Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume11 Impact of Childhood 01
Impact of Childhood 01
She really didn't know what to do.
She thought of Mifi, and decided that going back like this would be disappointing. Even if there could be that kind of result, she still thought that doing things like that wasn't a good idea. The reason that this kind of thing could occur – and there was no excuse – was Mifi's unreasonable attitude. Sigh~
That being said, having just thought of it upon arrival, she felt that it was a bit late to be thinking like that.
This was the Sick Room, and in front of her was......
".........Zzz ~ ......" "......................."
Layfon, resting quietly. His injuries had been treated on the same day he had arrived at the hospital, and he had taken some pills and rested, awaiting further examinations. These tests were especially for Layfon, who since entering the school had been admitted into the hospital several times.
Layfon showed no signs of waking. It was probably her first time seeing his sleeping face like this. It was the first time that she was by his side, watching him.
How did it become like this? She thought over it again.
Yes, it was a thing of yesterday......
When she heard the news from Naruki, Meishen felt as if she had fallen into a deep abyss. Outside the window, Zuellni was surging forward in victory. This was the night after the conclusion of the battle with Myath. In the spontaneous celebration, lights lit up everywhere and outside the window the night sky was a lot more beautiful than its usual quiet atmosphere.
"Bang-Clang." Noisy sounds from outside came through the glass window, echoing throughout the room. The dormitory which Meishen and her friends lived in was on the first floor, and it had a large space similar to the lounge room so the sound could have come from there as well.
"......Aie!" It could be because of the noisy lounge room that she misheard. First of all, she didn't even understand why she was so affected by the sounds.
(But, Layfon would be happy, because he might never see it again...)
After learning Layfon's story, Meishen should be happy. Layfon might never return to his place of birth, Grendan, so she never thought that they would meet again.
They will meet again.
That's why it wouldn't be right if Meishen and Layfon weren't able to be and feel happy together.
But Meishen's heart was in turmoil, like waves rippling across a pond, wavering with indecision. Those ripples stabbed at her heart, and it hurt more as she struggled.
She always felt afraid of knowing the cause of this pain. Meishen placed her hands above her head, gripping tightly.
In front of her, Naruki lowered her head as if she had said something wrong, an exhausted expression on her face. She had accepted the job to infiltrate the enemy city, accepted the dangerous mission of attacking the enemy city's flag. The battle had finished only today, so it was natural for her to be tired. And upon her return she was questioned thoroughly by Mifi in the name of a report, draining her even more. After she fell onto the sofa she was too tired to move again.
Even though she was in such a state, she was still very direct.
But Meishen, receiving such a shocking blow from Naruki, said nothing. The person who had replaced her in shouting out in surprise was her friend Mifi, who was still writing down information from the interview. The door was wide open, and Mifi burst into the room surprising both of them.
"I heard it all!"
"Stop eavesdropping!" Showing an annoyed expression Naruki continued, "That's why we weren't talking about this in front of you."
"Uwah, that was mean. Hey, this is discrimination, and I'm against discrimination! Everyone should be treated equally!"
"Ok, ok, just be quiet for a second." Naruki was now really tired, and had no time for Mifi's nonsense.
Yet there was no way Mifi was just going to let it rest. What Naruki was talking about was perhaps the most important subject to the three girls present; something which had left them in suspense for a long time. How could she just let it pass?
Mifi was desperate for information to the extent that any ordinary piece of information would rouse her curiosity, and if you saw her expression, akin to that of a starved dog, you would have no choice but to give it to her.
"Hey, what kind of a beauty is she? A supermodel? An unrivalled Miss Universe?"
"Couldn't she be anything other than a beauty?"
"But she's his proper wife, his proper wife! She's that super slow-witted Layfon's proper wife!"
"Don't say 'proper wife'!"
Actually, acknowledging Layfon and Leerin as a couple was a little strange. When Layfon mentioned her, they were but childhood friends. You could say that they were raised in the same orphanage as siblings. If they really were a couple, wouldn't he readily talk about her, and about what she did? Or was it because other things had been mixed into those memories that he was reluctant to speak of his past?
Naruki took this as a signal to start talking. She was already exhausted and still had to speak, and as she thought of this she revealed an annoyed expression from the bottom of her heart.
"That kind of stuff is really touching, right? They clearly don't know so can they still be counted as a couple...?"
When she said that, not only were Naruki and Meishen surprised, but Mifi, who was talking felt an impact as well.
Leerin Marfes, Layfon's childhood friend, is probably the one who understands him best.
And she left Grendan, arriving here.
"Eh, why'd she come here? It can't be because she wants to meet Layfon? Romantic? It's such a romantic thing to do!"
"Mi-chan, you're too excited."
Hearing Naruki, Mifi covered her mouth and looked towards Meishen.
Hearing her say that, her two best friends looked her way and started smiling.
Yes, these two were her friends that she had grown up with. For Meishen, they were very important childhood friends. Calling them friends was an understatement, calling them good friends belittled the importance of Naruki and Mifi's presence. Their friendship had already reached the stage where every move of her childhood friends was very important.
(For Layfon, Leerin must also be such an important person.)
But, but, but... if she accepted that idea from the bottom of her heart, Meishen's feelings should also be accepted. Right now, she had already appeared at Zuellni, so Meishen should say and believe what she says from the bottom of her heart, 'That's great!'
But she couldn't.
