Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume6 Chapter2
Chapter 2 - Emissary from the Principality of Rossvale
Shining upon Ragna Ys, the sun had risen high --
Kamito and his group were having breakfast by the riverside.
"Seriously, you should have told us sooner that you were just doing sword training."
"T-That is so true! I thought, surely..."
"I almost thought Kamito-kun was going to violate poor Ellis!"
"As if! What kind of person do you take me for..."
Half narrowing his eyes, Kamito glared at the three high-class ladies blushing to their ears before him.
"Umm, I-I was actually prepared already..."
Awkwardly fiddling her fingers, Ellis murmured softly on the side.
"Did you say something, Ellis?"
Kamito frowned. Ellis' face instantly went bright red.
"...Never mind. Anyway, let's eat before the food gets cold."
Sitting beside Kamito, Est nodded impatiently.
Tree trunks were split to make a table, hot dishes were set out for breakfast.
Perfectly toasted bread. Fish from the river, roasted on a spit and flavored with salt. Wild herb salad, mushroom stir-fried with butter. Then there was the Laurenfrost family's special chicken soup recipe which made effective use of ginger and spices -- without exception, every dish looked extremely tasty.
"So, bon appetit. These are my confident creations."
Rinslet proudly puffed out her chest.
"...But really, this is so sumptuous. Where did you get all the ingredients from?"
These dishes were not possible to make using only the canned food they brought.
"Scarlet and I gathered them while Kamito was sleeping."
"This sanctuary's forest is really a treasure trove of ingredients."
"Kind of similar to the Academy's Spirit Forest, I guess... By the way, this place feels like some kind of otherworld."
Other than the fact that it was inhabited by many spirits, the ecology felt no different from that of the mainland.
"Kamito-kun, that is because this Ragna Ys is the sanctuary ruled directly by the Elemental Lords. After all, given the vast number of princess maidens in their service, wouldn't it be a problem if they were unable to survive here?"
The former princess maiden at the Divine Ritual Institute, Fianna, explained to him.
...I see. It seemed like this was quite a special place, even within the world of Astral Zero.
"I'm going to hunt a giant boar for lunch."
Rinslet suggested as she made a bow-drawing gesture.
Normally, hunting was prohibited in this Sanctuary, being the territory of the Elemental Lords. Only during the Blade Dance was the restriction lifted.
"I will take part as well. Though cooking is not my forte, hunting is my specialty."
"B-But I do not like hunting. The thought of killing those adorable and furry animals..."
Ellis frowned and picked up Scarlet who was busy eating a fish, hugging the cat against her chest.
"Meow!? Meow meow--"
Bewildered, Scarlet began to struggle noisily.
"Ellis, give it up. Scarlet doesn't like it when you do that."
"Mmm... N-Nothing of that sort! Look, Scarlet and I are really close!"
Watching these two with a wry expression, Kamito drank the special soup.
The ginger's flavor, having thoroughly entered the soup, took instant effect. He could feel his body warm up from the very core.
"Rinslet's cooking is really delicious."
Sitting next to him, Est offered praise expressionlessly.
"Fufu, Est-san, you have to eat more if you want to grow up faster."
"No, Est is a spirit so she's not going to grow up..."
As Rinslet caressed Est's head gently, Kamito ridiculed her comment.
"Well I must admit, your cooking skills are commendable. When I restore the Elstein family to greatness once more, I might consider having you as a maid."
Just as Rinslet started to show joy--
"...Hey wait a minute, why do I have to be your maid in the first place!?"
"A maid uniform might suit you unexpectedly well, you know?"
"W-What are you talking about!? Obviously it suits you way more than me!"
Rinslet retorted furiously.
(...By the way, isn't she getting furious in a rather atypical manner?)
Kamito tilted his head in puzzlement as he watched the two childhood friends quarrel.
After breakfast, the group held a meeting to decide on their strategy henceforth.
Kamito gazed at the map on the table as he drank tea brewed by Rinslet.
Using earth spirits to scout the surroundings, the gathered information was then used to draw this map. Claire apparently had some artistic talent, for the resulting map was quite simple and easy to understand.
That said, other than the vicinity of their stronghold enclosed by the barrier, virtually everywhere else was blank.
