Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume6 Chapter1
Chapter 1: In a broken house
This wasn't the first time she had been in an Academy City, Myunfa Rufa thought as she stood beside the leader.
No Academy City would be very wealthy. Most of its income would have been spent sustaining the livelihood of students and maintenance of facilities. As such, the Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang that Myunfa was in usually wouldn't be given VIP treatment. Though she didn't have a map, she knew around an Academy City existed strong Military Artists or another city, which explained the low probability of filth monsters attacking Academy Cities. One probably wouldn't know this truth if one only spent his entire life in one city, but someone had planned the locations of different Regios.
(I never thought of that before I entered the Mercenary Gang.)
Even so, the Mercenary Gang would sometimes visit Academy Cities not to work as hired mercenaries to fight, but to work as teachers. To allow student Military Artists to taste the atmosphere of a real fight – probably just a taste of what was left of a fight though – the previous leader of the Mercenary Gang said that was the best way to teach.
.........Everyone else said it was boring though.
But Myunfa herself had been really busy when visiting an Academy City. Of course, the problem of resupplying was part of it too. Seven years. That many years had passed by since the Mercenary Gang picked up Myunfa. Her strength wasn't enough for her to fight on her own so she hadn't really fought before, but she thought it incredible that she hadn't died in the past seven years. This thought surfaced in her mind because the Mercenary Gang constantly moved from city to city. They were constantly exposed to the danger outside.
"There're larvae within the investigating area. 500 of them. They've noticed us." An electronic voice broke Myunfa's train of thought.
They were in one of the bus stations on the edge of Zuellni. Myunfa was on the roof of the roaming bus. The vehicle was bigger than a normal roaming bus, built to house the Mercenary Gang. It looked like a moving fortress. As such, it needed three times the normal length of rope to hold it down at the bus station. The Mercenary Gang currently had 43 Military Artists and a number of technicians. The large size of the roaming bus was needed to house these people, their living space, the Dite preparation space and other storage.
No matter how far Myunfa's gaze roamed, all she saw were the multi-legs of the city and the arid land.
But Fermaus, the man with the electronic voice, saw something different.
"Anything~?" the person sitting on Myunfa's left asked. He was Haia Salinvan Laia, the leader of the Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang.
"I got them. I think the location of my flake is good but I still can't beat the abilities of a genius. She discovered them faster than I did."
Fermaus was the one who had picked up Myunfa. He had looked after her for seven years now, but she had only recently managed to understand how he thought.
Fermaus sighed at the strength of the genius psychokinesist – Felli Loss.
"If you two fought, who would win~?"
"I don't like this childlike thinking. But......if our strength was the same, no, if she's at 40 percent and I am at 60, I'll win. She relies too much on her ability. Not like Wolfstein. He's got perfect skill."
"But he's a bit rusty now~" Haia said. He was the leader but he still failed to hide the childish side of him. But Wolfstein......since meeting Layfon Wolfstein, that side of Haia was more obvious and intense than before.
Myunfa understood. She was about the same age as Haia when Fermaus picked her up, so she grew up together with him. But now, the relationship between them was as a leader and a student. This gap between them made her lonely. However, she could stay by his side with this identity, so she was happy too.
"You still can't win. That's the truth," Fermaus said.
Haia curled up his lips.
Fermaus continued, the shaking of his mask denoting the shaking of his head. "He is a bit rusty, but that is his heart and not his skill. He was once called Wolfstein, yet he isn't any worse than he was even though he now chooses to use a different weapon."
Although the Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang was formed in Grendan, out of the three people here, only Fermaus was born in Grendan. Some of the other Gang members entered the Gang while the Gang roamed from city to city. Only the seniors who were about to retire and the 2nd head of the Gang were born in Grendan. Fermaus was the only person left in the Mercenary Gang who was Grendan-born.
The youngsters heard of Grendan's Heaven's Blade successors from the older generation. The truth was beautified and exaggerated, hence, Myunfa didn't think a Heaven's Blade successor was really that strong. She never thought anyone could win against Haia until the appearance of Layfon Alseif. A Grendan-born, former Heaven's Blade successor, exiled from Grendan.
Layfon was now fighting the larvae in a place Myunfa couldn't see.
"But the sword that he can't use to its fullest potential is the same as a rusty katana. It's the fate of giving up."
