Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume5 Chapter5

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Chapter 5: Two Fights

"......Are you going?" Meishen said, crying. The tram had gone past a few stations. No new passengers appeared. Meishen's crying voice mixed in with the sound of the tram moving, and it disappeared.

"Huh?"

"It's strange you were discharged right after the operation. Layton really is going?"

He didn't respond with words to confuse the topic. Would she believe him if he said "no"? She wouldn't believe him.

"......Yeah." So he nodded.

Meishen was looking at him with reddened eyes. Her mouth opened as if she wanted to say something, but she swallowed the words.

"Does it have to be Layton?"

"If it were another city, I think it wouldn't have to be me."

But Zuellni didn't have any experienced Military Artists. This was too heavy a burden for the students. When he fought the aged phase filth monster, he said they could defeat it with their heart prepared to lose half of the city. They probably could have defeated it. But at that time, the probability of the city becoming useless was high. The most important thing was that the city would face a crisis.........not just the danger of filth monsters attacking, but the probability of the city's functions stopping, to the point that the city would not be able to support its occupants. Perhaps the crisis of the food shortage at Grendan would in turn come to Zuellni. Grendan managed that time, but could Zuellni manage it too? The ending was that they couldn't do anything but delay the time of death.

"It'll definitely be all right if I go......Am I arrogant?"

"......A bit."

"I thought so."

In truth, "a bit" was an understatement. He had known that since long ago.

"I wasn't thinking of 'protecting' anything.........To seek a path outside Military Arts, I said that before right? I still feel the same now. If we win the Military Arts Competition this year, I plan to return to General Studies."

"Can that really happen?"

"The Student President who switched me to Military Arts would have graduated. I think it's possible."

"But......"

"I want to start from there."

He could guess what she wanted to say, so he didn't want to hear it.

"This place is the only place I have since leaving Grendan."

This was the only place where he obtained a scholarship. Because of his level of education and the little money he had, he could only come to Zuellni. So he was here now.

"It's different now. Mei's here. Naruki, Mifi, the Captain and everyone. That's why I want to do something."

Zuellni had to remain safe for that reason alone.

"That's why I'll do what I can do."

Meishen's words turned his gaze back to her. ".........I can't fight. But is there anything I can do for you?"

"........."

"Though you think you're doing this for yourself, you're doing it to protect us......so I want to do something for you."

"......Thanks."

"Because......Because......I, I......" she looked at the floor, blushing.

"Then, I have a request."

"Huh?"

"This'll have to wait until after the match though. Can you deliver a message to the Captain?"

And Layfon relayed the message to Meishen. A short message.

"Is that ok?"

"Yes, the Captain will understand," he said decisively as he looked at her.

"You really do trust the Captain."

"Yeah." It'd be embarrassing to nod honestly, so he chose to smile, bitterly.


And as such, Meishen had come to the Locker Room. She saw the sign outside the place forbidding unrelated peoples' entry, but she ran into Mifi in the hall. Mifi talked to the senpai in charge of the place and he let them through.

"Mei.........Did anything happen?" Naruki asked.

Shocked into silence by the stiff atmosphere in the room, Meishen made up her mind and moved to stand before Nina.

"Ex, excuse me......"

"What?" Nina said with surprise. Surprised that it wasn't Naruki who came to her but Meishen. Nina's expression turned gentle.

Meishen stared at her. Nina Antalk. This wasn't the first time she saw her. They were together at the camp before, and they had attended the celebration too. Still, this felt like Meishen's first time meeting Nina.

(This is Nina Antalk.)

The person that Layfon trusted. She was a Military Artist but she wasn't as strong as Layfon. She also couldn't have a past as painful as Layfon's......Meishen thought. Though she didn't know the reason, Layfon trusted the Captain.

"Uh...... Layfon asked me to tell you something."

"Tell me something?" Nina asked. "That is?"

"Please ask the Student President and go see Zuellni. This must be something that only the Captain can do."

"Zuellni?" Naruki asked instead. Everyone else held the same confusion.

"Isn't Zuellni here? What's happened?" Mifi asked.

"Don't know......" Meishen said.

"......... 'Get the explanation from the Student President', something like that?" Nina said, turning Meishen's gaze back to her, as if she had understood something while everyone else was wondering.

"Nina, you know something? Well, I don't get it, but the situation seems pretty clear." Sharnid said.

"Don't you know of it too?" Felli said coldly. Sharnid shrugged.

Harley had been checking the Dites, unperturbed by Dalshena destroying the room. But now, "I, I'm not involved this time!" he said in a fluster to show he was in the clear.

"Speaking of which......Huh? Could that be it? Ah......Kirik was in the lab today. Aah......Can it be......Uhhh, he's too sly!" Harley couldn't help but spill out his true feelings. Nina glared at him.

