Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume4 Chapter1

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Chapter 1: Her Idea

"There's no way I'll do it, got that?"

Naruki pulled him up while Layfon was taking a nap on the library lawn in the morning.

Students were in holiday mode while Zuellni mined selenium. The Student President said the mining would take one week to finish at its earliest. Mechanical students dug up the selenium using heavy machines. Volunteers and students from other areas undertook supporting roles, resulting in a lack of senior year teachers, so the academy had temporarily closed.

Layfon had just returned from his shift at the Mechanical Department and was planning to nap a little on the library lawn before the library opened. Yesterday, Meishen and her friends had suggested a schedule for him during Zuellni's break. He had wanted to return to the dormitory and sleep, then change clothes and come over, but......that seemed too troublesome, so he had laid down on the lawn with his backpack as his pillow. When he came to, Naruki already had him in her grip and was pulling him up.

"Eh? Eh?" he looked around, not sure what was happening.

Why was Naruki so angry? Meishen and Mifi stood behind her with confused expressions. It seemed even they didn't know the reason behind Naruki's actions.

"Um......What's wrong?"

"It was Layton, right? What you said to the captain."

"Ha?"

This was getting more confusing.

"I don't know what you said......But I don't agree with it."

"......I'm sorry. I don't understand what you're saying."

"......Wasn't it Layton?" she let go of his collar.

"Just what is it?"

The usually calm Naruki was worked up about something.

"The captain. Your captain came to me yesterday night at the office."

"......Ah, Aah."

"So it really was you!?"

"No, I didn't say anything. No. Maybe I did say......ah, wait, wait. I said it because the captain wanted my advice. She noticed you before that," Layfon said hastily and prevented Naruki from grabbing his collar again.

"Why?"

"How should I know?"

Naruki groaned with an "urg." Layfon finally felt fully awake.

"Uh......I have no idea what just happened," Mifi raised her hand.

"What's going on?" Meishen asked.

"......I was scouted by Layton's captain," Naruki replied bitterly.

"......Eh!" the two girls said, shocked.

To put it simply, Nina had finally taken action. It looked like she was planning to add a new team member before the 17th platoon's camp. The team was in a crisis in the last investigation mission due to a lack of members. Nina had already said earlier that she was searching for more members.

Layfon didn't know which part of Naruki had attracted Nina's attention, but since Nina had asked him about her, she'd probably talk it over with Naruki herself in the future.

"This is troublesome," Naruki said as she read the newspaper in the library's study room. "I don't plan to become a platoon member."

"Yeah, I think so too, but......"

Nina probably won't give up.

The weakness of the 17th platoon was glaringly obvious. It only had just enough members to become a platoon. The maximum number of fighting members was seven, the minimum four. They could manage if the team was on the offensive in a match. As long as the captain, Nina, remained standing, then the team wouldn't have lost. Layfon and Sharnid just needed to do better when the enemies were focusing on Nina.

But when the team was on the defensive, the difference in numbers became critical. One person would have to stay back to guard the flag, leaving only three people to move freely. It'd be good for the team if their number increased by even just one person. However, students who were good enough to become platoon members had already been netted by other platoons. Even if there were some left, no senior students were willing to join a team made up of juniors. Hence, Nina had changed her targets to year 1 and 2 students.

And Naruki was chosen......

"I'm already with the City Police. I'm sorry, Layton, but I don't have time to serve in a platoon too."

"Yeah – I know."

There must be a way to resolve this......But things weren't that simple. Either way, Nina was the type to put her thoughts in action. Her enthusiasm was amazing. It seemed impossible to stop her once she'd made a decision.

"What's so bad about it? Join," Mifi said, already tired of this topic.

"Don't say that as if this has nothing to do with you."

"Huh – Why? Layton's joined a platoon and he works at the Mechanical Department. Isn't that captain also working like Layton? I don't think you can't do it."

"It would be OK if this were just about whether I could do it or not, but I don't want to do things halfheartedly. I'm not as competent as Layton, and I don't have that kind of strength."

Layfon smiled bitterly at that comparison. Though he didn't think he was that competent, he couldn't deny his true strength. Possessing excelling skills in Military Arts, he was given the title Heaven's Blade successor back at Grendan. Now that he had given up on Military Arts in Zuellni, yet still entered the Military Arts course, he could only respond to Naruki's comparison with a "never mind."

