Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume8 Cool in the Cafe
 Cool in the cafe
That day, Layfon lived out a perfectly normal day of his life without anything abnormal.
After getting out of bed in the morning, he went to school and stayed there, attending classes and absorbing all the information from his lectures without delay until dusk. Afterward, he went to his platoon training session. To the Zuellni Military Arts department first year Layfon, it was a day which was devoid of anything worth mentioning - just another normal day.
His platoon training was the same as always; with Captain Nina filled with enthusiasm, Sharnid, who didn't know what enthusiasm meant, Felli, who was perpetually observing from the sidelines with absolutely zero enthusiasm, and Layfon, who always obediently completed all the exercises.
Felli's immediate departure at the end of training was another part of daily life.
But today, Sharnid, who normally disappeared right after Felli did, was staying behind and waiting for Layfon with a somewhat sinister smile.
"Hey, you don't have work today, right? You couldn't possibly."
This happened after Layfon took a relaxing shower after working up a rare sweat during training.
Nina had already returned, and Sharnid, who had already packed up and was ready to leave, was waiting outside the door of the training rooms in high spirits.
"If you had to go to your part time job on a day like this, I'd probably end up rolling around on the floor laughing at you."
"Stop acting talking about strange things sempai, I don't have any work today."
"Good, you really are a lucky guy. Let's go and share the joys of a day like this together. It's not often that I invite another guy." As he said this, he tightly grasped Layfon's shoulders and, like that, forced Layfon out of the training area with him.
"Just what are we doing?"
"You'll just have to calm down and wait and see."
Releasing a struggling Layfon from his grip, Sharnid lead the way with an extremely happy look on his face. Layfon quickly caught up to him, completely lost as to what was going on.
The Regios. They were the whole world.
Since the world was covered by pollutants, making it extremely difficult for normal life forms to survive on the earth. The people who lived in the world before it was polluted had the Alchemists create and pass on the Regios and continued to live the same way they did before, paying no attention to their drastic change in environment and returning to their everyday lives.
Living in the wandering cities, they fought with the real inhabitants and menaces of the earth; the filth monsters.
He was brought in front of a coffee store by a confident Sharnid. Calling the store a restaurant wouldn't be an exaggeration, with a sign at the doorway listing all the kinds of dishes that were available and the store sign reading "Coffee Mira". Layfon remembered his classmate Mifi saying something about the selling point of this cafe being the beautifully dressed cute waitresses who served the food and drinks.
"Ah... Do you like this sort of stuff, senpai?"
Supposedly this was a very popular place among male customers, in comparison to its relative unpopularity among females. The mood of the café was flirtatious, filled with handsome young men. It suited Sharnid, who always liked to hit on girls.
"Cute girls are the heritage of the world, even though they aren't really part of our cultural heritage." As he laughed at his own words, Sharnid walked into the store.
Layfon was greeted by a young girl and it really surprised him. At the door, a whole line of girls who wore cute pink uniforms greeted Layfon and Sharnid.
"Table for two? Come with me."
Layfon was still spaced out, and before he recovered he was already lead to his seat.
After Layfon sat down, Sharnid said something quietly to that girl, who smiled and nodded. She then placed the menu in front of them and left.
"We're leaving the best till last right? Anyway, today is my treat, so just choose anything you like."
Layfon felt puzzled at Sharnid's cheerful mood as he searched through the menu.
"You really are a hard worker, aren't you? Even if you didn't do that everyday you would be just as strong." As Sharnid looked at his menu, he started talking about their platoon training.
"It's not that I want to do the training seriously, it's that instead of wasting my efforts thinking about it, I might as well train instead."
"I can understand that kind of thinking. Well...when you compare the inter-platoon matches to the actual inter-city battle, it still seems like a kind of game."
"Did senpai participate in the last inter-city battle?"
"I guess you could say that. But at the time, I hadn't gotten into a platoon yet, so I was just a normal member of the infantry. But because of that I could just relax and do all the support work from behind the front lines.
"Next time will be the real thing, and if we don't win, there will be no future for Zuellni. Seeing the other platoons training seriously, and even organizing all these inter-platoon matches, I really am moved."
"It's more like you're trying your luck, senpai."
"If you're too serious about everything then you won't be able to experience the joys that this world has to offer. A normal Military Artist would never leave victory for luck to decide. I guess I'm the only one who can do such a thing without worries."
Layfon pretended he didn't hear anything at all and closed the menu.
"Oh! Have you finished choosing what you want? Then...Hey!"
Sharnid motioned to a nearby waitress.
"So what did we really come here for?"
"You'll find out in a sec."
Ignoring the silently smiling Sharnid who wouldn't answer any of his questions, Layfon shifted his gaze into the scenery outside the window.
