Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume2 Chapter3

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Chapter 3: Cry for What?

That night, she was cleaning the floor by herself with a cloth.

All kinds of noises, signifying the gears were at work, filled the Engine Room. When she first started school, she had trouble focusing, as the noises she heard the previous night while cleaning kept distracting her. Now? It didn't bother her anymore.

She looked at the oil-stained gloves, the cloth, the blackened foam of the soap, and the dirty floor that stayed dirty no matter how hard she worked at it.

In truth, Nina wasn't looking at anything.

According to the student in charge of the Engine Room, Layfon was helping the City Police today.

'Helping the City Police' meant he was working as a temp? Why did he take on that irregular job when he already had to clean the Engine Room? Would his body be alright?

(If he gets sick......)

What would happen to the 17th platoon?

The team might be disbanded arbitrarily. If their ace got sick......

(No......This is too strange.)

She had expectations for Layfon when he first joined the platoon, but they were lower then. She had only seen him as a particularly brilliant Kouhai in the Military Arts, but what she now anticipated was the level of his fighting skill.

She didn't think it was wrong for her to expect him to fight well.

Layfon was stronger than she first thought he was. This was the truth, and it wouldn't be right to ignore that reality. She would use what could be used. There was nothing wrong with that way of thinking.

(I've always wanted to find a solution.)

Sharnid and Felli were the same. They had the strength but not the drive. Nina wondered whether her expectations of them were wasted.

The team she had formed was not the team she had in mind.

But she didn't wish for a perfect team at that time. It was just that her way of thinking had changed since then.

Nobody was better as a sniper than Sharnid. She hadn't seen the true worth of Felli's Psychokinesis, but the girl's ability must be extremely high for the Student President to recommend her. Harley's knowledge and skill in Dites hadn't failed her.

Nina thought all she needed was for herself to become stronger.

But......

Layfon appeared.

(That power......)

In Grendan, a place with more experience fighting in Military Arts matches and against filth monsters than any other city, Layfon had become one of the Twelve Heaven's Blade successors.

(Is scary......)

That day when the filth monsters attacked Zuellni, Nina thought she'd die as food for the larvae. She thought she had no way of resisting the principle of natural selection that ruled the world.

Nina came to Zuellni to see the outside word. As someone living in a city facing the end of its journey, Nina had formed a platoon to do something about that. This feeling she held was frail in the face of the gigantic wave of filth monsters.

Layfon had pushed back that wave. He wiped out all the larvae and killed the mother all by himself.

She was truly scared when she saw him appearing on the other side of the air shield – in a place where the air was polluted, filled with harmful substances.

Was he human?

And she was relieved when he collapsed.

Yes, he really was human.

The time required to fix the damaged city and for Layfon to recuperate in the hospital had wiped away her feelings of that time.

Leaving the fact that Layfon was very strong.

The 17th platoon could operate as the ideal team she had always wanted as long as they had Layfon's power.

(But......We still lost the match.)

They lost to the 14th platoon in the platoon match.

The captain of the 14th platoon said it wouldn't work if only Layfon was strong.

(Then......Just what should we do?)

Nina was confused. The 14th platoon had used teamwork to win. Was that what the 17th platoon needed? But she held no expectations for that to appear any time soon. Her experience with the team, from the moment when it was first formed till now, told her it was not possible.

(What should I do......)

Despair must have come to her then......Nina must have realized what the team needed when the filth monsters attacked Zuellni.

That feeling came to her when she was helpless.

There could be no teamwork if they relied entirely on one person's strength.


A tug......


"Um......?" At the tug of her hair, she brought her attention back to the present. At some point in time, her hand had stopped its motion. A light weight had settled on her shoulders and the back of her neck. She reached back and felt something soft.

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"Oh, it's you......"

"~~~♪"

She took hold of the thing and pulled around to where she could see it.

"Geez......Did you run away again?" She smiled.

Zuellni returned an innocent smile.

