Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume3 Chapter3
Chapter 3: The time of a destroyed city
The Student Council had only called Nina, but Layfon decided to accompany her to the Student President's office. The thing was, if it had something to do with Nina, then this might be connected to the fate of the entire 17th platoon.
"What do you think happened?"
"What? Judging by how that phone call was made, this isn't anything secretive."
This was different from the last encounter with the filth monsters, in which Felli was the one who conveyed the secret information to Layfon.
"I suppose, but well......oh, it's already morning. It must be something urgent for them to call us over at this hour," Nina mumbled as she lifted her head to look at the sky. Gloom shrouded the city. The streetlights were fighting as hard as they could to disperse the surrounding darkness.
Layfon followed Nina's gaze. Purple rays gradually seeped through the horizon, spreading out to engulf the sky.
"Don't overdo it."
"No matter what happens, I won't let you face it alone," she looked at him.
Morning light seeped through the gaps in between buildings, outlining Nina's face. Layfon couldn't make out her expression, and found that regrettable.
"......Thanks," he said. "But, senpai, don't force yourself too much either."
"What're you saying? You're my subordinate. It's natural that I'm to protect you, isn't it?"
Layfon chased after Nina, who had suddenly picked up her pace. They headed for the Student President's office.
Inside the office were Karian and Felli. Despite the early hour, both of them were in uniforms.
(Did they sleep like that too?)
Imagining the two siblings sleeping immobile like corpses, Layfon found Felli glaring at him from the sofa.
"Excuse me. Did something happen?" Nina asked.
"That's true but......excuse me, would you wait a bit? Not everyone's here yet," the female helper in the room indicated for the two to sit down, then she spread out food and drinks on the table.
"It looks like this will take some time. You two haven't had breakfast because of work, have you? Eat up. We've already eaten."
"OK," Nina reached out for the bread. Layfon did the same.
He glanced at Felli. She was drinking tea.
"Nothing. Just thinking about what's happened......"
"You'll know soon," she continued to glare at him.
"Yeah, still......" he could only shut his mouth.
Someone knocked on the door as they finished breakfast.
"Military Arts commander......And......"
Standing beside Vance was someone as robust as Vance himself. Layfon remembered him.
"Captain of the 5th platoon, Gorneo Luckens."
"Thanks for coming."
"What's happening so early?"
None of the two carried with them the sleepiness of having just been roused out of bed. Karian nodded as if he was very satisfied with them.
"It's very urgent."
Under Karian's indication, the two sat down on the sofa opposite Layfon. Gorneo's sharp gaze swept over him in one split second.
"Please look at this," Karian took out a photo from a drawer of his desk and placed it on the table.
"This is......Did the drone take this?"
"Yes, about two hours ago."
"Two hours? Then isn't this urgent?"
"Um," Vance let it go and resumed examining the photo.
In the photo was a mountain, its outline sharply captured. It didn't look that tall but the problem surfaced quickly. A huge shadow covered the upper right hand side of the photo. It didn't look natural. In the middle of the table-like thing were numerous tower-like objects that were connected together, and beneath them was something that was similar to a ball cut in half.
Numerous multi-legs sustained this gargantuan thing.
"Can this be a city?"
Under the tense atmosphere, Karian calmly took out another photo.
"This is the zoom-in photo of the city."
"This is......" Nina swallowed. Layfon frowned at the tragic scene.
It was a city in ruins.
"So cruel......" Gorneo said softly.
The metal plates covering the first level of the city were either broken or had been peeled off. Only half of the multi-legs were left and some looked to be broken. The buildings in the city seemed to have sustained severe damage. A number of mechanical plates were conducting auto-repair on the second level. Vines and moss covered the exterior of the city. Judging from the progress of the auto-repair, it had been quite some time since the city was attacked.
"It seems the air purification system is working normally......"
"This city's been attacked by filth monsters."
"My thoughts exactly."
The photo was taken at night, but there wasn't any light in the city.
"......Meaning there're filth monsters around here?"
"We've checked the information in the vicinity of the city and didn't find anything suspicious. We'll continue the investigation. Compared to that, what I'm more concerned about is this," Karian pointed at one of the photos.
