Chrome Shelled Regios:Volume9 Chapter3
Chapter 3: Wish
His mood had gone to the bottom of what could be called the "worst" in the past few months. Nothing much had happened since the Military Arts Competition with Myath, but now... Even Layfon was at a loss.
(Aa, what should I do? I just ran off.)
The anger in him when he had argued with Nina had now faded. Right now, he felt guilty for leaving work and throwing a tantrum at Nina. He walked on the empty road in low spirits.
Though he wanted to go back, he felt that the Captain would chase him all the way to the dormitory. No, perhaps she wouldn't come......
He strode around his dormitory, saw something shining and went over like a moth attracted to light. It was an area designed for vending machines. It had everything, from drinks and snacks to fast food and cleaning liquid. No wind blew here, as a roof had been constructed over the area. People who stayed late would sometimes sleep here for a night. Tonight, no one was about. Layfon sat down on a long bench.
"Ha........" he sighed. He wished he could release all the feelings stuffed inside him.
To hold the Katana again meant he had to inherit Psyharden. His adopted father had forgiven him, and that should make him happier than anything else.
He shouldn't be unhappy at this.
He recalled snatches of memories from when he was small. His adopted father was dancing with a weapon in the dojo. In silence, he swung the wooden Katana, his upper body naked. Metal was embedded in the wooden Katana to give it a heavier feel similar to a real Dite. The air vibrated every time he swung the Katana. At the time, the Katana had accidentally hit little Layfon, and he sat down, seemingly paralyzed, but he didn't cry out.
Layfon watched the air flow enveloping his adopted father's muscles as he swung the Katana. He was also watching the other thing rushing out of Derek.
Back then, he didn't know that was Kei.
Having finished practicing, his adopted father smiled at him. No one else was in the dojo. At that time, the dojo was extremely empty. It was simple to count the number of people who came in to train. Most people had joined the other dojos. Derek had already retired.
"Do you want to hold it?"
He had said that to Layfon.
"You're the only Military Artist left in the orphanage. You'll one day hold a Dite and fight for the people of Grendan."
Layfon took the Katana with both hands. The handle, glistening with sweat, was heavy. Unable to take that weight, he again sat down on the floor. All he could do was fall. Tears fought to fall from his eyes.
His adopted father smiled and held him up in his arm. "No need to rush. I'll protect you all till you've grown. And after that, it's your turn."
He had decided from that moment on to hold the Katana. He wanted to become a hero like his adopted father.
He should be happy. His adopted father willed for him to hold the Katana that he thought he could never touch again. This, however, didn't mean what happened in the past was cancelled. He had tainted the name of a Heaven's Blade. He had betrayed the people of Grendan....... Those things meant nothing for Layfon except for the fact that he had tainted the name of Psyharden. He had insulted the father who had sworn to protect them.
When he took up the sword, he wanted to let those who wished to study under Psyharden's name to know that he had cut his ties with Psyharden. His actions had gained Derek many students, but later on, the dojo went back to its desolate state. That didn't concern Layfon much as he was plagued by guilt.
Most of the students came to learn the Psyharden techniques because Layfon was a Heaven's Blade successor. However, that thinking alone was not enough to grasp hold of the essence of Psyharden. Back then, Layfon knew a Military Artist in the Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang also used Psyharden, and that the Gang's reputation had far exceeded that of Grendan's. What he didn't know was that the leader of the Gang was the apprentice of Derek's brother from the same Military Arts school.
Many people came to learn the Psyharden techniques, but many of them had stopped coming.
"They're just techniques taught to mercenaries," one of the students said and left the dojo.
That didn't sit well with Layfon.
What happened to that person afterwards?
He remembered seeing him once in a public battle. That was it. If that person was still alive, he must still be fighting in Grendan. If that was the case, he might now realize that he had misunderstood the essence of Psyharden.
Some people speculated that Layfon had abandoned Psyharden techniques because he was dissatisfied with them. He was angry, but he chose to ignore the speculation. War. War meant survival. It did not have room for contempt and nostalgia. One couldn't fight if one died. And if one died, one could protect nothing. The dead could only return to the earth. What was wrong with that saying? Everyone thought the same way in war.
