Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume9 Chapter1
Chapter 1 - Entrusted Promise
It was late in the night before the final round.
Kamito was sitting in a chair by the sickbed with a grave expression.
The current location was the Divine Ritual Institute's treatment facility. Lying on the sickbed was the person once renowned as the strongest elementalist on the continent, Greyworth Ciel Mais.
"...It's not your fault. Don't look so depressed."
Greyworth spoke softly with a wry smile.
However, Kamito's expression remained unchanged. After all, the only reason why she collapsed was that she exhausted her own power for the sake of letting Kamito inherit the secret technique of the Absolute Blade Arts.
After that, Kamito instantly brought the unconscious Greyworth to the Divine Ritual Institute's treatment facility.
Thanks to timely treatment, her life was saved but all the pathways in her body for the circulation of divine power had been irreparably severed.
--In other words, she could never command spirits again.
The famous Dusk Witch and strongest elementalist was no longer.
Kamito trembled as he clenched his fists hard.
"You knew this would happen, but why..."
"It was going to happen sooner or later. Now it simply moved forward slightly earlier."
Greyworth spoke with self-mockery.
"I did mention in the past that I obtained temporary immortality and sustained youth simply through the Elemental Lords' Wish. As an elementalist, my original power was already long gone."
Saying that, she extended her arm before Kamito.
The spirit seal of the demon spirit had completely vanished from the right hand where it originally resided.
"Rather, I should say that it was my good fortune to have a chance to entrust that sword technique to you, lad. Even though it's a double-edged sword, and it's not like you absolutely cannot win without it..."
Greyworth stopped talking at this moment--
Her gray eyes stared sharply into Kamito's face.
"Lad, will you make me a promise right now?"
"You must defeat that masked elementalist -- the other Ren Ashbell. You are the only one who can stop her."
Kamito was overwhelmed by her imposing manner which one could not imagine coming from a patient on the verge of death.
"...Yeah, I understand."
Immediately, he agreed vigorously.
...Nothing more needed to be said. That girl was surely an opponent he had to settle things with.
However, why would Greyworth be so insistent on this matter--
"Could it be that you already know? Her goal--"
"No, even though I tried investigating, neither her identity nor her origins have been elucidated at this point."
Greyworth shook her head.
"However, one thing is certain. Backed by the Alphas Theocracy, she has been stockpiling militarized spirits in preparation for the war that will sweep over the entire continent."
Come to think of it -- that Ren Ashbell did say something like that once.
Gathering combat potential for the sake of fighting the kings of this world.
"Lad, regarding the Ranbal War, how much do you know?"
"...The Ranbal War?"
Faced with this sudden question, Kamito frowned.
"I don't really know the details. Just whatever's common knowledge."
"...Hmm, for a lad of your age, that's pretty much to be expected."
The Ranbal War that once swept over the entire continent was the greatest large-scale war between countries in history.
The war initially sparked from disputes between minor countries over spirit crystal mining rights. However, due to the secret machinations of the major powers, the war gradually spread over the entire continent. During the great war, many elementalists were sent to the battlefield, thus tragically cutting short the lives of many young maidens.
--The Dusk Witch was the hero of that war.
"...During that war, many of my fellow princess maidens lost their lives. Amongst them were also many who admired me. I have no wish to witness another scene of that sort in the remainder of my life."
As if recalling distant memories, Greyworth murmured.
Her gray eyes, what were they actually seeing right now?
Suddenly, she gripped Kamito's hand forcefully.
"Your sword is different from mine. Yours is a sword for protecting what's precious. Never ever forget this."
Uncharacteristically, the Dusk Witch displayed seriousness in her eyes, causing Kamito to gulp down a mouthful of air.
Nodding slightly, he gently let go of those freezing cold hands of hers.
"Okay, it's almost time for rest."
Greyworth murmured with exhaustion and lay back on the bed.
"It's also time for you to return to the castle residence. Those highborn ladies must surely be worrying."
"...You don't need me to stay and accompany you?"
"Hmph, who do you take me for?"
Greyworth could not suppress a wry smile.
