Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume23 Fire Up Spirits2
Fire Up Spirits (The Conclusion Arc, or the Insatiable Futile Challenge)
His nose itched.
Layfon was holding things in both his hands, so he chose a place that would be affected as little as possible and then sneezed loudly.
Felli, who stood next to him with murderous intent, glared at Layfon even more angrily.
This was the kitchen of Layfon's room. Layfon was making dinner, and Felli was next to him holding a vegetable peeler challenging her peeling technique.
"Uh, it's best not to use too much force......"
Layfon proposed this in a weak tone to Felli, who glared at him and then continued peeling. The peeler was such an easy-to-use tool, but Felli glared at the vegetables with an extremely impatient expression.
"Are you telling me to relax?"
"You can definitely relax."
Felli's hand that held the vegetables trembled, her face a bit troubled. Next to her, Layfon continued making his own food. The vegetables she was dealing with were going to be used for salad, so they could make it even if he peeled them after finishing his work.
But, what was Felli planning, suddenly saying that she wanted to learn to cook?
Maybe this the challenge Felli had spoken about, possibilities other than being a Psychokinesist. After thinking that, Layfon felt that he ought to do something too.
But even now, he still hadn't thought of what to actually do.
On the other side of things, this was Claribel's room. It only got a bit cool here even at night, but it felt like the temperature indoors was abnormally low.
The reason was because of the gazes of extreme contempt that Claribel and Teresa were shooting out.
Shin, who was kneeling on the ground without even being forced to, groaned beneath the gazes of the two of them. Tony and Cody behind him had no clue what to do.
"Well, it's fine to be a fan."
"It feels wrong, but there's no helping it. After all, that's a question of your individual preferences."
Teresa also nodded reluctantly.
"Maybe it's just an interest of yours."
"Yeah, even though it feels wrong!"
Teresa especially stressed that point.
"As long as you don't do anything illegal, no one can say anything about your interests. After all, there's no evidence you committed a crime, and my teacher said 'don't let guys hold it in for too long', so you might as well satisfy your urges."
"It feels wrong, though!"
Teresa kept stressing that point, her expression seeming to have accumulated a great deal of resentment.
"But I wish you could choose the right time and place."
"It would be nice if you choose the right partner too!"
Teresa was practically enraged.
Of course, this was because of Shin's shameful display from before.
At Nina's request, Felli had once helped the fourteenth platoon change their image. Shin had openly used the nicknames and outfits from that time - Felli had never ever thought he would actually use them - and had even made up the nickname 'Silver Angel' for Felli on his own. She had been quite angry about that, so she had interrogated Shin.
At the time, Shin had worn a raptured, intoxicated expression. The two of them were berating him for that.
Claribel put on an expression that suggested she still wanted to say things, but after opening her mouth and moving her gaze, she sighed deeply.
"Well, whatever. Even if the captain is a pervert, it doesn't change his power."
"It has to do with his humanity."
Teresa, who hadn't yet cooled off, continued scolding him. With every word, Shin's body seemed to shrink a bit.
"We...... We'll follow you, Captain!"
"You...... You guys......"
Tony and Cody quietly comforted Shin.
The three of them wept loudly, but then Teresa glared at them with a terrifying expression, so the three of them huddled together and trembled.
"......Let's return to the main topic."
Claribel coughed and drew in everyone's attention.
"Give it up. This platoon's captain and the person you love is a pervert."
Claribel consoled Teresa, who had fallen to the ground, as she looked at the males.
Shin couldn't even retort. Did he not have the energy, or had he already given up?
Maybe there wouldn't be any results from today.
Actually, she was a bit...... tired.
"Why don't we just go back."
After Claribel murmured this, Shin first showed an expression of surprise, then a relieved expression immediately emerged on his face. Though this reaction made Claribel feel irritated, she didn't feel that they could think of any good ideas if they continued.
"Let's go back."
Claribel declared that again, and then ended the meeting.
A large amount of food was placed on the dining table in Layfon's room.
Sitting around it were three people - Layfon, Felli, and Claribel.
"Why did they go back?"
Layfon's troubled smile made Claribel cringe. Layfon had made more food because the fourteenth platoon had been going to eat dinner with them. Moreover, because Layfon had made extra food, the amount of food was so much that it even left the two Military Artists known for their appetites speechless.
