(That was the other Ren Ashbell—)
The girl clad in pure black gave off an overwhelming pressure.
Approaching carelessly would result in becoming ashes — this illusion was felt.
Once the commotion settled, a painful silence descended.
Everyone gulped as they watched her.
Like with Claire, nobody approached her.
A chill ran down Kamito’s spine.
(……I, can I win against her?)
Before he realized it, the flowing music had stopped.
The strongest blade dancer stopped in the middle of the hall–
And turned and walked towards him.
Fianna had unconsciously grabbed Kamito’s sleeve. Even Ellis who should have Ren Ashbell as her goal was cowering.
Kamito moved before them in a protective manner.
Ren Ashbell stopped just before Kamito.
“–So you are Kazehaya Kamito, huh.”
A voice akin to solid steel.
“Nice to meet you–I wonder if that’s appropriate? Ren Ashbell.”
Licking his lips cynically, he glared at the red mask.
However, he could not read any sort of emotion from the red eyes within.
And she held out her right hand.
As Kamito was puzzled–
“Kazehaya Kamito, would you dance with me for one song?”
Suggested something unexpected.
(……No, this isn’t a suggestion. It’s an order.)
Her tone was peaceful, but a refusal — it held a power which wouldn’t allow that.
Kamito turned towards Ellis and Fianna and–
“Sorry, won’t you let me go for a little while?”
“B, but, Kamito–”
“……Okay. Ellis, let’s go.”
With that, Fianna grabbed Ellis’ hand. She knew Kamito’s identity as the real Ren Ashbell. The wise princess had understood the situation.
“Do you have experience in dancing?”
“If it’s classical, yeah.”
Kamito replied sharply and took Ren Ashbell’s hand.
The paused musical performance started up again.
In the dark forest surrounding the castle, Claire ran.
Various trees’ branches clung to the crimson dress, tearing it apart.
Mud stuck to her red high heels. Countless wounds appeared on her smooth skin.
Without minding any of that, she ran.
No matter how long passed, that scene would not leave her head.
When that dark spirit girl kissed Kamito, that moment.
(……I, It’s not like I think anything of him!)
As if to shake off that irritating feeling, Claire shook her head.
It was just that ignoring his master and doing that kind of thing with another girl was unforgivable.
(……That’s right, that’s all it is.)
Why then, did her heart hurt this much?
Just before, holding that man’s hand, she had hated it.
If it was Kamito, he wouldn’t do anything that violent.
He teased Claire a lot, always treated her like a kid, occasionally saying mean things, but still.
–But still, he would never do something like that.
Before she realized it, she had arrived at the lake from the afternoon’s purification.
Inside the silent forest. Numerous spirits floated upon the lake.
Claire hugged her knees and sat at the lake’s edge.
The dress she had prepared was filthy and either way she couldn’t return to the dance.
Her hair was dishevelled and her dress was ruined beyond repair.
“What’s with him, that idiot……”
With a terribly miserable mood, Claire sighed.
With a light plop, tears started falling to the ground.
“……That’s wrong. The stupid one is me.”
She couldn’t be honest once again.
If she had, she could be dancing with Kamito right now–
At that time. From with the forest, footsteps could be heard.
She hurriedly wiped away her tears.
But the one that appeared from within the forest wasn’t Kamito.
“Jeez, just how far are you going to run!”
Claire opened her eyes.
While breathing wildly, Rinslet sunk down beside Claire.
“Whew, that’s a fairly unsightly appearance.”
“Th, that’s because you ran so far!”
Rinslet’s dress was torn to shreds and leafs and branches clung to her hair.
“Even though I had just worn a new dress……”
She drooped her shoulders.
Claire averted her eyes.
“……What did you come for.”
“I came to laugh at your pitiful chest. Your dress is too showy.”
“……Wh, what did you say!”
Her red twintails stood on end like fire.
Rinslet moved her hair up and–
“You’ve finally returned to normal.”
“Did you fight with Kamito-san again?”
Claire chewed on her lip.
“……It, it’s his fault. He won’t tell me anything.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, that is……aren’t you interested in Kamito’s past?
Rinslet tilted her head slight to the side–
“Well, it would be a lie to say I wasn’t.”
“I wonder if he doesn’t trust me.”
Claire’s twintails drooped.
“Why do you say that?”
“Because he won’t tell me anything……”
“He can’t bring himself to tell you because you’re important to him — that is also a possibility.”
Claire pouted and pondered.
“……I, I wonder if that’s true.”
Truly, there was also that way of interpreting it.