He hadn't given up on finding a path besides Military Arts. Zuellni's situation had forced him to delay his search. That was all.

"No matter what, Layton, please convey my intentions to your captain."

"......I'll try," he said, suppressing his thoughts. In the end, this conversation distracted him from concentrating on the next period. After eating Meishen's lunch, they chatted about trivial matters. The four of them parted ways when it was time to leave. Layfon said bye to the three girls and headed for the training complex.

The temperature wasn't as cold at night anymore. During the day, Layfon would sweat a bit in his uniform. It seemed the city had entered someplace hot. Zuellni had stopped for the Selenium mine. The temperature might get even higher when the city resumed its journey.

Layfon lifted his head to look at the sun, then entered the training complex.

The complex was originally very spacious. It was now divided into numerous rooms. These rooms were built with soundproof materials that nevertheless shook with the impact of training. Layfon entered the training room for the 17th platoon.

The other training rooms were noisy as if a war were going on, but in here, it was very quiet.

Very peaceful.

"Morning."

The sound of doh, doh, doh rebounded in the room. It was natural for Nina to get here even earlier than Layfon. She was hitting numerous hard spheres off the wall with her iron whips.

"Morning," Nina replied as she hit back all the balls that rebounded from the wall.

"I saw Naruki."

"......Ah," she replied, distracted. A ball crashed on the wall behind her. The ball was hit with the Kei of a Military Artist. It didn't slow down, but rebounded off the wall to attack Nina. Nina avoided it and once again struck it with her iron whip.

"I got blamed," Layfon said as he restored his Dite. The green blade shone under the light. He checked his body condition by letting the internal Kei run through his body. Nina struck the balls at Layfon. All of them.

Layfon hit them all back with his sword.

"I didn't think she'd hate it to that level," she said in surprise, as she hit back the balls.

They struck the balls at each other while continuing the conversation.

"Why did you have to meet her at the office?"

"I said before that I noticed her, right? Besides, the limit's almost here."

"Limit?"

"The Military Arts Competition......the fight between cities. We still haven't received notice?"

"Oh, I see."

Although the Academy City Alliance set down and managed the rules for the fights between Academy Cities, humans didn't get to decide on when a Competition was to be held. The City's consciousness made that decision. Until the day of the fight, no one was able to predict just when it would happen.

"The referee from the Alliance hasn't yet showed up, but there are many cases of cities holding competitions without a referee. I think it's about time."

"Why?"

"Because of the selenium mines. If we lost after the competition, we couldn't even resupply, so isn't this the best time to have a match?"

"I see. That's true. If we're to fight, it would be best to do so in our best condition."

"Exactly. For cities to meet each other, they must move from their territories. That means resupplying is necessary."

Having listened to her, Layfon now truly felt the harsh reality of the Military Arts Competition. If they lost in this Competition, Zuellni would have lost its one and only selenium mine. What awaited it was a slow death. In that case, Layfon would face his second move. Though he could start fresh by moving out of Zuellni, he couldn't ignore the Competition. Because he had met Nina here, as well as Felli, Meishen, the members of 17th platoon and everyone in his classes. He'd have lost the time he could have spent with these people in Zuellni.

After he left Grendan, he hadn't had the opportunity to meet with the children at the orphanage, and he could only communicate with Leerin through letters. He couldn't let his meeting with everyone in Zuellni end like that.

"Even with a new person, our team still has a gap in strength. Let's just leave the question of whether our strength can catch up or not. It's too late to start training for our own particular positions in the match."

The conversation returned to Naruki. Nina missed the ball again. The ball rebounded off the wall and flew underneath her armpit in a direction that Layfon's sword couldn't reach.

"Hey!"

The ball flew straight for Sharnid's face. He had just opened the door to the room.

"Uh-oh!" he just managed to dodge it. The ball bounced off the wall in the corridor.

"This game again? You two are enthusiastic," he said, grabbed hold of the ball jumping back and forth in the narrow corridor and brought it back into the room.

"Come join us."

"Then Felli-chan would join too, and we'll see the scene of hell like last time."

"If I lose, I'll treat you to dinner. How about that?"

Surprised at Nina's unusual provocation, Sharnid joined in.

"Pretty good."

He restored two of the three Dites from his weapon harness. They were guns made in black alloys and they looked quite heavy. One glance showed they were made for close combat. Although Sharnid was a sniper, he had had training in close quarters gun combat. His participation in the game made the bouncing of the balls more intense.

