Art by Seo Satoru (he does the GATE manga)
Editor: PervySageChuck, Nate, Skythewood
“Oh gods. Oh apostles who hold apart the heavens and the earth. I offer you this prayer. My flesh I offer to become a being of sacrificial flame.
Emroy, God of War.
Hardy, God of the Underworld.
Deldort, God of Covenants.
Palapan, God of Vengeance.”
As Delilah recited her prayer, she faced the small altar on her desk.
She went to one knee, before the candle that represented the gods. The tips of her long rabbit ears were nearly touching the ground.
She was wearing her battle dress.
Her beautiful face was daubed in camouflage makeup, and she held a coal-blackened shortsword.
“Deliver me from fear, from mercy, from love, from confusion. This body shall, with this sword, at this time, claim the life of the foe. May its edge be anointed in the red of fresh blood. I swear upon my soul that my loyalty shall neither change nor be destroyed.”
This was the prayer of the Warrior Bunnies.
Once, the Warrior Bunnies had a small kingdom in the northern plains of the continent.
According to the records, they were cruel and fierce, passionate and lustful. However, those were human records, which were biased against them. Still, the records existed for a reason. Within their domain, the tribes fought each other constantly. After that, they would mate with males from outside their tribes to breed the next generation, and this vivid impression was imprinted in the minds of historians.
In this society, their pure-blooded queen had absolute authority over the tribes, as well as many Warrior Bunny subordinates. There was also a peerage of nobles which existed to support the queen. However, that just represented their position and pedigree, unlike the Empire’s patricians, whose status was passed down through familial lines. This was because Warrior Bunnies had no concept of a family. There were far too few males born to support a proper family line. The Warrior Bunnies were an extremely fertile race, but they produced very few males. Thus, the males were rare, and because they were rare, all the pure-blooded offspring born to the males of a tribe would immediately become backup candidates for the queen.
Because there were so few males in each tribe, the other females would breed with the males of other species to obtain their seed and their offspring. And because they had no concept of husband and wife, they would live with whoever they liked, and leave once they were bored. They did all these things happily. And so, each tribe could function as a family. Delilah herself had been raised by the women of her tribe and grew up under their tutelage.
However, their country had been destroyed by the treachery of their queen.
The Empire attacked them.
It was not a military offensive, but it was more like hunting. Indeed, the Empire’s objective was not territory or wealth, but the Warrior Bunnies themselves. They started a war in order to capture the beautiful Warrior Bunnies so they could sell and use them as slaves.
The Warrior Bunnies resisted the Empire bravely, of course. Each of them was far stronger than any individual Imperial soldier. At the beginning of the war, they toyed with the Imperial Army and gave them a hard fight. However, that was all they could do.
The Imperial Army was superior in numbers and equipment, and the Imperial Army had long refined the art of organizing and using military power. The Warrior Bunny tribes all over the Kingdoms were completely overwhelmed by the Imperial counterattacks. Their battle lines were constantly penetrated, until their offensive lost momentum and stalled. Under suppression from all sides, they were finally defeated.
The last of the Warrior Bunnies who could still resist were killed off after they were toyed with. The ones who ran out of strength and surrendered were degraded by the Imperial soldiers and then their ears were cut in half in lieu of a slave brand. After that, they were sold as slaves in the markets, like vegetables.
Of course, not everyone was captured. A few of them managed to escape. However, these escapees had a harder life than the slaves.
They abandoned their homes and scattered to the four winds to evade capture by the Imperial Army. Surviving from day to day took all of their strength. They stole and sold their bodies just to obtain the food they needed to survive. Some of them chose to cut their ears and surrender rather than live such a miserable life.
When they made that decision, nobody stopped them.
Their resolve was wavering. Rather than lead a miserable life for a few meager scraps of dignity, they might as well become slaves and have a marginally easier life.
Therefore, those who remained were the strong ones who refused to forsake their honor and dignity, even in the face of death. They were kept going by their resentment of the queen who betrayed them. They survived through hatred and honor.
And then, they met the previous master of House Formal, Colt.
