Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume5 Chapter4
Chapter 4: Hold Hands While Blindfolded
It had been a week since Layfon regained consciousness. Most of his injuries had been healed, but the doctor hadn't yet given him permission to leave the hospital.
Naruki arrived while Layfon didn't know how to pass his time.
"Yo...... How are you?" she said.
"I can't stand the boredom," he said weakly.
Naruki smiled in relief at his voice. She had also sustained injuries, but they were less severe. She had already recovered.
"Still haven't had the operation yet?"
Most of Layfon's external wounds had recovered, but the spinal injury had been left untouched. Caution was required to take out the debris embedded deep inside the spinal cord. The medical team in charge of the operation was having a preparatory meeting over it. Next would come the operation, and Layfon would be discharged if the operation was successful.
"I hope it comes quickly."
He couldn't stand the boredom and the numerous medical checks on him. It felt like he had become an experimental object.
"This is better than undergoing a failed operation. Have more patience."
"...... Mei, is she still blaming herself?"
"Aaah......" Naruki lowered her head.
"She really doesn't have to do that......"
Naruki said that Meishen was blaming herself over the incident and had locked herself in her room. She hadn't even come to the hospital for a visit.
"At least she's going to school now."
"Sorry, it was my fault."
"I told you before that it wasn't your fault. We chose that place. You were just following us."
"But it turned out like this because I was hiding something......"
"Layton......" Her gesture stopped him from saying more.
"Even we have a few things we don't want others to know. We aren't like Layton because our reasons for hiding them are different, but there are bound to be a few secrets. I don't think we have to blame ourselves because of that."
"I'm happy. The fact that you can tell us about such a heavy past, isn't that proof of the trust between us?"
"That's enough. But I hope you can wait for Mei. She's confused because you got injured. Can you give her some time?"
After exchanging an awkward smile, they changed the topic to the 17th platoon.
"Dalshena-senpai joined as your substitute."
"Aaah, Sharnid-senpai invited her."
Layfon thought it would be difficult to invite Dalshena, taking into consideration the previous incident with the 10th platoon. Naruki thought so too.
"I'm bothered but it's a sensitive topic. Since the Captain has agreed to it, I can't say much about it."
"If you had a better relationship with Sharnid-senpai, then it would be easier."
"Well...... That's not easy."
"Anyway, what should be done should be done. It'd be good if you could be discharged soon, otherwise it would be meaningless for me to have entered the platoon."
"......Naruki, what do you think of what I did?"
"Other people's opinions don't matter to Layton, do they?"
"I'm joking...... You're right. My sense of morality feels that what Layton did was wrong. It was wrong, but I don't hate you because of it. What's important is that it was in the past. It's not totally cut off from the present Layton, but I can't say much about it since I wasn't involved."
"Sorry. I asked something strange."
"It's ok. We were the ones who asked you about it, and I hadn't told you my thoughts on it yet."
"Layton...... What you did was a crime, but you were already punished for it. I don't think it's something you can tell anyone easily, so don't worry too much about it. But you're letting go of it, right?"
"Seems a Katana was involved with the fight against the Mercenary Gang? You had two Dites. The Dite you used against Dinn was in the form of a Katana."
Originally, Layfon had been training in the Psyharden's Katana skill, taught by his adopted father, Derek. It wasn't a sword skill. However, Layfon chose to fight with a sword when he became a Heaven's Blade successor.
"Didn't you say before that you don't think what you did in Grendan was wrong? But you've restricted yourself to some sort of a constraint? That's not because of the crime, but because of your sense of guilt. I think you just need to let go and release yourself from it."
Layfon didn't think it was wrong to participate in the underground matches, but it was unforgivable in Derek's views. If he used the Psyharden skills, then he'd have tainted Derek's reputation. The only solution was for him to stop using the Katana. The difference between using a sword and a Katana was delicately decisive. He was able to use the sword when he was a Heaven's Blade successor because of his ability to understand and use any techniques by glancing at them, and because of the support from the Steel Thread techniques that he learned from Lintence.
"That's all I have to say. Layton's the one to decide in the end."
He knew from Naruki's opinion that it wasn't easy to let go, still, he was hesitant.
Someone knocked on the door.
