Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume5 Chapter5
Chapter 5 - The Princess Maiden of the Grand Shrine
"I never imagined that... under the Sanctuary, there are actually such enormous caves!"
"Yes, I don't think even the princess maidens at the Divine Ritual Institute know that these caves exist."
Holding the spirit crystal to light their path in one hand, Kamito made his way through the gigantic underground caves.
These caves, made by unknown men, were practically big enough to contain the entire Grand Shrine.
In between the stalactites were massive spiderwebs, bats danced in flight over their heads, and swarms of little bugs on the ground made Fianna shriek involuntarily.
"Your highness, are you all right?"
"I... I am but the esteemed second princess of the Empire... H-How can these mere bugs scare me... Aaaaah!"
"Why be so stubborn... Hey, watch your step."
As the princess let out a shrill scream of fear, Kamito grasped her hand tightly.
"It's a man's duty to protect a woman... Or do you mean to say you dislike holding boys' hands?"
"N-No, it's not that... It's just..."
"Your shriek just now was actually quite cute, you know."
"... I-I hate you! You're so mean, Kamito..."
At Fianna's pouting expression, Kamito could not help but laugh.
Although she liked to tease Kamito mercilessly, once this princess was given a taste of her own medicine, she would immediately reveal her pure and shy original side.
"Oh, that's right... Why would you know of such a place?"
"When I was still studying at the Institute, I came to this floating island as part of a ritual for the Wind Elemental Lord. A senior told me of this place."
"A senior... Who's that?"
"The Calamity Queen – Rubia Elstein-san."
At that, Kamito let out an uncontrollable yelp.
"You are old friends with Claire's older sister?"
"Yes. I don't have many close friends, and she... used to be one of them."
Fianna's expression suddenly darkened and grew lonely, and she muttered in the past tense.
"Here, even the highest ranked princess maidens are ordered to stop, so I too don't know why she would know of these caves—"
Right at that moment...
"Shhh... Don't say a word!"
Kamito stopped in his tracks and whispered to Fianna.
"What is it?"
"... There's someone nearby."
"How is that possible!? Only I know about th—"
Midway through her sentence, Fianna hastily fell silent.
Because she, too, had noticed the sounds of people talking.
—And if... body cannot bear it, what... do then...
—If so, it will mean... does not have the right to... that's all."
The words reverberated through the caves.
Because of the way the cave walls reflected sound, there was no way of telling how far they were from the speakers.
However, Kamito was certain that he had heard the voice somewhere before.
"That's Muir Alenstarl... So the one speaking to her must be—"
Kamito held onto Fianna’s shoulders protectively, and took a deep breath to control his emotions.
"Why would that bastard be here..!"
No mistake about it – the one talking to Muir was indeed Ren Ashbell.
—The very person who carved the Brand of Darkness on Kamito, and the very person responsible for the disappearance of Est.
If he had been in any condition to, Kamito would have rushed up to confront her.
However, Kamito currently lacked even the ability to summon spirits for battle.
Furthermore, he could not put Fianna in danger.
Kamito could hence only suppress his feelings of anger and aggression, and remain silently in hiding.
The pair's conversation finally ceased.
"... I think they've left."
Kamito let down his guard, took a breath and said:
"—What... on earth were they just doing?"
"I imagine... maybe performing some kind of ritual magic."
"Indeed. I heard what sounded like chanting in spirit language, but it sounded a little different to ordinary spirit language... It felt a little sinister, and it made my hair stand."
Fianna's shoulders quivered in fear.
"Why choose such a place to perform ritual magic—"
Kamito furrowed his brow in confusion.
"Hmmm... Say, Kamito?"
"H-How long are you planning to hug me for?"
As Fianna blushed furiously, Kamito hastily let go of her.
"Oooh... What's wrong with coming along, Kamito you dummy!"
Back in her room, Claire muttered to herself unhappily while collapsing on her bed.
As Ellis and Rinslet were both with their families, who had come to cheer them on, Claire was alone with Scarlet in the house.
