Editor: PervySageChuck, Nate, Skythewood
A highway service area on the outskirts of Tokyo...
It was 5 AM, and most people were still sleeping. However, a truck was racing toward the city.
The service area’s parking lots were nearly empty of people, but filled with morning mist.
The sounds of three girls’ footsteps carried over the mist. They watched carefully for cars as they jogged out.
One of them looked like she was 12 or 13. She was a jet-black demigod.
The other seemed 14 or 15. She was a wise wizard.
The last appeared to be 16 or 17. She was a Wood Elf.
Itami sat in the front passenger seat of the van and watched them as he thought. Could he have imagined that there would be such beautiful girls in the world?
Risa, in the back seat, asked Itami a question.
“So, which of those three do you like best?”
Itami pretended he had not heard and kept silent. However, Risa continued talking to force an answer out of him.
“By looks, it should be the Elf girl.”
“For personality, it should be the black Goth girl.”
“And the silver-haired girl makes you want to protect her.”
As Itami heard this, he mused that Risa probably knew him better than any other woman in the world.
“You really understand me, huh.”
“How long do you think I’ve been with you, anyway?”
Risa kicked at the back of Itami’s seat while she banged away on her laptop’s keys.
The laptop was currently connected to a mobile network.
Tomita and Kuribayashi shrugged as they heard the exchange of the couple in the bread truck. Tomita rubbed his shoulders, sore from a night of driving from Izu, Hakone to Tokyo.
The three girls got back in after opening the van’s sliding door.
“Owie,” Itami said as he grabbed his head. Rory looked scornfully at him, thinking that he must have said something stupid to be bonked on the head by Risa.
Rory and the others were holding cans of amazake, red bean soup with mochi, potato stew, cocoa and other strange and wondrous things, and they distributed them to everyone except Itami. This was the first time they had encountered vending machines, so they cheerfully helped themselves. However, they probably did not know what they had bought.
“What about me?”
Itami said that, but it must have been lonely to be the only one to receive anything. Itami asked Rory, but she ignored him and headed to the back of the bread truck. She seemed to be sulking about something.
“Ah well, forget about it, then. I didn’t want to drink red bean soup anyway,” Itami muttered as he sagged his shoulders. This must be what psychologists called “sour grapes”.
“What did you do now?”
“Beats me. I didn’t do anything.”
In relationships between men and women, one could do nothing and still be blamed for it. Risa realised this through her woman’s instinct and decided to change the topic, in order to ward off the unhappy feelings boiling in her heart.
“All right, the bait’s in place. Now all we have to do is wait.”
Rory was looking at Risa’s laptop’s LCD screen from over her shoulder, but there were no pictures. All she saw was words, so she got sick of it quickly. Tuka was sleeping. Lelei was looking in awe at Risa, who was easily using the notebook computer she had bought.
“At 1400 today, Rory Mercury, Tuka Luna Marceau and Lelei La Lelena will offer flowers to the plaque for the victims of the Ginza Incident, and then they will return to the Special Region.”
This information was posted on a certain famous message board. In response, the net exploded with worship for them.
“How about that? You think it’ll work?”
Itami turned to look behind the front passenger seat’s headrest, at the LCD screen, while slurping cup noodles from a supermarket. The noise combined with the spraying soup made Risa frown.
“It’s good. A whole bunch of people will gather to see them… hey, stop it. Don’t eat ramen on top of a person’s head.”
Risa continued her work.
“Judging by the online reaction to the National Diet telecast, it should be fine. We should be able to gather about a thousand people or more, like the “live guerrilla performances” of famous rock bands.”
In order to protect themselves from their enemies in Ginza, Risa suggested that they should mobilize a huge gang of “big friends”, in order to protect them as they returned to the “Gate”. The Americans, Chinese and Russian could not use extreme methods under the observation of a large crowd. Of course, there was still the chance they might be shot at in the middle of the street, but it was safer than trying to dodge assassins by themselves.
Of course, after seeing this plan, Itami gave it two thumbs up.
“In any case, I need to keep going before the sun comes up. Sempai, you should sleep for now.”
After hearing Risa, Itami obeyed. He leaned his weight back on the back of the chair and fell asleep, like Piña and the others.
Risa was talking as she was banging away at the keyboard.
“You should probably go visit your mother soon.”
Itami’s silence was an ironclad refusal, and Risa’s body froze up. Then, he quietly said, “Now’s not good,” suggesting he did not want to talk about this any further.
Piña’s eyes were closed, but she still heard what passed between Itami and Risa.
The two of them were supposed to be divorced, but they sounded like they were still getting along pretty well. Of course, Piña could not understand what they were talking about, but because she could not understand the content, she studied their voices and tone and came to that conclusion. Perhaps he was particularly sensitive about her. That said, it was still quite troubling that she could not understand their words. For all she knew, they might be discussing something important which could determine the fate of the Empire and herself. With that in mind, Piña willed herself to learn Japanese by any means necessary.