It wasn't too long before somebody came over.
"What would you like?"
Her air was totally different from the girls who had welcomed Layfon at the door...it seemed like she was angry?
As Layfon turned his head around, he found a very familiar person standing before him.
Outside of training, her long hair was usually worn over flowing her shoulders but right now it was tied in a high ponytail with a bright red ribbon. On that delicate face you could say that her features were all very well proportioned. Her long eyelashes were quivering; needless to say, she was very angry.
"What would you like?"
Before he was cut off, his voice was barely audible from the shock, the tone of his words revealing much of his underlying thoughts.
It was Felli, without a doubt.
Speaking of which, there couldn't possibly be another beauty such as this in Zuellni anyway. Also a Military Artist of the 17th platoon, this senpai was older than Layfon by a year, and she was also the sister of the president of the Student Council. A psychokinesist prodigy. To think that Felli, who was expressionless no matter where she went, that Felli who seemed like she was unhappy, a synonym for indifference, was wearing such a cute, pink costume working in this store, was hard to believe.
But she was standing before him regardless.
And even her name card clipped to her chest read: "Felli Loss"
"What are you doing here...?"
"Have you decided what you would like?" The second time she asked that question she cut him off yet again in deathly cold manner.
Sharnid, who was shaking all over, could take it no longer and finally burst out laughing.
Even with this, Felli continued to fume as she kept her cheeks drawn.
"Have you decided what you would like?"
What on earth is happening...Am I having a nightmare?
In reality, her biggest failure was to be found out by Sharnid-senpai while she was looking for a job. That thought wouldn't leave Felli's head as she angrily picked up the curved plates in the kitchen.
Girls wearing the same cute uniforms as Felli as if their looks were their only redeeming quality bustled all around her. Girls with larger chests specifically wore clothing which emphasized that point and the rest of them chose to wear chest pads to wear such clothing as well. Someone else also suggested that Felli do the same, but the offer was immediately rejected.
Thinking back, she could only blame herself for not thinking that this kind of thing would happen. Felli continued to hide in that corner cursing Sharnid with a furious look in her eyes.
"Are you looking for a job?"
After she had finished eating during her lunch break and was enjoying a cup of tea as she read through an info-magazine, Sharnid came over and asked that question.
Noticing Sharnid peeking at her careers magazine over her shoulder Felli nervously closed it. But in doing so, she revealed the cover of the magazine instead, and she ended up not hiding anything at all. Even if she put the magazine into her bag the moment she noticed someone else reading it, there was no way she could have deceived the vision of a Military Artist.
It was even more impossible when you considered the fact that Sharnid was a sniper in the team, and his vision was several times better than a normal Military Artists in the first place.
"Do you have a problem?"
"Ah, no, no...But to see Felli-chan looking for a job is not something you see every day. What's wrong? I thought your parents were sending you money for living expenses, unless for some reason this month they're experiencing some sort of financial crisis?"
...impossible. As she thought this, Felli decided to keep her cool and play along. She had already received the money from her parents, and although she wasn't too sure of its exact value, she knew it was far beyond what a normal student got. And that money was perfectly managed by her brother so that there would be no unnecessary waste. So getting a job had nothing to do with earning more money.
"No, you're exactly right. My brother went overboard and bought too many books. "
In short, she was trying to push all the blame onto her brother.
"Oh? That Student Council President-sama? There shouldn't be any problems with the city's budget right?"
As Sharnid said this, he had a look of indifference on his face but he as stroking his chin as if thinking intensely about something.
"In other words, you want to get some money as quickly as possible?"
"As long as it isn't anything shady."
"It's legal! It's legal! It's definitely legal! All you're doing is delivering the completed dishes to the customers."
It wasn't that she trusted that smiling Sharnid.
It's only that she accepted the offer, considering the circumstances that she was in.
That was how she had gotten into a situation like this.
"You bastard, I'll remember this!"
Sharnid hadn't actually lied to her. All she really did was ask what people wanted to eat, and then serve those dishes to the customers. But she never thought that she would be brought to a shop where you had to wear costumes like this.
"Ok, new girl. Are you used to the job now?"
"I'm memorizing the menu right now."
Hearing someone shouting, Felli turned around. And it was something like...
"Really~~? Felli-Chan really is a brilliant child. You could probably remember it immediately, right~~?"
To think she was being hired by a man like this.
This man was wearing a cute pink uniform and is talking in a feminine voice, happily waving at all the waitresses.
"Everyone, do your best to show off your cute points, ok? What's our mission?"
"To make cuteness reign supreme!"
Seeing the shop owner happily nodding at the waitresses' replies, Felli's head felt like it hurt even more.
"And it's all thanks to Sharnid, too."
