Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume25 Barbeque Pop
The name of this student dorm was 'Laloide'.
Toilets, bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry machines were shared.
This male dorm was noteworthy for having cheap rent, even among the student dorms in Zuellni's residence area. It was as if only poor students would gather here.
That was why this kind of thing happened sometimes.
"Who ate my yogurt!?"
It was breakfast time. The students getting ready to go to school hurried back and forth through the hallway of Laloide, and Layfon's voice echoed through the hallway.
There were several refrigerators placed in front of the bathroom entrance. Layfon was standing in front of one of them. In his hands was a container made of insulating glass and the name 'Layfon' written in big letters on the lid.
Several of the students gathered in front of the bathroom looked towards Layfon.
Among them, there were people who tried silently leaving while pretending not to care, but Layfon's sharp gaze didn't overlook them.
He instantly pointed a finger at them. The two of them groaned and stopped. Though they were of different ages, the two of them were in the same year as Layfon.
"......Did you eat it?"
"Uh, no, well......"
"Let me explain, Alseif-san."
Layfon raised the empty container in front of the flustered two.
"To think you'd even eat the culture. That means it won't even grow if I add milk, you know?"
"Uh, yogurt can grow?"
"That was the reason I put it in an insulating case."
"Ohh, that's surprising."
"Lactobacillus is amazing."
"No, that doesn't matter at all. Give me money to buy a new culture."
The two of them clearly averted their eyes from Layfon's outstretched hand and started to whistle.
"We have no money!"
"We don't have food either!"
"Even if you tell me that so proudly......"
"There's no helping it, since we spent all our money on that event before!"
"By 'that event', you mean...... Van Allen's Day? How much money did you spend for you to become broke!?"
Van Allen's Day referred to an activity in Zuellni held between males and females.
"Those of us without a fixed partner went to eat together. We spent a lot on a kind-of-expensive place, so we used all our money!"
"You have to plan better when using money."
To think his important morning nutrition had fallen to such a thing......
After Layfon said this resignedly, the two of them glared fiercely at him.
No, even the people watching the commotion around him were glaring at him.
"What do you mean!"
"You don't understand!"
"Yeah, you shitty popular guy!"
"How am I a popular guy!?"
The suddenly-roused group around him banded together to put pressure on Layfon.
"Don't you get bentos almost every day!?"
"We all know that girl called Meishen makes them for you!"
"I won't let a guy like you look down on our Van Allen's Day plans!"
"I'm properly paying for the ingredients!"
Layfon let out a grieved appeal as he somehow transformed from the victim into a villain, but he didn't get any sympathy from anyone.
"It's your fault."
After his training on the practice battlefield ended, Layfon inadvertently told Sharnid about the events from this morning, but then he told Layfon this.
"Why? I was the one who had my yogurt eaten, right?"
"No, ignore the matter of having no money for now."
Sharnid scratched his head with a troubled look.
"I'll be honest, there are too many charming girls around you...... That's what the other guys think."
"Well, there's that group of three you're close to in a place easy for those guys to see. The meek Meishen, the big-sisterly Naruki and the lively Mifi. Meishen's probably the most popular, but the three of them are all more attractive than average. Do you understand that?"
"And not only is a first-year brat like you a platoon member, the platoon even has Nina and Felli-chan."
"Uh, even if you tell me that......"
"Try thinking about it. Do you think the guys fighting on Van Allen's Day would permit you to get along so well with those cute babes every day?"
"Uh, what do you mean 'fighting'......"
"Those guys are fighting, you know. It's a never-ending war between guys and girls."
"I...... I feel like I get it, but I feel like I don't get it......"
"Understand it! Use your soul!"
He felt like Sharnid's fervent shout was a bit different from his normal style. That put Layfon at a loss.
"......Senpai, did something happen to you?"
"Hahaha, you're so foolish, Layfon. How could anything happen to me."
He did say that, but why was his voice so dull?
"Listen. From an observer's standpoint, you look like you're a winner of life."
"A winner of life...... Huuh?"
Sharnid said that Layfon was a winner of life. Even if he tried looking back over his life ten years ago, Layfon definitely didn't think he had won against anyone.
"It's not important at all what you think!"
Even if Sharnid asserted this so confidently, Layfon could only tilt his head and put on a confused expression.
"But I haven't gone out with anyone or anything. Everyone's just a friend."
After saying this, Layfon's looked at Layfon with wide eyes for a long while, then sighed deeply.
"Hey, Layfon. Maybe you're really amazing as a Military Artist, but in terms of people, your manliness points are the lowest."
"What are manliness points!?"
"Manliness points are manliness points."
Sharnid brought forth mysteriously powerful rhetoric, and this conversation was ended here.
To be honest, Layfon felt a bit hurt.
Layfon didn't completely understand the manliness points that Sharnid had proclaimed, but he felt like Sharnid had been saying that he was a failure a person.
(Uh, am I a failure?)
Layfon listlessly walked alone on the road back home. He had returned to the training facility to train Nina today as well. The surroundings had already darkened, and he was getting hungry. Layfon vaguely felt like his stomach seemed to be worsening his feelings of misery.
