Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume20 Machina's Eye
Vati Len was just a single person.
If you asked her whether she lacked sociability, you would get an answer that seemed both intriguing and ordinary.
For example, the situation with her classmate Shay (Male, fifteen years old).
During their first encounter.
"Ah, nice to meet you, I'm Shay. I'm from the Windswept City Genilla."
"Nice to meet you, I'm Vati Len. I was born in the Calm Sea City Pushias. My address is 30481 Karsang town, and I'm the eldest child of a five-person family. Female, fifteen years old, my height is one hundred and fifty eight centimeters, my weight is......"
"Uh, you don't have to go into that much detail, thank you!"
"Ah, my eraser!"
"Your eraser fell, huh."
"Sorry, could you grab it for me?"
"Understood. Teacher, in order to pick up the eraser of Shay-san in the neighboring seat, I must temporarily leave my seat."
"I will probably need to leave my seat for three seconds, may I ask if this will be of any concern?"
"Nn, pick it up quickly."
"No, it will be impossible for me to shorten the time I must leave my seat under three seconds."
"......Well, just pick it up."
"Alright.................. I have picked it up, sorry to interrupt your class."
"Here you go, Shay-san."
"What did you call me to this kind of place for?"
"It seems like I love those strange qualities about you, please go out with me!"
"What do you mean by strange qualities?"
"Are you mad? Sorry. But I think you're very charming that way."
"No, I'm not mad. But, please tell me what those 'strange' parts you feel are so I can use that as reference later."
"Uh, that...... Everything...... No no no, even everything you do - hold on, do you want me to talk about the parts that don't need to be explained......"
"What do you mean by 'parts that don't need to be explained'?"
"I don't mean anything bad by saying this. I think that you're very charming that way......"
"That kind of thing doesn't matter. In what way am I strange? Could you tell me simply?"
"Huh? Uh, that......"
"Do you have time? If possible, I want to listen to your opinion, so please don't hold anything back."
"Sorry, it's too much for me to handle!"
Like that, Vati wouldn't refuse to communicate with others, but her responses easily made other people feel strange. In addition, the pubescent male students who were now free after leaving their parents also noticed her beauty, and the situation was highlighted even further because they confessed to her.
Recently, everyone had already begun believing 'Vati Len is strange'.
"What is this?'
She didn't feel unhappy. However, she was unable to understand the relationship between the flurry of guys who had confessed to her and her public image afterwards.
She understood that a girl's looks were one of the main reasons encouraging male feelings. She could understand that males would confess to her because of this...... It was an action having to do with wanting to establish certain male-female relationships. But, why had their appraisals of her become 'she's a strange person' afterwards......?
"Why is that?"
She asked the store owner as she was working, who was also a senpai one year above her and who also lived in the same apartment - Meishen.
Meishen could only show a troubled smile.
This was the cake store where Vati worked.
Inside the kitchen of the cake store that had been remodeled from a floor of the apartment, the two of them were making cakes. Other than the kitchen, there was also a small eating area and a display counter where slices of cakes had been placed, but those places weren't used often. Meishen's cake store was near the warehouse district, and there was a good distance from the busy area where students congregated, so there weren't many customers who came here directly to buy. The main source of this store's income was signing contracts with other stores to sell them cakes.
Meishen had only started preparing this store late last year, and this year it had just opened this year, but just from the start this store had already gotten many decent results.
"Manager, do you also think I'm strange?"
"You don't need to call me Manager, call me Meishen."
"No, please let me call you Manager here."
The two of them made cakes while conversing. Though the store had just opened, they would talk like this while working if they weren't making new products.
Though that were true, the work of making new products and distributing them still had to be completed before school started, so they actually were pretty busy. The two of them carried out the conversation in short snippets.
"I do think that your manner of speaking is a bit strange, but I don't think you're a strange person. I think you're very serious."
"I'm very serious?"
"Nn. When you encounter something you don't understand, you'll want to make sense of it, right?"
"Nn, that's true."
"I think Vati's very serious about that."
