Holy crap…I actually finished it right at 3:00 AM PST just like I said. It was on the dot, but formatting it to post here took 3 minutes. My intuition scares me.
“……No way, an attack!?”
At the time that a flashy explosion came from the camp site.
Claire and the others were in the middle of getting changed after finishing bathing.
“The barrier’s been broken — they’re coming!”
In sync with Claire’s scream.
Fianna, Ellis and Rinslet summoned their respective spirits.
Scarlet’s flames lit up the surrounding darkness.
And above the steam were the silhouettes of three people with drawn weapons.
“What a surprise. The favored Knights of Dragon Emperor coming to attack in the night like this.”
“We are soldiers before we are knights. To bring victory and pride back home, we will not pass up the most effective methods.”
The one who answered was a girl with boy-like short hair.
She readied her halberd <Elemental Waffe>.
“We’ll at least name ourselves. Knight of the Dragon Emperor Vice-Captain, Yuri El Cid.”
“<Team Scarlet>’s Claire Rouge.”
Claire quickly transformed Scarlet into the Flame Tongue.
While keeping her attention to the front, she whispered to Ellis behind her.
“Leonora isn’t here. The explosion just now was probably her.”
If it was her Nidhogg, then pulling off that much destruction in one blow was possible.
They had aimed for a time when Kamito was alone and come to crush him.
“No matter how good Kamito is, he can’t win against Leonora without an Elemental Waffe.”
“……I got it. I will go to support Kamito.”
Ellis immediately understood Claire’s intentions and began chanting her <Flight> spirit magic.
She kicked off the ground and flew into the night air lit by flames.
“—I won’t let you go to Leonora-sama!”
Another knight blocked Ellis’ path.
A spirit contractor with a flying dragon spirit.
They had anticipated their actions and hid in the forest beforehand. And the opponent was a flying type dragon spirit. Ellis’ spirit magic couldn’t outrun that.
“……This is bad. We’ve been completely separated.”
Turning to the direction the flames were rising from, Claire bit hit lips.
The blaze skidded across the ground.
Accompanied by a loud sound, flames coated the ground.
(……What destructive power!)
Being blown away by the resulting wind force, Kamito fell to the ground.
Quickly getting up and opening his eyes—
A scene like the world’s end spread out before him.
The ground was dug up like a mortar. The wall of fire ate away at the night darkness.
On the other sound of the wall of flames, the dragon spirit roared with intense ferocity.
The accompanying wind scattered the flames.
The jet black dragon flapped its massive wings.
Basked in the bluish white light from the moon, Leonora Lancaster walked towards him silently.
Holding her hand up, the dragon transformed into darkness.
The darkness then gathered and instantly formed a large demon sword.
“Dragon spirit <Nidhogg>’s Elemental Waffe — <Dragon Slayer>.”
Leonora muttered that indifferently and raised the demon sword.
Kamito felt it instinctively.
Just when he got up and dodged.
Leonora closed the distance in an instant.
Just before the demon sword descended, Kamito jumped to the side.
The sound of the ground being crushed.
The demon sword had lightly grazed him and his white uniform had blood on it.
Kamito grimaced at the sharp pain from being cut.
(……Don’t tell me she’s completely materializing her Elemental Waffe!?)
If Kamito had not dodged just now, he would have been split in half.
She was swinging her blade with the full intent of killing Kamito.
(Is this the influence of that <Dragon Blood> Claire was talking about……)
Leonora’s brilliant red eyes that were shining in the darkness.
A state where she lost the majority of her reason and became a berserker.
It was forbidden to kill your opponent in the Blade Dance. That’s why spirit contractors generally limited the materialization of their Elemental Waffe and opted to causing damage with their divine power directly.
But just now, Leonora had seriously tried to kill Kamito.
Kamito quickly chanted his Weapon Works spirit magic and created a short sword in his hands.
With Est’s <Gate> closed, this was the best he could do with his divine power.
It was only a substitute that could take one strike from the aftershock of the opponent’s sword before it shattered.
