“Diabo-nii-sama… what’s the matter?”
Piña stopped in her tracks when she saw her panicked elder brother.
At long last, they had finished that waste of time of a meeting. After that, the Senators were going to discuss the future course they would take. As Piña turned around and halted, her movements went against the flow of the moving politicians and created a frustrating blockage in one of the Senate Building’s hallways.
What had once been a ceiling was now a patch of open sky, and the stars were visible in the sky.
The sudden stoppage made the Senators collide with each other, and the impacts sprayed sparks from the torches they were holding all over the young and old Senators. Then, they gave Piña dirty looks and walked past her.
Diabo, who found Piña among the crowd of Senators, led her into a small room to avoid prying ears. This was one of the less damaged rooms in the Senate Building; it still had three walls standing. This was enough for privacy.
“Do you know about Zorzal?”
“Mm. Father decided to make Ani-sama his heir. I can breathe a sigh of relief since he had decided on the official succession. So, what’s happened now?
“I don’t know what that idiot is thinking, but he wants to compete with Father. I don’t even dare say whose side I’m on.”
Diabo narrated what had happened in Zorzal’s room.
However, Piña needed some time to digest it.
“...Well, isn’t Ani-sama always like that? Maybe being named the heir went to his head. Something cunning like that sounds wrong for him.”
“I agree… what’s this all about, anyway?”
“Could it be I’ve made a mistake? Since Ani-sama is going to be Emperor one day, it’s only natural that Father would want to supervise him. Why compete with him? What’s he trying to do?”
“Right now, he just seems to be watching and waiting.”
“Which means he won’t keep watching forever?”
Diabo looked like he was about to spit out a grain of sand in his mouth.
“There are two kinds of idiots in this world. Some idiots know they’re stupid. The other idiots just think they’re smart. That fellow sounds like the latter case.”
“Father is now planning to advise Zorzal, and when he dies, he hopes Diabo-nii will take over for him so the Empire can carry on… at least, that’s what I think?”
“He wants me to be that moron’s counsel? Nobody told me anything like that. Why the hell do I have to advise him!? Shit, Father gave up too soon!”
Filled with anger, Diabo punched the broken wall. The fragile paint layer shattered under the impact and turned into dust which drifted away.
“Ani-sama. In most cases, the eldest son has the most convincing claim to the throne. The people won’t care about his personality or talents (or lack thereof), only that he’s the eldest son. The same thing applies with the army. If we disrupt this natural order and try to determine the succession of the Emperor with pure ability, there may be other ambitious people who think “I can do it too” and make their bid. If that happens, the country will be plunged into chaos.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. This is why Father will worry about his decision right up until the end. However, the country is now in danger. If Father selected you as Emperor, Zorzal would oppose you, and the country would be in even greater danger. With that in mind, it was the most sensible decision to let Zorzal take the throne.
Diabo-nii-sama, not many people like Zorzal-nii-sama, but there are many in the courts who support you.”
Piña’s calm and logical words cleared Diabo’s head. She had grown while he wasn’t looking. Her words were very persuasive.
When Diabo compared himself to his elder brother, he felt that he would be better at administration. Thus, he had worked tirelessly to make himself the next Emperor, but he had forgotten that his uncle, little sister and little brother were also his rivals for the throne.
What would his little sister do when she realized this?
Zorzal did not treat his sister as a rival, because he believed that one’s enemies would not try to get close to you. Therefore, Diabo had to think about how to make use of her connections and influence. At this point, Diabo looked at the flip side of things; that if the enemy army worked with Piña, she would be a frightening foe. He needed to make use of her as soon as possible.
As he thought about it, a chill ran down his spine.
Diabo suddenly realized that Piña was the closest to the throne.
A common tactic the Empire used was to help a noble who was most aligned with the Empire’s interests become king of his country, then signing a formal alliance with the country which now had the Empire’s interests in mind. The country of Japan possessed overwhelming military power, and it was in a good position to make use of it. His father, the Emperor could not possibly have overlooked that.
With that in mind, Diabo tried to see the situation from the Emperor’s point of view. Emphasis on “tried”.
He had too little information to work with, but after adding Piña into the equation, and considering that Zorzal would become the Crown Prince, he could see the outlines of the future taking shape.
“Japan is too soft as an enemy. As long as you do not fight them head-on…”
As Diabo recalled the Emperor’s words, he realised that it implied the Japanese were easily manipulated. They loved their people, they were friends of justice, and they were overly trusting. How did one make use of enemies like that? No, how could one make allies of them?
In other words, all one needed to do was change the current antagonistic relationship between the Empire and Japan.
