Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume8 Innocence Wander
The bell that signaled the end of classes was also a signal for the start of yet another battle. The start of the lunch break was also the starting pistol of the race between military artists for lunch. The ordinary students who didn't want to go to the cafeteria could easily buy lunch by asking students in the Military Arts department to buy it for them. Thus, the military artists charged out of the classroom simultaneously as the classes ended, flying towards the canteen. Occasionally even the older students who were teaching those classes would also join the fray, so naturally nobody tried to stop them. Of course, if public property was damaged, or if people started fighting and were caught by the city guards they would be punished. Having nothing to do with that storm-like event, Layfon leisurely walked to the nearest park. Inside the park there was a small pavilion with a table, and it was a very suitable place for lunch.
"......Is there anything special going on today?" Layfon stared at the food on the table. Although he already thought the bento he was carrying in the basket today was excessively large, he never thought that what it contained was also incredibly luxurious, and the effort put into making it was different from normal as well.
"......It's not like that" quietly replied Meishen as she lowered her head, blushing.
"Hey, as long as I can eat great food it's all good."
Although Naruki and Mifi were with Meishen all the time, they didn't know why Meishen put in so much effort today.
For some reason, Meishen seemed a little strange today.
But right now the atmosphere made it seem hardly appropriate to ask "what's wrong", so Layfon began to eat silently.
"Heaven's Blade Successor"
Recently, this phrase had continually appeared in Meishen's mind. She knew that it was a phrase whose meaning represented something superior. That was why she was so concerned with it. To a passerby who had no idea of what was going on, the easiest solution would be to ask the person directly. But no matter what she did, Meishen couldn't bring herself to ask Layfon. That was because it was a phrase that appeared in a letter privately addressed to Layfon. That letter was accidentally placed together with other letters for Meishen, which explained why she had it. Although she immediately realized that this letter was delivered to the wrong place, why did it have to be delivered to her mailbox? ... Meishen thought silently, resenting this fact. Of course, Meishen couldn't just go and ask Layfon about a word appearing in a letter addressed to him that she couldn't have ever heard of or seen before. Moreover, Meishen hadn't apologized to Layfon for peeking at the letter and had completely missed the best chance to ask him about it. And who was the person who wrote the letter to Layfon, a girl named Leerin? Although she wanted to find out, it was difficult for Meishen to open her mouth and ask. She was afraid of asking. The only thing that was clear was that this girl named Leerin knew the Layfon from before Zuellni very well.
Without knowing why, Meishen felt very discontent.
"Have you heard of the phrase 'Heaven's Blade Successor'?" Instead, Meishen decided to ask the people who were beside her in the dormitory's shared kitchen. In order to live together in the student dormitory, Meishen, Naruki and Mifi shared this 3 bedroom and 1 dining room dorm. Because they had been best friends since childhood, they were comfortable with each other. Meishen really liked this sense of spaciousness in the kitchen.
"Heaven's Blade Successor?" Mifi was stuffing her face with Meishen's cake as she tilted her head asking, "What's that?"
"I think it's a phrase referring to a Military Artist......" said Meishen without much confidence. She then imitated Mifi and together they began to stare silently at Naruki. Layfon was a Military Artist, so this phrase must be specifically referring to something about them. Naruki, who was also a Military Artist, was the most likely out of them to know what the term meant.
"Heaven's Blade......I haven't heard of it before."
Seeing Naruki shaking her head, Meishen lowered her head in disappointment. However, Naruki seemed to have remembered something. "A person who received the Heaven's Blade...right? It really is a pretentious name but at least it isn't as absurd as the Joeldem's Knights of the Crossroad. Well, every City has its own customs when referring to military artists, so I think Heaven's Blade something is just another nickname for them."
Mifi nodded her head in agreement.
"Oh yeah, if we went to the library and researched the phrase in the Database of Cities I'm sure we'll understand what it is. So, where did this phrase originate from?"
"Well, the only one that could catch your interest would be that one."
"Yeah, and plus the phrase is about Military Artists."
"Ah, that's ... that's not it."
"There really is only one, we can't be wrong."
"Well, ah ~~ let's go to the library tomorrow."
"Yeah, I was going to go there for work anyway to interview all the people in each Platoon and I wanted to research some topics about Cities that could become articles."
"Oh, it sounds interesting."
"Then do you want to go to the library together?"
"If there is time."
"Mi-chan is a bit of a workaholic."
Looking at the two people who had made a decision on their own and ignored her, Meishen sighed in silence as their conversation drifted further and further away from their original discussion.
The next day, after lessons had ended, the three took the monorail to the library. After showing their student ID's at the reception area, they entered the library. They sat down at the designated window, and the computer terminal booted up immediately. All the information in the academy city was relayed across organized lanes like fast moving traffic. After all of that information is entered into the library centre, students are able to search for information at a library terminal, and can also download data that they need onto USB drives. Although they also kept physical books, the majority of them took the form of data that Zuellni published.