"We'll have to finish off this food for breakfast tomorrow, and make it into bentos."
"Then please make some for me too."
"Yeah, I was planning to."
Layfon nodded readily. Rather than feeling sheepish, Claribel actually felt somewhat happy. Just then, Felli glanced at Layfon, maintaining silence.
"Felli, you want a bento too?"
"Is there none for me?"
"Huh? Th......There is."
Though they were classified as Military Artists, Psychokinesists didn't eat that much, and Felli looked like a particularly light eater. Because of that, even Claribel could understand that answer, but Felli's unhappy tone flustered Layfon.
"Then please make some."
Felli ate silently again. Layfon put on a relieved expression, but Claribel didn't really pay attention to his reaction.
Had the two of them been a bit too close recently?
Was she just thinking too much? Claribel had only learned about Felli's existence after coming to Zuellni, and she didn't know about Felli's and Layfon's relationship. Nin and Meishen might be interested in Layfon, and Claribel had immediately realized their relationships, but she couldn't get a feel for Felli.
The only thing Claribel was sure of was that Felli held feelings for Layfon. When she heard that Shin had introduced his senpai to Layfon, Claribel had been worried that some physical relationship or other had happened, but Layfon was incredibly dense, so she shouldn't have to worry about such a thing happening between him and Felli......
(I can't be careless.)
She felt like Felli might be the one to end up with Layfon. Nina seemed to not realize her own feelings, and Meishen lost out due to her own personality, so she couldn't shorten the distance between them.
(No no no, I don't need to think about such things right now.)
Claribel mentally shook her head as her thoughts spun towards love again. Though that matter was very important, it was another matter, and there was a proper order to things. She had to become strong for her goals. There was no time to be confused, and if she were confused, she might end up not even being able to speak of love.
After thinking that way, her mood slowly worsened.
Even though it was another matter, the fact that Layfon was unaware that he was wall she wanted to surpass made Claribel feel angry.
She wanted to say it.
Though she wanted to, she didn't. Because she had decided this was the problem she should overcome. Also, if she told Layfon about it so readily, and it led to him wanting to help her and not want to fight her, then he would hold back even more when he fought her.
If she told him, it would be after she fought with him for real.
Claribel planned on eating a bit more than usual to deal with the four extra portions of Layfon's food, but then she noticed that the salad tasted a bit different from usual. Claribel was very keen about taste, but tonight she had been blinded by the amount of food, so she hadn't paid that much attention to it.
Layfon's food was generally very good. If she tried paying attention to it, she could clearly notice the difference between the salad and the other food.
What was the difference? Though the dressing was the same as always, Claribel felt like it tasted different.
"Um...... This salad--"
"Ah, you noticed? Felli-senpai made that."
Did you mess it up - Claribel hastily swallowed the words she was going to say, then looked at Felli.
Claribel remembered that Felli couldn't cook. No, although she had never heard Felli say that, Felli gave off that kind of feeling.
Also, her name never appeared in the list of people who were to cook.
To be fair, Claribel herself wasn't good enough to make food for others, so she didn't plan on criticizing Felli for that. People from Military Artist lineages like Claribel and Felli often had very wealthy family environments, so there were probably many who had never cooked before. Felli didn't seem to have come from a Military Artist family, but she gave off a wealthy, upper-class feeling, so it wasn't strange that she couldn't cook.
"......Sorry, I didn't make it well."
Felli apologized flatly, yet somewhat unhappily. Maybe she could also taste the difference, or perhaps it displeased her.
"No, it's fine."
Though she knew it was useless, Claribel could only reply that way. This wasn't her home, nor did she have a reason to belittle the cooking of others.
It would be another matter if it were inedible, but at least she could eat this salad.
"But Senpai, you've improved."
"Because it's edible."
"......It looks like you don't want to live anymore."
Layfon fell from his chair with a crash. It seemed like his shin had been kicked. Layfon writhed in pain on the floor. It seemed to hurt very much.
Claribel mused to herself as she watched that scene.
This time, Claribel was the one to make tea after they finished eating. If it were just making tea, she was capable.
After placing the finished tea on a tray, Layfon said "Right......" as he took out snacks.
