Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume 20
- 1 Prologue
- 2 Chapter 1 - Darkness Elemental Lord
- 3 Chapter 2 - Counterattack
- 4 Chapter 3 - The Demon King's Darkness Kagura
- 5 Chapter 4 - Convergence
- 6 Chapter 5 - Chaotic Aerial Battle
- 7 Chapter 6 - Decisive Battle at the Holy Capital
- 8 Chapter 7 - Two Sacred Swords
- 9 Chapter 8 - The Prayer of Princess Maidens
- 10 Chapter 9 - True Force
- 11 Final Chapter - Return to the Academy
- 12 Epilogue
- 13 Afterword
- 14 Illustrator's Afterword
A spirit in the form of a gigantic white whale was flying in the air over Astral Zero's forest.
Dire Whale was a super massive spirit under the Water Elemental Lord's command.
Within the internal dimension of the Dire Whale's stomach—
The trio of Fianna, Ellis and Rinslet were sitting around a small table.
"Kamito and the others still aren't found yet?"
"No, they fell into the forest in Astral Zero. Locating them will be very difficult."
To Ellis' inquiry, the young girl with hair the color of shimmering water shook her head.
The girl was Iseria Seaward, the avatar of the Water Elemental Lord whom Ren Ashbell had liberated three years earlier. Sensing that Kamito's team had entered Astral Zero, she had come over to aid them.
"Claire should have prepared a Levitation spirit crystal. They will surely be fine."
"Well said, Your Highness."
"Hmm, I hope so..."
With a worried expression, Ellis watched the outside world through a crystal ball on the table.
Seen through the Dire Whale's eyes was a vast forest and the Astral Zero sky that was raining. Also—
The remains of the shattered floating island of Ragna Ys, slowly falling to the ground.
—Not too long ago, it was still a sturdy piece of land.
To seal away the Gate to the Otherworld that the Holy Lord had opened, Kamito's team had taken the four Queens together to teleport to the Holy Capital of Alexandria.
But along the way, the ship had crashed due to Cardinal Millennia Sanctus' attack. Kamito and Claire were forced to fight the angel summoned by Millennia whereas Ellis and the others had to contend with another Millennia that was armed with the ultimate flame sword Ragnarok.
Towards the end of the battle, Rubia had to face off against the Fire Elemental Lord after defeating Millennia.
However, in that instant, gigantic blades of light released from the four corners of the Holy Capital had shattered the ground of Ragna Ys.
Kamito and Claire, as well as Rubia with the Fire Elemental Lord, had all fallen to the ground below. Ellis, Fianna, Rinslet and the four Queens had been found by Iseria's Dire Whale while they were falling and rescued without harm.
"...Those blades of light, what were they?"
Fianna wondered quietly.
With just a single strike, that light had shattered the land of Ragna Ys.
To think that such a terrifying power existed in this world—
"That is the light of Terminus Est, a spirit weapon from the Spirit War era."
Iseria Seaward answered.
"...Miss Sword Spirit?"
Rinslet asked with incredulity on her face.
"The Demon Slayer contracted with Kazehaya Kamito only has one tenth of the original's power. Most likely, the Holy Lord used Sacred Maiden Areishia's body as the vessel and successfully summoned the principal body of Terminus Est."
Holy Lord Alexandros had obtained the most powerful spirit weapon too, huh?
"...We cannot recklessly approach the Holy Capital."
Fianna stared at the Holy Capital shown on the crystal ball.
From the central zone of the Holy Capital, three pillars of light rose, piercing gigantic holes in the sky.
It was most likely the Gate connecting to the Otherworld.
"No matter what, we must find Kamito and the others first."
Saying that, Ellis quietly stood up.
"Captain, where are you going?"
"I will search the forest. If I go alone, the Holy Kingdom will probably not discover me."
"Going alone is dangerous!"
"There are many violent spirits in the forest."
"In that case, I must find them sooner."
Ellis looked very determined.
"...Very well. Take care."
"Yes, Your Highness—"
Fianna nodded lightly and Ellis summoned her demon wind spirit.
The Dire Whale opened its mouth, bringing a strong gust of wind surging inside.
"—Let us go, Simorgh."
Mounting the giant demon bird's back, she flew into the Astral Zero sky.
Rumble rumble rumble rumble!
A military ship landed inside the vast premises of Areishia Spirit Academy.
The rumbling of its drive reactor shook the atmosphere violently.
The students in the school building were drawn to the windows by curiosity, looking in surprise at the slowly descending military ship.
This ship was the Revenant belonging to Team Inferno.
Originally moored at the Imperial Capital of Ostdakia, it had been called over to the Academy.
"Now that was fast. My unworthy disciple evidently fears me quite a lot."
Greyworth remarked, looking up at the ship from the training ground down below.
Previously, her body had temporarily returned to prime condition thanks to effects of the Otherworldly Darkness invading her body, but after Est removed the darkness, she had turned back to her original age. Her power in her youth was far greater than now, but unfortunately that was no longer accessible.
"Headmistress, preparations for Teleport are complete."
"Is that so? Thank you."
Hearing Ms. Freya's report, she turned to the trio behind her.
Gathered on the plaza were—
Leonora Lancaster, Dracunia's dragon knight.
Muir Alenstarl, the Instructional School's "Monster."
Velsaria Eva Fahrengart, the Silent Fortress.
These three powerful elementalists were far beyond the Academy's students in capability.
"Are you prepared?"
"How foolish a question, Dusk Witch. A dragon warrior knows no fear."
"Onii-sama is waiting. Of course I have to go."
"Upon the name of House Fahrengart, a knight never goes back on her word."
The trio answered very decisively.
"—Indeed, I asked you a foolish question."
Smiling wryly, Greyworth shrugged.
Kamito's team had headed to Astral Zero to thwart the Holy Lord's plan.
Learning of this, Greyworth had immediately ordered Vivian Melosa to summon the Revenant and make preparations to head to Astral Zero.
At the same time, she assembled the most powerful combat team to set off for Astral Zero.
"Velsaria, about linking up with the Revenant—"
"Yes, my Dreadnought shall surely link up without problems."
Greyworth acknowledged with a brief "I see" after Velsaria nodded.
In the center of the training ground, the Revenant's giant hull landed.
"Then let us depart—"
With a flip of her gray overcoat, Greyworth stepped towards the ship.
Surrounded by infinite darkness without boundary—
Kamito was facing a maiden who had outspread wings of jet black.
The girl's shining golden eye was like a bright full moon in the darkness.
Her beautiful face was identical to Restia's.
With the two of them were placed together, one would definitely see them as sisters.
The Darkness Elemental Lord—Ren Ashdoll.
The renegade Elemental Lord. She was both Restia's creator and the source of the Demon King's power—
"Do not be nervous, my adorable child—"
The Lord of Darkness smiled at Kamito who was glaring seriously at her.
Her expression and demeanor were quite similar to Restia's.
Nevertheless, Kamito was suspicious.
Was this girl truly the owner of the voice enticing Kamito to become the Demon King?
Every time the power of darkness was drawn out, that voice had sounded in Kamito's mind.
Corrupted by the Otherworldly Darkness, she ought to be speaking with greater madness.
However, there was not the slightest sign of insanity in the maiden in front of him.
Originally, that power was so strong that he could feel it palpably.
Visiting Dracunia previously, in an audience with the legendary dragon spirit, he had also sensed considerably strong power—
This girl was undoubtedly on the same level of power as that dragon king, at least.
"No need to be wary. I am simply the avatar of part of her darkness power."
"You must have met the Water Elemental Lord's avatar, yes? I am the same as her."
Kamito had met Iseria Seaward in Astral Zero, the avatar of the Water Elemental Lord's will that Ren Ashbell had liberated three years earlier. Although she was quite powerful compared to ordinary spirits, her original power had actually been weakened greatly.
(...I see now, an avatar, huh?)
Kamito understood for now.
Why was the Darkness Elemental Lord's avatar here? Although Kamito wanted to ask this, there were more urgent questions.
"...Say, where am I? What happened to me?"
All Kamito could remember last was the angel summoned by Millennia Sanctus.
After the battle, devoured by the power of darkness, he had lost consciousness. Speaking of which, was he inside his own consciousness, devoured by darkness, or inside her consciousness?
"It is as you think, adorable child."
As though reading Kamito's thoughts, the Darkness Elemental Lord's avatar spoke.
"This is inside your own soul, devoured by her darkness."
Even if told he was inside his own soul, to be honest, it did not feel real at all. But there was a weird sense of deja vu in this space, which indirectly supported the truth of her answer.
"So what exactly do you want me to do?"
"Fufu, I am very glad that you understand—"
The avatar girl flapped her jet black wings, looking quite happy.
...Restia often did that too when she was in a good mood.
"I hope you will inherit Ren Ashdoll's power next."
"What did you say?"
Kamito could not help but ask.
"What do you mean? If I inherit her power, that power will swallow me, right?"
"Indeed, but that is part of her plan too—"
The Darkness Elemental Lord's avatar pointed into the air, summoning a gigantic orb of darkness.
Kamito entered a stance, putting his hands on hilts of his two swords.
"Do not misunderstand. I simply wish to chat with you about the past."
"Yes, it is necessary for you to know. Where the Otherworldly Darkness corrupting the Elemental Lords came from, and the reason she had her power reincarnated in a human—"
The surface of the orb of darkness began to distort, then projected an image.
Chapter 1 - Darkness Elemental Lord
Even forgetting to put up his guard, Kamito stood frozen in his spot in astonishment.
What was displayed on the surface of the dark orb was—
A gigantic vortex. A conglomerate of order and chaos that kept devouring and giving birth to countless stars.
"What is... this...?"
Kamito uttered in wide-eyed amazement.
"This is the origin of all creation. This is the source of all phenomena, the sea of chaos giving rise to innumerable worlds. It is what created this Astral Zero—"
"...It created Astral Zero?"
The Darkness Elemental Lord's avatar pointed at the center of the vortex.
"You have seen this before, haven't you? At the Elemental Lords' shrine—"
Kamito gulped as soon as he saw that thing.
The gigantic vortex of chaos, swallowing stars.
At its very center were countless tiny lights flashing.
"...Aren't those angels!?"
Kamito widened his eyes.
"—In other words, that giant vortex is the Otherworldly Darkness?"
"Half correct, my adorable child."
The avatar girl lightly shook her head.
"Not only Darkness. Light, Fire, Water, Wind, Earth, all elements were born from that vortex of chaos—"
"...Say that again?"
The image projected on the orb of darkness changed.
The bubble in the vortex's center split open, producing countless spheres.
"Every fragment of the ruptured bubble is the source of a world. Vast though this Astral Zero may be, it is merely one of such fragments."
This time, Kamito was speechless.
(—That bubble is the world?)
"For starters, only a very small proportion succeed in forming worlds. The vast majority disappear like bubbles before developing into an embryonic world. However, in any case—"
The avatar girl turned her gaze back to the image.
"—This Astral Zero was born from that vortex of chaos."
Part of the fragmented bubble turned into a perfect sphere. Inside that sphere—
Light, and darkness too, were born.
"First to be born were the spirits of Light and Darkness. After these two spirits' power covered the entire world, the spirits of Fire, Water, Wind and Earth were born as well."
"The six main elements... In other words, the current Elemental Lords?"
"More precisely, the entities that became the cores of the Elemental Lords. The primordial elemental spirits did not have any will yet. They simply brought the constituting elements of order to a world of chaos."
The image in the orb kept changing.
The sky and the earth separated, mountains rose up, rivers appeared, forests flourished.
The power of spirits resided all over the world, finally filling the world with large numbers of living spirits.
Giant beasts in the ocean, herds of animals, magic beasts, dragons, giants, as well as the elves who were the common ancestors of humans and the Elfim race—
"It was a paradise filled with order and peace, maintained by the power of spirits. This world was originally meant to persist forever—"
"—But one day, the primordial spirits, which only served as constituting elements of the world, changed. Will, or perhaps one might call it the soul, came into being."
"Spirits gained will—?"
The Darkness Elemental Lord's avatar nodded.
"It is still unclear why that sort of thing appeared. Perhaps such a change happened in response to the worship from the elves. But no matter what—"
She sounded self-effacing.
"—That was the beginning of all sins."
"...Sins? You mean the fact that the Elemental Lords gained their own will?"
"Indeed. Having gained their own will and personality, the Elemental Lords were driven by basic instinctive desires in their souls, and believed they ought to make themselves into even more perfect beings."
"Every element existing in Astral Zero is ultimately copied from the origin of worlds. Something like a shadow. Hence, the Elemental Lords wanted true elements."
"They wanted the elements of true darkness, true light, true fire, water, wind and earth—"
Hearing this, a flash of inspiration went through Kamito's mind.
—True Darkness. Cardinal Millennia Sanctus had used this to refer to the Otherworldly Darkness corrupting the Elemental Lords.
"...So that's what happened, huh?"
That Otherworldly Darkness was the darkness element existing in the origin world?
"The six self-aware Elemental Lords joined forces to open a Gate connecting to the origin and succeeded in stealing true elements. However, there was a severe miscalculation in the plan."
"After part of the World was stolen, the origin sent angels to Astral Zero."
The image on the darkness orb changed again.
And endless army of angels passed through the Gate and descended from the sky.
Kamito had seen this scene before.
From the dream of Ren Ashdoll's memories—
Weapon-wielding Elemental Lords, Est, Ortlinde, and the powerful spirits known as spirit weapons were fighting intensely against the army of angels.
"The war with the angels only ended when the Elemental Lords sealed the Gate. During the intense conflict, all Astral Zero obtained was true Darkness and a small amount of true Fire. True Darkness went to Ren Ashdoll, whereas true Fire was stolen by the elves, its whereabouts unknown—"
Although the war with the angels left gigantic scars on Astral Zero, the Elemental Lords also obtained what they had desired.
However, saying that, the Darkness Elemental Lord's avatar bit her lip lightly.
"—The true Darkness brought to this world began to corrupt the Elemental Lords."
"—The first to descend into madness was Ren Ashdoll."
The avatar girl spoke softly.
"To stop her from turning into a Gate that brought forth angels, the five Elemental Lords formed an alliance with Holy Lord Alexandros as the leader, with the intention of destroying her. Namely, that is—"
'—The Spirit War.'
The demon sword of darkness in Kamito's hand suddenly spoke.
'I heard everything you two said. Sorry for waking up too late.'
"It's okay, we went through such a deadly battle, after all—"
'Miss Sword Spirit seems to be quite spent.'
"Yeah, because she used her power to analyze the angel. Let her rest properly."
Kamito lightly tapped the demon sword's hilt.
"—May I continue, demon sword of darkness?"
'Yes, please do. I am very interested in this topic too.'
Restia replied to the Darkness Elemental Lord's avatar.
"—The Spirit War, that was when I was born, right?"
"Yes, and the result of the Spirit War is as you know."
The war between the Darkness Elemental Lord and the Five Great Elemental Lords.
Its records were kept in the Divine Ritual Institute's sealed library and rarely circulated.
Its purpose was to eliminate the Darkness Elemental Lord who had been corrupted by the Otherworldly Darkness, huh?
"The Spirit War was very intense. The aftershock broke Astral Zero into two, one of which became the human realm. To protect her last followers, the defeated Darkness Elemental Lord allowed herself to be sealed in the dimensional gap by the Holy Lord and reincarnated her power in the human race—"
The Darkness stolen from the origin was eliminated together with Ren Ashdoll.
—That was what was supposed to have happened.
"However, the victorious Elemental Lords were already corrupted by the Otherworldly Darkness. The Darkness Elemental Lord was simply the first to be discovered."
After several thousand years, the Elemental Lords gradually changed in nature.
By the time they realized, it was already too late.
The Blade Dance held by the humans were able to bring temporary peace to the corrupted Elemental Lords' souls, but at the same time, large scale warfare in the human realm also agitated their souls.
"And now, Holy Lord Alexandros is using the Elemental Lords as a Gate, intending to connect Astral Zero to the origin again."
The Darkness Elemental Lord's avatar waved her fingers, causing the orb of darkness to disappear.
After a moment's silence—
"...There's something I don't understand."
"Why is the Holy Lord the only one untainted by the Otherworldly Darkness?"
Indeed, the four Elemental Lords of fire, water, wind and earth had all descended into madness. But for some unknown reason, only the Holy Lord seemed completely free from the effects of corruption.
The avatar girl shook her head.
"This I do not know. Although I doubt that the Holy Lord's element of light could produce resistance against the Otherworldly Darkness, still—"
No matter what, at least he now knew what had happened in Astral Zero in the ancient past.
Kamito also wanted to ask about the true meaning of what she had said earlier.
"Then what exactly did you mean when you asked me to inherit the Darkness Elemental Lord's power?"
Kamito was already swallowed by the Darkness Elemental Lord's power.
Awakened as the Demon King, Kamito would surely destroy the world in a state of insanity.
Or perhaps, he could end up like the other Elemental Lords, turned into a Gate connected to the origin—
"You and the darkness spirit will liberate the insane Darkness Elemental Lord."
'What did you say?'
"Is that even possible!?"
Kamito and Restia exclaimed at the same time.
"Yes, it was precisely for this purpose that she created the darkness spirit Restia, even reincarnated her power in the human race, and waited for thousands of years—"
The Darkness Elemental Lord's avatar turned her gaze to the Vorpal Sword in Kamito's hand.
'She created me to liberate herself?
"—Indeed. Restia Ashdoll was created with the true Darkness element as the core, the only darkness spirit. Only you are capable of devouring the Darkness corrupting her."
Back when she recovered her memories at Dracunia, Restia had taken away Millennia's Darkness.
That power was born for the sake of taking away the Otherworldly Darkness corrupting the Darkness Elemental Lord—
The darkness spirit who was the Demon King's guide, Restia Ashdoll.
The human who had inherited the Darkness Elemental Lord's power, Ren Ashbell.
Corrupted by Otherworldly Darkness, knowing her mind was insane, she used the last remnants of her rational mind to prepare these two keys.
—Then she waited all this time.
Waiting for the Demon King who would have the power to liberate her several thousand years later—
'So basically, Kamito—'
"Yes, indeed. I am the fragment of her final will, left behind by her. I am the being created for this very moment, to offer advice and prepare opportunities for the one who is truly qualified to become the Demon King."
The Darkness Elemental Lord's avatar turned around.
In the distance, out in the endless darkness, a terrifying roar was heard.
It sounded like all grief and cursing in the world had coalesced into one mass.
Kamito looked around. The surroundings seemed to be shrouded by darkness that was even darker than before.
"The monster of darkness that had swallowed you, it has arrived—"
'—Good morning, Kamito.'
Est greeted him sleepily.
"I'm sorry, Est, I need to ask you to lend me your strength when you just woke up."
'Yes, Kamito. I am your sword, your wish is my command... Yawn...'
'...Say, will you really be alright?'
Restia asked with concern.
"There is little time left. Unless you liberate the Darkness Elemental Lord before your soul is completely consumed, you will never be able to turn back to human again."
"So basically, I just have to defeat that thing, right?"
—No sooner than Kamito finished speaking...
The surging mist of darkness condensed and the monster was revealed.
Raindrops were falling in a storm.
Claire removed her drenched uniform, leaving herself only in underwear. She was tightly hugging Kamito who was shrouded in wavering divine power of darkness.
"Kamito... Hurry and come back..."
Her adorable cherry lips pleaded sadly.
Pressed intimately together, her skin gave off mild warmth to warm up Kamito's body that was rapidly cooling down.
The divine power of fire residing within Claire was entering Kamito through their connected lips.
Divine power of fire and divine power of darkness mixed together then returned to Claire's body, circulating nonstop.
This was the ancient ritual kagura that her sister had told her about before they came to Ragna Ys.
"...Mm, I feel so hot..."
Claire exhaled sweet breath.
It practically felt like Kamito was entering her body.
Their skin, wet from the rain, was pressed tightly together. Claire had her lips against Kamito's lips as though greedily seeking the overflowing divine power of darkness.
While panting in anguish, she desperately poured divine power of fire into Kamito.
"...Please... Kamito, wake... up—!"
After the mist of darkness coalesced, a terrifying thing appeared.
It looked like countless human body parts had been randomly attached together—
The xenomorphic body had eight arms sprouting from it, writhing nonstop in mud of darkness that was melting and falling off.
In the center of the mud, a golden eye, as round as the full moon, was glaring straight at Kamito.
Sensing an intense aura of death—Kamito could not help but cringe.
(...This is the Darkness Elemental Lord—)
Only by covering his entire body in divine power could Kamito finally hold his ground against that aura.
The Vorpal Sword in his hand was trembling mildly.
"Are you okay? Restia—"
Although her reply sounded very calm, Kamito understood very well.
The Darkness Elemental Lord was her creator and master.
Her standing in this distorted and unrecognizable form right now, had shaken Restia's heart and mind.
"Keep your feelings in check. She has already become Otherworldly Darkness."
The Darkness Elemental Lord's avatar spoke mournfully.
The Vorpal Sword's blade erupted with jet-black lightning.
The monster of darkness narrowed its golden eye and emitted a noise that sound like burning.
'—My creator, Ren Ashdoll!'
Restia's anguished cry echoed in the darkness.
'If the slightest part of your soul remains, please listen to me!'
"It is futile, darkness spirit, she is beyond helping—"
The monster of darkness roared. Jet-black lightning shot out from its decayed mouth.
Hell Blast—the top-tier spell of the darkness element.
The ball of darkness lightning, enough to erase high-level spirits, descended straight upon Kamito.
Using the Demon Slayer's blade, Kamito deflected the ball of lightning as he raced through the mud.
The sound of lamentation was deafening. The monster's massive body shuddered violently before releasing miasma of darkness.
Readied in Kamito's hand in a reverse grip, the Vorpal Sword emitted exceptionally intense black light.
'—Kamito, let her rest in peace.'
Hearing Restia's voice, filled with determination, Kamito silently nodded.
Wielding the black and white swords in his hands, Kamito ran.
This dark space was inside Kamito's own soul.
However, his body basically felt as though he were in the real world.
(...So I can't do anything crazy, huh?)
There was a limit to how much divine power he could use.
Besides, there was a time limit running against him. He must destroy this monster before his soul was completely devoured.
Using divine power to clear away the mud on the ground, Kamito jumped.
"Absolute Blade Arts, Third Form—Shadowmoon Waltz!"
Tracing out a curve, the slash severed three of the monster's arms.
Dark miasma spurted out like blood.
The miasma, whose mere contact brought death, was absorbed by the Vorpal Sword's blade.
'Leave the Otherworldly Darkness to me, Kamito, and focus on the main body—'
"—Yeah, I know!"
Kamito swung around, chopping off another arm.
Where the monster's arm fell, a terrifying bubble appeared.
(...What is that?)
The four arms chopped off by Kamito were transforming inside their respective bubble, turning into four demon dragons.
Kamito charged straight into the group of demon dragons.
"Absolute Blade Arts, Third Form—Shadowmoon Waltz, Blade Shadow!"
Instantly slaying the four demon dragons, Kamito continued to charge.
He made his way towards that gigantic eyeball, shining with golden light, restless in the center of the darkness—
"Absolute Blade Arts, First Form—Purple Lightning!"
He unleashed the Absolute Blade Art of divine speed.
The monster screamed. The demon sword of darkness had pierced its golden eye.
"—O blade formed from true darkness, devour the Otherworldly Darkness and make it your power!"
With a glow of divine power of the Vorpal Sword's blade, the dark miasma was completely absorbed.
—But in the next instant, the golden eye suddenly squirmed.
Glowing divine power was sucked into the eye that was like a vortex—
Together with his two swords, Kamito was sucked into the Darkness Elemental Lord's body.
A bit of breath escaped from a gap between the two superimposed pair of lips.
Claire jumped in surprise and placed her fingers on Kamito's chest.
His heart was beating hard. The circulating divine power had activated his body.
After a brief relief, Claire's expression turned stiff again. ...Kamito did not regain consciousness.
The endless flow of the divine power of darkness did not stop.
At this rate, even if his life was not in danger—
Just then, Kamito's expression twisted in pain.
Claire gently touched his cheek.
(Kamito is fighting this darkness right now...)
...In that case, I must fight alongside him.
Because I am... your master.
Her long crimson hair, drenched in the rain, became enveloped in blazing flames.
(Let me use my flames to purify your darkness—!)
(...Was I careless?)
Kamito struggled in the mud-like darkness.
There was nothing around him. He could not even see the light of divine power released from his own body.
This was complete nothingness.
(...This is the darkness that drives Elemental Lords insane?)
Kamito gripped his two swords tightly. This was the only tangible sensation.
How could he escape from this darkness that could even rob divine power?
—Just then, inside the darkness, a red light appeared.
It was a flame glowing like a red lotus.
This was also the most noble and beautiful flame in Kamito's memory.
The flame turned its surroundings into a sea of fire, swallowing the darkness like a ferocious lion.
Swallowing darkness, the fire kept expanding and approached Kamito.
But incredibly, Kamito did not feel fear. The flames engulfed Kamito—
In the next instant, Kamito was standing in the center of a howling vortext of fire.
In front of him was the Darkness Elemental Lord that had turned into a monster—
It reached out to grab Kamito with its terrifying arm, but the howling flames burned intensely as though protecting Kamito, forbidding it from touching Kamito.
"...Could this be the lost Fire of the Origin!?"
The Darkness Elemental Lord's avatar widened her golden eye and exclaimed in surprise.
—In other words, she wasn't the one providing this flame to cover me?
The flames rose up violently.
The blazing flames raced across the ground, incinerating the Otherworldly Darkness completely.
The Darkness Elemental Lord faltered as though in fear.
Filled with rage and lamentation, the roar echoed throughout this dark space.
'This is Miss Hell Cat's fire—'
Kamito was reassured.
(I see, this flame is—)
He had seen it a number of times before.
This was not the power of spirits. Instead, it was the Elstein Flame residing within Claire.
The End of Vermilion contrasting with Rubia's Absolute Zero.
(...Claire, could it be that you're by my side?)
Kamito could not help but look up and ask.
No answer. But at his feet, the flames burned with even greater intensity.
He could feel Claire's presence. This was the noble and brilliant flame he had felt the first time he saw her blade dance.
(So you're by my side, Claire—)
In the ring of fiercely burning fire—
Kamito poured divine power into his two swords and faced off against the Lord of Darkness.
"My master is waiting for me, so I can't lose here!"
The monster of darkness roared, its giant body approaching.
Kamito took a mighty leap with the release of divine power, jumping at the head of the monster of darkness in one g o.
The monster swung its arm, trying to grab Kamito as he moved through the air, but—
As though protecting Kamito, flames rose up and deflected the monster's gigantic arm like a whip.
"—We're doing this, Restia!"
The jet-black lightning on the Vorpal Sword surged—!
"Absolute Blade Arts, Destructive Form—Bursting Blossom Spiral Blade Dance, Eighteen Consecutive Strikes!"
In the darkness, flashes of sword and lightning dashed through the air.
The monster's arms were chopped and sent flying. Layer by layer, dark miasma was peeled off.
Kamito stabbed the demon sword into the monster's gigantic golden eye—
"Will it work, Restia!?"
'Yes, because this Darkness is mine—'
Kamito poured all of his divine power into the Vorpal Sword.
Lightning of darkness went on a rampage inside the monster's body.
The true darkness corrupting the Darkness Elemental Lord turned the demon sword's blade jet black in color.
After roaring on the verge of death, the berserk Darkness Elemental Lord finally perished.
—As the Darkness Elemental Lord vanished, Kamito's world collapsed at the same time.
The ground crumbled and Kamito fell into space.
'—You will inherit the Darkness Elemental Lord's will and power.'
Kamito heard the avatar's voice in his mind.
'My mission ends here. My adorable child—Ren Ashbell.'
"Mission... What happens to you next...?"
'The objective is achieved. I shall vanish and presumably turn into part of your divine power.'
A falling black feather touched Kamito's cheek.
'I entrust the rest to you, my adorable child—'
The voice was interrupted and Kamito's view became dominated by blinding light.
He opened his eyes—
A beautiful young maiden in underwear was on top of Kamito's body.
Her long crimson hair was wet and her ruby-like eyes were moist with tears.
Having absorbed water, her lacy underwear clung tightly to her skin, translucent.
As soon as Kamito spoke, Claire widened her eyes in surprise.
"...I'm so glad, you turned back to the original Kamito."
She embraced Kamito's head tightly all at once.
Although small, the sensation of her breasts made Kamito's heart race.
Claire's thumping heartbeat was transmitting to him through her thoroughly wet underwear.
Traces of tears remained on her face, she was probably worried the whole time for Kamito who had been devoured by the power of darkness.
The rain had stopped.
From gaps in the clouds, the blue sky was visible.
"...Sorry for making you worry."
Slowly sitting up, Kamito then stroked Claire's head.
"What happened? What on earth was that black miasma..."
"It was the divine power of the Darkness Elemental Lord sleeping inside me."
Kamito looked the back of his left hand.
The spirit seal of darkness, consisting of an intersecting moon and sword, was silently glowing.
"However, she's vanished. That power has been inherited by me and Restia—"
"I'll save the details for later."
"...You're right, we have to meet up with Rinslet and the others first."
Kamito stood up.
"B-By the way, Claire..."
Blushing, Kamito turned his gaze to the sky.
"Umm, anyway, I think it's better if you put some clothes on."
Claire frantically summoned Scarlet to cover up her wet chest.
"Y-You got the wrong idea! I-I was using the ritual Nee-sama taught me—"
Claire's twintails jumped.
"She said when the power of darkness devours you, this ritual can suppress it."
Hugging Scarlet, Claire spoke quietly in embarrassment.
(...I see, so that flame really was Claire's fire.)