Casting her face downwards, Claire clutched her pillow tightly.
They definitely had valid reasons, and even, in a manner of speaking, no choice but to leave her by herself.
... However, she couldn't help but feel lonely, as if she had been abandoned by her teammates.
"Who knows... what the two of them are doing..."
As they had left the room, Fianna had even pressed her bosom against Kamito's arm.
Kamito had looked a little surprised, but... how should she say this... seemingly not too repelled either.
"E-Either way, whatever that rascal does with that lascivious princess, it's none of my business..."
... Nevertheless, the bothersome feeling was still gnawing away at her chest.
"... Boys, do they all like big-chested girls?"
Perhaps it was what she had seen in the forbidden books in the Biblion, which detailed a wide variety of rituals involving the bodies of princess maidens, but Claire found herself even more self-conscious about her unimpressive chest.
"S-So unbelievable... That one would actually wedge t-that sort of thing in between...!"
Just the mere passing thought of it left Claire so embarrassed she blushed hotly.
"Put in between..."
Rub rub. Squeeze squeeze.
As a test, she gently rubbed her own tiny breasts.
... It was no good. With such a small chest, it was impossible for her to hold such a thing as illustrated in the book.
The most she would be able to do was rub it on the surface—
"Aaah... W-What nonsense am I thinking!"
Her face red, Claire clutched at her pillow wildly.
"S-Scarlet! G-G-G-Go away!"
Claire threw her pillow aside; startled, Scarlet fled from the room.
She was now truly completely alone in the room.
"... Why don't I... t-t-try out what was written in that book?"
The forbidden book mentioned earlier also contained a method to enlarge one's chest.
Making use of the intelligence that had allowed her to achieve such stellar grades in the Academy, Claire took advantage of a moment when Ellis and Rinslet were distracted to memorize the contents of the script.
"... I-I have to try it to know whether or not it'll really work."
She cleared her throat and removed a small stone from her bag.
A low-level thunder spirit was sealed within that spirit crystal. Although this type of spirit crystal was expensive, it was also not especially rare; its original purpose was to scare away wild forest creatures.
Claire put it on her white underclothes, and through the cloth gently massaged her chest.
The sharp tip of the stone rubbed against her chest painfully, but Claire told herself to be brave and bear it.
She focused on her fingers, concentrating her divine power in the spirit crystal.
The normal way of using it would be to summon a burst of divine power into it, releasing the spirit sealed within. The trick to this method seemed to be to input divine power in a slow, more controlled manner, which required much more skill – however, this was child's play for an elementalist as talented as Claire.
"Th-This will really enlarge my chest..? Aieeee!"
The sealed spirit suddenly began responding, releasing weak sparks of energy into Claire's body.
The intoxicating comforting feeling made her tremble right down to her fingertips.
"W-What is going on... Uhhh... Aaaah!"
Claire twisted about making noises, pressing the still-sparking spirit crystal against her chest.
"Aaaa-aaah, mmm, aah-ha, aah... oooh..."
Unable to bear the intoxicating pain, she grasped her bedsheets in her fist and gasped deep breaths.
"I must b-be strong, so that my c-chest will get bigger... Aaaah!"
Suddenly, an even stronger jolt of energy surged through her, causing Claire to tremble uncontrollably and lean her body backwards.
(W-What now, I c-can't stop..!)
As the sweet pain coursed through her, Claire felt herself begin to lose consciousness.
"—What, you rascal, so you'd like me to do these things to you?"
For some unknown reason, at that moment, an image of Kamito floated into Claire's mind. The imaginary Kamito was even looking at her with an expression like in her favorite romance novels... a cool, cruel, haughty expression.
"O-Of course not! Stupid... Stop now, don't go on any more!"
"Oh... You really wish for me to stop?"
"Huh? .... Aaaa!"
"Look at you, what are those sounds you're making? You really are a dirty young miss."
"Oooh, mmm... W-Who says... Aaaah..."
"Why don't you admit your true feelings, young lady?"