In that instant......
As Layfon was about to walk past, Claribel changed the hand she held the tray with and struck out at him.
Layfon wordlessly stopped, staring at Claribel's karate chop as it passed by in front of him.
That displeased Claribel greatly.
"Why did you dodge?"
"I would have died if I didn't dodge."
"But you took Felli-senpai's kick."
"Because that was a surprise attack."
"I did a surprise attack too, so please get hit."
"There would be a hold through my body if I did."
After speaking, Layfon looked up at his own bangs. Some of his hair had been cut off, and cut strands fluttered in midair. Layfon reached out to wave away the strands, keeping them from falling on the snacks.
How annoying. She had just put a bit of strength into that cute move, but Layfon had responded to it so mechanically. How annoying.
"I request a change in treatment."
After bringing the tea to the living room, Claribel brought up this request.
"What does that mean?"
Layfon put on a strange expression, while Felli raised an eyebrow.
"In other words, I want to say you treat me too rudely."
"I don't think that's true."
"No, you do!"
Claribel flatly rejected Layfon's statement.
"I feel like you're much ruder with me than you are with Felli-senpai or Meishen-san."
"......Captain isn't included in there?"
"She's very sturdy, so it's fine."
She also flatly rejected Felli's question.
"......Oh? Who are you calling sturdy?"
A voice coming from behind her made Claribel jump in surprise.
Standing behind her was Nina with a somewhat stiff expression, in a place she hadn't been previously.
"N......Nina-senpai? When did you come back?'
"I opened the door for her, didn't you see?"
In that case, Layfon had opened the door when he went to get the snacks just now? Claribel hadn't noticed her at all.
"I come back while practicing Sakkei. It looks like I surprised you, Clara."
Claribel tried smoothing over Nina's ice-cold tone with a laugh.
"Incidentally, Layfon noticed."
Claribel hadn't noticed because Layfon's movements had been extremely natural when he went to open the door for Nina. But Layfon had been able to notice that in an ordinary state, but Claribel hadn't noticed in an ordinary state. That meant that there was a large power gap between the two of them, as expected.
(No no no, it's because I was focused on surprise-attacking Layfon, so I didn't notice.)
She tried convincing herself with that reason, but immediately noticed that it couldn't overturn the facts.
In other words, she had shown an opening.
"Well, that really shows you're rude to me."
Claribel kept going after Layfon in order to pull them back to the topic and to avoid Nina's anger.
"It's because Nina used Sakkei when she came back but you still noticed her presence. And you avoided my surprise attack so easily, but didn't avoid Felli-senpai's kick. Why's that? As I thought, Layfon's really rude towards me and Nina. Right, Nina-senpai?"
"What!? Even I'm getting involved?"
Nina leaned back in surprise at this unexpected development.
"Because it's actually like that, right? You endured Felli-senpai's kick. Why was that?"
"Uh, Felli's a Psychokinesist, so her muscles are the same as an ordinary person's...... Right?"
"Nina said. But her voice became smaller and smaller, perhaps because she wasn't confident.
"Huh? What's wrong?"
Layfon also faltered under Nina's stare.
"Is that true?"
"Huh...... Uh, probably, yeah."
"What do you mean, 'probably'!?"
Nina's shout made the air vibrate, and Layfon instantly straightened himself.
"Felli's muscles are the same as an ordinary person's, so you held back. Is that right? Layfon!"
"Uh...... I'm not sure."
"What do you mean, 'you're not sure'?"
"It's true that I can't dodge Felli......senpai's kick, but being able to detect Captain's presence, and dodging Clara's surprise attack were both, uh...... reflex, I didn't do them on purpose."
"Reflex, you say......"
Layfon cringed as Nina glared fiercely at him. Good, that was the right feeling - Claribel mentally made a fist. Even if Layfon wasn't aware of it, Claribel couldn't treat Layfon like Nina did because of the relationship she had cultivated when they had been in Grendan.
Even if Layfon was stronger than Nina, the captain-subordinate relationship could make Layfon yield mentally to Nina.
Good, I'll use Nina to rout Layfon like this, and then I'll use everything I can to ready the battlefield.
Those thoughts collapsed with a surprised sound after Nina's words.
