Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume9 Chapter1

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Chapter 1: Summer[edit]

"Summer~~"

"I like swimsuits~~ the best~~"

Nina frowned at the shouts coming from the lake. "Who's saying those shameful things?"

People crowded the swimming area of the lake. It was hard to find the person who shouted out those words, even for a Military Artist.

"No no, I understand his feelings." Sharnid nodded. "The passion sealed within uniforms can now be released. That's the song of a man's soul. It's a joyful song."

"Shut up, you lowlife," Dalshena tossed her bag to him. "Can't you live seriously?"

"Of course, I'm always serious."

"Sorry, it's my fault. It's useless talking to you."

"So mean," he smiled.

Dalshena sighed.

Nina gradually lost interest in their interaction.

Felli was looking around, holding an umbrella with a "nothing to do with me" attitude. And Layfon was watching them with a funny smile.

"Ah, unexpected, but there're so many people here," Mifi said, shielding her eyes with her hand as she watched the crowd. "Wonder whether the changing room has any space?"

"It should be full," Meishen said uneasily.

And..........

"All lockers are full. We can still use the changing room, but we have to watch our luggage," Leerin said, reading from the notice.

"Ah, I'll look after the luggage," Harley raised his hand. Beside him, Kirik was glaring at the sun with an unhappy expression.

"Is that ok?"

"Of course. We aren't gonna swim."

"Then what did you come here for?"

"To sunbathe," he gave a quick reply to Nina and Leerin, who were still hesitating. Kirik seemed to be saying something, but it must be something unpleasant.

Layfon deeply felt that they were used to her. Leerin. She had been here for three months now. Many things happened during that time. The number of roaming buses had decreased because it was still wartime, so she had decided to temporarily stay here and study. As a third year student, she lived with Nina because she heard the rent was cheap. That really was like her. And she had also found a part time job at the fast food place near the dormitory of the first year.

Three months had passed by in the blink of an eye. Leerin had completely merged into Zuellni's atmosphere.

(Is this good?)

It wasn't that he had to think like this. Grendan was there. But Leerin really couldn't return in this situation, and she didn't want to drag down her studies. Though she had been easily adaptable when she was young. Either way, he couldn't help but worry.

(Is the Dojo ok?)

Leerin was the oldest in the orphanage now. The orphanage should be all right since people from nearby orphanages would come and help. Besides, Leerin had already left the place when she went to study.

She said she had applied for leave in her school at Grendan. Everything could be solved once she obtained proof from Zuellni and took her exams for the next grade. But something still felt.......

(Is this okay?)

"What?" It was Leerin.

"Uh, nothing," he shook his head vaguely.

(But........)

What was it? He wasn't sure. He just felt.......... Something...... He felt......... hard to concentrate.

"What happened?"

"Really, nothing," he cocked his head at her, shaking his head. His vague expression made her angry.

"Ok, then hurry up and get changed," Sharnid said. Everybody moved.

They didn't have school and training today. They just came here for a fun day.


"We should enjoy some fun," Sharnid said excitedly as he waved his hand. This was three days ago after training in the training room.

Nina made a face at the word "fun". For her, who enjoyed training, even if she acknowledged a holiday, she wouldn't acknowledge "fun". Felli's reaction was cold from a corner. Seemed like she was about to say "what a fool". Dalshena's expression was similar. Sharnid hadn't directed his question to Naruki at all. It appeared she might need to learn how to react to this senpai.

Layfon was thinking of how to react to him.

"Yes, yes," Harley agreed. "It's already summer. The lake will be opened."

"If we want to swim, we can always swim in the pool."

"Stupid!" Nina said.

Sharnid reproved her angrily. "We can't let this sealed space suppress our youth."

"Wh.......!"

"Blue sky, glaring sun, hot sand. We can only release the colors of our youth at that place."

"Oh!" Harley was the only person to agree. Everyone else was uninterested.

"...... Truth be told, I think sometimes we need rest. It's not bad to go once a while," Sharnid said solemnly, perhaps realizing the atmosphere around him.

Nina sighed. "True. We've just been training."