The rules were simple. One would get a black mark against him for failing to hit back a ball or hitting back a ball with a large margin of error in terms of direction. The person accumulating the most number of points in the time limit lost. The time limit was the time till training hour ended.

It wasn't as simple as hitting back a ball. Because everyone included feints in their actions, this made the timing of the hit difficult.

Felli entered as Sharnid was starting to warm up. She wasn't willing to join in, but in the end accepted Nina's proposal.

"The one who will lose is probably captain or senpai," she said lightly and restored her Dite. Flakes in the shape of flower petals scattered in the air in response to her power of Psychokinesis.

The flakes were like a part of Felli's body, and their uses weren't limited to just sensing. Some used the flakes to attack and some used them to defend. Hitting back the hard balls wasn't a problem to Felli at all.

"Hey now, is it OK to say that?"

"Yes. I can't lose to you two."

As Sharnid and Nina conversed, they gave each person five hard balls.

"Ready?" Nina said, and the twenty hard balls went into a rampage, drawing out the picture of a hellish scene. Sharnid called it a game, but it was a very proper and formal type of training. Layfon was the one to suggest this type of training. Nina had then brought in a large number of hard balls.

Training with the balls scattered on the floor helped to increase the basis of internal Kei. As for today, hitting the balls back and forth trained reflexes and also increased coordination. When that reached a certain level, one could even use Kei to hit a ball and cancel the Kei of someone else. This way, one could also increase one's basic skill in external Kei. There were many different types of skills in the use of internal and external Kei, but if one managed to master the basics, then one could better adapt them. Compared to spending a large amount of time learning a new skill in Kei, it was better to increase the level of the basics first...... that was Layfon's suggestion, and Nina found it plausible.

When training ended, it was already sunset.

"Next time, I'll......" Nina said with regret as she stared at the menu in the restaurant.

Layfon got zero, Felli three points, Sharnid twelve points and Nina thirteen points...... Nina lost by just one point.

"......I'll pay half. How does that sound?" Layfon asked.

"No need," she replied.

Nina's family was rich, but she didn't get any financial support here because she came to Zuellni against her parents' wishes. Layfon wasn't sure how she paid for her school fees, but all her living expenses were paid by the money she earned at the Mechanical Department.

"Layfon, it's forbidden to sympathize with the loser," Sharnid said smugly and patted Layfon's shoulder. His attitude and wordings declared him a victor.

"Damn, just a little bit more......"

"That little point determined the win and loss. This world is cruel."

"That's the truth. Ah, I want that," Harley said, looking at his menu. He was sitting next to Nina.

"......Hang on, I didn't say I'll treat you."

"Huh? Is that so?"

"Of course. If you're not satisfied, then fight me."

"No way. I can't win against a Military Artist."

"Then you can't."

"Tsk, never mind," Nina's childhood friend, the 17th platoon's Dite Mechanic, moved his gaze to Layfon indifferently. "Layfon, I've finished the simple version of what we talked about before. Can you drop by tomorrow? I want to run a final check."

"Ah, sure."

"Ah, What was it? Is it that ridiculous thing from before?"

"The Adamantium Dite. This time I made the simpler version. It's lighter than before."

"That means Layfon'll gradually turn monstrous."

"That's right."

"No, saying monstrous......"

"Monstrous, don't you agree? Normally speaking, it's impossible to imagine a person fighting a filth monster alone."

"Perhaps, but......"

"Thanks to you, we've done something out of the ordinary."

Layfon was troubled by them, as Sharnid and Harley started chatting about it.

"But we won't make that reckless move a second time," Nina said firmly to him.

Everyone had placed their orders. The dishes were spread out before them.

"Speaking of which, did Layfon come up with the training with the balls?"

"No, it was......the Director." (Derek)

Sudden footsteps sounded near their table, interrupting the conversation.

"......Oh?"

"......Uh?"

Sharnid lifted his head. The closing footsteps ceased.

"Yo, Dinn."

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"......You seem in high spirits," the man at the front of the group said. He was bald, small and lanky. He wasn't that thin, one could tell just by looking at him. He had a very sharp looking gaze. A badge with the number 10 was pinned on his uniform. The badge of a platoon.

Sharnid had called him Dinn.

(Uh, seems to be......)

Nina searched her mind for the name of this platoon member. Dinn Dee. The captain of platoon 10. The male students behind him all bore the same badge. They must be his teammates.

