Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume13 Chapter1p2
Cadenza Road Itto: Part 2
Speechless, Nina followed Claribel. Right now, she had no other way. It was paramount to understand Claribel as she was a Military Artist who fought the Wolf Faces. Nina could persuade herself with this line of thinking. The most important thing was that she didn't feel any observers monitoring her. Was this the result of that dream? Though she felt the Haikizoku insider her body – the existence of Melnisc, she didn't feel the stirring and hot blood she felt when they fought together in a battle. This meant he wasn't lending her any power, so that might be why Claribel knew she didn't notice their presence?
But Claribel noticed the observers without needing the Haikizoku's help. Grendan's Military Artists were truly strong. Why would someone of this level still thirst for a Haikizoku? No. Compared to that, right now she should......
This meant they had also seen the fight back then? But they didn't get caught. Was that it?
Claribel had said that only she and Minse could fight the Wolf Faces here. Then they must be very important to Grendan. It shouldn't be strange that there were people protecting them in the shadows. In that case, there should be people who had seen them fight?
Would they get caught in this fight with the Wolf Faces just by looking? Then how did Nina get herself involved?
(You can't get involved just by looking.)
Nina thought so as she followed Claribel. Right now that was all she could do.
Then what did Nina herself see at that time and how was that event triggered?
She tried to recall the past.
"Right, let's start here."
Claribel's soft words called her back to reality. Though this was the city's center, the surrounding environment was a quiet residential area. The house before Nina had the same structure as Nina's own home. Was this a rich family or did it belong to a Military Artist of a strong dojo?
Claribel leaped over the wall without changing her expression.
"If we worried about the details, they'd be doing whatever they want."
This was an illegal intrusion but she was speaking loudly. She was conversing in a relaxed manner. Though Nina was a bit nervous, she followed.
"Well, they wouldn't be that hardworking if they could do whatever they liked," Claribel said as she landed.
All Nina saw while standing on the top of the wall was the tall trees close to her and the top part of a three story mansion. The tragic scene shocked her after she landed. Normally, this ground should be covered with grass and adorned with a fountain but what replaced it now was a hard surface that hadn't been repaired.
A hole was in the middle of the wavy hard surface of the ground. Nina stomped hard on the ground. It was unbelievable that this was land judging by the hardness of it. She gave it a kick and it didn't budge.
"This is Heaven's Blade successor Ruimei's home. That person trains in the courtyard every morning at the same time. Thanks to him, Grendan's citizens can wake up on time everyday."
Claribel walked in someone else's home normally.
Nina couldn't believe the feeling coming from her under her feet. A person who held the title of a Heaven's Blade successor. It was easy for him to shatter the ground but all he did was make it harder. This wasn't just the turning of the ground into hard soil. It had become another type of substance through repeated compression. This was proof that he could control that strength and perfectly control his Kei.
"Those guys use the people living here as mediums to appear because they don't have a real form other than their masks."
Claribel kept walking and arrived at the backdoor. This was probably used by hired hands. The room immediately behind the door would be the kitchen if this building had the same layout as Nina's home, and this backdoor was probably used for deliveries.
The door opened easily.
The aroma of spice wafted out from the kitchen. The structure of this mansion was the same as Nina's, and most of the people in this mansion were normal people.
"Is it okay?"
"It's all right since this mansion is also one of the targets."
Nina could only watch regardless of Claribel's actions. Claribel walked into the corridor without using Sakkei. The appetizing smell became stronger. The two of them came to the kitchen as Nina expected. In the kitchen were three chefs and a woman monitoring them. All four had their backs to them. The chiefs were making dishes. The four of them turned around when they noticed Nina and Claribel.
"Ahah, Claribel-sama? Do you want anything from us?" the woman asked, ignoring the flustered Nina. "You're making it difficult for me with a sudden visit."
"The smell is good, Mrs. MacRing."
"It's almost lunch time. That person eats a lot."
The woman smiled with a hand covering her mouth. Her fingertips showed signs of having been through training. She was also a Military Artist.
"Yeah. It's normal for Ruimei-sama to have a large eating capacity. Sorry for the sudden visit. Can we join you?"
"Sure. We've no reason to refuse Claribel-sama's visit."
"Ahhh, that makes me happy. Then can I make a small request?"
"Is this request something that I don't have? My chef can make most of the dishes but with the ingredients......"
"I don't mean to increase it for me. On the other hand, I want you to reduce it."
"I mean seasoning. For example, the small bottle over there."
Claribel meant the bottle closest to her. She was about to move for the bottle in the chef's hand who was putting the seasoning on the dish.
The air froze in that moment. Not only the woman but the chef holding the small bottle. Even the other two chefs had stopped moving. Nina didn't know what was inside the bottle as she didn't know how to cook. Though it was seasoning, it didn't feel like the type that an outsider could imagine.
"It seems like an unusual type of seasoning. As a member of the royal family, I can't casually speak of something I don't know."
"I understand. Then I won't add it to the meals of Claribel-sama and your friend. My husband likes it more......"
"Time to stop lying, Mrs. MacRing."
The woman was happily talking about her husband...... She suddenly stopped. It seemed the passage of time had also halted.
Nina didn't understand her expression. She was speechless in this unusual circumstance so she could only observe how this event would unfold. She found it strange that Claribel could converse normally in this situation.
"The rumor's spread outside. Ruimei-sama's lover recently gave birth to a child, and she is also a Military Artist. I understand the feeling of his wife who can't bear children but I don't think he had to do it that way."
"You don't understand as you're still young."
"No, I'm also female, and I'm a child of the royal family so I understand very well the treatment of one who can't give birth to the next generation."
"Even so, you won't understand. Our standings are different. Our path from now on will be even more difficult on a certain level. But you'll never understand the feeling of losing to another woman."
"The term replacement is especially sensitive within the royal family. I wouldn't want to comprehend its meaning if possible."
"No! You still don't understand!" the woman shouted, covering her face.
Was she crying? Seemed to be so from the noise she made. But what about her expression?
Nina didn't comprehend. Nor did she understand. Because all of them, whether it was the woman or the three chefs, wore the mask of a Wolf Face.
"Anyway, confusion is taking you to a bad direction. Let me take that thing down."
Claribel began handling her job faintly.
"No, you can't."
The woman's head was still lowered. A voice came from somewhere deep within her.
"I must let that person know of my feelings."
"Then take down the mask first and resolve it."
"This is decided."
The woman lifted her head.
Nina failed to see her restore her Dite again. Kochouenshiken was already in her hand when Nina reacted. The scarlet blade cut the mask in half. The woman's body bent backward. High pitched moaning filled the kitchen. The chefs attacked with kitchen knives in their hands. Their foreheads were pierced by a scarlet thing in the next second. The masks split into two. The needle-like cloud that destroyed only the masks scattered.
The needle was the product of Karen Kei.
The chefs continued to moan and then fell onto the floor with the woman.
"Are they dead?"
A quick and carefree reply. Claribel took the bottle from the kitchen and tossed all the finished and half-finished cooking into the rubbish bin.
"Let's go to the next stop."
She planned to ignore the fallen and leave.
"What about them?"
"They won't remember a thing after waking up. That event just then has taken advantage of her personality and her dissatisfaction with reality. She didn't do it deliberately. This is what is called "the demon gives orders and the underlings work." Fortunately, they're weak characters."
They left the mansion and leaped over the wall as Claribel explained.
"Well, now I know their goal. To assassinate the Heaven's Blade successors. They might be doing some destructive work too. I can only leave that to Minse."
"Those guys do something like this in Grendan?"
Nina had seen the Wolf Faces two times. One was when she met Dixerio. The other was in Myath. The Wolf Faces took the initiative to attack with weapons in both times. But this was first time seeing them using others to get to the Heaven's Blades.
"This isn't the first time so it isn't anything new. No matter who it is, people have one to two weaknesses if you look carefully. Perhaps they think they can't defeat the Heaven's Blade successors without using these means. One Heaven's Blade is still needed among the twelve Heavens' Blade successors. And Savaris-sama can't move as he's injured. Thinking of the future from now, they probably think it better to make one or two more immobile."
Nina recalled the Electronic Fairies' conversation. They said something was about to happen. The origin of Regios – the slumbering Saya in Lance Shelled City. Airen who sealed off the people in the moon, those who sought to destroy this world. Ignasis and his subordinates, the Wolf Faces. They were sealed away but they continued to plan the destruction of this world through pollutants. They used the pollutants to create a new ecological environment. The filth monsters that acted as the weapons of destruction in the past.
Something related to them was about to happen. It could possibly be a battle. And a very intense battle at that. Hence the Wolf Faces were getting active in order to make the balance of victory tilt to their side.
Was that it?
She kept hesitating. What should she be doing now? She should observe the fight with the Wolf Faces and she should also participate. But in reality, she could do nothing except follow Claribel. No. Perhaps this couldn't be helped. Her current situation was like her situation at Myath. She was in a state in which she had even lost her innate mission of what she had to do.
"Speaking of which, what do you think of my skill just then when I unsheathed the Katana?"
