Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume7 Prologue
--The streets were plunged into a sea of flames.
This was a tiny rural town on the borders of the Ordesia Empire.
This was not the result of war -- Destruction had descended without warning.
On that day, a rain of fire fell from the sky.
This was the punishment cast upon the townsfolk who had been negligent in their offerings to Volcanicus, the Fire Elemental Lord.
Raging flames incinerated homes and turned the surrounding farmland into scorched earth instantly.
The people fled for their lives from the swirling flames and black smoke, desperately praying for absolution.
They had not intentionally neglected their offerings for the Elemental Lord. Only because they had been met with a rare drought, the crops used for offerings had failed to come to harvest.
Despite the dance performances of beautiful princess maidens together with the total offering of all stored grain originally meant for winter consumption, the Elemental Lord's wrath could not be placated.
Before the anger of the great Elemental Lord, humans were completely powerless. All people could do was bow their head and gnash their teeth, desperately enduring and waiting for the disaster to pass.
"--Great Elemental Lord, we beseech you to calm your wrath."
High ranking princess maidens serving at the Divine Ritual Institute had been offering prayers at the sanctuary's Great Shrine for three days straight to appease the Elemental Lord's anger.
And the one chosen to lead them was the newly appointed Fire Queen, a girl only fifteen years old.
While the other princess maidens rested in shifts, she alone focused all her efforts on sustaining the prayer with neither rest nor sleep.
At the same time, the imagery of the people devoured by the crimson flames was branded deeply in her red eyes.
The rain of destruction finally halted on the morning of the fourth day.
Streets that had been bustling mere days earlier were now turned into a wasteland of scorched earth.
Homes were all incinerated, leaving nothing behind but ashen gray despair.
The peaceful everyday life the townsfolk had worked hard to maintain was transformed into ash in but an instant.
And after all had ended--
"The merciful Elemental Lord has heard our prayers."
The elderly shrine leader spoke to comfort the prostrated Queen.
However, the young Queen covered her ears and shook her head.
I wasn't able to do anything. I failed to protect them -- that was what she thought to herself.
"Why... Why did the Elemental Lord do such a thing to innocent citizens..."
"Rubia-sama, the will of the Elemental Lords cannot be understood by mortal humans. All we can do is pray for forgiveness. Rubia-sama, you have already done spectacularly."
In actual fact, amongst the people of the destroyed town, there was no one who had a single complaint. Having had all their possessions taken away by a tyrannical and unreasonable disaster, the townsfolk felt nothing but sincere gratitude towards the Queen who had placated the Elemental Lord's wrath.
--Nevertheless, such gratitude stabbed into girl's heart and soul, more painfully than any vicious curse.
(--This is virtually like that time in the past.)
The girl's awareness was brought back to the present from her reminiscing.
Swirling crimson flames roared as they incinerated the trees in the forest. Muir Alenstarl was employing the military spirit Garuda whose hellfire was incinerating a team's stronghold.
The masked girl silently gazed as the forest was devoured by the raging burning fires before her eyes.
With this, four teams had been eliminated by Team Inferno. Adding those annihilated by Nepenthes Lore and Restia by themselves, seven teams were gone. In other words, out of all the teams participating in the current Blade Dance festival, almost one third of them had already been eliminated by Team Inferno.
The magic stones obtained were more than enough to ensure advancement to the finals.
However, this was completely inconsequential to the girl.
(...My goal is not victory in the Blade Dance festival.)
Looking up at the dawn sky, she whispered.
"The Demon King's successor, Ren Ashbell -- we must properly prepare a sixth Queen to serve him."
Several hours earlier, Restia had taken Nepenthes Lore without permission to induce Kazehaya Kamito's awakening. But apparently, her plan ended in failure.
However, the darkness spirit's betrayal was expected. Even though the loss of Nepenthes Lore was a miscalculation, the plan was not affected in any major way.
