Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume14 Chapter 3
 Chapter 3: The assault of a storm
"What's dinner for today?"
Toby and Anri called as they ran into the kitchen. The one who came in a bit later was Ranietta, her hair weaved into three braids.
"Hey! Isn't this still study time?"
"Already finished!" the younger sister called happily, right after Toby.
"It's really finished."
"Yes. Anri finished it. I also packed everything away."
"Toby's bluffing. He hasn't done all his math homework."
"Then what're we having today?"
Anri laughed as she watched Rainetta speak with all her might.
Leerin, who was preparing the food in the wok, also laughed.
"It'll take a little while yet. Toby, go and finish your homework otherwise you'll get punishment. I'm cutting off every minute of dinner for every minute you don't finish your work."
"Uh!" Toby voiced out his anguish.
Everyone ate from the big dish. This was how it was done in the orphanage. The later one came to dinner, the less portion one received.
Rainetta revealed a "See. I won," smile. Toby's expression was bitter after he accepted it all. Anri saw it all and laughed.
"Layfon-Ni, you say something too," Toby said to Layfon who was sitting on a chair and cutting up the vegetables.
"Layfon-Ni, I was right?" Rainetta said, watching him with a hand on his knee.
"......... Toby, under this situation, you'd have lost if you resist the girls," Layfon shook his head with a 'given up' expression. He could feel the pressure in Leerin's smile behind his back. Layfon thought Rainetta was becoming more and more like Leerin.
"Damn! Layfon-Ni you traitor! Remember this! I won't lose in tomorrow's match!"
"Toby!" Rainetta shouted angrily as Toby escaped from the kitchen, but Toby didn't stop because he must not miss tonight's dinner. Layfon believed he must have gone to finish his homework. After that, Layfon continued to make up the dishes. And so the habit of not resisting the person who cooked had spread throughout the entire orphanage.
Layfon thought it was pretty scary as he continued to silently cut up the vegetables. The only path for resistance was to choose to cook. Since he still wasn't good at gauging the amount of seasonings needed, he still couldn't lift his head in front of Leerin.
"Well then, Rainetta, Anri. Come and help."
"Ok~" the two answered together and began to help with the cooking. Hearing the girls' laughter, Derek smiled and left the kitchen as he passed it by.
This was the memory of the day before he became a Heaven's Blade successor. Layfon already knew that he would win. He knew the level of his opponent. The possibility of his losing was even smaller than his last digit. In fact, he did win, and at the same time, he found out about the underground matches and seriously began considering entering those matches with his advantage as a Heaven's Blade successor.
Toby came when he was five years old. Derek held his hand as they entered the orphanage. Toby's wrist had a large scar. They found out there was one on his stomach too when he took a shower.
Anri came at age four. She had been crying, not knowing anything and suddenly having her environment changed so drastically. Her crying voice that called out for her mother was painful to the ears. Toby adapted to the orphanage, doing his best in part to stop her crying.
Rainetta came at age six. At first, she hid in a corner of the room all by herself. Toby, who was the same age as her, was the one who helped her release the knot in her heart. And the three of them, coming to the orphanage, became siblings.
No one existed who came happily to the orphanage, but after coming here, the children received happiness. Smiles appeared on their faces.
A time of happiness was found in that place.
And money was needed to protect this happiness. This was what Layfon thought.
Why hadn't he stopped at the appropriate time? No. Not just that. Why didn't he think of a better way to earn money? If so, things wouldn't have turned out like this.
Ten years old. He was still a kid even though he had the strength of a Heaven's Blade successor. This could have explained his action, but Layfon had always wanted to protect the smiles of Toby and everyone. In the end, he himself took away their smiles.
The happiness existed even without him having to do anything. He destroyed it.
If he hadn't thought of entering the underground matches, Toby wouldn't have looked at him with hatred, Rainetta wouldn't have hidden herself from him and Anri wouldn't have felt so frightened as she watched them. If that event hadn't happened, Layfon would still be in Grendan as a Heaven's Blade successor and Leerin would be looking after the orphanage while she studied, calling for Toby and the others to do their homework. Their lives would have continued, and Toby and his siblings would come to influence new siblings.
But this was impossible now.
Layfon destroyed everything with his own hands.
Layfon woke from his shallow sleep, shocked.
Woken up all of a sudden, he roughly tossed off the blanket on him and stood up.
"Wh, what happened?" Sharnid woke too, noticing his action.
"Hey, what is it?"
Layfon touched the Dite next to his pillow. He was not moving. Suspicion filled Sharnid.
Layfon couldn't answer him.
Something was happening. The air in Grendan gave him a nostalgic feeling. Atoms that could numb one's skin filled the air. But this was noiseless. One couldn't even confirm it.
"Get ready immediately," he said and dressed himself in the fighting clothes that was his pillow a minute ago. Since Lucia had washed it, it no longer had the smell of the underground sewage.
"It doesn't look good," Sharnid said he also wore his own fighting suit.
(What is it?) Came Felli's voice immediately. The flake exuded dim light as it floated above their heads.
"Senpai, did something happen outside?"
(Nothing seems strange in the city but something seems to be happening outside it. It's difficult to decipher. I've spread the flakes outside to confirm the senses. Because of the rain, dense pollutants are surrounding the air shield.)
"Get ready for battle."
Layfon didn't doubt his own feeling even after listening to Felli's report. He headed for the workroom after he finished his preparations. The room was very dim, filled with the smell of mechanisms. Only the work on the desk was lighted. The baby, Maruku, was sleeping quietly in the cradle.
"What is it?" Lucia stopped working.
"Please head for the shelter immediately."
".......... Not that I doubt the feeling of a Military Artist, but isn't this a bit rushed?"
"Whether it was yesterday or today, a battlefield is a battlefield."
"I really hate that expression of yours," Lucia showed a helpless expression.
She stood up and took the bag she used for evacuation purpose from the desk. She took up the Maruku. Maruku moved at the change of position, but it quickly turned quiet.
"Even though it's better to show such a serious attitude in a battle than being lax........" she said and stopped as the evacuation siren rang outside and confirmed his words.
"Nee-san, hurry and head for the shelter."
"Yes. I know."
Lucia didn't say anymore. She carried the baby and left the room. Nina and the others were already waiting in the living room. Tension filled Nina's face, not confusion.
"........ Then, what do we do?"
They must have been waiting for Layfon to return. Sharnid looked at Nina. This wasn't the time to continue the conversation from before they went to bed, but he still wanted to know the result. His expression was eager. Felli's expression was the same as usual, but she exuded a similar feeling to Sharnid's. Perhaps the answer had been decided no matter what Nina would say.
"........... First, let's confirm the situation."
Nina's voice didn't allow Layfon any time to ponder.
"Don't get the wrong idea. If we don't know this has become a battlefield, it'd be difficult for us to return to Zuellni."
Everyone was speechless at her words.
"Captain?" Felli looked at her, incredulous.
"We can't not protect Zuellni when she can't move," she replied before the shocked Sharnid and Layfon.
"Felli, drop what you're doing now. If the situation is as predicted, the other side probably won't have time to bother with us. After confirming the situation, head for the shelter."
"First, this is the biggest crisis. They have to send all the Heaven's Blades to the battle. In this place, we can't move while protecting you. Layfon, where's the shelter that is closest to Zuellni?"
"Let me be the guide," Lucia said. She had been listening from behind them.
"Thanks," Nina nodded, but Sharnid didn't agree.
"Wait up. Even if it's a shelter, we're still outsiders. Will they capture Felli-chan there?"
"I'll protect her," Lucia said.
He didn't believe her. His feeling was reasonable. Lucia wasn't a Military Artist. She was an ordinary person even though she was a Dite technician. She had no way to resist if they were to run into authorities like the City Police. Still, she didn't back a step.
"Don't worry, I'll protect her. A majority of people wouldn't do anything. The ones who can do something are probably only the Queen or Heaven's Blades."
Layfon sighed at Sharnid's expression of disbelief.
"Nee-san's child, Maruku, is the Heaven's Blade successor Rumei's child."
"........ No way?"
Felli and Nina were surprised too.
"Just the child of a second wife. The official wife doesn't have a child, so this child is still a seed."
There was no pride in Lucia's face, just sadness.
"Even so, he's the child of a Heaven's Blade successor."
"You should have said so earlier."
Layfon lowered his head at Sharnid's disapproval. Lucia smiled.
"Was it because Ruimei endangered me?"
It was dangerous for a normal person to bear the child of a Military Artist. Of course, there were many places to enable a safe delivery, otherwise the marriage between a normal person and a Military Artist would have been banned. But it was true that the probability of a miscarriage was higher.
"My previous and I parted because there's a problem with my uterus. Since I can't have child, he found someone else. Not that he's the descendant of any special lineage."
Nina and the others didn't know what to say, looking at her smiling face.
"I met Ruimei after the divorce. For some reason, I became pregnant after that. This was before the event with Layfon. Layfon's action was unexpected. Originally I couldn't give birth to a child, but giving birth to a child with a Military Artist is even more dangerous. The doctor said I might die."
Lucia's voice didn't contain any reproach, but Layfon still had his head lowered, not saying a word.
