Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume8 Chapter1
Chapter 1 - Victory Celebration
Having set up a branch store in Ragna Ys' business district, the empire's nobles' café La Parfait.
Within that shop, grand noises from crackers resounded.
"Congratulations on Team Scarlet's advancement into the finals!"
The one giving her blessings with a smile was the maid, Carol.
"Fuu, it was the obvious outcome with me there!"
"As expected of you, Milady!"
Rinslet swept up her hair and Carol clapped in return.
"Wait a second, you weren't the only one who did something."
"Uuu......I was always providing support from the rear, but I also wanted to show off more on the front lines!"
"What use would a sniper be at the front lines......"
The seemingly astonished Claire retorted.
At that everyday scene before him, Kamito thought,
(......We've really returned, haven't we.)
And breathed a sigh of relief in his heart.
In an isolated field, for seven days, the constantly recurring survival battles between elementalists --- Tempest.
Kamito and the others' return from that stage was already a while ago.
Being teleported to the Divine Ritual Institute's grand shrine by means of transportation magic, the one who appeared before Kamito and the others was the Fire Queen he had been under the care of previously, Reicha Alminas.
Standing before the nervous Kamito's group, she wore a tender smile as she read out the Divine Ritual Institute's announcement.
Team Scarlet's magic stone count is nineteen stones.
Congratulations, you will be advancing to the finals as the fourth team --- she had said.
At that moment, the young ladies who normally fought without end hugged each others' shoulders and rejoiced.
And now, Team Scarlet had reserved La Parfait and were in the middle of a victory celebration.
"Fuaaa......peach tarts, they look so delicious."
Claire's red twintails bobbed in a happy manner.
Atop the large wooden table, parfaits laden with cream like works of art, colorful ice cream, fragrant baked sweets, fruit combination platters and a wide variety of cakes were lined up.
"......Th-This squirrel-shaped cake is also cute. It's a pity that it's for eating."
"This cream puff has raspberries in it. It will serve as a good reference."
Gathered in front of the sweet confections, the girls frolicked innocently.
......Somehow, it made one want to smile just looking at it.
"It's fun, isn't it, this kind of thing. We couldn't have a tea party in the middle of the real battle."
As Fianna raised a cup of black coffee, she smiled.
Yes, thanks to the pro-level cook, Rinslet, the contents of their meals were overwhelmingly extravagant compared to the other teams, but as expected, they had not been able to have an elegant tea party.
"That's true. On top of that, it has been a while since we've had a hot bath."
"While in the blade dance field, we made do with purifying in only a small fountain."
Rinslet gave a large nod in response to Claire's words. They had purified their bodies at a hamam in the city before the party.
......Come to think of it, he could smell the floral scent of shampoo wafting from their hair.
This was something that he had realized since the time he began living with Claire at the academy, that girls fresh out of the bath had a light and calming nice scent to them.
(......Rather, isn't that a perverted thought.)
With lightly reddened cheeks, Kamito shook his head from side to side.
Looking over, the girl with silvery white hair that was sitting beside him was gazing expressionlessly at Kamito.
Mysterious violet eyes. White skin like fresh milk.
Kamito's contracted spirit, Est.
"Kamito, is there any tofu cake?"
"No, as I expected, there doesn't seem to be any tofu cake."
Kamito scratched his cheek in a troubled manner.
Tofu was a specialty product from Kamito's home town where he was born, a pudding made from soya beans.
Before, Rinslet had made him some and it seemed that Est had taken a liking to it.
"......Is that so."
The legendary sword spirit's shoulders sunk with disappointment,.
"It's not cake, but if you want tofu ice cream, there's some here."
And Claire slid the ice cream plate to her.
"......So there is some!"
Est's eyes that had lost their light suddenly regained their brilliance.
"Tofu, tofu ♪"
While humming to herself in a song-like manner, she brought the spoon to her mouth.
That ever expressionless face became slightly lax around the edges of her mouth.
"That's great, Est."
While gazing at that happy-looking expression of Est's---
(Now that I think of it, Est wasn't with us the last time we came here......)
