Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume18 Chapter1
Chapter 1: The One Striving Forward, The One Muddling Blindly Forward, The One Giving Up
The current tranquil atmosphere was undisturbed.
He had left his position as the supervisor of the orphanage, and closed the dojo. Other than occasionally going to see the graduates of the orphanage and the nearby residents who liked caring for people, no one would deliberately come here.
Perhaps it was because of this, or because of the nostalgia he held towards this place, that Derek couldn't neglect the slight change in the air.
With the sound of rolling wheels, Derek advanced to that place.
He passed through the veranda of the place where he normally lived, coming to this place. At first glance, it was only a wooden cottage, but actually it used strong building materials, so even if a Military Artist conducted a small test of their skills it wouldn't create damage.
This was a place to let Military Artists practice their techniques - the dojo.
Derek entered the room.
There was already a person inside.
Sunlight shone in from the windows that hadn't been opened in a long time, making the floor and walls of the dojo shine. This kind of thing shouldn't happen, because this place had been abandoned for a long time, with no one to clean it. Therefore, this unknown guest must have cleaned it before when Derek wasn't aware.
The glaring brightness that he hadn't expected made Derek narrow his eyes, looking towards this unknown guest.
That person had already taken up a stance with a practice sword in the center of the dojo. He didn't seem to have any intention of moving, just calmly taking up a stance.
But, his stance was quite simple, giving him an involuntary pleasant feeling. It was a sort of ideal stance that wasted no strength at all.
Derek gazed for a bit, but that person still kept his stance without moving a muscle.
That unknown guest closed his eyes, calmly holding his stance.
From his body emanated the presence that made one feel as if he were communicating with someone. Derek couldn't deny that feeling that appeared in him.
It was actually like that.
This unknown guest had come here to communicate with someone who could only be felt here.
"I entered by myself, I'm really sorry!"
After some waiting, the unknown guest relaxed his stance, and apologized to Derek.
Derek who had just been gazing at his blade-holding stance once again looked at the male before him. A tattoo surrounded his left eye, and because of this, his face seemed somewhat impressive. But, Derek didn't overlook the calm demeanor hidden within those eyes.
"In any case, I'm already in this condition, so no one uses this place."
Derek patted the wheel.
He sat on a wheelchair. Because his Kei vein had been damaged, problems had emerged with the nerves in the bottom half of his body.
"If you want it, I'll give you this dojo."
Derek's sudden proposal made the male show a surprised expression.
"Hah, what are you joking."
"You think it's a joke? You have the qualifications."
Derek wasn't mistaken.
Though he didn't even know his last name, the male standing in front of him was the disciple of his good friend Ryuhou Gadge.
"I saw the figure of my good friend in your stance, a figure even stronger than the last time I saw him, and his disciple has returned. Therefore, you obviously have the qualifications to inherit this dojo."
"......You have successors like this."
"Ah, I had a successor. But, he has already gone far away, and will never return."
Derek recalled that day in front of the male. From intense, tearful, and confused swordfight appeared the figure of Layfon surpassing Derek and advancing forward.
"That person's very strong, right? Far stronger than me."
"He is very strong. But, it's his nature to be lost."
Though he had surpassed Derek, the haze in Layfon's heart had not been dispersed because of it, and he hadn't been liberated. In front of the reality that awaited him next, the haze that swarmed his heart would definitely become stronger.
"Lost, lost...... I fear that it's that person's nature to be only able to obtain things by being perplexed several times more than others."
"He's that way even though he's so strong?"
"It's because he's strong that he's like that."
Judging from his tone, the man seemed to know Layfon, but Derek didn't touch upon that subject, but rather continued to speak.
"It's because he was already so strong when he grew up that he used that strength to skimp on many things, skimping on things that normal people would definitely experience while they grew up, so the current him can only be lost."
He had to continue being lost, desperately grabbing on to something. He had to experience the tears left behind by defeat.
"It's because he resolves anything he encounters with strength that he's deficient in some aspects. Until he reclaims those things, he can't obtain anything."
Derek couldn't say whether it would be a long or short time before his haze was dispersed.
But, there was something that was quite clear......
"This dojo doesn't exist only for him, and it is enough if there is a possibility to birth the disciples of Psyharden."
"So, if you can bear it, then I will give it to you."
The uninvited guest had no response.
However, he spoke his own name and left.
In the dojo that had only a single person left, Derek softly murmured the name:
His heart overflowed with memories of the past. Until that feeling disappeared entirely, the old man stayed inside the dojo.
When Haia returned to the house in the district that received people from outside, Karian was staying inside the room alone.
"What! You didn't go out?"
"I have no interest in sightseeing, and moreover it's best for Military Artists to gather information about Military Artists."
"Right, those two aren't here, huh."
Haia surveyed the room. Karian elegantly drank tea while reading a book in the living room. Once he walked inside, he could see a row of doors, each one having a single room and bed past it.
Karian and others had rented this big room made for traveling caravans to use as a group.
In this big room was only Karian by himself.
"I asked Stania and Myunfa to inspect the itinerary of the Military Arts competition."
"I know that!"
They had arrived to Grendan with a purpose.
In order to make Haia Laia a Heaven's Blade successor.
"But~ Is this okay?"
"What's okay or not?"
"I feel that this deviates a bit from your goal."
Karian's goal should be to let the whole world understand the truth that he had experienced, to tell of the dangers hidden behind the truth to the people in these isolated gardens that were the moving cities.
And Karian's experiences were things that had happened in Grendan. In other words, even if Karian came here he couldn't do anything.
Visiting Grendan in order to make Haia a Heaven's Blade successor, could that action be in vain?
"It's not in vain."
The other party felt that he was being courteous, huh. Karian's mouth slightly curved upwards.
"How much time do you think it would take if it were just me traveling to every city in the world?"
"An impossible amount of time."
"Correct, in other words that method won't work."
"Therefore, we can only rely on the spread of information from one city to another. If this can make people feel in danger, there should be people who come forward and spread the truth."
"......Because it's dangerous, there will also people who pretend to have not heard the truth."
"Or people will think they need to do nothing, believing that the situation isn't urgent, or use the information to do evil things. I also anticipate those kinds of people will appear."