Though Meishen was shy, she was already used to being with Vati since Vati was helping with the store and also lived in the same apartment as she did.
After thanking Meishen, Vati once again began working while continuing to think.
But, if it were like that, did that mean her classmates didn't believe Vati was a 'serious person'?
From where had that discrepancy arisen? Meishen's remarks were the feelings that she expressed after hearing Vati's words, but her classmates' thoughts were evaluations they had obtained after actually seeing Vati's actions.
Was that where the difference was? In that case, were the classmates the correct ones?
However, Meishen's feelings should also be the comprehensive evaluation she had reached using all of the experiences she had with Vati up through now. In that case, Vati couldn't one-sidedly say that her thoughts were wrong, right?
The actions she had taken up to now under the identity Vati Len had caused her classmates to think of her as a strange person, but Meishen believed she was serious.
What kind of factors had caused those differences? The answer wasn't apparent.
As she thought hard about those things, today's cake-making work ended.
Incidentally, she would want to make sense of things she didn't understand.
Meishen had also said that. But, that was the current Vati. That was true regardless of whether it was to perfect her mimicry program or for some other reason.
"I'll go over the situation again."
She was in class right now, and Vati murmured with a quiet voice that wouldn't allow anyone to hear it. Maybe Shay who sat next to her had heard her talking to herself a bit, as he looked at her with a timid expression, but Vati decided to ignore his reaction.
How did the evaluations of Meishen and her classmates differ? Meishen's feelings were the comprehensive evaluation she had issued of her view of Vati, and her classmates' opinions were the same.
In other words, the things Meishen and her classmates saw were different?
(Maybe that's right.)
In order to keep from frightening Shay, Vati stopped talking to herself. If she controlled her mimicry program, the words in her heart wouldn't 'leave her mouth naturally'. She could maintain the appearance of being in class while calmly thinking.
(The things they see aren't the same. Right, that's it.)
Even in she were with her classmates for more than half of each day, the Vati that her classmates saw was only the appearance of her listening to lecture like usual. They almost never saw Vati after school was over.
Other than this, they also saw the guys who had confessed to her.
Moreover, Meishen hadn't witnessed that.
In other words, the classmates had seen the males who confessed to Vati, so they had evaluated her as a 'strange person'? Though that thought still left some doubts as to why she was a 'strange person'......
(Meaning that among males and females of this age, relationships with the other gender are very important?)
Vati had received the confessions, but hadn't gone out with any of the males, and was still single. Looking at it from that angle, she was indeed a 'strange person'.
But, in that case......?
(Then, what will become of him and her?)
Vati meant Layfon and Meishen. Meishen indeed had feelings for him. According to the information supplied by Meishen's childhood friends Mifi and Naruki, Meishen had had feelings for Layfon almost since she entered school. But a whole year had almost passed, and there hadn't been any developments between the two.
In the eyes of their class's students, was that also 'strange'?
After coming to this city, Vati had always been observing her. She didn't have any abnormalities as a person. In other words, was the personality unrelated with ability to communicate with the opposite gender?
(......But if that's true, I will have to consider changing the target of observation.)
Vati had come to the Academy City with a certain goal, and had chosen Meishen as a qualified person. However, if Vati's choice were mistaken, then she would have to change her choice of person. Vati didn't have much time left, and if she had to change, then it would be best to decide as early as possible.
(Before that, I have to confirm something.)
After making up her mind, Vati quickly took action.
During the noon break, Vati walked to the second-year school building.
If Vati put her mind to it, she could effortlessly learn the current location of anyone.
That day, the target person was sitting on a park bench eating lunch with a fat classmate.
"Ah, Vati. What's up?"
Layfon felt curious about why the first-year Vati had shown up in a park near the second-year school building.
"I came to ask you a question."
"Really? You haven't eaten lunch yet, right? In that case, let's eat together."
After seeing the bento box in Vati's hand, Layfon said this, and Vati also followed along with that proposal.
"......Huh, this girl is?"