The day of the match had come. The audience was more enthusiastic than usual. All of the platoons would have fought each other at least once after this match. They would also have their results compared. The results would directly impact their ordering in the next Military Arts Competition. Nevertheless, all the audience wanted to know was which platoon was the strongest. In particular, today's match would decide whether the 1st platoon could maintain its top position. As such, everyone in the audience seat kept their gazes on the war field.
"Well......it's got nothing to do with us," Sharnid happily said in the locker room.
The three teams fighting for the first position were Vance's 1st platoon, Gorneo's 5th platoon, and the 14th platoon. All three teams had only lost one match. The 17th platoon was right after them, with two defeats under its belt. The 17th platoon's opponent was the 1st platoon today. The other two teams were also having their match today with each other. If the 17th platoon won the match, first place would still go to the 5th or the 14th platoon. If team 17 lost, the 1st platoon would take top position, tied with the winning team of the other match.
"We still need to give it our best despite that," Nina glared at him.
"Yes, yes," Sharnid shrugged.
"Even though we can't take the top position, we'll still do our best...... No, we must still win!"
Because the platoon wasn't in its best condition......... Because whether they won or not they couldn't take the first place...... These things mattered not. There was a higher meaning if they defeated the 1st platoon. Naruki's friends held an interview before with the platoons. Gorneo, the captain of the 5th platoon, had said in the interview that if they couldn't win against the 1st platoon, then Zuellni wouldn't have changed from the time when it lost in the last Military Arts Competition. Nina thought so too. And more significantly, she didn't want to think that it was impossible to find a replacement for Layfon. It was also for Layfon, since Nina had said to "do something", so she had to do something for him to see how they had become stronger.
"I know," Sharnid said, waving his hand weakly as if Nina's words were wind to him. She glared at him then turned her gaze to Dalshena. Dalshena sat with her eyes closed.
"The attacker is...... the Captain?" Dalshena asked, keeping her pose. Everyone's gaze went to Nina except Felli's.
"Naruki and I will go up the left rear. Dalshena, please take the right rear. Sharnid will fire from a distance with Felli's support. That'll be our formation once the match begins," Nina said. She swallowed and waited for their reaction.
"This time we're on the offensive. We lose if the Captain falls. Is this ok?" Dalshena asked as Nina had expected. She knew she would point out the danger of having the captain take the front attacker position. In truth, Nina wasn't sure where to put Dalshena. She did check Dalshena's fighting style through the videos, but that was all within the formation of the 10th platoon. Nina didn't know how Dalshena fought on her own. The 10th platoon had taken advantage of Dalshena's excellent offensive skills. Nina had thought of using a similar strategy, but it would be difficult because they didn't have enough time to train together. And Dalshena also held the same worry.
"Please don't worry about me," she said. Layfon had taught her the Kongoukei. He said the Heaven's Blade successor, Reverse, used it as his defensive skill. She couldn't use it as well as the Heaven's Blade successor, but with it, she had the confidence to defend against heavy impacts.
"Then I just need to attack when the time comes?" Dalshena opened her eyes and looked at her.
She closed her eyes again and waited for the match to begin.
Having checked everyone's Dites, Harley came to Nina.
"It's Layfon's operation today. Is it finished?"
"Um? I don't know much about medicine."
Layfon's operation was today, an operation to take out the debris in his spinal cord.
"I hope it'll go smoothly."
They must not lose this match. If she continued to rely on Layfon and didn't move forward......... That was what she thought. And she wanted to show that she could do it without Layfon.
"We'll win," she said to herself.
Layfon was outside the hospital one hour before Nina's match. The operation didn't take long. The problem was where the debris was located in the spinal cord, and how to safely take it out. This had been talked over in the preparatory meeting, so all the doctors needed were to follow the decisions made in the meeting during the operation. Fortunately, the debris was in an area where the debris could be taken out in one and not in several operations...... So one operation sufficed. The doctors had then sewed up the wound and stuck on it a wet pad filled with active cell medicine. The pain felt like a cramp, but with the aid of Internal Kei, the wound should close up and recover within a day. The thread used to sew up the wound would then melt and disappear. Layfon didn't even need to go back to the hospital and have the thread taken out. However, he couldn't do much about his reduced strength.
(I'm not at my full strength.)
