Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume4 Chapter4

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Chapter 4: Outside the Wheel

I can't be forgiven like this......

"Wow, this is the new Dite......" Layfon sighed. This sigh was aimed at Naruki and her friends, who had come to the library to meet him and to finish their homework. Hanging on Naruki's weapon harness was her usual police baton and Harley's newly made Dite.

"Yeah, I was surprised too. It's only been a night since I joined the platoon. It feels as if something serious has happened."

No. In fact, Layfon had only made this time to meet one person. The other two girls were waiting for Layfon just as usual.

"Yeah, something did happen," Naruki said with a sour expression. She stared at Layfon as if hoping to find out some news. While they went through their homework, she always tried to find a chance to be alone with Layfon. It seemed she hadn't mentioned the real reason behind her joining the platoon to Meishen and Mifi. But that wasn't Layfon's problem. Naruki herself was trying to find the right timing to speak with him.

Even so, Layfon was worried......

(I can't tell her the Captain's exposed the plan.)

Yesterday's conversation between Nina and Dinn meant little to the two of them, but it was bad news for Naruki, particularly because she worked for the City Police. Layfon had found out that no one from the City Police had infiltrated the platoons to investigate this case other than Naruki. No one else was tracking Dinn.

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

Compared to his more relaxed past, Layfon was plagued by worries these days. He cared nothing for how other people viewed him back in Grendan. Of course, he took care not to let anyone know of what he was doing, especially Leerin and his adopted father. Besides that, Layfon hadn't done anything that would draw attention to himself.

(Why can't I act like I did before?)

In the end, Layfon's time in the library was spent feeling pressure and agitation. Still, no matter what, he hoped for the time here to drag on as long as possible. He sincerely wished for the afternoon to stay away. Platoon training was in the afternoon, and he would have to head for the Military Arts Training Complex with Naruki. She'd know of what happened yesterday night.

No matter how hard Layfon prayed, time passed by as it always did, fairly and equally to everyone. The time in the library ended as Layfon finished his homework with loose concentration.

The last hour of lunch also ended, drawing close to the platoon training time. Naruki first announced the hour to part.

Ah, I'm finished......

"And? How did yesterday go?" Naruki asked the instant that she had parted with Meishen and Mifi. In the face of Naruki's impatience, Layfon realized that he had no way out of this.

(Huh, it can't be helped.)

"Um......Nothing much happened yesterday."

He wasn't good at lying. That was his decision.

"Really.........I guess it's not easy to catch him red-handed."

(Sorry.)

Layfon smiled forcefully as he apologized in his head.

"Well, this will take time. Getting impatient right now will only be our defeat. Anyway, we just have to do our best."

Do our best. It seemed Naruki had a pressing wish to resolve this case.

"Naruki, what if......what if that person truly wants to protect this city, so he turned towards illegal means, what would you do?"

"Huh?"

"What if he truly wants to protect this city knowing his true strength is not enough......so he uses those illegal drugs. What would you do?"

Layfon didn't find Dinn's method despicable. Nina called the want to protect everything in the city selfishness. Nina's ideal was very beautiful, but it wasn't realistic. In an everyday peaceful atmosphere, one would forget the fact that Zuellni was in a dire situation. Nina's determination that supported her wish in this dire time was particularly dazzling. But Layfon knew that kind of thinking wasn't enough. Although the illegal drugs were deplorable, Layfon didn't think Dinn was wrong. Dinn's method was cleverly covered by the excuse of the Military Arts Competition. Like the inevitability of a city's death, it was natural that the people who took part in such a fight were not perfect.

"I've already considered it," Naruki replied, avoiding Layfon's gaze. "He can be called a hero with Zuellni's current situation. Even though his method is illegal, I think no one would directly criticize him. But the truth remains that this is a crime. It's a crime within the Academy City Zuellni. It's forbidden. It's also horrible to his own body. The use of those illegal drugs can speed up the deterioration of the Kei vein."