Nobody knew whether it was a hobby or because he was open-minded, but the ones who knew him generally agreed, “It should have been a hobby”. That was because he preferred Demihuman beauties to human girls.
In truth, there were several Catgirls and Medusas who had received his affections. However, when asked about the Count, they would all smile happily, but with a hint of bitterness, and say nothing. As such, the truth was shrouded behind mystery.
Later on, when Myui was old enough to inherit the House, she heard from the aged maids about her father’s thinking and the foolish things he said. However, Myui could not disclose these words. After all, she had to protect her father’s reputation, so she could not casually repeat them.
From this, she could conclude one thing. He had not abused his position and power to take advantage of them. Even though he was fond of Demihumans, he respected their free will and was quite open-minded. It would not be wrong to have a good opinion of him.
In any case, House Formal gathered the Warrior Bunnies, Cat People, Harpies, Medusas, and various other Demihumans facing oppression into its territories and protected them, in addition to forbidding the sale of them. As a result, within the domain of House Formal, Demihumans received basic human rights.
What the Warrior Bunnies received from the Count was a patch of hard land that was difficult to farm. However, this was the only place they could live in peace. They built small houses and eventually a settlement, and called their people over. They treated this place as a second home.
In addition, the Count would sometimes save them from poverty by hiring volunteers as his maids. Because of this, their lives slowly took a turn for the better.
They decided as a group that they would do anything to repay that kindness, no matter the cost.
Therefore, in accordance with the orders from House Formal, she made her final decision.
Delilah stopped thinking and abandoned her doubts. She gripped the shortsword that she had been provided to finish her mission.
Yanagida watched Itami leave, but his face no longer bore an angry expression. After a while, he shrugged and said, “Cheh, I can’t do anything with him”, before switching his mind back to its daily work mode.
The people of Arnus Town returned to their jobs. The PX girls went back to PX, while the head cook and the waitresses returned to the canteen, while the Dwarf foremen went back to their construction sites.
Yanagida headed back to his office, to deal with the extra work Itami had given him.
He reported Itami’s movements to Major Higaki, whose face was twisted in frustration, and then the folder he showed him made the Major even more annoyed.
“In other words, ‘Lieutenant Itami received important information on underground resources from a local resident, and due to its importance and urgency, he handed his command to Sergeant Major Kuwabara and proceeded to the Elbe Kingdom’s borders under the guidance of said local resident.’ Is that right?”
“Indeed. From the beginning, the brass ordered Itami to use his connections to collect information on resources and other things. This action was taken in accordance with this directive.”
“Ah, forget it, since it concerns underground resources like oil and diamonds, we can’t do much about it.”
“Mm. Ever since we started, the Cabinet’s been barking, ‘Find it, find it, haven’t you found it yet?’ All the recon teams here who speak the local language are working around the clock because of the Imperial Capital, so they had no time to do any prospecting or whatnot, despite this being an extremely important objective.”
“It’s fine as an objective, but the problem is its urgency. Is it important enough that we have to divert resources from or abandon our efforts in the Imperial Capital?”
“Yes. The situation around Japan is turning grim. Before long, America, the EU, China, Russia, and various countries from around the world will be setting foot into the Special Region, if we don’t accurately pinpoint the locations of these resources, our country will lose the advantage. This is a vitally important part of our national strategy and we absolutely have to get around to doing it. That’s why I felt Itami’s decision was a correct one.
“Still, isn’t it dangerous to go alone? I’ve also heard that Dragons were sighted there.”
“That fellow’s prepared himself for it.”
“Is that so. Prepared himself for it…”
As Major Higaki said that, he closed his eyes and then reached out to the chop on it.
“All right. We’ll take it as that.”
Yanagida kept the document and saluted Major Higaki before leaving. Just then, Major Higaki suddenly spoke to Yanagida.
“I’ve always been wondering, what exactly is that guy thinking about?”
Yanagida swiveled in a textbook 180 degree turn, and then he answered.
“From the beginning, I thought of him as an idiot. Now, my suspicions are fully confirmed.”
Major Higaki looked outside the window, and then he spoke like he was talking to himself.