“You are such a child, really.”
“Sh, shut up……”
“Even I understand that much……”
But she was uneasy, so it couldn’t be helped.
If it was about someone she didn’t care about, she wouldn’t have these feelings.
Because it was Kamito — not talking about his past,
Realizing it just now, her heart beat.
(Wh, what kind of stupid things are you think, me!)
Her cheeks flushed red.
“Claire, what’s wrong?”
“It, it’s nothing!”
Claire shook her head from side to side.
“–Hmm, so you two are here.”
From within the forest, a young girl’s voice.
Claire and Rinslet immediately became guarded.
The sound of trees falling one by one, and then–
“Just perfect, I’ll play with you to the end.”
In front of the two, a giant black monster appeared.
Riding upon it’s back was a girl with ash grey hair — Muir Alenstarl was laughing lightly.
“With this annihilation spirit — Tiamat.”
The elegantly played waltz.
The two dancing in the center of the hall were drawing attention from around them.
With Ren Ashbell leading, the dance was intense like a burning flame.
As with when a princess maiden was performing a offering a ritual, a true ceremonial dance.
With those fluid movements, Kamito was just barely keeping pace.
“Pretty good movements. As expected of a blade dance master.”
“Is that sarcasm? Strongest Blade Dancer <Ren Ashbell>.”
To the whisper from the scarlet mask, Kamito replied as such.
Ren Ashbell quickly shifted her feet. Kamito followed her lead and pulled her towards himself. They turned like a flickering flame. Both left their bodies to the music.
Their dancing was already one without splendor.
It was already a fierce blade dance.
“I have various questions I’d like to ask you.”
“Impatient, aren’t you. Despite that I’d like to enjoy this dance with you a little longer.”
“Sorry. I’ll have you let me lead from here.”
Kamito pulled Ren Ashbell’s hand and led her to a terrace devoid of others.
The cool night air cooled their burning skin.
Because of its large size, the terrace felt like a floating island with a clear view of the entire forest.
“This strategy is bothersome. I’ll get straight to the point.”
Kamito stopped dancing and separated from her.
He glared at the scarlet mask — and asked.
“What did you do to Restia?”
“What did you do, meaning?”
“Don’t mess around. I know that you command Restia.”
“I am not commanding her. She is my comrade.”
“You’re saying Restia is helping you of her own will?”
“That’s right, I am using her and she is using me.”
Kamito bit his lips closed.
(I can’t accept that, but–)
There was certainly credibility in it.
Restia moving without commands was something he could imagine. Warning Kamito about Muir was probably done on her own will.
“What is your purpose in gathering the military-use spirits and orphans from the <Instructional School>?”
And she replied immediately.
Kamito was speechless.
But thinking about it, it wasn’t an unexpected reply.
Military-use spirits and <Instructional School> orphans — either one was useless for anything other than war.
“That’s right. Power is necessary for fighting with <them>.”
“This world’s kings.”
(Fighting with the world’s kings……she says?)
Kamito could not understand that objective. Was it for the purpose of restarting the Ranbal War which had involved every country–
“What is the reason for that? To destroy the world?”
“No. It is a war to save this world.”
“What are you say–”
“But to start the war, a starting point is needed.”
Ren Ashbell grabbed Kamito by the scruff of the neck and pulled him closer.
“I’ll have you allow me to test it, Successor of the Maou <Ren Ashbell>. Whether you have the qualifications to kill them.”
Instantly, her right hand pierced Kamito’s chest.
That was — with countless scales like blades, a many-headed evil dragon.
The black giant far eclipsed Leonora Lancaster’s dragon spirit <Nidhogg>.
Its spread wings hid the moon and its claws gouged the earth.
Five heads spread from the center of its torso and each acted on its own.
“……Annihilation spirit <Tiamat>?”
In the face of the rising oppressive force, Claire took a breath.
No mistaking it. What was before them was a first-class military-use spirit.
An existence not unlike Velsaria’s fortress <Dreadnought> spirit they had fought two weeks prior.
The girl riding on its back laughed lightly and smiled and–
“–Kill them, <Tiamat>.”
With an innocent voice, that order was given.
One of the heads breathed fire.
The flames spread across the ground and in an instant the surrounding forest had burned down.
Claire and Rinslet had reacted instantaneously, jumping straight into the lake.
The night sky was dyed red with the color of the flames.
Muir Alenstarl was clapping her hands.
“Ohh, not bad. You’re not blade dancers for nothing.”
Claire broke the surface of the water and glared at Muir.
