Editors: PervySageChuck, Nate, Skythewood
“Dare I ask how your Majesty intends to address this unprecedented disgrace and destruction?”
The Senator who was also a patrician, Marquis Casel, directed these unsweetened words to Emperor Molt Sol Augustus, seated on his throne amidst the rubble of the Senate Building.
Once, this place was a darkened hall, but now it was an open-air amphitheater.
It was hard to tell if the drama being performed was a comedy or a tragedy. The bigger pieces of debris were already gone, so now it looked like either a modern art masterpiece, or a deranged amateur’s attempt at a theater backdrop. Either way, it resembled a waste heap.
A gentle wind ruffled the Senators’ togas.
Some of them sneezed as their noses were irritated, and powdery dust dirtied their sleeves.
The night was dark and full of terrors for them; they had been shaken out of bed and their sleep ruined by the earthquake, and then the aftershocks frightened them further. Even a dim light could slightly relieve their unease, but nobody could sleep before the sun came up again.
And so, after some time without sleep, the sky in the east began to brighten up. The Imperial Capital turned toward morning, and its people could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
Just then, almost as if they had come with the sunrise, a great bang accompanied the first rays of dawn.
It was a thunderous report that felt like it would split the eardrums of anyone who heard it.
Two gigantic swords slashed across the sky, dumping four objects behind them. These four objects flew unerringly into the Senate Building, perched on one of the Imperial Capital’s hills, and the sturdy structure was thus neatly demolished.
The Senate Building, the symbol of the Empire’s power, was destroyed in an instant.
Of course, this was a precision bombing mission conducted by JSDF troops hidden in the capital with laser designators. However, the people who did not know this simply took it to be a show of the gods’ wrath after the earthquake. Gripped by fear, the people began quietly circulating the rumor that the Emperor must have done something to offend the gods.
The intellectual elite of the Empire, the Senators, did not think it was the wrath of the gods, but a man-made phenomenon. Yet even that was only possible because of their positions.
That being said, the Senators were still crushed by the destruction of the building that symbolized their authority.
On the other hand, one had to consider that if this was not done by the gods, but by men, then one had to wonder how powerful these men were, who could reduce sturdy stone walls as thick as a grown man’s outstretched arms into tumbled ruins.
The Senators’ seats, sundry items, carved bas-reliefs, tributes from various countries, trophies, as well as the huge statues of divinity, all of them were now ruined fragments on the ground.
Everyone who thought about it could not help but shiver.
What if the Senate had been in session when this occurred?
Or, what if the enemy used this power to conduct indiscriminate attacks on the Imperial Capital?
Because the speaker’s podium and the rings of seats were gone, the Senators had no choice but to sit on convenient stone chunks, or directly on the floor. Some people even listened to Marquis Casel’s words from a kneeling position.
“And another thing. All this was because our men captured some of the other world’s residents to learn about them. When the enemy ambassador found out, he was very angry, and apparently, Crown Prince Zorzal was involved in this matter and brutally beaten before his Majesty’s eyes. Have I gotten any part of that wrong?”
The Crown Prince in question sat beside the Emperor, his face swollen and moaning in pain.
The fact that he had been “brutally beaten” was evident to anyone with working eyes.
Although he looked like he had been savagely mauled by a group judging by these wounds, the Senators were shocked to hear that all this had been inflicted on him by a single female soldier.
People heard that the soldier was “female”, and they assumed she was probably a Giant, Ogre or a Troll of some sort. But the truth was that she was merely human, and a petite-bodied woman at that. It was almost unbelievable that someone like her could beat Zorzal into his current state. Much like a squirrel defeating a bear, if word of this got out, Zorzal would be a laughingstock.
Therefore, Zorzal could not lend any truth to these rumors.
“These injuries were not caused by a person. I fell down the stairs during the earthquake.”
“Could all these have been caused by falling down the stairs?”
“They were long stairs, and I fell all the way down.”
Without his two front teeth, every word he spoke was accompanied by an annoying whistle, but he still tried to make excuses for himself.
If truth be told, once he admitted that he had been beaten up this badly by a girl, he would have nowhere to hide his face. When people said the name “Zorzal”, the meaning behind it would be “the guy who got his ass kicked by a girl”, so every time his name was mentioned, it would be like mocking him.
Of course, Zorzal could not allow that to happen. Otherwise, he would lose all his authority as the future Emperor. So he denied these events with all his strength. The events of the audience chamber would be painted as a battle against the Japanese ambassador, who was trying to save his people, while Zorzal was merely attempting to defend the slaves that he owned.