For example, they still had no idea about the size of the entire grounds.
"So, let's organize and sum up the information we have on hand."
Setting down her teacup lightly, Claire began to describe the current situation.
The Blade Dance festival's main battle event -- the Tempest had a total of twenty-four teams participating. Based on the reports of the wind spirits sent out to scout, teams were already being eliminated on the first day.
On the other hand, the Quina Empire's Four Gods, the Holy Kingdom of Lugia's Sacred Spirit Knights, and various other strong teams had already established secure strongholds.
Due to failing their nocturnal assault on the first night, Dracunia's Knights of the Dragon Emperor, one of the major candidate teams for victory, was currently slightly behind. But given their level of power, it did not really count as any major setback.
"What I want to know most is information about Team Inferno, but sadly we don't even know where their stronghold is located."
"Looks like their team harbors an elementalist skilled in espionage techniques. All the wind spirits we sent out to scout were struck down."
Ellis reported softly with regret.
"An elementalist skilled in espionage techniques, eh..."
Suddenly, Kamito recalled the girl with jade-colored hair he saw at the opening ceremony.
Her face had been hidden by a hooded garment, but those pointy ears were definitely the telltale signs of the Elfim race. Born with exceptional skills in presence concealment, many of the Elfim who became elementalists took on espionage duties.
"However, we did obtain noteworthy information related to Team Inferno."
Ellis' words made everyone pay attention.
"Remember that ominous looking black knight who appeared at the opening ceremony?"
"Who could possibly forget..."
Claire displayed a submissive expression. All the other girls nodded one after another.
Evidently, Kamito was not the only who sensed an ominous aura from the black knight.
"What about the black knight?"
"Yes. From the looks of it, the black knight has separated from Team Inferno and is currently acting alone. Earlier, it was mentioned that there were teams being eliminated on the first day, right--"
"Could it be possible that...!"
"Yes. It is exactly that possibility. The team representing the Walz Kingdom -- those girls were apparently wiped out by the black knight singlehandedly."
"A single person wiping out an entire Blade Dance team, huh..."
Kamito muttered gravely... Whoever really accomplished that, was truly a monster beyond doubt.
"What is the contracted spirit serving the black knight like? If we know what attribute the spirit possesses, perhaps we could come up with a counter strategy?"
"Ah yes, that is..."
Faced with Claire's inquiry, Ellis stuttered--
"A darkness spirit in the form of a human girl -- Apparently."
Everyone gasped. Kamito's eyes widened in surprise.
He could not help but call out her name.
"That darkness spirit girl, is indeed--"
"Kamito-kun's former contracted spirit... Isn't that right?"
Claire and Fianna whispered softly with worry.
Ellis and Rinslet exchanged glances awkwardly. Although these two never met Restia directly, after the mission at the mining city, they had learned about Kamito's past to a certain extent and knew that Restia was an extremely important existence to him.
Kamito's gaze fell upon the leather glove covering his left hand.
(Restia... What exactly are you planning?)
After arriving at this Ragna Ys, she had contacted Kamito twice.
The first was in the garden of the castle. The second was last night, prior to Leonora's attack.
But what exactly were her intentions...?
Kamito's expression was grave--
Slowly, Claire began to speak.
"Even though we're very concerned about the movements of the black knight and the darkness spirit, we have no way of taking precautions given our lack of information. After all, we can't simply sit here and tighten defenses at our stronghold."
"Right. If we focus too much on defense and fail to take action, that would be getting our priorities wrong."
She was right. The magic stones needed for advancing towards the finals were limited in number. If they did not take the initiative to attack, they would definitely lose the competition.
Currently, the only magic stones acquired by Team Scarlet were the two they took from the Kingdom of Balstan's team. Even if all the members of Team Scarlet survived these seven days, lacking sufficient magic stones would prevent them from advancing to the finals.
Gathering a certain number of magic stones in the opening stage, then rely on the stronghold's defense and wait for the other teams to weaken one another before venturing out to rob them of their magic stones -- this strategy only sounded good in theory. As for attacking an elementalist defending behind a sturdy stronghold, that would be as poor a strategy as trying to besiege a castle with inadequate troops.
