Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume4 Chapter2
Chapter 2: Different Nights
"Ah......" Having spaced out for a while on the sofa, Leerin looked out the window.
"It's already night."
She hadn't realized that at all. The sun had sunk down completely. Darkness swallowed the buildings. Light gradually lit up the street lamps and their surrounding buildings. Leerin felt strange, looking down at the city from such a high place.
"So slow," Leerin's adopted father said beside her.
He didn't look like he once had broken numerous bones and was admitted into the hospital. Now, he rested with his usual stiff and expressionless face, eyes closed. Grendan possessed excellent medical skills, but Derek's atypical rate of recovery granted to a Military Artist contributed greatly to his speedy rehabilitation.
"Is the injury really OK?"
Even so, Leerin was still worried. At the time during Gahard's attacks, she thought her adopted father had died. The wounds he had sustained would have brought him death if not for the Heaven's Blade successor Savaris' timely arrival. Although Derek had received the newest medical treatment available, Leerin still felt doubtful about his speedy recovery.
"I'm all healed, thanks to the royal family," her adopted father......Derek said, opening his eyes.
The fact that Derek could receive the newest and most expensive treatment was all thanks to the royal family. Gahard was possessed by a special filth monster, so Derek's injuries were treated as war-related injuries. However, both Leerin and Derek thought it wasn't just as simple as that. The insurance for war injuries wouldn't be enough to cover the treatment fees. A special organization other than the royal family had paid for the extra.
Leerin once again confirmed her location.
She was in a high-class room covered by a carpet with exquisite patterns. The sofa she was sitting on, whether it was the seat itself or the back, was made splendidly. It was a costly piece of furniture. Truthfully, the material of the seat was too good, and she felt uncomfortable sitting on it. She had overdone herself choosing the highest-class clothes from all the clothes in her possession, but it still wasn't enough to match the expensive surroundings she was in.
Derek, on the other hand, wasn't worried about that at all. As a Military Artist, wearing the formal Military Artist suit or training clothes was enough. Still, he had chosen the best-looking clothes he had. That was only natural.
She looked out the window again.
Only one place in Grendan was high enough to allow a view of the entire city – the palace in the middle of Grendan, and this was where Leerin and Derek were.
(Formalities aren't needed if this is just for the usual insurance.)
As she thought of that, she felt pain in her stomach. It wasn't time for dinner yet, but tension made her stomach call out.
After leaving the hospital, Derek had sent out a request for an audience with the Queen so he could thank her personally. This was the appointed day for the meeting. Leerin was suspicious of why she was brought along with Derek, but she saw her name on the reply invitation brought in by the other girl.
(Why am I here?)
Leerin had been used as bait at that time. It was all done to eliminate the filth monster, so it couldn't be helped. Leerin couldn't imagine what it was like to be protected desperately by Military Artists while she herself lived her daily life as usual. Both Derek and Layfon were Military Artists. Although Derek had picked up Leerin and took care of her, she still couldn't accept the thought of living safely while people around her fought to protect her.
......If possible, she wished she'd know before danger arrived.
The incident with Gahard Baren had complicated Leerin's thinking, but she had not yet tidied up her train of thought enough to turn them into words. As she pondered, the door opened and a maid came to lead them to another room.
"Sorry for the wait. Her Majesty's finally finished her work."
"That is perfectly fine," Derek said.
The tension in Leerin intensified. Her stomach cramped. She wasn't good in critical moments. Speaking of which, Layfon was the same. He was indifferent in his fights with filth monsters and with powerful Military Artists in Grendan, but in the day before the Heaven's Blade successor ceremony and during the time when he had to apologize to the scary looking Heaven's Blade successor, he wore a troubled expression.
(Do I have......the same expression now?)
Leerin wanted to confirm in a mirror. If possible, she wanted to wash her face with cold water in a bathroom, but if she did that, her makeup would've been destroyed. Besides, the maid leading them showed no signs of stopping.
While Leerin muttered to herself, the maid came to a stop.
"I've brought them," she said to the guards. The Military Artists pulled open the huge double door.
The maid walked in front, followed by Derek and Leerin.
