Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume14 Chapter 1
 Chapter 1: You still haven't made any decision
With the sound of the wind in his ears, Layfon kept running and jumping. Holding the Sapphire Dite in the form of steel threads, he carried Felli with his left arm. Carrying the delicate and tiny her, he kept running and jumping. He pressed on as he moved upon Grendan's earth.
The voice filled with hostility echoed everywhere. Directed at Layfon, the voice seemed like arrows coming in all directions. The confrontation with Claribel had created an unexpected result. The chaos continued to spread even now, rippling out in bigger circles. The chaos never once stopped around Layfon. Having made the spark in Grendan's urgent air, he could never predict just how large a fire was to emerge in Grendan. Right now, he could do nothing but run.
"Three new Military Artists have appeared at point 1200," Felli said next to his ear. She hugged his neck tightly, her breath brushing past his ear. The tension that one couldn't feel in her flake was now carried through by her breath.
The steel threads danced. No, it had never once stopped from the beginning. Layfon kept deflecting the external Kei of Military Artists aimed at his back, using the steel threads to stop these guys from getting closer, and making them faint. Felli had been searching for a safe place. In order to enable Sharnid to keep running, Layfon had put all his concentration in the fight.
For the three Military Artists forming a net to stop him, they didn't even have time to release external Kei before Layfon hammered them into unconsciousness.
"After 100m, please turn to point 1400 and move for 200m."
Layfon kept moving forward at Felli's direction, but it was very difficult. He was only defeating the other Military Artists........ It'd have been much more relaxing to kill them off, but he didn't choose that method. Instead, he made them unconscious to stop them from pursuing him. If he had chosen to kill, he'd probably have chopped off Claribel's head in the second move.
Why did he not do that? Why didn't he kill them? Even Layfon himself couldn't find a persuasive answer to those questions. But for some reason, he just couldn't kill them. He had made a decision in one split second. Even if he changed his thinking now, something in his heart would hold back his resolve.
The external Kei of nearing Military Artists ran through the steel threads to his wrist. Though it'd be easier to block the attack if he were to spread the steel threads around like Lintence, he had no spare time for that now. He couldn't perform that move in a flash like that person. The steel threads were a very good weapon against many enemies, but Layfon's strength was far from Lintence's. He wouldn't have sunk into this desperate a situation if he could concentrate fighting on his own, but.......
Sharnid's voice came from behind.
"Even though we keep running, we still can't escape the psychokinesist's search?"
This was Sharnid, who could speak with his usual attitude in this unusual situation. Layfon agreed with his words, but even he himself could do nothing. He had no strength left.
As Sharnid had said.
The flakes of psychokinesist flew among the Military Artists so to capture Layfon's movements. Though he could destroy the flakes flying inside the net of steel threads, strong psychokinesists' power could glint information even if the flakes were far from their target. Under normal circumstances, Layfon could increase the range of steel threads to destroy farther flakes, but it was impossible to do so while escaping and fighting numerous enemies. The current range took everything he could to maintain its delicate operation. Putting all of his concentration on operating the steel threads, he had left the choice of the route to Felli. If he hadn't done that, he would have already left openings in his defense.
One must never underestimate Grendan's Military Artists. This was a city that had much more real battle experience than any other cities. A city that had experienced many organized group battles more than any other cities. No matter what the situation was, it could even easily work with any strangers to carry out combined attacks. This was because if the city couldn't do that much, Grendan's Military Artists would not have survived this long. Layfon was protecting Sharnid and Felli. If he wasn't careful with his moves, they would have been defeated by Grendan's Military Artists before meeting Nina, Leerin and any other Heaven's Blade successors.
"I've an idea," Felli's voice sounded in their ears. Tension seeped from her voice.
"As such, please head for the destination. If possible when we arrive there, even just a moment is enough, we'll completely disappear from their eyes."
"Is that possible?" Sharnid asked.
"If I've time to weave the steel threads formation........." Layfon could only reply. He needed time to prepare Lintence's steel threads move – Sougen Kyoku, as his technique wasn't as good as Lintence's. Besides, the more numerous the enemies, the harder it was to control the move, but simultaneously, the power and scale of the move was even larger. Just speaking on weapon type, Dinn's metal threads was the same type as the steel threads. The level of difficulty to wield this type of weapon was high, and it was easier to understand that the more familiar one was with this weapon, the more horrific its power.
To weave a formation in a split second like Lintence...... Not only would Layfon fail to produce Sougen Kyoku, he might even create an opening. Any opening in this situation was fatal.
"Good. Just leave it to me."
He never thought Sharnid would accept this mission so quickly.
"Even so, we only have 10 seconds. Please, I don't want to get careless."
He did not give voice to the words in his throat. Perhaps he was worrying too much, but no matter how much he worried, this was reality. Layfon wasn't the exception. All Military Artists in Grendan were the same, and it was particularly so for the Psyharden who had never forgotten the feeling in a real battle.
But he had to say it now.
"Senpai, it's impossible for you."
He failed to say it.
But there was no time to ask himself anymore.
"Got it," Felli replied instead.
"There's no time for discussion. First, we've to escape."
This truly was what they needed but.........
"Ok, then let's start three seconds before we arrive at the destination. Though I don't know what move it is, please remember don't get me caught in it."
No time to reply. They were about to arrive at the destination. There were around 130 pursuers. Around 50 flakes were trying to circle the intruders. Two to three people were psychokinesists. Layfon felt that clearly and found the number unexpectedly low. His confrontation with Claribel had sparked a fire in Grendan, and that fire would certainly spread. But with this number, rather than allowing Sharnid to encounter danger, Layfon still couldn't make a decision......
Let me do it. That was what he wanted to say. With this level of Military Artists, Layfon could defeat them if he were to kill them. However, Felli didn't permit him to speak.
"Fon Fon...... Please be more honest."
"We must stop the source of fire to prevent this situation from worsening. Only 1 more second till arrival......Action. Start."
"Oi!" Sharnid shouted and turned around behind Layfon.
Layfon had already eliminated all Military Artists ahead of him, so the targets left were all behind him. There were 30 Military Artists, and they were all different from Zuellni's Military Arts students. Though Sharnid was a top Military Artist in Zuellni, his action here was brainless. Would the future of a few seconds after, change because of his action? Layfon should stop him. Stop his brainless action, but it was too late. They had promised to buy him 10 seconds. Holding the Dite, Layfon considered whether he should change the direction of the steel threads.
Why did he feel that something unexpected would happen? Was it really all right to simply concentrate on weaving the formation? The formation he needed formed in Layfon's head and became an image. How to swing the Dite, how to let the Kei run, how to adjust the Kei through his Kei vein. All these points had clearly emerged in his mind. All that was left was to realize them in reality.
Once Sougen Kyoku was put into action, it wouldn't stop till it was finished. This was how deep and complicated Lintence's move was. All parts of the move were complicated and strange. It had taken him a horrific amount of time to just familiarize himself with the weapon. There was a reason why there were fewer steel threads users than Karen Kei users. Luckens' secret was also difficult but it was still just physical exercise......the steel threads were different. The difference of threads, the flow of Kei, the ripples of Kei, everything were of a high level.
Concentrate. If he got distracted, he'd fail.
It had begun.
"Here I go!" Sharnid shouted and rushed for the Military Artists.
The two guns in his hands were restored. Close quarter combat gun fight......Using guns for close combat fight, Sharnid had raised the guns and rushed the thirty Military Artists in order to protect himself. He blocked off the external Kei from them.
The explosion broke through the sky along with a huge noise. The air flow was scattered into pieces as a huge wave swallowed Sharnid whole. This was a group strategy created to stop in-rushing larvae. The dignity of adults was sullied today for using this move against one single person, a person who was still an immature Military Artist.
Only the light of external Kei and the dust of explosion floating in the air remained in Sharnid's sight.
An even bigger feeling of Kei came from behind his back. A heavy pressure that easily overwhelmed the Kei of all thirty Military Artists. No matter how he thought of it, he knew it came from Layfon. If not, an even more terrible character must have appeared behind Sharnid, Layfon and Felli.
Holding to that belief, he stood again in the arena that he couldn't escape from. He believed that his action would turn the situation around.
"Sometimes I've to show you the dignity of a senpai!" he shouted as his spirit rose.
Grendan's Military Artists calmly calculated the result of their external Kei. They felt nothing for the end of the Military Artist who had been protected by Layfon. They had a general idea of this person's strength by looking at the way he escaped, his running speed, his leaping height, his pose. They thought his action was brainless and so they released their moves. Standing in a battle, an unsafe arena as they faced an enemy, what should they do? This was common sense. Even though this fool was a Military Arts student, they were not his teacher. They had no obligation to point out his foolish action.
The external Kei had already ground this person into powder as if he was put into a blender. That was what the Military Artists thought.