But how to do it? The key person for that plan was… Piña.
He needed to create a situation where Piña would end up opposing the Crown Prince.
The best way to do this was to have Zorzal wage war on the Japanese. Zorzal would play the role of warmonger. For that to happen, they needed a military advantage, however temporary, and then the initial victories and misconception of the situation would lead to confusion. That would require a set of skills that were completely different from politics...
If he could put this plan into practice, he could have Japan ally with Piña for the just cause of ending the war. Japan’s military power would eliminate Zorzal and Piña would take the throne.
In this way, Japan, who was their enemy up till now, would become Piña’s ally, or in other words, an ally of the Empire. After that, Japan would help support the Empire’s authority, and they could absorb Japanese culture and knowledge faster than the other countries. In a sense, Zorzal would be a sacrifice for this future, while he could stay in a safe place.
As for Piña, she could not overlook her father even if she became Empress. In addition, she had nobody skilled in national administration on her side. All she could do was use the people Father gave her… which meant there was a chance he could call the shots from behind the throne.
After thinking about the matter calmly, he decided to abandon Zorzal’s plan of “the retired Emperor versus the current Emperor Zorzal”. Instead, it would be more practical to turn Japan, which was one of Pina’s hidden cards, into an ally.
Although Zorzal wanted to compete with his father, the fact was that his imagination was far behind his father’s. More importantly, he lacked the power to make his will become reality.
Diabo felt like he had suddenly woken up from his older brother’s lies.
If this went on, it would be dangerous to be Zorzal’s ally. And even if Zorzal became the Emperor and Diabo became his ally, his life would be uncertain too… In the end, all he could do was become an advisor to Piña, his father’s puppet.
Since Diabo was eying the throne, he began considering how he could put himself in Piña’s place. In other words, he had to catch up in his relationship with Japan. In that particular field, he had fallen far behind.
Diabo continued thinking.
Once again, he tried to think as the Emperor did.
He added Piña and Japan into the simple plan of the Emperor opposing Zorzal, and then thought about how to make himself the fulcrum on which all their relationships would turn.
That being the case, what Diabo could do was become a fourth faction. Then, when the time was right, he could throw out a casting vote to make himself the next successor.
The question now was who he could ally with.
Perhaps he could ally with the Empire’s vassal nations. Naturally, since he was going to join the battle for the throne, he would certainly want power that could fight against the Imperial Army. If there were no forces like this, what if he looked through the Gate, within Japan, or at countries beyond Japan? There should be a faction that was powerful enough out there, right?
“...? Nii-sama, are you thinking too much again?”
Anyone would find it strange if someone else stood in thought for so long.
“Although I understand that Zorzal-nii-sama’s thoughtlessness is troubling, Diabo-nii-sama is also overthinking the matter.
As he realised Piña was looking at him, Diabo concealed his schemes, and replied that Piña was the one who was confused.
“Who was it, anyway? Who was the one who put that big idiot Zorzal up there?”
“Well, if you’re calling him an idiot… actually, don’t you think Zorzal-nii-sama might actually have the ability to succeed, but he was just hiding it until now?”
“Impossible! He’s an idiot. Just consider the following. If he was afraid of Father, then he should have hidden his talents until Father passed away. But he exposed them at a time like this; doesn’t that make him an idiot?”
“Well, nii-sama, don’t you think that’s a bit much? Perhaps he was simply overjoyed about becoming the Crown Prince, so he couldn’t control himself for a moment.”
“In any case, he’s a real idiot! That can’t be helped! And if he is really as much of an idiot as we think, who knows what foolish things he’d do!
The fact was that while pretending to be an idiot and doing foolish things, Zorzal ended up believing that he was a true genius when in reality he was in fact a big idiot!!
Listen, Piña. That big idiot is very scary. The worst part of that is his petty intelligence!! There are a lot of idiotic merchants who are penny wise, pound foolish. Who knows, they might just be a hair separated from geniuses. The problem is that big idiots drag down everyone around them.
It’s no longer just his problem. It also involves you, Piña. You’d best think of what to do after this.”
Those last words might well have been a warning to Piña that said, “The Empire will revolve around you in the future. The people behind you (including Diabo himself) will be watching to see how you move the Empire.”
“Actually, I’ve been thinking about that for a long time.”
“You, you have? Well, as expected, there’s no way you couldn’t be thinking about that.”
As expected, she had the throne in her sights. His sister was truly one to watch. However, the battle was not decided until the very end. Diabo clenched his fists, and resolved himself not to lose. And then, Piña’s answer was not quite what Diabo expected.
“I want to be a protector of fine art!”
The way she replied was as though she did not realise her situation at all.
