Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume5 Chapter6
Chapter 6 - The Sacred Sword's Memories
In the bottomless darkness, Kamito fell endlessly.
Engulfed by the blackness, Kamito opened his eyes in the viscous darkness.
He could not feel the passing of time – it might have been a few hours, or maybe a few seconds, he had lost the capability to perceive it.
In this space, Kamito found a sword swallowed by the darkness.
It was a beautiful long sword inscribed with spirit language.
Upon seeing the sword, every fiber of Kamito's body awakened.
(– It's Est!)
He was certain this feeling could not be wrong.
He brushed away the heavy nether entangling him and approached the sword.
But, the moment his hand touched the handle of the sword –
The sword suddenly emitted a bright dazzling light that pushed away Kamito's outstretched hand.
A sharp pain pierced his fingertips.
This was – an obvious rejection.
"Est... Why – "
"– Kamito, I cannot be your sword."
"I don't understand what you're saying!"
"– Because, I can recall it now. My sins... my unforgivable sins."
In his mind, this word could hardly be linked with the beautiful, radiant silver sword before his eyes.
"I do not wish to repeat my mistakes, so – "
(... This is... What...?)
Kamito felt a splitting pain in his head.
A tremendous rush of images flooded into his head.
(... A-Are these Est's memories?)
This was a story that had happened in the distant past.
At that time, the continent was separated into several tiny countries. It was a time of war and turmoil.
The main characters of the story were the sacred sword of legend and a young maiden.
Areishia Idriss – this girl came from a nameless village by the border.
The shepherd girl had a lovely face, and she was especially proud of her head of brilliant gold hair.
She ought to have grown up normally, fallen in love normally, led a normal life, and found normal happiness.
However, the year she turned fourteen, an incident happened to this otherwise ordinary girl that led people to call her the Sacred Queen.
One day, when she ascended the mountain to pick firewood, she happened upon a sword in the old ancestral hall.
It was a sacred sword that no one in many centuries had been able to remove.
The maiden reached out to lift the sword, completely unaware that a powerful spirit was sealed inside it.
In that instant, a sword spirit emerged from the dazzling glow.
"Who are you?"
The sword spirit's response to the girl's question was:
"I am your sword, milady. I will give myself wholly and completely to my elementalist – you."
The girl did not know why the sacred sword of legend would pick her, a mere ordinary shepherd girl, to make a contract with. However, she innocently accepted this contract.
Truthfully, the girl felt only loneliness.
On the other hand, the sword spirit had no feelings, and knew only to loyally serve its contracted master, the girl.
She was not a typical spirit, but a spirit weapon crafted for use in the war during the Archeozoic Era.
So I have no use for feelings – said the sword spirit coldly.
However, because the girl had lived her whole life as an ordinary shepherd, she could not understand such deep philosophical matters.
That sort of thing isn't important –
The girl was simply happy at having found her first female friend.
"What is your name?"
"My true name cannot be pronounced in your language. However, in spirit language, you may call me Terminus Est."
"This name sounds a little long... How about I just call you Est?"
"My name is not Est, it is Terminus Est."
"I'd rather not, it's quite hard to say. It's decided then, your name shall be Est."
The girl broke into a sudden smile, and reached out to pet Est on the head.
"Mistress, please do not do that."
Est protested with a blank expression.
This is the story of what happened after the chance encounter of the Sacred Queen and the legendary sacred sword.
The matter of the contract between the unknown shepherd girl and the legendary sacred sword quickly spread throughout the entire country.
That a young lady with no elementalist heritage could contract with a legendary-level spirit – such a thing was enough to turn the girl into a savior, into a supernatural sacred queen.
As there were virtually no elementalists in that era, people had to endure the havoc wreaked by the revolting spirits.
And so, the girl began using the power provided by the sword spirit to bring peace to the world, by either appeasing – or defeating those spirits.
The people lauded the girl's efforts, and gave her the name of Sacred Queen.
Regardless of how exhausted or unhappy she was, the girl would always have a smile to encourage others.