Claribel asked her just when she was deep in thought. She turned around with disapproval, sensing Nina's slow reaction.
"Really. Didn't hear me? That's the skill to unsheathe a Katana. Leave aside the accuracy of cutting down the mask first. The most important thing is speed. Speed. Didn't you find it really quick?"
"Ah. Yes. Very quick."
She didn't even see her restore the Dite. Though Claribel was praising herself, her accuracy in cutting the mask was incredible.
"Faster than Layfon?"
Her eyes sparkled. She still couldn't stop herself from asking.
"I, I wonder."
Nina still felt Layfon was faster but the speed Claribel used to unsheathe the weapon was a first for Nina.
"Layfon's capacity of Kei is the highest even among the Heaven's Blade successors. I can't surpass him but I think I have the advantage with speed," she said.
Some unknown feeling rushed out in Nina's heart as she watched her. She didn't feel happy about it but she couldn't be sure what it was.
Claribel kept talking on her own. It had become a monologue that didn't need an audience.
"But the problem is the source of Layfon's Military Arts, the Katana technique. The skill to unsheathe a Katana can't be underestimated. Don't think I'm out of it. I've always done heaps of research but I feel that I'd lose if I studied under Psyharden to understand the essence of his Katana technique. Besides, the strengths of others who wield Katana don't differ much...... Ah, in fact, the current person who holds the Psyharden skill is someone called Derek Psyharden. You can count the number of people who are on par with the strength of his Katana skills in the entirety of Grendan."
"I don't quite understand the situation now but my grandfather said he's someone who has room to spare whether he fights one on one or with a group. He isn't on the Heaven's Blade level but he has extremely high skill. The lowest requirement of a Heaven's Blade successor is to possess an amount of Kei that only a Heaven's Blade can sustain. But his skill is probably the level of a Heaven's Blade. And from here I can understand why Layfon took the Heaven's Blade at his age. No. Hang on a sec. In that case, under the situation that my grandfather is a Heaven's Blade but one Heaven's Blade is still missing an owner then the question is, why I can't become a Heaven's Blade? So the things before don't mean anything. Pretend I didn't say anything. Got it? Thanks very much...... Then Layfon could so speedily make his achievement because of an experienced teacher, Derek Psyharden. What a shame that the weapon I chose is different from my grandfather's. I can't mature quickly. Ara? Then what I said before counts, doesn't it? Never mind. It doesn't matter. Anyway, I want to stress that I'm not weaker than Layfon. I won't lose to him even if I were to confront him directly. Besides, I might even win. I'd have to boast about it. Eh? To whom? To Layfon of course."
.........She spoke it all at once, totally overwhelming Nina.
Claribel's attitude and words were cold when she first met Nina but her monologue just then had less negative elements of hostility and murderous intent. All Nina felt from her was competitiveness.
And she was very innocent.
The second strong and young Military Artist that Layfon met seemed to hold some misunderstanding towards him. The leader of the Mercenary Gang, Haia, was the same but he held hostility and murderous intent.
Nina planned to ask her and understand everything. She had many things she wanted to ask. About the Wolf Faces. About Leerin being taken away. But Claribel hadn't given any answers. No. Nina had been forcibly taken in Claribel's direction rather than Claribel trying to divert the conversation. Anyway, Nina hadn't gained any useful information from her. This was the time to prevent the Wolf Faces from assassinating the Heaven's Blade successors but Claribel wasn't impatient at all.
Still, there was one thing Nina had to ask. Otherwise she wouldn't have the confidence to keep on working with Claribel.
"What is it?" Claribel watched her. She wasn't on guard with Nina.
"Please call me Clara. People I'm familiar with me call me that. Speaking of which, don't you find my name hard to say?"
"What is it?"
"That is......What do you want with Layfon?"
"I want to defeat him."
A very honest and quick reply.
"Ah, yes, please don't misunderstand. It isn't something to do with a personal grudge or the sense of justice of a Military Artist."
"Then what is it for?"
"Please don't think this is my personal thinking. Military Artists in Grendan who are the same age as me all have Layfon as their goal. He's the youngest Heaven's Blade successor."
"Didn't I say it already. Military Artists don't mind him. Of course, this isn't representative of everyone. Please give it a good thought. The underground matches mean there are other Military Artists. It's impossible to imagine there are many illegal Military Artists from the outside in a place with few visits from roaming buses like Grendan. In that case, many local Military Artists and people who make up the audience are involved. Otherwise it's not possible for trade, isn't that so?"
"I've said it many times. Layfon's participation in the underground matches and his intention to kill Gahard Baren in the match weren't something he shouldn't have done, but his action that made people understand the horror of a Heaven's Blade successor. So he must leave Grendan. We've secretly fined the other Military Artists who participated in underground matches."
The horror of a Heaven's Blade successor.
The Queen had said it before too, that this must not be exposed. Nina heard that what pained Layfon were his siblings at the orphanage, knowing he wasn't the pure hero they thought he was. They were angry that the image of the hero they worshiped had been tainted.
"Actually, he could have killed Gahard somewhere other than the match. He could have easily killed him during the night......Well, this clumsy and stupid living style is also........."
Unusually, Claribel's words turned unclear.
"No. Nothing. Anyway, us Military Artists of similar ages want his strength. We all see our own potential by looking at him taking the Heaven's Blade. This point alone still makes him the hero to young Military Artists. The reason for his entering the underground matches has been spread. I don't think many people still think he's a bad guy."
"Then that means......"
Layfon's return to Grendan wasn't just a dream?
"So many people want to defeat him."
"What did you say?"
Claribel looked normal but Nina felt the topic had suddenly changed.
"Because he's very strong. So this wish to fight him is not wrong. Surpassing Layfon is our important goal in life for us Military Artists who are the same age as him."
Claribel didn't notice Nina's shock.
Had Nina herself felt the same thing?
No. How many Military Artists in Zuellni had thought the same? Of course some wanted to be like him. A large number of students gathered everyday after the platoon match, hoping he could teach them. Though Layfon himself wasn't keen, the flow of students neither lessened nor stopped. And no one had tried to challenge Layfon in a duel. Nina too. She wanted to be strong like him even now but she had never thought of defeating him. Layfon was also Zuellni's student. He was in her team and he was a friend, a comrade. Though Nina's goal was to keep improving, Layfon wasn't someone whom she had to defeat.
She just wished for his strength.
Why Grendan's Military Artists were strong. Their wish wasn't limited to the definition of respect and hoping that they could one day reach Layfon's level but the wish was directly connected to the term "surpass". So was that why Grendan's Military Artists were so strong?
"......So that's why Clara wants to fight Layfon?"
Claribel confirmed in a carefree manner.
The two of them hadn't halted their steps as they walked.
Claribel nodded innocently and turned around.
"What is it?"
"Nothing. I thought there's something else. I see. So that was what it was."
She didn't understand her meaning.
"What is it?"
"Ah, sorry. Seems we have to split up here."
"What did you say?"
Her sudden word made Nina speechless.
"I'm really sorry but there's something I have to do. I think you don't have to worry I'll get killed but if you don't feel well, my conscience would feel bad. And I don't know whether Her Majesty would complain about it, so please take good care of yourself. It's fortunate that you're on our side and you have the Haikizoku to protect you. It should be all right. You'll be safe."
Claribel spoke without stopping as Nina thought. Nina was speechless.
"Then, keep at it."
Claribel suddenly jumped. She was suddenly on a roof nearby and the next second, she was gone.
That was all Nina could manage. She was suddenly left behind in an unfamiliar street on Grendan. Uneasiness rushed up in her as she looked around.
What had Claribel noticed?
Nina stood on the spot, thinking of what she should do next.
(Let's just take this opportunity.)
This was a good chance to return to Zuellni. It was impossible to take Leerin back as the Queen was with her. She couldn't win against Lintence even using the Haikizoku's power – He was the top among Heaven's Blades. This meant he was stronger than Layfon but Layfon had said that the Queen surpassed all Heaven's Blades. She herself could have been killed within seconds in the fight against Lintence. No way she could win against the Queen.
She carefully thought of her strategies but Grendan was too unfamiliar to her.
(Anyway, the most important thing now is to meet up with Layfon.)
She might have gone to save Leerin alone if she was the past Nina. Sometimes her strong sense of mission made her lose control of herself. She understood it too but she could not control herself once she pressed the button of mission.
Maybe Claribel pulling her along had enabled her to escape that situation and calmly think about her next action. It seemed the person monitoring her was still around. She felt she could manage. At least, escaping wasn't a problem. She still remembered the direction of Zuellni from her vantage point in the palace. Perhaps she could escape by running in that direction.
No point standing here once she had her plan. Nina prepared to run for Zuellni.
Kei moved at the same time but it didn't come from Nina. In a split second, it created a huge circle with Nina in its center. The pressure of Kei made her experience the illusion of receiving an impact. She stopped moving.
What she felt was the remnants of a strong Kei. It had surrounded her in a split second and cancelled out something. She wasn't sure what it was but something had happened in that split second and then had quickly ended.