"He said it was reflex, right? There's no use in blaming him for that."
"But that's why it's serious!"
"But there's no use in fixing that problem."
"In that case, you think it doesn't matter, Nina-senpai?"
Nina took up a thoughtful posture.
Nina was deep in thought. She put her hand on her chin and closed her eyes, making Claribel hopeful about turning the tables.
The silence continued.
"......Captain, have you not eaten dinner?"
"Oh my, I was so busy training that I forgot to eat."
After Layfon asked this, Nina shook her head sheepishly.
(So she was just pretending to think just now? She was actually so hungry she couldn't think at all?)
Stunned, Claribel stared at Nina, who wore an embarrassed smile.
"There's food left, I'll go warm it up for you."
"Huh, wait...... Um, Nina-senpai?"
"What about the matter we were talking about?"
Claribel's question caused Nina to look up at the ceiling for a long while.
"Yeah, there's no helping it."
"And it would be a pain for me if Layfon continued becoming loose."
"Hmm, uh...... Yeah, maybe."
"Also, it's enviable that he can do those things so naturally."
"Uh, uuu...... That's true."
Not good, she was completely in a Military Artist mindset. Though Claribel wasn't qualified to dismiss others for that, she still felt despaired.
"But as I thought, it's still......"
When she got that far, the smell of the reheated food wafted over to them.
"Thanks for waiting."
Nina walked to the dining table with a spring in her step, not a single piece of her demeanor during her talk with Claribel visible from behind her.
(How should I say it......)
Claribel thought as she looked at Nina, who sat on the sofa quietly eating food, and Layfon, who was responsible for providing the food.
(Everyone's being tamed.)
She meant that Layfon was taming everyone using food, especially Nina. The dorm head Selina had been responsible for making food when she had lived in a dorm before. Her cooking definitely hadn't been bad, but unfortunately the portions had only been suited for ordinary people, so it had been a bit lacking for a Military Artist.
Layfon said that he would had been scolded when he made too much food before, but that was only because he cooked for ordinary people. If he cooked based on his own portions, it would be too much for ordinary people.
Layfon's food wasn't as good as Meishen's, at least from an eating standpoint - comparing things like taste, texture, or depth.
However, big eaters would prefer the food Layfon made. They didn't get tired of eating his food, though his portions were large.
Nina had been completely tamed by that food. Nina had been very engrossed in training recently, so it wouldn't be a lie to say she was always hungry. Layfon's food was shockingly effective there.
(Not good, I need to realize that I'm isolated.)
Nina, who self-trained excessively, had become a demon of appetite. As expected, would it be impossible to make her into an ally?
(Ah, but, I she can't be careless either.)
That referred to her strength as a Military Artist. Claribel had continuously helped Nina with her individual training since she came to Zuellni, but her strength was completely different from before. That didn't just refer to her mental strength, which was enough to control the Haikizoku. To efficiently use the strength the Haikizoku carried, she had to improve her own Kei flow and Kei pathways along with her body's fundamental abilities. Nina's Kei flow and Kei pathways, which were generally recognized as being very difficult to develop, had grown quite a bit, and her body's abilities had improved by leaps and bounds. Maybe that day's intense battle had seeded something inside her body.
Was she wasting her time running in place by focusing purely on Layfon like this?
(No way...... I'm training myself too!)
A competitive spirit towards Nina had grown in Claribel's mind, and she had also affirmed herself of this. Actually, Claribel was carrying out individual training, but she felt like she was progressing very slowly.
But that wasn't only since she had come to Zuellni; it had been that way in Grendan too.
Slow growth with limited progress; that matter always weighed heavily on Claribel's mind.
Claribel wanted to fight at full power against Layfon, who she had always viewed as her goal, in order to destroy that wall.
(Not good...... I feel so impatient.)
The sensation of impatience burning her whole body agonized Claribel.
She wanted to loudly yell 'I can't go on like this'. But she couldn't do that. Claribel was conscious of a silent pressure assaulting her back. The person that pressure originated from wasn't in this room. However, it wouldn't be surprising if she could hear all the conversations here. Claribel realized that she was that kind of entity.
She looked completely harmless, but actually she could easily eliminate Claribel and the others. She could easily crush the leisurely scene playing in front of her eyes.
