Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume7 Chapter8
Chapter 8 - Fiery Encounter
Kamito and Ellis listened to Shao's story at a location not far from the encounter just now.
Despite the urgency of the search for Fianna, news regarding the witch who had defeated the Four Gods was too alarming. Allegedly, the Four Gods's defeat stemmed from the witch disguising herself as one of their teammates, causing Linfa and the rest to fall into her carefully laid trap.
Taking on another's appearance to deceive others.
It was highly probable that this witch is the same person as the elementalist who kidnapped Fianna.
Kamito was just bending down to sit beside Linfa when she swiftly distanced herself as if running away.
She was really quite wary of him, even for someone on opposing teams.
(...But at least, she doesn't seem to be hurt.)
Linfa glared unerringly at Kamito.
"Hmm, Kazehaya Kamito, you intend to commit sexual assault upon me, is that what you are attempting?"
"As if anyone would do that! What on earth am I in your eyes?"
"Hmph, rumors about you have already spread to my country. Demon King Kamito's gaze is enough to seduce pure maidens, while a single touch of his fingertips is sufficient to make virgins pregnant!"
"What the heck are those rumors!? Am I a monster!?"
"K-Kamito, is that really true!? W-What should I do now, if I do not report immediately to my father--"
"Ellis, don't tell me you believe those rumors too!?"
...Somehow, it felt like rumors were not only spreading like crazy but also getting worse and worse.
"...Sigh, whatever. Let's hear the rest of your story."
Kamito sighed deeply and urged Shao to continue.
"That witch revealed herself after we retreated from the unfavorable blade dance against Team Scarlet."
Her face full of chagrin, Shao recounted how the Four Gods were wiped out.
During the blade dance against Kamito's team, Rion of the Vermilion Bird had apparently been replaced with the fake already. After revealing herself, the witch ordered several hundred demon spirits hidden in the forest to surround and attack the Four Gods.
Having just engaged Team Scarlet in blade dance, the Four Gods were too exhausted to muster any decent resistance. Seeing that they were about to be hunted down, Rao of the Azure Dragon had voluntarily sacrificed herself to allow princess Linfa and Shao to escape--
"The one who had transformed into Rion was Team Inferno's Sjora Kahn."
Shao uttered the name with agony.
"That girl, huh..."
It was the demon caster who had sent the snake into Team Scarlet's Barrier this morning.
(...Come to think of it, she was also particularly obsessed with Fianna at the time.)
Kamito recalled something mentioned about a Darkness Queen, but what did it actually mean?
"Very likely, the one who took on Kamito's appearance and kidnapped Fianna is also that witch."
With a mysterious expression, Ellis murmured.
Kamito turned to face Linfa and Shao--
"...So, what are your plans from here on?"
"Hmph, the answer is obvious, fool!"
Whack. A thick branch struck Kamito on the head.
"Naturally, we must retrieve the magic stones the witch stole from our comrades. Rao, Hakua and Rion -- even though taking back the magic stones will not bring them back into the game, we must hold a memorial service for them at least."
"...Hold a memorial service? But they haven't died, right?"
Kamito remarked snidely with his eyes half narrowed.
"I want to retrieve their magic stones too. Although I do wish for vengeance, if this continues, we won't be able to win the Blade Dance festival."
"I-In that case, putting the mighty renown of our great empire out on the line, Team Inferno shall be vanquished!"
"I appreciate your vigor and conviction, but do you have the corresponding combat potential, current Four Gods?"
Linfa stammered at a loss for words.
...Clearly they did not have a plan either.
But in that case, this made negotiations easier. Gazing at the two girls alternately, Kamito spoke up.
"Hey, I've got a suggestion. How about we join forces?"
Regardless, their opponent was an elementalist under Team Inferno after all. The more allies, the better.
"Hmm... Join forces? With you?"
Linfa revealed a tactless expression of revulsion.
"I-In other words, y-you wish for me to satisfy your carnal desires?"
"That's completely wrong! Ellis, stop drawing your sword recklessly!"
Kamito clutched his head in exasperation.
"Linfa-sama, I believe agreeing to their suggestion would better serve our interests."
Unexpectedly, the one supporting Kamito at this time was Shao.