At that time, Est, having saved Kamito, was temporarily annihilated from this world.
Having come into contact with the memories of her previous contractor, Areishia Idriss, she had closed off her heart.
(......But just like this, Est has returned.)
Having accepted her destiny as a demon sword, she had opened her heart.
Now, Est was beside Kamito, and they were sitting with their friends around the table.
---That reality, it could truly be thought of as a miracle.
Kamito placed his hand upon the head of Est who was eating ice cream and,
Est breathed out as she narrowed her eyes as though to indicate it felt good.
The young ladies glared at Kamito with dissatisfaction.
Ellis cleared her throat.
"However, we shouldn't be glad just yet. There's still the final battle."
"Yes. Moreover, each of the opposing teams' rankings were overwhelmingly above us."
A heavy atmosphere hung over the table.
The other three teams that had advanced to the finals were mostly the ones that they had expected.
In third place, the Knights of the Dragon Emperor led by Leonora Lancaster.
In second place, the Sacred Spirit Knights led by Luminaris Saint Leisched.
And of course, in first place, Team Inferno led by Ren Ashbell. It was said that they had annihilated nine other teams and amassed a grand total of over fifty magic stones.
"......Can we win, I wonder. Against that 'Ren Ashbell'."
Fianna dropped her empty cup with a clatter.
"Fianna, are you okay?"
"Y-Yes, my hand just slipped."
Fianna nodded as if to smooth it over.
Because of her attitude that was not like her usual self, Kamito had a bad feeling but---
Just then, as if to dispel the heavy atmosphere in the air, the door's chime rang.
"Congratulations on your advancement to the finals, onee-sama!"
"Oh my, Mireille!"
Rinslet got up from her seat.
The one who opened the door and entered was---
Platinum blonde hair that shone as though it was basked with sunlight. Glassy emerald eyes.
With a blue ribbon, that suited her well, a lovely girl.
Rinslet's youngest sister, Mireille Laurenfrost.
Mireille dashed towards Rinslet and buried her face in her bosom.
"Onee-sama, it was really great!"
"J-Jeez, Mireille......with everyone looking, this is immodest!"
Rinslet scolded Mireille with a red face.
......It seemed even a level-headed noble lady went easy only on her little sisters.
"Ohh, I'd heard about it, but she's really a cute kid."
Claire murmured that and Mireille separated her face from Rinslet and turned in her direction.
"Ahh, onee-sama's friend from the academy, Claire-sama?"
"Yes, that's me."
Mireille gave a polite bow and,
"Nice to meet you! I had heard that Claire-sama was onee-sama's very close frie---mogogogo......"
In an instant, Rinslet had hurriedly covered her little sister's mouth.
"Wh-whwhwh-what is this girl saying, I wonder!"
"She's as attached to you as ever, Rinslet."
The wryly smiling Kamito.
Mireille escaped from Rinslet's hand and,
This time a sun-like smile turned towards Kamito.
"Onii-sama's blade dance was really cool!"
"......Yeah, thank you."
Kamito scratched his cheek in slight embarrassment.
Even if the one doing it was a nine-year old girl, being complimented so openly was embarrassing.
"......Hey, Kamito, what does she mean by 'onii-sama'?"
Claire glared at him with an irritated face.
"Kamito, you've once again deceived a young girl......"
"Even if thirteen years old is forgivable, I expect that nine years old is a crime......"
Ellis and Fianna also turned ice-like glares towards him.
"Wai-wait a second, onii-sama doesn't necessarily have that meaning---"
"Kamito is my onii-chan."
While still expressionless, Est clung onto Kamito's waist from behind.
"That's also wrong! Rinslet, please clear up this misunderstanding!"
"Th-That's right! That Kamito-san is Mireille's onii-sama means, basically, th-thth-that I am, Kamito-san's......"
With a red face, Rinslet mumbled incoherently.
"Fufuu, onee-sama's being cute."
Mireille put her hand to her mouth and laughed innocently.
---And at that moment.
"Mireille, don't trouble your sister."
