Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume7 Chapter10
Chapter 10 - The Strongest Blade Dancer
Ren Ashbell -- The Strongest Blade Dancer.
Idolizing Ren Ashbell's blade dance, Claire had resolved herself to become a powerful elementalist.
Because Ren Ashbell was her goal, Claire never gave up no matter what hardship she faced.
She was the one whom Claire had idolized all along.
Claire had always dreamed if there was one day they could perform a blade dance together.
"--How utterly tasteless, Sjora Kahn."
Claire glared sharply at the enemy who had appeared before them--
The witch who imitated the Strongest Blade Dancer's appearance.
"Do you really think our attacks will hesitate simply because of that appearance?"
Gorgeous long hair the color of the dark night. Eyes where mysterious darkness resided.
A lovely face that seemed dignified as steel yet graceful as a flower.
The girl before her eyes was without a doubt identical in appearance to the blade dancer she had always admired.
However, Claire noticed a significant difference between this fake and the true person.
Namely, the twisted expression of mockery.
(...The Ren Ashbell I admire will never display that kind of expression!)
Claire gripped Flametongue hard in her hand.
Likewise, Ellis and Rinslet did not falter either.
Instead, Ellis became increasingly enraged.
"Unforgivable... How dare you defile the admiration my esteemed foster sister and I held for her!"
Ray Hawk's spear tip produced a powerful storm.
Indeed, trying to cause faltering through imitation was meaningless.
No matter what sort of magic was used, Ren Ashbell's noble airs could not be replicated.
"Fufu, how unfortunate, but this imitation is not limited to appearances, little hell cat. Did you really think Baldanders's powers are limited to mere transformation magic?"
In the guise of Ren Ashbell, the witch jeered as her bright red lips twisted.
"My elemental waffe, the Proteus Masques, has the ability to replicate the target's powers. Whether the contracted spirit or the combat skills remembered by the body, everything."
"...Th-That sort of thing, can't possibly--"
"Fufu, ignorant fools--!"
Sjora Kahn casually swung the demon sword of darkness -- the Vorpal Sword.
Within the blink of an eye, jet black lightning burst forth from the tip of the blade and smashed the rock surface of the floor.
"...That skill is!?"
Vorpal Blast -- Ren Ashbell's prided demon sword technique that numerous elementalists feared during the Blade Dance three years ago.
"Could it be, really..."
"She can use Ren Ashbell's abilities!?"
Ellis and Rinslet expressed shock one after another.
"Very well, let's begin to blade dance, little hell cat♪"
Mimicking the appearance of the strongest blade dancer, Sjora licked the demon sword of darkness.
The instant Claire warned, the witch's figure disappeared from sight.
Unable to hear a sound or feel any presence from her, Claire felt like she was moving like a shadow.
Those movements were completely the same as those from three years ago.
Claire swung Flametongue with maximum power. The scorching flames of conflagration surged forth as if about to devour the stony ground.
Amidst the intensely burning flame, the witch's figure vanished.
However, it was nothing to be feared.
(If I can't capture her movements, I'll just simply burn large areas--)
Using the reaction force from striking the floor with her whip, Claire swiftly leaped backwards.
This should be able to buy some time. If Sjora Kahn really replicated Ren Ashbell's sword skills, she could not be allowed to get into range for close combat.
However, Claire's plan was instantly foiled.
(--How could this be possible!?)
Sjora was not caught inside the flames.
As though she were Claire's shadow, she stayed low and followed closely while Claire jumped.
"Freezing fangs of ice, go forth and pierce -- Freezing Arrow!"
Rinslet shot out arrows which followed a parabolic trajectory, but ended up striking empty ground.
Too slow. Even Rinslet's vision as a sniper was insufficient to capture Sjora's movements.
The instant Claire landed on her feet, Sjora laughed as she lurked in the shadows--
"...Damn you. Fireball!"
"Aha, silly little hell cat♪"
The demon sword of darkness sliced through Claire's chest.
As the intense pain filled her body, Claire could not help but scream.
Despite the fact that damage caused by elemental waffen that had yet to be materialized was normally converted into psychological damage, the witch seemed quite dead set on turning physical damage to the body into pure sensations of pain.
"What a nice scream, it makes me tremble with excitement."