"That isn't the issue.........Really."

"Geez......what a good natured person," Felli said and took out her Dite. "I'm sending the flakes over."

"Thanks. If possible, get in touch with Layfon first."

"He had an operation today. He shouldn't be too far. I'll make it."

"Yes. Really."

"Then what do you plan to do?" Sharnid asked.

"Head for the place with clues. You guys, stay ready. I'll get back to you."

"Roger," Sharnid replied as Nina ran off. What were left were the restored Dites, Felli, and Sharnid. Sharnid pulled over the weapon harness to himself and laid down on the long bench......Naruki, Mifi and Meishen didn't know what was going on.

"Hey......What's going on?" Naruki asked Sharnid.

"That guy's at it again."

"Huh?"

"......Has he gone to fight?"

Naruki and Mifi watched Meishen in shock.

"Did he say that?"

"......Because he wants to protect, from now on."

Sharnid sighed. "Just like him. Geez, doing this kind of thing so calmly."

"Please... wait a minute," Naruki massaged her head. "What happened to Layfon? Fighting......"

"You'll know in a minute," he looked at Felli. As if they had planned it beforehand, Karian's voice came through Felli's flake.

"Ah, you already knew?" he said sourly.


"It's not 'already knew'!" Nina said in anger, running on the rooftop. After leaving the war field, she had confirmed the location of her destination and jumped onto a roof. If she ran on the ground using Kei, she'd confuse the students and face many obstructions. On the roofs, she could run as fast as she wanted.

"Why did you involve Layfon in such danger?"

"If possible, I want him to concentrate on Military Arts."

That sounded like Karian's true feelings.

"But not this time."

"Just what has happened?" she suppressed her anger at Karian for letting Layfon fight alone.

"The city's on a rampage."

"What?"

"As I said, the city's on a rampage."

It seemed Karian hadn't yet managed his own feelings about this situation. Impatience and anxiety ran in his voice. "It's like we're giving ourselves up to filth monsters......Do you think I can simply tell everyone about it?"

True. It'd be chaos.

"But......"

"On the other hand......I think I can tell from the last fight. We're still immature. We already fought so desperately against larvae. No, if Layfon wasn't there, we'd have turned into their food."

Nina bit her lips. Yes, Nina and the rest of them couldn't fight the filth monsters directly. The monster's shell was so hard that Nina couldn't break it. It took her several hits to kill the monster, but it'd be an easier fight if she could break the shell with one strike. After that, she contributed to the fight with the aged phase filth monster by offering Layfon a strategy, but could she herself carry that through.......... Even if she could, who else could defeat a larva with just one strike? Who........... Did Zuellni have such a Military Artist? She couldn't think of anyone else. She didn't hear of anyone killing numerous larvae in the previous fight.

"Only he can solve this problem. That's the truth."

"Bu......"

She felt that Layfon was becoming more and more unreachable. She already knew the distance between them was too large. She was doing her best to catch up to him.........now it felt like she wasn't even permitted to catch up. Nina's feet moved as if they were trying to stop themselves.

"But......"

"He wanted you guys to go, and wanted you guys to make preparations first."

"Huh?"

"Ask him. So what do you want to do?" Karian asked.

Silence descended. Everyone could hear Karian's voice, but no one said anything. They all waited for Nina's reply.

"I'm not going."

"Oh......" Curiosity came through Karian's voice. "That isn't like you."

"I have something else to do."

Layfon had said that only Nina could do it. Go to Zuellni.........The Electronic Fairy of the city was also called Zuellni. Other people knew of that as a fact, but none of them had experienced that knowledge. That was the meaning behind Layfon's words.

Nina's feet moved again. He said he trusted her. Only she would think of doing something about the unusual actions of the Electronic Fairy. So she had to do something about it.

"Then what do we do? Do you need help?" Sharnid asked.

"Don't know, but......I think he needs reinforcements. Go to Layfon."

"Roger......We believe in you?"

"Of course."

It was strange for Sharnid to say that kind of thing.

"Though I don't know what you're planning......Smooth sailing."

"As you like," Karian said.

Nina took a big leap. She jumped over several buildings and landed on the ground. This was her first time coming to the Mechanical Department during the day. She entered the place through the entrance reserved for staff.



The bike had only been in use for four hours before Layfon and the others arrived at their destination. This place was the closest in the arid wilderness. The place had sunk into a valley, and a number of huge bodies laid on the angled slope, half buried in the ground, stirring. Filth monsters.

"First and second phase......"

"Exactly~" Haia nodded at Layfon.

It seemed the mother had given birth to the larvae here. Since no cities were around, the mother must have become the larvae's food. Intense fights over her had taken place.

"Twelve of them," Fermaus' electronic voice reported.

"The same as the information we got before."