"Then let me search for information on Grendan." Mifi typed the keyboard with practiced ease. Lance Shelled Regios Grendan was Layfon's home city, and was strong in military arts. Many powerful individuals were born in Grendan's many training grounds. There was a reason for Grendan's fame among other Cities, and this was the Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang. This gang travelled from city to city via free roaming buses, hired by cities to fight against Filth Monsters or to participate in battles. The number of Filth monsters slain by their hands was innumerable, and in many victorious battles they had made a major contribution. Moreover, they taught the cities fighting skills and battle tactics. The Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang was made up of an overwhelming number of Military Artists from Grendan. Originally, Grendan was just another autonomous City, but its reputation for fierce fighters made it well known across the globe. Therefore, almost all the citizens of Cities knew of the word "Grendan". They had all heard of that city which produced large amounts of military fighters, yet any other details about Grendan were unclear to them. That's why it could be possible for Joeldem, Zuellni and Grendan to have completely different customs and for Meishen to have no way of knowing. The phrase "Heaven's Blade Successor" she obviously didn't know either. "How's it going?" asked Meishen as Mifi stared at the screen, humming.
"I still haven't found it."
"Really?" Naruki, who was standing behind them, leaned over for a closer look.
"There are no matches in Grendan's dictionary, and after searching I didn't find any related content at all."
"Then what about places other than Grendan?"
"I thought about this too, so I tried it as well, but there were no results either."
Naruki scratched her head, thinking.
"How about asking Layfon himself?"
"We can't? I think that's the easiest way to find out."
"Um... It's best if we don't. "
Although Meishen was a shy girl who didn't talk to others very much, it was rare for her to keep her best friends Naruki and Mifi in the dark. Meishen was concealing the truth from her friends, yet at the same time she had to rely on those friends whom she was hiding things from, and this made her feel terrible. She was on the verge of tears.
"Well, if that's the case, then we can only try and find out from other Military Artists. We are going to the Military Arts department for the interviews anyway, so why don't you come along?"
Although their search was futile, Mifi's face didn't show the slightest sign of discouragement. For Mifi, not being able to find information was something that happened regularly.
"...Well" Since Meishen knew Mifi was trying to help, she just silently nodded.
After classes on the next day, the three friends began their journey towards the Military Arts department. The moment Meishen stepped into the entrance, a painful memory surfaced in her mind and she stopped moving.
"Eh? What's wrong?"
"... Nothing." Shaking her head, Meishen recalled the time when she stood here agonizing over whether or not she should give Layfon the letter that was accidentally sent to her. If she hadn't met Felli here, what might have happened...? She still wouldn't have had the confidence to give it back to him as if nothing had happened. Anyway, recently she had been incessantly gloomy about the contents of the letter. Meishen felt that the consequences of her mistakes have begun to get out of hand.
"Let's go." Naruki held out her hand to an anguished Meishen.
"Even though I don't know exactly what you are thinking about, if you want to find out, we have to get moving. Just like how you decided to work at the bakery store before. " Naruki held out her hand sincerely, and that look in her eyes reflected the same warmth and sincerity.
"...Ok." Quietly nodding, Meishen grasped the offered hand.
"We have to interview four Platoons today, and the first is the 1st Platoon."
Although the Military Artists' grounds seemed very large from the outside, it was in reality divided up by various screens into a multitude of small areas on the inside. The streets were very narrow and some seemed like they were squashed in a gap between buildings. Meishen and her friends lost their way several times before finally arriving at their destination.
"Hello everyone," Mifi said. Meishen became nervous when she felt Mifi's voice penetrate the soundproof walls that divided the area. The walls vibrated at her voice.
As soon as the door was open, sound waves even louder than before hit Meishen's eardrums. This noise subsided with Mifi's continued greeting. The sudden silence frightened Meishen and she gradually edged her body behind Naruki. Meishen thought that her weakness was lamentable but Mifi stood there without wavering in the slightest.
"I'm a reporter from the Weekly Look'n Magazine here for the interview, first year General Arts Student Mifi Rotten and these are my friends."
"Yeah, I've heard." Taking a towel from a woman who seemed to be supervising, the tall student wiped his sweat and made his way over. He was the commander of the first Platoon, Vance Haldi. As he stroked his beard his penetrating gaze examined Meishen and her friends.
"Let’s go to the lounge outside for the interview; you guys, continue training," he directed the second half of his sentence to the platoon members. After they replied in unison, the platoon members continued with their training. Meishen and the others followed this tall man who exuded dignity completely unlike any other student into the lounge room.
"I have read some of Weekly Lookn's reports."
Reddish bronze skin, two wriggling silkworm eyebrows, his clearly delineated face and his sloppy beard... it seemed like he embodied both good and evil with his outward appearance, although it didn't seem like he was an evil person.
