Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume12 Epilogue
He was blocked. He had planned to ambush him but it hadn't worked. The chain had wrapped around the Shim Adamantium Dite, and at the end of the chain was a metal ball. As the huge body turned around, the chain had wrapped up the Katana like a snake.
"You're the same naive brat as before."
Those spirited eyes were less than a meter away. The breath that leaked out of the gaps in his teeth carried with it heat of Kei that caressed Layfon's face.
"I thought you had already decided, but you hesitated at the critical moment. That's why you could make such a naive attack."
Ruime pulled the chain, along with Layfon. He aimed at him with a foot. The kick sent Layfon flying to crash into a building. The impact created a large hole in the wall. Tiles fell from the rooftop. For a split second, Layfon had thought his abdomen was gone.
"You think you can do it with your body? Haha!?"
".......... I can still move," he dusted off the tiles on him and stood up among the debris. "Kei still flows and I have a weapon. These are enough to kill you."
"That's why I said you're a brat," Ruimei sighed. His sigh caused the air to rumble. Cracks advanced across the ground.
Ruimei was a difficult to understand Heaven's Blade successor like Cauntia. Once he was in battle mode, his Kei would run to its heart's content. Allowing his Kei to run rampant was his true strength. As such, the Queen wouldn't let him fight in a city. He was a man who fought as he willed, destroying everything in his surroundings in a battle.
"What'd you do after killing me? Kill off Troiatte too? Lintence as well? Then Barmelin, Tigris, Karuvarn, Reverse, Cauntia? What about after killing everyone? You'd kill the Queen too? And all the rubbish here? And after that? Destroy Grendan as well? And after? For this brat who hasn't taken the future into consideration, how long do you plan to stay naive for?"
"What else can I do!" Layfon shouted.
Before him was a face he was used to, a face he had known since he was little. Ruimei was standing here. Layfon had never liked him, since the time he first laid eyes on him. This dislike only intensified through time. If it was Ruimei, Layfon could kill him. But he had failed. Even with the Katana's movement sealed off by the chain, he'd have liked to leave traces of injury on Ruimei. Among the Heaven's Blades, Layfon could only forgive Lintence and Reverse. He would hesitate if he had to face those two. He doubted whether he could really surpass Lintence and kill him, and he thought himself terrible to want to kill Reverse.
The kick came again. Layfon blocked it with his arms crossed. The defense was meaningless. His body flew again, and this time, the impact destroyed an entire building.
"What is it that you have to do now? Be a coward brat? Kill me? Destroy the trash gathered here? Stop being lost and think of what you should be doing!"
Delbone's bitter laughter sounded. The flake flew to Layfon's side and projected an image of Zuellni. They didn't need to tell Layfon the meaning of the red dots spread out on the map. The signs Delbone used on the map weren't just information. She had already memorized them all. They were all filth monsters.
(I've already said so.) Came Felli's faint voice. He could hear the exhaustion in her voice.
(I've told you about the filth monsters' attack, the negotiation with Grendan, and I've followed your judgment.)
If she could tell him in more detail......
(Stop it, Layfon.)
Delbone cut him off.
(You acknowledge the girl's talent. In this situation, you can only rely on her to gather information. You've lost control of yourself, Layfon.)
(I.........) Felli wanted to say something, but Delbone then cut her off.
(Your thinking power's declined because of having filtered too much information. Though you have talent, you lack experience.)
Delbone's words hit him like a rod.
(But weren't you the one who didn't notice it, Layfon? Before you became a Heaven's Blade successor, you had coordinated with different psychokinesists. You've experienced long battles. You've seen Military Artists who fainted due to overworking their Kei veins. You've seen psychokinesists whose thinking power were reduced and could do no more. You had the experience to discover the problem, but you did not notice it. No one in this city holds more experience than you. If you don't guide them, who will? But you did not do it.)
He was scolded. Delbone was scolding him and saying the responsibility of this battle was his. That was his first time experiencing this.
(The most important thing is to have her rest now?)
Felli's voice suddenly disappeared. Her flake lost its power and fell onto the ground beside Layfon. Layfon could do nothing but stand here. He didn't know what he should do now.
Ruimei had left for the next battlefield.
Delbone seemed to have done something to Felli. There wasn't a place in this city that her power of psychokinesis couldn't reach.
(What have you to say next, Layfon? If it's some unsightly farewell, do you think I, in my age, will listen?)
"I........ I didn't come here to be a Military Artist........"
(But you're standing here as a Military Artist. You should already know how cruel this world is. Or are you saying Grendan isn't enough to make you understand the cruelty of the world?)
Not at all.
(I've never anticipated you to be a commander. The ideal form Heaven's Blade successor is someone that doesn't need to think of anything else. But you should be able to comprehend your surroundings. You have experience that won't lose to anyone else's. If you use that experience well, the Military Artists in this city will become stronger.)
He had a lot he wanted to say. And it wasn't his desire for things to turn out like this. He didn't make himself like this. The Student President and the Head of Military Arts made the decision to have him fight. And wasn't it the captain's job to look after other Military Artists?
But he couldn't say these things. Delbone said he should help them with their lack of experience. He could have done that but he chose not to. That was why she scolded him. Since he couldn't learn anything in an Academy City as a Military Artist, he should teach others things. Wasn't this the mission of those who lived in an Academy City? What had he done? He knew already. He had taught Nina and the others the basics of Psyharden. What else? There were many who needed training, but he had pushed them aside.
(This is the consequence of your actions.)
Delbone's voice was strong and hard. But the feeling she conveyed was only that of a kind old woman giving a serious and angry expression. However, those words had a huge impact on Layfon.
(Stand up, Layfon Alseif. Because of your foolishness, there's still something you have to see.)
(It's something important to you. That's why you've come here? The outcome of this event would hurt you more than the tragedy that's occurred in this city. But you have to face it.)
"What're you saying? Delbone!?" he shouted, his words like a threat, but they failed to reach her.
