Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume7 Chapter7
Chapter 7 - The Witch's Strategy
"Man, what rotten luck..."
After suffering from Rinslet's frozen treatment, Kamito was preparing to return to the tent.
Just by chance, he happened to spot Claire exiting the forest.
Her hair, styled into twintails, were standing on end like a blazing fire. Behind her, Scarlet was chasing its master as if trying to keep her master's mood under observation.
(...Well, the fact that she's in a bad mood is easy enough to understand.)
Smiling wryly, Kamito approached Claire.
Turning her head back in response, Claire blushed and screamed as soon as she saw Kamito's face.
"W-What? Stop scaring me!"
"What do you mean? It was just a normal greeting."
"Sh-Shut up, I-I don't feel that way about you--"
Blushing to her ears, Claire suddenly turned her face away.
(...What's going on?)
...Although Kamito was not quite sure what was going on, Claire behaving strangely was nothing new anyway.
"How's Fianna's condition?"
"Hmph, how would I know? That perverted princess whatever."
"Did you quarrel again?"
Claire pouted, her face still turned away.
Kamito sighed helplessly... Oh well, these two girls quarreling was nothing new either.
The two continued walking side by side for a while--
Claire suddenly spoke up.
"This morning when we engaged the Four Gods in blade dance, you were using her sword skills again, right?"
"...What, you're repeating the same subject from yesterday again?"
Despite his shock and surprise, Kamito continued to retort defiantly.
...Clearly her suspicions have not been dispelled completely.
"I'm not talking about that. Otherwise, we'd end up arguing all over again."
"It's nothing serious anyway."
Kamito replied calmly.
"Seeing what happened during that blade dance, it got me wondering. Is it possible that we have become your shackles? Perhaps you'd be able to perform at full capability if you fought alone, like Ren Ashbell, the Strongest Blade Dancer three years ago. Stuff like that."
Claire's eyes were serious.
Kamito could not figure out exactly why she was asking about this.
Most probably, it was a subject brought up during her quarrel with Fianna just now.
Yesterday, Fianna had also agonized over the same issue.
Just as he was about to say something, Kamito hesitated.
What he needed to say were not words of comfort.
Hence, he had to consider carefully before he came up with words to say.
(My past self would definitely give a different answer compared to now...)
In the past, Kamito undoubtedly pursued power as an individual.
Back then, he had thought of it as only logical. After all, having people that required protection would cause one to be weak.
Only by eliminating the need to protect anyone or anything would a person brave enough to lay down his own life become the most powerful. That was what was taught at that insane facility.
However, things were different now.
(Precisely because of my comrades fighting by my side have I been able to become this strong.)
This was something he discovered for the first time only after enrolling in the Academy and meeting Claire and the girls.
Even the darkness spirit who had taught Kamito everything he knew had not succeeded in achieving this.
Raising his bowed head, Kamito spoke up.
"The existence of teammates has made me stronger. This is my entire power now. If I were alone, I definitely could not have defeated that Nepenthes Lore."
This was neither a lie nor modesty but his sincere feelings.
Claire clenched her fists tightly before her chest.
Those bright clear eyes of hers, resembling flawless rubies, seemed mildly moistened... Apparently.
"I-It feels kind of embarrassing, this way..."
Who knew who started it, but the two of the them started avoiding eye contact.
"...But anyway, thanks."
"What's the matter, for you to be so honest for once?"
"Sh-Shut up and turn into charcoal!"
With just some slight teasing, Claire was back to form.
(...Oh well, that's the way it should be.)
Kamito smiled wryly to himself.
"Hmm, what are you two doing over there!?"
Suddenly, Ellis arrived from the air via Flight magic.
Landing on the ground with a thud, she rapidly made a thrust with her sword towards Kamito's neck.
"Kamito, what sort of outrageous act did you commit again?"
"What the heck are you talking about? I never do anything like that!"
"Th-That's right. I-Indecency, nothing of that sort was being done!"
"What, to think you would mention indecency?"
"Claire, saying something like that while blushing would only cause misunderstandings!"
Hearing Kamito's snide remark, Claire awkwardly turned away from Ellis.
"By the way, Ellis, did something happen on your watch?"
Kamito did not think the serious and hardworking captain of the knights would simply cast her duties aside.
...Something must have happened.
"Ah yes, just now a wind spirit reported--"
Ellis switched to a serious expression and waved to summon a petite spirit in her service.
