Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume8 Post Epilogue Part 2
A luxurious selection of cuisines were placed on the round table.
Facing master Minse sat three other people.
"We really couldn't get Lintence, eh?"
Washing down a mouthful of food with some wine, Minse revealed a pained expression.
He had already predicted this result. But, if possible, he didn't want to make an enemy out of him. Minse couldn't understand him using steel threads, and that ability scared him.
"Isn't that what I said? That guy is a foreigner. He's a pawn under Her Majesty."
The speaker was the one who was sitting in the middle of the three.
Kalvan Geordeus Midknot.
A fifty year old male. He kept a head short hair, some of which had turned grey. A portion of that had turned completely white, which was kept long and tied up. Maybe it was because he had been working too hard, but the wrinkles on his face were deeply etched.
"Lock it up, I'm afraid information here may reach her majesty's ears."
"There's no need for such worries. For the next mission, the new guy and Lintence are being paired up as a team and being sent out. You think she will know about that event?"
"That's how it should be in theory, but what I'm worried about is Her Majesty taking some sort of precautionary actions."
"That's another needless worry. I understand that woman's personality very well. If she figures out our intentions, she'll face us head on for sure."
"That's true. I think that's how she'd react as well."
The youth who replied smiled expectantly while nodding. He sat to the left of Kalvan, who was pulling a long face.
"Savaris. You speak as if you could win in a fight against Her Majesty."
"Oh? Isn't it because I've harbored such a thought that I'm sitting here right now?"
Savaris replied to Kalvan's question in a relaxed manner.
"I'm just trying to say that Grendan's current situation isn't very good."
"If that's the case, then what things can we tell Her Majesty directly? Isn't it the special privilege of the Heaven's Blade Receivers to be able to see Her Majesty at any time?"
Kalvan glared at that young Heaven's Blade Receiver extremely unhappily.
"But Her Majesty won't listen. It's true that Her Majesty can't just hand out the Heaven's Blades. But Her Majesty can choose to hold those tournaments to decide the Heaven's Blades. It's worth celebrating the gathering of all twelve Heaven's Blades, but bestowing it upon a ten year old child..."
"I became a Heaven's Blade Receiver at thirteen."
Savaris couldn't understand why Kalvan thought this was a crisis.
"Didn't Kanaris become a Heaven's Blade Receiver at fifteen? Just because he's young, he can't be a Heaven's Blade Receiver? An argument like that is baseless."
The last person...Kanaris, just watched the scene silently. She was a woman with a very ordinary visage. All the parts attached to her face seemed as if they were made to give off an impression of a total lack of personality, and if one's eyes left her for just a moment, you wouldn't know she was there anymore.
"There really are too many young people" complained Kalvan in a painful manner.
Just as he said, among the current Heaven's Blade Receivers, those who were relatively young took up a large proportion. There were four Heaven's Blade Receivers military artists who had served before Alsheyra's reign. Excluding Delbone who was an exceptional case, the other three had all been bestowed with their Heaven's Blades in their late twenties or early thirties.
Compared to that, starting with Alsheyra's reign, the oldest any Heaven's Blade Receiver had been given his or her position was Lintence, in his late twenties. The rest were usually made Heaven's Blade Receivers in their teens, with some just over twenty.
And then there was the ten year old Layfon.
"It's as if Her Majesty was attempting to crush the record of 'Youngest Heaven's Blade Receiver' eh?" said Savaris, laughing.
He had held that record just a few days ago.
"Following the record back, following that is Tigris-sama or Delbone-sama. It seems getting a ten or so year-old kid to carry such a burden will be very hard on him."
"This isn't a joke!"
Annoyed by Savaris' tone, Kalvan slammed his hand down on the round table.
The dish on the table shook. Kanaris looked at the spilt sauce spread across the tablecloth with displeasure.
"Well...cool down for a moment."
Minse reproached Kalvan mildly.
"I know what both of you are trying to say, and anyway, since we're all comrades with the same goals please treat each other more cordially."