(Go and witness it, then decide what to do. If you are still the same as the present you, then you're finished.)
The flake in the shape of a butterfly flew away. Layfon stood up. His foot touched Felli's flake when he wanted to chase after it.
He picked it up, put it in his pocket and jumped. He had never realized that Felli was the one who supported him the most in Zuellni. He wouldn't be moving now if not for her. She had fainted too when Zuellni lost control. That time, she didn't use psychokinesis as long as she had used it now, but she had to process far more information than now. It wasn't just quantity, but types of information. She was supporting Layfon and was probably aiding Nina and the others simultaneously. And if not, she must be doing something else – because Zuellni was in a desperate crisis.
Layfon had never thought about her. Indeed, this was his fault. He didn't need her aid to return to Zuellni. Savaris was right beside him back then. He only needed to follow him from a distance that was neither close nor far. He could have let her rest for that time........
Just thinking of this was enough to make him feel down. He continued to jump, the map that Delbone had shown already etched into his brain. The place where numerous lights gathered was his destination.
The entrance of A10.
Just what was this thing Delbone had mentioned? A bad premonition stuffed his chest. He ran faster.
Troiatte was outside the crowd of giants and eliminating other giants. His speed was horrific to the average Military Artist. However, the number of giants was too great. The dots of light on Delbone's map had hardly decreased.
"What're these? So smelly and so many," Barmelin complained.
She had appeared among a group of giants. The giants moved to surround her. To the eye of a filth monster, she had probably suddenly appeared there. The giants all raised their weapons, but they died when they did so.
"Smells so foul. Go die, you revolting creatures."
She held a gun in each hand and opened a hole in the chest of the giants around her. None of the bullets hit the ball that Nina said was the giant's weakness. Even so, these giants died. Barmelin's dismal eyes could see deeper than Sharnid's. She had discovered their deep life veins in an instant and had shot accurately. Her attacks cut off the giants' lifelines in one swift moment.
Other giants trampled over their fallen comrades to encircle Barmelin with their weapons raised.
"No one's life vein can escape my eyes," she said to herself. She pulled the trigger with unbelievable speed.
The gun barrel contained only six bullets. She had used them all up. As she pulled the trigger, the gun barrel of her left gun popped out, pushing out the empty bullet shells. A part of the chains that weaved around her waist, chest, wrists and feet exploded. The separated part flew in the air and changed its shape. All the chains were Dites. Once Barmelin poured her Kei into the chains, they'd become bullets. The gun sparked and the bullets flew into the gun barrels as if sucked in by force. Barmelin made no redundant movements. Everything was done smoothly, flowing from one action to another as of a musical performance that suits any dancing stage.
She had opened large holes in the giants' chests in the process of her dance. Once she stopped dancing, a part of the chain vanished.
"So troublesome. So foul. So cold."
Feeling a chill at her own action and word, she shivered atop the corpses. She tightly hugged herself with the guns in her hands. Her gun barrels were empty. The giants seized the chance to bury her alive. But she didn't move an inch for she knew what would happen next.
A flash ran past her. Only a Heaven's Blade successor could feel it, and only a Heaven's Blade successor could evade it. But that wasn't a flash that one could evade entirely. Even Barmelin herself did not want to attempt it.
Steel Threads. Not infinite, but the number of steel threads could only be called countless. Steel threads made of a Dite. The Steel Threads moved like a hungry and thirsty wild beast seeking its preys. Once it found them, it'd hunt them down and slaughter them. The Steel Threads attacked together, dissolving its prey and piling the corpses up. The action wasn't to satisfy the beast's appetite. This could only alleviate some of its hunger. Besides, this wasn't just to satiate its hunger.
It also sought strong enemies.
The Steel Threads were here to judge whether these giants held the right qualifications. The giants stood trial with their own bodies to evaluate what qualifications they held. If they weren't suited to stand as strong enemies, then they must die. And even if they suited the criteria, they still had to die. No matter what the answer was, what awaited them was death.
One by the one, the giants lost their form and collapsed, cut into tiny pieces. No one could stop the threads.
The large black coat swayed. Green smoke floated above him. He walked in a relaxed manner, but no one could stop him. No one could get near. The zone of death expanded. No one could control this situation. Mercilessly, the Steel Threads cut down its enemies and anyone who planned to stop them into tiny pieces.
With his first step, ten giants fell. With his second step, fifty giants fell. With his third step, hundreds of giants collapsed.
The giants fell as he walked. Barmelin, Troiatte and even Ruimei could not match his speed.
When he reached Barmelin, a huge empty area had appeared.
"Is it here?" the man asked after tossing away the cigarette butt. The cigarette fell on a lump of muscle and the fire died.
"What's this? Trying to look handsome? Don't be so revolting. Go die," Barmelin scolded.
Lintence's eyebrow did not shake at the scolding. Besides, he wasn't even listening. He took a new cigarette from his coat and lit it up. Friction between steel threads caused sparks, and he used that heat to light up the cigarette.
"Have you labeled it?"
"I already made the mark."
In truth, Barmelin had with her a not-too-powerful gun to mark the shelter's door. If she had used the Heaven's Blade, she'd have opened a hole in the city.
"Make a hole with your bare hand."
"You do it. Don't make a girl do some rough task."
"Are you still a girl?"
"What a maddening guy. Just roll up your beard too, foul man, and go die. You smell like foul smoke."
"Which means you smell of foul perfume. The sewage water smells better than you," he said, mentioning and nailing her complaint about her job several days ago. Her hands shook at his reminder, but she did not raise the weapons. After that job, she had been taking flower petal baths till now.
"You should clean up your job. If you keep being so willful, you'll find yourself working in the sewer again."
"Go and die. Become a doll of your own Steel Threads and die."
Lintence's lips shivered as he listened to her curses. The ground underneath him suddenly sank. He had cut it open with the Steel Threads. Beneath him was the entrance to the shelter. He landed and walked into the deeper part of the underground shelter.