"Do you know?" Naruki asked Layfon, keeping her back to him. "It's not meaningless to sacrifice one's body to protect the city. This act is tragically beautiful, but I can't accept it. Which one is more important? The city or the people......If it was me, I'd choose the people. We have other Academy Cities beside Zuellni, so I'll definitely capture him and stop him. If a day comes when something must be sacrificed, if Meishen and Mifi would be sacrificed, I'll save them. So I'll also save Dinn."

The last line was probably Naruki's real feelings. She would never stand still if Meishen and Mifi needed help. Naruki's thinking was what Layfon lacked. He cared less for other people.

He just wanted to protect everyone back at that time.

"Nakki's thinking doesn't fall short of the captain's."

"Nah. I still want to become a Chief. I feel strongly against any illegal acts. To say it more clearly, I neither sympathize nor agree with Dinn's thinking. Bad is bad. I don't believe I'm entirely just. The law isn't perfect, but if we don't abide by it, then human society cannot work properly. So we must not ignore the law. If we want to ignore the law, then it's better if we find someplace to live with no one else around. Am I too cold?"

"Not at all, you're right."

Dinn had said that it was necessary in order to protect the city. Nina had said that the will to protect everything was selfish. Naruki's thinking was different from theirs. She was indifferent to the fate of the city. If Zuellni was destroyed, the people just needed to move to other cities. Naruki had questioned whether the city or the people was more important. Humans were more important, Layfon felt the same as her. Thinking back on how he acted in the past, it wouldn't be inaccurate to say that he was Naruki's comrade. But still, he didn't want to see the Electronic Fairy die. The point that people could move to other cities was troublesome to Layfon. In terms of materials, Layfon didn't have enough money. As a Military Artist, he could move around cities like the Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang, acting like a mercenary, but that wasn't what Layfon wanted to do. Money was still needed to let him move to other cities, whether it was an Academy City or a normal City.

This problem was embarrassing, a problem that couldn't even be compared to that of anyone else's around him, but it was very realistic for Layfon. Hence, he didn't want this current reality to vanish.

However, his existence in Zuellni couldn't guarantee a victory in the Military Arts Competition.

(Ah, I see......)

He admitted it, finding it strange. As those words surfaced in his mind, he felt that his own problem and his position in this case were too different from others. Whether the problem had anything to do with the City or the people, the fact was that power could solve everything. If Nina and Naruki left this problem to Layfon, then perhaps, everything could be solved.

(Um......That might not work?)

It probably wouldn't work with people like Nina around. She wouldn't let him shoulder everything. As he thought on it, he found himself nearing the Training Complex, the Training Complex with Nina in it.........

(Ah......)

A bad premonition flashed through his mind as each step took him closer to confirmation.



"I'm sorry. I contacted Dinn yesterday."

Nina really didn't fail his expectations. He wasn't sure whether it was good or bad. Like yesterday, she had come earlier than anyone else. Felli and Sharnid had yet to show themselves.

Naruki stood stiffly next to Layfon. The trembling of her lips spread out to her entire body.

"Wh, wh, wh, wh, wh......" she failed to get a word out as she watched Layfon. Layfon did say just a moment before that "Nothing had happened."

"Sorry. I lied," he said honestly, lowering his head.

Nina didn't wait for Naruki to recover her composure. "I understand your feelings about having your mission interfered with. Even so, I did what I did according to my principles."

"Uh, wait a minute. Yesterday, that person admitted he was using illegal drugs. Isn't that proof?"

"I didn't tape it. You don't have it either. Besides, I didn't see him taking drugs. That kind of proof isn't convincing enough. Dinn knew that was the case, so he said what he said."

"......"

Nina herself denied her own defense.

"......Then just what did you want to do?" Naruki said, after finally calming herself down. Outrage filled her eyes. "You said you did that according to your principles? Do you know what those principles mean? Isn't that the same as providing the criminal with information to help him evade capture?"

"Probably."

"You're helping the criminal by leaking our information to him......"

"I know, but I must do that. I had a reason to contact him."

"A reason......"

"You mean Sharnid-senpai?" Layfon cut in.