"Yes, holidays are important too, whether they are for the heart or the body."

"Your motivation doesn't seem pure, but, never mind. That suggestion is fine."

"Good~~"

....... As such, team 17 had gone on a holiday. This might explain why Sharnid's emotions were stronger than usual.


"Layfon, what is this. This spiritless swimsuit?" Sharnid reproached him when he came out of the changing room.

"A swimsuit doesn't have a spirit........." he said, feeling troubled as he looked at his swimsuit. It was a fairly normal piece.

Sharnid's swimsuit was the same style as Kirik's. It fitted him, but it was too tight.

"Oh, oh, my forest is ready for anything. Don't give me too passionate a gaze."

"Ah, just what's this situation? Besides, when did I get intimate with you? Be careful of what you say."

"Ho, beauty is honed by curves."

Not knowing what to say, Layfon moved his gaze away from him. Nina and the girls emerged from the changing room.

Females usually took longer to change, but since both the male and female changing rooms were full, it took them about the same amount of time to get changed.

Nina took the lead. Next came Naruki, Mifi, Meishen and Leerin, chatting as they walked. Felli was the last one, as if hiding behind the girls.

"Look, Layfon. The female team is so imposing."

"Ha........."

Urged by Sharnid, Layfon observed their swimsuits. True, they suited their owners' personalities.

"Don't you find them beautiful?" Sharnid said in a small voice.

"Ha........." Layfon's reply wasn't keen at all.

"The light hidden by the uniform is now in bloom. What do you think? It shines, doesn't it? Don't you think this is what the light of youth is like?"

"Ha........"

"..... Why are you so listless?"

"I don't quite know how to swim."

"Swim? You planned to swim?"

"Eh, isn't that what we're doing?"

"You..... How do you want me to explain to you what youth is? From the start? Or a folk tale first?"

"What folk tale can explain youth?"

Sharnid hugged his head.

"Really.... Listen up! The place of physical contact that guys and girls can't usually touch. That's the place! The interaction between adults. We're standing on the boundary that can get us beyond the usual boy-girl relationship."

"So..... this is the limit?"

"Of course, or do you prefer seeing their underwear beneath their uniforms more?"

"Not, not at all!"

"Right. Then let's feel the beauty now! And look. Look." he turned Layfon's head around.

The girls were criticizing each other's swimsuit.

"Don't you think they made a serious choice in choosing their swimsuits?"

"Uh....... They're pretty."

"You can perceive emotions, so look more troubled."

"Look more troubled........"

"In other words, desire for the flesh. What do you think?"

"It's not good to be so direct."

"Listen up, three desires exist between guys and girls. One of them is lust. That's because of the nervous system.........."

"Please don't suddenly discuss such a serious topic."

"I'm always serious....... Anyway, this is the end of the boy-girl relationship. Humans can treat it as happiness. All hail humans. Got it?"

"I don't get anything you just said."

"Really, just what do you want me to say?"

Layfon thought Sharnid's words were quite problematic, but he couldn't quite put his finger on why.

"Really, look. Nina even worn that, though she's as slow as you."

But Nina's sports style swimsuit was very common.

"That fool! I'm not saying you have to wear something unexpected. Listen up.........."

While Sharnid was speaking.........

"What're you doing? Everyone's waiting."

"Ah, sorry, Shena........." he cut himself off.

Because Layfon's head was lightly bent, he first saw her feet. Sharnid was probably the same. Above the delicate toes were her calves that had gone through training. Next came the thighs that looked to be pretty bouncy. The V-shaped swimsuit showed her curves.

Sharnid wanted to say something but...... He got cut off.

"What?" she frowned at his suspicious look.

"Ah, no. I want to ask what do you want to do?"

She seemed to get his original intention. Her frown deepened. "Nothing much about "what did I come to do"? I came to swim."

Goggles sat on her head. A white swim cap for the purpose of racing hid her golden hair. Of course, that cap failed to cover all of her hair, letting some hair loose down her back.

"I don't like to do nothing even though we're here to have fun. I'm going ahead for a swim," she left him looking confused, and headed for the beach.