The people who were gathered there were all Military Artists who came from Grendan's dojos.
For example, Kalvan Geordeus Midknot is one who had opened his own dojo.
And on his left, the ever smiling Savaris Qaulafin Luckens. He was a part of the Luckens dojo which had helped an early Grendan ruler create the Heaven's Blades, and he was also a descendant of those people.
And sitting on the right, Kanaris Aerifos Rivin. She was the successor of the three royal families...that is, she was a part of the dojo Rivanes, which gathered members of the royal family who hadn't inherited any positions among royalty. Among these three the one with the closest blood ties would have to be her.
"We can't let anyone look down upon a Heaven's Blade Receiver's authority again. Isn't that why everyone has gathered here today?"
Such direct words; who would dare say such a thing?
The Queen's assassination, the passing on of the crown.
The one who would step up to the place of king would be Minse. Going by age, it should actually be Tigris, but even before Alsheyra became Queen he had a chance yet didn't concern himself with such things, letting Alsheyra inherit the position.
If that were the case, he would probably do the same again this time.
Minse didn't have the ability to become a Heaven's Blade Receiver. Perhaps he could wait to become betrothed to Alsheyra, but right now, Minse wasn't considering that option at all.
Even then, that was only a possibility and there was no guarantee he would become king.
"After I become king, I'll give your dojos repayment in kind."
Minse didn't forget about making his promises.
He was very clear as to why those three were here.
They were afraid that the authority of their respective dojos would be diminished. All twelve Heaven's Blade Receivers were gathered. And few of them came from their dojos. This implied that even if one trained at another dojo one could still become a Heaven's Blade Receiver.
The Heaven's Blade was the ultimate goal of Military Artists in Grendan. There wasn't a better yardstick than that to measure one's own strength by. For that, young Military Artists went to open dojos to train and refine their techniques. Purely fighting for survival really was a little tedious. Everyone also wished to calmly enjoy the pleasure of grandeur.
For that, they all yearned for that seat of the Heaven's Blade Receiver, won through a competition of pure strength.
Of course, only people who wanted to reach the sky in one go dreamed of that. To those who had already achieved something, these up and coming rookies were nothing more than nuisances.
Naturally, the increase in Heaven's Blade Receivers put them on guard and until today, perhaps because they were so young, the new Heaven's Blade Receivers never bothered to set up their own Dojo's and were never regarded as a threat.
But this time, Layfon was different.
Ten years old, a Heaven's Blade Receiver who was too young.
He was trained by the Psyharden dojo.
A dojo built in some corner of the city, it looked as if it would topple over if you just threw a pebble at it. Among the numerous small dojos, Psyharden was potentially dangerous to the larger dojos.
Those who had a burden, have to strive to continue carrying that burden. These people existed as Military Artists in order to survive in this city. Even though they knew that strength was paramount, there were few who were willing to throw away their burdens for that power.
Kalvan was the same, and even including the heads of the other two's dojos they were few among many.
As soon as they learned that Minse was unable to take part in the selection battle for the Heaven's Blade, they began to run back and forth for today.
Which is why they were able to so quickly assemble three Heaven's Blade Receivers before Minse now.
"Then, what should we do next?"
Savaris spoke first.
"For us, the greatest threat right now is Lintence. Wait until he leaves the palace and then do it."
"Then I guess we'll do it like that?"
Minse nodded in response to Kalvan's inquiry.
"Our chance comes the next time the Heaven's Blade Receivers need to move out for battle. When the time comes I won't give any special signal. As soon as they start fighting, our battle starts too, and I'll leave it to you guys."
In a normal filth monster attack, it isn't the Heaven's Blade Receivers but squads of normal military artists who were mobilized. Perhaps Layfon would also be dispatched, but Lintence would likely be left to support.
They were waiting for the Mature Phase filth monster to attack.
When that happens, they wouldn't order normal Military Artists to sortie. Heaven's Blades would be dispatched to welcome it in battle.