The city's consciousness, a consolidated form of electric particles, protected the people from filth monsters. Zuellni's hand touched Nina's face, patting it gently. Nina relaxed at that guileless face.

"You......Why do you like me so much?" Nina said, even knowing she wouldn't get a reply.

And as Nina had known, Zuellni only smiled, showing no signs of whether she had understood Nina's words.

"Yeah, I shouldn't need to think about that."

This kid really loved the people living in this city. Nina wasn't anyone special. She had only accepted Zuellni under a chance circumstance, so the Electronic Fairy often came to find her.

Just like how Zuellni was touching Nina's face.

Zuellni wanted to be touched in turn.

The consciousness itself, rather than its physical manifestation in the form of the city, wanted to be caressed.

"Meeting you was the best thing in my life."

And......

"Because I met you, I want to protect you."

Nina met Zuellni when she first started cleaning the Engine Room. Just like Layfon, she was shocked at the encounter. She knew the city had a consciousness, but she had never guessed it took the form of a little girl.

"I can love this city because you're in this form. Don't laugh at me for being cold-blooded. Just view me as narrow-minded......It's a refreshing and surprising experience to touch, to understand another and laugh together. I'm very happy."

That was why she wanted to protect Zuellni through her own hands.

"Yes......that's right."

She held Zuellni close to her face. The Electronic Fairy struggled as if she was itchy, then she pressed her nose on Nina's hair. Her small nose touched Nina's ear lope. The absence of breath was the difference between human and Electronic Fairy.

"I'll protect you with my own hands."

So she had to become stronger.

How strong could humans become? Nina knew someone was far ahead of her.

That, at least, was a level humans could reach.

"I will become strong, Zuellni!" she murmured in Zuellni's ear.

Zuellni shook Nina's hair, pouting in incomprehension.



"......Ah!"

The sound stopped Felli's steps.

This was the entrance to the Military Arts training complex.

The girl that Felli saw stood up from the steps. She was Layfon's classmate – Meishen Trinden.

"Ex-excuse......me."

Looking at the teary-eyed Meishen, Felli wanted to ask whether her face was that scary, but on second thought she decided against it.

(She ran away the last time too.)

The last time Meishen seemed to need Layfon for something, so Felli asked her to come in with her. However, Meishen had refused after saying something incomprehensible, and had run away.

(I know I'm a bit cold......)

But that was still a great shock to Felli.

"......Um......Uh, well......"

"What is it?"

Felli still replied in a deliberately cold manner to the stuttering Meishen.

"......Ah," Meishen lowered her head.

Felli knew what Meishen wanted to talk about.

The letter.

Besides the letter that Meishen had dropped when she fled, she – It wasn't possible for her to come and find Felli, especially all by herself.

The letter was for Layfon.

Felli had thought, for a moment, that it was a love letter. The letter bearing stamps from various cities and its worn out appearance, proof of its long journey, convinced Felli it wasn't a love letter.

What she wanted to know was why Meishen had a letter for Layfon? And who mailed this letter to here?

Leerin Marfes.

A girl's name.

Felli couldn't hand the letter over like this. She'd feel guilty for giving it back with signs that the letter had been opened.

(As if I had peeked at the letter.)

Felli thought so, leaving aside the fact that she did open the envelope and read the letter. She still had it with her. It'd be bad if her shifty brother found the letter in her room, so she had put it inside her schoolbag.

"Ah, excuse me......Excuse me......"

"......If it's about the letter, I've already given it to him."

Just what was she saying......Felli wondered. She was tired of Meishen's stuttering and planned to say something annoying, but what burst out of her mouth was a lie......

(If I had said straightaway that it was a lie......)

Then Meishen could have interpreted it as a mean joke.

......But when Felli had thought of what to say, it was already too late.

Meishen lifted her face, her disposition now bright and lively.

"......Thank you very much!"

......Not a lie anymore. Now she had to do it.

"......That's all right. I'm going now."

