Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume2 Chapter5
Chapter 5: Things in Life
The tight armor-suit felt cool on his skin. The suits looked like they'd be heavy and hot on the outside, but didn't feel hot after he put them on. They had surprisingly good ventilation. He had worn something like this back in Grendan. Wearing the suit wasn't new to him.
Under the light, one could just make out the color of his skin beneath the sheer cloth used for filtering pollutants outside the city.
The fitting was done at the last moment, so this was his first time wearing this suit.
He left the fitting room.
"It feels fine," Layfon said.
He was underneath the city, inside what was called the waist of the city, located beneath the Engine Room and connected to the multi-legs. A space that was basically a gap.
A lot of work, mostly involving the maintenance of the multi-legs, started and ended here.
And in here right now were Layfon, Karian and a couple other students.
The student leader of the technology course let out a relieved sigh. On his face were traces of sleepless nights.
"That's great, next is the helmet......"
The helmet was made of two parts. The hard component that made up the outer part of the helmet pressed down on the same material as the cloth that made up the armored suit. The cloth was cut according to the contours of Layfon's face. Once he put on the helmet, his face was sealed from the outside world. Lastly, the student leader connected the piece of cloth hanging out from beneath the helmet to the suit to cover Layfon's neck.
Nothing illuminated the helmet. In total darkness, the Student President sent out a signal to someone through his transmitter.
A scene of somewhere else appeared before Layfon.
Barren earth greeted Layfon's eyes.
Right before him was the desolate and sterile earth, with cracks like spider webs across its surface. The dry smell of the earth drifted into his nose. Wind filled with a huge amount of sand beat against Layfon as it blew past him......Like an illusion, the clear images coming through the helmet gave him the feeling that he was seeing things with his own eyes and feeling things with his own body.
"Does it work?"
But she wasn't beside him.
"That's good," came the cool reply.
The helmet was connected to Felli's flakes. They replaced Layfon's vision and conveyed to him all kinds of information. This way, he wouldn't have to see the world with his own eyes and risk burning them through contact with the pollutants, and he would also avoid the inconvenience of the sand sticking onto the helmet and obstructing his vision.
"Then everything's prepared."
In his harness hung the Dite he got from Harley. It differed from the normal Dite in that it was slightly longer. A small and thin slab of metal curved inward from the handle, and on it were three holes.
This was the completed version of the Adamantium Dite......And its inventor still hadn't shown up.
Lastly, Layfon equipped himself with four more Dites.
"Please use the bike," Karian pointed at the thing beside him.
It was a vehicle from the past that had long since lost its original function. Its design was wide but delicate. Underneath the dim light, liquid silver ran across its black outer shell.
The rubber wheels could not be used on the barren earth. Long distances were out of the question, and there was little meaning in making or using the wheels for short distances only. The obvious conclusion was to adjust the design in a way that was similar to how the robotic legs moved. Even so, its movement far exceeded the speed of robotic legs. Every city had a few of these bikes for emergencies.
The seat for the person needing rescue had been taken off this bike.
Layfon took his seat and switched on the engine. A low rumble sounded out from beneath the vehicle as the bike vibrated.
Karian and the others went to the control room, and the gate leading to the outside world opened. A lift lowered Layfon to the ground.
Furious wind and the city's slowly moving multi-legs surrounded Layfon. As the lift descended, he gazed at the mountain protruding from the ground far away.
The filth monster was there.
It would take him one day to get there......The long and lonely journey began.
Time rewinds to just a short while before Layfon's departure. This was the hospital room.
At the voice that sounded lost, Layfon looked away from the vase. It was Nina. The nurse had removed the needles from her back, turned her over and pulled a blanket over her. The remaining light of the sunset shone through the window. Light and shadow separated the room into two colors. Except for the dusky red on Nina's bed, everywhere else was dim.
Layfon turned on the light. It reflected off the whitewashed walls and shooed away the darkness. Nina squinted at the dazzling light and saw Layfon's silhouette.
"This is the hospital."
"Don't you remember?"
She slowly shook her head as she watched the ceiling, followed by a light sigh. The sound of quiet movements from nurses, patients and visitors outside the room caused small vibrations in the air.
Layfon looked at the vase again. In it sat Sharnid's flowers.
"I see, so I fainted."
"You overused your Kei, senpai."
Layfon felt suffocated at the sparseness of the conversation. Nina gradually reached the logical conclusion she didn't want to accept ......A premonition of her struggling to escape and failing at it.
"Were you watching?" she said.
Watching the vase, Layfon felt her gaze stab one side of his face, but the Nina at the edge of his vision was looking at the window painted red by the sunset.
"Do you find me ridiculous?"
"I didn't laugh."
"But I want to laugh at myself."
He sensed the blanket move a little.
"I'm so unsightly......"
"I don't think so."
"Why?" Irritation filled her question. Mixed in it was also the sound of crying, but he didn't attempt to confirm that. Perhaps......He didn't want to look at the Nina gazing at the sunset.
"This might seem cruel, but I think some things can only be understood after a near-death experience. No one can help with that."
"And this is one of them?" she asked in a mocking tone. Mocking herself.
"......We have to give up on the next platoon match."
She must have understood it.
"Did I waste my time?"
"I want to win and become stronger. In that case, haven't I been wasting my time?"
"Have you lost just because you can't participate in the next match?"
"That's not it!" She tried to sit up, her face twisted. Her entire body hurt so much that she couldn't even sit up properly. She lay back down heavily, the pillow supporting the sudden weight of her head.
"......Even so, I still want to win and get stronger. If I stop here and can't do anything in the real match, then nothing else is worth mentioning."
"So haven't I been wasting my time?"
She didn't turn to him. Inside the blanket, her body seemed to become smaller.
"......At first, I thought it would be enough if I used my own strength and helped out Zuellni in the next Military Arts competition," she said softly, still not turning to face him. "But I got a bit greedy. Because you're so strong. I was scared when I first witnessed it. I wondered whether you were even human, but when I confirmed you were, desire came to me. I didn't want just to help, I wanted to become the driving force, the core of victory. I thought the 17th platoon had become stronger even though there was no proof of it. If you want to laugh, then go ahead."
Layfon shook his head solemnly.
"But I lost the match. Of course. And I feel it was fortunate that we lost. That match corrected my error, but I stopped moving forward after that......If that's the case, what do I have to do to win?"
As long as the team became stronger.
The answer was simple, but Layfon didn't voice it.