His nightmare got even worse. As he thought this, Layfon pretended to not notice the man in the strange uniform and continued to eat.
"You guys are the best, right?"
"Yeah. Ever since I started the store, we've been making uniforms like this, so we always pick girls who could bring out that feeling on the chest part of the uniform So that's why I'm considering making a new type of uniform which can bring out Felli-chan's loli aspect."
"Layfon, this here is my classmate from my first year here, and right now he's going into the clothing industry."
"I'm James~~ Please take care of me, and please use a light too and call me James~~"
"Haaa... Nice to meet you."
"I decided that opening a normal clothing store would be too boring, so I opened this instead. However, it actually turned out to be a huge success."
"A couple of normal stores also use this sort of uniform as the basis for their designs."
"Those guys are a bit miserable, aren't they?"
"Yeah, there isn't a single girl in the world who would understand the cuteness of those uniforms."
Listening to words that seemed logical and incomprehensible at the same time, Layfon decided to not make any judgments and remain as a listener for the entirety of the conversation.
"So in order for us to maintain our customers who live in that area, we have to do much better and we're working very hard to improve. We have many more competitors than before. It's because there are fewer and fewer kids willing to work here, and some are even taken away to work at other places......It's thanks to Sharnid that we have pulled through this tough time."
"So what you guys were talking about for that whole time, it was all about Felli-Senpai wasn't it?" Layfon started to understand a little of what they were really talking about.
But no matter how he thought about it, he couldn't imagine Felli coming to work at a place like this by herself.
"Yeah, we were. She was looking for a job, so I introduced her here."
Sharnid obviously didn't make it very clear to Felli as to the nature of her job before she arrived...Layfon began to feel sorry for Felli.
But still, it seemed strange that Felli, who had never had a job, suddenly needed one. "Anyway, it's all thanks to her that it seems that we've gotten the upper hand over our competitors. I heard that many people are secretly her fans. This time the store with the highest sales is ours."
"What are you guy's talking about?"
"Eh? Ah, recently there have been many shops which have opened up nearby which are very similar to ours. Everyone is competing for customers, causing income for each store to drop quite a bit."
"Seriously. It's because the things we sell in our store originally couldn't be found anywhere else, and since we've become well known, immediately many other people tried to enter the market. If they wanted to copy us, it would have been fine if they opened up somewhere different, but they had to cramp up here with us. All they are doing is causing trouble for other people."
"Well...the thing is, not many people like this sort of stuff in the first place, so if you think about it from an business standpoint opening here is actually not a bad choice. Regardless of what happens though, if this continues on, at this rate everyone is going to go broke."
"If the competition gets too fierce it won't be good for the economy either."
"That's why the economic scientists stepped out and tried reconciliation, and made this decision. Next week, there will be a turnover competition, and the shop with the most turnovers will be accepted by the Economic Sciences department."
"We are putting the honor of the store on the line here, so no matter what we must come first. But at the rate we are going now, it's not enough to overcome our opponents. Because the other stores used us as a blueprint of sorts and have worked out some sort of marketing strategies, they don't have anything that is key to their victory. Our strategy of changing uniforms every month has allowed us to pull away from them a little, so next week we have decided to change our uniforms every day in order to attract more customers. But what we can't have a shortage of in battle is man-power."
"So you decided to hire Felli-Senpai."
"That's exactly right."
It seemed like he understood but then looked like he didn't, showing an expression which was difficult to describe.
"Then...does Senpai know about this?"
"Of course she knows, I have already given her the pay for next week."
A week eh...If it was spent doing a job you didn't like, the week would probably pass by very slowly.
And it was a job which was in complete contrast with her image.
(It should be OK, right?)
She would definitely make a mistake somewhere down the line.
"What would you like?"
"Uhh...A hamburger meal please."
"What drink would you like?"
"Uhh, red iced tea please."
"Would you like me to bring it up together, or do you want to wait until you've finished eating for me to bring it over."
"Ok, it'll be ready in a moment."
Faintly, a feeling of cold indifference rose up over that cute atmosphere which the pink uniform created, making the customers flinch. Felli looked as if she didn't see them at all, and left the table. After she left the table, the customers let out a sigh, released from that tension.
As Felli gave the orders to the kitchen, the store owner said "Felli-chan~ you have to keep smiling, smiling."
"Yes, you have to show our customers your most beautiful expression."
"Yes. It doesn't have to be heartfelt, ok? But forcefully smiling isn't ok either. It's ok to act like you're happy, and if you think you can do it you should welcome the customers as they enter and feel their smiles. Have a look at how the other girls do it."
He looked at the busy waitresses in the other stores.
Felli looked over at the girls who were standing there, all of them with bright, clear smiles on their faces.
At the same time, she noticed all the males in there had a lusty look on all their faces.