"After that, Maraku was safely delivered, but my uterus was taken out. Still, I'm healthy. Isn't that good, Layfon?"
"Why are you apologizing?"
She hit his head again, but this time it didn't hurt.
"Anyway, isn't this an emergency?"
Nina's train of thought returned.
"Then I'm counting on you for Felli."
"Uh, leave her to me."
Lucia accepted Nina's request and moved.
Looking at the time, it must be morning, but it was still dark in Grendan because of the cloud layers and the black smoke. Even so, a large crowd of people was outside, heading for the shelter. Layfon and the others protected Lucia as they infiltrated the people who were moving orderly for the shelter.
"Then, what do we do?" Sharnid asked.
"Ensure our escape route is safe, and also confirm the exit. Just which place would become the battlefield. Can the city still move. Though the repair isn't done, can the city move a little or that it truly can't move at all........... We must confirm all of that. Felli, can you try contacting the Student President?"
"Are you really ok?"
Nina didn't reply to Sharnid's question. Layfon was listening to them as he pondered. Should he return to Zuellni with them and not see Leerin? He watched Lucia, who was holding Maruku and moving in front of them. Nee-san never changed no matter what it was. The sister who controlled the kitchen managed them when Layfon was about the same age as Toby. Nee-san didn't mention her pregnancy to anyone because she knew her adopted father would oppose it. It was by chance that Layfon knew of this. Leerin, who grew up under Lucia's influence too, would probably be like Nee-san if she had made up her mind about something.
Layfon was the same at that time. Though he was confused, he didn't tell his father. Because Nee-san's preparation had overcome him, he could only follow her strong will.
This was a familiar feeling to him as he watched Lucia led ahead of them. Though her place wasn't that close to the orphanage, her movement stimulated his memories. But.............
Not that they didn't have this weather before, with the cloud layers and black fog blocking off the sun. As long as the rain fell, the dense pollutants outside the air shield would become black fog. This was common sense. It wasn't rare that thick cloud cover would spread across the city's sky while the rain continued. But it was new for droplets of rain to hit the body. It seemed the rain was still going strong as the outside of the air shield was still dark.
Besides, what Layfon wasn't used to was walking among a crowd of refugees. He had never been part of the refugees since he started fighting. He had always been running on the battlefield. The scenery of mixing in with the refugees was in a memory from a long long time ago. Perhaps because it was this reason or of the bad weather, he didn't realize he had entered the area of his old residence. Lucia wasn't using the usual shelter this time because she had to guide Felli.
Layfon readied his murderous intent after hearing that voice.
"Who is it? Who said I'm an Aunt!"
The kids laughed as they evaded Lucia's fist.
"Call me Nee-san, ok!"
"But Toby-Ni said it."
"Yeah, Lucia feels more like a big sister than Nee-san."
"But Lucia would be angry if you called her that."
"So we can only call you Aunt."
"What conclusion is that!" Lucia said angrily and the kids laughed again.
Everyone. They were all kids that Layfon knew. Peter. Stephen. William. Holland. The children of the orphanage. Layfon's siblings, the next generation after Toby and the other children.
Nina, Felli and Sharnid, having noticed the kids later than Layfon, were keeping a little distance from Lucia, observing her. They didn't know where Layfon was hiding. Layfon watched the faces of his siblings. Nostalgia and pain rushed up to him.
"Lucia? Why are you here?"
Romina arrived just a little bit later than the kids. She was slightly older than Lucia. She was of Lucia's generation and had also looked after Layfon.
"Romina, now that you're the head of the orphanage, you should teach these kids properly."
"Really. Why are they all boys. Aren't there kids like Leerin and Rainetta........ Geez, stop fooling around!"
"Girls have always been managing our orphanage."
Anger, laughter, clouting kids' heads. After that, everyone joined the crowd of refugees. Layfon followed behind so they wouldn't discover him.
"Speaking of which, why are you here, Lucia? If you left home, you should be heading to another shelter?"
"Well, something's come up."
"Compared to that, I don't see Toby and the others? What happened?"
Romina sighed with her palm supporting her slightly chubby face.
"It's not just today."
The two of them watched the still honest kids. But the kids seemed to be considering another prank. They all smiled, looking at Romina and then turning their faces away.
Really. Romina sighed again.
"As I thought, you should be the orphanage head. You were also the manager in our generation."
But Lucia let the conversation end with a bitter smile. Perhaps Romina had mentioned that a number of times. She didn't mention Maruku. They must have talked over that too.
"But that can't be helped. I've my own problem here. Speaking of which, where's father?"
Romina looked at the baby's sleeping face, her expression softening. "I'm not sure too. His disciples said he left without saying anything."
"Yes. Don't know what to do with this group of problematic kids without father and Toby."
"You'll get used to it one day."
Romina sighed many more times in response to Lucia's comforting words.
Judging from the conversation, the two of them were feeling more of the passing of time than the nostalgia of the past. Layfon had heard that Derek had passed the Head of the orphanage position to someone while Layfon was on his way to Zuellni, but he didn't know that person was Romina. Toby and the others would have to manage the kids without Layfon and Leerin, and this wasn't possible, so Romina was given the position, and she accepted it. Forget Rainetta for now. What was Toby's reaction back then? Time continued to flow. It had been flowing even though it hadn't been a year yet. The absence of Layfon and Leerin had become matter of fact in the orphanage.
This was for sure. There were siblings of Layfon and Leerin's age when Lucia and the other older siblings left. But these siblings either became adopted or left to become apprentices. The only ones left were the two of them, so they had to manage the younger siblings. Changes happened in life, and people would react accordingly. Layfon and the others did the same, and so did Toby and his generation.
What Layfon felt shocked about was that he didn't get to see them grow.
Or maybe he was surprised he was thinking of this.
"It hasn't been all that long but we're coming across filth monsters again?"
"We've been through that before."
"Yes, but that event a few days past was different from others."
Romina's gaze moved away from her younger sister to beyond the crowd, fixing at the outside of the city. Zuellni wasn't that clear because of the black fog, but one could see the city's outline. The artificial light of the Academy City was shining brightly, seeming to emphasize its existence.
"Layfon's living over there, right? Toby and the rest fought yesterday because of that."
Layfon felt the tension tighten in his chest at hearing his own name.
"Yes. Peter and the others have suffered from the impact but they don't hate Layfon like Toby and the rest. Toby must think differently about him."
Lucia's words told Layfon that the journalists from the magazine didn't point the finger at Layfon. Rather, they had turned their fury to the underground matches, but Toby and the others wouldn't be able to change their mind so easily. They must still be mad at him.
Romina should have continued saying something after Lucia's words....... That should be it.
But the noise of a huge explosion smothered her voice.
And then the city started to shake. People wailed after the noise. The originally orderly crowd collapsed into chaos because of the shaking. Some people fell because of panic, some tried to escape first. Chaos ensued.
Layfon let go of his murderous intent and tried to protect Romina and the others from the crowd, allowing the crowd to flow past him.
He felt somebody's gaze piercing his back. But he couldn't stop his action even with that feeling. Nina, Sharnid and Felli came to help him.
It was Holland who spoke the words. Layfon could distinguish his sibling's voice even through the commotion.
Layfon's heart hurt as of an eager tearing it piece by piece.
But the chaos in Grendan was just beginning.
Looking at the Heaven's Blade successors gathering once again in the palace, Alsheyra spoke.
"Welcome to hell."
Kalvan's expression was pained, but Alsheyra didn't seem to care.
"Ok, this isn't time for us to laze around. Delbone, how's the situation?"
(Yes. The target is 30 kilometers east of Grendan. The number is increasing because our opponents cannot immediately attack here. That location is around 200 meters above Grendan. They're continuing to appear. The number is increasing exponentially because their number is swelling in this world and in the other dimension. It shouldn't take them long to exceed Grendan's surface area.)
"Just what are you saying?" Reverse asked, his face frightened.
Exceed Grendan's surface area. Even the Heaven's Blades didn't immediately comprehend her words, but Alsheyra didn't seem to mind.
"Of course she means the enemies," she replied matter-of-factly. "The plan is.......... But then again, I don't have one. All members are to fight on the outer edge. It doesn't matter if the city sustains some damage, but you have to use all your strength otherwise you may be destroyed. More deaths would result if you restrain yourself."
(Because of that person's help, it couldn't come through the air shield the last time. But I don't know how it would turn out this time with the number increasing like this. Also, our opponent's body is already more than the surface area of this city. Judging by its strength, it is quite flexible. I'm afraid it may try to encircle the entire city, so Heaven's Blade successors, please don't gather in one point."
"That's the situation. Other than Kanaris' group, everyone else spread around the city. Tigris and Barmelin stay behind to support the others. Savaris that idiot can't participate because he's injured. Kalvan, Lintence, Ruimei, Troyatte, Cauntia, Reverse. You six form a hexagon on the front line. Understood?"
"........... I'm very sorry, but this intelligence about the enemy is unbelievable."