“Why then, how can that guy be so stupid?”
Yanagida ignored Higaki’s question.
“The rules and regulations exist to be followed. However, if one blindly follows the rules, someday, humanity as a species will be supplanted by AI-equipped machines.”
“What’s this? Some kind of sci-fi stuff?”
“No. I believe it will be a problem for us in the near future.”
“Is that so. If that’s the case, what is the value of a human life? What is its purpose?”
“The value of humanity lies in their abilities to escape the bounds of rules and regulations. At certain times, the rules and regulations must be broken. When they are broken, we will be able to see the value of humanity.”
Higaki sighed loud enough for Yanagida to hear.
“That girl Yao prostrated herself before me and begged me to save her people. She even hugged my leg. And she was such a beautiful girl. When I heard her cry, my heart ached. At that time, I was confused. But I did not act. I could not act. I have a family to feed, and my subordinates have their own families. I could not take action casually.”
“Major, that’s quite normal.”
“If that guy did what you said and showed the value of humanity… I’d be quite jealous of him.”
After Higaki said that, he turned the back of his spinning chair to Yanagida.
Yanagida continued speaking to his back.
“Major. That’s just because your time has not come yet.”
Yanagida continued his work.
“All right, the next one is…”
After a quick jog, he reached the JGSDF Special Region Expeditionary Force Headquarters — Operation Staff Unit’s 2nd Branch.
The man in charge of the 2nd Branch was Colonel Imazu, who was responsible for intelligence operations in the Special Region.
While most of his subordinates were uniformed soldiers, he was also in charge of a few suits from Intel Branch, as well as men from the Public Security Agency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the police. In a sense, 2nd Branch was the final destination of people from many other units.
And then, they would be deployed according to their specialties to gather information in the Special Region, perform data analysis and evaluations, or determine the direction of future operations. And Col. Imazu’s job was to coordinate everything they did.
“Chief Imazu, I have some documents for you to chop.”
Imazu glanced at the request forms Yanagida presented to him. They were post facto documents intended to support the legality of Itami’s solo operation. Higaki’s chop was already on those documents. All Imazu needed to do was chop it himself.
Imazu read each one before chopping them.
“Yanagida. This might concern natural resources, but don’t you think it’s a bit too hasty? It feels like it’s being rushed.”
“Currently, the remaining recon teams have all been sent to the Imperial Capital to carry out 2nd Branch’s operations. Under these conditions, we do not have the luxury of doing as we please.”
“Then think of something. While we can ask scholars like Kato-sensei or Lelei-chan about information, or obtain aerial surveillance from JASDF recon flights, we still need to have boots on the ground to perform investigations. While the talks are important, our job is also very important. I’m counting on you.”
In truth, there was a very limited number of personnel who could speak the local language and carry out investigations, among other things. In order to ensure there were sufficient people for activities in the Imperial Capital, the resource prospecting mission had been delayed to the point that no progress had been made.
Normally, Yanagida would make adjustments based on each branch’s wishes, and in order to allow the operating units to successfully complete their mission, he might have to deny certain requests. However, he simply could not think of a solution for the current situation. Therefore, in the end, he had to adapt to the situation and try to buy himself some reaction time.
“Well, when you think about it, don’t you think Itami’s actions are a solution for you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, think about it. A JSDF officer hires three to four locals, and then travels all over the place doing reconnaissance. Won’t that solve the manpower problem? Pick one or two people from each of the six teams, and that way you’ll have enough people for six resource prospecting teams. Plus, a recon team should be able to do fine with just one or two people.”
Indeed, this line of thought was not a bad one.
Resource prospecting basically meant finding the location of an ore vein. If they met enemies, they could just run away. In that way, one would only need a couple of troops per team.
Granted, it was more dangerous to operate with fewer members, but they could use trusted locals to make up the shortfall in numbers. On paperwork, they would be guides. In other words, just like what Itami was doing.
The main thing was that they needed to ensure the teams could call for reinforcements if something happened. If they could use the SFGp and the West Brigade, it would be a great idea.
“Please consider the idea. There’s no need for you to decide immediately, but I hope you can think about it.”
