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Koukaku No Regios - Volume 7 - Chapter 5

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Chapter 5 – A Fight of Katanas

The sound of the ringing bell pierced through the air at noon. A new meaning suffused this sound different from the usual meaning of lunch break. The shouts of Military Artists filled the air. Hundreds of Military Artists shouted with internal Kei, creating a huge noise that shook the air.

Simultaneously, the commanders of both sides gave the order to attack.

"Forward!" Vance shouted. The front line team, the 2nd platoon took the lead. At the same time, the leading group of Myath also attacked. High speed created waves of impact that spread out in the battlefield.

"We have similar numbers of people."

Myath had around 200 Military Artists, close to the number in Zuellni. The main problem was the number deployed in other areas. Zuellni had assigned 30 Military Artists and a suitable number of Psychokinesists to reinforce team 11, which was assigned a defensive job. They would receive aid from the Psychokinesists located in the center of the city in order to fight back Myath's infiltration teams.

The fight between lead elements had entered a stalemate. Vance's goal could be seen from the outskirts – Myath's flag fluttering in the middle of the city. The conditions for victory were either to take over the central command post or to destroy the Mechanical Department of the other city. Of course, Military Artists from both sides would do everything they could to prevent destroying the other's Mechanical Department. This was the same for any general city too. That was because the destruction of the Mechanical Department implied the city's death. Involving normal citizens wasn't humane. Although the city that had lost its selenium mines was also fated to die, the sense of guilt inferred was less than what would come from directly destroying the Mechanical Department. Hence the remaining key to victory was to overtake the Commanding post that was the building of the Student Council. Keep on moving forward despite the rain of bullets. Fight to obtain the fluttering flag of the other city. On a certain level, the Military Arts Competition was a large scale platoon match.

As a result, the fight on the outskirts wasn't the key to victory. The small group of people making up the infiltration team was decisive to the outcome of the battle.

"The second wave is to switch with the lead element. Cannon team, prepare to aim. Don't let the other side take this opening to attack us."

The cannon team began its preparation. At the same time, the 16th platoon that led the second wave gathered their Kei.

"Now!" Vance commanded.

The lead element began its retreat. Zuellni's gun fire stopped the lead element of Myath as the 16th platoon headed out, performing their best Whirl Kei.

At a place that was slightly away from the battlefield –

"How's it?" Sharnid said.

"Wait a bit more. Wait till the wave comes," Nina replied. She was observing the fight with a pair of binoculars. She and the others, wearing protective suits for outside city use, were located beneath Zuellni's multi-legs. Entering the city from outside the contact point wouldn't break the rules. And outside city gear use was permitted. In truth, Myath would probably also have an infiltration team ready.

This wasn't a surprising strategy since the fighting power of the infiltration team didn't amount to much. If the team was discovered, Zuellni would have lost in its strategy. Still, the value of an infiltration team couldn't be denied. But Vance had sent Nina and the others for infiltration work because he wanted to win in the main fight.

It was meaningless not to win. In that way, Nina felt the same.

"The second wave is about to fight back. If they can smoothly distract the enemies......That'd be our chance," she said, looking at Gorneo who stood beside her.

He nodded silently.

In the end, Gorneo and Shante had replaced the vacancy created by Layfon. Nina didn't tell Gorneo why that change was made. They only announced publicly that Layfon was given a special mission. Still, many people showed signs of incomprehension. Since Gorneo had replaced Layfon, he probably now knew the reason behind it, but he gave no objection to the change of plan.

"The second wave has begun," Naruki said. She had taken over the job of observing through the binoculars.

Since all members were sustaining Sakkei, they had no way of using large scale Kei techniques.

"Good, then we'll get closer."

Along with that, their outer city gear was of the old style. Old helmets that weren't made for Psychokinesis support to widen the field of vision. But, since they couldn't find anyone with Felli's ability to track over a large area, they had to move without Psychokinesis support.

Underneath Myath, the team shot out ropes to hook onto the pipes under the city. They climbed up to the outskirts of Myath.

Another world showed outside the helmet. It seemed they hadn't been discovered yet.

"OK, go," Nina said. All members nodded their understanding, and they moved at high speed for the building of the Student President.

The Intercity war had begun.

"And I............"

Felli had no other thoughts than shock. The city on the other side of Zuellni must be an Academy City. She could feel the stirring in the air and hear the sound of fights. It really had begun.

"Did he plan it this way?"

Haia must have considered the timing of the intercity fight before kidnapping her. But then, why?

"For the Haikizoku......But why must he kidnap me?"

If she had to find a reason for it, was it because she was a Psychokinesist? Zuellni's fighting strength must have been affected without a strong Psychokinesist like Felli. But what good would this do for the Mercenary Gang? Did they know the Haikizoku was now in Nina's body? Were they planning to use the Student President's sister to exchange for Nina?

"I never thought I'd drag everyone down......" She blamed herself. She was angry for failing to predict this outcome. And she could do nothing without her Dite. Now all she could do was let loose the few flakes she had and check the outside situation. She could use the Kei storm if she had the Dite......

(Wait......)

The Mercenary Gang was the one that kidnapped her. They must have experienced fighters here in addition to the number of Military Artists guarding the roaming bus. A Psychokinesist wasn't enough to fight them. Besides, her Psychokinesis had been sealed.

"Unbelievable........." she sighed, shocked and feeling insulted.

In fact, she didn't need the Dite to use Psychokinesis because of her inborn amount of Kei power. The Mercenary Gang didn't seem to have discovered that yet. A small hope rose in Felli. Her silvery hair began to shine as she attempted to release Psychokinesis.

