Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume23 Fire Up Spirits1
Fire Up Spirits (The Dispute Arc, or the Helpless Day)
The deeper the black, the more beautiful the red became.
In the darkness produced by the obscured light, the princess endured the scent that made her nostrils itch. That scent was warm and exotic, and surrounded all the emotions concealed in the darkness.
She was the bearer of the sealed emotions.
Red surrounded by pitch-black.
All the emotions sealed inside...... were confusion, joy, as well as immorality...... She was the intense red that made one shudder deeply. She was also the one wholeheartedly waiting for the veil to be lifted.
Ahh, how much I look forward to those charmed by this scent, who tremble from the feeling, and then step into the midst of this darkness.
"Hey! It's really dark here, can I open the curtains?"
That voice reached her ears as she shivered from her fantasies in the darkness.
"Honestly, what are you doing? The feeling is perfect right now."
"But it's so dark here I can't see myself."
A new voice continued speaking.
"That's not a big deal, right?"
The Princess of Darkness was quite indignant. Her mood had been so good, but the voice of reality had ruined everything.
"It's too dark here. We can't see anything at all if you block the light so completely."
"Tony's really scared, so if possible I'd like to open the curtains."
"Because that guy's scared of the dark."
If he was scared of the dark, there was no helping it. The Princess of Darkness stood up and walked to the window to open the curtains, in place of the other three who couldn't move because it was too dark.
Light shone into the room and drove away the darkness.
The Princess of Darkness...... Claribel unhappily turned around, black lace fluttering, and the figures of the three sitting on the sofa appeared in her eyes.
They were Teresa, Tony, and Cody, three people of the fourteenth platoon.
"Hey, why are the three of you not wearing those clothes?"
Claribel, wearing her Princess of Darkness outfit, crossed her arms, glaring at the outfits of the three of them.
School wasn't in session today, but the three of them wore their uniforms.
"Uh, because it's a holiday today......"
Cody answered on behalf of the three. His body was frail, but he was very tall, and if he stood up Claribel would have to look up to see him. Even though he was sitting on the sofa, he was taller than the other two by a head.
"Walking around all the time wearing that is a bit......"
Tony's face looked a bit pale, and cowardice showed on his fat cheeks.
"But we're holding photography sessions regularly."
Teresa tried to alleviate the atmosphere with a weak smile, but Claribel's anger burned fiercer......
"Sorry to bother~ Oh, you're all here? Uh, Lon isn't here. Well, that guy's the same shut-in as always."
The sound of the door opening rang out and the platoon captain Shin entered the room. As expected, he wore his uniform, which finally made Claribel's anger explode.
"All of you, line up!"
At Claribel's order, the three on the sofa hastily stood up, and Shin also joined their line. They had pulled Claribel into their platoon with such inspiring acting when they had competed for her, but now it looked like that atmosphere was completely gone.
That made her unhappy.
"You all have no spirit! Why don't you properly wear your outfits!"
The three stated their thoughts with odd expressions.
"Uh, it's because we'd have to go in front of the disciplinary committee if we got in trouble today. The student council is pretty serious about modifying the uniform."
In an emergency, the student uniforms they wore served as personal identification, and also displayed their positions, so the school rules had strict provisions that modifying the uniform was disallowed.
"We can't do what we did with the fighting clothes."
Wearing fighting clothes implied that one was a Military Artist, so there was just a bare-bones provision that said their functionality needed to be proved. That said, doing too much to them would draw attention, so actually only platoon members whose strengths were recognized would modify their fighting clothes.
"Can you change them just a bit?"
"Ah, we could put a logo on them."
Shin's answer made Claribel look up and sigh.
"Ahh, really! In that case, then we'll have to make do with our casual clothes...... Uh...... Come to think of it, what should we call this platoon?"
"The fourteenth platoon."
"No, that's not what I'm asking, there should be a name more appropriate for our atmosphere, right?"
"We have to go that far?"
"We have to."
"It's not good to go too far."
"What's wrong with going too far, it's only good that way."
"Um, then I'll think about it. On another note, what's today's meeting for?"
This was Claribel's room. At her command, all of the fourteenth platoon except for their Psychokinesist had arrived here.
"The main topic is another matter. We should first decide on a team name."
"Hmm...... Teresa, what do you think?"
"Huh? Me? Uh......"
Teresa kept blinking at Shin with a troubled expression.
"Well, you won't know what to say when you get asked that so suddenly. Ah, oh well. Tony and Cody, you think too, and talk about it with us if you think of something."
"What is it?"
