no ordinary dream.
It was a dream shared between a spirit and the princess maiden contracted to the spirit.
Just as how Kamito was able to catch glimpses of the Darkness Elemental Lord's memories—
Perhaps through the Otherworldly Darkness inside her, Greyworth had witnessed the Holy Lord's dream.
Or maybe, it was a sign that the Holy Lord was gradually recovering his original strength just as Kamito was starting to awaken as the Demon King.
"In the dream, an army of an astounding number of angels occupied the entire sky. A gigantic gate was open in the air. Countless angels descended from there."
An army of angels had come to this world through a gate?
It was what Kamito feared most after seeing what lay across the Otherworldly Darkness at the Elemental Lords' altar.
"But that was not the most shocking scene."
"Next, a giant of light swallowed the angels."
Saying that, even Greyworth had sweat on her forehead.
"Uh, a giant of light...?"
Claire asked in surprise.
"...The Holy Lord. As a contractor, I instinctively understood."
In front of the shocked Greyworth—
Having swallowed the angels, the giant of light began to employ that power.
Literally, the giant changed the world by hand.
All Greyworth could do inside the dream was watch in shock as the world she knew gradually disappeared.
"I could not tell whether the scene I witnessed in my dream was something that had actually happened in the past or a possible future in the Holy Lord's mind."
However, it was then that Greyworth finally understood the true meaning of the Holy Lord's words.
So-called creating a world without war meant opening a gate to the Otherworld to obtain the power of angels, then using that power to remake the world from zero—
Mid-sentence, Kamito stopped.
He recalled what Lurie and Millennia had said.
Rebuild the world—That was what they had said.
Although it had limitations, the summoned angel definitely possessed the power to interfere with physical laws.
If the Holy Lord, leader of the Elemental Lords, obtained that power, then—
"As for the world the Holy Lord will create, I have no idea what it will be like."
Greyworth shook her head calmly.
"Perhaps it is the world without war that I once wished for. However, it is definitely not the world that my comrades-in-arms sacrificed themselves to protect."
"...I see. That's why you—"
For Lurie Lizaldia, the world was already filled with despair.
That was why she was willing to sacrifice herself for the ideal world the Holy Lord described.
However, Greyworth was different.
What she wanted to protect was the current world.
"Resolving to betray the Holy Lord, I ordered Vivian Melosa, who was my disciple back then, to transplant an illegal cursed armament seal onto my heart, sealing the covenant."
However, that was a miscalculation. When the cursed armament seal was transplanted to her heart, simultaneously, all memories about the Holy Lord were erased.
This was a trap laid by the Holy Lord when he granted power.
Forgetting she had entered into a covenant with the Holy Lord—
She unconsciously guided Kamito to awaken as the Demon King.
—Hence, the Strongest Blade Dancer, Ren Ashbell, was born.
"...That was what happened twenty-four years ago."
"While I was imprisoned at Guas Gibai, Millennia Sanctus destroyed the cursed armament seal and awakened the darkness lying dormant inside me. Lad, do you still remember the time when you inherited the ultimate technique during the Blade Dance?"
Passing on the ultimate technique of the Absolute Blade Arts, Greyworth had lost her power as an elementalist.
"That time, it was Lurie Lizaldia who saved me at Ragna Ys. My guess is she analyzed the cursed armament seal on my heart while treating me."
"I am the stupid witch, leashed by the Holy Lord."
Greyworth laughed in self-mockery.
Kamito said slowly.
"You put your heart into raising me. That's the unalterable truth."
Although he felt a bit shy saying this in front of the witch, these were Kamito's true feelings.
She was the one who had taught Kamito how to survive in this world.
She was the one who had created the opportunity for him to meet Claire and the rest of Team Scarlet at the Academy.
She had given Kamito back his human side after his assassin upbringing.
It was almost like—
Hearing these words of Kamito—
Greyworth showed a shocked expression for an instant, stunned.
"Fufu, I almost fell for you there, lad—"
Seeing the witch's innocent smile for the first time, Kamito felt his heart race.
"Excuse me, headmistress, how were you able to recover your memory?"
"It was the Demon Slayer that severed the covenant together with the Otherworldly Darkness inside me. When I woke up at the bottom of Dragon's Canyon, I had regained all my memories."
"I see, the gamble paid off—"
Kamito looked down at Est at his waist.
The Demon Slayer had destroyed the cursed seal armament transplanted to Velsaria's heart in the past and erased the darkness corrupting Elemental Lords.
Naturally, erasing the Holy Lord's contract was possible too.
"Praise me, Kamito."
"You're amazing, Est."
Kamito chuckled wryly and gently stroked the sacred sword's hilt.
"Speaking of which, how does the Holy Lord intend to open the gate to the Otherworld?"
"...Yeah. And to obtain the angels' power—"
Though the Elemental Lords were powerful, would something like this actually be possible...?
"—Perhaps this thing might know."
