Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume1 Chapter3
Chapter 3: Training
I've finally settled down. How are you over there? It's irritating how cities can only maintain contact through letters. It'd be great if we could just call, but how do you fix a line between cities? If that could be done, the cities would probably trip on the cables.
Honestly, I'm tired. I'm used to cleaning at the Mechanical Department, but it's still problematic. I suppose I'll get used to these irregular hours sooner or later. Right now, all I can do is keep at it.
School life is all right. But I haven't had much chance to use my brain, so I'm not expecting much for my results.
I regret not listening to you and doing some serious studying. You must be laughing now. Ok, this is reality, so I can only accept your laughter. I really regret it.
From the day I let go of the Heavens Blade, I've turned back into someone normal. Except, it's difficult to make a fresh start. Sometimes I think that my past lifestyle was relaxing. A voice inside me hopes to return to the old life.
It's embarrassing. Master won't let it. Her Majesty won't allow it. Even I don't agree with it. Letting go of the Art of Katana was my way of showing my attitude to Master and Her Majesty.
To be forgiven by letting go of the Katana was my biggest.... Uh, what am I saying? Sorry, please just forget it all.
That's just an excuse. Everything is. I'm really useless.
I won't send this letter. It isn't worth reading.
"Are you ok?" Mifi asked.
It was now lunch break. Layfon bent over the table. He didn't even have the strength to go buy bread.
Mifi drained the pre-packaged milk and without moving a foot, tossed the packet into the rubbish bin. The packet flew through the air and fell into the bin as if it was sucked into it.
"...... Mifi-chan, you're dirty," Meishen protested.
The milk left inside the packet had leaked from the straw. Mifi ignored Meishen, who had her handkerchief pressed to the side of her head. Meishen was also looking at Layfon.
"...... Are you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm fine."
Even Layfon himself wasn't sure. What he just said wasn't convincing at all. He saw bags under his eyes in the mirror yesterday, so he was feeling a bit down.
"Talking about yourself with that expression. You're so unconvincing."
Naruki returned to the classroom. She held two paper bags and placed one before Layfon.
"Here. I just picked whatever since I didn't know what you like."
"Ah, sorry. Thanks."
"No worries. Remember to pay me back though."
Naruki smiled as she took back the money from him. She then looked at his waist and saw a Dite hanging from the harness.
"So what's the reason? Work at the Mechanical Department or is it 'that'?"
"Uh, work's ok. It's surprisingly good."
Layfon got up slowly and took a bite of the bread from the bag. The dryness of the bread was uncomfortable. He inserted the straw into the packet of milk that was in the same bag.
"So it's training? Was it hard?"
Mifi took out another packet of milk from her paper bag and inserted a straw into it.
The three girls sat down in the chairs around him. He smiled bitterly and sucked milk from the straw to wet the inside of his mouth.
"It's training for the upcoming platoon match, right? That must be exhausting," Naruki nodded.
"Ah, I know. I heard about it before, but I've forgotten, so I'm not really sure," Mifi raised the same question as Meishen. Naruki started her explanation.
As for Layfon--
(Naruki speaks like a senpai. Do all female soldiers speak like that?)
Thinking of this, Layfon didn't take in anything being said around him.
"I've talked about the platoon matches before. They're to determine the ranks of platoons. The higher your rank is, the more important a position you'll get in the Military Arts Competition."
"Is that a good thing?"
"Of course. That means your abilities are acknowledged. Besides, you can really do something for the people in the city. It's something for Military Arts people to take pride in."
The way she put it felt like it had nothing to do with what she was talking about.
"But isn't that dangerous? If it was me, I wouldn't have chosen to come to such a dangerous place."
"That's coz you're thinking of it from the angle of Military Arts. For example, if you get to run a magazine, you'll also do what you can to get good results, right?"
"Oh, I see."
"If it's Meishen, you'll also do your best in your cake shop, right?"
They both understood now.
"To get good marks in your specialized area isn't just about dignity, but also about the evaluation of strength. In strategic planning, you've got to really know your own strengths. Like whose ability is the best, which platoon excels, those kinds of things. So the best way to get a better understanding of all that is to create real war-like situations, meaning, the platoon matches."
"So it's to determine who is the strongest? That sounds like a little kids' fight."