Barmelin's body shook when she couldn't see Lintence anymore. She was laughing. That stiff man with a face of a dead fish actually laughed. Nothing was more revolting than that.
Lintence continued to head deeper into the shelter. He cut apart all the defensive doors and walls before him with the Steel Threads. He didn't feel anyone's presence. This area must have been abandoned. He could tell from the surrounding that the students had made a quick decision and then evacuated in an orderly manner. These people had brains enough to carry out such a task. His evaluation of the students rose a little bit as a result. Lintence's birth-city was too peaceful. So peaceful that they couldn't even evacuate in an organized manner. But for the students in this city, the ability to carry out such a mass evacuation was probably a tragedy.
After walking a while, he saw her.
"Lintence-san?" Layfon's childhood friend looked at him with shock.
No one else was here beside her. Why was she here? Lintence found that surprising, as if she had stayed behind, knowing he was coming to pick her up.
"Why are you here?"
The two asked their question at the same time, then fell into silence.
"I'm here to pick you up."
The change in her expression did not escape his eyes.
"What is it?" he said without thinking.
"Huh? Nothing," she shook her head lightly. Her expression was complicated. Suspicion and a feeling of exhaustion.
"Is Grendan here?"
"Yes," he nodded.
Her shoulders rose as she sighed. "I feel like a fool. I rode the roaming bus here and had an uncomfortable experience."
"That is what journeying is like. Most of them end without any meaning. No matter where it is, people keep on living. That truth won't change," he said.
People searched for a safe place to live in. Cities searched for safe places to keep their people alive. That was why a city would move and drift. Only Grendan was different and unusual. Roaming buses came into existence due to moving cities. But sometimes, a roaming bus would take a long route even though two cities were close. Lintence had come across two cities at war on his journey, meeting once again a city he had traveled to before. This thing happened frequently. Even though he wanted to travel to another city, he'd end up arriving at a city in his previous itinerary, stopping him from moving ahead. Leerin looked at him. He guessed she didn't know what to say. He took a deep drag of the cigarette.
"If you have nothing to take with you, I can lead you out now. Got anything?"
Leerin thought for a moment and shook her head. Though she wanted to talk to Layfon again, she abandoned that thought.
Though Lintence felt a feeling of familiarity and regret, he did not care for that. It meant nothing to him. War would take place. All he needed was to follow the Queen to satisfy himself. That explained his acceptance of this job regardless of the little significance it held.
"Right," she nodded.
Lintence turned around to retrace his steps, and stopped.
"As I thought, you can't!" someone shouted and Leerin found herself being hugged. The sound of wailing came behind her back.
"Wh, wh, what..........." she immediately knew who it was.
Lintence breathed out green smoke to replace his sigh and turned around once more.
"What did I come here for?"
"I've thought of it. I've been thinking since then, and then I understood. I understood a very important fact."
Leerin fell under the embrace. A tall woman held her tightly with both of her arms. She had buried her head in Leerin's chest and was rubbing her head against her like a cute little animal. It was Alsheyra.
"What is it?"
"If this continued, you'd carry my Leerin like a princess. Do you think I'd forgive you for such a shocking thing!? Such a thing?"
"Even if I allow you to touch my Leerin's back and shoulder with your perverted hand, but.......... But if you touch her butt, and caress her, and you took her home without letting me know. Once I thought of that, I, I, I!"
"Who knew of such things," he said, not wanting to converse with such an unreasonable person.
"Wh, wh, what............." Leerin opened and closed her mouth, looking at Synola and too shocked to say anything.
"Sy, Sy.... Synola Senpai? Why are you here?"
"I came to save you."
To hear that seriousness from the person in front of her, even Barmelin would shiver.
"You must be frightened? But we don't have anyone else who suits this mission. But never mind. We can return to Grendan."
Alsheyra.......... Leerin called her Synola. Synola was the Queen's fake identity when she lived outside the palace. Though she was the Queen, her time spent working as a Queen was probably less than one tenth of the Queen's working hours. Lintence never thought it worthwhile to listen to her, so he had always filtered her words out. As such, he never remembered her fake name.
"But speaking of which, why........ No. How did you get here?" Leerin finally shook loose Alsheyra's hands and stood up.
Alsheyra's expression turned serious, whereas Leerin's face turned white. Lintence was familiar with Alsheyra's personality. Though that was in itself a tragic thing, he did not sympathize with Leerin's feeling. He meant the wasted effort she made to journey to Zuellni.
"Actually, I'm hiding something from you."
"Oh, I see."
"Actually, I'm the Queen!" she placed a hand on her own chest and looked apologetic.
"Really............." But Leerin's answer was cold.
"You don't believe me?"
"No, I see. That's why Lintence-san......... followed me like a guard."
"No, but I felt what you do is possible. That's the kind of feeling I have."
Leerin had let her down mercilessly. Alsheyra had expected a bigger reaction from her. A more confused, then more shocked expression. A normal person would not have believed her word, but the person who had with her Heaven's Blade successors would not have lied. At least, that kind of person would not have appeared in Grendan. Leerin wasn't suspicious of her at all. Only that her reaction had betrayed Alsheyra's expectation.
"Humph. Humph........" Lintence's throat stirred. Though he wanted to control himself, his mouth opened on its own and he failed to suppress what came out.
"Don't laugh," Alsheyra glared at him but failed to stop his laughter.
"Whatever, let's hurry up and leave. It's about time for the red faced monkey to arrive," Lintence laughed as he said. Alsheyra looked down.
"A monkey's face is originally red, along with its butt too."
Leerin walked after Lintence with suspicion, not sure what they were implying. Though Alsheyra was determined to carry her, she had refused. They walked through the broken defensive walls and front door to arrive outside the shelter.
"That's too high for Leerin."
Originally, part of the road would descend to form a slope. But Lintence had cut a hole with his Steel Threads, the gap between the ground they stood on and the ground of Zuellni was two times a person's height.
They didn't hear any more sound of fighting. They heard Barmelin, Trioatte and Rumei talking above. They had almost finished killing off the giants. Otherwise, those three would be too impotent.
