Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume7 Chapter1

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Chapter 1: Either Way, I Won't Say It

In the end, nothing was explained about the disappearance of Nina Antalk, how she returned, or about the time she was away when Zuellni went on a rampage. It must have been because of the Haikizoku. It wasn't that hard for Naruki to figure out. She had understood the gist of things when she fought the 10th platoon. Some strange existence that resembled an animal had possessed Dinn Dee, and the leader of the Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang, Haia, had called it the Haikizoku. An electronic Fairy of a ruined city that held a heart full of hatred against filth monsters. It gave its power to strong-willed Military Artists. An insane Electronic Fairy.

Dinn hadn't resisted that power, and he now lay in the hospital, his consciousness gone. He had the strong will to protect the city but he didn't have strength to realize his dream. He had taken illegal drugs to strengthen his Kei vein, and he was then possessed and controlled by the Haikizoku. A real pity.

But the current Naruki could now understand Dinn's feelings. Zuellni going on a rampage had greatly saddened her. The reason behind the numerous filth monster attacks was a secret to many people, but Naruki, having entered the 17th platoon, saw Layfon's reaction. When he heard news of Nina's disappearance, that reaction of his wasn't just simple anxiety. He hadn't gone to school, and when Naruki occasionally ran into him, all she saw was tiredness on his face. He didn't even have the strength to cover up his exhaustion.

In the days when Nina wasn't around, Naruki directly felt the power of Layfon and those who were on about the same level as him. They weren't afraid even when they were facing filth monsters head-on. Layfon continued to fight with an overwhelming power. And because Naruki was assigned with him, she saw the intensity of his fighting and his exhaustion.

Naruki had participated in two fights against filth monsters since the time the Student President had called all students together. During the first time, she had received the order to retreat to Zuellni. A filth monster that could speak human languages had appeared and quickly disappeared like lightning. The second time was when Nina returned. Naruki was given the assignment to stop a filth monster's movements. That action of binding the filth monster for one short moment was extremely important, and it also took everything Naruki had to execute. Whereas Layfon managed to fight a countless number of filth monsters and destroy most of them at the same time.

Dinn must have felt this sense of impotence a long time ago, the impotence that Naruki had felt in battle. Hence, in order to reach his goal, Dinn had to train himself daily and endlessly....... To the point of using Kei vein drugs and ending up bringing himself a sad ending.

Naruki wouldn't choose his path. Besides, she belonged to the City Police. Her wish was to graduate and join the Police Force in her home city. Witnessing Dinn's end, an end that failed to protect anything, had deepened Naruki's denial of Dinn's chosen path. She wouldn't take his road because she didn't have the confidence to see a different ending.

Zuellni's rampage stopped on the day of Nina's return. Considering how Zuellni went on a rampage on the day of Nina's disappearance.........

(The Captain knows something.)

And......Naruki also thought of the Haikizoku. It must be linked to Zuellni's past condition. Perhaps the Haikizoku's hatred against filth monsters had caused Zuellni to lose control and head for filth monsters. No matter how bad the Haikizoku was, no matter how mad it was, it was in essence an Electronic Fairy.

(The Captain must have done something on the day when she went missing.)

A wave of cheering spread out in the sports hall, pulling Naruki back to reality.

It hadn't been a week since the wave of filth monster attacks. An audience stand was built in the sports hall, since the hall was also used by other societies. Naruki came here today to cheer in a certain competition.

"Ah, the White team has won two rounds," Harley said in quiet despair.

"The White team does have the advantage at first, but it's about time......" Sharnid called as he watched the arena.

Layfon, Felli and Dalshena were also here. The groups of people among the audience stand watching the fight were all platoon members or people related to the platoons.

Nina was in the arena.

"But what's the point of holding a match at this hour? I haven't heard of such an activity before," Dalshena said, cheering for the Red team.

Nina was waiting to enter the match as the 7th member of the Red team. All Captains from the 1st to the 17th platoon were fighting in an elimination match in Red and White teams. Without the Captain of the 10th platoon, the count of the remaining Captains numbered 16. Naturally, the captain of the Red team was Vance, and the position for captain of the White team fell on Gorneo. The rest of the captains drew lots to determine the order of their matches. The choice of the lead attacker was decided by the rank of previous platoon matches. And the result of who went on which team came about by nothing but chance.