Layfon couldn't help but agree with Mifi. Who is the strongest? Thinking how he got himself involved in this meaningless ranking fight, he couldn't swallow his bread.
"The matches aren't conducted in the manner of knockout matches. The purpose isn't to see who wins the most matches, so you can't really tell which team is the strongest. Still, we can't deny that some people really care about the matches. The match is time limited, and with that, you can judge the strength and precision of the teams. If a platoon wins, it'll get prize money, just like how you get scholarship if you regularly take top place in the General Studies' test.
"A topic not related to me has appeared."
Mifi puffed up her face, and the two other girls smiled. Layfon also laughed.
"...... Is training hard?" Meishen asked cautiously with anxiety in her eyes.
They'd know even if he denied it, but it looked pretty bad to admit so honestly, so he could only substitute with some vague wordings. Men really are proud creatures. This saddened him. He could only smile bitterly.
"Aa, Layton isn't training coz he likes it, so you don't have to force yourself to train so hard! It's best to just pretend, since training is tiring," Mifi concluded, after finishing her third packet of milk. Meishen also nodded. Only Naruki was silently nibbling at her bread and eyeing Layfon suspiciously.
He didn't train because he liked it.
That was the truth. He didn't like Military Arts anymore. No, seriously, he had never liked Military Arts. It was something he had already lost.
It was the same as how one couldn't repeat his past and regain what was lost.
Wolfstein. Layfon's title that the Student President used, was also one of the things he had lost. It was not possible to get it back.
The Student President was seeking that which could not be taken back.
And, the Nina who knew nothing of it.
Layfon returned his attention to the room.
"Huh?" from Mifi. In her hand was a fourth packet of milk.
"Do you just drink milk for lunch?"
Mifi angrily conveyed her need to overcome the disadvantage of her body. She gave him quite a thrashing.
Nina's impatient gaze stabbed his face.
Even so, he couldn't help it. In the battleground reserved for Military Arts students, Layfon held the restored Dite in his hands, a feeling of directionless uncertainty rising inside him.
Harley had adjusted a sword of green Dite for him. The long,thin blade emitted a teal light. For he who was hiding in the bushes, the gem-like light of the blade made him stand out too much.
He leaned against the trunk of a tree and controlled his breathing. His heartbeat had to be regular, or else the training machine would detect the irregularity and attack him.
The irritation of a plan gone wrong was scolding Layfon. Though he didn't feel that he was responsible in any way, he was the only one here. Both Felli and Harley were waiting for orders in the rear.
Since meeting the Electronic Fairy Zuellni at the Mechanical Department, Layfon had not seen a smile on Nina's face.
Sharnid was the first reason behind her irritation. He was late for training. He totally ignored her harsh reproach and didn't even reflect on his actions. All he did was utter a casual "sorry" with dissatisfaction and Restore his weapon.
Sharnid's weapon was a sniper rifle. On top of the light and white Dite was a large scope. It'd be impossible to avoid the automatic machine's attack without Sharnid's support.
Layfon still felt uneasy.
He had no idea what Sharnid's range was. The breathing irregularity could be because of that. He relaxed his breath.
Next was the unease that came from his uncertainty of the enemy's location.
The last team member, Felli, was responsible for intelligence support. The doll-like, silver-haired, beautiful girl used a half-transparent staff that was made of heavy alloy. The staff was made up of things that looked like flakes which were scattered when the staff was in operation.
Felli had the power of Psychokinesis. She could move things with her mind. Through Psychokinesis, she could scatter the flakes over large areas to obtain intelligence and convey the information to her team members.
"Two responses at point 1005."
Felli's light and faint voice sounded through Layfon's earpiece. This was also an item using Felli's Psychokinesis, so it was harder for enemies to eavesdrop.
Without exchanging glances, Layfon and Nina rushed out of the bushes. An arm smashed suddenly into the place where the two had been hiding, then a robot shaped like a barrel with a wooden knife fitted onto its wrist was spraying red paint everywhere.
"Too slow!" Nina called as she retreated. After collecting herself, she lashed out at the machine with her iron whips, and Layfon headed for the other automatic machine that was still hidden from sight. He moved out of the shadow of the trees to make himself a target so Nina could concentrate on her fight.