"Or perhaps, you intend to do something obscene to me in my sleep? Seriously, lad, your strike zone is frighteningly broad."
"W-What are you talking about!? It's not like that at all!"
"Please don't be so loud. I am a hospitalized invalid after all."
Kamito apologized obediently.
"Hmph, you're still so adorable, lad. Ah yes, by the way--"
As if suddenly remembering something, Greyworth extended towards Kamito an envelope that had been kept on the bedside.
"After returning to the castle residence, please hand this over to those young ladies in your team. As the Academy's headmistress, there are words I'd like to tell those adorable students."
"...Got it. I will pass it along to them."
Kamito nodded and took the envelope containing the letter.
Wielding in his hand Est who had returned to sword form, Kamito was just about to leave the clinic.
"--Pleased to make your acquaintance, Kazehaya Kamito-kun."
At that moment, he suddenly heard a voice talking to him.
He looked ahead to find a princess maiden dressed in a pure white robe, standing some distance away from the entrance.
Her black hair was tied up behind her back. Her sky blue eyes displayed great intellect as they flashed beneath her glasses.
She counted as a slightly familiar face. Three years ago, Kamito had seen her once at the Blade Dance.
If he remembered correctly, this girl, two years older than Kamito, was named--
"...Dame Lurie of the Numbers?"
"Truly an honor. I didn't expect you to remember my name."
Smiling gently, she brought her hands to her cheeks delightedly.
Ranked eighth amongst the Ordesia Empire's prided Numbers.
Nicknamed -- Lurie the "Miraculous."
She was the highest ranking Healer who specialized in researching healing spells.
Although the Numbers were known as knights, it did not imply that all members were spirit knights with exceptional combat skills.
The time when the title corresponded to its literal description and was bestowed only upon knights was in the distant past. Not only did the current Numbers include experts in rituals, amongst its ranks were also learned scholars, princess maidens skilled in crafting magical tools, etc.
Amongst them, Lurie was the expert in healing magic.
She probably came here to accompany the Empire's spectating group, in case of accidents involving royalty.
"You came here to treat Greyworth?"
"Yes. The Divine Ritual Institute contacted me. Since Greyworth-sama is a hero the Empire takes pride in, I will surely devote my best efforts."
Since she was the highest ranking Healer of the current generation, leaving things to her should be fine.
"Greyworth seems like she will be sleeping for a while."
"I understand. Then I'll have her treated a little later."
Lurie smiled faintly.
"What is it?"
"About Greyworth, she can no longer use a contracted spirit--"
Kamito halted his question with a grave expression. Lurie also bowed her head slightly.
"Her body was already heavily corroded by the Cursed Armament Seal transplanted on her heart."
"...A Cursed Armament Seal transplanted on her heart!?"
This was Kamito's first time hearing of that.
Although Cursed Armament Seal heart transplants had been performed during the Ranbal War as an initiative spearheaded by the knights, reportedly, there were virtually no successful cases.
Ellis' foster elder sister Velsaria had also undergone the same operation through a Murders merchant. In the end, she suffered the tragic fate of having her circulatory system damaged by divine power running amok.
"Without a miracle from the Elemental Lords which granted her immortality, Dame Greyworth's body probably would not have lasted till now. Even after the Ranbal War ended, in order to protect the Empire, she was obliged to continue her supremacy as the strongest elementalist."
And just as she was about to lose that power, the Dusk Witch entrusted everything she had to Kamito.
Everything she had protected to this point--
The future of the world.
As complicated thoughts and feelings swirled in his heart, Kamito stood silently in the same spot.
Seeing that, Lurie once again smiled gently and prepared to leave the clinic.
"Ah, by the way, Kamito-kun--"
However, she suddenly stopped walking and turned around.
"After the current Blade Dance ends, you should be receiving a recommendation to join the Numbers. Of course, it does depend on your performance during the finals, but currently the seventh and eleventh seats are still vacant. Given your ability, you definitely qualify."
The Blade Dance was also a stage for scouting outstanding elementalists.