"About this place, Vance, does it ring a bell?"
"......Ring a bell..." Vance stopped.
"I'm not sure since this photo was taken at night, but the things scattered on this mountain look familiar."
"Could this be......a selenium mine?" Nina lifted her head and saw Karian nodding at her.
"Yes, this is Zuellni's one and only mine. It looks like Zuellni's trying to resupply."
"Then that city was also......"
"But why here?"
"According to my speculation, that city might have deviated from its territory while fleeing from filth monsters, so it failed to reach its own mine."
"Even a city can go mad with hunger."
"What a tragic reality," Vance sighed deeply. Layfon couldn't tell whether he was thinking of the same thing as Karian.
"Well then, Gorneo Luckens, Nina Antalk. Besides Vance, I called you two over for a reason."
"Is it to investigate the city?"
Karian nodded at Vance. "Looking at the numbers sent back from the drone, there're no filth monsters around the mine and the city, but that city was obviously attacked. We don't entirely understand the biological condition of filth monsters, and we don't know whether this city is a trap the filth monsters have set up to lure in more prey. Under these circumstances, we can't wait and do nothing, so I'm requesting your teams to enter the city and investigate the situation. Obtain some real proof."
"......I've no objection with the mission, but I want an explanation on why these two teams were chosen."
"Simple. Numbers. We don't have newly improved protective suits for outside city work to fit two teams with full members. Of course, I also did consider the strength of the teams shown in the platoon matches, so I believe you should have no objection to my decision. What do you think?"
"We'll complete the mission."
"I'm counting on you. Departure time is two hours from now. Gather your members in these two hours."
"That's quite rushed."
"I wish to save some time, as there's no way of stopping Zuellni from moving," Karian said and saluted Nina and Gorneo.
"......Well, so that's how it turned out like this. Geez," Sharnid said at the exit located by the city's edge. He was the last to arrive and held the biggest complaint among the team. He jumped around, his unkempt hair showing his lack of sleep. "I was planning to sleep till noon."
Nina watched him numbly. "You......It's not the weekend today. What're you planning?"
"You can't imagine the night life of a handsome guy."
"Whatever. It's better to live normally," Nina said, cross and tired as she closely examined her protective suit.
"It really is light." She wore the protective suit beneath the normal fighting clothes. It didn't feel uncomfortable at all, as if she wasn't really wearing an extra layer of clothes.
"Not bad. Ah, this is what I have to wear," Sharnid looked at this own protective suit meaningfully.
"What is it?"
Sharnid watched Nina and then Felli who was sitting in the back seat of the bike, his eyes serious.
"Hurry up and get changed, stupid."
"Got it," he took down the protective suit that was tossed onto his head, and dragged himself to the Change Room.
Layfon had watched the exchange of the two with a sour smile. The check-up on the bike was finished. What was left was Harley's check-up on the Dites. Without meaning to......his gaze fell down on Felli, who was bending down on the bike.
"What is it?" she said.
"Um......Did senpai discover that city?"
"......Fon Fon," she glared at him.
"Aah, sorry. Did Felli discover the city?" he collected himself, not certain why she hated to be called senpai.
"I found it by chance."
"Of course, but......" What was surprising was that she used her psychokinesis power when she wasn't in a match. Even if this were chance, her action would just prevent Karian from transferring her out of Military Arts.
"......" Feeling as if something had struck him, Layfon quickly turned his head away.
The 5th platoon was going through their preparations a little distance from the 17th platoon. Unlike Layfon's team, none of the members from the 5th platoon voiced any complaints. They completed their preparation under the orders of Captain Gorneo.
The gaze came from the 5th platoon. The members of their team were discussing something with Gorneo standing in the middle of them. His back was against Layfon.
So it wasn't Gorneo's gaze. He was busy talking with his team members. As a 5th year, he had the qualities that made him a captain. He could fully understand his members' needs.
It was the girl sitting on the bike beside Gorneo who was looking at Layfon.
Judging from the color of her harness, she was also in her fifth year. She wouldn't qualify as a teenager since she was twenty, but she was shorter than Felli, with a face that looked even more childish than Felli's. Underneath her red hair, pupils stirring like a cat's stared straight at Layfon.