As if to answer his prediction, the other robot was about to swing down its weapon. The fake wooden axe chopped down towards Layfon's head. He took a step back and felt the passing of air at the tip of his nose.
Unexpectedly, he got himself into a fight with another machine. The enemy type was a distance-fighting type. Layfon "uh"-ed at that fact and dipped his head to avoid the axe.
Distracted by another long-range attack from somewhere, and observing Nina suppressing her opponent, Layfon was unable to make an attack.
Noticing his situation, she called angrily into her transmitter, "Still haven't found it yet, sniper?" While calling, she knocked off the colored wooden knife and struck the machine with her other iron whip.
Now that Nina had won, Layfon didn't know what to do next. Should he lead the enemy to her and fight it together, knowing he couldn't block the fire from the other enemy? No, Nina would become the target of the enemy, and besides, he didn't have the confidence to work with her. In addition, once the captain was defeated, they'd lose the match, so he must take care not to involve her in more danger......Confusion caused Layfon's movement to slow down. He did avoid the axe, but the way he did it looked so ridiculous that even he was angry about it.
He'd lost his balance.
At that moment, Nina headed straight for him. Perhaps she thought he couldn't avoid the next strike. He felt the same.
And this was when the long-distance shot came.
The bell signaling the end of the match rang through the air.
Spattered with mud and paint, Nina walked in front, looking displeased. Everyone was tired. The scene had now moved to the Resting Room. With both wrists on his knees, Layfon sat tiredly on a chair, looking at the floor. Sharnid laid down on a bench, his eyes covered by a towel. Felli was the only one with a calm expression. She had let down her hair and was combing it.
Nina stood before them all, watching them. Anger came through.
"We just formed the platoon a short while ago, so I understand we can't yet coordinate well. I clearly understand that," Nina sighed, and relaxed her shoulders.
Then she asked each person:
"Sharnid, why didn't you cover Layfon?"
"It's not that easy to avoid shooting your own teammate. It's not possible with the kind of coordination we're aiming for, if we can't even breathe on the same beat! To do that, Layfon has to accurately sense the timing of my shot and move accordingly. Shooting a comrade who's in an intense fight with the enemy scares me," Sharnid waved his hand.
"Really?" She looked at Layfon.
"Layfon, why didn't you lead the enemy to me?"
"If the captain fell then we'd have lost. I could act as bait and draw out the enemy."
"You should have let me make that decision."
"Yes, but there wasn't time."
Another enemy was attacking him at close range, so he didn't have the leisure to wait for her order.
"Felli, your searching speed was too slow. Couldn't you be faster?"
"That was my limit."
Felli's reply was unusually cold. Her refusal to respond was like a whip across Nina's face. Would she howl out in anger? That thought tensed Layfon's shoulders, but Nina remained silent, glaring at Felli.
Who knew how long this silence would last? Embarrassment and disapproval were thick in the air. Though he felt suffocated, he didn't feel like breaking that atmosphere.
He was already exhausted.
Harley walked in without knocking. He immediately noticed the atmosphere and halted his steps.
"What's up?" Nina glared at him.
"Ah......ahah, I came to help Layfon with his setting of the Dite," he replied, scratching his head. Perhaps speaking up helped him to make up his mind. Harley carried his box to a chair and opened it.
"Since he's used it for a few days, I think I can get some detailed settings done. If anyone else feels your weapon needs adjusting, you can let me know."
"No~~ nothing!" Sharnid sat up slowly.
"Harley's settings are perfect. That I can be so relaxed is all thanks to you."
"Mine's ok," Felli shook her head.
"Really? That's great. Nina?"
"No. If there's a need, I'll let you know."
What happened next was just the sound of gears being laid out on the floor. In this very short period of time, everyone was watching Harley's movement. He definitely felt their weird gazes, but Harley started to whistle happily.
The atmosphere became more relaxed.
No, perhaps they were only tired of the embarrassment.
Sharnid picked up his bag.
"Where are you going?"
"The training's finished, right? Even if we're going to have a meeting, there's not much to talk about. I'll go back after a shower. Got a date afterwards."
"Then I'm also leaving," Felli said, quietly taking her bag.
"Aaaah, Felli's not gonna wash away your sweat?"