"Without any exceptions, none of the teams should be attacking on their own before their stronghold is established--"
Just as Claire explained quietly...
"...!? Something has entered the barrier!"
Fianna cried out. Instantly, tension appeared on everyone's face.
"Look over there--!"
Claire pointed at the sky.
A winged rabbit could be seen flying above the forest.
It was no ordinary creature. Clearly it was a spirit.
"An enemy team's scouting spirit?"
"Hmph, watch as I shoot it down!"
Rinslet chanted spirit language for releasing her elemental waffe, the magic bow--
"Wait a minute, don't attack!"
Claire whacked Rinslet hard on the head with a soup spoon.
"Ouch! T-That really hurts... What the heck are you doing!?"
Holding her head, Rinslet tearfully yelled.
"You didn't even think for a moment before you decided to shoot it down."
Claire shrugged in amazement--
"...Look carefully. That is an emissary."
Rinslet frowned as Kamito and the rest focused their gaze on the spirit.
Circling widely above them, the spirit dropped something that it was holding in its mouth.
Fluttering down, a letter landed on the table.
Carefully examining the letter to ensure it was not a trap, Claire then opened the envelope to read its contents.
"What is it about?"
"A proposal for an alliance."
Everyone looked at one another.
The letter was sent from the Principality of Rossvale's Rupture Division.
The bottom of the message had the division leader's signature with the Principality's seal.
"The seal looks real. I don't think this is forged."
Familiar with official correspondence, Fianna examined the letter and lightly set it back onto the table.
"The Principality of Rossvale..."
Kamito muttered with an admiring expression.
The Principality of Rossvale was a small, newly risen state where radicals had succeeded in gaining independence from the Holy Kingdom of Lugia.
As an independent state, their history was rather short and this was merely their second appearance at the Blade Dance festival. Nevertheless, served by high ranking holy spirits, they were regarded as the dark horse contender in the current competition.
"Stirring the most sensation of all is their ace, Milla Bassett."
"...If I remember correctly, participating at the young age of thirteen, she must be the youngest elementalist in this festival?"
Kamito's question was met with Claire's pouting face.
"Why are you so keen on memorizing her facts? You great big pervert."
"Stop making misleading accusations, Claire. You're the one who made me remember."
"Kamito-san, making excuses is not very classy behavior."
"...Seriously, we cannot be careless with you for even a second!"
"As befits your title as the Demon King of the Night, your target age range is truly wide."
"W-What is with you girls..."
"Kamito likes really young girls?"
"E-Est, why are you joining in this nonsense!?"
As the young ladies glared at him, Kamito's face twitched with discomfort.
"A-Anyway, who knew there'd be a team proposing to ally so early?"
Kamito coughed and changed the subject.
"Yes... Indeed it's very strange."
The rules of the Tempest did not prohibit teams from forming alliances.
However, this was normally a last resort taken only by teams that were on the verge of elimination. Alliances were not something simple to be trifled with. Considering that even if teams fought in cooperation, ultimately, only the top four teams advanced, this was completely natural.
In actual fact, there were virtually no cases of teams allying together in the opening stage of the Tempest in past Blade Dance festivals.
"The possibility of a trap seems quite high..."
"That's right. An ambush definitely awaits us at the negotiation site."
Rinslet agreed with Fianna's suggestion.
"However, if they really plan on deceiving us, this trap is a little too obvious. Perhaps something happened that we're not aware of."
Kamito knew that Claire's intuition was often quite accurate in times like these.
Besides inheriting the blood of the Elstein family which gave rise to numerous Queens over the generations, perhaps Claire was also blessed with sharp instincts since birth.
"If this is not a trap, perhaps we could give it a try. Let alone fighting on a united front, simply sharing information is already quite advantageous."
As expected of the knight hailing from a family of military tradition, Ellis' mindset was immensely practical.
"Furthermore, the Rupture Division's elementalists are all reputed to be masters of strong holy spirits. If we manage to forge an alliance, they should prove to be a reliable ally against the darkness spirit mentioned earlier."
Kamito could not help but cast a glance at his left hand.
Three years ago, Kamito had been caught in a difficult fight against a holy spirit. Indeed, forming an alliance with a team that consisted only of holy elementalists would definitely be the most effective way to oppose Restia's machinations.