Felli fled through the entrance to the complex without looking back. In that case, she must give Layfon the letter before Meishen mentioned it to him.

(How do I give it to him?)

That was the problem. The letter's been opened. If she gave it to him, he'd know she had read it.

(Really......Why?)

If it was anyone else's letter, she would have returned it with no interest at all.

(Why did this letter come to my hand?)

She resented this unfair coincidence, but not the cause of it – Meishen. The girl must have received the letter under some circumstance......Like a letter being delivered to the wrong place.

(Damn......)

"Felli."

Someone called her name as she cursed the postman who made the flawed delivery.

It was Nina.

"Lucky I ran into you. I booked the battle arena. We'll train over there today."

"All right."

"Please tell the others that I'll take care of the paperwork for borrowing the training drones."

"Ok."

Having greeted Felli quickly, Nina headed outside the training complex.

(Battle arena......?)

Just when annoyance at the conversation came through......

(The Locker Room......That's a good place.)

Nobody would find out if she placed the letter in the Locker Room. In other words, it was enough that nobody knew Felli was the one who put the letter there.

(Yes.)

Felli hurried to the training facility. She had decided on the method, but she didn't relax.

(How annoying.)

She found herself getting irritated for having to lie and take up this troublesome burden. But it wasn't just that, she also wanted to get rid of the letter from her schoolbag.

(Why did this thing come to me?)

She was annoyed because she thought too much of it, too much of the person who sent this letter, of what Meishen was thinking when she picked it up, of whether Meishen had looked at the letter, of the expression Layfon would have when he received the letter......

And the expression she herself showed after reading the letter......

(I'll put this letter back quickly!)

She wanted this impatience gone.

Felli's hand pushed open the door to the training arena.



This thing was huge. Too huge.

"So what is it?" Sharnid asked.

In the room were Layfon, Harley and Sharnid. It wasn't that Sharnid came on time to train, which was rare for him, but that Nina was late again.

Felli's lateness was usual though.

"Well, this is for my research."

What came with Harley's trolley was a sword.

A huge sword.

The sword was removed from a niche on the trolley, and the sword's handle now rested near Layfon's chest. It was as long as Layfon was tall. It was a sword, but just a wooden sword. A few wires were twisted around the blade.

"Layfon, can you try wielding it?"

"Oh......"

Flabbergasted at the huge blade, Layfon took up the handle and lifted the sword with one hand.

The heavy weight pressed down on his wrist.

"How does it feel?"

"A bit heavy, but I can use this......"

He waited for the two others to retreat to the wall and then swung down the blade.

The weight of the sword and the centrifugal force of the swing caused him to lose his balance.

"Um......"

He took a deep breath again and let internal Kei run through his body.

This strengthened his flesh, increased the density of his muscles and lightened his body in a way different from the lightness of the air. He swung again.

A low howl rumbled through the air. Not the same as the usual tearing.

"Woah!" Harley called as the gale swept past his position.

Layfon's consciousness had already drifted away from the outside world after Harley's outburst. He tried different moves. An upward strike. Left to right. Sudden stab. The howling of the raging wind dominated his eardrums. A feeling of himself separating from the sword rose in him. He felt his body swaying thanks to the centrifugal force. He immediately knew he had to handle this weapon differently, but it wasn't possible to use that move in this narrow space.

"Hu......"

Layfon stopped moving and breathed out the remaining Kei and heat inside him.

"......Are you satisfied?"

Layfon almost swallowed back his breath at that icy voice.

Felli stood at the door. Her elegant brow furrowed. Her cold gaze pierced him.

"......Thank you for all your hard work."

"Yeah! It was hard!"

The silver hair that seemed to melt at a touch was tangled up like a typhoon.

"This long hair......"

"Ah, yes?"

At the edge of his vision, Layfon saw Sharnid and Harley running as far away as they could from the door, as if this had nothing to do with them.

Sharnid was bold enough to whistle deliberately.

No, forget Sharnid, even Harley ran away. Just what was going on......

"......Were you listening?"