The fat classmate sitting next to Layfon asked this.
"She's Vati, who lives in the same apartment as I do. This is Ed."
"Nice to meet you."
Vati sat down next to Layfon, and Ed welcomed her with confusion.
"Then, what did you want to ask me?"
Next to Layfon was placed a bento box with the same appearance as Vati's but a different size, and other than that, a bento from the same bento store as Ed's was also stacked on top of it. That bento box was Meishen's. Today, Meishen was the one in charge of making food. Though she didn't have to even make lunch as well, she had just done that on her own. Meishen wouldn't do that if she were busy her cake store's work.
There were no new products today, and the flavors hadn't changed much, so Meishen had probably just done that on a whim. Though Vati could observe Meishen's actions, it was hard to observe her feelings at the time.
"So, what's your question?"
After opening Meishen's bento, Layfon asked this.
"Nn, Is Layfon-senpai going out with any girl?"
Layfon and Ed simultaneously ejected the food in their mouths.
"Wh......What? Why are you asking that so suddenly?"
"I heard that Layfon-senpai has quite a good standing among the platoon members of the seventeenth platoon, and you also have a very good reputation among the female students. I'm a bit uncertain as to why senpai is so popular yet isn't going out with any girl."
"I see, that's indeed true!"
Ed nodded his head vigorously.
"Hurry up and find someone to go out with, and then introduce her friends to me!"
It seemed like Ed was also in line with Vati's standards, a man with normal sensibility.
"Look at Ed-senpai, that's the reaction of a normal male."
After noticing that he was isolated, Layfon couldn't help but feel cornered.
"Layfon-senpai's contact with girls and the feelings that girls have for senpai are far greater than for Ed-senpai, but Layfon-senpai isn't going out with any girl."
"......Uh, saying things that plainly makes me feel like tears are endlessly streaming from my eyes."
"Why is that?"
Vati ignored Ed's reaction, and continued asking.
"Even if you ask me...... why......"
"Does Layfon-senpai not have a favorite girl?"
"That's not it......"
"Why is that? A normal male in Layfon-senpai's situation would be going out with his favorite girl, right?"
"Uh, no, how should I say it......"
"And then once you start going out, you'll be want to peer into the depths of male-female relations, right? Does Layfon-senpai have no interest in that kind of thing?"
Layfon had originally seemed troubled, but those words from Vati made his expression change. Layfon faced Vati with a solemn expression.
"What is it?"
"Girls can't say that kind of thing whenever they want."
"Really? I believe that not only males feel interest in male-female relations."
"Maybe, but you still can't."
Layfon refuted her once again.
"Because if girls do that kind of thing, they might become pregnant. What would you do if you were pregnant in this kind of place? You'd have to take a roaming bus when you graduated, right? Not only that, you'd have to make child support payments while you studied. Since you might not be able to stay in the academy city without taking classes."
"......You're thinking really seriously."
"......Because there were similar kids in the orphanage."
Ed showed an admiring expression, but Layfon next to him showed a bitter face as if he had remembered something.
"I see, I understand."
Vati nodded her head, and afterwards the two of them finished eating Meishen's bentoes with surprising speed, and then left the area.
She understood Layfon's thoughts. His calm consideration of societal relations had allowed him to keep male-female relationships at arm's length. Perhaps one could say that as long as his societal state wasn't complete, he wouldn't think of himself as a man. Was it because of this that he was able to continue his slow attitude towards female outreach?
Then, what about Meishen?
What did she think?
If Meishen had similar thoughts as Layfon, then she wouldn't take action, right?
But, Vati would be troubled if that were the case.
Meishen had to take action.
How could she make her take action?
There was a need to carry out experiments.
If the person herself were used for an experiment, things would be very troublesome once a situation arose.
Therefore, she had to search for similar experimental subjects, and then search for individual effective means...... Vati once again gathered information from the entire Academy City, and then retrieved the contents. And, she found it.
She found an experimental subject, along with a way to carry out the experiment.
Naruki kept running.