It was a translucent spirit shaped like a butterfly.
"Apparently, Her Highness the imperial princess has exited the Barrier."
"What did you say!?"
Kamito and Claire cried out in surprise simultaneously.
The forest at night was extremely dangerous. Fianna should know that very well.
"Why would this happen..."
Halfway through her question, Claire suddenly opened her eyes wide.
"Could it be because she quarreled with me...?"
"No, Fianna wouldn't act like that... It's not like she's you, Claire."
"Wh-What the heck!?"
Kamito decided to ignore Claire's pouting.
"But what is going on? Entering the forest alone is really--"
"...Apparently she did not go alone."
"Apparently, Her Highness the imperial princess went out into the night forest together with Kamito."
This statement brought forth a lengthy silence.
"L-Like I said, Her Highness the imperial princess was together with Kamito!"
Ellis glared sharply at Kamito as she screamed.
Rumble rumble rumble rumble rumble rumble...!
Claire's crimson hair blazed like a great fire.
Kamito felt like there was some kind of bizarre misunderstanding -- or more accurately, he had been framed.
"W-Wait a minute, don't you find this is too weird!?"
Kamito frantically protested.
"Until just earlier, I was helping Rinslet with the dishes."
"...Hmm, that's true now that you mention it. I only parted ways with Fianna just a short while earlier."
"Then the Kamito that the wind spirit saw was..."
Realizing the strangeness of the situation, the two girls puzzled with their heads tilted.
"--Say, if this is really true, then this is a very serious situation, yes?"
"...Indeed, this is even worse than if she went out alone."
Nodding, Claire pondered with her hand supporting her chin.
"If that is the case, then someone disguised as Kamito had taken Fianna outside the barrier. Due to bearing Kamito's appearance, the spirits on watch did not react."
"In other words, Her Highness the imperial princess was kidnapped? But even if appearances were altered using spirit magic I do not think it is possible to neutralize the Barrier's alarm."
"In principle, yes, but do remember this is the Blade Dance where elite elementalists gather from various countries. It won't be surprising even if there are magic users who can emulate appearances and even trick spirits."
"Even so, why would Fianna be singled out..."
Kamito muttered in deep thought.
--Completely incomprehensible, why she would be kidnapped.
Supposing magic stones were the aim, then hers could have been taken on the spot. Kamito had also thought of the other possibility of her being taken hostage as a bargaining chip, however--
(...That's too improbable. After all, the risk is too high.)
The Blade Dance was not a pure combat festival but a ritual ceremony for making offerings to the Elemental Lords.
If someone were to use despicable methods equivalent to defiling this fundamental principle, not only would they be condemned by all the spectating countries, they would even bring about the Elemental Lords' displeasure depending on the situation.
In actual fact, in the history of past Blade Dance festivals, there did exist cases when teams obtained victory through underhanded means, thereby bringing calamity upon their home countries.
"Anyway, let's go search for her! And call Rinslet too."
Leaving Claire to find Rinslet, Kamito went to the tent to pick up Est.
Entering inside, Kamito found Est sleeping soundly on Kamito's bed.
"...Bean curd, bean curd~"
...Looks like she's having quite a wonderful dream.
It felt quite a shame to rouse her awake right now.
"Est, I'm sorry, it's time to get up."
"...Huah, Kamito, are we going out?"
Dressed in western style pajamas and still in a dreamy haze, Est rubbed her sleepy eyes and woke up.
"Yeah. Est, your power is essential."
Seeing Kamito nodding, Est woke up completely.
Without asking anything, she lightly held Kamito's hand.
"--I am your sword. Your will be done."
Est's cute body was enveloped by particles of light as she took on the form of a sacred sword in Kamito's hand.
"Kamito, everyone has gathered. Are you ready?"
Claire and the girls had converged before the tent.
"I've heard what happened already. Leave the tracking to Fenrir."
By Rinslet's side, the white wolf howled.
"...Next, I think it's better if we split into two teams."
"Good idea. Then Rinslet and I will search the west side while Kamito and Ellis take the east. Violent spirits roam the forest at night, so be careful."
Claire gave clear and concise orders like a team commander. Combining Ellis' excellent tracking skills and Kamito's specialization in covert operations on one hand. Teaming up Claire and Rinslet together, on the other hand, offered substantial tracking ability from both members as well as excellent coordinated offensive capability. In this manner, Team Scarlet was split into relatively balanced sub teams.