"Uh, Layfon, you get it now?" he asked, watching her leave.

"Um....... A bit."

"Yeah?" Sharnid said, feeling down.

Layfon headed for the beach too.


And their holiday began.


A large area of the lake was opened up for swimming. There was a beach, and the area for swimming wasn't particularly deep. The depth of the off-limits area was the height of two grown men put together. Canoes were provided along with other swimming gear. Target practices for water shooting could be seen on the opposite shore. There were also people who just relaxed on the beach to sunbathe. Men who chatted with others, girls who waited for guys to walk up to them....... All kinds of people were here today.

Layfon was waiting for everyone in the restaurant "Home of the Lake" near the beach. This building had no walls, so everything inside could be seen from the outside. Tables were arranged in rows, and deeper inside the shop was the kitchen. The shop owner had put in several life buoys. Some beach umbrellas were also there for rent.

Layfon sat on the edge of the raised floor, dangling his feet above the sand with nothing to do. Harley and Kirik were watching the luggage on the beach. Layfon saw them discussing something in their notes when he went to deliver some drinks to them. Nina and Dalshena seemed to be competing over swimming. He could see them clearly, though they were in the off-limits area. Sharnid had gone to do something else for a change of mood. Who knew where he had gone off to. Leerin, Meishen, Naruki and Mifi were playing in the water. Felli.......

"You found a nice place," Felli said, suddenly sitting beside him as she drank from the cool drink in her hand. She had her jacket spread on her back. "It's so hot. I don't get why they still want to play."

"It must be more comfortable in the water."

"Fon Fon?"

"I don't quite know how to swim," he said, moving his gaze away from her.

(Sharnid senpai......)

All because of the strange things that Sharnid had said, thus making Layfon think strange thoughts. He felt something looking at Felli's mouth as she drank. Many things had happened in the past three months. Many things had happened, but he couldn't quite remember them. He thought of them as accidents and that was why he forgot them. In fact, he did forget about them until this day came. What Sharnid said had made him recall the past.

Felli was wearing her swimsuit with her jacket covering her back and her breasts. A swimsuit with a little flower pattern. As she hadn't done up the buttons of the jacket, Layfon could see her stomach. Very white skin. The second piece of her swimsuit was in the style of a skirt that covered her waist and more. Her sandal-covered feet swung back and forth.

Felli was so delicate. Thinking of that, he remembered that he had carried her a few times.

(Ahhh, no, no, wait, don't think......)

At the time during training for the intercity match, and at the time in the ruined city. Those scenes surfaced in his mind.

"What is it?"

".... No, nothing," he said, hugging his head and stopping himself from thinking more, yet it failed.... The feeling of Felli's light weight in his arms, the feeling of when he took hold of her legs, the feeling when she sat on his shoulders....

(Ahhhhhhh!)

"Are you all right?"

"I'm all...... all right."

"Do you feel unwell? You've been forcing yourself lately. What happened......"

"No. Really. Nothing!"

Stop my memory! He prayed with all of his concentration. But at that time....

"Ah, exercise really is great. Felli, you're not going to swim? This is a good chance for some practice."

"No way."

"Practice is great so that you don't drown."

Nina and Dalshena had returned.

"Uh? What's with Layfon?"

"Ah, no......." he lifted his head and his gaze met Nina's.

(Aa........)

More memories surfaced. The time when he was at Nina and Leerin's place. Nina fainted and........

(No, no. That was an accident. Accident. Accident. Accident!)

But.......

"You look strange."

"Layfon, if you feel unwell......" Nina put her hand on his forehead.

(Wu!)

Her action brought her breasts before him.

(Wuwu......)

Everything that happened on that day jumped out to him. He had wrapped her with the swimming bag that day for the race......

(As I said, it was an accident!)

"No fever, but your face is really red. Are you ok?"

"Ah, well, just a little....!"

When her hand left his forehead, he seized the chance to stand up and walk past her. But two more figures appeared in his path and made him halt.

"What? What's wrong?"

Leerin and Meishen were back.