The beginning number must be about 100 or so. Most of them died in the growing stage from being unable to adapt to eating pollutants, and from fighting and consuming each other for survival. Only twelve filth monsters were left, and they showed signs of waking due to the close proximity of a city.

"If we had come any later, these guys would have headed straight for the city~" Haia waved his hand and the subordinates standing behind him spread out.

"Next......Our contract is to defeat half of the filth monsters, so six of them."

"I know," Layfon nodded coldly and took out the Adamantium Dite and the Sapphire Dite. The sword handles could be combined as before. Kirik had told him the combination of the alloys.

Layfon had heard from Karian. The Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang moved between cities on their roaming bus. They fought filth monsters in their travels. Karian was dealing with the Mercenary Gang because of the filth monsters, but Zuellni didn't have enough money to pay the amount that Haia had raised in the deal. An Academy City's main income derived from the data of research, new techniques, new inventions. Although it was a place of immature people, senior students had a certain level of knowledge in the research area. They researched and obtained new data for the city they were in, but their contribution was also meaningful to other cities because Academy Cities profited by selling data to each other. However, Academy Cities didn't aim to make profits, so if a profit was made, that was used on students' living.

Zuellni's current financial situation could not afford Haia's price. Hence, Karian suggested a compromise. He named the amount he could pay, and Haia named the number of Mercenary Gang members to participate in the fight, and Haia then decided on how many monsters they could handle, leaving the rest for Zuellni to manage. And Zuellni's representative was Layfon.

"I'm giving you half. Hunt whatever way you like," Layfon said.

".........That's revolting," Haia said, displeased. Layfon's mind was already elsewhere and didn't hear him.

"Don't be like that. A Heaven's Blade successor is like that," Fermaus said. "Holding a Heaven's Blade means he isn't allowed to follow the level of anyone around him. He has to act alone even if he has comrades with him. That's a Heaven's Blade successor. Only other Heaven's Blades are allowed to stand beside him."

"Tsk. An end without cooperation. If I held the Heaven's Blade, it wouldn't be like that," Haia said as if he was spitting something.

Layfon put the rod-like Dites into the slots of his Dite, and ran his Kei through it.

"Restoration AD."

The Adamantium Dite increased in weight, its shape changing.

"That guy........." Layfon frowned at the restored Dite. Kirik said Layfon was stubborn, but he himself was the same. Layfon was indeed holding a sword. The blade was slightly curved but it still was a sword. The blade was sharper and more solid than the blade before, and it didn't hold the special quality of a Katana.

"Well, only that point is different. The shape is the same as before."

With this blade, he could easily slice open a filth monster's hard shell.

"Next........."

Time to go? His mind flew back to earlier.

(Mei, can she do it?)

He didn't think she'd ignore his request. It was difficult to enter the Locker Room during a match. If she could get them out of the Locker Room smoothly......

"Hey, wait a bit more. They're softer when they're awake~"

A filth monster's shell became much denser and harder during the monster's dormant period. A hard shell would hinder a filth monster's movement, so the shell tended to soften up when the monster was awake. Another saying went that the shell was harder in the filth monster's sleep to prevent other filth monsters from eating it. Was it really true.........

The filth monsters stirred, half buried in the ground. They should have felt Zuellni's closeness. Perhaps the shells really were softening to allow greater flexibility.

"......It's all right if I just clean up my part."

"Ugh. Allow me to show you the beautiful cooperation of my team. You just shut up and see," Haia said, bending down from the rock he was on.

Layfon originally intended to ignore him, but.........

[Please wait a moment more.] Fermaus' voice stopped his feet from moving. He glanced at Haia. It appeared he hadn't heard Fermaus.

[I'm only speaking to you.]

"Why?" Layfon asked in a low voice.

[Haia's interested in you. Ryuhou always mentioned you. He was happy that you were given a Heaven's Blade, as if you were his own apprentice.]

An electronic voice that should be devoid of any feelings, but Layfon felt nostalgia in that voice.

"You......"

[I knew Ryuhou since I was little. Well, he was older than me. I had also met Derek......Don't know whether he could recognize me with my looks as they are now.]

Layfon recalled Fermaus' face without the mask.

[I wanted to meet you, but I gave up. We didn't intend to return to Grendan soon. I never guessed we'd meet this way.]

".........What does the Queen want with the Haikizoku?"

Since he couldn't ask Haia, he turned the question to Fermaus. This current situation was due to the Haikizoku. Best if it disappeared. However, he wouldn't feel any more relaxed if the Haikizoku was taken to Grendan because Leerin and Derek were there.

[What she wants......I want to know too. The Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang was formed to find the Haikizoku. Our mission remains the same even if our leader changes. This is a secret among the royalty.]

"So the Mercenary Gang has been following that order and seeking the Haikizoku?"