From the direction of the front door, a quiet voice came.
Everyone turned to face that direction and a small girl wearing a white uniform with a red line was standing there.
Dark brown hair resembling a loose web. Noble, doll-like features.
And the most eye-catching of all, her azure right eye and amber left eye.
The mismatched odd eyes.
Kamito let out a surprised voice.
The one standing silently by the door was Rossvale's representative, the Rupture Division's captain, Milla Bassett.
"Kamito, congratulations on your advancement to the finals."
Milla muttered that in her usual robotic manner and,
Briskly walked to them and grabbed Mireille by the nape of her neck.
"Wh-What are you doing!"
"......Ummm, what's going on?"
"I have become Mireille-sama's personal maid."
"I suggested it. Milla-san is, from hereon, a maid of the Laurenfrost house serving Mireille."
At Rinslet's words, Milla nodded wordlessly.
"I am truly thankful to Rinslet......I already cannot return to the motherland."
With her head slightly downcast, she gently touched her left eye that had lost its light.
Demon Sealing Eye --- carrying a powerful sealed spirit from birth, it was an extremely rare trait.
It was an existence which could be said to have been the Rupture Division's trump card, but in order to protect Kamito and the others, she had released the spirit within her Demon Sealing Eye and lost the power as a result.
Her actions which were an abandonment of victory were, in the eyes of the motherland, a clear betrayal. The Principality of Rossvale might be targeting her.
Considering that, accepting the protection of the Laurenfrost house which was one of the foremost nobilities in the major power Ordesia was truly something that could be called a good decision.
Milla looked straight at Kamito with her heterochromatic eyes.
"I do not regret my decision back then. Because I chose it myself."
"......I see. You're strong, Milla."
"---No. It's because Kamito taught me how to live other than as a tool."
Milla shook her head sideways and had a faint joyful smile on her.
"Milla, come eat cake with us."
Claire invited Milla over.
Despite appearances, she was unexpectedly someone who had good points like watching over others.
"It's fine, it's fine. We're allies with the Rupture Division, after all."
"Sharing a cup of tea with one's mistress is an important task for a maid!"
Whilst picking up cake, Carol said so with a smile.
(......That's just because Carol wants to eats sweets, isn't it.)
Kamito retorted that in his heart but,
"If it's like that, then---"
Obediently trusting in her senior maid's word, Milla sat down next to Mireille.
"Come to think of it, Milla, you're still wearing her uniform from the Rupture Division."
Comparing it with Carol's attire, Kamito voiced that question and,
"We are currently in the process of tailoring a cute maid uniform."
In response to Rinslet's reply, Milla nodded while fidgeting like she couldn't calm down.
......It might unexpectedly be something to look forward to.
"......Milla in a maid outfit, huh. It feels like it would suit you well."
"Wh-What are you saying......!"
When Milla's face flushed red, that moment.
The front door's chimes rang again.
"Who is it this time?"
Kamito turned his gaze in that direction and,
"Hmm, I've come, Kazehaya Kamito!"
The one at the entrance was a small statured girl with her hair bound into a dango shape.
The Four Gods' imperial princess, Linfa Sin Quina.
"What's with that 'geh'! That's extremely rude when facing me!"
With her traditional Quina Empire garments waving, she rapidly approached him.
"Ah, no, sor......rather, what's the princess of the Four Gods doing here?"
"A delivery. I came to congratulate you on your advancement into the finals."
The one who poked their face out from behind Linfa was the Four Gods' ace, Shao Fu of the White Tiger.
And then continuing on---
"Offering gestures of humanity to the enemy is a Quina Empire tradition."
"We've brought a lot with us!"
"You're holding a party in a fairly cramped place......"
Rao of the Azure Dragon, Hakua of the Black Tortoise and Rion of the Vermilion Bird also appeared.
Each of them was carrying many bags of food.
"There's deep fried pork buns and skewered bird. They're famed products of the Quina Empire."
The many foods being heaped upon the table. All of a sudden, the interior of La Parfait was permeated with the fragrant smell of grilled meat.
"Y-You people, this is a noble's tea party!"
