Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume5 Chapter1
Chapter 1: The Path of Thinking
Standing beside Layfon, Naruki had said something unbelievable in the training room.
"Let me join the platoon."
Nina looked at Naruki, shocked numb by her request. She was holding a dirty cloth and a Dite. Pretty bubbles adorned the cloth. On the floor beside her were a bucket and another Dite. Liquid effective in preventing slippage churned in the bucket.
Layfon had left the school building after class with Meishen, Mifi and Naruki. When he realized only Naruki was left beside him, he was shocked to find out he had already arrived outside the Training Complex. And then Naruki had urged him to enter the Complex. What came next was her request.
"And what is that for?"
Nina wiped her hand with a clean piece of cloth and stood up to face Naruki. Layfon stepped back to look at the two of them. The 17th platoon had participated in another match after the match with the 10th platoon, but Naruki didn't attend. Naruki hadn't come to the Training Complex after the match with the 10th platoon. It wasn't because she was being arrogant or that she was worried about something, and Layfon and everyone found that fairly normal. She only entered the platoon to investigate the 10th platoon's drug dealing. She had failed to find anything, and later on, the Student President had ordered the City Police to stop the investigation. Even so, Naruki participated in the match against the 10th platoon to witness the happenings. Everyone, including Naruki herself, thought she had no reason to stay in the platoon anymore. Layfon had thought that she was putting all her effort in the City Police. She was striving hard to become the Chief of Police. He thought that, but.........
"Of course, that's if senpai thinks I can be of use."
"Yeah, I understand that part. But why?"
"Um......I understand my immaturity......" she mumbled and glanced at Layfon.
Nina caught that glance. Layfon knew Naruki and Nina were concerned with his past, but he felt that Naruki wasn't as concerned before participating in the platoon match. He noticed Nina had caught that glance.
"Is that so?......Well then, how about we try a test?"
Layfon widened his eyes. He hadn't been listening.
"You did a test too when you first joined. This is about the same."
Nina nodded, noticing what Layfon wanted to say. "Yes, I'm the one who wants her to join. But I also tested you when you joined. I'll hold back somewhat this time too."
Now that Nina had brought back the time when he first joined, Layfon didn't know what expression to make.
"I don't think there's a need to confirm your strength, but there's something else I want to confirm. What do you say?"
"I understand," Naruki nodded with a strange expression.
Looking happy, Nina took out her Dite and restored it.
With tension on her face, Naruki took out the two Dites from her weapon harness and restored them. They were a baton and a rope. The baton was the same as a police baton, except it didn't have the police symbol. That Dite was made by Harley. Naruki wrapped the rope around her left wrist and using her left hand, took something out of her pocket and tossed it to Layfon. It was the badge of the 17th platoon, meaning she'd accept it if she passed the test.
"How about I give you some time to take some advice from Layfon?"
"I don't need it."
"Really......Well then, let's begin," Nina declared with an "I won't lose" kind of air.
Naruki placed the baton in front of herself, as if to hide her left hand. On the contrary, Nina's iron whip in her left hand was out, and the other iron whip hung loosely in her right hand. The two faced each other like reflections, as if one was right-handed and the other was left-handed. In fact, both were right handed. Naruki's stance was somewhat unique. The hand with the rope was placed behind her back as if asking her opponent to guess what she had hidden behind her.
Nina's victory was unshakable to Layfon. Nina's training leaned more on the skill of martial arts than on strength itself, as she had to practice wielding an iron whip with one hand. The flow of strength and its use was the essence of martial arts. Naruki's martial arts weren't too bad, but that was judged on the level of a first year. As for Naruki's advantages, Layfon had to count the light weight of her body. Though she was tall, Naruki excelled at agility. The symbol of light weight was Shante from the 5th platoon, but Naruki gave off a different sense. A graceful and light body weight to wield the unique weapon of a rope. But she had an overwhelming disadvantage in this test since she wasn't good at External Burst type Kei. How would she overcome this problem.........?
She made her move as Layfon thought of that question.
Naruki breathed out to disperse the heat of Internal Kei and charged straight at Nina. The baton struck. No unnecessary movements there. Nina's left iron whip blocked the baton, and Naruki stepped forward with the momentum of her charge. Nina's right hand whip lashed down.