He understood a little of Nina's line of thinking. Sharnid had a lukewarm attitude, and Felli clearly had no interest at all.
Especially because Felli told him that she wouldn't use her true strength. She hated herself for being a Psychokinesist.
The strength of a team showed in their coordination. It was meaningless for one person to be strong.
The opposing team had demonstrated this truth in the previous match.
"I thought only I needed to become strong. Even if I can't fight alongside you, at least I can be strong enough not to become a burden, so......"
So she increased the time spent training herself?
The unusual training schedule meant she had a high evaluation of Layfon's strength.
"But I might have wasted my time."
Something quiet and heavy pushed down on the air in the room.
"......Does senpai know about the irregularity in your Kei breathing?"
"I mean the breath of Kei. Senpai was in a lot of pain in that last moment."
The sudden change in topic confused her.
"The irregularity of your Kei breath shows you've wasted your training, to a certain point. It's natural for that to happen because you lied to your body and, despite your exhaustion, you continued to use Kei. This is the same theory as how one can't breathe in at will while exercising. When a person first breathes with Kei, the Kei vein generates an amount of Kei that's larger than usual. The training method for the Kei vein is different from how you increase the capacity of your lungs. In the final phase of Kei training, you can live your daily life using the breath of Kei without having to use Internal- and External-type Kei."
"It's hard work to maintain the Kei breath without generating a Kei flow, but if that can be done, then it'll increase the person's sensitivity to her Kei and the amount of Kei she holds. It's like the Kei becomes your nervous system. Kei breathing is the foundation of using Kei."
Kei breathing is the foundation of using Kei.
That was explained in the junior textbook in Military Arts.
But he had said something that wasn't included in the textbook. None of the textbooks mentioned maintaining a daily life with Kei breathing.
"If humans with a Kei vein want to survive by relying on Military Arts, then it's meaningless to live the same as normal people. They breathe differently, so the meanings are different. Please look at the flow of Kei as more important than blood. Believe the information from the Kei flow more than what you feel from your nervous system. Don't become a blood bag that thinks, but please become a formless body of Kei that thinks," he said lightly.
Nina remained silent and inert as she listened. She watched him with surprise, her eyes slightly red.
"If you want to live by the Military Arts, then give up trying to live as a human."
He said that to the Nina who was at ease because he was a human – don't live as humans do.
"That's all I can tell senpai," he smiled. It was a forced smile, so it must have looked quite stiff. He could feel the hard muscles of his face.
"Have you noticed? Sharnid-senpai has a new Dite."
"He seems to know how to use Close Quarter Gun Combat. I don't know what level he's at. You can check later. Perhaps we can have more variation in strategies now. But all the formations we've used so far have used everyone to attack; maybe you can do it another way and stay at the back. My brain's terrible with strategies, and they probably aren't right, so I have to leave it to Senpai."
"I'm good at fighting alone, but I'm terrible when fighting in a team. It's not easy to fight while thinking of the comrades fighting alongside me. Frankly, I feel that the battle arena is too small."
"Please give me orders, and I'll try to act them out to the best of my ability. Sharnid-senpai seems to have his own thinking on this. As for Felli-senpai......Well, let's work hard together."
He stammered out those last words, so he laughed to cover them.
"It's all up to senpai whether we can become the strongest platoon, so please don't abandon us."
"Abandon you......How could I......"
Nina recalled her recent actions.
Yes, it wasn't strange to think she had abandoned them when she was training to become strong by herself.
"Yeah......I've nothing to say."
"I'm not against senpai getting stronger. I'll help out the best I can if there's anything I can do. Although all I can do is teach you how to train your Kei......If you can find anything more useful than this, then learn from me as much as you can."
He smiled, a bit embarrassed. This time his smile might have been even stiffer. Please don't abandon us......That felt just like a kid not wanting to part with someone.
Had he come to like the 17th platoon this much......? Without knowing himself......?
Or was it because of......her?
He didn't want to leave Nina Antalk?
(Which is it?)
He wasn't sure himself.
"I see......So I'm the only one who's wavering."
Her soft voice stopped his train of thought.
"We're comrades, so let's get stronger together."
He couldn't deny the other him who was happy thanks to the intense light in her eyes.
"It was like you were saying your last words."
The bike moved forward, bumping across the deserted earth. He was already driving on the smoothest surface, but he wasn't sure what good it did. He'd had training back in Grendan for driving, but he had never driven for so long a distance. There was a spare tire. If possible, he didn't want to encounter a situation where he had to use it.
The sun had sunk down in the west. The headlights cut out a circle from the darkness around him.
As long as he got the location right, he'd arrive there, so he constantly checked the compass on the bike's dashboard as he drove.
And Felli was guiding him, so things shouldn't be confusing.
He still hadn't taken any action at this distance regarding the filth monster. One reason was because of the limited preparation time and movement, but the main reason was his need to coordinate with Felli's information.
Felli's voice came through the flake on his helmet. "I heard......What you said in the hospital room."
"Those weren't my last words," he laughed.
"But it's not strange to think so in this situation, right?"
"Is that so?"
"But I don't plan to lose."
"You didn't say you wouldn't die."
"I don't know anything besides the fact that the filth monster is male. I can't say what isn't certain."
He felt the low howling of the wind through his armor-suit. The pollutants beat against him.
On the other side of the skin-thin suit lay a dead world.
Nothing lived except the filth monsters. On the barren earth, shards of soil jutted from the ground. Pollution poisoned the air. Contact with pollutants would cause burns, the skin peeling off in flakes. If one breathed in the air, one's lungs would rot.
One person was in this dead world.
The uneasy feeling of being in a place he shouldn't be invaded Layfon.
He had fought in this dead world numerous times, fighting continuously in an arena that was far wider and vaster than any city, but filled with a sense of suffocation. Was he truly alive right now? Even that feeling of "Of course I'm alive" was fading.
His mission was all that kept him going in this place, so when he faced battle, he always felt his life was somewhere far, far away from him.
"I don't plan to say my last words here," he repeated.
He almost crashed.
"Have you really decided on that name?" Embarrassed at the nickname that didn't suit the current atmosphere, he steadied the vehicle.
There was stubbornness in her icy voice.
"Can you not use that name?"
"No......I remember. We were deciding on something to call me. How did we end up deciding on your nickname?"
"......Don't ask me."
He didn't even get a say in the name of Fon Fon.