Her hands naturally held the Dites and restored the iron whips.
Something was coming. The sense of premonition in her expanded.
The sound of wet footsteps from somewhere arrived at the moment when the limit was near. It was the sound of something stuck to the shoes. It was a very soft sound but it couldn't escape a Military Artist's ears.
Nina turned around. A cold sensation flowered in her chest the moment she saw him. She had seen him close to the Queen when she lost to Lintence and was close to losing her consciousness.
His voice carried a heavy atmosphere. The easy and floating manner he had when they first met was now hidden.
It was hard to accept even with his admittance. His image was completely different from his first image.
"Well, it can't be helped that you feel different from the last time. My mood is different from that time. What I want to see might have appeared. I've become much more naïve while anticipating it."
Naïve. Was this atmosphere suitable to the meaning of that term?
She couldn't put down her weapon. The Dixerio before her was anything but good. Her heart still held tension. The cold sensation seemed to want to suck out all the heat in her body.
"Senpai, what do you want to me?"
"Well, from all areas. You got involved because of my miscalculation. Though it's a joke for me to feel guilty, I'm definitely feeling it. But it's not my style to apologize."
His left hand held the chain of the watch hanging before his chest. Nina could clearly see the dry blood on his fingertips.
"Senpai, what did you just do?"
"Uh? The people monitoring you are in the way so I put them to sleep temporarily."
Temporarily? Put them to sleep? Was it really that? Dixerio didn't respond to the question in her eyes. She was expecting him to say lightheartedly "Don't look so skeptical. I was joking."
But he didn't.
"It doesn't matter what happened to them. If you don't have anything else to do then I'd take you back to Zuellni. Besides, they'll be in chaos. It's something that will happen sooner or later."
"Don't worry. You'll forget it anyway."
His words shocked her. Was this his original personality? Had he been pretending all along?
"It is troublesome isn't it? So I'll get rid of it."
A sudden storm appeared before her. Nina swung the iron whips. The sound of hard things clashing pierced the sky. Dixerio quickly moved to her. Three successive strikes with the iron whips caused sparks to fly.
"Didn't I say it when we first met? I give everything I can to take what I want. This means I'm going to cancel the debt of getting you involved right here."
Dixerio's Kei continued to expand as the two of them competed with their strength. Should she avoid it? She couldn't. The pressure on her wrist had not changed. If she moved, the huge metal whip of his would kill her.
In that case.
Internal Kei variation – Kongoukei.
Kongoukei received the external Kei releasing from Dixerio's body. The two Kei clashed and rebounded, causing the two to separate.
"Why must we fight!"
"It's something that would end in a split second if you don't resist."
"Give me an explanation."
"You'll forget anyway!"
Kei was increasing during the conversation. She couldn't let her guard down in this situation. Nina gave up holding back her Kongoukei and allowed her Kei to expand.
"You're so stubborn."
"You forced me to!" she shouted and rushed him but he was quicker than her.
No. Don't get confused. But this hesitation had slowed down her actions. Dixerio didn't hesitate. The Kei running in her made the Kongoukei again strike a path similar to the one she made before. The impact created in the iron whips crossed in front of her was like the touch of electricity, numbing her body.
This was Raijin. Dazzling purple electricity ran madly around Nina.
"Never would have thought you could withstand that."
The expressionless cold voice retreated. Dixerio took a few steps back. He put some distance between them and prepared for Raijin again. As Nina's action was dependent on his attack mode, all she could do was to rely on Kongoukei to receive the next impact. Impacts came one after another without stopping.
She couldn't defend all of them. Dixerio's Raijin created a tiny opening in her Kongoukei, accumulating her injury. This made her shiver. She'd lose at this rate. She tried to suppress the innate anxiety rising in her.
(In this disadvantageous situation......)
But Dixerio had retreated again to prepare the third Raijin while she was thinking of her strategy.
Kongoukei. The iron whips crossed before her deflected the attack. But this time she gave up the notion of receiving the attack and deliberately let her weapons fly. The huge iron whips fell hard on the ground after losing their goal and created a huge explosion. She adjusted her position according to the Kei flow to avoid the flying debris.
The distance was just right. Dixerio prepared to release Raijin as she expected. He stupidly rushed her.
"Believe in yourself. Step out without confusion and deal your enemy a decisive strike."
She suddenly recalled Dixerio's words for her when he demonstrated Raijin. There was no trick. A serious fight was just the repetition of one's strongest technique. One didn't have to use strange moves no matter how delicate a change the battle experienced. The strategy was to attack decisively and stop the opponent from using their strategy. Inability to carry this out meant defeat and weaving a counter strategy also meant defeat. Inability to last was also defeat. She had to utilize all the potential in her in a fight that was overwhelming in the favor of her enemy. Though it felt stupid, she had to attack to keep testing her boundaries.
And this was the essence of Raijin.
"In that case!"
If he planned to give all he could then she could only react accordingly.
She felt the Kei vein. The creature called Kei. Layfon had said this before. The Kei vein spreading around the waist would hurt. The stirring created shook the entire body. This was Kei cycling in the body, and next was to spit it out and turn it into destructive, rumbling energy called external Kei. Allow the sound and the stirring to be deeper and greater.
No. She had to do this.
Dixerio smiled as he made the same stance. A cruel smile. Only people who had stepped into the marshland of pointless massacre had this smile. Nina was now in the marshland too.
Was he laughing about this or that he was soaking in running Kei?
"That's great. You've got great preparation."
She thought he would rush her but he continued, smiling. "What do you want to do?"
The Kei releasing from his body suddenly increased. Nina didn't want to be careless. She increased the amount of her Kei too and seriously asked.
"Why must we fight? What's happened? Why are you trying to kill me?"
"Nothing much. Besides, I don't want your life......But. Yes, it's my mistake to get wild all of a sudden."
"Then put down your weapon."
"That depends on you. I give you two choices. One is to fight me here. Two is to accept my suggestion."
"I won't accept any other answer. I didn't expect a perfect ending from the beginning. Do you understand? A movie's happy end is when everyone tolerates something and receives happiness. Or, the bad parts are all left outside the camera. I'm not interested in fortune that is given to everyone. Only two choices are available according to my suggestions. Originally you should be working for me. Either way, you should only have two endings. Either get beat up by me and I take you away or follow my instructions honestly."
His ridiculous theory made her speechless.
Dixerio Maskane from the City of Strong Desire. He introduced himself such when he first met her, fighting the Wolf Faces. He had also called himself a pirate. He had carved the words "Seek it, if through sheer strength" in the statue in front of the Student President building.
This was the image he had left for them.
But Nina felt this wasn't it. No. Had she thought of it? He had taught her his move without holding it for himself. He had not forgotten her even when fighting the Wolf Faces. It felt like he was worried about her. She had always thought he was such a man.
".........What do you want to take from me?"
"I've to take away your memories about the Wolf Faces. Nothing much. Just then your complete memory would get a bit chaotic. It might make you emotionally unstable but you just have to tolerate it and it'd pass. It'd gather in the deepest recess of your memory with time. You should be right in about five years time."
"Just what are you saying?"
"I want to release you from this battle. You can thank me."
"If you could have done it, why didn't you do it at that time?"
"It's easy to remove it if the connection is shallow but you saw that guy's true face and had contact with the Aurora atoms on the mask. They are the source of those guys. Pollutants have become the past substance that belongs to the other side of this world. It's not that easy to cancel the cause and effect of contacting this thing. It's a pity to create memory loss but being a good person is the source of failure."
She didn't know what to say.
Take away her memory. Remove all memory she had about the Wolf Faces. Was this related to what was about to happen in Grendan? Could she only be an ignorant observer?
"Why......Why let me know of it only now? Why did you hide it from me before?"
Perhaps Nina still didn't know anything now. About the origin of this world, the existence of Saya and Airen, the two's tragic fate and the fight with Ignasis in order to create an opportunity for this world. The fighting style had continued to change from then till now, and a large-scale war would break out in the near future.
That was all she knew. But what would the war be like, how large a scale would it be and just what would happen in the end? Would the world really be destroyed if Ignasis won? Or would victory be the end and the stubborn will of Electronic Fairies would continue to survive. Then the war in the near future might just be a frontline war.
And what were the Electronic Fairies' expectations on Nina? What expectations did they hold for Nina who had become a vessel for Melnisc?
"Why are you only saying it now!"
The wind of fury rose among confusion.
The platoon matches. The commotion after the end of the platoon match with the 1st platoon. At that time, Melnisc had possessed Nina and Nina had then jumped to Myath. Urged by a sense of mission, her body moved on its own to fight the Wolf Faces though she knew nothing of the situation. She was confused and troubled, and she couldn't honestly share the details of this event with anyone. She couldn't even explain why she suddenly went missing. She might get other people involved if she told them. Nina hadn't said anything carelessly as even she herself wasn't sure of the situation.
What were the Wolf Faces? What was their purpose?
