Saturday, December 23, 2017

Gate - Thus the JSDF Fought There! Volume 9 Chapter 1

Translator: Nigel
Editor:Deus Ex Machina

The JGSDF’s Special Region Expedition Force formed two long columns of combat and supply vehicles, and they advanced along the gravel road.
The coarse tires of the heavy trucks filled the air with dust, drawing a veil over Arnus.
Said dust blackened the skin where it mixed with the sweat beading it, and it was hard just to keep their eyes open.
However, the men were in high spirits.
They held their rifles and faced forward, their backs held ramrod straight. Their combat boots pounded with broad strides, and the servicemen were filled with energy.
Everyone present understood that the upcoming battle would probably be the last one they would fight against the Empire.
“After this, the war’ll be over.”
“After it’s done, we can all go home.”
“We’ll stop them once and for all.”
Everyone had their own thoughts on the matter, and their own reasons to fight. It fuelled their fighting spirit, and it seemed as though Arnus was on fire from the heat steaming off them.
However, some people were not part of this blazing conflagration.
The higher the servicemen’s spirits burned, the more intense the loneliness those girls felt.
The PX (Post Exchange) was bereft of customers, which made them all realize what would happen to Arnus’ settlement if the Gate was closed.

The head chef could not help but get irritated as he saw the cat-eared waitress drinking at the counter during the daytime.
“Meia! Are you free enough that you can drink in the day!?”
“I’m on break ~nya. I need to use up my payed bay-kay-shun (paid vacation) days ~nya.”
The catgirl laid her cheek on the counter, her ears twitching as she answered. She usually wore a maid’s dress, but today she was in casual attire.
She wore the prevailing fashion among Arnus’ demihumans, a pair of hot pants with a hole from which her tail protruded. The laces of her woven sandals encased a pair of pretty legs, and her lightly-swishing tail traced enchanting curves in the air for all around her to see.
Her upper body was sheathed in a loose tube top, her delicious armpits and bosom very nearly spilling out of its confines. It was high-cut, the better to bare her midriff and titillate all onlookers.
Simply put, she was a dazzling beauty.
For that reason, the customer density in the canteen mysteriously went up around the counter where she sat.
The workers and the mercenaries hired by the traders enjoyed their meals as they enjoyed the sight of her.
If this were nighttime in another city, drunkards with ulterior motives would surely flock to her. However, it was daytime, and she was among familiar company, which was why Meia could drink in peace and with her guard lowered, despite the feast she was providing the surrounding eyes.
However, the head chef was clearly annoyed by drunk ladies in particular.
“You wouldn’t scold a drunk male, this is discrimination ~nya.”
“No! It’s different! It’s very troublesome for a lady who doesn’t know what kind of situation she’s in when people with ill intentions approach her. If you’re careless about these things, it’ll lead to dire consequences. That’s carelessness on the woman’s part.”
The head chef’s words were also a veiled warning to the men around her, who were searching for an opening they could exploit.
Thus, he decided to change the chiding tone in which he addressed Meia.
“Say, Meia. You don’t get vacations like these often. Why not spend them meaningfully?”
“And what exactly is meaningful ~nya?”
“For instance, cleaning your room, washing your clothes, mending things… they should all have accumulated, no? The day’d go by in a flash if you did them.”
“I do stuff like that everyday, so there’s nothing left for me to do ~nya.”
One could tell that Meia was a hardworking girl from her answer. Given Meia’s personality, she was not the sort of person who would put off until tomorrow what she could do today.
“How about having fun and chatting with someone? I’ll introduce a guy to you, how about that?”
The men around her chorused, “Yeah, that’s right” in time with the head chef’s words, as though they all wanted to be chosen to have fun with her. However, Meia simply laughed off the head chef’s suggestion.
“You mean, having fun in Arnus ~nya?”
Unfortunately, Arnus lacked any entertainment facilities. Window-shopping or browsing through wares held no interest for her. She was intimately familiar with the layout of the stores and the contents of their shelves. To her, there was no mystery in where they were and what they stocked.
“Also, just looking at my friends’ faces is boring ~nya.”
Recently, the residents of Arnus had begun discussing what they would do once the Gate closed when two or more of them gathered in one place. The people often fretted about what they would do afterwards, what would happen to them and so on.
“And besides, he’s gone off to fight~nya. I mean, I could go out with another guy, but I’m hardly that sly ~nya… I’m so lonely ~nya.”
“What’s this, Meia? You’ve got a man?”
“We don’t have that kind of relationship yet ~nya. But I wouldn’t mind going there ~nya.”
“Is he from Nihon?”
Meia slowly raised her head, looked drunkenly at the head chef, and nodded silently.
“That, that, uh… yeah, that’s pretty rough.”
After the head chef forced those words out, he scratched his head.
This was not just worrying about her future or the loss of her boyfriend; it was not too much of an exaggeration to call it a two-hit combo of losing her job and lover at once. The head chef was familiar with the damage of such a double impact; he had experienced the loss of his wife and his job simultaneously as well.
“So… does he know how you feel?”
Meia shook her head from where she was sprawled on the table.
If he did not dislike Meia, then there was a chance that he might stay. In fact, there were rumors that they had begun taking volunteers to stay behind, and many people had applied. For instance, it was public knowledge that Kurata and Tomita from the former 3rd Recon were among those people.
However, they would need to have a good relationship in order for him to choose to stay. If Meia kept her feelings to herself, it would be pointless.
“Say, Meia. Why not just confess to him? Then beg him to stay or something.”
Meia’s eyes grew moist, and she pouted, “I can’t do that ~nya.”
She said that if he stayed here, he would be forced to part ways with his family.
Once the Gate closed, there was no telling how much time would pass in Japan even if they opened it again soon after.
In the worst-case scenario, he would have to say farewell to them forever. Meia was not selfish enough to impose herself on him like that.
“In that case, why not go to Nihon?”
Several days ago, there had been a public conference about what would happen after governance of the Arnus region was transferred to Japan.
If the current residents of Arnus wanted to live in Japan, they could apply for Japanese citizenship or permanent residency. Either option would allow them to stay in Japan.
However, the thought of that made Meia very uneasy. Living in a foreign land was very difficult to wrap her mind around.
She had not experienced any difficulty with the language, habits and her job around the JSDF servicemen, because the servicemen had always been on their best behavior. However, she had keenly felt it when a group of embedded reporters had come too.
They looked at her like a talking dog or cat. If there were many people like that on the other side of the Gate, then she would have to amply prepare her heart. She would need determination to survive, because an immature love was far too unreliable for that.
“If I was working, I wouldn’t have the time to think about this ~nya, but now that I’m free, that’s the only thing in my head ~nya…” Meia continued as she pleaded drunkenly for the alcohol to continue, and she turned a sparkly gaze on the waitress working frantically in the cantina.
“This place looks as busy as always ~nya.”
“Ahhh… there’s fewer customers at night, but the daytime crowd hasn’t been affected. The Jayesdeef people take their lunch in their own canteens and so they won’t come here. Well… it feels like this sort of thing is going to carry on for a while.”
In any case, if the Gate was closed, there would be less meaning to the existence of this town, and its population would naturally drop. The workers, mercenary guards, carpenters and other people would also take their leave. Meia was aware and prepared of the possibility of being reassigned or transferred. It was possible that she might be sent to a branch in the Imperial Capital or some other big city.
“Meia, if you do well, you could be assigned to the branch in the Imperial Capital. It’d be better than a small town like this. The big city won’t lack for places where you can have fun, and it ought to be more interesting than over here.”
However, Meia shook her head.
“There’s nowhere which can compare to this place ~nya.”
“Ah, I guess.”
The head chef acknowledged her point as well.
Unless one lived in an old city, the humans there would generally be opposed to demihumans and they would receive the cold shoulder. Given the Academy City of Londel’s long history, it should have been no exception, and yet there were certain old parts of the city which looked down on newer inhabitants.
“If I could work in the cantina, wouldn’t that mean I could stay in Arnus ~nya? If you’re got the luxury of hiring new people, then why not hire me ~nya?”
Meia looked enviously at one of the new waitresses, who did not quite seem used to her job yet.
“No, she’s a different case.”
There was embarrassment on the head chef’s face as he answered.
Meia found it strange; why had he hired a female Dragonkin as a waitress? She did not seem very skilled, and she could not understand the reason for it given the head chef’s inclinations.
“Really ~nya?”
“Ahh, it’s just so she can pay off her debt with her wages, don’t get me wrong.”
The head chef clammed up, not wishing to discuss the topic any further.
“Giselle~san, clear these.”
The priestesses of Emroy, God of Darkness, were famous for dressing  in black goth outfits.
However, the white goth outfit was more well-known.
Anyone who did not know that someone in that outfit was a priestess of Hardy, Goddess of the Underworld, was probably not a resident of the Special Region.
It was just like how people  would associate someone in a nun’s outfit with a Christian church or convent, or someone in a kasa with Buddhism, or someone in a miko’s clothes with the Shinto religion.
Besides, there were hardly any other female Dragonkin around who wore white goth outfits.
Therefore, everyone stared with gaping mouths at the apron-clad Giselle as she wound her way through the gaps between the tables. It was as though time had stopped for a moment.
A pair of Wolfman mercenary guards, who had thought to wet their throats in the cantina and wash off the dust of the road, froze in place as they gawped at her.
“Oi, Wolf, since when did this place become a gothpray (cosplay) cantina?”
“So this is what the Nihonjin call a gothpray cafe, it took me by surprise. Well, that’s the Arnus Living Community for you; they’ve  brought Nihon’s fashions over. Well done on getting a Dragonkin girl to put on a white goth outfit.”
After the two of them denied what they had just seen with their own eyes, they breathed a sigh of relief.
However, the familiar-looking waitress said, “This isn’t cosplay, this is the real deal,” whereupon the two of them were shocked once more.
“So, so wait, that means, it’s… it’s really from Belnago…”
Wolf tugged on his cheek, as he patted the shoulder of a Dwarf friend drinking at the counter.
The Dwarf dipped his chin in agreement.
“But, but how could this be? Can you really say that? If she’s the person herself, then she would be the Her Eminence Giselle, but then she’s working in a place like this…”
This was like seeing a TV idol doing the dishes in a ramen cantina.
“It’s hardly strange, right? Her Holiness Rory is working here too, no?”
“But Her Holiness is doing a great service here. Yet, your Eminence Giselle is performing servant’s work; surely we could do something like that, no?”