Tyuule took off the leather collar around her neck, before throwing it away in disgust. Then, she collapsed face-down on her simple bed, in her cramped, personal room.
She covered her face, which was covered in bruises and bite marks, with both her hands. She pressed at them with her fingers, but she knew the marks were still there. Even though she knew they would not vanish when pressed, she still could not help herself.
She sighed softly. After that, a muffled, hoarse voice came from below her bed.
“Tyuule-sama. This is Bouro.”
Still face down on her bed, Tyuule replied as though she were sleep talking.
“What is it?”
“This is the report we received from your subordinate at Arnus.”
“Is that so. Put it aside. I will read it later.”
She was grateful for her subordinates’ loyalty, but right now, she was just too tired. Even the closest relative felt like a stranger at this time.
Bouro had no other duties besides delivering the report, so Tyuule expected him to leave. However, Tyuule’s loyal servant remained where she was.
“Tyuule-sama. Since Zorzal is now the Crown Prince, the Empire’s end is only a matter of time.”
Tyuule scoffed in her heart, and quietly muttered about why he had not left yet. She almost began to order him away. However, Bouro was her only minion. Without Bouro, Tyuule would truly become Zorzal’s caged bird. Therefore she could not reject him too harshly.
What this ugly male wanted was a reward. And indeed, loyalty deserved a fitting reward. However… Tyuule was sick of it. First Zorzal. And now this man.
Tyuule grabbed her head, turned over so she was lying on her back, and then she let one leg dangle to the ground.
Before long, a liquid, dripping sound rose up from below her, accompanied by the sensation of a tongue licking at her feet. Tyuule grit her teeth against the unpleasant feeling, and spoke calmly.
“Getting that bastard fired up has been a real chore.”
You are a great man, yet other people underestimate you despite your great talent. This is why geniuses cannot be understood by those below them. Let them say what they want. At least, I understand you.
You are strong and righteous. Of course your magnificent gestures will invite jealousy from others. You are, no, only you are truly correct.
You are perfect. Your methods are too revolutionary, so the plebeians cannot understand them.
A genius does not need to do as a plebeian does. Do as you please. Yours is the right way.
The Emperor fears you, so it is not that he didn’t name you Crown Prince, but he could not. The Emperor is a fearsome man who killed your sworn brother. Being feared by such a fearsome person proves that you’re a perfect being. In order not to be assassinated like your sworn brother, you need to lie in wait. Hide your talent. Conceal your ability. Pretend to be a useless man. Now, you can only play the role of a useless person.
Tyuule whispered these honey-coated words into Zorzal’s ears in between her sweet moans, and that was how she snared Zorzal’s soul.
He believed those pleasant lies, and with those as a base he believed even more lies, and then he lied to himself because he believed those sweet lies. At this stage, he no longer suspected her. His ego and confidence expanded with no basis for it, and he even claimed other people’s ideas as his own. Or rather, he treated it as other people stealing his ideas.
“The spineless warriors from the other world are not worth fearing,” she whispered, and when the Emperor-to-be heard them what he thought was, “How did you come to know my thoughts?”
“However, I must not be careless. I need to find a way to sabotage the peace talks. No matter what, I have to make the war continue. I must fuel the fires of war. Let all the humans in this land hate, curse, massacre, plunder and destroy each other, until the Empire falls. Let the Empire burn, let the streets burn, let the villages burn, let the humans vanish from the face of the earth. They will not receive a single scrap of mercy. Only then will my revenge be complete.”
“Then, I have a good idea. Kill off the Nihon slave. They destroyed the Senate Building after finding out a couple of their people were enslaved. If they knew the rest were killed, they would go out of their minds with wrath.”
“They attacked just because one or two of their people were made slaves…”
As Tyuule heard those words, the nameless irritation in her breast became anger.
When she had been enslaved herself, nobody came to help her.
Nobody saved her. Nobody sympathized with her.
Nobody thought about her.
And then, she heard that those of her people who survived actually believed the lies that she betrayed her race, and swore vengeance on her.
She could never forgive that.
She had sacrificed herself for her home. But nobody thought to repay her for that. Nobody loved her for it, and simply put, she would never forgive them for their foolishness. And now her anger would spill over onto Noriko, who was in the same situation as herself.
“Naive. Far too naive. I can’t do it myself. I need to implicate a member of the royal family. The best choice would be Piña. But if that’s not possible, Diabo is fine too. Noriko needs to be killed somehow. Then the war will continue. It will continue forever. The war will draw in everyone around it. The humans will kill each other, and their corpses will cover the earth. Zorzal and the Empire who killed my father, my mother, my brother and my tribe will be destroyed. Everything will be destroyed. And then I will be pleased. And then, Bouro, I will grant your wish…”
The ugly man licking Tyuule’s calf had a face which looked like a cross between a pig and a dog. His eyes gleamed as his ugly features twisted into a smile.
