Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume3 Chapter5
Chapter 5: Dance in Midnight
Layfon and his team ate the simple lunch they had brought with them, then opened the side door into the Mechanical Department of the city.
"The power's cut off," Nina said. The lift wouldn't work no matter how many times they pressed the lift button.
"I guess we'll have to get down along the cables. In case anything happens, we'll confirm whether the switch is off or not. Felli stays here as reinforcement."
They put on their helmets and confirmed that Felli's flakes were working normally. They opened a hole in the bottom of the lift and moved downwards along the cables.
Darkness surrounded them, but green vision appeared as Felli supported them with night vision.
Feeling the touch of solid ground, Layfon retrieved the steel thread he used in place of a cable.
Huge tubes surrounded them, and in between the tubes were crisscrossing corridors meant for human use. It looked exactly the same as Zuellni's Mechanical Department. Or not exactly the same. This city had more tubes than Zuellni. It was a more complicated maze. So dense that Layfon couldn't see through to the central area. He didn't smell any rot. What tickled his nose were the special smell of oil and gel and the weaker smell of metal and chemicals.
"The air down here is terrible, and you guys have been working in this kind of place?" Sharnid frowned.
"If we had more light, it would feel more spacious here."
"But we can't use a flare here. It might catch fire."
"Exactly. Felli, anything strange?"
"Nothing so far."
Nina nodded. "I see. The thing from yesterday night is hiding. This has to be where it is."
"Do you believe us, captain?" Layfon said, surprised. Although Felli sensed the creature, Layfon was the one who confirmed it. The 5th platoon didn't seem to believe him. And even Layfon himself lacked the confidence to guarantee what he saw had been true.
"Of course. What reason do I have to doubt what you two saw?"
"......Yeah, you two aren't the type to lie," Sharnid agreed.
"And I have my suspicions."
"Since this city still 'lives', then it shouldn't be strange that that thing exists, right?"
Zuellni in its little girl form surfaced in Layfon's mind.
"I think what you two encountered was this city's consciousness."
"We'll decide on what to do once we reach the center of the Mechanical Department. We'll split into two groups. Sharnid and I together, and you move alone. Is that all right?"
"If you don't find anything, meet back here in one hour. Let's go."
Layfon, alone, headed deeper into the maze.
This question hovered in Leerin's mind. It was hard to believe Gahard Baren had appeared here.
"What..... did you do?" Derek said. "Is this Kei in your body? I heard that your Kei vein was destroyed......"
Rumor had it that Gahard's Kei vein was destroyed in his match with Layfon, and he had lost his consciousness and fallen into a vegetative state. So why was he here?
No Dite armor wrapped around his remaining arm. Gahard was wearing a worn out and thin hospital robe. They could see his stomach through the thin robe. It was once full of muscles, but they had now disappeared through a long period of time spent in the hospital.
"You've given up your humanity," Derek said.
Gahard's dominating eyes did not belong to a human.
"I don't know how you gave yourself up, but what did you come here for?"
Gahard hadn't opened his mouth. It was as if he was eating with his mouth closed, and noise sounded from his stomach.
And that noise became louder and louder.
"Close your eyes and cover your ears!"
Gahard's entire body shook abruptly.
It drowned out Derek's voice. Glasses and eating utensils shattered around them. Their bodies shuddered, their eyes and ears enduring intense pain. The ground swayed.
When the noise stopped, Leerin wondered whether her eardrums had burst.
The moaning of her father and the shaking of the ground proved to her that her eardrums were still intact. Leerin opened her eyes and saw Derek kneeling on the ground.
His clothes were torn, revealing the old yet still firm and strong body underneath. Blood seeped from his back.
"Could that be Roar Kei? You shouldn't be able to use the ultimate move of the first Luckens," Derek said and vomited blood. The Katana he used to support his weight broke under him. This wasn't any normal Katana. It was a restored Katana. The vibration earlier had destroyed its alloy structure, weakening it.
"You......What did you do......" Derek toppled.
Derek showed no response. Blood pooled around him. Leerin's cheeks paled as if Derek's blood had also drained the blood from her face.
"Ah, Aah......" she stood up and ran to Derek, completely forgetting Gahard. Losing Layfon and then the father who brought her up from when she was a child had stripped off Leerin's sense of the present.