Kamito figured it out in his thoughts. Her flame element had manifested in Kamito's consciousness after mixing his divine power of darkness together with her own divine power of fire.
All covered in fire, Scarlet instantly dried their uniforms.
Claire stood up and rapidly fastened her skirt.
Kamito turned his gaze away from Claire while she was getting dressed. At the same time, he said:
"...By the way, where are we?"
"Somewhere in the vast forest below Ragna Ys."
Claire looked up at the clear sky.
In the distant sky, fragments of Ragna Ys were floating.
"What on earth happened?"
"I don't know. The Holy Capital suddenly released a beam of light, then that light sliced apart the land of Ragna Ys. We fell into the forest and got separated from the others."
"The Holy Lord's power, huh?"
Previously, the revived Holy Lord had used that power to slice the Demon King City into two.
However, to think that the sturdy ground of Ragna Ys, which even archdemon-class spirits were unable to damage, could be destroyed so thoroughly—
"That is my power, Kamito."
Lying on the ground, the Demon Slayer suddenly spoke.
"Est, what do you mean?"
Kamito frowned. Just then...
Claire pointed at the sky and shouted.
Her gaze was directed at a large demon bird flying in the air.
"Isn't that Simorgh!?"
"Ellis has found us."
Pointing at the sky, Claire quickly recited an incantation.
Numerous small fireballs flew from her fingertips and exploded like fireworks.
Looking quite spectacular but lacking firepower, it was spirit magic for causing diversions.
Ellis apparently noticed it.
Simorgh circled quickly in the air then landed in the forest.
The Holy Capital of Alexandros.
It had manifested where it was almost superimposed with the Elemental Lords' shrine. At its center—
Gates to the Origin had been opened.
Fire Elemental Lord Volcanicus and Earth Elemental Lord Lode Gear.
Shooting up into the sky, the pillars of light had gouged holes in Astral Zero's sky.
Although they were large enough for lower-level angels to descend, they were not enough.
Only when all the Gates had been opened would her wish come true.
Looking down at the wide streets of the Holy Capital, Areishia, i.e. Alexandros, spoke.
"He appears to have been devoured by the Darkness Elemental Lord."
The Holy Lord with the Sacred Maiden's appearance silently turned around.
There was a girl with long silver hair, standing there expressionlessly with her head tilted.
The Sacred Sword—Terminus Est.
After the battle against Demon King Solomon, she had sealed herself in Astral Zero.
However, after obtaining Areishia's physical body, the Holy Lord had reactivated the contract and summoned her.
"She has come to destroy me, I suppose, to destroy me and all of the Elemental Lords—"
"Yes, I sense it too."
"What he holds, is another sacred sword?"
Est shook her head expressionlessly.
"That is another entity, already separated from me."
"—I see, so that is why she did not respond to my contract."
Sacred Maiden Areishia shrugged. Although that Est had apparently gone so far as to betray the original contract and become the Demon King's sword, her power was far inferior to this Terminus Est.
Areishia stared up at the void piercing the sky.
Everything was going according to plan. The Wind Elemental Lord and the Water Elemental Lord were about to open as Gates too.
The Demon King War a thousand years ago, the two Ranbal Wars, the civil war in the Theocracy, the tumult in the Ordesia Empire, in order to destabilize the Elemental Lords who were corrupted by Darkness, she had used the Holy Kingdom to spread chaos in the human realm.
Cardinal Millennia Sanctus, Des Esseintes, Lurie Lizaldia, the Dusk Witch—even the Holuy Kingdom itself—all of them were nothing but instruments for achieving the goal.
In addition, the Holy Lord had obtained the Sacred Maiden's body of flesh, a vessel capable of manifesting him.
"All this was for the purpose of returning there—"
Sacred Maiden Areishia raised her arms towards the sky.
Rumble rumble rumble rumble...!
The ground shook with the sound of an earthquake.
Separating from the ground of Ragna Ys, the Holy Capital slowly began to rise.
Chapter 2 - Counterattack
Carrying Kamito and Claire, Simorgh flew through the air.
Just as Simorgh spread out his wings majestically, suddenly, they were swallowed into an invisible space, vanishing without trace.
Holding on to one wing, Claire cried out in surprise.
Their view kept shifting like a mirage. In the next instant, the demon wind spirit landed lightly.
"Where are we...?"
Kamito looked around them.
Faintly glowing spirits were hovering around them.
There was a red carpet on the floor. Along the stone walls lining the sides of the corridor, there were sculptures of marine creatures.
It was like an aristocrat's mansion.
"This is the belly of the Dire Whale, the Water Elemental Lord's minion spirit."
Saying that, Ellis jumped down from the back of Simorgh.
"A whale spirit? But we never saw it."
"That is because water elemental magic is being used to produce invisibility, to avoid detection."
"This way. Be careful not to touch the wall paintings or else you will end up in another room."
With Ellis leading the way, the group walked along the corridor.
"Claire, you are safe!"
Soon, the trio arrived at a wide-open hall. Fianna and Rinslet greeted them.
"Sorry for making you worry..."
"Everyone is fine. That is so wonderful."
"Yes, I was truly worried there was an accident once we lost you two."
Rinslet wiped away tears with her little finger and hugged Claire tightly.
"W-Wait, Rinslet, sheesh..."
Claire squirmed, looking quite embarrassed, but showed no intention of pushing her away.
"Reicha and the others are currently resting in other rooms. Uh, as for Rubia-sama—"
Fianna looked at Claire, hesitating.
In response, Claire bit her lip hard and nodded slightly.
"...Yes, I have heard from Ellis about my sister."
While fighting the cardinal Millennia Sanctus, Rubia had succeeded in turning the elemental waffe Ragnarok back to the Fire Elemental Lord's form. But before they could even feel relieved, the terrifying beam of light had shattered the ground of Ragna Ys. Together with the Fire Elemental Lord, Rubia had gone missing.
Had she fallen into Astral Zero's forest like Claire, or—
Seeing Claire's shoulders trembling lightly, Rinslet gently placed her arm over them.
"She will be fine. After all, she is Rubia-sama."
"...I-I guess you're right. After all, she is Nee-sama."
Claire nodded vigorously as though to forcefully suppress her worries.
Fianna placed a hand on Claire's shoulder too.
"We must all be hungry, I am sure. Let me make something."
Saying that, Rinslet snapped her fingers and summoned Fenrir.
The table in the hall was packed with food that Rinslet had personally prepared.
Soup boiled with veal bones, bacon and turnip. A souffle made with large number of Laurenfrost local eggs. Stir-fried bean shoots. Marinated whitefish with herbs. Roasted quail with crispy skin and honey sauce on top. Several kinds of mushrooms sauteed with fragrant vegetables. Whole-grain bread. Bread with sweet fruit embedded. Raisin walnut bread. Fresh milk and butter. Desert was homemade bean curd ice cream.
The table was covered with steam rising from the dishes. Waves of aroma went straight into the nose.
Hungry for a while now, Kamito could not help but gulp saliva in anticipation.
"I'm amazed you made so much in such short time."
"Bean curd, bean curd..."
Est, who had been helping with the cooking, had already started eating the bean curd ice cream.
"Est, eating too fast will make your head hurt."
"Do not worry, Kamito."
Saying that, Est expressionless ate spoonful after spoonful of ice cream.
"Another bowl, snack person."
"You already finished!?"
"Your cooking is amazingly delicious after all, Rinslet."
The one who commented was the Water Elemental Lord, sitting quietly on a chair, holding bread in her hands as she spoke. Her mouth was stuffed with bread, causing her cheeks to puff out. Lord Iseria, that's not very good manners, you know?
"We have plenty of bread."
Meticulous in the ways of aristocracy, Rinslet instantly reassured her.
"See, you have crumbs everywhere now."
Saying that, Rinslet held out a handkerchief to wipe the corner of her mouth.
Seeing such a scene, it was hard to imagine that Iseria was the Water Elemental Lord, one of the rulers of Astral Zero.
If the Water Queen Feilei Sin Quina, who was currently resting in another room, witnessed this, she probably would have fainted right on the spot.
Not one to be shy, Kamito started his meal and moved a piece of quail to his bowl.
With its crispy skin, roasted with herbs, then topped with a honey sauce, this Laurenfrost specialty dish deserved no lack of praise.
"What the hell, this is crazy delicious."
"Fufu, I am pleased to know that!"
Hearing Kamito's mumbled praise, Rinslet smiled happily.
"M-Maybe I should learn to cook too..."
Seeing that, sitting on the side, Claire murmured to herself.
"I could teach you, you know?"
"Hwah, you heard that!?"
When Rinslet discreetly whispered in her ear, Claire instantly blushed red to her ears.
"Next time, I shall give this a go too."
"Your Highness, I believe you ought to start with the basics of cooking first—"
"Hold on a minute, Ellis, what do you mean by that?"
Seeing Ellis sigh, Fianna glared at her with dissatisfaction. Ever since Ellis started working as her secretary and bodyguard knight, the two of them had become especially close, probably because they had many more opportunities to interact.
"Darkness spirit, that is my bean curd. Do you wish to be erased?"
"Oh dear, it's all your fault for hogging all the ice cream, Miss Sword Spirit."
"Ah, give it back, darkness spirit—"
Meanwhile, the legendary sacred sword and the demon sword that had inherited Ren Ashdoll's power were bickering amicably too.
Looking like she was teasing a little sister, Restia seemed to be enjoying herself.
(...Everyone's acting the same as usual even though we're clearly on the brink of the final battle.)
While smiling wryly in his thoughts, Kamito dug right into the nourishing feast.
Thus, after filling his belly with food and warming up his body that had gotten cold from the rain...
Kamito told everyone about how the miasma of darkness had devoured him and what Ren Ashdoll's avatar had said.
This included the Otherworld on the opposite of the Gate, the origin of Astral Zero and the true nature of the Otherworldly Darkness, as well as the truth of the Spirit War that had broken out between the Five Great Elemental Lords and the Darkness Elemental Lord.
Then there was the whole story of how he had purified the Otherworldly Darkness corrupting the Darkness Elemental Lord and inherited that power—
"So in other words, the Darkness Elemental Lord has vanished from inside Kamito."
Putting down her teacup, Claire remarked.
"Yeah. She's gone. She left her power to me and Restia—"
Finished with his story, Kamito gazed at his left hand, from which he had removed the leather glove.
"W-Wait a second, hold it right there!"
Suddenly, Ellis stood up and shouted.
"What's with you, Ellis?"
Claire raised an eyebrow with surprise on her face in reaction.
"K-Kamito is the Ren Ashbell-sama!?"
"Eh, that is what got you worked up?"
"S-So you already knew, Your Highness? Claire, you too?"
Claire and Fianna nodded awkwardly.
"I sensed it vaguely too."
Rinslet tossed her hair.
"After all, there was no deliberate effort to hide it."
Hearing Claire's helpless comment, Kamito nodded.
"R-Really? So I am the only one who failed to notice, huh..."
"S-Sorry, uh... It's because I didn't want to ruin your dream."
It was precisely because Ellis was Ren Ashbell's loyal fan that she did not notice the true identity of Kamito, who was right by her side.
Ellis kept staring intently at Kamito's face.
Her cheeks gradually turned red.
"I see some resemblance..."
Her eyes went wide.
"Kamito, please dress up as a girl!"
"Give me a break."
Kamito hastily shook his head.
"Ren Ashbell-sama is Kamito... I-I see..."
After murmuring quietly to herself, Ellis nodded.
"...I understand. I can imagine how you felt. Sorry for my outburst."
"No, I'm the one who needs to apologize..."
Ellis smiled cheerfully, then—
"As for my esteemed sister, I hope to keep this a secret from her for the time being. After all, her feelings towards Ren Ashbell-sama must be quite complicated—"
"No, Velsaria actually realized it long ago."
Tears welled up in Ellis' eyes.
"Eh, putting aside the matter of Ren Ashbell—"
After Claire coughed, Ellis quietly sat down.
"In any case, we will have a huge calamity unless we stop the Holy Lord."
"Yeah, you're right."
The Holy Lord's goal was to steal the authority of angels to recreate this world.
Although they had no idea what the ideal world pictured by the Holy Lord was like, but if the plan came into fruition, the current human realm and Astral Zero would surely be destroyed.
"What's the situation with the Gates at the Holy Capital?"
"Very well, allow me to display."
Iseria pointed into the air. A transparent sphere of water instantly appeared, hovering over the table.
"This sphere is connected to the Dire Whale's eyes—"
The surface of the water sphere changed to project an image.
It was the sunny sky of Astral Zero.
Far in the distance, the Holy Capital floating on the clouds was visible.
"...The Holy Capital flew into the sky?"
"Yes. Kamito-kun, when you two went missing, the Capital separated itself from Ragna Ys."
"Avoiding interference, I'm guessing—"
"...I think so too."
Hearing Claire's whisper, Kamito nodded lightly.
Three beams of light rose up from the center of the Holy Capital hovering in the air.
The first to become a Gate was the Fire Elemental Lord.
Then the remaining two Gates were—
"The Wind Elemental Lord and the Earth Elemental Lord."
Iseria's voice seemed quite sad.
"How can you tell?"
"The blowing wind is unstable and clamoring. Furthermore, the earth is crying. As the Elemental Lords governing the elements lose their power, Astral Zero's balance is beginning to be broken. Next, if my principal body of the Water Elemental Lord were to become a Gate too, the tunnel leading to that Otherworld would likely open completely."
The three pillars of light piercing the sky had generated a gigantic void crevasse.
—A Gate filled with darkness and chaos.
The world origin that had created Astral Zero was already showing a corner of itself.
"Looks like time is running out. We'd best hurry over as quickly as possible—"
"But it isn't that easy, is it?"
Hearing Claire's murmur, Fianna shrugged.
"Indeed. There are militarized spirits guarding the Holy Capital. The Sacred Spirit Knights are also present."
The Holy Kingdom of Lugia's Sacred Spirit Knights. They were the Holy Kingdom's elite military troops under Des Esseintes' direct command.
Even though some of them might have deserted after knowing of the Holy Lord's goal, the vast majority were willing to sacrifice themselves for the Holy Lord.
(...That's quite similar to the fighters at the Instructional School.)
How ironic, Kamito thought.
"Then there is the barrier protecting the city. Also—"
Saying that, Fianna had trouble continuing.
"That sword of light—"
"You mean the Holy Lord's Terminus Est?"
Saying that, Kamito looked down at the Demon Slayer.
The sword of light had shattered the ground of Ragna Ys. One misstep and this Dire Whale could be struck down in one hit.
Kamito gripped his own sacred sword's hilt tightly then...
"I will be the one to take on that sword of light, Terminus Est."
He said slowly.
"Kamito, that's why too reckless. That light was able to—"
Shatter the ground of Ragna Ys into pieces—Before Claire could finish...
Kamito declared firmly and looked at Est.
"Est, can you do it?"
'Yes, Kamito. I am your sword, your wish is my command.'
Est's silver-white blade glowed brightly.
Indeed, it was irrelevant whether the enemy was Est's original body, the strongest spirit weapon, etc.
For Kamito, this Est was the ultimate sacred sword.
"So that's settled. Leave the sacred sword's light to me."
Saying that, Kamito looked around the table.
Claire and Ellis, Rinslet and Fianna, these pairs of girls exchanged a glance.
"...Got it. We leave that light to you."
Hearing that, Kamito nodded forcefully.
"Then it's settled. The codename is 'Operation Turn the Holy Capital in Charcoal'!"
"I will not accept such a codename."
"Hmm, can you not think of something cooler?"
Storming the Holy Capital head on without playing useless tricks.
Just as the team decided on this classic Team Scarlet approach...
"—Wait, all of you."
Restia turned back into spirit form and stopped them.
"What is it, darkness spirit?"
"Indeed, you have become stronger. Compared to the Blade Dance, you have left your former selves in the dust. Nevertheless, the enemy is still powerful. The few of you is not going to be enough."
"...I-I know that, but—"
"—I have an idea."
Restia waved her hand to interrupt Claire's rebuttal.
"Kamito will do this, sharing the Darkness Elemental Lord's power with all of you."
"Miss Darkness Spirit, what do you mean?"
Rinslet raised an eyebrow.
Restia raised an index finger and explained.
"Having inherited the Darkness Elemental Lord's power, Kamito possesses virtually infinite divine power. And there happens to be a ritual for exchanging that divine power with your own. A thousand years ago, Demon King Solomon's concubines increased their power by using that ritual."
"The Darkness Elemental Lord's divine power? Can that really be done?"
Restia paused for a moment then continued.
"The condition for performing that ritual—Darkness Kagura—is that a strong bond must be built between the Demon King and the princess maidens. Otherwise, in the event of failure, they will be devoured by the divine power of darkness."
Claire and the girls exchanged looks.
"...I-It will be fine!"
"No problem at all!"
"A redundant question."
Everyone agreed to it instantly.
"Fufu, you girls are quite confident in your relationship with Kamito, aren't you?"
"O-Of course. Got a problem with that?"
Claire puffed out her flat chest.
"However, you will need to do this, you know?"
Restia chuckled and drew herself next to Claire's ear, whispering.
"...~! Hwaah! Y-You must be lying, we need to go that far!?"
Instantly, Claire's face became bright red.
"Sure enough, this is too much for the little miss hell cat, right?"
Hearing Restia's taunt, Claire gritted her teeth.
"...W-Watch me do it, that Darkness Kagura!"
Pointing at Restia, she declared.
"Fufu, very well."
In response, Restia smiled contentedly and turned her head to the Water Elemental Lord.
"Iseria-sama, could you please prepare a room where we can conduct the ritual?"
Chapter 3 - The Demon King's Darkness Kagura
"—The Water Elemental Shrine is ready. Please gather."
From on top of a glowing magic circle, Iseria Seaward spoke.
She had apparently created a small dimension in the gap between the human realm and Astral Zero. Safian had done something similar at the Demon King City before.
After standing on the magic circle according to her instructions, Team Scarlet's view was obscured by a flash of white light.
In the next instant, Kamito and the girls were tossed into the air, then they fell upon some sort of soft object.
"W-What is this room?"
Kamito looked around him and muttered.
They had fallen on top of a soft and fluffy bed. The bed did not have a canopy. With all kinds of spirit mosaic artwork, it was steeped in fantasy.
The floor, covered with artistic patterned tiles had a clear layer of water on it. Floating on the water was a dense plethora of roses in different colors such as red, white, pink and blue.
Decorating the walls were spirit crystals providing faint illumination to the room. Reflected by the large circular mirror embedded in the ceiling, the light caused the water surface to shimmer brilliantly.
The refreshing fragrance of incense was drifting in the air.
"This room is quite nice, do you agree? I created it based on ancient harems."
Iseria's voice echoed in the room.
"How you use this room is up to all of you. Well then, I shall make myself scarce to avoid getting in the way."
With a chuckle that echoed as it receded away, the Water Elemental Lord's voice disappeared.
"...What is going on?"
Kamito shrugged then turned his head to look back—
Claire and the girls were blushing to their ears, fidgeting awkwardly, exchanging glances with one another.
"W-We have to do it in this kind of place?"
"This is the dimension created by a great Elemental Lord, after all. It is practically flawless for conducting a ritual."
In response to Ellis' murmurs of unease, Fianna raised her index finger and explained.
"Th-That being said..."
"So, how is the ritual performed?"
"H-Hmm... First, a bath for purification."
With a nervous look, Claire read through the scroll that Restia had handed over to her.
After a while, she looked up and stared at Kamito as though she had something to say but was hesitant to say it.
"Uh, should I go away for a bit?"
"Th-That goes without saying... But, despite intentions—"
Claire looked around the Water Elemental Shrine.
Inside the cramped octagonal room, there was not a door in sight.
"...By the way, how do we exit outside?"
"Once the ritual is finished, it'll probably collapse automatically."
Fianna answered Kamito's mundane question.
"...Then what do I do?"
—Don't tell me I'll have to watch them bathe?
"Worry not. I brought this exactly because I guessed something like this might happen."
Fianna took out a black cloth from the bosom of her uniform.
"What is that cloth, Your Highness?"
"A blindfold prepared for Kamito-kun."
Kamito could not help but stare wide-eyed.
"Your Highness, you keep that with you at all times!?"
"Fufu, after all, it is a royal hobby."
Winking, the princess smiled mischievously.
"Oh well, there's no other way. We'll just have to make do with what we have."
Claire coughed lightly and nodded.
"W-Wait a sec, is that really okay?"
"Come on, Kamito-kun, hold still now♪"
"Yes, my apologies, Kamito."
"It is all for the ritual's sake."
Held down by three young ladies, Kamito was thus blindfolded.
The sounds of girls bathing kept entering his ears.
With his vision totally blacked out, Kamito was idling away on the bed like a statue.
(...W-What the heck is this situation!?)
He silently lamented in his thoughts.
The water noises sounded especially seductive right now. The girls' whispers among themselves were echoing inside the shrine.
"...~! I cannot believe I am purifying myself in front of Kamito-san. How embarrassing."
"I-It is fine. His eyes are covered."
"But he can still hear, right?"
"You are worrying too much, Ellis. By the way, it looks so soft♪"
"Hwah, Your Highness, where do you think you are touching!?"
Splash. The sound of water was loud and clear.
"You two, what is with the horseplay during purification?"
"Kamito won't be peeking, will he?"
"...L-Like hell I will!"
Kamito could not help but refute loudly. Well, if he wanted to, all he needed to do was focus divine power in his eyes and he would be able to see, but of course, he was not going to do that.
(But still, so the purification of princess maidens is like this, I see...)
Thinking that, he waited for a while then—
Claire said timidly to him.
"Uh, what do I do?"
"Kamito-kun, just relax."
Hearing Fianna's very cheerful voice, Kamito nodded.
The bed creaked from the weight. The girls' breaths approached him.
"I'm going to take off the blindfold, okay—"
Claire placed her hand on Kamito's face and took away the blindfold with a whoosh.
Under the dim lighting of spirit crystals, what entered his view was—
Girls dressed in only underwear, shy expression on their faces.
In front of him, Claire frantically covered her chest with both arms.
She was wearing embroidered underwear of white silk with lace.
Her chest was petite and cute.
Blushing faintly, her tender skin was all exposed to Kamito's eyes.
Normally tied in twintails, her crimson hair had been let down, spread on the bed like petals of a flower.
Lying by Kamito's side was Fianna dressed in mature black underwear. Notably, portions of her underwear fabric was especially thin, offering a translucent view of her skin color. The panties consisted of extremely tiny fabric, looking as though she might have a wardrobe malfunction from the slightest movement.
"Fianna, isn't that outfit going too far!?"
"Fufu, this is specially prepared underwear exclusive for royals♪"
"How can royals be so shameless!?"
Kamito could not help but throw in a criticism, instantly averting his eyes.
His gaze turned to—
"Kamito... Oooh, this is so embarrassing..."
In underwear, Ellis was so embarrassed that she was at a loss what to do.
Her breasts, normally imprisoned in her Sylphid Knights armor, had been liberated, exposing deep cleavage. Fidgeting with the tips of strands of hair in her ponytail, she looked extremely cute.
Seeing the knight captain with the serious personality like this, Kamito could not help but stare mesmerized—
Suddenly beautiful brown eyes looked up at Kamito.
"U-Uh, I beg you, please stop staring..."
Kamito hurriedly turned his gaze to the side—
This time, he made eye contact with Rinslet, who was wearing water-blue underwear.
Rinslet's underwear was apparently called a babydoll, resembling a flimsy one-piece dress with fluttering lace.
Instantly, Rinslet hid behind Claire's back.
"K-Kamito, I-I am too embarrassed..."
On the bed, she kept drawing circles with her index finger.
Her cheeks were bright red.
"Uh, w-what is this...?"
Faced with the beautiful maidens in underwear with blushing faces, Kamito was at a loss for words.
"T-Time is running out. Let's hurry and start the Darkness Kagura!"
At that moment, Claire seemed to have committed her resolve.
"W-Wait, you're doing it dressed like that?"
Hearing that, Kamito asked frantically.
—Darkness Kagura was a ritual for sharing the Darkness Elemental Lord's divine power with princess maidens.
Kamito had prepared himself mentally for some level of bodily contact, but—
(No one ever told me it was going to be done in underwear, Restia!)
...So that's why the girls made strange faces when Restia was telling them about the details of the ritual.
"Th-The darkness spirit says it must be performed under skin contact."
"W-We are fine! We are committed!"
"Fufu, leave it to us♪ Kamito-kun, just sit back and enjoy."
The four adorable girls pressed themselves against Kamito.
"Hey Kamito, we have a-all prepared ourselves mentally for this—"
Claire clutched Kamito's uniform sleeve tightly.
She sounded extremely serious.
Kamito noticed that the girls had mustered their full courage for the sake of becoming stronger.
To hesitate now would only waste their feelings.
—Kamito committed his resolve too.
Claire's lips pressed against Kamito's neck.
Her kitten-like tongue was licking Kamito's skin.
"Mm... Kamito's sweat, it's salty..."
Her sweet voice whispered in his ear.
Kamito could not help but hold his breath.
Her eyes were in ecstasy.
With delicate movements, she gradually unfastened the buttons on Kamito's uniform.
Her attitude, completely different from usual, made his heart race.
"...! Claire, uh, you don't have to force yourself because of the ritual."
"I-I'm not forcing myself..."
Claire pouted, looking a bit offended.
"G-Give your divine power of darkness to us..."
Saying that, she bit Kamito's neck gently.
The pleasurable pain made Kamito relax, feeling like his entire body was being carried away in ecstasy.
(...My divine power is mixing together with Claire's?)
...Say, is it really okay for her to absorb the divine power of darkness?
"...Mm... Ahmm... Mm♪"
The moist tips of Claire's hair brushed against Kamito's naked skin.
"Ah... Claire... Wait, that place is—!?"
As stimulating as an electric current, the pleasure made him cry out.
Did she find Kamito's reaction amusing? Claire began to seek Kamito's affection like a kitten.
"Fufu, Kamito, how's this?"
Scarlet eyes were looked up at Kamito.
...So cute. To think the Claire he knew could make this kind of expression.
(Is she behaving a bit weird after absorbing the divine power of darkness?)
Just as Kamito was beginning to worry...
"Kamito-kun, I want it too♪"
This time it was Fianna's turn to kiss his naked shoulder.
Her kiss was full of allure, like sucking nectar from a flower.
"Fianna... P-Princess, you can't..."
Clasping Kamito's hand, she stroked him gently with her fingers.
"What does it matter, Kamito-kun? Or do you dislike an indecent princess?"
With a mischievous smile, Fianna blew a breath against Kamito's wrist.
Even though all she was clasping were his fingers, Kamito felt immobilized as though he was under a constriction spell.
Wrapped in black underwear, the royal bust of the princess came down upon him like an avalanche.
"...F-Fianna, i-if this continues... My sanity..."
"I won't stop. This is the Darkness Kagura ritual that will help us become stronger♪"
Chuckling, Fianna placed Kamito's arm into her cleavage.
"Kamito-san, m-me too...!"
Rinslet timidly pressed herself against him.
"Rinslet, over here."
Claire swapped positions with her.
"Uh, umm, I... am not experienced in such affairs..."
Dressed in flimsy sleepwear, Rinslet fidgeted with her hair.
She frowned in distraught, glancing this way and that, with quite an adorable expression on her face.
...Throb, Kamito's heart was racing madly.
"Just clamp your thighs around Kamito-kun's neck and feel his divine power."
Hearing Fianna's suggestion, Rinslet widened her eyes.
"K-Kamito-san, is she serious? It will work just by clamping with my thighs?"
Her face bright red with embarrassment, Rinslet asked.
"N-No way, how can that be possible—"
Before he could finish, Kamito was dragged, laying him out prone on the bed.
"Okay, Rinslet, it'll be easier like this, right?"
Rinslet nodded and seemed to commit her resolve.
"I-Is it like... this?"
Soft. Perfect in suppleness, her thighs gently squeezed against Kamito's neck.
(...Uwah, this is way too comfortable.)
Her skin was as smooth and tender as milk. Her platinum blonde hair brushed against Kamito's cheeks.
The smell of floral scented soap entered his nostrils, intoxicating him.
"K-Kamito-san... Uh, p-please do not move too... Ahh♪"
Kamito was just about to adjust his position, but instantly dared not move.
"Oh my, little miss Laurenfrost is surprisingly bold♪"
"...~! Hauu, Y-Your Highness, I am so ashamed."
With Kamito's neck between her thighs, Rinslet was so embarrassed she began to rub her knees together.
With his head shaken this way and that, Kamito felt completely dazed.
"Jeez, Kamito is such a lech..."
Seeing that, Claire sulked and bit Kamito's collarbone.
At the same time, there was a girl at the bedside, covering her bright red face with both hands.
"Ellis, what is the matter?"
Noticing her, Fianna opened her mouth and asked.
"...~! I-I, uh... Such unseemly behavior..."
While peeking between her fingers at the ritual, Ellis murmured while she squirmed.
"H-How is this unseemly? This is a ritual for getting strong...!"
"B-But Kamito is my idol Ren Ashbell-sama, uh..."
Ellis glanced at Kamito and shyly averted eye contact again.
...I see. So she still had not fully accepted the fact that Ren Ashbell's true identity was Kamito.
"It is alright, Ellis. Come with me♪"
"Y-Your Highness... Hwah!?"
Pulling the timid Ellis by the arm, Fianna dragged her before Kamito.
Wrapped in pink underwear was Ellis' voluptuous bosom, wobbling right before Kamito's eyes.
Normally so gallant and dignified, Ellis was now staring at him with moist corners of her eyes with uncertainty.
Kamito instantly felt his heart shake.
In that instant, divine power of darkness surged, passing through Claire and the girls like an electric current.
"Ah♪" "Mm♪" "Hyah♪"
The three girls moaned and leaned back.