"No matter what, if I had to do it alone, defeating that witch is truly a challenge. Furthermore, this guy here is not the atrocious immoral rogue king as rumored. Having engaged him in battle, I have realized this fact."
"Hmm, if Shao says so."
With great reluctance, Linfa finally nodded.
"Then it's decided. The alliance between Team Scarlet and Four Gods is hereby established."
Kamito and Shao bumped fists together.
"By the way, do you have any idea where Sjora Kahn is located?"
"Linfa-sama can use Clairvoyance so long as there is a shrine or a sacred spring. With that we can acquire the witch's movements."
"I remember Clairvoyance being the highest form of ritual magic... How impressive, despite being so small."
"Hmph, now you finally show some respect... Hmm, I am not small! Like you, I am sixteen years of age as well!"
The imperial princess roared tearfully as she noisily threw little pebbles at Kamito.
(...Hmm, definitely, Milla acts far more mature than her.)
"A shrine or a sacred spring eh -- Well then, let us return to the stronghold first."
Ellis suggested at this time.
"Yeah, I'll go call for Claire and Rinslet to return. Ellis, why don't you take these two back into the stronghold?"
Bidding Ellis and the rest goodbye, Kamito headed towards Claire and Rinslet.
Meanwhile, the Raven Class combo of Claire and Rinslet were searching the forest on the west side.
Scarlet and Fenrir were tasked with searching for traces of Fianna's divine power.
"Looks like she definitely passed through here."
"Yeah. But it will very difficult to continue tracking from here. In any case, let's meet up with Kamito first."
Turning around to make their way back, Rinslet asked a question.
"So anyway, why were you quarreling with Her Highness the imperial princess?"
"It has nothing to do with you."
"...Could it be about breasts?"
"O-Of course not!"
Claire could not help but roar angrily.
"...Fianna seems quite troubled about this morning's blade dance."
She explained what just happened in the forest.
Obviously, all the parts related to Kamito -- were omitted.
"Carrying out elemental waffe releasing training on her own? That's way too dangerous!"
"That's right. However, it's not like I can't understand Fianna's impatience. Even for myself, I once went through a period of anxiety when I sought power in order to participate in the Blade Dance."
Claire recalled what happened two months earlier. Due to her excessive desire for power, the time when she made her bid for the dangerous sealed spirit.
(...Did Kamito ever go through such a phase?)
During the blade dance against the Four Gods, he had exhibited overwhelming skills in blade dance.
Once that level of power had been achieved, there was probably no need for this sort of worrying?
...As soon as her thoughts turned to Kamito, it felt like she was unable to stay calm.
(Seriously, it's all Fianna's fault for saying that--)
In an attempt to cool her head which felt like it was on fire, Claire shook her head vigorously.
--I love Kamito-kun.
Back then, Fianna was not showing a mischievous expression like always.
(Those eyes of hers, it was as if she had made some sort of resolution...)
--At this very moment.
"What a coincidence. To think we'd meet here."
From the depths of the darkness came a voice, causing Claire and Rinslet to enter a battle stance.
(We failed to sense the other person's presence!?)
This particular fact caused Claire's instincts to raise quite an alarm.
"...Who is this!?"
With a shrill cry, Rinslet summoned her elemental waffe of the magic bow. Without waiting for the other party to answer, she immediately unleashed an attack to achieve containment -- such was the natural result expected from the Ice Storm.
The freezing arrow was shot straight forward, leaving a trail like a comet's tail.
"How boorish, little Laurenfrost lady."
The darkness gave birth to crimson flames which instantly devoured the arrow of frost.
Amidst the dancing flames, a person's figure was illuminated in the darkness.
Claire could feel shivers traveling all over her spine.
"I-I don't believe this..."
Similarly, Rinslet was frozen in her bow-drawing posture.
Subduing the crimson flames, a scarlet mask appeared in the darkness.
Dark-colored hair fluttered in the wind.
Claire cried out with despair.
(...Why, why would she be in a place like this!?)
Questions spread out and filled her mind.
No, the reason was not important right now. The undeniable truth currently was the fact that the strongest elementalist of the current Blade Dance had appeared before Claire.
(...What should I do? Right now, what is the best possible course of action?)
Cold sweat flowed down to Claire's chin.
Fighting was out of the question. But what if running away presented an opening to the enemy--
--At this time, Claire suddenly noticed.