"Father......" she shook him, his blood staining her hands.
"No......That......Please don't leave......" she shook her head like a child, desperately shaking Derek.
"Hurry, get up. Father......Everyone......We have to wake everyone," she cried, cried like she was a child. She was always the first to get up, and next was Layfon. They would call everyone after preparing breakfast. Derek was a Military Artist, but he always stayed in bed. It was difficult to wake him up.
Yes, he was just asleep like he was in the past. Yes.
"Father......" she called. She didn't hear the sound of Gahard above her. Her consciousness was rejecting it.
Just when the noise reached its climax......
A beast landed beside her.
Thick silver fur swayed. The beast stood in front of Gahard as if to protect Leerin. It had the body of a dog, but it wasn't a dog. Its abnormally long ears stretched backwards under long fur, and the toes at the tip of its limbs had not devolved into those of a dog. It supported its body like a human female caressing her five long fingers. Its lengthy tail wrapped around Leerin. Human-like pupils burned as they glowered at Gahard.
Gahard's mouth opened.
External type burst Kei, the ultimate move of the Luckens – Roar Kei.
His mouth opened to destroy the structures of particles. But what came out of that mouth was just the noise of the night.
"......Speaking of which, you've also read father's secret book, haven't you?"
Hearing that new voice, Gahard turned around.
With the small back of his leaning against the broken metal fence, there Savaris stood.
"Well, you couldn't have reached this stage if you weren't the way you are......but, isn't it a shame that you didn't realize this while you were still human? Or are you now satisfied because you're finally able to perform that move?"
While speaking to Gahard, Savaris observed the fallen Derek.
"To have suppressed the vibration of the Roar Kei with the threatening variation of Internal Kei......Quite some work there. Perhaps I should say, as expected of Layfon's Master? No other person could have achieved this."
Meaning Savaris had canceled the second Roar Kei attack.
"But because of this, I've gained some valuable experience. Nobody's used this move on anything other than filth monsters, so this is what it's like when it hits a human. It's fortunate that Layfon isn't aware of the consequences of this move."
Savaris smiled at Gahard's first word.
"Oh, so you still remember? I was afraid you slept for so long that you had forgotten him. I knew you'd make a move after you woke up, but it's just a little different from my expectations. I didn't think you would be so energized since your body's condition was so bad."
"Where......is he? Lay......fon......"
"Or maybe because you couldn't hang in there, so you managed a rebirth through stubbornness?"
"What's torturing you? Your ambition? Dreams? Evil means? Or is it everything? Desire? Outrage? I've already told you that age has nothing to do with it. A Heaven's Blade successor is born to be a Heaven's Blade successor. That's how our fates are. It has nothing to do with speed. You should now probably understand the result of your vanity."
"Hahaha! Are you angry? Then come. Not Layfon, but I, shall be your opponent. If you win against me, then you can become a true Heaven's Blade successor."
Savaris backed away from Gahard's sudden attack, and using that momentum, he leaped over the fence onto the street beyond.
"Follow me. I've already prepared the battlefield."
Savaris vanished in the next second. As if to follow him, Gahard also disappeared.
Leaving Leerin alone to stare at the back of Derek.
"Father......The blood, it won't stop......"
Tears rolled down her cheeks, her hands and knees stained with blood.
And she looked at the beast.
Someone was standing behind it.
"It's all right, Lee-chan."
"We can save Derek. Don't shake him anymore. He's got a few broken ribs. It'll be troublesome if they damage any of his internal organs."
"You've done your best. Now rest," Synola gestured at the beast and patted Leerin's head.
Feeling her consciousness fading, Leerin fell into a slumber. Synola caught her as she fell towards the inert Derek, then she placed her on the back of the beast.
"If only sleep could heal his wounds......but it's not that simple."
Synola breathed out deeply and lifted her head. "Damn that Savaris. He was deliberately late. It might have been too late if not for Grendan."
The beast Grendan leaned its head against Synola's arm. Wind rose around Synola.
Three figures knelt before her.
"Take Derek to the hospital. I'll bring this child back to the dormitory. Lintence, is the battlefield prepared? You stay over there and keep watch. Just in case."
Two figures disappeared at her orders.