Karian nodded his head in assent to Haia's words, then put the book down to the side.
"I am currently trying to spread the outrageous information that the world is facing a huge danger. If I make one misstep, it will throw many societies into turmoil, and may create riots. No, it will definitely create riots. My meaning is, I may be a dangerous person traveling around the world and making societies unsafe."
"Haha, sooner or later I'll become an accomplice of this dangerous person."
At Karian nodding his head in assent with a serious expression at his half-joke, Haia was speechless.
"Ah, I don't plan to pull Grendan to become partners in crime, nor do I think that we should take what we can. After all, they won't be satisfied with me taking a Heaven's Blade out of the city."
"Then why do you do this?"
"Didn't I say? The things I do can almost only rely on the unconfirmed variable of information spread. So if there's anything else I can do, I want to try it out."
"Like letting me become a Heaven's Blade successor?"
"Bringing the person who has a chance at becoming a Heaven's Blade to Grendan. Whether you can become or not is up to yourself."
"......Hm, how interesting."
Karian's words made Haia laugh.
"I will get a Heaven's Blade sooner or later. I already decided that, and if you want to help, I'll accept your help."
"That's how it is. Right, where did you go just now?"
Perhaps because he believed he had no reason to continue asking, Karian began reading again.
Soon after, Stania and Myunfa returned.
Karian listened to their report.
"......In other words, we have to first pass through several competitions, is that the case."
"Yes. We did not find out what qualities or prerequisites a Heaven's Blade successor needs, but judging from the information that we received of past Heaven's Blade successors, they had to first pass through several competitions to confirm their power in order for the Queen to conduct the Heaven's Blade successor deciding competition."
Stania replied skillfully.
"......Will our birthplaces mean anything?"
Perhaps it was the price that had to be paid in order for the moving cities to protect the people from harm by filth monsters, but the closed structures of society usually excluded foreigners.
How grand of a role would be held by those who came from outside the city yet were able to become Heaven's Blade receivers? Haia's concerns were quite reasonable.
"Ah, there seem to be no problems with that."
Myunfa happily replied to Haia's inquiry:
"Since there are already Lintence, Reverse, and Cauntia before. Even if you're a Military Artist from outside the city, as long as you have power, the current Queen will actively recruit you."
"That person is really incredible~"
Though Haia's words were strong, he showed a relaxed expression, and Karian involuntarily smiled wryly.
"Regardless, in the end, it's possible for you to obtain a Heaven's Blade."
"Nn, I know that. Then, next it should be enough to pass through the competitions, right?"
"Correct. But if it's only like that, it's unknown when the Queen will hold the qualification competition."
"......? What are you saying?"
Karian's words made Haia frown in surprise.
"The Queen decides whether to hold the Heaven's Blade successor qualifying competition on her own. In other words, regardless of how many honors you pile up, as long as the Queen hasn't decided to hold the competition, the competition will not begin."
"Ah...... It seems that way~"
"The Queen can't rely only on her mood to decide on those things. I think the Queen will also assess herself whether the person is a Military Artist who is capable of using a special Dite like the Heaven's Blade, and then carry out the competition."
"It's a very reasonable thought~"
"But, considering the information that I gathered on the Queen Alsheyra Almonise's personality, things can't be like that."
"What does that mean?"
"First, and perhaps this counts as the most important reason, she has a personality that likes to play around, and has a tendency to decide things on the spur of the moment. The Queen can't rely only on whether or not it's interesting to decide important positions like the Heaven's Blade successors. Though I'd say that that personality seems to seriously affect the speed of her carrying out the competition."
"So then will be your time to appear~"
A cunning smile appeared on Haia's face, and Karian also showed the same expression.
Karian's battle plan was this:
First, use normal methods to pass the preliminary competitions, to let the people of Grendan know of the existence of Haia Laia.
"Try to use spectacular methods to win."
"Because that stands out rather more?"
"Correct. Regardless of whether the evaluation is good or bad, it is important for it to reach the ears of the Queen. Though, you must only keep from breaking Military Artist ethical conduct."
"Is it alright to stand out with a negative image?"
"My intuition is that the Queen seems to like eccentric people."
"That actually seems how it is."
The doubt on Haia's face made Stania open her mouth:
"I gathered assessments on the Heaven's Blade successors, and there are only a small group that are model Military Artists and behaved citizens, with all the others having some flaw in their personalities."
"People who have extraordinary strength should for the most part have some deviation in their personalities. It's very hard to decide that it has nothing to do with power."
"Not only this, but the personality of the Queen herself is very odd. From one of the facts among those that I gathered, the Queen openly uses a body double during formal ceremonies. The body double is one of the Heaven's Blade successors, and this is already a well-known thing among the city's residents."
"Is this body double significant?"
"No. But, though the Queen knows that the city's residents have seen through it, she still continues to let that person stand in for herself."
"The Queen enjoys this kind of mysterious fun."
"So our goal of standing out is to incur the Queen's favor, then?"
"Are you dissatisfied?"
"That~ I wanted to achieve her approval with a frontal attack if I could."
"We don't have to cheat during the competition process. Moreover in the end, if you don't have the power to hold a Heaven's Blade, everything is meaningless. All I can do is make the Queen notice your existence as soon as possible."
"The one who actually implements this is you, so I have no authority to command you. But, in order for you to become a Heaven's Blade successor as quickly as possible......"
"Aah, I know, I know!!"
Haia raised his hands high in surrender, and Karian nodded his head.
"Hm, in that case, this is the next battle plan."
"There's more, huh."
"Of course, just standing out can't count as a battle plan, right?"
Haia showed a somewhat impatient expression, so Karian looked at Stania:
"I asked her to look for people who have been recognized as Heaven's Blade successors in waiting."
"What did you say?"
Under the gazes of the others, Stania once again spoke:
"First, there's a person who was seen as the foremost choice, but because of an unfortunate accident recently he was forced to retire."
"Yes. That person was called Terios, and supposedly he was injured in an accident, and then that happened...... That's how things are."
The expression on Haia's face carried some sort of meaning.
Perhaps understanding the meaning of that expression, Stania also nodded her head.
"That person was part of the royal family, so he could have hidden for some suspicious reason. In short, the person who was seen as the foremost choice has already departed from the battle for the Heaven's Blade."