Jumping off the mud and just before landing — Leonora swung her demon sword.
Bone-shattering force was created.
The severe blade storm that continued without mercy.
Kamito rolled on the ground and just barely avoided that attack.
“……It’s like she has no openings.”
Cold sweat gathered on his brow.
They were movements unthinkable for a thin and delicate arm like that with such a large sword.
She was likely using dragon property spirit magic to supplement her muscle strength.
“—It’s not enough……make my blood boil even more, Kazehaya Kamito!”
The demon sword was swung again. Whilst emitting a dragon-like roar, the sword released a wave of energy.
Invisible fangs that would rip through flesh. It resembled Ellis’ blades of wind, but the destructive power was on a different scale.
Slicing through the cut-preventive school uniform, blood dripped from his shoulder.
“Kuu, she’s strong, as I thought……!”
Kamito cursed as he wiped the blood from his lip.
The overwhelming divine power welling up in her entire body.
In a head-on battle, Kamito had no chance of winning right now.
(—There’s no other way but to draw this into a battle of attrition by retreating into the forest.)
Along with the awakening of her <Dragon Blood> and that oppressive power, Leonora lost her ability to think calmly. If Kamito moved around stealthily, he could at leasy buy time.
(It should wear down the insane divine power of the <Dragon Blood>.)
There was likely a time limit on how long she could fight in this condition. A normal spirit contractor’s limit would be one minute. Leonora’s was likely around five.
(—If I can stay clear for five minutes, I can win.)
Just as Kamito was about to retreat into the forest.
Giant flames rose up under the cliff near the river far away from him.
He didn’t have to think about where it was. That was where Claire and the rest were.
“—It looks like they’re engaged in battle with my subordinates.”
Leonora’s eyes glinted and she closed the distance in an instant.
“If you want to protect your comrades, you’ll have to use your full power and defeat me!”
Leonora’s demon blade approached him—!
Waving her Flame Tongue, she cast the spirit magic <Fireball> at the same time.
Yuri El Cid — the halberd spirit contractor was engulfed in flames.
“As expected, if it’s a direct attack — ehh!?”
“It’s a pity but flame attribute attribute spirit magic won’t work against this <Lindwyrm>!”
Breaking through the wall of flames, a giant dragon with red scales charged towards her.
“I know, freezing fangs, pierce — <Freezing Arrow>!”
Aiming at the fire dragon’s body in only a moment, she released the ice arrows.
But just before the arrows hit, the fire dragon breathed fire and melted them.
The arrows that barely struck also rebounded off the scales and disappeared.
“No way, my <Freezing Arrows> were……!”
“……It’s using dragon attribute spirit magic!”
Claire yelled as she erased the fire dragon’s flames.
Dragon spirits’ specialities were their overwhelming strength and their high resistance against magical attacks. Especially with their <Anti-magic Dragon Scales> on, their magical resistance against the five main elements multiplied.
For Claire and the others who used spirits of the five main elements, they were a truly difficult opponent.
“Claire! <Georgios> alone can’t hold them back……!”
And from behind came Fianna’s concerned voice.
Her knight spirit was currently handling two of the dragon spirits.
Her opponents were the types without wings or scales — the close-range specializing raging dragon spirits.
Swinging their giant claws and tail, they were slowly cornering the knight spirit.
The raging dragon spirits were far above in power. The reason they were being held at bay was that the knight spirit had techniques specialized to face dragons.
But there were two opponents. And they were being controlled by skilled spirit contractors.
As expected, not even the defense specialist knight spirit could reach a decisive conclusion with just a sword and shield.
“Fianna……! Rinslet, please buy me some time!”
Claire immediately requested back-up but—
Ellis landed right in front of her.
Looking to the sky, she saw the girl riding the flying dragon spirit dance in the air.
“I said so, I won’t let you interrupt Leonora-sama!”
The flying dragon spirit roared, turned towards the fallen Ellis and released innumerable fireballs—
Claire quickly swung her Flame Tongue and intercepted the fireballs in midair causing many explosions.
“Ellis, can you still move?”