"Layfon looks strange," Nina explained.

"Eh?"

Both girls looked worried.

"Layfon?"

"Are you all right?"

Both girls walked up to him to confirm his situation, bringing their faces close to him.

CSR vol09 045.jpg

(Ahah, again.......)

That scene flashed past him. On that day at Grendan's bus station, a place filled with rumbling. Leerin's teary eyes....

"Ah......."

This moment when he made a voice without knowing.

"Eh?"

He seemed to hear someone's voice. Along with a feeling that rushed up to his brain, he fainted.


In the end, he fainted with a reddened face.

"So what happened?"

They put him underneath an umbrella. Originally they intended to send him to the hospital, but Sharnid had stopped them.

"He's burnt."

Burnt? As in a heatstroke?

"Not sure."

Though he was flippant, Sharnid wasn't the type of guy who would leave someone in a life and death situation. Since he said Layfon was all right, he probably would be all right then.

"Even so...... I still don't get it," Nina said.

Leerin and Meishen stayed behind to look after Layfon. Dalshena went swimming again. And Sharnid had gone with her. Naruki and Mifi went to do something else. Felli stayed at "Home of the Lake" to read her book. Nina had nothing to do and nowhere to go.

"That's difficult......."

It felt strange that she had nowhere to go on a beach so full of people. She looked around. She wanted to look after Layfon with Leerin and Meishen, but she felt it was difficult to just sit there with them.

Wearing sand-covered sandals, she walked along the beach aimlessly, enjoying the sun and the sand. She saw various groups of boys and girls on the beach. There were couples around too. Though they were all students at Zuellni, Nina didn't know all of them. She did, however, come across a few familiar faces. Some of them were with the same gender, some came with their lovers.

"Um."

Nina's gaze suddenly stopped on the couple that had walked past her.

"Ah."

"Ah."

She didn't immediately recognize her because she looked different than usual. Leu looked at her with an "oh no" expression. Leu lived in the same dormitory as Nina, and they were once classmates in first year. Nina recognized the guy beside her. Someone from Military Arts who seemed to be also in the same class in first year.

"Come over here for a sec......" Leu took Nina's hand and pulled her away.

"Wh, what?" Nina said in a fluster.

"How should I put it......Well......"

Leu frowned, not knowing how to say what she wanted to say. Her hands seemed directionless. She seemed to want to push something up before her eyes and suddenly realized that the glasses weren't there. Glasses were inconvenient since she was here to swim.

"That's why you refused the invitation. I see. In that case, it'd have been better if you just said so before," Nina said.

"No. It isn't like that. No......"

"I heard from Selina."

"Wu. Ah. Really!" Leu moaned. It was rare for her to be in a fluster when she was usually cold and calm.

"Never mind. It's nothing even though Nina knows...... Nothing. Nothing at all!"

"Why are you angry?"

"No, I'm not angry," she lowered her head.

Nina didn't understand why her emotions fluctuated so much. Speaking aside, Selina had seemed to be hiding something when she mentioned that Leu had a boyfriend.

(Because she's shy?)

Perhaps. Perhaps so. Nina could only guess, since she herself didn't have a boyfriend.

"Uh?"

Nina cocked her head. Leu was laughing in a bad way.

"What is it?"

"You came here with the platoon, right? How come you're alone?"

"Ah......Nothing."

"......Isn't that answer a bit too forced?"

"Nah, Layfon fainted."

"Again?" Leu asked. "He can faint. Is his body that weak?"

"Not really...... He seems to be burnt."

"Burnt?"

"Ah. What happened? It isn't a heatstroke though."

"Uh......Ah, perhaps."

"What? Thought of something?"

"Not really......only......No, perhaps......" She studied Nina. "Um......It's not bad. Your muscles aren't that thick."

"What're you saying?"

Leu ignored her and touched her arm and leg.

"Hey, what're you doing?"

"Your muscles aren't that bad. Just a little bit hard. Your stomach doesn't have any unnecessary meat."

"What're you touching?"

"Nah. I think it'd be interesting if he fainted because of your charm."