She didn't understand in the past. She still didn't understand everything now. But then she really didn't get anything back then. Though she didn't get it at present, she was right here. Right here in Grendan. Along with the creation of the world, the story of enemies, and the purpose of the Electronic Fairies who had shown themselves to her...... She finally began to understand, realizing the purpose of herself and gradually clearing the direction she should walk.
"Finally... Finally I'm beginning to understand, yet you, you......"
Nothing was more important than "What can I do" to Nina who was tortured by a sense of impotence. This man appeared before her to say such things at such a key moment, blocking her way and stealing her hope.
Dixerio Maskane. This man was the one who led her into the deep pit.
"You bastard. You're acting however you want!"
Dixerio was indifferent to her anger.
"Don't worry. You won't care after forgetting."
Nina couldn't understand his heart. Dixerio, who said these words with such thick skin.
Things she didn't understand.
"...... Are you still insisting on this?"
"Of course. That's my style."
"Then I've decided."
She tided the messy flow of Kei and gathered the Kei. The stirring of her Kei vein increased her speed without limit. Rise high. Because this body was strong and wouldn't fall. Strong and wouldn't be torn apart.
"I too will act by my willfulness."
The Kei density had increased to a level she hadn't experienced before. It hadn't reached the level of when she fought the giants, relying on Melnisc's strength, but she had never experienced this amount of Kei being produced by herself.
"I was dragged into the fight since meeting you. I was even brought here. Who would let you pull me around as you wish when I've reached here? Who would ignore this! I'll walk the path with my own strength from now on. Who would see your side of it?"
She wasn't just talking to Dixerio. She meant the Electronic Fairies too. Melnisc's resolve had also just been conveyed. They hadn't mentioned anything about their plan. They didn't even say anything about the responsibility that Nina was to shoulder.
Nina was ignored. Were they just using her as a good tool?
No. Perhaps not. Forget Senou and Grendan. At least she couldn't believe that Zuellni would do this. But Dixerio's attitude now had turned her confusion into fury. She felt these people who knew of the truth of this world were showing off their advantage and planning to control her.
"If there's danger in this world, then I'll use my own strength to fight it."
"......... I originally wanted to talk over this peacefully."
The pressure from Dixerio hadn't changed. It was neither messy nor shaky. Its density and amount continued to increase. His expression also wasn't as haughty as before. His icy gaze stared at Nina.
"Someone as serious as you isn't suitable to appear in this drama. You'll definitely be angered into a mess. I say it would be better for you to forget everything."
"It's my business to forget or not. I'm also the one who gets angry. You don't have to decide it."
"Can't be helped."
Dixerio rested the metal whip on his shoulder, looking as if he was full of openings. No. This was simply an attack pose – to rush her, raise his whip and swing down.
It was only meaningful to execute the move in this mood.
Similarly, Nina raised her iron whips. Two metal whips – his weapon was the same as hers but it was nothing to him to have to control both whips. Nina was searching for the suitable fighting stance. But her level was still far from his. The essence of Raijin, a gambling move. She couldn't fight him on par if she kept thinking of how to protect herself.
She slowly changed her pose, pulling back the left iron whip. She had extended it in preparation for his sudden attack, and guided it down to cross with her right iron whip. She bunched up her body as if she was tightly bounding herself. And like this, she received Dixerio's attacks who was swinging down from left and right.
The stance she took in this crisis was a gamble. She only learned how to use Raijin in the recent fight in Zuellni. Her current action was foolish in a situation with nowhere to escape. But she'd return to her old impotent self if she was defeated here and lost her memory, leaving her to only watch the events from Zuellni.
(Would that be it?)
Then don't get stuck in the uneasiness of changing stances. Her best choice now was to use the most advantageous stance in this fight to suddenly move forward.
Her density of Kei was increasing unbelievably. Would it explode in her body at this rate...? A wave of uneasiness suddenly began.
Almost at the same time.
Combined Internal and External Kei variant, Raijin.
Two lightning strikes hit each other. The destructive balls of light clashed and made their surroundings explode, sending the two fighters flying.
Her internal Kei instantly eliminated the numbness of her body. The shock didn't hurt. This wasn't because of the numbness. This was proof that the match of external Kei had ended. The strength of the rebound had been swallowed as the two strikes clashed, swallowed each other and exploded intensely. The numbness she felt just then was created by the clash of the explosion.
(One more time!)
After being sent flying by the mad storm, she instinctively increased her Kei once more. She had already grasped hold of the fighting approach of Raijin. She must keep on fighting without stopping until she defeated him or he defeated her. This was the correct way to use Raijin. She didn't feel she had defeated him in her last move. This meant he must be preparing for the next attack.
The stance of Dixerio who stood on the opposite side of the screen of smoke...
Release. Run. She didn't feel anything other than the time when she first stumped on the ground. Her entire concentration was on the weight of the iron whips in her hands, and then she poured Kei into them. She wasn't planning to swing her weapons. Her entire body had become part of the iron whips, breaking through in order to defeat her enemy.
Clash. Explode. Fly.
(One more time!)
Increase her Kei. Adjust her pose. And release.
(One more time!)
Repeatedly. Her feeling for her whole body was becoming hazy. She couldn't tell what her expression and body condition were like. She was totally immersed. Immersed in what? Defeating Dixerio? Or releasing Raijin?
Clash. This time it didn't explode immediately. Were the two powers resisting each other? The Kei of the two fighters was gathered in between the three whips. The boundary limiting the explosion was being controlled by the delicate pressure.
"Really, you've shown unbelievable growth," Dixerio murmured, only inches from her.
"But I know. This is what it means to detach from oneself. This is what it's like to open the lock in your heart. Who decides the thing called a limit? Not anyone else but yourself. You've released your rope right now. Be careful when you return to normal. Don't lose yourself."
The pressure between the two twisted, causing the explosion. The light of Kei shot into the sky as Nina leapt back.
(One more time!)
Who cared what Dixerio was saying. Continue to let Kei run and increase the density of Kei in her Kei vein. Use that stirring to make the entire world vibrate. Attack all who manipulated the ignorant Nina as she bet on her existence.
"But remember. There won't be a next time," Dixerio said in a low voice.
In the next second, something had covered his face. A mask. A Wolf Face mask. Yes. Nina didn't know why he was wearing this mask the time when she saw him from Zuellni.
Why was it a mask of the Wolf Face?
Was he one of the Wolf Faces? Was he not Dixerio? Was he an imposter?
"I'm neither an imposter nor a spy of the Wolf Faces," he cut her off.
Kei was about to explode as it increased. A layer of blue light surrounded him as its strength continued to grow. The stirring released by that light caressed Nina's skin. Something appearing behind him entered her sight.
A voice coming from who knew where accompanied the sound of moaning. She realized immediately it was Melnisc's voice. Melnisc may disappear again, judging from the attitude in the dream, but the Haikizoku was still in Nina's body.
But...... Could it be.......
"The vessel of a Haikizoku." "the original Electronic Fairy." "To have such an experience." ..... Claribel's voice sounded in her head. Was this what she meant? Dixerio had to fight the Wolf Faces because he was also possessed by a Haikizoku?
A cloud of dark fog appeared behind Dixerio and a dry hand reached out from it. Delicate and long fingers as that of a female's reached out to Dixerio's neck. The fingernails entered his skin.
It looked as if the hand was reaching out, full of hatred, in order to squeeze him to death.
Blue flame. The light of Kei enveloped Dixerio. The same light enveloped Nina, but Nina could only think of it as the light of a ghost.
The Haikizoku slumbering in Nina's body stirred at her shout. Its attitude was hesitant and indecisive in the dream, yet it was reacting to her voice.
"Lend me strength."
(Understood. But you have to be careful. This man has conquered the hungry wolf of extreme flames.)
No time to consider Melnisc's words. Blue light also surrounded her. Her Kei had suddenly increased.
"Tsk. You can use it as you wish already? But......"
Dixerio moved. Nina also executed her technique accordingly.
Combined Internal and External Kei variant, Raijin.
The pressure and atmosphere that were totally different from before made Nina lose herself for a split second. It might not even be a second. She swiftly used her body, strengthened by internal Kei, to grasp hold of the situation. Dixerio was somewhere near. The feeling of the metal whip was sent to her arms. She would rush in to confirm his position rather than cutting the air apart.
Dixerio swung down the whip.
As if to match her breathing, Nina once again raised the two iron whips. Bright blue traces of Kei followed the two whips.
The result came within one second as expected.
An incomprehensible feeling came to Nina the moment she raised the iron whips. It was a feeling of being able to keep extending her iron whips as the pressure kept increasing. She felt more relaxed because the Haikizoku helped to increase her Kei. Originally, the increasing speed would add another burden to the whips but right now, she was given the strength to overcome that difficulty. She had had this feeling before at somewhere else. Just where and what was it...... She couldn't quite tell. Just hold her weapons tight, pour Kei into them, the feeling spreading through her entire arms, the feeling of resisting something in the air, moving her center of gravity. Everything felt different.
Something made her feel that this shouldn't be what it felt like.
The uneasiness called forth by this feeling became reality in the split second as the three weapons crossed together.
The voice was so clear. The sight before her was unbelievable.