Although he was still under the radar back in the Academy, having performed magnificently as the ace of Team Scarlet, Kamito had become the center of attention all of a sudden.
"Sorry, I'm completely uninterested in the Numbers title. I've already declined before."
"You've declined before?"
Seeing Lurie incline her head in puzzlement, Kamito frantically shook his head and backtracked.
(...Right. Last time I refused was three years ago, as "her.")
"Never mind. Anyway, I have no intention of joining the Numbers."
"I see, how regrettable. However, should you change your mind, please come to the imperial capital. An elementalist like you is always welcomed."
Lurie shrugged lightly and suddenly turned her gaze towards outside the half-open door.
"It's about time for me to go. Your little kitten is getting jealous over there."
Puzzled, Kamito followed her gaze and looked--
From the gap in the door, he could see a pair of swaying twintails.
"...What are you doing?"
Hearing his voice, the red-haired young beauty frantically jumped out.
Her eyes of ruby were adorned by lovely lashes. Pristine white complexion. Despite the paucity of her chest, the elegant curves of her body was evocative of the image of a graceful female cat.
"I-I didn't come here to peek! I-I just wanted to check out the situation a bit, uh..."
"Hoho, well then, Kamito-kun, see you around."
Bidding the two goodbye, Lurie walked out casually.
As if taking turns in shifts, Claire rushed forward to Kamito's side.
"Kamito, what were you talking with Lurie-sama about?"
Claire asked, slightly displeased.
"Oh yeah, she asked if I was interested in becoming one of the Numbers."
Probably expecting it, Claire did not seem especially shocked. However.
"T-Then, what did you...?"
She looked up at Kamito with a worried gaze.
"Of course I refused."
Kamito smiled wryly and shook his head.
"Why? The Empire's Numbers is a goal that all elementalists admire and strive for."
"I'm not interested in that kind of thing. I only, how should I put it--"
Kamito paused at this point.
(...I really enjoy life at the Academy together with Claire and the girls .)
--Of course, that sentence was far too embarrassing to say out loud.
Hence, Kamito coughed and tried to change the subject.
"P-Putting that aside, what are you doing here?"
"I came to visit the headmistress... So, is she okay?"
"Yeah, her life is not in danger. But she's currently asleep so don't make too much noise. Oh well, since the healer from the Numbers came to treat her, there's nothing to worry about."
"...I see, I'm glad to hear that."
Seeing Claire breathe a sigh of relief, Kamito could not help but feel a sense of guilt.
Regarding Greyworth's loss of the power of the spirit contract, it was probably best not to disclose to the girls for now. With the final round imminent, he could not let them worry too much.
"Okay, let's get back to the castle residence. Tomorrow is the finals."
"Yeah. Right now, everyone is having a strategy meeting."
Resuming a serious expression, Claire nodded.
Having returned to the castle residence, Kamito opened the room door.
"Kamito!" "Kamito-kun!" "Kamito-san!"
Sitting around the table, the other three teammates called out all at the same time.
"Kamito, how is the headmistress' condition--"
"It's okay. Her life is not in danger."
Ellis had stood up and Kamito gave her the same answer he gave Claire just now.
Ellis soothed her chest with her hand in relief.
Amongst the students, Ellis particularly respected Greyworth. In addition to taking on the duties of the Sylphid Knights Captain, Ellis even worked in a capacity akin to her secretary. No wonder she was so worried.
"Kamito-san, you must be tired too. I will brew tea immediately."
As soon as Kamito took a seat, Rinslet served herbal tea. The warm and cozy tea fragrance instantly gave one a calming sensation.
After waiting for Kamito to catch a bit of a breather, Claire spoke up.
"So, now that Kamito has returned, let us continue our strategy meeting. Although we are greatly worried about the headmistress' condition, we must now focus our attention on handling tomorrow's final round."
"Yes, that is correct indeed."
Ellis nodded and answered. Fianna and Rinslet nodded likewise.
While Kamito was absent, they had discussed the rules of the finals. Several hours earlier, the rules had been delivered by a Queen's oracle -- Cross Fire.