Nina nodded. "I entered the 14th platoon in my first year. It wasn't that strong a platoon. The captain was pretty good, and the relationship between team members wasn't bad. We trusted each other, and we had different abilities to confront different situations, but we didn't make it in the last Military Arts Competition......"

The 14th platoon......was the team that made Zuellni lose in the last Military Arts Competition. Past memories surfaced in Nina's mind. "In a match last year, we fought the 10th platoon, including Dinn Dee, Dalshena Che Matelna and Sharnid Elipton. They were all one year older than me, in third year. All the members in the 10th platoon were in the 6th year. They took in three third year students, a pretty bold act. Anyone would have thought the 10th platoon was weak, but in fact, they were very strong. Dalshena's stormy attack, Dinn's variations and Sharnid's accurate sniping. That combination covered up each person's weakness. Their attack was overwhelmingly strong. I really admired them. The higher-ups found their custom-made fighting suits arrogant, but to us, it was like the dazzling flag of a new era."

The result was obvious. Sharnid's exit in the second half of the platoon match broke their tri-combo and the 10th platoon was disbanded.

"Dinn's anger was intense. He even declared a duel with Sharnid. Sharnid accepted it but he didn't resist in the duel. He was beaten up. The judge stopped the duel because of the severity of Sharnid's injuries, so severe that it might have resulted in long-lasting effects. It's fortunate that he recovered," Nina sighed, as if she was putting down something heavy in her. Layfon and Naruki kept silent and waited for her to continue.

"I went to find Sharnid after the match. I wanted to form my own team. I could never become strong by staying with the 14th platoon. My desire was deep, very deep......Because I met her."

"Her" must be Zuellni.

"I talked to Sharnid that I needed him to form a team. It was difficult at first, but he agreed in the end. I also talked to Harley. When I applied to form a new platoon, the newly elected Student President, Karian-senpai, introduced me to Felli."

The 17th platoon had begun operating like that. Layfon's appearance in the second year had enabled the team to become truly active.

"......I took Sharnid from the 10th platoon."

"It wasn't really......"

"Although reality wasn't like that, it still couldn't be permitted in the relationship between those three. I don't know what happened between them, but things wouldn't have turned out like that if Sharnid was just a normal student studying Military Arts."

True. It was very irritating to see a rival walk into one's sight. Although Sharnid had left the team, Dinn couldn't ignore him in a fight.

He couldn't ignore him.

It wouldn't have mattered if the 17th platoon was so weak that it wasn't worth mentioning. The time for the match against the 10th platoon was nearing. When that time came, Dinn's feelings would be in disorder. On the other hand, if the 17th platoon was too weak, then Dinn might be able to disregard his feelings towards Sharnid.

But that wasn't possible now.

(Yes, because I'm here.)

The 17th platoon was now much more powerful than Nina had anticipated, so powerful that no one would turn his eyes from them. All because Layfon was here. All the team members were powerful, like Nina, Sharnid and Felli, but the team originally lacked a frontline attacker. Nina had trouble finding a Military Artist in Zuellni to fill that role in the 17th platoon.

But everything changed when Layfon entered the Academy City.

A Heaven's Blade successor from Grendan was someone who fought filth monsters alone. Layfon's power wasn't a power that a normal student should have, and his participation in Zuellni brought an intense change to the 17th platoon. Nina could now concentrate on her original work of making and implementing strategies; Sharnid could fulfill his potential according to the situation; and even Felli, who was originally indifferent, had become more serious. The entire team had become stronger because of Layfon's appearance. This turning point was worth celebrating for Karian who planned with all he could to have Layfon enter the platoon, and Nina who strove to protect the City. But it was different for Dinn Dee. Dinn couldn't accept this reality. He couldn't allow the fact that Sharnid had betrayed him and entered a team that had become strong. Dinn's outrage came from a betrayal of trust. He could not tolerate it.



In the end, Naruki left for the City Police office right after coming to the Training Complex. She was probably going to report this to Formed and ask for further instruction. Entering the platoon and serving as a fake member had probably caused some ripples in Naruki's thinking.