“Leave it to me, Tyuule-sama. I will rack my brains for you. As such, please do not forget our arrangement. Eeheeheeheehee…”
This was a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of foreign affairs from America, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, China and Japan. Kanou Taro was there, but his earpiece boiled in his ear, causing pain.
He pulled out the earpiece, which was streaming translated words, and tried several times to cool his ears. However, his body was the sort to heat up easily, and since the words exchanged by the diplomats excited him, his temperature went up again. He had to quell it by sheer force of will.
Kanou sighed, and spoke to Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, whose name was Vladimir.
“We cannot accept a request like that. Ginza is situated in the heart of our economic district in Tokyo. We cannot accept an unconditional stationing of foreign armed forces there. Not to mention, our country has no reason to trust Russia. After all, was the invasion of South Ossetia in Georgia not a recent occurrence?”
It took some time for the translators to render Kanou’s words in Russian. Kanou took the opportunity to take a drink from a bottle of mineral water on his desk. Vladimir’s face changed colors as he heard Kanou’s words, and he began speaking forcefully at Kanou. However, Kanou did not speak Russian, so he waited with a blank expression while the translators did their jobs.
The translated message was:
“We will not tolerate your malicious slander of our nation. My country’s actions in South Ossetia were taken to protect our people. The ones who should be censured are the Georgians, who wanted to perform ethnic cleansing. My country’s military actions were justified and are above criticism!”
Kanou shrugged and said, “I was kidding,” and the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs turned to look at him. The Vice-Minister would not show his skill here… in other words, he would be handling the secret negotiations behind people’s backs (in other words, under-the-table negotiations). After receiving the approval of the American, UK and German representatives, he scribbled it down on a notepad and showed it to Kanou.
The notepad read: “Broad agreement. Details TBD.”
“Well, all I saw was Russian soldiers pointing their guns at members of the press…”
As the translators did their job, they somehow managed to convey Kanou’s tone in a very aggressive manner.
Vladimir pounded his table and rose, his ear tips red.
“These are lies from the Western media!”
“Live telecasts are hard to fake. I believe the new “evidence” supplied by the Russian government post facto are the fakes. In any case, our country cannot trust yours. Therefore, Japan rejects the Russian request.”
The Russian foreign minister glared at the representatives of the other countries, clenching his fist.
This G8 summit was convened to discuss economic and political problems. Naturally, the Gate which appeared in Tokyo, Japan, was one of those topics.
The incident happened in Japan, so it should be Japan’s problem. And the managing the Gate should also be Japan’s responsibility.
However, once they learned about the vast resources hidden beyond the Gate, they ignored the drawbacks the Gate brought with it — in other words, war — and focused entirely on its benefits.
Each country was basically saying the same thing, “Don’t hog everything, share some with us.” In addition to the G8 countries, there were other countries who were interested in the Gate, like Korea, India, Taiwan, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, Singapore, among others.
Prime Minister Morita caved under the pressure from all these countries, and decided to make a big concession.
Of course, Japan could not just roll out the red carpet for them. They had to take care of their own interests as well. One could not just tramp into someone else’s house with muddy shoes. They had to say what had to be said, and refuse what had to be refused.
That was the main demand Kanou and Natsume made during the Cabinet meeting. The Cabinet went with it in the end, but they added their own restrictions onto the plan before approving it.
And so, the usage of the Gate and the amount of intervention Japan would accept on its soil would be decided by the eight nations here.
Now, it was the Japanese Foreign Minister’s turn to speak.
“Our country is deeply concerned about the threats levelled at Japan by the Special Region’s, that is to say, the Imperial Army. Please believe that we act with the defense and security of Tokyo in mind. What we desire is to enter the Special Region, observe the Japanese army, and to provide the minimum military presence needed to protect our country’s interests. A refusal at this point will only invite suspicion regarding your reticence to divulge your activities. Please keep that in mind.”
Kanou remembered that the Korean Embassy had said something similar.
“Please be at ease. Ever since Japan was defeated in the Second World War, we have become a democratic country. We would never commit atrocities like the military suppression and subsequent massacres of the Uighurs and Tibetans. In fact, our country has invited residents of the Special Region to share their opinions before the National Diet, and to provide proof of the JSDF’s righteous action. If you still have doubts and insist on visiting the Special Region in person, that is not an impossible request, although we will need to stipulate certain conditions up front.”