"Ah......I get it, because my brother showed up. He has to interfere in everything I do. My emotionless and tearless brother is the cause of my misfortune. I pray daily that he'll be forced to withdraw because he's been exposed using public funds for private purposes and other crimes he's committed."
"What are you saying......"
Her solemn expression surfaced in his mind.
"Then you decide."
"I'm bored, so you can either talk to me, or you can make some funny jokes?"
Yes, there was still some time before he reached his destination.
"Um, I can't, but......"
"Please don't make jokes. I'll get a headache if you turn into Sharnid-senpai."
"......Then what do I do?"
"Just think of what to call me."
He was troubled. Anyway, all he needed was to say what he thought.
"I'm already used to that. I've been called that since I was very little. Use more creativity. This name's denied."
"I feel like a moron. Rejected."
Then what about when Meishen was called Mei-chi? But he didn't say that to Felli. Recently, he had been calling her Mei. Speaking of which, that was how he called Naruki too, but that seemed different......
"Is that even meaningful? Rejected."
"My name is not a joke. Rejected."
"Are you laughing?"
"I hate rehash. Rejected."
"Sounds like a strange laugh. Rejected."
"Who's that? Rejected."
"Do you want to die~? Rejected."
"......Sorry, I give up."
"You're not permitted to give up."
What should he do......He wanted to hold his head. Besides, the name was usually shortened or changed to add variations to its tone. Or he could use some similar thing as an analogy......
He decided not to say she was a cold, bloodless doll. That would definitely hurt.
"Please hurry," she urged. His head felt like stone. He couldn't think of anything else.
(Fe?......What is that?)
If he shortened her name, it became some strange sound. What if like Naruki became Fekki? How strange.
"Hurry up. What's with you?"
"Felli," he said in resignation. There were no variations and no comparisons.
Just her original name. Perhaps that sounded rough. Even so, he couldn't help it. He had no other ideas.
(How about that?)
"......Say it again."
Felli's image wasn't displayed in the helmet, but he felt he saw her. Her right hand caressed her chin, left hand supporting her right elbow, her head slightly cocked, her gaze lightly stroking the sky above her......This image of her surfaced in his mind.
"It's not creative at all, and you didn't put any effort into it. No respect for your senpai at all, and there's no affection for me. It's so bad that you can't call it a name."
So that didn't work......Well......
Layfon tried to think of another name, but instead was surprised by what Felli said next.
"Never mind, we'll just use that."
"Heh?" He was rather shocked, then glad of her letting him go.
"But you have to say it with more emotion. I don't need the respect for a senpai though. Call me that from now on, okay?"
"Well, Fon Fon. Say it again."
"Call me that from now on, ok?"
"Uh, in front of others too?"
"And Fon Fon too?"
"Sorry, please forgive me."
If he was called Fon Fon during team training and after school......
(No......No No NO!)
That would be so embarrassing.
"Fine, then I'll call you Fon Fon when we're alone."
He could truly relax now.
"In exchange for that, I'll add one more condition."
"Yes, leave it to me," Layfon said, not really having heard what Felli had just said. He'd agree to any request as long as she didn't call him Fon Fon in front of everyone.
"Please remember to call me by that name when you return."
"It's a promise."
Those were the last words; Felli stopped talking after that.
He took a quick nap before dawn. The swaying of his body stuck to him like echoes. And like that, he lay on the vehicle and closed his eyes.
The wind had died down and everywhere looked dead. He didn't know what Felli was doing on the other end of the flakes. She hadn't spoken to him for a while now.
It was really quiet, as if even his own voice had died off. When he moved slightly, the sound of Dites bumping against the bike shook his eardrums. On the other hand, the feeling of him being alive was more intense than ever.
He knew there was no such thing, but that feeling came unbidden to him. He had no one beside him, no one to help him. The people living in Zuellni were far behind him, and he had no idea where the other cities were.
What was Leerin doing?
This flashed through his mind.
After the attack on Zuellni, he had only written one letter to Leerin. He felt that he was waiting for a return letter from somewhere. It wasn't that strange that he still hadn't received a letter. The roaming buses hadn't delivered any letters, so the mail would probably come soon.
He candidly told her about the current Layfon in that letter. How he was forced to transfer into the Military Arts, enter a platoon and fight the larvae......And his inability to give up on the Military Arts. What would Leerin think? Would she smile bitterly and say "Can't be helped since it's you," or would she lecture him with a pink face......
The harness swayed and the Dites jostled against each other.
(I......am quite afraid of being alone.)
He deeply thought that. He used to write to Leerin every week, but he hadn't been doing that now. One reason was his losing the fresh and curious feeling he had when he first started school. The second reason was that Leerin didn't write as much in her letters to him. He felt a distance between them.
He hadn't received a letter from Leerin since her last letter.
(It must be the distance between cities.)
In the time when cities couldn't contact each other, Layfon was doubtful as to whether his letter had arrived safely at Grendan. He didn't think Leerin would not want to write to him. The unreliable connection between cities, the Layfon involved in this situation, the Layfon who thought of Leerin in this time...... He arrived at this conclusion from all these factors combined.
Had the people he met in this city filled his loneliness of not being with Leerin?
It didn't fill his loneliness. It replaced it. The truth of leaving Leerin remained in him. He was just so busy with school and everything that he hadn't the time to feel lonely.
This was the Layfon in Zuellni. Perhaps it was a good thing that he wasn't as tense as he was in Grendan.
(Although there's a lot of troublesome things, and I'm doing what I did before......)
And as part of his life in Zuellni, he was out here in the open, in a desolate environment, totally isolated from his normal life.
Particles of sand beat against the vehicle and his Dites.
The wind was rising again. Listening to the sound of the wind, Layfon's consciousness sank into shallow darkness.
Time rewinds back to just after Layfon's departure.
The door was pushed open.
"Yo, Nina! Are you alright?"
"I don't think that's a question you ask a patient."
"Yep. Just like this!" Sharnid walked into the room, smiling flippantly as he winked at a nurse walking past in the corridor. Harley was right behind him.
It was the morning of a weekend. Nina put aside the book she was reading.
"What're you reading? Ugh, a textbook! And it's 'Military Arts Principles I' ......Why're you reading this now?"
Nina nodded as she confirmed the Dites hanging around Sharnid's waist.
"Because I have something I need to relearn."
"Ha ha, even though you fainted all of a sudden, you're still so serious," Sharnid shrugged.
"Forget it. What about today's match? Is it okay not to watch it?"
"If you want to know, I can bring you the disc later. Because of the sudden holiday, it was too abrupt to arrange a date, so I've got time on my hands."