Nina didn't have to go to work in the Mechanical Department today, and although she had proposed eating dinner with Layfon, Layfon had refused the invitation. Layfon would occasionally eat dinner with his fellow platoon members if the time he went back home from the training facility coincided with dinnertime, but it was nighttime right now, and Layfon's pockets were pretty empty, even if they weren't as destitute as everyone in the dorm. He had to go buy some ingredients from a store and make food himself.
(They shouldn't take my ingredients from the refrigerator, right?)
Perhaps it was related to it being a male dorm, but the guys in the dorm used the kitchen very rarely, and almost all who went there did so in order to get hot water to cook fast food. Maybe that was why Layfon would never get stolen from when he stocked up on ingredients during sales.
(......I'm not a failure because I'm too pragmatic, right?)
If that were the case, what should he do? Layfon felt powerless.
Come to think of it, the fact that he was very amazing as a Military Artist wasn't any consolation at all to Layfon.
Layfon had come to Zuellni in order to abandon his identity as a Military Artist. He had left his original city Grendan due to various reasons, but there would be no reason at all to come to an Academy City if he had planned on continuing to live as a Military Artist. Every city would immediately accept him once he showed his skills.
Layfon had that much confidence in himself.
But Layfon couldn't think of any other areas in which he could brag about. Maybe it was praiseworthy for being a guy his age who could cook, but Layfon wasn't a culinarian like Meishen, nor could he manage nutrition as well as Leerin could. He was pretty much very casual about cooking.
His thoughts were all focused on platoon matches and his daily work, and had slacked off on working hard to achieve his initial goals.
(This won't do.)
As expected, his mood became dejected after thinking about these things.
(I have to do something.)
But what should he do? Layfon couldn't think of the answer and just returned to his dorm.
Though he didn't have an answer, an opportunity came from an unexpected place.
After he returned to his dorm to take care of dinner, Layfon went to his room to rest for a while, but someone ended up knocking on his door and saying that the dorm residents were to gather for a meeting.
On the first floor of the dorm and next to the kitchen was a spacey cafeteria and lounge, and the dorm residents would gather there to kill time when they were free. There was only an electric water heater there, and everything else had to be brought over by the residents. The regulars of the lounge had brought their own mugs and drink powders there.
There had only been a few people sitting in the corner when Layfon had eaten dinner in the lounge before, but when Layfon looked over now, it was already full of dorm residents and there were even people standing due to lack of seating. Layfon also stood by a wall near the entrance.
"Well, most of us are here."
The dorm head stood up in the lounge.
"Maybe some of you gathered here have already vaguely noticed the reasons. Laloide has a small problem right now."
"A small problem?"
Someone spoke up, and the sound of mixed laughter and scoffing made the lounge atmosphere become chaotic. Layfon had a recollection of the student who spoke. He was a senpai, one of the few comrades who used the kitchen like Layfon.
"The problem of the fridges."
The dorm head raised his hand to quell the commotion, announcing with easy-to-understand words:
"Though there have always been people who were very loose about property rights, the reports have been particularly numerous this month. The residents can't live like this, so I wanted to punish those people by expelling from the dorm. But throwing destitute people into the streets won't resolve the problem. Especially since this time, there are a lot of people who will be able to get along as long as they make it through the month."
A lot of the students in the lounge nodded at the dorm head's words.
(Honestly, exactly how much did everyone spend on Van Allen's Day?)
Those nods meant that everyone agreed with the dorm head's words. In other words, there were that many students who had spent money on Van Allen's Day for the 'war between guys and girls' that Sharnid had mentioned.
Though Layfon felt that this was absurd, maybe the guys of this world didn't think so. Layfon couldn't help but feel like he was the side in the wrong, so he couldn't say anything.
As Layfon thought about these things, the dorm head said something that was even harder for him to believe:
"I think that many people are looking for part-time work, but the entire city is like that right now, so almost all of the job opportunities are filled."
(Meaning that the male students of the academy filled them all?)
Layfon remembered that the atmosphere among the guys in the classroom had recently been clearly divided into happy and gloomy......
The dorm head continued speaking:
"But the problem won't be resolved even if you continue staring at the recruitment posters. I got information through my contacts and ended up finding a job. It's a job that requires a large amount of manpower. If all the people here alternate every day, it should be more than enough to deal with that job. Also, meals are provided."
The sentence added at the end made and "Ohh" rise up in the lounge.
"It's a labor job, and honestly I think it's going to be very tiring, but if you're interested, you can do it. I'll explain the details next, so everyone please listen carefully and then make your own decision. Also, starting tomorrow, I'm going to deal with thieves very harshly, so please be aware. Then......"
With that, the dorm head started explaining the contents of the job.
"Ohh, it reached your dorm too?"
It was honestly a coincidence that he ran into Formed the next day on his way to school. He looked pallid due to staying up the whole night for a certain matter, but happened to show up on Layfon's way to school.
"There's a problem over at the breeding lake, so I didn't have any time to sleep."
Formed looked resentfully at the sun, then rubbed his eyes.