Bearing the face of the strongest blade dancer, Sjora's eyes displayed a taste for sadism.
"You bastard, to dare do that to Claire -- Evil winds, go and rampage!"
Ellis swung Ray Hawk and released blades of wind. However--
"Useless. That type of technique is completely ineffective against Ren Ashbell--"
Running across the rocky walls to evade the wind blades, she engaged Ellis in close combat within the blink of an eye.
This was the final form of high level three-dimensional movement -- Shadow Stitching. A type of physical technique used by assassins.
Accustomed to proper knightly sword skills, Ellis was unable to capture such movements with their myriad variations.
Rushing through an opening in Ray Hawk's movements, Sjora pierced Ellis' chest along with her armor with a flash of the sword.
"Ara ara, such a dismal performance? The elite of the Ordesia Empire, hmph."
She slashed again at Ellis who was standing unsteadily due to the pain.
"Keeper of the burning furnace, release your wrath -- Flame Chain!"
Struggling to her feet, Claire unleashed Flametongue in a spiral movement.
"Such lukewarm flames. Are you sure you're that Calamity Queen's younger sister?"
Sjora shrugged and readied the Vorpal Sword in a stance.
"Absolute Blade Arts, Fourth Form -- Blaze Slash!"
The demon sword swept out as if collecting the swirling flames.
"Scarlet's fire is being absorbed!?"
Expanding in size several fold, the flaming blade swung down upon Claire and the rest.
Claire was blown away, striking the wall of the cave.
Ellis and Rinslet were successively devoured by the massive vortex of fire that covered the entire great hall.
Claire had a flame spirit's protection, but Ellis and Rinslet on the other hand--
The two girls' bodies lay collapsed where the vortex of flame died out.
Although their Academy uniforms were torn and tattered, they still managed to barely stay conscious.
Slowly, Sjora approached the two.
Claire desperately tried to swing Flametongue but due to the concussion from striking the cave walls earlier, she could not move her fingers.
"What fools. How could you even think you could win against the Strongest Blade Dancer?"
Sjora twisted her lips with a cruel expression--
The Vorpal Sword stabbed into Ellis' back as she lay collapsed on the ground.
Intense pain filled Ellis' entire body. Her inarticulate screams filled the entire hall.
"Ahaha, how does it feel? To be vanquished by the one you idolize!"
"S-Stop it, Ellis can no longer fight!"
"Fufu, rest assured, I will not take her life. However--"
The witch chuckled as she displayed an innocent girl's smile.
"This Blade Dance event does not prohibit the act of destroying an elementalist's mind."
Withdrawing the demon sword from Ellis' body, she then switched to stepping on Rinslet's head.
"So, this little lady here, what kind scream are you going to make?"
Instantly, crimson flames erupted from Claire's palms.
"Flames are useless against me... What!?"
Holding up the demon sword, Sjora's eyes appeared to waver.
She instinctively realized that these flames were significantly different from the ones earlier.
"Impossible, such fire, identical to that woman's--"
Sjora's trembling voice was engulfed and devoured by the crimson flames.
"Absolute Blade Arts, Third Form--Shadowmoon Waltz!"
With a flash of Terminus Est's blade, Kamito charged into the swarm of grotesque beings.
Tearing through dozens of enemies instantly, he wiped out yet another group in the blink of an eye. After the slashing attacks passed like a storm, nothing remained but the lingering light from the destroyed demon spirits.
Meanwhile, as if acting out of competition--
"Black thunder that incinerates even souls to nothingness -- Hell Blast!"
The darkness spirit released jet black lightning, instantly neutralizing an equal number of demon spirits.
"How competent, as expected of the Demon Slayer -- however, it does seem like I am slightly ahead in my kill count."
The darkness spirit girl was smiling nonchalantly.
Held in Kamito's hand, Terminus Est flickered in brightness as if expressing its rage.
"...How I really miss this, performing a blade dance together with Restia."
"Yes, somehow I involuntarily participated in such childish behavior."
Just as they joked around--
The former Strongest Blade Dancer and partner duo stood back to back.
In mere minutes, the swarm of demon spirits which originally covered the sky was almost completely wiped out.
"Very well, my assistance ends here."
Turning around, Kamito found the darkness spirit girl displaying a dream-like smile.