"Well, let's just call this the festival to the conclusion of the platoon matches."

"Just for that? They have time for this when time is all we don't have."

"There must be some consideration behind it, for example, assigning whom to what position........."

"Didn't we already know that during platoon matches......"

The conversation between Sharnid, Dalshena and Harley quieted down after the signal sounded for the match to begin.


Naruki looked at Layfon. She didn't feel any doubt from him about the matches. His tension was gone. Instead, he now sat at ease like his usual self as he observed the progress of the match. It felt that he was more at ease now because Nina had returned safely. Totally different from before. Naruki wasn't sure whether her speculation was right. He had just returned to the Layfon that she knew......He was like that originally. Too bothered by how unusual he had become, Naruki had forgotten what his usual self was like. She had lost confidence in her memory.

(Does Layfon know?)

Did he know why Nina disappeared and how Nina returned? And did the people sitting beside him know too? Felli and everyone else. Did they notice anything? Or did they already know something? Was Naruki the only person left out in the team? Her strength was the weakest in the platoon. She still found it unbelievable that she was wearing a platoon badge, so she wouldn't find it strange if they kept her in the dark.

The match had entered its second half while she was deep in thought. It was finally time for Nina to fight. The Red team's third participant had stopped the team from gaining a third loss. Nina now had to fight against the White team's 7th participant. That person was the captain of the 14th platoon Shin Kaihan.

"Ho ho, it's my first time to cross blades with you after the platoon match."

"Please look after me."

"I remember you trained with me daily when you first joined the platoon. What a tiring new member........."

That was before the 17th platoon was formed. Shin wasn't yet a captain, and as a senpai in the 14th platoon, he helped with Nina's training. Shin was the same as the captain of the 14th platoon back then. They liked to help people. That was why nobody objected to his becoming the captain. And Nina had thought she would follow him. Not only did Shin look after his juniors, but he was also powerful in strength. In truth, the 14th platoon ranked the third on the chart.

"Oh yes, I heard a talent scout had contacted Winse. I'm a bit envious. Who knows what he'd do."

Winse was the captain of the 3rd platoon. It seemed a talent scout had contacted him before the 3rd platoon fought the 16th platoon.

"But I think they actually want you more. If you're serious, the captain of the White team might get tense."

The ranking of platoon matches determined the captain of the teams. Gorneo's 5th platoon defeated Shin's 14th platoon in the match. Shin's words meant that Nina had a chance to win against Gorneo.

"Thanks for your evaluation, but........."

She was happy of his evaluation. And it meant much to her since it came from Shin.

"But.........I'm prouder of being a member of the 17th platoon."

Shin smiled bitterly, "Nina really is Nina. Well then, let's begin."

"Yes."


The match began.

Keeping a distance from Shin, Nina crossed the iron whips before her. Shin's weapon was a sword. A thin blade that was made for the advantage of its speed. Kei enveloped Shin and ran into the blade. A Sapphire Dite was good with conductivity whereas a Ruby Dite was good as a tool for creating Karen Kei. As for the last Dite of the three – its quality determined by the amount of black alloy in it – the Emerald Dite was best at gathering Kei.

Shin turned the blade upward to point at Nina. It was a posture that Nina was familiar with.

(He wants to win with one move.)

His upper body seemed to lean inward as his hands embraced the handle of the sword for a sudden stab.........

Here it came.

External-type Burst Kei variation – Tenha.

A move that released the Kei gathered on one point in the blade.

"!"

(Can't avoid it!)

In a swift second of judgment, Nina ran Kei through her entire body. Internal Kei variation – Kongoukei. A move that gathered Kei in the targeted area to bounce off the attack. A high level defensive move that required accurate judgment.

The external Kei rushed past the iron whips to hammer her chest.

"Urgh........." Nina moaned, unable to cancel the entire impact of Shin's attack.

"........." Shin silently observed her reaction. He usually talked a lot, but he had turned solemn the moment he stepped into battle. This side of him remained unchanged.

(But that attack.........)

A chill ran down her back.