"The person in the lead is out, so the current situation is hard to anticipate?"
"Correct. The people who are seen as secondaries......"
Karian looked at the data handed to him.
"In this case...... it seems feasible."
After scanning the data with pictures once over, Karian murmured this.
"What are you thinking?"
Haia looked over with some reluctance.
"Regarding this person......"
Karian spoke while tearing a photograph from the file, bringing it for the others to see.
"What does everyone think?"
"Seems to have an odd personality."
"Huh? That...... That...... How...... How should I say it."
"Seems to only have looks."
"Ah, never mind Haia, I wouldn't have thought that even our female companions wouldn't evaluate him highly."
Karian once again confirmed the picture in his hand. The facial features and hairstyle of the person in the picture were very good-looking, so Karian had thought that he would give a decent impression to females.
"I don't know what the girls who were tricked by this man were thinking."
"Ah, I thought that you were a comrade of those girls."
"What did you say?"
"In other words, at the least this man possesses a charm that can't be ignored."
"Hearing the exchange between Stania and Haia, Karian confirmed that he had no reason to correct his thoughts toward the man in the picture.
"Then, who is this guy?"
Haia flicked the picture with his finger, seeming to want to escape Stania's glare.
"His name is...... Inbait Touslane? Ah, that name is indeed suitable."
"Now that you know, I will explain the plan. Haia, please become Inbait's rival."
"My meaning is that I want you to stage a show."
Karian tried to explain like this, but Haia first, followed by Myunfa and Stania all showed expressions of being unable to understand.
"I can't understand, isn't it enough to defeat all of the potentials in the competition?"
"It's true that the final conclusion will be like that. Perhaps among frontal attacks, the most suitable method is to knock down all of the potentials in a breath. After all, I have nothing to criticize about that kind of method."
"But doing that might not be interesting."
"Think about it, who will be made happy by that grand method of showing off strength? The normal citizens of the city. To the Heaven's Blade successors and the Queen who is even stronger than them, it isn't any curious happening."
"In other words, though flaunting a crushing strength can please the citizens, it might not entertain the Queen."
"......Then, using your methods the Queen will be happy?"
"Not only this, even the normal citizens will also be happy."
"Isn't it acting?"
Haia seemed to be very unwilling to do this.
"Do you hate cheating during a fight?"
"If it's this kind of fraud!"
It wasn't that Karian didn't understand Haia's way of thinking. Karian had a habit, that in order to make something certainly succeed, he would eliminate every dangerous element one by one, and conclude with an overwhelming offensive. If he could, Haia wanted to attack head-on and rightfully fight for the Heaven's Blade.
Karian clearly understood Haia's frame of mind.
"From my point of view, I want you to become a Heaven's Blade successor as quickly as possible."
"That's something I've heard before."
"Ah, in that case, I no longer have any other words to convince you."
Other than Karian, everyone felt a great sense of surprise at his sentence.
"Decide for yourself. To me, as long as you become a Heaven's Blade successor, I have already accomplished my goal here."
"Enriching your fighting power?"
"Correct. This world bears the fate of resistance, so I have to provide the impetus, cobbling together enough force to face this fate, and then I also want to arouse the awareness of other powers. This is my mission, the mission entrusted to myself."
"By now, I don't even want to hear your ambitions."
Haia showed an annoyed expression, and Karian raised his hands to indicate that he would say no more, and then left the room.
It was nearly dinnertime, and Karian walked towards the restaurant.
"Is this okay?"
Chasing from behind, Stania caught up to him like this.
"What's okay or not?"
"Young master is his employer, and if you only assert 'act according to my plan', he has no way to refuse."
"Something like obtaining a Heaven's Blade isn't something that can be carried out relying only on a mercenary contract. This is also a long-cherished wish to him, so the situation isn't that simple."
"When we started out he seemed very vigorous. But regardless of cheating during battle, he seems to really dislike cheating in places outside of battle."
"Because tricks in battle are also a way of offense."
But, Haia had once before kidnapped Felli in order to challenge Layfon to a fight.
So Karian had recognized that he was able to use such means.
"......Meaning that is a choice of last resort?"
At the time, Haia had taken advantage of the chaotic situation of the Military Arts competition to use such means, so the first time even Karian couldn't correctly grasp the entire situation.
Of course, Karian also couldn't learn of his thoughts at the time.
Even if Haia had complex thoughts towards Layfon, judging by the Mercenary Gang's actions afterward, it was definite that something had indeed happened to the Mercenary Gang at that time. Perhaps this also had something to do with the kidnapping.
"Is he unexpectedly good-natured?"
"What do you plan to do?"
"Ah, it's not that using a head-on attack and fighting battle after battle means he can't become a Heaven's Blade. If the situation turns into that, we can only wait for the conclusion."
Haia didn't know that there were people in the corridor discussing him, and was only pondering the situation in his heart.
"Ah...... I'm fine."
An uncomfortable voice made him raise his head. Eyes that seemed about to cry like usual looked at Haia.
Myunfa's worries weren't totally wrong.
"If it were normal, it would make no difference to follow Boss Karian's battle plan~"
Haia showed a forced smile. It wasn't that Karian wanted Haia to do evil deeds like kidnapping people, but only wanted him to act out a performance, letting him stand in the most favorable position. The situation was only like that. If things were normal, Haia could easily do these small things unabashedly. That should be the case.
Up till now, Haia had used that frame of mind to listen to Karian's words.
"Do you hate this plan that much?"
"Eh~ I'm not too sure myself."
Obvious disgust had not appeared in Haia's heart.
However, a slightly strange hesitation had indeed showed up in his heart.
"What should I say~ It's right that I only want a Heaven's Blade~"
But, this was because Haia felt that he could only repay what his adoptive father Ryuhou had given him like this. Also, this was because Ryuhou's friend and companion Derek's son Layfon had become a Heaven's Blade successor, inflaming Haia's competitive heart.
He wanted to prove that he was very strong.
"......Are those guys here?"
"............The Mercenary Gang seems to have disbanded."
"It really turned into this~"
Haia had known that in his heart long ago. After completing the mission in Zuellni, the Mercenary Gang began crumbling. Haia obviously had to supervise it, but more importantly, the Mercenary Gang might have already accomplished the expectations of its mission.