“You say that, but it’s already happened. It’s a lo~ng story.”
The Dwarf put his beer down and sat up properly.
“Want to hear about it?”
“Ahh, very much.”
“First things first, this isn’t a funny story. What I’m going to tell you is a tragedy that will impress the cruelty of the world onto you.”
The two mercenaries nodded, and sat down beside the Dwarf.
“Alright, here it goes.”
These words would stand as an eternal message and lesson to future generations: “Even a Demigoddess has to work off her debts if she can’t pay them off.”


In order to understand the nature of what happened, we will need to turn the clock back to the time when Giselle arrived in Arnus. As the Demigoddess placed in charge of observing how Rory and Itami completed the task set for them by Hardy, it made perfect sense for Giselle to come to Arnus. And so, Giselle boarded the flying machine called a “helicopter” to reach Arnus.
“Ah… you’re going to Arnus?”
Itami’s question was directed at the seated Dragonkin woman, who had an clueless look on her face.
“Yes, something troublesome came up.”
“Then we’ll have to stop over halfway at Tenska, and one of our combat teams will escort you back. However, we might run into some fighting along the way; will that be alright?”
“That’s fine. I don’t mind.”
“That settles it, then.”
Itami had no intention of barring her from taking a Chinook.
However, their interaction had given rise to a misunderstanding on Giselle’s part. Itami had not refused her a ride, but that did not mean that he had agreed to care for her and treat her as a guest to be plied with food and drink.
In truth, Itami was distracted by transporting the kidnappee and responding to the scholars, so he did not have enough energy to care about Giselle. Once Giselle had arrived at Arnus, she had been cut loose, but she assumed that all her expenses would be paid for, and so she ate and drank and ordered as her appetite directed her, and in the end she had gotten into trouble.
After Giselle stuffed herself full of food and wine, she told the waitress, “That was delicious, thanks for your hospitality. Now where will I be staying?”
Her answer was a bill thrust into her face.
“What’s this?”
The waitress evaded Giselle’s gaze, and answered plainly and clearly, as though she did that sort of thing every day.
“Ah, it’s a request for payment for the food and drink you consumed, dear customer.”
“Eh!? What’s that supposed to be? Didn’t that Itamy punk tell you?”
After sensing trouble brewing, the head chef cum manager stepped in to take the waitress’ place.
“Does this involve the boss of the ALC?”
“Yes, he’s currently with Rory-oneesama.”
“So it’s something to do with Boss Itamy. Still, he never mentioned anything about you, you know?”
“I see, that kid must have been in a rush and forgot to tell you. That’s fine; I’ll get in touch with Itamy afterwards and let him clear things up.”
The head chef saw the confident smile on Giselle’s face and wondered if he had gotten something wrong.
And the fact was, it was quite common for Giselle… for a demigod to not have to pay for their food and drink. The head chef had even heard with his own ears of cases where people had offered up their establishments to them.
For instance, when Hardy had possessed Lelei for her binge, not only had she not been asked to pay, but the temple had settled the bill in full. No, the fact was, they might not even have been asked to pay at all; in a city of shrines and temples, being able to claim “an apostle came to our cantina and we catered to her desires” was excellent publicity.
This was not that city, and there was nobody rushing to pay the Demigoddess Giselle’s bills for her. Usually, there were small shrines to Hardy in a city, itinerant priests taking the role of missionaries, or perhaps a local worship group which gathered donations. All of them could contribute to paying for a demigod’s food and board.
Therefore, she wanted to tell the head chef that all these matters had already been settled. That being the case, all that was needed was to talk with the ALC and Itami again.
However, after waiting for a little while,  he came back with news that plunged Giselle into an abyss of despair.
“Dear customer, Boss Itami says that he doesn’t know of any arrangement like this.”
“Ehhh!? No way!”
“Still, since the boss doesn’t know about this, all we can do is claim payment from you, your Eminence.”
“Then, then what about the local temple or other religious bodies?”
The head chef shook his head sadly. There were no shrines or priests of Hardy in this newly-built town, and unfortunately, none of the faithful were present either.
No, one of them had been here once, but not any more. She recalled Yao’s face.
In any case, Giselle would have to tackle the expenses she had racked up through her drinking and dining by herself. Nobody could or would pay on her behalf.
“Besides, Boss Itamy isn’t a worshipper of Hardy. Come to think of it, given the Flame Dragon incident, he ought to be an enemy of yours. Did you stop to think about why he’d feed or house you?”
“When… when we were in Kunapnui, he fed me…”
Itami had once given a very hungry Giselle a good meal. In truth, she had not been expecting it, so she had been overjoyed, and she had wept despite herself. Her emotions had swelled up, their past grudges seemed like water under the bridge, and the relationship between them seemed to have taken a turn for the better. However, that had simply been a moment’s fancy.
“Dear customer, that was then. This is now.”
Giselle broke out in a cold sweat as she asked the head chef:
“Then, then, uh, couldn’t you treat it as an offering?”
“No can do.”
The head chef and the waitress offered her the bill with smiles on their faces. Their smiles were sweet and bright and terribly, terribly calculating.
GIselle cried foul.
“Rory-oneesama eats here too! You don’t collect from her either! This is religious discrimination!”
“No, it’s not like that.”
“How isn’t it like that! It feels like discrimination, so this is clearly discrimination! If you don’t do something about it, I’ll have to demand an apology and compensation!”
“Discrimination refers to unreasonable treatment, but her Holiness Rory’s treatment here is not unreasonable, because her Holiness Rory is one of the representatives of the ALC, which manages life here. In other words, she’s one of us.”
After the head chef’s explanation, Giselle finally understood.
This cantina was managed by the ALC, which Rory, Lelei and Tuka represented. Another way to put it was that this entire town belonged to the ALC. Since Rory was a representative of the ALC, it only stood to reason that she would be treated differently from Giselle. Therefore, Giselle crossed off the idea of “dine-and-dashing” from her mind.
Arnus Town was essentially a temple to Rory. If she tried to rip them off, there was no telling what price she would have to pay for it in the future.
The slashes of Rory’s halberd and the terrible sight of sand and stones flying in the wake of Itami’s attack still resounded within her mind and made her body trembled. Giselle felt her head burning as those misunderstood memories gripped her.
In addition, they might submit a petition of complaint to Belnago saying, “Your demigod dined and dashed, we are submitting a claim for damages.”
That would be very embarrassing. At the very least, it would severely undermine Giselle’s authority. In addition, Belnago Shrine might end up losing face as well. That would be terrible.
“What’s this disturbance about? If you’re making trouble in Arnus, it won’t be something we can simply write off with ‘for free,’ you know.”
Just then, the ALC’s leadership, helmed by Rory, came by to see what was going on after receiving a report from the local police post.
Suddenly, among all this, Giselle saw a ray of light in the form of the flatchested Lelei.
Giselle was quite tall, so seeing her hug the comparatively short Lelei was a fairly bizarre sight. However, in Giselle’s eyes, Lelei was her final lifeline.
“Please, Lelei! You’re one of Hardy’s vassals, right? You’re on my side, right? Right!?”
The fact that the goddess of the underworld had taught Lelei how to open the Gate implied that she was a servant of Hardy, and thus aligned with Giselle. That was how the world would see it, no matter what Lelei thought of it.
Hearing this, the head chef narrowed his eyes and said, “So, Lelei-chan, huh? I see… so, what do you intend to do, Lelei? Will you pay for her?”
However, Lelei’s face was blank as she shook her head.
“But whyyyyyyyyyyy!”
Lelei’s cold reply was like being dumped off the side off a cliff by a would-be rescuer. Giselle sagged like a deflated balloon.
She had been a demigoddess for hundreds of years, and she had fought against countless powerful foes. Of all the damage her mind and body had taken, Lelei’s words ranked up there with the slashes of Lelei’s halberd and the JSDF’s concentrated bombardments.
Perhaps she thought Giselle was a pitiful, because Lelei added:
“I can give you a loan, though.”
“Really!? You will!?”
Giselle recovered in an instant.
“However, the interest will be calculated in ten-one terms.”
Giselle collapsed to her knees in despair, as though all her previous excitement had been a waste of time. Ten-one interest terms meant that one tenth of the principal would be added onto the loan for every ten days that went by.
This outrageously exploitative interest rate would be illegal under Japan’s loan-interest laws. However, in a world where being a creditor was tremendously risky and there was a high chance of the debtor defaulting on their loans, they were considered very forgiving terms for a loan.
GIselle grit her teeth, but as she thought about it, she realized that it was the only way.
Still, it was true that if she did not pay the loan off, her debt would snowball and make things worse. Giselle knew that point very well.
On the whole, the three most common wishes made by templegoers were, “Please make me rich” and “Please forgive all my debts”. Also, there was “Please give me someone to marry.”
It would seem that she could send an IOU to the temple at Belnago. However, given that the interest was calculated at ten-one terms, factoring in her additional expenses in the interim, her food bills and the like, the sum that would need to be paid would swell to a horrifying degree. The priest in charge of the temple’s finances would surely complain about it, and Mistress Hardy herself would give her an earful, so she had to avoid that as much as possible.
“...It.. it’s no good…”
Giselle was already kneeling on the ground with tears in her eyes. Now, she collapsed onto her butt and flailed around while crying:
“Dammit! You’re all in on this, aren’t you? You’ve been playing me from the start! Why don’t you just cut the eleven wunts of flesh from my chest!” The saying, “to cut eleven wunts of flesh from one’s chest” came from a story about how a debtor guaranteed a loan with his life. One could say it was the Special Region’s equivalent of “the Merchant of Venice”.
It was a commonly-used phrase directed at loansharks, which meant, “Are you trying to kill me by making me pay my debts?” That said, it lacked persuasive power when spoken by a demigod, who could live on despite having their limbs chopped off and their chests crushed.
However, it suited her Eminence Giselle, who often spoke in extraordinary ways, and it also concerned a “certain matter’ that was constantly on the minds of Rory and Lelei.
The two of them stared at Giselle like they were nailing her to a cross, gawking at the voluminous peaks upon her chest with no restraint whatsoever.
Their fullness and tautness was exquisite, and their ample weight seemed to say, “do whatever you want with me”, as though they would not change no matter how much one played or toyed with them.
Then, both of them glanced down at their own chests, before suddenly shifting to flank Giselle, touching and squeezing her breasts as though to verify their sensation and quality.
