Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume9 Chapter4
Chapter 4 - Demon Sword of Darkness
Covered by a vast expanse of trees were the ruins of the massive city.
"...Sigh, how unfortunate. Of all places I ended up here on the very edge of the city."
Claire pouted with displeasure as she ran amidst collapsed ruins.
She had been transported to the outer edges quite far away from the center of the abandoned city.
From appearance, it seemed quite easy to get outside despite the high surrounding walls because there were crumbling sections all over the place. However, due to the powerful barrier raised by the Elemental Lords outside the city walls, neither humans nor spirits were able to exit.
At this moment, Scarlet walked ahead with its ears raised, staring at the center of the abandoned city.
--In the next instant, accompanied by a roaring rumble, a massive pillar of fire rose up from the center.
Claire felt an intense shiver along her spine.
"What a truly powerful spirit..."
They were unlike Scarlet's noble flames.
These belonged to the same type as demon flames that spread violence and destruction.
(...Whose contracted spirit is that?)
Neither the Knights of the Dragon Emperor nor the Sacred Spirit Knights should have a flame elementalist on such a level.
Or could it be the contracted spirit of that Ren Ashbell --?
(...No, that's not right.)
Claire ruled out the possibility mentally.
During the battle in the forest, Ren Ashbell did indeed use spirit magic classified under the flame system.
However, the burning pillar of fire here did not give off the same impression as her.
Abandoning control over a spirit, simply unleashing great power recklessly -- This was not like her.
(Speaking of an elementalist who "drives" spirits in this manner...)
...Claire had an idea.
The gray-haired girl who addressed Kamito as Onii-sama.
Team Inferno's user of militarized spirits -- Muir Alenstarl of the Instructional School.
Reportedly, by employing tactical-class militarized spirits, she annihilated several teams singlehandedly.
Apparently, she was using an even more powerful militarized spirit in the finals.
(...So the fighting has already started.)
Claire felt slightly worried.
(Could it be, Kamito is fighting...?)
She could not deny such a possibility.
In any case, it was necessary to first investigate the power of the demon flame spirit.
"Scarlet, which path will lead there?"
The hell cat spirit inclined its head as if greatly troubled.
"...Oh right. You're just a cat, after all."
Claire shrugged slightly.
The massive abandoned city was probably the type whose structure became more complicated the closer one reached the center.
Without the use of a guide spirit, it was probably not that easy to get close.
"...Night would probably fall before I reach that place."
--Just as Claire sighed.
From some place, the sound of weapons clashing could be heard faintly.
(...Someone is engaged in blade dance?)
Claire suddenly held her breath and swiftly looked around.
The noises sounded quite near. However, there were no signs of people around.
Reminded by Scarlet's voice, Claire looked up towards the overcast sky, and in that instant--
She could see a girl falling down from a nearby bell tower.
Accompanied by the scattering of black feathers, the falling girl was wearing a dress.
Even from a distance, Claire was sure she recognized correctly.
That dress the color of the dark night and those beautiful black wings.
(Kamito's darkness spirit, why is she here!?)
Claire screamed out in her mind.
"W-We must hurry over there, Scarlet!"
Swiftly chanting the words for releasing the elemental waffe, she formed the hell cat spirit into a flaming whip.
To this date, that darkness spirit had engaged in secret machinations many times, making moves on Kamito.
Although the situation was unclear, Claire decided it was a rare opportunity.
(...I must catch her, in order to find out what exactly she is planning!)
Relying simply on her sense of direction, Claire rushed into the maze-like ruins to head towards the bell tower.
Like her elder sister, the outstanding princess maiden, Claire's intuition was rather keen.
After walking a certain distance--
(I remember she was falling somewhere near here--)
Claire halted and swept her gaze over the surrounding scattered debris.
Normally, one should search for a spirit by following the trail of divine power, but due to the chaotic mess of the abandoned city's leylines, that method was no longer available.
Flametongue in hand, Claire advanced cautiously.
Even if wounded, that darkness spirit was still a powerful high-ranking spirit. She could not afford to be careless.
(...The one who struck down the darkness spirit should still be nearby.)
As soon as they encountered each other, a battle was most likely inevitable.
Carried by the wind, a soft moan entered Claire's ears.