"I know what you want to say........" Layfon burst out.
Yet he wanted to deny it. If he could accept a rational truth, he should have kept calm at the start. But he acted foolishly under the urgency of the situation. As such, he tried his best to keep calm during his fights. That was so he could keep on living. He couldn't lose that feeling.
He sometimes thought of the teachings of Psyharden even though he didn't hold the Katana.
Hearing footsteps, Layfon lifted his head, took out his cash card in a fluster and hurried to stand before a vending machine. He didn't want anyone to see him feeling down in the middle of the night, sitting with his head down on a bench.
While he was deciding on which juice to pick...
"....... What're you doing?"
Though it was deep into the night, Felli was still in uniform.
"Felli too. Why are you here?"
"I was reading in a certain place and forgot the time. I came over since I am hungry."
"I see, but......."
"I don't go out in my pajamas," she concluded and went to buy some juice and a snack.
Layfon thought she would return home after that, but she sat down on a chair before a table, and opened the packet she bought.
"Feel free. I have something to talk to you about."
"Uh, ok," he nodded and pressed a button. He only realized he had chosen a hot drink when he took the can.
"Fon Fon, will you not accept it no matter what?"
"....... So it's still about that," he said. He didn't want to discuss it.
"Is it the captain? Well, it's not like I don't understand your feelings."
"But that's just natural. You've been forgiven, but you still choose to refuse it. That's hard to accept. Besides, Leerin let us hear the conversation. I think she wants us to make a decision too."
"I think you should accept it."
"Because you have to fight," she touched the surface of the can. "You don't have to take it if you give up on Military Arts. Because that would only cause you nostalgia."
Nostalgia. That word caused him pain. He wanted to deny it, but he hardly resisted it when he held the Dite. Although he did resist when the Student President blackmailed him into fighting, now he didn't really dislike what had happened. That was because he enjoyed the time he had spent with Nina and the 17th platoon.
He didn't hate Karian now. While Nina had gone missing and Zuellni was on a rampage, the Student President had chosen to negotiate with the filth monster even though he had no fighting strength. He fought in a way that differed from Nina's. And Layfon respected him.
"But after, if you choose to continue to fight filth monsters, you should take up the Katana."
"I don't want to hold it......."
"If you don't hold a Heaven's Blade, what you now have is just an ordinary Dite. Don't you find that imperfect?"
He couldn't deny what she said. No Dites except the Heaven's Blades could sustain the Kei released by him. He hadn't mentioned this to anyone else. He didn't find that painful at first, since he only had to bear with it until he had the Heaven's Blade. Just who had noticed it?
"Did the Captain say something?"
"Why so sudden?"
"You look like you've been wronged. The Captain's opinion is probably the same as mine. I want to know what she said to make you look like this. She probably didn't mean to, but I guess I'll have to guide you."
"Wronged...." He couldn't deny her.
Wronged..... No. He was angry with what she said. What was it? Oh yes.
"I can't support you."
That line. But she said before that she wanted to become strong with him.
"Isn't that natural."
He felt like Felli had sneaked in a laugh behind his back.
"You said that even though you know how powerful you are."
"Uh, no, I mean........."
"I think you should apologize to the Captain."
"I heard that you were the one who took down the enemy's flag in the intercity match with Myath."
Felli had been kidnapped during that time, so Layfon had gone alone to fight Haia. Nina and the others had the job of taking the enemy's flag. In the end, Zuellni won the match.
"Haia wasn't an easy opponent since he's the leader of a famous Mercenary Gang. No one in Zuellni could win against him besides you. And while fighting him, you helped the Captain."
Layfon could tell what she wanted to say.
"...... Of course, that was all because I got kidnapped. Sorry."
"That wasn't your fault........"
In fact, it was his fault. Haia wanted to fight him because they both inherited the Psyharden skills. Felli just got caught up in this fight between brothers from the same Military Arts school.
Karian had arranged for Layfon to enter Military Arts to guarantee their victory in the Military Arts Competition. He had also hired the Mercenary Gang to boost the students' strength.
Layfon couldn't underestimate Haia's strength. That proof was shown in the injury on his left hand.
"That wound on your left hand is a problem."