"..............." Perhaps he followed Felli's line of sight, as the store owner immediately followed up with a couple of lines.
"You don't need to be too conscious of how the customers are looking at you. If you can't go to the door and welcome the customers, then please try and display the cutest aspect of yourself."
That's hard too.
"We aren't trying to greet the customers with an overbearing air. If I had to describe it, then it would be a frank expression. Let them feel that they are being welcomed like friends in a relaxed manner."
"Can't do it?"
The store owner was also starting to feel a little insecure.
"I've never tried smiling before."
"That's strange, your brother is a professional when it comes to smiling. His fake smile really is brilliant."
"It confuses people into not knowing what to think."
"Even if you are thinking about something else, it's ok. If you smile, you leave a very good impression upon other people. Knowing that, your brother is always showing a smiling expression."
"Then practice your smile please. You can have a look at those girls, and say something like 'welcome'"
"Noo~~ooo! You weren't smiling. Try again."
"Your eyes don't have a very welcoming feel to them."
"You're too stiff."
"No! No! This won't do!"
"I think you can do it."
...Just like this, they continued to do this for a length of time.
About an hour had passed.
"...Have a bit of a rest."
The store owner showed his weakness first.
"Oh, you really are quite stubborn."
"That wasn't my original intention."
"It seems she really hasn't ever smiled before."
Felli decided that she would put on an innocent look, but there was practically no way for her to communicate that.
It was always like that. Felli had trouble with expressing her feeling to anyone other than her family members.
"She pretty much failed."
So that's all they could say.
The store owner wiped the sweat off his forehead, and thought it over a little before continuing.
"Ok, seeing as it's come to this, then we just have to prepare our store to match your expression instead."
"Just show us your unique expression. That cool loli feeling. Next week we'll prepare a special uniform just for you. Aaaah~~ It's been a while since I've felt this excited."
"I've already decided. I will not change my decisions. We will change our uniforms daily – Uwaahh! It's going to be difficult. Uwaahh!"
The store owner pranced away with impossibly tiny footsteps, and Felli couldn't stop him.
It wasn't because she was worried about what he was thinking that she couldn't properly communicate with him. She didn't really care what he thought of her.
How other people perceived her, wasn't a problem for Felli at all.
Right now the issue was...
To tell the truth, she wanted to resign.
She didn't need any money at all.
And she didn't think that this job was very interesting either.
And it wasn't like she had no option other than to do the job.
Indeed, she really wanted to throw the week's worth of pay she was given in advance right in the store owner's face and just leg it out of there.
No, this was serious.
"AAAHHH! Genius! I'm a genius! A prodigy! Kami-Sama has gifted me with my superior abilities. Perhaps you'd better just call me Kami-Sama? Once again, I have gathered the conviction that I had lost by my side."
If she could run away from that shop owner who was constantly making these weird noises, Felli would definitely do that.
"Yes, it's Kami-Sama. I am Kami-Sama. That's why I have to say this. What is cuteness? Cuteness is justice. That's why all those who are cute are gathered to my side."
"It doesn't matter how you do it, but please give me a more normal response."
"Ah, I'm sorry. I accidentally got caught up in the moment; there's no need for you to worry as it happens all the time."
"...All the time?"
Keeping a constant distance between herself and the shop owner who was still shaking from his recent excitement, Felli looked at the uniform she was wearing again. It should have been...changed a little. The design of the uniform was definitely different from the others. The uniform doubtlessly still retained its cute feel, having kept its pink color
They had started from pink, and finally returned to pink. She felt that if they were going to use that uniform emphasize her selling points it would be a little forced.
"It seems blue and black really do suit you the most. But if we just obediently followed that train of thought, we wouldn't have a chance to dig deeper into your potential, and I can't further make use of my genius. Regardless as to how it goes, as long as it is confined by some sort of trend, then that would be a defeat; one which I cannot accept. You have to make cuteness your objective, you must make that pink color your objective!"
"Please don't just casually put out a motto like that."
"But no matter what, it's one which I must always adhere to. It's difficult, oh, it's difficult."
He didn't look troubled at all; instead seeing the shop owner revealing an expression of utmost satisfaction at the new uniform Felli couldn't say anything.
"Well then, everybody! From now on for the next week, we must all work hard, ok? You are warriors which have been chosen to protect the cute-ism ideals. In order to protect the cuteness in the world, you must show the customers your heartfelt smiles filled with bravery and hope... It's also in order to protect what's dear to you! What's dear to you?"
"Of course, our pay!"
Just like this, with the dropping of the shop owner's tears, the sales wars began.
"Ok, ok, let me have a look at what the uniform has turned into."
"Why did we have to come to a place like this?"
After training ended, Layfon was dragged here by Sharnid again.