"You can shake Lintence loose now." Alsheyra's voice was like a spoiled cat. Leerin planned to ignore her.
"You're a girl, Leerin, you must be careful! This guy is boring and super-sloppy. Look at his hair. If you give it a flick, fleas would jump out."
"No way, you're joking," Leerin said.
"And he doesn't wash his clothes daily."
"Ah, that's possible."
"Right? So let me do it."
"But I'm afraid to let the Queen carry me........."
"Don't be. I won't make you feel frightened."
"That guy's a guard, bodyguard! I can't restrict his arms from moving!"
"It matters not whether the person here has free hands or not," Lintence said.
"Shut up!" Alsheyra glared at him with a reddened face. Since her expression was like this, it'd be useless for Leerin to say anything more.
"Uh, I can't win against you," Leerin sighed and accepted her suggestion. Alsheyra clapped her hands happily without the air of a Queen.
............. But the "air of a Queen" probably never existed in her in the first place. Leerin accepted this without much feeling. Though she thought she shouldn't be bothered about this, she still wanted to think more on it.
Before that happened, the monkey had arrived.
"Ah!" Leerin burst out.
Light covered one side of Lintence, but the impact was nonexistent. Lintence's Steel Threads had blocked the attack.
"Let Leerin go!" Layfon shouted. He stood in midair, looking down at them. His Katana looked to have stopped in the air. The Steel Threads had cancelled the Kei impact of the Katana.
Lintence lit up a new cigarette. His speed and power made Layfon swallow his words.
"So naive. Did they not tell you already?" he said faintly to the young man that he had taught the Steel Threads technique. Layfon gritted his teeth. He looked at the person who was carrying Leerin and his expression froze.
"Hi, young man," Alsheyra greeted him with a smile. Despair fell on him.
"I'm sorry, but I have to take Leerin with me."
"What joke is this!"
"Leerin only came out to travel. Isn't it natural for her to return to Grendan?"
"Don't just make your own..."
"Which side is making its own assumption?" Alsheyra said.
Layfon looked at Leerin. "Leerin, come here!"
"Layfon......." She ignored his gaze.
"This is the Queen's order. I can't disobey her," she said in a tiny voice.
"I!......... I want to return to Grendan. One day, I'd return, and that just happens to be today. That's how things are. Layfon, you can think like that."
He landed, suddenly losing his momentum, but he still held the Katana ready.
Lintence noticed the weapon in Layfon's hand. It was a Katana.
"........... What did you do to her?" Layfon said.
"What manner you have. What do you think I'd do to her? Either way, she's my cute junior in Grendan."
Layfon's expression didn't sway. He understood the Queen's personality. It wouldn't be strange that she might actually be Leerin's senior. And this was the truth. Why did he ask such a meaningless question? He should already have known.
"Leerin said she wants to go back. Layfon, can you move aside?"
He didn't reply, but he felt regret. His expression held both regret and stubbornness for Leerin. His gaze sought hers, but she kept moving her gaze away. She did not ask for his help.
A teacher-student relationship did not exist between Lintence and Layfon. The feeling was probably negative even if it existed.
Layfon could do nothing. He did not have a Heaven's Blade and he was wounded. Though his Kei flowed, he could not use his full strength. He had no chance of winning against Lintence and the Queen.
"Layfon, please," Leerin pleaded.
He shrank. The tension vanished. Lintence could tell from his Kei.
"Then see you again. I think you can keep living a normal life."
Alsheyra's words were expected, meaningless.
Had Layfon gone rusty? Lintence thought. He had thought so from the time of Layfon's exile. Lintence hated his own skill getting rusty. That was why he left his home city. Layfon, on the other hand, left his home city to become rusty. That was the difference between them. After today, Layfon would return to his original path. To Lintence, this was a shame. But he had no urge to pick him up. A guy who couldn't stand by his power was useless.
Keep moving. The field behind him was empty of people. Nothing obstructed the road to Grendan. Nothing. Not filth monsters. Not Military Artists.
The presence moved with tremendous speed. He stood up, his Kei flowing through his entire body. When Lintence felt it, the Steel Threads moved simultaneously. The blade flitted through the steel threads to close in on Alsheyra.
But Alsheyra did not turn around.
The Steel Threads had blocked that attack. The light of Kei exploded.
"I thought you'd given up."
On the other side of the Steel Threads was Layfon's serious face.
"Layfon!" Leerin called over the Queen's shoulder. "Please."
Leerin's expression changed at that emotional and irrational reply. Lintence caught her expression and went to stand before Layfon.
"This is so unsightly. It makes it so hard to tolerate that I want to see you suffer some."
"Unsightly? What's that? What did I do wrong? If this continues, I can do nothing. Isn't that what "unsightly" is? No, never mind. No matter how unsightly I am, I.........." he sought Leerin's gaze and wanted to know what she thought. What expression did she hold now?
"No matter what it is, as long as it belongs to Grendan, it's got nothing to do with you anymore," Lintence said. He knew his words meant nothing. Rationality could not contain one's emotions. If only rationality was enough, he himself wouldn't have worried about his skill becoming rusty. He'd have died protecting his home city.
As he had expected, Layfon's eyes contained nothing but fury.
"Is that so. In that case."
It was useless to say anything to Layfon now. He felt he was naive to still want to persuade him.
"I can only stop you with force."
The naivety melted in Lintence's words as he moved. Though he didn't look to have moved, he did move. The Steel Threads rolled up as Layfon's Katana gave off light.
The two clashed.
Alsheyra looked at the Leerin in her arms and saw her complicated expression.
"Are you bothered?"
The sound of commotion was behind them. The noise of the commotion didn't just include the Kei light to normal people, but this level of noise was just a small ruckus to Alsheyra. Lintence's Steel Threads were blocking off even the remnants of the battle, so Leerin was unhurt. Alsheyra would never allow anything to harm her.