[Well.........It felt like a heavy mission in the first stage of the Mercenary Gang, but the feeling has become less urgent in Ryuhou's generation. Besides, Ryuhou didn't join the Mercenary Gang for that reason.]

"Huh?"

[Ryuhou just wanted to travel.]

Layfon failed to reply to that unexpected answer.

[He always sighed that because of him, Derek wasn't able to leave......He was really happy when he heard Derek's apprentice had become a Heaven's Blade successor.]

"............"

But that apprentice did something to taint the name of Psyharden.

[That's why Haia hates you.]

"Why?"

The thought of himself tainting Psyharden flashed in his head.

[No, that's not it.] Fermaus denied as if he had predicted Layfon's thinking. He might have read Layfon's expression with Psychokinesis.

[Haia wasn't born in Grendan. He was an orphan and Ryuhou picked him up. Haia was very full of himself, but he fell under Ryuhou's influence. He and Ryuhou had developed a father and son relationship. No one wants to see his own parent praising another child, right?]

"I don't get it."

Layfon was also an orphan, so he didn't understand the feeling between a father and his son. But he understood it wasn't anything funny when Derek praised other apprentices.

[Haia wants to take the Haikizoku back to Grendan so he can take the Heaven's Blade. He wants to prove whatever Derek's apprentice can achieve, Ryuhou's apprentice can do it as well.]

Fermaus laughed. It felt strange and itchy to hear that electronic laughter.

A feeling between family members? No.........How should he put it......Layfon held his hand, confused by his own feelings. Another voice suddenly cut in.

[What're you doing?]

Felli's voice was icy. But it was comforting to him as he was used to it.

"Felli......Senpai," Remembering that Fermaus was still listening, he hurriedly added 'senpai'.

[It'll take a while for my flake to arrive so I'm borrowing this flake.] Dissatisfaction filled her voice.

[Incredible.] The electronic voice sounded. The flake beside Layfon held Psychokinesis from two different people.

[You didn't cut off my Psychokinesis but merged yours with mine? Brilliant. I can interfere with another's use of Psychokinesis, but I've never heard of using it this way.]

[Sorry, but......] Felli's voice was lighter than usual when she responded to Fermaus' excitement. [I've something to say to this hopeless idiot. Unrelated people please leave.]

[Ah......]

Fermaus didn't say anything else. It appeared Felli had completely taken over the flake. Though she wasn't physically here, it felt like she and Layfon were alone, together. The discordant and tense atmosphere descended on him. That was Felli's anger.

"Uh......I'm sorry."

[Never mind. I understand.........I'm deeply shocked by Zuellni's level.]

"That's not it," he shook his head, relieved that she understood him. "This is an Academy City. It must be common."

[......How troublesome.] She then told him of what happened with the 17th platoon. [Then why did you call us over?]

Why did he call them over when their strength wasn't enough to fight filth monsters?

"To watch."

[Watch?]

"The fight. My style of fighting isn't useful, but the Mercenary Gang's is. Felli, I'd be happy if you recorded as much as you can."

Young Military Artists at Grendan would watch the fights of veterans. They'd fight after feeling the atmosphere of the fight and the horror of filth monsters. They'd prepare themselves mentally for the fight, and figure out their own styles. This was a habit only seen in Grendan because of Grendan's numerous contacts with filth monsters.

[It'll be difficult to turn the images in my head into video images......I can record the images from the helmet though.]

"Please. If only Sharnid senpai and everyone else saw it, Captain would get angry......"

[Please don't say something that'd make me not want to prepare for this.]

"Huh?"

[A joke. Then I'll relay this to them.]

"Yes, please tell them where to wait and watch. How long until you get here?"

[I can start recording when I see the battle. When my flake arrives, it can record the entire fight.]

Layfon nodded. "Then I'm counting on you."

[Let this flake be your aid.]

The vision dimmed in Layfon's helmet and immediately turned into a colorful world.

"This really is better."

[......I won't forgive you even if you praise me. And please don't force yourself.]

"I know."

Felli didn't say anything. She must be relaying the message to Sharnid.

"Next......"

His preparation was done.

(Next is to trust the Captain in that.)

He worried about the Captain more than his impending fight. While he was thinking of this, the situation over at Zuellni came through. Felli deliberately left it out of her report to Layfon.



Nina descended into the center of the Mechanical Department on the lift that was fenced waist-high. As the lift stopped, she ran out of it. The time was dusk, and there were no other cleaners around. Almost all of the workers here were in the Resting Room. Nina ran without worrying about knocking over people. No one else was around.

Zuellni was on a rampage. She couldn't believe it. That young girl on a rampage? But it was true that the city was heading straight for filth monsters when it should be avoiding them. Layfon was now fighting because of that.

(Damn, just what's happened?)

She was running now because of that reality. Nina didn't have to doubt.

(A child that gentle.......)