There were some who were jealous of her, who despised her, and even those who only associated with her for the fame and glory.
Despite all this, the girl still fought on, sword in hand.
"Mistress, why do you fight for these people?"
One day, the sword spirit asked the girl this question.
Why fight – this was the first time the sword, by nature a spirit weapon, had felt any sort of curiosity towards such matters.
"Because this is something only I can do; therefore I must fight."
"I cannot understand your meaning. But as I am your sword, I will do your bidding, mistress."
"Est... Don't say such upsetting things, you are after all my only friend."
"That's fine, let's eat. The bread I baked today smells delicious."
"Mistress, please allow me to repeat – I have no need to consume human foods."
"... It's really lonely eating by myself. Come on, eat with me, please?"
"... If this is my mistress's order, I will obey."
The sword spirit nodded expressionlessly.
However, one could observe a little confusion on her face.
In her heart sprouted a very tiny flicker of – something like an emotion.
The bravery of the girl with the sacred sword slowly became known across the whole continent.
At the same time, the terror of the most vicious demon king plunged the continent into strife and suffering.
The countries united to send out armies to take down the demon king, but they all failed miserably. In the face of the spirit soldiers commanded by the demon king, the countries’ armies could only beat a quick retreat.
In the end, the people had no choice but to pin their last hopes on a young lady.
A mere girl of only fourteen years of age, a girl who had not even experienced the taste of love.
"Est, I must fight... I must fight, for everyone who is suffering on this earth."
"Yes, mistress. I am your sword – I will do anything for you."
And so it was that the girl plunged herself wholeheartedly into the bloody battle.
The sword spirit of what would later be known as the Demon Slayer Sacred Sword witnessed all this.
She had no choice but to bear witness to the entire series of events – including the tragic conclusion about to unfold.
"– to... Kamito!"
Kamito opened his eyes to find Fianna looking at him anxiously.
"Kamito... Are you all right?"
"Mmm, but just for a few minutes."
"Is that so..."
He felt as if he had been unconscious for several hours, but it appeared as if that was not the case.
Reicha, who was breathing heavily by the side, continued by saying:
"I have successfully removed the Brand of Darkness on Kamito-sama."
Reicha's face fell and she murmured in a low voice.
"I'm afraid Kamito-sama's sword spirit... has not yet..."
Kamito shifted his gaze towards the spirit mark on his right hand.
The mark that had just been shining brightly was now completely unresponsive.
"Kamito-sama... During the period you were unconscious, did you see anything in your mind?"
"In my mind..."
Kamito rubbed his aching temples, then –
He suddenly seemed to remember something.
A sword, falling in endless darkness.
And being sharply rejected when he stretched out his hand towards Est.
In that moment, Kamito recalled her memories.
He recalled the memory of Est with a girl – the first one she had made a contract with.
What he did not understand, though, was why that memory would make Est reject him.
"Unforgivable sin... was that it?"
... Was that what was trapping Est in the darkness, her unforgivable sin?
Then, Reicha suddenly went limp and fell towards the ground.
"Are you all right!?"
Kamito quickly rushed to support her.
Her slim body lay weakly in Kamito's arms.
"Should we take you to the infirmary?"
"Y-Yes. I'm so sorry, I seem to be a little tired..."
"Ritual magic is very tiring, furthermore just yesterday Reicha had to perform the ritual of listening to the pronouncements of the Elemental Lord."
"I'm sorry... It's all because of me..."
"Don't say that, it's my body that has always been weak..."
As Reicha shook her head in denial, Kamito lay her down on the bed to rest.
"We should make a move, the princess maiden responsible for attending to the Queens is coming soon."
"Mmmhm, I know."
Kamito nodded in agreement, bowed deeply towards Reicha and said:
"Reicha, thank you for saving me. I won't forget this debt I owe you."
"N-No need to be so..."
"We'll meet next time. Then, I'll meet you as the victor of the Blade Dance."
Fianna and Reicha, the latter still resting on the bed, grasped each other's hands tightly.