"Sure."

"Really? This hair......It's hard work to comb it everyday. Yes, very, very hard......"

"Uh......Is that so......That must be tiring."

"Yes, very tiring."

"Ha! Hahaha......" All he could do was laugh dryly. What else should he say? Nothing.

No, there was something.

"......I'm sorry."

"I don't accept your apology."

No hesitation at all.

"Aaaah, isn't this fine? Look, Layfon regrets what he did."

"......No matter how I look at it, you were the one who brought this thing in, weren't you?"

"......Sorry," Harley lowered his head, shot down in an instant.

Felli sighed. "Never mind, there's something more important. I met the captain on the way here. She said she got permission to use the battle arena, so we'll be training over there today."

"Wow, that's sudden."

"I don't get it either."

Without changing her foul mood, she disappeared to the other side of the door.

Released from the tense atmosphere, Layfon and Harley sighed at the same time.

(Oh...the battle arena.)

"Senpai......"

"Yes."

Layfon spoke softly to him.

"Oh, so you do have to do that? Right, I'll ask."

"Thanks."

"What're you two talking about?"

"Just talking about the sword."

"Oh......"

Sharnid looked at the huge sword without much of an interest as it was placed back on the trolley.

"But......Why did you have to make this sword so ridiculously big?"

"Ah......It's the issue with the density of the foundation. No matter how it's calculated, the size comes out the same. Once this is completed, it should be lighter."

"Oh, so you're making a new type of Dite? If I remember correctly, inventing isn't your specialty, is it Harley?"

"Yeah, my roommate came up with this idea. Well, I'm better at organizing information and adjusting settings, but my roommate isn't the only one inventing. Our budget was only approved on the condition that we work on this project with three people."

"Right......Sounds annoying."

"That's mean."

"I'm not saying you're stupid. I just don't know much about this kind of thing," Sharnid waved and left the room. Layfon and Harley caught up with him and together, they headed for the battle arena.



Training ended without incident. Layfon thought the cooperation of the team as a whole was better than when he first joined. He could feel Sharnid's eyes when he was providing support from the rear, and Felli's speed at conveying intelligence, though not as fast as the time when the filth monsters attacked Zuellni, it wasn't as slow as before either.

They had three rounds of mock training against the drones. They won all three matches, and there was nothing they could comment on about their timing. Even so, Nina's distant expression remained.

"Well, we'll stop here for today."

"Uh, thanks for the hard work, everyone."

"Thanks for the hard work."

The review session in the Locker Room ended sloppily under Nina's announcement. As usual, Sharnid headed instantly for the bathroom, and Felli, who hadn't even sweat a single drop, took up her bag and left the room.

As usual, Layfon prepared to return to the training complex to train with Nina.

This was because the team needed its two primary attackers to work closely. If they couldn't develop a chemistry between them and coordinate intuitively, then everything was just talk......

"Layfon."

"Yes?"

"You can go back today."

"Huh?"

"We'll stop training together for a while."

"Why?"

"Because there's no need to."

He was dumbstruck at how easy she gave voice to that thought.

It was easy for him to say "Definitely not." In truth, they did coordinate in the mock training just then, but that was because their movements matched. He wouldn't call that the perfect intuitive coordination.

He thought Nina wanted him to coordinate well with her, so their current situation wasn't too good.

But she said "There's no need to."

What was going on?

"Anyway, we'll stop training. You can go back," she said and turned from him.

He felt like he was just rejected.

"Nina......" Harley said.

Harley had easily entered the area of rejection that Layfon, wondering whether he should step in, failed to enter. This was the free relationship of childhood friends, a relationship not bound by anything.

This feeling was different from the distant feeling he had, of standing on the other side of the glass. He was dumbfounded at her refusal to train with him.

"I'm going then," Layfon said. Aghast at himself for saying this without resistance, he left the Locker Room.



The closing of the door seemed to seal off their relationship. The simple tone of the voice cut through her chest.