Yanagida was thinking about the resource prospecting platoons as he left 2nd Branch.
The bugle for the flag-lowering rang out.
The sun was setting in the west. The combat units’ training and other work was over. Each unit returned to their barracks and reported to their commander before working on their weapons in preparation to return them to the armory. After that, they ate, bathed, washed their clothes and polished their boots. After that, they tidied their rooms and their personal equipment, and otherwise passed the time.
Naturally the personnel on evening and night duties were not part of their number. Because they had to patrol the surroundings, they had to draw arms and ammunition from the armory.
Yanagida was one of these people whose work was still not done at this late hour.
He still had to show his documents to the most powerful man in the JSDF, explain them to him, and then politely ask him to put his chop on them.
“I see, so Lieutenant Itami learned of possible resources in the Elbe Kingdom, and took several local residents to guide him while he did his prospecting. Is that it?”
In the face of Hazama’s heavy tone, Yanagida straightened his back, and silently nodded.
The stern atmosphere of the General’s office made Yanagida uncomfortable. This was because the leaders of the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th Combat Groups, as well as the four pilots from the JASDF were all in the same room as him.
In particular, Col. Kamo (commander of the 1st Combat Group) and Col. Kengun (commander of the 4th Combat Group) were fixing him with sharp looks. It seemed like they were going to jump him at any moment. Yanagida was under so much stress that he could not speak. Their hostility was very clearly directed at him.
What did I do to make them so mad? His nervousness and tension was building up. No matter how elite Yanagida felt he was, right now, he was a mere First Lieutenant.
Yanagida gritted his teeth, and replied to Hazama, “Yes, that is exactly it!”
“What the hell is that fellow thinking?”
“Itami was acting in accordance with our ministry’s Directive 5-304, ‘Special Region Strategic Direction: Resource Investigation’!”
“I know that. I’m not talking about the official reason. Do you know what I mean?”
“I do not know. Whether official or unofficial, Itami moved out to scout for resources!”
Yanagida’s camouflage fatigues looked like they had been soaked in water. Perhaps if one squeezed them, they could fill a cup or two with his sweat.
“Is that so. That’s it, then.”
Hazama glanced at the documents which Yanagida kept peeking at. After he sat back onto this chair, he asked the commanders for their opinions.
“Gentlemen. What do you think?”
Kengun replied, “We will do as the General commands.”
“Us too, we’re ready to move out at any time.”
After Lieutenant Colonel Kamikoda replied, Ltc. Kurihama, Ltc. Nishimoto and Maj. Mizuhara thrust their chests out in support.
“Good. Very good.”
Hazama stood up.
“Leaving China aside, ancient China had a lot of people and stories we should respect. For instance, Shen Baoxu. He was a minister of Chu during the Spring and Autumn Period of ancient China. When the country of Chu was on the verge of destruction by the Wu army, he went to the kingdom of Qin to ask them for reinforcements. The Qin king said, ‘The destruction of Chu is your problem. Why then, should I sacrifice the soldiers of Qin for you?’ After that, Shen Baoxu wept in the courtyard of the Qin palace for seven days while begging for help. The Qin king was moved and sent out his army as reinforcements. What do you think?”
Ltc. Kamikoda of the JASDF replied first.
“I think it was foolish to send the Qin army to die for another nation. Only an idiot would do that.”
“Indeed. However, we have an idiot like that in our midst.”
Ltc. Kurihama exhaled, and spoke.
“He may be an idiot, but he is still a Japanese citizen. We can’t leave him hanging out there.”
“Exactly. Gentlemen, do not let that idiot die. Colonel Kamo!”
Kamo stood up ramrod-straight, thrusting his chest forward.
“Order 1st Combat Group to stand to. Then, select appropriate troops to provide reinforcement for Lieutenant Itami’s resource investigations. Next, Lieutenant Colonel Kamikoda!”
“I wish to request air support. Prepare for all emergencies that could happen, for example, an encounter with the Special Region Type A Dangerous Beast.”
The commanders each departed the General’s office.