Well, if there had to be a reason, then it would be because Layfon was male, and Leerin female.
Completely changing the relationship between a man and woman with the term "childhood friends"... Meishen didn't have much life experience, and she couldn't just readily accept this, and she didn't have much foresight. However, she wasn't stupid.
How would Layfon, who had buried his feelings deep in his heart, react when he saw Leerin? How would he react, when he saw Leerin, who had come from Grendan especially to meet him?
Ten minutes, twenty minutes, and thirty minutes passed as she pondered this question.
"Then let's do some reconnoitering!"
Forcing the ideas of not wanting to treat Leerin as an enemy and not being able to treat her as an enemy out of her mind, Meishen felt a little lonely.
"That's fine, right? We'll act as a special unit to ensure Meishen's success in her romance. Finding information on our enemy is our most important mission right now!"
Facing Mifi who was shouting loudly, Meishen's face turned red.
Finding herself in this situation where only Naruki had seen Leerin, and having absolutely no other information, Mifi proposed the above solution.
Getting over the noisy celebrations of Zuellni's victory in the inter-city battles, they had a break the following day. And when the sun rose, the next day arrived.
"So, where's the target?"
"Location unknown." Naruki replied indifferently to Mifi who had finished her breakfast, gotten ready to go out, and packed her notepad and pen into her bag, totally in the zone.
"How can that be?"
"Normally she would be living in a dorm right? And then she would be picked up by people from the Student council, and afterwards we don't know what would happen. Maybe Layfon might know?"
"...Can we ask Layfon?"
"It should be okay..."
"...But, isn't there another way?"
Meishen had just voiced her own thoughts, and the other two immediately lost their target.
"Is there?" Mifi seriously asked about this untenable, tentative suggestion.
"Then, lets go to the dorms!"
"Yeah, outsiders would usually be there!"
The two geared up girls talked as they approached the door, and Meishen chased after them.
"Speaking of which, there hasn't been a roaming bus recently, so how did she get here?"
"Yeah... I think she came here from the opposing city."
"Eh? How did she come from there?"
"I don't know that either."
"Lucky." Leerin wanted to say that, but she couldn't.
This was a room in the Student Council building. Inside there was a small whiteboard and a simple table and set of chairs. The atmosphere was suitable for a small number of people to hold a conversation.
From the conversation, she found out that the people from the Student Council weren't too sure of the situation either. However it only mattered that she had somehow successfully arrived here.
After the battle, she rushed to the contact point between the cities, and there she saw Layfon.
While she was being questioned by the people on the Student Council, she decided to tell them everything. However, she didn't say anything about being brought over here by a Heaven's Blade Successor from Grendan. Being asked to keep a secret by someone else, she definitely couldn't tell anyone.
Although she felt that he was already no longer in Zuellni, and there was no danger in telling them, she still decided not to speak of it. Among the Military artists in Grendan, they stood at the pinnacle, they were the strongest protectors, and their word was definite. That's what a Heaven's Blade Successor was. Being unable to forget about her profound feelings from when Layfon was a Heaven's Blade Successor was something she couldn't do anything about.
Layfon, she wasn't far from him now.
"Well, this is enough, it's not like we're treating you like a dangerous person." The person saying this was a silver-haired youth wearing glasses, who was standing behind her and had listened to her questioning. He was calmer than anyone else, and he revealed a sincere expression.
"I believe that this is not the first time that we have met, I am the president of the Student Council, Karian Loss."
"Not... Not the first time meeting each other......?" When she greeted him, Leerin tilted her head to the side. "...Could it be, that you are a person from Grendan?"
"No, you've made a mistake."
"Is that so? Mmm... Where have we met before?"
Normally, one would say that there was nothing to this conversation, however, the atmosphere should be taken into account.
"Then, where? When traveling to Zuellni, while passing through Grendan, it might be possible that I saw you."
Karian did not express displeasure at Leerin's words but kindly nodded instead.
"Speaking of which, Leerin-chan, why did you come to this city? Did you come on a holiday?"
In the smoothly progressing atmosphere of the conversation, Leerin froze for a moment.
Wishing to conceal nothing, Leerin obediently told him the reason for coming to Zuellni.
"Oh. To bring something for Layfon? It must have been troublesome for you."
"Then, do you know Layfon?"
In his letters, Layfon never mentioned the Student Council president. The Student Council president...Without understanding the political condition of the Academy city but based on the successful development of the city run only by students, this person should be the most powerful person in Zuellni.
Realizing why she had asked such a question, an answer immediately sprung to his mind.
"Yes, I do. For Zuellni, I've done my best to understand him."
From the way Karian spoke, he had already realized that his answer was correct. As he thought this he couldn't help but sigh with relief.
Really, other than Military arts, Layfon seemed to suck really badly.
It was the same with getting exiled from Grendan, his means of subsistence was so poor it was already at a fatal level, and he still didn't show any signs of thinking about or recognizing any of his problems.
(Could it be that even now, he was still not aware of this?)
It seems that it is most likely true.
"Let me help you." Leerin understood the words Karian wanted to say reflected in his eyes.
"Oh, that's right, Leerin-chan. Are you going to return as soon as you accomplish what you came here for?"
"You're obviously going to return to Grendan at some point, but right now the inter-city battle has pretty much been formalized. Seeing as that's the situation, roaming buses will be stranded here for a while as well. How about you stay here for a longer time?"