Why the Strongest Blade Dancer, Ren Ashbell, had appeared at this location.
Team Inferno had made moves on Team Scarlet numerous times already.
That Ren Ashbell was unrelated to the current situation... Making such an assertion would be utterly naive and optimistic.
"Are you actually the one who took Fianna away!?"
Suppressing the fear she felt towards the existence before her, Claire cried out.
"Me, taking the Ordesia princess?"
"T-That's right, transforming into Kamito's appearance... It must be your doing!"
Several seconds passed--
"...I see, so that's what happened."
Ren Ashbell nodded to herself as if she figured out something.
"Did the witch intend to steal a march -- or perhaps, it was under the orders of the Alphas Theocracy's Snake?"
"Stop pretending you're unaware of it!"
Claire summoned the fiery hell cat by her feet.
Even though it was a meaningless act, Claire thought it could at least provide some sort of intimidation--
The instant Scarlet appeared--
Suddenly, Ren Ashbell exclaimed profoundly.
"The Elstein's family's Scarlet Valkyrie, eh? A spirit completely unsuited to you in your current state."
After whispering words completely unfamiliar to Claire, she continued.
"Interesting. Let's play for a bit."
Using her white gloved right hand, she started a small fire.
Claire bit her lip hard.
"What should we do, Claire?"
"There's no choice, Rinslet, we must fight."
After all, if Ren Ashbell were to get serious, escape was completely out of the question.
"However, you might be able to escape while I'm fighting."
"Hmph, please keep these stupid jokes to yourself."
Rinslet shook her head with great resolve and readied her magic bow of ice.
"...Rinslet, thank you."
With a barely audible voice, Claire spoke to her childhood friend, then immediately--
She turned to face the strongest blade dancer who emanated a terrifyingly oppressive aura simply by standing there.
No chance for victory. Also impossible to flee.
Most likely, they were going to lose their magic stones and be forced to retire here.
However, Kamito and the rest of the team should be able to continue fighting to the last day of the Blade Dance.
--Precisely because she believed so, Claire was able to resolve herself.
So long as she had resolution, fear was no longer a problem.
"Ren Ashbell, I have a question for you."
Claire inquired at this time.
"You, are you truly that Ren Ashbell?"
"What do you mean?"
The ruby-like eyes flashed from behind the mask, penetrating Claire.
"You are not the Strongest Blade Dancer, Ren Ashbell, the one whom I idolize -- That's what I mean."
The masked elementalist admitted with forthrightness.
"It's true, I am not the Ren Ashbell you know."
"Hearing that, I am relieved."
With a sigh of relief, Claire summoned Flametongue in her hands.
"--In that case, I can go all out without reservation!"
Yelling at the same time, she began to swing the fiery whip.
A crimson slash split the darkness of the night acutely.
"Not bad in terms of the elemental waffe's purity. Nevertheless--"
The elementalist who had stolen Ren Ashbell's name -- drew a magic circle in the air with flames burning on her fingertip.
"--Come forth from the furnace of conflagration, Hellhound."
From the burning magic circle appeared a hunting hound enveloped in fire.
Rather than spirit summoning magic, this was a pseudo life form forged from magical flames.
The flaming hound roared and rushed forward, ripping Flametongue apart with its sharp claws.
"Impossible! My Scarlet...!"
"Let me show you the proper way to use fire."
The summoned Hellhound roared with savagery as it pounced.
Slicing through the air with an acute sound, freezing arrows flew over Claire's to smash the hound.
"Thanks a lot, Rinslet!"
"The Laurenfrost family's strongest demon ice spirit -- So you're the one who inherited it."
"You know Judia?"
Rinslet's eyes widened in a stare.
Ren Ashbell silently summoned a vortex of fire in her hands.
"Let's go, Scarlet!"
As Claire released divine power, Flametongue swiftly regenerated and lit on fire once more.
Just as the crimson slash flashed again -- in that very instant, Ren Ashbell disappeared.
In the next instant, the scarlet mask appeared in Claire's view.
"The power of fire lies not only in destruction. Its traits also include producing mirages through differences in air temperature."
Her tone of voice sounded almost like a teacher lecturing a student.
(Is that so, using flames to disorient light around the body--)
Enveloped in fire, a fist landed on Claire's chest.