Layfon appeared flustered; having thought it was Gorneo who was staring at him.
Seeing how Layfon cringed at her hostile gaze, Shante looked away with satisfaction.
Felli followed Layfon's gaze to the 5th platoon, and saw Shante grinding her teeth.
"Hahaha......" Layfon laughed dryly and took the Dite that Harley was handing back to him.
"Is this about the last match?" Harley said.
"The 17th platoon is pretty popular outside the Military Arts course, so there are many people who don't like this."
"Winning matches elegantly. Every member is a junior. The captain is a beauty. Their opponents are elites. Don't you think that looks very interesting to the audience?" Harley analyzed.
"......If we didn't have to rush, I planned to give you your new Dite," he continued.
"......Did you guys come up with something yesterday?" Layfon ventured.
"Well......something about a weapon specialized for combat against filth monsters," Harley's voice lowered. "The problem of the Dite not being durable enough remains. We don't want this problem to persist, but we still hope to avoid a Dite breaking in the middle of a fight."
"What we can do now is make a Dite that is more suitable for the user, meaning, you. The price of a lighter Dite is to forsake the combined Dites you previously used. When the new Dite's done, please come over and try it out. Even you wouldn't want your weapon to fail in a key moment, right?"
After Sharnid had finished changing and received his Dite from Harley, the 17th platoon had completed its preparation.
Under the icy gaze of the 5th platoon, everyone from the 17th platoon mounted their bikes. Layfon and Sharnid were the ones driving Nina and Felli. They put their supplies in the spare space. Their helmets were connected to Felli's flakes, making the world before them more vivid. The gate to the exit opened.
"Good luck, everyone. I hope you can bring back some good news," Karian's voice came through the transmitter as Layfon and others headed out into the desolate land.
It took them half a day's driving to arrive at the destination.
"Well......" Sharnid's shock came through the transmitter.
Experiencing this in reality was much different from looking at the photos. Above Layfon's head was the surface of the broken multi-legs, and covering the mechanical plates in auto-repair mode was moss that looked as if it could fall off at any moment.
"Even if it was attacked by the filth monsters, does it have to be so over the top?"
"It was just a guess."
"The Student President's speculation......something doesn't look right here."
"The investigation of the west side is completed. The parking bay is totally destroyed and the anchor rope doesn't look like it's been used."
"This is the 5th platoon. We've finished investigating the east side. There's no parking bay and the gate outside is locked," the psychokinesist of the 5th platoon said.
"Doesn't look like we've got a way up."
"We have to use a rope," Layfon said.
Nina nodded. "This is the 17th platoon. We'll enter the city with a rope and begin our investigation."
"Roger. We'll continue our investigation and let you know of the rendezvous later."
Layfon took out his Dite. A green light followed after the keyword. The Dite in his hand disappeared to be replaced by a weapon with only a handle.
Under Layfon's Kei, a countless number of steel threads connected Layfon to the city.
"Layfon, we'll go together."
Wrapping Felli with the steel threads, Layfon was the first to reach the city. The feeling of the air shield passed by him. As he scanned the scene, the steel threads moved under his command, investigating anything within a 10 meters radius in detail...... and he completed that task the moment he landed.
"I guarantee you it's safe here. Or are you more at ease unless you've checked it yourself, Fon Fon?" Felli said.
"Of course I trust you, but this is my habit. I still want to confirm for myself," he retrieved the steel threads. Sweat beaded on his forehead.
"How meaningless. Rather than wasting your energy, you should be more cautious."
Speaking of which......He was covered in chill sweat as he watched Felli.
This wasn't his first time checking the vicinity with the steel threads, but such delicate and detailed work was a huge burden on his brain.
(The brain structure of a psychokinesist really is different from ours.)
Normal people would never think of handling a massive amount of information at the same time. Human, but not really human. Military Artist, but also a psychokinesist.
(......I can't ignore that part.)
"What is it?"
"......Nothing," he replied, swallowing back his words.
Nina and Sharnid had arrived.
"How is it?"
"No corpses so far," Felli said, emotionless. She had restored her Dite and the flakes were now scattered in the sky.
