With the advent of this post, voting on the second stage of the poll comes to a close. I will report the status of the poll later in another post.
EDIT: I noticed that I forgot the afterword, so I’ll actually post that first, then close the polling.
Evening. Dusk hung over <Ragna Ys> which was floating in Astral Zero’s skies.
Having spent a turbulent day with Leonora, Kamito returned with Ellis and Fianna, who happened to be at the pool, to the castle they were staying at.
After this, the oracle concerning the finals would be delivered by the five spirit princesses at the <Divine Ritual Institute>’s <Grand Shrine>. They would convene once with the entire team to discuss their plans for what was to come.
He showered then went to Claire’s room and knocked.
“Claire, it’s about time.”
“Yes, the preparations are already complete. You may enter.”
He opened the door and found Claire and the others sitting atop the bed playing Old Maid.
“I win. That makes 17 wins with 2 losses.”
Claire tossed the cards.
“O, One more time!”
“It will be the same no matter how many times we do it. You’re an open book.”
“……~! H, how frustrating!”
Rinslet cried out with teary eyes.
It seemed the two of them had performed a simple purification in the shower as their hair was wet.
……The hair clinging to their necks was somehow sexy.
“Have you been playing cards the whole time?”
“Yes, it heated up without me noticing!”
“Even though I also thought about inviting you; where have you been all this time?”
“Ah, no, I just went to town for lunch……”
……There was no way he could say he had been out on a date with the ace of an enemy team.
“Jeez, if it’s lunch, I would have made it for you.”
“E, even I can at least make lunch……!”
“……No, eating cinders for dinner is too heavy on my stomach.”
Kamito muttered as he broke out into a cold sweat.
“Kamito, welcome back.”
Est who had been playing with Scarlet trotted over.
“Yeah. Sorry for leaving you behind this morning. Here, cake from a night stall.”
Kamito presented the cake box and the sword spirit’s eyes lit up.
Just then, Ellis opened the door and entered.
“Everyone, what are you doing? We’ll be late if we don’t hurry.”
“……There’s still an hour left.”
Claire sighed in disbelief.
The spectating nobles had already gathered at the Grand Shrine.
A magnificent bonfire blazed in front of the massive stone gates and the solemn aria of the <Divine Ritual Institute>’s princess maidens could be heard.
Undoubtedly, the five spirit maidens were receiving the oracle at the deepest reaches of the Grand Shrine.
“……There are many people as usual.”
“Claire, if you’re scared, do you wanna hold hands?”
“Y, yeah……wait, I’m n, not scared!”
Kamito teased her and Claire averted her face from him.
They walked down the hall extending from the stone gate and,
“Ahh, onee-sama and everyone!”
Rinslet’s little sister waved her hand after noticing them.
Rinslet hugged her little sister who came running over.
“Since you’re not here with father, you’ll get lost in these crowds.”
“Milla’s here so I’m fine.”
Milla the maid nodded from behind Mireille.
“That’s true but……by the way, you’re not here with Carol?”
“……Yeah, we were with her partway, but it seems that we lost her.”
“My apologies. I had to accompany Lady Mireille so……”
Milla hung her head as if she had no excuse.
“No, Carol always gets lost.”
“……I’ve had this question for a while, but how did Carol pass the Laurenfrost employment exam?”
“The foremost criterion of a Laurenfrost maid is that she is cute.”
Rinslet said that as if it was extremely obvious.
“……Well, true, Carol and Milla do fulfill that condition.”
Milla’s ears twitched in response to Kamito’s words.
“Oh, your ears are red, Milla; what’s wrong?”
“……It’s nothing. I’m fine.”
Milla replied expressionlessly to Mireille’s teasing smile.
“Haa, Kamito is truly a natural demon king……”
Fianna sighed in resignation.
“Excuse me, Kazehaya Kamito-dono.”
All of a sudden, his shoulder was hit from behind.
Turning around, an elderly man with frighteningly good physique was glaring sharply at Kamito.
A fearless face like a falcon. Blue hair that was trimmed short.
……He somehow had the impression that there was a great resemblance to someone he knew well.
“Umm, you are—”
Kamito knit his brows with suspicion and,
Ellis let out a surprised voice beside him.
