Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume7 Chapter2
Chapter 2: Haia's Resolve
The preparation for the intercity match had entered its formal stage in Zuellni. Many, many things needed doing: training to help Psychokinesists search for the enemies and in Psychokinetic control, training for the captain's strategies, training for snipers and so on. And at the same time, the Mercenary Gang was hired to help instruct the students and increase their personal strengths.
No more filth monster attacks happened after Zuellni's revival. Students in this Academy City now lived steady and peaceful lives. Layfon and Naruki came together to the Training Complex.
"Is that really ok?"
It was after school hours. The platoon matches had ended, but the platoons were still conducting intense training. The sounds of training bounced off the walls more intensely than before.
"I think so. Besides, I already confirmed with the Captain. It should be ok."
The 17th platoon didn't have training today. Nina had gone to train with the other captains, Sharnid had been called over by the sniper team, and even Felli had gone to the seminar on the assigning of Psychokinesists. She was very displeased but she did go to the seminar. Dalshena didn't have anything, but recently, she had been training alone. So she might not be in the Training Complex.
Layfon had taken this chance to bring Naruki to the Training Complex.
"Are you......worried about the time?"
"No, Chief said this is for the intercity match, so I should spend more time training. I don't have to worry about the City Police, but........."
"Then there's no problem?"
They were heading for the training room of the 5th platoon.
"But the captain of the 5th platoon and you........."
Both Gorneo and Layfon came from Grendan. Naruki knew from long ago that they didn't have a good relationship. Still, Layfon had asked Gorneo to train her.
"But I think he's the best person to teach you Karen Kei."
Layfon had been thinking whether to add Karen Kei to Naruki's moves when she trained with Nina. Naruki's weapons, rope and baton, were best at capturing. Her strength would increase tremendously if she could add more variations to her techniques through Karen Kei.
"I know a bit of Karen Kei, but he's a better teacher."
She watched him a little and sighed. "How should I put it, I feel Layton is quite clumsy."
"If you're not like that, you wouldn't have put thought to action."
"But it wasn't easy to come to an Academy City to study. Wouldn't it be a waste not to take advantage of it?"
"No, they're not related......Uh, never mind," she sighed again, followed by a deep breath to revive her composure. "It's foolish for me to get tense on my own. Let's go," she nodded.
Layfon knocked on the door of the 5th platoon. They heard that Gorneo wasn't joining the captain's training and that he was in the platoon room.
After hearing the answer through the door, Layfon pushed the door open. Only Gorneo and Shante were around.
"Want something with me?" Gorneo said with a bitter face.
"Need your help a bit," Layfon cut to the chase, making Naruki tenser.
Shante was the first to react after listening to his explanation. "Why do we have to teach you?" she bared her teeth.
He wasn't swayed. "Aren't we comrades protecting this city?"
"When did our relationship become like that?"
Shante's confrontation made Gorneo's smile bitter.
"We won't force you if you refuse."
".........Why, can't you teach her?"
"You're the only expert in Karen Kei in Zuellni. I can teach her some techniques but I can't do much about the basics."
What Layfon could do was read the flow of Kei of his opponents and repeatedly make the same move himself until he grasped hold of it. However, many of the theories of Karen Kei weren't that easy to understand just by reading the flow of Kei. That explained why he hadn't taught anyone Karen Kei. In the end, he couldn't teach others what he knew.
"So you don't know how to use Karen Kei? You monster," Gorneo said, his expression turning sour after hearing Layfon's explanation.
"I really don't know."
"Don't you know Jaryu? And you used Roar Kei and Thousand Man Rush."
They were rumors about Layfon during the platoon matches. It wasn't strange for a Military Artist to increase his strength through internal Kei during battle. What couldn't be ignored was the fact that the last two moves were high level moves from the school of the Luckens. Gorneo had heard that only Savaris had mastered those moves – Gorneo's older brother.
"Those two moves are based on the theory of Karen Kei but they aren't bound strictly to it. They emphasize less Karen Kei use and that's why I managed to learn it. I haven't learned any of the true Karen Kei techniques. Since I can't use it effectively, I don't want to use it."
His explanation seemed to have alleviated the tension in the atmosphere. Gorneo nodded. "......All right, but I'll only teach the basics."
"This is for the city."
"Thank you very much," Layfon lowered his head.