She never thought about that. She never thought about the relationship between the inter-city battles and the roaming buses. Sometimes no roaming buses came to Grendan as well, so that was the reason. She never knew that before.
Seeing Leerin with no way out, Karian revealed a faint smile.
Ah, this man was really black-hearted.
As she thought this, Leerin listened to his proposal.
Just like that, the second day came.
"What do I do next?"
After seeing the injured Layfon, Leerin was pondering what to do now.
She had already decided on her destination, and it was the Student Council.
Checking the timetable for the tram, she sat on one of the seats thinking about Karian's offer. She didn't think it was too bad, and although she wasn't quite sure if what she learned here would be of any use when she went back to Grendan, she saw it as another way of obtaining more knowledge, so it didn't seem too bad. That was what she thought.
But she still thought that Karian had other motives for doing this.
The problem was that if roaming buses didn't come, continuing to live in the dorm facilities wasn't a solution. She didn't bring much money with her either, so if she intended to stay here for a long time, she needed to find a job.
"Well, I can think about those problems after the results come out today."
The train arrived and Leerin got up from the seat. As soon as the pneumatic valve sounded, the doors opened.
The person who made that sound had her mouth gaping open.
Directed by the sound, Leerin saw that person.
She was a tall girl with fine red hair and tanned skin, giving off an impression of seeming very lanky.
That girl didn't say anything, she just continued to stare. Leerin was naturally waiting for her reply, so she didn't move either.
"What's wrong, Nakki?", a red-haired girl who seemed to be one of her friends asked her.
"Ah.. Ahaha... sorry about that, Mei, Mi."
Pushing her friends who were about to get off the train tram back into the middle of the carriage, she backed away from the door. Leerin politely got on the train tram. The train started moving, and there were still many empty seats. Leerin found a seat and sat down, mindlessly eyeing the route map above the door of the train tram.
"Excuse me, are you Leerin?"
It was that red haired girl from before.
She felt as if something troublesome had happened.
(Uu... What to do?)
She didn't know where Leerin was, and having no other options, she listened to Mifi's idea, which was to get some information while going out to visit Layfon. But she never thought she would meet Leerin in this place.
Naruki began to speak up, and she started to introduce herself and her friends to Leerin. Afterwards, Mifi and Naruki started a conversation with Leerin. She seemed to be the type of person to easily accept others.
"Hey, hey, what was Lay-ton like in Grendan?"
"Ah... here you guys call him Lay-ton?"
"No, it's just us! It's the nickname we gave him."
Hearing Mifi say this, Leerin's eyes widened, and in response Naruki started to make up something to cover up for her shock.
"Yeah. Calling him this makes it seem a lot friendlier. How about we give you a nickname as well?"
"Hmm... Li-chan? Lin-chan? Like that? Or maybe LeeeRIN♪ (Change of inflection) seems pretty good as well, but it's a bit hard to distinguish from a normal Leerin."
"Hmm... Although you can't tell the difference immediately...?"
"Yeah... Then, what do you think would be a good nickname for her, Mei-chi?"
Meishen's face showed an expression like she had suddenly been hit by someone.
Of course, she was listening to the conversation, but you couldn't tell from looking at her expression.
She showed that expression reflexively on her face as if it were a conditioned response.
They seemed to be happily conversing, and from the looks of it there was nothing strange going on.
Being looked at with eyes like that, so uncomfortable.
"Ri... Is Rin-chan ok?"
She still felt discomfort in her heart.
"Ah, I thought it would be this one."
"Yeah, I think that name is pretty good too."
The two of them expressed their agreement and Leerin gave a wry smile.
Their eyes met again. She had seen people like Meishen before, so she just smiled and didn't pursue the meaning behind her words.
That was exactly the reason why her sins were building up.
(I, I secretly read her letter.)
That event hung upon her heart heavily.
Although she said it wasn't on purpose, if she could she would try and explain it away. But behavior like reading other people's private letters was still unacceptable even if she did admit her fault.
Leerin doesn't even know that this had happened, which made it impossible for her to admit to doing it and to apologize.
When she was apologizing to Layfon she was forgiven, but that only happened because Naruki accidentally let it slip. If she didn't, perhaps Meishen would never have been able to apologize to Layfon.
For Meishen, the act of secretly reading Leerin's letter gave her the first glimpse into the dark side of her heart. The fact that there was a darkness hidden deeply within her terrified her.
Meishen felt as if the core of her body was as cold as ice and she shivered. Even though there wasn't any air conditioning, the summer season was about to arrive and it was hot as if several people were cramped together in a tight space. Even so, she still felt cold inside. The train arrived at the student council station.
"What are you doing here of all places?"
The student council complex was comprised of a tall building with a steeple at its tip where Zuellni's flag was raised high, surrounded by a circular school building. Within the tall building, there was the student council president's office, meeting rooms for the student council members and the office area for those members' assistants. In the circular building surrounding it there were the offices of the heads of the various disciplines in the school and the student council for those subdivisions as well as a reception area and meeting rooms.
Yesterday, Leerin was locked in one of those little meeting rooms in the circular building.
"That..." They walked together to the reception area and Leerin put on a face saying 'how do I answer?' in response to Mifi's question. Then she started to answer it.
There wasn't much left of the distance between the tram station and the reception area. Naruki saw the people standing over there first, and so Leerin stopped her story.