Claire immediately headed towards the direction of the sound.
Only to find over there--
A faintly glimmering black feather fallen on the ground.
"It's a feather from that darkness spirit."
As soon as she picked it up, the feather dissipated into particles of light.
...On further examination, similar feathers were scattered all over the floor in the area.
The voice was heard again. --This time, it sounded very near.
Swiftly suppressing the sound of her footfall, Claire circled the wall to the other side where the voice came from.
The darkness spirit girl was lying on the rubble moaning, her lovely face displaying an expression of suffering.
The dress of darkness was torn open. Her black feathers were scattered pitifully.
Her pale complexion displayed bluish pallidity while her dusk-colored eyes gradually dimmed.
Her left chest was pierced by a massive lance.
"...Ara, what a coincidence... Miss Hell Cat..."
Noticing Claire, the girl -- Restia -- shifted her dusk-colored gaze towards her.
Her lovely cherry lips twisted as if in self-mockery.
"Oh for shame... To let you witness me... In such a situation, ooh, ah..."
Halfway through her sentence, she contorted her body painfully.
The holy light emitted by the lance was causing her pain, making her suffer.
(That is radiance of the holy attribute...?)
Claire suddenly recalled.
"You must have been defeated by the Sacred Spirit Knights!"
Last night, Ellis had mentioned during the strategy meeting. The Holy Kingdom of Lugia's Sacred Spirit Knights had apparently brought divine armaments from their home country.
Divine armaments were the most effective magical equipment for capturing darkness spirits. As soon as they struck the target, they continued to deal holy damage persistently.
(...However, why would the Sacred Spirit Knights want to get rid of this darkness spirit?)
"W-Wait a moment, you're forcing yourself too far!"
"...I... cannot, in this kind... of place...!"
Claire held her breath.
This darkness spirit girl was always smiling with composure.
But now her face was frowning from the pain as she panted desperately.
Even though her body was being scorched by holy light, she still--
The instant her lips uttered that name--
Claire's hands naturally sprang into action.
"L-Let me through!"
Grabbing the holy lance that pierced Restia's chest, Claire pulled it out in one swift motion--!
Restia stared with her dusk-colored eyes wide open.
As for Claire--
She stared at her own two hands as if unable to believe what she had just done.
Why on earth did I do that...?
"...What are your intentions, Miss Hell Cat?"
Restia breathed heavily as she stared at Claire.
...Claire was at a loss for words.
"...I-I don't know either, why."
This darkness spirit was without a doubt an enemy of Claire and her team.
She was the one responsible for the giant spirit going berserk at the Academy town as well as Jio Inzagi's assault on the Academy.
During the Tempest, she had even used the monster Nepenthes Lore to destroy Team Scarlet's stronghold.
Even Claire herself was almost killed by her.
Honestly speaking, Claire had neither reason nor obligation to help her at all.
--Nevertheless, her body acted on its own.
Restia continued to gaze at Claire suspiciously.
Claire could not help but avert eye contact.
"A-After all, you -- you are Kamito's contracted spirit."
That was what she said.
How precious of an existence this darkness spirit girl was in Kamito's heart, Claire had a pretty good idea.
This was the girl who bestowed a human heart upon Kamito who had been raised as an assassin by the Instructional School. Kamito's reason for entering the Blade Dance this time was getting her back.
Deep bonds, completely irreplaceable, existed between the two of them.
...As this thought crossed her mind, Claire felt an inexplicable stinging pain in her chest.
"If you disappeared from this world, Kamito will be very sad. That's why I'm helping you."
Claire returned her gaze towards Restia.
"A-And also, I have many things I want to ask you. How could I let you die so easily in this kind of place?"
"Follow me, darkness spirit."
"You really think I will obey you?"
"Don't look down on me. Even if I need to resort to force I will take you away with me."
"--You, are you able to do that?"
Restia smiled and stood up unsteadily.
In this manner, they stared each other in the eye for several seconds--
Suddenly Restia collapsed like an unstringed puppet.
Claire reflexively caught Restia in her arms.
Instantly, Restia's body began to dissipate in the air as particles of light.
"W-What? ...What on earth is going on!?"
Her beautiful face twisting in regret, the darkness spirit girl continued to disappear.