“I’m still growing, so I don’t need 11 wunts, but one, maybe two wunts would be okay, given their bounciness…”
“Lelei, don’t you have a spell to make parts of your body grow?”
“Those spells are taboo. 20 years ago, there was a sorceress who kidnapped girls and swapped bodies with them, and in the end a certain Demigoddess chopped her head off.”
“Ah… that was me.”
As she saw their thoughts warping before her eyes, Tuka decided to speak up and silence them.
“Cease your wicked thoughts! Your own bodies are the most important thing. Also, have you two forgotten the results of analysing Father’s preferences? There’s no point engaging in such vulgarity, do you understand?”
Tuka was rebuking them for their words and deeds, and not denigrating Giselle’s bosom as a vulgar one. However, Giselle whimpered as she heard those words, which had wounded her deeply.
“Then, what should she do?”
“Obviously she’s going to pay it back with her body..”
Tuka’s eyes seemed to be licking at Giselle’s body. She trembled from the sudden chill in the air and hugged herself unconsciously.
“Do you mean… I, I’ll use this… this body to make money? Do, do you mean that I’m going to work like the worshippers of Militta do?”
Militta was the goddess who governed the harvest and children.
Being a believer of Militta was nothing to be afraid of. The problem was that the priestesses in her temples were also temple prostitutes, and some of her faithful lived by the principle that they had to serve as a temple prostitute themselves at least once in their lives.
Of course, some female believers rejected that aspect of their faith, but there were also those who said that a safe birth was the greatest worry of any woman.
Surprisingly enough, the infant and maternal mortality among her followers was less than 1%. This was a startling record in a world with such backward medical practices, and so she had many followers.
In addition, there was another reason for that: while a prostitute could not choose her clients when she worked, the temples of Militta taught secret techniques that could ensnare a client as a fiance. Therefore, it was quite common for supplicants to follow their ceremony of completing their sacred service with a wedding ceremony the next day. Of course, there were some cases where it did not work and some of those stories were overly embellished, but in general there would be no problems if one arranged things with the clergy ahead of time. The goddess was quite adept at such matters.
The existence of Militta was the best  proof of the variety of faiths in the Special Region and the ways in which they differed.
Giselle frantically shook her head.
“Besides, I don’t know anything about men! I can’t do it, I’m very sorry! I just can’t do it, I’m really very sorry!”
Giselle bowed her head nervously, and confessed that she was still a virgin ever since she had come to the temple at a young age to be elevated to the status of a demigoddess. And so, Rory laughed wickedly and nibbled Giselle’s ear.
“That’s fine. Tuka will gladly devour men and women alike. You’ve worked in the shrine for so long; surely you’ve built up an immunity to women by now?”
Nunneries could be considered a form of women’s-only territory, and homosexual relationships were quite common there. The mood in the air was like that of a girl’s-only middle or high school. Giselle’s masculine behavior and speech would be very popular in such places.
The waitress’ emotions surged, and she went “kyaaa~” in a lewd fashion.
The ladies turned their eyes to Tuka the Elf. It would seem there were many in Arnus who swung that way. In addition, given her partner would be Giselle the demigoddess, it felt a little like an angel coupling with a fallen angel, and the prevailing mood in the air took a turn for the erotic.
However Tuka wagged her finger and corrected, “Tsk tsk, not like that.”
“Strictly speaking, I’m my father’s girl.”
“Isn’t that the same thing?”
“That’s different. I’m not okay with just about any man! I won’t accept anyone who isn’t Father.”
As this strange exchange took place over her head, Giselle ― worried for her fate ― tremulously asked:
“Ah… when you said I should earn money with my body…”
Tuka pressed a waitress’ apron onto her and said:
“I meant that you should pay your debts by working, of course.”
After the dreadful intimidation from just now, Giselle immediately agreed with, “Ah, I can do that!”
And so, Giselle had to work in Arnus’ cantina in order to pay back the bills for her food and drink. Her duties included receiving customers, serving food, doing the dishes, sweeping, and many others beside. In truth, she did not actually owe that much; she could have cleared her debt if she worked hard for ten days.
However, she ate more than what the cantina gave her every night.
For a connoisseur of drink like Giselle, weak ales could not satisfy her. At some point, she had downed expensive imported brandies, wine, champagne and many others, so her debt remained high and she was forced to continue working.
Giselle complained in regret.
“Dammit, it’s all because the food was too good.”
She cursed the cuisine even as she unconsciously opened a bottle of champagne. She did not want to blame the alcohol she so loved, so she was unconsciously running away from the truth.

“And that’s how it is.”
The Dwarf finished narrating Giselle’s tale.
“I see…”
Wolf and his buddy had no idea how to feel about all this. On the one hand, he pitied her, but on the other, he felt that she deserved everything she had gotten.
The Dwarf sensed the subtle change in the mood and stood up, saying, “Ah, time to work.”
After that, he left his payment for his meal, and an extra copper coin for Giselle as an offering.
Wolf left her a coin from his pouch as well, and then asked the Dwarf:
“Is there still work for a carpenter in town?”
Arnus Town ought to have been fully built, so one would not see carpenters running hither and yon like they had before.
Of course, there were still a few small jobs to be handled, like say making shipping crates or fixing wagons. Dwarves, being a race of craftsmen, were the best-suited for that kind of work.
However, the Dwarf replied that he was still quite busy.
“Maybe you didn’t notice since you were in town, but refugees are coming over from the other side of the hill. That means we need to build longhouses, which means more work for me.”
The JSDF transport vehicles had been moving out as the mercenaries talked with the Dwarf.
“Thank you very much.”
Giselle carefully bade the customers farewell in a polite tone.
After clearing away the beer steins and dishes, she found the offering they had left for her and stuffed it tightly into her pockets with both hands. Ever since she had started working here, she had come to truly empathize with others and keenly feel for them with her own heart.
Mealtime ended and the customers began to disperse slowly, leaving only the cat-eared girl Meia, who was slumped drunkenly over the counter.
It would be very bad if they roused her and turned her out to wander the streets drunkenly, so the head chef allowed her to sleep in the cantina. Giselle shifted her to one of the tables she was not cleaning.
“Sweep, clean, sweep, clean…”
Cleaning work had to be done after the lunch hour rush.
With a broom and a cloth in hand, Giselle set about cleaning.
Mercenaries were crude while the merchants often ate hastily. The carpenters were just messy. All this meant that their food and drink went all over the floor, which was then carelessly trampled into the floorboards.
Naturally, sweeping alone would not do the trick, so Giselle’s job was to bend over and pick the refuse off the ground. The other waitresses rested themselves during these three hours in preparation for business at night.
“Dammit! I haven’t done this since I was an apprentice priestess!”
Giselle was over 400 years old. Therefore, to a regular person, her days of being an apprentice must have been ancient history.
In her youth, she had not lived in Belnago Shrine, but in a nunnery dedicated to raising priestesses who worshipped Hardy. There, she had been a trainee Dragonkin priestess. Her days had been spent in tedious misery like this.
On winter mornings, they would have to break the frozen-over surface of the well water, then squeeze their icy cloths dry, then rinse them again after they were done cleaning. If they were not thorough enough, their seniors would nag them, and their hands were numbed by ice and covered in scrapes and cuts.
The second joints of her fingers often got cute, and the blood flowing from them often stained her rags red.
After that, she spent a very long, arduous time as a junior priestess.
Perhaps other races might have been promoted after considering their age and the need for them to retire, but Giselle’s race was very long-lived, so they treated her as a juvenile, and so she was angry about being stuck as priestess of the lowest order. She was constantly surpassed by younger juniors, who had not even been born yet when she had taken holy orders, and they found fault with her, looked down on her, and bossed her around all day long.
As she recalled her past torments, she suddenly realized that her tears had wetted the floorboards.
“Ah, huh… what’s this… dammit, my eyes are watering up. What is this, why… uuu… Mama!”
It was clear that she was feeling homesick once more.
She thought of her mother, who had been dead for several centuries now. Her mother was a very gentle woman, who had urged her to “be a good priestess.”
The sign that Hardy bestowed upon Giselle was how she would constantly recall her mother.
Sometimes, she wondered about the reason for it, but until today, she still did not know.
Becoming a demigoddess was independent of one’s status in the church, one’s species, or bloodline. So long as the person in question had talent and was willing to work hard, as well as something called “plus alpha”. In truth, the plus alpha was the most important thing, but why was that? None of it was clear at all.
(TL Note: Plus Alpha roughly corresponds to “x-factor” or “something special”)
“I guess it’s just up to your luck.”
There were people who held such extreme viewpoints.
It was an explanation similar to how people within a particularly religion would tell each other, “that person must have been favored by God”. When Giselle became a Demigod, they explained it as her steady accumulation of silent virtue, without letting her faith waver even while occupying the lowest ranks, had caught the eye of the Goddess Hardy.  
However, Giselle did not like that explanation.
She felt uneasy once her situation changed, and in an effort to continue the daily life she was used to, she hid the fact that she had become a Demigoddess.
Therefore, she had hidden her identity for over 10 years after becoming a demigod, imitating her senior from the church of Emroy.
However, things did not go as well for Giselle as they did for the Apostle of Emroy.
The Apostle of Emroy had become widely renowned for chopping the head off an unjust high priest in order to save a trainee priest who had been falsely accused of a crime However, there were no such impressive stories for Giselle. She had accidentally cut her finger while working in the kitchen and her wound had healed instantly. Everyone saw it, and so the rumors spread.
That had sparked a tremendous change in her situation.
The people who had looked down on her until yesterday instantly changed their tune, as though they had always expected that to happen.
“I always knew you’d become someone great. I gave you a hard time for that sake. It would be nice if you could pay me back for it.”
“I raised up Giselle!”
“Your Eminence Giselle, please order me around as you will… all these things that happened in the past, all those unpleasant things that came before… let me work hard to serve you and let them be water under the bridge… I’m very sorry, that ought to be enough, right...”
Even if she did not like it, her entire world had changed, and she keenly felt it.
And then, there was none of that at Arnus. They had not slackened off even after learning she was a demigoddess. They had even told her that if she could not pay her debts, she would have to work them off.
“Heh, you really do have a lot of guts.”
Giselle’s hands did not stop working as she muttered to herself.
Eventually, the floor was spotless, and after putting the chairs down and wiping the sweat on her forehead with her apron, she looked smugly upon the fruit of her hard work.
“How is it? Clean, right?”