He checked his body condition in a relaxed manner and headed for the closest tram station. This area was quieter today because of the inter-platoon match. A tram arrived right after Layfon had checked the timetable at the station.
The tram slowed to a stop. The first half of the tram rolled past Layfon, and he saw a shocked Meishen standing at the exit of the tram. Since he couldn't escape, he entered the tram. Meishen stood at the exit with a bunch of flowers in her arm. The computer of the tram made an electronic sound as if urging something. Meishen stepped back from the door in a fluster.
The tram moved after the door had closed.
"Ah, Mei. Hello," Layfon smiled with embarrassment.
"......Layton, why?" Meishen asked, shocked.
"Ah, I was discharged."
"Huh? But......But you have an operation......"
"Oh, it's finished."
"......Uh? But, the operation?"
"Yeah, it finished quicker than expected. I was surprised too."
Only the two of them were in the tram. They sat side by side. The scenery flowed outside the window opposite them. They sat in silence. Meishen put the light-colored flowers between them. Layfon had received flowers when he was in the hospital. Nina's was a deep color. Felli's was a color that softened the room. Naruki and Meishen's were of a pure color. Layfon thought Meishen's flowers seemed to represent herself.
The two of them looked at the flowers.
"About before...... I'm sorry," she said weakly.
"Uh......Rather than that, I'm happy that Mei isn't injured."
"Never mind, but......"
"Layton......You protected me," she cut in, her hands clutching her skirt as if she was using her entire strength to say those words. "......Not only that, you also protected me when the filth monsters were here."
"I heard about it from Naruki. Something like a secret weapon, but the Student President didn't say what it was. He just said it's changed. If Layton wasn't there......"
"......Actually, Naruki said that too," she said, her head lowered. Her shoulders sagged as if losing strength.
"......I don't understand. Even though Layton's a Heaven's Blade successor, an incredible someone, I still don't understand. I know Military Artists are incredible, but I don't understand anything beyond that. Although I understand that you did something bad and was exiled from Grendan......" she fell silent.
Meishen was a normal person. In Grendan, people would understand the term Heaven's Blade successor even if it wasn't explained.
It was understandable that Meishen didn't comprehend the meaning of the term. Layfon hadn't fought seriously in the past inter-platoon matches. He had fought with a strength just a bit above a normal student's. The only times he used some of his true strength was when he fought in the matches against the 10th and the 5th platoons. Meishen and anyone else probably wouldn't understand the difference in Layfon's strength in those matches. In addition, Meishen and the others wouldn't understand how Zuellni's Military Artists fought against filth monsters. They were in the shelters and couldn't see anything as the fight wasn't broadcasted.
(Aaah, I see......)
He now understood the Queen's words on a deeper level. This was the thing that no one was to know – that Military Artists fought filth monsters using the strength they exhibited in matches. The strength of Heaven's Blade successors far exceeded the comprehension of normal people. Hence, Meishen couldn't accept what Naruki said, that Layfon defeated all the larvae.
"It was me," Layfon nodded.
"Really?" She didn't look convinced.
"Is it hard to believe?"
"That was what happened. But it's ok if you think it's a lie."
"Because I can't find the proof for you."
Naruki might see the proof one day. She was a Military Artist. She had what a Military Artist possessed. Perhaps Layfon would be there when Zuellni once more fought filth monsters. He didn't think the same opportunity would present itself to Meishen. Normal people would hide in a shelter when filth monsters attacked.
"Can't I trust you?"
"I want to trust Layton."
Looking at her lowered head, this time Layfon had nothing to say. Although her words were within his predictions, the feelings he got when hearing them were unexpected. He had wanted her to believe him, but whether it would go smoothly was uncertain. Anyone else wouldn't have cared. To believe, to trust or not to trust mattered not.
"I've thought of what Layton said. You decided to do that after considering many things, right?"
"I wasn't there. About those people who didn't treat you well......I'm angry at them, and I'm also sad......But, I don't understand them. I don't think I can judge them, but......"
When he realized it, Meishen's shoulders were trembling. Her tears darkened her skirt. She was crying.
"Layton......You've done well," she said as if she was moaning. "You did your best......but they didn't understand you......they're so mean."
Meishen meant the children at the orphanage. Words defending those kids flashed past Layfon's head. He swallowed them. It wasn't hatred. The feeling was like a defense but either way, they wouldn't forgive him.