"Ha?"

Charm?

"What're you saying?"

"Wrong. You shouldn't be asking me with such a serious expression. You should blush."

"No, as I was saying......"

"Hey, do you know you're a girl?"

"Of course."

"I sometimes wonder whether you might think of yourself as a man."

"Stupid."

"Then why do you not blush?"

Even so, that would be hard for her.

Nina knew what Leu meant now, but she might not be the only reason even if Layfon fainted because of a lady's charm. At that time, Felli, Leerin, Meishen and Dalshena had been around him. All of them were beauties. Sharnid would probably cry with joy.

She understood Layfon's fainting had nothing to do with her own charm.

"Well, I don't know. Besides, mens' interests aren't the same."

"But."

"Well, for example. Don't you find it hard to accept? Don't you find it strange if a guy you find revolting actually has a pretty girlfriend? Hard to accept, right? Don't you think that girl has done something against nature?"

"I don't think so......"

"Right. Then perhaps Layfon likes your type of a girl."

"Wu........."

"That's right. Since it's rare to get to relax, don't stand here. Go do something fun," Leu said. "Ah......"

"What're you thinking? It must be something bad."

Leu went back to her boyfriend. Her good point was her ability to tell Nina what to do while holding an indifferent attitude. But now...... Would Layfon like Nina's type?

"Wu......." She stayed rooted on the spot, troubled.


They had barbecue for dinner, and it was dusk when they finished eating. The number of people on the beach had increased. Some had set up stalls along the beach. Layfon and the others changed into their clothes and went to check out the stalls.

"So many people," Leerin said with a sigh.

"Yes," Layfon said with a sigh too.

"What, what? You don't see this much? It's just a normal summer festival," Mifi said.

"We don't have many summers in Grendan."

"Ah, just three times."

"And we didn't have huge festivals."

"Just at the beginning of the New Year. It was grand, but all other smaller events were done within small areas."

"Wa, so old-fashioned."

"Are there many festivals in Joeldem?" Leerin asked.

"Many. The Electronic Fairy Festival is on every single season......"

"Really."

"Joeldem must be rich."

Mifi began to explain Joeldem's festivals to them. Both of them sighed at hearing other festivals.

"Though I thought of it when I came to Zuellni, Grendan really is very poor," Layfon said.

"What? You only found out now?" Leerin said. "It's always fighting. It shouldn't have that much money."

"Ah, I see."

"Geez, you should use your brain. It's the same whether it's money at home or money used to run a country."

"Ah, only Leerin would think of that though."

The two of them continued to admire the stalls as they argued.

"Oi, it's almost time," Sharnid said, checking his watch. "Hurry."

"But all the good seats are taken now," Dalshena protested.

"Not really. We can just use our brains more, and that's what makes it meaningful," he said.

Light blossomed.

"Wa......So pretty."

Fireworks lit up the sky above the quiet lake. Leerin sighed at the imaginary flowers that were blossoming above her.

"They use real fireworks in formal situations. The sound would be very loud. As expected, we don't have the budget and the technology," Nina said to Leerin, who looked unhappy.

White and red light painted Leerin's face. The fireworks were only images projected in the sky.

"That must be done by the Message Team. I saw them recruiting a short while ago."

"Ah, those guys are cutting corners this year."

Harley and Kirik. Though Kirik had pointed out the weakness of this year's fireworks, he cheered like everyone else under the grand decoration of the fake fireworks.


"Use your brain......This is what you mean?" Dalshena looked around, not interested. They were on the roof of a research building. It usually banned normal students from entering, but the research students were here appreciating the fireworks.

"Huh, still can't quite see it clearly," Meishen smiled bitterly. Naruki looked uncomfortable.

"Sorry," she said.

"No worries. We're in a festival. You've been busy this year too. You don't have much time to relax and rest. Take this opportunity to enjoy your time," Sharnid said.

"Yes, yes," Naruki said in a small voice to Meishen.

"Look, you're making it difficult for the first years, doing whatever you like," Dalshena glared at him.

"No one wouldn't want to be the guy that girls can rely on. The problem is just how the opposite gender thinks."