"It's so exaggerated to just eliminate a harmful bug," Synola said and studied the damage around her.
"I have to give out funding too, and also an explanation about Derek. The royal family has already forgiven everyone related to Layfon's case......but it's still hard on the child if the public doesn't agree."
"Your Majesty......" the remaining person said. A woman with long dark hair who looked like Synola. "......It's about time to return to the palace."
"Yeah—" she looked anything but wanting to return.
"But there shouldn't be a problem with the governing of this city even if I'm not around. It's like it doesn't......doesn't really need me."
"......Please don't be willful. Perhaps there really won't be a problem when Your Majesty's not around, as there's the Parliament and I here to manage it. But this is an issue of responsibility."
"If you need a symbol, then all you need is this child here. If it's about the public, then Kanaris, you're enough. Why don't you just become the real Queen?"
"Stop joking. I can't command the Heaven's Blade successors. If that happened, we might have a second or a third Layfon."
"That child didn't go on a rampage because of that."
"Even so, look at Savaris. Doesn't that say there's a need for Your Majesty's pressure to manage them?"
"Ha~~ Ah~~ ......Geez."
She looked at Leerin as if running away from Kanaris, and sighed.
"You're also a Heaven's Blade successor. Aren't you being too serious?"
"I'm very tired because of a certain someone," Kanaris said.
"Well, that's harsh."
"Whatever it is, hurry up, toss away this alias and return," Kanaris frowned and left.
"Really......" Synola made a face. "Even if you tell me to return......"
She lifted Leerin.
"My existence is meaningless if not all twelve Heaven's Blades are here."
She suddenly recalled Savaris' words. "A Heaven's Blade is born to be a Heaven's Blade......Then Layfon isn't my Heaven's Blade? Perhaps......" she shook her head, disbelieving the ridiculous thought.
"It's useless to consider what has been lost," Synola carried Leerin and left through the hole in the wall with Grendan.
Savaris leaped from the walls and roofs of different buildings to run in the moonlit night. Gahard followed him in much the same way.
What exciting scenery.
"If you were that good when you were still alive, I would've taken care of you more," Savaris laughed mockingly and leaped to stand on a place that was higher than the tallest building in Grendan.
Gahard similarly landed on air.
"You can see it right? Come up," Savaris nodded in contentment.
Gahard looked around him.
"You're standing on Lintence-san's steel threads. They're as thin as spider threads, but they don't break easily, so don't worry. But if you lose balance, your weight will drag you down and you might be split in half on a steel thread, so your feet must always be filled with Kei. And don't think of escaping. If you do that, Lintence-san will gather all the steel threads and cut you into pieces. Aside from that, we've decided to hold your burial ceremony at the Luckens' family home," Savaris explained with a smile. "I think you understand me, don't you? I'll be happier if you can say my name. Either way, you're my junior in the same Military Arts school. Though I didn't look after you much, you have in turn looked after my brother. It's embarrassing, but I still want you to call me by my name."
"Have you recalled my name? What a shame. Looks like you've surrendered totally to the filth monster," Savaris said. He didn't look like he cared.
Grendan had a fight with filth monsters about one month ago. A filth monster in its aged phase seized an opening created by the larvae attacking the city and entered the city's inner area. The Heaven's Blade successors had all sensed the invasion and subsequently chased after it, but this filth monster was a strange parasitic type. It could live off a human body by absorbing nutrients from its host. Grendan's Psychokinesists had trouble finding its location.
And that was when Savaris suggested a plan.
After tracking the filth monster several times, they found that the filth monster tended to attack a new host when it was about to exhaust all of the nutrients of its current host. The time when the filth monster transferred to another host was the best timing for a Psychokinesist to discover its location, and also, the host would move according to his original personality, so that would create an opening to eliminate the filth monster.
Savaris and a huge number of Psychokinesists waited for the next moment when a victim would be attacked, and they prepared for the filth monster a host of their choice.
Although the filth monster almost escaped, Savaris' preventative measure worked, allowing Gahard to become the filth monster's new host. Affected by its host's hatred, the filth monster also developed hatred for the people associated with Layfon.
That was what Derek had sensed.
"You're serving the city's defense in your very last moment as a Military Artist. Is that your wish?" Savaris said as he inserted several cards into the armor on his arm. Dites in the form of cards. He had already inserted the cards into the armor on his legs.