What did Nina think of this?

"It can't be helped now that the situation's become like this," Nina replied like a balloon without air. Her expression hadn't changed during the training hour. She stood balanced on one of the metallic balls spread across the floor, looking as if her heart was somewhere else.

"Hey hey. How come the usual energy's flown out the window?" Sharnid said, having finally arrived.

"You, you're so loud," Nina grumbled, her face red. Sharnid shrugged.

"Oh yes, I ran into Felli-chan earlier. She said she's not coming," he said, then stood on one of the balls and rolled his way to Nina.

"......What?"

"Uh......well, and I wanted to tell you not to force yourself."

Layfon's heart jumped.

"......What do you mean?" Nina asked.

"Dinn and Layfon's friend entering the platoon. I guess the City Police's caught that guy's tail, right?"

"......You already knew?" Nina said in surprise. Sharnid's smile turned slightly bitter.

"Aren't I the one who knows them the best? I knew just by looking at their performance once. Kei can't possibly increase that much in such a short period of time, right?" he looked at Layfon for confirmation. Layfon nodded in embarrassment.

"Then, are we gonna arrest him?" Sharnid asked as if he was asking about tomorrow's weather.

"You don't find that a problem?"

"No problem. Isn't this the consequence of his actions? It'd be very painful to lose Zuellni, since we all have feelings for it, but I think it's another matter to damage one's own body."

Sharnid's thinking was the same as Nina's.

"Then wouldn't this be a better outcome than losing body and heart?"

"Probably, but......"

"The problem is........."

Sharnid wasn't concerned with Nina's anxiety. His attitude was stronger than before and he had frankly expressed his opinion. He continued. "We cannot allow a scandal to come from the Military Arts course right now. Because of losing the last Military Arts Competition, the seniors are already being looked at with contempt. The juniors can just move to other cities and graduate there, but the seniors are different. They're about to graduate. Losing Zuellni might mean losing their right to their qualifications. If a scandal comes out, then even the Military Arts Leader might be fired. Aren't we at a crucial time period right now? We can use this......I think it's quite a good idea."

Layfon's eyes widened at Sharnid, who gave his opinion with the attitude of a politician.

"What? Sometimes I use my brain too."

The corner of his lips pulled up mockingly, as if Sharnid had realized that he wasn't acting like himself.

"What do you think, captain?"

"Well, I can't make a judgment," Nina shook her head.

"Same here. If I had known this earlier, then I only needed to talk to one person, Karian-sama."

Layfon heard what Sharnid said, but explaining this to Karian would mean sealing Dinn's fate.

"......Is this really all right?" Nina had the same thought as Layfon. This would eventually get the top people of the City involved. The end result might be a cold-hearted one. After all, Karian became a Student President in order to protect the city. If he were to choose between people or city, he'd definitely choose the city.

"Can't be helped about that, since that guy's in such a situation," Sharnid said.


Sharnid, Layfon and Nina headed for the Student Council, the training mood having dissipated. The female student led them into an empty conference room rather than the Student President's office. Karian appeared not long after.

"Sorry for making you wait. Is there something you want with me?"

"Speaking of that......"

Karian listened quietly to Nina's narration. The scandal of using illegal drugs didn't shake him.

"Then what do you want me to do?" he asked with a smile. No one could tell what he was thinking.

"I don't think you'd want anything to happen in these crucial times," Sharnid answered. "If possible, we want this case to be handled in secret."

"Secret. Ah, I see you haven't had a talk with the Chief of Police. You'll have to talk to him either way......In truth, this kind of event must not happen in this hour. If it is leaked out, this problem won't just be a news item. The seniors would be in great trouble and Vance might lose his position. And if we don't do anything about this, our right to enter the Military Arts Competition would be questioned. If the Academy union got wind of this, they might withdraw part of or even their entire financial support......Even if we somehow manage the financial crisis, we'd also lose the contact we need to sell our research data, and that is one big source of income."