He had been up for the whole night, but Formed still didn't give up on going to school. He seemed to remember Formed proclaiming that 'the primary duty of a student is to study hard'. That kind of proclamation seemed pure and diligent when compared to his crafty demeanor during his city police work, but there had been no trace of a lie on his face when he had professed that.
"It seems like the pastures need a lot of manpower."
The dorm head had revealed the information that the pastures of the Aquaculture Department were severely lacking manpower, and hence they were looking for workers.
The word aquaculture originally referred to the production of aquatic resources, but in Zuellni livestock were also included in this department.
"Yeah. Well, I'm majoring in aquatics, so I don't really understand land-based things. But it seems like they're experimenting with a new way to raise livestock. Some kind of flu broke out on that pasture, and tests about whether human illnesses can spread to the livestock or about what to do if they do get infected haven't been finished, so they decided to have those people leave for now. It seems like someone proposed to let third-year or lower underclassmen be temporary workers, so they're going to hold a short explanation of the experiment. Even underclassmen will be faced with a choice of departmental major after becoming a fourth-year, so this isn't bad."
Formed explained dully with a fatigued face:
"The guys who caught the virus have already been quarantined, and they're being taken care of other people in the department, so you don't need to worry. Speaking of which, are you participating in the job?"
"Only on weekends."
"......You don't look like someone who spent money because of Van Allen's Day."
The fact that Formed said that meant that almost all the guys in Zuellni were short on money this month.
"I didn't do that, I'm just interested in the experiment."
"I thought so."
The yawning Formed didn't seem like the person to do anything on Van Allen's Day. Actually, he had been investigating a certain matter with Layfon that day, so he shouldn't have had time to do anything.
"Well, they're almost ready to put the product on the market. Incidentally, you might have an opportunity to try taste-testing."
Formed parted with Layfon, carelessly dropping those words.
Right, a taste-testing.
Livestock wasn't just labor, it also had its dirty side - cleaning up feces. The dorm students had all showed bitter faces when they had first imagined that. But when the dorm head expressed that after a week of work ended, a taste-testing would be held on the last day with all the workers invited, everyone's attitudes had turned around a hundred and eighty degrees.
They could eat meat. There was no better reward for that group of destitute, hungry men. Though Layfon was a bit concerned about taste-testing new products, even he also wanted a big piece of high-quality protein.
So even Layfon was a bit excited as he walked.
In the blink of an eye, the weekend was coming. In this period of time, Layfon had seen the dorm residents who were participating in the work returning to the dorm with exhausted faces. The work process of the people who normally participated in the job was to stay at the pasture the night before, then start work early in the morning, then go to class, and continue working after school.
Layfon's work time was on the two weekends when he didn't have to go to class. Though he had to work the entire day, the pay was also very generous. It was Layfon's first experience with this kind of work, and maybe it would be more laborious than he had thought, but he was excited by the anticipated wages.
More importantly, Layfon was also slightly looking forward to that side of the job.
After all, though the returning dorm students were extremely tired, they looked quite enriched. Though there were many people who complained that they weren't suited to the job, their faces showed enrichment apart from their weariness. Everyone clearly expressed that the food was very delicious. Allegedly, those who stayed at the pasture had been served freshly-squeezed milk and just-made ham, and both had been delicious.
But if that were the case, what about the others?
(Maybe working on the pasture is very fun?)
Layfon held those expectations in his heart. A noise he wasn't used to woke Layfon up.
Layfon had gone straight to his workplace at the Aquaculture Department pasture after cleaning the Mechanical Department last night. Since it was late at night, the trams weren't even operating. Layfon had walked to the living quarters on the pasture and then fallen asleep.
There was work before breakfast, too.
First was feeding the livestock. Though it was feeding, it wasn't the kind of hay-feeding work that he imagined.
"These guys mainly eat lichen."
The Aquaculture Department senpai in charge of instructing them said.
"Like that forest over there. There's a forest spreading outwards from the central Yuusuiju in the center. It's very dense inside, a treasure trove of lichen. These guys have been bred to feed off of this."
The senpai said this and then introduced the livestock. They huddled together inside the fenced enclosure. They were animals with blackish-gray coats of fur that looked like deer.
They seemed to be called 'khufu'.
In front of the pen were the dorm residents who wanted to work on the weekend like Layfon. There were some unfamiliar faces here, since students from outside Layfon's dorm had also signed up for this work.
There were about three or four workers for each instructor.
"Your job is to bring these guys into the forest."
When the instructor said that, he made it seem like the work would be very easy. But actually, this job wasn't that simple.
The instructors assigned the khufu in the gates to Layfon and the others. After the instructor used a thin, whiplike thing to strike the khufu's flank, they obeyed his instructions very easily.
Layfon was assigned five khufu, and the other works were assigned a similar number.
"You have to get them back without harming them. Once these guys start eating, it's not easy to make them leave."
The instructor circled around behind Layfon and the others.
Everyone took up the whiplike objects they had been given and followed behind the khufu.
It looked very simple. But everyone immediately learned that they had thought incorrectly.
"Wait, hold on!"