Nina shook her head to disperse that pain.

"What am I doing?"

She knew.

She knew, but what was she doing? Asking herself this question?

"Don't be confused."

As always, when she failed to find the exit to the maze of her thoughts, she stopped thinking.

Even if one could speculate about the future, predicting it wasn't possible. The only predictable thing was death, but no one knew when they'd die.

(My future's at a state where even speculating over it makes it sound strange.)

So she could only do what she thought was right.

"Should I return to the training complex?"

She had been clear in her refusal to train. Layfon probably wasn't in the training complex now.

......If he was there, she had to move somewhere else.

"......Hm?"

Something had fallen beside the chair.


(Success.)

Felli had placed the letter beneath Layfon's bag. This way, Layfon might think he had misplaced it in his bag and hadn't realized it.

She had resealed the letter, albeit a bit clumsily. Layfon might not discover the letter had been opened though, since he really was slow. Her heart snickered, but her expression remained cold as usual. She raised her fist a bit to compliment herself, then left the battle arena with sprightly steps.



Night came. The sky turned dark.

Layfon stepped into the battle arena again.

In the darkness of the night, the bugs sheltered in the bushes called, their sound sending ripples through the air.

In Layfon's hand was the sword Harley had brought over. Holding the wooden handle of the clumsy and huge sword that had iron wires wrapped around it, Layfon waited for his eyes to adjust to the darkness.

"Fu!" He let out a breath, waited for Internal Kei to flow through his body, then began his movements.

First he repeated the basic moves he had used in the training complex. Strong wind blasted the war field, the sword's weight unbalancing Layfon's center of gravity. He adjusted his center of gravity as he swung the sword.

Instead of using force to control the swaying of his body caused by the sword, he adjusted his movements to follow the direction of the sword's weight.

And used that power.

After some time, Layfon was no longer staying at one place. He was moving constantly in the confines of the arena, following the direction that the weight led him.

And not long after, he was controlling that direction.

Moving without a pattern, he propelled himself forward in the arena. His movements were different from before. Very different from the basic moves of handling a sword.

He leaped from the ground as he swung. Spinning in the air, he used the weight of the sword to shoot out his Kei. The force generated by the attack that pulled him forward was then turned into the force of his next attack.

His repeated this process numerous times, his feet not even touching the ground.

"......"

The sword penetrated the ground, and Layfon stopped moving. As numerous soil particles rained down on him, Internal Kei gathered in his feet.

Internal-type Kei – Whirl Kei.

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And he leaped upward, pulling the sword out from the ground and swinging it.

Touching the ground, he leaped up again to swing the sword. It was much harder to control the weight of the sword in midair than on solid earth. Layfon continued to practice, trying to find a way to control the blade.

At last, he stopped his leaping movements and breathed out slowly to disperse his Kei.

Light flooded the arena.

"I no longer know......how to describe it," Harley said in a low voice as he approached with Felli and Karian.

"How's it doing?"

Harley jotted down notes on a notepad as Layfon told him his thoughts.

"How're you doing with the invention?" Karian asked when Harley finished writing down everything.

The alchemy student replied, his face dimming. "No problem at all. The basic theory was completed at the time Layfon started here. The only issue left is whether the thing would work after it's manufactured. Yeah, just a few adjustments would do. There aren't many people who can use this, so I never thought I'd have a chance to make it."

The fact that filth monsters were near Zuellni was top secret, but it wouldn't make sense to hide that from the alchemists, so Karian had divulged it to Harley and his camp of inventors.

But not everyone in the 17th platoon knew – not Nina and Sharnid. Layfon had also asked Harley to keep it a secret from them.

"We can only give up if that's the fate of the city."

"......True, but I don't want that kind of fate," Harley sighed, clearing the cloudy look on his face.

"Is it really all right for the guy who came up with the basic theory to miss this?" Karian said.

"He's a weirdo. He's got incredible skill and wrists as a sword maker, but he himself is pretty annoying."

"That's the sign of an artist."