If only he were hated.
He said that not long ago to Gorneo. He had the right to hate him. The closest person to Gorneo was Gahard. Gorneo had the right to hate Layfon, as Layfon had paralyzed Gahard. He hadn't the right to stop that hatred, which was the same with the children at the orphanage.
"Thank you," came his heartfelt reply to Meishen, who was crying for him.
Thump, thump......The sound of a pulse. Was this Zuellni's voice coming from the liquid flowing in the tubes? No. No. Zuellni denied that. The reason came from somewhere else. Speaking of which......The Electronic Fairy Zuellni did not exist in a human's consciousness. A human's nervous system was too sensitive to be able to manage such a huge city. A human would scream horribly at every single thing. It wouldn't be able to manage the city. So this feeling didn't come from the city itself. What was it.........? The answer came from within the question. What was used as a hearing mechanism was limited only to a certain place. Where could it be besides that place?
The center of the Mechanical Department. In here. The place that existed for the city's entirety. The Electronic Fairy in the form of a child......That was the city's consciousness. It pondered its feeling of looking at the city, and of managing its own body. Usually, it could clearly feel the boundaries, but now it couldn't remember that feeling and that puzzled Zuellni. But was that really the sense of hearing? It also felt like touch, as if a pulse was shaking it. What was it, that feeling......? Zuellni analyzed its feelings in order to seek the reason behind it, but no results surfaced. It was strange.
When Zuellni broke through its thoughts, it stared at that place. Its gaze pierced through the outer wall of the Mechanical Department, the outer wall of the city to somewhere far away. A place the city must go to.........Anxiety and impatience urged Zuellni on.
"Your stubbornness is really annoying," Kirik said coldly, sitting in a wheelchair.
"Sorry," Layfon said with his head lowered.
A "humph" came from Kirik, contrasting his unhappy attitude with his handsome face.
"I made it for you, but you said you're not gonna use it. This is too tragic."
Both of them looked at the Dites lying on the table. A big Dite in the shape of a stone, and a rod shaped Dite in a leather case. They were the Adamantium Dite and its material. The Alchemy student Kirik, had combined the qualities and shapes of various combinations of materials to make the Adamantium Dite.
"This Dite can turn into sword, thread, gun, long sword, bow and staff, It can take several sword forms......And according to your wish, I had eliminated the variation of a Katana."
Wearing protective gear for outside city use, Layfon listened to Kirik's explanation. He had returned to the dormitory to change his clothes and make his preparations. He now stood at the entrance underneath Zuellni. It was his third time here. The first time was when he had to fight the aged phase filth monster. The second time was when he went to investigate the ruined city. The first time he was alone when he came here. The second time he was with the 5th and the 17th platoons. This third time......
"He, you're holding something interesting~" The new presence stood behind Layfon without hesitation. He frowned.
"This is confidential. Go away," Kirik glared at the newcomer.
"Yeah~" the owner of the presence...... Haia retreated. A number of bikes sat behind him, along with more than ten Military Artists. They were all his subordinates, Military Artists of the Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang.
Karian had come to the hospital room a day before the operation.
"Actually, the city's acting strange," he said after putting down the present and greeted Layfon politely.
"Though the information came from the Mercenary Gang........."
Remembering Haia's face, Layfon's expression turned sour. Haia had been sent to the hospital after that match. He had already recovered but Layfon didn't hear anything of Haia leaving Zuellni.
"Aa, don't show that kind of a face. They're still useful."
"Their strength is needed when it comes to fighting filth monsters. And we have to leave the Haikizoku to them. Of course, that's besides using what they planned in the match."
Layfon didn't know whether there was an easy way to remove the Haikizoku, but he knew Karian was serious about the filth monsters' attack. Layfon understood after having seen the Military Artists of Zuellni fighting the larvae. They had no previous experience in that area. Grendan's Military Artists would have at least seen fights with filth monsters, but not here. As he thought, cities other than Grendan were more peaceful.
"Ah. Their......Their Psychokinesist discovered some filth monsters in the path of the city."
"The path of the city?" That puzzled Layfon. If it was at a distance that a Psychokinesist could reach, then the city should have taken evasive action.