"In exchange, I want you to train Shante."
"Shante possesses an unusually large amount of Kei. She needs to be able to release it properly and control it. There's no one better at training her than you in this city."
Layfon couldn't refuse. "All right."
"No!" Shante protested. "Absolutely not! With this guy......"
"Why can't it be Goru?"
"Didn't I just say it? You're one of the very few who have such a huge amount of Kei, and its amount surpasses mine. Letting Layfon teach you is the fastest way."
"I don't want to!"
She seemed to really hate Layfon. She howled in anger while Gorneo towered over her, doing all he could to placate her. The scene looked like one of a father and his daughter, or a pair of siblings with a large age gap between them.
"I want Goru to teach me. No one else!"
"Well, I guess we'll head back for now," Layfon said, for some reason getting embarrassed at the simple argument.
"Wait a bit......Shante, if you're thinking......" Gorneo took a breath and spoke in a whisper.
Who knew what they were saying, except that the hate in Shante's eyes loosened and she smiled.
"If that's the case, it's not bad for him to teach me."
"Ha......OK, when do we begin?"
Her sudden change of attitude gave Layfon a bad premonition. But he couldn't refuse because of Naruki.
"We can start now."
Shante immediately restored her Dite. A Red Spear. A red ruby used to accelerate the flow of Kei flashed in the middle part of the point of the spear. The spear's point was probably made with hard metal as its base, its surface covered with the powder of Ruby Dite.
"OK, as you wish," Layfon pulled out his Dite.
"Layfon," Naruki grabbed his shoulder. "She doesn't look right."
"Yeah, I know," he said in a small voice.
"Is this ok? If you're forcing yourself because of me......"
"Don't worry," he nodded at her.
"Nothing will happen. I think those two are good people."
"Good people? ......You........."
He didn't make this up so to put her at ease. Shante just couldn't let go, and Gorneo wasn't a true villain. Even while wanting to avenge Gahard, Gorneo chose to fight him fair and square.
"OK, if you say so."
Naruki backed down while Layfon restored his Dite. He held the Sapphire Dite and faced Shante.
"I want to first see how good the power of your Kei is. And it's best to see that through a fight. Do you know how to push and receive?"
"Stop looking down on me. I already learned it from Goru."
"Well then, let's begin," Layfon kept his sword in place and sat down.
Shante hugged her spear and also sat down.
"Come at me when you're ready."
"Then I won't hold back!"
An amount of Kei in the shape of a whirl suddenly appeared before Layfon. Kei gushed out of its side like smoke.
Layfon also ran Kei through his body.
The two of them continuously released their Kei into their Dites. Gathered in one place in increasing density, the Kei caused the Dites to shine. The colors were at first light but the density of the Kei made them into a richer shade of red and blue.
"You can come at me anytime."
"So annoying! Stop talking to me!" Shante increased the speed of storing the Kei in the Dite. The heat from the Dite fogged the surrounding air.
She opened her eyes. "Enkei Shoudansen!"
The Kei shot out from her spear as she leaped up.
"Didn't I say we're doing a push and receive?"
Slightly surprised, Layfon kept his sitting pose and gave his sword a light flick. The arc of the blade cut through the air, leaving a trace of blue light and blocking the fireballs shooting at him.
"Layfon!" Naruki called.
None of the fireballs hit him, although the heat threw the air flow into chaos and tousled his fringe.
Push and receive training involved blocking and deflecting an attack using a block of dense Kei. It was a traditional way of training in Grendan, so both Derek and the Luckens used it. But Layfon didn't know that other cities didn't train like that. At least, he hadn't seen anyone using it. Maybe it was a training only found in Grendan. Another reason was that both Military Artists in the training of pushing and receiving needed to possess a certain level of strength, and these people were harder to find in an Academy City.
"Um........." he sighed in his heart the moment when he received Shante's attack. He had fought her two times now. The first time was in the platoon match, and the second in the ruined city. He defeated her quickly the first time so he didn't get to observe closely. As for the second time, Layfon was attracted by Shante's unusual movements. Her level of Kei didn't leave that much of an impression on him. Besides, she probably trained to improve her movements rather than her control of Kei.
