Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume12 Chapter5
Chapter 5: The City that Eliminates Evil
Nelphilia's gaze moved away from the sky. Just this action alone pulled Nina in and made her stop breathing. Nelphilia's chin had only made an imperceptible movement, her gaze pulling away, and that was enough to capture Nina's heart.
This girl was dangerous.
This girl was dangerous. Just by looking at her, no, since her figure entered Nina's sight, she found herself unable to look at anything else. This girl's beauty and attraction was indescribable.
"As I thought, the Guardian Beasts aren't enough!" Nelphilia said. She wasn't looking at Nina, nor was she speaking to her.
"They're all destroyed!" she said and finally looked at Nina.
This word sent a chill up Nina's spine. Did anyone die? Or.......
"The Guardian Beasts. You and the people with you, why did you come here?" Nelphilia smiled, looking at Karian and the Head of Alchemy who lay on the floor.
"I knew these two. The one with the terrible face has always wanted to wake me. The other views me as some kind of danger."
"......... Who are you?"
Nelphilia had her back on Nina, but her figure still attracted Nina's eyes. Just who was this girl?
"Are you really the Electronic Fairy that's split from Zuellni?"
"I hope you don't put me on the same scales as those fake imitations," the girl's serious eyes found Nina. ".......... But, thanks to that thing coming, I'm now awake. The gear of time has begun moving. Everything's moving now. That's why I woke. That's the result. That thing begins everything by coming here."
"What were you saying? Please explain it in a way that we understand," Nina said with dissatisfaction. If she didn't say this, that girl's attraction might take over her entire body.
"I'm not an Electronic Fairy, but I like Zuellni! Out of all the Electronic Fairies, I only like that child. Is that not enough a reason?"
"Then what are you?"
"What would you do if you found out? This has got nothing to do with you, right? Whether you know who I am, what you can do has nothing to do with my real body. That I can tell you. No matter which path you choose, you won't have anything to do with my real body," she said with determination. Though her tone was nonchalant, her words were obviously refusing Nina.
"This is all you need to do now," she said. Something had appeared in her hand.
Her fingers held the thing lightly. A mask. A mask of a beast. Nina had seen this before. This belonged to the Wolf Faces. She readied her iron whips.
"You........ Are you a Wolf Face!?" she pointed her iron whip at her.
"Your train of thought is so simple!" the girl said, not at all frightened at the weapon pointed at her. Disapproval showed in her eyes and she was not afraid as she placed the mask on her own face.
"Have a good feel of it with your body. You should be able to do that, right? Your body is half Electronic Fairy!"
Nina didn't understand her words in a split second, but the memory of what happened when she was ten rushed up inside her. That tiny Electronic Fairy. She had wanted to save it, but in the end, it saved her. She thought she understood something as she recalled her memory, but the next moment, she lost it. The true meaning of the mask before her suddenly rose in her.
That mask in the girl's hand, the Haikizoku that had shown itself as a golden goat.
"Don't you remember? Who do you think you were talking to when you were defeated?"
She recalled the past event. Yes, it did happen. She remembered blacking out and losing consciousness. Sharnid had then saved her. So something had happened before that?
"That man, the Wolf Face you were talking about. And for the Haikizoku to turn into this, isn't it quite a convenient look? Its face reflects its master's appearance!"
She tossed the mask to Nina. Though both of Nina's hands were occupied with her iron whips, she reflexively caught the mask with her left wrist. As if melting, the mask sank into her chest.
It had returned. That was how Nina felt.
"Dixerio, the man who bets on the mask for his wish to revenge, is easy to understand? That thing is necessary to him, so he lets the Haikizoku keep its appearance in the mask. What about you?"
Nina didn't understand her question. She wasn't surprised that this girl knew of Dixerio. Since she knew the Wolf Faces, it wouldn't be strange for her to know Dixerio.
"You've the power that people are envious of. If you could obtain that power, what would you do with it?"
"Just what are you......"
"I anticipate it," the girl said, the shadows around her deepening into darkness as if to refuse Nina's hand. Gradually, darkness swallowed her pale face and arms.
When the darkness disappeared, it left behind the green light exuding from the tubes. The light was brighter than when the girl was present. It illuminated a bigger area than before.
Nina heard moaning in the room. Karian and the Head of Alchemy had regained consciousness.
Layfon moved first. As if fishing up something, he aimed his attack at Savaris' upper body. It didn't hit. Savaris had deflected the attack. Savaris had released Kei from his body while retreating, using it to deflect Layfon's assault.
When Layfon swung his katana upward, Savaris had rushed him, left fist aiming for Layfon's cheek. Layfon attempted to grab the fist with his own left hand, only managing to grab hold of Savaris' wrist as the Heaven's Blade successor deflected Layfon's attack. Savaris added horrific pressure on his left wrist. Layfon, about to lose his grip, added strength to his fingers. The Kei covering Savaris' fist resisted Layfon's hand. Layfon gathered even more Kei to his fingertips.
Layfon had only managed to control Savaris' arm. As such, the Heaven's Blade successor attacked Layfon's knee with his foot. Layfon released his hold. The two jumped apart.
Layfon's fingertips were very hot. The glove he was wearing was torn through, with traces of injuries left on his fingers. Some of his nails had fallen off but his fingers had sunk deep into Savaris' wrist. There should be five lines of injuries on the Heaven's Blade successor's wrist. Additionally, Layfon's katana had slashed open the chest area of Savaris' fighting suit. Savaris had deflected the blade with his Kei, but it wasn't enough to completely stop Layfon's attack.
Savaris laughed. He tore the fighting suit apart to reveal his upper body. Blood welled up from the injuries on his left wrist. He licked his wounds. Layfon's fingernails were still in them. Savaris bit down on the fingernails, pulled them out and spat them out of his mouth. His smile looked even more appalling with blood in it.
"As I thought. In the end, only a fight with a fellow human can satisfy me. It isn't a fight of power alone, but of skill and closer to death!"
"As if I care," Layfon said and readied his katana again. The spirit he had honed through training with the katana had chased away the pain in his left hand.
"The present you is just an existence that I have to surpass. The wall is high, and it's connected to other things too. I'm really envious of you. Perhaps it'd be more interesting if I stood on your side."
"These things aren't important," Layfon said and moved.