"Really? I think weirdo is enough to describe him."

"Hahaha."

"You'll feel the same if you meet him."

Karian left them to lock up the battle arena. At the exit, Harley also left for the alchemy lab, saying the weirdo might still be there.

Layfon and Felli stayed to wait for Karian.

The streetlights dimly chased away the darkness of the empty road leading to the war field.

"You're accommodating," Felli said.

"I can't let others do this, right?" Layfon smiled bitterly.

Felli lifted her face. "Perhaps......I can't help but feel that you've given up."

"Given up?"

"Your purpose for coming here."

"......"

"Don't you want to live a normal life?"

"I'm not giving it up."

"Then why did you agree to this?"

Layfon moved his gaze away.

"Well......I can't do anything about it. A man's instinct is strong."

"Yes, but the problem won't end just by getting rid of filth monsters."

"......I suppose."

Unable to argue against Felli, his smile turned weak.

A huge number of filth monsters were outside the city.

"Won't it be too late if something happens to humanity because of your foolish act?"

"I don't know about something that big. But if that's what I can do, then I can only do that. Isn't that right?"

"......Has it got to be you?"

"Huh?"

"We can win if we aren't afraid of sacrifice. You said that before, 'We can still win if we are willing to sacrifice.'"

"Yes, but I don't think it's good to not do what I'm capable of doing."

"......"

"......I'm sorry."

"That's fine, I know I'm the type who can but won't do things."

Layfon watched Felli.

"I don't find that despicable. That is my determination. It's a path I chose for myself. No matter what others think, I won't regret it when I die."

Layfon admired her determination. She tried hard to confront her fate, and she kept trying even though it wasn't successful. Her way wasn't bad either.

"But I hate myself for doing nothing and causing people to die, especially if it happens to senpai and everyone I know."

"Hm?"

"Even in Grendan, I tried to solve everything alone. I didn't care that others found my way base and despicable. On the contrary, I really don't understand why they had to say those things."

Had the people at the orphanage wanted him to do that? He didn't know. He had never thought to ask. He knew the answer even if he didn't ask. On the other hand, perhaps that wasn't the truth. Layfon had left Grendan to come to Zuellni.

He didn't hate them.

But even if he didn't earn money that way, he would have found similar means as he didn't want the orphanage Head and Leerin to worry about poverty.

He attempted to solve everything through his own strength.

"I'm really naive."

"You are."

"That's mean!"

"......Anyway, I dislike the traditional title of 'senpai'. Call me something else."

"Huh?"

"Don't your classmates call you Layton?"

Her sudden change of topic was perplexing.

"Yes, but......I don't think I'd be happy if that name got out, uh, how should I put it......"

"Then let me find something else to call you. Lay, Layton-kun, Layfon-kun, Lay-chin, Lay-san......Which is better?"

"Uh? Can I only choose from that list?"

"Have you got any other suggestions?"

"Hmm, it's hard to come up with a nickname for myself."

"Then I'll call you Lay-chin."

"......Please let me think on it more."

"Why? Isn't Lay-chin cute?"

"No, if there's a cooler way......"

Being called 'Lay-chin♪' by an emotionless voice just sounded strange. Not that he wanted her to use it in a cute voice.

......Just thinking of that sent a chill down his spine.

"How about 'Lay the Flash'? Everyday, when I see you, I'll say "Good morning 'Lay the Flash', 'Hello, Lay the Flash', 'Goodnight, Lay the Flash.' In any situation when I need to use your name, I'll call you 'Lay the Flash'."

"......"

"Are you embarrassed?"

"If you know, then don't call me that!! But why Flash?"

"Do you want a word other than Flash?"

"That's not the issue."

"You're selfish."

"Me?"

"Oh well, I'll just call you Fon Fon."

"Wa, that's totally different! It sounds like the name of some rare animal."

"What does that matter? Fon Fon, do you want snacks?" she politely took out a wrapped up chocolate from her pocket. That action of hers totally depleted Layfon's energy.