"I suppose. Did you see my active performance?"

"I've confirmed through the video. As usual, your first shot was brilliant, but not the second one."

"What harsh advice."

"......The concentration of my team is much better since you left."

"Hahaha, that's good. How's Shena?"

"......Sharnid," Dinn placed his hand on the table. Sharnid's expression changed slightly.

"You're not our comrade anymore. Don't act so close."

"Oh, I'm sorry," Sharnid's words easily defused the anger in Dinn's words. Layfon noticed how Dinn wasn't too pleased with that.

"My next opponent is your 17th platoon. Sharnid, I'll show you that you don't have a place in platoon ten."

"Good luck," Sharnid waved. Dinn and his teammates left quickly. The back of Dinn's bald head had turned red from anger.

"......He's still the same octopus as always," Sharnid said to Dinn's back.

"Bu." At Sharnid's words, Harley couldn't help but spill the drink in his mouth.

"Sharnid was in team ten last year," Felli told Layfon on the way back to the dormitories. Their dormitories lay in the same direction, so unless something special came up, the two of them usually went back together.

"Sharnid and Dinn, and the vice-captain, Dalshena. They were all in first year. When they worked together, their team had the number 1 assault power. The 10th platoon exceeded the first platoon in its excellence."

"But senpai left the team."

Layfon didn't have to hear the answer from Felli. If Sharnid hadn't left the 10th platoon, then his existence in the 17th platoon would not be possible.

"Yeah. He left in the middle of a platoon match."

"Why?"

"I'm not sure, but the performance record of team 10 has gone downhill from then. Even now, it only ranks somewhere in the middle."

This was neither the problem of the three team members being unable to join hands nor that of the team losing one member. This was the collapse of a team combination, a fatal strike at the trust between team members. That was the main reason that caused the slip in the performance record of the 10th platoon.

In the end, the relationship between Sharnid and Dinn was like fire and water.

"I'm certain something's happened between the three of them. I don't know what, but if it's better not to know about it, then I'd rather remain in the dark."

"True," Layfon agreed.

They didn't know what had happened, but Layfon felt that Sharnid would tell them if the time to tell came. Although Sharnid was always flippant with an attitude of ignorance, he was able to make wise judgments in critical moments.

It wasn't something that words could convey.

Layfon knew just by looking at Sharnid's performance in the platoon match. Senpai cut off his presence through his Kei, moved to the position where he was needed and fired the fatal shot at the right timing. A person's true self was revealed while he fought. The perfect sniper was Sharnid's true face. That was a part of him that no one was able to feel in his usual daily life.

"Really?" It seemed Felli didn't agree with Layfon's opinion.

"He's got the skill, but his personality is beyond help."

"Not at all. I can rest assured with senpai here."

"......As I said before."

"Sen......Felli's Psychokinesis feels different," Layfon made a hasty change in his address of Felli when she glared at him.

"What type of feeling is it?"

"As if my senses have been opened."

"Of course, I'm a Psychokinesist."

The mission of a Psychokinesist was to gather information in the match and convey that information to their teammates. Another duty was to facilitate communication between team members.

"A Psychokinesist is their teammates' eyes and ears, but I didn't mean that......What's wrong?"

"Ah, no. Nothing."

Felli seemed to have changed recently. She still hadn't been participating in training enthusiastically, but the atmosphere she exuded that caused people to dislike her wasn't as strong as before.

If it had been the Felli before, she wouldn't have said a word about the bet in the training room. As a Psychokinesist, she'd never have spoken confidently about her own ability before Nina and Sharnid. However, she still hated her own ability, and that was the present Felli.

Even so, Felli had changed.

(Why?)

Felli had shown her weaker side a few days ago in the destroyed city. She was unable to give up being a Psychokinesist, unable to calm down without using her abilities. This implied that she had no way of discontinuing being a Psychokinesist. She looked depressed because of it.

Layfon didn't know how to help Felli either. He also was experiencing the same problem as her. He couldn't give up his identity as a Military Artist, not because of Karian's discovery of his past, but because he couldn't calm himself down when he didn't use Kei.

He didn't know what to do about it. Since he also faced the same problem, he could only accompany Felli and chat with her.

"What is it?" Felli glared at him, dissatisfied with his silence.

"No. Really, nothing."