Kalvan's words must represent all Heaven's Blades' feeling, but Alsheyra didn't explain further. She knew her explanation would turn their understanding of filth monsters upside down. The attack of the giants on Zuellni a few days ago was really strange. Their individual forms were of average size. As for the larvae moving together, that wasn't too surprising because larvae tended to move as a group. This must be what the Heaven's Blades were thinking.
But it was different this time. These were individual filth monsters according to Delbone's intelligence. They didn't usually move together.
The biggest problem was the size of the enemy.
Could such thing really exist? Even the Heaven's Blade successors couldn't imagine it.
"Rather than hearing of it, isn't it clearer to see it with your own eyes? That would be the fastest way," Alsheyra answered Kalvan succinctly. "Then, do you understand what you've to do? Then move. The Heaven's Blades that I gave you, the stupid yet huge strength, reveal it all to me here and now. What are you waiting for if you don't use it now?"
Alsheyra sent out all the Heaven's Blade successors as if she was chasing them away. Delbone was in charge of informing the Heaven's Blades of the detailed locations. The Heaven's Blades obeyed and left the palace, leaving only Lintence behind.
Only Lintence's expression showed no changes from beginning to end. Of course, he had been waiting for such a day. It was not possible for him to feel uneasy. On the other hand, he may have smiled like a beast meeting its prey, but he didn't do that. For Delbone who held some insider information, the cowardly Reverse, and the Heaven's Blade successors who viewed your average battle as a stroll, even their hearts were swayed in today's situation, but Lintence kept his calm.
This wasn't strange because he was the most reliable.
"Geez, it isn't necessarily a good thing to be too strong," Alsheyra sighed, considering the role she played in this battle.
(Speaking of which, the girl with the Haikizoku has escaped. Is this all right?)
"Ah, isn't the Ronsmier family guarding her?"
(Several people lost her trail, and a number of them had gone missing. Something must have happened in a place where my psychokinesis can't reach.)
"Another unusual event."
There was no place in Grendan where Delbone's psychokinesis couldn't reach. This meant that place must be very unusual.
(Are you not interested in the information you hold so far? Is that girl useless just by counting her fighting strength?)
"Doesn't Zuellni need her power to protect her? That girl's eyes seem to say she's the symbol of justice. She also seems to be involved in many things, though we don't know how she'd act."
(I feel from Your Majesty that you're trying to tell her something.)
"Is that so? I don't seem to have told her to come along if she wanted to hear the truth."
(Is that right?)
"Yes. Besides, I don't have anything to tell her. If it's her, shouldn't that man be the one to tell her?"
Alsheyra was thinking of the red haired man that she met in Zuellni. The Military Artist with a beast's mask. The emboldened man who invaded Leerin's room. He was the man who survived in a world that Alsheyra didn't want to see. She gave such advice to Nina so that Nina could see a clearer reason to her own action. Perhaps she would understand more by coming to Grendan. That was it only. Alsheyra said those words by instinct when she saw that girl.
Originally she didn't pay Nina that much attention, but that changed because of Kanaris' intense demand and Savaris' interest in her. In addition, one of the other reasons to take care of the previous King's will.
The previous King of Grendan thought the Haikizoku's strength was necessary, so he sent out the Salinvan Mercenary Gang. That was probably because he hadn't gathered all the Heaven's Blades yet, hence he wanted to replace them with the Haikizoku's strength.
The point of the necessity of the Haikizoku and its strengthened Military Artist wasn't important to Alsheyra. It wouldn't be unreasonable to gather strength by using a Haikizoku's strength or employing Kei accelerating drug and giving that person the Heaven's Blade since not all twelve Heaven's Blade successors had been assembled. But for some reason, Alsheyra didn't like this method.
The previous King was a Military Artist but he wasn't that great. He was even weaker than the Heaven's Blade successors. This implied their ancestor Airen, the Military Artist, his DNA had spread thinner. The previous King's thought was totally opposite Alsheyra's had to have been because of that.
The strength of a Haikizoku was not essential. Even if its hatred could strengthen a Military Artist, it was just an overlap of misfortune and chance. Then, the Haikizoku was just something on a rampage? Perhaps this wasn't just it as she looked at Grendan, but this bore no relationship with her. And it wasn't the most important problem now. The awakened Saya also hadn't mentioned anything about it.
(As I thought, I've met that fellow somewhere before.)
Delbone was bothered by that red haired man. She felt an unsteady power behind that man. He wasn't a normal Military Artist.
Still, Alsheyra didn't care.
"How about you release the seal placed on your memory?"
(Perhaps that might be something good, but it is no longer suitable for a body in my old age to peek into the alley of Asura.)
"Then forget that thing."
Having decided on what she needed to do, it wasn't necessary to search deeper into the unrelated event.
"Perhaps Grendan knows something. That fellow must also have with him a Haikizoku."
(Since Your Majesty feels there's no need to look deeper into his issue, I don't need to worry about it too, but.........)
(......... Why do you care naught for the things around you?)
Alsheyra smiled bitterly at the sudden question.
Because hers was a fated answer.
"Because I already know what I must do. Besides, I also know I'm not omnipotent."
She stood up. She wouldn't simply wait for everything to end this time. Even though she was a Queen with the power that exceeded everything, she must have the same mental preparation for it. Several Heaven's Blade successors still didn't believe her. The battle in Zuellni a few days ago was very unusual, but even though they agreed it wasn't normal, this didn't mean they'd easily believe her words. The Heaven's Blades saw those things in Zuellni with their own eyes. Their number was numerous and they were powerful. They were neither larvae nor male filth monsters, but all of them held the same appearance just like the larvae. The place they appeared from was also from the sky. This was truly unusual.
But the Heaven's Blades saw the enemies and entered the fight.
The other Heaven's Blades who were outside the city also saw the enemies.
Perhaps this still wasn't enough to change the Heaven's Blades' thinking about the filth monsters. They would speculate on the current situation based on their personal experience of that time. Perhaps some of them would also hold a wrong understanding.
The number of enemies was large. It was a high possibility that even Delbone's psychokinesis couldn't truly grasp hold of the enemy's number. Some of the Heaven's Blades thought so, and in fact, Kalvan had given voice to this thought but Kanaris had scolded him angrily with the reason "Her Majesty would never lie."
But even though Kanaris had been governing in place of the Queen, even though in her flowed the blood of the three royal families, even though she held some inside information, she still couldn't hide the distrust in her.
Alsheyra commented that their fights were like strolls. True. The battles of Heaven's Blades weren't difficult as long as it wasn't a fight against an aged phase filth monster with a name. To say it from another perspective, it could be misfortune. Not that the Heaven's Blades had made the mistake of underestimating their enemies in the first place, but they couldn't feel the sense of victory and joy of defeating an enemy using all of their strength.
How should the Heaven's Blades think in this current situation........
The movements of the Heaven's Blades finished in a flash. Kalvan was already watching the outside of the city when the Queen was still conversing with Delbone.
He held the Heaven's Blade in its restored form. The rain had completely halted. Black fog still lingered around the air shield whose sole purpose was to remove the pollutants. However, the fog was thinner in the outer edge area because the rainfall was less. The darkness on the other side of the fog implied clouds still covered this city, blocking off the sun.
But Kalvan felt the unnaturalness of the cloud layers.
From where.......... A feeling of uneasiness that was extremely hard to explain. He didn't think this darkness was normal. He still couldn't see the end of the darkness with his internal Kei strengthened vision. Something made him feel uncomfortable but he didn't know what it was.
"Delbone, what is the distance between us and the enemies?"
It wasn't his personality not to get to the bottom of his doubt. Perhaps this was boosted by the fact that he was in the battlefield. He was second to Delbone and Lintence in terms of battle experience in Grendan. And for someone like him, he had noticed something.
(You should say you're already seeing it.)
Delbone's voice was like a girl playing a prank.
But Kalvan agreed with her words.
"Delbone, please notify everyone," Kalvan said as he released all of his Kei. Golden light exuded from his body.
External Kei variation – Armed Sword.
Kei that had half turned into real substance twisted itself up the entire length of Kalvan's body as he shouted loud voice, "All hands, ready for battle. Don't get confused. Fight with all your strength!"
His Kei-infused voice echoed in the sky like thunder, making the air shake. The vibration reached the other side of the air shield and dispersed the surrounding dark fog.
Still, the opposite side was a sea of darkness, but Kalvan already understood what he was seeing.
Nothing could be seen through the gaps in between cloud layers. A deserted field should lay open in front of what was blocking his vision. One could put it more accurately that there were no gaps in between cloud layers. The time right now was morning, but no sunlight broke through the clouds. This meant the thing in Grendan's sky was big enough to block off all the sunlight. This thing was right before Kalvan.
Kalvan's speculation was spot on.
What lay before him was like a wall.
But it wasn't a real wall. It was a part of a living creature. One part of the monster that was covering the entire Grendan was before him. And impossible, stirring movements could be seen across the monster's skin.
(So this is hell.)
Kalvan had never seen so huge a filth monster even though he had fought countless times. Shock stayed in his throat. Words he wanted to give voice too were buried in his heart.
This monster was almost near enough to touch the air shield but it had yet to make a noise, otherwise Kalvan could have noticed its existence much earlier rather than only feeling uncomfortable.