She and Zuellni met for the first time when she started working at the Mechanical Department. She didn't' know Zuellni as long as she knew Harley, but Zuellni was her first friend since entering the Academy City. Zuellni was important to her, and this had nothing to do with the amount of time they had spent together.

"Something bad has happened."

She didn't think Zuellni would want to be like this. She stopped, a figure floating up in her mind. Thick metallic plates stood before her. A small hill piled with a number of metal plates....... The center.

"Zuellni!" Nina could only call as she walked around the hill. She didn't see an entrance into the hill.

"Zuellni!"

The sound of mechanisms working drowned out her voice. A feeling of something suppressive rushed up her chest. Her heartbeat quickened. Was she tense? Excited. She put a hand on her chest, realizing the emotions inside her.

"......What is this."

Unrelated to her consciousness and the situation, her body was becoming excited. Her consciousness and her body seemed to go in different directions. Her body temperature rose as if blood was draining from her head.

"Uh......" Her legs weakened and she put a hand on the metal plate. And then......

"What?"

The support beneath her hand folded inward. Nina fell, reacted instinctively, and rolled on the fallen plate. The plate lay on an angle and Nina slid down on it. Her shoulder hit the floor and stopped her movement. The slide wasn't a long one.

"This is......the inside." Nina never thought she'd enter the hill this way. She stood up and confirmed her surroundings. She thought she was in total darkness when she rolled down the plate, but it wasn't entirely dark in here. Dim light pulsated in the middle of the small space. Gold and green light flowed, slowly chasing away the darkness. The light made Nina dizzy. Her heart still beating fast. She felt uncomfortable.

"Is it here......"

Without waiting for Kei to help her body recover, she took a step in the direction of the light. Nina walked around the light and discovered the space wasn't as big as she thought. The face exuding the light greeted her.

"Zuellni!"

A gem sat on an enormous pedestal cut out by machinery. The base of the pedestal was about the height of Nina's waist. It was wide enough for four to five people to surround it with hand touching hand. The gem on the pedestal was in its raw uncut form. Several tubes extended from the base of the pedestal. Calcite stuck on the gem here and there, transparent like the surface of calm water. Zuellni was in there. But Nina wasn't sure whether it really was Zuellni.

"......What is this?"

Nina's voice trembled.

Zuellni's pupils had lost their focus. Nina didn't know what was inside the gem, but she saw the girl form of Zuellni floating, as if her hands and feet were stretching out. As if she was dead. A chill ran down Nina's back.

"Why is it here?"

A huge creature with golden hair and branching horns stood behind Zuellni inside the gem. A male goat. The Haikizoku.

"You......Why are you here!?" Nina shouted and snatched out her Dite. She restored it, and urged by outrage and dizziness, she used her Kei. Her iron whips struck the gem, giving off a crisp sound. Green and golden light weaved together like a heart beating. They swayed and instantly vanished into normality.

"Fu!" Rebounded into the air, she did a backflip and landed. She continued to strike the gem but failed to do any damage to it. No.........

(Something pushes me away before I strike the gem.)

That was what she felt.

(Then......? Damn.)

Felli's flake should be in here. Nina could ask her to analyze the gem. Maybe Felli was already running an analysis.

But she didn't ask the Psychokinesist on her team. She suppressed her instinctive urge to call Felli by breathing in deeply.

(Isn't Layfon also alone?) She thought.

Outrage caused her to briefly forget herself. The dissatisfaction she had up till now was gone. She didn't attack the gem again.

(This might affect Zuellni.)

This was the center of the Mechanical Department. If she destroyed it, the city might cease functioning. Outrage made her forget herself, and she realized that in that instant, she might have ended up damaging the city itself. Horror filled her. But what should she do.........

"My......"

"......!"

A voice filled her head. Her body turned stiff.

"My body is already rotten. It is useless. Driven by the madness of hatred, I turned into flame. I now seek a new master for a new purpose. You whom I hope for, obey my wish. Possess my spirit and show my value. As such, I'll turn the Ashes of Ignasis into a sword, and eliminate all your enemies."

Layfon had heard of these words from the Haikizoku in the ruined city. Now these words were directed to Nina for the first time.

"You.........You can speak? The Ashes of Ignasis? What're you saying?"

She didn't understand the Haikizoku's words, but she quickly chased away that puzzle. She understood some of it because of what happened in the match with the 10th platoon.

"You, you're looking for someone so you can fight filth monsters? Is that why you're doing this to Zuellni?"

"In order to obtain the person who can hold my spirit, I now take action."

"What......?"

"The situation will help a person change and grow," it said curtly and fell silent.

(To change and grow......)

Nina was only puzzled for a while, then realization flooded through her.

"Could......Could you be making us fight filth monsters!?"