"I merely did this on a whim. --After all, I am your enemy."
Spreading her beautiful black wings, she prepared to take flight into the night sky.
"...Restia, I still--"
There was still plenty that he wanted to tell her and ask her about.
Three years ago, she had entrusted Kamito with that Wish.
Wanting to assassinate the Elemental Lords, what on earth was that about?
Also, that Wish's continuation was--
However, his hand reaching towards the sky was easily evaded.
In that instant, Kamito opened his eyes wide.
As lovely as rosebuds, Restia's adorable lips--
Gently brushed against his cheek.
"W-What are y-you doing--"
"I'll be waiting for you at the finals, Kamito."
Restia quietly withdrew her lips and smiled with a trace of melancholy--
Then with a scattering of floating black feathers, she disappeared in the air.
Kamito stared blankly into space for a very long time until...
A sharp pain suddenly came from his right arm.
Having returned to her form as a girl without him noticing, Est expressionlessly pinched Kamito's arm.
"W-What's the matter?"
...It was quite rare for this sword spirit to be acting in such a manner.
"Maybe, you're actually angry?"
"No, master. I am not angry."
"You're addressing me so formally now!?"
...Somehow it felt like she was greatly upset.
Despite the fact that nothing could be read from her expression, she really did seem to be angry. No question about it.
"Kamito, your contracted spirit is me, right?"
"Ah yeah... I-I don't quite understand, but anyway, I'm sorry."
As Kamito caressed her head gently, Est partially closed her eyes in great enjoyment.
"Fuah... Kamito, you're so sly."
"Kamito, what on earth are you doing? There are still enemies around."
Coming over, Shao was taken aback by the sight and remarked.
"By the way, who was that girl in the black dress? Is she -- a spirit?"
"She's my other partner."
Answering succinctly, Kamito turned his gaze towards the shrine.
Claire and the girls were not back yet.
"...Their numbers have almost completely diminished. Can I leave things here to you two?"
"Yes. At this level, we will surely manage."
"As befits the ace of the Four Gods. Thanks!"
Kamito bumped fists with her.
"I-I am present too. Do not ignore me!"
"Yeah yeah, I got it. I got it."
Tapping the furious imperial princess on the head, Kamito took Est by the hand.
"...I'm sorry, Est. Let's try our best for a little while longer?"
"Yes, Kamito. --I am your sword, your wish is my command."
"Huff, huff, huff..."
Panting, Claire pushed with her shoulders to lift her body.
Before her, crimson flames roared as they swirled.
Flames that incinerated other flames -- these were the same ones she had released against Ren Ashbell back in the forest last time.
Even Claire did not understand how she did it.
Just like that time.
The instant Sjora stepped on Rinslet's head, Claire felt something snap in her mind.
She did not even have any recollection of chanting spirit magic -- the flames had been released involuntarily without conscious intent.
(To think that I actually had this kind of power...)
--Was this the blood inherited from the Elstein family who ruled over flames?
"...Did we win?"
Just as Claire's heavy breathing gradually calmed down and she prepared to stand up, in that very instant.
From the flames came an attack of dark lightning, blowing Claire away.
Stepping upon the intensely burning flames, the witch stood up, still in the guise of the Strongest Blade Dancer.
Apparently she had evaded a direct hit.
(...Is everything hopeless now?)
Collapsed on the ground, Claire moved her fingers slightly.
She did not even have the strength left to stand up. Her divine power for using her contracted spirit was also completely depleted.
"Foolish little hell cat, I really hate resistance--"
Ren Ashbell's face showed a sadistic smile.
"I must make you suffer completely. After all, there's plenty of time here."
Claire clenched her trembling fingertips.
...Such chagrin. She could not accept this.
Claire could not accept how weak she was, unable to defeat even a fake like this witch.
She felt as though her admiration and precious memories from that day had all been trampled.
(I know very well, the blade dance of the true Strongest Blade Dancer, Ren Ashbell--)
The scene she had witnessed three years ago.
To this day, it remained vividly carved in her memories.
(The true Ren Ashbell's blade dance is not something like this--)
Faster, stronger, more magnificent -- A blade dance that inspired courage in others.
Her facial profile showed such dignified beauty.
For some reason, the face in her memories began to superimpose with that of a certain youth familiar to Claire.