"But, I felt that the content of some of the reports encouraged gambling."
That's because Vance had the role of representing all of the students in the Military Arts department. He was the head of Military Arts.
"Ahahaha! There is nothing like that. "
"The journalist's name was different from yours, so it couldn't have been you. Well, you should pass on what I just said to your superiors."
Just like that, under intense scrutiny even the brave Mifi couldn't help but cringe a little.
"Oh, then I'll begin the interview. The inter-platoon matches have gone on for nearly half a year. Up to now, how do you feel about them?"
"How do I feel about what?"
"For example, how you felt about some of the more difficult opponents, or if the 1st Platoon is currently in its peak condition, or things like that..."
"Platoon matches are just sideshows; the key problem is the formal inter-city battles that we have afterwards."
"Really? Okay then, how good do you think your platoon is?"
"We can't assert that we have already reached our limits and achieved peak condition but we can only try to improve ourselves as much as we can in the limited time that we have."
"Hehe, it really is tough. Then how do you see the other platoons, and are there any platoons that seem strong to you?"
"Mmm... They all have their strengths and weaknesses. The third platoon's average strength is very strong yet they have few other skills. My first platoon is the same. The fifth and sixteenth platoons are suited for surprise attacks, but if the opponent realizes their plan before it can be executed it's all over for them. The important thing is to see through the opponents' plan and what has currently appeared......"
"The fifth, tenth, and seventeenth platoons are the ones which have won multiple times."
"The tenth eh? Last year in the inter-platoon match they had impressive results. Even though they changed many members this year they aren't short of wonders. Also, the combo between the captain and vice-captain of the platoon is exceptional. When it comes to combos, the fifth platoon isn't bad either, even though the way they work together is not quite the same."
"What do you think of the seventeenth squad?"
Hearing Mifi ask that question, Meishen immediately became perturbed and couldn't stay calm. It was the platoon Layfon was in. Meishen was very concerned with how others viewed Layfon and she wanted to know what the first squad commander thought.
"Captain Nina Antalk's command is brilliant. Because she has a small platoon she thinks very carefully about what to do and how to do it. However, the platoon's greatest weakness is that they lack numbers. Even though their offensive ability is highly ranked among the platoons, their defense is far too weak. When they are on the offensive they are very strong, but if they are defending, they are always passive."
"On the topic of the seventeenth platoon, how good is that well known attacker Layfon?"
"The seventeenth platoon's offensive force relies mainly on him. Even though you can't overlook Sharnid's sniping ability, Layfon's ability to kill with one strike makes him a fearful existence."
Hearing Layfon being praised by the strongest person in the Military Arts department, Meishen felt very happy.
"But the fourteenth squad did come up with an idea to go against that terrifying sword with a shield of their own. Although it was quite significant, the plan failed. That is the power of the seventeenth platoon."
"Is that so... Then I wish you the best of luck in your inter-platoon matches."
"I want to graduate from this school, so no matter what happens, I will give my all to protecting this city. That is all."
"Thank you for accepting our interview." Mifi hurriedly nodded and bowed; Meishen and Naruki quickly following suit. Vance nodded, preparing to leave the lounge room. "Oh yeah, that's right," Mifi spoke as if suddenly remembering something. "Yes?"
"I want to ask you something, is that ok?"
"What is it?"
"Have you heard of the phrase Heaven's Blade Successor?"
"...What is that?"
"Oh, it's a rarely used term that I don't understand. I think maybe that as the head of Military Arts, you might know something about it. "
"I don't know. Then, I'll be leaving first." Seeing hope radiating from the look on Mifi's face, Vance answered with a stiff expression, turned and left without looking back.
"It seems like he knew something eh?"
"Yeah, even though he knew he hid it from us."
After Vance left, Mifi started talking to Naruki.
Why? Meishen felt a little insecure. Why did Vance not tell them what he knew but hid it instead? Doesn't that mean he didn't want anybody to know what a Heaven's Blade Successor was?
"Well, it seems things have gotten interesting." Completely different from Meishen's reaction, Mifi's eyes lit up, showing a look of curiosity.
"Trying to hide it from me only made me want to know it more."
"Huhuhu. If it's like this, then we'll go and ask some other people. Okay, let's go." What Naruki said to Mifi obviously didn't register as she stood up with her face full of determination. Meishen was beginning to feel less and less secure.
The next place Mifi had to go to was the tenth platoon. As before, Mifi knocked the door with uncertainty, and the person who welcomed them was filled with the grace of three people; a woman of great beauty. After being lead to the lounge room yet again, Mifi began her interview. This beauty's name was Dalshena Che Matelna and it seems that she was the vice-captain of the tenth platoon. Her golden, long curls of hair overshadowed the lights in the room, dulling them. Wearing altered fighting gear and a cloak with red texture matching its white lining, she was clothed like a knight.