Giselle would surely have asked that of any onlookers if they were around.
“Alright, that’s settled!”
She dusted her hands off to announce the completion of her task, and she smiled in satisfaction, because now
“I did all this with the sweat of my brow,” she muttered to herself
Then, as though waiting for those words, Rory came by.
“Giselle, have you been working hard?”
She then said, “I’ll have a milk teat today”, and the head chef replied, “yes, she’s been doing a good job” before reaching for a glass from the shelf.
Giselle bowed politely to her and said, “This way please,” then brought her to the VIP room in the back of the cantina,
Rory took a seat, but Giselle did not leave.
She knew Giselle wanted to use this lull period when no customers were around to sit down and talk to her about difficult matters.
However, she had not expected Giselle to start speaking even before sitting down.

“Oneesama, you can do something about the Apocryph, right?”
Giselle had learned from her subordinate Wyverns that the Apocryph was continuing to spread. She might have been the lowest-ranked of them all, but  her heart was still linked to that of a god who took care of the world, and Giselle knew that the end of the world was upon them.
She could not simply ignore the spread of the black fog. However, Rory did not seem as worried as Giselle did.
Rory said, “I’m going to put my faith in them and wait, so you don’t need to worry about the Gate, Giselle.”  She smiled, then spooned up the frothy foam on the milk tea which the head chef brought.
“I’ll wait and believe in them too, but the world might end in the meantime,.” she said.
“I know that too.”
“So why are you handing such an important thing to humans to handle? Can’t we close it by ourselves!?”
Giselle was implying that this was the reason for which demigods existed.
If someone protested, all they had to do was reply, “the gods said so, what about it?” and that would end the conversation right there. That was the thrust of Giselle’s argument.
“Everything would have ended if you had just wrecked the Gate with your halberd, onee-sama. I probably couldn’t do it on my own, but if we laid into it together, surely we could smash that shabby thing, no? Why was the Gate entrusted to mankind?”
“The desires that drive them might bring about the end of the world, or conversely, they might pass up this rare opportunity due to the danger, or they might manage it wisely and sensibly. There are many possibilities for them, and I would like to let them choose on their own.”
“Well, you say you’ll let them decide, but in the end won’t it be the decision of just one or two people? Can you really say that’s the decision of humanity?”
“Indeed. Even if only one human decides, it’s still the decision that humanity made, and not the result of what we did. This is the motivation for them to be aware of themselves.”
“Are you doing what Tarles did, onee-sama?”
Tarles was the name of an old god.
According to the legends, the old gods said that mankind was too young and they would hurt themselves if they played with fire, which was why they did not give it to them. But Tarles decided that humanity could be wise enough handle fire, and so he granted them fire.
“Without him, perhaps humanity might still be eating raw meat and freezing like beasts. He believed in mankind.”
“Still, they betrayed his trust, and they continue to betray it even now. Mankind uses fire to wage war and burn each other to death. There’s a huge difference between knowing how to use fire and knowing when to use it, onee-sama.”
“That’s true. But no human starts out able to swim. They learn to swim as they struggle not to drown. That’s how mankind grows, like seeds. If they avoid the water and fear it because they almost drowned once, then they’re a weak race whose fate is extinction.”
“Still, humans all want to live in luxury. You can’t expect too much of them. If you lower your guard, humans might slack off, get carried away, or just end up thinking of themselves. Can such humans govern themselves so strictly?”
“Giselle, were you born a Demigoddess?”
“No, but...”
“Did you think about why Hardy gave Lelei the ability to make Gates?”
“Was it… a reward?”
Giselle had thought that Hardy had possessed a suitable girl nearby to satisfy her appetite.
“Surely that’s not all, right!?”
Rory poked her temple with her index finger, indicating that she should use her brain.
“Ggh, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Can’t you just tell me already?”
“I’ll give you a hint, then. From the beginning, we’re unable to do what we shouldn’t be doing. It’s just like how humans are born unable to see the backs of their heads with their own eyes. Wanting to do so is what is truly forbidden.”
“What the hell? Are you retarded? Who would do something like that? Besides, if someone really wanted to do that, they could just use a mirror.”
“Indeed they could, but they can’t see it with their own eyes. That is an absolute taboo; I won’t do it and I don’t feel there’s any point in doing it. There’s no way it’s possible for you, given the structure of your body.”
“Mm, that’s true.”
“The fact is, this sort of situation is quite commonplace. There are sages all over the world who are deeply immersed in researching this theory.”
“In other words, anything you can conceive of is possible for you. Like incest and fratricide, if you can think of it, you can do it!”
Giselle’s answer seemed to have been exactly what Rory had predicted. Thus, her lips formed into a happy smile.
“Yes, which means you can do it if you want to.”
GIselle’s eyes went wide, and then she shook her head in disbelief.
“So you mean, humanity is free to destroy itself?”
“That may be taking it a little far, but yes. Humanity has always been free to choose whatever they want to choose.”
“But that’s no good, is it, onee-sama? We exist because they think that they can do anything as long as they aren’t stopped, right? When humans think they’re the greatest, they become proud. So shouldn’t we keep them under control and kill them off when they decide to do something stupid!?”
“That is to say, the Gate itself is not dangerous, but mankind is. The danger of the Gate is like that of a sword or a flame, but humanity is the true threat.”
Giselle finally realized what Rory was hinting at.
“If they run from dangerous things or drop anything dangerous they pick up, mankind will eventually abandon everything and destroy themselves. The reason why this has not yet happened is because we play the role of suppressors, and so humanity has not yet realized how dangerous they really are. But what is the result of that? The humans of this world have a history that spans tens of thousands of years, yet they have stagnated and grown sluggish, as though they were dead. In order to avoid this sort of destruction, the gods have used various means to try and shake this world into motion again. This is why Hardy brought the new species over. It is unfortunate, but we have to acknowledge the differences between us and the other world. In addition, Hardy’s given the cleanup of the Gate to mankind while she watches from the side. So what do you think, Giselle? Don’t you think mankind can really overcome their own destruction?”
“That’s impossible, right? Even the people working in this cantina are all opposed to closing the Gate because of their livelihoods. Everyone’s gaining from the Gate, so nobody would decide to close it, right?”
“Of course not. There are people who are seriously thinking about the well-being of this world.”
“Like who?”
“Lelei and Tuka, for instance. And Youjy too.”
Rory felt that the reason why Hardy had entrusted the world to them was in order to see if humanity could improve themselves by doing so.
“Onee-sama, are you mad? Why would She think that way? Why can you believe in humanity?”
“Ara, do you think I’m sane? I’m the Apostle of the god of madness, you know.”
Giselle looked like she wanted to say something, but she swallowed her words. That was because that was true, when she thought about it.
“Love is a form of madness too. Anyone in love is insane by default.”
“In other words, you think they’re going to grow, onee-sama…”
“You need to be aware of our responsibilities to this world. We have to keep ourselves in check. I think that was the reason why she joined the two worlds. Hardy and I agree on that point, which is the motivation for all this.”
“But it’s so dangerous…”
“I’m about to ascend to divinity myself. If you watched and did nothing when you felt you should have acted, isn’t that because you’re growing as well?”
“Honestly, that sort of thing has never worked.”
Rory sighed heavily as she saw Giselle shake her head.
“Hardy’s unfortunate for not having an Apostle who can second-guess her.”
“Sorry for being dumb.”
“I once heard Yao say, ‘If Hardy says black is white, then it’s white’; are you basically saying you’ve given up thinking on your own?”
Rory savagely attacked Giselle’s misplaced faith.
The “gods” of this world were not mere concepts; if a god pacted with its followers that “you’ll be happy as long as you have faith,” would anyone believe such a ridiculous thing? The Apostles who venerated them should not obey blindly, but they had to thoroughly question themselves and their gods’ dictates.
“That’s why all you can do is serve as a gopher and so on.”
“Then what should I do, onee-sama?”
“For starters, get into the habit of thinking for yourself. That should allow you to see what Hardy really intends. As you do that, you will see your dreams come true.”
“Oneesama, why do you hate Her if you understand Her so well?”
“I just dislike her bad habit of collecting people’s souls and displaying them like dolls.”
“As for that habit…” Giselle scratched her head. “Although, it should be okay if the people under her are happy, right?”
“You sound just like a drug peddler. A real and full life is full of hope, but it’s also full of hardship. That is why people are willing to drown themselves in false happiness even if they know it for what it is. The happiness Hardy offers in her dominion is much the same thing. If you lose yourself in empty joy like that, your soul will gradually wither away.”
“So you’re saying She doesn’t care about them?”
“Thanks to Hardy, all the strong souls are now in her display case, and the rest who go to the Underworld are all a bunch of mooks; won’t this drain the life from the world? That’s why I want to free the souls she’s enslaved someday.”
Rory suspected that Hardy had brought races from other worlds to this one to increase her collection.
“Doesn’t Emroy take the souls of those who die in battle?”
“They can’t be saved once they’re with Hardy!”
“So you think those people in the Underworld are beyond salvation… it’s a difference of opinions, then. In other words, will I have to fight you someday, onee-sama?”
“I’ll take you on anytime you like. But first, you’re going to clear your debts and learn how to speak with class, OK?”
Giselle could not speak, and she puffed out her cheeks in shame.
“I just don’t know how to speak in your unique way, Onee-sama.”
There was nothing Giselle could say about her rough way of speech.
Rory also felt that it was pointless, because that was just a part of her personality or temperament. However, not being able to inspire respect when one ought to do so would affect the image of all Apostles in general.
How should I use the carrot and the stick in harmony to help Giselle break through? As Rory pondered that question, someone called out to her from the entrance of the VIP room.
Looking back, she saw Tuka in stylish clothes and asking, “How do I look?” She was standing with Kuribayashi and Tomita, who were both in civilian attire.

Tuka entered the VIP room like she was a model for the Tokyo Girl’s Collection, then turned a circle and struck a pose so Rory could give her opinion.
Rory rested her chin lightly on her fingers, then turned a critical glare on Tuka, scanning her from head to toe.
Her makeup was as light as possible. Tuka’s skin had always been very pretty and hardly needed any improvement, but a thin layer of pink lip gloss accentuated Tuka’s femininity.
In turn, more work had gone into her hair.
Her hair had originally looked like liquid honey, and it gleamed gold when bathed in light. The ends of her hair were colored a seductive shade of pink.
“What’s this?”