"You look frivolous on the outside, but you're not a bad captain."
"Ahahahaha! I'm amazing, right!?"
Claribel thought Shin would get mad, but didn't imagine he would stick out his chest instead. Maybe he was unexpectedly magnanimous.
"Well, let's put this matter to the side for now. It's not the main topic, right?"
"Yeah...... Ah, but the clothes--"
Claribel pouted as Shin placated her. That wasn't the main topic. Though it wasn't the main topic, Claribel hoped to be able to cultivate that kind of atmosphere all the time. After all, that was the reason Claribel had chosen this platoon.
"In that case, I don't need to stay in this platoon in particular......"
"I understand. Our casual clothes should be in as much black as possible, okay? Is that alright?"
"......The platoon name......"
"That too, let's talk about it once I think up a good name. Okay?"
It felt like he was trying to appease her. A hard-to-describe displeasure made Claribel puff her cheeks out.
"Alright, alright. Don't be like that, what business do we have for today?"
"Fine. Then, let's enter the main topic."
Claribel changed the topic, standing up straight and facing the four of them.
"Today's topic is related to our enemy - Layfon Alseif."
"It really is about that, huh."
"No, well...... He's Lay the Flash, an apostle of light who hates the darkness."
"Hmm, well, it's that kind of setting, I guess."
"Please don't say anything like 'setting'."
Though Claribel thought that way too, it was a bit of a buzzkill to be told that by someone else.
"But we decided our goal was to be a theatrical platoon, so it's good to have an enemy."
"Don't say theatrical...... Come to think of it, what's 'theatrical'?"
"Hmm? Ah, it means our main purpose is to put on a show. Glamorous style combined with dramatic lines. To Military Artists, battlefields are important places where they train themselves, but to spectators, seeing how much power the people who protect their city have is also meaningful. But among the spectators are also people who enjoy the fights between Military Artists as a form of entertainment, and there are quite a few of those people."
"Ah, that's right."
"So we want to pay more attention to that group. But when you think about it, the other platoons don't approve of that thinking, and if you want to fight theatrically, you have to even plan on who wins and loses. But in that case, the battle would just become an ordinary play. That's meaningless to Military Artists. So I planned on first dressing up extravagantly before anything else, even if we're the only ones doing that, so I called us a theatrical platoon. Well, it's an experiment."
"......Let me first ask, you weren't thinking that we actually dressed like that and spoke those kinds of lines all the time, right?"
"Ahahaha, of course not!"
Claribel said this, but she couldn't deny that her voice was a bit hoarse.
"......But, I think that at least our fans wish that we were usually like that, right?"
"So our casual clothes really should be black, and we should wear as much silver as possible when we wear uniforms."
"Then let's return to the main topic, let's not talk about settings anymore!"
After restoring the atmosphere, Claribel took a deep breath.
"The important point is that he has no motivation, and fighting with him when he's weak isn't interesting at all."
"Won't we be more likely to win?"
Teresa tilted her head and made a confused expression.
"Just winning is meaningless. To me, what's important is surpassing the real him."
"Uh, why does Layfon-kun have no motivation?"
Tony timidly raised his hand.
"No, more importantly, since when did he start being unmotivated? If the Layfon we know has been in an unmotivated start from the very beginning, then......"
"He was very cool when the horde of filth monsters attacked before."
Cody's murmur overlapped with Teresa's words.
"Yeah, although he uses a different Dite, I feel during platoon matches that his strength is clearly on a different level. I've always thought, what if he's been holding back during platoon matches?"
"In that case, we have no chance of winning at all."
Tony's face turned pale and he shivered at Cody's speculation.
"I don't know what he was like last year, so I can't give an opinion. But I'm here now, so that's why we can think about surpassing him, right?"
Claribel encouraged the apprehensive three.
"From what I heard, he doesn't use steel threads in platoon matches. Installing safety equipment on his steel threads would be meaningless, so I can understand why the school doesn't let him use steel threads in competition. The steel threads can become any weapon he imagines, but his specialty is sword fighting after all, so we don't need to think about how to deal with weapons meant to combat filth monsters."
"You're pretty knowledgeable. If I recall, you were born in the same city, right?"
"Oh, so that's it? So you came here to chase after him?"
"Yeah, I guess."
"Ohh! How is it, how is it, any romantic stories of love?"
"No, there's no such thing."
"Whaat, how boring."
"But you still followed him. Ah, that's not a bad feeling."
Teresa mentioned that topic, her expression lighting up.
"A girl coming here chasing after a guy who ignores her...... how nice. It will definitely make lots of romantic stories."
