Editor: PervySageChuck, Nate, Skythewood
As Itami watched the helicopter leave, he turned to Tuka, who was trying to smile through her tears, and said, “I’m not going to the Imperial Capital.”
He took off his gloves, and set aside his heavy helmet.
After that, he felt as though he had been released from something. Well, he would probably regret it later. However, right now, he had decided not to worry about these annoying things. It felt like nothing mattered any more.
“Will that be all right?”
From the way Tuka looked, she must have been worried about making trouble for her father. However, her joy of not having to watch the house alone took precedence, and she slowly walked in front of Itami before lying against his chest.
“Well, the most important thing for me is protecting your smile. I’ll stay with you, so you have to work hard too.”
Itami was feeling pretty good after shrugging off all his responsibilities. Because of that, he could even use an embarrassing line like that in a completely natural way.
“Wh-what?! I-is this what you should be saying to your own daughter?”
Even Tuka’s voice of protest was wavering, thanks to the trembling in her heart.
Itami smiled bitterly and replied, “Does it sound like that?”
In truth, he had not meant it like that at all. All he wanted to do was cheer on Tuka, who had lived a hard life until now.
The problem was that a blockheaded man like him had no idea what kind of effect his words had on women. Would any woman not swoon when she heard that a man she liked wanted to protect her smile and stay by her side?
Tuka leaned her forehead on Itami’s chest and quietly said, “Dummy.”
Sadly, Itami was in his full battle gear, so he could not feel her soft and warm body through his outfit. His bulletproof vest, with metal trauma plates inserted, blocked her body and the feel of her.
In other words, the only thing Itami could do was stroke her head, like he would a cat.
The thin, soft strands of her hair flowed past his fingertips. Then he patted his palm down on her lovely head. When his fingertips grazed the tips of her long ears. Tuka shuddered, then relaxed. Tuka seemed like the very sensitive type, and it must have felt good for her.
After getting his breathing under control, Itami exhaled quietly, and told Tuka to get ready for a journey.
“Let’s go together.”
Tuka had a vague idea of what her father planned to do.
In Itami’s 30-plus years of life experience, asking a woman to go on a trip with him was a difficult endeavour. People would reject him, they would feel uneasy about him and look disgustedly at him, and in the end he had to laugh it off by saying it was a joke.
Therefore, when he said it to Tuka in a tone that sounded like her father, it seemed to hit the spot. With a delighted expression on her face, she asked, “Where will we be going?”
She looked pleasantly surprised. Although Itami did not know the man himself, he still tried to imitate a fatherly voice, which was to say, the voice of Tuka’s father, Hodoryu. As a man who lacked the authority of a father, he had to force himself to play a father’s role. Instead, the tone he produced made Tuka treat a father as a man she could love.
Tuka’s innocent smile pierced Itami’s conscience. In order to suppress it, he forced himself to smile to her.
“We’re heading to the south. What, you don’t like it?”
“Mm! I’m going, I’m going! I’ll go anywhere as long as it’s with Father! I’m very happy that we’re travelling together!! Will we be leaving right now?”
“I need to make some preparations first. After that, we’ll set out immediately.”
“Then, finish up quickly. I want to go before noon.”
After Tuka finished, she reluctantly peeled herself from Itami’s body. She took a few steps in reverse, only turning away when she was out of the reach of his fingertips.
“I’ll get ready right away!” Tuka shouted over her shoulder before she ran to her room.
“Itami, are you an idiot? No, I’ve had that feeling for a while, and it seems I was right.”
Yanagida, who was watching from the side lines, was the first to speak after Tuka ran off.
“So you’re not just abandoning your mission, but you plan to take on the Flame Dragon by yourself? That’s far too reckless. What kind of reason am I going to make up for you to go out all by yourself?”
“Yanagida-san, you can’t say that. Didn’t you promise me that you’d take care of the paperwork?”
“Even if you say that…”
Yanagida shook his head.
“Well, since the diplomatic visit is over, you probably won’t be fired for this, but this isn’t going to help your chances with our people. Your punishment from the earlier incident has not been dealt out yet; you might still be suspended, demoted, and transferred somewhere else.”
“Argh, I prepared myself for all of that, but it still sucks to hear it being said…”
Itami grabbed his belly and frowned.
He could not take the pain in his stomach any more. Once he was cut loose from the Special Region, if he wasn’t thrown to the austere northern garrisons, he would be posted to a distant island. Naturally, he would never be able to see Tuka again, so he had to prepare himself for that.
“Then, I won’t say it. Right now, what you need to do is catch up with 3rd Recon, then after you complete your mission, you can take your team to bring down the Flame Dragon. I think I can explain it like that.”
