Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume19 Run-Jerry-Run
That evening, Meishen made a mistake.
"Aaaaaah, oh no......"
The reason for that was completely caused by the endless rain pouring everywhere. The cafe that she worked at was crowded by a group of guests, and the cafe became incredibly busy right before closing, and moreover the next day she had to turn in the homework from school.
When she returned home after finishing work, all that was in Meishen's mind was her homework. She had already mostly prepared the homework, and all that remained was to transcribe it again. With her personality, it was a natural thing to prepare to this degree. Mifi who couldn't care as much about her homework would never do such a thing, and that was also her personality.
Naruki was working at the City Police, so tonight she wasn't in the dorm - that was also misfortune.
Meishen fell asleep at some point. After Mifi had finished her homework, feelings of fatigue and security became sleepiness in an instant, so the two of them fell asleep in Mifi's room.
Meishen was woken up by the sound of the rain.
It rarely rained in the autonomous moving cities, because the air filter would break apart the raindrops.
But today, rain was falling inside the city.
In other words, a torrent that could break through the air filter was battering the entire city.
After being woken up by the sound of the rain, Meishen hurriedly rushed out to the balcony. The clothes she had just washed were still hung outside. Meishen would normally take them back into the room right after coming home, but today she had been careless and forgotten to take them back because her mind was full of her homework business.
Was this misfortune, or avoidance of further misfortune...... There would probably be two ways to see this.
Because of that, Meishen was able to reduce the loss she suffered to some degree.
But, she witnessed a scene.
After opening the sliding glass door and rushing out to the balcony, Meishen saw someone.
Her gaze met with that person.
As she took down the clothesline where the clothes were hung, she saw a mysterious figure standing there, holding a bamboo hanger.
Even in the darkness produced by the intense rain, light from inside the room shone on that person, who gazed at Meishen with sparkling eyes.
In front of Meishen who had lost her breath, that person agilely jumped off of the balcony.
In the next moment, a scream was released from Meishen's throat.
"An underwear thief?"
That phrase made Layfon show a confused expression.
Even if he had already heard rumors, he had never seen a so-called underwear thief with his own eyes. Of course, Layfon didn't have any intention to deliberately acquaint himself with criminals, so it was perfectly explainable for him to have never met that kind of person, and moreover he didn't know anyone who was any other type of thief.
Among all kinds of thieves, Layfon had the hardest time understanding underwear thieves.
Naruki nodded her head very seriously. Behind her, Meishen whose figure had become even smaller than normal tightly grabbed on to her uniform.
Meishen seemed very scared.
The morning classroom was not yet full of students. They were scattered in small groups everywhere, chatting happily.
The sun shining through the windows into the room was quite sinister. The classroom was full of air conditioning, but sweat flowed during class. If the temperature continued to increase, school would be cancelled due to the students being unable to learn. Moreover, because of the Military Arts Competition this year, everyone said that the school would make the decision to hold vacation early.
Of course, at the same time rumors had spread - that there would be a huge amount of homework waiting for everyone during the vacation, under the name of self-study.
In this kind of hot temperature, no one wore the full uniform. Perhaps because her fear from last night hadn't yet receded, the short-sleeved Meishen seemed very cold.
"Then, nothing happened to Meishen, right?"
"Oh, that's good."
Layfon first sighed in relief.
"Actually, there have been reports all over recently."
Naruki lowered her voice.
"But, the losses received haven't been that great. It was written in the reports that the victims at the time even thought that they might have been wrong."
"What does that mean?"
Layfon was unable to understand what Naruki was saying. The victims had reported to the police, but had also felt that they might be wrong.
"The criminal deliberately only steals a small amount of clothing, letting the victim doubt whether the lingerie was blown away by the wind. He only steals the target that he carefully selects."
"Really, what a joke!"
Mifi who was sanding next to Meishen spoke angrily.
In this kind of situation, the person who had the most fun was usually Mifi, but this time even she got mad. It seemed that the so-called underwear thief was hated that much by women.
"In any case, we have decided to increase night patrols in order to catch that person, so please lend us a helping hand, Layfon."
"Ah, nn. Sure."
Naruki was agitated even while asking for help. The fact that her good friend Meishen had encountered that kind of terror had definitely made her truly mad.
Friendship is really beautiful~, Layfon thought.
Starting in the evening, Layfon began patrolling the night with Naruki.
Still, they didn't know when or where the criminal would appear. Formed had said that there was no reason to stop ordinary business, so Layfon could only patrol when his work cleaning the Mechanical Department was over.
"Really, he hasn't learned his lesson at all."
Naruki murmured this, walking through the still night. In order to vent her anger, Naruki kicked the ground with force as she walked, and it seemed from this that she didn't plan to hide her presence at all.
Then, if the criminal were nearby, he would be able to slip by.