But that did not happen.
The sound of gun shots pierced through the sound of explosion. The prediction went awry in the next moment. Numerous shots of light assaulted them, breaking through the attacks of the thirty Military Artists. This time, the rain of Kei bullets came to baptize these Military Artists.
The safety setting of the weapon was released. This wasn't permitted in the platoon matches and the Military Arts Competition. The bullets he used there were anesthetic. In here, Sharnid could choose to use both real and Kei bullets. When the weapon's safety setting was on, he could not use Kei bullets. Though real bullets were powerful too, the number was limited. However, there was no limit to the number of Kei bullets. Sharnid just had to keep compressing his Kei and shooting it out. The quality of the gun had placed a certain amount of restriction on the power output, but as long as he had Kei, he could keep on shooting.
"OHHHHHHHHH!" Sharnid voiced as he kept shooting. He wasn't just shooting. He was moving too. He moved to find the locations that he could shoot the bullets through the amorphous wave of external Kei.
Even he himself didn't expect it...... The ambush was very successful. In fact, there were few Military Artists who failed to evade the sudden attacks.
He had reduced the number from thirty to twenty but he couldn't let his guard down. He could feel new Military Artists closing in.
"But you're a bit late."
The Military Artists dispersed and formed a circle around Sharnid. Sharnid rushed for them.
Different kinds of weapons attacked him. To them, Sharnid was no longer a simple Military Arts student.
Sharnid's contribution was unbelievable. Though he did it in an emergency situation, he had accurately grasped hold of the opening through his experience in numerous battles. He had not fallen for the trap but managed to shoot out Kei bullets accurately. This was different from his random shooting at the beginning of the fight. As such, he defeated three more Military Artists.
Eight and nine seconds.
Continuously attacking was tiring. His movements had slowed down. Though the time was short, he kept on attacking.
And then ten seconds passed.
"I'm counting on you."
Sharnid escaped from the position of shooting Kei bullets everywhere and ran for Layfon. The Military Artists were speechless at his action of leaving his back completely exposed. This might be a trap. They considered whether to give chase or not.
Less than even one second had already decided their fate.
Sougen Kyoku – Needle makeup.
The result took place in a flash. The Military Artists and all the psychokinesis flakes that were gathering information around them suffered the same fate.
They were pierced in a flash.
Invisible steel threads were laid across the earth during Sharnid's fight with the Military Artists. These threads suddenly all pierced the sky. The heads of the threads enlarged with the Kei in them. None of the Military Artists could resist them. Even the flakes had become the steel threads' preys, pierced one by one. This happened to not only the Military Artists fighting Sharnid, but to all other Military Artists and flakes seeking to get close. The impact and pain caused by steel threads was enough. The Military Artists didn't have time to make any noise before fainting. Layfon had controlled the threads so they didn't pierce any vital spots.
"Keep going down," Felli said as Sharnid arrived. The three of them went into the underground canal and closed the heavy lid above them.
It was pitch black.
"This isn't a bad idea but......" Sharnid walked ahead of the team with a painful expression. Felli was in the middle and Layfon took up the rear. The three of them were walking in the underground canal. Sharnid made this expression not only because of Layfon. Felli herself understood it well. As a huge amount of water flowed underground, the sound of rushing water was enough to drown out the noise of Layfon's team, but they still couldn't speak too loudly without regard of anything.
"So smelly," Sharnid complained, holding his nose.
This underground canal was used to carry away waste water.
"No need to repeat what we all know," Felli said. She wasn't all that comfortable either.
Even Layfon was the same. Though Internal Kei system could strengthen his senses, he deliberately chose not to strengthen his sense of smell. Still, the foul smell kept invading his nostrils, causing a nasty feeling in the depth of his throat.
"If there's a better way to escape, please tell me."
"I'm sorry. I'm not blaming you, Felli-chan."
"The entrance we used is destroyed. It'd be hard for our pursuers to follow, but I'm not sure about the psychokinesists."
"It's all right. It's already hard to investigate this place from above the ground. Besides, I'm interfering with the flakes and making them get error messages."
"You're making the flakes make the wrong judgment? Incredible. If you can do that, why haven't you been using it? If Nina had known, she'd be mad."
"Not that I haven't used it before. I didn't know how to use it till now....... Recently, I've thought of this method. At that time when I took over the other person's flake......"
"So Felli-chan's been thinking."
"You said you hated it, but you gradually came to like it? Not bad."
"Go die, perv."
"Speaking of which, you two can really talk."
Layfon was trying all he could not to breathe. It was unbelievable to see these two converse. In addition, the three of them were keeping the Kei flowing in order to stay in Kei state.
"Well, this situation won't change even if we don't say anything."
"I was mentally prepared when we chose this escape route."
Layfon sighed, following closely behind the two. Felli directed them when they came to a branch. Layfon put all his concentration behind them.
No one was chasing them. He focused his Kei in his ears. He heard footsteps that sounded like Military Artists, but he could tell they weren't all that near. Felli was choosing the safest route for them.
It should be ok...... to relax a little in these circumstances?
"Speaking of which, the situation turned worse immediately. I originally planned for us to sneak in more safely."
"It seems difficult if you know too many people," Felli said, her gaze stabbing Layfon.
"This is his home, but I never thought so many beauties came to greet him," Sharnid laughed.
Felli's gaze turned sharper.
"Though you instantly bloodied the other person, that really is like your style. What else can I say?"
"Then...... Who is she?"
"That girl named Claribel. How are you two related?"
"No. Nothing special. I don't think I've fought with her together that many times......"
Of all that he remembered of her, Claribel belonged to one of the three royal families. She was a daughter of the Ronsmier family, the granddaughter of the Heaven's Blade successor Tigris.
"Then isn't she a lady? If you had stayed in Grendan, you might have been promoted."
Layfon knew it was impossible but the hostility he felt from Felli was deepening.
"You two saw it, right?"
Claribel had suddenly attacked with a sword. That kind of girl can't have any good feelings towards him.
"No no. I didn't feel any hostility. It felt more like an action devoid of any evil intention."
Sharnid's words triggered his memories. True. There was no hostility in Claribel's action. He thought she was here to punish the exiled...... But he didn't feel that was her intention. Perhaps she only came to try out his strength. This kind of Military Artists was not lacking in Grendan.
"She likes you."
A mischievous smile from Sharnid.
"No......... That's just a way to measure her strength......"
Layfon's expression was troubled. Felli's fury increased.
"So nothing else happened between you two?"
"NO-THING ELSE! From what she said, it seems something's happened between you two in the past."
"Nothing special...... Well, the only thing I remember was when she first participated in a battle. I went along as an observer."
"Well, an experienced Military Artist has to accompany any new Military Artists in their first battle. He's there to observe and protect the newbie. My adopted father accompanied me when I first headed off, but for some reason, Tigris requested me to go with her......"
Sharnid snapped his fingers. "You must have helped her in a cool style."
"Uh? Not that cool. That battle turned into a long one unexpectedly. She didn't control the use of her strength and fainted. I took care of everything afterwards."
"Look. As expected."
Felli's gaze was icy.
"Why didn't you realize......"
"Give it up. Even this clumsy guy is a Heaven's Blade."
Layfon didn't understand them and cocked his head.
The three of them kept on moving. Felli's direction was very accurate. The sound of their pursuers was getting further and further away.
"We'll head up here," Felli said this after an hour.
"Finally. My clothes and hair smell foul!" Sharnid smelled his long hair and made a helpless expression.
"I'll go up first."
Layfon climbed the ladder, pushed open the heavy lid and stood up on the ground to check everything was safe. He then pulled Felli and Sharnid up with the steel threads.
No one was around.
They seemed to be in the third residential area......... Though there was no evacuation siren ringing, it was rare to see the sun so high in the sky during this hour.
The three of them finally let out their breath. Perhaps a majority of Military Artists had already given up the search. As Felli had said, their disappearance had reduced the passion of the Military Artists.
"Speaking of which, just what's going on?"
Perhaps just as the conversation went in the underground canal, Claribel just wanted to challenge Layfon and held no hostility towards him. However, that made the action of the Military Artists incomprehensible. It felt as if the tightly-held string suddenly broke and caused a huge ruckus. A fight had happened not long before, but why were they so tense?
"Has it not ended?"
"What're you talking about?"
Sharnid placed the lid back. Felli's icy gaze was still on Layfon. It seemed the conversation about Claribel had cast her into a bad mood, and she hadn't recovered from it.
Layfon was the one who was teased. Why was Felli in such a bad mood? He didn't get it. But if he asked her, she'd get madder......
"What is it?"
"Nothing. Just wondering why the huge ruckus......"
"I don't know but it's not strange under that circumstance. Right?"