In front of the wide glass window of the reception area stood Naruki's Captain. She had short, blonde hair, a pointed chin, and she looked like she was made of glass. But if you looked at her personality and actions, then the type of glass she was made of would probably be very strong. Everybody who saw her would probably hold their breath in concentration and their gazes would probably turn dull.
Naruki's voice was carried across and Captain... Nina lifted her head.
It looked like she was waiting for Leerin. She wanted to know why Leerin was with Meishen and the others, but she wasn't too bothered about it.
"In yesterday's test, you received a very good score. You passed the test. But if you are only staying in the short term for studies we cannot give you a scholarship, but part of your school fees will be free."
"Ah, is that so?"
Leerin was happy about the partial reduction of the school fees. Meishen saw this, and Naruki didn't miss it either.
"Weren't you worried about the test?"
"No, because I worked hard." She didn't make a sound of annoyance, neither did she reveal an overjoyed smile.
"Rin-chan has officially entered Zuellni!" Mifi shouted out in surprise, causing Meishen to understand the meaning of their conversation.
"Oh, the student council president said that there won't be any roaming buses anytime soon, and since you already came to an academy city it would be a waste not to study here."
"Uwah! Really? If it was me, I would just play, and keep playing until I couldn't move anymore."
"You shouldn't think too hard about that kind of thing." Hearing Mifi's words, Naruki propped up her head.
Leerin replied with a smile. "Because during battles they constantly limit the flow of roaming buses, at the worst it will be impossible to travel to any other cities for the next year. Is that ok?"
"Whether or not it's ok, since you're trapped at a foreign city you might as well stay here for a while."
"Yeah, now that you mention it..."
"Speaking of which, could you tell me your name?"
"Ah, ah.. ah.."
Meishen felt a little surprised, she saw Nina wavering. From Nina's words, the two of them seemed to know each other.
"Eh, so you two still don't know each other?"
"What the, I thought you guys already knew each other!" Mifi thought so as well.
"Sorry about that. I am Nina Antalk, the captain of the squad which Layfon belongs to, the seventeenth."
Nina held out her hand, and Leerin shook it.
As expected, Nina moved very quickly.
"Back to what we were talking about before, why was the report given to you, Captain?"
This kind of thing was meant to be done by the office people who were working within the door in front of them, not by the unrelated Military Arts department, and definitely not by a platoon leader like Nina Antalk.
"Yeah." Nina nodded her head. "Well, staying here short term means that she can't stay in the detention facilities. That's why we have to find her temporary lodging. The first year dorms are almost completely full, so she might as well come to my empty dorm. The dorm head had work so she won't return until night." As she said this, she looked at Leerin.
"As for transportation, going shopping is a little inconvenient, but other than that, it's a comfortable place to live in. The rent isn't too expensive, so if you're interested in moving there, just register. Anyways, just come to my place, okay?"
Leerin nodded her head, and that's what she decided to do.
In order to get her luggage, everybody got on the train going towards the detention facilities with Nina. On the train, Nina started talking again.
"I heard from Layfon that you make very good food."
"No, it isn't as good as he says."
"We had to go ask the dorm head for military funds for your welcome party but the two people left behind in the dorm, me and another girl, are very bad at cooking.
"The welcome party isn't really necessary, but as for the food, I'll cook it. Also, if you would just call me Leerin, that would be great."
Nina's expression relaxed. No matter how you looked at her, she seemed to be perfect, but she just wasn't very good at cooking and it was pretty cute.
Leerin thought so as well, and smiled kindly at Nina.
"Hey, if it's a cook, we already have one!"
"Ahh, if that's the case then I'll leave it to you. We've got quite a bit of money, but is this ok? Is it too far away?"
"It's ok, we won't be late. We've got a bodyguard!"
"Umm, are you talking about me?"
Mifi had cut into the conversation, unbidden, and Meishen couldn't stop her. She had tried to keep her as quiet for a long as possible and you could only hear her muffled sounds of "Mummf." After that she had gotten free and Mifi's suggestion had been accepted.
She couldn't escape even if she wanted to.
Seeing Leerin's smiling face, Meishen could only tremble.
Some of the labs used for experimental purposes by the Construction Division were located in Nina's dormitory. This explained the stuff occupying most of the space, making it hard to walk. So, Nina suggested that she return to the dorm by herself to clean up the mess, while Meishen and the others got off from the station before to go shopping and afterwards everyone would meet up.
The military funds went from Nina's hand into Leerin's.
"The dorm head loves to cook, so she should have all sorts of kitchen utensils. As for the food, just pick what you like and buy it!"
In any case, Nina seemed to have an apathetic attitude to cooking, and just left those words.
Meishen wanted to see her most basic needs or wants. Being a person who thought about the menu every day, this was really torturous for her.
What did Leerin want to make?
There was a shopping street in front of the station and it was lined with a variety of shops packed closely together. There weren't only groceries on sale here, but many daily necessities could be bought as well. These small-scale shopping streets focused around the areas adjacent to residential areas. As they strolled through the shopping street, Meishen and the others practically became Leerin's entourage. As soon as Leerin arrived at the shopping street, she began to zealously check the products on sale at Zuellni, and she couldn't even hear the other three's words.
And then she stopped at one of the stores.
This was a restaurant. The variety of dishes available here were extremely popular with the students too lazy to cook. Of course, even those who did cook would come here occasionally as long as they lived the life of a student.