The scarlet dress was soaked and clung to her skin.
“……Claire, help……cough, cough……”
“You, what are you doing!?”
“I, I can’t swim!”
Rinslet flapped and choked. Claire quickly helped her out.
“How are you drowning in a place where you can stand?”
“Sh, shut up!”
Rinslet averted her face.
“……Why are you attacking us?”
“Because you onee-sans have made ani-sama weak.”
Muir replied in a cold voice.
One of <Tiamat>’s heads with a crooked neck rose up and let loose blades of wind.
Claire called out and summoned a hellcat clad in crimson flames.
But, it was impossible to shoot down every blade.
The scarlet dress was shredded and blood flew from her shoulder like mist.
Many wounds opened across her pure white skin.
“Fufu, your prepared dress has become worthless.”
Like a cat playing with their prey, Muir licked her lips.
“Hmph, it was just slowing me down.”
Claire gave a fearless smile and tore the hem of her dress.
From the tear, one could see a leather whip strapped to her thigh.
“Like I thought, rather than a dance, a blade dance is much more suited to me.”
From within the dancing flames, Claire’s whip let out a sound.
“What a coincidence. Me, too.”
Rinslet emerged from the water, ripped the hem of her dress and summoned her demon ice spirit <Fenrir>.
The ice wolf changed forms to the <Ice Longbow> and moved to Rinslet’s hand.
Noisily, a wall of fire erupted into the night sky.
With their respective Elemental Waffes in hand, the two faced down with the giant.
“Stupid onee-chans. You think you can defeat Muir?”
<Tiamat> let out a roar that seemed to slice the atmosphere.
No, it wasn’t a roar. This was–
(No way, a spirit magic chant!?)
A small portion of high-intelligence spirits could perform spirit magic on their own. The dragon race of spirits in particular was known for its proficiency at spirit magic.
The ground shook greatly.
Trees were uprooted and the ground split, sending many stones flying–
“Earth spirit magic <Tribulations’ Mountain of Swords <Judgement Sword>>!?”
“What insane destructive power!”
“You can’t run, onee-chan.”
The red dragon head spit out a fireball.
The stones released by the fireball’s explosion on the ground turned the trees into smithereens.
They were thrown to the ground by the aftershock.
It was the same magic, but the destructive force was incomparable to Claire’s.
“Aha, what happened to all that attitude from before, onee-chan?”
“Freezing fang, pierce — Demon Ice Arrow <Freezing Arrow>!”
Instantly, Rinslet released the ice arrow.
Innumerable flying fangs of ice. It wouldn’t be a killing blow, but with the added effect of Absolute Zero <Ice Nein>, it should at least dull its movements.
But before they struck — <Tiamat> roared.
A wall of earth rose and blocked the arrows of ice.
“Wh, what! To be able to use fire and earth spirit magic at the same time–”
“……That reminds me that a long time ago, I heard this from ane-sama.”
Claire sighed as she wiped the sweat from her brow.
“During the Ranbal War, amongst the knights there was a spirit that could control all of the main elements at once.”
“And that is the annihilation spirit <Tiamat>?”
“Possibly. But I heard that nobody could use it, so it was abandoned.”
“……If that’s true, this is bad.”
The spirit that could control all of the five main elements–
If it were just Rinslet’s demon ice spirit and Claire’s flame spirit, there were weakpoints.
“But to use a spirit like that with just one person–”
Claire readied her flame whip <Flame Tongue> and glared at Muir.
Compared to the spirits that contracted with a person, military-use spirits did not require a contract to be used.
Its strong-point was that it was general use — the ability of the spirit had no connection to the ability of the contractor, so as long as the disposition was correct, they could use the spirit’s power. This was the reason Muir Alenstarl could use several spirits.
But on the other hand, one could not pull out any more power than was present.
For example, the spirit’s Elemental Waffe could not be used, and much of its true abilities were sealed.
But that girl was pulling out all of the military-use spirit’s power.
Muir Alenstarl was an expert that specialized at using spirits.
(But just where did she learn those skills–)
“It’s about time to end playing around. Onee-chan.”
And Muir’s ash grey hair blew in the wind.
“……You were playing until now?”
“That’s right, onee-chan.”
Rolling up her black sleeve revealed a shining ominous design carved into her right hand.
“Is that a Cursed Armament Seal!?”
“That which pulls out a spirit’s powers to the limit — <Jester’s Vice>. This is Muir’s power.”
In an instant, <Tiamat> fiercely roared.
Its five heads raged and its body grew larger in an unsightly manner.