"Ellis, hurry... Take Kamito-kun's divine power—"
"Th-This is not acting indecent..."
She kissed Kamito gently.
Two pairs of lips pressed tightly together. Kamito could even feel the moist sensation of the tip of her tongue. Thrown boldly against him, her body was trembling in embarrassment, sending waves of soft sensations from her breasts through her underwear.
"...Hauu... Rubbing, my chest... It hurts..."
While breathing, Ellis could not help but moan.
"K-Kamito, I-I want it too..."
With eyes filled with passion, Claire sought a kiss from Kamito.
Throb, throb, throb—
As his heart began to beat faster and faster, Kamito's divine power of darkness gradually covered his entire body.
...His consciousness began to grow hazy.
"...C-Crap... I think I'm starting to act weird..."
"Kamito-kun, I want a kiss too."
With looks of longing on their faces, the four girls took turns demanding to kiss with Kamito.
Throb, throb, throb, throb, throb—
(...Th-This is bad—)
Kamito's mind seemed to break somewhere—
His memories ended there.
It almost felt like that nostalgic hearth inside the Elstein castle.
In her hazy consciousness, that was what she thought.
The temperature of fire that she had forgotten for a long time.
Since that day four years ago when she was reborn as an avenger from inferno, the only fire she felt was the anger and hatred in the depths of her heart.
(...Am I... dead...?)
That was the first possibility to come to mind.
...In that case, was this place inferno?
The souls of the dead would return to Astral Zero, turning into divine power for nurturing spirits, finally reincarnating as spirits. In the past, that was what the Divine Ritual Institute taught her, but—
(—I am not worthy, probably.)
Mocking herself in her thoughts, she opened her ruby-like eyes.
A flickering flame entered her view.
No, it was not a flame. Long hair as vivid as a flame.
That red hue was even stronger than her younger sister's hair color, like a blazing conflagration.
Staring at her looking like she was about to cry was a young girl with curved horns.
"Fire... Lord... Volcanicus..."
Rubia parted her lips and whispered that name.
The Fire Lord suddenly widened her eyes, exhaling in relief.
Rubia quietly sat up, only to feel intense pain from every joint in her body. This was the result from using too much power in her fight against the spirit Millennia Sanctus, overdrawing from cursed armament seals.
"—Y-You cannot get up yet!"
The Fire Lord hastily tried to stop her. Ignoring the advice, Rubia asked:
"Where is this?"
She swept her gaze around her.
It looked like a dense forest, with the sky and sun blotted out.
"This is the Spirit Forest. Do you still remember the instant when Ragna Ys was split open?"
"...Yes, I... do."
In the sea of fire, Rubia had liberated the girl in front of her—The Fire Elemental Lord.
In that instant, a pure white flash of light had shattered the ground of Ragna Ys.
Already covered with wounds, she had been caught in the Fire Lord's arms, and then they fell to the ground together.
"My apologies. This is the extent of what I can do since I possess no healing powers."
A swirling barrier of flames surrounded them.
The warm wall's heat wave seemed to have an effect of slowly recovering divine power.
Volcanicus quietly stood up with her back towards Rubia.
Like a blazing fire, her hair wavered lightly.
"—Where are you going?"
Rubia asked, speaking to that petite back.
After a moment's silence, Volcanicus replied.
"—I must stop it."
Her gaze, looking up, was directed at the pillars of light piercing the sky in the distance.
"Are you going alone?"
"Aren't you restrained by the Holy Lord's covenant?"
Volcanicus halted in her steps.
Rubia was not completely certain.
However, she did find it odd that the great Fire Elemental Lord's avatar could be bossed around and used by Millennia Sanctus as an elemental waffe.
"—Indeed, I have unable to defeat the Holy Lord, restrained as I am by an ancient covenant. Nevertheless, I ought to be able to incinerate that Gate."
"A foolish approach. You will only play into the Holy Lord's hands if you go alone."
Volcanicus' shoulders shook.
In response, Rubia quietly held her hand.
"Contract with me again, Volcanicus."
"What did you say?"
With a surprised look, Volcanicus looked back.
"Do know that I am your Queen."
The spirit seal branded on the back of her hand was heating up slightly.
—No matter how many times she had wanted to erase it, the contract's bond remained impossible to get rid of.
"I... I destroyed your homeland."
"Rubia, you still hate me, yes?"
"...Possibly, that may be true."
Rubia spoke with her hand on her own chest.
"Corrupted by that Darkness, you have sinned. That is the truth."
"Hence, atone for your sin. You and I, together, by our own hands—"
Rubia tightened her grip and said.
"—Lend me your power, Volcanicus!"
Chapter 4 - Convergence
After Kamito and the girls entered the Water Elemental Shrine, roughly an hour went by.
Having concluded the Darkness Kagura ritual, the young ladies and Kamito were sleeping on the same bed, snoring away. This was their last chance to rest before the final battle at the Holy Capital.
Kamito carefully sat up to avoid disturbing the girls.
Once again, his entire body was filled with the divine power of darkness that he had depleted at one point during the Darkness Kagura ritual. Evidently, the Darkness Elemental Lord's divine power was practically inexhaustible.
Taking his eyes off the girls in their underwear, Kamito changed into fresh clothing.
"...Mm, Kamito, you're such a lecher..."
Just then, Claire tossed and turned on the bed.
"D-Don't... keep playing with boobs, sheesh..."
...She seemed to be talking in her sleep. What the heck was she seeing in her dream?
(Say, I've done such crazy things to them...)
He felt his back break out in cold sweat.
In fact, Kamito had lost consciousness halfway through the ritual. His memories were still hazy.
However, the sensation of tender skin still lingered vividly on his fingertips. Also, his body was covered with marks from bites and licks.
"—to, hey, Kamito."
Hearing a voice calling to him from behind, Kamito turned his head back forcefully.
The one calling him was Restia with her jet-black wings outspread, landing lightly on the bed.
"Shush, you'll wake them up."
Seeing Kamito cry out, Restia placed her index finger on his lips and spoke softly.
Glaring at Kamito, she looked a little displeased.
"As expected of the Demon King of the Night. I can't believed you took care of everyone at the same time."
"...! The ritual required it, to share divine power to them..."
"Yes, it was required by the ritual, but I think you went a bit too far when you did it to them to the point of losing consciousness."
"Losing consciousness... I did that?"
Kamito looked at the girls sleeping on the bed.
"Sure enough, you don't remember. My goodness, towards the end, I was mulling over whether to stop you."
"...Uh, what did I do?"
"N-Never mind, if you don't remember. Sheesh."
Restia blushed in a rare moment and looked away.
"Kamito is the Abysmal Demon King of the Night."
Just then, Est spoke from her sword form that was leaning against the wall.
"Abysmal Demon King of the Night!? W-What the heck happened!?"
"Looks like it was too much of a shock for Miss Sword Spirit."
Oh dear, Restia shrugged in exasperation.
...How far did he go exactly? Kamito became more and more curious.
"By the way, it's time to wake up Miss Hell Cat and the others."
Restia pinched the sleeping Claire's cheek.
"...Uwah... Kamito... Don't, ah..."
"No, everyone's tired, let them rest a bit longer—"
"I'd like to do that too, but that's not possible."
No sooner had she spoken, ripples appeared on the water covering the floor. Cracks appeared on the Water Elemental Shrine's giant mirror.
"What is going on?"
With this, the sleeping young ladies woke up in alarm.
Restia looked up at the ceiling and said:
"The enemy has found us."
Teleporting back from the Water Elemental Shrine, Kamito and his companions returned to the hall they had last gathered.
The four Queens were already sitting at the table.
"It appears that the Darkness Kagura ritual was a success."
Hearing Iseria's comment, Claire and the girls blushed.
However, they soon regained composure.
"Speaking of which, how is the situation?"
"Hmm, it leaves little room for optimism."
Saying that, Iseria waved her hand towards the water sphere on the table.
Seeing the image of the outside world reflected on the surface, Claire gasped.
Riding Pegasi, second-generation flying militarized spirits, knights were encircling the gigantic body of the white whale that swam through the air as though it were an ocean.
The silver-white armor shining and glittering, paired with crimson capes, were symbols of the Sacred Spirit Knights, elite troops of the Holy Kingdom.
"The Dire Whale is not enough to resist them on its own."
"Can't we escape?"
"It will be very difficult."
Claire's suggestion of retreat was met with Ellis shaking her head.
"The Holy Kingdom's main force of flying militarized spirits far surpass the speed of the Empire's flying ships. Once caught up, they cannot be shaken off by this spirit's flying speed."
After all, Ellis hailed from a family with a long military tradition and was very familiar with all kinds of military intelligence from all nations across the continent. If she asserted so, then there was no way to retreat.
Well-coordinated, eight spirit knights were circling deftly in the air, gradually approaching the white whale, tossing their elemental waffe holy spears like fishing harpoons.
The gigantic white whale roared in pain, struggling violently.
"This is horrible. I feel so much pity for Mr. Whale!"
Rinslet spoke with anger.
"Can't we counterattack?"
Seeing that, Claire asked Iseria.
"Just as you can see, the Dire Whale is a spirit with a gentle personality."
"...! At this rate, we are only waiting to be shot down. I shall strike back."
Ellis picked up her elemental waffe spear and prepared to sortie.
"Wait, going alone is too dangerous!"
Fianna hastily grabbed her arm to stop her.
"But I am the only one able to use flight magic... Kyah!"
The floor of the hall tilted greatly.
The Sacred Spirit Knights' attacks had torn the white whale's pectoral fin.
Ellis cried out and stumbled. Kamito hastily caught her.
"...! This is bad, it appears that we are really going to crash!"
"—A crisis right off the bat..."
The four Queens were huddled together, trembling.
Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom!
A series of explosions were heard.
"...I-Is that cannon fire?"
Claire stared at the water sphere.
The artillery seemed to aiming at the Sacred Spirit Knights rather than the Dire Whale. A couple of spirit knights mounted on Pegasi were unfortunately caught in the blasts and crashed to the ground.
"...Such accurate artillery shots. Who on earth could it be—"
The answer soon emerged.
A gigantic military ship broke through the pure white clouds, sailing through the sky.
On the side of the military ship were countless cannons.
The silhouette of that ship, all covered with steel armor with a sharp battering ram—
"Why is the Revenant here?"
Kamito whispered in surprise.
As the symbol of Legitimate Ordesia, the ship should be moored at the imperial capital.
'—Lad, can you... hear me...?'
Suddenly, the water sphere showed a new image, a face extremely familiar to Kamito.
The face belonged to the Witch of the present, no longer in her prime.
'Muir is here too! Can you see, Onii-sama?'
His adorable adopted sister's twintails jumped energetically in a corner of the image.
"And Muir... Why are you all here!?"
'—We shall explain later. Evacuate to this ship first.'
"Easy for you to say..."
The Revenant was located directly below the Dire Whale.
(...Don't tell me she wants us to jump onto the deck?)
Not that he could not do it, but it would be highly challenging to do so while protecting the four Queens at the same time.
If they were attacked by enemies during the descent, all would be lost.
'—I shall open a Gate right away. Be patient.'
Saying that, Greyworth began to chant void spirit magic, her specialty.
Next, a pitch-black shadow appeared beneath Kamito and company.
'—The Gate will not hold for long. Hurry.'
The hall in the Dire Whale shook again.
Kamito and company exchanged a glance then immediately jumped into the shadow.
After experiencing a dazzling sense of floating...
Kamito slowly opened his eyes, only to find himself standing on solid floor.
It was the familiar deck of the flying ship, the Revenant.
Cannon fire kept thundering, shaking eardrums.
He looked around him and noticed that Claire and the others, who had jumped into the shadow before him, were fallen on the floor.
They probably jumped too hastily and failed their landing.
"Hmm, it really was in the nick of time—"
Kamito looked back to see Greyworth standing, arm crossed, dressed in a suit.
"—Looks like the Queens are safe. I am glad we made it in time."
Saying that, she turned her gaze towards the four Queens sitting collapsed on the floor.
"Dame Greyworth, I never expected to meet you here—"
Faced with the legendary Dusk Witch, Reicha and the rest all acted with reverence.
"Explain to me, old lady. Why is the Revenant here?"
"Because we received a report that you had gone to Astral Zero. Never did I expect you would try to invade the Holy Capital—"
"...I see. Anyway, looks like we lucked out. Thanks."
Hearing Kamito's thanks, Greyworth went hmph and looked away.
"This ship's exterior is different from the Revenant before."
Standing up, Claire raised a question.
Indeed, Kamito remembered the ship was not equipped with such powerful weaponry.
"Yes, the ship is currently merged with Velsaria Eva's Fortress."
In response, Greyworth answered nonchalantly.
"You can do that!?"
"It's military technology first developed during the Ranbal War. Vivian Melosa apparently stole Murder's research results from after the war."
"So this ship's weaponry is essentially my esteemed sister's elemental waffe?"
Ellis looked astonished.
"Rather than weaponry, it would be better to say that the entire ship is under Velsaria Eva's control. She has connected to the drive reactor's spirit crystal, thereby controlling the Revenant."
An adorable voice was heard as a tiny girl ran up to the deck.
It was Kamito's adopted little sister, Muir Alenstarl.
Without slowing down at all, she threw herself headlong into Kamito's bosom, rubbing her face against him.
"Sheesh, Onii-sama, how dare you leave Muir behind and run off!"
"Sorry for making you worry, Muir."
Kamito smiled wryly and stroked his adopted sister's ash-gray hair.
Leaning against Kamito's bosom, Muir kept rubbing her head against him. Next...
"Hmph... Onii-sama, you have other women's smell on you."
With eyes glaring straight at him, Kamito frantically averted eye contact.
Just at that very moment...
"Oh no, look at Mr. Whale!"
Rinslet pointed into the sky and wailed.
Dozens of Sacred Spirit Knights had surrounded the white whale, which crashed slowly in the forest of Astral Zero with a scattering of dots of light.
Despite the giant pectoral fin struggling to rise, it looked like the spirit no longer had the strength to take to the sky.
"Is there any way to help Mr. Whale?"
"Worry not. The Dire Whale is an ancient and powerful spirit. Although it may lose strength and become unable to manifest for a short period of time, it will not be erased permanently."
Seeing Rinslet about to cry, Iseria comforted her.
"Lad, who is this shorty?"
Greyworth raised an eyebrow, asking in surprise.
"Um, that child is the avatar of the great Water Elemental Lord, you know?"
"...W-What did you say?"
Even Greyworth was taken aback with surprise, widening her eyes.
"Given the emergency situation, I shall overlook this insolence for now."
"—Look, the enemy is coming."
Saying that, Claire pointed up.
Perhaps noticing that Kamito and his group had moved, the Sacred Spirit Knights were now targeting them again.
"Then I shall handle this!"
Suddenly, a giant shadow descended from above with a voice.
Kamito looked up, only to see Leonora emerge from the clouds, riding a flying dragon.
The wind blew up her skirt, offering an unrestricted view of her bare bottom.
Kamito hastily turned his gaze away.
Leonora looked down at Kamito from above and smiled.
"Kamito, your power seems to have increased again."
...Impressive as ever. She saw through right away.
"I really want to fight you."
"Any time you want, after we survive this."
"Yes, I know."
Leonora replied happily and vanished among the clouds again.
"Leave the vanguard to Leonora. We will break through from the front and enter the Holy Capital."
"Could the princess and the Queens construct a barrier, please?"
Hearing Greyworth's instruction, Fianna and Reicha nodded.
"Ellis and I will break through from the front.
"I will cover you. I will not let a single enemy through."
"Muir will go too."
"No, you're the trump card for taking care of the big ones."
Pulled back by Greyworth, Muir pouted unhappily.
"Ellis, can your Simorgh carry three people?"
"It is possible, but carrying three people will affect flying speed."
"I see, I was thinking I could join too—"
Claire shrugged with disappointment.
Claire's Flametongue was an elemental waffe for mid-range combat and thus unsuitable for providing support from the back. Unlike Rinslet's ice arrows, her specialty of flame spirit magic was an area-of-effect attack and difficult to target friend and foe separately, and thus unsuitable for chaotic skirmishes.
Even though she had a spirit crystal for levitation, aerial combat would be too much of a stretch.
—Just then, a flaming silhouette emerged behind Claire.
Claire cried out in surprise and turned her head back.
Standing behind her was the spirit weapon in the form of a young girl, with flames all over her body.
This was the hell cat's true identity, Ortlinde the Scarlet Valkyrie.
"S-Scarlet, what's going on? I clearly didn't release your true name...!"
"Through the ritual earlier, your divine power has taken a massive leap in power, Master. Thus, I am able to take this form on my own."
Ortlinde straightened her flaming tail and spoke.
Claire looked down at her own hand. Originally, releasing Scarlet's true name required spending a huge amount of divine power even for an elementalist of Claire's caliber—
(...Did I release her true name subconsciously?)
Evidently, the effects of that ancient ritual of Darkness Kagura really lived up to its reputation.
Or perhaps, the power Kamito inherited from the Darkness Elemental Lord was way too strong?
"At your current level of power, Master, you should be able to use the elemental waffe's second release."
"Could it be that it will allow her to fly?"
"—Yes, I will turn into the elemental waffe pictured in Master's thoughts."
Elemental waffen were weapons materialized from the soul form of elementalists. Although they were not identical to what one imagined, they did not differ too far either.
"G-Got it. Let me try."
Claire took a breath and faced Ortlinde with a nervous look.
It was like looking at a mirror. Two girls with crimson long hair brought their hands gently together.
—O guardian of crimson flames, watchman of the sleepless furnace!
—Turn into my ideal form according to the contract of blood!
Instantly, Ortlinde turned into fire and covered Claire's entire body.
Rinslet could not help but worry.
The flames surrounding Claire roared—
Everyone present was astonished.
Claire emerged, clad in shining crimson armor.
Like an avatar of flame, that appearance like a valkyrie's—
"Elemental waffe, second release—Einherjar!"
Flames spewed out from the back of the armor like a pair of outspread wings.
"You have obtained the power of flight, Master."
"No, it is your talent, Master, for bringing out my power as a spirit weapon."
Claire gently kicked against the floor and her body began to float up.
"Will you be able to get used to it?"
"I'll get used to it through actual combat."
Hearing Kamito's question, Claire nodded.
"I cannot lose either—Simorgh!"
Ellis summoned her demon wind spirit too.
With the gathering of particles of light, a gigantic sacred bird took form.
"...! Looks even more impressive than usual!"
"The feathers are giving off iridescent light!"
"There is a crown on his head."
Claire, Rinslet and Fianna widened their eyes in amazement.
The summoned Simorgh glowed with the light of divine power, displaying an appearance worthy of a sacred bird's.
Normally the terrifying face of a bird of prey, his face now looked stern and dignified, perhaps a matter of psychological effect?
"Simorgh, so this is your original form—"
Ellis stroked his bright feathers. Simorgh cooed in joy.
"Onii-sama, how did everyone become stronger?"
Muir looked suspiciously at Kamito.
Hearing that, Kamito instantly panicked. The girls also avoided eye contact.
"—Rinslet, allow me to lend you some power too."
Just then, Iseria Seaward clasped Rinslet's hand.
"Stay still, it will be over soon."
Iseria closed her eyes and gently kissed the back of Rinslet's left hand.
"I-Iseria-sama, isn't this a spirit contract!?"
Rinslet widened her eyes in shock.
In response, the Water Elemental Lord smiled—
In the next instant, she vanished into particles of light.
"...E-Excuse me, Iseria-sama?"
'I am here, Rinslet.'
Instantly, the ice rose seal on Rinslet's left hand glowed with blue light.
'I might as well stay here since I will be nothing more than a burden on the deck. In this state, Fenrir's power ought to be amplified greatly too.'
"An Elemental Lord personally came to this seal, this is too great an honor..."
Hearing Iseria's explanation, Rinslet seemed a bit troubled.
"There is no time. Let us set off for the Elemental Lord's shrine!"
"Yes, you are right—"
The Sacred Spirit Knights had entered formation and kept approaching from the front.
Kamito gathered divine power in the spirit seals of his left and right hands.
The ultimate sword spirit and darkness spirit. The two seals glowed.
"—This is the final battle."
"—Target locked, over there."
On a side cliff of the shattered Ragna Ys—
The special agent of the Sacred Spirit Knights, Ayla Cedar, pointed to the clouds in the distant sky.
She was an expert in tracking and searching. Using traces of divine power left behind by elementalists, she was able to lock onto the positions of targets.
Hearing her subordinate's report, Luminaris Saint Leisched nodded and slowly drew out the sacred sword Murgleis from her waist.
The sword was giving off a mysterious glow.
Ren Ashbell was on the other end of the sky.
"Luminaris-sama, we too shall..."
Stopping her subordinates who wanted to accompany her, Luminaris shook her head.
"This is my stubborn decision. I shall go alone."
She turned around, her beautiful blonde hair billowing in the wind.
Residing in her blue eyes was powerful determination.
Paladin Luminaris—One of the Holy Kingdom's famous and powerful spirit knights.
Since childhood, she had been educated as a holy knight, to offer her to her home country.
Even if the Holy Lord wished to destroy the world, even after being abandoned by her country after failing her mission, she still remained loyal to the Holy Kingdom the whole time. However, during the Blade Dance, she had received the mission to capture the darkness spirit.
Hence, her wish for a rematch with her could not be realized.
(...Since the world is coming to an end, ultimately, I wish to settle things with that man.)
Neither for her family's honor nor for a knight's pride, nor for her country.
Purely out of her own wish, she wanted to blade dance against Ren Ashbell, the Strongest Blade Dancer.
Luminaris looked up at the gigantic Gate penetrating the sky.
"I failed to impress you during the Blade Dance tournament, but—"
With both hands, she raised up high the long sword shining with silver light.
"O Elemental Lords, I shall now offer to you my supreme blade dance."
Chapter 5 - Chaotic Aerial Battle
Carrying Kamito and Ellis, the flying demon wind spirit let loose a howl that tore through the air.
The thunderous sound turned into a supersonic blade, slashing at the Holy Kingdom's militarized spirits.
Flying through the air while scattering particles of light, Simorgh's gallant form looked like a legendary-class spirit.
"So this is Simorgh's true power!?"
Sitting on the back of the giant sacred bird, Kamito could not help but exclaim.
He knew Ellis' Ray Hawk was a powerful elemental waffe, but he never imagined the spirit form to exhibit such strength too—
"Simorgh, it looks like you can finally bring out your true strength."
With her blue ponytail fluttering in the wind, Ellis stroked Simorgh's strong and thick neck.
Simorgh happily crowed and accelerated with a flap of his wings.
Naturally, the dramatic increase in power of the contracted spirit was inseparable from her own talent.
Ellis was exuding astounding divine power from all over her body.
"Ellis, let's charge in all at once."
Hearing the scream from behind, Kamito and Ellis looked back at the same time.
"...What is she doing?"
Ellis murmured with puzzlement.
Clad in crimson armor, Einherjar, Claire was spinning randomly around the Revenant, leaving a trail of fire behind her.
"Looks like she hasn't gotten used to using her elemental waffe's second release."
"...I see. After all, flying in the air is difficult for someone without an affinity for the wind element."
"Oh well, she will get used to it soon enough. She is a genius after all."
"Yes, that's true."
Kamito decided to ignore the out-of-control Claire for now.
After all, with Leonora present, they should be okay.
"—Let us go, Kamito. Hold on tight."
Facing forward, Ellis spoke sternly.
The elite troops of the Sacred Spirit Knights, in formation in front of the Holy Capital, initiated a charge.
The spirit knights were wearing shining silver-white armor.
They were riding winged military horses—Pegasus, the militarized spirit for aerial combat.
These were second-generation militarized spirits also used by the Ordesia Empire's Airborne Knights.
Although these military horses were not as durable as dragon spirits, their speed made them quite difficult to deal with.
However, there was no hesitation in Ellis' eyes as she controlled Simorgh.
After all, she was now riding the fastest wind spirit in Astral Zero.
"—O legendary demon bird that devours the wind, hunt mine enemy!"
A cyclone was generated. With Ellis pouring divine power into him, Simorgh flapped his wings and swiftly soared, charging straight for the Sacred Spirit Knights' ranks.
The instant they crossed, Simorgh's sharp claws tore apart the winged horses' wings.
The Sacred Spirit Knights' formation was disrupted. Even though the captain issued orders to attack, Simorgh had already disappeared from view.
A sacred knight called out.
Like a blade of wind, Simorgh tore through the clouds and charged at the knights again.
"Kamito, do not fall off!"
Holding onto Kamito's arm, Ellis pushed him to lean further forward for a lower stance.
Her blue hair, which seemed to meld with the sky, was fluttering wildly in the wind.
The Sacred Spirit Knights readied their elemental waffen spears to intercept the charge.
Erecting a formation of spears, they chanted spirit magic.
This was multiple invocation of the supreme holy spell—Last Judgment.
(...! Spell superposition is the Sacred Spirit Knights' specialty.)
Kamito immediately made the call and grabbed Ellis by the sleeve.
In that instant, the sacred knights raised their spears to release blinding brightness, shooting countless blades of light.
Simorgh instantly swerved hard to turn around.
Faced with a rain of light blades, Simorgh weaved through them to evade.
The flashes of light brushed past his wings, causing white feathers to scatter in the air.
"—! The second wave is coming."
Looking down below, Ellis said.
"Leave it to me—"
With one arm securely holding onto Ellis' waist, Kamito used his other hand to draw out the Vorpal Sword.
From the jet-black blade that no light reflected from, Kamito poured in divine power of darkness to produce dim light.
"Let's go, Restia—"
Responding to Kamito's voice, the blade erupted with violent black lightning.
"O demon lightning of annihilation, pierce mine enemy—Vorpal Blast!"
With a flash of black light, jet-black lightning raced through the air, striking the Sacred Spirit Knights who had their spears raised.
A direct hit from the black lightning attack caused several Pegasus spirits to vanish into particles of light, leaving their sacred knight riders to fall. Losing control, the activation of Last Judgment failed.
"Ellis, let's charge again before they regroup their formation!"
The instant Ellis nodded...
A shadow suddenly descended from overhead. Kamito looked up.
"—I found you!"
Emerging from between the clouds was a paladin wielding a silver-white holy sword.
Instead of a Pegasus, she was riding a Griffin, a flying militarized spirit from an older era.
"—Fight me, Ren Ashbell!"
Riding her Griffin, Paladin Luminaris charged downwards at Kamito.
"W-Wait, Scarlet, I can't fly!"
'Calm down, Master... Meow!'
Weaving through the curtain of projectiles fired by the Revanant, Claire was flying haphazardly.
Intense flames were pouring out in the form of wings.
The flames traced out a curve in the air. Just when Claire thought she would stop at last, she accelerated all at once, almost getting shot by Velsaria's full barrage by accident.
The elemental waffe Einherjar's immense power was making her spin in circles.
"Stop, Scarlet! Or else you'll get nothing but dried fish for dinner!"
Although Claire shook her twintails and shouted loudly, the out-of-control flames did not stop.
With an unbalanced posture, she rushed out all at once—
Just as she flew past a sacred knight, she knocked the knight off her Pegasus.
She felt the impact. However, protected by Einherjar, Claire was completely unharmed.
'...Uh, Master, we are surrounded.'
Surprised, Claire looked around her, only to see the Holy Kingdom's knights had encircled her.
Claire instantly readied Flametongue.
However, it was too late. The sacred knights all chanted spirit magic of light at the same time.
'Master, deploy Fire Wall—'
"...! No, there's no time!"
Claire tried firing her back thrusters to evade. However, her elemental waffe did not respond.
Just as the countless spears of light were going to pierce Claire—
In that very instant...
"O freezing fangs of ice, pierce—Freezing Arrow!"
Shining arrows of ice poured down from the clouds, shooting down the spears of light all at once.
Shattered fragments of transparent ice danced in the air like diamond dust.
Surprised, Claire looked behind her.
Rinslet was standing there gallantly with her bow drawn and arrow notched, on the deck of the flying ship.
"No way, I can't believe she shot down everything, from that far away—"
"Hmph, this is my second release—Hróðvitnir!"
Rinslet's platinum blonde hair fluttered in the wind.
Held in her hand, her longbow was glittering like blue ice.
The length of the bow even surpassed her height, allowing her to notch as many as five arrows simultaneously.
"Demon ice spirit Fenrir, demonstrate your power!"
At Rinslet's command, the longbow curved greatly.
With the release of her fingers, the ice projectiles unleashed from the bowstring poured down like a rainstorm.
The rain of arrows accurately pierced the wings of the militarized spirits. Losing their mounts the sacred knights screamed and fell.
Seizing this opportunity, Claire fired her back thrusters and increased her altitude in one go to escape encirclement.
Although Rinslet probably could not hear her, Claire still expressed her gratitude.
On the deck, Rinslet tossed her hair.
—Claire Rouge, my rival, is this the best you can do?
Her lips seemed to be saying that.
"...! I can't lose to her."
Claire bit her lip. Tranquil flames rose up in her ruby-like eyes.
She closed her eyes and focused quietly.
She poured divine power into Flametongue in her hand.
She poured in the Demon King's power that she had received from Kamito.
Instead of trying to control the blazing flame in her heart, she imagined herself as fire itself.
'Master, incoming attack—'
Scarlet's voice sounded in her mind.
Hearing that, Claire immediately opened her eyes and swung Flametongue.
"All of you, turn into charcoal!"
A crimson slash swept across the sky—
The incoming spears of light, as well as the sacred knights behind them, every last one was struck down.
"—Fight me, Ren Ashbell!"
A body of a lion and the wings of an eagle.
Luminaris' mount, the Griffin, launched a surprise attack from overhead.
"...! An ambush!?"