As her body was wrapped in fire, Claire was easily blown away like a piece of paper, falling on the ground.
Unable to breathe. The flames around her were snatching oxygen from the surrounding air.
As Claire panted, Flametongue returned to the hell cat's form. Like a ravenous creature, Scarlet devoured all the flames surrounding her.
Amidst flickering fire, Ren Ashbell's figure approached without pause.
"Freezing fangs of ice, go forth and pierce -- Freezing Arrow!"
Innumerable freezing arrows tore through the darkness of the night as they were shot.
However, Ren Ashbell did not make any motion to evade.
"Red castle walls, intercepting armies ten thousand strong -- Flame Wall."
Instantly, the erected barrier of fire vanquished the freezing arrows completely.
"Excellent aim and speed -- However, your power is decisively inadequate. This is fatal for a sniper."
As soon as these words were uttered, burning arrows were shot from behind the wall of fire, flying towards Rinslet.
Rinslet intended to unleash freezing arrows again but was too late.
"I'm not going to let you succeed -- Flame Wall."
Claire immediately performed the same magic.
The burning arrows easily penetrated the barrier of fire, striking the two girls and blowing them into the thicket.
"Whether it is the skill in spirit magic or the absolute amount of divine power, you two are both inferior. Even if you use the same magic, a difference in power is only inevitable."
As users of the same attribute of fire, to think such a difference in level was possible.
Stepping upon the intensely burning flames, the masked elementalist approached slowly.
As if trying to protect Claire who was collapsed on the ground, the fiery hell cat blocked her path.
Despite Claire's cries--
Scarlet roared acutely and attacked the enemy before them.
However, the masked girl easily dodged and unleashed a punch infused with divine power.
The hell cat was struck down on the ground with a painful scream.
"Without releasing its true name, even a renowned spirit weapon can only perform at this miserable level--"
"...Releasing its true name?"
Still lying on the ground, Claire frowned.
She had heard from her grandfather that Scarlet's true name as a spirit had been lost since ancient times.
Why would this girl know about that--
At this very moment.
"How disappointing, Claire Rouge. You are not worthy of fighting me in the finals."
A massive ball of flame appeared in Ren Ashbell's hand.
This was the spirit magic of Fireball. However, its size was orders of magnitudes greater than Claire's.
(If this attack strikes us directly--)
Claire forcefully shifted her gaze towards behind her.
Struck down by the burning arrows and collapsed on the ground, Rinslet was panting painfully.
She was in no state to stand up and evade--
In that very instant--
Claire's twintails became untied and stood up burning like flames.
A fiery blaze burst forth from the depths of her eyes of ruby.
An exclamation of surprise was leaked from beneath Ren Ashbell's mask as she released the fireball.
Crimson flames came forth from Claire's hands, devouring--
--Or rather, it incinerated the massive fire into nothing.
Instead of exploding, the giant fireball disappeared in midair.
"Pant, pant, pant... Guh..."
Maintaining the same pose as when she unleashed the crimson flames--
Claire fell upon her knees like an unstringed puppet.
"W-What on earth just happened...?"
Rinslet moaned with her face filled with surprise.
This was not without reason. The unbelievable phenomenon that just occurred had completely surpassed common sense knowledge of spirit magic.
"Flames that incinerates other flames -- What an interesting sight to witness."
Ren Ashbell spoke softly as she approached Claire who had collapsed from exhaustion.
"As I thought, the one suited to the role of the Darkness Queen is--"
Just as her fingertips were about to caress Claire's face, in that very instant--
A short sword flew across the scarlet mask, embedding itself into the ground.
"Don't think you can touch my master so easily -- Ren Ashbell."
That voice caused Claire to open her eyes slightly--
Hurrying to the scene from out of the darkness was Kamito with the Demon Slayer in hand.
"You bitch, how dare you do this to Claire and Rinslet...!"
Wrath swelled in Kamito's jet black eyes as he kicked the ground and leaped.
Closing the distance instantly, he swung the brightly shining sacred sword straight down without question.
With a great flash of light, the sword blade sung with metallic timbre.
Summoned suddenly without anyone noticing--
Appearing in Ren Ashbell's hand was a burning sword of fire.
"Elemental waffe -- no wait, that's a creation of spirit magic..."