Claribel and the others hadn't informed Layfon about her, so she probably had no reason to monitor him.
The reason Claribel had to become strong was also to oppose her.
Layfon had made food for the hungry Nina with a laid-back expression. Seeing that scene, Claribel had naturally felt helpless. She couldn't help but think - what if she were just over-thinking things.
What if the situation wasn't actually that urgent. Maybe everything had been perfectly resolved back then in Grendan, and the world would continue on like it had always done.
What if she was actually harmless just like she looked, and everything was just her own misunderstanding...... Maybe things might be that way.
(That's too optimistic.)
Claribel immediately gave up on the thoughts that flitted through her mind. Of course she would be very happy if things could be that way, but reality wasn't that beautiful. Nothing could be resolved if she didn't do anything. Even if someone did something, it definitely wouldn't be for her benefit. Since it wouldn't be for her benefit, she couldn't expect what she wished for.
Only if she obtained victory with her own hands would what she obtained from it have meaning.
(I need to think of how to deal with her, or......)
However, she couldn't think of any good ways.
As Claribel troubled over this, she spotted Felli's figure in the corner of her vision.
(Would she have any good methods?)
Claribel had always felt Felli hard to approach and had avoided her until now, but she was the person closes to Layfon at the moment. Maybe she knew a way that Claribel couldn't think of.
"......What is it?"
Felli looked over with a suspicious gaze. Claribel asked in a voice that she made as cheerful yet surreptitious as possible:
"Is there anything that could make Layfon be serious?"
Felli's expression changed as if she were enduring a headache.
"Felli-senpai, you thought of Lay the Flash too, right?"
"......So you really heard us talking back then."
That was referring to what happened during the battle for Claribel.
"Because the competition was very boring."
After deciding to join the fourteenth platoon, Claribel had immediately declared war against Layfon. However, she had used the name 'Lay the Flash' at that time. It was a nickname for Layfon that Felli had made as a joke, and she had never called him that afterwards. Claribel knew that name because she had secretly listened to the conversation between Layfon and the others in the spectator seats.
"I came to Zuellni because I want to fight against him for real. Please lend me your wisdom."
"Why do I......"
When Claribel murmured this, Felli's body shuddered.
"We'll call Felli-senpai that when we fight the seventeenth platoon."
"You...... You really are......"
"I won't hesitate to get anyone involved to accomplish my goals."
After reading the hesitation that Felli didn't reveal, Claribel smiled slightly.
"So please help me."
"I don't know about that."
"Then should I just kidnap you?"
"Something like 'Hahahaha, tonight Felli Loss will be reborn as the Silver Angel!', to make Layfon say a heated line like 'Don't even think about it!'. That's the weakness of a female protagonist, right?"
"Didn't I say not to call me that?"
"Then we'll make the setting so you're not the Silver Angel anymore."
"Please don't talk about settings, alright?"
Noticing that she was talking like Shin, Claribel shut her mouth.
But no matter how she immersed herself in that world, she really couldn't see the black-clothed Princess of Darkness as her real self. That meant she was able to grasp that much common sense.
She also noticed that on some level, it was just an act.
In that case, it would be a shame not to have fun with it.
The excitement from the act offsetting the pressure of reality definitely had meaning to Claribel.
"How is it? Do you want to be a captured princess?"
"No, I've already experienced it, so I really don't want to do that on purpose."
Though Claribel didn't know, Felli had once been taken hostage during the battle against the Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang.
"My conscience won't permit me to do that again."
"Even if it's an act?"
"Even if it's an act."
She could feel from Felli's words that it was meaningless to pressure her to do it again, so Claribel immediately changed strategies.
"Then what do you think will make Layfon fight seriously, Senpai?"
"Well...... He would fight seriously for anyone."
Felli came to that conclusion after thinking for a while.
"It doesn't have to be me, even you or the Captain would work too."
"Yeah. Even his classmate - uh...... I forgot his name, that fat guy, or even Sharnid, I think Layfon would fight seriously for."
'Even you'. That part made Claribel a bit happy, but the following words made that feeling crumble.
"You mean anyone would do?"
"As long as he knows them and he thinks it's necessary."