"Uh......"

As that feeling was about to seep through the room, an intense sound that hurt her head assaulted her. She had no choice but to drop her power.

"Fermaus......" she remembered the name of the Gang's Psychokinesist.

It was a usual tactic used during platoon match to interfere with the Psychokinesist and reduce the detective functions of the other team. Felli had also succeeded in taking over the enemy's flakes, including Fermaus', but this was her first time having her Psychokinesis cut off. Her bad luck was to fight against an experienced other. It was the same when she fought the first platoon. But she had yet to come across someone who was as powerful as her. Even though her enemy had lots of experience, she could react if she managed to see through the other's trap. However, she would be in a terrible disadvantage if the other possessed both power and experience. In other words, she had much to learn in how to react to someone whose real strength was beyond hers, particularly now that she didn't have her Dite. Felli gave up resisting and waited.

Pain remained in Felli's forehead. She leaned against the wall.

"So I can only wait for rescue."

......Would anyone come to save me? Who would that person be? Kidnapping her was meaningless if the Gang just leave her here.........If it was for negotiation, her brother would come? That was the most realistic possibility. But she was still second guessing the Gang's true objective. If their aim was the Haikizoku, then Nina might come.

"Fon Fon......Will he save me......"

Her thoughts stopped there. Layfon was obviously shaken when Nina went missing. Felli didn't want to see how shaken he was with worry but she couldn't just leave him. She did all she could to support him instead. Would he worry about her like that time? Would he save her? She realized her palms held chill sweat. An empty and icy feeling flitted in the depth of her brain. What was the relationship between her and Layfon? Something cold ran through her body whenever this question came up. Classmates in the same school? Friends? Comrades in the same team? Senpai and junior? Male and female? Romance? Lovers? She understood well the possibility of each candidate. For someone as slow as him, he probably would never realize unless she told him in a straightforward way. Why. Why was he so slow when it came to others' feelings? That was incomprehensible.

(Aaa, really......I hate this.)

Felli's heart swayed left and right because of Layfon. She said nothing furthermore but mumbled in her heart.

At that time, an intense shaking hit the roaming bus.

"What........."

The second wave of impact shook the entire room, a shaking that made Felli grab hold of the edge of the bed. The roaming bus was swaying?

"What........."

She used Psychokinesis reflexively, forgetting Fermaus was blocking her power, but no interference was forthcoming. Was it because of the shaking? Or that Fermaus was destroyed?

The members of the Gang were outside the roaming bus along with Haia. They were fighting.........

"......Layfon."

Layfon was fighting! A large roaming bus was parked at the roaming bus station, tied by a sturdy rope. It swayed and made metallic noises every time wind blew past it. Haia was now standing in front of that roaming bus.

"So you did come alone," he said.

Layfon surveyed him and everyone else with emotionless eyes. "I don't need any strategies against you guys. I alone am enough."

"Ha, you still like to joke. If you provoke me, then I can't guarantee that lady's safety."

Blackmailing, yet Layfon didn't back down.

"Give it a try if you're bold enough.........But please also seriously consider whether you can then live in this world."

Layfon's right wrist suddenly disappeared. Explosions and a tragic yell sounded in the path of his stretched wrist. Layfon's Kei had hit one of the Gang members and made him faint. That attack implied a warning for Haia.

"I'm only here to fight you. Release Felli-senpai afterwards. I can guarantee the safety of everyone here. The Student President will not ask after this offense."

That was true. If they took offense at the Mercenary Gang's actions, they might end up pushing the Gang into a desperate fight. And if anything happened in the key moment in the fight with Haia, even Layfon might not be enough to handle them.

"And he hopes the Gang can sign the contract to continue teaching Zuellni's Military Artists. He'll also negotiate the payment. Unlike me, the Student President is very kind."

Layfon didn't care whether the Gang would accept the suggestion. He was just using Zuellni's attitude to keep the Gang from making a harmful move.

"Sounds pretty good, but there's one more condition, right?"

The condition was for Layfon to use the Katana.

"......"

He wordlessly took out the Shim Adamantium Dite. "......It isn't difficult to betray one's beliefs. That can be done anytime. But it's different when it's forced......"

Restoration. The dark blade seemed to suck in the red and blue sunlight of noon.

"This can't be settled carelessly."

"Just as I wanted," Haia restored his Dite.

Katana and Katana. Both fighters used the Psyharden technique. Layfon's Shim Adamantium Dite had a safety mechanism set in so he couldn't kill another with one swing of the blade. However, Haia's Dite had no such limitation. The rest of the Mercenary members couldn't predict the effect caused by this difference. Perhaps this was enough to decide who would win this duel.

The two of them lifted their weapons at the same time. They waited for the opening to strike as they made the same pose. The scene during the match against the 10th platoon seemed to be repeating itself. Numerous Katana strike paths and reacting paths lay in the space between the two. Having inherited the same moves, the two of them could easily predict the direction of the other. They could probably judge the other's plan through the weak change in breath and make adjustments to react to that intention. They stayed like that in a stalemate for a while......

"Aaaa~h"

"Arrr-"

Both shouted at the same time and ran for each other. The middle where the Kei clashed exploded. The two engaged in a fight of Kei as if they were trying to destroy the weapons in their own hands.

"Aaaaaaaaaa~h"

Perhaps this was within predictions. After the first strike, the advantage fell to Layfon. Haia's cut path didn't work against him. The density of Layfon's Kei was overwhelmingly high. Haia's Kei was swallowed by that Kei and deflected.