"All right. Although I cannot cheer for teams representing specific countries at the opening ceremony, you can be sure I will be supporting sempai's team in my heart."
Inside the bag that the messenger from the school had sent to Claire's room were the latest updates about their enemies.
"In conclusion, the top priority now should be to formulate a plan of attack for Kamito to take action outside the battlefront."
All alone, Claire paced the empty room while reading the material, thinking deeply about battle tactics.
"Ellis will find it too hard to attack at the frontline by herself, should I also remain at the front or not..?"
Up until now, the plan had been for Kamito to use his overwhelming force to attack at the forefront, while the other four would assist him from the side. However, with Kamito unable to summon Est, this plan simply could not be used.
The alternative she thought of now was to move Claire, who would originally have been in the middle orchestrating the entire assault, to the front, and have her attack alongside Ellis. While this arrangement was nowhere near as likely to penetrate an enemy's defenses as the one with Kamito attacking alone, fire and wind elements naturally complemented each other very well, which gave them much offensive potential.
"But... If so, I'd worry about something happening to Fianna at the rear."
Fianna had received virtually no combat training, and her usual role was to provide assistance from the rear through her rituals, which would increase the power of sword spirits. In the previous plan, Claire would protect her from the center, but if Claire were to be moved to the front, she would have no way of ensuring Fianna's safety. In that case, all depended on whether Rinslet, who played the dual roles of sniper and support fire, could protect her alone.
"... This plan must also be reconsidered."
Claire crumpled up the piece of paper she had been making notes on and threw it away.
Scarlet helped her turn the waste paper on the floor into ashes.
"I've thought for so long and I still haven't come up with any good ideas..."
Any plan she could think of had an obvious flaw, and none were suitable solutions.
"... Turns out that we have always relied too much on Kamito and Est."
Claire sighed, and turned back to the documents provided to them by the Academy.
Aside from formulating their own strategies, it was important in such a long drawn-out war to also analyze their opponents' situations, so as to take advantage of their weaknesses.
(It goes without saying that the opponent we need to be most wary of is –)
Claire flipped open the document and looked down at its first page.
What was written on it was – the Team Representing the Religious Country of Alphas.
This document was regarding the strongest of the blade dancer teams – Team Inferno.
However, the forms on the document were virtually all blank, as they had no way of finding out even the names of the team members.
The only information they had about this enemy's military capability was the elementalist girl who had attacked Claire and the others last night – Muir Alenstarl. Frankly speaking, if there were three other elementalists as skilled as she was on their team... their chances of winning were nil.
"Overall, let's keep this in mind for later consideration."
She put the document on her lap, and began browsing the other reports.
There were a total of twenty-four teams contesting in the Blade Dance. Generally speaking, every country could enter one team, but countries such as the Ordesia Empire, which were large and had many outstanding elementalists, could field several teams.
The Quina Empire in the east and the Island Nation of Robica had two teams each, and the only country other than Ordesia to be represented by three teams was the Holy Kingdom of Lugia.
Of the teams from these countries, the ones they most needed to watch out for were the "Four Gods" of Quina, the "Sacred Knights" of the Holy Kingdom of Lugia, and Milla Bassett – the most talented young elementalist in this iteration of the Blade Dance was representing the Principality of Rossvale as part of the "Rupture Division".
And then there was –
"– Public Enemy Number One... the Dracunia Duchy's Dragon Knights."
Dracunia had emerged victorious in many previous iterations of the Blade Dance, and was indeed a strong country with a stellar track record.
And Claire herself had seen Leonora's power up close before.
Her destructive Death Gaze – her Nidhogg had displayed immense overwhelming force to destroy the flying craft's militarized spirits.
The documents supplied by the Academy listed her power as being of AAA grade.
Claire had earned an AA grade while at the Academy, and so had Ellis. Rinslet was A, while Fianna was D. However, Fianna's grade was recorded when she was not officially studying, so it was not an accurate measure. Incidentally, the one who singlehandedly took down Team Scarlet, Velsaria Eva, was graded AAA.