"What t-true feelings... aaaah... ohhh!"
"... Whew... oooh... Kamito, you stu..."
A voice beside her ear jolted Claire back into reality.
Outside the door stood a youthful princess maiden holding a box.
"Waaaah... W-What are you doing!?"
"I-I'm sorry for disturbing you! The door wasn't locked, so—"
The girl nodded in profuse apology.
"C-Can I help you with anything?"
Claire sat up primly, cleared her throat and asked.
"Yes, indeed, someone requested I give you this—"
The girl placed the box in her hands on a rack beside the door.
The box was marked with a seal that Claire was very familiar with.
"This is from Headmistress Greyworth... What could it be?"
Claire opened the box. Inside were huge quantities of books and documents.
"– You mean to say, you had a dream about Sacred Queen Areishia?"
"Mmm... I just can't seem to forget about it, that's all."
In the pitch-black cave –
Kamito walked along with Fianna while telling her of his dream earlier that day.
That dream – in which Sacred Queen Areishia used the Demon Slaying Sacred Sword to vanquish the Demon King.
Kamito somehow felt that the contents of the dream might have had something to do with Est.
"That would indeed be a memorable dream..."
Fianna put a hand on her chin and thought for a moment, then said:
"Perhaps... What happened was Kamito's thoughts and feelings mixing with Est's."
"What does that mean?"
Kamito only knew a little about these academic matters, but Fianna was once an outstanding princess maiden, so she was very knowledgeable in these areas.
"It's not unusual for elementalists and their contracted spirits to have a mental connection in their dreams. Especially when the Gate between them cannot be opened, such phenomenon will become even more common."
As Fianna talked, she gestured with her index finger.
"When I lost my connection to my contracted spirit, I would frequently dream of a knight charging forth on the battlefield."
The rider in her dream was probably the spirit Georgios she commanded. By the looks of it, even if the elementalist lost their power, the connection between the two did not break completely.
"That dream – you're saying it's part of Est's memory?"
If that were true, Est was really the true Demon Slayer Sacred Sword?
"Mmm... To be sure, the picture should have been formed by the mixing of Est's and Kamito's memories – "
Saying this, Fianna suddenly stopped in her tracks.
"I can understand what you're feeling... Because the same tragedy happened to me before."
Kamito also stopped and turned to face her.
The second princess of the Empire, the impending successor to Rubia, the anticipated heir princess maiden. Unfortunately, when she lost the ability to command spirits and became a fallen princess maiden, those around her reversed their attitudes and regarded her only with disappointment.
For the young, innocent girl, that would certainly have been an unimaginable horror.
"But Fianna, you did not just give up because of that."
"That was only because of Kamito's efforts."
Looking at him directly, she replied.
"Three years ago, the blade dance you presented gave me, a lost elementalist, renewed hope and inspiration. If not for you, Kamito, I suppose I would still be hiding away in the castle right now."
"You exaggerate too much."
Embarrassed, Kamito shook his head.
"Of course not, moreover... Since then, I have felt towards Kamito—"
At that moment, a group of bats suddenly flew past their heads.
Fianna shrieked involuntarily.
Kamito waved the lantern about, only then did the bats fly away, frightened.
"... All right, it's fine now. That's right... What were you about to say just now?"
"N-Nothing! It was nothing!"
Fianna mumbled to herself as if to shrug the matter off, then continued onwards.
... For a lengthy while after, all was quiet between the two apart from the sound of footfalls.
"Oh, Kamito, you don't plan on telling Claire your true identity?"
Fianna's sudden question came out of nowhere.
"Mmm, forget it... If I caused someone's dream to be ruined, I would never be able to live with myself."
For a longed-for dream to always remain as a dream was the most perfect situation of all.
The strongest blade dancer three years ago was long gone now.
It would be better for "her" to remain merely in the imaginations of Claire and her friends.
"Furthermore... If they were to find out about my habit of dressing as a girl, they would surely laugh at me to no end."
Looking down at his outfit, Kamito muttered to himself.