Haia's body flew a long distance away. He managed to stop the momentum to stand at the edge of the city. However, Layfon's attack continued. He had chased after Haia to execute his second strike. Haia blocked that strike with his full strength and tried counterattacking, but Layfon remained rooted on the spot as if his feet had fused with the earth. This meant that every time he took a step forward, he was pushing Haia a step back. Chaotic Kei flows enveloped the space between them.

Suddenly, Kei that stirred like a lively creature appeared above their heads, gradually creating a whirl in the air. Something was about to reveal itself.

"No!" Fermaus sensed the danger. He was observing from a side.

The typhoon Kei dropped straight on Haia.

External Kei variation – Snake fall.

The Kei trapped Haia inside it, swept him off the ground and flew him to the outskirts of the city. But Haia wouldn't just leave it at that. "Ahahahaha!"

He drew the blade close to his waist and pressed on the blade with his left hand. A flash appeared on the Katana. Flames shook on its surface!

That was just a quick illusion. Flame burst forth the instant the Kei flowing on the blade touched the fire-triggering device set on his left hand. The strike hidden behind that flame cut through Layfon's typhoon.

Psyharden technique – Flame cut.

The problem now was that Haia was already at the very edge of the outskirt and Layfon didn't hesitate to cancel the typhoon but kept pressing on. He had no choice but to make a swift decision. This arena had become narrow before Layfon's overwhelming Kei. But the space of movement in front of Haia had been sealed. In that case..........? He suddenly understood his opponent's intention.

"Fine. As you wish."

He leaned back, his feet holding onto the edge of the city. He could just barely make out the ground far below him. When he had leaned back till a certain degree, Layfon was before him.

The Kei exploded in his feet. Internal Kei variation – Whirl Kei. Haia jumped for the city far behind him – Myath. Following close behind, Layfon also leaped off Zuellni's edge.

Savaris felt it, the presence of Kei that rose like the ocean's waves.

"It's begun."

"Eh?" Leerin lifted her head to look at him.

They were currently inside a building close to the contact point. It was a musical arena altered from an old warehouse. Savaris was looking out the small window in the lobby.

"Nothing......Let's go."

"Ah, ok," she followed him.

"So how do we get to the other side?"

They moved outside underneath the noonday sun. Leerin squinted, feeling a little dizzy. At this distance, even a normal person could see the fight at the contact point. Thrown into chaos by Zuellni's second wave, the Military Artists of Myath had now recomposed themselves and began their counterattack. The situation was still a stalemate. Though Leerin didn't know much about the details of a war, she could tell how difficult it was to get past the large crowd of Military Artists without being detected.

"I remember I explained it to you before?"

"Uh, yes. Carrying me......"

"Then, excuse me."

"Ah~"

Savaris took her luggage with one hand and carried her with another. A light jump took them up to the rooftop.

"Um......Good, this level of height should be about it?"

"Uh, excuse me, can you say it again......?"

He smiled at her uneasy look then fell into silence.

"Oh yes, Leerin-san, you don't look like you're good at sports. Can you hold your breath for one minute?"

"Yeah, if it's that level," she nodded, feeling like a fool.

"That's good then," he crouched as if he was doing stretching exercise. He shouldn't be able to do any high speed movement while carrying a person, but......

"Hold your breath now and please hold on tight~"

Her body naturally tightened as she held her breath. Confirming she was ready, he released all the Kei gathered in his knees and jumped.

It wasn't a leap to fly past the contact point. It was a leap upward into the sky that took them up to the limit of the air shield. The contact point was right beneath them. He had deliberately aimed for the height.

(Nobody should notice when we're this high.)

If they had moved normally, a Psychokinesist might have detected Leerin's breath. But no one would think that someone would infiltrate a city from outside the air shield.

(But......)

Salinvan Guidance Mercenary Gang had successfully distracted Layfon, the only person that Savaris was worried of noticing them. On the other hand, he was now concentrating on Sakkei to mask his and Leerin's presence. Even if he was found out later, the other side would've thought it a figment of imagination as nobody was detected having performed such a jump.

The heat of the main fight and the impact created by Kei had put the atmosphere into a chaotic swirl. Shouldering the invisibly huge pressure above him, he used the airflow to aid him forward. The path leap was like large parabola. Though he was blown a little bit this way and that in the atmosphere, he managed to land in Zuellni.

.........The landing was quiet. He tapped Leerin's shoulder.

"It's ok now."

"Eh?......Eh?" she had closed her eyes during the jump. She looked around. "This......this is?"

"Yes, Zuellni."

"............" her feet touched the ground. She looked at the buildings before her, numb. "This is where Layfon is........."

She had finally arrived, but at a place she was unfamiliar with. Her uncertainty of meeting the person she knew gave her hesitation, and she stood, forgetting to react. But she at last came to and turned around to bow deeply before Savaris.

"Thank you very much."

"No no, I only did it to keep the promise."

Though the Queen's order still held, he'd just let Leerin think otherwise. His decision actually didn't have any deep reason behind it. It'd be troublesome if the Military Artist he met in Myath was a student of Zuellni. The information that Savaris had been in Myath would leak out one way or the other. Perhaps Layfon already knew he was there. In that case, Leerin's actions to keep this event a secret would be meaningless.

Savaris planned to stay in Zuellni and eventually bring the Haikizoku back to Grendan. That was the Queen's order but Leerin had no need to know of it. Not only that, Savaris had made up a lie to buy himself time.

(I'm just of this level.)

He had never viewed himself as a strategist. He was a fighter, and he moved like a fighter.

(So.........Does that mean he's now being isolated?)