"Then investigate the important facilities one by one in our vicinity."
"If it's to investigate half of the city, I will have finished it in an hour."
"Yeah, can't we just wait here?" Sharnid said.
"I don't doubt Felli's ability, but there are people who don't accept the result of this type of investigation."
"......Fine," Felli accepted. She had no other choice.
"......Have you found the entrance to the Mechanical Department?"
"Not yet, it doesn't look to be anywhere close to here."
"But I've found the shelter."
"Then let's start over there. We might find survivors."
"A very tiny hope," Sharnid muttered, earning a glare from Nina.
Led by Felli, the 17th platoon headed deeper into the city.
"Hm?" He observed his surroundings as he replied to the voice coming from above his shoulders. He had divided his platoon into three teams. The team with the psychokinesist had stayed behind to wait for orders. Gorneo and the other team had begun their investigation of the area.
"If we set traps here, that can be explained as an accident" Shante suggested.
Gorneo stopped walking.
They were on a street lined with shops and empty of people. Debris littered the street.
"It's almost impossible to ambush a Heaven's Blade successor."
"About that, we'll never know if we don't try."
Shante swung her legs before Gorneo's chest, but he paid no attention to them.
"Saying we'll never know if we don't do it, shows you're still not mature enough."
Gorneo's nose stirred. Something smelled rotten. There was the smell of blood mixed in it too. That didn't surprise him, since he had seen crowds of flies gathering in fast food shops, but blood......
He understood after looking at the black substance spread here and there on the street.
Something horrible and tragic did happen in this city.
Military Artists and psychokinesists had fought desperately against filth monsters and had failed. The filth monsters had entered through the air shield and spread out in the city to enjoy food other than pollutants.
But, even so......
"Why are there no corpses?"
The residents must have hidden in a shelter during the attack, then their corpses should also be rotting there quietly......
"It's strange there aren't any Military Artists' corpses here."
He could tell there were quite a number of Military Artists in the fight even though he didn't know how good they were. Traces of intense fighting remained everywhere, but not one single corpse...... not even a sliver of flesh was in sight.
"As if someone's cleaned this place," Shante said in a low voice.
In a city devoid of the living, just who......
Shante's voice called him back to reality.
"Is it all right to leave that guy because of it?" she returned to the original topic.
"Of course not. I'll never let that guy go."
He'd never forget the shock he had when he heard of the news from the letter. "That guy killed Gahard-san. The Military Artist Gahard-san."
If that was the only thing, Gorneo might have swallowed his anger with a sigh.
But, it wasn't like that.
The letter had explained in detail the cause of the event.
"That guy is an insult to Military Arts. I'll never let this go."
Layfon participated in underground matches as a Heaven's Blade successor, and he planned to kill Gahard, who wanted to expose his foul deeds, through legal means. Gahard wasn't dead, but the loss of his arm had caused some unusual reaction in his Kei vein. For a Military Artist, this was the same as being crippled, to never be able to use Military Arts again.
"Her Majesty is too kind to only exile that guy from Grendan."
Having committed the crime, Layfon had appeared as a Military Artist in Zuellni. Although nothing had happened so far, this didn't mean the same thing wouldn't happen again.
"I can't stop him."
"Goru, I'll help out too."
Gorneo shook his head. "Even though his heart's rotten, he's still a Heaven's Blade successor. I understand that. I can't let you face that kind of danger."
"Moron!" Shante pounded her fist down on his head.
There was a huge hole on the ceiling of the shelter, and beneath it, debris. On the edge of the debris was black blood, dried and hardened.
"How terrible," Sharnid said, covering his mouth and nose with his hand.
The smell of rot filled every corner of the shelter. Layfon and Nina were also covering their mouth and nose. Felli had refused to enter and was waiting outside.
"Is anyone alive?" Nina asked.
"No," Felli replied coldly through the flake.
"Damn," she stomped the ground.
"There really isn't a single corpse here," Sharnid frowned.
"As if someone's cleaned this place," Layfon said.
Even though the filth monsters had eaten everyone in the city, there must be some trace left of the people here.