Greyworth glanced at the sword leaning against the wall.
Securely bound by by a chain for restraining spirits, this was the sword of Millennia Sanctus.
Turning herself into a gate, she had summoned an angel.
Surely, she must know the inner details of the Holy Lord's plan.
"Come to think of it, I think she called Est her sister."
...Upon closer examination, the sword's decorations were quite similar to the Demon Slayer's.
Even her iris was colored the same as Est's, a clear violet.
"I have no sisters."
Est denied simply.
"Allow me to investigate that sword."
—Just then, there was knocking at the door of the headmistress' office.
"Headmistress, an emergency report—"
The voice belonged to Kamito's homeroom teacher, Ms. Freya.
"What is the matter?"
"—The palace at the imperial capital has fallen."
Boom, boom, boom—!
Violent explosions rocked Nefescal Palace.
Militarized spirits for subduing strongholds were deployed in the air over the imperial capital, one after another.
At the back of the throne room inside the vast palace—
"...! W-Why... Why!?"
Pale in the face, Emperor Arneus cried out convulsively in terror.
With every vibration, the luxurious chandelier encrusted with spirit crystals swayed widely.
It was like a countdown to death.
"I-I am the legitimate Emperor of Ordesia! Why did this—"
There was no one else in the throne room. Only a few personal guards protected him.
The battle over the plains of Sadelka soon reached a conclusion.
Encouraged by Fianna's Glory of the Queen, the rebel's knights overwhelmed the Imperial Knights with their burgeoning morale.
Even taking into account Dracunia's reinforcements, the Empire's forces still enjoyed a six to four ratio advantage in numbers, but the Imperial Knights were extremely low in morale.
On top of it being common knowledge that Emperor Arneus was the Holy Kingdom's puppet, news of the rebel forces conquering Areishia Spirit Academy had dealt a decisive blow.
Transmitted by the wind, the news spread all at once, greatly shaking the Imperial Knights.
The Holy Kingdom's large-scale summoning of demon spirits, forbidden by international treaty, combined with the fact that the hero Greyworth supported the students, also contributed to the decrease in morale in the Empire's knights.
As the battle situation deteriorated, nobles in the emperor faction switched sides and surrendered.
The imperial capital's walls were raising white flags. Military ships and Dracunia's dragon riders occupied the whole sky.
"...Damn it, why didn't the Holy Kingdom send reinforcements!?"
Arneus emotionally smashed his fist against the throne's armrest.
The Holy Lord's Knights were garrisoned on the Holy Kingdom's border. Under a secret agreement, they were supposed to send reinforcements to help in defense as soon as the imperial capital was under attack.
However, there were no signs of reinforcements at all.
The cardinals stationed in the palace had also vanished without a trace.
The Holy Kingdom, which had backed his ascension, had abandoned him.
Explosions were heard repeatedly. The palace shook violently.
Arneus fell off the throne in an unsightly manner, clutching his head.
"How unseemly, Your Majesty."
Inside this throne room where there was not supposed to be anyone else. Someone's mocking voice was heard.
"I cannot fathom why you would cling so obsessively to a throne you never acquired through your own ability."
He looked up, only to see a young girl standing before him.
The Holy Kingdom's cardinal—Millennia Sanctus.
She was not merely a ordinary young beauty.
Arneus knew that she was an exceptionally rare and terrifying being.
"D-Dame Millenia, why didn't the Holy Kingdom send reinforcements!? At this rate, I'll—"
"Your reign will be overthrown."
Finding it funny, Millennia laughed.
Then why on earth did you people allow me to ascend to the throne!?
Arneus knew he was merely a puppet a long time ago.
"I-I still have value! Right?"
"No, your mission is over. Your Majesty."
"...! What did you say?"
"Enough sacrifices have been offered."
Arneus frowned in surprise.
"Our goal is to cause war and chaos on the continent. The two Ranbal Wars, the Theocracy's civil conflict, this Ordesia war and the Demon King War a thousand years ago, all of them were sacrifices for disrupting order in the human realm—"
"What on earth are you talking about..."
"The collapse of order in the human realm is enough to destabilize the Elemental Lords. This is key to opening the gate to the Otherworld— ="
With the sound of intense explosions, the palace gates were destroyed.
"—Now then, I must excuse myself. Take care, Your Majesty."
"W-Wait, I said wait!"
Ignoring Arneus' yelling—
With a turn of her pure white vestments, Millennia Sanctus disappeared.
"Ha, haha, hahahaha..."
Sitting on the throne, he laughed drily.
Just then, people entered with the sound of footsteps.
It was Fianna in full imperial attire and bodyguard knights.
...Evidently, even the knights in the king's royal guard had abandoned him.
"—Arneus, you have no right to sit on that throne."
Fianna pointed her elemental waffe rapier straight at him.
"...Is this the end?"
Hanging his head, Arneus raised his arms to surrender.