Keeping her body slightly bent forward, Naruki rushed out and threw herself into the air. The rope shot out from her left hand. Nina's right iron whip tore apart the air. Noticing Naruki's movement, she leaped to flip her body in the air. And in that one moment, her left iron whip interfered with the rope. The claw on the tip of the rope clutched the iron whip.
Layfon widened his eyes. Naruki's strategy had worked......She probably didn't think it would work. The chance result came about when Nina attempted to right herself in the air. As Nina's body flipped, the rope trailing the claw followed her movement to wrap itself about her body. Nina landed like a silkworm wrapped in silk. Her right hand remained free but Naruki had sealed her basic movement.
Surprise appeared on Naruki's face. Nina smiled bitterly at her own mistake.
"But this isn't the end," Nina said and raised the right iron whip. Naruki took hold of the rope with her right hand and readied her stance.
Nina breathed in deeply and increased the amount of her internal Kei to raise the strength in her arm. She probably planned to pull the rope. Naruki resisted by increasing her Internal Kei too. Now it came down to deciding the winner with Kei. As expected, Nina had the advantage. Her speed of Kei generation was quicker because of what Layfon had taught her. Naruki's feet began to slip. The balance of strength began to topple.
"You're doing something interesting."
Layfon explained the circumstances to Sharnid and Felli. Felli was there, standing before the door when the two began their match. Sharnid arrived later.
"Oh? ......They're all serious."
"How redundant," Felli said expressionlessly.
"She'd still be part of the platoon if she didn't return the badge," Sharnid said just as the outcome showed itself.
Twisting her body, Nina had pulled Naruki over to her. The rope loosened. Nina's free left hand let go of the iron whip and gave the rope a pull. Naruki's body flew into the air.
(Quite meaningful to add Karen Kei there.)
Nina's iron whip pressed lightly on Naruki, who was on the floor.
"You passed," Nina said.
"Thanks," Naruki stood up and lowered her head.
"We're counting on you from now on," Nina smiled and nodded.
The usual dominating air was absent from her smile. Layfon thought her concentration wasn't as sharp since the match with the 10th platoon. Her mistake in the fight with Naruki showed the same thing. Sometimes......Just a second, but it appeared her thoughts were on something else during training. Nina had felt something from Dinn's ending, an ending born out of the desire to protect the city. Was it all right for Layfon to leave this alone? In the past month, he had acted as if he didn't notice her preoccupation, trying his best to prevent her from being hurt.
"Good. We'll start today's training, but before that......" Nina began, having confirmed all members had arrived. Harley didn't show up. He was at the research lab as usual.
"The camp has been canceled. But I still want us to go before the next match comes up."
All teaching was temporarily suspended during the time when Zuellni was resupplying. Nina had wanted the team to go on a training camp at that time, but she had to cancel it because of the illegal drug investigation.
"But we have classes now. Can we?"
"I advocate both academics and Military Arts. I really want to attend class if possible, but we're facing the 1st platoon in the next match. The atmosphere of each match is also getting more tense. I just want us to do what we can for now."
"Well, I welcome the idea since I can be publicly truant."
Nina smiled bitterly at Sharnid's reply and looked at Layfon and the others.
"If the Captain's decided, then I've no problem with it," he said.
"I think there's a way to resolve the problem with missing class," Naruki said.
Nina accepted their answers and at last turned her gaze to Felli.
"What do you think?"
".........Whatever you say."
As expected, Felli's answer was weak.
"Then I'll announce the details of the schedule tomorrow. For today's training, we'll analyze tactics in the audio-visual room. We'll look at all the matches of the 1st platoon in recent years."
Everyone moved towards the audio-visual room. Only the "try as hard as possible not to know any information about the opponents" Layfon stayed in the training room.
"Camp......I wonder what it'll be like," he murmured to himself.
"Have you told them?"
Layfon turned around at Nina's sudden question. They were cleaning at the Mechanical Department. Layfon and Nina were in the same team. Since the resupply, Zuellni had been moving towards the tropics, so the inside of the Mechanical Department was hotter than before. Both Layfon and Nina had taken off the outer layer of the working clothes and wrapped it around their waists.
Layfon wiped sweat off his face with the towel hanging around his neck. Nina was also sticky with sweat. The sweat stuck the clothes to her skin and outlined her body. Layfon didn't know where to look so he only concentrated on her face. She was also wiping her face with her towel.