Claribel groaned after Felli simply and concisely asserted this. It was certainly possible for things to have turned out like this if he were such a Good Samaritan.
"......Meaning it would be fine if I were the one kidnapped?"
"Wouldn't that be good?"
"......Why do I have to sacrifice myself?"
"Because I'm already weary of those things."
"It just gets worse and worse."
Felli let out a long, deep sigh, and Claribel inadvertently felt that there were some forbidden reasons there that she shouldn't touch.
"A......Anyways, that plan is worth a try."
"......Do you really think so?"
"Huh? Felli-senpai, weren't you the one who said it could work?'
"I'm not sure if your acting will succeed."
"But, there's no one here who can actually kidnap me."
"That would be completely unrealistic."
"Please wait, my thinking brain is starting to spin wildly."
"A captured female protagonist - that will be the key to make him serious, and then I'll fight with him and get a happy ending. That's the kind of story I'll create."
"You might be thinking too optimistically."
Her tone was clearly mixed with emotions of resignation, but Claribel just continued thinking, unconcerned with her response. Layfon was continuously pushing Nina towards a boundless appetite, so she had to separate Nina from Layfon and then pull Layfon, who recently had slowly been becoming a master of the house, back to the path of Military Arts. That was the goal of the plan, which was also the strategy to let Claribel surpass Layfon and advance on the road to glory. Claribel would complete it.
"Yeah. Felli-senpai, I want to use your Psychokinesis to contact someone."
Claribel made that request after pulling the dubious Felli somewhere else. After saying the name of that someone, Felli put on a blatant expression of loathing.
After the flake carried over that person's cry of surprise, Claribel immediately gave that person instructions. That person became even more confused, but Claribel announced the strategy they were going to carry out, ignoring Felli's look as it became colder and colder.
"Thanks for the food!"
"It wasn't much."
Satisfied, Nina put her hands together, while Layfon smiled naturally. Nina had pretty much eaten all the food he thought he had made too much of, so he would be able to clear off the rest of the food by making it into breakfast or bentos.
"I'll wash the dishes. Layfon, you go take a break."
"Huh? No, it's alright."
"It's not good for me to just eat."
"Captain, you paid for the ingredients too."
"But I didn't put in any work."
"Uh, that's true, but......"
"......Don't worry, I washed dishes when I lived in the dorm."
"As I thought, you were worried about the dishes."
After brushing over Nina's glare with a smile, Layfon decided to wipe the table.
Just then, Nina walked back with a hard-to-describe expression.
"Huh? Felli-senpai, where's Clara?"
"I don't know."
"Huh? But you just left with her......"
Though Layfon had been making food for Nina, he had still picked up on everything happening in the room. He knew that Claribel had said something to Felli, and then the two of them had moved to the hallway.
Layfon only heard the sound of a door closing. In that case, did it mean Claribel had gone back?
"She should have at least said something."
Nina muttered. Layfon returned a "yeah", but felt that something was amiss. However, he didn't deliberately up his senses to try searching for Claribel's footsteps. Had she gone to do individual training, or had she returned to her room? Though it was rare for her to leave without saying anything, it wouldn't be strange for her to go back to her room at this time.
Just as Layfon was thinking this, he picked up a suspicious movement from outside.
It was the presence of someone moving strangely.
The presence slipped around to the building's wall near the balcony, then jumped up.
A thief? And a Military Artist?
"Huh, Felli-senpai, why did you open the balcony window?"
"......Because it would be troublesome if it got broken."
Felli left after unlocking the window. She didn't walk into the balcony, she just unlocked the window and left. Layfon didn't understand why she was doing that, but the presence landed on the balcony after leaping up.
There was one presence...... No, two.
There was one more who was using stronger Sakkei.
That word flashed through Layfon's mind.
But he couldn't feel any hostility.
So were they not enemies?
Then what were they?
......As Layfon thought this, the person outside opened the window Felli had unlocked with great force.
The laugh that entered the room put Layfon at a loss for words.
Nina made a confused sound from where she was washing dishes.
Felli, who had moved to a corner of the living room before things happened, sighed.
Without the calmness that came from understanding the situation, Layfon had no choice but to face the facts before him without hesitating.
"......Are you doing?"
Layfon puzzled over what to say as he asked.