This room was bigger than the one they were in before. In the middle of the room was a large sofa, and deeper into the room was a stage. A figure hid behind the curtains shadowing the stage.
Alsheyra Almonise – The Queen of Grendan.
Leerin and Derek knelt down before the sofa and bowed deeply.
"Thank you for your Majesty's kindness......" Derek began his thank you speech.
Leerin was too tense to lift her head. She knelt there, rooted in the spot. Normally, one wouldn't even have a chance to get so close to this person behind the curtains. Curiosity won against tension. Leerin lifted her head. She couldn't make out the Queen's face clearly because of the curtains, but that figure felt familiar.
"You don't have to worry. This level of compensation is nothing compared to what you've done for Grendan for so many years. It really makes me feel awkward."
The bell-like sound of the Queen numbed Leerin's body.
"I'm sorry for......"
"This is the truth. You were active when you were on duty. The sword you nurtured was also active under my command."
She meant Layfon. Leerin considered the Queen's words as she waited for her reply.
(How does Her Majesty view Layfon......?)
If Alsheyra forgave Layfon, it would be equivalent to opening Layfon's path back to Grendan...... Leerin concentrated, listening without missing one single word.
"His present situation is due to his immaturity and his ignorance of the world. It has nothing to do with you."
"No, Your Majesty. His immaturity and his ignorance of the city that Your Majesty rules over were all because of me. He's carrying the burden of the consequence of my one-sided education in Military Arts. I should be the one to carry his punishment."
"I see......Well then, please sit down."
"This isn't the public room where I receive people. It's a much more private room. You can relax. I've chased out the annoying servant."
That last words, the way she joked......Leerin seemed to have heard them somewhere before. But she couldn't think of whom.
(Is it just my imagination?)
The maid appeared again and laid out two cups of tea.
"Do you know how he is doing?"
Leerin never thought the Queen would ask her a question.
"Is Layfon doing all right? Or have you two not been exchanging letters?"
"Ah, yes. ......Ah, no, we have!"
Laughter sounded from behind the curtain.
"Sure, it's not that persuasive to speak behind a curtain, but please don't be so tense."
"I, I see......"
"Then, is he well?"
"Yes. Um......He's in a city called Zuellni......"
"An academy city......even though he received the Heaven's Blade at that age. I think it must have been hard for him to graduate because of his uselessness, don't you agree? But he passed the entrance test. Were you the one teaching him?"
"You study in a senior school, right? It seems you're excellent."
"No, not at all."
And under Almonise's guidance, Leerin began to speak more normally. She talked about all sorts of things – when she taught Layfon how to do his homework, the days close to his departure from Grendan, and the time when she first received his letter......
In the conversation, Leerin realized she had been showing something of herself. She was chatting happily to the other after getting rid of her tension. Perhaps she was getting above herself. Talking so closely to this person before her just didn't cut it.
"Layfon......Can he not return?"
After aggravating Derek, she realized she had talked too much.
"P, please excuse me......"
"Don't worry. To Layfon, this place is his birthplace. To you, he will always be your most important person. Isn't that right?"
"......Perhaps he'll return. If the timing's right, then it's not impossible."
"But, whether he'll come back when the time comes......That I can't decide for him."
Leerin's eyebrows dipped at her firm conclusion.
".........Your martial arts school is from a traveling tribe outside, isn't it?"
Almonise turned the topic to Derek.
"Yes......" Derek spaced out a little, not expecting the topic to suddenly shift to him.
"Most of the Military Artists who followed the first generation Salinvan to travel outside were Psyharden's students. If Psyharden himself wasn't in his old age, he'd probably have gone with them."
"I've heard of that too."
"Your senior has also joined as the trainer of the mercenary gang right?"
"Yes. Ryuhou Gadge, a man much stronger than I. Originally, he should have been the one to inherit the name of Psyharden."
"He's already dead."
Very sudden. So sudden that Derek failed to comprehend its meaning momentarily. When he finally digested that piece of information, his eyes widened.
"......That can't be."
"Ryuhou Salinvan Gadge, the man who was the second generation Head is already dead. It's a real shame, but that is the truth."
The curtain was pulled up a little, and Almonise's arm appeared, holding a metal box.
"This is for you."