“……Yeah, sorry. I’m fine.”
The wound-covered Ellis held her <Ray Hawk> and unsteadily rose to her feet.
Ellis’ spirit was top-class even within the academy. Even disregarding any advantages from battling in the air, to have been beaten so one-sidedly—
“These guys are strong on their own and their teamwork is much more refined than us.”
Claire painfully admitted the truth of Ellis’ observation.
If either Claire or Rinslet had backed her up, Ellis should have been able to fight evenly.
But the opponent never let such an opportunity show.
“My Georgios is—”
“Haa, haa……the compatibility with Lindwyrm was too harsh……!”
At some point, they had been boxed in by the four members of the Knights of the Dragon Emperor.
The knight spirit was being pushed back by the two raging dragon spirits and Rinslet was completely worn out.
“—Elimination of the Ordesia representatives. A fair result for our first battle.”
Yuri El Cid formed her fire dragon’s halberd.
“This is the end. Claire Rouge.”
The demon sword that should have been swung—
Was stopped in midair.
“……Wh, what the!?”
Leonora’s red eyes widened in shock.
While looking at the face of the violent but still-beautiful face of the girl, Kamito murmured.
“This was originally a technique for hiding while crawling.”
Held against the wrist of Leonora’s hand which held the demon sword was Kamito’s arm.
He couldn’t stop her demon sword’s attack.
But it was different for the arm wielding the attack.
He had pressed his arm to her wrist just as she exhaled before the attack.
If he drew in when Leonora pulled back her sword and instead pushed with all his strength, it would create a lethal opening — a simple yet effective taijutsu skill.
Logically, it was simple, but the timing required was fatal. It was not something an amateur could copy.
It was only because Kamito had undergone the harsh training of the <Instructional School> that he could carry it out in real combat.
Leonora’s body froze into the position of swinging her sword.
“The technique of a knight without a sword — alias <Sword Break>. A heretical skill. To begin with though, this was the old hag Greyworth’s and not the <Instructional School>’s.”
“—I see. So this was the technique of the strongest spirit knight in the continent, Sir Greyworth.
The red eyes looked down at Kamito.
Eyes of a dragon that were painted with the joy of battle — completely battle-crazy eyes.
“But clever tricks are nothing before absolute power……!”
Leonora’s divine power rose explosively.
With an inhuman roar that shook the atmosphere, she pushed as if to crush him to death—
“—That’s reckless, Leonora!”
At the moment the power balance broke, Kamito sent a palm strike to her solar plexus — but,
Just before that, she jumped to the side — it wasn’t reactionary, just instinct.
Attacking Kamito’s flank, a flash of light gouged out the ground.
The one that had sent out the attack was the ornament on the <Dragon Slayer>’s hilt. If he hadn’t dodged, it would have pierced his heart without a doubt.
He jumped while spraying blood from his flank. Because he was dodging purely on instinct, he couldn’t soften the landings.
Leonora was swinging the sword in every which direction.
The dividing horizontal slices of the blade. The shockwaves that seemed like they could crush all the bones in one’s body.
Kamito’s body was blown to the side and smashed into a rock.
(……My arm’s bone……!)
Leonora didn’t stop. She charged with increasing roars.
Kamito readied his spirit magic blade at his waist. He would match his opponent’s timing and deliver a counter — it was a dangerous gamble, but there was no alternative.
(If I don’t beat her quickly, Claire and the others will—)
Leonora charged like a dragon, causing tremors as she approached.
He would have no mercy on her who was under the influence of the <Dragon Blood>.
If he messed up the timing even slightly — what awaited him was death.
The moment the clade of the sword entered his vision.
Kamito jumped off the rock behind him.
(—I’ve got you!)
Dodging by a hair’s breadth, the perfect distance.
He didn’t think a blade of this calibre would be able to pierce the magic strengthened Leonora, but there were other ways to fight. If he broke her stance and used several strikes, he should be able to affect even this tough dragon knight—
“I said it, didn’t I, that clever tricks won’t work on me!”