Three successive sudden strikes for the head, heart and head. Savaris failed to evade all three attacks and sustained shallow injuries on his shoulder and cheek. Two forces of Kei clashed and detonated, blowing the air into disarray. Savaris flew away in the air, as if bounding off something. He did a back-flip. Feeling something unpleasant on his chin, he quickly pulled back his body. Clamps seized his face. He felt fingers assaulting his face.
He was in the air.
External Burst type Kei – Sendan. (Lightning Cut)
Layfon's strike flew towards Savaris.
Savaris' slow vertical spin became horizontal as he kicked out with his foot.
External-type burst Karen Kei variant – Fuuretsukei. (Fierce Wind)
The mad running current of air was sucked into Savaris' Kei and then deflected. The condensed air pressure took Sendan head on and they canceled each other out. A new force of chaotic air was called forth and pushed back by the two combatants.
External-type Kei variant – Whirl Kei.
Guiding the flow of the air current, Layfon hid numerous bullets of Kei inside it.
External-type burst Karen Kei variant – Kishiyukubaku. (Compressed air)
Savaris' move compressed air into one point. He detonated it to cancel Layfon's bullets. The remnants of the explosion flew towards Layfon.
Combined Internal and External Kei Variant – Ryuusen Kei. (Spinning Dragon)
Layfon spun to deflect the remnants as his spin drew in more air currents, sucking in Savaris as well. For a split second, Savaris had lost control of his body, and Layfon did not let that opportunity go.
External Burst type Kei – Sendan. (Lightning Cut)
The condensed Kei that flew out of the typhoon was enough to split a person in half.
External Burst type Kei, Luckens' move – Roar Kei.
Savaris' voice made the air vibrate, scattering the roiling dust that came from the battle. The vibration that couldn't possibly have come from a human's voice decomposed the dust into finer particles. The thin dust screen gathered by the exchange of Kei techniques, Layfon's Ryuusen Kei and the Savaris' Kishukubaku, now scattered in all directions.
Explosions surrounded Savaris. Sendan pierced through those explosions to draw a shallow ditch on the outer shell of the city.
Layfon didn't feel he had finished his opponent. Numerous explosions had drastically reduced visibility. And he didn't think the sparks caused by the dust were enough to create such large explosions. There must be a trap. But what was it?
He stopped the Ryuusen Kei and retreated. The trap must be close to him. Using the rebounding force of the External Kei, he moved back a hundred meters or so from his spot before his foot touched ground. He felt he had the advantage when the two forces of Kei clashed, but that was exactly why he felt Savaris had laid a trap for him.
All the explosions had finished detonating when he landed. The turbulent air had yet to settle. Dense smoke rose to cloud his vision. He couldn't feel any Kei around him. Savaris must have used Sakkei to mask his presence. Where did Savaris plan to ambush him?
It wasn't strange to think Savaris would attack from anywhere, as he was a Heaven's Blade successor. He could even come from the ground beneath Layfon's feet. If Layfon lost his concentration, it would lead to his defeat.
He was ready no matter where Savaris came at him. He considered where Savaris could attack him. Though he knew this would obstruct the flexibility of his movement and expose him, though he could only greet the attack through the instincts honed in training, he could not stop thinking.
The previous explosion bothered him. The dust cloud caused by it did well to hide Savaris' figure. However, Sakkei itself was not enough to totally mask the flow of Kei unless the Kei vein itself was taken out. In that case, the best timing and location to close with Layfon was...........?
Above. Explosion. Take advantage. Jump.
Those terms flashed past his head, and he moved.
As he had thought. Savaris was above him. Their gazes met. The explosion had painted black Savaris' bloody smile, making it more horrific. He had stopped using Sakkei and concentrated the Kei around him to his left fist.
Layfon made an instant judgment that this move was to decide the outcome of the fight. His body naturally reacted and readied his stance to meet the attack.
Psyharden technique – Homuragiri Shoujin. (Flame strike - Flying Blade)
Layfon jumped as he struck with the katana. Flame writhed on the blade. The strike of the katana brushed past Savaris as two forces of Kei ate into each other. The impact was just one swift moment, and next, both fighters had exchanged positions.
The fight hadn't ended. The impact of the opponent's move swam in Layfon's body. Pain. Red dots that weren't of his flame danced in his sight but he ignored them. He changed his stance. Savaris had also landed to ready his next attack.
But this time...........
Psyharden technique – Homuragasane Koufu. (Flame weight - Red Cloth)
External-type Kei variant – Goushiyoudan. (Rising bullet)
External Kei in the form of flames poured out upon Savaris like a red roaring waterfall. Savaris received it with Goushiyoudan. Explosion. Impact. The impact sent Layfon tens of meters from his original position and forced him to land. Savaris had stopped his movement as he shouldered the descending impact of Layfon's move.
Psyharden technique – Mizukagamiwatari. (Reflecting Water Ferry)
With a speed that was even faster than Uzu Kei (external Whirl Kei), Layfon rushed Savaris. Their gazes overlapped. Though Savaris had yet to ready his stance, he managed to react with his leg. Feeling the kick of a death god nearing his right side, Layfon swung the katana without hesitation. He aimed at Savaris' throat in an attempt to finish this battle with one move.
The flowing of time was extremely quiet. Death was closing in. Death was about to descend on him. Which side was faster? Or they might react simultaneously. Layfon did not defend against Savaris' kick. If Layfon was faster, then the threat against him would vanish. If he was slower, he'd die.
Death. He had wanted to kill Gahard at that time but he did not. That man was connected to the Luckens family. Was he now to kill off a Heaven's Blade born to that family? He could not stop his movement now. If he didn't kill his opponent, only death awaited him.
The katana stabbed at Savaris' throat without deviating an inch. Layfon felt it touch skin and break through muscles. But next, a painful impact assaulted his shoulder.
Time returned to the two fighters. Savaris' kick sent him flying. He slid on air as if something was pulling him out and then tossed him onto the ground. The katana flew from his grip to pierce the earth.
Pain ran through his entire body. His right shoulder was dislocated. Wounds broke over his body. He felt something wet beneath his tattered fighting suit. He pushed the right shoulder back in place. The stimulation made him moan. He picked up the Dite beside him.