Derek stood up and shakily knelt down to receive the box. He opened it on the spot. Inside were wrapped a small metal cylinder and a Dite.
"......This is Ryuhou's Dite. My master gifted him with it......however, it can't be......"
"It appeared the field medics were unable to completely remove the pollutants in his body after his fight with several filth monsters."
Inside the cylinder was Ryuhou's hair. When a person who died outside the city could not be buried, his hair was taken back to the city.
"......Ryuhou, did he have any children?" Derek looked at Alsheyra, his face stiff and his shoulders trembling.
"The third generation Head is Ryuhou's apprentice. Just 18 years of age. He's good material."
"I see," he closed his eyes, looking as if he hadn't been shaken by the news just then.
"Can I take care of Ryuhou's funeral?"
"Yes.........The Salinvan mercenary gang has spread the glory of Grendan to the outside world. Their work is considerable. Besides, the martial arts of their leader is precious to Grendan. We definitely can't lose it. Derek Psyharden, don't worry about the dojo and any other trivial matters. All you need is to focus on teaching your students."
"The tribe of Psyharden has a tendency to extend its branches to the outside. This isn't done through blood relations, but through passing down the spirit of the martial arts. That is what is inside Layfon. Even when he had the Heaven's Blade, he refused to use the katana. I hope you can be suitably prepared about that."
Leerin didn't respond.
The meeting finished like that. Derek left the room with the box containing Ryuhou's hair. Leerin followed behind him.
In the split second when the door was in the midst of closing behind her, she said lightly but firmly, "No."
To Leerin, the present was exhausting.
She was like a spoiled kid. A kid who cried and shouted because she didn't like the present situation.........if she was a little child, she'd be allowed to do so. But Leerin wasn't of that age anymore. Fifteen, and she would be sixteen this year. She'd have reached the age that allowed her to work.
She was about to reach the age in which she had to personally do something to change the situations that she didn't like.
But what could she do?
She thought of this as she walked alone in Grendan under the dark sky. She had parted with Derek and was on the way back to the dormitory. Leaving the boisterous street, she turned into a quieter street of the residential area. Under the light of the street lamp, irresistible loneliness enveloped Leerin.
No, this wasn't loneliness.
She reached an intersection. On her left, the path led to the school, and her right led back to the dormitory. Where would she end up if she kept going straight? The days of walking to the left or to the right were normal to the sixteen year old Leerin.
To keep walking straight.........if she kept walking......
Was there one? Was there a road that would bring her to Layfon? Impossible. Rationalism told her so. Before her was only the mansion of some unknown person. Lying ahead of her was also a medium sized street with not too busy shops that managed to stay afloat. There were clothes and accessory shops and also cafes and bakeries. If she kept on walking, it'd only be normal – the normal days of Leerin Marfes "without Layfon".
This wasn't loneliness.
She was lost.
Someone had patted her shoulder. She turned around and saw Synola.
"What is it? Spacing out here?"
"Ah, no........." she lifted her head, failing to prevent the words from tumbling out. "Nothing."
She planned to return to the dormitory. In order to not cause Synola any worries, she pretended nothing was wrong and planned to leave like that, but her feet refused to move.
Suddenly, Synola put her hand on Leerin's head and caressed her hair.
"Wh, what're you doing?"
"I'm hungry, let's go eat something."
"Why?" before she could say more, Leerin's hand was taken up and she was pulled in another direction.
The place she was taken to had little to do with filling one's stomach, a bar.........
"Senpai......I'm not of age yet."
"That's fine. They've got juice, and the food's not bad."
From somewhere unknown shone dim green light that failed to illuminate the faces of customers in the bar. Only through the normal light of the bar where the drinks were kept could Leerin see clearly the figure of the bar owner.
"It's alright, it's alright. Hey, owner. Get me something to eat."
"............This is a bar."
"We don't have that kind of thing. Geez......" the owner sighed, holding a wine glass.
"This guy used to study in the same research institution as me."
"He really likes wine, so he left."
"What's so bad about that? It's most important to live a life you like."
During their conversation, the owner had finished cooking chicken fried rice.
"Uh~ That's too usual. You could have wrapped it in egg."
"Shut up, you spoiled lady. Drink up. Drink up," he placed two glasses in front them.