Aimed at Kamito standing before her and threw the <Dragon Slayer>.
Wrapped in spiraling air currents, the large sword flew in a straight line.
Kamito had not anticipated this.
Kamito clicked his tongue and dodged but Leonora had already closed in—
Kamito instantly used a spirit magic sword to guard. But the magically strengthened Leonora’s fist went right through the sword and into Kamito’s jaw.
His vision shook. As soon as he realized he was flying in the air, he smacked the ground.
(God, damn……throwing that huge sword one-handedly? It’s too unreasonable……)
The point he had been wounded at. He cursed while confirming what parts could still move.
His ribs were cut and a few internal organs had failed.
Her fingers had gone numb and couldn’t move. It was already a condition unfit to fight.
“—More, make my blood boil more, Kazehaya Kamito. The <Dragon> sleeping within me wants to go crazy with you.”
Leonora picked up the demon sword she had thrown and slowly walked towards him.
Like a dragon enjoying the hunt.
“—If not, you’ll die.”
“……Don’t just say whatever you want.”
While groaning from the pain, Kamito pushed off the ground and stood up.
More than before, the flames from the riverside had grown more vicious and black smoke rose from it.
(Claire……Ellis, Fianna, Rinslet……)
He gripped his numbed fingers at the regret of not being able to protect them.
(I can’t win against Leonora Lancaster at this rate—)
Kamito affirmed that calmly.
—That’s right, if it stayed like this.
The spirit seal on his left hand ached. No, he had already noticed. Since not too long ago, the seal had been burning with feverish heat.
The <Gate> that had never opened since that day three years ago.
But now he could feel her calling out to him.
He just had to call her name. With just that, he would regain the strongest demon sword.
The power to defeat Leonora and save his female comrades.
The highest ranked darkness Elemental Waffe — <Vorpal Sword>.
He could return in an instant. To the Ren Ashbell of three years ago.
But that was under the condition that he severed the contract on his other hand.
The sword spirit girl that had closed her heart off in sadness and was alone in the darkness.
Kamito’s voice shook like a groan.
That was a momentary conflict. A loss of direction.
But he quickly raised his head and shook it.
He had already resolved it from the beginning.
(I am Est’s master!)
Leonora’s red eyes glared viciously as she approached—
“Kazehaya Kamito, I am disappointed in you.”
The <Dragon Slayer> pierced Kamito’s chest.
Inside his consciousness that had sunk into darkness—
Kamito found a girl sitting down while hugging her knees.
The silvery white hair that shone brilliantly even in the darkness.
Her unblemished white skin was like a frozen blade.
Kamito placed his hand against the cheek of the sword spirit that had closed her heart.
The mysterious violet eyes widened in surprise.
“Est, I ask you — lend me your power. I need you to protect our friends!”
Turning to squatting Est, Kamito cried out.
But Est wordlessly shook her head.
“Kamito, I am sorry. I can’t be your sword anymore.”
“I will, one day, take away Kamito’s life.”
At that time, something cold was felt on Kamito’s fingertips.
Those were tears.
She was once a sword spirit that had shown not a single emotion.
When his fingers touched her, a whirlpool of emotions flowed into him.
The Sacred Queen and the <Demon Slayer> — the last of their memories together.
In front of Est—
The sacred maiden that had defeated the maou’s body crystallized into a spirit stone.
“Est, don’t make that kind of face.”
Areishia’s right hand that could still move touched Est’s cheek as she struggled to talk.
“I knew about this from the beginning.”
She wore such an adult expression despite being only sixteen years old.
Seeing even those figertips crystallize—
The sword spirit finally understood.
That this was — a curse.
The combined resentment and curses of the spirits that had been slain by the holy sword’s power thus far.
That had amassed until the limit and was eroding her master’s body.
The <Demon Slayer> was a sword that destroyed all curses.
But those curses didn’t disappear from this world. The holy sword that had absorbed those various curses would one day pass them onto its master.
The spirit weapon — <Terminus Est> was not a holy sword.
Taking the user’s life in exchange for granting enormous power was unmistakably the properties of a demon sword.