Just as her figure completely dissipated, a sharp metallic noise rang out with a clang.
Claire held her breath.
A sword had fallen on the ground where Restia was just now.
A blade of darkness displaying sleek splendor -- a straight sword for one-handed use.
Invoking admiration of its beauty in the viewer, yet leaving an ominous impression, this was the demon sword of darkness.
Apparently she had transformed from her human appearance to her demon sword form due to overexhaustion.
It followed the same principle as Est going to sleep in sword form.
"...That holy lance was imbued with a Geis."
It was a spell for severing the Circuit that connected a spirit to its main body, forcing the spirit to remain in this world. Mainly used to capture high ranking spirits, it prevented the target from returning to the location of its main body for several days.
Claire reached out towards the demon sword on the ground.
--Just at that moment.
A presence appeared behind her.
Turning around immediately, Claire swung Flametongue.
However, the flaming crimson slash was deflected by a shining magical shield--!
"...Ah, you are--!"
The one who appeared was a blonde female knight in the uniform of the Sacred Spirit Knights.
"...Luminaris Saint Leisched."
Claire groaned in her throat.
(...Foreseeably, almost the worst possible situation.)
To encounter an ace-level elementalist as her first combat opponent, truly rotten luck it was.
"Hand that demon sword over. Ordesia's hell cat user."
Luminaris approached completely without apprehension.
Despite the many wounds on her person, presumably from her battle with Restia, her sense of presence was quite intimidating.
Claire swiftly picked up the demon sword and wielded Flametongue in one hand.
"Dame Luminaris, why are you targeting this darkness spirit?"
Faced with Claire's question--
"Who knows. The reason was not disclosed to us."
"...What do you mean by that?"
"We are simply executing orders issued by Des Esseintes."
It referred to a political organization at the very core of the Holy Kingdom of Lugia. Apparently, the kingdom's politics were actually dictated by Des Esseintes from behind the queen.
"--Wow, what a truly loyal dog, devoted to your mission."
"Let us dispense with the idle chatter. Hurry and hand the darkness spirit over."
Luminaris' warning increased in the sharpness of its tone.
"I intended to complete this mission as quickly as possible, to settle things conclusively with the matter of Ren Ashbell from three years ago. After all, I am not in peak condition either. Therefore if you hand that thing over obediently, I will pretend I never saw you."
--Not an unattractive proposal.
Despite her wounds, Luminaris still was not an opponent Claire could handle on her own.
She probably would keep her word. Even though it was only a verbal promise, prideful elementalists generally did not go back on their promises once given.
"What is there to hesitate about? Isn't that darkness spirit an enemy to your side as well?"
Was she feeling anxious because Claire did not answer? Luminaris took another step forward.
--Right, Restia was without a doubt Team Scarlet's enemy.
She was definitely planning to make use of Kamito in some plan.
Claire tightly gripped the demon sword in her hand.
"I hate this..."
"Dame Luminaris, I am sorry but I will not hand this darkness spirit over to you."
Staring straight at Luminaris before her, Claire answered.
No matter what, Restia was Kamito's precious contracted spirit.
If she were to disappear, Kamito would surely be sad.
(...In that case, I must protect her well!)
Luminaris sighed with exasperation.
"Then I shall retrieve it by force!"
Instantly stepping against the ground to gain speed, she rushed forward, swinging her fist with sacred combat energy.
Claire instantly reacted. Using Flametongue to strike the floor, she made the rubble explode.
She did not expect to deal damage but at least it would provide a visual distraction.
Seizing the opportunity, Claire jumped backwards greatly.
"Go forth and devour, scorching ball of conflagration -- Fireball!"
"--Flames be vanquished, Sacred Shield!"
Luminaris instantly chanted defensive magic to deflect the incoming Fireball.
Her chanting speed was quite fast. Not only was she adept in martial arts, she was also quite skilled in controlling her elemental waffe.
Ignoring the obstacle of flame, Luminaris kept charging forward.
(...How could this happen!?)
The instant just before she was about to strike with the fist infused with combat energy--
Luminaris halted in her steps.
From the crevices in the rubble, numerous shadowy arms reached out to restrain her.
"...Damn these ghosts of the abandoned city, to think they dare interfere at this time!"