"Would you be calm if I or the Captain got hurt?"
"You're strong. So strong that you could spare time to help the Captain while fighting Haia. We can't support you. I don't really know what the Captain thinks since I'm a Psychokinesist, but as someone fighting on the frontlines, she probably understands that more than me. When you truly need help, she might not be able to provide the support you need. And she blames herself for it. That's why she wants to do something for you, and she also hopes you can do something. Do you understand that feeling?"
"......... Even if I take up the Katana, that can't solve the problem of the Dite."
"Even so, you can do something if you take up the Katana."
That was it.
"Whether it's just one out of 100%, or one out of a million chances. As long as it increases the chances of your survival, I hope you can take up the Katana."
"That probability means nothing. When you die, you can't escape it. I've seen that many times," he protested.
Felli stood up and raised her right hand. He avoided the attack........ But he swallowed at the expression on her face. Face red with eyes widened......... No matter how he looked at her, he knew she was angry.
And next, the sound of something hitting his cheek.
"You don't know that," she said emotionally. Even she herself didn't know why she was feeling this way. "You don't understand what it feels like when you can't do anything!" She ran off.
"......... I knew it would turn out like this," he sighed.
Only defeat awaited him if he went to battle without any preparation. All he did was flee to this city. But what should he do when he had nowhere to escape to?
When she came to, it was already night. She knew immediately she was in the hospital, but all she could think of was why she was wasting time here.
"Right. I fainted," Leerin sighed.
This was her first time being admitted to a hospital. She had visited others in the hospital a couple of times though. That time when she visited Layfon here in Zuellni, and back at Grendan when her adopted father was attacked by filth monsters and had to stay in the hospital.
She watched the ceiling, never thinking she would have to stay in a hospital as well.
Her first time taking a long journey. Her first time coming to another city. She did her best to keep going no matter how many first times she encountered. Perhaps all the stress she had been bearing had burst out at once. The drip attached to her arm prevented her from moving.
"I thought I was quite healthy too," she said, looking out the window at the nighttime scenery of Zuellni.
Three months. Though she was used to Zuellni's streetscape, she felt today's scenery was different from usual. Was this because of the change in the color of the sky? Compared to Grendan, the building style here was different. But the color of the sky shouldn't deviate much. Was it because of the stars?
Leaving alone the theory that had no basis, her thoughts turned to the people living here. No Synola. None of Leerin's other good friends. No classmates from Grendan's school. No orphanage and no adopted father. In here, she only had Layfon, the Layfon who had disappeared from Grendan.
"...... What should I do?"
Someone knocked on the door.
Leerin glanced at the clock hanging on the wall. It was midnight. Who was it? Someone from the hospital? She gave an answer and the door slid open quietly.
The light in the corridor lit up his figure.
"Sorry, did I wake you?"
"No," she shook her head in a fluster as he came to stand by her bedside.
"Are you feeling ok?"
"Yeah, it's all right now. I'm just a bit tired."
"The Captain said you fainted due to exhaustion."
The emergency lighting in the room wasn't enough to clearly illuminate his face.
What should she do? They had never had such a huge argument. In the past, Layfon was always the first to complain, Leerin then got angry, and he then apologized. She'd then forgive him. But what about this time? Though she thought he was in the wrong, should she still act angry? She was sad when he refused the Dite. The thing she had taken with her all the way to Zuellni had become worthless. Perhaps Layfon had forgotten all that had happened in Grendan. Of course, that wasn't wrong in his perspective. Since he couldn't return to Grendan, he could only cut ties with it. Hence, the Dite she brought with her might have interfered with his decision.
"Layfon, am I a bother?"
"Not at all," he lightly shook his head. "I'm happy. I'm really happy. I never thought father would forgive me. Nothing makes me happier than that."
"But it troubles me to suddenly take up what I've resolved to give up......... I need time to tidy my feelings."
They fell silent. Was this the only reason? Did he want to forget everything that had happened in Grendan? She wanted to ask. She wanted to know. And her journey might truly come to an end when she heard his reason. Should she ask or not ask? In the end, she decided to ask the question, but what she managed to confirm was something else.