And if the Heaven's Blade Receivers were dispatched in order, then Layfon would be first. But being his first time fighting a Mature Phase filth monster, then it was almost certain that Lintence would be sent out for battle as well. In order for Layfon to quickly gain experience fighting Mature Phases, Layfon would definitely be picked in the next Mature Phase battle.
"That's why your turn to step onto the battlefield will come very soon" declared Minse.
A month passed.
A very boring month.
Alsheyra's weekly, quick, but ineffective cleaning visits made the room seem even more chaotic. Although Lintence had reservations about all this, all his resistance was useless. Because Alsheyra firmly believed that all that was involved in cleaning was using a vacuum cleaner.
It really hurt his head.
It was the same thing yesterday. Lintence could only watch as everything was messed up. Afterwards, Alsheyra walked out of his home with a pleased look on her face.
Today, Lintence arrived at the palace's flower garden. It was the spacious central garden. There weren't any railings or the like to prevent falls installed. Only the gardener and the Heaven's Blade Receivers had access to this garden. The gardener would never appear here outside of his work hours, and the Heaven's Blade Receivers wouldn't do anything as stupid as falling from the garden and dying. Put another way, this place forbade Heaven's Blade Receivers who did stupid things.
Because this was a private area for the ruling family within the palace.
Except that's exactly where Lintence was.
There was another person there.
"...Only your memory is far superior to anyone else's," said Lintence as he watched the child who sat on the ground before him, sweating profusely.
"Th-thanks for your guidance."
"But you're too used to having Kei flow through your hands. Make the Kei flow around your whole body. Before you can do that, I forbid you from holding your sword other than during battles."
He originally thought that the child wouldn't understand what he was doing, but he was unexpectedly obedient, which made Lintence feel a little despair. On that visage which terrified many people, there had to be something that makes it seem unfriendly.
But that child wasn't actually afraid of him.
After calmly adjusting his breathing, he got up immediately. He wasn't sweating at all anymore. The breeze which blew through across the garden had aired his body dry.
"That's it for today."
"Thank you for your guidance."
Facing Lintence's retreating back after he had finished speaking, the child lowered his head. Like other children, those clear eyes seemed to reflect absolutely nothing, but in reality they were unconsciously absorbing everything before him and adding them to his understanding.
To this child, training his body was merely a confirmation process through which he could reproduce what he saw before him.
Leaving behind the child to self-training, Lintence returned to the palace.
There was a youth standing there. He was watching what was going on in the garden.
"So that's the new guy?"
That pair of hypnotic eyes that attracted womens' obsessions stared without reserve at the child's actions.
That child was Layfon.
"Why are you specially training him?"
"To kill time, I guess."
"It really is a great way to burn time, eh? I actually thought it was some game to protect this stupid kid who showed up out of nowhere."
The youth's name was Troyatte. One of the Heaven's Blades.
"The purpose is clearer than that."
"I know. But that child is the only person here that I didn't know before he became a Heaven's Blade Receiver. Only Ojou-chans who never leave their homes would think that that alone was enough to accomplish his goals. We're pretty annoyed by this as well, and even Ruimei-ossan is tired of him. What are you guys planning?"
"Really? So none of us get to fight?"
"That's brilliant! As long as I can sleep in a woman's bed its fine, nothing else could possibly better. I'm so happy I'm about to cry."
From his purposely opened palms he seemed unbiased and genuinely happy.
However in the next moment Troyatte's expression instantly darkened.
"Can't even be a bad guy, quite pitiful eh?"
The meaning of his words were very clear.
Minse had failed.
That wasn't to say that his attempt was exposed. If it was exposed, that pretty much meant failure. If it was a Heaven's Blade Receiver, surely he would understand that point.
Minse could only play the role of the pitiful clown.
Even though he understood...
"They're plotting something as well, right?"
The Heaven's Blade Receivers that were assisting Minse. And there were three.