A good amount of time had already passed since the City Police Psychokinesist contacted her. The waste of time made a bitter expression emerge on Naruki's sweat-covered face, as she charged into the department.
Her colleagues were already waiting, and Formed who was in front of everyone staring at a file in his hand looked towards Naruki.
"You still haven't found Layfon?"
"I'm sorry, we weren't acting together."
"Nothing we can do about it, we can't use the broadcasting system to call him here either. Hurry up and get prepared."
After replying with that, Naruki rushed towards the equipment room.
The electricity-producing Mechanical Department of the moving city had a purification system to support the living environment above along with the shelters and other facilities, and this took up almost all of the underground space of the moving city. But other than that, there were also other facilities underground.
For example, there were areas where roaming buses were repaired or taken apart. In emergency situations - emergency situations where the lift going up and down to outskirts of the city couldn't be used - roaming buses would stop entering this underground area or depart from it.
Something strange had happened in this underground area.
The police had received a report that there was a fugitive bandit group that had snuck into this underground area.
Because they received briefing books that other roaming buses sent, the City Police knew that the group was among the group of outsiders who had arrived. After they had disappeared from the area where outsiders were received, the police had begun to launch a search, and had discovered that they were hiding inside that underground area.
"The bandit group plans on repairing the roaming buses that are stopped in the underground area waiting for maintenance, and obtaining a means of moving independently. We have to catch them before that."
After Formed finished talking, the members of the SWAT team issued a response in unison. Naruki who had already changed her outfit was also among them.
The team moved quietly.
There was an entrance to the underground inside the City Police department. It was so that they wouldn't obstruct the movement of normal civilians during an emergency, but could also let the police enter important facilities directly without tipping off criminals.
The team used this passageway to advance underground.
"Speaking of which, I still haven't asked you about that matter."
The team gave off an awe-inspiring tense atmosphere as they advanced through the passageway. In that atmosphere, Formed quietly asked this of Naruki:
"Why did you leave the platoon?"
"You could have been on both sides and easily raised your strength."
Formed believed that it was a natural question. Actually, it was as he said; Naruki's strength had increased after attending the platoon training, and she had used that strength in her City Police work.
More importantly was that there was no Military Arts competition this year, so she wouldn't be as busy as last year.
Even so, Naruki had still resigned from the platoon.
"Ah, if you don't want to say, I won't force the question."
"If there's something built up in your heart that you feel troubled about, just tell me. At the least I can listen to you."
The restraints that she felt deep inside her heart felt slightly alleviated.
Just as the two of them conversed about this, the team reached their destination.
Before them was a large metal door. Looking at it from another angle, this door was just a normal wall.
Because of the preliminary inspection of the Psychokinesist, the police already had some degree of understanding of the position and condition of the bandit group repairing the roaming bus. Naruki once again thought silently of the suppression operation that had been planned using that data as a basis while quietly activating her Kei vein. If she released too much Kei, the enemies would notice, so Naruki carried out furtive movements while making sure not to do that.
Layfon had once said that she needed to be able to hold back her Kei presence at any time, but Naruki still couldn't do that even now. However, after the platoon training, the time it took for her to activate her Kei vein had shortened, and the speed at which she compressed her Kei and its instantaneous strength had also increased greatly.
Though it hadn't been a full year, she had truly learned many things from the platoon.
Even so, Naruki had resigned from the platoon.
One of the team members slowly opened the lock, and then put his hand on the doorhandle. Formed who stood next to the door gestured wordlessly, signaling the beginning of a raid.
The door was opened in a flash, and the raid team's Military Artists slipped through the gap that appeared in twos and threes, with the Psychokinesist following behind them.
Naruki was the third to enter the underground area, and she ran towards the roaming bus that was currently being repaired.
A part of the outer layer of the roaming bus had been torn off, and the drive system that was exposed was currently being repaired. The several men with tools in their hands looked over in surprise. Judging by their slow reactions, these people weren't Military Artists.
In that case......