The workers around him panicked.
The group of khufu planned on going wherever they pleased, rather than moving towards the destination forest. Some tried to deal with this quandary with their whips, but they didn't pay them any heed. There were even people who grabbed the horns that grew on their heads to try to stop them by force, but they just ended up getting dragged along.
"These guys can even run carrying someone along. Well, people generally shouldn't try to compare their strength with animals. Also, don’t stand right in front or right behind them."
The instructor warned everyone with a laid-back tone. Layfon felt like that remark was a bit too late, but there was no ill intent on his face, he was just laid-back. The khufu were generally gentle animals, and although the workers tried to stop them, the movements threw the workers off weren't violent. But the differences in strength were clear, so those people could do nothing about them.
The khufu assigned to Layfon also went in a different direction...... In addition, they had even turned a hundred eighty degrees around to return inside the pen.
What should he do...... Thinking this, Layfon looked around, and ended up noticing that there were also khufu moving towards the destination forest without difficulty. As Layfon watched this scene, he noticed that although those workers weren't used to it, they were using the whips like the instructor had to return the khufu trying to take a detour back to the pack. If they wanted to make the khufu go in a certain direction, they would use the whips to strike the khufu's flank in the opposite direction.
After Layfon tried lightly striking a Khufu's flank with a flick of his wrist, the Khufu changed its line of movement to the opposite direction. As long as he got the trick to it, the movement ability of a Military Artist would be worlds apart from that of a normal person. Layfon succeeded in getting the khufu to the forest with smoother movements than anyone else. In addition, he even helped others who were still stuck to lead their khufu.
After this work ended, it was finally time for breakfast.
After breakfast ended, next was to clean the inside of the khufu-less pen. This was the disgusting first impression that the dorm residents had - the dirty work. They used shovels to dig up the feces that dirtied the ground, then used wheelbarrows to carry it outside. It seemed like these feces would be sent to the Agriculture department for use as fertilizer.
After that business was finished, they moved to a different job. Half of the workers went to the greenhouse where they cultivated the lichen that were planted in the forest, but Layfon was instructed to go to the forest and take care of the khufu.
It looked like they had separated out the people who seemed to have been good at guiding the khufus during the morning work to this side.
(This work is pretty fun.)
Layfon watched over the khufu in the humid forest as he thought this deep in his heart.
The khufu slowly moved about the forest, where even the air seemed to be dyed a lush green, as they quietly ate the lichen growing on the trees and in the shadows of rocks. During this, Layfon tried to keep khufu a suitable distance from each other to keep them from fighting and also moved the khufu who were hogging the lichen away from the forest. It made him strangely happy.
(Maybe I'm very suited to this. Could this be my real career?)
Layfon thought about this half-seriously as he gathered the khufu with an excited mood.
It was because of these feelings that Layfon observed the khufus' calm states of mind one by one.
There was a khufu who seemed to be the leader of the whole herd, along with several smaller groups led by this one.
(The leader's the Student Council President, then.)
Though they were a herd, they weren't livestock that had always been in Zuellni. So all of the khufu were very young, and it seemed like there weren't many age differences. Layfon imagined the Student Council President's figure over the khufu that led the similarly-aged herd.
And it seemed interestingly appropriate for Layfon to imagine the group assigned to him as the seventeenth platoon that he belonged to. Layfon decided to call the leader of this group a vice-leader, as it seemed very active. Any time the leader appeared, it would make an aggressive sound, which was very similar to Nina. The one that moved back and forth between the female khufus was Sharnid, and the one that kept its distance from the group and looked uninvolved was Felli.
(Uh...... then I'm............)
After Layfon looked left and right, his gaze stopped on a single khufu.
It was a khufu that didn't look any different from the others, but it felt like a vaguely unreliable khufu, and the way it walked even looked very weak. When it noticed fresh food and started to eat, it would be pushed aside by other khufu and the food would get stolen away. Unable to watch this go on, the vice-leader gave it some of the food it had found.
(Ohh...... it's me.)
That kind of patheticness is very like me.
It wandered back and forth looking for other food, and ended up being lightly bumped by the horn of the khufu Layfon had labeled as Felli.
"Ahahaha, it's really like me."
Thinking this, Layfon started laughing on his own, then became dejected.
The sun was sinking to the west. After they sent the khufu back to the pen, Layfon's and the others' work came to an end. The workers staying at the living quarters prepared to go back and shower, but the Aquaculture Department senpai told them that there was a place to recuperate next to the forest.
"It's a hot spring that uses the hot water from the Yuusuiju. Though it's fine to use the showers here too, you can get rid of your fatigue over there."
Even though the senpai said something like that, the unfamiliar work of dealing with the livestock had made almost all of them dead tired, so everyone was too lazy to leave the living quarters.
In the end, the only ones to go to the hot spring were Layfon and a few others.
The vast hot spring was made from a rock structure.
The walls and ceiling were rounded shapes made from glass. If he looked up inside the white steam, he could glimpse the sky or the scenery of the forest.
After washing himself and soaking in the hot spring, the heat crept into his body. His stiffened muscles felt like they were relaxing.