If so, then just go and watch the match. But Nina didn't say that. Harley's smile lacked his usual cheerfulness, and that bothered her.
"But it's tragic to faint due to over-exhaustion. And you're still so serious about it after fainting; I greatly admire our captain."
"......I'm sorry," Nina apologized, lowering her head.
"No, no......" Sharnid said. "I don't want you to reflect on this. I've done that sort of thing many times already...... besides, I have something else to talk about today. Sorry I have to push back visiting the patient."
Sharnid snatched up his Dite. "For someone who's not in a team, my words probably don't mean much......" He said as he deftly spun the larger-than-palm-sized Dite.
"Everyone has secrets, but there are two types: ones that don't matter, and ones that people take notice of. I don't care if it's the former type, but the latter......"
A rapid movement from him.
The Dite restored in his hand in the blink of an eye and it was pointed right at Harley.
"Sharnid!" Nina said loudly. A smile still hung on Sharnid's face. As for Harley, he was frozen stiff at the sudden Dite's appearance.
"If my comrade's keeping secrets, then I can't move freely, cause I'll worry that he'll stab me in the back. For example, whether this guy would shoot the wrong target......Something like that," Sharnid stared closely at his Dite pressing down on Harley's forehead.
Meaning he was suspecting Harley?
"How could that be?" Nina said.
"Harley is my childhood friend. He'll never betray me."
"I don't doubt this guy's skill, and I don't think he'll betray the team, but it seems we were the only two left out."
"What?" Nina looked at Harley. Resignation filled his stiff expression.
"The weapon you made in haste a while ago was for Layfon, right? That ridiculously huge sword, just what was it for?"
Nina remembered, but she had never suspected Harley. Recently, she was only thinking about herself.
"What do you guys plan for the ridiculously strong Layfon with that type of a weapon? I think I can guess. Felli's with you guys and that's enough confirmation. But if it's possible, I want to hear it from you."
Nina kept silent.
"Sorry," Harley's lips were clamped tight against each other.
Slightly shaky lips opened again.
Nina had forgotten her own breathing, and the same feeling remained with her as she listened.
The nurse went in to deliver lunch, and seeing the bed empty, she ran out into the corridor.
Layfon arrived at his destination shortly after noon.
He drank down protein paste with a straw, and confirmed the information conveyed through Felli's flake.
The high and jutting mountain gave off an unapproachable bearing.
The scene appeared on his helmet.
The inert filth monster was fastened onto the surface of the mountain, its posture almost the same as the image in the second photo. The filth monster's body had slightly expanded. Its length, from head to tail, was long like a snake's. Two insect-like wings extended from its back. Muddy green veins spread across the tattered wings, which were weakened to such an extent that they were bent, almost broken off, by the wind.
Legs were attached to the curled body of the filth monster, and the claws of the forelegs weren't dug into the wall of the mountain. The filth monster must be degenerating. A thin layer of white covered its green compound eye.
The prey whose nutritious value was much higher than the pollutants...the filth monster made no reaction to the prey, the human standing within reach.
As if it was dead.
But what about the sudden chill he felt?
"How is it?" Felli said.
"A Phase 4 or 5 male. I can tell that from its shriveled legs."
"Is it that thing in the photo?"
"The filth monsters lose their legs every time they molt......Uh, females are different. They stay underground when they're laying eggs."
He dismounted the bike and took out two Dites from his harness.
In his right hand was the special Dite that Harley made.
"When its body's grown old, its legs will completely degenerate. This is the mature phase. Once the male fully degenerates, it'll be able to fly, and that is its cruelest and wildest form. Next is the second maturation phase with increasing functions and variations. The form of a Phase 2 is never stable."
Leaning stiffly against the bike, he tried to relax his body. It was meaningless to get anxious now. He allowed his Kei to run through his body.
"Just like its unstable appearance, it's also hard to judge the filth monster's level of strength. We have to be particularly wary of Phase 2 filth monsters. If this filth monster is in its first phase, then there're still ways to handle it."
"What are they?" Incomprehension seeped through Felli's voice, but Layfon wasn't paying attention.
"A Phase 2 filth monster is rare, so perhaps there's no need to be concerned, or it's simply not possible to recognize it. But there is a difference between knowing and not knowing. If one knows, then one can take appropriate action. Please remember, sometimes Phase 2 filth monsters don't attack humans because they've learned to be more than simply violent."
"Fon Fon......What're you saying?"
"Something that might be my last words."
Cracking noises. As if the air was rent apart. A loud noise hiding the sound of a secret's breath. The chill on Layfon's skin turned into needle sharp pain. As the noise increased in intensity, the tattered wings collapsed and the scales covering the filth monster's body peeled off in flakes. The entire compound eye popped out and rolled down the side of the mountain.
Felli's voice intruded. "I've got a report......Zuellni's changed direction. The entire city's made a rapid turn."
Now he knew why Zuellni kept moving straight before. The city hadn't discovered the filth monster, or maybe it thought it was only a corpse. In the end, Zuellni found out it wasn't that at all, so it changed its route.
"Fon Fon......This is......"
"It's molting. This is my first time seeing this, but it has to be that."
"Zuellni's changed direction......Please escape!"
Layfon ignored her. "Restoration 01," he said the key word, restoring the Dite in his left hand. The Sapphire Dite's blade tore through the air.
"It's too late. This guy was waiting. After molting......It holds a different body type and will get hungrier than usual. It was suppressing its molting moment until the prey got too close. The reason why a Mature Phase filth monster is particularly aggressive is because of its extreme hunger."
It was too late for Layfon to escape. The filth monster had waited for the smell of prey to get close, to the point where it couldn't escape. Layfon readied his fighting stance and increased the amount and density of his Internal Kei. The back of the monster split into two and sticky body fluid oozed from it, down the face of the mountain in many branches.
Low howling made the air vibrate. The filth monster announced its rebirth, lifting itself from the empty shell to spread its pure and moisture-filled wings. The intense red of the wings stained the sky.
The liquid covering its head fell off, revealing a head different from before. A long protruding jaw, sharp teeth on the outside, diamond blue light like a human's eyes......It looked very similar to an insect.
"Phase 1......Please remember. You can defeat this monster if you are prepared to sacrifice half a city."
He connected the end of the restored Dite to the end of the other Dite in his right hand. He grasped hold of the connected Dites carefully with his right hand then charged forward.
Internal-type Kei – Whirl Kei.