"How many times have you been to the hospital since coming to Zuellni?"
"I heard from Nina that you've been admitted to the hospital several times."
The time when the larvae attacked the school. The time when he investigated in the ruined city. The time when the ground of Zuellni collapsed. The time when he fought Haia. Four times altogether.
"But you stayed in the hospital only once in Grendan. You sustained many injuries but you never had to be admitted."
That one time of the hospital visit was after he had become a Heaven's Blade successor, caused by some training that he did.
"Do you know why you get wounded so many times in here?"
After looking at the confusion and chaos governing the people in Myath at the news of the filth monsters attack, Leerin understood how unusual Grendan was. The incident had also made her realize how safe Grendan was. It was lucky for them to have strong Military Artists, and they also had the elites – the 12 Heaven's Blade successors. No city could be luckier than Grendan. At the same time, this was lucky for the Heaven's Blade successors as they could reduce each others' burden. They didn't have to consider being forced into a corner. Even if they made a mistake, Military Artists as strong as them could fill in any gaps left by an error. This meant one didn't have to push oneself too much in a fight. Of course, there were other reasons. For example, Layfon didn't have a Heaven's Blade and had to use a normal Dite that failed to maximize his potential. Things like that.
"Yeah," he nodded.
Though she didn't know whether he truly knew, she didn't feel impatient. That was because he had come to visit her.
"Yes, I wouldn't have to force myself if I was in Grendan. I only needed to fight enemies who were on par with my strength. As you said, I wouldn't use any other Dites," he said, stammering in his speech. "There were Sensei and Savaris-san. No other situation could be better than that. That might be the most fortunate place for a Military Artist. Because of that, I know I should accept the Katana and choose the road to enable me to become stronger."
"In that case....."
"I know. I'm really happy. In the end, I'm still a Psyharden Military Artist. Nothing can make me happier than father's forgiveness. Looking at Haia holding the Katana so naturally, to tell the truth, I was jealous of him."
Leerin had heard that Haia was the leader of the Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang.
"....... Can I, can I really have that Katana?" he said with a trembling voice.
She now understood why he didn't immediately take the Katana – He was afraid. Tears filled her eyes. He was afraid, speculating and doubting whether the forgiveness was not a lie. He even thought that perhaps the thing inside the box wasn't a Dite.
She once again recalled the past he might have wanted to forget. But from the current Layfon, it was clear that he wouldn't have forgotten it. At that time, the people in the orphanage refused him. They called him a traitor, a contemptuous person. Father didn't say anything to comfort him. That couldn't be helped, since he was also in shock.
"Father said that he's been in battles for too long. Because he spent a long time teaching students in the dojo, something had restricted him without his knowing. The techniques of Psyharden. The techniques that he learned in order to survive, he's forgotten them."
His shoulders shook under the dim light. She didn't know when, but her voice trembled.
"Father knows your path will only get more difficult. He didn't give this to you to inherit Psyharden. He thinks he has nothing left to teach you. He wishes you to grow freely and not be bound by anything."
She remembered that time back in the past. Layfon was too small to accept father's training. From a distance, she watched him swing the wooden Katana on his own. She watched him sway and stagger, unable to take its weight. Even so, he imitated father's stance.
"Does that make you happy?" she had asked.
Back then, she didn't know the difference between normal people and Military Artists. She thought effort alone could make one become a Military Artist. Sometimes, the boys at the orphanage would play with drawing paper and tree branches, using them as swords in their play. Sometimes, they used those things to tease the girls, so Leerin had hated Military Artists. She didn't understand Layfon's dream to become one.
Layfon wanted to become a Military Artist. Well, he was a boy after all. He was always spacing out and he didn't mix with the other kids. And Leerin was disappointed that he was, after all, just like the other boys. She had wanted to invite him to play dolls with her......
"Yeah," he had smiled at her in response as he fell on the ground under the weight of the wooden Katana. Somehow, she felt that smile to be different from the usual Layfon's look. It seemed to sparkle.
..... After that, she understood the difference between Military Artists and normal people, and she knew Layfon was a Military Artist.
Father had prepared him a wooden Katana once he started training with him. She watched him damage the Katana again and again. She watched him swing it again and again. She watched him become a Heaven's Blade successor. And..... and she watched him leave Grendan to come to Zuellni.