Dying all of it would have required a great deal of courage, so she had only done the tips. According to Tuka, she could simply snip the ends off to return to her usual color if she was not happy with it.
“I’m trying to look like a character in the books that Father likes.”  
In other words, this was cosplay.
Rory went “mhm~” and studied the other details of Tuka’s body.
Her nails had been manicured and then painted with nail polish; a pearly pink to match her lips. Her casual shirt was fitted perfectly to her body and highlighted her curves, while the gauzy blouse on top of that only added to her overall gorgeous air.
She was not wearing her usual low-slung jeans either, but an exquisitely-made leather miniskirt.
Below that was a pair of lace stockings. Tuka’s slender waist and coltish legs ― and especially the obvious garterbelts beneath ― perfectly framed her zettai ryouiki and emphasised her sexuality with dazzling brilliance.
This was Tuka’s “final decisive battle attire”.
“Hm, very good.”
Rory gave Tuka a thumbs up.
“Do your best.”
Lelei had turned up at some point, and she looked at Tuka’s attire with a blank look on her face before encouraging her in a monotone. “Also, take this,” she said, as she produced an earring which looked like it had been made of pearly white jade.
“You’re our main fighting power. I look forward to your victory.”
“Umu, you look really good,” Yao agreed. “Anyone who can see this and not react is not a man. Any man would gulp upon seeing this. In fact, he might even jump you on the spot.”
Still, as those words reached their ears, Rory, Tuka and Lelei cast their eyes to the ground in unison.
“That said, I’m still worried about what he thinks.”
“Sometimes, I feel like he’s not interested in women.”
“It’s very worrying.”
As she saw that the others were not reacting as she had expected, Yao frantically tried to cheer them up.
“No… but… what other problems are there? If I were male, and you approached me, Tuka-dono…”
“It would be fine if you were male, but have you ever succeeded before?”
The air around Rory, Tuka and Lelei grew strangely heavy. Yao picked up on it and went quiet as well.
“Uuu… that’s true... I’ve tried all sorts of way to get close, but he hasn’t even held my hand before.”
The closest Yao had gotten to Itami was during their tandem ride on the Wyvern.
Back then, touching him had felt very good. It seemed as though the two of them were very close, and she hoped that things would go further from there. However, not only had they not grown closer after that, but it felt like they had drifted further apart.
If they were allowed to touch a woman’s body, surely any man whose thoughts turned towards carnal directions would want to hold her hands and get closer and so on.
“So you’re saying he’s the slow-burning type? That you need to take your time and get closer to Itami-dono?”
Yao tried to console herself with those thoughts. However, Lelei coldly said:
“There’s no time for that.”
“Why?” Yao pleaded with Rory, in a tone of voice that said she did not understand.
“Right now, the Gate is of the utmost importance. He might slip away if you wait until the last minute..”
When they agreed to closing the Gate, Itami had been “promised” to stay in the Special Region. In other words, it was a promise made as part of the deal with the Japanese government, and not Itami’s own decision. He was a man who worked for his hobbies; if pressed, all he needed to do was say, “no deal, I’m going back” and then flee home.
Naturally, the girls had no intention of letting him go. However, if Itami decided to flee in earnest, even Rory felt uneasy about being able to recapture him.
Therefore, please stay if you want to do so ― that was what they felt.
Also, Itami had a reason which made him reluctant to leave: “I want to go to Comiket!” That really pissed the girls off.
“Fine, you two come as well. We’re not going to lose to women printed on paper!”
Rory put out her hand face down, and Tuka and Lelei stacked their own hands on top of hers. “Ei, ei, ohhh~!” they cheered. Indeed, this was a battle with their pride as women on the line.
The three of them were willing to shelve their personal desire to win and to monopolize him for the sake of their overall victory.
If the three of them went together, the chances of them being able to ensnare Itami’s heart would be much higher. Details like who would be on top for the time being were not important, because once Itami stayed in the Special Region, the question of who the final victor would be could be solved in time.
Of course, the flipside of that was that if the three of them did not go together, they would lose to drawn girls, which threatened them. Naturally, Itami did not pick up on this.
In any case, Yao ― whose status was that of “Itami’s possession” ― was also feeling uneasy, and she felt a sense of danger that was normally absent. Thus, Yao gradually came to understand the situation. She did not want them to struggle alone; she wanted to help the three of them out as a fourth party.
“Then, instead of such unreliable methods, how about just hiding under his bed and looking for a chance to seduce him?”
Yao said that she was hoping for Lelei to put the MPs on duty to sleep, which would give her a chance to be useful.
However, Rory hmphed and at her and said that such thinking was too immature.
“It can’t be done, and it’s useless anyway. If you do that, he’ll hate you.”
Lelei added that if they put the MPs to sleep, it would cause an uproar.
“Also, Father’s the kind of person who gets harder to deal with the more you press him. Haven’t you realized that yet?”
“Eh… seriously!?”
Lelei had analyzed Itami’s tastes from the doujins, light novels and manga which he had bought, and she said.
“After going through the 2478 items of picture books (manga) and art-inserted literature (light novels) which he possesses, I have learned that his tastes tend toward a certain direction.  He does not like sexually aggressive females. Therefore, we must probbaly employ an emotional approach on him. However, that also presents a problem of its own, because an honest expression of emotions usually backfires, as a clumsy approach might appear aggressive and fail to successfully convey one’s emotions. In addition, he favors the stereotype of someone liking another party too much, thus going wild and attempting to dominate the object of his affections. Also, the approach of not being honest but only opening up to the person they like is also a workable approach, but it does not lend itself to swift victories.”
“Eh! No, no way! That would mean I…”
“Yes. it’s very likely that he dislikes you.”
Yao crumpled to her knees after hearing that cruel declaration.
The corollary of that was the fact that she possessed a sexuality that nobody else could match. As Rory secretly basked in her sense of superiority, she smiled coldly and proudly within her heart.
“No, I don’t think there’s any man in this world who dislikes sexiness.”
Perhaps Tuka felt that Yao in despair looked far too pitiful, and had thus decided to comfort her.
“It’s not that you can’t use sex appeal, just that sex appeal by itself won’t work.”
For instance, Delilah, who worked in the cantina, was every bit as alluring as a Warrior Bunny ought to be, but the effect of that was negated by her casual way of speech and her forceful nature, so Itami could relax around her. If she chose that moment to make her move in a gentle and demure way while struggling against her shyness, it would have borne excellent results.
“There’s no point trying to win him over with looks alone. In your case, Yao, you ought to hide your intentions a little better and then casually show off your sexy side when you meet him. That would have been the most effective method, but unfortunately it’s a bit late for that now.”
“I see, so that’s how it is. If only I’d known earlier. Dammit!”
Rory smiled bitterly. After watching how her disciple had collapsed, she said, “it’ll take a while to fix that,” and then left her to her own devices while looking back to Tuka.
“Tuka, what approach are you going to take?”
After that, Tuka produced a slightly-larger-than-average bag. “This.”
“And what is this?”
“Father’s underwear and towels and handmade ben~to❤”
As she said that, Rory flinched like she had been rapped on the head and stumbled several steps back. So she still had that trick up her sleeve.
“Lelei, Youjy said horse-peter food was bad, so I tried cooking something for him. Handmade food ought to be pretty effective, no?”
“I see, so you’re making it with home-cooked flavor, then?”
The flashy packaging, when contrasted with the simple contents, was actually intended to exploit a form of family-oriented gap moe.
“An excellent move. Given the place in which he grew up and his ex-wife, he isn’t used to a family environment. Handmade clothing and cooking… kindness like that ought to score a lot of points with him. And Tuka’s brilliance makes her particularly dazzling.”
The fact was, Itami had never once laid eyes on her body when he was taking care of Tuka as her father. It was their strong bond which had made Itami risk his life against the Flame Dragon.
“Cooking, huh. That’s a bit outside of my field of expertise.”
Rory said that. She could roast things whole, but she was poor at delicate knifework and fine cuisine.
As Lelei heard this, she remembered the scene of how Rory had roasted up a buffalo and a boar.
“It’s a bit hard to call that sort of thing cooking.”
“If you can eat it, it counts! How about you, Lelei?”
“I am very good at it.”
However, in the moment Lelei announced her skill at cooking, someone hmphed and laughed coldly.
“You say that proper nutrition is the important thing and completely disregarded my tastes. You slavishly follow the recipe because you’re not confident in your tongue, so you end up cooking like you’re mixing some kind of magic medicine. However, you only have three items in your repertoire, so you end up making the same thing every day.”
Kato-sensei suddenly appeared and stood before the two of them, exposing the secret of Lelei’s cooking skills.
Rory imagined how Lelei might approach cooking like she was conducting a magic experiment; weighing out salt and seasonings on both pans of a balance, using an hourglass to calculate cooking time, carefully measuring the quantity of ingredients used, using a beaker to cook sauce and soup, cooking bat wing stew in a witch’s cauldron, adding things that looked like carbonized salamanders into the pot one by one before using a thick pestle to stir a mysterious mixture that bubbled ominously.
“Well, you can make something edible that way.”
“Of course. I tried it out with you, Sensei.”
“Oh, it’s edible, all right. But I guarantee you’ll get sick of it in four days and experience physical pain when you see it after twelve. Frankly speaking, I don’t want to go back to Coda Village any more; living with this girl again is just too miserable. I guess I’m used to the delicious food here.”
He had always been the one to dump everything on her and run off by himself, and to think he was acting all mentor-like now… annoyed, Lelei compressed air into a ball and launched it at him.
However, unlike an average senior citizen, Kato-sensei evaded it with the grace of a mosquito and muttered, “A textbook attack. But as a result, it’s also easily predicted.”
“If the recipes lack in variety, I’ll just learn more of them.”
Lelei gathered her strength and prepared to toss a second airball.
“To think that the girl who once said time spent on cooking was wasted and all that mattered was proper nutrition would be talking like this. Does love change a girl so much?”
“Uuu… what’s wrong with a change like that!? I don’t want to hear that from an adult like you, Sensei!” Lelei said as she fired another airball.
“Mm, I see it. Take this!”
Kato swung his staff and batted the airball back, which flew past Lelei’s ear with a whoosh. It flew out the door of the cantina and towards parts unknown.
“Hmph. So that’s what they call a Homuran.”
(TL Note: “home run”)
She could not help but ask what Kato, who should have been cooped up in a lab, was doing here.