"Ah, this might not be bad."
The other had all left, but Layfon soaked motionlessly in the hot spring.
With the platoon matches and the training to prepare for the platoon matches alongside his work in the Mechanical Department and classes, Layfon had almost no time to relax his muscles. He felt like internal Kei didn't let him recover completely. The fatigue accumulated in his body slowly dissolved away.
Thinking back, Leerin and his adoptive father had always been responsible for managing his health back in Grendan.
They would give Layfon piping-hot meals as he immersed himself in training and battle, and would tell him to rest when it was time to rest.
Now, he had to do all of that.
"I have to properly manage my body."
Layfon murmured this dully, raising his head and looking up from the hot spring.
The door to the dressing room opened and someone walked in.
"Hmm? Layfon, is that you?"
The person who peeked out from inside the steam was Harley, and next to him was the figure of Kirik walking over while holding a cane.
"What are you doing here?"
"Actually, I should be asking you that."
As Harley and Kirik washed themselves, Layfon told him about everything.
"We're here because we've been shut inside the research lab for the whole week, so we came here to recuperate a little."
"This is a hobby for old people. You just need to sleep to get rid of fatigue."
Kirik stated this, but Harley didn't care at all.
In Zuellni's system, almost everyone who was not a Military Artist spent their first three years in General Studies, and then after becoming a fourth-year they would enter various specialized fields. But only the Alchemy Department could be entered through special exams. Harley had passed that exam and had joined the Alchemy Department as a first-year.
"The hot water here is good for the muscles and nerves. Kirik, maybe it can cure your legs."
Kirik stared at the glass in front of him with a cold snort. Layfon looked at his face from the side. Though his skeletal features were masculine all over, it seemed like even with that he could quickly become a beautiful girl with clothes and cosmetic surgery.
But it was just his harsh face that was scary. His eyes, which looked like they were always displeased, kept others from approaching him.
Harley was the only one who could stand next to him with a calm expression.
"I hate soaking, so I'm getting out first."
He had only soaked in the hot spring for a brief period of time, but Kirik left the hot spring. As Kirik moved stiffly, holding his cane, Harley just leisurely responded to him without going to help.
"Is that alright?"
Layfon asked after Kirik vanished into the changing room.
"It's fine. If you accidentally try to take care of him too much, it'll just hurt his pride. Though Kirik says what he does, he comes here pretty often, so he probably doesn't hate it here."
Kirik had once been a Military Artist. Because of various incidents in the past, his Kei flow had been obstructed, and he had become paraplegic. Unable to continue being a Military Artist, he had entered the Alchemy Department and was trying to start his life again.
Though their origins were different, his fate happened to be similar to Layfon's.
Though he wanted to ask Kirik how he had decided on the path of Alchemy, Layfon felt hesitant. Was it really okay to ask such a thing so easily?
Layfon unconsciously thought that in those harsh eyes was something that wouldn't allow others to peer into his heart so easily.
So Harley was very amazing for being able to stand next to Kirik so casually.
After Layfon said this, Harley laughed.
"It's because a lot of things happened with Kirik. Though I think his personality is very hard to get along with, I'm already used to that kind of attitude from Nina."
"Huh? Used to it from the Captain?"
"Nina's the same. Well, though she feels really passionate now, she wasn't like that before. She was a sheltered daughter of a wealthy family when she was in Schneibel. She gave off a powerful 'don't talk to me' atmosphere, even though she didn't think that way."
"Yeah. My dad was a famous Dite technician in Schneibel, so he often went to Nina's home, and I became close to her through that connection. Honestly, she completely ignored me at the start. It took a lot of work before I could talk with her normally."
But now the relationship between the two of them had already become one where they could chat very normally.
Also, now he had become friends with Kirik.
"Harley-senpai, you're really amazing."
"That's not true, I'm just very honest about my interests. If I weren't able to talk about them, I might not have been able to become friends with either Nina or Kirik."
Harley simply smiled.
But Layfon couldn't do such a thing.
"Whew, I soaked for a bit too long. I'm starting to get dizzy."
The red-faced Harley unsteadily got out of the hot spring. Layfon felt like it was about time for him to leave, so he also stood up.
Just then, a strange cry reached him through the glass.
The two of them looked back together.
They could see the darkness of the thick forest through the glass, and there was a huge figure rushing over on the other side of the glass.
"Senpai, get back!"
Layfon instantly stood in a position he could guard Harley and then took a stance.
The figure charged at them violently, as if completely failing to notice that this was a glass window.
A heavy sound boomed through the hot spring room, then there was a silence. The glass was dyed white by the large webbed cracks appearing over its surface.
"Let's get out quickly."
Layfon spoke up to urge on Harley, who was dumbstruck and unable to move from surprise, and then moved to the changing room.
After he changed and walked outside, there were already people gathered there. They were the students who had used the recuperation spot along with the students who had been sent here by the Student Council as management.
The group of less than ten people checked object that had crashed into the glass.
The object that was illuminated by their electric lights was a khufu.
To think such a docile animal had suddenly done something like that at night...... Though they were surprised, everyone checked the identification tag hung around its neck.