"I know. This is just a cocktail."
Sitting before Leerin was a glass of green liquid.
(For some reason, I don't think this is healthy.)
If she said that, the owner would get angry. But......the green drink suited the atmosphere of the bar. Under the bright light, the ice inside the glass shone like gems.
Her stomach was calling.
"Ah ha ha ha ha ha!"
"Please don't laugh."
"Never mind. Let's eat."
Under Synola's laughter and the owner's persuasion, Leerin took a spoon, her face red, and she started eating the chicken fried rice along with the cocktail.
This was a world of green diamonds.
Unable to see the customers' faces clearly, Leerin felt as if she was underwater. She viewed everything with silence. That was the world it was like. Underneath the clear light, the owner gazed around, or it could be that the customers were looking at the owner. What an unbelievable world. This was the feeling she got, as if she were walking in a tunnel underneath an artificial lake.
(Ah, how unrealistic.)
As if her words leaped into the water, a sound of water floated to her ears.
(I feel so at peace.)
The anxiety within her melted in the water. Having finished the rice, she drained the remainder of the cocktail. The ice in the glass had already melted. The owner offered her another glass, but she refused. If she kept on drinking, she would not be able to stay in this watery world. For some reason, that was how she felt about it.
"Well well, she's asleep."
After drinking three glasses of cocktail, Synola noticed Leerin had fallen asleep.
"Speaking of which, don't bring in someone who isn't an adult yet," the owner said.
"I wonder who wanted to forget his troubles by getting drunk," Synola ordered her fourth wine.
"Anyone with worries can come here. Isn't it human to want to forget reality at this moment?"
"But nothing is resolved by drinking."
"I need a spare."
"Huh, I guessed so already. Besides, it must be you bullying the other? You're like that, pretending to be a kid when you find someone you like."
"What's so bad with it? It's enjoyable to observe a girl in love."
"What a strange hobby."
Synola smiled bitterly at that conclusion.
After parting from Layfon and the others at the restaurant, Sharnid headed alone to a noisier part of the area. He didn't plan anything special. He was just going to show himself in familiar shops and chat with people to spend his night.
The long night was a source of Sharnid's worries. He had thought numerous times of how great it'd be if he could just jump into bed and sleep when he felt the night was too long. There wasn't a need to take insomnia tablets and set up a date with a girl. He just needed to spend his time somehow.
No, he wasn't deliberately trying to use up time. He just wanted to stay here. At least that was how he thought of it.
Sharnid left the shop and saw someone making a musical performance on the street. He backed away from the crowd surrounding the performer, and hid himself in the shadow of the door of a closed shop. Closing his eyes, he listened without putting too much heart in it.
He didn't want to stand out too much right now. He was well known for showing his face in the inter-platoon matches. At school, he always had girls chasing after him. At that time, he might have wanted them to catch him too, but nobody came to chat with him now – because he didn't want them to find him. He had naturally hidden his presence.
On the street were the musical performer and the crowd, people who sold their handmade crafts, lovers who picked their favorite pieces. The half-decent tune accompanied the stiff singing amplified by the microphone. The singing was even softer than the music. No matter which side it was, people were everywhere around Sharnid. Standing in the midst of all that, Sharnid had closed his eyes as he felt the passing of time. He listened carefully and waited quietly for the moment to come.
Today, that moment came particularly earlier than usual.
At that sound pouring through his ears, Sharnid opened his eyes. Light leaped into darkness. The light around the shops stabbed his eyes. Among the stream of people, the figure that Sharnid was watching had disappeared from the shop without his noticing.
Sharnid waited, and a golden light flashed past him.
Long and curly hair, as if ready to attack at any minute, shook according to her gait. Her chin was like a polished dagger. Lips clamped, she only gazed ahead of her. Always ahead.
She walked past Sharnid. Their gazes didn't overlap. Would she have stopped if he had called out? Perhaps. Shena had kept on walking ahead. Just what was she doing? Sure, there had to be an answer to this, but he was anxious to find out the answer.
Feeling like laughing at his indecisiveness, Sharnid left the shadow of the door to follow her.
She exited the busy street without hesitation. Her pace didn't slow. It seemed she had already made up her mind to leave this place.