The contact between Zuellni and Grendan. The contact between an Academy City and a normal city. The crowd of filth monsters suddenly appearing in Zuellni's sky. All these were extremely unusual circumstances. Since they discovered the Haikizoku in the ruined city with the 5th platoon, the unusual circumstance had not once stopped. Had it all been decided that things would turn out this way?
"Ok, let's go," Sharnid walked over to them.
"Wait a minute. A normal person's leaving his home at pint 0900......"
"Hey, don't say that now!"
"Can't be helped. I was concentrating on the Military Artists. We've to avoid him."
"Can we make it, Layfon?"
He could tell from Felli's words that they couldn't make it. The sound of Felli and a door opening weaved together.
Even so, they'd make it if they moved immediately. The female walked out of the house. She was looking at her feet, holding the handle and did not notice Layfon. They could still make it now if he were to carry Felli. Sharnid was good at fast movement, so he had nothing to worry about.
But Layfon did not move.
The person who walked out of the house was a female. Her hair was delicate and had been cut to a very short length. Her head was lowered as her hair willfully allow the gravity to pull it lower.
Layfon saw the fine hair and shoulders, and the shopping basket in her hand.
Only he understood.
"Eh.........?" She lifted her head and saw them. Then she looked at Layfon, disbelieving.
His head hurt. Not because he was sick. This hurt came from his mental exhaustion. He couldn't say anything at the end of helplessness. He just felt his head hurt.
Minse pressed a hand down on his temple. He had watched his younger cousin lie on the bed with a helpless expression. In the end, he did not return to the palace but had instead headed for the outer edge. He had carried his cousin who had her arm cut off to the hospital. He hated himself for having done it.
Besides, a simple recovery device was holding his cousin's right wrist firmly as she lay on the bed even in this situation. She didn't look pained. Instead, she looked rather happy.
But it was better than being looked at with a dejected expression. Still, his cousin's expression prevented him from feeling satisfied and at peace for having rescued an injured person. All he felt now was the feeling of having done something foolish.
"Ahah......... As I thought, Layfon is the best."
His cousin must be thinking of this repeatedly? For those people who took advantage of the Gahard incidence to exile Layfon from the city, his cousin must have wanted to make them feel bad.
"I've trained with that move for a long time and I was confident about it. But as I thought, it's still far from complete."
"No. Isn't it because you were toying with them but they took out their real strength?"
His cousin was caressing the recovery device. Looking at her vague expression, Minse had no other feeling than that her cousin was dangerous. Though she wasn't mad with fighting like Savaris, as expected, she was dangerous when Layfon was involved. The close age gap between them was only one of the reasons. But it seemed she had already noticed Layfon before she had her first battle. Her feeling for Layfon after the first battle was mixed in with something else.
Minse found it strange that it wasn't a feeling a normal female would have.
"That's not related. What is truly needed is a very balanced strength that can be fully utilized no matter the situation. If it's a strength exploded from a person in a crisis, then he can't beat anyone."
"I can't hear the real reason."
"I said that's it."
Minse looked at his cousin who was nodding strongly. He turned his silent gaze to the scenery outside the window.
It was very tiring for Minse to discuss the theory of battle. He was a Military Artist who didn't possess any great power. One could say that he had given up because he hadn't undergone any fast growth. The fight with the Wolf Faces back then made his body heavy. Claribel had gone on a rampage just when he wanted to take a rest. Thinking of the words Her Majesty and other people would say only added to his exhaustion. There was nothing that could heal him.
".........Anyway, the commotion seems to have died down. It appears they have successfully hidden themselves."
The commotion that had gone on for quite a while had died down. Minse didn't think Layfon was defeated as he hadn't felt a Kei stronger than a Heaven's Blade successor. This meant Layfon and his comrades had hidden themselves. Though he wasn't that happy with Layfon, the commotion had not spread. That was good news in this situation. Anything happening right now was not normal. Something huge would certainly take place later. The action of the Wolf Faces had pointed to it. Instead of finding the path to the Inner Court as usual, the Wolf Faces had directly taken a mission to assassinate the Heaven's Blades...... The more correct reason was that they wanted to eliminate the power of the Heaven's Blade successors. Their purpose must be preventing the Heaven's Blades from exercising their full strength in the coming battle.
What he was sure of was that something huge was about to occur.
A huge ruckus at this time wasn't welcome. Minse and the others didn't have the strength to stop Layfon so it was better to honestly let him in.
"Anyway, you ought to stay here and receive treatment."
"I know. If my wrist wasn't put back the right way, I can't do anything I want. Aa, but I still want to fight one more time. I heard it can be treated by dusk. One more time......"
Minse shook his head and left the room. As he left, he thought he wanted to return earlier but it had to be at this time that he met the person who halted his steps.
"What an unexpected meeting."
Minse failed to utter a word as this was a very special person. The peaceful atmosphere exuding from this person didn't crack apart as the person watched Minse from the wheelchair. It was impossible for this old lady not to know Mitsu was here.
He tried to speak with the old woman.
"It's unusual to see you, Delbone-dono."
This was the hospital Delbone slept in. Not only that. Savaris, who had sustained injuries in Zuellni, was treated here too. Though it wasn't impossible to meet with her in this hospital, the old lady before Minse had always been sleeping, acting through her power of psychokinesis alone. Hence Minse never thought he'd meet the real person.
"Hoho. One of my grandchildren has been admitted into the hospital so I'm preparing to meet him. It's a grandchild who hasn't been back a long while. It lacks warmth to speak with him only through the flake."
"He's a fortunate grandchild."
"Did you come to visit too, Minse?"
"I'm here to visit Claribel. You should already know?"
"Sometimes I too want to pretend I don't know anything."
"Though I don't know which grandchild of yours is injured, but is it someone that I know?"
No one knew Delbone's real age but most of her numerous grandchild were psychokinesists. Even her great-grandchildren worked as psychokinesists. Most of the mainstream psychokinesists in Grendan were her direct descendants. Delbone, who held all information of Grendan, was not just simply a Heaven's Blade successor.
"No. I don't think Minse knows him. He left Grendan when he was very small. He only returned recently."
"There is such a person? But speaking of which, can he be in Zuellni?"
"Yes. He met the commotion while passing through Zuellni but he was injured before that, and it wasn't life-threatening."
"Really? Then that's good."
"Yes. Either way, he's the grandchild I care for the most. I'm really happy."
Minse could only think of her as a kind and approachable old lady as he looked at her expression.
"I hope your grandchild can be safely discharged."
"Thank you. Ah, and also, Her Majesty hasn't noticed this commotion yet. His infiltration and Claribel's personality are all within prediction. Please rest at ease."
".........Seems I can sleep better. Thank you."
"There's no need. I've to go now."
He watched Delbone wheel the wheelchair past him then he headed for the exit of the hospital.
He smacked his lips as he felt the sweat left on his head. He already knew. This shouldn't be surprising. Delbone's psychokinesis had always been covering this city. It was impossible for her not to know of anything that happened in this city. What was terrifying was the existence of a psychokinesist like Delbone. Nothing would happen to this city so long as she lived. She knew before anyone else the nearing of filth monsters. Perhaps her sensing speed of filth monsters was even faster than Electronic Fairies. Minse was grateful for that. Also, Grendan's political climate had always been stable. The even better thing was that in Grendan existed the Heaven's Blade successors led by the Queen. As such, no one had truly experienced the Queen's terror.
She possessed an overwhelming power. And she also had the best information gatherer with her, Delbone. It was reality that these two were cooperating. One wrong step might turn into a terrifying dictatorship that no one could resist. It was good now because the Queen and Delbone had the same aim. The city's economy was stable. There wasn't much commotion in the lives of normal citizens. But if one out of these three points was to break down, then symptoms of the other two points collapsing might appear.
Minse had this premonition.
Minse's family had fallen because of his connection with Layfon. He wasn't all that good as a Military Artist and that had changed his past naivety. He could see the cruel reality much more clearly. That might explain why he was more tired. He could only be chased by all sorts of realities as he didn't have the clear goal of being a Military Artist.
So he thought this city was dangerous.
The Queen. Delbone. The normal citizens living their stable lives.
These three points. One of them would collapse. He thought of it a bit and felt that reality wasn't that far off.
"Uh, I'm thinking of useless things again."
He pressed down the hair blown messy by the wind as he complained, then he jumped for his own home.
Delbone rounded the corner and entered a patient's room after parting with Minse. The scenery inside the room was no different from others. The walls and floor were white. One bed was in the room along with an essential cabinet and a refrigerator storing food and drinks......... What was left was the machine observing the patient's condition.
The patient on the bed was connected to a drip. But bandages wrapped up this patient's entire body.
The patient was holding a heavy Diamond Dite. Three flakes hovered above the bed. It was difficult to discern the gender of the electric voice that echoed in the room.
"It's been a long while, Elsmau."