The business at this restaurant was booming.
Leerin looked at the dishes. Sometimes, you could find dishes that even Meishen didn't know of and couldn't cook.
As a result of the isolation of the cities, there was a great variety among food strains. Using meat as an example, basic types of meat included beef, pork, and poultry as the three main types. If mutations occurred, the variety of meat would increase exponentially. These new types of meat would then be absorbed after classification and improvement. Because of the different environments of each city, the actual improvements would also be different. As a result of this, many different things actually tasted the same when eaten.
The Academy City was a mixing arena for people with different eating customs. With experimental types of produce mixed into the dishes at the restaurant, Meishen couldn't name many items in the dishes either.
Quietly listening to an explanation of the variety of foods used in this restaurant, Leerin understood and was already wandering through her next target, the grocery store. She looked at the meat and peeked at the vegetables. The types of vegetables available were even more diverse. But as for the basic green-yellow vegetable, recognizing it by looking at the leaves and the roots was pretty easy.
You could eat it raw, but when broiled or boiled it would taste even better. That was how Meishen described the vegetable to Leerin.
As they were doing this, Nina returned.
"You guy's still haven't finished shopping?"
Seeing Nina's surprised reaction, Leerin calmly replied, "No, but we've pretty much decided what's going to be on the menu tonight."
However, she didn't immediately start shopping. After looking at all the products first, Leerin proceeded to the next store.
And then she browsed through another store, then another.
Finally, she had browsed through all of the grocery stores.
Nina couldn't endure it anymore and asked "Then... Exactly what are we going to make? " Leerin had carefully looked through all of the stores, but she ended up not buying anything.
Moving her gaze from the products on display to her shopping list, Leerin started by recalling the names of all the pre-made frozen foods she had seen in grocery stores and other stores she had visited. Afterwards, if she linked them with Grendan dishes not only could she name them all but she could also say how to cook the said dish.
"So if we bought all of this......?"
Of the things that Leerin chose none of them were very expensive, all things within the boundaries of family cooking. Also, all the ingredients she had seen from other stores before had been bought.
"This won't do, if it's like this......" said Leerin as she looked through all the shelves. From behind her, you could see that she was brimming with a bold spirit.
"From what I've seen from before, there is always some margin of difference in each store's quality and price. Is it because of different methods of storage? Regardless, not buying the best ingredients from a shopping street is unacceptable in both aspects."
This probably meant that ingredients that fell neatly in between price and quality were the best choices.
"So this is what we chose in the end. Then, seeing as we bought so much stuff, we should split it up between everyone to carry."
After hearing this, Nina finally relaxed. Everyone was affected by Leerin's bold spirit, and they had all become nervous without noticing.
"Ah, that's right."
Leerin, who was walking about in high spirits returned before Meishen.
"I'm sorry. At the beginning having said what I was supposed to say, I forgot to tell you that I am very keen on judging." As she said this, Leerin gave the money to Meishen. This was part of the military pay.
If it's like this, then basically...
She gave more than half the money to Meishen.
"These words will be enough, so can I ask Meishen-chan to make the desserts? I heard on the tram that making sweets was your forte, right?"
"Then, I'll leave it to you!"
"Ah, wait a moment; you're still holding some stuff right?" Nina chased after the brisk paced Leerin.
Meishen and the others stayed behind and blankly stared at Leerin's disappearing shadow.
Mifi gave a wry smile and laughed as she said "Fufu, there's a cooking showdown already?"
"Don't know if you've noticed already, but Leerin's evaluating gaze seemed very serious to me."
"Isn't this exactly why? For the 10,000 year dull, definitely dull, King of Dullness ...... for the convergence of countless titles of dullness within one body, Layton, for Rin-chan to hand out this challenge to Mei-chan isn't strange at all."
"How can this be? Of course, there is a probability that it could be like that. About the contents of that letter, although Layton didn't notice, Leerin could probably feel something in the reply."
Putting it this way made it complicated, but right now Meishen wasn't thinking about this, but rather about how to apologize to Leerin.
She never thought Leerin would ignite a passion for battle inside her.
...She might have even been taken as a rival. No, no, not searching for a chance to apologize is unacceptable.
"Well, see, retreating here is not an option."
"That's right, you can't just raise your hands and surrender."
The other two had already acknowledged this fact, yet Meishen still had no idea what these two were thinking.
"Then let's go all out shopping!"
"Yeah, we can't lose in such a place."
"Ah, that's right, what's Mei-chan going to buy?"
"You shouldn't try to make something you aren't good at! But, you don't have much time left. In that time before, Leerin might have already chosen some dishes in accordance with her cooking speed and skill and then bought the ingredients for those dishes."
"It seems that there's no choice but to make a cake! It's the most likely to succeed. Regarding Meishen's speed at making a cake, she is actually very capable!"
"But still, I think that making the right amount is very important. About enough for seven to eight people."
"Is it going to be triple layer or a wedding style cake? If it's something like that, I would really like to see it."
"Forget about it! How does using fruits to decorate it and making it look professional sound?"
"Yeah, I've decided. I'll make it like that." Even though she didn't completely understand it herself.
The two of them had never seen Meishen making cakes before; neither did they have experience controlling the fire when baking the cake, so all they knew about was the theoretical act of making cake.