"I was a little surprised. I didn't think you'd say to return so quickly."
The battle behind her was just extra entertainment to Alsheyra. But not so with Leerin. Never mind Lintence, who was standing and not moving an inch. But Leerin's eyes weren't enough to catch up with Layfon's movement. Moreover, this wasn't the time to use her closed right eye.
"........... Because I feel I have to return."
She was bothered by the battle but she couldn't see it clearly. Dissatisfaction filled her, and she balled her hands into tight fists. Alsheyra watched her and waited for her to speak.
"She's in Grendan, isn't she? Saya."
Her words landed a heavy blow on Alsheyra's chest. These words finally left Leerin's mouth. No, Alsheyra already knew this day would come, but if possible, she wished for this day to never arrive. However, things weren't always that pretty.
"Yes," she nodded. "She's sleeping in a secret place, somewhere deep inside Grendan. No one, not even me, can enter that place. She's been waiting there."
Who was it? What was it? Alsheyra only knew of battles, and that an awareness wanted to destroy this world.
"When did it begin?"
"A long....... Long time ago. At the time of the birth of this world."
"It feels like a long story."
Leerin turned her attention back to the battle. Even though she couldn't catch up with it, she still couldn't move her eyes away.
"Layfon........ It's ok not to involve him in this, right? Because he's no longer part of Grendan."
This was one reason why Leerin wished to return quickly.
Yes. Not only as a citizen of Grendan. This event had nothing to do with people who weren't Heaven's Blade successors. Alsheyra was searching for Military Artists who couldn't exercise all of their strength without a Heaven's Blade. Layfon suited this criterion. Though physically, his athletic ability and technique were comparatively lower than other Heaven's Blade successors, his ability in Kei, whether it be the explosion of Kei, the speed of restoring and sustaining Kei, was top among the Heaven's Blades. At one time, Alsheyra had done an investigation on his body with the lie of having him undergo a body health check, and the report had showed Layfon's Kei vein had experienced signs of expansion at a younger age. In addition, he had great concentration to control his enormous Kei. But what about now? Since Lintence called him "naive", perhaps Layfon had yet to perfect his control of Kei?
Perhaps Lintence wanted to test that hypothesis. He looked like he was playing. Usually, he wouldn't be like this. So Lintence.........
She looked at Leerin again, who was watching the battle with anxiety.
He had no place to escape to. Layfon attempted to wipe clean the pressure on him with the Shim Adamantium Dite. The Steel Threads surrounding him evaded his cut path like spiderweb in the wind. But even if he shot his Kei directly at Lintence, the Heaven's Blade successor would have blocked the attack with complicated patterns of the Steel Threads that made up the strong defensive formation.
Lintence hadn't moved from his spot. He continued to smoke, sometimes taking a drag and the tip of the cigarette turned red. He then puffed out a thread of green smoke. All he did was simply smoke. Even so, the Steel Threads attacks did not stop. Since swinging the Katana was not enough to evade all the Steel Threads, Layfon kept moving. He had no other way but to escape.
(What should I do?)
He kept fighting..... Perhaps this wasn't even a battle. He thought with all his wits. If he had the Sapphire Dite.......... He denied that thought. Lintence would turn the battle to his advantage in one split moment if Layfon was to use the Steel Threads. Rather than using a technique in front of its expert, it was better to fight with one Katana.
Layfon had watched Lintence fight using the Steel Threads from a close distance. However, this was his first time fighting him head to head. Lintence was an unbelievable opponent. He felt he couldn't have done much even if he had the Heaven's Blade. It was obvious that Lintence hadn't been fighting seriously. Still, Layfon failed to make an effective move.
(What should I do? What should I do?)
No matter how hard he pondered, he couldn't find a way to escape the net of Steel Threads.
"What? Can't do anything?" Lintence asked as he stepped on the cigarette butt on the ground. "This is a waste of time. I've no need to keep playing with you."
Tension swept through Layfon's entire body. He shivered at the attack that was to come. At the same time, he had a premonition that Leerin would turn farther away from him.
He rushed forward, but the Steel Threads interfered. He raised the Shim Adamantium Dite and attempted to cut down the Threads with the dark blade. The Threads evaded him and swept back to assault him. He avoided them and kept moving forward. Evade and move. Every time, he evaded the Steel Threads and slipped by them with inches between them and his skin. But once he evaded the attack, the Kei between the Steel Threads would head for him. He covered his entire body with Kei to fight against Lintence's Kei. Still, this had wounded him, and in a short period of time, traces of injuries had surfaced on his body, bringing him pain.
Regardless, Layfon kept striding forward. Even one step was better than none. And it was true that he was closing in on Lintence one step at a time.
Lintence saw everything that Layfon did. He took out a new cigarette from his coat pocket.
"All right, this the last cigarette. You have 180 seconds till I finish it."
He held the cigarette between his teeth. He just needed to watch to know how much time was left.
Layfon kept moving, anxiety burning his heart. As a result, he failed to evade the Steel Threads completely, and a Steel Thread cut away some of his muscle on his shoulder. Blood shot forth painfully. Caring nothing for the wound, he moved forward. He swung the Katana and stepped out. Using the smallest movement, he checked his surroundings with his eyes. He observed the Steel Threads that were weaved together to attack him. He blocked and chased them away with his weapon and moved forward. Swing the Katana, evade and move forward.
But the distance he had gained was so little that it wasn't worth mentioning. He kept his position with the will to die while forcing himself to take the next step. He was wasting time, and this thought made him more impatient. He couldn't make it. 180 seconds? How much time had passed? How much time was left? What about the cigarette..........? He had no time to look at Lintence. The Steel Threads waited for his weakness to show. Lintence was still playing. If Layfon lost his concentration, he'd die. He'd definitely die. It was useless to keep guys alive who couldn't avoid the Steel Threads. Much better to just kill them off. That was what Lintence was like. The biggest number of Steel Threads was about 100 million. How many Steel Threads were here? 200? 300........... Just that many? How much of Lintence's strength was he showing? How much out of 100 percent? Perhaps this was meaningless. But the distance between Lintence and Layfon did have some meaning. If Lintence had wanted to kill him, he just needed to increase the number of Steel Threads by 300. Hadn't Layfon's existence proven that truth?