"What about Fermaus?"
"Doesn't seem to be here."
Fermaus was the Mercenary Gang's Psychokinesist, an old member who had joined the Mercenary Gang at the same time as Ryuhou, and a person whose hometown was Grendan. After Haia left, Fermaus should have been the person in charge of the Mercenary Gang, so he should have seen with his own eyes the dissolving of the Mercenary Gang.
"His hometown should be Grendan, but somehow he didn't stay here!?"
Myunfa tilted her head to think with a serious expression, and Haia could only mutter the words, "Ah, no difference."
"Perhaps he went to travel by himself!"
Fermaus had only stayed and fought in the Mercenary Gang for Ryuhou, and had dutifully maintained the Mercenary Gang's operations after he died. However, Haia had been the one who destroyed the Mercenary Gang, and this made him feel apologetic.
"Is that why?"
Myunfa also cared about Fermaus.
"That's all I can think of."
The person who had always been by him had left. If he didn't know when they would cross paths or where they would see each other again, he could only trust that the other person was happy.
"Ah... but how should I say it, this impatient feeling......"
That kind of hard-to-describe feeling was truly very annoying. The situation with the Mercenary Gang suddenly appeared in his heart, so Haia felt that they were the reason for his impatient mood. Because of that, Haia had asked Myunfa for news about them, but even though he asked, the situation wouldn't improve.
Haia didn't have any feeling of suddenly being enlightened, nor did he feel more impatient.
In other words, the situation of the Mercenary Gang didn't have anything to do with his current mood.
"Ah... but, no. Those guys are also the reason. Though they're the reason, they're not the only reason, that's definitely correct."
Haia's response as he scratched his hair made Myunfa ask this in a worried tone.
Haia felt that he had almost found the answer. However, no matter how much more he said this was all he felt. Haia also didn't know whether this was truly the reason for his impatience.
"......In other words, its that?"
The event that happened in the dojo.
Haia had thought of going to see the place that was related to Ryuhou, so he had advanced to the Psyharden dojo, and then had come across Derek there.
That person was Layfon's teacher. Haia didn't want to reveal his identity, and hadn't thought of getting along well with Derek. Haia also knew of Ryuhou's thoughts towards Derek, but another kind of essentially competitive feeling had constructed a wall in his heart.
Derek had easily stepped across that wall.
Haia began feeling that the words Derek had spoken in front of himself at the time were the core of this kind of impatient feeling.
"......Becoming a Heaven's Blade means......"
"Becoming a resident of this city."
"Do you think I can set down my roots?"
"I'm sure you can."
"Really? I am Haia Laia, known even by Myunfa to be the trickster Haia."
"That's from the past."
"It isn't that easy to change someone's personality."
Haia thought of the things that had happened in his hometown. After his Military Artist parents died, no one was willing to adopt Haia, and because of this he had become an orphan, and his distrust of others let Haia begin misbehaving. After Haia escaped the orphanage he continually performed evil deeds, and at the end was finally caught by the city police, and received the death penalty of being expelled from the city. Ryuhou had come to inquire right before the sentence and sheltered Haia.
"I think the life of roaming from one city to another is very suitable for me."
In the end, Haia wasn't able to integrate well into even the Mercenary Gang that he had once thought of as his home.
"Haia, but, then......"
"Nn, right, that's correct. After all it's a fact that I want to become a Heaven's Blade successor."
Myunfa seemed to have wanted to say something.
However, Haia deliberately did not ask.
"Moreover, if the things from Boss Karian's mouth truly happened, then we can only fight. Or maybe escape, there's that option~"
"Okay, I'll go according to the boss's battle plans."
The impatient feeling hadn't disappeared, but Haia already saw its true colors.
Setting his roots down in a city. When he was facing the reality of obtaining a Heaven's Blade, he had noticed another fact.
He couldn't set down his roots.
Haia planned to use this decision to scrub away the impatience.
In order to catch up to Karian and the others, Haia walked to the restaurant, However, that impatience still remained in his heart.
"It seems like someone interesting has appeared recently."
The Queen said this. The cool weather had already become a part of normal life, and one could truly feel that the city had entered the autumn.
Elsmau turned her head around, and before her was the Queen with a bulletin of the Military Arts competition in her hand. The Queen seemed to want to let her see, lightly waving the leaflet detailing the results of the competition from that day.
"He's a hot topic."
Elsmau once again responded in an ambiguous tone.
She knew what the Queen wanted to say.
But honestly, she wanted to pretend she was unaware if she could.
On the leaflet was printed a big caption: 'Haia Laia wins beautifully, an unstoppable winning record'.
"He eliminated the Military Artists seen by the citizens as Heaven's Blade contenders one by one in order. He started with that...... what's he called? That person with no use except for looks?"
Inbait Touslane. Elsmau muttered that name in her heart, but she completely didn't want to tell the Queen that information.
The era of Delbone single-handedly dominating all of Grendan's information had ended, and the current arrangement was an information-gathering network relying on many Psychokinesists with Elsmau at the center.
Even if that was how it worked, all of the information would centralize at Elsmau, but Elsmau still didn't want to let the Queen think she would diligently gather information herself, and moreover this information had no reason to be conveyed.
"This Haia Laia, isn't that guy your previous boss?"
But in front of the Queen Alsheyra Almonise, perhaps this way of thinking wouldn't work.
"Your Majesty...... The current me has already sealed away the past."
Perhaps it was the lack of change in expression that kept the other party from understanding, but Elsmau's displeasure dissipated in front of the Queen.
The reason Elsmau didn't have expressions wasn't because she wore the cold mask of a Psychokinesist, but because she had yet to adapt to completely losing her facial muscles once before.
"You shouldn't have needed to seal them, right?"
"But, I'm different from other people, not a form that the city's residents can all agree to holding a Heaven's Blade. I think that in this kind of situation, it wouldn't be such a good idea to open my past......"
By the nature of Psychokinesists, they couldn't wield all of their power in a competition, nor could they hold a showdown. Moreover even if there were people who did this, very few could please the city's residents and make them come in advance to watch the competition. Also, Delbone had been the first of these kinds of people to be a Heaven's Blade successor - since there were no other Psychokinesists as Heaven's Blades, there were no conventions for any methods by which a Psychokinesist became a Heaven's Blade.