That was for Layfon. Leerin was the person whom Layfon protected in Grendan, and who knew nothing of the truth. How would she affect Layfon? Or perhaps he wouldn't be affected at all? Savaris wanted to know just out of curiosity.

"Anyway, you better find someplace and hide. If you find a shelter, stay there and don't move. I might have to leave first."

"Ah, I got it. Thanks very much."

"......Then, take care," he said and disappeared. "Next, time to get some information."

He had already made the decision long ago to reach that place – Zuellni's facilities for travelers. The remnants of Kei waves were limited to the outskirt areas. The air in here was still as always. He could hear the sound of the fight drifting from the contact point, but it wasn't that loud. A huge roaming bus stood in the bus station, surrounded by a number of Military Artists. They must be members of the Mercenary Gang.

"Did my luggage arrive?" he asked, and everyone else turned to him with shocked expressions. It appeared no one had noticed him while he was using Sakkei.

"......Is my request too difficult?"

Yes, there existed a level of difficulty in his request. However, Layfon hadn't noticed him infiltrating the city. This meant he had been lured to somewhere away from the contact point.

"Haia's fighting him on his own, and that was of his own volition. He did something that didn't suit his position as the leader of the Gang. His name's been taken off the list of the Gang," Fermaus said.

"I see........."

There might be a story behind it, but Savaris had no interest in listening to more. He didn't feel that there was anything interesting in that content. On the other hand, he turned his gaze to the direction where he felt Layfon's presence. Internal Kei strengthened his vision and helped him track down Layfon.

".........Though he's been exiled, he's still a rare elite."

"Thanks. I'm sure if he heard that himself, he'd be happier."

Two more people appeared behind Fermaus. A girl who was about Savaris' age ran to the edge of the city and looked at Myath in desperation. Her level wasn't as good as Savaris, but she tried all she could to strengthen her vision. That desperation of hers was worth the admiration. The other person was a girl, wearing what looked to be the city's uniform. Beneath the long silvery hair was a beautiful face. But Savaris' interest wasn't on her face. He felt that this girl possessed an extremely high level of Psychokinesis.

"Are you letting me go here?" She said to Fermaus in anger.

"Yes, but I can't return the Dite to you yet. If you enter the fight, he might not keep to the promise."

"Is that so?" she said and left.

It seemed that they kidnapped her to lure Layfon in. Losing interest in the girl, Savaris turned his gaze back to Myath.

(Layfon, allow me to see what level you're at now.)

His gaze was glued to the fight between Layfon and Haia from now on.

A blink of an eye was all the time it took him to reach Myath, his body exposed to the pollutants. Before the burning sensation submerged itself in his body, he had entered Myath's shield and the pollutants dissipated off his body. Haia landed on the outskirt of the city as Layfon entered the air shield.

Layfon attacked, using the momentum of the Whirl Kei. Haia countered with Flame Cut. Illusory flames scattered and a huge explosion sounded. Different from the first attack, the flame kept dancing on Haia's blade. His Dite was a combination of steel and Ruby Dite. This was his special made Dite. When he wished for it, his Kei ran through the Ruby Dite to form flames.

"Don't think I'm still the same as before."

Shock showed on Layfon's face at Haia's fighting stance. This wasn't a Psyharden technique. In a sidle, Haia hid his fatal point with his arm drawn up, the handle of the blade above his shoulder, the blade pointing downward. The flame prevented Layfon from seeing his Kei flow. Layfon didn't move. He might have understood the implication in Haia's posture?

"Then allow me to begin," Haia moved.

Internal Kei variation – Fleeting Shadows. The presences scattered around threw themselves at Layfon.

Layfon stood firm, so firm that he couldn't even feel the light shake of the very tip of his Katana. Having seen through the cut path that swung to his right hand side, he jumped ahead of the enemy's blade. Haia gave chase. The two of them headed deeper into the city.

They crossed blades a number of times in the air. Haia's sword technique matched that of a Heaven's Blade successor. This fight confirmed that fact once again. Though none of Haia's moves had yet to injure Layfon's fatal points, Layfon was surprised at his opponent's special attacks. If he could grab hold of the opening shown through the releasing of the move and attacked accordingly, he should be able to deal quite some damage. However, Haia's strength was different. Layfon took the Heaven's Blade title through the power of Kei that he was born with. He couldn't possibly have finished Behemoth if he relied on technique alone.

Haia's flame Kei and his non-Psyharden technique created cut paths that always went beyond Layfon's expectations. One would reflexively follow a certain defensive pattern because one was familiar with the attacks of his opponent. But Haia always changed his attack at the last moment to something unexpected.

The two of them repeatedly fought above Myath. Layfon could defend well if he could read the other's Internal Kei flow. But the heat from the Flame Kei blurred his vision. In the end, he could only react by instinct, and consequently, he was reacting according to Haia's attacks. This was the disadvantage born out of the two of them coming from the same Military Arts school. In addition, he had less experience than Haia and the influence of Psyharden pulled that gap further apart. Attacking Haia's psychology in the last fight might have been key to Layfon's previous victory.

"Tsk!"

In that one swift moment when the two Katanas crossed blades, Layfon made a feint, a kick at Haia's stomach, and pulled open a little distance between them. He used this chance to gather Kei to his left hand. External Kei variation – Nine bullets.

He shot out four Kei arrows, but Haia twisted his body and evaded all four attacks. On the other hand, the side-effect of the move made Layfon's feet stand on air for a moment. Haia landed first and jumped for him through Whirl Kei.

External Kei variation – Flame Snake.