But, Layfon couldn't find an opportunity to warn Naruki about that at all, so he could only follow behind her with a forced smile.
"Isn't the enemy a dirty man who steals girl's underwear? Don't you think that we have to immediately arrest him even if we have to mobilize the entire City Police?"
"Ah, uh, nn. Maybe."
Layfon had to go clean the Mechanical Department tonight, so he already wore his working clothes. Because the weather was very hot, he had taken off the top portion of the outfit and tied it around his waist. Layfon had stuffed his Dite in the pants of his working clothes, so he could draw it out at a suitable time.
Layfon and Naruki walked around with the residential district as a center. There were residential districts all over Zuellni, and the criminal hadn't chosen a particular one for his crimes.
"First, let's focus on the reported district to carry out investigations."
Following Naruki's proposal, the two of them walked to the district that Layfon's dorm was in.
The number one male dorm was a giant building, so there were very few girls living around here. However, farther away could be found coed villas or apartments.
Naruki pinned on the badge of the City Police, striding forth with killing intent surging up to the sky. Just seeing that appearance, the students who had come out to have fun at night quickly fled away.
Layfon who walked behind her began thinking that everyone saw him as a problem student who was being brought back to the City Police for counseling, which gave him a strange impatient feeling.
Layfon opened his mouth towards Naruki who was walking while looking in all directions.
"Did Mei catch what that criminal looked like?"
Speaking of which, it seemed that he had forgotten to ask about something very important.
"I didn't say?"
"Really? Is that so?"
Naruki's mood had slightly changed, right? But when she started talking, she didn't look towards him.
"The sudden rain last night lowered the visibility outdoors a lot, so Mei didn't see very clearly."
"Ah, that's true."
Speaking of which, it had indeed rained last night. At the time, Layfon had been cleaning the Mechanical Department, and though he had been underground, he had helped to inspect the reservoir that prevented water overflow, so he also clearly remembered it.
"But the criminal was small, and moreover he jumped off the balcony in an instant. So that person shouldn't be a normal person, but a Military Artist."
A Military Artist deliberately became an underwear thief?
It wasn't impossible, but could even be called an easy thing.
If that were true, then that person was truly wasting his ability - Layfon felt speechless, thinking that in his heart.
"Come to think of it, why does he want to steal underwear?"
"Ask the criminal for that kind of thing, how would I know what that pervert is thinking."
After speaking those words, Naruki focused her vision somewhere.
Someone had just turned the corner.
"Ah...... Fe...... Senpai."
It was Felli, and moreover she had a plastic bag in her hands. Layfon who was about to say her name without honorifics like usual hurriedly changed his words, and that response made Felli stare at Layfon with an unhappy look.
"What are you two doing?"
"We're patrolling, what about you?"
"Can't you see just by looking?"
Felli slightly raised the plastic bag in her hands, where the name of a nearby store was printed. The contents seemed to be magazines and juice.
"I went out to buy some things and kill time."
"Oh. We're patrolling, so can I ask senpai whether you've seen any suspicious people?'
After Naruki asked this, Felli only tilted her head slightly and showed a confused expression.
"Did something happen?"
"Nn, it seems that there's an enemy of women around."
"? Is that so?"
Felli seemed like she didn't really understand the meaning of that phrase, but she still walked past Layfon and Naruki.
"Is it alright not to tell her?"
Watching Felli's back as she departed, Layfon asked this after confirming that she had disappeared behind the apartment ahead.
"Nn. Though we can't confirm it, I think that criminal wouldn't harm Felli-senpai."
Naruki's proclamation held an inexplicable confidence, which made Layfon show a confused expression like Felli before.
Layfon looked at the time, and it was already past time for him to go clean the Mechanical Department.
After parting with Naruki, Layfon strode towards the entrance he normally used.
After some time, some sounds entered his ears.
Intense buzzing sounds.
Along with screams.
The sounds that entered his ears were truly soft. When he had been patrolling with Naruki, Layfon had constantly used internal Kei to improve his hearing ability, and these sounds were barely caught by his lowered hearing.
Layfon quickly ran over.
The apartment of Felli that he had just parted with was over there.
In Felli's apartment, there was a part of the first floor designated for laundry use. Washing machines could be used in every room there, but there seemed to also be quite a few people who only used dryers.
That was information that Felli had told him before.
In the loud sound of the burglar alarm, Layfon met back up with Naruki on the road, and arrived at the scene together. This place gave off a tidy feeling, completely different from the dorm laundry area that Layfon normally used, and moreover the ground was inlaid with various colors.
The clothes, underwear, and towels that had been placed in the washing machines were fallen everywhere. A girl - she was probably the one who had screamed - and Felli were blankly standing in the entrance. The tenants who had also heard the sound also came to see the situation one after another, and the narrow entrance was filled with people in a moment.
A bit glass window was set in the outer wall of the laundry room. That window had been broken, and the glass shards fallen amidst the laundry reflected the lights of the room.