The blue light of Kei gradually scattered as it rebounded. Her arms, the weight suddenly lifted from her, felt so uncomfortable as if her arms had been torn off. Unable to accept this reality, Nina's spirit was conquered by emptiness.
Dixerio's metal whip attacked as if to tear through the emptiness.
Instinctively, Kongoukei ran through her entire body. But the timing was delicate. The huge amount of Kei in the iron whips had already reached Nina before she used Kongoukei and then it entered her body. Like the name given to the technique, Nina's entire body was exposed to the running of lightning.
They had broken and were sent flying. She had been staring at her lonely arms. Something was left in her tight fists. She was holding just the handles of her iron whips.
He had shattered them.
She never thought she would lose in strength.
She felt like she was in an intense current as she hit the ground.
The air exuding from her mouth was mixed in with a fog of blood. She couldn't breathe. She didn't know whether her lungs had gone numb or that the attack had stopped her lungs from functioning. Intense pain flooded her chest. This was the only place that hurt. Though she hadn't received all of the impact, her organs had received a huge shock.
"Did you think simple Dites could bear your Kei?"
Her sight was red. Maybe the capillaries in her eyes had burst. Dixerio even looked red to her as he bent down to look at her.
Her lungs were managing. But she couldn't think properly as she lacked blood. Her fingers and skin were numb as if she had suffered an electric shock. Her body couldn't move. Her body and consciousness couldn't react to the sudden change. Just what had happened? No. She knew very well. But why...... why had this feeling conquered her now?
She couldn't feel anything but the numbness in her arms. No, not just her arms. It was her entire body. The disappointment of being unable to feel her weapons took hold of her entire heart. The image of shattered weapons was craved deeply into her brain. Unable to fade.
The weapons had failed to bear her Kei.
Was that what had happened? No. She knew very well. This had happened to Layfon too. Harley had said that only a Heaven's Blade could display all of Layfon's potential. That was why he wanted to hold the Dite that Leerin had brought to him. Even though it still failed to help him use his true strength, at least he hoped to use the techniques he honed when he was a child.
This meant he was forgiving himself as he confronted his past.
Layfon hoped to use his strength better as he continued to fight. Actually, this was just Nina's thought as she wanted to bring him back into the battlefield.
But she never thought the same thing would happen to her.....
No. The impact she felt now. The emptiness conquering her heart and the memory of her weapons being destroyed. Not just that.
The feeling of her iron whips had disappeared. The feeling of the iron whips that she had held for a long time since the time she started training in Military Arts. She had always wanted to have the weapons that her father used. Her father, who was able to elegantly wield the crude weapons. That feeling was gone. A weapon was just a weapon. Even the iron whips she made now were made by Harley. Speaking of which, she had kept changing her iron whips since coming to the Academy City. This was due to many different reasons that made the whips unusable. But the iron whips that she loved so much shouldn't have had received this impact.
"Right. This time, disappear," Dixerio said faintly as he spread his hand. His five fingers closed in on her in her red vision.
Why such an impact?
It wasn't just because her weapons were destroyed.
It was because the thought that was poured into the iron whips had been twisted.
Zuellni had felt it in the depth of the city.
This was the city's Mechanical Department. Zuellni had been staying here, never straying. She had also stayed here as she communicated with Schneibel through the En system. She was currently unable to leave as she had to repair the city.
But she felt it. The voice that made her shake. A keening voice filled with pain and sadness. The feeling of not wanting to go made the voice louder and harsher.
Zuellni must maintain the city's functions as an Electronic Fairy. The damage to the feet was hindering its movements. Only one leg was broken on the surface but the impact of the shock had caused abnormalities to many internal areas of the Mechanical Department. Though the city could still move, it didn't have the speed it needed to evade filth monsters. Its balance was also worse than before. If the city kept moving, it'd bring inconvenience to the people in it.
Hence she must finish the repair as quickly as possible. Zuellni didn't want the young people in this city to get caught up in the events that were to come.
But she felt it.
Zuellni flew a few circles above the Mechanical Department.
Should she go? Or stay?
She couldn't go. As an Electronic Fairy, and as one who had a huge connection to the fate of this world, she couldn't forget her own mission. Her mission was to ensure the survival of the people in this city. That was why she was born and sent adrift in this world. This was the consciousness of the Electronic Fairy of self-managed Regios – the Electronic Fairy's mission.
But she was confounded.
Zuellni was slowly growing away from her puerile appearance through the strength she obtained from Farune. According to her age, she should have grown more. But in reality, her image had only grown up a little. Though what her appearance was like meant nothing to an Electronic Fairy, it was special for Zuellni who had kept her puerile appearance for a long time.
Perhaps she had grown a little now that she had obtained some strength. The functions hidden in the strength had also been upgraded. The self-repair ability of the Academy City had apparently been upgraded. Though it still took time to repair the leg, the repairing of the abnormalities in the control system should be fine at this rate.
The students responsible for the repair of the Mechanical Department had been running around because of that too. Even if she didn't do it for the effort of them, Zuellni must stay here and concentrate on repairing the city.
"Being too honest is a cute side of yours but it's also your weakness."
The sudden voice resounding in the air gave Zuellni a shock. She flew high to look for the owner of that voice.
A girl sat on the round top of the Mechanical Department. It was Nelphilia.
"There's no need to get deeper into it, is there?"
She reached out her hand to Zuellni, who was facing a girl of the night's light. She hugged Zuellni as if they were bound together then she put her beautiful face, beauty that would make one shiver, close to hers.
"Electronic Fairies should finish their mission. You understand this too. Why do you care so much for that girl?"
"Ah. That's true. I also lent her my strength. I gave her back the Haikizoku I took from Saya."
"Why? It's simple. Because I want to see. See what? You'll know."
But Nina now was.......
"Yes. It'd leave her at this rate. But perhaps not so. You understand her personality well? She won't yield even if she loses her memory. Well, there may be some side-effects as he's the one doing it. If you're really worried then follow me. It's simple to eliminate the after effects."
"Aa, you aren't accepting this either? What a troublesome child. But what would you do? I'm sorry. All I can do for you is follow her. You should know I'm not in my normal state right now. The hole in the sky is another matter. Oh, Sheniebel may not leave this situation alone."
Zuellni stared at Nelphilia, who was quite happy with this. Why was she here? She should be in Grendan, to witness with Sheniebel and others the event that Dixerio was going to make happen.
Why did she appear before Nina?
"Have you figured it out?"
Nelphilia's beautiful smile did not disappear.
"But Zuellni is the most important to me now. I'd abandon that child if you were in danger. I won't lose my priorities."
Zuellni considered her words. Considering what was most important and what she herself wanted to do. She pondered and pondered...
Nelphilia gazed at the flying Zuellni, who was hovering as she thought. An icy and beautiful smile adorned her face. It felt as if one would fall into a demonic trap if one was to look at her.
But there was just a bit, a bit of warmth in her smile. Warmth seeped through her gaze that was watching Zuellni.
Icy yet warm. The two contradictory expressions watched Zuellni.
Zuellni's gaze flew in the air as she pondered.
The original people and those who now lived here. Which side was more important? Which side should she respect?
Different opinions causing bloodshed had occurred in this city. Zuellni had taken the role of an observer back then. It was important to ensure their survival but she had never interfered with the way they lived. Electronic Fairies only needed to move according to the principles set down for their own cities.
But now she was confounded. Why?
The reason was Nina. The girl whose body the Electronic Fairies thirsted for. Zuellni was confounded because of her.
Was that it? Was that really it? Was that why she was confused? Did she think her luck had made her meet Nina? Did she think Nina was a convenient tool?
No. It wasn't like that.
"Is that the conclusion as expected?"
Zuellni flew back to Nelphilia and said that in a low voice with a bitter smile.
"I know. That's why I'm here. This is all because of you, Zuellni. I can be here because of you. That's why I can exist in this world. Because you've lent me your strength, I can survive till now."
She reached out her hand to caress Zuellni's face, curling up her hair. Physicality meant nothing to an Electronic Fairy. This manifestation was temporary, caused by the gathering of electronic atoms. But whether it was Zuellni or other Electronic Fairies, Electronic Fairies tended to grow according to the aspects of the initial appearance they obtained. They could control their appearance so they didn't need to grow. But for some reason, the reality was different. Was it because the original possessed a real body? Or that an appearance meant something to Zuellni and the other Electronic Fairies?
This appearance was proof of Zuellni's identity. It was the same as Grendan and Melnsic who could change their appearance according to their heart.
"Then let me convey your intentions."
"No need to be so surprised. You can't leave the city because you need to repair it right? You need someone to convey your message but you don't want to drag the students of this city into the event, right?"
"Then only I can do this. It's not a difficult job for me anyway. Why so surprised?"
"Ah. You mean him? I don't plan to stand by his side. Because this is my style. And......"
She stopped halfway. The smile disappeared from Nelphilia's mouth. The girl of night stood up.