People could become strong by being forced into fights. They couldn't survive if they weren't strong. Electronic Fairies protected their city and their people. If the Electronic Fairy was taken away......... And if the city itself headed for filth monsters.........Then people had to continuously fight filth monsters to survive.

"Ridiculous.........The city will die."

A city would face constant danger of annihilation if it continued to fight filth monsters. That was why Regios moved to avoid filth monsters.

"If a person can possess me, then many more people will be saved by the Ashes of Ignasis."

"That is.........That isn't a logical theory," Nina groaned. How could it say that destroying Zuellni was all right for the sake of finding a new master? It had possessed Dinn before.

"I won't let you do what you want here.........Let Zuellni go!"

The sight of Zuellni's dead posture increased the impatience and worry in her.

"My determination is infinite."

The Haikizoku stirred within the gem.

"But you possess a strange feeling."

CSR vol05 227.jpg

"Wh, what......?"

"You who thinks of protecting the city, come and try. Even though you do not have the will to feed me, I'll bet on that feeling of yours."

"Wh......"

Though she didn't understand what the Haikizoku meant, she felt the danger and readied her stance to defend herself. But it was meaningless. The Haikizoku vanished the next second when her iron whips blocked her line of sight to the gem. And quickly.........

"What, Ah......"

She felt something filling her chest......

"Can, can this be......"

It was forcing itself into her. The hole she didn't know she had in her chest was being stuffed full. Her consciousness started to fade as she felt herself drowning.

(Can this be......)

Was this what Dinn felt............?

"St, stop it!"

Only Felli heard Nina's scream. She didn't know what happened next as her Psychokinesis couldn't reach it. Felli conveyed the event to Karian so he could send people over to the Mechanical Department. She didn't tell Layfon about it.



"Next......" Haia stood up on the huge rock. The filth monsters had awakened from their dormant stage, spreading their wings.

"About time to go," he murmured as the other Mercenary Gang members increased their Kei without exciting the filth monsters.

"How's it over there?" Layfon asked Felli.

[The preparation is completed.]

"You don't have to record me......Actually, better if you don't record it."

[I know. Even if I want to, it's not possible to make you a target.]

Felli's words were as unforgiving as ever. He smiled bitterly as he confirmed the movements of the filth monsters. The filth monsters should have already discovered him and the others by smell. Will they take the bait here or fly straight for the more plentiful Zuellni.........

"Then please watch."

[Don't force yourself.] That was Sharnid's voice.

Layfon spoke to Haia. "We have to time our fights. It'll be troublesome if even one filth monster heads for Zuellni."

"Who're you talking to?" Excitement showed through Haia's voice. He laughed. "We're hunting dogs on a battlefield. Don't take us for little dogs that need to be taught how to take a bite."

"I can tell you how to fight," Layfon shouldered the huge sword in his hand. Haia took the same posture with his Katana.

"I'll reap them all."

And External Kei burst out of Layfon. The Kei shattered the ground before him as it swept up the dust and swallowed the filth monsters.

"Time for the hunt!" Haia roared and ran out, moving at high speed with his body close to the ground.

"Restoration 02."

Layfon's Sapphire Dite became steel threads. Looking at the filth monster that first flew out of the dust cloud, he used Whirl Kei – a variation of Internal Kei. The rock underneath him broke into pieces as he jumped. The filth monster's body curved like a snake, its wings beating in repeated motions to lift the filth monster into the sky. Layfon's sword chopped into its exposed chin.

The hard shell cracked easily. The power of the Whirl Kei remained steady. He leaned his body onto the sword, and using his own weight pushed the sword through, cutting through the filth monster's body. The enemy collapsed and fell. Layfon landed, his momentum carrying him across the ground. The dust surrounding him did not hinder his vision since he had Felli's support. He slid to a stop and turned around to feel his surroundings with the steel threads. He still had five filth monsters to defeat. He confirmed that all five were caught in his steel threads, then he let go of the Sapphire Dite.

The handle of the Sapphire Dite was immediately lifted into the air. It stopped in midair, then shook violently. External Kei assaulted the newly awakened filth monsters. The enemies struggled, pulling the threads this way and that. None of the five filth monsters managed to get an advantage, and their respective struggles kept the handle in balance. The filth monsters in turn lost their own balance and fell back onto the ground.

"Next......!" As Layfon was about to let loose the Internal Kei building up inside him, he kneeled down at the sudden pain on his back.

[Fon Fon!]

Embarrassed at being called by this name, Layfon felt like laughing.

"Don't worry. The wound on my back's just opened a bit."

[That's not a bit.]

"A bit. It hurts, but my protective suit is still intact."

CSR vol05 233.jpg

A battle with a time limit was better than a damaged protective suit.

Knee still bent, he shot into the air with a burst of Internal Kei. He landed on a filth monster that had flown out of the dust cloud.

"You can't stop here. It's your death when you stop."