Strengthening his feet, he leaped onto the face of the mountain.
The monster's wings vibrated as the liquid enveloping its body shot out, painting rainbows around it. It must have caught the scent of countless humans in Zuellni. The filth monster's nose pointed directly behind Layfon.
The steel threads bounded up the entire filth monster, the action quiet as a mouse.
The filth monster kept on ascending without signs of slowing. The difference between their two sizes was too huge. Unable to suppress his opponent, Layfon was lifted up to dangle in midair.
(If it were Lintence, he could cut off its wings like this......)
As expected, its shell was much harder than a larva's......He wondered how Nina and the others would think of him if they saw him like this......As he returned his attention to the current situation, he focused on binding the monster tighter.
Intense vibration shot down his wrist. The wings beat fast and rapid, and the steel threads bounced off them.
"It still isn't working......"
Layfon didn't have the time to try another tactic and aim at the base of the wings. The filth monster was now in the air and it could head for Zuellni whenever it wanted. Layfon let the steel threads loose into two bundles; one binding the filth monster, the other shot into the face of the mountain.
"I'll have it land."
The monster rumbled in pain. Its body twisted and its wings danced more intensely, but the monster failed to ascend. At the same time, keen wailing came from the mountain.
Layfon removed the part of the combined Dite that was anchoring the steel threads in the mountain, then twisted in midair to land on one of the steel threads and ran across it, his face green and stiff, as if he was performing in a circus. While running, he took out the rest of the Dites from his harness and inserted them into the holes in Harley's Dite.
"Restoration AD," he said as Kei flowed through his entire body.
Heavy weight burst out from him at the weight of the weapon and the power flowing in his body. The steel thread dipped, and he used the momentum of its rebound to jump up to the filth monster's back.
A huge blade was born in Layfon's hand.
Three different types of Dites......Combined with a Dite that was already an amalgamation of different alloys. This feat wasn't possible before.
But the end product was just a different type of Dite. It wasn't particularly special in any way.
The new Dite maintained and combined all the advantages of three types of Dite. There was a disadvantage though. It wasn't possible to reduce the weight and density of the restored forms of the three types of Dites, so Layfon was practically holding four weapons.
Any normal person would have had trouble controlling that weight.
He landed on its back. Using his left wrist, he reeled in a steel thread anchored in the mountain, all the time running, dragging the huge blade with him.
His targets were the wings.
He headed for the left wing. Furious winds buffeted him, but he shot through them using Internal Kei. He raised the sword and chopped down. The red of the wing scattered. The monster howled, not in pain, as the wing had no nerves, but because it lost its balance.
The filth monster sloped to one side. Layfon released the sword and retrieved it using a steel thread. Letting loose the steel thread looped around his left wrist, he ran up the back of the monster.
He jumped and descended. He had wanted to shoot out a steel thread to reduce his falling speed, but there wasn't anything above him to latch onto.
A shock wave on the ground signaled the filth monster's landing. The wind rolled back from the monster and caught some of Layfon's weight as he landed.
The filth monster struggled to its feet. Blood filled its raging eye as it watched Layfon, the small creature who was interfering with its dinner. Its starving and furious gaze seemed to be enough to stop a person's heart.
"How long does it take to regenerate your wing? Two days? Three? As long as there's a big enough gap, then Zuellni can escape......" Layfon murmured, feeling the wetness coming from inside his armor-suit.
He was sweating profusely.
The murderous intent of a Phase 1 filth monster was this amazing.
But more focus than that was needed for him to cut off its wing.
"How long will it take you to die of hunger? One week? Or one month? I'll play with you no matter how long it takes."
The filth monster had used up all of its stored nutrients to enter the first maturity phase. It didn't have enough strength to molt a second time.
Layfon couldn't run. This thought caused his stubbornness to lift its head, and that was enough indication of his collapsing will to fight. If this continued, an opening would appear for the teeth of the filth monster to sink into.
The monster headed straight for Layfon, its body waving away the clouds of dust and its movements generating more dust. It had no legs as it had already given them up in the molting process, but its snake-like movements were fast even without legs.
This huge body of the filth monster in itself was a weapon, its every scale hard and sharp. Even if it didn't make direct contact with Layfon, a brush with it could tear open Layfon's armor-suit.
Although Layfon had taken away the opponent's advantage by forcing it to move on the ground, he himself was still at a disadvantage.
Layfon leaped back into the close pressure of death.
"I think if it's him, he can do it......I admit I didn't consider fully in my passion to invent the new Dite, but I really think he can do it!"
Harley's voice hovered in Nina's mind.
The sound of the running bike shook her entire body. The sun shone overhead. The temperature should be cold, but she felt hot. This must be because of the armor-suit.
Seated in the sidecar with nothing to do but sit still, she wasn't at all impatient and anxious because......
"But looking at him, I thought I might have been wrong. Layfon - He, how should I put it......He was very serious. Of course he'd have such a reaction encountering this event. He has to fight a filth monster alone......His reaction is natural, but I don't feel that that's the only reason."
The bike flew across the earth.
Sharnid was the driver. Only one set of armor-suit had been improved, so Nina and Sharnid wore the old type of armor-suit. They had worn it once when they were on a training mission outside the city. This old type restricted the body's movements, but it was better than wearing nothing.
But even if she could move more deftly, what could the present Nina do?
After listening to Harley, Nina went to find Karian at the office of the Student President. He received her with an expression free of guilt.
"Just what is this?!" Nina said angrily.
"Nothing. Layfon-kun said he doesn't need any help. I believe in him. Believing is different from abandoning."
Nina's fist pounded down on the desk. The documents rose an inch and the pen holder swayed. The fountain pen next to the documents rolled to the side.
Her hand hurt.
"......He also said, don't let anyone get close."
Picking up the pen which was about to fall off, Karian turned it about skillfully with his fingers.
"It seems a fight with a filth monster is dangerous. I can't tell how dangerous since I'm not a Military Artist, but it seems that one would die while looking for somewhere safe. He said he doesn't need anyone to wait for orders in a safety zone in that type of battlefield. There are only two outcomes in a battle with filth monsters outside a city – either come back alive, or die. He said we better be mentally prepared......"
Nina held her breath. That was all she could do.
Layfon was all alone out there......
Her fist tightened on the desk. Her muscles still hurt. Her condition was hardly normal in this present state. If she tried to generate a Kei flow, her waist would hurt painfully.
What could she do in this situation?
But she couldn't stop herself.
"Please let me go."