"What do you think, Kamito?"
Following Claire's question, all eyes were on Kamito.
"Indeed, the probability of a trap is quite high. However, there is value to be gained in responding to the offer. In any case, our plans are not set in stone -- whether it's a trap or not, let's just wing it and act according to the situation."
"If Kamito-san thinks so, I will not object."
Rinslet spoke up. Ellis and Fianna also nodded in agreement.
"So it's decided, we will negotiate an alliance with the Rupture Division."
Claire nodded and pressed her hand against the Principality's seal at the end of the letter.
Chanting a spirit language incantation, immediately -- the seal began to burn, turning into a tiny flame spirit.
This was the guide spirit that was released from the seal.
Belonging to the lowest class of spirit, it was only able to perform simple tasks such as leading the way. But due to their convenience and ease of use, these spirits were widely used for communications between elementalists.
"The negotiation site is two hours away on foot."
"How many people are we supposed to send?"
"...Not stated explicitly. But we can't have all five of us go."
If other teams breached their stronghold while their defense was weakened, the tradeoff would not be worth it.
Furthermore, making their way as an entire team through the forest would be too conspicuous and would unnecessarily provoke the other party's wariness.
"Ordinarily, two people should be the most appropriate."
"Then Est and I will be enough--"
Kamito placed his hand on Est's head and patted her.
"Yes, Kamito. I will protect Kamito."
"Wait a minute, why are you acting like you have to be the one to go?!"
"That's right, Kamito-kun's injuries are not entirely healed yet!"
Claire and Fianna snarled furiously.
"I can't really let girls venture into danger while I stay back in a safe zone, right?"
Claire blushed slightly--
"N-No way! You are definitely not permitted to go alone!"
But immediately, she began to shake her head again.
"We know you are very strong, Kamito, but do try to trust us a bit more."
"Reflect carefully on this, okay?!"
Scolded by the troupe of young ladies, Kamito backed down.
"...G-Got it. My bad."
...Indeed, perhaps it really was time to reflect.
(After all, I'm still stuck in the mindset of fighting alone.)
Unlike three years ago, Kamito now had comrades who could fight alongside with him.
"Besides, the other party will be wary if only you, a male, goes. Your notorious infamy is widespread even in foreign lands."
"Well, that makes sense... Wait a minute, what the heck do you mean by notorious infamy!?"
"You really want to know?"
"...Uh no, I think I have some idea already."
Kamito groaned from the depths of his throat.
"F-Furthermore, if it's you, who knows if you'll hook up with some girl from the Rupture Division... Let me remind you, making a move on a thirteen-year-old child is illegal, okay?"
"...How did it get to this!?"
"Yes." "Completely agreed." "I can picture it so clearly."
The other three agreed wholeheartedly with Claire.
"...Hey, what kind of person do you girls really think I am?"
"You really want to know?"
"Kamito is the Demon King of the Night."
"E-Even you, Est..."
Kamito's face began to convulse.
...Clearly there was a need to dispel misunderstandings and recover true trust.
"--Anyway, Kamito's strength is indisputable. Considering the possibility of a trap, yes, it would be reassuring to have him as an accompanying bodyguard."
"...H-Hence, Kamito will accompany me as I take charge of negotiations!"
"Wait a minute, how was this decided?"
Ellis questioned sharply.
"No fair, you're stealing a march on us!"
"What do you mean, stealing a march!?"
Claire retorted, her face red.
"I have no choice but to stay behind..."
Fianna bit her finger as she spoke regrettably.
"...After all, only Fianna is able to build the stronghold."
Kamito expressed understanding as he scratched his head at the situation.
Considering her origins as the former imperial princess, Fianna would be the most suited for handling negotiations, however -- even ignoring the issue of the stronghold, he did not feel comfortable taking her along seeing as she had never received field training at the Academy. Besides, given this was a possible trap and the fact that they could be attacked en route, fighting while protecting her would be very difficult.
"W-Well then, take me along. After all, I always team up with Kamito within the Knights."
Ellis coughed softly and tightly embraced Kamito's arm.
Boing, Ellis' bosom also boldly pressed against him, causing Kamito to blush to his ears.