“Grandfather……wait, no way!”
Then this old man was—
(The empire’s chief advisor on military matters, Duke Fahrengart—)
A hero of the Ranbal War that had contributed greatly. Honestly speaking, rather than by word of mouth, just seeing him, he was an important noble.
Claire, Rinslet and even Fianna who was from the royalty nodded respectfully.
Kamito, who was staring in blank amazement, was lightly elbowed by Claire and hurriedly nodded respectfully.
“You need not be so rigid. Lift your heads.”
Duke Fahrengart nodded in a composed manner and smacked Kamito’s shoulder.
“I have heard much about you from Ellis. Your feats in the <Blade Dance> are truly admirable.”
“……Umm, it’s an honor.”
Kamito replied like that while still bewildered. He had imagined someone more fastidious as Ellis’ grandfather, but he seemed unexpectedly candid.
“We troubled you with the matter of Velsaria. I am told that you were the one who severed those foolish misguided notions. She said she would like to meet you once again after she has finished atoning for her crime.”
“Ah, ane-ue did, to Kamito……?”
Ellis interjected, looking like she was doubtful.
“What, are you interested?”
Duke Fahrengart teasingly patted his granddaughter’s head.
“N, no, that’s……”
Ellis’ face went bright red and she twined her fingers.
Seeing that, Duke Fahrengart nodded like he had reaffirmed something and,
He leaned in near Kamito’s ear and whispered.
“I leave Ellis to you. She has her overly serious and stubborn points but she’s an earnest girl. I trust you have no problems with her heritage?”
“Umm, what do you……”
He tried to ask but his shoulders were grabbed.
Duke Fahrengart’s voice lowered.
“Affairs are not allowed, they are not. You had best remember this. If you make my granddaughter cry, the full military might of Fahrengart house which stands at the head of the warrior class will become your enemy.”
Grind, grind, grind……the old man’s fingertips dug into his shoulder.
(……This old man has crazy grip!)
Kamito shuddered……if he were to make Ellis cry, he may really be killed.
“With that, I shall excuse myself here. I will be hoping for your victory.”
Duke Fahrengart smiled gently and left quietly.
“Ka, Kamito, well, what did my grandfather say to you?”
“Ah, no, he entrusted me with you. O, of course he meant as a teammate.”
Kamito scratched his head while averting his eyes and,
“I, I see……”
Ellis held a hand to her chest as if relieved.
“—It seems the other teams have also come.”
Everyone turned to the stone gates at Claire’s words.
The ones who entered were the <Knights of the Dragon Emperor> spearheaded by Leonora Lancaster.
Kamito was about to call out but—
He changed his mind when their eyes met.
—The next time we exchange words will be when we blade dance.
He remembered the words she said when they parted.
Exchanging words was unnecessary. What came later would only be serious sword strikes.
Leonora smiled fearlessly and immediately turned her eyes elsewhere and left.
“……I feel amazing kamui. It looks like they’ve also leveled up.”
“Yeah. Leonora now is probably stronger than she was when the <Dragon Blood> was raging. Her eyes had no trace of hesitation.”
“……Mu, Kamito observes Leonora-dono quite a bit.”
“Truly, you at least tamed her with that date.”
“I said that wasn’t a date!”
Kamito shook his head in a fluster in response to the unsatisfied glares of Ellis and Fianna.
The next to appear were the <Sacred Spirit Knights> who had advanced through the <Tempest> in second place.
They were wearing a uniform that was like the opposite of the <Rupture Division>’s. Since the Principality of Rossvale had gained its independence from Lugia, it was expected.
Standing at the head was the Paladin — Luminaris Saint Leisched.
A nineteen year old female knight with her brilliant blonde hair interwoven. She was a powerful person that had fought Kamito in the <Blade Dance> for the championship three years prior.
(……She’s a powerful holy spirit user. I had a hard battle against her.)
Kamito remembered that time.
A holy attribute spirit had a strong resistance to darkness spirits. Consequently, his darkness Elemental Waffe, <Vorpal Sword>, was completely repelled.