"And what do you plan to do there?" Karian's question was reasonable. "I understand your condition. Even if I don't know the details, as President, I can't allow a pale-faced student to enter that dangerous a place."
"He's my subordinate and my comrade. Even if we can't fight together, at least let me go and rescue him......"
She didn't know what she could do to help out.
But when she said "comrade", she could imagine Layfon's genuine smile.
"Mmm......Okay. I'll give you permission to use a bike. My sister will guide you."
"But you must come back alive. Escape immediately if the situation turns bad."
"......I won't run away."
"You people are the only ones who can keep this city alive."
"Layfon's the same," Nina said and ran out of the room.
She was now riding the bike. The problem was, what could she do to help?
Only a few days ago......Layfon was alone, pondering on how to the fight the filth monster without telling anyone. Facing the current him like that, what could she do?
She and Layfon differed in strength and experiences, but fighting as a platoon and fighting the filth monsters were different things.
Even so, she couldn't continue her normal daily life not knowing what was going on outside.
Didn't Sharnid say that there were two types of secrets? Ones that mattered and ones that didn't?
This was a secret she was concerned about. She couldn't stay hidden in the dark.
(We aren't the only ones who want you to live.)
The sender of that letter must feel the same. That letter was written with ease, worry and jealousy. It was clear that the girl felt something for Layfon. To leave this person behind in a place where only one choice, life or death, was possible......Just what was Layfon thinking?
(Perhaps that's what she meant by "difference?")
Pain rose in Nina's chest. Was this what Leerin meant when she said in the letter that she was happy Layfon didn't give up the Military Arts but she didn't want him to become the Layfon of Grendan?
Thinking of this, a tightness spread through Nina's chest.
She chased away the uneasiness inside her. What she wanted to know wasn't how much Leerin knew of Layfon, but what Layfon's true intention was in this fight.
For him to head alone into this kind of a place.
Even if it was the fate that no Military Artist could escape from.
She didn't know what to do if she failed to find out.
(Just what is he thinking......)
(What do I do after I find out?)
If she didn't understand that either, she felt she had no way to move forward.
Did this concern belong to the future? Or was it because of her present self......She wasn't too clear on the question itself.
"......You're almost there," Felli's voice came through.
Fatigue came through Felli's voice. Nina never knew Felli's Psychokinesis could reach this far. This made her acknowledge once more just how ignorant she was of her team members' strength.
(I'll think about that later......)
"What is it?"
"Hey, over there......" Sharnid said before Felli did. He shook his head and pointed ahead.
The bike entered a dust cloud.
And this was what Nina saw after a while.
The deserted ground looked as if someone had been madly slashing at it, and in that ground laid a huge, deep gutter. The sand and dust fluttering around were proof of it.
A lone shadow had fallen inside that gutter.
Nina's hand pressed down on her chest, her heart tightened.
Sharnid slowed down the bike, heading towards the dark shadow.
It was the bike that Layfon had taken with him, but Layfon himself was nowhere to be seen.
"Where is he......?" She couldn't see properly through the dancing sand, but something was certain.
She didn't get it. The mountain where the filth monster had fastened itself onto should be right ahead of them. But it was gone.
"Felli, where's Layfon?"
Felli didn't reply.
They were already one day late. Was Layfon all right?
"Answer me. Is he all right?"
"He's okay, but......"
"But...? What is it?"
"He said don't get closer. Run far away."
"What did you say?"
And the sound of some distant explosion filled her eardrums, and she saw a dark shape spattering the sky.
A huge rock was descending towards Nina and Sharnid.
In an instant, his concentration broke.
Something had happened, but he had immediately focused back on the task before him.
It seemed to be some information......And he had shouted out something in panic.
The break in concentration was almost fatal.
Layfon didn't have time to remember it. He didn't dig through his memories as he had no time to think or do anything extraneous outside the battle.
Because if he did that, then death awaited him.
The huge monster filled Layfon's entire vision. It roared as its body batted at Layfon. The steel threads flew at the filth monster's tail and wrapped around it. The tail thrashed, pulling Layfon up and down, as if Layfon was a fish struggling off a hook.
When Layfon stopped spinning, he lowered himself – His destination was the filth monster's head.
The filth monster seemed wounded. It seemed to have been buried quite deep, and it still hadn't managed to shake loose the rubble on top of it.
The huge sword chopped down towards its body.
The scales resisted the sword point, but in one swift movement, Layfon had pierced through the tough outer-shell - only to feel yet another resistance, another layer of scales.
It was one layer after another. Every time the sword hit a scale, sparks lit up. Bathed in a shower of sparks, Layfon realized he had failed. His usual self could have torn through the monster like it was paper......But why couldn't he do it?
At this rate, the filth monster's flesh would have swallowed Layfon's blade. Before that happened, Layfon had turned the blade around. He grasped hold of the handle again and put his foot on the monster's back. He pulled the steel threads to confirm they were anchored about one Jimel ahead of him in the mountain face, then he 'pulled' again as he kicked at the monster's back. As Layfon was torn skyward, the huge blade leaped out of the flesh. Red blood sprayed from the filth monster's wound.
Layfon landed on the ground.
He turned around quickly to face the monster and he looked down at the Dite.
Smoke rose from one of the Dites inserted into the three holes. A closer look revealed small cracks along the Dite. Its color also looked different.
He took out that Dite and tossed it away.
Although the Dite had the strength to maintain its form, that strength was limited. It had managed to hang on till now because of its high density, but now it was broken.
The combined Dite felt lighter in his hand. This different feel might cause the next fatal error, but he couldn't stop fighting.
He watched the filth monster.
Many scales had fallen off its body. Blood spurted from its wound. It had lost too much blood. Slabs of something black fell off from its body.
It had also lost half of its remaining wing. To Layfon, the filth monster looked like a gigantic snake prostrated on the ground......But the scales covering its body weren't as smooth as a snake's. They were as tough and sharp as rocks.
Layfon had destroyed its left eye. The blood flow seeping from under that shattered eye had slowed. The wound must be recovering. Layfon didn't know whether the filth monster would regenerate the nerves in its eyes. He had no wish to find out.
So hot......The ventilation function of the armor-suit had reached its limit. Layfon's sweat became steam.
He knew his concentration was slipping.
He renewed his focus. He wanted to defeat this monster without sustaining any injuries. While doing that was nearly impossible, how could he get distracted?