This colossal body headed for Grendan without making a noise. One could say it was unusual out of all unusual events.
Kalvan lifted the Heaven's Blade. It was a huge longsword. The golden Kei weaving his body also wrapped itself around the sword. The area of gold continued to expand in the sky.
Golden Kei expanded its territory in the sky. The entire world was painted gold. The light of gold dispelled the darkness and gradually revealed the shape of the monster.
One couldn't see the entire monster no matter how wide one's vision was. Kalvan's vision was filled with the monster's skin. He stretched his neck and still couldn't see the end of that skin.
Plus the movements on the skin.
It felt like the internal organs of a monster were in front of the entire city of Grendan.
Kalvan felt the stirring of strong Kei from different spots on the outer edge. The Heaven's Blade successors were each entering battle mode. Just Kalvan's Kei was enough to make the city wail.
"Humph," Kalvan made the noise as he felt his Kei and the Kei of other Heaven's Blades.
How long had it been since he could fight with all his might? No. Had he been fighting with all his strength before?
Perhaps this had occurred to him when he was young. A new fighter who had yet to obtain the Heaven's Blade. Perhaps he had once fought with all of his strength, relying only on the strength of his wrist and Kei when he was new to the key of technique and to the method of how to employ his power. But an average opponent could no longer withstand the pressure of his Kei when he held onto a certain fighting technique. He had never used all of his strength since that time. He wasn't dissatisfied with the Heaven's Blade, but the problems he came across after that had to do with the tolerance of fighting suits used outside the city and the considerations placed on the city's safety when he was in a battle.
In this battlefield right now, in this impending hell?
This wasn't the time to ponder. The city would certainly face destruction if he didn't defeat this monster. He couldn't defeat it if he didn't use all his strength. Did this feeling come because of the battle experience he had accumulated or that he felt frightened of this horror?
The golden territory surrounded one part of the outer-edge, Kalvan's territory. Golden Kei stretched like something flexible, as sharp points emerged along different spots of the golden Kei. An ancient animal with Kalvan as the center was born.
"Then, let me see how much I can use my sword technique!" he said.
The monster broke through the air shield almost at the same time and attacked.
The air shield was torn asunder. This was what Kanaris saw. The truth wasn't like that though. The air shield was almost invisible to the naked eye. What Kanaris saw was the movement of the surrounding dark fog. The dark fog flowed into Grendan like a ball being burst from the inside. However, the truth was different. The pollutants didn't flow in. Still, it wasn't that urgent even if the pollutants flowed inside the city.
What she could see now was very intense, and it was invading the city.
It looked like the internal organs were suddenly splitting themselves up from a gigantic body into numerous individual forms. The enemy was using this strategy probably because it couldn't enter the air shield with its gargantuan body. Otherwise, even the Heaven's Blades couldn't block off the attack if the monster was to press down on the city with its whole body.
But Kanaris hadn't thought of this explanation. Focused on the battle in front of her, she only reacted accordingly.
This time she wasn't wearing luxurious clothing. The clothes she wore before was for when she governed Grendan in the Queen's steed. She had always been wearing the current clothes underneath her luxurious clothing. The tightly-fitted fighting suit, the long sleeves stopping short of her elbows and the length of the pants stopping short of her knees were all designed to minimize interference with her movements.
In her hand was a restored Heaven's Blade in the form of a thin blade.
"Ahah, I was such a fool," she said to the sky, feeling the tension she had never felt before as countless enemies splitting from the monster's body headed for Grendan.
"I actually doubted Her Majesty's words."
She lifted the sword to the level of her chest. Her action was like the opening pose of a dance. One could see the slight tension floating around her.
Fu......... Kanaris swung the sword horizontally.
The dance began.
"Please forgive me, Your Majesty," she said and continued to swung the sword in her hand. The monsters crossing the sky above her........... She cut them down one by one, tearing apart their bodies with the Kei hidden in the sword's paths.
She hadn't moved from her spot as she danced with the sword, swinging it around her body, making it leaping in the sky like she was dancing. The path of the sword's dance shattered the monsters in the distant sky.
A piece of music supported her dance.
Countless bodies split out from the gigantic monster stirring in the sky. It wasn't possible for the monster not to make a noise in under this intense battle even though it reached Grendan noiselessly.
Because the Kei of the Heaven's Blade successors were vibrating.
And the vibrations all became the music and rhyme of Kanaris' dance.
Occurrence, clash, swallowed, covering, rebirth, biting, friction, fading, and it all happened again. Kanaris danced with the speedy, repeated music. The technique of the music or the beauty of art didn't exist. The chaotic noise was cut apart and reborn because of Kanaris' sword. It was once again dragged into her sword path and torn asunder.
Her sword continued to dance, and each new individual form tearing from the huge body continued to break apart.
The individual form looked similar to the average larva. A rock-solid shell covered the huge body. Long and thick legs grew from the monster. The lower jaw formed the head that aligned with his body in a straight line. The not-too sharp teeth lined the jaw, their sole purpose to crush the enemy.
But this would only happen after they managed to land.
The original........... The original body that was outside the air shield and covering Grendan like a huge intestine was shooting out one copy after another. The legs were hidden underneath the shell, the body was curled into a ball, and they were being shot out like teardrops.
Countless. In a huge number.
This could be seen as three combined attacks consisting of shooting out, entering, and creating chaos from all directions except the ground. And Kanaris kept dancing in it.
A flash of the sword. The enemy shattered into 100 billion pieces, and there was almost no gap in between the first and the next swing of the blade. The speed of Kanaris' dance had already exceeded a speed that words could describe. The average citizen would fail to see anything special from this. Even a normal Military Artist would not be able to see anything. A dance along with the sound of battle aimed at the living bullets shooting into the entire city. Kanaris' dance wasn't that strange an occurrence compared to this.
She continued to dance in one spot. She had never moved from it.
No, she couldn't move away as long as she danced. The area of her movement was within half to ten centimeters. She never stepped across this area. Not even by one step.
But the path depicted in her dance was cutting down all the enemies from one side of her area to the other, drawing out a broken line of light.
Internal and external Kei variation - Resounding Melody.
Sound filled her surroundings........... Vibration and Kanaris' dancing became one. Her dance drew it on, controlling it. The huge Kei exuding from the Heaven's Blade filled the surroundings to become one with the vibration, and it had emerged as the victor.
The action of swinging a sword originally held no meaning. The cut paths didn't come from the sword. Kanaris' sword was acting like a baton, and Kanaris was the conductor of a band. Wherever her baton pointed as she swung the slender sword, destruction occurred.
"......... So, I, Kanaris, will not fail Your Majesty's expectation. I'll continue to eliminate them, so please watch me."
Accompanying the sound of Kanaris' sword path were numerous forms splitting apart from the huge body......... the living bullets burst and fell one by one.
The intense scenery existed here too.
Standing still here was a small piece of metal. Unbelievably heavy armor wrapped around the tiny existence of a Military Artist in Grendan. The multi-layer armor formed by the Dite wrapped around his tiny body. He was like the one who appears in a series or a fairy tale, the one who rides a horse, appearing in a movie with spear and shield upraised.......... Like a knight.
There existed a way to fight like a knight though there was no real knight in Grendan. Wrapped from head to toe with heavy fighting suit, lifting a knight's spear and piercing the filth monster's body as a group, this fighting method was built on the preparation to make sacrifices. This method was not appropriate for Grendan who had to fight against filth monsters more frequently than other cities. Hence, this method was not popular. However, it did exist.
But for the tiny body who looked like a boy in his teens, no matter how you looked at him he was not a knight. He couldn't possibly be a knight. He only held a shield. A defensive tool. He didn't have a weapon. All he held was only a shield. A huge shield that shielded his entire body.
He only focused on defense. He put so much emphasis on it that he didn't even hold a weapon........ No. The shield itself could act as a blunt weapon. Still, he placed too much importance on defensive equipment. A majority of Military Artists would probably mock him as a coward and gaze at him with unreserved contempt. But they didn't do so.
Holding a shield, he was standing at the appointed place. At the place closest the outer edge of the city as he gazed at the gigantic monster nearing the city with upraised head. The eyes behind the mask showed no signs of fear as he faced the enormous monster and its horrifying movements. His fear didn't drag out into the hour of battle even though he was scared of it with his face turning green, even though his body shook when he heard the Queen said "hell".
The timid hero.
This was how people who knew him complimented him. Because he was a coward, he possessed strength and courage that was stronger than anyone else as he stood ready to face battle. No matter how many enemies stood before him, he held a mental strength that was stronger than anyone as long as he overcame his timidness.
He was the Heaven's Blade successor Reverse Ilginas Elmen. No enemy existed who dared to stand in front of him.
It held true even now.
Kalvan's shout pierced the outer edge through the flakes.
The event transpiring before the other Heaven's Blades was also happening here as he made a noise behind his mask.
The intestine-like skin of the massive monster continued to split. The bullets of living creatures shot out like a torrential rain past the air shield to attack the city.
As usual, Reverse's eyes seemed to be closed, but his slit-like eyes didn't miss the scenery before him. He also didn't seem to want to escape.