“Is the lab my cage? You dumped all the work of educating the kids onto me while you ran off to have fun with work, exploring and men! Who are you to lecture me about that sort of thing! I ended up having to be their playmate. That gave me a chance to come into contact with Japan’s “animay”, “geimu” and “spotsu”.”
After saying so, Kato laughed, “Hahahaha, you need to train more” before leaving with a full bottle of alcohol from the head chef.
Behind him, Lelei shook her head furiously in embarrassed denial.

On the other hand, Yao had barely managed to recover from her previous damage, and she decided to keep her distance from the others lest she be wounded by the conversation again. Kuribayashi and Tomita approached to greet her.
“It’s rare to see you in plain clothes. Are the two of you going out, Kuribayashi-dono and Tomita-dono?”
“Yup, I need to bring Tomita to where the el-tee is. Tuka will be along for the ride.”
Kuribayashi had a PDW concealed under her clothes, an FN P90. At a glance, she looked like she was pointing its barrel at Tomita.
“Tomita-dono, you’re visiting Itamy-dono? Are you on a mission?”
“Mhm. This fellow recently tripped a death flag, and if this goes on, everyone’s worried that he’ll stumble on a rock and die or something. Therefore, he needs to see the el-tee to reset the flag.”
Tomita immediately protested in a very embarrassed way.
“It’s nothing! I told you it was nothing, right? Besides, can we really do something about it if we visit the el-tee?”
“Of course we can! I heard about it from the el-tee, and so after learning the specifics, we’re going to push the bad luck to the el-tee and let him bear it for us.”
“Push, push it to him?”
Sweat beaded on Tomita’s forehead as he heard Kuribayashi’s words.
“Is, isn’t that really bad? Could you tell me in detail what exactly we have to do to shift away the bad luck?”
And so Rory briefly explained the ritual for avoiding disaster.
“Youji will raise a death flag in front of Tomita, and so the bad luck will transfer to Youjy.”
As an Apostle of a dark god, Itami raising death flags was a good thing for her.
“Have, have you told the el-tee about dumping the bad luck onto him?”
“If you don’t like that, then you’ll just have to get married ahead of time, Tomita. If you get married before you die, the flag won’t get tripped, which ought to work for negating it, right?”
Kuribayashi looked at Rory for confirmation, and Rory nodded.
“But Bozes is in Italica now! We can’t get married right away! Besides, what kind of marriage ceremony would take place between me and an Imperial citizen?”
Kuribayashi nervously replied to Tomita.
“It, it can’t be helped, so just put me down as your wife for now. Let me make this clear, I’m doing this for your safety. It, it’s not like I really want to marry you or anything.”
Kuribayashi produced a stack of marriage forms with her chop on it. Her face was red for some reason.
“We, we can’t! I want to marry Bozes, how can I do that if I get married to you now?”
“Tch, so it won’t work, huh?”
“Of course not!”
Kuribayashi clicked her tongue like a child who had been caught in a prank, and she folded the critical marriage forms back into her pocket. Given how she was acting, she had not yet given up on using those forms yet, but was just waiting for another chance to bring them into play.
“Then all you can do is look up the el-tee and have him take on your death flag for you.”
Tuka, Lelei and Yao were unable to connect death and marriage, and so they went “What are you saying?” as they asked Kuribayashi to explain.
“Soldiers who say, ‘I’ll go home and get married after the war’ or  ‘my kid’s about to be born’ before battle are guaranteed to die on the battlefield. Same thing goes for people who say, ‘I’ll handle this, you go on ahead without me’.”
Yao put her hand on the protective talisman hanging over her chest, saying “Sounds like what they call a ‘jinx’… I guess this is very important.” After that, she added, “That’s why I work to strengthen my talisman every day,” explaining her daily preparations. To be precise, she used several 500 yen coins in that capacity.
Lelei said, “We’re already spent the three days and nights together, so we’re already married. There’s no point saying we’ll get married again,” before pursing her lips. However, for some reason, everyone ignored her words.
Tuka’s face was pale as she said, “Father’s going to raise a death flag… what should I do?” After that, Kuribayashi tugged on Rory’s sleeve and quietly asked:
“Eh, is it going to be alright?”
And so Rory replied, like she was comforting a spoiled child:
“Well, from the perspective of an Apostle of Emroy, death flags and whatnot are nothing to fear. Viewed from a different angle, this is actually an amazing chance.”
“What do you mean?”
“When it comes to marriage… well, remarriage or whatever, given the way Youjy hasn’t even given the matter any consideration, if we got him to say ‘we’ll get married after this war’ or something, even if it was a lie, don’t you think we’d get a chance to become closer to him?”
“Oh really?” Tuka mumbled.
“You have to build up to it. Still, even a little bit can eventually give you a chance.”
“Still, Father will be in danger if he says something like that.”
“It’ll be fine. Youjy is just like what his men think of him; he avoids the battlefield and hides in his bunk to sleep, he talks all sorts of nonsense without thinking, so eventually he’ll say something like ‘I’m getting married after this war’.”
Tuka turned to look at Tomita, and Tomita replied, “I, I guess that’s true.”
“Provided they’re not too scummy, people will be bound even by the lies they speak. Since Youjy’s not scum, he’ll mean those words. Plus, sometimes a lie gives rise to truth, no?”
Tuka nodded vigorously once she parsed those words. Even if Itami lied, the important thing was that he understood the meaning of those words, and Tuka muttered “making a truth out of a lie” to herself.
Lelei overheard them and said, “That reasoning is flawed. Since the three-night ritual has already been completed, there’s no point in him declaring that he’ll get married. You won’t trip a death flag.” However, she was ignored again.
While Lelei was as expressionless as always, there was an aura of dissatisfaction radiating from her.
Kuribayashi glanced at her watch and said, “We ought to be heading out now.”
“In any case, wish us luck in getting to the el-tee!” Kuribayashi turned to Rory and pressed her hands together with a clap.
Tomita saw her and clapped his hands together before Rory as well, muttering, “Please let me marry Bozes.” What was this death flag anyway? He looked like he did not really mind, but he also seemed a little bothered by it.
“No matter how many times you do it, I’m just not used to that ritual of yours.”
(TL Note: Clapping your hands together in prayer is a common practice in Japanese Shinto.)
While it felt kind of good, Rory still had a bitter smile on her face as she accepted their prayers and then pushed their hands back to them.
“A warrior evades any danger he senses, in order to fight until the bitter end.”

After everyone left, only Lelei remained in the cantina’s VIP room.
Hardly anyone was left in the cantina after the peak periods were over. Also, since the VIP rooms were at the back of the cantina, no noise reached it, and so it was very quiet. From a literary point of view, this was the ideal environment for writing a light novel.
Lelei spread a huge array of documents on the table, compared the differences between them, then erased and wrote, wrote and erased.
Lelei was commonly seen facing books and documents in Arnus.
She gave the impression of being someone who holed up in a lab and read in silence. In truth, she preferred to read outdoors, rather than behind a desk.
Still, she sighed quietly and scratched her head, which was quite a rare sight. It would seem she had gone to a great deal of effort to solve a tough problem.
No matter how many times she tried, the numbers simply did not add up. Lelei put several pebbles into a groove, which served as the Special Region’s equivalent of a primitive abacus, and then slid the pebbles around with her fingertips.
“You look like you’re having a hard time.”
The head chef stood before Lelei and placed a piping hot cup of fragrant tea before her. Wisps of steam curled above the white porcelain cup, which was filled with a pale yellow translucent liquid.
“There’s a mountain of problems and I can’t solve them all.”
“Thinking of how to convince everyone? Maybe you’d be more relaxed if we didn’t have to close the Gate.”
“It can’t be helped. Otherwise things will just get worse.”
“Still, it won’t get worse today or tomorrow, right? You don’t need to force yourself to think so hard, no? Everyone hates that sort of thing.”
“That would be a mistake. Delaying would only make the situation worse.”
“So you need to do the right thing right now?”
“No. What people dislike is not the closing of the Gate, but how their lives will change after the closing of the Gate. Therefore, what I should be thinking about is how to keep their lives unaffected.”
“Is that possible?”
Lelei had been sipping the tea as she chatted with the head chef, and she replied, “I have a rough idea” as she indicated the densely-packed characters in front of her.
“The plan is to recruit pioneers and found a new village, and then each village will build a separate town like this around themselves. This will create jobs. If each town functions like Arnus Town, then we can continue living like this.”
“So you mean you can go everywhere and build towns and villages like Arnus? A town that we build and which belongs to us? Will Nihon allow us to do all that?”
“They will. Under the agreement, Arnus and its surroundings are the equivalent of a self-governing territory equivalent to a “province” in Japan. The Japanese system of governance is to have a Japanese citizen act as a representative, and then have more representatives perform the functions of government. Since we live here and have Japanese citizenship, the disposition of Arnus will be entirely up to us.”
“Ehhhh!? Is that any different from Nihon sending a manager, overseer or lord to rule us?”
“They’ll send a governor over at first. But they’re now saying that they want to transition to a model like what I described in future.”
“That’s impossible, there’s no way. Besides, how are we going to build replacements for the village and the town!?”
“In the first place, the ALC only exists in order to rebuild Coda Village. All we need to do is expand the scope of its operations. We might not have enough funds, but if we ration our budget, it’s not impossible. Our residents come from all sorts of races, so many species will show interest in this place, such as Dwarves, Sirens, Elves, Catpeople, Warrior Bunnies, and the like. Of course, there will be humans too. The next step will then be to put it into practice. That way, we can convince everyone, even without the Gate. It will not be easy, but it will definitely be worthwhile.”  
“...This is the first time I’ve heard of this. Isn’t it a bit too early to be talking about such things?”
“We’re ironing out the details with Japan. Indeed, we cannot say it has been decided yet, so we have kept quiet about it to avoid giving people false hope.”
“Still, there’s no way it;ll go that smoothly, right? When you get down to it, such a wonderful thing will draw wicked people over and they’ll mess things up, no? And besides, Arnus isn’t that diverse, right!? Plus, if something unexpected happens, things won’t necessarily go the way you imagine.”
The head chef shook his head over and over, and he muttered repeatedly, “It won’t succeed so easily.”
He resembled a rookie merchant who could not understand a sales pitch about making big money, and had thus rejected the whole thing as a con game.
If he were an average consumer seeking not to be tricked by a scam, that would be an appropriate response.