"Ah, do you like those kinds of things, Teresa?"
"I do. Captain, do you not?"
"Well, I prefer something feeling more straightforward."
"Even more than this?"
"Sleeping together the day of an encounter and then starting to develop a relationship isn't bad."
Shin felt that he had given some kind of profound opinion, but Teresa covered her face and staggered. 'Ah, so they had that kind of relationship.' Claribel realized.
"Right, that made me think of something. Now that I think about it, I introduced a senpai who was in the platoon last year but who's graduated now to Layfon. Through my connection to Sharnid."
"That senpai's the kind to attack directly. I wonder how it went? I still don't know how things ended up."
"W......W.....W.....What did you say!?"
That was bad. She hadn't thought such a terrifying thing would have happened this year unbeknownst to her. Claribel regretted. She really should have come here with Layfon back then.
"W......What do you mean 'attack directly'? Also, who is the platoon senpai you're talking about? She couldn't have been the captain, right?"
Teresa also looked at Shin with an anxious expression.
"Ah, no, I'm not her type, and she's not my type, so there's nothing at all between us."
"I...... I see."
Claribel glanced at Theresa's relieved appearance, then thought of something.
"......Shin, you're not the kind of person who's all talk and no action, are you?"
"Don't call me that!"
Claribel felt like Shin was a bit off compared to her master Troyatte, who was libido incarnate, so she tried saying that phrase. Combined with her mood of wanting to escape reality when faced with a shocking fact, Claribel's words ended up sounding particularly grating.
"It's just that no girl to kindle my romance has appeared yet."
Shin was clearly shaken.
"Oh my, but you'd do it with anyone, right?"
"Not just anyone......"
"For example, what about Teresa-senpai who's standing over there?"
Claribel's proposal made Teresa make a strange noise of surprise.
"You're not satisfied with her looks?"
"Uh, that's not it......"
"Then go do what you want in the room over there."
"No...... No, suddenly doing that would be a bit...... You understand, right?'
Shin looked at Teresa. Though she was covering her hands with her face, the crimson face that showed from the gaps between her fingers gave off the same feeling.
Tony and Cody, the two with weak presences, watched the scene with bated breath.
"Go on, go on."
The four of them looked at Shin. Shin was frozen, his forehead sweating under their gazes.
"Go on, go on."
"I'm sorry, please forgive me."
"All talk, no action."
Shin collapsed to the ground after Claribel coldly uttered those words.
"No, but - Teresa is an important platoon member, so forcing myself on her would be a bit...... Right, Teresa!?"
Shin looked to Teresa for help, desperately grabbing on to a thread of hope, but......
""............All talk no action."
His hope crumbled brilliantly.
Shin lay trembling on the floor, as if he had become part of the carpet. The two males console him from the side: "Captain, you weren't wrong." Claribel ignored the two of them and clapped her hands to regain control of the situation.
"Okay, Shin's uselessness isn't important anymore. More importantly is how we should get Layfon to give it his all."
"In this kind of situation, we really should use Clara-chan's female charm......"
"Teresa...... Did some weird switch of yours get flipped?"
Cody rebutted in place of the still-quivering Shin. However, the girls were no longer listening to what the guys said.
"If that move were effective, things wouldn't be this troublesome......"
"Right! It's all because we talked about that guy that I became this miserable! What's his deal? Has he done it? Or has he not?"
Shin shouted this, having recovered. He had an angry look on his face. Though it was obvious that he just wanted that brat to share his suffering, his motivation happened to be consistent with the girls' concerns.
"What happened with that senpai?"
Though Shin's anger was irrelevant, Claribel was concerned about that outcome.
"What happened...... Uh...... I didn't ask, but it seemed like the senpai had a very satisfied expression."
A very satisfied expression? What did it mean to have a very satisfied expression?
Did that mean they did it, or not?
"Ah, come to think of it, I remember that senpai said something like 'As I thought, just hooking up is no good'...... Gaah, if I knew beforehand I would have asked for more details!"
Claribel stewed as she considered the possibilities. She didn't necessarily have to be Layfon's first, but that didn't mean she could allow him to have relationships with others.
"Ugh...... That senpai's already gone, so he shouldn't have a relationship with her anymore......"
"Does he still miss her or something?"
"If that were possible, then before, in Grendan, he would have......"
No, she couldn't completely dismiss that possibility, right?
"It couldn't be......"
If parting with her in Grendan had been a deep blow to him - even if she wondered that now, it did no good. But if that senpai had become his source of comfort, how would things have turned out?