"What. Are they in that kind of relationship?" Dalshena understood now.

"I'm happy to have you rely on me."

"Not in my life."

"So mean," he shrugged.

She glared at him. Her gaze then alleviated.

"But, great suggestion for the holidays."

"Isn't it? Youth is short. Summer is even shorter. It'd have been a waste if we didn't enjoy it."

"I don't mean that. I mean Nina."

Nina often sank into contemplation recently with a serious expression. Though she hid that expression once she noticed someone looking at her, she had failed to escape Dalshena's eyes. Dalshena didn't know what she was contemplating. The busy schedule of the recent Military Arts Competition was a timely relief for the Captain. However, that limit was close to its breaking point. Dalshena feared something might happen, and that was exactly the time when Sharnid made his suggestion.

"Well, that person's too passionate."

"Passionate?"

"Her brain gets heated up. She needs to cool down before she loses control," he said and smiled, thinking of something. "Every day is so hot. Other symptoms might just explode together."

"Your joke isn't funny," she said. Her expression turned lonely. "That guy would probably look bitter if he heard this foolish talk."

"What? Thought of something?"

"You can't tell what it is?"

"Who knows," he turned his face away.

"At least, I don't have the right to sympathize with him."

"Sympathy. He'd probably hate it."

"Perhaps."

They lifted their gazes to the fireworks, thinking of their still unconscious friend.

Meishen and Mifi watched the two of them from behind. "And that is the injury between the two of them."

"Is, is that so?" Meishen said, confused.

They couldn't hear the conversation from here, and eavesdropping wasn't good. But she felt like the lonely scene of the two of them watching the fireworks really resembled a painting.

"This adult-like feeling is too much for Mei."

"Uu......"

That must be it since it came from Mifi.

"Then let's use a more direct method. Contact. Direct and enthusiastic body contact!"

"......Wait, don't you find what you're saying strange?"

"There's no other way though."

Meishen's face must be very red. She wanted to stop Mifi but she still looked at the direction she was pointing.

At where Layfon and Leerin were watching the fireworks together. Perhaps they weren't used to watching fireworks. The two of them looked at the sky like little kids.

"You have to show something of yourself like the fireworks."

"Eh?"

"If you can't do that, then it'll never come to you. Look over there."

She followed Mifi's direction again. Felli and Nina were standing somewhere not too far from Layfon and Leerin. A distance that wasn't too far or too close to the other two. A distance that allowed them to speak to the other pair at any moment.

"Look, they're waiting too. You're also thinking of pushing them away, pushing Leerin away and wrapping your arm around his. That kind of an initiative."

"No, I can't."

That was too much for her. But......

(Wu......)

But she should be able to take up her courage again. That was what Meishen thought. She knew she was weak, and that troubled her every time she thought of it. She could only be like this because she was born timid. But if she could have more courage...

"What, Mei. Your face is red."

"No, nothing."

But she could only blush and think, imagining herself in that place as she looked at Layfon and Leerin. And self-hatred rushed up in her, knowing she could only imagine and not do anything.

(I want courage.) She thought as she watched Leerin. She felt like everything would end in the blink of an eye.


Nina walked with exhaustion. Students filled the tram station, waiting for a tram to take them home. Layfon and the others planned to walk a little before parting to head home. Dalshena and Sharnid decided to just walk home. Naruki and her friends stayed back at the tram station, saying they wanted to get back faster. Harley and Kirik returned to the lab.

That left Layfon with Nina, Felli and Leerin. At first, Layfon and Leerin talked from one thing to another. This was their first time experiencing the fireworks of summer. They were really happy, and Nina's expression softened as she watched them. Felli wasn't as indifferent as before. She didn't keep her distance but instead, she showed interest in joining the conversation. But by then everyone had quieted down.

(Too tired?)

Only Leerin wasn't a Military Artist. She had a full day, and she had also swam. She must be reaching her limit now.

(Let's not force her. We'll take the tram at the next station.) Felli thought.