However, the fact that he had completely rejected even the possibility of making money and refused to even listen to it meant that he had failed as a businessman. Besides, this was not just buying and selling, but deciding his own future. Blocking it out just because he did not understand it was the same as giving up his right to make decisions. In other words, he would be a puppet dancing on someone else’s strings.
Of course, that was not simply the head chef’s fault.
The scale of what Lelei described was far too great for the average resident of the Special Region to understand. Just as Lelei herself had said, she had to understand and discuss it with others, and then tailor her explanation so that her audience would understand.
“It is because of the Gate. Once the Gate closes, we will need a firm foundation. This is linked to the plan for handling the refugees from the recent wars, and so it should be easy to get approval for it.”
However, Lelei being Lelei, she had the bad habit of oversimplifying. Before those of slower minds could catch up, she had already jumped to the next topic.
“...Oh yes, what’s this? It’s the first time I’ve drunk it.”
“This, this is a herb called Naruko. It seems to be a rare import from the plains in the Far North. Travelling merchants brought some with them, so I tried buying some. How does it taste?”
“Naruko? Never heard of it before.”
Lelei nodded and took another mouthful.
“It tastes and smells good.”
This was a very uncommon expression to see on Lelei’s face.
“I”m glad you like it. So there were things even you didn’t know, Lelei-san. If you did, I’d get chills down my spine. For instance, the fact that Naruko tea puts its drinkers to sleep.”
The cup rolled to the ground and Lelei collapsed on the table. The floor and documents were stained by the Naruko tea, staining them a pale green.
“Seems quite effective too.”
The sound of footsteps on the floorboards drew closer, and three shadows loomed over Lelei as she snored quietly.
“Is this the girl? I thought she was some kind of superheroine from the rumors, but to think this was all. I’m a little disappointed.”
“Still, Metmes-dono, she ought to be one of the heroes who defeated the Flame Dragon.”
As Panache explained as much to Diabo, who was pretending to be a servant, she tied up Lelei with practiced movements and gagged her.
One could not simply tie her up tight; she had to carefully consider how to keep her circulation flowing. Also, perhaps it was because Panache was also a woman, she took care not to let the hems of Lelei’s dress ride up and expose her.
“Indeed. Planning to found a nation of her own on this land is quite a brave thing… ah, no, it’s awe-inspiring.”
While Metmes the attendant was filled with respect for her, Diabo simply dismissed it with a “hmph” and walked away. Diabo still felt that Lelei’s spiel was delusional and laughable.
Without the Gate, there could be no business with Japan. The market would shrink and everyone would be demoralized. The thought of trying to found new towns and villages in such conditions and build a better life for everyone would only serve to depress them further.
“If we had not met in this way, I would like to have talked to this girl about matters of governance.”
“Anyone with the title of Sage at her age could be regarded as the backbone of the Empire. Do you think there’s still time?”
Panache was lightly hinting that this was their last chance to turn back from this path. However, Diabo was unmoved.
“No, this is the only path left to us.”
The head chef took out a wooden case that was 1.5 meters on a side, which was stuffed with polystyrene packing peanuts as cushioning.
Diabo wanted to give Panache a hand, but Panache refused. Her reasoning was that it was best to not have a man touch her.
Hs face seemed to say, “What, you don’t want me to touch another woman? She’s just a girl,” but after seeing Panache glare at him, he said, “Fine, you handle it,” and drew his hand back.
Panache placed Lelei into the fetal position, putting her in the box like she was a piece of fragile porcelain. She put her mage’s staff diagonally across her, so it would be covered by the cushioning material.
The head chef put a lid on the box and began nailing it shut. However, Diabo suddenly said “wait” and stopped the head chef.
“Can air get in once you put the lid on it? We’re done for if she suffocates in there.”
“There’s no need to worry, attendant-san. Look at how many holes there are in the box. It’ll be fine.”
In truth, the crate had been crudely made, and the cuts were rough around the edges. The gaps between the boards were almost a centimeter wide, and in order to cover those holes up, the head chef had covered it in labels such as “Fragile”, “This Side Up”, “Do Not Hand-Carry”, “Do Not Get Wet” and the like.
“Is that so, I understand. Let me put the lid on it. You go do what you have to do.”
“Understood, Metmes-san. I’ll take care of the rest. Let me do the cleanup here.”
And so, the head chef handed the hammer and nails to Diabo, and returned to the shop area out front.
Diabo let Metmes handle the work, then stood behind the head chef with Panache. The head chef suddenly produced a document from a cupboard and handed it to Meia.
This was a return form used to send back goods from the PX. The receiver was a Japanese company authorized to ship goods to the ALC. Since it was returned by the PX, it would not be inspected when passing through the Gate. It showed how much trust they had in the ALC.
“Here’s a return form. Sign it.”
Meia looked puzzled. She looked like she wanted to cry and laugh and also seemed miserable.
“Are you really going to do it ~nya?”
“You know there’s no turning back, right? You need to send it before they close the Gate. That way you won’t be parted from the man you love. Isn’t that a good thing?”
“Mm… but repaying her kindness like this is terrible ~nya.”
“Why do you say that? This is to protect Lelei-san too. Zorzal will have his sights set on Lelei-san. So we need to hide her, right? This way, nobody will know where she is.”
“But do we have to ship her back to Japan like luggage ~nya?”
And so, Diabo whispered into Meia’s ear like he was seducing her.
“There are no more safe places here. Have you heard of The Piper? Apparently he was an assassin hired by Zorzal, and even Itamy the Dragonslayer couldn’t do anything about him. What if Zorzal hired him again? I doubt they could avoid him a second time. But if he had to pass through the strictly managed Gate, even Zorzal would be powerless to harm her. Wouldn’t she be safe that way?”
“Even so, if we just explained it all to Lelei…”
“Then we wouldn’t be able to keep the Gate from closing, no?” the head chef replied.
“That’s why we’re doing this. We can both protect Lelei and keep the Gate open, killing two birds with one stone. This is the time to take responsibility and repay the kindness we’ve received. Indeed, it might upset your conscience, but they’ll thank you for it someday. So come on, help us out.”
After the head chef’s lecture, Meia began moving again, like she had been defrosted.
It still bothered her. However, after being persuaded by the two of them, she gingerly reached out and signed the document with shaky hands. After it was done, she collapsed onto the counter.
“That settles it. Now we’ll contact Chyna,” Diabo said as he took a cell phone from his pocket.
“Should I press here, or there…” He fumbled with it several times.
After that, a voice said, “Are you through? Alright, speak,” and then he pressed it to Panache’s ear.
“Attendant-dono, it’s the other way round.”
After she pointed it out, Diabo hurriedly turned it the right way up and said, “I knew that.”
Panache took a deep breath, and then spoke to the person on the other side with the Japanese she had learned.
“I am Diabo-denka’s representative. The Jade Wall is packed. I repeat, the package is packed. As we agreed, we will send it through on a marked cargo wagon.”
As the head chef heard Panache speak, he thought about how China would receive the goods in question, and so he quietly asked Diabo:
“Won’t she end up somewhere else if we send her that way? This sounds like a big problem to me; how are you going to deliver her to them?”
“It’s very common to have cargo wagons robbed along the way by bandits, although I don’t know if the same thing applies on the other side of the Gate…”
The head chef accepted that explanation with an “I see.”
“Still, there’s a live person inside. Please be gentle with it.”
“Understood. I never had any intention of harming that girl, so I’ll make sure they get the message.”
Just then, Metmes brought a pushcart stacked with crates over, and Diabo smiled to him in secret.

Traffic between Japan and the Special Region was strictly regulated, so neither the Japanese nor the natives of the Special Region could come and go as they pleased. However, the fact there were many JSDF personnel dispatched to and stationed at Arnus meant that traffic was smooth, and many exceptions to the rules had been permitted.
For instance, the servicemen of the JSDF Special Region Expeditionary Force were allowed to visit Ginza while on leave, and they then dispersed to their various destinations from Ginza. Their work system was such that they always needed to have someone on station in case of an emergency, so there would be people performing missions every day as well as people taking leave every day, which resulted in an endless stream of people passing through the Gate every day.
In addition, the logistics teams of the JGSDF moved back and forth every day.
Modern mechanized warfare demanded a great deal of resources.
Every fighting man consumed 2.7 kilograms of food and 9 liters of water a day. In addition, they would need 90 to 100 kilograms of fuel and ammunition. 10’000 men would require 1’000 tonnes of supplies to fight for one day (60% of which was fuel). Thus, there was a long line of large trucks waiting outside the Gate every day. This took a great toll on Ginza, which relied heavily on foot traffic for business, and it caused a lot of traffic jams.
In addition, permission had been granted to civilian shipping firms to move goods in and out of the Ginza Garrison, so each man’s personal items and the inventory of the ALC’s shops were all handled by these companies.
Of course, civilians could only approach the dome which surrounded the Gate, and they were forbidden from taking a single step through it. Their goods would be laid on a platform within the dome and opened up in a cordoned-off area, and all sorts of checks performed on them. It was only then that they would be allowed through the Gate and sent to the ALC’s storehouses.
However, the return journey was different. Wrongly shipped items would be allowed through the Gate as long as one could produce an inspection voucher and then loaded onto a civilian shipping firm’s trucks within the dome.
After passing through the Gate, Tuka and the others stood in line as they completed various procedures. All manner of trucks waited on the platform behind the barricade,  and pallets laden  with all sorts of cargo were steadily loaded onto them.
A neverending stream of PX crates came from behind Tuka, loaded onto a truck with a miniature forklift. However, the corners of the crates were constantly bumped back and forth, and the rough handling they received was very obvious, and so Tuka shouted:
“Please move the cargo carefully! It says ‘Fragile’ on it!”
However, her voice could not carry past the barricade within the dome, which resounded with the noise of trucks. The driver continued to load the cargo in a careless way. Frustrated, Tuka used her spirit magic to summon an invisible wind tunnel, and then shouted at the driver again.
“Take more care in moving the cargo!”
As the shout reached his ear, the driver gulped in an exaggerated fashion, and he turned back to look for the source of the sound.
“If it gets damaged while shipping, we’ll have to write it off as a loss! So please be more careful when moving the boxes!”
The driver looked visibly confused and looked all around, but he could not find the source of the female voice castigating him.
“Over here, over here.”
Soon, he saw Tuka in the distance, standing with her hands on her hips with a stern look on her face.
The driver’s expression seemed to say “No way!?” but when he met Tuka’s eyes, she repeated, “Yes, you, I’m watching you, so you’d better work hard!” The driver bowed in apology and waved to indicate that he understood.