This time Layfon went speechless.
The khufu fallen in front of him was the vice-leader of the group Layfon had been in charge of.
The Aquaculture Department students at the pasture quickly took the khufu away, moving it to a medical room in the underground below the pasture. Though the khufu had already died, they had to inspect it since it had done something so violent as jumping out of the pen and charging into the glass of the recuperation area despite the gentle personality it ought to have as pasture livestock.
The Aquaculture Department senpais' faces were grave, and Layfon and the others, shaken by their demeanors, were also surrounded by the heavy atmosphere.
Layfon felt a twinge of pain in his chest when he thought of the fallen khufu. Of course, he realized that the khufu wasn't actually Nina. But the khufu that had made Layfon feel like maybe the pasture work suited him had become like this. The pain that Layfon felt in his chest was genuine.
Not long afterwards, a weary-faced senpai appeared. The senpai was studying veterinary science in the Aquaculture Department, and he had been called here for that purpose.
"The cause of death was cervical damage, and I can't tell the reason it went out of control. But......"
That senpai furrowed his brow.
"Hole-shaped wounds that couldn't have been caused by the impact have appeared on its belly and viscera. Though the reason might be parasites, I can't find any signs of those parasites. But there are certainly traces of something on the organs."
"We have regular inspections for parasites."
"I understand. I'd also like you to reveal those records. But there are certainly wounds that couldn't be produced by anything other than parasites or such on it. That's the only possibility if it was an external reason that made it go out of control."
"Hey. Hold on. In that case--"
The Aquaculture Department senpai groaned in lamentation.
"......We have to suspend the shipment until we figure out the cause, and at worse we'll be prohibited from breeding them."
This time the senpais clearly groaned.
"This isn't a joke, we've come this far!"
"But if we don't figure out the cause, things will turn out that way no matter what. Do you understand? If there are parasites there, they're eating the khufus' organs. You can't guarantee that they won't eat human organs."
The veterinarian's remark made a commotion rise up among the workers standing behind and listening. They were probably imagining themselves eating something like that during the taste-testing.
But the prohibition part was more shocking to Layfon than the taste-testing. The reason that these khufu were being raised was for food, so it was long since decided that their lives were to be used as food for humans. But the prohibition changed things.
The khufu that had made Layfon feel such a strong sense of closeness would be killed without being able to complete their mission.
"But it's still not certain that there are parasites, right?"
One senpai's words made the veterinarian nod his head.
"Yeah. But I can't be sure that there aren't parasites. After all, the possibility is just there. If there are parasites, we'll have to find them and take countermeasures. If there aren't, we'll have to find proof that there aren't parasites. In any case, we'll have to inspect the other khufu."
"Ah, can you hold on a bit?"
As the senpais' faces darkened, that voice broke in between them.
Layfon turned around. The people who appeared there were Harley, Kirik, and one other person.
"You guys are?"
"Alchemy Department third year Harley Sutton. I want to inspect the corpse, may I?"
"What does that mean?"
"When I saw the corpse from the recuperation area, there was something that felt strange to me."
After Layfon spoke up, Harley waved at him with a smile no different from normal.
"Sorry, sorry, it took some time for me to get others to bring equipment here."
"Why don't you put yourself in the shoes of the guy who had to bike all the way over here."
The other student said with a weary expression. Maybe he was someone in the same research lab as Harley.
"Hey, you guys......"
"We said that we wanted to inspect the corpse just now because its cause of death was probably caused by humans."
Kirik glared at the Aquaculture Department students with a sharp look from his wheelchair.
"It's also possible that it's a crime. If you'd like the city police to be here to witness it, you'd better hurry up and contact them."
It seemed like there were people who felt opposed to Kirik's remark, but the veterinarian was the first to back off and avoid starting a dispute.
Layfon could only stare blankly at the changing situation while he watched Harley and the others vanish into the medical room.
Before Harley and the others came out from the medical room, Formed and the others from the city police, whom the senpai had contacted, arrived on the scene.
After noting that Layfon was here, Formed and the Aquaculture Department senpai vanished into the medical room together.
"How's the situation?"
Layfon asked Naruki, who had come as well.
"There's been trouble recently with thievery of Aquaculture and Agriculture new product intellectual property."
Those words made Layfon think of Formed's complaint from before that many problems had been going on.
"It seems like we've had a lot of problems with new products entering the markets early. It would be normal if it were only one or two incidents, but this time there are too many cases. So we've been constantly investigating the situation."
After Naruki said this, Harley, Formed, and the others walked out.
"As for the incident this time, there's an extremely high chance that it's a case of information theft."
Those words made the Aquaculture Department senpais put on bitter expressions. Though it was a relief that the khufus they had raised weren't diseased, it made them sad to think there might be people using sinister means to steal their genetic information.
"Starting now, we're going to conduct and resolve this matter as a case of information theft."
After proclaiming this, Formed instructed his subordinates to leave the pasture.
Layfon chased after them.
"What, do you want to help?"
"Yeah, I'm very mad about this case."