Layfon and Naruki cautiously walked into the room through the broken window. After Naruki showed that she was part of the City Police, the girl who had just screamed let out a comforted sigh.
"I came after hearing sounds, but things became like this. There was something here just now, but it jumped out from there in a flash."
Naruki let out her voice. Felli understood Naruki's meaning, but she shook her head.
"I didn't bring my Dite, so even if I chased him now it would be meaningless."
Felli could return to her room and get her Dite, and then continued searching.
Organizing the situation after those events would be far too difficult. Never mind the criminal being a Military Artist, even if he were a normal person he would be hard to find.
"And I was unable to see the criminal's looks, so since I have no clues at all, I don't know where to start looking."
Felli's words made Naruki's expression twist in regret, but she immediately changed her mindset and took the necessary formalities.
Soon after, support from the City Police had come to the scene.
The burglar alarm still sounded. The nearby police had already received reports even before Naruki had arrived.
Two patrol officers also came as support. Though they had only come to check the origin of the police siren, it didn't take much time for the number of people present to increase from two to a large group.
After the police issued the order to preserve the crime scene, the girl who had screamed and Felli obviously showed a dissatisfied expression, since after all what had fallen on the ground was not just ordinary cloth. Felli whose gaze had instantly dropped into the world of absolute zero glared at Layfon for some reason.
"This doesn't have anything to do with me."
"Please think of something."
"I can't do it."
Losing to that soundless pressure, Layfon opened his mouth to ask Naruki, but saw Naruki talking with the police who had come to handle the case. After all, the undergarments that had fallen on the floor also contained lingerie, so Naruki who was also a woman should handle this matter. She was quite agitated as she convinced them, so the police agreed to let the owners first confirm whether or not things had been stolen.
There had only been two people using the washing machines.
"Felli......senpai, how many clothes have you accumulated?"
"You're noisy, shut up and don't stare at a woman's laundry, you idiot."
The tone suited Felli's quiet style, but coarse words that didn't suit Felli's speaking style flew out.
The laundry that had scattered were almost all Felli's things, and were probably about three laundry bags with regard to quantity.
It was definitely necessary to use the washing machine to wash this much clothing.
"It's a bit more comfortable to wash bit by bit."
Layfon made a proposal, but Felli turned her head to the side and didn't regard it.
"Have you seen anything missing?"
After Naruki asked, Felli shook her head. Right then, the other girl screamed again. That girl had also accumulated a heap of unwashed clothes like Felli, with a quantity of about two laundry bags. However, after that girl picked up her clothes, she stared horrified and with a pale face at the bare floor.
Naruki asked this. From Naruki's voice, Layfon could hear that she had already guessed the answer.
The girl mumbled this.
Naruki raised her head to look at the sky, her hand clenched tightly into a fist.
That girl's bras had all been stolen.
The criminal was a pervert who stole bras.
Layfon couldn't understand the situation. Bras? What would he do with them after stealing them? He had no way of understanding at all. People's likes were truly inexplicable - he couldn't help but stare into the distance.
After school the next day, Felli made that remark in the training hall. Everyone had been carrying out group exercise to prepare for the Military Arts Competition, and this happened after training. Sharnid who would never participate in this kind of voluntary training obviously was not there. In the space reserved for the seventeenth platoon, other than Layfon and Felli, there was only Nina and Dalshena. Naruki was in the City Police, participating in the manhunt with an abnormal enthusiasm.
"Underwear thieves are indeed the enemy of women."
After hearing Felli's remark, Nina nodded her head.
"Is it Sharnid? Ha, if it is, then we should go punish him."
Seeing Dalshena swing her lance spiritedly, Layfon could only think that she just wanted to find an opportunity to beat up Sharnid, but he didn't say so, because Felli immediately opened her mouth.
"You can't joke about that kind of thing."
"What did you say?"
Felli's words made Dalshena show a surprised expression.
"Nor can you understand this kind of humiliation."
After saying that in a low voice, Felli went silent. She seemed to be biting her lip.
What was going on? The three looked at each other, completely unable to make sense of the reasons for Felli's quiet rage.
Felli hadn't had anything stolen from her. Therefore, she should feel thanks for her good luck, and should make calmer judgments. The normal Felli would do that, but her response wasn't this way, and Layfon really couldn't make sense of what was going on.
Speaking of which, Meishen had clearly been a victim, so Naruki and Mifi's rage were evident. The three of them were good friends from the same home city, and moreover Meishen had that kind of personality, so it wouldn't be strange for her sense of fear to be stronger than her anger. But even Felli had become this way, meaning that some mystery was hidden in this.
"Can I ask why you're so mad?"
After asking honestly, Layfon received Felli's stare.
"First, you need to arrest the culprit of this as quickly as possible. Also, he should be given a suitable punishment, that's what we need to do right now."