Rinslet raised an objection but,
"It's the middle of a party, so don't say such uptight stuff."
Linfa's group started sitting down without reservation.
"......Well, fine. Since we received their help in rescuing Fianna."
Claire shrugged her shoulders like she was astonished.
With that, Shao came over and sat next to Kamito.
The Four Gods' ace thrust a grilled chicken skewer into the table and smiled wryly.
"To be honest, it's a pity that we can't fight Kamito in the finals."
"If I remember, you and Linfa fought against Leonora's team by yourselves on the last day."
"Yeah. It was a fight that wouldn't shame the Four Gods' name. But they really were strong, those girls."
But that expression had no regret in it; rather, something joyful could be felt.
If they had chosen a lower ranked team, they could have possibly obtained magic stones, but they had selected those Knights of the Dragon Emperor as their final opponent.
He wondered if that was due to the disposition of the Four Gods' ace.
"We'll be cheering on Team Scarlet in the finals."
In order to face their respective battles, the two exchanged a solid handshake.
"......Whew, I'm stuffed."
"Even though it was food bought from a stall, it was pretty good."
Claire who was rubbing her stomach and Fianna who was elegantly wiping her lips with a handkerchief.
Due to Linfa's group's intrusion, the party had become like a banquet, but it seemed like Claire enjoyed it anyway.
Milla had taken Mireille back to the hotel and Linfa's group had eaten all they could and then left like a storm.
The only ones left were Team Scarlet and Carol the maid. As a note, Est had eaten her fill and, possibly because she became sleepy, had already reverted back to sword form.
"By the way, what will everyone be doing after this?"
While looking around at his teammates, Kamito asked.
Before the final battle began, it was customary practice for the Divine Ritual Institute's princess maidens to offer rituals of gratitude to the Elemental Lords.
During that time, the representing competitors were given a two day period of rest.
"I must go report about our advancement into the finals to my father and grandfather."
Ellis said with a meek face.
"Yeah, Ellis' family is a warrior class house, after all."
"I must also visit my parents."
Rinslet also had her filial duties as a daughter of the Laurenfrost house.
These two had come to the party even though they should have had put more precedence on those matters first.
"......Me, too. I am reluctant to meet with those people, but it can't be helped."
It seemed like she didn't like being around the royal court, including the emperor and his wife. All of what had happened during the time she was called the Lost Queen seemed to have soured her opinion.
"It looks like we will be staying in the hotel arranged for by the empire today. Even though I wanted to finally kiss Kamito......"
In response to Fianna who was sulking with her index finger in her mouth, Kamito's heart thumped and his face flushed red.
In that way---
The girls left and the shop interior became quite silent.
In the end, Kamito and Claire were the only ones left.
Putting aside Kamito who was an orphan to start with, Claire's parents had been imprisoned following the Calamity Queen incident.
The two who became bored, for some reason or other, continued to sip black tea wordlessly.
The first one to speak out was Claire.
"I'll be returning to the castle to brush up on my tactics."
While clearing her throat in a deliberate manner, she stood from her seat.
At that time, Kamito realized it.
......Couldn't help but realize it.
(......What a face she's making.)
On Claire's face, a lonely-looking expression was displayed for a moment.
(......She's a sixteen-year old girl after all.)
Now after all this time, he remembered that.
Usually she acted firm as the team's commander but---
With the advancement to the finals settled, her high-strung tension might have loosened a little.
Ever since that day four years ago, she had fought by herself until she met Kamito.
......There's no way I can leave her alone. If I see that kind of expression.
Kamito suddenly grabbed onto the hand of Claire who was just about to leave.
Claire's face turned red and she let out an ear-splitting scream.
"If you're free, then accompany me for a while."
"......Wait, what's this about?"
"We've finally come to the city so not having fun would be such a waste."
"We didn't come to play around. As the academy's representatives---"
"I know. But I think relaxing is also necessary."
While still holding the perplexed Claire's hand, Kamito walked along the street.
"Wh-What, that......fuaa, e-everyone's looking at us!"
