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Authors: Gakuto Mikumo

Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy

Labyrinth of the Blue Witch

BOOK: Labyrinth of the Blue Witch
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I
NTRO

Before her eyes was the midsummer sea.

The Demon Sanctuary of Itogami City was a man-made island. Summer never ended in this city built in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. White cumulonimbus clouds floated across the vivid, ultramarine-colored sky; the bright rays of the sun shone from the surface of the calm, mirrorlike sea.

She was a Japanese girl in her teens, tall and lithe, with her hair in a long ponytail. Her skin was pale; her hair was a light brown. Her beauty had a glamorous elegance to it, but somehow, the look on her face was a melancholic one. She sullenly pressed her lips together, letting slip a tired sigh from time to time.

An airplane in the process of landing passed through the corner of her vision.

They were in an executive suite at the airport.

It was a so-called VIP room, reserved exclusively for guests of state and high-ranking government officials. The floor was covered with a rectangular shag carpet, and an enormous television was embedded in a wall of beautifully grained wood.

Two foreign guests were looking up at it while chatting pleasantly.

The first was a handsome, blond, blue-eyed man. His name was Dimitrie Vattler, Duke of Ardeal.

Based on appearance, he looked no older than twenty-five, but he was actually a noble of the Warlord’s Empire in Europe. In other words, he was a pureblood vampire, a direct descendant of the First Primogenitor, the Lost Warlord.

Sitting opposite the youthful-looking aristocrat was a young woman.

Her silver hair was evocative of a snowy plain; her blue eyes sparkled like a pale glacier. She was a girl so lovely that she was called the Second Coming of Freya. This was the crown princess of the Aldegian royal family, La Folia Rihavein.

“In this scene, she’s become completely defenseless before the enemy, despite the combat situation. I applaud the tactical merits of changing one’s gear, but there are practical difficulties involved.” Princess La Folia calmly conveyed her opinion as she watched what was on the television screen.

She was of the royal family of a nation with a long history of advanced sorcerous technology. Furthermore, she was a high-ranking priestess able to employ spirit-summoning spells. She did not show a single shred of fear at conversing with the vampire aristocrat seated so close by.

For his part, Vattler had a look of uncharacteristic seriousness on him as he watched the screen. “I wonder about that. In this instance, perhaps transformation should be viewed not as a mere change of equipment, but as altering one’s physical properties as well? In that case, defensive capability is maintained even if the change is not fully realized.”

“So you are saying the girls’ clothes are not disappearing, but rather, being rearranged on an atomic level and entering an energized form?” The princess nodded as if quite captivated. The girls she was watching on the screen were just changing into their battle forms to fight with a giant monster.

“Although that does mean they use up their ritual power at a greatly increased rate,” said Vattler with a note of sarcasm.

La Folia smiled as she shook her head. “By aligning with an element, it is possible to suppress one’s consumption of ritual power. But when considering the precision required for physical transmutation, it must be difficult for the individual caster to remain in a transformed state.”

“Ahh, so that is why they require the use of supplemental items…”

Sayaka Kirasaka grimaced as she watched their serious faces as they debated.
Why do I have to be here?
she asked herself with an anguished expression.

Sayaka was an Attack Mage—more specifically, a Shamanic War Dancer—from the Lion King Agency. She was an expert in curses and assassination.

Because of their area of expertise, Sayaka and her cohorts were often assigned to protecting VIPs who were at a high risk of being targets for curses and assassination attempts. The logic was simple: Use an assassin to kill an assassin.

Sayaka’s current mission was to escort and protect La Folia Rihavein.

La Folia Rihavein was a beautiful princess whose name was known around the world. Even if not on official state business, she was
very
important to the Japanese government during her stay. That went double when she had an Old Guard vampire, Dimitrie Vattler, sitting with her; it put a heavy responsibility on the person protecting her. Dispatching Sayaka, the proud user of Der Freischötz, one of the Lion King Agency’s highest-ranked divine arms, was, if anything, an obvious choice.