"Am I a pet?"

"It's enough that you act like a pet."

"Wu......"

"You only need to be a pet, so you don't have to force yourself."

"Hmm?"

"......My brother's back," Felli turned around quickly, giving him no time to seek clarification.

"Sorry for making you wait. Actually, I didn't expect you to wait for me."

"You didn't say not to wait for you. Besides, you're pretty frail. It's dangerous for you to head back alone."

"Hahaha, what an extreme way of putting it. Sorry for making you guys wait, but I've got something else I must do, so I'll be heading off to the Student Council room. You can go back first."

"You should have told us earlier."

"Uhhh, it was my mistake. Sorry. Right, you must be hungry after all that exercise, Layfon. Because of me the schedule was pushed back so late. Felli, take him to a good restaurant and have something to eat," Karian said, and took out some bills from his wallet and handed them to Felli. Before Layfon and Felli could say anything, the Student President had already left them.

"Got it," Felli murmured to the speechless Layfon.

"Well, since this is a rare occasion, let's go to a lively bar. We can enjoy the night while drinking delicious wine. Please get a key to a decent hotel room."

"No, please don't say that as if everything's been decided. Besides, we aren't old enough to drink alcohol."

Moreover, that kind of atmosphere wouldn't suit Layfon and Felli.

Layfon wasn't solemn enough to have to go to a bar, and Felli's crisp and beautiful face gave off a feeling different from an adult's.

But if it was a place for Felli......

(A restaurant catering to families......)

A family restaurant with kids......Putting aside her beauty, Felli was like a child pretending to be mature.

Lips pouting, she was paying a lot of attention to the toys near the cashier.

(Ah, that would suit her too perfectly!)

Unfortunately, there weren't any family restaurants in Zuellni, but that didn't mean there weren't any toy shops.

"......You seem to be thinking of something weird," Felli said.

"Of course not!"

She held her suspicious gaze.

"Never mind, there's a restaurant close by that I often visit, and its open till quite late. Is it okay for me to treat you?"

"You don't have to worry about that kind of thing. Let's go, Fon Fon."

"......Wait, have you settled on that name already?"

"I've decided. Fon Fon, I'll leave you here if you don't hurry up."

With no room to resist being given a new nickname, he chased after Felli, feeling more tired than when he was practicing in the arena.



After dinner with Felli, Layfon returned to the dormitory, had a shower and fell into the bed.

His body relaxed in complete exhaustion. As he slowly entered a state of false sleep, he thought back on what had happened to him so far.

He spent a lot of time focusing today. That image and those words distracted him while he was handling his sword.

"We'll stop training together for a while."

He didn't think Nina's words had that much of an impact on him, but he might be wrong.

"But it's probably different from a mental impact."

It felt more like......A bad premonition. Irritation was more like it. At that time, he thought he had seen the clear face of the feeling that he got from Nina......It looked similar to irritation, but he had yet to grasp hold of its true form.

"Yeah, it feels familiar."

In the wake of impatience and anxiety, his will to sleep had gone off somewhere.

In one swift moment, he thought he understood it, but then it slipped away. That was frustrating.

"Uuu......Aaah!"

He moaned and tossed on the bed and accidentally fell off it. He was too relaxed, so he didn't have time to protect himself from the fall.

"Wu......" He climbed back up, pressing his nose with a hand, and he saw his wrist.

White dots scattered around his wrist, like injuries caused by scalding heat.

They were traces left from his contact with pollutant. When Layfon was being treated in the hospital, the doctor said the scars would fade given enough time. Yet even now, he could still find traces of their existence.

He thought his injuries were nothing, but he started doubting that when he saw the reaction of Nina and the others.

It would be good if people looked at his scar and didn't think they were responsible.

But the scar Layfon was gazing at was another one. A black scar that stretched from his wrist to his elbow. It was a scar that would never fade, a scar left after the injury had healed. This was also one part of Layfon's past.