As part of the Snake Fall variation, the typhoon of flame Kei headed for Layfon. Layfon ran Internal Kei throughout his entire body while he resisted the pressure generated by the wind, attempting to leap for the opposite direction before the flame surrounded him.

Haia seized this chance to get closer to Layfon. They swung their Katana at the same time.

"Aaaaaa~"

"Haaaaa~"

Psyharden technique – Flame Cut.

Same move. The illusory flames clashed and cut open everything around them. The huge amount of Kei hidden in the blades clashed and deflected their opponents.

Forced to fend off Flame Snake, Layfon executed Flame Cut before his strength had fully recovered. As such, that had created an opening for Haia. It was just a very small opening, so small an opening that it might not be less than 1/100 of a second, but this tiny amount of time might be able to determine one's life and death.

Haia immediately took a step forward.

Psyharden technique – Flame Weight.

The blade flashed as Layfon, sensing danger, hurriedly retreated. Blood spurted from Layfon's left wrist.

At the same moment, Felli was sighing lightly somewhere in Zuellni.

"I fail to help at all."

This wasn't just about her being kidnapped. No matter how unsettled her heart was, it was now useless to regret the past. She was happy to see Layfon come for her, but he had to fight Haia because of her. She still didn't know what Haia's aim was, but reality was that Haia had kidnapped her. The most pressing thing to do now was to let Layfon know she was safe.

Felli headed for the building of the Student Council.

She had decided not to head for a shelter. Besides, she'd be reproved if she went there. Even though she had a reason to evacuate, she had little to defend against her current situation. She must go to the Student Council. Besides, heading for a shelter did little to help her make contact with Layfon.

(Student Council.........)

She needed a Dite. She would find one in the Student Council building. However, Myath's infiltration team was fighting against Zuellni's defense line. That would put considerable obstruction in her path. Felli halted her steps.

"Fu........."

She could use Psychokinesis even without the flakes. She regulated her breathing and her hair began to shine. Though her senses were weak, she had somehow managed to take stock of the situation. A Dite would provide her with more accurate information, and with a Dite, she could aid Layfon and let Nina know she was safe. She had thought of taking over someone else's flakes, but that task still required a Dite.

Either way, her current mission was to understand the situation she was in.

The number of Military Artists in Myath's infiltration team was about the same as Zuellni's. But Felli remembered that there should be more Military Artists guarding Zuellni. Was it because the enemies were infiltrating from different locations?

(Anyway, first find a safe route.)

As she thought of that, she discovered something else.

(A person?)

Someone was hiding in the shadow of a building. Probably stuck there because of the fight. Felli thought it was Myath's Military Artist, masking his presence through Sakkei, but this person looked flustered. Felli couldn't feel this person's Kei. Besides, this person's clothes failed to identify her. She was wearing a skirt.

(How clumsy.)

A normal student who hadn't managed to reach the shelter in time. Felli couldn't let this go. Though the residential area for female students had yet to become a battlefield, the fight might come later. Calculating a safe route, Felli headed for the person.

"What're you doing?"

"Ah!" the girl turned around. "Ah......Ah......Sorry, I......"

Holding her luggage, she tried to express something. Did she miss the timing to enter a shelter because she had to pack her personal things?

"No matter. Hurry to the shelter," Felli said.

The fight between the defense team and the infiltration team continued. Felli took the girl's hand and walked away, not knowing whether the fight might spill over to where they were. She searched for the shelter's entrance as they moved. The other girl didn't say anything, seemingly drawn to Felli's shining hair.

As she had thought, there was more than one infiltration team. In that case, they had to go the long way to the Student Council and the shelter, and it might also bring them danger. Felli was all right on her own, but since she was with a normal student, they must avoid any possible danger.

"In that case, it's better to wait here before the fight ends."

Zuellni had deployed a vast amount of defensive weapons. It was better to wait a bit rather than brave those automatic machines.

"So, sorry."

"It's ok, since I can't do anything for this Military Arts Competition."

(Though I want to contact Layfon.)

"Eh?"

"No, nothing."

For some reason, Felli felt that her heart had been read. She cut through the other's question. "Forget that. Let's go."

Ignoring the girl, she exerted all her Psychokinetic strength and searched for a safe place.

The intense fight between Zuellni's defense team and Myath's infiltration teams matched the intensity of the fight in Myath. Myath's defense team pursued Nina's team. Evading as many unnecessary fights as possible, Nina's team headed for the Student Council building.

"Don't stop. Keep moving! Else they'll catch up," Nina urged.

"So annoying!" Shante shouted back, her face showing she wanted to turn back and fight her pursuers, but it was still too early to counterattack.

They weren't just running away. A number of Myath's students had been chasing them from the rooftops. They now all jumped back to the ground. Compared to simple chasing and jumping here and there, it was quicker to just run.

Three people landed on the ground, planning to rejoin the main team and interfere with the speed of Nina's team from behind.

"Uhah!" Before they could do anything, they were paralyzed by an intense pain on their backs.

Dalshena, Naruki, Gorneo and Shante were with Nina.

Not Sharnid. His bullets were hitting the defense team from behind. He had parted from the team when they reached Myath. He was now protecting the team from behind them. Thanks to that, his presence only appeared in the moment of a shot.

Confirming that the threat behind them was gone, Nina and the team continued moving forward. The path they were on wasn't connected directly to the building of the Student Council. The map didn't show these small paths, so the team could only run by instinct. Metallic shadows emerged the moment they entered a small path. A close study showed numerous shooting holes covering the path – Myath's defensive weapons.

"Away!" Dalshena shouted. The team scattered right and left.