Therefore, it should be right to set contributions on the battlefield as standards for assessment, but Elsmau's fighting experience in Grendan was not plentiful, and she had been sheltered in the Mercenary Gang at a very young age, and more importantly, battle experience from so long ago wouldn't convince the current Military Artists.
Even if it was Delbone's direct instruction to let Elsmau be a Heaven's Blade and that it had received the Queen's approval along with the approval of other Heaven's Blades successors, it couldn't be concluded from this that other Military Artists or normal citizens approved of this.
Whether out of contempt or scorn of mercenaries, the number of Military Artists or citizens who were wary of the Mercenary Gang were not few. Elsmau was the Psychokinesist in charge of gathering information, so she believed that she should avoid arousing the dislike of these people.
She didn't want that no matter who it was, especially those annoying people who peered into her own life almost without misgivings.
On this point, Alsheyra who had won the esteem of the city's residents was a great person.
And Elsmau's current position was quite unstable.
"Really? I feel that your popularity isn't bad, right?"
"Because I hid my past."
"Is that it? Ah, then whatever."
The Queen didn't seem to plan on continuing the topic.
"What I care about is this competition. Don't pretend you don't know, you've been following his competitions, right?"
"Nn, that's because......"
The tone that seemed as if it had seen through everything aroused Elsmau's resistance, but that kind of mood wouldn't have any use against the Queen, and Elsmau could only endlessly sigh.
"That kind of fighting method is pretty interesting."
Alsheyra looked at the picture published in the report with a cunning smile covering her face.
"I always think that he seemed to be deliberately acting like a villain. Because of this, he very quickly aroused the citizen's notice. And competing against the ones that everyone thinks are contenders for the Heaven's Blades, that way of doing things is pretty interesting."
"Perhaps he's only choosing to compete against those with power?"
"It's not only that, right? If it were, then in his first competition, he wouldn't have any reason to fight that...... what's his name, that good-looking youngster, to a tie, right?"
Inbait Touslane. Elsmau once again said that name inside her heart.
This also made her feel confused.
That competition was Haia's first competition in Grendan, and it didn't seem like his body was unwell.
He should have been able to win against that opponent.
However, the result had been a tie, and moreover it was intentional. It seemed that Haia had cleverly thrown the match and Inbait had not noticed.
"I don't know what he's planning, but he seems pretty interesting. His power seems decent too."
"......Are you thinking of granting him a Heaven's Blade?"
"What do you want me to do?"
The mischievous smile on Alsheyra's face deepened.
So that was it, the Queen had made conversation with Elsmau to allow herself to say this.
"............If he doesn't have power, letting Haia become a Heaven's Blade is only giving him an early death."
Elsmau chose her words carefully. Though she didn't know what the Queen was thinking...... no, Elsmau had already grasped the Queen's personality, so she knew that these were only mischievous words. Even so, she still spoke carefully.
"Ah, a safe way of replying, how boring."
Her anticipated reply made Elsmau unconsciously relax her breath.
"Ah, whatever. I feel that missing two Heaven's Blades is a bit bad in many aspects."
Alsheyra spoke her true feelings, and Elsmau turned herself completely towards her.
"Even so, I can't just hand them out carelessly. I saw that girl who was possessed by the Haikizoku, but I don't really like her. Is it because I feel like there's someone pushing her from behind? Anyway, I just don't like her. Though it's too bad to you guys who worked hard to find the Haikizoku."
She really wanted to say that it was the previous ruler of Grendan who had formed the Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang to find the Haikizoku.
But after the regime change, Alsheyra hadn't stopped the mission halfway, and from this it could be seen that she vaguely held some sorts of expectations of the Haikizoku.
"It's because of this that I'm looking for someone to replace Tigris and that guy Wolfstein. Well......"
Alsheyra looked at the leaflet again.
She gazed at Haia who showed an annoying smile in the picture.
"After seeing this hell, can that youngster still maintain his calm expression?"
"He can keep it up."
Alsheyra showed a 'Hmm?' surprised expression, and Elsmau moved her gaze from the Queen.
"If he really has the desire."
"Oh? Then I'll continue observing his performance. Because I'm pretty interested in what sneaky trick he's playing out."
If he truly desired to get a Heaven's Blade...... Fermaus left Alsheyra's side while slowly letting that sentence engulf her.
Heaven's Blade successor.
Haia couldn't even count as having been born in Grendan, so why would he pursue a Heaven's Blade?
The final place her thinking arrived at was the past. At the time, Elsmau claimed to be the mercenary Fermaus.
Elsmau who bore great expectations had escaped her home, and the consequence of carrying Ryuhou's sentiment had almost destroyed her.
Elsmau had acquired a peculiar constitution that suited filth monsters, also lost her appearance as a woman because of this.
At that time, she met a youngster almost like a feral dog.
That person was Haia.
The completely filthy orphan had flaunted his misfortune, and Elsmau had felt anger at this, so she showed her true features. What Elsmau had seen at that time was the strength of a youngster who flaunted his misfortune like herself, and who relied on his own strength to attempt to stand up again though he had been severely beaten down.
Ryuhou had been the person who gave the youngster a helping hand.
Elsmau didn't know what Ryuhou had been thinking at that time. But, she used the slow process of Haia changing from a feral dog to a mercenary to motivate herself, and stood up again.
Afterwards, Haia obtained a second father.
If he had a reason to obtaining a Heaven's Blade, it was definitely to honor the dead Ryuhou.
With that kind of conviction, could he really grasp a Heaven's Blade?
Could he get through that hell?
Such things had clearly happened to the Queen, and the Heaven's Blade successors didn't doubt the Queen's view.
Elsmau...... didn't really understand.
She had become Delbone's successor because Delbone, realizing her death, had convinced her, and because Delbone's death had semi-forced her to succeed her position.
"Am I the only person without enough determination?"
After lightly sighing, Elsmau began taking strides.
As she walked, the memory of when she had once been Fermaus emerged in her mind like a daydream.
Haia continuously won.