Layfon's feelings turned turgid. Lintence was so far from him, and Alsheyra, who was behind the Heaven's Blade successor, was even further away. How big a distance was it to want to reach Leerin who was in the Queen's arms? His body moved. His Katana danced. He held his weapon closely. But his movements were getting clumsy. Pain bit his entire body. His evasive actions were less perfect. He could no longer capture the movements of the Steel Threads with just his eyes. He had to use all of his senses. However, his body became heavier and his senses were turning dull. He had fought the filth monster in its aged phase, Savaris, and now Lintence. He had been fighting till now, and his body was reaching its limit.
Kei. He had to let more Kei flow. Even though the Dite couldn't bear more Kei, he just needed more for his body. Let his Internal Kei run more intensely. Wake up his body and enliven his entire nervous system. It was still too early to sleep and give up.
Run. Run. Run!
He roared. His hot Kei vein felt like it was burning. Perhaps it would really burn. But it was all right. If he could keep burning till he used it all up, then keep on burning!
Light sparked in his vision. No. His body was exuding the light. The redundant Kei that his body had failed to absorb was leaking from him and was automatically turning into External Burst type Kei. This Kei pushed back the Steel Threads and shook apart the ground beneath his feet. The air roared and keened. His body hurt as if he was bathing in an explosion. But that was all right. Layfon jumped and sped past the Steel Threads, past Lintence to reach the Queen. Otherwise, he would fail to catch Leerin's hand.
One swift moment was where the only chance laid. He went past Lintence to the Queen. He spied the big coat in the corner of his eye. The Queen's dark hair was getting closer. He could get closer to her as long as his Kei kept running, as if it had no limit, as if it was to burn itself out. The blade in his hand turned into a muddier colour of red. A muddier red of the blood. He had not poured more Kei into the Dite, but the redundant Kei on the Dite was beyond what it could bear.
One strike. Only one strike was all he had. One strike. This was a fight with the Queen. No second strike was allowed.
His gaze met Leerin's. But she surely wouldn't understand the changes here. He didn't think she was looking at him, so he looked at her. Those pupils that were slightly slow and numb. Layfon stared at those pupils as if he was sucked into them. He must take back that wish and make it come true. But just whom was that wish for?
Confused, doubtful, yet he had to time to give them an answer. It was too harsh to give an answer in one moment. He swung down the Shim Adamantium Dite. The scarlet cut path ran out from him to close with the Queen's neck. Cut down the Queen's neck, kill her and take back Leerin. This was what went through his mind...........
But that did not happen.
The result came to him first from the feeling on his wrist rather than from his vision. The swing was too hollow, too relaxing. The blade extended from his hand had disappeared. Not that it had exploded from overloading. The blade had scattered before Layfon's very eyes into countless pieces. The Steel Threads had cut it down.
Layfon leapt over the Queen and landed. The momentum made him slide out. Though he had strengthened himself with Internal Kei, he had failed to control the momentum and rein it in. He slid and slid. He couldn't even ready his stance to fight. He knew the Steel Threads would not let this chance go. And his opponent would not let this chance slip by. Pressure immediately came to Layfon's chest. The Steel Threads were gathering here.
Sougenkyoku Hane mushi.
Originally, it was a move to invade the filth monster's body and strike it from its inside.
Layfon abandoned the plan to keep sliding, and instead, used its force to jump back. The Steel Threads dispersed in the dance of a mad storm. Pain battered his entire body, but he had successfully escaped from the fatal attack. But blood was bleeding from his internal organs. His forehead was injured, and his vision had turned red. The Steel Threads had cut deep into his limbs. Though he had jumped out before the Steel Threads revealed all their fangs and had gotten rid of the Steel Threads from his body, the Kei in the weapon had struck deep inside Layfon, rendering him immobile.
He wanted to stand up, but failed. The lack of weight that should be the Dite in his hand saddened him. Kei still cycled in his body, but the wounds on his body could not recover immediately. Still, he'd lose if he did not stand up. At least, he did not want to lose. If he gave up now.....
"180 seconds are up," Lintence said and stepped on the cigarette.
All of a sudden, Layfon was paralysed. He hadn't noticed that sometime, a Steel Thread had slipped past his sense and sight to invade him. The Kei from the thread cut down his consciousness. He knew his opponent wasn't serious. Even so, Lintence held in his palm Layfon's life and death.
He lost his consciousness, not knowing what was going on.
He seemed to see something in a split second, a figure that looked like Nina, enveloped by blue light.
"Layfon!" she shouted, seeing Layfon topple. What an unbelievable sight. That Layfon was defeated. Was this real? But Layfon had fallen. A man and a woman stood before him, and was it Leerin who was in that woman's arms?
"Who are you?"
Though she wanted to check on Layfon, she didn't think she had the strength left to do so. She just looked intently at the man and woman.
The woman's elegant face revealed a knowing smile.
"Lin, that's a Haikizoku."
"I know. I've seen it before."
"Heh~ Just as expected from someone with traveling experience. You really are different."
Nina felt cold on her back as she listened to the conversation. They had seen through her.
"Who are you?"
"Grendan's big boss and her servant," the woman said with a joking attitude.
"No, Nina. Hurry and run away!" Leerin shouted. "They're the Queen and a Heaven's Blade successor. They're too much for you. Run!"
Nina's eyes widened. This woman was the Queen, someone strong enough to control the Heaven's Blade successors like Layfon. And this man was like the former Layfon. He was a Heaven's Blade successor.
".......... What are you planning to do with Leerin?"
"We're protecting our precious citizen. Is that wrong?"
The woman's aura was still as strong. In her voice was someone who liked to joke. She didn't act like a city's conqueror.