Dalshena headed in with her lance held high. A large number of anesthetic bullets shot out along with flame.

"Haahhhhhhhh!"

The Kei gathered at the tip of her lance shot out to rent the air apart. The external Kei created a defensive wall and deflected all the bullets. She then pierced through all defensive mechanisms with the lance. The sound of breaking metal accompanied successive waves of explosions.

"Ugh......"

Dalshena's fighting clothes had been damaged, Blood seeped through it. The explosions had also damaged her lance to the point that it couldn't be used. On the other hand, the presence of enemies were closing in.

"Hurry!" Nina shouted.

Dalshena spun the handle of the lance and pulled out the thin blade hiding beneath the cracked surface.

"I won't let them through!" She turned around and attacked the defense team closing on them. Sharnid's gunfire sounded around her.

They continued to close in on the Student Council building. Slightly different from Zuellni's spire, if they used internal Kei to increase their vision, they could see their objective, the city flag.

"Go with the original plan."

"Counting on you."

Nina and Naruki nodded at Gorneo's reminder, and they increased their speed. Gorneo and Shante jumped to land on a rooftop. Myath's Military Artists found them the moment they landed.

"Let's go."

"Yeah!"

The two of them ran straight for the Student Council's building. Around ten of Myath's Military Artists came to block them off. Kei exploded throughout their bodies. Karen Kei. Wind surrounded Gorneo's Dite as flame writhed on Shante's spear. They entered the fight.

In the end, Nina and Naruki were left to head for the Student Council's building. They could still feel the presence of enemies, but no one stood between them and the building. They had to consider how many more Military Artists were left to guard the building......The number shouldn't be too large. Taking into account the people involved in the main fight at the contact point, the infiltration teams, the number spread throughout the city for defensive measure, only around 10 or so Military Artists should be left around the building. Still, it was difficult to find an opening and take the flag.

"Speaking of which, is this suitable to leave me till the end?" Naruki sighed as she ran, pressured and uneasy.

"As I said before, can we stop now that we've come this far? Keep running!"

"Right!"

Actually, Nina had the same feeling. There were many Military Artists more powerful than Nina in Zuellni, such as Gorneo, Vance and others. She was given the infiltration mission because of Layfon. Strange that the mission remained the same even though Layfon couldn't enter the fight.

She held a question for the deployment of her team. Did they think she might create danger in the main fight because of the Haikizoku in her? She had harbored that speculation.

Vance had explained before the war, "Your team has the most experience in fights under extreme circumstances, so you people are the best candidates."

Extreme circumstances. True, they had had these experiences when it came to dangerous missions. The fight with the aged phase filth monster, in the ruined city, with the 10th platoon.........Nina's platoon had managed to pull through every time. However, that was when Layfon was with them. Or one could say that they managed to pull through fully because Layfon was there.

Besides, Karian had also said that Nina was the one who commanded Layfon's actions. But Nina thought she had the responsibility to make plans for the team's actions, as the platoon's captain. However, she had been straightforward with her intentions in order to pull Layfon along, and that had often put them both in danger.

One thing was certain though. She had never viewed Layfon's strength as her own. She understood how weak she was without him.

"We can only keep going now!" she said to confirm her resolve.

This wasn't the time to say "I can't do it". They had no other places to retreat to. Sharnid, Dalshena, Gorneo and Shante, and Vance and other Military Artists were fighting desperately. Their fights allowed Nina and Naruki to stand here.

A number of Military Artists waited around the building.

Time to follow the plan.

"Naruki!"

Naruki tossed out the rope, already clear of what Nina wanted. This new Dite that Harley made was able to restore a second time to extend the length of the rope. Actually, she still couldn't control the rope's length until a short while ago. Gorneo's teaching in Karen Kei had helped her control it.

The rope rose with the increase of Kei. It successfully hooked around the flag's pole. Pulling at the rope, Naruki jumped.

Military Artists appeared before her.

"Come!" Nina released a huge amount of Kei as she ran. The tension in her heart was so high that it was about to burst.

Combined Internal and External Kei Variant – Raijin.

A huge pillar of thunder fell as if to chop the sky apart. It pierced through the door of the building and its impact caught the things around it in an explosion. An aftermath storm blew the lobby into pieces, sweeping away the Military Artists in its wake. But Nina had also felt that impact.

(Um.)

She released the remaining Kei and felt exhaustion seeping in.

"Captain!" Naruki called, hanging from the rope.

"......Ah!" she cheered herself and jumped with Internal Kei. She took Naruki's hand in the air and together, the two of them headed for the top of the building.

Nina's previous move had not eliminated all enemies. The rope suddenly loosened and the two girls fell, losing their balance. The remaining Military Artists inside the Student Council building had reached the top and cut through the rope.

"Senpai!"

Balancing herself in midair, Naruki kicked off the wall of the building and gathered her strength.

"Counting on you!"

She threw Nina.

Waiting on top were two Military Artists. If she were in her normal condition, she would somehow pull it off. However, Nina having used the Raijin technique and furthermore using a large quantity of Kei had put her in a state of deep exhaustion.

But, nevertheless......

"I can only do what I can!"

No help was left around her. Mentally prepared, she readied the iron whips in midair.

The two Military Artists rushed her with swords. She blocked the attack as she landed on the roof that was shaped like a pyramid. The fighting shoes helped her stay upright on the steep surface of the roof. The two swords pressed down on her weapons, and the weight of the swords caused the soles of the shoes to steam with friction. She gritted her teeth and took the pressure on her wrists. The chance she now had would be gone if she was pushed off the roof. Also, Myath's Military Artists would reach here if she failed to take care of these two in a hurry.