"To Naruki and the others. You haven't told them yet?" As if she hadn't noticed his awkwardness, she started mopping the floor again. He followed suit.
Meishen and her friends knew of the term Heaven's Blade successor before the match last month. He didn't know where they heard of that term, but he knew they knew it had something to do with himself. It seemed they still didn't know much of his past. Was this a good or bad thing? .........He couldn't decide. Heaven's Blade successors and his past in Grendan weren't things he could tell anyone about in a peaceful manner. What would Meishen and her friends do if they found out.........Either way, he doubted it'd be a good reaction. But he wasn't sure whether it was right to not tell them anything because he didn't know how they'd react. He had told everyone in the 17th platoon about his past. Leaving Naruki out would be the same as isolating her, but Meishen and Mifi would find out if he told Naruki.
"What do you think, Captain?"
"Hard to answer," she frowned and stopped mopping. "The problem is we don't know how they'll react. I can't tell since I haven't been with them for long. Layfon, what do you think of them? Do you think they're the type to keep their distance from you once they hear of it?"
He hoped not. That was just his wish. Perhaps they'd keep their distance. In that case......
(What should I do?)
He had no choice.
Nina had begun mopping the floor while he was spacing out. He quickly followed suit.
"......About that time, sorry about that."
"Eh?" He took his gaze off the floor to look at her.
With her back facing him, she continued, "Despicable......About the time I said that."
He remembered. Nina learned of his past at the end of the match against the 16th platoon. It was the team's first victory. She knew of his being a Heaven's Blade successor and why he was stripped of his title, as well as his participation in the underground matches. She had asked why he did those things, and he had answered honestly. For money.........She had declared him "despicable."
"I still think what you did was despicable, but you have your reasons to stand firm. To say you're despicable one-sidedly is in itself despicable."
"It wasn't like that."
"No, it was like that," she shook her head. "I said this before. I can't understand the pain of starvation. Someone who knows nothing and can't imagine what it's like, I don't think she should say it before someone who does know what it's like."
"It probably wasn't like that."
"No, it was like that," Nina shook her head again.
"I think sometimes a third party can more accurately analyze the situation," he said.
"At least I think of the Captain's words that way."
"Captain isn't wrong," he nodded at Nina who had turned around to face him.
Sitting in the sofa with her chin in her palm, Synola stared at the letter on the desk with annoyance.
"What is it?" the female waiting by her side asked. She was a tall beauty and her appearance was similar to Synola's.
Kanaris Aerifos Rivin. One of the twelve Heaven's Blade successors that people boasted about in Grendan, waited for Synola's answer. Currently, the two of them were in the palace situated in the middle of the Lance Shelled City, Grendan. They were in a room located in the residential area for royalty. Synola Aleisla the senior research student was a fake identity. Her real name was Alsheyra Almonise. She possessed the power of the Queen and stood at the top of the twelve Heaven's Blade successors. Her power exceeded those of the other Heaven's Blade successors. Synola's pupils stared at the words in the letter. Soft lips clamped together, she stayed silent.
"Do you think it's a good plan to bring the Haikizoku from Zuellni to here?" Kanaris asked solemnly.
The letter was sent by Haia Salinvan Laia from Zuellni. The Heaven's Blade successor Synola had exiled from Grendan now lived in that city. Haia had succeeded his master as the third leader of the Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang. The content of the letter explained the event with the Haikizoku.
"I believe no one outside Grendan can fully control the power of a Haikizoku," Kanaris said. Confidence in Grendan's Military Artists showed through her light voice.
Synola remained silent. She started fingering her hair.
Synola's lips parted under Kanaris' urging. "So......"
"You weren't planning to say something like 'So annoying', were you?"
"......That's bad. You can't say that ahead of me."
"This isn't a problem of being bad."
Kanaris coldly watched the pouting Synola.
"Since we don't have all 12 Heaven's Blades, we should try to do what we can."
They had hosted numerous Military Arts matches since stripping Layfon of his title. Some participants were powerful enough to fight filth monsters, but none of them had the strength to become a Heaven's Blade successor. Hence, the Heaven's Blade title remained without an owner.
"When Layfon held the Heaven's Blade, I thought, yes, it's finally here. Guess that wasn't the case."
"Your Majesty, no one knows when that day will come. We have had all twelve Heaven's Blades in the past, but that day hasn't come again."