Although he sort of understood what had just happened in front of him, Yanagida was still stiff. Then, he nervously asked a question of Hazama.
“That… I thought we decided not to take action because it would involve us crossing the border of the Elbe Kingdom? Why did you decide to move our forces out?”
Yanagida was operating on the assumption that Itami would be burned to death. If they had been so willing to send out their troops from the beginning, Yao would not have needed to drive Tuka to her wits’ end.
Hazama looked at Yanagida.
“Well, it doesn’t matter now. Since Itami’s started moving, everything is going to turn on him. Yanagida, I believe you speak the language of the Special Region?”
“Mm. I can carry on a simple conversation.”
“Then, I need you to head down to the treatment center. I want you to meet someone. Your mission is to listen to his terms, and then relay ours.”
“I understand. But, who will I be meeting?”
As Hazama heard Yanagida’s question, he coughed loudly, and then he took off his sweat-soaked coat before answering him.
“The King of Elbe is currently in our treatment center?”
Yanagida could not hide his surprise at Hazama’s words.
To think such an important person was so close by. If this was true, then this incident could lead to relations between the Elbe Kingdom and Japan developing in an advantageous direction.
“That… is that true?”
“Ah, it is. Just now, Bozes-san contacted us. Apparently, she and one of the language students called Suisses-san spoke to him in person. There’s no mistake about it. They were also quite shocked when they found out.”
Hazama had arranged for the language students to determine if the King was the real deal. He thought that Imperial nobility ought to know the royalty of the Empire’s vassals, and in the end he was right.
And so, Yanagida was headed to the treatment center to visit a certain ward.
What Yanagida saw was a one-eyed man with one hand, taking his dinner on his bed. He had a good appetite for someone who looked like he should have been hospitalized.
“Ohhh, you came. While I was waiting, I wrote a letter to the Prince, who’s managing the affairs of state in my place. However, I doubt he’ll be happy to hear from me. He probably thinks I’m dead.”
As Duran saw Yanagida, he began explaining the current circumstances, as well as giving the self-introduction he had steadfastly refused to give until just now.
Yanagida seemed to have a good grasp on the situation, so he remained steady. Duran then decided to turn his attention to his food instead of him. He seemed to have wanted to control the flow of the conversation, but he had lost it instead.
Yanagida decided to abandon his tough stance of negotiation. No matter how small his kingdom was, Duran was still the man who led its army. He could not be underestimated. After that, Duran decided to comment on the food he was having.
“I haven’t been too happy because I could not drink, but since the nurses and doctors keep nagging me, I had no choice but to endure it. However, from tonight onwards, I’ll be able to take-out my food from the canteen and have it here. These people of Arnus are eating some really good stuff. It feels like every day is a feast day. That’s the true measure of a people’s happiness.”
His tray was laden with fried meat and vegetables.
Although it wasn’t clear what he had eaten, the canteen in Arnus Town should have sold ordinary set meals. Once the Special Region’s fresh ingredients were flavored with Japan’s spices and seasonings, the result was delicious. However, it was quite hard to imagine that someone who was addressed as “Your Majesty” would be so enthusiastic over such ordinary food.
However, the hospital food must have been awful. He did not know the exact circumstances, but by the looks of things, Duran must have spent a long time in the hospital, eating the same tasteless patients’ meals every day. After that, normal food would have tasted several times better than it really was.
“Well, the town below is also supported by my country, so that’s only natural.”
After praising Japan in this roundabout matter, he asked Duran why the prince left behind in his country would be unhappy that the king was still alive.
“Ahhh, well, that fellow seems to be drifting further and further away from me every day. Life would be much easier for him if I were not around. He didn’t seem happy when he saw my messengers.”
“Is that so…”
Even if a king approved of a military force crossing his borders, it meant nothing unless the people went along with it. It was crucial to let the Elbe Kingdom know that this was not an invasion.
“Give these letters to Duke Cremsan and Duke Watt. They are my close friends, and their locations are marked on that map.”
Duran handed the letters and the hand-drawn map to Yanagida.
“Tell these people to get the useful members of the nobility to help out.”