Myunfa heard loneliness in Fermaus' voice. When Layfon arrived at the destination on his bike, the ground had already cracked apart, spilling out the larvae. The larvae crawled out of the hard ground like water shooting forth from a broken pipe. They spilled out and spread across the earth.
"I've confirmed it through my eyes."
(150 larvae. The mother and the other larvae beneath the ground show no life signals.)
The larvae had probably eaten the mother and then each other. Layfon stopped his bike and took out the Adamantium Dite. Different Dites were placed in the slots in the Adamantium Dite. The best feature of the Adamantium Dite was its ability to combine and use these different alloys.
(But, tracking again.........)
Layfon put the thought of Felli aside, poured his Kei into the Adamantium Dite and spoke the keyword. "Restoration AD."
A weapon left with only its handle formed in his hand. Numerous steel threads were attached to one end of the handle.
"I trust Felli. I'll calculate the number I have to defeat. You just need to track them with your eyes."
Whether she had heard of the word "trust" ......or that she was tired of the same conversation, Felli didn't say anything else. She spread the flakes, including the one on her helmet, into the sky.
She knew where her flakes were heading without having to explore her surroundings with the steel threads. Even Layfon found that terrifying. At the same time, he felt a murky feeling in his chest. He dismounted from the bike without cutting off the engine, and he ran his Kei into the steel threads.
In that one second, he clearly felt something murky in his heart. Something heavy in him had slowed down his thought. His body felt all right though. A fulfilled feeling inside him once he got to use Kei as much as he could out here, whereas back in the city, he had to suppress it. But this feeling was exactly the problem.
"I must hurry and finish this......"
His steel threads went hunting for the larvae.
Why is it like this? He knew the answer but the question hovered in his mind. That day...... Loneliness and tension greeted Layfon after the cooperated fight with the Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang. One of the reasons revealed itself straight after that fight.
Layfon and the Mercenary Gang were greeted by Zuellni. They went in the city through the entrance in the bottom half, taking off their masks to breathe in the purified air. The people who greeted them were the Student President Karian, Vance, other members of the Student Council, Harley, the senior Military Artists of the Mercenary Gang...... and Felli. Then came Sharnid, Naruki and Dalshena.
But not Nina.
That was the source of his loneliness. How strange. Nina was the captain of the 17th platoon, and Layfon and Sharnid were the team members. Nina wasn't one to not welcome back her team members. This gave him a really bad feeling. A crack showed on Felli's usually indifferent face. Harley was cheerful as usual, but his countenance was a bit stiff and green. He looked as if he wanted to say something, but he swallowed it and his gaze darted around. That was enough for Layfon to raise the question.
"Where's the captain?"
He had to raise the question. Now that he knew, he had to. Standing next to him, Sharnid also felt that something was wrong. But Layfon didn't push the responsibility to him. His gaze swept across the people before him.
As such, a senior gave a reply to his question. Karian waved and stopped Felli and Harley from speaking.
"She's missing," he said.
Layfon's heart thumped......it made that kind of a noise.
"What's going on?" Sharnid said, putting his hand on Layfon's shoulder. His voice trembled like Layfon's but in it was calm. He glanced at Felli. She should know where Nina was up till when she went missing.
".........I failed to find the Captain once she entered the center of the Mechanical Department."
"Meaning she's missing now?" Sharnid asked, shocked.
She nodded. "Her presence suddenly disappeared. I checked the area around but didn't find her."
"How......" Layfon was speechless.
"She might have invaded the very center of the Department. That's a secret even we can't touch," Karian added. "But in that case, we can only give up. It's a place we can't reach. Perhaps there's a failure there. But I can't risk stopping the city from functioning."
A certain feeling rushed up in Layfon.
This had become his responsibility.
Not too much time was needed to defeat 500 filth monsters. The larvae were nothing to Layfon. Although his skill in using the steel threads was only a thousandth of Lintence's...... Lintence liked to describe with numbers and exaggerated them. In truth, with Layfon's level of Kei, he could defeat these many larvae in one moment. Yes, even though his skill wasn't on Lintence's level. The filth monsters rushing towards Zuellni from behind him were heading straight into a trap. If Layfon was in Grendan, other Military Artists would have taken care of this crisis, but not in Zuellni.