"I don't sweat as much......Besides, showering here makes me feel like someone's peeking at me."
"Haha, what a shame. If Felli doesn't grow up more, no one will peek at you."
Ignoring Sharnid's teasing, Felli left the room. He shrugged and headed for the shower room.
With his head on his hands, Layfon watched Nina standing there. He had nothing to say to her. Her shoulders were trembling. Even so, he couldn't escape as Harley had already caught him.
But he felt he couldn't stay silent anymore. Focusing on the gears, Harley seemed oblivious to his surroundings. Nina's face showed she didn't know how to end this awkwardness.
"Um......" Layfon made some noise without knowing what to say.
"We have to practice a formation. You come over when you're done."
Nina walked out. The irritating sound of the door closing affected the air of the room.
"......Looking at that face of hers, it'd be good if she calmed down a bit," Harley said, smiling.
Layfon smiled in return.
"Seriously, Nina can act calmly, but she's impatient now. That can't be helped."
His face full of smiles, Harley wrapped a wire around Layfon's Dite.
"Senpai really understands her."
"Kind of. We're childhood friends."
"Oh......Huh? But I remember Senpai......"
She said she ran away from home.
"Haha, ran away from home? Do you think she wouldn't know anybody at the place she ran away to?" Harley said cheerfully.
That was true.
"Uh, that's true. Why didn't I think of that?"
But on second thought, he knew the reason. Nina came here against her parent's wishes. Such strong determination gave off a proud and lonely air.
So he felt she didn't know anyone here.
The other reason was that he didn't know anyone here from Grendan.
(Ah, so that's why. Her situation's different from mine.)
After laughing secretly at himself, Layfon forgot his misunderstanding of Nina. Besides, the other three girls that he knew also came from the same city. He felt helpless with his slow intuition.
As per Harley's instruction, he restored his Dite. The wire around the Dite conveyed its information to the machine. He asked Harley a question, who was looking at the number on the display.
"Why did senpai want to form a platoon?"
"Do you find it hard to believe?"
"Senpai's only a third year, isn't she? I heard that most of the platoon captains are fourth year or above. Hasn't she still got time?"
"Yeah, if you look at the study years, then there's still time," Harley nodded. "But who knows whether this city still has time."
His fingers flying on the keyboard, Harley asked, "You know right? You should have heard of it from the Student President."
"He said it was to make us more alert of danger, but he did all that to increase our fighting strength."
"Is that it?"
"That's right, but I don't think that's all of it. He's stubborn."
"Ah, let's leave the Student President aside for now."
Harley clapped his hands, pulling Layfon back into reality. His face had turned green just by remembering the nasty memories about the Student President.
"The time Nina spends here is important to her. You should know since you heard of her running away."
Layfon nodded. Nina had said that she wanted to see what a majority of people couldn't see: the world outside the city.
"That's a precious experience. Yes, it's a precious experience to come to a city run by students only, but it's even more precious an experience to understand the outside world. A lot of people can never experience that."
Even so, there were numerous Academy Cities, enough to conduct the Military Arts Competition – the same type of cities fought for fuel. In other words, this was the proof that the city had enough number of students.
This told Layfon that there were more humans than he thought.
But a majority of people would never see each other. Even Layfon didn't know everyone at Grendan. Grendan had a population of about a hundred thousand people.
But if people lived in the same city and wanted to meet up, they could. Perhaps if they desired to see each other, even with the filth monsters roaming the earth, they could see the person of another city. But he couldn't place the level of difficulty of those two types of meeting side by side.
It's rare to get on a roaming bus just to see another city.
It's extremely taxing to travel to another city, and it's dangerous.
Numerous cities spread across the earth like stars, moving back and forth in an isolated world. Thinking of this, it felt so unbelievably hard to comprehend that it confounded him.
"People might have never met, but we were given the chance to meet here. Don't you find that interesting?"
"Nina doesn't want to lose that experience, so she'd try everything within her power. Nina's the type of person to act."
"So please don't hate her too much," Harley added.
Layfon didn't think he hated her.
Afterward, he headed alone for the training complex – in the direction of where he thought the training room was. It didn't take him long to arrive as it was close to the battleground.