It seemed like she had sought revenge against Ren Ashbell for three years, but decisively suppressed the surrounding weaker teams in the <Tempest>.
(……It’s probably something like having a conclusion at the finals.)
To begin with, she thought the commander of <Team Inferno> was the real Ren Ashbell but—
“It’s already time. Does <Team Inferno> not plan to appear?”
“Well, as long as they leave a familiar, they can hear the oracle.”
Kamito answered Claire’s mutter.
And. The hall suddenly became noisy and then fell into silence.
Princess maidens wrapped in white ritual clothes came from the altar’s inner door.
The five spirit maidens that directly served the <Five Great Spirit Kings>. Their faces were shrouded by a veil so the audience couldn’t see them.
“Reicha’s the furthest on the left.”
Fianna whispered so that just Kamito could hear.
Even the girl of which he had an unshakeable impression that she was a normal girl when they’d met at the <Grand Shrine> was now wrapped in a solemn atmosphere.
The spirit princess at the center continued out in front of the shrine.
Everyone came to a pause and paid attention to the words that came from those lips.
“—I will now relay the spirit kings’ oracle.”
The spirit princess’ dignified voice was carried throughout the hall by the power of wind spirits.
“—The stage for the finals is the old abandoned capital, <Megidoa>.”
Parting from Mireille’s group, they exited the <Grand Shrine>.
The refreshing night breeze bore the clamor of the large audience.
“—The abandoned capital <Megidoa>, huh.”
Kamito muttered as he walked along the gently sloping hill.
“……It was unexpected. To think that a place I’ve never heard of would come up. At least, it shouldn’t have been a stage for the <Blade Dance> until now.”
Fianna said with a shrug. Since she who had come from the <Divine Ritual Institute> had no knowledge of it, there was hardly a place most people would know.
Choosing a sacred ground within Astral Zero was the usual for the <Blade Dance>.
Even so, having an abandoned city that wasn’t anything like a sacred ground chosen was—
(……As I thought, something’s strange about this time’s <Blade Dance>.)
It was as if errors had appeared in a perfect system.
(……If that’s so, what’s the cause?)
The <Blade Dance> three years ago had proceeded normally.
What broke that was—
Within the encroaching black <Wish>, the boy reached out a hand for the darkness spirit girl.
Assaulted by a sudden dizziness, Kamito held his head.
“Kamito, what’s wrong?”
Claire asked in a worried tone.
“……Ahh, I’m fine. I just felt a little dizzy.”
Kamito waved his hand to tell her not to worry.
……Those memories seemed to be locked away and could not be recalled.
“—There’s also the field, but we also have to consider the blade dance form.”
Claire nodded in response to Ellis’ mutterings.
The rule decided upon by the spirit kings’ oracle was <Cross Fire>.
The duration was three days. It was basically the same as the <Tempest>, survival within the field, but the difference was that each team member would be teleported to a different location.
“To put it bluntly, there is a need to search for one’s comrades. If a team gathers quickly, they gain the opportunity to crush every one of the enemy team’s contractors.”
It seemed Claire had already begun thinking about tactics suited to the rules.
At that time, a rainbow-colored flower bloomed in the night sky.
—It was a firework. Kamito stopped in his tracks and was entranced by the blooming fireworks.
The seven-colored lights danced into various forms and entertained the onlookers.
The lights were really spirits being released.
Claire murmured as she gazed at the fireworks in a trance.
“They’re launching spirit ores for that, right? It’s ridiculously high up.”
“Jeez, your thinking is that of a plebeian.”
Claire shrugged her shoulders, sounding a little surprised.
“When you speak of fireworks—”
And Ellis opened her mouth as if she had just remembered something.
“When we return to the academy, we have to prepare for the <Grand Spirit Festival>.
“Grand Spirit Festival?”
“It’s an academy festival that is held at Areishia Spirit Academy every year. The Syphid Knights also become so busy we’d even accept the help of a cat, so you had best prepare yourself as well.”
“So there’s an academy festival. It sounds fun.”
“Yeah. But the side that keeps public morals can’t say that. The spirits in last year’s Raven Class production went wild and became a big problem.”
“Th, that brings back memories……”
“Th, there might have been something like that!”