Footsteps could be heard approaching.
Claire's vision dimmed progressively as her consciousness faded.
She did not want to lose. Most absolutely, definitively, she did not want to lose--
The jet black blade of the demon sword flashed above her head.
In that instant--
"--Take your hand away from my comrades, Sjora Kahn!"
With an explosion of dazzling light, the hall was filled with pure white radiance.
Blinded, Sjora covered her eyes.
(...This dazzling brightness comes from a spirit of light!?)
Crink -- Tumbling before Claire was a tiny fragment of spirit crystal.
(The one who uses these kinds of items is...)
Rubbing her eyes, Claire looked up.
Opening the door at the depths of the hall and appearing was--
The princess glared at Sjora with her dusk-colored eyes.
Standing leisurely with arms akimbo, the imperial princess' dignified airs were grandly displayed.
"Lost Queen, how did you escape from those shackles!?"
Ignoring Sjora who had recovered her vision, Fianna rushed over to Claire's side.
"Sorry, Claire, I--"
"Oh, there's no need to apologize. Teammates are supposed to help one another."
Claire averted eye contact as if a bit embarrassed.
Fianna clenched her fists tightly before her chest--
Softly, she murmured.
"Fools. Even if the fodder increases by one, it won't make any difference."
Sjora's mocking laugh resounded in the great hall.
...Lamentably, Sjora's words could not be refuted.
Ellis and Rinslet were still unconscious.
Although Fianna's Georgios was a powerful spirit, it could only be used in coordination with the team. They currently lacked a power to singlehandedly overcome the unfavorable battle situation.
Fianna stood up quietly.
"Thou, servant of the king of the child of man, knight and master swordsman—"
Immediately, she began to chant the releasing incantation for summoning her knight spirit.
"Thou shalt be my sword, thou shalt be my shield, with unlimited towering light, purify and exorcise those belonging to darkness--"
Claire forcefully looked up.
(No wait, this isn't a summoning... Could it be...!)
Centered around Fianna's right hand, strong gales began to swirl around.
On her head of dense black hair, a tiara manifested, shining with dazzling silver-white light.
Radiating glittering brilliance, a splendorous veil covered Fianna's entire body, giving off clear pure light.
"--Its appellation reads thus, Save the Queen!"
Appearing in Fianna's right hand was--
An intricate and finely crafted rapier.
Rather than a knight's sword for combat, this was a ceremonial sword for performing ritual offerings.
Claire stared with her ruby red eyes wide open.
"Claire, this is the form given to my thoughts and feelings."
Fianna turned around and smiled proudly.
"B-But, you using a sword..."
"Yes, indeed, I do not know how to wield a sword in combat."
"This sword is used in this manner!"
The shining blade of the rapier was stabbed into the ground.
Instantly, light radiated from the tip of the rapier, tracing out a circular design akin to a magic circle.
"The area within the circle is my Territory. An absolutely impregnable castle, you see."
"...Hmph, and I thought it was going to be something special. How ridiculous."
Sjora Kahn jeered.
"Even if you can finally release your elemental waffe, do you really think you are able to defeat this Strongest Blade Dancer?"
With a swing of the Vorpal Sword, a Vorpal Blast instantly shot towards Fianna.
The jet black lightning was blocked by the defensive barrier of light as soon as it made contact with the Territory.
The Strongest Blade Dancer's beautiful face was twisted with astonishment.
The Territory of light proceeded to expand, covering Ellis and Rinslet where they lay collapsed.
"...Y-Your Highness the imperial princess?"
"What on earth is this? What is going on...?"
Bathed in the gentle sacred light, the two girls awakened.
This light that filled the interior of the circle seemed to carry a holy attribute and healing effect.
Claire once again felt divine power coursing through her body.
When she summoned Scarlet, out appeared a hell cat enveloped in burning flames of conflagration that reached the ceiling.
"Amazing... This is Fianna's elemental waffe!"
Faced with Claire's exclamations of admiration, Fianna shook her head wryly.
"Unfortunately, this can't be maintained for long. So, you must take this opportunity now--"
"Understood -- Flametongue!"
Claire released Scarlet as her elemental waffe.
"W-We will also..."
"We can still fight!"