"There are a lot of stories where useless men escape from reality through women's bodies."
Although it wasn't nice to say that...... Layfon seemed......
"He's very suited to that kind of role, how troublesome."
Had he become despondent and lost his motivation because that senpai graduated and left?
"If that's the case, things make sense."
In other words, seduction would be effective on him.
"Meaning I'll have to use that move?"
"That's what I said, that's what I said!"
Teresa excitedly expressed approval.
"Uh, in that case, right now I should......"
"A nighttime attack."
The two of them nodded at each other.
"The problem is, how do I infiltrate his room?"
After all, Layfon was a veteran Military Artist. Even if Claribel used Sakkei, she didn't know if she could get close to him.
"It has nothing to do with that, right? Just walk into his room normally, then charm him with alluring clothing."
"Alluring...... Like a black lace nightgown?"
"Maybe? In this situation, deliberately wearing completely normal sleepwear might not be bad, and then tell him something like 'I don't want to sleep alone tonight' with teary eyes."
"Ohh, I see. Teresa-senpai, you're amazing."
"Yeah, it's because someday I'll use that move on the person I like, right!?"
She used a strong tone at the end and shot out a glare at the same time. Shin, who was crawling back up, crumpled down again.
"I think Layfon's different from Shin, his relationships with girls are exactly what they look like. But if that situation is real, then right now I have to do my best."
"Yeah, good luck!"
"Right, I'll become a woman! And this is also for you, Teresa!"
Motivated by Teresa's spirit of self-sacrifice, Claribel made a fist and resolved herself.
One of the two guys who had been completely forgotten by everyone...... Tony, timidly raised his hand.
"What is it?"
"Uh, it's a bit hard to say, uh......"
"What is it? Speak clearly."
"Um...... The topic changed from fighting with Layfon-kun to pushing him down in a completely different sense. Is that really okay?"
"That's just a triviality!"
"Uh, sorry, sorry."
Teresa's indignant exclamation made Tony cringe.
"Honestly...... Isn't that right, Clara-chan?"
"Ah, no, how should I say it...... Yeah, that's right. Fighting and pushing him down are different. And he might not be able to fight me seriously if I push him down. Well, considering him, that's definitely true."
"What are you saying, Clara-chan? Love is a battle. It's life or death! It's also an incredible battle, so surpass him!"
"Ah, no, sorry. Now I feel like that kind of 'surpassing' is a bit......"
She seemed to have lost control because strange information had reached her ears. Claribel took deep breaths to calm herself down.
Right, whatever he does with other people doesn't matter. Right now, what's important is......
No, she really was concerned about that matter, but there would be other opportunities to dig into that matter so it was better to leave it to the side for now. What she had to think about now was what to do to have a real battle against him. But she really was concerned about that matter. Yeah, very concerned. What should she do, should she just go for it? But but but............
The sudden sound of a doorknock made everyone jump from fight.
"Clara, are you here?"
That voice frightened them again.
Speak of the devil, it was Layfon's voice.
"I...... I'm here, come in."
"You didn't write your schedule for tonight...... Are you going to be out?"
After coming in from the living room, Layfon looked at the fourteenth platoon members in the room and spoke. He had long since felt their presences and judged that there were people in the room, but he hadn't thought they would be Shin and the rest.
"Ah, well? What should we do?"
The second half of what was a question for Shin.
"Well, uh, that's fine. We can find somewhere to eat."
Shin, who had been lying flat on the ground until just now, unconsciously rose and acted normal. His transformation speed was surprising.
When she joined the fourteenth platoon, Nina had emotionally vouched for him for whatever reason: "That senpai's an incredible person. Even though he looks like that! Despite what he looks like!" But maybe the speed at which he changed his attitude was a reason she respected Shin.
"Really? Then it'll just be Felli and I eating dinner."
"Hold on. Maybe I should stay behind to eat dinner."
"I want to stay for dinner."
"Really? I'm fine either way...... Ah!"
Layfon's expression suddenly changed, and that reaction alarmed Claribel. Had he noticed something? What was it? Her own feelings? Or the plot they had been talking about?
"That's no good, I didn't even bring out any tea."
After saying that, Layfon walked into the kitchen and started to boil water.
"Uh...... Ah, sorry."
Come to think of it, Shin and the others had come over but he hadn't prepared anything at all. Claribel's face reddened from the embarrassment of over-thinking things and from not even providing this common courtesy.
"No no, we also came empty-handed, so it's fine."
Though he said that, no one stopped Layfon from making tea. The water boiled on the gas stove whistled.