"It was probably Kalvan-ossan's bad habit of meddling too much which caused this kind of result. If they just ignore that extra troublesome guy it'd probably be fine. But what's the status of the other two guys? Are they obstacles like Kalvan? Hey, this isn't good, you're not even that old and you're already being shackled down by all these conspiracies. Youths should just act like youths and live life passionately in order to get something out of it, shouldn't they?"
Having said this, Troyatte was after all, barely twenty years old.
"Compared to you who's only passionate about women, I think I'm a lot better."
"What? Boss is the type that prefers revolution?"
"How could I be, such a troublesome thing."
"I guess not. I guess Boss who left his previous city purely because it was too troublesome would never say something like that. Well, it's just that I can't tell how much of all this trouble Boss talks about is real, and how much is just you pretending."
"If you don't know then please shut that oily slick voice of yours up, otherwise I might actually leave, ne? And also, don't come too close; you have too much perfume on."
"Well, after all Boss is an ojii-san, so please don't infect me with your outdated tastes."
After having a go at each other, the two each went their own way. In the garden, Layfon was still doing his self-training. It's only been a month but he was already familiar with the basic usage of the steel threads. And adding on top of that his own abilities, there was no real problem using them in battle.
(Well, maybe not quite ready yet.)
Layfon was still not aware of the horror of the steel threads. Without tasting the effects of the weapon that he was using, he still couldn't say that his understanding of it was flawless.
Troyatte had already lost interest in Layfon and left.
Lintence also started moving away.
At this time, an announcement came echoing across the sky.
"The filth monster is currently getting closer. A Mature Phase Stage 2. It will come within the battle area in two days."
It was as if the sounds some obaa-san was making as she sat under the sun had been transmitted right to their ears.
Near the walkway's patio floated a Psychokinesis flake.
This was Delbone's voice.
Even though she was now an obaa-san who was lying in a hospital, her Psychokinesis showed no sign of weakening.
"Yes, it'll arrive around midday."
Somebody probably asked a question. The voice in the flake answered the question casually. It was as if the flake let you see her pondering the problem.
"You have to eat lunch properly. You can't skip, ok? If you don't eat properly you won't grow."
The person asking the question was probably Cauntia or Barmelin.
"Uh, uh, there's no need to measure a woman's charm with a man's scale. That's obvious. But a woman with charm can't evade the looks of men. Hence, they can't evade mens' measuring gazes, right?"
"There it is again, getting talked down by Cauntia."
Behind, Troyatte revealed a bitter smile.
"Stop it guys. The battle area will be roughly ten kilomels north-west off the outer edge of the city. There's no need to use the land rollers. You don't need any travel time either. Is this ok?"
The question was directed towards Alsheyra.
"Yeah. I got it. Then, Lintence go backup, Layfon go attack. Lintence, you better support Layfon properly. And Layfon, even though you're a child, you are already an outstanding Heaven's Blade Receiver, so go do your best."
In the midair garden, Layfon nodded to the flake in front of him several times.
"Good. A very good answer. I like kids with spirit. When you grow a bit older, I'll introduce you to my granddaughter."
"Delbone-sama, if you happen to know a young and charming woman, please introduce her to me."
"Troyatte, if you could place all your attentions on one woman only, I would introduce you to an exceptional beauty."
"That really is a harsh request."
"Then please give up. Ayaya, Kalvan-sama, can you not show such a gloomy and unhappy face? You should live your life a little more leisurely."
"Then everyone, I hope it's a pleasant battlefield." After saying this, Delbone's voice could no longer be heard.
The flake left from above Lintence's head.
Leaving the palace's corridors, leaving the midair garden, probably returning to their surveillance of the city.
A pleasant battlefield, eh...
Lintence pondered as he walked.
As to the reason for throwing away the city he had grown up in, then it would be because the environment there didn't have anything that could equal his strength.