His desperate attempts to save face made Marquis Casel look scornfully at Zorzal. They had finally obtained a trump card in the form of violence against a member of the Imperial family, but because someone wanted to save their face, they could not play it. By protecting his personal interests while sacrificing the nation’s well-being, Zorzal had only compounded his failure. More importantly, he was still too stupid to realise his mistake. It was almost laughable.
“I heard that the enemy ambassador visited Lord Cicero several times in order to speak with the Empire. As such, ample preparations were made, and there were several meetings. Truthfully speaking, I was also introduced to him, and plans were made for a meeting in the near future.
But what happened here? Why would they get so angry over a mere woman slave? It was not as though she was a member of royalty. Does anyone know what they are thinking? If so, please explain in detail.”
Everyone looked at the ground after hearing Casel’s question.
Nobody here knew the full picture. Lord Cicero and Marquis Ducie understood the nature of the Japanese emissaries, to an extent. But they did not know what had caused last night’s outburst.
As the man in charge of the proceedings, Count Marx was quite well informed. Yet even he knew nothing about Japan or its emissaries.
The name of Piña, who knew both sides, was mentioned.
And then, Piña was summoned to address the Senate for the first time in her life.
Piña stood nervously under the weight of 300 pairs of eyes. Those eyes seemed to be judging her.
She was worrying about how to atone for the sin of bringing soldiers of the enemy to the Emperor, but the Senate did not bring it up. Instead, they asked Piña to share what she knew about the country of Japan and its people.
“I, I wish permission to address the Senate and speak of what I know.”
The Speaker for the Senate nodded, giving her permission to speak.
Piña coughed twice and then started from the beginning, or when she had first met the JSDF.
“I first met them at Italica.”
And as she spoke, the politicians slowly realized the kind of people they were at war with.
The enemy’s weapons could strike from further away than a bow could, and they slaughtered soldiers with overwhelming power. And then they even attached blades to them. In the face of these weapons, the Imperial soldiers were destroyed where they made contact with the JSDF.
This also illustrated the reasons behind the defeat of the Imperial and the Coalition Armies.
Quite a number of Senators began growing suspicious as Piña narrated her fanciful tale. However, Cicero, Marquis Ducie, and the other Senators who had attended the garden party knew that what she spoke was the truth. After all they had fired those very weapons personally, and they could allay their fellow Senators’ suspicions.
Piña continued speaking. She spoke of the hellish scene when the JSDF’s iron pegasi exterminated the bandits squirming below them like vermin.
Sitting as they were inside the carcass of the Senate Building, they could not bring themselves to doubt her tale.
“The enemy is a country called Japan. They come from beyond the Gate, from a land that surpasses the Empire in every way, in a world made of sky-scraping towers. These towers stretch as far as the eye can see, and they extend up to the heavens. The dark depths of the earth, where we bury our dead, are brightly lit streets in their world, and people live there. Their society is orderly and clean, while filled with art and ample literature.”
And then, Piña mentioned the list of prisoners of war which the Japanese government had given her when she had accepted the position of intermediary.
“Forgive me from keeping this from you until now, but this book lists the names of all the captives taken by Japan that are still alive.”
The Senators immediately fought over the book which Piña brought out.
“You see, Norris! It’s your son’s name!!”
“Derkins’ name is here too. Did you say all these people are still alive? Piña-dono? Is it true that they’re all alive?”
“My son is still alive! This is wonderful!”
The Senate Building resounded with joyful cries. But at the same time, there were those who could not find their kin, and fell back into despair. These alternating scenes of joy and sorrow threw the Senate into chaos.
“The people in this book are now prisoners of Japan. Part of the payment of taking the job of mediator is the right to select ten or so people from that list to be unconditionally returned to the Empire. Naturally, I chose the family of Lord Cicero and Lord Ducie, due to assistance rendered in the facilitation of negotiations.”
“That’s too unfair, your Highness! What about the rest of us? Must we impotently gnaw our nails?”
It was only natural that those people whose relatives were not picked by Piña would feel that way. However, she wanted to offer an inducement to people to begin the peace talks quickly, so she had to give priority to the cooperative Senators.
Of course, if she actually said that, the Senate, filled with pro-war Senators, would break out into interference and all sorts of attacks. As a result, in order to ensure the success of the negotiations, she had to carefully pick and choose her allies, and everyone present understood that. Also, if the talks went successfully, they could also negotiate for the release of other prisoners. So in that sense, Piña’s choices were only to be expected.