“Yanagida-san, you don’t need to go on. I don’t intend to involve them in my personal affairs. I have no time to hesitate. I don’t want to have regrets because I chose to handle this matter later. Therefore, right now, I’ll be moving out.”
“Don’t be like that, you’re being too hot-headed. Don’t you think having more gear will increase your chances of success?”
“I’ll figure something out. Sorry.”
Itami pressed his hands together and faced Yanagida. Then, still in this posture, he turned to the HQ at Arnus Hill and made a praying gesture to Lt. Gen. Hazama. “Sorry for giving you trouble again,” he said before clapping his hands.
“Dammit. Dammit, I’m really pissed off. Is that blonde Elf really worth all this? There are a lot of good women in this world. With your reputation and connections, you could persuade the locals to sell their oil and mineral rights and make a killing in the financial sector. When that happens, the girls will be throwing themselves at you.”
Indeed, that sounded great.
Itami was a healthy, hot-blooded man. He had imagined orgies with girls who were just his type. However, his fantasies were far too unrealistic. For example, how could he find himself being hugged by a horde of half-naked girls?
He shook his head to clear out that mental image. After all, he was not a manga protagonist or anything. He had to face reality coolly and calmly. Yes, he needed to be realistic about planning his future moves. Even if it was difficult, he had to visualize a realistic future.
However, the next thought that came to mind was himself being surrounded by hostesses and gorgeous women who were far removed from his tastes, of going on talk shows after leaving the JSDF, taking part in a signing event for a book called “The Hero of Nijubashi” (and he did not even know who wrote it), or joining a conservative party and running for elections.
His imagination was rather meagre.
However, he could still imagine all the wonderful things Yanagida was describing, to a certain extent. He lacked the ability to create or produce things, nor did he have the ability to imagine a future he would make by sacrificing himself. But he could not abandon Tuka’s future for those reasons. It would be too cruel.
In contrast to that, he imagined himself continuing his life as a serviceman, bringing Tuka, Rory, Lelei, Piña and Bozes to a Comiket, and then making a big disturbance. He liked those happy days better.
“I guess… I can’t do that after all,” Itami said.
Yanagida’s answer was a shrug. Itami could not tell whether it meant “You’re an incurable idiot” or “I don’t get it.” However, even if Yanagida could not accept Itami’s reasons, he would support him until the end.
“That’s how it is, Yanagida-san. I’ll leave the planning and preparations to you. In addition, I’ll need a vehicle, weapons and explosives. Oh, and some spare fuel and provisions.”
Yanagida grabbed his head and looked to the sky while saying, “Hold on, hold on”, then he hurriedly extracted a notebook and pen from a pocket, and wrote down Itami’s requests into a list.
“What weapons will you need? And how much rations will you need?”
“I need at least 10 LAMs, the more the merrier. As for food, since only Tuka and I are going, food for two people should be enough.”
“Oi, is it alright to not bring Yao along?”
“Yao? Who’s that?”
“The main culprit. The Dark Elf woman.”
“Ahhh, her? Who cares about her? Yanagida-san, by that logic, that would make you a second culprit as well, right?
Yanagida coughed. “Huh, looks like it backfired on me. I’ll do my part, so don’t keep bringing it up, all right? Also, rations for two, right?”
After confirming with Itami, Yanagida looked past Itami’s shoulder and behind him.
“Ah, yes, for two.”
“Will that really be enough?”
“Is something wrong?”
Yanagida could not speak. His eyes seemed to say, “Don’t regret it” as he looked at Itami. Just then, a mighty force swept Itami’s legs out from under him.
The sight before his eyes suddenly changed to the open sky, and by the time he came to his senses, he was already flat on his back.
Itami was coughing non-stop from the sudden impact, and then suddenly, the sight of Rory in her lace-edged black Goth skirt loomed over him, along with her luscious legs which vanished into the depths of her skirt.
She wore black stockings under her black boots, and then what looked like a black garter belt, but he could not see clearly since it was dark. Further up, all he could see was blackness. As he tried to get them out of his line of sight, he locked eyes with Rory.
“Don’t you think you’re treating us like strangers?
The halberd’s pointy end slammed into the ground, just beside Itami’s ear.
Beside her, Lelei was watching the supine Itami.
“It’s because, no actually, you see, I felt like I shouldn’t involve you guys.”
Rory sat herself down on Itami’s belly, and she punched Itami’s chest with her tiny fist.
“That’s why I said you’re treating us like strangers. Come on, what’s so bad about involving us?”