Shante did possess what Gorneo claimed she had. Deflecting her Kei wasn't difficult. As Gorneo had said, her amount of Kei was huge but she didn't know how to control it. She used too much force. It felt like she was pouring a bucket of water into a tiny cup. She could fight this way, exhausting her Kei, only because of the huge amount she possessed. In terms of efficiency, she was about the same as Layfon's use of Karen Kei.
(If she could control it, there would be huge room for improvement.)
It was easy to deflect and shatter her attack. Pushing and receiving involved many kinds of techniques, and this match would probably end right now if he used some of them. But Layfon waited to see what level of Kei she could reach.
The ball of flame expanded as time passed.
(It won't burn up the building, right?)
Numerous factors were taken into account in the design of the building. However, the increasing heat would probably trigger the fire alarm. Layfon adjusted his Kei like a shield around Shante's flame to prevent the heat from spreading out. He really didn't want to get hit by the chemical in the fire extinguisher.
"Uuu......Aaaaaah......" Shante gritted her teeth and stared at him with wide eyes. It seemed this was her first time releasing this much Kei. Her strength was having trouble catching up with her releasing so much Kei over a prolonged period of time. As expected, her Kei flow started to sway, and the strength was weakening.
Layfon's Kei changed: The Kei flow surrounding the heat sped up, and the direction of the flow became complicated. Countless number of large whirls appeared, sucking in the flame and heat.
"Ah!" Shante sat back down. Without the Kei, the flame quickly disappeared.
"You could keep at it for longer if you released the Kei normally."
"You......You're annoying," she staggered to her feet.
"Today is pretty much done. Do you wish to continue tomorrow?"
"You don't need to say it!"
He was worried about her condition, but her attitude showed she was ok.
"Then please help with Naruki's training," he said.
And so Naruki began learning Karen Kei from that day on.
Since that day, Haia remained in deep contemplation.
Even when Myunfa called out to him, there would be no response. With that silent figure embraced in a heavy atmosphere, she couldn't continue trying.
Usually, Haia would respond to the other mercenaries who called out to him with a carefree manner, but now that aspect of him was restrained.
The Mercenary Gang was the only family he had. Traveling on long journeys on a peculiar roaming bus, contracted to fight at various cities, and once again advancing across the wasteland, protected from the pollutants by the roaming bus.
Sharing a common fate as the Mercenary Gang, the comrades of the gang had developed a deep connection resembling that of a real family.
Haia was still young. From his predecessor directly, he learned the Psyharden art of the Katana, and after death, he succeeded him.
Even the Mercenary Gang, with Haia in that state of affairs, couldn't call out to him.
Haia's figure could be seen on top of the roaming bus. While they were at a city, if there was any free time, he would be there. If a city's lodging facilities were sparse, he preferred to remain at the roaming bus.
Normally willing and able to stand by his side, today Myunfa looked on at him from behind, unable to approach him.
Myunfa looked back towards that dry, mechanical voice, and there stood Fermaus. As the Mercenary Gang's Psychokinesist, the previous leader's partner and experienced veteran, he acted as Haia's guardian.
Yesterday's atmosphere was good. Myunfa imposed upon Zuellni's first year students lessons, prompting Haia to smile and say, "Get Layfon to train you." Even after returning to report back, the atmosphere was still good.
And yet after one night, Haia remained motionless, sitting on the roof of the roaming bus.
"Early this morning, a letter had come from our home land."
The homeland Fermaus was talking about was Grendan. Though the Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang was a group of military artists for hire, more importantly they had a secret mission from Grendan's royal family.
It was a mission to find and capture the Haikizoku.
Haia discovered the Haikizoku in Zuellni and proceeded to inform Grendan by letter.
The reply had probably come that morning.
"What was the home land's reply?"
"I don't know."
Fermaus, whose face was concealed by his mask, shook his head.
"After reading it, Haia seemed crushed."
To Myunfa, it seemed as though the contents of that letter caused rancor to ooze from Haia.
"Let's wait a bit longer."
Fermaus placed his hand on her shoulder, and led her away. Myunfa reluctantly turned back to look countless times.
While staring towards the outside of the city, he didn't bother moving.
Training continued, except this training involved students other than Military Artists.
"Emergency training guide."
Sitting in the classroom, Layfon studied the guide in his hand. A few pages stapled together. No matter how he looked at it, it looked cheap. Every student received a booklet on emergency procedures when they entered the Academy. The guide Layfon held was the simplified version taken from the relevant part in the original booklet.