"Hee hee... Does that mean I'm the only one to share in Kamito's little secret?"
Fianna suddenly let slip a gleeful smile and clutched Kamito's arm tightly.
"Hey, watch your step."
"It doesn't matter anyway, even if I were to trip, Kamito will catch me before I fall."
"You rascal... Some princess you are, please be a bit more wary of men!"
"Huh, don't you know? In front of a boy she likes, a princess is but an ordinary girl!"
The princess stuck her tongue out at Kamito mischievously.
Her adorable response made Kamito's heart quicken.
"My dear princess, please stop joking around with me."
"... I hate you, I wasn't joking."
After quite a while, the two of them finally arrived at the secret tunnels of the Grand Temple.
The path overhead was blocked by a giant stone slab, on which were cramped carvings of words in spirit language.
The exit was right here; the courtyard of the Grand Temple was just outside.
"Kamito, may I climb on your shoulders?"
"Sure, no problem."
Nodding, Kamito bent to allow Fianna to get up.
The sensation of her tender thighs on the back of his neck made Kamito's heart involuntarily leap into his throat – how he hoped she would not get mad at him because of that.
"S-Speaking of which... I really don't have to hide my face?"
"Something so suspicious would in fact make us more easily discovered. Besides, I'm a girl and even I think Kamito looks very pretty, so you don't need to worry at all."
"Such praise really doesn't make me feel any better..."
Then, Fianna chanted what sounded like a magical curse. The spirit words on the stone shone brightly blue, and the entire slab split cleanly down the middle and opened outwards.
Bright moonlight beamed directly into the dark cave.
Night had already fallen upon the outside world, and a bonfire was burning to light the enormous courtyard.
"—It looks like no one's around, let's go now."
Fianna reached out and placed a hand on the ground, then slowly climbed out.
Kamito leaped up in one bound, and followed closely behind her.
Fortunately, the ritual clothing had a long skirt, so even if Kamito were to look up, Fianna's panties would still be hidden.
"What a pity... I'd even specially worn Kamito's favorite knickers today."
"I-I don't even l-like... suspenders!"
"Oooh, it looks like I've hit upon the truth!"
Looking at Kamito's vexed expression, Fianna broke out into peals of laughter.
After climbing to ground level, the two of them hurried to the stone corridor in front of the courtyard.
"I say... If we're found out, will we have to escape from every single Guardian spirit here?"
"Don't look guilty, and we won't be found out."
The two of them exchanged nervous whispers while walking along the stone corridor stretched out before them.
At that moment, a princess maiden appeared in front of them and began walking towards them.
Kamito's heart jolted, and his facial expression hardened.
The girl drew ever closer, step by step—
Just as they were about to pass each other, she suddenly stopped before them and said:
"Pardon me, where are you headed?"
"To Reicha-sama's chambers. Reicha-sama says she's feeling unwell, so..."
"Oh, is that so? Sorry for your trouble."
Fianna answered the questioning princess maiden with a calm, composed expression on her face, and the latter then turned and left.
"Look, didn't we just successfully pass this trial?"
"Wow... The bravery of the princess maiden really is something else. I was so scared my heart almost stopped "
For a male to enter the Divine Ritual Institute was absolutely unheard of. A rule of such importance had never been broken before.
If they were to be caught, in the best case they would be executed, while in the worst case... Never mind, it was best not to think about it.
Fianna, who was walking in front, gestured surreptitiously with her hand.
Following her lead—
– The pair reached the end of the lengthy corridor, where there were a set of grand doors decorated with intricate carvings.
The decor of this door was noticeably different to the other doors: several very pure and valuable spirit crystals were inlaid on the frame of the door.
"... Uh... Fianna, may I ask a question?"
Kamito inquired, a twitching expression on his face.
"What is it?"
"This door wouldn't happen to be... Never mind, I guess it goes without saying..."
"Indeed, it's just what Kamito thinks."
Fianna shrugged her shoulders at Kamito naughtily.
"I've no choice... Which other princess maidens are of a higher status than I am, other than these ladies?"