However, now that the situation was at this stage, there was a need to discuss how to get back the rest of the captives. But how much ransom money would they require for that?
“The representatives from Japan have said that their country does not practice ransoming of captives. They will also guarantee the safety of the prisoners whether or not a ransom is paid. If the Empire has any prisoners from Japan, they will arrange for a mutual exchange. If not, then something can be worked out in future negotiations.”
“They don’t practice slavery? They don’t take ransoms?”
“Hmph, well, if they’re going to work something out in future negotiations, that’s as good as a ransom, right? Our people would make good leverage in those deals.”
“That being said, it’s a mercy that they won’t be sold as slaves. We need to free them quickly!”
After the Senators finished speaking, Piña continued.
“I feel I know why the ambassador of Japan was so wrathful.”
The Senators urged her to elaborate.
“Their country did not take our patrician sons and brothers as slaves, and they were treated well as captives. They do not do this for any particular gain, but because it is their nature. I feel this is what his Majesty saw, their love for their people. If they knew of the mistreatment of their own people as slaves... well, I trust you know what happens if you snatch away a griffin’s cub?”
Piña opened her arms to emphasize her point.
They were surrounded by the remains of the Senate Building. The walls and pillars were pulverized and tumbled, and debris lay everywhere. The ceiling was blown clean off, and they could see the clouds floating by overhead.
Without a place in the Senate, Zorzal quietly retreated from the building. Before long, he was back in his own room.
His face was covered in bruises, and it was not just his lips that were swollen. There were lumps everywhere on his body and marks where he had been beaten. His swollen lips and missing teeth made him wheeze with every breath, which deprived his voice of its authority.
He was the picture of a defeated soldier.
As he passed through the door, he ran out of strength and collapsed. His slaves and subordinates hurriedly lifted him up.
Without wasting a word, Tyuule lent him her shoulder, and helped lower him onto the bed. She cooled his body and face with rare and precious ice cubes.
“It looks like the peace lovers are going to make up a majority of the Senate. The problem is that they’ll end up surrendering unconditionally through the negotiations. We need to do something… a military victory sounds good, don’t you think?”
The speaker was a young man standing on the balcony. He was watching Zorzal being carried to his bed.
When he noticed, Zorzal turned his swollen face to look at him. At a glance, the young man looked to be of patrician stock. Instead of Zorzal’s brutality, he had an air of refinement about him and an intelligent look in his eyes.
“Ani-sama. Well, you’re a sorry sight. Don’t push yourself too hard.”
The young man called Diabo entered Zorzal’s bedroom and looked at his older brother’s face as he lay on the bed.
“I could say the same.”
Zorzal tapped his swollen face and said, “This was my doing.”
“I do envy that naive mindset of yours. I honestly can’t imagine how someone as proud as you is still alive. Father did kill the man who was our elder cousin, you know.”
“Father was young then. That’s why he took in the orphan of the previous Emperor. But now, Father’s getting on in years. He should be thinking about a successor now, and we’re the ones who carry his blood.”
“So you were planning to take the throne while I was playing the fool?”
“Ani-sama, it was because of your idiot act in front of Father that I could freely take action. I must thank you for that.”
Because of that, he had a chance of taking the throne. However, Zorzal pointed at the shrugging Diabo, and indicating his naivete.
“The one who will be the next Emperor is not you, but me.”
Diabo could not imagine his older brother as “Your Majesty”. It felt like talking to someone else.
“And what of it? Ani-sama, do you have a way to hold on to the throne? I don’t think so.”
“Is that why you think you can easily gain the throne? When this war ends, the Emperor will step down with it. But he won’t stop pulling strings once he steps down. He’ll give the throne to a know-nothing like me so he can play me like a puppet and hold the real power behind the country. That’s probably what he was thinking. You showed too much of your talent. The Emperor already knows what you’re up to.”
Diabo’s eyes went wide.
“But then, what’ll happen if Father dies? It would be too irresponsible to leave the Empire to you.”
“Oh ye of little faith. Do you really think I’m that useless?”
Hiding his fangs and claws in front of the Emperor for many years had been a difficult task. Zorzal was implying that a useless man could not do that much.
“Tyuule, where are the other people from Japan that we captured along with Noriko?”
Upon hearing the question, Tyuule bowed deeply, and switched to her soft, powerless expression, with a smile filled with wisdom and power.