He wanted to know just exactly how she had changed, but he didn't voice it. Perhaps Felli would talk about it when the time came.

Layfon decided to end the day like that since he didn't have work tonight. He planned to lock the door of his room and nap a while in the bath, but the security guard came over while he was locking the door, telling him there was a phone call for him.

He had no choice but to leave his dormitory once more.

The call was from Formed Garen, the Head of City Police, Naruki's boss.

"I'm sorry about this," Formed said in greeting, wearing a pretty sly expression.

The location was the outskirts of Zuellni. The City Police were all wearing heavy armor. They had fenced off the shops. Formed was holding something that looked like an explosive type weapon. The other Military Artists were all waiting for something with tense expressions.

"This weapon is for suppression purposes," he lifted the cylinder shaped weapon with a bitter smile. "I'm not good at using this. I hope we can avoid a fight if possible."

"What's it today?" Layfon said. The tension around Formed was extremely high. This felt unusual.

"It seems there are a huge number of fake students here."

"Fake students?"

"People who came with fake student documentations and pretended to be students of Zuellni."

"There are such people......" Layfon's eyes widened, hearing this for the first time.

"Sometimes we do have people who want to learn but can't afford the fees, but our student IDs are renewed every year. The library has a record of all incoming and exiting students. They keep the record for about a year or so."

"Ha......" Layfon didn't know about it at all.

"Try imagining."

"Can't."

"Just cause you don't feel like imagining. It takes lots of money to produce fake identities. Isn't it a waste to just pretend to be a student?"

"Then for what?"

"Anything that's outside the purpose of gaining knowledge, such as illegal drugs, buying and selling illegal wines, stealing intelligence......things like that."

"I see."

"This time it's about illegal wines. Have you heard of 'DG'?"

"The drug used to accelerate the production of Kei?"

The discovery that the product of fermenting a certain genetically modified fruit could cause an unusual reaction to a Kei vein was made before Layfon's birth. It was once commonplace among many cities because its use could increase the power of Kei in Military Artists and Psychokinesists exponentially.

"If it didn't have side effects, it would be something that all Military Artists would dream of having."

Yes, this wine had its side effects. The unusual flow of Kei vein was abnormal. It increased chances of developing malignant tumors by 80%, causing numerous Military Artists and Psychokinesists to become useless. As such, each city had set down laws banning the production and importation of the wine according to its judgment. This wasn't a result of a meeting between cities, but it came about because of fear. Even so, not all cities had set down such measures, hence the method of production wasn't lost.

There were Military Artists who didn't have the confidence to face their current level of strength. There were those people who wished for such a drug, not willing to face failure in battle. There were also people who sold such illegal drugs at a high price.

"......They want to import it into the Academy City and store it up?"

"That depends on the timing. Perhaps they think this small and insignificant city has need of it? Maybe our Student President has already sent people over to buy the stuff," Formed said with a cold smile. A joke that wasn't funny at all.

Layfon confirmed the shop again. The message on the sign showed the shop sold water guns, a fairly popular sport in many cities.

"Are they hiding in there?"

"Yeah, we've confirmed the presence of ten fake students. I'm not sure......if there are any military artists."

"There are."

"As I thought......Can you tell?"

Layfon's hand naturally reached out to his weapon harness. He wasn't surprised at Formed's information.

"Yeah......and they're provoking me."

Those people weren't even hiding their presence. The Kei they were releasing covered the entire shop. The Kei opposite the opened door swept through Layfon in intense waves. Layfon canceled out their Kei with his own.

"The movements of Military Artists on our side are slow, so I called you over with that suspicion. And you were right where I wanted, which was great."

Even though Formed and his team couldn't see the Kei with their eyes, they could still feel it in the atmosphere. Seeing how relieved Formed was, Layfon once more focused his attention on the shop.

They were veterans, Military Artists whose power was way beyond the group of thieves Layfon had encountered previously. Surrounded on all sides, these guys exhibited the attitude "just come if you dare." This insolence......provoked Layfon's Kei and aroused his fighting spirit.

"Leader......We've surrounded the building," Naruki said.

"Good, then......"

"......They're coming," Layfon interrupted.

"Huh?"

A sudden explosion......behind the speechless Naruki.

"Uwah!" Formed fell, blown by the waves of Kei. The door was blown off its hinges to fly towards them. Naruki moved swiftly to defend Formed, whereas Layfon......