He didn't plan to die. Although he did say something to Felli that might be his last words, still, it was just a possibility. He hadn't had time to talk with her properly since the fight began. As for last words......All he needed was to smile after returning safely to Zuellni.
The filth monster struggled to get up. It must be because of the heavy wound in its head. The monster didn't seem to know where it was while its anger increased with every passing second. Its rough and wild movements sent sand flying everywhere, and the various wounds on its body sprayed out more blood.
(I'll rest a little before it finds out where I am.)
Layfon didn't know how much time he'd get to rest. He might not even have one minute, but all he needed was a gap in the fight so he could generate more Kei and let it fill his body. It was painful that he had nothing to replace the water and salt he had lost. He licked his lip and tasted something salty – his sweat.
"Fon Fon......Can you talk?"
How long had it been since he last heard her?
"Ahah......How long has it been?"
"About a day."
(I should be able to stay up for two more days without water.)
He thought as he watched the filth monster. It hadn't discovered him yet.
"Well......It's about the captain."
"The captain? What's happened to her?"
"......I said before that the captain and Sharnid-senpai are heading this way. Though you said they were to retreat......Don't you remember?"
Now he knew why he had lost his concentration.
"Ah......Sorry, I don't. Did they retreat?"
The astonishment back then felt so far away from him. Felli's question wasn't because she doubted him. She said it out of obligation.
Although he was resting, he didn't let down his guard. He was still focused on the fight, so everything else felt far away from him.
He had no time to listen to her.
It had discovered him.
What should he do?
He felt uneasy at the lighter weight of the Dite, but it wasn't just because he had lost one of the Dites. The clumsy feel of the Kei flow indicated that the combined Dites themselves had sustained a certain level of damage after a fight that lasted one entire day.
(How many moves can I still execute?)
Compared to his physical strength, the weapon itself might be the first to fail. This wouldn't have happened if he had the Heaven's Blade with him.
Fighting to his limit, he realized for the first time how rare and valuable the Heaven's Blade was. That was strange. Did he not have the vision to understand that?
"It's useless to make excuses."
He had decided what he had to do. In that case, all he needed to do was finish his duty.
He would defeat the filth monster with one move, so he must find an opening.
As he thought of this, the enemy made a peculiar movement.
It didn't seem like it intended to attack him. Almost as if it was getting distracted.
Layfon followed it......And his concentration broke again.
A small dust cloud. A bike with a sidecar......It wasn't the one that Layfon rode on.
Yes, the filth monster was looking at it.
"How could they come here!?"
Although he couldn't tell who they were as they were wearing armor-suits, he was sure they were Nina and Sharnid.
He leaped up to a steel thread and ran towards them, using Whirl Kei.
Sharnid's shower of bullets had little effect on the filth monster. As Layfon passed their position, he felt Nina's eyes stabbing his face. Perhaps he was being oversensitive. And like that, he appeared in front of the filth monster. His body suddenly bounded upwards.
Flying in the air, supported by the steel thread, Layfon turned the huge sword around and swung down to cut open the monster's forehead.
He flew back as blood mixed with a howling noise shot high into the air. Layfon landed on the moving bike.
"Why are you here!?" he asked angrily and looked back at the filth monster.
It was on a rampage as the pain twisted its long body. The feeling in Layfon's hand told him he had failed in delivering a fatal strike to the brain.
He looked at his Dite. Smoke rose from another hole. That couldn't be helped as he had tried to cut through the already tough scales along with the even harder forehead bone.
(The strike I have left......)
Feeling the lightness of the weapon, he made his decision.
He still had his own green Dite that he could use to buy time. He had been using its steel threads as support so it hadn't sustained any heavy damage. But if he used his last move, he'd forego the steel threads move that had helped him escape countless times. Losing that option would be a huge setback for him.
Perhaps this was better than losing his chance to attack, but he would be forcing himself into a dead end. Buying time would ensure Zuellni could move to safety, but if he did that, he'd lose his life.
And there were also Nina and Sharnid......
This was the only way......To determine the outcome of the fight before he lost the use of the steel threads.
And it was a highly dangerous gamble. If he failed, he'd die, Nina and Sharnid would die, Zuellni might also die. Everything would vanish.
Should he bet everything on the last move......He hesitated.
"Hey, are you listening?"
"No......Anyway, you guys hurry up and escape."
"Listen up! Your bike's broken. This is the only vehicle that still works."
"As long as I beat this guy, people will come to get me."
"Can you defeat it?"
"That weapon's at its limit. Can you really beat it with this thing?"
"......It's starting to move. I have to go!"
He had no answer for her. He hadn't the confidence that she'd agree with his answer. His only reply was to head out and fight.
Sharnid pulled him back by his collar, steering the bike with one hand.
"Please let go of me!"
"It's rare for the captain to order others to listen to her."
"I'll use force."
"It's fine if you tear off my arm. Please go ahead."
In reality, if he pulled himself out of Sharnid's grasp with Kei, he really might just end up tearing Sharnid's arm off. And even if that didn't happen, the bike might lose its balance and flip over.
"It's too embarrassing to come out here and not do anything. That's how it is for me, and the same goes for the injured captain. The 17th platoon can't embarrass its captain!"
"I hadn't heard that order before."
"Same here. I just made that decision."
By looking at Sharnid's back, Layfon could tell he was smiling.
"Have you got a plan?" Nina said. "Are you absolutely sure that you can win with your next move?"
She had even seen through this.
"......Yes. It's the wound on its forehead. If I strike there again......"
The scales were shattered. Half of the forehead bone was probably cracked......If he struck there.
The wound must be healing, but not the scales and the bone. If he could stab its brain and release his Kei there......But Nina had calmly pointed out the uneasiness he felt about that move.
"Do you have a plan that can take you there and make sure you strike it on its head?"
"Okay." Nina nodded. "Then we've increased our chance of success."
"You were listening in, Felli? Find the setting I want nearby. Hurry."
Then Nina listed out her conditions of the place she had in mind.
"It's near. Head southwest. It's about 20 Jimels from you."
"Roger, captain." He changed the bike's direction.
"Layfon, will the filth monster leave us?"
"Huh?......Probably not. It moves faster than this bike."
"Then buy enough time for us to head for that place. Don't damage your weapon."
He could interfere with the filth monster's movements using the steel threads.
"Keep at it."
He nodded reflexively.
How should he put it? It was a feeling of suddenly being swallowed. He saw Nina's face through the helmet and the armor-suit......He looked at that face and the tension he held wavered.
He felt more at ease.