Right now, Meishen, who couldn't keep up with the other two had been tossed aside, and the other two were continuing their conversation.
"Then, let's start."
"We've got to start picking the ingredients too!"
"Huh? Eh? What?"
Meishen still hadn't figured out what was going on, and was dragged away by the other two.
Nina's residence, which also became Leerin's residence from yesterday onwards, was a dormitory which was beautiful beyond belief. The entire structure had a classical style to it, making it both cute and elegant. Even though it was removed after its construction, the "Building division practice area" left behind some debris, but Meishen still envied Nina who was able to live in such a place.
That was the situation which Meishen saw before entering the building.
But considering the small size of each room, the number of rooms which the building housed was considerable, so it had to have a common room large enough to fit all the people who lived in it. Even if there wasn't such a room, in front of the hall, there was already more than enough room for a party.
But today, they wouldn't be using the common room. There were only seven people in total, so using the huge room would make it seem lonely.
Naruki, Mifi, Nina and another student who lived here named Leu, began to decorate the area that they were going to use as the dining area.
Inside the kitchen, there was only Leerin and Meishen.
However, the atmosphere showed no signs of hostility.
Meishen was very surprised. That was because not only was the designated party area huge, so was the kitchen. It had no problem housing up to five people cooking at the same time.
Leerin placed the ingredients on the central table in the kitchen, and put on her apron.
"Next is......" She quietly whispered.
Leerin picked up a knife, and began to check its condition. Running her finger across the knife blade, she carefully observed it. Her mouth seemed to ask, "Which smith forged this?" and then she fell quiet.
The entire process was precise yet fast, without a shred of hesitation. Meishen couldn't even find a pause where she could successfully cut in.
The water in the pot was bubbling and the hot water was boiling. In this time, she placed the quickly sliced ingredients into the pot just like that.
The sound of the knife cutting up vegetables formed a steady rhythm and the sound of the fried bread crackling in the oil embellished the rhythm as if forming a melody.
In the midst of all this sound, Leerin's cooking proceeded methodically. She wasn't flustered, nor could you see any signs of distress. Leerin hummed a song while she worked, leaving the impression of someone who had enough room for more even though she was already handling a huge task.
Her expression was one of complete enjoyment, thought Meishen. Her imagination ended and she came to. This isn't the time to be spacing out!
(If she didn't act any faster)
She realized she no longer had any time to train her competitiveness which Mifi and Naruki had spoken of. It was already evening, and from the progress Leerin made it wasn't long before the dish was completed.
At the side of the kitchen, she began to prepare making the cake. As she preheated the oven, she made some essential preparations.
She steamed the chocolate until it melted. Then she began mixing the eggs and other ingredients together, adding the chocolate that was just melted as well as frozen butter and an appropriate amount of wine. After adding other ingredients into the mix, Meishen then proceeded to the eggbeater, beating the egg whites into a fine foam. Then mixing this with the other mixture, she let it set and placed it into the oven.
After all this, she had finished for the time being.
She was short of breath. "What about Leerin?" thought Meishen.
Originally, Meishen had intended to go help Leerin after she had finished baking the cake, but when she turned around instead she found Leerin watching her actions with great interest.
"Ah, sorry," apologized Leerin with a wry smile. Her smile without any malicious intent was instead filled with an expression of fascination, revealing her undoubtable capabilities.
"When did you finish? It's really surprising. It looks really nice."
Behind Leerin, the completed dishes were lined up in a row.
"Wow, it seems you're used to making many kinds of dishes."
From what Layfon said, Leerin had grown up with him in the same orphanage, and there she was in charge of cooking and organizing meals. And then she imagined of Leerin before she arrived that with her attitude of buying ingredients which were both fresh and economical, she was sure that everyone in the orphanage enjoyed delicious meals daily.
Making delicious dishes out of cheap ingredients required sufficient cooking and preparation time. However, her attitude of taking the least time possible to both cook and prepare was what Meishen believed was most impressive.
Why would she understand these things? Meishen was constantly thinking about this.
In the past, she had opportunities to cook together with Layton. At that time, he was talking about Leerin. That happy look on Layton's face as he spoke about it surely meant that he treasured that memory!
What kind of person was Leerin? Meishen was constantly wondering about this. If she could compare her image with the person in question, perhaps she would know.
However, Meishen's image of Leerin was completely off. The bad thing about imagination was that if you didn't pay attention for just a moment you would float into space, or you would fall into a deep valley. Just who was this Leerin person? Was she really that Leerin which was so revered, or was she not as great as Meishen thought? It was a pity, seeing as how pointless it was to be blindly guessing like this.
Even if Leerin was less skilled than Meishen, Meishen had fantasized a comparison between the two of them.
In reality, their opponents were themselves.
But right now, was Leerin better or worse than Meishen? The results were very clear: Leerin was superior.
Whether it was socializing or cooking, she was good at all of them. And on top of that she was very smart and beautiful.
Meishen couldn't find anything to say. What she wanted to say she was too shy to talk about. Doing things without others knowing was more like herself.
"The thing is, the only thing I can't make are desserts. You're really good, making it in such a short time!" said Leerin as she walked to the container that held the completed cake and stuck her finger into it, licking the cream.
Swaying with delight, a completely honest sound came from Leerin.