It was possible there were survivors since the air purification system was functioning normally, but Felli hadn't yet found a live response. Even if there was a response, it might have come from livestock.
"Unless this city encountered the type that attacked Zuellni before?"
Layfon shook his head. Sure, if there were that many larvae, they might not leave behind any corpses.
"There's suspicion on how the city's been destroyed. Almost all of the buildings started collapsing from the top. If it was a group of larvae, the buildings should have folded from the middle."
The filth monsters had descended from the sky and left via the sky. More than one. And the larvae weren't huge enough to flatten a building.
"So someone's been cleaning the corpses here?" Nina asked.
Even if there were survivors, it was hard to imagine their cleaning up all of the corpses......at least to bury all the corpses in Layfon's area.
The team returned back to the surface. Their mission was to confirm whether there was danger around rather than finding survivors.
"Gah, I can't stand this," Sharnid said. Layfon and Nina also breathed deeply the air of the surface. The smell of rot was also above ground, but it wasn't as intense as back in the shelter.
"Just what's wrong with this city?" Sharnid complained.
"Since there're no filth monsters, it isn't dangerous, right?"
Zuellni would arrive here in one more day. Before it arrived, they had to confirm whether the place was safe.
"There aren't any filth monsters, but if we leave this riddle, something worse might happen later," Nina said.
Felli remained silent.
"Anyway, we'll stop here for the day. The sun's about to go down. Let's meet up with the other team while there's still daylight."
"The 5th platoon has given us instructions for rendezvous."
"Ok. Tell them we're heading over......Let's go."
They followed Felli's description.
Layfon took up the rear and suddenly halted his steps.
Something revolting and hateful seemed to shroud the city. Perhaps it was because of the smell of rot and the unusual silence, coupled with the descending night.
The 5th platoon had chosen to meet up in the middle of the city where the Military Arts dormitory was located.
"The machine still works."
Nina entered the corridor and checked around.
The machine, though weak, was still working, producing its own electricity, and it was fortunate that the air-conditioning worked. The smell of rot had enveloped them from the very first moment when they entered the city.
Felli had received a message from the 5th platoon.
"Captain, Captain Luckens wants to talk to you about room allocation."
"Right, I'll head over."
Nina left, leaving Felli alone. Layfon and Sharnid were checking the vicinity to make sure it was safe.
As Felli lifted her hands to feel the current of air-conditioning and wind, someone walked in through the door.
Displeasure showed on Shante's face, and Felli narrowed her eyes to look at the other icily. It seemed Shante was checking the place was safe, just like Layfon and Sharnid.
The moment when the two gazes met created sparks between them.
She didn't know why she was hated, but Felli wasn't one to ignore the other's hostility. On the contrary, she struck back at the other's challenge.
Felli had a number of flakes around her to defend herself, and with these, she had enough to handle Shante. A psychokinesist's power wasn't limited to the gathering and analyzing of information. It wouldn't be bad to use it against this petty girl.
Shante's hand was on the Dite in her harness. Keeping that pose, she looked as if she was about to brush past Felli.
"Hey!" she called when Felli neared her.
"You, do you know that guy's true face?"
This question made Felli stiffen.
"What do you mean?"
"......Serious? Or are you pretending? I've heard of what that first year guy is like."
Although Felli planned to ignore Shante, she had failed to cover up some of her outrage.
"Humph, you know of it but you're still using him. In that case, the Student President also knows already."
"I don't understand what you're saying."
"Using that despicable guy......To hide the truth at this stage, do you think we're so untrustworthy?"
Invisible murderous intent flew to Felli's throat like a knife. Shante's red hair danced like strong flame.
"......If you're covering up your tragic failure two years ago, I think you need to take it out on someone else."
"He would be able to live peacefully as a student in General Studies if you guys weren't so weak. Isn't it because of your immaturity that we are facing the situation we're now in? Military Artists who can't guard their cities are useless. Look long and hard in the mirror and see how much strength you have before you say anything else."
"What? You......You, damn you......" Shante trembled and snatched up her Dite, but a voice stopped her before she could say the keyword.
"Stop right there."
"Don't start a fight here."
"Muuuuuuu!!" she stuffed her Dite back into the harness and stomped hard on Gorneo's foot before disappearing out the door.