Looking at her fearless back, a question floated up in Sharnid's mind, unbidden.
(Could she be......)
Tension surfaced in him. Cautiously he kept his Kei inside him and followed her at a distance.
They arrived at the outer area of Zuellni near the practicum area of the Construction course. He remembered there were some shops around here when he first enrolled in the Academy City. Few people would come to this place, but it was well-known because of its suitability as a hide-and-seek location. However, when Sharnid had taken notice of this place, the shops were already closing down. In the end, its one-year level of popularity was sustained by what was in vogue in the Academy City.
An explosion pulled him out of his memory.
She stopped in her tracks and got ready to fight. The sound of the explosion was from a far distance. Sharnid hid himself in the shadow of a building, keeping his Kei at the ready. A horrifying presence flashed above his head.
(Layfon, is it?)
That presence felt familiar. In one split second, Sharnid saw Layfon pursuing someone unfamiliar to him. The two figures left his view of vision quickly. It seemed Shena wasn't worried about Layfon and the guy he was chasing. She kept moving towards the direction of the sound. Sharnid used internal type Kei to strengthen his muscles and he leaped onto a rooftop after her.
As he expected, her destination was around the shops. The water guns put on display were blown away as Military Artists of the City Police rushed in.
Sharnid strengthened his vision and confirmed the situation through the dim moonlight.
The City Police surrounded one Military Artist, who got past the police enclosure with ease. Sharnid saw Layfon chase after that guy, but he didn't move over to help. He watched the Military Artist that had gotten away. A female. About the same age as Layfon.
That wasn't something that she must not see. Relieved, tension left his stomach.
When he had recovered himself, he felt a presence at his back.
"Why are you here?"
It was her. Something hard touched his back. To think the person he had been chasing had doubled back to come behind him. So unsightly of him......He couldn't help but mock himself.
"Taking nighttime strolls is my hobby. Like you, I saw something interesting today. Don't you think it's quite an exciting night tonight?"
"I don't think so. It's just a noisy and uncomfortable night."
Incredible killing intent poured out behind him. He raised his arms above his shoulders.
"Don't move. Even with the safety lock on, you won't last at this distance."
Sharnid turned around regardless. He wasn't pierced through. She held a lance made of white alloy, her eyes holding Sharnid's in dissatisfaction.
"Why are you here?" she asked again.
"Didn't I say taking nighttime strolls is my hobby, Shena?"
"Don't call me by my name."
Shena......Dalshena looked discontent. Dalshena Che Matelna, the Vice Captain of the 10th platoon, who used to be Sharnid's comrade.
".........Have you noticed, Sharnid?"
Only the two of them were on the rooftop of the pub. He made light of the question that no one else but only the two of them would understand.
"What're you saying? I was just strolling alone and ended up here. That's all. Isn't it the same with you?" he said.
"Right. Well, we ran into each other because of the ruckus."
With doubt in her expression, she put away the lance.
"Then......Seems like the chaos over there's finished. Time for me to go," Sharnid said, having glanced at the shop.
He stopped in his steps.
"Why did you leave us?"
Why? Just why? He had also asked himself that question numerous times. He had made Dinn and Shena very angry, bringing them huge trouble.
"Don't you know?" he said.
"I'm asking because I don't know!"
Looking at her trying to suppress her anger, he couldn't help but laugh.
"Why......Didn't we swear? We decided to guard Zuellni together. Have you forgotten?" she reproved him.
"I'm keeping the oath in my own way."
"Is the 17th platoon the answer?"
"Do you think you can better keep that oath by staying with the 17th platoon than with us?"
"I'm not sure about that, but......"
"Shena, sometimes when you want everything, you lose everything. If you keep speaking like that, you'll end up like me."
"What are you saying?"
Sharnid didn't reply. He headed in the direction back to his dormitory. Shena didn't chase after him. Was she thinking of the meaning behind Sharnid's words, or had she already tossed it away and continued on her path......
Just keep moving forward. That phrase was the most suitable for Dalshena. Throw away all burdens and keep moving forward towards the roads ahead. Dalshena Che Matelna was the most suited to this phrase.
He was so laughable to hope for her to look back at him.