Kamito nodded and began to sprint with Ellis through the night forest.
Fianna woke and opened her eyes as result of the icy cold sensation of falling water droplets.
"Hmm, this place... is...?"
Still in a hazy state of consciousness, she swept her gaze back and forth across her surroundings.
This was a space enclosed by sturdy walls of rock. It seemed to be a natural cave.
Massive spirit crystals were arranged all around. The cave was illuminated by dim light.
"Why am I in a place like this..."
Fianna felt her head hurting sharply. Only when she tried to move her body did she notice.
Her hands could not move away from the wall of rock.
Fianna looked up in surprise to find her hands cuffed by metal shackles, pinned securely to the rock face.
"...Wait, what on earth is going on!?"
She struggled hard but achieved nothing except for ear-splitting noise from the shackles.
"R-Right, all I need to do is summon Georgios..."
Thinking that, she began to summon her knight spirit.
As the spirit seal on her chest shone with light, a magic circle's glow appeared by her feet--
But the magic circle suddenly disappeared.
As a sense of total exhaustion filled her body, the summoning Gate also closed.
"Fufu, you have awakened, Your Highness the imperial princess."
Suddenly a voice was heard in the darkness.
"Although unfortunate, summoning your contracted spirit is indeed impossible. Because a sealing barrier has been erected in this place."
Appearing out of the darkness was the girl who had transformed herself into Kamito's form.
"Second-in-command of Team Inferno representing the Alphas Theocracy -- Sjora Kahn."
The elementalist who had sent out her familiar into Team Scarlet's barrier yesterday.
...Clearly, Fianna had become her captive.
Fianna bit her lip hard.
(I became a burden to my teammates again...)
As Fianna's lower jaw shook out of chagrin, Sjora lifted it lightly.
"Fufu, what a great expression. It excites me so."
"...How regrettable, I have no value as a hostage. Sjora Kahn."
As tears appeared in her dusk-colored eyes, Fianna resolutely glared back at Sjora.
"Ara, then you are surely selling yourself short. As the Calamity Queen's successor, you were chosen as the Fire Queen candidate."
Sjora jeered as if greatly amused as she drew her face near Fianna's ear.
"Be proud of yourself. You are the top candidate for the Darkness Queen who will be serving the Demon King, you know?"
The unfamiliar term caused Fianna to frown.
...It was an ominous sound which was sufficient to cause one to feel revulsion instinctively.
"Yes, Kazehaya Kamito -- the Demon King's successor awakened in this world. And then there is the Darkness Queen in charge of controlling him. Although little miss hell cat is also qualified as a candidate, that woman seems to prefer choosing you."
"...Kamito-kun is the Demon King's successor?"
"That's right. The savior our great Hierarch has been awaiting for over a thousand years."
--What on earth was she talking about? Fianna could not comprehend at all.
Even so, her instincts as a princess maiden alerted her that these were not simply delusional dreams.
(...Hell cat, that refers to Claire, right?)
"Hey, imperial princess. For the sake of our great Hierarch, I will bring the Demon King under my control. Neither that woman's, nor the darkness spirit's. Hence--"
With a rapturous expression, Sjora's tongue crept over Fianna's neck.
"...Whether your mind or your body, let them all become mine."
Sjora Kahn's fingertip slid across Fianna's neck to touch her forehead.
Instantly, Fianna felt her consciousness being eroded with a sense of being completely overwritten.
If this continued, most likely she would be completely dominated from the core depths of her mind--
Hastily, Fianna severed her consciousness by her own willpower.
After all, training to protect one's mind was a required subject for all princess maidens at the Divine Ritual Institute.
"Eh, as befitted the original Queen candidate. I knew it wouldn't be that easy to succeed."
Sjora distorted her lips cruelly as she muttered.
"--However, how long can you endure?"
--Kamito and his teammates soon left the stronghold to search the forest.
The one who took Fianna away had not left behind any trails resembling footprints.
Tracking had to be left to wind spirits that served Ellis.
Ellis was currently conversing with a flock of butterfly-shaped spirits that had gathered on tree branches. Listening to the voices of wind spirits could be said to be her special skill.
Finally, Ellis stood up and walked towards Kamito.
"How is it?"
"Looks like no spirits in this area had seen those two."
"...Is that so? Then they probably didn't come here."