“Yes. There are two more people. They were sold to the mines as slaves, and we know their location. The first one was called Nogami Hiroki, but regretfully he perished in a mineshaft collapse. The other one is called Matsui Fukui. She is currently alive and working in the same mine. If you order me, I will immediately bring her back and protect her. What shall I do?”
“Bring her back right away. It was a good thing I didn’t sell Noriko off. Well, it was largely due to my interest in her anyway, but if I’d known earlier, perhaps I should have been nicer to her?”
Zorzal managed to smile, despite his entire body being a mass of pain.
“No, my Prince, what you did was fine. After all, she was an unskilled woman. If you had sold her off, she would only have gone to a brothel to service countless men. It was an honor for her to receive the attentions of the next Emperor.”
Diabo watched from the side, unable to speak, his mouth hanging open in shock.
He had hidden his claws until now. Could it be that they would only be allowed to shine for such a short time before the situation was decided? Indeed, the Emperor would probably be made to step down after the peace talks started, but the Senate would not accept Zorzal as the successor, right?
“Ah, so that’s the objective of the people of Japan. They want Zorzal to find the slaves before making their entrance… we were tricked!”
Enslaving captives was a common practice in the Empire. Denying that aspect of life would be very foolish. If they managed to find a captive and successfully return them to Japan, it would be a success for the pro-peace faction. Now that the pro-peace faction composed a majority of the Senate, this might well be the shortest way to the throne.
“Since the Emperor has decided to vacate his seat during the talks, now should be the time to consider his successors. From the way Piña grew unexpectedly, she’s also an enemy. Although she’s far too close to those Japan people… ah, well. Dealing with Japan will be important in the future, might as well let her handle that.”
“Then, Ani-sama, what about this war? If this goes on, the talks will end up being a surrender...”
“What’s to be scared about the enemy? They destroyed the Senate Building, but they did it at dawn when nobody was around. If we can’t beat them in a fair fight, then we’ll just have to fight unfairly. The Emperor was probably thinking about that much. Diabo, you should stop trying to challenge me and think about which side you want to stand on.”
After Zorzal finished, he called Tyuule to his bed and ordered Diabo away. He blinked as he realised there was nobody around him. Zorzal’s subordinates and women had already left.
“Then, your Highness, please take care of your body.”
“Like you care… though I wish I could forget about this pain…”
“Your Highness, that can’t be helped, ah…”
The large transport helicopter, a CH-47A Chinook, returned to Arnus Hill.
Mochizuki Noriko looked outside from the viewports on the helicopter, and her chest tightened.
After leaving the Imperial Capital, the scenery had changed from orchards and farmland, to pasture and barren wastes, or sometimes a sea of trees, and then in the distance she could see an airport in the distance, along with a group of concrete buildings surrounded by a six-pointed star fort.
That place felt like Japan.
She was so moved that the tears flowed freely down her cheeks.
Since last night, she had cried several times. Of course, she was worried about her lover Hiroki, but at the same time, she was happy to be able to return home. She believed that the JSDF who rescued her would also be able to rescue her lover.
She wanted to meet her parents as soon as possible.
Seated on both sides of Noriko were Kurokawa and Kuribayashi, who had taken very good care of her. She was given clothes to wear, food to eat, beverages to drink, among other things. The feeling of chocolate and other familiar desserts in her mouth made her so nostalgic that she wept again.
Itami and the others did not ask her about her time in captivity. They would leave that aside for now, so Noriko could forget those painful days and rejoice that she could go home at last.
After receiving Sugawara and Itami’s reports, General Hazama, the supreme commander of the Special Region Expeditionary Force, ordered them to return with the kidnapped person to Arnus immediately. In addition, he requested two F-4 Phantoms for a bombing mission to strike fear into the heart of the Emperor and his officials.
What this meant, of course, was “Bring her back right away”. The method they chose was similar to how one would treat an animal or a child; upon discovering misconduct, immediately apply punishment and a scolding. Thus, as they pondered the lesson of a short, sharp blow to the Empire, they considered potential targets.
The Defense Minister approved the airstrike, provided civilian casualties were kept to a minimum.
When Morita’s cabinet called up Natsume from the Defence Ministry, the usual cold reply was, “Go ahead. But make sure you do it well and put on a good show.”
After receiving Natsume’s report, Prime Minister Morita furrowed his brows and said, “What a headache, but since he already did it, it can’t be helped.” His tone seemed brighter and fresher than just now.
The Chinook landed on a helipad in the depths of Arnus Garrison.
Kurokawa and Kuribayashi helped Noriko stand up, and took her to the medical facilities where the doctors were waiting for her. Arnus was equipped with a field treatment center for people injured during combat.