……In order to avoid the issue, the problem children combo from the Raven Class turned towards the future.
“I’m part of the group that was just admitted, so I have Freya-sensei’s supplementary lessons after we return.”
Fianna sighed a little.
……They were only about ten days ago, but those days at the academy were nostalgic.
Two months ago, <Team Scarlet> consisted of only Claire and Kamito.
But they had gathered five teammates, won through the ranking battles and made it this far.
—There were three days left in the <Blade Dance>.
He wondered if he could regain those which were important to him with his own hands.
(Or possibly lose everything……)
An even more grand firework bloomed in the night sky.
“I wonder if we can win and return to the academy safe and sound.”
Maybe from being sentimental, Ellis voiced her anxiety.
“We’ve come this far. We only need to blade dance with all our strength.”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“If we combine our strength, we can even defeat that fake Ren Ashbell—”
At that moment, Fianna’s face seemed to cloud over.
“Fianna, what’s wrong?”
“……I, it’s nothing.”
Kamito inquired and Fianna averted her eyes as she shook her head.
He was a little interested in her attitude but—
(……That’s right. I must win against that other <Strongest Blade Dancer>.)
—In order to discover the truth behind three years ago and save Restia.
Underneath the leather glove on his left hand, the darkness spirit’s seal throbbed with a dull pain.
“—That’s the spirit. Claire Rouge.”
Until she called out, nobody had noticed her presence.
Turning around, a beautiful woman with ash blonde hair was there.
Drawing the spirit ore’s light closer and coming over, it was the <Dusk Witch>.
“Academy director, what are you doing here!?”
Claire said in a surprised voice.
“—Sorry, but I’ll be borrowing the boy for now.”
“For what? Tomorrow is the finals.”
Kamito said as if snarling and,
“The night is still long. Improving relations doesn’t suffice as a reason?”
All the ojou-samas were stirred up at Greyworth’s words.
“Ka, Kamito, don’t tell me, even up to the academy directory……”
“Haa, the scope of Kamito-kun’s defense surprises me sometimes.”
“Kamito-san really doesn’t have any boundaries!”
“C, curse you, such shameless……”
“W, wait, there’s really nothing like that!”
Kamito yelled in a panic.
Seeing the ojou-samas’ reactions, Greyworth smiled like she was enjoying herself.
“It was a joke. I’m not stealing the boy, so rest easy.”
“”””W, we weren’t worried!””””
The ojou-samas with red faces gave a collective cry.
“If it’s a joke, I’m heading back.”
Kamito tried to turn to leave and,
“Well, don’t be in such a rush. I have something I’d like to impart to you.”
“I can’t give you it here. It’s necessary for your victory.”
Greyworth’s expression had become serious at some point.
Kamito thought for a little—
“……Okay. Let’s finish this quickly.”
“Whether it will be short or not depends on you.”
Kamito turned to his teammates and,
“Sorry. Please return to the castle ahead of me.”
“……Y, yes, we will.”
Claire nodded a little sadly.
“Ahh, that’s right. Bring along that sword spirit.”
“Since the night is dangerous. A means to defend oneself is necessary.”
“You need protection? What kind of joke is this……is that okay, Est?”
“Yes. I am Kamito’s sword. For as long as you wish.”
Est nodded and changed form into her Elemental Waffe, <Terminus Est>.
Greyworth descended from the hill and walked into the deep forest.
The night spirits floated between trees, giving off mysterious light.
“We’ll be there soon. Improving relations has to be done somewhere others can’t see.”
“Don’t blush every time. You’re really cute.”
The <Dusk Witch> smiled like she was having fun.
The sound of fireworks still echoed from far away.
“……It’s been a long time. Walking through the forest with you like this.”
“You tricked me by saying we were going mushroom hunting in the forest and we ended up hunting a demon god class spirit.”
Kamito leered at Greyworth who was walking in front of him.
“Ahh, that did happen.”
“I really thought I’d die that time.”
“But that live combat was the best kind of training, right?”
“That was when you grasped the <Bursting Blossom Spiral Blade Dance>.”
“If I hadn’t, I would have died.”
“Sheesh, since when did you become so rebellious. You were more honest and cute three years ago — and we’re here.”