"This is a declaration of war......"
The man balanced himself on the rail of the balcony as he spoke, the hem of his black clothes blending into the colors of the night.
"Lay the Flash!"
The man - that's right, Shin the Falcon - pointed at Layfon as if to hide his somewhat embarrassed expression.
"Uh, hey...... Could you not call me that?"
"Heheheh...... Is now the time to say such things?"
An expression of embarrassment that Shin couldn't blot out spread to his cheeks as he let out an intentional laugh.
"Heheheh...... In that case, how about this!"
Shin fluttered his coat, and there was......
Claribel, wearing her Princess of Darkness outfit. However, she wore a downcast expression, and there was no longer any trace of her normally self-confident smile.
"Um...... What are you doing?"
Layfon didn't understand what Claribel and Shin were doing. Nina didn't say anything from behind him, and a sense of resignation radiated from Felli.
Layfon along fell into confusion.
"Layfon...... No, Lay the Flash."
"Do you have to use that nickname?"
Layfon was more concerned about that problem than Claribel's weak tone.
"Lay the Flash...... I'm being controlled."
The sudden statement surprised Layfon. He was more surprised due to not understanding why Claribel would say something like that than surprised at the part about 'being controlled'.
"Huh? But Clara, didn't you wear that yourself......"
"Right. But actually, there's a curse placed on these clothes. A curse forcing me to defeat the apostle of light - you."
"A curse, you said?"
"Apostle of light?"
Layfon and Nina behind him spoke simultaneously.
"Hold on, you said apostle of light...... Please stop this, alright? Somehow, my chest hurts a lot."
Also, hadn't Shin over there been the one who prepared those clothes? What curse could there be; there was nothing that terrifying on them at all.
"Also, didn't Shin-senpai say that the measurements hadn't been adjusted yet during the competition? It must be new."
Just like how Claribel had heard the conversation between Layfon and the others, Layfon had also heard Claribel and the others talking. If he wanted to, he could strengthen his senses without using much Kei.
"New clothes doesn't mean the curse is gone!"
After shouting somewhat impatiently, Claribel suddenly came to her senses and continued faking a pallid appearance.
"Yes - the curse binds my body."
"Weren't you pretty spirited just now?"
Layfon rebutted with this, his voice seeming very listless.
"I can still resist the strength of this curse. But how long can I hold on? If this goes on, I'll be affected by the curse and become a true Princess of Darkness."
"Lay the Flash. Before that, cleanse my curse with your power of light."
"Uh, I'm not an apostle of light, nor do I have that kind of special power."
"Aah...... the curse......"
Claribel didn't listen to him, making her body sway left and right. However, she was standing on the balcony handrail with Shin, so that action wasn't really convincing.
"Ahahaha, what will you do, Lay the Flash!?"
"Uh, even if you ask me what I'll do......"
Being asked this gave Layfon a headache.
Claribel wanted to fight with Layfon. She wanted a true battle, not practice. Layfon had been depressed previously and hadn't been able to give it his all, but now he had already recovered and he himself realized that too.
He even felt that it might be fine to fight with Claribel.
Layfon thought. This matter was no longer related to his depression, and Layfon didn't believe there was any problem with fighting her outside of the noise reason he had told Claribel about before. There were pretty much no problems with a battle excepting whether Layfon would be able to fight 'for real' like Claribel hoped. As for that point, he could very calmly grasp could his physical and mental states during battle. That ability of Layfon's was completely unrelated to his mental angst, and it could even be called something like a mechanical function.
He could fight. He could use his full strength. To quantify his current strength, Layfon was capable of putting forth an average strength - though it was unclear whether he could use his highest strength value. Moreover, he believed that it was this average strength value that was important.
A level of strength the he could use no matter what the situation was. That was the important value to Layfon.
So, well, he didn't mind fighting. Never mind whether he was the 'Layfon Wolfstein Alseif' that Claribel recognized, but he was no longer that opposed to fighting.
"As I thought, 'Lay the Flash' is still a bit......"
Layfon imagined. If there were a fight in Zuellni for no particular reason, the stage would be a practice battlefield, and it would happen in the form of a platoon match. With that, there would be a large group of spectators watching the battle. Layfon didn't mind that. He had fought under those circumstances up till now, even in Grendan. Layfon didn't oppose fighting while being watched by others.