"Though it's a bit embarrassing, I'd be thankful if you were to come with us. What do you think? Besides, I think I can show you what you want to see."
"What are you...........?"
"This world. The Haikizoku. The Electronic Fairy. The mystery that contains them all. You're already involved. Are you not bothered?"
The Queen moved her gaze from Nina. Nina chased after her without giving it a thought. Did the other person notice something? Or had she just simply looked away?
There. Over there.
He was a far distance away from them, but they could still see him clearly. A person stood at the contact point between Grendan and Zuellni.
That must be him. But somehow, he felt different from usual. He was letting down a huge metal whip. Kei with a color different from Nina's spilled out of Dixerio. The mask on his face was also different. It looked the same as the Wolf Face's mask, but it felt different. Nina also felt that she had seen it somewhere before.
"Ah, we're seen," the Queen said. "This way, we can't run away."
Nina didn't feel the Queen was talking to him. She was speaking to herself.
"What is it? You want to run away?"
"Humans always want to escape from things that are already set. That's what youth is like."
"You're speaking of youth at your age?"
"............ If you keep saying more, I'd hit you."
Dixerio turned around and stepped into Grendan as if he had noticed Nina.
"Though the city has a few factors, let this side accept them all."
"Huh?" Nina responded. It seemed the other side was talking to her.
"How's it? Not interested?"
"Isn't the Haikizoku your aim?"
"Yeah.......... The previous King was the one who sent out the Mercenary Gang. Savaris left Grendan because he couldn't stand Kanaris' nagging. In truth, I think it's a tiny bit better to have the Haikizoku than without it. Though it might be useful for Grendan, but this time, the authority of obtaining the Haikizoku or not rests with Saya............"
Nina didn't understand what she just said. This woman's lack of tension had influenced her.
"Well, you'd understand once you reach that side. Interested? If not, never mind. But if you want to interfere with us, I can only defeat you," Alsheyra said in a relaxed manner.
Nina thought for a moment. Layfon had fallen. Leerin was in their hands. Could she win just by herself? How serious was the Queen?
Nina's gaze met Leerin. She felt that gaze was telling her not to get closer. But was it all right for her to return to Grendan like that? Nina thought of the Layfon behind her. Could she win with the power of the Haikizoku against opponents that Layfon had failed to defeat?
"Aah, that's a waste of effort," the Queen laughed, having seen through Nina's plan.
Nina tightened her grip on the iron whips as she shivered at the Queen's action.
"It's not my style to get confused over whether I can win or not."
"I've promised Layfon to protect Leerin. If I were to break the promise, you might as well kill me here!"
Leerin moaned, wanting to stop Nina but Nina didn't hear her shout.
"That's quite some preparation."
The man next to the Queen walked up to her.
"Lin, you can't kill her."
"Then can this stop that woman?"
The voice of the man named Lin echoed in the dim atmosphere.
"Please stop! Lintence-san!" Leerin shouted. The name of this man, Lintence, made Nina's back feel more icy.
Lintence. The man who taught Layfon the Steel Threads technique.
"Real strength can be utilized best in a deep crisis. What's the most horrifying is action that bets on one's life. Layfon's for example, is only child's play."
Pressure assaulted Nina's entire body. But she wasn't scared at all. She waited for a chance to attack as she suppressed the shivering of her back.
The timing came from the outside. A sound of gunshot writhed around the condensed Kei bullet that ran straight here. It was a shot at the Queen from a building far away.
But another gunshot had stopped it. The paths of two bullets overlapped and the explosion of Kei created a small circle in the air. Another bullet had stopped this bullet and Nina could tell immediately where the first bullet came from. However, she could only tell the originator of the second bullet from the traces of Kei left after the Kei explosion.
Sharnid had shot the first bullet. Who shot the next one?
No time to confirm that. Nina moved. Lintence's gaze was still on the Kei of the explosion.
But that was a trap.
"......... Layfon is a troublesome brat," Lintence said and Nina, while running forward, felt a strange feeling from her feet. It was already too late when she felt it. Something had trapped her feet and she fell onto the ground. Steel threads then wrapped around her wrists also. Their speed far exceeded Nina's and it had sealed off all her movements.
"But he knows the timing of a fight. If he were to realize the feeling of being in a deep crisis, he'd become an even more incredible monster as long as he could surpass the line he's drawn. You seem to have easily crossed that line. If we're to predict the future of having experienced millions of battles, either you or Layfon, you're still lacking........ brats."
Nina lost her consciousness in the next second.
Sharnid saw it happen.
He saw everything.
He could do nothing but watch. He couldn't press the trigger of his sniper rifle. A pressure came through his forehead where a gun was. A woman wearing unique clothes was holding it to his forehead.
"Damn brat. Wanna die?"
"........... I've never thought of wanting to die."
Sharnid let go of the sniper rifle and raised his hands. He had no choice but to surrender. The gap between him and this woman was overwhelming. Not only did her bullet stop his, he also didn't notice her closing in on him. He only lived because she didn't kill him off.
The woman disappeared the moment the gun was lifted from his forehead but Sharnid remained immobile.
He could only watch them take the unconscious Nina away.
He wore a new fighting suit. But this action spread the pain of the wound hiding underneath the bandage.
He had lost completely. Nothing else existed besides this truth. It mattered not that he was alive. The important point was that he had lost. The end result was Leerin had been taken away. Nina was also taken too. Hadn't the Haikizoku already left her? What had happened in Zuellni while Layfon was away?
His body had been unable to move and he had lost his consciousness. Something had happened during this time and Nina had been taken to Grendan. Defeat pained him more than the wounds he bore. He understood what he wanted to do was very foolish even without having to tell anyone about it. All he could do was lie on the ground, defeated by his opponent. What else could someone like him do? He felt he couldn't do anything.
Had he been too arrogant because he was a former Heaven's Blade successor? Though he hadn't thought of it that way, the result might have shown otherwise.
But a real Heaven's Blade successor had shown up and defeated him. This was unsightly.