Now that he stood here, Layfon had no time to worry about his own body.

One swing of his sword chopped off the head of the filth monster. The sword's sharpness was unquestionable. It wouldn't overheat so easily like last time and the cutting path was accurate. Layfon wasn't at his best body condition, but he felt energized. Standing on the dead filth monster, he lifted his head to gaze at the sky. The sky always seemed rusty-red to him when he fought filth monsters. The pollutant density was higher than usual. Perhaps there was some truth in Fermaus' words.

"I feel good......Today, I can even cut open the sky."

[Forget that and hurry up with finishing the rest!] Felli scolded. He smiled bitterly.

"Got it."

He leapt from the descending head of the filth monster and saw his next opponent. This filth monster had just finished biting his sibling's head into pieces. It turned around. Head pointed to the ground and toes to the sky, Layfon leaned the tip of his sword on the steel thread to stop himself from falling. One end of the threads sustained the tension of the filth monsters' struggle. His sword slid on the taut thread towards the Sapphire Dite. He grabbed hold of the handle of his blue Dite......

"Tsk!"

He lost his balance. The Kei he had put earlier into the steel threads had been exhausted. The filth monsters recovered their freedom one by one. They pulled Layfon towards them. Using that momentum, he turned the Sapphire Dite back into its Dite form, took down two handles from it and put them back into his weapon harness.

"Restoration 01."

Layfon held the Sapphire Dite in his left hand as the steel threads vanished. He was flying towards two filth monsters that were turning around and heading in his direction. He calmly took out the two Dites placed in the slots of the Adamantium Dite and placed another Dite into one of the slots.

"Restoration AD."

He restored it again. The blade stretched into a length as long as Layfon was tall. The tip of the blade was in the shape of a crescent moon. A weapon that was like a halberd. The end of the handle was attached to the Sapphire Dite.

External Burst Type Kei – Gajiya.

The halberd drew a circle as if drawing Layfon in too, and it met the filth monster's long chin on the path of the circular movement, cutting away its obstacle. This was the Heaven's Blade successor Cauntia's technique. Having passed the filth monster, Layfon increased his speed as he spun around, widening the halberd's range and cutting down a part of the filth monster's body. Lastly, he took down the enemy's wing and prevented it from flying. Layfon used the momentum of his external Kei to rebound down towards the ground, chasing after the two other filth monsters. He took down the Sapphire Dite from the handle of the Adamantium Dite.

He attacked the uninjured filth monster.

External burst type variation – Bakushikou.

When the sword was about to stab deep into the body of the filth monster, the tip of the blade caused an explosion and blew a huge hole in the filth monster's abdomen. Layfon leaped through that hole and changed the Adamantium Dite into the huge sword. He also changed the Sapphire Dite into steel threads and spread the threads around.

Two more filth monsters left. One of them was already waiting for him with gigantic teeth. In the chin behind the huge teeth was a hole where smaller teeth sat next to one another without gaps in between them. The filth monster ate by pulling its prey into its mouth with the lower jaw, sucking it in, and grinding it down with the smaller teeth before swallowing. Floating in midair. Layfon ignored the theory of strong and weak and descended. His steel threads connected him to the ground. Another filth monster's long body flew above his head. Its legs, hidden in hard shells, stretched down to grab him, but they were either cut down by or bounced off Layfon's blade. Layfon's steel threads wrapped around the filth monster above him as he once again stood on a steel thread in midair.

The other filth monster headed for him with its mouth opened wide. Saliva dripped from its mouth. He took out two Dites from his sword. The steel thread pulled taut as the filth monster above him struggled to break free. He leaped off the steel thread and swung with the Adamantium Dite.

External Burst type Kei – Sendan.

A massive amount of condensed external Kei shot out of the sword. The filth monster received it head on with its mouth opened. The external Kei cut the enemy in half. The internal organs of the filth monster fell in a circle with Layfon in the middle. Suddenly, the steel thread anchored in the ground was pulled loose, sending him flying past the filth monster that was originally above him. He grabbed the handle of the Sapphire Dite to prevent it from falling, and flipped around to face the final filth monster that was now beneath him. He put a Dite into the slot in the Adamantium Dite. This time he cut his enemy in half at a horizontal angle. The abdomen he stood on landed first. Layfon jumped away from the abdomen, to keep away from getting caught in its landing. He used the weight of the Adamantium Dite to cushion his own landing. The upper half of the severed filth monster's body kept moving forward but it slowly descended as the wings lost their speed.

Layfon took a deep breath to calm the Internal Kei roiling inside him. He had defeated all six filth monsters. He didn't release all his Kei, since the battle hadn't finished. The Dites also remained in their restored forms.

"Thanks for the good work," Felli said through the flake.

"No matter how many times I see you, you're still incredible," Sharnid said. It seemed Felli had opened up a communication channel between them.