Gorneo received the attack casually and apologized to Felli. "I'm sorry. My teammate's been troubling you."
"......No," Felli answered after breathing in deeply. She pressed down on her outrage and looked at the stocky man before her.
"But, that is also my doubt. Shante's only conveyed my feeling, that's all."
"Are you from Grendan?"
"Yes. I'm Gorneo Luckens. I'm the younger brother of Grenden's Heaven's Blade successor, Savaris Luckens."
"......I see. What I just said are my own feelings. They aren't my brother's opinions."
"I understand. About that guy......they're just my own feelings too. I hope you understand."
"......You don't look like you accept my take on things."
"I can't accept it."
"......How displeasing," she whispered.
Only Nina made a simple greeting to the other team after room allocation. None of the members from the 5th platoon wanted to associate with the 17th platoon. The rooms for both teams were quite far apart.
From inside the common room of the 17th platoon floated the aroma of food.
"Ah, we made the right choice of having Layfon prepare food," Sharnid sat contentedly on the sofa, drinking warm tea. Layfon had made something from the edible ingredients found in the grocery shop in the city.
"All of the vegetables are ruined except for the beans. Fortunately, the fish in the cultivation pond were still alive."
The meal was simple, but it was better than eating the cold food they brought with them. Layfon relaxed.
"Um......This way, we don't have a problem."
"What do you mean?" Layfon asked, but Nina only nodded.
"It takes at least one week to resupply Zuellni. During this time, classes will be suspended. I want to use this chance to strengthen our team."
"Training?" Sharnid said, unwilling.
"We've accumulated some prize money so we have a lot to spare. There's a good location in the produce area. I wanted to train there but I was concerned about food."
"But there aren't any shops over there. Ah, sorry, I can't make food."
Felli hadn't said anything, but Layfon understood, having seen her cooking.
"So I planned to ask for a friend's help, but since Layfon can do the cooking, then there isn't a problem anymore," Nina looked at the tea in her cup.
Meishen surfaced in Layfon's mind. Her cooking was even better than his, but it wasn't possible for her to live together with the 17th platoon. She was too shy. If there was no helping it, he'd have to ask Naruki and Mifi to come too.
But if he did that, Nina wouldn't give up that golden chance to persuade Naruki to join the team.
No matter what Naruki might think, Layfon hoped Meishen and the girls wouldn't become entangled with the 17th platoon before Nina had made her decision.
(I guess I'll have to cook.)
In that case, he'd have to consider the nutrients in the food. As Leerin pointed out in her letters, it was a headache to think up a meal that was well balanced in nutrients. He pondered this as he packed up the dishes.
Sharnid and Felli left the room.
"Sorry for making you do all this," Nina apologized.
"It's ok. I'm used to it."
"Do you have time later?"
"Do you want something?"
"I want to have a chat."
"Then let me make some tea."
He made tea and sat back on the sofa.
"I have a question about what just happened."
"......Yeah, it seems to be a warning for me."
"For me too, I suppose."
Layfon and Sharnid were far away when Felli had her confrontation with Shante. Sharnid hadn't said much. He just shrugged.
"Do you remember?"
"I know about Savaris, but not much about his brother. The Luckens are a family famous for Military Arts back in Grendan."
If it was about the Luckens, then there must be another cause behind Gorneo's hostility.
"This is hard for me to say, but I'm your captain and I also know of your past. I've decided to stand with you no matter what."
"You did something unforgivable as a Military Artist. No matter what the reason is behind it, your deed is unforgivable."
(You must constantly remind yourself.)
Layfon recalled once again what Her Majesty had said. After his deeds were exposed, the Queen had beaten him up and had said this to him.
Nina's words placed Layfon back in the past.
"There're many who don't understand you, and many who understand but can't forgive you."
Leerin was his only comrade. Even the orphans in the orphanage who used to view him as a hero had looked at him with hatred.
His world was flipped upside down in a short period of time.
"If others find out, your situation in Zuellni may become the same as Grendan's."
