Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume8 Prologue
Something seemed amiss. Layfon was confused as to why he felt that way.
He felt uncomfortable.
This was the hospital section of the academy.
It was at the end of their inter-city battle with Myath, after his left arm received treatment. Surgery to repair his muscles and nervous system that were injured had been completed on that day as well.
"It's all because you act like an idiot and continually return to hospital that we've compiled a complete image of your body, and our thorough understanding of it allowed surgery to commence immediately" said his long-time surgeon Wakudi-senpai.
Two hours later, the surgery finished. Afterwards, he received treatment from Jinmaike-senpai. Layfon had only stayed in the hospital for one night. Right now, his left arm was covered by a simple plaster cast to keep his arm in place, and the veins in his lower back looked like a pincushion, being filled with so many needles. "If you want to sleep, sleep facing down" and Layfon, being so instructed, had sat upright in an attempt to avoid touching his back.
Leerin was beside the bed.
She was wearing the same clothes as when they had met outside the city, with her travelling case by her side. She probably hadn't returned to the hotel at all, and still retained the appearance of arriving recently.
She wore an angry expression.
That was the cause of Layfon's discomfort.
Layfon felt perplexed at that expression.
No, this wasn't the first time he had provoked Leerin's anger. In fact, he had done it so often that he had lost count long ago.
Tearing his clothes after training, making too many snacks for his younger brothers and sisters, and playing around too recklessly and covering his clothes in mud, he had always seen this scary expression. And when he covered the rest of the clothes that were about to be washed with mud as well, she looked all the more terrifying.
But Leerin would immediately return to her kind self after scolding them. It was very rare for her to actually be angry. It seemed that Leerin was trying to avoid looking Layfon in the eye, lowering her head, gazing furiously at the sheets which covered Layfon's legs.
So Layfon couldn't see Leerin's face clearly either, so he could do nothing else but stare at her hair instead. It seemed a little different from when he had departed Grendan. Her hair had grown longer, making it impossible to keep the same hairstyle. Even though they hadn't been apart for more than a year, there was still a difference.
He didn't recognize the clothes that Leerin was wearing, so she probably bought them in anticipation of entering senior school. "That's great" thought Layfon. Leerin valued her possessions a lot, so she wouldn't buy new clothes. She knew how to tailor her clothes, so if they didn't fit, she would patch them up.
Seeing her wearing new clothes probably meant that they had a bit of money to spare now, allowing Layfon to breathe a sigh of relief.
"How's your health?"
"Really good, thanks."
Layfon gingerly attempted a start to the conversation and Leerin replied sincerely.
"You aren't really well, are you, Layfon?"
"Well I did get injured."
In between the scattered fragments of conversation Layfon smiled bitterly. That numbness of his hands that he felt during his battle with Haia returned.
"Don't you think you've had too many injuries?"
"Didn't the doctor say so as well? You're getting hospitalized continuously like an idiot."
Ah, so she had overheard their conversation.
"It's not that bad."
"You were never injured as badly as this in Grendan, right?"
That was completely true. The worst injury he had ever sustained during training was when he became a Heaven's Blade Successor and was practicing with the steel wires. When his adoptive father was training him, his father would take every care to avoid pointless injury. When it was necessary, he would not hesitate to hit or hack at Layfon, inflicting on him bruises, burns or even fractures. Yet he would never injure Layfon unless it was really essential to training. His adoptive father was very good at teaching.
But Lintence was different. He wasn't good at teaching other people Military Arts, and it was no exception with teaching Layfon. So he often sustained preventable injuries. He nearly died once. But rather than saying it was Lintence's fault, that time was Layfon's own fault.
"I have been injured pretty badly when I was training."
"But you've never been injured as badly as this before, have you?"
As badly as today...Only in this battle.
It wasn't wrong to put it that way. On the other hand, when he battled against the filth monster, if he couldn't win and was forced to retreat, dying from the pollutants in the air would have been perfectly normal.