A city where nothing really happened, a peaceful city where nothing would happen. There was nothing that he needed to protect with his life there, and he didn't know how much time would pass by before the city ran into a mature phase filth monster. Just a second stage male would be great already. Just that would be a huge deal for his city, but for Lintence that kind of level couldn't even be considered any opposition, merely an enemy.
It definitely couldn't be considered a pleasant battle.
Deciding to leave the city for a while was also because he discovered his great desire for danger.
The thing known as greatness is very difficult to maintain with a relaxed frame of mind. Seeing his steel threads wire technique, which he had bet his life on training and mastering, gradually rusting from not having a place to be used made him deeply felt how hollow his current life was.
It was during his twentieth year that he felt this.
And so he left his city.
The following five years, he lived a wandering life.
He arrived at Grendan because he heard it to be a city that had gone mad. He heard rumors of a city which frequently ran into filth monsters, a city which roamed in the danger zone. It was as if that city was taking the initiative and actually wanted to battle with the filth monsters, continuously fighting all year round.
So he arrived here.
If the rumors were true, then he could probably fully unleash his strength.
And the result far exceeded his expectations.
Because in his first encounter, he had allowed his arrogant self to taste defeat.
"You're very strong, onii-san."
Yes, a girl roughly the same age as Layfon right now wove through all of the steel threads that Lintence had released. And not only that, even when the steel threads bound her up, shredded her skin and flesh, they failed to give her even a single trace of a wound, and like that well known phrase, the bridge of his nose was broken. [In Japanese culture, breaking the bridge of a person's nose is associated with the defeat of an arrogant person.]
"Do you want to prove that you are great? Then enter the competition, so that you're recognized here."
The girl said this in an aloof banter with her foot atop Lintence's stomach, as he lay there with blood steadily flowing out of his nose.
"If you do that, sooner or later I'll have you experience a battlefield that makes you sigh 'ah, I'm so glad I'm not there.'"
He hadn't been on such a battlefield yet.
There did exist a battlefield which satisfied him a little. At least it was a billion times better than staying in his hometown, rusting.
But could he be satisfied with just that?
Please stop joking.
"I won't rest until I see it with my own eyes."
Lintence mumbled, directing it towards Alsheyra, no longer standing before him. After that, he returned to the palace.
The emergency alarm rang out across Grendan.
"Then let's go."
Layfon said this as he used an emergency use backpack to carry his younger brothers and sisters on his back.
The young children were running, revealing the urgent atmosphere. But that was just the mood of the bright children, excited by just leaving their front door.
It definitely wasn't the urgency of possible loss of life, that sort of sorrowful atmosphere.
"Ah, Layfon. Why are you wearing those clothes?"
Turning back, he saw his childhood friend standing there, her eyebrows creased.
"Isn't the new training uniform folded up nicely over there? Really."
"It's okay. I'm changing out of these pretty soon anyway."
"No. You're unpresentable."
Even though she said this, he obviously didn't have enough time to change clothes. As Leerin grumbled, she tried to make the wrinkles in his shirt less conspicuous, tugging on the collar and the sleeves. Layfon stood there uncomfortably, silently allowing Leerin to fix his attire.
"Make sure you do it properly next time."
Hearing Layfon's half-hearted answer, Leerin pinched Layfon's cheeks.
He was obviously acting.
"Don't get injured."
"No problem. Didn't I safely return all those times before? I'll return safely this time as well."
Before Layfon had become a Heaven's Blade Receiver, Layfon had already fought on the battlefield. In Grendan, those who didn't achieve a certain amount of results in the competitions weren't allowed to fight on the battlefield, and they also couldn't receive the Military Artists' grants. And the young Military Artists' grants would only be given until fifteen.
Layfon had been participating in the competitions since two years ago.
After achieving his goal in the first competition, he started participating in every battle he was allowed to fight in.
If one went onto the battlefield, a Military Artist's grants would be more than others. Layfon gave all of that money to the orphanage.
"But today you're alone, right?"