These were the main points of the terms dictated to the Foreign Ministers of the various countries:
“To begin with, because the Gate is in Tokyo, any travel to the Special Region must pass through Tokyo. However, no country would permit foreign militaries to move through their economic centers. We hope you will acknowledge that fact.
In addition, while passing through Japanese territory, the personnel of the various nations must obey our country’s laws. Our country heavily regulates the possession of weaponry, and the possession of firearms, blades and other weapons are strictly forbidden.
In accordance to our country’s regulations regarding explosives, explosives and ingredients that could be used to make explosives are forbidden from being taken to the Special Region. If there is a need to transport such items, it will be done so in accordance to our country’s methods. In addition, please obey our traffic laws.
Violations will be punished in accordance to our country’s laws. In addition, to enforce these conditions, visitors will be subjected to luggage searches. Refusal of these searches will also be subject to punishment.
In the unlikely event that armed foreign military personnel are found in Ginza for any reason, they will be viewed as offenders in accordance with our country’s laws and will be immediately fired on by JSDF troops. Any offending vehicles will be destroyed. In addition, we will request compensation from the home countries of the offending soldiers, to the tune of one million US dollars per offender. If any buildings or other assets of our country are damaged in the process, we will request a suitable amount of compensation for them as well.
In addition, these monies will be paid to our nation in the form of a deposit. Therefore, a deposit will be required to send troops to the Special Region, and the amount will vary according to the number of personnel sent. If there are ten people, the deposit will be ten million US dollars, and if there are 100 people, the deposit will be 100 million dollars.”
At this point, the faces of the ministers from the various countries were stern masks.
Only the American foreign minister was smiling. The TMCSUSJ permitted American soldiers to bear arms on Japanese soil, so the above conditions were largely irrelevant to them. As for the deposit money, there was no need for the US to worry about getting it back, given the relationship between the US and Japan. In addition, the sum was a pittance compared to the potentially vast benefits they could gain from the Gate.
(TL Note: Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan.)
The UK and German ministers remained impassive, but they were scribbling notes to each other in some form of discussion.
In truth, these two countries had long given up on gaining any territory and benefits from the Gate. Much like the US, they realised the difficulty of sending and supporting a large army through the tiny conduit of the Gate. Therefore, they decided to provide support for Japan in exchange for other considerations.
If that were the case, they would not need much firepower or intelligence personnel to keep an eye on the Japanese. The deposit they would need to pay would be correspondingly minimal.
The Canadians and Italians seemed to be consulting with their ambassadors. They might be communicating with their countries. Under-the-table dealings were also taking place, as each of them stated their case and listened to others before reaching a decision they were all willing to abide by.
The problem now was France, with its large overseas colonies, the militant Russia which might well launch an invasion, as well as China, which ruthlessly claimed territory and suppressed minorities. These three countries shook their heads bitterly at Japan.
Much like they had done a century ago, these countries were planning to devote a large amount of fighting power to secure colony rights.
France still had a lot to think about regarding the problem of resupply, but since China and Russia were closer to Japan, their supply chains were short and since they naturally prioritized their militaries, they did not have to worry too much about the unique nature of Japan’s roads.
In addition, China wanted to solve their overpopulation problem by exporting their people to the Special Region.
Once they moved their people over there, they could take control of the region with military forces under the pretext of protecting their people. However, Japan would certainly demand a ruinously huge deposit to move their people over, so China would not agree.
“My country will not take actions which affect the economy or politics of Japan. Therefore, we feel this excessive deposit is unnecessary. In addition, we feel the summary execution of armed personnel is too barbaric. Please reconsider your terms.”
Kanou replied to the French foreign minister.
Although he did not understand what Kanou was saying, fireworks seemed to be going off behind the Frenchman’s eyes.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Please allow us to politely refuse. The large deposit is intended to deter excessive movement of military strength to the Special Region. This is because our country does not wish to destabilize the Special Region. In particular, we are currently undergoing negotiations with the armed forces of the Special Region. If chaos were to break out during this time, the situation might devolve into an armed conflict. Or does France intend to cause havoc in our political and economic districts and take advantage of the confusion to launch an attack?”
“Do you swear that the French troops who are to be sent beyond the Gate will not cause problems in Ginza?”
Then, Kanou replied, confident the problem had been solved.
“Since the French personnel will not enter Ginza bearing arms, then there is no need to worry about summary executions, because there is no way they will commit any offences which require those executions. Am I correct? Or are there plans to commit offences once they are in place?”
As Kanou said these words, the day’s deliberations ended.