"Perhaps this is the last time we meet. Whether it's life or death, I'll fly through the hole as soon as it appears in the sky. The time spent connecting with that other hole was too short so I couldn't absorb anything. But it's enough to make my body move. In that case, I'll probably not see you again. Whether this world is to be destroyed or not, I've to carry out my plan as long as things are progressing. Eliminate the insult I felt at that time. I've given you trouble in the past so this is the least I can do for you."
Zuellni hugged Nelphilia as she looked at her expressionless face.
"Thanks. Only you would say something genuine to me."
"Uh, yes. We'll hug again when that time comes."
Nelphilia opened her arms and Zuellni flew to the sky again. The hand of the young girl pointed to the empty space and then there was an explosion of light.
Intense light conquered the Mechanical Department and then it gathered together. A square appeared in front of Nelphilia. It lost its light and gradually sank. The girl of night received it.
"...... It's great I've lent her my power. Same as him. But what that girl needs isn't me. It's your smile."
Zuellni smiled at her. The girl of night replied with a bitter smile.....
"Farewell. The time I spent with you was really happy."
Disappeared. Leaving Zuellni to hover on top of the Mechanical Department. She concentrated on repairing the city again and never noticed she had returned to her puerile form.
The widespread hand continued to close in through her red vision. The illusion of the end came to Nina. If Dixerio meant what he said, then she wouldn't die. But right now, she might die. The memory she possessed would die. She had been inexplicably dragged into this mess and inexplicably pushed away. She might be able to imagine it if it had been something else. But never this. Same as Dixerio, she had struggled in pain, tasted bitterness, wanting to tell someone of her experience so much that she couldn't sleep.
Her memories were all painful.
Even so, she couldn't comprehend why he wanted to push her out now.
The natural reason was that she got caught in the whole thing but the more important thing was that this was Grendan. She would end up dragging Layfon into it.
Nina was the one who forced him to enter the battlefield again. Of course, that wasn't just it. It was also because Zuellni was in a crisis, and Karian knew everything about his past. But in the end, the one who made him stand in battle was her. Now that she recalled it, she had once kicked Layfon out of the platoon after knowing his past. Perhaps Karian had done something to interfere with this but he didn't clash with her in the end.
But this was all Nina could think of now. Though it had only been a few months, had she thought of it this way back then?
Back then, she only wanted to do something for Zuellni. So she didn't have the courage to let go of Layfon's fighting strength.
(I got him involved in this.)
This was Grendan. A place of deep meaning to him.
She wished she hadn't been so stubborn with her original intention. She wished the fight with the Heaven's Blade successors had never happened. This way, Leerin wouldn't have come to Zuellni and gotten taken away.
Layfon kept fighting because of Nina. Didn't Karian also say "the reason of the fight is up to you".
Layfon must have come to Grendan. He came to simply bring her back, knowing nothing of the fate she bore. What would he do here? Was he going to jump into the huge fight against the Queen and the Heaven's Blade successors? Without the Heaven's Blade to help him use his full potential, would he also experience her uneasiness as he held the handle of his broken Dite?
Even so, Layfon still......
(Am I still impotent?)
She had always been like this. She kept thinking ahead but she could do nothing. What had she been able to do during the time when Zuellni was attacked by the larvae? All she did was let Layfon fight.
(How is it pardonable?)
She couldn't be forgiven. She was so unsightly. She wanted to kill herself. Make herself disappear. Surpass her past self and become stronger. She had come to the Academy with this thought. But the current her hadn't surpassed anything. And she never would have thought she would feel so impotent.
Was she to sigh about her impotence in here?
Impotence. This feeling had sustained her actions till now. She had borrowed this thought to sustain herself even though she was hammered by reality. She had sustained herself till now even though her goal and means didn't match. She had sustained herself even though she was dragged into an unexpected event.
She had gritted her teeth and endured even though she had lost her direction, feeling uneasy and scared. She had walked to this point though this place wasn't the place she wanted to be in. Was she to lose all that?
(Stand. Stand up. I can't let it end here!)
Her lips quivered. Her limbs had lost their feelings. Her vision was red. She couldn't do anything. But even so......
Her heart hadn't died.
She kept calling herself to stand up as Dixerio's hand moved closer and closer. The faint light of Kei lit up his fingertips. Was this light to take away her memories? What was the difference between losing herself and death?
She called continuously. Even a tiny movement was better than nothing. She had to resist. She should be able to do something even though she had lost the iron whips. She must move to resist that hand, resist Dixerio.
"Let me help you."
A voice sounded in her ears.
(Who is it?)
No. I know this voice. It isn't possible to forget the voice that shakes my core so deeply. No other person would make the same voice.
It was Nelphilia.
Was Nina the only one hearing her? Dixerio's movement didn't change.
"I have something to give you. But unfortunately, this isn't my present."
She only heard her voice. That beautiful form hadn't appeared. Only her voice resounded. But it wasn't enough to stop the effect brought by fear.
(What does she mean?)
"No time for you to hesitate. I have two choices for you. Allow Dixerio to erase your memory or keep moving forward. Though he says the aftermath would affect your memory, I can help with that."
Nina's brain couldn't quite catch up with her words. Choice. Even this girl was saying the same thing to her.
"I'll give this to you if you want to keep moving forward. But if you choose this, then you're not to start over or stop midway. Otherwise I'd kill you. I'd make you die in the depths of despair until you understand in the core of your soul how important it is."
Nina couldn't understand her words. Her voice didn't sound playful, the attitude she held when she was underneath Zuellni. Instead, Nina felt anger in her voice.
What was she mad at?
No more time to think. To move forward or to give up.
She had decided.
Hadn't she been thinking what events would transpire if she were to give up and let Dixerio take away her memories?
(I've always just wanted to move forward.)
If she were to regret both choices, she'd rather regret taking the forward path. This was what Nina Antalk was like.
"All right. I'll give it to you. The present of the pitiful child who is always giving away for others. The present of the cute child who hasn't even thought of whether you match it. You must take great care of it."
After her words. Something suddenly changed.
"Goodbye. You'll forget me and anything else the next time you wake up."
Dixerio's hand extended to her forehead.
At the time when the hands that held the broken Dites felt the change.
At the time when power once again filled her body.
At the time when her red vision cleared.
At the time when she believed everything was back to normal.
Nina counterattacked. She swung without knowing what she was holding, jumping away from the shocked Dixerio.
He was confused, shocked and......
"What kind of a joke is this?"
"I won't let you," Nina said and then confirmed the things in her hands.
The iron whips. The iron whips had returned to their original forms. Their appearance hadn't changed but they felt different. They wouldn't break again. There was no proof of this but this was what Nina believed.
The strength living in her body hadn't changed. Melnisc was silently lending her his strength. The pressure of the blue Kei hadn't changed from before. However, she couldn't feel any uneasiness from the blue Kei shining through the iron whips.
This was a sense of peace she had never felt before.
"Perhaps it's your fault for bringing me here."
The ability to fight as she wanted without regret made her feel peace.
"But I'm the one standing here. It's my choice to decide whether to leave or not. This hasn't got anything to do with you."
"It'd have been good had you listened to me when I was in my good mood."
Dixerio rested his metal whip on his shoulder.
"I said already that I'd do my best to get what I want."
"Then I'll do my best to keep moving forward."
She increased her Kei again. Dixerio did the same. The color of the two blue Kei swayed intensely. They stirred, increasing their density as both fighters watched for the timing to release their Kei.
But they didn't.
Dixerio's Kei suddenly scattered and disappeared. He turned the weapon back into its Dite form and put it into his weapon harness while Nina was still confused.
"What do you want to do?"
"I'm not playing. I feel like a fool," he replied, exhausted. He looked like he really had gotten tired of this. "You've wasted my goodwill."
"Goodwill? I can't see it."
If he did it out of his goodwill, then his brain or his knowledge must have undergone some twist.
"Disobedient children need to be educated."
He scratched his red hair and breathed out a long breath.
"Never mind. Do whatever you like. But don't forget the things you're holding."
His gaze had stopped on her weapons.
But she didn't understand. That voice. This was what Nelphilia had given her. But it wasn't hers. She said she was only here to give it to her.
She looked at the weapons in her hands. The feeling from the weapons was real. It felt the same as the ones that Harley had made for her. She couldn't see any difference.
But this wasn't just it. The Dites wouldn't break even if they were to receive the strengthened Kei of the Haikizoku. This belief stayed with her. And she didn't feel uncomfortable at this event. The belief about the unbreakable Dites had brought along with it a sense of warmth and comfort.
These iron whips were unbelievable.
"You know what they are?"
"...... Think of it yourself."
Dixerio watched her icily. Nina was speechless, pressed down by his gaze.
"This is the second time."
"The second time. You've escaped two times to return to normal. It won't happen again. You can only keep on moving forward. You can only move forward with an intention of losing that power no matter what your Haikizoku says. This is what you bear now."
She couldn't understand his meaning but she didn't ask. His air told her he would refuse all questions she raised.
"........ Well, good luck. I don't have the time to interfere with you."
"The next time we meet is at Asura Harbor. The place to decide life and death. I won't worry about your safety anymore. I'll kill you if you get in my way. That's all."