Naruki threw out her restored rope. After the Karen Kei training that Naruki had carried out with Gorneo who Layfon had introduced, she was able to make the rope move through midair like a snake. It tied all of the workers in a bundle.
And then was......
External-type Kei, Karen variant - Amethyst Lightning.
The Ruby Dite made Naruki's Kei flow become electricity. The electricity, whose power had been regulated, caused the workers to fall unconscious.
Naruki sensed that she had held back from killing the enemies, and searched for the next target. There had been ten members forming the bandit group, and half of them were Military Artists. Naruki rushed towards the roaming bus while using her voice to confirm the situation of the others. The sounds of clashes happening in the underground district reached her ears. Had the Military Artists all been assigned nearby to keep watch?
(From the left, three people!)
Naruki reacted to the Psychokinesist's sharp voice. Three Military Artists jumped out from the shadow of an abandoned roaming bus.
Naruki raised her baton and rope to engage the three of them.
Only a few minutes had passed from the start of the raid until the end, but the heat of the moment left a strong feeling of lingering aftermath in the underground area.
While watching the captured men being taken out one by one, Naruki slowly exhaled.
"You've worked hard."
Her shoulder was patted. Looking backwards, she could only see Formed showing a very happy expression. The City Police had no obligation to compensate the other cities that the bandit group had stolen from. That was not only because it was time-consuming if they wanted to communicate with other cities, but there were also big problems with methods of transport. If there were things that absolutely had to be returned, the normal method would be to visit the other party directly to sell them back. Regardless of whether the things had been bought or stolen from cities they had been in before, everything would become the property of the Academy City.
It wasn't his own pockets that were being lined, but Formed felt happy because of this.
When she had just started, Naruki had not only felt doubtful about that sort of reaction, but even felt that it was very strange.
"But, this place has been made into a mess."
As if to banish the emotions that had appeared from her heart, Naruki looked around. The roaming bus that had been half-repaired was overturned on the ground, and pieces of the bus's outer layer were fallen everywhere on the ground. The leaking oil was forming a black puddle on the floor that had been dirtied by soot.
The Military Artists who had attacked Naruki had been very strong, perhaps even stronger than Naruki. But, Naruki had trained with an extraordinarily strong Military Artist like Layfon every day, along with the platoon members who were all much stronger than she was - Nina, Sharnid, and Dalshena, so she understood how to fight with enemies stronger than she was.
Naruki stalled for the whole time, and after the other police Military Artists finished their suppression and came to back her up, those enemy Military Artists were safely and easily captured.
But, because Naruki had spent so much time, the state of the surroundings had become this bad.
"Don't be concerned. In any case, every roaming bus here is waiting to be dismantled, so even if we create some damage no one will get mad."
Formed's happy laughed reverberated around the surroundings, but right then, Naruki with a more subdued attitude heard a strange sound.
The sound had come from above Naruki and Formed.
Other than several air ducts, there was a cement ceiling divided into regions, along with metal frames that separated them.
Most people would be unable to clearly see the composition of the ceiling due to the impedance of the strong lights. However, relying on a Military Artist's vision, it was possible to find the source of that strange sound.
Moreover, the moment when Naruki noticed something was wrong, the result that the strange sound brought about was being realized before her eyes.
The ceiling was collapsing.
Naruki managed to call out in the nick of time, but her voice gave the other Military Artists adequate time to react. As the Military Artists carried the nearby ordinary people and retreated, Naruki also carried Formed at the same time.
But, the scope of the collapse was quite broad, and Naruki and Formed were almost in the center. At a speed that would ensure the safety of Formed's body, she couldn't escape to a safe range in time.
After making that judgment, Naruki rushed into the overturned roaming bus without looking back.
She lost consciousness for a moment.
"Where is this?"
Formed's voice made her return to her senses. No, she hadn't lost consciousness, she had just been temporarily dazed by the sudden darkening of her surroundings.
Steel beams struck each other, and heavy and sharp noise engulfed them. When that sound passed, the surroundings were quiet enough to make their ears hurt.