Among the Grendan Military Artists, the number who thought they should defeat Haia kept increasing. However, it wasn't only feelings of dislike, and others also had a true atmosphere of welcoming strength. Those good feelings, or perhaps the atmosphere of a fair fight, was a bit unexpected to Karian.
However, the atmosphere that Karian had expected still brewed in Grendan, gradually taking shape.
"Then, will this next push be enough?"
Karian who murmured this stood in front of a door.
He rang the doorbell in front of him. Karian got approval beforehand, so he wasn't ignored, and the door opened, and someone led him into the residence.
Stania walked behind Karian.
The two of them were brought to a room that looked like it was for receiving guests.
Karian sat on the sofa and waited, and not long after that person came over to this area.
"......It's been a long time."
That girl led a seemingly young bodyguard, who saluted Karian as soon as he saw him. Karian also quickly stood up from the sofa, greeting her:
"I am very grateful for your coming to receive us."
The one who had entered the room was Leerin.
However, she already wasn't the Leerin that Karian knew well.
The current her was the princess who possessed the successor position of Grendan's Royal Families, Leerin Eutnohl.
"Can you first stop that kind of formal language?"
"If you wish it."
The language mixed with a shy smile made Karian raise his head to look at Leerin.
Leerin was a bit different. Perhaps it was because her expression seemed a bit more solemn than before, but it could be the eyepatch on her right eye that made Karian produce such thoughts.
However, Karian dared to confirm something.
(Her eyes aren't smiling.)
Leerin, who wore an eyepatch, only showed her left eye. Seeing that lone left eye, Karian had that feeling.
Though her expression slightly showed the longing and puzzlement at meeting an old acquaintance, her eye held an emotionless attitude of sitting on the sidelines.
Karian remembered that look; he had seen it countless times in the mirror.
It was Karian's look when he had served as Zuellni's Student Council President.
Karian had once come forward to revitalize the declining Academy City. Leerin's look was the same as him back then.
"Well, can I ask you what you're doing?"
Leerin's question pulled back his thoughts that were about to fly away. Karian changed his frame of mind, trying to progress to today's topic.
"I'm currently assisting a Military Artist."
"It couldn't be Haia Laia, right?"
"Her Majesty seems to be quite cheerful about it."
By this point in time, Leerin perhaps had seen through Karian's intent.
"Is that so, I'm really flattered."
In any case, it should be good news that the Queen was happy.
However, perhaps Leerin didn't think so. Her next question showed that.
"......Are you thinking of taking a Heaven's Blade outside?"
"Is that possible?"
Leerin was silent without a word, and Karian thought about the meaning in her words.
She seemed to be thinking about the hazards of Karian bringing a Heaven's Blade outside the city.
But, how should a Heaven's Blade be dealt with after it left the city?
"I experienced the commotion created by that creature. Is that your reason?"
"In order to protect your own city, you plan to steal a powerful weapon?"
The silence was pretty much an answer.
Stania gave off a presence that made the atmosphere become stiff, and Karian lightly tapped her elbow, and once again looked at Leerin. In order to confirm whether he had judged the entire message, or if he had judged incorrectly, Karian asked of those extremely cold eyes:
"I haven't even dreamed of being able to do such a thing......"
Karian swallowed the second half of his sentence. After quietly murmuring, he knew the answer. He feared it was the correct answer.
So he swallowed the next words.
Did Leerin think the goal of him coming here was to give the Heaven's Blade to him?
During the commotion after Zuellni and Grendan made contact, something had happened between the two of them after all, and Karian couldn't figure it out. However, from Layfon's appearance afterward, and judging by Felli's actions who had been silently watching from the side, Karian could speculate an answer.
Also, Leerin's current look.
She showed the same look as the past him.
Why would she be Grendan's successor to the throne?
She definitely possessed a secret that someone who was not deeply involved couldn't understand.
Unlike Felli who was like a doll, and unlike Nina who was like a blade that had been excessively sharpened, the past Leerin had only been an extremely normal, cheerful girl, but the current her had an extraordinarily majestic eye on her face. That lone eye surrounded her entire body with a miserable atmosphere.
The grimness held in that eye was perhaps even darker than Karian's back them. Leerin's resolution was definitely even harsher than Karian's.
Should he or shouldn't he prod at that secret......
Even if he did touch that secret, what could Karian do?
As expected, Karian still cared about that eye.
The feelings that had been concealed under that eye.
The feelings had been deeply sealed in that cold attitude. She had frozen those feelings, forbidding them from influencing her actions.
If your goal is to give Haia Laia another chance, I can speak to Her Majesty for you."
Karian had planned to speak, but Leerin opened her mouth a step ahead and stopped him.
"Because truly, I do not have the power to decide whether or not to hold the competition to choose Heaven's Blade successors."
"That's great, because I can't stay in this city for long."
"Is that so?"
Leerin wanted to change the topic, and Karian decided to go along with her intentions.
"I myself also obtained something from that commotion, and I have goals. Perhaps I think too highly of myself, but in order to reach my goal, I cannot stay in this place."
It was true. This was experience that Karian had obtained when he was the Student Council President, and was already a basic conclusion that he had derived.
Lerrin nodded her head while thinking, and Karian didn't miss this reply of hers.
"I will strongly propose to her Majesty that she do this."
"Is that so. Then, I will be able to move quickly."
"......But, the conclusion still isn't......"
"This conclusion isn't in my hands, rather it will be guided relying in Haia's power."
Leerin nodded again, and this conversation ended here.
After saying 'then I'll take my leave', Karian stood up. From Leerin's surroundings leaked an atmosphere of having relaxed her breath, and though it was only for a moment, Karian didn't miss that response.
Perhaps it was because of this that Karian let this slip.
"Though our time was short, we still were companions who lived in the same city, so I would like to give you a recommendation."
"It would have been a bit better if you had been completely rescued."
"This has nothing to do with the problems we both share, just with the problem that exists in your heart. It's because you never solved that problem that you're so pained."
"You really have to show this kind of unfeeling look."
"It's not only you and I. The problem in our hands is truly too great. In this kind of situation, the other heavy burden that you are embracing will definitely make you suffer failures."
"......That kind of thing, even if you're brilliant, still......"