"In that case, do you want to stay for dinner?"
"Huh, can we?"
"It should be okay."
"Then thank you very much."
As the two of them had this conversation, Claribel moved to a location he couldn't see, then desperately pressured Shin's back with her gaze.
(Ask, ask! Ask!)
She used her mental force as if trying to dig a hole there. Shin's body twitched. That mental force had definitely reached him. In that case, hurry up and ask! If you don't open our mouth here, you're definitely all talk and no action. I'll call you a coward!
"............Ah~ right, Layfon."
Layfon, preparing to turn off the stove, looked at Shin.
"Before, well - didn't I introduce one of my platoon's senpai to you?"
"Uh...... Ah, right. Minaris-senpai."
Layfon answered indifferently. Claribel carefully observed his expression - nothing had changed on it at all. Layfon had a somewhat absentminded look, like normal.
"How did that go?"
"What do you mean?"
"Uh, a lot of things happened between you two, right? Didn't I say that the senpai was very aggressive when I introduced you?"
"So how was it? Did you see her amazing parts?"
The shocking confession made Claribel's entire body pale.
However, there was no shame, embarrassment, anger, or pride on Layfon's expression at all. Rather, it was as blank as always.
Actually, it was Claribel's reaction that made him take a 'what's wrong?' expression.
"Huh? Ah, well...... Rather than saying I saw, it's more like...... Senpai's clothes were very suggestive."
"Uh...... Ah, come to think of it, she had a ton of clothes. I think her family mailed them over."
"That doesn't matter. So! What happened afterwards?"
"Huh? We drank coffee and watched a movie, and then ate dinner...... That day was a bit cold, so I lent her my coat......"
"I sent her home and then went back home."
"Uh, isn't that normal? Is anything strange?"
"No, it's not strange......"
"Right. Here, the tea's ready."
"Then, I'm going to go make dinner."
"Ah, um...... thanks."
After leaving the steaming tea in front of the speechless fourteenth platoon members, Layfon left the room.
Shin said that, dazed, his eyes staring into the hallway as if pursuing Layfon's shadow.
"You know what suggestive clothes means, right? Senpai was like that, you know? She'd war things that made people think, 'she's wearing that? Can she really wear that?' Those kinds of clothes, you know? And she looked pretty suggestive, you know? And the way she acted was also really like that, you know? He was able to ignore all of that? There was someone like that next to him going 'come on anytime', but why didn't he do it?"
"Well, you wouldn't have done anything either."
Shin fell to the floor again, scathed by Teresa's ice-cold words.
Claribel stood there, a bit disappointed. Confusion and relief mixed together and kept whirling around inside her heart.
To be honest, confirming that matter was only a minor move in terms of her current goal. Even so, that fact had still brought relief as well as a sense of loss.
There was relief that nothing had happened at all, and......
"That means a half-baked effort will be ineffective against him."
Thinking carefully, Layfon had many girls around him who had feelings for him, and those girls were all very pretty, but Layfon was completely oblivious to this. Could such a thing happen with a normal guy? He should have noticed even if he didn't want to, right? Putting aside the way he responded to those feelings, normally he shouldn't be able to maintain his normal attitude.
However, Layfon maintained his normal attitude, and still wore that bland expression.
Did that mean that a half-baked effort couldn't break through that thick wall?
"Hehehe, that wall truly is tall and thick......"
"Uh, it seems like we're getting off topic again."
Tony's weak words didn't seem to reach Claribel's ears. No, it was better to say he saw things that way. A resigned atmosphere radiated from Tony after he said that, and Cody standing next to him gave off the same kind of feeling. Teresa didn't pay those words any heed because of Shin, and Shin was still collapsed on the ground.
But those words reached Claribel's ears.
Of course it was important to get to his heart, but surpassing him was more important. That matter had nothing to do with male-female relationships, and to Claribel, it was fate that she couldn't ignore. It was true that male-female relationships were involved in why it had to be him, so to be honest it was very troublesome.
"Hehehe, I'm feeling motivated."
In any case, nothing had happened between him and that senpai. Since she had succeeded in confirming that fact, she ought to take it as a good thing.
All that was left was to lure out Layfon's motivation.
"Come, let's continue our strategy meeting!"
"I still really think it should be a nighttime attack!"
"Uh, we've already talked enough about that topic!"
Teresa spoke dramatically and passionately, but Claribel bluntly interrupted her.
After making a sharp correction towards the right direction (as this had originally been the main topic), Teresa kept berating Claribel as a 'traitor' and 'coward', and at that point Shin stealthily slipped out of the room.