Savaris had fallen. He wasn't moving. Blood welled from his neck wound to pool around him. Dead, or, he was about to die. The light in his opened eyes was lost. He probably was still alive as he was looking at Layfon's direction, his lips trembling but without voice. Probably because his throat's been cut open. Layfon originally planned to completely stab through that throat, but the kick had intercepted his move. If Savaris' knee had contacted with Layfon's shoulder rather than part of his foot, then Layfon's shoulder would have been shattered. The impact might have even damaged his lungs. What a close call. And if Savaris could use his right arm, things wouldn't have turned out this way.
Layfon left Savaris as he quietly ran internal Kei through his body. He still had many people to defeat.
I'll probably die.
That thought echoed in Savaris' head as he felt something flowing out with the blood. He didn't regret it. He didn't even think of another outcome if he could move his right arm. To have strong mental preparation was his all. It would have been shameful to consider that other possibility after the fight.
Layfon had left him, carrying his own wounds. He probably planned to keep fighting. Ruimei was his next opponent. The one after him was probably Troiatte. And then he would have to fight all the Heaven's Blade successors. Where would he end up? Or, where would he fall? Savaris was envious of him.
He had always wanted to challenge the Queen, and he did do it, but he lost. He had lost to the Queen who had held back in the fight. After that day, he had fought filth monsters in order to once again challenge her. He thought he'd surpass her one day. But it wasn't too bad to fight Layfon in this desperate situation. Yes, he had nothing except himself in a desperate situation. That was why he could use power above his real strength. Layfon was probably in that situation back then. Savaris also wanted to find that extra something in himself. But he probably wouldn't find it as he wasn't interested in anything outside battle. No matter. He was comfortable. As long as he lived, a day of satisfaction would never come. It might not be that bad to die here.
"Are you to die here?"
Though blood flowed out from him and his consciousness was gradually fading, his sense of hearing was still sharp. He heard footsteps. The ball of light from Troiatte cast a long shadow on Savaris.
"You boring guy. Are you to die here because you went overboard playing?"
His vision was dimming, but he recalled that voice and realized it was Lintence. He opened his mouth and wanted to greet him with spirit, but all that came out was blood.
"I've a message from the Queen."
He felt sharp pain and heat on his body that was like fire. His body was still weak but the blood flow had stopped. Savaris coughed violently as blood continued to spill from his mouth. When he stopped coughing, the flow through his throat was better. He could now breathe.
"We're already short of one person. We can't let one more die. The Queen is the one to decide when you are to die."
Lintence had used his Steel Threads to sew up Savaris' injuries. The Kei generated heat to burn the wounds and seal them, completely stemming the flow of blood. Perhaps he had also perfectly sewn up the Kei vein.
"Th..... Thanks," he said. His voice was hoarse and weak.
"But speaking of which, what's with this commotion?"
"Hell's about to descend. Aren't you good? Having your name taken out of the comrade list?"
Savaris saw him leaving. Looking at his back that moved towards the center of the city, Savaris was very envious of Layfon.
Having his life saved, his desire for battle had re-awakened. But even he was unable to do anything more with his body. This was disappointing.
Leerin had done what she could. She had helped with cooking, setting up tables and eating utensils. No matter what task it was that anyone thought was short of people, Leerin was able to make them feel they had too many helpers. She wanted to do something for them. Only that could keep her calm.
Very quickly, she had finished everything and had nothing else to do.
"Could you take a look at Mei for me?" Naruki said as Leerin helped to deliver food to injured Military Artists. Though Naruki was also wounded, she could still move around. However, she could not return to the battlefield immediately. Right now, she was helping out the City Police. Mifi was somewhere here, but she was probably busy with people that she knew.
"Seems she's preparing for an activity to keep everyone's spirit up."
What a good idea. Ignore the possibility that the event might not be interesting, but it would be a good distraction.
Leerin headed for Meishen's room alone. She touched her face unconsciously. Her right eye was still closed, but no one had noticed. No....... One person had noticed.
Nina. Only she had noticed Leerin's eye was closed. Why her? Nina didn't feel anything strange and special about her closed right eye. But no one else had noticed. This meant Nina might also have something in her, something that could be similar to what was inside Leerin. Perhaps the event here was connected to the event in Myath. But what was it? The mysterious Wolf Faces organization had attempted to seize Myath's Electronic Fairy. That was all she understood. All the information she held now was just bits and pieces. Too broken to be put back together. If what the Wolf Faces did was just a process to reach their goal, then what were they aiming for? And what was the fruit of that aim? Was her right eye part of it? Who was she?
Thoughts continued to churn inside Leerin's head, unable to halt. She didn't know how to handle those questions. Something must have happened opposite the shelter. And this wasn't connected to the reality. It felt like something that Leerin had felt before. A feeling of dislike chased after her.
So who was Leerin? She kept asking herself. She had never thought of this before. At the orphanage, some children were taken in by other families, some were adopted, and others were taken to work. Particularly for those people who had a craft skill, they often visited the orphanage as they wanted apprentices who could learn a skill at a young age. But no one had requested for Leerin, and Leerin didn't regret it. All she was bothered was that she didn't have any parents. Derek never said anything about her origin. Different reasons explained the outcome of one becoming an orphan. And among those reasons, some could be said, some couldn't. If Derek had told some orphans of things that weren't important and consequential, others who weren't told of anything would feel despair. As such, he didn't say anything.
Leerin understood why her adopted father said nothing, so she never asked. But she did want to know. No, perhaps even Derek didn't know why she wanted to know. She wasn't sure whether she had been adopted once when she was born. But what existed must have undergone a process. Leerin's eye..... the eye that reflected what a normal eye couldn't perceive, this right eye – there must be a reason existing in Leerin. Nothing had happened in her when she was in Grendan, but an omen was given to her when she met Synola. In that case, "because I left Grendan" couldn't be a reason. Though it might be the reason to awaken that thing, it wasn't enough to explain the existence of her right eye.
Something was slowly putting pressure on her head. That feeling filled her as she walked. She had felt something changing. Something was happening above the ground. Were they connected? What should she do?
You can do nothing. That was what that girl had said. The black clothed girl looked the same as the girl in Leerin's memory, but she was a different person.
....... Though she recalled the girl in her memory, she only remembered her appearance. It wasn't strange for her to mistake this girl as the girl in the memory. She didn't know why, but she felt the girl was of a personality that would arouse pity and sympathy, looking at her appearance.