Nonetheless, Sayaka’s expression was morose.

La Folia and Vattler were watching, in complete and utter seriousness, a magical-girl show meant for children on an all-anime TV channel. They were having a very serious tactical discussion while watching girls in fluttering, miniskirted outfits doing battle with evildoers. It was nice that things were so peaceful, but she felt deeply ridiculous for monitoring them as they did so, progressively turning Sayaka’s mood more and more glum.

Incidentally, the knights escorting the princess standing in one corner of the executive suite and Vattler’s young vampire subordinates in another were all watching the show with rapt attention.

Some of them were clenching their fists as they cheered the heroines on; others were moved nearly to the point of tears. It was a little unsettling how much of an effect it was having on a bunch you’d think would look at children’s anime as vulgar rubbish, which only added to Sayaka’s anguish.

After he waited for the ending theme to finish, Vattler suddenly changed the subject. “Incidentally, princess, I have heard a strange rumor of late.” He spoke in a tone of casual indifference, but that instant, the atmosphere in the suite grew tense. “It was to the effect that…a unit of Aldegian knights was being dispatched to Itogami Island in secret.”

“Oh my,” murmured the princess, tilting her head with a smiling look on her face. “Is that such a strange rumor, I wonder? My aunt is here on this island. Even if she has lost her right of succession, she is still very much a member of the Aldegian royal house. Surely it is the least we can do.”

“And so, they come to a remote island like this to protect a middle school student? The elite Knights of the Second Coming have it rough.”

The young-looking aristocrat’s taunting words did not cause La Folia’s smile to falter. “Well, she is a rather high-maintenance aunt.”

The knights escorting the princess held their breath as they silently watched the two engage in conversation.

Even if it looked like a casual, peaceful discussion, what was unfolding between Vattler and the princess was actually a high-stakes backroom negotiation between foreign powers.

A girl named Kanon Kanase, daughter of the previous, now-retired king of Aldegia, lived on Itogami Island. Citing this, La Folia had dispatched Aldegian knights to Itogami Island without public notice. Knights of the kingdom protecting the royal family: There was nothing unnatural about this.

However,
the World’s Mightiest Vampire
, who attended the very same school Kanon did, was another matter entirely.

In other words, in the name of protecting Kanon Kanase, the Aldegian royal family could keep eyes on Kojou Akatsuki, the Fourth Primogenitor, with no real burden whatsoever. Since Vattler was staying at Itogami Island for the very same purpose, he surely was not amused. That was why he was saying, in a roundabout way,
Don’t meddle in my business
. Even so, La Folia narrowed her eyes as she calmly gazed right back at Vattler.

“Now that you mention it, I have heard there are some rather violent sorts from the Warlord’s Empire coming here as well. Count Wortizlawa and Lord Zagan, both well-known militants from the Dominion, I believe?” Vattler replied with an innocent look on his face. “They are simple tourists. There’s a large festival taking place on Itogami Island soon, after all.”

The princess raised her eyebrows, seemingly thrown off for the first time.

“A festival?”

Sayaka bit her lip as she saw La Folia’s eyes begin to sparkle.
This is bad
, she thought. She suddenly saw a grave expression come over the face of the knight commander of the princess’s escorts, too.

Sayaka quickly forced herself into the conversation with Vattler, whispering into La Folia’s ear. “I-it’s just about time, princess. We must make preparations for your fli…” Seeing Sayaka in such a hurry seemed to bring a look of even greater pleasure over the princess.

La Folia had been scheduled to return to her home nation of Aldegia on a charter flight arranged by the Japanese government. If she was sent on her way, Sayaka’s mission would have ended without incident. She couldn’t abide carefully laid plans going awry because of a carelessly tossed-out piece of information.

Princess La Folia had many virtues: She was wise and possessed great knowledge, and she was sly as well as bold. However, the other side of that coin was that she was intensely driven to feed her voracious curiosity.

Letting her know there was a festival afoot threatened to make her say,
I’ll delay my return by a day and enjoy the sights
. That had to be avoided at all costs. “Well then, princess. Have a pleasant journey. My regards to your father.”