"Didn't we do this numerous times before?"
Normal students all headed for the shelters during filth monster attacks except for the very first attack. It had been a long while since the last mock emergency practice, so it had been chaotic, with students going the wrong way, getting lost and even getting injured. But the subsequent filth monster attacks had put the students through the routine a few more times, and they were getting better at it.
"But this is the first practice for an intercity match."
"True, true. It's different from a filth monster attack."
"Ha......I see," Layfon flipped through the guide as he conversed with Naruki and Mifi.
"Layton, did you read it?"
"I just need to know the approximate locations of the shelters, right? I haven't looked at the map yet."
"Wa, who would have thought that Layton's so not thorough."
"......No, you must memorize it," Meishen said.
He turned his attention back to the guide in haste. Back in Grendan, the city frequently came into contact with filth monsters. There was never a war though. A war might have happened once before he became a Heaven's Blade successor. He tried all he could to dig up that memory but all he got was a vague "seems to have been one" impression. He was still too young, before he became a Heaven's Blade successor, so he couldn't join the fight. And he had never received an order to attack after he took the Heaven's Blade.
Because it usually just took one Heaven's Blade successor to stop a war.
(Oh yes, they drew lots to determine who got to go.)
Her Majesty made the lots, and Layfon remembered that Lintence drew it. Lintence had promised to finish the fight before one o'clock, and he did.
"Intercity matches and fights against filth monsters are different. A huge number of defensive weapons are used because the main arena is inside the city. If you don't know the location of those weapons, you can't carry out your mission and you might even fall into your own trap. So memorizing those locations is part of the training today."
"But then Layfon's mission is probably to attack the other city, so training might not have much to do with you."
"I hope it'll go that smoothly," Naruki sighed. She had been training with Gorneo everyday, so she looked tired.
The alarm on the corridor suddenly rang.
"It's about to begin."
The sudden alarm made Meishen shiver. Mifi didn't seem to care about the alarm. The class president stood up and guided the students to the corridor, calling loudly.
"It's nearing area B on the outskirt of the city!" the announcement repeated. "One more hour till contact."
Usually, one could discover the other city a few days ahead, allowing the city time to prepare. However, this time the city was blocked by the mountain range, so they didn't discover each other till pretty late.
"Well, time to go," Naruki stood up. Layfon did the same.
"Be careful," Meishen said.
Naruki and Layfon nodded.
"We'll head over via air. You guys take care."
"It's just emergency training. Don't think we'll get hurt," Mifi smiled as the two disappeared out the window.
Layfon followed Naruki. Naruki was better at Internal than External Kei. She was only in her first year but her footfalls in her jumps were firm. She jumped over one Military Artist after another, leaving them far behind her. All of the Military Artists headed for one direction, and that scene of their jumping from rooftop to rooftop was grand.
"I'll go meet Felli senpai," Layfon said and changed direction, heading for the dormitory of the second year. Psychokinesists were also classified as Military Artists, but their athletic abilities were the same as normal people. It took them time to reach their destination. And Felli had an important duty since she was also a platoon member.
Layfon landed in front of the building. Great timing. Felli was there.
"Seems I came just in time."
"It just happened."
He carried Felli in his arms. She was very light.
"Time to jump. Take care."
"Someone can only be called a good gentleman if he can perfectly guard a lady," Felli retorted in an icy voice.
He felt a sudden wave of weakness in his knees. His original intention was to remind her to be careful of her posture while he took off at high speed. Either way, time to go.
Felli's silvery hair danced.
"Is your body ok?"
She had fainted due to her work against the continuous filth monsters attack earlier.
"I had a good rest. It's ok," she replied in her normal voice. Layfon heard her clearly.
"Compared to me, Fon Fon, you should take care of yourself more. You were reckless."
"I had a good rest, same as you."
Her doubt probably was targeted at his recent training. Recently, more people had asked him for personal training. At first, Nina was the one who introduced them. But since she had gotten busy participating in strategy conferences, many people came straight to Layfon on their own. It was troublesome to find a training room for every person, so he had decided to train others once every three days. He had been training anyone who wanted to join at the Sports Hall after school.
"That's pretty relaxing."
"I hope so," Felli said and didn't say anything more.