Savaris never knew whether that was Gahard's wish......Gahard's wish when he was in a vegetative state.
He didn't need to know.
"Military Artists who can't fight against filth monsters are worse than trash. Shouldn't you thank your senior for kindly preparing this last glorious mission for you?"
Gahard howled. Savaris didn't know whether it was Gahard's outrage or the filth monster's howling. He ran on the thin steel thread to close in on Gahard, smiling as he did so.
"Let me confront you a little bit seriously......Restoration."
Light shot forth from his limbs to cover his entire body. The card Dites expanded into their original weight and form. An exquisite design gathered around the armor above his elbows and on his legs, giving off bright white light that melted into the air of the night.
Savaris's Heaven's Blade had been restored to its original form.
He lifted his arm and with the sound of the air being torn apart, his arm received Gahard's fist.
"Not a bad sudden attack," he said, relaxed, as if he was just taking off his jacket.
Gahard kicked out at him. He backed off a step. Gahard's next kick followed, he was performing consecutive kicks on the steel thread.
"Hahaha. Not bad!"
The air around Gahard spun. On occasions, blades of air assaulted Savaris from a direction different to Gahard's kick. As the number of kicks increased, so did the number of air blades, but Savaris avoided them all with ease.
"Hm, I'm happy. Who would have thought you could execute this move so perfectly? I really want my brother to take a look at this."
His smile remained.
"I wanted to fight seriously with someone from the same school. That was why I chose you. It's great that you haven't failed my expectations."
Gahard continued his attacks in the same pattern as Savaris leaped around. The Heaven's Blade successor received a kick on the armor plate on his arm, which sent him flying. Gahard increased the speed of his next kick. Wrapped in the wind of his spin, it was a decisive attack that simultaneously released Kei along with Gahard's kick.
Blades of air shot towards Savaris like rain. Facing the invisible attacks as he kept his flying pose, Savaris breathed in deeply.
And blew out his Kei that completely eliminated the air blades, leaving behind the wind of Gahard's spins.
"This is one way of using Roar Kei," Savaris smiled as he landed on a steel thread. "And also, even if you don't execute the entire move, as long as you can bounce back the Kei, then......"
The lower part of Savaris' body blurred.
Gahard crossed his arms before him reflexively.
A sound that felt low and heavy. Then Gahard's body floated.
"Don't you know the "Fierce Wind Kei" style? It doesn't matter if we don't use the wind when our basics are grounded in the Luckens' style of Kei. Our moves are powerful as long as we move with the flow. The "Quick Wind" move is made with its flow along with the effect of additional Kei training, and that levels up the power of the move into "Fierce Wind Kei". You didn't do a bad job with it, but I already knew what it'd be like. As expected, it's not as satisfying to fight with a guy from the same school."
About to deliver a kick, Savaris lowered his leg.
The expression on Gahard's face made Savaris think "How could this be?"
A human face emerged from the threatened beast that was Gahard.
"Why such despair? Can Gahard's human consciousness still remain? Have you realized the distance between you and a Heaven's Blade successor......On that day, you failed to obtain the Heaven's Blade title even though you got hold of Layfon's weakness. Have you finally understood that?"
"I, I was......I was......" Gahard's lips trembled to weave the words.
"Oh? you can still talk normally."
"I just......couldn't allow it. That brat......a Heaven's Blade successor on par with the young Master......Became a Heaven's Blade successor at a younger age than the young Master......I couldn't tolerate it."
The light of humanity shone in his eyes.
Had he escaped from the filth monster's control?
"I decided......to defeat him. For that brat to become a Heaven's Blade successor......It must have been chance. I couldn't stand him......and......his dirty hands......"
"Enough self-defense. How unsightly."
Savaris cared nothing for the dying words of a man controlled by a filth monster.
"Either way, the fact that you threatened Layfon won't change. You're also responsible for it. As a senior, shouldn't you have participated in the match calmly and pulled him down from his position rather than threatening him before the match?" Savaris' body swayed lightly, and in that second, internal Kei spilled out from his body, making the air vibrate.
"You're only at a passing level in terms of keeping the principles of a Military Artist. At least die and leave a good memory for my little brother. No more of your unsightly protests."