He lifted the shield before him and released the Kei in his body.
Internal and external Kei variation – Kongoukei Barrier.
This was the matured form of Kongoukei that Layfon stole from Reverse and later taught Nina. The outer edge where Reverse stood formed a defensive line around the city, a barrier of Kei.
Reverse stared ahead of him. His determined gaze stared at the colossal monster outside the city, stared at the bullets of creatures shooting out from its body. He could capture them with his senses even if his eyes couldn't catch them. Either way, he was a defender. He focused all of his talents on the defensive. He kept training himself until he reached this state. And the person whom he protected also arrived at a state entirely opposite his.
"Ah, I know, Reverse."
The voice sounded behind him, carrying with it a sense of drunkenness.
Different from Reverse, it belonged to a tall female. Her arms and legs were shockingly long. Her open fighting suit revealed a huge injury across her chest. There was also another big wound drawing from her forehead to her neck. Long hair the same color as her skin drifted in the wind. She was gazing at Reverse with proud and infatuated eyes.
The Green Dragon crescent moon sabre was resting on her shoulder.
Cauntia Valmon Falnes.
The person who had reached a state totally opposite her partner's had focused on her attention on the offensive. She slashed down a path diagonally as she lifted the sabre.
External Kei variation – Ravenous Wolf's Charge.
Reverse's defensive wall were blocking off all the bullets of life creatures in his area. Many of them died when they touched the wall. But their comrades, shot over in the next wave were using them as cushions, so many managed to survive. The number of surviving bullets increased following the rise of number of corpses on the wall.
The external Kei infused in Cauntia's Green Dragon crescent moon saber became a starving wolf's claw in the air, wiping away the remains in the outer edge and the bullets that managed to survive. The path of her saber cut away the monsters. External Kei turned them into powder and the heat of the Kei burnt them into coal. The chain of damage and destruction showed no signs of abating. The move was like a pack of starving wolves being released. The pack charged their preys, full of destructiveness.
The light of annihilation dispersed like foam and repelled all its enemies.
The Ravenous Wolf's Charge was affecting the original body outside the air shield too. Long lashes of injuries were crafted into the skin of the huge body. The body shook. Its vibrations spread through the air shield and a sound of pain echoed throughout the city.
The shooting of bullets halted but not the injury. It pierced straight through the huge body until one could see the sun on the other side. The power of that move was this strong.
"............ It could have been better if I could use this outside the city."
Reverse didn't reveal a bitter smile at the dissatisfied Cauntia. His tense expression would not loosen up as long as he still in a battle. He was afraid that his timid courage that was suppressing his cowardice would disappear like fog if he was to loosen up.
"If you were to use it outside, you'd die, Cauntia."
He had to say this. Cauntia dying was scarier than his own dying.
In reality, the leather-like clothes she wore as she stood behind Reverse was in tatters. The not so rounded breasts were also revealed. The rebounding force of her move had damaged her clothes. Her clothes could only withstand ten shockwaves when she fought outside the city. And that was when she wasn't using her full strength. Cauntia had said she wouldn't have let that aged phase filth monster escape if she were to use the move she just executed.
"But I don't like it when I can't catch my prey."
It was hard to imagine she was fighting in this battle as he recalled her dissatisfied expression in the past. He couldn't help but smile bitterly in the end. Her expression hadn't changed. Alarm filled his eyes under the mask as he watched the body of the huge monster.
"It hasn't ended," he said.
Cauntia understood her lover's personality very well, so she didn't get angry at him. She also wasn't surprised at the event unfolding before her.
The injury inflicted by Ravenous Wolf's Charge healed in a split second. It wasn't strange that this monster's recovering ability was greater than a filth monster in its aged phase. This was predictable since the monster was able to cover the entire city.
"Then let's give it everything we have, just like before."
Cauntia smiled. Her smile, for someone who was performing destructive acts, was so beautiful.
But Reverse wasn't looking at her. His gaze was always glued to the place ahead of him in order to protect the woman he loved behind him.
In the sky.
"It seems this isn't the time to stay in the back and give support."
External Kei variation – Meandering Haze.
Tigris said as he released the shot. The bronze bowstring sliced the air and gave off a crisp sound. A crisp and fresh sound of power that rose above the battlefield filled with chaos, bedlam and madness. The released arrow was a shot of condensed external Kei. It turned into numerous new arrows as it was released from the bow. The shots dispersed like shinning water droplets, and they became a torrent of rain. Their trajectory wasn't straight. They ignored the principle of nature and changed direction after traveling for some distance. Like animals fallen into water, they pierced through the bullets attempting to land, shattered them and went to hunt down the next prey until they exhausted their energy.
A new Mei Kasumi shot out before the rain of arrows disappeared. Dots painted the sky of Grendan.
He had been called an old man since he was young. He stood rooted to the spot just like his name as he continued to release his arrows.
"So annoying. Annoying. Annoying."
Barmelin repeated while she pulled the trigger. She held two cannons. The body of each cannon had two round barrels aligned side by side. The two barrels spun every time a bullet shot out. Not many Military Artists preferred this weapon but some liked it. But the city government would hate him for the enormous artillery bill if he was to use real bullets. In addition, Kei bullet would tip the balance between the Military Artist's amount of Kei and the speed the bullet was shot out. Hence some Military Artists disliked it. These reasons explained why it was rare to see this weapon.
Still, Barmelin was using two such weapons and shooting out Kei bullets. This point alone was enough to demonstrate her unusual amount of Kei. Also, this weapon needed something to help brace its body because of its weight. For example, using straps and then holding it with two hands. But Barmelin was holding one in each hand without any trouble. This meant her internally Kei-strengthened muscles were quite something.
Four thousand bullets every minute. Two hands equaled eight thousand bullets. This number of Kei bullets flew through Grendan's sky. They formed a screen in the sky and also looked like an intense stream. The monsters passing through the air shield shattered into pieces when they contacted the screen or the stream.
"Really, this isn't a speed an old man like me can catch up to," Tigris sighed as he kept shooting. There was no change to his speed.
"Hurry up and retire, you dead old man."
"Is this respect for the elderly?"
"You're so noisy. If you want me to be like that then become someone that is worthy of respect before you say it."
"Hahaha, that's true."
Tigris laughed joyously and kept shooting arrows. Barmelin kept pulling the triggers, her expression dissatisfied.
The screen of Kei bullets weaved by two Heaven's Blade successors heartlessly obliterated the bullets of creatures falling from the sky. They weren't giving them any chances.
"........ So troublesome."
The feeling of dissatisfaction didn't disappear in Barmelin's body.
"So annoying. I should just get rid of it with one shot."
She glanced at the restored Dite under her foot.
That was her Heaven's Blade. A right amount of Kei was required in terms of using guns. Otherwise, one couldn't even shoot with a gun. Although her Heaven's Blade had a setting that would allow her to adjust the level of Kei, this wasn't the time to use it recklessly. This was also one aspect of the gun. It was different from Tigris' bow which allowed him to change the amount of Kei at will. To put it clearly, a gun was just a device used to release a certain amount of Kei as a bullet.
"Bear with it a while longer," Tigris said with a sour smile. "It won't be too late to use that later. There's always an order to doing things."
Of course, the Heaven's Blade successors' ability to minimize the damages the city sustained in this unusual situation was one type of "unusual".
"As I said, right now, we have to bear it."
Barmelin turned her gaze to the stream of Kei bullets again.
Looking at the downpour of Kei bullets that showed no signs of stopping.
Very little damage meant the city was still harmed even though the damages were minimized.
"How's the situation?"
(About the reception to the attack, the current rate of destruction is 99.9999999........ almost close to 100.)
"That isn't 100%."
Alsheyra looked out the window to the battlefield after listening to Delbone's report. The strength of the Heaven's Blades that could almost strike through all the monsters was worthy of compliment. But this wasn't a 100% success, meaning a very small number had landed in Grendan and continued to move. Even a small number wasn't a number to be neglected in light of the total.
(This number is still controllable because Military Artists have been arranged on the third defensive line.)
"They would be useless if they can't even do that much."
But the problem was how much longer would this state last?
In this bizarre situation, she couldn't not worry about the mental state of the Heaven's Blade successors who enjoyed battle. It was also problematic of how long other Military Artists could sustain themselves mentally. The pressure of the mind was heavier than that on the flesh. It wasn't possible to stay sane for long in this battle.
"Let's hope it won't drag out for too long."
(But we'll be troubled if Your Majesty used all of your strength.)
"I know," she said as if she had eaten something bitter. "Are you trying to say that the timing is the key?"
(If Your Majesty's strike a few days ago was 110%, then a strike in full power would create a rebounding force large enough to destroy half of the palace. It might cause huge damage to the ground under the worst circumstance. Though the palace had been rebuilt to cushion the impact, do you think the palace could contain all the damages? Please give it some consideration.)
"I hate being too strong."
Delbone laughed at her words.
(It's very important for wait for the timing right now. Allow the Heaven's Blades to make that chance. Make that monster show its weakness. It is necessary to wait till then.)
"It'd be good if it really has a weak point."
"........ It does have a weak point."