"By 'we', you mean...... Felli-senpai is also going to help?"
It was tremendously good for the Psychokinesist Felli to express that she wanted to help.
However, Felli shook her head.
"Not only me, but Captain and the others as well."
Felli said this, and Nina and the others who were listening silently by the side showed surprised expressions.
"What did you say?"
"We're also helping?"
"That's an obvious thing. The opponent is an enemy of women, what are you hesitating for?"
Though she said it like it was natural, Felli's tone didn't have a hint of joking.
Later, it was night.
Naruki and Nina were side by side, and Layfon was behind them. Felli spread out her Psychokinesis from her own apartment. Even right now, many flower petal-like flakes were floating in the surroundings.
Why were things like this...... Layfon didn't say it, because it was no use to say.
Several days had passed since then. Even with Felli's Psychokinesis and the City Police's investigation network, no one was able to find the whereabouts of the criminal.
Moreover, the criminal had continued committing crimes in that period of time.
The criminal's target was really only bras.
Moreover, after seeing that horrible situation, Nina and Dalshena also understood Felli's anger. Layfon also understood that it was something he would never understand.
Dalshena understood those kinds of feelings, but still had left the investigation for some reason. Honestly, Layfon envied Dalshena very much, but when Dalshena had announced that she was backing out, Layfon had felt that she showed a subtle expression of guilt.
"We'll definitely catch that criminal today!"
Nina shouted this from the front, and everyone other than Layfon also shouted vigorously, and even Felli shouted through the flake.
That was impossible, this kind of thing definitely wouldn't happen normally.
Layfon couldn't keep up with the pace of the others. Though he couldn't keep up, he could only choose to keep up.
Layfon had only tried anything like backing out once. That had happened yesterday, and after all Nina who had even more vigor than Layfon had also joined the patrol. Moreover, Layfon felt that he had been lacking sleep, so he tried to make a proposal to leave, however-
"Oh...... you want to back out?"
"Really, Layton's friendship is only at that level."
"Sorry, I was just saying it."
The three of them looked at him, and their gazes made Layfon raise the white flag of surrender.
When Dalshena had said she was backing out, clearly no one had opposed her.
"Huh, you really are on that side, I see."
At the time, Felli seemed to have said that kind of unreasonable line. If it were the normal Dalshena, she should have retorted at that sentence, but at the time she hadn't done so, but rather left truly guiltily.
Rather, for some reason the other two hadn't stopped Felli's rude remarks or reproached her, but it seemed that they even approved of her saying that.
Layfon truly couldn't understand it.
What kind of situation was he in right now?
Moreover, that night Layfon had to leave early because he had to go clean the Mechanical Department.
Like that, the criminal committed three more crimes, and the angry howls of women sounded through the entirety of Zuellni's night sky.
"Really, what's going on."
The next day, Layfon had slumped lifelessly in his seat in the classroom. The weather was still hot. Though it was very hot, it was a bit better than yesterday. According to rumors that Layfon heard in the classroom, the average temperature seemed to be gradually dropping. Because of this, Zuellni's summer break provisions had not come into effect, and it would be impossible for them to get a long break.
Dissatisfied catcalls and other sounds bounced around the classroom.
During that kind of situation, Meishen walked over, putting a cup of juice on Layfon's desk.
"No, it's not Mei's fault."
It seemed to be a drink that she had gone to the vending machine to get. Layfon gratefully took the drink, drank all of the juice in the cup, and then chewed on the pieces of ice that had fallen into his mouth.
"But, if we don't hurry up and catch the criminal, my body might not be able to take it."
It wasn't his physical strength, but his mind.
Layfon had no way of understanding the actions of an underwear thief, nor did he understand the reasons why Naruki and the others were so dedicated to this.
"Right, what about Mi-chan?"
"Uh...... She said that she'd keep her ears open."
Mifi hadn't joined the ranks of the night patrol, but she was listening everywhere for information to help catch the criminal.
A characteristic of the Academy City was that almost all of the city's residents would gather in school buildings when it was time for class. Mifi used that trait, and it was because of this that she was always late for class.
"Why are Naruki and the others so vigorous? I feel that they're even giving off killing intent."
The criminal who stole women's underwear was the enemy of women - Layfon could understand that claim, but the situation right now seemed vaguely out of control. If it were only Nina, Layfon could understand the situation, since her personality was that extreme. But the first person who had become like this was Naruki, and even Felli had joined their ranks.
Moreover, why had Dalshena backed out?
Layfon was almost muttering to himself, making Meishen's face get red.
"Mei, do you understand?"
"Uh............well......I don't really understand."
At a glance, Layfon could see that it was a lie, but he also understood that if Meishen was showing this appearance, she definitely wouldn't tell him the truth.
It seemed to be common knowledge known only to women, and the male Layfon obviously didn't understand.