Elsewhere, heedless to the opinion of the world and what went on behind the scenes, Itami was fumbling around blindly in Arnus town.
He had a bad feeling about this.
It was a very bad feeling.
The blonde Elf Yanagida mentioned could only have been Tuka. Nobody else fit that description in this place.
Itami did not dislike Tuka. No, in truth, she was the type he liked… all right, he liked her a lot.
She was beautiful, and she did not need makeup to be attractive. Her face was pretty, her hair was a honey-golden hue, her skin was soft and silky, her limbs were slender, and so on. She made people want to dress her up like a moving doll.
Her cornflower-blue eyes possessed a mysterious charm that Itami could not resist.
If she had troubles, it would only make him want to talk to her even more. However, Itami felt there was an insurmountable wall between them, so he did not do so.
That wall was like a giant piece of unexploded ordnance in her mind.
“Go check on the blonde elf girl.”
He recalled Yanagida’s annoying face, and his words.
He thought of Tuka and that piece of unexploded ordnance that might go off at any time.
Itami had treated her gently until now in order not to let that piece of ordnance explode
If anything happened, if she lost the balance in her heart, what would happen to her?
No, that was wrong.
He knew what would happen to her. That was why he tried to deny it. He turned his eyes away from it because he did not want to see it.
After Yanagida left, Itami and co. headed for the residential district of Arnus town, which was when he started his fumbling around.
He had to check on Tuka. However, if the situation had become one that he most feared, he suddenly did not want to go near her. As he wavered back and forth, it took him 25 minutes to reach his destination. He must have looked like a stalker.
Anyone would be suspicious of the way he got so close to a girl’s room. However, everyone in the ALC, from the children to the elderly, knew Itami. So when they saw him doing something strange, they instead greeted him quietly.
“Itami-ojisan, good evening… what happened?”
He was a boy who was about two to three years younger than Lelei.
He was holding a box full of washed Wyvern scales. Itami knew why he was working so late.
The ALC had grown quite large, and the people they employed had increased. Yet, the residents of Coda Village did not stop working. Perhaps they were not sure of their position, but they did not think of hiring people to work for them.
As more and more people came to the ALC, as well as new members… well, it was a complicated feeling for them. Of course, they needed people to help them, but they all felt that they had to set a good example by doing the work first. Therefore, it was difficult for the workers to goof off while the boss was not looking. Or rather, if they slacked off while the kids were trying their hardest to earn money, they would be failures as adults.
In addition, they had simple natures. They were very respectful of specialists who could do things they could not, like the mercenaries, traders, engineers, and other professions which needed specialized knowledge. They would go “And so, when you do this, that solves it.” “Whoa, you’re awesome, oji-san!” or something like that. At this point, anyone who did not want to work was probably being stubborn.
Who knew, this might be why this place was called “Heaven” or “The best workplace”. That being the case, the important administrative tasks were handled by Lelei, Tuka, Rory and Kato, so nobody could try and exploit them through loopholes. And they also had the JSDF for security.
In the past, a dishonest man tried to cheat people, but in the face of the JSDF MPs’ terrifying mental calculation techniques (in the Special Region, most people who could do mental calculations were doing more important jobs), his scheme fell apart and he was drenched in cold sweat.
Incidentally, while this man was being transferred to a job where he would not have contact with money, he attempted violence against a Dark Elf woman, which resulted in him being fired and sent to Italica for trial.
Because of this, the male Harpy who was working with the boy panicked and said, “Ah, young master, let me carry this back for you,” and then he carried the box of scales back to the warehouse. The boy, his hands now empty, ran over to Itami and asked the same question from just now: “What’s wrong?” with a mischievous look on his face.
“Nothing’s wrong. It’s just… something.”
“By something you mean… a night raid?"
Now, this was a precocious kid. Still, if he was two years young than Lelei, he would be 13. It was not too surprising to hear these words from a boy on the edge of growing up. What would a normal adult do now? Scold him? Or let him off?
Itami was curious about where he had learned those words from. Then he replied, “Well, no,” to the boy. After that, he continued in a more serious tone, “You can think that, but don’t say it. If weird rumors go around, it’ll be bad for the girl you’re talking about.”
“Then again, you mean you won’t do anything? Her Holiness’ room is at the back, while Lelei-neesan’s room is opposite… or are you going to pounce on Tuka-san? Are you?”
“Oi oi, if I touch Lelei, it’ll be a crime. Japan has child welfare laws and teenage legislation or something like that. And for the record, I am looking for Tuka, but not to do naughty things.”
He had not mentioned Rory, but she would have cleared the minimum age requirement. Still, the kid seemed to be implying that Lelei was Itami’s even though he had a reason not to touch her. It was a surprise, but he felt that he had to protest that.