She could evade that attack when she was in the 14th platoon and in the platoon match. But Shin had dealt an attack today that had far exceeded the speed that Nina had known.

(Has Senpai become so strong in such a short time?)

The attack she received could have ended the match if she hadn't learned the technique of Kongoukei from Layfon. She didn't even have spare time to counterattack. But Shin's attack did have a weak point.

(It takes too long to gather the Kei. He won't make it in close combat.)

Sure, his speed and power had increased, but he had spent too much time gathering Kei.

Nina ran to attack Shin's side. She would be using a move that everyone acknowledged as her special move.

(I'll show you how much I've grown!)

Shin blocked her first attack that swung down from the upper right, causing him to move a step to his right. Instead of following tradition and defending her chest with the left iron whip, Nina took advantage of force rebounded from Shin's defense and shot forth with her left fist. Shin backed off a few steps. There was a smell of something being burnt mixed into the air, a smell of the clash of a Dite and protein......Shin's fringe had been burnt.

Nina didn't stop. Taking the advantage, she shortened the distance between them. Shin backed off a little and leaped forward within a very short distance. He executed a second Tenha before his feet touched ground.

(So fast!)

Then why did he spend so long preparing for his first attack? Was it a trap? But Nina didn't have the time to ponder that now. Her opponent had a strong defense and an impenetrable attacking power. But Nina did what she always did. Step forward! Judging that Shin's Tenha wasn't as powerful as before, she put all her strength on the counterattack. No Kongoukei.

The assault coming from her left caused pain on her cheek as if her face had been split apart. But she did feel from her right wrist that she had hit something.

"Ugh........." Shin sat down in front of her as the judge called out her victory.

"Ah, my trick didn't work," Shin stood up, swaying, his hand on his injured shoulder.

"You've become strong.........Is it because of them?" He looked at the 17th platoon in the audience stand.

"Yeah," Nina nodded proudly.


Naruki relaxed. Harley shouted in excitement. Layfon smiled.

"Ha, beautifully done."

"Shin's Tenha is used for medium distance attacks. Drawing close to him is the correct strategy."

Having heard Sharnid and Dalshena's conversation, Naruki turned to Layfon in a small voice. "Is that right?"

"Yes. Looking at his posture, I think he can shoot even faster. His steps are also firm. If the Captain chose to defend then there'd have been quite a distance between them."

"Is that so........."

Layfon's explanation helped her to understand the comments of the other two.

"But I don't know whether the Captain did think of it."

"Eh?"

"It's hard to suddenly change your tactics. It's the same for your opponent. The Captain just chose the method she's best at. The captain of the 14th platoon must have abandoned his original methods in favor of trying out a new tactic. Otherwise, his strength shouldn't fluctuate that much."

Dalshena thought Nina's quick decision was the key to the victory, but Layfon thought Nina's lack of hesitation to shorten the distance between them was it.

"Powerful strength doesn't guarantee the winning of a match, especially with the Captain."

As he finished his sentence, the announcement came for the next match. This time Nina's opponent was the captain of the White team, Gorneo Luckens.

(Does that strength come from the Haikizoku?)

Everyone could tell Nina had become stronger. Her growth didn't come from a step by step training. Naruki knew before she joined the platoon. Most of the platoons had extra training besides the regular training sessions. She had seen some people faint by training too much, and she knew Layfon had accompanied Nina with her training. The result of this match was proof of Nina's training.

.........Was it really related to the Haikizoku? Nina had stopped Zuellni's rampage.........Did that mean she could use the power of the Haikizoku?

(Is this too premature a conclusion?)

Her speculation was possible, but where was the Haikizoku if that wasn't the case? Whom should Naruki ask......And who could give her an answer? And should she know of this? The management of Dinn left a question for her: What could she change even if she knew the truth? Who could have stopped Dinn if the Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang and Layfon weren't here?

(But......)

She couldn't just leave everything. Otherwise it was possible for Zuellni to go on a rampage again. It wasn't right to ignore the danger.

(Because normal people like Mei-chan and Mi-chan are in this city......)

The huge noise in the sports hall once again called her attention to reality.


Both of them moved at the sound of the signal.