While Noriko was there, she went through a battery of tests; internal, external, reproductive, gynecological, psychological and many others. In addition, there were some interviews conducted in order not to increase her emotional burden, such as the circumstances under which she was abducted. She was also assigned a counselor who was experienced with helping victims of crime to help her get over her emotional wounds.
After that, 3rd Recon moved a huge pile of cardboard boxes containing all sorts of specimens down from the Chinook.
As expected of the country that dominated the continent, the Imperial Capital contained items, trade goods and information from various other nations. Because of that, they had a good grasp on the Special Region’s ores and where they were located.
The people of the Special Region did not know about rare earths, so the JSDF had to prospect for it themselves. The people of the Special Region only knew of iron, tin, lead, gold, silver, copper, platinum and other related metal deposits. To investigate further, they obtained samples of the ground from traders at their target location. In addition, there were rumors of something strange that burned as it flowed, so in future negotiations with the Empire’s government, requests for the right to extract these resources would be a very important topic.
On another front, someone had made a DVD containing videos of the various species and races found in the melting pot of the Black Streets. Most of these were made by Sergeant Sasagawa, whose hobby was filming, while the rest were made by other members of the team, who seemed to like filming the ladies more often than not. That aside, there were also many species and demihumans in their native clothing, which were all collected as material.
They compared this information with reports made by the captured soldiers from the Ginza Incident, as well as with reports from the farmers and traders encountered around Arnus.
1st Recon and 5th Recon did some information-gathering of their own. They mainly recorded information on the plants surrounding the Imperial Capital and took extensive samples of seeds and leaves, as well as insects, animal spoors and the soil.
In contrast, under Itami’s influence, 3rd Recon mainly took pictures of the demihumans’ practices and culture (done by Sasagawa) or the various foods from the region (done by Furuta). All these things were hot topics on the television and the weekly magazines.
Of particular note was the fact that media interest in the residents of the Special Region (especially the female ones) had skyrocketed ever since the testimonial in front of the National Diet. The TV stations and newspapers submitted an endless stream of requests to conduct their activities in the special region, and they kept ambushing the responsible parties day and night, to the point where said parties wanted to go on strike. In order to ease this pressure, the Ministry of Defense permitted a small dissemination of the information Itami and his team had collected.
They made the headlines in photography magazines, under the title of “Girls of the Special Region”.
It contained numerous pictures of the Special Region’s black Goth girl, the blonde-haired elf girl, the silver-haired magical girl, the cat-eared PX shop attendant, the tavern’s bunny-eared poster girl, among many others. It soon became a big hit in the Akihabara shops.
In other words, these were all important data. Itami was doing final checks on the material before sending it out when Yanagida walked over.
“Yo, Itami, you’re back. What did you do this time?”
Although he wanted to say something, Itami ended up clicking his tongue and grabbing his head. No matter how he tried to phrase it, he had thoughtlessly instigated an incident in front of the enemy’s leader. There was no way this would not be seen as a problem.
A more concrete example would be to imagine a summit meeting convened by a general of the northern half of a certain peninsula. Halfway through, the Prime Minister’s bodyguard suddenly whips out a gun and points it at the general’s son while demanding, “Return the people you kidnapped”. While acting out like that might relieve some stress, it would be a diplomatic disaster with the other party’s trust in them shaken. This did not take into consideration the disastrous effects of beating the Emperor’s firstborn son half to death.
“I’m the one who wants to grab my head. Your situation is pretty amusing. Well, no matter what happened, you still managed to successfully rescue one of our kidnapped people. Frankly speaking, I’m not sure whether to punish you or praise you.”
“Then, what’s going to happen?”
“40% pay cut. However, the government is going to make a big deal about the fact that you rescued someone. This way, Cabinet support for us should go up a bit more. Because of that, the brass ruled that you shouldn’t be punished too heavily.”
“How about General Hazama?”
“Same old sour face as always.”
Itami turned to face in Hazama’s general direction before putting his hands together and saying, “Sorry for the trouble”. As usual, he looked like a man who was not worried about himself. To Itami, who had no ambitions for glory, being allowed to keep his job was a godsend.
“Don’t tell me, you want me to make a public appearance?”
In truth, that was why Yanagida had come looking for Itami. Be it cutting his pay or other things, there were a lot of things he wanted to scold him about. However, Yanagida waved both his hands in denial.