The swarm of shadows crept out onto the surface continuously.
It seemed like they were reacting to the holy power Luminaris had released.
(...A-Although I don't quite get what's going on, it's an excellent opportunity!)
Releasing dazzling flames in all directions, Claire took the demon sword of darkness and began to flee.
"These guys just keep coming no matter how many I fight off...!"
With dazzling brilliance, the Demon Slayer swept clear a group of Forsaken Spirits.
Numerous shadows disappeared into nothingness, accompanied by screams filled with resentment.
--However, their numbers showed no signs of abating.
"I don't have time for dealing with you guys right now--!"
Spinning around to unleash a slash, Kamito cut down the shadows approaching from behind.
Even famous spirits in the past would lose most of their original power once they became lingering ghosts.
The troublesome thing was that contact with the shadows resulted in contamination, thereby consuming divine power. If one were to recklessly charge through the swarms, divine power would probably be depleted in short time.
This characteristic was extremely similar to the dark monster brought by Restia, Nepenthes Lore.
Within the blink of an eye, Kamito found himself surrounded heavily again as he wiped the sweat off his brow.
The blade of Terminus Est in his hand also lost its radiance gradually.
Naturally, the contamination from the Forsaken Spirits affected the elemental waffe as well.
Although Est was crowned with the title of the Demon Slayer for vanquishing the Demon King, in actual fact, she was not a spirit possessing the holy attribute but a sword spirit with the attribute of steel.
She did not possess the power to purify filth.
In other words, every time Est made contact with the ghosts in battle, her power kept being consumed.
If this continued, Est would reach her limit before even engaging elementalists from opposing teams.
(...Tsk, this is bad.)
--Just as Kamito clicked his tongue mentally.
The back of his left hand began to hurt intensely.
Intense scorching pain caused Kamito to utter cries of suffering.
Taking off his leather glove for a look, he found blood dripping down his wrist to the ground.
Normally, the spirit seal was barely visible, but now it was shining with intense light.
Ever since that day three years ago, the spirit seal on his left hand had never reacted this strongly before.
"Guh, what on earth...!"
Kamito stabbed the Demon Slayer into the ground to stop himself from falling over.
Along the way, the Forsaken Spirits swarmed in all at once.
If Kamito were to get caught and entangled, his divine power would be utterly drained and he could even lose his life.
(--How could I let you guys succeed!)
Kamito infused maximum divine power into the Demon Slayer:
"Absolute Blade Arts, Third Form--Shadowmoon Waltz!"
He unleashed the anti-army technique of the Absolute Blade Arts.
Resembling the image of the moon reflected on water, this swaying slash was delivered like a quick dance.
A slash followed by a spin, further followed by a slash after the spin.
Even when dozens of enemies surrounded him, they were unable to touch even his sleeve.
Unleashing slashes like a storm, Kamito broke through the barricade.
His overwhelming destructive power swept the area clear of ghosts.
"Huff, huff, huff--"
Putting his sword away, Kamito kept panting.
Using movements that surpassed the limits of his body caused all his muscles to scream in pain.
...I knew it, Greyworth's Absolute Blade Arts take too much of a toll on the body.
Furthermore, slicing Forsaken Spirits also caused contamination in Terminus Est's blade, causing its luster to dim progressively.
Despite the massive decrease in the number of ghosts, new ones kept crawling out without end.
Kamito's gaze rested on his left hand.
The scorching pain had calmed down and the glow of the spirit seal gradually disappeared.
Putting on his leather glove again, Kamito called out her name.
Suddenly -- the wind whispered.
It was a vague sound, akin to the rustling of leaves brushing against one another.
Looking up suddenly, Kamito found a tiny butterfly-like fairy drifting in the wind.
(...Isn't that Ellis' wind spirit?)
No mistake about it. The one calling Kamito's name was Ellis' voice.
She was probably using spirits to carry her voice and broadcast to the surroundings.
(...Could she be nearby?)
Within this abandoned city, there should be no way to send out wind spirits a great distance due to their relatively weaker power. After all, low level spirits without well-defined wills would most likely be caught and eaten by the ghosts before they could travel far.
--At this time, the faint sound of weapons clashing could be heard from the distance.