“Don’t say that. It makes me feel lonely.”
Rory kept pounding Itami’s chest.
“But it’ll be very dangerous. We might not come back safely.”
“Well, that sounds like fun. I’m excited now.”
As Rory smiled, Itami could see a demonic, battle-hungry light in her eyes. Itami felt like she was going to devour him in one gulp.
“But, you see, that…”
“You idiot. If you aren’t sincere when you invite a woman to play dangerous games with you, she’ll be waiting forever.”
“But, we’re going to exterminate the Flame Dragon. Do you mean you’re going to die with me?”
“Of course not. A double suicide’s far too lame. Since I’ve got 40 more years in this body of mine, I want to enjoy my time with it before I let go of it.”
“Which means you’re not going?”
“Don’t tell me you were planning to lose from the start. Did you intend to kill yourself?”
Itami shook his head. He felt that even though amidst that suicidal danger, there was a faint glimmer of a chance that he could make it back alive.
“Then, that means you don’t want to kill yourself with me?”
“Then you should be more honest. Oi.”
Rory punched Itami’s belly hard. The blow carried past the protection of his bulletproof vest with its metal inserts.
“Uuu, I got it, I got it, I’ll say it. Hang on a bit.”
Itami sat up to ward off Rory’s second punch, and in the end his face was met by her slim bust.
“Rory, can you come with me?”
The air of danger bled away as Rory smiled. Itami thought, so she could smile so sweetly...
“It’ll be expensive, you know.”
“Then I’ll owe you first. Though I don’t know if I can pay you back.”
“That’s fine. I’ll definitely come back. I’ll claim your soul after you die and turn you into a familiar.”
“Are you a demon?!”
Rory ignored Itami’s pitiful face. After a quick glance over Itami’s body, she grabbed his right arm and bit down on it.
“Ow! Ow! Ow!”
Itami wailed like he was having a bite taken out of him, and Rory freed his arm from her maw.
There were obvious bite marks on Itami’s right arm. Rory licked the blood that flowed from them.
Then, she wrenched her halberd out of the ground. She held up three fingers to Yanagida and said, “Three people”. Then she headed back to her room, to prepare for the trip.
As he watched Rory leave, he heard Lelei say, “Four people”.
“Oi, oi, Lelei, you’re coming too?”
Lelei gazed dispassionately as Itami and said, “Wasn’t that obvious?” Her tone was cold, like she was talking to an idiot. Then, she continued sternly, “Does the sun not rise in the morning? Do objects not fall to the ground?” as she stared at him.
Did that mean he would not understand if she did not explain it? And then,
“Magic is necessary to increase your chances of survival. I want permission to go…”
Lelei’s eyes seemed to ask, anything else?
On the other side of those emotionless eyes, Itami could sense all sorts of emotions hidden within Lelei. And then, he realised that she was very angry.
“L-Lelei-san? Could it be… you’re mad?”
And so, Itami said, “Four people, please” to Yanagida.
Since he had already agreed to let Rory come along, there was no reason to leave Lelei out. The anger of a girl who did not show her emotions was quite frightening.
Although Itami had thought of refusing her with, “You’re too young” or “You’re an important part of the ALC, Lelei would probably reject them like scolding a baby. Worse, it might add fuel to the fire.
Lelei seemed very happy with Itami’s response as she left. She was probably going to prepare.
And now, Yao appeared in front of Itami.
She had arrived without saying a word, and then she went to one knee in front of Itami. Both her palms were pressed to their opposite shoulders, and she bowed deeply to him.
“No matter what orders you have, my body will forever be yours. I will obey any and every order you make. If you wish me to take my life right now, I shall do so without delay.”
Itami sighed as he heard Yao pledge her loyalty to him. The sheer forcefulness with which she had declared her willingness to commit suicide was very oppressive.
“In any case, if you die here, it’ll be inconvenient for me. Lead the way. I’ll take on the job of destroying that Flame Dragon.”
“I understand. If you wish to confine me, please give the word.”
He could sense Yao’s desire to be punished in her words.
Her self-mockery and her desire to be punished must have been some sort of emotional defense from being scolded by others. Yao was keenly aware of her own guilt and Itami’s anger.
In this state, even if Itami punished Yao, she could not hate him for it. She could only take it as part of the job.
Perhaps punishing those who wished to be punished would make them happy. If Yao had a conscience, then no matter how severe she was castigated or punished, it would be meaningless.
The thing was, Itami was still very upset. He felt that all this was a pain in the ass. The opposite of love was not anger or hate, but ignorance. When he dealt with her, he would freeze his heart.