Mercifully, Vattler didn’t seem to have any intention of stopping La Folia from leaving. Officially, he was there to see the princess off to begin with, but his real objective was thwarting the Aldegians.

If La Folia was to politely return to her home nation, that would save both of them a lot of trouble.

As if urging the dithering princess to get moving, Sayaka led her out of the suite. She could see that the charter plane was at the airport, on standby, and ready for takeoff. All she had to do was haul the princess aboard.

“What is this festival, Sayaka?” La Folia elegantly walked down an exclusive corridor as she posed the question.

“The Hollow Eve Festival. It’s a festival they hold in Itogami City at this time every year. There are a number of events all over the island and…b-by events, I mean floats and stalls and other entertainment for the masses, not something a princess need concern herself about at all!”

“My…” Hearing Sayaka’s explanation, La Folia’s eyes glittered like those of a little girl.

“Geh,” went the knight commander, his face twitching. “Y-you mustn’t, Your Highness! It was only days ago that someone was after your life. His Royal Highness is set upon your returning to the homeland. If you delay your return any further…!”

“Ah, it seems students are holding exhibits and refreshment booths as well.”

Ignoring her subordinate’s admonitions, the princess had begun to check the public events website on a smartphone she’d pulled out from somewhere.

The knight commander clutched his head and lifted his face to the sky. “Your
Highneeess
!”

“Princess, um, our prime minister specially arranged this airplane so, ah…”

“You do not need to say it. I am well aware I cannot cause your nation difficulties for the sake of attending a festival out of mere personal interest.” La Folia tapered her lips a little and exhaled in apparent dismay. Sayaka continued leading her by the hand as they passed through a doorway leading to the boarding gate. That instant, they were both struck by light, momentary dizziness. The scenery shimmered like a mirage before they emerged under the dazzling sun.

“…However, if we cannot reach the airplane, it cannot be helped, can it?” The princess switched to a mischievous tone of voice, clearly finding the present circumstance amusing.

“What do you mean, can’t reach the…er…huh?!”

Sayaka looked around the area in horror. There was no question they’d been in the airport until a few moments prior. However, what was now spread out before their eyes were the vast sea and an under-construction structure floating upon it.

In spite of the many signs of fresh destruction, Sayaka recognized the sight all too well.

Itogami Island, Sub-float No. 13—

In the past, it was the place Sayaka, with Kojou Akatsuki alongside her, had engaged in a deadly duel with terrorists. There was no mistaking it for anything else.

However, this was essentially the opposite side of the island from Itogami Island’s central airport. It had to be almost ten kilometers as the crow flies. It simply wasn’t the kind of distance you could travel in an instant.

And yet, the fact was that Sayaka and the princess, and only them, had been tossed onto the tip of the sub-float.

There was no sign of the knights that had accompanied them; nor was the aircraft the princess was scheduled to board or the airport and its buildings visible anywhere. They’d been whisked off to this place the moment they’d passed through the interior airport doorway. It was as if they’d walked into a rip in space itself.

Of course, it wasn’t a mere natural phenomenon. The chance it was a magical attack by someone was quite high. But Sayaka didn’t feel any attack coming on. Psychics of her and La Folia’s level ought to have felt some premonition from such a large-scale spell before it went off…but they had not.

“There’s the Demon Sanctuary for you. We certainly won’t be bored for a while,” La Folia said as an innocent, charming smile came over her face. She had her beloved spell gun out as she surveyed the entire area, but it did not seem that this anomaly was targeted at the princess specifically. In spite of that, there was no mistaking that she found the situation quite amusing.

Sayaka felt a sense of fierce unease as she looked up at the sky.

The tranquil, blue, eternal summer sky seemed like the calm before the storm.

It was the final week of October—

The people of the Demon Sanctuary of Itogami City, all astir at the impending start of the festival, had yet to notice a thing.

BOOK: Labyrinth of the Blue Witch
11.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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