Yanagida did not accept those items. Instead, he waved both hands in refusal. “How could I? We do not wish to interfere in your family struggles. This has nothing to do with my country.”
“Don’t say that. The Elbe Kingdom was mine to begin with. I simply need some help from you to get it back for me.”
Yanagida frowned at Duran’s request and replied, “It might be best to ask the Empire for help.”
Disappointment crawled over Duran’s face as he said, “I hate the Empire.” From the look of things, he seemed to be nursing a deep resentment against them.
“Well, even if your Majesty provides us your help, how will that benefit my country?”
“Well, I can permit you to cross my borders to slay the Flame Dragon. How about that?”
Yanagida shook his head. Then a wicked expression bloomed on his face.
“I would like to send your head to the prince, packed in salt. With your permission, of course.”
Duran went “Cheh”.
“What an annoying fellow. You want to pack my head in salt? There’s people who’ll bet their lives to exterminate the Flame Dragon, and then there’s you. Which of you comes from Nihon?”
Yanagida replied that they were both Japanese, and two people could not represent all of Japan. All Japanese people had their own personalities, and one could not judge them all by the example of just one individual.
Their menacing dialogue was merely a war of words fought for their countries’ interest.
Normally, this would have been the job of a diplomat, and not an officer like himself. However, right now Yanagida knew that if this dragged on, they might lose benefits which they might have otherwise gained. The fact was that the Japanese government missed out on a lot of chances because they did not seize them in time, and sometimes this even led to losses. However, due to Yanagida’s daily work, or perhaps because of his personality, he was the sort who would use his cunning intellect to extract as many benefits as he could, however low the chances were.
Yanagida understood that this was the difference between himself and Hazama, which was why the latter had sent Yanagida to make sure the negotiations went in a favorable direction.
“Then, what do you want?”
At last, Duran had decided to stop playing the fool, and had decided to get straight to the point in order to hear Yanagida’s requests. Duran acknowledged that he had nothing to bargain with.
Yanagida decided to honestly say what he wanted.
“We want rights to the underground resources in your kingdom. Tax-free, of course.”
“The gold and copper mines are the source of my country’s wealth.”
“Well, I never said you had to give them all to us.”
“Then, half each of gold, silver, and copper. Then we’ll take all the valuable resources other than those three.”
“One moment. Do you mean half the present gold mines?”
“Then, half of the newly found gold, silver and copper mines, and everything else apart from them.”
“This is hard to answer…”
“Why is that?”
“Well, first tell me what you want with those things beside gold, silver and copper. It’s sticking in my mind. If there are valuable things besides gold, silver and copper in my country’s soil, then why do I not know of them?”
“Well, even if you wanted to know, why would I tell you?”
Duran replied as he let his tension go. “I don’t want to lose out.”
Yanagida muttered that making him lose was the point, and then he turned to Duran.
“If you don’t know about them, then it’s as good as not having them. Please continue in your ignorance. Unless you mean to say that I should get the salt ready…”
“I got it, I got it. Half of the gold, copper and silver mines, and everything else underground. Is that alright?”
Yanagida rose and offered a hand to Duran while saying, “Please don’t forget the tax exemption.” Without that, the profits from oil and minerals, as well as all forms of trade, would be subject to massive duties and tariffs.
“Cheh, what an irritating fellow. Well, I have no choice.”
“All right then. In exchange, the JSDF will escort Your Majesty back to your kingdom. As for the Dragon extermination, we hope you will be able to help as well.”
“Fine, fine. At this rate, my country will become an ally of Nihon.”
“Let’s do that, then. Sadly, I am only a junior officer, but the diplomats will be returning from the Imperial Capital in a couple of days. At that time, they will discuss the details with you.”
“What’s this? Such an unreliable fellow…”
To Duran, who wanted to remain independent of the Empire, as long as that condition was met, they could gain Japan’s protection.
Duran hmphed in dissatisfaction, but Yanagida paid it no heed.
“As long as Your Majesty honors the underground resource agreement, you will be able to maintain good ties between your country and Japan.”