Delbone smiled, watching the person on the bed. But she couldn't tell his expression as he was wrapped in bandages. Only in this room had Delbone decided not to use psychokinesis.
(How have you been?)
"I'm very happy we can meet even now."
(I thought it's not possible.)
"Because you think I'd die first?"
(I've never wanted grandmother to die......... I just thought I'd die in battle before we meet.)
"Ryuhou Gadge must be a Military Artist more incredible than I imagined. I can feel you've been to many battles through your psychokinesis. You've accumulated much experience."
Silence suddenly came but it didn't bring any dissatisfaction to Delbone. She was only giving her grandchild enough time to remember his past.
The medical bandages were blue and they were wrapped around Elsmau's entire body, even his eyes. This was the grandchild Delbone was watching. Though he said this price had allowed him to resist pollutants. His appearance was the exchange.
"I've happy you've agreed to the operation. Though I'm interested in your special ability, a girl should still take care of her own appearance. Else you'd lose what you've obtained with so much effort."
(I'm not thinking of that anymore......)
(I've already given up that name.)
"Then pick it back up. Elsmau. You, who haven't given up the family name of Fermaus has the right to pick it up."
"Then take it that he also wishes for it."
Silence came again but Delbone didn't let it stay for long this time.
"What to do with the Mercenary Gang has already been decided. The suitable reward has also been prepared. They will accept the reward. It's up to them individually for staying in Grendan as a Military Artist or become a traveler once more."
"But you will not return to the Mercenary Gang?"
"Ryuhou Gadge's adopted son is the one to inherit his will. But he's not here."
"I've already heard of him. What an unexpected meeting. But no inheritor appeared after losing the leader. The organization has already died at that time."
(That's true. I understand.)
"But even though the organization is dead, even though the psychokinesist named Fermaus is also dead, you've something you can do, something that Elsmau can do."
(What do you anticipate of me?)
Delbone paused and breathed in deeply. A very deep breath. It felt like she had waited a long time to say this. She had scolded Tigris for that. It was like a child who should have already died but did not. Not because she was a woman, but because of her experience as a mother and a grandmother. She herself had not hardened her heart and made a calm decision at that time; that was why she had persisted with the naivety of leaving it to fate.
Everything was for the sake of waiting for the right timing so she could say what she was about to say.
"I want you to inherit my everything."
Soundless impact hammered her granddaughter's entire body. Delbone quietly watched her reaction.
(Why let me.........)
"Though I don't know your personality, I'm also a person. I can stretch the limit of my flesh but it's not possible to do so for my brain and Kei vein."
Elsmau wanted to move but she couldn't. The drip contained different nutrients and also numbing medicine. The content was necessary for the upcoming operation.
So she couldn't move on the bed.
Even though she would not die by directly contacting the pollutants and she could sense the coming of filth monsters through her sense of smell, the psychokinesist of the Salivan Guidance Mercenary Gang, Fermaus, was a female. As a female, she had chosen this kind of road. This was all done to meet the man named Ryuhou Gadge. She left Grendan when she was still a girl, entering her days of battle. It was the same to stay in Grendan if all she sought were battles. But it was different with the Mercenary Gang. They had the quality that differed from Military Artists who fought in the city.
The end result was the birth of the psychokinesist named Fermaus.
(Why is it me? If you're to choose from the family, besides me.........)
"Not that I have to choose from my family. But I can't find anyone suitable. Besides, the other people know me too well. You who have always been outside are different."
(Even so, my power of psychokinesis is not of grandmother's level...... If that's the case, I think that girl is more suitable.)
(The girl I met in Zuellni.)
"That girl. Ah, true, that girl has excellent talent. Even now she's trying to interfere with my flake. She's very cute. I'm letting her deceive herself now."
Delbone couldn't help but smile, thinking of the first time she met that girl. The troubled expression she held because of her immense power. Delbone had also gone through such a stage. Why could something so simple change her fate? This doubt only vanished till her father's death, when she decided to follow in her father's footsteps. She couldn't remember why she changed her mind. It was something very important but she failed to remember it. Delbone had consciously sealed off some of her memories or sealed them off. She had also buried her memories of how she came to live in Grendan.
For having lived over hundreds of years, she had numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She found it more interesting to look at her future rather than relying on her memories to support her. This was the truth. What happened in the past was no longer important for her.
But the little memory she recalled had strangely overlapped with that girl. It was a reality that Delbone held goodwill towards that girl.
"It'd have been good if she could stay beside me and I could nurture her for a year."
"But I don't think that's what she wishes. Besides, the time I have left is less than one year."
"A human life is unexpectedly fragile."
Looking at Elsmau who held a not-knowing-what-to-do expression, Delbone decided to leave it at that. Besides, Elsmau had just returned to Grendan and she also needed to undergo the operation. Her feeling must be unstable. It wouldn't be good to be too impatient.
"But it's true that I don't have much time left so I hope you don't take too long considering it. Please don't see me go before the result is out."
Delbone had conveyed her intention. That was enough.
She blessed her granddaughter and left the room.
It was coming.
Layfon stood on the spot, spaced out. The girl appearing from behind the door and carrying a shopping basket, Lucia, had walked straight to him. Layfon didn't move as he was shocked but Lucia only stayed surprised for a very short moment. She had then walked straight to him.
Ah, she's coming. That was what Layfon thought.
If he was to evade, no, if it was Layfon, he could avoid it subconsciously. But the fist in front of her long and delicate hand had landed on his head.
Lucia was a normal female. Even so, it still hurt enough for him to voice it.
"You, geez, just what did you do?"
Layfon touched the place he got hit and couldn't say anything.
"I decided to buy something, thinking the commotion has stopped. Who knew you'd be here. Did you cause that commotion?"
"Even if it's me, I didn't do it because I like it......"
"As I thought, it's you."
Layfon got hit once more and he just sat down on the ground.
"Listen to me, Lucia-neesan."
Tears leaked from the corner of his eyes. Was this a habit? Or was it formed subconsciously due to a childhood habit? Layfon looked at Lucia with an expression as if he was wronged.
But his sister was heartless.
"I don't have the time. I'm very busy now. Anyway, just go inside. There won't be enough things at home if I don't go shopping. No. Wait a minute. You guys smell. Go and take a shower first."
Shopping took the priority over her little brother. Lucia pointed at the house she emerged from and left them.
"What an incredible sister......"
This was Sharnid's conclusion. Everyone in here probably held the same conclusion.
And that wasn't the only surprising event for the three.
After entering Lucia's house honestly, they heard loud crying.
"It's a baby's crying voice."
"A baby's here."
Felli and Sharnid confirmed the situation from the word exchange with each other. On the other hand, Layfon seemed surprised about hearing a baby's cry. Of course, this wasn't the only surprising thing. Suddenly, someone headed for them from the direction of the cry. The closer the person was, the louder the crying.
"Ah, Lucia. Did you forget something? It's good that you're here. This child just keeps crying. I wonder whether he might be feeling uncomfortable........."
The person holding the child suddenly stopped all movement.
She looked at Layfon and the other two.
And Layfon, Felli and Sharnid all looked at the girl.
Then all four spoke out.
"Why are you here!?"
The child in Nina's arms was still crying.
The child was passed around and it stopped crying the moment it was in Layfon's arms.
The three of them took turns taking a shower. The clothes that Layfon and Sharnid wore underneath their fighting clothes seemed to smell clean, so they kept wearing it. Felli had taken Lucia's clothes without permission and now wore it.
Nina glared at Layfon with dissatisfaction.
"That child must have felt your tension."
Layfon knew of the real reason, even though Nina put it that way. Even a baby had people that he liked and disliked. This was normal for Layfon who had experience looking after his siblings at the orphanage. Even so, the way Nina held the baby was very dangerous.
Layfon and the others were in the living room. The baby's cradle was also here. All the tools were available. Lucia must be looking after the child here.
"No. Let's just put aside that problem for now........." Sharnid said with an exhausted expression though he understood her bitterness.
They came here to rescue Nina but they never thought they'd see her so easily, and she was looking after a baby. Looking at the reality of her being kidnapped, Sharnid could never imagine her looking after a child as one of the possibilities. He would really want to meet with the person who let her do this. Just how did Nina come to be in these circumstances? He didn't get it.
Layfon wasn't the only one perplexed. Sharnid was the same so he couldn't blame him.
"Layfon, let me hold the child too."
"Don't ignore me!"
"It's noisy here."
Not only was Felli ignored but he was scolded by Nina. Sharnid wanted to cry but no tears fell. Layfon didn't know what to do. Anyway, best first give the child to Felli.
"He's still just a child. About three months old."
The baby let Felli hold him with his head on Felli's face. His hand moved on her shoulder, caressing her silvery hair.
"His neck has enough muscles. It's easy to hold him."
"Then why was he crying when I held him?" Nina glared at Layfon.
"Because you were trembling, right?"