This was similar to the Tempest event where teams competed for magic stones in a vast field, except this time it only lasted three days. Furthermore, the members of each team were going to be randomly transported to different locations.
Once transported into the field, the participants must search for their own teammates. Before converging with their team, it was possible to encounter and battle enemy elementalists.
This set of rules could be described as intermediate between an individual and team battle. How quickly one could converge with their team was the key to victory.
"On first glance, these rules appear to favor teams with Search-type elementalists, but teams will definitely target that aspect and counter it. Compared to a battle relying on strongholds with constructed barriers, this is a totally different game."
"Communications spirit crystals are probably unusable. Carrying them will be pointless."
Kamito agreed with Claire's assessment.
"...Right. Although there are no explicit rules forbidding participants from carrying spirit crystals, it would be better to assume that the field have been set up with a barrier to obstruct communications type magic completely."
"Regarding the field this time, I investigated a little..."
--Fianna took out several ancient books at this time, plopping them on the table.
"These books are?"
"Information about the field for the finals. Milla gathered them."
"Milla did this?"
--Milla Bassett. The representative from the Principality of Rossvale and originally the leader of the Rupture Division.
Unable to return to her home country because she helped Kamito, Milla had now become a maid for the Laurenfrost family.
This castle residence was clearly quite distant from the Biblion, but even so, Milla had put forth all her effort into gathering information for Kamito's group.
"Then we really must thank Milla properly afterwards... Well then, what have we learned?"
"Yeah. There are some rather interesting facts."
The location prescribed by the Elemental Lords' oracle was the abandoned city Megidoa.
Even for Fianna who was from the Divine Ritual Institute, it was her first time hearing of such a place--
"The abandoned city Megidoa was formerly named the City of Ivory. Far in the ancient past, it was a city constructed by spirits--"
Fianna explained slowly.
"At the same time, during the Spirit War, it was the final battlefield."
"You've heard of it?"
"At least I've heard the name before. I remember it from Freya-sensei's supplementary lessons... If my memory serves me correctly."
"...Looks like you really know nothing but the name. This is considered basic knowledge in the Divine Ritual Institute."
"Anyway, isn't that a war in fairy tales?"
The Spirit War -- a massive war between spirits in the past that had once turned Astral Zero into scorched earth.
Vying for domination over this world, the faction of the Five Great Elemental Lords fought against the faction of rebel spirits. After persisting for centuries, it was said that the faction of the Five Great Elemental Lords were victorious-- ...But in actual fact, the believability of that historical account was rather suspect. Besides, even if a war once took place on Astral Zero thousands of years ago, it did not feel real at all.
"No. The Spirit War was not simply a war in fairy tales."
Fianna shook her head in objection.
"In recent research, a lot of evidence has been discovered that proves the existence of the Spirit War. You see, during the Ranbal War, weren't all the ruins and historical sites across the continent thoroughly explored for the sake of excavating sealed spirits and spirit crystals? At the time, many inscriptions were discovered."
"...So it's like that?"
Raised in the Instructional School, Kamito was not very educated in these matters.
Even though Restia and Greyworth had taught him a certain level of knowledge, Kamito was completely unacquainted with the latest theories and discoveries.
"Why did the spirits rise up against the Elemental Lords?"
"There are several hypotheses circulating but most believe there was an exceptionally powerful existence leading the spirits."
"A powerful existence strong enough to oppose the Five Great Elemental Lords eh..."
Hearing that, the first thing that surfaced in Kamito's mind was--
"That particular name" -- the one he only found out recently.
The sixth Elemental Lord who had been purged from all records.
Could the mastermind behind the Spirit War be the Darkness Elemental Lord who seemed to share deep ties with Kamito--?
Just as Kamito was caught in deep thought.
"This is the first time in history for the abandoned city of Megidoa to be selected as the field for the Blade Dance festival. Surely, there are too many irregularities in proceedings this time."
Claire grumbled with a serious expression.