Leerin looked at the Dite belt strung around her childhood friend's waist. On it hung a unique Dite.
Today was Layfon's first battle as a Heaven's Blade Receiver.
"Lintence-sama will be there as well. That person is very strong. So there's no problems."
Him saying this didn't lessen Leerin's worry at all.
"Then let's make a promise."
Leerin was stunned by Layfon's proposal.
"A promise I'll definitely come back safely. So, you have to make me a week's worth of food without any green vegetables whatsoever."
"Uh-uh. If you don't eat properly you won't grow. Isn't that what Lucia-neesan said?"
Lucia was a girl who was helping with the cooking recently, and was the one responsible for working in the kitchen before Leerin. Also, she was the one who had taught Layfon and Leerin how to cook.
"So mean. Fine, I got it."
Layfon nodded his head very unwillingly, and after raising his hand and shouting goodbye he turned and left the orphanage. The younger brothers and sisters shouted towards his retreating back. Layfon waved back at them before leaping out.
Leerin sent Layfon off as she watched his shadow leaving, using his emergency high speed dash, flying across rooftops as she whispered.
"You clearly have nothing that you don't like eating."
But they had already made their promise.
Now she could only believe in him.
A late Layfon saw what the uniform he was going to wear outside of the city looked like.
It was a delicate grass-green-colored pollution isolation suit. Next to it was placed a helmet marked with 'Wolfstein.' The suit itself was labeled with Wolfstein, indicating the accessories were made especially for him. Although it didn't affect movement very much, it would still probably create a bit more wind resistance. But for Heaven's Blade Receivers, they had to carefully take into account that sort of minute detail as well.
But also, Heaven's Blade Receivers were a symbolic existence. Sometimes, when battling large numbers of filth monsters, their existence can improve the performance of other Military Artists, so they can't neglect the ornaments on their uniforms.
"Isn't sensei wearing a protective uniform?"
Even though he hadn't been ordered to be addressed as such, Layfon still called Lintence "sensei."
"You're the only one leaving the city."
Layfon had some doubts, as Lintence prevented the technical support members from getting close to him as he continued to wear his normal clothes.
"This is your battle. I'm just insurance. I'll deal with the guys you leave out. The next time there are orders it'll just be you by yourself. Don't embarrass yourself."
The obediently nodding child didn't have a look of fear at all. Because he was a child, his only reaction to anything in the world that he didn't understand was indifference. That pair of eyes no longer had their usual look.
A very good expression.
He had gotten rid of any emotions. It was an expression reflecting Layfon concentrating all his thoughts into the upcoming battle.
(The young child made such an expression. Was this a lamentable occurrence...?)
Having once lived in a peaceful city when he was young, he considered it.
However, he didn't have too many feelings on that point. And he didn't really think it was lamentable.
If one really wanted to dig towards the roots in search of the person to blame, then that would be the adults who made this child make such an expression.
Taking it a step further, in the entirety of Grendan, how many children other than Layfon could make such an expression?
That is to say, Layfon was a unique example.
"You still don't know how to use the steel threads, you understand that, right?"
Wearing only equipment for traveling outside a city, Lintence made all the technical support members go away. Layfon lifted his head to look at the helmet, playing with the buckle, and walked up to Lintence.
"For a person who originally uses a Katana, this fight will be rather constrained. But this is a battle that you have chosen, so just fight as you like."
Layfon showed a moment of surprise, but it vanished immediately from his face.
"There's no problem, I've made a promise with her to get home safely. If I provoke her anger, she's terrifying."
Although he didn't know who Layfon had made this promise with, it was fine, seeing how he was speaking with such passion.
Layfon took the helmet, strapping it on properly. After checking the connectors for gaps, Lintence slapped him on his back.
After the stairs opened up leading below, Layfon jumped out.
"Then, I wonder if the comedy over there will be able to meet expectations?"
Moving towards the outer edge of the city, Lintence whispered silently, the words never carrying across to that midair garden within the palace.