People of high talent were so labeled by others, so they could be used equally by other people. That was the cruel reality. All sorts of policies were created to protect these elites so they could be used for a long time and for maximum potential. Military Artists were people who could die easily, and as such, cities gave them the best protection possible. Many families that gave birth to Military Artists were given wealth and the best living conditions. But that didn't change the fate where they were used as commodities.
The purpose of an Academy City was to nurture elites, not to consume them. That was why any situation with students dying must be avoided as much as possible. Zuellni being attacked by filth monsters was, to any city, the biggest crisis.
[Thanks for your hard work.] Felli's soft voice sounded in his ear.
"Any other reaction?"
[Straight in your path. The information came from the flake on the drone so the psychokinetic power is lacking. I doubt the accuracy of the intelligence. I can get more detailed information if we get three days closer.]
"I got it. Please return for resupplying."
[Right. Take your time resting.] Weariness filled Felli's voice.
Next......Running desperately in weariness. The city should be avoiding filth monsters, not attacking them. Did other cities have the same level of confidence to overcome this crisis?
(Because I said so.) Layfon thought as he rode the bike to Zuellni. If he said it out loud, Felli probably would say "that's not true", so he kept it inside him. When he first heard from Karian of the city going on a rampage, he immediately thought of Nina. She had a good relationship with the Electronic Fairy. Layfon had never seen anyone who had a relationship with an Electronic Fairy so good that the Electronic Fairy would fly over for a hug. He had never seen an Electronic Fairy in Grendan. He had wondered whether Zuellni was special because it liked to hug other people, but that probably wasn't the case. Zuellni didn't like hugging just anyone. He only knew Zuellni because Nina introduced him to it. Was it because of Nina's personality or some special ability of hers? He couldn't think of anyone else who could directly touch an Electronic Fairy. That was why he thought she could do something about it.
Such a weak reason.
If only he didn't think of that. If only he just defeated the filth monsters, solved the looming crisis, and then discussed the reason behind Zuellni's rampage... So many students were here. They had better brains than him. The result would have been better if he had left it to them..........
(All I can do is fight filth monsters......)
Other people would call him arrogant, but Layfon was good at Military Arts. Till now, most of his time was spent on increasing his strength as a Military Artist. No one in Zuellni had as much strength and experience as him in fighting filth monsters. But being a Military Artist had nothing to do with solving the problem of a city going on a rampage. He couldn't do anything without having first experienced it. However, he had pushed that problem onto Nina, pushed it to her without listening to anyone else's opinions.
(That's true arrogance.)
He tossed away the thinking to solve this problem on his own. After looking at the fight of the Mercenary Gang........ Layfon thought himself too arrogant.
"Did you......find senpai?"
(.........) Felli remained silent.
In this heavy atmosphere, Layfon tightened his grip on the handle of the bike.
When Leerin stretched all she wanted in the space she had been waiting for.........Footsteps sounded in the corridor outside and the door was banged open.
"Huh?" Leerin said, unprepared for the gun facing her.
"We're from the City's armed forces. Don't move," one of the people wearing the fighting uniform said. He and the people with him were about Leerin's age.
She had no choice but to keep her stretching pose as she raised her hands.
"Excuse me, please go out to the corridor."
That young man must be the captain. He ordered one of his comrades to remain in the room and he left with the rest of the soldiers. In the corridor echoed the footsteps of leather boots, angry howling and moaning. Only the title of City's armed forces was clearly heard, and any dissatisfaction started calming down. The person in the corridor took Leerin and the others outside. It seemed all of the passengers were caught in a commotion. They were in one of the facilities in the roaming bus area.
"Ah, who would have thought that I'd get caught up in something strange so quickly."
Leerin turned her head at that voice. The silver-haired handsome young man was also taken to the outside by the same person who took Leerin away. But the young man didn't look worried or shocked.
"Ah, better do what that driver says," Savaris seemed happy. On the other hand, Leerin was too busy fending off the pressure on her.
"Seems so," she replied.
The driver was the talkative type. Perhaps he was always driving outside cities, in places without protection, his attitude was a bit annoying, but he was a nice person. He had said, "Listen up, Mr, Mrs, and Ms.........All passengers. In case, just in case this is your first time leaving a city, then there're some principles you must abide. Even if you find it unreasonable, you must not resist the government of other cities. Isn't that normal? Yes. You must obey the government. Still, you can expect to see habits and laws in other cities that will surprise you. That isn't a problem of being strange. Perhaps they might find your city strange. You ask why, isn't a city functioning normally? That's the truth. Understand? It's the feeling of unfamiliarity."