He didn't have the confidence to sleep well tonight.
The rumble of an explosion woke Nina from her sleep.
While strengthening her ears to listen to any sounds, she dressed herself in the sports uniform with lightning speed. She grabbed the weapon harness sitting by her bedside and left her room. Outside the dormitory, waves of Kei assaulted her.
"It should be from that direction......" she started running.
The Kei from a certain direction felt similar.
(Layfon? Is he fighting?)
As she ran, she pulled out the Dites and restored them. She had no idea what was happening right now. Why was there a fight around here? All she understood was that Layfon was fighting. This was enough of a reason to propel Nina forward.
However, this level of Kei......Thanks to Layfon's training, Nina managed to feel it. The Kei she felt just then was more intense than the Kei that Layfon used in the inter-platoon matches. His opponent's Kei was the same. A type of Kei that was stronger than any platoon members.
No, even stronger than that.
The fact that Layfon was fighting alone with that type of an opponent worried her.
"Why can't that guy......" the rest of the words never got out of her mouth.
The sudden presence stopped Nina in her tracks. She leaped to her left. The path she was on just a moment ago exploded. External type Kei.
Nina climbed to her feet. She checked her surroundings but didn't find her attacker.
"Who is it!?" she shouted.
The sound of something slicing through air answered her. Nina avoided that attack too. As the ground exploded again, Nina saw the gathered Kei.
An arrow that was shot with Kei? It seemed the weapon was a bow, which meant the enemy wasn't anywhere close.
"This is bad."
She had deduced the enemy's location from the direction the shot came from, but she had yet to see the enemy himself. Speaking of which, Nina's Kei was not enough to counterattack at this distance. If she ran in to get closer, her enemy would probably retreat to maintain a desired distance, but if Nina was willing to spend some time on this, she could probably find a way to......
But if she did that, then Layfon would have to fight alone. She must hurry and get to Layfon's side.
(In that case......)
She had decided. A light nod of the head, and she ran for Layfon's direction.
The arrow came.
Her iron whip blocked the arrow. An instantaneous explosion sent Nina flying. She rolled back to her feet and immediately ran through the dust cloud.
Internal type variation of Kei – Kongoukei.
Layfon had taught her this defensive Kei technique. She hadn't completely mastered it yet, but it was enough to cancel the impact of the Kei in the arrow.
"I don't have time to play with you!" she roared at her enemy and kept on running
Another arrow shot at her. She flicked it down. Another explosion, another cancellation and she continued moving forward, repeating the same process.
After the third arrow, the precision of the enemy archer started to decline. One of the arrows hit the ground behind Nina before exploding. The archer needed some time to prepare before shooting more accurately. The arrow that had failed to hit Nina only managed to break the ground's hard surface into tiny pieces.
The Kei of the arrows that were crashing against Nina's back suddenly disappeared.
She had a bad feeling about this.
The archer had stopped shooting. Nina kept on running while increasing her speed. When she reached her destination, everywhere was quiet.
The ground of the destination was torn apart, evidence of an intense fight. Sparks scattered across the ground. Layfon's back faced her. He didn't look injured, but he was just standing there. Looking at the inert Layfon, Nina's bad feeling didn't go away. She saw a Dite lying among the debris on the ground. Layfon's Dite in its restored form. Only the handle was left. It didn't seem to have held the steel threads form. Besides, a huge crack ran down the handle.
".........Huh? Senpai?" Layfon turned around, looking shocked. Nina was surprised that he didn't notice her when she was standing so close to him.
"Why are you here?"
"That should be my line. Just what happened?" she asked, trying to make it sound casual.
"Ah, uh......well......how should I put it? Um......" he stammered with a troubled expression.
(Ah.........As I thought.)
He tried to explain but ended up saying nothing. As she watched him, she also felt something strange about him. Layfon had a strange habit of standing in the disadvantaged side. He was like that when attacked by the larvae. He was like that when he fought the matured filth monster alone. He was probably like that too when he was in the ruined city's Mechanical Department a few days ago. He was always getting injured, choosing to get injured, by himself when he fought.
That was hard for her to imagine.
(Have you noticed it?)
Whether Layfon noticed it or not.........Nina could not make a conclusion.