Karian had analyzed all the possibilities......and as one possibility led to a worse possibility, Karian's expression turned more and more serious.

"So what do we do next? That's the question, isn't it?" He looked at Nina for confirmation.

At Nina's nod, Karian smiled. "In that case, good. I'll talk to the Chief of Police and get him to stop the investigation for now."

"But that won't......"

"Not only that of course. You'll have to act. Let me rephrase this, your action is the most important."

"......What do we do?"

"What else is there besides the platoon match? You against the 10th platoon. You must win this match."

"Of course we'll do our best in the match."

"Of course, but don't you have someone who isn't like that?"

All three people turned their gazes to Layfon.

".........Are you telling us to kill him?"

Nina's expression changed. Layfon recalled that this was his way of doing things in Grendan. Yes, that was how he viewed it and so he was neither angry nor confused, and for some reason, he was surprised at himself for calmly analyzing this possibility.

"Student President, that's......"

"No, no. You'd face a huge problem if you did that. People have died in matches in Zuellni, but things couldn't be solved easily if the whole team died," Karian shook his hand in denial.

"Then......"

"We just need something that stops them from maintaining a proper team. It could be an arm or even a leg......and I don't mean every team member has to be hurt like that. As long as the core of the 10th platoon sustains injuries that make them unable to fight in this year or for half a year, the 10th platoon loses its fighting power. In that case, I could use the authority of a Student President to disband the team."

"Does that mean wounding Dinn or Shena?" Sharnid said.

Zuellni's level of medical treatment could help heal a broken bone in one week, which meant a broken bone wouldn't be enough to effect the collapse of the 10th platoon. In that case, the 17th platoon needed to destroy the nervous system, as that would need a longer treatment period. But that was difficult. A Military Artist's nervous system was connected to the flow of his Kei vein...... meaning the nervous system was extremely close to that of the Kei's path. The path of the Kei vein flowed naturally to protect the nerves. It wasn't that easy to just destroy them.

"Are you saying we have to hit the head and paralyze the other person for the rest of his life? Isn't that overboard?" Sharnid said angrily.

A hit to the head was extremely serious to a normal person. It was the same to a Military Artist who had his physical body strengthened through Kei. Intense shock received on the head from the outside could cause death, and even if that person didn't die, he would suffer serious side effects. Zuellni's medical treatment was not enough to treat that kind of an injury.

"It'd be troublesome if we fail to do that. If it really doesn't work, all we can do is add a few crimes on their heads and exile them......but things like being exiled are large enough punishments to cause a scandal. Besides, we don't know whether Dinn would abide by the Student Council's decision."

"It probably won't work. It's Dinn's style to reach his end with any means once he's made his decision. He's probably working underground and gathering people who think like him......Things like that."

"Yes. In fact, he might become the next Student President. He's clear-headed and acts on his decisions. He might make a good leader, though his intense sense of mission could cause problems. The Vice Captain Dalshena is elegant and popular. If she becomes an adviser......Perhaps the combination of her being the Student President and Dinn holding the real power could be a very good match. It's a shame that it's impossible."

"Aah......That would really suit them," Sharnid agreed.

"I think it'd be even better if that combination included you."

"Joining the Student Council is too much for me."

"Really? You can do what they can't. Don't you think that's very important to them?"

"Not at all," Sharnid tossed down his comment and turned around as if the topic wasn't worth discussing anymore.

"Never mind. It's meaningless to talk about that now. Coming back to the topic, the problem is Layfon-kun. Can you do it or not...... That's the question. Can you?"

"........."

"Can you injure him so he needs more than half a year of medical treatment?" Karian asked.

"......Layfon," said Nina.

Layfon couldn't answer them. Should he say he can or that he can't......He could achieve both answers.

"Layfon, if you can't do it, then just say you can't," Nina said, as if she was entreating him to give such an answer. Although Layfon made a decision to come here himself, he had become confused in the face of Karian's calm analysis.

Clearly, Layfon showed unwillingness for this outcome. He could only answer like this.

"Sure."