"Don't get carried away," he restored the Dite he had pulled out of his weapon harness. The sword cut through the door in the middle.

On the other side was......

"!"

Layfon blocked the attacker's strike with his sword. The owner of the assaulting Kei laughed in the air. A one-sided sword...... katana. The material was also steel alloy. Derek flashed through Layfon's mind......and quickly disappeared.

The face beneath the attacker's nose was covered by a mask. Red hair bounced in the air as if it was firing up the darkness of the night. Male, a young man......He looked to be about the same age as Layfon.

"Don't think you can escape!"

"Damn, go in! Go in!" came Formed's shout from behind.

Layfon chased after the young man. The attacker sped on the roads and jumped from rooftop to rooftop without any unnecessary movements. He was extremely fast.

"Heh."

If Layfon kept on chasing, this might take quite a while. He gathered the Kei at the soles of his feet.

Internal Kei variation – Whirl Kei.

The next moment he was right behind his target, swinging down with his sword. He aimed for the shoulder of the weapon arm. He'd smash the bone so the guy couldn't use his weapon anymore and surrender.

That was his intention at least.

"Wha!?"

His target had dodged the attack.

The young man stood at someplace higher than Layfon's current location. He seemed to have timed Layfon's attack.

(Damn.)

If this guy escaped......but the price of using Whirl Kei had left Layfon with the only choice of moving in a straight line now. This guy would have escaped while Layfon tried to stop his headlong rush.

"That was pretty dangerous."

A feeling of something expanding came from above Layfon's head. Layfon turned in midair to face his attacker. The young man readied his pose, also in midair, his body surrounded by Kei. As his foot landed on the wall of a building, he suddenly disappeared.

At the same time, Layfon was attacked on all sides.

Internal type Kei variation – Fleeting Shadows.

"What!"

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Shocked, he swung at his right. The crisp sound of metal clashing against metal rang out, and the heavy impact ran up Layfon's arm. As Layfon hadn't yet stopped his headlong rush, the impact of that strike sent him flying backward.

"As expected, you can read my moves."

The eyes of the young man sparkled with joy.

Layfon blocked the consecutive attacks with his sword. The young man was attempting to stop him from braking his headlong rush. As Layfon moved, his weapon clashed numerous times with the young man's. Each strike from his attacker was heavier than the previous strike. As they exchanged blows, Layfon was prevented from changing his direction.

"Ha!"

"!"

The young man's strike went from low to high and Layfon reacted by leaping up. As his flying momentum reached its peak, he finally managed to slow himself down. He confirmed his location in the air.

He was still in the outskirts of the city, moving along Zuellni's outer area. This was the practicum area of the Construction course. Nobody was around at night. One could say it didn't matter if you destroyed the buildings here.

(Good.)

He increased the density of Kei running through his body, and swung downward at the young man following him from below.

External Kei – Whirl Kei.

Kei in the form of a twisting whirl embedded with Kei bullets spun towards the young man. The young man raised his katana in the direction of the air flow and struck down every single Kei bullet. In the sound of successive explosions, Layfon charged his opponent.

"Too naive!"

The young man received Layfon's strike. The two types of Kei joined together, then rebounded off each other in all directions. Sparks flew off the Dites and lit up the young man's face. The left side of his face that wasn't masked was carved with a tattoo.

"Wolfstein......is only at such a level?"

Words that were like the rumbling of thunder to Layfon.

At the same time, Layfon felt something wrong with his sword.

"Ha!"

Internal type Kei – Fleeting shadow.

As the young man leaped up for high speed movement, he scattered the Kei gathered at that one single point against Layfon's Kei. Layfon confirmed the sword in his own right hand. The flow of Kei had turned clumsy. He watched more closely and saw a number of small dents in the blade.

External type Kei – Rot.

His sword had been damaged.

When he realized something was wrong with his weapon, he had released his Kei to resist his opponent's move, but it was already too late.

(At this rate......already......)

He couldn't fully release the strength of his Kei at this rate.

"Is this your full power? ......That can't be. This was already in the past, but the strength of a Heaven's Blade successor can't be this hopeless."

This guy wasn't lost in the trap.

"......Are you a Military Artist from Grendan?" he watched his opponent.

The young man took down his mask.

"I'm Haia Salinvan Laia~"

A tattoo covered his entire left face. The same tattoo also covered his left arm.

"......The Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang."

Because of the tattoo, his face looked even more vicious than it was.