"What did you say?"
"You were tense? He didn't want to be held by someone tense."
"For someone who came to Grendan and had to look after a baby, it's inevitable that she'd be tense."
Felli held nothing back in her words that were sharp like a blade. Even Layfon could feel the thorns in her words. Suddenly speechless, Nina didn't know what to do.
"Then what are you doing here?"
"How should I put it......"
"We want to know the reason behind it. Why is someone who had been kidnapped looking after a baby in an unfamiliar house. And it's someone who can't even cook."
"Cook. Out of all the areas, I don't want you to criticize me on my cooking!"
Felli and Nina talked to each other as she held the baby. Layfon and Sharnid exchanged a glance.
"What should we do?"
"Anyway, it's useless till the two of them have calmed them."
"Escape. Escape. There's no other choice but to run away from a woman's fight."
Layfon found his observation very correct. He was concerned about the baby but he'd get their attention if he took the baby from Felli. Besides, the baby didn't seem dissatisfied to be held by her.
"Then let's escape!"
The two of them sneaked their conversation behind the other two and slowly prepared to leave the living room.
The sound of a door being opened came to them. Footsteps headed straight for the living room.
"I've come back. Ah, it's good that I made it back in time. Really, I missed the sale for diapers because of a certain idiot."
Lucia was back. One hand held a bag of diapers, the other held a shopping basket full of food.
"......What're you doing?"
"Preparing to escape a war between women."
"Don't do something that foolish. Layfon, come and help with the cooking."
"You two. If you got time then come and help."
"Huh? What is it?"
"They don't know how to cook," Sharnid said as Lucia was perplexed with their attitude.
"I don't want to be told of that by you."
"Huh? Me? I can make small dishes."
Sharnid responded to the question with a matter of fact expression. His attitude shook the certitude in Nina and Felli.
"But in the camp before........."
"I didn't think I needed to help having looked at Layfon and Meishen's cooking."
"What the. The ones who can't cook are the girls? I can't look at this anymore," Lucia criticized without softening at the embarrassed girls.
"Never mind. Layfon and I will take care of the cooking. You guys just help me look after little Maru. Ah, that's right. First change his diaper."
Not only were the girls but Sharnid also wasn't familiar with this term diaper. But Lucia smiled at their anxiety. "It's something you have to do anyway. Why not learn it now?"
Lucia's kitchen gave Layfon a familiar feeling even though the place had changed. This was a feeling he had once he stood here. He knew what she wanted to make just by looking at the ingredients in her shopping basket. He took out the vegetables from the basket and made the appropriate preparations for cooking. Lucia didn't say anything after looking at him. His must have made the right guess.
The baby...... Layfon heard from Lucia that the baby's name was Marukuto...... From behind came the confused voices of Sharnid, Felli and Nina and the baby's dissatisfied crying.
"You look to be in good spirits........." Lucia said as she chopped the vegetables. "It seems you also have your own friends. This is better than anything because your social ability is just too horrible."
"Are you still mad, Nee-san?"
Layfon looked at her as he peeled off the skin of the vegetables. Her arms and legs were delicate. Her face was proper. She would be a beauty if she was to put some make-up on. But she didn't seem interested. She exuded a manly feel rather than a woman's. Her personality was quite casual and even her clothes leaned towards a male's. Lucia was raised in the same orphanage as him. She had left for work when Layfon was still in Grendan.
Lucia was the one who used to cook for Layfon and the others and change their diapers. Layfon grew up looking at her back and he had learnt how to cook from her. Though the place had changed now, the person who used it hadn't. The knives and bowls were placed in the same positions. Same for the herbs. It was the same as the past. Layfon once again remembered the nostalgic past in here.
"Rather than being mad, I had given up. You aren't good at socializing. And now you suddenly went on a rampage after a conversation. What can I do except to give up on you?"
"Besides, for those brats who were affected by you, it's inevitable that they hate you after being betrayed."
"But you shouldn't keep worrying about it. The magazine wrote an unexpectedly detailed report on the underground matches. The public's condemnation on you has quickly disappeared because of it. The condemnation is pushed onto society. I think there was some manipulation of information. Anyway, those brats know of this, and thanks to it, our foster father could reopen the dojo. Do you know about him opening the dojo?"
"Yeah, I already heard of it."
"Geez, I don't know whether to say that child is spirited or stubborn......... Anyway, have you two met?"
"You haven't heard?"
Layfon looked behind him. The three of them still hadn't managed to change the diaper. Lucia said angrily. "That child will catch a cold!" and made the three more confused and tense.
"So what's happened? I haven't heard anything from Rui."
"She was in Zuellni till now........."
For her to use the name Rui so casually. As he thought, that girl was...... and if that's the case, Nee-san had...... Layfon continued his explanation as he pondered.
About Leerin coming to Zuellni and Derek leaving him the Psyharden Katana. About the commotion a few days back and about the Queen bringing Leerin back to Grendan.
"She was brought back by Her Majesty? Why would she do that?"
"I don't know either. Her Majesty didn't tell me anything and Leerin also told me not to get involved........."
And he had denied her request but he couldn't do anything. All he saw was the distance of strength between him and Lintence.
"So that's why you came? Really. The most famous and the most flustered person in the orphanage is you. Are you still rolling down the slope of life?"
He couldn't retort to her words as he felt the same.
Looking at him, she sighed helplessly.
"You're here now but you still have such an expression. Ah, I think I might understand why Leerin said what she said."
"Eh?" He was surprised.
If she knew and understood, he also wanted to know and understand.
He still couldn't believe himself of that time. Why did Leerin refuse his help? He knew she wasn't someone who would casually ask for help as it would bring trouble to others. He was very clear about her personality. But the Leerin of that time was different. He felt she was wholeheartedly denying him.
Why was she denying him? Did Nee-san understand?
Lucia looked behind her and saw the three had safely changed the baby's diaper. She sighed in relief.
"You...... Did you plan to rescue the girl called Nina too?"
"Eh? Ah, yes........."
"Then you've already reached your goal. Return to Zuellni."
"Perhaps you don't have to see Leerin anymore."
Something seemed to be blowing about madly in his heart as he heard those words though he himself wasn't sure what it was.
Gorneo was feeling the wind.
After that event...... Gorneo had been chasing after Shante after the fight with the numerous giants in front of the secret research laboratory of Zuellni. He had kept chasing her and finally arrived at Grendan. He missed the opportunity to enter Grendan due to ill luck. While feeling frustrated and wondering how to get in, he saw several Military Artists of the Luckens School in the crowd and had successfully entered Grendan thanks to them.
Shante might have escaped successfully but the only place to escape was Zuellni.
As long as this was inside Grendan, there must exist the Luckens people. Though one person did not have to belong to one single school, many Military Artists came to this city to study the Luckens hand to hand combat skills in addition to their skills in weaponry.
Besides, Gorneo didn't think Shante had returned to Zuellni. In that case, it was more efficient to search for her in Grendan.
As such, he had returned to a home that he had left for five years and now he was standing here. The tomb in Grendan.
The family tomb where each family member was buried. Before the tomb stood the wooden plaque carved with names. The most recent dead were carved on the wood and the plaque was to be buried many years after. It was impossible to make a tomb just for one person on limited soil. Tombs of families that did not produce any progeny were immediately disposed of.
The wooden plaque before Gorneo had the name Gahard Baren carved on it. Gorneo had heard of Gahard Baren's death from Savaris. And he had heard of the truth behind Gahard and Layfon after returning to Grendan.
He finally knew of the truth.
He could not hate Layfon anymore after knowing the truth.
"You chased after my brother too much........."
Savaris, a representative of one chasing after desire and fight was the condensed product of the spirit of Grendan's Military Artists. Gahard Baren wanted to be like him. Originally, for a large school like Luckens, problematic children like Savaris shouldn't have been allowed to be born. Even Gorneo, as his brother, thought so. Other disciples in the school were influenced by Savaris, thinking they may like him as long as they kept honing their skills. Gahard was second to Savaris.
Perhaps Gorneo, who escaped from Grendan to Zuellni, did not hold a rich common feeling with other Military Artists. He probably became like this because he found his brother scary and that he would never match his brother. And perhaps his thinking to chase after powerful strength had been taken by his older brother. Perhaps Savaris had taken away this gene passed from their father.
And because of that, he had never thought of surpassing Savaris. Or he could say that this imagination held no meaning. Perhaps the thought of never surpassing Savaris had entered his subconscious as he had always been around Savaris, feeling the strong pressure from him. This was probably an easily explainable problem from a doctor or scientist's viewpoint.
But Gorneo didn't care for the reason anymore. The attraction to Savaris that stimulated a desire for strength had caused Gahard to take the wrong path. Or one could say he had used the wrong method to reach his goal. Gorneo felt the wind while standing before the tomb of the brother he respected.