The surroundings had become dark, and even her eyes couldn't see very clearly.
"We're inside a bus."
"Ahh, that means...... the ceiling collapsed?"
Naruki replied while feeling incomparably guilty. If Naruki had been able to suppress the bandit group faster, things wouldn't have become like this.
"How is it? Can we escape?"
Formed twisted his body, trying to check the surrounding environment.
"Oh, sorry...... it's very cramped here."
After the assault of the collapsing ceiling, the bus hadn't survived completely. Even the shell that had been taken off the front portion for repairs had been flattened, and the seating region behind Naruki's back had also been crushed flat.
In that kind of situation, it could even be said that it was strange the two of them were safe and sound. But, at the same time, it meant the two of them were squeezed into a tight space where they couldn't do anything at all.
"What should we do now, then?"
"Sorry, things were too sudden......"
"No, if it were just me, I would have been crushed before getting into this situation, Ah, if we just wait here quietly, rescue workers will come to save us."
"So for now we just need to wait here leisurely."
The remorseful thoughts in her heart were slightly alleviated by Formed's words.
......But, the slight alleviation of the tension also made Naruki think of something else.
(I'm so close to Chief......)
The two of them were in sprawled out in a state where they were firmly pressed together. A seat had broken off and tilted to block the space above them, but it was because of this that they had been able to avoid being run through by the metal parts inside the bus.
Moreover, in the moment when she had protected Formed just now, Naruki had also covered him with her body. In other words, Naruki currently was lying on top of him.
(What kind of position is this!)
After thinking calmly, Naruki noticed that she was currently in a state where her face was red enough to catch flame. In order to think of some way to break out from this dilemma, Naruki focused her consciousness on the surroundings.
"Naruki, it would be best not to move around recklessly right now."
"No, I should be the one to apologize. You must be unable to keep your balance because my stomach's too round."
"It, it's not like that."
She knew clearly that it was a joke, but Naruki couldn't laugh.
One could even say that right now wasn't time to laugh.
Not only was she sweaty all over because of the battle just now, her clothes stuck tightly to her to expose her body's curves, and even her hair was all messed up. More importantly, there was a lot of dust on her body, so her face was definitely very dirty. And to think she was so close to Formed in this condition. Aah, at the least she wanted to take a shower...... No no no, what was she thinking about!
Hurry up and calm down! Naruki shouted at herself in her heart. Right now was a tense situation, not a time to think about those things.
Ahh, but this opportunity might not appear again. Regardless of whether he was dealing with schoolwork or City Police duties, Formed was always serious and hardworking. Maybe there wouldn't be another opportunity to be alone with him like this.
(In that case, I can only take advantage of the present-)
"What is it? Worried?"
Perhaps because Naruki's impatient reaction seemed like anxiety, Formed asked this.
"No, that's not it......"
"Ah...... We won't have anything to do before the rescue team shows up, so it wouldn't be bad if you had any topic to talk about. It's unfortunate that I can't think of any good topics."
"That's not true......"
"In that case, can I ask again?"
"Your reasons for leaving the platoon."
"I won't sugarcoat my words. And, though I said it's fine if you don't want to talk about it, I still care a lot."
"......Why is that?"
"Why does Chief care that much?"
"That...... Ah, because you only joined the platoon because it was related to that event. I believed you would immediately leave the platoon, and never would have thought that you would continue on with it afterwards. But right when I was thinking that, you said you were leaving the platoon. I don't believe you would do that with a half-hearted attitude, but I care a lot about the reason you changed your mind."
It was true, that was indeed how things were. Naruki thought warmly about the events from back then. The tenth platoon had been suspected of using Kei-enhancing drugs, and Naruki had requested the help of the seventeenth platoon to investigate, and joined the platoon because of this.
In the end, Nina had single-handedly destroyed the investigation. At the time, Naruki had truly been very angry. But, she had felt that Nina's sense of justice and willpower had been truly respectable.