The fourteenth platoon - the Three Jet-Black Stars, and Shin the Falcon, and the Princess of Darkness Clara.
And their enemy - Lay the Flash of the seventeenth platoon.
Layfon could vaguely realize. This was a true Military Artist's fight - though they were holding weapons with safety equipment - with dramatic elements added on.
That wasn't too bad, nor did Layfon hate doing that. As long as the fight didn't become an act that was planned beforehand, Layfon was indifferent about its external appearance.
Layfon knew that there were other Military Artists who would fire up the audience's emotions during a competition. In particular, Troyatte of the Heaven's Blades excited the audience a lot, and would deliberately use certain techniques for their beauty.
Layfon recognized that there were such ways of fighting. In any case, it was a way to make the battlefield into a fighting environment suited to oneself. Layfon thought that people who mixed in dramatic elements enjoyed that kind of feeling and that they believed cheers of the audience would improve their mental state.
But in the end, that was only the situation when he was a third party. It didn't matter if his competition opponents did that, as long as they didn't pull Layfon into their acting setting.
"Hmm, I really can't accept Lay the Flash."
It was definitely not allowed for Layfon to become a player and get placed into the act.
Layfon tried imagining. The broadcasters enthusiastically explaining the battle scenario to the spectators. Claribel was affected by the Princess of Darkness's curse, and the apostle of light - Lay the Flash - had come forward to save her from that curse! Stopping him were the Three Jet-Black Stars, along with Shin the Falcon who commanded them!
Yeah, he couldn't do it.
He definitely couldn't do it!
Layfon mentally confirmed that several times. The conclusion didn't change. Impossible, impossible, he couldn't do it.
"Come, Lay the Flash. Let us fight brilliantly......"
"Uh, that's impossible."
Claribel excitedly drew her Dite. In contrast, Layfon was disinterested to the max. There was nothing exciting about this matter. Layfon wasn't too keen about playing hero games, nor did he have the kind of personality to do those things in front of an audience.
A person who approved of these things showed up in an unexpected place.
Layfon turned around, but all he saw was Nina with her eyes sparkling for some reason. Bubbles spilled from the sponge she gripped in her hands.
"A hero coming forth to face evil, that's pretty cool!"
Layfon groaned at how Nina had suddenly become excited. Where had the person who had previously wept about Shin's costume gone? He couldn't help but want to ask.
"I was always wondering about this, but Captain, do you perhaps enjoy hero movies?"
"Yeah! I've always wanted to show myself off like that!"
Nina nodded enthusiastically after Felli asked.
Felli nodded after seeing that.
"Um, what's going on here?'
"......In other words, seeing her senpai bringing theatrics into a Military Arts competition made the captain sad. However, after realizing that her senpai still viewed the act of fighting sincerely, she corrected her way of thinking. And she herself - that is, standing on the 'side of justice' in the seventeenth platoon with Layfon - seems to have flipped her switch."
"......Give me a break."
"Why don't you say that to the captain?
Felli's attitude was very cold. No, maybe she had already given up.
But as someone involved, Layfon couldn't give up so easily.
"Ahahahaha, Nina! No...... Nina of the Amethyst Lightning! Do you believe that the platoon you command can win against me?"
"What nonsense! I have my comrades! We definitely won't let you do as you please!"
"Hahahahaha! Don't think you can lift the Princess of Darkness's curse so easily!"
Nina swung the arm that gripped the sponge as if to sweep away Shin the Falcon's evil. The bubbles scattered everywhere.
Nina had taken the bait, so Shin and Claribel took the opportunity to focus their efforts on her.
"I'll definitely break the Princess of Darkness's curse and rescue Clara!"
"Uh, hold on......"
"It's decided that the platoon will move out."
Felli's tone was flat, but her murmur added to the atmosphere of helplessness.
"I don't want this!"
Layfon groaned, but it didn't reach anyone.
"I'll definitely save Clara!"
"Ahahaha! I'm looking forward to the showdown."
Layfon's words withered to nothing before Nina's sparkling eyes.
Translator's Notes and References
- About mooching off of Layfon.
- See Volume 23 Storm Bringer.