“Well, it’s too late for today. The brass is tearing their hair out over how to handle this kidnapping thing. The fact is, we couldn’t contact her family, though we managed to get her records from the police. After that, we learned her entire family went to Ginza to distribute “Have you seen my daughter” leaflets… They did so during that fateful day too.”
That was the day when Itami was headed for the Summer Comiket, when he was waiting for the Yurikamome line. On that day, at that time, Ginza was painted bright red with blood. A lot of people died then. The number of people Itami managed to save back then was far too few compared to the number of victims.
“Seriously?” Itami whined.
“We’re keeping it a secret from her for now. At the very least, we’ll wait until the doctors and experts rate her as ready before we tell her. I came to help prepare 4th Recon for their expedition to the Imperial Capital and to send them off. Looks like it’s about time. Also, I was wondering whether to tell you about the current conditions in person, or through a report. But standing around and talking isn’t good either. Meet me at Arnus Town later for a drink.”
Itami concealed his distaste at being invited out by Yanagida. Why do I have to go with you, he thought.
Rather than staring at Yanagida’s sinister face, he would much rather be drinking with Rory or Tuka (Lelei was still underage in Japan, so she could only order the food there). Well, them or Delilah, the Warrior Bunny poster girl. Kurata and Tomita were fine too.
“Ah, don’t give me that look. I’ve got a lot of interesting things to talk about too. Meet me at 1900.”
However, it would probably be better not to think about pointless things, since he was booked by Yanagida. He did not seem like the sort to be put off by distasteful facial expressions and evasive attitudes. That being the case, he should accept Yanagida’s treat. Itami could stomach that better.
Kurokawa and Kuribayashi stayed close to the kidnappee, Mochizuki Noriko. Their things were left by the side of the helicopter. The other team members busied themselves with tidying things up, carrying luggage, preparing their weapons for return to the armoury, sorting out their personal items and so on. Although Itami was the commander, he felt bad about telling Kurokawa and Kuribayashi to take their things.
And so, in the end he persuaded Sergeant Major Kuwabara to move them with him.
The first thing to do was to get to the medical facility, and they walked all the way there carrying the girls’ heavy bags. Finally, they reached a concrete building which looked like a prison. It had 300 beds, in preparation for large-scale battle casualties, as well as a procedure room, an operating theatre, and 20 separate treatment areas for patients in critical condition.
However, they had no patients so far. After all, there was no fighting going on, and the JSDF people did not get themselves hurt.
Because it was just too boring, the nurses and doctors assigned there at the start returned to their respective treatment centers and continued their regular duties.
If there were an unexpected number of casualties which were beyond the abilities of the eight resident doctors to handle, then they would recruit more people to help. This was only possible because the Gate opened out to Ginza.
And so, less than ten of the beds were in use. Currently there were four patients in residence.
Unlucky servicemen who were hurt during training, who banged their heads, cut their fingers, caught a cold, or got a stomachache from drinking the Special Region’s water, almost none of them needed a treatment center stay.
In contrast, the people who needed to stay in the treatment center for critical wounds were all from the Special Region.
The people currently in the treatment center included one of the apprentices working on a construction site at Arnus, who suffered a head injury from his master, as well as one of the mercenary guards hired by the ALC, who was injured in battle with a thief. Then, there was an old man on the verge of death, whom 4th Recon had found in a nearby nunnery.
At a glance, he looked to be around 60 to 70 years old. His left arm was severed near the shoulder, while his lower left leg was severed in the middle of the thigh. He was also suffering from sepsis, but he recovered quickly after antibiotics were administered. He was currently undergoing rehabilitation to get used to his prosthetic limbs. The problem was that he refused to say anything about himself besides his name. Because of that, he would have nowhere to go when he was discharged.
The doctors hypothesized that he might have been a senior commander in the Coalition Army. Given that he was in the protection of a nunnery, he might well have been a noble of some sort. He must have been keeping quiet because he was afraid he would be taken prisoner.
This was the air that hung over the nearly-empty treatment center.
Itami felt that seeing only one or two duty nurses filling in reports inside a gigantic nurse’s office was a surreal sight. He asked one of the white-clad nurses where his subordinates were in this vast treatment center.
Then, he headed for Noriko’s room. A big ward like hers would cost 10,000 yen a day if it were in a city hospital. Itami muttered, “What’s the point of making the rooms so big?” as he walked down the long hallway.
He might cause trouble if he just barged into a female patient’s room (she might have her clothes off for a sponge bath). Therefore, Itami stood in the corridor and called out to Kurokawa and Kuribayashi, “I brought your stuff, girls.”