"Don't mind it."
"D-Don't mind it, you say, uuu......"
Maybe because holding hands was immensely embarrassing, Claire's face was beet red.
But it was necessary with this crowd. If they let go, they would end up separated without a doubt.
(Now then, what to do......)
Kamito scratched his cheek as they walked down the main street.
Somehow he had ended up bringing her along with great zeal but---
He pondered as they walked and they arrived at a large plaza.
Sacred Areishia Plaza --- in the plaza bearing the name of the Sacred Maiden that slew the Demon King, a large crowd of nobles clamored.
The topic of their discussions were, of course, the Blade Dance finals.
Which country's representing team would win, what method would be used to decide the match, and finally, whether the Strongest Blade Dancer who was leading Team Inferno would display overwhelming strength once again in this competition.
In that kind of crowd, it seemed the faces of Kamito and the others who had advanced to the finals were already famous so stares of curiosity flooded in from around them.
There were favorable gazes amongst them, but there were also ones heavily laden with hostility here and there.
(......Well, if a minor team won, there would be those who wouldn't like it.)
While pulling Claire's hand, Kamito shrugged in his heart.
There might be those inside these onlookers who knew Claire as the younger sister of the Calamity Queen.
As expected, due to the highborn noble status they held, there were no openly rude comments being made, but even the favorable gazes didn't give off a good feeling.
"It might be a good idea to enter some place."
"......Th-That's true. If possible, a place where we won't draw attention."
Kamito looked around the plaza for a place and---
"......Ohh, they're showing an action drama."
His eyes had stopped on a small theatre.
An action drama was a form of amusement where the scene of a play was copied onto a special spirit crystal and then projected onto a screen.
"That kind of theatre should have a relay of the Blade Dance on a large projector. Since the only ones that can enter the Grand Shrine as spectators are the highborn nobles.
"......I see. So they show the action drama while there's no real combat going on."
Kamito nodded as if in admiration.
And after seeing the theatre's signboard, she let out a gasp.
"......What is it?"
"That theatre, it's showing 'The Three Cat Knights'."
Certainly, there was a picture of three cats wielding swords on the theatre's signboard.
"Is that a famous work?"
"Yes. I've only heard rumors about it though and haven't actually seen it myself."
Claire gazed at the signboard like she was boring through it.
(......It's because she likes cats, isn't it.)
"Okay, then let's watch that."
Kamito gave a wry smile as he pulled her hand and,
Claire nodded in a happy manner.
His heart throbbed uncontrollably at that innocent smile.
"Although saying that, it looks like there's still some time left until the showing."
"Ah, that's true. What should we do?"
"Shall we look around at a nearby souvenir shop?"
And at that time.
"Hrm, it appears that you've been training your teammate well."
Suddenly, he heard a voice from behind him.
......He couldn't believe it. Even if Kamito had let his guard down in the town, she had approached without letting him feel even a shred of her presence.
(---And, this voice, it couldn't be!)
He turned around and.
There stood a bewitchingly beautiful woman with a mature charm.
Ash blonde hair that stretched down to her waist. Dressed in a jet black dress that seamed to have darkness interwoven, beauty like a carving, and eyes reminiscent of a falcon that shone sharply.
Kamito and Claire yelled out at the same time and,
"It's been a while, lad."
She shrugged her shoulders like she was amused.
Greyworth Ciel Mais --- the former number one of the empire's celebrated Numbers. She had been named a hero of the Ranbal War and was the winner of the Blade Dance twenty four years ago.
Having taken the nickname of Dusk Witch, the strongest elementalist in the continent.
"You, why would you be here---"
Kamito scowled at the witch before him.
"Hmph, how cold."
Greyworth slightly lifted her glasses with her fingertips and,
"Even though I expressly came here because I was worried about a pair of young lovers."
"Kamito, what is she talking about?"
Claire turned to glare at him.
"W-Wait, don't believe her!"
As if happy with watching Kamito's panicked condition, Greyworth chuckled lightly and smiled.
"It was a joke. As headmistress, isn't my coming to see what my pupils are doing a given?"