This was the roof of some tall building. Layfon listlessly asked Sharnid who was lying on the water tank enhancing his vision with Internal-type Kei and looking toward the store.
"If I peeped at her from close up I'd probably piss Felli off, yeah?"
"So they say..."
"Even if it's her, she probably wouldn't be using psychokinesis while she's at work."
"No, that's not what I'm trying to say."
"If anything diverges from the plan, then I'll lose all the money I put into the bet."
"You bet on something again?"
"Of course, that's why I prepared the ultimate weapon."
"And the ultimate weapon refers to...?"
"Well, you'll see."
Sharnid dragged Layfon over by the neck, and Layfon used his Kei unwillingly and looked across to the Cafe.
The store was filled with people.
In the midst of it all, girls wearing pink uniforms rushed back and forth.
Of the people who were sitting in the cafe, the majority of them were pretty much male students in uniform. Their eyes were glowing as they looked towards the girls in the pink uniforms.
And out of all the girls, the male students were all looking towards Felli.
Felli, wearing a custom uniform, wore the same cold expression on her face as she carried the plates back and forth. After placing their meals in front of the stunned customers, she left without a shred of warmth in her expression.
Even so, all the male customers in the store were completely satisfied.
"How is it?"
"I have no idea how to describe this situation" thought Layfon.
Felli was the same as always with a cold, featureless expression. What was more striking was an annoyed look as if she had been forced to do this reflected on her doll-like face. Even though she should be very nervous at carrying all those dishes around, yet...
"It seems like you still don't get it" said Sharnid as he shook his head.
"It doesn't matter that she doesn't provide a very welcome service. Look, see all those girls around her who are attending to the customers' every need? Look at them all, all smiling the same smile, and even the girls who are an even a little cute just get buried under the whole group. No matter how much prettier Felli is she would probably be the same, buried by the rest of the girls. That's the result of the uniforms. Wearing the same uniforms, doing the same things and saying the same words, it will always bury a person's individuality to an extent. The only people who could tell all those waitresses apart would be the waitresses themselves. But Felli is different. She's definitely wearing the same systematic uniform, but the impression she makes is different to the rest of them. And on top of that the other girls are obviously treating the guests enthusiastically. 'What's wrong with her?' is probably what most of the people are thinking when they see her. As long as you give them this kind of an impression, you've won. She's already a lot prettier than the rest, making other people wish they could see her smile. Not the smile she uses to greet the customers. Her real smile."
Her real smile.
Speaking of which, Layfon hasn't ever seen it either.
"Senpai, you...have you seen Felli-Senpai smiling before?"
"No. She already has a fan club, and the people there haven't caught her honestly smiling either. But there are heaps of people who are willing to pay a lot of money for a picture of her smiling."
"Speaking of which, what's in that box?"
Besides Sharnid, there was a box which he could carry over his shoulder.
"That's a telescopic camera which I borrowed from the people in the Newspaper Club."
"You're trying to get pictures too."
"Naturally" said Sharnid confidently, leaving Layfon sighing in resignation.
Just like that, he unconsciously probed the area around him.
"How do I say it, there seems to be a lot of people around here."
"They are the members of the fan club. Damn, they really are quick. If it's like this, even if it's a smile out of professional duty, it'll have to do."
Sharnid anxiously got the camera out of the box and proceeded to get into position. In that position, he looked like a sniper who had already locked onto his target.
"No matter what, I must take a photo of her smiling."
Seeing Sharnid erase his presence completely with his external-type Kei right in front of him, Layfon tilted his head, using internal-type Kei to boost his aural sensory organ, or more commonly known as an ear, and listened for any changes.
With a clang, the dishes that were originally on the tray fell out in front of Felli. The spaghetti bolognaise was tipped all over the floor, and the sauce spilt out with it. The empty tray fell onto the floor spinning, going sha-ra sha-ra.
The waitresses who saw this immediately began to apologize successively, and Felli turned her head looking over her shoulder behind her.
Somebody had pushed Felli from behind her, making her lose her balance and drop the meal.
But as she turned her head to look back, there wasn't anyone near her.
(She must have been set up)
The person who pushed Felli from behind vanished just like that, during the instant when Felli's concentration was broken by the fallen dishes.
(Was it on purpose? Who?)
"Hey, aren't you even going to apologize?"
While she was looking for some person who had already vanished, an angry voice cut in. It came from a guest who was on the table beside Felli whose uniform was splattered with oily dots from the sauce.
"You don't even check if you had splattered that on anyone, how the hell are you treating customers?"
The waitress who was holding onto the mop froze in confusion.
That person was wearing a Military Artist's uniform, and the expression on his face was doubtlessly one of fury.
The store suddenly quieted down.