Ellis and Rinslet stood up and successively readied their respective elemental waffen.
"Ellis, you and I will act as the vanguard while Rinslet will provide cover support."
"Yes." "Fully understood!"
Nodding briefly in acknowledgement, the trio sprang into action at the same time.
"Freezing fangs of ice, go forth and pierce -- Freezing Arrow!"
Rinslet released an uncountable amount of arrows that were enough to cover the entire hall.
"Aha, you still don't realize this is futile?"
Sjora kicked a rock face and leaped, intending to sweep the arrows away with the demon sword of darkness.
"Too naive -- Blossoming without waiting for winter, Ice Break!"
In that instant, all the arrows shattered and scattered in front of Sjora.
"...A mere trick!"
The demon sword of darkness was frozen by the absolute zero temperature of the magical ice.
Taking advantage of the momentary delay in Sjora's movements--
"We're up, Ellis!"
Ellis and Claire instantly closed in.
Enveloped in wind at the same time, their movement speed was multiplied several fold.
"Absolute Blade Arts, Third Form--Shadowmoon Waltz!"
Sjora leaped and swiftly rebounded off a rock face, raising the demon sword to slash at her two prey--
"--Sorry, but I've already seen through that move already."
Claire struck her whip against the ground and used the resultant reaction force to jump backwards, evading the slash by the slimmest of margins. Missing its first attack, the sword's blade bounced off the stony ground. Seizing this opportunity, Ellis also retreated out of its attack range.
"After all, your swordsmanship--"
"I-Impossible. How could the Strongest Blade Dancer's swordsmanship be seen through so easily!?"
Sjora once again used the demon sword to perform Absolute Blade Arts, however--
"--I know that motion very well!"
Similarly, Ellis predicted the sword's trajectory and evaded the slash.
Unmistakable signs of wavering appeared all over Sjora's face.
"Indeed, your swordsmanship is identical to the Strongest Blade Dancer's. However--"
Claire infused Flametongue with maximum divine power.
Likewise, Ellis gathered a tempest at the spear tip of Ray Hawk.
"Your sword is far inferior to the sword of the one we admire!"
Indeed. Sjora's swordsmanship faithfully replicated that of the Strongest Blade Dancer.
Hence, it could be read and predicted.
For these two girls, Claire and Ellis, had always kept her blade dance firmly in memory.
Furthermore, Sjora's sword emulated Ren Ashbell's swordsmanship merely through the power of Baldanders.
Whether in speed or power, the true Ren Ashbell was far superior.
As soon as they realized this fact--
"Handling you is a simple matter!"
"Y-You bitches -- BE GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONE!"
Abandoning the elegance of royalty, Sjora released a full-powered Vorpal Blast.
Her target was not Claire and Ellis in front but Fianna behind them.
By this point in time, Save the Queen's effects had ended.
Just as the attack was about to strike Fianna -- in that very instant, a figure rushed in front of her.
"Kamito!?" "Kamito-kun!" "Kamito--!" "Kamito-san!"
Claire, Fianna, Ellis and Rinslet -- Everyone yelled out that name all at once.
Wielding the Demon Slayer, Kamito neutralized the jet black lightning attack with one hand.
"Hey there, Miss Imposter. Looks like you've been bullying these highborn ladies here."
Kamito's entire body emanated overwhelming wrath.
This caused Sjora to involuntarily release a convulsive scream.
"You really must be paid back properly--"
His icy cold gaze focused firmly on Sjora.
"Let me demonstrate to you the swordsmanship of the Strongest Blade Dancer!"
Kamito took a great flying leap forward.
"...M-My Baldanders is the strongest spirit, I'm not going to lose to you!"
The witch in the guise of the Strongest Blade Dancer versus Kamito who wielded the Demon Slayer --
Began to clash in midair.
"Absolute Blade Arts, Destructive Form -- Bursting Blossom Spiral Blade Dance - Four Consecutive Strikes!"
The witch unleashed the strongest anti-spirit sword technique against Kamito.
At the same time--
"Absolute Blade Arts, Destructive Form -- Bursting Blossom Spiral Blade Dance - Fifteen Consecutive Strikes!"
The true authentic Strongest Blade Dancer performed a raging tidal wave of slashes, exploding all over Sjora Kahn's body.