Ellis widened her eyes in surprise.
Simorgh twisted his massive body, trying to evade the attack.
However, Luminaris swung her holy sword, leaving a deep wound on the demon wind spirit's wing.
Feathers of pure white scattered in the air like petals.
Ellis cried out.
Losing balance due to the wounded wing, Simorgh circled while gliding through the air.
The pressure of gravity increased all at once, almost causing Kamito to fall off.
"...! O wind!"
Ellis chanted wind magic to produce a small rising air current, lifting one wing.
"Ellis right above!"
The shadow of a gigantic magic beast appeared silently overhead.
(...She's catching up to Ellis' Simorgh!?)
Sacrificing stability as a trade-off, Luminaris' mount—an older generation militarized spirit, the Griffin—was somewhat faster than the Pegasus. Be that as it may, this speed was too—
(Nothing less expected from the Holy Kingdom's strongest knight, huh?)
It was combat instinct built upon abundant battle experience.
Predicting what Ellis would do after evading the initial attacks, Luminaris had circled around in advance.
"—O Wind, sweep away mine enemies, Wind Bombs!"
Ellis immediately released spirit magic to intercept Luminaris.
However, Luminaris used her holy sword to slice apart the howling gale.
Murgleis glowed with brilliant holy light.
Kamito blocked the potent sword strike.
However, even though he blocked the sword, it was not enough to dissipate the force.
Kamito was not sitting very securely to begin with, and ended up blown away into the air by the impact.
Ellis stretched out her hand but could not reach him.
After leaving the effective range of the wind barrier, he instantly fell with gravity's pull.
(...! I'll fall to my death at this rate... I have to take a gamble!)
Whiling falling, Kamito closed his eyes and concentrated, circulating divine power of darkness throughout his body.
It was possible in theory, but he had never actually tried it.
However, Kamito as he was right now was confident.
Opening all the circulating channels in his body, he released refined divine power in one go.
In that instant, Kamito's body emitted black light and suddenly stopped in midair.
"Ha, only after trying do I realize it's easier than I imagined."
Remaining suspended in midair, Kamito muttered.
Ellis and Luminaris both exclaimed in surprise.
"Impossible. To hover in midair simply by releasing divine power without relying on the power of spirits—!?"
"There is nothing to be surprised about. It's just a physical technique that uses divine power."
Among the assassination techniques learned by Kamito at the Instructional School, there was a move named Water Lily that enabled unfettered movement in water. This counted as a versatile application of it.
Of course, though it was easy for Kamito to say, hovering in the air through the release of divine power was an act requiring high levels of concentration and precise control, and impossible to execute without vast amounts of divine power.
No elementalist could achieve it apart from Kamito who possessed all the necessary requirements.
"Although I still need to put in some work to get used to it, there happens to be some to practice with—"
Readying his black and white swords in a stance, he boasted arrogantly.
"...! Damn you—!"
Luminaris intensified her blood lust.
"Ellis, it looks like she wants a duel with me. Leave this to me."
"Are you going to be okay?"
"Yeah, I'm entrusting the ship to you."
After a moment's hesitation...
Ellis disappeared into the clouds, riding Simorgh.
Her firm trust in Kamito was very evident.
She strongly believed that Kamito would not lose—
Luminaris did not even glance at Ellis as she left the battlefield.
She only had eyes for Kamito—Ren Ashbell, the Strongest Blade Dancer she had crossed swords with three years ago.
From intensity of her gaze, Kamito could feel her determination.
"Sorry, there's not a lot of time. Bring it on, Luminaris."
"Here I come, Ren Ashbell!"
The holy light emitted by the elemental waffe Murgleis turned the sky white.
"Oh dear, my disciple is becoming less and less human."
On the deck of the Revenant, Greyworth smiled wryly.
She was watching Kamito and Luminaris performing an airborne blade dance. Even back in her prime, Greyworth most likely would not have been able to move in the air like Kamito by releasing divine power.
"...! The ship's barrier has been breached!"
Queen Reicha's voice resounded across the deck. Riding military steeds, the sacred knights used their elemental waffen to slice open the barrier, storming into the ship one after another.
Muttering, Greyworth calmly drew out her demon sword, Vlad Dracul.
The bloodstained demon sword glowed ominously.
"Our opponent is the Dusk Witch. Attack, all three of us!"
"Hmph, I'm being underestimated."
The flash of a crimson slash. The sacred knights attacking from three different directions, together with their militarized spirit mounts, were instantly chopped down.
Absolute Blade Arts, Third Form—Shadowmoon Waltz, Asura.
—This was an anti-personnel Absolute Blade Art designed for one-to-many combat.
Greyworth looked down at the unconscious sacred knights.
"I held back too."
She sighed, murmuring to herself.
The Dusk Witch had slain many elementalists during the two Ranbal Wars in the past.
Back then, she would not have offered any mercy to enemies attacking with the intent to kill.
Just as she withdrew her demon sword, she felt a bone-splitting pain in her wrist.
"Sure enough, this body can't execute the Absolute Blade Arts fully, huh?"
Greyworth spoke in self-mockery.
On the eve of the Blade Dance tournament's final round, when she had passed on the ultimate technique, Last Strike, to Kamito, her body had been injured to the point of practically losing all combat ability.
"...! Charge, chop off the witch's head!"
Another two sacred knights breached the barrier and charged at Greyworth.
They showed no fear even when facing the Dusk Witch.
They were not afraid of sacrificing themselves for the Holy Lord.
She whispered, pouring divine power into the demon sword gripped tightly in her hand.
With the sound of thunder akin to a giant dragon's roar, a flash of lightning pierced the sacred knights.
Greyworth frowned and looked up.
"Am I interfering unnecessarily, Dame Greyworth?"
A giant shadow appeared on the deck, accompanied by a strong gust of wind.
It was Leonora Lancaster, riding her jet-black dragon spirit, Nidhogg.
"The dragon lass, huh..."
Greyworth looked surprised.
She was supposed to be responsible for the enemies on the starboard side—
"Enemies on starboard are all annihilated."
Hearing Leonora's swift response. even Greyworth could not help but raise an eyebrow.
The Sacred Spirit Knights were undoubtedly the Holy Kingdom's strongest elite troops.
(And yet singlehandedly, she—)
Leonora's eyes had turned blood-red.
She had activated Dragon Blood, the ability native to dragon elementalists.
"You have improved much, compared to that time, dragon lass."
"Yes, I am much stronger."
Leonora acknowledged it simply.
Previously, the two of them had fought at the Dragon's Canyon in Dracunia.
Although her memories from that time remained unclear, Greyworth remember severely injuring Leonora with one strike of the sword when she tried to defend the Dragon King.
(According to rumors, contractors of dragon spirits would become stronger every time they recovered from near-death—)
But Greyworth never expected that the divine power she was sensing from Leonora would be powerful enough to make the air shake.
"I hope for a chance to have a rematch with you, Dame Greyworth."
"I am ready any time, dragon lass—"
Greyworth stabbed her demon sword into the floor and smiled fearlessly.
"But my disciple is who you really want to fight, right?"
Leonora shrugged and looked out into the distant sky.
Her gaze was directed at Kamito, shrouded in the divine power of darkness, currently in an intense aerial blade dance, fighting Paladin Luminaris who was riding a militarized spirit.
Luminaris Saint Leisched.
The runner up at the Blade Dance three years ago, the Holy Kingdom's strongest elementalist.
Reflected in her ice-blue eyes was the image of Ren Ashbell, superimposed upon Kamito.
Luminaris' mount, the Griffin, dashed downwards all at once.
The elemental waffe Murgleis glowed with blinding light.
Confronted with a heavy sword attack from above, Kamito blocked using the Demon Slayer.
A clash of blades. Metallic noise echoed.
The impact spread throughout the atmosphere, sweeping away the surrounding clouds.
While releasing divine power to maintain his state of flight, Kamito counterattacked in the meantime.
However, the Vorpal Sword, shrouded in dark light, was deflected by her holy sword.
(...She's very strong.)
Kamito admitted in his heart.
Luminaris was using the very pinnacle of knightly swordsmanship. Her performance at the Blade Dance was below par probably because she prioritized executing the Holy Kingdom's mission.
This swordsmanship was Luminaris going all out.
Her true ability, what Ren Ashbell had experienced three years ago.
Of course, compared to three years ago, her swordsmanship had improved substantially.
Most likely, she must have gone through grueling training, for the sake of a rematch against Ren Ashbell on the Blade Dance stage. A single round of combat was enough for Kamito to understand this.
"You have improved, Luminaris."
"Cut the small talk!"
With an angry roar, Luminaris swung her holy sword down.
The brilliant holy light sliced through the divine power of darkness on Kamito's body.
Murgleis was a holy sword with ultimate anti-darkness properties, capable of neutralizing Restia's darkness magic.
While parrying the slash, Kamito released divine power and pulled back to create some distance.
Fighting while releasing divine power in the air was like performing acrobatics.
The divine power that ought to be fully concentrated in the elemental waffen was diverted.
The Griffin spread its wings and roared threateningly.
Faced with the incoming sword strike, Kamito blocked with a sword again.
Sparks flew intensely as the blades clashed.
"Luminaris, the Holy Lord intends to destroy the world, you know?"
Unlike the Sacred Knights following the Holy Lord with blind loyalty, her eyes shone with her own noble light.
"I know, this is me being stubborn—"
Luminaris poked fun at herself.
"Before this world disappears, I wish to leave behind proof that I have lived, as a knight. Namely, a blade dance with you, Ren Ashbell!"
The holy sword in Luminaris' hand glowed with stronger brightness.
(...An elemental waffe's second release!?)
"Crush and pulverize, O light of Carbuncle—Sante Luminus!"
Luminaris attacked with all her might.
Kamito could have evaded, but he chose to take on the sword.
It was a righteous and regal sword.
The clear and pure light was blinding.
"—So this is your sword, Luminaris."
—Her determination. Her pride as a knight. Kamito could feel all of it.
He responded based on what he had felt.
"Absolute Blade Arts, Seventh Form—Biting Dragon!"
The attack flashed, like the ascension of a flying dragon through the sky.
It was an anti-air Absolute Blade Art.
Originally, it was not meant to be executed while one was in midair.
However, Kamito had forcibly performed it, fully releasing the divine power of darkness.
His sacred sword's blade—
Severed Murgleis and penetrated her silver-white armor.
Luminaris smiled faintly.
The final Absolute Blade Art, it was his farewell of sorts.
Luminaris fell towards the Holy Capital.
But given her abilities, she should be fine.
Kamito threw a glance in that direction. Just then...
Instantly, he sensed an astounding power in the center of the Holy Capital, rapidly expanding.
"...! Est! Restia!"
—At the center of Alexandria the Holy Capital...
A flash of light shot out from a pure white tower, severing clouds, tearing the sky apart.
Kamito's figure was swallowed in the sword of light.
On the deck with her elemental waffe deployed, Fianna screamed.
It was the same light from the sacred sword that had shattered the land of Ragna Ys.
The scene was replayed in her mind.
Her emotional turmoil caused cracks in the barrier surrounding the flying ship.
(...No, I must pull myself together!)
He will surely be fine.
Fianna encouraged herself and focused her attention on maintaining Save the Queen.
"Senpai, we are about to make contact with the Holy Capital's barrier! Five, four, three—"
Reicha raised her voice.
The Holy Capital's city gate loomed near.
The Revenant's battering ram struck the transparent barrier covering the Holy Capital, producing sparks.
"Then we will ram it just like that! Raise the barrier to the maximum!"
" " " "Yes!" " " "
The four Queens replied simultaneousluy.
Mocked as the Lost Queen in the past, she was now directing the Queens in battle.
Back in the days when she locked herself away in the castle and refused to come out, she never would have imagined the arrival of such a day.
It was Ren Ashbell's blade dance that had changed her.
It was him who had given her the strength to pull herself together.
She was worried about Kamito, but now was not the time to be distracted.
(Kamito-kun did entrust matters over here to me!)
Sparks flew. The Revenant's hull was being deflected by the barrier.
"...! As expected of the Holy Capital's barrier. It is no pushover—"
"Fianna-senpai, the flying ship's output has dropped!"
Reicha cried out.
The barrier was interfering with the drive reactor's spirit crystals.
Velsaria, in charge for controlling the military ship, was presumably taking on a lot of physical strain too.
(...! I have to take a gamble.)
Fianna drew out her elemental waffe rapier that was stabbed in the floor.
She pointed the tip at the Holy Capital's wall.
Seeing Fianna walking towards the ship's bow, Reicha tried to stop her.
"Do not worry. Reicha, you and the others keep maintaining the barrier—"
However, Fianna remained unfazed and walked over there.
"—Knight spirit Georgios of the royal house, demonstrate your true power!"
The rapier exploded with the light of divine power.
Elemental waffe second release—Crimson Glory.
The protective power of Save the Queen was concentrated on the rapier's tip as the light of destruction.
Released, the holy light pierced the barrier, tearing a huge opening in it.
—However, the barrier did not disappear.
At this rate, it would probably recover soon.
Fianna took out two small jewel fragments from her bosom.
Spirit crystals as red as blood.
(I wanted to use these as ultimate weapons on the Holy Lord himself—)
Blood Stones were top-level spirit crystals that only came from the sacred sanctuary of Astral Zero.
When setting off from the imperial capital, she had secretly taken these ultimate treasures of the Ordesia imperial family.
The last time she released this spirit, it almost destroyed the Gado mine.
"—Protect the ship, everybody!"
"—Thou art the sword of punishment that buries darkness, holy lord of destruction, Magna Carta!"
Aiming at the breach in the barrier, she unleashed the power of the Blood Stone.
The released power of holiness and purity broke the Holy Capital's barrier.
"The barrier has vanished. Charge!"
The Revenant's battering ram smashed through the city wall and entered the capital.
Having exhausted her divine power and collapsed on the floor, Fianna looked up at the sky.
The gigantic sword of light, enough to pierce the sky, swung straight down.
It was the blade of Terminus Est, the ultimate spirit weapon.
The torrent of blinding light swallowed Kamito's body.
Kamito released all of his divine power of darkness to take on the sword of light.
"Est, can you hold!?"
His view turned pure white. In the vicious torrent, Kamito cried out.
'—Yes... Kami... to—'
Est's voice replied in his mind, almost inaudible due to interference from the surrounding noise.
From the blade of the Demon Slayer came the sound of cracks.
Est alone won't hold.
Kamito made a split-second decision and pressed the demon sword of darkness against the sacred sword's blade.
The sword spirit of steel and the darkness spirit. The two crossed swords pushed back the torrent of light.
The erupting holy light tore apart the divine power of darkness on Kamito's body.
He felt the intense pain of scorched skin all over his body. It was unbearable.
However, Kamito could not take even a single step back. If he failed to block, the descending sword of light would probably split the Revenant into two.
'Kamito, wear this—'
Restia summoned a piece of black fabric out from thin air.
Shaped like the dark night, the black garment draped over Kamito's body like an overcoat.
It was the Robe of the Lord, inherited from Solomon himself at the Demon King City. This legendary artifact, possessing top-level magic resistance, emitted dark light that protected Kamito.
(...Restia, you saved me—!)
Clad in the black garment, Kamito entered an Absolute Blade Arts stance in midair.
He focused divine power on both swords, swinging the crossed swords in one go.
"Absolute Blade Arts, Alternate Form—Shadow Mirror Dead Water!"
It was a counterattack sword skill derived from the Last Strike, the ultimate mystic technique.
The flash of the blade was like a mirror, reflecting power back—!
The sound of glass shattering resounded all around,
The sword of light cracked, turning into countless shooting stars pouring down on the forest in the land below.
The sound of explosions kept happening. Massive pillars of fire rose from the forest.
"...! What amazing destructive power...!"
Panting, Kamito groaned.
Turned into a tattered rag, the Robe of the Lord completely vanished into the wind.
This was the power of the legendary spirit weapon, Terminus Est.
Staring at the Holy Lord Palace at the center of the Holy Capital—
Kamito fell just like that.
Having released all of his divine power in one go, he had lost the power to remain in midair.
The instant he fell, someone grabbed his arm.
He looked up, only to see Ellis riding Simorgh.
"Ellis... Sorry, looks like you saved my life—"
"...Yes, I am glad you are fine."
Pulled up by Ellis, Kamito grabbed onto one of Simorgh's wings.
Flying next to them was Claire with her wings of fire.
"Fianna seems to have destroyed the barrier."
Looking down, they could see that the Revenant had broken the city wall and rammed into the city.
"We should head over there too."
Ellis nodded. Just then...
Thunderous rumbling shook the whole surroundings.
"...! What is that!?"
Chapter 6 - Decisive Battle at the Holy Capital
"Kyahh, w-what happened?"
Due to the sudden impact on the ship, Rinslet lost balance and fell on the floor.
Fenrir ran circles around her in concern.
Having rammed into the Holy Capital, the Revenant had stopped in midair as though it were stuck.
"The ship stopped. What is going on?"
Standing on the deck, Fianna raised an eyebrow and looked behind her.
Blocked by clouds of dust, visibility was quite bad.
It was practically impossible to see what the situation was like outside the ship.
With worried expressions, the four Queens were gathered together.
"Did the drive reactor malfunction?"
Rinslet stood up and patted dust off her skirt.
Perhaps the drive reactor had sustained some kind of damage when the ship crashed through the barrier.
However, what was that impact just now?
"Iseria-sama, standing there is very dangerous."
Just then, Rinslet saw Iseria standing on the railing on the deck.
The Water Elemental Lord's avatar was staring into the clouds of dust with a serious expression on her face.
"...! This presence, could it be—"
Iseria widened her eyes, murmuring to herself.
"Hey, what the heck happened?"
Originally standing by inside the ship, Muir came up to the deck. Greyworth was with her too.
"Velsaria, is the drive reactor alright?"
Greyworth took out a spirit crystal for communications.
Divine power resonance produced some static. Soon there was a reply.
"The drive reactor is not malfunctioning, but—"
"Directly below the ship, there is some kind of giant entity—"
Just as Greyworth asked...
There was a noise from the ship being squeezed. The ship was also tilting greatly.
" " " "Kyahhhhhhhhh!" " " "
"Grab the railing, everybody!"
Fianna shouted to the fearful Queens.
"Iseria-sama, over here!"
Rinslet caught the Water Elemental Lord's arm and embraced her.
Suddenly, a large shadow with outspread wings appeared overhead.
It was a giant flying dragon, all covered with jet-black scales.
Leonora's dragon spirit, Nidhogg.
"—There seems to be something directly beneath the ship!"
Riding the dragon, Leonora warned.
Nidhogg flapped its wings hard and spun in a circle, blowing away clouds of dust.
"...! That is!?"
Leaning out from the deck, Fianna widened her eyes.
Once the dust cleared, what appeared in her view was—a gigantic arm.
A gigantic hand made of rock had caught the Revenant in a firm grasp.
"W-What is that thing!?"
"...Could it be a strategic-class militarized spirit!?"
Fianna held her breath.
After the Ranbal War ended, there were seven powerful militarized spirits that had been sealed away and scrapped under the terms of the continental treaty.
To think that something of that sort had been lying dormant at the Holy Capital?
"No, you are mistaken—"
Iseria disagreed clearly.
The Water Elemental Lord only finished half her sentence.
There was a noise from the ship getting flattened.
"T-The ship cannot hold!"
"...! Abandon ship!"
Rinslet hastily pointed out. Putting aside Iseria who was a spirit, escaping while taking Fianna and the four Queens along would be no easy task.
"Hold on tight, everyone!"
A voice came from above.
Claire in Einherjar armor—with wings of flame sprouted from her back—and Ellis who was riding Simorgh. There was also Kamito behind Ellis.
"Your Highness, excuse me—"
Claire grabbed Rinslet and Iseria's hands and flew into the sky. Simorgh landed on the deck and used his sharp claws to pick up Fianna and the four Queens.
Meanwhile, Leonora's dragon spirit picked up Muir by her collar.
As for Greyworth, she had already chanted spirit magic for spatial travel and left the ship.
In the next instant, the deck folded and the Revenant was crushed.
With the destruction of the driver reactor's spirit crystals, there was a flash of bright light.
"...! The Revenant has been!?"
"My esteemed sister!"
Ellis cried out. However.
"—Ellis, I am fine."
Hearing that, Ellis looked back, only to see the Fortress hovering in midair.
She had evidently escaped in time.
"My esteemed sister...!"
Ellis breathed a sigh of relief.
But very soon, she switched back to a solemn expression.
"...Kamito, what is that?"
She was staring at the gigantic arm of rock, extending from the ground.
...Just the arm was already this big. Or wait, perhaps the arm was the whole body?
Simorgh circled once in the air, putting down the frightened Queens somewhere in the distance.
Claire also landed on a church to let down Rinslet and Iseria.
"Be careful, it's coming!"
Kamito shouted loudly.
Rumble rumble rumble rumble rumble...!
As though the entire Holy Capital was shaking, there was an earthquake.
The ground cracked open and something slowly stood up from underground—
A head like a mountain of rock. The body that was like a mountain range was covered with plants and vines.
The size was enough to rival the Holy Lord Palace at the center of the Holy Capital.
"W-What is that?"
The giant's presence was astounding.
The instant she heard the name whispered by the Water Elemental Lord, Claire's eyebrow jumped.
"—That's the Earth Elemental Lord."
"...! Elemental Lord!?"
The name uttered by Iseria made everyone present look at her.
"Iseria-sama, wasn't the Earth Elemental Lord turned into a Gate?"
"Yes, that was what happened to the principal body, devoured by Otherworldly Darkness. This thing is similar to me and Volcanicus, an avatar that separated with a portion of power. However, it seems to be quite powerful."
The Earth Elemental Lord's avatar. If what Iseria said was true, then in front of them was an opponent even more powerful that strategic-class militarized spirits.
"...Is there any way to communicate?"
Claire turned her eyes to Earth Queen Nia Roshka.
However, the Earth Queen shook her head in despair.
"...No, that thing no longer has any connection with me."
"True. It does not even have the slightest sanity remaining."
Iseria said sadly.
The Earth Elemental Lord roared. The sound caused the ground to tremble and the air to shake.
"Our only choice is to defeat it, huh?"
Kamito readied his two swords.
However, Greyworth took a step forward as though to stop him.
"Leave this to me. You lot should get going first."
The Dusk Witch drew out her demon sword and glared at the Earth Elemental Lord.
"As soon as that Gate opens, this world will end, right?"
Following Greyworth, Leonora also walked towards the giant.
"Count me in. After all, that is the Dragon King's mortal enemy."
"Ahah, Muir's specialty is hunting big prey."
Muir also took out a spirit crystal and looked back at Kamito.
"Tiiiiime to go on a rampage!"
"Hunting big prey is my prided domain too."
Saying that, Velsaria landed her Fortress on the ground.
"Esteemed sister, I too—"
"You will go with Kazehaya Kamito."
Velsaria looked the members of Team Scarlet one after another.
"You are the ones who defeated me. Stay and work as a team."
"—Understood. I entrust the Queens to you."
There was no time to argue. Kamito swiftly nodded.
Fianna and Rinslet grabbed onto Simorgh's wings.
Claire flapped her wings of flame.
Kamito released divine power and jumped into the air.
The Earth Elemental Lord tried to block the five of them who had taken flight.
However, Greyworth's demon sword flashed, drawing its attention.
"We are your opponents, Elemental Lord—"
Greyworth smiled fearlessly.
"Now then, time to begin the hunt."
"Don't get in my way, dragon lass."
"I am no longer the same as before."
Saying that, Leonora activated Dragon Blood.
Leaving the battlefield, Kamito and his team flew towards the Holy Lord Palace towering at the center of the city.
The Holy Capital's anti-air defense network was practically paralyzed. After all, the Holy Capital Alexandria was not a city serving the role of military stronghold in the first place.
Despite spirit magic released by scattered statue guardian spirits, all of them were shot down unerringly by Rinslet while riding on Simorgh's back.
"Looks like there won't be any more militarized spirits."
With her wings of flame outspread, Claire stayed vigilant of the surroundings while muttering.
"Yes, what was deployed outside the city was already the Holy Capital's entire military force."
"There was no reason to keep anything in reserve."
Saying that, Rinslet fired another arrow. Just then...
There was a deafening explosion behind them.
It was a noise from the battle between the Earth Elemental Lord and Greyworth's group.
Gloom surfaced on everyone's faces.
However, no one looked back.
Those who stayed behind had placed their trust on Team Scarlet, entrusting the future to them.
Hence, Team Scarlet will trust them in return.
—The Dusk Witch, Dracunia's strongest dragon knight, Silent Fortress, the Instructional School's Monster. They were all formidable foes whom Kamito had fought in the past.
Even against the Earth Elemental Lord, those four were not going to find themselves at a disadvantage.
A gigantic tower of pure white—the Holy Lord Palace's perimeter wall was before them.
"Where is the entrance to the building?"
After surveying the tower's exterior, Fianna asked in surprise.
Indeed, there was nothing resembling an entrance no matter how they searched.
"Who cares. Just melt the wall!"
Saying that, Claire began to swing the scorching Flametongue from the air.
Suddenly, a strong presence shrouded the vicinity.
That blood lust felt to Kamito as though a giant hand was squeezing his entire body.
"...! Ellis, evade!"
Just as Kamito shouted.
An intense storm blew across the Holy Capital's sky that was filled with dark clouds.
Attacked by the raging wind, Simorgh lost balance in the sky. Despite Ellis' best efforts, she could not regain control of air currrents.
"W-What is going on? Kyahhhhhh!?"
With wings bent at an unnatural angle, Simorgh spun while crashing down.
With wings of flame outspread from her back, Claire tried to reach out, but she could not fly smoothly due to interference from the storm.
Hastily, Kamito kicked the outer wall of the building and accelerated towards the ground.
Realizing Kamito's intent, Ellis immediately used wind spirit magic.
"...O Wind, sweep away—Wind Bombs!"
The violent blast punched a hole in the ground, neutralizing the howling wind.
Seizing the moment when Simorgh quickly regained control, Ellis forced her contracted spirit to land on a plaza.
Impact. On the wings, Rinslet and Fianna were both tossed hard into the air.
Waiting down below, Kamito swiftly caught the two young ladies.
"Are you okay?"
"The method was rather rough, but thank goodness."
Rinslet and Fianna nodded. Ellis ended up hitting the ground in the forced landing, but her armor apparently cushioned the impact.
"...! What the heck happened!?"
Landing on the plaza, Claire asked.
Overhead, the storm was howling.
—It felt like it was trying to imprison them.
Of course, it could not possibly be normal wind. Even in the worse parts of Astral Zero, there would not exist any natural wind that could blow down Simorgh, a high-level spirit.
(Also, that blood lust I sensed just now—)
Kamito stood up and searched the surrounding presences.
"—Foolish flying insects, how dare you oppose a lord?"
A gust of wind began to blow in the center of the plaza.
The swirling wind swept up debris, forming a gigantic tornado.
Claire exclaimed in alarm.
The tornado split up while turning, forming a barrier of wind surrounding the plaza.
"...! We are imprisoned."
Nodding, Kamito stared at the center of the plaza.
A petite figure appeared at the center of tornado that reached all the way to the sky.
It was a girl who looked about the same age as Claire and the others, dressed in Quina-style priestess outfit.
Her beautiful face had a pale complexion. Her glittering emerald hair fluttered in the wind. Beneath those elegant brows were a pair of clear sky-blue eyes, glaring angrily at Team Scarlet from the sky.
The girl was exuding terrifying blood lust.
In front of such an oppressive presence, ordinary elementalists would be frozen stiff.
"W-Who is this?"
"I am Belphal Sylphid—"
The girl spoke in an emotionless voice.
"...! Did you say Belphal!?"
Hearing that, Fianna widened her eyes.
"Could it be the Wind Elemental Lord!?"
Ellis spoke in shock.
Wind Elemental Lord Belphal Sylphid and Fire Elemental Lord Volcanicus were equally known for their bad tempers among Elemental Lords.
"I-Is this for real?"
Rinslet asked the seal on her left hand.
(—Yes, there is no mistake. She is the Wind Elemental Lord.)
Iseria Seaward's voice answered.
"Not only the Earth Elemental Lord but the Wind Elemental Lord too—"
"At least she's in human form. Can we communicate?"
"Who knows? I think chances are slim—"
Hearing Kamito's suggestion, Claire replied coldly.
"I guess you're right..."
The girl enveloped in violent wind reached out with her hand and moved her lips.
"Minions of the Darkness Elemental Lord who betrayed the world, be gone—"
Instantly, countless wind blades appeared in the girl's surroundings.
Hastily, Kamito swung the Demon Slayer towards the ground.
The emitted light ripped the ground, digging up stone tiles to form a temporary wall.
"—Wind Wall!" "—Knights of Protection!"
A beat slower, Ellis and Fianna deployed a wind barrier and a shield of holy light respectively.
These were high-level defensive spells capable of deflecting the majority of spirit magic.
The incoming wind blades attacking from all directions tore apart buildings and pulverized the ground.
With the sound of sharp shattering noises, their vision was instantly obscured by clouds of dust and debris.
(...What monstrous power—)
Keeping his stance with the Demon Slayer swung, Kamito complained in his mind.
The plaza's landscape was transformed.
Practically all the surrounding buildings were demolished. Countless cracks and marks were left on the ground.
Although they just managed to block, protected by Kamito's technique and double defensive magic—
For the Lord of Wind, this attack just now was nothing more than a mere greeting.
Despite her appearance as an adorable girl, her power was no less than the Earth Elemental Lord earlier, perhaps even greater.
(...Damn it, in this kind of place—)
Gripping the hilts of his two swords, Kamito looked beyond the girl hovering in the air.
—A gigantic void had opened up in the sky of Astral Zero.