"My most sincere apologies."
Felli lowered her head.
"If you want to apologize, then get rid of this filth on me."
Felli lowered her head, listening to that person's words, and she immediately realized that that person wasn't really angry.
It was all an act.
As she noticed this, Felli immediately checked the feelings on her hips. The sword belt wasn't there. Of course, she didn't have her Dite rod hidden anywhere either. Realizing that she was about to teach that person a lesson, Felli remembered what she was here to do.
(Since she was taking care of a customer, she couldn't do that)
"Hey, say something."
"I'm extremely sorry."
Just like that, she lowered her head and repeated those same words. She couldn't think of anything else to say.
"Aiyayaya, we're very sorry Customer-san."
The store owner spoke in an extremely high pitched voice as if to ward off the awkwardness of the situation and quickly appeared in front of Felli.
"We are very sorry. We'll pay for the cleaning. The dishes will be free as well, so please forgive us."
"I don't want to hear this."
"Eh?! Aiya, then what?"
The customer moved in front of Felli with difficulty as she had been pushed aside by the store manager who was acting as if he were lamenting.
"As soon as I came in here I felt unsatisfied. Everyone is pretentiously doing work in front of the customers and there isn't a single sincere smile here. It really pisses me off."
That was actually a very appropriate statement. However, she didn't lose her calm but instead felt a cutting pain on her skin.
Felli was also very self-conscious about the fact that she couldn't smile properly. When she was practicing with the store owner, she felt that even if she didn't' smile very often, she should still be able to do it. She was quite shocked herself.
"I'm extremely sorry."
But, right now, the problem wouldn't just go away after laughing a little. And she couldn't even put on a smiling expression anyway.
Felli just kept her head lowered for the whole time.
In the resting room Felli lowered her head as she apologized to the store owner.
"It's okay~~this kind of thing is pretty common in this business" said the store owner, light-heartedly dismissing the apology with a wave of his hand.
That customer had left after taking the money for cleaning his clothes. Felli was allowed to have a short break, which is why she was in this resting room, which doubled as a change room for the girls that worked here.
Felli stared at the spiraling pattern that spread across the tea cup in the store owner's hand.
"...I really wasn't suited to do things like serving the customers."
There wasn't a single time where she revealed her true smile. All she did the whole time was listen to the customers' conversations closely. "In that kind of a situation, what would Karian have done?" thought Felli. He would probably deal with it perfectly. No, her brother would never let the customer get angry in the first place.
But Felli couldn't do it. And she was completely lost on what to do.
"Well...I had thought that dealing with the customers would have been the easiest job, but I hadn't considered suitability for the role."
"But, I don't think you're not suited to the role."
"You quickly memorized the entire menu and when you deliver the dishes there aren't any excess movements. And it's not like you're completely unable to treat the customer nicely, so there's no way anyone could tell you were a newbie."
She never thought that she would be praised, and Felli started feeling dazed about all this.
"But it's a pity, we still can't increase the number of customers that way."
When he put it like that, for some reason Felli suddenly felt calm again.
"Well, if you went to the other stores, there are probably some waitresses who aren't too friendly either. The issue here isn't whether or not you're suited to the job, this is the customer service business. There aren't any real qualifications required, and in a job like this, screwing up is part of the business as well."
"But you're not really getting stressed over this right?" The store owner continued "I've got many military artist friends, and most of the psychokinesists are all people who aren't very good at expressing themselves, right? Even though us commoners don't really understand, but those friends told me, that when the psychokinesists are using Nen-I, in order to sharpen their senses, they will normally cut off their responses from their physical body."
She kind of understood the meaning behind these words. While using psychokinesists to gather enormous amounts of information, if their bodies reacted to all of the information they received it would waste a large amount of time. So in order to prevent this kind of reaction, the brain limited the amount of information sent to the nervous system in the body.
If that repeated continuously over time, the result would be the same as how Felli was now.
Whether it be shock, anger or grief...and even laughter, all of those emotions are processed within the brain, and thus Felli became an emotionless doll.
"But that's something that must be fixed. In reality, right now, my friend can finally begin to smile again. I think that if you want to express yourself properly, it's definitely not impossible."
"Of course, I guarantee you."
"... The store owner's promise seems somewhat unreliable."
"Hey, that was too far."
"But, I'm extremely grateful to you."
"Ara? What's wrong?"
"I don't know if I've figured out where my goal is. I was just thinking that a person already assigned to the Military Arts department who is unable to read the atmosphere and regretted it might exist."
The store owner tilted his head, looking at Felli, and Felli felt that the gloomy atmosphere had gotten somewhat more relaxed, and her facial expressions recovered likewise. After bidding the store owner good day, Felli left the resting room.