Layfon felt a heavy weight on his shoulders as he neared the entrance of the training complex. He wasn't sure whether there was a weight. No, he knew he had a burden there. He just didn't want to realize that it was on him.
If they lost in this Military Arts Competition, the city would lose its fuel source. In other words, the city's consciousness that he came across at the Mechanical Department – that cute Electric Fairy would face its death.
What a tragic thing.
But he couldn't really feel that happening. Just like the clear scene reflected in the glassy surface of the door to the training complex, he felt that it was happening in another city. He couldn't comprehend the fact that what he did would have a direct impact on the life and death of the city.
He went through the door and headed for the training room of platoon 17. The sounds of practice from other training rooms made the entire building tremble. The building was designed to contain the varied powers of the Military Arts students, but it didn't seem to have good soundproofing.
"Isn't it time to give up?"
He heard this just as he was about to open to the door to the training room of platoon 17.
There were other students in the room besides Nina.
Three males surrounded her. The tension in the air caressed Layfon's skin. His wrist moved towards his weapon harness on its own.
Nina's arms were lowered. She held her restored iron whips tightly. She stared at the three students with an icy gaze, hiding her emotions.
The conversation continued. No one seemed to have noticed Layfon.
"You should know now that it's not easy to form a platoon," the person standing right in front of Nina said.
"And your members are...... Sharnid, who can't coordinate well with his ability, and two others that the Student President forced into Military Arts. Morale itself is already a problem. Do you really think you can form a team with those people and lead them in battle? If that's the case, then you're looking down on Military Arts."
The target person wasn't him, but Layfon felt pressure bearing down into his stomach. This was an intimidation technique using the Internal type Kei. It was the opposite of External type burst Kei. The Internal type Kei could directly affect one's body.
The voice with Kei made Nina tremble.
"Let me say this for the last time. Join our team, Nina Antalk. The 3rd platoon needs your calm judgement and hard defence. Besides, you only need to be in our team to become strong."
Nina's shoulders were shaking, but her eyes showed she was not afraid and threatened.
She didn't look at the hand stretching towards her. She stared right in the eyes of the young man.
"I thank you for your invitation. Let me thank you deeply for giving me such high evaluation," she said firmly.
"But if I still want to test my ability. No matter how badly I look in others' eyes, I still want to test myself through my own strength."
Her resolute answer tightened up the atmosphere again. This time it wasn't the person before – probably the captain of the 3rd platoon, but the other two people.
Layfon held his breath.
The captain of the 3rd platoon sighed.
"I knew you'd give me that answer."
He relaxed his shoulders. The other two also lowered their hostility.
"I feel you're wasting your ability...... really, why did the Student President accept your unreasonable team proposal?"
"There's no need to apologize. It's not a bad thing for the city if you become stronger."
"But, I hope you understand that this city doesn't have the time to watch you grow."
"...... I understand."
The captain shrugged, turned from Nina, and walked away. As there was only one exit, Layfon quickly moved aside.
The captain left wordlessly, not even looking at him.
The door closed.
Nina's gaze pierced through Layfon to the closed door. She didn't notice his presence. Layfon was painfully aware that he wasn't in her line of sight.
She wasn't looking at him.
(Ahah, she's looking at the other side.)
It was the side of the glass.
He felt he had lost his place there.
Of course, even he felt it was too rich a line coming from him.
Wolfstein – He should have understood the moment he abandoned this title and left Grendan.
So he could pretend the pain in his chest was someone else's.
Then he could view it as something beautiful.
"Come, Layfon. Time to practice."
Nina's line of vision moved to him. There were no traces of confusion in her expression. No traces left of her conversation with the captain of the 3rd platoon.
"Yes," Layfon nodded and hurried to her side.
But the feeling of standing on the other side of the glass didn't disappear.
He knew this was a feeling of distance.
"I know there are plenty of opportunities for us to fight together, but we can't even talk about that if we don't first coordinate our breathing."
Those firm looking pupils of hers.
The Kei filling her limbs gave off a painful light from her eyes. This had nothing to do with the quality and weight of her Kei, but with her firm and determined personality.
It was beautiful.
To Layfon, it was as beautiful as a painting.
That was why she stood on the other side of the glass.
Layfon restored his Dite.