And then, the boy deliberately tilted his head.
“..............Could it be that oji-san doesn’t know about the three-night rule?”
“...............Ah, it’s impossible, I’m done with this guy.”
As Itami watched the boy walk away with a hmph, Itami wondered, what are you mad about? Then he put him out of mind. Still, his brief chat with the kid helped him gather his resolve to head to Tuka’s room, because he did not want to keep thinking about it.
He knocked on Tuka’s door.
Before he heard a reply, as he stood in front of the temporary housing, he imagined a scene he did not want to see at all.
What he saw was his mother from the past. Her gray face was crowned in wild hair, and she was banging her forehead against the wall over and over again, like a restless spirit. A chill ran down his spine as he saw it.
“Still alive” “Yes. Still alive” “Still alive” “Because nothing happened” “Because the murder never happened” “That’s right, never happened” “But, not here” “Not here” “Then where” “I have to find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him” “Find him”
He shook his head to clear away the horrible images from his mind.
It was not cold outside, yet his hairs were standing on end.
After a while, the door opened from the inside.
He planned to greet Tuka, but the one who greeted him was Lelei. Inside the lit room, he could see Rory, wearing her black Goth outfit.
The expressionless Lelei spoke in a way that suggested she was afraid of being heard. Itami took the hint and swiftly entered.
After he came in, he slid the bolt home after closing the door.
And then, three people looked at Itami.
One of them was Rory. She seemed tense, but after seeing Itami, she relaxed a little.
Another was Lelei. Her expressionless face looked somewhat uneasy.
The last one was Tuka.
She sat on a wooden bed, and her hair was wild and mussed up, like she was afraid of something. She looked frightened and fragile, but when she saw Itami she broke into a smile. With tears streaming from her eyes, she stood up to hug Itami.
Then, still hugging Itami, she turned to Lelei and Rory.
“See, I told you. He came back.”
Rory looked hurt, while Lelei’s gaze swept past Tuka and rested on Itami once more.
Itami was confused because he did not know what was going on. All he could do was ask, “What happened? What’s going on?” But Tuka beat him to it.
“Really, you two, there’s got to be a limit to jokes. I’ll get mad if you go too far. And then… that lying Dark Elf! Afterwards I need to fix her good! I’ll throw her out of town!”
The arms hugging Itami tightened a little. She sounded really angry, and so Itami nervously asked:
“Ah, about that, Tuka… what exactly happened?”
“It’s like this. Those two, they said Father was dead. Funny, right?”
Itami turned his pleading eyes from Tuka to Rory and Lelei. However, Rory turned away, like she had been stabbed, while Lelei simply met Itami’s gaze and watched his movements.
“Yup. But it wasn’t their fault. The Dark Elf’s the one to blame.”
“And the Dark Elf is…?”
“Don’t you know? She’s famous in town. She came to beg for the help of the Men in Green to save her tribe and her home. But after she was rejected by the JSDF… well, I felt sorry for her, and I gave her a place to sleep, but she turned out to be an ungrateful person. I don’t know what she was thinking, but she suddenly said Father was killed by the Flame Dragon. She wanted me to admit it, and she said after I admitted it I should ask the Men in Green to take revenge. How rude.
“That’s right. No matter how badly you need help, you shouldn’t lie.”
“Yeah, about Father being dead and all. Eaten by a Flame Dragon, how stupid is that? He’s alive and well, aren’t you, Father?”
Tuka looked at Itami with her blue-green eyes and called Itami “Father”.
She was smiling when she looked at Itami, but her eyes were not seeing him. They were filled with madness. And that awoke the memories that were sealed in the back of Itami’s mind.
In that instant, Itami’s stomach lurched.
Everything he had eaten and drunk while Yanagida was treating rushed up from his stomach.
He couldn’t hold it down even with his hands. Moving fast, he threw open the door to Tuka’s room and vomited on the spot. He threw up everything he could until his stomach was empty, like someone had tied a rope around it. After that he threw up his bile, but he still could not stop his heaving.
“What on earth is going on?!”
Tuka wailed, and went to pat Itami on the back with a worried look on her face. Itami waved her hand away, but his gut still hurt, enough that he could not move.
“Dammit! What the hell is this!?”
Itami, still stained with vomit, slowly stood up.
Son of a bitch, someone broke Tuka!
Behind him, Lelei was chanting a spell with her solo chorus voice.
After that, Itami’s consciousness vanished into darkness
The first thing he saw when he woke up was the ceiling of the temporary housing.