This time, it was not a sound carried by the wind.
Someone nearby was performing a blade dance.
Sweeping away swarms of ghosts with his sword, Kamito sprinted in the direction of the sound.
Her consciousness in a haze as if enshrouded by a thin layer of mist--
"...mi,to... Kami... to..."
Ellis repeated Kamito's name.
Perhaps because the poison secreted by the thorns of the demon tree spirit was spreading, she could not even lift a finger.
No, even without the paralysis, it was impossible to escape the vines entangling her entire body. Restraining her four limbs, the vines ripped apart her tights, burrowing sharp thorns into her supple flesh.
"...Ah, hah, ooh..."
Ellis felt like her body was burning.
The sense of debilitating sweetness caused Ellis to produce painful sighs.
"Guh... To think you would, use poison... Yah..."
"Assassins are unconcerned with the means employed. I have no reason to accommodate your sense of chivalry."
The orphan from the Instructional School, Lily Flame, looked down at Ellis with merciless eyes.
"The demon tree spirit Titania was sealed in a sacred tree at the Elfim village. It is able to refine several hundred types of poisons, including fatal poisons, paralytic poisons, hallucinogenic poisons and aphrodisiacs. However, fatal poisons cannot be used due to the disqualification rule--"
The squirming vines dove beneath Ellis' uniform and began to search her bosom.
"Ooh, yah, ah...!"
They were trying to find the magic stone hidden in her uniform.
Once the magic stone was taken away, the owner's body would be forcibly teleported to Ragna Ys and retired from the Blade Dance unless the stone was retrieved within thirty seconds.
Pop. Pop pop.
As the buttons of the uniform popped off, the massive bosom clad in black underwear was exposed.
Ellis bit her lip hard in humiliation.
From her inside pocket, the magic stone rolled out.
"...With this, one member is eliminated from Team Scarlet."
Bending over, Lily tried to pick up the magic stone.
Ellis struggled and desperately reached out despite the vines entangling her arm.
Even though it made numerous scratch wounds on her arm, she still mustered all her strength.
"How unsightly, Ellis Fahrengart."
Lily swept Ellis' arm aside derisively.
"Ultimately, you people, who simply train as though you were playing in a sandbox, can't possibly defeat assassins who grew up in true hell."
"...What, did you say..."
Hearing that assertion--
Ellis gritted her teeth hard.
The faces of her comrades back at the Academy surfaced in her mind one after another.
--Rakka, Reishia, comrades of the Sylphid Knights.
The foster elder sister Velsaria who prayed for Ellis' victory.
Last but not least, her four teammates who were fighting in the same match.
Lily's current assertion was equivalent to insulting all of Ellis' comrades back at the Academy.
"Take those words... Back--"
"To call it playing in a sandbox -- Take those words back!"
Gathering divine power in both hands -- Ellis released it all in one go.
As sharply slicing winds began to blow, all the vines tying her up were severed.
"--The paralytic poison's not working!? No--"
Lily Flame displayed alarm on her face.
Ellis swiftly reached out to the magic stone and grabbed it.
...The poison was actually working. Ellis' consciousness remained hazy and could barely remain standing.
Even so -- as one of the Sylphid Knights, there were things she must defend at all costs.
"...For my comrades who entrusted dreams of victory to me--"
She released Ray Hawk in her right hand, a storm gathering at its front tip.
"I cannot be defeated in a place like this!"
Ellis swung Ray Hawk with all her might.
Faced with the onslaught of the swirling blades of wind--
Lily took a leap, evading the wind blades as she threw knives.
Two knives struck Ellis in the legs.
Swallowing the scream she was about to emit, Ellis glared at the enemy before her.
Fortunately, the spreading paralytic poison reduced the intensity of the pain.
"--If you stop resisting, you will be free of suffering soon."
Lily grumbled calmly as she snapped her fingers.
The severed vines of the demon tree spirit instantly regenerated.
"...Darn, to think it would have such regenerative powers...!"
For Ellis' elemental waffe which was geared towards slashing attacks, the demon tree spirit was a poor matchup.
If it were Claire's flame spirit or Rinslet's demon ice spirit instead, the fight would perhaps be more in their favor--
Ellis' entire field of view was hazy. In a poisoned state, she could not fully refine her divine power.