After Layfon said this, Formed raised his brows and put on a very surprised expression.
"Well, it's possible that we'll immediately make an arrest this time, with someone like you so determined."
"Senpai, do you have any suspects?"
"When information theft happens, the city police will first check the list of people who used the living quarters. That's the theory behind handling these cases."
Formed said this with a cold snort.
"There are a few people who are very suspicious. The biggest problem this time is that we can't use any clear evidence that they're stealing, but we almost have some clues. After that we just need to find the ones who fit those clues and question them."
"But the means of committing the crime......"
Harley and the others caught up.
"The culprits put extremely small Psychokinesis flakes inside bugs or small creatures and control them that way. When we inspected the organs of that livestock and others that were sent to the Alchemy Department because of strange deaths, we ended up noticing that there was still Psychokinesis in them, although the amounts were very miniscule. Though we're just inferring the suspect from that, it's probably not wrong."
"You can do that?"
"I'm not a Psychokinesist myself, so I can't say anything about whether anyone can do such a thing. But I don't think it's impossible to use Psychokinesis lightning to drive muscle current. Or they're not controlling the muscle, but rather using current to manipulate the brain. We've thought of a lot of ways, and if we can think of these it means that there might be people already doing them."
Harley and the others had made this conclusion after their alchemical inspections, so Formed could find suspects based off of that conclusion.
In that case, the culprit was him.
"Leave it to me, I'll definitely capture him."
"......Well, keep it reasonable."
Formed looked at the motivated Layfon in surprise.
When he reached the residence, Layfon received the instruction to stand by.
Come to think of it, Layfon hadn't brought his Dite here. He had just planned on working at the pasture, and the school regulations said to avoid carrying a Dite during holidays.
"Harley-senpai, is there anything I can use?"
After explaining the story, Harley and Kirik put on speechless expressions.
"Do you have any self-awareness as a Military Artist?"
"There aren't many people who follow the rules so diligently. Uh, do we have anything?"
"There should be some unrefined materials in the toolbox. Hold on."
Harley, Kirik, and another person started working.
"We'll use a city police baton as the base material. Hey, bring it over."
"There's no Sapphire in the toolbox, we only have enough Ruby."
"The settings will become pretty arbitrary. What kind of weapon would be best to finish work on in five minutes?"
The three of them debated as they broke down the Dite they had gotten from a city police Military Artist, adding new materials to it and then restructuring it.
"Hey, why don't we try out this test product on the side?"
"I think the rate of Kei loss is too severe."
"It's fine, it's fine, it's no problem for Layfon's maximum instantaneous release amount. Let's try it."
"Huh, what is it? Please wait."
"It’s alright, it's alright, we'll make something very interesting, so just hold on."
"No, I should be the one telling you to hold on."
"There's no time now, and we'll be able to directly apply a program if we use this thing. Also, you'll be able to use it immediately with just some slight adjustments."
"Let's just gather some experimental data on the side."
The three of them didn't care to listen to Layfon at all. Harley's hands typed on a keyboard with frightening speed as he entered data.
As the three of them busied themselves, there was movement from the residence.
Formed's shout came from the residence, and a sense of tension shot through the Military Artists on standby.
Layfon didn't have any time to protest, no matter what exactly they had made. Layfon accepted the object they gave him and started running.
The object in his hand was a strangely-shaped Dite. It didn't have a covering, so all of its machinery was exposed outside. Wiring crawled on the black base material like blood vessels, and a red-colored ore was installed on its point.
Formed and the negotiators spilled out from the residence exit that Layfon headed to. This time they hadn't gotten any perfect evidence, so Formed had said he would negotiate with the criminal himself and make him confess.
He had probably succeeded.
An irritating sound came from behind Formed and the others as they stumbled out, and countless bugs also appeared.
They weren't just bugs. There were also birds flying in the air and large rats crawling over the ground. The criminal couldn't have transported such a large quantity of bugs and animals through a roaming bus, so he had probably used animals from Zuellni.
Also, Harley's alchemical speculation had hit the mark.
The bugs spread outwards like moving sensors, attacking all the police surrounding the residence.
"I can't let you get away, criminal."
Layfon murmured the restoration keyword, infusing the Dite with Kei......
The Dite absorbed a large quantity of Kei that gave Layfon goosebumps.
The Dite didn't explode or become heavier.
It ignored the changes that ought to happen, and released a huge flow of energy from the ruby tip.
The Dite gripped in his hand maintained its form, but a beam of red energy with no fixed shape appeared at the ruby tip.
"Ohh, it's out, it's out. It looks pretty stable."
"Hmm - well, that's about right."
Kirik and the other muttered these words, but they still reached the internal-Kei-strengthened ears of Layfon.
"Layfon~ This is a Dite that directly turns Kei energy into a weapon, like the compound Dites that Karen Kei users usually use. That's how it is, so good luck."
That voice came from Harley. He didn't particularly raise his voice, anticipating that Layfon would be able to hear him talk.
"I'm not good at using Karen Kei!"
Though Harley and the others didn't hear, Layfon still returned those words. Layfon moved his focus to the unsightly beam of energy.