(From the very start, I never had any intention of handing to that darkness spirit control over the Demon King who is about to awaken.)
There were only two potential candidates. The decision was about to reach the final stage.
"What bonds of destiny. No matter which one, both of them have such deep connections to my past."
In particular, there was that particular girl with such a rare disposition to become Queen.
From the inner pocket of her military uniform, the masked girl took out a pendant on a silver chain.
The inlaid ruby -- a spirit crystal which sealed memories, displayed the figure of a young girl in a dress.
Her hair tied into two fiery bunches. Crystal clear ruby-like eyes.
This was the frail and vulnerable girl who had always hid behind her elder sister and parents.
The masked girl originally thought that they would never meet again since that particular day, four years ago--
"Oh my, looks like Ren Ashbell-sama still misses that young lady greatly."
Hearing the voice from behind, the masked girl swiftly closed the pendant in her hand.
Turning around, she found the one standing there to be--
The girl whose image was displayed just an instant earlier in the pendant.
But instead of a dress, she was now wearing the uniform of Areishia Spirit Academy.
Neither was she in her childhood appearance. Instead, this was her after years of growth.
"How truly tasteless, witch. Or are you trying to mock me?"
The eyes behind the mask glared coldly at the one imitating Claire Rouge's form.
Although her voice remained calm, the fallen leaves by her feet were already smoking as if being burned by a fire.
"Ufufu, how rare to see you display such emotion. Could this girl be the candidate for the sixth Queen required by your plan?"
"--None of your concern. Be gone."
Instantly, her fingertips released swift and ferocious flames.
Enveloped in crimson flames, the image of Claire Rouge vanished like a mirage.
"So scary. It's like even treading on your shadow is forbidden."
The air shook and immediately at the spot where Claire had disappeared--
A beautiful girl appeared with a mocking smile.
Her shoulder length hair was a striking and vibrant blue. Excessively beautiful and reminiscent of snakes bearing deadly venom -- that was the impression one received from that sort of blue.
Dressed in an outfit in the style of an erotic dancer, she had a thin veil covering her mouth.
She was the elementalist -- Sjora Kahn.
The princess of the Alphas Theocracy, and at the same time, the second-in-command of Team Inferno.
"I hope you have not forgotten. That the identity prepared for you to participate in the Blade Dance as well as the military spirits at your disposal are all provided by my home country?"
"In exchange, I promised to obtain victory."
"Of course there would be no problem if that happened. However, you seem to be hiding things from us, your collaborators, secretly plotting something."
"What are you trying to insinuate?"
"Hey, are you really that Strongest Blade Dancer?"
Sjora Kahn scoffed.
"If you have any doubts about my power, would you like a taste right now, witch?"
Instantly, all vegetation at her feet was burnt to ash. Neither through chanting spirit magic nor summoning a contracted spirit, but simply from her released will, flames were produced.
"Fufu, just kidding. I still value my own life... Oh my?"
Suddenly, the witch's eyebrow jumped.
"What is it?"
"Looks like while I was out, contemptible rats have scurried inside."
Sjora licked her lips with delight. She was the one who constructed Team Inferno's stronghold. Furthermore, rather than a defensive stronghold, it was a nest prepared for hunting foolish prey.
"...Ufufu, looks like I'll be able to have some fun."
The witch's lips displayed a smile of delight. She loved toying with prey that had fallen into a trap. As her red eyes flashed with glittering brilliance, Sjora disappeared into the depths of the forest.
(...To what extent is the Alphas Theocracy's Snake aware of the plan?)
Sjora Kahn's actions were difficult to predict. In consideration of the plan, perhaps she should be eliminated immediately.
(...No, there is still value in using Alphas. Eliminating the witch right now would not be wise.)
Quietly, the masked girl shook her head as she gazed up at the sky where sparks flew and scattered, whispering.
"Well then, the princess maiden suited to the position of Darkness Queen, which one would it be?"