"Ugh, Ah, Ooh......"
Pain showed through Gahard's icy words. The human existence disappeared again in his eyes. The pupils that showed control before changed back to a filth monster's. As if to match that alteration, Gahard's body changed.
"Finally realizing that you can't win as a human, huh? But......"
Gahard's body expanded. The tattered clothes tore apart, exposing the muscles in bunches. A black body. The expansion stopped after the body was three times its human size. Huge wings appeared on its back and thick scales covered it from head to toe. Fingers were replaced by three long claws. Long and sharp teeth showed through the mouth.
A roar rent apart the night sky.
Savaris watched coldly as the filth monster declared its presence in Grendan.
"You guys lost to us outside the air purification system. What can you do inside then?"
The lazy smile had been wiped off Savaris' face. A sharp expression like that of a blade emerged to stare at the filth monster.
The three claws swiped at Savaris.
Savaris' body dispersed into the wind.
It was an illusion.
"Gahard Baren, this is my last mercy to you."
That voice sounded from all around the filth monster. Everywhere were Savaris' images. Like an army of Savarises, each Savaris faced the enemy with a different pose.
"Die to Luckens' most elegant move."
Combined Internal and External Kei Variant – Luckens' move – Thousand Man Rush.
Countless Savaris made their moves. They attacked at point-blank range. The filth monster had no way of resisting.
Batter, hit, kick, attack, slash, shoot, destroy, twist, crush.
Numerous attacks fell onto the filth monster without ceasing, pounding down that thick outer shell. The filth monster didn't have the time to think as it was assaulted from all directions. Its self-protection function worked automatically underneath the innumerable attacks to make changes to its body. Having lost its outer shell, the black body transformed.
In that split second, the rain of fists ceased.
It was Gahard's painful face. Voiceless, he looked at Savaris bitterly as if to convey something.
"Scum," Savaris said against his junior's pleading. His fist landed on Gahard's face and broke through the filth monster's body.
"If I had known you'd be scared of this, I wouldn't have used you," he said coldly as the remaining Savaris' assaulted the filth monster at the same time, completely tearing it into pieces.
"All done......" he laughed, watching fragments of flesh fall through the gaps of and onto the steel threads.
"Guess I gotta nail the coffin lid firmly. It'd be terrible if people see what's inside......But is a normal coffin big enough for it?"
He rested his chin on his palm and pondered.
And gave up.
"I'll just let father handle this."
So that was what happened.
Lintence watched the dismemberment of the filth monster's body.
"It's finished," he confirmed. Everything was fine now. He retrieved the steel threads as if he hadn't seen Savaris still standing on one of the threads.
Although Savaris seemed to be grumbling about something as he fell, Lintence didn't bother to listen. Savaris had no right to be a Heaven's Blade successor if he could die from that height.
Speaking of which......
What Lintence thought about wasn't the filth monster's corpse, but the fight just then. The move that Savaris used – Thousand Man Rush. Layfon stole that move from the Luckens and used it as his own. He didn't just remember parts of it. Even Lintence couldn't understand the structure of a move just by looking at it.
"No one is better at understanding the skills of Kei than he."
Besides Lintence's skill in steel threads, Layfon had turned almost all of the skills in the Dojos of Grendan into his own. He was able to digest those moves and use them just by observing them. The fact that Layfon could become familiar with those moves in a shockingly short period of time had overwhelmed even Lintence.
"Is that guy a seed to transport those skills to the outside of Grendan? ......Was he born with that mission?"
He gazed at the city as he thought of the only person whom he acknowledged as his apprentice.
Nothing reflected back in the darkness of the night.
Layfon headed deeper to the inside of the Mechanical Department illuminated with pale green light. He had spent an entire night at Zuellni's Mechanical Department, but the silence here gave off a bad feeling. It was even quieter than the buildings after school hours.
"Did anything happen?"
"Felli......What's wrong? Answer me."
Background noise entered Nina's voice. The same happened to Sharnid's voice, as if his voice was coming from a far distance......
His vision turned black, and the background noises ceased.
"Felli, What's happened? Felli!?"
Even though he shouted into the transmitter, his voice only vanished into the bitter darkness.
Layfon was left alone in the dark.