There was no time. Even though the Holy Lord Palace was right before their eyes—
Just then, Claire lowered her voice and whispered.
"Leave this to us. You head over to the Holy Lord."
Kamito looked back, only to see Claire gazing at him with a determined look.
"Kamito-san, leave her to us."
Holding her bow, Rinslet smiled with confidence.
"Yes, you should be able to break through the tornado barrier if it is just yourself."
Kamito was a bit hesitant.
Ellis was right. If it was Kamito alone, he could very well break through the wind barrier by force using the Demon Slayer's protection and the divine power of darkness.
However, though she was just an avatar, the enemy was one of the Elemental Lords of Astral Zero after all.
To leave the rest of Team Scarlet here would be—
"Do not worry, Kamito-kun."
Fianna shook her head.
"We are the Demon King's Queens."
"Also, no matter what, there is no time to waste here with her."
Claire kicked the ground, spread her wings of fire and hovered.
"The Holy Lord's goal is to buy time to open the Gate, right?"
Kamito was at a loss for words. Indeed, she was right.
If the Gate to the Otherworld became fully open, all of their efforts to this day would have been for nothing.
'Kamito, leave this to Miss Hell Cat and the others. Having inherited the Darkness Elemental Lord's power, you are the only one capable of defeating the Holy Lord.'
The seal on his left hand glowed while Restia's voice sounded in his mind.
"T-Trust us. We are the teammates who experienced the trials and tribulations of the Blade Dance together with you."
"Yes. Just leave it to us."
"We will catch up after defeating her."
Hearing Claire, Fianna, Ellis and Rinslet all nodded firmly.
He said slowly.
Indeed, these girls had achieved unbelievable growth over the past few months.
Not only did their improve their individual power, but Team Scarlet was also working better and better as a unit in tactical coordination. Even against an Elemental Lord, they probably could hold their own.
Using the divine power of darkness to cover his entire body, Kamito looked at Belphal across the cloud of dust.
The Wind Elemental Lord's sky-blue eyes widened slightly.
"—Successor of the Darkness Elemental Lord, you shall perish right here!"
The wind roared. Her emerald hair fluttered.
"Victory goes to the one who makes the first move, let's go—!"
Claire stepped forward. At the same time, Kamito and Ellis sprang into action too.
This was a front line combination they had repeated many times already. There was no need to even signal.
"Thou art my sword, thou art my shield, turn into infinite light, O purifier of darkness—Save the Queen!"
With Fianna's incantation, a powerful protective barrier was deployed.
Belphal unleashed a storm.
With overwhelming mass, the storm swept the surroundings in a radiating manner.
"O vicious wind, rampage—!"
Ellis swung Ray Hawk.
Full Burst—This was a move that deliberately sent the contracted spirit's power to go out of control.
The two masses of wind collided, causing an explosion at the center of the plaza.
Weaving his way through the flying debris, Kamito dashed ahead.
Ellis chanted the spirit magic of Swift Wind.
Kamito felt his body float slightly, his running speed increased.
Belphal widened her eyes slightly.
In her hand, a giant magic spear appeared.
This was a legendary weapon whose divine might was last seen during the Spirit War six thousand years ago.
"Freezing fangs of ice—go forth and pierce, Freezing Arrow!"
Rinslet fired a rain of arrows to cover Kamito and Claire's advance.
In response, Belphal swung her magic spear, sweeping away the ice projectiles.
However, that momentary delay was enough.
"Useless. Power on this level—"
"Absolute Blade Arts, First Form—Purple Lightning!"
Kamito released divine power, charging all at once.
This was the Absolute Blade Art of divine speed, raising his speed to the limit.
Instantly, Belphal withdrew her magic spear to enter a defensive stance.
This was exactly what Kamito—and his team—wanted.
Kamito turned into a gust of wind, ignored Belphal and charged at the barrier behind her.
Surprised, Belphal turned around.
The Demon Slayer's blade pierced the wind barrier.
Kamito fully released the divine power of darkness.
Ignoring the wind blades that were creating cuts all over his body, he charged single-mindedly.
Realizing his intent, Belphal prepared to unleash the magic spear—
However, a whip of fire entangled her arm.
"Oh no you don't!"
With the whip held in her hand, Claire smiled fearlessly.
"—Wind Elemental Lord, your opponent is us, Team Scarlet."
Chapter 7 - Two Sacred Swords
Listening to the rumbling wind behind him, Kamito dashed towards the Holy Lord Palace.
His entire body was hurting intensely from the injuries sustained when breaking through the wind barrier. Without Est's protection of steel, he probably would have been carved into pieces by the wind blades.
(...I need to hurry—)
The Otherworldly void in the sky above the Holy Lord Palace was slowly expanding.
Despite his worries, Kamito did not look back.
The girls trusted in Kamito.
Hence, Kamito must trust them too and continue forward.
He kicked the ground hard, exploding the divine power gathered at the soles of his feet. While crushing stone tiles underfoot, Kamito kept sprinting towards the Holy Lord Palace.
Sensing massive divine power, guardian spirits appeared one after another to block his path.
"Get out of my way!"
However, Kamito cut down each and every one of them with a single blow without getting slowed down at all.
Every time Kamito swung his two swords, spirits turned into particles of light and vanished.
After taking care of dozens of guardian spirits—
Kamito arrived at the bottom of a tower of pure white, towering over a vast courtyard.
The Holy Lord Palace.
This was the great shrine built for worshiping Holy Lord Alexandros.
The final enemy was on this tower.
(...No elementalists guarding this tower, huh?)
Kamito searched the surroundings for presences, but could not find any tracde of the Sacred Knights.
There did not seem to be any militarized spirits deployed in the area either.
Going closer to take a look, he still could not find anything like an entrance.
In front of him was just a smooth polished wall of white.
Kamito swung the Demon Slayer.
Sliced open by the sword, the wall collapsed with a loud crash.
Stepping inside, Kamito instantly had a strange feeling.
Sound vanished. The howling storm sounded very far away now. Even battle noises from Greyworth's group and the Earth Elemental Lord could no longer be heard—
It felt as though the entire space was isolated.
He looked back, only to see that the white wall had been restored without any signs of destruction.
"...What? Did I get teleported?"
Kamito checked out his surroundings with suspicion—
In front of him was a familiar-looking corridor.
'—Due to Astral Shift's influence, it looks like the Holy Lord Palace's interior space has overlapped with the Elemental Lords' shrine.'
His left hand's spirit seal glowed. He heard Restia's voice.
Muttering, Kamito walked towards the corridor.
On two separate occasions, Kamito had walked through the corridor leading to the Elemental Lords' shrine.
The first time was with Restia.
The second time was with his Team Scarlet companions—
After walking along the corridor for some time, that strange feeling surrounded his body again.
Appearing before his eyes was a grand set of stairs.
—Stairs leading to the thrones of the Elemental Lords.
Last time, that was where he had personally stabbed Restia.
Kamito readied his two swords and stepped on the stairs.
Looking up, he could see three pillars of light reaching to the top of the sky.
After getting on the stairs—
What appeared before his eyes was not the shrine of the Elemental Lords but a wide open hall made of stone.
It was even bigger than the circular training ground at the Academy.
There was no roof over the great hall, only the void crack pierced by pillars of light. At the base of the light pillars, he could see the thrones of the Elemental Lords corrupted by the Otherworldly Darkness.
And at the center of the five thrones, on the throne that used to be empty—
"—Perfect timing, Ren Ashdoll's successor. Welcome."
The Sacred Maiden wielding the sacred sword—Areishia, i.e. Alexandros—smiled.
"—Holy Lord Alexandros."
With the sound of footsteps, Kamito advanced through the great hall.
Keeping his two swords ready in a stance, he faced off against the Holy Lord who was wearing the Sacred Maiden's appearance.
Shiny blonde hair. Ancient armor glistening with silver-white luster.
Held in her hand was a sacred sword in the same style as Est. The only difference was that her sacred sword was double-edged, while Kamito's Demon Slayer had a single-edged blade.
Previously, Kamito had seen Sacred Maiden Areishia's sword in Est's dreams.
Spirit Weapon—Terminus Est.
(So that's Est's main body, huh...)
Kamito gripped the Demon Slayer in his hand.
The ultimate sword spirit whom the Five Great Elemental Lords used to fear.
Simply facing off was enough to make Kamito feel an oppressive presence that made his hair stand on end.
To resist, Kamito released divine power of darkness.
Oh? Seeing this, Alexandros seemed quite amused.
"Is this power of darkness inherited from her?"
"Frankly speaking, I am surprised. I expected you to be devoured by her darkness—"
Alexandros got up from the throne and looked down at Kamito.
"Even with the Otherworldly Darkness corrupting her, Ren Ashdoll managed to pass along her last hope. Her wish was that eventually someone inheriting her power would appear from among the human race."
"So that is you, huh? Demon King—Ren Ashbell."
"Yes. I am the assassin's blade, here to kill you."
"I see. So that is her will."
Facing the shrugging Holy Lord, Kamito shook his head and spoke.
"She simply entrusted her power to me. I am seeking to destroy you out of my own will. You should not exist in this world."
Kamito pointed the brightly glowing Demon Slayer at the Holy Lord.
"—Ah, well said. From this world's perspective, I am indeed the enemy."
The Holy Lord smiled. There was not the slightest malice in that pure smile.
The Sacred Maiden looked up at the crack to the Otherworld, penetrating the sky and reached out lightly.
"—Consequently, I must become the world itself."
She spoke with anticipation.
"So that's why you're going to absorb the power of the Angels from the Otherworld, to refashion this world according to the image in your mind?"
The Holy Lord denied Kamito's accusation.
"What I want is not merely the power of Angels, but something behind the Gate."
"...Something behind the gate, you say?"
So Angels were not the only things behind the Gate to the Otherworld?
"Indeed. So-called Angels are nothing more than beings guarding a certain something. In that case, when you saw those countless Angels while you were devoured by the Otherworldly Darkness, what exactly were they guarding?"
Kamito gasped in surprise. Cold sweat dripped down his forehead.
—So-called Angels, were as implied by their name, messengers of heaven.
In that case, who was the one who had sent those Angels?
"Behind that Gate is the origin that had created us Elemental Lords as well as this Astral Zero. The origin of all power, all existence. In other words—"
The Holy Lord giggled with a young maiden's face.
"—An omnipotent being. One you could call God."
Just an empty concept, something that did not exist in this Astral Zero.
The origin of everything, an omnipotent being.
(No way, can something like that...)
Kamito looked up at the Gate to the Otherworld, swirling in the sky.
Rather than taking the authority of Angels to recreate the world, the Holy Lord wanted to merge with what the Angels were protecting, the origin of the world.
—Wanted to become God himself.
"...! Is that even possible?"
Kamito stared unerringly at the Holy Lord, demanding an answer.
"Yes, I—no, we—set the plan in motion for this very purpose."
Hearing the Holy Lord use that self-reference, Kamito instantly felt there was something odd.
Was he referring to Holy Lord Alexandros together with Sacred Maiden Areishia who had become his vessel? Or perhaps—
"...Who exactly are you?"
—Why did the Holy Lord know about what existed behind that Gate?
Suppose Kamito's hunch was correct, then—
"Yes, it is as you think."
The Holy Lord shrugged and nodded.
"I am both the Holy Lord and the Sacred Maiden—and simultaneously, an Angel of the Otherworld."
—I knew it, Kamito muttered in his thoughts.
"Just as you know, Angels once descended six thousand years ago, attempting to retrieve the Darkness stolen by the Elemental Lords. It was a war between the Angels and Astral Zero. The Elemental Lords deployed numerous spirit weapons to fight the army of Angels. Naturally, I was no exception."
The Holy Lord smiled.
"During that war, I began to think. I wanted to eat that."
"...! W-What are you saying...?"
Kamito was speechless.
"I secretly captured an Angel to study. It was then that I found out. That Angel was the Light element with its form altered—"
"Angels, the light element..."
"Indeed. I was delighted. Just as Ren Ashdoll desired Darkness of the origin, I hungered for the Light of that world's. Using our mutual affinity for the light element, I absorbed the captured Angel into myself. And then—"
Saying that, the Holy Lord laughed.
"Merged with an Angel, the Light Elemental Lord was assimilated by True Light to become the Holy Lord. Did you know? I did not start out as the Holy Lord. Instead, I used to be known as the Lord of Light."
Lord of Light—Alexandros.
The being opposite to the Darkness Elemental Lord.
"...I see. So that's what happened."
—Everything finally made sense.
Merging with an Angel was equivalent to merging with Otherworldly Light.
Precisely because he had already been assimilated by the Light, the Holy Lord alone did not get corrupted by the Otherworldly Darkness like the other Elemental Lords.
Also, there was the scene seen in the dream of Greyworth, who had contracted with the Holy Lord.
The scene of the giant of light devouring an Angel—
It was actually something that had happened for real.
The result of an Angel merging with a spirit. That reminded him of a certain spirit.
"The same nature as Millennia Sanctus, huh?"
—Yes, that cardinal. The spirit born from fragments of Terminus Est. In her eye resided Otherworldly Darkness, which finally turned into a Gate to summon Angels.
"Indeed, she was the experiment created in this manner. Although the results were less than ideal, she and Lurie both performed to the limit of their capabilities. Their sacrifices were not in vain."
"Sacred Maiden, Angel, Lord of Light. Within me are three consciousnesses mixed together. I have even forgotten what exactly is the nature of my existence. All that is left is a desire to merge with that origin, nothing more. To this end, I have waited a thousand years in full."
The Holy Lord's eyes were filled with mad desire for the origin.
—To overturn the world and begin anew, to become the world itself.
"—You can think whatever you want."
Kamito readied his two swords and spoke.
"But we're the ones living in this world. Even if you guys were the creators of this world, you have no right to take it away from us."
"Yes, you have the right to resist. Just as in the past, the Elemental Lords rose in rebellion against that world that had created us."
The sacred sword in the Holy Lord's hand glowed.
That excessively blinding light filled the entire hall.
"—Unlike the incomplete specimen that you hold, this is the light of the true Terminus Est."
The torrent of light instantly erased the divine power of darkness on Kamito's body.
However, Kamito glared intently at the Holy Lord, holding his ground.
He had no intention of being ignored.
"—How dare you call her incomplete?"
Kamito poured divine power into the Demon Slayer.
It was at that temple in the Academy's surroundings that he had contracted with Est.
That contract was admittedly incomplete.
Its power was only a tenth or so of the original.
However, that was what had allowed him to fight throughout the whole Blade Dance, winning to the end.
The sacred sword that had grown together with Kamito, overcoming countless trials and tribulations.
"My Est is the strongest sword spirit. Right, Est?"
Est's voice sounded in his mind.
My Terminus Est will not lose against the Sacred Maiden's sacred sword.
"—Come, Holy Lord Alexandros. Let me show you my blade dance."
The Demon Slayer neutralized the light of Terminus Est.
—And so, the blade dance between the Demon King and the Sacred Maiden began.
The Earth Elemental Lord's roar caused the surrounding air to shake.
Covered with trees, the gigantic arm swung down, crashing upon the urban terrain beneath.
Greyworth and Leonora both jumped at the same time.
Next, a shockwave cracked open the ground.
Accompanied by a great noise, a blast blew a huge amount of debris towards the horizon, spreading radially.
Dug up, the ground turned into a tidal wave, swallowing the city's buildings in its path.
"—O spirit Juggernaut, turn thyself into a secure fortress!"
Velsaria extended both arms.
Countless fortification walls appeared out of thin air to block the giant wave of debris.
A great cloud of dust blew up from the stone-tiled ground, pouring down on Velsaria's head.
While maintaining a great quantity of fortification walls, she glanced behind her.
Seeing the Queens' receding forms as they ran away from the battlefield, she breathed a slight sigh of relief.
...It looked like she had defended successfully.
(...That being said, what monstrous strength is this...)
With a terrified expression, Velsaria muttered to herself.
On the other side of the dust cloud, a giant's silhouette gradually appeared.
Centered on the Earth Elemental Lord, a bowl-shaped piece of the Holy Capital's urban area had been destroyed.
"...! This much from just a destructive impact..."
An elemental waffe with mediocre defensive power would definitely have failed to hold.
Just then, she heard a voice from nearby.
Leonora was standing on a fortification wall.
"Can your Fortress block that?"
Saying that, Leonora pointed her great sword's tip at the giant.
That was referring to the Elemental Lord's fist, presumably.
"I cannot promise anything. Even with Dreadnought's full power released, I expect it to block two hits at most."
"Is that so? In that case, having you continue to defend as our shield is out of the question."
"A protracted battle was never possible to begin with."
Holding a blood-colored demon sword, Greyworth appeared from a void that opened up from thin air.
"The Earth Elemental Lord is capable of absorbing the ground's power to become stronger. Suppose this avatar possesses the same ability, then the only solution is to use our full power and defeat it in one go—"
Just then, three blinding flashes exploded from the restless giant shadow.
"Heed my call, spirits Garuda, Gigas, Ladon!"
Three militarized spirits appeared at the Earth Elemental Lord's feet.
A bird-shaped spirit, a humanoid spirit wielding a club, and a giant coiled serpent spirit.
They were Muir Alenstarl's militarized spirits, each one capable of subjugating a stronghold singlehandedly, but they were abandoned due to the inability of ordinary elementalists to control them, thus relegated to become relics of a past age. However, Muir possessed the special ability Jester's Vise which could force spirits to go berserk, thus rendering that disadvantage completely irrelevant.
Muir's voice rang out.
At her orders, the giant bird spirit Garuda flapped its wings hard, scattering the dust cloud.
The serpent spirit Ladon used its body to entangle the Earth Elemental Lord's giant legs.
While Garuda attacked from the air, Gigas rammed the gigantic torso.
"Coordinate with Muir Alenstarl and defeat it in one go!"
Holding Vlad Dracul, Greyworth raced along the ground.
With a kick against the fortress wall underfoot, Leonora jumped into the air.
"Dracunia Style Blade Arts—Flying Dragon Fierce Slash!"
With a great roar, she swung her great sword from the air for a heavy blow against the Earth Elemental Lord's shoulder.
A full power attack executed while Dragon Blood was active, it ripped through the giant's shoulder.
The Earth Elemental Lord's gigantic body shook.
"Aha, Dragon-oneechan's monstrous strength is unbelievale!"
Seizing this opening, Muir Alenstarl silently rushed forward.
From the chest of her pitch-black assassin uniform, she took out a handful of spirit crystals and swiftly tossed them out.
A flash of light erupted, attacking the Earth Elemental Lord.
Five bolts of lightning exploded at the giant's feet at the same time.
This was Flare Balloon—a special militarized spirit for destroying strongholds.
They were fire-type militarized spirits that automatically tracked their targets to execute suicide bombing.
The Earth Elemental Lord roared. One could not be sure if it was out of pain or anger—
Boom! Boom boom boom boom!
Aimed at the roaring giant, artillery fire attacked.
This was Velsaria's Dreadnought firing all cannons at once.
Just then, a figure swiftly weaved through the continuous hail of projectiles.
Gray hair fluttered in the wind. The demon sword's blade left a crimson afterimage trail.
Greyworth Ciel Mais—The Dusk Witch bearing the title of the continent's strongest.
Releasing divine power, she jumped, rushing up along the Earth Elemental Lord's arm.
"Absolute Blade Arts, Destructive Form—Bursting Blossom Spiral Blade Dance, Sixteen Consecutive Strikes!"
Countless flashes of the sword ripped through the rock constituting the Earth Elemental Lord.
Facing against the Absolute Blade Arts move for annihilating archdemon-class spirits, no spirit could escape the fate of destruction.
With a roar that shook the ground, the Earth Elemental Lord stood up.
The trees covering his body repaired the broken rock layer within the blink of an eye.
The Earth Elemental Lord crushed Gigas underfoot and used both hands to rip off the head of Ladon, which was entangling his feet.
"...It can regenerate, huh? What a bother."
Greyworth whispered with annoyance.
With the Holy Capital suspended in midair, the divine power in the ground was not limitless, but still enough to sustain the Earth Elemental Lord's avatar to repair a certain level of damage.
"—No problem. We just have to destroy faster than it can regenerate."
Wielding the Dragon Slayer, Leonora smiled fearlessly.
"What, that's pretty simple."
Muir landed softly on the ground and said.
Greyworth laughed wryly in response.
"But that thing is really sturdy."
"It is the Earth Elemental Lord after all, even though it's just an avatar—"
Trees gradually covered the Earth Elemental Lord's upright gigantic body.
The surface, previously like a mountain of rock, had turned into a dense forest.
"So that's Lode Gear's original appearance, huh—"
Greyworth's forehead dripped with cold sweat.
She could sense the power of the ground that was accumulating in the Earth Elemental Lord's interior.
Just as she whispered, the forest shook.
A violent gale blew Claire's petite body, smashing her against the ground.
A strong impact. Without Einherjar's protection, her body probably would have been crushed.
Rinslet shot a Freezing Arrow to pin down the approaching Belphal.
However, the Lord of Wind swung her magic spear in the air, easily blowing away and scattering the ice projectiles. She landed softly on the ground and made a thrust at the panting Claire with her magic spear.
In the nick of time, Einherjar's wings deployed in response to Claire's voice.
A spurt of flame pushed Claire's body backwards.
Missing its target, the magic spear left a huge hole in the ground.
"...! Scarlet, thanks..."
Claire stood up and licked her parched lips.
Inside the roaring barrier of wind—
Team Scarlet had surrounded Belphal, facing off against her.
With a magic weapon of wind in her hand, the emerald-haired girl looked calmly at her four opponents.
Her sky-blue eyes showed terrifying blood lust.
With a low rumble, wind left faint scratches on the skin of Claire and her teammates.
"...What a monster, as expected."
Gripping Flametongue tightly, Claire said.
"Yes, to be honest, I really want to retreat."
Ellis groaned with a pained face.
Naturally, she understood that was out of the question.
The deployed wind barrier surrounded the entire plaza.
One would probably get ripped to pieces simply from touching it.
"...Our only choice is to go all out and take a gamble. Let's go."
Raising Ray Hawk, Ellis nodded.
At the back, Rinslet also readied her magic bow of ice. Deployed by Fianna, Save the Queen was providing the whole team with reinforced protection. This was Team Scarlet's standard formation for fighting powerful spirits. However—
(...I don't know if this will work against a high-level humanoid spirit.)
The Lord of Wind raised her magic spear.
"Spirit Weapon—magic spear Brionac, exhibit thy power!"
Rumble rumble rumble rumble rumble!
Violent wind was generated from the magic spear's tip, forming a gigantic tornado.
Counless streaks of blue-white lightning could be seen inside the tornado.
"Disappear, Ren Ashdoll's minions—"
"...! It's coming!"
Claire warned shrilly.
With electrified tornado swept up surrounding debris and went straight for them.
The wind barrier could be heard behind them. There was no way to retreat.
"—Stand down, everyone! I will block it."
Fianna swiftly swung down her elemental waffe rapier.
A holy light barrier immediately appeared, blocking in front of the tornado.
Luminous Wall. This was high-level holy magic strengthened by Save the Queen.
When the tornado made contact with the barrier of light, blue-white lightning instantly exploded.
"...! It's not going to be able to stop it!?"
"O wind, turn into a sturdy barrier—Wind Wall!"
On top of the barrier of light, Ellis added an extra layer, a wind barrier, to deflect the tornado.
"Foolish. I cannot believe you are trying to use wind of that level to block the wind of I—"
Belphal swung the magic spear Brionac.
Centered on the tornadao, another tornado appeared, erasing the magic barrier in an instant.
A storm of violent wind and lightning rampaged.
The four girls were swept into the sky, torn by wind blades, then thrown hard to the ground.
The violent impact caused Ellis to cough blood.
Rumbling wind was incessant. Fianna's barrier was probably erased too.
"...! Your Highness!"
Picking up Ray Hawk, Ellis tried to reach Fianna's side.
But right in front of her, the emerald-haired girl appeared.
Belphal coldly stared at Ellis and swung the magic spear.
The Sylphid Knight pauldron was shattered. Ellis felt a sharp pain in her right shoulder.
Had she reacted any slower, the spear tip probably would have pierced her chest.
Blood flowed like a spring. Ellis fell on the ground and rolled.
Standing up, Claire swung Flametongue.
Confronted with a crimson slash that flew everywhere, the Lord of Wind nonchalantly dodged.
"Oh? A spirit weapon, a survivor of the Scarlet Valkyries, huh...?"
"Scarlet is my good partner, not a weapon!"
Flametongue blazed intensely.
Belphal frowned slightly and exited the whip's attack range.
"...! Do not think you can escape, Freezing Arrow!"
Ellis fired ice projectiles, raining down.
One of the countless arrows struck the leg of the Lord of Wind, freezing her to the spot.
Seeing that, Rinslet could not help but cheer, but...
Belphal's figure disappeared.
In the next instant, the girl appeared behind Fianna's back.
"—Fianna, behind you!"
Hearing Claire's voice, Fianna turned her head back quickly.
The appearing Lord of Wind made a thrust of her magic spear against the unguarded Fianna—
The sound of steel clashing resounded across the plaza that was under a whirlwind.
The out-thrust spear was blocked by a great shield shining with silver-white light.
A low roar was coming from inside empty armor.
Fianna widened her dusk-colored eyes.
Her knight spirit had responded to his liege's crisis, turning back into spirit form on his own accord.
"—Please escape, my lord."
"...!? Y-You can talk!?"
Fianna cried out in surprise.
Georgios kicked the ground hard, forcing Belphal back with his massive shield.
"Imperial Ancient Blade Arts—Shield Smash!"
A sideways strike from the great shield knocked the Lord of Wind's magic spear aside.
Seizing the moment with the opponent off-balance—
Georgios performed sword skills.
"Imperial Ancient Blade Arts—Meteor Slicer!"
His massive body stepped forward powerfully, executing five consecutive thrusts with his great sword that were like meteors.
"—A mere knight spirit, how dare you act with such insolence!"
Showing emotion for the first time, the Lord of Wind yelled.
She dodged the sword's consecutive strikes and gathered wind at the tip of the magic spear Brionac.
"Don't forget me!"
Manipulating Flametongue skillfully, Claire covered Georgios.
The Lord of Wind disappeared again.
"...! Another wind afterimage!?"
Surprised, Claire immediately began to search for surrounding presences.
She sensed a faint flutter in the space behind Rinslet.
Claire kicked the ground hard.
Einherjar spewed out intense flames and flew over there like a red flash of light.
She could see Belphal behind Rinslet now, about to thrust the magic spear.
In that instant, Claire hugged Rinslet and went for the ground.
Brionac's spear tip had smashed Einherjar, piercing Claire's flank.
"C-Claire, are you alright!?"
Held in Rinslet's arms, Claire groaned in pain.
"—Be gone, Ren Ashdoll's princess maidens."
The Lord of Wind looked down coldly at the two girls and raised her magic spear.
—At that very moment...
A mass of brilliant flame appeared in front of the collapsed Claire and Rinslet.
Claire could not help but exclaim in surprise.
The flames burned intensely.
In the center of the flames was a beautiful woman with crimson hair.
Held in her hand was a blazing great sword.
After glancing at the blood-covered Claire, she showed wrath in her eyes.
This terrifying intent to kill instantly turned into a violent conflagration that kept growing stronger.
"—You have waited long enough, Claire."
The Calamity Queen—Rubia Elstein—had arrived.
In the great hall of the Holy Lord Palace, one could hear blades clashing violently.
The Holy Maiden and the Demon King—two kindred who had both inherited the power of the Elemental Lords were locked in a final battle.
Two Demon Slayers glowed with silver-white light.
Every time the blades crossed each other, blue-white sparks flew.
Rather than sparks produced by friction between steel, these came from the large amount of divine power flowing through the two swords.
(So this the power of the Holy Lord's Terminus Est, huh!?)
From just a few rounds of crossing blades, Kamito could feel the opponent's immense power.
Both sides had access to limitless divine power, but Kamito had a time limit against him.
—He must finish the battle before the Water Elemental Lord turned into a Gate to the Otherworld.
(Fancy tricks are pointless. I have to pour in every ounce fromn the essence of my swordsmanship and defeat her with my full power!)
With a mighty shout, Kamito took a big step forward.
Using the Demon Slayer to seize initiative as a first attack, he then executed a slash swiftly with the Vorpal Sword.
"Absolute Blade Arts, Third Form—Shadowmoon Waltz, Furious Thunder!"
Emanating light that was blacker than the color of night, the blade traced out a curved trajectory.
This was a continuous slash executed with one hand. The jet-black lightning released from the blade swept across the ground, heading straight to the Holy Lord.
"Light of mine, erase the dark night—Sanctum Guard!"
While deflecting the incoming demon blade, the Holy Lord recited spirit magic.
Instantly, her golden armor was enveloped in blinding holy light, neutralizing the jet-black demon lightning.
(I can't believe he used spirit magic to defend against lightning that's the level of the Vorpal Blast—)
Kamito clicked his tongue and jumped to the side. With a simple swing of Terminus Est, the Holy Lord proceeded to smash the hall's floor.
Having evaded the danger, Kamito immediately regained his stance and used the Demon Slayer to block the next sword strike. The sound of steel clashing.
The swordsmanship exhibited by the Holy Lord was probably what the container, Sacred Maiden Areishia, had trained.
It was unlike the orthodox knightly swordsmanship used by Luminaris. Of course, it was also different from the assassination combat skills that Kamito specialized in. Instead, this was ancient swordsmanship from a thousand years ago that had been lost long ago.
Her moves were not exactly ingenious, but powered with overwhelming divine power, the blade was extremely dangerous in each swing. If Kamito were not holding two swords of the strongest class, he would not be able to hold his own, even with the power of the Darkness Elemental Lord.