Layfon left the Changing Room.
Harley was waiting for him in the corridor.
"Felli had already contacted me before you returned."
Harley forced out a smile and passed over the weapon harness with Dites in it. The Adamantium Dite, Shim Adamantium Dite and the Sapphire Dite. Layfon's weapons. The weapons he used in Zuellni. The Dites combined with Harley and Kirik's talents and skills were still far from a Heaven's Blade. The wall blocking Layfon was this huge and it wasn't the only obstacle.
Could he overcome all of them?
Harley took out the Iron Dite. The Dite that Leerin brought from Grendan.
"To be honest, I don't recommend this Dite judging by the largest amount of Kei you could bring out but.........." he stopped halfway. Layfon felt regret in his words. Harley was bitter about making the Shim Adamantium Dite yet it still wasn't enough to sustain Layfon's Kei.
He took the Iron Dite and placed it in the slot deliberately left empty in the weapon harness.
"Nina, she'll return?" Harley said as Layfon took a step out.
That was what he wanted to say but he failed to give voice to it. All he did was walk wordlessly in the corridor.
He knew he should have given Harley a reply.
Layfon arrived above the ground of Zuellni.
Activities to revitalize the city had begun. The destruction above ground was incredible. Many students had lost their dormitories. These students were arranged to stay at the dormitories prepared for the first years. Even so, the leftover students had no choice but to live in the shelters.
Noise sounded from working machines but it didn't feel uncomfortable to his ears. Though the students didn't look happy, they didn't look down either. It was probably already a big encouragement for them to be able to keep on living.
Layfon couldn't join them.
Military Artists remained on alert in case any filth monsters were still around. No one found it strange for Layfon to walk about, dressed in fighting clothes.
He didn't ask how badly the Military Artists were injured. He had received treatment in the clinic located in the shelter, slept for a day like mud, climbed up from bed and walked over here. He didn't have the time to ask for information. But he didn't think he could do a thing even if he had heard the news.
Leerin was taken away. Nina was also taken away.
He was here, unable to do a thing. He had also failed to defeat the aged phase filth monster. The Queen was the one who defeated it. He should have known about Felli overworking herself. The giant filth monsters were attacking the city, yet Layfon was fighting the Heaven's Blade successors who were hunting them down.
He felt like he was walking while wearing unsightly-looking clothes.
Layfon walked as he watched the city, indifferent. Some people stood looking at the destroyed buildings. Some girls were smiling, chatting about getting new furniture. Simple tents lined the road. Cooking smoke issued from them.
He could hear the sound of people working everywhere.
This place was full of vitality. The people here did not yield to the misfortune even though the place they lived in was turned upside down. The sense of welcoming a happier future life was intensifying.
Perhaps because this was an Academy City. One just needed to rebuild even if it was broken. The existence behind this city was to do what was realistic and practical. The students weren't alone. The vitality exuding from their collective bodies depicted the city's new chapter.
Layfon couldn't join them.
Something inside him was broken. The feeling of returning to the path of a Military Artist. The feeling that the people he knew in Grendan had shattered. He didn't feel at ease even with the weapon harness hanging from his wrist. The fighting clothes were the same, giving off a feeling of something different. Even he himself didn't think he acknowledged the current him.
Still, Layfon kept walking.
And at last came to the outskirt of the city.
Grendan stood before him. The two cities didn't seem to be on alert against each other. Layfon didn't sense anyone monitoring him. But trade and communication were banned between the two. A fence blocking off entry stood here.
Zuellni still had one broken leg. It seemed to be waiting for it to re-grow. But Layfon couldn't fathom the reason as to why Grendan wasn't moving.
He would be inside Grendan if he were to cross over this line. But could he reach his goal even if he reached that place? The wall blocking him was so high he couldn't see its top, and that wasn't the only wall. He couldn't surpass the wall that was Lintence. Leerin had been taken away. So simple. And Nina too. Grendan and the Queen had taken away those two. Why did Leerin go with the Queen? Layfon didn't understand. He didn't get anything yet he still acted. However, the doubt asking what he himself could do had then stopped his footsteps.
Just what could he do?
"You've really come."
Layfon turned around at that voice.
It was Sharnid. Felli was here too. Both of them wore fighting clothes like him.
"Aren't we thinking the same thing?" Sharnid's expression was still the same as he walked up to him.
"The Captain's been taken. There's no insult bigger than that."
He patted Layfon's shoulder, bringing his face close to him. He was smiling but his eyes weren't.
"My exhaustion is gone. The lack of judgment won't happen again."
The resolve in her calm attitude was firm.
"Can't accept failure just like this."
"Oh, Felli-chan has said something excellent."
Lost. Layfon had lost. And numerous strong fighters existed in that city. Besides, it was the country. The Queen had taken Nina. This meant this was Grendan's will. If they were to resist it, they would be declaring war against this country. A fight more intense than days ago would take place beyond this contact point.
"I also think I'll regret not doing something."
A few pats on Layfon's shoulder.
"Though I'll also regret doing it. But I don't know which side is right. And I might not be able to accept it even if it's right. No matter whether I do it or not, either side can be right. That's how it'd look from the result? It's better for me to do it. That's why I'm here."
Felli walked up to the edge.
"Felli..... senpai, that's really dangerous."
He received a wordless kick on his leg.
Even he himself was surprised at the sound of pain he uttered. He sat down on the ground. Felli's icy gaze hit him.
"Just how long do you plan to whine? You've already come this far."
"How about letting me see your manly side sometimes? Over there. The man always considering what to say to make himself look handsome. You'd do well to have one percent of him. Can't you show something like that to me?"
"Wa, still as deadly as always. So harsh........"
Felli turned around.
Layfon was speechless for a while then his lips softened. There was no room for negotiation. He felt a more tragic end awaited him if he kept speaking out.
He felt as if his confusion had been flushed away. He looked at Grendan once more.
"Let us save the Captain."
And Leerin too.
Layfon and the two passed over the contact point.