"What about Haia? Can he not be one?"
"Your Majesty, please answer my question first."
"But it really is annoying."
She curled her lips again. Kanaris didn't get mad at her.
"We Heaven's Blade successors can give up our lives for you."
"............Layfon probably wouldn't say things like that."
"That's why he had to give up the Heaven's Blade."
"Would have been good if that were the case."
Losing to Kanaris' imposing manner, Synola listened.
"If your Majesty can't make a decision, how about we make a choice? As said in the letter, using the students of the Academy City would make Layfon our enemy. In that case, the Mercenary Gang won't hold against him. We can leave Lintence out as he's too involved with him, but if it's someone else......"
".........You're saying you'll use a Heaven's Blade successor without my permission, Kanaris?"
Leaning against the back of the sofa, Synola watched Kanaris.
"N, no......nothing like that."
She smiled at Kanaris. The Heaven's Blade was panting as if she was short of air. Synola continued with a soft voice. "I did give you the authority while I was away. You did your job well, and that's worth my gratitude............But only I can decide how to use the Heaven's Blades."
"Seems you understand," she smiled and straightened her back to look outside. Kanaris sat down beside her, more like fell down beside her. She glanced at the trembling woman, took the bag from the table and stood up.
"I have to go to the research lab."
"Your, Your Majesty, please wait......" Kanaris tried again.
Synola smiled bitterly. "Well, I'll take some time to consider it," she said and left the room.
Outside the room was a corridor that connected to the facilities outside the palace. No guards could be seen. This arrangement was made especially for Synola's privacy. The lights in the corridor were weak, as if they weren't used often. Because of the bad location in relation to the position of the sun, the sunlight piercing through the windows was weak too. A figure appeared at the end of the dim corridor.
"What is it?" Synola asked.
The figure moved to where the window was. The shadow shrouding him retreated. It was Savaris.
"Your Majesty is in a good mood......Ah, what a busy day today."
Synola sighed against the greeting. "............Not that good. I didn't get to use my brain today, so I don't feel good."
"Thanks for the hard work," he laughed.
She glared at him, and his laughter stopped short.
"Is the letter the reason behind your bad mood?"
Her eyes narrowed. Was Savaris the only piece of hers that had infiltrated the palace? She watched his smiling face with displeasure. "......Has the Luckens family got ahead of themselves? Or is this the case with all Heaven's Blades? If so, I've got to tighten them up."
"Not at all! There isn't anything impure in our loyal hearts," he retreated a few steps.
She watched him coldly.
"I found out about the thing at Zuellni by pure chance. It's because my younger brother's there......"
She listened silently to his explanation. Younger brother......Gorneo was studying Military Arts course at Zuellni. He was in a platoon there.
"I knew of this from Gorneo's letter. I'm guessing the Mercenary Gang had sent Your Majesty a letter about it too. I was waiting here to convey the news in case Your Majesty didn't hear of it."
"You could have told Kanaris."
"It seems that she hates me. Besides, I made a vow to only be loyal to Your Majesty. Not to Kanaris, nor the city named Grendan." His voice turned light.
"So what do you plan from now on?"
".........You understand when I said I don't feel good?"
"Haha, Kanaris must have been difficult."
She glared at him once more.
"Uh oh.........If possible, why don't you use me?"
"My brother's there. He can help us better than anyone else. And in the possible situation of a fight with Layfon, anyone else would cause huge damage to Zuellni," he laughed.
He was making a joke. Watching him with her icy gaze, Synola tossed out the question as if the idea just popped into her head. "Are you saying you want to kill Layfon?"
"Why?" The smile remained on Savaris' face, but it was definite that the temperature of his expression had dropped a few degrees.
"The bait we used before, the one Layfon crippled, he was from the Luckens' school, wasn't he? Surely you hold a grudge."
"That was only Gahard's immaturity."
The frosty reply meant she had stepped on a landmine.
"Then......What is it?"
"Your Majesty.........I don't hate Layfon. I'm just very concerned with the Haikizoku," he said frankly. "Your Majesty has always guided us. Heaven's Blades only need to concentrate on getting stronger."
"Well, I at least hope all of you have some common sense."
"Humph......Well, I'll consider it," she said and started walking.
"Have a good day."
"I will," she waved her hand without turning back.