Layfon couldn't jump at full speed as the wind pressure and impact might harm Felli. Besides, carrying a person also prevented him from moving at full speed. Knowing the difficulties, she leaned her head against his chest and didn't move. As such, he caught up to Naruki in no time.
Military Artists came to gather in area B. Of course, not all of them were here. This area contained the front line teams. Those who were assigned to defend the city were heading for their assigned positions. Most of the first year belonged to the defense team.
Nina arrived at the same time as Layfon. Sharnid and Dalshena appeared quickly too. All members of 17th platoon were here. And next came the Military Artists assigned to team 17.
Looking at them standing in a neat queue......
(The preparation's about done?)
That kind of a feeling.
(And all we need to do is wait......)
But when was that time going to come? Nothing was out there in the wilderness for now.
It was lunch time when Haia jumped down from the rooftop of the roaming bus. Situated in the area assigned for travelers, he could feel the enthusiasm created by the emergency training in Zuellni. How would that enthusiasm affect the Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang? This thought plagued him as he stepped on an empty path. As if attracted by that enthusiasm, he leaped over walls of several different areas, avoiding the eyes of spies.
The sound announcing the noon time cut through the air. That sound seemed to calm the passion and heat of the training. It wasn't a real fight, just mock training to let everyone know what to do when the fight started. The mock training only took 2-3 hours.
The content of the letter that Haia received this morning hovered in his mind. Queen Alsheyra Almonise praised and asked after him, the leader of the Mercenary Gang. She emphasized again that the Mercenary Gang would receive appropriate compensation and status when they returned to Grendan.
In the letter was one sentence: "I'll send a sword over. Leave everything to that sword."
"Don't screw with me," he cursed. She thought he didn't have the power to capture the Haikizoku. But he might be jumping to conclusions here. She wrote this letter based on the report he wrote to her, which only informed her of the Haikizoku's existence. Still, one would normally think that a capture had been attempted by the time the letter was delivered. However, the report only said that a Haikizoku existed. Zuellni's current situation might have hastened the Queen's decision. She wouldn't have left Layfon alone, the ex-Heaven's Blade successor exiled from Grendan. And Layfon knew it too. Had the Queen thought of Layfon's interference? And judged that the Mercenary Gang would lose to him? Was that why she sent a Heaven's Blade to Zuellni?
"I didn't plan to lose," Haia said in a low voice, his hands balled into fists. The fury conquering his body now burnt brighter. Yes, his Katana was broken. But he was still alive, and as long as he was alive, he couldn't lose. This was how Haia thought, a thinking nurtured and brought forth through the living style of the Mercenary Gang – one that drifted from city to city, from one fight to another, a repetitive cycle. Layfon had shown his naivety in not killing him. A young Heaven's Blade successor who possessed the highest status and glory in Grendan tainted his title and was exiled because of his naivety. And he had abandoned the Katana, the Psyharden technique. That naivety. How could Haia lose to someone like him?
"About time to end this game."
He must settle this with him. His fists loosened. The Queen's letter might have left Grendan at the same time the Heaven's Blade successor left. If the letter had already arrived at Zuellni, then the Heaven's Blade must be near. Would there be a fight between Heaven's Blade successors? The desire to watch that fight flashed past Haia and vanished.
He would be the one to defeat Layfon.
He didn't care if Layfon had the Haikizoku. In truth, the Haikizoku that Grendan sought held little fascination for him. His adopted father had taught him that real strength came from the inside, an existence that allowed one to take and let go as one willed. Good control of that will could avoid much trouble. Anyway, accepting the strength that came from the inside was the most important. The Haikizoku went against Ryuhou's teaching. So Haia was content to leave that incomprehensible power to people who knew how to use it.
Now he only thought to defeat Layfon. His heart eased. The anger at the Queen's insult dissipated, leaving behind a clearer hatred for Layfon.
(I don't like either of them.)
He could now mock himself like before. Either way, he felt better, compared to when anger was filling his head. The time he sat on the roof of the roaming bus was to suppress his desire to fight Layfon. But it was good that he forced himself to judge properly. He knew he couldn't win with his heart like that. A heart full of anger. Even now he was doing all he could to suppress it. What was strange was that he was calmer after confirming the direction of his anger – though he was nearing his limit of endurance. He had controlled his impulse and made a serious goal. He'd defeat Layfon at a certain time. If he waited longer, Grendan's Heaven's Blade successor would be here. In that case, he would have lost his opportunity. And it would be very bad if his action was viewed as betrayal. He wouldn't bring trouble to everyone because of his spoiled wish.