"...That really scared me," muttered the store owner to himself as he spaced out in the resting room. "Really, that child can smile too. If she practiced a little more, she could do a professional smile as well...ah...but it'll be impossible by this week. And I don't know if that child will still work here after this."
The store owner's inner musings never reached Felli's ears.
"Was that ok?"
A little distance away from the store in a nearby alleyway stood the man from before. He was looking uncomfortably at his surroundings as he flattened out his tie.
"You did it very well," said a girl, wearing a bright pink Café Mira costume. "If a perfect girl with such a noble air to her resigned, Café Mira's customers would definitely be reduced. Even if she doesn't resign, it would take away a lot of her enthusiasm. If we do this another two, three times, then that Onee-san will definitely not be able to take it anymore."
"But is this ok? Isn't that where you work?"
"Yeah, it's fine. I'm starting to get annoyed with that boring shop owner cause of how long I've been here. And I hate how he has us wear these idiotic clothes. If you can do it well, you'll get paid for your acting fees."
This waitress had accepted the bribe of a rival to Café Mira. In today's competitive market, buying people out was perfectly natural, but amidst all that, transactions such as these occur quietly in the background.
This is also something which the Commerce Department was worried might happen.
"Anyway, it's about time to get these clothes off. It wouldn't be good if other people recognized me."
"What? Cause it'll make other people think you enjoy Cosplaying?"
At this moment, they heard a new voice.
"So that's how it is, huh? Well, I knew it would be like this anyway..."
"Who is it..."
"Who cares who I am. To appear in a situation like this, I must be a hero of justice, right? Do you understand your position?"
Sharnid stood there, looking like he was blocking the way to the exit of the lane.
"Che. Seventeenth Platoon."
"That's how it is."
Sharnid snickered at the slowly retreating boy.
"What're you doing? What do you want with us?" shouted the waitress.
Sharnid shrugged his shoulders. "Well...if it was just me, it wouldn't really be a problem. But there's someone else who wants to have a little chat with you guys."
"Huh?" After hearing Sharnid's words, the other two finally noticed.
"You should be feeling your backs getting cold about now. Although I'm surprised at how relaxed you guys are, how do you feel now?"
It was as if there was a gale behind them.
They gingerly turned around, and standing there was...
Stunned to silence, the two just stood there rigidly like corpses.
Layfon was standing behind them.
Gazing at them, silently.
He wasn't holding anything in his hands, but his dite was clearly hung on his hip-belt for all to see. It felt like he could whip it out in an instant.
"Speaking of which...you guys were talking about some very interesting things. That it wouldn't be good for people who know you to recognize you. Can you tell us why you would be troubled by that?"
"What...What do you want? It's got nothing to do with you."
"Well... it doesn't have anything to do with us, but..."
There was a very quiet knocking sound. It was the sound of Layfon tapping the Dite with his fingers.
Da... Da... Da... The sounds reverberated through the small alleyway with rhythm.
"Did you know? There's a rule, specifically dealing with duels between Military Artists in the student handbook. Well, if we did this in public, we would break the rule, but if you reject others' challenges, it's a sort of disgrace to a Military Artist. It's not easy to reject another's challenge."
As he said this, Sharnid slowly pulled out the student handbook.
"Let me see, ok? Let’s, see... Let’s see...If there's to be a duel between Military Artists on school grounds, you must first apply to the student council for permission, and after verification of the two student's identities, the duel is to take place at a specified arena. The weapons must comply with the Academy City's regulations...etc. etc."
He closed the student handbook with a slap.
"So, you'll have to wait until our trump card decides to apply for a duel before this can proceed. If you piss him off, even just a little, then you'll no longer get to speak reason to him. So let me tell him."
Da. Da. Da. The sound was continuing.
Seeing the paling boy, Sharnid continued.
"So, what do you say?"
"W-w-w-wait a sec, I, I'm not really a Military Artist, I've only just worn this uniform for a little while. Duels or whatever, just spare me!"
"Then that makes it very difficult for us. That's obviously against the rules. Then... about the uniform, it's the proof of what kind of student you are, and if there's no valid reason to be wearing another type of uniform then you'll have to receive punishment. It says here."
"It's much better than a duel."
As the male student lamented he took off his Military Artist's uniform and threw it onto the floor.
Da...The sound stopped.
The boy looked relieved as he collapsed in a heap onto the floor.
"Hmm... I guess it's ok like that as well. Then we're done over here, but not quite yet over there, eh?"
"What are you going to do?"
The blanching waitress looked down upon Sharnid with a belittling expression.
"This guy wearing a Military Artist's uniform has absolutely nothing to do with me."
"Woah, acting like you don't know him already?"
"What are you talking about, acting? I obviously don't know him."