Go look at the world. The Queen had said. But no matter where he was at, Layfon still recalled his past and remembered it. Karian had known. And Gorneo, the younger brother of Savaris Luckens. People still moved around even though cities were basically isolated and sealed off. Layfon's past seemed to patrol in the darkness, waiting for a chance to jump out of his shadow.
"But I've decided to be your comrade. Since I've decided, no matter who becomes your enemy, I'll never be your enemy."
"Senpai......please give this up. If you do this, you'll be in danger even as a captain."
He was happy that Leerin had remained by his side, but at the same time, it pained him. He could keep on living peacefully because he was in another city, but there were people back in Grendan who wanted to hurt Leerin because she stood by him.
"Stop this nonsense," Nina laughed. "If I'm afraid of that, how can I be your captain?"
Her smile pulled him back from the past. Leerin's smile was probably like that too.
"What is it?"
"If you decide something on your own, you'll tend to think towards something bad. It's the same with feelings and thinking style. It's the same with everything. It's because you want to shoulder everything yourself......How should I put in? Well, I'm not one to talk."
Layfon recalled how he lectured Nina when she was in the hospital.
"What is it?"
"I'm thinking that it's great to have senpai here."
"Wh......Why so sudden?" her face went pink.
"I'm just expressing my honest feelings."
He would tell her everything. Everything that happened in Grendan.
After parting with Nina, Layfon hesitated a bit, then he went to a door. He breathed in deeply to disperse the pressure on his shoulders and knocked on the door.
After a pause, a voice filled with dissatisfaction called out. "......Who is it?"
Felli opened the door and let him in.
The room wasn't that big. Two single beds took up most of the space. Because of the limited number of rooms, the team members couldn't each have a room to themselves. It was just for one night anyway. Sharnid was against Nina's suggestion, but Felli had agreed solemnly.
Felli should be in the same room as Nina, but it appeared those two weren't willing to spend a long time together.
"It's not good to eavesdrop," Felli said after closing the door. She understood why he had come to her.
"Sorry," Layfon lowered his head.
"But those two are the worst saying what they said in that situation."
"Senpai as well......"
"Ah, um, I've given Felli trouble as well......"
"Really, I don't feel as good," she mumbled.
Layfon lifted his head.
"Whose fault is it that we're in this situation? Those people don't understand at all. That's why I don't feel good."
Nina had known of Felli's true strength in the previous fight with the filth monster in its aged phase. No one but Felli could support with psychokinesis over the distance that took one day to cover.
From that time on, Nina had reduced her demands of Felli in training.
Layfon wasn't sure why the captain was doing that. It didn't seem she had let Felli go because of Felli's lack of enthusiasm. Same as Layfon, Felli had also wanted to ask Nina the reason behind her unusual action.
But what she did was continue to observe the captain and did all she could to avoid being alone with her.
"......I'm concerned that she allows me to participate with the way I am," Felli sighed lightly.
"Fon Fon, I don't think we have any other way."
Lying on the bed, she looked smaller than before. The calmness she maintained was nowhere to be seen. What she gave off was an air of intense exhaustion.
"To a psychokinesist, using psychokinesis is as matter of fact as breathing in the air. I'm so tired of suppressing it."
"Even so, you still hate it."
Layfon was put at ease by Felli's usual reaction.
But that only lasted one moment......
"Fon Fon......Why aren't we normal?"
He couldn't answer her.
(You must constantly remind yourself.)
The Queen's words surfaced in his mind once again.
(Constantly remind yourself that we, as Military Artists and psychokinesists aren't normal. As humans, we must not allow ourselves to forget this.)
Those words whipped him more painfully than his injuries.
"We......" Felli mumbled and suddenly lifted her face.
"Outside. A live response 200 meters south west of here. It definitely isn't livestock!"
Layfon responded swiftly. Internal Kei ran through his body as he picked up his harness and jumped out the window. The steel threads spread out as he headed for the direction Felli had indicated, running in the city illuminated by the pinprick stars.
Running silently on steel threads thin as spider threads, Layfon arrived early at the destination.
The thing hadn't run away, as if it was waiting for him.
"What is this?"
Dumbstruck, he looked at the shadow of a four-legged creature. A horn protruded from its head. Standing before Layfon was a golden goat.