He turned around and disappeared into the buildings.
The traces of the battle between the two of them stayed in the unusually quiet street. Nina had separated from Claribel because of the movements in the fight. This meant the fight just then had been very intense. But no one had come to investigate despite the huge ruckus. Everything disappeared after her question.
Confounded. This was all she felt. The traces of the battle were disappearing one by one.
"What... What's happening?"
She had no idea. She planned to prepare her fighting stance but Melnisc had stopped her.
(You're back to reality. Stand down and move normally.)
What was going on? Still, it'd be bad if someone saw her like this. She returned the weapons to their Dite form and jumped to the roof of a nearby building like Dixerio.
"What's happened?" she asked.
(The space has shifted and moved away from the real Grendan. You've come to a different place. The twist just then had been repaired. Everything is once again returned to its state in the real space.)
She still didn't understand despite Melnsic's explanation.
(The Wolf Faces are good at twisting space. The disappearance of the twist means the Wolf Faces have been eliminated.)
Must be Claribel and Minse. They won.
"Does that mean the plan to assassinate the Heaven's Blades have been prevented?"
This was it. They were the ones who took away Leerin. Right now, they might be the enemies but they were the ones who attacked the giants. Though the feeling towards them was complicated, the latter meant more to her. Either way, she didn't want the Wolf Faces to have their way.
(Then what next?)
"What do you want to do?"
The Haikizoku's attitude in the dream was vague. He didn't seem to accept the goal of Sheniebel. Dixerio had said something about "with the intention of losing that power". Had he seen through the Haikizoku's intention?
The Haikizoku was silent to her question.
"...... Watch my action," she murmured as she watched the palace.
(Don't you plan to return?)
"If anything had to happen to Zuellni, it'd have happened already. I'd rather stay here and observe than do something useless."
If it was Layfon, he would do something to rescue Leerin. The words that Sharnid said when they headed for the lab was correct. Layfon feared nothing in Grendan, a place that had gathered Military Artists as strong as him. He'd come here successfully even if he was to fight his way through.
In order to rescue Leerin.
Nina's heart hurt as she thought of this. The injury she received from Dixerio should have disappeared when Nelphilia handed her the iron whips.
Nina pondered. She touched her body and didn't find any traces of injures.
"I've found out Leerin's location. This should help him."
Besides, she must witness the events here.
Someone said suddenly as she was deep in thought. Nina turned around and saw a female putting her head out the window of the roof.
"Are you a student of the opposite city? What're you doing standing there?"
"Ah, no. I........"
She was concentrating on her own affairs, neglecting the presence behind her. So unsightly. The more she thought, the more flustered she became. In the end, she couldn't even weave her words properly.
"I don't know what you're doing but don't damage my house."
"Ah, ok. No problem."
The female frankly watched the serious Nina.
"Uh, never mind. By the way, do you have time to spare?"
"You must be bored because you've been spacing out. I have something I hope you can help me with."
"Ah, no, not at all........."
"Hurry up and come in."
She wasn't even listening. The female opened the window wider and pulled herself back. It seemed she wanted her to enter no matter what.
"Wh, what should I do......?"
She had asked but the Haikizoku gave no reply. What a heartless guy.
"I say, hurry."
Reluctantly, Nina entered through the window.
The Queen brushed apart the blue dimness into the Inner Court.
The Wolf Faces had appeared to attack her while she was waiting for Leerin. The foolish invaders were eliminated the moment they appeared. She hadn't even lifted a finger. Just the external Kei exuding from her was enough to finish them.
Wolf Faces. She had known of the name of this organization since long ago. She also knew of the fight between Claribel, Minse and the Wolf Faces who had infiltrated Grendan, but she just pretended not to know of it.
Because there wasn't a need for her to make a move before that moment came.
But had that moment arrived? The lamentation she felt when eliminating them only lasted a second. She had quickly switched her mind around, found the opened door and the girl who had entered into this place.
The blue dimness still pervaded. Alsheyra saw the lonely bed. Standing beside it were her friend and the formerly-slumbering girl.
Alsheyra had never seen the slumbering girl, as the door to the Inner Court had always been closed. Even so, she was still certain that the girl standing next to Leerin was Saya.
"Sen.... Your Majesty," Leerin said in a low voice. She looked a little confounded as she covered her right eye with her hand. Was she hurt? No. That was impossible.
"Just call me senpai. It's more convenient."
Alsheyra was relieved that she was all right. Her expression softened as she walked over to them.
"Did those guys come here?"
"They did, but it wasn't much of a problem," Saya replied. Her voice, crisp as a bell, echoed merrily in Alsheyra's ears.
"Really......." She looked at Leerin. Leerin was still covering her right eye, watching the direction behind Alsheyra.
She already noticed when she entered the room. Numerous balls were spinning for some reason. She thought they were decorations of this space but they seemed to be something else. She randomly picked up one of the balls. It was just big enough for her to hold in one hand. It was made of glass and looked like it was an eyeball. A circle weaved of thorns was inside the pupil, weaving around a cross.
A pattern that really bothered her.
"....... Saya has awakened. Then it was inevitable that those guys would come. It would be more suitable to explain this as the true beginning."
"It would be better for that to be the case, though that's only my personal feelings."
"What a coincidence. I felt the same not long ago."
She had felt the same, but not now. If possible, she hoped this trouble would have occurred in the next generation after Leerin's. Though she hadn't gathered all 12 people, it was Grendan's first time having gathered so many strong Military Artists. It would be foolish to give up this time and wait for the next chance. Besides, Leerin wouldn't have hoped for that. She wasn't someone who would push trouble to her descendents.
She could stand here because of her personality.
If she could prevent the coming event, she'd even sacrifice her feelings. This thought had never gone away.
"But you wouldn't do that. In that case, we can only let it happen. If the opposite side doesn't plan to, we'll force them. My job is to eliminate it."
"I'm counting on you," Saya bowed. Alsheyra found she had unconsciously put her hand on Saya's head. Doing so, she seemed natural in acting badly.
"Is that all right? No matter what you think, the most important thing to us now is survival."
Saya's face remained expressionless even though Alsheyra's hand was on her head. But a shade of dislike could be discerned from her countenance. The girl of night gazed at Alsheyra, confirming the feeling on her head.
"What should be said was already said. Then do you want to leave here?" Alsheyra asked the two of them.
Leerin nodded lightly, still with a hand on her eye. Saya also confirmed silently.
"Then let us discuss further outside. You must be tired after this ordeal."
"Don't worry. Leerin is my family too."
"Leerin's surname will change to Eutnohl from today. There's a crazy uncle but you can just ignore him. Even his relatives do the same."
"Of course. You can keep the name Marfes if you like. It really is quite a good name."
Leerin lifted her head, the original serious expression turned into a smile.
"Thank you, but I'll listen to senpai and change my surname to Eutnohl."
The change before the smile didn't escape Alsheyra's eyes.
It was an expression of joy. Tears of joy.
"Then it's probably more suitable for me to call you Your Majesty."
Included in it was the meaning of saying farewell to her name. The past Leerin Marfes who called her senpai had disappeared. In here was the daughter of fate that the three royal families had hoped for -- Leerin Eutnohl. This was Leerin's own decision.
Sad and painful words had nothing good to offer. Though Alsheyra had never regretted her own fate, she really wanted changes for Leerin, who had to suddenly bear this fate. But the conclusion she could think of was that she could do nothing.
(I'm the useless one.)
"...... Anyway, let's head up."
She couldn't tell what Leerin was feeling, judging by the expression she gave when she praised her Marfes name. But she knew her words hadn't hurt her. Only that point was clear.
The current Leerin had overcome an obstacle and taken one step forward.
When Leerin's thought turned back to reality, Alsheyra Almonise was already behind her.
Claribel felt deeply that she had gone over the limit of her own endurance.
"I can't stand it," she said in a low voice after Kalvan destroyed the practice sword in the dojo. A needle had pierced the handle of the sword. Of course, the needle was poisoned. Claribel pondered as she looked at the broken Dite with her head lowered. A Heaven's Blade successor would never fail to notice the tiny change to his own Dite. Even if he were to spring the trap and the poison spread through his body, he only needed to cut off his arm before his whole body was poisoned. This level of speed and judgement was the most basic even for a non-Heaven's Blade successor in Grendan. The person could always get a doctor to sew up the arm so no one would hesitate to cut his own arm off.
But one might not be able to control any situations perfectly once this step was taken. This was the end goal.
Let the gears go mad one by one. Things would head for the more advantageous situation this way. The effect wouldn't be too bad.
But in this city existed Claribel and Minse who could sense Wolf Faces. They would never let them have their way here. Claribel would not let them win even if she was to bet on her pride.
The destination was the outer edge of the city. Toss away the Dite there and eliminate all evidence. The students at the dojo, realizing their teacher's Dite was missing, must look very stiff.
Even imagining this scene was no fun.
"I can't stand it," she repeated in a heavier tone.
"Be patient," Minse said, looking at her unhappily.
"It's lucky we're on this side. To swing with that level of Kei will provoke other Military Artists."