But the answer came from someone else.

The answer that came from the direction of the door caused Layfon to stand up and snatch out his Dite. He had heard that voice before.

"Eavesdropping is a bad hobby," Karian said to stop Layfon short.

"Oh, excuse me, but I can't help it. This topic is interesting. Besides, I've something to say to someone in here," the person who voiced the answer for Layfon strode into the conference room.

"Haia......"

It really was him but his presence wasn't the only surprising factor.

"Felli.........senpai?"

A girl Layfon didn't know stood beside Haia, and standing next to that girl was Felli with a troubled look in her eyes.

"Wh......Who are you people?" Nina said with her guard up. Haia and the other girl didn't look like they were students.

"I'm Haia Salinvan Laia, the leader of the Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang...... I think that's enough introduction. What do you think?"

"What did you say?"

It seemed Nina hadn't heard of the Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang. She glanced at Layfon with a doubtful expression, showing that she knew Haia had something to do with Grendan.

"Why do you think he can do it?" Karian asked after a sigh.

"The Psyharden technique can do it. Don't you know? The highly difficult skill in External Type Burst Kei. It's also a common technique used in different schools under different names."

"That......I do know," Nina nodded, hiding her surprise at Haia's sudden appearance.

"But that's a move to wound all inner organs. If we use that......"

"Yes. Well, that move is pretty interesting if it's used against the head."

"He'll die" Karian frowned.

"Ah, Kei is a move that affects a large area, so normal defensive mechanisms never work. At least, Zuellni shouldn't have any such mechanisms to defend against Wolfstein using that move."

"What do you want to say?" Karian urged.

"Wolfstein and I.........I mean the previous Wolfstein. We have both inherited the Psyharden technique. It's impossible that Wolfstein can't use a move that I know. Besides, he's a Heaven's Blade successor. He lived till now because he was a Heaven's Blade successor. He managed to survive and defeat filth monsters because he continuously created and altered the Psyharden technique. His technique is one that he has honed through many battles against other Military Artists."

Haia watched Layfon. Layfon......was unable to take that gaze head-on. The weight of the Dite in his weapon harness felt heavier.

"You're the apprentice of my Master's older brother (older brother in the school, not blood related). He's inherited the name of Psyharden in Grendan. It's impossible that you can't use that move. You can, can't you? Using Houshintotsu."

"What kind of a move is this Houshintotsu?" Karian asked on behalf of everyone else in the room besides Layfon.

"It's simply a move that turns Kei into needles and hits the Kei vein with them. That way, the effect of the needles spreads out to the entire body, including the nervous system. It's similar to the needles that the doctors use on Military Artists. This isn't medical treatment but Houshintotsu that was created through Military Arts."

(Speaking of the unnecessary.) Layfon thought.

He could no longer say that he couldn't do it. If he said that, then the move would have become a move that Derek taught him in secret. And that would bring huge shame on the Psyharden School. A person who carried the name of the school bore the meaning that he would teach the next generation the Military Arts without keeping anything back himself. Layfon wouldn't let Derek carry such shame even though he was no longer in Grendan.

"But......" Haia said, as if wanting to say more.

(Stop.) Such a thought yelled in Layfon's head, but he failed to give voice to it.

"But I don't know whether you can execute Houshintotsu perfectly using a sword. Psyharden's technique is made for the Katana. You can't execute that move with a sword. Might be better for you to try using Whirl Kei moves."

"So......It can be solved with a Katana?" Karian asked.

Layfon didn't reply. All he was doing was suppressing the anger rising inside him.

(It's the same with him and the same with him......)

This guy and that guy, they were all trampling over the deepest part of Layfon, whether it was Kirik or Haia. Checking the atmosphere around him, Layfon decided to swallow his words. But......Was he just going to let......

"Excuse me......" Nina raised her hand slowly. "Although it's not suitable for me to say this, but can you give us some time?"

"No problem. What do you think, Sharnid?"

"......Sure."

"Since you want more time, then I'll wait, but I wish you'd give me an answer before the match. I'll talk to the City Police, but that won't last long."