Of course, because this was an overall analysis done up by lecturers at the Academy, one could not rely wholly on it to predict an elementalist's strength. For example, even though Rinslet was graded one level lower than Claire, when the two of them fought, they were often evenly-matched.
"... In conclusion, it is just a rough guideline."
Leonora Lancaster is a very outstanding elementalist; that was the undeniable truth.
But here in the Blade Dance, in a gathering of the best elementalists, there was actually nothing exceptional about her.
However... Leonora's file contained something that was particularly noteworthy.
It was information about Dragon Blood – the power she gained from her special bloodline.
Looking at Leonora's new evaluation after the discovery of her special power, Claire could not help but stare, her eyes wide in surprise.
"– S level."
Historically, there had only been a handful of elementalists ever to earn such a grade. In recent years, the young Greyworth Ciel Mais had been ranked SS level, but that truly was an exception among exceptions.
Leonora's power was first revealed publicly when she was fourteen. She awakened in the trial rally for the Knights of the Dragon Emperor, and in a matter of mere minutes, demolished all other competitors who had also been hoping to join the ranks of the Knights.
According to the booklet, the Dragon Blood power could not be unleashed at will, but was an ability that was almost uncontrollably explosive –
"If at all possible, I hope we won't have to face her."
Claire signed and placed the half-read booklet on the table.
At that time, the door suddenly opened – it was Kamito, who had changed back into his normal uniform.
"Kamito... Hey, why do you look like you can barely even stand!"
Turning pale, Claire bolted up from the chair and rushed to his side.
"... The curse-breaking ritual was more exhausting than I had imagined."
Not caring that he was still dressed in his uniform, Kamito collapsed onto his bed.
"And the Brand of Darkness?"
"Mmmm... All thanks to Fianna's princess maiden friend, the curse was successfully broken."
Kamito unbuttoned his shirt to reveal the scar on his chest –
"What's with that cute shrill scream..."
"W-Who asked you to suddenly take off your clothes!"
Blushing in embarrassment, Claire yelped.
She sneaked a glance at Kamito's firm, muscled chest... and something started thumping wildly in her own chest.
"But, the thing is, Est still hasn't – "
Kamito cast his gaze downwards and shook his head.
Looking at Kamito's sad hopeless expression, Claire could not help but also feel her heart aching for him.
Kamito was powerful, so powerful that he left his same-age counterparts at the Institutional school in the dust.
Precisely because of that, it was easy to forget one thing –
In truth, Kamito, like his friends, was just an easily hurt sixteen-year-old.
Claire leapt lightly onto the bed, leaned tenderly on Kamito's side and said:
"Don't worry, Est will definitely come back."
Kamito suddenly lifted his head –
"... I can see your panties."
"... Huh? Waaaahhhh! Stupid... You're so stupid! Pervert!"
The tower resonated with the music of the ball. Meanwhile, in the garden...
Stood that girl in the bright red mask.
"It is finally about to begin... Ren Ashbell."
A black-winged angel suddenly fell behind her.
The girl had hair as black as midnight and eyes as amber as the sunset; she was surely the darkness spirit Restia.
"It seems that... Kamito has passed your trial."
"That the sword spirit would move to take the brunt of the curse was a surprise to me, but that was only an emergency solution – the Gate that has been opened will definitely not be able to close now."
Ren Ashbell spoke coldly.
"If he really becomes swallowed by the darkness, won't that ruin your plans?"
"If that man's tolerance level is so low, he would not be able to become my trump card, in any case."
"Have you found a Queen willing to serve him?"
"I have found several candidates to choose from, but that is none of your business."
"– The candidate you speak of wouldn't happen to be your sister, would it?"
All of a sudden, the grass and trees all around them burst into flames.
And in a moment, turned into ashes that scattered to the ground.
"Darkness spirit, you would do well to watch your tone of voice."
"Oooh, scary... I was just joking."
The only things to be heard in the darkness were the endless echoes of mocking laughter.
The black-winged darkness spirit had already disappeared, unnoticed.
Ren Ashbell smacked her lips lightly and turned her gaze towards a cluster of trees in the garden.