But why could Leerin not accept this thinking?
She remembered what the girl had said.
You can do nothing.
What was going on? She was challenging Leerin. Leerin felt the other person was simply narrating a truth. The existence in her right eye seemed to be related to this commotion. Then what did she mean that she could do nothing? What did she want to do? How did she plan to carry it out? These things that had already been decided were mysteries to Leerin. Was this what the girl wanted to express? How painful a thing it was. This seemed to be Leerin's will but in reality, it wasn't. Though she chose certain actions, she felt those things had already been decided.
Her inability to understand these things brought her unease. She didn't even know what she could do about it. Leerin came to the patient's room, perturbed. She clapped her face lightly to soften her expression.
Meishen was already up. This was a room housing many patients. Leerin saw her sitting up through the gap in the curtain separating the beds. Meishen looked eased at seeing Leerin.
"Are you all right?"
"Uh, the doctor said I can leave when I feel ready. I'm sorry."
"That can't be helped."
Leerin sat beside her. There weren't many chances for them to be alone. Naruki and Mifi were usually with Meishen. Meishen was like a kid, a kid who tended to suffer when she was alone. Leerin didn't think that was a good thing. She didn't feel refusal or alarm from Meishen for sitting so close. It was proof of how good their relationship was.
"Is it really bad outside?"
"I'm not sure. Have you seen Naruki and Mifi?"
"Mi's visited me already. Is Naruki injured?"
"Yeah, but she seems okay. She's working with the City Police."
Leerin told her of what she knew.
This was a very usual and relaxing hour, but Leerin felt a sense of tension coming from the outside of the ceiling and from something else she couldn't pinpoint. She then realized that the tension came from Meishen.
Meishen was used to looking at people from a low angle. It probably came from her shy personality. She always had her head down. It was difficult to look her in the eye. But it seemed she came to this city to change her personality. Since coming here, she had met Layfon and was now talking to Leerin.
Leerin found that part of her strong. The attempt to change her current self was a fight that was harder than any other fights. Layfon also wanted to change his lifestyle. Though his first intention was to abandon his life as a Military Artist, the intention was different now. Leerin was a bit worried that he was only being pulled around by fate.
Nina was the same. The people Leerin lived with in the dormitory were also the same. She felt they were fighting something against themselves. Perhaps everyone who came to an Academy City was the same. Otherwise, they wouldn't have taken the roaming bus and left their city on a life-threatening journey. But if that was the case, then this world had too many battlefields.
"Lay.... ton............. Layfon. Is he not back?"
For Meishen to say this with this expression, this must be a part of her fight. Perhaps it wasn't something big to others, but it must be an important battle for her.
"Yeah, he's not back."
Speaking of which, Leerin hadn't heard of any news about him even though Nina was back.
"....... Are you not worried?"
She didn't know how to answer. She didn't think Layfon would die and sustain heavy injuries. She had met Nina when she was preparing meals. If something terrible had happened to him, Nina wouldn't have hidden his condition and kept calm. That didn't match her personality. This meant Layfon was fine. That was Leerin's belief. She could only believe as she couldn't do anything else.
"Because I can't do anything, I can only believe in him."
She had journeyed to this city to give Derek's katana to Layfon. An incredible event had happened at that time and she had told him how she thought. He must be fighting a terrible fight right now. She felt he was in the most difficult fight out of all his battles. In Grendan, he could leave the fights to others, but not in Zuellni. That was why she wished for him to take up the katana. She wasn't against him continuing to be a Military Artist. She wanted him to take up the katana so that he wouldn't be crippled when he had to give his all. In the end, Layfon decided to pick up the katana once more. He had accepted her thinking and Derek's forgiveness. In his heart, he had not abandoned his past in Grendan. Though she felt his refusal to take up the katana was his stubbornness about the past, she had managed to persuade him. She was very happy that he understood her. That was why she firmly believed in him, believed that he would safely return just like the times in Grendan.
"You're strong," Meishen said with her head lowered.
Leerin ignored the light swaying in her heart and looked at her. From the start, Meishen was bent over her knees on the bed, looking at her own feet.
"I can't be as strong as you. I've........ I've always worried. I don't know what to do."
A dark spot stained her dress. The trace of something wet...... the trace of a tear. Tears fell from her face.
Was she so worried that she had to cry? Leerin remembered that she also cried when she reunited with Layfon and saw the wounds on his body. That had never happened in Grendan as there were many Military Artists who were strong like Layfon. She always believed that Layfon would return.
"I'm worried about Naruki too, and everyone else. As long as it's someone I've seen, the Military Artists in the class. What would I do if they're not here tomorrow? Just that thought alone makes me feel so uncomfortable. I'm more worried about Layfon. Compared to worrying about Naruki, I think I'm more worried about him."
Leerin felt her own reply was weak. What meaning had she put in that reply? Agreement? Acceptance? Or did she only reply to allow the other person to keep talking?
"I...... I..... like Layfon. Perhaps, he's the first boy that I like."
After knowing that Meishen had read Layfon's letter, she immediately knew that Meishen liked Layfon. The other two girls that she noticed also were Nina and Felli. She wasn't sure at first as she thought they were with him because they were both Military Artists. After knowing them more, she was certain that Felli liked Layfon. Nina's feeling was delicate. If it was the case, she probably didn't notice her own feelings due to other distractions.
She could tell how proactive Meishen was by her action of reading the letter. Though she suspected Meishen's personality was shy through her actions, she was in reality a shy person. Meishen wanted to change. Of course, her action might have come about through her childhood friends giving her a helping push from behind. If Meishen hadn't fallen for Layfon, perhaps she would have already changed her personality. Layfon was too clumsy and slow in areas other than Military Arts. To make a girl like Meishen take such action, this man was too foolish. Leerin really wanted to scold him and call him a wooden person. Layfon was able to make another feel angry like that.
"Leerin's strong. I don't know what I should do."
Meishen sobbed with her hands covering her face. Leerin placed her hand on Meishen's back, patting her. The girl's entire body shook.
Leerin didn't know what to say. What should she do? What should she convey to her? What should she do for Meishen who worried about Layfon so much that she cried for him? She couldn't do anything if not for Mifi.