The girl’s forgiving hand. Est could not watch as those fingers that had always gently pet her head hardened and became a spirit stone.
“Master! I didn’t know! That I—”
“I know, Est.”
Areishia smiled and gazed at Est gently.
“Master……you knew that you would……”
“Yes. That’s why it’s not Est’s fault.”
While patting Est’s silvery white hair, she slowly nodded.
But her voice wavered and tears gathered in those eyes.
It was obvious. In the face of death, there was no way she wasn’t afraid.
That’s why she wasn’t anything like a sacred maiden.
She was just a normal sixteen year old girl.
“Good bye, Est. My only friend.”
“No, you can’t……master……!”
A small voice leaked from Est’s lips.
“……That’s the first time you’ve called my name. I’m hap…..py……”
With a clear sound, the girl’s neck crystallized.
Est could do nothing but watch.
At the moment the girl who had revealed her heart for the first shattered after becoming a clear crystal.
The hot tears dropped onto Est’s cheek.
“Honestly, didn’t want to become anything like a sacred maiden.”
A wail echoed through the maou’s castle.
For the sacred maiden that bore the hopes of all people and had fought to this point alone—
That was her end.
And so Est sealed herself in the maou’s armory.
So that nobody would contract the demon sword hidden deep within.
So she would never lose anybody important again.
She would never open her heart to anyone — she solemnly swore that.
“—I have no right to become Kamito’s sword.”
Kamito became speechless at Est’s past that he had caught a glance of.
The girl that had given emotion to this spirit weapon girl that had none.
Est had stolen that girl’s life herself with her curse.
That’s why she closed her heart.
For how many hundreds of years, she had continued to separate herself from those who wanted to contract her.
So she would never be touched by anyone else again.
Kamito could not imagine how lonely that must have been.
Kamito rubbed the edge of Est’s eye.
Those mysterious purple eyes blinked.
“Don’t say you don’t have the right. I need Est.”
“You can’t……if you continue to use a demon sword like me, I’ll steal your life!”
Kamito placed his hand on Est’s head.
“I won’t lose to that kind of curse.”
He pet that beautiful silvery white hair.
“I won’t. Until you stop crying, that is.”
“Est, your curse and your destiny as a demon sword, I’ll take it all.”
He hugged Est’s delicate body to himself.
“So come back, Est!”
“No……I will, to Kamito……”
To stop those words—
Kamito embraced Est and sealed her lips.
Est’s eyes shot open in surprise.
That was the ritual to contract a top-level spirit.
The kiss of oath.
Kamito gently separated their lips.
“I’ll say it once more, Est. I need you.”
He yelled this out while holding her delicate body tightly.
“Become my sword, Est!”
In response to Kamito’s powerful words—
Est’s silvery white hair shined.
Leonora’s red eyes widened.
From the right hand of Kamito who should’ve been knocked out, a strong light was shining.
“—The cool-headed steel queen, the sacred sword that destroys evil!”
His quivering lips chanted the summoning spirit words.
Faced with the vigorous voice that had a mysterious edge to it, Leonora took a step back.
“……It can’t be, the <Dragon> inside me is scared?”
The <Dragon Blood> was in a fully awakened state so she could understand, this was true fear.
“—Now form a sword of steel and be the power in my hand!”
As if to burn the eyes, a fierce light was emitted!
In front of Kamito, the <Gate> connecting a master and their contracted spirit opened.
The one that appeared was a girl with beautiful fluttering silvery white hair.
“……Es……t, thank you. For listening to my selfishness.”
While pushing down on the hole in his chest, he smiled wryly.
“Kamito, I am your sword — for as long as you wish.”
The uniformed Est said that with the same expressionless face as always.
He wondered if the slightly red cheeks he could see were because of the flames.
“So you’ve called back the <Demon Slayer>……”
The radiance of Leonora’s red eyes rose.
“This is the reason there is worth in defeating you!”
Roaring, she swung the <Dragon Slayer>—
“—Destroy, tyrannical demonic dragon!”