"– Eavesdropping is an activity only for lowlifes... Dracunia girl."
"You mustn't be serious, you found out a long time ago, didn't you?"
The figure that emerged from behind the trees was indeed the Dracunia contestant Leonora Lancaster.
She was staring intently at Ren Ashbell with pupils glowing red.
She was emanating a dangerously murderous aura, so much so that anyone would have been aware of her presence.
She was holding a huge blade – the Dragon Slayer Sacred Sword.
"– Look at you all fierce-like, what highly important matter can I help you with?"
"The dragon within me wishes to do battle with a fellow strong warrior. I hope you will accept."
Although Leonora's choice of words was polite, her tone revealed her unconcealable intense feelings.
Her eyes burned with the aggressive hunger of someone looking for a good fight. Anyone who knew her normal personality would surely think that this was someone else altogether.
"You have the Dracunia-inherited blood of the dragon, do you now – you certainly are one interesting girl."
Ren Ashbell mused from behind her mask.
"Come... Strongest blade dancer, draw your sword!"
Leonora grasped her sword tightly, preparing herself to meet an attack. Her conscious mind tried to temper her impulsivity with logic and reason, but her body gave off an aura that made one think that she was liable to attack them at any moment.
"Think of your own standard and reconsider. A rookie like you isn't even worth using my Godslaying Flame on."
"You will... regret this... Ren Ashbell!"
Leonora, rendered incoherent by rage, charged forward with all her strength.
She struck a blow far stronger and faster than any mere human would have been able to muster.
In a flash, the stone flooring in the garden shattered into innumerable fragments and flew in all directions – !
"Nice move, but too bad... Swords can't cut through flames."
In the spot where Leonora's sword had struck, the figure of the Strongest Blade Dancer was nowhere to be found.
Leonora turned; right then, a mighty force struck her directly on the chest.
Leonora bent over in pain, and the masked girl murmured beside her ear:
"It might be interesting to take the dragon to meet the demon king. Power like yours might just be useful to assist in his awakening."
"... What... are you... saying..."
With her hand still pressed to Leonora's chest, on the spot where her blow had struck her, Ren Ashbell chanted a brief curse.
A black flame emerged from her fingertips, then spread to Leonora's heart.
"Rejoice, Dracunia girl – I will tell you who your most suitable opponent is."
The girl's tortured cry reverberated through the garden –
Leonora then lost consciousness.
In the darkness – Est sat, holding her knees, her head bowed, silent and deep in thought.
She was overjoyed that Kamito was willing to take her back.
She was also happy that he thought of her as an irreplaceable part of his existence.
However, Est was herself unable to return those feelings.
Because she was constrained by the memories given to her by her 'main body'.
– Becoming his sword was an unforgivable action.
– Becoming his sword was an unforgivable action.
– Becoming his sword was an unforgivable action.
The mantra repeated itself continuously, endlessly.
Sword spirit Est – her existence was a sin branded on her body that could never be removed.
"... Kamito... I... I can no longer..."
In the unknown darkness, Est began to cry.
The Savior Queen stood for a long while on the vast mountainous plains, her sword plunged into the ground.
Her current state was nothing like the Sacred Queen the people knew of – her pure white armor was stained with blood and filth, while her usual optimism was nowhere to be found.
The girl was battling enemies greater than just the armies of the Demon King.
She also had to face endless victories and losses, schemes and betrayals.
Somewhere along the way, the number of people she could trust dwindled down to one – the sword that had fought alongside her the entire journey.
"Let me ask you, Est..."
"Mistress, what request do you have?"
"Are you willing to stay by my side always?"
The girl broke into a smile reserved only for her best friend – the tender smile of an innocent shepherd girl.
"I am your sword; I will protect you until the end of your life."
"You are right... You are my sword, and for now that is all that matters."
At Est's emotionless response, the girl smiled a hollow smile.
"But, one day, when the demon king is defeated, when this war is over, I hope you can become – "
Then, the girl had said something –
Something that, no matter how hard she tried, Est simply could not remember.