.........Anyway, that driver really talked a lot.
They left the driver this morning, registered themselves, took their luggage and arrived at the designated facility. It was lunch time when Leerin was stretching herself. The passengers probably calmed down by taking notice of what the driver had said to them.
The driver had also said. "You must not make trouble. Any criminals will not be put in jail. Why? Because it's too much trouble. Outsiders are outsiders. Keeping them doesn't gain the city anything. If there happens to be a roaming bus around, the city will put a stamp on the clothes, get the criminals to wear them and exile them, but if the crime committed is really severe, us roaming bus drivers can refuse to take on the criminal. I have to look after my passengers after all. If we refuse and there aren't any roaming buses around, the city will forcefully remove the criminals.........meaning, they toss them away like trash......that's the way it is."
Humans would die if they stayed outside a city without the air purification system. Forceful removal was the euphemism of capital punishment.
(How can I die here.) Leerin shivered.
They left the corridor and walked down the stairs rather than taking the lift. They were taken to the reception hall. No one lived here. There were a lot of people that Leerin didn't know. They probably came here on other roaming buses. They came here to change roaming buses to get to other cities. They were travelers who couldn't even get to cities that they had once visited.
Once Leerin took the next bus, she'd be heading to Zuellni. The Academy City where her childhood friend Layfon resided. As such, (I must not be dragged down here.) She vowed silently and entered the reception hall.
This city was named Myath. The city's armed forces surrounded the passengers in the reception hall. Leerin observed the people in the armed forces as she waited and mixed in with the crowd. These people had the symbol of the City Police on their uniform and they all looked to be about her own age.
"Truly an army of kids," Savaris said. "An Academy City is such a strange place. It can function even without any experienced people around."
Yes, this was an Academy City. A city managed by students, just like the city that Layfon was in.
"Very low level, these Military Artists. Seems the rumor of Academy Cities not encountering filth monsters as much is true."
Leerin didn't know that there were Military Artists amidst the City Police. Why? Was this how the police force in Myath was chosen or that something had happened and only Military Artists could solve it.........If it was Grendan.........She lightly shook her head. She had never needed to talk to the City Police in Grendan, so she didn't know what they were like.
"Speaking of which, just what's going on......It's about time for them to give us an explanation," Savaris said.
The person who took Leerin away to the reception hall spoke. "First of all, I want to thank everyone here for following our orders."
He had a clear voice, and his manners showed he had had a good education but his eyes looked serious. "The city's in a lockdown because some important information has been stolen. I hope you can cooperate with us and allow us to check your possessions." Despite the reservation in his words, his voice showed he would not take 'no' for an answer.
"We'll check your possessions while asking you of your situation. If you have luggage in the rooms, please bring them out here."
The crowd broke into a groan. They quieted under the sweeping gaze of that young man.
"Important information.........I see," Savaris nodded.
"Important information? Speaking aside......" Leerin looked at the young man. She understood the importance of information from school, so it was reasonable for the city to make precautionary measures.
"What is it?"
"These people look tense."
"Uh?" Savaris observed the expressions of the City Police. It was hard to discern their expressions as the helmets blocked off their faces, but sometimes their lips and heads moved. That wasn't the only thing. Savaris might have reacted slower because he reacted to anything dangerous even in his sleep, but the tension of the City Police was influencing the crowd.
"I see, seems to be the case."
"Why is it like that......"
"Well, we couldn't do anything even if we knew," he said in a relaxed manner.
Feeling as if a cold bucket of water had been upended on her curiosity, she waited for the check with displeasure. She waited for a long time. This wasn't the only facility with living quarters. If other places were undergoing the same process, Myath probably didn't have enough people for the job. She waited while thinking of other irrelevant things, and finally, it was her turn. The tea room in the reception hall was taken to use as part of the checking process. The tables were taken away and only five were left. Leerin was led to the table on the left hand side to face the same young man.
"Nice to meet you. I'm captain of the 1st platoon, Roy Antorio."
"I'm Leerin Marfes," Leerin sat down. Another City Police member took out the luggage that looked like Leerin's, along with a document.