“Next up, number 23, Tuka-san~ it’s your turn!”
After Kuribayashi was done with her immigration, the female official called Tuka’s name and queue number.
After cautioning him to be more careful another one or two times, Tuka hurriedly ran over to the counter while saying, “Ah, yes!”
The uniformed servicewoman asked several boilerplate questions.
Have you been sick recently? Do you feel warm? Does your luggage conform to Japanese law? Are you carrying any drugs, bladed objects and the like? They were all along those lines.
Tuka replied “no” to all of them in fluent Japanese, and signed on the confirmation form. And so, the servicewoman handed Tuka a document, which she stamped in bright red ink.
After her were Kuribayashi and Tomita, who were not questioned and permitted to carry weapons because they were bodyguards. After the security personnel saw their documents, they bowed to indicate that they could pass.
“All the best, Tuka-san.”
And so the three of them entered Ginza.
As a resident of the Special Region, Tuka had successfully obtained a visa because she was one of the leading members of the ALC and thus received exceptional treatment. As one of the negotiators with Japan, Prime Minister Morita had personally given her his permission. In addition, the girls were accorded other privileges, such as this.
“I’ll be in your care today too.”
As usual, Tuka moved with Kuribayashi, waiting for the stationwagon that would carry them.
Soon, a vehicle with a black-suited driver pulled up, to ensure her safety, maintain secrecy and so forth.
However, there was someone else in the seat beside the driver’s, and he waved to Tuka.
“Ah, isn’t that Komakado-san?”
“Good morning, Tuka… san. You look beautiful today.”
The man beside the driver was Komakado. Both he and the black-suited driver beside him had their souls stolen away at a mere glance at Tuka, and their faces went red to the tips of their ears.
“Good morning? Has there been a time lapse? What time is it here?”
“Forgive me. Right now, both ‘good morning’ and good day’ are applicable forms of greeting. Was it afternoon in the Special Region?”
“Yes. What’s the occasion today? Why did you have to come all the way down to fetch us in person, Gomagado?”
“There’s been a bit of a ruckus in Ginza, so I came over myself.”
Komakado and the driver started the engine, and Tuka pressed her chin to the window, anxious to see what was outside.
Many people were massed along the fence around the Ginza garrison. At a glance, some of them were wearing T-shirts, with slogans reading:
“The Japanese government should compensate the foreign victims of the Ginza Incident!”
“Don’t close the Gate, open the frontier to us!”
“Hand the Special Region over to the international community!”
“Obey the Space Treaty!”
“Don’t destroy the Special Region’s environment!”
There was even a placard saying, “Stop killing the dolphins and whales, Japan!”
Of course, Tuka could not read any of those characters.
“What are they saying? Is this some sort of religious activity?”
“It’s called a demonstration. In democratic societies, people are allowed to gather together and express their displeasure towards the government and speak their demands.”
One of the police officers nearby shouted, “Please don’t stop” over a megaphone as he directed traffic.
The demonstrators remained orderly, like they were entering a stadium.
Komakado furrowed his brows with a “hm” as he saw this. Something was eating at him.
However, the unnatural fragrance of cosmetics and Tuka’s question of “won’t this turn violent?” took the edge off his ferocious mood.
“There haven’t been many of those in Japan recently. In the past, there were all sorts of people who said that they were striking against the government, but they ended up flipping the cars of people in weak positions like themselves. There were also others who destroyed shops to the point where they couldn’t do business at all, but those are rare now. There were riots overseas as well, with people burning and trampling on the flags of the countries they were protesting, like the riots in the UK and France.”
“How savage. Do you have such Goblin-like people among you?”
“Humans can fall very easily. If we’re not careful, we’ll reach their standard in no time.
Tuka did not seem to care much about that. She hummed to herself and looked elsewhere. Komakado ordered the driver to “carry on as usual”.
The police stopped the flow of traffic at the entrance for a brief moment, allowing the car with Tuka and the others to leave the roads around the Ginza Garrison.
Usually, they would be able to follow the flow of traffic out of Ginza. However, they could not do that today. That was because there was a long line of protesters, which jammed up traffic. There were several large trucks behind the car and their drivers had annoyed looks on their faces.
Tuka suddenly thought of something.
“I always thought the people of Nihon had black hair and the same skin color, but surprisingly enough, there’s all sorts of colors here.”
From the car window, one could see white and black people as well as Asians in a truly international palette. Naturally, Asians still made up the majority, but that simply made the differently-colored people that much more obvious.
“This demonstration is largely composed of people from international non-government organisations (NGOs). Although the organizers were originally from Japan for the most part, China, Korea, France, the UK, America, Russia and many others stepped in to join them, and so things ended up like this… which is why I’m running an errand here and in a situation like this.”
“I see. Thank you.”
The demonstrators carried flags of all kinds. Some were red, some were white, some were red and white-striped with a patch of white-starred blue on them, and so on.
“Oh, right. The red flags are from China, that one’s from Korea, the one with stars and stripes is from America, and then that’s France and the UK and Russia.”
“Won’t foreigners making a ruckus in another country cause problems?”
“Ah… as long as they don’t break the law. For instance, when the UN has international conferences, there are always NGOs gathering and demonstrating.”
Tuka knew nothing about Japan, and to her it was nothing short of surprising that Japan would allow foreigners to come over and conduct demonstrations.
“Still, their discipline looks like an army.”
As he heard Tuka’s opinion, Komokado finally realized the source of his earlier sense of foreboding.
She was right. The foreigners taking part in the protest might have called themselves an  international NGO, but their control was a little unnatural. Without a commander to direct them, they would not be acting like this. “They look like an army…” Tuka’s opinion perfectly conveyed what Komakado felt.
A sense of unease went through Komakado, and he ordered the driver to leave the scene as soon as possible.
“Oi, make a U-turn here to the other lane.”
However, the hitherto silent driver in black expressed his doubts about that order.
“We can’t make a U-turn here.”
“Doesn’t matter, our guest’s safety is our number one priority, now do it!”
“But if we cut into the oncoming traffic like that, we might cause an accident.”
The other lane was also jammed up, and if they forced their way in, it would surely result in a car accident, so it was only natural for the driver to hesitate. However, in the space of a few seconds, a commotion suddenly spread through the crowd which had originally been milling around.
“Eh, ehhh! Wait, something’s weird, what, what, what’s happening?” Tuka exclaimed as she looked out the window.
A group of NGO demonstrators which had originally been neatly lined up suddenly broke through the police cordon and rushed out to disrupt the convoy.
They ran between the limousine and the trucks, paralyzing the already-jammed traffic.
The police blew loudly on their whistles, but the demonstrators replied with loud shouts as well.
However, so many things were occurring in so many places at once that they could not deal with them, and even the police ended up being cordoned into a mass.
This was an attack. With that thought in mind, Kuribayashi and Tomita reflexively raised their guns. However, Komakado told them to take their finger off their triggers.
“This isn’t the Special Region, please switch your brains back to normal mode!”
This riot ― or rather, this disturbance ― was rapidly spreading in size. Even the typically calm Tomita muttered, “So what are we going to do if we can’t shoot?” The demonstrators ran up to the cargo racks on the trucks and threw the stacked crates to the road, then proceeded to tear the contents out in a decidedly illegal manner.
“Are they trying to plunder the convoy!?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
Komakado shot down the driver’s question. Indeed, it looked like undirected violence, but in his eyes, the violence of these demonstrators was not totally uncoordinated.
It was a fact that a lot of shopfronts along Ginza had their windows smashed in and some of their goods taken. Since Ginza was home to many shops selling high-value products, the damage was tremendous. But if one looked carefully, such plunderers were only part of the disruptive demonstrators; the core group was still operating under careful regulation. The commanded groups smashed the truck windows, pulled the drivers out, and began searching through the cargo racks.
“Those guys look like they’re looking for something.”
The driver in black seemed to have realised it as well.
“I see…”
A man finished searching the cargo of one of the trucks and then shouted while pointing at the next truck. After that, a group of men ran over and surrounded the truck in an instant.
“What are those guys looking for?”
“I don’t know, only that staying here isn’t good.”
Komakado judged that they had to leave this place no matter what.
He reached under his seat and took out the red signal flare that was always there, then turned back to look at the back seat.
“Alright, prepare to move. When I light this flare, the vehicle will fill with smoke. When that happens, we’ll run out at once. Once the smoke starts spilling out, they’ll probably think the vehicle’s on fire and back off, so we’ll use that chance to get out. Kuribayashi, Tomita, take care of Tuka. I can’t keep up with this waist of mine, so you guys go first. We’ll meet at… yes, we’ll meet at the Shibuya police station. That’s the plan!”
Kuribayashi and Tomiya considered that letting the others see the weapons they were holding would only make things more dangerous, so they put their weapons back into their bags. “Get ready,” Komakado said as he lit the flare.
“Eh, that’s…”
Just as the smoke filled the vehicle, Tuka saw the crate from earlier being taken off the truck bed. It was plastered with stickers reading “Fragile” and “This Side Up”. If they had just tossed it to the ground, they might have broken the contents, but for some reason the rioters were being extremely careful with it.
“Wait, ah, they’re taking it! The crate from the ALC!”
Tuka unconsciously raised her voice just as the acrid smoke clouded her vision, and they could not see what happened to the crate after that.
“Go go go!”
The pedestrians saw white smoke spilling out of the stationwagon in front of them, and they backed away for fear it might explode.
Kuribayashi and Tuka took the chance to open the door and alight from the vehicle.
There was no reasoning with an angry mob. Amidst this surge of violence that sought only to ensnare more victims within itself, the surrounding men locked onto the two of them and reached out their lewd hands. Tomita received a beating as he tried to break out of the chaotic circumstances.
However, Tomita did not shrink from them. He crossed his arms in front of himself and bulldozed a path for Kuribayashi and Tuka to follow.
Kuribayashi dropped a man trying to grab her from behind with a roundhouse kick and shouted:
“Are we going!? Tomita!?”
“You two think of something, I’ll keep pushing on here! Uoooooooh!”
Tomita stood in front of the two of them, and he shoved the crowd away as he pressed forward.
“I was waiting for you to say that! I wanted to see you like this!”
Kuribayashi shouted happily, and Tuka ran on in the shadow of his massive body.

Previous Chapter | Main Page | Next Chapter

No comments:

Post a Comment