She handed Meishen to Mifi's care. So relieved. At the same time, she wondered whether she was over her head. She was relieved to escape from that scene. She had many things to ponder – about that girl, about her closed right eye that no one noticed, about more important questions. But these were just excuses. What she had noticed in the conversation with Meishen shook her more intensely. She had forgotten the questions about herself and her right eye when she sat beside Meishen.
Leerin left for the corridor.
This was not her home city. She had thought of it during the time in the roaming bus and the time of her earlier days in Zuellni. But now that she had spent three months in Zuellni, that thought had vanished.
She now told herself once more that this wasn't her home city. This wasn't Grendan. And this might not be the place that she should be in.
The person she hoped for, the thing she hoped for. All that had ended when she handed Derek's Dite to Layfon. She had nothing else to do here. Though she could learn many things in the Academy City, she wanted to return to Grendan. She wanted to go back.
She wanted to take glimpses of the orphanage from far away. She wanted to make meals for Derek. She wanted to feel the atmosphere of the small and narrow, unlike in Zuellni, classroom. She wanted to see Synola-senpai's foolish acts. She suddenly felt these yearnings. Though she didn't cry, she felt the inside of her head heating up.
She walked and continued to walk, but no matter where she came to, she couldn't calm down. This was a shelter during a crisis. This was Zuellni. In a shelter in Grendan, at least she had something. Since when she was little, she had entered the shelter once a month like a routine. Having left the orphanage to enter the shelter, she had met other children and had argued with them. She had experienced the time of being provoked to anger and being told to stop arguing.
Since living on her own, she had been visiting a different shelter. The canteen area where she helped to make meals had calmed her down. The people she met there would greet her when they saw her. They'd even tell her where to buy cheap food. The foundation of her life was there. Right now, she wished and longed for it. She wanted something to rely on.
She knew she had become weaker, and she hated it. She had been hesitating. Wavering on if she should come here. And after contemplating, came here. She wanted to meet Layfon. Meet, and then... What did she want to do after seeing him? She felt she wouldn't know until she met him. She did intend to to understand her own heart, but she felt it would be unclear if she took one more step.
She wanted to confirm everything – her feelings, Layfon's feelings, and the future.
These things had ended. She felt that had ended on the first night in the shelter.
Her right eye hurt. She wanted to tell someone about it.
Meishen's feeling was painful for her.
She wanted someone to listen to her so she could get some answer. She wished someone could clearly point out to her what she wished for. She was becoming weak.
When she came to, she was already standing there.
No one was here. The group of eyeballs was gone. Had they truly disappeared or had they simply become invisible? She wanted to try opening her right eye, but the pain didn't allow her. Her right eye seemed to be refusing to open itself.
"Seems you can't open it for the time being."
This was a voice so light that it could pierce through air. This girl stood next to her and looked the same as the other girl. As expected, this girl was not the same person.
The beautiful girl wearing clothes the color of the night sky stood next to her. She stood there as if it was matter of fact.
Who, who are you?
That was what she wanted to ask, but she said something instead.
"What's happened to you?"
How come this girl could see through her heart?
"I've been sleeping. Always sleeping," the girl said faintly.
Leerin felt this wasn't the answer she wanted. But. No.
"If it's just sleeping, I can sleep anywhere, but I just want to sleep beside that person."
Leerin felt this was important.
"What's your name?"
Leerin was satisfied with the concise answer. Nelphilia and this girl were like the same person on different side of the mirror. Though Leerin wanted to ask about Nelphilia, she didn't say anything.
"It'll be painful," Saya said.
Saya's words seemed to point to the future after this moment, Leerin's closed right eye and all that were to happen to her. Painful. Leerin wanted to tell someone about it and rely on that someone. Only one person floated in her mind. He looked so unreliable, but he made people want to rely on him. The man that she had always wanted to believe in.
The pain in her right eye slowly faded. She thought it was due to Saya. Right eye. The true owner of the right eye wished for Saya, and that wish had flowed through to Leerin. That owner should be in the place it wished for.
There was such a place for Leerin too. Her birthplace, the place she wanted to live in........
"If I can return."
She must return. She had done everything she needed here. And, the problems born here, the questions, in order to unlock them, Leerin felt she must come back to Grendan. Once she had returned, she could sort out her feelings for Layfon.
What bad concentration in this area.
Though he hadn't managed to count the number of giants from the very beginning, the fact that the number continued to be incredibly large was annoying. Ruimei shouldered the metal ball, his presence an aura of danger to his opponents.
The giants kept rushing towards him, but the distance between them wasn't all that close. If he destroyed them all with one move, he'd end up damaging the city. Hence, the temporary strategy was to draw the giants close and destroy them.
The number closing on him was reducing.
"What do you think? Old woman?"
The image projected from Delbone's flake beside him was a map of Zuellni. Numerous dots of light adorned the map.
(The number's reduced drastically in this vicinity. That's brilliant, Ruimei.)
"Of course," he said and put out his chest.
"But this feels rather unreal. The enemy hasn't come. What's going on?"
He could clearly see the density of light in some areas. The area where he was in and the area that Troiatte had headed for did not have that many light dots. On the other hand, the light dots had gathered elsewhere. It appeared Ruimei and Troiatte hadn't attracted their attention. Something else had drawn them in.
"This seems unrelated to the two idiots playing on the outskirts."
(That's Savaris and Layfon.)
"He lost? That stupid brat."
Ruimei had felt the Kei of both of them. The fight had borne a clear outcome. Since both sides were alive, this meant Savaris must have lost.
(Savaris' right arm is injured.)
"This naive thinking isn't like you. An injury means nothing once one stands in the battlefield. What's wrong is for the injured person to head into battle with an injury."
He could feel from the flake that the old woman was smiling. He sucked in a breath and looked at the projected image again.
"Whatever. These guys aren't just making a ruckus. Is it all right for me to stand here and not move?"
(We've made preparation for Troiatte and Barmelin to move. Lintence is probably already over there.)
"What the, making everything so grand? What about me?"
(I thought you don't like doing small things?)
"Tsk!" he made his disapproval loud.
Delbone's laughter echoed in the battlefield.
A figure had come to visit.
Ruimei turned around.
An emergency notice from a Psychokinesist.
(A large number of filth monsters has gathered near the entrance of A10!)