Kurokawa opened the door just as the doctor began drawing blood from an arm. Itami was treated to the sight of a needle piercing soft flesh. Kuribayashi was standing by the side, and she looked away as though she were the one being poked by the needle. Itami was also the sort who would look away during injections. He didn’t want to watch, but...
There were enough blood tubes in the kidney dish to make him wonder how many CCs of blood they needed for tests.
He could understand why they needed to run so many tests; after all, they had to protect against infection, parasites, all sorts of poisons, and many other unknown hazards. However, if they took this much blood, he could not help but think that even healthy people would get anemia.
One needed a fair bit of physical strength to withstand medical examinations. It would be a bad joke if people got hurt while receiving a medical checkup. Itami noticed that Noriko’s face was pale even as she lay on the bed.
Itami said, “Feeling better?’ to Noriko as he handed Kurokawa and Kuribayashi’s things to their owners. Itami’s nonchalant attitude calmed Noriko down, and she replied, “I feel good.”
To Noriko, Itami was her favorite of the three JSDF troopers who had rescued her.
“Kurokawa, will Mochizuki-san be staying here?”
“Yes, she will. Even at the fastest pace, the tests will still take a couple of weeks to complete, so you’d best be prepared for it.” Kurokawa answered as she saw the white-clad nurse pick up the kidney dish.
Among those tests were blood tests, blood chemistry tests, X-ray scans, urine tests, pap smears, endoscopies, EEG scans, ECG scans, ultrasound scans, pregnancy tests, and so on. While a simple test could be completed in less than a day, the sheer amount of tests being conducted meant that one would need to wait for up to two weeks for the results to come in.
“Is that so… Well, you’ve come all the way here, so you’re almost home anyway. Just take it easy and wait.”
“I don’t mind that… but I’d like to call my parents and tell them I’m fine.”
Itami saw that Kuribayashi was reaching for her mobile phone. He stopped her with a look, and then said loudly, “Ah, sorry about that. They haven’t set up civilian lines yet. Also, they’ll need to run a lot of tests on you before you go through the Gate and back to Ginza, so you’ll need to wait a while before you can phone home. Plus, if stern people like us contact your folks, they might be frightened. So let the suits — that is, Sugawara and his people — handle that.”
Itami put his hands together with an apologetic look on his face.
Since Itami was begging her pardon like this, all she could do was grin and bear it.
Then, the nurse took out a paper cup and said, “The next test is…” and then Noriko headed for the restroom. Itami took this chance to drag Kuribayashi and Kurokawa into the hallways and explain what he had heard about Noriko’s family.
“...Therefore, you can only bring up her family when the doctors and counsellors give the green light. Understood?”
Kurokawa had a pained expression on her face, and she couldn’t speak. Kuribayashi patted the pocket with her cell phone and whispered, “That was close…”
“Yeah, it scared me too. All because of your phone.”
After a while, the nurse brought Noriko out of her ward. Noriko padded across the floor in her treatment center slippers.
Itami said, “Then, we’ll come by if anything happens.” Of course, that was just being polite. As a nurse, Kurokawa had a chance to keep taking care of Mochizuki, but Itami and Kuribayashi probably would not see her again after this. Noriko understood this, but she still bowed to them.
“Thank you very much.”
It was easy to tell that she was brought up well by loving parents, and she would not embarrass herself anywhere she went.
After the day’s work was done, the base flag was lowered, and the bugle for that ceremony told the JSDF troopers to stop whatever they were doing.
Anyone who could see the flag had to salute it. Anyone who did not would have to stand at attention where they were. After the bugle finished playing, they returned to their own activities.
At this point, a lot of people would take their basins and bathing products to the bathhouse (sadly, there were no showers in the Special Region) to bathe, or they would head to the canteen for dinner. Others would polish their boots, wash and iron their clothes, repair any holes in their uniforms or read books or the like to pass the time.
Basically, they were free to do whatever they wanted until it was time for lights-out.
Itami headed for Arnus Town’s canteen, having been invited for a drink by Yanagida.
They had only been gone for a few days, but there was a big change in the ALC’s canteen.
The ceiling was extended outward, so a little rain would not be a problem. And then there were more tables. The amount of staff both inside and outside the kitchen increased to deal with the additional customers.
The homey atmosphere of the place brought more and more customers in.
Still, when Delilah saw Itami, she ran over and greeted him cheerfully. “Yo, boss, welcome back!” As they heard her say that, the other residents who knew Itami greeted him as well, and told their friends who did not know Itami about him.