Claire murmured as she shuddered. For the elemental waffe of the strongest class, Terminus Est, to be blocked by a sword of spirit magic--
How much divine power had been infused to forge its creation?
Sparks shone brightly in the darkness. One round, two rounds... The two clashed and engaged one another intensely in battle.
"How could that kind of thing block Est!?"
During the third round, Ren Ashbell's sword of fire shattered.
Kamito took a step forward and unleashed a slash with godlike speed.
"Your movements are much improved compared to a few days ago. As expected of the one who defeated Nepenthes Lore without awakening--"
Ren Ashbell whispered softly beneath the mask. Immediately afterwards, her figure disappeared suddenly like a mirage--
Kamito's sword simply sliced through air.
"Go on and advance to the finals, Kazehaya Kamito."
From the forest enshrouded in darkness, her voice could be heard.
"--Once that time arrives, you shall learn about the truth of what happened three years ago."
In the night forest where the spirits were restless--
Kamito was shouldering the unconscious Claire on his back. Beside him, Fenrir was carrying the likewise unconscious Rinslet.
A transient encounter had concluded with the scarlet-masked elementalist -- the other Strongest Blade Dancer, Ren Ashbell.
Despite the briefness of their crossing of blades, Kamito learned with deep realization.
(Now that was truly a monster...)
Despite her appearance of a girl's, she was without any doubt a monster surpassing Nepenthes Lore.
Whether in the level of swordsmanship or in the strength of divine power, the difference was overwhelming.
(Furthermore, that girl defeated these two without even summoning her contracted spirit.)
Cold sweat flowed down his neck.
(Even if I recovered my power from three years ago, I--)
The spirit seal on his left hand stung with pain.
Moments later, when Kamito arrived back at Team Scarlet's stronghold--
"Kamito, what happened to them!?"
Ellis cried out in surprise when she came out to greet them.
"...Yeah. Sorry, could you help me a bit."
Explaining to Ellis what had happened, Kamito enlisted her help to lay the two girls onto the beds in the tent.
"What about the other two?"
"Princess Linfa is currently seeking Sjora Kahn's location. Shao Fu is accompanying her."
"So it does take quite a long time, right?"
Kamito wished to rescue Fianna as quickly as possible without a second to lose.
"I will go check on their progress. Kamito, you should stay by the sides of Claire and Rinslet here."
Saying that, Ellis left the tent.
Left behind, Kamito activated healing spirit crystals and had the girls clasp them in their hands.
As if trying to comfort her, Scarlet was licking Claire's severely burned hands.
(...What on earth happened? Even as a user of fire, she looked like she got burned by her own flames or something.)
The only conceivable possibility was spirit magic running out of control--
However, Kamito did not believe Claire could make such an elementary mistake.
Soon after, Claire was the first to wake up.
"Ooh, Kami... to...?"
Frowning tensely from the pain, she slowly raised her upper body.
"Is your condition okay?"
"Yeah, looks like she held back and showed mercy. To her, the battle just now was just child's play."
Claire bit her lip with chagrin.
"Have we gained any clues to Fianna's location?"
"Yeah. It was Team Inferno's Sjora Kahn who kidnapped Fianna. Sjora most likely decided on her own to perpetrate this act. Those members of Team Inferno don't seem very united."
"However, why would she take Fianna away?"
"...Indeed, the magic stone is not the goal."
Kamito rested his chin on his hand as he pondered--
"Come to think of it, Sjora's familiar said something incomprehensible. About Fianna being suited to be the Darkness Queen or whatever, somehow it feels like..."
Claire's eye brows jumped.
"You're heard of it?"
"I seem to recall seeing it before. A forbidden book from my family's sealed library. Because the Elstein family gave rise to many Queens throughout the generations, we have collected a large number of forbidden books related to legends regarding queens. That one, I think it said..."
Claire pressed an index finger against her temple--
"The Elemental Lords ruling over Astral Zero actually total six in number. If that's the case, there should exist a corresponding Queen to serve that sixth Elemental Lord. Of course, this is deemed heresy by the Divine Ritual Institute."
"The sixth Elemental Lord..."
Kamito felt a stirring in his heart.
A certain name surfaced in his mind, one fraught with a complicated past
The being whose existence was wiped out in the distant past, the Darkness Elemental Lord -- Ren Ashdoll.