Greyworth finally came to a halt.
A large space made by clearing the forest. It was likely for the training of the <Divine Ritual Institute>’s princess maidens.
“So what was it you wanted to give me?”
Greyworth’s grey eyes seemed to be piercing Kamito as they gazed at him.
“—Kamito, I will entrust you with the final Absolute Blade Art.”
Kamito’s eyes widened at the unexpected response.
The Absolute Blade Arts of the <Dusk Witch> who was called the strongest spirit contractor on the continent.
That was something that, together with <Vorpal Sword>, had created <Ren Ashbell>.
“……What do you mean? You should have already entrusted me with the secrets three years ago.”
Bursting Blossom Spiral Blade Dance — an anti-spirit destruction sword technique.
The technique that defeated the monster of darkness, Nepenthes Lore.
Anything beyond that technique shouldn’t exist—
“Certainly, that technique is the top sword technique. If successful, it will even massacre a demon god class spirit.”
Greyworth shook her head.
“But there is a final secret that I didn’t teach you.”
Kamito gulped. The witch wasn’t teasing him.
“There is a reason I didn’t teach you it three years ago. If someone inexperienced with the Absolute Blade Arts uses it, his or her body will be destroyed.”
Certainly, the Absolute Blade Arts which surpassed the limits of flesh would destroy the user’s body.
In actuality, even now, Kamito had not mastered them to a sufficient degree.
“But that technique—”
“That’s right. Honestly speaking, you shouldn’t use that kind of technique in live combat.”
Greyworth assented easily.
“But the you of now cannot win against the <Strongest Blade Dancer>. That is reality.”
……He couldn’t retort.
That was something that Kamito himself understood best.
“……If I perform that secret successfully, I can beat her?”
“—Possibly. You are weaker than you were then but your matured body is better. Your body now may be able to withstand the secret’s recoil.”
Greyworth’s mouth curled and she placed a hand to the ground.
A beam of light like blood came out and an ominous magic square was drawn.
“—Come forth from the gates of Hell, earl that ascends to greatness, demon spirit <Void>!”
From the center of the magic square glowing with red light came a formless lump of darkness.
Kamito’s skin stood on end from the dreadful air of intimidation.
Formerly under Demon King Sulaiman, one of the pillars of his seventy-two spirits.
Greyworth extended her hand out and the lump of darkness became a sword at once, appearing in the witch’s hand.
Elemental Waffe — <Storm Bringer>.
With an appearance greatly resembling Restia’s <Vorpal Sword>, it was a jet black sword.
Kamito unsheathed the <Demon Slayer> wordlessly.
The shining silvery white brilliance lit up the dark forest.
“It’s been three years since our last practice. Are you prepared, boy?”
“The you of three years ago wouldn’t have asked that to an opponent that has drawn their sword.”
He had nothing to worry about.
For the current Kamito, the power to defeat the other Ren Ashbell was required.
In an instant, Greyworth’s silhouette disappeared.
Deflecting the blade flash, a harsh metallic sound resounded in the night forest.
“Ohh, you withstood the first strike. It seems you’ve recovered your sense from long ago.”
The elemental waffen created sparks as they ground against each other.
(As usual, such monstrous strength……!)
He instinctively shuddered.
If it had been Kamito before the <Blade Dance>, he wouldn’t have been able to see through it.
—Yes, this was the blade of the one previously called the strongest on the continent.
The kamui gushing forth from Storm Bringer was overwhelming Terminus Est.
“……Est is losing!?”
“That spirit isn’t inferior to mine. There is an inconsistency in your output of kamui. It’s been your weak point since before.”
Greyworth declared that coldly and increased her sword pressure.
“Kuu — why, you……!”
Kamito filled Est with all the kamui in his body.
The silvery white sword gave off an oppressive shine and began pushing back against Storm Bringer in an instant.
“Yes, your instantaneous power exceeds me. However—”
Greyworth disappeared from his sight.
And faster than the thirst for blood—
“Absolute Blade Arts, First Form — <Purple Lightning>!”
A stab like lightning gouged Kamito’s abdomen.