This wasn't the wind blowing past him.
This was the wind howling in his heart.
He had been clashing with something inside his heart in the ruined city. This feeling had been clinging to him till he realized his fury had calmed. To put it simply, his fury had gradually died. The hatred he held for Layfon disappeared bit by bit and what was left was confusion and a little bit of anger.
(This isn't the time for this.)
He stood a while before the tomb and left. This wasn't the time to look into the emptiness inside his heart.
He had to find Shante. That was why he returned to Grendan.
"Really. Just how much more do I have to do."
He complained as he thought of the reason behind the missing Shante.
Why did she suddenly head for Grendan?
She was originally a perplexing girl. She was raised by wild beasts in the Forest City Erupa for some reason so sometimes her actions were like that of a beast. Her actions weren't suitable to a human society.
Remembering this, Gorneo recalled how he got into trouble for tidying up the commotions she caused. But her action this time. How should he put it? It felt different from usual. Her actions till now were difficult to fathom from a human's viewpoint but it made more sense looking from a beast's viewpoint such as shouting at the moon because one couldn't sleep at night or chasing after the mutated mice that had escaped the Farming course. This was the same for incredible events that involved the City Police as this was the habits of the wild beasts that raised Shante in Erupa.
In that case, something unbelievable must have happened during that time.
Gorneo's physique wasn't huge compared to normal people despite his being blocky and large. But Shante usually sat on his shoulders. That was how delicate and small she was. But at that time, Shante's small body had undergone unbelievable growth after touching the fruit Hadesea that was native to Erupa. Though that body might match that of her age it might even have surpassed a body of her original age. What had Layfon said back then?
He seemed to have said she was being restricted. Her Kei vein was restricted and that restriction was released after she touched Hadesea. Shante regaining her original body size proved Layfon's speculation may be correct. Just what created that problem though? No. Layfon's speculation was not enough to explain the scene back then.
Layfon and Gorneo who had lived in Grendan could accept the explanation of the flesh being restricted. Internal Kei could control the growth of the body to some degree and kept the body in its best condition. And what if a greater power was used? Such as a Heaven's Blade or the Queen's strength that surpassed a Heaven's Blade? He heard the Queen retained her girl form though she had lived many years. But he had never heard of the Queen suddenly turning from a woman into a girl. It was possible to suppress growth but it shouldn't possible in Shante's case that involved speedy growth and shrinking. Bones, muscles and internal organs shouldn't be able to change so suddenly. Kei wasn't magic. It couldn't not leave any traces and it couldn't make anything appear from nothing.
The changes on Shante at that time was like magic—a phenomenon that wasn't possible. Was this related to those strange guys that appeared beside Shante? Those guys hadn't appeared since then but would they appear now? Did Shante come to Grendan because of them?
Not that he only thought of this now. He had thought of it many times since arriving in Grendan. It was difficult to fathom her actions. Though she would attack without orders, she had never left Gorneo in a battle without saying a word. Her action at that time was different.
The current abnormal event and the past abnormal situations overlapped and gave an answer. This answer might not be right but it wouldn't be strange to arrive at it.
"Just where did she run off to?"
Not simply talking to himself, one could clearly feel the anxiety and impatience in his words.
The sun had traded position with the night sky. There seemed to be a commotion somewhere but it had died down. Gorneo's numerous journeys of running in Grendan's night sky began in order to find Shante.
Everyone quieted down after dinner.
"I think you guys have much to say so I'll return to the workroom."
Lucia carried the child and entered the workroom.
"Speaking of which, what does that nee-san do?" Sharnid said.
"She's a Dite Technician," Layfon answered. Perhaps she was influenced by their foster father, Lucia was very interested in Dite. She became an apprentice early in age. She also looked after Layfon and the siblings in the orphanage everyday as she was female. But now she had her own workroom.
She had used practice as excuse to adjust Layfon's Dite before he became a Heaven's Blade successor.
"Then let's end the conversation of that topic here," Sharnid tossed his gaze at Nina.
Layfon and Felli also looked at her.
"Though it's not bad to find you so easily, we still want to know the process if possible."
Nina lowered her head, thinking something.
"And if possible please don't say it's a secret? I don't dislike you but I can't give my life for secrets. Either way, you're our Captain."
Nina had gone missing after the match with the 1st platoon and she had then suddenly appeared. Sharnid was obviously talking about that event. At that time, Nina hadn't mentioned anything about her whereabouts.
She still didn't say anything more.
"Captain, I'm tired of these things happening all of a sudden. Isn't it about time you tell us the truth and let us judge it?"
"That truth......... I think I might know of it......"
"What did you say.........?"
"I didn't mean to hide it. I didn't even understand all those things that happened after the match with the 1st platoon. I just thought you guys would get caught in something troublesome if I told you so I didn't say anything."
"Get caught in something troublesome?"
"Even I myself am not clear on why I said that. I didn't say the reason back then but now I understand it so I can tell you everything."
"Heh~ Isn't that great?"
"But I don't have the evidence to prove it......... If I got it wrong you guys might get caught in it, get involved in this eternal war, even so......"
"Don't be so cold. We......"
"This is very important."
Her intense attitude made Sharnid swallow his words.
"This war might be related to Zuellni, no, it must be related to something bigger after this. I can't win against a Heaven's Blade successor even after obtaining the Haikizoku's power. But the senpai in this war has got me involved in it. I don't think I can win against that person. In fact, I lost to him."
"Just what're you saying?"
"This is a battlefield associated with someone that strong. If you guys got caught in it, even you might die. Please give it careful thought and consider whether you are up to it. If not, please return to Zuellni. The deadline is tomorrow morning."
"Hey, wait up. Are you saying you're not returning to Zuellni?"
Sharnid felt it from Nina's words. Layfon thought so too.
"No, I'll return. But that's after I've witnessed what'll happen in Grendan."
"Hey, hey, do you understand what you just said?"
Sharnid's expression was helpless. Felli too, the tiny changes of her eyebrows after hearing her words showed her disapproval. Nina's thought was different to Sharnid and the team's. This was now clear.
"And what is that for?"
"The things that are to happen in Grendan will be like ending of the series of strange events in Zuellni. From the Haikizoku to Zuellni going on a rampage to the recent fights and all that will happen. The end of all that will happen in Grendan. I can't not witness it."
"Is this intelligence real?"
"Whether it's true or not can only be told after it's happened. So it's also possible that only I've been deceived."
"What if Zuellni takes action while you're waiting?" Felli raised a new question.
Zuellni's machines were repairing the city while they were here. Layfon and they didn't know whether the city would move before they left it. This involved Zuellni's self-repair ability. It might move ahead of schedule.
"Would you return on a roaming bus? I shouldn't be saying this but the Military Arts Competition hasn't entirely ended. Everyone has also taken a beating in the previous fight. No one can tell under this circumstance that the 17th platoon has left the formation. Or is this what you're expecting?"
Felli added a few more questions in her explanation that she said in a faint voice.
"To hear of the Military Arts Competition from you......"
"I'm not interested. But I deliberately reminded you as you didn't seem to have thought of it."
Nina could only smile bitterly. The wrinkles between Felli's eyebrows showed her disapproval.
"Disregarding everything except for what lies before my eyes...... Perhaps I'm really like that," she said. She wasn't angry. She just smiled bitterly. "But I think I'll regret if I don't witness everything here."
"Just regret? That's only your personal feeling. My brother would have laughed it off if he heard of this."
"Really. We came because we lack someone of a rational mind. But the result is unexpected."
"I'm not happy."
Sharnid shrugged. Felli continued to stare at Nina with wrinkles in between her eyebrows.
"Leave the troublesome things to Grendan...... Didn't their psychokinesist say so when she contacted the Student President? Hence we do not have the need to confirm things here. Besides, it appears the other side wants Captain to...... To put it accurately, the Haikizoku. You shouldn't have stayed after knowing of this fact. Don't you think the only option is to escape?"
"Uh? Ah, yes."
Layfon could only reply in a fluster at the sudden question.
"What. Your heart isn't here."
"I'm sorry...... but I think it's better for the Captain to go back."
"The Captain's original goal was to help Zuellni. Please don't forget."
Nina lost some of her confidence after listening to him.
"Exactly. That's why you shouldn't forget your original goal. Things to do with Zuellni should be taken care of first compared to other cities'."
"Uh, as Layfon and Felli-chan said. You're not a ball so your direction will change after the ball hits the wall. No one would know where you end up in."
Nina didn't give up her resistance even though her confidence was becoming weaker and weaker. She still persisted in her decision even though the protests were heaped one after another on her. Seriousness suffused the air. The situation would worsen at any moment and that was keeping everyone quiet as time passed silently. Who would know how the situation would have turned out if Lucia hadn't come over to check on them.
Layfon hadn't said a word in this period.
"You don't need to see Leerin anymore."