The person who replied was Saya. The girl of moonlight had been standing behind with Leerin as she watched the battle rage outside the window with little emotion.
"That's probably Nano Celluloid Interface M Durin."
"What a name."
"It was a weapon that Ignasis used to destroy the world before it became Ignasis' subordinate. It can turn the atoms of the Aurora Field into energy and increase it endlessly in Zero Territory. It may be in a half rampage state."
"Atoms of Aurora Field?"
"Oh, the ancestor of the filth monsters. That I do know. What next?"
"Nano Celluloid is a group weapon made up of many individual forms. The core that controls everything is inside the body. It isn't possible for it to attack in large scale without a core controlling the organization."
"That's true. There is a weak point, but even you don't know its location, right?"
"I see," Alsheyra said and finally sensed Leerin spacing out.
"What is it?"
"........ Nothing. What is it?"
Leerin must be the one most uncomfortable about the current battle. She was not used to a battle no matter how prepared she was mentally. She would definitely feel unsettled with a battle raging before her.
"It's all right."
So Alsheyra showed a carefree smile.
"Seems like it isn't the expected final battle."
"Is that so.......? But why........."
"Because it's not Rivantine. Besides, the moon is not falling," Saya replied.
"Nano Celluloid Interface 1 Rivantine. He is the original of the Nano Celluloids and the filth monsters. An existence up a level of Durin who is attacking this city."
"Then is he like a king?"
"It's more like a Queen from its shape."
"Ala, the same as me."
"The situation on the moon seems dangerous judging by the fact that Durin has successfully escaped. But Rivantine has yet to appear, and so Ignasis probably hasn't been released, or we can say it hasn't reached that stage yet. Protecting Ignasis is always her first priority."
Alsheyra couldn't tell from Leerin's expression if she understood Saya's explanantion or not. But her unsettled face was facing the window.
Alsheyra also turned her gaze out the window as if she had thought of something. Even if she was to strengthen her vision, she still couldn't see it.
It was on the other side of the air shield.
(That guy shouldn't have the time to spare to attack the other side.)
But this wasn't the only thing Leerin was worrying about. Of course, she was worried about Zuellni, but she was even more worried about the person in it.
Alsheyra had asked Delbone about him, but she had not told Leerin that Layfon had come to Grendan. Delbone may have thought that Leerin already knew or she thought it wasn't something she herself should say.
(Is this really all right?)
Delbone was asking about Layfon's punishment. Was it really all right not to retract the order exiling him?
Alsheyra would reinstate his Heaven's Blade title if Leerin asked for it now. Leerin's ability was essential even though they didn't know how much of it was needed. But she believed the blood of Grendan's royalty had become purer as evident in the births of Leerin and Alsheyra, the existences that were one step away from perfection. Hence Leerin's blood was needed to make this plan come into fruition.
Besides, this incidence, the day that was fated to arrive, today's incidence that had been predicted, this meant the day to use Leerin's eye would come sooner or later, and so she was the most important person in Grendan. Alsheyra would not casually deny Leerin's wish.
But Leerin would not ask for it. She had already said so in Zuellni and in the Inner Court of Grendan. She didn't want to drag Layfon in. She didn't wish to involve him in this hell.
To Alsheyra, there was no need for Layfon to become a Heaven's Blade successor since he had been exiled from Grendan. Alsheyra had been gathering the Heaven's Blades since she became Queen.
This meant everything was fated. Things didn't happen by chance. Alsheyra understood this to be her personal explanation but she felt the person to become a Heaven's Blade successor must be fated to do so. So for Layfon who was chosen by a Heaven's Blade and had to let go of it, the fate of becoming a Heaven's Blade successor was not to be his.
The same reason explained the impossibility of making a Military Artist hold the Heaven's Blade through the strength of a Haikizoku and Kei accelerated drug. These acts would only forcibly twist fate. They were meaningless acts that would create unfortunate consequences. It was better not to do it in the first place than to create the uneasiness.
She looked at the side of Leerin's face.
But it wasn't that bad to allow Layfon to come back. As long as his personality of leaving the reason of a fight to others, as long as he still cared about Leerin, then Leerin's reason to fight would become his reason to fight. In a way, Layfon would once more return to the road of fate.
(Never mind. Things will work out somehow.)
As expected, Alsheyra's thinking wouldn't change. If Layfon was fated to become a Heaven's Blade successor then he would hold a Heaven's Blade even if she didn't do anything. Right now, they had to focus on the thing happening before them.
What would that guy do..........
What he would do probably wouldn't be related to the battle now.
"Ni-san?" the brothers and sisters said behind him.
The pain in Layfon's heart wasn't physical but it was enough to make him breathless. Still, this wasn't time for the pain to drag him down. The city was shaking because of the attack. Layfon knew this was caused by the Heaven's Blade sucessors on the outer edge of the city.
"............ All of them?"
The waves of Kei linking like one line on the outer edge was telling Layfon of this fact. On top of this were the two waves of huge Kei rolling from the centre of the city, making it the Kei of nine people altogether. Nine people except Delbone and Savaris. No one could possess so much Kei other than Heaven's Blades.
The Heaven's Blades had not entered battle together when Layfon was still in Grendan. Usually only one Heaven's Blade was needed in battle excluding Delbone, who was constantly searching through psychokinesis. The exception was the fight with the filth monster with a name – Behemoth. But even that battle didn't need all Heaven's Blade successors.
But Layfon didn't have time spared to feel shocked.
He immediately understood through his sight why the Kei of the Heaven's Blade successors were covering the entire city.
He was a little later than usual in detecting the situation because the people he was familiar with had attracted his attention with their conversation. And he had concentrated on protecting them from the refugees around them. But then even others noticed it by this stage.
"....... Hey, what's that?"
Layfon looked at the sky and finally understood what it was that could counter the huge Kei of the Heaven's Blades. The alarm made his skin prick. His body moved stiffly. He used his body to protect the siblings behind him.
The enemy was in the sky.
It was morning now but the sky was still dark, and it suddenly split. Bubbles surfaced one after another like boiling water, and then they split apart........ this happened at the same time in numerous places, and then a large number of things fell from the sky.
A huge number of Kei bullets ripped the sky apart in a speed faster than people could comprehend, and they destroyed those things falling from the sky. The shocked crowd finally shrieked at this scenery.
Layfon felt people stepping on his back and he could also hear Nina and the others' angry shouts. They were probably protecting Lucia and Romina.
His siblings repeated, just wanting to confirm the truth.
Layfon felt like a knife was cutting into his heart.
He hadn't seen his siblings since that match. Some of them reproached him. Some may have feared him after watching the match and so they fled........ Even once was enough of an impact for him.
The one who shouted was Stephen.
Layfon closed his eyes. His ears hurt. His heart hurt more. Even part of his body capable of feeling pain hurt. He didn't hear anything more afterwards. No, he couldn't hear it. Wailings, moanings and an angry tide of footsteps shook the earth.
"Layfon!" came Nina's sharp voice.
"Oh no, Toby and the others still haven't escaped!" Romina's voice came to his ears. "They're still in the orphanage."
Layfon used most of his strength to keep his teeth from chattering as if something was pressing down on all of his nerves.
"Layfon!" Nina's voice made him choose.
He had already decided what to do when he opened his eyes. What to do? What to do? The painful memories, the place of his past, Grendan. He reached out his hand to Grendan and this meant........
"......... Senpai, can I ask you to do something?" he opened his eyes and looked at Nina.
"Leave them to me," she nodded once with force. "We'll see them safely to the shelter."
Her strong nod answered him.
"Please!" he said and leapt for the orphanage, for his siblings. The pain in his heart did not disappear. What should he say to them? To his brothers? To Stephen? He had chosen to refuse answering when they questioned him at that time. Still, his body moved now so to protect them. He was scared but he wanted to touch them. Two opposite feelings clashed in his heart. Even he didn't know which road to pick. He was like a ball used in training, rebounding after hitting a wall, halting only till it lost all of its energy.
Perhaps his existence was like this.
Perhaps there was no meaning in meeting with Leerin. Everyone in the orphanage still hated him. He came here because of his immaturity. Perhaps it held no meaning for him.
He continued to jump.
Anri was silently digging on her own in a corner of the city, behind a fence of evergreen vegetables.
She didn't stop even though a voice of reproach was calling her.
"Anri! What're you doing!"
Wet soil stuck to her face, but she still kept digging, ignoring that voice. She was holding a toy spade that children used, and she was using it to dig.
"Anri, what is it?"
This time it was her sister's voice. She finally turned around. Standing behind her was an angry Toby and a very worried Rainetta.
"The evacuation siren's been rung. Hurry and head for the shelter."
"........ I'm looking for something! It's ok. Toby-Ni, you guys go ahead!"
"Be sensible! This isn't the time for it!"
"It's all right. The Heaven's Blades are in this city."
"I don't mean that!"
It looked like fire was about to sprout form Toby's throat. Rainetta watched them with suspicion. This situation shouldn't warrant such fury. Filth monsters attacked this city a lot. Although this time the attack closely followed the last time, it wasn't that rare for filth monster warning to sound in a short period of time. Besides, this didn't mean filth monsters would immediately pop up in residential areas even though the city was being attacked. Though Anri and them had experienced many evacuation sirens, the residential areas had never been destroyed. Because the Heaven's Blades would easily defeat them no matter how horrifying the filth monsters were. A battle that didn't need the presence of a Heaven's Blade was of an even lower level.