“Welcome back, Boss Itami!”
The people here were nice. The contrast between the constant hostility of Akusho made the lively atmosphere of Arnus that much more welcoming.
“Oi, how come there’re so many people here?”
Yanagida looked annoyed. But why would he not be? After all, he was looking at the entirety of 3rd Recon behind Itami.
“Lieutenant Yanagida, I believe you said it was your treat?”
After 3rd Recon took two tables for themselves, Itami shouted, “Hey onee-chan! 12 beers please!” to which the response was “~Kay!” Then everyone began digging into their food and drinks.
“Oi, oi, oi, Itami, what’s this all about?”
“As expected of First Lieutenant Yanagida, how generous of you. Guys, go easy on him!”
“Give me a break,” Yanagida muttered as he took out his wallet and double-checked the number of people present.
Even if things in the Special Region were cheap, beer for 12 would still cost a pretty penny. Kuwabara and Nishina smiled bitterly as they saw the younger people ordering expensive drinks.
The old Dwarf on the adjacent table laughed coarsely as he rapped on the head of the person next to him, while the PX shop girls chatted cheerfully.
Everyone was either eating, drinking, or talking amidst this commotion. Then, Yanagida began listening to Itami talk about what was not written in his report.
After he was done, there was a brief pause. Then it was Yanagida’s turn to speak.
“Itami, while you were gone, an interesting person came by.”
“Looking for me?”
“Your team are the Men in Green, right? And you’re their leader.”
Itami knew about the stories which the refugees of Coda Village had spread, and he had benefited greatly from them. The fact was that everyone on this street showed a great deal of respect to Itami, not simply because of his rank, but because of those stories.
“Then, what did they want me for?”
“They want you to slay a Flame Dragon.”
“Ehhh… a Dragon? That’s impossible, right? We can’t take on a monster like that.”
“Well, the thing is that we can’t do anything because of the location of the place, but there’s also many other reasons why we can’t help.”
Yanagida went on to describe how the girl called Yao met with General Hazama to request that he help exterminate the Flame Dragon, and how Hazama had refused his help because the Dragon was not in Imperial territory. Then there was how Yao went to all the other JSDF officers and tearfully begged them to save her home and her people.
“Well, that’s a pain.”
“Is that what you think?”
“But it the brass says we can’t, then we can’t, right?”
“Well, that’s true. But the Elbe Kingdom is to the south, and they seem to have crude oil there. And the girl called Yao had a huge uncut diamond with her. Now that was a pretty sight.”
Yanagida’s hands cupped the air like he was holding an invisible watermelon, to show the size of the diamond.
Something felt wrong about the topic. Itami focused himself and went on his guard.
“And?” Why was she looking for him? What did she have in mind?
“Won’t you go take a look? Like I told you earlier, if you go as a prospector, you can move around freely. Then, by the time you find those resources, you’re already across the border. Then you encounter the Flame Dragon, so you have to take action. It shouldn’t be a problem.”
“It is a problem! A big one!”
Itami slammed the table as he rose.
“Don’t talk about that battle so lightly! That Dragon’s pretty damn scary, you know!”
As Itami shouted, everyone became quiet. The people in the canteen wondered what was happening.
“What’s wrong, el-tee?”
Itami lowered his voice as he answered Kurata.
“What he means is that he wants us to bring down the Dragon.”
The members of 3rd Recon were unable to speak. They had beaten the Flame Dragon back once, but they did not think they could do it a second time.
“What if we prepared 100 LAMs and volley-fired them?
Itami ignored Katsumoto’s joke and looked straight at Yanagida.
“You’re basically telling half of them to go and die, just like the refugees.”
There were many casualties when the Flame Dragon attacked the people fleeing Coda Village.
The reason why 3rd Recon had not taken any losses back then was because the refugees occupied the Dragon’s attention. They could easily imagine what would happen if they took the Flame Dragon head-on.
“If it’s an order, I’ll obey it. But if I can refuse, I will. I don’t want to die and I don’t want them to die either.”
Yanagida shrugged and replied, “Really now?’ as if Itami’s words were not worth listening to.
“Still, I know you’ll do it. I can predict it. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of the paperwork for you.”
“Why do I have to go?”
Yanagida said, “Well then,” and picked up the bill.
“It can’t be helped. Tonight is my treat. Well, just think of it as an apology.”
Yanagida raised his right hand to the surprised Itami and walked off. But before leaving, he said one more thing.
“Go check up on the blonde Elf girl.”
Previous Chapter | Main Page | Next Chapter