Of particular note were the forces on this side of the “Gate” which did not wish the peace talks to take place. Piña was especially cautious about them. According to Itami, the top three strongest nations in this world were America, Russia and China in that order. She became angry because the Empire’s fate would be decided by the three of them fighting with each other. At the very least, she hoped that she could cooperate with the peace-loving factions, and ensure the Empire’s survival through diplomacy, because there was no way they could beat them in terms of military power. Even if she could not defeat her opponent, however, she had no intention of simply letting the heavens decide her fate. As a member of the royal family, she was forbidden from doing so.
Letting the heavens decide was a foolish move, because the heavens would bring both good and bad things.
The nobility of the Empire could only rely on their personal strength in the end. Because of that, she needed to understand what was happening on this side of the “Gate”. Japan’s situation was obvious enough, but she also needed to understand what was going on in the countries called America, Russia and China. She could not do these things by herself. After returning to Italica, she would have to rely on Hamilton, Panache, Nicolatica, Suisses, and the other members of her knight band to help her. After returning to the Empire, she would have to report to the Emperor. Then there was the matter of persuading the Senate.
She had recovered a “gun” from the resort. She had concealed it about her without letting Itami know, and after confirming the feeling she got from it, she knew that she had to bring it back to the Empire in one piece, no matter the cost. There was also the matter of the “art” she saw here, and Piña quietly gathered her determination.
Today, the TVs were showing a special news bulletin. The morning papers used a whole page of their respective publications to write about how the Prime Minister was suddenly rushed to a hospital and had announced his resignation. Vast numbers of camera crews encircled the Tokyojoshi Medical University Hospital building, along with many reporters and broadcasters holding their microphones and narrating the events with shocked looks on their faces to the entire nation. The opposition parties slammed the ex-PM for “abandoning his duty”, even twisting his name into a pun to that effect. Thanks to this news, a group of people who did not want to be exposed in front of others made their move. The first to discover this was an interviewer for the daytime program “Osomatsu-sama deshita!!”
Their three-man team was comprised of the usual cameraman, boom operator, and female interviewer. They went around asking people on the street for their reactions to the PM’s hospital stay and his subsequent resignation. However, the responses from the people on the streets of Ginza were all the same. Most people would stiffen up and give excessively formal answers when under the camera. In other words, they all replied, “Really? Why the hurry?” with shocked expressions. Those who were critical of the current administration went “Well, resigning was expected, right?” and “How irresponsible” over and over again. Just like the typical reaction to weird news, they would say: “That guy? I thought he would do something like that sooner or later.” They were template responses one would expect when gathering reactions to scandals like this.
They would use up to ten… no, up to a hundred clips at a time. The clips would cover all sorts of positive and negative reactions from the people. The editor would go through the expected and unexpected material and present it in a way that left the best impression on the audience. Therefore, the ability of an interviewer to collect useful footage was a measure of their skill.
That said, the rookie interviewer Kuribayashi Nanami did not understand this precept yet. She had thrust her mike into a passing man’s face for the umpteenth time, asking his opinion about the PM’s hospital stay. Her boilerplate questions got boilerplate answers, which the cameraman dutifully recorded. However, what the producer wanted was not “model answers”, but “exciting answers”, and so far, she had only collected model answers, or offshoots of those model answers. Naturally, much of the material she gathered was unusable. The cameraman and boom operator were becoming demoralized. The director said, “Bring me back some footage we can use”, while the producer said, “Can’t you guys work a little harder?” After all, there was a female reporter who started alongside her that was already hosting a regular program.
She resolved to work harder to produce something usable. She considered if there were any flaws in her presentation; the way she spoke, the questions she asked, the way she held the mike… she even wondered if things would go better if she should change clothes to emphasise her big breasts. However, her crew asked if she wanted to be remembered only for her looks, and she decided against it.
She sighed as she looked around for people to approach. Ginza was a busy place, and she should not have been worried about not being able to find anyone to interview. Then, she sensed it. There was something odd about the crowds today.
Ginza was famous for its crowded streets, and most of the time, the crowd would enter through the north, wander through the center, and leave through the south, or move from east to west. However, the flow of people halted in front of her eyes. They were obviously not waiting for a traffic light. Yet there was a horde of men gathered by the side of the road, which was not a good place to wait.
It wasn’t just one or two of them who felt this way either. Most of the passers-by felt it was annoying and stopped, as though they were waiting for something.
“Is there something special going on today?”
The boom operator replied, “Haven’t heard anything.”
The cameraman calmly turned his camera on the crowd standing by the side of the road and said,
“There’s more and more of them.”
One after the other, they stood still. The customers who were supposed to be buying things did their best to squeeze into the group. This situation seemed very strange indeed.
“Is an idol going to be performing a live guerilla concert?”
“Mr. Cameraman, please keep filming.”
Upon hearing Nanami’s words, the cameraman turned his lens around.
“I got it. Before that, you should contact the people on top, right?”
Nanami, drunk on the idea that she might be getting an exclusive scoop, had forgotten the most basic task of reporting back to her superiors. She hastily whipped out her mobile phone after the cameraman reminded her.