"I know."

Nina's angry countenance surfaced in Layfon's mind, but right now, his head was too full to take in that kind of a worry.

"Ah, Layfon-kun, please stay behind for a sec," Karian said.

"What is it?"

"I've something to talk to you about. Please just stay behind for a few minutes."

"What?" Nina asked.

"It could be something very important. You know I wouldn't talk to Layfon about something irrelevant in this situation," Karian said to Nina, who regarded the Student President with caution.

"It's all right. Please go ahead, Captain," Layfon said.

"......OK," Nina left the conference room, looking back every step she took to the exit. Layfon still felt her gaze the moment she closed the door.

"......So, what's the situation?"

Layfon faced the people left in the room with his back to the door. Never mind......Karian and Felli. The people Layfon took notice of the most were Haia and the girl beside him.

"Ah, um......Nice to meet you. I'm Myunfa Rufa," Myunfa greeted him.

"Are you from the Mercenary Gang?"

"Yes......" Myunfa said. She fled back to Haia's side after having introduced herself. She exuded an air like Meishen, but Layfon wiped away that thought.

"Student President, Haia is suspected of helping transport the illegal drugs."

"Didn't we already take care of that, Wolfstein? Right, why did you call me by my name?" Haia smiled beside Karian.

"I'm not a Heaven's Blade successor any more," Layfon glared at him.

"I know, so sometimes you act like you were back at home, right? You're just a normal person here, and you're a student too. Shouldn't you be more mindful of the manner you address your senior, Layfon?"

Sparks flew off from above their heads in an instant. Layfon had already snatched out and restored his Sapphire Dite. Haia also had his Dite ready.

".........I won't hold back this time."

"Just as I wanted. I want to see whether those weak moves of yours can work against me without using a Katana."

Both Layfon and Haia held their weapons ready, about to leap at each other.

"Stop there!" Karian said. "Haia-san, I'll have to go back to what you did before if you go overboard with a student here."

"That'd be troublesome."

"Layfon too, take back your sword. Your attitude's too lax even though you've been provoked."

"........."

Wordlessly, Layfon retreated a step back as Haia did so. Both of them slid their weapons back into the weapon harnesses.

"Just as you said, Haia, the Mercenary Gang had nothing to do with the illegal drug dealings. This'll be announced as such publicly. At the same time, you must provide us with any information related to the illegal drugs. Is that all right?"

"I guess so, but I think the secret transportation of drugs will probably stop."

"Why?"

"Because the Mercenary Gang will destroy them. Since the contract's finished, it'll be too foolish of us to allow any secret police to expose those illegal sellers and let them get hold of any evidence against us," Haia said simply. His casual attitude in a reply full of blood and murderous intent made Karian swallow.

"Well then, what do you want with me?" Layfon asked Karian, not at all surprised at Haia's reply. Layfon just wanted to get his business done and leave this room.

"It's me who wants to talk to you."

".........I know."

Layfon knew that Haia's presence meant he must have business dealing with Karian. Besides, Felli had mentioned how she would assist Karian even though she hated him. This must also have something to do with Haia's goal. As he thought of this, Layfon felt new anger rising in his chest.

"I want to hear from you about it, since you're the only one who witnessed it. Either way, I want to hear it from you."

"Witnessed?" Layfon watched Haia cautiously, not sure what he meant. "What do you mean?"

"You saw it right? That amazing creature that's beyond common sense, appearing in that ruined city? It's very dangerous for that thing to be there, so I'm here to make a trade. As payment, we'll protect this city from filth monsters. Let's do a fair and square trade."



Sitting inside the cake shop, Naruki was feeling terrible. Mifi was there too, staring at her friend with wide eyes.

"What's wrong?" Meishen said. Mifi and Naruki had been sitting at the table till it was time to close the shop. The cake in front of them was from the shop owner's goodwill. Mifi and Naruki had helped clean the kitchen as gratitude and then sat back at the table to eat the cake.

"It's nothing much, really," Naruki said listlessly.