"Yes, it's not something that can be foretold, so it's only my guess. It's a guess according to my own experience. Then, I'll be leaving."
The guard next to her stared at Karian with a ferocious look. Stania changed her standing position without blinking an eye, inserting herself between that man and Karian who was about to leave the room.
Leerin stayed sitting on the sofa.
"Is this good?"
While they left the residence, Stania asked this.
"What's good or not?"
"What I mean is the thing about Haia."
"Nn, that should be good. The competition will begin."
Leerin had only said that she would speak to the Queen, but Karian was truly convinced that the decision to carry out the Heaven's Blade successor competition had already been finalized.
Leerin had obtained something that allowed her to possess this kind of authority. Though he didn't have any clear evidence, Karian had this kind of feeling, and he didn't think it was himself over-thinking things.
The presence surrounding Leerin's body was that kind of thing. It was an expression of naturally standing tall, the expression of understanding how heavy the pressure of her decisions was.
Moreover, that kind of pressure put her on the verge of collapse.
"Really. Humans are really creatures that can’t be saved."
Hard work, good faith, even ideas, the probability of reaching the end following such things was not high. Though the relative importance varied, great numbers of people had experienced such things like defeat, betrayal, or failure in love.
Karian had also experienced these things. Perhaps it was only because he had experienced these things that he was standing here.
If he could, Karian wanted to escape defeat, betrayal, failure in love, and such negative experiences. But it was only because he had such experiences that there was the current Karian.
These defeats definitely hadn't been in vain.
"But, defeat is still very scary."
It was because defeat was very scary that he had prepared so exhaustively. Karian knew that he feared defeat more than anyone.
Though he knew this, he still had begun such a reckless plan.
"......This analysis will become self-praise soon."
After murmuring this, Karian didn't think about Leerin's situation again.
When he shifted his attention, he only saw Stania showing an expression of wanting to say something.
"What is it now?"
"No, the things about Haia's competition are already meaningless."
"Ah, then is it that?'
"Yes. Regardless of whether that guy becomes a Heaven's Blade successor or loses and suffers a huge disgrace, I almost don't care. The question more important than that is who will act as Young Master's bodyguard. My meaning is, Young Master has already dismissed Haia, but we don't have time to choose the next candidate."
"There's no reason."
"Aren't you still here?"
"Frankly, when I asked my family for assistance, I completely didn't think that you would come. More importantly, I also hadn't expected your growth as a Military Artist to have reached this level. If I knew this when I started, perhaps there would have been no reason to employ them."
"......What is it?"
Stania's extremely embarrassed appearance made Karian show a puzzled expression.
"S......suddenly sayin' something like that would make me real troubled." 
"......Stania, your native dialect is coming out."
When Stania's people had lost their city, Karian's father had sheltered them, and employed their whole family.
Every city's language pretty much had their deviations. But from Karian's point of view, the degree to which Stania's city's language had changed was very large, so there were some areas that were hard for him to understand.
"! S......so sorry!"
Stania coughed a few times with her whole face red, and after glossing over her slip, she continued speaking as if nothing had happened.
"But, if Young Master suddenly says something like that, I'll feel very troubled."
"I'm only honestly speaking my own thoughts. You've become very strong. Ah, but this is only the opinion of an outsider like me, and if you still feel that there's a reason to hire a guard, we can postpone our leaving to find one......"
"Ah, no...... No!"
"Please...... please wait a bit."
Stania squatted down holding her head. She was thinking, but what she thought of was this conversation:
"Stania, you want to be Young Master's guard, right?'
"Yes, father, I want to go."
"You want to see Young Master huh, it's already been seven years since we sent him to the bus. You, can you recognize the Young Master?"
"Dear, don't worry about that. How could Stania mistake Young Master."
"Being shy is useless, everyone knows that you like Young Master."
"Yes yes, that's good."
"Though I don't know why, even the masters have approved of Young Master's trip. This might be a long trip. You have to work hard."
"What do you mean by work hard?"
"Obviously I mean for you to seize the opportunity well. That's a special bus, no one else will be there."
"Dear, the driver will be there."
"Oh, then that won't work."
Stania back then had been red-faced and shaking from her anger and shyness. But, as soon as she thought of achieving the situation that those two mouths had proposed, she couldn't help but do the same thing from back then. Perhaps she had already done so, after all she was already crouching on the ground.
(Calm down, calm down...... The situation won't turn into that, don't you know? Young Master is burning with a sense of mission, with no time to notice that kind of thing.)
Yes, so this was nothing.
It was nothing, Stania only wanted to be a guard and that was enough.
(I didn't think of anything weird. Being by myself is enough. I definitely didn't think of anything like getting the driver to leave. Nn, I didn't even think of it.)
Noticing Karian calling for her with a suspicious tone, Stania stood up hurriedly, switching to a different frame of mind.
"Don't worry, I can protect Young Master alone."
"Nn, then please do."
Stania's mood changed. It was already nothing, she was now a serious, calm woman who could match Karian.
She thought this way in her heart, but......
Stania still couldn't deny that the figure of Karian walking in front of her still made her heart throb.
After that, the situation progressed in the blink of an eye.
Today was the competition to decide the Heaven's Blade successor. This competition was taking place in Grendan's largest arena, and there was an outrageous number of the city's residents gathered.
The chattering of the gathered group filled the entire building, leaving people unable to escape. Haia who was staying in the resting room made an impatient noise.
But, this annoyance had been half-attracted by Haia and the others.
Karian's strategy plan - the project to become known as Inbait's rival had brought together the city's residents, succeeding in preparing the atmosphere to be a showdown between two rivals in the Heaven's Blade successor deciding competition.
Perhaps it was because of this that the Queen had decided the time of the competition to be when Haia had a ten-match winning streak.
From this, Haia had become the candidate who was currently waiting in the resting room for the competition to begin.
"What, this was obviously instigated by that devil, but he just slips away."
Not long before the competition was decided, Karian left the sentence 'the rest is up to you', and then dropped Haia and Myunfa to travel by himself. Thinking of his goal, Haia felt that perhaps the last day of his journey wouldn't happen until the onset of that critical moment.
Though he thought so, letting things go after carrying them out halfway would obviously make one uncomfortable.