"I'm very sorry, but please be brief."
"Ah, ok." Against her icy-cold demeanor, Mifi couldn't hold her ground.
"Um... After successfully qualifying for the inter-platoon matches, how do you see your position right now?"
"Obviously I have things I am dissatisfied with, but it's true that the platoon is in great condition when they battle. I hope that we can maintain this state for the proper battle."
"Out of all the platoons, which one do you think is the strongest?"
"The first platoon. The head of Military Arts, Vance's strong and indestructible fighting style is truly fearsome. The members of the platoon are well suited to that fighting style and aren't bad either."
"The other platoons who have qualified include the fifth and the seventeenth platoon. What do you think of them?"
"The fifth platoon's main strength lies in Gorneo and Shante's Carrying Attack. Gorneo's alchemy attacks aren't as easy to use as you make them out to be. Gorneo's rational thinking and Shante's use of her instincts form a fearsome combination. The thing is, you could probably estimate the limit of their combat powers."
"Then what about the seventeenth platoon?"
"As for their main offensive force Layfon, the limit to his power is unfathomable. Even strong individuals like the head of Military Arts, Vance could be no match for him. But that's all there is to that platoon. Even if he took on the whole of the opposing platoon alone, that won't change the fact that he is only one person. The only reason for their recent victories is because he has been able to smooth out results with his individual performance. Other than that, there is nothing noteworthy about that platoon."
"Thank you very much for your co-operation. Then, I still have one last question which is unrelated to this interview...
Have you heard of the phrase Heaven's Blade Successor?"
"Heaven's Blade? No, no I haven't. Where did the term originate?"
"I think it came from Grendan."
"Then I think you'd better find Gorneo, because that's where his hometown was."
"Really? Thank you so much."
"Don't worry about it, you guys are working hard as well. The Military Artists are doing it in their own way, and so are you guys, doing the best to make sure our city can keep on existing."
After the interview, Dalshena's cold expression was like frost that had finally melted, revealing a warm smile. Watching her pure and radiant smile, Meishen and the others couldn't help but let out a sigh of relief, gazing at Dalshena's back as it receded into the distance.
"Uwah, she was so cool."
"Yeah, how do I describe her, she's such a noble person."
The three girls stood there in a dreamlike trance looking in the direction in which Dalshena left.
"I heard that Dalshena-san was the eldest daughter of Iahaimu. He is the Head of The City of Hourin."
"So that's why. It seems to explain her grandeur."
"I can't put my finger on it, but she really is cool.
"Yeah, she is."
"Ah, but I didn't know you knew that kind of stuff as well."
"I know a little about her. Dalshena-san even has her own fan club. The amount of detail in those fan club reports of hers almost goes overboard."
"It might not be a good idea, but I feel like reading the contents of that report."
"Do you want me to bring it next time?"
"No, no thanks, I'll give that a pass."
As the three continued with their conversation, they couldn't get over their uncontrollable emotion. It was overwhelming.
Next up was the fifth platoon. The three girls who were wrapped up by Dalshena's graceful air floated to their next destination, and were lead to the same lounge room for the interview. This time they chatted to more than one person. The Captain of the fifth platoon, Gorneo Luckens was a tall man with a bulky stature comparable to that of the Head of Military Arts, Vance. His body was completely bound with muscle, and his robust neck supported a large head, which he held with a serious manner. Instead, the face reflected an affable expression, leaving a cute impression of the giant. That impression was further reinforced by the presence of a young girl tightly holding onto his shoulders. The red-haired girl distinctly contrasted with Gorneo. With a staunch little face, a petite frame, and her headstrong personality and inability to shoulder any responsibility, she gave off the impression of childishness. Nevertheless, this young girl was actually a fifth year student at Zuellni and she was about twenty years old. Her name was Shante Laite and she was the vice-captain of the fifth platoon.
"Are you okay with that?" Shante was in a bad mood and was swiping at Gorneo's head continually.
"It's okay, it happens all the time." Gorneo calmly answered Mifi's question.
Meishen timidly glanced at Shante and Shante immediately growled at her with a "Grr!"
"Still not going to stop?"
Even though she was trapped by Gorneo's huge knuckles, Shante had no intention of stopping. However, she suddenly stopped.
"Huhu..." After wriggling her nose several times, Shante used her legs and, clinging onto Gorneo's head, she leant closer to Meishen.
"You, you smell nice."
"Ah, that's because Meishen likes cooking."
"Yeah, there's a nice smell on her body."
Seeing Shante rapidly sniffing the air, Meishen took out a paper bag from her school bag, and that was the leftover cookies.
"Uh, there's only these left......"
"Is it for me?"
"If you want them..."
Meishen put the cookies on the table. Shante leapt off Gorneo's shoulders and went to Meishen. She then started eating the cookies without a word.