Nina and the others were in the underground research lab. Karian and the Head of Alchemy had just woken up. Their stiff faces looked even worse at the news.
"Heaven's Blade...... What about Grendan's Military Artists?" Karian asked, supporting his head with his hand. His consciousness seemed confused.
(They're fighting in the middle of the city. Their speed is unbelievable. The filth monsters have suddenly changed their direction and headed this way.)
"What about Vance?"
(Captain Vance has already gathered the Military Artists that can still move and have assigned them. He's also ordered the students in area A to evacuate. The main door hasn't yet received an impact, but that's just a matter of time.)
"Once everyone's evacuated, seal off the entire area A. No need to think of us. Just pretend I'm not here and give all the commanding authority to Vance."
The Psychokinesist was silent.
"Looks like we can't return," Sharnid said.
"I'm worried about Gorneo and Shante. We've to let them know of this," Nina said.
Karian nodded. "If they can retreat to here, at least we can gain some time. I'm counting on you."
The Head of Alchemy was looking at the empty container, numbed. Karian nodded.
Nina and Sharnid rushed out. Nina's mood had changed. This wasn't the time to think about the disappearing girl.
They ran through the abandoned house to the outside. Trees burned everywhere around them. This was Shante's Karen Kei. Even the dried leaves that filled the courtyard were burning. A number of giants were in the middle of the flame where Gorneo and Shante were.
"Sharnid, head for the roof," Nina said and cut open a path through the flame with her iron whips to stand beside Gorneo.
"You all right?"
"Okay," he said but he wasn't in his best condition.
Small wounds covered his body. Blood had seeped through his clothes. Shante wasn't injured, but she looked weakened. Nina could tell her level of concentration had dropped as she was worried about Gorneo.
"No matter how many times we kill them, they keep reviving. What terrible regenerative power."
There were eight giants here. Some carried traces of the flame. Some had a big impression in their stomachs, left behind by Gorneo's fist. Some had missing muscles in their shoulders, probably done by Shante's spear, as if the injuries were formed after an explosion. However, bubbles formed around the wounds to fill them up. The giants didn't look tired at all. But Gorneo and Shante failed to hide their exhaustion. They had fought too long.
"The filth monsters have gathered around the shelter. We can't return."
Gorneo was not shaken at the news.
"Grendan's Military Artists are fighting in the middle of the city. The filth monsters had changed their direction afterward."
"I don't think they've fled. They're looking for a new target. Either way, the number here probably won't increase."
The giants closed in on them. Shante jumped as Gorneo kept close to the ground. Nina moved for one of the giants as if that giant had pulled her over. She knew she couldn't enter Gorneo and Shante's fight.
Sudden attacks from both sides caused confusion for the giants. Gorneo seized the chance and hammered his fist into a giant's knee. Something in it broke. The giant lost its balance and fell. Shante then stabbed her spear into the giant's enormous mouth, filling its inside with flame Kei. Fire seeped out from between the giant's teeth.
During this time, Nina had come near a giant. The giant raised a weapon that looked like a sword but it had not the sword's sharpness. But if Nina got hit by that weapon, swung by the huge body of the giant, she would easily break into pieces.
The giant saw Nina closing in on a crouch.
The giant suddenly shook. Sharnid's bullet had opened a hole in the giant's head. Nina took the chance to rush close to the giant's chest and had also chosen to destroy the giant's knee. While the giant fell, she swung upward with her second iron whip, using all of her strength to send her opponent flying.
Eliminate it........ But other giants had started to move. She could only release External Kei as she returned to the original position. She had Sharnid's support. At first, he sniped from the roof, but after that, he had moved to other locations. He probably didn't want his location exposed and ended up drawing an enemy to him. He must have made that decision looking at how the giants had moved in an organized manner.
These weren't normal filth monsters. They not only looked different but Nina realized something after having fought them for some time. At first, they attacked in pairs, making it easy for her. But they might just be confirming the number of enemy reinforcements.
"This is difficult."
"Yes, though they aren't like us, they fight with precision."
Eight giants surrounded them. It didn't seem any more giants would join in the fight. If Nina's side couldn't break through this circle, they'd be destroyed.
Bubbles filled the wounded knee and the burnt mouth of the giant that Gorneo and Shante had defeated. It stood back up. Nina's giant did the same.
"This takes forever if we don't annihilate them."
"But if we do that, other giants will attack together. That happened already," Gorneo said. He was probably injured during that time.
"A long fight is disadvantageous for us."
"Military Artists only hold the advantage of speed. We can only do it that way then."
Gorneo quickly understood her. They were now four instead of two. Three of them were to attack while Sharnid's bullet served to stall the giants. They didn't have Felli's flake with them. The flake they had was used as communication between Karian and Vance. Since they had no flake, could Sharnid understand their plan? Though Gorneo felt uneasy, he could only trust him.
Shante moved. She roared and jumped high. Gorneo also ran out and headed for the giant that was regenerating. Since this giant moved the slowest, they would use it to test the strategy.
Same as before, the giant ignored Shante and concentrated on Gorneo, sweeping in with its weapon. It must have hated the attack on its legs more than the attack from above. Gorneo jumped. The weapon struck the ground. Dust and soil scattered. Gorneo met Shante in the air. He reached out with his strong arms, his palms opened. Shante stood on his hands. The two wordlessly completed their form.
Gorneo tossed her. Shante held the spear before her and flame Kei shot out from it.
The tip of the spear pierced through the giant's back. The flame burned and melted the muscles surrounding the spear. The spear appeared from the giant's chest. Shante let go of the weapon and jumped back. As if following close to her, Gorneo landed.
External Burst Kei variation - Gouriki | tooru ha << Teppa >>. Totsu. [Submerging power. Dash.]
His kick connected with the spear, causing it to fly out of the giant's chest. At the same time, Kei was driven through the spear into the giant's body to destroy it from its inside. Cracks ran through the opponent's entire body.
"Nina!" he shouted as he jumped away.
Nina was ready. She had included the dust created by the giant's strike in her calculation. Moreover, Sharnid had seized the best timing to shoot randomly to attract the attention of other giants. If that hadn't happened, both Shante and Gorneo couldn't have attacked with full power as they had to be alert on the movements of other giants.
Their combination was completed before the dust fell. Besides, the rising current of air caused by the flame prevented the dust from falling too quickly. Nina's figure vanished for one swift moment in the dust screen. If one couldn't read Kei, one could not discover her location.