And for some reason, Meishen also showed the same extremely guilty expression as Dalshena had.
Layfon really still didn't understand.
But, it was meaningless.
"We'll definitely end everything tonight."
Layfon decided this.
He had already had enough of this difficult mood.
Layfon stood on the spire of the Student Council building's roof.
It was night right now.
Normally at this time, Layfon should have been carrying out night patrols along with Naruki and the others, but Layfon had escaped the ranks of the patrol and come here. Because of the girls' momentum and enthusiasm, Layfon hadn't been able to convince them or explain his own thinking.
He single-handedly held on to the staff of the city's flag, and tightly grasped the Sapphire Dite in his other hand.
The clear blue sword hilt didn't blend in with the night, but proclaimed its own existence, standing out from the surrounding environment in its namesake color.
"......There's not much time."
Felli's Psychokinesis flakes were spread through every corner of the city. These Psychokinesis Flakes were spread in order to capture the criminal, but also because of this, it was only a matter of time until Layfon was noticed. If things became like that, Nina or Naruki would find him, and then drag Layfon back into the patrol group.
Layfon had to catch the underwear thief before the situation changed like that.
In any case, that underwear thief hadn't appeared, so Layfon's mind couldn't calm down.
Layfon used internal Kei to raise his hearing. The entire city's sounds flew into his ears, and Layfon's head immediately began hurting. He endured that feeling and continued listening to the sounds. Layfon had no way of distinguishing the subtle noises, so he couldn't hear the footsteps or movements of the criminal before the crime, but if it were the loud sound of the laundry room window being shattered like what had happened in the apartment before, he would know immediately.
Completely different from before, today Layfon had already entered a battle state. As soon as a screech entered his ears, he was confident that he could get to the scene in a moment.
Layfon waited, listening carefully.
And then, he heard it.
Where? ......Layfon looked in the direction the sound had come from, and at the same time strengthened his vision.
Got it. On a balcony in the middle area of a tenement building, a girl was standing there with an expression of shock.
Layfon followed the girl's gaze. There was a black shadow there, and its figure was indeed small, but the shadows of its hands were confusingly long. Before Layfon's vision could catch up to the shadow and see clearly, the opponent had already hid in the shadows of the trees.
"Don't think of running."
Internal-type Kei variant - Reflecting Water Ferry.
Like ripples moving over a surface of water, Layfon closed in at rapid speed while leaving almost no trace. If Whirl Kei was dynamic movement, Reflecting Water Ferry was silent movement. Its speed exceeded that of Whirl Kei, letting Layfon leap over the vast space of the Academy City in a moment, and then land soundlessly and with no presence.
The location of his landing was the forested park in front of the tenement building. A Yuusuiju tree in the center of the park created moisture that left a sticky feeling on the skin, and other than this there were no presences of anything.
The criminal was......
The criminal was still over there. He was constantly jumping through the dense tree branches, gradually leaving the area.
However, before Layfon reached his target, the criminal did something unimaginable.
The criminal leaped into the center of the park, towards the pool of water surrounding the Yuusuiju tree.
No splash at all had been made.
Layfon looked closely at the pool, but only saw the drain at the end of the pond that prevented overflows, and that the grating that was supposed to be covering it was nowhere to be seen. The criminal had definitely escaped inside.
With Layfon's physique, it wasn't like he couldn't squeeze inside.
What should he do...... After hesitating for a moment, Layfon squeezed his body into the hole.
It was very slippery here.
Moss grew everywhere in the sewers, and he would step on it and slip if he wasn't careful. When he had just entered the hole, Layfon had been forced to crawl, but the passageway was tilted, so the clothes he wore all got utterly filthy. Moreover, the water gushing out of the Yuusuiju tree was warm, so he was surrounded by a muggy heat in the narrow space, and when he reached a larger open area, his entire body was already dripping with either sweat or humidity.
What Layfon entered seemed to have been a waterway leading to the water purification plant. Layfon let out a heartfelt sight, thankful that it wasn't a waterway for sewage. The current Layfon was using internal Kei to raise his senses, and if he were attacked by a stench as well in his current environment, Layfon might have reconsidered what was going on in his life.
It was also very hot in the waterway, but there were walkways on the side meant for security. There were only weak safety lights inside the waterway. In order to keep from missing the sound of footsteps of the person ahead, Layfon focused his mind on his ears, concentrating on tracking the criminal's path.
There would occasionally be small black shadows flitting around in the dripping waterway, or the light given off by the safety lights would be reflected by silvery things. It seemed that there were also fish in this kind of place. Layfon looked at the fish as he kept his distance behind the sound of footsteps. Layfon thought that, since things had progressed to this degree, he might as well unearth the suspect's secrets completely.