(Ah, but...an excuse like that...)
Leerin didn't participate in the battle, so she wouldn't understand.
It wasn't her fault either. It was a difference in perception between normal citizens and Military Artists.
It was also true that Layfon was repeatedly in the care of the hospital since his arrival at Zuellni.
(Even though unpredictable events had occurred one after another, they failed to surprise anyone.)
(Is it because I have gotten weaker?)
Layfon thought about this. His senses weren't as sharp as they used to be at Grendan, but that was inevitable.
"Well it was different this time."
He was hit over the head with a hollow "dong" sound.
"That's not a reason" said Leerin in a reprimanding tone.
Her eyes...She looked as if she was about to cry.
"You have to be careful next time."
The atmosphere suddenly turned very serious, and Layfon obediently lowered his head.
"I guess I'll let it pass this time."
Leerin revealed a comparatively more relaxed and less worried expression.
There were tears in the corner of her eyes, but she quickly wiped them away.
(Oh, it was that. I haven't shown any signs of repenting for my actions.)
Understanding Leerin's reasons for being angry at him, Layfon sighed in relief.
This was the ritual he performed as a symbol of reconciliation with her.
If he correctly put on a regretful expression, her anger would cease and that would ease Layfon's heart.
"It is really fortunate that you could arrive here safely."
Taking roaming buses to other cities was extremely dangerous. If filth monsters attacked them while they were on the roaming bus, they wouldn't last very long.
"We didn't run into any filth monsters."
"But it was really uncomfortable being cramped in the bus for so long."
"At first the bus seems really spacious, but after you consider how much time you'll spend in the vehicle it starts to seem really cramped. Even though there is ventilation, there is still a really bad smell and you can't even wash yourself properly. It's really uncomfortable."
Layfon silently listened to Leerin's complaints. Sitting here, listening to her, it sounded like she wanted some sort of compensation. She was still the same old self. Maybe something happened after her arrival, so as she was sorting out everything that happened she kept up her usual air.
Because Layfon had also experienced a drastic change like this, he understood what was going on.
He had also been sorting out the changes that had occurred up till now, as well as his feeling on living together with Leerin in the past. As he sorted his thoughts out, he also observed the changes. Again, he reaffirmed his changes to himself.
"...It seems after arriving at Zuellni there are many girls near Layfon, taking care of you."
"I haven't seen you for only a short time and you've changed already. When did you learn to woo so many girls?"
"Wai– Wait a second. Didn't I tell you about my captain in my letters?"
"True, but it's still suspicious. There are things that you can't write in a letter, such as things like 'I'm being happily chased and sought after.' What did you come here to do? To study, right?"
"Yeah, that's right, but... you've got it all wrong. Those people really have helped me a lot, but there wasn't any other meaning to it." Without knowing what happened, Layfon nervously attempted to explain the situation.
"They aren't really my lovers or anything... and they shouldn't have those kinds of thoughts about me anyway."
"Is it really like that?"
Leerin had mumbled something under her breath. It was really quietly whispered and Layfon couldn't quite catch it.
"Then, you had better explain your relationship with them right now." With that Leerin suddenly leaned in closely.
Layfon had no choice but to begin his explanation.
(Well... the explanation right now probably isn't too reliable)
Leerin considered it knowingly, thinking of how her slow-witted childhood friend couldn't possibly guess what other people felt deep down in their hearts. So in reality, what Layfon was saying only fit in with what was on the surface, and wouldn't be of too much use.
Even considering its unreliability, she could still find some things out from his explanation.
For example, his feelings and thoughts towards the ring of girls who had surrounded him upon his arrival at Zuellni.
(Haaa...What exactly...what exactly did I come here for?)
Feeling a little annoyed with herself, Leerin listened to Layfon's explanation.
"Then... Who started the friendship?"
"That, it was..."
Layfon could only tell Leerin what was happening on the surface.
If it was like that, then figuring out what was going on beneath the surface would be Leerin's job.