"It's still unbelievable even though I just saw it," Naruki said.

"......Is this a dream?"

That was Dalshena's voice. Though Layfon heard Sharnid had invited her to join the team for the inter-platoon match, he didn't think she'd come here.

"No.........Forget about me. Please look at the other fight."

Feeling slightly shy, Layfon turned his gaze to the remaining fight.

Leading the Mercenary Gang, Haia was fighting with his all. Their fight was a product of cooperation. The Mercenary Gang members acted as bait to draw the filth monsters into separate fights, preventing them from leaving and flying for Zuellni. Haia was fighting against one of the filth monsters on his own. His Dite had been repaired, maintaining its original Katana form. Enveloped in Kei, the blade lashed out at the filth monster's shell without holding back. The amount of Kei was smaller than Layfon's, so he needed to strike several times to break that shell.

"Beautiful," Sharnid said. "I quite understand what you want us to see."

"But, that......" Dalshena said. Layfon knew what she didn't get to say.

"It's not impossible to aim for my level, but do you think the current students can manage it?" Layfon asked.

"Uh......" Dalshena couldn't respond.

"The way these Military Artists fight is how to fight filth monsters. This is the correct method. Mine is being a moron without any strategies."

He looked at Haia's fight. Haia's skill was similar to his. Layfon won in the fight against him because of a small difference. He didn't think the probability of a victory against Haia would increase exponentially if he held a Katana. That was what it meant to fight Haia who had learned all the Psyharden techniques. Could he become a Heaven's Blade successor.........? From Layfon's viewpoint, Haia had no problem except for his lack of Kei. If he had wanted, he could have fought against all six filth monsters alone. But he didn't do that. His probability of death was drastically reduced through the support of other members.

"In my fight, one wrong step means death. I could die from every single mistake I make. I don't have anyone to cover for those mistakes of mine......"

In fact, his mistake in the previous fight against the aged phase monster had damaged his Dite and left him in grave danger. Who knew what would have happened had Nina not shown up.

Felli and the others kept silent.

"I want you to see this. Results won't be immediate. But we can try again and again. I hope to fight together."

Nina told him how they felt when he was acting recklessly. What he did would worry them. If they helped him, his probability of death would be reduced, wouldn't it?

"You just said something very heavy," Sharnid broke the silence.

"Sorry."

"......But it doesn't feel bad to have you depend on us."

"Same here, if I can become your strength."

"Of course," Layfon nodded at Naruki's reply.

"Shena, this is the 17th platoon."

"Uh?"

"Not bad, right?"

"Humph."

Layfon couldn't tell what expression Dalshena held, but he could discern Sharnid trying to suppress his laughter.

Sharnid's attitude turned relaxed. "Nina'll definitely agree to another camp if we say it this way. This way, we can finish what we failed to accomplish in the last camp."

"Huh?"

"Moron. Still don't get it? The bath. The bath. It's naked girls playing in water and having something unexpected happen......then us seeing it!"

"Wh......!"

Naruki's voice. Layfon felt as if Felli's level of Psychokinesis had dropped.

"............I think you should start your life over. From before zero."

"............I knew you were an idiot, but I didn't know it was to this level."

Layfon heard the sound of a Dite being restored on the other side of the flake.

"No, hey, hey, hey. Wait up. I was joking. Joking. Besides, Layfon was involved too."

"Don't get me caught up in it."

A swift moment of concentrated murderous intent. Layfon pretended he didn't sense it. In truth, he didn't remember participating in such a scheme.

"Hey, hey, don't be so cold. On the first night of camp, didn't we convey our determination by exchanging a glance?"

"No. That didn't happen," he said.

"You're so cold," Sharnid sighed.

"Don't involve others in your foolishness!" Dalshena shouted. Sharnid groaned.

Layfon pretended he didn't hear and turned the Dite back into its unrestored form. The fights of the Mercenary Gang had finished. Haia and his members prepared to return to Zuellni. Layfon headed for his bike.

(What would the captain think?) He suddenly thought. He had a feeling of being abandoned when Nina said she didn't plan to forfeit the match. It was like he wasn't needed in the 17th platoon. But he knew Nina wouldn't think like that. That was his trust in her. He only felt lonely.

He was the one who wanted them to become strong, so he was ashamed of himself for feeling lonely. Hence he wanted Nina and the rest of the team to see this battle. Help them become strong. They must see the battle for themselves.

(No, probably not.) Layfon shook his head, rejecting the probability of himself wanting to stand out. (I just want to fit in.)

So he let them see his fight, the fight that showed how Grendan fought, and the battle of the Mercenary Gang.

"Anyway, let's return."

Back to Zuellni where Nina, Felli, Meishen and the others waited.

He wanted them to see him more clearly.........Layfon mounted his bike.


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