Haia could only feel dislike towards conditions where worries had not been eliminated.
What would he do after obtaining a Heaven's Blade? Up to now, Haia still didn't have a definite answer.
Would he confront Layfon? That kind of mindset had long since been resolved by that battle in Zuellni. Haia had lost, and though his desire to become stronger than Layfon had not disappeared, he couldn't really face him, and his feelings of hate had already disappeared.
Then, was it for Ryuhou?
Haia felt that this was the reason. However, would he choose to settle down in Grendan just because of this reason? Receive the torch from Derek, and succeed the Psyharden style?
Hadn't the issue with the Mercenary Gang already proved that he didn't have the tolerance to be someone at the top guiding other?
Why did he have to obtain a Heaven's Blade?
Words that he had lightly thrown out before coming to Grendan had now become heavy, and could no longer be spoken easily.
"Haia, are you okay?"
Myunfa who was also staying in the resting room looked fine. She had recently been looking after Haia's bad mood, and though he felt guilty, her consideration still didn't make Haia's impatience disappear.
"......But, you've always been by my side."
His guilt became words and escaped his mouth.
The sudden words made Myunfa open her eyes wide without comprehending their meaning.
"Are you about bored now?"
"How could...... of course not."
"Really? I myself feel annoyed, not having a clear attitude makes me hate myself!"
Haia understood that he feared settling down.
His search for reasons was also because he endlessly asked himself whether he could win against his fear of settling down.
Though there were many reasons, when Haia was young and when he was in the Mercenary Gang he was unable to stay in a group. To him, the choice of settling down needed even more determination than entering the battlefield.
Moreover, even to now, Haia hadn't found sufficient reason to give him that determination.
"The reasons that this idiot can get won't be able to convince anyone~"
A thought suddenly flashed through Haia's mind.
"Myunfa, is there anything you'd want to do if you lived here?"
"Ah, it doesn't have to be here~ If you settled down, is there anything you'd want to do?"
"Let me hear it~"
"It's okay, it's okay."
If he didn't have his own reasons, wouldn't it be okay to act based on other people's reasons? Though it was on the spur of the moment, Haia felt that way. Though he said this, just anyone's reasons wouldn't be enough, but if it were Myunfa, perhaps it might not be bad. That kind of thinking naturally emerged in Haia.
"Cmon, let's hear it."
"I want to try being a kindergarten teacher......"
Myunfa lowered her head with her face red, and Haia was taken aback because of that scene.
That dream was far too simple.
But, it was a dream that couldn't be realized without settling down.
Haia had asked this under the assumption of settling down, so obviously that kind of answer would appear, so the word kindergarten didn't make him surprised.
What surprised him was how naturally Myunfa had spoken that answer.
She had definitely thought about this before.
The people in the Mercenary Gang were also like this. When the Queen had informed them that the mission had ended, homesickness had appeared on their faces.
It was an emotion that only those who had settled down would have.
At the time, Haia had felt impatience and jealousy because he didn't have those kinds of feelings. Haia felt fear and anger because those feelings had broken the Mercenary Gang that he had seen as his family, and since he couldn't share those feelings with everyone, it also made the feeling that he was an abnormal being naturally appear in his mind.
Haia had gone out of control because of this, and had suffered defeat in his duel against Layfon, and in the end was expelled from the Mercenary Gang. At the time the only person who followed him was Myunfa.
So, Haia had believed that her desire to settle down wasn't so strong.
He pretty much knew that this had only been his wishful thinking. Myunfa also had those kinds of feelings, and she also dreamed of an ordinary life.
"Th......that......I don't really have to......it's only something I said I want to try."
"Myunfa will definitely be looked down upon by those youngsters, and they'll peek up your skirt~"
"That's saying too much!"
"They'll definitely peek."
"I...... I'm also a Military Artist, I can avoid those small tricks."
"Definitely not~ You definitely can't."
"Th...... Things aren't like that!"
Myunfa felt wronged, and her humorous responses made Haia laugh nonstop.
At that time, a knock on the door sounded.
"C...... Come in."
After responding to the noise, Myunfa opened the door. Standing outside was a woman.
The first thing that greeted the eyes was golden hair that billowed like waves.
"Excuse me, Haia Laia. It's about time, are you prepared?"
Though signs of old age such as wrinkles could be seen, she was still an admirable, beautiful woman. Myunfa who stood next to her looking at her stood there with her mouth frozen.
"......Nn, any time is fine."
After confirming the Dite stored in his weapon pouch, Haia stood up.
Was this woman a competition worker? But Haia hadn't seen anything like an armband on her body.
There was a strange atmosphere in the air.
However, that atmosphere didn't feel annoying.
Haia had a kind of realization.
"Right, let me ask you, sis."
Haia spoke to the woman who was waiting for him to walk out of the room:
"Myunfa said she wants to be a kindergarten teacher, what do you think?"
Perhaps because she hadn't foreseen that Haia would say something like this, Myunfa made a surprised sound.
"If it were you, perhaps it would be pretty suitable."
"Huh? Th......Thank you......very much."
The other party's serious reply made Myunfa feel confused.
Seeing this scene, Haia confirmed something.
"Then, in order to confirm whether Myunfa will be peeked at, I'll go grab a Heaven's Blade~"
Haia laughed out loud at the red-eared Myunfa while leaving the resting room.
The woman didn't seem to want to lead the way, only standing in her spot watching Haia walk to the meeting place.
Catching up from behind him, Myunfa lowered her voice and said:
"That woman just now...... She couldn't be......"
"If she doesn't want to say it, then I'll stay silent for now."
She should have her own problems.
"Ah, if even Myunfa noticed, it's clear she doesn't really want to hide."
Myunfa didn't know what she should say, and could only continually make quiet noises. After laughing at her being like this, Haia showed a solemn expression.
"If she has reasons, I'll ask, since after all what I want to do now is......"
The meeting place drew closer. Because it had no place to go, vibrations and sounds bounced off each other and became stronger, covering Haia.
They were the cheers of this city's people.
From now on, he had to protect the owners of these cheers.
"I'll take a Heaven's Blade."
After saying this, Haia entered the passageway.
Translator's Notes and References
- Stania is speaking with some sort of dialect.