"Man, it's hot."
Shin felt as if he were about to drown, engulfed by the heat from being cooped up in the room and the flaring emotions. Shin passed through the doorway and walked into the cold air of the hallway, managing to regain his composure.
"But the effects were better than I imagined."
Shin murmured this as he inhaled, then thought about whether to return to the room.
......He didn't want to go back right now if possible.
Shin was already very confused, and had already exhausted himself, and could vaguely perceive that he was about to lose it. Right now he wanted to prolong his time.
"Well, things will be tough from tomorrow onwards if I ran away."
After all, no matter how that atmosphere was, it was still a very important meeting for the fourteenth platoon.
"Ah, but I don't have to go in right away."
It would be best if the temperature inside the room cooled down a bit. After deciding this, Shin started walked unsteadily towards the stairs.
This was a very old building full of a lonesome atmosphere, but traces that the new residents were doing their best could be seen everywhere. Shin advanced through the hallway that was old yet kept very clean. After he noticed the name card that he was looking for, he knocked on the door.
"Who is it?"
"Sorry to bother."
Shin grasped the door handle. It wasn't locked. At the same time as the sound of a response reached him, Shin pushed open the door.
"Huh? What's wrong?"
After peeking out from the kitchen, Layfon looked confusedly at shin.
"I came to get some fresh air."
The living room here was quite large, as if its price came at the cost of inaccessibility. But other than the tables meant for many people, there was only a single lonesome sofa placed here. Shin sat on the sofa and then leaned back as far as he could.
"My, that girl of yours has quite the personality."
Maybe instantly realizing that he was talking about Claribel, Layfon just put on a faint smile.
"But her combat skills are the real deal."
"I realized that long ago."
The competition to welcome the new students along with the other competition that had been held let Shin sufficiently understand that truth.
"It seems like she came to us in order to fight with you. Well, things will be interesting from now on, huh?"
"Lay the Flash."
"......Please don't call me that."
Layfon pleaded with an expression of true loathing.
"You hate it that much?"
"Isn't it very embarrassing?"
"Then what about us?"
In front of Layfon was the man who had declared himself 'Shin the Falcon' to the audience on the competition battlefield.
"Well, it's fine if you understand."
The idea had come from someone else, but he had been the one who decided to do this. Even so, Shin had worried about whether he had made the wrong choice before he did it, and had constantly been in a cold sweat.
"Honestly, sometimes I feel that it's very embarrassing."
"Then why do you still do it? Captain was practically crying."
The captain Layfon spoke of was Nina, of course. The diligent and upright Nina would definitely be unable to understand those ways. The other platoon captains had all expressed their protest as well.
Then, why did he do this?
That was a natural question. But there was still something he couldn't talk about, so Shin couldn't give the answer so easily. However, if the embarrassment was the only negligible resistance stopping him, he would be able to tell him.
"I'm fine with telling you, but you have to agree to something."
"You have to fight seriously with Clara."
Layfon, who had been cooking in the kitchen while looking at Shin, stopped after he said this. He put on a troubled smile. What was the reason this guy didn't want to fight? Shin felt a bit interested. However, Shin didn't pursue that curiosity to its roots. Layfon would have long since told Claribel about his reasons if he could. Maybe Claribel already knew that, and Layfon also realized that she knew that, but the two of them believed both believed they shouldn't tell the other about it.
"Well, I don't know what you plan on doing, but she won't stop if you don't fight with her."
After making that vague response, Layfon moved his gaze back to the kitchen. He didn't look up at Shin. Maybe Layfon was conscious of Shin's presence in his mind, but he seemed to have no intention of restarting their interrupted conversation.
Did he like it quiet, or was he just completely ignoring him?
It was the first time Shin had carefully observed Layfon like this. It wasn't that Shin had no interest in what kind of a person Layfon was, but his Military Artist self had kept him inadvertently focused on Layfon's overwhelming strength, and hence other parts had been obscured. Maybe it had been enough knowing that the two of them went to the same school, or that Layfon was one of the members of the many competing platoons. Even if he investigated his strength and tried to find weak points, he wouldn't investigate his behavior. Even if he investigated Layfon's personal matters and noticed that his weak points were there, how would he attack those weak points to obtain victory? That was what Shin thought.
How much meaning was there in the filed-away Academy City results? If he didn't have any strength consistent with his results, everything would end up coming back to him.
However, right now he had to bring forth this person's strength in a competition.