Layfon remembered what Lucia had said in the kitchen. He slept in the living room with the blanket that Lucia had brought for him on his shoulder. Sharnid was sleeping in the living room too. Nina and Felli were asleep in Lucia's room. Lucia was still working in the workshop.
Lucia-nee said there wasn't a need to see Leerin. Why?
"I said so already. You still have such an expression here. Do you want to learn what she's really thinking? But you still hold such a weak expression. But then this is a sign of your personality. But do you think that stubborn girl would change her thinking if you were to show her this expression?"
Lucia hadn't stopped working as she spoke. She had already finished cutting up the pealed vegetables. The meat was cooking in a flat pan and she was reaching her hand up to the cabinet above her head for the seasoning.
"Nothing would change because that child has decided. Then she'd keep on walking on the road she has decided as she's mentally prepared for it. It's the same as that time when she left the orphanage in order to defend you."
Feeling her reproachful gaze, Layfon lowered his head.
"Not that I'd scold you for what you did back then...... since you did it for the sake of the orphanage. It's just that your method was wrong. Still, you've considered and that part of you was worth the sympathy. Besides, I can tell from your attitude back then that you were also mentally prepared to be scolded by your father. Same as the time when you chose the sword."
"Don't answer me with such a vague attitude," she said and clouted him with the seasoning bottle.
"Your face is the same as back then but your heart is no longer the same. Still, you're stubborn...... perhaps that's right."
She watched him. He lowered his head more under that gaze. Still, their hands did not stop as they cooked. Noise came from the flat pan and Layfon put the cut up vegetables into it, turning up the fire.
"Once something's decided, you wouldn't talk over it with other people and you'd carry it through. You're like that and Leerin's like that too. Perhaps me too. Other brothers and sisters are probably the same. A group of stubborn children influenced by our foster father. We wouldn't change once we've made our decision. All we can do is hammer at each other and use a rope to stop the other, or to comfort the one who has experienced failure. We only have two choices. There's no middle road."
He replied instinctively and then...... he was hit by the fork she used to turn the meat around.
"Since you understand this too then what are you going to do? You still haven't decided right? So I say, hurry and go back."
"There's no but. I don't want to say this, but you're no longer a citizen of Grendan. Father has forgiven you and I'm not angry with you. This isn't the time to talk about family relationship. We can only pray for your safety as you fight in Zuellni with your life on the line. At the same time, this is Leerin's wish to return to Grendan. It's just that her plan was carried out earlier than expected. I don't know what happened in between. Perhaps something big has changed in her life. I don't know what she's planning to do either but she must have had prepared her resolve for something. We can listen to her troubles as we're in Grendan but you can't. All you can do is pray for her safety, just like what we can do for you."
He couldn't say anything. The cooking process was smooth. The meat was done. They just needed to work on it a bit more. The soup had been poured into the bowl of vegetables. The food had been seasoned. The aroma that made the stomach acid react wafted out.
But Layfon had no appetite.
"Speaking of which, what are you planning to do once you've confirmed Leerin's thought?"
As Lucia had said.
(Just what do I want?)
Layfon's mind turned and turned as he lay like that without any inclination to sleep. The lamp in the living room emitted dim orange light. He stared at it, spacing out.
(After meeting Leerin.........)
Just what does he want to do? Not that he hasn't thought of it, just that he felt he had to save her when he saw the Queen carrying her. But why did the Queen come to take her away? He didn't know. Only his feeling told him he had to see her once more.
(Could it be......)
What if Leerin came back to Grendan because she was facing something difficult? Would she tell him? Would he have said it if he were her? Absolutely not. He knew because of his experience of entering the underground match.
Even so, he still wanted to see her one more time. He didn't know why. No. Perhaps he knew all too well.
Because of what happened that night.
He caressed the Dite that Kirik gave him and recalled that night when Leerin collapsed due to over-exhaustion. It must be because of that night.
The impulse that rushed up in the form of that kiss.
Because he wanted to confirm the true meaning behind that kiss.
That must be it.
"Yo, still awake?"
He was shocked that someone suddenly talked to him.
"Sharnid-senpai, you're still awake?"
"Yeah, though I'm a bit tired. Uh, I'm also of a personality that wants to be able to sleep quickly in this situation."
He also had his sensitive side even though he acted flippantly. Layfon could tell from his involvement in the match against the 10th platoon but he thought Sharnid was already asleep. No, he had wanted Sharnid to be asleep.
"I spoke cause I thought you were still awake."
"You'll still stay even if we are to return to Zuellni tomorrow, right?"
"We all know. We just don't say it. That's why only I can be the bad messenger."
Layfon chose to remain silent at his self-mocking words. To put it correctly, he didn't answer him. Sharnid shrugged at his reaction.
"But we knew that in the beginning. You must have come for Leerin. I knew it would turn out like this."
Sharnid's figured moved in the orange light. Originally he was lying face down. Now he turned around to face the ceiling. He wasn't looking at Layfon. Did he have to use internal Kei just to look at the ceiling?
"You wouldn't tell anyone? I don't know what Nina thinks but me and Felli hold the same opinion. We just haven't confirmed it with each other yet."
"We are against your saving that child."
"Aren't you going to ask me why?"
"I heard it though Felli-chan collapsed at that time. You could say it's normal for Leerin to act that way so to protect you in that situation, but I still think it's different. I'm not that familiar with her but Leerin's smart. If she were to protect you, she'd have said something even more serious."
Perhaps that really was the case.
Layfon couldn't think of anything except "perhaps that really was the case". Why didn't Leerin say "save me" at that time? Was it because of the Queen and Lintence? Besides, Leerin wasn't one to say something like "save me".
But he had wanted her to say "save me".
Except she told him to "return".
"You're still going right?"
"What is it? Because......"
"Don't you feel uncomfortable?"
"This vague attitude."
"Either point is persuasive. I can feel that she's protecting you. I also feel what she said was genuine. If it's me, I'd bet on her being genuine. But her attitude back then wasn't clear enough so there isn't much I can do. I couldn't have reached the side of that elegant monster like nee-chan so I couldn't ask you to do it instead."
Sharnid must be talking about Barmelin? True. His fighting strength couldn't match hers. With the amount of experience and training she had, she didn't even need to ambush him to defeat Sharnid.
"But...... Leerin herself said she wanted to come back. That's why it's meaningless even if I were to meet her."
Layfon deliberately said an opposite opinion. No, he just repeated the opinion he heard from Lucia. He only said this in order to confirm whether it was the truth. But that feeling of pressure in his heart became heavier after he said those words.
"Perhaps that might be the case, but you're still going?" Sharnid said clearly.
"Hasn't this become your instinctive reaction?"
"Anyway, you can't ignore what has happened before you. This point is similar to Nina. If it was Nina, we don't feel easy leaving her on her own so we'd stay by her side. But you're different. We can't catch up to you so we can only let you go alone. But you may think it's better if we weren't here?"
"Not at all."
Layfon felt so from the bottom of his heart. He was injured in an accident before fighting the platoon match with the 1st platoon. He then deliberately let Sharnid and the others view the collaborative fight of the Salinvan Mercenary Gang, hoping they could one day fight with him. He also voiced his intention at that time. That wasn't a lie.
"If possible, I want you all to come with me."
Sharnid's figure moved in the dark without any noise. Layfon didn't think he had accepted his word.
"Do you mean it? Not so. I don't think you're lying and I'm not doubting you. It's just that you never counted us in as part of your fighting strength. You also never used your full force in the platoon matches. I feel that you did forcefully fight with us in the Military Arts Competition but you also did hold back, didn't you?"
"Well, I'm not scolding you. Don't misunderstand. The problem is the gap between us is just too huge. So it can't be helped that this problem appears. You wouldn't leave your back to people who can't catch up with you in a crisis. You'd ask Felli to support you with psychokinesis. And isn't it because Felli is the only one who fulfills yours requirement?
"So...... So you did that?"
"In that fight in the afternoon. I didn't quite know what you did back there but I think I understand a little bit. That was dangerous. You were forcing yourself. How is that different from taking illegal drug?"
"You understood already? Incredible."
Sharnid seemed to be mocking himself as the air stirred lightly. Layfon could feel a sense of mock-laughter and a sense of loneliness.
"Because I've denied his method, so I can only use this way."
Sharnid meant the platoon match with the 10th platoon, with Dinn Dee. Dinn, as a former comrade of Sharnid's, had taken illegal drug to increase his Kei output. He had exchanged his body to increase his Kei. One city after another had banned the use of such drug because it was very dangerous. Still, Dinn wanted to protect this Academy City event though he had to use such a method to increase his Kei. But his goal was prevented by Sharnid's 17th platoon.
"My father taught me that for emergency. Originally he said to use it to escape but I could only use it then. It isn't a move that can gain much time for long term escape."