Moreover, Layfon was very intrigued by the sound of these footsteps. The way the other party set his feet down and the way he walked was different from a trained Military Artist. However, Layfon had a hard time catching his presence. His footsteps were the same. They weren't the sounds of shoes, nor were they the sounds of bare feet, so maybe it was a mix of the two - it was a subtle noise that sounded very mysterious.
He might as well just close the distance in a breath and the opponent, and that kind of charge constantly enticed Layfon. Maybe doing that was better, but getting back the stolen objects was also very important. If he just charged out, Layfon would be giving up on that idea.
The waterway finally reached a large pool. The water released by other Yuusuiju trees would all gather in this place. This was a place where waterfalls made crashing noises as they fell, and many fish were swimming around in schools. The water here would pass through a giant waterway, and then flow into the water purification plant.
The sound of footsteps moved towards the passageway from another Yuusuiju tree.
Layfon kept chasing.
The footsteps continuously advanced, and soon after Layfon had to do the same as when he had entered, squeezing himself into narrow waterway. His pants and arms were soaked again by warm water, and the moss spread in this waterway was even thicker, completely different from the moss in the forested park.
Sure enough, the grating installed at the end of the waterway to block off garbage had also been removed.
After he walked out, a tract of jungle that the forested park couldn't compare to at all appeared before him.
"Is this the Agricultural Department's land?"
It seemed like the forests that he had tended before. While he was confirming the sensations of the forest, Layfon noticed that the footsteps had disappeared.
Layfon hurriedly focused his mind, but the footsteps had already been drowned out by the noises of the livestock raised in the forest, and he couldn't hear them.
Listening closely, Layfon noticed that new footsteps were drawing closer.
At the same time, he also noticed small things preparing to surround him.
A tense feeling flitted across his heart.
However, that feeling wasn't correct.
The small things were Psychokinesis flakes, and their shape was a kind that Layfon was familiar with.
Moreover, under the light shining through the trees, he could see the truth behind the footsteps that were constantly drawing close.
"Captain...... and Naruki?"
The Psychokinesis flakes were Felli's.
After seeing Layfon, Nina and Naruki also showed surprised looks, but those were only for a moment. Dangerous looks quickly appeared on their faces, and soon after became deep scowls.
Layfon had a bad premonition.
An extremely bad premonition.
"I never thought...... no, I never would have thought that this kind of thing would happen."
Nina murmured this in a low voice. She shook her head slightly, raising her eyebrows.
However, her gaze didn't leave Layfon's body.
"No, please hold on. I......"
(I thought that something was wrong, since the criminal always appeared when you weren't there.)
Felli's voice sounded by his ears. Layfon's surroundings were filled with Psychokinesis flakes.
"That's only coincidence!"
Layfon cried out. A trap, it was truly a trap.
He hadn't imagined that he who was chasing the criminal would have been mistaken as the criminal.
"I was just chasing the criminal!"
"We were also chasing the criminal."
(Moreover, you're the only one nearby.)
Naruki and Felli's emotionless tones made Layfon's hair stand on end. He had to prove his innocence no matter what, but it was no use against them. Fueled by their impatience at being unable to catch the criminal, and the enigmatic emotion of Layfon being unable to understand, Nina, Naruki and Felli's anger at the underwear thief lost control.
The three of them who had completely lost control were looking for an outlet to relieve their anger.
And the target they had locked on was Layfon.
Maybe he should escape......
Just as Layfon thought of this, a flake suddenly gave off light, and bindings also wrapped around his wrist.
It was Naruki's rope...... She had taken advantage of the opportunity and captured Layfon.
(It's no use.)
Felli spoke lightly to the dazed Layfon:
(You're surrounded. I've already grasped your movements using your nerve impulses...... Even if you're strong, you have no way of escaping if your actions are predicted.)
Felli said these things in a serious tone, making a feeling of fear run through Layfon's body and causing him to almost collapse.
That was Naruki's voice, and sparks flew through his vision.
This was the External-type Karen Kei variant - Amethyst Lightning.
External Kei that had become electricity assaulted Layfon's entire body. Layfon quickly used external Kei to deflect that move, so he wasn't hurt. However, his body became heavy quickly. Bathing one's entire body in external Kei would sometimes throw the mind into chaos, making the body unable to move. The goal of Amethyst Lightning was originally to daze the opponent, so even if that result wasn't achieved, the effects produced by the electricity were the same as what happened when his body was bathed in external Kei.
The effects produced by Amethyst Lightning didn't immediately disappear, and having his body become heavy made Layfon fall to his knees.
At that time, Nina strode towards him.
"I should give you some punishment."
She growled violently.
The iron whips in her hands had long been pumped full of Kei.
"Don't joke around like that!"
Layfon yelled, and then leaped high. His body was very heavy, and couldn't jump as quickly or as high as he had wanted.
"Don't try to escape!"
Nina and Naruki chased him.
The Psychokinesis flakes stuck to Layfon with frightening speed.