"I'm sorry." Gorneo lowered his head in apology.
"Ah... No, not at all."
"She's lived in the wild for too long."
"...Ah." Even though she didn't know what was going on.
"Then, can we start now?" Shante was eating the cookies voraciously next to Meishen. Mifi felt at a loss for what to do but decided to push on with the interview.
"After qualifying in the inter-platoon matches, as a captain, are you pleased with your team's performance?"
"If I were pleased so easily, then everything would be finished by now. It's because we know what we are lacking that we feel unsatisfied."
"Are there any platoons that you are especially concerned about?"
"I want to learn the first platoon's stable command that can react to any scenario with creative versatility and the individual strengths of each member. They are the role models my platoon is striving for."
"Which platoons do you think you should watch out for in the future?"
"All of them, but the most dangerous is still the first platoon. If we can't beat the first platoon then it signifies that we cannot beat the previous generation of Zuellni. If there is no change from two years ago then the results will be the same as two years ago as well." Gorneo's words carried a somber tone through his gloomy speech.
Two years ago, before Meishen arrived at Zuellni, Zuellni suffered a heavy defeat in the Inter-City battle. Now, Zuellni had only one Selenium mine left, leaving them no choice of retreat. They must not lose! In Gorneo's words one could hear this determination resounding firmly along with his beliefs the same conviction echoed in Vance and Dalshena's words.
At this moment, that was what Meishen felt. Normal students could never feel that heavy burden. Whether it was studying, working at night or playing around, female students following fashion trends while male students played various ball sports, or movie stars and singers that were common interests of both sexes, they made up everything in a normal student's life. Even Meishen, who could live happily as long as Naruki and Mifi were by her side, felt that the peaceful classroom atmosphere was very interesting as she looked from afar.
On the other side, the world was like that. This was also Zuellni, Academy city Zuellni! A city with only students, it was a gathering ground for people to grow, and they had to use their own abilities to make the information they gathered into their knowledge. There were no adults acting as protectors. If it was your world, you had to protect it on your own. This city was a place like that. Right now, she felt that heavy burden; even within the resting rooms you could hear it, and echoing along the dividing walls of the Military Arts area the striking sounds of each platoon let the world feel that heavy burden. As long as you understood the true meaning of that heavy, heavy sound, you would never forget it. This resolution and will to fight rang out as thunderous crashes in the Training Complex for Zuellni to see.
"Thank you for accepting our interview."
Mifi continued the interview and seemed to have finished it as Meishen sat there blankly, swallowed up by the sound of training.
"Before you go, can I ask a question?"
Shante was licking the crumbs off the biscuit wrapper. "Yes?" Gorneo picked her up in one movement and held that position as he replied to Mifi.
"Have you heard of the phrase Heaven's Blade Successor?"
"...Where did you hear this?"
"We heard it by chance...And other people we asked said it was a phrase originating from Grendan, so I thought that Gorneo-Senpai, since you were born in Grendan, would know what it means."
"It's a journey and a goal."
"Almost everything in the world is like that. Some are driven by what they want but do not have, and for others it is necessity that leads them to their goal. Only by achieving those goals can we continue to move forward, and if we do not continue to do so then we have reached the destination, the summit of the peak. The Heaven's Blade Successor is one of those peaks. Perhaps people who know of that phrase wish to attain that rank, or perhaps they must. Yet if they do not know of it at all, then they can never aim for it in the beginning."
"If you don't really want it, if you don't really believe that you need it, then your lack of interest will hold you back and where you are standing will be your final destination."
Finishing his speech, Gorneo turned his back to Meishen and the others. Shante climbed up along his arm settling down onto his shoulders, but she continued to stare at Meishen.
"What's your name?"
"Huh? Oh... Meishen."
"Meishen, is it? Thank you, you really are a nice person. Come play next time!"
"Don't swindle anyone else out of their cookies!"
"Bye bye!" Shante pretended not to understand what Gorneo was saying, and waved. A glowing smile spread across Meishen's face as she weakly waved back.
"Uwah! That was terrifying." Mifi released the breath that she had been holding for the whole time in a large sigh.
"Jeez, it felt like I stepped on a Filth monster's tail!"
"Yeah, and we can't ask Gorneo-senpai about it anymore seeing as how he's already sealed his lips."
"Yeah, that means the only person left is..."
The two of them turned and looked at Meishen and she knew what they wanted to say. Compared to asking any other people born in Grendan, there was another, much easier way to find out, but Meishen couldn't do it. It was only because she couldn't do it that Gorneo thought they were nuisances. Vance looked like he didn't want to tell anyone either. Just what is going on? Meishen felt very uneasy. Just what did the phrase Heaven's Blade Successor entail?
Mifi looked at the annoyed expression on Meishen's face and found it hard for her to open her mouth. "Uhh... Well, the last platoon we are supposed to be interviewing is the seventeenth platoon..."