A crimson light shot out from the tip of the sword.
It blazed the ground and instantly disintegrated the trees in its path.
But Est didn’t avoid it and simply stood there.
With an expression like ice, she turned to the inferno and put out her palm.
“—I am talking with Kamito right now, so don’t disturb us.”
The inferno that raged over the earth was dispersed with ease.
Leonora widened her eyes in shock.
Est gave off a fierce aura that didn’t match with her magnificent appearance.
“……Est, let’s go!”
Kamito shakily got to his feet and held Est’s hand.
His chest wound opened and a large amount of blood splattered across the ground.
His arm’s joints were dislocated his ribs were broken.
It was a condition that could only be described as covered in wounds.
But for some reason, he knew he wouldn’t lose.
Just having Est nearby seemed to send strength welling up from deep within him.
Kamito chanted the spirit words for releasing and Est’s body scattered into light particles.
In the next instant, Kamito’s hands were holding a silvery white shining sword.
Demon Slayer — Terminus Est.
“Let’s do this, Leonora Lancaster!”
Kamito shouted as he readied Est in both hands.
There was no need for clever tricks — just one attack was enough.
“—Answer to the call of my blood, demonic dragon, rampage!”
Leonora also positioned her <Dragon Slayer> again and roared.
And both sacred sword users ran at the same time.
The wind from the swords dug into the ground and sent dirt and sand flying.
“—Taste the boiling of my blood with your body!”
The large sword being swung before his eyes.
Wrapped in enough divine power to blow him away if it even grazed, Leonora charged.
But Kamito did not fear it and instant accelerated towards it.
There was nothing to fear.
Because Kamito now had the strongest sword.
“Est, your sadness and despair, I will put an end to all of it!”
When the two blades met, the <Demon Slayer> gave off a radiance—
And shattered the <Dragon Slayer> in one strike.
“……No way, Leonora-sama was!?”
Yuri El Cid exclaimed.
The divine power she had felt coming from not too far away had stopped.
“Looking away in the midst of battle? We’re being really underestimated.”
The momentary opening provided by the iron wall dragon knight. Claire would not let it slip.
Swinging her Flame Tongue, she knocked the halberd from her hands.
The flame whip instantly reverted to a hellcat and attacked.
Yuri kicked the ground and retreated.
“We’re stopping the hunt. Retreat!”
The face colors Knights of the Dragon Emperor’s changed instantly.
But as natural-born soldiers, they quickly understood the situation and promptly followed the order, retreating into the forest.
“I won’t let you! Freezing fangs, pierce — Freezing Arrow!”
Rinslet shot her ice arrows, but they were blocked by the forest’s trees.
“Kamito beat Leonora?”
“……It seems like that’s the case.”
Claire nodded as she looked in the direction of the burning camp site.
“……Why are you not taking my <Magic Stone>?”
Leonora who was lying on the blazing ground asked.
Her mad red eyes had returned to a calm black.
……It seemed that the <Dragon Blood> had calmed down.
“I won’t say it’s a reward for helping me get Est back but—”
Kamito also fell down.
It was a much more delicate body than he had imagined.
Her noble face entered his eyes.
“This time I’ll pardon you. And I’d like to blade dance with the real dragon knight Leonora rather than one influenced by <Dragon Blood>.”
“……Naive, aren’t you.”
“……Well, the truth is I can’t even move a finger anyway.”
Kamito said so with a wry smile and Leonora turned her head with a red face.
“A, as I thought, you’re dangerous……in various ways.”
“What’s that mean? What are these various ways?”
“Y, you’re quite noisy, you licentious beast!”
Leonora sent Kamito flying and stood up.
The <Dragon Blood> rampage seemed to have eaten up her divine power so she was shaky on her feet.
“I won’t lose next time, Kazehaya Kamito.”
“Yeah, me neither. I have no intention of losing.”
Leonora smiled and disappeared into the flames.
“……Kamito is really a master with no fidelity.”
Hearing the pouting voice of Est from overhead, Kamito passed out.
—And this time he didn’t see that dream.