"I'm really pleased~"
Looking at the delighted Leerin, Meishen couldn't take it anymore. It was unbearable, thinking of how she took her fantasies of comparing herself and Leerin and used this opportunity to realize it, as well as her stupid actions when she first learned of Leerin's existence.
There was no prefix in her words as Meishen lowered her head.
It was a little surprising when Meishen did that with absolutely no hesitation.
Even though she was apologized to, frankly Leerin was still very perplexed about it.
Meishen then told Leerin how she had read her letter.
"Which letter!?" asked Leerin as a previously unseen dizzying blush of shyness tinged her cheeks.
She wasn't angry. On this point, she was very similar to Layfon.
Even when she felt angry at other people's actions, she didn't know how to deal with such situations. She was like this in the orphanage. When she became the head chef at ten and started cooking, she watched the younger kids stirring up trouble everywhere. As a result, she naturally formed two differing personalities. That second personality did not oppose the character that she was born with, rather it was a distortion of the original. At critical points in time Leerin usually expressed her inner self, yet this time it did not occur.
In other words, she didn't know how to be angry. This kind of unorthodox action, and to think that someone would actually cross that line of morality... Yet, when she met with these kinds of actions, she just couldn't get angry. Leerin didn't have a reaction more extreme than simply being embarrassed when she found out that someone had read her letter to Layfon.
Leerin understood what Meishen did wasn't usual. If one of the kids at the orphanage had peeked at other people's letters, she guessed that she probably wouldn't have given a second thought about slapping them.
And also, Meishen was apologizing for her actions.
Then should she slap her? Should she call her a despicable, disgraceful scum?
In the end, she didn't know what to do.
She had thought about it for a day and an age, and ended up saying that sentence. She wasn't angry in the first place, and even if she were, she would have to let herself calm down.
Meishen didn't raise her head even after hearing those words.
"Even if I got angry at you in the heat of the moment, it would still leave many awkward complications," said Leerin softly.
Meishen finally lifted her head, with her eyes glistening with tears as they threatened to spill out.
"Even though I'll feel embarrassed... Ah... How should I say this?" Leerin thought about this for a minute, unable to find the words to make Meishen understand.
"I suppose I would have done the same!" That's the only way she could say it, because Leerin knew the reason why Meishen had done such a thing.
(If their positions had been reversed)
One day, if she had received a letter from Meishen to Layfon... She thought of this.
Putting whether or not she would actually read the letter aside, she knew that the temptation to do so would be hidden deeply within her heart.
Layfon didn't notice, right? On multiple occasions towards her, as well as with many other people's feelings towards him he was infallibly slow. This was one thing about him that never changed.
That personality of his was more than enough to warrant her chase from Grendan after him, yet she was unable to change it. Wasn't it something that would be easily changed? "It seems like that would be the way it is," sighed Leerin with resignation.
She could see a surprised light in Meishen's eyes.
"What did she think of her own position?" thought Leerin. Layfon's lover? If it was like that... If it was like that, then if she came to Zuellni earlier, a little bit earlier then there probably wouldn't be any problems like this.
And then, she wouldn't know what she would do if she had read Meishen's name in a letter, or if she had read Nina's (who was in the dining room) name, or what she would do if there was another girl's name in the letter.
"Meishen-chan, what's the matter?"
Meishen was drying her tears with a handkerchief.
"Is the cake ok?"
Seeing a flustered Meishen tripping towards the oven, peeking inside urgently, Leerin crossed her arms and laughed.
"Next up, I'll wrap things up and finish the rest of the cooking in one go!"
Just what exactly am I doing?
Hiding that fragment of her heart, Leerin hummed a song as she baked the bread.
But she had made up her mind. She had decided to officially accept that short-term scholarship which she had been so hesitant about after the exam.
When all the food was placed on the tables within the dining hall and everything was prepared, the dorm head returned.
"My apologies, I should have been the one cooking, yet I let a guest do it!" said the head.
"It's ok; I'm already used to cooking!"
Meishen noticed Leerin's cautious reply.
"En? What's wrong, Mei-chan?"
"Eh? No- nothing!" She hurriedly lowered her head, covering her blushing cheeks with her hands.
Meishen thought that Leerin really was amazing.
If it were Meishen, what would she have done? Would she have been angry? She probably wouldn't be. No, she wouldn't be angry. She thoroughly understood her own feeble personality. But keeping her composure while cursing the person behind her smiling facade was entirely possible.
Practically gazing at her dark thoughts, so shallow in her heart, irritated her.
But Leerin was different. She forgave her. She didn't only forgive her with words, but also with all her heart.
Even if she wasn't like this, she was still far ahead, without the slightest similarity with Meishen. She was speaking with a smile. Speaking to her with that nickname which Mifi had thought up, her familiarity made it feel like a dialogue between close friends.
Could she do such a thing?
No, she didn't think she could.
The atmosphere of Leerin's welcoming party was very warm and welcoming. Everyone was praising Leerin's cooking, and Meishen thought it was delicious as well.
How on earth did she manage to cook such a large variety of dishes in such a short time and make them taste delicious as well?
Leerin also lauded Meishen's cake. The cream did well to control the sweetness of the chocolate, all layered in the spongy cake. And Meishen had decorated the dessert with many different fruits. What a pretty cake!
Seeing her taste Meishen's cake so eagerly, she felt really fortunate.
"Layfon isn't here. I feel bad for the rest of the team that isn't here too..."
"I understand." Hearing Nina's words, Leerin nodded.