Though Felli was a Psychokinesist, her physical strength wasn't as strong as Nina and Layfon's. However, she did do training, so she was in better shape than Leerin. Even so, she felt uneasy with her current steps. As she thought, the next station was her limit.

The station appeared soon, and that was the parting point for them. Nina and Leerin lived in the same dormitory, while Layfon and Felli lived in the same suburb. Felli heard a light sigh when they were about to reach the station.

"Right, let's take the tram here," Nina suggested.

Layfon nodded.

"......Sorry, please wait," Leerin said, stopping.

"What is it?"

The streetlight didn't reach her face, so the others couldn't make out her expression. Was she not well because of her tiredness? Should Felli have taken the bags? But Leerin had insisted on carrying it.

"I have something to say to Layfon," Leerin said, her hand on the bag on her shoulder.

"Ah, then we'll......" Nina said, feeling the unusual atmosphere.

It had been three months since Leerin arrived at Zuellni. But she had not once said why she was here. Academy Cities had fewer encounters with filth monsters, so they were safer than other cities. But in truth, Nina witnessed a ruined city on her way to Zuellni, and filth monsters did attack Zuellni recently. The journey on a roaming bus was unsafe, yet Leerin had traveled all the way here. Why? Many people should have already asked her directly or indirectly, but she kept diverting the conversation. This time, she was going to say it.

Nina swallowed, feeling the tension. It felt different from when she was in battle. It was a feeling of knowing she shouldn't be here. She exchanged a glance with Felli. The other girl was also hesitating.

"No. I want you to hear too. I want you to hear because you understand Layfon, the Military Artist whom I don't quite understand."

"Uh......um."

"...........................ok."

Layfon waited with a tense expression too.

"Layfon......"

"Uh........."

Leerin watched him as if confirming he really was him.

"......When I read the letter that you wanted to stay as a Military Artist, I was relieved."

"Eh?"

"You wrote that in the letter. Though I was happy and troubled, I was happy that you told me you wanted to stay a Military Artist. I've always thought of you as a Military Artist. It feels like if you're not a Military Artist, then you're not the Layfon that I know. Then you'd have disappeared, and I would really hate that feeling."

"Leerin........."

"But I thought about it. If I reunited with Layfon, observed him well and saw that he was actually an unwilling Military Artist, then he should stop. Zuellni's circumstances are irrelevant. I'm not a Military Artist, but I've heard father's stories, so I understand the cruelty of battles. If that is really how Layfon feels, then there will definitely be nothing good that will come from being a Military Artist."

Her words nailed Nina's heart. She didn't want Layfon to fight again, yet he did, all because of the lack of maturity in the Military Artists here. All because she herself was too useless. She had thought of this many times, but who helped her climb back to her feet? Layfon. Who helped her to make her stronger? Layfon.

In Nina's eyes, she could do nothing to catch up to Layfon's strength. The term "help" probably meant nothing much to him. Because no one could catch up to him......They could only rely on him.

Leerin's hand reached into the bag. "But it turns out Layfon isn't really unwilling. I don't know how Layfon feel about this, but you've never worn the face of being unwilling. And that is really great."

"It's not like I've given up leav-......"

"Un, even so, that's okay. Because at least I know, for Layfon, being a Military Artist is not an impossible choice."

"Leerin......"

"So, to the present Layfon...... No, it's because you're you now, that I think this is essential to you."

She took out something from the bag. It was a thin, long box, wrapped in a piece of clean cloth adorned with gold and silver threads. A crest was carved into the cover of the box. Nina didn't know what was inside it. She glanced at Layfon and saw him frozen with shock.

"This is......"

"Father has already forgiven you. And he feels he owes you, so he hopes you can accept this."

Father......Nina recalled the school of Psyharden. Layfon sealed those techniques of his but Haia had always been using those Katana skills. She didn't know what was inside the box. Did Leerin want Layfon to pick up the Katana? Or was it because Layfon had greatly improved, so? He had become stronger than before? In that case......

But Layfon quietly shook his head.

"I'm sorry. I can't take this."

The events that happened after that night were like raging waves. It was very hard to make sense of them.


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