"It really is strange. At first I doubted it too. Of course, the Psychokinesist who discovered it was also doubtful of it. He delayed his report to Haia to spend a few days to observe."
Karian breathed in. The pupils behind his glasses were sharp.
"But the city didn't change its path. It still heads in the same direction, right where the filth monsters are."
"Felli......Has your sister confirmed it?"
"Because it's quite a distance, it was quicker to send the drones out than the flakes. The result came back yesterday." He took out a bag and handed it to Layfon.
Layfon confirmed the content. He had done this before. As expected, the photos were like before, photos of the wild scenery outside the city. In those photos showed numerous things that he had encountered. The dormant filth monsters.
"Aa, right. Let me introduce them~" Haia said to Layfon, pointing at the bikes and people behind himself. This was after Kirik had finished explaining and Layfon had buckled up the weapon harness around his waist.
"He's the Psychokinesist. He's my backup."
A tall man waited behind Haia. A hood covered his head and face, and a cape shrouded his body. A mask concealed his face. His hands were hidden in gloves. A piece of cloth wrapped around the head where the mask failed to cover, as if he was careful so not one inch of his skin was exposed.
He was the Psychokinesist who found the filth monsters, the one who discovered the filth monsters earlier than anyone else, and he found them in a distance that required a drone to cover.........If that was true, then his Psychokinesis might even be more powerful than Felli's.
"This is Fermaus. His throat doesn't work so he has to talk through an electronic voice."
"Please look after me." An electronic voice, devoid of its gender origin, sounded above Layfon's head. A flake floated above him.
"He's a genius in Psychokinesis, but he also has other special abilities. Because of that, he's to dress like this."
Layfon listened silently, suspicious of Haia's voluntary information. As of a kid who was so proud of something that he had to boast about it, but because it was a secret, Haia said in a low voice, "He can smell filth monsters."
What? Smelling anything was out of the question once outside the air purification system. The pollutants were enough to blunt and conquer the senses of the entire body. The sense of smell was also paralyzed.
"You don't believe me. I can distinguish by smelling," Fermaus said. "Wolfstein.........You have killed countless filth monsters. I can tell by smelling the remnants of filth monsters left in your body. Other people won't get it, but I do. You've killed many more filth monsters than anyone here. It's my honor to be able to fight with you."
"Uh......That name's already........."
"I see. Excuse me, Layfon-dono," Fermaus lifted his head carefully.
Layfon didn't feel any hatred and rudeness from him. Instead, Fermaus was respectful.
"Hey, hey. I was the one in trouble before. You don't have to use polite terms here."
"That was the leader's fault. Although obtaining a thing through any means is passed down from the first generation, this time Wolfstein's......Excuse me, Layfon-dono's provocative action was unnecessary. If we had explained the danger of the Haikizoku to Layfon-dono, he'd have lent a helping hand. But we turned him into an enemy. If Ryuhou was alive, he'd call you a fool."
"Don't bring in the previous generation," Haia said with an annoyed expression.
"No, I have to."
The rest of the Mercenary Gang laughed cheerfully.
Layfon watched them with complicated feelings.
"......Well, it's useless to talk about the past."
"No, please forgive me~" Haia sat down.
"Compared to that, let's talk about me," Fermaus turned to Layfon. "I can smell filth monsters. This is by smelling the stirring in the air when pollutants are breathed in and stored. The dry wind outside the city is caused by the filth monsters' activities and their use of pollutants."
"Ha, Ah........." Even though Layfon had just listened to something grand about filth monsters being able to change the air, all he could do was stand dumbfounded.
"My sense of smell can find the pollutants used by filth monsters."
"But......" Layfon still didn't find Fermaus' words convincing. Even the filth monsters changing the atmosphere didn't feel real to him. It was too hard to comprehend without a basis. The thing was, Fermaus' words just weren't credible enough. Besides, what Layfon thought was most suspicious was......
"I understand. But to smell the filth monsters, you have to go outside the air purification system."
"...... Yes," Fermaus slowly lifted his right hand. "People cannot live long under exposure to the pollutants. The body will burn, rot and collapse. My body can't escape that pain. And medical treatment isn't advanced enough to treat injuries of that kind if I'm exposed repeatedly to pollutants." His right hand took the chin of the mask. "But I have a special physique inside me. It might have been born from tolerance. I have a special physique that allows me to live even though I'm exposed to pollutants. If my body's examined, maybe we'll see the day when humans can overcome pollutants in the air."