"Ha!"

The amount of her Kei exceeded that of the two people's in an instant and sent them flying. The two retreated to just before the flag. They readied their fighting stances without hesitation and renewed their attack.

The remnants of the Raijin move remained in Nina's body, making it hard for her to control her own Kei. The impact of Kei from the swords almost pushed her off the roof several times. She had no choice but to keep swinging the iron whips to keep her balance.

Finally, unable to take the impact of the Chrome Dite, one person lost his sword. Nina seized that chance and kicked the enemy's stomach, sending him flying. The Military Artist rolled down the roof and fell off it.

One more to go.

Nina ran for the flag. The moment she took the flag was the moment when Myath lost the match. She must do all she could to reach that goal.

The enemy sped close to her. Nina swung behind her, the iron whip clashing with the sword.

"Get lost!"

"Why don't you!"

Both of them could not retreat. They shouted, not backing off one step. Nina and Myath's Military Artists released External Kei together. Whirls formed above their heads, and the huge energy sent them both flying.

In one swift moment, Nina felt luck on her side. The weight of the iron whips in her hands prevented her from flying too far. However, that weight still felt like huge slabs of rocks. Her opponent was tossed up above the building whereas Nina's was a downward direction. The iron whips would increase her falling rate so she let go of her weapons before they became a burden.

She ran for the flag. No room to even think of gathering Kei. The flag was right before her. All she needed to do was to take it and ensure Zuellni's victory. She recalled the last Military Arts Competition, recalling how Zuellni had lost again and again so it only had one selenium mine left. She recalled how she had been useless and couldn't do anything. What couldn't she do now that she was about to touch victory?

Just a bit more.

(If I take this down.)

But luck ended here. No, the sense of luck was just her imagination.

Myath's Military Artist, the city's last defense line, stood up and crashed into her with his body.

The flag was so far away now.

The two of them rolled down the steep surface of the roof.

"No......!"

She wanted to push him away but it was too late. Her feet were in the air as she slid down the roof.

(And I managed to reach this place.)

Did she make a mistake in the last moment? How should she face all those people who placed their hope in her? Gorneo, Shante.........

At the time when she was sunk in deep self-reproach and regret......

Rumble!

A pillar of light shot from behind her and the top of the pyramid exploded. The flag shook, leaned towards Nina, and fell.

(Layfon?)

That wasn't just instinct. Only Layfon could get the timing right and make such a powerful move without hurting Myath's Military Artist.

(Is he stupid? Thinking of others while he's in that situation.)

But it was true that the bitterness and pain in her heart had turned warm. Nina snatched up the fallen flag. Victory was decided in that instant.

His left wrist was dead. At least, he couldn't move it in this fight. Layfon had made calm judgment while hot blood ran. It must be luck that his right hand wasn't injured.

At the same time, a sound cut through the air. The sound of a long electric voice rose above the sound of fights. The announcement to the end of the war came from the building of Myath's Student Council.

"......You did it," Haia said, angry despite the fact that the tide had turned for him. "That Kei wasn't aimed at me."

"......You didn't give me a chance."

Haia hadn't had any openings in his defense at the time Layfon shot forth the Nine Bullets. The end result was Layfon's injured left hand. However, that shot was perfect timing as Nina's reinforcements.

"My aim is to help Zuellni win."

Karian had transferred him into Military Arts for that purpose, and that was why he had met Nina.

"I've already let you take the upper-hand. It's not good if you kept saying such spoiled things."

"What did you say?"

"But I admit I've done what I'm not used to doing........."

Actually, he was used to fighting with a burden. At Grendan, that burden was the orphanage. This time it was different in a sense. Haia's interference had stopped him from realizing what he had also strove for – participating in the Military Arts Competition. Nina's mission would have been easy for him, but he ended up having to give it to her alone. In a battlefield, Layfon would rather do his best from the beginning than trust others. Hence, his heart refused to calm down at the fact that he had to suddenly let go and leave the mission to others. He wouldn't have been able to stand himself if he hadn't done what he just did.

"Speaking of which, aren't you the same, doing what you're not used to?"

"What nonsense are you talking about......"

"Aren't you the leader of the Mercenary Gang?"

Layfon had once fought filth monsters with them. He noticed at that time that the Mercenary Gang had sent members to fight with Haia even though Haia could have defeated the filth monster on his own. The Gang took the path to reduce danger.

"Haven't you been relying on the comrades that you trust on the battlefield?"

On the contrary, Layfon had always been fighting alone when he was a Heaven's Blade successor. The power of a Heaven's Blade successor far exceeded that of a normal Military Artist. Heaven's Blades tended to only form teams with fellow Heaven's Blades. And that would only happen in incidents such as the one with Behemoth.

"Standing alone here is in itself a mistake," Layfon said.

A Military Artist who was used to trusting others. A Military Artist who was used to fighting alone. Both had chosen a fight style that differed from their past.

"Yet......"

The electric voice left an echo in Myath's sky. The faraway fight was dying down.

"Now I can leave everything and concentrate on this fight."

Though he didn't know how Nina and the others fared in Myath, he didn't have to worry now. As for Felli, she shouldn't be in any danger if she was just used to threaten him. He didn't know about the other Mercenary Gang members, but he felt Fermaus could be trusted.

He felt that he had picked up the feeling he had in past fights.

Layfon's left hand hung by his side. He slowly turned the dark blade of the Shim Adamantium Dite to the left of his waist. This was obviously the pose readied to pull out a blade and strike.