"It really is a pity. I still wanted to ask him a couple of questions." Mifi's words were sincere.
"It doesn't matter, really, seeing as tomorrow she'll be a first year as well, so we'll have many chances to trade stories later."
On the other side, Nina suddenly cried out.
"I forgot! Leerin, you're a third year student!"
Everyone on site was frozen with surprise.
"Your test results were extremely good. The student council president thought that it would be better for you if you went straight to the third year class. I'm guessing you'll probably be in my class."
Nina revealed the hidden meaning behind the student council president's words.
"Wow~~! She skipped grades? This is the first time I've ever heard of this."
"But it happens in schools in normal cities as well."
However, with all the latest publications, information and technology absorbed into academy cities, skipping grades was a rare occurrence. The reason students didn't have to specialize in any specific area between the grades one and three was to allow the students to learn what the schools considered basic knowledge selected to teach from their massive store of information.
But despite all these improbabilities, Leerin still skipped grades.
It was because she really was extremely capable.
"Well, you have to realize that short-term study periods are also taken into consideration when they decide to allow a student to skip grades. It would benefit a student more to learn things at a third year level compared to a first year's, right?"
"If you put it like that, it seems more probable" said Leerin in response to Nina's words.
Leerin's quick understanding enforced Meishen's high regard for her.
She probably couldn't catch up to her even if she worked hard.
Other than feeling slightly lonely, Meishen thought that something else was amiss.
Of course, after returning to their dormitories, she would still feel angry about Mifi leaving so quickly.
...and today, she arrived here.
(What to do?)
Layfon was sleeping, and apart from the two of them, there was nobody else in the room.
It was a personal room.
A single room.
Meishen cried out loudly within her heart, extremely nervous, feeling herself perspiring heavily.
(No, wait a moment, you. Don't forget your purpose. What did you come here for today?)
She has to control herself, she must.
Yes,... she came here today because of Mifi. She...
"Do your best and ask Layfon out on a date. Do whatever you can! In the face of superiority in terms of time spent together, the happy times you've shared will be wiped away in the blink of an eye! So right now, you can't stop!"
Because she said it like that.
In the dormitory, Meishen realized she couldn't beat Leerin at cooking. The result made Mifi resentful, seeing as how she was already helping Meishen.
Meishen felt that way as well, and she thought that being dishonest wasn't ok either.
She wanted to be more honest.
For this, if she didn't experience it with her own body, she wouldn't understand.
For this, she promised to go on a date.
Layfon, he would probably accept it. It had to be a time when Layfon had no other appointments. Over here, all the military artists were preparing for the celebrations for the Military Art's victory, and were extremely busy. She didn't know when he would have time.
But Layfon probably didn't have any special feelings towards Meishen, and his attitude towards the date would probably be one of going out with a friend to have some fun.
That was the biggest problem. His slowness in that area.
(It was probably impossible today. The nurse had said that he probably wouldn't wake up before midnight.)
Yes, even if it was like that, Meishen still understood Mifi's point. Then it was probably okay to just leave the get-better gifts and leave... right?
Layfon, lying over there in a vulnerable position you could never see normally.
He had slept in class before.
He had slept on the lawn outside the library as well.
But if you spoke to him he would get up immediately. Because Layfon was a Military Artist, even though she didn't know if he was a very strong one, she had never seen him off-guard when dealing with anyone.
When he was sleeping, however...
So she wanted to do something.
So a strange feeling took root in her heart.
Layfon turned over while sleep talking, causing Meishen to hold her breath. But he didn't make any other actions, continuing to sleep.
Even if he was a Military artist he couldn't resist the force of sleeping pills.
If she were to do it, this was her only chance.
This kind of chance couldn't possibly appear again. If she thought of it like this, if she didn't do it now she would never have another chance at it ever again.
Even the timid Meishen thought so. This idea possessed her, forcing her to think this way. A single room, two people together alone, her own feelings, Leerin... the results of various thoughts made her unable to even think of backing away.
(Wait, just wait a little longer.)
Her rationality was screaming out at her earlier. But her mind was already overflowing with thoughts. She didn't feel cold but her warm shoulders and hands were shaking uncontrollably.
But her body was thirsting for it.
She had already decided to come clean.
She realized that she was going to do a despicable thing to a sleeping person. But... but... but...
She stood up, leaning close to the bed.
Layfon slept on regardless, his face serene with both eyes closed, breathing calmly.
She placed her face close to his and brushed back her hair.
She felt Layfon's breath tickle her cheek.
She moved slowly.
(Wait... Wait just a bit more.)
Her silliness, her shyness were all suppressed by her singular desire. The desire to bend a little lower. The only obstacle to sating that desire was that tiny resisting thought of "he's still sleeping."
Had Leerin watched him like this ever since childhood?
She gazed at him, and continued gazing at him unblinkingly. Meishen half-opened her mouth, words caught endlessly within.
The resisting thought.
(It's ok, right?)
Even though she still had her doubts, it was too late to stop now.
(... ... ... ... En)
It was a gentle warmth, and in a moment, the two people touched each other.
It was a forced contact.
Meishen was overcome by all sorts of emotions and driven by them, she fled the sick room.
Layfon, left behind...
"I've already had plenty of red vegetables!" His sleep talk was undisturbed.
In this room which wasn't cold or baleful, those words quickly spread out and vanished.