A severe impact hit him and Kamito’s body hit the ground. The bodily damage from the <Elemental Waffe> was converted to mental damage, causing a severe concussion.
“—Stand. I held back.”
Kamito groaned and shakily got to his feet.
It was true she held back.
Since he had taken an Absolute Blade Art but could still stand.
“……It’s been a while since I’ve taken that sword technique.”
While wiping the blood from his lip, Kamito smiled.
“Did that wake you up, boy?”
Once again, he readied the shining <Terminus Est> with both his hands.
He stared directly at Greyworth who stood before him.
He could feel something awakening within himself.
The memories engraved in his body were coming back vividly.
“The ojou-samas are waiting—”
Kamito smiled fearlessly.
“I’ll have you pass over the strongest Absolute Blade Art quickly.”
“—That’s it, those are the eyes. Only those eyes haven’t changed from three years ago.”
Greyworth’s grey eyes stared at Kamito.
The point of the demon sword slowly came to aim at the middle of Kamito’s forehead.
It was an oppression that sent goosebumps along his skin.
“Listen well, I won’t show you the secret more than once. Grasp its nature in that one strike.”
“What it means is it will be impossible if you cannot grasp it after just once. Simply inheriting as the strongest spirit contractor does not mean you have the qualities to learn the Absolute Blade’s secret.”
Greyworth informed him in a piercingly cold voice.
Kamito’s whole body broke out in a cold sweat.
A momentary silence. Then—
“……Okay. That’s enough.”
Kamito gave a short nod.
A superficial sword would not pass for Greyworth.
In order to fill his elemental waffe with his thoughts, he closed his eyes and honed his senses.
What came to his mind was—
Claire, Fianna, Ellis, Rinslet — the faces of his comrades.
And the <Demon Slayer> in his hands, Terminus Est.
(……There’s no way I can lose!)
The sword in his hand was one which carried the <Wishes> of all of them.
“—Let’s do this, Greyworth.”
“Ahh, there’s no use holding back. Come at me with the strongest technique you have.”
“Has there ever been a time I’ve held back against you?”
He filled <Terminus Est> with all his kamui.
The silvery white sword shone dazzlingly, wiping away the forest’s darkness.
Kamito charged as if to split the wind.
(—The strongest sword technique I can use now.)
He kicked the ground and accelerated. He changed to a reverse grip on the holy sword in his hands.
“Absolute Blade Arts, Destructive Form — Bursting Blossom Spiral Blade Dance, 18 Consecutive Strikes!”
With a glint, countless scattered blades flashed.
The slashes’ flashes were a destructive blade dance that boasted absolute killing power.
—Properly speaking, it was a technique for the purpose of defeating a mighty demon god class spirit.
The storm of consecutive attacks resembling the blooming of a flower.
But the strongest witch on the continent — stopped all of that with her blade.
Putting aside when she was in her golden age, Greyworth right now shouldn’t be able to match up to Kamito physically. Then why was she able to take on Kamito’s sword—
He came to know the answer soon.
Greyworth’s ash blonde hair was giving off a faint luminescence.
It was the glow of the kamui she was expelling. And it was strong enough to be seen with the naked eye.
(While we were exchanging blows, she absorbed my kamui!?)
He wondered if that was the ability of <Void>’s elemental waffe—
(No, that’s wrong — it’s not that!)
Greyworth was matching her kamui to Kamito’s kamui.
If one were to completely match their opponent’s movements and breathing, he or she could make the opponent’s kamui which would normally be repelled his or her own — that was already something not of battle blade dancing but of the <Divine Ritual Institute>’s princess maidens’ specialty.
(This is the Absolute Blade’s secret—)
The countless repelled sparks — the concealed surges of the eighteen consecutive strikes that held absolute killing power.
The instant the final sword blow landed.
Kamito understood. The truth of the Absolute Blade’s secret.
Kamito had put all his kamui into the eighteen consecutive strikes.
—That enormous power was now infused into Greyworth’s sword.
Evasion was impossible. He instinctively understood that.
Greyworth’s lips moved slightly—
“Absolute Blade Arts, Final Form — <Last Strike>!”
The glinting tip of the sword pierced Kamito’s chest.