There was a reason why the medical facility at Arnus was called the “treatment center”. In Japan, there were regulations for the naming of medical facilities. Those with less than 19 beds were called “clinics “ or “treatment centers”, while those with over 20 beds were called “hospitals”.
Arnus’ treatment center was designed to accommodate over 100 people. In that sense, it was comparable to general hospitals in the city. However, they were only using 5 beds now. According to the regulations, they should only have enough personnel to meet the standards of a “clinic”. However, if they designated it as a clinic, then in case of an emergency, they would not be able to accommodate more than 20 people. There was no way to predict when a large wave of casualties would arrive in a combat zone, so it was a frustrating problem.
Therefore, in order to get around the limitations of a clinic, they decided to call it a “treatment center” and bluff their way through. However fancy it looked on the outside, it was still laid out like a temporary hospital in a disaster area.
That said, it looked pretty flashy from the outside.
There were benches placed near the entrance to the treatment center, and a girl was seated on one of them.
Her name was Noriko.
The sky was covered in countless stars.
She had come out from her ward in the darkened hospital because she could not smoke there. Instead, she had to go to a designated smoking area. As such, it was quite common to see a lot of patients in pajamas gathered at the entrance to smoke.
This was not meant to be a compliment, but patients in good spirits did not accumulate stress easily. Therefore, as long as it was permissible with their current conditions, the doctors and nurses would give tacit consent and allow their patients to smoke.
However, there were only five people in this treatment center, and only Noriko was a smoker among them. Usually, the old man called Duran, with the artificial arm and leg would be here to talk to her, as though he did not want her to be bored. However, he had not showed up tonight, so Noriko was here smoking alone and in peace.
It was fortunate. Just for tonight, she wanted to be alone.
Today, under the approval of the doctor and the social worker, they had informed her.
That was to say, “We could not contact your parents after the Ginza Incident. We fear they may no longer be in this world.”
Naturally, Noriko was immediately suspicious, but the doctor could only shake his head, and then he handed her a mobile phone.
“What’s this, didn’t you say the phone lines were down? Liar.”
As expected, Noriko immediately phoned home. However, the call did not connect. She called her siblings, but the ones who picked up were people she did not know.
“Strange. Is this phone broken?”
After that, she tried to call her university friends.
However, the numbers of her close friends were on her mobile phone, which was long since missing. She could not mentally recall their numbers either, so she could not contact them.
The fortunate thing was, she remembered that one of her acquaintances had a phone number ending in 1111, so she nervously pressed the number pad.
After that, the friend was shocked that Noriko was calling. After rejoicing that Noriko was fine, the friend told Noriko what had happened to her family after her disappearance. Then she promised to spread the news to Noriko’s friends that she was fine, and that none of them could contact her family. Finally, she heard that her house had burned down. It had been abandoned for several months, and it had caught fire because of an overheated electrical appliance.
When subjected to an intense mental shock, people’s minds would engage something like a circuit breaker so they would not feel anything.
Right now, the only things she could feel were how tired and how burned-out she was.
Although it was good that she did not feel sad, she was not completely without sadness.
Right now, she probably looked like a wreck. If this were a TV show or an anime or a manga, she would probably be crying into her pillow until it was all wet. With that in mind, she should probably show an expression on her face that matched her current condition. That would be a sad face, in this case. However, no matter what she did, she could not make that face. All this felt like it had happened to someone else. Because of that, the whole thing suddenly felt very laughable.
No matter what she did, she did not feel anything. If she hit something hard with her hand, it should have hurt, but now her hand felt like it was unassociated with her. There was pain, but it was not her pain. Perhaps she could say she could not feel herself. She felt light and floaty, as though her body could not settle in one place. In the bed, in a chair, watching a tree, punching a wall, hitting her head, none of them worked.
And then, Noriko realized it. “It feels like I’m not myself anymore.”
When she thought about it, it made sense. She had no idea what happened to her lover who was kidnapped with her. She thought about him every day, and after her rescue, she found out her entire family was dead, and she did not even have a house any more. It would not be strange if she had changed.
Noriko’s mind came to that conclusion.