Fermaus took down the mask. Layfon heard Kirik's swallow. He himself opened his mouth, but no words came forth.
"But the price might be to become someone like me," he said.
Fermaus' skin was dark as charcoal and ribboned with red veins. His nose had collapsed. His eyelids were gone. The white eyeballs looked ready to fall out of their sockets. Dry lips cracked. Layfon could see his perfect white teeth that contrasted with his lips. This was a face of someone who could live through continuous exposure to pollutants, unable to receive any treatment because modern medicine wasn't advanced enough.
"Please believe in my sense of smell. Her Majesty also acknowledges it."
Fermaus put the mask back and bowed deeply to Layfon.
The whistle sounded in the war field. Besides the Psychokinesist, only four people in the 17th platoon were left to fight. The 1st platoon had six. However, the fighting power wasn't that unequal taking into consideration that the 1st platoon was leaving one or two people to defend their flag. In actuality, Felli's report showed the 1st platoon did leave two people for defense.
Nina and her team took action when the siren sounded. Nina took the left rear, followed by Naruki. The 17th platoon was on the offensive. The team would lose if Nina, as captain, was defeated. Showing this weakness was to attract the attacks over to Nina's side, and it worked. Vance had sent a number of good fighters to track her.
"Bad strategy......" Vance said, his huge body suddenly blocking her forward momentum. The staff spun in his hand, creating a storm of Kei. His other teammates gathered round and sealed off Nina's path.
"Bad strategy or not...... Talk of it later!" she roared and blocked the staff with the iron whips. Her foot sank into the ground under the impact of the assault. She used external Kei to bounce back the staff, and dove for Vance's front. The staff was a longer ranged weapon, so a close quarters fight would reduce its effectiveness. As expected, Vance's teammates moved as if to make Nina back off.
Naruki's rope shot in and wrapped around the sword of the Military Artist on Vance's right, stopping his movement. Still, they were two against one............Still a disadvantage for Nina. Vance was a better fighter than her. He had had more experience as a senior student, having fought in the Military Arts Competition and numerous other inter-platoon matches. But Nina's fight with Vance was to draw the attention of the 1st platoon. The strategy to move forward for a decisive fight was to create an opening for Dalshena. She boldly swung her iron whips at Vance.
Vance fought her at close range, looking as if he was releasing his strength without holding back, and also looking as if he had become smaller for the fight. Chased away from Vance's front area, Nina attacked his teammates behind him. Body bent, she blocked a sword with her left iron whip and stood up. She heaved him over her shoulder in Vance's direction.
Vance pulled close to Nina to avoid his teammate's body. He didn't look once at his team member. Using external Kei, Nina jumped backwards to retreat. Vance rushed in, his staff pointed forward to attack. Nina had the disadvantage as she was in midair.
In one moment, Vance's body seemed to shrink, retrieving the staff. And Nina then felt the speed of the staff that she failed to see. Her iron whips bounced off Vance's weapon, and a heavy impact landed on her chest. She was thrown into the air.
The disappearance of Nina from her sight pulled Naruki's gaze over. In that one swift moment, the rope in her hand loosened. The enemy team member seized that chance. By the time Naruki's gaze returned to him, he was right beside her.
"So naive, newcomer!"
External Kei hit Naruki and sent her sliding out. She wanted to climb back up but her body was paralyzed. The commentator announced she was out of the match. Everyone thought the same conclusion would be made for Nina, but reality spoke differently.
Dust clouded the place where Nina had landed. Soil particles fell onto the ground. A shadow flew out of the dust cloud.
Variation of internal Kei: Kongoukei.
Using all of her strength, Nina had used Layfon's skill to block Vance's attack. After blocking Vance, she had leapt over his head to defeat Naruki's enemy. She also defeated the other member of the 1st platoon.
The commentator couldn't make a conclusion to the fight, and more cheering and shouts roiled down from the audience stand.
".........It's not finished."
"You've become strong........." In response to Vance's fighting stance, Nina readied her own as she moved.
"Is it because of that guy's influence?"
"It's not my personality to rely on others," she declared.
"I see. So that guy's thinking. You're moving in a good direction."