If Itami had known more about Yao, he might have felt differently about her. But to Itami, this Dark Elf called Yao was the one who pointed her sword at him for no reason, and she was the main culprit for breaking Tuka.
Yao sensed that Itami was deliberately keeping his distance from her. As a result, guilt and remorse flooded her conscience. “It can’t be helped,” she thought, and it felt like a special, gentle kind of hell for her.
Being used and discarded for the sins she had committed would only be natural. It was the way her days would end, as one used to misfortune. However, she still wanted to be punished. She wanted to suffer and be scolded. She wanted to be humiliated and degraded.
In the depths of Yao’s heart, she knew she wanted to be abused. The thought of that made her shudder with joy.
“So in the end, you’ll need enough for five people.”
Yanagida, who had seen all of this, said those words like he was spitting grains of sand. For some reason, he seemed very unhappy.
“I say, Itami. Now that we’re like this, I might as well come clean. I hate you. I’ve always hated you, and now I hate you even more.”
Just as he was wondering what he was going to say, Yanagida came out swinging with a torrent of abuse. Then he put his fountain pen and his notebook back in his breast pocket, and looked at Yao, kneeling before Itami.
“You know, I graduated from the National Defense Academy, and entered the JSDF with outstanding grades. You could even say I was one of the elite. But you know, nothing this good has ever happened to me before. I worked my ass off to study military matters, the law, and all sorts of other subjects, and I was sincere and earnest to my colleagues and superiors. I bowed my head when I should have bowed it, I kissed all the requisite asses, I made nice with the suits from HQ and even managed to neatly resolve all their messy political and financial problems. I worked damn hard to survive in this competitive world, all the way until now. That’s why I can seriously and sincerely say that I hate you. Let me be clear about this. I despise you. A slacker who puts his hobbies first? Don’t make me laugh.”
As Yanagida continued scolding him, Itami could hear his pride as a member of the elite. However, his earnest tone made Itami want to listen.
“Who the hell do you think you are? You’re completely unmotivated, but you made it to my rank on a fluke? If that’s the case, what the hell have I been working for? Certainly, the JSDF is a military organization, and rewarding success in actual operations is only natural. But don’t you think a fellow like you who does whatever he wants and mocking my hard work behind my back, is being too cunning? That’s why I hope you have a hard time. I hope you keep running into troublesome situations. I hope you meet with danger. I hope you’ll have to write letters to your subordinates’ parents, telling them “Regretfully, your son met with misfortune in the Special Region and passed away”! That ought to match up with my hard work. Don’t you think? Huh?
But now, what’s this? Because it’s a personal matter, you can’t involve your people?
Are you doing that for the nation’s benefit? Or are you just saying that to save your own face?
We soldiers can only work with the subordinates that we’re given! Our subordinates are what we’re assigned based on our rank. That’s only natural! Everyone completes the orders they’re given so we can be assigned our own subordinates! Am I wrong?
Once we leave the unit, we can’t do anything by ourselves. It’d be funny if we could!
But you, why is it that people still follow you?
Why is it that you, and you alone, can find people willing to accompany you?!
Shit, I’m pissed off. God dammit.”
Yanagida kicked the ground as he turned away.
Itami watched Yanagida’s shoulders tremble for a while, and then he recovered his breath and spoke.
“Well... never mind. How shall I say this... I’m sorry?”
“Shut up, I’m just venting, don’t say anything!”
“What, are we bringing this woman too?”
Tuka frowned as she saw Yao, and Itami said, “This woman was supposed to do a lot of things, but now she’s given up on them and is heading back to her village. Since it’s along the way, we’ll be giving her a lift.”
Neither Rory nor Lelei said anything about the lie. Yao eagerly went along with Itami’s lie by lowering her head and saying, “I’ll be in your care for a while.”
Tuka was unhappy that what she thought would be a two-person trip had picked up a bunch of fellow travellers along the way. However, Rory and Lelei were close friends, so she was glad that she could travel with them. It was a different kind of joy from just travelling with her father, so her spirits soon recovered.
The people of Arnus Town gathered to send off Tuka, Lelei and Rory, who were packing their things.
Lelei left the running of the ALC to Kato, and she told the children that if they had any problems with finances or management, they should go talk to Kato.
Rory greeted her flock and her drinking buddies, while Yao looked at the JSDF troops and the MPs who had taken care of her.
Just then, the sound of a horn made the wall of people surrounding them give way. After that, Yanagida stopped the HMV he was driving in front of Itami.
“Yo, Itami. I made you see an embarrassing side of myself just now. Please forget it.”
“What’re you talking about? I don’t remember anything like that.”