Release. Internal and External Kei variation - Raijin.
The chest of the fallen giant had started regenerating. What horrible life force. Could she completely destroy it? The doubt instantly vanished. Nina ran like lightning.
Her iron whip struck the enemy's head. The head tore off the body and flew away like a cannonball. The remaining body also flew out, deflected by the Kei weaving around Nina's body. The body hit somewhere hundreds of meters away. Its impact was loud. Nina shook away the remnants of Kei on herself and kicked the spear back to Shante. Though her kicking the spear was rude, it was better not to let go of her weapon in a battle. Without a complaint, Shante spun in the air to receive the spear.
Nina didn't have the confidence that her last strike had completely destroyed the giant. She also had not the time to confirm. The giants that Sharnid had distracted had gathered to attack them, as if realizing that attacking them together was the best. Seven giants came at them, giving off the feeling of a wall moving.
This wall was just too huge. They had the advantage if they were to surround one person while swinging their weapons. Moreover, both their bodies and weapons were massive, whereas Nina's side was quite small. She ran and evaded two giants. At the same time, the giants had avoided Gorneo and Shante's combined attack.
Right now, she could only choose to run away. She ran as she checked whether the giant she fell had stood back up. Gorneo was also running. Shante, since her body was lighter, was jumping from one giant's head to another, attacking their heads while she leapt.
Nina must observe. These giants were huge and powerful, but their speed paled into insignificance compared to Military Artists. Their basic characteristics were not that different from filth monsters.
As expected, it was more worrying to see Shante jump and move overhead. She was attracting the giants' attention more. Gorneo had realized this too. He judged the timing and attacked the giants to divert their attention.
They couldn't use this strategy. But how could she convey that thought to Gorneo? She hadn't got any extra time for that. It was already difficult to carry out the combined attack without a Psychokinesist. How reliable a Psychokinesist was.
What could they do? They couldn't use the combination strategy anymore. And even if possible; they needed to first reduce the number of enemies by half. Half....... Was there a way to defeat three giants? If this kept going, Nina's side would lose.
"Any ways......." She thought as she evaded the giants.
There were two giants on her side, three on Gorneo's and three on Shante's. Sharnid's bullets flew in between the three people to keep the formation from getting any worse. The bullets did little harm to the giants, but sometimes they hit and the impact was considerable. Perhaps he had noticed the giants' weakness. If they had a flake, they could communicate with him....... A thought flashed past her mind. But.... Who knew whether it'd work until one tried it out?
"I can only try and find out."
Whether it was Gorneo and Shante, after having run away from the giants for a while, both would want to team up with Nina and attack.
Nina finally came to the location she wanted. The giant before her moved slower than others. Shante was behind this giant with three other giants around her. If possible, Nina wanted Gorneo to take this job instead, but there wasn't enough time.
The only way was to bet on it.
She retreated from the giant but suddenly shortened the distance between them. The giant's footsteps erred because of her unpredictable movement. As its body was much larger than her, even a light kick of the foot was enough to send her flying. Nina struck its leg with the left iron whip, making it fall backward with its face skyward. She then raised the right iron whip, ignoring another giant that was heading this way opposite her. She continued to gather Kei in the weapon.
Sharnid's bullet, though weak in appearance, hit the giant. As if it had its central nervous system hit, the giant stopped its steps and its entire body twisted. It placed its weaponless hand on its chest where a thing that looked like an eyeball was buried in its muscles.
Nina studied the ball.
"Ha!" and she struck it with the right iron whip with her full strength.
The giant wailed as the ball shattered. Bubbles immediately gushed out to envelop the ball, but the giant did not stand up again. Perhaps this thing was where all the sensory organs were? She thought so. Its regenerative power was too incredible. Besides, the giant's form was similar to a human's, mistaking them to think the head was its weak point.
Sharnid's sniping helped him search for the giant's weakest point, and he had quickly taken notice of the ball. Close and long distance combat had shown their difference.
Sharnid's fire had stopped the giant and Nina had dealt it a heavy blow, destroying the ball-like thing. However, that wasn't enough to kill it and stop its entire movements.
Was this it? As she thought of the worst case scenario, Shante descended from the sky. The spear stabbed into the giant's chest.
"Ahhhhhhh!" she roared as flame Kei exploded. The giant's limbs vibrated and finally stopped.
"That ball! The chest!" Nina shouted at Shante and Gorneo. But it wasn't that easy to obliterate the giant.
"Jump!" Nina shouted.
As Shante was trying to pull the spear out of the giant's chest, she had lost some time to escape. The giant behind was closing on her. Nina leapt to stand behind Shante. The giant's weapon was high above its head. Kongoukei. She hoped that was enough.
Shante turned around but Nina had no time to look at her. She crossed the iron whips and got ready to receive the swing. Unbelievable pressure pressed down on her wrists. She could bear this. Ten seconds. This digit surfaced in the calm that was her head. She knew she didn't have enough strength to bear this pressure for a long time. Pain flared in her chest, in the location where the mask tossed by Nelphilia had melted into. Are you here? Nina asked.
The bones made noises in her back. The pain from her wrists shot up to her head. She was running short on time. Shante finally retrieved the spear. Gorneo had also taken action, burying his fist in the giant's chest. The giant moaned and stepped back. Nina jumped away. Shante shouted in anger and stabbed her spear at the chest where Gorneo's fist had left a trace of injury.
"Retreat!" Gorneo shouted at her. True, one's body wouldn't hold if she didn't allow her internal Kei to recover.
The sound of the mask stirring came from Nina's chest.
"Where can I retreat to!" Nina shouted too and was surprised at the words.
"There's no place else to run! No other way but to cut open a path myself!"
These words gushed out from the depth of her heart. Her mood changed. Anxiety, sadness, hatred......... All negative feelings turned into fury. That was why she shouted out the words. But whose feeling was it? She didn't think it was her own. It was the Haikizoku's.
"This is the crisis. We've nowhere else to run to. We can only fight. In order to protect, we must fight."
The feeling in her heart turned into these words, and this wasn't her voice. She knew this was the voice of something inside her because she wasn't used to the feeling in the words. Haikizoku.