But Rainetta could feel from Anri's answer that her sense of danger was too low. It couldn't be helped that Toby was angry with her, but Rainetta could also discern that there was more in Toby's anger than met the eyes.
"Anri, Toby's right. This isn't the time for this. Anri, you're a big sister. You can't be a bad influence to the kids."
"That's not it, Nee-san. Toby-Ni isn't angry about that."
"Hey, stop it."
At Toby's threat, Anri didn't stop digging.
"Toby-Ni just doesn't want me to dig up what he left here."
She ignored Toby and kept digging with the spade. A feeling of the spade touching something solid shot up her arm. Found it.
Toby pulled on her sleeve. She lost her centre of gravity and fell to a side.
"Toby. You didn't have to do this!"
Anger filled his words. He glared at her. She glared back without losing ground.
Anri's voice made Toby and even Rainetta's face fall.
"Layfon-Ni is there. There won't be another chance to apologize to Layfon-Ni if we miss this opportunity."
"Why do I have to apologize to him!" Toby's voice, mixed with pain, echoed in the darkness. "That guy—that guy betrayed us! He was a Heaven's Blade successor but he entered the underground matches. His name as a Military Artist is tainted."
"No!" Anri's voice smothered his. Pain showed in her expression, in Rainetta's too.
They liked Layfon-Ni the best.
The entire orphanage had turned strange since the exposure of Layfon's deed. Toby was always angry. Rainetta was always sad. Their younger siblings cried because of Toby's anger. Father left the responsibility of the orphanage to Romina. Layfon left Grendan and Leerin left the orphanage. Anri could only cover her ears and escape the reality because she was scared. She couldn't do anything.
But she saw it.
Scolded by Toby, beaten. The siblings threw things at him, but Layfon always had his head silently lowered, his face filled with sadness. Anri saw it. Layfon never once explained himself.
"This isn't why Toby-Ni's angry. You're angry because Layfon-Ni has betrayed our expectations!"
Toby's face turned red. He stood rooted. Anri showed no signs of stopping though she saw his hand turned into a fist. She chanced upon the news that Layfon had been exiled to Zuellni. She heard the entire conversation between Leerin and Father when they were making dinner.
Right now, Zuellni was next to Grendan.
She was confused about this event that would never have happened. But one thing was clear.
"There may not be another chance! The chance to meet Layfon-Ni and apologize. There won't be another one! Is this all right? Toby-Ni. I don't like it to be like this. Nee-san thinks the same too, don't you?"
The two of them were silent at her question. Their feelings were complicated. They faced her with their backs, unable to give an answer. Anri had decided on what to do regardless of their decision. She tightened her grip on the spade again and continued to dig out that thing.
The thing that Toby hid in here after Layfon left. He hid it in a can originally containing food. He had buried it here.
"Anri!" Toby shouted.
"You didn't throw it away!"
Toby fell silent once more.
At this time.
The city shook intensely.
The evergreen vegetables, the building behind them and the fence were all shaking intensely. Watching the building and the vegetables that seemed about to collapse, Toby forcibly pulled Anri up to a safer place. Still, she held the can tightly before her chest.
"Hey, this doesn't look good. We can talk about this later. Anyway, we've to head for the shelter........"
But it was already too late.
Rainetta looked at the sky, pointing at something.
Monsters were falling through the air shield like rain. After that, a large number of Kei bullets shot them down. The place where Anri lived, an ordinary place, a place that remained peaceful regardless of filth monsters' attack, turned into a battlefield in a spit second.
The three of them forgot what they were doing as they stared at the sky. Huge rumbles hammered the sky. Kei bullets burnt the atmosphere. Shattered chains crossed the sky.
Their hearts must stay calm while facing this sudden change.
"........... Hurry and go," Toby was the first to speak.
The shaking had subsided but the city was still shaking. It was difficult to run on the unstable ground. Besides, Anri and Rainetta still hadn't mentally caught up with reality. They couldn't feel their feet touching the ground. They felt more like they were stepping on air, unstable. They couldn't use all of their strength.
Not wanting to wait further, Toby took Rainetta's hand and dragged her along after Anri.
But.......... The counterattack of the Heaven's Blades wasn't perfect. The small misses were below the smallest decimal point, so a few bullets of monsters still landed on Grendan, and their fall explained the shaking of the city.
And the probability of this tiny decimal, taking into consideration of Grendan's size, was happening right before the three of them.
It landed in front of them.
Anri didn't know whether she herself or her sister was calling out. The impact of the landing shattered the pavements, and then something hard was blown around in all direction. Low moans of hurt sounded from the direction of the thing that landed. Humid solid things rubbed against each other, giving off an uncomfortable noise. The three collapsed people weren't clear of the situation, but they knew very well what was before them.
This time it was obviously Anri's voice. The monster opened its hard shell, letting loose its legs and opening its huge lower jaw. Insect-like multifaceted-eyes shone red.
"Uh!" Toby stood before the two girls.
"You two, hurry and escape!"
"How could you..... Toby!"
Toby's face turned white at Rainetta's wailing, but he still stood in front of the girls, standing before the monster. However, those weren't the only changes in the monster's body.
The shell on the upper body of the monster opened and insect-like wings unfolded. Underneath the shell hid not an insect's soft body, but many ball-shaped things. The balls were just the size of a full-grown male, and there lay about twenty to thirty of them. Cracks appeared on those balls almost the same time as the shell opened. The cracks spread across the surface until the balls burst. What was inside the balls obtained freedom.
The things flying out from the balls landed around the monster. Only four slender legs supported the body. Its shape was like a skeleton's. There were neither muscles nor fat. Sticky membranes covered the joints. Tiny red light shone inside black eye sockets. The new monsters ran for the three.
The three people were so scared that they couldn't even voice their terror.
"Run!" Toby shouted with a trembling voice.
But Toby couldn't prevent the monsters from catching up with the girls even were the girls to escape. Toby wasn't a Military Artist, and he was also weaponless. He was just the average 10 years old child that one could see anywhere. But he still stood before the girls, his arms outstretched to protect them. One knew he was scared just by looking at his shaky legs, but he still stood, unmoving.
"Run!" he repeated.
But Anri and Rainette were motionless. The sudden dark fate swallowed their courage. Their bodies couldn't move.
All was about to end. About to end heartlessly.
They couldn't say sorry to Layfon-Ni, couldn't eat Leerin's handmade cooking, couldn't tease Rainette and Toby, couldn't fight with the boys at school. Everything was about to end.
"............ No," Anri said.
"Run!" Toby called again.
And an even more intense change happened.
What Anri and the two saw was a pillar of light descending from the sky to destroy the entire monster, then light split off from that pillar to shatter the small monsters, evaporating them. The horror and despair were eliminated so easily.
One person stood on the remnants of the eggs of that monster. The smoke of the explosion dispersed. Anri and the two clearly saw that person's face.
"Ah, ahhh..........." Anri felt tears rushing from her eyes.
This person held a Katana the same as Father's. He was eyeing the corpse of the monster with a pair of serious eyes but his face was the same as last time's, filled with a wisp of sadness.
"Toby, Rainetta, Anri, are you hurt?"
"No, it's all right."
" Really? That's good."
From the relieved-Layfon, it felt like he had turned back into the familiar person that they knew.
"Layfon-Ni!" Rainetta finally found her voice and cast her gaze at Toby.
Layfon was also looking at him. Unlike Rainetta and Anri, only Toby's originally despaired gaze was now filled with anger as he glared at him.
"How dare you show your face before us now!?" Toby shouted in fury as he cried. His shoulders trembled from his crying. His fists were held tightly as he glared at Layfon angrily.
Anri couldn't say anything. She had been scolding Toby but she couldn't say anything now. Toby still liked Layfon-Ni now, but his intense feeling only added more to her pain.
Rainetta covered her mouth with both of her hands. Tears rolled in her eyes as she tried not to call out. Anri too, tried hard not to cry as she watched Toby and Layfon.
"....... Till now, I know I've no right to stand before you," Layfon said faintly. His voice made people feel very sad.
"But since I'm here and I met this thing, I couldn't leave you all behind."
"Didn't you already leave us behind!" Toby shouted and ran to Layfon who had stepped down from the corpse. He took hold of the shirt on his chest and howled. "Doing such terrible thing to us and being exiled from the city. Isn't that the same as leaving us behind!"
"The underground matches. Was there even a need to enter!"
".............. Because I thought money was necessary. Toby, you may have forgotten. There was a severe shortage of food in Grendan's past. There was no food for everyone, but only I, as a Military Artist, was rationed food."
Toby had heard of this from Romina. This happened before Anri was born. A problem appeared in the city's food production plan. Though the problem was solved on time, it had led to a year of food shortage. Many, many people died of starvation.