Minse didn't look happy because he knew what Claribel was like.
"Don't talk about him. I'm annoyed."
"Didn't it turn out this way because you didn't think before you acted?"
"You're so longwinded."
Minse made annoyed noises, his brows furrowed. A riot aimed at making a stain in the Eutnohl family occurred when Layfon took the Heaven's Blade at age 10. This was done because of Herder's incidence. Another commotion also occurred as a Heaven's Blade was involved.
But the Queen didn't handle it seriously as if it was a big case. After that, she solved the problem with unbelievable power while ordinary citizens still noticed nothing.
In the end, the Eutnohl family had to pay a huge amount as a fine......
"Thanks to that, it's now a poor family with a royal name."
Claribel laughed at him who had covered his face. Minse thought she would feel better after laughing but it still didn't work as expected. Her expression had turned stiff again. Minse's bitter expression changed.
"Hey, you know? I don't want to be seen as a conspirator."
"Ara. I'm the one taking action. You don't have to worry."
"As if Her Majesty would accept this reason. Besides, the space has returned to normal. This event will not escape Delbone's eyes."
"Never mind? Either way, we've kept the calm. What would happen if the medicine ignores its original effect?"
"Nobody's designated that mission. We defeated them. The ending is perfect."
Claribel looked at him – this bitter, bored, impatient, anxious cousin who gave off such an expression that was difficult to pull off – had boldly spoken out.
"Besides, we didn't fight because we had an order. Things became like this when we came to. Either way, it's enough that we eliminate them, right?"
Claribel became like this...... her first fight with the Wolf Faces was when she was nine. She decided to learn Karen Kei and so became Troiatte's apprentice. Heaven's Blades never took apprentices because nurturing an apprentice was an obstacle to raising his own strength. Ruimei, who opened his own school, was an exception. Hence, everyone thought it was difficult to become a Heaven's Blade's apprentice. However, Troiatte accepted her with a carefree manner. His belief was that he should be a gentlemen to all women regardless of their age. But Claribel didn't officially become his apprentice. She had to forcibly enter the Military Arts stream that Troiatte hailed from, Nain, so to learn the basics of Karen Kei. She received his direct instructions after she had trained in the basics for some time. She had trained diligently so she could learn under him sooner.
And it suddenly arrived at that time.
It was so sudden, so unexplainable. She was attacked by the Wolf Faces but she realized after the battle that she was holding her Dite with her pose ready, but she was facing passerby in a daze. Similar incidences occurred since that time. The Wolf Faces stood before her when she reacted, and then she had kept on fighting battles with them.
Nine years old. Judging by how she somehow managed to handle them, those Wolf Faces weren't all that powerful. Claribel hadn't met any strong opponents. Those Wolf Faces were of average strength. Numerous encounters with them gave Claribel opportunities to be creative in the battles. They had become the best opponents to her in terms of fighting a crowd.
And then she had met Minse who was under the same situation as her. He had discovered the purpose of the Wolf Faces. The two of them had worked hard to understand some of the truth. The Wolf Faces' purpose was related to the three royal families. The three royal families of Grendan that were deep in the mystery of the world. Claribel understood that she herself was also deeply involved. "But I won't give up this chance to confirm my strength."
"Then you just need to duel with your master."
"He'll definitely go easy on me."
But Layfon wouldn't be soft in this situation.
"Don't you want to fight too?"
".... You, are only of this level."
"What do you mean?"
"Do you just simply want Layfon to see how much you've grown? It's been about three years right, you and Layfon...."
"It isn't something admirable to talk about a girl's secret that easily."
The pressure in her smile made him breathe in a sharp breath.
She took a deep breath, showing no intention to continue with the conversation. He should already have seen it. This was the outer edge. Though it was very close to the contact point with the Academy City, any interaction or entry was forbidden. Even people with goodwill could only look at the other city from here. There were many who wanted to help the immature people of the Academy City to repair their city. They had observed the other city in details and gone to talk with the palace to release the order. Of course, not all of them did this out of goodwill. Some did it to get a chance to earn money. Some also did it just wanting to join in on the fun.
Anyway, there usually weren't many people here.
There were three males and females entering from the Academy City. She could tell from their uniforms that they were wearing fighting clothes. The Military Artists of the Academy City should still be on alert. Their presence here wasn't anything strange. At least, fighting clothes weren't all that strange to the citizens of Grendan.
Then what were they here for? Claribel's curiosity made her look at them.
"That idiot, coming in here so openly......" Minse said in a low voice.
Claribel was looking at the same person. There was no mistake. It hadn't been a year since he left Grendan. His face wouldn't have changed much. It should still take the citizens some time to recognize him but if there were Military Artists among the crowd, they would have spotted him already.
He was Layfon.
"........ Listen up. I'm returning to the palace immediately. So right now, you stay here and wait for 10 minutes. If you start anything, do it after that time. Understood? This has got nothing to do with me."
Minse jumped for the direction of the palace after leaving those words.
Claribel wasn't that patient. But she was grateful that he didn't completely stop her so she waited one minute. She jumped after the time had passed.
Of course, in a direction opposite Minse.
She rushed to stand in front of Layfon.
The girl who dropped from the sky to block his way drew out an image in Layfon's mind.
"It's been a while, Layfon-sama."
The daughter of the Ronsmier family. Heaven's Blade successor Tigris' granddaughter.
"I'm happy that you still remember me."
Layfon didn't drop his guard even though she was smiling. Even Sharnid could detect the challenge beneath her smile. Layfon wouldn't have missed it.
He stopped Sharnid from snatching out his Dite.
"You and Felli, please........ senpai, step back. If anything happens, evacuate. Move once you're ready."
Sharnid immediately understood him.
Layfon stood on a spot where he could cover for Felli. Sharnid and Felli stepped back to make some distance between them.
He understood Claribel's meaning.
"Aa, are you planning to win against me?"
"I'm sorry but I'm not in the mood to chat now."
Claribel's hand hovered above the Dite in her weapon harness but she didn't pull it out. The fighting spirit in her continued to rise. It was on the brink of erupting.
"This makes me think of the first time we stood in the same battlefield. As a Heaven's Blade successor, you were my guardian in my first fight."
"Did anything happen? I don't remember."
He had the Sapphire Dite, Shim Adamantium Dite, Adamantium Dite, and the Iron Dite. Which Dite should he use? He thought about it and decided in a split second.
Claribel's expression cooled, affected by the provocation in his words.
"True. It was only one of many fights to you, but to me, it was unforgettable....... I've been only thinking of how to surpass you since that day."
"Really? Then let's have a quick fight. I don't have time to waste on someone like you."
"Yeah. That's enough......"
She only managed to get half of her words out.
Claribel attacked. The afterimage of her standing pose was left behind as she rushed him. The Dite was still in the weapon harness but her fingers were ready to snatch it out anytime. The technique to pull out her Dite. A move without hesitation. Layfon held the Dite he had decided on initially – Sapphire Dite. He had snatched it out while Claribel was shortening the distance between them.
Red and blue, the lights of restoration crossed each other. The cut paths weaved together. The Kei released from the two bodies cut open the sky.
This all happened in one moment.
And then the stirring of the strength of the outpouring Kei linked the outer edges of Grendan and Zuellni.
"Has she gotten serious? That idiot." Minse complained in distaste as he was on his way to the palace.
And the two Military Artists who suddenly entered a fight revealed a rare scene to the speechless citizens and the few Military Artists mixed in the crowd.
Kochouenshiken (Flaming Butterfly Sword). Claribel named this move herself. The twin swords made of ruby Dite danced in the sky. The handle made to guard her fists were of a design that made it difficult to let go of the weapons.
Yet the weapons were dancing in the sky.
They were dancing agilely in the sky with Claribel's arm.
The Sapphire Dite altered by Harley and Kirik made this scenery possible. The swing made at the time of restoration cut out a cut path faster than the one drawn by the scarlet blades of Kochouenshiken. That cut path then pierced through Claribel's shoulder.
The fallen arm slowly fell onto the ground, drawing out a circle.
She rolled down next to Layfon, her stance totally collapsing. Blood continued to flow but her face was red. Her body was numb but words were weaved in between her teeth.
"As I thought, you're the best."
Only Layfon could hear her moans.
But her words failed to stop his steps.
Claribel wasn't a threat anymore. He turned the Sapphire Dite into the Steel Threads mode.
"Let's go, senpai."
"Ah, Oi, Oi."
Sharnid was too shocked and his reaction was obviously slow. Layfon carried Felli with one arm, holding the handle of the Sapphire Dite in the other hand, and jumped.
The Military Artists at the outer edge only came rushing in now. The speed of the fight was so shockingly fast that even Grendan's Military Artists couldn't react fast enough.
But they managed to restore their Dites after coming to, at the time when Layfon and the two were meters away.
They roared in anger and attacked.
Attacks with Kei intense as flames.
They should have already realized it.
Their opponent was Layfon.
"I won't hold back if you get in my way," he murmured in a low voice as he waved the Steel Threads at them.....
The three of them rushed out of the outer edge.