(I cannot let my comrades back at the Academy witness an unsightly blade dance--)
Ray Hawk's spear tip once again gathered wind.
A prolonged battle must be avoided. Victory had to be decided in one strike.
"--Slaughter the foolish sacrifice, Titania!"
The countless wriggling vines all rushed towards Ellis.
In that instant.
"Fahrengart style of the spear, secret technique -- Flash Gale!"
The violent gale released with all her strength ended up penetrating the ground far from the target.
"A futile struggle--"
A jeering expression appeared on Lily's face.
At the same time, the demon tree spirit's vines reached into the dust cloud to capture Ellis--
However, in the next instant -- Lily's expression froze.
Behind the dust cloud, Ellis could not be found.
"--Is she above!?"
She suddenly realized -- But too late.
Hidden amongst the dust scattering and flying in the wind, Ellis had flown high up in the air.
(--Since my legs cannot move, I flew using the wind!)
Riding the wind, she altered her trajectory in midair.
Firming her grasp of Ray Hawk which swelled with a violent gale, Ellis rapidly descended as she took aim at Lily on the ground.
The instant the spear tip made contact with the ground, a storm erupted.
In the very last second, Lily tried to evade.
However, her petite body was blown away, crashing hard into a wall.
Landing on the ground, Ellis accelerated once more, charging forth in order to deliver a decisive blow.
But already -- the wind had begun to lose coherence.
Losing balance, Ellis suddenly collapsed on the ground.
(...Oooh, my body, feels scorching hot...!)
The circulation of divine power had caused the paralytic poison to spread even faster.
As the wind enveloping her scattered, Ellis could hardly lift a finger.
"...Guh, just a little bit more..."
Ellis clawed at the sand on the floor surface, trying desperately to muster her final strength--
"...Too careless of me. I underestimated you."
However, the first to stand up was Lily Flame.
Although she suffered injuries from the attack just now, she was more than well enough to continue battling.
"However, further struggles are futile--"
In her hazy state of consciousness, Ellis heard a familiar voice.
Lily Flame turned back to stare at the great staircase in the ruins.
Seeing his figure in her gradually blurring vision, Ellis suddenly smiled.
(--Indeed, I was waiting for this voice.)
Ellis believed firmly he would surely come.
Hence she was able to persevere and continue fighting.
"Sorry to have kept you waiting, Ellis."
Kamito jumped down from the great stairway and landed next to Ellis.
"...How... did you get here?"
"Ellis, your voice was carried by the wind."
Kamito pressed a healing spirit crystal into Ellis' hand and stood up lightly. Then he turned towards Lily who had taken a combat stance.
"The fifth member of Team Inferno turns out to be you."
The Elfim girl groaned in her throat.
...Apparently, these two seemed to know each other.
But since they both came from the Instructional School, that possibility had crossed Ellis' mind--
"I'm so glad, you and Muir are okay... Oh well, though reuniting in this manner was not what I hoped for."
Just as Kamito sighed.
"...Guh, go forth and slaughter, Titania!"
Responding to Lily's voice, the demon tree spirit's vines attacked Kamito.
Ellis cried out. --However, such worry was unnecessary.
Pulling out the Demon Slayer, Kamito instantly severed all the vines.
"Stop it. You can't defeat me... I'm sure you know that quite well, right?"
Lily bit her lip in chagrin.
"I-I'll retreat for now!"
She swiftly jumped towards the demon tree spirit that sprouted out of the ground.
Leaping inside the massive red flower, the petals instantly closed up and disappeared into the ground.
Within the blink of an eye, the demon tree spirit had swallowed Lily and disappeared without trace.
"...That kind of trick again. That girl sure loves fancy tricks just like the way she's always been."
Kamito could not help but exclaim.
"Ellis, are you okay?"
"Ah, hmm... Because you are here, ah..."
Still collapsed on the ground, Ellis nodded.
Immediately, her face suddenly became bright red.
Suddenly, Kamito found his gaze being drawn to a certain location.
Those voluptuous breasts, clad in black underwear, fully exposed in view due to the unbuttoned uniform.
"S-Stop looking... Jerk!"
Kamito frantically turned his gaze away as he blushed.