"Well......... So how can I lure Layfon into a match?"
No matter how much a fool Layfon was, he wouldn't agree to a direct confrontation.
An idea flashed past him. Layfon was desperate a while ago. For what?
"Aaah, complicated things make my head hurt."
Maybe Layfon was truly just a fool.........
(Found you. What're you doing?)
Fermaus's voice came through the flake beside him.
"Good timing. I have to talk to you."
(......Looking at you, it's not something simple and easy.)
A dry sigh from the flake.
"I'll still do it even if you think me a fool," Haia smiled as he discussed the strategies with him.
(So this is the answer after having thought of it for so long.........) Bitterness tinged Fermaus's voice.
"We've no reason to stay no matter how things turn out later. Then why not do something big before we leave~"
(According to the letter, we really don't have a reason to run after the Haikizoku anymore. Besides, that thing's whereabouts are unknown after Zuellni stopped its rampage. But we have one more thing to do before becoming just mere Mercenaries.)
"......? What is it?"
(Please don't forget the reason that holds the Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang together.)
The first leader of the Mercenary Gang acted on the royal order to search for the Haikizoku, and that was how the Gang was formed. All of the present members entered the Gang for that reason. But how could they understand this mission and keep on pursuing what was so elusive? The reason laid in the huge reward gained once they found or captured a Haikizoku. Aside from the members born in Grendan, comrades who entered from other cities found this more attractive than loyalty. The Queen's letter implied the reward was only for the discovery of the Haikizoku. The reward might be reduced for that reason but it was still a fairly enticing sum. This meant that Haia and his team could leave things now. However, that would weaken the reason behind the existence of the Gang. Those born in Grendan might decide to retire and return to the city. Others might give up this dangerous job.
"You mean......disbanding the Mercenary Gang?"
Fermaus was once again bringing out a truth that they couldn't ignore. It didn't sit well with Haia.
(I know you wouldn't have forgotten. I just want to remind you once more.)
"How could I forget? But......"
(Haia......) Fermaus's tone changed to that of a teacher. (You've always been a clever child. You can observe other peoples' thinking and make judgments based on it. Your strength cannot be questioned. That was why Ryuhou appointed you the next leader, and we didn't question that. But we find it hard to understand your actions since we came to Zuellni. They lack......energy.)
"I have plenty of words with energy."
(Nonsense.) Fermaus's emotionless voice hammered Haia's reply. (Somewhere inside you, you feel fear, that's why you want to challenge Layfon. Jealousy might be it. But if it was the old you, you could look at this with peace and calm. Because in the end, we don't have a reason to provoke him.)
He recalled that he failed to defend himself at that time when Fermaus scolded him.
(Fine. It's ok if you want to settle the score with Layfon. But before you move, please remember you're the leader of the Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang.) Fermaus's flake left.
"How can I not understand this........." he murmured as he watched the flake ride the wind.
"But Fermaus, you don't understand me at all."
He held tightly to the Dite hanging from his waist.
All members of the 17th platoon had lunch together after training.
"The time of training is about to end," Dalshena said, sipping tea. "Now it doesn't matter when the other city appears. If possible, I want that time to come sooner."
"Yes," Nina agreed.
"It's best to fight when everyone's ready and full of spirit. We might loosen up as time drags on."
"Uh, it wouldn't be strange to fall down from exhaustion if we did this everyday," Sharnid said. He had been running around, tallying the scores of his sniping team.
"You......" Dalshena turned around. Both she and Nina frowned.
"We don't know when the fight will start. Who knows, we might have been late in beginning our preparations."
"But the intercity match last year began after the end of platoon matches. As if the Electronic Fairies already came to a consensus."
"Speaking of which, the last intercity match happened around this time?"
The three people who had participated in the last intercity match moved their gazes to a far distance. They were probably recalling the tragic defeat that subsequently brought about Zuellni's current condition. Though they showed their intentions differently, Layfon could tell the three of them wanted to clear their shame. Layfon and Naruki were in their first years. Felli was in her second year. They had only heard of the last intercity match.
"We'll definitely win this time," Layfon said.
"Ah, yes," Nina smiled.
"I believe we can win easily because you're here," Sharnid said.