An image floated in her mind, an image that wasn't Zuellni but was a similar battlefield. People were chased, and the city ultimately became desolate. The Military Artists didn't wear Zuellni's fighting suits. There were adults, children, old people. A group of people that weren't united and organized. The Haikizoku had been protecting the people of this city. This was the Haikizoku's memory.
Fury filled those words, but who spoke them?
"There's no other way but to fight. No other place to retreat to. We've to keep fighting and hold out the last hope for everyone. That is what only Military Artists can do!"
The Military Artists in the city that was fated to be destroyed called to each other. And the Haikizoku saw everything. It couldn't forgive itself. It could do nothing but watch. This city was its real body. These people were its most beloved. At that hour, it could do nothing but curse itself.
And that gave birth to the Haikizoku.
"Dixerio, the man who bets on the mask for his wish to revenge, is easy to understand? That thing is necessary to him, so he lets the Haikizoku keep its appearance in the mask. What about you?"
Nelphilia's words surfaced in her head.
The Haikizoku was born in the heart of revenge. Did Dixerio begin his fight due to revenge too? Was that why he fought the Wolf Faces?
Right now, the Haikizoku wanted revenge.
What about Nina? What was inside her? She knew it wasn't possible by purely following the Haikizoku's desire for revenge, as that would take away the thing that was most important to her. To follow another's heart for revenge was the same as wiping away her personality.
She felt as if she was hit by lightning when she realized this fact.
Wasn't Layfon the same?
Karian had said before when she returned from Myath and reunited with Layfon. Layfon had followed her reason to fight. He didn't fight out of his own volition. Though she didn't know whether he was the same now, he was like that when he first arrived at Zuellni. He fought, following Nina's reason. Her evaluation of such action was that "Layfon, you're already dead". But now that she was experiencing the same situation, she finally understood him.
The same as Layfon.........
Her heart shook lightly. If this could save the city........... She swallowed the weakness in her heart. No. This wasn't enough. Her instinct reproached her. She was standing on the boundary. Once she crossed over it, she'd never return.
She recalled the event when she wore the mask of the Haikizoku. Her heart had been taken over. She was told that she was bound by promises. The promise between her and the Electronic Fairy, the promise to protect it. The promise to protect Zuellni and the nameless tiny Electronic Fairy. Her first defeat in failing to fulfill the promise in Schneibel had made her lose her life. She had always lived by promises till now. When she met Zuellni, she promised to protect her. When she met Layfon, she realized how weak she was and she promised to protect Leerin so he could fight with everything. She had to protect. This was her principle as a Military Artist.
"I...... I am me," she said as if her throat was being torn apart. "I fight for the things I am to protect. That is the real me!"
Gorneo and Shante reacted to the giants. They were keeping the giants from her, but they were close to their limit. The giant closed in one after another. Sharnid attempted to stop their movement but none of his shots were fatal.
"I'm me. That's why I fight!"
The giant swung its weapon. However, that movement was slow to Nina's eyes. She blocked the attack with the left iron whip, yet no pain and no weight pressed down on her wrist. No need to use her right hand. She bore the attack and counterattacked. The giant's body flew out. Its upper body was completely destroyed. Nina's surroundings sank into silence. Something was happening.
"....... No, this is."
She realized a green Kei had enveloped her.
"This is the Haikizoku?"
Suddenly, she felt Nelphilia laughing somewhere. But she hadn't the time to think about that now.
Another giant appeared before her. She remembered there were numerous giants at the shelter where the students were, where Leerin was.
"Please lend me your strength!" she said. The stirring of the vein answered her. The Haikizoku's reply.
Nina jumped into the group of giants and swung with her iron whips, sending each giant flying. She felled them one by one and was shocked by that strength. She annihilated them in one swift moment. Speechless air and gazes gathered on her. The green Kei still enveloped her. This meant the battle wasn't over yet.
She must protect Leerin.
Nina jumped. Her destination was the group of giants – where Leerin was. She must fulfill her promise.
"........ What's that?" Gorneo said in the sudden silence.
A huge Kei had surrounded Nina and she destroyed the enemies in an instant. He could speculate one thing from this event.
"Is that the Haikizoku?"
When his grandfather still lived, while he was in Grendan, he had once told Gorneo about it. A Haikizoku was born from an Electronic Fairy whose city was destroyed by filth monsters. Its heart harbored intense hatred and a wish for revenge. It turned all the power used to operate a city into the heart of revenge, and that was the existence of an insane Electronic Fairy.
"Does that power really exist?"
He couldn't imagine it. One couldn't obtain that power even if one was to train till one vomited blood. It wasn't that easy to just talk about an Electronic Fairy that had undergone the destruction of a city and turned into madness. He had to take into account of its feeling of having lost thousands of people. Gorneo at least possessed that level of imagination.
However, the incredulous feeling remained in him. How big was the difference between Nina with the Haikizoku and Gorneo without the Haikizoku? All he could do was stand here and watch. He really wanted to say something.
"....... Anyway, we ought to confirm whether the Student President and the Head of Alchemy are safe. Sharnid, you here?" he said to Shante and began searching for Sharnid.
Though the Captain was gone. Though he didn't know whether she continued to fight, it was better to keep Sharnid with them.
No reply. Sharnid was also one of the best users of Sakkei in Zuellni. It wouldn't be easy for Gorneo to find him.
Must have followed Nina. Sharnid was unexpectedly loyal.
He felt something strange from her. She wasn't angry, and that was in itself an unimaginable expression on her. She looked like the spear was about to fall from her hands. She was looking at a certain place.
Gorneo tried to confirm the thing she was staring at, but he saw nothing suspicious in the area inside his vision. The rising smoke wasn't enough to attract one's eyes. Smoke was everywhere.
"What is it?"
Shante didn't reply. A bad premonition rose in him. Had she overworked her Kei vein? This was the most reasonable explanation. She might just faint. He reached for her.
Shante jumped away faster than him. Her unexpected action prevented him from reacting quickly enough. She leaped through the forest and headed for somewhere further away.
Still no reply. This wasn't the usual Shante. Gorneo didn't know what to do, and he hesitated. Karian and the Head of Alchemy were still inside the abandoned house. Zuellni couldn't lose its Heads, but Shante...
"Damn!" he shouted and followed her.
The huge shadow of Grendan was right in their path, but Gorneo pretended he didn't see it.