Should he be comforted by the wavering of the destructive pressure on him? Or be alarmed at it......He wasn't sure. Even so, he felt a part of him wasn't able to deny Nina.
He continued to control the steel threads.
He focused on buying them time.
They arrived at a valley surrounded by cliff faces. Green plants and clear water might have once flourished here. Now the valley was dry, extremely dry.
Nina had explained her plan as they rode the bike. They looked back at the slope, as if waiting for something to fly into its mouth.
"How long till that guy catches up?"
Nina nodded. "We're getting off. It's impossible to drive the bike here. Sharnid, take the bike to the firing position. Layfon, carry me."
Felli explained the terrain and Nina asked a few questions based on Felli's information. It seemed just by doing that, she had already formed an accurate map in her head. Layfon dismounted, clear about the instructions he had received.
The sound of shattering rocks came closer.
The filth monster was already here.
Layfon carried her deeper into the valley.
"Is this really all right?" he asked, uncomfortable with how light she was in his arms.
"The plan will be successful as long as that thing stops moving, right?"
Layfon nodded on the bike.
"It's hungry, so it'll rush straight for food, right?"
Layfon nodded again.
"Well, all we need is bait......No need to think of anything else."
"Limit your enemy's movements and turn the situation into your advantage. That's a basic tactic."
"You aren't thinking of......"
"I'll act as bait. Who else can do this besides me? Sharnid's got his mission and you have to give it its fatal strike. If you do everything, including what's unnecessary, isn't that the same as what you've been doing in the past?"
"That was how I did things in Grendan."
He had always done things this way. To change his way now......
"Weren't there many people to replace you in Grendan? Aren't there twelve Heaven's Blade successors? So eleven people could replace you. Even if you fall, there are still other ways, so you fought with those kinds of tactics. But nobody can replace you in Zuellni. Grendan and Zuellni are different. Grendan's way is not my way. You're my subordinate. I can't just leave you."
"But......" Layfon stopped speaking. Her determination in her eyes. Her furrowing eyebrows as if she was glaring at him, as if she was staring at him with trembling eyes...He felt he was being sucked into them.
Those eyes suddenly turned gentle.
"You want to abandon the you of Grendan, don't you?"
"......But, I can't."
Because the threat of meeting filth monsters existed everywhere.
"It's okay to abandon it."
"Heh?" His eyes widened in astonishment.
"Your desire to protect Zuellni arose after you came to the Academy City, right? Then treasure it. As for your way of fighting, living and thinking in Grendan......leave them all. It's enough to protect Zuellni. Leave everything."
"You don't think that helps you? But, that's how I feel and how the person waiting for you in Grendan feels. Isn't that what was written in the letter?"
"I can repeat this as many times as you want. I won't let you, my comrade and subordinate, die. I'll do whatever it takes to reach that goal!"
An intense light emitted once again from those gentle eyes. A determination that would never bend and break. Those eyes were what made him swallow his words. Looking at his image in them, Layfon nodded.
"I understand. Then, I'll hold senpai's life in my hands for a bit."
"Stop talking nonsense," she laughed. "I'm the captain. Your lives are in my hands."
Nina was all alone in the valley.
Trees once stood here. Clear water once flowed. Fish once swam, and everything must have been filled with songs of birds. Lives drowned the earth as a matter of course. The lives were short, but creatures continued to sing out the song of life's chains.
Something white was stuck to the rocks. They were probably the bones of some fish.
It was a life that failed to keep on living.
The world had shriveled up. And the reason behind that......How did the pollutants manage to spread across the entire world? Some said it was a material created from humanity's insolence when human civilization reached its peak. Some said it just happened all of a sudden. And Nina had heard of many other different explanations. She didn't know which was the truth, and didn't know whether there was meaning in looking back at the past. Everyone else now only lived in Regios, living under the threat of filth monsters.
Nina hated that feeling. Couldn't something be done? She wanted to do something about it.
She hated herself for being born into a narrow world. She wanted to see other worlds. It didn't matter if it was just a tiny outside world, and so she had come to Zuellni. But she still understood how useless she was, even though she had reached Zuellni. She understood more of the cruelty of this world and her own insignificance, her own weakness.
Surviving in this world, what she should do, what she could do......
She wanted to keep on living.
And to survive, she must become stronger. Because she lived in this kind of world, she must become stronger. Because heaven blessed her with the power of Kei, she must become stronger. That was what she thought.
Except for a small failure.
She didn't think she was entirely in the wrong. She just didn't use the correct way. And now, the Layfon who corrected her was making the same mistake.
To Nina, Layfon's mistake was a small failure on his part, since he didn't know where he stood. In that case, she had to wake him up.
The rumbling closed in.
It was the filth monster, the existence on the very top of the pyramid. Covered in wounds, the creature headed towards Nina, driven by nothing but hunger.
Compared to the injuries that Layfon had sustained......If Layfon and the filth monster kept on fighting, which side would win?
She recalled she had been pondering on what the strongest existence was not long ago. Filth monsters lived in a larger world than humans, a world that humans could not enter without protection. On this level, the filth monsters were the strongest.
In the filth monster's starving stage, fighting for the most basic requirement of life, pollutants weren't enough for it.
So it had to eat humans.
Compared to this creature, humans lived in their own worlds without having to worry about food. Looking from this perspective, just who was stronger?
"What boring thinking."
The dominating presence neared Nina, its gaze piercing her like teeth. She couldn't help but imagine her tiny body being crushed by those sharp and gigantic teeth, her organs rolling on the tongue of the massive monster.
"Is this the world that he sees......"
Facing this horror alone, Nina's legs shook. The present her who was unable to use Kei was too weak. Besides, even if she could use Kei, what could she do? This must be the decisive gap in strength between humanity and filth monsters.
Layfon had been facing this type of creature all alone.
"I won't let you do this alone from now on," she said to the subordinate who was nowhere beside her.
But he should be able to hear her.
"You have me and your comrades."
A tiny sound compared to the rumbling of the filth monster, but it echoed in the sky and in Nina's ears.
One side of the cliff face suddenly collapsed.
Caused by Sharnid's sniping.
The sudden avalanche of rocks, sand and soil descended on the filth monster and towards Nina. The creature howled anew.
Nina's body shot upward.
A long thin thread......A steel thread was wrapped around her body. She saw him as she was pulled up.
A figure that brushed past her, descending rapidly......Layfon.
He plunged straight for the trapped enemy, his ravaged sword pointing downward.
Nina confirmed her plan was successful.