"How could you say such a thing. You're shameless," Dalshena reproached.
Everyone laughed. But the easy atmosphere broke here.
"......What's so funny about that?"
Cold words shattered the air. Felli put down the porcelain cup and met their gazes.
"Please tell me what is so funny? What's so funny with relying on someone's strength? I don't understand."
She was different from usual. Her words were full of anger.
"Senpai, it isn't like that. We were just joking," Layfon said.
"You're right. We went overboard. Sorry," Nina apologized with her head lowered. But she seemed to have poured oil onto the heat of anger.
"............" Felli stood up and left.
After a short period of silence, Layfon stood up with haste and chased after her.
She didn't seem to want to stop.
"What's happened?" he caught up to her and walked alongside her. "They didn't mean it in a bad way. They found it funny so...... Senpai......"
".........Don't you know already, Felli?" Layfon consciously checked his surroundings to see whether anyone had heard of his nickname. "Sharnid senpai said it because it's his personality. He didn't really mean it......"
"He can just say whatever he likes. We've spent a long time together. I know his personality. I don't care what he does, but........."
"But that can't be helped. I was angry."
Angry over what? He could only look at her. Incomprehensible.
"Fon Fon, haven't you been thinking?"
"About the Haikizoku."
Layfon confirmed his surroundings again at that name. The emergency training had ended and there weren't any other classes. The street was filled with students like him, who had just finished his lunch. There didn't seem to be anyone he had to worry about. And he didn't see any Mercenary Gang members either. He returned his gaze to Felli.
Felli was the only Psychokinesist who sensed the Haikizoku in the ruined city. The Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang had asked for her aid, knowing what she had seen. Perhaps she might search for the Haikizoku's location again because of that experience, so there was a high possibility of the Mercenary Gang monitoring her movement.
"You don't have to worry about them," Felli said, knowing what was on his mind.
"That person......" She avoided using the name. "Why make that face as if she doesn't care?"
She meant Nina. Nina didn't seem to care, even though the Haikizoku was inside her. Winning the intercity match had been Nina's goal all along, but that didn't excuse her attitude toward the Haikizoku.
Layfon thought so too. But Nina always used the intercity match as an excuse to evade him.
"That person doesn't understand how worried we are about her."
There was anxiety in Felli's voice. She had said during Nina's disappearance that she and Layfon were here, fighting, because of Nina's existence. Both Felli and Layfon possessed excellent abilities, but both were unwilling to use them. Layfon's reason was because of Grendan, and Felli's was because of her doubt in her path as a Psychokinesist. However, both of them had been transferred to Military Arts, and they were now part of team 17. The Student President Karian was the source of that problem, yet Nina's intense will moved the two to keep on fighting. Nina's disappearance reminded Felli of this. That was why she got impatient with the Captain.
"I'm worried too," Layfon said. He couldn't quite find any comforting words to say, so he sided with her, nodding.
"But there's no need to take it out on others. It's better to go back and apologize," he added.
An immediate refusal.
The two of them parted at an intersection. Felli walked back home on her own.
(I did something stupid today.) Having calmed down, she thought she wasn't without reason at getting angry, but she found her actions regrettable. What was more annoying was that her way of showing her anger did nothing to convey the reason behind it. The same reason as Layfon's. The pain and worry that the two of them went through, fighting desperately, fainting due to over-exhaustion......and Nina's words brushed past that so lightly. That made it hard to stomach. Nina's attitude in the Training Complex made her really mad. A feeling of rejection.
(I'm so useless.)
Thinking back, she had met a number of situations where she failed to handle her emotions since formally entering the 17th platoon. A feeling that she knew she wanted to do something but she wasn't sure how to go about it. She was worried about Nina but Nina didn't react to her worry. That made Felli feel down. But there was also one more reason behind her impatience.
(Becoming so calm just because that person is back.........)
Layfon. The Layfon who was like an ant running on a hot wok during Nina's disappearance. He now seriously prepared for the intercity match, and he even helped train other students. He must be worried about Nina too, yet he failed to find a solution to solve the problem with the Haikizoku.
(He's calm, at ease.)
Just because Nina was here. And that kept the turmoil alive in Felli's heart.
She had to do something.........She walked into the lobby of the building.
The next day, Felli was missing from the raucous crowd of Military Arts students.