"However, given a skilled elementalist, deceiving the eyes of spirits is nothing difficult. If that is really what happened, what we should do is track down the traces left behind by the usage of spirit magic but that is beyond the domain of wind spirits. My apologies."
"There's no need for you to apologize, Ellis. Speaking of which, I'm the one who can't do anything here."
Kamito shook ahead and disagreed with Ellis who was disheartened by her own excessive seriousness.
"But we are definitely out of ideas. Perhaps we should contact Claire and Rinslet on the west side."
"Hmm, that is true."
--Just at this moment.
Kamito suddenly sensed a presence.
"--Ellis, lie down now."
Taking Ellis' hand, Kamito pushed her against the ground.
"Wha... K-Kamito, this is not the time...!"
"Oh no... B-But, th-the first time really should be done on the bed..."
Ignoring Ellis who mumbled with her face all red, Kamito focused his attention on observing the surrounding presences.
(...This is not a spirit but the presence of an elementalist.)
While erasing his own presence, Kamito placed his hand on the Demon Slayer.
Kamito's serious expression made Ellis stop talking.
The presence could be sensed across the thicket and was approaching them.
Most likely, the other party had already noticed Kamito and Ellis.
Was this just an opposing team patrolling at night? If possible, Kamito hoped that they could leave each other alone, but the other party seemed quite determined.
(If we get into an encounter battle right now...)
Even though there was little chance of losing, time was currently of the essence.
(...In that case, I will make the first move and finish it instantly!)
Kamito made his decision as he infused divine power into Terminus Est.
Silver-white light illuminated the dark night. Sensing the other party's momentary fear from the brightness, Kamito dashed into the depths of the thicket.
Pushing forward like a gale, he slashed with godlike speed.
The sound of metal clashing rang out as intense sparks scattered in the darkness of the night.
(...I was blocked!?)
Such reaction speed was not normal. The other person was clearly quite accomplished.
Furthermore, even though he had not used maximum power, the opponent had managed to survive the Demon Slayer's attack after all.
(...Could it be, this person is!)
Illuminated by the sacred sword, the opponent's appearance finally entered Kamito's view.
The one who blocked Kamito's sword with one hand, equipped with gauntlets, was--
Her white hair particularly striking in the darkness, she was the girl with azure eyes.
"...Shao Fu of the White Tiger?"
"You are actually... Kazehaya Kamito?"
They both spoke at the same time.
For a brief period, they both maintained their elemental waffen in this engaged posture, not moving at all--
At this time, a series of footsteps was heard from deeper in the thicket.
"Shao, what on earth... Ah, y-you are--!"
The one who appeared was the Four Gods's sovereign. Her Highness Linfa Sin Quina the imperial princess.
"Bestial king of lust Kazehaya Kamito! Why have you made your presence here!"
"B-Bestial king of lust, what the heck..."
Kamito slumped his shoulders as if completely drained.
...He felt like all vigor had been lost.
"Kamito, what on earth is going on..."
Pursuing from behind, Ellis also arrived.
Shao used her other arm to restrain Linfa.
"Linfa-sama, please stay back--"
Still wielding his sword in a stance, Kamito frowned.
(...This looks quite unusual.)
Why would the Four Gods leave their stronghold and appear in this place during a time like this?
Also, it was most unnatural for Linfa to have only Shao as her lone bodyguard.
"I did not expect to encounter you here..."
Shao gritted her teeth, as if intending to guard Linfa with her life.
(...Looks like something must have happened.)
Based on the situation, perhaps a pointless fight could be avoided.
"Hey, Shao, could you wait a little bit?"
"To be frank, I have no intention of fighting. Your side should be the same, right?"
Saying that, Kamito slowly withdrew his sword--
With an expression of mild surprise, Shao relaxed from her combat stance.
...I knew it. Neither of us wanted to attack.
"Right now, I have no intention to battle you. If we can leave each other alone in peace, that would be a great help."
Reassured, Shao exhaled with relief.
...On further examination, Kamito found her dress torn and tattered, and she had numerous wounds on her arms and legs.
This damage were definitely not sustained during the blade dance this morning.
"For an elementalist of your level, who could have injured you to this level? Where are your other comrades?"
Hearing Kamito's question--
Shao bit her lip as if suppressing intense chagrin.
"The Four Gods have been vanquished. We fell into the witch's trap."
---Shocking words have been uttered.