Right, it’s only natural to change. As Noriko thought about it, she decided to try and steady herself down by walking to the treatment center’s entrance and having a cigarette.
She spat her cigarette out as she exhaled, and then she thought.
“I might as well just die right now.”
To think she had actually said that, and in such a casual tone. She wondered why she would even think of such a thing. She tried to think of the way she would die, so she would shudder, but in the end even that did not happen. Just—
“So, you want to die? That’s good,” a woman’s voice said in a comforting tone.
Fortunately, she had learned the language of the Special Region after being kidnapped in order to survive. That was how Noriko could understand what the voice’s owner was trying to say.
“Speaking of which, are you called Noriko? It’ll be troubling if you’re not…”
A Warrior Bunny stood in front of Noriko. She was dressed in a frightening disguise, and the feminine lines of her body radiated a bewitching air.
“Frankly speaking, if you didn’t want to die, I wouldn’t want to kill you, but since you want to die, yes. I can help you.”
“Are you going to kill me?”
“Mm. There’s a reason for it.”
“I see… I’m going to die…”
Noriko stood before the woman who was cloaked in the shadow of death. Yet, her heart did not falter. There was no fear, no disgust, not even joy. All she could feel was ‘ah, so that’s how it is.’ Therefore, Noriko looked the woman in the eye. She silently watched what would happen to her body.
The Warrior Bunny drew the soot-blacked blade at her waist and held it like a billiard cue, aiming it at Noriko’s throat.
“I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. It may hurt a little, so please bear with it. It doesn’t hurt as much this way.”
“Which way do you mean? I don’t like pain.”
Then, she felt something sharp touching her throat.
“Argh. I don’t know how to make it painless. What should I do… well, I could try letting you die as quickly as possible. Would that be all right?”
“How fast is “as quickly as possible?”
“Ahhh, what a pain. What should I do?”
The Warrior Bunny seemed quite troubled about this.
“I expected you to resist or run because you did not want to die, and I was prepared to chase you down and kill you, but I never expected you to tell me to do it.”
She seemed to be trying to say something, judging from the way she was scratching the back of her ears.
For some reason, this movement reminded Noriko of the other Warrior Bunny she had seen before, and Noriko giggled.
“Heh. For some reason, you look just like Tyuule.”
The name Noriko mentioned without thinking made the other woman freeze up.
“You… whose name did you just say?”
The sword pressed against her throat stayed there, without moving, until Noriko looked at the woman in front of her again and asked, “What’s wrong?”
“You over there, what are you doing?!”
The Warrior Bunny moved on reflex.
Yanagida aimed his 9mm pistol at his target and pulled the trigger three times, without hesitation. However, the Warrior Bunny’s nimble movements were far swifter than what Yanagida expected. She somersaulted through the air and avoided Yanagida’s bullets, and then she swung her sword down at him.
He evaded the swing by sheer luck.
While following the target jumping around in his field of vision, he lost his balance. The half step he took backward saved his life.
The razor-sharp tip of the sword sliced past his chin and stabbed into the tip of his boot. Yanagida aimed a kick at the crouching Warrior Bunny, who was about as high as his belly. The steel caps on his boots qualified as a lethal weapon. However, the Warrior Bunny back flipped out of the way, and then kept just out of sword range from him.
Yanagida trained his pistol on the Warrior Bunny again, but he could not keep her in his sights. She evaded his aim as though dodging a sword or a spear. Although she could not outrun a bullet once fired, the person holding the gun was a human, and she could move faster than he could take aim. This was a technique that was possible for a master swordsman.
Yanagida knew he would not hit, but he fired anyway.
To avoid his gun’s muzzle, the Warrior Bunny went flat on the ground, and then darted forward at Yanagida, aiming her blade at his waist.
Because she was attacking from below him, Yanagida could not react in time.
It was hard enough just trying to twist away, and he felt something burning in his waist.
“There you are!”
The impact made him pull the trigger. But fortunately, his muzzle just happened to be pointing at his opponent’s back. Yanagida did not need to aim, so he kept pulling the trigger, not stopping even after his magazine was empty.
He kept pulling the trigger until he passed out.
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