"I'm sure the Blade Dance is also being shown at the academy. What's going on with the academy?"
"I have left the academy to Freya. Sylphid is also doing well."
Greyworth then turned in Claire's direction and,
"Claire Rouge. I have seen the great efforts of Team Scarlet. Especially in the latter half, your growth as a commander has been magnificent."
"N-No such thing, your words are wasted on me!"
Claire stiffened up and answered.
It seemed that even the academy's problem child was nervous before Greyworth.
For an elementalist girl, the name of the Dusk Witch held that much weight behind it.
(......Although to me, she's just a super sadistic granny.)
Remembering the unreasonable training from three years ago, Kamito cursed in his heart.
Why would Greyworth visit Astral Zero with this timing?
There was no way it was for the purpose of spectating the battle.
To begin with, the one who had baited Kamito with information on Restia and made him participate in this Blade Dance was Greyworth.
(---And she also proposed that I defeat the other Ren Ashbell.)
There was no doubt that something was happening behind this Blade Dance.
And it was likely to be a combination of several predictions. Did this witch know what the masked girl masquerading as Ren Ashbell was planning---?
He could not acquire any information from Greyworth's grey eyes.
The witch would absolutely not tell lies. However, she also would not speak the truth.
......Asking her any questions would be useless.
He wondered if he should propose a trade seeing as there was no other way to get information.
"It's the final break before the finals. You should enjoy it to the utmost."
Greyworth showed a smile on her face and patted both of their shoulders.
"Incidentally, our academy has no rules against relations between different genders. Do your best."
Claire's cheeks flushed red.
Greyworth disappeared into the crowd while waving at them.
"......What's with her."
Kamito muttered complaints under his breath and pulled on Claire's hand.
"So, let's go. It seems it would be a good idea to enter the theatre now."
Kamito turned towards and began walking to the theatre and Claire quickly followed after him.
The theatre's interior was unexpectedly wide and the two easily managed to get seats.
Perhaps because there was still time until the showing, the patrons were still sparse.
Claire was eating the peach crepe she had bought at the theatre's shop as if to show that it was delicious.
"......You sure can eat. You just ate not too long ago, is that okay?"
Kamito said while astonished and,
"It's completely fine, elementalists don't gain weight......mm, this is delicious ♪"
"You have cream stuck to your cheek."
He wiped the cream from her face with his fingers and Claire's face tinted red.
"......j-jeez, wh-what are you doing......!"
Hit, hit, hit.
Certainly, suddenly touching a girl's cheek might be a breach of manners.
Claire puffed her cheeks in an angry manner.
......That action was strangely cute.
And Claire suddenly put on a serious expression and whispered.
"......Umm, what kind of relationship do you have with the headmistress?"
"Y-You wouldn't happen to still be suspicious about what she said about a lover's outing?"
"That's not it. Come on, you said it before. That you had learned the same sword techniques as Ren Ashbell from the headmistress."
"Ahh, that thing......"
"Exactly when did you come to know the headmistress?"
While Kamito lightly scratched his cheek, he slightly averted his gaze.
(......Now then, what should I say?)
It was something that happened a year before Kamito debuted as Ren Ashbell.
(......Well, it should be fine if it's a story about before I became Ren Ashbell.)
To a certain extent, telling her the circumstances might, on the contrary, dispel some of her doubts.
(Moreover, it would probably be a good idea to tell her about my relationship with Restia as well.)
He would probably end up fighting Restia again in the finals. With what had happened so far, he couldn't say that Claire and the others weren't involved anymore.
Claire gazed at Kamito with upturned eyes.
......It looked like there was still time left before the showing of the recording.
"It will probably be a boring story about long ago?"
"It's fine. I'd like to know more about Kamito."
Kamito questioned in return and Claire covered her mouth with a gasp.
"Ah, th-that's not it! It didn't have that meaning!"
Kamito shrugged his shoulders with a wry smile and breathed out.
While remembering about those days, he muttered.
"I met with the Dusk Witch four years ago --- immediately after the destruction of the Instructional School."