The sun sank down in the west. The complex closing time came, and saved Layfon from Nina's side. After washing off his sweat, he plodded back to his dormitory......
"Layton sighted! Capture him!"
"Roger, capturing him now."
Mifi's shrill voice and Naruki's lowered voice vibrated through his exhausted body.
When he had collected himself, he was already tied up by a rope. When did that happen? He toppled onto the ground.
"We've caught the target. Please give your next order."
"Parade him around the city."
"Hey, stop it!"
Layfon calmly intruded. Mifi puffed up her cheeks.
"Uh, that can't be done. Speaking of which, how come he became like this?"
"That's my rope-capture technique, passed down by my father. Isn't it incredible?" Naruki said.
"Brilliant. It's too brilliant. But why so sudden? I don't understand what's happening!"
"Oh, I'm just doing it. I'm not sure myself."
"Just doing it? And what's with the rope? Do you carry it with you all the time?"
"As someone who wants to join the police force, it's a must to carry around a rope all the time."
"Is that a given?" Layfon asked, but failed to sway Naruki's confidence.
"So what's this for?" he asked, looking at Mifi and Naruki.
"Oh? I said we were going to drink tea, so we waited here for you."
"I see...... but why this?"
"Just doing it."
"Fufufu ~~ I knew Layton doesn't have to work today. Don't underestimate Mifi's intelligence."
"Yeah, but I didn't refuse you. Before I got the chance to refuse, I was like this."
"Ok ok. Stop talking. We've invited a special guest today."
They didn't listen to his words. Mifi pushed a person out from Naruki's shadow.
He thought it was Meishen.
"...... Felli senpai?"
"I got caught," she said without any expression. She was also bound by a rope.
They spaced out like that for a while...
"Hey--!! What were you guys doing!?" Layfon looked around. Luckily, there was no one around but them. He wondered how long those two girls had been hiding here, waiting to ambush them.
"Because ~~ I've wanted to talk with her since I saw her."
"No, I'm saying why did you use this method? It's a bit extreme. Um, it's like kidnapping from the perspective of an observer."
"......She's the younger sister of the Student President."
"Meaning......We can get a huge ransom, right?" Mifi asked seriously.
Layfon and Mifi looked at each other......
"Police, there's a kidnapper here."
"OK, I'll catch her right away."
In the next moment, Naruki had also tied up Mifi.
"I just wanted to have dinner with everyone!"
After Mifi had surrendered, Naruki untied everyone. The four of them headed for the busier district of the city.
"Mei-chi's got work today, so we're waiting for her to finish, and might as well enter the "observe Mei-chi's working look" plan."
"A plan?" Layfon said.
"Well, can you imagine her appearance at work?"
"......That's a bit difficult."
It was hard to imagine Meishen working. She was so shy.
"Right? This'll be my first time seeing her at work. I'm really looking forward to it."
Mifi skipped on the red bricked path.
"It's good she's taking the initiative, but I feel a bit lonely now," Naruki said, shrugging her shoulders.
"......Have you three known each other for long?"
"Yeah, we were neighbors."
"Our parents knew each other for a long time too, from their birth."
"Amazing......" Layfon honestly showed his admiration. He also had a group of childhood friends from the orphanage, but none of them came to Zuellni.
"You three must be very close, coming here together."
"Yeah~ It's fate."
"Yes, we won't feel lonely even if we're in an unfamiliar place. Our parents agree with that," Mifi said, and started a conversation about the past with Naruki. Unable to enter the conversation, Layfon kept a distance between them.
Felli was beside him. Silently walking, she stared at the backs of the two girls.
"......Sorry for forcing you to come with us."
She didn't move her gaze away from the backs of the two girls.
"The rope seemed fun."
"......Was it fun?"
"Yes," Felli replied, not even moving her eyebrows. Layfon didn't understand what she was thinking. But it was good that she didn't get mad. He let out a sigh.
Felli was walking lightly with her hands behind her back. Looking at her childish appearance, he couldn't imagine that she was older than him. She was older, but her age difference didn't stand out at all because she was only one year apart. But comparing her with Mifi and Naruki, she looked even younger than them.
"Uh, is senpai working too?"
He couldn't think of what to say. Even his question was blocked. He knew nothing of her. Unlike Mifi and the others, Felli wasn't the type to divert with a conversation so long as the atmosphere was right.