Gorneo was the next stockiest person after Vance. One could feel the pressure just with him standing before you. The feeling of a difference of skill and physique would have defeated Nina if she let Gorneo's aura overtake her.

(In that case!)

Nina leaped forward as Gorneo moved towards her, pulling close the distance between them. Gorneo held a fist in front of his chest, and his fist seemed to look so much bigger than his body.

(Karen Kei!)

The left fist suddenly expanded. No, it was already here.

"Ugh......"

No time to evade! Nina could only block it with her right iron whip. A huge impact. The shrill sound of metal clashing. The heat of Gorneo's Kei brushed past her face.

(The right!)

No time to breathe. Gorneo's right fist gave an even heavier blow on her left iron whip. She originally intended to swing the whip down from top to bottom, but the impact of his fist had guided her force to another direction, causing her to lose her balance and fall forward. Gorneo never once stopped. He moved to Nina's side like the wind. Nina didn't even have the time to stand straight as she felt the rush of an attack behind her – a kick that could easily break a thick tree trunk. She leaped away with Kongoukei, using the momentum of her leap to touch ground and roll to her feet.

(I almost lost......)

But her opponent wasn't without a weakness. Gorneo was readying his stance for a more powerful move. Nina stood quite a distance from him but she could still feel the pressure of Kei building up in him. It appeared the next move would be decisive.

(What kind of a move is it?)

Gorneo's weapons were his limbs. Karen Kei was a Kei technique that aided the four limbs in using rich variations of Kei. A technique that maximized the potential of close combat fighting. However, this didn't mean that Gorneo was invulnerable to direct attacks.

The air called. Another left fist lashed out. It shouldn't be able to reach Nina from that distance.

"Urg......"

CSR vol07 027.jpg

But she did feel the heavy blow on the iron whips crossed before her.

(External Kei?)

External Kei, the type of Kei that was famous for its destructive power. It was a simple release of power rather than a technique. Usually, Military Artists who had trained in the use of Kei could execute that move. The difference was only down to how large a scale that move would be. A normal platoon member couldn't have released external Kei that could touch Nina at this distance.

The sound of something cutting through the air and chaotic airflow should have accompanied Gorneo's move, but all Nina felt was the sudden impact on her weapons.

(As if I was really struck. How? What in the world......)

Gorneo attacked again while she was thinking. She evaded to her right.

(Ah......)

A heavy blow on her right side. Her knees buckled and she knelt down!


"External type Kei variation – Jaryu."

"Huh?" Naruki looked at Layfon. "You know of it?"

"I've seen it before, but the person who made that move was stronger."

"What move is it? It seems different from the usual external Kei........." Dalshena gave her head a light shake.


Gorneo hadn't moved from his position. He dealt his blows as of a fighter training with a dummy. People could hear the sound of wind caused by his movements, but they saw no traces of any external Kei being released.

"That's Karen Kei. The Captain's tangled in small threads of Kei. Gorneo's Kei finds her through those threads."

"Threads.........?" Sharnid squinted and increased his vision with internal Kei. Naruki also did the same but couldn't quite make it out.

"Ah, you're right. There is something?"

"Yeah? So if she can see those threads, then she can see through Gorneo's attacks."

"Oh........."

Every time Gorneo swung his fist, Nina's body shook. It seemed this really had something to do with the Kei threads.

"The Captain probably knows, so she's using Kongoukei to cancel the impact."

"But she can't wiggle out like that. Same for Gorneo. He'll be fighting Vance next, so he should be preserving his strength. It's disadvantageous to drag out the fight."

"True, though Kongoukei takes more strength than Jaryu......I see, he's only using four threads to preserve his strength. He should be able to manage more."

"Just four?"

"The person I knew could control far more but changes would occur to the threads. Gorneo's move would be useless if we can tell how it's done."

"Can you use that move?"

"Yes, but I'd end up using extra strength because I'm not trained in the use of Karen Kei. Besides, the speed isn't as fast as using the steel threads. Putting one's strength through the Kei threads isn't much but it's very tiring to use that effect to cut."

Layfon explained in a natural manner. He really did know a lot. A little bit shocked, Naruki observed his face and saw him squinting at the match.