After Yanagida finished, he shut off the engine and got out of the vehicle. As though taking over from him, Lelei went up into the rear seat, while Rory nervously sat on the HMV. Naturally, the vehicle commander’s seat was Tuka’s.
“I loaded up everything you asked for.”
Itami got into the driver’s seat.
“Everyone, are you ready?” Itami asked the girls on the vehicle.
“All right, let’s go!”
“Anytime is good.”
“I, I’m okay with this.”
Following that, Itami stepped on the gas.
And so, these people set off from Arnus in a HMV.
Arnus Hill Treatment Facility
One could see Arnus Town from the wards. The old man, lying on his bed, watched the vehicle as it left the town.
“So, the young man’s set out.”
His eye which had lost its light was covered with an eyepatch. His left arm and leg were manmade. After dressing himself, he pressed the button to summon the nurse.
“What’s wrong, Mr. Duran?”
The old man shrugged as he heard the nurse’s voice over the intercom.
“Sorry about this, but could you bring over the highest-ranking person here?”
“No, I just want to say that I’ve been hiding something about myself for a while.”
“Did you have a change of heart? In the past, you just said, ‘I’m just a farmer’ every time we asked you about your past.”
“It’s nothing, I just felt that since the young man already showed his courage, how could an old man like myself cower here?”
“I understand, I’ll get the doctor immediately.”
Arnus Living Community, Worker’s Hostel
The dwarf foremen were proud of the houses they built. They were confident that they were not inferior to the JSDF’s temporary housing.
Among these houses was the room of the canteen’s chief waitress, Delilah.
The floor was made of stone and the bed was made of wood. The first time she had seen it she had gotten a shock, because the place that was supposed to be filled with straw was instead filled with cotton pillows and blankets.
In addition, this place even had furniture like a small desk and cabinets, and a small kitchen too. The windows were hung with colorful curtains. But the most unbelievable thing was that all these were for Delilah’s personal use.
When she thought about this place, she was so moved that she wanted to cry.
It was hard to believe that a Warrior Bunny like herself could meet with such good fortune.
Even in House Formal, which was known to treat Demi-humans well, the maids still had to sleep in a big dormitory together, and even the more senior people had to share a two-person room.
And now, she had a room of her own.
The people coming in and out of Arnus Town had increased, and the cramped canteen’s tables had also increased. Naturally, Delilah and Dora were short on manpower. As such, their salary went up as well.
After that, Delilah was assigned to train the newbies, and so she became the chief waitress. The new title came with a pay increase and a room of her own.
Delilah was surprised and delighted.
She would open and close the windows for no particular reason, or dust the curtains, and she soaked in the admiration and praise when she showed her colleagues and understudies around her room. The latter would go, “Sempai, it’s so awesome!” as they enthused over the room.
There was no need to worry about roommates, and she could walk around naked or sing as she liked. She had never felt so happy and free before.
In addition, she could be proud in the letters she wrote to her friends at home. In order not to burden them with the cost of replying, she enclosed the return postage with her letters as well.
She had sent a recommendation letter to House Formal, hoping that they would be able to recommend her friends for jobs in Arnus.
Delilah desperately hoped that her friends would reply that they could join her here.
In the morning, she woke up a little later than usual to make the bed, and opened the canteen doors when it was close to noon. She would work hard, chat with the customers, then close up around midnight and come home to sleep.
She did not need to worry about where her next meal would come from.
Neither did she need to worry about a place to sleep.
In fact, having too much free time was frustrating.
She lived every day like she was dreaming.
However, the letter she received last night was completely different from her expectations.
“Why, why would Italica send an order like this to me?”
Delilah found it hard to accept the contents of this letter. If she carried out the instructions enclosed within, it would be impossible for her to work in Arnus Town after this. Not just that, it would mean every Demi-human in town would lose their jobs. It was an absolutely unforgivable deed that she was being asked to do.
Why had House Formal issued an order like this? It was impossible for House Formal, with its ties to the JSDF, to do such a thing. In addition, House Formal was supervising the peace process with Japan, so an order like this was doubly impossible.
However, she had to act as she was directed.
This was because it was a command issued by House Formal’s secret agents. Delilah considered the conflicting order, her current situation, and her own happiness, and all she could do was hold the letter in front of her without moving.
She needed to talk to someone about this. But who could she turn to? Her colleagues? No. Her boss, the head chef? No. It might be best if she looked for Itami and the ALC officers.
Just as she thought this, the sound of the HMV’s engine came from outside her window.
“Ah, Boss Itami!”
But by the time Delilah flung the window open, the vehicle with Itami in it was gone.
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