Meishen's expression instantly stiffened.
"There's no way out! The magazine had planned to make an article about all the platoons that performed well in the inter-platoon matches," Meishen murmured quietly like she would an apology. She knocked on the door of the seventeenth platoon and held onto the door handle at the same time.
"Hello everyone!" In response to Mifi's cheery greeting, the door swung open. Her voice echoed within the room. This room was originally very quiet but shouts from within that could match those yelling in training exploded across it, making it seem a little out of place. Embarrassed by this unexpected situation, even Mifi couldn't stop her face turning red as she turned into a statue.
"Aiyaya... Mifi? And why did you guys come?" From inside the room came Layfon's voice.
"...Uhh... What exactly are you guys doing?" Mifi asked, puzzled. Since she was standing in the doorway, Meishen, who couldn't see what was going on, stood on her toes to look inside. Inside the room, hard metallic balls were rolling all over the floor.
"Oh, we're training."
"Is that so?"
Layfon, Nina and Sharnid were standing on the metallic balls which were rolling all over the place, while Felli expressed no interest as she sat aside on a seat reading a book. Although standing on continually rolling balls was by no means an easy feat...
"Wow, that's amazing. Is that for practicing balance?"
"You're partially correct. This is a kei exercise, and through controlling the flow of the internal-type kei we aim to control the body's balance, and at the same time we try to use external-type kei to keep the balls stationary." As Layfon answered Mifi's question, he waved his Dite downwards at his feet a couple of times. Naruki's eyes widened as she saw the ease with which Layfon moved about on the balls while waving his Dite around.
"So the interviewers are you guys?" Nina, who was also standing on the metallic balls asked in surprise.
"Ah, Yes, that's me. I'm the reporter from Weekly Look'n."
"It must have been a busy day. Then, shall we begin?"
"Ah, don't we need to go somewhere else?"
"No, just here is fine."
"That's right. An interview with me, the most handsome man in Zuellni, is something that happens once in a lifetime, so I should treat you guys to a drink. Layfon, quick, go get some drinks for these ladies." Sharnid leapt off the metallic balls lightly, landing in front of Mifi and her friends.
"I think they didn't come here just to interview you. Well, where you conduct the interview doesn't really matter, so let's just talk here." As Nina pointed to the chairs, Felli wordlessly got up and left the seat continuing to read as she leaned on the opposite wall.
Sharnid tossed a coin. Sighing, Layfon caught it in one hand and was about to go to the vending machine when...
"......Ahh, let me help." Meishen followed Layfon to the vending machine.
"I'm sorry." The soft drink cans dropped from the vending machine with a bump.
"Eh?" Layfon picked up the soft drink cans. The finger that selected the fruit juices did not hesitate and it seemed that Layfon had already figured out the tastes of everyone in the platoon. This was proven by how he asked what flavor Meishen wanted (he still didn't know what flavors we like) and she felt a little disappointed.
"I came without asking for your permission."
"That's nothing to be worrying about, since we were going to have a break anyway." Layfon carried the cans for everyone and stood up, and after Meishen asked that she carry half, Layfon gave her the cans that she, Mifi and Naruki had asked for. It was a rare opportunity for the two of them to be together without anyone else... yet she couldn't think of anything to say, so she could only follow Layfon in silence. She gazed at the back of Layfon as he walked ahead of her. It was his back, the back that had protected her at the opening ceremony of the school. At the time in that long line of people, a disturbance suddenly caused everyone to start pushing and shoving, and in the mess of it all a surprised Meishen had slipped and fallen over. If she had stayed like that any longer she would have been injured by the stampede of the crowd. It was at that time that Layfon had saved her, brushing aside the swarms of people and pulling her back to her feet, stopping her from being trampled to death. That might have just been a coincidence; even so, she could not forget the back that had protected her. Heaven's Blade Successor... That was Layfon's past and she wanted to know what it meant. If she were asked why she wanted to know so badly, then her only reason would be that she wanted to understand more about Layfon. Meishen couldn't think of any other reasons as to why she wanted to know. After she looked at his letter without his permission she had felt guilty, and as for the fragments of his past mentioned in the letter, did her simple desire to know merit her attempt at digging out all the information she could? Meishen didn't know how to answer. She was also guilty about not asking Layfon directly but instead asking others to gather information about him. Meishen didn't know whether what she was doing was right or wrong. (But...) She really wanted to know. Losing her chance for apologies, she decided to remain silent and stop thinking about the person named Leerin. The person who wrote that letter. Leerin was in Grendan, and Layfon was in Zuellni. If he could successfully graduate from here, then Meishen would have six whole years with him.
"...Mei?" Layfon turned his head in surprise, staring at Meishen who was standing rooted to the floor.
"...Ah, sorry about that."