Layfon weaved a net in the afternoon fight to buy Sharnid some time, but what Sharnid did back then was not possible judging by his amount of kei. But he managed to successfully stall the 30 or so Grendan Military Artists. Layfon found that his move very dangerous. He was concentrating on weaving the song so he couldn't fully understand the secret of Sharnid's move. But he still made a decision judging by the tiny feeling he got.
Increasing the speed and output of Kei. This sounded good, but Kei pathways, Kei vein and the Military Artist's flesh could not sustain this sudden increase of Kei for a long period as they were used to the usual amount of Kei. Forcing a Kei vein to increase its flow was like using a pump to make a heart beat faster.
The body couldn't sustain it.
"It wouldn't have given me any side-effects like the illegal drug as long as I was aware of the time limit. That had helped me heaps."
"It's still better not to use that move."
Sharnid understood. Even he himself wouldn't want to use that dangerous a move for multiple times. But this was Grendan. A city with the most intense fights and most frequent fights with filth monsters. The strength of Grendan's Military Artists was stronger than that of any other cities. What was more was that Sharnid had seen for himself the strength of a Heaven's Blade successor. It was certain that he couldn't have won against those Military Artists if he didn't use that move.
"Why were you so reckless?"
"Hey, hey. I don't want you, the symbol of recklessness, to say that to me."
True. Layfon had acted recklessly many times since coming to Zuellni. He didn't know how to retort as Sharnid complained with a bitter smile.
"But I was very clear that I was being reckless. I also thought I'd try not to use it as much as possible. Concentrate on increasing my real strength. But this move would lose its meaning if my strength catches up to it. Isn't that so? I'm not someone who likes to sacrifice a move."
"So there's no helping it here, in Grendan. I was already prepared to use that move when the occasion requires it. And I finally got to try that move thanks to you. Then all I need to know is the time limit. But I tried not to think of it. Let's head back home after we wake up tomorrow, end this tour. This is what I truly want now."
"But the problem is Nina. She's even more reckless than you. What would she do? She'd go on a rampage even though her strength is not enough. This time she even has the redundant Haikizoku. Her level of recklessness would increase. Even I wouldn't know what to do."
Anxiety filled his tone. He seemed to be shaking his head.
Doubt surfaced again.
"Senpai. Why did you come to save the captain?"
"Because you knew you were being reckless? Besides, your moves are restricted...... Speaking in truth, you're really reckless."
"This integrity without decoration is also part of your personality though it's only limited to fights."
"That's all right......" Sharnid sat up. Layfon sat up too.
"I knew. I already said many times that I knew I'm being reckless. Still, I did it. Didn't I say that at the beginning? I can't stand this level of insult. I came to get vent my anger. Can't I even do that?"
Layfon heard his "hei hei". The laughter was a bit shy.
"But I'm not the impulsive type. Though sometimes I do act impulsively, putting my life on the line......... If you had to say I'm of a certain type, then I'm of the type to throw his life away for a woman."
"For a woman......? Eh............?"
Layfon's mind turned completely blank. For a woman......? Though it was a bit, really, he felt just a little bit that Sharnid did like Dalshena. The event happened in the past, but Sharnid did say so. Therefore, Layfon felt that he still liked her. He didn't know whether Dalshena knew, but Sharnid should still like her now.
But she wasn't here. Layfon remembering hearing that she was injured in the fight, but she should have recovered now. But she hadn't come. That must be because Sharnid hadn't told her of it. Or Sharnid said something to throw her off the track. Or perhaps she herself had chosen not to come. Either way, she wasn't here. Then "for a woman". He meant......
"Hey, right now, are you misunderstanding me to the extreme? No. This isn't what you're thinking at all. I'm not saying that Nina isn't a beauty but she isn't the type I like."
"The type." What would Nina have thought if she had heard of this? Layfon couldn't imagine it.
"Eh? I see? Then......"
"Well, this is to do with the personality. You should also know that Nina finishes what she does from start to finish with vigor. She isn't like the Student President who can always think about it, consider it, and then allocate the job to a suitable subordinate. The Captain relies on her vigor and she finishes the job with her subordinates who got involved. If I was to choose, I'd like a boss like our Captain even though she doesn't consider things much, like an idiot. But her personality to only think of what lies before her isn't too bad. Besides, there might be many changes in the process even though she only heads in one direction. Karian and Dinn could think about strategies, but Nina is different. No. I don't think she has great strategies but......"
"Yes, that's it. No security. It hasn't been boring thanks to that. I don't feel like I'm only doing something for show. Instead, the job is filled with excitement and fun. Life would become very boring if that kind of fun things disappear. Do you understand?"
Layfon seemed to understand and not understand.
"Well, I only thought of this because I don't seem to know what I want to do."
His sudden words stabbed deep into the hole in Layfon's heart.
"It's like that. Not that I don't hold any feelings about Nina's wish to protect Zuellni, but that feeling disappeared the moment I became her subordinate, pushing all responsibilities to her. If one had to say clearly, this is a responsibility a Captain should bear...... How should I put it? It makes me look cheap."
"Is that so?"
"In the end, I just didn't want to get bored. I already forgot my resolve, even my pretense. These kind of things already left me when I was in my previous platoon and when we lost the Military Arts Competition. Perhaps they really were the things I was chasing after. I encountered many things and failed to reach my goal in my previous platoon. Isn't it cool to then realize those things in the 17th platoon?" Sharnid said.
But Layfon couldn't feel any of those feelings in his words.
"But I stopped moving. After that incident, I pushed the responsibility to Dinn in the 10th platoon. And I pushed the responsibility to Nina, to them. 'Ok, what do you guys want me to do next?' I haled on this kind of thinking. That's not cool at all."
Layfon couldn't say anything. Not that he couldn't totally comprehend Sharnid's words.
"Ok, what do you guys want me to do next?"
This sentence could also be used on Layfon himself. No. It was too suitable. Layfon came to Zuellni, not wanting to fight and having no reason to fight. Having been deceived by Karian, Layfon entered the 17th platoon and have been fighting till now. He fought in the platoon matches, he fought against the filth monsters, and he fought other Military Artists. The fighting strength belonged to Layfon, yet he had been fighting, pushing the reason of the fights to Nina. Layfon himself didn't clearly want to fight. He only fought by giving that reason to Nina and obeyed her directions as time passed.
"Not everyone can live a life pleasing to him. And I don't think that is the best way to live. But well, even someone who lives by listening to somebody's order would hope to have a clear reason for it. That's better than me who only wants to play cool. I said it's for women, but I just want to look cool."
This was Sharnid's way of thinking. Layfon had no reason to do the same as him. Even acting on Nina's order was a decision in itself. But was this really good? He hadn't thought of it. He hadn't done something that he absolutely had to do, so he had been living by listening to Nina's order.
He'd have no place to go if the Academy City expelled him. If that happened, he could only drift from city to city. Still, there were ways to live even if he was in other cities. But the same thing might occur. Filth monsters attacking. The city's Military Artists could do nothing and so Layfon would have to take up the Dite again. There was no other way of survival.
Layfon would not pick the choice of not salvaging the worst situation when clearly it was doable. He himself should have picked a choice, but he abandoned it when the larvae attacked Zuellni. Still, he was the one who made the decision even though he was helped by Nina and Leerin.
Even if he were to seal off the Katana as his last line of defense, he had taken the Katana back up because of his foster father's forgiveness. The situation had changed. It was all right even if icy gazes were to reproach him, except he couldn't ignore the fact that his resolve was collapsing bit by bit.
(Then it's the same no matter where I go.)
Perhaps this thought had always been in him, somewhere inside him – whether it was the time when Karian found out of his identity, when he was fighting the larvae, and when Zuellni's Military Artists were being impotent.
(Perhaps I can't give up being a Military Artist.)
Had he not thought of this before? Then why had he been fighting, listening to Nina's directions?
He can't deny it.
All the choices left to him were choices he didn't want, so he had picked the best out of those choices. Anyone would have done this. No one would blame him even though Layfon did it.
What was he fighting for? For his own future in the Academy City? For the path outside of being a Military Artist? Or for the new path of life that he would be content with? He stepped back into the Military Arts role because of Nina and the others. This might not be bad. He had thought of this too.
He had thought that to include Military Arts in this new road of life might not be a bad decision, but he failed to speak of the reason behind his fights.
What was the evidence that living a life of a Military Artist was good? Was he only using the reason that "it isn't too bad to fight with Nina and the 17th platoon?"
If this was the case, what would he do if the 17th platoon disappeared? And they were in this kind of a situation.
Judging from what he heard from Nina, perhaps Lucia's words were right. Leerin had already decided to stand in a place without Layfon.
Then, what next?
What does he want to do with Leerin?
No matter what, he couldn't think of an answer.
He watched the ceiling next to Sharnid who had laid down again.