"Are you serious?"
"Don't worry, I'm absolutely certain."
Finishing her sentence, Fianna knocked smartly on the door thrice, according to the proper regulations.
The duo waited for a while—
Finally, the grand doors gradually opened.
The sight that greeted them was—
A red carpet that stretched out straight before them and brightly glittering spirit crystals.
This was a sacred space, filled with the aura of somber tranquility.
A thin curtain hung at the far end of the room; behind that was the silhouette of a small slight figure.
"What does the visitor want? I believe I have already instructed not to have my meal—"
The high stately voice rang out into the hall.
However, undeterred, Fianna walked forward and said:
"Long time no see, Reicha. How have you been lately?"
The maiden hastily pulled aside the curtain, then – her jaw dropped in shock.
"... It can't be, Fianna-sempai!?"
She was one of the Queens to have gained the honor of serving the five Elemental Lords.
There were only five Queens in the entire continent, and they were the most eminent of all princess maidens.
Although Fianna had said she wanted to bring Kamito to meet a high-ranked princess maiden—
He had never for a moment dreamed that she was referring to a current Queen.
"Why didn't you tell me this before?"
"Because... If I had, you wouldn't have come, would you Kamito?"
Kamito could not hide his conflicting feelings. Likewise, the girl seated beside him was also nervously averting her gaze and looked rather uneasy.
The girl had glossy black hair neatly done up in braids and cute eyes like that of a small animal.
Dressed in bright red ritual clothing, she looked like a butterfly about to take flight.
At fifteen, she was a year younger than Kamito. Like Rubia Elstein, she was one of Fianna's few close friends and confidantes while she was at the Divine Ritual Institute.
She served the Fire Elemental Lord – in other words, she had succeeded the Calamity Queen elementalist's position.
Kamito had already introduced himself, removed his disguise, and revealed that he was in truth male.
Upon discovering that Kamito was in fact male, Reicha very nearly fainted on the spot, and only managed to stay conscious thanks to Fianna's eloquent explanations.
"I-I-If I am ungracious, it is because it is my f-first time talking to a male..."
"N-Never mind. I should be the one apologizing, to barge in on you suddenly like this."
Looking at the Queen bobbing her head apologetically in his direction, Kamito also bowed his head in response.
Despite obviously being the highest ranked princess maiden in the continent, she was nonetheless humble and polite.
Due to her rank, Kamito should have used genteel, formal language when addressing her. However, regardless of that fact, she nonetheless looked like an ordinary young girl, so Kamito could not help but speak to her as an equal.
"Hee hee, little Reicha is still as cute as ever."
Fianna smiled mischievously and reached out to feel her small chest.
"Ah – ! S-Sempai, what are you doing!"
"Your chest seems to have gotten a little bigger?"
"Oooh... I-I really haven't...!"
Reicha blushed and twisted her body defensively.
... Even if she was indeed an old friend, to do something like that to a Queen was pushing it a little, wasn't it?
Kamito broke out into a cold sweat and averted his eyes awkwardly.
The two girls reminisced fondly for a while, then—
"Reicha, actually... I have a favor to ask of you."
Fianna made her request with a serious expression.
"A favor – yes?"
Reicha blinked, not understanding.
"Mmhmm, I need to borrow your power, to break the curse on him – Kamito."
"You mean to say this male has been cursed?"
The Fire Queen asked, turning to look at Kamito.
"My sword spirit might have been trapped by this curse. Please save her, I beg you." Kamito placed both his hands on the ground and pleaded with Reicha with all his heart.
"That is a curse so strong that even I cannot break it. However, you have received the blessing of the Fire Elemental Lord; with that power, you can surely destroy even the harshest of curses."
"You are right. If I use the Sacred Flames of Judgment, any curse will turn into smoke, that's true. But..."
Reicha lowered her head and mumbled.
It was only natural that she would hesitate.
Even on the behest of one of her best friends, Fianna, she was nevertheless a Queen who had to follow rules and do things by the book.