"Wait, Kamito is my slave spirit! I reserve all rights!"
This time, it was Claire who embraced Kamito's other arm. Though hers were smaller, Kamito could still feel that comfortably soft sensation, making his heart race subtly.
"Claire's possessions are equivalently mine!"
"What twisted logic!"
Sparks flew as the three young ladies engaged in dispute.
"That's not right, I shouldn't belong to anyone?"
Kamito's protest was duly ignored--
"In that case, let us decide by blade dance who gets to go with Kamito--"
Ellis released Kamito's arm and released her elemental waffe Ray Hawk in her hands.
"Hmph, that's fine with me!"
"Just as I hoped -- Hasten forth, keeper of the burning furnace!"
Rinslet held her Magic Bow of Ice while Claire summoned the fiery hell cat.
"S-Stop it, are you trying to destroy our constructed stronghold!?"
Kamito frantically yelled.
(...Seriously, why are these young ladies always so eager to fight?)
"...Ah-- Could you girls listen to a little opinion of mine?"
Kamito raised his hand.
"...I think it's best that I go with Claire."
"There. The one to go will be me... Huh?"
Claire opened her mouth in amazement.
"What is going on!?"
Ellis and Rinslet interrogated.
Kamito took a step back, greatly troubled--
"Stop it you two. Kamito is having a hard time, right?"
Claire stepped forward as if shielding Kamito.
"Hear that? Kamito and I will be fine. Well well, Kamito is worried if he goes alone, so if you're really desperate for it, i-it's not like I can't agree to your request."
Fufu, Claire displayed a composed and effortless expression as her twintails jumped.
"...K-Kamito, what on earth is going on!?"
"So unfair, what's wrong with choosing us?"
Sulking with a pout, Ellis and Rinslet objected tearfully.
"No, umm, considering comprehensively, I think Claire is the best candidate--"
Kamito scratched his head as he began to explain.
Claire, whose overall results in school were already excellent, was most accomplished in espionage skills. And this was precisely what was needed the most for the current mission.
On one hand, Ellis, the embodiment of chivalry, was the least suited to secretive acts of espionage. In fact, despite her excellent scores in practical techniques, she was only Rank C in the area of spying.
Similarly, Rinslet, who specialized in long range projectiles, was not suited for the current mission. Only deploying her in defense of the stronghold would make the best use of her skills.
That was what Kamito explained to them--
"Hmm, now that you put it that way..."
"You do have a point..."
Although they were still displeased, the two girls understood at least.
"W-What... It was for these kinds of reasons..."
For some reason, Claire began to sulk and pout.
(Well, there happens to be one more reason...)
Most importantly -- there was the suitability as a negotiator.
Although Rinslet's true nature was still a kind-hearted soul, that haughty attitude she displayed to everyone, perhaps out of habit, would only cause negotiations to fail.
As for Ellis who always insisted on upfront righteousness, she too, was unsuited for negotiations. Though that could be considered her virtue, however -- to the other party, such honesty would simply be a gift. To Ellis' own side, it would lead to an unfavorable result, and was a risk that could not be ignored.
Compared to these two, Claire had no obvious flaws as a negotiator.
Although she always acted domineering towards Kamito, she was able to act like a young lady from a prestigious family as long as she wanted to. Perhaps due to the ostracizing and bullying she received as the younger sister of the Calamity Queen, she possessed quick wits as well as unwavering tenacity in spirit. Clearly such traits were well suited for negotiations.
"So it's decided -- I'll be relying on you, Claire."
"...Well, w-whatever. You deserve to be commended for your excellent judgment in choosing me."
Claire's face was bright red and she averted eye contact as if shy.
The red twintails jumped vigorously... This was her reflexive reaction whenever she felt extremely happy.
"T-Teaming up with Kamito alone, the last time was really so long ago!"
"...Hmm? Ah yeah, now that you mention it."
Thinking back, Team Scarlet's original members were just Kamito and Claire.
When he first arrived at the Academy, even acquiring the five members required to apply for participation in the Blade Dance festival seemed like a challenge.
...Clearly it was only two months ago, but somehow recalling the memory stirred up deep emotions.
"--Besides, you still have me."
Est expressionlessly murmured from a corner of the table.