"Well, if you want to take this approach it's fine as well. Then how did she drop all those dishes and spill it over a customer's trousers?"
"It was her mistake, I suppose."
It seems she was going to pretend she didn't hear what the other boy had said previously... No, she was insisting that she didn't even speak to the boy.
Of course, Layfon and Sharnid both knew Felli, so you could say they were protecting one of their own people and lying.
"No, that's not such a simple problem."
As he said this, he took out the camera.
"I prepared this baby to catch a Kodak moment, but instead it caught a different moment instead"
"I got the decisive shot. We haven't broken the student rules by doing this...at least we shouldn't have. Anyway, if the Commerce Department catch wind of some bad rumors, it might be pretty difficult to find any jobs in the future."
Looking at the silent waitress, Sharnid gave Layfon a signal with his eyes, telling him what to do.
But Layfon didn't reply either.
The blood rushing to his head was genuine; him getting pissed off wasn't an act either, but to push a girl in a dilemma to make a choice still seemed low.
And it wasn't their place to deal with this girl either.
If he still forced her to make a decision, it would seem a little excessive.
If they were officially questioned, it would actually be Layfon and Sharnid who wouldn't be able to answer.
"...Really, what the hell are you guys doing?"
Hearing a tired, sigh, Layfon and Sharnid's bodies both shivered from the surprise.
"Oh, Felli-Chan. Are you well?"
"Of course. I'm having a wonderful time working at some brilliant store somebody recommended to me."
"Wahh... but isn't that obviously displeasure in your voice?"
"And on top of that, you make someone your money tree?"
As she said this, Felli walked up to Sharnid and pulling the camera off him and took out the memory card in an instant.
"I'm confiscating this."
"That memory card has a huge storage capacity, and it was pretty expensive. Can you return it to me afterwards?"
Hearing this, Sharnid powerlessly lowered his head.
Ignoring Sharnid's reaction, Felli stood in front of the waitress.
"What are you doing?" The girl looked at Felli with contempt and provocation.
Felli brought down her palm with a lot of force.
The sound didn't seem to match with the small lane...or rather, it was a huge noise you would expect to find on busy highways, reverberating in that tiny side street.
The sound was so loud it left Layfon and Sharnid stunned for a moment.
"Well, with that, your debt to me has gone away quite easily; I'll just leave you to the store owner and let him deal with you."
Saying that, Felli stared steadily at her and walked past Sharnid, quickly returning to the store.
The four people behind her watched her leave, stunned.
It was already deep into the night.
The shift was over, and Felli came out from the store.
When she looked up, she saw a familiar person standing in front of her.
"You were here."
Layfon stood under a lamppost near the store.
"...Could it be that you've been waiting here for the whole time?"
"No, even for me that would be too..."
As Felli finished speaking, she didn't even stop and left, and Layfon chased after her.
"I'll walk you home."
"Of course you will. You've been waiting for so long, so of course you would."
And just like that, they continued to walk silently. But she still felt conscious about Layfon, who was walking behind her just out of her peripheral vision.
His expression at that time was the exact opposite of that when he was fighting Filth Monsters; it really made people want to sigh. It was like a child throwing a fit... Felli sighed.
"Really, thanks for before."
"No...I'm sorry, I just went ahead and did something unnecessary."
"You were really pissed off, weren't you? I could feel your killing intent from all the way inside the store." At that time, as Felli was repenting on her actions, she had already felt Layfon's killing intent. "Looking at you threatening those two people, you seemed pretty happy to me."
"No, that was all Sharnid-senpai's idea."
"Why were you so angry?"
"That...It seems I really can't bear to see my friends being bullied."
She had guessed it was probably something like this much earlier, and her expectations for any other reasons were disappointing.
"Well...that's just how you are."
"And besides..." As if countering Felli's words, Layfon began to say something. "I also wanted to help senpai...Felli trying out things other than being a psychokinesist."
He whispered this at a barely audible volume to himself, surprising Felli so much that she couldn't catch her breath.
(This person really is...)
She wanted to live a life outside that of a Nen-I user.
Her brother knew that Felli had this dream. Other than him there was only Layfon.
(He really is...He really is...He really is...!)
Nobody else knew; only Layfon. She never even told her captain, Nina, and this man she did tell didn't even understand the meaning behind it. But at that time, she didn't know what kind of expression to put on.
He was cheering for me, worrying about me, it really makes me happy...
But Layfon, who knew of her dream, didn't recognize the deeper meaning to this dream at all, and his slowness really made Felli angry.
Now, how was she going to show both those expressions at once...
(Right now, she was completely lost on what expression to use.)
"Fine, I'm going home!" Felli loudly ended the conversation, and continued on forward and as she confirmed the sounds of Layfon's chasing footsteps. She walked a little bit faster.