Using the Fire Elemental Lord's power for personal gains was an act that would never be condoned.
A long period of silence ensued, and then—
At that, Kamito raised his head and regarded Reicha quizzically.
"Because it is sempai's request, so... But only this once; I will not make this exception again."
The Fire Queen let out a sigh and nodded her head as if making a decision.
After a while more—
"– Now then, let's begin the ritual."
Reicha, who had changed into a set of pure white ritual clothes, knelt demurely in front of Kamito.
Her serene, assured appearance contrasted sharply with that of the nervous, embarrassed young girl just a while ago; they seemed like virtually two different people.
So as not to disrupt the ritual, Fianna had retreated to a corner of the room to guard them from afar.
"I'll leave everything in your hands, R-Reicha-sama."
"Please, just call me Reicha, Kamito-sama."
The Fire Queen smiled quietly, then caressed Kamito's hand gently.
"Will you be scared – I mean, scared to touch a male's body?"
"... To be honest, yes, a little scared. But... you are a friend of my sempai."
"It seems like you trust Fianna a lot."
"... Yes, indeed. Fianna-sempai was one of the only people to stand by my side."
Reicha mumbled to herself, as if recalling a faraway memory of some past event. The rapport between the two seemed to go deeper than mere friendship.
"Also, I can feel it, you're not a dangerous evil person."
"Is that so?"
"Don't judge me based on my looks and age. I am after all a Queen, and I am quite confident in my ability to assess people."
Reicha said with a genuine smile.
Her smile was full of charm and could easily mesmerize someone looking at it.
"Now, then, Kamito-sama, please remove your shirt."
Kamito nodded, and took off the thin tunic he was wearing under the princess maiden dress.
The Brand of Darkness on his chest, positioned just above his heart, had turned into a pitch-black wound.
"Ahhh... T-That's really something...!"
Reicha clapped both hands to her cheeks, blushing furiously red.
"T-This is my first time seeing a m-male's body..."
"Oh, is that so..."
Kamito looked away, feeling a little uneasy.
To have his naked body scrutinized so closely by a girl made him mysteriously embarrassed.
"Kamito, your face is very red."
Standing at a side of the room, Fianna said, then immediately coughed a few times.
Reicha stretched out a hand nervously to touch Kamito's chest.
"... Very... very firm and solid!"
"It's alright, it's a result of all the training at the Instructional School..."
The Queen's slim fingers wandered along Kamito's naked upper body, making him itch slightly.
However, where her fingers touched, he suddenly felt waves of aching pain.
Then, Reicha shut her eyes, and solemnly began chanting a curse in spirit language.
"O supreme master of all earthly flames, our harsh judge and great warrior—
These were the words of the prayer for a ritual dedicated to the Fire Elemental Lord.
Reicha's hair started blowing wildly as if by a hot gust of wind, and a bright white light shone at her fingertips.
"Sacred Flames of Judgment – redeem our sins and cleanse our filth—"
The words coming from her thin pale lips were the highest level of spirit language, the High Ancient.
The little girl before his eyes seemed to be possessed.
"... Oooo, uhhhhh...!"
Kamito let out uncontrollable moans of pain.
The bright blue flames from Reicha's fingertips were burning his skin, scorching his flesh.
"Oww... aaaaaaaa... aaah—!"
The unimaginable pain seemed to morph into the roar of a monstrous beast, which rushed out of Kamito's throat.
He felt a sharp tinnitus, as if fireworks were exploding in his head. Sweat oozed from his every pore, and his muscles tensed so hard as to nearly break his bones.
"Into ash and dust! Your flames can purify all darkness, burn away all curses!"
The Brand of Darkness imprinted on Kamito's chest suddenly started burning intensely.
"... – !"
Kamito burst into wordless howls.
In his quickly fading awareness – Kamito felt a dull pain coming from his right hand.
(– Could it be... Est's spirit mark...!?)
Just as he saw, from the corner of his eye, his spirit mark began radiating a bright light—
Kamito lost consciousness, and plunged into darkness.