As long as one searched for it, one could find traces of injuries on his body. Injuries made in training, in matches, in fights against filth monsters. Not only that, but also the cuts he got on his knee and upper forehead when he was little, running around and crashing into walls. These two scars were lighter.

"This wound was really painful," he murmured, sitting on the bed and looking at the scar on his wrist.

He got this injury when practicing with the steel threads.

When he had become a Heaven's Blade successor, he learned ways to fight filth monsters from the other Heaven's Blade successors.

The Heaven's Blade successor who used steel threads was Lintence Savoleid Harden.

At first, Layfon trained with just one thread. At that time, he already knew how to extend his Kei into his weapon and feel the weapon as part of his nervous system.

But that wasn't enough to control the steel threads.

Lintence said not only the nervous system, but the weapon had to become his muscles too. Layfon thought that was Lintence's excuse, but after watching him groom the trees of the palace yard with his countless steel threads in one breath, Layfon had nothing to complain about.

While suffering for not being used to this way of fighting, he gradually learned how to control the steel threads as he pleased. One thread became two, two became four, four became eight, eight between sixteen......The number of steel threads increased.

Yet, it was only the number of threads that was increasing. He was still a great distance away from being able to control the threads as if his own arms had extended, as if they were really a part of his body.

......With the Layfon now, he would have understood, but back then, he didn't get it.

He shouldn't have seen that technique.

Filth monsters at a more mature stage than the ones that attacked Zuellni not long ago assaulted Grendan at the time when Layfon managed to control more than 100 steel threads.

Lintence defeated them all.

Layfon couldn't help but imitate him, thinking he could also manage that technique. The Lintence watching him practice, as if putting him under surveillance, gradually faded from his vision.

He tried the technique when he was alone......Cut by his own steel thread, he had fainted through intense pain and blood loss.

When he came to, he was lying on a hospital bed.

"Are you a moron?" was what he heard from Lintence when he opened his eyes.

"Would spiders stick to their webs? Then do those spiders that do have a right to live? A spider that's not a spider wants to become a spider. You need a thousand times, a million times, a billion times more practice than a true spider to become one. Moron! You're worse than a newly born tiny spider. It's too soon to want to weave a spider web when you don't even know how to emit silk. Go and start practicing from the very beginning!"

Layfon got quite an earful.

"His speech was over the top."

Rather than anger, a strange feeling rose in him as he thought about the past. Gazing at the scar, he laughed dryly.

Nothing had changed from then. The only condition to become a Heaven's Blade successor was to keep on becoming stronger, so he didn't have time to be scared of the weapon. He had then continued to practice with the steel threads alone. Lintence had also fallen silent, interrupting only when needed.

Every Heaven's Blade successor knew it was a lonely journey to reach the top by competing with each other. Young Layfon also had to satisfy that condition. He didn't have to be asked to satisfy it, because he was already fulfilling it.

But he had become more cautious.

He knew an uncontrollable power could harm its user, so before he managed to fully control that power, he decided to seal it inside himself.

Lintence hadn't taught Layfon anything beyond the basics of the steel threads. The duty of a Heaven's Blade successor was to become strong himself, not to help another become strong. Lintence had already broken that mutual rule by teaching Layfon the steel threads technique, so Layfon continued to practice without any complaints.

He hadn't sustained an injury as deep and severe as that one since then, but he still got many other injuries. Those injuries had all healed, disappeared, leaving many scars.

Every time a new scar appeared, he knew more of his weaknesses. He would correct that weakness before the wound healed. And by repeating that process, he finally managed to control the steel threads.

"Ah, perhaps......"

Why was he thinking of it? Why did he recall it? It was neither a painful nor a warm snatch of memory.

Without thinking, he was projecting his feelings over the feeling he got from Nina. He had experienced the uneasiness and incomprehension he felt from Nina.

Did Nina want to become strong alone?

Was she forcing herself to become strong through loneliness?

If that was the case, then......At this thought, a dull pain flared in his chest.


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