A brilliant burst of thunder surrounded Layfon, and then overwhelmed him.
After saying goodbye to Layfon after school, Meishen was alone. Naruki and Layfon went to training together, and Mifi went to pursue matters regarding the underwear thief alone. Mifi had said that if she would make it into an article if she saw the criminal, but Meishen could plainly see that she was really doing it for her own motives.
Why had things become like this...... Meishen couldn't help from sighing. Meishen had been the one whose underwear had been stolen, and she should be the one who felt angry, worried, or hurt, but the outrage of Naruki and Mifi far surpassed their duty as good friends, and moreover it had gone out of control. Seeing the out-of-control anger of the two, Meishen could only feel more and more meek, and gradually felt pained.
"Layfon also feels worried... I really hope this can be resolved quickly."
After mumbling this, Meishen took a detour on the way to the tram station that she could take to get home. Today she didn't even need to go work at the cafe. Meishen thought that she should buy the things she would use for dinner on the way. After thinking of the materials in her fridge, Meishen thought 'I shouldn't need to buy too many things', so she chose to go shopping in a place nearby the school.
Just as Meishen was holding vegetables deciding whether they were good or not, someone spoke to her.
Turning around, she could only see Leerin, waving while holding a shopping basket just like her.
"Mei, you also came to buy things?"
"It seems like you're troubled."
After Leerin came by Meishen, she spoke while beginning to choose vegetables.
"I feel like Nina's been very worked up recently, and a bit talkative."
Leerin said this with an ordinary mood, making a puzzled smile emerge on Meishen's face.
That response made Leerin tilt her head and show a confused expression.
"Could it be that you're still troubled by it? Is the criminal still targeting you?"
"No, it's not like that. But......"
Meishen spoke hesitantly. She thought as she hesitated.
Leerin looked at her worriedly. Meishen made her decision.
"Uh, do you...... have some time later?"
To Meishen, even inviting someone of the same gender to a cafe required a bit of courage.
Leerin made a sighing sound as if she partially understood but partially didn't understand, making Meishen's face go red.
"Ah~ So that's how it is. I never would have thought Nina would be so concerned about such a thing."
"Um, I don't get it......"
Leerin moved her gaze as if she were thinking about something. Meishen lowered her head, her eyes peeping out to see her response.
It would be alright if it were her, Meishen thought, and that was why she had talked with Leerin. But, how would she respond after all?
"......Indeed, if it were Synola-senpai, I think she'd definitely be qualified."
After looking at Meishen, Leerin said that kind of mysterious thing.
After Leerin shook her head, she clapped her hands and changed the subject.
"In any case, this can't go on. If we don't catch the criminal, Nina will stay unhappy, and the dorm atmosphere will become very bad just because of her. Everyone's worried......"
The situation on her side was the same. Naruki and Mifi gave off killing intent, and Meishen could only pass every day with the feelings of hiding in a shelter waiting for Military Artists to fight off filth monsters.
She hoped the criminal would be arrested sooner.
Because that would definitely make everybody's current discontent go away.
"On the other hand, as for what we can do......"
Right, that was also a problem. The criminal was someone whose crimes hadn't been stopped even by Layfon and Nina's nightly patrols, and had even become a terrifying person who was a serial underwear thief. Even if normal people like Leerin or Meishen helped out, they couldn't resolve that matter.
"But, maybe we can ask what developments there have been in the investigation."
Leerin spoke that suggestion.
"See, Mei was a victim after all."
Whether Meishen agreed with that proposal or whether she was convinced, the two of them ended up leaving the cafe and walking over towards the City Police headquarters.
After explaining their business by the counter on the first floor, the two of them were told to go upstairs directly, and not long after, Formed showed his face.
"Speaking of that matter, it should be resolved soon."
Contrary to their expectations, Formed immediately said that kind of thing.
Meishen and Leerin felt surprised, and Formed showed a difficult and complex expression, taking a cup and drinking some tea.
"Naruki is being too noisy. Also, she's too lax when collecting evidence."
Formed's unhappy expression made Meishen and Leerin look at each other. Just as they did this, a policeman came, saying several quiet words to Formed.
"Ah, as I thought."
His unhappy expression became complicated. It was a look of wanting to laugh, but being unhappy.
"......If you don't care about spending a bit more time, do you want to see the moment we arrest the criminal?"
He gave an order to the policeman, and after he stood up and thought a bit, Formed made a proposal to the two of them.
After looking at Leerin's response, Meishen nodded.
Afterwards, Meishen and Leerin first returned to their own rooms for a bit, and then returned to the headquarters at the time that Formed had designated......
Then, they came to this place.
The two of them entered a tram with the policemen. The city transportation tram sent the two tense individuals to the entrance to a jungle.
"Is this...... the Agriculture Division?"
In the dim moonlight of the night, the forest seemed like it had no bounds.