If doing this would inspire Claribel or even his entire platoon, then understanding Layfon was something he had to do as the platoon captain.
Okay, then how should he spark this person's motivation? Claribel, who had overlapping interests with him, might not be able to think of a good answer.
In that case, then it's up to me to do it.
Shin thought to himself as he considered what to say.
"Anyway, are you not interested?"
"Are you not interested in the reason I did something like that?"
"No, it's because......"
"Ah, will you promise? I'd be really happy if you were willing...... But I'll be lonely if you just shut your mouth completely. Do you really have no interest in your senpai's deep thoughts? Isn't that mean? Yeah, it's really mean. It's really mean to have no interest in your senpai. Is it good to have such a kouhai? No, it's not. Nina would definitely be crying in heaven."
"Uh, Captain hasn't died."
Shin looked at Layfon's confused expression, heaving a sigh that even he himself felt was annoying. Would these kinds of methods be effective? He observed his kouhai's expression. Layfon hadn't gotten angry about his concerns as a senpai, he just had on a confused expression.
"Uh, then can I ask for the reasons?"
"I~ feel like your question is very forced."
"Th......That's not true."
A slight atmosphere of irritation radiated from Layfon's flustered appearance. It looked like now was the moment for him to strike.
"Guess there's no helping it."
Though he said that, Shin still spoke somewhat dramatically:
"Well, it's a kind of way to improve our mental states."
"Improve your mental states?"
The phrase he hadn't heard before made Layfon tilt his head and put on a confused expression.
"It's a term I made up for now."
Shin smiled wryly and continued speaking:
"Our platoon members, well, they're a bit plain. I'm not talking about power, but rather appearance and personality."
Perhaps thinking of Teresa and the others, Layfon looked slightly upwards at the ceiling.
"They're all at a disadvantage because of their personalities, but they're very strong. Even if I left them alone, it wouldn't really affect our platoon results, but......"
After coming this far, Shin felt a bit at a loss for words. It really was very embarrassing to say such things.
"Well, but, if I just graduated like this I'd wonder 'is this alright', you know?"
"I'd graduate from Zuellni and then return to my home city. I've grown in terms of Military Arts. Well, that's not bad. Everyone braves some danger to leave their hometown, so I have to progress in Military Arts at the very least."
"But wouldn't it be boring if that were all?"
"If it were just progress in Military Art, then wouldn't coming here honestly be meaningless? Maybe there are more suitable places out there, right? Your hometown Grendan has such powerful Military Artists. Though I don't know if any such places exist, if there are places that specialize in training foreign Military Artists, wouldn't it be better to travel there instead of Zuellni?"
"Uh...... There isn't anywhere that specializes in those kinds of things."
"That's just as an example, it's not important right now that there aren't actually any of those places."
"Then after traveling, and after Military Arts, everything will be boring. Since I came all the way here, of course I'd want to be happy I came to this place, right?"
"It's fine to create memories that make me think that way, but I feel that's not enough."
"So that's the reason for your 'improvement'?"
"Yeah, I don't want to completely deny their personalities, but sometimes being like that puts us at a disadvantage. That's why I'm improving them with that method."
"That's the method?"
"That's the method."
Layfon had on a strange expression. It wasn't clear whether he understood or not. Shin though Layfon would have been more moved, so this expression made him feel regretful.
"What, these are words that would move Nina to tears."
"Yeah, maybe. But I'm very surprised."
Layfon said this, and Shin felt as if some unknown emotion flickered over his face.
Shin didn't know the true identity of that emotion.
But perhaps it was the thing holding Layfon back right now - he thought.
"Well, if possible, I'd want to treat the most antisocial person of our platoon, but that guy's hard to deal with."
"Ah, you don’t believe me. Our Psychokinesist has a pretty strong case of antisocialism, I even feel like he shouldn't have come to an Academy City."
"Yeah. Well, he's just a shut-in, ant it seems like he doesn't actually hate lively festivals, so maybe his life is surprisingly fulfilling. Maybe that guy doesn't need to change."
Layfon showed an expression of not knowing how to respond, and Shin looked at him and said with a smile:
"Well, you should enjoy your campus life a bit too."
After stating those words, Shin stood up. After saying "I'm looking forward to dinner" to the Layfon who was unsure whether to escort him back or not, he left the room.
Right, it would be a shame if he didn't properly enjoy it.
Shin thought so. He had come all the way here, so it would be a shame if he only had painful memories. Even if there was no pain, it would be just as much of a shame if there was nothing worth remembering.
Shin had a dream.