"...Nothing." She replied, shaking her head. Meishen didn't want Layfon to see her expression right now, so she lowered her head. She suddenly understood what she really wanted to do. No, that wasn't it; she already knew what it was. In fact, she should have found out a long time ago. Even though she realized, she tried to not think about it, because that was the only way she could avoid reality. She really was a terrible person. Meishen had six years, and those six years was time that Leerin would never have with Layfon. She turned this into an advantage and accepted it. 'Advantage'... This word was suggestive of a scheme. It was perfunctory, ugly, and terrible beyond comparison. Her self that thought to take advantage of that was too ugly. Why would Meishen think like that? That left her disappointed and anxious. She was attracted by that back, attracted by that back which had once protected her and was now in front of her eyes. There was a person who knew that back a long time ago; there was a girl who understood the Layfon from before Zuellni very well. Every time she thought of that, she couldn't bear it. The 'advantage' that Meishen had thought of was just something that she had come up with after intense thought about this issue. Even though she did have an advantage time-wise, when Meishen thought about what she would be able to achieve in these six years she felt insecure. When she realized that her world was one limited to a world always with Mifi and Naruki she wondered how much she could do. When she realized that she had very little choice over her actions, she felt a deep horror welling up inside of her. In order to dispel those fears, in order to keep herself from feeling the anxiety caused by Leerin, an existence that she couldn't see, and in order to take herself out of a state of ignorance of his past, she decided that she needed to know. (I really am serious.) Meishen sat there thinking to herself resolutely.
When Layfon opened the door, sounds of laughter came out from within.
"This really is difficult," Naruki muttered to herself, scattering the metallic balls everywhere as she fell to the floor in embarrassment.
"That wasn't bad for your first try," Sharnid said as he continued to stand on the metallic balls. He switched to one foot balancing on the balls and moved about with ease. Beside him, Mifi and Naruki "oohed" in amazement.
"I definitely started practicing before you did," Nina said quietly with indignation.
"That's because I normally move about carefully without others noticing," Sharnid smugly replied and jumped off the balls.
"Well... that means that your technique will continually improve."
"I see." Mifi nodded her head with an "Oh" as she wrote in her notebook. The extension to the interview was almost completely about carrying out different types of training.
"Then, are there any platoons that catch your attention?"
"All of them. Our platoon's weakness is extremely obvious. All the teams will probably pick up on it. In order to become victorious we can only try to find a way to overcome the weakness. There is no point in saying which platoons are strong because no matter which platoon it is they are all stronger than we are. All of us recognize that point very clearly. "
"But your battle records are very good."
"That battle record might not represent our actual strength, but our constant good luck is an irrefutable truth. I hope that our luck will be effective only when we are in an unforeseen pinch, like when we are seen through by the enemy and they begin to hinder our attacks, or when we are ambushed by the opponent's traps. If we rely on luck like that, then defeat won't be far away. That's why we're working hard to prevent that kind of stuff happening."
"Keke. Then, would you please say some final words for the readers?"
"I like this place, so that is why I joined the Military arts department. That is all."
"Thank you very much for accepting our interview."
Ending the interview, everyone started drinking the juice as they chatted about anything that came to their minds. Sharnid made innocuous jokes as Nina sat aside laughing bitterly, and seeing them, Mifi joined in too. Naruki was still sulking over what happened before, and dragged Layfon to help her continue her challenge against the metallic balls. Felli kept an expression saying "this has nothing to do with me" on the whole time. Meishen enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere that had spread across the room as well. Without knowing why, she felt anxious. Meishen thought that if she could fit in with everyone here, then she felt that the world that she was experiencing got a little bigger.
"Oh yeah, have you guys heard of the phrase 'Heaven's Blade successor'?" With this sentence, Mifi tore apart the serene mood.
Meishen didn't blame Mifi, as her strong sense of curiosity was without malice. Meishen knew a long time ago that Mifi would be unable to resist the enticement of unfamiliar things. Even though she clearly knew this, she still went and discussed her problem with Mifi, so she had no right to blame her. After class, Meishen had arrived at the park near the Alchemy Complex, alone. Not long before, she and Meishen had been eating ice cream together. At that time, she tried to open her mouth and ask, but she could only think about it and never act. As she reminisced, she stepped into the garden where night would soon arrive.
There was a guest who had arrived already, and even though there was clearly a seat next to her, she was still standing. Seemingly hearing Meishen's footsteps, that person turned her head.
It was Felli.
Her silver-white hair swayed with her body, contrasting against the mood of the falling sun.
"You really came by yourself."
"...Yes." Meishen stood in front of Felli, so nervous that she thought her heart would leap out of her chest. After arriving at school, she found a note on her desk. On it said 'there is something I would like to discuss with you alone', and it specified the time and place. Meishen came alone, because the person who had asked her to come was the Psychokinesist Felli, and it would be impossible to trick her. If a Psychokinesist wished, then they could even count the number of bugs that were in the garden. It was impossible for Naruki and Mifi to hide from her.