After Leerin asked this, Formed nodded. The policemen used their flashlights to illuminate the forest's darkness and advanced forward.
Even the hard, sloped road was covered with leaves. Formed deftly advanced on the sloped road, and after confirming the fork of the road, he gave his flashlight to the policemen and gave a wordless signal.
The policemen advanced and dispersed.
"Then, can we ask what the situation is?"
Why did they have to come to a forest of the Agriculture Department when they wanted to arrest an underwear thief?"
"You'll know the answer very soon."
They could see the face of Formed in the darkness, with exactly the same unhappy face he had shown in the beginning.
"......Suspecting the Alchemy Department and the Agriculture Department first whenever something troublesome happens, that's the modus operandi of the City Police."
He murmured softly.
"Because those two departments both carry out experiments, and moreover sometimes very unexpected things happen."
A small sound could be heard, as if air were escaping from something. The leaves made an intense rustling sound, and something made a screech, and then made a sound of falling to the ground.
"Why didn't that girl notice in the apartment laundry room. Really, her attention to detail is too low."
Formed murmured this with a reproachful, sharp tone, and then walked to the source of the screech.
After looking at the thing that a policeman had captured in a net, Meishen and Leerin's breath caught.
"Uh...... is this a monkey?"
Leerin mumbled without any confidence. Its size was about as large as a ten-year-old child, and its arms were abnormally long, but its feet were very short. This monkey was completely covered in fur, but didn't have any on its face, so its red skin could be seen directly. Its mouth protruded outward, and sharp teeth could be seen lined up inside.
It held a pure white object unfitting for a wild animal in its hands.
The two of them made sounds at the same time.
"Some people of the Agriculture Department tried seeing whether they could make a monkey into labor in order to reduce their chores. Maybe they thought so because this monkey was very clever, so perhaps they could succeed with a bit of training. In their experiment, it seems that they gave the work of raising birds to this monkey."
Formed spoke while warily taking the bra from the monkey's hand, giving it to a female policeman, then walking into the depths of the forest in front of the monkey.
After catching up to Formed, that scene was immediately reflected in their eyes.
A part of the forest had been fenced off. Floating along the wind was the odor of chickens that she had raised when she was small.
"These chickens don't really need to be tended, and just need to be given space and food. Did you know that their leg meat is very tasty?"
"Nn, I think so."
"The only problem is these chickens' nests. In order to grow good legs, they need to be able to exercise. So we purposefully put their nests in a high location, making them constantly hop to exercise their legs. Usually we use Kuwada beans to make their nests, but......"
The policemen shone their flashlights into the fence together. The bright light that suddenly appeared made the chickens emit protesting cries.
Among the countless beams of light piercing the darkness, several things could be seen floating in midair.
No, they were hanging in midair.
They were bras.
A large web spread through the branches of the trees, and countless large bras were hung in midair. The bra cups that usually housed girls' chests had been stuffed full of grass and leaves, and small chicks were sleeping inside.
"......They're very similar to the pods of Kuwada beans."
Kuwada bean pods were very large, and they could hold many beans inside them. As soon as a fitting season arrived, a light wind would cause the pod to burst, spreading the beans everywhere.
"This year we used a new product, so no one grew those kinds of beans."
"Uh, in other words......"
Leerin rubbed her temple while murmuring. She seemed to be organizing the thoughts in her head.
"For their experiment, the Agriculture Department people gave the work of tending these chickens to this monkey. Then, the Kuwada beans that were used as their nests stopped being produced this year, so this monkey went out to find something that could serve as a replacement, is that right?"
"The experimenters seem to have prepared a replacement, but it doesn't seem very satisfied."
Formed didn't disagree with her conclusion.
Leerin looked at Meishen after making that sound.
She sized up Meishen's chest.
"It could fit one of those chickens."
Meishen lowered her completely red face.
Just then, a strong light spilled forth from the distance.
"Come on, fight me, Layfon! No, pervert king!"
"You deceived me. No, I'm quite disappointed that you've been looking at me with that kind of gaze."
Layfon had escaped from the surround of Psychokinesis lightning with difficulty, but merciless roars along with external Kei and Dites assaulted him.
Regardless of how loud Layfon yelled, the girls didn't listen to him.
He cried out while running away, but had no way of avoiding the encircling Psychokinesis. In addition, the damage inflicted by Amethyst Lightning and the Psychokinesis lightning just now had slowed Layfon's movements. A difficult battle that had never appeared during training was gradually driving Layfon to an impasse.
The three of them became a destructive storm that devastated the Agriculture Department's forest, and Layfon who was being pursued could do nothing but flee.
"I didn't do anything!"
Layfon's grief-filled appeal dissipated in the darkness of the night.
The escape drama didn't stop until Formed and Leerin used megaphones to carry out a dual audio attack.
Translator's Notes and References
- A certain type of tree that emits water.