(—So this is the Sacred Maiden's blade dance, huh?)
Contrasting with Kamito whose every move was an ultimate technique, they were two opposite extremes.
"Is this all you can do, successor of Ren Ashdoll?"
With the two swords locked between them, two gazes crossed.
"Or should I say, the impostor Demon Slayer amounts to nothing more than this?"
"...! What did you say?"
This could be a taunt, or a simple expression of disappointment.
However, the Holy Lord's words really pissed Kamito off.
"—I can't pretend I didn't hear that."
Glaring at those clear eyes, Kamito answered slowly.
"Don't insult my partner!"
Pitch-black divine power poured out from all over Kamito's body.
"—Let's do this, Est and Restia!"
Responding to Kamito's vigor, the two spirit seals on his hands glowed brightly.
"Absolute Blade Arts, Sixth Form—Crushing Fang, Partner Dance!"
The two swords' blades struck Terminus Est hard.
This was an anti-personnel Absolute Blade Art for destroying elemental waffen.
Of course, this move was not enough to break the ultimate sacred sword.
However, the impact managed to make the Holy Lord lose balance slightly.
In that instant, Kamito vanished. He lowered his stance and swept his swords to attack the enemy's lower body.
This was Flying Snake, an assassination skill from the Instructional School.
The sound of metallic impact. The sword's tip was deflected by greaves.
However, this was merely a diversion.
With his posture practically lying against the ground, Kamito released divine power all at once, crushing stone tiles underfoot—!
"Absolute Blade Arts, Seventh Form—Biting Dragon, Swift Lightning!"
Altered and derived from the First Form, Purple Lightning, this form was an anti-air Absolute Blade Art executed with an upward slash with divine speed.
The two swords ripped through the light enveloping the Holy Lord, leaving a cross-shaped crack on his armor.
"—O demonslaying light, purify ancient darkness!"
The Holy Lord created countless swords of light, firing them at Kamito who had flown into the sky.
Seeing that, Kamito released divine power in the air. With afterimages tracing out a curve, he landed behind the Holy Lord.
"Absolute Blade Arts, First Form—Purple Lightning, Dual Flash Dance!"
Quick as lightning, he swung his blades to attack.
Surpassing the speed of sound, the swords flashed—
While turning around, the Holy Lord used the blade of Terminus Est to deflect the Absolute Blade Art.
(...! Given the timing, I can't believe he saw through Purple Lightning just like that!?)
Though he showed nothing on his face, Kamito was quite shocked inside.
His movements had been read thoroughly.
"Allow me to enlighten you, the reason why my vessel, Sacred Maiden Areishia Idriss, was known as the strongest elementalist—"
The Earth Elemental Lord's roars sounded in the distance, shaking the air.
Noise of explosions and intense fighting even reached a shrine that was protected by a secure barrier.
Having retreated from the battlefield, four worried Queens were gathered in front of an altar.
One could hardly blame them. After all, unlike students of Areishia Spirit Academy, Queens hailing from the Divine Ritual Institute had never received blade dance training.
With earthquakes happening again and again, the small shrine that served as their shelter seemed like it would collapse any time.
"O Elemental Lord—"
Fire Queen Reicha moved her pale lips, praying quietly.
The Queens, who served the Five Great Elemental Lords directly, knew better than anyone the terrifying power of the Elemental Lords.
The Elemental Lords were beings who ruled over Astral Zero and the human realm.
They were the embodiment of supreme power over the elements.
They were absolutely not beings that could be opposed by mere mortals.
Those girls were fighting. For the sake of protecting this world, they challenged the absolute rulers.
However, was trembling in fear here the only thing the Queens could do?
Was praying to the heavens, lamenting their own powerlessness the only thing they could do?
There was a loud noise, shaking the shrine. Stone fragments chipped off and fell from the ceiling, scattering on the ground.
Huddled together, the Queens could not help but cringe.
(Is there anything... anything within our power—)
Reicha mustered her fortitude and raised her head.
Just then, the spirit crystal embedded in the front of the altar entered her view.
This was a device for broadcasting the prayers of princess maidens across the city.
The instant she saw that device, Reicha suddenly had an idea.
"—Nia, Feilei, Sylpha, could you listen to my idea?"
Looking at each of the other three in turn, Reicha asked timidly.
Among the Queens, she was the most junior.
"...What is it, Reicha?"
Earth Queen Nia asked.
"Using that voice transmission device, can we convey our voices to the princess maidens in the human realm?"
Puzzled, the three girls looked at one another.
"I am thinking of asking all the princess maidens across the entire continent to offer their prayers, to pacify the souls of the Elemental Lords."
"The entire continent?"
Water Queen Feilei widened her eyes slightly.
"Yes. The entire continent, indeed."
Reicha spoke firmly.
Back in the human realm, thousands of princess maidens were paying close attention to the fate of the world. If they were to offer their prayers, perhaps they might succeed in rousing the Elemental Lords' original, noble souls.
"...That is impossible."
However, the older Sylpha shook her head.
"The purpose of this device is only for transmitting prayers to the city. Getting our voices across the whole continent would really be—"
The Queens were able to convey the Elemental Lord's oracles to the human realm. However, expanding the range to cover all princess maidens across the continent would be too unrealistic. The Queen who had remained confined to bed after transmitting the Holy Lord's oracle was a vivid example.
"It does not need to be long. If all of us work together here—"
With great sincerity in her eyes, Reicha gazed at the other three.
At her insistence—
"...Fine. Let us give it a try."
The Wind Queen nodded.
Chapter 8 - The Prayer of Princess Maidens
Under the Gate to the Otherworld, piercing the sky...
Two flashes of light, one white and one black, kept chasing each other and clashing, so fast that it was confusing to track with the naked eye.
Sword strikes clashed with god-like speed, instantly creating showers of sparks and metallic clanging of blades.
(...! What is going on!?)
While engaged in the intense fight, Kamito wondered in puzzlement.
(Compared to earlier, the movements are completely different!?)
Every attack launched by Kamito was read through completely.
Something was weird. He had a kind of premonition.
"Do you find this intriguing, Ren Ashbell?"
Behind the crossed blades, the Holy Lord spoke.
"I have granted a portion of this vessel's right of control to her."
"What are you talking about?"
"After all, I have yet to grow accustomed to this body."
Hearing that, Kamito understood. The mentioned "her" was referring to—
"...Sacred Maiden Areishia!"
"Areishia Idriss was the best princess maiden in all of human history. This was also one of the reasons why I chose her as a vessel."
"...I see, so that's why my sword moves are being read, so it's the princess maiden's—"
A princess maiden's intuition.
It was an ability possessed by top princess maidens such as Rubia and Fianna, as well as Claire though in an unreliable fashion.
This natural talent allowed them to sense phenomena in the world in the form of premonitions.
Sacred Maiden Areishia's intuition was said to dwarf even Rubia who was known as the most elite princess maiden.
That sharp intuition was practically akin to predicting the future.
(...Swinging the sword by instinct rather than relying on swordsmanship, huh?)
The Demon Slayer and Terminus Est produced sparks between them.
The Holy Lord stepped forward, flowing into the next attack in one breath.
The slashes were coming even faster. These movements were almost as though they were performed by a completely different person.
Kamito released gathered divine power and jumped back, creating distance.
"Go forth and pierce—Vorpal Blast!"
He swung the demon sword of darkness. Jet-black lightning attacked the Holy Lord all at once.
However, the divine power of light emanating from all over the sacred maiden's body neutralized the lightning of darkness.
To think the attack was canceled simply by divine power—
Crushing floor tiles underfoot, the Holy Lord closed in on Kamito.
Kamito instantly thought of dodging, but quickly abandoned the idea. After all, his movements would be predicted by the princess maiden's intuition even if he tried to dodge. In that case—
Kamito readied his two swords and chose to fight head on.
He would use overwhelming destructive power and quantity of attacks to overwhelm the enemy!
"Absolute Blade Arts—Bursting Blossom Spiral Blade Dance, Sixteen Consecutive Hits!"
"Terminus Est, O queen of steel ruling all swords—"
Instantly, countless swords of light appeared around the Holy Lord.
The unleashed swords of light blocked each and every one of Kamito's strikes.
(...! Every strike from the Bursting Blossom Spiral Blade Dance ended up blocked!?)
No, not just blocked.
Two swords of light got through and left a cut each, one on Kamito's leg and another on his arm.
Groaning, Kamito could not help but collapse on one knee.
"This is the end, Ren Ashbell!"
The Holy Lord raised the sacred sword.
A massive amount of divine power surged and overflowed.
Glowing with silver-white light, the blade of Terminus Est turned the entire Holy Lord Palace pure white.
This was the light that had shattered the ground of Ragna Ys.
No, this surpassed that light.
"O darkness, return to nothingness—Deus Ira!"
The sword of light, stretching all the way to the top of the sky, swung down.
In that instant, Kamito released divine power, pouring it into the Demon Slayer.
"Absolute Blade Ultimate—Last Strike, Dual!"
This was the strongest move that Greyworth had put her life on the line in order to teach him, the move he had used to defeat Rubia during the final round of the Blade Dance.
Reishia suddenly halted while walking over debris in the street.
"Reishia, what's the matter?"
Walking beside her, Rakka asked.
Due to the Academy town getting damaged during the attack from demon spirits a few days earlier, the students, led by the Sylphid Knights, were occupied with reconstruction.
"...Did you hear a voice just now?"
Rakka raised an eyebrow with a puzzled look.
"A spirit's voice?"
"N-No. It sounded like someone calling—"
<—Please... offer... your prayers—>
"...! I-I hear it too!"
Surprised, Rakka dropped her hammer elemental waffe on the ground.
The students helping out with reconstruction work in the plaza were looking around, trying to figure out what was happening.
<I am Fire Queen Reicha Alminas. I need all of you to help right now—>
For elementalists, the Queens were of paramount importance.
After all, oracles were not directly transmitted to individuals.
<Right now, Team Scarlet is fighting.>
"The Captain and the others—"
The two knights looked up with a jerk.
There were members of the Sylphid Knights at the plaza along with students of Raven Class.
They looked like they were hearing the Queen's oracle too.
They learned about the truth, that in order to prevent the world's destruction, Kamito along with Team Scarlet and headmistress Greyworth were currently fighting in Astral Zero—
Naturally, the students in the plaza all knelt down and bega to pray for the Elemental Lords to regain stability.
In Laurenfrost territory, inside the stone-built hall of Winter Gulf castle, the acting lord Judia Laurenfrost raised her blind eyes into the air.
"Mireille, do you hear it?"
"Yes, so you hear it too, Judia-oneesama?"
Hugging a weasel spirit, Mireille answered.
"I heard it too. An oracle from a Queen, I see?"
Standing by on the side, the maid Milla Bassett nodded too.
"Ehhh, what's going on? I'm excluded?"
Carol frantically spoke.
The voice was a product of spirit magic.
Naturally, only princess maidens could hear the Queen's voice.
"Onee-sama and Kamito-sama are fighting right now."
Hence, Milla told Carol about the Queen's oracle.
Carol looked up into the sky.
"Perhaps our prayers might help the Elemental Lords wake up."
Saying that, Judia brought her hands together.
"Let us all pray."
"Yes, I will offer my efforts too and cheer you on, miladies!"
Carol took out Team Scarlet's flag which had a hell cat pattern on it. By her side, Milla Bassett was also holding a flag in both hands.
"Where did you two get those from?"
"—Wow, Reicha, it has been so long since I last heard her voice."
This was the great palace of Karan, the Quina Empire's capital.
In the grand garden that was filled with numerous lotus flowers, a petite girl in magnificent ritual attire spoke with joy.
She was the Quina Empire's third princess, Linfa Sin Quina. As the leader of the Four Gods, she had previously fought Kamito's team at the Blade Dance.
"The voice just now belongs to your acquaintance, Linfa-sama?"
Standing on guard on the side was one of the Four Gods, "Vermilion Bird" Rion asked.
"Yes, Reicha was my friend during my days at the Divine Ritual Institute."
Linfa nodded. Blessed with top princess maiden talents, she had been recommended as the Water Elemental Lord's Queen back when she was at the Divine Ritual Institute.
Though the position of Queen was ultimately given to the first princess, Feilei Sin Quina, the more junior Reicha had also been Linfa's comrade during the trials and tribulations of the selection process.
And right now, Reicha's calls for help had reached Linfa's ears.
"Kazehaya Kamito's team is currently fighting the dogs of the Holy Kingdom..."
The strongest elementalist of the Four Gods, "White Tiger" Shao Fu, looked up at the sky, muttering to herself.
"Sigh, how I wish I could go too. I really want to fight the Elemental Lords."
Tapping her fist against her elemental waffe gauntlet, she was restless with excitement.
"What nonsense are you talking about?"
Hakua and Rao murmured in exasperation.
"Shao, you are still shouldering the mission of guarding me."
"Yes yes, I know. Well, since the Queen is asking for help, it means Kamito and the others are in a tough fight."
"Yes, well said. Let us prepare for prayer right away. We still owe the Lust King and Team Scarlet a favor. Now is the time to repay our debt!"
Similarly, the Queen's voice reached the ends of the desert, into the palace of the Alphas Theocracy.
"Gather all princess maidens immediately, to offer prayers to the Elemental Lords."
Princess Saladia Kahn issued orders to her retainers in the throne room.
Although people in the Theocracy seldom prayed to the Elemental Lords, due to their deep-rooted worship of the Demon King, there still existed small shrines to pray for things like bountiful harvests.
The ones fighting in Astral Zero right now were their benefactors.
She hoped to do everything they could for their benefactors.
Saladia spoke to the dark-skinned young man standing on guard beside her.
"Jio, you are an elementalist too, yes? Hurry up and pray."
"Hah, I am the Demon King. I don't pray to anyone."
However, the young man appointed by Saladia as her body guard grinned and replied sardonically.
"...~! Jio, my goodness!"
Just as she wanted to complain...
"However, that Holy Lord really pisses me off. Watch me defeat him."
The young man smiled fearlessly and made for the palace exit.
"Where do you think you are going!?"
"Huh? Send me a ship. This should be easy for a queen, right?"
"I shall not do that! You have to serve as my bodyguard properly!"
Despite all the retainers present, Saladia Kahn could not help but roar angrily.
The roars from the countless dragons residing at Dragon's Peak caused the atmosphere to shake.
"Looks like the dragons are reacting to the Queen's oracle too."
Vice-commander of the Knights of the Dragon Emperor, Yuri El Cid, looked up at the sky and murmured.
Princess maiden abilities would occasionally awaken in high-level dragons. Despite language barriers, they would still be able to receive the Queen's thoughts.
Many bonfires had been lit at Dragon Rock Fortress with dragon priestesses praying.
They were praying for the berserk Elemental Lords to calm down, as well as the safety of Leonora Lancaster, the dragon princess currently fighting in Astral Zero.
"Vice-commander Yuri, bad news!"
Just then, a subordinate ran over, panting.
"What is it?"
Seeing that, Yuri looked surprised.
"H-His Majesty the Dragon King—"
"Calm down. What about His Majesty?"
The subordinate dragon knight spoke with a pale face.
"...has disappeared from Dragon Rock Fortress!"
"What did you say!?"
Blades clashed, the blinding light of divine power swept across all surroundings.
Facing the Holy Lord's Deus Ira, Kamito unleashed Last Strike, the ultimate technique of the Absolute Blade Arts.
This was the ultimate countering sword skill that reflected the force of an attack by reading the enemy's flow of divine power.
A crack appeared on the blade of the Demon Slayer while it was blocking Terminus Est.
—Activation of Last Strike had not failed.
However, it could not prevail against Terminus Est's overwhelming destructive power.
A shower of sparks. If the blades continued to clash, Est was going to shatter—!
That hint of hesitation disrupted Kamito's divine power.
The light of Terminus Est expanded all at once.
The surging torrent of light engulfed Kamito, sending his entire body flying.
Kamito was sent smashing hard into the Holy Lord Palace's barrier. After coughing a great mouthful of blood, he lay collapsed, unable to get up.
Kamito instantly looked at the elemental waffen in both hands.
—The Demon Slayer was not shattered. Only a crack had appeared on the blade.
He breathed a sigh of relief. However, his fingers gripping the hilt could no longer exert any strength.
His view was shaking. He guessed that he had broken many bones.
"Not shattering is impressive already, for an impostor."
Looking down at Kamito who was collapsed on the floor, the Holy Lord spoke.
"...Like I said, she's not an impostor...!"
Spitting out the blood in his mouth, Kamito glared back at the Holy Lord.
Divine power of darkness surged to cover him entirely and began to repair his injured body.
...But it was not fast enough. The Holy Lord was slowly walking over.
Suddenly, for some reason, the Sacred Maiden halted in the middle of the great hall.
"Look, the Water Elemental Lord is about to turn into the last Gate."
She spread her arms, looked up into the sky, as though offering a blessing.
With slow movements, Kamito summoned all his strength to lift his head.
Only to see that the Water Elemental Lord's throne, covered by Otherworldly Darkness, was gradually turning into a pillar of light.
If that pillar of light were to cause the crack int he sky to expand—
The Holy Lord would presumably be able to connect with the being on the other side of the crack.
(...Don't think... you can... succeed...!)
Gripping the hilts of his two swords, Kamito stood up.
"Regrettably, it is over, Ren Ashbell."
With a calm smile, the Holy Lord reached out to the final Gate.
The Holy Lord's movements suddenly paused.
"—The Elemental Lords have recovered stability?"
Kamito frowned too—
Soon, he figured out what those words meant.
The pillars of light piercing the crack in the sky weakened in brightness.
(...What is going on?)
Is it actually possible for the Elemental Lords, corrupted by Otherworldly Darkness, to calm down?
"...I see. So it is the work of the Queens—"
The Holy Lord muttered. There was an element of anxiety in the Sacred Maiden's voice.
Kamito did not understand what her words meant.
Neither did he know that numerous princess maidens in the human realm had prayed, causing the Elemental Lords to regain a shred of sanity. But—
"...Looks like there's still hope, Alexandros."
Kamito grinned fearlessly.
"No, this is merely stalling for time. The Otherworldly Darkness will soon corrupt the Gate."
The Holy Lord declared coldly.
"...Stalling for time... Is good enough—"
The divine power of darkness covering Kamito's entire body surged violently.
"So you have yet to give up? It is futile, humans cannot win against the Elemental Lords."
Saying that, the Holy Lord readied Terminus Est in a stance.
(...The Absolute Blade's ultimate move, Last Strike, didn't work—)
The ultimate spirit weapon could not be defeated using Kamito's Absolute Blade Arts alone.
(What should I do—?)
Just as Kamito gritted his teeth...
'—O adorable child, would you like to listen to me and take a gamble?'
A voice that was neither Est's nor Restia's sounded in his mind.
Chapter 9 - True Force
Primordial forest sprouted at the feet of the earth giant.
Spreading radially, the trees surged like a giant wave.
"...! Retreat behind the Fortress, otherwise you will be devoured!"
Velsaria deployed layer after layer of Dreadnought's fortification walls and fired again and again.
Parts of the forest were blown away, but the rapid growth showed no signs of slowing down.
Tree roots destroyed walls and stripped away Velsaria's armor.
"...Gah, ah, ahhhhhhhhhh!"
Velsaria gritted her teeth and groaned in apin.
"Absolute Blade Arts, Third Form—Shadowmoon Waltz!"
Greyworth rushed to the forefront and severed tree roots in one breath but it was nothing more than a drop in the bucket.
"This monster intends to grow a sea of trees, huh?"
There were signs of fatigue on Greyworth's face.
The circulatory channels in her body had been thoroughly damaged before when she taught Kamito the ultimate technique.
Although the damage was repaired when she de-aged to prime condition, repeated usage of the Absolute Blade Arts like this would eventually cause her to lose the power of spirit contracts again.
"Nothing less expected from the Earth Elemental Lord—"
Leonora was using her dragon's heat beams to incinerate the forest, but all she achieved was stalling for time.
"Muir, how many militarized spirits do you have left?"
"Seven. I could burn forests, but what use is that?"
Hearing Greyworth's question, Muir shrugged.
Muir's militarized spirit Garuda had tried to attack the Lord of Earth, but ended up entangled by countless vines and then easily crushed.
"Indeed, using several militarized spirits until they broke would not change the situation—"
Greyworth muttered in a conundrum. Just then...
A giant shadow descended over them.
"...! W-What is that!?"
Muir pointed into the air and cried out.
Appearing in the sky was—
A red dragon, large enough to rival the Earth Elemental Lord.
The red dragon opened its jaws, releasing a heat beam that incinerated the forest.
"W-What, that dragon... Could it be, a spirit—"
"—His Majesty the Dragon King!"
Leonora shouted loudly. Everyone looked at her.
"What did you say?"
Greyworth asked in surprise.
"No mistake. That dragon is the king of our Dracunia, Dragon King Bahamut!"
Leonora's voice was very emotional.
"But isn't Dracunia's Dragon King sealed in the depths of Dragon Rock Fortress because of the Earth Elemental Lord's curse?"
"Yes, that is supposed to be the case—"
'—I was liberated.'
Just then, an elegant voice sounded in their minds.
'As the Earth Elemental Lord transformed into a Gate, the curse binding me disappeared too. I apologize for my late arrival. I flew here as fast as I could.'
The gigantic dragon spirit landed on the ground, tussling with the Lord of Earth.
Two legendary-class spirits were fighting in the center of a giant crater.
It was practically a reenactment of a scene from the Spirit War six thousand years ago.
The Dragon King released flame breath at close range.
However, the Lord of Earth was completely unfazed by the fire and violently grabbed the Dragon King's wings.
Even Bahamut could do nothing more than restrain an Elemental Lord's power.
—Hurry, while I have him pinned down.
Realizing the Dragon King's intent, Leonora and Greyworth sprang into action.
Holding their elemental waffen swords, they rushed into the sea of fire.
The Lord of Earth roared with anger, lifting up the Dragon King's massive body.
Next, he then smashed the Dragon King hard against the garound.
The earth shook. The giant swung his fist against the Dragon King's head lying at his feet.
Leonora cried out.
Just at that instant, the Earth Elemental Lord's movements stopped.
Running side by side with Leonora, Greyworth exclaimed in surprise.
Of course, that was not a reaction to Leonora's shout.
Still in the posture of throwing a punch, the Lord of Earth roared at the sky.
It was a roar with a hint of sadness amid madness.
"...How on earth—"
Leonora could not help but halt.
—They did not realize the reason for change in the Earth Elemental Lord.
Hearing the prayers from so many princess maidens in the human realm, Earth Elemental Lord Lode Gear had recovered his sanity in a brief moment—
Though brief, this duration was a rare opportunity.
Greyworth called out to Leonora behind her.
"—Dragon lass, you have experience with the lad's swordsmanship, yes?"
"...? Huh, yes—"
What am I supposed to say at a time like this?—Leonora frowned with puzzlement on her face.
"Seeing that your aptitude is not bad, I shall teach you some tricks. Be that as it may, this is just the basics of the basics."
Saying that, Greyworth pressed her hand against Leonora's forehead.
Leonora instantly widened her eyes, turned red from the curse of Dragon Blood.
"...! This... is...?"
"I have passed on to you knowledge of my swordsmanship and insight towards the usage of divine power. This was originally supposed to be passed on to a graduating disciple only—"
Faced with this massive surge of information, Leonora could not help but groan. Throwing her a glance, Greyworth then turned her head back to face the Lord of Earth behind her.
Aiming at the paused Lord of Earth, Velsaria fired all her cannons.
—The Lord of Earth began to move again.
"—Let's go, dragon lass."
"...Easy for you to say... But I have no choice but to go all in—"
Gritting her teeth, Leonora readied her Dragon Slayer.
Seeing that, Greyworth smiled with satisfaction.
The two of them began to sprint at the same time.
The Lord of Earth swung down his raised fist. In that instant, Bahamut's jaws opened to release a heat beam. As a result, one of the arms of the Lord of Earth was blown away.
Roaring, the Lord of Earth lost balance.
Two elementalists rushed up his gigantic body all at once—!
"Absolute Blade Arts—Destructive Form, Bursting Blossom Spiral Blade Dance, Sixteen Consecutive Strikes!"
Aiming at the head, Greyworth unleashed the most powerful Absolute Blade Art.
A haphazard dance of the demon sword's blade.
"Absolute Blade Arts, First Form—Purple Lightning, Tyrant Dragon's Claw!"
Leonora's Absolute Blade Art went straight for the neck of the Lord of Earth.
This was a single-point destructive skill launched by the Absolute Blade Art of godlike speed, amplified by Dragon Blood.
The Lord of Earth's gigantic body fell on the ground, crumbling to pieces.
Having exhausted all her power, Leonora fell towards the ground just like that.
Velsaria summoned a fortification wall to catch her just before she crashed.
"Hmph, though far inferior to the brat, I admit it looks like you do have a bit of talent."
Landing beside her, Greyworth grinned.
"—I suppose I could take you as my second disciple, dragon lass."
"—You have waited long enough, Claire."
Collapsed on the ground, Claire widened her eyes.
Only to see emerging from a crimson blaze—
Rubia Elstein, wielding a scorching great sword in her hand.
She glanced at Claire then turned her head to glare at the Lord of Wind.
Sparks flew from her shoulder-length red hair that started to ignite.
(...Nee-sama is angry.)
It was the same for Claire. Whenever her emotions erupted, part of her body would give off flames. This was a characteristic of elementalists contracted with fire spirits.
The murderous intent exuded from the Calamity Queen caused the surrounding air to tremble lightly.
"—To think you breached the wind barrier of I, the Lord of Wind?"
"—Who are you?"
'Have you forgotten my presence, Belphal?'
The one who answered was not Rubia but the scorching great sword in her hand.
Hearing that, Belphal widened her sky-blue eyes.
"...! Could that sword be—Volcanicus!?"
"What are you talking about?"
'Thank you for looking after me at the Demon King City, hell cat girl.'
Hearing Claire's surprised voice, the fiery sword spoke to her.
—No mistake. This was the voice of the Fire Elemental Lord that she had encountered at the Demon King's city.
Her flames definitely would not have any trouble breaking through the barrier of the Lord of Wind.
"Have you gone mad, Volcanicus—?"
The Lord of Wind's voice was filled with rage.
"As an exalted Elemental Lord, why are you assisting the Darkness Elemental Lord's minions?"
'You are the one who is mad, Belphal. Affected by the power of Angels, your mind is controlled by Alexandros.'
A violent gale swirled around Belphal's feet.
"The Darkness Elemental Lord is the mortal enemy of us, the Five Great Elemental Lords, and must be destroyed utterly!"
"—Evidently, this cannot be resolved through dialog."
Rubia readied the scorching great sword—elemental waffe Ragnarok—in both hands.
With crimson flames residing within the blade, the sword glowed with red light.
"...How dare a mere human use the Fire Elemental Lord!"
Belphal kicked the ground.
She released the power of the magic spear Brionac, enveloped in violent wind.
The flame sword hummed. Faced against a swift thrust, Rubia used the flat of the blade to parry away the magic spear.
As the spear and sword crossed repeatedly, the clashing elements of fire and wind entangled together, rushing up to the top of the sky.
The Lord of Wind's consecutive strikes attacked like a storm, but Rubia saw through each and every one. After entering a contract with the Fire Elemental Lord, her princess maiden's intuition practically approached prescience.
"Why... Why is the noble Lord of Fire, used by a human...!"
"Because I am her Queen..."
Rubia swung her sword. The flash of the crimson blade left a shallow scratch on the cheek of the Lord of Wind.
"...Did you say Queen?"
Just then, the Lord of Wind suddenly halted in her movements.
"...W...hat... is this...?"
Holding her temples, she made a pained expression.
"Looks like something weird is up with the Lord of Wind—"
"—The voice of princess maidens."
Claire looked back to trace the voice, only to see Fianna, who had arrived without her noticing, chanting healing magic for Claire and Rinslet.
The warm holy light began to heal their injuries.
"The voice of princess maidens?"
"What do you mean?"
"The princess maidens in the human realm are currently offering their prayers to the Elemental Lords. It must be Reicha who took the lead and organized them."
Fianna, whose princess maiden senses were strong, presumably sensed it.
'Yes, I feel it too. The prayers from the voices of hundreds, thousands of princess maidens—'
Rinslet's blue rose seal glowed and Iseria's voice could be heard.
Overhead, Rubia could be seen dominating the Lord of Wind.
The howling storm seemed to have weakened in wind strength.
"The voices of princess maidens have touched the Lord of Wind's soul..."
Her injuries healed, Claire raised Flametongue and stood up.
"Now is the moment, let's finish this in one fell swoop!"
Kicking the ground to take a leap, she spread the wings of Einherjar.
She was heading towards the boisterous dance between Rubia and Belphal.
Swinging Flametongue is a smooth flowing motion, she inserted herself into their battle.
"Nee-sama, let's fight together!"
Confronted with the approaching Claire, Rubia simply nodded.
The flame sword Ragnarok produced fire that devoured wind. Targeting the Lord of Wind who was trying to evade, Claire accurately swung Flametongue to begin a fierce offensive.
Perhaps one might describe this as resonance between two princess maidens with excellent intuition, or the tacit understanding arising from blood being thicker than water?
Despite engaging in a blade dance together for the first time, the two sisters cooperated as a perfect combination.
"Hear that, Wind Elemental Lord!? The voices of princess maidens!"
"...Shut, up... Shut up!"
The Lord of Wind cried out emotionally. Her image proceeded to split.
Similar to instantaneous movement, this was probably magic relying on the power of wind.
As many as a couple hundred Lords of Wind flew up in the sky and launched their magic spears simultaneously.
"Thunderstorm of Brionac!"
Hundreds of magic spears were aimed at the two on the ground.