The station chief of the CIA’s Japan branch, Graham Morris, was unhappy about the emergency mobilization of his men. He was waiting for the people codenamed “the guests” outside the JSDF’s Ginza Garrison, which encompassed an area 200 meters on each side and which was sealed off by chain link fences.
There was only one gate into the Ginza Garrison.
In front of that gate, there was a plaque erected in memory of the victims of the Ginza Incident, and until this day, people still kept coming forward to offer flowers to them.
Their mission was to stealthily and swiftly abduct “the guests”, then speed them back to the United States.
The Japanese government should have been taken care of.
They had not expected the Prime Minister to invalidate the cards they held with his resignation. At the very least, the promise not to interfere was still in effect. The ones they had to be wary of were the Chinese and the Russians. The team they sent to Hakone had been wiped out, and according to the report they got from Chuck, it was because they encountered the Chinese and Russians there as well and engaged in a three-sided fire fight. If one looked closely, one could see foreign faces everywhere. They might not have all their agents here, but there were enough to maintain a constant presence. That was what his instincts told him.
Eliminate the Russian and Chinese interference while snatching the guests. It was a difficult operation, but not impossible for them. Any country would have difficulty operating in a busy place like Ginza. However, the numbers in front of them were increasing without end, and he asked one of his subordinates about it.
“Are there any special events scheduled here today?”
“Not that I know of.”
“But the amount of people gathering here is pretty abnormal.”
And so, by the time he realized it, Ginza’s streets were overflowing with people.
The Chuo Line, Sobu Line and Yamanote Line had a simultaneous line fault that delayed the trains coming into Shinjuku Station. The sun blazing overhead was hot and bright, so much so that it felt like being stuffed into a box, and the stress it created was rapidly fermenting into a kind of aggression. Because the pedestrian paths in the center could not accommodate all the people, they spilled out onto the roads and blocked the way of the cars.
“It looks like there’s thousands of people out there. Maybe over ten thousand?”
Ginza Central Police Station’s Traffic Control Chief Iwasaki was receiving a report from a patrolman. The massive jam out there kept the police cars from moving. The officers were proceeding to the scene on foot, but there was a frightening amount of people present. At a glance, it looked like an unplanned demonstration of some sort. The people here filled the sidewalks and spilled out onto the roads. It looked like they were waiting for something.
After seeing the television camera crew, the policemen called out to them.
“What are all these people gathered here for?”
The man the police called out to looked confused and fearful of the policemen, but just then, the cheerful and energetic female reporter answered on his behalf.
“Everyone seems to be gathered here to see the girls from the Special Region.”
Nanami had left the cameraman at the place where he had the best view of the flower offerings, waiting for the chance to take a good shot.
The crews from the other channels could not get into Ginza because of the traffic jam and the sheer volume of humanity in their way. In their place were rows of dozens of video cameras and tripods, which were obviously not there for interviews. They radiated a different kind of heat than Nanami’s cameraman. After the department chief said, “Make sure you get a good interview. If it gets published, I’ll give you the department prize”, Nanami had an energetic look on her face.
“What should we do now?”
Tomita was at the driver’s seat and he was getting worried because the huge crowds caused a traffic jam which left them immobile. Cars could drive to Shinbashi, but they had to stop there. Frustrated drivers honked continuously, and some even started swearing and cursing at each other because of the horns. The police officers were desperately blowing on their whistles and trying to direct traffic, but because this was a sudden occurrence, they did not have enough people to handle the situation.
“Aw crap. I didn’t expect it to get so big…” Risa said as she grabbed her head.
Her predictions were completely off the mark.
The information about Tuka, Rory and Lelei appearing in Ginza had spread through the Net in an instant. People had gathered from all over Japan to see them, and an initial estimate put their numbers at around 40’000 people. The maximum capacity of the Tokyo Dome was 45’000 people, to put that number into perspective.
“I-Itami-dono. Where did these vast crowds come from?”
“Are, are they planning to fight a war with someone?”
Piña and Bozes had terrified expressions on their faces.
The faces of Lelei, Tuka and Rory were hidden by the flowers they had bought along the way to offer to the dead.
“We can’t move at all like this. What should we do?”
To Tomita’s question, Itami could only reply, “We walk.”
“But, don’t you think it’ll be dangerous if we go on foot?”
“It’ll be fine.”
Rory’s smile from amongst the flowers was her answer.
She held her unwrapped halberd in her right hand, while the left had the flowers she was going to give. Then she opened the van door and got out. Sitting down for a long time had made her body stiff, so she stretched her back with an “Mmmm~”. Then she tucked her halberd under her armpit and asked someone from the crowd, “Teenager A”, a question.
“Where is Gin Zar?”
After seeing this, Risa said:
“It was like a scene from those epic movies where the heroes could part the seas. The people in front of her simply made a path.”
PM Motoi’s name is written 本位, which can also be read as Hon’i, or “neglect”.