"......Just keep doing that." Felli said as he was thinking of what to say.
"I meant during training. Just keep doing that."
"Don't you want to avoid fighting?" The honest and direct question made him speechless.
"If you perform well without the will to fight, other people will have expectations of you."
"......I suppose," he nodded.
"It's ridiculous to do what you don't want to do."
Meaning Felli also hadn't used her true ability in training. The same as him.
He now understood why he was so tired. He couldn't escape the place he wanted to leave. This feeling took a lot of his strength. He made unnecessary moves because of a lack of concentration, which in turn wasted a lot of his strength.
"Why do I feel as if there's no other road to take?"
He didn't want to, but he had to. All he could do to resist this was to not put his all in training.
And because of that, he was tired.
"Even so, I have to resist this way. As long as I'm in the Academy City, I can't escape my brother. Unless he lets me go, I've no other choice."
"...... Do you dislike your own brother?"
He might have asked a meaningless question. She did say she hated him before. But perhaps "dislike" and "hate" were different.
"I dislike him. He doesn't care about me at all."
Layfon had nothing to say. Walking beside her gave him an urge to find something to talk about, but she didn't care about ending a conversation abruptly.
The two girls walking before them had arrived at the shop. They waved back at them.
"......You're so mean."
"Never mind. You look cute."
Mifi was calm in the face of Meishen's reproachful gaze.
They moved from the coffee shop that Meishen worked at into another nearby shop. In here, senior students were permitted to drink alcohol. Dishes of BBQ skewers and vegetables lay before Layfon and his friends.
Naruki nodded in a serious manner as she put the bamboo sticks back into the bamboo container:
"Yeah, you're cute. Are you making fun of me because I can't wear it?"
"......Of course not."
"Yeah, I know."
Meishen's cheeks puffed up at Naruki's flippant tone.
When Layfon and the three girls entered the coffee shop earlier, Meishen had stood still on her spot, her face turning green. And whether it was fortunate or not, there were no other female waitresses before break time other than Meishen. Layfon felt bad for her. She was shaking like a small animal while receiving the order, but Mifi teased her happily.
"But Mei-chi really is cute, isn't she, Layton?"
He thought back of her look in the coffee shop.
The modest and deep blue uniform in itself wasn't cute at all, but the Meishen hiding her face behind the tray was cute.
He gave his honest opinion, and Meishen lowered her head, her cheeks red as of boiled water.
"Yeah, yeah, Layton. Well done, you unfaithful~~"
"It's a high level skill to praise the person in question along with the uniform."
"......Mi-chan, Nakki, I'll get mad."
The three girls argued in their own styles. Layfon sighed and turned his gaze to Felli.
She was silently eating a skewer of BBQ chicken.
She didn't seem to want to talk. She put the stick back into the bamboo container and examined the dish, thinking of what to eat next like a mathematician tackling a challenging question.
(Here's another small animal.)
Frankly, her sober eating expression was also cute.
Layfon nibbled at one end of the batter-fried vegetable stems as he listened to the conversation of the three girls.
"Aah, let's stop teasing Mei-chi. The cake over there was delicious."
"It wasn't too sweet. I get why Mei-chi loves that shop. Well, how's it going? Are they teaching you things?"
"......Not sure. Seems they'll teach me later. Really, I've always wanted to just stay in the kitchen."
"Since you showed them your cute look, of course they'd send you out to serve customers."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Um, according to my investigation, no matter which shop it is, it'll prioritize students getting into the kitchen if they've had real cooking experience."
"That's insurance. It guarantees the students must have some level of skill."
"But it takes at least half a year to get marks."
"......Wuwu, half a year."
"Can Mei-chi tolerate half a year as a waitress?"
"......No problem. I'll steal the recipe."
"Hahaha, what an audacious declaration."
"......Never mind me. What about you two?"
"Me~~? I've already decided."
"Yeah, though it's mostly doing errands. Nakki?"
"I'm going to join the City Police force. There're lots of Military Arts candidates, so I can't let my guard down."
"Oh, if you join the police force, then can you get an armed permit earlier?"
"Yes, but you can only carry a baton."