After the judgment of the Student Council, the tenth platoon had ended up being dissolved, and because of this a part of dirty politics had been shown. However, Naruki had no way of believing that everything was caused by Nina's dogmatic actions, and couldn't hate her because of this. After all, even if the City Police investigated smoothly, Karian - the Student Council President at the time - wouldn't have changed his judgment.
At that time, she had been unable to do anything, and it wasn't only because of Nina's independent action, but also because Naruki's strength as a Military Artist and ability as a police officer were insufficient.
Thinking of this, she decided to try joining the seventeenth platoon and try training herself again.
"But, how strong do I have to become?"
Naruki's question made Formed tilt his head and show a confused expression.
Staying in the seventeenth platoon made Naruki realize something, which was that strength had no limits. It wasn't just because she had experienced Layfon's power first-hand. She had many experiences, like fighting filth monsters, like when they had come in contact with Grendan, and the abnormal situation afterwards - those things made her understand that regardless of how strong Military Artists became, there was still room for improvement.
That fact didn't make her feel bored of things.
However, in that case, how strong would she have to get after all in order to use her full strength as a police officer?
She didn't know the answer.
"I'm not afraid of battle. Honestly, even in the battle just now, if I had become stronger......"
"That's true. Speaking from my position, if you could have spent about three years in the platoons, and then focused on returning to your job in the police...... I thought about that before."
Formed had thought about her - that fact made Naruki very happy.
But, with that......
"What is it?"
There wasn't anything around to provide lighting, so the two of them shouldn't be able to see each other's expressions. But, Formed seemed to have noticed some sort of melancholy from Naruki's body.
"What is it, right now it's already boring enough to die here, so just say it if you're thinking about something."
"Can I really?"
"Nn, you can."
How much awareness had Formed said those words with? However, Naruki believed that she could only truly bare her heart here. The place right here and right now was the only place that she could speak of the feelings in her heart, she thought.
"......If I stayed three years in the platoon, wouldn't you have left here when that time came?"
"What did you say?"
"Maybe you'll say that's a half-hearted attitude, but this year is the last year you'll be here. And you'll also be transferred, so you won't always be on the frontline. I don't have much time left with you anymore."
"I want to stay by the Chief's side. I......"
Formed seemed to have stopped breathing, which made Naruki feel incomparably tense.
He was mad - she thought.
As a policeman, Formed had held the position of the City Police chief for a long time, and on the other hand he had quite a few achievements as an Agriculture student. His actions were never half-hearted, and he always constantly advanced in the direction he believed was correct. In contrast, Naruki had resigned from the platoon right before a full year, and her reason was even love.
If it were Formed, he would definitely scold her angrily as being 'really pathetic'. After the surge of momentum that came with her love confession, Naruki closed her eyes and prepared her heart.
Formed made a short hum, and Naruki's body shrank from the tension.
"Ah, you don't need to become that tense."
Unexpected words made Naruki open her eyes.
"......Chief, you're not mad?"
"Why do you think I'm mad?"
"Ha, maybe it's because I look old."
Naruki couldn't finish speaking. The sixth-year Formed would be twenty-one this year. But unfortunately, it would be natural to see him as thirty-some years old.
But, Naruki hadn't chosen Formed because of appearance.
"I was always called selfish by others."
"But, you've never taken bribes."
"That's true. But, if I can make the city wealthier, then as a result the Agricultural budget will increase. So I still have my own motives."
"I don't want to stand tall and say that what I'm doing is right, but I don't believe that what I'm doing is wrong. Have I talked about it? In the beginning, my wish to enlist in the City Police was just because some idiots ruined an agricultural lake that I liked. There are criminals who try to steal information in this world, but there are also bastards who purely want to dirty an agricultural lake. I only became a policeman in order to threaten those people more easily. I'm that kind of man."
"In other words, I'm not as serious as you think I am, nor am I as upstanding."
"That's not true."
"Ah, you're free to think what you want. In other words, I won't get mad or complain regardless of how you see me. That's what I wanted to say."