Psyharden's technique – Flame Cut.

"Though you hold a Katana, what you know is still a far distance from Derek's essence. You can only use tricks to confuse people. Let me show you the real Psyharden technique."

"......How dare you!" Haia readied the same pose, even while knowing Layfon was provoking him.

(Good.)

In truth, he couldn't drag out the fight in his current condition. Blood still spurted from his left wrist. The nerves in his wrist might have been cut.

One move to decide the outcome of the duel. He gathered his Kei for this purpose.

"Uh!"

His left wrist hurt. His body naturally used the aid of Internal Kei to help resist the effects of rising density of the Kei. His blood vessels expanded and the blood flow increased. The result could be seen in the blood spurting faster from his left wrist. However, he didn't stop gathering Kei even though blood covered his feet.

The pressure of Layfon's Kei had sealed off the space around Haia, preventing him from making any evasive movement. Haia didn't escape though. He was also preparing.

The electric voice finally stopped.

Both of them took a step forward. Two blades containing huge amounts of Kei flashed. Huge noise echoed in the air. The cutting paths of the two mirrored each other and clashed. The impact of Kei destroyed the foothold of the fighters and both of them retreated.

No difference for now. Flame Cut was a move that required two swings. The pressure of Kei remained around them. Hence the first person to recover was the first to complete the move.

Flame Cut had two parts to it – strike and Shou Kei. Just like the time when Layfon executed Snake Fall, the striking power of Flame Cut was most effective when the opponent had no more variations in his move. The Shou Kei then helped to expand the power of the strike. The second strike would be made in the closest distance possible, striking at an opponent who had no more moves to make.

Both of these fighters were in the process of resisting the other's Kei. Layfon would have won if not for the injury. The amount of blood loss was preventing him from releasing the full strength of his Kei.

Layfon didn't know that Haia had a reason to win. As Layfon had said, Haia had yet to experience a fight without anyone helping him. A fight that didn't involve trusting anybody. The leader of the Gang had been living in the family that was the Mercenary Gang. However, a day would come for the Gang to disband. The people he trusted would not be around him anymore.

(I'm so unsightly, thinking of it when I'm like this.) Haia wanted to test his ability to fight alone.

Kei and Kei. Breath clashed with breath. They weaved together. The blood spurting from Layfon's left wrist painted Haia's vision red.

Layfon's Kei power slowed in one split second.

(I can win.) Haia thought. Layfon's left wrist was useless. The gathering of the huge amount of Kei increased the blood loss, and that had lowered his level of concentration. However, his expression showed no signs of impatience. His silent and emotionless pupils watched Haia.

(This guy.........)

He should be hating Haia. One for the kidnapping of Felli, and two for forcing him to take up the Katana. In fact, he was obviously outraged when he began the duel. Strangely though, his anger faded as the fight progressed, and his eyes became empty. It was even more obvious after Zuellni's victory.

Blood still gushed out of the wrist. The storm created by Layfon's Kei whipped up the blood and turned everything red.

(Does this guy not fear death?)

But those eyes had no fear in them.

Haia's Katana had no safety setting. If he managed to strike first, then Layfon would die. Even so, Layfon remained rock-firm, as if he was just an observer, watching and letting time pass.

And this was the moment when Haia finally understood what Layfon possessed. He had fought alone against mad filth monsters. Any damage to his protective suit on the hopeless, arid, pollutant-filled wild plain would bring death. Defeat meant death. To fight alone, he had to even think of how to escape alone. He had such a background. He was in a lonely world devoid of support.

(............!)

Haia spent all his might to stop his sudden shivering. Suppressed by fear, he had missed his best chance.

The fingertip of Layfon's left hand trembled. His nerves hadn't been cut. Raising his Internal Kei to its max, he gathered all his Kei in that nerve. Just one moment was enough. Move.

This was a lonely world without support. Use his own power to win hope. Use his own power to survive.

His left wrist moved to slowly grasp hold of the blade's handle. Shou Kei increased.

"Ahhhhh!"

Haia's blade was deflected. The crashing pressure of the Kei completely dominated Haia, keeping him in place.

Psyharden technique – Flame Weight.

The blade flipped to draw from Haia's shoulder downward. Skin ripped. Bones shattered. Organs were damaged. Without time to even shout, Haia was batted into the air but Layfon prepared to deal him a final blow – a blow for the throat.

(I'll probably die.........)

Haia couldn't move. Intense pain interfered with his nerves. His entire body was numb. Though he was shocked, he managed to calm down and quietly waited for it to happen. He closed his eyes.

But......that moment didn't come. The impact didn't come.

".........?" he slowly opened his eyes, and never expected to see the glasses he was so familiar with. Tears rolled down the face of his childhood friend.

"Myunfa......You......What're you doing?"

Myunfa, gritting her teeth, was shielding him with her body. She had saved him while he fell from the sky, and she was now shielding him.

He saw Layfon standing behind her.

".........Hurry and escape."

He himself provoked the fight. Since he lost, it couldn't be helped that he was to die. But Myunfa was unrelated to all that had happened. He couldn't get her involved.

She shook her head desperately.

"......No."

"Don't say nonsense."

"No," she shouted and held him tighter. "I don't want to leave you! I......made that decision long ago."

Her resolve made him speechless. He moved his gaze to Layfon. Layfon stood there for a while then gave a long sigh, releasing the Kei gathered in his body. He turned the Katana into its Dite form and turned around, preparing to leave.

"Hey!" Haia shouted.

"You are enough as the villain. I'm not interested in becoming one." He left with that excuse.



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