"Fufufu......But aren't you happy? You're really jealous of Layton's sword~~,"
"Not at all. I just want it because a baton is the pride of a policeman."
"You really are!"
Layfon was listening to the three. Even here he felt he was very distant from them. Nothing could help him.
Because he stood on the other side of the glass.
He could hear the sound, but he couldn't step inside it. He squinted at the three, unable to enter that cheerful territory.
There was no chance to speak.
The party ended as the closing hour of dormitories neared.
Student dormitories were spread out across the city. After separating from Naruki and the others since their dormitories lay in a different direction, Layfon found himself heading in the same direction as Felli.
"......Is senpai going in this direction too?"
"Yes, what a coincidence."
Layfon nodded. It was that much of a surprise to him.
"Senpai didn't enter the conversation back then. I'm sorry for being insensitive."
In the end, he himself passed through that time without speaking. He couldn't speak up as a special atmosphere encircled the conversation that only familiarity would allow.
Felli shook her head at the apologizing Layfon. "Not at all. I was happy."
"Really? That's good."
It was hard to conclude whether she was truly happy as her face showed no emotion at all.
They alone walked on the path lit by street lights. Layfon felt awkward about it. The sound of footsteps that was usually small and insignificant drifted into their ears.
"I don't talk, not because I'm not satisfied," Felli said suddenly.
"I didn't know what to say because I haven't had any friends before," Felli said as she walked past a street light. Layfon glanced at her but couldn't make out her expression.
Just then, sparks fell from her silvery hair to scatter the dim light. He widened his eyes.
"Oh, sorry. I lost control for a little bit."
She pressed down on her long hair with her hand. Green phosphorescence gathered in her hair, emitting a dull light. Unresponsive and without any heat. Only the tiniest bit of vibration in the air that Layfon could feel with his left wrist.
This was Psychokinesis. It was the external type burst Kei and the internal type Kei, but at the same time, it was different from both. It was an inborn ability, a type of Kei flowing in the body that training would never obtain.
He watched her closely. Even her eyebrows and eyelashes emitted phosphorescence.
Hair was the best conductor for the Kei of Psychokinesis. There were people who conveyed their Kei to whips made by hair.
(She lost control of it?)
That was shocking. Just that and her hair could emit the light of Psychokinesis to the tips of each strand of hair. This meant her ability of Psychokinesis was inconceivably powerful.
"......This is the reason that my brother transferred me into Military Arts," she said.
"My ability of Psychokinesis goes way beyond the normal standard."
"I think so too."
Layfon had also seen Psychokinesis phenomenon of glowing hair, but it was only one part of the hair. He had never seen a case like Felli's, whose whole hair shone without her being aware of it.
"Because of this, I've received training in Psychokinesis since I was very small. Everyone in my family strongly believed I'd become a Psychokinesist. Even I never doubted it."
"But......" she added. Layfon could feel her shaky emotions.
He was right. The trembling on her lips was different from that of normal conversation.
"I thought that everyone's future was predestined. I thought that they all knew what they'd become in the future. But this was wrong. Of course, it's not possible for a criminal to know he can only become a criminal."
He didn't laugh at her words. She only said it without much of an emotion. Perhaps this was meant as a joke. Since he wasn't sure, Layfon decided not to laugh.
"Once I realized that, I tried to think of what I'd be doing if I wasn't a Psychokinesist. No one knows their future, but mine was determined from when I was very young. I became intolerant of that, and eventually left my home city to come here."
Her parents took a huge step back for her and allowed her to study at her brother's Academy City – Zuellni.
"My parents thought it wouldn't matter much if I didn't get to train in Psychokinesis for six years. I also thought I could find the other me, the me who wouldn't become a Psychokinesist."
But she was unable to do that.
Because of Zuellni's present situation and the person who tried to solve the crisis – her brother.
"I hate my brother. I hate my brother who forced me on the path of Psychokinesis," she murmured.
Layfon listened to her silently. He couldn't hear any emotions in her light tone, but he felt she felt confined, as if a certain being was under pressure and was crying out sorrowfully.
"And I hate myself for only becoming a Psychokinesist."
Because of her exceptional ability, she couldn't escape her destiny.
"Those kinds of people are too radiant," she murmured.
Layfon could only nod in agreement.
Because he felt the same.