"Can't see anything wrong from her at all," Mifi shrugged.

"Did you fight with Formed?"

Meishen, who had her hair tied behind her, was moving around as she helped clean and tidy up the shop. Mifi watched her and continued, "Or did you fight with Layfon? You can't do that for Mei's sake."

"That......isn't it," Naruki raised her voice.

"Then what is it?"

"Something to do with work. This has got nothing to do with Mi."

"Ah, you're so cold."

"It's not a problem of being cold and not cold?"

"How about telling us your troubles?"

"Uh......"

"Never mind. I'm joking."

"If it's you........." Naruki shot her a tired glare. Mifi laughed, finding Naruki's expression funny.

"Well, it was a joke, but right now, you look the same as Layton when he first entered the Academy."

"As for that........."

"If you have something you want to do, then do it. This is your childhood friend's advice."

Mifi, Meishen and Naruki grew up together in the Traffic City Joeldem, so Mifi knew Naruki's personality. The way Mifi phrased her advice made it hard for Naruki to refuse.

"Really......Thanks."

"So? What is it?" Curiosity burst from Mifi's face.

Naruki looked at her with suspicion. She sighed and opened her mouth. "Actually........." She didn't speak in details, but she did say that she entered the platoon for some specific reason. She told Mifi that it would be problematic if she let her know what that reason was. Mifi didn't mind. The journalist-aspired student was able to judge what should and what shouldn't be reported. If she reported this, even Naruki had to bear the responsibility. Mifi would never do anything to betray her friend.

"But I just received the order to stop the investigation."

"Why?"

"How am I supposed to know? But the higher-ups have given that order. Since the Chief of Police gave that order, we can't do much about it."

"Meaning this is something to do with politics."

"Exactly. I hate this."

"Um............" Mifi stuffed cake into her mouth. Since Naruki had to investigate by joining a platoon, then this case must be related to the platoons.

"So the one who wants the investigation stopped is either the Military Arts Commander or the Student President?"

"What?"

"The Military Arts Commander has the authority to appoint the Chief of Police, and to dismiss him too. The Student President is the other person who can get the Chief of Police to do this and that. When it comes to politics, it has to be one of those two."

"Right........."

"Perhaps those two think that it'll bring huge trouble if they were to publicly announce this case. I don't know the Student President and the Military Arts Commander, and I don't quite understand how they work. Do you feel the same?"

"Yeah......About that........."

"It's ok if you can't say it," Mifi concluded, stopping Naruki from saying more. "What happens next is no longer part of your duty. Normal criminal charges can't solve a political problem."

CSR vol04 183.jpg

"That's why I'm angry," Naruki said with a bitter expression.

"So what do you plan to do?"

".........Plan to do?"

"Isn't this obvious. The platoon."

"Just pretend nothing's happened. Isn't that matter of fact?" Naruki only entered the platoon to assist in the investigation. Since the investigation was stopped, it was meaningless for her to stay in the platoon. But Mifi thought differently.

"Humph......Really? Just like that?"

"What do you mean?"

"Though you can't investigate, can't you still observe? The Student President won't let this go if the situation turns extremely serious. If that happens, how would this person be handled? Isn't that something you should watch out for? Whether you sit and watch with us from a distance or observe from somewhere close......... You don't really need me to point that out, do you?"

"Right.........So that's a way too........." Immersed in her thoughts, Naruki quickly stood up. "Sorry, I've got to go. You head off first."

Naruki left the shop.

"Mi........." Meishen had heard the conversation. She was standing beside their table, holding a mop. "Were you encouraging her?"

"Um? Yeah, probably. It felt different though."

"Huh?"

"Because Layton's team doesn't have enough people, and they're worrying about that? Nakki needs to be on her feet."

"Mi......"

Mifi smiled at her. Meishen had spaced out.

"How about it? Since I've helped Layton, why don't you treat me to another cake?"

"Don't go overboard," Meishen blushed and threw the handle of the mop at Mifi.

Yes, this was pretty difficult.


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