An existence whose veracity was still in doubt, why would its name now be--
"...Ooh, Kami... to-san..."
"...Ah, Kamito-san, where are you touching, so perverted!"
...Was she talking in her dreams? She must be having some sort of outrageous dream.
"Y-You, y-you're doing what in her dreams...?"
Claire glared with a frightening gaze.
"W-Wait a minute, how could you hold me responsible for this!?"
"Uwah, h-how could this happen, what are you doing with Claire, ah..."
"H-Hold it right there, what are you dreaming about!? Hurry and get up!"
"Claire... And also, Kamito?"
Blushing intensely, Claire shook Rinslet by the shoulders, causing her to open her eyes forcefully.
Kamito breathed a sigh of relief.
Ellis entered the tent at this time.
"Princess Linfa has completed the preparations for clairvoyance. Let us gather at the spring."
--When everyone had gathered by the spring, Linfa was already performing the last ritual dance, dressed in her glittering rainbow-colored elemental waffe, Seraphim Feathers.
The great imperial princess who always acted so childishly appeared especially sacred at this moment.
Bowing towards the spring, she then quietly turned towards Kamito's group.
"--Hereafter, clairvoyance shall be performed on the witch's lair. Watch carefully."
Everyone nodded silently.
Softly uttering a spirit language prayer, Linfa activated the magic for far sight.
This was high level magic for displaying a target's location by interfering with Astral Zero's space.
...Very soon, the water surface began to move even in the absence of wind.
The vague image of some unknown place appeared on the surface of the spring water that reflected moonlight.
Kamito and the group focused their gaze sharply on the water surface.
Dense flourishing forest. Desolate, decrepit and collapsed stone columns. Rock faces covered with spreading moss. All around were the remnant of flaking sculptures.
--This was apparently the site of an ancient shrine's remains.
"The image belongs within the grounds of the Blade Dance, right?"
"Hmm, in principle, yes."
"Hey, this place, could it be there?"
Claire spoke up.
"See, the historical site the Rupture Division used as their stronghold--"
It was the place where Kamito and Claire had taken shelter from the rain last time when they went over to negotiate an alliance with the Rupture Division.
The place should have been damaged by Nepenthes Lore already. Had a new barrier been erected there to reuse the location?
"Oh dear, the other party seems to have noticed!"
Linfa suddenly spoke up.
Instantly, the water surface began to shake violently, disrupting the image and causing it to disappear.
"Hmm, looks like the witch discovered it."
"Knowing the place is good enough, let's go!"
Hearing Kamito's rally for action, everyone nodded vigorously.
"Ufufu, looks like they have caught wind of this place."
In the cave sealed off by viscous darkness--
Sjora Kahn's lips distorted into a smile.
In a hazy state of consciousness -- Fianna murmured his name.
Having endured several hours of sustained mental torture, she was currently severely weakened in body and mind.
However, the emptiness lingering in her eyes showed minute brightness once more.
"...How truly amazing. To think you could continue enduring my mental domination for so long."
Mocking sardonically, the witch lifted Fianna's chin with her hand.
"But how truly regrettable. Your hopes will be crushed before your eyes. When that is done, even you, exalted princess, you shall fall, yes?"
Accompanied by delightful jeering, Sjora's fingernails dug into Fianna's smooth skin.
Bright red blood flowed down from Fianna's face.
"Your friends will be arriving soon. I must prepare a good welcoming for them."
Sjora turned her heels and walked to the center of the cave.
On the stone floor, a gigantic magic circle had been carved.
Raising both her arms, Sjora softly recited a long spirit language incantation.
Halfway through, the magic circle began to give off an ominous crimson glow as the historical site began to rumble.
Fianna suddenly opened her eyes wide.
"Fufu, this ancient ruin was used in the ancient past as a Gate for summoning powerful spirits."
Zuzuzu... Zu... Zuzu... Zuzuzuzu...!
From the center of the magic circle, disgusting monsters were slowly crawling out.
One, two, three... No, their numbers were increasing without limit.
This was a swarm of demon spirits that humans were definitely unable to control due to their abnormal mental structure.
"--Descend upon a bloody feast! Dead ones of the endless abyss!"
The demon caster -- Sjora Kahn laughed with a jeer.
"Very well, please welcome the guests with due ceremony. My lovely children."