Why had the topic moved to this? No...... Because she had tensed herself to prepare her heart for a scolding, the topic had shifted. Naruki understood that.
But, this made her feel like he was being evasive......
"So...... uh, well......"
"Ah, I'm too good at talking about myself. Sorry."
"No, not that. That's not true......"
"But I also said just now, I'm not as serious as you think, nor am I the kind of person who would get one-sidedly angry because of other people. So I wanted to say that you don't have to worry about those things."
"Well, I already understand that. ......That's not what I wanted to ask, but rather, uh......"
Formed was actually doing this on purpose - Naruki suddenly had that thought. If he rejected Naruki’s confession in this kind of situation, then it would definitely become unbearably awkward. So Formed was trying to gloss things over here and there...... After that thought emerged in her mind, Naruki's face went pale.
"......I didn't say anything that made trouble for Chief, did I?"
"That's right, it just bring trouble to be confessed to by someone like me. Sorry, please forget about this."
"No, please wait."
"Chief, you don't need to be concerned about me. Before the rescue team comes to help us, I'll quietly wait here without saying anything."
"Wait wait, on the contrary, I'll be concerned if you talk like that!"
Formed's shout reverberated in the cramped space.
"But Chief, you......"
"Ahh, really! I'm sorry for the long prologue, so you don't need to feel awkward, alright?"
"I just saw that you were mistaken about me, so I wanted to resolve that mistake. If you fit some strange rigid ideal onto me, I'll feel very troubled."
"S......Sorry. Then as expected, Chief......"
"Listen till the end!"
In the darkness, Formed's shout that approached a cry filled the surroundings.
"I already understand your feelings. I also feel very happy."
"But, I only have a year left in this place. Your student life is still going to continue on, and I don't want to make you miss someone who's no long here. Also, I don't want to hold you back when you have to return to your hometown."
That speech simply sounded like a declaration that lacked sincerity.
However, even Naruki understood that reality. Because other than her lack of courage, the age gap and grade gap had been reasons she had always been troubled about regarding whether or not to confess.
Regardless of how she struggled, Formed would graduate first. And Naruki had no way of giving up on her hometown after graduating to chase after him.
It was a terrible combination.
Though that were true......
"Even so, I don't care. As long as I can have some memories with Chief-"
Formed had deliberately said those words about him only having a year left, but Naruki viewed that as honesty. Naruki liked him because Formed was that kind of person.
Naruki relaxed her rigid body, naturally leaning her body onto Formed's.
"Hm. Though I must say, doing that is really reckless."
Though he said this, Formed still accepted Naruki, and tenderly stroked her head.
Not long afterwards, the rescue team that saved the two of them greeted them with the fact that their conversation had been heard completely by the people outside, and they were showered with blessings and teasing whistles. But, she didn't hate that kind of feeling.
Vati Len observed everything.
Looking from the perspective of male-female relationships - The Academy City's structural defect - Vati searched for a male and female that seemed like they would never be together, but what had been returned was Naruki and Formed. And Vati had succeeded in forcing them into a situation where they were alone, and even the kind of situation that was somewhat of a crisis - the kind of situation where if she could, she would want to say everything inside her heart.
Although the event itself had been an incidental happening, it was Vati's strength that had trapped the two of them in such a situation.
"In other words, love isn't a perpetual thing?"
However, the answer she obtained in this experiment raised new questions
"......The so-called love, shouldn't it be an eternal thing?"
In terms of an individual organism spreading genetic factors and combining genes to produce an excellent offspring, it was highly risky to put all of the possibilities for leaving descendants on a single action.
On the other hand, looking at it from the point of view of an entire race, it was sufficient for the entire gene pool to produce an excellent offspring, so it could be believed that there was no reason to encourage the proliferation of a single individual's gene factors.
"In the end, what is the answer?"
New questions had arisen. In order to understand the answer to the question, Vati took more actions.
Afterwards, the Academy City had a period of time with many occurrences of people getting together or breaking up, but that phenomenon was just seen as a fad.
Translator's Notes and References