That was - he hoped his platoon members would say 'that guy was terrible' when they thought of him. Of course, he didn't intend for them to say those words out of hatred. Either saying it with a wry smile or while feeling a warm nostalgia would be fine.
Though his methods were a bit messy, Shin still hoped that they would remember him in their hearts as a good memory. Was that wish excessive? Or selfish?
"But the deed's almost done."
Shin had made his platoon perform such an exaggerated act in front of an audience, so of course he couldn't say something like 'I guess that's enough', nor did he plan to. Fortunately, the platoon members hadn't expressed their opposition. Had they accepted the methods, or were they already resigned to it, or did they just think of him as a joker?
"It's a bit unsightly to show my true thoughts."
But...... Well, even that was fine. Even if it was a bit unsightly, as long it allowed him to reach his goal, it was alright.
"Shameful, yet very cool."
That was something that the captain at the time had said when he entered the platoon. Though Shin hadn't paid attention to it at the time, he had thought of that saying after the person graduated, and now he could understand its implications.
Though he had more or less mixed it with his own interpretation, that didn't matter. Maybe it was something that would end up creating memories if he handed it down.
Shin thought of the distant past and the future, a mischievous smile on his face as he walked back to Claribel's room.
He felt the presence of someone walking up the stairs.
Shin thought that a platoon member had come to find him after being absent from the room.
But that wasn't the case.
"......What are you doing?"
Though the other person's tone was flat, she expressed a deep suspicion.
"Ah, we were having a gathering in Clara's room."
It was Felli.
Felli was in front of him.
"A fathering? Your platoon?"
Felli raised an eyebrow.
"......Is it for 'that'?"
At this time, there was no need to ask what the 'that' Felli spoke of was.
"So it is for 'that'."
The killing intent her voice carried rendered Shin unable to fight back.
Hadn't Felli decided the idea herself - or rather, the nicknames and the clothes...... Shin really wanted to say that, but even so.
Shin's words were meaningless before the silent pressure.
"Please sit over there."
Shin couldn't defy Felli's words. As for why, it was because she was Felli, and Shin was Member Number 4 of the Felli Loss Fan Club. Shin, who took pride in being numbered in the single digits, couldn't disobey her words.
"Think about things a little before acting, alright?"
"Don't you think everyone would feel ashamed after you did such a thing?'
Felli's anger didn't seem to be stopping.
"......Ah, found him."
Had she deliberately chosen this moment? She had really picked an unfortunate time to interrupt.
Claribel, along with Teresa and the others, showed up being Felli's back. Seeing Shin's expression, they instantly displayed anger, but their expressions changed after observing Shin's situation from behind Felli's back.
The figure of the platoon captain as he knelt in the corner left them speechless.
The captain's shameful appearance left them dumbstruck.
"......What are you smiling about?"
Shin noticed that he was smiling when Felli said this.
"......I'm not smiling............"
"Huh, is that............"
"So the captain had those interests......"
Teresa and Claribel huddled together, looking fearfully at Shin as if they were looking at something dirty.
Shin touched his cheek. It was very hot.
This...... Could this feeling be--
No, he felt like he had never felt more pained mentally. However, no matter how mad she got, he was doing all of this for his goals, definitely not to put the spotlight on her. Though he had made up a nickname for her, in the end she was the one who had named him, and he hadn't planned on making her real name public. So even if he endured her anger, there was no need to reflect or be scared.
Even so, he was still kneeling here like this. The reason was because he was a single-digit member of the Felli Loss Fan Club, so he could only dutifully endure her anger.
As for being willing, or even happy about it......
......That was what he thought, but--
"Wh......What's up with that face......"
As Shin felt shaken, Felli's embarrassed tone gave him the final blow. Her poker face had crumbled somewhat. Did that mean that his current level of disgustingness was enough to even break through a Psychokinesist's special poker face?
This can't be the start of a new world for me, right?
Could I have awakened at this kind of time?
Shin was speechless.
"Uwah, what should we do......"
Claribel looked at Shin like she were looking at garbage.
Teresa wore an expression of despair.
Felli was speechless.
Even Tony and Cody kept him at arm's length.
"I didn't think you were interested in being abused......"
As if Claribel's words were the final blow, everyone's ice-cold gazes became chilling blades that pierced through Shin.
But, even that......
(Will my platoon be alright......)
Shin looked up at the sky.
However, there was only an old ceiling there.
Translator's Notes and References
- I couldn't think of an appropriate term. This phrase is supposed to represent someone who makes suggestive/perverse comments towards women, but who doesn't actually have the guts to do anything more.