"... I thought you wouldn't come."
"I thought you wouldn't come either."
When she picked up the letter from the desk, she was seen by two other people. The letter had been read by all three people, and they decided together that Meishen should go alone. Although Mifi held onto the idea of going together until the end, she met fierce resistance from Naruki.
"This is a critical moment, and I think that if we do not obey this condition, then Meishen will have no way of intervening in any matter." Even though the Layfon they met in the classroom seemed calm and no different from normal, Meishen felt that something deep within him was forcing him to put up that kind of expression, and it seemed very wearing. Meishen hated that feeling when she was helpless and couldn't do anything. She wanted to see his back.
"Without beating around the bush, please forget that phrase from yesterday."
Heaven's Blade Successor.
When Mifi said that word, Meishen felt that the temperature in the entire room had fallen. Mifi's question was like detonating a bomb, and the cracks created from the explosion separated Meishen and the others from the seventeenth platoon.
Felli and the others knew what 'Heaven's Blade Successor' really meant, and they knew what that phrase had to do with Layfon and his past. Meishen didn't know. At that moment, she clearly felt the difference.
"It has nothing to do with you, and I don't want an excessive burden on him."
"...But" She wanted to know. She wanted to get closer to Layfon. Would forgetting this phrase allow her to get close to Layfon? No, it could only divide them further apart.
Just as Meishen was about to open her mouth, Felli said "Just to satisfy your own curiosity, does revealing another person's past make you happy?"
"...That's not it."
"But that's exactly what you guys are doing. You are unnecessarily digging up the past of another person, in order to please yourself. And then, what are you going to do afterwards?" Of course she knew, she knew just how despicable her actions were. Just because she was afraid of that person in Grendan called Leerin, and in order to patch up the difference between them, Meishen wanted to know what that word meant, and at the same time she realized how inferior her actions were.
"...I didn't think that doing so would please myself."
"But, I still want to know. Even though I don't know what will happen if I do know ...but when I think about it, I feel afraid. Why must it be kept a secret? When I think about that fact, I feel afraid. "
Because if she knew, then perhaps her regard for Layfon might change a little. In Meishen's heart, her feelings for Layfon might change. She was afraid of that, and she was so afraid she was trembling. If her feeling changed like the flipping of a palm, then Meishen felt that she would definitely see herself as low and despicable. Even now, she was extremely jealous; jealous of the people in the seventeenth platoon who understood what she did not. She was jealous of the fact that even though they knew the truth about Layfon they still regarded him as a comrade. Layfon said that he would not return to Grendan. Was it that he wanted to return, but couldn't? In the phrase "Heaven's Blade successor" was there hidden the reason that prevented his return? Was it because of that reason that Layfon had given up the path of the Military Arts? If it was the case, then what Meishen was doing now was undoubtedly poking into Layfon's unhealed wounds.
"Then why do you want to know?" Felli asked Meishen for a reason.
"I..." Even if she knew the reason hidden within the phrase, the people in the seventeenth squad still saw Layfon as a comrade.
She wanted to protect.
She was very regretful.
It was as if she had been cast out of Layfon's world that she was regretful.
The sound quivered.
"... Because I like Layfon... Because I like him."
That's why she wanted to know, but she was afraid that if she knew, her current relationship with Layfon might collapse. She didn't wish for her feelings to be trapped within herself. She wanted Layfon to understand. Even if it was only one sided to Layfon. She wanted to know about Layfon's past, even if she didn't really want to dig out everything about Layfon, but instead she wanted to verify, that even if she knew of Layfon's past, that her feelings for him would not change.
"If you don't verify it, will you have no confidence in your feelings?"
Felli's voice was reproachful, but Meishen nodded without disguise.
"...Gingerly using your paws to test out the ground as you proceed. You only think about the step ahead, but think nothing of what the consequences are after. That isn't a very smart method."
After she knew, how would Layfon see Meishen... That's what Felli was trying to say. Was it possible for everything to stay the same...?
"Well..." Facing Meishen, whose expression was beginning to stiffen from fear, Felli continued to speak. "If that is how you do things, then there isn't much left for me to say."
After she said this, Felli turned away and left.
"I have nothing to say to you anymore, and the last thing is a piece of advice." Felli said this as she was leaving. "I don't know if you still want to know or not, but either way it's very difficult."
Meishen noticed that after saying this, Felli sighed.
(Ahh... I see...) Watching Felli's shadow leaving the garden, Meishen felt ignorant. (There are many people who like Layfon.) And she, she was definitely...
"Hu..." Accompanying her nervousness, loneliness, and weariness, finally recognizing this problem, Meishen laid on the ground, exhausted.
Deep within herself, she felt that... there were a lot of hardships ahead of her.