"The queen ruling over ice magic commands. Hereby manifest with haste—Winter Gulf!"
No sooner than she had spoken, a barrier of ice glowing blue appeared in front of the two girls, deflecting the thunderstorm spears.
This was spirit magic chanted by Rinslet.
Claire cried out in surprise.
She never thought Rinslet would be able to defend against the Lord of Wind's magic spears using spirit magic—
"The prayers of princess maidens are offered to all of the Elemental Lords, you know?"
Rinslet raised her left hand, showing the ice rose spirit seal glowing brightly.
This was the seal of the Water Elemental Lord, Iseria Seaward.
The prayers of princess maidens had given her power too.
"Iseria, are you siding with the minions of Ren Ashdoll too!?"
The hundreds of Belphals roared angrily.
'You might change your mind too after eating her pancakes.'
Iseria's voice was heard.
"Certainly, I am willing to cook for Lord Belphal too."
Cracks appeared on the ice barrier blocking the spears of magic wind.
Even though they were both avatars, compared to Belphal, who still carried remnants of Elemental Lord power, Iseria was at a great disadvantage due to being separated from the majority of her power.
"...I-I shall not lose."
Rinslet gritted her teeth and poured divine power in her spirit seal.
Just then, Rinslet became enveloped in holy light.
Fianna had activated Save the Queen.
With the power of the holy element stacked on top, the ice barrier eliminated the magic spears.
The Lord of Wind's clones showed surprise.
"Let us proceed, Claire—"
Rubia and Claire attacked at the same time.
Red slashes flashed in a flurry. The raging Flametongue erased the clones of the Lord of Wind.
These were illusions created with wind.
"—O magic spear Brionac, manifest thy divine might!"
Numerous instances of the Lord of Wind swung their spears, producing swirls of violent tornadoes.
Flashes of lightning were mixed inside the barrier of wind.
"...! That makes it impossible for us to approach!"
"—O vicious wind, rampage!"
Raw Hawk, launched by Ellis, struck the center of the wind barrier.
The rampaging wind tore a hole in the wind barrier.
Claire unleashed Einherjar's flames.
Enveloped in blazing flames, she and Rubia passed through the wind barrier together.
In the center of the barrier, the Lord of Wind roared. This must be the real one.
"Claire, I entrust my flame to you—"
Rubia took Claire's hand. Clasped together, the two hands lit up with blue fire.
"Got it, Nee-sama!"
Claire produced two flames, one on each hand!
"That flame, can it be the primordial—"
The surprised Lord of Wind groaned.
End of Vermilion and Absolute Zero—precisely what had been passed down the Elstein family.
True fire, stolen from the Otherworld, then ending up in the hands of the human race.
Those two fires gathered together in Claire's hands.
"...Turn into charcoal!"
The flames released by Claire swallowed the Lord of Wind.
'—O adorable child, would you like to listen to me and take a gamble?'
The voice that Kamito heard in his mind—
(Could it belong to the Darkness Elemental Lord—)
Indeed, it was the avatar of the Darkness Elemental Lord whom he thought had vanished.
This was definitely her voice and no hallucination.
(...Why are you here?)
'I am the last remnant residing inside your divine power. I could disappear any moment like a mirage.'
The Darkness Elemental Lord's avatar laughed in self-mockery.
'My original plan was to use the last of my power to cling to existence so that I may personally witness the demise of my mortal enemy, but the situation does not seem optimistic—'
"...Sorry, it's my fault for failing to live up to being a worthy successor."
Holding the two swords stabbed in the ground, Kamito stood up.
In his distorted vision, he saw the Holy Lord approaching, sacred sword in hand.
'I cannot blame you after. After all, that Spirit Weapon is unique in the world.'
Kamito could only nod and concede.
Spirit Weapon—the sword spirit Terminus Est.
Practically the symbol of ultimate power.
Whether Est or Restia, both top-tier spirits, neither could match Terminus Est in power.
'—Yes, your two swords as they are cannot prevail against her. However, if Darkness and Steel were to merge into a single sword, perhaps they might prove to be a match for that sacred sword.'
"What did you say...?"
'Merge two elemental waffen into one. A "Waffen Merge" of spirits.'
"Take two spirits... and merge them? How can that even—"
'It is possible in theory. After all, Angels can merge with spirits. However—'
At this point, the Darkness Elemental Lord's avatar paused.
'There are three essential conditions. Spirits of equal power, massive divine power capable of controlling their power, as well as a perfect union of their souls. Unless all are met, the spirits would end up with mutual annihilation.'
The one who spoke was not the avatar but Restia.
'Capable of merging the power of two spirits, Waffen Merge is an ability kept secret by the Elemental Lords. Of course, I know about it too. After all, I have inherited the Darkness Elemental Lord's knowledge—'
Restia spoke calmly.
'—To be honest, probability of success is only one half.'
If Est and Restia were annihilated, having lost his weapons, Kamito would lose.
She must have refrained from suggesting this in fear of that risk.
'But that is the only way to resist that sacred sword—'
Kamito shook his head.
He gripped the hilts of his two swords tightly, biting his lip hard.
(—If this fails, Est and Restia will be annihilated?)
How could he possibly take that risk?
'But my adorable child, at this rate, everyone is going to die, you know?'
Hearing the words from the avatar of darkness, Kamito gritted his teeth.
The sacred sword raised by the Holy Lord was glowing with even more blinding light than before.
Not only Est and Restia, this time she was probably aiming to destroy Kamito's being in one go as well.
He was not going to be able to block the next strike.
His rational mind told him of this fact of reality. But...
'—Kamito, do not worry.'
In his hand, the Demon Slayer glowed with tranquil light.
'I trust you, Kamito—I believe in Restia whom you trust.'
'Miss Sword Spirit!?'
Restia exclaimed in surprise. Kamito could not help but widen his eyes.
Est was calling Restia by her name for the very first time.
There was an element of delight in her voice.
'Kamito, unless we defeat the Holy Lord, the world is going to be destroyed sooner or later.'
The two contracted spirits had committed their resolve.
Kamito would be ashamed of calling himself an elementalist, unworthy of contracting with them, if he failed to respond to their determination.
Hence. Kmaito replied.
No matter what it took, he would not allow his spirits to be annihilated. He swore to himself and gripped his two swords tightly.
'It appears that you have firmed your resolve—'
The avatar of darkness spoke.
'In that case, adorable child, I can entrust this to you, my final parting gift—'
Raised in the Instructional School, Kamito had no idea what it felt like to have a mother. However, the voice echoing in his mind was practically like that of a mother leaving a parting gift for her son, full of tender affection.
In the next instant, a surge of information rushed into his mind.
Waffen Merge—The secret technique only known to Elemental Lords became Kamito's.
The Holy Lord raised Terminus Est up high.
...As though offering the world as a sacrifice to the Gate leading to the origin.
"Perish, Ren Ashdoll. My ally of past who used to share my dream—!"
The orthodox sacred sword's light turned the world pure white.
The light of destruction—Grand Nemesis.
The giant sacred sword swung down.
The blinding flash filled Kamito's vision with whiteness.
Facing that destructive light, Kamito closed his eyes.
He gathered his divine power of darkness into the spirit seals on his two hands.
"Thou, dispassionate Queen of Steel, the sacred sword that destroys evil—"
The white and black swords both glowed.
Kamito crossed the two swords and began to picture the shape of that sword in his mind.
The ultimate sword, capable of surpassing Terminus Est.
"Thou, untainted queen of darkness, demon sword that pierces the truth—"
The slightest mistake in the image in his mind—
Or failure to control divine power in balanced manner—
The two swords would annihilate together with their spirit contracts.
Nevertheless, Kamito did not hesitate. He could picture the shape of that sword clearly.
"—Now form the sword ruling over the sacred and the demonic, and be the power in my hand!"
Kamito crossed his hands whose spirit seals were glowing, overlapping the two swords together.
In that instant, a flash of light exploded and one sword appeared in Kamito's hand.
A double-edged sword with a blade of black and white—
Elemental waffe—The Demon Bringer.
With a mighty shout, he swung that sword, slicing through the light of Grand Nemesis.
The Sacred Maiden's cold but pretty face showed surprise for the first time.
The double-edged sword had sliced apart the light of Grand Nemesis.
Released from the blade was both demon-slaying sacred light and the darkness of obliteration.
—Demon Slayer and Vorpal Sword.
This was the merged form of the ultimate elemental waffe.
(...Looks like it worked.)
Kamito slowly raised the sacred demon sword gripped tightly in both hands.
The last memento left behind by the Darkness Elemental Lord.
(—Thank you, Ren Ashdoll.)
Kamito addressed her remnant lingering within him.
However, no voice answered. Perhaps the Darkness Elemental Lord's avatar had finally vanished for real this time.
"...Wh-at? What is that elemental waffe—"
The smile filled with confidence was gone from that face. The Holy Lord muttered.
With a look of disbelief, the Holy Lord looked down at the sacred sword in his hand.
—The ultimate spirit weapon of Astral Zero. The sword that was supposed to be far superior to Kamito's Demon Slayer had unbelievably lost.
"...Impossible. This Terminus Est, how could it lose to that impostor—"
In this world, there could not possibly be a weapon surpassing it.
"Well, wanna give it a go? Alexandros—"
Kamito poured divine power of darkness into the Demon Bringer.
Instantly, overwhelming sacred demonic light filled the whole hall in the Holy Lord Palace.
Intimidated by that splendor, the Holy Lord took a step back.
(...! This thing is crazy—)
Simply held in his hand, the sword kept sucking divine power of darkness from his body constantly.
The slightest loss of focus and he could very well lose consciousness any moment.
Moreover, Kamito's physical stamina was reaching his limit.
He surmised that he would not be able to sustain this form for long.
(...A minute... No, if I use Absolute Blade Arts, thirty seconds at most, huh?)
—But that was enough.
After all, there was no point in prolonging the battle.
"...That sort—That sort of weapon, how could it be used by a mere mortal body!?"
Holy divine power surged from all over the Holy Lord's body.
Terminus Est, raised up high, glowed with silver-white light.
The light of destruction—Grand Nemesis.
The light was far greater than before.
In response, Kamito lowered his center of gravity and entered the stance for the Absolute Blade Art of godlike speed—Purple Lightning.
Divine power of darkness surged.
(I will settle things with this move—)
Both sides kicked the ground simultaneously.
(...Let's go, Est and Restia!
He did not hear a reply, but the sword's blade glowed with blinding light as though in response.
Everything till now was gambled on this one instant.
Raised as the Demon King's successor at the Instructional School. Meeting Restia. Receiving Greyworth's guidance to become Ren Ashbell, the Strongest Blade Dancer.
Meeting Claire. Contracting with Est. Forming Team Scarlet together with Ellis, Rinslet and Fianna, emerging victorious at the Blade Dance.
The consciousnesses left behind by Demon King Solomon and the Darkness Elemental Lord.
All encounters, all thoughts and feelings that had supported him to reach here.
—For the sake of saving Astral Zero and the human realm.
A flash of light.
The power residing in elementalists, divine power, was the light of life.
Nourished by the light of life generated by humans, spirits turned into blades.
Enveloped in divine power, the blades of spirits danced.
—Such were the blade dances of elementalists.
The blades clashed.
In that instant, the light of world creation filled the whole Holy Lord Palace.
Kamito employed all the divine power of darkness in his body.
"...Guh... How could this, be possible—"
Plink, plink—The sound of shattering.
This was the ultimate spirit weapon capable of shattering even the stars in the sky.
Cracks appeared on the blade of the sacred sword Terminus Est.
The Holy Lord faltered. Kamito pressed on, following up with a vigorous strike.
The sound of blades clashing continued unabated.
Twice, thrice, four times—Every time the blades met, flashes of light erupted, accompanied by greater cracks.
"...Impossible, impossible... A mere, humaaaaaaaaan!"
Holy divine power surged in a torrent.
At the same time, glowing runes surrounded the Holy Lord to serve as a barrier.
This was the power to rewrite the world—The ability the Holy Lord had absorbed from Angels.
The Demon Bringer was deflected by the Angel barrier.
(Est, analyze Angel—!)
Responding to Kamito's voice, the blade of the sacred demonic sword also began to have glowing runes swirling.
But was there enough time!?
(...Only seven seconds until my divine power is exhausted—)
"I shall concede this to you, Ren Ashbell! That impostor has indeed surpassed the ultimate sacred sword Terminus Est. You may die proud now!"
Terminus Est's blade gave a low hum and shook.
Waffe release—Intentionally causing an elemental waffe to go out of control, a move to draw out power beyond limits. The Holy Lord was willing to break the sacred sword in exchange for assuring Kamito's destruction.
But in that instant...
All at once, crimson flames devoured the glowing barrier and the Holy Lord in it.
A familiar voice sounded across the hall in the Holy Lord Palace.
Otherworldly fire utterly incinerated the Angel barrier that likewise belonged to the Otherworld.
Even though the fire itself did not inflict any critical damage to the Holy Lord—
It created a momentary opening. That alone was enough.
Kamito could sense the girls behind him.
Claire, Rinslet, Fianna, Ellis, and Rubia too.
His companions from Team Scarlet were here.
(I can't make a fool of myself in front of these young ladies!)
Divine power of darkness surged. The Demon Bringer glowed even brighter.
"Holy Lord Alexandros—!"
Kamito kicked the ground and advanced.
"I offer this to you, the blade dance of Ren Ashbell, Strongest Blade Dancer!"
The sword flashed through the air.
One, two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two, sixty-four, a hundred and twenty-eight strikes—
Endless sword strikes danced in a frenzy across every volume of space occupied by the Holy Lord's being.
Absolute Blade Arts, Divine Form—Bursting Blossom Spiral Blade Dance, Unlimited.
Hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of sword strikes—
As the light of unlimited swords subsided—
Only particles of light remained.
The scene reflected on those eyes at the end was a frenzied flurry of blade flashes.
The Sacred Maiden's prescience could only foresee the future of her own destruction.
The ultimate sacred sword shattered in an instant, its body flying up into the air.
The Gate leading to the origin was visible, the void gap in the sky.
The Holy Lord closed his eyes, reaching his hand out towards the homeland on the other side of the gap.
How he desired obtaining true light.
He wanted to become true light, not just the Lord of Light in name only, to shine correct light over the world.
(Is that so? —Did I make a mistake...?)
While his consciousness gradually faded, he muttered to himself.
He originally thought that this world was a fragile bubble created by the origin, just a fake world.
An imitation of the true world in that vortex, a world without value.
He thought that a fake Lord of Light could never create true light.
—But he was wrong.
In the end, he saw endless light.
That light was the new light born in this world.
What he desired in his dreams was in this world, not across the gap.
His vessel, the borrowed form of the Sacred Maiden, turned into particles of light and gradually disappeared.
After feeling satisfied by the blade dance he witnessed in the end—
Alexandros, Lord of Light, vanished.
A tiny flashing speck of light remained at the end.
It was a fragment of Areishia's consciousness, that of the sealed Sacred Queen.
(...Thank you, for saving the world.)
The Sacred Maiden spoke to the Demon King of the contemporary world—
(—Est, we can be together now.)
(...Yes, Areishia. I am your sword, your wish is my command.)
Together with the fragments of the sacred sword, she vanished into thin air.
Final Chapter - Return to the Academy
After experiencing the final battle in Astral Zero—
Kamito and company stayed at the Divine Ritual Institute's shrine for a week and a bit. Only after borrowing the sanctuary's hot spring to completely recover from fatigue did they return to the human realm.
The entire student body of the Academy mobilized to welcome the return of Team Scarlet.
Compared to the reception half a year ago when they qualified to enter the Blade Dance, attitudes were completely different.
Claire and Rinslet, formerly the problem children of Raven Class.
Ellis, always compared to her foster sister as captain of the Sylphid Knights.
Fianna, who was ridiculed as the Lost Queen after losing her power of the spirit contract.
No one was going to regard these girls with prejudiced eyes of the past anymore.
Even Kamito, who was shunned as the only male elementalist—
"Oh, it's Kazehaya Kamito!" "How unbelievable. The Demon King of the Night actually saved the world..." "Wait, that's too rude, you should call him Lord King of Lust!" "Yes, that's right, Lord King of Lust..." "Awesome, Lord King of Lust." "In that case, Lord King of Lust, I—"
(...W-Why is my reputation the only one that's unchanged!?)
While walking down the flying ship's gangway, Kamito rolled his eyes and retorted in his thoughts.
...It seemed like things were even worse than before.
"Come on, Kamito, chest out and head up high."
Seeing Kamito like that, Claire gave him a push from behind.
"After all, you have much to be proud of."
"Tonight, comrades from the Sylphid Knights are apparently holding a big party to celebrate."
"Now that is something to look forward to."
"But I have to be a downer first. They're apparently going to resume classes tomorrow."
Claire spoke seriously.
"Eh, really... We haven't kept up with classes at all..."
"H-Hmm, we must hurry and make up for lost progress..."
"I will have you know that I have been studying seriously. I shall teach the rest of you later."
"Yes, that would be helpful..."
As soon as Kamito and company got off the flying ship, a huge number of students crowded around them.
Amid the tide of people, Kamito looked up at the clear blue sky.
(Back to student life again, huh...?)
Through Greyworth's designs, he had come to the Academy, and entered the Blade Dance only because he wanted to find Restia. Now he had no more reasons to stay at the Academy.
(...Graduating here wouldn't be half bad, I guess.)
Standing under the blue sky was the school building under reconstruction. The dorm of Raven Class.
This was the place where he and his companions belonged, the place he had protected.
—That night, during the celebration party and gathering of spirits, Kamito got drunk for the first time in his life.
"...Mmm... Ughhh... Ooh..."
The next day, under sunlight, Kamito opened his eyes.
...What a headache. It looked like he had fallen asleep in his uniform last night.
Due to insistent pleading from Ellis with Rakka and Reishia joining in, Kamito had borrowed a princess maiden outfit from Fianna to perform a blade dance. That was the last thing he remembered.
Although the spirits at the party looked quite happy—
...Kamito was sure he would not have done it if he were not drunk.
Raised by the Instructional School, Kamito had never been drunk before. By circulating divine power through channels in his entire body, he was able to eliminate alcohol.
But this move did not work against the Dragon Wine brought by Leonora. This was wine prepared for spirits.
The party even welcomed the grand arrival of the Dragon King, who urged Kamito to drink Dragon Wine by the barrel. Unable to refuse the king of Dracunia, Kamito drank to his heart's content, and that was how he ended up like this.
Without any recollection after the fact, he had managed to return to his room in the Raven Class dorm and collapsed asleep.
(What the hell was I doing...)
Just as Kamito clutched his head in bed, plunged into self-loathing...
He felt something soft against his stomach, like a water bag.
Kamito hastily lifted his blanket. Just as he suspected, inside was—
The naked kneesocks sword spirit had secretly made her way into his bed.
"Est, didn't I say you can't get into bed...?"
Kamito placed his hand on her silver-white hair and reminded her again.
He knew he was always indulging Est, but he ought to be more strict during times that demanded it.
However, Est expressionlessly shook her head.
"Last night, Kamito was the one who carried me into bed."
"...Is that for real...?"
Kamito's face twitched.
...He had no idea at all. Although his memories were very hazy, after performing a blade dance in a princess maiden outfit, he had apparently gone to bed while holding Est in sword form without letting go.
Back during his days at the Instructional School, Kamito had frequently gone to bed hugging Restia in sword form. Perhaps that childhood habit had reappeared without him knowing.
Kamito brought his palms together and apologized to Est.
"Not only that."
Hearing Est grumble softly without any expression on her face, Kamito could not help but ask.
"While you were asleep, Kamito, you kept tugging at my kneesocks when I turned into human form."
"...I-I did that!?"
...Crap. He had no memory of it at all.
(...No, I think I had a dream playing tug-of-war with Est.)
Her clear violet eyes stared unerringly at Kamito.
"Kamito... You have a lot of pent up frustration, right?"
"...Ohhhhhhhh, Est, I'm the one at fault!"
Kamito immediately prostrated himself on the bed as fast as he could to apologize.
Even if it had happened without conscious intent, he never expected himself to do something like that—
...No wonder Est was angry.
"No, Kamito. I am your sword. If it is your wish... So be it."
Est swept up her draping long silver-white hair and stood up.
Her pale skin, as white as fresh snow, was displayed before Kamito's eyes without reserve.
Her cheeks were so red that one could hardly believe they belonged to a sword spirit with steel affinity.
Kamito could not help but hold his breath.
He watched as Est hooked her kneesocks with her thumbs and began to pull them down.
When she reached the ankles, she paused for a moment, looking up at Kamito.
"...Are you sure you're okay with removing your kneesocks, Est?"
Faced with Kamito's doubt, Est nodded.
"Yes, Kamito. Please witness my all—"
She lightly lifted her feet and removed her kneesocks.
Toes as smooth as pearls.
Her adorable bare feet, white and tender as milk, were completely exposed this moment.
"...How... is it, Kamito?"
Still in a posture with her bare feet raised, Est shyly turned her gaze away.
Probably due to extreme embarrassment, her shoulders kept shaking.
"U-Uh, very cute... So pretty."
Kamito stared intently and replied. Est instantly withdrew her feet into the blanket.
"Uwah, do not stare like that."
"...It is not like you can't."
Timidly, Est brought her bare feet out from the blanket again... So cute.
"I-I do not mind, if you touch a little."
"Special permission. After all, I am your contracted spirit—"
Est turned her head to the side and gently extended her petite legs.
Kamito held his breath and timidly stroked Est's toes.
A soft sensation. Cool to the touch.
"Uwah... That tickles, Kamito."
Est screamed softly.
...Why? Est was normally so adorable already, yet she seemed even more adorable now.
Perhaps there were some lingering effects from the Dragon Wine drank last night.
His head in a haze, Kamito tried to scratch the sole of Est's foot.
"K-Kamito, no... Uwahhhh!"
Est shut her eyes tightly and gripped a corner of the blanket.
"Fufu, you look like you're having a lot of fun."
Suddenly, jet-black feathers blocked Kamito's view.
He looked back, only to see Restia standing there with her jet-black wings outspread.
Est hastily hid behind Kamito's back, concealing her bare feet.
"Oh dear, I'd like to have a look at Miss Sword Spirit's feet too..."
Restia chuckled and controlled her wings deftly, trying to lift the blanket.
"...! Darkness spirit, do you wish to be destroyed?"
"It's just a little look."
With Restia trying to catch her, the completely naked Est hugged Kamito, refusing to let go.
Just as the three of them were wrestling on the bed...
"Sheesh, why is it so noisy this early in the morning... Hold on—Huaah, w-what, w-what are you doing!?"
Arriving to wake up Kamito, Claire froze.
Scattered black feathers. Completely naked Est. Kamito, hugged by her tightly. Even Restia, due to the tussle on the bed, her dress had slid down to her shoulders.
"Y-You, you lot..."
Her voice was shaking.
The twintails instantly burst into flames.
"W-Wait, there's a reason for this—"
...Even if he wanted to explain, he could not come up with anything convincing to explain the current situation.
"Y-You lewd beast, turn into charcoal!"
For the first time in a long while, the sound of Fireball exploding returned to the room.
"...Seriously, making so much noise early in the morning."
Rinslet, dressed in an apron, spoke with exasperation as she looked at the scorched and blackened hole in the wall.
Due to the explosion in the room, Kamito and company had gone next door to eat breakfast at Rinslet's room.
...Oh well, this was somewhat comforting in how it was a return to their everyday life.
That being said, there was something wrong with returning to everyday life through a room explosion experience.
"Yes, seriously. How many times must you turn the dorm room into charcoal until you're satisfied?"
In the same room, Fianna glared at Claire.
"...~! I-It's all Kamito's fault, doing that spirit sandwich!"
"Kamito-san, what is the meaning of this?"
Rinslet pouted after hearing what Claire said and glared at Kamito.
"L-Like I said, she got the wrong idea!"
"Kamito-kun, my, how energetic you are early in the morning. That's nice."
Fianna was cheerful, with a malicious smile on her face.
Est and Restia had turned back into sword form.
Restia aside, Est normally turned into human form at breakfast time in the past. Probably because she was still embarrassed from baring her feet earlier, even the toasty aroma of bread could not bring out any comment from her.
"...Uwah, everybody, good morning~"
Still in her pajamas, Carol rubbed her eyes and got up.
Seeing Rinslet setting plates on the dining table...
"M-Milady, allow me to help!"
She said hastily. However, Rinslet shook her head.
"Do not worry, just sit down there."
Saying that, Rinslet motioned to have Carol sit down on the chair next to hers... Still indulging her as always.
"I made a breakfast that is easy on the stomach due to the drinking last night. As it so happens, I gathered high-quality vegetables from the Spirit Forest."
"Wow, it looks so delicious!"
Seeing the food on the dining table, Claire's eyes were glowing.
Wild mushrooms with vegetable salad. Walnut bread fresh out of the oven. Warm black tea. Fresh milk and homemade butter. Fruit yogurt too.
Although the dishes were a tad simple, every ingredient had been carefully selected.
"Please enjoy, everyone."
"Yes, thanks for the food—"
Kamito politely brought his palms together then tore off a piece of freshly baked bread.
The bread was piping hot, giving off a toasty aroma that filled one's nostrils.
Scarlet was at his feet, giving him a longing look. Right now, she was perfectly capable of awakening as Ortlinde, but the hell cat spirit apparently enjoyed a cat's life of unfettered freedom.
"Scarlet, that's rude. Learn from Fenrir."
Seeing that, Claire scolded her.
Fenrir was sitting properly on the floor, panting and drooling.
"Oh no♪ Butter has dripped onto my chest."
Fianna made a troubled expression and looked at Kamito beside her.
Kamito could not help but glance over, only to see a piece of melting butter in her cleavage.
"Kamito-kun, could you help me take it out?"
"Ah, no, well..."
Facing the princess who was asking him passionately, Kamito stammered and hesitated. Just then...
"Scarlet, lick her clean."
Scarlet pounced on Fianna's chest and licked the butter furiously.
"Wait, that tickles... Ahhh, I hate you, Claire!"
While twisting her body, Fianna glared at Claire angrily.
While having breakfast in a lively gathering, Kamito and company began to discuss the future.
"The situation on the continent, ahmm... I think there will be many changes."
Listening to Claire speaking while eating bread, Kamito concurred.
The Elemental Lords, corrupted by Otherworldly Darkness, had all been freed by Kamito.
Due to the complete destruction of the Gate, Astral Zero should not come into contact again with the world origin. Likewise, Angels belonging to Otherworldly Light were probably not going to descend again.
With the Holy Lord and the Darkness Elemental Lord gone, only the four Elemental Lords of fire, water, earth and wind remained.
Although Belphal and Lode Gear were back to normal, freed from the the Holy Lord's control, their power as Elemental Lords was greatly diminished. Currently, they were merely powerful individual spirits.
Perhaps, the job of Elemental Lords as rulers of the world had come to an end too.
In that case, perhaps the relationship between Astral Zero and the human realm would change dramatically.
Teleported to Ragna Ys, the Holy Capital had vanished from the human realm. Having instigated chaos across the continent, the Holy Kingdom of Lugia was going to be monitored by the other countries from now on. Records of violating numerous military agreements, the conspiracy in Ordesia and Des Esseinte's covert operations, etc, were presumably going to be publicized. Incidentally, the leader of the monitoring team was reportedly Virrey Branford, the special operative knight of Numbers.
"...By the way, how is it going with studying the lecture notes?"
Just then, the topic shifted from the continent's situation back to the Academy.
To be honest, matters on this front were far more important for Kamito and his friends.
"We already won the Blade Dance, I can't believe it doesn't count for academic credit, that's so mean."
"That goes without saying."
Claire remarked helplessly.
"We have to find a way to make up."
"Yes, Mireille and Milla will be enrolling in elementary school next year. I have no wish of being held back a year and humiliating myself in front of my sisters."
Mireille and Milla Bassett were apparently entering the Eluor Elementary Academy at the imperial capital this year.
A prestigious school for nobles, it was also where Claire and Rinslet studied during their childhood.
Like Carol, Milla was apparently entering as an accompanying maid. Unlike Carol, Milla was very reliable, so with her there, there was probably nothing to worry about.
“Come to think of it, Mireille will become our underclassmen.”
“Yes. Once Judia’s eyes are healed, I expect she will study at the academy too.”
Rinslet nodded happily.
“I’m so glad Judia will recover.”
“It is all thanks you, Kamito-san.”
Judia’s blinded eyes were reportedly recovering rapidly. Most likely, it was because the principal body of the Water Elemental Lord, who had struck her with a curse of ice, was gone.
“Speaking of which, what will happen to Laurenfrost territory?”
“I shall inherit it after graduating from the Academy.”
Rinslet shrugged and replied in response.
“To be honest, my wish is to open a restaurant in the imperial capital, leaving the territory to Judia or Mireille to govern. Yes, I already came up with a name, the White Wolf Pavilion.”
Under the dining table, Fenrir barked.
“A restaurant opened by you, Rinslet, will surely be very popular.”
“Yes, all of us will go and eat there.”
Saying that, Claire nodded vigorously.
“Say, Fianna, are you really not planning to become queen?”
Seeing the conversation topic shift to her, Fianna shook her head slowly.
“The Emperor’s health has improved. Besides, I am not suitable either.” “Really? I think you’d make an excellent queen—”
“Thank you. These kind thoughts are enough for me.”
Fianna smiled wryly.
According to her, the imperial council’s authority in the Ordesia Empire had increased currently. Many of the Numbers were also going to be changed with fresh personnel. While he was recuperating at Ragna Ys, Virrey once asked Kamito if he wanted to join the ranks of the Numbers, but of course, Kamito refused.
“What about you, Claire, so you’re not returning to Elstein?”