From the window, it looked to be well into the night. But the lamplight illuminated the room, and this mix of light and darkness seemed to be all that was left of the world.
“So you woke up at last?”
Rory smiled to him from where she was sitting at the head of the bed. Behind Rory was Tuka, who was breathing slowly.
Itami realised that he must be lying on Tuka’s father’s bed. Tuka kept changing the bedsheets and blankets even though nobody used it.
“Lelei put Youji to sleep. And then, Tuka was pretty worried… she said ‘Father’s going to die’.”
Lelei was standing beside Rory. Her left cheek was red and her lip was split.
Rory replied on behalf of Lelei, who was unable to speak. “There were some problems getting Tuka to sleep.”
Still lying down, Itami sighed deeply.
Fortunately, his vomiting spell from earlier was over. His stomach still hurt from the way he had emptied it.
“Can you tell me what happened?”
“How do you want me to tell it?”
Rory looked at Lelei, to indicate that she could speak for herself. Lelei acknowledged the look and stepped forward.
From Lelei’s explanation, it all started when Lelei brought the Dark Elf called Yao over, and gave her a room.
“Wasn’t that the woman who called me a brat?”
Itami recalled that time when he had been drinking with Rory, and the Dark Elf who pointed her side sword at him.
“Ahhh, her, is it?”
She had come to beg the Men in Green to save her village from the Flame Dragon which attacked it. However, the JSDF rejected her request.
“I heard that much from Yanagida. But why did she tell Tuka her father was dead.”
“Let me explain that part.”
A Dark Elf woman appeared at the door. How long had she been there?
She undid the turban that hid her face. She had a look on her face that went beyond fearlessness and headed straight into wickedness.
Rory clicked her tongue and reached for her halberd, while Lelei brought her staff close to her. The two of them were radiating hostility.
“It’s a little late for greetings, but… oh Man in Green, my name is Yao. I am a Dark Elf from the Ducy tribe in the Schwarz Forest. I am the daughter of Dehan, Yao Ha Ducy.”
After that, Yao bowed deeply.
“I already know your name.”
“I see. I apologize for that time. I mistook Rory-dono for a young girl, and I thought a wicked man was trying to take advantage of a child. Please forgive me.
“Then, why did you say all that rubbish to Tuka?”
Itami sat up on the bed from his supine position, looking straight at Yao.
“That was an accident. I was only telling the truth.”
“Then, let me ask you. Why did you tell her the truth?
“Is that not obvious? Because of malice.”
Yao snorted as she saw Itami’s surprised expression.
“Yes, malice. What other reason could there be? ...I heard about the three of you from Mr. Yanagida. They say that the three of you will break all the rules to save people. Which means, I had no choice apart from doing this.
I already went to your comrades. I pressed my head to the ground and begged them. I told them that if they could help me, I would do anything I possibly could for them. Any request, any demand would be fine… but every single one of them refused me. Right now, my people are suffering and praying for someone to come with the strength to defeat the Flame Dragon. But all of your comrades laughed and said, “If it’s Itami, he might have a way.”
Itami looked to Lelei, and she quietly said, “I translated for her.”
“That was why I broke her. If you want to save this Elf’s heart, you have no choice but to tell her that her father was killed by the Flame Dragon, and then finish it off. Well then, Man in Green. What will you do? Will you leave that Elf as she is? Or will you take up arms and fight?”
Itami’s teeth ground against each other.
They made a creaking sound as he gritted his teeth in anger, and he glared coldly at Yao.
Yao’s expression was a complicated mix of anger, sorrow and mockery, and there were tears streaming down her cheeks.
She took a step forward, to Itami. And then she spoke.
“When a person’s loved ones are killed, that person will definitely want revenge on the killer. If the culprit is a natural disaster, then all that person can do is curse the gods.”
Yao’s eyes flickered toward Rory for a moment.
“But what of the Flame Dragon? The killer is there, but there is nothing that can be done about it. Nobody can catch it to punish it. Yet it is not a disaster sent from the heavens. Then… then where should this anger be directed? Who can this wrath be vented on? Where can the hatred for the loss of one’s kin be pointed?”
Yao stepped forward again.
“Revenge is a rite that restores one’s spirit after it has been ravaged by the anger and hatred of loss. That is the only way to heal one’s soul and stand up again to face reality. That is the only way we can have a tomorrow.”
Then, Yao got to her knees and pressed her head to the floor in front of Itami.
“I beg you. Even if it’s just for this girl’s sake, please save my people. I beg you.”
Yao went on to say that she would offer her body as payment. She would do anything he told her too. She would not even complain if he ordered her to tear herself apart.
Yao poured all her strength into those words.