It was as if an invisible vise was closing down on it.
“Just what is that!”
One of the heads, a dull white, opened its jaw.
In its throat, a mass of light was building up–
That name that almost escaped her mouth — Claire swallowed it back.
(At this kind of time, just asking to be saved is……)
She made her resolve to die at this time.
Then before her eyes appeared a knight with helmet and shield.
White metal shining, the knight readied its shield and blocked the light!
“Claire, are you okay!?”
Fianna came out of the forest.
The one that protected Claire was the defense spirit <Georgios>.
And one other person.
“Growl, Wind Winged Hawk <Ray Hawk>! I order you — O wind, blow wildly!”
Wrapped in a frenzied wind, Ellis threw her Elemental Waffe spear.
The multitude of wind blades cut into the evil dragon’s torso.
<Tiamat> raged as its blood sprayed into the air.
“Fianna, Ellis — you’re a life saver.”
“It’s still too early for thanks.”
Ellis sighed with a sharp gaze.
“Fufu, you’ve only bought a short time.”
Letting the Cursed Armament Seal shine ominously–
Muir Alenstarl licked her lips.
“Onee-chans, I’ll kill you all together.”
Kamito pressed down on his chest and crouched down on the terrace.
His heart burned like it was on fire. All of his blood was boiling.
At the same time, a tremendous pain assaulted the interior of his body.
“What did you do to me……?”
“I merely released a little. The qualities of the Maou that sleep within you, that is.”
“……Qualities of the Maou?”
Kamito glared up at the crimson mask while crouching on the ground.
Breathing was painful. His heart was beating like mad.
A scream built up in his throat.
“As expected, your body is rejecting it.”
Ren Ashbell was calmly watching the writhing Kamito.
“Well, fine. If you can’t stand that much, then you were only worth so little–”
“Stand. Kazehaya Kamito.”
She kicked the groaning Kamito in the stomach without a shred of mercy.
“You can lie there if you want, but things you hold precious will be hurt.”
“What, was that……?”
While breathing through his throat which felt like it was on fire, Kamito somehow managed to raise his upper body.
Ren Ashbell pointed out towards the forest visible from the terrace.
The direction of the lake from that afternoon. Black flames and fierce flames were rising.
“Your companions and Muir Alenstarl are currently engaged in combat.”
“What, did you say……!?”
At the same moment he yelled that, the worst pain thus far assaulted Kamito. He collapsed onto the ground.
“Your companions cannot defeat Muir Alenstarl. You, who knows her, know that fact best.”
He couldn’t deny it.
Muir Alenstarl was the <Monster> from the <Instructional School>.
Between the ojou-samas of the academy and Muir who had been trained specifically as a weapon, there was an enormous gap.
“I won’t let that……I will never, lose another……!”
Kamito pressed down on his beating chest and staggered back onto his feet.
The interior of the crimson mask — burning red eyes pierced through Kamito’s.
And then she grabbed his arm.
“That’s the spirit. Don’t let me down, strongest blade dancer <Blade Dancer>!”
Kamito was flung off the terrace.
“–Blow the flute of the end, dragon vanguard of the king!”
Muir Alenstarl’s innocent voice resounded across the night sky.
Fire, earth, water, wind, holy — under the influence of Muir’s ability <Jester’s Vise>, each head released breath.
“–Thou, become the shield of my person, knight of the ancient pledge!”
The atmosphere shook and trees were felled in circular patterns.
The knight’s shield was destroyed and its armor was falling apart–
The time it could withstand was only a few more seconds.
The knight with the should-be overwhelming defense was blown into bits and disappeared into nothingness.
“Aha, that wasn’t even a toy, onee-chan.”
Muir sneered at the devastated and drained Fianna.
“Ellis, Rinslet — we rush at the same time!”
“Got it!” “Understood!”
Yelling, Claire drew the flame whip <Flame Tongue>.
The crimson slash sealed its movements for a moment.
“Freezing fang, pierce — Demon Ice Arrow <Freezing Arrow>!”
“–O wind, blow wildly!”
Rinslet released the Demon Ice Arrow <Freezing Arrow> towards the fire head and Ellis’ wind blades aimed for the earth head.
That is, they aimed for the heads which were weak against their element.
“It won’t work.”
The earth and wind dragons chanted different spirit spells.
At the same time the ice arrows were blocked by the wall of earth, the blades of wind were struck down by opposing blades of wind.
And while the three were defense, the dull white head fired its Judgment Flash <Holy Ray>.
The grounded exploded and a pillar of earth and sand flew up from it.