“I have already decided my career direction.”
Hearing Fianna’s question, Claire replied resolutely.
“I remember you saying you wanted to become a teacher at the Academy, yes?”
“A teacher, huh? I see.”
True, in addition to a serious personality and excellent grades, Claire was also very good at teaching others.
...Being a teacher might be quite a good match for her.
“Originally, I wanted to entrust Elstein matters to Nee-sama—”
Saying that, a hint of gloom flashed across Claire’s face.
After the decisive battle at the Holy Capital, Kamito and company had stayed at the hot spring on Ragna Ys. However, Rubia soon disappeared.
“After all, Rubia-sama always liked her solitary ways—”
Just then, Fenrir stood up and went “woof.”
“Oh, it is almost time.”
“Being late on the first day will be bad, let’s hurry.”
Finishing his cup of freshly brewed black tea, Kamito stood up from his seat.
After swiftly getting prepared, Kamito and company passed through a beautiful garden on their way to the school building.
“The damaged school building has been completely restored.” “Yes, I heard that the Academy received plenty of donations from within Ordesia.”
“The courtyard is even grander than before.”
Passing by the church that served as the Sylphid Knights’ base of operations, they happened to encounter Rakka’s rock spirit clearing away the emptied barrels of alcoholic beverages that had been consumed during the party last night.
“Hello, Mr. Hero—”
Rakka greeted without reservation.
“You showed a lot of good stuff to everyone last night.”
Next to her, Reishia chuckled.
“I’m sorry, I can’t remember much of it...”
...What the hell did I do?
Just as Kamito was cringing inside...
“G-Good morning, Kamito—”
Ellis appeared in her uniform.
Probably because she had just taken a bath, the tip of her ponytail was still moist.
“Ellis, you resumed your morning training the first day back?”
“Yes, with my esteemed sister. We did spear training.”
Saying that, Ellis smiled wryly.
“I can’t believe you...”
Claire was speechless.
“Rakka, I am sorry for leaving cleanup work to you.”
“It’s okay. You just got back, Captain, so relax and rest.”
Rakka smiled and waved her hands.
“By the way, Captain, did you store ’’that’’ properly from last night?”
“...Ah, yes, of course.”
Hearing Reishia, Ellis nodded somewhat embarrassedly.
In response to Kamito’s question...
“Your crossdressing blade dance from the party. The Captain has been very working hard recording it.”
Rakka answered without thinking, causing Ellis to turn bright red in the face instantly.
“W-Wait a sec, what is going on here!?”
“Uh, umm... Well, uh...”
Ellis avoided eye contact while scratching her cheek.
“Isn’t there a spirit crystal that can store images from before your eyes? That’s probably what’s being used to record crossdressing Kamito’s blade dance, right?”
Ellis panicked, her secret exposed.
...Kamito had no memory of it all. So Ellis even did something like this.
Kamito stared at her.
“...U-Uh, I simply wanted to collect, as a precious memory, the sight of Ren Ashbella-sama dancing before my eyes. That is why I could not help but...”
Fidgeting with her fingers, she explained awkwardly. Although she looked quite adorable, Kamito was determined that such a living record of his dark history could not be allowed to exist in this world.
“Destroy that spirit crystal. Now.”
Ellis shook her head repeatedly.
“I was really hurt by the fact that you hid your identity of being Ren Ashbell-sama. C-Can I not keep just a little record of my idol!?”
…She had a point. Kamito felt guilty for hiding things from her for so long.
Ellis was Ren Ashbell’s loyal fan and had even joined the fan club in the Academy. Seeing her all teary-eyed, Kamito sighed.
“...Don’t let anyone see it, especially Greyworth.”
“Yes, of course! I will treasure it as my own personal memory.”
Hearing Kamito’s answer, Ellis instantly smiled with radiance, nodding again and again.
...Seeing such a happy smile on her, Kamito felt compelled to keep his word and not take back the permission he had granted.
"I am so happy for you, Captain."
Rakka patted Ellis' shoulder.
"Excuse me, everybody, we are going to be late."
Rinslet frowned and reminded them.
“Okay Ellis, see you later.”
Parting ways at the corridor with Ellis, who belonged to Weasel Class, Kamito and company entered the classroom of Raven Class.
It had been many months since they last attended a real lesson here.
After defeating Velsaria to qualify for representing the Academy at the Blade Dance, Team Scarlet had spent most of the time on training. The next time they returned to the Academy, Kamito had lost his memory due to the shock of losing Restia. After that, there was the expedition to Laurenfrost then the rescue of Fianna, oh well, it was certainly a long story—
"Let's sit there."
Kamito and company sat down in the back row and opened their textbooks on spirit language.
"Looks like the textbooks will need a major overhaul."
Reading the textbook, Claire murmured quietly and Kamito concurred.
After all, the Holy Lord, leader of the Elemental Lords, was gone, while the rest of the Elemental Lords had also lost the incredible power they used to hold.
Also, Kamito's team had conveyed many truths to the Divine Ritual Institute, including that of the Otherworldly Darkness and the Angels, the Spirit War six thousand years ago, the existence of Ren Ashdoll the Darkness Elemental Lord, the inside story of Demon King Solomon a thousand years ago, as well as the spirit Iris and Sacred Maiden Areishia, etc—
Although they had no idea how much the Divine Ritual Institute was going to disclose, research in spiritology was definitely going to undergo momentous change.
"I heard that the Divine Ritual Institute intends to add milady's pancake recipe to their curriculum."
"I am not surprised. After all, those are the pancakes that captivated an Elemental Lord."
Hearing Carol talk happily, Fianna concurred.
"They are just ordinary pancakes..."
Looking a bit troubled, Rinslet cocked her head.
"Speaking of which, we need to report about my sister's and my flames."
The Otherworldly Flames that the Elemental Lords had stolen in the ancient past and passed on to the human race.
Claire apparently intended to research those flames thoroughly before she graduated.
"Also, there's Scarlet's sisters and details of the Spirit War, there's so much I want to research—"
At her feet, Scarlet meowed.
"—You lot, hurry and sit down."
Just then, Ms. Freya entered the classroom.
Standing at the stage, she rolled up her materials to tap the lectern.
"Ah, allow me to introduce a part-time teacher today."
She cleared her throat and spoke.
Claire and Rinslet exchanged a look.
"Perhaps there is a shortage in available teachers."
...She was right. The Millennia Sanctus' attack on the Academy and the demon spirit summoning incident caused by Astral Shift had definitely injured many teachers. In addition, reconstruction of the imperial capital had also drafted a great many accomplished elementalists, hence there were shortages everywhere.
—Just then, a woman dressed in a suit arrived dashingly before the lectern.
"—Starting today, I, Ren Ashbell, shall be working here as a teacher. Pleased to meet you."
It was a woman with long beautiful crimson hair. She was wearing a scarlet mask—
Claire's voice resounded across the entire classroom.
At the cafeteria space outside the school building...
Due to the unlimited supply of free bread provided to students, this was a popular place to hang out.
After waiting for and meeting up with Ellis after her elementary spiritology class, Kamito's group were at the cafeteria, questioning the masked teacher.
"...! Why are you here, Nee-sama!?"
"It was at Dame Greyworth's request. Claire, your collar ribbon is messed up."
However, Rubia was completely unfazed and even relaxed enough to adjust Claire's ribbon for her.
"Where did you go? You made Claire so worried."
"I borrowed a military ship from the Theocracy and sent the Instructional School orphans back to their homelands."
"After all, the war is over. There is no need for Team Inferno's continued existence."
How nice, to have homelands to return to, Kamito thought. Previous to this, there had never been a single child who could return home after being taken to the Instructional School.
Children of unknown origins were reportedly staying at a facility in the imperial capital for the time being. Specialized in intel gathering, Lily was devoting her full efforts to investigating the girls' homelands.
"May I ask why you are wearing a mask?"
This time, it was Fianna's turn to ask.
"It is not like I can show the true face of the Calamity Queen. I shall continue to borrow your name, Kamito."
Indeed, the world's impression of her still remained at the point when she had participated in the Blade Dance as the masked elementalist Ren Ashbell, leader of Team Inferno.
"My lessons are very strict. Do not expect me to go easy on my own little sister."
Rubia spoke solemnly to Claire while picking up a piece of freshly baked melon bread.
Claire nodded with a nervous expression. Just then—
"Oh—, it's Onii-sama!"
Accompanying the familiar voice was a patter of light footsteps.
Kamito looked back, as was surprised to see Muir Alenstarl dressed in the Academy's uniform.
"Why are you here, Muir!?"
"She said she wanted to study here, so I had spoke with Dame Greyworth."
Muir spun on the spot, causing her skirt and ash-gray hair to flutter up.
"I see, ah..."
Considering Muir's psychosocial development, attending school at the Academy might be a good thing after all. Though given her age, she ought to be going to Eluor Elementary Academy instead—
(...Once Mireille enters the Academy, they could very well become good friends.)
Just as he was thinking that...
This time, it was Leonora approaching them with her dragon greatsword hanging at her waist.
Due to an exchange activity between Dracunia and the Academy, Leonora was apparently going to be staying here for a while.
Last night, she had clearly drunk as much Dragon Wine as Kamito, but right now, she seemed totally unaffected. Impressive as ever, a princess maiden contracted to a dragon spirit, blessed with an especially resilient body.
"The food at the student cafeteria here is extremely delicious. I like it."
Leonora sat down at the same table as Kamito's group.
This brought quiet cheering to the surrounding tables immediately.
Back when the Academy town was attacked by swarms of demon spirits, the Knights of the Dragon Emperor had come as reinforcements and repelled the enemies. Thanks to that, Leonora was extremely popular at Areishia Spirit Academy.
"The morning training is over?"
"Yes. The students here are quite good."
Leonora nodded. She was currently a blade dance instructor at the Academy.
"Kamito, I wish to be your partner if any chance should arise in the near future—"
Staring straight into Kamito's eyes, Leonora smiled fearlessly.
With Greyworth teaching her the Absolute Blade Arts, the dragon knight was clearly getting stronger and stronger.
"If it is a blade dance you want, I am ready for you any time."
"Blade Dance of the Night?"
"...! I-Idiot, of course I mean in the daytime!"
Kamito could not help but choke.
"Engaging in a Blade Dance of the Night during the daytime, what a pervert you are, Kamito."
Leonora blushed, fidgeted and murmured.
"W-Wait a sec, what are you two chatting about!?"
"L-Leonora-dono, that is too immoral!"
Claire and Ellis spoke out.
Next Leonora cleared her throat and regained composure.
"—By the way, I have good news to convey to all of you."
Faced with Leonora's sudden change of the subject, Kamito and company exchanged looks with one another.
"What do you mean by good news?"
Leonora took a light breath and said:
"—The next Blade Dance has been confirmed."
Claire and the others exclaimed in surprise.
"...Blade Dance, are you for real?"
"Yes. The Dragon King told me."
No mistake. Leonora nodded.
"But didn't they just finish holding one recently—"
"This Blade Dance is apparently related to the reorganization of Astral Zero."
Fianna nodded with a pensive look.
With the Holy Lord's demise, the relationship between Astral Zero and the human realm was beginning to change. Through the Blade Dance festival that connected humans and spirits, they were probably trying to explore the path forward in building a new relationship.
"Blade dancing to bring joy to all spirits in Astral Zero instead of a kagura ritual offering to the Elemental Lords, huh?"
A great idea perhaps, it might bring vitality back to the continent that had been ravaged by war. Kamito wondered if the one who had suggested the idea was Water Elemental Lord Iseria or the festival-loving Volcanicus.
"The time will be half a year from now."
"Time is tight, we'll need to reconsider new team tactics."
"Claire, it is not certain yet whether it is a team battle."
"The regulations will apparently be the same as last time's. As the captain of the Knights of the Dragon Emperor, I look forward to a rematch against Team Scarlet."
"Yes, we are not going to lose!"
Claire and Leonora shook hands lightly.
"Muir can join Team Scarlet!"
"No. A team has a maximum of five members. Find another team to join."
Muir pouted unhappily.
(...A Blade Dance, huh? It feels so nostalgic even though the last one wasn't that far back.)
Looking up at the sunny blue sky, Kamito muttered in his thoughts.
Princess Linfa and Shao Fu of the Quina Empire, Luminaris whom he had fought at the Holy Capital, surely they were going to enter again, right?
"We must not be complacent even though we were the victorious team last time. I heard that a male elementalist calling himself the Demon King's successor has appeared in the Theocracy. He is quite good, they say—"
"...I have a feeling he's not a stranger."
A look of annoyance appeared on Kamito's face.
But times had changed. Claire and the others could probably win easily even though they faced such a tough battle in the past.
"Kamito, using divine power of darkness is forbidden. The spirits will be displeased."
Rubia reminded him ahead of time.
"Yeah, I know."
He had no intention of using that power to begin with... After all, it placed too great a strain on his body too.
"I am so looking forward to it."
"It is almost time for afternoon lessons—"
"Yes, let's go."
Saying that, Claire got up from the table.
Just as Kamito was about to leave and follow her.
Rubia stopped him.
"Who among them have you chosen?"
He looked back, only to see a mischievous gaze from Rubia who had taken off her mask.
It was his first time to see such an expression on Rubia's face.
"Although I think you should simply choose my sister, if you really cannot make up your mind, remember I am an option too—"
Kamito did not know if she was joking or what—
With a chuckle, she turned around and left.
"—Oh my, it's already time to prepare for the next Blade Dance. I really can't retire in peace."
From the window of the headmistress' office, watching the scene below, Greyworth shrugged mildly.
As soon as the Blade Dance was announced officially, the Academy had to arrange a special program centered on the theme of tournament matches. Things were going to get busy, presumably.
Putting that aside—
"—Looks like the lad has found where he belongs."
Looking at her disciple walking among his companions, Greyworth grinned.
"Oh dear, are you preparing to retire? The Dusk Witch?"
Just then, a gust of wind blew while black feathers floated down.
With jet-black wings outspread, the darkness spirit landed on the room's windowsill.
The two of them had witnessed the whole journey of Kamito's growth.
Although these two had not always been on the same side, they got along with familiarity like old friends.
"...No way. I still have to watch this Academy's development a while longer."
"Is that so?"
Restia turned her gaze to outside the window, gazing tenderly upon Kamito.
The boy, whose heart used to be closed tightly, had found the place where he belonged—
(...Perhaps my mission was to guide him to this place.)
Whispering softly, Restia smiled serenely.
Several weeks had gone by after their return to the Academy.
Kamito and his friends were busy between academics, Blade Dance training and school tournament matches.
Although written exams were a major challenge for him, Kamito managed to earn his credits thanks to Claire's study sessions and Rubia's special tutoring.
Rubia's lectures were well regarded and the classroom was packed with people every lesson. After all, as a former Queen, she taught in a very clear and organized way that was also easy to understand, quite similar to Claire.
As for Leonora, she stayed for a while as an instructor. After infecting her princess maiden fans with the habit of not wearing underwear, she returned to her home country of Dracunia.
From what Kamito heard, her dressing habit of going commando had become very popular among students recently, causing a giant headache for Ellis in her efforts to uphold public morals.
More troubling for her was that even the rigid and stubborn Velsaria had stopped wearing underwear too. Velsaria and Leonora apparently got along well, and presumably got infected by the habit after spending too much time together.
"I really look foward to battles at the Blade Dance."
Leaving these words, Leonora left the Academy. Although Kamito had won all three training matches during her time here, he expected her to become even stronger half a year later.
...In this manner, Kamito was busy every day at the Academy.
One evening, after lessons, Kamito returned to the dormitory and lay himself down on the bed.
Resting Est and Restia against the wall, he plunged into deep thought.
(...Those fighting days feel like they were so long ago.)
Looking at the ceiling, blackened from coal smoke, he muttered to himself.
He had experienced so many things since coming to the Academy.
Encountering Claire, forming a contract with Est. Forming Team Scarlet together with Claire, Ellis, Fianna and Rinslet, his four companions, to enter the Blade Dance.
At Ragna Ys, he had encountered powerful rivals like Shao and Leonora, and fought them. At the final round, he finally fought and defeated Rubia decisively, but lost Restia and the shrine of the Elemental Lords.
After that, Kamito had lost his memory temporarily, got caught up in the Ordesia coup d'etat, visited Dracunia, the Theocracy, the Demon King City, and retook the imperial capital.
Finally, he had defeated the Holy Lord, who was planning to remake the world, thus saving the continent.
(...Seriously, so much happened.)
Just as he was deep in contemplation—
"Kamito, you're back?"
The room door was gently opened.
The one who pushed the door open was Claire. Presumably, she had bathed at the bathing facility after training before coming back to the dorm.
Kamito sat up.
"H-Hmm, you are alone..."
Murmuring, Claire looked around then coughed lightly.
She entered the room and sat down next to Kamito.
Under the setting sun, her pale neck gained a faint shade of red.
"...Time went by so quickly. The battle at Ragna Ys was already weeks ago."
Kamito nodded. The current peaceful life at the Academy felt like a dream.
...After that, Claire fell silent for a while.
The setting sun sank into the Academy town. The room began to darken.
Kamito was just about to activate a spirit crystal for lighting.
Just then, Claire grabbed Kamito's arm and stopped him.
Claire blushed while she fidgeted with her fingers.
"Th-Think about it, isn't today that day? It's too embarrassing if there's too much light..."
Saying that, Claire bit her lip hard. Kamito could not help but feel his heart start to race.
"I-It's still early, right?"
"R-Really? But the sky is already dark."
"But everyone isn't—"
Kamito gasped. No sooner had he spoken a few words than Claire put a finger lightly on his lips.
"K-Keep this secret from the others. There's nothing wrong with starting the ritual early—"
Saying that, Claire naturally leaned her petite body against Kamito's chest.
The ritual—meant the Darkness Kagura.
Indeed, the Darkness Elemental Lord was gone from the world, but her power still remained inside Kamito.
Although Kamito was not going to go berserk and turn into the Demon King, the limitless divine power of darkness residing in him still posed a problem if it had nowhere to go.
At this rate, he might unintentionally unleash divine power of darkness when encountering powerful opponents at the Blade Dance half a year later.
Hence, until Kamito gained mastery over his power, he still needed the Darkness Kagura ritual to be performed every few days.
The ritual taking place in the Raven Class dorm at night had given rise to many rumors. The students apparently called it the Blade Dance of the Night held by the Demon King.
...There was just no helping Kamito's reputation.
"...Kamito, close your eyes."
Claire kissed him on the cheek.
It was a shy kiss with inexperienced movements.
"C-Come on, relax..."
Blushing to her ears, Claire spoke with displeasure.
Darkness Kagura required one to give over his body with complete trust in the princess maiden, otherwise it would not work.
With close physical contact, he could hear Claire's breathing faintly. There were even the sensation of a small bulge against this arm.
"I-I only do this with the boy I like, okay—?"
Saying that, Claire hugged Kamito tight. Just then...
"Claire, we agreed not to steal a march on any of us!"
The door was opened forcefully.
Fianna, Ellis and Rinslet entered the room.
"My goodness, I cannot let down my guard at all. And it is only early evening."
"You broke the agreement."
"Yes, how underhanded to keep him all to yourself."
"D-Didn't you still have lessons?"
"Fufu, do not underestimate a princess maiden's intuition."
Fianna raised an index finger and spoke proudly.
"We agreed to perform the Darkness Kagura ritual together, though most of the time, it just happens."
"...I-I know, okay?"
Claire's face was bright red. She turned her head to one side.
"Fufu, thank you for waiting, Kamito-kun♪"
Saying that, Fianna removed her shoes and climbed onto the bed.
"You can relax your body."
"Th-There is no nothing to be shy about."
Ellis and Rinslet came on to the bed too.
The narrow matress instantly became quite cramped.
"Wait, you girls...!"
"Kamito-kun, I am not wearing panties right now."
Smiling quietly, Fianna gently lifted the hem of her skirt.
"W-What are you doing!?"
"Y-Your Highness! As the princess of the nation, how can you be so unbecoming—"
"See, isn't this the popular trend among girls recently? Also, this allows me to fully experience Kamito-kun's divine power with my skin—"
Kamito could not stop his gaze from descending upon Fianna's skirt, only to see her rubbing her knees shyly.
...Is she really not wearing anything there!?
"Hold on, Fianna, what are you doing!?"
"—Fufu, isn't this fun? Count me in as well."
Jet-black feathers drifted lightly onto the bed no sooner than she had spoken.
Kamito looked up, only to see the girl in the one-piece dress of darkness landing on the bed.
"Y-You are a spirit, this ritual has nothing to do with you!"
"Dear me, it is the contrary. Need I remind you that I can suppress the power of darkness?"
"What are you planning, darkness spirit?"
Just then, the Demon Slayer leaning against the wall glowed and turned into Est's form.
Est sat down on Kamito's lap. The bed was instantly packed full of girls.
"...~! S-So cramped!"
"Kamito, sorry my chest bumped into...!"
"W-What is this, sheesh!"
"Fufu, it's not easy being the Demon King of the Night. With so many concubines, what are you going to do?"
...She was totally enjoying herself.
"W-What do you mean, what am I going to do—"
"Worry not. I have come up with a good solution for Kamito-kun♪"
Fianna raised her index finger.
"All we need to do is win the Blade Dance and set up a polygamous harem kingdom."
...What crazy idea was the princess proposing now?
"A harem kingdom, you say?"
"Yes. Although the Elemental Lords have lost the power to grant all wishes, the various nations on the continent will provide rewards on their behalf, right? After all, there already exists countries where polygamy is accepted, such as the Theocracy, and coincidentally, there is a suitable territory in Ordesia that is suitable for building a new nation."
"Don't tell me you mean Elstein territory?"
Claire was surprised.
Currently, Elstein territory was governed by a representative sent from the imperial capital. But after it was rendered a wasteland by the destruction wrought by the Fire Elemental Lord, all that remained were things like hot springs.
Asking for it as a victory prize for the Blade Dance would not be too much.
"I-I can't believe you came up with such a good idea."
Ellis look troubled.
"Indeed, that is the most peaceful solution."
Restia smiled, apparently satisfied.
"Kamito, what does harem mean?"
Est asked expressionlessly.
"Wait! First of all, will that kind of wish be accepted!?"
The Blade Dance involved sacred ritual kagura offered to spirits as an offering.
Kamito did not think that the Elemental Lords would approve of such a crazy wish.
"...You might have a point. Hold on a moment, allow me to ask Iseria-sama."
Rinslet brought her left hand near her ear. The ice rose seal immediately glowed.
"...Hmm, I see... Very well, alright..."
She kept nodding.
"She gave the okay!"
Then Rinslet raised her thumb with inexplicable excitement.
"Huh!? Say, Rinslet, you went and contacted an Elemental Lord directly...?"
...Doesn't this make the Water Queen redundant?
"Now that we have obtained permission from the Elemental Lords, how about we call it the Paradise of the Demon King of the Night?"
When Fianna cheerfully made her suggestion, Kamito could not help but rebuke.
"But if you are going to establish a harem kingdom, who will you choose as the first consort?"
When Restia interjected like this—
The girls instantly exchanged looks with one another, with Kamito caught in the middle.
"...I-I am not first, but I don't mind."
"Indeed, I can accept the role of lover."
"I hope for equal treatment for everyone."
"Y-Yes, to be honest, being first would be best, of course... B-But I'm fine with being the same as everyone else."
Blushing intensely, Claire stammered her words.
"Kamito, I am your sword, your wish is my command—"
After they all expressed their hopes, the young ladies' discussion reached a climax.
"A-Anyway! It is decided, we must seize victory at the Blade Dance!"
"That is right!"
Ignoring Kamito's own wishes, the young ladies immersed themselves into the topic of building a harem kingdom.
(...Feels like things are going to get serious.)
However, how to put it...?
Just then, while Kamito was watching the girls, next to his ear...
Restia quietly whispered.
"—Are you happy right now?"
Hearing the question, Kamito was surprised.
—Happy. Back during his Instructional School days, he probably would have answered he did not know.
After all, that word was completely foreign to his life back then.
But nowadays, he was surrounded by precious companions.
Claire, Ellis, Fianna, Rinslet—
Est and Restia, they were all here.
After difficult battles, he had succeeded in protecting every one of them.
He had protected the everyday life here that was irreplaceable.
Hence, to answer that question...
Kamito smiled and nodded.
—In the past, there was a boy bearing the title of the "Strongest Blade Dancer."
The story beginning from his encounter with a sword, the Academy, and the hell cat girl, came to an end here.
However, the story of spirits and elementalists would probably persist into the future.
The Demon King and the princess maidens would continue to deliver blade dances of elementalists.
—I offer this to you, the blade dance of Ren Ashbell, Strongest Blade Dancer!
Shimizu here. Thanks for waiting, everyone.
I hereby present to you "True Force", the final volume of Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance!
To stop the Holy Lord's plan to destroy the world, Kamito and company had gone to Astral Zero with the Queens accompanying them. However, the revived sacred sword had destroyed Ragna Ys and scattered the members of Team Scarlet. In front of Kamito, who was being devoured by the power of darkness, a girl claiming to be Ren Ashdoll appeared—
Thus, the story reached the final volume at last. I wonder if everyone enjoyed the ride fully? While I was writing the final volume, I felt conflicted at times because there was so much content I wanted to put into the book. Luckily, in the end, I still managed to complete the good ending that I envisioned in my mind.
...Oh dear, come to think of it, it's really been a long period of time. Starting from the first volume sold towards the end of 2010, the series has continued until now, fully eight years in total. Wow, it surely makes me emotional.
Having experienced the creation of twenty books, my love for the characters has grown deep. To be honest, there were times when I didn't want to end it. There were things I still wanted to write about. But even though the novel did not describe it, Kamito and Claire have a long life ahead of them, and would continue to live energetically in that world of theirs. Having finished writing the final volume, this is what I think. I wonder how many concubines the harem kingdom will have in the end (at least twelve of them, right!?) By the way, inspiration for the subtitle "True Force" came from the anime adaptation's opening theme sung by Harada Hitomi-san. This is Est and Kamito's song, as well as Restia and Ren Ashbell's song. I hope everyone can listen to the song again after reading the final volume. I wonder if it will bring new thoughts to you.
And so, even though the rate of publication fell in the middle and made everyone worry, this series successfully came to its conclusion at last. It's all thanks to your support, dear readers. At the same time, these eight years have left me with many precious memories.
The autograph session with readers, the event in Taiwan (I had so much fun, an unforgettable experience of a lifetime. Thank you for your support, fans in Taiwan!), Hyouju Issei-sensei's godly manga, and the anime adaptation that came out four years ago, every week's script meeting was extremely exciting. And events of the anime's voice actress unit "Kneesocks" were super amazing. The final scene's blade dance still leaves me with a vivid impression (too bad I don't have enough pages to continue with my thoughts!) Also, there was the drama CD that came out last year, produced by the anime's original staff. Although I was the one who wrote the script, the voice actors really blew me away with their awesome acting skills, making me understand what professional skills truly meant. I really have to thank everyone for giving me all kinds of valuable experiences!
It's hard not to feel a little sad about the series' conclusion, but right now, my heart is filled with gratification.
Finally, let me thank everyone would took part in the production of Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance.
Sakura Hanpen-sensei, who created so many cute characters, Umeda Natsuno-sensei, who was in charge of the SD character illustrations, Nimura Yuuji-sensei who took over illustrations later on, and Shimesaba Kohada-sensei who crossed the finish line at the end, I am extremely grateful to all of you. Thanks to you, Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance was able to reach a perfect conclusion.
Hyouju Issei-sensei, thank you for drawing a supreme manga.
Once again, let me thank the anime's Director Yanagisawa Tetsuya, Yoshioka Takao-sama, Fujii Maki-sama, Kawai-sama, Hatayama-sama, all staff at TNK, Producer Tanaka-sama, and all the animators who poured life into the characters. Then there is Kashiwagi-sama and Yonezou-sensei of Connect Hearts that produced the drama CD.
Next is the series' benefactor, Shouji-sama, Narita-sama, Sukawa-sama, Nakamichi-sama, and generations of editors, proofreaders, designers, sales and marketing, I sincerely offer my gratitude to everyone who took part in the series' work!
Finally, I have to really really thank all the readers who supported this series that lasted as long as twenty volumes! I will treasure for a lifetime the reader letters and the surveys you mailed to me!
Let me take this opportunity advertise a little here. I am currently working on stories for Ichihara Kazuma-sensei's 'After School Bitchcraft which is serialized in the monthly Comic Alive magazine, as well as Aogiri Makoto-sensei's 'Iseikai Munchkin which is serialized in the web magazine Wednesday's Sirius. Like the final volume of Blade Dance, the first volume of After School Bitchcraft will be available for sale in March. I hope for support from everyone!
Also, the drama CD of Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance is on sale with great reviews. The first limited edition discs will come with a werewolf card game (illustrated by Yonezou-sensei), likewise I hope everyone can check it out!
Also, also, I am currently writing in preparation for a new series to be published at MF Bunko J. I will work my hardest to bring the new book to everyone as soon as possible, so please look forward to it.
—Well then, see you next time with my new series!
Shimizu Yuu, February 2019 (#nowplaying Kokuin Sanka)
Greetings, this is Shimesaba Kohada, in charge of illustrations.
Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance finally welcomed its final volume.
Throughout these four volumes, stepping in mid-series and going until the end, I've felt excited about working on a major intellectual property.
Although I also faced a corresponding amount of pressure, in the end, things worked out and I passed the finish line safely.
Though it was not for long, illustrating for Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance really was a very wonderful experience.
I thank Shimizu-sensei and the editor for choosing me.
Finally, I must deeply thank all the readers who gave their kind blessings to Kohada who took over mid-series. Thank you so much for everyone's support!
Last illustration is Claire!