"But if Gorneo's left something up his sleeves, then he's underestimating the Captain. I already taught her two different ways to control Kei."

Naruki returned her gaze to the match. Nina was still stuck with the iron whips crossed before her chest.

"Since she knows the enemy's position, she can adjust the Kongoukei to reduce the amount of Kei she uses. In that sense, she can defend with Kongoukei while gathering her Kei. If she wants to break this stalemate, no, if she targets her opponent, the Kei she's stored up will come into play."

Naruki couldn't see the flow of Kei that Layfon was talking about but she did see that Nina was shining faintly, and that light was getting denser and denser.

(Time to counterattack.)

As Layfon had said, Nina was slowly adjusting her defense. The iron whips were still crossed but she had pulled back her right wrist and was pushing forward her left wrist inch by inch. The crouched legs spread.


Gorneo couldn't have missed the changes that even Naruki could see. He stopped attacking. He pulled the right fist close to his body and began gathering his Kei. He wasn't planning on winning the match with just one move. Since he had to fight Vance next, he was still preserving his strength. Still, he had to take Nina seriously. She was pouring all she had into her next attack. So what should he do? Evade it or attack it head-on?


While Gorneo had stopped his attack, Nina was using this chance to store up her Kei. The pressure of her Kei sent waves even to the audience stand. Naruki had seen this two times besides that time when she joined the platoon match. To Naruki, no one was better at Karen Kei than Gorneo and Shante. Perhaps one to two other people could use it, but only Gorneo and Shante could use it in a real fight. She had heard of how difficult it was to learn Karen Kei. Understanding the theory was not enough. One must be able to freely use it.


Nina moved. Her figure seemed to vanish in one split second, leaving only a path of light. External Kei variation – Raijin.


The sound was so huge as if the sports hall had exploded, as if lightning had hit the air shield above the city. Intense flashes of light burnt Naruki's eyes. What'd happened? Naruki was dazed by that light. But the judge had declared Gorneo the victor.

"Gorneo's seen through her," Layfon said. "The Captain's posture was too easy to read. It wasn't a long distance move. Besides, according to the Captain's personality, she wouldn't have held back. Her only thought was a straight path. By understanding that, all Gorneo needed was to react by adjusting his power, speed and destructive force."

External-type Burst Kei - Karen Kei variation – Fuuja (Wind Snake).

The move that had defeated Nina.

"In Grendan, any move with the word 'snake' in it means it isn't an attack that takes a straight path. It wasn't enough to take the Captain's attack directly with a fist. The Kei released from Gorneo's fist curved around the Captain's body to hit the side of her stomach. That was what decided this match."

"But the Captain's speed was even outside Gorneo's prediction."

Vance won the next match.

"Gorneo blocked the Captain's attack, but the impact of her attack has probably numbed his nervous system."

The Red team won in the end. The platoon members cheered at their victory.

"Speaking of which, I never knew the Captain knew such a move. I didn't see her use it in the platoon matches," Naruki said.

"Ah.........She already understood the theory. She just wasn't at the level where she could execute it."

"What do you mean?"

"Low-level Kongoukei looks good on the outside. A Raijin that got stuck between good and bad would be the same as a Whirl Kei. When used properly, Raijin involves a leveling up of speed. If one couldn't use it well, they might as well use Whirl Kei. That's why she hasn't used Raijin till now."

Naruki fell back into her thoughts.

(If that's the case, when was the Captain able to use the move in a real battle?)

Nina and Vance fought one on one in the last platoon match. She didn't use Raijin back then. Didn't have the chance? Or she couldn't use it......? If she couldn't use it back then, then she must have obtained the key to use it in the time when she was missing.

(It really is the Haikizoku.........?)

Thinking on that, she missed Layfon's mumbling.


".........I did teach her Raijin, but when was it?"


"So what were the elimination matches for, uh?"

After the matches, Vance thanked the captains for their hard work and dismissed them. It was still day time and they didn't have classes. Nina announced they would continue training in the Training Complex.

"Confirmation of the strength of the captains," Nina said. Naruki could tell how tired she was by looking at the way she walked.

Both Sharnid and Dalshena seemed to immediately understand Nina's words.