"I'm happy. I'm really happy."
Even without looking at each other, they knew they were both crying. She felt his tears from her ears, and her tears fell on his neck. They no longer knew who did the hugging first. Tears stole away their strength, and they held each other to give themselves support.
This was great. Layfon didn't plan to toss away his past in Grendan. She had thought he had sealed her away in his memories, but the truth revealed otherwise. She was really happy.
"Don't forget us."
"How could I."
When they confirmed their faces were wet with tears, their lips overlapped naturally.
At this time, Alsheyra had gone to visit the usual bar as Synola.
"Uh~?" she watched the ceiling, feeling a bit drunk. Though the lighting was dim, the structure on the ceiling stood out vividly. Submerged a long time in smoke and oil, the color of the ceiling had changed.
"What is it?" the owner of the bar asked. He was originally her classmate. It was usual for Synola to act strange, so he only asked out of curiosity.
"Um~" she responded.
The owner turned away. "You look bored. Is it because that kid's not here?"
"Yeah, if I had known, I wouldn't have let her go so far away. Ahah, my stress is piling up~~"
"You're strange. Anyone who wants to get close to you would probably get scared away. Though you're a beauty. What a waste."
"What, you want to date me?"
"Be at ease. I've already given up."
She put her cheek on the bar. Smiling at her bitterly, he poured wine into a glass and went to deliver it to a client.
She made another "Um~" noise. "So strange, Grendan's route hasn't changed."
She meant the destination of the city. At that time, Grendan was moving in the direction of the filth monster that Cauntia and Reverse had defeated. The filth monster didn't really flee. It was forced to leave. According to old tradition, they would give it a name, but that hadn't been done yet. Hence, that problem was pushed aside. At present, Grendan should have returned to its usual route in an attempt to quickly decide the outcome of the battle. People called Grendan the insane city. It even ignored the basic rule of moving to the locations of selenium mines.
"Is that escaped filth monster a big someone? I don't think so."
Though it was chased away, it did impress upon her a true sense of "strength" that she couldn't feel from other filth monsters.
"........ Speaking of which, how does this relate to the intruders?" Bothered by this point, she left the bar.
Barmelin would probably be outraged if she found out that there was another way into the Inner Court. However, only the royalty knew of that route, so the other Heaven's Blades could only bear the nasty smell through the usual route. If only the intruder had died in the maze.
Synola came to the door that would open into the Inner Court.
It had been one week since the intruder got here. The city's auto-repair ability had wiped clean the traces left by the previous fight. Synola stood at the door, looking a bit drunk. No handles were built into the door. A shallow trench split the middle of the door, yet seams filled that trench. Protruding holes and depressions covered the door like a puzzle. Even Synola couldn't open this door. Behind this door laid Grendan's real consciousness. When would this consciousness wake? What did the intruder come here for? Should she not have asked Barmelin to come?
But she couldn't fight him if that intruder was related to the Wolf Faces. Since she would be pulled to another side, someone needed to fight that person. Besides, it was a high possibility that the Wolf Faces knew of the Inner Court.
"Ah, so restricted."
Her complaint disappeared without an echo.
"I want to see some change here, but things stay the same."
The combination of the environment and a good match had given birth to the monster called Alsheyra Almonise. Her strength far exceeded any Heaven's Blade successor. Though her strength couldn't be compared to the combined strength of all 12 Heaven's Blade successors, she far exceeded the strength of individual Heaven's Blades. But no one could lead her to that thing as long as the consciousness of Grendan remained in its slumber. Just what was she to do?
"Should I give up?" she asked. Of course, no one replied her. She felt uncomfortable at the silence.
"Well, shouldn't I ask Grendan about the route?" she turned, her back facing the door as her train of thought turned to the Haikizoku.
She hadn't seen it for a long time even though she was the Queen. The encounter of that time was because Leerin was in danger, and Grendan responded to it. She knew when she first met Leerin. Tears had slid down Leerin's face in her first encounter with Synola. She knew, after looking at the figure in the depth of Leerin's pupils...... Along with the cruelty of fate, that moment had given Synola, Alsheyra Almonise, the sign that the person she was waiting for had appeared. The time was here. It was time for Grendan to fulfill its mission.