"Yes. I'm the leader of the third generation."

A provoking smile showed on the right side of his face.

Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang. It was a mercenary organization made up of Military Artists born in Grendan. They rode their own roaming bus, moving between cities and were hired to fight filth monsters or participate in intercity wars. Sometimes, they would train a city's Military Artists. On the contrary, Heaven's Blade successors only existed in a certain city. Their power wasn't allowed to be leaked to the outside world. Hence, the most famous group of people outside Grendan was the Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang.

"I never expected you to be involved in the illegal drug trade."

"That doesn't matter~ I only used them to get in here. I've no intention of helping them."

"Then why......?" Layfon said as he increased the density of his Kei, readying for the next attack.

"You shouldn't have to ask that question. Only one reason explains my actions besides business purposes – the Haikizoku."

"Haikizoku......?" Layfon frowned. He hadn't heard of that term before.

Haia also frowned. "What? You don't know? Ah......Has it been that long since you were a Heaven's Blade successor? Oh? No way? Could it be a secret?"

What a vexing guy, Layfon thought. Having flowed for so long, the density of Haia's Kei showed no signs of decline.

(Speaking of which......)

The problem was Layfon's sword. His flow of Kei was pretty rough. Who knew whether the sword could block the next attack?

"Never mind, whatever. Either way, I'm only interested in you and your skills. Your master is my master's, the 2nd generation leader, brother? Then you and I are like brothers in terms of receiving the same skills from the same tribe."

"That is my first time hearing it."

Yes, Layfon's first. But, in that case, he now understood why Haia could execute the move Fleeting shadow and also use a katana. The skill of Layfon's adopted father was different from others. It emphasized more on the way one cut and sliced. Because of that, a katana was chosen as the weapon, and the material was of steel alloy. The blade needed more delicate adjustments compared to weapons used for chopping. The material for the Dite reflected the skill of its maker.

"I'm interested in why you aren't using a katana......but never mind."

In one swift moment, Haia resumed his attack. Layfon leaped up to avoid it.

"Since you aren't using your full strength, I don't plan to fight you seriously."

Haia's attacks intensified.

(That's not too seriously......!)

Layfon concentrated on avoiding Haia's attacks as he didn't want to receive them on his sword. He was impressed by Haia's movements. He had fought numerous Military Artists before becoming a Heaven's Blade successor, and none of them had Haia's strength. Who would have thought that such a guy existed outside Grendan? But digging into the core, Haia was also from Grendan. Even so, that did not make him less impressive. Layfon was acknowledged by everyone as a genius, but he didn't think he was the strongest in the world. There were people within Heaven's Blade successors who had more experience than Layfon, who were harder to beat. Layfon didn't think he could win against Queen Alsheyra.

"Hey, hey. What is it? Show me some spirit."

But Layfon still felt that he belonged to a special group. In Grendan, a huge distance existed between Heaven's Blade successors and other Military Artists.

"Could it be that Heaven's Blade successors are only of this level?" Haia said, gradually speeding up his movements.

Layfon swung down his sword at him.

Both blades filled with Kei, the green sword clashed against the steel katana. The air around them shook.

Metal moaning ran in that air.

The green sword cracked and broke apart. Opposite the debris giving off a green light, Haia smiled happily. But Layfon hadn't finished.

"Haaaaaa!"

External type Kei, roar Kei, a threatening skill. The air shook along the wake of the huge noise, and the scattered debris flew at Haia.

"Woah!" Haia bent backward to evade the debris. Seizing this opening, Layfon gathered his Kei in his limbs. He kicked at Haia's chest and pounded into his opponent's stomach with his fist.

Haia managed to block that with his arm. Layfon's Kei sent him flying away to crash into a building still in its construction stage. Layfon varied his Kei.

External type Kei, Nine Bullets.

Layfon shot out the Kei bullets formed in between his fingers. Kei as tiny as needles chased after Haia to pierce through the building, causing huge explosions.

"Did I get him?"

No......

He sensed two more presences within the dancing dust. It seemed Haia's companions had arrived.

(Are they coming......)

Layfon readied his fighting stance, but the presences......were disappearing fast.

(Should I......chase after them?)

Still, Layfon was at a disadvantage for having lost his Dite. He decided to give up chasing them as their presence retreated into the far distance.

"......Just what're they planning?"

Haikizoku. The term brought forth a feeling of dislike in Layfon.


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