"Ah, so that was done to determine which teams were to take on the infiltrating work?" Sharnid said.

"I see."

"Throwing in too much would reduce the main team's power. Too little would mean we couldn't budge the enemy defense, so exactly how much......"

"We're sure that we need at least one platoon," Dalshena cut in.

"Vance is the reserved kind of strategist," Nina said. "He won't consider attacking unless our defense is fully prepared. Under that situation, Gorneo and Shante would work as part of the defense team. As for the main fight and guarding power inside the city.........After fitting the defense, what's left would be assigned to attack. That'd leave probably only one team."

Although all captains were involved in the discussion of strategies, the final decision rested with the Captains of platoons 1-3: Vance, Gorneo and Shin.

"In that case, a team with many problems like us won't be chosen. If they work around us, that might reduce our main power. Rather than putting us in the main fight, it's better to use the 'wild boar surprise strategy'."

"Who's the wild boar?" Dalshena asked.

"The beautiful you that's in front of me," Sharnid said.

".........Just wait till we get to the Training Complex."

Layfon smiled at their banter. Felli ignored them. No. Naruki noticed that Felli's gaze flitted to Nina's back. Her face remained expressionless but Naruki felt she had a question for Nina.

(Does she doubt?)

It wasn't that unbelievable for Felli to doubt Nina. After all, she was the one supporting Layfon when the Captain went missing. No. Everyone in this team had a question for her. Their Captain had gone missing. Dalshena and Naruki weren't in the team for long but both of them were involved in the incident with the Haikizoku, and Naruki wouldn't just sit and do nothing if this was related to the Haikizoku.

(It's all right to find out?)

The others must have noticed something, but what if she found out? She couldn't do anything in response. However, Naruki's worry was taken care of when they reached the Training Complex.

"I have something to say to everyone," Nina said seriously after they all entered the training room of the 17th platoon. "A lot has happened recently. This is the first time we can now gather together. I want to say this while we're all here."

Naruki stood behind the group, so she caught everyone's reaction. They all tensed up at Nina's words. The easy atmosphere was gone. And Naruki also noticed a certain someone had already asked Nina the question, but Nina probably waited till everyone was together.

Layfon's expression was fairly stiff. He probably wanted to know what happened a long time ago, judging by his personality. And Nina's reply, "wait", made him wait till today. Did he wait because he trusted her or was he just pretending to be at ease......Either way, Layfon's heavy feelings for Nina were real. He worried about her more than anyone else. He wanted to become her strength more than anyone else. It wouldn't be too much to call that 'love' if he was a normal person.

(Then what does Layfon think?)

Naruki thought of Meishen. She did her best to get close to Layfon, but the guy didn't react. He didn't push her away either. If the other person was schooled in the area of love, one could say Meishen had been taken advantage of, but with Layfon, it probably was just clumsiness. And because it was Layfon, his feelings for Nina probably wasn't just simple love. At least, he himself hadn't realized.

(Why? I don't feel good.)

A feeling that her knowledge in Military Arts couldn't quite match his.

"On the day after the match with the first platoon, I received Layfon's message and headed for the Mechanical Department. What I saw there........." Nina began to explain.

Lost, she had entered the very center of the Mechanical Department that no one had ever touched foot in. She saw Zuellni and the Haikizoku, both Electronic Fairies exuding something unusual about them. She wanted to protect Zuellni, but instead, the Haikizoku took possession of her.

"So that monster is inside you?" Dalshena howled. Naruki couldn't tell whether it was tension or outrage.

"It is here, but I can't control it, and it's not controlling me."

"......What do you mean?"

"The Haikizoku's sleeping. I don't know when it'll wake, but it hasn't done me any harm for now."

Questions filled Naruki's head. Why did it sleep? How? Who put it to sleep?

"......And where did you go?" Sharnid said, scratching his head. "We didn't find you anywhere in the city. The City Police did a search too but couldn't find you. Where were you hiding? There wasn't a trace of you."

Zuellni was spacious enough to house thousands of people. It wasn't an easy task to search everywhere. But Naruki knew the City Police managed it. They managed it under unbelievable conditions, yet they failed to find her. Meaning......?

".........I wasn't in Zuellni."

"Then where were you?"