The key to Karen Kei was to make Kei take form based on one's imagination. Layfon imagined a sword. Though the shape was ugly, it still managed to turn into the form of a sword.
Right now, Layfon was standing between Formed and the bugs. Layfon used the shockwave from his movement to send the rampaging bugs trying to engulf Formed and the others flying from the area.
He swung his sword, using the heat of the red beam to burn the bugs to a crisp.
"It's really hard to use!"
Layfon shouted this after defending against the onslaught of bugs. If it were a normal weapon, a Military Artist using internal Kei should be able to use the shockwaves produced from every movement to blow away the bugs. At this kind of time, it would be most effective to make the shockwaves released from the Kei infused into the weapon as powerful as possible.
But the Kei he was flowing into the Dite right now was all being used to maintain the blade, so it didn't create any shockwaves.
Even so, the shockwaves produced from his movement alone were being put to effective use. But that level of power could just at most keep the bugs from getting close to him, and didn't help much otherwise. Layfon couldn't push the bugs back to the Psychokinesist that controlled them.
Naruki and the city police Military Artists had been stopped by the group of bugs, unable to move even if they wanted to.
His state of being unable to move forward constantly increased his feeling of impatience.
The enemy of his captain was right on the other side of this group of bugs. He couldn't let any other Military Artists do it. Layfon was the one who would take revenge for his captain (khufu).
(What techniques are there in Karen Kei?)
Layfon fended off the bugs as he dug through his memories. Though there were Heaven's Blade successors who used Karen Kei, the system of moves was far too different from his, so Layfon hadn't observed them that carefully. Even the imagination had to be controlled along with the flow of Kei, so even Layfon had trouble stealing those kinds of techniques.
There was only one technique he could think of quickly.
It was a big technique, one whose difficulty of imagining was about the same as the sword he was using right now, and it seemed like he could use his steel thread techniques to control it.
But the problem was......"
"Whatever! I'll do it!"
An extravagant, idiotic man who liked beauty. Layfon thought of the Heaven's Blade successor Troyatte Gabanest Firandin, grimacing as he used that move.
External-type Kei, Karen Variant - Seven Fangs.
The sword-shaped mass of energy around the ruby explosively increased in size, gradually taking form.
Just that much power blew away the surrounding bugs.
A surprised sound came from around him.
Seven giant snakes appeared there. Bodies as thick as grown men supported serpentine heads and towered arrogantly over the surroundings.
The seven snakes' bodies were connected to the Dite in Layfon's hand.
At the same time as Layfon spoke, the seven huge serpents sped towards the residence. Just from being hit by the bodies, the bugs were sucked into the heat of the Kei and burned up one by one.
Layfon sprinted behind the charging serpents.
"There are other people in there!"
Formed's lamenting cry reached his ears from behind.
Even so, Layfon didn't reduce his speed.
Because he saw it.
He saw the figure of a man show his face as he escaped through the back door of the residence.
"So it was youuuuuuuuu!"
That man fell on his rear upon hearing Layfon's voice and seeing first-hand the serpents speeding towards him.
"Enemy of my captain (khufu)!"
The serpents bared their fangs, reacting to Layfon's cry. The seeking bodies of erupting energy rushed towards the man.
During that time......
"Ah, it reached its limits."
Harley let out a stunned voice from afar.
What Layfon had been worried about, whether the hastily-constructed Dite was able to endure a large amount of Kei......
It ended up being unable to endure.
Bearing the brunt of the explosion of energy, Layfon lost consciousness as he rapidly flew forward...... and like that, crashed into the man.
Afterwards, the culprit was arrested without trouble.
The self-destructed Layfon managed to get away with light injuries, but he couldn't go to work the next day.
That night, the Aquaculture Department living quarters held the planned khufu taste-testing...... in other words, a barbeque. Of course, it wasn't just khufu - they also used the meat of other livestock that the Aquaculture Department took pride in.
Layfon also took part.
Word of the arrest over at the residence had made it here, and Layfon was warmly welcomed for clearing the khufu of suspicion. Layfon also worked in the kitchen, and his food was well-liked.
(I really should go to the Aquaculture Department after becoming a fourth-year.)
Layfon who thought this had also asked the senpais about the Aquaculture Department.
Though he had looked rather shameful at the end of the arrest, he had still succeeded in enacting revenge for his captain (khufu), so Layfon was able to attend this party with the best of moods.
Full from eating, Layfon headed to the pens where the khufu were kept in order to report his successful revenge.
After finding the group he had been in charge of, Layfon tilted his head and put on a confused expression.
"There's no me (khufu)."
Felli (khufu) and Sharnid (khufu), and the other khufus were all there, but Layfon wasn't.
Layfon thought about what was going on......
He turned around, seeing the crimson flames scorching the grills over by the living quarters.
He saw the animal placed on that grill.
Layfon held his stomach.
Maybe he still needed to think more deeply about going to the Aquaculture Division.
Yeah, Layfon thought so.
Layfon's path still hadn't appeared.
Translator's Notes and References
- The strain of bacteria that makes yogurt.
- Literally water-gushing tree.