Yes, she knew. She herself and the 12 Heaven's Blades were not enough. The royal family of Grendan lacked a true successor. But........ Why did Grendan appear in front of Leerin?
It wasn't rare for the blood that made up the three families of the royal line to slip into the ordinary populace. Though Grendan had a long history, it didn't have the power to enable all three royal families to live a rich life. It was rare for that strength to appear in the populace of Grendan, but it wasn't extremely unusual. But why.........? Synola asked again, gritting her teeth.
"If possible, I want that child to be happy."
Military Artists were born to keep the world in balance. As a normal person, why did Leerin have to face that? That was why Synola let her leave the city. If it could be done, she wanted her to stay away and live happily with Layfon. If she had stayed in Grendan, she would get caught in something bad.
In order to head for the Mechanical Department through the secret passage in the Inner Court, Synola must first head back to the palace. Though she found that troublesome, she preferred this road over the nasty smelling maze. Because she could use this privilege, she couldn't help but think of Barmelin's expression of hate. Barmelin always talked to others like she was an elder.
She entered the palace and halted her steps.
"Your Majesty," Kanaris said, waiting in the private room for the King. As a shadow Military Artist, she had been using this palace. She looked like the Queen, as if she were Synola's shadow.
"Where have you gone to? I asked Delbone-sama, but she wouldn't tell me a thing. I've been looking for you."
"That's one of the seven secrets of the Queen."
"That's just........" Kanaris sighed.
This wasn't fun at all. Synola wouldn't have minded if she kept asking "what are the other six secrets?" or something like that.
"So what is it? It's late."
"I have something to report."
"What is it?" she looked at the document in her hand.
A gene report. But the name of the person who wrote this report wasn't on the document. On the other hand, someone else's name was on it.
"What do you mean?" Synola..... Alsheyra asked.
".......... I did this while Your Majesty was outside posing as Synola. I'm sorry. I wasn't interested in it at the beginning, but my thinking changed after so many things have happened."
"Why did Grendan appear before that girl? Because of the filth monster? But Your Majesty has already controlled the Haikizoku. Your Majesty wouldn't have ignored it, besides, you were already there. You could have arrived there before Grendan showed up without the girl noticing. But Grendan appeared before her as if to become her shield."
Alsheyra's gaze kept glued to the name on the report.
"My doubt began there. I took a strand of hair from that girl and did an investigation......... And the result is what you're seeing now."
It was easy for Kanaris to take a strand of hair of a normal person. And then she knew about her.
"Your Majesty, you know........!"
It was enough.
"Kanaris. I knew. This isn't because you've overstepped."
She grabbed hold of Kanaris's neck and lifted her up. Her eyes rolled to show white.
"But you're too loyal to your duty. This isn't loyalty to me. If I weren't the Queen, you'd probably carry out your duty under the next King."
"Ah..... Wu.......! Wu!"
She coldly watched her struggling legs.
Should she kill her off here? This woman knew. It wasn't strange for Alsheyra to know since she was from the royal line.
"But you're now my subordinate. You must finish your mission under my orders. Don't you think you shouldn't do what I don't wish to be done? Though you're good at preparations, can't you give my feelings some consideration?"
The legs gradually stopped struggling. No more strength to even make a noise. Alsheyra released her hold.
"You're wrong if you think I can't kill you......... I won't allow this to happen again."
"I'm....... very sorry."
Alsheyra destroyed the report and returned to her private room. The Kei in her hand had turned the document into powder in an instant. The maids coming in tomorrow would clean that up. The Queen cocked her head at the powder.
She recalled the name on the document.
Herder Eutnohl, the eldest son of Eutnohl, one of the three royal families. He was her fiancé. If she had married him, they would have given birth to a child who would have borne Leerin's fate. But he had eloped with a normal girl. He was a fool under a curse.
"Why did you stay in Grendan. You idiot........."
According to the calculations based on the year when he went missing, Leerin's age matched the results perfectly. She understood that. She had already considered this possibility.
She just didn't want to confirm it.