Unbelievable. Somewhere outside Zuellni? Where? Humans couldn't survive outside the city without protective gear. Was she in another city then? How did she get there? By roaming bus.........But how did she get back? No roaming buses came close to Zuellni during that time. And how come Nina had to get outside the city?

But she didn't speak more. "Sorry, I can't say any more."

"Why?" Layfon asked quietly.

"No particular reason. Sorry, but I'm not just keeping this from you. I'm not saying anything to the Student President either. I won't say it to anybody."

Naruki's gaze turned to Felli. The Student President's younger sister showed no signs of reaction. She might have heard already with the Student President. And Nina was refusing to speak more no matter how hard the platoon members pushed her. The training after that was conducted with an embarrassing atmosphere.

Naruki arrived at the City Police office at dusk. After the conclusion to the fight with the filth monsters, everyone was participating in city-wide training in anticipation to the intercity match. Thanks to that, the number of Military Artists helping out the Police dropped drastically. Naruki was the same. Her time at the City Police had been cut.

"You don't have to come," Formed said, preparing his lesson.

She felt ashamed. "A case doesn't choose when to happen."

"Well, it does," Formed said. He was seated at his desk with documents before him. "There are cases that only happen during this time, but there are also people who can't move because of this time. Of course, there're also those who choose not to do anything at this time."

"Just say so if you need help."

"Speaking of which, it really has been a long time since I got to sit down and do some paperwork," Formed said, pleased, but his response lacked conviction.

Only Naruki and Formed were in the office. The few number of people who came to work might be napping in the Locker Room.

"......It isn't that good to force the answer out of someone who doesn't want to say anything about the secret?" Naruki said as she placed the cup of tea she made for Formed on the table.

Formed stopped tapping his finger on the desk and lifted his head to look at her.

"I want to find out why. Am I too spoiled?"

In the end, Layfon, Sharnid, Felli and Harley all gave up on making Nina tell her secret. Only Dalshena and Naruki still wanted to make her explain it. Sharnid and Harley in particular, both of them immediately gave up asking more when Nina said she wouldn't tell them.

"As a City Police officer......"

"Eh?"

"As a City Police officer, I'd use any means to get to the bottom of things if it were to solve a case. But a secret. The person himself wouldn't want anyone to know regardless of how it is to others. It really is difficult."

"Yes........."

"But there're two kinds of secrets. One that you can't say to anyone else and one that you won't spill a word of even if you're to die for it. If it's the latter then it won't be easy to discover it. And a secret can be deep or shallow. Just like a basement. You can sometimes see to the depth of it from the entrance. There's only so much hiding in there. But it might be a basement whose depth you can't see through."

"........."

"If you want to see what's inside, you can only go in. Do you have the assurance that you can make a full retreat?"

"Well............"

"You need to prepare your heart to discover the secret of one who vows to keep it secret even in death. Can you then still fight alongside Nina without reservations? ......Well, if it's a secret that a police officer must know, then let me shoulder it with you," Formed said.

"Chief........."

"Isn't that what an organization is for?"

It wasn't what Naruki had expected, but it sure suited Formed's style.



Cacophonous rumbling filled the Mechanical Department. How long ago had it been since she last worked here? Submerging her body in the noise? Sighing, Nina cleaned with the mop. Her body remembered that motion. What came next was just her consciousness. Her thoughts gradually left the floor and the tubes around her.

(With that, it should be alright.)

She recalled what happened in the Training Complex. It already took her everything to tell them about the Haikizoku......It should be right.


"You'll be involved." Dixerio Maskane had said.........His words echoed in Nina's ears. The Nina who first met the Wolf Faces and felt she had gotten caught in something. In truth, even Layfon might get caught in it if she took one wrong step.

Ignasis.

Nina was now involved in the fight against that person. She still didn't know exactly what this signified and she had no idea who else besides Dix was involved in this war. She also didn't know which direction this fight was taking. She knew nothing. But at least she knew who the enemies were.

Ignasis and the Wolf Faces.

An organization whose members wore beast masks. Mostly having no substance, they were said to be disconnected from death. While increasing their numbers, they moved through En's transportation system, conspiring as they traveled between various cities.