"I thought that wouldn't have happened if we had money. Lots and lots of money. Of course, the problem couldn't have been solved that easily, but that was how I thought back then. I became a Heaven's Blade successor but I still thought the money wasn't enough, so........."
"But to us............. To me, it's enough to have Layfon-Ni around........."
Anri felt she must say something as she watched them. She felt that her relationship with Toby and Layfon may not return to how it was before if a wrong move was made, so she wanted to convey her feelings to him.
"I also think it's enough that Layfon-Ni is around."
But it already took all of her courage to say this. She couldn't say anything more. She lowered her head, feeling bitter at her uselessness.
Rainetta's hand gave her back a pat.
Anri finally realized what she was holding because of her sister's gaze.
"This is what Toby-Ni hid without tossing away."
"Anri dug it up hearing of news about Zuellni."
Anri opened the can in her hand. Inside lay a toy. Though it wasn't a common toy, it was an ordinary toy that no one would be envious of.
A wooden toy. A doll holding a shield and a sword.
Layfon clearly knew what this was.
Anri didn't know what it was, but she had seen Toby putting it in his personal box. Sometimes he took it out and played with it. She had asked him to lend it to her at home but he wouldn't no matter how much she asked.
"You're still keeping it."
"........... So annoying. I already tossed it away."
"It's Sutero's Roki."
As expected, Anri didn't know what it was. She guessed it was a character in a popular children's animation. Anyway, boys tended to like this kind of thing.
"I' m sorry. I wanted to buy you a better one, but I couldn't get one."
"So annoying. They don't sell it anymore. It's enough I have this," Toby said angrily and glared at him. "Like this, it's enough............ It's good enough to have this..........." his hands fell from Layfon's chest, but one of his hands was still balled into a fist, trembling.
"You idiot. Layfon-Ni is a big idiot."
Suddenly, Toby threw his fist at him. Layfon could have evaded it as a Miltiary Artist but he didn't move. He silently let his fists fall on his body.
"As I said, don't apologize."
"........ I won't say sorry too."
"This cancels it out."
Toby's entire body shook. After a moment of hesitation, Layfon placed his hand on his shoulder. Toby muttered again in a light voice. "You idiot."
Anri and Rainetta watched it all.
"......... I don't understand how boys think," Rainetta sighed, but tears rolled in her eyes.
Anri was happy too. Everything was back in order.
But they didn't have time to submerge in joy. Monsters continued to fall from the sky.
"......... Anyway, you three hurry and head to the shelter. Felli."
A piece of metal exuding a faint light flew over to Layfon's voice. Anri immediately knew this was a psychokinesis flake.
"Please guide these three to a shelter."
A clear and melodic voice came from the flake.
"It seems even all of the Heaven's Blades are unable to guard everything. It'll be bad if the same thing happens. Felli........ senpai is an excellent psychokinesist, so she'll definitely point out a safe route for you."
"Layfon-Ni, what are you planning to do?"
His gaze turned to somewhere faraway at Toby's question. His gaze was there, Grendan's centre. The closer it was to the city's centre, the higher the buildings were. And the highest building in the middle of the city was Grendan's palace.
Toby felt Layfon was looking at there.
"I have to see Leerin."
Toby was shocked. Layfon's expression was severe. In the palace......... Everyone knew the Queen, Alsheyra Almonise was there. Perhaps Ni-san hated the Queen who exiled him.
"Ah, but Leerin-Nee may be in the shelter."
It's ok? Toby didn't get it.
"All right, let's go."
But Toby lost his chance to make clear of things because of Layfon's urging. Besides, this wasn't the time to let his guard down. He took Rainetta and Anri's hands and followed the flake to the shelter.
Layfon looked at his siblings' backs till they disappeared, then he cast his gaze at the palace once more.
(As I thought. You're still going.)
Another flake was giving off a faint light beside him.
(I already knew things would turn out like this, so I'm not mad.)
"They've already arrived at the shelter. The two of them are confirming a safe route back to Zuellni."
"Do you know of Zuellni's situation?"
(Aren't you heading for the palace?)
He felt she was hiding something from him. She hadn't told him of Zuellni's situation when Nina was missing and when he was fighting the aged phase filth monster.
He heard her sigh on the other end of the flake.
(I still can't contact Zuellni. That unbelievable monster has surrounded the other side of the air shield.)
(We can only pray the other side isn't in the same situation.)
Layfon felt a future filled with darkness waited for him. Intense fights were taking place everywhere. He had never seen this before in Grendan, a monster wrapping around the entire city and suppressing it. All of the Heaven's Blade successors were defending the city.
This had never happened before.
This must be the mysterious fight related to the world that Nina talked about. If this was true.........
He had always been thinking of Leerin's refusal to see him after he heard of Nina and Lucia's opinions. At that time, it was impossible for him to win against the Queen and Lintence. He could only drag out the fight longer with Lintence even if he held the Heaven's Blade.
But this was something Leerin wouldn't understand.
Besides, the Heaven's Blades knew the Queen was the strongest Military Artist. Even if one wasn't a Heaven's Blade, a slightly better Military Artist could tell how powerful she was by looking at the unusual amount of Kei exuding from her.
Ordinary people thought the Queen being the strongest was just propaganda from the palace.
This couldn't be helped since the Queen had never fought before. And even if she did fight, no one from the city would have known. Layfon knew some people thought it was propaganda to strengthen the royal family's dignity.
He didn't know if Leerin thought the same, but at that split second, it shouldn't be strange for her to think he couldn't save her from them.
No............. Leerin wouldn't think like that.
It was more like her not to allow him to do something so dangerous. But what if this wasn't the case?
What if she truly, truly wanted from the bottom of her heart to return to Grendan and so she refused him? At that time, to leave without telling anyone of her reason..... Perhaps it had something to do with the mystery that Nina talked about.
He thought maybe he was thinking too much.
But pondering led him nowhere. Could he only confirm his suspicion if he were to see her face to face? Why did she refuse him? What was she thinking to return to Grendan at that particular point in time? Why did he want to straighten out these things?
He could only confirm all of it when he met Leerin.
"I really should head back to Zuellni with the Captain........"
(Please don't talk about the impossible.)
Felli heartlessly cut off his words.
(You came to Zuellni in order to change yourself. Has this changed?)
"No, it hasn't."
He nodded subconsciously at the sudden question, not sure what she was getting at.
(My feeling stays the same. I'll definitely pursue it if there's another path other than being a psychokinesist. That was why I came to Zuellni.)
(But if you came back to Zuellni the way you are now, you'll only be halting your progress.)
(Then please resolve this knot in your heart. Regardless of the result, it's better to understand than to worry and not understand anything.)
(But there's only one thing I want to know. Is that all right?)
"What is it?"
Felli herself brought up the question, yet she stayed silent.
Had something happened on the other side of the flake? Sound finally came through when Layfon decided to touch the flake.
(Well, it's like that.......)
(Lay... fon........ Layfon..........)
Why did she change her words, and she said so two times too......
(Layfon, what kind of a person is Leerin to you?)
He didn't quite understand the meaning behind her question. Unlike the usual light tone, Felli seemed to have trouble speaking and her rhythm was also a bit flustered. He couldn't get her meaning.
But she didn't stop.
(Are you two just simple childhood friends? Or do you like her? Or are you two lovers?)
He recalled that night before they fought Falnir. He had received the proof of reconciliation from Derek. His nerves had finally relaxed. He cried. Leerin cried too and then.....
He remembered it.
No. He couldn't have forgotten it.
At that time, their lips overlapped as if he was to relax all his thoughts inside him. His brain became blank in that one split second. He was too happy. Tears of happiness couldn't be stopped, and that was the only emotion filling his head.
And that was a very normal act he made without much consideration. He didn't think Felli had seen that.
Then what was the meaning behind this question?
He didn't know what to say, but he opened his mouth, thinking it was bad not to say something.
And he sensed it before he thought of what to say.
"Please have the flake move away."
(....... Military Artist. Just one person.)
Felli felt it too. The huge amount of Kei had suddenly closed in. Had this person been watching him through Sakkei? But to come and find Layfon rather than fight the monsters in this situation? What was his purpose?
(Please be careful. This person can only have come for you under this circumstance. I feel he has a purpose.)
Felli felt the same as him. Her flake left.
In Layfon's hand was the Iron Dite. He made this choice without much thought. From the Kei of the other person, Layfon had chosen to rely on the skill that would best suit this fight, meaning the Iron Dite. But was this right? His opponent's figure appeared before him as he pondered.
The person whom he couldn't believe to see had appeared before him.
"Layfon. It's been a long time."
He couldn't feel that feeling in his words. Something was mixed in with the hard words as those words hammered his heart.
"Why are you here, Father?"
This was his foster father. The restored Iron Dite in his hand held the same shape as Layfon's. He was watching Layfon with a serious gaze that he never used in the orphanage. A gaze that was rarely seen in the dojo.
"But that ends here. The place you should return to is Zuellni."
Layfon didn't understand.
"Hurry, return to Zuellni. But......... that's only if you can head back immediately."
The sharp blade of his father was pointed at him.
Father's Sakkei was conveyed to the son.
"I'll attack you with this Katana."
Father said such unbelievable words at the same time, Kei exploded.