"Oh well, putting that aside for now, that's basically all the information we have regarding the field. Since it is an ancient battlefield, it is very likely the leylines are chaotic and unable to be used. Ritual magic must be used with care. Also, seeing as unpleasant spirits tend to congregate in ancient ruins, everyone should prepare some spirit crystals to make it easier to activate barriers."
Based on the information at hand, Claire offered sensible advice.
...As expected of the Academy's honors student?
"One more thing. This came from whispers of the wind I heard earlier--"
Ellis spoke up at this point.
By "whispers of the wind," Ellis was referring to intelligence gathered by wind spirits just as the words implied. Wind spirits had vast movement ranges and amongst the five great attributes they were the most suitable for gathering intelligence.
"The representative from the Holy Kingdom of Lugia, Luminaris Saint Leisched of the Sacred Spirit Knights, has obtained divine armaments from her home country."
Claire asked with great surprise. Kamito also felt intrigued.
Unlike elemental waffen which took form from contracted spirits, divine armaments were physical weapons at best.
Even if it was a special weapon imbued with the divine attribute, it was still just a weapon.
The Blade Dance did not prohibit participants from carrying conventional weapons. In actual fact, Kamito also carried short swords for throwing, though that was a special case.
Considering there was a weight limit for items brought into the match, there were virtually no advantages for an elementalist to prepare conventional weapons if they were capable of using powerful elemental waffen.
"What would she do with that kind of thing?"
"...Who knows. It would be hard to imagine it being essential for the renowned Paladin."
"Perhaps it's used for some sort of ritual magic? Isn't there a type of spirit magic that requires swords and blades as catalysts to activate?"
Claire, Ellis and Fianna discussed the matter as Rinslet poured new tea in everyone's cups without caring about the matter.
(The Holy Kingdom of Lugia's Paladin...)
Three years ago, the user of the holy sword elemental waffe who competed against Ren Ashbell for victory. Although she was a knight of foreign country, she was definitely powerful enough to qualify as a candidate for the Numbers.
Purely due to Restia's darkness attribute being a poor match, Luminaris was the only opponent who posed a difficult challenge in the last competition. Of course, despite such an overwhelming handicap, the Strongest Blade Dancer, Ren Ashbell still defeated her with pure power--
That beautiful knight with her head of pretty blonde hair.
...In the end, Kamito had not even exchanged a single word with her.
An elementalist who had given him trouble in the finals -- to Kamito, that was all she was to him.
However, the girl's forthright gaze left him with some impression.
Compared to Ellis who was likewise a knight, she was different.
Completely steadfast -- a gaze of purity to a dangerous degree.
--At this moment.
A deep ringing of a bell sounded in the corridors outside.
The clock had struck midnight.
"...It's time to start."
It was finally the day of the finals. Claire and the girls all showed nervous expressions.
--The blade dance in the next three days will decide the final victor.
Everyone had clawed their way for victory in the cruel ranking battles for the sake of this day.
"There's not much point in continuing this meeting. Let's retire early and rest in preparation for tomorrow."
"Yeah, that's true." "Right." "Staying up late is not good for the skin."
All the highborn ladies agreed with Claire.
"Well then, see you tomorrow."
Kamito was just about to return to his own room.
Suddenly he recalled something.
"By the way, I have a letter from Greyworth."
Taking out the sealed envelope from his uniform, Kamito handed it over to Claire.
"The headmistress sent this to us?"
"Yeah. It's probably for mental preparation before the finals or something like that."
Even though the witch did not seem like the sentimental type, she must have put a lot of thought into her student's important stage.
Like entrusting the final secret technique. Definitely, there was something she wanted to transmit to them.
Claire opened the letter while the other three girls watched from beside.
They read the letter silently for a while--
" " " "Eeeeeeeeeeeh!?" " " "
Suddenly, they all screamed loudly, blushing to their ears.
"...What is it?"
"N-No, n-nothing at all!"
Claire frantically hid the letter behind her.
"Uwaaaaah, w-what should we do..."
"Th-This kind of task is completely impossible!"
"But, if we don't do it then Kamito-kun will--"
"Th-That's right, since the headmistress has said so..."
The group of girls chattered away quietly in discussion.