Claire and the others were blasted from the air and hit the ground harshly.
The crater which radiated outwards. The fire fragments which were mixed in painted the air red.
“……To be able to control a military-use spirit like her hands and feet……”
Claire groaned while gripping the ground.
It was a despairing difference in battle strength. The top class’ spirits at the academy were like babies in comparison.
Suddenly, the scales cracked and <Tiamat>’s frame grew.
Muir’s <Jester’s Vise> carried a heavy burden.
“Is that okay? At this rate, that military-use spirit will be destroyed!”
The heavily wounded Rinslet yelled such.
Muir shrugged her shoulders–
“It’s fine. A spirit is just a throwaway toy.”
“What did you say……!”
Claire opened her eyes in shock. She raised her bloody head without thinking.
“And you still call yourself a spirit contractor?”
“Muir is a weapon. The same as this <Tiamat> and ani-sama, a massacre weapon.”
At those words — Claire’s expression froze.
“You……what did you just say?”
“The same as ani-sama, what do you mean?”
“Aha, did you perhaps not know?”
Muir’s lips curled in a cruel manner.
“Ani-sama is the same as Muir — an assassin raised by the <Instructional School>.”
Kamito who had been tossed off the terrace groaned in anguish.
One or two bones might be broken.
This was the Kamito who had received the harshest taijutsu training at the <Instructional School>. Even if he fell from the third floor of a building, it wouldn’t result in an injury. But right now, Kamito’s body was burning up and in extreme pain such that he couldn’t even lift a finger.
(……What exactly was done to me?)
Within his hazy mind, Ren Ashbell’s words came to him.
Released the qualities of the Maou — that’s what she said.
(……What does that mean?)
No, rather than that, right now–
Kamito dug his shaking fingertips into the ground.
The flames burning the forest were increasing in intensity more and more.
While this was happening, Claire and the others–
It was frustrating not being able to move. It couldn’t be helped that it felt like the air was burning.
Even now, elegant music could be heard coming from the interior of the castle.
Despite the battle going on at the purification grounds, nobody inside the castle seemed to have noticed.
No, even Kamito who had been on the terrace had failed to hear the battle. There might have been a barrier around the surroundings.
(But to form a barrier of this magnitude……)
The only ones capable of such a feat were <Spirit Princess> rank princess maidens.
A racing heartbeat.
At the same time a horrible pain spread.
The sound of footsteps and the one who appeared was the white dress-clad Est.
“My apologies. Because of somebody’s barrier around this area, I didn’t notice it sooner.”
“Kamito……don’t tell me, that power–”
Est opened her mysterious violet eyes.
Leaning down beside the fallen Kamito, she pulled him back up.
Her white-silver hair lightly touched his cheek. The sweet milk-like scent tickled his nose.
“Kamito, please stay still like that.”
With that, Est touched the feverish chest of Kamito.
Her beautiful hair gleamed in the night’s darkness.
Strangely, the pain seemed to leave with the soft feeling of her hand.
“Is this Terminus Est’s power?”
“Yes. I believe this will keep it in check for now but–”
That which destroyed Velsaria’s Cursed Armament Seal, a holy blade’s power.
It’s not like the pain completely disappeared, but he could somehow move about at this level.
“Kamito, are you okay?”
“Yeah, thanks to Est……”
Kamito raised his upper body and rose to his knees on the ground.
“Kamito, you still shouldn’t move.”
“I have to go save Claire and the others.”
Est let out a panicked voice. It was the first time for her who was always expressionless to express so much.
“The curse is only temporarily suppressed so if you use divine power right now, you won’t be able to control my current power.”
“……Yeah, I know.”
But, even then–
An instant. From the other side of the forest, a fearsome roar resounds.
As if to burn the night sky, the giant’s flames grow higher.
“Est, I’m begging you. The only one who can fight with Muir is me.”
“Lend me your power.”
Even if he could not get her approval, he planned to head there anyway.
“……Kamito, you’re unfair.”
Sighed and held Kamito’s hand.
“–I am Kamito’s sword, as long as you wish.”
Kamito nodded and chanted the words of summoning.
–The cool-headed steel queen, the sacred sword that destroys evil!
–Now form a sword of steel and be the power in my hand!
Est’s form was covered in light and disappeared into nothingness.
And in the next moment, a blade of shining steel emitting light was gripped in his Kamito’s hand.
“Let’s go, Est!”
Fixing his grip on Terminus Est, Kamito ran into the darkness of the night.
To bring closure to his past.