"Uh......" Roy looked at it then turned to her. "I want to ask a few questions. That might bring you trouble but I hope you can cooperate."
His voice was gentler than when he gave the speech, but it was still the voice of an official. Perhaps he was always like this.
"Where were you born? If possible, please tell me your address too."
"Grendan, as for residence......" she gave it too but she felt strange about it. They were in Myath. What was the point of giving them her address in Grendan?
"OK," Roy nodded at the document in his hand. Leerin felt relived.
(Ah, I see. He's confirming whether it's me.)
A document confirming Leerin's identity was in her luggage. Since they checked her luggage, they must have found the document too.
(Wu, they couldn't have checked my underwear too?)
Everyone had enough space to sleep in the roaming bus but it was still just a vehicle for transportation purposes. It didn't have all the conditions to satisfy a good living. Clothes and washing gave Leerin a headache. Water was the most valuable in a roaming bus. There was a simple tap, but the water was cooled by the engine and recycled. Hot water was also made through absorbing the heat of the engine. So it wasn't possible to wash clothes or shower. Besides, water was shared by other passengers. Leerin's clothes smelled.........She couldn't do anything about it though. Other passengers' were the same. Her underwear......Either way, she had to put up with it. But that was inside the roaming bus. She had already sealed up her clothes in special bags. Since this was a check, the City Police might have opened those bags too.
"What is it?"
Roy was doing the asking, so he didn't have time to open her bags. Someone else must have done it, such as the person who took her luggage to here. That made her so embarrassed that she wanted to find a hole and hide there.
"Then, to the next question."
Roy looked tired. He had asked the same questions of different passenger. His questions were casual, but sometimes he'd ask some serious questions. Leerin felt tired too.
"Thanks," Roy said, and Leerin sighed.
"I've asked the customary questions. Lastly....... Just one more question."
He took out something from her luggage.
"Ah............" She had wrapped it carefully to prevent damages, and had put it deep inside the luggage. The box that her adopted father, Derek, had given her. Roy opened it cautiously. Inside was a Dite.
"Is this yours?"
"......I suppose." She thought of how to reply and decided to give such an answer.
"Suppose. What do you mean?" His gaze sharpened. He looked at the document. "You're a normal citizen. Then why do you have a Dite?"
Did he suspect her to be a Military Artist using a fake identity? She calmed herself down and looked at him. ".........I was asked to take this to someone so I left my city."
"I see. To where?"
"Another Academy City. Unfortunately, we haven't fought Zuellni for a long time. We don't know the strength of Zuellni. Who are you giving this to?"
"What is your relationship with this person?"
What relationship. Siblings? Probably, since they grew up in the same orphanage. But Derek, the former head of the orphanage, didn't put down their names in the official documents as his children. He registered them using their own names. Hence, Layfon and Leerin weren't siblings in the official document.
That should be the safest answer?
".........My childhood friend."
".........You took the roaming bus on a dangerous journey just for a childhood friend?"
"That's got nothing to do with you."
"Excuse me," he apologized in embarrassment.
Leerin was angry about it, but it was her first time seeing Roy show an expression other than his official look. Being released from the sweaty smell of the roaming bus, she had planned to relax in her room if not for this sudden event. She was happily planning to have a good shower but was instead taken to the reception hall. And someone else had looked at her underwear. This level of revenge was her due. But the strange feeling of satisfaction was broken in the next second.
"I'm sorry, but we'll keep the Dite for now."
"I already told you the current situation. I'm not suspecting you but we'll temporarily confiscate all dangerous items."
"......Will you give it back to me?"
"After we confirm you're clear we'll return it to you."
Meaning they were treating her as a criminal. More like a criminal candidate? So rude! She glared at him.
"What proof do you have to do this?"
"That's inside information."
His coldness and the way they were investigating everyone meant the investigation wasn't going well.
"Stop joking!" she said. She hadn't turned away and left. There weren't any roaming buses leaving Myath, and even if there was one, the City Police would have stopped her from leaving. Leerin gritted her teeth and swallowed her words.
"Then......Are you done with the questioning?"
"Yes, thanks. You can go back to your room."
"Yeah......Then I hope you can catch the criminal soon. Though I don't know whether you can do it!!" she spit out her displeasure and stood up. Returning to her room with irritation, she thought back to the question Roy had asked her. Why were the people of Myath so worried? This event.........