And about the En between Myath and Senou City Schneibel – Schneibel was the place where Rigzario was, the device that gave birth to Electronic Fairies. The Wolf Faces' true objective might be Rigzario.

Did Nina appear in Myath because she was born in Schneibel? That alone wasn't enough to draw that conclusion. Possessed by the Haikizoku and aided by Zuellni, she managed to safely return to Zuellni. The origin of all Electronic Fairies had helped her, and that original Electronic Fairy resided in the girl named Leerin. Leerin had a guardian called Savaris, and the Wolf Faces had called him a Heaven's Blade successor.

The man knew Layfon. He seemed to have fought him too.

(What more can I say?)

If Leerin really was Layfon's childhood friend, Nina would want to tell Layfon about her. Layfon had never thought he could return to Grendan. He'd be happy to hear of her. A deeper thought asked why Savaris and Leerin left Grendan to come to Zuellni. Savaris already told her his purpose. He was here for the Haikizoku, just like the Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang. Then what about Leerin? And that original Electronic Fairy with her.........Yet she herself didn't realize.

(On what level can something be forgiven?)

Layfon felt nothing about the pride of Military Artists. Was it correct to get him involved? And Nina herself was forced into a fight that she knew nothing about. How much should she tell him? At what point should she stop so she wouldn't get him involved? She wouldn't tell him of what happened in Myath if she couldn't find that boundary. She felt a crisis was near but she couldn't say anything.

"Senpai," Layfon's voice called her back to reality. "It's past bentou delivery time."

"......Um. Damn."

It appeared some time had passed without her knowing. If they missed the bentou delivery time, they could only get what food was left by others. The tasty sandwiches were popular. One couldn't get one unless he remembered it and went early to purchase it.

"If it's ok with you, you can have my bentou."

"That isn't good," she shook her head. A platoon member had to train everyday, and the two of them did cleaning at night on top of training. The three main meals were important. She couldn't have half of Layfon's lunch.

"We only have a bit of time left. I'll just pass."

Layfon scratched his head in embarrassment. "Well, I made the bentou today, but I made a bit too much. So if senpai can eat some, you'll be helping me a lot."

Nina looked closely. That bentou did look too much for one person.

"I don't recall whether I've mentioned it, but I've never been good with measuring the amount of food made. It'd be great if you could eat some."

"Is that so? Well then, I'll have some......"

"Please go ahead."

Nina was urged to go wash her hands. Layfon had set everything up when she returned. He had also poured tea into paper cups.

"Time to eat."

"Don't have to hold back."

Two fairly large bentou boxes sat inside the bag. One box contained sandwiches with marinated meat, cheese and vegetables. The other box contained salad.

"It's still as tasty as before."

"Really?"

"Ah," she ate as she sneaked a peek at Layfon, and saw him smiling. She couldn't quite see his face clearly from this angle. She didn't allow herself to look at him directly because she was hiding things from him. And also, the words of the Student President remained in her head.

Karian had said that Layfon fought because he relied on her. He might be right. Nina had then said she'd take responsibility of it. As if she were making a confession.

(Geez, just what did I say?)

She had just let it burst it out. Perhaps in that moment, she wanted to convey her feelings without covering them up.

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Did a part of her she hadn't developed finally take form?

(I.........)

About Layfon? There was nothing she could deny.


"Layfon.........I............"

"That's good," he cut her off. "I believe you'll tell me one day, and I'll stand by your side."

She looked at him directly. He smiled.

"If the Mercenary Gang plans something against you, I'll do everything to protect you. If you have something you want to say, then say it. I'm willing to help if I can."

"Ah......"

That was it. There still remained a reason for denial.

(I want to stand by your side.)

Not just to guard and not just within this Academy. If there was something she truly wanted to say, then she wanted Layfon to acknowledge her as a Military Artist.

"So I'm counting on you."

Nina returned the smile and dug into the bentou again.

"We'll get busy tomorrow. Oh yes, many people want to fight you in training," Layfon said.

"Really?"

"Everybody knows of your strength since the matches between captains."

Yes, she wanted to stand by Layfon's side. She wanted to bury this feeling in her, but she still felt happy to know that he had accepted her.


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