Vance meant Karian, the person who knew of Layfon's past. He switched Layfon from General Studies into Military Arts, and put him into Nina's team. The 17th platoon's real beginning was when Nina's determination aligned with Karian's thinking.
"I'm grateful to the Student President...... But what came after that was my own path."
"Not a bad response," Vance said. "I can fight you more......though that's what I wanted to say." Regret filled his voice.
"It's the end."
A change occurred on the front line of the 1st platoon. Intense light burnt Nina's eyes, and the sound of explosions drowned the cheering of the crowd.
"This is!?" she said, forgetting Vance was in front of her.
"They've put in a flake mine in the ground......We got tricked," Felli's guilty voice came through her flake.
Dalshena was free to choose her own timing for when to attack. When did she move......? Seemed to be when the crowd cheered. If that was the case, then the target of the explosion was Dalshena.........
"......... They got through our opening when our vision was sealed."
Next was Felli, relaying how the 1st platoon defeated them.
Nina didn't think the flake mine would finish off Dalshena, but the number of flakes was large, and the light and the rumble of the explosion were unexpectedly overwhelming......... They couldn't do much under that situation.
"And I'm here to stop you while the others take out Sharnid and that guy's sister...... I was to play with you during that time."
Both Dalshena and Naruki were out of action. Only Nina was left. Felli had fighting power but she was one against so many Military Artists.
"It's your defeat, Nina Antalk."
I can still win!
Although that was Nina's thought, it failed to turn into strength to tightly grip the iron whips. Vance looked bigger than he was in front of her.
Regaining her sight, Dalshena's intense gaze pierced Nina. Nina moved her own gaze away.
Anger filled the Locker Room.
An invisible bomb waited to explode. What was shattered became the sound of reality. The cabinet leaning against the wall had been cut into two.
"Calm down, Shena," Sharnid said tiredly. He was hiding beside the door.
"......Calm down?" The person who cut down the cabinet......Dalshena slowly turned around to glare at him.
"I.........This is my first time experiencing a match as terrible as this."
Her gaze swept across the room. She was too outraged to scream. The fight between Nina and Vance didn't happen in the end. The moment when Nina saw Vance's attack, she was defeated. Vance's words about sending people to find Sharnid was a trap. Numbed by Vance's air, Nina didn't hear the siren announcing the end of the match.
"Damn!" Dalshena destroyed another cabinet.
Sharnid frowned. "You neglected your surroundings because you were used to relying on others. This is no longer the same when you can just look at what's before you."
The muscles on Dalshena's face twitched. She opened her mouth and closed it, gritting her teeth.
"I........." That was all that slipped through her closed mouth, and she rushed out of the Locker Room.
The sound of the door closing echoed in the room.
"......Well, I think we did pretty well."
Sharnid's words felt like they were there to disperse the echo, rather than a comfort.
"......How so?" Nina asked. "It's true we had a terrible match."
"Well, even so. Vance won. He had accurately taken advantage of Shena's weakness. As for the flake mine, isn't that eye-opening, Felli-chan?"
Felli nodded with an expression stiffer than usual.
"......... The flakes buried there probably cut off the Psychokinesis communication. If they did do that, they couldn't read the flow of the other team's Psychokinesis. They then used a minimal level of Psychokinesis to trigger off the flake mine. This technique isn't necessary against filth monsters, but against humans, that's different. It's a technique we should learn."
He added, "Can't be like that the next time."
It seemed Felli felt regret too.
"I see.........well, it's that type of feeling. Layfon had taught Nina some skill, but it wasn't enough to change the result. We underestimated the 1st platoon. That was all."
Nina couldn't accept this. Everything felt hopeless once she knew Layfon couldn't participate in the match. She couldn't forgive herself. She didn't want to admit that they couldn't do anything without Layfon. She wanted to win. She wanted to win just this time. To win a match that wasn't a "beautiful match." What should she say to Layfon at the hospital?
Sharnid and the rest of the 17th platoon couldn't find anything else to say to Nina.
The cautious knocking on the door broke the silence. Nina didn't move. Sighing, Sharnid opened the door.
".........Mei?" Naruki said. She'd been sitting on the long bench in silence.
Meishen stood nervously at the door.
"Hi," Mifi waved, oblivious to the atmosphere.